Saturday, August 19, 2017

New York summer

I recently spent two weeks in the States visiting family and friends, traveling in Pennsylvania (right over the NY State border) and in New York. It occurred to me as I was writing this post that I used nearly all forms of transportation on this trip--plane, bus, train and car, just not a boat. I spent the first part of my trip in the Milford area in Pennsylvania (took a bus from the Port Authority bus station in Manhattan to Milford) visiting my sister and her husband. Milford PA is a lovely town with about a thousand residents--small town Americana--and is definitely worth visiting. It is not far from the Delaware River and the NY State border. I stayed at the Hotel Fauchere (http://hotelfauchere.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyLSX-8bl1QIVF5SyCh0uQwOCEAAYASAAEgK4JPD_BwE) and can highly recommend it. My sister and I spent a day driving around the Milford area and through the small towns of Barryville, Narrowsburg, Kauneonga Lake, Bethel, and Middletown in New York--a lovely area in southwest NY State near the Delaware River bordering Pennsylvania. I then took a train from Port Jervis NY (about a fifteen-minute car ride from Milford) back to Manhattan. The Port Jervis train line passed through some lovely towns in NY State (Tuxedo comes to mind). Port Jervis is also a nice small town on the Delaware River, itself a very picturesque river. The train pulled into Secaucus NJ, where we disembarked, and then got on another train that took us to Manhattan's Penn Station. I met my cousin Karen for a very pleasant evening in Manhattan, which was extremely crowded with tourists the night we were there (I'm sure the gorgeous weather helped). We ate at a Korean barbecue restaurant in the Korean section of the city, stayed overnight, then the following day I took the train from Grand Central Station to North White Plains where I picked up a rental car and drove to the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Tarrytown where I stayed for a few days. While in Tarrytown, I got together with some high school friends for dinner at Sunset Cove restaurant on the Hudson River, spent one day pleasantly wandering around Tarrytown and down memory lane with my friend Stef from childhood, and then spent another day with my friend Laura from high school wandering around the Lyndhurst estate. I then drove to Saratoga Springs to meet my friends Jean and Maria; Jean's family had rented the Haywood House in Saratoga Springs overlooking Lake Saratoga, and we enjoyed a couple of days there, before returning to Jean's house for the remainder of my visit, which is where I always love to be at the end of my visits to NY. I also visited a friend who is sick with a debilitating illness, and it was good to see her as it always is. Even though she is handicapped now, her sense of humor persists, as does her beauty. As always, my trip flew by too fast, but I have the wonderful memories to keep me going until next year's visit. I hope to be able to spend more time in New York in a few years when I retire. I am looking forward to that.

restaurant in the town of Kauneonga Lake

Lake Kauneonga 

my sister's garden

the lovely Delaware River photographed from the Port Jervis NY side

the lovely Hudson River photographed from Rockwood Hall State Park 

an annual cicada at Rockwood

the almost-completed new Tappan Zee Bridge photographed from Sunset Cove restaurant

the lovely rose garden at the Lyndhurst estate

a view of Lake Saratoga

Lake Saratoga at dusk

the historic Haywood House in Saratoga Springs

the Hudson River photographed from the Boscobel estate in Garrison NY (you can see West Point academy top right) 

the always lovely Tarrytown Lakes--we used to ice-skate here in winter when we were children 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A good song for summer 2017

Haven't posted in a while because I've been away on vacation.....Heard this song for the first time tonight. Catchy song, good rhythm, one you can sing along and dance to. What more do you need from a good song? Calvin Harris does it again--the man with the Midas touch. The song is called 'Feels' and features Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Remembering my father on his birthday

Today, July 25th, is my father's birthday, as well as the birthday of my cousin and my good friend from childhood. Had my father still been alive, he would have been one hundred years old next year. But generally, I never think of people just in terms of their age. My father is not a centenarian in my memory, he is my ageless father--a kind man, a smart man, a civilized man, a WWII veteran, a good father and husband. He kept his faith alive throughout his entire life and nurtured it by reading spiritual literature. He was loyal to his birth family and loyal to his wife and children. He did what it took to keep us clothed and fed and safe. That was what men did in my father's generation. They took care of their wives and children. They took that responsibility seriously, and my father was no exception. He was about as far from a narcissist as you could get. I cannot for the life of me picture him running around with a smart phone in his hand, checking his email or Facebook every hour or so, or posting selfies. I can just picture his pithy comments about modern society's cell phone addiction. He would never have gone down that road. He would rather have picked up a good book and devoted his hard-earned free time to reading. His comments always made me think, and still do. I often wonder what my father (and mother) would have done in certain situations that I face. My mother always said 'pick your battles'. My father might have said 'why battle at all'. He preferred the peaceful approach if it could be had. I admire him for that. After all, he saw what war could do to people and I'm sure he saw things he would rather not have seen. His heart and soul remained intact, as did his gentle spirit. I miss him today and every day, as I miss my mother. They are forever a part of me.


Update on our garden--July 2017

It hardly seems possible that we've nearly reached August. It feels like gardening season has just begun. We put up the greenhouse in late April, and spent some time organizing and arranging it as documented in an earlier post (https://paulamdeangelis.blogspot.no/2017/04/this-years-garden-project-greenhouse.html). May, June, and July seem to have flown by. There are now six pots with tomato plants in the greenhouse that are doing well and starting to produce tomatoes. The tomatoes are still small and green, but I have high hopes that in a month or so we'll be able to try eating one. The two cucumber plants are flowering but have not yet produced cucumbers, whereas the chili pepper plant is producing a lot of small peppers.

In the garden itself, the corn plants are growing tall and straight and appear to be quite healthy; ditto for the three different types of pumpkins I planted this year--two French varieties and a Jack-o-Lantern variety. The pumpkins now have vines that are spreading happily in every direction, just like last year. Some of them have produced very small pumpkins already. It remains to be seen how fast the pumpkins will grow and mature. Last year at this time the pumpkins were a bit further along. I also planted three different kinds of string beans--standard green beans, asparagus beans, and dwarf beans. If you ask me, they're all variations on a theme; the type that stands out is the one with a mottled appearance, but otherwise they all taste pretty much the same--good. The snap peas are also doing very well, and have produced a lot of edible pods, also good.

The sunflower plants have grown tall and straight and I hope they'll stay that way as the summer progresses. One never knows, especially if a very windy storm comes along. My flower garden looks lovely--a combination of lavender plants, a butterfly bush, pink and purple Salvia, marigolds, hollyhocks, chrysanthemums, among others--and under the dead cherry tree that is covered in wild ivy, I've planted Heuchera plants (lovely perennials in gold, green and red colors) as well as daisies.

I love watching the garden grow a little bit more for each day that passes. Generally I just love being in the garden. There is always something to do--weeding, transplanting, cutting the grass, pruning, fertilizing, watering, or just puttering. The greenhouse has all the tools and accessories needed for doing all these things. Here are some recent photos from one of the wonderfully sunny days we've had:

corn and string bean plants in background, pumpkin plants in foreground

pumpkin plants

Heuchera plants and daisies

view of the vegetable part of the garden

view from the garden entrance

flower garden--lavender, hollyhocks, Salvia--among others

another view of the garden with hydrangea plant in the background

 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Photos from our Oslo-Fjærland-Ålesund-Molde-Bygdin-Oslo trip

on the road to Fjærland



Fjærland and its fjord

Fjærland fjord

Fjærland Fjordstue Hotel

Supphellebreen glacier arm

Supphellebreen glacier

Ålesund

Molde

Molde

View from Trollstigen area

the mountain road to Geiranger

View of Geiranger from Utsikten Hotel

the winding mountain road leaving Geiranger

Bygdin Fjellstue Hotel

Monday, July 17, 2017

Oslo-Fjærland-Ålesund-Molde-Bygdin-Oslo


It has become a pattern with us that we vacation every other year in Norway. Two years ago we drove to Rjukan and stayed there for a few days before ending up in Notodden for the blues festival. This year we decided to drive to Ålesund and Molde, as I have always wanted to see these cities. I have heard a lot about Ålesund and how I had to visit it. Molde is known as the city of roses and jazz. It is internationally famous for its annual jazz festival; this year, Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock were among the invited performers. We arrived in Molde a week prior to the festival’s start, a smart idea given that most hotels are fully-booked during the festival week and we would not have gotten a room anywhere.

We left Oslo early on a Monday morning (July 10th) with the aim of making it to Fjærland the first day. We drove via Kongsberg and Geilo; the drive on the Fjærland Road took us through some lovely areas. Fjærland itself is a small town, but an incredibly lovely one on the Fjærland Fjord. We stayed at the Fjærland Fjordstue Hotel, run by Bård and Linda Huseby. We really enjoyed our short stay here, and can recommend this hotel. It is truly picturesque, situated right on the fjord, with a lovely terrace overlooking the water where one can sit outdoors and drink coffee or have a beer. The dining room also overlooks the water. We spent one night at the hotel, enjoyed a walk around town before dinner, and then a very good dinner afterward. I took some lovely photos of the fjord and the surrounding mountains on the morning of our departure.

On the advice of the hotel owner, we decided to check out the Supphellebreen glacier arm, which is not far from the hotel. We drove out to the edge of the arm and walked to the body of water that lies beneath the glacier arm. It is amazing to see something like this in person; I have never seen a glacier up close before, and was surprised to observe that the ice in the glacier had a bluish tinge. I took some photos, and then we drove on. At my urging, we decided to check out the Haugabreen glacier as well, but that turned out to be a rather nightmarish drive up a gravel-covered dirt road with a 20% incline in order to reach it. My husband is a good driver and his Porsche managed the trip up and down again, but I would not want to repeat the experience any time soon. I don’t have the nerves for steep narrow roads with no protective railings. I kept wondering if we would end up going over the edge. As it turned out, we made it to the top, but found out that we would have to walk a bit in order to reach the glacier, so we decided against doing that since we had a long drive ahead of us to Ålesund. On our descent, we met a large dump truck carrying gravel coming up the hill. There was no way we could pass it, and we could not back up as it would have meant backing up the hill from which we had descended, so the truck had to back down, and it did. I was impressed by the truck driver who took it all in stride. I would have been a nervous wreck.

We made it to Ålesund by late Tuesday afternoon and checked into the Brosundet Hotel, also right on the water. This hotel was also quite nice; I liked the fact that both breakfast and dinner were included in the price, also that the kitchen staff provided cake and coffee during the late afternoon before dinner. The dinners were standard fare—turkey wings the first evening and lamb stew the second evening—but it beat having to find an open restaurant (many restaurants close in July in Norway—right during the height of tourist season, which makes no sense to me at all). Those that were open were quite expensive; main courses were in the forty to fifty dollar price range. Overpriced, in my opinion. Ålesund is a quaint city, with many old stone buildings (a big fire in 1904 destroyed most of its wooden buildings), but there were a fair number of buildings in need of repair and renovation. It did not strike me as a wealthy city, but I could be wrong. While we were there, the annual boat festival got underway, and we enjoyed a flyboarding exhibition that was just about the coolest thing I have ever seen (see video in the next post). Otherwise, we walked around the entire city and out to the Aquarium, which is also known as the Atlantic Sea-Park (Atlanterhavsparken). The aquarium is well-worth visiting; it is right on the ocean, and has large outdoor open pools for seals, otters, and penguins. The large indoor open pool holds a variety of fish, manta rays, lobsters, starfish, and anemones.

We left Ålesund for Molde on Thursday morning, and arrived in Molde around lunchtime. The weather was very nice, so after we checked into our hotel (Molde Fjordstuer Hotel) we took a long walk around the city, ate lunch and then hung out at the hotel until dinnertime. This hotel was modern and quite stylish and I enjoyed staying here. It would be nice to visit the city again at some future point during the jazz festival.

We left Molde for Bygdin on Friday morning, with planned drives up Trollstigen and through Geiranger. I’ll let Wikipedia’s description of Trollstigen suffice—a serpentine mountain road,  narrow with many sharp bends, and although several bends were widened during 2005 to 2012, vehicles over 41 feet long are prohibited from driving the road. I’m very glad my husband is a good (and confident) driver and that his Porsche could make it up Trollstigen and then down and up the road to Geiranger, which was equally serpentine and a bit nerve-wracking in my opinion. We stopped to have coffee at the Hotel Utsikten (literally the View Hotel), which had breathtaking views of the Geiranger Fjord. After that, we drove on to Bygdin through mountain country, and arrived at the Bygdin Fjellstue Hotel in late afternoon. The nice weather was conducive for walking, so we took a good walk before dinner. We stayed at this hotel for one night (we stayed here before in 2002, my first trip to the mountains in Norway), and managed a walk along Bygdin Lake on Saturday morning before we left for home.


We were quite lucky with the weather; most of the time it was sunny and fairly warm. There was only one evening/morning in Ålesund when it rained heavily. Although there was a lot of driving on this trip, it was endurable because we drove along many scenic routes (my husband’s plan) rather than standard (often mind-numbing) highways. It’s no wonder that Norway is considered to be a beautiful country; this trip merely confirmed that fact. 

(I'll post photos in my next post, as well as videos of the flyboarding performance in Ålesund).

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summers and the ice-cream man

I suppose everyone has their own memories of the ice-cream man when they were growing up. For those of us who grew up in Tarrytown and who loved the long summer days playing outdoors, it meant a daily visit from Eddie the ice-cream man in his white truck; he worked for the Good Humor Company. He would drive into Tappan Landing Road, make a U-turn at Henrik Lane and park in front of the 26 Tappan Landing Road apartment building. There would be a line of children waiting to buy ice cream cones, popsicles and sandwiches from him. It was always exciting to watch him reach into the truck’s freezer to retrieve what you had asked for. In my case, it was a toasted almond dessert bar; they were heavenly (http://www.goodhumor.com/product/detail/114453/toasted-almond-dessert-bar-good-humor). More favorites were the strawberry shortcake dessert bar (http://www.goodhumor.com/product/detail/114303/strawberry-shortcake-dessert-bar-good-humor) and the standard ice-cream sandwich (http://www.goodhumor.com/product/detail/114441/giant-vanilla-sandwich-good-humor) (not a giant version but just the regular-sized one). I think Eddie enjoyed handing out his ice-cream products as much as we enjoyed receiving them. Of course nothing was for free; but I don’t remember that we paid more than about 50 cents for what we wanted. Nowadays we’d pay much more.


Here in Oslo, I am reminded of Eddie the ice-cream man each time I hear the ice-cream truck play its familiar song. The Oslo ice-cream truck tune is just the opening riff from the theme music to Norge Rundt (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WadPQ9XIF4M) but it is so characteristic. You can hear it a mile away and recognize it instantly, knowing that the ice-cream truck is in the vicinity. I purchased some ice cream from the ice-cream vendor recently--ice cream sandwiches and Lollipop popsicles (http://isbjornis.no/?page_id=172 --also called saftis med sjokoladetrekk), both of which are very good. Even though it is many years ago since we were children, it is nice to have those memories of summer, and nice to know that ice cream trucks are not a thing of the past. 

    

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Wish we could fly like this for real

Love the song, but love the video even more. I'm waiting for the day when science makes it possible for us to fly like this.....how incredible that would be!

Gobbledygook or Newspeak in Modern Workplaces

From time to time I write about the modern workplace; the well will never run dry when it comes to finding ideas to write about when it comes to such workplaces. I am especially interested in public sector workplaces, since they seem to embody (or aim to embody by design) the worst business philosophies and ideas that crawl out from under the slimy rocks where they’ve sprouted. Modern workplaces in Norway and elsewhere often adopt such philosophies and ideas uncritically and put them into operation without much discussion or rational consideration. I’ve written about them before, e.g. New Public Management, which is (fortunately for us) on its way out after its decade of tyranny. Ask most employees if they’ve been comfortable in their workplaces that uncritically adopted this philosophy, and their answers will be a chorus of No’s. 

The uncritical adoption of bad business philosophies into modern public sector workplaces goes hand in hand with the language of gobbledygook to support and defend them. If company leaders don’t want their employees to know what it is they are being subjected to, then gobbledygook is the language they use. Let’s call it Newspeak for modern workplaces (with apologies to George Orwell). It can be defined as a language that makes no sense whatsoever, either to its users or to its unfortunate listeners. Its aim is to create a smokescreen so that employees become confused or left in the dark about what is really going on. If you have ever been the recipient of emails that make no sense whatsoever, if you’ve asked a question and gotten a ‘non-answer’ that passes for an answer, then you have experienced gobbledygook. If you attempt to make sense of the enormous bureaucratic system around you, e.g. how to deal with the billing department, you will be met with a wall of people, all of whom are cc-ing each other in the myriad of emails sent back and forth to answer one tiny question—how do I bill so-and-so for the service performed for them. One tiny question is ‘non-answered’ by at least six or more people, none of whom can or will take responsibility for providing a substantive answer. This is cowardice by design, inbuilt into a system that is itself designed to dilute out responsibility so that no one can be taken for any wrongdoing that could arise down the road. How would anyone be able to track the countless email paths, conversations, etc. that are attached to one miniscule billing situation?

In this vein, it was interesting to read the remarks of a Norwegian leader (of a public sector workplace that deals out money to researchers) concerning his organization’s philosophy, translated here from Norwegian:

When the sectoral principle so strongly influences Norwegian research funding, it is all the more important that XXX has a real opportunity to create synergies of funds given with different logics, then we can create win-win situations where we can deliver both on goal A and Goal B for the same money.


For God’s sake, what does this mean? And it’s not the translation; it was just as difficult to understand the meaning in Norwegian. This is how we are ‘talked to’ on a daily basis, from leader’s commentaries to emails that makes no sense or that provide no answers whatsoever. This is what we face at every turn. Meaningless pronouncements with bloated language that create a world of nonsense. Nonsense—literally, non-sense. Lewis Carroll would be proud (the author of Alice in Wonderland for those of you who wonder, whose Alice fell down the rabbit hole into a world that made no sense). It would be alarming if it wasn’t comical. It is no longer comical in my opinion. This is how many public sector workplaces operate on a daily basis. I pity those employees who prize speaking clearly and getting the job done as their goals. It is nearly impossible to cut through the jungle of gobbledygook on the way toward those goals. 


Monday, June 26, 2017

White roses

Roses add beauty to any garden. We have a lovely pink rose bush in our allotment garden that was there already when we took over the garden, and last year I planted two climbing white rose bushes, one on each side of the garden arch at the entrance to the garden. Last year, they settled in and started climbing, but did not bloom. This year, they have climbed a lot and have bloomed incredibly. Lovely beautiful white flowers.....
































Today's rainbow

We've been having a fair amount of rain lately, and every now and then the sun comes out after a rain shower. And then a rainbow appears, like today's.......

























And a close-up view:



Monday, June 19, 2017

The garden is finally starting to take off

After a fairly rainy first two weeks of June, the weather has improved to the point where the garden is finally starting to take off. The sun has reappeared and that means warmth and longer periods of light. The strawberry patches are going to produce a lot of strawberries this year; I have never seen so many flowers in a strawberry patch as I have this year. And the black currant, red currant, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and mulberry bushes are also starting to produce berries. My corn plants are developing thicker stalks and growing taller, the pumpkins are growing, the bean plants are doing very well, and the snap peas have attached and are growing up along the trellises I made for them (I learned how to make them from twigs from an online gardening site). And in the greenhouse, the tomato plants are big and healthy, and the sweet pepper and cucumber plants are also doing well. I've only grown tomatoes once before, and that was indoors in our apartment, with limited success. I am enjoying working in the greenhouse; on chilly or cloudy days, it's a nice place to be. And so far, the slugs have not found their way into it, probably because it gets so warm and dry in there that it's not optimal for them. I'm hoping it stays that way.

The flowers I grew from seeds are also growing, but slowly. I planted two hydrangeas this year, and they seem to be doing ok so far, although I read that they need a lot of water. I planted sunflowers for the first time, and they are also starting to grow taller. I also planted pansies, more lavender plants, and more grass (mostly to fill in the bare patches here and there).

Here are some recent photos:

pansies

hydrangea

hydrangea


tomato plants

our lovely rhododendron that we rescued last year from a garbage heap

corn plants top left, string bean plants top middle, pumpkin plants in the foreground

our lovely rosebush next to the rhododendron, and the bird bath in front of it


another view of the pumpkin patches


check out the strawberry patches near the garden arch and how many flowers there are

my sugar snap peas growing up the trellises 

more tomato plants

another view of the garden

the greenhouse--you can see the tomato plants inside