Flowers

I love flowers! I am addicted to gardening! There. I’ve admitted it for all the world to know. It’s my #1 passion (well, besides Donald and Millie, hubby and cat respectively, though some days I’m not sure who outranks whom). So this time of year my mind starts wandering…….. 

I’ll let you all in on a little secret. I purchase most of my annuals and perennials at Claussen’s in Colchester. I love that garden center. Because my passion/obsession can get to be a little expensive, I’ve found a great way to save 20% +. I’ll explain how — though please don’t tell anyone else! 

Claussen’s a number of times a year has a 20% off gift card sale, so I go in and, let’s say, buy a $50 gift card, and it only costs me $40. Bingo! Then when spring and summer roll around, just about every week, they have a different perennial Special of the Week: Buy one perennial and get the second free! Well, you don’t have to twist my arm. So I’ll go in and buy maybe two perennial Montauk Daisy* plants (my new favorite) but only have to pay for one — with my gift card, of course. Boy, I’m way ahead now. Then of course Claussen’s has “annual” specials, i.e., buy four geraniums, get two free; buy one pack of marigolds, get a second ½ price. 

Now I digress: Late last fall I finished putting my flower beds to winter sleep, pruned and trimmed bushes, cleaned out bird houses, and generally put the outside to rights for the long winter. I’ve made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, a trip out west with my hubby for a month, and now I am planning my first foray, into the gardens, once the shovel can make its way into the thawed ground. 

I have big plans this year. I’ve already removed five very ugly bushes that were along the front porch. I still have seven left to go. First I will dig two circles around each bush with my favorite Christmas present from last year, my sawtooth shovel, and then I’ll hop on my trusty outdoor toy, John Deere, hook up a big, heavy, long chain with giant hooks, snake them around each of those dang bushes, gun the JD, and not-so-gently riiip!! those suckers out of the ground one by one. To feel those roots give up the ghost is very satisfying — “he-he.” 

After that I’ll be placing two layers of edging stones along the 24-foot length of the porch, backfilling with good soil and compost, and then, my most favorite part of all, heading to Claussen’s where I’ll purchase a dozen perennials that will be spread over the length of my newest garden. I won’t be using any filler plants or ground cover plants; just mulch. Oh, how I can’t wait to get my hands in good old Mother Earth! 

Gardening is my obsession, my passion, my joy, my happiness. What’s yours? What brings you much happiness in the spring time? 

Montauk Daisies

*Montauk Daisies, pictured right, are a herbaceous perennial flower that forms a mounded clump. In this area, they bloom late summer to frost. While other flowers have died off, these gorgeous plants are in full bloom, and on sunny days you can find the last of the bees collecting nectar and pollen. 

Christmas Memories to Last One’s Lifetime

As I’m writing this, Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and with that comes the Christmas holiday season, which has me feeling a bit nostalgic for past Christmases.

My earliest memories, when I was a child, were spent Christmas Eve “tracking” Santa Claus (through the voice of weatherman Stuart Hall on WCAX-TV) as he made his way around the world heading, I just knew, directly to our house. Then before being herded off to bed, my two brothers and I would make sure there were milk and cookies waiting for Santa and Rudolph.

Come Christmas morning, the three of us would head to the tree to find, yes, Santa had arrived and marveling at the gifts and that the cookies and milk were gone!

After opening presents and having breakfast, we’d get dressed in holiday clothes and head off to my Dad’s parents’ home in Burlington, where there would be relatives and food (especially tourtieres) and more presents!! And then by late afternoon, we’d be on the road to Milton to my Mom’s parents’ house where, you guessed it, there’d be more relatives, food and… presents!!

Even today my brother Tom reminisces, not about what presents we may have gotten, but the fact that we were on the road again to see what lay in store for us. Can you tell that we were the only grandchildren on one side of the family and we had just two cousins on the other for so many years?
Now I could tell you about one of my Mom’s earliest memories when we kids were little – oh, like the time she and her best friend, Deedee, who lived next door to us, got shnockered on the Brandy Alexanders that my Dad had made. It was Christmas Eve, and they barely got toys wrapped and under the trees for us all – but that’s a story for another time!

As I grew older, one Christmas stands out in my mind. In my high school years, after my third brother, David, arrived, my oldest brother, John, and I went to Midnight Mass with my Mom while my younger brothers would go to church at 8 a.m. on Christmas morning with Dad. Well, one year John, Mom and I got home around 2 a.m. after Midnight Mass, and my Mom asked if we would help her get the presents out and under the tree. John and I looked at each other like, Okay, but where the heck are they? We hadn’t found her hiding spot, ever, in 15 years. Well, Mom beckoned us downstairs to the basement where there was an old (and I mean old!) sofa, and she proceeded to lift up the seat portion, and there, to our wondering eyes, was this very large storage area with gaily wrapped Christmas presents! She laughed and told us how we would bounce, jump and play on the sofa all year round, yet we never discovered her hiding place.
As time has moved on, I’ve lost my dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, yet I’ve seen the addition of in-laws, nieces/nephews and, most importantly, my husband, to my family. Each Christmas season brings with it transitions – as one person steps out of my life, a new tradition is created, however small, to try to fill that void, and with that, I’ve said to myself many times: Everything is new again.

What are some of your earliest memories of celebrating the holidays? Do you remember the special people, long gone, you celebrated with? Is there one particular sight or sound today that brings back a pleasant memory for you?

Don and I together wish all of our VAE friends a Merry and Joyous Christmas and holiday season, however you may celebrate it!

Been there, done it in a Probe

I admit it. I’m not that into cars. If it has 4 tires and a steering wheel and can get me to where I want to go safely, I’m happy. My husband, on the other hand, is what you’d all call “a car guy.” Over the years he’s purchased antique (I say old) cars and trucks. He does a little bit of general maintenance on them himself, but the big stuff he leaves to the professionals. That I’m happy about. I liken it to, if I want a new electric outlet installed, or want that damned breaker fixed that keeps tripping, when I run my laptop, printer and label maker all at the same time……well, let’s just say I’m still waiting for him, and not the car mechanic, to get around to fixing it. 

All that said, it was somewhat surprising to me what happened one day of a month-long camping trip, we took beginning mid June with the end result of arriving in Salt Lake City, for the International Barbershop Singing Convention and then returning home by July 15. We were driving our F-350/camper and towing a 1997 Ford Probe acquired last fall. We traveled down through the eastern U.S. and then over to Branson, MO, and then continued going west by way of Pueblo, Durango, Moab, and finally 

ending up on the correct date at the KOA in Salt Lake City. 

The biggest highlight of our trip (not necessarily the best) for me: We drove up Pikes Peak in Colorado, which is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in North America. It comes in at 14,115 feet above sea level. (To put it in perspective, Mount Mansfield is 4,393 feet above sea level.) The drive is approximately 19 miles from visitor center to the summit. 

Don was driving. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and puffy white clouds. We were informed that we’d have to leave the car, at the lot, at mile marker 16, and we’d be shuttled to the summit. 

As we got to mile marker 16, Don casually remarked, “Uh-oh, I think there’s something wrong with the clutch.” Ya think? What the heck does that mean? Get me out of this car. How are we going to get down? I’m going to die on Pikes Peak! All of those thoughts raced through my mind. 

Don casually maneuvered the car into a parking spot, turned it off and started getting out of the car, all the while I’m internally panicking, thinking about calling AAA for help or my mother to say goodbye and to take good care of our kitty, Millie. But, no, I too made my way to the shuttle and up and away we went. 

I must say the peak was awesome! spectacular! breathtaking! gorgeous! No words can capture the magnificence of that part of our American landscape. I am truly glad we made the trip up, but now we had to get down off this damned peak. 

We were shuttled back down to 16 and got in the Probe. Don started the car, and it “appeared” that things were OK. He then finally said something about somebody telling him about hydraulic clutches, and how they can overheat and not work and need cooling off, which did nothing to calm my nerves of possibly going off one of those S-curves at 95 mph. All I thought about was clutch/brake, clutch/brake, clutch/brake – they’re right next to each other. Maybe the brakes won’t work either. 

As we started the drive down, though outwardly calm, my stomach was in a knot, and every time he stepped on the gas I wanted to throw up. I think the door handle needs replacing as I was gripping it so hard; either that or the floor where my feet were. Suffice it to say it was the longest 16 miles of my life. 

We did make it down the mountain. When we stopped for the mandatory “brake check” by a Park Ranger, he let us know the tires were great, and all I wanted to say was, “Yeah, but what about the &*%$!@$ clutch? 

OK, so I can say I learned a little about hydraulic clutches that day, but I can also say with regard to Pikes Peak: Been there, done that, in a Probe! 

Been there, done it in a Probe from Anne 

I Am Now Retired!

By the time you read this article, I will have been retired for all of five weeks, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about what I’ve been doing for the past 40 ½ years and also give a plug to a career that is in desperate need of people all across our country. 

A little background: I was born and brought up in Burlington, attended Rice High School and then went on to Champlain College in their Court Reporting Program, graduating in 1978! Yep, I’m a court reporter, or maybe you’ve heard the term “court stenographer.” I am one of those people that sit behind that funny looking machine, you may have seen on TV, and make my fingers dance across the keys. 

For the first 10 years after graduation, I was a freelance court reporter in Rutland, which means I was hired directly by attorneys where I would go to a particular law office, and “report” the questions and answers asked by the attorneys and answered by witnesses in court cases. I’d also report contentious school board hearings, arbitration hearings, and even fill in a court because their court reporter was away that day. In 1988, I was the luckiest person in the world! I was hired by Judge Albert Coffrin to succeed his retiring court reporter. That meant a move back to the Burlington area and family & friends; and since then I’ve been reporting nonstop for 30 years and 7 months at the United States District Court until my retirement on March 30. 

Daily, I reported to work and was in the courtroom whenever there was a hearing scheduled (be it jury trials, motion hearings, sen-tencings, etc.) taking down – reporting — every single word spoken by anyone in the courtroom. One may ask how is that possible? Well, as the name implies, the shorthand machine has 20+ keys on it, and each key corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and you, in essence, create a shorthand system. I always say it is much like playing a musical in-strument. I learned how to play the piano when I was young, and if you think about a piano with so many keys, you strike one key and it sounds one way, you strike 2 or 4 or up to 10 keys all at once, it sounds another way. That’s the way the shorthand machine works. 

I’m sure none of you have ever been to a gym or a bar and watched the TV screen with the translations at the bottom of the screen!?! Well, that’s a court reporter, a closed-captioning court reporter. TV stations by law have to closed-caption news and sports — like the Super Bowl or the World Series, and many other broadcasts for the hearing impaired, in what’s called “real time”, and the only way to do that is to have a court reporter, probably at home in his/her jammies, getting a live feed from the TV station to their home. The reporter then writing what they hear through their headphones onto their shorthand machine, that being translated back into English by the specialized software, and then the feed going back out to the TV station and, in turn, being broadcast out to your TVs. Whew! Seems like a lot of extra work, doesn’t it? Why don’t they just use voice recognition software you have on your iPhone and be done with it? Because, ultimately, court reporters are the gold standard for accurate, instantaneous translation. Only the human ear and brain can discern the difference between “pahk the kah” and “park the car.” 

The last part of my job is to return to my office and, when requested, prepare a certified written transcript of the proceedings. A full day in court will produce on average 280 pages of transcript! I will use my specialized software to translate the shorthand “gibberish” back into English and then correct spellings (is your name spelled Brown, Browne, Brawn); punctuation, paragraphing, identifying speakers; homonyms, unless you write them differently (their/they’re/there, to/two/too); and then be able to certify that the transcript is a true and accurate record of the proceedings.

My career has spanned an amazing 40 years, and I am truly grateful to Judge Coffrin for hiring me 30 years ago and bringing me back to my family and friends and the city that I love. If you know of anyone who’s looking for a great career that pays very well, has an aptitude for the written word, a good work ethic, a good ear, a desire to learn every day of their working lives, by all means have him/her get in contact with me and we can talk further! 

To the right is a picture of the paper that would have come out of the machine “in the olden days” with the interpretation on the right. Today, it’s all electronic and the steno machine simply down-loads into a computer, 

Because Nice Matters

Welcome 2019! As we head down this new year’s road, I’d like to tell you a little bit about a very special per-son. She has shared duties of contributing articles for “The Softer Side” for a number of years but has decided to officially retire, and Wheel Tracks Editor Gary Fiske asked me if I would take over from her, and I’ve accepted. I knew immediately what my first article was going to be about or, more specifically, who it was going to be about. 

mary noble

Mary Noble was brought up as a true farm girl in Plymouth, New Hampshire, and eventually made her way off the farm to the University of New Hampshire where she graduated with an English Literature degree. And you might say, now what? What does one do with an English Literature degree? Well, she got married to one, Wendell Noble whom she met while at UNH, but during their engagement, she just didn’t sit still waiting for the big day. Talk about stepping outside the box in the day: In true Mary style, she went on to the prestigious Katharine Gibbs School. 

After Mary and Wendell married in 1963, they moved to State College, Pennsylvania. Mary found employment at the HRV Singer Sewing Company as secretary to, in her words, a “big honcho.” This was during the time of the Vietnam War, and Singer was a defense contractor to the U.S. government where they were making the Norden bombsight, which was a tool that bomber plane crews used, to accurately set their sights on targets. And you probably thought Mary was dealing with sewing machines, didn’t you? 

NH map

In 1966 Mary and Wendell found their way north to Vermont by way of Bennington, Jericho and, finally, Milton in 1971, settling into a beautiful old farmhouse where they raised their three children and are now proud grandparents to three grandchildren. Wendell tells me that the farm-girl upbringing paid off when they got to Milton. Over the years they’ve raised beef cattle and pigs, along with maintaining flower and vegetable gardens where, I understand, Wendell “does what he is told to do!” You go, Mary! 

Mary and Wendell joined the VAE in 1997. I first met Mary at an annual car show a couple of years ago and was drawn immediately to her quiet, welcoming demeanor and, of course, that ever-engaging smile of hers. Asking if there was anything I could do to help, she immediately put me to work! 

So how does she like the car club? She says that the very best part of the VAE are the people, all the people she meets along the way. She also loves craft fairs and flea markets, so she made a deal with Wendell many years ago that he could go to car club functions with or without her and she was going to the craft fairs and flea markets with or without him! Isn’t it lucky that the yearly car show has an expanded flea market AND NOW a craft fair? And you know what she brings home from the flea markets? Matchbox cars. I didn’t get a chance to ask her how many she’s purchased over the years, but you can ask her yourself the next time you see her. 

And speaking of cars, her favorite vehicle is the 1928 Dodge Coupe in their garage which was given to her (and Wendell, I presume) by her father. I’m going to ask her for a ride in it this coming spring. We’ll be “Thelma and Louise” tooling down the highway! 

I was speaking with Marion Thompson recently, who has known Mary for a number of years now, and I asked her, How would you describe Mary? Her response: “Mary untiringly and quietly goes about the business of the VAE always with a smile on her face. Whatever needs to be done, she just does it.” She can be found at the registration table or the souvenir booth going about her tasks always with that smile. Who better to have on the front line helping all our VAE show guests? 

Mary’s first love, of course, is Wendell and her family, but cooking/baking runs a very close second! If you haven’t been on the receiving end of her cooking, I can tell you for a fact you’re missing out. Wendell tells me that one of his favorite dinners is something called a hamburg/cottage cheese pie. Well, okay. So I challenged Wendell to get me that recipe, and he somehow managed to invade Mary’s kitchen domain without her knowing, and we are now the lucky ones! 

cheeseburger pie

Mary’s Cheeseburger Pie Recipe

1 cup + 2 TBS Bisquick® baking mix 
1/4 cup water 
1 pound ground beef 
1/2 cup chopped onion 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper 
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce 
2 eggs 
1 cup small curd cottage cheese 
2 medium tomatoes, sliced 
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (about 
4 ounces) 


Heat oven to 375°. Stir 1 cup baking mix and the water until soft dough forms. Gently smooth dough into ball on floured cloth-covered board. Knead 5 times. Roll dough 2 inches larger than inverted 9-inch pie plate. Ease into plate; flute edge if desired. 


Cook and stir ground beef and onion until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt, pepper, the 2 tablespoons baking mix and the Worcestershire sauce. Spoon into pie crust. Mix eggs and cottage cheese; pour over beef mix-ture. Arrange tomato slices in circle on top; sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Bake until set, about 30 minutes.