Hot Toddies and Blathering

You had to drink beer. I didn't matter that you didn't like it.

I lived in the great frozen tundra of Milwaukee for seven years. I did, rather painfully, eventually acclimate to the winters, but it was slow process. The first year I was sure I was going to die. The second year I just wanted to. By the third year, I grumbled more than the natives, but could, on occasion, set foot out of the house between October and May without long johns.

Compared to the buckle of the Bible belt that is West Virginia, folks in Milwaukee drink a lot. I think by anybody’s standards, they drink a lot. The cold has something to do with it. Nevertheless, beer is a perennial favorite. No kidding, I went to a church social one time and they served beer.

Milwaukeeans drink beer year-round, but in winter, usually at the holidays, the hot drinks start appearing. Another Milwaukee passion, schnapps is poured into hot chocolate when not drunk straight. Schnapps in one guise or another will appear all year, but Christmas and New Year’s is the time for Tom & Jerrys, hot buttered rum, eggnog and assorted warmer-uppers with a buzz.

Me. Cold and liquored up on something.

I’m not a fan of eggnog, but a nice Tom & Jerry on a cold winter night is sublime. Below is one recipe – for whatever reason, the drink isn’t popular around here and I don’t know why. It’s so ubiquitous up north that you can buy the “batter” in just about any store.

6 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:  Separate eggs, beat whites until stiff, add sugar. Beat yolks until foamy. Fold together and add spices. Refrigerate until serving. To serve: fill mug with hot water. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of mix per mug and 1 oz. liquor (brandy or rum).

Now folks in Milwaukee are also the biggest consumers of brandy in the nation, so anytime I had a T&J it was always made with brandy and not rum. The “not rum” part was important. I once got raging drunk on rum & cokes while eating popcorn and it wasn’t pretty. I didn’t drink or eat either for years.

In order to keep up with all that drinking, there’re a lot of bars in Milwaukee. In quiet, otherwise staid neighborhoods, there’s often a house on a corner where the owners have turned their living room into a bar. These little places were scattered all over the city and put the hop in bar hopping.

One time, on a bitterly cold night, my date and I popped into one to try and get the feeling back into our feet. I had a bad head cold and the barkeep, entranced with my southern accent, was determined to doctor me. He insisted I needed a hot buttered rum. I protested I didn’t drink rum. He insisted. I demurred. He sat one in front of me. I was new enough to the town that I hadn’t yet learned how to impose my will on strong-willed Germans. I couldn’t stand rum and the idea of putting butter in hot rum really turned my stomach. I decided to take a sip to be polite.

Hot damn, that was good stuff. It didn’t just involve rum and butter, but included spiced cider. Knowing my history with rum, I stopped at one and, later, convinced myself the head cold disguised the taste and under normal circumstances rum was not going to go down my throat without bringing up the contents of my stomach.

Years passed. Twenty-five or so of them. My boycott of rum continued.

A few years ago, I arrived in Massachusetts with a bad head cold. Between sniffles, coughs, achoos, chills and general unpleasantness, I told HMOKeefe the rum story. The next thing I knew there was a hot buttered rum in a large mug in my hands. I had several. – muchly much better than Nyquil and I slept all night.

We branched out to mulled cider, which near as I can figure is a more heavily spiced version of hot buttered rum minus the butter.

I’m a fan of mulled cider both with and without rum. The other night the first really cold snap of the year arrived and I pined for mulled cider. I couldn’t find fresh cider, but I did find an old bottle of cider in the pantry. I had a very fine rum on hand (Appleton Estates) and some old, half-stale mulling spices. I decided bad mulled cider was better than none.

I made way too much of the spiced cider and ended up freezing the leftovers in ice cube trays. This was genius! I can now have spiked spiced cider anytime I want. With the cold and rain of the past few days, I have enjoyed my less than stellar cider although freezing did much to improve it.

I'm fixin' to snuggle with Babette and read a novel.

I’m getting used to having a hot toddy in the evening. This weekend I may play around with hot chocolate and brandy (Schnapps is just hideous.)  But right now, Babette and I have a date to curl up on the sofa and enjoy some quality time together.  She’s one happy puppy these days and is no longer shy about demanding attention.

Warmth and Sun

Morning Daydreams

It’s getting to be that time of the year when I switch my living arrangements. It’s winter and in the interest of not paying Appalachian Power more than my mortgage, I’m moving upstairs.

The only way to keep the downstairs bearable is to crank the heat to 75 or 80 which turns the upstairs into the Sahara. In fact, I turn the heat down to about 55 at bedtime so that I can enjoy the cool bedroom I like while sleeping. It’s so delicious to burrow into the down comforter and feather bed without fear of heatstroke.

The barn has two temperature zones – cool downstairs and warm upstairs. During temperature extremes one floor of the house is insufferable while the other fluctuates between uncomfortable and pleasant. The reasons center on the cement slab the barn sits on along with the multitude of windows sans draperies.

By January, sometimes earlier, the downstairs carpet will be cold to the touch radiating proof that the slab is frozen. I abhor so the multitude of windows in the barn will also radiate unchecked cold. Indeed, my windows are dressed only in my dressing room so as to protect the mailman, the trash guys and the electric company’s meter readers from my brazen nudity. The airy lace panels do little to insulate. Nevertheless the dressing room is one of the rooms I will decamp to – that and the study with naps in the guest bedroom. Setting the furnace to a reasonable temperature keeps the shivering windows at bay most of the winter. On particularly frigid days, a space heater actually warms the room unlike its behavior on the first floor where the open floor plan defeats its abilities.

With the cold, dark days of winter I go upstairs not just in search of heat, but also light.  The upstairs is much less stingy with natural light than is the first floor.

Along with my dressing table, the dressing room is furnished with the completely ridiculous and much loved chaise. Oh how I dithered before plunking down a silly amount of money to buy it. I kept trying to justify the cost and couldn’t. While it was logical to think the room required something other than the vanity bench to sit on, the chaise was not the best choice.

One cannot just sit on the chaise. With its graceful s-curve, it invites a languorous and prone lounging. One is seduced by the comfort of the upholstery, there is no choice but to surrender and sprawl particularly since that s-curve makes just sitting uncomfortable. So the chaise is completely useless in facilitating the donning of socks or hosiery – my one feeble justification.

A chair would have been far more utilitarian, but much less fun.

Mmmm, sun-warmed silk.

Even with the lace panels, the dressing room is aglow with morning light. The winter sun hangs low in the sky streaming rays that make the chaise all the more irresistible. Its sybaritic splendor is further enhanced by a heavy silk kimono a dear friend gave me. There is a magic about silk that no other fabric comes close to imitating. I wrap myself in the kimono, lounge on the chaise and drink my morning coffee. I can lose hours on the chaise.

The study is also kissed by that morning light, but it’s a brief kiss. The mature oaks standing close to the house that give the room a tree-house feeling in the summer still manage to block most of the morning sun. At sunset, the study glows with the low hanging sunset sauntering in through the room’s one western window. The light is silky amber that compels the room’s furnishings to glow. The grain of the heavy oak twirls and preens while the metal of knobs, handles, stapler and ornaments shimmer. If not for the brevity of a winter sunset, I would lose hours sitting in the study’s outrageously comfortable chair.

The guest bedroom with its one window is the warmest room of the house. After the sun begins it rotation to the west, that room holds the afternoon light in clearly defined beams. The canopy draped over the bed holds the light in a web of glimmer. The bed is like being inside a prism. It’s a glorious place to nap.

In winter, I move room to room to follow the sun – the dressing room for daydreams, the study for deep thoughts and the guest bedroom for illicit naps.

Now and again I think I would love living in a small cottage – less to clean, less to maintain, and less to heat. It would be practical and free up a lot of time. It’s hard to justify one person living in this multitude of rooms.

Ah, but I am a space junkie – usually an unapologetic one. I love all of my single purpose rooms, nooks and crannies. From my son’s old bed tucked underneath the stairwell’s eaves to the tiny book nook under the stairs, each one has not just a purpose, but provides this hedonist with the pleasures of the well-defined ambiance of each.

It is winter and I’m in nesting mode. Besides a thorough cleaning, I plan to use these months to tackle the painting of the stairway and the living room/dining room. These two areas of the house are among those that most irritate my hedonistic self. While I do abhor draperies, I am thinking of installing some in the living room/dining room The planned ambiance of that room may require substantial ones that will wrap around the windows rather than covering them, yet can be pulled closed when winter sneaks up on me. It would be nice to have a winter-livable room downstairs.

Between glorying in morning sun, napping in afternoon sun, and marveling at winter sunsets I’m going to need razor-sharp discipline to excise my predilection for sitting around doing nothing for hours at a time. [I was genetically predestined to be one of the idle rich and something went terribly wrong.]

It will be a war of wills with my hedonist me waging battle with the industrious me. I’m already alternatively nagging and promising my hedonistic self that a few months of industry will provide years of sitting year-round in a room that provides splendid sunlight from noon on. A room for reading and gazing out the atrium doors. A room for fine dining on fine china with friends and family. A room to adore a Christmas tree. And a room to watch summer rainstorms and winter snowstorms. .A room in which the pleasure of those activities is not diminished by the sight of needed work.

A new trend in female grooming?

It really gets tiresome.

I collected a machete and box of Band-Aids and took them to the bathroom. I got out the razor and the shaving cream.  I sighed.  For 38 years, I have performed this unpleasant and, sometimes, dangerous task.

I shaved my legs and, while doing so, wondered who, exactly, introduced this practice. I also wondered why it went viral. And I wondered if it was ever ever ever going to be passé.  [Note:  I do know Ancient Romans were into de-haired legs.]

Immediately following the car wreck of 2007 and for months thereafter, I had heaps of medical appointments. Between the chiropractor, physical therapist, podiatrist and orthopedist, I was to-ing and fro-ing much too much. I think the record was 8 appointments in one week. Bear in mind, I owned a body that had been infiltrated and colonized by pain endorphins. Work and doctoring were all I could manage. Shaving my legs was not physically possible and even if I could have managed it, I probably wouldn’t have. There’re only so many hours in a day.

During these appointments where I sat naked wrapped in paper with my hairy legs chill-bumped, I would read whatever magazines were in the exam room. It seems that doctors’ patients are uncommonly fond of gosspip rags. Either that or the docs are. [Exception: my shrink’s office is filled with the New Yorker and Car & Driver. Go figure.]

I wonder how often Miley shaves?

Slowly, inevitably perhaps, I became well-versed about Lindsey Lohan, Brangelina, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and all those paparazzi-chased folks.

Perversely, it started to interest me. I would tut tut when reading about LiLo’s latest boondoggle. Sneer at Paris Hilton’s cluelessness. Horrified that Jessica Simpson doesn’t brush her teeth daily.  I also looked at the fashion faux pas and fab fashion pics – sometimes thinking the fab was more of a faux pas, but those folks are never going to hire me to be the fashion editor.

Eventually, the myriad of medical appointments came to an end along with my celebrity gossip. I started itching to know the recent state of Brad and Angie’s marriage and whether or not Lindsey had learned how to disguise her alcohol monitoring bracelet as a cool fashion accessory.

I started going online for my gossip. While not as satisfying as a magazine, it more than meets my needs.

[Of course, you understand how much it pains me to admit to all this, but it is germane to leg shaving and I will get to that.]

I started reading the Huffington Post regularly during the last presidential election. They have one of the greatest celebrity gossip pages around. When I click on a link, it will often take me to a gossip rag or blog I haven’t heard of. It’s like a treasure hunt.  [Angelina Jolie may be pregnant again.]

Tonight after the unpleasant hacking at my legs and sick of the election (and sick about the election), I went gossiping for some fluffy, banal entertainment. One link led to another and then another and I found myself reading an article with the blaring headline – Natalia Vodianova Reveals Hairy Legs at Harper’s Bazaar Party. [Let’s not even get into how bizzare it is that a major magazine has nothing more important than this to publish.]

I hadn’t a clue who Natalia Vodianova was, but I was rather intrigued at a woman who would show up at a Harper’s Bazaar party with unshaven legs and, presumably, wearing something that revealed such.

Peach fuzz, I tell ya.

Frankly, it was a lot of hullaballoo about nothing.
Because Natalia (who is a super model, I learned) may have a habit of this, the writer thoughtfully provided another link proving she’d done it before.

Well the accompanying photographic proof got my attention – imagine being a super model and doing a fashion shoot in short shorts and NOT shaving your legs. Still and all, my primary thought was if the hair on my legs looked like that I would never shave.

But in the same article, there’s a reference (linked) to something called Team Mo-‘Nique. In the interest of research, I clicked. Mo’Nique is an actress or something. But she has some bodacious hairy legs (I can relate) and flaunts them regularly. Lately, it seems she presented her hairy gams at the Golden Globes.

She says, I must show America what a real leg looks like . . . because it’s too much in the morning, every morning, to shave, to cut, you got Band-Aids baby, she said. I really think hair on a woman’s legs is a black woman’s thing.

Girl! We could be twins!

If she’s right, I may masquerade as a black woman. But probably not. I’ve been conditioned to think a hairless leg is more attractive than a hairy one. And I can’t figure out how it is that she isn’t walking around scratching all the time.

She and I have pelts of similar hairiness. If I go too long without shaving, it itches and ingrown hairs develop and it’s altogether unpleasant.- more unpleasant than contorting my body in the bathtub or shower on a regular basis.

Which means, of course, that if Natalia and Mo’Nique are trend setters that are going to start a viral change to female grooming, I’m still going to be pretzeled in the shaving-legs asana – perhaps not as often as I do now, but still… Being the trendy person I am, I would hate to commit such a fashion faux pas as displaying smooth, denuded legs.

Clearly, if Team Mo’Nique sweeps the Olympics of Personal Grooming Habits, I’m going to have to wear pants on the days intense itch provoked shaving instead of wearing pants on the days I don’t shave. Either way, I am not going to be able to wear dresses as much as I like lest I assault someone’s, perhaps my own, standards of female pulchritude.

 [And don’t get me started on the price of razor blades.]