Tag Archives: Almost Heaven in 2011

Don’t wash your self with it put it on top of the toliet.

It’s Christmas afternoon and there’s a lull in the action. We had a Christmas breakfast here in the fancy eating-room. My child toddled off to a nap and HMO’Keefe did the dishes and I think he’s now snoozing. I’m reminiscing and finishing off the mimosas. Besides the fact that it does involve champagne, the lovely libation is in a hollow flute and I love watching the column of bubbles.  There’s no way I could just abandon it.

The weeks leading up to this holiday have been busy, yea, verily, frantic! And there’s been some drama. And I’ve been so very worn out and emotionally at the end of my tether. After leaving the office on Wednesday afternoon for a badly needed vacation, I’ve been a whirlwind. Nothing had even begun to be readied for the holiday and overwhelmed was the word of the week. The month. The year.

This is a stay at home vacation. I love having time off this time of year to hang around the house. I clean a little. I organize a little. I sleep. I write. I re-charge and gird my loins for the mayhem of January and February and March.

But before I could wallow in time off, Christmas had to readied. Against all odds, and with a fare amount of shouting, it came together. The house is not at its festive best by a long shot, but it’s so much better than it has been.

There was a whirlwind of shopping – most of it online. I generally refuse to order from any online establishment that will not provide free shipping, but when one waits until Christmas week to even begin, well, one, must make peace with shipping charges. Everything arrived.

A friend of mine has a long-standing tradition with her sister. For the holidays, they go on a shopping expedition together each spending on herself what she had intended to spend on the other. At the end of the outing, there’s a ritual exchange of “Here! Look what you got me!”  When I was younger I would have hated this.  But I’m an old woman, now.  I have what I want, seldom really want anything, and for Christmas I’d really just like to spend a little more time with my mother.

My mother and I thought this sounded like a fine, fine tradition. We decided such an outing required the exotic locale of Columbus, Ohio. So, off we went. My mother “gave to me” some wonderful sweaters. And I gave to her some equally wonderful duds. It was a wonderful time and the First Mother-Daughter Christmas Shopping Expedition is now an annual event.

I spent the next day wrapping and finishing the trees. And cleaning. In the course of such, I found an old Christmas card from my son. This card had accompanied my gift of bath salts lovingly nestled in a baby-food jar and adorned with a fabric topper. The card is a dandy.

Merry Christmas

Mom I Love you

The soap Please Don’t

wash you self with

it put it on top of the

toliet.

Well. You can’t argue with that. For years, it was on the toilet, but now it is on the beloved dressing table.

He was such a cute kid. He still is. He got into town about 9 p.m. Christmas Eve. We unwrapped gifts with the folks and came back here where he, I and HMO’Keefe killed two bottles of wine and talked food until 2 a.m.

Considering we were up until the wee hours, we woke fairly early and the three of us opened gifts. It was nice. HMO’Keefe prefers Christmas morning to Christmas Eve and joining lives is all about meshing traditions. After the spectacle of rampant materialism, I prepared French toast with didn’t turn out well, but if you serve anything with champagne, it becomes memorable.

We’re all pretty tired. I should be napping, but the sun is pouring through the atrium doors and there’s still champagne. I don’t spend much time in this room and I don’t know why. The light, particularly at this time of year and this time of day, is a balm to the spirit.

I’ve caught up with myself.

I was gifted with some very special presents which will merit another post another day, but I also received, because I asked for it, an all-in-one art box. For years, I’ve said I didn’t get the artistic gene that runs rampant through the rest of the family. I’ve also never been particularly interested in painting. I’ve quipped that if I had grandchildren (inserting an evil glare at Chef Boy ‘R Mine at the time), I could be the next Grandma Moses. I have no illusions that I’ll be any good. I don’t even care that it will be dreck. I’m looking forward to tossing paint around.

As for my son, the gift I gave to him that makes me smile the most is the pair of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sleep pants. In size Men’s Extra-Large. He’s wearing them. They’re, um, colorful. The little boy that gave me bath salts was a Ninja Turtle groupie. It was all Turtles, all-the-time, for a number of years. I chortled at the Wal-Mart when I saw them. He grinned when he opened them. Sometimes the best presents are the least expected ones which brings me to the gift from my father – a year’s worth of journal entries about his life. I haven’t looked close at it.  Not yet. I want uninterrupted time to sink into it, but I’m tearing up at the thought of him giving me that window to his heart.

Christmas dinner, which my Dad is preparing, is in a few hours. I should be straightening the house and dressing, but the sun is still streaming into this room and there’s still champagne. Dad’s not going to throw me out if I show up in dirty jeans and a sweatshirt. Such is the acceptance of a loving family.

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Filed under December 2011

I already don’t like mornings.

Planks are harder than squares.

I already don’t like mornings and today was Day 2 of the flooring adventure.  But the peel’n’stick is on the floor and it looks good.  It’ll be interesting to see how it wears.

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Filed under December 2011

Mmmmmm Co’Cola

There is nothing I like better than an icy Classic Coke when my throat’s as dry as unbuttered toast. So here it is after 10 p.m. and I’m sucking it down as fast as the straw will deliver.

Why am I so parched? Well. There’s a story.

It begins with bread baking.

Well, now. No. That wouldn’t be true.

It begins with the Boorish Ass (who has since gone out of business) that flimflammed me on flooring installation. It’s taken me several years to get around to undoing the travesty inflicted upon my floors.

Boorish Ass convinced me that I could indeed have sheet linoleum in places that several contractors have said no way. Foolish Me wanted to believe and plunked down the cash. Boorish Ass took the cash and then discovered he could not lay linoleum in the Barn due to the composition and construction of the subfloors. Now I had mentioned, indeed explained at length, what professionals had said about the state of the Barn’s subflooring to Boorish Ass.

Boorish Ass insisted it was doable. I insisted Boorish Ass come look at my floors. He did. He pontificated upon the improvements of flooring technology. Blah blah blah. I have witnesses.

Boorish Ass abandoned the installation with the attitude of “Listen, Lady, I told you this couldn’t be done.” [Truly, I don’t know how he got out of here alive.]

What Boorish Ass left in my house was badly installed underlayment which I have been trodding upon for way too long. Each time I look at it, I want to jump in my car, do bodily harm to him, and hang some of his body parts from my rear-view mirror. I imagine you can guess which body parts.

So, it’s pert near 2012 and this nonsense and I have co-existed way way past what any sane person would regard as too long.

Which brings us to bread. (Kind of.)

I’ve been a wee bit stressed lately. Upon the advice of myself and those in the “helping professions,” I decided to take up a hobby. There was a clear and present need for fun in my life.

Learning to make scrumptious, earthy (ahem) “artisan” bread sounded like a peachy idea. I like bread. HMO’Keefe likes bread. Everybody likes bread. It’s inexpensive (hah!) and I could do it in the comfort of my own home (whichever of the two I happened to be in).

I’m no bread-making virgin. I’ve been a competent baker for a good 30 years. However, I’ve come across one-too-many website and way-too-many cookbooks that detail recipes that take days and sometimes weeks to produce a finished loaf. In short, I took up the kind of bread baking that makes what I used to do akin to the difference between tomato plants bought at a discount store and tomato plants grown from heirloom seeds in a painstakingly built home greenhouse with strict climate control features.

[There was an interlude with “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” which will someday be a blog post of its own.]

The bread-making thing GOT TO BE OUTRAGEOUS quickly and after out-growing every pair of pants I own, I reconsidered this hobby. It was a peachy for stress relief, but I’m mightily stressed and three or four loaves of bread every other day or so for months, well, you can see the problem.

This led me to join the gym. Everybody says exercise is a wonderful stress reliever.

Well. It is. Sort of. But I can make bread (1) at home, (2) at any hour of the day, (3) even if I’m tired and (4) I don’t have to make polite chit-chat to dough.

Flippin’ everybody I know goes to the gym. It’s hard to smile and say, “Well! Hi! And how are you?” when you’re trying to inflict all the indignities of the day on an innocent treadmill. Or worse, while hiding unshaven legs behind a meager towel while waiting for a swimming lane.

So, while still going to the gym but less frequently, I returned to bread which led me to a new super-discount store (Ollie’s) in search of affordable bread pans. (Contrary to the above, bread-making is not cheap if you’re a personality type that tends to over-do.)

[BTW, Ollie’s started the whole bread-making thing in the first place when they sold me The Culinary Institute of America’s At Home Series bread making cookbook – which is riddled with errors and not much good for anything other than some nice photos.]

I’m wandering around too-narrow aisles just browsing after discovering a dearth of bread pans when I happen upon peel’n’stick floor tile that would look great in the Cow Bathroom. I pondered. I looked at the price, looked again, and hollered, “What the hell!” after ciphering it would cost $20 to cover the hideous underlayment left by Boorish Ass.

I blew another $20 at Lowe’s for various accoutrements. After a couple of hours of very easy work, I had a splendid floor in the half-bath. It’s cheap tile. It won’t last but a few years, but it makes me happy. That $40 floor did more for stress reduction than bread and squats did. I am woman, hear me roar.

After the pie-making, bread-making extravaganza that was Thanksgiving, I found myself in the flooring aisle of Lowe’s. There was this nifty peel-and-stick tile in 6” x 48” planks that offer a textured wood finish to mimic hardwood floors. I pondered and ciphered. To do the kitchen, hallway and laundry room to cover the underlayment Boorish Ass left behind was a Big Number. While it was a much better grade of flooring than the $20 Ollie’s marvel, I can’t afford it right now and I wouldn’t afford it even I could without a test run.

The floor in the master bath is an utter travesty that harkens back to the Ex’s and my days of do-it-yourselfing. This old-time era did not include professional advice, the reading of instructions, or proper tools.

I hauled out of the Lowe’s enough faux-wood plastic planks for the master bath floor. According to the instructions, I could clean that old floor, peel’n’stick and enjoy the view from my bathtub in a matter of hours. Since that jibed with the Ollie’s/Cow experience, I drank the Kool-Aid.

[I’ve been doing stuff to this Barn for 25 years. You’d think I would have learned by now. Ancient Burial Ground.]

The first thing that went wrong was the cleaning of the floor. Between paint spatters, scuffs, this and that, a heavy-duty cleaning was required to ensure maximum adhesion.

One heavy-duty cleaning was more than that old floor could take. It gave up the ghost, shriveled, unstuck itself from the subfloor (in parts) and crumbled (in other parts).  After a stream of profanity and the lobbing of a coffee cup, I resigned myself to pulling up the old flooring. Of course, only parts of it would pull up. The remainder was stuck to the floor like bread calories on my hips.  Fused.  Welded.  Married.  Not-to-be-divorced.

Out came the scraper. No good. More profanity. Out came the steam cleaner. Nope. Out came the sander. Some progress. If I peeled the thin plastic layer off the top and then scraped and sanded, the subfloor would appear.

This was very slow. And I couldn’t really get into the Zen of peel, scrape, sand, repeat, because what I really wanted was a long bubble bath with a glass of wine and the glorious vista of faux-wood planks.

I went to the Lowe’s and returned with super-duper, silly-expensive sandpaper. (And a cute, tiny shop vac.)

[I’ve left out the part about removing molding, the sides of the whirlpool, the toilet and the sink pedestal. My boudoir is one tremendous mess as well as a study in contrasts.]

At 9:55 p.m., the floor was finally removed and the sub-floor ready for the primer I bought to ensure those peel’n’sticks stick. (I do, sometimes, do the prudent thing.)

I started at noon yesterday and worked until 8 p.m. I started again at noon today and worked until 9:55 p.m. The last 7 hours of today’s adventure included me, a mouse sander, sandpaper so expensive we must import it from Kuwait, and heaps, myriads, plethoras, mountains, stacks and whirlwinds of dust.

There is dust in my hair, my ears, my eyes, my wrinkles, and wedged into the dimples of my cellulite (dimples greatly increased by bread to the point of craters.) There is also dust between my teeth, coating my tongue and wall-papering my throat.

Mmmmmm. Co’Cola.

(Provided I can stand upright, I plan on peel’n’sticking tomorrow evening.)

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Filed under December 2011

Busier than a one-armed paper-hanger on a unicycle in a hurricane. (And no FEMA in sight.)

I don’t think I’ve ever been as busy as I am now.  And Lord knows, I’ve led a busy life.  But if something doesn’t give soon, I’m going to collapse in a quivering heap of twitchy woman.

I’d list it all, but it’s too depressing.  But no matter what it is I’m doing at any given time, somebody wants me doing something else.  If everything is urgent, then nothing is.  Ya know?

Word!

I’m too tired to lean over and drink the glass of wine I poured 3 hours ago.  Ain’t that sad?

It was recently suggested that I needed a hobby to help reduce stress in my life.  So, I’ve taken up “artisan bread” baking.  (Doesn’t that just sound pretentious?)  I was having fun (and gaining weight) with the breadmaking, but I’ve been too busy to do any baking for more than a week.  There’s something very satisfying about kneading bread when you start out preferring primal scream therapy.

But a friend sent me a 14-year-old South African sourdough starter (and a bodacious copper tea kettle!) and I’ve been busy (ahem) cultivating starter for my first attempt at sourdough bread.

This bread thing is addictive.  First of all, I’ve always had a thing for for kitchen toys and I’ve now acquired a baking stone, a lame` thingie, dough scraper/cutter thingie, thermometer, bowls, breadboard,bowl scraper etc. etc.  (This “artisan” thing requires accoutrements.)

I’ve also always had a thing for cookbooks.  Boy howdy, y’all probably don’t know how many bread books there are out there.  It’s probably a good thing Borders closed.

So.  There you have it.  Me.  Whining again.

(I think I’ll be drinking that wine now.)

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Filed under September 2011

It’s hot. Have a gin and tonic.

Hot Summer Nights

There are some who might say, perhaps rightly so, that I’m just a malcontent. And there’s no use trying to make or keep me happy. I might be one of those people who might, perhaps rightly so, describe myself as such.

However, I’ve been right proud of myself.

In spite of vexatious challenges, I have, mostly, kept last winter’s vow that I would not complain about the heat.

Now it was touch and go here for a couple of days, but I neutralized the pressure of pent-up whining by talking about the pent-up whining and what might be the imminent danger of my spontaneously combusting.

Still and all, other than a few Lawsy, Miz Scarlett, it sure be hot, I have not let the Inner Brat run free with her tantrums.

I hadn't noticed it left.

It is hot. It’s all over the news. Millions of us have become very learned about the heat index which for those of you not sweltering is summer’s version of wind chill. [I have been cogitating on whether damp and cold feels colder than dry and cold and wondering if there’s a corresponding cold index and also wondering about wind chill as it relates to stagnant, putrefying air versus summer breezes, but Lawsy, Miz Scarlett it be too hot for heavy thinking.]

The primary reason I haven’t volleyed a heat-induced rant on the topic of heat is that the Pied-a-Terre has air conditioning.

The sounds and sights of summer nights.

Now back to that malcontent descriptor. I have lived for so long now without air conditioning in my abode, I find it disconcerting. With air conditioning, I lose the white noise of fans and the flutter of my hair. I lose the fragrance of night-blooming lovelies. But mostly, it’s the sound of summer nights that I miss. In the cool confines of the apartment, I cannot hear the peepers or the breeze ruffling the tree canopies or the cat knocking over the pot of mint (again). It’s unnatural. And sort of creepy.

While it’s true, air conditioning at the apartment has probably kept me sane, I have very much enjoyed the past few days here at the barn. As long as one doesn’t move too fast, wears a minimum of clothes, and keeps an iced drink at hand at all times, it really hasn’t been that bad.

The iced drink thing leads me to my next topic. Chef Boy R’ Mine has made a liar out of me again. It’s a long boring story, but years ago I tried some alcoholic libations made with gin. Ack. Spit. Yuck! [gag]

Tangueray 10

Online, somewhere, somebody said something like, “gin is like sipping last year’s Christmas tree through rubbing alcohol.” Prior to reading that analogy, I ran around saying gin tastes like juniper-infused kerosene. I like the Christmas tree thing better – there’s pathos embedded that kerosene doesn’t invoke.

Child of Mine has been waxing rhapsodic about gin and fine wines for a time now. The sommelier at his club has been sharing some Truly Great Vin and, once in awhile (far too infrequently), I get to partake of some wines that I can’t envision ever being able to afford.

The gin thing I pooh-poohed as youthful indiscretion.

T10 and Lime

On his latest trip home, The Boy came bearing Tanqueray 10. We were here at The Barn. There was a heat index of 115F. He was cooking. We were talking. One thing led to another and I was fishing rocks glasses out of the china cabinet. [I’m a stickler for the right glass for the drink.]

I was prepared to be a good sport.

Oh my. OH MY.

I was astonished. I’m not much for mixed drinks – particularly those involving carbonated mixers. I had, once again, to admit I hadn’t known what I was talking about when I threw around descriptors like kerosene.

Chef Boy R’ Mine tells me that Hendricks gin is even better and that if I try it, I must garnish it with cucumber rather than lime. The cucumber thing rather intrigued me given that one of my favorite summer meals is tomato-cucumber-avocado salad with fresh ground pepper and sea salt.

Yes. I do like a little tomato, cucumber and avocado with my salt and pepper.

Still and all, I was kind of puzzled. I honestly don’t like juniper which is the flavoring that makes gin gin. I went web-surfing and found a host of folks, including the Christmas tree guy, that weren’t fond of traditional gin, but liked T-10.

It seems this “premium” gin is made not only with juniper, but also with Florida oranges, Mexican limes, grapefruits and coriander. Mixed with tonic, these beautiful botanicals combine with the quinine to protect me from malaria and the quinine also acts as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory. As I ponder whether to have a third gin and tonic, I tell myself it’s medicinal.

Lime and Cucumber

So. I’ve had two gin and tonics this evening and am pondering a third. One with lime. And one with lime and cucumber. The latter is a real winner. It’s pretty in the glass, it’s tasty on the tongue, and it’s refreshing like a scented summer breeze in the cool of the evening after a blazing hot day.

[Aw, hell, hang on, it’s not like it takes a long time to make one of these things. And it is medicinal.]

I still haven’t whined.

Damn, this is a fine drink.

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Filed under July 2011

Ahhhhhhhh

No, no. We’re not even close to done, but we’re done enough that I can allow myself to sit down without overwhelming guilt. This move has been epic and we’re only up to canto II or III.

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Filed under July 2011

Roadtrip with Mr Clapton

Sometimes white boy blues are a spiritual head-nodding deep meditation. Other times they’re a joyous bang-on-the-steering-wheel spectacle which amuses other folks on the road.

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Filed under July 2011