Tag Archives: Excessively Wordy

The Winter of My Content

march snow 034The past four days have been an adventure.  Between Wednesday night and Thursday, I found 10 inches of snow outside The Barn.  With great glee, I celebrated the announcement that a certain community college was closed both Thursday and Friday.  At my place of employment, this means we are also closed and I don’t have to burn vacation days due to heavy snow.  It doesn’t take a lot of snow to trap me on the hill and nearly a foot was way overkill.

We had eight inches of snow over the President’s Day weekend.  I ended up with a full week off of work.  It was a lovely respite, but I did nothing but sleep, eat, read and watch Downton Abbey.

I had big plans for these four days off, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”  I seem to be in major nesting mode – I want The Barn to look as wonderful as I think it is, so a thorough cleaning was in order.  I also was looking forward to cooking.  After not cooking for most of the past ten years, I’m suddenly interested in it again.

march snow 003Day 1 of my four-day weekend, Thursday, I did some triage cleaning (Chez Barn was/is a Superfund Site) and finally finished putting all the Christmas stuff away.  Yes, yes.  I know, March, but, hell, it was July one year. I’m ahead of schedule!  It was so nice having my living room back that I wallowed in that room and admired the gorgeous snow and sunshine out my window.  It was very Dr. Zhivago-ish.  I also made the starter dough for a new sticky bun recipe.  I’m on a quest for the perfect sticky bun.  The potato soup I made for dinner was spectacular!  I could win a soup contest, my potato soup is just that good.

Friday morning, I woke up with a head of steam to clean and bake.  I turned the starter dough into finished dough and had it set to rise when the power went out at 9 a.m.  I trundled my butt-that-doesn’t-need-even-a-single-sticky-bun-much-less-a-dozen down to my folks’ house to see if they had power.

march snow 057They didn’t.  But they had a fireplace and the hearth proved a perfect spot to make old-fashioned percolator coffee.  After visiting with them for awhile, I took the big camera out for a photo shoot of Ma Nature’s glorious handiwork.  I tromped around Onafork and took some stellar photos, some mediocre, and some just bad.  (See the gallery below.)

When I returned, I called Appalachian Power and reported the outage.  I was told it would be repaired at 10 p.m. Sunday.  SUNDAY!  I was miffed.  One cannot clean and bake in a cold, dark house with no electricity.  I mean, really, it already looks like I clean in the dark.

potato soupBy the afternoon, The Barn was getting cold – 55F, to be exact.  I trundled back down to my folks’ after defrosting the windows of my car and cleaning off the snow.  I wanted to be ready in the event of an emergency.

We all sat around drinking coffee, laughing about how we were out of wood and having to burn old software manuals, and eating the leftover potato soup I made on Thursday.

Software manuals put out a great deal of heat.  We were comfortable and told stories.  Eventually, I went back home to sleep.  I have a heavy down comforter on my bed as well as a heavy bedspread.  I was confident I would be warm enough.  And I was.

march snow 006Saturday, I went back down to the parents’ house, because the only way to be comfortable in my then 42F house was to be in the bed.  One can only stay in bed alone for so long.  Plans were made for them to go to a hotel.  I decided to stay here and tend to critters.  By that time, we were down to broken furniture to burn in the fireplace.  A cheesy “wood” chair made in Yugoslavia doesn’t burn nearly as well as do software manuals.  Surprise, surprise.

Nonetheless, I was all zen and accepting of life’s curve ball when I discovered I had left my car running, ran the battery down and my phone was down to 10% power.  The only way I had to charge the phone was the car charger and that wasn’t going to work with a dead battery.  I lamented on Facebook and my friend/contractor sent his son over to jump my car.

I have been so blessed with the people in my life.  My boss texted me often to see if there was anything she could do to help.  Other friends called.  My Facebook world fretted about my well-being.  I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the friendships I have, but I’m very grateful.

at my parentsSaturday evening was spent in a haze of wine and contentment.  It would have been nice to have had some music, but, alas, I was short of that perfection.  I left my folks’ house at about 11 p.m. and returned to my toasty bed.  If nothing else, I did get a lot of sleep.  I drifted off convinced that the power company was lying to me and I would wake to power on Sunday morning.

Well.  I woke up this morning and I still didn’t have power.  Zounds!

Back like a boomerang, I went to my parents’ house yet again.  The fire had gone out and I couldn’t get that Yugoslavian chair to light to save my life.  Besides the cold factor, the more important problem was that I couldn’t make coffee.  I have a serious coffee addiction.  It was a dire situation.  After about an hour, in walked my parents with coffee and sausage biscuits.  Again, I was suffused with gratitude.

And then the power came back on, well before 10 p.m.  There was great celebration and I returned home to bake and clean and blog and upload photos and do laundry and put emergency light sources away…and…and…

It’s been a wonderful day.   The sticky buns turned out a tad gummy, but recipe tweaking should take care of that.  The house is still a mess and laundry isn’t even half done, but I am happy and content. These days  it’s good to be me – the winter of my content.  Contentment may well be the best state of being.  I know I’m certainly enjoying it.

 

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Filed under March 2015

Self-Deluding

There are three graphics going around Facebook these days that cause me to pause and contemplate. They’re supposed to be funny and the originator probably didn’t intend them to provoke deep philosophical thoughts, but nonetheless.

The last few years have just been something. I remarked the other day that having the rug pulled out from under my feet every 30 seconds or so should feel normal; it should no longer surprise me or provoke nothing more than an off-hand comment of “here we go again.”

Still, I’m surprised, outraged, demoralized, saddened, defeated or whatever emotion the Lucy-with-the-football moment has provoked. This proves something although I’m not sure what. Perhaps it proves that finding contentment in chaos is pretty damned difficult, but I suspect that any of the Buddhists of my acquaintance could have told me that. I wouldn’t have argued with them either because I am having a right awful time with finding any contentment, much less holding on to it long enough to marvel at the positive aspects of chaos.

I tried to abolish the rest of July the other day, but folks celebrating a birthday this month were opposed. In truth, it’s not just been July that’s been a problem so it was a flawed idea – a no solution solution.

Right on schedule, at about the age of 30 or so, I noticed that I didn’t know one single normal person. In talking with other people, I gather this is a rite of passage. Young’uns get this idea from somewhere that at the appropriate calendar moment they will enter the great society of something called “grownups” and much of the drama of the playground, school hallway and sports fields will cease. Decisions will be thoughtful and correct. Maturity and right-thinking will be abound and between bouts of doing the right thing, flossing our teeth, paying our bills on time, and running well-ordered lives, the “grownups” will look around, take a gander at what’s not working and correct it.

Poppycock. This is probably the worst fairytale we tell our children. “Grownups” are nothing more than children without the qualities that make children such wonderful creatures. Worse, the quirks of childhood solidify into something heavy, dark and dreary. There is so much that we don’t outgrow. And some of what we do outgrow, perhaps we shouldn’t. How I would have loved the other day to stand up and shout “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” But grownups don’t do that. If we’ve been through enough classes, employee trainings, and CEU conferences, we might say something like “That’s not my understanding of what happened.”

By the age of 50, most of us understand that “normal” is nothing but a dryer setting. But chances are pretty good that we’re angry about that truth. At least that’s my take when a statement purporting to state the norm is always met by a “but.” “But” is a result of the residual anger from learning the playground bullies are still bullies, the tattletale is still tattling and we’re still using rock, paper, scissors to solve problems.

Some of us embark on Sinatra’s “My Way” to navigate our lives. We’ve learned that the “grownups” aren’t, there is no “normal” and the Buddha is always killed on the road. We resolve to pilot our own ship, forge our destiny, march to our own drummer, yada yada yada. While we’re heaping those platitudes on the Chinette plate of our lives, we pass over Donne’s “No Man is an Island.” Perhaps we never had a teacher make us read that bit of wisdom.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

John Donne

I’m not good at planning. I never have been, but like Charlie Brown, I continue to try. I set out from a to b with the simplest path in mind. I’m never very far when chaos reminds me I’m not an island and the rich, often rewarding, continent of my life is going to complicate the straight route I’ve planned.

I had plans for this weekend that were derailed before the first footstep. Before I could alter them appropriately, a tragedy unfolded killing folks I don’t know and I’m caught up in the tolling bells. While learning of that horror, I read of others and now Wordsworth’s “The world is too much with me” is complicating the hope of the Easy Way to prevail.

 

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be

A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth

Someone I knew, who died a few months ago, used to go on a media fast once a year to celebrate his birthday. For thirty days, he partook of no television, newspapers, Internet. It sounded like a fine idea, but I don’t have the self-discipline to effect such a total block. Periodically, I’ll declare a media fast lite where I refuse all but the lightest forms of media entertainment ignoring politics and the mayhem of what we call “news.”

Is finding contentment in chaos achieved by blinders? Maybe? Is it necessary to allow my senses to be assaulted by the mayhem with only literature as a bandage?

And why is it that I think if I could only restore order to my home, I could find some equanimity? I know this last thing to be true, because it’s worked so many times before. Is it because by controlling what I can, I buy into that childish myth that when I’m a grownup I’ll have the power to right wrongs?

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

I’m off to self-delude.

 

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Filed under July 2012

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

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.)

7 Comments

Filed under December 2011

Nurture and Nature

With all the busy-ness, drama, peril, stress and discombobulation of the past weeks, months, years, I’ve been out of sync with my universe. This statement is probably one of the biggest understatements of my life.

Places to live usually just fall on me.

Three things ground and root me: friends and family, nesting and gardening, writing and creating. This great triumvirate of my life has been stripped of power for far too long and it is with great joy that HMO’Keefe’s arrival in West Virginia has put them back into office.

He and I have had separate lives that intersected too infrequently. We anticipated that blending our lives would create some flash points in terms of turf wars. My beloved barn is so much mine, we both feared the time it would take for it to feel like his while I adjusted to what might feel like his encroachment into my space would be uncomfortable for us both. This is one of the perils of independent, old folks moving in together. For this reason and several others which are actually more important, HMOKeefe and I have taken a pied-a-terre in town where we will live during the work week retiring to the country estate on the weekends.  🙂

[I find it completely ridiculous that I have a home in the “city” and a “country house” – I have yet to refer to either without feeling pretentious.]

Pied-a-Terre

I had great fun and great stress finding an apartment. I have never looked for a place to live before. Like the Wicked Witch of the East, houses just seemed to fall on me. I started this project eager and anticipating the process to be a big bunch of fun.

I approached the task of finding the pied-a-terre in a logical fashion. I created a wish list which included the neighborhood I wanted. Then I stalked that neighborhood, classified ads, real estate magazines, and Craigslist.

What people pay for rental property in Hooterville was a great shock to me. My optimism plummeted with every phone call not returned by a landlord, with every walk-through a roach motel and every apartment with no laundry facilities. [We are too old to be schlepping to the laundromat.] Finding a place for grownups to live in a college town is pretty damn difficult.

And, yet, my timing was perfect. I opened Craigslist at the very right second. I called the landlord at the very right second. I raced over to see the apartment at the very right second. And within 10 minutes of walking in the door, I was shouting “It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s perfect, I’ll take it!”

The apartment hit every bullet point on the wish list except one (ground floor). It is just beeee-youuuuuuuuuuuuu-tiiiiiiiii-fullllllllllllllllllllll. I’ve been consumed with ideas for decorating, furniture arrangements, and color schemes while simultaneously restoring order to the Barn. I have been up to my neck in domestic nesting.

I love BOGO!

The garden, alas, was neglected. The harsh winter, endless spring rains and real estate flitting translated into an eyesore of a garden.

Yesterday and today I ran around home improvement centers and nurseries buying bedraggled, late-season annuals to effect a quick aesthetic fix. I ran into a buy-one-get-one sale that went a long way to improving the garden. I ran out of time to get all the little (some of them sad) plants into the ground, but my equanimity has the warm fuzzies with the little bit I have done. I neeeeeeeeddddddddd to have my hands in dirt.

Instant Garden

Now that HMOKeefe is here and is a tiny bit settled in (we have yet to begin the task of moving into the apartment), I’ve had some time to reconnect with friends. Last night, I sat in a dear friend’s garden with more dear friends. We played with twinkle lights, ate good food, drank cheap wine and had a fine time. These gatherings are dubbed “sisterings” and more than a decade ago, I helped to establish sisterings as a Friday night tradition. The craziness of my life has been such that I haven’t been able to attend with any regularity for years now. That sad state of affairs is coming to an end.

Twinkle Lights and Wine

So, I’ve had time with my True Love, time with my friends, and tomorrow I trundle off to Charlotte to take my Baby Boy to dinner to celebrate his birthday. Throughout this week and weekend I have taken photos to bear witness. I’ve come to really enjoy the creative aspect of photo editing. I’ve written blog posts this week. I’ve nested, gardened, nurtured and created. I’ve hit all of my pulse points and life is good.

I had intended on posting way back in January that the slogan for this year was Almost Heaven in 2011. We’re about half-way through the year and things are on track.

I’ve also been remiss in acknowledging an award. Back in April (more than a month after my last blog post), I received email telling me my blog had been named one of the best West Virginia sites. In bestowing the award, The Very Best Sites wrote,

W.Va. Fur and Root is a self-proclaimed “hillbilly diva’s” blog (or, as she says, “blatherings”). Connie writes about whatever she wants, thank-you-very-much, and the title of her website comes from a sign that came with her old home, which she says is pretty much an old barn. She talks about nesting in that great old structure, but also talks about current events, TV, music, and pretty much whatever comes to mind. With terms like “Agog-O-Meter” I find her particularly fun to read, and so will you. She hasn’t posted in about a month, which I guess is because she is busy gardening, but read her older posts for a taste of something special.

As I think I’ve explained, I haven’t been busy gardening, but I have been busy. I’m very honored to have been listed as one of the best particularly in light of the other sites listed – many of them are favorites of mine and have characteristics that are goals for my blog.

It’s going to be a good summer. I’m sure of it.

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Filed under June 2011

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.

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Filed under November 2010

Mashed Potatoes and the Internet

Today, a Facebook Friend said

 ♥ instant mashed potatoes. Yeah I do.

 Now I haven’t met this person in real life, but one of the wonders of Facebook is that such details aren’t all that important in cultivating a real friendship.  However, I told her that this love of instant mashed potatoes might be grounds for our breaking up.

Mashed potatoes are not just a high-glycemic carbohydrate.  When the tuber is boiled, combined with milk and butter, and mashed, the resultant gestalt is home, family, nurture and nature – in short, love on a plate.  If the potatoes contain a few lumps, the effect is intensified.

Piffle - NOT a great value.

Instant Mashed Potatoes go with take-out Thanksgiving Dinners and gas station champagne.  Just because somebody sells it, doesn’t mean anyone should buy it.  Some things are travesties of the spirit. 

I was a small child during that era that Mad Men is making trendy.  Dinner was at 5:00 and involved meat and potatoes most days of the week.  Sure there were buttered noodles and converted rice as well as fried, baked or boiled potatoes, but mashed potatoes were the norm. 

When we moved to Hawaii in 1967, we were met with the potato problem.  Getting spuds to the islands was expensive and they arrived rotten.  That first box of mashed potatoes entered my mother’s kitchen.  Mashed potatoes were such a norm it didn’t occur to anyone to eliminate such from the menu in the absence of real potatoes.  I suppose if for some reason Thanksgiving found me without a home-cooked feast, I would succumb to Bob Evan’s take-out offering just as I have, on occasion, succumbed to gas station champagne.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and champagne my favorite party drink.  Still.  These are travesties of the spirit.

I cannot stress this enough, I am never going to post in my Facebook status that I  ♥ either one.  Let’s not get silly.

When we were stateside again, the return of real potatoes to the table was a delight.  My brother was beside himself.  He was so young when were in Kaneohe that he had no memory of real potatoes.  He fell in love with Idaho’s export.  The first thing he would do when presented with mashed potatoes was to look for lumps. 

 My mother did not use an electric mixer to mash her potatoes.  We had the tried and true masher.  And those things take work.  Only someone with a great hatred of lumps in the mashed taters would use one of those things long enough to eradicate every potato chunk.  Lumpy potatoes became a sign of non-instant potatoes.  Whoever mashed the potatoes in our house, and we took turns, did so intentionally leaving lumps.  Lumps made my brother happy. 

Lumpy potatoes = good. = great = love =somebody cares about me.

As a family, we talked about this. Lumpy mashed potatoes were explicit in our family culinary lore.  Besides lumpy, we liked our taters with enough backbone  to form a bowl to hold the gravy or the butter – none of this whipped into frothy, drippy frenzy of tortured tubers.  Oh no!  Our potatoes had character and a stiff backbone. 

My dad’s spaghetti sauce was legend.  The homemade pizza pert near.  And we were known for the taters.  Some folks ate them politely, but with varying degrees of puzzlement.  After all, we didn’t look like slovenly folk who would half mash the potatoes and be stingy with the milk.

 As my burgeoning interest in cooking collided with my anachronistic interest in 50’s music, I became obsessed with Dee Dee Sharp’s Mashed Potato Time.  A good friend and I, Charlene, made up our dance we dubbed the La Hava” which we could even do on roller skates.  We had to make up our dance because You Tube didn’t exist and we couldn’t find anybody to teach us the real Mashed Potato

The La Hava was very versatile and worked for lots of the 50’s songs we loved – Leader of the Pack, Why Must I Be a Teenager in Love and The Last Kiss.  We must have been quite a sight – our teeny bopper suburban hippy selves rocking out to my mom’s music.

Joy to the World

But before La Hava and Charlene, there was Nancy and long afternoons in my living room with a Monopoly board, iced tea, and the top-40 radio station.  We were wildly, giggly, obnoxiously in love with Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog as was much of the country.  [I was also wild about Patsy Cline, but Nancy teased me about it and I remember one horrible fight over it.]

I wonder if she remembers the day she and I, my mom and some more of our friends (including Charlene) danced around the living room to Three Dog Night.  My mom had the tambourine.  Nancy and I were using wooden fruit for microphones singing loudly and unabashedly off-key – drunk on happy music and the ridiculous sight of my mother with a tambourine.  Or maybe it was Charlene and I singing off-key.  I have this tiny, incomplete memory that Nancy may have been musically gifted.  [To this day I still don’t know why we had a tambourine – we were not then nor are we now a family gifted with even the semblance of musical ability.]

I found Nancy on Facebook the other day.  Quite by accident.  After 36 years, it will be like building a friendship.  I haven’t spent any of my adult life with people who knew me as a military brat.  Who knew me before life started settling into predictable patterns.  It will be interesting to see how building a friendship with someone I was once close to compares with building one with someone I’ve never actually met. 

Dancing to Mashed Potato Time wouldn’t have been as much fun if we hadn’t had to invent the steps.  I’m grateful You Tube didn’t exist.  I’m delighted that Facebook does so that I could reconnect with Nancy.  I’m also delighted with Facebook’s penchant to bring me friends I’ve never met.  I’ve switched to a Kitchenaid to make my mashed taters these days.  If you time it carefully, the lumps remain.  Technology preserving the old ways in new ways – if you time it carefully.

I can ask Nancy if she remembers.  I can also ask her if she knows where Charlene is.  If the La Hava becomes the next viral line dance, you’ll know we three hooked up in a bar somewhere. 

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Filed under October 2010