Sunday, October 13, 2019

Too Much To Describe In One Title

It's fall now, thanks be to God.

But BEFORE it was fall, we decided to get the heck away from the mosquito-infested summer that would never, ever end by heading up to Acadia National Park in Maine. And just like last year, we rented a house, but unlike last year, this one wasn't haunted.

Well, there was the huge heating grate in the front hall, that Susie swore Pennywise lived in.

All it needs is a red balloon...

But otherwise, it was just about perfect, especially one particular picture in Susie's bedroom that we discussed slipping into our suitcases, we loved it so much (but we didn't, because a life of crime just isn't our thing).

Something about the colors - this photo doesn't do it justice

We hiked, we ate doughnuts, we gloated over the fact that we were missing the 96-degree weather back home. Susie ate blueberry ice cream (too cold for me). Rachel didn't come with us (something about college applications, senior year, blah, blah, blah), which suited her just fine, as she got to stay at a friend's house and enjoy what was essentially a week-long slumber party.

Did I mention we hiked?

There was some color up there

So, the day we were supposed to leave for this escape-from-mosquito-hell getaway, Larry said, "I'm just going to do a couple of things out front." And I said, "Sure! I'll finish packing up here and we'll go!"

People, THREE HOURS LATER, we hit the road. Because it turns out that Larry had decided to complete his entire landscaping project (remember the landscaping project?) in the front yard before we went on our 11-hour road trip. And didn't tell me.

Have I mentioned that communication isn't our strong point? Oh, yes, I guess I have. Okay, then...

So he finished the yard and then we spent the entire vacation week worrying that everything had died, because 96 degrees and NO RAIN. And, hey, I'm no master gardener, but maybe it isn't a good idea to plant new things and then not be around to water them, Larry? Sheesh.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Theo (who stopped by on the weekends) and a neighborhood teen, however, we came home to everything being pretty much alive. I must say, our neighbors still aren't used to our yard not looking like an abandoned lot or a construction zone, but I guess they'll just have to find something else to talk about now. At least until Larry comes up with his next home improvement scheme, anyway...

So vacations are wonderful and exciting and all, but here's the most amazing thing that has happened  lately:

Portrait mode - it blurs out the mess on my counter

That's right. I'm showing you a picture of cut-up butternut squash. EVERY YEAR, I see all these recipes for butternut squash soup and think, "I should make that!" After all, I have 2 vegetarians in the household and wouldn't they just LOVE some warm, cozy vegetarian soup? And wouldn't I just be the greatest mom if I were to make them some? So then I go buy a squash, and it ends up sitting on my counter until it rots.

Every family has its traditions. Ours are just stupider than most.

But this year? This year, it was different. I cut that butternut squash up last night like a boss (no, I don't know what that means, really) and today...(insert trumpet fanfare here)...I MADE SOUP.

Alas! I didn't really like it. Neither did the vegetarians. If anyone has any idea what is missing from that recipe I linked to, please let me know. Because I still cannot quite give up on the dream...

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Endless Summer

I'm sitting here, listening to some really old songs on Spotify and trying to once again explain to my 14-year-old that when I was her age, I couldn't just magically call up any old song ever written and listen to it. We were stuck with the radio and some cassette tapes. And we were HAPPY.

Gen Z'er that Susie is, she just shook her head in disbelief and walked away. I guess I sound the way my mother did when she explained why she and other old folks called the refrigerator an "icebox." Just...really? That's how you kept food cold?

But enough about how I am now a dinosaur, at least in my children's eyes. Let's talk about spending money. There was the new toaster in July, and the new fridge in August, and then? Well, I noticed the pile of kitchen rags I store under the sink was very wet, which led to the fun late-night activity of cleaning out the cabinet under the sink and determining that the water was coming from the faucet. Which, yeah, I guess should have been sort of obvious.

So! I called the plumber and discussed how much it would cost for him to come and fix it, versus just getting a new faucet. And I was sitting there, debating which to do, when I realized, wait, the faucet was already broken.

That's right - I was so used to the fact that it didn't work correctly (I mean, even before the new leak), that I almost paid good money for a plumber to come fix the leak and leave me with a faucet that still wouldn't work right.

If this seems surprising, you're new here, aren't you?

We bought the new faucet. It's super nice, and the sprayer works, and it costs less than the one we put in 10 years ago. Which means we got ripped off 10 years ago, but I'll try not to think about that. Actually, we probably got a little ripped off this time, also, but at least we were ripped off less than last time.

Progress, right?

Here, have a doggy picture:

Heeey, babe....
I think he was trying to get my attention.

Susie and I have been very athletic this summer, meaning we've actually gone biking together more than, say, 2 times. We both prefer to bike for food, so now we've worked up to biking 6 whole miles just to visit this great sandwich place a few towns over. I think this is healthy, but I'm not sure.


I mean, we DO have to bike the 6 miles back, also.

A few weeks back, I was outside, attempting to assert some control over the weed population in our little townhouse-sized yard. Only, because we live on the end of the row, and our house is set a little further back, it's sort of a big space. It used to be covered by lots of a very attractive ground cover, but for some reason half of it died and there are whole sections taken over by weeds.

"Hey," I said to Larry, "would you mind taking a shovel this weekend and digging up that little area in front of the rhododendron? There's no sense my weeding all that by hand."

So, I came home from yoga that weekend and saw a small section of weeds dug up and no sign of Larry.

"Where's your father?" I asked Susie.

"I don't know," she said, obviously bribed to tell no tales.

An hour or so later, I heard a beep-beep-beep sound and, looking out the window, I observed someone backing up one of those pickups you can rent by the day from Home Depot INTO OUR PARKING SPOT.

People, I just asked him to dig up some weeds. This is what ended up happening:

I chose to ignore what was obviously a major construction project. That's right - I didn't even ask.

A few days later, a neighbor said to me, "So Larry's going to dig up the whole yard?"

Me: "Is that what he said?!?"

I think the neighborhood is taking bets on how much longer this marriage lasts.

In other news, I made the mistake of going to the local farmers market last week.

I got a little carried away, I guess.

$12 for the bunch - I couldn't resist! We managed to use about half of them for a huge batch of salsa (or pico de gallo, I guess).  It was delicious. I put the rest of the tomatoes in the downstairs fridge for a batch of uncooked tomato sauce later in the week.

Guess what I found today? Hint: It wasn't pretty.

And that's all folks - I just wanted to pop in and say hi and I miss you and OMG working full time is no joke. Also, it was 90 degrees and humid here today, which doesn't quite scream autumnal equinox to me, you know? But Happy Fall anyway, especially to those of you in northern climes where the leaves are changing and the air is brisk and swarms of mosquitoes aren't lying in wait for you when you walk out the door.

As for the rest of us, well, at least we don't need to wear coats with our Halloween costumes, right?

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Trying Spontaneity On For Size

Writing here only once a month is awful. I have no idea where to start. I last wrote to you on a Friday, 2 days before I was to host Bunko for the neighborhood.

I think I had just hit "publish" on that last post when my daughter came upstairs and said, "The basement fridge is warm."

Folks, that's not something you ever want to hear, and especially not when you're expecting to entertain a dozen people at your house in 2 days. So we ran back downstairs, where the fridge was humming away -- but not to any purpose, apparently -- and frantically started emptying it out into our camping cooler, along with all the ice packs I could find. We filled up that cooler and went back to the kitchen to get a drink of water and discuss strategy.

"Dammit, I HATE to spend money to get a brand-new refrigerator for the basement," I groused.

I really wanted to use that word here. Groused. I was definitely grousing at that point.

"You could put the new one up here," suggested Susie.

"Nah, this one is practically new - not worth the trouble to move it," I said.

We continued to gaze at the kitchen fridge, admiring how clean it looked because we had removed all the magnets and other detritus from the doors (remember? Bunko was coming. I had to clean up.) Susie looked up at the top and said, "Maybe we could just buy a tiny fridge and put it up there."

And that's when we both turned to each other and --- I swear to you -- simultaneously shouted, "WE HAVE A TINY FRIDGE!"

In fact, it was only a few feet away from that cooler we had packed full of rapidly warming food -- Brian's dorm fridge, that had been sitting there empty all summer. I mean, if I had just looked up ONCE during that whole cooler-packing scene, I would have spotted it.

The miracle of the tiny fridge
So we survived and I hosted Bunko and then I went and bought the cheapest possible fridge I could find and stuck it down there in the laundry room.

You know what? It feels sort of good to see it down there in the laundry room, all shiny and white - or maybe that good feeling comes from knowing that nothing in there is more than a month old.

Okay, we also went on a trip this past month, because Larry was pining away for northern climes and the humidity and mosquitoes around here are horrendous and my job is portable, and gosh, aren't we spontaneous?

No. No, we're not. It was utterly exhausting, packing to go away again at the exact same time as Brian was packing to go back to school and Rachel was packing to go away for a week to Civil Air Patrol Encampment, where she is a staff member and gets to yell at 12-year-olds for 8 whole days and no, we don't understand it, either.

So, 2 weeks ago, we woke up at 4 AM Saturday to see Rachel off and then we helped Brian get ready to go and Larry drove him to school that night, so they could be in front of the dorm the minute it opened the next morning. Susie and I spent Sunday trying to clean up the mess everyone left behind and also pack for the trip. THIS WAS NOT EASY.

Then Larry got back and we headed north, but the trip took 3 extra hours because it turns out a lot of other people are heading north on a summer Sunday afternoon, plus we never thought when we put the bikes on top of the car to measure how high up they were...

I mean, SHOULD we have thought of that?

...and then the GPS put us on a highway with low-clearance bridges, which was utterly terrifying, and then there were big orange signs announcing that anything taller than 8 feet had to get off the highway NOW, so we did. And then we were wandering over back roads in Connecticut to find a highway without murderous bridges, all while the GPS kept trying to route us back to the highway of death (or, at least, of broken bicycles).

Keep in mind that Larry had woken early, unloaded a car full of stuff that he carried up to a third-floor dorm room, and then driven 2 hours to get home BEFORE he even started this trip. All of which could explain why, by this point in the drive, he wasn't enjoying the forced scenic route much.

But we got there eventually and our AirBnB wasn't located in Murder Alley or anything and yay! We were on vacation. Whew.

We biked to pie.

Right off the bike trail

We wandered around town. We ate amazing ice cream. I worked. A lot. But I sneaked in a visit to WEBS, which happened to be in the same town we visited and LARRY DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT EXISTED. Yup, he randomly picked a town with one of the best yarn stores in the US. I knew that, but I didn't tell him. I'm nobody's fool.

yarn store loot 
Then we drove east, toward Boston, because we're footloose and fancy free now with just one kid in tow, but we had to hurry up because I had a deadline and had to get back to work. We lodged at an Air Force base half an hour outside town, where we went bowling 3 nights in a row, like we were Ricky and Lucy or something.

Wait, did they bowl? Maybe it was Rob and Laura Petrie. Whatever.

We don't bowl often, but when we do, it's VERY patriotic
And then we spent a day in Boston, where -- Susie being allergic to museums and such -- we just walked all over and ate a bunch of food. It was an excellent way to spend the day. I hadn't been there in, oh, 15 years, I think. Last time we were there, Larry was toting Rachel in a backpack and simultaneously carrying a screaming David over any bridges with "holes" in them. Fun times!

The North End was awash in authentic Italian food.

"Best cannoli I've ever eaten" -- Susie
And then we drove home. And because, finally, I had thought to throw out the rotting zucchini BEFORE we went on vacation, nothing smelled bad. Which is my idea of a really great homecoming.

The mosquitoes are still here, though.

The End.

Friday, July 26, 2019

My Brain Is Fried, How's Yours?

Um, hi? Anyone still here?

Oh, what the heck, I can just talk to myself - no reason not to.

People, working with words 40 hours a week is exhausting. Oh, not steelworker or coal miner exhausting, but mentally - just wow. Each evening I'd think about sitting down and writing something here, and I just could not work up the energy. My brain, it is tapped out.

But, hey, new neural synapses are forming, I'm sure, so I guess neglecting my blog to stave off Alzheimers is a good trade, no?

Or maybe not. I love this place of mine on the Internet: not crowded, sort of cozy, and full of memories that I wouldn't have retained otherwise. I'm not ready to leave it just yet, even if my brain feels as though it is short-circuiting and giving off smoke by the end of the day.

Let's have some cookies while we catch up, shall we?
So, a quick sort of review here:

1. I've finally gotten to the place where I don't feel as though I have a gaping hole in my gum anymore. Yippee! It's more of a shallow depression now, which I can definitely live with.

2. I had a birthday! One a year, whether I need it or not, that's my motto. I turned 56, which is definitely the downhill side toward 60, but that makes no sense, because I'm not a day over, oh, I don't know...48? I'd feel younger, but I still have 3 teenagers. They make sure to keep reminding me what a dinosaur I am.

On the bright side, though, they'll fix anything I ask them to on the computer or on my phone, just so they don't have to watch me struggle to figure things out myself. I guess it hurts their little Gen X'er sensibilities to see me shaking my phone like an Etch-a-Sketch. Or smacking the printer to make it work.

Birthday Blueberry Buckle - when you're too old for candles

3. In the past month or so, I've had 3 (count them, 3!) flat tires. The second time, I was picking up Brian at the train station when I noticed my steering was wonky. It was 2 days before our beach trip, so I spent the whole way back to the house wrestling the steering wheel and wondering if I could get the car fixed before we headed off on vacation. Hmm, I thought, it must be the power steering, or maybe the steering column assembly...

I like how listening to Car Talk for 20 years makes me think I can diagnose cars.

So I finally got home and realized that it was just a flat tire, which was really good news after calculating a $600 car repair, right? But picture Larry, sitting at home happily ignorant of any car trouble, until his wife (that would be me) comes sailing into the house announcing gleefully, "I have another flat tire! Isn't that great?!"

Trust me, the look on his face was priceless.

4. We've had a big change in our family since last we talked. Those of you (any of you?) who remember that eventful day when we finally bought ourselves a working toaster may even feel a little wistful to learn that it has gone to that big appliance store in the sky. You see, lately, every time we toasted something, a smell of burning plastic would permeate the house, so we figured it was time to bid farewell to the gadget that won my children's hearts on that trip to Kohls, 10 seemingly short years ago.

Yeah, I cried a little, I'll admit it. And this time, shopping for a toaster was different, more mundane - I didn't have 4 kids, aged 12 and under, in the store with me, excitedly checking out all the bells and whistles on the toasters and essentially acting as though I were buying them a puppy. No, this time I merely looked up some models online and then went with Rachel to Best Buy, where she used my debit card and her employee discount to pick up a beautiful - but somehow less meaningful - toasting appliance.

New family member - cute, but no real relationship yet

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, is what I'm saying.

4. I'm exhausted. Words cannot express how tired I am of deciding where to put commas. Maybe I'll just ban commas from this blog. I'm the captain now.

5. There was a beach trip. We ate ice cream and pie and went to the beach every day and I didn't get into a car for an entire week. It was glorious. Except I took my computer and worked quite a bit while I was there, because I need to save up some leave for later this year. That part wasn't fun, but I made up for it by eating more pie.

Have I mentioned the pie?

Here, have a picture of a sunset over the bay - it's free:

Oh, and Susie and I found the mother lode of all the cutesy beach house signs! For the record, the house we stayed in this year instructed us to Find Joy in the Journey and to Bee Yourself. 

Apparently, every beach house is required to have at least 3 of these, at least in NJ, anyway. Maybe it's an idiosyncrasy of that particular state, like not being allowed to pump your own gas.

So much more to share, but I'm typed out...g'night, all!

Monday, June 10, 2019

I Heart Anesthesia

So, when last we talked, our deck was finally respectable-looking, Susie's birthday was duly celebrated, and my impacted wisdom tooth was hurting. Cliffhanger!

I went to the oral surgeon (whimper) that week and he said, "I can pull that out Thursday." I started to ask a bunch of questions and he said, "You'll be out. Totally out. Don't worry."

I like that guy.

But, me being me, I still started to panic when they put me in the chair on that Thursday morning and wrapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm and a thingamajig in my mouth to prop it open and the doctor stuck an IV tube thingy in my other arm - like, tears starting to roll down the sides of my face panicked. And I was thinking, Why isn't anyone trying to reassure me?

Because I was out cold the next second, that's why. Next thing I knew I was awake, with no tooth, and positively giddy with happiness that I had not needed to be conscious for ANY of that. And I am NEVER, EVER, EVER having any extensive dental work done while I am awake, ever again.

Of course, then I spent the next week absolutely convinced I was developing dry socket, and called the doctor's office twice, but they told me to wait until my one-week appointment, where the doctor told me everything was fine, and good-bye, no need to come in again.

BUT, I'm squeamish. And no one told me there would literally be a hole in my bottom gum for, well, going on 10 days now. (Yes, maybe I should have been able to figure that out, but I didn't, okay?) And I've spent the last 10 days feeling utterly grossed out and pretty much screaming inside at the thought of the HOLE IN MY GUM.

I don't deal well with medical things, is what I'm saying.

In other news, Susie was utterly inspired by our newly respectable-looking deck - so inspired, in fact, that she went out there and planted all the little tomato plants that I had bought at the Farmer's Market and then just dumped on top of the planters, because I had that tooth thing going on; and she planted one of the planters with parsley and cilantro and green onions, so now we have a cute little herb garden happening; and she planted the marigolds (that - like the tomato plants - had been abandoned by moi) in the boxes that hang on the deck railing.

She also made us go to Home Depot (me clutching the side of my newly operated-on mouth) for more window boxes for the front railings and for the flowers to plant in them. While we were there, Susie insisted on buying nice-looking tomato cages (to replace our old ones) and plant props (don't know what to call them), in bright colors, and I did as she wanted, because heck, she's in charge of all things gardening now, I guess.

Brian came home from school and saw our pretty blue tomato cages and said, "Oh, I see you got rid of the tetanus specials?" So, yeah, I guess it was time.

We also went strawberry picking, 5 days into my recovery, so even though I may be a hypochondriac, I am not of the languishing variety. I am a very active sufferer, thank you very much.

Thanks to my blog post from last year, I knew that we only needed one flat of strawberries to make 2 batches of jam (with berries left over). After exercising an enormous amount of restraint and not picking 2 flats worth, we came home, and I worked at my editing job for 3 hours, and then I made gazillion jars of jam, all while still doped up on massive amounts of ibuprofen, and do I have any pictures of that Herculean effort? No, I do not.

My only evidence that I went strawberry picking

But at least I didn't have an entire extra flat of strawberries to deal with. See, this is what blogs are good for, Larry.  You don't have to deal with a strung-out, weeping wife at 10 PM, crying over rapidly rotting fruit. At least, not more than once...