Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars For Dummies

So, that Christmas thing happened, and I spent the entire day feeling grateful that I had all 6 kids home for a bit, all under one roof, because I know that won't keep happening forever. We had some neighbors and their girls (Anna and David's age) over, so the "old people" ended up being relegated to the kids table - that way, all the young adults and the younger siblings could sit together.

You know, no one ever warned me that would happen.

To make things even better, it was a good present year: Larry didn't try giving me car-cleaning tools for Christmas, I had plenty of excellent ideas for his presents, and the kids were also relatively easy to shop for. I mean, helloooo, gift cards! And books, of course...what else can you give to a self-supporting young adult, anyway?

Then, last night, FINALLY, we went to see Star Wars. Larry and the boys had already seen it, but I was waiting until I could use my discount Costco movie tickets to take the girls. Uncle Matt and his girlfriend were visiting, so we invited them to join us.

"Do you think I will understand what's going on?" asked Uncle Matt. "I never saw any of the Star Wars films."

There was a stunned silence after he uttered these words. Seriously, we all just stopped talking and stared at him, this mythical creature apparently roused from a 40-year sleep. Never seen Star Wars? How could anyone under 60 not have viewed ANY of those movies?

Look, I don't even LIKE the original Star Wars films, but I've seen them. (Sorry, folks, lousy acting, lousy script, lousy pacing - I won't budge on that.) So, after picking our jaws up from the floor, we hustled Uncle Matt downstairs to watch The Empire Strikes Back, just to give him some sort of exposure to the concept.

You can't just go into this unprepared....

Anywhoo, the next night we all went to see the new film. True, I might not like Star Wars, but I had to be a part of this cultural moment.  Also? I like movie theater popcorn. The theater, after over a week of several showings a day, was still packed. Of course I got the person with large hair sitting in front of me (being short is no joke, even with stadium seating). I settled in, preparing myself for 2 hours or so of hackneyed themes, bad acting, and wince-inducing lines.

I know - I'm fun. Hire me for parties!

Readers, that movie was FANTASTIC. WONDERFUL. STUPENDOUS. I fell in love with the new main characters. I was DEVASTATED when...well, you know, that thing...happened.

Best yet, now I could go home and enjoy that whole Emo Kylo Ren thing happening over at Twitter.

So, yeah, it was a good week.  And now I am girding myself for hosting our neighborhood New Year's party. If we're lucky, Larry and I won't have any arguments involving vomit cheese balls and gross crackers. But I'm not counting on it...

[Star Wars poster image:]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

As The Food Turns

3 days until Christmas, so what better time for a clean-out-the-fridge post? As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, cleaning out the fridge is no longer the guilt-ridden task it used to be. I have become a composting zealot, convinced that I am saving the world with the 7-gallon bucket full of food scraps that we generate each week.

Saving the world, for only $25 a month. Can't beat that, right?

So, here is the latest picture:

You'll note the remnants of our Chanukah latkes at the bottom of that center stack there. Apparently, 8 days is not long enough to eat a double batch of potato pancakes. Is there a religion with 2-week-long holidays? That might work better for us.

Above those is some expired Costco kale salad, which I was eating at an inordinate rate earlier this year. Well, the bloom is off the rose (or the kale, really), and this stuff is often found decomposing in the fridge. But do I feel guilty? No, I do not. We are returning it to the soil from whence it came, where it will grow more kale destined to rot in our refrigerator.

Like I said, people, it's the cycle of life.

What's not to like?
Above the kale is the rice. We made it to eat with this microwavable chickpea thing that I picked up at Costco, and no one liked it much but me. My kids are way too picky, and there's not a darn thing I can do about it. On top of the rice is the scallion cream cheese, which I picked up weeks ago during my visit to Brooklyn. At this point I can't tell whether the green bits in it are mold or scallions, so it is also being returned to the earth.

That foil thing at the top is some garlic bread David made for us -  it got lost beneath all the other crap on my kitchen counter, so the kids never finished it. That happens to other people, too, right? That's, like, a normal thing?

To the left are the (apparently unpopular) baby carrots I bought for the veggie tray when I hosted Bunko (in November), and to the right are assorted lemons and apples that have seen better days. They will join their brethren in the compost bin and decompose peacefully together.  I'll tell you the truth: when I look in that compost bin? I feel proud. PROUD of my wasted veggies and uneaten leftovers. Proud, because I know that they will never be a part of any landfill avalanche, killing innocent people. Proud, because my wasteful habits provide soil for community gardens.

I am CHANGING THE WORLD with my rotten food. At least, that's the story I tell myself, because we all need our pretty little fictions to get through the day. Or maybe that's just me?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Youth Is Wasted On The Wrong People

So, yeah, busy weekend, right? Parties, tree, baking, lego meetings...

That's right - on the busiest Saturday of the year, I had to spend 6 hours at a lego user group (LUG) meeting. At least I got a lot of knitting done. Also? Great pizza.

I got home in time to barricade the master bathroom against sabotage, because, yes, it was time for us to attend our one adult cocktail party of the year and no, I wasn't going to let Larry start fixing the sink an hour before we had to be there. Not this year, anyway. So I made him wait until I was completely ready (meaning, finished swathing myself in spandex so my dress clothes would fit) before he could even gain access to the bedroom to get dressed himself.

At least I learn from past experience, right?

The party was great, as usual, even though it hurt to stand up because my shoes were too tight, and it hurt to sit down because of the Spanx-type thingy squeezing my middle, so I spent a lot of the evening perfecting my leaning-against-a-wall and leaning-against-the-arm-of-a-chair poses. Maybe, by next year, I will be too mature and confident to do that to myself again. Maybe I will go shopping for something dressy yet not painful, some article of apparel that lets the world know that I am comfortable with what shape I am and don't need to hide it.

But probably not. I'll probably just go for more spandex.

Today, we continue our grueling schedule of holiday merry making. In addition to an ornament exchange this evening, I am also dragging the family to see It's A Wonderful Life at our local theater this afternoon. $5 a ticket, people, for 2 hours of utter cinematic bliss - what's not to like?

Unfortunately, the girls have been complaining for the past 2 weeks that I am making them see that "boring old movie." They keep talking about something called "Star Wars" instead. Kids these days...

Our own kids no longer gaze at us with adoration, unfortunately.

This morning I begged off going to church so that I could wrap some gifts and clean the house and generally make things look more Christmas-y around here. So maybe I should actually go do those things? Yes, yes, I should. That's a very good idea.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Not Dead Yet

Oh, hey, hi! Man, it's dusty around here.  Let me just move some of this old clutter around and limber up my mouse fingers a bit...

Ah, there we are. Whew! A whole week - where have I been? Knitting, mostly. Watching Star Wars trailers. Being bumped off the computer by Larry, who went into full spreadsheet mode while trying to decide on a new computer monitor for our desktop...

Our new family member
Oh, yes, he did. Our monitor was 9 years old, which is approximately Stone Age in computer years, and it was a weird square shape with not-so-great resolution, so - instead of walking into Best Buy and picking up the newest and shiniest one that was on sale, the way I would have - he spent untold hours and pixels researching, cataloguing, comparing and contrasting, and discussing (with David, not me, thank you Lord) the merits and drawbacks of the various models. He kept trying to draw me into this decision-making vortex, but - as I had no real opinions other than "big" and "no fuzz on the picture" - he was not successful.

Yes, David is home. As an apparent money-saving method at school, he didn't get his hair cut over the past 4 months - no biggie, for a regular guy, but David had sported a buzz cut since at least the age of 12, when he joined the Civil Air Patrol. So the poor guy walked in the door with Larry on Thursday night and was greeted by the bunch of us staring open-mouthed at the mop on the top of his head. I mean, we just couldn't get past it. We were all sitting in the living room, talking, and at regular intervals one of us would say, "Man, it's just so weird!"

We don't get out much, I guess.

[Monitor image:]

Wednesday, December 09, 2015


The only kind I make...
I spent this past Sunday morning at the local yoga center. As I headed home at 1, my head was full of plans to make latkes for the first night of Chanukah that evening. It would take most of the afternoon, sure, even if I did use a mix; but that's what you have to do when you're Jewish. Oy, how we suffer...

When I got home, however, I found Larry in the kitchen, surrounded by apples. Peeled apples, chopped apples, apple peels, apple cores - there was a huge bowl of sliced apples, plus a smaller one. Larry was assiduously slicing MORE apples and placing them on a plate that was balanced on my yarn scale.

"Um..." I began, not sure where to start.

"I KNOW what I'm DOING," Larry said, as he continued to slice and weigh.

"Okay," I said. "Just, what are you making? Pie?"

"Yes!" said Larry, proudly. "Pie!"

"A lot of pie?" I couldn't help asking. Really, there were enough apples sliced up for 10 pies, at least.

"There - that recipe," Larry said, motioning to a piece of paper on the table and then returning to his apples. I looked at the recipe, something from the New York Times titled apple-cranberry slab pie. I noticed the table was covered with things - what looked like a huge mound of grated ginger, another plate with grated nutmeg, a small bowl filled with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

People, this was like leaving your toddler at home with fingerpaints and returning to find him trying to paint oils on canvas.

"Um, Larry," I said, "why are you weighing the cut-up apples?"

He took the paper from me. "Right here," he said, pointing, "it says 6 1/2 lbs apples."

I almost died of the cuteness right there.  I mean, he was so earnest, it was adorable. "Larry," I said, "listen - that is for shopping purposes. You buy that much, but they don't weigh that much once you peel them and core them. I really think you can stop now, okay?"

Larry looked at the paper, puzzled. "But they don't SAY that," he said. "Why don't they say that?"

"You're supposed to know.  Don't worry about it, just stop with the apples, all right?"

He kept shaking his head and staring at the recipe. I could have sworn I heard him mutter "Bitch set me up" under his breath, actually. "Larry, let it go. Hey, what's this?" I asked, picking up a spice bottle from the table. "Whole nutmeg? Where did you even find this? Did you grate this stuff by hand?"

"Well, it says right here," he said, pointing to the recipe again. "Grated nutmeg - what else was I supposed to do?"

"We have some already ground up in the pantry, you know."

"But it says grated," he insisted.

"Yeah, but it says ground cinnamon, too," I told him. "Did you grind the cinnamon bark, then?"

Larry grabbed the paper again and looked. "Shoot!" he said. "I just used that cinnamon powder stuff in the pantry. Do you think it matters?" He looked panicked.

Really, it's too easy to tease him. I shouldn't. But I did. "I don't know. You really messed up there," I said.

He was still staring at the paper and muttering as I left the room. Half an hour later I went to check on him. He was pulling out a rolling pin. "Did you already make the dough for the crust?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, removing some blobs of dough from the refrigerator. "They're right here. I just have to roll them out."  He plopped them on the counter next to the rolling pin and stood there for a minute, looking at them. Then he looked at me. "So, uh, what do I do here exactly?"

Again, the cuteness. "I'm pretty sure you'll figure it out," I said. "Just flour that counter really well. Do you have to do a top crust?"

He grabbed the piece of paper with the recipe on it again. "Top crust?" he asked, looking at the recipe. "I guess so. I haven't read that far ahead," he said, sounding annoyed at such an obviously irrelevant question. "It's...I don't know. Read it!" he finished, handing me the paper.

Turns out, the recipe called for using Christmas cookie cutters to cut cute shapes out of a third of the dough. Larry was supposed to arrange the shapes on top of the pie. Say what you like, that man likes to go BIG.

Really, NYT? You call that a top crust?

"Look, Larry," I said, "you have to ignore this. Just roll out that last part of the dough and cut it into strips." I found some Internet pictures of a lattice-top pie, to show him what he was aiming for. "This other thing - it's just crazy talk."

You know, he actually took my advice for once. Or maybe he couldn't find the cookie cutters - that's a possibility, too. And finally, in the late afternoon, he proudly removed a slab pie from the oven, which was great, as there was no way that we were getting any latkes for dinner at that point.

So, Chanukah - candles, dreidels, and apple-cranberry pie. Because all traditions can use a little tweaking.

Not bad for a beginner - not bad at all

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Lemonade Out Of (Moldy) Lemons

Perhaps some of you wonder whether or not I clean out my fridge anymore. After all, there haven't been any posts featuring long-expired leftovers in a long time.  I'll tell you the truth: for a while there, I just gave up. Occasionally Larry, in a fit of desperation, would rummage through the fridge and get rid of things that looked suspect, but on the whole things have been left to run amok, as it were.

Never again...
But all that has changed, people. No longer do I have items sitting in my refrigerator for months; no longer is the entire back third of that particular appliance given over to what we euphemistically referred to as "science experiments." No, a new day has dawned in The More, The Messier household, an era of good feeling, if you will - and it only costs me $25 a month.

You see, someone tipped me off that there was a new composting service in town - that is, for a monthly fee, this company would pick up all of my organic-matter refuse and turn it into dirt. The company then distributes bags of this dirt to community gardens (oh, and 2 bags a year to its customers).

Icing on the cake - the company was started by a returned Iraq War veteran, and it makes a point of hiring other veterans.

So I took the plunge and signed up, whereupon I was rewarded with a 7-gallon heavy-duty plastic bin to stick all our organic refuse into - everything left on our plates, plus paper towels, chicken bones, you name it. Pickup is on Fridays, when they take the full bin and leave me a clean empty one. For $300 a year, I can pride myself on doing my part for the environment AND helping veterans find jobs; but, truthfully, for me that's not even the best part.

My new best buddy
The best part is, every single Thursday I feel GREAT as I go through our refrigerator, because everything I toss will be transformed into dirt and donated to community gardens.  I am part of the circle of life, people - me and my wasteful food habits. That's right, no more guilt over wasted food, no more self-flagellation over good intentions left to rot in our vegetable crispers, NO MORE REGRETS.

True, this still doesn't solve my condiment overload issues, judging from the number of little jars and bottles that persist in crowding my fridge. But those spiffy refrigerator bins I bought last year in Costco do seem to be helping to prevent a repeat of the vinaigrette fiasco of 2009, so that was money well spent, also. I'm sure Larry appreciates my spending all his hard-earned cash to solve problems caused by my domestic incompetence. But maybe he is used to that by now...

Monday, November 30, 2015

Girl Power

Quickly, because I am supposed to be in bed now...

We had a fine, uneventful Thanksgiving, thank you. Of course, if Larry had had his way, it would have been more complicated.  You see, as the girls and I were working in the kitchen Thursday morning, Larry appeared in the dining room. He was carrying a drop cloth and paint brushes.

Seriously, people, at 10:30 on Thanksgiving morning.

Susie and Rachel and I stared at him. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm going to paint that door frame."

"No. You're not."

"I HAVE to. It's required by the door warranty," he said, attempting to make room for his painting stuff next to the already set dining room table.

Does NOT go well with turkey
Let's review: the french doors were installed around 2 months ago. 2 MONTHS. Moreover, Thanksgiving Day is followed by 3 days in which Larry could paint that door frame at his leisure. Does anyone else see the pattern here? Remember the bathroom sink incident before the cocktail party last December?

Sabotage, pure and simple.

"You can do it another day," I said. "NOT NOW."

Larry, believe it or not, looked annoyed - ANNOYED - by my intransigence. Couldn't I see he was trying to get something done? "The weather is perfect today for painting," he announced.

Lord knows, I am not one to stand in the way of home improvement. But we were expecting guests. So I braced for battle. "Look," I said, "the weather is supposed to be good tomorrow and Saturday. You can paint then."

"It will just take a few minutes," he insisted.

"But, Daddy," said Rachel (my newly favorite child), "the paint smell won't go away in time for dinner."

"Don't worry," said Larry. "It won't smell."

"That's right, Rachel," I said, realizing that Larry was positively delusional at this point. "Daddy's paint doesn't smell. Didn't you know that?"

And then all 3 of us looked at Larry, standing in the kitchen doorway with the dropcloth bundled under his arm and an exasperated look on his face, and we cracked up. Realizing he was outnumbered, Larry headed back down to the basement with his implements of destruction.

"I was just trying to help," he huffed. Which, yeah, made us laugh even harder.

[Paint can image: Clipart Panda]

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gonna Cook Like It's 1999

Yesterday? I cooked.  Today? I cooked. Tomorrow? I will cook some more. I swear, I have no idea why this Thanksgiving thing is so much work.  After all, it is just DINNER. Once this holiday is over, I am breaking up with my kitchen.  This is just too much.

Also, I forgot that I had promised Just Mercy to someone! And no one reminded me.  Around my house, EVERYONE knows they have to remind me to do things.  Anyway, I somehow managed to remember (naturally, at 2 AM); so I hauled out my trusty ol' Random Number Generator (just kidding, I Googled it), put in my numbers, and let 'er spin.  The winning number was 8, which means commenter Gail has won the book. Gail, I don't have your contact info, so if you see this, please email me with your address, etc.

Tonight Rachel is at her very first real babysitting job.  It is hard to believe that when I first started this blog, she was a toilet-stuffing, stuffed-animal-decapitating whirling dervish of a 4-year-old. For her sake, I sure do hope the kids she is babysitting are nothing like she was.

Where does the time go, anyway? I've been blogging here for 8 or 9 years now, but it feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in our basement thinking up the name of this site. So this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for all of you who bother to come by and read these pages. No, really. What started out as a family newsletter and turned into a blog (once I discovered this thing called the Internet) has morphed into not only the most efficient way to settle arguments with my husband over which appliance broke down at what point in time; it has also been a wonderful opportunity to "meet" and chat with people from all over the US. Back in those days of little ones running around and never-ending laundry and month-long stomach flu quarantines, comments on this blog were my lifeline to the outside world. There are fewer comments now (darn you, Facebook!), but I am grateful to those of you who stick around and weigh in on things now and again. It's easier to write for an audience, and I NEED to write.  How else would I be able to prove to Larry how many times he has been wrong about paint colors? Or not, as the case may be...

A very happy Thanksgiving to you all!

[Turkey image: Clipart Panda]

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Well! Here it is, the holiday season, when everyone focuses on gifts and food and decorations and general good cheer. It's that time of year when we are grateful for what we have and are eager to share our bounty with others, all while partying down to the end of yet another year.

Unless, of course, you're a hypochondriac.  In which case, you spend this time of year much as you spent the first 11 months of it - anxiously scanning the Internet for more news that will confirm your suspicion that we are all going to die horribly and soon.

Yeah, put that in a carol and sing it, will ya?

So here is the latest round-up, for those of you less vigilant about our coming collective demise. First, yet another article from Slate about how bacteria are all becoming antibiotic resistant; in the not-so-distant future, apparently, a cut finger will spell gangrene and maybe even death (if you're one of those wimps too slow to opt for amputation). Merry Christmas! But be careful washing those wine glasses - they break easily and you could end up with a fatal injury.

There aren't any mosquitoes at the North Pole.
And here is something from NPR about one of my least-favorite creatures, the Asian tiger mosquito. Not only do these savage insects carry West Nile, malaria, and chikungunya; they also help transmit the Zika virus.  Luckily, Zika won't kill you; unluckily, it looks as though a pregnant woman, if bitten, has a bigger chance of giving birth to a baby suffering from microcephaly. In other words, mosquitoes can not only incapacitate you with joint pain for months and months, but also shrink your babies' brains in utero. Oh, but Happy New Year!

And, lest we forget, 15 cases of plague have been diagnosed in the United States this year, predominantly out West. This is because the bacterium that causes plague runs rampant in the rodent population out there. Maybe it is time to rethink my plans to drag the entire family out to southwestern Utah next summer?

So, there you have it - the catastrophic disease round-up for the 2015 holiday season. Enjoy your holidays and raise a glass to us hypochondriacs - we who cannot be happy without first reading up on everything poised to destroy our good cheer at a moment's notice.  Oh, and don't forget - there are some risks that accompany all that holiday drinking...

[Wreath image: Clipart Pal]
[Santa image: Clipart Panda]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flour And Sugar And Butter, Oh My!

What's up? Oh, nothing really. Just here to remind you to throw your name into the hat for a free copy of Just Mercy, an excellent non-fiction book about fighting for legal justice in the South. If you're interested, leave a comment on this blog post - I will pick a name on Saturday. Or maybe Sunday, if I'm too busy Saturday finishing up the last of the Bunko candy.

Hey, those peanut M&M's aren't going to eat themselves, you know.

Just the beginning....
The season of holiday baking has begun: today I helped Susie bake a batch of mini cranberry muffins to take to Activity Night, where they were sharing family holiday traditions.  Activity Night is a biweekly event she attends with a bunch of her LDS friends, because what better place is there for a Jewish/Catholic girl to be than at a Mormon youth group?

We take being ecumenical VERY seriously here.

Then Rachel decided she was bored and needed to bake mini peach pies to pass the time.  Who am I to deny her that pleasure, especially since she actually cleaned up her mess afterwards? I suppose it really IS the season of miracles.

My point being, it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, and we are already awash in calories.  I need to order some new jeans to replace some that have worn out, but I am thinking maybe I should just wait until January to make sure I buy the right size. I'm nothing if not a realist these days.

Movie recommendations, anyone?  Anything you've seen lately that you really liked?

[Muffins image: FitWebMD]

Monday, November 16, 2015


You WANT to read this.
Just Mercy (the book I blogged about on Thursday) is now up for grabs, people.  Just throw your name in the hat, as it were, by commenting.  I will pick a winner on Saturday. This book, about a lawyer's untiring work for racial justice in the South, is definitely a worthwhile read, although now it has me panicked about David being in school in Alabama.  By some strange genetic throw of the dice, David - son of an Ashkenazi Jew and a father who is half Irish Catholic/half WASP - is dark-complected enough to look as though he hails from the Middle East somewhere. After reading this book (and after reading about Alabama's reaction to the sad events in Paris on Friday), it is all I can do not to pick up the phone and say to David, "DO NOT LEAVE CAMPUS FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER."  So far I have restrained myself. So far.

Theo is in the military, and I have never - for any reason - felt the need to warn him of danger, not even when he traveled to Morocco and to Jordan. Anna traveled to Colombia on her own, for heaven's sake, and I didn't blink an eye. So I don't think it's as though I am a helicopter parent hellbent on protecting her adult children. And, look, Michigan is being stupid, too. Hello? A terrorist can drive over from a neighboring state, you know.  What are you going to do - institute border controls with Indiana and Ohio?

I had to look up which states border Michigan - I guess I should watch who I am calling stupid, eh?

I traveled up to NY on Saturday to visit a former neighbor - the husband of the woman who witnessed my humiliation in Harris Teeter. She passed on 2 years ago, a year or so after they moved up there, but he is still around, as are their 2 daughters and their families, all up in the NY area.  So I got to see him and one of her daughters and even another former neighbor who drove down from Connecticut to join us. I ended up staying the night at the daughter's home, in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is WAY bigger than I realized.
You know, I grew up in NJ, frequently visited Manhattan, was steeped in Brooklyn lore (my father's family hailed from there), have read books about Brooklyn - all to the point that I didn't realize until Saturday that I had never actually SEEN BROOKLYN. So my poor host, who kindly volunteered to take me on a walking tour of the Greenpoint and Williamsburg sections on Sunday morning, had to put up with a slightly manic guest exclaiming at regular intervals, "OMG! I've never been here! Look at those rowhouses! The East River! I've never seen the East River! Is that Manhattan across the water? The Williamsburg Bridge! Francie crossed that!"

I could not shut up. It felt as though I had come home to a place I had never been before. Brooklyn!

And then I had to drive all the way back, relying on my phone's GPS, which went fine until the moment that I realized it had stopped working (that happens sometimes) and I went to tap it with my finger and knocked it clear across the car, where I couldn't reach it. I was on Staten Island at the time, another place I had never been before. Luckily, I was close enough to NJ for homing instinct to take over, so I managed to find the turnpike anyway. Whew.

Anyway, I'm tired - 5 hours of driving, 2 days in a row, seems to be an activity I am aging out of. Still, I am glad I went (Brooklyn!), as I had been meaning to make the visit for a while; and now that that's taken care of, I can stay home and focus on ignoring Christmas until December 19 or so.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Brain Food

I'm still sick, in case you're wondering.  And the kids just finished off the Bunko leftovers. For dinner, I had to augment with some free subs from Harris Teeter.  Free, because we've racked up a lot of sub points by buying their subs.

How many times can I use the word "subs"?

These are my best friends right now.
I am still coughing, still feeling as though I will pass out when I forget and just run up the stairs.  Still sleeping on the couch so I don't disturb Larry. Still sucking on Ricola cough drops and praying I don't start throwing up the way Rachel did.

So, yeah, a fun week...

On the bright side, what with lying around on the couch most of Tuesday and Wednesday and today, I've gotten a lot of (non-Facebook) reading done. My brain had felt as though it were getting too thin, what with the steady Internet diet I feed it, so I procured 2 intelligent, non-fiction books (complete with paragraphs of more than 3 sentences apiece) and have been forcing myself to read them. One of the books (Just Mercy) is by a lawyer who has dedicated his career to defending death-row prisoners in the South.

Let us note here that, apparently, some people do worthwhile things with their lives. I'm guessing this guy wouldn't regard cleaning up the house for Bunko as the mark of a super-productive day.

This gentleman is a much better human being than moi.

The other book (Power, Faith, and Fantasy) is a history of America's involvement with the Middle East, all the way back to 1776. (Spoiler alert: NOTHING has changed.) I saw Theo reading it when he was home and realized he was getting way smarter than me; so I went to the library and got myself a copy.

Tell me: have books from major publishers always had numerous mistakes (punctuation, word usage, etc) in them? Or are editors just a dying breed these days?

When I'm finished with Just Mercy, I will sponsor a giveaway, in case any of you also feel the need to shore up the ol' brain cells a bit. It really is a good book, even if it does make me realize I am a pathetic loser with no meaningful goals in life. I mean, self-knowledge is healthy, right?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shades of Faust

"I'm home tomorrow," Larry announced last night, as he stood up and stretched after watching the debates with us.

"What, why?" I asked, seeing my peaceful plans of eating leftover Bunko candy while ignoring the children going right out the window.

"Veteran's Day, remember?" he said. "You should remember."

Larry won't sell his soul for this.
"Veteran's Day?" piped up Susie. (Yes, she was still awake at 11 - she had watched the debates with us, because civics. Or something like that.) "That means we get the free Bloomin' Onion, right?"

Larry made a face. "That's not necessary," he said.

"Why not?" asked Susie, disappointed.

"It's demeaning, waiting there for a free food hand-out - that's not what our military service was about!" he told her.

"But, Bloomin' Onions!" insisted Susie.

"Hey," I told Larry, who looked annoyed at our youngest's willingness to sell her dignity for a free treat. "This website says that World of Beers is offering a complimentary draught beer to veterans tomorrow."

Larry's frown disappeared as his face lit up. "Really?" he said. "Now that's cool!"

Apparently, every man does have his price.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Totally Out Of Post Titles, Sorry

See? Over to the side there? The "About Me" section? The last age just turned over for the year - Theo, our first-born, is now 24.  Theo's birthday is a special one, because he is the one who made me a mom.  So there you are - I've been doing this mom thing for 24 years now.

Don't you like how I made Theo's birthday all about me? I'm sure he appreciates that.

The family guinea pig, 24 years ago
But seriously, I look back and think, that poor kid. Essentially, the hospital let 2 only nominally adult people - people who did not know how to change a diaper and couldn't even keep a houseplant alive - take home a 2-day-old baby. How insane is that? An innocent newborn, totally at the mercy of our ineptitude. It's a miracle he ever made it to adulthood.

So, thanks, Theo, for letting us learn the ropes with you. I'm sure your siblings thank you, also.

That flu thing I had on Friday went away and was replaced with a horrid sore throat that gets worse at night and keeps me from sleeping. I guess if I were a kid, this would have been croup.  I drop off to sleep and then jerk awake feeling as though I am going to choke if I don't cough.

Oh, hey, maybe it's diptheria! Should I Google that?

So this went on for 2 nights and I actually felt a little better this morning and thought, gee, all I need is a little rest and I can kick this thing. Which was a nice little fantasy, considering that I had to host Bunko tonight and the entire house looked like hell because Rachel and I had been sick since Friday. Not only did I have to do the normal party-prep clean up, I also had to strip all the germ-ridden slipcovers from the couch and 2 armchairs and wash them, so I wouldn't worry about infecting the rest of the neighborhood. And then there were the cranberry mini-muffins to bake and the birthday package to send and the trip to Costco to stagger through.

So, yeah, by the time everyone showed up at 7, I felt as though I were dying. The sore throat was coming back, I couldn't eat anything because my stomach was feeling weird, and I kept coughing. I'm sure everyone was thrilled to see me.

The furniture looked great, though. Very germ-free. And tomorrow I will wake up to a clean house with tons of Bunko leftovers for the kids to eat. I mean, unless I drop dead from diptheria overnight.  That's always a possibility.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

A Disenchanted Evening

So! Those of you who follow this blog's Facebook page already know that the stomach virus fairy visited our house yesterday. Rachel was the lucky chosen one (so far) who got to throw up repeatedly and lie on the bathroom floor wailing, "Why me?" Caring, maternal person that I am, I took advantage of what I saw as a teachable moment to say, "This is what happens if you drink too much at college, you know."

Really, that was the first thing that popped into my mind.  What is wrong with me?

Delivered by an angel of mercy
To keep Rachel company, I came down with some ache-y, flu-y thing that same day. Now, I am not a pleasant person to be around when ill. I get depressed and irritable (a situation not helped in the least by having to watch someone barf several times). I also get weepy.  So when a neighbor texted me from Target and asked if I needed anything, followed by my yoga teacher volunteering to work the desk at the yoga center for me on Saturday morning, I became positively maudlin, wailing to anyone who would listen that I didn't deserve friends like that.

Fortunately for Larry, he was at work all day and didn't have to listen to me.

So today both Rachel and I were in recovery mode (read, I was still irritable and she was munching on pretzels). But I felt well enough by early evening to insist that Larry and I go out to see Bridge of Spies, since it seemed to be one of the few movies both of us would enjoy.

You know, Cold War for him, Tom Hanks for me?

So there we were, happily watching a movie. It was a scene near the beginning, where Tom Hanks (a lawyer) is talking to this really old guy who owned the law firm.  REALLY OLD. And Larry leaned over and whispered in my ear, "That's Alan Alda."

Folks, I think Alan Alda, and what I see is Hawkeye from M*A*S*H.  I mean, I did see him in a movie during the 90s (Manhattan Murder Mystery); but he still resembled Hawkeye, albeit a little older and more distinguished-looking. So, it's not as though I didn't know the guy was aging a bit.

There. On the far right. The old man.

But, yeah, the 90s were 20 years ago now.  I just did the math.

I came home and messaged my best friend from high school - you know, the one who is supposed to know that neither of us will ever grow old? - and told her what had happened.  I mean, if Alan Alda can't stay young, what hope is there for either of us? Her reply was, essentially, "Um, what did you expect?" To which I say, thanks, friend of my youth. THANKS A LOT.

[Bridge of Spies image: Touchstone Pictures]

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Halloween Hangover

Halloween stats (several days late):

44 bags of candy handed out
3 trick-or-treaters: a pirate (Susie, and a very cute pirate she was), a black widow spider, and a reluctant teenage bat (Brian, who realized at the last minute he wanted some candy)
1 mom (that would be, uh, moi) who kept all the short, chewy strawberry Twizzlers for herself
8 costumed neighbors who attended our candy-swap party after the main event

All in all, it was your typical Halloween around here. We're still eating candy, although the girls are being remarkably selfish about their KitKats this year.  You know, you think you're raising them right, and then reality just up and smacks you in the head.

But that's okay, I just wrote them both out of the will.

Just add some bicycles, and this is pretty much us.
Larry has suddenly become interested in all the various little campers I've been looking at for the past year or so: the Little Guy, the Happier Camper, the Alto.  It might have something to do with the fact that we actually lost a little piece of our camping trailer last summer on our way up to Maine. Picture it: We're 3 hours late getting on the road, only halfway there, stress levels cranked up to max, and someone pulls up next to us on a major highway, trying to get our attention.  At first we didn't notice, because our car is quite a sight when we are towing the camping trailer with the cartop carrier strapped to its top, 2 bikes on the roof of our minivan, and 3 more bikes mounted on the back hatch.  I mean, LOTS of people stare, because we look like the Beverly Hillbillies of the camping set. But then I saw that the guy was gesturing at our camper and trying to tell us (at 60 mph) that something was wrong. We (meaning, Larry) managed to pull off the road and fix the problem, but not before one of those thingies (legs? struts?) that holds up the camper had gone missing.

Like I said, STRESS.

So, earlier this week, Larry asked me to show him all the mini-camper websites and even appeared to be listening to me as I explained what I thought were the pros and cons of each one. Then he spent the next few days doing his typical obsessive thing of comparing and evaluating absolutely every detail about these things.

Me, I just look at the pictures.

So whose method is better? I can't say, but I can tell you that we both pretty much came to the same conclusion as to which camper might best fit our needs.  And my way left me more time to eat the Halloween candy. Nuff said.

Of course, all this research was completely theoretical, since we don't happen to have $12 - 20K lying around right now to throw at our camper problems.  But, hey, we all need our fantasies, don't we?

[Beverly Hillbillies image: MoreThings]

Thursday, October 29, 2015

All Spun Up

I did this. Me.
Today I dragged Susie and my awesomely fit friend to a beginning spin class.  No, no, not the bicycle kind - that would be exhausting. This class was for learning to spin roving (fleece, wool, whatever) into yarn.

You know, because I don't have enough to do.

It was a lot of fun, actually.  Fun to learn something new, fun to talk with interesting new people (the instructor is also a potter), fun to introduce my daughter to more fiber-related activities.

And then I came home and fed everyone leftovers for dinner.  Because that's how it's going to be around here from now on, I'm guessing, what with my needing to braid rugs and spin yarn and, oh yeah, knit. Particularly if I manage to land that job in January.  Of course, there are always those cheap Harris Teeter subs...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Almond Joys Are Calling My Name

Harris Teeter has $5 subs all week.  I swear, I don't know why I bother to cook anymore.

You can't see her face, but this is the most cheerful black widow you can imagine.
Rachel made her own costume this year. Determined to be a black widow spider (no, I don't know why, let's not dwell on that), she designed the legs (black stockings filled with batting) and the hourglass shape on her belly (red felt) all by herself. We're ahead of the game here, costume-wise, as she has already had 2 Halloween parties to attend. In fact, both occurred yesterday, and boy was that fun, what with her costume not being finished until noon (first party was at noon-thirty) and her needing to bake something for each event. Hell hath no fury like a teen girl intent on socializing, obstacles be damned.

You know, I don't think I EVER went to a Halloween party.  So that's the question of the day: are there more Halloween parties than there used to be, say, in the 1970s? Or was I just a friendless loser? Or both?

Discuss.  I need to get back to not eating the two huge bags of Costco Halloween candy that are taunting me from my living room.  NOT EATING, I say...

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Sign Unto You

I was walking out of ChikFilA today when I saw my first sure sign of the impending holidays - a poster announcing their Operation Christmas Child - you know, that thing where you fill shoeboxes with small gifts and useful items for underprivileged children overseas and bring them in to a local ChikFilA?  In exchange, you receive a coupon for a free chicken sandwich.

Free, as in pretty darn expensive, actually, what with shipping costs and all, but hey - CHARITY.

Anyway, this has always been a good way to show my kids that not everyone in the world has the lifestyle we take for granted here. The girls and I head over to Michaels clutching our 30%-off-entire-purchase coupon and a list of suggested gifts, where we have a grand old time choosing items and figuring out if they will fit in the box. We talk about why some gifts are better than others and what the recipient's lives are like. Educational! Then we go home, pack the boxes, bring them to the restaurant on the appointed day, and return home feeling virtuous.  After eating our expensive free chicken sandwiches, of course...

Or...not.  Some years the boxes don't happen because our good intentions get buried in that maelstrom that is the Christmas holidays. Instead, we kick the red-and-green empty boxes around the house, pretending they are going to be filled, until someone (usually Larry, who does not share my charitable delusions) moves them to the recycling bin.

It's the thought that counts, right?

The Miracle of the Shoe Boxes
So today I stopped at ChikFilA after Costco.  I do crave me some waffle fries sometimes, and I had 45 minutes until the girls needed to be picked up from art class.  As I exited the restaurant, a sign advertising Operation Christmas Child caught my eye, and I smiled. A feeling of satisfaction flooded me, a feeling akin to waking up on the morning after hosting Bunko and realizing that I have a freshly cleaned house replete with yummy leftovers. Why?  Because this year, I am prepared.  Those boxes are already filled and taped shut, waiting to wing their way to some lucky third-world child.

Organized? Heck, no.  We packed them last November, stuck them somewhere in our house, and forgot about them until they resurfaced sometime in January.What is amazing is that I still know where they are. A Christmas miracle! In October! Praise the Lord and pass the chicken sandwiches!

Now if I only had this year's Halloween costumes ready...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Feeling Festive

You know, being as short as I am, I hate crowds; and being a generally irritable person, I am bored to death at festivals. I hate walking around and looking at things, I hate waiting in line, I hate having to stay vivacious and engaged for prolonged periods of time. It's just all too hard for someone like myself. And, of course, where I live, any festival held at a fairgrounds is more an endurance test than anything else, what with the humidity and the mosquitoes that are common during summer and fall. Everyone walks around pretending to enjoy themselves, but - to my mind - the looks on their faces would be more suitable to the Bataan death march than to a festival.

I know, I am a FUN person.

So, I was worried about Rhinebeck.  I worried I would hate it. I was worried I would drive hundreds of miles and sleep in a stranger's house only to feel bored to death by the whole sheep-and-wool thing.  I worried about making Larry take a day off work just so I could drive hundreds of miles and be unhappy.  I prepared myself to lie to Larry when I got home, no matter what. "Great! It was great!" I'd say.

But, in the end, I didn't have to lie. There must be some magic in the air at the Duchess County Fairgrounds, or maybe it helps that the weather wasn't 90 degrees and humid, or maybe all the yarn fumes were simply intoxicating.  Whatever it was, the Rhinebeck magic had its effect. I wandered through at least a dozen buildings, each with 20 or more stalls filled with vendors/creators. Not bored. I watched a sheepdog round up some very silly-looking sheep. Not bored. I spent an inordinate amount of time on the long women's bathroom lines, as I was dealing with a very inconveniently timed stomach virus.  Still not bored. (And, hey, even the bathrooms were nicer than any I had seen at other fairgrounds.)

I thought these guys were cute, and I don't even like sheep.

EVERYONE there was happy.  Everyone was wandering around in amazing knits, laughing and talking and petting baby sheep and then eating lamb gyros and lamb-barley soup (not cool, people, not cool). The fairgrounds themselves were far from the flat, desolate, humid wastelands to which I have become accustomed. Rolling hills, pretty buildings, gorgeous trees - they all combined to make Rhinebeck the festival feel like some woolly wonderland.

Just one tiny sample of the gorgeous foliage

This, my friends, is what yarn-fume intoxication looks like.

Magic. As noted here, even my 10-year-old felt it. It all feels like some weird dream now, and I can't even begin to explain what I found so interesting there. All I know is that here I am, back in my home state, with a large rug loom sitting in my living room. Apparently the Rhinebeck magic convinced me that I need to make braided rugs. NEED.

I'll give Larry some credit here - he hasn't even blinked an eye as the girls and I rip up all the cotton fabric we can get our hands on and argue over the proper tension of our fabric twists. He hasn't even tried to suggest that maybe I don't need a new hobby, when the living room is already inundated with baskets of yarn and stray knitting needles can be found under couch cushions and in the silverware drawer. Maybe he knows resistance is futile. Maybe he understands that one cannot argue with Rhinebeck.

Or maybe he hasn't noticed.  That's always a possibility.

Monday, October 19, 2015


At Knit Night a couple of months ago, I heard the leader of our group mention that she had used Airbnb to rent an inexpensive room in a house near Rhinebeck. Wow, I thought, she's older than me.  Isn't Airbnb something for young folks?  She added that there were still other rooms available in that same house. I don't understand quite how it happened, but I went home that evening and, stepping FAR outside my comfort zone, committed to staying in a room in a house owned by a person whom I had never met, a room that slept 3.  Then I texted my friend who was out of town for work and told her where we were going the third weekend of October.  After that, I messaged Auntie Kate and explained that she would be meeting the two of us at Rhinebeck.

It was that simple.  I was really going to Rhinebeck.

Confused? Rhinebeck is shorthand for the one of the biggest sheep-and-wool festivals in the US. It is, quite simply, 2 fiber-filled days in that autumnal utopia otherwise known as upstate NY. It is the place to see and be seen by hundreds of other knitters, spinners, and weavers. Any yarn artist worth her salt makes, at one time or another, a pilgrimage to the once-a-year wool mecca known as Rhinebeck.

As it turns out, my friend had to cancel at the last minute, so I grabbed Susie and headed north last Friday. A word about Susie - although she has known how to knit for a year or so, she has steadfastly refused to learn to purl.  That is, until last month, when I convinced her to throw caution to the winds and learn the other half of this particular fiber art.  Something happened once she gained this new skill, something indefinable really - all I know is that suddenly 10-year-old Susie was a knitter with a capital K.  I would come home from an evening out to find her on the couch, hard at work with a pile of yarn beside her. "I had to frog it," she'd tell me, all business-like. "I kept counting and it still didn't look right. So I started over." She taught 3 of her friends how to knit. She demanded frequent trips to Michaels to get more yarn, with which she designed her own cowls.

Susie kept plunging her hands into this stuff. Can't say I blame her...
Still, I didn't know how Susie would react to being dragged around the Duchess County Fairgrounds for hours on end, just to look at yarn and roving and sheep and spinning wheels.  I needn't have worried, however, because it seems she found her people there. She petted fleece and oohed and aahed over yarn. She watched a sheepdog demonstration. She ate kettlecorn. In other words, she fully imbibed that magic that is Rhinebeck. In the end, Auntie Kate and I had to practically drag her to the car so we could get on the road toward home.

I had a pretty good time, too, actually. But that's tomorrow's post. I'm too busy right now trying to convince Larry that I, um, won that large rug loom that is sitting in the living room. That's right, just lucky, I guess. And smart enough to carry cash...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Larry's Really Fun Life

We're having an appliance mutiny of sorts, here.  Early last week, as documented in these pages, our dishwasher caught fire, and then this past weekend, the clothes dryer joined in on the pyrotechnic fun.  Luckily, we smelled the smoke from where we were sitting in the living room and managed to turn it off before the house burned down.

So Larry got to spend his day off on Monday taking apart the dryer and the long pipe leading to the outside vent and declogging everything of lint.  This is one of his favorite tasks, second only to cleaning piles of bat guano from between the walls. He stopped his labors long enough to drive Theo back to the airport and then - for some reason - decided to go to his office.  Probably to get some rest.

So the dryer worked all of one day, but now it has no hot air.  Something is either wrong with the circuit board or else Larry managed to knock the moisture sensor loose while he was cleaning the lint out from around the drum. Hey, I can Google with the best of them, you know.

Larry was very happy to hear this news from me when he walked in the door this evening.  Who needs to sit and relax after a hard day's work when you can dismantle your clothes dryer again instead?

All I know is that Auntie Kate is planning to come and stay with us, starting on Sunday, and I would really like things to be operational again by then.  I don't think she would enjoy hauling her wet laundry to our neighbors' houses, the way I have been doing all day. She might even refuse to sew curtains for Susie's new room until we provide her with the proper amenities.

But, hey, we do have a working dishwasher! Unlike the last time our dishwasher died, we had some money available to get a replacement, which I bought before I even went to bed last Wednesday. You know, I don't understand how Larry manages to sleep knowing that I can spend hundreds of dollars online while he is upstairs snoring away.

Wives...we'll spend whatever you make...

Our bouncing baby dishwasher! Prettiest thing I've ever seen...

Anyway, it arrived Monday afternoon, right after Theo left (because, hey, who needs a dishwasher while you have a houseguest and are cooking up a storm?). I immediately posted its baby picture on this blog's Facebook page, where everyone is busy taking guesses on how long it will last in our appliance-killing household.  Feel free to join in.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Today is Larry's birthday and, as is my wont, I was having a hard time finding a good present for him.  He doesn't really have any hobbies (I mean, aside from destroying our home and drinking coffee and beer). One year, in desperation, we bought him a shredder. I know, sad.

We buy him candy, and he doesn't eat it.  One year, we bought him chocolate-covered espresso beans (coffee AND chocolate), and those are still sitting in the cabinet.  All he likes are Altoids and TicTacs, and damned if I'm buying those for him again.

I just made Larry sound like the least fun person in the entire world.  But, seriously, what sort of person prefers Altoids and TicTacs to normal candy?

So, yeah, I was stuck. Until I got an idea.  An awesome idea.  You see, Theo hasn't been home since last Christmas, and Larry misses him.  So Theo agreed to use his 4-day pass to fly home and surprise his father this weekend.

The miracle of flight - making birthdays easy

The surprise is what makes it fun, folks.  That's what I learned this week.  And part of the fun was that the girls and I had to prep for the visit without Larry noticing. Luckily for us, Larry doesn't pay much attention to what is happening in the house unless he is busy destroying it. Think I'm exaggerating? One year - the year Larry tore apart the den - we went out and bought a Christmas tree without his help, put it up in the living room, and strung the lights on it.  When he came home from work, we waited for him to notice.

He didn't.

This was banished to the downstairs fridge
Back to getting ready - because Theo is dairy allergic, we had to batten down the hatches, as it were: remove anything dangerous from the fridge and scrub it down and then clean out all those food containers that were holding things like mac-n-cheese and such. And, yeah, my dishwasher is still broken. Bad timing, right? Only we couldn't SAY it was bad timing, because, well, SURPRISE.  The whole week went like that.

So we all managed to surprise Larry, despite the fact that I was grinning from ear to ear (no, really, that is exactly what it felt like) as we sat in the living room after dinner, Larry relaxing and me waiting for Theo and Anna (she picked him up at the airport) to walk in the door. Best yet, I was off the hook for a decent present. Larry ended up with a key chain (from a brewery in Maine) and a travel coffee mug (from our campground in Maine) and a package of gummy candy lobsters (from guess where) that were a little too chewy, unfortunately.

But hey, if Larry's nice to me, maybe I'll agree to see "The Martian" this weekend.  I figure there's Matt Damon for me and a horribly depressing guy-stranded-on-another-planet story line for him - perfect for the couple who can rarely agree on what to see at the movies. Those casting people really knew what they were doing, I guess.

[Airplane image: Wikipedia]