Thursday, August 31, 2017

Better Housekeeping Through Technology

All right, so yesterday RobinH (who, really, has never led me wrong) informed me in the comments that the appliance I was lusting after was essentially a $99 dustpan. Dammit, she's right.

Still want it, though. Not gonna get it, but I want it.

Tempting, but price-y
Gigi suggested I get a Roomba instead, but wow, those things are $300 and up now. I had no idea they were so expensive. Also, doesn't it just keep bumping into chair legs and such? Anyway, I'm not getting one, because, well, $300.

I continued to feel lousy all day yesterday; by evening, I had myself convinced that I had either diverticulitis or colon cancer or life-threatening appendicitis that was presenting weirdly. So I spent several hours imagining how I would say good-bye to my children. I also wondered how Larry would find someone to drive them places.

I'm not kidding.

I woke up able to drink liquids and even managed a piece of toast, so maybe I don't have to put out a Help Wanted ad yet. I don't know, because now my stomach is hurting again. This thing is weird, the way it's hanging on.

Yeah, I do have health insurance. I just hate going to the doctor, is all. So I'll sit here and wait until the holiday weekend before I decide to do anything about any of this. That's smart, right?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pre-Mortem Blogging

Light reading
I'm currently dying from a stomach virus, but that reminded me that a friend mentioned this book to me while we were out walking and trying to stay healthy enough to live forever. She said it has a whole section to write down passwords and instructions for all your social media accounts, etc. Which got me to thinking, hey, I should have a blog post ready to go in case I drop dead - you know, Larry could post it so y'all wouldn't wonder what happened.

It seemed like a good idea, but now that I've typed it out like that, wow - that's weird.

But it got me wondering what exactly I would put in that post. We're assuming a sudden demise here, and I would already be gone, so I couldn't explain what happened. I guess I could leave a sort of fill-in-the-blank thing for Larry to finish, though - I mean, that's just what he'd like to spend his time on, as a newly bereaved widower, I'm sure. So maybe this isn't a great idea after all.

I can't tell, because have I mentioned I am dying of this stomach virus? I had the temerity to sip a whole ounce of flat Sprite this morning (I woke up feeling pretty normal, after spending most of the day either sleeping or complaining), and now I am hunched over at this computer, trying to ignore all the sharp pains zinging through my intestines. Like, they go all the way through to my back. See? Definitely dying. On top of that, I have vicious hunger pangs. Yeah, go figure.

I miss food.

Looks like a penguin, sorta
Add to that the fact that my being out of commission for over 24 hours means the house falls apart, and I'm pretty miserable. I just staggered over to the living room windows and cleaned them, because I've been lying on the couch staring through their dirty selves for the past day and I just couldn't take it anymore. And I discovered (because, hey, I can lie on the couch and still surf the Internet on my IPad) this stationary vacuum that automatically sucks up anything you sweep near it on the floor. I am positively enamored of this idea. It's too expensive, however, so please remind me I do not need this particular luxury item.

But, hey, isn't it cute?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

City Of Ice

It's raining this morning, which provides me with just the excuse I need not to go out and stagger/jog/walk for a mile, pretending to be fit and athletic. Considering I was up half the night with an unsettled stomach, I am definitely welcoming this reprieve.

No, I don't know what's wrong with me. But I have to feel better by tomorrow morning, because that's when I have yet another dentist appointment (the one I had to postpone earlier this month when I had the head cold from hell) for yet another crown. I feel desperate to get this thing behind me, because I hate dental work. Unlike everyone else in the world, I guess...

Also, it's always fun spending a thousand dollars in one fell swoop. And, heck, why spend that sort of money on something enjoyable when you can use it to have someone drill in your mouth?

Seen in Acadia, not Paris
(Note the cobwebs)

Speaking of which (spending money, that is), 2 weeks ago, when Rachel was complaining about her forced attendance on our camping trip to one of the world's more beautiful places, a place where she gets to eat ice cream and pastries to her heart's delight, I said, "You know, as a kid, I never went ANYWHERE during the summers. I was jealous of all my friends who got to go somewhere, even if it was the same place every year. I don't know how to help you with this. Is there someplace you'd rather go? The beach, maybe?"

And my darling daughter,  number 5 of 6 kids who have NOT been raised extravagantly and who supposedly know the value of a dollar, said, "My friend got to go to PARIS!"

Paris? Paris is in my MOUTH. Maybe that friend's dad is my dentist. Who knows?

Paris. Sheesh. I'm still excited about our automatic ice maker, people. Kids today...

Monday, August 28, 2017

Acadia The Beautiful

Still alive! We returned from a 2-week camping vacation exhausted, staggered around for a day, and then were hit by a freight train of a weekend. Really, guys, I wasn't ready for work and social commitments and all. So I'm sitting here now, trying to decipher cryptic notes I jotted down during our time away, things like "slumber party" and "doughnuts," with no other explanation whatsoever. I'm sure I had some great stories there, but I can't remember them.

Things I Do Remember

Campsite-made, with genuine Maine blueberries
We held with family camping tradition, in that we made sure we had a disgruntled teenager along on our trip. I mean, what's family campfire time without someone scowling at you and answering questions with a voice that could cut metal? Rachel happily stepped into the role that in former years has been held by David and then Brian; and I must say, she outshone them both. It didn't help that we were traveling on her birthday, I guess.


Theo drove up a couple of days after us and spent almost a week. We had assumed he'd just share the campsite and then go off on his own to hike or whatever, but he actually accompanied us on our activities. You see, he's old enough NOT to be an aggrieved teen who hates his family. It was, in a word, refreshing. We haven't had much extended hang-out time with him over the past (gasp) eight years (the last time he was in Acadia with us, actually), so this was a real treat for Larry and me. It was also - I came to realize - an eye-opener for Theo.

You see, one night, as we adults were sitting by the campfire, Susie called from the camper, "Do we have Kleenex?" And I said, "Sure, they're in the camper, honey, in the cabinet!"

"Can you get them for me?"


"Honey, you are IN the camper."

"But I just got all comfy in my sleeping bag."

"All right, I'll get them in a minute," I said, envisioning my "baby" all snuggled up, ready to sleep. I turned my head to say something to Theo, my eldest, to find him staring at me. "What?" I asked.

"I never would've even THOUGHT of asking someone to get me a tissue," he said. "EVER."

We don't call Susie "the grandchild" for nothing, you know.


View of the Bubbles, shrouded in mist
So, activities! 2 biking excursions (complete with wild blueberry picking), 4 hikes (plus more for Theo and Larry), 2 days on the water. Rachel persuaded Susie (who steadfastly refuses to get in/on a boat) to try a paddle board and they had fun with that, while Larry and I paddled around in kayaks, looking for all the world like an outdoorsy family on the cover of an LLBean catalog. In fact, Susie made that paddle board look so easy, I decided to try it myself.

Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking, either.

I am sure, however, that the girls will never forget the sight of their middle-aged mother floundering in the water and trying desperately to scramble back on that thing. Especially since Larry took pictures, traitor that he is. And no, I'm not posting them here.


Auntie Kate and Uncle Fred showed up the same day as Theo (they always come out and stay a few days in town while we are camping). So the first week was filled with activities and entertaining relatives, etc. By Saturday morning, when Theo left, we were actually glad it was raining - that gave us the excuse we needed to spend the entire day taking turns napping.

We can't HANDLE the fun, is what I'm saying.

We hiked to The Bowl. It's gorgeous.


The laundromat in town was renovated over the winter. This was exciting, but I can't explain why. Maybe because that laundromat is as much a part of our (or my) vacation memories as hiking Cadillac Mountain or biking the carriage roads. Sad, but true...


We got home on Thursday to find the house still standing, the front-porch flowers not quite dead, and the basil trying desperately to go to seed. I nipped that in the bud, as it were. Brian seemed a tad annoyed at having to share "his" house again (we showed up one day early), but he seems to be managing to adjust to our bothersome mortgage-paying, food-buying presence. Very forbearing of him, but he's magnanimous that way...

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Let Them Eat Cake

We're at T-2 days until we leave for our camping vacation, and there's a ton of stuff to do, so naturally time speeds up exponentially, just to make things easier. I still have to get a haircut (we have to pay for 5 minutes of hot water in the shower, and there's no way I can be done in under 5 minutes with a full head of hair), pedicure (because, um, doesn't everyone do that before 2 weeks of camping), some presents for Rachel's birthday on Saturday while we are on the road -- and, yes, she IS miffed that she is spending 6 hours in the car with her family on her birthday.

Did I say miffed? Actually, Rachel's disdain/disgust level will be through the roof. Her voice will be able to cut through metal, and she'll use it on us any time any one of us attempts to sound the least bit happy. We are so looking forward to this state of affairs.

Naturally, our car battery decided to give up the ghost last night because I had the temerity to run it for 10 minutes to charge my phone, so add "get new car battery" to the to-do list, will you? We are just lucky that this happened last night and not, say, on the night we set up camp, usually after dark, when we use the parked van's headlights to help us see what we are doing.

This is why we went to the moon, I guess
In other news, Brian returned late last night from his Seattle sojourn, where he ate good food, saw interesting sights (racing corgis!), and generally enjoyed himself from dawn to dusk. He's jet lagged and still sleeping; I haven't woken him up because I'm guessing his re-entry syndrome isn't going to be too pleasant.

Of course, he will probably cheer up as he helps us pack the car and then waves good-bye to us on Friday. Brian gets to stay home again this year, as his community college courses start up before we get back. I'm picturing him dancing a little jig as we pull out of the parking lot, actually.

For a brief time last night, however, I had all 6 of my kids sitting in the living room, laughing and joking and talking. I've pretty much waited 25 years for that moment, people, a moment which has made our long, arduous, ongoing slog through the teen years worth it. I don't ask for much, you know. Just brief spells of good-natured camaraderie amongst my offspring, with me there to witness it.

It was like Christmas in August, without all the gift-giving pressure and the ultra-flammable tree to worry about. More fun, is what I'm saying...

Engineered with brotherly love
And now we're off to Anna's birthday lunch - because, yeah, why not cram some festivities into the week, while we're at it? Thank goodness David likes to bake cakes. He's a rocket engineer (well, studying to be one) and is very precise. None of those sloppy specimens that I crank out, year after year, nope - his cakes are round and perfectly frosted and never look as though they have been chewed by rats.

Okay, click on that last link and scroll to the second half of the post. I promise, you will not regret the effort.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Down and OUT

When last we spoke, I had a head cold I was hoping to kick forthwith, so that my weekend would not be ruined. Yeah, no such luck. That thing kept coming back at me like the virus version of Rasputin, I swear it. I'd feel better, decide to weed the front yard, almost pass out, and stagger back inside. Then I'd feel better, make a vat of potato salad, and require a 2-hour nap to recover from the exertion.

There are a LOT of people living here right now. I HAVE to keep cooking. David flew in on Saturday, so now we have 5. Brian comes home from his truly excellent vacation on Tuesday night, to make it an even 6. He and his friend got to see corgi races today, he reports. Tell me, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO COMPETE WITH CORGI RACES? Brian's gonna hate coming back here.

Also, did you even know there was such a thing?

Yup, they're real. I like the one who turned a little somersault, myself.

I had the temerity to act like a healthy person Saturday morning: I went to the Farmers Market to pick up tomatoes; then I stood in the kitchen for an hour making a fresh, uncooked tomato sauce (fresh basil, too!) to greet David with. I paid dearly for that expenditure of energy, ending up taking another 2-hour nap (see virus version of Rasputin, above).

I was woken by Larry standing in the bedroom and saying, cheerily, "The neighbors are organizing an impromptu BBQ, so I said we'd be there." The poor man - I flipped out. "I CAN'T be there. I CAN'T. I'd have to get food ready. I CAN'T. I CAN'T EVEN GET OUT OF THIS BED."

Larry left to buy hamburger meat and beer anyway, mumbling something about how he'd take care of it.

So I dragged my sick, martyred self downstairs, pulled chicken out of the freezer, marinated it, threw together a chickpea/black bean/parsley salad for my vegetarians, asked Theo to pick up buns and potato chips, and then went back to bed, feeling very sorry for myself.

The BBQ went off without a hitch and without me - I got to lie in my house with the windows open (it was an incredibly beautiful day) and listen to all my neighbors having fun on the grassy lawn behind the tot lot next door to our house. The only good part (for me) was their deciding to do a bonfire, which meant Larry was able to get rid of the stack of wood he's been hoarding on our backyard patio and that I had been planning to advertise as FREE on Craigslist this week, once he went back to work.

That sentence is too long, but I'm too tired to fix it. That woodpile was a sore point, is what I'm trying to say.

Today? I feel the same, although the cold sores that were erupting all over the inside of my mouth yesterday seem to have died down, which improvement makes me feel a lot less desperate and panicked. Still, I had to use my hour's allotment of energy to make homemade salsa (still had a lot of tomatoes left which were threatening to rot if I didn't use them) and also a fresh peach crisp. I spent the rest of the day watching the Dick Van Dyke Show with Susie, who seems to have woken up with the same horrid cold this morning.

Oh, and I did this:


That's right - I cleaned the instrument panel on my stove. Every single time I go to use the stove or turn on the oven, I think, "What a mess!" But I never get around to cleaning it, because, well, I'm busy cooking at the time. So today was the day - I took the knobs off, scrubbed them, and then scrubbed the entire background and the display panel.

And then I lay down on the couch again. Rasputin doesn't like me to get too much done.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Salad Days

Oh, we're in survival mode here today, folks. I'm dying from a head cold and didn't sleep (but, hey, at least I'm not sitting in my friend's vacation home, ruining a planned weekend of hiking and fun), Susie got braces yesterday and is NOT happy about it, David is arriving Saturday, I've got a not-fun dental appointment tomorrow morning...

Just like Hellmann's, but cheaper!
And I've still got to cook, cook, cook. Potato salad is on the agenda for today, to go with the leftover meatloaf from Tuesday. This has been the Summer of the Potato Salad - sort of like The Summer of Love, only more filling. I can't even count how many jars of mayo I've gone through (and, hey, it's only $1.89 a jar at Aldi's!). You see, back in May, I FINALLY figured out how to make this particular dish delectably creamy, rather than having all the mayonnaise just sliding off the potatoes.

Yes, this problem had been bugging me for a long time. 25 years or so, actually...

My original approach was to keep cutting the potatoes smaller and smaller, so there would be more surface area to absorb the dressing. This never worked, though. So, a couple of months ago, I finally hit on taking some of the potatoes after they are cooked, mashing them, and mixing them in with the celery and mayo before adding the rest of the cut-up potatoes. Eureka! I swear, I felt as if I had discovered the cure for cancer.

The Holy Grail, as it were, of side dishes
So, yeah, perfectly creamy potato salad - looks like I can cross that one off my bucket list.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Fantasy Camping

On Sunday, Larry and Theo and I went to the storage place to inspect our pop-up trailer - you know, the one we bought 6 years ago because Larry likes to camp and I don't, but marriage is forever? It was a surprisingly uneventful task - no gross bugs had taken up residence over the winter, no water had leaked through the new protective cover Larry bought last year, everything was there and sort of, well, organized.

But no flowers or throw pillows - we're not THAT good.
Larry and I sat there and stared at each other.

"So," he said, "I guess we're good to go?"

"Yeah," I said, checking inside the storage containers. "Looks like we just need paper towels and some trash bags."

Larry moved stuff around so I could sweep and wipe down the metal floor and the seat cushions. He opened his handy-dandy Coleman storage case that holds all his kitchen stuff and we checked that, too. Plates, bowls, silverware; metal pots; dish soap...all there.

"Is this for real?" I said. "We MUST be forgetting something."

I mean, hey, that's what we do.

Larry kept looking around. "Here's the stove," he offered, knowing I remembered the 2014 trip to a Maine WalMart, looking for a campstove to replace the 2 (count them, 2!) stoves we had managed to leave at home.

"There are 5 chairs in here," I said, checking the storage bench. "And they all work. What the heck?"

It's worth the effort. Really, it is.
"You know, it's a nice camper," Larry said, going around and unzipping the canvas windows to air it out.

"Yeah," I agreed, "like a screened-in porch on wheels. Sleeping in it's nice."

So we basked for a bit in our unaccustomed efficiency, daring to dream of a successful (i.e., not rainy) camping trip in non-humid Acadia, land of granite mountains and blue sea -- a veritable Eden where hiking and kayaking reign supreme, and children are never miserable about being forced to camp with their parents.

Look, I SAID it was a dream, okay?