‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Saturday, January 31, 2009

this is my brain on ice

There are things I learned in elementary school that I will never forget. Extra-curricular things like "stop, drop and roll" or how to rescue someone who's fallen through the ice.

I stop drop and roll whenever so much as a spark flies out of the fireplace. Also when I set the toaster on fire. The broken ice thing, though, I've had less experience with. Which is good.

Today our friend Randy came by and asked to borrow our shovel so he could clear a little spot on the pond across the street. He had his skates with him and a bucket to sit on while he put on his skates. He was obviously a boy scout in a former life and has thought of everything. He asked if the kids would like to come with him, for a little boot skating.

We bundled up, comically. Studley could barely lower his arms. This was to guard the kids against the cold, as well as the ravages of the prickley branches that circle the pond. "Be careful," said Studley. "Some of the flowers are pointy."

As we approached the pond, the ground started to give way under us and we broke through little pieces of ice into a couple of inches of pooled water. This made me nervous. After all, if these shallow pools were not thoroughly frozen, why should the pond be trusted?

We caught up to Randy, who had by then shoveled the near end of the pond. He came to the edge, and the ice crumbled underneath him - again into about an inch of water. I turned to Lucy. "If you hear any cracking sounds, lie down on the ice and pretend you are floating like a star." She decided not to go.

Studley, after evaluating the solar gain of shallow water pooled on dark earth and then doing a quick bit of calculus to determine pond depth and water temperature, scurried after Randy. He had a ball while Lucy and I watched, listening for the zip of ice giving way. I mentally scoured our house for the closest ladder, which is ridiculous because it would take me 10 minutes to get to the house, find the ladder, and return. I should have brought one with me. And some rope. And maybe some water wings. Then I recalled the suggestion to make a human chain and crawl out onto the broken ice. Which is great except this human chain is made up of me and a six year old.

"I want him to come back in now," said Lucy.

"It's okay," I assured her. "If the ice broke, Studley would be up to his waist in cold water."

It is completely irrelevant that Randy, a very grown-up man, is zooming around out there and Not Falling Through. It is irrelevant that the ice is obviously Very Solid. It is irrelevant because now it is my children we are talking about and there was that one time in the third grade when we watched the safety film on frozen ponds and Studley, why are you not cold yet?

Seeing that nothing was happening to either of the men-folk, Lucy went out onto the pond - at which point I've gone from ladders to human chains to simply throwing myself into the hole created by my children.

Finally, Studley was cold. I tried to say something like "oh darn, already?" but instead tucked a child under each arm and headed for dry land.

Now that it's over, I wish I had taken a camera. Little people sliding around on a pond in the middle of winter, with snow all around and making ice angels. Dressed in puffy coats and handknit scarves, with rosey cheeks. I'm really glad we did it.

I'm really glad it's over.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Good Faith

"No one has enough money to follow his vision and also pay all his bills." - Marcus Burns in Good Faith

Marcus Burns is a Jane Smiley character who leads the other characters on a merry chase by promising them Big Things. And then he swindles them. A few months ago I met someone who made me think of Marcus Burns.

I am getting to the point where I suspect it's not just his boundless energy and flood of big ideas that reminds me of Burns. And I'm not sure what to do about it. Obviously, I need to back off on what I'm willing to offer. But most importantly, I need to stop internalizing the turmoil.

Years ago I was overextended in all directions and had no idea how to make it right. It was a long time ago and I've done my best to not be in that situation ever again. This is stirring the muck and I find myself physically responding and feeling like I used to feel; tense, anxious and slightly queasy. It's like having a waitressing nightmare years after you've stopped waitressing. I am spending way too much mental energy sorting out a problem that is not mine.

Our country has made a pig's breakfast of things by living that quote above. If our vision can only be accomplished by deceiving others, something's amiss.

End rant.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

biographical information, modified

Chris hates facebook. It's just like high school, he complains.

He's right, it is just like high school. With one big difference: I can represent myself in words instead of in person. Let me just say that if I had been able to do that in real high school, my teen years would have been much happier. I can totally do words.

If I wanted to, I could be a fan of the Smithsonian, Chicago Opera Theater and Dostoevsky. I could be perpetually enigmatic in my status updates. And my fellow high schoolers would say, "dang, she's really smart and sophisticated!" They will writhe in the knowledge that I am superior to them in every way and dagnabbit it they should have been nicer to me because I can now TAKE THEM DOWN PLAYING MAH JONG. Or ballroom dancing.

Or I could be a fan of Bukowski, Incubus and the Mercury Lounge, and my fellow high schoolers will say to themselves "seriously? The skinny kid who spent most of her time hiding in her locker?"

I could also start a group called Trophy Wives Anonymous, or, No Matter How Hard I Try, I Simply Cannot Age or Gain Weight!

As it is, my fellow high schoolers are probably looking at my status updates and saying "wow, she's dorky." I need to maybe work on those.

ps - oh look, the boy who lit my hair on fire in 5th grade is now on facebook. I shan't be friending him. Who are YOU not friending?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I really, really want Lucy to hurry up and go to bed so I can eat the rest of the rice pudding without having to share it with her. But she's making her lunch for tomorrow, and Studley's lunch for tomorrow. So I'm cutting her some slack and letting her stay up.

That doesn't stop me from twitching, though. I'm thinking I may have to go sit in the car for a little while. I keep spoons in there.

In other news, I have reached a high point in my personal career. I was chatting with my sister about going with her to visit my niece at college. My niece is not completely sure this is a good idea. She thinks we might embarrass her. Which is awesome.

Not only MIGHT I embarrass her, I am planning on it. It is, one might say, my whole reason for going. I have some truly diabolical wardrobe choices I'm considering, and am practicing my deadpan delivery of "want to see my piercings?"

I can't wait.

She might think this because I am truly odd. Or because of the airport stories of my youth. Whenever I met or was met by my sister at the airport, I did my best to alarm her. There was the time I arrived barefoot, offering a handful of religious pamphlets. Or there was the time I stopped at the five and dime and got an entire outfit of lavender polyester - including knee socks to go with the double knit walking shorts. That one kind of backfired because I was flying home to Colorado on spring break and the plane was full of cute skier boys.

What could my niece possibly be concerned about? I think what I will do is take my librarian glasses and look as smart as possible. I will be demure and charming. I will converse on many topics and win the hearts and minds of all her friends. And then I'll flirt with the boys.

But mostly, I'll put Lucy to bed and get to work on that pudding.


ps - God didn't think that bit about flirting with college boys was at all funny. Or maybe he's getting me back for the pamphlets. (photo of ominous weather map removed because apparently it's dynamic and stopped looking ominous. Who knew?)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Singer Storms Off, says the New York Times

Darn it, I miss ALL the best opera! According to a teeny story in the New York Times, "the American tenor Jon Villars walked off stage during a public dress rehearsal of the Beethoven opera “Fidelio” at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto."

What do you call a male opera diva? A devo?

I really have to go to more public dress rehearsals, since that's obviously where the real drama is. I picture him shouting "and you can KEEP YOUR VELVET PANTALOONS!" petulantly from the wings as he left.

Or maybe he just had an operatic epiphany and decided he wanted to be a dentist, after all.

Either way, you can bet your bottom baritone I'll be watching to see if he's performing anywhere near here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

That's bison, not bichon. What do you take us for?

Q: When are quasi-vegetarians raging omnivores?
A: When they are eating bison, of course.

Let me begin by saying that my friends tend to marry well. Tonight's omnivorian frenzy was a direct result of two of these marriages.

Enter Steve. Steve is one of those people who is always coming up with the weirdest stuff imaginable. He runs his cars off salvaged vegetable oil, forages for food (mostly fishing) and has a knack for attracting wealth in unexpected packages. Like plain white plastic ones marked as "bison" with the name of a Nebraska processing plant printed on them.

A couple weeks ago Steve was bragging about this latest score. A friend of his went west with a bow and arrow and a U-Haul, dropped a bison, had it "processed," and brought it home. All thousand odd pounds of it. When I lived in Colorado I saw a lot of pick-up trucks with elk in the back - feet in the air and dead, dead, dead. I never saw a bison in a pick-up truck. Probably because as soon as you throw a bison in the back of your pick-up truck, all the tires explode.

Recently I've been thinking that if I did eat more meat, it would be the kind of meat that had a happy life in the wilderness until one day it looked up and said "my that's a handsome orange vest you're wear....." So I asked Steve if his friend could spare some and a few days later I was in receipt of my own plain white plastic package with about 5 pounds of ground bison.

Enter Tony. Tony is the chef who turned us onto sardines. That's onto sardines, not into sardines. I ran into Tony and his lovely artist wife Kate at the broadcast of the inauguration. They're very hip, those people. They go places we go.

Knowing Tony to be well-versed in such things, I told him about the bison and asked if he knew of a shepherds pie recipe. He was kind enough to not point out that in order to make a shepherds pie you need a shep. I don't know what you call the pie I wanted to make because I don't know what you call someone who herds bison. Suicidal?

A few days later I got an email with "BISON! BISON! BISON! it's what's for dinner" in the subject line. Today I braved the white plastic bag and cooked the first red meat I've handled in my kitchen in A Long Time. I was very brave. This is what it looked like before I covered it in sauteed vegetables and mashed potatoes.

The end of the recipe said to dig it, dig it the most. And we did. I made a huge pan of bisherds pie, thinking we would eat it all week, but forgot who we were talking about here. Forks were flying and people kept disappearing into the kitchen to "put the water on" or "feed the goldfish." We don't have a goldfish. We also don't have leftovers.

We dug it the most. Thank you, bow and arrow dude. And thank YOU, friends who married well.

This is what we did not eat. Just to be clear.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

admit it, the tooth fairy's a little creepy

What are you supposed to do with kids' teeth once they come out? I know the part about trading it for a buck, but then what? You can't send them to people because that's a federal offense. No mailing human body bits. So what do you do? Make jewelry?

Yesterday Lucy lost another tooth, which is great except I only had a 5 in my wallet and I can't give her that or she'll expect the price of each tooth to raise in five dollar increments. She has 20 teeth. I can't do math but that just doesn't seem like a good scenario, financially. Unless you're her, and then it totally works.

So I took a dollar out of her piggy bank.

Don't worry, I put a bunch of quarters in the pig to make it up to her. I don't know why, but the tooth fairy shouldn't travel with quarters. They would weigh her down and it makes the whole thing less believable. Ethereal being who comes at night and gives a dollar for discarded body parts? Totally believable. Rig her up with a roll of quarters and you lose all credibility.

We're already on the cusp of losing faith in fairies. I'm generally pretty straightforward about things with the kids. I don't push the Santa thing or the Easter Bunny. But fairies? We employ them quite a bit around the house and I'm not willing to admit the truth when Lucy asks if they are make-believe. Which she did when she went to bed last night. At one point, she even identified me as the tooth fairy - completely nonchalantly. But those other fairies (insert assorted house fairies here) - they're obviously real. Lucy said so herself.

Today on the way home from school Lucy started talking about Santa Claus again. She knows that the Santas at the mall and at parties and pretty much everywhere else you look are not the real Santa. She refers to them as Santa's helpers, which I think is pretty accurate. She has come up with complex and detailed explanations regarding the Nature of Life in Regard to Santa and the Fairy Realm. Based on what she knows from books and general knowledge, she has come to her own conclusions and made all the pieces fit.

It will be so much easier for her when I finally come out and tell the truth.

And then I started wondering if there are some truths I haven't been told yet, about the Nature of Life in Regard to Time and Space. That some day, I will hear just one thing that makes all my self-invented explanations fall away and I will see things clearly as they are. I am pretty sure there is more (or less) to the story than what I've pieced together from books and general knowledge.

Or maybe I've been told and I have refused to whole-heartedly embrace the truth.

slightly fawlty

Perhaps you expected something more like this?

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming

Friday, January 23, 2009

perhaps better left unmentioned

In yesterday's comments, Kristin said "you know, Susan, no matter how hard I try, I just can't visualize Trout Towers, with the musicians and the upstairs neighbors and the chickens and all."

I don't blame her one little bit. I thought about her comment and thought it would be fun to encourage readers to describe the mental picture they have of Trout Towers. I would rather like that. Please go ahead and do that, even though I am about to spoil everything.

Trout Towers is a full Cape - two stories and a full basement. Fun Fact! The person who built it made the windows and chimney larger than normal to make the rest of the house look smaller. It is the clown car of houses.

It looks kind of like this:*

Or it would look like that, if it weren't for a few curiosities we like to leave around the yard. Like the lawnmower. And a woodstove. Doesn't everyone have a woodstove in their driveway? No?

This shows the woodstove in the front yard, which would be tacky. Ours is in the driveway and therefore totally classy.

I may have mentioned at some point that Chris likes to bring things home from the dump. Specifically, windows. He's fond of shower doors, but those must be around on the other side of the house because I couldn't find a good picture of them. Also, my mother-in-law's electric cart which we forbade her to drive because she was a maniac. And blind. But whatever.

We are also great fans of the exercise thing and have various wheeled contraptions around the yard for that purpose. Mostly bikes, a tricycle and a jog stroller that birds may possibly be nesting in by now. I do not jog.

And let us not forget the chickens.

Lucky for everyone, Chris took down the geodesic dome he built and left to die on the lawn. It was going to be a garage, but never quite worked out that way. It was kind of an awesome, if overly large, sculpture - until we had kids and the kids had friends and the dome started to look like a really, really big home owners' insurance claim.

So, it doesn't look like that at all.

It looks like this.

* Whoever actually owns the house I used in this illustration, I am really, really sorry.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

listening to a mandolin through the floorboards

I just discovered our friend Fred is here in our house. How do I know this? I just popped onto Facebook and saw his status as "at Trout Towers recording with Chandler." It's kind of funny, finding out who's in your house by checking Facebook. What has our world come to?

Oh wait, my upstairs neighbor just noted her surprise, on Facebook, that Fred is here. And then Fred responded to us both (again on facebook), because apparently things aren't so thrilling in studioland and he's glued to his phone. I suppose the three of us could talk in person, or tap morse code on the ceilings and floors. But we don't have to, thanks to Facebook.

I could have seen his car as I drove up to the house, but my head was elsewhere. A friend left a plastic-wrapped brownie on my front seat and I have been obsessed with getting the kids fed, pajama-ed and tucked in bed so I can eat it in peace and privacy. Without locking myself in the bathroom.

Chandler just came through and said hello. I like it when Chandler says hi because he calls me Mrs. Crusher. This is not in reference to my girth. It is in reference to that time Chris was playing some ridiculous online shooter game and gave himself the moniker "Crusher." Anyone who has met Chris will appreciate the ludicrousocity of the name. Spell check doesn't have a problem with ludicrousocity, so it must be a word. Anyway, I sent an email out to a few of Chris' friends, telling them that he would like to be known as Crusher and to please address him as such. Chandler's good at stuff like that. And I do love being Mrs. Crusher. In fact, I would change my profile name to Mrs. Crusher if people weren't likely to think of it as a reference to my girth. I have an image to uphold here, people.

I am a trophy wife, and Trout Towers is so palatial we require a global network to connect us. (Sorry, Fred & Liz, not sharing the brownie).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

4663.40 miles

What an amazing day.

Oh yes, there was that inauguration thingy. But there was also a visit from a childhood friend, who lives over 4,000 miles away. According to mapquest, it would take 74 hours and 5 minutes to drive from my house to hers. Without potty breaks. Or sleeping.

That's far.

So. She was in town and we went to watch the inauguration at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater. By the time we got there, the theater was full and the seats in the lobby were filling up. We got the last three. I did not tell the people there that my friend was from (wait for it) Wasilla. What are the odds?

I haven't seen this friend in just over 13 years. I know it was just over 13 years because her daughter turned 13 today. The last time I saw my friend, she was round with child. Which was memorable because it was so incredible seeing her round with child. The woman with whom I sewed wild oats was having a baby. On purpose.

We were friends when I was at my most defiant and independent. We were friends when I started just taking off and doing things. When it became Not Okay to have to let my parents know where I was. It was none of their business, I thought. It was time they treated me like an adult, I thought.

I haven't seen very much of her since college. Now I wish we lived closer than 74 hours and 5 minutes, because I know we'd hang out All The Time. And it would be good. We have become the people we glimpsed back then. I think it's even the good parts of what we glimpsed. Those shining things that made us instantly friends are still there and developed in similar ways, despite the 74 hours and 5 minutes.

It was perfect sitting next to her today, in a packed theater, watching Obama take office. Aretha Franklin made me cry - but really, it didn't take much. Being there with friends and neighbors just made me so darn grateful.

A little while after my friend left for Boston, it started to snow. It accumulated quickly, so I called to make sure she was doing okay. We chatted a bit and then signed off. "I'll call you when I get there," she said.

At some point, the edges wore off both of us, and calling in does not equate defeat. I like who we've become.


Favorite quote from the speech: Your people will judge you on what you build, not on what you destroy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

living vicariously

Recently Lucy added a tiny doll to her Made in China collection of neon consumerism. It is called a Peekaboo Petite, and I couldn't scavenge a good picture of hers on ye olde internet, but this will give you an idea what I'm talking about. Lucy's is a couple inches tall and has hair that reaches her knees. Her hair is brown, with lavender streaks. Not goth streaks, more 1960s mod streaks. Her head is much too large for her tiny body, so maybe the hair is proportionate and her body is off.

If anyone had Kiddles back in the day, Peekaboo Petites are remarkably similar. And that's why Lucy is the proud owner of one.

When we were kids, my sister and I had a collection of Kiddles. We made clothes for the ones who were not already dressed as flowers (she had Lily of the Valley) or nobility (I had the King and Queen of Hearts). I made a camper for mine out of a Saltine box. Because my imagination has always been more developed than my fine motor skills, I imagined all the awesome things that were in their camper and shoved the kiddles into the empty box. I think kids should do more of that kind of thing now, as empty Saltine boxes get excellent gas mileage.

We also had a terrific set of paper dolls. We had several paper dolls, but this one set was particularly memorable. So memorable, that I think it shaped my fashion sense and I now realize I have spent my life striving to look like one of these girls. Except slimmer. Each one had different colored hair, and they had these crazy outfits - all floofy and bright. I think this was pajamas and a robe, but at the time I thought it was an outfit - like what Auntie Mame would wear. Cigarette pants, kaftan. You know the drill. I have been on the lookout for this outfit my entire life. I'd also like koolaid-colored hair that flips up at the end, thank you. I do not want ankles that are the size of my feet.

So now Lucy's drinking the 60s mod punch and is playing with Tori Tulip. Tori lives in a Tulip, except she likes to come play with Lucy's mini ponies. They do not hang out in a Saltine box because after writing a piece for our independent newspaper on the value and importance of buying handmade gifts, I did some panic buying and bought Lucy a My Little Pony Balloon House for Christmas. Ahem. Anyway, Tori likes playing with the ponies in their three story, most likely lead painted, plastic house. Who wouldn't?

We had kiddles as an answer to the ubiquitous Barbie madness. I guess mom figured if we were going to have misshapen dolls, they may as well have really big heads. I have always considered kiddles the answer to Barbie. Except, would you like to guess who makes Peekaboo Petites?

Sorry, high moral standards of non-consumerism. I'll catch up to you later.

Friday, January 16, 2009

googley eyed

Oh my invisible friends, you have no idea how close we were to parting ways forever.

Last night google wouldn't accept my password. No, they hadn't shut down my account for nefarious activity including my disinclination to heed their spell-check advice. It just didn't work.

Chris had gone to bed early, so I let him sleep (hear that, honey?). I tried to go to bed myself, and lay there, saucer-eyed in the semi-darkness. I may have slept with my eyes open, with a look of panic still on my face.

As an aside, nothing is better than falling asleep in a room lit with moonlight reflected off snow.

Back to the End of Times. I waited until 8 this morning to start begging Chris to fix my google account (heavens to betsy just do something already oh my lord I can't take it anymore is it fixed yet?). I show him how when I put in the password the page keeps refreshing with a captcha (which, what? Captcha is a correctly spelled word now?). We go to the page where one resets the password. It says it will send the link to a secondary email address. Which is precisely why I didn't do that last night.

My secondary email address is redirected to gmail and the domain that hosts it is not accessible to mere mortals. So the password info will be sent to the email address I can't access because I can't get the password it's sending me, with which I could access the email account to get the password to access the account to change the password to get the email to change the account to enter the password on the account I can't access. To get the password.

(eyes spinning dangerously)

I continue to have a nervous breakdown because not only is google the proud keeper of all my email, IT HOSTS MY BLOG. And google reader. In short, life as I know it. While I am having my nervous breakdown, Chris is on the phone with our host (we are parasites?) and has my secondary email redirected to one of my other 700 email addresses - the password to which I remember, miraculously.

There is something on the help page which says "do not attempt to access your account for 24 hours" and we both brace ourselves for the hardest 24 hours of our entire marriage.

I get the link from my re-redirected secondary email and type in my password which is my old password but I am calling it my new password for their purposes because I will learn how to do backflips if google asks me to and typing in my old/new password seems to be not so much to ask.

Chris and I both read the 24 hours bit again, and collectively conclude that we only have to wait 24 hours if the password thingy didn't pop up. Which it did. We hold our breaths, and I open gmail.

It works.

It's good to be back among the living. Now if someone could please convince Lucy that the time for singing Christmas songs is over, life would be pretty much perfect.



me: uh, can you re-redirect my redirected email so I don't have to check multiple accounts?
chris: no

We are waiting for the end of the guy's shift before calling back to have it switched back. I'm thinking about hanging out in the ISP's parking lot and monitoring the door. It is impossible to please me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The other day a newsletter came home in Studley's Incredible Hulk backpack. It was the update on what our little cherubs are doing at school. What artists they're studying, what they're learning in Spanish, what songs they're learning. It's pretty much the usual stuff, except I was surprised to read that the December author of the month was Keats.

Surprising, and yet it totally explains why Studley has been walking around the house reciting "It appears to me that almost any man may like the spider spin from his own inwards his own airy citadel." Kids these days.

I wrote back to the teachers, asking if they are reading Keats, why on earth is my son singing a song about Willoughby Wallaby Wudley, an Elephant Sat on Studley? Shouldn't he be learning his scales and at least be fairly well versed in Mozart's Requiem by now? Come on, teacher people, you've had him since September. Get. On. It.

It turns out they are reading Ezra Jack Keats, not John Keats.

Meanwhile, I noticed today after our dance class that the New England Patriots are holding cheerleader auditions and I am totally doing it. I have noticed that the Patriots are lacking housewives of a certain age on their cheerleading squad and it doesn't take a genius to see the effect it had on their season.

I've been steadfastly attending my dance class since last spring, and although we're not learning cheerleader moves, I see no reason why it doesn't apply. Jack Keats, John Keats. What's the difference?

Sometimes in class we even do character dances, which is all cheerleading is, really. Our character dance today involved some latin moves, including the flicking of an imaginary flamenco skirt as we jump. Except I flipped my imaginary flamenco skirt too high. It went over my head and I took down several of the other students trying to set things straight. I will work on that move before the auditions.

And just to tie everything together for you, I will close this post on Keats and cheerleading by telling you that I hate geraniums. Unless they are spilling out of a window box in the south of France. Then they're okay. But I am not in the south of France and I just noticed an entire window of geraniums, not 6 feet away.

I have to go now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's delurking

I know, I know, I ask a lot of you. But today is National Delurking Day. No, delurking does not involve a fine-tooth comb, but if you've been quietly reading and want to let me know you're out there, somewhere, today's the day to do it! You don't have to tell me who you are or that you only read Trout Towers when things are slow at work. I know that. I feel the collective attention plummet every weekday at 5pm sharp, and I'm okay with that.

And if you want to keep lurking, I'm okay with that, too. Seriously. Thank you for reading. It kind of makes my day (Chris: "kind of? kind of?!?!").

Moving on. Spoiler alert! The new issue of The Sound has a brandy spandy new column by Tony Pasquale, called Soup to Nuts, which involves brilliant commentary and a recipe. We made the recipe in the Trout Towers test kitchen just last night and oh mercy me, it was the best. Copies hit news stands and coffee shop floors on the 15th.

I am sorry if you don't live on Cape Cod and can't get the Sound. We really should look into some kind of subscription thingy. Let's do this: If you send me $20, I'll send you a copy.

It seems the least I can do on delurking day.

So please be sweet, my chickadee
And when I write, just say to me
"It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious,
It's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's de-lovely"

Or whatever you want.

p.s. it's not that I'm so hip to this stuff. I read From the Frontlines first thing this morning and took her post as gospel. Which I'm sure it is.

p.p.s. some of my favorite lurkers have come and gone already. Dang! Give it up, people.

p.p.p.s. I am a huge hypocrite as have been lurking all day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

coffee talk

For Christmas we got my mil a new coffee maker, because we broke her old one. By we, I mean Chris. Also, it was one of those two cup deals and she drinks about 6 cups a day, so I was making a lot of coffee. And I'm lazy. And there was nothing in it for me, because I flatly refused to drink coffee made by that horrible little pot.

Anyway. We got her this glorious coffee maker, that makes 10 cups of delicious, piping-hot coffee, whether or not you happen to be awake. Which is brilliant. Especially when you remember to set the timer before going to sleep the night before.

Or at least, it would make 10 cups. We're still making 7 cups because we have all these #2 cone filters and I'm too cheap (I like to call it thrifty) to buy the #4s until these are all used up. I can't fit enough coffee for 10 cups in a #2 filter, unless I use two filters and some tape. Which I hadn't honestly thought of until just now. So we may be burning through those filters faster than I thought, after all.

The new coffee maker has an automatic shut-off, for those times when I'm not around to notice that the coffee is starting to smell like burnt socks. That's handy, because it keeps more pots from breaking when Chris goes to wash them and they explode due to sitting on the burner, empty. It's also handy because my mil has no sense of smell and will gladly drink the burnt sock brew. Which makes me queasy just thinking about it.

Which reminds me, yesterday I overheard one waitress say to another, "you know, I had the same pot of decaf on all day yesterday." I may be provincial, but it has not been my experience that coffee gets better when reduced to a syrup. The worst part of that story? I was there to write a restaurant review. They are so lucky I didn't go yesterday. Hearing about it is one thing, mistakenly taking a swig of it is quite another. I think for my review I would put a big brown spot in the middle of the page and explain that that's where I spit out the coffee. And then I'd tell the guy who pays me that the brown spot was covering 800 or so words.

Which would be kind of an awesome review. Unless you're the restaurant, and then not so much.

edited to add: wow, people make cool coffee! Do you have a different way to make your coffee, or do you set a timer like me?

Friday, January 9, 2009


Okay all you people who begged and pleaded for me to follow you on your blog so you didn't look like you were all alone at the lunch table - I am all alone at the lunch table.

So please go to my sidebar and scroll down to the follow me thingy. Give Fred and Liz a little company, hmmm?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

all the leaves are brown

My friend Mrs. Greenjeans sometimes gives me plants. I think she gives them to me because she can't bear to euthanize them herself.

First, there were the sunflowers, which, incidentally, marked the start of our friendship. I fought hard for the longevity of those sunflowers, including taking them on vacation with us to our nation's capital, and later fending off an angry mama spider who had bound the entire top of one blossom. When I finally pronounced my success, Mrs. Greenjeans said "cool. The chickens ate ours."

Just as I was sitting back to relax after all the sunflower-related anxiety, Mrs. Greenjeans gave me a baby fig tree. I did okay with it, but then forgot to take it on vacation with us and came home to crispy leaves. After much prayer and fasting, the fig was resurrected and continues to live. It is the same size as it was when she gave it to me, though, so I'm thinking about ordering a larger one and switching them when she's not looking.

Since things seemed to be going better than expected, Mrs. Greenjeans gave me a begonia. It lived with us for a few weeks and then finally I had to go find Chris and weep on his shoulder.

me: It's dead.
Chris: what's dead?
me: the begonia. The rare, familial begonia, cut from the rare, familial begonia that belonged to Mrs. Greenjeans' mother. Mrs. Greenjeans' mother, who is no longer with us. (weep)
Chris: It's okay, it's with Mrs. Greenjeans' mother now.

(photo not included, due to graphic nature)

I am at Mrs. Greenjeans' house now. She is not watching me very closely, so I think I could get away with it. Does anyone know how to take a clipping from a rare, familial begonia? And not kill it?


Top photo of sculpture at the Hirshhorn Museum in DC - click to enlarge and see sprouts.
This post brought to you by the wonders of Picasa Web Albums. It's kind of fun to go through and look at all the pictures you've uploaded and/or stolen off the web - especially when you've flunked the upkeep of a family photo album. "Sorry kids, there are no pictures of you when you were little, but there's an awesome shot of the baby octopus I ate at a wedding."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

in the event of an apocalypse

Every once in awhile I get all "the end of the world is coming! the sky is falling! look, the apocalypse!" and I go do laundry. Because how mad will I be, sitting in a stream washing socks on a rock, when I could have caught up ahead of time?

I didn't do this kind of thing before I had kids, but now, every once in a while, I go down the "what would I do if..." road. Not in a practical sense, mind you. I don't have 5 gallon drums full of dried beans in my basement. I'm more "I guess I'll have to break into the library and steal a book on how to gut a fish."

And then I start to scout out a spot where I can dig a big cave and live like Peter Pan and the lost boys, with smoke vented through hollow trees.

I think I read too much. As much as I love Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake totally messed with my head. As did A Handmaid's Tale. Seriously, every once in a while I expect to go to an ATM and not be able to withdraw money because I'm a woman. That story was set in Boston, for crying out loud. Do you have any idea how long it would take us to walk to the border?

I know some people here in town who have goats and chickens and generators and photo voltaics and composting toilets and a hydroponic, solar-powered tilapia tank/endive garden, or something. I sometimes wonder if other people in town have drawn a map to their house, just in case. Will it be crowded over there, or am I the only one who's thought this through? And what if someone has noted that we have chickens and brussels sprouts and has drawn a map to Trout Towers? They will be mightily disappointed, that's what. I'll say something like, "at least we have the chickens" and then a hawk will swoop down and eat them. Which will be a blessing really, as it's a long walk to the chicken feed store and those bags are heavy.

This is all just my way of saying, there is an ice storm out there and I'm doing laundry. The folding and putting away part? It can wait until after the apocalypse.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

how crispy are thy branches

I just had an epiphany*. If you do not unpack every single painted-walnut-glued-to-a-ribbon, and only use a quarter of your ridiculous haul of ornaments spanning three generations, defrocking the tree takes no time at all when it's all said and done. Now it's just a matter of deciding which neighbor's yard to chuck it in.

As I'm sure you remember, last year our baby Jesus went missing. He was found sometime last summer, probably fraternizing with the Playmobile arctic explorers. This year we have our little creche, plus my mil's little creche. Our manger is broken and hers is missing Mary. So we've combined them and now have fraternal Jesus twins, Mary, Joseph, Joseph's brother, three wise men, and some sheep which might actually be goats. It's very modern. I'm sure everyone will be doing it next year.

Happy Twelfth Night.

*you know I meant to say that, right?

Studleyisms, pt. 2

Studley's been going through this thing lately where he doesn't want to go to bed by himself. When I tuck him in, he asks me to stay. I generally make some lame excuse and leave, lest he get used to me lying next to him and never sleep again without me there.

Last night, things in Studleyland escalated and he was reduced to a heap of sobbing sadness. "I want you to stay with me," he wept. I wondered if he had been having nightmares, or if something in his room was scaring him (life size t-rex skeleton in corner, maybe?). So I asked him why he wanted me to stay. Novel approach, I know.

"Because I (snuffling, sobbing vowel sounds)"

"I'm sorry, what?"

(snuffle) "Because I like you."

I stayed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

privacy issues


I go into the bathroom to see what on earth could possibly be wrong with Studley, and he tells me "the turtle can see me."

Sure enough, on the edge of the tub is a plastic turtle. Although it is technically facing the shower curtain, this turtle is looking over its shoulder at Studley. As I turn it a quarter turn so it can no longer see my son, I notice that the menagerie of other plastic bath beasts are also turned toward the curtain.

Studley thanks me and, er, finishes what he is doing. And then he turns all the animals back around to face into the bathroom.

No wonder it takes him 20 minutes every time he goes in there.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

recipe request

I got one of those chain emails today, wherein you send a recipe to the person in the number one position.

The last time I got one of those, I sent recipes to the #1 person until she asked me to stop. I just kept thinking of things. Oh I love recipes. I forwarded the email, per instructions, to 10 people - none of whom were into it. I received exactly no recipes.

But that's okay, because I've gotten some fab recipes from the blogs I read. Offhand, Going Country's recipe for red beans and rice comes to mind.

So this time, I'm spamming YOU.

The request is for something you make all the time, with ingredients that are easy to find. If you can type it up off the top of your head, that's perfect.

Got anything? Please leave me a recipe in the comments. My non-recipe writing email friends will thank you for sparing them from this round.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

musicians in the livingroom

This afternoon I sent a text message to Brighton, telling her how there were musicians recording in my livingroom and I was lying on the kitchen floor with the kids, being quiet as mice so we could stay and listen. It was shorter than that, because I am not good at texting.

She texted back to say "better you than me," which is very disturbing, because texted is not, or was not until recently, a word.

And apparently listening to several takes of the same song, live in one's livingroom, is not for everybody.

We made it through the first take in complete silence, and then I was afraid Studley would implode. So we went to the library, which closed an hour after we got there. So then we went for hot cocoa, where I texted my nephew and he responded "how are you texting, amid all the spilled cocoa and soaked napkins?" The bugger jinxed me, because Studley dropped his cocoa in his lap IMMEDIATELY. I am giving up texting forever or at least until spring.

We came on home and closed ourselves in a bedroom to play board games which do not involve yelling "YAHTZEE!" or anything else, for that matter.

The musicians today were in our livingroom because they could get a cleaner recording than they would down in the basement. But honestly? I think Chris did it because they are all the daughters of his friends and he was afraid to let them into the man cave. He doesn't mind so much having those salty rock and rollers down there.

Hello, salty rock and rollers! Newsflash: we don't clean up for you!

It was fun having them up where we could hear them. They all play stringed instruments and sing some of the most gorgeous harmonies you ever did hear. Today I felt the charm of our existence.

Lying on a feather bed in the middle of the kitchen with two intently listening children is way better than it's cracked up to be.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


At 11:58, the phone rang.

Chris (from bar, where he is working): Hi honey!
(background cacophony prevents him from hearing my answer)
Chris: Two minutes to go! Oh, someone's beer just flew by. Or maybe a pint of fine red wine. HI HONEY!
(still unable to hear my response)
Chris: Can you hear the band? I don't know what they think they're playing. HI HONEY! That's quite a song. Can you hear it?
( background cacophony swells)
Chris: HI HONEY! (to someone else) can you see it? Doesn't matter, just start counting.
Someone: 1, 2, 3
Chris: no, backwards..... HI HONEY!
People in bar: 11, 9, 15...
Other people at bar: 7,6,5....
Some other people: what?!? 10, 9, 8....
(general outburst suggesting midnight)
Chris: Happy New Year!!! HI HONEY!