Monday, December 28, 2009

Good Times

I seem to be one of those people who resists going out to a bar, but then once I get to the bar I tend to go a little crazy. Last night we were coerced into heading to the local, seedy biker bar in the backwoods of Aiken. Good friends, the Goodwicks were all in attendance and it was at their insistence we head out for some cocktails and pool playing after dinner. It sounded like an innocent plan, but I know this group and when they are combined with my group it can be an over the top experience. It was.
I will say that the pool playing was a good time. I had a few moments of brilliance in the beginning, then my nerves got shattered by hecklers (Jonathan, Roger and David G.) who thought I took too long to set up my shots. Whatever. They were just jealous that I was owning the table. Sadly, I never won a game all night, because I always managed to choke on the last shot. I will not be heading out on the ESPN pool playing championship tour. Too bad.
The good news is that we don't have hangovers (despite drinking Stoli on the rocks-what is wrong with me?), we didn't crash our car (though we came close when I insisted that Jonathan attempt to beat David to his driveway) and I didn't get picked up by a redneck (I did get hit on by a Larry the Cable Guy look alike). Next time I will choose my outfit for such an excursion more carefully. It appears tight jeans and pointy toed high heel boots are "stand out" attire at this establishment. My Goodwick friend, Chris chose to attend in sweat pants and muck boots and she fit right in with the locals. Lesson learned.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holidaze II

Christmas came and went. When I was a young teenager, I had a book by Sam Savitt called The Brown Mare and a chapter, about midway through the book, started with the sentence, Christmas came and went. I read and re-read The Brown Mare a zillion times and that sentence always made me pause, because I felt like Christmas deserved a little more respect than that. One measly four word sentence, a fragment really, if you want to split hairs, and the holidays whoosh were over. (If you read my prior blog you would understand that I was particularly sensitive in regard to the brevity of the actual day known as "Christmas") Though Christmas was in no way relevant to the story about the brown mare, it still upset me that Mr. Savitt didn't allow Vicki (the main character) to share her holiday with us. As a grown up (now that I'm 40 that is how I refer to myself), I fully undertand and appreciate that particular sentence.
Yesterday, Christmas came and went. It was a lovely day. We ate a delicious breakfast and opened stocking gifts. We sat around the tree and opened the many beautifully wrapped presents, admiring each others bounty and thanking all for our own. For some reason (it was boredom, really), we decided to take a drive to Augusta, GA, so the five of us wedged into the car for the hour long journey. I was chosen as the driver for this adventure (a choice spot as it turned out) and John was my co-pilot. Roger, Jonathan's younger brother, who was slightly inebriated at this point thanks to a few mimosas concocted of cheap-o champagne, sat in the backseat wedged between Jonathan and their mother. Throughout the entire drive he proceeded to mess with the radio, sing, smoke, yell about having to pee, open the windows, close the windows, belch... hmmm...I think that was it. It was an amusing show, but I guess you had to be there and know Roger to appreciate it. The rest of the day was about eating, drinking, visiting friends and that was that. By 9 p.m., I was nestled in bed reading my latest smut filled vampire novel (the writing is appallingly bad, but the sex scenes are HOT and I'm easy that way). At 9:45 I turned out my light. Voila! Christmas came and went.
With a wry Grinchy grin on my face this morning, I am glad that it's over.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's here. Whether we like it or not, holiday time is upon us with all of its trappings, bows, baubles and wrappings. The month of December always seems to turn into an endurance run of baking, parties, shopping and wrapping gifts, all to be squeezed into an already busy life. The endless Christmas songs on the radio, which start the day after Thanksgiving, give me a yuletide headache. Four weeks of having to listen to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer should be outlawed. I am definitely more of a Christmas minimalist. I have the spirit, enough to not appear Grinch-like, but I'm not a holly, jolly "let's decorate every inch of the house" person. In fact, I confess this picture is of our tree last year. We opted not to have a Christmas tree in our house this year. We have lights up, some beads on the mantel, our stockings are hung, but no tree. We just couldn't muster the strength to do it, between traveling to our parent's homes, one set in NH, the other set in SC, it just didn't seem like it was neccesary to go through the effort. I miss the pine scent in the house, but not the mess of falling needles, or keeping the cats from removing ornaments and batting them under the sofa to be found in July, covered with hair and whatever else lives under a sofa.

As a child, I had such mixed feelings about Christmas. Waking up before the rest of the family on Christmas morning, I would sit quietly in front of the tree and examine the bounty that Santa had so thoughtfully brought us. It always seemed so magical to me that these gifts appeared in our house, delivered soundlessly by a beefy, bearded man, who somehow made it in the house without causing our dog, Jake to bark, or leaving so much as a soggy footprint. On Christmas day my Mom would cook a delicious midday meal, while my older sisters and I played with new toys, or modeled new clothes. Before evening set in, my Dad would fall asleep in his chair, no doubt a victim of slightly too much holiday cheer at the family Christmas Eve party. At the end of the day, I would always be slumped on my bed, shedding a few post holiday tears, so depressed that Christmas Day had come and gone in a red and green blur. Granted, I was a rather unusual child, but it seemed to me like there was too much buildup involved in this holiday for it to only last one day. Cookie baking and decorating, tree trimming, carol singing, Christmas plays at school, Christmas pageants at church, Christmas shows on TV, shopping, wrapping, more glittery decorations for the house, and in 24 hours it was all done for the year. Just like that. Over. Just after New Year's Day, out went the tree to lie upon the lawn like a decaying Christmas carcass for a week, or two before my Dad would finally get sick of my Mom asking him to get rid of it and drag it off to the dump. Once so majestic, covered with colorful lights and nostalgic ornaments, now naked and brittle it was just an ordinary dead evergreen, with shards of tinsel clinging to a few branches, a mocking reminder of its former glory. That was the final sign that Christmas was indeed over.
So, this is turning into a holiday obituary and that wasn't my original intent. The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with our families, share gifts with those we love, eat too much good food and toast to the upcoming new year. I will say now with a genuine Jingle Bells tune in my heart (if not ringing in my ears), Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Meet Becks!

We did it! We got a puppy! His name is Becks and as you can tell by the photo, he and Remy are getting along quite well. Becks moved in two weeks ago and at first, Remy was a little unsure of the new addition. Within three days, they were cavorting around the house, creating chaos, with yelps and yips, like two Tasmanian devil dogs. The cats are all tolerating the new pup fairly well. Miss Girl is like the school teacher and every day she gives him multiple whacks across the snout, which all little boys need. Marbles likes to sock it to him a little harder, so I keep an eye on her proximity to Becks. She likes to position herself on the stairs so Becks is either trapped up, or down and can't get to us. When I hear him whining to tell me of his predicament, I will appear at the stairwell and there will be Marbles on the stairs, looking all nonchalant and innocent, clearly saying, "I'm not doing anything, just sitting here". For the last two days Marbles has chosen to exile herself to the basement, which frankly makes all of the animals happier. The cat is a brat.
I don't think Remy has ever had a friend that would play with him as much as Becks. The two of them go at it until they can't stand up anymore, then they collapse to recharge their batteries so they can get up and go at it again. What it tells me is that Remy's maturity level is on par with that of a ten week old puppy. The scary part is that at ten weeks, Becks has already conjured up games which showcase a superior intelligence to Remy. It's all good, though. We are thrilled to have a genius dog and a Forest Gump type dog. For instance, if we throw the ball for Becks, he chases it, gets it and brings it back. If we throw the ball for Remy, he chases it, picks it up, drops it on his way back to us and then when he reaches us he acts excited and confused, all at the same time. Oh well. We don't all have to be rocket scientists in life.
The bottom line here is that Remy has a pal and they are insanely cute together. I will miss Izzy, with a pain in my heart, for the rest of my life, but this little boy gives me glimpses of her now and then when I see him galloping across the lawn, his small tri color, bear cub-esque body going with all he's got. We feel privileged to have found Becks and I think he thinks our house is pretty cool, too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Puppy Love

Meet Remy, or Big R as Jonathan and I call him. He is our super sized, abundantly furry Australian shepherd, who has extremely gentile sensibilities. First off, let me say that Remy was born in Maine, but somewhere on the journey from his birth state to our home in Connecticut he acquired a very gentlemanly southern accent. Creating dialogue for Remy's "voice" has never stopped amusing us and sometimes we bust ourselves up laughing over the things that come out of his "mouth". Poor dog. He has childless owners and you know how those types can go a little overboard on their pets. Nonetheless, Remy enjoys his life to the fullest and he appreciates the love from his family and friends.

This past summer Remy's friend Izzy, another Aussie, contracted a serious heart condition and she passed away on August 1st. Izzy had been our girl for ten years and she was a devoted, adorable, lovely spirit. Jonathan and I were heartbroken about losing her and it's taken me until now to even be able to write about the fact that she is gone. Whenever one of our friends heard the sad news, they always asked the same question, " How is Remy handling it?" Well, the truth was that he didn't seem to be any different than he was before Iz died. It was as if nothing had changed in his happy, carefree life. I guess it didn't surprise Jonathan or I, because we always pegged Remy as a bit self centered. No judgement, that is just how he is. When our old male Aussie Dewars, who was Izzy's friend died, Izzy went into a mourning period that lasted until the very moment that we brought Remy home as a bundle of white and grey fluffernutter. Remy had sincerely shown love for his old girl friend, but now that she was gone it was like out of sight, out of mind for him.

After a month, or so had passed, Jonathan and I began to talk about getting a puppy, but we still weren't sure we were ready. Remy seemed to be almost relishing being a single dog at this point. He didn't have to share the back seat of the car, we allowed him on the bed, he was taken on most every road trip, we really thought he was A-okay. Until one day when I came home from my birthday party with a stuffed toy that my sister had given me as a joke. It was a grey rabbit and when Remy first saw it, he seemed quite stunned. I noticed his apprehension at coming to meet the bunny, so I made it dance around and invite him over to say hi. This caused him to leap around the living room with joy. He came over and gave the bunny a poke with his nose and began to nuzzle it gently. Jonathan and I shared a laugh over our simple pet and we didn't think much of it at the time. Over the next few days his ardor the bunny intensified and we began to question this relationship that he had developed. He thought he had a new friend and his devotion to this animal was clearly bordering on unhealthy. Jonathan decided we needed to take action, so one night while Remy was outside I hid the bunny-friend downstairs in the basement. Poor Remy searched the house in a frenzy when he came inside. It was wrenching and disturbing to watch is distress over the loss of the new pal, but we stuck to our guns and over the next few days he returned to old self. The writing was on the wall. Remy had shown us that he needed a companion. Were WE ready for a new puppy, yet?

Another week or two passed by when one morning I noticed there was a swath of brown fur on the grass by the back steps. "Oh jeez," I said with a sigh. I figured that one of the cats had caught an animal and left it for me to find. As I went outside to check it out, Remy jumped past me and excitedly gave the fur a poke with his nose and jumped in the air. Upon closer inspection I realized that the fur was a piece of deer hide. Disgusting. The local coyote pack has been on a mission lately taking down deer in the fields surrounding our house. It appeared that Remy had found a remnant of a kill and decided to take it home so he could hang out with it. And that is what he did. Anytime he was outside he could be found laying down next to his deer pelt. Contented friends. First a stuffed animal, now a deer pelt. When I told Jonathan of this new situation with our nutty dog, we both laughed at the absurdity of Remy's choice of friends. It was totally amusing, but we both know we can't let this dog be a single dog for much longer. He'll end up committed to a canine insane asylum.We simply have to get him a living, breathing friend. This time I think we're ready.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mother Truckers

As I sit at my desk, drinking a cup of Starbucks Breakfast Blend, I gaze out the window and become absorbed in the autumnal beauty that I see before me. The giant oaks are shedding their leaves (thank God, because I can finally use the computer in the stupid house again) and the muted colors of the season have taken over the land and sky . It really is a picture of peaceful country life. At least it WAS peaceful, until last week when suddenly out of nowhere gigantic semi's began grinding their way past our house, forty-two thousand times a day. Our quiet, rural road has turned into a super highway for tractor trailers, bearing loads of dirt to bring to the local private school, which is building a new sports field. One after the other these trucks take turns churning by our house, engines straining, belching out noxious fumes, drivers frantically downshifting to maintain their forward propulsion up the long uphill section of road ahead of them. After their loads are dropped off they return down the hill, allowing themselves to coast to a reckless crescendo, then they stomp on the brakes, creating a series of high pitched screeches and barely keep from losing control as they head back for another load. I don't mean to come off as such a complainer, but I really hate these trucks. I hate their deafening, over taxed engines as they go up my street and I hate the free wheeling roars as they go full throttle on their return trips. There is one particular dump truck that really ought to be put out of its misery and I would be happy to do it. Frankly, I don't know how the driver gets it to the top of the hill each time as the engine bucks and sputters, barely managing to continue forward motion up the long, slow grade. What is really sad, is that I'm starting to actually know which truck is which, that is how many times they go by each day. I have heard that this new sports field is a major project and the amount of material needed to complete it is massive. This means it could be a few weeks of intrusion into our quietude. I suppose there is nothing I can do about this situation, except accept it. Grudgingly. I guess I will try to focus on the serenity of my surroundings in between these diesel infused interruptions. Deep breaths, deep breaths.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spider Woman

We have a herd of spiders that live with us in our house. They are a special variety, or at least I like to think so. Mostly they keep to themselves and they're very quiet, good tenants you might call them. Let me explain the story of my eight legged housemates from the beginning. During the summer, they have a job here and they do it very well. They are natural exterminators. Jonathan and I have a tendency to leave the back porch door open for the dog whenever we are home in the summer, because Remy loves to come and go as he pleases. Once the sun goes down, if the door is still open and the lights are on in the kitchen the bugs pour forth from all of the surrounding towns and congregate around the lights. It's as if we are hosting a bug rave. One morning around the end of June, I noticed that we had a few spiders living in the various corners of our rooms, some up at the ceiling, other midway down the wall and a few down low by the floor. In essence, the spiders had turned the corners of our rooms into Arachnid Apartments, and they were taking full advantage of the takeout menu, complete with free delivery. What a grand idea! Already they had several bug carcasses dangling from their delicate webs and though I had to ignore the feeble buzzing that I heard from a few of them, I decided that this was a perfect solution to the bug issue, you know Circle of Life, survival of the fittest and all that.
Within a few weeks, the spiders were really reaping the benefits from their new housing developments. I guess I had forgotten the scene in Charlotte's Web where Charlotte gives birth to about a million baby spiders at one time. Yeah, the amount of spiders in the house was getting totally out of control. They were thriving to an epidemic degree. I decided there was only one thing to be done. They must be culled. I'm not a natural born killer, so squishing them wasn't an option. Then I had an idea. I have a brilliant Dyson vacuum cleaner and it has a detachable hose arm that extends to the ceiling. What happened next gets a little blurry for me. I didn't want to suck those spiders into the Dyson's death bin, but I had no choice. The place was looking like a spider ghetto, with over crowded webs full of mummified bugs dangling precariously, on nearly every wall and corner. I even had a shower spider (who I did opt to keep, because he kept me company while I washed my hair and seemed to enjoy the off key show tunes that I sang to him). All I know is that when I clicked off the vacuum, the house looked neat and tidy, and I had left several spiders and their webs untouched in strategic locations. I had a strange hollow feeling for the rest of the day, but I had to put the whole mass murder that I had committed behind me. Just be content with the spiders who are left, I told myself.
That night I dreamt of the spiders I had left behind. Imploring to me from my bedside,they were all teary and mournful, full of questions like, " Why did you have to take Colleen?" and "Where's my Daddy?". It was absolutely dreadful. I awoke the next morning flooded with guilt. I had spider blood (do they have blood?) on my hands and it made my heart heavy.
Over the next few weeks, I kept my eyes averted from the new masses that were beginning to appear in the corners. I knew I didn't want to go through the whole act of carnage again, but the haunted house look was too much for my inner housekeeper to take. So, sighing deeply,I put myself in my happy place and the Dyson and I performed our macabre task once more. This time my dreams that night were full of spider screams, peppered with profanity and threats to my life. While showering that morning, I noticed that my shower spider had moved out. He probably couldn't handle being in such close proximity to a known murderer of his friends and family. Could I blame him? But still I was sad to see that he had gone, without so much as a note. I had allowed him a permanent stay of execution and this was how he treated me. The sting of his abandonment pained me and not even my best renditions of songs from Gypsy could cheer me up. After getting dressed, I walked downstairs and at the bottom of the stairway I caught something shimmery out of the corner of my eye. I looked again, but couldn't see anything so I continued on toward the kitchen. Again, a glimpse of gossamer winked at me from my peripheral vision. Then it all came into focus. With horror, I realized that the spiders had set up web traps for me all throughout the downstairs. They had boobytrapped every doorway and the paths between the furniture in an effort to snare me. It was at that moment that I had a revelation about these creatures. I was now being hunted by the very spiders that I had fostered so caringly at the beginning of the summer. My blood began to boil and I slashed my way through their carefully laced latticework, heading up to the upstairs closet where the Dyson was stored. "Ungrateful, insidious monsters" I fumed "How dare they form a plot against me after I welcomed them into my house with open arms!" . After all, it wasn't my fault that they bred like rabbits and bore ten zillion babies every few weeks. There weren't enough bugs to go around and then we'd have a spider famine, outbreaks of disease, possible cannabalism. I had been forced to do what I had to do! The Dyson growled to life and I brandished the long arm like a sword, waving it wildly over my head. I sucked up the nearest group of spiders and pointed the hose at the next group, who visbly trembled and began bouncing up and down, turning their web into a spider trampoline. "Vengance is mine", I howled, "I shall remain victorious!"
Panting, I sat bolt upright in my bed and looked around wildly. I waited until my chest stopped heaving and slowly I pieced together the terrible nightmare that had been going on in my mind just before I awoke in this sweaty, disheveled state. I had been engaged in guerilla warfare with the spiders. How insane was that? I looked over at Jonathan who appeared to be slumbering deeply,undisturbed by the lunacy of his wife's subconscious. Shakily, I got up and went into the bathroom to splash my face with cold water and get my breathing back to normal. Folding the shower curtain back cautiously, I looked above the shower head to see if my shower spider was actually gone. No, he was there. The whole spider plot of my assassination had just been a dream, a very scary, unsettling dream. Phew. The shower spider looked toward me and waved one of his longer arms in my direction. I waved half heartedly to him and decided that maybe Jonathan needed to take over the vacuuming duties for a little while.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Garden Gnomes

For the last week we have had two of the creepiest landscape guys on the planet working at our house. When they first showed up in our driveway, I let out my super friendly dog, Remy so he could greet them. Remy ran down to their car, took one look at these guys and began to bark in an intensely serious, warning manner. Baffled, I ran to the door and called him back inside. What the hell had gotten into him? He never barks at anyone. I always pegged him as one of those dogs that invites the robbers in and shows them where the valuables are kept. I didn't even know he possessed such a menacing bark. Now I was curious as to what it was about the landscapers that made him react in attack mode. The two guys appeared around the corner of the house, aluminum ladders in tow and I instantly recognized what had made Remy's hackles go up. They looked like they could have come from Middle Earth and their clothes appeared as though they had been buried for a few years, then dug up, given a brief shake and put back on. I gave them a half hearted wave and mumbled an apology for my dog nearly attacking them. "No problem", said the slightly less filthy of the two and he gave me a crooked smile. The other guy looked at me sideways through glasses that were slightly askew on his face and suddenly my pervert alarm went off in my head. " Enjoy the day", I yelled over my shoulder as I ran back inside and slammed the door. I wonder where the owner of the house found those two? I gave Remy a pat of thanks for actually coming across as an intimidating guard dog, rather than his normal bounding goofball self. Who says that dogs don't have a sixth sense about normal people vs. creepy people? These guys were first class freak shows and I wasn't happy that they were lurking around our yard armed with sharp gardening shears. For the first time since we moved here a year ago I locked the doors.
For three days straight Perv #2 stood on a ladder pruning the giant lilac tree right outside my kitchen window. By pruning, I mean he clipped one leaf every three minutes, or so. Think of Edward Scissorhands in slow motion x100. At one point I was sure he had fallen asleep up on the ladder, but then he moved ever so slightly and clipped another leaf. Perv #2 always worked with a hooded sweatshirt pulled up over his head and he chain smoked cigarettes like a fiend. The hoodie gave him a sort of Grim Reaper effect, minus the sickle. Even Jonathan insisted we lock the doors and usually he accuses me of being paranoid if I suggest some kind of extra safety measure. "No, you're right about these men", he said to me, " There is something not quite right about them and I don't trust them one bit".
Finally, after days of poking around in the bushes and gardens in front of our house the two Pervs appeared to be done. But what had they actually done in all of this time? It seemed to me that the only actual work they completed was to make our beautiful, leafy Lilac tree resemble the pathetic needle-less tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon. Amazing. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see Perv #2 aka Grim Reaper pack up his ladder and troll down the hill to his Ford Escort wagon, of course, still smoking his perpetually placed cig. As he drove out of our driveway he gave the house a final leering glance through his crookedly placed inch thick glasses. Perhaps my imagination had been working overtime about these two dudes, but I was still happy to see them heading down the road. Right then I decided that life is too short to have to deal with nasty, sketchy landscape guys. Why couldn't we have a nice pair of tan, lithe, hippie types with golden locks and perfect white smiles? I would bring them ice cold coca-colas and we could chat about horticulture together. But maybe that makes me the pervy one. Guess we're stuck with the Dirtbag Brothers, who probably moonlight as players in re-enactments for Lord of the Rings. Freakin' freaky garden gnomes.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I know that at first glance this looks like a photo of an adorable, fluffy, sweet cat. Look again. This is a rabid she-wolf in cuddly kitty disguise. My beautiful Miss Girl has transformed into a diabetic with a ravenous, insatiable hunger that knows no boundaries. We are happy that she is feeling so much better, but when she smells food it's like living with a heroin addict who is jonesing for a fix. She is craving flavor, any flavor, just...flavor and she's willing to go to great lengths to attain it. It doesn't seem to matter what we are eating. Once she sees us eating, she will frantically claw her way up towards the bowl, or plate, mewing insanely, a look of rapacious desperation in her eyes. It's quite unnerving and no amount of pushing her away, or yelling at her will deter her from her goal. It's positively freakish. There is no hiding from her either. She will stealthily hang out by the butcher block in the kitchen, so she's out of the way of foot traffic, but still has a straight shot and a clear view of the refrigerator. The moment the door to the fridge is opened, she sling shots her way across the floor and begins her climb into the fridge, scaling the shelves like a deranged mountaineer. We actually let her go once, just to see how high she could go and she was on shelf number three in a matter of seconds. Crazy. The cat that was so lethargic and slept all day, has become some kind of super feline spider woman.
Miss Girl has always been a bit on the greedy side, hence her weight problem and consequent health issue with diabetes. I confess that I was a total enabler, doling out tidbits of food, even going so far as to give her a teaspoon of half and half each morning when I had my coffee. I know. Bad, bad bad. However, since the diabetes diagnosis she has been put on a strict diet of Purina dietetic moist cat food and for the first time since I have known Miss Girl she is actually svelte. In fact, she looks great and with the addition of insulin to her system she can now live a long, healthy life. She will go insane from her unquenchable hunger, but she will look fit and healthy while enduring her calorie deprived torture. Well, not really. I've spoken to the vet about this problem and she has assured me that once Miss Girl adjusts to her body's latest needs, her manic hunger issue should subside. I've noticed that the last couple of days have been a little bit easier for her. She seems a little more in control of herself and she is no longer trying to claw her way up my leg if she finds me standing in the kitchen eating a cracker. I'm not about to let down my guard with her yet, but I think she's on the road to food junkie recovery.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This is a picture of the lovely house that Jonathan and I rent in Millbrook. It's a grand old place, around 150 years old and right in the middle of a gorgeous, hunt country setting. Really, it's like living in a post card. Whenever friends or family come to visit, no matter the season, they marvel at the panoramic views, the majestic oaks in the front yard, the intricate moldings in each room and of course, the very formal sweeping staircase in the entrance hall. One of our friends nearly swooned when he saw the staircase. "Wow, you could make some truly dramatic entrances! Just like Scarlet O'Hara!", he said with a tinge of jealousy in his voice. To be honest, I hadn't thought of that, because a.) we don't hold many parties and b.) I'm not so graceful and with my luck I would fall to my death in front of everybody.

As lovely as it is, there is one giant problem with living in this little Shangri-la. The house hates technology. It flat out refuses to accept a cell signal within its walls. Sometimes it allows a faint signal in the kitchen, if I'm huddled over the sink, not blinking, perfectly inert, balancing on my left foot. Other times, nothing. Not one bar. Because we don't have cable service on this part of our street, I have to rely on a verizon card for my internet connection. This worked marginally well at my desk for the winter/early spring. Then came the leaves on the trees, which blocked my already fragile signal completely and I was rendered internet-less, which equals paralyzed in my world. One day on a whim, I took my laptop out to the front porch and realized that I could sometimes get a connection out there.It wasn't perfect, but it kept me in the loop of emails, Facebook, etc. Then one gorgeous sunny day, I took my laptop out the patio table on our side yard and I discovered a magical, superfast connection. It was like I was in New York City! Bang, connected! The only drawback was that I had to be shrouded with a towel over my head and the laptop screen. It didn't seem like such a big deal at first because I was so delighted to actually have a fast connection. Then it started to rain... for the entire month of June. I was relegated to my tiny back porch, perched precariously on a tippy patio chair. My computer fort had turned into a computer prison. It seemed like anytime I would be typing something crucial, the telephone would ring and I would have to whip off the towel, carefully balance the laptop, trip over a cat, or three and make a lunge for the telephone. In a world of super fast technological convenience, this seemed to be horribly unfair and wickedly inconvenient. I just came back from a trip to SC, where my internet worked in every room of the beach house where we stayed. It like an internet fantasy for me. Surfing here, surfing there, watching youtube videos. It was sublime! Now that we are home and the weather is decidedly autumnal, I truly cannot believe that we live in the one house in America that won't allow the internet within its walls. It's just cruel. I am bundling myself up in the mornings and braving the frosty October chill, but frankly it's a matter of time as to how long I can continue doing this. Today we are experiencing intense, gale force winds, which are so forceful they have sent my hammock scuttling across the lawn like a sailboat. My computer blanket is waving about like a flag and there are white caps on the pond. At times the winds are whooshing so strongly that I have to keep peeking out from under the blanket to make sure that I'm not in danger of having flying debris crash down upon my head. This is a large price to pay for living in this pastoral setting. Maybe the house is trying to tell me something. Should I be looking outward for my inspirations, not within a specific box of four walls? Is my interior internet ban symbolic for my own introverted creativity? My writing groove has certainly been stymied for many months. Perhaps I need to gaze out to the horizon and a trove of fresh ideas will be scribbled out across the dried corn husk filled hills. Or maybe I am just numb from the cold and addled by the wind and I need to get inside for a hot cup of tea. There is one encouraging sign as the leaves go cascading off the tree branches to the ground,which is hopefully my weak cell signal will soon be restored in my upstairs office space. Either that of Jonathan will have to build me an igloo from which to write this winter.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tally No!

While I was brewing my coffee this morning I heard the chaotic sound of a pack of hounds baying, then the faint tinkle of the hunting horn. Ah, it was opening meet for the Millbrook Hunt and they were leaving from the property adjacent to where I live. There were over 150 riders out this morning, all dressed in their finest attire. I know fox hunting is steeped in tradition and there are many, many riders who live for the thrill of the chase, but I just cannot get excited about getting up before dawn to fetch my horse and cavort over hill and dale. It's just not my cup of tea. I have hunted a bit in my day. Once when I was a teenager, I decided it might be fun to hunt my Quarter Horse, Ten. He actually handled the whole experience fairly well, which was rather shocking because he could be a handful. My next hunting experiences were not so fun and they have tainted my view of fox hunting for life. I was in my early twenties and working for a show barn. My trainer decided that we should broaden our horizons and not only horse show, but fox hunt, as well. Because I was a working student, I was always assigned a young, inexperienced (read:wild and half broke)horse, or an older horse that was giving its owner trouble. These mounts provided me with some of the most terrifying times I've ever had in the saddle. I would spend most of the hunt madly see-sawing on my horse's mouth, trying to gain some semblance of control, usually to no avail. Once your are galloping with the pack it takes a very good horse to allow the rider to stop, or even slow down. I was never on one of the mythical "good" horses. My mounts tended to careen along, plunging sideways, mouths wide open, eyes rolling, crashing off of the horses in front of me, and if I pulled too much on their mouths, this would usually incite a massive bucking fit and no one wants to get bucked off in the middle of nowhere and lose your ride home. Needless to say, I began to absolutely dread hunting days. My trainer had grown up hunting and he truly thought that I was just being a baby with all of my whining about not wanting to go out again. Of course, he was always on one of the nicest horses in our barn, looking very sporty in his habit, as he charmed all of the hunt ladies and gents. He would return from a hunt as fresh as a daisy, flipping his reins to a groom, as he would swagger off for a bit of hunt breakfast gossip. I would always arrive back at the horse trailer with my horse and I in a complete lather, my hair would be sticking out of my helmet, and my arms and legs would feel as though they had been put into a taffy puller. If my trainer happened to see me he would usually have a few words for me, such as, " for God's sake Michele, pull yourself together and remember you are representing our stable!". I would nod feebly to his chastising comments, then grit my teeth and prepare to dismount and see if my legs would still hold me. No, I have no fond memories of chasing beautiful red foxes across the New England landscape. My eyes were usually tearing too much from the colossal speeds at which I traveled for me to see much of anything at all. I will admit this morning it was a beautiful sight to see all of the riders streaming across the top field, ducking in between the rows of cornstalks. I can thoroughly appreciate the reverence of the hunting experience, as long as I'm watching it from my kitchen window, clad in fuzzy slippers, with a steaming mug of coffee in my hands.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slightly Disturbingly Obsessed

I have done it. I finished reading the last book of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn. And I may as well fess up now that I read all 264 pages of Midnight Sun that was illegally posted on the internet. I know I just blogged my own little review about Twilight and how much I was enjoying reading these teen-esque vampire books. Well, now I've finished reading them and honestly, I'm feeling sad and hollow inside. My husband caught me on Stephenie Meyer's website today and I felt as though I had been busted looking at porn (without him, that is). "Feeling a little obsessed with the kiddie vampire series, are we?", he asked with a heavy tinge of sarcasm in his voice. "It's not just for kids, there are tons of adult Twilight followers!", I answered huffily as I quickly closed my laptop. Oh man, was I a Twilight follower? I'm not entirely comfortable being lumped into that kind of a fan/freak category, especially for an adolescent based set of books. But maybe it was true. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I know as soon as we get home from vacation that I will be making a trip to the video store. My brother in law told me it was terrible, but then again he plays video games all day long and he's 32 years old. What does he know? I'll be the judge of whether the movie is up to the standards of the book. I don't think the actor who portrays Edward Cullen is nearly as good looking as the image I had conjured up in my head while I read the book (I only know what he looks like because I guiltily watched the trailer to the movie, while Jonathan was in the shower this morning). I mean Edward is supposed to be a mind blowing, amazing looking, immortal creature. Sorry Robert Pattinson, you're okay, but not up to the GQ image of vampires that I had imagined. I think I will have to satisfy my curiosity and watch the movie to see if it stirs the same feelings as the book did for me. If so, I may be buying it and watching it over and over on a loop, probably in a white room, with a nice white tunic on that ties my arms at my side. Just for the record, I will not be posting on any of the Twilight message boards. Though, I did go to one today (just to see it!) and there were plenty of adults posting. No, I've got to draw a line somewhere and get over this embarrassing, sudden mania I'm experiencing. Edward and Bella do not really exist!!! They are fantasy characters, as are all of the Cullens and the shape shifters. Alright, I'm going to take a deep breath and start a book that I bought last week to see if I can shift my focus. It's a classic, Harper Lee's, To Kill a Mockingbird. I will go back to grown up literature and stop thinking like a crack addicted teenage vampire lover. I will overcome. If only Edward wasn't so damned dangerous and adorable. This could take some time to work out of my system. Okay, I will think in terms of baby steps. I did resist buying the Guide to the Twilight Series today at the bookstore. Mostly because I knew that Jonathan's teasing would go into complete overdrive, but that's a start, right? Fear not, I have confidence that I will be returning to my old, pre-Twilight self soon. This is probably just a phase, a crush, a passing fancy. Until it passes, my heart aches for more chapters, even one more sentence. Alas, there are no more and I'm sure I'll make it through this sorrow. Somehow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vacation Hazards

At last, here I am on vacation in the sunny south. It's lovely, the weather is beyond beautiful, the beach is pristine and as glorious as any beach I have been on in my life. The water is sublime. I even went swimming in the ocean at night. That's right, I was a night swimmer. It was intoxicating and yes, I was slightly intoxicated. Of course, that is the only way I could be persuaded to get in the water while it was pitch black outside. The waves were so fun and the fact that I couldn't see the sea monsters before they came to eat me didn't bother me one bit. Amazing! Thank you, pinot grigio! However, the next morning, I found my left hip to be nearly immobile. As I hobbled my way upstairs for a necessary cup of coffee, I found myself trying to cobble together the events from the previous evening. Did I finally master doing a split? Unlikely. Had I been practicing kick boxing moves? Improbable. No, it was just a combination of being thrashed by waves, older age and a bad hip teaming up to give some significant pain that made walking across the room an agony inducing endeavor. I was reduced to a senior citizen in twelve hours, thanks to one night of cavorting in the waves with a group of drunken fools. This is the story of my life and no amount of ibuprofen was going to fix this pain. I did my best to limp around unnoticed, hoping no one would see the agony that I was going through and thanks to multiple hangovers they did their best to avoid my pain and instead focused on their own.
It took a couple of days and a quickie chiropractic maneuver performed by our friend Patty, who happened to be visiting for the weekend, to finally restore me to semi-soundness. I've never been all that aquatic, so I'm taking it easy with the swimming for the moment. If we do any more midnight runs for ocean adventures, I think I'll cheer the gang on from the shore. Meanwhile, time to get off the computer and get back to the beach.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hey Dracula, you busy tonight?

I'm sure most everyone at this point is familiar with the latest young adult book series, known as Twilight. It's theme is young love, well, young vampire/human love. I resisted reading it for months, despite the fact that all of my friends were giving the books great reviews. I think after reading all of Anne Rice's novels I couldn't envision another vampire tale told as well, nor did I feel like any young adult book could compete with the likes of Interview with a Vampire. I will now sheepishly admit that I'm on book three, of the series of four, and it is a compelling set of stories. In these books there is a certain erotic undertone that is utterly adult, though the way it's told the characters are kept totally PG-13. Vampires have a large amount of contradiction to their character. They are a combination of beauty, desire and danger. Just as in Lestat's story, the vampires in Twilight are beautiful beings, stone cold, hard muscled bodies and essentially blood thirsty. However, there is a twist on this theme in Twilight, because the vampire family that is featured feeds only on wildlife and this is a moral decision made by the entire family. The story is based on the unabashed, unavoidable, overwhelming love felt by a human girl and a young male vampire. Though the dialogue is sometimes a little bland between these two characters, the electricity that is described between them virtually zaps you from the page. The author has nailed their feelings of deepest desire and she describes it with such subtly that it leaves you a little breathless. These are not just lusty, teen novels meant for girls in the throes of a crush on the quarterback of the high school football team. The writing is more sophisticated than the average Harlequin romance and the vampire's involvement lends itself to a much deeper sense of romance than any mere mortal love affair could possess. I am not a pushover when it comes to reading. I'm picky and stubborn about the books that I choose. You will never find a Danielle Steele, or a Nora Roberts book in my house. I loathe those plebeian stories of love affairs and their predictable story lines. I don't care for fantasy or sci-fi, either. I'm not into books about mummy's, or zombies, or werewolves. So what is the deal with the vampires? I believe that the thanks goes to Anne Rice whose initial description of vampires was deliciously romanticized, not in a sexual manner, but in a preternatural, irresistibly sensual way. The seamless story telling of the Twilight series and the strength of passion shared by the main characters make them truly enjoyable to read. I congratulate Stephenie Meyer for bringing up a whole new generation of vampire lovers by sharing her artful tale with the world. Now I must get back to Eclipse...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kettle Conundrum

Here are pictures of my old tea kettle (the silver model) and my new tea kettle (the flashy red ultra mod-style). I've had the silver Revereware kettle for nine, or ten years. It was a gift from a girl, now a grown woman, who rode with Jonathan and I for many years. I don't even remember what the occasion was that prompted her to buy us a tea kettle...maybe a birthday, or our wedding? Anyway, I've had this kettle a long time and I know it's not rational, but I tend to bond with inanimate objects, and I love this kettle. It has faithfully boiled water for my coffee press every day, never once giving me any problems. I am the kind of person who doesn't buy something new just for the sake of it. My stuff has to completely self destruct for me to replace it, even then I will try to get Jonathan to put whatever has broken back together with his superior skills for improvisational repair work. I guess you could call it Yankee practicality, or call a spade a spade, I'm cheap and weird. So, just imagine my horror when a box of birthday gifts arrived from my parents and when I opened it, I found inside a brand new flashy, red tea kettle. I felt the air suck out of my lungs for a minute when I first laid eyes on it. I quickly glanced at the old kettle, sitting comfortably atop the stove, on its burner, imagining that it had a sinking feeling, like it knew what I just seen in the box. I felt instant guilt and I didn't even want to unpack the new kettle, but then again it was sort of cool looking, in a glitzy sporty, ultra mod kind of way. My guilt magnified, because I had allowed myself to think the new kettle was better looking than the old one. In a panic, I replaced my guilt with a renewed loyalty and denial. I shall not use this new, shiny kettle! It shall remain in a box, until I see fit to retire Old Silver. God, now I wasn't only getting older, I was having ridiculous conversations in my head about tea kettles and their tender emotional states. I opted not to share my thoughts with Jonathan. These are the sort of things that I usually keep from my husband. He already has to listen to my continual singing and chatting with the cats and dogs in our house. I can't let him know that my peculiarities extend to inanimate objects as well. I would just have to put the new kettle on the stove and let the kettles kibbutz for a while. Maybe Old Silver would be relieved to see this red kettle show up. Perhaps, it was tired after all these years of boiling and whistling, boiling and whistling. I decided to give Big Red a chance and ignore my imaginary tea kettle conversations. Really, enough is enough, I told myself.

I began using the new kettle the next morning and though it made me feel a sharp pang in my stomach, I put Old Silver away in a cabinet. Over the next few weeks, I began to bond with the new kettle and its funky, ergonomic handle. I was adjusting to listening to its strong, steady whistle when the water was boiling. I'm such a coffee junkie that basically anything to do with my morning coffee mojo eventually becomes sacred to me. The red kettle was winning me over...then tragedy struck. It was late one evening and for whatever reason, Jonathan noticed that during the preparation of dinner he had splashed the entire cooktop with flying grease particles. He is one of the world's messiest cooks, so this is not a rare occurrence in our kitchen. The rarity of this is that he observed the mess and became insistent about cleaning it up. I was at the refrigerator door when I heard the mighty crash. I looked over and there was my new kettle, prone on the floor, with small bits of broken black plastic scattered around it. Oh no, due to it's slippery covering of spattered oil, Jonathan (with his constant butter-fingers) had dropped it! The mighty new kettle has been ruined!! As it turned out, it wasn't ruined, just scarred a bit. It's fancy handle now no longer had the ability to hold itself up on its own accord, but after a quick test I saw that it could still do its job. Jonathan was contrite, but his comforting words extended to report, "what a cheaply made kettle!". I was angry, then bereft, then angry again. "How could you be so clumsy!!", I shouted. This was a rhetorical question, because Jonathan is prone to dropping things on a constant basis. Finally, I sighed the sigh of a resigned, but loving wife. As I picked up the scattered broken black plastic pieces, I swear I heard Old Silver snickering from the bottom cupboard. "Who's shiny and perfect now?", it seemed to be saying. I really need some therapy for this kind of thing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Last Call for Summer Fun

I am ashamed by how long it has been since I last blogged. This was supposed to be a discipline inducing endeavor and I have been ignoring it, sort of treating it like the elephant in the corner of the room, concept. Well, I'm back and I'm pledging anew my vow to blog religiously, or at least more than once every two weeks.

I can't believe that we are in the month of Sept. already and leaves are actually changing color up here in Millbrook. This is a picture of my beautiful backyard, which is showing the inevitable signs of surrender to autumnal hues. It's too soon to let go of summer, especially after such a rainy, dreary summer. What did we have one week of decent hot weather in August? Then, boom, the curtain dropped and it's back to sweaters and blowing winds every day? Absolutely unacceptable, but I guess there is nothing to do, aside from complaining bitterly. My in-laws live in Aiken, SC and if I dare to bring up the weather here, my mother-in-law will cackle loudly and boom into the phone, "it's just beautiful here, I will never go back to the northeast!!". It's almost an automated response to any weather related comment and it makes me want to reach through the phone and slap the smug "sunny skies" smile right off her face. Let's face it, the weather in the northeast has sucked this year. Unless, you really enjoy grey, misty, depressing, chilly days. In that case, it's been perfection. However, I stubbornly refuse to even think about moving down south. No, thanks. Not for me. I much prefer the wretched, bone numbing chill of winter to the landscape of the south, balmy though it may be. My take on SC is that it is full of bland pine forests, dilapidated mobile homes dotting the roadsides, and once you get into to town, there is every possible fast food restaurant you can think of, just decide how many calories you want and point your car to the drive-thru. If you have a Cinnabon for breakfast,a Big Mac for lunch and then top it off with a eight piece bucket of original recipe from KFC (don't forget a Lil' Bucket Parfait for dessert), then you are going to be a candidate for Nutri-System in about a week. Top off all that greasy food with an idiot Republican governor and a local vernacular peppered with y'alls and I feel my trigger finger starting to itch. But enough about my dislike for the southern half of the USA. In fact, I am heading to the SC shore in a little under two weeks for a week long vacation with my husband's entire family. I shall proudly don my bikini and expose my lily white skin to the burning rays of sun that the south is still enjoying. I will read nonsensical novels, while listening to the surf gently lap onto the shore. We will make giant feasts every evening and drink vats of wine together, each family member trying to vie for the best story, or most clever quip of the day. That week will have to fulfill my quota for summer fun this year. And when I return home, I will resign myself to a daily wardrobe of wool sweaters and long underwear. Ah, New England you are a cruel, and yet, captivating place to live.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Four Fabulous Felines

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a person who adores cats, particularly the four cats that reside in our household. They are an integral part of my life and though my husband wasn't initially a cat person when we met, he has grown to accept that in our house cats will be on our bed, sofas, chairs, laps, pillows, etc. Suffice it to say, they run the show here. I consider myself a dog person and a horse person, but first and foremost, I am a cat person.

The picture on the top is Marbles, our long legged female calico. Marbles is a gigantic bitch to most of the world. However, she loves Jonathan to an absurd degree, which we've never been able to figure out. It is her mission in life to either smack, or ignore all of the other animals (including me)and shower Jonathan with as much attention getting cuteness as she possibly can. It's really quite pathetic, sort of like the chubby girl at school who wants a boy to like her, so she bakes him a cake, does his homework, etc. The writing is on the wall, it ain't going to work. But Marbles doesn't give up. She spends lots of time on the sofa, sitting patiently next to Jonathan, wantonly bumping her head into his arm, or leg. I guess you could say she is smitten. And yes, she is wearing a bandanna in the photo. I put it on her as a joke, thinking she would want it off immediately and she puffed up and ponced around the house and yard like she was royalty. She's a great cat, but she's got her issues.

The second picture is of Mia, or as we call her Little Me. I found Mia as a kitten, sitting in a cardboard box in the post office lobby during the winter, about eight years ago. Obviously, whoever left her there felt confident that some rube would come along and take her home, so I was the rube that day. She was readily accepted into our household and she loves all of the cats, dogs and humans that live there. Mia is known as a user and a copycat. She can find the warmest spot for sleeping, usually by snuggling up to us, or another cat and taking all of their body heat as her own. I've never seen a cat so proficient at molding her body to neatly fit next to another cat, rendering the image of Siamese twins. She also seems to study the latest sleeping spots of the other cats and when they aren't occupying their newest post, she will step in and give it a try. For some reason, as the youngest addition to our brood, they all seem to tolerate her antics much like the youngest child of a family is often the most spoiled and indulged. Another one of Mia's idiosyncrasies is her quest for fresh water from the tap. She will sit in the tub, or kitchen sink patiently waiting until we happen into the room and then meow in plaintive cries until we turn the faucet on so a trickle of water pours forth for her personal refreshment. It's a bit odd, but you have to give her credit, because she knows what she wants and how to attain it. Or rather, how to work us and the other animals so she gets the most out of her little life. If she were a person, we would probably dislike her, but since she's Little Me we think she is downright adorable.
The third picture is of Miss Girl. She is the most lovely soul in the land. Miss Girl was abandoned at a barn where we boarded our horses several years ago. I tried to catch her repeatedly, but she was quite shy and resisted my attempts, despite the fact that it was winter and she was surviving by eating leftovers from a dumpster. The barn owner eventually caught her in a Hav-a-heart trap and put her in his office. Once she was caught, she appeared quite civilized, so I asked if Icould have her. Twelve years later, she is still happily living with Jonathan and I. Just after we adopted her I started to think she might be pregnant. Lo and behold, two months later she gave birth to two kittens. We found a home for one and kept the second kitten, who is Big Zekie, the jumbo tiger cat in the bottom photo. Miss Girl has stolen our hearts from the minute she came into our lives, with her gentle nature, delicate voice and constant adoration. We have just discovered that she is a diabetic, so we're giving her treatment, which she is, of course, taking like the true lady that she is. She is not fond of the outdoors and instead chooses to spend her days relaxing on our bed, attending to her lovely, long hair do and purring with contentment. At the risk of sounding like the crazy cat lady, I feel so fortunate that she came into our lives.

So, last, but not least there is Big Zekie in the bottom pic. He is our only man cat, the son of Miss Girl. Big Zekie is 12 years old and he has matured into quite a large guy. In his younger years, he lived at our barn and he was a lithe, agile and fierce hunter. Though he was always tame, handling him was a delicate matter, for he had claws and teeth that were as sharp as Ginsu knives and he wasn't shy about using them to get his point across. Both Jonathan and I have fallen prey to his fangs on separate occasions and let me tell you, it bloody well hurt. Bloody being the key word in that phrase. When we closed our stable seven years ago, it was decided that he would be moving into our home with us. Jonathan was more or less okay with this plan, but he truly thought that Big Z was going to murder us in the night. We would be the couple that was written about in the paper with the headline, " Local Couple Falls Victim to Angry, Large House Cat". As it turned out, Zeke took to house cat status very well and he spends his days lounging about on the porch for hours on end during the warm months. In the winter, he takes up a portion of our queen size bed that is usually reserved for my feet. Jonathan complains bitterly about the cats taking up too much of our bed space, but I know he still has some fear of Zeke's claws, so Zeke sleeps the quiet slumber of a lion who knows he is the most ferocious animal in the jungle and therefore not to be disturbed. In his mind, it's good to be king.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Birthday Girl

The day of my 40th birthday has arrived at last. It's hard for me to believe that I've been around for 40 years. Truthfully, I only remember about 35 of them, so it hardly seems fair that I'm burdened with those extra five years added to my age. I know some people say they have memories from when they were three, or four, but I can't say that I do. Perhaps I will start a new trend where people are as old as their first memory. In that case, I'm only 35. Well, who am I body is 40 years old and that my friends, is that.

Around May of this year I started to finally come to grips with the idea that I was to be turning 40 in a few months and it didn't quite sit well at first. Over time I got used to idea (let's face it, the sands of time are trickling through the hourglass, whether we like it or not) and I began to look for a way to make the whole number more appealing and I came up with a theory. I'm not a kid anymore, so I don't need to be spoken to in a manner that belies my well earned wisdom. I am far more wise at 40 than I was at 25. I will not take any guff from bossy, incompetent blowhards. When someone of that ilk tries to tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about, I can now reply, " Hold on a minute, I am 40 years old, don't speak to me like I am a 20 something who is wet behind the ears!". (I just felt behind my ears and it's quite dry back there. Mental note; I may need to apply some of my expensive firming cream to that area.) I can look at my new fourth decade as a license to being an actual grown up, who doesn't need to take any crap from anybody. Finally, a way to make this dawn of a new decade positive. Hallelujah!

Aside from needing more Advil, firming cream, and consistent hair coloring appointments, turning 40 isn't much different from the last ten, or so birthdays. My body definitely hurts a little more upon getting out of bed each day, my face has a few more lines than it used to, and now that I've let my hair turn it's natural color, I see that I've been covering up a hair color that resembles Mrs. Claus. On the bright side, I'm still thin and fit, thanks to giving up ice cream as a sixth food group. So, my hair is grey, I have crows feet around my eyes and a bit of arthritis, but I still act like a goofy girl most of the time and I'm happy, so what more can one ask for? Here's to forty years of a blessed life! I shall welcome my fourth decade with a toast to my amazing husband, friends, family and adored pets. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Warm blueberry cake

Last week I started feeling a craving for my Mom's blueberry cake. It's one of those special family recipes that has been passed down for a few generations and I almost feel obligated to make it at least once a year. There is nothing fancy about the recipe, just butter, eggs, sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder, a scant cup of milk (if you don't know what that is, don't feel badly, because I had to ask my Mom. Scant is an antiquated term for "just under".) and of course, 2 cups of blueberries. You do not have to have any mad baking skills to assemble this little beauty. Trust me when I say this, because I am the worst cake baker in the land. During this past holiday season, I decided that I would make my great grandmother's applesauce cake, with buttercream frosting. This does not appear to be a difficult recipe. It has basic ingredients, lots of spices, raisins, etc. For some reason, every time I made this cake it came out of the oven like a concrete block and it was really dry. Even with copious amounts of buttercream frosting, swallowing a mouthful almost required that an EMT be present, in case of choking. I may as well have put a pile of sawdust in a loaf pan, added a few raisins and put it in the oven. I consulted with my Mom several times on where I went wrong, was it the assembly, the baking time? We eventually surmised that I had used a Kitchen-Aid to mix the batter, therefore making the batter too thin and tough and I left it in the oven too long. Easy enough to fix, but I'm waiting until the next holiday season rolls around to try that one again. After four failed attempts, I'm a little gun shy.
I decided that my approach to the blueberry cake should require no fancy mixers, just me, a bowl and a spoon. The only change I made to the recipe was to use cake flour in place of regular flour. The box assured me that it wouldn't change the flavor, but it would enhance the fluffiness of the cake. Since my cakes are almost always the opposite of fluffy, I was willing to give it a try. I can't tell you how dreamy this cake turned out. I haven't had it for about a year and I ate my first piece while it was still warm from the oven. Finally, I had baked a cake that I didn't need to use both arms to remove from the oven. I was so proud that I took a picture of the finished product, with my cell phone, and sent it to my Mom. She texted me back, "good job, this is a foolproof recipe!". What the hell? Did she mean that even a bozo baker, like me, can bake this cake and have it turn out well? Way to take the wind out of my successful baking sails, Mom. Never mind. I consoled myself with a second piece and decided that she was right. I am a bozo baker, but every now and then the odds go in your favor and today my blueberry cake would have made Great-Grandma Hannah proud.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mr. Hangover

Two mornings ago, I awoke to find Mr. Hangover banging on my skull with a ball peen hammer. I didn't recall inviting him over and when I said this out loud, he reminded me of a few details from the previous evening. Really, I had to have that one last glass of wine? And then I did a shot of vodka? Really? "Yes, you did!", he replied, giddily, as he banged away in a sickening rhythm. What a stupid woman I am. I rolled over and pressed on both sides of my head to keep my brain from sloshing around too much. Just as I was beginning to think to myself, well at least you're not nauseous, Mr. Hangover kicked me in the stomach. Oh no, the Mr. Hangover special, the supreme double-header, the package of all packages; prepare for hours of self-induced physical and mental torture.

I had no choice but to crawl out of bed and feel my way along the wall to the bathroom. "Just don't look in the mirror", I told myself. Ohhhhhh wowwww. I couldn't help but glance up quickly and what I saw was just horrible. I didn't know my face could look that pasty and bloated, nor my eyes that red and rheumy. I've seen car crash victims that looked better than I did at that moment. My stomach heaved and before I knew it the vomiting and profuse sweating portion of Mr. Hangover's special began. Misery, agony. Screw you, Mr. Hangover! Screw me, for inviting the bastard over. Wait a minute...what time do I have to go to work? I hovered over the toilet bowl, trying to tie up my hair so I didn't get puke on it. What was on the schedule for the day? Slowly, it started coming to me that I hadn't set up any morning appointments, but the afternoon was packed. Dammit. Maybe Mr. Hangover would only be staying through the morning hours. Sometimes he's almost human and he hits you hard, but then clears out for the rest of the day. I decided that I should go downstairs, make myself a cup of tea and see if pretending that Mr. Hangover wasn't there would make him go away. I'm a big believer in denial. That's probably what got me into this state in the first place. I remember that I was talking on the phone to my friend Mary last night, which is always hugely entertaining and we are usually imbibing cocktails while chatting. Feeding our addictions together is a favorite pastime. At some point, I lost track of how many times I stumbled into the kitchen to refill my wineglass and that would be mistake number one. Mistake number two was not listening to that little voice (why can't it be a screaming, loud voice?) that says, "are you sure you want one more? I mean, you already staggered down the staircase and there is a slight slur to your speech?". No, I chose not to listen, in fact, I laughed it off with the optimistic infallibility that goes along with excessive alcohol intake. You know, when you feel like nothing can touch you? I won't be entertaining Mr. Hangover tomorrow! That bastard hasn't bothered me in a long time and I've been worse off than this! There's the denial portion of my evening's chain of bad choices. And for mistake number three, for some reason I felt the need for a shot of vodka, taken in a jelly jar. A nightcap, of sorts. I think that is when Mr. Hangover tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that he would be shadowing me the next day. Mmmm. It's official. I hate myself.

With a cup of tea in hand, I made my way to the living room sofa and gently folded my fragile body onto it. I had taken six aspirin, though my feeling was that I could take the entire bottle and the headache still wouldn't go away. The ball peen hammer was pounding with a determined, predictable, wince-inducing pattern. I thought if I could just drift off to sleep then maybe when I awoke, the pall would be lifted. However, every time I shut my eyes, Mr. Hangover would show me a series of flash cards that had all of the stupid things I had said the night before written on them. In fact, he had flash cards that reminded me of every problem in my life. This seems to be a little treat that he saves for the over 35 crowd to experience. You could call it a compilation of every fuck up in your life. Suddenly, I was completely overcome with waves of paranoia rolling over my body and soul. I was suffocating on my own paranoia. And to top it all off I had a really bad Aerosmith song playing on a loop in my head. Two sips of tea later, I was running outside to throw up on the freshly mown lawn.

Just as I was coming back inside to rinse out my mouth, my husband came downstairs and took in my condition. I noticed a faint smile on his lips and I felt a sudden urge to back hand him across the face. Good thing I was too weak for any kung fu moves this morning.
"You were in rare form last night", he said as he poured himself a glass of iced tea, " Hangover?".
"Yes", I replied in a thin voice.
"Maybe you should drink a beer and see if that makes you feel better?".
"Maybe you shouldn't suggest any random cures for my current condition!", I spat back.
With a shrug and a chuckle, my husband shuffled back upstairs and soon I heard the bath tub filling up. I transformed all of my feelings of misery into anger and hatred toward my husband, because he felt fine this morning and I didn't. That didn't last very long, because frankly, it was too exhausting and I didn't have the stamina for intensely evil feelings.

Shakily, I sat down and tried some more tea. It seemed to go down a little smoother this time. I drank a few real gulps and then I realized that the headache had begun to ebb. Could it be that my torture was coming to an end? I looked at the clock and realized that I had about an hour and a half to pull myself together and make it to my first appointment on time. For the first time so far that day, I was sure that I was going to make it. Holding the banister, I delicately ascended the stairs and when I reached the top I had a moment of true clarity. I said it out loud in a strong, clear voice. I am never drinking that much again! From behind me, I heard the soft clap of the screen door closing and I heard Mr. H. say, " How original. I'll see you next time." Smug bastard.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Getting ahead, or at least keeping up

There are a few things in life that just make me crazy. Disorganization is at the head of the unacceptable list. I am self employed and I make the schedule for my work on a weekly basis. I always say I'm flexible to my clients, but I secretly want to pummel them when they call me to change up the plan. " Sure", I will reply through tightly clenched teeth, " we can do Thurs., instead of Fri.". Now, I would never inflict my uptightness about changing the plan on my clients. That would be unprofessional. It's my own cross to bear. Usually, a quick swearing festival puts me right and then I can take a deep breath and move on. I'm not particularly proud of this trait, but believe me, its gotten better over the years and I figure by the time I'm ready to kick off, I'll be a go with the flow kinda girl. Well, maybe that is a bit ambitious, but I can have goals.

I really hate it when I get behind on stuff. Stupid stuff, say a sink that is full of dirty dishes. It's like a slow form of torture for me. I will be sitting down, working on a crossword and small voice will keep saying to me, " It's not right that those dishes are piled up so high in the sink". It's an agitation that will build to a crescendo and when I finally do get up and wash all the dishes, I am filled with exhaustive relief. Is that weird? I am so behind on reading the New Yorker right now. It's almost overwhelming how backed up they've gotten. I want to read every single word, but at this point I would have to lock myself in a room for two days straight to catch up. Reading the New Yorker is almost like having a part time job. A job that you really enjoy, but it's a commitment of time and mental focus. Both of those things seem to be scarce in my life this minute.

Just to add to my mental pressures, my tomato plants have gone absolutely beserk. I have a zillion ripe tomatoes. The only solution is to make tomato sauce, but the weather has gone to Africa humidity and I can't bear the thought of turning on the stove. Instead, I look at the tomatoes on my windowsill, and the beauties hanging on the vines, ruby red and ready for enjoyment and I whisper to them to hang on. " Just a few more days and this weather will break, I'll soon have time and energy to focus on whipping up a sauce of epic proportions", I tell them. I believe it when I say it. I hope it's true, for their sake.

I think my conclusion is that I am one of those folks who secretly enjoys torturing themselves. If I don't have a list of things to do, I am unhappy. My husband can sit inert in front of the tv for hours, not a care in the world. There could be laundry piled to the ceiling, carpets full of dog hair,dirty dishes, phone calls to make, all of this means nothing to him. I won't say that doesn't make me a little crazy, but he's a great guy and that's how he gets away with it. Okay, I've sat here long enough, time to go make a list and do those dishes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A scorchah in the summah

As a NH native, I am allowed creative license to randomly delete R's from the ends of certain words. I distinctly remember hearing folks up in NH use the word "scorchah" in reference to a really hot day, as in "it's gonna be a scorchah today!". I haven't lived in NH for almost twenty years, but I can still slip back into the lingo after being there for a few hours. My big sister has quite a strong accent and I love to get her going on a topic so I can listen to what comes out of her mouth. She has a knack of giving a word with one syllable, like floor, a second syllable, so it sounds like "flo-wah". As a kid, I never picked up on these nuances of NH dialect, but now that I live in NY I notice every missed R and extra syllable. And I love it.

I grew up on the seacoast and my childhood summer days were often spent at the beach, with my Mom and two sisters. My Mom would be basking on her beach towel, wearing a skimpy crochet bikini, her body slathered in Bain de Soleil orange gelee. My oldest sister, Joyce would usually be baking her skin on a neighboring towel, humming whatever 70's tune was blaring from our transistor radio. (Remember those pre-Ipod contraptions? To this day when I hear the song that has the line, "I've been waiting for a girl like you to come into my life", I swear I can smell salt air and hear a sea gull call.) Pam, my middle sister, wasn't one to lie still for too long so she was generally off exploring, or splashing in the waves by herself. And me? Well, I am ashamed to say it, but I was a giant pain in the ass at the beach. I hovered under an umbrella, whining continually about the heat, sand and sunshine. What an ingrate, right? I mean, how lucky was I to be growing up on the coast, minutes from this vacation oasis. Every summer tons of people came from all parts of the U.S and Canada to spend a few days on Hampton Beach. My Mom was a saint to put up with my incessant complaining during those long, steamy summer days. If I were her, I would have thrown me in the sea and let the tide take my whining ass to the Gulf of Mexico. I did eventually grow out of my hatred for the beach. In fact, now I adore going to the beach and I will lie on the sand for hours. I'm still not much of a swimmer, though I will bob around in the waves, until something icky touches me underwater, then I have been known to shriek and scamper out the water, with all of the grace of a lumbering sea lion. Despite the fact that at the time I didn't enjoy my beachtime as a kid, I love to look back on those memories and sometimes I'll make some cucumber sandwiches, put on some 70's tunes and be transported back in time to Hampton Beach, circa 1975.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Beginning

Let me start this blog by stating that I don't really like reading blogs all that much. I find them to be boring, self involved drivel written by people who fancy themselves as having a talent for writing. A gift with words, as it were. Well, here I go jumping into the mix. I'm not saying that I have a gift, no bragging about my brilliant vocabulary, no boasting about my cleverness, my wit. Nope, this is just going to be fun. Right? Writing can be fun, right? Let the agony begin.

I'm typing this from my laptop, which only connects to the internet if I am outside of my house, preferably on the back steps. I have a verizon card and though my internet service worked fairly reliably in my office all winter/spring, because my house is surrounded by 150 year old gigantic oak trees the signal seems to be blocked by the vast amount of branches and leaves and getting the internet to connect inside can be a mind bending experience. I enjoy being outside, don't get me wrong. However, this morning is seriously already about 80 degrees and I am in the sun with a large beach towel over my head and the computer screen. I am in a 98 degree computer fort. Blogging, no less. I think I shall end my first blog before my computer overheats and explodes in my face. I'll be back when the sun goes down, or at least when I recover from this self induced heat stroke.