Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolution Evolution

Not feeling particularly reflective. Guess I was reflective over the weekend, auld lang in-syne-ity hit me early this year. I wrote six pages in my journal yesterday, my personal journal wherein I write the really juicy, interesting stuff. Helps me filter out what I should probably not be sharing in this space. I don't make new year's resolutions. I never have, except in the most general of ways. It just doesn't seem reasonable to vow to change your bad habits on the eve of possibly suffering from a profound hangover. I love, love, love the white chocolate KitKat bars. That surprises me since I don't particularly care for the standard milk chocolate variety. What's on for tonight? I have Dove chocolate covered almonds. I have three movies to watch. I have a bottle of champagne. I have flannel pajamas. Sounds like staying in is the thing to do when the temperature outside is threatening to hover around zero tonight. When I wake up in the morning to 2008 I shall greet the new year by making waffles and sausage for breakfast. I feel optimistic about the upcoming year despite the fact that it's an election year and I'm already so terribly weary of political rhetoric. It doesn't matter to me if you call it prayer, meditation, or merely contemplating the color of the lint in your navel. Take a moment at midnight and dwell on worthy and positive things. Like peace, love and understanding. It couldn't hurt.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


It's soup night. I love soup. It goes with the cold outside and makes you all warm inside. Chicken noodle and black bean. The chicken noodle will be ready to eat in an hour or so. The black bean requires a little more preparation, the broth stage will be completed tonight and the rest of the ingredients will be added tomorrow. That means the cats are milling about in the middle of the kitchen floor hoping for a bite of whatever that is that smells so wonderful! On top of the stove the celery and carrots are steaming and await the addition of the chicken and pasta, but that's not what they smell. In the other pot is a pork hock covered with water and spices and is gently simmering. And not just any pork hock. An organic, free-range, smoked pork hock from the last time we got a whole pig from the locker in Elkton. Soup is a culinary gift from the goddess that we all must be thankful for. And it's okay by me if you don't make it yourself. If you like the stuff from the can or the dehydrated variety I will not pass judgment. I happen to love to cook, and to me, one of the hallmarks of a great cook is the ability to conjure up a delicious soup. Soup is kind of a free-form sort of cooking. You can use a recipe to the letter or open up the fridge and pitch. Using a recipe is akin to following the sheet music to the note while the pitch method is more like jamming. I have produced an outstanding pot of soup using both methods. Soup making can be an adventure in combining flavors and textures of many varieties. But if you're feeding suspicious children or maybe those who aren't so accepting of outlandish conglomerations, it's best to stick to a recipe. I have made chicken noodle soup pretty much how I do now since my sons were toddlers. The younger one still picks out the vegetables but I do have hope that one day he will come to appreciate the soup as it is without amendment. And chicken noodle is a bit of a misnomer, I don't use the standard egg noodles. Instead I use ditali, a small tubular pasta that is sturdy and doesn't slip off your spoon. I recommend the Racconto brand, no. 58, imported from Italy. One thing's for sure, nothing fills the house with the luscious smells of cooking quite like a simmering pot of homemade soup.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Signs of the Season

This image manipulation thing is relatively new to me, so please pardon the very unpolished look to this post. An hour or so ago I wandered around the house with my camera and captured images of the season to share with you. To the left is the blue led snowflake hanging in the living room window. It helps me locate my house when coming home in the dark.

The bucket of festive holiday headgear waiting to be donned.

Reindeer in a basket in the family room downstairs.

View of the stairwell decorations that were so difficult to place. They may remain on display until spring.

This is Sparky, the largest snowman in my collection. He is not allowed to light up that pipe in the house.

Christmas themed mugs on the shelf in the kitchen available for hot chocolate, coffee, tea, etc.

Do you know how difficult it is to find a blue Santa Claus? The three that I have are atop the refrigerator this year with the cobalt glass items that are there year-round.

Yes, I decorate in the bathroom! This little scene is just above my bathtub where I regularly doze off while I'm soaking in the hot water and bubbles.

A sure sign of the holidays, my college age son has brought home his dirty laundry.

The dining room, which is technically not a separate room, just the east end of the kitchen.

I just adore these fat cardinals. They reside on top of the tv cabinet with my elder son's high school graduation photo.

My cat, Newton, peeking out from under the coffee table in the living room. He mostly ignores the holiday decorations unless it would involve him being the recipient of a belly rub.

The Santa Claus collection on the bookcase in the living room.

My cat, Einstein, doing his best to ignore the fact that he is under the Christmas tree...

...and eventually caving and taking a bite. More than once I have caught him walking off with a pink bow in his mouth. To his credit, the tree has been tipped over only once. So far.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Longest Night

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to settle my brain for a long winter's nap. Perfect night for it, the longest stretch of darkness we experience up here in the frozen north. Tomorrow the light begins to lengthen by a couple of minutes a day. Incrementally not all that noticeable, but cumulatively significant. Today is the first of an unprecedented four consecutive days off work for me. When I crawled in bed last night I turned off the alarm on my bedside nemesis just before I shut out the light and slept for a delicious nine hours straight. I could have rolled over and slept longer, but once the cats see the whites of my eyes further slumber isn't likely. Just opposite my bed and just in front of the window is my large comfy chair and ottoman. When I first open my eyes, Newton is normally sprawled on the ottoman and Einstein is perched on the back of the chair looking out the window. And even though Newt's eyes are closed and Steinie is turned in the opposite direction, somehow they are able to sense that I'm awake and join me in bed. They squawk and stomp across me with impunity. They know the routine. Mom wakes up. Mom retires to the bathroom for a few moments. Mom goes to the kitchen to make coffee. KITTIES GET TREATS!!! And lest I should forget this most important part of the morning routine, they apparently feel they must constantly remind me with meows and ankle rubbing. Even though their nearly constant presence near my feet actually impedes the process of coffee making, which shall always come before the dispensing of treats. Don't tell them that the treats are actually a crunchy tartar removing device and serves a distinct purpose toward their feline oral health. They just like it because it smells fishy and makes a marvelous crunchy noise when they chomp on it. Then they ignore me for a while, except to inquire about when they might possibly get fed and why their favorite human, the fifteen year old who is a champion late sleeper, might be showing his face to give them attention. I have every intention of not leaving this house until I have to return to the lab on Wednesday morning. Until then I shall revel in the the spirit of the holiday. For me that means cooking, baking, eating and sleeping. And religiously wearing pajamas for as much of that time as possible.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mind Your Own Innuendo

There's just something about living in a small town. Maybe it's the people I know. Maybe I'm just a heck of a lot more interesting than I think. It could be that in a desperate attempt to entertain themselves, people make up crap. I think it can't be helped, gossip is part of the human condition. And I understand why it's interesting, I must admit I can get into hearing a juicy tale about someone I know and then wonder if it's true. The thing about a rumor is that once you cut away the fluff and the flash, there's usually a solid, though often minuscule, kernel of truth at the core. Bur kernels of truth are boring! We want adjectives and sordid details! Mix that little kernel of truth with a little innuendo over a happy hour beer, and voila!, you've got yourself a rumor. And the more far-fetched the tale is, odds are the faster it will travel. A little over a year ago I heard a doozy about myself. My divorce was freshly final and I was once again a single woman. Word was, I cashed in a large number of shares of a particular stock that I received in the settlement and used the proceeds to Botox and collagen-ize myself in order to be more appealing on the dating market. I learned of this from an acquaintance I encountered while shopping for groceries. She told me what she had heard but declared she didn't believe a word of it! All this while she studied my face and told me I was looking very well. Probably due to the fact that I was feeling good, feeling happy and much less stressed now that the divorce was final. Remarkable what a good night's sleep and some peace of mind can do for the lines that threaten to become wrinkles. I reassured her that I had not had any "work" done and went on my way. Rather puzzled as to why she had shared this little gem with me. In the five or so years prior to the divorce I was surprised at various times to hear how many men I was sleeping with and that I was severely depressed and bulimic. The rumors didn't astonish me nearly as much as the need others felt to inform me of them. More recently the thing that puzzles me is when friends and acquaintances confide that they have seen my ex-husband with his girlfriend. They assure me that his taste in women has gone completely downhill and that they are frankly surprised by how unattractive they find her. This stings a little. In the twenty years we were together, my husband never gave me a compliment on my appearance. In fact, he was often quite critical in his assessment of my taste in clothing and the size of my posterior. And this is what I take away from that. I hope that they are happy together. They have been dating for over two years and obviously enjoy each other's company. While I have not met her, my sons have, and that's okay. Yes, I have seen them out in public together, but at a distance. When I am asked why I think that they are together, this is my answer. Perhaps he has learned to see the interior of a woman rather than judging merely on the exterior. Or maybe, my cynical side chimes in, he's over fifty and he's looked around, and this is what is available to him, he's desperate and terrified of being alone. And the kernel of truth inside that remark once the cynicism has subsided is, I truly hope it is the former rather than the latter.

Friday, December 14, 2007

No Butterfly

My social life consists of three things. The various sundry activities I take part in with my friends Anna and Colleen and the stuff I do with my kids. That might seem like only two things, but I'm claiming three. I was just contemplating this fact and wondering if the state of my social interaction is pitiful or enviable. The things that I recently did but no longer do isn't such a long list, but the pre-divorce list is substantial. My ex-husband inherited most of that chapter of our shared life. That's okay, it seems that one or the other is embraced and retained within the group of people the former couple was a part of, rarely both. I'm on friendly terms with many of these people but it seems the comfort level of the group demanded that one or the other of us could be included, and he was chosen. This seems odd in a way, since in this group, as in many social circles, the relationships are maintained and the parties planned by the women. Initially I have to say being excluded was very painful and it took a long time to get over the fact that there were friendships and relationships and family connections of twenty plus years that abruptly came to a halt. But I adjusted to this as I adjusted to the many other upheavals that stemmed from the break-up of my marriage. Recently I have retired from volleyball. Last season was my last, and about half the time I played pretty well. It seemed like the time to retire, mostly because I just didn't have the burning desire to play any more. I haven't played cards with the 10 Point Pitch group since last spring. It would seem that they have been able to fill the tables without calling in the subs. I was a member of a book group for a couple of years that I enjoyed greatly but I haven't attended in over a year. They commence discussion of the monthly read on a chosen Wednesday promptly at 5:30. I rarely get home from work by then, much less have time in which to become presentable for company. I kept up on the reading for the most part just in case I was able to attend but it just didn't happen. I have pulled in these last months and stayed closer to home more than in the last five or so years. And I think that's a good thing, I have needed the quiet and to have my life less scheduled than it used to be. I may not be a butterfly like I used to be, but I'm more content than I've been in a long time. I have learned to be still. And inside that newfound stillness there are enviable moments that feed my spirit. I just may become a butterfly once more. And I'm sure I'll have more fun this time around.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fried Green Beans

Brookings has a new restaurant. And it's not fast food. Or pizza. Brookings has a plethora of pizza and is full of fast food. Bravo is a genuine grown-up place to eat with oodles of atmosphere and a dapperly dressed and engaging staff. They have an appetizer that sounds just plain weird when you read the menu. Fried green beans. With a side of chipotle ranch dressing in which you may dip the odd looking things. They do look odd but are quite delicious. Which proves people will eat nearly anything if it is battered, fried and served in a cute basket with dipping sauce. I ate fried rattlesnake once. Battered, deep-fried rattlesnake served with some sort of barbecue dipping sauce. I figured, heck, we're in Arizona, what more appropriate place could there be to eat fried rattlesnake. It could have been anything, tasted sort of like chicken. And I bet that few Arizonans eat rattlesnake on a regular basis. Probably reserved primarily for the tourist trade. I can just see the chef back in the kitchen laughing his ass off every time some out-of-stater orders the fried rattlesnake appetizer. And speaking of eating out, we received our invites to the company holiday party in our mailboxes today. I'm thinking of returning the card saying that I will indeed be bringing a guest. Then not bring one. And brown bag the extra meal and take it home. Tacky, yes. Practical, yes. Classy, no. I don't remember the menu for dinner spelled out on the invitation so I might regret having a rerun in the refrigerator. One thing's pretty sure, though. There won't be any fried rattlesnake. Or fried green beans, either. I don't mind as long as there's dessert.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Out of Reach

One forgets from year to year what honest, genuine, bone-chilling cold feels like. I remember now. It would help if I planned far enough ahead so my hair is completely dry before I venture outdoors. Now that I have returned from various errand running I am settling in for an evening of baking and finishing up holiday decorating. I need a ladder that's taller than my five foot step ladder so I can get to the shelf in the stairwell and toss on some wintry frou frou. When I put it up last summer with the convenience of the platform I had constructed for painting purposes, it did not occur to me that I wouldn't be able to get at it when the platform was gone. And now I see dust bunnies amongst the apples and baskets and hanging from the plate rack! I am an intelligent being. I will figure this out. No decorating task, no matter how daunting, has ever kept me down for long. And I'll finish with the climbing before I open a bottle of wine. Just to be safe. I have lemon cranberry bread to get in the oven as well as a tree to festoon before I settle down to watch a movie. But first I think I need a big cup of English breakfast with sugar and cream to inspire, warm and caffeinate me.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Yup. Still Distracted

Recently I was asked if the object of my distraction was still casting his little spell on me. That would be Mr. Distraction from my post of September 18th. And the answer is, yup, still distracted. He occupies a small corner room in my brain, separate from the monkeys' quarters for his own personal safety. Do we really get any better at this sort of thing? I would like to know! Because this feels just as silly, just as embarrassing, just as rushy as it did when I was a teenager! At some point I am hoping that this thing will just burn itself out. There clearly is never going to be an appropriate time or setting for me to either blurt out some sort of confession or act on this ridiculous burning desire. Then it snowed last week. And I allowed a tiny, little disclosure slip out into the real world. An impulsive, mildly risky prank. I lost control for maybe all of fifteen seconds. And then I wrote a poem about it. For crying out louder than necessary! Writing a poem is the absolute indicator that I have been gotten to, at least for me it is. This girl does not squander her artistic way with words on just anyone! So here I am. Suffering pitifully from a crush on someone I'll never be with. He might as well be George Clooney. Except that I've never been sufficiently moved to write a poem about George. I'm so grateful that I have practically no impulse control over writing. Finding the words to express what I feel and know and to describe what I observe often saves my sanity. Quiets what sometimes rages within. And best of all, keeps me from taking myself too seriously.

ILY Anonymous

I know it was foolish
But I couldn’t resist
Tracing ILY
In the newfallen snow
On the hood of your car
I reassured myself
You’d never see
My frosty declaration
By the time you returned
Either the relentless wind
Or the still falling snow
Would have covered
My amorous confessional tracks

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Let it Snow

It snowed overnight. Two or three inches worth out there. Enough to warrant shoveling but not so much that it's painful. I realize that I would find it very difficult to live somewhere where it doesn't snow. Despite the inconvenience I love winter. There's something about the cycle of seasons that feels complete and right, but maybe that's because I grew up on the plains. The summers are scorching and winter is harsh but it makes me feel alive to experience such extremes. This weekend's activities shall include baking cranberry lemon bread, digging out the Christmas cd's that set the mood for holiday decorating, and now that the snow is letting up, shoveling. The enormous pine tree in my backyard looks so beautiful with a dusting of white. Edgar, my anatomically correct gargoyle who sits under that tree, looks mildly annoyed about the whole business. Somehow I managed to forget to do the fall routine of putting away summery stuff out in the yard. The umbrella on the deck table looks a little out of place, as does the hammock that can't collect a remarkable amount of snow due to its stringy surface. The fifteen yo wants chocolate cake for breakfast. I don't know why it makes me feel better to say no to that request. Is it really much different to say yes to cherry pop-tarts? Probably not. And now that I have a digital camera, maybe I can take a cool snow picture and post it with today's writing. Now, if someone could explain to me why Newton wants desperately to get into my closet. I hope the reason isn't a mouse.