Archive for March, 2012

Mar 30 2012


Published by under Friends

Nothing cheers up a girl after a hard week of screwing up like an unexpected gift from a wonderful friend.

Imagine my delight in discovering in my mailbox, along with a jury duty summons and a car insurance bill, an interestingly rattling box. When I got home and opened it, I discovered that it was a whole set of chalkboard mason jar tags for my oh-so-disorganized pantry, handmade by the fabulous Amber:

As if that weren’t enough, she had tucked into the package a little Scrabble tile to which she had decoupaged a miniature of the first edition cover of my best-loved book, The Box of Delights. I wasted no time attaching it to my keychain*, so I will have it with me every day:

Inside my Louis Vuitton Monogram Groom keychain (one of the few remaining vestiges of my once-glamorous life) are little notes from my family, including my father and sister, so this little book, which our father read to us so often as children, is the perfect addition. I like feeling like their love is always with me.

Amber makes amazing things: three beautiful children (or, as she affectionately calls them, The Rottens), and countless handcrafted goodies. You can have a peek at some of her handiwork here. Be prepared to be delighted.

Oh, and when she’d not doing all that, she’s also a wife and engineer and blogger. And not at all a screwup.

I wasted no time in trying on one of these clever labels. I can’t wait to get a whole bunch of matching jars to fancy up my pantry. And I’m so lucky to have such wonderful friends.

*They are the keys to the kingdom, my friend. With them, you can start up Miss Scarlett, check my mailbox and my siblings’, and open my brother’s gate and front door. My doors don’t have keys. Or locks, for that matter.

3 responses so far

Mar 28 2012

The Screwup

Published by under Calamity Suzy,Cats,Work

Maybe I need a reminding sculpture. Or a whole pad of neon Post Its. Or a personal assistant. Or a brain transplant! If Dick Cheyney can get a heart transplant, it just goes to show that you don’t have to have the original organ to get it replaced…

Lately, my brain has not been functioning at peak capacity. Or maybe this is peak capacity, and I’ll have to get used to it. The new normal: not fun.

This week has been less than fabulous. It’s been pouring, for one thing – I fully expect the Ridge to be flooded tonight or tomorrow – which is always depressing. And for another, I seem to be making one mistake after another.

I locked the keys in the car when I was at the jobette, far from home. This was mitigated by the fact that I knew I’d do something like that, so I already had an extra key sitting in my desk drawer, but still.

I bought the kitties a fifteen pound bag of cat food instead of a five pound bag, to minimize time and gas spent on going to the feed store. I bought a different flavor since I thought they’d be bored of the old one. Well, they seem to hate it. Even Clyde the Food Monster sniffed at it (in all three bowls) and walked away this morning, an unprecedented feat of disdain on his part. I’ll see if they have eaten any when I get home from work tonight. If they still hate it, I’ll buy the original flavor and sell the rejected bag to Megan, whose kitties are less picky than mine.

I was supposed to join a conference call today, and discovered that my cell phone battery was dead, so I couldn’t. My boss was not happy, and neither was I.

Worst of all, I worked all weekend on a proposal to provide services on behalf of my real job, only to discover that I had mistaken the due date. By the time my boss alerted me to the fact that the due date was Monday, not Tuesday, it was Monday night and officially too late.

I realize that he should have noticed the due date as well, but still…I feel pretty stupid right about now.

4 responses so far

Mar 27 2012


Published by under Dogs,Family,Schatzi

Megan’s Boss

We all have little tricks for helping us remember things. Post-Its on the mirror so we are reminded of mundanities like picking up milk while applying our DiorShow mascara. The classic string tied around the finger (though I’d probably forget why I tied the string there in the first place, and then I’d want to add a tassel and maybe some beading, and….I can see why I’ve never tried that one). Mnemonics like HOMES for the Great Lakes.

Rob, of course, does it in his own inimitable style.

Little Miss Schatzi is on a strict regimen to keep her at her happiest and healthiest. Seeing her prance through my garden, as she frequently does, or jump for joy when she sees me, you’d never know that her bones look like Swiss cheese under her elegant brindle coat (and cuddly sweater, since it’s still winter in Hooterville, no matter what the calendar and reclusive East Coast rodents say). This is almost entirely due to Megan and Rob’s care and feeding of their aging princess.

Schatzi gets pain medication and anti-inflammatories three times a day. Megan usually takes care of Round One when she gets home from work in the morning, and Round Three when she heads out to work, but Rob has to remember the middle of the day pilling. This can be a challenge if he is out of the house or not feeling well himself or if he just plain forgets.

Instead of the string or Post-It, though, he went the Rob Route:

He created a sculpture out of found items around the property (I can practically hear James’ ghost saying, “See? That’s why I kept all that stuff!”) and fastened it to the mirror, which is also conveniently located to the most frequently frequented area in their little cottage: the coffee pot. He painted it with the words “PILL THE DOG” to remind him of why it’s there.

Notice that there’s an arrow pointing to a picture of a dog for extra reminding help.

Oh, and the little cup on the top left-hand side of the sculpture holds the actual pills (in a delicious Pill Pocket, which is meat-flavored Play Doh beloved by all of the canine persuasion). So you have form and function. How often can you say that?

One response so far

Mar 22 2012

Springing Ahead

Published by under Country Life,Garden,Weather

We had a brief break from the seemingly endless rain today (though it’s supposed to make a return engagement for another week starting tomorrow. It’s like Barbra Streisand’s farewell concert), so I emptied out the rain gauge (two and a half inches) and took a look around the rain-swept garden.

Come and look at what I found:

The tulips are blooming, just a couple of days after the vernal equinox. I think they look like they are singing:

A plant I bought last year because it had really cool silvery-green foliage, like olive trees, has burst into vivid blue flowers. I had no idea it even flowered. But flower it does:

Right behind the mystery flowering plant were volunteer white daffodils, lurking under the huckleberry bushes and pine trees. I wasted no time in getting the trowel, digging them up, and transplanting them to the slow-growing jasmine* which will eventually, one day, cover the lattice and shield my delicate eyes from the sight of the garbage and recycling bins:

They look nice, no?

Clyde supervised me, much as he supervised Rob’s cement repair. In order to get the best view, he hopped on top of the decaying chimera:

Then he got all crazy and chased his brother Roscoe off into the woods.

Speaking of Roscoe: this morning, he emerged from underneath the couch with a mouse in his mouth. I opened the door for him to go outside and got back to work (today was Spend the Day in Your PJs Day, a step further than Casual Friday, though I was the only one who got the memo). After a while, it occurred to me that my transformation from City Glamazon to Country Bumpkin is now complete. I can’t hear on a cell phone in the city; the last time I put my hand on a spider in the shower I apologized to Charlotte’s cousin without a shudder; and the sight of my cat with a mouse in his mouth didn’t make me scream or shriek. Or even think about it.

I hope overalls aren’t next.

*Perversely, the purple honeysuckle on the side of the house and the potato vine beside the shed are total overachievers, when they aren’t supposed to hide anything. Maybe my expectations of the jasmine are too high. Or too fast.

2 responses so far

Mar 19 2012

A Date with Your Family

Published by under Country Life,Weather

Well, it’s been storming up a storm out there. There’s another two inches of rain in the gauge – maybe more – and the frogs are peeping up a storm. Frogs rejoicing in the joy of rain is usually a winter sound around here, like chainsaws (for clearing trees and branches fallen in storms) and robins (they spend the winter here), so it’s a little strange to hear the frog chorus this late and this loud in the year.

But it’s really been the recent work swampage (and more to come) that has kept me from seeing my family much lately. That, and our busy schedules. So last week, I decided it was high time to make a Date with My Family.

If you haven’t seen the hilarious “Mystery Science Theater 3000” satire of it (and have civilization-level internet), click on this link to watch it. Made in 1950 and narrated by the inimitable Hugh “Ward Cleaver” Beaumont, it’s a creepy little public service announcement which basically tells people to repress their emotions and act nice at the dinner table, no matter what.

No-one wants to know how you really think or feel!

So when I delivered this week’s Thursday dinner (Mexican chicken casserole with charred tomato salsa), I asked Jonathan if he could go for a drive with me and make sure all is well with Miss Scarlett. After all that front end work and belt melt last fall, I am now hyper-aware of any unusual noises or smells, and I was sure the engine was growling too much and the car was vibrating too much at 60 and above.

So we set off in the rain and wind. Jonathan said that the brakes are in great shape, the car handles really well, and drives true (he tested this by taking his hands off the wheel and noting that the car didn’t drift at all). We drove over 65 and he could see what I meant about the vibration, but doesn’t think it’s anything serious. All in all, he said, he’d be delighted if his car felt as good as mine.

Which made me feel good.

After we hugged good-bye and he set off to his fire department meeting, I went over to Megan’s for a belated celebration of the arrival of Rob’s money. We were going to watch “I Capture the Castle”, a movie made from one of my favorite books, but alas, it didn’t play on her DVD player, so we watched “Five Children and It” instead. Nothing like the also beloved book, but still fun. Especially with Cosmos in hand.

4 responses so far

Mar 17 2012


Published by under Family,Memories

Today would have been my father’s 81st birthday. He never cared that much about his birthday – though he went along with how much I care(d) about mine; our plans for my 40th birthday were to go to Pompeii together, so I could be around things that were older than Me – and he would almost certainly dislike the way I cannot help but commemorate both his birthdays and his deathdays.

Indeed, Megan and I were talking about Dad’s birthday on Wednesday morning, when she brought the car back. Her co-worker asked her to switch shifts with him, which means that she will work Saturday and Sunday, then Wednesday and Thursday. So she’ll be working St. Patrick’s Day night. Any night of a drinking holiday like St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s is not a good one in the ER. But Meg said, “The whole world is throwing Dad a party!”

As it should.

Here are some things you need to know about my father.

  • He was my best friend. He knew the worst things about me, and still loved me. Also? vice-versa. He never judged me. Indeed, he admired my brother’s free-spirited, full-bore approach to life, though his own was the opposite. He never made me feel bad for anything I felt, thought, or did. This is not a small thing.
  • When he was a small boy, his scientific gifts soon became obvious in a very practical way. Everything was rationed in England during (and after) World War II, including the coal that heated the house. Coal, as you may or may not know, tends to create dust, which was usually swept up and thrown away. Dad, at the age of eight, decided to see how much cement he could mix with the coal dust which would still produce a viable briquette to burn and warm the family house. It was fun! And useful. Even then, he couldn’t stand to waste anything.
  • He used to walk five miles to school and back every day. When he first retired back to his native land, I made him go on a sentimental journey to the house he grew up in – a whole 12 miles away from his home – and was kind of shocked by how far it would be for a young boy to walk every day. Or, you know, a grown-up.

    One day when walking these miles home from school, there was an air raid near the train station. My father, about ten years old, buried himself under bodies to stay alive. His terrified mother, knowing he was walking home, stood in the front garden, watching for him. Nothing would induce her to go inside the house or into the bomb shelter. When Dad made his way home, bloodied and exhausted, nothing could express her joy.

    He had nightmares for the rest of his life.

  • He was an amazing cook. His mother was a very good, even excellent Victorian cook, one who made a roast on Sunday and made the leftovers into shepherd’s pie on Monday and baked once a week. I don’t think a clove of garlic ever appeared in her kitchen. But Dad loved the garlic, and made food that would have appalled his mother.

    Yet…I remember when Tesco made its unwelcome appearance in the village where my father grew up and his parents lived all their married lives until their deaths in their 80s, my grandmother was appalled, and not without reason. She continued to shop every day, at the butcher’s, who knew what she liked, and the Lincoln sisters’ greengrocers (the five unmarried sisters had inherited the business from their father), where they knew that Daddy’s Daddy liked bananas and Grammie did not, and where they would cut a hothouse cucumber in half and keep the best peaches for you.

    There are so many things I do in the kitchen that I do because of him: hot pan, cold oil; when making an omelette, put in half an eggshell of milk; roll a lemon or lime hard on the counter before cutting it to get the most juice; the less done to good fish the better.

  • His parents never said to their only, over-achieving son, “I love you.” That was understood. But he never stinted his own children in saying that. One of my earliest memories is waiting for him to come home from work, and when he did, he rolled around on the floor with us in a very un-English manner.

    When we went to Maine in the summer, I would swim in the cold, cold Atlantic until my lips were blue and chattering, and I would emerge from the frigid waves and go and lie on my father’s sun-warmed back, where he was lying reading either the “New York Times” or the “International Herald Tribune”. I’d pull my towel over my back, and snuggle my wet, cold head into his neck. He never flinched or complained. It’s still one of my best memories.

  • The last thing he ever said to me was “I love you lots”

3 responses so far

Mar 14 2012

Stormy Weather

Published by under Country Life,Weather

As the year slides forward into spring (don’t get me started about the clocks going forward an hour, plunging the kitties and me back into the hated morning darkness), it seems to be slipping back into winter. All the rain we didn’t get in January and February seems to be descending on us now.

One of Hooterville’s oldest residents (and a sixth generation Hootervillian) says that we will get a good six inches of rain this week. Given the two inches of rain I found in the gauge after Storm One, I think he’s probably right.

So far the power has stayed on, probably because Rob has the generator all set up now. But looking at the ocean this morning, grey and wild, it looks like there’s more weather coming our way.

As I drove to the Big Town yesterday, a young deer darted across the rainy, wind-swept Ridge. I waited, knowing that, as with mice, there’s Never Just One deer. Sure enough, another one made its graceful way across the road. Then another. Then another. And another. There were six or seven of them all told. I waited a little while after the final fawn, just in case.

And as I entered the outskirts of the Big Town, a wild turkey strolled across the highway, far less concerned about cars than the deer. He looked around curiously as he made his way across the road and cars braked madly.

Country living!

5 responses so far

Mar 11 2012

Catching Up

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends,Garden

Being swamped with work from both the Job and the Jobette has made me too sleep and time deprived lately to give you the lowdown on what’s been happening around here. Amazingly, things other than work and more work have occurred. Such as…

My neighbor Jim stopped by, bearing gifts. This is my very favorite kind of visit. We have been Facebook friends and email buddies for years, and he reads my blog (as all fabulous people do), as well as actual neighbors – he lives about three miles away from me – yet we had never met before in real life.

So it was definitely about time.

Jim arrived bearing a couple of calla lilies to add to the garden:

I will have to re-pot them, but apparently, they grow like weeds. I’m looking forward to their first elegant blooms.

He also brought me a fabulous outdoor candelabra, which might need a cup of Rob to repair it a bit, but it’s certainly a worthy addition to my ever-growing outdoor lighting collection:

I had a great time hanging out with Jim and I hope we get to spend more time together soon.

* * * * *

Megan woke up one day to find several thousands of dollars in her bank account. This what you call a nice surprise. I have heard of them, but seldom, if ever, experienced one in real life.

It was most of the back payments for Rob’s permanent disability. Apparently they give you some of it (after neatly removing the lawyer’s fees off the top) and then give you more six months later, for some reason. But what’s six months when you’ve already had to wait four years?

Now there are decisions and purchases to be made, notably a car for Megan, so we can stop sharing, and some kind of shelter for her and Rob on the family property, so they can stop paying for two places.

It’s happy and exciting news, but I haven’t found time to celebrate with her yet. One of these days…

* * * * *

The splendid pool closed last month. They ran out of money to operate it, despite cranking the water temperature down to 77 (from 85), and I sure felt every single one of those degrees. They also saw fit to keep the exercise rooms open while keeping the locker rooms closed. So – you could go to Zumba or spinning class, but you couldn’t shower afterwards. So that’s out. Basically I am exercise-free until I a) find some time; and 2) find somewhere to do it and get cleaned up afterwards.

On the bright side, Measure A passed last week. It ups the sales tax by half a penny, and apparently the half pennies will add up enough to reopen the wonderful pool and keep it open forever. At least, that’s the story. However, it will take until at least July for enough pennies to accumulate to reopen the pool, so it’s kind of a good news/bad news scenario. I will definitely have to come up with a Plan B if I ever find the time.

* * * * *

The hospital where Megan works is also having financial difficulties. Like pretty much every other company or corporation in America, it’s the worker bees who have to bear the brunt of it. At first, they actually considered closing the Emergency Room at night – yes, the dark hours when babies are born and car accidents and heart attacks tend to happen – but they soon realized the error of their ways.

Unfortunately, their Plan B is for Megan to work three 10 hour shifts one week, and four 10 hour shifts the next, instead of three 12 hour shifts in a row. So it’s more inconvenient; for several hours she will be the only person to answer phones and admit patients and deal with paperwork and transfers. Oh, and she gets less money because she’s not working 12 hour shifts. Pretty much a lose/lose.

On the other hand…we are lucky that we are employed at all in this day and age. As my boss says, this is the new normal.

3 responses so far

Mar 03 2012


Published by under Calamity Suzy,Country Life,Family

One thing about being sick is that it gives you time to notice how your house is slowly descending into chaos around you. Dishes and laundry remained undone; dust and spiderwebs accrued at an alarming rate; gravel and pine needles drifted unchecked across the battered wooden floors.

I’d notice all this, and then just go back to bed and watch more mindless TV – surely the best thing about being sick.

Even though I was well enough to go to the jobette – and I worked four days this week, instead of my usual three – I still haven’t really addressed the Housework Situation. Maybe if I ignore it long enough, it will go away.

While the house was undoing its thing, other things happened.

I ordered and received a new coffeemaker. Online shopping is another activity that is suitable for the bedridden. In my weakened condition, it was even more annoying than usual to deal with the French press and its endless, messy grounds. So it was a necessity:

So was replacing my favorite lipgloss from Sephora, since the first day back at the jobette, I was shocked to discover that the tube was basically empty.

I’m never too sick to shop.

While I was shopping, Rob was fixing a hole (or two) in the laundry room/pantry/cat dining room (multi-purpose room?).

The one under the door (being inspected by Clyde):

And the one that was so useful during the great Booze Breakage of 2010:

The repaired door:

And the repaired drain:

We had a storm after the holes were repaired. I set the battery-powered alarm clock and made coffee the night before, just in case, but the power stayed on. In the morning, I realized that if the power had gone out, I couldn’t have used the generator. I used to thread the extension cord from the generator through the hole under the door and into the house, but now the hole (and its draftiness) are a thing of the past.

I mentioned this to Rob, and he is going to drill a hole in the wall near the generator for the extension cord. I’m hoping that we are past power outage season (I’m watching the first Spring Training baseball game between the Evil Empire and the Phillies, so the year has turned a corner), but we should still deal with it before storm season rolls around again.

One response so far

Mar 01 2012

And We’re Back!

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family,Friends

Well, Le Bug has finally begun to loosen its Vulcan death grip. Sure, I cough myself awake a couple of times a night, and am still the major Kleenex consumer on the west coast, but I was well enough to go back to the jobette this week.

It was a week that reminded me just how petite this town really is. On Monday, I saw my brother and one of his charges emerging from the health food store across the street. I called out to him, but he didn’t hear me through the wind and traffic. By time I could get across the street, he was gone.

The next day, I was just starting up the steps of the office when I heard a horn honking. It was the lovely Monica, waving good morning as she drove past on her way to her store, two blocks away. Daisy, of course, was smiling from the passenger seat.

On Wednesday, I was getting in my car when I noticed a dog across the street who looked a lot like Star. A closer look revealed that it was in fact Star, whose excitement when she saw me too could barely be contained. I honestly think that no-one on earth is as happy to see me as Star is.

It turned out that Rob was walking her while he waited for a new tire to be applied to his trusty truck. When you start seeing metal poking through the treads, it’s time to invest in a new one. We hugged goodbye, and he and Star trotted off to pick up the new and improved truck.

It’s a good thing that I’m feeling better, because my house turned into Grand Central Station last night. Rob stopped by to work on a couple of projects, and Mark called. He needed to borrow a cup of internet, so I told him to come on over with his computer.

It turns out that Mark has a YouTube video of Lucky the deer and Luna the dog which is so popular that he gets little checks from them every couple of months. Who knew? Also, he’s going to New Jersey on Friday to start a huge project: overseeing the dismantling of a L’Oreal factory and moving it to its new home in Mexico.

I missed a lot while I was sick.

Then Mark’s wife (and Rose’s older daughter) Citlali came over to check her email on Mark’s computer. Citlali said that it’s still a little strange for her being in her mother’s house, even though it’s been nearly three years since her death. “But,” she said looking around, “you have really made it your own. Everything is so beautiful.”

It really was: friends and family together in my little house, with the rain falling outside in the darkness and love and laughter within.

2 responses so far