Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Whole Cup

For some odd reason, I really crave going to coffee shops.  I'm not some snobby know-it-all coffee barista or connoisseur.  It's not that I'm looking for an escape from home, although it is a good excuse not to do household chores.  It's not that I'm looking for friends or someone to talk to.  It's not the coffee that lures me in.  It's not the ambiance, although I do like a certain local shop for it's funky decor and art.  But really no, it's not that either.  I mean Dunkin Donuts does not have ambiance.  Starbucks tries, but there's bound to be trash on the floor, crumbs in the leather chairs, and someone talking a bit too loudly. When we went to Seattle, we bypassed the original Starbucks store, on our way to brunch at a place a little fancier.  On the way back we passed it again and were not about to wait an hour in line just to see the inside of a cute little shoebox of a store. No, not the ambiance.  Maybe the smell, no.  Maybe the cool-looking, hip people.  No.  The real reason is that I can pretty much count on one thing at a coffee shop - getting to drink the whole cup.

You see, every morning I use my hip little Italian one-cup stovetop coffee brewer.  It was perfect for camping across the country and it still works just as well.  I get up early, shower, put my coffee on, do my hair, and then when the coffee's ready - wham! - something happens and I don't get to drink a hot, whole cup.  Even if I'm good and prepared and have my travel mug ready to go, with all my stuff by the door, and I make it out to the car and am accompanied on the way to work by a hot steaming travel mug, I don't finish it.  White-knuckle driving or singing to the music or some other far-off day-dreaming keep my distracted from my cup.

At work, forget it.  I even tried to take in a hot carafe of coffee, the big kind with the silver lining that pretty much ensured that the coffee stayed hot for a good three hours, sure that at some given moment in the day I would be able to savor a whole hot cup, but alas.  Someone or something always interferes, and even if it seems worth it, like good conversation or a productive meeting, it leaves me feeling sad. Always my mug goes home with a few table spoons of coffee swirling around in the car, that inevitably spill on my coat, my books or my lap as I load it up for the long cold drive home.

And so it is that the only place in my happy little life that I have the chance to savor a whole hot cup in one complete and productive sitting is in a coffee shop.  Thank heaven for them!  This must have been the same allure for Parisians hundreds of years ago as they sat on the squares under fanciful umbrellas at cute little chairs and tables just right for two cups or three, sipping and gossiping and looking and talking and philosophizing and finally getting to the bottom of it all - the bottom of the cup.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I'd Be Darling At It

There's a saying going around on the internet, I don't know what it's like to be a millionaire but I bet I'd be darling at it. It dates back to ? Kate Spade has a bag and a cuzi for your phone with it emblazoned on them.

Well, gosh darn it, Duh. Don't you think we'd all be darling at it?  Really I would. About ninety percent of the people I know'd be darling at it. It's being darling at the hard stuff that counts.

Like being a good mom. Or a homemaker. Or a cook. Or a wife. Or a coworker. Or a daughter. Or a sister. Or a skier. Or a skater. Or a seamstress. Or a whatever the hell you want to be.

You see I tried to be darling this morning.  I woke up early to get my son ready for the Klondike derby for Boy Scouts.  I went in his room and quietly whispered to him that it was 6:20 and what would he most like for breakfast?  Anything. Pancakes? Waffles? (Even though the waffle iron is down the basement and the basement is really cold this morning.) A bagel and egg sandwich?  Anything. So he placed his order for a bagel with "the egg and sausage on the plate."  As in, not-a-sand-wich. Got it.  Here comes the darling mom part.  I didn't even wake up my husband.  I was going to drive Matt to the church for his ride to the Derby so he didn't have to go out into the falling snow.  Darling wife too.  
I cooked without making any noise. Darling co-habitator.  I made eggs over-hard and over-easy.  I made my coffee and poured my cream.  I was perfectly darling. It was still before 6:30.  And then I realized there was no noise.  But then I heard it.  He was up.  We were fine.  I was darling.  And then my husband came downstairs.  Hmmm.  Do you want eggs?  No.  He reached for the cereal.  Not so darling.  Still no other noise.  Is Matt up?  NO.  Wake him up.  Ask him ten million questions.  Where is this?  Where is that?  Do you have this?  YES.  YES.  YES.  Not so darling.  Comes downstairs.  Here are your eggs.  No time for that.  Not so darling.  Where are your underarmour liner pants?  Couldn't find them.  Not so darling.  It's now 6:55.  Late.  Not so darling.  Out the door with "Dad will drive me" and a Sandwich.  No to the hot- chocolate-I-made-so-you-can-stay-warm-on-the-drive?  Not so darling.
It lasted all of ten minutes.  I was darling at it.

I'd also be darling at having a clean house, if I didn't have children.
I'd be darling at having children, if I didn't have a house to keep clean.
I'd be darling at being a daughter, if I wasn't preparing a chicken pot pie at the same time my mother was sitting at the kitchen table telling me her story and sipping tea.  Why didn't I sit down and listen?  CPP be damned.
I'd be darling at cooking, if I didn't get sucked into a movie with my daughter and didn't keep saying, "Did we take the biscotti out of the oven?" Yes.  (But you forgot, darling, that you put the Chicken Pot Pie in the oven when the biscotti were done.)
I'd be darling at sitting down to play games with my kids, if there wasn't a Lego Nerf gun on the couch where I like to sit.  (They are pretty much the same thing, and they get preferred seating in our house no matter how much I yell and am not so darling.)
I'd be darling at running, if I wasn't so tired.
I'd be darling at ALL OF IT, if I wasn't doing all of it.
The part to navigate is how to seem semi-darling at all of it.  My darling moments today included answering the phone when one of my son's friends called and I didn't want to talk to him.  I was trying to be darling by using all the left overs to make a CPP.  And maybe lighting the candles for dinner.  That was darling.  Does that count?  I was trying to be darling when we sat at dinner and asked Matt 8 million more questions about the Derby that he did.not.want.to.answer. because a.) he was exhausted, and b.) he was hungry.  And then I was darling when I tried to apologize but he rolled his eyes at me and I wasn't darling then.

So, how to be darling:  I picture Doris Day, or Eva Gabor, or Marilyn Monroe or Dorothy Parker.  What did they do?

Sit on couches with long cigarettes and watch and laugh.  I'd be darling if I could get away with wearing that dress all day.
So in this era - Clear your house of all expectations.  Forget the jobs you have to do.  Forget the house and the cooking and the movie you're watching.  Don't pick up a book.  Don't get sucked into anything.  Don't have any expectations that your kids will answer questions, or wear warm clothes, or clean up their toys. Just sit and watch and wait and laugh.  You'll be darling at it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Perfectly Lumpy

It's another cold winter morning in the Northeast, with more snow predicted!  That's fine by me.  I can handle one more wintery blast, although my toes would argue.  They are in their own permafrost.  We came across an old baby calendar a few weeks ago, mixed in somehow with the Christmas decorations, and I had written down funny things the kids said.  According to the calendar, Jay called it "Snow Bites" instead of frost bite.  That's how I feel, snowbites, on my toes.  All the time.

Anyway, my surefire cure-all for snowbites is Cream of Wheat, that childhood comfort food like no other.  Morning, afternoon snack, or dinner, Cream of Wheat is so good.  Butter, honey, sugar, whatever.  The funny thing is that this is one of the few things I had in common with my brother.  He and I were very different in lots of ways, but Cream of Wheat was one of our strongest bonding points.  No one else in our family really liked it all that much, and if they did, they liked it Creamy.  Austin and I liked it Lumpy.  And I could make it Perfectly Lumpy.  I remember standing in our kitchen on the orange yellow linoleum tile and Austin requesting that I make it, not mom.  I felt so honored and so good, so expert at something.  So I did.  I made Perfectly Lumpy Cream of Wheat.  This is one of our stories.  The thing is, I can't remember all the details.  Did I make it a lot?  Was it just once?  Memories play tricks on us.  I want to know how old we were.  Was it on our way to school?  Was it on a snow day?  Why did he like mine best?  Did anyone else eat with us?  In my memory it was just the two of us, sitting in the kitchen with our steaming bowls and all the accoutrements.  Maybe watching snow fall, maybe it was a Two-Hour Delay.  Maybe it was after we shoveled outside.  I don't know.  There are lumps in my memories.  I wish I could ask him.  Wish I could go back and laugh about it with him.  Wish I could make it for him again.  I enjoy making it for my two boys; the others don't like it.  Jay and Charlie like it Lumpy just like we did.  I want to tell them, Remember this.  Remember every detail about it.  Remember our old white tile kitchen floor and the curtains and the crooked table that the bowls slide off if you're not careful.  Remember that you are talking hockey again and it is just the two of you and the others are off getting ready somewhere.  Remember that your homework is one the table and you have your orange pajamas and one sock on.  Someday these memories, these stories will bring you back to a moment that you will treasure, a nugget of gold in an otherwise crazy life.  The thing is, growing up together, it's not just that you know each other's stories, you are each other's stories.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Slide Show

I'm learning to create slide shows using all kinds of Apple programs.  These are not the old slide shows from when I was small.  Countless Sunday evenings my grandmother would visit for dinner and my father would take out the old slide projector and line up each slide just right so that we could view and review the last few weeks of our lives again in pictures.  It was always so much fun.  I'll never forget my Uncle John's slide show when he photographed my Aunt Doris slicing a banana and then showed it in reverse order so that the banana went back together.  I was about 8 or 9 and I remember laughing so hard!
These days slide shows are much easier to create.   Choose pictures, upload, set to music, edit, delete, and show.  My husband created a fantastic one from our California trip last year that we've watched over and over again.  It takes us back in time and gives us back those days if just for a moment.  We see the moments when we all posed, when we were lost in wonder at the geysers in Yellowstone, when we were enjoying meals together, when we were having fun.
Life - not so much.  These days are speeding by.  I haven't blogged since August when I started my new job. I've thought of so many things I was going to write, like Take Your Vitamins, because it's full speed ahead in August and September getting the kids back to school.  Like Catch Your Breath, because when I'm watching the boys round second in fall baseball, I'm reminded of how I feel when I've run the race of the day and I'm so relieved to get home and take a breath.  And Gear Up because the holidays are approaching.  But I can't even catch up because the days are "advancing" by and I wish I could change the transition time, the duration, like I can on Power Point.  I wish I could edit out all the moments when I'm not my best, when I forgot the 'camera' was on and the kids were listening and I snapped a little to quickly at the spilled milk and the story of forgotten homework or a poor test grade.  I wish I could go back and crop the picture that reveals a little too much of my bad side and my bad hair day, and I hope the kids don't remember those moments.  I hope they remember a mom who always had time for them and listened when they told a story, the Whole story.  A mom who put down and turned off the cell phone, instead of trying to listen and text at the same time and doesn't look up, and says "I'm listening- I just have to do one thing more."  Forget the crime of texting and driving, how about texting and listening.  Instead I try to multitask and say I could never get it done without doing it all at once, but I'm not doing well at all.
In my new classroom we are learning to do small things well.  Lucy Calkins talks about the Small Moments and just focusing on one when we write our stories.  I'm learning as I'm teaching it.  We focus on just capital letters in one assignment, just word wall words in another, and maybe by February we'll do it all a little better.  We'll remember to use capitals and periods and adjectives in our writing.  We can go back and edit and review and make it 'look pretty.'
The year is already a quarter of the way done.  The first graders I'm with have already lost teeth, lost some of the baby-fat I saw in their first pictures of the school year.  Four of the six people in this house are in new schools, high school, middle school, Catholic School.  The slide show keeps advancing.  I want to go back the way my father could and see the days again and say, "Wait, can you go back?  Zoom in, right there, who was that at the party?"  "What were we eating?"  "What were we laughing so hard about?" He was always very patient with the slide show.  He would take his time and my grandmother would tell stories about each person in the pictures and bring us up to date with any news about cousins and aunts and all the people in the pictures.  Maybe that's the lure of SportsCenter in this house, you get to rewatch and review everything in sports all day long.  Real life, not so much.
Matt just got home from a Boy Scout camping trip that consisted of  three days, two nights and two states.  When we were waiting for him to get home last night, my husband said, "We'll never get the whole story.  We've missed so much."  We'll never hear the play by play of his days away from us.  We'll never know what his life was like those three days, the driving, the conversation, the people, the views, the hiking, the pitching of the tent, the cooking, the sleeping, the camping.  We'll get snippets of his days and a few weeks from now he'll say, "Oh yeah, I never told you this... I forgot about this..."  We'll get the cropped story, the slide show version and that's ok.  But I'll be sure to put my cell phone away and listen, because there is no replay on those days.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Secret Garden Bath

Back to Design!  How fun is that?  I wish I had a degree in design of some kind because it really is a science.   There is so much to know, so much to figure out, so much to SHOP FOR (heeheeheehee;)!  So I've been all over, on line and in person, in stores and outlets, in warehouses and other people's basements!  It's kind of ridiculous.  But now the contractor is here and things are progressing...
Here is the before shot and all the goodies that are going in...

for some reason I can't find the real before pictures.  I thought I took them to send in to Nate, but I can't find them now.  So these will have to do.

First the floor inspiration!  (JK - these are the floors at the Phillies game.  Everyone who walks in this bathroom, says, "Wow these look like grass!  Look, the tile looks just like glass."  Now it has taken me years to get over the "Look,-there's-an-airplane" thing, that horrible speech-petrifying syndrome that affects all new moms until their kids are about 10, when we point out Everything That Moves, like trains, planes, and cows, and I'm still tempted to do it at outdoor bars with grownup adults who know what an airplane looks like, but I'm always amused when we do it still over lots of things that are perfectly obvious.  Anyway... I digress.  And I am not doing a baseball bathroom.)

So here is the floor tile.  We are going to try to install it ourselves - DIY - difficult, icky, yucky!
This is the sink I found at Restore for $90 complete with faucets!  I Love Restore!  It has some hidden gems that you have to search for, but they are there!  If you are in the mood for a Teal bath, they have a teal pedestal sink and matching tile to go for dirt cheap.  Go ahead - go for it!  I should've taken pictures.
The base.

 The sink which now occupies significant space in our bedroom.

Annie reading in a perfectly sunny spot having taken the cushions off the lounge chairs that they were designed for, while I work, work, work!

The retro faucets!

A towel hook bar from Target on clearance because I have given up on towel bars.  They are not as useful or functional.

Then we found ourselves down in Delaware in every design maiden's haven - Interior Alternative.  The outlet for everything Waverly and beyond.  I have never regretted one purchase here AND we got everything 40-50% off!  Yeah!  Off their outlet prices!

They have everything you can imagine!

This is the one Annie found for our girls bathroom Shower Curtain.  Not quite what I had in mind but it works.  And at $5.25 a yard, I'm very happy!

Rows of glorious fabric!
We got it home and were all excited...until...

We found this old tile under the floor boards in the bathroom.  
IT is almost a PERFECT match!  Du-do-du-do-du-do-du-do!  Love finding old stuff in the walls, just wish it was money!
Weird? right, because this is the 3rd time this has happened: Once in the living room with navy blue walls, once in my room with pale blue walls, and now with the tile! It just makes me realize the house is speaking to me, or at least Annie cause she's the one who picked it out!
These are the wall sconces.  Much bigger in person than the website picture, but we are going to make it work.  Plus a few items from Amazon.com, really great deals on toilets, mirrors, and hooks, etc., to make it all work.  
Now you may be thinking that this is all a bit too feminine.  The round bath, the curvy sink, the little pale blue polka dots but that's the deal.  But this is the ultimate in women's liberation, you know.  This bath will be shared not by my husband and I, no, but my daughter and I.  Yes, we have a Women's bath, and a Men's bath.  The way God intended.  Women's liberation has come a long way, even in France, where they no longer use Mademoiselle!  But not so far as to make this momma want to clean up after the men.  They can manage that just fine on their own, thank you very much.  Or is it the opposite?  That true women's libbers really want to have their own space?  I don't know - all I know is we are all just fine with this arrangement.  No one wants to see the other's "Junk".  I tease my male hairdresser that it's not really fair to his girlfriend that he knows all our secrets.  And there should be a few secrets - our Secret Garden.  That's what we'll call it - our Secret Garden Bath.
So we'll be putting it all together, with the new tub.  However, I've been overruled and we are getting The Tub reglazed.  All my hard work, all those days in the heat, all that time scrubbing all the nasties out, and we have decided that to get it glazed is the best option... so stay tuned.  There's more fun to come!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back Roads

So just a little recap of our summer... Yes, there are EXACTLY four weeks left.  Four Tuesday mornings from now the kids will be back in school.  At least JJ and I will be.. the other kids get until Thursday.  LUU-cky!  I am going back soon too... well, more about that later.
So what to do?  Plan your next four weeks - every single day.  What will you do?  It's entirely up to you.  I started my calendar last week and I still have some blanks to fill in but I'm going to accomplish as much as I can.  We have two days scheduled for Out and About Stuff, cleaning closets, shopping for floor tiles, etc., and two days of Away Stuff, going to the beach, going to Grounds for Sculpture, visiting Daddy at work for lunch, and one Home Day, wear pajamas all day and just do nothing, sweet-summery nothing.  Hopefully those coincide with the Rainy Days!
If you don't know where to begin, look up your State Parks.  There are lots of things to do out there.  Even looking a good old fashioned map and finding a little watering hole would be great.  Pack a chair, a fishing rod, and a sandwich and you're good to go.   Go to your library on the way - Librarians always know where to direct you and they can give you a good read for when the fish aren't biting.
Here's another great site National Recreation Trails.  We found one so close to home we can ride bikes there.  You never know what's right around the bend.
Here are the picks I took:
Isn't this amazing?  Apparently it was an ice house back in the day.

The main house, newly renovated.  The funny thing is, I used to ride my bike here when I was in high school  and it was all overgrown and hidden and I felt I'd found a secret garden house.  So cool.

When I peeked in this crack in the door I half expected to find someone looking at me!


Great old kitchen in Cook's Blue - the color they believed kept flies away!

Picture a part out here in 1890...

Marble slab step.

Through the window.

Easy to find and enjoy!

On our summer travels this year we've been taking a lot of back roads, either to avoid traffic or find a little off beat path.  Usually to avoid traffic.  But we've been surprised when we are back there on the back roads, little old farm houses, a park with paths and lakes and streams, all kinds of stuff.   When we see that Detour sign, and we're forced to make alternate routes, we feel that sense of dread like we may never get home, that our destination is just too far away.  But then we see little reminders that there is no rush.  That the journey is a good one and we'll get where we're going, even if it's a little longer, a little slower.
In our busy lives we feel the same way when the job doesn't come through, when the kids get sick, when we get sick.  When someone has hurt us or something has struck us, a fire, a catastrophe, an accident.  Yet sometimes these are just reminders to look at the Back Roads, follow the detours and we'll find our way to our destination, our dream job, our dream house, our dream, even if it's not the path we imagined - it may look more like a trail that goes no where.  But slow down a little, the signs say.  Look up and around.   Sometimes we have to go back to go forward.  Just around the bend. Pearl Jam has a great song "Around the Bend."  There's a Sun Around the Bend.  And it might be closer than you think.

Monday, August 5, 2013


This is the first summer in a long time that I've had a real garden.  I still remember our first 'home' where I had a small flower garden outside our back door.  It was next to the driveway, a little raised bed made with stone that matched the house we were renting in Ridgewood.  I planted Zinnias and Tomatoes.  Almost 18 years ago.

Anyway, this summer I was not expecting much.  I mean my expectations were really low.  I just figured I'd stick some stuff in the ground and keep visiting farmer's markets and kind of faking it.  But now I'm so happy to announce the birth of our first... Watermelon!  It's real too!  A Sugar Baby Watermelon.  8 pounds, 6 ounces.  I think.  Not ready to eat yet, but it will be soon!

Honestly I feel like a new mom.  Well not quite but this was a complete surprise.  I planted the garden in a little patch on the side of our house where I know there is a lot of sun.  It's also cheating a little because the sprinkler system hits here every morning around 5am.  So I was able to ignore this garden when we were on vacation or busy or whatever.  It just kind of did it's own thing.  Which is why when I looked outside the border created, under the gutter that served as a border, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this:

Goof balls!

And there'll be tomatoes!

And more watermelon!

And is anything more beautiful in the world than a perfect Morning Glory!

More babies!
Until everything ripens, I'm visiting the farmer's market.  Here's the loot from Saturday:
Yes, I guess there are farms that grow Donuts!  There must be something healthy about them because they are Apple Cider donuts - serving of fruit?  Now that's a market I can invest in.

Ready to slice...
It's not too late to plant.  August is perfect for planting lettuce seeds, herbs and lots of good stuff you can harvest well into October.  It's nice to have your fingernails caked in mud but then to eat your very own fruits of your labor!  No matter what else in life seems out of control or beyond our control, plant something and  yield great returns.