Thursday, August 20, 2009

Agony. Worse than yoga!!

Inspired by a "friend" (really, a torture-promoter) I went on what will hopefully be a diet modification for me in the form of a non-fasting cleanse. What does that mean? It means no caffeine, sugar, wheat, dairy. At all. I thought it wouldn't be that bad, that I wasn't really hooked on anything, especially not those 2-3 pesky cups of coffee in the morning. All my life I have managed to skate by any kind of real addiction, regardless of an unhealthy love of illegal substances, and I stopped smoking by throwing a pack of Camel Lights out of my car and never missed it. But this has been, well, truly awful. Hideous. Splitting headaches, cold, icky sweats, a desire to curl up and be by myself where my moans of agony won't give the six year-old bad dreams, or cause the dogs to worriedly nudge me with their wet cold noses over and over again. Or, barring that, just to be sedated (heavily) like people in Hazeldon are while they detox. Granted, they are serious junkies, but judging from my week '0 hell, I am too. What has been the most interesting is that what I crave is NOT sugar (even though I know that a cold Coke would cause all of my symptoms to vanish) but spicy, hot stuff. The very memory of how coffee tastes is utterly repellant to me now. I have gone wheat-free in the past, in an attempt to vanquish migraines, (didn't work), I quit coffee immediately when I found out that the mold on our shower curtain was NOT what was making me throw up every day, but a 12 week old fetus, and I was fine. FINE. I was a vegan for about 9 months when I first moved to Telluride but simply could not go without cheese, and all of these episodes were easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy as Ella would say. But for some reason the combination of ALL sinful substances has brought me to my knees. I cannot remember feeling this bad for this many days in a row since I was knocked up. I never missed a single day of work last year for being sick! So. We'll see. I've no doubt I can go without the coffee, and seriously slash my sugar intake, but a nice piece of toast in the morning as opposed to my soy milk and rice powder shake? Maybe not.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back, and pinker than ever



Back. With no real reasons/excuses/apologies besides a lack of consistent Internet and a lack of time/desire/will. Right now I am on a home-improvement kick. It is incredibly satisfying AND fun!! Most of the goals on my house to-do list have gotten a line drawn through them this summer, and only two more major projects are left: removing the kitchen wallpaper, painting the kitchen, and installing hardware on the flat-front cabinets. The cabinets are, like everything else, original to the townhouse, meaning circa 1978. And while I would like some glass-fronted ones, they are in incredible shape and I am loathe to tear out anything that is in perfect working order. So. House painted. CHECK. New fridge, aka "The Boyfriend." CHECK. Ella's room. CHECK. Under-stairs storage and tool shed storage organized and thinned. CHECK. Ella's room now looks like something out of a house not owned by me. It is girly and pretty and pink and girly and coordinated...and so we shall take a look.




This is so far from my room as a kid that I can't believe it. Pink walls, psychotically expensive Pottery Barn duvet cover and shams...Ella was not particularly excited about the bedding, as her little heart's desire was leaning towards the quilt appliqued with cupcakes and kittens but I just. Could. Not. Do. It.


18-dollar Ikea "chandelier." Slightly off-kilter but has been righted since installation. I love this thing. Love it.


Close-up of Liberty print duvet and shams. The adorable sheets were made by me: rick rack sewn to plain white Target sheets. The next day I scored some heavy white cotton curtains at the thrift store, and they will also have the pink rick rack sewn on. Then I will turn my attentions to my room.

All of this has been done for more than one reason, but the primary one is that it is now time for her to learn to sleep without her body pressed against someone else, namely me. I love it and hate it at the same time. I could wait, but every year she seems LESS inclined to move out, and there are things I want her to be able to do, namely spend the night at a friend's house and go to camp for a few weeks in another year to two. I have been letting her fall asleep on her own, with just that massive stuffed penguin for company for two nights now, and she is fine. One step at a time...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Make it stop

Well, I can't tell a lie (actually, I can, but that would be a whole 'nother post). I used to think, in my more horrifyingly judgemental pre-and just-post baby days, that people that rented out birthday parties for their kids were lame. I mean, how could you NOT want to have your house invaded, do a fuckload of work for the human you love more than anything else-bearing in mind that the same human is incapable of thanking you for another 22 years or so, buy food that will either garner complaints OR not get eaten and thrown away (possibly both) and slave over a cake that, in all reality will NOT taste better than the ones at Sugarland...and so on. And on. Why would you just want to show up at your own offspring's party location, do a little delegating, write a check and...leave.
Now, with the countdown to Flipper's party a mere 5 days away (a fact she reminds of every 6.7 seconds or so) I have seen the light. I am promising the world NEVER AGAIN. I will BUY Spence's Farm, I will pay the high school girls to throw the party and supervise, I will do anything to avoid the Party Store one more time. I cannot bear the stress. How on earth do people get married? My inner control-freak, always hovering just below the surface, leaps forth every May when her birthday rolls around. My desire to avoid the whole thing is only marginally outpaced by the guilt that accompanies it: why can't I love it as much as she does? Why am I not "in the moment" with her as she selects hideous paper plates; why do I contemplate ways to return them and get ones I like? Since the plates are so important and all. Fucking paper plates. For a party that isn't even mine!! Why am I such a lame mother, ready for the day to pass, worried about food and games and whether or not she will be able to make it through without sobbing hysterically over some sort of teeny tiny mostly imagined slight from a friend? My checklist is massive; only a few things have been checked off. I am worried about all of, surely there is a better way. And we only invited 4 kids!!! My hat is OFF to the parents that invite 20 or so; how can they? Now I must stop for I am driving even myself completely insane. Please, please let it be sunny. Please, no rain. I beg of whatever deity has thrown down such awful weather this spring to hold off on Sunday. If I could find a reverse Hatfield, I would. I really would.

Monday, April 27, 2009

To Buy or Not to Buy

Flipper is thwarting my birthday plans for her by not wanting what I want to give her for her birthday. That might just be the most poorly-formulated sentence I have ever written. She really really wants a "grown up" American Girl Doll. Basically, that means a doll with hair. Lots of hair. Flipper is obsessed with hair. I am actually OK with the American Girl Doll marketing and money-sucking juggernaut; the dolls don't look like sluts, nor do they have the artificial bodies of a stripper, with no ass and huge tits. And since I have no intention of wasting precious tourist-hours on some sort of store that has honest-to-god adults pretending that the dolls are real, I think I am relatively safe. HOWEVER...
Flipper is not complying. By this I mean she is not embracing the doll and historical time period that I want her to. I WANT THE COLONIAL DOLL!!!! Who cares what she wants??? Perhaps I should care a bit more than I actually do. She even went so far as to request a doll that looks like her. I cannot bear the Mini-Me dolls. Plus, the clothes are tacky. And they lack some sort of peaches-and-cream, sunshine-and-rainbows "historical" context that suckers parents like me into plunking down some big bucks in the hopes that my child will learn more than how to be a hairdresser. And so, I am torn: buy her what she truly wants, buy her what I want her to have, (knowing full well how incredibly lame that is), or try to find some sort of "compromise." Like I said...I am torn. Maybe the prairie-girl. Maybe a Mini-Me doll with historical clothes. Maybe I should just stop mind-fucking this to death and buy something already.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A boring but good day

Sick headache notwithstanding, today was a good day. Except for the weather. It is simply impossible for there to be more than 48 hours of nice weather in a row this spring. After work Grampy and I went to a small restaurant in downtown Durham called "Toast" (it specializes in panini, crostini, etc., en route to the library. I had an EXCELLENT panini: chopped, cooked kale, ricotta salata, and pickled hot and sweet peppers. I've never thought of putting greens like kale, collards, etc., on a sandwich, but it was incredible. Also a nice side salad with a touch of fresh mint in the light vinaigrette dressing. Then on to the library where I checked out 9 books in under 15 minutes. Grampy got two. Home with yucky headache; dozed off and on for a few hours while Ella was a perfect angel; she played in her room quietly, brought me homemade "get well" cards every few minutes...she was great. I rousted myself at 5:15 and took a boiling hot bath with a new book and then we had supper, a good one for a chilly, grey day: homemade macaroni and cheese (mine is very, very good-flavored with modesty), roasted asparagus, and fake ribs. We call them "riblets." Ella is getting a bit more aware of how much she loves to eat meat, and that it is all a dead animal. Driving past Allen and Son the other day she commented on just how good meat tasted...and how sad it is that it is dead. Slowly, slowly creeps vegetarianism towards her...we'll see.
Nothing, but nothing makes me happier than a huge stack of library books to burn through.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Yay, Big Chain Store!

I have to give a little shout-out to CVS, our local pharmacy (yes, yes, I know it is a big chain) for their stellar array of Easter candy!! I was denied at Harris Teeter, which had only large bags of candy, much more than one child could consume, and the chocolate bunny was about a foot tall and cost 10 bucks. But they had a few cute things, and then I went next door. I actually successfully avoided Southern Season, which I adore for their incredible display of candy, but last year I spent 30 bucks on Easter goods, because I found them so hard to resist!!! I was determined to stay very close to home. Plus, I am trying to eke out 12 days of driving on one tank of gas. Sister called from Colorado; she had been candy-shopping for her boyfriend's children as well. We compared sugar-notes. It is hard to stop, to not go nutty over the vast array of things available to buy. It is hard to resist the siren's call of cool things, cleverly packaged. It is a constant astonishment to me how very successful advertising is at stoking our "desire" boilers. Ella has our childhood baskets, which were undoubtedly typical of the early 70's, and yet they look positively puny next to the massive baskets kids have today. The beauty of the small, however, is that it cannot be filled with too much, and so I stopped after the blue chocolate "robin's eggs", the much-coveted chocolate bunny (many inches less than 12) and my favorite purchase: tiny "cartons" with speckled egg-shaped pieces of gum. It is sunny after an evening of rain; I can count on one hand how many times I actually WANT it to rain, but I did yesterday. The storms did what I hoped they would: washed the pollen away for a few days. It is clean and clear outside, and we will spend much of our day OUT IN IT.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Break. Cold and Icky.

It is Spring Break. Except that it is not spring; it is chilly and cloudy and yuck. I think our tentative camping plans are off the table, especially considering that Grampy and Smokey are going sailing on Thursday, which negates any potential dog-sitting. So we will stay here, and I will try to find things for Ella to do, and people for her to play with. Ever a tiring task. I wish we were off somewhere, but we're not.
Ella's break, however, is more fun than mine. She is spending half of every day with the grandparents, which means endless attention, little projects, and today, the fulfillment of a minor dream: tennis lessons!! She cannot wait. How fun it is to see what grabs her interest, what she wants to pursue. She already has a little racket, and smacks the ball on a string that hangs in my parents' garage. It is hung so it rests against my dad's windshield when he pulls in, telling him to stop. The rest of us use our eyes for this task. Anyway, she can bang it for hours, counting how many she can get in a row. I think her record is somewhere in the 40's. So today at 11 she has a private lesson with the tennis pro at my parents' club. Last night-this was adorable-she set out her clothes, ready for action. 2 years ago she would have been too shy to take a lesson with a stranger; now, she can't wait.
My parents, players both, signed Sister and myself up for lessons, and we lasted for exactly one. It was summer. At our club, and the pool, coolly shimmering, only 50 yards away. But now I kind of wish I had learned. It seems like fun exercise.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Here comes...real grass.

I must confess that I am feeling pretty fucking smug right now, over something so pathetically minor that it is almost embarrassing to relate: our homegrown Easter basket grass WORKED!! It was a success!! No hideous crunchy plastic "grass"!! Below, the evidence:



So cute!!! This is 7 days of growth. The basket is mine from 1973, according to what is written on the bottom. Sister's, by virtue of having more pink in it, has become the activity basket, able to leave for field trips, such as the one we took to an Easter Egg party in our old neighborhood today. It was highly successful, as shown by the victor below:


She also adhered to the "three pieces" rule of candy consumption with nary a whiny complaint to be heard, thank god. Each egg in her basket (she crushed the other kids) held a few pieces of candy, which made for quite a haul.
Once home, we walked the damn dogs and then Ella achieved another teeny tiny milestone, one noted only by me: she took a shower, not a bath, by herself, washing her hair, scrubbing her toes, etc. A new era, really.
Tomorrow is my birthday, and for the first time in my whole life I have nothing planned; indeed, it feels like nothingness. But, for some reason, I don't mind that no one seems to remember or care about it save family, and I will do nothing but go to work and come home. No cake, no dinner out with friends, no nothing. I have read that you truly become an adult when your parents die, when you have a child of your own. But I think it is when you no longer care about your birthday.



Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sun. Finally.

Finally, finally, the sun is out. After ANOTHER week of blowsy, grey, rainy weather, the skies finally cleared early yesterday morning and it became sparkly and blue and very breezy. After a rather trying week at work I had the whole afternoon free. It started with a lunch at Sandwhich, a place I adore. Grampy had never been, even though at heart is a Chapel Hill-Carrboro person (even though he won't admit it) and I was eager for him to try it out. He got the sardine sandwich, Ella got the comte grilled cheese with housemade harissa ketchup, and I had the goat cheese BLT, instead of the outrageous BLT, which is what I usually get. Ella loved the ketchup, which had a nice kick to it, but wasn't frightfully hot, but she liked Grampy's sardine sandwich even more. One of the two owners enjoyed her rather expanded palate, and told us that her 6 year-old likes sandwiches of fruit leather on a roll. My shock and horror was tempered by he creative mind that decided to create this in the first place!! It also reminded me that I want to make my own fruit leather one of these days. How I want to make everything like instead of buying it, and yet how very lazy I am, how very UN-Little House on the Prairie I really am when it comes right down to actually doing the work. But maybe I'll change my ways. I have houseguests, which I normally get maybe once or twice a year, and I cannot tell you how glad I am to have a sunny day in which to frolic about the Triangle.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Drinking

We are walking in the graveyard.
It is raining.
She has her face about .5 inches from the ground.
Here is why: "I like to lick the raindrops off the clover."
I keep walking.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Walk

Today on our walk we saw a dead raccoon. I do not have any idea what killed it, maybe rabies. BUT...on it were several huge turkey vultures. The dogs went absolutely insane, chasing the birds away, barking like mad, Sophie the gentle Doberman with all of her hackles up racing to and fro, barking at the sky...it was wonderful. Ella and I laughed a long, long time. I used to fear that her sense of humor would stay stuck at Knock Knock jokes (which she still cannot comprehend) but now I know she will be just fine. Just a little demented like Sister and myself.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring is coming, even though it is still cold!!

Flipper and I are going to do a cute little Easter-Springtime project; we are going to grow real grass in her Easter basket in preparation for the Bunny's largess instead of that frightful, crunchy green strands of plastic. I saw this on a blog I read regularly last spring, and have been waiting to give it a shot. We have purchased the wheatgrass seed packets, and gathered some potting soil. Yesterday Flipper delved into our storage area under the stairs and unearthed our Easter box. Her basket is my sister's old one, mine is in there too. They are 38 years old!!!! She also discovered a bunch of plastic eggs, and in one she found perfectly good Play-Doh, and in another, 3 foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. They'll be for dessert tonight, I think. I will take pictures as we go along. From her school I have learned to value of doing things slowly, step by step by step, and having children wait in between each one. Today we will line the baskets with plastic, this week-end we will fill them with soil, a few days after that we will add the seeds, and so on. Maddening, is it not? So different from my own inclination to do everything at once, as fast as possible. Good for both of us. I just hope it works!!!! I will take pictures of the ancient baskets and our project as we go along.
This week-end was a good one; one of the teachers at the school and I mentioned to each other how we needed something good to happen. There was a dance on Saturday night, of which I was a chaperon. Shocking, really. I was so impressed with how well ALL the students dressed, boys included!! Suits, ties, nice vests-nary a pair of jeans in the whole throng. The girls, of course, couldn't wait to dress up. They all looked wonderful. They were all good, (as far as I know!) and hopefully had a good time. I saw a few random acts of kindness, and it did a lot to give me something good right now.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Back.

My wanderlust is insatiable lately, the trip to Florida merely whetting the desire to travel endlessly rather than putting it to rest for a time. My fantasy: tons of money, with which I would first take Ella out of school, and we would literally travel around the world, every continent, many countries, chasing the sun as so to stay warm for much of the year we would be gone. Then, upon return, we would purchase a small Airstream trailer and spend every summer and school break traveling throughout North America; I want to return to Baja California and make it all the way down to Cabo san Lucas (I've been halfway) and take the Al-Can Highway up to Alaska. I used to think I was a homebody... but I'm not. Thank god Ella loves travel as much as I do.
Now I am trying to gauge how much it would cost for us to camp on the Outer Banks during part of her upcoming spring break. The Banks have multiple campgrounds, some run by the National Park Service, and some privately owned. The Park Service ones are more "us"-fewer RV's, no pools, game rooms, etc. But they offer only cold showers, and I want to take at least one hot shower during a 3-4 day stay. And...no electricity. Which means I must find another way to make coffee in the morning. Shockingly, for a NC native, I have never been to the Outer Banks. So I have never seen the lighthouse, or the Wright Museum, etc. At least gas is a decent price right now! My other fear is cold: it will be either brutally windy and frigid, or warm and bug-free. I wish I already had a tiny RV, it would make this decision a lot easier! One of the things I love about Ella the most is her sheer toughness, her ability to suck it up and deal with being cold and uncomfortable with minimal whining. So we'll see. It is on my radar right now. The secret of life? Always have something to look forward to.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Down South

We are on our trip, currently sitting in a hotel in Waycross, GA, aka "the middle of nowhere." Yesterday's flights went off without a hitch, we arrived early to both Charlotte and Jacksonville, and flew in on THIS PLANE.




The plane of winners, apparently. Perhaps that was why it was so fast. We flew over the coast of Georgia, and I bribed Flipper with three Gummi Bears to let me sit by the window so I could look down at coastal flats and islands and serpentine rivers. Then we flew over St Simons, and I recognized The King and Prince and the pier, then over Jekyll, which is surprisingly undeveloped still; long empty beaches. Then Cumberland, one of the most amazing places ever-largely untouched, a National Seashore. Could not see any horses from the air, but I know they are there, the herds of wild horses. Once I saw a whole herd of them running through the surf on the deserted beach, and rolling in the sand. Amazing. Dinner on the island, so fun with Whitney's girls and Whitney herself. Unlike myself as a kid, Flipper has an amazing ability to make friends with just about any kid she comes in contact with. I think it is an only-child thing.


Flipper and Avery at dinner.


Some of the island has changed, things look a touch more upscale, but much of it is the same. Same houses, same massive live oaks dripping Spanish moss, same hotels. Same people. It is supposed to be clear today, so hopefully the grey will recede, and we will head out to the swamp soon. Home of Pogo, for anyone old out there reading this. And to Florida tonight. I could do this forever.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Touch of Spring...

Today feels springlike (almost) and so all the windows are open, the heat is off, and the house is airing out, something I think is crucial to health and well-being. I think it is what keeps Flipper and me from getting colds, sore throats, etc. In an unexpected burst of organizational desire (don't worry, it passed) I rearranged and organized the pantry, a not-too-onerous task, but guilt-inducing just the same. I keep buying food, only to discover, weeks later, that I had sun dried tomatoes, or capers, or peanut butter, or something like that all along. It is maddening. I am trying to get a better handle on meal preparation at night; when I do cook it is healthy and good, but too often I make the same things over and over again. Lame. And I am trying to make something and eat off of it all week long, also not easy for me to do. And so, below, a before-and-after:
BEFORE: a hideous, jumbled mess.
AFTER: organized and a touch more visually appealing. Spring cleaning 2 months early!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sweets to the sweet.

I forgot to mention this when it happened, and want to put it down before I forget it. I was a t Jessica's a few weeks ago, and we were doing what we do best, which is gossiping about celebrities, making fun of silly baby names, and watching trash TV. This time we were fortunate enough to catch a BACK-TO-BACK episode of some Food Network show about how candy is made.
I think I can single-handedly solve America's addiction to candy: make people watch how it is made. I think the same thing about eating less meat: hang out in an abattoir for an hour or so and then try to choke down a hamburger. ANYWAY, the candy-making was frightful. Gross. Icky. The very words the owner/managers used to describe their "product" were gross. And icky. "Peanut butter plugs." "Special dyes and emulsifiers." And, our personal favorite, SLURRY. Fucking slurry!!! From the Jelly Belly folks. What the hell??? The machines used to MAKE the candy were gross. All in all, we wound down the hour knowing full well we would not only be unable to stomach another jelly bean, but that the word "slurry" would forever cause us hysterical laughter and a gag-reflex reaction.
If yo uever get a chance to watch this show, (I think it is called "Unwrapped") please do so. It is the most beautiful blend of fascinating/horrifying.

Monday, January 26, 2009

War and my living thing

This is my 300th post on this blog. I find that terrifyingly narcissistic, but not terrifying enough for me to quit. Yesterday was my mother's 66th birthday, and we celebrated by going to the Weathervane (the restaurant inside Southern Season) for brunch. Let me say now how much I love the Weathervane: great food, great service, and what is BY FAR the best children's menu around. Flipper and I went to Wellspring on the way there and I let Flipper pick out a bouquet for Smokey. She homed in on roses, a mixture of about 6 different colors. They were gorgeous.
Blessedly, her friend E came over for a playdate, and I say blessedly because Saturday was a day of excruciating boredom for both of us. I should try harder to plan out fun activities to do on the week-ends, just one or two. Anything to get out of the house and be around people besides ourselves for a few hours. But I didn't, and she was bored, and turned into a frightful, unhappy brat until we FINALLY went to bed. But Sunday was wonderful, and as so often happens, I eavesdropped on her play with her friend, and thought about how quickly our ideals crumble when reality sets in . What did they play? WAR. Guns, made out of blocks and these plastic Lego-like buildy things. But as I listened, they weren't really shooting each other and falling over dead, or hiding behind some furniture fort. No, they were TALKING about it. Around and around and around.
"Let's play war"
"OK!"
"Here's your gun."
"No, I want the red one."
"It's already mine."
"Who gets to be the bad guy?"
"You."
"No, you."
"No, you."
"Now you shoot me."
"OK"
"Let's play war..."
Someone should send these kids to the Middle East; any adult conflict would die a rapid death simply by dint of exhaustion from repetitive conversation. It was excruciating. But I was surprised at how uncaring I was with their gun-and-sword play. Back in the Perfect Parenting days, you know, back before I actually HAD a baby, I would have not been OK with anything that smacked of guns and violence. Now, well, I think it's OK. It is their imagination. They are clueless, particularly my child that lives a blissful life unaware of the horrors brought into our homes via the television and the endless new coverage any tragedy receives. I don't know that I believe that playing with a gun made out of a Kapla block is going to desensitize her to murder. I will say that I will never let her play video games, particularly ones that involve the endless destruction of something else, and so this play she's engaging in will probably die a natural death like everything else in childhood. I try very hard not to think everything to death, and even though it is an uphill battle at times, I seem to be winning on this front, even though I go back and forth, changing previously-held beliefs with nary a backward glance, and holding tightly to others. This is one of the hidden blessings of (largely) single parenting: unlike Flipper and her friend, I don't have to talk about whether or not it is or is not OK for the kids to play war. Not that they're really playing war, they're really playing diplomacy.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Upcoming

Let's talk about my upcoming trip, shall we? Because I can't wait. I graduated college in 1990, with no job, no goals, no direction, no...nothing. No surprise. I cashed in some DuPont stock inherited from my grandfather, and bought my dream car, the first car I ever owned. A 1987 Isuzu Trooper, a car that saw me across America and back, to and from many Grateful Dead shows, and almost over 1000 ft drop off in Colorado. They perform poorly in snow.

Then I worked as a canoe counselor at a day camp. In August, I impulsively moved to St. Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia, about an hour south of Savannah and an hour north of Jacksonville. I loved it down there. After 3 months at a real job (one of the last I ever had) I worked as a cocktail waitress at Emmeline's, making some of the best money I've ever made. How depressing. I think I won't think about that too much.

While there, my boyfriend (we called him Satan, a nickname that has stuck) and I drove to Disney World, where we nibbled on same tiny bits of mind-altering paper, and had the best time ever. I also saw more freaked out, crying kids than ever, and promised to never take any children of my own there until they were adults, and can go without me. Anyway, after our fun time hiding from huge costumed animals, and being the only grown ups to ride on It's A Small World, we drove to Fort Meyers, then Tarpon Springs, then up to Homosassa.

There is a fantastic little state park there, where the alligators were fed by stringing live chickens across a wire, and the gators would make this incredible leaps to snatch the poor chickens. We saw the manatees, and I fell in love with the whole natural springs, natural part of Florida that has been largely wiped out everywhere else in the state by condos and more condos. And shopping malls. Over winter break, mid-February, my mom and Flipper and I are going there. Smokey has never been to much of Florida, and cannot wait to see the manatees. She has, blessedly, learned to let me and Sister plan trips, as we both love it and are quite good at it. She prefers to simply give us her credit card to book everything, and enjoy herself. A match made in heaven for a planning, control freak like me. Plus, more than the other members of my immediate family, I love Americana. I have been to the Jell-O museum, I have even been here:

This is our itinerary:
Fly from here to Jacksonville, FL. My days of road trips are long over. Very little could induce me to get on I-95 at this stage of the game. Drive the 45 minutes to Waycross, GA, and spend the night in a Holiday Inn, since none of the B&B's I looked at were child-friendly, or had two beds in a room. Bright and early the next morning, we will go to the Okefenokee, a truly incredible natural wonder, and have a guided tour, eat lunch, and then paddle around on our own.
Small picture of the Okefenokee. I have been there once before, and my only memory is watching an otter destroy a dead fish.

That evening we will head towards the Crystal Coast, stopping in Gainesville or nearby for the night. In the morning we will arrive in Homosassa/Crystal River, where we will check into this place:
a motel whose brethren are rapidly, sadly disappearing, to be swallowed up by more chains. That afternoon we will go watch the alligators and go to this state park, then get to bed early to prepare for what promises to be the highlight of our trip: SWIMMING WITH THE MANATEES. Actually getting n the water with these beautiful sea cows and watching them gently meander along. We are taking a private tour with this outfitter:
They look eager to have a human in their midst, don't they??

Our last day will be spent at what some might argue is the ultimate in Americana: Weeki Wachee's mermaids, a show that has been in existence since 1947. Read about them here:
Try not to be too jealous. Or, scorn us for our tackiness!! Either way is fine with me. I will take a million pictures, if I can ever get the color setting reset to be normal on my new camera.

Scary, is she not? Flipper is going to freak out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Snow Day and a New Day



Yesterday was Flipper's Very First Snow Day, meaning it snowed enough for school to be closed, and us to be outside for a large part of the day, minus the three hours we watched the Inauguration and the HBO concert J. had thoughtfully recorded last Saturday. I love snow for several things, but the top two are the white-blue glow that fills our homes and the silence. When Flipper woke up I had her shut her eyes and then carried her to a window. Upon opening them, she was genuinely silenced for about, oh, 5 seconds? But the look in her eyes and on her face was a perfect reflection of wonder. Then we went outside for a long walk, she eating snow the entire time, and me guiltily glad that I wasn't at work, even though I was really looking forward to watching the Inauguration with the high school students.




We headed to the lake for sledding, and Flipper loved it, until a careening sled smacked into her and knocked her completely off her feet. Then, tears. Poor Flipper!! I successfully avoided laughing, and we headed off to JoJo's house to watch the proceedings on her massive TV. I've never watched and Inauguration before, and so had no idea that the incoming prez escorts the outgoing one to a helicopter!! Who knew?? Well, actually, the friends I watched it with knew. I loved it, loved how everything the Obamas do is the result of a carefully weighted decision fraught with meaning and yet not particularly heavy-handed. I loved Jill Biden's hot, sexy boots with her short skirt; perhaps she is trying to make everyone forget her little gaffe on Oprah, although I cannot imagine what the big deal is about a choice of jobs within the same company! Which is basically what it is. I loved seeing the mega-crowd, and felt a fair bit of pride at knowing that somewhere in that teeming mass of humanity were a small group-I think 13-of our 11th graders, taken to the Inauguration by the history teacher. I've no doubt they were texting away, trying to hide their cellphones from her watchful eye.


It was great. It seems that when we see "history being made" it is so often some sort of tragic, catastrophic event, and so rarely a happy, joyful one. The times I remember are heartbreakingly sad: someone incredible being killed, like John Lennon, or the sheer shock of watching the Twin Towers fall. And how happy I am that Flipper watched the proceedings yesterday with no concept of what a big deal it is; that she will see many different faces of the presidency in her life than I ever thought possible.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Good riddance.

It's happening. I am preparing to trek to a friend's mother's house to watch Barack escort the idiot to the helicopter that will whisk him back to the village in Texas that lost him 8 years ago. I never thought I would see this happen; I am sure I will feel equally as thrilled when a woman also takes the oath and makes a speech and walks someone else to the helicopter. And...it's snowing!!!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Brief and shallow. Like my pie.

I am cold. And sleepy. I am trying (going) to rouse myself after this and head, no, not upstairs to my bed for a restorative nap, but into the kitchen to cook AND bake. One of my (many) New Year's "intentions" is to cook more, and better, meals, instead of the quick and easy, at which I am so very accomplished. Really. I can get a decent meal on the table in twenty minutes or less. I often wonder if I would spend more time in the kitchen, making more diverse meals if I were cooking for more people than just Flipper and me. Maybe I would if I had a family of four or more gathering for a real dinner every night. Although, I don't do too badly with the two of us. Flipper is with her dad right now, and I am about to fall asleep, and so I am going to make spinach lasagne (with easy homemade sauce) and then a deep-dish Dutch apple pie. Except that I don't actually own a deep dish pie plate, and so it will be a shallow Dutch apple pie. I will eat a slice tonight, and transport the rest to Jessica's house tomorrow for our enjoyment. The pie doesn't have a pastry crust on top, but a streusel topping with chopped walnuts instead. I will report back with an update sooner or later. And a recipe, if it is really tasty. Must go now, as sleep threatens to overtake me....

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

3Kings

Today Flipper came to my office from her classroom wearing a green paper crown with a green "jewel" in the middle. It was "Three King's Day," also known as Epiphany. True to Waldorf style, they honored this old tradition by serving King's Cakes, (tiny healthy "cupcakes") with a colored marble inside; the color of the child's marble designated the color of the crown: red, green or blue. As usual, I am awed and impressed with the ability of the teachers to create a sense of magic and specialness for each child within a larger group. Waldorf is not, in many senses, a religious or Christian school, and yet the traditions, holidays and rituals associated with Christianity and, at times, Judaism, permeate the year. On the wall of her kindergarten classroom is a framed print of a Mary and Baby Jesus painting, which to Waldorf, symbolizes a classic mother-and-child archetype. It is surprising, even to me, that I love this type of thing so much, as me, and the rest of my immediate family, are atheists. But one of the things I feel strongly is missing in mainstream schooling is any sense of spirituality, even though I understand (and support) just why classrooms cannot have Christmas trees (even though my first grade class did) way way back in the day. Below, a picture of Seamus with the crown on. An appropriate caption for him might be "long-suffering." Mr. Long-Suffering and his crown...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back-to-School Update

Back to school, back to work. I effectively reset my internal alarm clock (the one I've been using since jr. high) and was up at 5:30 again, instead of sleeping in until 6:30 or even-gasp-7:00. Flipper woke at 6:30,and we enjoyed a nice calm early morn, undisturbed by my frustrated pleas to get-out-of-bed, hurry-up-and-get-dressed and so on. We had grapefruit, mine perfectly sectioned, hers mangled by her own hands, and then I left. The high school has a new policy of no cell phones at all during the school day, which means I get to collect them in a sweet little round basket, where they can be picked up at the end of the day. The kids weren't making calls during school, but texting during class. So farewell, cell phones. All the boys' phones were black, the girls were silver and red and cool colors like that. Almost as cool as my new dark purple one. The faculty and staff are not supposed to use theirs during the day, ever. So I put mine away, although it did not mingle in the basket with the others. Since I am a grown-up, mostly.

The painting is moving along. The purple wall is, I must say, incredible. I must also say that when I started it, I was dismayed: it looked awful. But I wasn't about to stop or re-do it another color; after all, I consulted a professional for a reason: because she knows more than me. And now that it is done, and dried (darker), I love it. The foyer and hall are two different shades of yellow, and the other three non-purple walls in the living room are yet another shade of yellow. Nutty. But I trust the color choices now, although I have permanently ix-nayed "Foxy Pink" for my bedroom. I care not about luring men to my bed with the power of feng shui; "Cornflower" and "Ocean Blue" will have to do. I am drawn to the opposite colors for rooms: I like cool tones in the bedroom and warm in the living areas. It is exciting. Will take and post pictures soon. I am glad to say "farewell" to the white walls. Next question: is it possible to paint directly over wallpaper?? Anyone??

Saturday, January 3, 2009

One Wall at a Time...

I am on a home-improvement kick, fueled by Christmas money that I am trying, with little success, to avoid spending. I am also inspired by my new floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, which flank my fireplace. They are incredible. Great craftsmanship, perfect in every way.
I am also motivated to do what I hate the most, and what I am, frankly, terrible at: paint. The whole house is white, with the unfortunate "rose bathroom" and "old lady kitchen" wallpaper. Those will, at least for now, stay. The bathroom in particular was done professionally, and is in perfect condition, and so I am loathe strip it. Plus, I have pink towels that seem to be happy residing amongst rose wallpaper.
Several months ago, Ella's preschool teacher came over and did a free interior design consultation on my whole place. She was a successful interior decorator in Atlanta before she began a second career as a Waldorf teacher. So she came over, toting massive paint books, and we spent about 3 hours poring over colors. She (we) decided on very bright ones: bright purple on sliding-door wall in the living room that leads to the deck, yellow on the others, jade green in the office and stairwell, pinks in my room, and so on. Unfortunately, I hate to paint anything beyond my toenails, but simply cannot pay someone to do it for me, unless they want like 100 bucks a room. Painting is so expensive!! And so I have decided to go slow: one wall at a time. After Ella and I take the damn dogs for a walk, we are trekking out to a small, locally-owned paint store, where I will get a tiny can of purple. It is going to be warm-ish today; perhaps I can even leave the door open to air things out a bit. We will see. I will take pictures and post, as it is a good way to keep me motivated.

I have framed a sheet of utterly bizarre (yet beautiful) wrapping paper that I bought from Cameron's for this express purpose. I love it!! It will hang in my "office." It is in a cheap poster frame, which is good enough. I don't know why I am so enraptured with this paper, but I am. I moved the large black-and-white of Ella to another wall, and am debating the purchase of a Raven Map of our fair state of North Carolina. Then (theoretically) I will slice it into thirds, separating the mountains from the Piedmont from the coast, and frame them individually, but hang them side by side, with a few inches between each frame. One wall in the living room is extremely long, broken by nothing: no window, no door, no nothing. Just a long expanse of white. Raven Maps are incredible, if you have never seen one, check out their website. I will Hawaii too, and frame it for another wall, probably my bedroom. I ask the same question of framing that I do of good cheese: why, oh why is it so expensive??
Bizarre forest creature/mushroom wrapping paper. Taken at this icky angle to avoid flash-glare, because I was too lazy to carry it outside.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Food, glorious food!!

One of the good things that came about over Christmas was a re-awakening desire to cook more eat out less. We've cooked A LOT over the past few weeks: cookies, peanut brittle, pizzelles...culminating in a spectacular (if I do say so myself) dinner party for ten on Christmas day. Sister and I did something I have longed to do for some time: get a food magazine (in our case, Bon Appetit), and make the entire holiday meal featured in the magazine. No substitutions (had to elbow Grampy out of the way on this one) no dropping of this dish or that for some logical reason, just the whole thing in it's entirety, right down to the appetizer and dessert. So we did. Blessedly, my parents managed to let us actually do this; we let them bookend the meal by my dad making the app and my mom the dessert. Counting Flipper, there were eleven of us. The meal, by the way, was incredible. My hat is off to Bon Appetit; everything not only turned out the way it was supposed to, but their timing was impeccable: dish after dish entered and exited the oven, dovetailing perfectly. We sat down to eat just five minutes off our goal of 6:30. We will definitely do it again next year. And so, here is what we served, with a few pictures.
Table set for 11. Sister and I bought that tablecloth for our mom 2 Maui trips ago, in Makawao.

Appetizer: red pepper spread with crostini (this was the only weak link; the recipe called for a spicier pepper to be used, but my dad was afraid the British guests wouldn't like it, so he subbed roasted red peppers instead. It was a touch bland as a result. But a beautiful, rich orange.)

Salad: roasted butternut squash, endive, dried cranberry, bleu cheese. This was a winner; good blend of contrasting textures and flavors, the sharpness of the bleu cheese perfectly cutting the sweetness of the squash. Plus, it was gorgeous to look at.

Main course: a massive beef tenderloin with a porcini/sausage stuffing and and Irish whiskey gravy. Meat terrifyingly huge, we made what the recipe called for but there was a good amount left over. I, of course, did not partake of the meat, but the gravy was really, really good. Thin, not thick and gluey, etc. etc. A winner!! (the meat was the only thing Flipper ate)



Sister prepares to rub garlic mixture on roast beast. Traumatized by the rawness of it all, I had to take over.

Grampy carves the roast beast.


Sides: broccoli rabe with brown butter and roasted pecans (Incredible. I love any form of broccoli, and this was no exception)

Molasses-glazed baby carrots (glaze not thick enough, but they were so cute with a few inches of their green tops protruding)
Yukon gold potato and mushroom gratin (another winner. incredibly rich and satisfying, plus nice to look at as well.. In a wise move, Sister and I gave our dad a really good mandoline for Christmas, and I used it to slice the potatoes. Perfect slices in about 30 seconds)
Chive-and-Cheddar Yorkshire Puddings I made these, and they turned out perfectly, if I do say so myself. Eggy, doughy, puffed magnificently...just gorgeous. AND easy.



Flipper pops the cork of her faux champagne, some sort of sparkling cherry cider drink.




Dessert: chocolate gingerbread cake with coffee whipped cream. (Rich, but not sweet. made with candied ginger and sea salt, every few bites would have a tiny crunch of a salt crystal. Really good)

And that was it. We'll track the progress of this New Year's intention with a few recipes. Maybe.