Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Overreact? Me?

Early every morning I spend 45 minutes or so in the basement with my exercise bike and elliptical. (I know! Who is this person?) Last week, though, I came up the stairs with some bad news for Husband.

"I'm sorry," I told him, "but you need to get your keys and wallet and meet me outside. We're burning this place to the ground."

We have been remarkably fortunate when it comes to living with mice or the lack thereof. The old stone house where I grew up saw an annual fall influx of mice, and because my mother had much the same attitude toward mice that I have, Much Older Sister made a tidy profit by carrying out the carcasses at a rate of 25 cents per snapped trap. During the nearly 30 years we've lived in the House on the Corner, though, we've never seen a mouse.

Until now.

I had been 20 minutes into my morning sweat-fest when I saw something out of the corner of my eye: Something had moved out from under the band-saw stand in front of me. (What? Everyone doesn't arrange their woodworking and exercise tools in a harmonious melange?) I was in full faucet mode by this time so I had to blink hard to clear my eyes but there was no doubt--the thing was not a cricket. In fact, it was furry. In fact, it was--

OH MY GOSH! IT'S A MOUSE! YOIRPE! (exact transcription of the noise I made when I saw it)

You have to realize that my fear of mice greatly outstrips my fear of zombies. Or maybe I shouldn't say fear. I mean, it's hard to say I'm actually afraid of something that weighs maybe two ounces when it's full of cheese. How could I be afraid of a tiny little scurrying thing with sharp teeth and an irrational hatred of me, when the worst it could do would be to crawl up the leg of my exercise sweats....

That's why I made the yoirping noise when I saw one peeking out from under the band saw. And then I pedaled faster and it disappeared again.

Because I am totally committed to this exercise thing I finished my allotted minutes before I bid our basement farewell forever and announced to Husband that we would be house hunting and possibly fighting an arson rap.

"And I think it might have been pregnant, because it was really moving slowly," I added.

Husband, who approaches things in a more orderly manner than I do, told me to wait to do anything until he had a chance to look into the matter.

That night he came home with an assortment of traps. Spring traps. Sticky traps. Traps that allow for disposal of rodent corpses with no necessity of seeing said corpse. Traps that allow for the humane release of the mouse. (Ha! As if.)  Then he set those traps all over the basement. The next morning, when I gingerly tiptoed through them to the exercise bike, I had to admire his thoroughness. They were every place a self-respecting mouse might inspect, including under the band saw and on the back of the elliptical.

Then we waited and checked. No mice the first night. Waited and checked again. No mice the second night. Or the third, or the fourth.

That's when the Great Mouse Hunter passed me over his laptop.

"That mouse didn't look anything like this, did it? And was it maybe moving slowly because the air currents from the bike moved it out from under the saw and back in?"

Dust bunny
Hmmm. Actually...

Maybe I should start wearing my glasses while I exercise.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Reasons to Hope

Recently there's been plenty of reason for worry around these here parts.

We're getting ready to go on vacation, and Michigan apparently has a very high opinion of its lodgings so with less than a month before we leave we still have no place to lay our weary heads that won't use All The Money and force us to sell apples on the street corner during our dotage.

Also, there may or may not be a mouse in the basement of the House on the Corner. (I'll write a full post on this when I can stop shuddering.)

Plus, the Royals are killing me with their inconsistency and their non-invincibility (vincibility?) at this, the most crucial moment of the baseball year.

And, Donald Trump.

But last night Husband and I spent more than an hour in a dark parking lot on the edge of Small Town, bucket seats reclined and windows down to let the most glorious breeze waft through as we witnessed the eclipse. It would have been enough to just watch the moon for that long--it was that beautiful, and then it eclipsed into a glowing orange orb that will be worth staying alive until 2033 just to see again. Plus, watching the eclipse with someone who's smart as well as good-looking is simply the best. Did you know that the moon doesn't rotate on its axis? Yes. I am an honors graduate of a major university and I never made the connection that the dark side of the moon is always dark.

Also, the pope was within the same national boundaries as I was last week, and even though we aren't of the same denomination we are of the same persuasion in pretty much all of the important commandments (especially the sheep-feeding and Golden Rule ones), and this made me fist-bump my own fists in glee.

Plus, the Best Neighbor Ever is posting the worst puns on her Facebook page and they make me laugh every time. (Where do cows go for fun? The mooo-vies!)

And, Opus is running for president on a platform I can get behind with gusto. My world is better because Berkeley Breathed is back and has provided me a wedgie issue.

My quiet time this morning reminded that we are not designed for worry, we're designed for hope.

So that's what I choose. Blood moon, the pope, puns, and Opus. The rest of it will work itself out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Paying Attention

Flowers, because I couldn't find the right picture.
I spent yesterday looking for a picture I know exists. It shows a beautiful blonde woman wearing a blue jumper with a red neckerchief. She has her arm around a bespectacled blonde boy who's 11 or so and is wearing blue slacks and a red neckerchief just like hers. She is beaming, he looks slightly nervous and more-than-slightly nerdy.

Of all the adults who had an impact on my first-born, she was one of the most important. Last Saturday, having driven seven hours deep into the night before, he sat with Husband and me at her funeral. Mary Lou was his youth choir director during that fraught stage when he was leaving childhood and entering his teenage years. This is not an easy time for anyone, but it is especially difficult for a kid who is smart and sensitive and non-athletic; these years are filled with sharp things waiting to be stepped on.

"I'm pretty sure I was convinced Mary Lou got up every morning thinking 'Now what can I do to make Boy#1's life better today?'," he told us. "I was a terrible singer. Looking back, I know that, but I never knew it by the way she acted."

Instead, Mary Lou acted as if she were the luckiest woman in the world to know him--and he believed her. I know this feeling, because that's exactly how she made me feel, too. She was the kindest, most energetic, most creative, most sympathetic non-relative I knew, and the person she was fixing with those bright eyes always was the most important person she had ever hugged.

Of all the things I learned from Mary Lou (and there were many, including how to unobtrusively reapply lipstick between the banquet and the speeches) this was the most striking: The person with whom I am talking deserves my whole attention.

When Mary Lou listened, she listened with her whole body. It was important to me, but it was life-changing for Boy#1. Because she listened to him, he listened to her. He pointed to a picture of the youth choir displayed at the funeral. "Notice that every single boy has his hands down at his side? To this day I don't put my hands in my pockets at any important occasion."

I wish I could find that picture of One and Mary Lou. She looked so confident and invested, like he was the most important person in her life.

And certainly, for that formative stage of his life, she quite possibly was the most important person in his.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Orts and a Blurb

In case anyone ever asks, this is my favorite flower and this is the perfect time of the year to spy wild sunflowers on the roadsides. Happiness on a stem.

This week a couple of bloggers were talking about their Daydream Dream Jobs. (Yes, I know I should be linking to them, but because I am a bad citizen of the blogging community I didn't make a note of any of these blogs and now I'm too lazy to go back and find them.) Anyway, I found myself wondering what would be my Daydream Dream Job. Travel writer? Maybe, except that I don't want to be paying attention and taking notes when I travel. Bakery/coffee shop? Maybe, except that I don't want to have to worry about paying customers and the tyranny of retail. Yarn shop? Maybe, except that this is already being done to perfection in Small Town and I wouldn't want to go needle-to-needle with that. The job I really want is to travel and write and bake and knit, without the pressure of making these joys a job. In other words, what I want is what I have. Yay!

Whiplash caution ahead: I'm about to veer precipitously from What I Love to What Makes Me Crazy and what's making me crazy today is chalk paint on beautiful old antique wood. People! Stop that! I know you young'uns don't want our stuff, and I get that. If being around during the dispersal of households has taught me anything, it's that one man's treasure is another man's sad-and-sorry auction fodder. But seeing lovely old pieces that have survived a hundred years with their wood grain intact only to be set upon by a DIY-er wielding chalk paint and distressing tools is, well, distressing to me. If that dresser was manufactured in the past 50 years or less, have at it. Otherwise, put down your paint sprayer and back away.

The Blurb of the Week this week is not a thing but a link. (I know! Have I run out of kitchen gadgets?) One of the things I like to do while traveling and baking and knitting is to listen to podcasts. Once I finished the wonderful Serial,though, I didn't know where to find good ear fodder.

Here:  http://blog.lionbrand.com/2015/09/13/listen-while-you-stitch-our-favorite-podcasts/

This blog gives the favorite podcast links of some professional knitters (yes, there is such a thing) and I plan to bookmark it and refer to it often.

You should, too--your ears will thank me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Don't Miss It, Don't Even Be Late

What were you doing yesterday?

I don't want to brag but no matter what you were doing, what Husband and I were doing was better. We were at the state fair, and there is just nothing better to do on a beautiful September day.

We saw the biggest pumpkin entered in the history of the fair, 1,034 pounds of autumn goodness, a full half-ton of potential Pinterest recipes.

But that wasn't all. We also saw a half-ton of butter that had been made into a sculpture that included the dual magical subjects of ice cream and a kid petting a pig. Mmmm....

We saw a sheep getting sheared and felt sympathetic relief for the removing of that natural sweater on this 90-degree day. 

We talked to hawkers and vendors and succumbed to the promise of the magical cleaning powers of an industrial sized jug of Scum Off (really, I could have helped them in the naming of this product but I guess it worked because I bought it) and a magical heating pad for Husband's cranky back. 

For lunch we shared a plate of chicken and noodles, but each of us had our own piece of the most wonderful Sour Cream Raisin Pie in the history of pies...

...followed a few hours later by what is perhaps the most state-fair-ish of state fair since Fried Butter was invented. Yup, fried cookie dough. 

I highly recommend following our plan, which was to take vacation days in the middle of the week and avoid the weekend crowds.  We found our tribe--the elderly and the slow--as we drifted from the art exhibits to the oil well model to cookware demonstrations. Oh, and be sure to go with someone who appreciates your need to watch the goats being judged and who gives you a hand on the rickety steps as you climb out of the 14th RV you've explored for closet space. 

Our state fair? It's a great state fair, and there couldn't be anything better to do on a September Tuesday.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How I'm Different

Here I am with 8,200 new friends and a big-screen Beth Moore.
On Wednesday last week a friend posted on Facebook late at night.

"I have an extra ticket to the Beth Moore event in Big City this weekend. Would anyone like to go with me?

At least I'm assuming she wrote 'to go with me' because before I even finished reading the sentence I was frantically replying, waving my hand and shouting "Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!" like a third-grader who had done her homework and wants the teacher's attention. "Pick me! Pick me!"

The next day, she did pick me, but there was a caveat: She had discovered that she wouldn't be able to attend the event after all, so I would have two tickets instead of one. I started texting and calling friends, but with only two days until the event, I struck out over and over. This person was moving and couldn't go; that one had already made plans; a third wasn't feeling well. In the end, I gave the ticket to the scholarship fund of another church, and I went by myself.

Do you hear the significance of those last four words. Let me repeat them:

I went by myself.

A decade ago, I would have sooner danced in the church aisle than attend an event by myself where 8,200 other women would be sitting with me and judging me for being friendless. Or at least I assume they would have been judging me, and wondering what sad and sorry life I lived that I couldn't find someone to go with me to see BETH MOORE, which in evangelical women's circles is kind of like a Catholic not being able to find someone to go see the pope. Seriously. She's that popular.

She's that popular for a reason, though, and I really wanted to see her, so I pulled up my self-esteem and spent the day with multiple thousands of friends I hadn't met yet. And do you know what? It was fine. Good, even. Fantastic and fulfilling and wonderful, even.

Here are some things that are nice about going to an enormous event by yourself:

You leave when you want to, and if the morning is the most beautiful morning you have seen perhaps ever in your life, you can focus on the mist rising off the pond and the glory of the sunflowers--both domestic and wild--without interruption.

You can sit down in a single seat in the middle of the row and find out that you are smack-dab in the middle of a group from Grove, Oklahoma, and it will be the first time in your life you've ever been adopted by 20 lovely women from Grove, Oklahoma.

You can burst into tears during the first song, and no one cares. Of course, half the women in the audience are in tears as well (we're a damp-faced bunch, us Beth Moore fans) so no judging here, but you would have been judging yourself if you'd been with a friend.

You can eat or not eat and get a drink or not get a drink and stand in the line for the bathroom for 20 minutes without feeling bad that your companion is waiting for you.

You can browse the books and take all the time in the world, without worrying that someone is waiting for you to make up your mind already.

Listening to Beth Moore for eight hours reminding me of my place in the heart of God was wonderful and soul-filling. But a good part of the wonder of the day was experiencing it by myself, something I would never have ventured to do ten years ago.

Sometimes being a grown-up is kind of fun.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Consuming Mass Quantities

Oooh! Just discovered a new Ribbit effect!

So, yesterday disappeared on me and I didn't have a chance to give you my Opinions about the cooking preps I did over my Labor Day "holiday." Given that we haven't cooked and/or eaten a single one of those meals, here is my initial impression:

1. The recipes themselves look pretty darned tasty. I mean, they had me at " 1 tsp. fresh ginger, diced." Mmmmm. 

2. There's a lot of variety in the recipes, although as Husband was leafing through the recipes I heard him muttering "Chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken..." I'd say that of the 24 Zip-locs now in my freezer, two contain meals that are vegetarian, four or five are red meat, and the remainder are, indeed, chicken. But hey! Not a problem. I like chicken, and I was the cook.

3. There is blessedly little pre-packaged food involved. Several use some kind of canned beans, but since I figured out how to cook dried beans in my pressure cooker without pre-soaking, that's no problem to substitute. Only one recipe called for dehydrated onions, which, ick. Not going there.

4. However, you will use a LOT of onions and garlic. I consider this a plus, not a minus, but the next time I do this I will start out by dicing the entire nine pounds of onions and 37 cloves of garlic before I begin. Nope, not exaggerating. 

5. I had foolishly thought I would save a lot of time by doing these meal pre-preps, but this is not the case. What this process does is gang up all the time needed for meal preps into one long session. Between shopping and chopping I worked hard from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (with a short break for a blood-gushing finger wound) and still only got 24 of the 31 recipes made. And I didn't have kids around--if the Boys had been little and underfoot, this would have been a difficult commitment. 

6. However, I loved the fact that I could shop and put nothing away. Okay, I put the meat into the refrigerator because otherwise my mother would have haunted me for potentially poisoning her son-in-law, but all the vegetables, dried beans, seasonings, etc., sat on the island and I just reached over my cutting board to grab the one I needed. This did save time. 

7. Finally, I discovered one tiny drawback this morning. I have a really busy day coming up with morning meetings, a lunch commitment, blood donation in the afternoon, and an evening appointment. "Yay!" I thought when I got up this morning. "I have dinner all ready to go except for popping it into the CrockPot!" Well, no. It turns out I'm supposed to thaw the Zip-loc in the refrigerator overnight before cooking, so it will be BLTs for supper just as it would have been before the Great Food Preparation Day. But that's okay! I love BLTs even more than I love chicken.

Have you ever done a Great Food Preparation Day? What were your reactions? And are you impressed that I was able to pull a Conehead quote out of thin air for today's blog title?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Labor Day Labor (Food Edition)

When I was a kid, my mother loved Labor Day. Or at least that's the way it seemed to my four siblings and me.

"It's Labor Day!" she would call merrily at the crack of dawn. "Let's LABOR!"

So we would crawl out of bed and work like stevedores all day, mucking out our rooms and cleaning the garage and polishing silverware and ironing sheets and whatever else she had kept on the never-ending list of Labor Day jobs. I now suspect she was just trying to keep the five of us from devolving into a whining cesspool of whininess. Ironing sheets? Who does that?

Anyway, I blame her for my inexplicable industriousness yesterday. On a day off of work, when Husband was nose-to-the-grindstoning on extended tax returns, I decided I was going to fill the freezer with pre-assembled meals. 

This isn't as outlandish as it sounds. During the winter I tend to have cool things to do in the evening (Bible study, accompany children's choir, women's group, Netflix, knitting, sitting in a stupor in the recliner and watching snow fall) and those cool things do not include cooking. This article, complete with printable shopping list and recipes, promised I would not have to cook for 31 EVENINGS! Or worry my pretty little head about what to put on the table for lunch, because leftovers. Count me in.

So off to the store, bright and early. Did you know there's almost no one in WalMart at 9 a.m. on Labor Day? Also, did you know that if an article promises you can cook 31 meals for $150, your own total will actually look more like this?

I did try to pick up only generic brands but I threw a couple of things into the cart with my 31-meal ingredients; a girl has to have her priorities.

I mean, what good is eating if you haven't had your coffee and the toilet isn't clean?

I was home and chopping onions and garlic by 10:30 a.m., and had a dozen meals in the freezer by the time Husband got home for lunch. He was mightily impressed by the chaos I had created in only three hours, which is a good thing because that gave me some emotional capital to draw on when I tripped on my way to the freezer, ran my middle finger into a piece of metal and sliced it niftily from stem to stern. (All those knives, and I injure myself walking? Of course.) He brought me gauze, propped my feet higher than my head when I began to feel woozy, and dialed the phone so I could check on the updated-ness of my tetanus shot.

And then he went back to work, and I was back to work, and we LABORED. By 6 p.m. I had 24 meals in the freezer and definite Opinions about how this process had gone. Since this post is almost as long as the process itself, though, I'll save those opinions until tomorrow.


Friday, September 4, 2015

How to Deal With Cranky Me

In my constant quest for perfection of the House on the Corner, I'm eyeing the upstairs bathroom as my next victim. The vanity was old when we moved in 30 years ago and the white paint I slopped on it during a "remodel" a couple of decades ago was clearly lipstick on a pig. I'm not interested in buying a vanity at Lowe's, though, because that would be way, way too straightforward. What I want to do is convert a piece of old furniture into a vanity (reference: 10,000 Pinterest pins).

In order to complicate the process even more, rather than buy the old piece of furniture in an antique store Husband and I made arrangements to meet a lady who was selling a dresser on the local version of Craigslist. We were to meet her in the Wendy's parking lot at 6 p.m., and had cash in hand.

She did not show up.

Well, that's disappointing, but all is not lost. Let's get a salad at Wendy's, since we're right here literally at their doorstep and I do love an Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. When we got inside, though, the Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad was even more appealing. Hummus! Feta cheese! Power!

We stepped into the line of four customers. Then we waited. After 10 minutes, Husband checked his watch.

"Want to go somewhere else?" No, I wanted a Wendy's salad. "Are you sure? We could walk over to Taco Bell." NO. I WANT THAT DAD-GUMMED SALAD.

So we waited some more, 24 minutes from the time Husband first checked his watch. By then I was hungry, mad at the woman who didn't show up with the dresser, and ready to lash out at someone.

And then we got our food. My salad was frozen. Also, it had no recognizable hummus, so I did what any redblooded American person would do: I posted my displeasure on Facebook. "If anyone is planning to eat at Wendy's tonight, be sure you have plenty of time. Holy cow," I wrote.

We got home and there was a message waiting from the dresser lady. "I'm sorry I missed you," she said. "We've been traveling to Big City Hospital every night to see our preemie grandson and I'm exhausted." I felt terrible for being irked that I had spent ten whole minutes waiting for her.

Then this morning my e-mail had a message from the Wendy's manager, and apparently we had stepped into a cascading set of problems--he had stepped away from the counter to deal with an issue, the sandwich girl was in only her second day and was confused, the cash register malfunctioned and began sending pick-up window orders to her line and she was even more confused, everything was going south. He apologized and asked what they could do to keep me as a customer.

Once again I'm reminded that often the things that irritate me are only symptoms of issues that are so much larger than my inconvenience. A sick baby. A new employee who deserves some slack-giving.

Lady With the Dresser, I'll see you tomorrow at our rescheduled time. Mr. Wendy's Manager, you've kept me as a customer.

My Frosty is raised to both of you.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The World Has Gone Mad

So tell me, my lovely imaginary friends in the Internet, does this look like the breakfast of a celebrity? Of course it does!

I mean, Crispix with fresh raspberries. A swirly-foam-topped cappuccino. Someone else's empty drinking glass, the water out of which may or may not have dumped itself onto my laptop.

This was my breakfast on Saturday, and it was so colorful that I had to document it, prompting eye-rolling from everyone else around the table. (Hi, Boys!) I didn't even care, because so, so pretty. And I didn't cheat my readers by color-correcting the photo, which I understand is a thing even though I have no idea how to do it.

But I will admit that this picture sums up a world gone mad, a world in which the same shopping trip had me paying $1 for a box of fresh raspberries and $3.55 for a dozen eggs.


Next thing you know Donald Trump will be a serious candidate for president.

Mad, I tell you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I Love the Rumble

Panda sticker added to protect the innocent
Most of the Boys were home for the weekend, and except that they are exponentially bigger and I'm now the first one to go to bed, it was much like having three pre-teens in the house again. I had to remember to cook meals, for one thing. (Who does that? Did I cook real meals for TWENTY YEARS? WHY?)

But it also meant every sentence, phrase, word, and unspoken sigh was subject to interpretation and possible argumentation. Take, for example, the note I found taped to my laptop when I got up Sunday morning. I will transcribe it for persons who are reading this on mobile devices:
"A glass of water was partially dropped on this last night," it begins. "It got wet but I don't think water ran into the inside. You may want to be careful when first using it, though. Sorry--"
I peeked under the lid of my laptop, found exactly one drop of water and wiped that off, then started it with no incident. Incident ended, right?

Well, no.

First there had to be the discussion of who had left the half-full glass of water on the side table overnight. Three 'fessed up to that.

"But where else was I supposed to put my glass? It was on a coaster."

Then Two got into the specifics of the note's phrasing.

"What is this? 'A glass of water was partially dropped?' What are we, some kind of no-fault society where the water DROPS ITSELF onto the laptop? Have you ever heard of personal pronouns? Personal responsibility?"

So Four had to go on the defensive.

"Well, I was just reaching over to turn off the light, which was being a responsible citizen of the earth, and maybe there shouldn't have been a laptop on the floor anyway."

And voila! My fault! Just as it was when the mashed potatoes were touching the green beans on their plates, thereby ruining their lives.

I sighed happily. They're exponentially bigger but they're still my Boys, and this I can handle.