Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day Outdoors

I got my June Dragonfly Joy written yesterday while J worked & also created a new blog for the online version of the newsletter. So, some creativity, even though I didn't make any art cards.

J arrived home from work with a gleeful expression & an armful of lovely purple phlox she'd picked for me along the road. She is too wonderful! She kept saying they were nothing, but to me, they are marvelous. She also brought me some very high quality printer paper & some transparencies for school next year.

Wanting to be outdoors, we decided on lunch at Peach's. We had to wait awhile for a patio table, but it was worth it. It's funny how different the two Peach's areas are. I would never want to eat inside. There is a grey film of discontent & hopelessness there. I can hardly even stand to wait inside for a patio table. But, the patio feels good. The food is good, too. We split the Mediterranean pita platter, with its trio of dips for soft-crunchy pita chips. I like the hummus best and the tzatziki is good, too. But, I am not so keen on the roasted red pepper & feta dip. Luckily, J loves it. We also had the fish & chips. The fish was a little too fishy for me, but the fries, drenched with malt vinegar, were pretty good. It rained hard while we were eating, the pelting on the canopy reminding me of the rain when we were at Bongo's over spring break. We have so many good memories & seem to make more every day. I am so very much in love, have never experienced anything this good before.

After eating, we took a walk around town, the real town not just touristy downtown. We looked at house colors, smelled flowers, petted cats. It was a lovely walk & I could have walked even longer. We ran into several people, but none I knew...except Erik, who I dated years ago. He has turned into something else, looks like a former Marine. I am so glad I'm not with him. I looked at him & the skinny blonde he was with & thought, "Good lord, that could have been my future had my dreams at 18 come true." As Garth says, sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.

Once home, we settled in on the couch & watched Samantha Brown, Ina Garten, & Paula Deen do their things. J, head in my lap & drool pooling, asked why I watch such torture. Ina was making a beach picnic with beef tenderloin & bleu cheese sauce sandwiches, marinated shrimp, avocado & endive salad, and brownies. Paula made brownies topped with a brown sugar, butter, & nut mixture. Then, she rolled an ice cream ball in nuts, served it with 2 brownies, & drizzled the whole thing with gooey caramel sauce. She made a chocolate cake with fudge sauce & chocolate trifle, too. I am going to look up the recipes & make one of them for J tonight.

The kids came home all pumped up. They went to see Star Wars, went to Dave & Buster's, swam. Must be nice to be a 40-something year old man with virtually no bills. You can spoil your kids all they want & never have to worry about money. Of course, there is the issue of having to live in your mama's basement...

After the kids had gone to bed, J & I watched a PBS show on West Virginia & the coal mine wars. It made me want to have the book group read Storming Heaven & The Unquiet Earth. Denise Giardina was interviewed for the show. She is a hell of a writer...I wish everyone would read those books. J has never read them, nor has she seen John Sayles' Matewan. All of this info is new to her & she kept saying, "That's terrible." The show made me cry.

Monday, May 30, 2005

No Obligations Weekend

After the kids left, J laid out her plan for the weekend, our first with no church or child or social obligations. We spent some time poking around the internet looking at hotels. We got great laughs from the rooms at The Wildwood Inn (www.wildwood-inn.com) in Kentucky. The Cupid Room sent us over the edge, into fits of hysteria. After we'd settled down a bit, we headed out for dinner at The Winds.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be one of their really "on" nights. Of course, it was still wonderful. Maybe the service was the problem. We had the one server we really don't like. She is simply inept. She can't even pronounce the names of the cheeses, for God's sake! She has no business being a server in a nice restaurant if she can't pronounce things like d'Affinois, Taleggio, and Gorgonzola. If it was hard for her, but she learned it anyway, that would be one thing. But, she doesn't even seem to try. Friday night, she simply plunked down the platter & said "Here you go!" I had to get up & get a cheese menu from the host, so that I could identify the cheeses. I had it down, too, just by reading the descriptions and looking at the cheeses. If I can do it without even tasting them, she should be able to. I think she just didn't want to pronounce them, quite frankly, and with the way she butchered the names once she noticed what I was doing & came over to identify them, I don't blame her. But, she needs to learn. She is also just unpolished. When a piece of my appetizer dropped from my fork onto my plate as I transferred it from the serving dish, she made a comment about it. When a woman at the table behind me spilled some wine, she again commented. Not something like, "Let me help you clean that up", but something like "butterfingers"...not that, but in the same "Ha, ha, you spilled" sort of way we do with close friends. Which is rude for a server to do. We always debate over her tip, and we are not casual low tippers. We have decided that the next time we make a reservation, we'll simply request not to be seated in her section. She ought to be at Perkins, not The Winds.

The cheese service was good and included a couple of old favorites and a few we hadn't tried before. Of course, my favorites were the stinky ones, while J liked the hard Spanish stuff. I was thrilled to see the Vietnamese catfish nuggets on the menu & talked J into ordering them even though she wanted to try the Italian shaved salad with Taleggio-topped toast. We should have had that. I saw it arrive at another table & was quite envious. The catfish nuggets themselves were still quite tasty, but they had decided to make them into summer rolls, using 2 sheets of rice paper for each. It was too much and overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the catfish. The rice paper gave J the creeps, reminded her of human flesh, she said. I hope they will go back to just the fish alone. It needs no embellishment but a hint of sauce. They had run out of the mushroom elixir, so we opted for the fish stew. It was good, but too spicy for my perimenopausal wife to eat without consequences later.

My main course was pork tenderloin with an herbed crust. It was fine, but a little boring. The spinach gnocchi that came with it was also a little boring, although the green beans were fresh and tasted like summer. J's beef tenderloin was fabulous, juicy and full of lush flavor. I was ever so jealous! None of the desserts grabbed us, so we went for a little walk & then went home to bed.

Saturday morning, we made some of the cinnamon coffee we bought in Waynesville last Monday. Then, we packed a bag in case of an overnight stay and headed for Cincinnati. Our first stop was brunch. We had been looking for some kind of mom and pop diner where we could get bacon, eggs, and hash browns. The only one we spotted looked a little too homey, as in the sort of place that has no non-smoking section. Or has one right next to the smoking, with no partition. So, we skipped it. We had about resigned ourselves to Cracker Barrrel when I spotted a familiar name. I had seen something on www.chowhound.com about Encore being good. So, in we went.

The service was pretty slow, although the gal was friendly. We ended up giving our order to the manager. We'd gotten water, but the server kept bypassing us. As she walked by one more time, J said, "Um..." and got no more out because the gal was already past us. The manager, however, heard her & took pity on us. We split chicken & andouille spring rolls (which were actually in egg roll wrappers) and they were terrific. For my lunch, I had a great burger with a tinch too little blue cheese (I always like extra) and an order of spicy fries. J had andouille & chicken pasta, which was delicious, too. We split white chocolate praline crème brûlée for dessert. It was absolutely divine, one of the best desserts I've had in a long time. I don't even like white chocolate, but this was silky and lush with a perfectly caramelized crust. Fabulous!

We headed on down to Krohn Conservatory to see the butterfly show, but there was no parking and no prospect of finding a space anytime soon, so we gave up on that. We can always go to the butterfly house at Cox or the one in Columbus. We drove up the hill and parked at the art museum instead. We had a wonderful time there, poring over the Greco-Roman and Egyptian articles, peeking at the Cincinnati & Asian rooms, and delighting in the "Crowns" show. Looking at those women in their hats & reading the stories that went with the photos was so much fun! Once, we found ourselves next to a black woman about my age and an Indian woman about my age. The Indian woman had the most adorable little girl, clad in a frilly, flouncy white dress. We admired her baby and talked about hats. I said I should have worn my tiara & the black woman said that she has been wanting to get herself a tiara. I urged her to do so & she said she thinks she might, since we're all queens. I loved that! I told her that I wear mine to the grocery. In the museum store, there were some hats. I fell in love with a big white straw one adorned with water lilies and pearls. It seemed to me a hat for a Cancerian. I could never bring myself to pay $109 for a hat, though! I think I'll pick up a white straw hat at Target & adorn it myself. I am sure I could find a strand of faux pearls & some silk water lilies & make it myself!

After the museum, we drove around downtown & into Kentucky, trying to find something to do. Unfortunately, Cincinnati is not terribly tourist-friendly, as far as we could tell, and we couldn't figure out what to do without a parking hassle. We didn't feel comfortable just parking & roaming the streets, as we have done in places like Monterey, St. Pete, and Madison. Cincinnati feels different. We have never gotten the bad vibe from Columbus that we do from Cincinnati. J even lived there, but we felt happier heading back out to the suburbs. J was horribly frustrated & cranky from being cooped up in the car far too long, so we found Rookwood Commons & stopped at The Pub to sit on the patio & formulate a plan.

After we had gotten ourselves less frazzled with a few moments in the sun, we decided to walk around the shopping center & then pick a place for dinner, either P.F. Chang's or Buca di Beppo. We looked in Z Gallerie (and fantasized about having unlimited funds to decorate), Anthropologie (the same, plus additional fantasies centered on being skinny...I love that place, it's just fun!), Lane Bryant (where everything this season seems to be for the style-stupid), Talbot's ("you can look just like your elderly W.A. S.P. aunts!"), and Banana Republic (which, despite its politically gross name, had some gorgeous clothes...none in my size, of course). There is a yellow silk skirt & a filmy, soft yellow top I am going to get J once pay day rolls around. She'll look spectacular in it and loved it. She is trying to get back into wearing dresses & skirts now that her mom can't make her wear them anymore. When I get to my weight goal, I am going to have to have a great job to support my clothes horse-ishness! Sur La Table was closed and we were getting too hungry to go into Wild Oats, so we decided on Buca di Beppo.

The inside is an absolute trip, with gaudy decorations in all the places that don't have crazy pictures on them. I am not even able to describe the surreal fun that is the inside of this place. Sophia Loren & Frank Sinatra are everywhere, as are all kinds of other Italian folks. They slip naked pictures in here & there, nothing vulgar. Also slipped in are horrid amateur oil paintings and poorly glazed ceramic kittens. Walls are adorned with records by the likes of Dean Martin & Enrico Caruso. It's like a 1950s Italian restaurant as re-visioned by the part of your subconscious responsible for dreams! Amazing. The music is all over the kitschy Italian map, leaving, "Hey mambo, mambo Italiano!" rattling around in my head for what will probably be days. The service is friendly & the food is good. It's not fabulous or anything, but it is good. Solid. I can make better at home, but why would I when I can eat it in such a hilariously fascinating place? We had some garlic bread & some mozzarella caprese (mine is infinitely better) for our appetizer. Then, we had a big plate of spaghetti with meat sauce (and J had to order a meatball, a half-pounder...I figured that "one meatball" song wouldn't have sounded so sad to my mom had she thought of this size meatball). The tiramisù we had for dessert was entirely too rummy for J. We joked that between my cosmopolitan & the dessert, I was sure to fail a blood alcohol test should we be pulled over. On the way out, as we passed the window box overflowing with obviously fake flowers in every color of the rainbow, we noticed that the phone number's last 4 numbers are 7673 (although on the sign, they had spelled it out...POPE). Too much! I can't wait to take my mom. Maybe they'll take us through the kitchen again, since it'll be her first time there.

We decided against a hotel, since it seemed silly to waste $100 on a few hours' sleep & no time in the pool. So, I drove home singing along with the radio while J dozed beside me. I love that she feels so safe in my hands. Once home, we watched Austin City Limits for a little while before falling asleep. John Mayer was on. I love his gentle, smooth voice. It turns out he's not just some little pop boy, either. I assumed he was mostly pretty face & lush voice, but it turns out he's actually a damn fine guitarist. He also seems to have some pretty impressive musician friends. Buddy Guy played with him, as did Double Trouble. I am usually biased against anyone doing a Stevie Ray cover (unless it's Jimmy), but he did a good job.

Sunday morning, we slept in until 10:30, which felt great! We got some good coffee at Dino's and picked up picnic food from Current. We loaded our basket with sandwiches (chicken salad for me, turkey with all kinds of stuff including avocado for her, both on rosemary foccaccia), dill potato salad, Neptune salad, broccoli salad, and fruit. I also tucked in some Mike-Sells green onion potato chips, since the Neptune & broccoli salads don't appeal to me.

We drove down to Caesar Creek State Park for our picnic. We had a wonderful time lying in the sun, eating & talking. I had brought along Isabel Allende's Zorro and I read some of that aloud to J. Then, we went to the fossil beds & prowled around looking for trilobites and other neat stuff. After that, we spread our blanket at the beach. We put our feet in the Memorial Day-chilly water and lounged in the sun. I read aloud and we watched babies and dogs go by. The diversity was amazing for Southwest Ohio. We saw several Hispanic families, an Asian family speaking what sounded to our ignorant ears like a Chinese dialect, some Indian families, a Muslim family with the mom wearing the hijab, and several of your standard redneck groups. Plus, us dykes. It was interesting.

We stayed there until after 6. Then, I took my wife to dinner at Applebee's. I tried the teriyaki shrimp & steak skewers from the WW menu & those are quite the yummy dinner. Had I eaten all my rice (I don't care for their rice...too Americanized & weird), it would only have been 7 points. Of course, I ate bites of J's guac-laden fajitas & half of the appetizer, a wonderfully peanutty Thai chicken "pizza" (much better than California Kitchen's). Throughout dinner, we watched birds working on adding to the nest & feeding their bambinos. It was our second bird encounter of the day. The first was at the fossil site, where a mama killdeer hollered at us for getting too close to her nest. We actually found it, with an egg...speckled & lovely.

After dinner, we took a bit of tortilla out to the birds. Then, we walked over to Coldstone Creamery to indulge in some crazy-good ice cream. Mine was coffee ice cream mixed with Oreos, brownies, and toasted almonds. J had chocolate ice cream with brownies & pecans. Mmm. As we ate our ice cream, we took a walk. It was so delicous to be out in the warm evening, strolling down the sidewalk eating ice cream.

We went to bed early, since J had to work today. Since her boss is in, I can't go hang out with her, so I am feeling a tad pouty. Usually when she works on a weekend or holiday & the boys aren't around, I get to go, too. Oh, well, I guess I'll read more of Zorro and write the June newsletter.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Field Day

Much as I had been dreading being in charge of the 250 meter run, it turned out to be fun! I enjoyed the company of the mom I was assigned to work with, I managed to figure out the stopwatch without looking like a dummy, and I used the system I had developed last year so that it ran like a well-oiled machine. Plus, it was fun to see the boys & their friends, to be outside on a gorgeous day, and to be of assistance.

From the other mom I worked with, I found out that the problem with the church in the town where I grew up has to do with a former minister. Apparently, one of the lesbian couples who belonged to the church wanted to get married, by the pastor, in the church. Now, with as liberal as this town is, I wouldn't have thought it would be a problem. The pastor was amenable, but it all blew up in their faces. People were furious, the church split over it. Personally, I think the Presbyterian sanction against gay unions is dumb. I know that there are intelligent & godly people on both sides of the debate, but I really think it's dumb that there even is a debate. May it end, in our favor, soon. So, a bunch of people left the church, the pastor was forced out, and now they have a woman minister who is dull as dishwater, if very nice. Harrumph. I wonder what would happen if Brendan decided to do a blessing ceremony for us. Of course, we've already had one non-legal wedding, so it makes sense to wait until it will be legal to do it again. I wonder if the Church or the State will bend first. Probably the Church, with the way the State has been going.

The lunch for the volunteers was another highlight of Field Day. Perversely, for a food critic, I am a big fan of the carry-in meal. This one is fun because there are always foods I would never otherwise see, much less eat. My favorite is the pretzel salad. Why the hell is that so good??? It's against my usual principles. Jell-o does not belong with anything white. Pretzels & strawberries should not be in the same dish. Food shouldn't really look like glop. But, I have had pretzel salad exactly twice & have adored it both times. The last time, by the way, was at the very same lunch, a year ago. I also discovered another dessert that is against my usual principles, but which was tasty. It resembled banana pudding, but had strawberries rather than bananas and pound cake chunks instead of Nilla wafers. I must be crazy. The Ramen salad was kinda good, too. I am crazy!

We finished early, so I came home & did some reading. When J got home, we went out to my grands' and cooked for them. J made chicken cordon bleu (she found it a bit dry, but I thought it was fine...although I might have used more cheese so it would ooze lushly from the chicken. I'm not sure "ooze" is a good word to use in reference to food, though), egg noodles, and a big Caesar salad. I steamed some broccoli. My grandmom made real strawberry shortcake, with the good biscuit shortcakes. Pie had created a house out of marshmallows & toothpicks, garnished with chocolate pieces. It was so sweet. I love his artistic sensibility. He wants to make dessert every week for the dinners at their place. I told him we'd go week by week. I plan to allow him to choose something from his cookbooks & help him make it.

Today has been an e-mail & housework day. I think I'm going to start making some art cards & things like that for sale on ebay. The whole ebay thing makes me nervous, but Faith insists it's easy to do & anything will sell. We shall see. If I can make a little spare cash that way, it would help. My anxiety about money is at a high, what with the tenants moving out and the house going up for sale. God, I pray it sells quickly!

J has something special planned for this weekend. I wonder what.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Gyro Lunch & Pizza Dinner

Bible study this morning was about the end of the Sermon on the Mount & I was amazed at how many of the folks there were missing Brendan's point. Ah, well. My granddad had a doctor appointment right afterward, so I took the opportunity to deliver the notice to vacate to our tenants. I thought much of the way there, to the point of having to "rewind" the Pagels CD over & over, about the situation. I feel bad, knowing they have no money & no promise of it anytime soon. They may have a very hard time securing another place, certainly will have a hard time securing one as nice as our rental. But, we simply cannot continue with the way things have been, either. Their lack of responsibility is threatening our ability to be responsible, so it must end. Still, I kept thinking of the part in the Lord's prayer where it says "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors". Yes, that Sermon is hard as heck to follow. I am still so pleased that Lilith wrote that I live by it. I try, most of it, at least.

I had lunch with J first, fortifying myself for the task ahead. She suggested that I stop at Current & pick up lunch, so I did just that. As I pulled into a space right in front, as luck would have it, of the store, I saw a woman in full hijab. In her left arm was a small, adorable girl. I thought it must surely be Yvonne & when I saw her famous brother across the street, I knew it was. We were such good friends in high school & she is very much the same, from what I have experienced of her grown-woman self, despite the veil. We spoke in the store. She is attending the writer's workshop this year & told me about that. I told her about my seminary plans, my own writing, the book group (which she wants to attend). Darrin came to fetch her & we parted, with her saying "We'll talk". I hope so. I miss her presence & I want J to get to know her.

After I hit Dino's, I went to the plant & fed my wife gyros & baklava. Then I drove, full of trepidation, to deliver my little bomb. I walked up & Brenda came to the door. I said, "I need to give this to you" & all she said was, "Okay, honey." I pray that they'll be able to get it together & to find someplace decent to live. I also pray we get the money they owe us soon...and sell the house quickly & for a good price. Guess I better get to statue burying.

I stopped at the grocery on the way home & spent time making sure the kitchen was very clean when J got home. I emptied every trashcan, as well. I also tried to paint around the switchplates, but did not discover until after I removed them that the paint had congealed beyond repair. I'll pick up a small can later in the week. It will be good to get that done. I also moved the extra pillows that have been stored in the study into the linen closet. Tomorrow, if I have time after volunteering at Field Day, I will work on the clothes for storage. This has been their temporary storage place for too long & I think I have just the box in the garage. J was happy with the way the house looked & smelled (I burned Yankee candles, vanilla & pumpkin), so that was good.

We had dinner at Ha-Ha's. Under new management, it is much the same as it was under old management. That is to say, "WHEW!" The salad bar still features tabouleh, tofu, and black beans. The artichoke hearts, bananas, and smoked oysters are still available for the pizza. The subs & calzones remain just the same. Thank God!!! Pie was a bit disgruntled with the turkey sausage on his pizza & he didn't like his cream soda, but Boot seemed perfectly happy with his meal. He even got the salad bar...what the hell? J was suspicious that I would order something as peculiar as sour cream (along with artichoke hearts, fresh garlic,onions, and extra cheese) on pizza, but was in ecstasy from the moment it hit her mouth. She is taking what's left for lunch tomorrow. My lunch will be at the school, with Roxanne & Mrs. P & Kitty & all those folks. I like hanging out with the teachers. I guess it kind of makes me feel like a bona fide grown up.

Once home, I read Ruth Reichl reviews to J until she fell asleep. Based on Ruth's review, J very much wants to dine at L'Espinasse. If we went to NY, we could stay with Kerry & Rebekkah in Connecticut. And we could see Faith and Melodie. What fun! But, I am more interested in Artisanal & Picholine. And all the ethnic places!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Losing Again

When I went to my WW meeting yesterday morning, I got the glad news that I managed (even with Indian food & Cheryl & Co cookies & hot wings) to lose 3.2 pounds. I hope I can maintain the downward trend! I went on a bike ride up to the library right after the meeting...read the Washington Post food section, checked out a bunch of foodie magazines, and picked up my "on hold" copy of the new Ruth Reichl book. It was a chilly ride both ways & the sky was forbidding on the way home, but I made it without getting wet.

Lunch was leftover Indian food...fabulous, of course. I thought again that I could possibly eat that every single day. I spent too much time copying down recipes from the Lady & Sons cookbook & the Gourmet cookbook. Not enough time cleaning, although I did make some progress.

The boys had friends visit for the afternoon. I ran them home & did some more cleaning before Committee Night. B is proposing having discussion-type movies rather than family movies for movie night. I think it's a capital idea, but the other committee members seemed to have doubts. K's daughter, though, agreed that discussion movies would be great. One of the ones B mentioned was Romero. It would be great to do that one! Wow, can you imagine? I think Biko or A Dry, White Season would be excellent, as well. I wonder if B has seen Dogma & what he thinks of it. I was listening to Elaine Pagels' Beyond Belief in the car. She was talking about "logos" & "In the beginning was the Word & the Word was God". I kept thinking of the part where Alanis Morissette as God opens her mouth & no one can stand to hear the voice of God. I was thinking about the possibility that God spoke or sang the universe into being. Some great imagery there.

Anyway, when I got home from church, the boys were just finishing their dessert. J was mad at me about housework & all that sort of thing & we argued until our dinner was ready. We were able to eat our eggs in peace, but I still feel the smart of her judgement. I wish I were perfect, but I am not. I try & that's what matters most. She went through the whole litany of things I haven't gotten done: painting around the hall switchplates (when I first painted the hall & spent all that time & effort working on it, the only comment she had was that it was messed up in places), organizing the basement, washing all the handwashable dishes, organizing the study, getting the porch all dressed & ready for summer use, fixing the cover for the smoke detector (which she said SHE would take on after I tried several times & had no luck), & on & on it went. UGH!!! If I could have any servant, it would be a maid. That sounds so decadent & gross of me to say, but that would be heaven. If it were a combo maid & handyman, that would be perfect. Personally, I don't think the house looks bad at all, nor do folks who come over. But, she has this weird idea of what's acceptable from her childhood. Her mom & all her aunts & all her friends' (middle American, anti-intellectual) parents apparently maintained immaculate houses & that's what she expects. Our house is a very nice house, it's well-decorated & fairly well kept up. But, it will never measure up to her impossible standards unless we have a full-time maid or unless SHE does it herself. It simply won't.

When she was ready to go to bed, I joined her & read Garlic & Sapphires until my eyes started crossing, then went to sleep.

Catholics, COSI, and Pi

J came home early from work on Friday. We went & got her new social security card & driver's license taken care of , then had lunch at Nick's. Their wings are superb, vinegary & hot.
While J took a nap, I watched house porn & went through some old magazines. In the evening, we took the kids over to the local Catholic church's annual festival. There were games, rides, a dunking booth, a flea market, and a food tent. J & I lingered long over the books at the flea market & got several. Pie splurged on vases & stuffed animals. J grilled burgers for dinner that night and we had caramel apples from the festival for dessert.

In the morning, one of the boys' friends came over & we took them all up to COSI, the science museum in Columbus. We got to see the Titanic exhibit, which was really interesting & which made me cry. It was the friend's first time to COSI, so it was fun to show him everything.
Afterward, we took them to the festival again. Bought more books, of course. The kids had dinner there, but J made chicken cordon bleu for the two of us after they went to bed.
Sunday morning, we went to Sunday School (where we discussed finances from a Christian viewpoint. We talked about giving to charity & we also talked about whether there are some professions Christians should not be in, for ethical reasons...I'm not talking things like prostitution, but rather things like corporations being more interested in profit than people) & to church (we ushered & the kids sang).

We spent the afternoon getting ready for book group. We discussed Life of Pi by Yann Martell. The main character is an Indian teenager who is a devout Hindu, Muslim, and Christian. Very interesting book. Anyway, since Pi is Indian, we served a bunch of Indian food. We had chicken tikka masala, curry chickpeas, sambhar stew, saag paneer, rice, pappadams, bhatura, Indian soda (Thums Up), Indian beer (Taj Mahal), chai tea, banana fritters, and candy-coated fennel seeds. One of our friends brought brownies & Jell-o with fruit in it, too.
We had a great discussion. One of our friends had just been to The Outer Banks to visit her daughter & new grandbaby. She brought a bunch of shells from the beach & let us find ones to keep. She is one of my favorite people, a Quaker witch, a fluent speaker of Spanish, and a wise, wise woman.

Monday, J was off work. So, I got the boys off to school, then we spent the morning in bed, luxuriating in each other. We went down to Waynesville for lunch & to poke around the shops. Our favorite restaurant there isn't open on Mondays, so we tried Hammel House. We sat on the porch in the sunshine, high above the sidewalk. We each had soup, French onion & cream of mushroom. Both were too salty to eat. But, the main course, broccoli quiche & "English Grill" (English muffin with tomato, cheddar, & bacon, all broiled) were tasty. We split a slice of Ghirardelli pie, rich & almost fudge-like.

In the afternoon, we took the boys to a couple of bookstores. They chose a Star Wars novel & a Mad Magazine. J got Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller & I got Speaking My Mind by Tony Campolo. I also got the current issues of Coastal Living & Jane (gotta have a little trashy reading now & then). We had dinner at Boston Market, then spent time on the couch reading our new books.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Tea Rooms & Bike Rides

After an interesting discussion of trinity theory & non-gender-specific language at Bible study, my grandies & I met J for lunch. We sat outside at Teaberries. I was worried that they would be annoyed at driving all the way there for food they didn't like. Luckily, they liked it. I think they liked getting to have lunch with J even more, though. She & my grandmom had the luscious cream cheese & olive sandwiches, my favorite thing on the menu. My granddad had cream of chicken soup & half a ham sandwich, while I did the same with half a chicken salad croissant. Their chicken salad is different from any I've ever had...with a touch of horseradish! I loved it. I was very good & did not order the red velvet cake, although I was ever so tempted. We sat at a table outside, the same one we shared with A&K last week. It's so pretty there. As we walked in, my grandmom told me that my granddad's aunt V read tea leaves in a tea room. That was her occupation! I love it! They never went because my granddad's mom never wanted to go. Disapproved, I imagine. My granddad says he missed out on knowing his future. LOL!

On the way home, we stopped at Young's for ice cream. Well, my granddad had ice cream, butter toffee, but I had chocolate gelato & my grandmom had peach sorbet. We sat outside, with the smell of bacon wafting through the air. It was nice to spend a little extra time with them.

I spent the afternoon researching scholarship possibilities. I was unloading the dishwasher when J came home. I had just put on water to boil, for the corn. But, J wanted to ride our bikes to Nick's for dinner. Man, oh, man was it good, but I am practically bereft of Flex Points for the rest of the week...and we are going to the local Catholic church's festival this weekend. Oh, well. Boot wanted hot wings, so we all shared them as an appetizer (although he ate the lion's share...that is a wing boy for sure!). I had a gyro while J had blackened prime rib & the boys had big ol' burgers. Pie kept asking for another burger, but we told him eating 2 cheeseburgers for dinner is not a healthy thing. He is burger mad! He would cheerfully eat 2 Big Macs if we'd let him.

On the way home, we stopped to smell the sweetly-scented purple phlox along the bike path. We rode around a nearby neighborhood before going home...saw all kinds of neat landscaping ideas (& houses J loved). We passed one huge lilac bush & the smell from it was simply divine!!! The owner was out front, so we thanked her for the lilacs. I just love them! We saw some rhododendrons in bloom, too...so gorgeous. There was one house with scads of hostas & there were some lovely hibiscus & clematis plants, too. I love this time of year & I really love having a bike!

Once home, J spent time listening to her Nevada Barr book while the boys settled in. I spent some time online, then on the phone with A. I haven't talked to her in ages & it was wonderful to hear her voice! Her daughter, M, is doing well...growing like mad, I guess. She may come to book group Sunday. I hope so!!! She is planning to do a girly night sometime this summer. That would be good. She told me all about her clay work & the baby, I told her all about seminary & my writing work. I love having creative friends.

After we got off the phone, I climbed into bed next to J & spent time clipping the coupons that have piled up in the past few weeks. If I remember to use them, I will save a bunch! Then, I snuggled in & read some of the Hip Mama book. I should subscribe to the 'zine.

Speaking of mamas, the news from L is that E & B's son, T, has arrived. B had to have a c-section, but is doing okay now, as is the baby. His big brother thinks babies are silly to just come whenever instead of on the due date. He also insisted that the baby be read a story right away...he is such a cool little kid. L also went to visit her daughter, L, who had her baby a couple weeks before his cousin was born. L says he has beautiful blueberry-colored eyes. All these babies!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Return to WW...and Seminary & Baby News

I made it through re-joining WW & weighing in, officially, for the first time in months. My fear that I would be over my personal threshold of fat was unfounded. I am under that. Not by a comfortable enough margin, but at least not over. My leader welcomed me back, but I get the feeling she doesn't expect me to stick with it. I sure hope I do. I stayed on program yesterday & took a 4-mile bike ride as soon as I returned from the meeting. Steps in the right direction. On the way home from the meeting, I saw the new dog at the dog, duck, pig place. It was armpit deep in the pond & looked exuberant!

At the library yesterday, I found a Nevada Barr book on tape for J to listen to. She is thrilled to have another of her books. She really enjoyed Blind Descent, so I hope she feels similarly about Deep South. I got several books for myself, including Ariel Gore's Hip Mama book on teenagers (really enjoying it so far) & Isabel Allende's Zorro. I have always loved the Zorro story, so this should be a real treat. I hadn't even heard about it, so I was quite excited to see it. I also got an Elaine Pagels book on CD, as well as Nickel & Dimed. The Pagels is shorter, so I am listening to that first. On the way back from the library, I heard a horn & saw B waving at me, probably on his way out to grab some lunch. I love running into people I know around town...makes me feel more as though I am part of a community. I have missed that since moving away from my hometown. Of course, I have been part of communities, but not of the communities I have lived in, if that makes any sense.

Also on the way home, I saw gorgeous irises & the first peonies of the season, red ones a couple houses down from us. I love all the flowering things this time of year. Out the window at Bible study today, there were a number of things in bloom, including yellow & burgundy irises. My grandmom told me that when they were in Montana, everything flowered at once because the season is so short. Interesting.

Once home, I found a letter from the seminary. I figured it was some kind of registration info, so I was astounded when I opened it & found that I have been awarded a scholarship! It will pay about half my tuition for the first year. I'm not sure if it's renewable, but I find that just remarkable! What a blessing! I am almost unable to believe it. It makes me feel as though I am in the right place in my life. My buddy, L, says that what you put out comes back to you thrice & that this is a direct result of my good actions. To me, it seems as though God really does want me there, as though I am truly called. It seems such an enormous amount, as though they really want me there, too, & think I'll be a great asset. I hope to prove them right.

I was looking at the website & see info about the women's center, about one of the profs hosting a picnic for the women graduates, about a class on homosexuality & the Bible being taught by a prof, all kinds of things that make me feel as though I am really landing in a good place for me. It seems as though I will be able to do some important community-building while I am there. I think the alumni association is pretty active, too. I wonder what kind of job Spirit will lead me to.

I just had time for some hot & sour soup before the boys got home from camp. They had a good time, but were exhausted & hungry. I fixed them a pizza & gave them free screen time. Boot fell asleep in his bedroom for awhile. They were pretty wound up, no meds & lack of sleep & routine. I spent the afternoon talking with Pie about the things he did at camp & cooking dinner. I made light chimichangas...which the children didn't eat. Oh, well. They can't adore everything I make & tonight they get cheeseburgers.

J brought me a sweet card & a little purse with a cat that looks like Jasper on it. The cat is adorned with a jeweled collar & a pink feather boa. Very cute. It was my congratulations-on-the-scholarship gift. She liked dinner, as did I.

Right before dinner, I got a call from L. She said, "I have news" & I shrieked. Yes, little RR is here, born Monday. L went into labor Sunday night & was trying not to go to the hospital right away. However, she started throwing up & couldn't stop, so they went in. She was given phenergan to make her stop puking & IV fluids since she was dehydrated. Because of the dehydration, she ended up with no breaks between contractions, leading to a 2-hour contraction. I cannot imagine! So, they gave her an epidural, saying that if she didn't do something, she was not going to make it to the end. She was able to get a nap, then. When she awoke, the contractions were normal again, so she was able to do the rest naturally. RR & L are both fine. He weighed 7 lbs & 9 oz. & was 20" long. Much smaller than she had anticipated, with B's family tending toward 10 pounders. Whew! B caught him, with L's mom assisting & B's mom taking photos. L said that yesterday morning, B was holding RR at the window & crying. She asked him what was wrong, why he was crying. He responded that he was just sharing R's first sunset. Wow, what a guy...I am so glad she has found him. We get to go meet the baby this weekend! Yippee!!!

It must be the week for babies because this morning I got news that my mom's customers have their first grandchild. He was born yesterday & is absolutely darling! B & T's son & DIL haven't named him yet because he won't open his eyes & they want to look in his eyes before they name him. Makes sense to me. When I mentioned it in Bible study today, though, people laughed like that was a silly thing to do. Oh, well. I wonder if E & B have had their bambino yet...I hope all went smoothly, if so. I haven't heard from grandma L yet.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cholesterol Extravaganza

So, yesterday I decided that I desperately need to return to Weight Watchers. I spent some time looking around the 100+ pounds to lose boards. I thought about my friends who have lost that or nearly that...and started after I did. I am deeply disappointed in myself for not only failing to lose, but gaining everything back by not taking good care of myself.

Now that I have my bike, now that the season is right for all kinds of fruits & veggies, now that I am worried about my knee, and (most importantly) now that I am feeling panicky about breaking new ground, crossing thresholds of fatness...it is, I hope, time for me to actually succeed. I have grave doubts about my ability to do this. It seems such a huge undertaking. But, I am venturing forth, with my little heart beating so fast at the thought of trying again. I am flat-out scared. I am scared to weigh in, scared that their scales will take me over the threshold, where my scale has not gone. I am even more scared of trying to live each day on program. Terrified of really trying to do this. At least this time, I have exercise I love that isn't a hassle to do.

I have set some rewards for 10%-reaching. I should set up a good solid list of goals after my weigh-in, once I know exactly where I stand on the official scale. Not only for 10% goals, but perhaps for increments of 25 pounds. Maybe something little for the first 10. But, I do know that for my first 10%, I plan to go to the spa with K & get a facial. Massage is fine, but it's the facials I really love. For my second 10%, I may get a canopy/mosquito net for over the bed. Perhaps. For my third 10%, maybe a sari? A lovely pink one.

So, last night, knowing that today is "Get Serious Day", I indulged in a bunch of crap. When J got home from work, we rode our bikes up to Nick's for dinner. The patio wasn't open (it's probably too cold, anyway), but we sat in the quiet room. I was so uncomfortable in there last time, but this time I was in jeans & felt much more at ease. S & E from church were in there...sat next to us. They ordered alcohol, which shouldn't have surprised me but did. I have all these weird notions that everyone at church is incredibly strait-laced & my doors are constantly being blown off when I actually get to know them outside of our church personas. We talked about Michigan (they spend the summer on the U.P. & are about to go), hockey & other sports (they used to go to my cousin's hockey games at OSU & had just come from a high school baseball game), food, and tattoos/piercings. S, it turns out, has seven ear holes (including an upper one) and two tattoos! She got the first one, a football on her right thigh, when she was 50. The next, a helmet on her left calf, was when she was 65. She plans on getting a goalpost on her lower back when she turns 80! That is just cool.

The crap-indulging, though, is what I intended to divulge. J & I ordered fried morels (she didn't like them, so I ate most of them...they weren't as good as mine, but I have no morels), fried green tomatoes (they were great, thin-sliced & crisp), and Nick's chips. On top of that, I had a breaded, deep-fried chicken sandwich (add cheese & mayo, for God's sake) & J had a Pub Burger, dripping with tartar sauce. Jesus!

Good thing we had at least ridden our bikes there! It was lovely to ride home in the gathering dusk together. With the boys gone to camp & the evening like it was, it felt very much like when we were first dating. I think we've both been longing for having things like that. Things are always good between us, but those evenings spent doing something other than getting things accomplished...playing board games or cards, going for walks, out to dinner on a weeknight with no kids...they feel different.

So, I am now off to face the scale. I shiver in my boots.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Great Food & Texas Hold 'Em

Friday night, we went to dinner at Meadowlark...what fabulous food! We got garlic frites with caper mayonnaise & homemade ketchup for an appetizer. We also had a grilled artichoke that was out of this world...almost as good as the ones at Tarpy's near Monterey.
I ordered the garlic chicken for my main course...wow! It was a boneless chicken breast with garlic-rubbed skin. It was served atop a mound of jasmine rice, with lima beans & quick-fried spinach, with a dollop of goat cheese on top. J had a fabulous steak, rubbed with garlic & rosemary, with a puddle of butter on top, the way James Beard liked his. It came with mashed potatoes.
For dessert, we split the banana "fritters". They were more like banana tempura, absolutely delicious, all melty & hot with a light crispy coating . They came with vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce & scattered with toasted pecans & coconut.
We poked around Half-Price Books afterward. I got a couple of travel books (Dervla Murphy's One Foot In Laos & a road trip book called Bruce & Stan Search for the Meaning of Life).
We got up about 5:00 Saturday morning & went in to J's plant. She worked until almost 3:30 while I hung out in her office reading The Mermaid Chair, proofreading stuff for her, & copying down recipes. We had brunch at Cracker Barrel on the way home.
We just had time to change & dash off to the home of some of our friends. I have known one since high school. He & his partner invited friends over for meatloaf & Texas Hold 'Em. We had never played before (and I had never played any kind of poker at all), but had a grand time. I'm just glad we weren't playing for money!
Sunday morning, we taught the 4-6 grade class the Pentecost lesson & attended church. Our pastor had our former interim pastor, who is heavily involved in ministry to the local Hispanic population, read the scripture for the day in Spanish. Then one of our friends, who is a linguist, read it in Russian. It was a neat touch.
After church, we had lunch on the patio at Peach's Grill. We split the Mediterranean pita chip platter (which comes with tzatziki, roasted red pepper & feta spread, and hummus...and the chips are warm & crisp-soft) & a chicken chimichanga.
We poked around the stores for awhile. J bought some fossils (including a piece of dinosaur poo) while I got 2 different kinds of incense & some pink elephant cocktail stirrers. Then, we walked around the residential section of town, looking at yards, cats, paint colors...
When the boys got home, we helped them pack for school camp (they left at 9:30 this morning & will be back tomorrow afternoon...all the 4th & 5th graders go every year). Then, we played Texas Hold 'Em with them before dining on cheesy chicken corn chowder.
We tried some Kuan Yin incense for our "Sunday Night Candles & Incense" & it smelled fabulous, a sweet smell to drift off to.

Last Thursday & Friday

Thursday, I didn't do much of interest during the day, but we did have a great time making dinner for my grands. We took all the fixings for beef stroganoff over. J fixed that while I was in charge of the noodles and peas. I also baked some chocolate chip cookies, but I was having such a good time visiting that I completely forgot about them. They were not burned, but were quite crispy & therefore no temptation to me! My grandmom likes them best that way.

While we were there, we got to see (smell!) the lilies of the valley that bloom beneath her hostas by the kitchen windows. There was also a fuchsia from my aunt A, her traditional Moms' Day gift to my grandmom, and a bouquet from my uncle T & his wife, M. The irises at the end of the driveway are blooming, too. It was a good day for flowers. I also got to see some old cards from my mom & aunt A. I hope A will start doing more art again...she really has talent.

I had a gallopy kind of Friday. I went to the women's group at church, the last regular meeting of the season. The speaker for the day is a guy my grandmom has gone to a lot of Order of St. Luke things with. I enjoyed hearing what I could of his talk, but had to leave early to grab lunch with J & our friends A & K. J works with A & we have really enjoyed their company on a number of occasions. However, I had never met their baby, who was born last July. They are about to go to Hawaii to scatter her mom's ashes, so I didn't want to miss the chance to have lunch before they left for the trip.

When we got to the restaurant, a little tearoom off of a gift shop not far from the plant, K said she had a gift for us & presented us with a basket of yellow pansies, tied with a pretty pastel plaid ribbon. Isn't that sweet? She said it was a Happy Spring gift. I am going to plant them in the bed by the back porch. Their brightness is welcome on grey days like today!

We were able to sit out on the brick patio for lunch. J & A kept checking their watches, since they had a meeting in an hour. The baby is absolutely adorable & he is so very good. He has his mama's bright eyes & his dad's laidback disposition. J & A spent most of lunch watching the baby while K & I jabbered on & on, catching up with each other's news. A had one of their yummy Reubens, K had chicken cashew salad, J & I had olive & cream cheese sandwiches. Since A & J were so anxious about getting back, K suggested that they go in one car & we come along when we were ready. That had been in my mind, too, and I was glad when they agreed.

K & I split a piece of cherry pie à la mode, then poked around the gift shop. She kept exclaiming over the quilts, the furniture, the low prices. We had a grand time & I got to hold baby J most of the time, which was really fun! I played tickle with him & he let out the most wonderful peals of giggling! K & I decided that we would make sure to schedule a time for us to get together again, whether to have dinner out, shop at Easton, or eat at one of our homes. She also wants me to come to a spa with her, for massages & facials. J told me to go ahead, but that seems awfully self-indulgent. I would be fine with it if J was going, too. Maybe for my birthday...

Once the boys got home from school, we ran some errands, then I worked on the Sunday School lesson. After the boys left with their father, we tried to go to The Winds for dinner. No tables would be open until 8:30, so we decided to drive over to Meadowlark instead. What a good choice that was! More on that in my weekend report!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Deck Bedecked

...and other things. As I said, I spent the early part of the morning reading Blackbird House & was nearly late for Bible study. It was an interesting one. The Pentecost story and a discussion about speaking in tongues & about how we can tell the Holy Spirit is present when we are not speakers in tongues, holy rollers, snake handlers. I don't think there are many of us who believe that those people are necessarily doing those things because the Holy Spirit is within them. Maybe some are, but it seems more likely that they are trying to show how holy they are, like the Pharisees. But, I do believe strange things can happen. I honestly feel the HS more often outside of church than in, but there have been times. The time the angel played West African drums & I cried, the time both my mom & I smelled roses (B informed me, though I was already well-aware, that the scent of roses has long been said to be a manifestation of Mary). But times seeing the toenail moon or standing in a whirl of maple helicopters or touching my wife's skin have felt as holy, if not more so.

After Bible study, I went to The Bob with the grands. I treasure my time spent with them. Yesterday, we decided that next Fall, we'll have to come up with another day each week to have lunch since I'll be busy on Wednesdays. R, their longtime neighbor whose cornfields I used to play in as a child, came and sat with us for awhile after he finished his lunch at the counter. I wonder if he's lonely now that his wife is gone. He just seems so steady & kind always. I love to look at his ears. They are highly unusual, very long with thick, thick lobes. He talked mechanics with my granddad yesterday. He speaks so softly that even I have a hard time hearing him. I smile a lot & respond when called for, but mostly I just like him being around. I feel him watching me sometimes & wonder if he is thinking of when I was a little girl, or of my mom as a girl, or maybe of his own grandkids. I am glad there are people like him populating my childhood landscape.

My granddad looked at our lawnmower after lunch, checking it with the volt meter he carries in the car. I find him amazing...he always seems to have the right tool for whatever needs to be done & he always knows how to do it. I really admire him & my grandmom, both. He declared the problem to be a weak battery & plans to bring a charger with him next time he comes by. He is so kind. I am glad we can go out & cook for them sometimes. It makes me feel as though I am repaying, even if just a tiny bit, all their kindness to me & to the world.

Once they had gone, I went to pick up our Persian's registration stuff from the pet store. Then, I hurried back to my children, getting home about 10 minutes before them. There was an ambulance & a police car at the school earlier. I was so scared and couldn't believe I was so scared. I called the office, sick to my stomach. Luckily, it wasn't my babies. Unluckily, it was someone's baby. I have been praying that all will be well. Pie told me that what he heard is that the girl had heart problems, that she was his classmate's buddy last year (which makes her even younger than him). I cannot imagine how scary this is for her parents.

I got the chicken burritos Boot had requested all ready to pop in the oven, in anticipation of having an early dinner then going to see Paper Clips. Unfortunately, J worked a 13 hour day & didn't make it home in time for the movie. The boys were so relieved that Boot hugged me. He is so funny. Sometimes he is simply overcome & has to fling his arms around me despite his pre-teen aversion to physical affection. The good part was that I already had the burritos all wrapped in their foil jackets & ready when J got home. My dear wife had not stopped to eat lunch in all that time, so having dinner done was a blessing. The burritos turned out to be really tasty. Pie didn't like his, but that's the "all foods must be plain" thing. Boot said they are much better than the ones at Taco Bell. He had said before that he was sure they'd be much better. I was worried, not even having tried one at Taco Bell & not knowing what his expectation was. After all, this is the boy who prefers McDonald's to The Winds. Apparently, I exceeded it. He suggested that I add a little rice next time, but not a ton. Otherwise, he was pleased.

J was exhausted, so I left her on the couch watching Nova, letting all the quantum physics wash over her. I tidied the kitchen & took out the spirit plate. A storm was coming in. I saw Chango's lightning flare in the distance, over the school field. I felt oddly comforted by that. The wind had picked up & the maple helicopters were whirling their way down all around me in droves. The streams of them seemed never-ending. I wonder how many an average tree drops each spring. It was a magical feeling to be standing there in the midst of all that.

Knowing the storm was coming, J & I went & brought the hammock in, as well as the chair cushions. I had spent time in the afternoon putting them out for the first time this season. It was hot & blue yesterday. I even let myself lie in the hammock for a minute, listening to the birdsong & looking at the green, before going inside to change the sheets. After they were safely piled in our bedroom, we retired to the couch where the string theory talk continued. I copied down some Paula Deen recipes (Georgia Cracker Salad...gotta love it!) while J watched the show.

We went to bed about the same time as the boys. I petted J & read to her from The Mermaid Chair (which is wonderful so far). Once she fell asleep, I listened to the wind & rain & counted myself very blessed to have such a life.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Astoundingly Lazy Day

Yesterday, I spent much of the day in bed, immersed in The Lovely Bones. I read the whole thing within 24 hours, thought it was great, & now want to read Lucky. However, what I am reading is Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman...am really enjoying that, too. Almost made myself late for Bible study this morning.

When I wasn't saturated with words, I was cleaning house & trying to get the mats out of our Persian's coat. He was none too pleased with that, let me tell you! But, I made some headway & only got minimal scratching. He adored the cable guy, placing his hind paws on the guy's thighs (he was kneeling in front of the t.v.) & his front paws on the guy's chest...and purring so very loudly that I could hear him from the kitchen table!

Since the boys were at B's house, J was able to hit the grocery with me. Then, I fixed a broccoli & sausage pizza (the fennel seeds were a wonderful touch) for our supper. It went great with Dole's garlic Caesar salad & Cameo apple slices. Pie had some popcorn & some pizza to supplement the hot dog dinner he had at B's. Boot was full & chose to do his reading time instead. We allowed Pie to watch part of Clash of the Titans before bedtime. He is so interested in Greek mythology, just like his mama.

After we got dinner cleaned up & took the spirit plate out (and saw a gorgeous toenail moon), we hopped in bed to sink into our respective books. A lovely night altogether.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Writing & Riding

After J left for work early yesterday, I finished up my review & sent it in. Then, I got the kids off & puttered around the house for awhile. In the early afternoon, I rode my bike up to the library to find some large print books for J to read when her glasses are off & she's in nap mode. She was delighted that I found a Sneaky Pie mystery for her. I also got a Walter Moseley, a Louise Erdrich, & an Oscar Hijuelos for her. In other book news, a box arrived from Amazon yesterday containing the boys' 2 Star Wars books & one J got me as a surprise...the new Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair. I have been admirably restrained about not buying it for the past few weeks, but I consider it every time I pass it in the grocery or the bookstore. So, I am thrilled to have it & utterly touched that she got it for me.

I also conquered a fear yesterday. To anyone who's been riding a bike for awhile, it would probably seem ridiculous, but I have been very afraid of riding on grass. I was (well, still am, truth be told) scared I'd topple over. But, I was trying to cross right when the high school let out & there was no way in hell that I would have been able to get across without a very tedious wait unless I went across at the light. But, that meant I only had a few options, none of which I liked. One was to ride the bike path further & loop back around, incurring a trip up a steep incline. Another, to ride in the street with all the high school traffic. The third, to kill time by riding up & down the bike path until traffic cleared & I could get across my usual way. And the fourth, ride on the grass. #1 was totally out of the question because I am not yet able to ride up such a steep incline. #2 brought on images of me lying in the street with my head busted open & my brains all over some teenager's car. #3 seemed ridiculous, but was the course I was about to follow until I changed my mind at the last minute & went riding off into the grass. With white knuckles & clenched teeth, I survived the trip & was soon home free! Woohoo! I can do it! Next time, though, I will time my trip better so that I don't have to.

I spent the afternoon finishing Life of Pi (which took a weird & unexpected turn) & cleaning the kitchen. We went to the grocery briefly. Then, I launched into dinner preparations, chatting with Pie the whole while. Boot was upstairs immersed in a Star Wars book, but the two of us talked about his lack of focus at school lately & about things he might come up against as a teenager (being offered drugs, friends talking of suicide, etc) & as an adult (his own kids not doing what they're supposed to in school).

I made a wonderful dinner. Since they had no halibut at the grocery, I made seared Mediterranean tilapia, which turned out to be fabulous! The boys had Van de Kamp's fish fillets, which they much preferred. I felt they were missing out horribly. The vinaigrette which goes on top of the seared fish is laden with Roma tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and artichoke hearts. Along with the fish, I made steamed broccoli & mashed potatoes. J said it was better than The Winds. I don't know about better, but I'll take equal to. I was astonished. For dessert, we had chocolate volcanoes with raspberry coulis. The boys adored them & I think J did, too. I like my flourless chocolate cake better, but these were quite good. The coulis would be good on waffles, with vanilla bean ice cream & fresh fruit. That reminds me of E's wonderfully creative birthday parties. I will never forget the waffle creations or the year we all dressed up in outlandish clothes & went strolling through downtown. I wonder what she's doing now, hope she's happy. I heard she is also gay. She was always so smart & creative. I realize that I really miss her parties.

After dinner, J helped me clean up the kitchen. Then, I showed her my review & we hunkered down to our reading in bed. She got right into her Sneaky Pie while I finished John T. Edge's Apple Pie. What a great little book that was...I love his writing. I started on The Lovely Bones then & can hardly put it down!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mother's Day & Pretty in Pink

Friday night, we took the kids out to dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill. J had the sirloin marsala with fettuccine alfredo & broccoli, I had the spiedino di mare (scallops & shrimp coated with Italian breadcrumbs & drizzled with lemon butter...spectacular!) with a salad & cavatappi, Boot had a kids' cheese pizza, & Pie had a steak with buttered spaghetti & broccoli. Funny how that kid loves broccoli & asparagus & things like that.
After dinner, we stopped at the grocery & waited in the car while the boys went in & shopped for our top secret, hush hush Mom's Day dinner. When we got home, they shooed us upstairs so they could set the table. We weren't allowed down again until they called us in the morning. One boy copied down my directions for frying an egg "with the oke" & that was all the direction they wanted.
In the morning, we went down to a beautifully-set table with Vivaldi playing on Pie's boom box. We each had a perfectly-cooked (if a bit cold) egg, wheat toast, bacon, and melon. To drink, we had coconut-honeydew-cantaloupe smoothies & white zin they found in the basement. LOL! They also provided a Starbucks Double Shot in a can for J's caffeine-fix.
After our special breakfast, I went to set up for the Mother's Day Banquet at church while J took the boys to the grocery. Then, I came home & finished polishing the script.
We took the boys shopping for, among other things, Mother's Day gifts & a tiny pink hula skirt. Once home, J started cooking for coffee hour on Sunday while I put together the last fashion for the evening's show.
I went over early to make sure everything was rolling smoothly for the banquet. The boys were servers, with white dress shirts & pink bow ties. J & I were joined by my grandmom & my second grandma. The men made ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, & salads for the dinner, along with cherry pie & pink lemonade.
The theme was "Pretty in Pink" & we had decided to do a pink fashion show with a twist. I emceed in a hot pink top, pink cowgirl hat, & pink feather boa. The show started out very straightforward, with a little girl in a pink poodle skirt. But, we quickly moved on to gag fashions (a tank top with toy army tanks on the shoulders, "bell" bottoms that were pink capris with bells sewed on the butt, a 10-gallon hat made of empty gallon jugs, a hula hoop skirt made of 3 held together with ribbon, etc). People laughed & laughed! The grand finale was a poodle skirt, a miniature poodle in the tiny pink hula skirt, led by the little girl in the real poodle skirt.
We helped clean up, then went home & cooked some more. Then, we headed to the after-party for the banquet subcommittee. It was cosmopolitans & a lot of laughter on the back patio of one couple's house. Then, more cooking back home.
In the morning, we went to church & hosted a Cinco de Mayo themed coffee hour, with sloppy Josés, bean dip, tortilla chips, all kinds of nacho toppings, chimichurri with bread, Mexican cookies, & orange slice candies. We visited with my grands for awhile afterward, then went home & NAPPED!
After our nap, we opened Mother's Day gifts from the boys. They got J a bracelet in amber tones & a sweet little book about moms with all kinds of pictures of animals. They got me a peridot & marcasite necklace, a box of Lindor truffles, & a box of chocolate-covered pretzels.
Then, we hit the road to Cincinnati to see J's mom. We stopped for burgers at Sonic on the way. Our visit was nice...we gave her framed pics of the boys & of all 4 of us. J's dad had goody bags for the boys & they chowed down on apples in the car on the way home.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Lunch at the Mill

Yesterday morning, I helped in the church office...very light duty, with only 2 calls & 2 stop-ins & no B to talk food & theology with. I rode my bike back home & waited for R to pick me up for one of our Monday lunches. He was amenable to eating at Clifton Mill, so we headed out there. We got a table right by the windows & were able to watch the water. There were 2 Canadian geese out there with 2 goslings, swimming upstream, trying to make it past the white water where the mill water enters the stream. I felt awful for them, but I guess they could just have gone the other way. There they were, saddled with non-flying babies, trying to get where they wanted to be & not being able to just use those magnificent wings of theirs.

Lunch was not that hot. R's reuben was fine, but my spinach squares were dull as dishwater & the carrot sticks were dried out & the peach pie they brought out was revolting. The crust didn't even seem to have been baked at all. It was all white & gooey & pasty & just disgusting. SHUDDER! I so very much want to give them a good review, but I don't think I can for lunch. Now, breakfast is another matter. Good thing they serve it all day!

After lunch, R walked around the yard with me to look at the plants. We have a couple blooms on the lilac bush (to my surprise) & R thinks the dogwood is going to bloom just fine, too. He says that since it's just starting to leaf out now, it will bloom soon. He took a look at the hydrangea bush & is of the opinion that we should have some blooms from it in June. I hope so. I love hydrangeas, especially the blues. He says I should put acid on it in the fall. When we can get legally married, I want hydrangeas.

After he left, I came upstairs & wrote the script for the Mother's Day Banquet fashion show. I think it will be fun! Now, if we can just get the models for it! Once the script was done, I spent some time cleaning the bedroom & laundry room as I looked for library books. I am missing one book & one cd. Ugh. I forgot to use my system for not losing them. But, they'll turn up, so I will hang onto the receipt & get my money back when they do.

I made another good dinner last night, my Oklahoma friend B's spaghetti pie, big salads, and garlic bread. Pie was grumpy because his brother was working on his science project & wouldn't play with him outside. I was busy with dinner & J was too cold to go out in the frigid twilight. She offered to play inside with him, but he went in the yard by himself & pouted, trying to play wiffle ball all by himself. I do remember when I was never too cold to play outside, so I feel for him. He just doesn't get that our bodies change as we get older & we can't just run around in the chill like we used to.

After dinner, we helped Boot finish his project & listened to him present it. I hope he practices more before he has to present for class. After they went to bed, we watched CSI & went to sleep ourselves.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Boundary-Stretching & Baby Shower

We had a delightful weekend! Friday evening, when we got to the movie theater, not only was B there with our 2 boys, but she had also brought along all 4 of hers. I was glad to see her teenage daughter there-I always think it's good for teenage girls to spend time hanging out with good strong adult role models. I thought Bride & Prejudice was really fun, with lots of beautiful color, humor, a good love story. It made me really want a sari & one of the pants & tunic outfits, in some luscious color like hot pink or lime green. B & her daughter liked the movie a lot, too. It was probably a bit long for the 7 y.o. & all the boys soundly hated it. But, it's good for them to stretch their boundaries & experience things outside their usual realm of interest. As for J, she loved the colors & the costumes, as well as the pretty girls, but thought the singing & such was a bit surreal & a bit much. It was a bit a of boundary stretcher for her, as well. Now, I want to see Bend It Like Beckham. I need to watch the two Indian movies I have out from the video store!

Since J & I hadn't had time for dinner (the boys had chicken pot pie at B's), we further stretched the boundaries by dragging the boys to The Winds...only because Boot said "I'll go to The Winds" when we told them they were lucky we weren't taking them there. They have not one iota of appreciation for that place. I wonder if they'll like it when they're older or if they'll insist on taking their dates to McDonald's & Steak 'n' Shake. Oh, our dinner was wonderful! We got the Greek Meze Salad (fresh beet salad, chopped kalamatas, grilled haloumi, and warmed pitas), a cup of Provençal fish stew, and the rotollo di spinachi, which is always delicious. Pie simply ordered dessert, ice cream with "dirt & worms", and was happy. Boot ordered a grilled bacon & cheese. He grudgingly admitted to liking the bacon (Nueske & fabulous), but complained about the bread (homemade white) and the cheese (white cheddar) & said he wanted a "real grilled cheese". I explained that he had a real grilled cheese, just not the style he is accustomed to. He didn't like the $6 piece of peanut butter chocolate chip cheesecake he ordered, either. Luckily, J did. I had a piece of the black forest cake & need to remember that I never like their cake as much as their pie or other desserts. I should have had the cherry-rhubarb pie!

Saturday morning, J had to go in to work, so I caught up on e-mail, then worked on organizing the study. She got home just in time to go to the birthday party of one of her co-workers. That was a great deal of fun. Our boys had fun playing with all the other kids there while we chit-chatted inside. They have an old farmhouse & it was fun to see it. They have it painted in the same green our hallway is. We also got to see their baby girl for the first time, and to visit with their 2 goats & 15 baby ducks. All were precious. They had quite the spread prepared. Appetizers were crackers with beer cheese dip or cold spinach artichoke dip, olives, & pickles. Then, they had made a chicken bouillabaise, potato soup, and pulled beef with buns. I had to sample a little of each. His birthday cake was a yellow cake with raspberry filling & chocolate ganache to ice it. They are foodies...in fact, J will often leave him voice mails about what we're having for dinner. It's really funny. I ran into foodies there, too. One was a French teacher, an old friend of theirs. She found out my name & what I do & said, "I read you!!! I read you!!! You have my dream job!" & told me how much she likes my writing. That was fun. We talked restaurants & food for quite awhile.

After the party, we went baby shower shopping...had a grand time picking things out for little RR. I can't wait until he's here! I decorated plain blue bags with white rub-on baby words & stickers with baby-related words & their definitions. We got him a bouncy seat that was on her registry list, a set of bathtime finger puppets, and some little outfits. My favorite is one that has a sea monster on it. He is going to look so cute in that.

Sunday morning, I ran out & got some things for coffee hour & dropped them off, since no one signed up to host. Then, we grabbed some Dino's & headed to the shower. L's folks' house has really been fixed up since I was last there (probably in the early '90s!). It looks gorgeous! They have added on a sunroom that looks right out on the pond. C had all her heirloom china & linens & crystal out & it was so lovely & girly. We visited for a bit, got to meet B's mom & sister & grandma. They are all so nice. It's easy to see where B gets it. I am so glad L is with him now.

They had a brunch, with C urging us to go first in the buffet line. Wow, was the food delicious!!! She does a lot of organic gardening & preserves her fruits & veggies. She made 2 beautiful quiches, one asparagus & one red pepper with caramelized onions. The crusts were homemade & really interesting. Tasty! There was also the best potato salad I've ever had, marinated broccoli, and fruit salad with poppyseed dressing. Dessert was a chocolate bundt cake sparkling with sugar & served with cherries from her trees, along with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream. We sat with B's best friend's mom, 2 women L taught with, and a woman who worked with L's dad for 20 years before they both retired. They were a pleasant bunch.

Before the gifts were opened, J participated in an adventure. We'd been hearing this odd animal noise. Some sort of creature had gotten caught in the duct work & couldn't get out. J & another woman went to investigate. The other woman reached in & grabbed the animal by the scruff of its neck. It turned out to be a tiny baby raccoon! It was darling! L's dad (who had just got back from running a marathon!) said that there has been a big raccoon hanging out in the barn, so they took the bitty out there. Then, L opened her gifts, with the eager assistance of her nieces. It was the most wonderful shower I've been to. I like L's mom so much. I invited her to join the book group. I hope she'll come. The more smart, fun women, the better!

After the shower, we headed out to my grands' to make May baskets. I took along construction paper (along with some of the art paper I got through Freecycle), stickers, trinkets, etc. J & I had a blast making them. The grands observed, as did my ex-stepcousin C & his friend, who came to visit, bringing the gift of a new bird feeder & shepherd's hook. We had coffee, tea, Oreos, and Breyers ice cream (coffee & strawberry) as we visited. C is such a pleasure to be around, jokey & kind. He has turned out to be such a neat grown-up. He was telling us about the old barns he is rescuing wood from & about the blues band he plays in. His friend played sax for 2 years with the Glenn Miller Band. In our May baskets, we put butter mints, lilacs, dogwoods, & violets. On the way home, we made deliveries to both sets of B&L we're friends with. The not-pregnant set were playing a video game that cusses & he had beer on his breath, so they were happy to see that it was just us. They were having a relaxing Sunday evening, making a pizza & enjoying themselves. I think they were touched by the May basket. B asked me if we sang the Internationale as we were making them. LOL!

Once home, we made dinner. We had steak with homemade chimichurri sauce (a gorgeous green for May Day), baked potatoes, Tuscan bread, the sesame asparagus recipe that J&D gave me (back when J was still alive...I miss him & May always make me think of him, since it holds his birthday). For dessert, in bed, Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie. How decadent! Pie was too full for dessert, while Boot had brownie batter ice cream before bed. After they went to bed, I put out the plate for the spirits & some milk & honey for the fairies, as well as a rum & candy offering for St. Anthony. J was working on planning a romantic weekend for the end of the month, then we went to bed with our ice cream.