Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Egg Boy

My son's superhero alter ego, were he to have one, would surely be Egg Boy. In the week that he has been back with us, Pie has begun to lose the anti-social, macho veneer he had attained in the presence of his father & brother all summer. Yesterday, he wanted me to help him make an omelet, just show him the ropes. He has cracked the eggs & chosen the fillings for numerous omelets we have made, but never made one the whole way through. I let him complete all the steps on his own, standing back & offering guidance instead of jumping in to show him how & what to do. The result was absolutely gorgeous! I was so proud of him. It was not only perfect in appearance, but tasted great, too. Wow! He changed his Wednesday dinner choice to omelets, with him being the chef for all of us. His brother wants scrambled eggs, though, so he asked if I would teach him to make those today. I promised I would.

When I took him to the store, shopping for school supplies, he somehow happened upon the kitchen aisle while I was hunting down Sharpies & rulers. He came back to me with his hands behind his back, saying, "Daria, I have $5 with me & Mom has my allowance, too. May I have a dollar loan so I can get this? Please? I love it!" I expected to see a video game emerge from behind his back, so was astonished to see a 12" non-stick skillet! What on earth??? I was thrilled, of course, and agreed that he might have a loan, if he was sure he didn't just want to use our skillets. He wanted his very own. However, the skillet was quite shallow, so I suggested he get a deeper one & I'd pitch in to make up the price difference. After holding several & testing their feel, he agreed. He then begged me to loan him money for a spatula. A spatula! Okay, kid, you got it. The one he chose was a red KitchenAid one, with a nicely-angled handle. He was so very excited...Disney trip excited...about his new possessions. He plans to hang it on a special nail in his room.

He promptly named the spatula "Sprite" (he doesn't want his brother to know they are named, but if he finds out, Pie plans to tell him that it's named after the soda, not the fairy type, its true origin) & the skillet "Russell" and he just loves them. He carried the spatula into the grocery store, kept kissing it and told me he doesn't need video games anymore & that inanimate objects can be just as much fun as animate ones. He is so cute. He told me all about his plans to open a bed & breakfast when he grows up. He wants to make "omelets & special pancakes with boysenberry sauce for breakfast & stuffed mackerel with cranberry sauce for dinner. And I will offer a whole turkey dinner for 4 people for $59." He told me all about how he'll decorate his B&B. "Guess what color the sheets will be, Daria! Pearl!"

We ran into J while we were grocery shopping & he excitedly shared his plans with her, too. When she made the burritos for dinner last night, he insisted that she use Sprite & Russell. This morning, he made his own fried eggs for breakfast, with my supervision. He washed his pan & spatula, then used them again to make us cheesy scrambled eggs for lunch. He is over the moon about cooking for us tomorrow night. He just loves to cook. He's even good about cleaning up after himself. He wants an apron, but doesn't want his brother to know. J bought him one today at lunch...he doesn't know it yet. While I am teaching Pie to cook eggs, I am also teaching Boot to iron. He asked me today if I could show him. With my guidance, he did a very nice job on his pink & blue striped polo shirt. These boys are going to have very happy wives when they grow up. I am going to watch a Godzilla movie with Pie now.

Taking the Boys Visiting

Our boys, newly back from summer visitation with their father, got to spend time with both their grandparents & mine over the weekend. Friday, we set out for my grands' home as soon as J got home from work. We stopped for dinner at Bob Evans, then hit the road again. By the time we reached our destination, my grands had gone to bed & so did we.

In the morning, we had breakfast & watched the birds just outside their windows. My grandmom is teaching Pie all the different kinds of birds. We see blue jays, finches, cardinals, woodpeckers and all sorts of others, close-up. Pie's favorites are the hummingbirds. After we'd had a bit of a visit, we headed down to Cincinnati to visit J's folks. Her dad came to the nursing home with "swag bags" stuffed with fruit & candy for the boys. They love that! We ordered LaRosa's pizza & ate it in the room while we watched the original "Dr. Doolittle" and chatted.

On the way home, we stopped, as promised, at the flea market for Boot to drool over Nikes...and get a pair. For some reason, he really wanted them from the flea market. He & J are fascinated by the place. It's an interesting little parking lot fixture, a blend of old white men with card tables full of produce & young African men speaking a French-based patois & selling things like sneakers & clothing. Boot got a pair of Air Jordans that he spends a great deal of time gazing lovingly at and even petting. We also went to a regular store to buy school clothes for both boys. Pie was less than enchanted with this stop. He has no interest whatsoever in clothes, while his brother adores them. He will happily wear his brother's cast-offs, or anything we pick for him, provided it has no prominent logo.

We spent the evening visiting with my grands & had a great summer dinner. My grandmom had been to her favorite produce stand for tomatoes & sweet corn. We had Russian sandwiches (open-faced sandwiches with tomatoes, bacon and sharp cheddar, broiled until the cheese melts) & corn on the cob, my grandparents' long-time summer staples.

We skipped Sunday school in favor of bird-watching, then went to church. I was really unhappy because our pastor was on vacation. Then, we heard the sermon & I was blown away. It was all about how very important love is, how love is the core & center of everything Jesus was trying to teach & do. She talked about how congregations & presbyteries get to arguing about all kinds of things, from stewardship campaigns to what marriage means. She talked about different kinds of love, the romantic kind you share with a life partner (her term...hurrah!), the kind between close friends and the kind within communities like the church. The scripture was the famous, famous Corinthians passage about love that's used at nearly every church wedding. It was nice to hear a fresh take on it & it was really nice to hear love being preached. We stayed for coffee hour, of course, and visited with everyone. Pie was disappointed because his friends weren't there. His disappointment was compounded by the fact that they were supposed to be acolytes & Pie & Boot had to fill in for them!

After church, we stopped by our house. It really is a lovely house. I am so surprised that no one has snatched it up, especially since it's under $200,000. Oh, well, the right buyers will come along & fall in love with it. I want the new owners to have as happy times there as we did. It was a wonderful place for us while we lived there. I miss the deck & the big rooms. I don't miss not having my own tub & only having 2 burners & a small oven.

After checking in there, we started for the Golden Jersey Inn, where we were meeting my grands for lunch. However, we had a little excitement first. I was driving along & suddenly, what I thought was a HUGE grey spider appeared by my rearview mirror, in the open window. I screamed bloody murder & flailed about, scaring J half to death & probably amusing the kids greatly. I am always the calm one. Pie is forever disappointed that I don't startle easily. Well, I was beyond startled. I realized, though, that it was only a moth & calmed down...until I realized it was actually a toad! I managed to get the car pulled over & Pie hopped out to rescue the toad (well, me).

Once we got to the restaurant, we had a wait. Anything affiliated with Young's is guaranteed to be a wait on a summer Sunday, for reasons which escape me. During the wait, I ran into a classmate of mine, a very kindly man who was part of the whole homosexual ordination debate in my Old Testament class last fall. He had stated on the class forum that he was opposed to "them" being ordained, although he "has no problem with them". Afterward, he assumed, like many, that I was terribly wounded & wanted me to go to lunch with him. Pissed off is a better descriptor of how I felt about that whole thing, but I wasn't pissed at him. He just doesn't get it. He means no harm & I think he will learn. It was nice to see him, at any rate, and he got to meet my wife & kids. Lunch was good, even if Boot got revved up & the rest of us could hardly get a word in edgewise.

We packed up our things back at the ranch & headed out, the goodbyes easier knowing that we'll see them this Saturday at my cousin's housewarming & baby welcome party. On the way home, we stopped twice, once to complete football shopping with cleats, cup and mouthpiece, and once for dinner, again at Bob Evans.

Butterflies & Botanicals

The other Friday night, my beloved & I tried a new restaurant. She didn't have anything in mind for dinner, but didn't want to have what I had planned, either. So, I took her to The Saucy Bistro. We were able to have a table on the patio & the air felt so fresh, like we were right by the lake instead of a few miles from it. The service was very friendly & the food was good, too, if a little pricey for me. We shared a combo appetizer of sautéed calamari (fantastic rendition), lamb lollipop and spicy shrimp scampi. I chose filet mignon with wild mushroom reduction & rosemary mashed potatoes for my entrée, while J had seared scallops with a soy-based glaze & a sticky sesame rice cake with wonderfully crisp brown edges. The rice cake was my very favorite thing that we ate that night. For dessert, we split a volcano cake. Good, but not my chocolate nemesis, just as the rest of the meal was good, but not The Winds. As the evening got later, the owner brought tall heaters out to the patio, reminding us of wonderful dinners in Monterey & Carmel (especially the fabulous Forge in the Forest). A woman whose coat we had admired turned out to be the smooth-voiced singer for the evening. After dinner, we stopped by the bookstore, then soaked in the hot tub before heading for bed. The evening was utterly lovely. If the pool had been open, it would have been a perfect swimming night, with the just-past-full moon overhead.

We spent much of the morning in bed, before getting ourselves going to the Westside Market. We had a grand time prowling the stalls there. As we were waiting for our breakfast, a Cornish pasty, we ran into the brother of my very hip friend from high school, Mimi Flaherty. Mimi & I used to go to dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse Friday nights, then hang out in the Oregon District browsing the thrift & vintage shops, as well as Paprika's, which sold an eclectic bunch of things like art deco rubber stamps & black & white postcards. She was the friend who called to invite me to Denny's late one Thanksgiving, where we wore vintage clothes & pretended to smoke Eve Menthol 120s, just because we thought it was funny. She was the friend who skipped school with me & went to Cincinnati, with my older friend Rachel (who was skipping work), to go shopping at the fancy department stores and have a chi-chi lunch at the Hyatt. Mimi wore an amazingly garish green vintage gown to the prom, which David Letterman did not attend with her, despite her inviting him. Mimi was cool & we lost touch until very recently, when she moved home from San Francisco with her amazingly gorgeous daughter, Mirrin. Mike was always a pretty nice guy, 3 years ahead of us in school. He seems like he's still a nice guy. We are so new here that is absolutely astonishing to hear my name called out in a public place. We talked a bit about our hometown, about Cleveland and about food. Mimi had told him I was doing restaurant reviews, so he wanted my take on good places to eat here. We will have to have him over to dinner sometime. He seemed lonesome, having only moved here in the past few years himself.

After lunch, we went driving by the lake, checking out the beach possibilities & having a snack at a place called Gus' that seems to have had its heyday already. The clientele were generally older & the menu reflected that. It reminded me of the Apple Tree, a restaurant we used to go to for Sunday dinner after church when I was a kid. We had a plate of nachos, listened to an old woman boss her long-suffering husband around incessantly & then moved homeward for a nap. I had been seized with a deep exhaustion, so I was thrilled when J suggested napping. We woke up so late that cooking anything fancy would have been impractical if not disastrous. So, she permitted me to make the scrambled eggs with basil & cheddar I'd planned for the night before. I made some corn toasties with them & we had cherries, too. She ended up loving it. We had fun watching Bill Engvall on Comedy Central while we ate.

Sunday morning, we left without directions to the church we had attended & liked the week before. I couldn't remember the exit number, so we ended up driving all over Cleveland before giving up & going home to plan our afternoon. We couldn't decide between the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame & the botanical garden, so we rolled the dice & got the botanical garden. It was wonderful!!! Just wonderful! First, we went into the butterfly houses. Amazing! One even landed on me, which felt like an honor. My favorites were the orange Julias & the great big blue ones. The garden in the South American butterfly house reminded me of the Opryland Hotel. We grabbed a bite to eat & then went outside. I love weddings & got to see a bride going about the gardens getting her pictures taken, which is always very exciting for me. I don't know why I adore weddings like I do, but I really do. The flowers for the reception were gorgeous, bluish-purple hydrangeas in low, graceful arrangements. The flowers outside in the gardens were beautiful, too. I would love to take Pie, who is a rose fan, to the rose garden in June. My favorite garden was probably the herb garden, reminding me, with its scented geraniums & knot layout, both of trips to Meadowsweet Herb Farm in Vermont & Carnton Plantation in Tennessee. After our delicious afternoon, we stopped for ice cream, then got serious about getting pictures hung. By the time we sat down to our roast, the apartment looked marvelous!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Weekend Antiquing

The weekend started with bad news. We had been expecting a visit from my mom, but she called Friday morning to tell me that her dear, sweet kitty Bobo is very ill. He has a respiratory infection, can barely eat and is getting very weak. Anyone who is inclined to do so, he sure could use your prayers!

With the visit postponed, we decided to make it a weekend for poking around the antique stores in Avon. Friday night when my Beloved got home from work, I had to greet her with the news that I had prepared a bum crockpot recipe. Not enough liquid was called for and the cooking times were off. It burned. So, we decided to have dessert first. I made a reasonable facsimile of Applebee's white chocolate walnut blondie, a treat I was introduced to by my friend, Evvi. It is delicious and this version was no less so!

With our bellies full of sweets, we headed to the bookstores. My order was in & I used my gift certificate for that. It is a book called Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. It was recommended to me by my life coach. I hosted a book signing for Barbara Sher when she was touring for her fabulous book, I Could Do Anything (If I Only Knew What It Was) and found her to be a delightful person. I also picked up a (so-far) thoroughly enjoyable novel by Kris Radish called Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral. I've been eyeing it for a few weeks & finally decided to pick it up. I limited my magazine intake to 2, Weekend and Somerset Studio Home. I've already begun to implement one of the ideas in that, an old tin plate embellished with vintage photo images. J got C.J. Cherryh's Chanur trilogy, a book on vocabulary for those who don't need it and a book of 100 vampire stories (this last $1.00, a penny per story!). After shopping, we wandered across the street to Hoggy's for some barbecue. It wasn't Bubba's Q, but it wasn't bad. I had a brisket sandwich and macaroni & cheese with chili poured over it.

Saturday morning, I made scrambled eggs with salsa & cheese, eaten dipped up in pinches of tortilla. This craving was brought on by reading The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Urrea. What a great book! After breakfast, we hit the antique stores. We had an absolute ball & ended up finding all kinds of wonderful vintage photos, a darling little 1930s table for J's stereo equipment (I decoupaged vintage beach & lake photos on it yesterday & it looks really neat) and some old shutters for an advent calendar project I've had in mind. We also ended up accidentally meeting someone who knew my cousin back when he was playing hockey for the Cleveland North Coast Barons. I paid with a check & the owner expressed surprise over seeing my last name. I figured perhaps she knew my uncle or aunt, who also live in this area. However, it was actually my cousin. Her son played hockey, too, and they took my cousin in just when he needed it most. I have long heard about how kind they were to him. She now owns an antique store.

Lunch on Saturday was so good that we made reservations for Sunday on our way out the door. We stopped at The Tree House Tea Room, which isn't actually a tea room, but is definitely a purveyor of lady food. J had lobster bisque so good that she had to order another cup and half a tuna salad sandwich. I opted for chicken artichoke soup and chicken salad. All served with copious amounts of fruit. For dessert, we split the decidedly old-fashioned grasshopper pie, feeling like we should break out the bridge hands next.

Dinner on Saturday wasn't as good. I got started cooking late & by the time we ate, it was way too late for lamb, which is what I made. It was a great gourmet meal, but all either of us really wanted at that hour was salad. We have made a pact that if we get in late & it looks like we won't eat until after 9 if we cook a fancy meal, we will simply eat out or have something simple and quick like soup & sandwiches. We eagerly devoured our iceberg wedges with homemade Maytag blue cheese dressing and toasted almonds. We picked at our wine-braised lamb shanks & lemon caper mashed potatoes.

Sunday morning, we tried a new church in Cleveland. I think it may be a good fit for us. The structure itself is beautiful, the service was to our liking and the people were friendly, encouraging us to eat our coffee hour watermelon at their table. There was plenty of diversity, in economic status, race, orientation, age. There were lots of kids, too. I hope they will take me on as an intern for the coming year.

After church, we headed out for more antiquing and another Tree House lunch. This time, we both got the lobster bisque and I tried their quiche, which was nearly as good as my almost-grandma's. J had the lobster salad, which was also great. Instead of being in the back room, this time we got to sit on the glassed-in porch, surrounded by greenery. It reminded me that I would really like to have a sleeping porch on our new house. My grandmom's stories about the sleeping porch when she was a kid have affected me.

We poked around Michael's & picked up some craft supplies, went to Kohl's & picked up some gifts for my cousin's new baby & clothes for our kids and checked out an open house, a beautiful 2 story house with a huge kitchen. I wish our other house would sell soon! The apartment is wonderful for a temporary space, but I want more storage room!

Sunday night, J suggested we grab dinner out. We were mulling over the possibilities when I suggested the Savannah. It was really smoky the last time we went in & we ended up turning around & leaving. On a Sunday afternoon, though, the smoke wasn't too bad. And the cheeseburgers were amazing! We ran into my aunt's sister, too, which was fun. All in all, it was a very relaxing weekend, which we need in the middle of all this custody craziness.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

August Update

You'd think with no classes in session, I would have more free time, but such is not the case. This is just a very brief check-in with my week so far. I spent almost all day Monday, along with my Beloved, being interviewed (grilled?) by the guardian ad litem for the children. He was decent to me, but really tough on J. The main thing he mentioned to me, aside from the need to give the boys a consequence every time they lie and the need to protect Pie from his brother's controlling & bullying, is that there are pictures, supposedly of our apartment, with empty liquor bottles scattered all over the place. I don't know if these are the old staged photos from the first round of custody or ones the boys staged here, perhaps using liquor bottles supplied by their father's best (and only) friend, Henry the Bartender, who wins every time he goes gambling. Oy vey! Since neither of us drinks heavily and J doesn't drink any alcohol at all but beer, this is ridiculous. It is made more so by the fact that their father left the Navy after a period of time in a military alcohol treatment program, stated reason being alcoholism, and the fact that he was arrested for domestic violence against J while abusing alcohol, by his own statement to the police and later to a psychological evaluator. Mister, if you're going to cook up false allegations, pick something that is remotely possible...and that won't hit close to home for you! The liquor bottles in our house rarely get empty because we rarely open them. I have a 3/4 full bottle of rum that I bought for my 34th birthday party. I just turned 36. I buy alcohol so infrequently that I don't even know where the liquor store here is. Another piece of information is that the ex doesn't seem to be working. Why should he? He has no bills, his mommy pays them all. I wonder if she pays for his fancy new Jeep.

Anyway, we went back to my grands' to debrief after the interview, which lasted from 1:30 until 7. We headed home about 9, stopping for carry-out Steak & Shake near Columbus & arriving home around 1:30. I was too keyed up to sleep, so I read The Hummingbird's Daughter, a wonderful book by Luis Urrea, until 2, when I made myself go to sleep. J had to work Tuesday, so didn't have the luxury of going back to sleep. I took lunch to her and heard from her shortly after that that she had a migraine, her first in months. When I picked her up at 4:30, she went right to bed. I heated up her headache pillow, rubbed her back with Tranquil Sleep oil and hit the kitchen to make some comfort food. I took in trays of roast chicken with herbes de Provence, garlic whipped potatoes with gravy, corn and Rainier cherries and we had dinner in bed.

Yesterday, her head was better, but she was still feeling pretty down. That is his entire intent, to drain her emotionally and financially because he is still furious with her for leaving him. And the kids are busy stomping on her heart. It's very hard to watch. I reminded her that all we have to do is get through another 4 years of this, less time than we have already spent together. Once Boot turns 18, I am sure he will choose to move in with his father right away. I don't think he'll fight for custody of Pie. He's never really wanted Pie. If we can survive the next 4 years, things should be easier then. The whole affair is just tragic, whichever way you look at it. I wish that their father could find a way to be happy, genuinely, heart-healingly happy. Then, he could move on & stop torturing J. And the children. I don't know if he realizes at all the damage he is inflicting on the kids. I doubt he would care if he did realize it.

Last night, I made more comfort food, Southwest beef stew, beer bread and fresh baby spinach. We watched the amazingly fatuous "America's Got Talent"...what an embarrassing show for me as an American to watch. We also watched a bit of the coverage on Fidel Castro on the news. I am sickened by the thought of Miami Cubans celebrating his grave illness in the streets. Yes, he has been cruel and done some very evil things. I should know. He put my grandparents in prison. However, to celebrate someone's serious illness or death is beyond the pale, no matter how dark they are.

This morning, I spoke to my mom. We had been looking forward to her visit this weekend, but she had bad news. Their sweet kitty, Bobo, has been very seriously ill with a respiratory infection. They have been giving him medication and rubbing baby food on his lips so he can lick it off & get nourishment. But, it wasn't until today that he could drink any water. He might be doing better. He was at the bottom of the loft ladder this morning, meowing good morning greetings. He was also able to jump up on one of the bookshelves. But, still, my mom will have to stay close, so no visit right now. I am so worried about that kitty-boy. He is fabulous. I understand why they might want him on the other side, but we still need him here. Handling a pet's illness is such a hard thing. Going through what I went through with Thor and then with Jasper, my heart is with them as they work to help him heal.