Monday, May 21, 2007

Clearing Out The Old House

I thought we'd be gone all weekend, down in Xenia getting the last of our stuff out of the garage at the old house. However, J had other plans. I am glad we did it the way we did, after all. Friday night, we tried to go walk around Crocker Park with the eldest one. However, he quickly found his buddies and ditched us, so we were free to go home. I'd had some flank steak in a soy-wine marinade (see for recipe) since 3:30, so we had that for dinner with rice and salad. Then, Pie went back to playing Oblivion and we watched Children of Men, which both of us found horribly depressing. Boot was home only 4 minutes past curfew, a landmark for him! As soon as he was home, we went to bed in order to arise early and drive down to Xenia.

In the morning, we stopped for coffee then hit the road, happily munching Trader Joe's scones & chatting in the early morning light. We saw a lovely deer on our way down, one who was considering going out on the highway. With a great deal of horn persuasion, I was able to get it headed in the opposite direction, back into the woods. I hate to see deer killed on the road.

We hit Fairborn just a few minutes after 10 and picked up our 10' rental truck. J bravely drove it. We did a walk-through of the house, then loaded everything in the garage into the truck. I'll have to go back this week and get the dehumidifier for my grandies and bulletin board stuff for the old church, but other than that, we are finished with that place! I pray the deal goes through and closing is held as scheduled on Friday. With all inspections & appraisals out of the way, it should go smoothly. I will be beyond thrilled to get that house out of our lives, regardless of how much lower the selling price is than what we originally asked. It was a wonderful shelter while it was time for us to live there, but we need to pass it on and move forward with our lives. I felt no longing for the house as I walked through, no sadness at leaving it altogether. I have a lot of good memories from there, but I've said my farewell. I do look forward to someday having another wonderful house, with plenty of room for entertaining and books, but that one is not it any longer.

We arrived back home shortly after 4 and hung out with the boys. We had scrambled eggs with spinach and cheddar along with fry bread for dinner. In the evening, the boys hung out together and J napped in my lap while I watched Volver, which was a terrific film! I like Penelope Cruz anyway, but the film just had a great storyline and was wonderfully done. I can't wait for my mom to see it so we can talk about it.

Sunday morning, I led the adult Sunday school group in a discussion of the "dying well" chapter of the Bass book. I wanted to stay for the confirmation service, but I had one more worship service to attend for my paper that's due next week. I thought Friends Meeting would be a nice complement to the Assembly of God and Catholic services I'd already attended, so I Mapquested the directions and set out. It turned out that the route for a run was right where I needed to go. Luckily, with some detouring and the help of a policeman, I was able to get to meeting in plenty of time.

The Cleveland Friends Meeting is in a lovely old University Circle mansion. I was greeted warmly as soon as I entered. I chatted with a couple of Friends about the UCC, seminary, the death penalty and inter-faith organizations. I felt very much at home. Meeting for worship was held in a large parlor filled with folding chairs. I spent about a third of the time wrestling with monkey mind, a third breathing and smiling and listening to the sounds in the room and a third out of the room altogether, visiting with God. I found it very restful and think it might be a good supplement to UCC worship fo me. J would have been bored out of her skull. I did find myself wishing to be seated on the floor rather than in the chair, but the silence and stillness was very peaceful. I think it helped that I have been to Friends Meeting in Yellow Springs and St. Pete before, so the practice wasn't totally foreign to me. Having read some Buddhist literature helped, too. There was only one message spoken during the hour, a woman speaking of Julian of Norwich's "All shall be well" and how we need to experience sitting at the feet of Christ and being totally cared for every so often. Meeting is a good way to get "plugged in" as she put it. I really like the idea of regularly taking time to be still and listen to God (that word is so loaded), whether it is with Friends or during daily meditation time at home or sitting zazen in a sangha. UCC (and most) worship is so much doing, with very little room for just listening.

After meeting, I was urged to join the group for delicious lentil soup and conversation. I did that, but knew I needed to get home to be with the family, so did not stay for the business meeting I was invited to sit in on. I think that would be really interesting sometime, but yesterday was not the day. On the way home, I drove through the cultural gardens. I would like to take J and a picnic back there someday to walk around and see them all.

J and Boot had spent the morning at the mall and managed to get very lost on the way home, but they arrived shortly after I did. Boot helped us unload all the excess moving boxes and paper into the dumpster. Then, we all went down to the pool for lunch. Pie went in the water very briefly, but we mostly just hung out around and not in the pool. It is a chilly May. Maybe not so chilly for this area, but certainly chillier than I am used to. We grilled dogs and had lunch there, but did not stay for a very long time. Boot wanted us to go to Crocker Park with him, so we poked around his favorite stores there. I think it's funny and sweet that he's 14 and still wants us to hang out with him. He found a couple of hoodies he liked and J got me a bracelet made of worn wooden beads that reminds me of Buddhist prayer beads. When we got home about 20 after 5, Boot's dad was impatiently waiting for him. He forgets, apparently, that we officially have Boot until 6. So, when he arrives early and has to wait, he gets out of sorts. Pobrecito!

After they left, we took the truck over to our storage unit and unloaded it, just barely fitting everything in! I am so glad to have done with that. We ate dinner at Key West Grill, a never-to-be-repeated experience. Our waitress was simply horrible, the food mediocre (and J is sick from it today) and the whole experience just lacking in charm. Damn, I hate that. They are lucky I wasn't doing a review because it wouldn't have been good. At all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Moms at the Grill

Well, only one of us was actually at the grill this past weekend, but that was our special Mother's Day celebration. Since we and the kids love to hang out at the pool & grill out, we decided this weekend would be as good as any to inaugurate the grilling season. So, we skipped the fancy brunch out in favor of burgers and brats Saturday night and bbq pork chops Sunday noon. It was a blast, as was the rest of the weekend.

Friday night, the boys went over to Crocker Park to hook up with one of Boot's buddies for subs and strolling. I suspect there is a decent amount of girl-watching that goes on, too! J and I went to the grocery, stopping to lie in the grass on the way out. It smelled so fresh and green. It was fun looking at the world from that vantage point & we had fun giggling over how astonished the boys would be if they spotted us. We admired an aqua Thunderbird and decided we're going to get one that color and a pink one when we win the lottery. Those cars have class.

Once home, J flopped on the couch while I cooked up a Chilean-style pork dish, which we had over rice while we watched a t.v. special about faith. When the boys got home, an hour before curfew, Pie joined us for a few minutes. He is drawn to issues of faith, but does not want his brother to know he is thinking so deeply. Poor little guy.

We slept in Saturday, then went with the bitties over to Crocker Park to prowl the farmer's market. We were deeply tempted by eggs and jewelry, pastries and cheeses but only took a sack of cranberry almond granola home. If the lilac lady had not already been sold out, I would definitely have indulged in an armload of those! I have been very tempted to cut some of the blooms from the apartment complex bushes, but I assume that is not the kind of behavior they encourage. While we did the farmer's market, the kids took off in pursuit of shoes and shirts and all the fun to be had away from the parental unit. Boot has developed a tradition of spending some of his odd job money on a new shirt every time he comes to visit. That child simply loves clothes! We grown folks continued on to Trader Joe's and then lunch at Aladdin's, where J had the baba ganoush plate and I had fattoush with grilled chicken on top. Such perfect food!

After our outing, we enjoyed the hot tub while the boys had some downtime at home. Then, it was time to take them shopping for our Mother's Day gifts. Pie had already brought home from school a beautiful African violet for J. Then, we rounded up food, toys and kids for our evening grill-out. Those silly, silly boys actually went in the pool! It was in the 50s and I was freezing, perfectly dry, on a lounge chair in capris, a polo shirt and a hooded sweatshirt! The sun had gone down. I was wishing I had worn my swimsuit just to get in the hot tub and warm up and those sillies were swimming. Well, Boot didn't last long in the water, but Pie sure did. He loved it and says he is a polar bear. I said, "Well, I guess we know what he'll be doing every New Year's Day when he's grown!" He was thrilled to have found something he can beat his brother at.

Boot had given J her gift early so that we could use it right away. He got her a little green cooler for hauling our food back and forth to the pool & grill area, along with a set of green plastic plates. When we got home, the rest of the gifts were exchanged. Boot got me a lavender-scented candle. Pie gave J her violet, which she loved, and presented me with chocolates from a local shop. Flowers & little boy! J and I exchanged our gifts when we went to bed. She got me some lovely lingerie, a jar of lemon drops I'd been eyeing at Borders and a butterly-shaped rice krispie treat. I gave her a relaxation kit, with banana smoothie bubble bath & the two latest Artemis Fowl books. But, really, the greatest gift we got was a weekend with no blow-ups or tantrums, aside from a brief skirmish between the boys at the pool.

Sunday morning, we let the boys sleep in while we went to church. Then, we ran a few errands. By the time we returned home, both boys were awake and raring to hit the pool again. We spent a longer time down there Sunday, with the air warmed & the sun out. J even got in the pool, but only under duress and with much regret about caving to it. Brr! I hung out in the hot tub and on a lounge chair in the sun, reading "Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral" by Kris Radish. What a great book! I had started it over the winter, then gotten busy and set it aside. I'm so glad I have it to read now. It makes me want to have a traveling funeral, too. We hung out at the pool until it was time for Boot to get ready for his dad to pick him up.

Pie exhausted himself with all the swimming and fresh air. He was asleep within 5 minutes of his brother's departure. We had a quiet evening, with a simple pasta dish for dinner. I made Maytag blue cheese dressing for the, is that good! I talked on the phone for an hour with my Cuban uncle. His partner got on the phone for a minute or two. He tried to speak to me in English and I to him in Spanish. He did much better than I did! I also phoned my mom & grandies. It's so funny to be able to call my mom on Mother's Day now. I am so glad they finally got a cell phone!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Few Good Crafters

I love to use hand-crafted items in cooking and around the house. I wanted to share a few websites of crafters whose wares I particularly like to use.

Stan & Sue Jennings, of Allegheny Treenware, produce wooden cooking implements that are just delicious to use. In addition to things like wooden spoons & spreaders, I have a wonderful cherry measuring spoon & cup set that is not only useful, but a great addition to kitchen decor, as well. Check out for more info on how to get some for your own self!

The folks at Horton Brasses have a wide selection of simply gorgeous reproduction hardware for cabinets, doors and the like. The hand-forged ironwork is especially lovely. They can be found at for more info.

Some of my very favorite pottery has come from the kiln of Riffle Pottery. When I talk about drinking a mug of tea, it is likely from the green-glazed mugs I have picked up from them. See for your new favorite mug or serving piece.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Finally, a Weekend at Home!

I had been feeling quite stretched thin with multiple weekends away, so it was nice just to get to relax here at home. We had spent a long weekend in Niagara Falls, a weekend at my grandparents' house so we could visit J's folks and a weekend in Pittsburgh for the wedding. While we had great fun, it is tiring to travel like that three weekends in a row. I am about to embark on another travel stretch, too, with trips to get the rest of our things from the old house (we may be holding the closing this month, if all goes well), visiting my ma in West Virginia (woohoo!) and then 2 weekends in Santa Fe for me. Whew! All this while looking down the barrel of just 3 weeks left in the semester!

So, Friday night as soon as Pie hit the door, we took off to get a patio table at Blake's Seafood. We had appetizers there (really good crab cakes and marginal chicken "spring rolls"), then moved on to Hyde Park next door for great steaks. We did a drive-by of a house that looked promising for rental, then made an ice cream stop before going home to watch t.v. and look at cookbooks. J had gotten me some new Gooseberry Patch cookbooks and we had fun poring over those.

Saturday morning, we popped over to the beignet place and sat at an outdoor table enjoying those with coffee. We noticed that the farmer's market was open, so we had to go browse that. Then, we put in some time at Trader Joe's before going home to watch "Happily Never After" which I do not recommend. Way too facile, with nothing interesting or charming to redeem it. I had to attend mass at 5 for a class, so J had me drop her off at work to do some things while I attended mass. I had never been to a Catholic service before, aside from the wedding the previous weekend. I was glad I had been to that because it meant that I knew to find the order of worship in the missal! The inside of the church was beautiful and the service was nice, although I was disappointed at the lack of incense & high ceremony. I much preferred it to the Assembly of God hootenanny a couple of weeks ago! After I collected J, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo with dinner at El Rodeo. After a swing by the grocery, J fell asleep on the couch while I worked on discussion questions for Sunday school. When we went to bed, I said, "Hoo, boy! We are some wild lesbians, going to bed at 9 o'clock on a Saturday night!" Of course, I stayed up reading far past that.

Sunday morning, I led the discussion on forgiveness in our Sunday school class, then we attended the later church service and helped host coffee hour. We had planned to make that veggie cream cheese "pizza" on a crescent roll base but were afraid it would get soggy overnight. So, we punked out & took store-bought hummus, pita wedges, baby carrots and tomato basil pesto from J's plant. After church, we picked up a few groceries we'd forgotten and then headed over to see the inside of the cottage we thought might be a rental possibility. It was not. At all. While we could see the lake from the yard (a definite plus), the inside was ratty and cramped. The much-talked-about "large deck!" was a high concrete slab with a chintzy metal railing. Damn. Oh, well, that just means we don't have to figure out how to come up with $1400 a month and we don't have to move in the midst of me finishing the semester & going out to Santa Fe! I cannot believe the owner thinks the place is "enormous" and I really can't believe they want $1400 a month! That's double what we were charging for the place we rented out that was somewhat similar, although in much better shape and bigger. No way. If I am paying that kind of money, the place had better be really nice. Both of us were terribly afraid while we were being taken through the place that the other would fall madly in love with it. Thankfully, we were of one accord. After that, we had appetizers at Champps (an appalling "Mongolian egg roll" and mediocre pot stickers...why I thought it would be a good idea to order Asian at a burger & beer joint is beyond me. The good news is that J loved the food) and ran errands. We got home and did some cleaning, then I made chicken with morel Madeira sauce for dinner.