“Pop” goes the weasel

Standard

‘My popovers? Not so much.’

First, full disclosure. The popovers portrayed in the photo at the top of this post are not of my making. They were produced by The Dude’s talented Cousin Christine, who is the daughter of the Best Cook — and Popover Maker — on the Planet Earth, Dude Man’s Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor too busy enjoying a toast at her 90th Birthday Party to make any popovers

Why, back in the Olden Days, when I had first met The Dude, we would look forward all year to an Eleanor Christmas, when we would gobble up not only perfect popovers, but sublime roast beef accompanied by some crazy-good potato dish that was sort of like scalloped potatoes but on some whole other level of deliciousness.

(I could go on and on, but I promised I would write this post before lunch, and this is torture.)

I knew I couldn’t replicate the whole menu, but, silly me, I thought because Eleanor said that popovers were “easy” and that she “just threw them together” that I could make them too.

Dude, scanning the horizon for piping hot popovers. Er, make that piping plovers

Hah. I tried every recipe I could find, including — yes — Eleanor’s own. But my popovers flopped. They were wimpy and chewy and blech. Lucky for me, The Dude eats anything and everything so he didn’t really notice that my popovers were less than fantastic. Well, except for the time the oven caught on fire because the butter I’d greased the pan with overflowed onto the gas jets and burst into flames. That batch he noticed.

Popovers were not a Peterson Family Food Tradition. Lutefisk, yes. But I felt no compulsion to master that dish. See ‘Krampus is Coming to Town’ for deets

I stowed the popover pan in the cabinet on top of the refrigerator (where all sad utensils go to die) and tried to forget. It was actually pretty easy after Aunt Eleanor moved to Kentucky to live with her daughter, since no one else we knew made popovers. At least not when we were their dinner guests. Oh, I heard a rumor that her son Jack made a mean popover, but never got to taste any evidence. He lives in Florida most of the time; for all I know he’s whipping them up every night for his Palm Beach Pals.

Now pie I can make. After years of experimentation, I finally found the Holy Grail of Crust. And yes, Dude Man is having pie for breakfast here

So why, after all this time, did I try making popovers? Eleanor again. She moved away, true. But lo and behold, her daughter Christine turned out to be the apple that fell not far from the Culinary Tree. According to Eleanor, with whom I have frequent phone chats, Christine bangs out that roast beef dinner — complete with that heavenly potato concoction — on a regular basis. And makes stunning popovers to go with. (Again, see perfect examples in that photo up top. If you can stand it, that is.)

Something else I do know how to make. I can whip up a great batch of chili with my eyes closed. See ‘Paradise by the Kitchen Light’ for my secret

Eleanor: “Do you still have that popover pan?” Me: mumbling noncommittally E: “Well, you should get it out and make some popovers for The Dude (only she didn’t call him ‘The Dude’) for Christmas dinner.” Me: “I’m not sure I have your recipe anymore.” (Notice Lutheran Lie here; “I’m not sure I have the recipe.” Not “I don’t have the recipe.”) E: “Oh, don’t use that recipe. Christine found the perfect popover recipe on Cook’s Illustrated. I’ll get her to send it to you. But, oh. It won’t get to you in time.” (Aunt E still believes in clipping and mailing. She is an absolute dear, but doesn’t believe in technology like my internet-savvy mother.)

My Mom, not making popovers, but wielding her iPad and iPhone at the same time

“No worries, Eleanor,” I say. “I’ll google it.” “You’ll what?” “Never mind. I’ll find it. And I’ll text Christine when I do.” “What?

After some chat about books and politics and whatnot, we wished each other “Merry Christmas,” and after we hung up I set about googling.

Well! Turns out that one can find the Cook’s Illustrated popover recipe — and even read tantalizing portions of it — but one must get a subscription to get access to the whole thing. So I did. Signed up for a free trial subscription, downloaded the recipe and printed it out.

My beloved Garland Stove. Julia Child had this stove. Not this specific one, but still. Note two, count ’em two, ovens. One for the pot roast, the other for the popovers

I can’t ethically reprise it here, but suffice it to say that, even though Eleanor had sworn it was “easy” and had “only three ingredients,” this recipe reads like a chemistry experiment. The butter must be melted and “slightly cooled.” The milk must be “low-fat” and heated to “110 degrees.” (Who takes the temperature of milk?) Bread flour is called for, which my IGA does not stock. (Well, not true. In theory they stock it; it’s just never there when I am.) One must whip eggs till “frothy and light.” One must let the batter “sit for one hour.”

Well. I did it. Made those darned popovers. For insurance, I also made pot roast. I know how to make a fabulous pot roast. See “This Christmas is Going to Pot(roast)” for my method

The popovers turned out so well that I decided to make them for New Year’s dinner too. I swear I did everything just the same but, you guessed it, they were flops. (I would say “flopovers”, but they didn’t rise high enough to flop.)

Another shot of the successful popover batch — before they got devoured

And, to add insult to injury, when I tried to cancel my free Cook’s Illustrated trial, I had to do so by phone. And the wait time on hold — I kid you not; they told you this — was twenty minutes. Hah. Was I daunted? I put that phone on speaker and spent my hold time finding photos for this post. So there! And when the Nice Lady asked me why I was canceling my free subscription, I told her the truth: That I wanted that popover recipe, got that popover recipe — and that’s all she wrote.

Lunch. At last.

Amagansett, New York. January 2021

 

 

 

This Christmas is going to pot (roast)

Standard

‘It’s high time to bring back that classic.’

As I wrote in my sort-of-whiny and somewhat-navel-gazing post last week, I’ve practiced a rather opt-out attitude toward the Holidays in the past few years.

Some years my “decorating” consisted of switching the turkey napkins for the reindeer ones

I remember only too fondly and well the famous Marilyn Christmasses celebrated at my late great Gramma Peterson’s when I was a kid. Nat King Cole on the stereo. Gumdrop tree on the table. A luxurious evergreen so bushy and tall Aunt M would often have to crop it so it’d fit in the living room. (We believed her when she told us the top, complete with angel, was in the bedroom overhead.) 

A Marilyn Christmas Classic: The Cousin Lineup

After that, during Dude Man and my Early Married Years, there were the amazing Aunt Eleanor Christmasses: lobster, shrimp and, if you saved room, an incredible roast beef dinner complete with popovers. Gramma Whitmore, who made it till a week before her hundredth birthday, would hold court while Eleanor cooked, champagne glass in hand.

Festive Whitmores live it up at an Eleanor Christmas

Then, when The Child entered our lives, we marked the Season with our Tree Trim Party. (See “(N)o Tannenbaum”) Where, like Tom Sawyer, I tricked my friends into doing something I didn’t enjoy (substitute tree decorating for fence painting), then rewarded them with a pot roast dinner with all the trimmings. This Seasonal Highlight was repeated for nigh on 15 years.

Christmas Crackers were deployed — and crowns worn — at Tree Trim

Time, as is its wont (a favorite word, “wont”) marches on. And those Christmasses are gone. With all those wonderful traditions haunting my memories, it’s hard to muster the proper spirit to establish a new one. So, instead, we’ve focussed on Thanksgiving, and sort of glossed over Christmas. Some years Dude Man and I even fled the country.

In a rare year that we did not flee the country, we got Chinese Takeout for Christmas Dinner

Last year, though, I managed to rustle up some pot roast for The Child and the BF (now The Beau, praise the Lord) before we left for Christmas on the Amazon. I hadn’t made pot roast in years — had to call my Mom to remind me how to do it. But it turned out so well that The Beau begged me to make it again when they (safely; pandemic precautions having been made) visited this summer. Me: “Sorry; I adore you, but pot roast is just not happening in August.

Last Christmas, when we had a tiny tree and a large pot roast

In fact, The Beau loved the pot roast so much that I “gifted” him my cast iron pot roast pot. (I just had to say “gifted,” a term I find vaguely hilarious. Why not just say “gave,” a perfectly good word that already exists?) He likes to cook, and, besides, we were downsizing. Now, ironically, that same cast-iron pot, after having been lugged to Boston in a backpack on a train, got lugged right back here this summer and stored in our attic for the time when The Affianced Couple is no longer living in an RV. (See “Her Personal Truck” for cozy details.)

Before the pot roast pot got stored in our attic, it did pandemic duty as a no-knead-bread pot

Incidentally, The Child just texted me wanting my pot roast recipe. She’s up in Canada chez Beau’s Clan after having successfully quarantined and I guess she wants to impress them. Fingers crossed she can locate a suitable pot. The one in the attic is way too heavy to ship.

Meanwhile, guess what I picked up at the IGA just this morning? Yup, a nice chuck roast that I plan to “pot.” I decided it was high time to resurrect that Holiday Classic. Who cares if it’s just the two of us? The leftovers taste mighty fine. If we have any, that is.

We will certainly have no leftovers of this

Amagansett, New York. December 2020

 

 

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas

Standard

‘I Holiday Cheer myself up with a (very) little decorating’

I flunked Plank.

“No no no! my indefatigable PT instructor Jennifer cried, while Zoom-watching me flounder on the floor demonstrating my form, such as it was. “The Plank is not for everyone,” she added, hoping to soothe my fragile ego as she deleted it from my program.

Toned-by-Jennifer Me, decked out in Tracksmith duds

I may have flunked Plank, but still I’m set to graduate from PT at the end of the month. I should be thrilled that I have made such fantastic progress. I can now rock a pair of Tracksmith tights like nobody’s business. (And my back? Oh, it’s better.) But I have bonded with Jennifer the PT Girl; she’s seen me sweat and “squeeze my bootie.”

The Dude shows off his Holiday Bootie

“I already miss you!” I cried at the end of our session last week.

There’s was only one thing to do: decorate.

Let’s start in the kitchen, where I dragged out the Christmas Plate. And put the one remaining almond rocha on it to drive The Dude crazy. (I hid it last week after he’d polished off the rest)

Those of you who’ve followed me over the years know that I hate to decorate. So much so that I used to have a party where I would treat friends to champagne while they decorated the tree — then reward them with a big ole pot roast dinner when they were done. (See “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly” for scrumptious details.)

The reward for decorating my tree

That’s how “I” decorated until Her Childness left for college. Then I basically didn’t bother. She didn’t get home for Winter Break until basically the Night Before Christmas, and no, I didn’t want to have one without her — either the Party or the Tree.

Candle(s) as Tree. A theme repeated many times

So we got by with slapdash decor for years, reverting to our Little-Tree-in-a-Pot formula we’d followed before The Child’s advent. Honestly, the Amagansett property, which belonged to the Whitmore Parents back then, is studded with ex-Christmas Trees in Pots.

And in the City? Well, some years it was just Bowls of Shiny Objects or maybe, just maybe, Lights on The Mantel.

Last year’s decor was particularly spare. The apartment was Being Shown to prospective buyers, and it had been staged beyond all recognition. (See “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for sordid details.) When I mentioned to our real estate agent that I’d bought a tree, she asked, “How big is this tree?” Then went on to suggest rather strongly that we do no further decorating. (“Twist my arm,” I thought, but did not say.)

Can you find the Christmas Tree in this picture?

I must admit that all those years of bare bones stripped-down Christmasses didn’t really bother me, partly because (again, as you Readers know only too well) Thanksgiving is the Holiday I really love. (See “Turkey Shoot” for irrefutable reasons why.) In fact, some years we even skipped Christmas by going on a trip. (The Child was fine with this arrangement once she met The Beau and had his family to celebrate with. See “I’ll Be (at Somebody Else’s) Home for Christmas” for *sniff* details.)

Christmas on the Amazon River. Yes, fish was served. But also turkey! (And champagne)

But this year Thanksgiving was rather a wash. Oh, it was lovely, what there was of it. After all, what’s not to like about a turkey dinner with all the trimmings? (Turkey trimmings being much more my style than Christmas ones.) But it was, well, kind of sparse.

Last year’s extremely non-sparse, extremely fun Thanksgiving

I think The Dude felt the same way; he came home last weekend with not only a Christmas Tree (small, in a pot, but still) but also a poinsettia of rather monstrous proportions.

Holy poinsettia! No decorations needed (!)

So I went up to the attic and dug out the lights and some other festive stuff.

There’s that bowl of ornaments again. (Oh, and the Christmas Tree — there in the distance)

Voila!

Oh, and lest we forget. The Ken and Barbie House got its own small (but festively effective) infusion of the Christmas Spirit. And we didn’t have to lift a finger — except to turn it on.

Thank you, Elf Theresa, for a much-appreciated surprise

Amagansett, New York. December 2020

 

Nope. It doesn’t rhyme with “squish”

Standard

‘Tasty slips of the tongue, menu edition’

Back in the Seventies, all the cool lunch spots were festooned with macrame and spider plants. Yes, back then we young working people actually left work to go to out to lunch — and not just to grab a pannini or an acai bowl to bring back to eat at our desks.

Me, in my Houlihan’s for lunch days

Nope, about mid-morning we’d run into each other at the water cooler (seriously) or, more likely, the coffee machine (which was a Mr. Coffee we all took turns filling up and turning on) and discuss where to have lunch that day. The Middle-Eastern Place with the really yummy backlava? The Vegetarian Place run by the ashram? Or maybe Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue? Most of the time we’d head to Houlihan’s Old Place.

Note: All of these places were gussied up with macrame and spider plants. (Well, except for Arthur Bryant’s. You shuffled along in line at Arthur Bryant’s and, if you were smart, ordered the barbecued sandwich, which a guy with a missing finger cut in half for you.)

Something you won’t find on many lunch menus, then or now — fantastic deviled eggs, here made by equally fantastic Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn

But back to Houlihan’s. It ended up being a chain, but at the time it was a very trendy place in Kansas City that had once been an old-fashioned brass-railed bar called Houlihan’s. It was rumored that the name originated when the new owners — the ones who hung the macrame and spider plants — kept asking each other, “What are we going to call Houlihan’s old place? We’ve simply got to come up with a name for Houlihan’s old place!” Then one of them said, “Hey, that’s it. We’ll call it …” well, you guessed it.

Before I forget: one of our young Ad Crowd used to like to tease assistant account executives — read more about them in “I’ve Got Belts Older than You” — by asking them to go have  the Houlihan’s hostess have “Jack Mehoff” paged.

What passes for lunch these days, at least when in Cambridge: a smoothie

Which brings me to my title episode. Once, while whiling away a nice long lunch “hour’ at Houlihan’s, one of our Young Ad Gaggle, after perusing the menu, asked the waiter for the “crew-dites” followed by the “quish.” She wasn’t being funny. She just didn’t know how to pronounce such newfangled fancy food. You’ll be happy to hear that we didn’t embarrass her by “helpfully” correcting her. We weren’t all that considerate (see “Jack Mehoff” prank, above); we didn’t know how to pronounce that stuff either.

Now, before you condemn me for seeming snobbish by picking this story to tell, you must know that I had (and still have) my share of menu mispronunciations. I was once corrected by an ex BF for saying “crem bru-yay.” He corrected me in public — part of the reason he’s an ex BF. One other time I asked a waiter what the “giorno” was in the soup.

No recipes for quiche or crudites in this cookbook. But there is one for “boar stew for a crowd”

No, I picked this story because I’m thinking about food and also because as sort of a Family Lore Thing I call all raw vegetables “crew-dites,” and The Dude said this weekend after I cut up some carrots “Say, did you ever tell that story about the girl who ordered the “crew-dites” and the “quish?” So here you have it.

Recently I saw a spider plant hanging in the Instagrammed apartment of one of the most glamorous young women I know. Maybe “crew-dites” and “quiche” can’t be far behind. Though maybe not macrame.

Is it “geela” or “heela?” At least you don’t eat it. Or I think you don’t

Till then, we have “acai.” Which I have never ever said aloud, because, to me it looks like “uh-kai.” (Millennial chuckling goes here.) If you’re a reader of a vintage more likely to mangle “quiche,” here’s how the internet says to pronounce acai: “ah-sah-EE.” Which I’m not even going to think of trying to utter in public.

I console myself by knowing I can pronounce “turkey” without sounding like one.

Here’s to you turkeys who know how to pronounce “acai”

Amagansett, New York. November 2020

Deeds of Derring-Don’t

Standard

‘The Child is at it again’

First, before you even think about correcting me in the comments (though commenting is always welcome) the term is indeed “derring-do” — not “daring-do.” I googled it. Middle English term, first used in 1579. And it means just what you think it means.

An early example of Childlike derring-do. BTW, If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you jump too? (Pretty good story, incidentally)

Second, I’m sorry to be so goldarned late with this post. (That is, if you noticed.) Yesterday, my regular Tuesday Posting Day, was also Old Apartment Closing Day, and I was sweating bullets until those funds got wired — anything can happen with a sale, you know — that I couldn’t even think about being amusing.

There was some serious celebrating chez Ken and Barbie

I’m not sure I can crank it up so well today, either. We did a bit of celebrating last night and well, um, let’s just say I was feeling no pain — until this morning.

Luckily, with The Child in my world, I never lack for a topic. This one was handed me on a silver platter, via Instagram.

Well. It’s a good thing that The Child and The Beau found each other. If either of them tried to marry anyone else, he/she would expire on the honeymoon

Yup. The Child and The Beau did this thing called Rim2Rim2Rim (or even R2R2R). Which means that you run down one side of the Grand Canyon, across the canyon floor, up the other rim, then run back down, back across the canyon floor — and then back up the first rim. We’re talking 40-something miles, plus the ups and downs. Doing this is sort of like running two marathons while climbing Mt. Everest.

For those of you who like stats

It’s not really bragging to write about The Child doing this. It’s more like utter astonishment. With my lumbar issues, I consider it an accomplishment to climb the stairs. Is there a B2K2B (Bedroom2Kitchen2Bedroom)?

That little speck is The Beau doing something you will never catch me doing — running along the edge of a cliff

I don’t know why I was so surprised that The Child did this Thing. For one so young, she has a pretty impressive record of derring-do-type deeds: swinging from bars, scrambling up walls, trekking on trails. She enjoyed jumping from planes so much she did it twice. (Photo at the top of this post shows her grinning mid-leap.)

Swinging from bars. When she was in high school. Though this was not part of the curriculum

Here she was last summer, beginning her 200-mile, 3-week solo hike of the John Muir Trail

Because I am lazy and nursing a hangover, here are a few more shots from this latest adventure. Incidentally, they started at 5am and finished at 7pm.

 

More fun facts for stats fans

Oh. I almost forgot. The point of this post, other than to brag about The Child, is supposed to be how cute it is when couples share a hobby. You know, like Scrabble or golf. Dude Man and I both dig birdwatching. Which sounds like a pretty tame hobby, I know. Except that we like to do it in really remote, fairly dangerous (leeches! armed guards!) locations. So maybe the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Essential birding gear in Uganda: binoculars and an automatic weapon

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that The Child likes to do stuff like this. After all, there was some foreshadowing:

Amagansett, New York. November 2020

 

 

 

“I’ve got belts older than you.”

Standard

‘Freelance was such fun. Until it wasn’t’

As you may recall, last week I was all set to share a crabby/funny story about when I was a freelance writer — when, all of a sudden, this happened:

Needless to say, I’m still plenty excited. In fact, so excited I just can’t help treating you to another shot of the Happy Couple.

No one should be allowed to look this all-fired gorgeous on a plane, for heavens’ sakes

All in all, it was a darned exciting week, what with my umpteenth birthday, the afore-mentioned engagement, and the firing of President You-Know-Who (name rhymes with “dump”). There was some sad news, too — the death of Alex Trebeck, the beloved Jeopardy! host. Who was, of course, Canadian. (I say “of course” because I’m convinced, since The Engagement, that all the very best and very nicest men come from Canada.)

At our house, though, the game show of choice was the other really popular one. (Answer: “PattanVanna” Question: “What did The Child call “Wheel of Fortune?”) It was almost as fun to watch her point at the TV and squeak out “PattanVanna” as it was to watch her point at the TV in my Dad’s Clinton-hating presence and squeak out “BillKinton! BillKinton!”

The Child, in the very room and in the very slippers, where she’d squeak “PattanVanna”

But back to the point of this story.

As I mentioned, I celebrated yet another birthday last week. I say “yet another” because I’ve reached a rather extraordinary age. It’s a number that has rather unfortunate dirty-joke connections. Though I was so naive that I didn’t “get it” when people snickered if I mentioned I was “Class of ’69.” (Yes, my age now matches my high-school graduation year. I’m more of a ‘Senior’ now than I was when I was a ‘Senior’ then.)

Me, long ago — but still long after high school graduation — sporting my CHS sweatshirt. (It does not have a ’69 on it)

You regular readers (whom I adore with all my heart) know that I used to be an advertising copywriter. Which was “The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On.” (You can read more about the glam life I led Back Then by clicking on any story in the Adland Lore tab.) Advertising was such fun, for me anyway, that after my regular career ended I kept on cranking out copy as a freelancer.

I was a very successful freelancer. I’d come in, bat out some brochures about sheet metal or some letters to disease-sufferers. In record time and without whining. (Most of my freelance was for what they called Direct-to-Consumer advertising — DTC in Biz Lingo — which is what Regular People call “Direct Mail” or even “Junk Mail.”)

Freelancers just wanna have fun. And not get run over by a bike while taking a selfie

I wrote my stuff and didn’t complain — even if the assignments were, well, less than glamorous. The bosses loved my cheerful attitude. Boss: “You used to write for American Express; you don’t mind doing these letters for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?” Me: “Hey, I’m freelance. You pay me, and I’ll wash your darned car.” Except I didn’t say “darned.”

All went swimmingly until one assignment where this assistant account executive kept changing my copy. Without telling me. The nerve. For those of you not in The Biz, an “assistant account executive” is a person so low on the account side totem pole that he/she carries your bags and drives the car. (They can rise to the top alarmingly quickly, though. There was this assistant AE named Bill Gray who ended up being the President of Ogilvy. So it pays to be nice.)

Me, back in my Ogilvy Days. When assistant AEs carried my bags and drove the rental cars. Among other things

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care if even a lowly assistant AE changed my copy. I was a freelancer. No strings, no emotional involvement. I didn’t really work there. I’d take my check and forget about it. Except that she was changing it so it was awful. I had my pride. And my reputation. If people thought it was me writing with such atrocious syntax and horrible word choices, my lucrative career might go south.

So I did what I hated to do: I complained to my boss. (He was a great boss named Rob; super nice, even though he wasn’t Canadian.) Well, Rob called that little whippersnapper of an assistant AE into his office and told her to stop already with the changing of my copy. She was way too wet behind the ears, he explained, to presume to mess with a seasoned writer’s work. “Young Lady,” he went on, “I’ve got belts older than you.”

Me, at the beginning of a very long — and mostly very happy — advertising career

End of colorful crabby/funny story. And, incidentally, the end of my career. Even though good ole Rob fixed things, for me the freelance well had been poisoned. I was still lucratively-paid, but I couldn’t summon up that old satisfaction-at-a-job-well-done feeling any more.

But hey — I’ve got an Engaged Kid, a New President, another birthday under my ancient belt, and a bunch of people reading my finely crafted and carefully honed blog every week. What’s not to feel satisfied about?

New York City. November 2020

 

 

 

 

How on earth did THIS happen?

Standard

“The Child is about to become The Bride”

I was all set to write a crabby-yet-funny post about Whippersnappers having the nerve to change my copy when I was a freelance writer and how annoying that was. But then this happened:

Ruby with pavee diamonds. And yes, he picked it out himself

So, heck with that! Maybe next week, if my feet are touching the ground by then and my fingers have recovered from hitting “love” on Facebook, like, nine zillion times in reply to the scads of congratulatory comments this news has inspired. (What the World needs now is you-know-what sweet you-know-what. Most definitely.)

The News. As announced on Instagram. Of course

One of the comments was from a Great Friend and “roommate” from those freelancing days. Dear Renee posted “Alice. How did this happen? I clearly remember you letting me feel her kick around in your tummy just yesterday.”

I hear you, Renee, I hear you.

First day of preschool. Just yesterday, in Mom Time. Oh — I could never get her to wear those amazing blue loafers after that. Sigh

A quick footnote on “letting me feel her kicking around in your tummy.” Renee was a Good Friend Indeed if I let her do that. One of my Pet Peeves When Pregnant was when people would pat my tummy to “feel the baby kicking” — without being expressly invited to do so. When this happened, I would reach over and pat their tummies. Touche.

Another shot of The Child from ten minutes ago

But yes. Renee is right. It’s pretty darned amazing that a person to whom I dispensed nourishment and bathed and dressed and diapered and burped and carried around hither and yon both inside and outside my “tummy” should now be (gasp) getting married. Now I know why people cry at weddings.

The Child. Taking The Plunge with her Dad years ago. They were jumping off the houseboat into Lake Carlyle. (Or is it Carlyle Lake?)

Quick note on weddings. I adore them. I honestly have never ever not had a fabulous time at a wedding. I even like those really long, really religious ones. (Yes, I’ve written of my Wedding Love, here in “I Do, I Do Really Like Weddings.” Read it and weep.)

The Child and her Beau have assured me that, yes, they are going to have one. A wedding, I mean. I can hardly wait. I wonder if they’ll let me wear my tiara.

Child and Beau looking gorgeous as all get out a couple of summers ago

Incidentally, everyone loves The Beau. He is Canadian and handsome and smart and sporty and loves adventure. He is the one The Child has been traveling around the country with in their Ford F350 with the camper shell on top.

Child and Beau the day they left on their RV Adventure

In fact, when The Happy Couple FaceTimed me to inform me of their Happy News, I remarked that everyone who is thinking of getting hitched should hitch up an RV and go live in it together for several months. Then — and only then — should they be allowed to get married. Ultimate Road Test for a relationship.

The Beau on a typical workday, tormented by The Child

In addition to the Patience of a Saint Test, The Beau has passed the Mom Test and the Dad Test and the Aunts and Uncles and Gramma Tests as well. In fact, he took time off work last fall so he could attend my mother’s 90th birthday celebration.

I need to wrap this up — I don’t want to miss my Jitney back to Amagansett; I was here briefly to supervise our couch delivery here at the Ken and Barbie House. Incidentally, guess how many times I’ve bought a couch? This would be Time #1. (You can read about that in “I Have Never Bought A Couch.“)

Gosh. The Child is going to be a Married Lady. No matter how happy I am, it’s a little hard to wrap my head around. So it’s nice seeing evidence like this that she is, in fact — and no doubt always will be — The Child.

Yup. She’s still a Cheddar-Goldfish-Lovin’ Child at heart

New York City. November 2020

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown with a capital “L”

Standard

‘When my Mom did some prison time’

My Mom was a nurse when she married my Dad, and she worked for a few years at Regular Nurse Jobs.

My Mom when she got “capped,” which is like graduation for nurses

I remember when I was in kindergarten and we lived in Memphis, she worked at Methodist Hospital, which my three-year-old brother Scott mispronounced as “Memphodist.” Mom didn’t correct him; she thought it was cute. (She also didn’t correct us when we referred to the “Entire State Building.”)

Mom, with one and a half kids

Well, after a while, nursing while “momming” got to be a bit too much, so she hung up her white cap and devoted herself to bringing up us kids. 

Mom had plenty on her plate, with kids ranging from Big (me) to Little (Toddler Doug) and three more in between. That’s Middle Bro Roger sporting a muscle tee on the left

But then, after years of carpooling and band recitals and PTA, the big kids flew the coop and the little kids turned into high schoolers. And Mom found she wanted to exercise her nursing muscle once again. And earn a little coin besides.

I was gone by then, both physically — off to college — and emotionally — totally absorbed in turning into a Grownup — and I wasn’t very tuned in to what was happening with the folks back at home.

Was Mom working at the prison when this was taken? I was getting ready to bolt for New York, so of course I have absolutely no idea

For example, there was a period when a foreign exchange student was living in our house — a foreign exchange student  (from Chile? Peru?) who came and went — and I never even met him.

So, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I wasn’t all that up to speed about the various nursing-related jobs my Mom had. I do recall that, for a time, she drove around to people’s houses conducting physicals for an insurance company. I remember that job because my Mom said that, invariably, the people she was supposed to give physicals to lived on remote farms with furiously barking dogs. Huge dogs that would lunge at her car door, leaving scratches on the finish and drool on the glass. “Come on out, he’s friendly,” these people would insist as my Mom cowered inside.

Mom and getting-pretty-big Doug visiting Independent Scott (who took this photo) in Oregon

So no wonder the job in Vandalia sounded more, well, normal. She could drive to work, park in a parking lot, and do her nursing in a nice clean nurse’s office. The fact that the office was inside a prison didn’t faze her in the least. Mom became a prison nurse. Which is kind of like a school nurse. Only they don’t send you home when you have a fever.

(Speaking of prisons, if you haven’t read my piece “That’ll Teach You,” you might want to take a look. It’s about the time I spent in prison — locked in a cell.)

Like I say, I was gone from home by then and starting my climb up the Advertising Ladder, so I was a tad fuzzy on the details. I knew my Mom “worked in a prison,” but somehow I pictured this as one of those “campus”-type institutions. You know, those places where they put the Bernie Madoffs and the Enron Guys.

Well, the years went by. I was sitting around the kitchen chatting with my Mom — back when Times were “normal” and I could actually visit her — and she happened to mention that she gets a pension from “The State.” Having reached “pensioner” status myself by this time, I was rather interested. “Was that from the time you worked in the prison?” I asked.

Sometimes I feel like I’m catching up to Mom, age-wise. People have ahem) mistaken us for sisters. Mom, of course, loves this

“Yup,” she replied, taking a sip of warmed-up coffee.

“You know, I never asked, but what kind of prison was that, anyway? What kind of criminals were there?”

“What kind? Well, I remember there was this one guy who killed his wife, then cut her up and fed her to the pigs.”

It’s a good thing I hadn’t just taken a sip of coffee myself.

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

 

And now for something completely different

Standard

‘Trying desperately to distract myself from thinking of tomorrow’s (gulp) shot’

Last week I promised to come up with something fun today, in spite of the fact that it is Injection Eve. (For those of you who didn’t read last week’s post, here it is, but basically it’s me whining about having to get a steroid shot to help me deal with herniated discs. To say that I am “nervous” would be like saying Trump is “unpleasant.”)

“Please fill out one form per body part” Um, okay

Other than filling out forms and sweating bullets, there’s nothing more to be done to prepare myself for this procedure. So I’m just going to try to distract myself by thinking of nice and/or silly things. Like being at my Mom’s 90th birthday celebration last year, which was both silly and nice.

Two of my very favorite women: my Mom and my Personal Child

Speaking of nice things to think about, just try not to smile and/or “awwww” over these little guys. (Yes, I made those sweaters. And already posted pictures of them. But now you can see how much better they look with cute babies filling them out.)

Cute Baby Francesco

Cute Baby Paul

And if cute babies are not your thing, here’s another smile-inducing shot. (Oh no! I said “shot.”) I can’t imagine any of my readers being this way, but maybe there is someone out there reading and smiling along who actually is kid-averse. Just don’t tell me, okay?

Wombat tests the next baby sweater-in-progress for comfiness

Want more cute kitties? Here’s something I saw on Instagram that made me not just smile, but laugh out loud.

Okay, enough with kitties. Here’s another baby. Mine. She may be all grown up, but I think she’s still cute as a button. I’m limiting myself to just two adorable photos, though it pains me to ration them.

As you may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck,” she and her BF are out exploring the country in a camper shell perched on a Ford350. Way to go, kids, way to go. Literally.

The Kids perched on the edge of the Badlands. Look closely and you can glimpse BF brushing his teeth in the doorway of their RV

Before I forget, the photo at the top of this post was taken earlier this year (note snow). I can only assume that the person who dumped this dinosaur was also downsizing. (See “The Tunnel at the End of the Light” for purging details.) At least I hope that’s the case and he/she wasn’t just a mean baby-hating toy-tossing ogre.

Another happy photo. Because why not? This was taken Sunday in the Catskills. If you look closely, you can peer into my sleep-deprived bloodshot eyes

Update on downsizing and purging: we’re definitely seeing the tunnel at the end of the light. We have a few more closets to empty, some artwork to move, and then there is this plant. Those of you who know me know that not only do I not have a green thumb, I am averse to houseplants. Don’t get me wrong–I really like plants. I just think they belong outside, and not in the house where I have to fuss around with them.

Our one blooming plant

But. When Wayne and I got together he already had a plant. One he inherited from his mother when she (sadly) died in 1985. So we have had this plant for quite some time. And guess what? A couple of weeks ago, it bloomed. Dude said it had never bloomed — not in all the years he’s had it. Now if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. Unless it’s this cartoon. Which captures my pre-injection state of mind perfectly.

Until next week. Gulp.

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

“Lean to the left, lean to the right. Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight!”

Standard

‘Feeling the pain; paying the price’

I’m a day late with this post — and, it would seem, way more than a dollar short. I was in the City yesterday seeing a Pain Guy about my herniated disc. Turns out I need to have a rather pricey procedure involving an injection in my spine.

(Of course it’s not just the $$$ that was distracting me from coming up with a Fun Tuesday Topic; I am beyond nervous about getting a shot in my back — I’m sweating so much my fingers are sticking to the keys on my poor ole Mac.)

In the midst of my last marathon. I’m enjoying myself immensely, believe it or not

My more than twenty years of running around sixty miles a week is probably the culprit — though the packing, lifting, shifting and so forth that goes into moving apartments certainly hasn’t helped matters much.

The only way I am supposed to be moving furniture around the new apartment

And there’s the fact that, unlike Young People Today who “cross-train,” back in my Running Days, I would basically just get up in the morning, throw on my running duds, and take off. No stretching, no limbering up, not even any cooling down — and definitely no “working on my core.”

Me, modeling my racy Quick-Draw back brace. Didn’t help. Not nearly as much as bourbon

Oh, before I forget. The photo at the top of this page shows me not only slouching like the Teen that I was, it shows me back when I dearly wanted to be a cheerleader, cheerleading being the surefire fast-track to popularity back then. (Maybe it still is.) But, alas, I was — and am — singularly uncoordinated. I could barely follow the directions for the cheer in the title, much less execute a “cartwheel.” Goodness knows I never even tried a “split.”

Payoff to all that training: The Time I finished the New York Marathon in 3 hours, 23 minutes (in the top 100 women that year). Maybe my back hurts as punishment for all this bragging (!)

Until last month, when I started doing physical therapy (via Zoom, which is a virtual miracle for PT, and, honestly, the only way I ever want to “Zoom” — cocktails are meant to be sipped in person, if you ask me. Or all by myself, thank you very much.) Until last month, if you told me you were “working on your core,” I would think you meant you’d just about finished your apple.

PT…or not to PT…that is the question

Funny story about PT. (Yes, even Physical Therapy has its silly side; mostly when I’m trying — and failing — to do something like The Bridge.) Jennifer, PT Instructor Extraordinaire, in my very first session, had me lie on my back and asked me to “tighten my abs.” So I say, “Where on earth are my ‘abs’ — and how the hell do I tighten them?” Honest. I had no idea.

No problem locating this person’s “abs”

Well, after doing PT with the Amazing Jen twice a week since August and faithfully following my at-home program every single day I can now not only find my abs, they are my new Best Friends. I am constantly aware of them and can pretty much keep them nice and tight all the time. And after doing all those Bridges and Chair Squats? I now proudly claim Buns of Steel. Why, these cheeks could positively crack walnuts. (No worries, I don’t have a video — or even a photo — to prove this.)

Out on the trail, demonstrating both birding zeal and abysmal coreless pre-PT posture

But (pun actually intended) my pain, alas, has not subsided. Hence the specialist Pain Dude consultation yesterday. And (gulp) the appointment to get That Shot next week.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on keepin’ on with the PT. And I’ll try my best to summon up something at least moderately amusing on Tuesday.

Goodness knows, since Tuesday is Injection Eve as well as my regular posting day, I’ll need some sort of distraction. Other than cocktail knitting, that is.

It doesn’t count as drinking alone if you have some knitting to keep you company

Amagansett, New York. October 2020