Thinning

I have 633 posts here but i’m not sure if WordPress is counting drafts. Although I haven’t written much here in the last year or two I still think about doing it almost every single day. Then I get all busy or lazy and go to Facebook to look for some quick way to say what might have been a blog post. And it’s been great, I love the interactions I have there and it’s so easy to post a quick photo and and and.

Not much writing gets done. Not here (my word gym), not anywhere.

A lot has happened in the last year. Our youngest, Spanky has finished high school and moved away to go to college. Fortunately she chose a school in Austin, a place we’ve always wanted to move to when the kids are all grown up. So we found a place in Austin in October and have slowly been moving things over there, waiting for the spring market to put the house near Dallas up for sale.

Actually it is a little more complicated than that, we have another college-aged daughter living at home who just finished her first two years at community college. She’s going to move to Austin as well and try to get into one of the universities near there.

Right now I’ve got to get the house ready for market. It seems like an impossible task. With each previous move we got a larger house and these new places were just a block from each other. This time we’re downsizing. And that is where the pain comes in. We’re not pack rats, but hell, it just seems like I never had to get rid of anything to fit a new thing in these places.

It’s not a big deal with things like furniture, we’ve been selling that stuff on Craigslist pretty easily. It’s going through boxes of drawings and notes my kids did when they were growing up. Letters from my parents and friends from far away, things my mom and dad made for me, things I made for my kids (I used to sew a lot). I can’t keep everything, I don’t have the room, so I’ve got to thin them out.

Some of these things have been in a box for over ten years. I have long forgotten memories that go with these things, they flood my brain and emotions and I fear if I threw the item away the memory will go with it.

And I miss my children being children. I wish I had a stronger version of myself to go through these things. I know once these things are gone I’ll have an overall feeling of lightness because all of these things are heavy.

Editing is good. I just need to get through it.

Overpowering the Sun

At around twelve noon this time of year the sunlight passes through a window in the foyer, crosses the loft upstairs and lands on a ceiling fan in a room at the back of the house. It goes on and makes a shadow of the fan against the back wall.

This fan is two stories high, so the light is strong to make it through and through my house that way.

During this half hour of revealing sunshine, I realize just how dirty that fan is. No artificial light I have in here ever shows the fan that way. I remember this from last year, and since then nothing has changed.

Again, I brainstorm ways of getting up there to clean it.

We don’t have any ladders that go that high. No telescoping two story brooms or dusters. It is possible I could stack two tables on top of each other and then put the eight foot ladder on top. Then use a long handled broom. So I imagine myself on this contraption and as soon as I begin to swipe at the fan, the blades slip away from me as there is no way to lock the fan in place.

And the dust bunnies giggle at me.

Then. The sun goes on its way and the spotlight is gone. The fan looks clean again and I think to myself how great it is that I’m the only one aware of this or gives a damn about it.

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A Husband and Wife Discuss Their Dreams

Blane and I usually start our day talking about what we dreamed the night before. We don’t actually sit down and have coffee, we just sort of meander around the house, bumping into each other occasionally. Mostly him upstairs, me down here. A floor and a balcony separates us, that’s all.

His words spill down and mine waft upwards. We hear each other all day long. Sometimes the same conversation lasts for hours, interrupted by sales and conference calls.

This is the work-at-home life.

But it all starts in the kitchen, face-to-face at the coffee machines.

His is a pop in the pod, easy as 1-2-3 Keurig that takes 60 seconds for a fresh cup.

Mine. Very complicated, but worth the 15 minutes of cranking up the boiler, grinding the beans, measuring, tamping just so…

Sometimes I use his, and rarely, he uses mine.

Today is the usual. I stare at his morning hair, which I completely adore. It looks like the wind blew it and then paused to do something else. It amuses me to no end, but I can’t tell him that first thing in the morning.

His coffee machine is about 55 seconds of warm up and 5 seconds of rushing coffee. That’s when he tells me about his dream in which we got all nasty, but he woke up before the best part. As he drags himself upstairs with his java, he says those dreams never have that special ending. Ever.

Then I tell him about mine, not face to face, but hollering over the balcony.

I was walking Scrappy at the Texas Mexican border and she bolted through a hole in the fence. Straight into Mexico. Some golden grilled thugs took off after her, so I chased after them. A team of customs agents ran after me.

Can you see it? Scrappy, thugs, me, customs agents.

Now throw in some tall buildings. This Mexico looked more like Tokyo because my brain is a fuzzy mess right now and a flat, cowboy movie landscape is no place for my superpower.

I can’t fly in my dreams like Blane can. I am a leaper. I bounce from the tops of buildings looking for my little Scrappy dog. Check every nook and cranny of this maze with my acute vision and, no dog. After I give up and return home, there she is, jumping up and down and happy to see me. Guess she doesn’t like Mexikyo.

Blane flies in his dreams. While this is an awesome skill I wish I had, the downside is he gets tired. I never run out of energy with my leaping. I just run out of things to do.

Over the next hour or so, between business calls we discuss the dreams:

Me: Anytime I star in your dreams we’re either fucking or fighting. Never anything like walking through a field of flowers or having a picnic.

Blane: No, wait, I just don’t tell you about those.

Me: …and you never have dreams where I come in save you.

Blane: Do you have dreams where I save you?

Me: Nah, I’m always saving somebody’s ass or mine. No one comes to the rescue.

Blane: Where were you when the bird people attacked?

[Bird People= four foot tall birds with 3 foot long beaks. They had teeth and were chewing him to shreds. One of my favorite nightmares of his]

Me: Now see, if I was in that dream, I’da put big rubber bands around their beaks, neutralize those bastards instead of trying to outfly ‘em.

Some time passes but the convo continues…

Blane: …Fucking and fighting, well at least I’m faithful in my dreams. It’s never anyone but you.

Me: True. But what a waste, you should go for someone like Angelina Jolie.

A half hour passes and I holler up to Blane.

Me: Okay, I’m in all your sexy dreams, but it’s a way way nastier version of me!

Blane: Shhhh. I’m on a conference call!

He tells me they didn’t hear, but I’m sure he’s lying through his teeth.

—–

At night, we discuss the day dreams. We’ve sold off everything, even the coffee makers, and all we own can be carried on our backs.

Tokyo, I’ll write about that later when I can sort thorough the photos, I’ve got some pretty bad hay fever right now and the computer screen makes my eyes burn like fire. That and and a trip to Louisiana for an aunt’s funeral just after Japan have kept me from blogging, but I promise to catch up on everyone’s posts. Miss you all.

When did this happen?

Years ago, on a Christmas day, I was snorkeling in a little country in Central America. The captain of the boat was a local, about 25 years old. He said he had never gone anywhere and had no desire to leave his tropical paradise except for one thing. Snow. I liked the way his face lit up and his eyes smiled when he said that word. My face probably mirrored his, being from the South, I haven’t seen it too often.

Never as much as last Thursday, a foot of snow in 24 hours.

Snow brings out the little kid in me. I scream and giggle and look out all the windows. I yank out the cameras, the video cam, and I’m out there, even if it’s the middle of the night. I’ve got to capture this stuff that makes the world look so different in just under an hour.

So Thursday morning I go wake the kids early to see the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen down south. They don’t get mad at me because they have never ever seen them this huge. Then they go back to sleep because they are sure they will see this again. I keep watching as if it is the very first and last time I have seen snow. It does this to me every time.


Look at the snow on the RV!

They didn’t cancel the schools on the day it snowed. People tell me it’s because the superintendent is from Wisconsin and he’s a hardass about that. It bothers me because while Wisconsin might be able to handle icy roads with their salt and scraper trucks, we don’t have that stuff down here. People also don’t know how to drive in snow and ice and there are a lot of pickup trucks with rear wheel drives. They don’t stay on the road.

After school we only had an hour of daylight to find something to do in the snow. Spank and I went to the park and one of her friends met us there. I wandered around taking photos while she built this miniature snow family.


They are about eight inches tall. Cute!

I was quite surprised she made a family because earlier she said we should make a snowman firing squad aimed at another snowman with a bandana over his eyes.

Later that evening, Blane (the husb.) who had been trying to get a flight back home from a work trip called to say he had finally made it to the airport here. While he was fighting icy roads and traffic to get home, I tried to get the kids to come out with me to make that firing squad in the driveway. I told them when their dad got out the car to check it out, we’d spring from behind the van and pelt him with a thousand snowballs.

But nobody wanted to go back out. I gave them a pass because they had been sick a couple of days earlier. Then I went outside and made a three snowman firing squad. Put the charcoal eyes and carrot noses on them and when I went to the front yard to get some branches, two of them fell over.

So I was down to one snowman, which I just called an assassin. I grabbed the first hat I could find, a beret, and put that on him.

When Spanky saw him she laughed. She was mostly looking at his beret.

Spanky: He’s French?

Me: Not just any French, that’s Jean Reno, The Professional!

She was impressed, as she should be, I put this thing together in less than an hour. Still, she didn’t want to join in the ambush.

Spanky: You really going to slam Dad with snowballs after he’s been traveling?

Me: Yup. And if that was me I’d want y’all to do the same.

She went back inside and I hid in my spot with some snowballs.

Right in front of the van.

Blane drove up and parked when he saw the assassin snowman. I didn’t have the heart to ambush him for real, I just pelted his windshield enough to make him laugh.

The next day school was cancelled and I kept begging the kids to come out so we could go sledding or make snow angels or have a snowball war or something. I don’t know when exactly it was that they grew up, I’d hoped that would never happen, that they’d always want to play out in the snow. I know when I realized it. The moment they turned me down.

So I whistled for the dogs and let them run like wild wolves in the snow. They will always be pups.

Jinx

I think everyone around here knows who I’m pulling for to win the Superbowl this weekend.

I wish I could beat my chest right now and go all hog-wild about my favorite team. But I can’t. Not here, not on Facebook, not on Twitter. Every time I do that, without fail, my team loses.

A couple of weeks ago, just before the last game started, I made a quick trip to the store to pick up a few things. I had on my -bleep-‘s jersey and while I was picking up a pack of wood outside the store, a tall man in a Vikings jersey sneered at me as he passed. I’d been quiet all day. Didn’t ask anything about who said what about who would beat whom. Or change any words ending in “o” to “eaux.”

So when the guy sneered at me, I just looked down at the pack of wood until he passed. Had I sneered back at him, I might not have seen that lucky penny sitting on the pack of wood. Had he not been making faces at me, he might have seen the penny, picked it up, and changed the outcome of the game.

Damned right I picked up that penny and all during the game I rubbed it for luck.

Stupid thing, I know it is, but the -bleep-s did win the game.

Speaking of pinching pennies, my (cheap bastard) husband finally bought a new TV in time for the game. When I opened the door for the delivery man yesterday, this is what I saw next door:

Some kid from down the street dropped a book on the floorboard of his car while driving and leaned over to pick it up. After mowing down two brick mailboxes, he learned a car doesn’t drive itself.

Back to the lucky penny. I can’t say whether I still have it or not. Not until after the game.

The horror, the horror, the horror…

When Blane told me he’d be gone for a week in January, I could barely contain my joy. Husbandless for a week and I can get a lot of things done. Catch up on my reading, writing, find some chick tv shows to watch, read all the manuals to all the electronic devices I have, whatever. Really, I thought it would be a relaxing week. Except for Thursday, I knew Scrappy had to have surgery on her leg that day.


Scrappy’s been limping with a bad left leg for a couple of weeks. An xray showed a torn ligament.

So besides have a dog with a bad leg, the week started off badly with the pool freezing over on the night he left. I think I managed quite well despite the circumstances.

Monday was great, I can’t remember what I did, so that’s how I know. After that, the house and I were at war with each other and I think I lost.

Tuesday, the day of the big earthquake, I turned on the tv to see what was going on because I’m a gawker. This is the big tv in the living room which I call Blane’s because he is the one watching it 90% of the time. Well, Blane’s tv turned itself off after about ten minutes and refused to come back on. Under normal circumstances, I’d have been frustrated because I have to watch that tragic stuff on the news. But that night I had something to go to and it was time to go anyway, deal with it later. Then I thought about how it was best for me not to watch all that sad because my heart gets ragged on image after image of suffering. I tend to get upset because I want to put my cape on and do something about it. Of course I sent money, but I want to help by being there.

My head and heart needed to be here for Scraps. For Thursday.

So on Wednesday I had to go to bed early for her surgery at 7:30 AM the next mornig. I’m never in bed early, so I had a plan. Workout on the treadmill until I completely tire myself out. I stayed on that thing for three hours and never got tired. I am a freak of nature because I have absolutely no concept of fatigue. This is bad because I feel it the next day.

Maybe it’s not that I can’t feel fatigue but that I won’t allow myself to admit I am tired and need to stop. Something was definitely wrong with my head after I got off that thing. I ran the bath water and went to see if the tv was still broken. Fooled around with some wires back there. Forgot about the water. I don’t know how much time passed when I went back and saw it rushing under the door, barreling down the hallway with its strong current and waterfalling into the home office.

You know that line of dialogue in APOCOLYSPSE NOW, Brando’s echoing whisper, “The horror, the horror, the horror…”?

That is what I hear when I see shit like that. Over and over again as I empty each load of water from the carpet cleaner (at least 50 trips).

The office had about three inches of water in there. I had stacks of books and boxes of photo albums, printers, and various other electronics just sitting on the floor by the outlets getting charged. Had to grab that stuff quickly. After i got most of the water up, I had to move two heavy book cases to vacuum up the water under there and keep them from getting ruined. The closet with some metal file cabinets had water in there too. It was the worst room in the house to have flooded. It also seeped under the wall and into the dining room. Had to move that furniture too. All this while still salty from the three hour workout.

It took me until five AM to finish sorting out that mess and the wood floor in the hallway by the bathroom began to warp by morning.

So I got no sleep before bringing little Scrappy for her surgery. The poor dog, I don’t know how she knew something painful was about to happen, she’s usually so happy to ride in the car, but that morning she cried all the way there. It made me cry. Hard.

All went well and she got a new ligament sewed in. She’s got an incision about five inches long and she’s managing well without having to wear that lamp shade-looking “cone of shame.” It’s three days post op and she is beginning to use the leg a little. That is one tough pup.

Friday I was a bit worried about how Blane would react to all the damage when he got home. I didn’t tell him about the tv or the flood over the phone because I didn’t want him to worry while he was gone. Nothing he could have done about it anyway. Why ruin his trip? I wanted to laugh when he called to tell me he was taking an earlier flight. Poor bastard, if he only knew what he was coming home to.

So he walks through the door and immediately sees the damage. I tell him briefly what happened and then tell him about the tv too. He didn’t seem to care about that. Asked where Scrappy was.

When he saw the dog, she spread out on the sofa with her bad leg out and shook it as if to say, “Look what they did to my leg while you were gone.”

And you know what? That’s the only thing he was concerned about, Scrappy and her leg. I’m so glad to have him back home.

Seven Year-Old Swimming Pool Architect

Did you ever want to build your own swimming pool when you were a kid? I bet you did because every kid I ever knew who didn’t have a pool not only wanted to make their own, they had the plans for it in their heads. Some even tried.

Like me. Now, I’m not much of an engineer but more of a dreamer and way too optimistic with a pinch of idealism. We didn’t have a shovel, but I had a ton of patience. I’d sneak a cereal spoon from the kitchen and go dig my pool in the crawl space under the house. Oh yeah, see, my pool was going to have shade all day long and no one was going to stop me from building that thing or tell me I’d fail because no one was going to find it.

To hell with naysayers.

Except for my dog, she could come with me. I worked on it all summer and by the time fall came around I had what looked like a shallow grave. My dog loved it. Lots of times when we couldn’t find her anywhere, I’d go look in that spot and there she was curled up in that hole. One day I went out there and found her with a litter of puppies! I loved being the first to know about that and was happy to give up my swimming pool dream so she could nurse her pups in peace.

Blane’s pool plans were way more elaborate. He had a shovel, he had 2×4’s to frame it, and he had Visqueen to line it. Maybe he was a little older, I don’t know. But he got his homemade pool to work.

The house we had before this one, we built it on a pool-sized lot and planned to put one in once the kids were old enough not to fall in and drown. Years passed and more kids were born. We never got to the level of comfort to have a pool until our youngest was twelve. By that time we decided to just move to another place and build a pool there.

I watched every step of the pool construction with the wonder and amazement of that seven year-old dreamer still in me. They dug the hole with a backhoe, reinforced it with rebar, and the next day they blew in the cement/pebble mixture with this gigantic hose. There were about five men in rubber boots smoothing it all down with trowels. Quickly, because it dries almost instantly. Big strong ox-looking men. This is hard work that takes muscle and craftsmanship. By the end of the day, they began filling it with water.

That is Spanky reading her book in the pool on that day.

It’s been almost five years and although we don’t use it every day during the summer or even every other day or have big pool parties, it does help me keep my sanity. I grew up by the water and being so far from the coast, well, I get lonesome for it.

For the first time, part of the pool has been freezing over during the night. A few mornings ago Blane had to go out there and break up the ice, it was blocking the intake vents and causing the pump to whine. He was afraid the pump would burn out with no water in the system. He was complaining about how cold it was and I was thinking to myself how terrible it sounded, cold like it is complaining about his pool when some people are homeless. (I really should quit thinking that way and cut the dude some slack)

Around midnight last night, the pool froze over completely for the first time. I heard the pump whining and, damn, no Blane. He’s out of town on a business trip.

Begin Arctic Adventure

You know how sometimes nothing seems to work and everything you touch breaks? It was a night like that. No moonlight, and the patio lights are just shamelessly dim. I can’t see shit. I see the pool is frozen and hear the pump screaming. I put my earphones on and turned it up so I wouldn’t have to hear the pump. Put on U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Grabbed a PIPE and thrashed away into the ice. I felt like a juvie breaking all the school windows.

THUMP
Screw you winter.

CRACK
Shut up whiney pump.

SLAM
Screw you water bill.

BASH
Leaves. Fuck off.

Then I realized I could actually fall in and no one would find my frozen corpse until morning. The kids were sleeping, they couldn’t spot me. Everyone is sleeping, of course, it’s midnight.

So I called Blane to stay on the phone with me while I scooped the broken ice out of the pool, just in case. That I must admit was fun, the sound of broken ice hitting the cement.


Some of the carnage.

I almost didn’t want it to end, but I had to check the pump which is on the side of the house. In a very dark spot. Near where my dogs use the bathroom. But hey, frozen turds don’t stick to your shoes.

We have a light switch back there with a tiny swing door coverlet. I lift the hinge, put my finger in there but it felt strange. Like a magnetic field. Flipped the switch. No light. Got a new bulb, put my finger back into the magnetic field and still, no light. Something is very wrong with this fixture, it might electrocute me.

Tore the house apart looking for a flashlight. None. Blane says things into the phone such as “No flashlight? We have a million of them.” Note, he is always talking me out of buying more flashlights, so I totally hold him responsible for this.

He also says, “It can’t be that cold.”

Of course it can’t be that cold, it’s 65 degrees where he is. How can it be 27 degrees in Texas, that same Texas he left just hours earlier when it was 30? How, when it is 65 degrees in California, how?

So I got a light from the toolbox, one of those orange cage things people use to look under a car hood. Plug it in an electrical outlet by the pump. Light, beautiful light. I can see! Being curious, I first had to check what was up with that magnetic light switch. Lift the cover and scream, there’s a wad of spider nest and I had been poking it with my finger in the dark. Even though I know spiders can’t survive such harsh temps, I am convinced spider babies are crawling all over me. And my sleeves and feet are wet from messing with all the ice in the pool. But I have to bleed the air from the pump. My fingers are so numb I can’t feel shit anymore. Or turn tiny cold metal valves.

Back to the toolbox. Come back with a pair of pliers, and this is the fun part, the pump sprays me down with ice cold water.

I could never have imagined this as a seven-year old pool architect. Never. And I’m so glad I’m not homeless ’cause I really needed that hot bath.

Circus Kitchen

I hardly ever go back and read old posts. Never think about it. Except when I’m looking for a recipe I’ve put up here. I’ll use the search bar (upper right column) to find it. It’s much easier than pulling out my battered recipe scrapbook which has pages falling out all over the place. I know a lot of cooks have recipes memorized or they make things up as they go. I do that too, but I also post recipes of things I don’t make often and have to look up measurements. Or other people’s recipes.

A recipe page on here would be great, I can find them all in one click…

A little while later…

Okay, I’ve made the page and it is toward the top, in the right-hand column. Or you can go click the link The Circus Kitchen to get there.

I should be ashamed

I don’t know why I have a fascination with amusement park type machines/gadgets for home kitchens, but I do. Years ago I kicked off my collection with a cotton candy machine.

It’s not the toy one, it is a good sized machine that makes full sized cones of fluff. Of course I didn’t pay full price for it, I stalked that thing in the store until it went down to about $30. Through the years it has been the big thing to pull out for the kids’ birthday parties.

We have had just about every type of snowball machine you can imagine and if there is a hand crank or Snoopy character involved, you can bank on having your shoulder go out. No photo of that one, but we have an electric one somewhere and it is probably the one machine the kids have used the most.

The hot dog roller is fun to drag out by the pool in the summertime.

But the donut machine thingy was a total disappointment, I never could make a good one and none of us are crazy about fried anything.

I should have known better, if we’re going to eat donuts, this is the way to do it.

I never get these machines unless they are on clearance. Don’t know why I’m like that, maybe it helps with the guilt.

For Christmas I got Blane a popcorn machine. He’s been saying for about 5 years that he wants one and he was going to find just the right one, but he never got around to it. I found one on sale at Kohl’s for $30, the same one they are selling at Target for $100.
You have to see this in action, so I uploaded to YouTube:

I swear I didn’t really buy this for myself. I originally bought it for Blane Jr. but someone else gave him one, so I asked Blane Sr. if he wanted it. He jumped on it like a kid in a candy store. Or like me in the clearance aisle.

Time to watch a movie.

All was well until the meat grinder got involved

The day before Christmas Eve was so perfect I got to take the dogs out and shear off all that hair they’ve been shedding all over the house. The next day it snowed like crazy and although it was about 45 degrees when it began, the temperature dropped rapidly, the snow picked up, and then it piled up everywhere. Perfect. First white Christmas in my lifetime.

So everyone’s all crazy happy, singing Christmas carols that only a day earlier they said they never wanted to hear again, ever. Blane, he’s putting up the Christmas tree. I didn’t even have to ask, this is what Christmas snow does to southerners).

Me? I pull out the new meat grinder I got to make rice dressing. Last year I tried chopping all the meats and it didn’t work out. This year will be different for sure, there is magic snow on the ground and… Dude. A meat grinder, okay? What can be cooler than that in the kitchen?

It’s not one of those old metal crank ones.

I will get one of those next time I’m in Louisiana. I grew up watching my mom use hers, so I know how to operate the thing.

I got what I could get around here, an attachment that fits on my KitchenAid stand mixer.

What’s important to know about this is it’s electric and I don’t ever read instructions to anything. Half the fun of a new thing is figuring it out how to make it work.

So I threw a pack of raw chicken gizzards down the hole and used the plunger thing to tamp it. Out the other side, curly strings of meat emerged. Awesome and quick. This was something that took at least an hour to chop by hand last year. Oh what a magical thing.

Next came the raw chicken liver. I threw those down the hole and tamped it, but nothing happened. So I shoved the plunger down hard and out the other side… An EXPLOSION of pureed chicken liver in my face, hair, on my arms, shirt. I look behind me and oh God, my dog Mireille! She’s white and I see these thick, red lines of raw meat all over her.

Now that was pretty disgusting for me, but for the dog? She ran around in circles licking herself, what a gift she must have thought, if she could think.

When the other dog heard all the ruckus, she came dashing in to clean the floor. That stuff was all over.

You know how difficult it stop a dog from eating raw meat spray? It took two people to straighten out that mess. Thanks a million, Blane, you saved Christmas.

Wood Fence Restoration

Since the weather has finally cooled down, I decided to tackle the big job of cleaning and staining my wooden fence. I could hire someone to do the job, but I wasn’t happy with the work the last guys did (or pretty much anyone elses’ fence around here). If it had been done correctly to begin with, it wouldn’t look so crappy after just four years.

The reason wood fences, barns, whatever turn grey after being weatherized is because of the mildew. So how do you remove it? Bleach, simple household bleach.

I mixed one part water with three parts bleach and used a lawn and garden sprayer like this:

pumpsprayer

It’s so quick and effortless, it’s almost like a magic trick. The grey disappears right before your very eyes and without scrubbing. Just spray it on and it works. After about ten minutes, rinse the bleach off with the hose. Here are two fence sections, one before spraying, the other after.

photo-2

The bleach solution also removes some of the stain from the previous job. It’s like starting from scratch with a brand new fence.

Of course I had to wonder, why haven’t pranksters figured this out and run around with bleach sprayers to people’s fences?

photo
kitty wuz here

Of course it couldn’t be that easy, really. Could it?

Within minutes of me starting this job last week, it began to rain. Pouring down bucket loads of rain. Oh well, fine, I thought, it’ll keep the grass alive (if it is not raining, you need to hose the grass down for a while before and after spraying.)

So I got out there the next day to finish, and again, it started to rain. Flash flood rain.

And the next day. And the next, and the next. Is that seven days? Because I have been bleaching this freaking fence for a week, an hour or two at a time in the friggin’ rain.

And now it’s done.

photo-1

I’ll let it dry for a week or so and then apply the sealer/stain. I plan to spray it, but I know that damn wind is going to fight me the entire time. I don’t look forward to it, but I know one thing for sure. It will be done correctly.

Killer View

The weather has cooled down so much over the last week I’ve been able to get out in the yard and tackle the jungle that is my yard.

photo

I have some flowering vines that grew over the fence and onto the other side. When they bloom, my neighbor gets this lovely view of flowers spilling over the fence. We are friendly with them and the only grudge I hold against her is that she has a large window on her second floor that overlooks my patio and backyard. In fact, she has a better view of my pool than I do.

When we moved here, I hired a landscaper to put in plants that would grow up to give us additional privacy. As long as she can see us in the backyard, I feel as if I’m living in a fishbowl. And view she does. She has a desk by that window and keeps the blinds open all the time. She waves every once in a while. Once time she told me she loves looking down into our yard because of all the flowers and pretty plants. Jezuz.

And you know, five years have passed and all the plants are higher than the privacy fence except the ones in that spot in front of her window.

That just kills me.

Strawberry Cake with Never Fail Icing

It is birthday season. Blane Sr. last week and Blane Jr. this week. I made this strawberry wonder for my son after he asked me to surprise him with a special cake.

I started with three layers of white box cake mix. Between the layers I put a layer of strawberry preserves and some fresh sliced strawberries.

strawberry layer

The icing is the magical part. It is a meringue type icing, not something you can buy in a tub or box but something you have to actually crank up the stove to make. It is worth the entire seven minutes of your time. That is one of the popular names for it, Seven Minute Icing. But it takes a little longer than that to make. It is also known as Never Fail Icing, but I’ve had it fail on me before. Those failures have much to do with the humidity. If it is rainy outside, it won’t sugar properly and will be sticky.

So, besides sunshine, here is what you need for the icing:

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup of sugar (granulated, not powdered)

3 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla

You’ll need to make it in a double boiler. Don’t panic if you don’t have one, I ghetto mine with a bowl and a stock pot. Just make sure the boiling water in the lower pot does not touch the bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar and water in a bowl and mix for one minute before putting the bowl or upper pot over the boiling water. (hold off on the vanilla for now)

mix

See below, my aluminum bowl fits perfectly over my stock pot with the boiling water.

double boiler

While the water in the lower pot boils on med heat, use an electric mixer to whip the mixture until stiff peaks form (yes you are doing this over the stove, don’t burn the cord for your mixer).

sugars

Like this in the above photo. This takes about seven minutes. Then you take it off the pot of boiling water and add the vanilla. Whip some more until the sides begin to sugar, about a couple more minutes and not over the stove.

Now you need to work fast and you had better have that cake ready because the icing needs to go on now!

sides first

Ice the sides first, then the top.

deco cake

I added some special toys on top while the icing was still wet. What will happen over the next half hour is the outside of the icing will become crunchy and yummy and…

That cake did not last 12 hours in this house.

While the strawberries on the outside are really pretty, I do not recommend you put them on the icing as they cause the icing to run due to the moisture in the berries. (now I know)

Another variation is the banana cake. Blane’s grandmother gave me this recipe years ago, so it is a family favorite.  Bake a yellow cake instead of the white, and for the layers between, make a small box of Jello brand instant pudding (small box and only use 1 1/3 cup of milk in the directions). Spread a layer of pudding then a layer of sliced banana between each layer. Frost with the Never Fail Icing and call yourself The Boss.

yum

999 Pieces of Success

Last week I bought a 1000 piece puzzle and dumped all of the pieces on the table.

puzzle

I got it for several reasons. First, I think it is good for relieving stress. It feels good to spot a piece and just know where it belongs. Snap it in, and it fits perfectly. Each tiny piece a success. Second, I thought it would get people to congregate at the table and talk more instead of everyone going off into their own little space to watch tv or hang out on the world wide web. Something about faces glowing in front of a screen is extremely depressing to me, and yes, I know my own eyes spend too much time bathed in that light.

It’s a good mind exercise, puzzle building. It trains the eye to be more perceptive and is helpful for spatial relationships. If the original is a painting, you can actually learn something about brush strokes.

It’s also pretty cool for slipping on a song by Tool, “Schism”, where the refrain is, “I know the pieces FIT!” and watch to see how long it takes for the others to notice the lyrics. Then sit back and listen for them to hum the song later because the song is completely lodged into their brains!

Revelations in convos such as this one:

Spanky: I’m going to name my band “Bitch Please.”

Me: Why?

Spanky: Wanna make sure my songs don’t get played on Radio Disney.

Me: Ah, Disney. AM620. I’ll never forget the day y’all got in the car and turned the station from pure FM to AM. I wanted to know who the hell told y’all AM radio existed so I could pinch their head off.

Spanky: You serious?

Me: No baby, I signed up for all that, every minute of parenting torture you kids could throw at me.

Spanky: Torture?! I had no idea.
——–
After a couple of days of puzzling, our eyes began to play tricks on us. While driving into a beautiful sunset yesterday, Spanky said, “Ugh, puzzle sky.”

I knew exactly what she was talking about. Everything picturesque had this puzzle stamp superimposed on it. I want to take down every painting in this house because they all remind me of puzzles. Blane said it too, “Everything looks sectioned off.”

He was the main one at the table. He couldn’t even walk by it without making a stop. “Just five minutes,” he’d say. An hour later, he was still there fighting to get his corner done before I got mine finished out. It’s sort of funny how we got all territorial with our spots, unspoken, of course.

photo

Here is the finished work. The image we’ve been staring at for almost a week.

You ever get that feeling while building a puzzle that one of the pieces is missing only to come back to the thing later and find the piece you were looking for? That kept happening to us the entire time because we knew early on one of them was missing. An edge piece with some writing on it.

photo_2

It might have fallen off the table and gotten eaten by the dogs, I don’t know, we’ve combed the house on our hands and knees looking for that damn thing. We never found it.

Who the hell cares? We have 999 pieces of success and I like the way my family ganged up to solve something. Even if it was a stupid puzzle we never want to see again as long as we live. I don’t care about that one missing piece, either.

But if it ever shows up, I’m gonna frame it and hang it up on the wall and call it “Solved.”

Just a house

I hardly ever mention this, but I do have a day job pimping houses. I’m a Realtor. I’m not a bigshot, I just do a little business here and there so I can have a job to quit when I get that big writing break. Yeah.

Reason I mention this is I was out showing houses yesterday and saw something amazing. I’ve seen all sorts of collections, but this one was the best. Ever. There was a room full of model trains. Spotless. Rows and rows of shelves on the wall with boxcars, engines, tankers, etc, each car about a foot long, all uniform in size. Some were even in glass cases.

They weren’t ordinary model trains you see in stores, I have never seen any like this before with so much detail. I’m thinking these might have been used in movies.

The rest of the house was unbelievably spotless. And there was not a micron of ugly in there. I looked for it. One little mistake in cleanliness or tastelessness, something to make me believe the people in this house were not perfect.

I passed by the oven and noticed these foiled potatoes baking in there. The foil was folded so beautifully, I have never seen a potato wrapped that way and I couldn’t help but laugh myself silly. I looked on every wall for a family portrait, I mean, what do people who live like this look like?

There were none.

It was the most perfectly staged home I have ever seen, and I’ve seen thousands.

If those potatoes weren’t in the oven I’d have guessed no one lived there. People do that, fill an empty house with furniture because an empty home is extremely difficult to sell. You wouldn’t think, but that is how it is in this area. Buyers get the impression something is wrong with it if it didn’t sell while the homeowner still lived there.

So figuring out if a house is really vacant is something I like to do if I’m working with a buyer. I have one test to figure it out. I open the fridge and look for milk.

Funny isn’t it?

So many houses tell a family’s story. The ones who leave the framed photos of the family all over tell the most. There was one today with the children’s photos through the years from birth to graduation. The bedrooms didn’t have that “personalized” look to them, they all looked like guest rooms but were worn as if some child had grown up there.

It was also missing girly things. Mom things. Something about this place told me one man lived there, a father, and this house was just too big for him now. I opened the door to the garage and there he was working away with his wood shop tools. He didn’t talk much and he looked so damned lonely it made me want to burst out crying. I hate it when the homeowner is there because I get to put a real face to that story and sometimes, like this time, it is too much for me.

Anyway. I hope all of you kids are doing all you can do for your dads today.

And all you dads out there, have a happy Father’s Day.

Still Here

Lately I’ve almost forgotten I’ve got a blog. I’ve been doing a lot of writing elsewhere, rewriting my spec script for contests, a visual writing class, and then other busy things.

It’s been rough as I haven’t had the energy left over to do much blogging or take photos or get out in the sunshine. Now that my submission is in and the writing class is winding down, I should have more time to get back to The Show.

I’m still exercising like a maniac, that’s six months of good solid habit. I feel great and continue to push a little harder with each workout.

Got some exciting news, my son Blane and his wife are expecting their first baby at the end of October! Of course you know I will completely take over and spoil that to the bone. I haven’t thought of a grandmother name yet. I really don’t care for those names and would actually like to be called by my real name, “Kitty.”

I know this is odd. I don’t care. When I talked to my mom about it, she kept saying “ahahhaaha you are going to be a granny.”

I know twenty-five year olds who are “grannies.” I will never be one of them. I cuss and go to rock concerts and don’t even own a rocking chair. I need to get one of those.

I was at Blane Jr.’s house a couple of nights ago helping him paint a room. We were up at 2AM and I asked him if this was usual for him to be up so late on a work night. He said he was both a night owl and an early bird.

Now I’m not much of an advice giver unless someone asks, but I told him he might want to use the upcoming months to get ahead on his sleep. Once the kids come in the picture, there’s not a good night’s sleep coming for at least the next 21 years.

Then I told him about the first morning I woke up with him after we got out of the hospital. Kids, even when adults never outgrow hearing baby stories about themselves.

I was worried I wouldn’t hear him cry during the night because he sounded like a newborn kitten when he cried. I was just a teenager and had never been around babies. I was clueless and I knew it.

So that first morning I woke up after a full night’s sleep. And my baby was gone. I went into my parent’s room and found my mom wiping him down with a washrag.

Me: What ya doin’?
Mom: Giving him a sponge bath.
Me: Where is the sponge and why don’t we put him in the tub instead?
Mom: You can’t get their belly buttons wet!

There were tons of people around me for the following weeks giving out massive amounts of advice. That got old pretty quickly and you know, you look at these people and look at their kids and think, I really don’t want this person’s advice.

So I went to the library and checked out every parenting book I could get my hands on. When people would dish out advice, my mom would say (with sarcasm), “She won’t do it, that’s not what the books says.”

She and the old hens would cackle about this, but you know me, I’m fine with people getting a good laugh on me. In the end, I’ve raised (am still raising) a good batch of kids.

Mardi Gras Should Be a National Holiday

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One of the things I miss most about Louisiana besides my family is Mardi Gras. We haven’t been back to a single one of them since we moved away from there because the kids always had school on that day. 

So I have a proposal here. How about we drop Christmas and just have Mardi Gras instead? It’s got the bright colors of gold, purple, and green (that’s an immediate improvement over the red/green motif) and there are parades, costumes, and best of all, revelry.

There is no party like Mardi Gras in Louisiana. Some places around here have tried to start one, but it just doesn’t have the right flavors. It’s like going to see that little Eiffel Tower in Vegas and trying to get the feel of Paris out of that. Can’t be done.

Oh well. Anyway…

Y’all have a happy Mardi Gras.

I’m Fixing a Shower

I’ve had a couple of loose tiles in the tub/shower area for a while and finally decided to do something about it.

Since we have other baths in the house, I just told everyone not to use the shower in there until it was fixed. When a shower stall is not intact, water gets between the walls and can leak onto the slab and cause it to expand. That can cause foundation damage, so this is something that should always be taken care of at the first sign of the problem.

One reason I put it off for so long is the grout is a custom color. We have extra grout mix the builder left for us in the attic, but I didn’t remember the color, there are several different ones they used in the house.

I took little scoops of each one and tried to match by eye, but none of them seemed right. The only thing I can imagine is the people who did the post builder cleaning used bleach in there which caused the color to fade. 

I’ll try that once the caulking is done. Another problem. The builder left about four tubes of matching caulk, but left every single one of them open, so they dried out. 

So here I am just trying to get some handy work done and I just don’t have the materials I need. I could have gotten this done in just one day, but now I have to order this colored caulk over the internet. 

I wouldn’t even consider hiring someone for this job. I know what they’d say, they can’t match the grout so they must remove all of it and grout it all over again so the color will be uniform. 

And I can see them breaking tiles while removing grout.

And then they’d have to order new tiles and the lot wouldn’t match.

I know, I’ve been through this before. To hell with that, I don’t feel like making an appointment with someone who might not show up anyway. Or will take off, never to be seen again after giving them money for supplies. Had that happen before. 

Dude came in here talking about Jesus this, and God that, and had a crucifix around his neck. Didn’t fool me, in fact, after he started that I told Blane, “Watch out, he’s gonna take the money and run.”

And he did. He turned out to be a crackhead. I know because Blane took off with a pocketful of knives and found him. (Don’t ever take money from Blane, he will track you down like a bloodhound until he gets back every penny.) Anyway, he caught the guy redhanded. Smoking crack. Oh boy…

Long story short, I don’t want to put Blane’s life at risk, so I’m fixing the shower.

The Bandwagon Stops to Play

My daily treadmill for thirty days goal has been reached so now I am switching to every other day. I still have a couple of pounds to lose and the entire month of February to do it.

gypsywagon

(image stolen off the internet)

What I didn’t say when I started this exercise thing was Wii get a Wii-ward for meeting the first goal.

I couldn’t really say it because I needed to sell the idea to Blane. I’d been wanting to get one for a long time and tossed the idea out quite a few times. Mostly like this:

Me: We should get you a Wii for your birthday.

Blane: We already have two game systems.

Me: True, okay.

Repeat that same exchange every time one of the kids had a birthday or when Christmas came around.

I always kept my best argument up my sleeve. Yes, we have XBox 360, yes, we have Playstation 3 (got that mostly for the BluRay player), we have several Gameboys, Nintendo… Everyone in the family has had at least two game things. Except for me.

I, personally have never had a game system in my entire life.

That was my argument and it only took five seconds to convince Blane to happily say, “Okay.” 

Don’t get the wrong idea, I get what I want when I want it. He’s not my boss. The thing is, I knew he was adamantly opposed to getting one. I completely understood his point of view. He just didn’t know mine. I wanted him to be okay with it.

If it weren’t for WiiFit, I wouldn’t have even considered it. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what I’ll be doing every other day between treadmill days. 

The WiiFit game was hard to find. I went to several stores and they were sold out. Blane Jr. told me to call all the Blockbuster Video stores, people don’t think to look there for it. That’s how I found mine yesterday.

I did one little workout on it, not much because I had already done my exercise for the day on the treadmill. What surprised me was when the thing calculated my weight, it read 10 pounds under my home scale. I’ll try again tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure my home scale is accurate. 

In just 30 days I have gotten into good shape. It was a lot of hard work, but it only took about an hour each day. I did it wisely, working my way up to harder workouts each day. What I can do now compared to when I started is pretty shocking. And no major injuries.

I am having some problems with my foot on the steep inclines. There’s a knife-like jab to the instep every time my foot hits the ground. It’s been like that for two weeks, some days it’s worse that others, but maybe now that I’m switching to every other day, it’ll get better.

I haven’t had much sweets in the last couple of months and feel much better for it. I ate a little chocolate the other day and felt sick about five or ten minutes afterward.  

Mireille (the dog) is looking good. I haven’t weighed her yet but can feel her ribs much better. She likes the longer walks too. So does Scrappy. 

Time to go check and see how everyone else is doing…

When is food too old to eat?

I cooked a gumbo about eight days ago. Normally, if it doesn’t get eaten in about 3-5 days, it gets pitched. Gumbos are big so I usually portion some to go in the fridge for leftovers and some for the freezer.

So, for lunch yesterday I was digging around for some grub and noticed the one I made for the freezer was still in the fridge. I felt rotten and irresponsible for not putting it away, what a dumb assed thing.

It smelled okay. It was seasoned up pretty well too, I mean, what could grow in that?

So I put it in the micro and ate it.

Sometimes I wonder if I have a stomach like a dog. I have never had food poisoning in my life. Not once. 

Yogurt? I have eaten yogurt three weeks past expiration. 

Cheese? That stuff doesn’t go bad until the furry stuff grows on it. And I have cut that off and eaten what’s inside. 

I wouldn’t feed that to my kids though. I have a whole different set of rules for them.

So here’s what I want to know. When are leftovers too old to eat?

Chicken?

Beef?

Pork?

Spaghetti?

Fish?

Rice? (I recently had a cousin insist  10 day old rice in the fridge was still good)

Yes, I know I can look it up on the internet, but I want to know what y’all think, because see, yogurt? That expiry date is too conservative.

Finally, what’s the craziest outdated food you’ve ever eaten?