FAKE NEWS

It is nearly noon in Dayton. The grocery stores yesterday were an absolute zoo. Sidebar: why every person in a snow zone thinks that the answer to having drifts ten feet high and not being able to get out of the house requires bread, milk, and eggs is a phenomenon that I am not able to explain, because that is exactly what I got at the store myself.

Last night was so exiting! I lined up all the candles in the cupboard on one shelf, for easy access. I put a box of matches beside them. I practiced turning on my gas stove with one of the matches, knowing that the pilot light would be out along with all of the rest of the power. I made muffins, since the toaster wouldn’t work. All the laundry got done and folded. Because who knows how long we would be shut in? Clean clothes make you feel better as you peer out of your windows at the frozen tundra outside.

We awoke with such excitement, ran to the windows, and immediately began to shriek with disbelief. Rain. Nothing but rain.

I have checked my weather app every five minutes, and although they are still promising five to seven inches of snow later (down from the six to nine they predicted), I no longer have any faith in them. Because it is raining, damn it!

The prospect of a huge winter storm is the only type of adventure that I want. I don’t want to run a marathon. I couldn’t climb a mountain if my life depended on it. Hiking? Forget about it. But going outside and letting the driving snow fall directly on my face? Thrilling. Putting on boots and trudging out to fill the bird feeders with special seed with high fat content so the birds will survive the onslaught? This makes me feel like Amundsen. Reading my Kindle by candlelight? Just like the Brontes, except for the moors we don’t have.

I am deflated, disappointed, just a little depressed at the concept that now we have to have scrambled eggs and corn muffins for dinner.

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SNOW DAY

It is a relief when it behaves like winter around here, because Global Warming.

 

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REMAIN CALM

Every single hour, news breaks. A new scandal, crime, investigation, somebody uses a bad word, somebody shoots people, the globe gets hotter, you name it. Are you getting outrage fatigue?

I certainly am becoming weary of the constant buffeting of horrible things. Nevertheless, I can’t seem to stop myself from checking Twitter a couple of times an hour, just in case the President resigns. But then I look at my cats, who seem to know how to relax, and I compile a list of things that I can do to even things out in my tattered psyche.

  • Binge watch something. This takes one’s mind off of the world in a big way. My husband thinks bingeing is a complete waste of time. I tell him bingeing is really just the same thing as reading a book you can’t put down. He reminds me that he is totally capable of putting a book down. He thinks it’s calming to go down into the basement (where there are seven litter boxes, incidentally) and hammer and saw things. This is clearly an indication that he, and all other men in basements, have no credibility.
  • Read. See above, about not putting the book down. I find that chillers about serial killers are especially diverting. Until bedtime, when it sounds as if there is a large man snapping twigs as he creeps around outside the house.
  • Exercise. Global warming has made taking walks in January very pleasant. Until I begin to fret that the reason I can stroll around in a light jacket means that the planet is  dying. Then I think about the future of my grandchildren and become depressed.
  • Napping. This is very effective. Especially if there is a cat at your side, similar to the one in the photo, above. Cats purr, and purring releases oxytocin in the listener. Or melatonin, or is it novocain? Whatever it is, it makes you feel better.
  • Eating. It is a shame that eating all the time is not good for you, because let’s face it–the only time you are totally carefree is while chewing a) mashed potatoes and gravy, b)    waffles drenched in syrup, c) cake and ice cream, d) grilled sausages with spicy mustard, or e) all of the above. I eat two meals a day now. This is tough, because I wake up hungry, spend the latter part of the afternoon hungry, and go to bed hungry. I guess that thinking of eating could be considered to take one’s mind off of bigger problems, but I wager that the populations of third world countries would disagree.
  • Dancing. This is only for people with intact joints.
  • Sex. See intact joints above.
  • Having a hobby. The word “hobby” is in itself so lame that I cannot imagine having one. Hobbies these days are what, “gaming?” Knitting? That is a noble occupation, but I can’t knit. Don’t want to learn. Nobody collects stamps, because emails. Taxidermy? Nope. Checking social media? Yes. I have that hobby. But that takes me right back to the state of the world, and I get upset all over again.

I am just going to wait around until Robert Mueller makes his move, recreational marijuana becomes legal in Ohio, or my husband says we should consider getting a puppy.

 

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HO HO HO

For most of my life, Christmas has been about the decorations, the food, and of course, the gifts. This all changed when my daughter had first, her son Charlie, and then her daughter, Birdie. I remember people saying it worried them that they seemed to love their grandchildren more than they did their own children, and I scoffed at that. Now I know it’s true. Christmas to me is counting down the days until I get to kiss these two people.

Here is what I look forward to now. Playing “Eye Spy With My Little Eye.” Asking Birdie how big she is. Holding out a platter of cookies to Charlie and watching him as he reaches out and whispers to himself, “Only take one.” The joy in Charlie’s eyes as he opens his hundredth Transformer toy, every single one of them “his favorite.” Hugging Birdie, who still puts her head on my shoulder.

They have so much energy, it’s exhausting, so I go to my room to lie down, and in about ten minutes, I feel as if I am being watched. I open my eyes to stare into Birdie’s baby blues, peering intently at me to see if I am awake yet.

Movies in bed. Last year, we watched “Home Alone” twice. Charlie and I began watching “Lion King,” but since he had seen it multiple times, he left halfway through (Transformers to play with), and I sat there alone, transfixed.

Christmas morning. Opening gifts takes almost all day. We take breaks to go outside for a walk in the balmy LA air. There is egg casserole and lots of coffee. But the best thing is sitting on the curb and watching the neighborhood kids ride their scooters, chased by their dads. Birdie joins in, and I nearly have a heart attack. This year, I bet she will have a helmet.

Seven days. Not enough. All of you grandparents who have grandchildren nearby, I envy you with every corpuscle in my being.

Have a wonderful holiday, no matter which one you celebrate. I will be back in 2019!

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IT’S A WRAP

Catalogs are just as bad as social media. They represent misleading images of family life at the holiday seasons. Everything is perfect. All the homes are decorated in color-coordinated splendor. The feasts, complete with table settings laden with holiday plates (what the hell is a charger, anyway?–as if  sets of dishes with turkeys, or dreidels, or Christmas trees are commonplace. Who has these? The garlands. The lawn decorations. The perfect lit wreaths hanging in the windows without a single cord showing. It doesn’t matter which religion you expose–there is a catalog layout to make you ashamed of your pitiful efforts at your house.

But what aggravates me the most is the gifts. Who came up with the idea that people should make their own wrapping paper? Was it Martha Stewart? Because I would like to punch that individual. The Pinterest boards that show gifts around the tree that are themed. Brown wrapping paper–probably butcher paper. Where in Hell does one get butcher paper? Then you have to get a potato, cut out a stencil of a tree, or a menorah or some other suitable image, and dip that in homemade dye (recipe not included). After lovingly wrapping each gift, you stencil on the image. But wait. There’s more:

Go out into your yard, or if you don’t have one, go to the nearest forest. No kidding. Bring a hand woven basket. Wear your thermals, because this will be an all-day process. Scour the forest floor for pinecones, berries that aren’t poison (no directions included), attractive twigs that you will gild later (no recipes for gilt included), and sprigs of pine. If there are no pine trees, then you went to the wrong forest, and that is your fault.

Go home. Warm your hands in front of the fire, maybe sip a nog of some kind (if you have a recipe for that), and proceed to deftly decorate your stenciled packages with first, ribbon that ties into perfect bows. Naturally, most bows tied by your average American are both crooked and imperfect. Yeah. So this is the first inkling that things are not going to go well. Then, you must stick your forest gleanings into the bow in such a way that the berries look startlingly red against the brown paper, they don’t fall off as you manipulate the fragile twigs they are stuck to. Then you manage to somehow glue a tiny pinecone next to the berries without getting Elmer’s all over the paper, where it will dry and look like mucus.Still with me?

Use a calligraphy pen to carefully write the receiver’s name and yours on the gift. Or, if you do not have artistic handwriting, you can make your own tiny gift tags out of heavy, gold card stock that costs $25 for fifteen sheets. Use pinking shears to cut them out. Fold them over so that your inferior handwriting isn’t an issue, and affix them to your package with satin ribbon that is the same color as the main ribbon (or else the entire effect will be ruined.) At this rate, each gift you wrap will represent at least four man-hours of effort.

But what a thrill that will be for the recipients of your gifts, as they rip apart your paper, forest souvenirs, ribbon and gilding to uncover the iPhone charger or Smart Wool Socks! This will take approximately ten seconds, and they will tell you that they already have an iPhone charger or that they are allergic to wool. The catalogs don’t say anything about that stuff. Because when you turn the page, they reveal what your turkey and roasted Brussels sprouts should look like when they come out of the oven, and that elaborate, holly-leaf latticework on your pies, golden brown and glistening with some sort of Vermont maple syrup glaze.

Indeed. So here I sit, Scotch tape in hand, no pinking shears anywhere, with the Rudolph wrapping paper that was on sale at Wal-Mart last January. I curse the catalogs and use too much tape. My gifts look a little lumpy and uneven. I use several patterns of wrapping paper. When I am finished, I am a little embarrassed.

Curse the catalogs.

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THE DAILY GRIND

As I loaded the dryer with a bunch of clean laundry, I sighed because I wore a shirt last week that I would now have to iron before wearing again. I kicked myself for getting a shirt that isn’t wash and wear. What was I thinking? Because taking ten minutes to heat up the iron and press a shirt is so laborious.

Then I thought about my grandmother, who not only ironed clothes, a lot of them, but she also made donuts from scratch, got down on her hands and knees to mop her floors, sewed her own clothes and those of her children, wrung chickens’ necks in order to cook them, oh–and back to the laundry–she had to put all of the laundry through the wringer and hang it up to dry on the clothesline. She “put up” vegetables for the winter and made the best pickles and sauerkraut in the world. She was an actual “housewife,” who “kept house.” Keeping a house back then required day-long effort.

I keep my house. It takes about ten minutes a day. I make the bed. I straighten up. I have a vacuum cleaner. Swiffing. A dishwasher. It is ridiculously easy.

I wonder what my grandmother would have done if she had more free time. She sat down in the evenings for a couple of hours before she went up to bed, and during that time she crocheted doilies which adorned the tops and arms of all of her furniture. Even while resting, she was productive. But what if she had every afternoon to herself? Would she have read books? Probably not. Kept a diary? No way. Taken long baths? Laughable.

No. If my grandmother had leisure time, she most likely would have baked cakes and strudel to sell for extra money. She might become a part-time seamstress. She would probably learn how to refinish furniture. I can picture her making quilts. Nothing that would require sitting down for long stretches.

I get bored. My grandmother, I am sure, was never bored for even five minutes in her entire life. She passed that on to my mother, whose favorite expression for tough times was “Just keep busy.”

My day? I wake up at eight, but don’t get up until ten. I get dressed, make the bed, and go downstairs. I spend about ten minutes unloading the dishwasher and straightening up the kitchen. Then I fill the bird feeders. I may run the palm of my hand over some table tops to remove dust. If I am really ambitious, I use a Swiffer cloth. Then I go on Twitter to read the latest outrage committed by our POTUS.

The rest of the day I muse.Read books. Work on my latest novel. Draw a few pictures. Walk the dog. Figure out what to make for dinner. Listen to a podcast. Nap.

My grandmother would have been ashamed of me.

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FOOD

The holidays are about a lot of things. The family, happiness, giving, the religion you follow, and all of that stuff. But if you are honest, you look forward to the holiday season because FOOD.

Stuffing yourself. Everybody does it. This is the absolutely best time of year to watch the cooking shows, because all of the chefs make things that your mom used to, like strudel, poppy seed things, cookies that are rolled in powdered sugar and that melt in your mouth. All of the chefs smile and with the exception of Ina Garten, none of them consume even one bite of what they make, because they are all like Giada DeLaurentis and probably anorexic.

I am not going to write about sweets, though. My favorite holiday foods are as follows:

Gravy. Hot, rich, thick. Drown mashed potatoes and stuffing with it. Those people who think all you need is a decorative drizzle of gravy over food are terrible people. There should be enough gravy on your plate  not only to grace the potatoes and stuffing, but also to be there for dunking your dinner rolls.

Roasted potatoes. These are even better than mashed, in my opinion. But here’s the thing: to make them, you need a big honking standing rib roast or pork loin, to give off enough fat while roasting. Near the end of the roasting time, you siphon off some of that fat and put it in a shallow pan, roll the potatoes in it, and roast along side the meat, opening the oven to baste them with the fat until they are floury on the inside and crackly crisp on the outside. You can have them with gravy, too. You can. I can’t, because I haven’t eaten meat (other than the feathered variety) for over thirty years. The memory of these delectible things has never left me.

Stuffing. Sage, onions, celery, and all of that delicious bread. Parsley. Must be eaten with a liberal dousing of gravy.

Hot turkey sandwiches. Must be served with very good quality soft bread underneath. Mashed potatoes on the side, with a dollop of leftover cranberry sauce. Stuffing if you have any left. Float it in gravy.

Cold turkey sandwiches. On toast–use that really good artisan bread. Not toasted? Then back to the soft stuff–pillowy, white, junk bread. Lots of mayo. Lettuce. A swish of cranberry sauce. Salt and pepper. Groovy potato chips on the side. A sweet gherkin. Cold milk.

Toast for breakfast. Raisin bread. Tons of butter. A latte on the side. Four pieces. It’s the holidays.

Croissants. Flaky and buttery. Put lots of butter on, and then some raspberry jam that your neighbor makes and sends you every year. Coffee with whipping cream. I can eat three of these; they go down like air.

I dream of all of these things. If I were to have them all, I would probably be dead of coronary disease by New Year’s. But I like to fantasize about which of the list I will have this year.

I can tell you this: gravy will be involved.

 

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IT’S NOT HEAVY, IT’S MY BLANKET

Times are tough for those of us who are in our right minds. There is so much stress. Wildfires that truly are Hell on earth. Politics. The leader of our nation discussing raking forest floors and other inanities. I did heave a sigh of relief over the Blue Wave, but things in the news continue to be scary. Wars all over the globe. Famine. Ebola. The ever looming global warming. I am losing sleep over all of this.

There is a solution out there. Everybody on Instagram is talking about Gravity Blankets. You read that right. These are blankets that are heavy. When you pull one of these blankets over you, it weighs you down. According to the ads, the blankets make you feel secure, nested, and calm.

I have not rushed right out to order one of these, because my husband is on a crusade to get rid of things around here. We have plenty of blankets. If I were to buy another one, I am afraid he would sneak into the closet where I keep my favorite quilts and bedspreads and have a cull. That would cause me more stress, and I am not sure that a heavy blanket would compensate for the loss of the quilts that my daughters made in Home Economics classes in High School. Sentimental value!

I have friends who have gotten the heavy blankets, and they love them. As a matter of fact, they liked their first one so much, they ordered another one, so that both of them could use them at the same time. I haven’t seen much of them lately; apparently they are so relaxed that they never leave the house.

I have questions about the heavy blankets. Wouldn’t they be as hot as Hell? Does the heaviness make a person lethargic or tired from supporting all of that weight? Do heavy blankets suffocate people who pull them over their heads by accident? What makes these blankets so heavy–weights? If it’s weights, are they accessible, so that a really anxious person can add more if needed? You know the principle: if some is good, more must be better. But, and this is a big but, can a very anxious person manage to climb out from under the heavy blanket, or is assistance needed?

The whole heavy concept is fascinating. Will there be heavy clothing, like a heavy turtleneck, so that you can be calm when you aren’t in bed? Maybe heavy jeans. Those would make your thighs feel much better. Maybe a heavy hat. Most of our anxiety is in our heads. A hat makes sense. Unless it is  too heavy, resulting in a heaviness headache.

I bet the inventor of Gravity Blankets was on Shark Tank. I missed that episode. I did watch the episode about the gloves that you put on that light up–you know, so you can do disco hands in neon colors in the comfort of your own home. I am not going to order a pair of those, either.

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PEAKING TOO EARLY

I have a love/hate relationship with the Fall. It is glorious, the leaves gold, orange, and red–almost blindingly bright in the sunlight. Breathtaking.  There is so much to look forward to. Thanksgiving, brisk walks scuffing through piles of leaves, reading a book in front of the fire. Then comes Christmas, with all of its delights.

But I have issues. I haven’t even begun to assemble stuff for Thanksgiving dinner, and yet there are Christmas commercials on television. Christmas commercials have a tremendously buoying effect on me. I get all excited, sugarplums dance in my head, I feel all warm and cozy looking at those professional actors pretending to be happy families. I love their table settings. I think their Christmas trees are so perfect. They all wear pajamas that match, and the children are perky and they never seem to poke one another or the dog.

I watch these commercials, and I get so excited for Christmas, I can hardly stand it. No matter that there are what, seven weeks to go? It doesn’t seem like that long, really.

However, by the time it is actually Christmas season, I am sick to death of the damn Christmas carols, the damn chipper matching-pj families, the perfect trees, the sleigh bells, and the overpriced merchandise these commercials are touting.

Yes. The damn Christmas marketers have caused me, once again, TO PEAK TOO EARLY. My Christmas enthusiasm has long ago died down, I am ready to take the tree down on December 23, and I dread cleaning up all that gift wrap and ribbon detritus. Christmas dinner is a damn CHORE. I am sick of St. Nick.

I am willing myself to slow down this year. To try to put Christmas out of my mind until December first. I am going to fast-forward through all those commercials. I am going to simmer down.

Don’t get me STARTED on the catalogs…

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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