Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Foyer... Foye-Aiye?

Right now I am sitting on the couch with a puny LMC on my arm under the blanket. Bennie is laying in her crib down the hall, not napping. She's tired, but like a POW, she is taking her sippy cup and sliding it down the bars before laughing at her music and running the cup again. It has been a while since I posted anything about the house, mostly because as we get further down the hall, the house gets less and less "done." And there have been changes to the front of the house that I feel I need to share.

Step into our foyer from our large double doors and hopefully, you will feel welcome. On the left is the dining room (currently covered in remnants from the back patio waiting to be rehung and several different china patterns) and on the right is our living room/Music room.


Starting at the opposite end of the house-- LMC is sitting on the couch, not feeling great. She's watching TV and very curious why I opened the doors on this very cold day. Behind her are the greatest windows in the world. Not great because of their efficiency, rather great because they are over 24 feet long of windows. It's like 150 square feet of window.

But that's not the foyer.

The foyer is full of sentimental and significant things to us.

The chicken hangs to the left of the entrance to the den. It is one of the very few pieces of art that has no fun story behind it. I won it at an auction and thought he was kicky. Underneath the chicken is an antique highchair. It's not mine, it's SIL's from when she was a baby. When we were moving stuff out of her attic, the movers accidentally grabbed it thinking it was ours and it just has not made it's way back to her house yet. Currently, that high chair holds Husband's toddler best friend, Brown Bear. He's a brown teddy bear that Husband, apparently, carried everywhere with him. My in-laws brought him up here a few weeks ago.

I bought a rug. Actually, I bought two rugs. One for the foyer-- do you say Foye-Aiye or Faye-Er? I try to say Foye-Aiye, but typically end up with an "ER" on the end of my Foye.  Right, I digress. Two rugs. The one in the foyer looks like it was made for this house. It has an off-white background with a gray and turquoise pattern wound through it. It brings the living and dining room out to the foyer and the foyer into the two adjoining rooms. It really brightens up the space. I love it. The second thing that happened in the foyer is we got a new light.

It's a special light.

Aunt Bennie passed away and I totally threw myself on my cousins, asking if I could look through some of her old things for my research and take pictures of pictures, etc. {Read: Can I be nosy in your mother's things?} I also asked (and prefaced with the statement that I didn't know if what I was asking was couth)- but if there was something that no one else wanted, could I buy it for my Bennie. Something that I could give her down the line and tell her, "Hey- this is from the woman we named you for. This belonged to my Great Aunt Bennie. And let me tell you, she was a card. Sit down, I want to regale you about her and her lovely sisters." My sweet cousin gave Baby Bennie a rose wood Rosary that her brother (Aunt Bennie's son) brought back from a pilgrimage to Malta. As we were walking around the house, I mentioned that that light hanging in the foyer was "cool." It is the old brass with beautiful cut crystal. It's old; older than the house. Cousin asked if I wanted it. Husband got a ladder and some tape, and that light is now hanging in the city where Aunt Bennie was born- it's waiting for Baby Bennie to grow, get married, have a house of her own and be hung in that Bennie's house.


The desk I don't use very much anymore has been moved to the foyer. It's a really cool piece and Husband thought I needed it at a benefit we went to when we were first married. I about died when he bid on it... and then bid again. It was expensive for two people living on love. But, Husband wanted to buy me something nice that I could sit at and sell insurance from. Don't let the size fool you, it's terribly handy- with a drawer on the inside and three secret drawers on the outside. The lamp was a wedding gift from my parent's neighbors. The biscuit basket was a wedding gift from my godfather. The desks sits between a closet on the right and the dining room on the left. 


The teapot came from Southern Bell to my grandfather when he retired. In it, you can see a crystal bell. One of the fondest memories that Husband and all of his cousins have of his grandmother's house is that she had a bell collection. They all loved to play with them. When she passed, each grandchild got one.


This is cool-- really cool, actually. It is the document that elected my great grandfather to a Lt. Col in the medical corps of the "regular army" in 1937. FDR was president in 1937. (Yes, I googled that.) Dad gave it to Husband when he graduated from medical school.


Hanging above the picture is a gift from one of my dad's best friends. It's a plate of the Robert Toombs House in Washington, GA. Andy's house is across the street from the Robert Toombs House and it is where I had my bridal portraits taken. (Mental note- need to order those.) Our photographer came down from Athens and we drove up from Hometown. I was going to have to change into my wedding dress at a car dealership- another friend of my parents. Thank goodness the guy's wife was there and said NO! There would be no way that she was going to make me put that exquisite silk dress on in her husband's Ford dealership. She took us to their antique farm home where I changed in her daughter's bedroom with an old quilt on her bed. I walked down the stairs and I think I saw my dad cry.


If you turn around from the desk, you will realize that our foyer is actually an "L" shape, with the living room tucked in on the inside of the "L." The pink bathroom is visible at the end of the hall and our TV is mounted above the fireplace in the den. Our den is nowhere near done, so that will be another day. 

Husband calls this our art museum. We have several pieces hanging on the wall and I love them all. We also have an art closet that once was the master bathroom shower, but that's another story. On the left is an Ernest Lee, a pen and ink of DC that Mama Bits gave me, and a picture of me. Clearly- you can see it? Right? The artist is a family friend and she gave it to us when we got married. She did a whole series of these and this was one of her first. She said that she remember the last time she saw me, I had long brown hair and a short black dress. Where those bosoms came from, are anybody's guess!


Between the "me" and the two on the far side is a copper menu from Allred's. It is a restaurant in Telluride, CO that we went to on our honeymoon. The receipt is still inside. And no, we didn't steal it. We asked for it.


On the right are three Hair paintings. Hair is the artist's name. Aren't they cool? Husband has such an eye for art. These guys hung in a coffee shop downtown that we used to go to almost every weekend for breakfast. They were $100 a piece. Not bad. But nothing we could afford. I threw an arrow in the dark and asked the manager if he'd call the artist and see if he would take $100 for all three. 


Hair said yes. I dropped what I was doing and went to pick them up. That was six years ago and I think I love them more now than when we bought them.

The cross looks like nothing special and to the naked eye- it is nothing more than a Catholic cross made of seashells. It makes my heart sing and my eyes dance. I love this special piece. I have no idea where it came from, but it hung in my grandparent's house for as long as I can remember. My mom has three sisters and there are so many grandchildren. When my grandfather died, the Sistahs had the arduous task of dividing everything up. From there, they decided which of their things their children would get. Confusing? Totally. But, it worked for this family. I have absolutely loved going into my cousins house since his passing and seeing small mementos from my childhood in their homes, as I hope that when they come here, they will feel the same way.

When I think back on items and where they once were, it makes me feel good that our family is still so close that I know where they are now.


If you run past the artwork and turn around, you get to finally see Brown Bear and SIL's high chair. Behind the high chair is another of our numerous closets. This one holds outdoor Christmas decorations, Husband's cold weather duck hunting gear (waders, camouflage jackets, etc), and our jackets.

Please note the pink cup, Bennie is walking everywhere now and if she is not holding her Minnie Mouse doll, she has made her way over to where we stash her cups and is carrying one or three with her.


Last, but not least... our second NEST thermostat. I have no idea what that thing does above it. If you have any idea how to work it, please let me know.  I am on the lookout for a frame to put around the NEST to make it look little less, um, messy. Yes, I know I need to paint around it and touch it up, but for the moment, I am holding out for a frame.



That's the foyer. It is, like the rest of this house, big. I love the slate floors and the artwork makes me smile. This whole house makes me smile. It makes Husband's eye twitch, but that's another story.

Up next? Probably the guest room. It's the closet thing to being done. Once I raise LMC's curtains, the purple room will be after that. And once our bed comes in, well... let's be honest, I don't know if the master bedroom will ever be done. The outside back patio is nearing completion.

Slow and steady. That's how we roll.

Whatcha think?



Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Tax Man Cometh

I just wrote my yearly check to Tax Man. Every year, he cometh and he taketh. After meeting with the CPA, my dad said, "Welcome to the Big Leagues. It sucks, doesn't it?"

Indeed. Indeed it does.

I try to get creative in my taxes, but I get squashed every time.

We can deduct our internet and cell phones- because they are mostly used for business, but other things- well, I can pretend all day long, but pool supplies are not a deduction.

"What's this [$large number] expense, Wife?" The Money Man asked when we sat down to meet.

"That? Oh, right. That." I should have just put a big X through it, but I thought maybe... maybe it will fly.

"That's where we bought the golf cart."

He looks at me.
I stare back.

The red pen is dangling in the waiting to strike.

Struck.

No deduction this year for an electric vehicle. Score one for Big Oil. Zero for the Little Guy.

A few minutes late, another question.

"Can I deduct my stove?"

His head never raises from scouring my papers, rather just his eyes... along with his eyebrows.

"I'm sorry?" The Money Man asks.

Deadpan. This is negotiations, right?

"My stove," I say- holding my chest out and raising my chin. Not to enhance my bosom, rather to exude confidence. That's all negotiations are, right?

This is not a negotiation. There is no gray area when it comes to taxes. Like death, you either are or you aren't.

"No."

"Oh, okay-- well, perhaps you should..." a shuffle... I grab the paper and the red pen and strike something else down the line.

"I guess that's a 'no' on the fridge and freezer?"

He laughs and says YES.

Two more scratches...

"And the dishwasher?"

Another scratch without waiting for an answer.

I elect to not ask about the hardwood floors and crumple that sticky note before tossing it in the waste basket over his shoulder.

I sit on my hands as he continues to click away at his computer. I twiddle my thumbs and stare at pictures on his wall, making awkward conversation in my head about nothing.

Taxes make me twitchy.

Because you don't want to Hack Off the IRS.

More number crunching, more nervously reciting the alphabet backwards in my head. More questions.

"Brother is a client. We took his kids on a Disney Cruise. Can I...."

"No."

"Okay, just checking."

The number pops up that we owe. I choke on the throw up in my mouth.

"Before we finish- have you done anything to help with the energy efficiency of your home?"

"Not the stove?"

"No. Not the stove." The Money Man says.

"Not the dishwasher, the fridge or the freezer?"

"No. Not the dishwasher, the fridge or the freezer."

"The only other improvements we made on energy were two large windows and an air conditioner, but I doubt that'll be covered."

"Actually...."

Score two for the Little Man.

The Tax Man Cometh and he Taketh, less two windows and an air conditioner.

I'll take it. And so will The Tax Man. Until next year.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent Meals

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. As Catholics, we abstain from meat on this day and every Friday for the next 40 days known as Lent. I don't know what it is about this time of year, but all of a sudden every meal I know that does not involve meat or chicken whooshes out of my brain.

How do I make pasta without chicken? 

Chicken-less chicken pot pie?
Steak au poivre? .... minus the steak? Mushroom au poivre? (mental note... try that!)

Why must I focus on an elaborate feast? Why can't it just be a grilled cheese? 

I don't know. But it must. 

As I sat in front of google researching "Lent Recipes" (and not in any number of cookbooks I possess in the "seafood" tab), I made the discovery that there are not a lot of Lent Recipes out there.

"Dampfnudeln?" If I can't pronounce it and have to copy/paste it to spell it- I ain't making it.
"Pizza Soup?" Honestly? HONESTLY?
"Salmon Quesadillas?" Are you kidding me? I like seafood quesadillas, but ... this sounds like it should be saved for another day, another family, or another anything. 

Which leads me to a second (or fifteenth) question-- Why must every meal be either a soup or fish from a can? 

We do not eat meat- it does not mean we cannot eat well. 

My goal this Lent is to make an effort to share what we are eating to give you some inspiration and me a reminder for next year when I am feverishly scouring the world wide web looking for a meal and getting grossed out at contemplating chickpea casserole.

Yesterday, Bennie's godmother came over with her two daughters for supper after the Ash Wednesday mass. We didn't make it to church, but you already know that. 

Our appetizer was excellent:

Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges

combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Drop wedges into oil, turning to coat. Place on a hot grill for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through. Place on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven to keep warm until ready to serve. 
Serve with ranch dressing.


We had a cold tortellini pasta for dinner while the girls quickly devoured grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit roll-ups.

Cold Tortellini Pasta Salad
Pasta salad is crazy easy- cook pasta. Drain. Combine salad ingredients. Toss. Fridge. Done.

Ours contained:

a pound of shrimp, chopped- sautéed with three cloves of garlic (I really like garlic. Almost as much as I like nutmeg) and half of a red onion.
Did you know you can sauté a red onion? I didn't. It was really good. 
a small log of honey goat cheese
four chives, finely chopped-- only using the green part, so they can rejuvenate and be used again
Olivier White Truffle oil- Spring onion (Garlic, Shallot, and Leek)
Olive Oil
Season salt
Onion Powder
Pepper-- lots and lots of pepper

After sautéing the onion, adding the shrimp and a splash of wine, I drained it and left it in the colander. I dumped the tortellini on top of it and put it all back in a large bowl. Mixing in the oils and seasonings, it sat in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Right before we ate, I pulled it out and chopped up the goat cheese and the chives, so the cheese wouldn't melt and the chives would not get soggy.

As Dorothy would say, "Do write and speak of your mistakes!"

Ashes to Ashes

The past three years I have spent Ash Wednesday with Mama Bits. We would meet at Mass with our broods. After ashes, wrangling the toddlers, and hushing the babies we would walk back to her city dwelling where we would feast on a pasta salad and consume Diet Cokes while the children played everything from kitchen to race cars. One year it was bitterly cold and I hailed a cab home. The other two years, it was on the cusp of spring and we happily walked to the metro.

This Ash Wednesday was a little sad for me. Really sad, actually. I didn't have my buddy to meet at Mass. I didn't have a plan for a pasta salad and Diet Coke lunch. I didn't have that beautiful old church filled with friends, senators, and secret service around to celebrate this time of year with. 

I missed my friend.

It's this season of the year and this season of our lives that make me realize how valuable she was in mine and I, in hers. 

To be completely honest, we didn't make it to church. We planned on it. We aimed for it... but LMC has been a bit of a twit the past few days. With her feet stomping, her whining, and her total lack of patience before breaking some toy or throwing some tantrum, I just didn't have it in me to rally her when she said she didn't want to go to church. 

Opting to not let her know that she won, I didn't bring it up again. When Bennie's godmother and her daughters showed up for dinner, Husband realized that we didn't make it to Mass. 

"Why didn't we go?"

"I just didn't have it in me today to get everyone on board with my plan." 

I think that resonated with him. Church should not be a battle. It should be a family experience. I should not have let her win. We should have gone. We should have been more faithful about our Faith. 

Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda... they'll get you every time. 

Husband asked me what I am giving up for Lent. 

"I am giving up time. I am going to go to church mid-week." This is what I usually do. At the end of the 40 days, I find that I am renewed, refreshed, and ready for spring. 

Maybe LMC will be, too.






Saturday, March 1, 2014

Up-Cycling

I up-cycled before it was cool. Patting myself on the back, it's difficult to not take a little pride in my creativity. Using shelves as bedside tables or turning curtains into bedskirts, I try to make it work. Even with leftovers, we might have a roasted chicken and butter beans with rice for supper on Monday. The leftovers are turned into a chicken pot pie. Or a side of broccoli will be tossed in the next night's pasta dinner. Large flower arrangements get divided and shrink as the flowers start to wither away. Currently, I have spider lilies in bloom on my kitchen table. Last week they were lilies and tulips. A new vase, some new water- we brought some life back to those beauties.

Spice jars get recycled and baby food jars hold screws. A storage trunk became a coffee table and a dining room table was cut into two occasional tables. Husband is taking old doors and turning them into a cabinet for outside.

Starting to get the picture? We know how to cycle things for re-use.

And it isn't because we love Mother Earth. Don't get me wrong. I do plenty of anti-earthy things, too. I prefer to run the dishwasher half full-- it makes it easier to unload. I throw away plastic cups. I don't... okay, I am just being honest.... I don't recycle. Those Diet Coke cans hit the trash right next to the wine bottles and mayonnaise jars. That bag gets tossed in the trash. I do recycle junk mail, mostly because it is incredibly easy to open the blue lid instead of the trash lid and toss it in there. My car gets pretty bad gas milage- but it's paid for, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. To compensate for this, I cut the water off when I brush my teeth and keep the heater at 63 when Husband is not looking.

Cheap and Earth Conscious look surprisingly similar.

These facts are important to know as the groundwork for where I am going with this. Every week LMC's class has a different focus and a different letter. For instance, two weeks ago- it was dental health and the letter "P." This past week it was The Environment and the letter "K" ("it's a bossy "C"-- according to LMC). Unfortunately, this including recycling.

Miss M brought in a bunch of items that could be recycled into something else. The children got to look at everything and create something out of these items. They got to bring these items home and then they got to put those items to use.

Read: The kids got to dig through [clean] trash and bring it home. This trash could not be thrown away because they created a new purpose for it.

Lucky us, we got a Carnation Instant Breakfast container that she covered with junk mail and was up-cycled as a toothbrush holder. She was very, very proud of this. It sits on her counter... well, it sat on her counter until the housekeeper threw it away because she, perish the thought, thought it was trash.

My friend was lucky enough to bring home an egg box to hold her dishwasher tabs. Lucky her, at least it stays under the cabinet. 12 at a time go into the individual slots and after 12 loads of dishes (full loads, of that I am certain), she gets to replenish her stash.

SIL has two white boxes separated by cardboard paper towel holders. Niece made a castle that sits in her bedroom- so she can play with it whenever she wants.

That was Day One.

Day Two the kids came home with Capri Suns that have been repurposed as pockets. You know, because pockets hold things. Ours accidentally hit the trash, but fear not! LMC was digging through the can looking for things that could be repurposed. She cried. I told her it was an accident. (Accident that she found it)

Day Three LMC was cutting paper into pieces, painting it green and throwing it in the trash. Maybe that recycling lesson did not hit home quite like Miss M had hoped.