Tuesday, April 22, 2014

About yesterday.

I talked a big game about updating yesterday, but apparently- I lied.

Sorry about that.

I never realized that I would be so busy doing "nothing." Nothing being children, a house, a husband, and all those things I piously scoffed at when other homemakers would talk about how busy they were.

It's just a house. It's just a family. It's just life.

It was when I was sitting at ballet with LMC when I realized that the day was almost over and I had not touched my computer, nor could I find my phone. How 'bout we rehash the last thirty days quick so we can start fresh?

We drove to Athens for Husband's sister's baby shower. She needs a name for the blog. She needs a name because there is a baby on the way and we are seeing so much more of them now that we live less than two hours apart and her husband works in Hometown. But what to name her? I'll think on that.


She is a teacher and he is in law enforcement. They are going to make wonderful parents, and not just because they have wonderful friends. Husband and I have both said to each other, to his parents, and to them- that they have amazing friends and have such a strong network of people to help support them in this next stage of their lives. They are lucky.


The next weekend we drove down to Smalltown to celebrate MIL turning 60 47.  We had a surprise party for her at the arts center and asked everyone to write down a fun memory of MIL or something that they learned from MIL.


There were some really sweet ones. Like this from Husband's second sister:


Preacher Man returned thanks for our meal, this precious woman, and the amazing family that goes along with her. (myself included in that "amazing" department)  It was, by far, the most fun I have had at a birthday party for anyone turning 60! Young and old, near and far- friends and family came to celebrate this woman who reared five children. There could be a whole blog post on her turning 60, but let's leave it with the bottom line of We Had Fun.


Thursday night, we spent the night at Beth's and enjoyed ourselves with her pregnant self, her husband, and her puppies. By the end of the night, she had us convinced that we needed to relocate to Smalltown to raise babies and grow old with them on golf cart rides, supper clubs, country clubs, and PTAs. It sounded blissfully simple and blissfully fulfilling. We started researching homes. And PICUs. And Catholic churches. And Catholic education opportunities. And came to the conclusion that this life could not provide the things we needed to make it a reality.

Perhaps we could convince Beth to relocate to Hometown from Smalltown? I'm not holding my breath.


Friday and Saturday we spent the night on the farm with the in-laws and all those cousins. There are twelve cousins if you don't count dogs. I don't. They do. 75 if you add the dogs into the mix. I think. Husband's baby sister is pregnant with #13. Toss in her four dogs and there is a full house when we all get together on the farm outside of Smalltown.


We spent hours hanging out with Husband's older brother and sister on Saturday night. The nine grandchildren ran from the pond to the garden and back again. They played tag, at hamburgers, and were thick as thieves in only the way that cousins can be- instant friends. The baby and Bennie are several months apart and took turns playing with a teapot and being held by either a dad or an uncle- depending on the man doing the holding.


It was a quiet and relaxing evening sitting outside amongst the "no-see-ums" and Spanish moss. We thought back to living down the street from Beth and growing old on golf cart rides as neighbors. And were reminded of that pesky little thing called a J-O-B and that there was no way Smalltown could support Husband's big career.


Sunday, we pack up and headed home. There were more plans and adventures to be had.


Kissing the siblings good-bye as we drove the driveway, we hustled back home with two very tired children who were pumped full of sugar and fresh air. What else do you expect children to be full of after spending a long weekend with grandparents? I certainly can think of nothing else.


The following Friday morning, Husband and I dropped the kids off with my parents and headed down to Savannah for Prom Queen's wedding. This wedding was over a year in the planning and a lifetime in the making. When she called us the year prior, I looked down at the phone to see caller ID. I said to Husband, "This is Prom Queen. She's probably calling to tell us she's engaged. "

And she was.

I screamed in the restaurant and people looked at me like I was some crazy Southern redneck. I didn't care. Prom Queen had found her match.


In looking back on our lives and how they have entertained together, it's amazing to see the very clear path that led her to this man that not only made her the happiest she has ever been, but was ready to get down on one knee and commit his life to her and hers to his.


Prom Queen has four sisters. In all honesty, I always thought she was the youngest of three- no idea #4 and #5 existed until I was an adult. Prom Queen and I spent weeks together on end, talking about everything and nothing... and somehow I had no idea that she was the middle children until about 10 years ago.

Forgive me.


The five girls live in three states, all the way up and down the Eastern seaboard. When they get together, I always tell Prom Queen that I will be on the lookout for the four horsemen to carry the five away- because it just doesn't happen. Not from lack of love, but lack of time and ability.


But, Lawd knows when they get together- they certainly make up for lost time. These five Greek girls are tons of fun and I was so thrilled to get to be a part of Prom Queen's big day.


Now, I have a confession to make.

You think you were a pretty bride?
I thought I was a pretty bride?
You thought Kate Middleton was a pretty bride?

You certainly did not see Prom Queen walk down the aisle. She was, no other word, She was breathtaking. She was the most beautiful bride I had ever seen. 


And it was not just because she was so clearly in love. She was. But, she was timeless. And lovely. And thrilled for it to be her turn to have her Husband at the end of the aisle.


Probably just as thrilled as he was to be on the receiving end. They, okay, I think I am starting to gush.


How about I leave it at this-- The wedding was amazing. The couple is so very much in love. The family was awesome. It was the most fun I have ever had at a wedding.


After the wedding, we had a little golf tournament that completely encompasses ten days for us. We hosted a BBQ, went to several parties, had a revolving door of guests at the manor, paid an arm and a leg for babysitters and were ready to crawl under the bed and hide by Sunday. 

It was fun. So much so, that I did not take a single picture. 

After Masters week, it was Easter. We had an Easter party at LMC's little school, complete with a relay race and a 55 degree day.

It was cold. 


So, there we are- the last thirty-ish days that probably should have been four blogs instead of all rolled into one.

Forgive me. Now, we can start fresh. Still come visit me? Please? I won't do this again.

Okay, I'll try not to do it again.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Where did it go?

So, I looked up today and realized that a month has gone by in a blink. Perhaps I should have given up my blog for Lent instead of my plan for time. I would have succeeded better at the blog than the time.

But, that's not the point.

Where did it go?

How 'bout I answer that tomorrow? Really there is not much to say, but if I put this off one second longer, than there would be nothing to hold me accountable other than the foyer that sat as my latest blog posting for a month.

MIL turned 60.
There was a wedding. A wonderful wedding full of love. And I wore a blue dress, gave a toast, danced, and bribed the flower girl with lots and lots of lip gloss. It was the most fun.
We had a golf tournament.
There were eggs that needed dying.
Baby Bennie started walking.
The family came to visit. Aunts, cousins, and all those fun people that come with spring and golf tournaments. For ten days, The Manor was a revolving door.
In nine days, we will have been home owners of The Money Pit [AKA: The Manor] for a year.

Much to say, much to say.

But, it's for tomorrow- not today.

Today, Husband is on call and there are pictures to edit and TV to catch up on. It's Easter. And this Easter was very different than my last three Easters. Good, but different nonetheless. Preacher Man did not return thanks at our table. We did not eat off DC china. But, we celebrated with love, laughter, and the promise that Spring brings.

Tomorrow. I promise.

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!"