Monthly Archives: January 2014

WTH Brain?

You know that commercial where the woman is a lottery winner and the voice over (from God?) asks “what will you think about when you don’t have to think about work any more?”  And the woman wonders “why is pizza round but served in a square box and cut into triangles?”

Youngest Daughter said “I hope I would think of something more important than that!”

But inside my brain I keep thinking, “Yeah, why is that?”


I’m afraid to tell her.



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Seinfeld Had it Right

Well, shoot.


I went out to breakfast with my friend Donna this morning and I thought I would write a stunning post about my breakfast experience in the diner because diners are so wonderful and so much a part of New Jersey culture.  As I was writing I had a strange feeling and I scrolled back through my posts and lo and behold, I’ve already done that.  Really, self?  Are you that mundane already?  Has your world narrowed that much?  How sad and pathetic.  How totally boring.  (How long can I keep this up, trying to fill a paragraph of words?  Get on with it, self.)


So now that I’ve been feeling that niggling sense of responsibility to get to the laptop and brew up some words, pronto, I find myself casting about for a thing to say.  Shall I wax rhapsodic about the pink bucket of Sharpie markers to my left, colors that beg to be uncapped and unfurled onto fresh white paper to create a depth of color that’s vibrant in contrast to the blindingly snowy day outside?  (I love me a sunny winter day where the snow makes you squint even inside the house.)  Or should I detail the success of the lasagna evening and the joy I felt at seeing my dear friend again?  (Don’t ask me about the layers – I forgot to write it down, but it was amazeballs.)  Should I go into exquisite detail about my current knitting project and how much in love I am with the yarn (Malabrigo Rios in Jupiter) and how much Netflix I am streaming while I’m getting the 579 stitches per round to behave?  I am almost done with all six seasons of Monarch of the Glen and while I love all the Scottish accents, I am sad at how the people have left the show one by one and the whole thing has fallen apart and how I feel obligated to watch it until it breathes its last gasping breath.


Maybe it’s time for a reflection on what constitutes an ordinary life, how the rhythm of not having a job to go to becomes its own rhythm and how I’m not even close to being bored yet and I’m downright happy these days to be snug at home instead of out and about at 7:15 in the morning when it’s got to be 10 below out there.  (Hello, polar vortex!  One of those fun things that nobody ever heard of before but now we’re all dying to use it in a sentence and be all, oh, yeah, I knew about that.  Not me.  I still don’t get it.)  I love being in jeans everyday and piling on my handknits and taking endless cups of tea and not worrying about SGPs and SGOs and NJASKS and HSPSAs and rotten administrators.  I am still anti-Christie and hoping dearly that his come-uppance is big and noisy because I believe in karma, and still pro-public-education.  I love having Oldest Daughter around as she pursues her Master’s Degree and we share time together (and funny websites and cooking and Sherlock-O-M-G).  I love anticipating the fun Youngest Daughter is having for her last semester in Knowledge College and the springboard she will have to her new life (don’t be scared, you can do it!).


Should I share the books I’ve been reading lately because I now have the time and energy to actually read some books and be wholly in them instead of snatching a paragraph here and there and coming away vaguely dissatisfied because it didn’t make sense?  And can I tell you how much in love I am with the concept of borrowing library books on my iPad?  Oh, baby, that is the best of all possible worlds.


Or maybe it should be a post on how much I enjoy seeing articles and pinterest boards and blogs on organizing and I get all jazzed about making labels for things and getting storage bins and boxes and baskets and planning a trip to Mecca (aka the Container Store) to get that lovely sense of “a place for everything, and everything in its place” but then I remember other people live here and I can’t get them to bend to my will.  I’m looking at you, bookcases filled with an untidy assortment of books, and knick-knacks and odds and ends that don’t have a home; if it were just me, these bookcases would be an artistic arrangement of only the beloved books, and not every ratty paperback that crossed the threshold, nor would it be a place where the odd volume sits across the top of the other books all a-kilter because there’s just no more room at the bookcase inn.  I’m also looking at you, basement and attic, where I envision shelves of tidy boxes housing items we retrieve once or twice a year because they’re useful, not because someone gave it to us twenty-five years ago and we (and you know I don’t really mean “we”) can’t bear to part with it.


Or, you know, maybe I could just write about random stuff that floats through my brain and needed a place to go.


Some day I might figure it out.

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I am anticipating some special guests at my home tomorrow, so in addition to beautifying the home today (and by that I mean getting rid of all those cobwebs which must be made by stealthy ninja spiders as I never see them) I will be making lasagna.

My parents made lasagna once a year because it was such a Herculean task.  All the ingredients need to be assembled: the requisite amounts of canned tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste; onions, garlic, basil, oregano; mozzarella, ricotta, locatelli; ground beef, sweet sausage, and noodles.  They usually did it over New Year’s so they had unhurried time to cook it at a non-frenetic pace.

Sauce is first.  This sauce was not to be confused with our regular tomato sauce, which had the meatballs and sausage added for the final two-to-three hour simmer; this is plain sauce used as the glue for the layers.  Honestly, they taste exactly the same to me but my folks knew the difference in their sleep.  Since we weren’t browning meatballs in the 12-quart sauce pot first, the onions and garlic needed to saute in plain old olive oil.  Why not brown the ground beef in the sauce pot first I hear you reasonably asking?  Because that’s not how my parents did it, that’s why.  That got crumbled and browned on its own so all the grease could be drained off and held off to the side.  Likewise the sausage, except they used to buy the sweet sausage links, cook them, then open the casings and crumble the sausage.  Now I go to the butcher and ask for sausage with the casings removed.  For some weird reason, you cannot buy loose sausage around here, maybe there are laws against it.  (Heh heh, loose sausage.)

So now we’ve got sauce simmering, loose sausage all browned up and hopefully learned a bit about morals, the ground beef nicely browned and drained.  The mozzarella needs to be shredded, except that I don’t do that, either.  I do slices in the middle layers and shredded on the top where my folks did all shredded all the time.  Hubby prefers thicker layers of melty stringy cheese and who am I to argue against that?  It might become my new religion if I believed in religion.  The ricotta needs to be salted and an egg or two mixed into it.  Why I don’t know for sure, unless the egg helps it to be firmer and not oozy.  (Lasagna is full of technical terms.)

And the noodles.  Such a source of controversy!  Get the regular noodles that require boiling first, and layer them in the pan and weep when they rip apart?  Or get the no-boil noodles and wonder how much authentic pasta you’re actually getting?  I’ve done both.  I love the ease of the no-boil but I like the taste and appearance of the regular.  I think I’ll play a game at the supermarket today and do eenie-meenie-minie-mo; I like adventure in my life.

There were great discussions, revisions, debates, and controversy surrounding the assembly of the lasagna proper.  In my parents’ battered old recipe book, I believe there are four separate pages scattered about that say “THIS is the one!” and I have no idea which is really the one.  About the only thing they all share in common is the fact you put a little sauce in the pan first, then the first layer of noodles.  The sauce keeps the noodles moist and tasty and doesn’t cement the noodles to the bottom of the pan.  After that, it seemed the proper ratio of cheese/meat/noodle for each bite was paramount and needed experiementation.  This normally resulted in a lasagna that was about three feet high which no human mouth could put into one bite so you ended up with a fallen tower of meat/cheese/noodle and ate it how you wanted, anyway.

Sauce, noodle, sauce, meat, sauce, noodle, sauce, mozzarella, sauce, ricotta, noodle, sauce, sausage, sauce, noodle, mozzarella, locatelli.

Sauce, noodle, meat, mozzarella, sauce, noodle, ricotta, sauce, sausage, sauce, noodle, mozzarella, locatelli.

Sauce, noodle, sauce, mozzarella, noodle, sauce, meat, sausage, noodle, sauce, ricotta, noodle, sauce, mozzarella, locatelli.

(If you type “sauce” as frequently as I just did, you start to pronounce it “saw-yoos” in your head.  You also start to spell it “sause” because of typing “sausage” frequently.  My fun tip of the day for you.)

Either they were in search of the definitive lasagna recipe or they had extremely dull lives and created this controversy to spice up their lives a bit.  I suspect a little of both.

So after it stops snowing today I shall buy what I need and spend a lovely, messy time in the kitchen having an internal dialogue with my parents and imagining the discussions we’d have over what goes where.  I shall prepare it in the enamel pan my father swore was the only decent lasagna pan ever made, and I’ll heat it tomorrow and serve it to my guests with a decent Cabernet and a romaine salad.  And my parents will be there, if only in my memories because that’s what family food does for us.


My father was not Tommy Lee Jones, but he used to look at me over the top of his glasses when I was being particularly sarcastic. I choose to believe it was pride.

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Eating my way through Christmas Cookies

January is such a serene time.  

(I am casually ignoring the subArctic temperatures that will surely prove disastrous to orange juice futures which is what I always think of when Florida is freezing and then I have Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in my head.  Don’t ask, it’s awfully untidy in there.)

The hustle is over.  There is no more to-do list than spans pages and pages.  There is no more laying out the money to buy the gifts to ensure one more year of people loving you.  There is no more pinning up the holiday invitations and the resulting RSVP-ing.  There is no more more, it’s all supposed to be less.  We’re supposed to jump into a “New Year, New You!” outlook on life, which apparently involves buying all sorts of workout clothing and storage containers.

(I admit, I have a weakness for storage containers.  The thought of visiting the Container Store while they’re having a 30% off sale is giving me the tingles all over but I am not going to do this.  Ssshh – do not remind me the sale is also on line.)

Me?  There will be no workout clothes bought here.  The thought is laughable.  Squeezing this body into some spandex and baring my midriff (midriff; that’s a funny word, don’t even think I could describe what I have as being a midriff, more like a mountain range) just will not happen.  I will not be joining a “gym” or “fitness center” or any other euphemism for sweaty bodies showing off to each other.  A long time ago I was using Richard Simmons’ “Sweating to the Oldies” and I almost paralyzed myself trying to look at the TV and do the complicated movement at the same time.  Plus my sneakers were inferior.

I am, however, rethinking how to organize so. much. stuff. and make the house a haven instead of a place to say “oh crap I forgot I have to do that!” or “honey, where is that bill that was due two days ago?”  I troll Pinterest on a regular basis, and I used to buy magazines featuring StorageSolutions! but that just contributed to the massive amounts of stuff around here so I stopped.  I’ve noticed that things appear organized when they are in similar shaped containment systems and lined up in size/color/use order, sort of like a supermarket.  Sure enough, someone wrote an article about Supermarket Organization and it featured pantries that would make an Amish housewife weep with joy.  I simply don’t have multiples of similarly-shaped things needing storage to worry about (those magazines notwithstanding) but instead it’s the weird stuff that needs to find a home before it can be put away.

For example: we now have a breadmaker sitting on a toy box.  We didn’t used to have a breadmaker, but Older Daughter brought it home and we needed to put it somewhere.  But somewhere that it can be used, not somewhere like “oh stick it in the basement until we can find a place for it.”  (Which explains why no visitors are allowed in the basement.)  So we put it on the toybox.  Why is there a toybox in the kitchen?  Well, it’s well made and wooden and just because there’s no toys to put in it any longer doesn’t mean it should end up in a landfill.  It has become a useful piece of storage near the back door for all the things that used to be needed in the backyard, like pruning shears, baseball gloves (nobody in this house plays baseball), gardening gloves, bubbles, and the fire extinguisher.  The fire extinguisher is my fault, because when we had our kitchen redone I didn’t want that ugly red thing to clash with all the pretty new stuff and I gently suggested (also known as insisting in a slightly hysterical way) that it could live there, it’s easy to get to, and we all knew where it was.  Now there’s a mammoth breadmaker sitting on top of it which hopefully won’t catch fire.

(Speaking of re-doing the kitchen, I’d like to get those designers back in here and ask them what were they thinking when they deliberately did NOT design a place to put all the brooms and mops and things?  They’re just hanging out in a corner of the kitchen, and look far uglier than a fire extinguisher.)

We have about 50 VHS tapes in the basement.  They’re all Disney, Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss, Land Before Time, etc. and what do you do with it all?  Can’t donate it to a nursery school because they don’t use VHS any longer.  Can’t throw it into the landfill.  Can’t trade them in because they’re worth less than nothing.  So what do you do with them all?  You put them in the basement, naturally, with all the books that nobody has looked at in over twenty years because they’re too good to get rid of but yes of course we’re going to buy more, and the punch bowl that makes an appearance once every eight years, and the decorative gifts that have been given over the years that serve no purpose but “we can’t throw that out! So-and-So gave that to us, think how’d they feel!”  (So-and-So has been dead for over twelve years.)  Everything my children made in school is in the basement, in boxes and bins that don’t see the light of day but when I come across them they are three years old again (my children, not the bins) and their eyes are sparkling with excitement to show me the beautiful creation they made.

Clearly, we need to get rid of things to make a pleasant space around here, and since there are seven tins of Christmas cookies still present, I am selflessly doing my part to get rid of them and free up that very necessary space.  (I wonder if the Container Store makes a gadget for holding empty Christmas tins?)


Sing it, bro.


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In Pursuit of Nothing

Everybody make it through to the other side?  Good.  I’d hate to think anyone is still stuck in 2013, that was SO last week.  (See what I did there?  Of course you saw.  You’re not idiots, you’re rather intelligent and I’m hoping highly good-mannered so you’ll overlook that pitiful attempt at humor.)

There was much merriment here, with ALL the cookies and the gifting traditions, and many people crossing our threshold and there might have been a wee accident with a brand new chef’s knife received as a gift which now I wonder about plots and paid-up insurance policies.  But onward we move.

I don’t do “looking back” stuff as it’s never been in my nature to do so, but I enjoy reading Year In Review lists (even better if I have popcorn) mostly because I wonder where in the world I was when those things happened.  It’s playing “Dead or Alive” with an entire year of moments as I open my eyes wide and sputter intelligent comments such as “Where was I when this happened?”  Where, indeed.  Nose buried in a book (or, more accurately, my iPad playing a game) or refusing to turn on the tv or hit a news blog just because I wanted to be unfettered.  I was fettered for a long time and now I’m not.

One thing I will review, and that is just how darn lucky I am.  My husband is a true stalwart, and when it came to losing half our income or compromising my emotional health, he could have been thinking “oh grow up and get over it, it’s just a job and we need the money.”  No, he was saying “we’ve been on one salary before and gotten through and we will again, and your emotional health and state of mind are much more important so stop worrying about it.”  That’s a real hero, one who faces his fears (one more kid with one more semester of college, timing sucks) and plunges in anyway and does so cheerfully.  I am never going to forget how lucky I am.

I don’t do sweeping resolutions, either.  I’ve long since stopped saying “I’m going to eat healthier and exercise more” because one of the privileges of getting older is being truthful with yourself, and while I don’t eat greasy fast food or chemically-forged frozen dinners I know darn well I am a homebody and all my favorite pursuits involve sitting: reading, knitting, writing, movie-watching.  I live in a house with stairs, so having the laundry in the basement and the bedrooms on the second floor helps the blood not pool around my ankles.  I don’t plan on a reading list or a must-cook list or anything that involves a finish line, really, unless it’s a knitting project.  I just AM.  I’m in a state of BE.  I’m rolling with the flow, going with the punches.


I think I just admitted I’m content and happy.  How did that happen?



Totes McGoats


You rock, you rule, too.  Remember that.  Thanks for reading.

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