Weird and Mysterious

While searching for something last night, I rummaged through my top dresser drawer. Something heavy and stiff struck me and I was surprised. I grasped the object and heart-pounding, I pulled it out. It was about 12 inches long and pretty hefty in weight. Once it was out, I saw that it was a dagger in a sheaf.

I have never bought a dagger. I’ve never put one in my dresser. In a panicky voice, I asked my husband if he had stashed a knife in my underwear drawer. “Of course not,” he indignantly replied. After much back and forth, and questioning of anyone who has been in our house, the conundrum unfolded.

We never have people in here. Part of it is the cats. Ugh. The cats. Part of it is the commute. Part of it is the laziness. Part of it is wanting to do things on weekends besides yard/house work. But, my house is not in a state I feel comfortable sharing. Hence, nobody is here.

My brother in law stayed here last year due to an odd situation with work and cancer, so he was questioned. In a rage, I thought, how dare he go in my bedroom. After all, the master bedroom (mine hardly is one, but it is the biggest of the two) is sacred. The master bedroom in any house is by invitation only. But, he denied the knife. Knowing his habits with things like knives, I don’t think it is his.
Nobody else has been here! My daughter has been here. But, she wouldn’t have spent the money on what is at least $100 for a knife.

How freaked out should I be to find a strange knife in my underwear drawer?


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A new Blog!

Well, quite a bit of time has passed since I posted.  Haven’t felt much like posting since the past year has been filled with lots of bad, of course some good. But a myriad of awful.

Jane died.  Wow.  How is that even possible?  I have written privately about it, and maybe will here, too, but not now.

Dad died.  I’m still reeling from this event.  Can’t write yet.

Four new babies in the family.  Two are probably not going to be interacting with us.  But, Marianne had little Madeleine, and I can’t wait to meet her.  I miss seeing Christian and Avery.

I was prompted to update because of my classes this year.  I have to teach Language Arts this year – don’t even get me started on why…. I don’t mind, really, but it doesn’t come as naturally to me as history.  Read: I have to plan and can’t just fly by the seat of my pants.

I have super smart classes this year, too.  It is a good thing, but they tend to think they are know it alls.  Smart does not equal knowing.  They have a great deal to learn, and the main thing is how to think and how to question.  And also they need to learn to stop looking for the guidelines, and be creative!   Of course having mostly smart kids really makes the not so smart ones really stand out.

The pressure this year is immense.  Too many tests and too much pressure to have certain scores.  This is not good for education.   So, I am rebelling.  I’m using a book that is not on the mandated list!  I’m doing things that I know are right, but that are slightly outside the parameters – yee haw.  That makes me motivated.

I’m taking a writing class that is really good.  I got into a couple grad programs and maybe I’ll actually do it.  I’m looking forward to the holidays with Miss Charlotte.

Speaking of the little Miss Charlotte.  She is a dream!  We took her to see the musical Charlotte’s Web.  It was kind of an odd production, but she seemed to love it.  She did her little happy dance in her booster seat!  Soooo cute.

Everything else is ok.  Just ok.  I’ll take it.

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I think it was at least 30 years ago, I watched Julia Child make cassoulet, I was intrigued.  I loved JC then, I watched all her shows, and for Christmas, I got one of her cookbooks.   I don’t really like to cook.  Today, I realized I only like to cook once in a while, and then it is very complicated recipes that I prefer.  Good to have some self realization, I guess.

so, for some reason (actually a specific reason is: not being able to visit and be a real grandma to my granddaughter in the way I imagined)  I needed a distraction.  I just read Julia Powell’s book on the Julie/Julia project, and was itching to make something.  Boeuff Bourgignon was high on the list from Scott, but I’ve made it before.  I kept mulling over ideas, perfect roast chicken (I’ve done her roast chicken already) and then suddenly, I remembered.  Cassoulet.

It required a $100 purchase of an enameled dutch oven.  Not Le Creuset, as I would have preferred, but an off brand at BBandB.  I couldn’t find duck confit, so used duck breast.  I had to guess on the sausage, only to find out that any will do, and you can combine types.  But in the end, the very delicious end, to me, I made good choices.  The one duck breast was almost $15, the sausage $6, the lamb $4, the veg, on hand mostly – celery, onion, garlic, tomatoes, probably $3, the butter, (on hand, duh) $2,  the herbs, $6-7 total (I so want an herb garden, and can have one if I just do it.)  So, 36-40 bucks for the entire pot, most of which will be thrown out, I’m sure.

I didn’t have one recipe to follow – Julia’s takes a week Tony’s a few days, Pepin’s quick version 30 minutes.  I found a random blogger and made it in several hours.  Plus shopping time.

First, I washed the new pot.  Next, I heated it, melted butter and dumped in the bacon.  Sauteed that for a few, then threw in the lamb. Browned it.  Took it out, Chucked in the duck.  Browned, repeat with sausage.  Tossed in veg (I cut it while meat was browning) and made the bouquie garni  All the while, I was doing a quick soak on the washed and picked over Great Northern beans.  It was almost perfect timing – the bean quick soak and the prep of the other stuff at the same time, with a small break in there somewhere.

It all came together, and was put in the oven.  My new casserole is heavy!  I confessed to being a brand name girl and wishing it was a Le Creuset, much to Scott’s disconsternation.

I did the two bread crumb applications, requiring the use of my new Ninja blender system, which needs it’s own cabinet, at the least, since I have to figure it out each time.

Fresh bread crumbs from a fresh baguette, with parsley, garlic and butter are delicious.

Once the bubbling, crispy topped dish was brought out of the oven I put it on the stove top, and froze.  I stared at it.

I actually did something that I’ve looked forward to doing for over 30 years.  I burst into tears.  I’m sure somebody out there understands what can’t be explained.

I wrote to my first politician (Nixon) at age 9.  i started planning JC meals shortly after that.  I am a nerd  A politics junkie.  A cooking junkie, if you cout reading and watching it, but only really ever wanting to make complicated recipes*  so it is no surprise that I decided within a few days of meeting him, I wanted to marry my hubs, from New Orleans, who loves to cook.


beouff bourgignon

cog au casserot

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Twenty Eleven Wrap Up

9 – 9 – 10 – Well, I guess I am sort of intrigued by numbers/numerology.  My one and only baby was born at 9:09 on the 9th.  My grandaughter has a name with 9 letters in the first and 9 letters in the second.  9+9=18, 1+8 = 9.  I was born on the 19th.  My daughter was born on 12/9, as was her father, paternal grandmother and maternal great-grandmother.  Just stuff that is probably meaningless, but still interesting to me.

2011 was a weird year.  Definitely not a bad year.  Seems like a long time since I could have written that.

So, I began the year knowing that Marianne, my one and only neice (besides Scott’s side, whom I’ve never met) would be having a baby boy way down in San Antonio. I had no idea that there would be two more additions to the family. More on that later.

I had no idea that I would be taking an actual vacation.   Let’s talk about that first.  Scott, while on a conference – which means long days and many days away from home, told me to plan a vacay.  Since money is limited, I declined and that was that.  Until my mom mentioned that Scott never has wanted to spend money on a vacation in all the time I’ve known him.  So, I thought, ok, beach trip.  After a bit of internet research, I found a place in New Hampshire that was cheaper than any VA or Outer Banks locations.  We had a wonderful time.  So good that there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of that trip.  I will probably write an entire post on it (if I haven’t already and forgot) soon.

Visiting San Antonio was great!  However, that trip and the other airline trip made me realize I hate flying  – actually I had bumping around that I don’t understand.  And, the landing at Dallas was bad!  But the visiting of my adorable nephews and the nice house and neighborhood that their parents have was worth it.  Avery is so cute and lovable, and Christian is a hilarious comedian.  And it was a nice way to tribute my big sister, Jane.

Another highlight was taking my daughter to the ER because she was dehydrated from vomiting.  Highlight because that is when we found out she was pregnant.  I waited with nervousness as she reacted, but was happy when she started thinking out loud about names.

And then school started, ugh,  and I got busy and before I knew it, our newest, most precious gift was here.  The tiny, beautiful baby was here.  And everything changed.

And she is perfect.  And my heart grew ten sizes.  And 2011 will go down as a good year.  The first good year, of what I hope is many.

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I wish……..

I wish

I could blog daily, have ads and make money on blogging.

I had no debt and all my money was for living expenses and saving.

I wish I had all that money to travel far and wide.

I wish then, that I could conquer my fear of flying, sailing, cruising, and riding in a vehicle.

Because then I could tour Europe, Russia, China, India, New Zealand, Australia, North America, Peru, some of Canada, and a few islands.

I wish I didn’t feel guilty for wishing such selfish things.  I wish I could wish for an end to hunger, war and hatred.  I do wish for those things, but I doubt them.

I wish I could end ignorance.  That would be my super power!

I wish I could crinkle my nose like Samantha to clean my house and yard.

I wish I could be enlightened enough to not wish for things but to  be glad in what I have.  Which I am  for the most part.  But there are still a few more,

I wish there was a cure for Alzheimer’s and Cancer.

I wish no one got either.

I wish my husband would put the dang toilet seat down.  — trying to lighten the mood.

I wish potato chips and dip were calorie negative.

I wish I could go on forever, but this post is long enough.  What do you wish for most?

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SS Independence

Inspired by Mir of and her post at There are times in my past that I insisted on a level of independence for which I was not fully prepared.  In retrospect, I am glad I did it that way (cue Sinatra “My Wayyyyyyyy”)  but I also wonder why I put myself through such turmoil.

It was no accident that the ship I sailed to America on was named the SS Independence.  Seriously, my parents chose sailing to New York from Spain when it was time to bring me to the States.  I was born on a Navy base in Spain and 3? 4? years later orders came for California and my parents headed back.  In contemplating my book (ahem, someday I’m going to write a book)  I have drafted only the first line:

I sailed to America on the SS Independence, and spent the next several decades trying to achieve just that.

At this rate of writing, I’ll never have to worry about book signing parties.

Anywho,  I remember times I was hard headed.  Trying to tie my shoes.  I recall the frustration!  Trying to read, another frustration.   I could count, so I had this little yellow record player and I counted words.  I had little books with  45s in the back – 45s are records, kind of like a CD before digital stuff.  So, I would put the record on, count the words read, lift the needle, and match the number to the word and memorize it.  What a nerd.  But, I taught myself to read!  At age 4!

That was a positive one.

I’ve had plenty of times of over dependence, too.  The training wheels episode for one.  I insisted upon having them (on my brilliant green bike with a banana seat and a long chrome poley thing on the back)

And, my dad knowing I didn’t need them, screwed them on so they didn’t even touch the ground.  He even weaned me off one at a time!  How ridiculous that bike looked with one training wheel all up high!

Another episode of extreme, and not too bright independence was going through my divorce.  I could have taken Katie to my parent’s and lived there while I finished college/worked etc., but noooooooooooooo, I had never lived on my own, so I found an affordable apartment.

A former frat house (it was so bad that even the lowest of frats wouldn’t use it) I got the best apartment in it. I can’t imagine how bad the others must have been, but in my bathroom, you could look through a hole in the floor to the basement.  Not mentioning the drug dealer lot next door… there were bugs.

I didn’t even know they were roaches!  My privileged upbringing prevented me from identifying such a creature.  But our kitty, Whiskers, proudly caught one and brought it to me ALIVE!  one night while I read some book for school on my bed!  EEEK.

Recently, I am much less independent.  As I write, my husband preps dinner, tidies up, and cares for the animals.  I lounge, relax and write.  I CAN still do it all.  I’m just glad I’ve reached the point where I am perfectly fine letting someone else take care of things.  I’m blissfully unaware of our debt, bills, bank accounts, investments and various other things.

But, I still have to do all the driving.

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Lobstas and Staahms Oh my!

I guess I’ll write the history of the past summer.

June: not really summer until school was out and my room cleaned. I was late doing that as usual. I remember going to Olde Towne Steak and Seafood for our anniversary on the 26th. It was a nice time, I bought a new blouse to wear and haven’t worn it since. I had stuffed shrimp, but they were only mediocre.

July: pretty much a blur. I remember a lunch or two with friends. A crab feast with friends. Several unproductive days of wallowing and self pity and turmoil. Staring into space. Not going outside since when I did, I literally could not breathe it was so humid and hot. Scott away for a million days (ok, 10) and going to visit him in D.C. Mainly to use the swimming pool at the Hilton. Scaring people with my excema at the Hilton. Dinner at Ruths Chris. Interesting, expensive, very slow service. A shell in my gazpacho with crab meat – I should have complained, but was still too depressed and apathetic. Reading, all about FDR and his betrayal of Eleanor. Poor Eleanor. By late July, I had the revelation: “If Eleanor could endure that childhood and marriage and sum up the courage/gumption to impact the lives of others so positively, then there is no excuse for me to wallow any longer.” And then: August hit!

Finished a painting. Went to San Antonio with no fear of flying, until that landing in San Antonio! Loved having that wonderful baby to play with and hold. A real life enriching experience. Laughing my guts out at the wit of his big brother. Our family always has someone who has a quick wit, and I see he has that trait, too. Awesome! Some turbulence of many forms on the way home and upon arrival, and then a quick 10 hour turn around and on another flight, this time to Boston.

Side note: I have a genetic propensity to dislike Boston. I can’t explain it much. It is ugly, dirty, ill planned, and just gross. And, don’t get me started on the Red Sox. Ok, so Harvard may be awesome and even Boston College, but I’ve not been there as a student or even a friend/parent of one. We managed to land and procure our rental car unscathed.

Our arrival at our final destination (which is confidential, lest I inundate “our place” with people) was glorious. Cool, crisp, blue and lavender. Green and lush with a salty wind. Paradise. A simple cottage – a deck, a sreened porch big enough for two, inside a tiny table for two, a couple soft chairs, a queen bed, dresser, shower, loo, and a tiny kitchen with a retro fridge – redone in an awesome bright candy apple red. Knotty pine, no a/c, perhaps some cable TV?, no cell service. Wow. Owner and his wife in the big house with two gorgeous pure bred Irish Setters: Rita and Lucy. Veggie patches and ocean views. By Monday evening we were unplugged and relaxed. I’ll spare details, but we didn’t argue, spat or fight at all for the duration. Hurricane? We had no idea. I had not followed news, no internet really – slow so I only updated photos and facebook once a day. If we went into a town we might have checked something, but that was only for wine/food runs.  I had a lobster one night, we walked on the rocks on the ocean, on the beach, drove past gorgeous Victorian seaside mansions, read books, sat in silence and stared at the sailboats going by, watched the lobstermen bring in hauls, and did other private things that were fun and stress reducing.  Paradise!

And then. Thursday evening, our cottage neighbor, an impossibly nuclear family from MA with identical twin girl kindergarteners (beeeeuuuteeeful!)  mentioned to us that we must be worried about the staahm headin up. And then. The landlord and I had a conversation in which he ended by saying: Ya naht goin anywhayaa if ya don’ leave tomorra. I chose denial. Head in sand approach. Scott took heed. (He’s all smart and shit). He called Delta. We were offered a flight out Thursday night (we would have to leave immediately – and seriously? It was 70 with fog rolling in….duh, I wasn’t budging!) another on Friday morning…we would have to leave our place at 4 am and it was already like 8, and I didn’t want to get up early, and there were no two seats together and since my fear of flying had returned, thanks to American Airlines, I refused. So, the next was Saturday am, a few hours earlier than our original flight. We snapped it up with no fees, and we felt proud and safe.

So, we treasured the foggy evening and gorgeous Friday. Went back the beach, did a few other things like tour a historic home in Portsmouth. It was once home to a Whipple, however, not one I am directly descended from, but might be indirectly. Found a really old cemetary, enjoyed the gorgeous day oblivious. I noted some staahm prep: awning removal, loose item securing. But, I remained indifferent.

Then Saturday dawned. We were both up before alarms. We got dressed, packed and headed south for Boston. Clusterfuck lied there in wait for our juicy limbs. All seemed well upon arrival. Our plane was at the gate, and flight was scheduled on time. I perched in my leather chair, book in hand and dug in for the wait. The big flat screen TV in front of me began to show those pretty, colorful radar storm images over the map of the U.S. Scott was oblivious. I am not sure he knows the map of the U.S. I began to hyperventilate, get naseous and cry. Fun! I held out until noon, then I went to the bar. Upon swallowing my last swig of a decent red, Scott appeared and said, “Our flight is cancelled.” I guess he expected me to be upset, but what I felt was relief. No flying!

Then, reality hit. We took this trip as a lark, spending all of our reserves foolishly since we were really stressed/depressed and had never taken a vacation just the two of us. We were mostly broke. Hee hee…

Sooooooooo…. we waited in line, and Delta, being so kind once I said I was a public school teacher expected in class on Monday morning, gave a full refund! (It would take 3 days to go through). We tried Amtrak, all sold out (and eventually all cancelled). We contemplated staying: hotels 250+ a night, plus food – not happening. And so renting a car was the choice. We tried to extend our rental from Alamo. We had a car for a week for 130, but they wanted 650 for one more day! We had no mor e room on credit cards and if you know rental car companies – they don’t take cash.

Long story shortened: thanks to my mom, Marian, who wired up help to us in Marian, MA (fun fact) we got a car. A tiny Kia Rio. Surely strong enough to drive through a hurricane?

A major marital battle later, and we drove, err, I drove being a control freak, through MA, CT and NY all in the upper bands of Irene. We saw an overturned car, flooded off ramps, white out conditions, got blown off the road by semi-trailers, and saw many a downed tree. An adventure that was not fun.

Just south of Harrisburg, PA, about 36 hours after we started the ordeal, we saw sunshine.

From then it was smoothish sailing. We returned the rental, got our car, and picked up take out pizza on the way home. And a bottle of wine.

In the driveway, I tripped on a downed limb, saved the wine (duh) and dropped the pizza. Then we entered our kitchen to find a sea of olive oil from a broken decanter that happened either in a) the freak 6.0 earthquake in VA while we were gone (!?) or b) a freaked out cat from the hurricane.

We went to bed, got up 6 hours later and returned to normal. Perhaps we were not meant for vacations?

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Summer Bucket List

Ok, so this is the list of things I need to do this summer.  Plus some I want to do.  I really need a schedule since so far all I have done is menial housework (mimimal?) and loaf around.

Clean!!! Literally every room needs a thorough cleaning. Also, the deck and porch need attention.

For the porch, I’d like to clean it, have Scott repair the screen and then make it more of an oasis (fan, plants, pillows, etc.) but this will cost some money – not a lot.   For the deck: power wash and re-stain, some renailing needed.

Kitchen: paint the cabinets, trim and walls – removing border, get new table and chairs, TV and fix the shelf/jelly cupboard situation.  The table, chairs and TV will be the last to get done, but that is ok.

Living room: get rid of junk!!! Paint a nice light green color. Also, want to paint the kitchen a soft tanish/grayish/khaki color so may do the same in here.

Bedroom and hall: clean, organize and paint. New blinds/curtains.  Shamefully, we have sheets over the windows.  Still.  (I’ve lived here 15 years).

Extra room: some cleaning, junk removal, finish the border, put up brass bed, curtains or blinds (or both).

Yard: Ugh.  Try to find a nice person to do the work for me for cheap.

Also, go back to paint class and get some painting (oil) done.

Visit Farmville – lake?

Visit a beach…. preferably on the Pacific – but that won’t happen.

Go to San Antonio!!!  Tickets bought.

Visit Richmond – always mean to go to Shockoe and that one area whose name escapes me but has all those funky little shops.  Oh!  Cary Street, that’s it!

Thinking of finding a yoga class for me and Katie to take together.  Or, I could just pop in the yoga dvd I already have.  Or just do the stuff I already know how to do, since being in yoga class causes me to have fits of giggles.  I’m weird.

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Finally had tapas!

We went to the Capital Home Show today and on the way home stopped in Manassas for an early dinner.   La Catilla sounded promising, and I have been wanting tapas for a long time.  It is in an old church and the atmosphere was cozy.

We were seated by what appeared to be a 7 year old.  He was cute.  I refrained from telling him about child labor laws.  The darkly paneled walls, pretty sprial staircase and mirrored bar were charming.  The menu was extensive.  Probably too extensive, as I’ve been warned if they have that many things, they can’t all be that good.  We were quickly given water, but waited for a waiter.

He finally came, and I had already decided on the serrano jamon and manchego plate as a starter for both of us.  Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Spain has made me crave the jamon and cheese, but I’ve yet to be willing to part with the buckage at Wegman’s to try it.  I asked for a wine recommendation, and immediately was trying a delicious red whose name I have already forgotten.   My excitement rose, Scott’s dwindled.  He hates trying new things and the salsa was green.

The salsa and homemade tortillas were ok, and they were our only company for a long, long time.  Scott finally ordered a diet coke, and several minutes later (2 water refills) he got it.  Other diners arrived, and promptly described their Hawaii honeymoon in detail that was quite annoying and loud.  “I kid you not!  It’s paradise!  The grass skirts! The coconut bras!”  (actual quotation).

Finally, finally, we got the jamon and manchego, and quickly put in our orders for New Mexico enchiladas and Pork Tenderloin.   The jamon was fantastic.  I’m definitely not afraid to buy a hunk at Wegman’s tomorrow.  I feel the same about the manchego….like cheddar in texture, but with a milder, nuttier taste – hints of parmesan.  Some sort of salami was also on the plate, but it tasted like it was just one week past prime…..  we left it.

Eventually our pork and enchiladas came.  The tortillas on the enchiladas were delicious – homemade.  Since I was a tiny girl in Carmel Valley I have remembered homemade tortillas that the Mexican family nearby made.  So different from store bought.  I must bribe a student to bring me some.  I KNOW they make them at home.

The pork was promised to be in a wine reduction with rosemary.  It was skewered with apple chunks and the glaze was like maple syrup  – I could see rosemary, but not taste it.  Too bad.  The meat was tender and well cooked.  Just not what the menu promised.

Not a horrible experience, the service was not good.  But not a stellar one, either.  I guess a real tapas experience should be in Sevilla or Madrid, not Manassas.

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