Thrice Blessed

A quick jaunt to visit my parents this weekend yielded three excellent moments.

1. Dad has a new ‘do.

My dad, who has faithfully maintained a high-and-tight crewcut since his days in the Navy (six decades, give or take) was sporting a fauxhawk, so I packed him into my rental car and took him to get a haircut.

Salon employee: “Welcome to Great Clips. What’s your phone number?”

(They keep your cut preferences on file, like a pizza place.)

Julia: “Hang on.” (pulls out phone to search contacts for brother’s cell)

Dad (from behind, bellows): “Senior discount.”

My dad calls Great Clips, “Fun Clips”. I think they should consider changing their name.

But the better part actually followed, when I talked my dad, who isn’t exactly the stop-and-smell-the-roses type, into going to Anderson’s General Store, where we stumbled upon a little wine tasting.

Check out Bob, hanging out in Lawn and Garden with his vino.

A little splash of shiraz and suddenly the on-clearance hammock frames become a worthy topic of conversation. Or so we discovered.

2. A love for chamber music was born.

My parents live in an upscale assisted/independent living facility, where they don’t take advantage of the activities nearly as much as we’d like them to. As evidenced by aforementioned Anderson’s trip, I can sometimes sway them to live on the edge.

My mom is often an easier sell. This afternoon, she and I decided to take in a little live chamber music. My dad surprised us by joining us midway through the second arrangement, which was a crackerjack decision on his part because the piano-and-string quintet (which I now have completely forgotten the name of) was To Die For. It was a family affair: four brothers (all of whom sported less-than-stellar mustaches, and all of whom played like a dream), presumably under the tutelage of an extremely, extremely talented dude named Dave Schlub (who must be this guy).

These guys were truly breathtaking, unfortunate facial hair and all.

Julia: [quickly, quietly, considerately relocates a chair to accommodate Mom’s wheelchair in second row aisle]

Old lady, from back row: “Now why’d she do that?”

(The white hairs on wheels who comprise the bulk of my parents’ community are a tough, tough crowd.)

Five musicians: [raise bows in demi-dramatic flourish]

Old lady, from fifth row end: “Do you know what time the next train leaves?”

Five musicians: [slightly perplexed, commence to play]

Dad (into Julia’s ear): “Now I wish I’d come down earlier.”

It is damned near never that my parents beam and rave about things cultural. That was how wonderful this quintet was. They singlehandedly won over the White Hairs On Wheels, who are prone to nodding off mid-overture and who think nothing of standing up and leaving the performance at a moment’s whim. They actually received a standing ovation from a mobility-challenged audience.

[Soft, cussy melody accompanies keyboard percussion of fruitless Googling to recall group’s name.]

3. We saw a blue freaking heron.

He was hanging on a rock in the middle of the pond in back of my parents’ facility, amongst a largish pack of mean old geese and a few saucy little mallards. I argued with my dad briefly that he must be a statue, until he opened his wings, tai-chi-style. He was breathtaking.

And of course I’d left all manner of camera in my mom’s room. Frick.

Meanwhile, back in Queens, there was doing.

Please do not disturb the nude models. And let your eyes blur out the painfully-floral-but-really-comfortable couch that I’ve been meaning to beautify.

I Again Doing

Big, bad, way-too-long spell of no blogging here in these parts. I’m blaming it on a wicked jag of depression.

BOOM! That was kind of the way it hit me, right about the time we became kidless. Remember back in college, the way you’d get sick as soon as your last final was over? It was like that. One minute I was busily ticking off the grown-up pleasantries I’d be enjoying whilst footloose and fancy free, the next I felt like I was wading my way through a vat of scratchy wool socks.

It’s been a doozy of a summer. I’m deeming 2012 The Year We Racked Up Scads of High Ticket Stressors. There, now that’s done.

Things I regularly contemplate:

  1. Swan diving into a vat of melted chocolate.
  2. Groaning “woe is me” over and over while lying face-down on my fire escape.
  3. Becoming the Haagen-Dazs stockholders’ top financier.

Things I have tried to do instead:

  1. Get my butt back into a regular yoga routine. Oof.
  2. Sleep more, and get up earlier.
  3. Go to the library.

Here’s proof.

I had forgotten how much I love going to the library and ADHDing my way through 78 random books. It’s the paper version of shiny things.

Oh, and Camilla V. Saulsbury? She’s a muffin maven. Oh mah goodness, the recipes in this book are insane. I may be able to credit this woman with single-handedly plucking me out of my no-baking rut. Groovily enough, the borrowing of this book paired neatly with my recent acquisition of an excellent, high-self-esteem muffin tin, courtesy of the State College, Pennsylvania Goodwill (a.k.a. The Land of Discarded George Foreman Grills, Fraternity Formal Wine Glasses, and Other Objets D’Treasure).

No, you may not have my $3 vessel of wonder and awe.

My first crack at muffining was pumpernickel, from Saulsbury’s Lunch and Dinner Muffins chapter. Really freaking good. You need to make these. You’ll be glad you did.

Julia (to the 11-yr-olds sprawled on the couch watching Hairspray): “Did you know that the actor playing the mom is actually a man?”

Momentary pause.

Lil: “Is he transgender?”

Julia: “No, just a cross-dresser.”

(Movie watching resumes.)

Yes, we say stuff like this in real life.

Joe (later): “I think Jenna might be dead.”

This could be me, based on the past couple of weeks. Except I’d at least try not to let you see all my neeples.

Don’t you be eyeballing me, girls.

Pumpernickel Muffins

(adapted from Camilla Saulsbury’s 750 Muffin Recipes)

1 1/4 cups rye flour

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk (I used the substitute milk-plus-vinegar method)

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

  1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk first five (dry) ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients until well blended.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until just blended.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes, until tops spring back when touched and/or the toothpick test comes clean.

In the words of the 11-yr-old, “These muffins rock. I didn’t think pumpernickel could do that.”

(For the record, I did.)

Kidless in Queens

With the Latvian kids back in their motherland and the domestic child vacationing at her grandma’s, the wild rumpus has officially begun.

Please pay special attention to Fun Things With G-Mom, items 6 and 10.

Also note that thousands of dollars in private school tuition have funded the spelling of “Whipples Dam” in Special Things, item 1.

Sigh.

Thus far, Joe’s and my kidless debauchery has included:

  1. Late-night walks with the dogs.
  2. An impromptu trip to Ikea, including numerous unauthorized market-item purchases.
  3. Dinners served brazenly afront the Olympics.

It’s nuts.

Skin Cancer Ken has been tanning for days and days, oblivious to my repeated you’ll-look-like-a-prune-when-you’re-forty admonitions. Now I know how my mother felt.

And what’s up with Ken’s abandoned, possibly drunken mail-order bride in the background?

Despite my best efforts, all kinds of stuff happens under the radar in this apartment.

In other news, my urban homesteading endeavor is officially underway: shortly before hosting ended, Nastja helped me plant a little balcony garden.

(“Balcony” is a generous term here. In real life, it’s a tray of seedlings on our 1’x3′ pseudo window box, half of which is hogged by the air conditioner. Granted, to those the size of Skin Cancer Ken and his iffy mail order bride, it’s practically the Bahamas. Life is what you make of it, I suppose.)

They’re GROWing…

I have traditionally had a black thumb powerful enough to kill plastic dandelions. But I keep telling myself, gardening’s not a *talent*. Is it?

Thus far, I seem to be capable of keeping alive only things that begin with C: cucumbers, chives, cilantro. This category includes “children” and “chihuahuas”, fortunately for them.

I’m thinking this little garden is somehow (and semi-irritatingly) metaphorical.

  1. It was planted in a wonderful moment, in good company, under complicated circumstances.
  2. The stuff that’s supposed to flourish hasn’t. Basil grows like a weed? Don’t be knocking on my door for pesto anytime soon.
  3. Until our super comes with a special un-installation tool, I have to jam my hand through a freaking baby gate to water it. Despite the barrier, I’m still probably over-soggifying the soil.
  4. I initially panicked that the pigeons were eating it, but it turned out that the cucumber leaves were just shaped that way.
  5. This thing is going to take a long time to really take root and grow.
  6. The harvest may/will probably yield less than expected.
  7. I’ll probably have to move stuff around and figure out new sources of light.

The cool back-end detail: My gardening supplies originally belonged to my father-in-law, who was a prolific gardener before he died a little over a year ago. Upon discovering that our tray of little peat pods were way too dry to plant with, Nastja and I  dumped some water on them, got busy with something else, and forgot about them entirely. The kids left, and the pods sat for days on my windowsill, covered by another tray of seedlings. But when I lifted the lid, I discovered that some of them sported mystery shoots of greenage. My father-in-law must have sprinkled a few errant seeds. I’ll do my best to find out what he intended to grow.

Kind of leggy, but growing nonetheless.