We took the Greyhound bus from Louisville, Kentucky to Virginia Beach, Virginia last week. What was supposed to take 23 hours took 28 hours - those last five were pretty miserable. However, Mick & I helped buoy each other's spirits. We'd tell stories and make jokes, talking about other passengers and travelers. There were the kids that left trash everywhere - the boy creepily sleeping with eyes open, both of them asleep as soon as possible after every stop. There was the druggie we nicknamed Consuela - when we arrived to the bus station in Louisville, she was sitting just inside the first hallway. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, her suitcase open with the contents strewn about and weeping. We watched a police officer walk over to her to ask her a few questions. She kept crying that someone stole all her money - she was missing $300 from her suitcase. She had no money to buy food on her trip - she was headed to Orlando. We talked softly about her from a distance. We agreed that her distress was genuine but perhaps it wasn't a completely honest representation of her situation. She was talking on the phone with someone, and yelled at him that she didn't have any drugs, and if she had she would be arrested by now! She kept telling everyone she was hungry - I asked Mick softly if I should give her one of the apples I was carrying. He replied he'd already given her five dollars. We kept watching her wander the bus stations, leaving her suitcase unattended to wander out into the back parking area. She was on the bus to Nashville with us - after the lights went one and we got onto the road, she started walking up and down the aisle whispering to people. When she got to us, she leaned over and asked us to give her snacks, did we have anything to eat? Mick told her no - I guess giving her $5 to buy her own food is acceptable, but when she spends it elsewhere and asks for more food anyway, his limit is reached!

On the leg out of Nashville, our driver got lost three different times. He was asking people on the bus if they knew how to get to the next station. At one point, our Greyhound bus was lumbering through the suburbs! His poor sense of direction and lack of maps or GPS put us behind schedule, so we went about 12 hours without a break. Finally, when the people on the bus were ready to revolt, the driver made a twenty minute stop at a McDonald's. I've never been so happy to have one of their burgers in all my life.

For the last leg of the trip to Norfolk, traffic was a parking lot. What should've been 45 minutes was nearly three hours. I was just glad they held a bus for us - we were over two hours late to the station. I think they set up a second bus for all of us coming in late - no one else got on that bus with us. Dixie met us in Norfolk - both of us stinking and exhausted, my feet and legs painfully swollen from sitting for so long. We found out that his brother was waiting to meet us for a drink when we arrived. All I wanted to do was collapse in bed but we rallied - when we arrived at the hotel, we cleaned up and changed into fresh clothes, quickly headed back downstairs. Less than an hour off the bus, and we're sitting by a fire pit on the beach, having a late meal and drinking cocktails. We both agreed that it made everything feel that much more decadent and sumptuous after that extended bus ride.

The next day, most of the day passed in a blur. We drove to pick up the kids in Norfolk - about a 40 minute drive one way. When we returned to the room before lunch, Stella gave us both gifts - she knitted us hats. Mine had an accompanying note - she told me she was glad I made her dad so happy and she was looking forward to having me as a stepmother when we married. Until then, she already thought of me as such. I was floored & very touched by her words - I teared up a little and hugged her tightly. We met for a wonderful meal at a restaurant called Catch 31. It was Mick's whole family there - his mother Dixie, his brother Brian, sister-in-law Johnna, nephew Colin, daughter Stella and her fiancée Will. I tried raw oysters for the first time - I was a little apprehensive but found them sweet & briny & appealing. We had a great time - it was the only time during the trip that we were all together.

Later, we headed to the church for the rehearsal. I sat in the back of the sanctuary to keep out of the way. Dixie assured me that the next day, I'd sit in the front with her. It didn't take them very long to run through the ceremony - we walked back to see the reception hall. Stella's stepfather kept making jokes to Mick and I could see his posture stiffen every time Jake spoke to him. Later, Mick told me how he hates when Jake tries to act like they're old buddies. As an example, Jake pointed at Will and said, "So I guess all the bills go there now, am I right?" Mick didn't acknowledge it but later told me he doesn't understand how you stop being a parent. Jake kept making jokes to him about what a relief it is, having her married off. Mick was miserable but he held his tongue. We'd agreed to keep the peace until after the wedding but I could feel the anger coming off him in waves.

We headed to the rehearsal dinner afterward - a Chinese buffet her mother selected. There was a room in the back reserved for our party. Dixie paid for one of the bridesmaids as well as Mick and me. Brian and his family didn't join us - they went on a boat ride instead. Stella and Will sat at the table with us; her mother had her other children all sitting with her. It felt very divided.

Saturday morning, we had to go back to the mall to get the vest to Mick's tuxedo - it was missing when we picked up the rest of the tux and they ordered it from another store. We spent a low key morning together, giving ourselves plenty of time to shower and get ready to go - Dixie was coming later with Brian and his family. We had to be there by 5pm so Mick could put on his tuxedo there. When we arrived, I walked back to find everyone else. Stella was in curlers and her mother was bustling around the reception hall. I asked if I could help, and Stella asked me to help out with her hair. We made our way back to a choir room she was using to get dressed. Her friend Nicole was up there helping out a bridesmaid with her hair, so we talked and laughed while I used a blowdryer on her thick hair in curlers. Her mother walked in to tell me that Mick was getting himself wound up in the sanctuary, I should check on him. As I left the room, she said loudly that her time to wind him back down was long past. I saw red for a moment but I remembered our promise - keep it civil until after the wedding. I checked on him - he was having difficulty getting the vest adjusted but he wasn't agitated in any way. I took care of it and headed back to the choir room. Stella's mother kicked everyone out of the choir room, and one of her sisters was "standing guard" outside the door. I left and headed back to the sanctuary to sit and wait until the ceremony started.

Her two brothers were ushers and groomsmen both, walking some people down the aisle but letting others just make their own way. I was nervous until it was time for the ceremony - it felt like it would fall apart at any minute. When it came time to start, though, it came off very well. Stella asked both her mother & father to walk her down the aisle - I'd never seen that before. Considering that they have both had very different lives with her it made sense. The ceremony was brief - only 13 minutes - and we headed to the reception in short time.

I danced some with the kids (Will & Stella's friends, mostly) and had a good time. I was touched by the father-daughter dance. Stella buried her face in Mick's shoulder and cried a little. I didn't ask him what he said to her - I know whatever it was, it was perfect. As the night neared end, I walked over to speak to Stella's mother.

Despite my bold talk, I truly didn't want to pick a fight over everything. I don't always like the way that Stella is treated by her mother, but there are a lot of things you can set aside for a wedding. I told her I knew she was the driving force behind the reception, and that she'd done a really good job. The kindness cost me nothing, and her face lit up to thank me.

Anna said she was glad I was with Mick, I clearly made him really happy. "We were oil and water, he & I. I could never make him happy, and any time when I could've calmed him down is long past." We spoke a little longer before I headed back to my table. Her earlier comment didn't seem so rude now - I was glad I made the gesture. Someday, there will be grandchildren. We all won't see each other socially, but there is always a good reason to seek peace.

Sunday, we picked up the kids and headed back to the hotel. I thought we were going to the beach - I packed a bag with a ground blanket, towels, sunscreen, snacks & bottled water - but the kids were mostly happy to sit out on the balcony and people-watch. Later, we hung out at the infinity pool on the roof, and later all had dinner at Catch 31 again. After dinner, Mick pulled his mom aside and asked her to drive the kids home - he wanted to take me for a walk on the beach. She eyeballed him hard, but she agreed to drive them home. He & I walked down the boardwalk a ways, then took off our sandals and walked onto the sand. It was the first time that week I'd made it to the beach.

The night was warm and misty, clouds obscuring most of the stars. The beach was full of people in the dark, but we all passed without a word to each other. There is something of the shore that feels like a thin place - where the corporeal world and something otherworldly meet and collide. The wet sand gleaned under a sliver of moon - we held hands and let the cold shock of waves lap over our feet as we walked. We made our slow way back toward the hotel. We were both exhausted and dropped off quickly.

Monday, we got up early and packed, then headed to the beach for a couple of hours. We met up with Dixie and drove back to Kentucky that day. We all three took turns driving and even with stops, it only took about 11 hours. It was a great improvement over 28 hours on a Greyhound bus, I can assure you!

Since I was off Tuesday as well, we took the afternoon and headed to the Falls of the Ohio. I got a mild sunburn - funny, since I barely freckled after a week on the beach! It made for a great vacation. We are still unloading suitcases and washing everything up, but already the beach feels a million miles away. We have to drive Heather home this Sunday back to Vanceburg - nearly three hours, one way. We have it planned out - we'll start roasting a chicken in the crock pot before we leave, and cook green beans in the pressure cooker when we get home. After a long winding drive on two lane roads, we'll be ready for a good meal!

The infinity pool.

At the wedding reception. She gave me a mother corsage to wear - I was honored.

A quiet moment on the balcony. It was a shot I accidentally took right before we kissed - my favorite of the lot of them.

The knit hats Stella made. I had this made into a postcard to send her a thank-you note!

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18 July 2014 @ 12:12 pm
528K 3:20
(no transcription available)
15 July 2014 @ 11:29 am

Saturday night, we went to Tatyana’s birthday party. Steve has never been able to sell the house he had when they got married, and since his last renters moved out it has sat empty. They decided to have her party there instead of renting a space elsewhere. They rented a giant grill – the kind you need a truck to tow – and he roasted a whole pig. Everyone brought side dishes and sat out in the yard. It was an interesting mix of people – Steve & Tatyana have been performing in a circus as of late. I met most of the performers on the 4th of July, and even out of costume they were unmistakable. Tatyana whispered that she didn’t want to eat any food the circus people brought as they were nearly all freegans. I understood what she meant immediately – they believe in living with as few financial transactions as possible, so the bulk of their food comes from dumpster diving. I asked her to point out which dishes they brought. Oops! That dish of green beans and new potatoes was delicious, and I have suffered no ill after-effects from freegan food.
Steve’s batty mother and his two level-headed aunts were there as well, and easy to spot among the dreadlocks and tattoos and handlebar mustaches. The trio were conservatively dressed with short hair – his two aunts seemed to get a real kick out of the group while his mother stalked around with a sneer and left abruptly. Steve was totally unconcerned – he regaled us with tales of the pig and the process.

He found a farmer advertising slaughtered pigs for sale on Craigslist. He texted his friend Dave that he needed his help, and Dave asked what was entailed. Steve sent the following text.
Drive to Indiana.
Meet farmer & pig.
Kill pig.
Haul pig back to Belmar.
Roast pig.

It seems Dave only skimmed the message and missed the part about killing the pig. When they arrived at the farm, they headed to the barn and met the pig face to face. He was pretty social and had blue eyes. The farmer asked if they brought a cooler, and Steve said no. They headed back into town to buy several bags of ice and a tarp. When they got back, the farmer asked how they planned to kill the pig. Steve and Dave looked at each other blankly and asked, how did the farmer recommend? He said, “I have no idea, I’ve never killed a pig in my life!”
Steve pointed out that in their emails, he HAD told the farmer that he was a city boy and he didn’t know what to do. The farmer said he’d call his father-in-law to help – it’d be a half hour. Steve spent the time scratching the pig behind the ears and getting to know him – they named him Wilbur. The Father-in-law showed up and asked which one was going to shoot it. Steve has never fired a gun in his life so Dave offered to do it. The pig immediately turned his back and wouldn’t give Dave a clear shot. The older farmer kinda snorted and said he was overthinking it, took the gun and did it himself. The old guy hung the pig to drain and asked which of them was going to help process it. Steve piped up, “I’m a former vegetarian. I’ve got this!” So he helped scrub and process all 230 pounds of pig before driving back to Louisville with an understandably traumatized Dave. They stayed up all night at the empty house on Belmar, basting and roasting the pig slowly.

At the cookout, Dave was wild-eyed and even more squirrelly than usual. He kept ducking away to crouch by people sitting in lawn chairs, explaining he was hiding from any further responsibilities with the pig. After hearing the story and that the pig had been dubbed Wilbur, everyone declared he was SOME PIG! We all had a really good time – delicious food, interesting conversations and lots of little kids running around. It was only marred by a weird encounter. After I got there I asked if Tatyana brought her camera. I offered to make two rounds of the party to photograph people, but then I was done for the night. I made my way around to everyone there, taking some candids and others I’d trill, “Smile for the birthday girl!” There was a man carrying his little boy and the little boy was watching me with big eyes over his dad’s shoulder. I called hello to him, and snapped his smile & his wave back. Suddenly the father wheeled around to confront me – he said, “I just asked you to stop doing that to me. Why do you think I was walking away from you?” I immediately lowered the camera and stammered an apology. I had been sort of aware he was speaking, but it was in such a low, even tone I assumed he was speaking to the little boy or someone out of my view. I offered to delete the photos of his son, and he just huffed and turned his back on me. I walked away, pretty upset, and another partygoer reached out to touch my arm and roll her eyes. She said he really over-reacted, I hadn’t done anything wrong. I sought out Tatyana to tell her what happened and ask if he had some religious or personal aversion to photographs? Did he not allow photos to be taken of his son? She rolled her eyes and said she had no idea what was going on with him that day – he was a total drama queen and always looked to start trouble. I relaxed some and just moved to another part of the yard to photograph people. I told Mick what had happened, and he spent a goodly part of his time giving the guy the stinkeye when he wandered too close to us. I was back at the food table to get a dessert when the guy brought his son up to me and told the little boy to tell me goodbye, but the father didn’t look at me or speak to me. I said goodbye back and the boy blew me a kiss, then they left. It was strange – I never did figure out what was going on. Maybe the goodbye was as close to an peace offering as I’d get – I chalked it up to the weirdness among that circle of people and went on. It was sweaty hot and while some people took refuge inside the house, I stayed outside in the grass. There is a section of the yard that has been overtaken by mint – it is waist-high in spots, and robustly healthy. Some of the kids would tread on outlying plants while playing, so it kept releasing this cloud of strong, clean mint scent. Mick & I both had a great night – there wasn’t a single shred of my salad left, and we ate hugely and well.

Sunday, we got up and drove to Vanceburg KY to pick up Heather. Gorgeous day for a drive like that – we were on the interstate until Flemingsburg and then the last half of the drive was on winding two lane roads. I met her mom and their dogs, and then we headed back to Louisville. Our friend Marissa hired her to help clear out some storage areas in her house (Marissa was in a bad car accident a few years ago and has limited use of her arms), so Heather is staying over there for a couple of nights. I sent her with the rest of the vodka gummi worms leftover from my birthday party, and we will see her again Tuesday. Gypsi was beyond excited to see Heather again. She heard Heather moving around in the attic and went flying up the stairs. As Heather made her way down, Gypsi would run upstairs as far as Heather had descended, back down to the ground floor, up again, back down… She made 4 loops in the time it took Heather to get down!

Sunday night, it stormed and thundered loudly. At one point, it rattled the glass in the windowpanes. Gypsi woke up and was in hysterics, yipping in the basement. Mick takes care of overnights & early mornings with the dog when I have to work, so he went down to try & comfort her. After an hour or so, he put her back to bed. Sometime later (but still before dawn), she melted down again. We nearly became a single critter household – he coaxed her out in the yard in case she needed to pee and she ran around in the rain. As soon as she came back inside the house, she galloped back to the bedroom where I was sound asleep. My unconscious mind was aware of thundering footsteps a beat before she jumped on the bed and trod all over me, wet & muddy. I was face down and dead to the world, all I could do was bellow into the pillow and struggle to free myself pinned under the sheet by dancing dog feet. Mick was hot on her heels and got her out of there and dried off, put back in her crate before I could fully wake up and kill the dog. I thought about it, though, and realized that is the biggest storm she has been through. She is always nervous about thunder, but last night was the loudest storm by far since she was born. She’s a puppy…. She’s a puppy…. I have to keep reminding myself, even as 45 pounds of wet muddy dog body-slams me at 5am. As I was leaving for work, she had dozed off so I shook her awake. When I got home last night, I went downstairs to get some chicken broth out of the deep freezer and noticed muddy pawprints on her pillow in her dog crate. As I pulled it out, I realized it was most definitely NOT mud. It seemed she’d been so scared from the storm that she’d pooped (in ALL directions) in her crate before dancing around and grinding it into everything. She has only had an accident in her crate one other time, right after we got her when she was in there for too long one day. I cooed to her to let her know nothing was wrong – I couldn’t even get mad at my poor terrified girl.

I’m getting increasingly excited about my upcoming trip to the beach! We changed our travel plans – we’d rented a mid-size SUV for the trip. They were running a special and it was cheaper than the compact car we’d been considering. Last week, we were going over the drive we planned to take, where we’d stay there & back, looking up average gas prices (is EVERYONE cheaper than Kentucky?!) and so on. Mick asked if I’d consider taking a bus there instead. We weighed pros & cons and the bus won out. His mother is leaving the same day that we are (she is already on the beach today as I write) and Dixie said she’d be happy to drive us home. I expect Mick & I will do the bulk of the driving – fine by me! It is the least we can do for her generosity. Heather is going to drop us off at the bus station Wednesday evening, and we will be on the bus for nearly 24 hours together. It is making me really think hard about what I’m taking. When you drive, it is easy to overpack and take the contents of the house… just in case! But with the bus, I am limited to a carry-on sized suitcase and my purse. It won’t be a problem at all – I’m taking sandals and skirts and comfortable tops, bathing suits and light make-up.

We already ordered and sent the wedding gift – looking at her registry, there was a cast-iron skillet on there but it didn’t have a lid. We looked at the lid as well, but it actually cost more than the skillet itself. Looking around, we found a 5 piece set of cast iron pieces including an interchangeable lid so we sent her that instead – the set was on sale, and was still less than the skillet and lid alone. He included a note, something about how it’ll last forever if you care for it – I’ve got the wording wrong, but it was a very sweet little note. I’m going to have a wonderful room with a view on the ocean, eat fresh seafood, read trashy books in the sand and have fun. Regardless of how the wedding goes, I’ll have a great vacation. I’ll get to hang out with Mick & his family, I’ll have plenty of downtime and I’ll eschew anything too complicated. I can’t wait!

03 July 2014 @ 12:26 pm

Yesterday, I told Mick I wouldn’t call him right at noon – I had an errand to run. The night before, I took the rings out of my jewelry box and slipped them into my purse – three wedding bands. I drove around the corner from work to a pawn shop. I walked in and smiled, declared I wanted to sell my rings.

I had the set of the original wedding bands – simple white gold bands bought at Wal-Mart. The third band was the last gift Shawn ever gave me – for my birthday in 2012. I’d lost over 50 pounds by that point and I couldn’t wear my wedding band anymore. We fought about that – I’d wear it on a chain around my neck; he wanted me to “wrap” the ring and keep wearing it on my hand. For my birthday, he bought me a cheap little band – I think he paid $11 for it – so I would keep visibly wearing a wedding band.

We separated two weeks later.

When he moved out, he left his wedding band behind. I held out, hoping for gold prices to crazily spike up again, but they never did. Later this month, Mick & I are driving to Virginia for his daughter’s wedding and the budget is tight for the trip. I decided to cash in the rings now.

I explained to the woman behind the counter why I had three, and she quietly asked if I lost the weight before or after I left him. “Before!”, I merrily exclaimed, “I had to get my head straight to do that!” She offered $80 for the matching bands, and sheepishly offered $1 for the third band. I said okay, and she asked if I didn’t just want to keep it instead. I shrugged and pointed out that it was a dollar I didn’t walk in with – I just wanted to get rid of them, and hope they brought someone else better luck.

She pointed out a survey they offered, and since I had a smartphone, if I did it in the store, I could pick out a movie from the wall of DVD’s. I did so, and out of the sad sad pawn shop movie collection, “Boogie Nights” was the only thing that caught my eye.

I’m using the money to buy myself a proper pair of sandals – Birkenstocks – as I have no summer footwear at all. I’ll wear them to the wedding this month – my bursitis in my foot precludes any fancy, saucy, sexy footwear. But I can get a new pair of shoes and a simple dress, sport a pedicure and smile at his daughter’s wedding. We are renting a car and driving, getting a room on the way to break up the monotony of the trip. His mother booked us a room at Virginia Beach – she is very generous with both of us, so we’re staying in the same beachfront hotel with her. Left to our own devices, we’d have booked the Super 8 again way out on Willoughby Spit. It isn’t a bad place, and it is sort of beachfront. That is, you can SEE the beach from the parking lot, but you have to walk waaaay around to access it.

On the way back, we are taking a long scenic route – back in the spring, we kept seeing all these signs about oysters for sale, but we were still pretty far from the ocean so we balked. After doing some research, I found that area is renowned for the river oysters. We’d like to circle back around and try them. We are going to camp in Douthat State Park for one night, then head back to Louisville. We are renting a car for the trip – with the saved gas costs, it is cheaper than driving his truck, and I need to leave my car for our dog-sitter. My old roommate, Heather, is staying at the house for two weeks. We are driving to eastern Kentucky to pick her up the Sunday before we leave, then taking her home the weekend after we return from Virginia. It seems an extreme measure for the dog, but after the experience of boarding her earlier this year, I have to find another way to care for her when we leave. She forgot ALL her housebreaking after a week at the kennel. That was nearly 4 months ago and we still have to watch her when she tries to wander alone into the basement. Poop Central!

It’ll be good for Heather. She is going to contact the coffee shop where she used to work to see if they want her to pick up a few hours. She has had a rough time since she left Louisville – she still hasn’t found work up there – and this will give her a chance to say hello to all her old friends. The upstairs bedroom is really nice – we’ve had several people sleep up there since we tore up the old carpet and decluttered in there.


Broke as a joke this week – the paycheck I use to pay my mortgage always makes for a rough couple of weeks. We’d planned to spend Memorial Day up in Illinois at this big party but decided to postpone it for another year. In retrospect, I’m really glad. I had a vacation day scheduled for tomorrow so we could leave town earlier for the long trip; this party is nearly in Iowa and makes for a really tiring drive. We can make it in one shot but it really takes the starch out of you.

Instead, we’re going to a friend’s birthday party Saturday night and puttering around the house the rest of the weekend. I’m heading Monday to Mom’s to finish this batik project I started. Dad gets fed up with all the mess we make in the garage, and the buckets of dye scattered around the floor. Really, we’re very neat when we work, but it starts to encroach on his work area so he gets testy. I took an old queen-sized flat sheet, started with a warm yellow dye and tie-dyeing close circles all over. I made solid swathes of melted wax at regular intervals. I would make two or three passes with the wax-soaked brush so the brush got a little dry near the end. It left an interesting mark with the bristles – solid at one end and streaked at the other. I let the wax cool, then used a weak red dye bath. I let it soak two nights, then rinsed it several times. It still dripped pinkish water after several rinses. I draped it to dry, and I am applying the last wax coat tonight. I’ll do little squiggles of molten beeswax to capture the peachy-pink color. Monday, I’ll do a final dye bath in strong medium blue. After it is rinsed, I’ll iron the sheet between layers of newspaper to melt and soak up the wax. The fabric will be slightly stiff for a long time. I’d planned to cut it into panels to make a pair of duvet covers but there are holes in a couple of spots, so I’ll need to see if it’ll work the way I want it to. I’ll post photos of the finished project – most of my picture have been of the wet fabric, and it is far prettier that way. The colors are vibrant, and the waxed sections are translucent to let light through. The end product is very different – still pretty, but different. Mom & I really enjoy the process itself. She said she almost doesn’t need a finished product, ha!

I made a rain barrel last weekend. There is a non-profit in the Portland neighborhood in Louisville called Good Garbage – the proprietor saves craft materials from the landfill and sells art supplies and such at rock bottom prices. She holds classes in the back room at her store – she had several 55 gallon plastic drums made of food-grade plastic. She told us that most of them held vinegar but a couple help bourbon. After it has aged in the charred oak barrels, some companies transport it off-site for bottling. I looked around at the labels until I found a sticker that said Heaven Hill. I am familiar with that distillery – my mother lived behind it when she was in high school in Bardstown, KY. I picked that barrel and drug it over to my workspace. As soon as we used the zawsaw to cut into the top of the barrel, the entire room started to gag from vinegar fumes. My bourbon fumes were really strong but still preferable to the eye-watering vinegar. I had fun at the class – it took very little modification to get the barrel ready to water my garden. I enjoyed meeting like-minded folks and playing “six degrees of separation.” I jokingly call it that – we are never as far apart as six degrees. Louisville is really just a small town – it doesn’t take long to figure out how you know each other. I bought a few things in the store in front, and made mental plans to come back and get other supplies for later projects. Strips of wool for dryer balls… Old maps to make coasters and other projects… Kodachrome slides of Korea in the 50’s to make curtains… And so on. It makes me itch to create things!

We finished planting about 75% of the garden and we’re budgeting for a rented wood chipper before my birthday to finish cleaning up the yard. We’ll spread some out front to kill off part of the lawn (layer of wood chips and newspaper, covered by heavy black plastic to kill off the grasses), use some in the back in the “wetlands” and set aside some maple & mulberry ships to use on the grill. The mulberry wood is supposed to have a smell almost like cotton candy – it’ll impart a very sweet flavor to the meat in the grill.

Mulberry trees are considered scrub trees – they sprout easily and are softwood trees that grow very rapidly. We have three in the yard that have gotten a toehold. My Vietnamese neighbor came over to the fence to ask me to cut the one down by our shared fence, and I told her I’d trim off what is growing over on her side. She pointed out that the root structure is coming over onto her property and will mess up her garage. I told her I’d like to wait until after the berries grow in to take it all the way down – she hadn’t noticed the berries forming. Still, she has a point and it doesn’t pain me to cut it down to keep on neighborly terms. She isn’t asking me to cut down one of my huge maple trees, after all. The trees in my yard are all Chinese mulberries with white berries. I prefer the darker mulberries and I’m lucky to have access to a whole stand of trees in the back of my parking lot at work. They’ve started ripening just this week – I picked a small bag full in about ten minutes on my lunch break. I’m going to make jelly rather than jam – the seeds tend to turn an unappetizing brown, and the stems have a wormy look & feel to them. So, instead, I’ll cook them down for the juice and freeze it until I have a large enough batch to make jelly. It should be a beautiful, reddish-purple color.

My 40th birthday is next month. I’m having a cookout on a Sunday afternoon – Mick wants to make ribs and chicken quarters. For the sides, I’m going to focus on chilled items that can be made in advance. I started a batch of sriracha pickled eggs earlier this week – they are best if they sit in the brine at least a month. I’m going to make a decadent potato salad – crumbled, thick-sliced bacon and supersharp cheddar cheese, red-skinned potatoes and green onions, coarse black pepper and sour cream. This is going to be a kid-friendly event – I’ll also have cut fruit and hummus. Funny, I think of hummus as kid food – maybe it is just among the parents I count as friends. Anyway, I’ll make a couple of other chilled dishes to free me up for guests. I tried to coax Mick to do the same but he insists on grilling on the meats. I suggested he parboil the ribs and finish them on the grill. From the look he gave me, you’d think I suggested we roast wee babies, split in two. I think also it gives him something to occupy him and he won’t have to talk to other people as much. His shyness rears up sometimes – I have to remember that I am far more social than him. My actual birthday is the Monday after but I am taking that day off work. Originally, Mick planned to go back out on the road and head west. This last trip, he said he spent all his time thinking about what work he wanted to do on the house, planning the garden, pondering a new batch of mead… and it occurred to him that he just wanted to be back home. Instead of driving him to the Greyhound station, I plan to nurse my hangover that day and do something fun. My folks will be in Texas that week – I assured them both I’d rather they attend my Moth GrandSlam than my birthday party, and I genuinely meant it. If they could manage to do both, I’d love it, but my performance is more important to me than some arbitrary marking of age.

09 May 2014 @ 07:46 pm
I love the month of May in Louisville! It starts with the end of Derby festival (2 – 3 weeks of parades, steamboat races, Chow Wagons, free concerts, steamboat and hot air balloon races) and the running of the Kentucky Derby. After a couple of quiet days to recuperate & clean up, we’re back at it again. I feel like I need to clone myself to do half of what I want!

This weekend, there is the Beechmont Festival of Flowers which is a fund-raising event for my little neighborhood association. Later in the day, the How-To Festival at the public library. Also this weekend, both Saturday & Sunday, is the Flea Off Market.

This Sunday, Mom & I are going to our favorite art supply store for Mother’s Day. She wanted to get fried fish & beer down the street, but Sundays until 1pm they only serve beignets and coffee. We’re both excited that dyes are on sale right now – she is preparing a batik demonstration for a quilting group, and we both regularly dye articles of clothing to freshen them up or (in my case) to use tie-dye to strategically cover food and oil stain on favorite tops. Jacquard Procion MX is my favorite – you only have to add soda ash to fix the dye to the fibers, and you can use cold water to dye. When you do batik, since you build up layers of wax, it is vital to use cold water. Try to dye in hot water and your wax melts, ruining the design. The Procion MX is good for cellulose-based fibers (linen, cotton) but they also make dyes for other natural fibers (silk, wool). We also use these little packets called iDye. You don’t need to add anything, you can use them in your washing machine on the hot setting. They sell them for natural and synthetic fabrics. Even if you have a garment with mixed fibers, you can just combine the two.

I’m looking forward to spending time with my folks while Mick is out of town. He isn’t an impediment to that, far from it, but there is a different energy there when it is just the three of us. I always look forward to going over on Tuesdays for dinner with my folks. Dad & Mick trade good-natured barbs about politics and discuss education. In the last couple of days, it has occurred to me how much I’ve neglected my local social life. I have a couple of good friends in town, but most of my closest friends live out of town. I have lots of acquaintances here, but so few people I can call to invite over and hang out on my porch, have a drink. I know part of that rests on me – Mick & I spend most of our free time together. While he is gone, I’m left a little lost at first. I’ve been active, keeping my hands and mind occupied, but it feels empty. Last night, I baked chicken for meals for the next couple of days, made a yummy chicken salad (almonds, red grapes, celery, pepper, mayo & touch of Dijon mustard), made a batch of laundry soap, made a batch of coffee sugar scrub, made a Greek-yogurt jello dessert, and hung out on the porch with a beer to keep the critters company.

After I got off work, I went to this little neighborhood fruit stand that has a bunch of tired-looking greenhouses out back. Their bedraggled appearance doesn't prepare you for the lush plants and flowers they sell there. It is run by a small Vietnamese woman who will tell you very sharply how much sun is good for a plant, how often to water it. She is helpful but brusque - I don't mind that combination at all. I bought herbs, vegetable plants and marigolds, then planted them in our elevated gardens out back. We've made chicken-wire cages to keep out the squirrels - I hope they are successful. I'm going to spend a quiet evening in, I think. They are calling for thunderstorms - I'd like to sit on the porch and watch the rain on my garden.
21 April 2014 @ 07:59 am

I'm sure there is some way to embed a YouTube video but I really don't know. Sorry. But it is worth a click to watch! Just under five minutes. My first win at the Moth!


Gypsi has been working out lately. That is the only explanation for her new burst of athleticism.

She was out in the backyard last week and wanted to come back in about 15 seconds after she went out there. She is bad about that - we're trying to work on her about her housetraining again. Since the couple of days after she got back from the kennel, she hasn't had another accident indoors. Still, when it rains, she will go outside and quickly "fake pee" to appease us, then fly back indoors to find a quiet (dry) corner to pee. So, she came to the window to peek in and see if we were paying attention. She saw us looking back but not moving to let her in, and then she jumped up on the window. She leapt up and all four paws were on the little ledge there. We both gaped at her as she stared in at us, HARD, and jumped back down.

Well played, Gypsi, well played. I walked to the back door to let her in. We've had to work on a new command, yelling "RUUUUG!" as soon as she gallops in the house. I make her sit on the rug in front of her food dish, and lie down on the floor. Her paws are like sponges - I can't figure out how she holds so much mud & water there. Her coat is short but so dense, I have to squeeze water off her back, wipe mud off her belly. Usually when I am leaned over to wipe off the dog, Wasabi will get on the table and leap onto my back. So, while I am wrestling a wriggling wet dog, I have a clumsy kitten digging in between my shoulders. Hilarious, but precarious.

I got a note from Mick earlier and he said, "Guess which puppy can jump up and into the elevated gardens?" No photo proof but I don't doubt it. Looks like it isn't just squirrels we need to protect the gardens from! He also told me she is crawling on her belly through the yard - there is standing water EVERYWHERE, it is a complete mess out there. I suspect we'll need to drag out the hose - just toweling her off at the door isn't cutting it. We'll take her to a self-service dog wash later this weekend after the rains let up a little, but for now I'm just trying to keep the mud in the house to a minimum.

Both critters are scheduled to be fixed this week. Wasabi has started spending half the night tearing through the house, and woe be on me if I forget to zip up my purse. He digs out a little round lip-gloss to swat around the house, and he strews the remaining contents across the living room floor. He can get up to the third shelf on the bookcase in the office now, and I have to leave the glass closed on ALL the shelves on the lawyer's bookcase. He is aggressively sweet overnight - he body-slams my throat while he is purring. He has become more vocal since we returned from Virginia, too, he talks all the time now.

About a week ago, Mom gave me a bag of old slides - there are a bunch from a trip she took to Mexico in 1980, a few family pictures. I'm planning to make curtains out of them. I think I can use them in the dining room on the side door as it doesn't get direct light for very long during the day. You drill holes in the corners and connect them with chain mail links. I'm excited about this project - I'll need to either buy or borrow a dremel drill press first as the spacing of the drilled holes is important.
If I'm feeling reeeeeeally froggy, I might make them to replace the little 70's curtains in the basement. I'll see how this goes first...
I dreamed of projected slides the other night. It was pictures of my parents in Europe in 1970, old family photos I'd never seen before. The colors were saturated with deep reds and blues, shimmering yellows, and I awoke with a bittersweet feeling. I'm nostalgic for something I've never seen in real life! In the dream, I was also moving out into an apartment. Mick helped me move, and promised as soon as he sold the house he'd join me. There were two refrigerators and they both needed defrosting. The slides were projected on this endlessly tall back wall of my apartment - looming above me, impossibly high.

I have some dyeing to do soon. I bought a couple of tops from Old Navy - I love that style on me but I own the colors I already want. I bought a couple of white tops to dye myself into other vibrant colors. Also, I have a couple of twin-sized German comforters but I only have one duvet cover and it is threadbare. I found a pretty simple design and Mick & I were talking about dyeing the different panels to make one to suit us. It'll take a lot of fabric but since it is not any one huge length I could recycle some other older sheets. Mom & I hit thrift stores to buy 100% cotton sheets for my cousin to make sleep pants. They are already so soft and broken in, and flat sheets always outlast fitted sheets so they are plentiful in thrift stores.
And lemme tell you, my Mom is FUN to take to places like that. She is not afraid to HAGGLE - she brought up a sheet, poking at it and saying, "This is priced $9, but there is a stain on the edge and there, see right there? Another stain! I don't think this is worth $9. This other one with a stain is only $2 - how about I pay that instead?" And they always agree with her!

Our boarder will be here in the next week so Mick & I have been working to getting the guest room ready. We had to breakdown the antique bed in there and stash it in a closet upstairs. We're going to put a rug over the ruined flooring in the hallway for now - there isn't time to fix it before he arrives. Mick reorganized the closets up there so he has space for his stuff. It went far more quickly than if I'd done it - every object he touches isn't steeped in nostalgia like it would be for me. Mick repaired the toilet in the basement so we have two working bathrooms again. We'd had the parts to fix it for a while, but I tried to repair it by myself one day and hit a wall quickly. Like, step 2. And step 1 was just to drain the upper tank, and it was ALREADY drained. He pulled the entire tank off the back of the toilet to replace the working parts - the space is tight back there and difficult to maneuver. I'm thrilled to have a bath and a half again. All that is left to do (before we tackle the ruined hardwood floors in that alcove, of course) is to sweep & mop up there, to make up the bed for when Jason arrives.

We plan to go to the Louisville Zoo later this summer to buy a couple of scoops of Zoo Poopy Doo - composted manure of zoo animal. My tomatoes are going to thrive under giraffe scat! We have such plans for our little property, both immediate and long-term. We're putting in raised gardens and building covers for the existing ones. We're going to start using the water gathered by the basement dehumidifier, and utilize graywater from the washing machine to water the garden. We plan to raise chickens and later, meat rabbits. We're taking out part of the lawn to use for gardens and another part, to put in a rain garden to avoid mowing.

01 April 2014 @ 10:47 am

I have a favorite pair of boots that I've worn for the last 13 years. The tread is getting paper-thin in spots. You can read the uneven wear and how I roll my foot to the outside. They were a gift from Liz, the mother of a guy I dated for a while, and they were far more expensive than any other pair I owned. I went yesterday to see if they could be repaired - I took them to a little shop down the street from my work.The guy at the counter sadly shook his head - they are very narrow soles, and he couldn't get anything small enough that would work. As he leaned forward to talk to me, I caught a smell wafting off him. He smelled exactly like a sleepy cat. I know that seems oddly specific, and it really is. Freshly groomed, curled up and warm, stretching out just as the cat waked up.... it is a distinctive smell. I kept that thought to myself - I have to know someone pretty well before I'll share that they smell like a drowsy kitten.I left there and drove to the library to return books (on time, for once!) and pick up a couple more I had on reserve. I love my local library - it is a neat, old-fashioned little place with lovely landscaping around the perimeter. There is a short set of marble stairs inside the door, and it is always a-buzz with activity. I overhear several languages on any given day. As I was walking back out, two young men were walking upstairs from the basement. They have classrooms down there, adding to the level of activity. As the men passed me, they smelled like my brother's apartment in Lexington. Specifically, they smelled like his apartment in summer - even with the window air conditioning unit going full blast, you could smell the wood in the old building, heated in the eaves. I was transported back to that place - crawling out a window in the kitchen to access the porch roof so we could pick mulberries and drink with lemon juice and sugar. It also smelled of cooking spices and linseed oil, candle wax and nag champa incense. I never knew that apartment had such a distinctive smell until I passed those men on the stairs.I drove home, slightly rattled by whatever olfactory phenomenon I was experiencing. Mick greeted me and I headed to the kitchen to start dinner. I eyeballed the proportions of chicken broth to wild rice, thinly sliced a couple of onions and a half pound of shiitake mushrooms. Chicken thighs went on top, with a sprinkling of sea salt and smoked paprika. I bought a large quantity of mushrooms the other day from a local grower - we met in a grocery store parking lot. I got three pounds each of shiitake and I put the covered dish in the oven to bake, Mick & I got a drink and headed to the back porch to enjoy the early promise of spring and warm weather. Gypsi joined us out there and Wasabi cried pitifully from the kitchen. I feel badly that he has to stay in, but he can't start going outside until after he is neutered (TWO MORE WEEKS!!). We sat outside and talked about the house and repairs we're doing, ways to work to afford our lifestyle without chaining me to a cube farm, and our upcoming week. There is a festival this weekend that I realized he really wants to attend. He wasn't going to go so he could accompany me to a friend's birthday party out of town. The festival is - a celebration of Hunter S. Thompson. Mick considers him one of his great influences, both as a writer & journalism, and philosophically. When I realized how much it meant to him, I insisted that he stay here to attend it. I'd love to accompany him, but I want to be there for Ann's birthday. I told him plainly that it is okay that we do separate things that day.There are certain areas of our life that are filled with echoes from exes. For him, his ex would get anxious if she couldn't reach him at all times, so he started carrying a cell phone and rarely did anything by himself. My ex had control issues and never wanted me to do anything by myself because it was "dangerous." I still have problems unloading a grocery cart onto the checkout without excessive anxiety that I am "doing it wrong." When we approach an area that I am aware holds a lot of baggage, I speak to Mick differently. I use direct, plain language and almost over-explain what I'm thinking. We agree that it won't always be like that but for now, it helps us both feel more comfortable. We headed back inside to uncover the dish and let it brown on top. I sautéed a pound of kale in a little olive oil & garlic, served it with finely grated Asiago cheese on top. We ate with great gusto, finishing the meal with cherry sorbet and dark chocolate chips. We tried to watch a movie but both dozed off before it was done - a nearly ideal way to spend a Monday night. I half-listen to people talking about "eating clean" but I am not too concerned about it. We don't eat much processed food. If I want to bake a loaf of white bread sometimes or sprinkle sour early strawberries with sugar, I am comfortable doing that once in a while. I do pay attention to what we're eating, and I mostly buy foods that have a very short list of ingredients. I enjoy food tasting like FOOD - not a chemical wash laden with salt and sugar. Neither of us drink soft drinks on a regular basis - maybe once a month we'll have an orange soda or an We're both heavy folks, but we still eat really well. I've tried to change my relationship with food so it isn't the end-all, be-all comfort for me. It will always be a struggle, I suspect, but I am always aware. Tonight is our standing weekly dinner with my folks - we'll likely go out to eat. I prefer when Mom cooks - our tastes run much the same toward simple foods accompanied by savory pickles & relishes & chow chows. One of my favorite meals she makes consists of soup beans, wilted spinach, corn bread and this squash relish my cousin makes. (Darn, now I'm drooling just thinking about it.) She doesn't make her beans with pork anymore, but she still makes that wonderful cornbread from scratch. We catch up on what has happened over the last week, share family gossip and nearly always swap bags full of stuff. Egg cartons for them to take to the Amish from me, 2 dozen fresh eggs for them. A jar of homemade jam from me, empty jars from them. Dad and Mick argue politics good-naturedly, and we talk about travel plans and home repairs. I really treasure these dinners with them, and I am happy that Mick enjoys spending time with them, too.

Metaxalion's mane mushrooms.GonzofestAle-8.