Hot and Numbing. Harder. Harder.

During the first full week of February 2013, I enjoyed:

1.  the Superbowl blackout.  REALLY?  Super power power grid looking super bad.

2.  not being in New Orleans and Baton Rouge this week with my husband.  Post Super Bowl with no parades in between THE game and Mardi Gras early this week.  Rain and fog.

3.  the return of the robins.  They disappeared for a day or two, but they came back.

4.  seeing a patriot getting into his car in the parking lot of my son’s condo in Williamsburg.  I love the historical quirkiness of the ordinary.

5.  meeting Heinz the hedgehog (son’s pet) for the first time.  He (the hedgehog) is cute but boring.

6.  knowing the Virginia Legislature saved itself from another year of embarrassment and national disgust by nixing the misguided power grab to rejigger election districts again.

7.  watching the USA Curling Nationals on

Harder. Harder.

8. walking down the Duke of Gloucester Street on a lovely winter afternoon and not sweating.

9.  eating at Peter Chang’s on Chinese New Year’s Eve.  Hot and numbing shredded tofu skin.  Yum!  Seriously.

10.  drinking coffee and tea with my family outside of Aroma’s in Williamsburg in the cold, sunny weather.  Very nice.

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Week of Doubles Review – January/February – Spring/Winter – Chicago/Richmond

Two months, two seasons and two cities for me last week.

Here are some memories and highlights:

1.  Chicago for me January 27-30.  Richmond for me January 30-February 2.  (I was actually in Chicago from January 16-30.)

2.  Chicago’s high temperature on Tuesday, January 29  was 63 °F.  Richmond was 71 °F on Wednesday, January 30.  Then winter returned to both cities by the end of the week.

3.  Shorts and T-shirts.  Sweaters and scarves.

4.  As always, our flight from O’Hare was about one hour late in departing.  In Richmond, we had to wait for a gate to open.  REALLY?  Weather impacts O’Hare.  Barney-Gomer effect impacts the Richmond airport.

5.   My favorite new political ad this week in Chicago – Michael Bloomberg’s Super Pac funds a TV spot attacking Debbie Halvorson who is vying for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s congressional seat.  Love it,  but we’ll never see an ad like this in Virginia.

My favorite politico meeting in Richmond this week – Bill Bolling and Ken Cucinnelli had a powwow.  I wish I could have been a fly on the wall.

6.  Food service highs and lows.  On Monday night, a waitress at our local Chicago fave Hot Woks Cold Sushi brought soup bowls and spoons to us in advance of bringing us our big bowl of Tum Yum soup to share.  Other servers kept trying to take the bowls away before we got the soup. It was funny and we laughed it away, but the manager stopped me on the way out to apologize profusely for their over attentiveness.  In Richmond, at Taste of India, we finished our Samosa Chaat and I placed my messy knife on the appetizer plate at the proper angle for pick up.  The waitress came and pointed to my knife and said, “Do you want to keep it?”  Umm, well sure, but where do I put it?  Shall I put the drippy thing on the clean white table cloth? Is it possible for you to bring a new one? We like the food at Taste of India, but they always have some sort of service-oriented issue like serving our food to another party or forgetting our order.

7.  Did not see any birds in Chicago.  I love birds.  We have great birds in Richmond in January/February.

8.  I hate cooking in our Chicago condo because of the lack of a stove exhaust fan.  Why did they ever put microwaves over stoves?  In Richmond, we have one powerful, mamma jamma kitchen exhaust fan over the stove.  Frankly, the Chicago kitchen sucks — OR DOES NOT.

9.  Chicago gas heat beats Richmond heat pump.  Warm air is good when it is -2 °F.

10.  Pack, unpack, laundry, laundry, laundry.  Everywhere all the time.

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Lucky Food

I hope everyone is starting the new year of 2013 well. I am trying to put the troubling parts of 2012 away, but I am afraid many will linger. I prepared the proper New Year’s Day foods with a nod to ritual, culture and legacy. Swiss chard – money. Black-eyed peas – eyes on the future. Rice – easy transition. Pork roast – luck. We make traditional food every year, but I think the menu nurtures a mind set rather than actual good luck. I also made a red velvet pound cake which has no meaning, but it makes one feel good! Happy New Year!

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August must go quickly

I have not written anything for a long time. I’ll try to start up again soon. Maybe “What I Did Not Do This Summer” or “My Lack of a Summer Vacation” or “Feeling Hot Hot Hot.” Stayed tuned. . .

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Chicago Chicago – That Doddlin’ Town

Top Ten Good, Bad and Ugly Chicago Events for the Final Week of April 2012

10. United Flight 3708 from RIC to ORD was nearly 3 hours late departing from Richmond.  The weather was beautiful and a reason was never given.

9.  Thanks to an airport conversation with a super Lake Forest woman, we learned we could get on a slightly earlier flight.  We did, and we got to Chicago only 3 hours later than our original flight was supposed to get in.  The original flight got in 4 hours late.

8.  Our condo was hot and stuffy when we arrived because it had been a warm, sunny day.  The air conditioner was not working.  Every time we arrive, something is wrong.  Once it was the alarm system beeping for no reason.  Another time, the washing machine suddenly stopped working in the middle of a load.  There is always a sense of dread each time we open the door.  This time we had to replace the fan motor in the AC system on the roof.

7.  Mariano’s grocery store has kept its customer service at just about the same excellent level as it did for its grand opening last year.  (Unlike Martin’s in Richmond.)  Mariano’s is as close to our old, beloved Ukrop’s as it gets!  Plus Mariano’s has decent produce.  I did, however, lose a battle when I was sandwiched between a grocery basket and an aggressive produce stocker.  I have an ugly multicolored bruise on my kneecap.

6.  Longman and Eagle in Logan Square still puts out some wonderful food, and I got my spring vegetable groove on with a small plate of English Pea Agnolotti, Roasted Trumpet Royal Mushrooms with Grana Padano and Black Truffle Vinaigrette.  My big plate rocked Pan Roasted Skate Wing, Black Trumpets and Baby Spring Vegetables in a Saffron Broth.  I am currently obsessed with fresh English peas and well-prepared skate wing.  Okay, I am the Non-Snooty Foodie.  Yum.

5. One of my top ten foods of all time are the warm Gruyere doughnuts at Longman and Eagle.  Large doughnut holes are made with a rich batter mixed with shredded gruyere and then deep-fried, stacked like cannon balls, drizzled with wild flower honey, and presented with a dollop of marscapone.  BUT they have toyed with the recipe and the doughnuts are now looser blobs swimming in fig jam.  Yuck.  I hope they bring back the original.

4.  We celebrated husband’s birthday at his favorite Topolobampo.  We eat here about every 3 years which is about how long it takes to get a reservation.  My favorite?  The blue agave margarita.  There were more fresh English peas in our ceviche and more well-prepared fish dishes.  We chose our own wine, since we know what we like and since we are old and wise.  The sommelier who came to collect our bottle at the end brought good feelings by telling us how well we chose.

3. We did lots of cleaning, cooking, toilet repairing, laundry and other sundry chores, none of which were terribly exciting.  Weather was mild enough to keep heat from coming on.  It was so warm in Chicago in March, things in our condo degraded in the heat.  Natural, clear pump hand soap turned brown.  Ew.

2. As part of husband’s birthday celebration, we saw one of his favorite bands, the Cowboy Junkies, at the Old Town School of Folk Music.  He likes women singers who sing of death, depression and “done wrong” like Margo Timmins and Lucinda Williams.  It must be a diversion from my happy, upbeat demeanor.  Hah!  It was a good show.

1. Margo Timmins made references to liking Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones.  I was excited by this revelation.  Spoiler Alert: Lady Edith Crawley gets married in Season 3.  Still no word if Fred Armisen will steal the part of Lady Edith as he does on Jimmy Fallon’s version of Downtown Abbey.

How’s that for the good, the bad and the ugly?

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Paris of the Low Country

I have not written in a while because we went on vacation at the end of March.  I think it took a week or two to get ready to go and a week or two to recover when we came back. Maybe it was a slow process due to doddering and seasonal craziness.

Charleston, South Carolina was in FULL summer mode at the end of March with temperatures in the mid-80s range every day, so I had to drag out beach clothes and gear before we left.  We rented a condo in the Wild Dunes community on the Isle of Palms where it smelled, looked and felt like July at the beach.  Azaleas, tulips and daffodils were at peak performance two weeks before we got there which was a bummer for the opening of Garden Week in the city.

I like a cool, late winter or early spring week at the beach with sitting and walking in clothes rather than summer’s lack of clothes.  I guess we picked the wrong year to return to Charleston after 26 years because it was so HOT.  I think warm weather was everywhere this year so I was kind of doomed from the start.  Having paid a high price for tanning in my youth, I avoid the sun at all costs now due to removed melanoma.  I still like early morning coffee on the balcony and early evening walks if the temperature is conducive for these activities.  One day the wind was blowing so hard, walking was nearly impossible.  I saw a little dog nearly blown away!  Others days it was just plain SUNNY and HOT.  It was too warm for regular clothes, and many people who were certainly not ready for the unsightly nudity of beach togs in March seemed blissfully unaware of this fact.

Charleston, the old town, is still charming and welcoming.  Mount Pleasant, the Isle of Palms and Wild Dunes have exploded with development since 1985.  “It’s not your mother’s Piggly Wiggly anymore,” said my husband.  I think this statement about the iconic grocery store is a good metaphor for the entire Charleston region.  Piggly Wiggly has a smart new billboard campaign that is just greenery with the familiar swine logo that says “Local Since Forever.”  The PigWig stores are huge, modern and upscale.  There are no more bright red pigs feet (my favorite “eew” item of yesteryear) in the meat case, and the produce is no longer sad and limp.  Charleston has the spectacular, new (2005) Ravenel bridge over the Cooper River connecting Mount Pleasant with downtown Charleston. There is no more quaint waiting on the old Highway 17 bridge for ships to pass. Tremendous growth in the area since 1985 sparkles with the look of got rocks opulence. The swine is not trampling the pearls cast before her.  She’s wearing them.

I found foodie delight in a meal at FIG.  The waitress was perfect in every way, and the sorghum cake with house-made walnut ice cream is now on my personal top 10 food list. For dinner at FIG, I had a triggerfish filet with a minty spring bean soupy base and a coddled Sea Island farm egg appetizer with stone crab, english peas and sweet onion soubise.  Amen Street was kind of good but not a foodie haven.  Since Amen’s coffee machine was broken, our waitress there steered us to another spot for dessert and coffee – Kaminsky’s Baking Company.  It was packed, but I got an excellent cappuccino to go and will make sure to go there for anything sweet in the future.  The Texas A&M golf team was at the Boat House the night we ate there, so there was good cross table talk about a big college golf tournament in the area.  I made stuffed poblanos at the condo one night to change-up the fresh fish routine. On our last night I sinned by eating deep fried shrimp and oysters with hushpuppies and happiness.

It was a nice vacation week, and I know a lot of other boomers were finishing up a similar month since EVERYONE was headed back on I-95 north on March 31.  No doddering on the road.  I am still a mountain and snow girl at heart, but is it wonderful to visit a beach and an historical southern city once in a while.

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Spring Breaking Up is Easy to Do

It is Spring Break week for our law school son who is at home enjoying his rolling birthday week: dinners and drinks with his BFFs and parents on multiple nights, a sold out college basketball game with a friend who won tickets, and shopping with the parental unit’s dime.  It may not be Cancun, but it isn’t too bad.

Last week, spring breaking up was not hard to do!  Three everyday items broke in our Richmond home in the course of five days.  First up and OFF, was the mixer gear in the spoonbill shower handle for the faucet of the master bathroom.  Renovated exactly two years ago, the Delta single handle produced nothing when I got ready to step in the shower on Monday.  Nada.  Nary a drip.  One day later, a plumber replaced the shoddy part meeting my under $300 repair limit.  I am not happy with Delta.

Next up and permanently off, was the kitchen TV which was purchased after the kitchen was renovated three years ago.  Blip!  It was dead as a doornail after dinner on Wednesday night.  My parents caused my addiction to a kitchen TV when I was a youth.  I particularly loved our latest kitchen TV with its off-white, framed flat screen that blended perfectly with the wall where the Quasar microwave sat in the old kitchen before the kitchen demolition.  (Remember Crazy about Quasar?)  I was particularly worried about the lack of a kitchen TV this week with March Madness, ACC, CAA and Atlantic 10 tournaments impending — with family connections which MUST BE WATCHED.  I get sick of basketball after a while and prefer to watch the news when I cook.  The repair estimate for the dead TV exceeded my repair limit.  On Friday night, we purchased a new, better flat screen for almost half the cost of what we paid for the much lesser kitchen TV three years ago.  I suppose this is a good thing, but I still liked the old the one better.  I am a true Virginian.

Last up in the kaput item department was the coffeemaker.  It broke on Thursday night when the hinge on the top of the reservoir broke into pieces.  It was also purchased three years ago after the kitchen renovation.  I can understand this breakage more than than the shower and the TV, because the coffeemaker was a cheap, mechanical product that we used every day, twice a day.  (I guess a shower handle is used just as often;  however,  it was certainly not cheap, and it was only two years old.)  We found a new coffeemaker, an update of the same model, at Target on the clearance rack.  The box was dented so they gave us an additional 20% off.  It was nearly a gift.  Thank you, Target!

We did have one parting of the ways with an old friend last week where breaking up was hard to do.  We donated our 1994 Pontiac Bonneville to our public television station’s fundraising efforts.  This car was our go-to sedan in the mid-90s, the car in which our son learned to drive and the ambulance for our late beagle.  Before the tow truck came on Tuesday morning, we cleaned out almost $5 in loose change from the floor, cried over the last of the dog hairs that clung to the seats, and reminisced over the trips taken, soccer carpools and nearly 18 years of other wonderful memories.

Spring Break does not disappoint with its doddering and downsizing: three appliances which hardly fit the doddering definition because of their young ages but each earned it with its feeble demise, and one car which never doddered, was still driveable, and “downsized” for a good cause.  The law school son feels that he deserves the restful Spring Break even though he is not bent or broken.  Last night he said he’s “breaking bad.”

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Snow Doubt the Lightning Glider is a Keeper

There’s no doubt that Winter downsized itself this year into a wimpy, unworthy season causing many unhappy snow bunnies.  I always say that I am one of ten people in Midlothian who like winter better than summer.  Everyone else loves summer.  Thank goodness we had a token snowstorm Sunday night which painted a nice picture with about 4 inches, but it all melted by 4 PM the next day.  Now we are sweatin’ to the seventies (degrees) for a few days.  Daffodils are dancing.

On Sunday, a snow-related photo on Facebook posted by an Always Known Friend (AKF) gave me the secure feeling I needed to keep a perfectly good winter item safe from a downsizing yard sale or Ebay sale.  My AKF posted a photo of her pristine Lightning Glider sled, and I now know that my very own original Lightning Glider, which hangs on the wall in our utility shed, must go to Chicago.  I cannot part with it.

My Lightning Glider, made by the The Standard Novelty Works of Duncannon, PA, was purchased for me sometime around preschool age.  My parents got a long sled for me so I “could grow into it.”  My father pulled me around on it before I was old enough to operate it myself.  Four little kids fit in sitting position for group sledding.  In later years, I remember stack planking at least 3 or 4 of my friends on the sled for preteen hormone-charged night sledding.  The sled weighs quite a bit with its steel running blades and solid wood construction.  I carved my initials with a wood burning pen (remember them?) into a bottom support slat and also wrote my initials on the front with a magic marker.  I think I was paranoid about loss when we piled our sleds together to take a break.  The sled still looks good today and has the original pulling rope!

Then my son used the sled when he was a boy.  It was not the newest or sleekest model at the time, but it still did the job.  We had more snow in Richmond back in the day and Kamikaze boy action, but the Lightning Glider withstood another kid’s mistreatment and exuberant joy.

At this point, I need to point out that my family’s love of sledding progressed and continued in trips to Switzerland where sleek, fast “sledges” and the world’s longest Alpine sled runs are completely out of the Lightning Glider’s limited ability.

Ah, but remember that we are moving to Chicago.  I can see pulling little kids on the Lightning Glider up our street to Roscoe Village for hot chocolate at Starbucks.  Heck!  I can see little kids pulling me up the street in my doddering old age.  There’s no doubt – the sled’s a keeper.

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Gossip Girl

Remember the game “Secret Whispers” or “Gossip” that we played as children?  We sat in a circle and whispered something into the ear of the person sitting beside us, and she/he repeated the process with the next seated friend, and so on.   When the process ended, the last person told us what the original message was, and it was always so crazily different from the original that we giggled ourselves silly.

Here’s how it works now in the downsized communication world:

1. I had a routine medical appointment at 1:15 PM on Wednesday with my regular internist at her office which is in the Medical Office wing of Saint Francis Hospital in Midlothian.

2. The appointment was quick, and I was out of the office by 1:40 PM.  While walking down the hall to leave the building, I saw the physician father of one of my son’s BFFs.  I had not seen the dad for a number of years, and we had a lovely catch up conversation. Then I met my husband in the parking lot, and we had a quick bite to eat at Padow’s Deli.

3. I got home about 2:40 PM, and there was a voice mail message from our son on the phone which came at 2:31 PM.  He rarely calls us, and certainly if he calls at all, he does not call in the middle of the day.  I worried when I saw his caller ID.

4: His message: “Why is Mom in the hospital?”

I giggled like a school girl.  The BFF’s dad either talked to or texted her that he had seen me in the hospital.  She texted our son, and he worried about me.

No news travels fast in today’s world!

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Ode on a Depletion of Urns

Over the weekend, we bought a beautiful bunch of Virginia-grown, forced tulips which were inexpensive and worth every penny for the joy they deliver.  Upon returning home, we began the search for a container in which to put the flowers, but once again, a familiar downsizing issue occurred – we moved all the vases to Chicago.

Last spring, in a hurry-up effort to jump through moving cost hoops, we completed Phase One of a doddering moving plan and transported a collection of furniture, things and stuff to Chicago from Richmond.  These items were duplicated or seldom used in Richmond but needed in the windy city.  I remember saying, “We’ll just go ahead and move it.  If we need it in Richmond, we’ll just make do with what we have here.  We won’t entertain here much anymore, but if we do, we’ll use the things we have left.  It will be just fine.”

Then I decided to host Thanksgiving 2011 in Richmond for my family.  I had daily discoveries of special occasion items – always used for holidays – that were moved or missing.  The dining room table, now in Chicago, was replaced with our old, beat up kitchen table that had spent some time in my son’s undergrad apartment.  My husband used bungee cords to connect an ancient card table to the old kitchen table to make room for the turkey day crew.  My son tried to adjust the tables on Thanksgiving morning, but I stopped him quickly shouting, “NO! It’s a Rube Goldberg house of cards.” Everything would collapse if he moved the furniture even a an inch.

No “good” china, no crystal stemware, not one tablecloth and no aprons in Richmond – all were moved to Chicago.  No problem.  We just used everyday dishes and time-etched glassware.  I have to confess that we bought a cheap tablecloth and a $4.99 Thanksgiving table runner at Kohl’s.  I put small bowls of candy corn going down the table runner. Thanks Ina Garten for the candy corn tip!  It was tasty and fun.  My husband was able to bring one of my aprons back from Chicago since he was there the week before Thanksgiving.  I am a whirling dervish kind of cook, and I need to wear an apron.  We used every spare chair in the house, and my sister brought a few folding chairs to make up for the lack of our dining room chairs.

Thanksgiving went well.  It seemed a bit like a “college” Thanksgiving from back in the day when we cobbled together a group dinner with whatever our friends could provide. Ironically, I have not done much entertaining in Chicago where our good stuff now resides.

What about the tulips and the lack of containers? No urns, no vases, no stoneware pitchers, no crocks or pretty glassware.  For a number of years, my father-in-law gave us a Calyx Flowers flower-of-the-month club subscription for Christmas, and because of this gift, we had enough vases to start a floral business.  When the downsizing began,  I donated a bunch of vases to charity, sent the good ones to Chicago, and forgot about a few that had been in the attic for a long time.  The current tulip problem was solved by a long lost glass vase discovery in the attic that I had missed.

The tulips are for Valentine’s Day.  Hope your day is filled with wild ecstasy, beauty and truth!

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