Thursday, October 31, 2013

Another All Hallows' Eve for the books

In the interest of time (and because I procrastinated) I defaulted to "Insane Retired Zombie" as my costume and headed downtown in time to get a corner seat at my favorite sidewalk cafe/bar.  
The townsfolk did not disappoint me....
Yes, that's a baby in there.
What a couple of hams.
"Dude, text you later. I'm trick-or-treating."

The Flintstones. 
...especially this little guy in his own kissing booth whom I proclaimed winner of the night....
Oh yeah, little man. You win, hands down.

I'm a happy Halloweener!

Tonight, in the absence of grandchildren and neighborhood kids, I will be ringside for the Downtown Lawrence Halloween Walk - a popular, perennial event in which costumed beggars, young and old, troll Massachusetts Street trick-or-treating for sugar.  The kids are cute, of course, but it's the grown-ups who give me the most joy. It's a "see-and-be-seen" treat-a-palooza. 
Better start brainstorming my costume.







Tuesday, October 29, 2013

DIY Dressings, Week One

With five kids to manage, my mom never had time to be a gourmet cook. Meals of my childhood included fish sticks, tuna casserole, hamburgers, fried chicken and the occasional Sunday night steak.  Despite the time crunch, Mom never resorted to bottled store-bought salad dressings, instead making her own oil and vinegar blends, Ranch (from the packet) and the family-pleasing Thousand Island.  Maybe that's why I've had a lifelong aversion to bottled dressings, always preferring vinaigrettes I make myself.  In that spirit, I'm endeavoring to make one original DIY dressing per week for this blog (because something has to get me through the winter beside basketball). Tonight's offering....
is baby kale greens (no extras) with a dressing made from....
Il Singolo olive oil from Pasolivo, Orange Muscat champagne vinegar from Trader Joe's and Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Grind mustard, roughly in a 2-1-1 ratio, respectively.  I served it with baked Northwoods trout and whipped cauliflower.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Laughter: The best marital medicine

   I grew up thinking my parents had the perfect marriage. They didn't, of course. Nobody's marriage is perfect. They had their fair share of problems. (My God, they had five kids!) But, they made each other laugh every day. Dad was Mom's biggest fan and best audience, and vice versa. Nothing warmed my heart more - or gave me more comfort - than seeing one of them getting hysterical over the other. They were married 53 years before Dad died in 2008.
(Not sure what Mom's hand gesture means, but Dad isn't taking it personally.)
Today, my husband and I celebrated our 34th anniversary. Our marriage isn't perfect but, fortunately, it's had far more ups than downs. He still cracks me up, and vice versa.
(He's funny as hell, but still has a hard time showing his teeth in photos.)
   Why does one marriage survive when another one fails? Who knows? I'm guessing a steady diet of chuckling has something to do with it.
   Mark Twain once said, "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand." Twain, incidentally, was married 34 years before his wife, Olivia, died.
  Maybe Yakov Smirnoff (of all people) said it best: "If love is the treasure, laughter is the key."
  Here's to yukking it up!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Efudex, Round Two

I know it's disgusting, but I'm posting this photo as a public service for anyone who STILL thinks it's okay to lie in the sun or, God forbid, a tanning bed. I'm about two weeks into my second go 'round with topical chemo (cream applied twice daily) for a rash of pre-cancer spots on my chest. It's not pretty but, fortunately, it's turtleneck season....and it beats dealing with real cancer later on. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Club 101

My first foray into Book Club World went swimmingly last night. The club is new, formed on Facebook by another newly-retired acquaintance, and filled with a dozen interesting and hilarious women of all ages. Happily, we all have about the same perspective on how "serious" our club should be (i.e. allow plenty of time for wine and chatter, no books on politics or religion.) The best part is, I don't know any of the women that well....11 new friends! Our first book selection was "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn...
This is what the $25 hard cover looks like. I bought the Kindle version for five bucks.

which, in everyone's opinion, was compelling and well-crafted, but neither uplifting or emotionally satisfying. "Morally bankrupt." "Very few - if any - sympathetic characters." "A guilty pleasure." Parallels to "Breaking Bad" were drawn. Oh, yeah. It's dark, dark, dark, people! But, do we recommend? Yes. Yes, we do.
   I've always wanted to be in a book club, but never felt I had the time when I was working. Reading a book was a luxury saved for long, snowy weekends and summer vacations. I could never read before bed. I was always so exhausted, it would either put me to sleep immediately or, in the case of an intense page-turner, keep me awake far too long into the night. 
  I have a lot of catching up to do. Retirement is good for that.
  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Caught in the act of peeing myself

I'm a lean, mean fat-burning machine.
(Anyone catch the Candid Camera reference in the headline? That's the only reason for it, really.) 

Five years ago, when we remodeled the master bath, we chose not to put a door on the water closet/shower area. Rarely has this caused a problem....until this morning.
Hubs (walking in on me in an awkward position): What are you DOING?
Me: Peeing on a stick. Do you mind?
Hubs (quickly evacuating the area): Um...you haven't had a period in eight years and...wait a minute...didn't I have a vasectomy in '88?
Me: You did. Remember the bag of frozen peas?
Hubs: So, what gives?
Me: I'm checking my ketones. It's Day 6 of Atkins induction.  They should be pretty high. It's called Benign Dietary Ketosis.
Hubs: Isn't that dangerous?
Me: Not as dangerous as being pregnant. I'll be fine.
Hubs:  OK. But, you scared the hell out of me.
Me:  You'll be fine, too.
Hubs: Yeah. Maybe a bathroom door isn't such a bad idea, after all.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Bring on the heat!

    Is there a better 'ahhh' kind of feeling than turning on the heat for the first time in the fall/winter? Today was that day.  To make matters even more cozy, the hubs came home and turned on the radiant heat in the kitchen and master bathroom floors.  Can I get an 'oooh-ahhhhh?! 
   Happiness is a matter of degrees, my friends. And, happily, mine seems to be climbing again.
   Happy weekend to all!

Don't gimme dem bad news blues

    A friend called yesterday, wondering where I was since I hadn't posted on BG for quite a while. I told her I had been busy following a children's book writing conference I attended last weekend. That was true. I've been tweaking my 20-year-old manuscript to fit the 32-page picture book formula (which is more stringent than I previously thought) to submit to the agents and editors I met at the event.
   I've also been sick with a self-diagnosed disorder I call "Bad News Blues."  First, it was the government shutdown which forced me to keep the television and internet viewing to a bare minimum for several days. In fact, when the volunteer coordinator at Audio Reader (where I read newspaper ads to the blind) called last week needing someone to read live news in the morning, I said 'no'.  I just couldn't do it. It was too depressing and crazy-making. Sometimes, I told her, it felt like the flu.
   Yesterday, I ventured back onto my favorite news sites and read that our local paper was shutting down its press operations at the end of the year, laying off another 33 people from my former company. Seems it's more economical to farm the daily printing to the big city paper 40 miles away. ("How is a 30-year pressman supposed to find another job in this new world," I worried.) This spawned more depressing discussion among my former co-workers on Facebook, where we have formed a support group, of sorts. We will reach out to the 33 guys who will be unemployed a week after Christmas. The venting helps, of course, and one can find strength in numbers. But, from now into the foreseeable future, my blinders are on to anything but rainbows, unicorns and the delicious root vegetables of fall.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Good (Sports) Wife

Late Night in the Phog (the first practice of the season)
I am becoming less and less of a sports fan in my older age, a fact my spouse bemoans because I actually know quite a bit about sports...for a girl. But, there's just so much of it, you know? I'd rather do just about anything but sit through a 3-1/2 hour game on a hard seat. Still, in appreciation for the way he indulged my cultural desires (art galleries, museums, shopping) on our recent vacation, I agreed to attend not one, but two, athletic events this weekend. The first was, technically, a basketball scrimmage. But, in this town, where college basketball is a communal addiction for which no 12-step program dare be invented, it was a sold-out, epic event. People had been waiting in line, literally, for two days to attend the glorified practice. Fortunately, our friends had reserved seats and, since their kids dropped out at the last minute, they invited us to join them. Turns out, the tickets were hotter than expected since the temperature inside the Fieldhouse was, at least, 90 degrees. I'm embarrassed to say, I left early (the prelim stuff took hours; I was drenched in sweat) and missed a sneak peak at the predicted #1 NBA draft pick next year...but stayed long enough to mark "Late Night" off my bucket list.
Our makeshift fans, compliments of my resourceful husband.
A cold front moved through overnight leaving it nice and cool for my return to Memorial Stadium after a 5-year hiatus.  (The hubs lost his season ticket buddy this year, so I agreed to accompany him to all home games which, in hindsight, may have been a regrettable over-reaction.) We walked to the stadium and enjoyed one quarter of great playing by the home team until they fell apart (as the home team is wont to do) in the last three quarters.
Good seats, anyway.
As we trudged home, disgusted - once again - with the flailing football program but eternally optimistic about basketball, I was reminded how good it feels to compromise in a relationship... once in a while. When the temperature dips below 30, I make no guarantees of making it to the fourth quarter.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Apps that make me happy

I'm an unabashed lover of apps and want to share a couple I've discovered lately.  (These may already be on your radar. I'm often the last to know.) The first was one I heard about while sitting next to a young friend at last weekend's wedding. When the bride and groom performed the first dance, no one at our table could peg the song. "Let's Shazam it," my friend said. Wham, bam, thank you Shazam....she whips out her phone and, within seconds, the app identified not only the song but the artists playing it! I downloaded it the next day.
Shazam. My favorite new app. And, it's free!
My other app of happiness, which I discovered on the last trip, is Foodspotting.  Sort of like Instagram for restaurant food, the app detects where you are, then shows you photos of favorite dishes shot by diners in the same city.  It not only helps you decide where to dine but what to order when you get there.  Sweet!  Or, savory!!
Foodspotting. Also free.
Now, if only they could invent an app that pulled certain Congressmen's heads from their rear ends....