Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Good News January

Well, our huge, white poinsettia went out with the garbage bin, there’s no chocolate left in the house and now, at the end of January, all that’s left of the holidays are some great memories. 

We enjoyed lots of parties and get-togethers with friends.  After our neighbor’s ice maker meltdown flooded their house, we took over as last-minute hosts of the annual neighborhood Christmas party.  (Now that I think about it, however, Jerry and Helen could have staged one of those Roman orgies where they used to flood the Colosseum and wage mock naval battles, except it was probably too late to rent boats.)  Anyway that party rocked, rolled and racked up a record number of recyclables before it ended around 1:30 a.m. and I learned a good lesson.  If you plan a party three months ahead, you have a long time for angst over food, drinks, decorations, etc. If you plan a party three hours ahead, there’s no time for angst about anything. 

Christmas with Paul’s side of the family in Cincinnati gave Willem the ultimate in holiday fun – a chance to mix it up with his cool, older cousins. Ann Marie entertained him by rigging up his big car as a cab so that his last words before he dropped off to sleep and his first words when he awoke the next morning were, “Taxi! Taxi!”  As always, a game of grab-bag Bingo got everyone’s adrenaline going; they snatched away fantastic prizes like duct tape, a plastic ice cube with a bug in it and a fake eyebrows/glasses/nose and mustache combination.  Grandma morphed into Tiger Mom daring anyone to steal away her expandable back scratcher.  Wisely, no one felt up to the challenge.

With Willem on the scene, New Year’s in Florida was a high fashion holiday weekend.  His wardrobe of resort wear featured green striped harem pants, a Hawaiian shirt and shorts outfit, and orange flowered swim trunks.  On New Years Eve, we weren’t sure if the short guy in the black tie, tails, and red sneakers demanding a milk nightcap, “shaken not stirred,” was Willem or James Bond.  I’m also happy to report that John’s girlfriend seemed to emerge unscathed from her first encounter with my side of the family, including a round of take-no-prisoners Charades and an especially painful karaoke session. Joey’s great rendition of “I Will Survive” was very appropriate and stood out as the only on-key performance of the weekend. 

On January 2, our return trip from Florida was my wake up call to get ready for WINTER and, especially snow.  It took us four hours to make the half hour trip from the airport to our house - accidents caused by blowing snow, a little ice and generally bad driving blocked the expressways and the bridges.  We tried four different routes to get home, I felt like the guys in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and I even wondered how hard it would be to swim the Ohio River.  After that experience, I spent a week running all the errands that needed to be done for the month, restocking my pantry with staples like beans, pasta, rice and Bailey’s Irish Cream and filling my freezer with more soup – lentil and vegetable, beef and barley soup this time – just in case of more snow.

Despite that ominous start and a few ups and downs, January has ended up as an all-around good news month.  After a week of blowing my nose and living in a NyQuil fog, I got over the cold that I’m blaming on the airlines, everybody’s favorite villains. Soon after that, I heard a lot of grumbling in the ranks of our technical equipment.  My seven-year-old computer hard drive descended into senility and forgot how to get me into Windows. For several nights, I lay awake wondering what it would take to recreate my Photo library, Paul’s office check register and payroll data, the input to our class reunion website and the emails with all of our travel info.  Amazingly, our computer guy sent the hard drive for an hour or two of time-out in the freezer (yes, you read that right) and was able to access and copy everything to a new hard drive. 

Next, I was printing out New York Times crossword puzzles and my printer choked probably because I jammed the paper in too fast. Unfortunately, pulling out the jammed paper threw the printer into what looked like cardiac arrest.  As it turns out, it had been hijacked by aliens, but only temporarily – the next morning, the output tray contained a stack of crossword puzzles in some strange language (see photo) but after that, it printed like a champ. 

Finally, our aging Sirius car radio turned temperamental.  Some Asian guy named Butch on the Sirius helpline suggested we’d get better reception if we got a new car with the satellite radio built in, but that seemed like a fairly drastic solution to the problem.   We got a new radio instead of a new car and, although it hissed and fizzed its way to Canada and back, it seems okay now.  Maybe the radio had hoped to be put in an Porsche or a Lamborghini instead of a minivan but other people have dealt with that problem too.

The end of the month brought more unexpected good news. I just returned from cross country skiing in Canada (see “Comfort Vacation” for details from last year), and I’m not hobbling around feeling like I was run over by a snowplow. Plus, after six days of big meals, bigger glasses of wine and the biggest chocolate chip oatmeal cookies ever, I still weigh the same!  Go figure.

The best news of all – we made it through the entire month of January with almost no snow in Cincinnati.  Of course, Paul is disappointed that he hasn’t had the chance to break his neck cross country skiing at 40 miles per hour down some steep, narrow golf course cart path; but I’m not, as you’ll understand if you read my post “Snow Day.”  And yesterday, January 31, it was warm enough to hit a few golf balls.  Let’s hear it for winter!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Knowledge Is Power

The motto of David and John’s elementary school was “Knowledge Is Power.” I loved that as soon as I heard it.  I mean, what kid doesn’t aspire to more power when someone is always telling you “It’s time for bed,” “You’ve been out in the snow long enough” or “No more candy.”  The message is, if you want to take charge of your life someday, memorize those times tables, get the state capitals straight and finish that book report on “James and the Giant Peach.” How true!   As I come to the end of 2011, I’m taking stock of all the knowledge I’ve picked up this year.

For starters, I’ve learned if the toenails on your big toes die, it takes two months for them to fall off and five more months before they grow back and are long enough to be trimmed.  I’ve learned if I buy Christmas cards with glitter on them, even just a little glitter, I'll spend the holiday season with sparkles in my tablecloths, my dish towels, my fleece pullovers and my egg nog.  I’ve also learned there is a limit to how many cutting boards you can fit into one kitchen drawer before it gets hopelessly jammed.

I learned that, even when you have known someone since kindergarten and been roommates for 40 years, there are still some surprises left.  A few weeks ago, PAUL THREW OUT A RADIO.  I couldn’t have been more shocked if he had said to me, “I’ll take care of all the Christmas shopping this year.”  He has this thing about audio equipment – stereo speakers, turntables, records and, most of all, radios – and, to my knowledge, he still has every piece of equipment he has ever owned. After all, you never know when you might need radios that only crackle and hiss, records garbled with skips and screeches and disabled speakers the size of file cabinets.  I gave up nominating audio candidates for the trash long ago.  Granted, the discardee was a digital clock radio that was hard to tune and has not kept time properly since 1994, but I was worried. I guess Paul’s all right since his temperature was normal and the pupils of his eyes were the same size, but I’m still keeping an eye on him.

Although I’ve been cooking a lot over the past 40 years, I have learned some things this year that Martha Stewart, the Barefoot Contessa and my mom never told me. For example, flour and sugar bags look and feel a lot alike and, if, in the middle of multi-tasking, you dump the sugar into the flour canister (or vice versa), it’s a real mess.  Also, if your rice cooker has the dry heaves and, when the timer goes off, the rice is still crunchy, you probably forgot to put in the water.

While my mom says you’re more likely to get cut with a dull knife, I learned that you get the fastest, deepest cuts with a sharp one.  Somehow, I spent most of Thanksgiving with bandaged fingers – souvenirs of  chopping vegetables for minestrone soup, cubing bread for dressing, slicing apples for pie and mincing onions for just about everything with newly sharpened knives, courtesy of our butcher shop.  I learned to do a headcount every so often to be sure my bandaids hadn’t disappeared into the turkey, the mashed potatoes or the pumpkin pie filling.

I’ve learned that, once you’ve established a hostile relationship with a car (my post, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”), you can’t let your guard down.  Early in December, we came home late from a holiday party and in my hurry to get inside to the bathroom, I apparently left the door of the Lexus slightly, and I do mean SLIGHTLY, ajar.  The door stayed open all night and, next morning, the battery was dead.  With the holidays coming, you might have thought the car would give me a little break but, NO. So, Paul missed his early morning run and it took forever for AAA to recharge the battery. Okay, I did make an uncomplimentary remark about the Lexus in a recent post but I didn’t think our garage had internet access.

I’ve learned that 60+ is not a good time of life to start on some big housecleaning jag. That Lysol tub and tile cleaner is strong stuff – so strong it took out the good, royal blue polo shirt I was wearing along with the mold in the shower – I’ll never try that again (and I don’t mean wearing the royal blue polo shirt.)   The reason the touch pad on our laptop stopped working is that I made the mistake of dusting it and accidentally hit the button that turns the touch pad off and on, which I didn’t even know was there.  The Geek Squad guy who fixed this for me promised not to tell my kids but I forgot to ask him the purpose of a button like that.

I’ve learned not to accidentally leave a frozen block of vegetable soup on low heat when I go out for a three hour walk, unless I want a pot containing black concrete flecked with bits of carrot, corn and green bean.  This mishap turned out to be a knowledge bonanza, however, as I also learned from the internet that you can save the pan by boiling a mixture of salt, baking soda and water in it.

Unfortunately, I’ve also found that you can’t trust everything you learn on the internet.  When I spilled red wine on our beige love seat, my frantic online search for remedies came up with salt, again. Heavily salting the stain and leaving it overnight was supposed to draw out the red wine. I visualized waking up to a miraculously cleaned cushion, but, instead, I woke up to a pink, salt-encrusted mess.  The dry cleaner just laughed.  He made some progress but the fabric still has a faint pink tinge and feels like it was left out at the beach all summer.  I had to turn the cushion over and that loveseat is now a “White Wine Only” zone.

Saving the best for last, here’s my favorite bit of new knowledge from 2011.  If you want to put real pizazz into your Halloween party (or any other outdoor party), drop a can of Reddi Whip on the pavement.  It instantly turns into a little whirling dervish, spewing whipped cream droplets all over baskets of chips, sandwich trays, paper plates and napkins, shoes and hair. What an icebreaker!  The only downside is that, if your car is parked nearby, you’ll need to hit the carwash the next day.

So, as 2011 draws to a close, I may not be thinner, have fewer wrinkles around my eyes, or be better at remembering why I went into the laundry room, but I do feel more powerful.  Here’s hoping you have a powerful New Year.

P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure, here are some things I have not learned this year – how to get my wristwatch off of military time, how to tie a scarf, or how to text, store and find phone numbers or do anything except make calls from my cell phone.  I also have not learned how to keep New Year’s resolutions.  Maybe in 2012.

P.P.S. Thanks to Megan for the photo of Willem, the Brooklyn Powerhouse