Saturday, December 31, 2005

Scranton's last day

I gave up trying to download pictures our last day. The wireless internet at the hotel wasn’t strong enough to let me read blogs, let alone post.

Dirtman and I spent the day antiquing while John Boy, Dark Garden, Heir 2 and Twin Progeny 1 got in another day skiing.

Heir 1 stayed in the hotel with Twin Progeny 2, who was not injured at all.

Alert*Alert* Alert* Alert* Alert* Alert* Alert* Alert* Alert

Unless you are really into vintage stuff or yarn the following will be abysmally boring. I apologize ahead of time and promise to return to being humorous and pithy another day.

I added to my collection of Forest Green glass and my new collection of old candy tins.

There were forest green wine glasses that I passed up at Carriage House Antiques in Clarks Summit, Pa., just in case anyone is interested.

And then…then…almost as an afterthought, we found a yarn store on a back road in Clarks Summit, called, appropriately, The Summit Yarn Shop. Little tiny house. I didn’t hold out much hope for finding anything and prepared to make a mere courtesy purchase (you know, you go into a shop where nothing is going on and buy a pack of gum just to be polite). But this little house was crammed with yarn! This color drew me right to it.

Then, just as I was about to check out with my lilac yarn, I heard something coming from a cupboard off to the side. Why, it was my name! Someone…-thing…was calling my name! It knew me, recognized me! It loved me. How could I leave it there?

That’s silk. One hundred percent pure silk. Okay, as Spencer Tracey said about Katherine Hepburn, “There’s not a lot but what’s there is choice." I don’t usually do scarves, but I’ll make an exception in this case. This stuff absolutely shimmers and the drape, “like budduh.”

Dirtman, for his part, found a partners’ desk with room for both his computer and to work on plats from either side. We found it at Carriage House Antiques where there were some forest green wine glasses that I passed up. I think I could have furnished my whole house from the place (had I a house to furnish…) Yes, a little pricey, but beautiful. So we sold Heir 1 and it’s ours!

Dirtman will have to return with a friend of ours who has a truck to pick it up. It’s cheaper than having them deliver and, perhaps while he is there, he can view the forest green wine glasses in the cupboard in the third upstairs room.

We decided on a Japanese steakhouse for dinner. Even though I was tired, I agreed to go with
the stipulation that everyone else give the chopping guy the feedback required. Not that I’m jaded, but I was really tired.

We had to wait to get in so while we were standing there Dark Garden decided to help out at the coat check room.

I was too tired to clap for the flaming onion (though some were more impressed than others...) or the steaming onion. I was too tired to catch the shrimp in my mouth.

And, thank goodness Twin Progeny 1 had the good grace to be nearsighted because I was too tired to focus enough to tell them apart.

The next morning we took off early, already planning another skiing foray a little closer to home. It won't be for another month or so, but it may take that long to plan it.

Editor's Note: For an overall wrap up of the whole trip, here's a view by Dark Garden, who actually skiied on the skiing trip.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

How can we help but make a scene?

And now…another attempt at dinner.

You see? It doesn’t take much to make us happy.

Okay, we did get happier eventually. But we had to take matters into our own hands.

If there is one thing my family absolutely hates when we go out anywhere is drawing undue attention to ourselves. We won’t order the biggest dessert because the waiters may take it into their heads to deliver it to our table while singing a song about how big it is. By agreement we never divulge our birthdates to anyone at a restaurant. And God knows, though we love the dish, we will never order the flaming duck d’ orange because everyone will watch our table when the poultry is ignited.

Now, if there is one thing my family absolutely loves when we go out anywhere is drawing undue attention to the other family member and thus away from ourselves.

John Boy’s birthday isn’t for several weeks yet. But Dirtman and Dark Garden decided to seize the day and make sure he knew how much we all appreciated his choice of restaurant last night.


We do other things. Truly, we didn’t drive all the way to Scranton, Pa., just to have dinner.

While Dirtman, Heir 1 and I scoped out the area, other members went skiing and snowboarding. Twin Progeny 2 developed a whole new move, but we’re keeping this under wraps so he can surprise his mom!

See? Nothing unusual here! Pay no attention to the hand under the table…

Editor's Note: We usually attempt to crop all phots to eliminate background clutter, but are posting off-site and have no access to PhotoShop. This requires a good photographer to compose in the camera. But Dirtman had the camera. Enough said.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Things aren't looking good...

Now don't get me wrong. I'm sure Scranton itself is a lovely city.

But things didn't start out well.

Expedia never sent our reservations. And we have rooms, but not the ones we wanted. There are people sleeping on the floor and people sleeping with people they'd rather not sleep with even though they are related. You know how guys are...

Then there was dinner.

We try to stay away from chains when we travel. You learn more about an area if you hit the local spots.

That being said, we walked into this local Italian restaurant and could tell we were in trouble when we saw the welcoming look on our servers face. I can understand if we were being loud or demanding that we would have deserved the look of horror we received. But we had merely walked in. Now I kid around a lot on this blog but, no exaggeration, the woman moaned, "I can't handle this," and ran in the back.

But, ya know, maybe she'd had a bad day or last time she'd had a party of eight they stiffed her on the tip. We were willing to give her a chance. We're really great people to have in a restaurant. And we tip really well.

Five of us decided to share a Sicilian pizza, the other three to order separately. This seemed to annoy her and there are those among us who almost changed her order so the evil waitress wouldn't dislike her so, wuss that she is. But since that would not have made a difference anyway, we stuck to the insurrmountable confusion of one pizza and three dinners.

Things calmed down after that and we even drank whatever drink we got whether we ordered it or not in the interest of good will and not ticking off Broomhilda. We made do with the two sets of silverware we were given to share among the eight of us, Twin Progeny 1 even stirring his chocolate milk with a fork. We didn't even fuss when the three dinners arrived and were eaten by two of the recipients (The third being John Boy the Snakeman who requires a week to polish off any meal) before the pizza arrived. We chalked it up as the penance we must do for having complicated our order so.

Then our pizza arrived.

I've eaten five-for-a-buck generic pizza. I've eaten what my school system considers pizza. I've even eaten what they have the nerve to call pizza on french bread. Usually you can get that stuff down if you just consider it a food in and of itself and don't call it a pizza.
But that didn't work with what was served to us. The cheese was yellow. You couldn't even bite the crust, let alone eat it. After a few bites, all five of us gave up.

That was when we unleashed our secret weapon.

I must say Dark Garden through all of this was showing amazing restraint. He is not usually tolerant of rudenss or poor service. All during the meal he had been a rumbling volcano. With each roll of Broomhilda's eyes, there was under-the-breath murmurings. I wanted to warn her, let her know things were not as placid as them seemed. And had the pizza not arrived in the state it did, it would have remained that way until he'd had the satisfaction of not tipping her. But, dear God, don't mess with his food.

So, yes, I confess. We unleashed Dark Garden on her, ran out the door and never looked back. We are a cowardly people.

I got a salad at the Sheetz next to the hotel. Dark Garden ordered a pizza in his room for himself and the assorted little Cratchits. I'm sure the delivery guy is okay.

Maybe I ought to check...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Linguinis Take Their Show On the Road

The Linguinis wish you all a Merry Christmas and, if we can’t manage to post in the next week, a Happy New Year.

The Linguini extended household will be testing the limits of Blogger next week when it travels to that beautiful vacation spot: Scranton, Pennsylvania! (insert cheesy game show music)

Why Scranton?

Why not Scranton?

It’s not the location that is important, see? It’s a road trip and this is what we do. We think up some thin excuse to go somewhere (this time it’s “skiing,” even though only Heir 2, John Boy, and Dark Garden’s twin progeny actually ski or snowboard). Then we so over-complicate the plans that the trip cannot hope to be pulled off without a hitch. Seeing as there are nine of us, the potential for disaster is almost guaranteed.

It’s what we aim for.

This means we will spend approximately 75 percent of the time trying to decide where to go for dinner. No one will commit to one place because no one wants to get blamed for picking a lousy restaurant. Finally, Dirtman will pick up the phone and make reservations to prevent the children from starving to death.

The other 25 percent of the time will be spent deciding who goes in what car with whom and where they are going and when they will be back.

At some point during the trip the following is guaranteed to occur:

  • Heir 2 and the Progeny (sounds like a 60s doo-wop group) will never be seen a part from each other. They will travel as one entity like Vega in the first Star Trek movie. They will answer in unison and move in tandem. They will spontaneously burst into laughter at seemingly mundane occurrences. We suspect they are plotting something, but until we can prove it…

  • Sisiggy will drag Dirtman to every knitting and fabric store within a 30-mile radius. She will make a modest purchase and then spend the rest of the trip lamenting the really cool stuff she should have gotten. Dirtman will assure her they will return to Scranton someday and she can buy it then.
  • Heir 1 will lament that he is old enough to stay home alone and doesn’t need to be dragged on these lame trips with his parents and uncles. Hasn’t he proven himself trustworthy? Has he ever given us cause to not trust him? Doesn’t he deserve to do what he wants after slaving away at school all week for the sake of his parents? And, if he does have to be dragged on these trips, doesn’t he deserve some sort of compensatory gift, say, a stereo or something? His parents will resist the urge to pummel him into the ground.
  • Sisiggy will buy an antique. Dark Garden will find innovative and heretofore unknown uses for the antique. The antique will become the subject of e-mails for a week following the road trip.
  • John Boy will drag everyone but Sisiggy on a hike, assuring them that it’s “easy.” When they are all clinging to the side of a mountain, he will assure them that it is “just a slight slope.” As they enter the second day on the trail, he will assure them that the end is just ahead. At the end he will somehow hypnotize them into thinking it never happened so that they will keep going on hikes with him. Only Sisiggy is resistant because this has only happened to her once and she knows to make her own plans on Sucker Hiking Day.
  • There will be 10 minutes of skiing. It will require 40 hours of discussion and planning.
  • We will do this over and over as we have in years past and will in years to come.

So, if you are from Scranton let me say ahead of time: We’re sorry. We didn’t mean to do it. We won’t do it again. We’ll pay for it. We promise not to come back.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The Linguini household is also the site of our soils business. Since we went into business three years ago, Dirtman tries to get together with the people he works with, our subcontractors, at some time during the holiday season. This usually takes place out of the Shenandoah Valley where he does most of his work and where everyone else lives. The office staff, however, is forced to miss out on these festivities since the office is here. So the office staff holds its own Christmas party.

This year our receptionist was in charge of

the buffet,

which was enjoyed by most of the staff.

The punch was a little suspect, though...

Our CFO was in charge of decorations, while members of the office staff were supposed to

handle plans for entertainment. Unfortunately, they got a bit side-tracked. The result of which was that some attendees were rather bored.

The gift exchange was enjoyed by just about everyone, with one exception.

Attempts to take a picture of the entire staff didn't go quite as planned. Most of the staff had to go out... literally. And others...

just can't hold their liquor.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My Favorite Christmas toys that would be worth a mint right now if only I still had them.

My once-a-year book. My Aunt Who Put Up With Me Every Summer (I’d use initials, but all my aunts’ initials are “M.A.”) decided I should have a library of good hardcover children’s books. Every Christmas she and my uncle would get me a different title, which I put in my little white bookcase and called my library. I made my own bookplates (every book collector is cringing at this point) and glued them to the inside covers.

Those books started me off on a lifetime of reading and of collecting. Our new house features a library I’ve spent more time planning for than any other room in the house, including the kitchen.

Dollhouses. My first dollhouse was one of those metal ones with the plastic furniture. But it was stored in a garage when we moved and rock salt spilled on it, causing the metal to corrode. My next dollhouse was this ultra-modern ranch house with lamps that lit and a doorbell that worked. I wanted to live in that dollhouse.

That same year my brother got this huge Roman boat called “Big Caesar.” It was battery-operated with oars that stuck out of the side to move it along. He’d put his Viking and pirate Warriors of the World (10 points for anyone who remembers those) on the boat and have them visit my house. They were very civil, as Vikings and pirates go, and I don’t know what it says about us that this story line somehow made sense.

Desk and office supplies. When I was six, unbeknownst to my brother and me, my parents were having major financial problems. That Christmas my grandmother and aunt went together and bought us each a desk. My parents bought us paper and pencils, tape, etc.

I decided this meant I was officially a writer (I didn’t think it meant I should do anything as mundane as homework, though). So I wrote my first “book,” which I found among my mother’s things when she died. Apparently we had just been to the Broadway show “Oliver” because the story centered around “Nancy and the boys” and, read as an adult, sounds slightly pornographic because at some point the boys all jump on Nancy. To quote the descriptive narrative: “Olvr ws furs.”

James Bond attaché case. This was the coolest toy ever and, therefore, would never be sold these days. The James Bond attaché case shot real plastic bullets, little tiny things perfect as a swallowing hazard for a child under three and perfect for shooting someone’s eye out. Here’s the cool part: you could shoot the bullet from a plastic gun or you could attach the gun inside the case and as you are surreptitiously going for a stroll around the block and a CHAOS agent happens to pass you by, you could just push a button on the outside of the case, easily accessible from the handle, and ping a bullet at him. Or – OR – Get This!!! – you could take a picture of him!! Is that not cool?

Of course, it came with the proper identification forms, passport, pad with decoder, etc. More office supplies! I promptly opened my detective agency and was employed by our German Shepherd to find my brother, who was traveling the neighborhood under the assumed name Bumphrey Hogart.

A transistor radio. What to get a preteen too old for dolls, too young for makeup (at least in those days before Pop Tarts had little girls looking like used-up hookers)? Before boomboxes there were transistors, tiny radios that had the sound quality of chalk on a blackboard. You could put them under your pillow at night and no one was the wiser (strangely, when I woke up my radio was always placed neatly on my bedside table).

I’d lay in bed and anxiously listen to the Top Ten Countdown, which I didn’t have to do since my brother would have it neatly listed by the next morning. He kept all his lists so he could track the rise and fall of each song. He probably still has the lists in his Basement of Doom along with the weather maps he collected every day.

It is a sad fact that nothing remains of the above-mentioned gifts. When we decided to move to Virginia after my mother died, my brothers and I piled what we were to keep in the basement with a sign saying “keep” and in a separate pile placed what we were selling in our yard sale with a large sign saying “yard sale stuff.” The signs were for my father, who had had a few stokes and sometimes forgot things. While we were at work and school, an antique dealer asked my father if she could see what we were selling a day ahead. My father agreed. Needless to say, the woman zoned in on the goodies in the “to keep” pile and, in spite of the signs, and in spite of it being obvious my father was in no position to “deal,” proceeded to offer him cash for everything she knew to be valuable. In confusion, my father sold it all: books, stuffed animals, toy soldiers, Tonka trucks, wooden blocks, glass marbles, everything.

She left the boxes of Top Ten lists and weather maps. So if you ever need to know what the weather was like on April 9, 1966, and what the No. 3 song in the country was, we're the people to call.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A cranky shrew visits the movies

Editor’s note: We have an obligation to let you know that the following is a typical rant by a middle-aged woman bordering on the curmudgeonly. Sisiggy knows that soon she will be calling people “young whipper-snappers” and eating dinner at 4 o’clock to catch the Early Bird Special.

Dirtman knew as soon as we left the theater that going to see The Family Stone would end up on this blog.

The movie itself was mediocre (I feel an obligation to support Diane Keaton in every movie she acts in because she said she was not going to cave into the Hollywood mandate that every woman over 45 have cosmetic surgery in order to work). And we had seen King Kong the night before, which was good, but avoid the Big Gulp because the action comes fast and furious for over three hours.

Dirtman and I love to go to the movies and we go to a lot of them. There are always a few jerks in the audience, but lately I’ve noticed the moron ratio has been increasing at an alarming rate. Far be it from me to tell anyone how to raise their kids, since mine are not done yet and may still turn out to be homicidal maniacs or TV evangelists. But, for the love of God, people, please teach your kids respect for others.

So Dirtman and I are watching the coming attractions and behind us is a couple who thinks this is Starbucks. No problem. It’s the coming attractions. The conversation continues through the opening credits. Then the movie begins and the two settle in: the conversation gets intense and he puts his feet up on the back of the seat next to me, practically in my face. I turn my head, feet. When he is tired of this position, he stretches his leg to under my seat and taps against the leg.

Meanwhile, a guy in front of Dirtman sees a friend of his enter the theater during the movie. The guy had been visiting the snack bar, having sat through 20 minutes of the movie from the front row and noticed his friend on the way back to his seat. While walking down the aisle, Snack Guy had been talking on his cell phone, but considerately ended his conversation to talk to his friend in front of Dirtman. They chatted awhile and then Snack Guy proceeds to dial his cell phone and resume that conversation.

Dirtman, never one to be shy, calls him on it. Snack Guy is indignant. He wants to talk on his cell phone and Dirtman has the nerve to suggest he can’t do anything he wants when he wants. This is a new concept to him, apparently. He stomps his foot and storms out.

He’s back in about 10 minutes. He and his friend chat awhile and out he goes again (I might add, standing up in front of us every time). This continues during the entire movie.

Add to that the usual four or five people for whom ten reminders on the screen during coming attractions to turn off their cell phones were not enough or, perhaps, they thought, “They couldn’t possibly mean me. They just mean the auxiliary people here that I don’t know that merely exist to complete My World.”

When my sons were still amendable to being seen in public with us, they would never let me say anything to these pinheads, mostly because they were usually college age kids and the Heirs didn’t want to be seen with “a screaming, cranky shrew.” So I try to hold myself in check.

And then something so obviously rude happens.

Six people, say 19 or 20 years old, take the seats in front of us. Every one of them has a cell phone with a lit screen, every one of them has their cell phone open. In a darkened theater, one cell phone open is a kind of nuisance. Six cell phones lit is a glare. They begin talking into the cell phones, but not listening to the earpieces. They I realize they are giving a play-by-play description of the movie to someone on the other end, without the discomfort of having to hold their arms up. Someone else beats us to complaining to the usher. They all snap the phones shut when he arrives. This happens twice and finally the usher throws them out. Three return because they know the usher. On go the cell phones and the conversation resumes through the end of the film.

So we stand up to go and I thanked them for letting me know exactly what was going on during the movie because, of course, their description was far superior to any dialogue I could have heard from the screen, what with their pithy insight that could only come from such a fresh, cutting-edge intellect as theirs.

Being a middle-aged woman I had not, of course, even appeared on their radar and now, all of a sudden, here I was speaking and with an opinion expressed satirically, which they thought they had invented, which means there was a few second’s pause before they equated me with Zsa Zsa.

“You couldn’t just say ‘shh’?” Dirtman suggested.

The fact is there is just no way to stand up for yourself with rude people without sounding, to them, as sanctimonious and scolding because the first premise for being rude is that you are justified in your rudeness because you are – well – you.

So the best I can do is drum it into the Heirs that it is the sun, not them, that the world revolves around.

And confiscate their cell phones.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A week before Christmas and all through the house...

I wish people would stop asking me if I’m ready for Christmas.

They are referring, of course, to the preparations. For the longest time I’d play along, like our holiday was so overwhelmingly fantastic that it would be out of the realm of reason to think I could possibly be done at this early date. Or that my role in the holiday was so centrally important that all of Christmas hinged on the state of my preparedness. Perhaps, at the time, I actually felt that way.

I guess it was sort of an ego boost thinking that this little group of people was looking to me to make the holiday happen.

After awhile, though, I realized what I considered important was vastly different from the rest of the family. No one remembered the fifteen varieties of cookies I baked one year. No one remembered the painstakingly wrapped gifts from another. No one really remembered how or what gifts were presented when. While a tree is mandatory and I do miss the crèche being up this year, no one cares that I didn’t spend the three hours required to twine greenery, ornaments and lights up the banister and set up the snow globe presentation complete with lights and garland.

When he was eight years old, Heir 1 pointed out to me that one of his memories is that the days before Christmas I was “very mad.”


I feel a Mommy Dearest book coming on…

And so I began toning down my Christmas extravaganzas. For those of you burned out or feeling guilty this week before Christmas, here are some of my hints to come through this without having a nervous breakdown:

  1. Gather up the mats of dog hair in the corner and wipe up the coffee drips in the kitchen and call it clean. We’re four people in a tiny house with four dogs. This is never going to be a Better Homes kind of place.
  2. Your Christmas lights should not blow a fuse. Even in this house where you can’t run the washer and vacuum at the same time. If you can see your house glow from the Interstate, it’s time to cut back on the icicle lights.
  3. Target bag are red and white, as good a Christmas wrapping as any you can buy.
  4. O-R-E-Os. They come in red and green at Christmas!
  5. Save the braised stuffed Cornish hens in orange glaze for a day that your galley kitchen is not wall to wall with people. A spiral-cut ham is a beautiful thing (even if your brother has a thing about pork) that requires hardly any effort and you can slap it on a roll and call it a “buffet.”
6. Just Say, "No."

And, my most important toned-down holiday hint:

2 part Tanqueray, 1 part Martini and Rossi dry, three olives.

Yeah. I’m ready for Christmas!