Saturday, May 31, 2008

Place yer bets!

Given the current run of Linguini luck, or lack thereof, I'm taking bets -- not so much as to whether a tornado will hit us as when the tornado will hit us.

I have a distant cousin that made his living this way.

Note to self

So Dirtman is on the phone to Dish Network and he's yelling. This time he has every right to yell, since we notified them the day we moved that we needed to discontinue service, that we could no longer have Dish because our landlord didn't want the dish on the house and that the address to send the boxes to send back our Dish stuff was such-n-such. The boxes never came. Dirtman called again, following up with an e-mail. He got back a form letter. We've been in the house for a month now and Dish has sent us a bill for the other house for the month of May. Also, no boxes

So Dirtman is yelling at the Dish guy who is calling him a liar and Dirtman is calling him a liar, but the guy insists we should use some federal law to force our landlord into allowing Dish to put up a dish on his house, which we choose not to do since our landlord has already made many concessions on our behalf. But the guy doesn't "get" this and continues both call Dirtman a liar and sell us on Dish at the same time.

Finally Dirtman slams down the receiver with a bang and sucks down some coffee. He was very upset.

So I decided he needed scones.

Then I realized all my scone recipes make more scones than I have pan space since only one of my cookie sheets fit in this tiny oven. Of course I could halve the recipe, but that would require math in the morning before I've finished my first cup of coffee and I'm telling you that just ain't gonna happen, particularly math with fractions. Laugh if you want, but the dogs are lucky I can manipulate the door knob to let them out in the morning before I've had my coffee.

So small and simple was in order, as it has been all month around here. I found this glazed biscuit recipe that apparently I've made a few times, since I've made several notes to myself about what to do next time.

As I recall, these have always looked like they do in the picture

and I have to assume all notes to myself will lead me to the same or a similar outcome. The only change I made this time was substituting dried blueberries for the raisins.

And yet, this is how they turned out.

It is a puzzlement. On the other hand, they do look more scone-like than biscuit-like and the texture was more like a teacake. They were good and if we have any left over, it's only because Heir 2 left for his driver improvement class before they were done and Heir 1 has not yet surfaced from the basement...with the dogs.

Friday, May 30, 2008

And it's Thai Noodle Night too!

Setting: The public library.

Grandmotherly Librarian checking out my books: Ah! Someone needing some comfort reading.

Me: (nodding)

Grandmotherly Librarian: Well, Elizabeth Goudge will do it. I'm surprised you know about her.

Me: My mother had her books from World War II. I have them...somewhere.

Grandmotherly Librarian (smiling): Well, I hope she does the job.

Me (beginning to tear up): Thank you.

Setting: Later, exiting library.

Me (whispering to Dirtman): I found a few dollars in an old coat this morning. Think we can sneak to Rita's and share a gelati?

Dirtman (whispering back): I took money out of the change jar. I think we can each get a small gelati. And we'll go to the new one in Stephens City that not many people know about.

(Editor's note: this last is a consideration in a small town. Word has gotten around about the bankruptcy and any acts of luxury like peanut sauce for Thai Noodle night, movie attendance or name brand tampons are frowned upon.)

Setting: Later, at Rita's.

Server: We have a special today on gelati. Fifty cents off -- basically you get a large for the price of a small.

Me: (beginning to tear up) Really?

Dirtman: Oh...oh...thank you so much.

Server looks bewildered and hurries us through our order. Watches us cautiously as we eat.

Setting: Car, driving home with library books and gelati's.

Me: I can't believe the library had an old author like Elizabeth Goudge. And then a large gelati!



Dirtman: You are just too pathetic for words.

400 Babies!

Thanks to Heir 2 and his POWER LEGS!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Meet Cujo

You wouldn’t think it to look at him, would you?

In the house, Gaspode is the picture of the perfect, lovable little dog. He follows us around, yet stays out of the way. He sits when you say “sit” and goes and lays down when you tell him to go lay down. You can give him a bath, cut his nails, pick him up, swing him around your head, toss him across the room, grab his nose – ‘Pode will look at you quizzically and accept whatever you dish out.

If you are his friend.

Friendship status to ‘Pode is easy, though. You just have to acknowledge him or be my brother John Boy (there’s not an animal on the planet who is not in love with John Boy).

To be his enemy, just walk through the door and ignore his greeting – or work for UPS or be my brother Dark Garden. Dark Garden has it in for ‘Pode and vice versa. Their feud is legendary in these parts.

I bring this up today because ‘Pode's bipolar behavior may very well be his undoing; because yesterday he picked the wrong battle and went after the landlord’s little dog.

We have to accept most of the blame for this, though, because it’s never really the dog – it’s the dog’s training and temperament. And for the past three weeks, we’ve only been able to let him out on a line or on a leash. A Parson Russell Terrier.

I can’t tell you how unfair that is for this high-energy breed. That he doesn’t rip out our throats in our sleep is a miracle. But we certainly shouldn’t have left the door ajar when our landlord’s very prey-like little dog who was acting…well…very prey-like.

‘Pode bolted after it and Dirtman bolted after ‘Pode and then there was a lot of screaming and squealing and the bizarre sight of Dirtman crawling under a school bus. When I arrived on the scene, ‘Pode looked quite proud of himself, his prey forgotten (and unscathed, I might add in relief), and Dirtman looked like he was going to have a heart attack.

As I walked away with ‘Pode in my arms, I thought I heard the landlord talking to Dirtman and say, “That’s it. He’s got to go.”

Well, you know where that put me. No one will adopt Cujo, which means one thing: putting him down.

By the time Dirtman came back into the house, I had lost it. Somewhere I envisioned this big, green Wicked Witch of the West, who has just turned me out of Kansas, now pointing to me and saying, “…and her little dog, too!” (Yeah, I know. I am nothing if not dramatic. My whole life can be summed up in a series of famous movie lines.)

Turns out I heard incorrectly. Efforts toward the fence in the back are being stepped up, though fencing for a Parson Russell Terrier is, to him, just a barrier to be overcome. So ‘Pode is permanently attached to a leash, which he drags about the house like Jacob Marley and his chains. That way, if he bolts, we just need to step on the leash.

In other doggie news, Salt has the crud again, meaning I do this seven or eight times a day.

Yes, morale has waned just a bit, knowing that, as “renters,” we don’t even have the usual rights of a pet owner in this circumstance. If the landlord says ‘Pode goes, ‘Pode goes. It is only by his good graces that we have a second chance. But I’m not used to being this vulnerable and it makes me a little nauseous.

Don’t say a word, Dark Garden. Not a word, do you hear me?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We live on Drury Lane

Here at Casa Linguini we take our triumphs where we can get them.

To that end, here are a few culinary successes over the past week.

First and that of which I am most proud, are the perfect hard boiled egg.

Okay, maybe this isn’t impressive to you, but I have an ongoing battle with hard boiled eggs. My criteria for perfection is that they are easy to peel without any of the white having to be pocked by fingernails and the yolk must not have any gray in it. I don't even demand that the yolk remain perfectly centered in the largest part of the oval -- only that they don't resemble spackle.

In spite of following all the myriad of “fool prooftips for the perfect hard boiled egg, I have never achieved the goal of all the eggs in the batch I’m making turning out perfect. I may get one perfect one, but the rest will have that gray coating around the yolk; or the entire white will split; or the shell will come off in little tiny splinters.

But behold! Eggy perfection with which to torture Heir 2, who absolutely hates hard boiled eggs.

This was part of our Tuesday dinner salad, since I refuse to turn on air conditioning until the last two weeks in July and I didn’t want to heat up the whole house.

The other minor triumph was actually a mistake that turned out well.

Oatmeal banana blueberry muffins. No sugar. Not on purpose, mind you. I simply forgot because I was making lemonade at the same time and put the sugar destined for the muffins in the lemonade and then forgot about the muffin batter. Still, two dozen muffins didn’t last 24 hours, so it couldn’t have been that bad.

Just one more thing:

Do you know the Muffin Man? those puppies doing?

This is what they do. All. Day. Long.

Unless they are in the house, which is when they bypass the rawhide bones, pig ears and Kong Toys to eat cat crap and do some creative styling to my favorite (and only) pair of sandals.

Wait! Is that Gee, Officer Krupke I hear them singing?

Our very own juvenile delinquents!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A dispatch from the basement

Sure, I can tell you about Heir 1's adventures in the subterranean portion of the house. But no one can tell you like Heir 1 -- and his furry little friends -- themselves.

And QUICK! Get thee to Dark Garden's blog while he's still in a good mood!

Sunday in the Park with Linguinis

I have a particular affection for pretty family blogs. If you don’t read these, pretty family blogs feature commentary similar to what you find here in Linginiland, only these are not Linguinis.

Goodness knows I’ve tried, but I just can’t manifest those clean, quiet, flower-bedecked havens where the children’s hobbies are things like bird watching or butterfly collecting; where mother churns out knitted and hand-sewn garments daily, all of which are eagerly received by her impeccably-coiffed and tidy offspring.

Outings on these blogs are always something cultural or educational and if they aren’t, don’t you know they will become so at the behest of the children because on pretty blogs the children all have an in-born desire to learn and better themselves wherever fate lands them.

Yes, I love looking at the calico-lined baskets and home-baked hamburger rolls featured on pretty family blogs. I dream wistfully of the day that I will lay out a quilt under a shady tree and my chicks will gather around me, laughing – no, giggling politely – at the antics of a blue jay on the lush green lawn. And we will drink of lemonade out of a sparkling pitcher in our reusable, environmentally-friendly, brightly-colored cups and eat of salads made with things with names like “arugula” and “radicchio” and of homemade cupcakes ornamented with edible sugared violets.

However, the reality is this:

(Trevor is not actually evil...just adept at looking so.)

(This is actually Heir 1)

Just. Don't. Ask.

And I proudly present my own offspring, who also have in in-born desire to better themselves:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Landing at Normandy...

…or a Linguini extended family outing.

They both take just as much planning.

The reason for this is that we don’t do phones. They will tell you it’s because I don’t do phones, but I happen to know that none of the New Jersey Linguinis is particularly comfortable on a phone.

So we e-mail back and forth.

The problem with this is that we all feel obligated to end our e-mails with some cryptic message that ends up sending everything off into an entirely different tangent based on everyone else’s interpretation. (I’m not pointing any fingers, but Dark Garden is particularly guilty of this. He’s constantly ending e-mails with his Kerouac-ian psycho-mystic verbosity which has, on occasion, prompted one of us [me] to actually pick up the phone to call the other [John Boy] just to consult about, “Is he mad at us?”)

Sometimes the other Linguinis will step in and Mrs. Dark Garden will call Dirtman or vice versa and the day will be planned out while the rest of us are shooting e-mails back and forth deciding on a meeting time using only the dialogue from “1776.”

Planning get-togethers these days requires even more communication because there are more Linguinis to keep track of. The West Virginia Linguinis spend most of the spring on the soccer field. Heir 1 climbs out of the basement to work odd hours and Heir 2 earns his gas money on weekends. And John Boy? John Boy scrambles desperately to find something to do before we ask him over (which we Virginia Linguinis can’t really blame him for, since last time we asked him over it was to help us move in three days).

Still, we may pull this off yet. Things are looking up. Mrs. Dark Garden just sent me an e-mail!

Friday, May 23, 2008

What we've learned from our Stuff

Putting Stuff Away. Not such a difficult concept. You take it out. You put it back. Nobody gets hurt.

Leaving Stuff Out. Also not a difficult concept in the present tense. You take it out. You’re done with it. The only one who gets hurt is the person in charge of keeping order, a task usually designated to someone who likes that sort of thing – at least that’s what the clutterers would have you think.

If you’ve got a lot of space, even if you have a modicum of space, such a system works for everyone except, perhaps and most likely, the person in charge of keeping order. She is likely to become annoyed or frustrated, sometimes downright angry at the injustice of having the shoulder the burden of the practice of Leaving Stuff Out. She may become bitter and be forced to resort to sarcasm and nagging. And, finally, she may decide to no longer keep order of Stuff Left Out not attributed to herself, just so she might have the satisfaction of listening to a random resident scream in frustration, “WHERE DID ALL MY UNDERWEAR GO?”

One would think that under these circumstances lessons would be learned and the concept of Putting Stuff Away would suddenly become clear. And the person in charge of keeping order would be vindicated of the “bad attitude (she) has had of late.”

One would be wrong. Because if you’ve got a lot of space or a modicum of space, Stuff Left Out can be shoved aside, worked around, done without or replaced until total chaos ensues, at which point Leaving Stuff Out becomes a Massive Decluttering requiring the use of sick days and a dumpster.

Having survived a Massive Decluttering, one would think that Leaving Stuff Out would become a thing of the past. All and sundry would vow to “never let that happen again” and Putting Stuff Away would become everyone’s new hobby.

There is a segment of the population for which that would be true. I don’t happen to live with that segment, but I hear they’re out there.

There is another, more subtle, concept of life that many of us of advanced years have picked up on: Life will keep presenting you with challenges of a specific type until you develop the quality required to overcome it. And each time the presentation will become more and more dramatic in an attempt to grab your attention.

So if you continue to Leave Stuff Out when you have a lot or a modicum of room, Life will ramp up the lesson and see what you do when you have even less space. Because Leaving Stuff Out when you don’t have a whole lot of room? An impossibility.

You can’t leave the bread out or you won’t have room to make the sandwich. You can’t leave your clothes on the floor or you will trip on them (or the dog curled up on them) on your way out the door. You can’t leave your underwear on the kitchen table or you will be forced to use it as a placemat.

And, suddenly, order is restored simply because there is just no way to Leave Stuff Out without causing immediate discomfort to the actual person doing the leaving.

You would think this would cause the Person in Charge of Keeping Order to celebrate, wouldn’t you?

In a way she is. On the other hand, she really kind of pissed she had to be dragged along to the Place Without a Whole Lot of Room for the lesson.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Our accountant

Look, I'm gonna need some receipts to back up this book work. You got receipts?

They are totally going to screw this up and I'm the one who's going to have to eat the crappy dog food for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

...With the dogs

Heir 1 gets the Linguini Unsung Hero Award. This is because, when referring to our family, we refer to Heir 2 as “our one son in school,” but somehow when referring to Heir 1 it’s been “and this is our son who lives in the basement…with the dogs.”

That pause is always there and we all do it, including him.

The truth is, though, that Heir 1 was a sort of unwitting victim to this entire foreclosure fiasco. He was renting The House of Squalor with two other friends and was also forced out. Instead of renting elsewhere, he’s moved back home to help us get over this hump. So he is basically paying to live in the basement…with the dogs.

I might add that this is not some modern finished basement. Oh, no. This is your bare-minimum cement block wall basement. With a sump pump. And a smell that isn’t just the dogs. He empties the dehumidifier several times a day.

Originally he told us he was going to rent somewhere else, which was fine with us. But when he did the math he found he could rent elsewhere and have no financial wiggle room, or stay here and contribute to the family and we all pool our resources.

So then he was going to share a room with Heir 2. But he’d been on his own too long.

So – and I want this on the record – it was his idea to move into the basement. He assured me this wouldn’t be a problem, that he didn’t mind that is was like a dungeon; didn’t mind that from his bed you can have a conversation in normal vocal tones with whoever is in the bathroom; didn’t mind that he was living in a basement…with the dogs.

The “with the dogs” part seems to be the kicker in this. Actually he’s down there with only three of the dogs. Zsa Zsa, Topper and Gaspode sleep in my bedroom on the floor (until we fall asleep at which point Gaspode sneaks up into the crook of Dirtman’s leg). The dogs in the basement – Abby, Hokie and Salt – sleep in crates and, Heir 1 insists, fart all night and talk in their sleep. I tell him this will prepare him for marriage.

Still, I think he’s having fun with the designation of “son we keep in the basement.” When our landlord came to fix the pipes, we called down to give him a heads up. The answer back was preceded with snarling and coughing and then in a drooling Igor voice, “Yethe, mathters!”

Our landlord looked a little frightened, so we explained, “Oh, that’s just our son who lives in the basement…”

And all together we said, “…with the dogs.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An Heir-ing Out

It is with almost trepidation that I write about something positive today. The recent trend has been that as soon as I find peace with my life, something else comes along to yank me off track. And, frankly, my psyche is balancing on a thin tightrope these days and, while I appreciate all the life lessons I'm learning out here on the high wire, I'd like to eventually get to the end of it for a little rest before balancing my way back.

Long-time Linguini readers will remember that this time of year brings the high school's annual Academics Banquet and each year we've attended, first with Heir 1 and now with Heir 2. This is the third year Heir 2 is the top ranking male student in his class, for which he receives a savings bond and a hearty handshake.

This year, though, it was the first time we've been out in public since the foreclosure. This is a small town and we knew the word has spread. Heir 2 did try to spare us the discomfort and claimed he didn't want to go. But we had to go out sooner or later and the longer we waited, the more false rumors of devastation would fly.

The result was a study in extremes. There was the "warm hello, squeeze on the shoulder, but we won't bring It up" crowd and then there was the "yes, I know I've known you for decades but foreclosure might be catching so we are going to totally pretend you don't exist" crowd.

Then there was Caisee's mom Carol who risked her standing in the community by actually sitting next to us and pretending nothing whatsoever was wrong with us, when you know we have those foreclosure spores that might have suddenly come spewing out of our ears, infecting everyone within a ten-foot radius.

Anyway, we got it over with and I'm sure our presence relegated our dilemma to a lower status on the gossip ladder.

Meanwhile, the real stars of the evening were


and Caisee,

who, ironically, are ranked right next to each other. Caisee is sixth and Joe seventh, Caisee being ranked higher than Joe because
she's a girl and because Joe is...well, there's no getting around it... Joe.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

We are not savages

We Linguinis are very civilized people, in spite of that fact that we have, temporarily at least, hit the skids.

And when I say "skids," I don't mean to devalue where we have found ourselves. Considering we had two days to find somewhere to live that would accept us and our dogs, this is really not so bad. In fact, I would go so far as to say we were downright lucky.

As we clear out more and more boxes (ahem...I swear we only got boxes at the liquor store. I haven't reached the point of needing to buy by the case -- yet), I'm starting to enjoy living here. Dirtman did me the favor of wandering about the yard to take pictures of what we have to work with.

This house used to be owned by our landlord/neighbor's great aunt and it shows lots of signs that it was loved. There's no getting around the fact, though, that it's small for four adults and I choose to treat it as a lesson in cooperation. And I will keep repeating that over and over and over and over until -- well -- I'm ordering vodka by the case.

But then, of course, we are the neighborhood renters so no welcome wagon for us, I'm afraid. Therefore, I choose to consider it their loss because we're fun people, dammit. We really are. We eat that fish and are fun. Only occasionally do I go off on the inbred mutant population that crawls out of the nicotine washed atmosphere of their decaying double-wides to park their skin-tight-tank-top-over-cellulite-clad bodies in front of my face.

But, alas, poor Gnorm. Seems he's been followed here by whatever evil spirt plagued him in The House That Shall No Longer Be Named.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rainy days and Fridays always get me down

Rainy days have taken on their own brand

Six dogs. Two-bedroom rambler. No fence out back.


Lots of rawhide bones, pig ears and Kongs.

Lots of checking out the window for a lull in the downpour.

The one glimmer of happiness today?

Gnorm* stowed away in the garlic keeper!

*The Oracle, having done his job and removed Gnorm's ob-stackles.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wednesdays, we mow

I haven’t lived in a “neighborhood” for a very long time. For the past 27 years I’ve been zoned “agriculture.” So, while I’ve read about and have seen movies of neighborhood behavior, this is the first time in a long time I’ve had to deal with it myself.

For instance, I don’t know what brought it on, but yesterday everyone rushed out to mow their lawn. I didn’t notice that the lawns were becoming excessively shaggy.

Is it because Dirtman started to mow? Or because it was Wednesday? What happens if I let it go until Thursday? I mean sometimes the Heirs have something to do on Wednesday and it might be put off until Thursday or even Friday. What will become of us?

Oh, and did I mention the warm welcome we, as “renters,” received from the neighborhood? Like – none. I mean, other than from our landlords, who live next door. Even when Salt slipped under the fence and I chased him across the street where he went to greet the big black Lab whose name, as it turns out, is Pepper, and I apologized and introduced myself and the couple looked at me like, “Why on earth would we give a renter our real names?”

Though another couple across the street did offer us a place to park our cars while we had moving trucks and stuff in our driveway, so that was thoughtful.

I’m very conscious about keeping the dogs quiet, to the point of obsession. All it takes is one neighborhood dog to set mine off and there is a big difference between one dog barking and six dogs barking. Salt has, therefore, invented a form of communication that cannot, technically, be called barking. It’s sort of like he’s talking a strange language: rau, rau, raurauraurau…” Topper mutters expletives under his breath and, I swear, Abby rolls her eyes.

Then there are the Heirs’ rules of conduct: No loud music; no “peeling out” of the driveway; no driving up with the bass thumping; wave politely back to a neighbor if, in fact, anyone bothers to wave to A Renter; and no screaming profanities back and forth outside like we’re on Cops or something.

Oh – and no getting arrested in your underwear. I’m really strict about that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dear Reigning Power/Universe/God,

On behalf of the Linguini Clan, may I respectfully request that, if it’s convenient and wouldn’t screw up plans too, too horribly, that, for awhile at least, you leave us alone.

I submit that we have endured the past few weeks’ buffeting with considerable tolerance and a reasonable amount of patience. There was only one incident of total loss of emotional control which was quickly put to rest.

And through it all, we would like to point out that one person in particular showed a vast amount of tenacity in maintaining his path to his destiny.

So why’d ya have to go and pick on him?

Oh yeah, he’s smiling now. That’s because we spent all night talking him down off the ceiling. Did I mention, Reigning Power/Universe/God, that yesterday was the day before his AP English final? Did I mention that all these little events, the SATs and AP exams, that have been on the periphery of our disaster are key to Heir 2 not having his entire future screwed up?

Now, were You to send plagues of locust and floodwaters into my bedroom would be understandable and -- some would say -- just. And maybe I deserved to hear those chilling words over the phone that set any mother's heart into her throat: "Mom, I've been in an accident." My heart is becoming perfectly accustomed to the trip from chest to throat, back to my chest down to my toes and back again. My heart gets around these days.

And, to his credit, Heir 2 admits this fender bender was his fault. But, as he points out, 3 seconds either way would have eliminated the incident entirely.

Three. Seconds.

So, to You, who control everything, what’s three seconds? Would it have made a huge difference in the fabric of the universe? You couldn’t just take that three seconds and, say, give it to someone who can absorb it – like Oprah or someone?

Just a thought. Goodness knows I don’t want to tick you off any more than apparently we already have.



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Not a dog or gnome in sight!

Last time for prom pictures, I promise. But they came so nice and Caisee and Joe make such a cool couple.

I wish I'd gotten a close up of Caisee's shoes. You know how I feel about heels, but these were incredible, though Caisee kind of shrugged them off as, "We've had these forever." It would be fun to have a daughter that views her wardrobe as communal property.

Good thing they don't remember tormenting each other when they were six, but I'll not be the one to bring that up...