Monday, June 30, 2008

Or maybe they hear the wind...

"What are they barking about this time?"

"I don't know...I'm busy. Look out the window and see."

"I'm busy too. They must hear someone else's dog barking."

"Yeah. That must be it."

"Gaspode is flailing himself against the door."

"Must be a jogger going by."

"Yeah. Must be."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grooming Day

Abbey before

Abby after

Hokie during

Hokie almost done

Dirtman before

Dirtman after

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is not a stir-fry

No it's not. Because if it was a "stir-fry," then Dirtman wouldn't eat it. So this is not the recipe called "Asian Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry." Nope.

This is called Asian Beef and Vegetables Over Rice."

However there's no getting around the vegetables. So Dirtman still won't eat it, opting for Fruity Dino-Bites instead -- or some such garbage.

Dirtman likes his food separate -- i.e., the most expensive manifestation of food around. He's going to have to get over that.

The Heirs and I were happy, though.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An entry strictly for Terry Pratchett readers

Me (on my soapbox): Until you all learn to respect each other and get along, we're never going to get anywhere. And if you don't learn the lesson now, we'll lose even more ground and that's your business, but every time you guys lose ground, you drag me along with you. And I'm tired of...

Heir 1 (patting me on the shoulder): Don't worry, Mom. I'll share my box with you when I'm living in one.

Me: Thanks a lot.

Heir 1: In fact, if I make enough money to move out of the box, I'll let you have the my box for free.

Me: Thanks.

Heir 1: In fact, I'll even put the box in my garage.

Me: And I can hang out on street corners with my filthy little terrier and sell sausages.

Heir 1 (smiling lovingly): Foul Ol' Mom.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Gnew Happy, Jolly Gnome!

Meet our gnew gnome, a birthday gift from Heir 2. He looks like such a jolly fellow...


What, exactly, is he doing with his hand?

Oh, never mind! He's a happy, jolly...gnome...

...what is that smile about...

...jolly...happy...and that look in his eyes...

OH! Now I get it!

He's stroking his snail!*

* Heir 2 bought this over the counter at Big Lots and the special pose was the exact reason why. The Heir have plans for this gnome.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My one day of the year

I’ve had some pretty spectacular birthdays. I’ve had two surprise parties: one when I was nine, the other when I was 16. I’ve gone to impressive, upscale restaurants on a few birthdays. I even dragged Dirtman around antiquing on a couple. And one birthday I got Topper.

Honestly, I enjoyed and am grateful for every one of them. I am of the firm belief that everyone needs that one day to be special, so I never listen to people who wave off observance of their birthday with “it’s just another day.” It’s bad enough that we live in a world that makes it so easy to take each other for granted.

So I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who reciprocated these sentiments. I don’t know why, then, this year seemed so much sweeter. And I noticed this not only yesterday, but Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day too; even our Memorial Day weekend picnic.

Is it that I don’t expect to be happy? Or, ex-Catholic that I am, that I don’t deserve to be happy as penance for screwing up so badly? I hope not. I like to think it’s a combination of grace and the machinations of my family.

Heir 1 took me out to dinner (well, me and half of Heir 2). He took me to the absolutely best Chinese/Japanese buffet. And he didn’t get all proprietary when Dirtman wanted to come too and ask Heir 2 along (Dirtman paid for himself and the other half of Heir 2). Then Dirtman took us all out for real custard ice cream.

So, with pooled resources – which we do a lot lately – we were able to go out to dinner as a family for the first time in a very long time.

And then a kicker: Heir 2’s birthday gift. Another gnome, only not just any gnome. A gnome specifically for my Deviant Gnome collection (you all remember Loretta -- picture at right -- who arrived via JAG and Trasherati)!

In fact, the Gnew Gnome is so special, he deserves his own layout tomorrow, when I can give him the time and space he deserves.

Anyway, as we were driving home I was thinking about how much I had enjoyed the day. Maybe it was the realization that, while I’m required by natural law to love my sons, I find myself liking them as people also. I mean, if I weren’t related to them, I’d want to be related to them; I’d want to hang out with them for fun.

Maybe it was the realization that a familial crisis like the one we’re experiencing has torn apart the best of families and marriages and that, instead, it has drawn us all closer together. And, believe me when I write this, the pressure to go into “everyone for himself” mode has been enormous. It has been the personal decision of every single one of us to close ranks and work together.

And it was the realization that I didn’t have to say any of this because we all felt it and that was enough. I will, honestly, never forget this birthday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mama Mia!

At first, when Fluffy started hanging out on the ground level instead of with Heir 1 in the basement...with the dogs, Whiskers was all, "Oh! My mom's come to visit me and cuddle with me! I'll be nice and accommodating because eventually she will head back down south where she belongs and I can have my room back to myself."

Fluffy would jump up next to Whiskers and they would groom each other. And Fluffy would jump up to eat out of Whiskers' bowl and Whiskers would be polite and let her eat first.

This attitude did not last long. Now Whiskers is all, "Get this witch back down to the Pit of Despair," meowed out of the corner of her mouth. And Fluffy is all, "Will you look at her hair, always in her eyes like that, and you'd think for once she'd bring someone nice home; someone Italian or, at least, Catholic and maybe keep her opinions to herself the next time she meets someone nice like that."

And then Whiskers is all, "Mu-therrrrr." And Fluffy is all, "Why don't you try smiling sometimes. No one like a Gloomy Gus."

And then Whiskers crawls under the bed and intends to stay there and write poetry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is it supposed to look like that?

I don’t know how food traditions get started, other than local abundance of certain items. I try not to be too awfully judgmental when it comes to cooking methods and I’ll try just about anything once.

I am not totally averse to sticking vegetables in cream sauce. It has its place with certain vegetables (Did I ever mention how much I hate the term “veggies?” No? I’m mentioning it now.) Creamed spinach is a traditional German dish my grandmother on my father’s side taught my mother to make – strangely, without using milk. I also grew up with cream sauce on cauliflower.

The thing with cream sauce is that it tends to mask or dull the flavor of the vegetable. I accept that everyone has that “evil” vegetable (kale) for which masking is a good thing. But, other than kids natural aversion to anything green (my nephew wouldn’t even eat green Jello), vegetables aren’t that bad and not that strong of flavor.

Imagine my horror, my incredulity, my utter shock when Dirtman informed me within our first year of marriage that he puts cream sauce on asparagus. What kind of warped, maniac practice is that? What did asparagus ever do to his family? And even worse: In order to cook the asparagus to put into the cream sauce it is boiled into a wimpy, weepy stalk. Oh, the humanity!

Well, I set him straight about that filthy habit, make no mistake. We’ll have no defiling of such a noble vegetable as asparagus. Around here asparagus is cut at an angle and stir fried briefly in only the best extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with just a touch of Kosher salt. The asparagus maintains aspargusian integrity, let me tell you.

Once we settled the asparagus fiasco, you would think Dirtman would accept that widespread use of cream sauce was absolutely anathema within the confines of this household. But no. Every spring he would lament not having fresh peas and new potatoes in cream sauce.

That’s right. Peas. Potatoes. Cream sauce.

Peas and pearl onions in cream sauce – maybe. Potatoes in creams sauce – scalloped potatoes; add some cheese – au gratin. But peas and potatoes creamed?

Apparently this is a southern thing. Is this a southern thing? Is it some kind of southern code: When in doubt – cream it? What is wrong with you people?

I am, though – I insist – a good wife. And as such, decided to humor Dirtman. It only took me 21 years to do it.

He was kind enough to, at least, help shell the peas.
Then I cooked the potatoes, added the peas, creamed the lot of it, shoved it in a bowl and served it up with a salad. Lovingly.

Heir 2 had Cocoa Puffs and Heir 1 hid at work.

Dirtman ate it. He did. I sat at that table and watched him put creamed peas and potatoes into his mouth, chew and swallow.

So, I guess this is what it’s supposed to look like and taste like. Dirtman seemed happy. I guess that was the point. It certainly had a strange mouthfeel to it.

Now I must conjure something disgusting from my background for him to eat. Only my grandmother never passed down the recipe for the roasted sheep’s head or the tripe marinara over pasta.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fathers' Day at Dark Gardens house


Va. Tech-toes



*(Not really. I really just putting my feet up and Zsa Zsa decided I needed to stay put for awhile.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Is there pork in the treetop?

Dirtman: Did you tell him to do that?

Me: I haven't said a word.

Dirtman: Then why's he doing it?

Me: Why do you think?

Dirtman: Two full moons this month?

Me: Not that I know of.

Dirtman: Go ahead. Tell me the truth. I'm dying, aren't I?

Me: We all are, when you think about it. But, no, not anytime soon.

Dirtman: You've promised him money.

Me: Can't promise what you don't have.

Dirtman: Then why? Why? I must know why.

Me: Just check the calendar.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Will work for (dog) food

So during Dirtman’s and my continuing quest for better pay without increased fuel expense we try in every way to mitigate our living expenses which, honestly, means we eat a lot of beans and work it off by hanging clothes on the line. If anyone asks I say we’re eating healthy and caring for the environment.

But – go ahead and say it: “Sisiggy, you’ve got six dogs.”

Mmm-hmm. And two kids. What’s your point?

Okay, okay. I get it, even if that is the reaction of non-dog people only.

Anyway, I was lamenting about my guilt in hanging on to my dogs to someone I knew would understand – another dog person. Only this wasn’t just any dog person. This dog person was Topper’s breeder, the owner of the stud of the litter we whelped last year and owner of Bayshore Kennel and Farm.

Frank is a major, major personae in the dog show world (though he will deny this and tell you he hates dog shows and dog people and, on some days, dogs themselves) and it is a mere stroke of good luck that our move places us about a mile from his farm.

Before I go on, let me describe what is on Frank’s farm. Frank likes rare breeds of everything: fainting goats (that do), Longhorn European Cattle, various breeds of chicken, geese and sheep, and one emu. Then there are the dogs and cats: Chinese Cresteds, Aussies (of course), Border Collies, Parson Russells, a rescued Greyhound and blind Longhaired Dachshund, and Munchkin cats.

It is a little known fact that in my younger days, in order to put myself through school, I worked as a dog groomer – even went to school for it through some complicated plan of my parents to ultimately have their own kennel that was supposed to put me through school after I got the kennel up and running (this plan lasted exactly seven months, by which time I had graduated from grooming school and was already finding out that getting paid as a groomer is a dicey thing).

So I’m explaining to Frank about my dogs and how lucky we were to find a place to rent and how I knew that non-dog people were judging us because we are keeping them. Two days later Frank called to ask if we could spare a few hours a day to help out at the farm: me in the grooming room and Chuck around the farm.

If I thought we were going to be “the hired help” and treated like the lowly scum that may very well steal the lawn ornaments, I was mistaken. Frank and his partner Chris treat us like we’re visitors who happen to be kicking in some help with the chores. And then they sell us Eukanuba dog food – Eukanuba – at cost.

I know this can’t last. Sooner or later one of the millions of people who have received my resume in the past month are bound to call me, if not for the job I applied for, at least to clean their toilets.

Meanwhile, I write for a pittance and groom for food.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Exceptions to the Rule

If Fluffy needs a friend...

If I blend in with the furniture.

If I don't think you can see me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

There's no one in the place, 'cept you and me

Why I feel compelled to do this is beyond me. And why I further feel compelled to post it on Linguini is even more baffling. Yet here we are. It’s a quarter to three…

Well, actually it’s 3:15 a.m., but Set ‘Em Up Joe is running through my head right now. That, and I’m So Tired by the Beatles: “I can’t stop my brain.”

This is what I do lately in the middle of the night. It’s too late to take anything to help me sleep and still be up to help with the dogs. And lying in bed with my brain running amok is extremely dangerous.

So I get up and play Spider Solitaire until I win. Only sometimes I win too quickly and then what?

So tomorrow I will be compelled to nap. I haven’t napped since I was two. My mother used to try to make me nap, but I’d just sit there. You could always tell when I was truly ill if I fell asleep during the day. Then I’d be, like, 103 degree fever ill. Other than that, I’ve never napped.

What is it about the middle of the night that makes everything worse? The only difference between now and during the day is the light. Yet every problem is magnified in the dark and my perspective skewed. I can’t conjure up optimism at 3 a.m. Some primal fear of the dark, I suppose.

I envy Dirtman’s ability to sleep anywhere at any time. He sleeps so deeply nothing wakes him up, short of me yelling and shaking him. And he never dreams – not that he remembers, even when he first wakes up.

Me? Even when I’m asleep, I wear myself out in my dreams. From 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. I’m busy, usually looking for people or things. No, there’s nothing cryptic in my dreams. I spend the night gathering everyone together to leave for…wherever. But someone is always missing and I’m in a panic that I’ll be compelled to leave them behind. I wake up exhausted, but unable to fall back to sleep

Which is where we are now – me and Zsa Zsa, my nursemaid.

I’ll post this and probably wake up tomorrow morning and pull it back down. But I’ve always tried to keep Linguini honest and, honestly, this here is part of the daytime zaniness.

So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road.

Friday, June 06, 2008

And another thing...

…about those bicycles.

That’s another thing we have in abundance passing by our front door. Bicycles. In a constant stream.

Now this is neither here nor there, as far as I am concerned. Although yes, Gwynne, Pode is as furious that he has to share the planet with bicycles as he does about buses. Or anyone who doesn’t pet him and assure him he is, indeed, the master of the universe.

Anyway, other than making Pode explode, the bicycles don’t bother me much.

However, I wonder how much the cyclists know about the road, because there is no bike path. There isn’t even a shoulder of the road and the road surface has a 4- to 5-inch drop off and then a water runoff trench. Not only that, practically the entire road is a double yellow line. It’s curvy with no visibility over hills.

I know it’s called Back Road, but, since it runs parallel to I-81 and US-11, it’s the major byway locals and construction vehicles use to avoid having to deal with the thru traffic on the larger highways. It’s not really a back road.

According to our neighbor/landlord there is at least one accident a year just in our little housing cluster. The whole road is over 30 miles long. And usually, he said, it’s not a car/cyclist incident; it’s a truck/cyclist incident.

If everyone used common courtesy and sense, there would be no problem. But there seems to be a high jerk factor among vehicle drivers and they are, by nature, drawn to seldom-patrolled roads like this one.

Because, you know, traffic laws were written for other people, not highly-qualified motorists like them. At least that’s what they think after a few beers or more. Weekends around here you would swear there was a frat house in the neighborhood hosting a two-day kegger. The yellow lines in the center of the road become meaningless

At any rate, I assume that if you ride a bicycle a lot, you at some point resign yourself to the fact that there probably are no safe places to ride other than specifically mapped out bike paths that, basically, go nowhere. I guess you’re just as resigned to dicing with death whenever you decide to don the helmet.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Bus Garage at the End of the Universe

This little house, while seemingly your basic post-war brick rambler, is actually geographically -- and, perhaps, metaphysically -- at a unique point in the universe. Oh, it may seem to be a mere cluster of houses in the middle of rolling farmland. But in reality and beyond, it has formed a vacuum of a very specific nature.

We are at the vortex of every school bus in the county.

It isn't enough that our neighbor is a bus driver. But we are also on every bus route. Including The Short Bus.

This fascinates Dirtman to the point I want to move the office or cover every window with duct tape. Every morning at precisely 7:17 a.m. -- not 7:16, not 7:18 -- 7:17 a.m., the parade begins. And Dirtman provides the commentary.

"He (our neighbor) better hurry up. The Short Bus is about to round the corner." He obsesses if he doesn't see our neighbor board his bus on time or if he hears another bus approach in the distance before he sees a particular numbered bus pass the house. Dirtman is worried that the whole ballet will fall apart if one bus is ahead of the other, which very well may be, but certainly not his problem.

It just occurred to me that our current position in the universe may actually be ideal for my brother John Boy who, while other kids wanted to be astronauts or doctors or firemen when they grew up, always aspired to be either a garbage man or a school bus driver.* He was really impressed with where we're renting only because he saw that our neighbor (who is also our landlord) drives the school bus to supplement his autobody repair business.

"I guess he can't let people just drive his bus for fun," John Boy said wistfully, eyeing the bus.

"No," I said. "But I'm sure he'll let you line up his dining room chairs in a row and install your stuffed animals and little sister in the back chairs while you sit in the front chair and make motor noises while steering the lid of the spaghetti pot!"

Of course, the dogs are only just getting used to all this activity going on in front of the house every morning. Because tomorrow is the last day of school.

*He ended up being a cartographer for the federal government. That explains a lot, doesn't it? And, incidently, when he wanted to drive a bus professionally there was the caveat that no one actually board the bus. He wanted to drive an empty bus.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

And how was your morning?

When the alarm clock rings here at Casa Linguini, things are pretty busy for the first half hour or so.

The Heirs basically fall out of bed and start their day. But there are six dogs for Dirtman and I to air and feed in two shifts, all done in minimal space and on no caffeine.

This is a well-orchestrated dance we’ve worked out over a period of weeks, tweeking it here and there, until finally it’s as smooth a symphony as can be expected when the Katzenjammer Kids Hokie and Abby are involved.

So it goes like this: Dirtman falls out of bed and throws on pants, shirt and shoes while I hit the bathroom and Topper jumps around like a maniac because, while five seconds ago he was sleeping peacefully, he has to go and he has to go NOW, Gaspode paces and Zsa Zsa stares at the closed bathroom door. Then Dirtman puts Topper on a tie out chain and walks Gaspode on a leash while I let Zsa Zsa out and get the dog bowls filled. I lay out Topper, ‘Pode and Zsa Zsa’s bowls and Dirtman lets those three back in to eat. Fortunately, they have learned whose bowl is where and we no long have to fling dogs about the kitchen to their respective bowls.

There is about a minute of peace during which I clear the dish drainer of any dishes and retrieve used dog bowls as they become available. Then Dirtman heads to the basement to let out Salt and Bonnie and Clyde Hokie and Abby. I put Gaspode in the bedroom, Topper on the tie out chain and send Zsa Zsa outside to help keep Butch and Sundance Hokie and Abby in line. Then I put down the three remaining bowls.

Dirtman lets the last three dogs in to eat and I act as a sort of weir to divert Thelma and Louise Hokie and Abby to their proper bowls. When they are done, Dirtman escorts Jake and Elwood Hokie and Abby to their pen and put Gaspode on the tie out chain, hopefully before “bubby makes a kishka” – if you catch my drift (analogy credit goes to John Boy, but it’s become the vernacular around here). I wash dog bowls.

Then – and only then – we make coffee.

So I’m sorry if I was a little sarcastic when, in the midst of all this activity, Heir 1, who had to be at work at 7 a.m., said, “The coffee isn’t done yet?”

“Wait a minute,” I said and proceeded to look out the window at the front yard. “Uhhhh…Nope, I don’t see it.”

“See what?” Heir 1 asked.

“The sign that says ‘Welcome to Holiday Inn’.”

I got the look and he walked out in disgust.

“I love you!” I called after him.

Eyes rolled.

“Have a good day!” I called out the kitchen window.

Head shake.

“Follow your dreams!”

I think I saw him smile when he got behind the wheel. Then, again, it may have been a grimace.

Monday, June 02, 2008

"Hear it how it goes -- my rhythm!"

So I'm driving down the road, on my way to lunch with Mamma K. (Yes...we are the Ladies Who Lunch).

Suddenly it occurs to me: "I'm driving down the road on my way to lunch with Mamma K and I'm all by myself."

I'm always with Dirtman these days. Dirtman doesn't like music. He'll tolerate it, but he doesn't "get" that some songs you just allow to play and you don't talk through them or about them. They come on, you roll down the windows and bop down the road.

Dirtman doesn't bop. I'll bet Dirtman never did bop. I'll bet that on the last day of school, Dirtman never jumped in the car with his best friend, rolled the windows all the way down, plugged the Beach Boys into the tape deck and drove to the beach playing "Fun, Fun, Fun" full blast, stopping at lights and checking to see if there were cute guys in the car next to you, as if you weren't the biggest geek to walk the face of the earth and you weren't driving the family's Dodge station wagon and that in 45 minutes you didn't have to be at West Dover Elementary School to pick up your little brother. I'll bet Dirtman never did that.

So, when I'm in the car with Dirtman, there is silence or Dirtman talking or, maybe talk radio. But no music. And certainly no bopping.

But I was alone and what I had was a CD mix made for me by Heir 1 last Mother's Day, back when occasionally I was alone in the car. Because when I'm alone in the car, I am free to bop at will.

The highlights of my bop list: