Thursday, October 30, 2008

Never too old to maul a pumpkin

All I needed, I told Heir 2, was a jack 'o' lantern to put next to the door where I want the trick or treaters to go tomorrow. He was too old for this sort of thing, I admitted to him, but if he didn't do it, I was going to have to do it and I still hadn't cooked dinner or vacuumed or given his brother a haircut yet.

I was happy when he agreed pleasantly enough and I made a point of baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies by way of gratitude.

According to our neighbor/landlord, we do get a few trick-or-treaters and this is a first for us. We were always in an area too rural. When the Heirs were little, we had to drive to an official "neighborhood" to trick-or-treat, causing resentment among a few of the residents -- okay, one crabby old lady -- who felt she should only have to supply candy to the kids in her neighborhood. Were she flooded with kids I would have agreed, but the subdivision was so small, even with the added rural kids, she probably didn't even finish a bag of candy. She complained about the neighborhood kids too: they didn't ask politely enough or were too loud or their costume didn't show enough initiative. Pretty soon all the parents learned to avoid her house. All she had to do was keep her outside lights out and no one would have bothered her to begin with.

Anyway, apparently we will be visited upon this year and, since we technically have two front doors, I'm setting up Gnigel with a tiny pumpkin in his lap and the jack 'o' lantern next to the one most accessible.


He was having way too much fun... um...


...I'm pretty sure there's a scene like this in the movie "Hannibal."

Just call Heir 2 Mr. Sluggo.

Rumor has it, also according to our neighbor/landlord, that one of the guys who has a farm around our little village dresses up as the Headless Horseman and rides his horse through Mt. Olive. I hope to get a photo now that I've figured out how to work the aperture on my camera. I'm not very good at it yet, though, so he'll probably be a mile down the road before I get the setting right. I don't want to spoil the effect for everyone by having the poor guy pose for me.

See? I thought Halloween was going to be just another day now that the Heirs are grown and now it's becoming A Thing. I just may go out tomorrow and buy some good apple cider at Rinkers and our traditional Halloween treat (at least when I was a kid): Hostess donuts* -- the box with four powdered, four plain and four cinnamon donuts. It's just not Halloween without the Hostess donuts.

*I don't know if Hostess is available around here. Dirtman insists they sold that portion of the business to Little Debbie. It's immaterial. They must be variety donuts.

In her mother's footsteps

This is Becca*, Zsa Zsa's puppy, a petite red tri Aussie, that from all accounts is as sweet and gentle a soul as her mother. I can't tell you how thankful I am she has a home that appreciates her personality and returns her affection in kind.

Just as I was about to do the post on Zsa Zsa, Becca's dad sent me her update and I temporarily shelved it because she should have her own limelight.

Isn't she the sweetest thing?

*You may remember her as Penny or, officially Gnome Hill's Penny Lane.

I just remembered...

...when 30-something women had nicknames like "Betty." I want a best friend named Betty -- yeah, just like Wilma (whose name doesn't make me quite as nostalgic, by the way).

Just Betty.

Betty would be kind of like Midge. Remember Midge,
Barbie's very first best friend?

Midge always had to stay home and babysit Pepper, who wasn't really Barbie's little sister (who was Skipper) and was more Tammy's little sister, but was my version of Barbie's little sister because that's what my mother bought me even though Pepper was freakishly bigger than Barbie -- especially the head.

Anyway Midge would babysit while Barbie went out with Ken, mostly because I didn't have an Allen doll so they could double date.

If I had a best friend like that, I would name her Betty.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The days of shorts in the winter are over

We've been holding out. We ignored that our feet felt like ice and covered them with wool socks. We layered our clothes and I broke out my woolen fingerless mitts.

We drank lots of hot tea. I baked bread and roasted chicken in the oven.

We even ignored the tiny snowflakes falling from the sky and the fact that the hose for the dogs' water had frozen.

But when we woke up and saw our breath, we had to cave.

We turned on the heat in the kitchen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Of limited interest to most

Don't you just hate it when a blog that's sort of interesting to read all of a sudden jumps the shark and dissolves into a never-ending chronicle of how wonderful the author's kids are?

And when she normally posts pictures that are sort of pretty or funny, now she's posting pictures of her kid standing there smiling at whatever activity makes them so wonderful? Don't you hate that?

And don't you hate it when, say, the son of the author of a blog you used to enjoy reading gets inducted into the National Honor Society and instead of kidding around about things like mushrooms and gnomes, she slaps up pictures of her kid standing next to everybody at the ceremony?
Caisee and Heir 2

Caisee's mom Carol and Heir 2

Caisee, Caisee's grandmother and Heir 2

Heir 2 and his friend Jesse

Heir 2 and Jesse's mom, Janie

And then there's the ubiquitous cake shot.

Don't you hate the ubiquitous cake shot? And then all those shots of the kid being really annoyed by his father taking all those photographs?

Give me a break!

Yeah. I really hate that.

Ubiquitous shot of me looking ticked off when I'm really not.

Monday, October 27, 2008

They had him at "Leg of Lamb"

At least that’s the running joke.

So it’s to be Roanoke College. No more applications -- even fee-free ones are being ignored.

Saturday’s visit down to Salem clinched it. All the Linguinis, and families of Linguini offspring friends, were very impressed and, of course, all you have to do is feed me and you’re invited to my wake, let alone trust you to oversee my youngest child for four years.

Of course, I’m not the one making this decision…Heir 2 is. He was playing it cool there for awhile, saying he was going to hold out for Yale. But he met with the head of the computer science department and had a nodding meeting with a member of the mathematics faculty at Roanoke and, while he was uncomfortable and a little intimidated, he was also excited by the opportunities they were offering.

He still didn’t mention this to Dirtman and me and we continued to try to point out to him all the advantages of a school only a few hours from home.

And so we sat in on a really helpful financial session that broke down what we all needed to do to make the next four years happen which, as it turns out, may actually be do-able (because, for obvious reasons, I had my doubts).

Then they fed us.

There was an entire wall of cold cereal. Heir 2 nearly had a heart attack. Cold cereal around here is considered a treat – if I buy it, make it last because it’s the most expensive and nutritionally useless food on the planet next to Twinkies (at least, the cereals Heir 2 likes).

During our tour of the campus (lovely campus, BTW, especially this time of year), our guide mentioned how the meal system works, adding that what we ate in the cafeteria that morning was “the weekend food.”

“I’m not as fond of the weekend food,” he shrugged and proceeded to tell us about how during the week they might be carving a leg of lamb or a ham for dinner.

Heir 2 stopped the tour. “Wait a minute,” he said incredulously, “you mean that was the bad food?”

And so it was that at that moment his decision was made. He marched himself right into the bookstore and purchased a Roanoke College hoodie.

Heir 2 is anxious to get started, but first we have to scrounge the money to secure his place next year – scrounging because, ironically, declaring bankruptcy is extremely expensive. Once that’s paid, he’s got scholarships and financial aid to apply for.

And so we begin to cobble together his financing. Now there’s a word (“financing”) that’s beginning to make me want to beat my head against a brick wall.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not so fast, there Buddy...

You would think $17,000 would do it, wouldn't you?

I mean: seventeen thousand dollars. It's a lot, right?

Apparently not to get a college education. Apparently it's over $25,000 a year tuition to go to Roanoke College.

We were quick to pull out the apples to rejoice and, while we're still proud of Heir 2 he figures, if he's going to have to go into debt anyway, it may as well be for Stanford or Yale, since one of those schools on his resume may ensure a higher income. I beg to differ and we've yet to hear from them, though they keep sending stuff.

I'm all for the whole "a Roanoke College in your hand is worth more than Yale and Stanford in the bush." (Heh...Yale...bush...get it? The Bushes went to Yale...? Yeah, I know...I'll shut up.)

I'm rather pulling for Roanoke. Yale (and most of the Ivy League schools) don't impress me much and I've always felt that the school doesn't matter so much as the effort you put into your chosen field. Plenty of idiots have graduated from Yale (Nope. Not gonna go there...).

Besides, Roanoke is just down I-81. If he went to Yale we'd barely ever see him. If he went to Stanford -- we'd never see him. Just a mother's perspective.

We're only slightly bummed. We'll have to see what other scholarships come through. He also got admission fee-free opportunities from a few other places (JMU was one and I forget the other) that he hasn't taken advantage of yet.

But you know me: I want this issue settled so I can check it off my nighttime worry list. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Guess that clinches it for Roanoke...

Heir 2 received a $17,000 scholarship from Roanoke College.

There is much rejoicing in Linguini-Land. And an audible sigh of relief. And a few tears.

We will celebrate with...apples!

"Doo, doo, doo, lookin' out my back doh-ah"*

I've been experimenting with my camera's aperture lately -- not that this camera is new. We've had it for quite awhile. Only we've never discovered the nuances of the manual setting.

Believe me, we've read the instruction book cover to cover and, while it very clearly discusses changing aperture for a model different from our own and then refers anyone possessing our model to another part of the book that comes close to discussing aperture (it does mention the affect of light on the subject), it never actually explains how to manually change it on my camera specifically.

I would say this was due to our hopelessness in the face of technology, but even Dark Garden had a go at it and advised me to be happy with the auto setting -- which I truly am. But sometimes the auto setting just doesn't cut it, especially when you have no control over the light.

Anyway, I finally figured out how to change my aperture, but only by mistake. You would think it would be an obvious process seeing as they didn't see fit to provide instructions, but it's really a confounding procedure involving turning off totally unrelated features and using the same mechanical tool to change the aperture while simultaneously pressing another totally unrelated feature (while standing on your left leg and whistling "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" on a Tuesday). When I first noticed I was able to adjust the aperture and then suddenly and inexplicably unable to do so, I found myself screaming at the camera, "What?! What did I do?" Then shaking it, "Tell me! What do you want from me?"

At any rate the aperture problem has been solved, which allowed me to take these pictures out
my back door.

This was, obviously, last week's full moon taken early in the morning when I let the dogs out.

Now -- time to figure out how to change the f-stop. Sigh.

*Credence Clearwater Revival song, for those of you not of a Certain Age.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On a Sunday afternoon

I don’t know if we qualify for groovin’, but we did have a Ray Charles/Count Bassie CD playing (thanks to the public library). We were as groovin’ as a family of nerds can be, at any rate.

So it was basically an uneventful weekend, though Saturday was Dirtman’s birthday. Our holidays are low key these days and we went to a movie (don’t worry – we went to the matinee and didn’t eat anything, for those of you keeping track of such things) and to pick up another bushel of apples.

Oh, yeah, we’re all about apples lately. It’s a little hard to live in the Shenandoah Valley and not be about apples this time of year. Back in the day, when the kids were little, this meant a day-long excursion to the farmer’s markets with a corn maze, hay rides and over-priced produce. These days we hit one of the commercial orchards and pay half for a couple of bushels. No pumpkins or corn stalks or jars of pretend homemade jam; just apples, a limited supply of cider, apple butter from a local church, and sometimes honey. But it’s a lovely ride to get there and once they have your name, you are put on their very short list to be notified of the asparagus crop in the spring.

But right now it’s all about the apples: apple crisp, apple cobbler, apple sauce, baked apples and, for Dirtman’s birthday, apple pie.

For me this weekend there was the return of…

…Oh Yeah! My bird feeder! I’ve desperately missed watching the birds and already the chickadees have learned to ignore Zsa Zsa and me as we lurk a little way off.

Then there was laundry to hang out (this house is all electric and, having gotten some smack-down, whopping bills, what we were just doing on pretty days with our sheets has expanded to all the laundry, all the time, even my “delicates.”), gifts to knit, and a “House” marathon tonight.

Life is good.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Cathetered Gnome

First there was this.

Then there is Dirtman's version -- or, rather, our water delivery guy's version.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

These have been Linguini on the Ceiling Special Depressive Reports. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress...

to make a list of all the items I mentioned.

Anyway, this is the point I'm trying to make: Listen for once! Is that so much to ask. And if so I would like to leave you with this thought and this image:

How many more squirrels must die?

The Healer

I always joke around about our oldest female Australian Shepherd, Zsa Zsa. She comes off as a bit of a diva and she has a reputation for selling out her best friend if it means she’ll get to eat something.

It’s true that Zsa Zsa is, at least around here, The Fun Police. She views herself as the nanny over the other five though, if you didn’t know this, you would swear she was acting up herself.

Here is how is usually goes down, though: One of the other dogs breaks a rule – say, jumping up and barking. Zsa Zsa sees the infraction and, as disciplinarian realizes she must take steps to punish the offender. She does this by jumping up on him and barking. The whole activity looks like chaos when, in fact, it’s just Zsa Zsa being On Duty.

Zsa Zsa is kind of like the Margaret to the rest of the dog’s Dennis the Menace and, if she had baloney curls, I’ll bet she’d spend her day tossing them and “harrumphing.” She is particularly hard on her puppies, Hokie and Abby. Zsa Zsa is determined to turn Abby into a young lady, though the more she corrects her, the ditzier Abby gets.

The reason I bring all this up is that Zsa Zsa has another side that never ceases to amaze me: Zsa Zsa is what my brother calls A Healer.

It goes beyond the obvious, though I still think it’s remarkable that she will come over and lay her head on my lap if she sees me crying. Her normal lap behavior involves a lot of nudging for attention. But when she sees me cry – even during something innocuous like a movie or because I’ve sneezed several times – her attention is very undemanding.

During the course of this year, though, I’ve seen some examples of intuitive behavior that amazes me every time she does it.

I’ve mentioned before that my health has not been real good lately. It’s nothing obvious, but one of the effects of being off meds is the deterioration of my joints. In fact, the reason I was originally tested was because I had broken both my wrists within the space of a month. Because of this, places where I’ve had injuries before are particularly susceptible to acting up when I’ve pushed them too far. My wrists, for instance, will sometimes go black and blue if I’ve knitted too much or my left ankle will swell if I’m on my feet too much. My ankle in particular I don’t really notice until I feel Zsa Zsa licking the exact area that was originally injured. On really bad days, when none of my joints is functioning properly, she drives herself crazy unless I scold her to leave me alone. Even then I’ll notice her trying to lick my elbow or something while I’m on the computer.

But even that is not as amazing as what she did last week.

I have to insert here that Zsa Zsa does not go up on our bed. The other dogs have tried, Topper has actually succeeded because he’s such a mess of neuroses. But Zsa Zsa has just never seemed interested. She keeps watch by my side of the bed, which was just too tall for her to make the leap.

Last week we came home from the lawyer’s office drained and defeated. Stripped of every penny, without any prospect of an income, having had to put a monetary price on things like my diamond-less engagement ring (the stone fell out) and my mother’s charm bracelet, there was nothing left of me to give. I’d gotten sick and I’d cried and now I was too tired to even sleep. All I could manage to do was crawl into bed and turn on something mindless on the television.

All of a sudden, up popped Zsa Zsa. She curled herself up compactly in the center of the bed, laid her head on my stomach, gave a commiserate sigh and watched over me patiently. Dirtman said she didn’t get down until he came to bed and turned out the lights. I do remember that all through that night, whenever my hand ventured over the edge of the bed, she was there under it.

I’m sure a skeptic would have perfectly valid reasons for all this. I am, after all, the one who feeds her. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have been equally willing to view her motives with a jaundiced eye. But I know intuitively that she not here as just a pet.

And I no longer ignore my intuition.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dirtman's new blog

For Dirtman's take on Sunday's excursion and to view his new blog, click here (he'll be in the links too).

This will, of course, bring you to his entire blog and you will have to scroll down to Oct. 14 once he posts anything else because I can't link to all the posts he wrote about that day and trying to explain to him about customizing a label for it was causing the atmosphere in the room to thicken considerably.

Monday, October 13, 2008


As I said, things around Casa Linguini have been pretty tense lately as we near the finalization of our bankruptcy. This general aura is not helped by the daily reminders of doom and gloom predicted on the news that Dirtman insists drone on all day long.

My usual response, in the good ol’ days when my backbone was intact, used to be a forceful command of, “Enough!” as I snap off the television and come up with some ridiculous scheme that, while most likely unable to be executed, at least gets everyone out of the funk we’re in and thinking outside the box.

But on top of the overall dismal character of what we’re going through, we have the added burden of job hunting, a task that I at first approached very matter-of-factly until, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t find a job I wanted. Seriously, up to this point, I’ve never been not hired when I wanted to be hired. But, then, I was never job hunting at 51 years old before. (I know there are those for whom it would make their day if they walked into their local McDonalds to hear me ask them if they want fries with that, but I can’t afford to work for such low wages merely for the satisfaction of those who want a bankruptcy to result in complete degradation.)

So let’s add rejection to our list of depressive conditions and you can understand why it’s harder these days to channel my inner Pollyanna. But channel her I do, even though right now, every penny must be accounted for, every expense justified to the world at large, every thing we do or say judged through a filter called “bankruptcy.”

Some days are better than others, but the best days are the ones where someone else takes over the cheering up so I can just enjoy the ride for a day.

Such was Sunday when my brother Dark Garden and sister-in-law Beth up and hauled us into Washington, D.C., for the day. On top of that, they wanted to go to my favorite place: The National Gallery of Art.

We each have our own view of the day which you can read Dirtman's take on his blog (scroll down or click the archives to Oct. 14, 2008) and here from Dark Garden. Beth is, as always, patient and tolerant with the lot of us.

The last time I was at the Smithsonian was when I was homeschooling the Heirs and, naturally, our visits focused on the Museums of Natural History, American History and Air and Space. When I was single I used to take the train to D.C. from Jersey and, through the Smithsonian Associates program (which back then was really, really generous), I stayed at the L’Enfant Plaza for two nights ($75 including two continental breakfasts delivered to my room, a dinner in one of their dining rooms and an all-day pass on the tour bus – which I only used once). I’d spend hours at the gallery. Since I’ve been married, I went once when Dirtman was at a conference in Rosslyn and took Metro in and spent an entire glorious day just exploring the art of the 16th and 17th centuries.

I’ve always been particularly fond of this time period. I always feel this obligation when I’m at the gallery to start at the beginning and work my way forward in time. It’s always such a relief after the almost suffocating effects of the Church on art, to finally see those lovely sepia-toned Flemish and Dutch paintings of everyday life and pock-marked peasantry.

Because, as much as I’d like to believe I’d inspire an artist to use my visage on a serene-faced Madonna, I know I’d be in one of those Molenaer Dutch peasant paintings, a figure in the background basting a grouse – or just doing what I do.

It was so nice to get lost for a few hours, though I think the Escher-like layout of rooms got to Beth after awhile. I was fading fast myself after being on my feet for so long (I won’t go into all the ramifications of being without health insurance for over a year, but I will admit that the effects of not taking medications you were supposed to be on for the rest of your life can result in being pretty uncomfortable and, frankly, I find it annoying).

So off we trotted to dinner which, since Dark Garden was in attendance, was bound to be an adventure for reasons we never quite know why. All I know is this: We go to restaurants, eat and leave with no incident. Add Dark Garden to the mix, and things invariably go wrong. He does absolutely nothing to deserve this. He’s friendly enough, no more or no less than anyone else. He’s undemanding and polite.

This time we didn’t even get to order before we knew it was happening again. All around us were people who had been seated after us, receiving their drinks, ordering food. And there we sat – no water, no server and no one with which to make eye contact or flag down or hit over the head and drag to our table.

So we walked out (and they let us) and went onto another restaurant where we were greeted and placated and fed and watered, then back to the Metro where the engineer (who also announces the stops) had to be about the happiest operator I’ve ever driven with.

So today Dirtman and I sent two e-mails: One to Uno Chicago Grill corporate offices detailing our non-meal at their Union Station restaurant; and, secondly, to D.C. Metro telling them how delighted we were to be on the Orange Line Sunday evening.

I guess I have to say this for anyone keeping track: Dirtman and I spent ne'er a penny all day. And Dark Garden says shuddup about it already.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

That's Madame Trash Heap, to you

Heir 1 (on his way out to work, observing me watering my houseplants out of a milk jug): Not another re-purposed milk jug.

Me: It's just the right size and I haven't seen my indoor watering can since we moved.

Heir 1: One of these day I'm going to come home and find you wearing a milk jug as a hat. You'd decorate it with dried out weeds from the yard and old vegetables from the refrigerator.

Me: That's ridiculous. I don't wear hats.

Heir 1: You would, just to use the milk jug. Then we'll call you Marjory the Trash Heap.

Me: Nonsense. My Yiddish accent is lousy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Putting on Heirs (get it -- it's a pun: heir, air...)

We are enduring a whole lot of "lasts" this year. This is Heir 2 and Caisee's last Homecoming dance. Heir 1 and Tory will still have one more next year.

Fortunately, Heir 1 had the presence of mind to grab his brother and preserve this moment for me.

Charley, Tory, Caisee, Joe

And, thanks to the girls' respective families, I have these also.

Joe and Caisee
(Caisee has the absolute best posture of anyone I know. And no one wears clothes like she does!)

Tory and Charley
(Did Tory not -- once again -- pick the most flattering color?

See why I love Tory so much? She loves my animals -- Heir 1 included...

Tory and Whiskers

Chicken Soup for the Linguini Soul

Last week was a rough week. We were due for some comfort and due for some good news.

We got both.

Heir 2 got his first college acceptance letter to a college he is pretty positive will offer him a free ride. The other places courting him don't have strong math/computer departments, but he's sort of hearing a lot from...Yale. But I'm sure a free ride to Yale will require a more pathetic story than we can conjure and, frankly, it's not worth it to me to become even more pathetic so Heir 2 can go to Yale. But it's nice to be asked.

For comfort, I made a pot of chicken soup and a batch of biscuits.

And, of course, apple crisp -- which Heir 1 considers his personal apple crisp that he allows everyone else to have a little of. He ate the last of this for breakfast.

Editor's Note: While we acknowledge Heir 2's intelligence and desirability to institutes of higher learning, we must also sadly agree his brilliance does not extend to his wardrobe. Yes, his shirt is on inside out. In all fairness, we had just called him out of the shower to dinner and he was in a hurry because he needed to be finished by the time his girlfriend came over. Yes, he's very smart. But he's also very much a teenage guy.