Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In which a little of my bitterness shows through

So I'm flipping around channels last night*, hoping against all hope that there might be something of interest on the television. There wasn't, of course; but during the search I happened upon one of those home and garden shows that follows a family looking to buy a house.

I have to wonder what others looking at our culture think when they see people walking through a perfectly acceptable, immaculate house turning up their nose because the huge living room isn't huge enough or the appliances in the kitchen are three years old. What do they think when a woman looks at a perfectly serviceable stove top and wrinkles her nose with disdain because it's "so dated."

And are people doing strange things in their bathrooms these days that they have to be the size of a ballroom?

Nobody knows better than me that sometimes you just want luxury and, if you got the money, I say go for it. But won't a simple statement of preference suffice without claiming, "I can't live with that Formica counter." You can't live with an abusive person; you can't live with rabid dog; but a granite counter top?

Okay, I'll admit, compared with the caliber of houses Dirtman and I look at, these houses are palaces. A Formica counter would be an upgrade (in the last house, any counter would have been an upgrade).

The ironic thing is, I'll bet I turn out more meals for bigger crowds of people from my tiny circa. 1960s kitchen than any of them do from their football field size rooms. (Though I do miss my kitchen from The House That Shall Not Be Named. Two ovens really made big dinners run smoothly and it was nice having a dishwasher). No one cooks anymore; they just watch Food Network and promise themselves that they will one day.

So I've sworn off home and garden TV, leaving me with TCM and only TCM. I can relate to the kitchens on TCM.

*An unfortunate side effect of my Lost Summer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oh, she may look all sweet and cuddly...

...but she's just dreaming of ways to turn the entire house upside down.

Phoebe is perhaps the one animal not well-documented during Linguini's five-year existence. This is because Phoebe is our resident recluse.

She's the oldest pet around here, evidenced by how young Heir 1 is in this photo.

The reason Heir 1 is looking so happy is that when this was taken, Phoebe had just been pulled from the jaws of death with the aid of copious amounts of cash two-weeks worth of torturous (to me) pharmaceuticals supplied by a now very wealthy vet and administered to every orifice of her body. And I have the scars to prove it.

Phoebe proceeded to live her life as she pleased, sleeping either on the front porch or Heir 2's bed and taking a two-week vacation every summer. Each year she would disappear at the end of June and then, just when we were ready to write her off as having gotten lost or hit by a car or picked up somewhere, she would show up on the front porch looking for breakfast.

As she got older, though, Phoebe became a hermit and never ventured outside Heir 2's bedroom. I think this is because he was the only one brave enough to pet her; she had a tendency to clamp onto his hand so he couldn't pull away until she was good and ready.

When Heir 2 went off to college and Heir 1 moved into his room, it was with the understanding that Phoebe came with the room. It wasn't exactly a match made in heaven. Phoebs did not approve of the change in roommates and she and Heir 1 could be heard arguing with each other long into the night.

It seems that whatever item was important to Heir 1, Phoebe adopted as her own. If Heir 1 wanted to work on the computer, Phoebe wanted to lay on the keyboard; if Heir 1 wanted to play a video game, Phoebe wanted to lay on the console. She would rub herself all over his clean clothes -- never on the dirty laundry (I suggested the radical idea that perhaps putting the clothing in a drawer might solve this particular problem...what was I thinking?).

The battle escalated until one day Heir 1 flung Phoebe into the office where she's been ever since (seems laying on the gaming console wasn't quite getting the message across -- so Phoebe peed on it.)

So the office has become a sort of nursing home to Phoebs -- who we are convinced has a feline form of Alzheimers. For awhile she slept in her litter pan and relieved herself in the dog's water bowl. Now she sleeps ... well, wherever she damn well pleases -- she's Phoebe, after all.

She loves to argue. You would think a cat with a face that sweet would have a delicate little "mew." Think again. She's sounds like she's been smoking a pack of filter-less Camels for 40 years and she uses her lung power to let you know that her food bowl is empty, you have blocked access to her favorite perching spot (the dining room table) or her personal bidet is in need of cleaning.

And -- for the love of God -- don't pass her without scratching her head or patting her back. She will hunt you down and kill you in your sleep nag you until you acknowledge her or stuff treats in her mouth.

Whenever Dark Garden sees her he suggests we "put her out of her misery." I keep reminding him is would be more like putting her out of our misery.

When Heir 2 left for Roanoke this year, he was quite sure he was saying goodbye to Phoebe for the last time. But she's like one of those aging relatives who uses their illness to manipulate the entire family -- she just keeps going and going and driving everyone crazy...

I gotta admit, for all the trouble she is, I'm kind of pulling for her to hit the over-20 mark.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Home, Creepy Home

I suppose it is a sign of returning stability that Dirtman and I have begun casually searching for a house to buy.

Okay, maybe "searching" is too strong a term. Considering the rare alignment of circumstances, moods, cash flow, planetary alignment and moon phase that have to be in place for us to be able to become homeowners again, we stand about as good a chance of finding someone willing to float us a mortgage to buy a house as we do standing on the front lawn waiting for one to fall on us.

Let's say we're waiting for a house to call to us. One that the owner is willing to do the financing; a very trusting and understanding owner -- to take pity on us. Ironically, with rents as high as they are right now, it's infinitely cheaper per month to pay a mortgage and who couldn't use a little loosening of the ol' cash flow?

Oh, we're well aware that we are in the "fixer-upper" category in terms of what we are willing to go into debt over.

People don't do "fixer-uppers" anymore, though. They just tear down and build new. So "cheap houses" are sold for the land value and, around here, a property with a septic site goes for about the same amount as a "fixer-upper."

And then there are the "fixer-uppers" that are just beyond our abilities -- such was the case today. It was one of those creepy houses that the previous inhabitants, while dead, haven't quite abandoned yet.

This one would have had Dark Garden running out the door screaming.

Don't believe me, DG? Well, in the bathroom (the one with exposed pipes, no ceiling and hole-pocked linoleum) situated over the commode, was a sticky note that said "Don't forget to replace Mrs. Schneider's teeth in the morning."

Bye, DG...

Yeah, this place was special, all right. There were still canned goods in the pantry, covered with cobwebs and nailed to the wall in one of the outbuildings were instructions on what to do in case of a nuclear attack. And then there's that smell we who frequent abandoned houses all know -- that lovely blend of kerosene and mouse droppings.

Actually, it would be a dream come true for a person really interested in serious restoration. Because underneath the layers of linoleum and lime green plastic bathroom walls and tacky, cheap paneling was a 19th century log cabin. Gutted and restored, it could be a beautiful old house.

But I'm no Bob Villa.

So I had to be content with exploring the remnants of outbuildings that dotted the property while Dirtman pretended to still be interested in where the drainfield was located and how much trouble it would be to hook up to public water.
"It's morning, John! Bring me my teeth!"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Crisp Weather


Why I Baked Apple Cake

We were talking about it being autumn and what that meant. (Frankly, even at 53 years old, I still think I need to buy new saddle shoes in September.)

Heir 1 brightened up and said excitedly, "Fall is crisp weather!"

I felt a tinge of guilt. He wasn't talking about the cool autumn temperatures. He was referring to apple crisp.

Heir 1 loves crisp -- any crisp: peach crisp, blueberry crisp, cherry crisp...even the time I made a strawberry crisp that everyone else was rather ambivalent over. Heir 1 would rather have crisp than pie. He was ecstatic one year when, as a Christmas gift, I gave him a "Crisp-A-Month" for his very own -- Dirtman was not permitted to hijack Heir 1's crisps for breakfast.

Alas, Heir 1 has watched season after season go by this year and nary a crisp in sight. He has even had to endure The Promise of Crisp, only to find that the next day I had neither the energy nor inclination to bake one. To make matters worse, it was left to him to comfort me as I lamented the fact that I was such a loser of a mother that I couldn't even manifest a crisp for my first born child.

So last week I made a huge apple crisp with apples from our local and beloved Rinker Orchard, picked that day. And I would show you that crisp, only it came and went very quickly.

So this weekend rolled around and I was going to make another apple crisp when I remembered that each year I go through apple season making crisp after crisp and, when the local season is over, remember I've been wanting to make an apple walnut cake for myself.

That's right. For ME. I made a totally selfish dessert in spite of the fact that I had abused my first born with promises of Crisp Abundance while languishing in my pajamas watching TCM -- for month after month.

I suppose my punishment was that for the first time in a long time I attempted to take a photo was the first time in a long time that the sky over Shenandoah County clouded over with the threat of rain. The photos stink, but the cake was good and even Heir 1 was not too disappointed that it was not, in fact, crisp.

Only Humpty Dumpty looks like he has evil plans for the apple cake; but, then, he's been a disapproving Dumpty my entire life...

...but it finally rained!...

Out of the Woods

I will always think of the summer of 2010 as the Lost Summer.

I don't say that glibly, as if time just "got away" -- which it did, only that's not why it was lost. I think, perhaps, I was the one who was lost; when all your old standby survival techniques fail you, that's a pretty good indication of being lost.

Looking back now, I think I more fully understand the nature of depression and how easily it can become a way of life. I mean I didn't realize I was lost until I was most thoroughly in the middle of a dense, dark forest, afraid to take another step.

I'm not going to elaborate on the circumstances, since it really is not my story to tell. But it's best I was not communicating during the summer because I probably would have said something I'd be regretting right now.

I relate this because I went to download some photos of the farm where I work from the camera and on it were photos from May and June of a family gathering and of Dark Garden's twin's graduation. It had been that long since there was anything to photograph around here; that long since we all got together for something other than "helping Sisiggy hold it together."

We do, on occasion, take normal family photos

And so here I emerge at the end of September and find Blogland pretty much desolate. Seems no one wants to read anything longer than a Facebook entry. I would probably agree when referring to entries -- such as this one -- totally self-absorbed and self-serving.

I will continue nonetheless, if only for myself; for the same reason I still use a metal drip coffee pot and prefer to write with a fountain pen. If there is anyone left of those who used to read Linguini, you might find me slightly changed -- the forest was rather brutal -- but I'm really just the same old Sisiggy with the same old quirky family.
...same old quirky Heir 2

I like to think I kept the best part of myself and left the rest back in that forest...

I don't know why this photo cracks me up...