All’s Fair in Love & War Paint

 After enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving brunch & dinner with close friends on Thursday, I took advantage of having a few days off to paint the kitchen.  Our kitchen is a large room with high ceilings and overwhelming as it was, I plunged through the monotony of two coats of paint, plus a third to cover up a half wall painting experiment I had done some time ago and now no longer worked. 

Hubby did not partake in this activity although he did accompany me to the hardware store to pick up supplies.  He frowned at my color selection of Arizona Dust and then promptly disappeared into the aisle that seemed to be a magnet for the majority of men and other weekend warriors.  I found him later in said aisle oggling the barbecue grills while an ethereal glow lit his face up like a child gazing into the window of an F.A.O Schwartz toy store.  A few others had joined him and again their faces seemed to be aglow in wonder at the shiny metal contraption in front of them.  “I have this grill,” hubby proudly told them.  The men turned to look at him as if he were their new hero.  At this point I almost announced that it was I that was the bearer of such a great gift a few years ago on his birthday but decided that I did not want to ruin his moment.

Home improvement projects are best done solo in our household.  While there are many things that are done best together, anything involving sprucing up the house is a task that one needs to do while the other half is out of the house.    We were lucky to figure this out early on in our marriage.  Our first major project involved painting the livingroom in two different shades.  While the outcome was gorgeous, the journey there left a bad taste in one’s mouth.  Could it have been the taste of paint? 

After borrowing a sprayer from a friend we began the process of screwing up painting. Hubby pressed the lever while I held a shield-type device to keep the paint from splattering on the ceiling.  Suddenly a stream of paint jutted backwards and hit hubby in the face.  He immediately dropped the sprayer and yelled, “Quick!  Get me a paper towel!”  Once I determined that the paint wasn’t burning his eyes I burst out laughing.  I still have this image of him standing there, knees bent, eyes scrunched closed under a layer of dark brown paint.  He, however, did not see the humor in it.  After a minimal amount of time spent working on the sprayer we decided to give it another go.  This time though, much to my horror, the paint stream shot straight up and splattered the ceiling.  Any humor I had found in our predicament earlier was gone.  Paint in hubby’s eyes, now that was funny.  Paint on the ceiling, not so much.  After an explicit amount of arguing and bickering, I made the executive decision to leave and get a pedicure.  Now let me say, I have found that there is very little a pedicure won’t fix.  Ladies, if you haven’t gotten in on this secret yet, take heed!  I returned a few hours later as a kinder gentler Monsoon, and the livingroom was transformed.  Hubby also got a great big hug, a sorry, and a thank you.

Now flash forward to this past weekend.  Based on past experiences hubby had decided to stay in the Man-Cave and we both agreed that the only time he would help would be when I needed to move the oven and the fridge in order to paint behind them.  He came in a few times to criticize give advice on how I could be doing things.  I will be the first to admit that I have a hard time listening to him on these matters.  I was raised to be very independent which I’m sure plays a big factor in why I got married so late in life in the first place.  I did listen but as Frank Sinatra says, I did it my way.  All in all I think it came out pretty good.  Where the ceilings are tall I was thankful that I didn’t fall off the ladder and other than the occasional ‘hey, be careful, you’re going to fall’ or ‘you’re getting paint on the tile,’ there were no major blow outs. 

Hubby did take advantage of this time to clean out our toaster oven, which is a stainless steel number from Kitchen-Aid that we had received as a wedding gift.  Living in a hot climate this appliance has proven to be a God-send, especially in the summer.  He brought it outside and wiped it down with oven cleaner.  Unfortunately this also wiped off all the letters and numbers on the dials.  How would we know our bake from our broil?  I could have been upset.    Instead, I laughed. 

Then I got a pedicure.

Any Ideas for The December Bake Quest?

A new month is upon us and I wanted to check in and see if anyone had any thoughts on what to include for ingredients in our next Bake Quest.  We could stick with three ingredients

-OR-

where this is a busy time of year for cooking we could just include our favorite recipes that only get dragged out of the recipe box or cookbook right about now.

Thoughts?  Please share and I’ll post the results on Wednesday.

Keeping The Gratitude

 This picture is of the Mayflower replica that the pilgrims took over from England.  I grew up in Massachusetts and was mightily disappointed in my early teen years upon finding out that this was not the real Mayflower.  I guess the first one went back to England and was disassembled for lumber shortly after the famous voyage.

I am not in a good mood today and in fact I’ve had to remind myself several times today that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Usually by now I feel some sense of anticipation but I seem to have a case of the blahs right now.  Regardless, I just read the latest post on Mizunogirl’s blog and she was listing all the things she was thankful for.  It was great to read right now lest I lose sight of so many wonderful things.

This past year has really been filled with so many accomplishments; some on a grand scale and a few others on a lesser scale, but no less important!

Recently  I posted about the evolution of friendships.  I am really grateful for those friends that just naturally fit.  Someone had commented about how those friends bring about peace.  Yeah, I’d have to agree with that 100%. 

During this year I had made a committment to get back into shape.  I lost about 25 lbs (I may be less now but haven’t weighed myself) and completely changed my eating habits.  Because of this I can eat pretty much what I want (within reason) on weekends.  And on top of that I’ve run two 5Ks these last two months.  I hadn’t done one of those since my 20s! 

I have a wonderful job and work in the most amazing building.  In the mornings I pass a fish pond filled with koi and I sit in my own office with a large window that overlooks the sky and treeline.  I work at a very different pace than I have in the past.  I work with good people.  I get along with my boss and co-workers.  In this economy I’m thankful to have a job.  To have the added bonus of liking what I do, now that is a blessing. 

We saved our house this year.  It’s not a big house but it is home.  That was huge. 

In addition, I joined a volunteer organization that helps people out when they’ve hit hard times.  We run a food pantry so as one can guess, this has been a very busy time of year.  There are times I don’t want to go to the meetings during the week.  I’d rather stay at home or do whatever, but once I am there, I find that I don’t want to stop.  There’s something about this organization that keeps the wheels spinning and I find that there is so much more I want to do to help, yet it will never be enough.  I bitched awhile back that I didn’t have a dresser.  Then I met a woman with no furniture and literally saw a child sleeping on a hotel floor in a makeshift bed because she simply didn’t have one. 

We collected turkeys last night outside a local grocery store.  We came away with 41 turkeys, cash donations and non-perishable food donations.  I am grateful that there are those that are willing to donate these things.  Although I don’t hang out with the rest of the volunteers on  a regular basis, I’m grateful for the camaraderie of it, the sheer spirit.  And that is cool.

Its been almost three years since I started blogging and I’m grateful for everyone here.  We really have created a global neighborhood and there is nothing like logging on to see whats going on in your worlds.  I’m grateful to live in a time that this is all possible.  Happy Thanksgiving.  Peace out.

November Bake Quest #1 – Bacon & Blue Cheese Dinner Pie w/Pears

This was incredibly easy to make and very tasty and filling.   The recipe called for tart apples but I substituted pears instead as I think they go better with blue cheese.  This came from the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.

Ingredients:

  • Six slices of bacon
  • 1 8.5oz pkg. corn muffin mix
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 2 pears (recipe called for 3 Granny Smith apples), cored, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Fresh thyme (optional)

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a skillet cook bacon until crisp.  Drain; reserve 1 tablespoon of the drippings.  Chop bacon.

2.)Meanwhile, in a bowl combine muffin mix, flour, chili powder, egg, and milk.  Divide dough into four portions.  Place portions on a greased baking sheet and press to 6 to 7 inch circles.

3.) Top each circle with a layer of apple slices, leaving a 1-inch border.  Fold edges around apple or pear slices.  Brush apples and crust with reserved bacon drippings.

4.) Bake 10 minutes.  Top with blue cheese and bacon; bake 5 to 7 minutes more until edges are golden and the bottom of crust is set.

Substitute: Use leftover shredded chicken or crumbled cooked sausage in place of the bacon. 

     *Note: Even though I had folded the edges up before baking, they flattened out while cooking.  Not sure what I need to do differently to keep that from happening but thought it was worth mentioning.

The Evolution of Friendship

 The past couple years have been interesting.  Its like there is a revolving door with some people entering while others exit.  My husband and I have been married for almost five years.  In the early years of our marriage we often had friends over for barbecues in the backyard.  These were rather large affairs with our last guests sometimes departing at 3am or later (or earlier, depending on how you look at it).  

We’ve both been through so many changes between our work life during the past two years.  I was always the girl that had to be doing something.  Hubby likes to stay in.  I like to go out.  I used to always be the one to plan the office get togethers.  It had even earned me the title ‘Queen Bee’.  People actually  started coming to me to find out what was going on after work at one point.

As my husband and I entered our 40s, something definitely changed.  There seems to be more of a craving for solitude these days than anything else.  I do believe the change came when the economy took a downturn.  Our efforts went from ‘who will we have over for drinks this weekend’ to ‘lets develop a game plan on how we’ll pay the mortgage this month.’  I don’t think I realized how dependent I was, or how whole I felt when I was surrounded by people.  Little did I realize then that time alone was really was what I needed –not necessarily wanted.

Lately though I’ve been in really deep thought about how friendships evolve.  I have a few best friends from childhood that I know we will always be a part of each other’s lives for as long as we live.  Then there are those that you meet randomly through other friends or through a job.  These seem to be the friends that are only there for a season.  I still have a framed picture of myself with two girlfriends on a trip to Mexico during the summer of 2002.  That was one of the last times I had seen either.  Then, new job and new friends.  The cycle repeats.  Looking back makes me feel like an archeologist excavating layers of my life and friendships.  I don’t know why some stay while others go.  And yet it works both ways; why do I hold onto some while others I let float away? 

I have a friend who is generous and kind.  She really has helped out with some kind words and advice and just all around good deeds the past year while my husband was laid off from work several times.  However, now that things are getting better, I noticed that the distance between she and I seems to be growing.  We used to email each other several times during the day and now I’m lucky if I get a response.  I have found a few times when I talk about something positive that’s happened then she retorts with something negative.   I don’t get that.  Is it possible that my vulnerability in the first place is what made me seem like an attractive friend to her?  Or is it that people come into our lives for a reason and for a season?  Maybe this season is turning.

In my late 20s I met a man named Robert.  Robert and I became instant best friends.  It was a strictly plutonic relationship.  He still lives in Boston, where I’m from originally, too, and although we hadn’t talked like we used to, we are the type of friends that can pick up where we left off.  My husband met Robert a few years ago over Guinesses on a visit back east.  Much to my happiness, they hit it off like they too were old friends.  Last Friday Robert called while I was at work.  We started in on a conversation that we both were quite familiar with; his love life.  There was a deju vu to this conversation.  A different woman but the same problem.  Suddenly I am back in that three-decker Boston apartment, haunted as all get out, with my feet propped up against the old farmer’s chair.  The familiarity, the whole volley of our speech, is like it is engrained to every thread of my being.  These friends are the types of people that hold lives together.  

Last week I went into my Facebook account and took inventory.  Anyone local who I had not spoken to outside of a computer in more than a year I cut lose.  It was beginning to get a bit awkward.  So do I still comment on their status even if we don’t talk?  I just cut the cord.  It took a long time to do because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in the end it just felt right.  I was beginning to feel like a stranger observing the lives of others I used to know who were now becoming strangers themselves.

Tuesday evening Robert called again.  He was actually crying this time.  Another old friend of ours has been battling cancer.  Although I hadn’t seen this friend as well in years, I still could never bring myself to delete his number out of my cell.  I broke down and cried, too.  “Why is it we let go of a good friend,” Robert cried.  “Why do we let this happen and lose touch?  Can’t we just pick up the phone?” 

“You’re right,” I said, through my tears.  “We are all guilty of it.” 

The next day I texted Robert to see how he was.  He had a date scheduled with a girl he just met and promised to let me know how things work out.  I started thinking again about how some friends were moving out and some were now moving in, and I felt this hole that was beginning to form in the fabric of my friendships close again.  When I opened up Facebook that afternoon, I saw that Robert had joined and had sent me a ‘Friend Request.’ 

I gladly accepted.