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Weekend Cooking: So, The Refrigerator Broke … (20/99)

Weekend Cooking - New

After driving for nearly six hours and being away for five days,  we came home to a large puddle of water in our kitchen.

The mess was surrounding the refrigerator, so it didn’t take long to figure out the cause of this untimely domestic disaster.

Initially we thought there had been an extended power outage or that one of the doors had been left open by accident. In an attempt to plan ahead, I had cooked Easy Cheesy Ravioli Casserole for dinner earlier that week with the intention of freezing the leftovers for an already-prepared meal when we returned home. One of the last things I did before we left was to move the container of ravioli from the fridge to the freezer.

The temperature in the fridge climbed higher and higher. The Husband hauled bag after bag of rotten food to the trash, including what would have been dinner. For this very reason, I usually try not to have much in the fridge while we’re away, but still — we probably tossed several hundred dollars of food.

I took to the Google to find an appliance repair person.  When none called back or returned my emails (a week later, I’m still waiting for a response), I started pricing refrigerators and checking our credit card balances and measuring the weird space in the kitchen that housed the fridge. (The former owners of this house remodeled the kitchen at one point and the fridge is surrounded by a huge cabinet-like structure.)

A new fridge could be delivered as soon as Thursday.

This was Sunday night.

Needless to say, last week was very, very long.  No milk for our coffee or cereal, no cold drinks, no ice cream.

“We’re living like pioneers!” The Boy complained.

Obviously, not quite. Refrigerators in homes were only invented in 1913, so that’s hardly the pioneer era.  Still, it made me stop for a moment and consider how many everyday things like this we take for granted and how much easier we have it compared to … well, the pioneers.

The fridge arrived as scheduled on Thursday and life has returned to what passes for normal here.

Oh, and the best part?

It was our 23rd wedding anniversary.

Wondering what the traditional gift is for one’s 23rd wedding anniversary? *

It’s not a refrigerator, I can tell you that.

 

*It’s a silver plate. Because, you know, every middle-aged married couple needs a silver plate.

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts.

 

 

 

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #20 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

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On Being a Flyers Girl in a Penguins World (12/99)

Flyers - Pens

Chalk it up to the push-pull effect of place that I always feel when I’m here, but there I was:

Thursday night, solidly back home among everything Philly, hitting refresh on all my social media streams for the final score of the Pens game.

Believe me, I wasn’t sure who I was either.

You see, I’m a Philly girl, born and raised. I love and am proud of my hometown.

Most of the time.

Growing up, mine was not a sports family but it didn’t really matter. If you lived in the Philadelphia of the ’70s and ’80s, it was impossible to not cheer for the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. Sports events became part of our births and christenings, our graduations and weddings, all the milestones that make up a life. Athletes were local celebrities, held up as heroes; on neighborhood streets and school playgrounds, every boy I knew dreamed of being Ron Jaworski, Mike Schmidt, Julius Irving, and Bobby Clarke.

I imagine — no, I know — the youth of Pittsburgh experienced a similar phenomenon. Different names, same dreams.

I completely get it, this passion for the home team when living in a sports-crazed town. Even if you’re not a sports person, which I admittedly am not, this loyalty has a way of seeping into your soul.

This summer will mark five years since we moved to Pittsburgh. Although there are aspects of our lives where we still feel like newcomers — our friendships are peripheral, at best; we don’t have the close relationships we have (had?) in Philly; we still get lost when driving —  in many ways, this city has become home. My kids identify more with being from Pittsburgh than Philly, as this is the longest stretch of time they’ve lived in one place.  They’ve made friends here, my work is here, and hopefully The Husband will again have a job here. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

And speaking for myself, I admit I have embraced most of the Pittsburgh sports teams. I’ll always root for my Eagles, but I admit my cheers are louder for the Steelers.  Our family reluctantly abandoned the Phillies years ago in favor of the Yankees, but I’ve discovered there’s a lot to love about the Pirates.

But the Penguins.

I can’t quite get there with the Penguins.

I think it has something to do with this dichotomy I have of being from one place I love and living in another that also has a hold on my heart. Loyalty to a sports team becomes something tangible when you find your identity and sense of place shifting, as I’ve discovered can so easily happen when you move away.

Maybe that’s why I found myself compulsively checking the Penguins score last night.  Because as much as I cling to the orange and black, and as much as I felt like an imposter for doing so, a part of me craved that sense of belonging, that rootedness of being home.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is Post #12 of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

 

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sunday salon/currently … random thoughts from this week

Sunday Salon banner

A few scattershot thoughts for this week’s Salon:

This weekend marks five years since my first visit to the ‘Burgh, according to Facebook’s “On this Day” feature  — something I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with these days.  This is not a happy milestone. So much has changed in these five years, most of it not for the better. We came here with so much hope and optimism and promise, all of which is gone now.  I think I need to stop these mental trips down Memory Lane because they seem to perpetuate a cycle of “what if?” and “we shouldn’t have.” It’s easy to second-guess decisions made in the past when the future is so uncertain, isn’t it?

Madison Holleran’s story is a reminder that it’s OK not to be OK.  Everyone is fighting a hard battle, even those who appear to have perfect lives on social media and in real life.

Life has gotten in the way of reading (and, to some extent, blogging) so there’s not much to share on that front. And when I do sit down to read, I can’t concentrate on anything and nothing is holding my interest. Shorter works seem to help — essays, some poetry, short stories, back issues of The New Yorker.

This week I finished two things: Season 4 of “House of Cards” (amazing, as always … I looovvvved this season and out of respect to those who haven’t finished watching, I’m not going to say another word!) and Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now edited by Ann Imig. The latter is an anthology of stories shared during previous Listen to Your Mother shows in various cities.

Last weekend was the first rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh 2016 and the first time hearing everyone else’s stories. This show is going to be incredible. The bravery and courage of these women is astounding. Listen to Your Mother cast bios are starting to appear. Meet two of my fabulous co-stars, Erin Hare and Kerry Neville.  (You’ve gotten your tickets to the show, yes?)

The Husband and The Girl went to Disney on Ice last weekend. This is an annual Daddy-Daughter tradition for them, one that started when The Girl was 3. She’s now 14, and we weren’t sure if she felt she’d outgrown this particular event.  As it turned out, this year she wanted to go more than ever.  “After Thanksgiving [when The Husband nearly died], I wasn’t sure whether we would still be able to do this,” she said.

Went to the dentist on Friday afternoon and I only have one cavity! This has not happened since … well, never. To put this in perspective, I had three cavities in one tooth WHEN I WAS THREE YEARS OLD. (And I wasn’t a kid who ate a lot of candy, either.)  The dentist saying that I had one cavity that should be filled ASAP before it requires a root canal/crown was one of the highlights of my week. I’m serious.

Friday was Pittsburgh’s 200th birthday and apparently one of the most pressing civic issues is the lack of high-end cosmetics available in Downtown Pittsburgh. This is a travesty, I tell you. The deprivation is palpable. I fear for the ability of our city to exist for another 200 years if this deplorable injustice doesn’t get rectified soon. Mayor Peduto, please get our city’s best and brightest on this issue, immediately.

Our daffodils started blooming on Thursday, just in time for the cold and snow on this First Day of Spring. They always arrive at the perfect time and they always disappear too quickly. Hopefully they’ll last a little while because they’re such a needed pick-me-up this week.Daffodils - 3-16-2016

 

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currently … wrapping up christmas

Christmas Eve - presents

Christmas Eve, 2015

Currently
It’s our last night of our Christmas vacation in Philly. We’ve been here just shy of a week, enjoying a nice balance of seeing family and friends (usually over brunch or dinner) while also having some downtime (usually spent reading or writing).  It’s always impossible to fit in everyone who we’d like to see and all we’d like to do, but I think it worked out well this time.

Tomorrow’s a travel day back to the “Burgh, then I’m off on Tuesday. Whenever possible, I try to give myself a “re-entry day” on the tail end of these trips. It’s back to work on Wednesday — along with one final dentist appointment this year to use up some insurance dollars — before another few remaining vacation days segue into a long weekend.

Christmas Reading

Like FamilyRDear Mr. You

I admit, I’m scrambling to meet my goal of 52 books read in 2015.  Right now, my tally is 47 (much lower than previous years).  This may be attainable if I stick to shorter books, but I’m not sure.

Reading short books was my strategy for this trip.  So far on this vacation, I’ve read one —Like Family by Paolo Giordano. I was so excited to see this one at the library because I loved (but, sadly, didn’t review) his previous novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers.  I really liked this new one, which I breezed through in a few hours (if that). Told in flashback and set in Italy, it’s about a couple who hire a housekeeper, Mrs. A., to help out during a difficult pregnancy and who stays on as a nanny for several years. After Mrs. A. is diagnosed with cancer, she decides to leave the household abruptly. The book, then, is about how she has changed the course of the couple’s marriage and their lives.

Right now I’m reading Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker, which is incredibly well-written and very likely to be on my favorites list. This exactly the reason why I usually don’t post my best-of lists before year’s end; this time of year often brings more opportunities than usual to read and more often than not, something I read while we finish up this trip around the sun surprises and delights me.  Dear Mr. You is going to be that book. The concept is fantastic: it’s structured as a collection of letters that Ms. Parker has written to each of the significant men in her life.

Christmas Not Reading …
For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed spending part of Christmas week with a holiday-themed story. The timing of this needs to be carefully considered and calibrated; I don’t like to start this particular book much before Christmas Eve and I like to be finished by the day after Christmas. This started in 2011 when I reviewed A Clockwork Christmas, a collection of four steampunk tales.

A Christmas Carol was my 2012 selection, followed by The Chimes last year. (I’m not sure what happened in 2013. Maybe A Christmas Carol again, I don’t know.)  I wasn’t impressed with The Chimes, and I was even less enamored with this year’s selection, The Cricket on the Hearth. Slightly less than halfway through this one, there was still no sign of Christmas in Dickens’ long-winded and discombobulated narrative.  This happened to be one of my Classics Club selections, too (although not the one for this most recent spin), so I’ll probably replace it with something.

Christmas Listening …
Between wrapping gifts and a few bouts of insomnia, I’ve been listening to more podcasts than usual. Here are some of the best:

The Writer’s Almanac: “The Meeting” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (12/25/2015)
Such a perfect poem for Christmas when you’re missing someone special.

Burnt Toast: “Someone Put a Diaper on the Turkey” (12/17/2015)
Listeners’ stories of hilarious holiday disasters involving food.

New Yorker Poetry: Ellen Bass Reads Adam Zagajewski (12/16/2015)
Adam Zagajewski’s poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” resonated with me.

On Being: Martin Sheen: Spirituality of Imagination (12/16/2015)
Fantastic interview with actor and activist Martin Sheen about his spirituality.

“Yeah, the love that I longed for, and I think all of us really long for, is knowing that we are loved. A knowingness about our being that unites us to all of humanity, to all of the universe. That despite ourselves, we are loved. And when you realize that, and you embrace that, you begin to look at everyone else and you can see very clearly who in your vision knows they’re loved and who does not. And that makes all the difference. And I began to give thanks and praise for that love. You know how, so often, people say they go on this journey — and I said it, too — that “I’m looking for God.” But God has already found us, really. We have to look in the spot where we’re least likely to look, and that is within ourselves. And when we find that love, that presence, deep within our own personal being — and it’s not something that you can earn, or something that you can work towards. It’s just a realization of being human, of being alive, of being conscious. And that love is overwhelming. And that is the basic foundation of joy. And we become enviable joyful. And then we see it in others, and we seek to ignite that love in others. You can’t do it. You can’t force someone to realize they’re loved, but you can show them.” – Martin Sheen

The Moth Podcast: Eve Plumb and The Pittsburgh StorySLAM (12/15/2015) 
Eve Plumb (you know her as Jan Brady) is hilarious in this episode of The Moth where she shares stories about her childhood on and off the set of The Brady Bunch, and her relationship with her mother. In another story (not involving Eve Plumb or Jan Brady), a slideshow of photos intended for an audience of two winds up being shown at a family gathering.

Christmas Shopping …
The Husband, The Girl, and I all received some great books for Christmas — and The Girl and I went on a little bit of a shopping spree (thanks to her Christmas cash burning a hole in her pocket) at two local independent bookstores.  I need to wrap up this post, though, and get to bed, so I’ll plan on doing that recap separately.

Anticipating … 
I can’t believe this is the last Sunday Salon/Currently for 2015!  I really like doing these posts (even though they tend to take me forever) and in looking back over my blogging this year, oftentimes they’ve been the only posts I’ve written in a particular week.  I’m hoping to remedy that in 2016.

In addition to the book haul from this week, I have a few other fun posts planned.  Hope your holidays were good ones and that you have a great last week of 2015!

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sunday salon: so, today we’re gonna party like it’s blog post #1,999

The Sunday Salon

Indulge me, my friends, if I seem more nostalgic than usual today, which I am.  Undoubtedly, this is the result of seeing too many Facebook photos of high school and college friends schlepping the equivalent of several Bed, Bath and Beyond stores into dorms that only merely resemble the SINGLE room that I moved into WITH TWO OTHER ROOMMATES nearly three million decades ago.

For whatever reason, there seems to be more than the usual number of these photos – of which I am not complaining, except for the fact that they are making me feel So. Fucking. Old.

Learning
Coincidentally (or not so much) I’ve discovered the world of MOOCs (massive online open courses) – which, yes, I know have been around for quite some time now. As I tend to do with every new shiny toy I come across, I’ve been going a little overboard signing myself up for free online courses. I’m currently enrolled in four such classes and a few others starting later this fall.

This weekend, I’m trying to finish up Literature of the English Country House which was offered through the University of Sheffield in the UK (and which ended earlier this month) and Childhood in the Digital Age through The Open University, which ends this week. I’m enjoying the former more; we’re dipping into excerpts from Jane Austen, Dickens and Oscar Wilde and looking at the houses that inspired their work.

My newest course is Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction, taught by Bruce Holsinger of the University of Virginia. This just started but already seems intense in a way that I love; at 8 weeks long and with a lot of readings, it feels like a literature course I would have taken in college.

Reflecting
I don’t need a therapist to tell me that these indulgences are no coincidence, given my mental rewinding of the videotape of my own glory days. Without getting into details that I’m not allowed to write about publicly, suffice it to say that there has been a great deal of reflection in our house lately about choices we’ve made or didn’t make, paths we pursued and those left untrodden.

It could also be the new start that is the school year itself; my kids start 8th grade this week. I am extremely conscious that their own “real world” paths of college or what have you are only five years away. It is the most infinitesimal sliver of time, I know this, but sometimes it seems as if there is a chasm between here and there.

Celebrating
A week ago, this blog celebrated its 7th anniversary. Today’s post happens to be a milestone, too: it’s blog post #1,999. Two thousand posts seems like something to celebrate and I feel like I should be commemorating this. I’ve been kicking around an idea in my mind and the 2,000th post might be a good time to announce it. Stay tuned.

Reading and Reviewing
Not too much to report on the reading front this week. I breezed through The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity by Carrie Bloomston. (I’m thisclose to reaching my goal for the library’s adult summer reading program, so I needed something relatively short.) It’s part motivation, part how-to/workbook, and part inspiration for jump-starting your “little spark” of creativity. I also finished True Stories, Well Told which I mentioned in last week’s Salon post.

The Picture of Dorian GrayStill listening to The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I have less than 100 pages left, so this will likely be finished up this week. I’m reading a new YA novel for a review I’m doing for Cleaver Magazine, and another review was just accepted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and is scheduled to appear next Sunday.

Creating
Speaking of creating, we’re looking into ways of re-configuring our basement family room/game room area. This is a ridiculously underutilized space in our house.  My overflowing bookshelves live there, my even messier scrapbooking table is there, and aside from the kids going downstairs to watch TV every once in awhile, the entire space is really a glorified storage unit. It would be an interior designer’s dream, seriously. We’re looking into how best to expand the home office space by adding a desk and bookshelves for The Husband.

It seems as if there is a lot going on … and I guess there is. Right now, though, I’m savoring this quiet, late summer day on the deck with one of the most picture-perfect days that Pittsburgh has to offer, while trying not to live too much in the distant past or the uncertain future, but right here, in these small but monumental moments.

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The Sunday Salon: Food for Thought

The Sunday Salon

I’ve been awake since 3:50 a.m., and all I have to show for the past six hours is: a) a few sentences written on an essay I may or may not submit for possible publication (it’s due today); b) several perusals of Facebook; c) reading The Boy’s latest evaluation from school in preparation for a new IEP; and d) this post.

Yay, me.

Planning to do a few de-cluttering/re-organizing/cleaning projects around the house today. It’s looking like we’re in for a rainy day, perhaps even with some thunderstorms, making it the perfect day for such chores. My approach to housework is that I ignore things up to a certain point and then deal with them when I can’t handle the mess any longer.

On the agenda today is the pantry, which could use a bit of re-organization because things have just been thrown in there half-assed, I’m buying duplicates of stuff, I’m spending too much time looking for basic ingredients … the whole thing is out of control. And the family room/den/office area is way overdue for some attention, bigtime.

Animal Vegetable Miracle

Speaking of food, my current audio book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver. My first reaction was that this didn’t seem any different from other books and blogs promoting eating locally-grown, in-season food  – and then I remembered that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was published in 2007, before concepts like farm-to-table and eating what’s currently available were household words.  Seven years later, it’s still relevant and worth reading because there are still people who don’t understand this.

Case in point: yesterday at ALDI, I was in the checkout line and the ever-so-pleasant cashier asked the customer ahead of me if she found everything she needed.

“Yes, but you don’t have any strawberries,” she stated.

The ALDI cashier replied, “Right. They’re all done for the summer.”

The customer looked dumbfounded at this. First of all, if you want strawberries at the end of September, you shouldn’t be shopping at ALDI. Go a few miles up the road to the chain supermarket and spend $6 for eight ounces of strawberries that were trucked in from 3,000 miles away.

(I’ll give the customer the benefit of the doubt: maybe she was making a special dessert or something. But, still. If that’s the case, that’s not the week to go to ALDI.)

What’s interesting is reading this not far removed from finishing Flight Behavior. I knew much of that novel was borne from Kingsolver’s own experience on her family’s farm, but Animal, Vegetable, Miracle really shows the genesis of that story.

The Sparrow

I’m still making progress with The Sparrow and am almost to the halfway pointI’m participating in The Sparrow Readalong and summed up most of my thoughts thus far in the mid-point post. It’s still keeping my interest, but at page 160 I’m getting a bit antsy to find out what the hell happens. I have a sense of what’s to come, but enough foreshadowing and whatnot already: let’s get on with it.

Same with this Sunday. On with it already.

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seems like years

Daffodils - 3-8-2014

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear…” 

“Here Comes the Sun” ~ The Beatles, written by George Harrison

Indeed, it has been a long, cold lonely winter and it does seem like years since it’s been clear enough to get up the driveway, much less spot these daffodil tips in the front yard this afternoon.

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