every girl needs a greek chorus

a blog about hope


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[Your Name Here]’s Butternut Squash Soup

For Elaine

No one in their right mind makes soup in the summer, unless it’s Vichysoisse or gazpacho or a fresh tomato with saffron and rice (Julia Child & Simone Beck’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Volume Two – p. 20, “Potage Magali”).

Ha-ha-ha!  You thought I was going to say, “except me” but, no, even I don’t make soup in the summer.  I will pull it out of the freezer and reheat it.  And on this hot summer day, I have pulled out one of the heartiest, Butternut Squash.

I only make it once a year, in the fall, in time for Thanksgiving, because it seems so Martha Stewart-y to serve my guests the first festive course in tiny little demitasse cups in front of the fire in my living room.  I only give you a miniscule serving and pour the remainder into zippered freezer bags to enjoy throughout the winter.  I’m selfish that way.

When you make something only once a year and don’t use a recipe, you have to rely on your sense memory to get it just right.  But much of cooking is sense memory, isn’t it?  How did it smell?  How did it taste?  How thick was it?  Creamy or chunky?  Tart or sweet?

I can still taste a dessert that I had at the Hôtel Albert Ier in Chamonix in 1989.  I’ve never had anything like it since.  I was so delirious from the experience that I stole the menu and had to dig it out to get the name.  The hotel and restaurant are still there, but the website doesn’t offer current dessert features.

I saw the words “vanille,” “glace” (ice cream), and “miel” (honey), but when I tasted it, I was transported to every Christmas of my life.  I said to the waiter, “What kind of ice cream is this?  It tastes like Christmas!”

“Madame, it is from the Christmas tree, the juice of the pine tree.”

Being frozen, it had no scent, so I was completely dazzled that the taste and not the aroma brought up the memories. (Yes, I understand that smell and taste are linked, thank you.)  We’ve all smelled Christmas trees and candles and potpourri and soap, but I’ve never put them in my mouth.  Googling the phrase “miel de sapin” from the menu, I see that it more accurately means “fir” or “spruce,” and my family always had a blue spruce tree.  So, there you are!  Although I have never seen it on a menu again, I can still taste it.

So, now I’ve been asked to share my recipe for Butternut Squash soup, and I must give you my disclaimer.  I remember what I put in it and the process, but I’m not certain of the exact quantities, because I only make it once a year.  I know, I know what you’re saying, “I hate those people who say, ‘oh, I just throw in a little of this and a little of that.’”  But it’s true.  Give it a try, taste as you go along, and adjust it to make it your own.

How often do you make something and think, “What’s not-quite-right?”  If the Granny Smith apples make it too tart, add a little more brown sugar.  If you don’t like spicy, omit the chipotle and/or cool the heat with a little extra cream.  Don’t use alcohol?  I use it to add depth and richness.  Maybe another parsnip.

[Your Name Here]’s Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle – makes 4-5 quarts

[Chipotle powder lends a sweet, smoky flavor to the soup, but use it sparingly.  I once used too much and had to pour heavy cream into the soup every time I reheated it.  What a shame!]

2 pounds peeled butternut squash chunks (I buy 2 pounds already peeled and cut into chunks.)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
½ cup coarsely chopped sweet onion
2 quarts unsalted, fat-free chicken stock
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon powdered cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of ground chipotle powder (or to taste, a little goes a long, hot way)
2 Tablespoons dark rum
1 Tablespoon very dry sherry
1 Tablespoon Armagnac or cognac
1 cup heavy cream
Optional garnish:  toasted, chopped pecans; crumbled, fried & drained Andouille sausage; duck confit

Butternut squash soup 1In a 6-quart stock pot, combine squash, apples, carrots, parsnips, onions, and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 20 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend the apple-vegetables until smooth, making sure that any “strings” of parsnips are removed or blended.  (Alternatively, you can remove the apple-vegetables from the broth and blend in a food processor or blender, with a little of the broth, until smooth.)

Over low heat, stir in sugar until well-blended, then stir in nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cayenne, and chipotle (to taste).  Stir in rum, sherry, and Armagnac.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in heavy cream and heat without boiling.  Adjust sugar, alcohol, spice, and salt to taste.

Ladle into individual containers and garnish, if desired.

And if you’re into wine, I always serve it with a Gewürztraminer.

When cool, ladle into freezer bags or containers.  Reheat and then garnish.


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When I’m 64

test-pattern baltimoreI’ve been on the fritz.

For four months.

I tried whacking myself upside the head. I’ve shaken myself.  Jiggled the handle.  Twisted the antenna.  Rebooted.  Let it rest.  Poked it.

I was stuck.  Frozen.  That gray buzzing swirled around me.  My test pattern burned before my eyes.  [If you’re under 50, google “test pattern.”]

But today, as I lay in bed with the perpetual mist and gloom that winter and spring became this year, I was jump-started, as good as if someone stood over me with de-fib paddles.  It’s my birthday.  I’m 64, today, and this isn’t what I was expecting.

In my fondest childhood dreams, I was sure that I’d be an actor or a writer.  Not quite, although I am, in my heart, a darn fine actor, if someone needs a 64-year old actress, which no one does.  I could still be a writer, if I were more disciplined.  Ahhh.  Discipline.  Something I never quite learned.

In my defense, I’ve been writing these past four months, but I haven’t finished anything.  20 beginnings and no endings.  As usual, I have plenty to say (Karma, bad weather, grief, politics, my neck), it alternated between angry and maudlin.  Blog-writing is self-indulgent (no editorial oversight), and we should all be grateful that I self-censored the drama that plays out in my head.

Instead, I ate.  I went back to potatoes, pasta, pastry, and real Coke.  In the depressing doldrums of this gloomy winter past, I gained five pounds in three weeks.  No Zumba.  No planking.  Did you know that you easily can gain five pounds in three weeks, but you can’t lose them as easily in 10?  A month ago, I went back to planking, 3 minutes a day, so my “core” is stronger, but it doesn’t get rid of the flab that covers my hard work.  sigh

When I awoke this morning, I allowed myself 10 minutes of maudlin thinking.  I started that when The Veterinarian went over the Rainbow Bridge.  I allowed myself 20 minutes to grieve (only in the morning) and then forced myself to get up and get moving.

This morning’s weather was gray and damp and whispered,

“It’s our birthday.  We’re gloomy and shouldn’t have to do anything we don’t want to do today, because it’s our birthday.  Our 64th birthday.  Let’s just wallow in bed in our foggy misery.”

Fortunately, My BFF jumped on the bed demanding to go out and to be fed, as she does every morning, which has saved me, really, these many months.  You can’t be too self-indulgent, when you’re responsible for others.

Birthday 1962

June 4, 1962, at 10 years old, always a flower from a different field.

And then it also hit me.  I’m not dead yet.  This is the rest of my life.  I’m not going to just sit and look out the window all day.  My life isn’t over.  For better or worse, I see many more years ahead.  My Mother will be 89 in October.  Her sister was just 90 in January.  One of her cousins is 93.  Like me, they’re all short women, all “ornery,” as a man I know describes me.  All with the same high blood pressure and cholesterol that I have.  I see my future, 30 more years, probably.  So, how shall I spend it?

In the arts, of course.  I started studying a new version of an old dream. I’ve plunged into ballroom dance with my bad knees and attitude, bringing my smart mouth and lots of ballet and modern dance technique and skills that frequently hinder me.  Of course, years of being immune to making a fool of myself onstage comes in handy.  After all, I once played a salmon swimming upstream to spawn in “The Life Cycle of a Salmon.”  Wearing an elegant gown covered in Swarovski crystals has that beat by an ocean of elegance.

Inspired by a friend who found satisfaction in ballroom dance during a tumultuous struggle of her own, I found some lovely people who, later in life, discovered the world of glitz and glamor in which I’ve been living since I first danced in a petticoat and My Mother’s costume jewelry for My Dad’s movie camera, 60 years ago.  When I’m dancing, I’m a vision of grace in the movie that plays in my head.  Well, I’m content until I hear, “Close your thighs, Suzanne.”  “Girls up, Suzanne.”  “Don’t turn out, Suzanne.”  When I hear that, I’m transported to a ballet studio in a drafty hall and hear, “Straighten your knees, Suzanne.” “Elbows up, Suzanne.”  “Turn out, Suzanne.”  Nothing is ever going to be perfect.  And that’s ok.

I’m back in a place where I’m happy not being perfect. Well, kind of.  I still have high expectations of myself, but it’s a place that feels comfortable and familiar; a place where “Standards” are kept (no swearing, no jeans) and irony revered; a place where the lights are low on Saturday practice evenings, so we all look our best.  It’s a place where I’ve been described as “A Flower from a Different Field,” a description so lovely and so apt that I’ve taken it on as my personal motto, although My Mother reminds me that it could mean a weed.  Oh, well.  Someone’s weed is someone else’s flower.

Plus, I’ve found something new to write about!

Date Update

Well, no dates. I turned off the matchdot com account in February after I received an email from a man whose screen name was Brett of Fresh Aire[1] and whose profile photo showed a man frowning.  After studying the photo and profile for a few minutes, I realized he wasn’t being ironic, intentionally.  That’s when I realized that I wasn’t going to find a flower in the field of online dating.

I met a nice couple in dance class who met online, but “nice” is the key word.  I’m “A Flower from a Different Field.”  And that’s ok. Independent. Bossy.   Cranky.  Ornery. Whatever.  I meet lots of men at dance class, all of whom are happily married or outside of my age group.  That’s not why I dance.

I also got an email from a guy at a “consumer protection” website a few weeks ago and another follow-up last week.  He claimed to have read my dating posts and wanted to know if I wanted to do something with a consumer protection column about online dating.  I say “something” because it’s not clear to me what he wanted.  It didn’t seem that they were going to pay me to either submit my posts or link to my blog, so I wasn’t interested.  I pointed out that my experience is entirely negative, which does not make for a helpful, unbiased review.  Now, if they want to cough up some money, which would help pay for my ungodly expensive new hobby, I would reconsider.

Birthday 1982

June 4, 1982, 30 years:  We shared a birthday, separated by 17 hours.

Today, I’m 64.  To borrow from Paul McCartney (also a Gemini), I could use a handy someone to “mend a fuse when [my] lights have gone” or [do] the garden, [dig] for weeds, but where I’m moving, there aren’t any fuses and someone else will tend the lawn and remove the snow.  Still, a handy someone showing up with “birthday greetings” and a bottle of Champagne would be welcome at my door.

But don’t come tonight or ever, without an invitation.  Tonight, I’m happy to enjoy a Margarita at my favorite Mexican restaurant with my family and, later, a little dancing with friends in that different field, so, who am I to complain?  Life is still good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Angelina Jolie!  See:   Twins


[1] I made that up.  Any resemblance to persons known or unknown is strictly coincidental, but, if the shoe fits…


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Thanks, Sadie Hawkins!

Sadie_Hawkins_DayLookit that story o’ po’ liddle brown-headed, freckle-face Sadie Hawkins and her pappy who had t’ use a gun and a foot-race t’ git her a man ‘cuz ever’body knows a gal cain’t git her a man with brown hair and sunspots! [sound of head shaking]

Evidentally, ah’ve been-a goin’ ‘bout findin’ me a man all wrong, but it turns out now’s mah big chance t’ ketch me one, on account o’ tis Leap Year.  Yessiree, Bob.  Once in ev’ry foh years, on th’ twenny-nine o’ Febooary, th’ womens gits to chase after th’ mens.  Yo’ see, if-n ah grabs one o’ ’em, ah gets t’ keep ‘im, and he’ll be mah husband.  Uh-huh.  [sound of rocks rattling in empty head]

Ah’m-a scratchin’ mah noggin’ cuz ah cain’t figger out how ahm-a gonna grab sumbuddy on th’ innernet.  How do that work? Or do ah jes’ sit atta traffic light and jump outta mah car and grab the fuhst cutie pie ah sees? Ah needs me a strata-gee.  Mebbe ah could sit at a fancy coffee joint and snare one.  [sound of wheels squeaking in head]

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Spinster?!!!! How times change!

Ah done tried this here idear when ah was in skool, and unlike that purdy big ole yeller-headed Daisy Mae who kept a-chasin’ after that lummox Li’l Abner, ah done caught Th’ Vet’narian.  (Well, he wern’t no vet’narian then, jes’ a kid in mah soshiology class.)  ‘Cuz ah ain’t had no fellers aksin’ me out, ah took a chance and aksed him to th’ “Spinster Dance.”  [sound of gagging]

Spinster dance (2)

17-year old spinster looking for a date

Now ah finds mahself in a simian pradickyment, only ah’s a widder.  Ah done tried that new-fangled innernet datin’ where mens mah age wastes mos’ o’ th’ time a-lookin’ fer skinny yunguns, and mens ol’ enuff t’ be mah pappy is a-lookin’ fer a nursemaid.  Hmph!  Go figger, on account o’ I shorely cain’t.  What’s a gal t’ do? [sound of head scratching]

Ah’m a-thinkin’ that if-n it worked once, it mebbe could work twice, ‘specially now what it’s Leap Year and all. Ah’s goin’ t’ a shindig on Sadie Hawkins Day, Febooary twenny-nine, at an Eye-talian rest’raunt where unattached fellers laze about wit’ moonshine, so mebbe mah luck’ll change fer th’ bedder.  [sound of cackling]

Boys, better start a-runnin’!

 

 


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Dining Hazards

IMG_0529 (2)Blog writers take a lot of flak for writing self-indulgent nonsense, sort of like people who post photos of everything they eat on Facebook.  I uniquely am guilty of both.  On a day when I am still somewhat homeless (I made it home from Grand Cayman but cannot get to my house for the 33” of snow that clogs my lane — you and I aren’t done yet, Karma), I offer photos of food that crossed my path on vacation and a lame little explanation to go with them.

I have waxed poetic about my weird food fetishes. For example, I don’t eat fruit, except Smucker’s grape jam (not jelly), Key Lime pie, and the occasional raspberry coulis, provided it has been seeded, strained through a fine sieve, and adequately sweetened.  And wine.  I drink wine, fruit of the vine and all that.

One of my big taboos, which I know others share, is food touching other food on my plate.  I should clarify.  Food that is supposed to touch other food is acceptable; eg, gravy on mashed potatoes, Béarnaise on steak, the aforementioned raspberry coulis under (not over) a fine dark chocolate dessert, aged Balsamic drizzled on pan-roasted salmon (I’m really craving at the moment).

But I get nervous when cole slaw runs onto my fries or guacamole slips onto my refried beans or a Kosher pickle spear touches the rye bread on my corned beef brisket sandwich.  I am the kid at the party who won’t eat the birthday cake, if the ice cream touches it.

Someone once told me to push my last pea into my mashed potatoes so I could pick it up.  Sure.  I could pick it up that way, but I would never put it in my mouth, much less swallow it.

Buffets are a nightmare.  I don’t take anything “runny” that might infect another, unrelated item on my plate, so I’m one of those guests that the waitstaff hates because I use too many plates.  I want my bread in its own space, so it doesn’t get mushy on one edge and so the butter doesn’t come into contact with a potential pollutant.

Traveling is always a culinary adventure, unless I’m going to France, where I’ve never seen a French chef put something on a plate that didn’t make sense (except the rognons de veau, veal kidneys).  The Veterinarian would eat anything (except rognons de veau), so he was the perfect dining companion (except the day I accidentally ordered rognons de veau).  If I couldn’t eat something, he almost always could.  The Daughter is a little pickier, but her culinary adventurous beau was a welcome dining companion.

Here’s a visual chronicle of dining in the quiet East End of Grand Cayman, including a buffet hazard at one of our favorite Caymanian restaurants.

Nothing revives me after an arduous day of traveling like an adult beverage.  With a healthy dose of Cuban rum, I don’t even care that my hair is frizzy and about to stand on end in the warm breeze.  On our first night, we only had the strength to sit on the deck at the resort’s Eagle Ray’s bar and grill and order ribs and lionfish tacos.  Lionfish are that beautiful, multi-spined fish native to the Pacific that has invaded the Atlantic and Caribbean, from Maine to South America, where it has no predator.  Not even sharks will eat them, so they are reproducing and gobbling up native fish with abandon.

Geared to scuba diving and sensitive to the health of our oceans, Ocean Frontiers, our resort, and many others in the Caribbean, now cull them by spearing and selling them to restaurants.  Once they are dead and their spines are removed, they are benign, their meat pale white, very mild, and not especially firm.  It is popular in ceviches and tacos.

The Daughter opted to treat us to Sunday brunch at Tukka, a “native fusion” restaurant, whose owner and head chef, Aussie Ron Hargrave, brings together kangaroo and crocodile meat and local seafood with Caribbean influences.  Right over the beach, it’s been a favorite of ours since it opened and boasts a lavishly painted chair in honor of celebrity guest Taylor Swift.

You can see the dilemma on my appetizer plate.  At “one o’clock,” the lion fish “lollipop” (lightly battered with a nice little garnish to give it flavor) hugs the rim, well away from the Caesar salad below it (I shudder to have salad on the same plate with the appetizers), which nudges two potstickers filled with ground pork and bathed with a soy-and-sesame sauce, avoiding the potato salad above.  Sitting primly at “noon” is a tuna roll, with accompanying wasabi, pickled ginger, and a dollop of wakame (seaweed salad).

Of course, since there was enough Champagne to wash it all down, I didn’t notice that my excellent ribs nudged the roast beef and the delicate Mahi Mahi.  As for the rice, it doesn’t matter what it touches.  Rice is rice.  Oh!  And I just had to have another potsticker, this one with a chili sauce.

I never have trouble picking a dessert.  I chose these two little dishes because I liked the blue color of the glass and porcelain.  On the left is a white pudding dotted with yellow corn kernels, that was lightly sweetened and topped with chopped nuts.  On the right is a traditional cake made from cassava, a root which, when ground, is the source of tapioca.  Here, it is grated and mixed with coconut milk, brown sugar, butter, and spices into a dense cake topped with grated coconut.  Yummmmeeeee!

For breakfast, we trekked to a funky little place, the Over the Edge Café, whose deck is, indeed, over the edge of a reef at Old Man Bay, just before the ocean plunges thousands of feet.  Not a big breakfast eater, I always have the French toast.  The Daughter opted for a scrambled egg, cheese, and salsa-filled quesadilla.  But the adventurous eater amongst us won the prize when he ordered a “traditional Jamaican breakfast of Codfish and Ackee.”  Bless his heart!

It turned out to be a plate of eggs scrambled with codfish, bell peppers, onions, and ackee, a tree fruit from West Africa that was imported from Jamaica to England by Captain William Blighe, that same ill-fated commander of HMS Bounty.  We found the ackee tasteless and a little chewy.  Accompanying it were some cooked greens and a lot of starch, plantains, a little sausage-shaped banana pudding, and some delightful fried dough, reminiscent of beignets, especially when I dragged mine through the mound of powdered sugar from my French toast.

One of my favorite pizzas is topped with arugula, and the Italian Kitchen, which brought brick-oven pizza (and more fine wine) to the East End, adds prosciutto.  They also serve upscale Italian food and fresh seafood, including a fabulous risotto with lobster and shrimp that was just beyond this year’s vacation budget (once we had to spend four extra nights on the island, thanks to the blizzard of 2016).

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Yes, I cooked.  I made The Daughter’s favorite lasagna.  I made a Key Lime pie.  I made Chicken Tarragon salad on croissants.  I made caramelized onions to top the cheddar cheeseburgers that the “kids” grilled.  And on our last night, I turned the broth from cooking the chicken for the salad into chicken noodle soup.  I used the last of the onion, celery, and carrots to flavor it and cracked up unused, uncooked lasagna noodles into the broth.  It was fabulous, but, on vacation, everything tastes better, and nothing has any calories, right?

Finally, as I changed planes in Charlotte, I had my favorite airport meal, Brookwood Farms’ “real pit-cooked bbq,” pulled pork on a great toasted bun with the cole slaw safely on the side. I ate every bite with my hands and licked the “Carolina vinegar sauce” off my sticky little fingers.  I can see why it’s “the Official Barbeque of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.”

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All in all, it was a good vacation; four extra days of sunshine and good eating, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo Gloria!


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Mortals and Angels and Karma

Note:  Tonight, some of my dearest friends are singing at Carnegie Hall in the world premiere of a new work, “Mortals & Angels:  A Bluegrass Te Deum.”  I should be there.  This is why I am not.  Love and all good wishes, my friends, for a wonderful performance!

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Karma slumped onto her cloud, exhausted.  It had been a busy day.  She closed her eyes against the glare of an exploding nova and drifted into a reverie of mayhem until awakened by an icy blast in her ear.

“What the f—?”  She swatted at her head.

“Need to chill, baby?”  Old Man Winter whispered, sending brilliant crystals of snow shimmering over her face.

“You need to do something about that breath,” Karma held up her hands and created a wall of sunshine between them.

“Aw, baby, you’re hurting my feelings.  Tell Old Man Winter all about it.”

“I’ve spent all week hounding this woman who keeps dodging me,” she pouted.  “You know her.  The Heroine of Hope?”

“You mean ‘Suzie Sunshine’?    I like watching her bob-and-weave.  She’s spunky, puts up a good fight. You’ve been after her for six decades.  Maybe you should ease up on her already.”

“Like you should talk,” Karma spat fire at Old Man Winter.  “Remember what you did to her last winter?”

“Has it been a year already?”  He plucked at the sleet in his beard.  “Time flies.  Last winter, I turned her lane into a sheet of ice for 10 days.  She had to park her car up by the road and hike in and out, day and night.  I heard that mice got in and destroyed the wiring.  $6,500 worth.  Took five weeks to get a part from Japan.”

“The shipping fiasco was my doing,” Karma smirked.

“Well, I really can’t take credit for what rodents will or won’t do.  And her damned insurance company picked up the cost of the damage, like a good neighbor.”

“By the gods eternal, I hate that woman,” Karma hissed.

“What’s the problem now?”

“It’s the vacation thing, again,” she sighed, as he blew through her fiery wall and sent an icy shiver down her spine.  “I tried to keep her from getting away.  First, I covered Miami International Airport in fog, but The Sun came off its throne and burned it off after two hours.”

“Bummer.”

“My fault, entirely,” Karma admitted.  “I didn’t realize that all the flights would be delayed, so her connection was delayed, too.”

“What did you do?”

“When her plane landed, I kept all the other planes at their gates, so there was no room for her at the inn, so to speak.  She had to squirm in her seat — in an exit row, by the way, I don’t know how she got that lucky — while the plane waited on the taxiway for almost an hour until a plane at another concourse got tired of waiting and left.”

“Still, she couldn’t have had time to make the connection, could she?”

“You wouldn’t have thought so.  With 10 minutes to departure, she had to take the monorail from one end of Concourse D to the other, then run through that ridiculously long hallway to Concourse E.  THEY HELD THE FLIGHT!!!  Can you believe it?  Who does this woman know that holds flights for her?”  She collapsed on his lap, cooling off her super-charged ego.

“There, there, baby, you can’t win them all.”

“Don’t patronize me!”  She sat up.  “That’s not the end of it.  I whispered a little Spanish into a certain friend’s ear, and the Cuban air force took to the skies to practice air maneuvers, which halted every plane scheduled to fly over his airspace.”

“Impressive friends you have!” Old Man Winter inched away from her.

“He doesn’t want to aggravate his New-Found Friends in Washington, so she only sat at Miami for another hour, waiting to take off.”

“And then, what did you do?”

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All I need is a swim suit.

“I made sure her luggage didn’t get on her flight, but the woman had her bathing suit and toiletries in her carry-on, so she didn’t care.  She FREAKING DIDN’T CARE.”

“So much work for so little,” his pale eyes locked tenderly on hers.

“The last straw was when I screwed with her laptop so it wouldn’t connect to the internet, and, instead, she just wrote her precious blog posts on her iPhone,” a shimmering tear rolled down her face.

“Maybe we could work together,” he caressed her hair with a gentle breeze.

“How so?”  Karma massaged the frozen tears on her face.

“They’re having a warmer-than-usual winter on the East Coast,” he began, “so I was thinking they needed a little wake-up call.”

“But don’t you usually do that in February?”

“’Keep the meteorologists off guard,’ I always say,” he chuckled.  “Suppose we scoop up all this warm, tropical air and send it north?”

“Yeah, but isn’t that a repeat of her vacation in 2010?  And 1995, 1996, 1993, and 1978?  Just to name a few.”

“When is Suzie headed home?”

“Well, she’s cutting her vacation short this year to sing at Carnegie Hall.  She’s flying to Philadelphia on Friday, via Charlotte, spending the night in Philly, and taking the train to New York on Saturday morning.”

Old Man Winter nodded as she spoke.  “We’ll see about that.  If I send freezing rain to Charlotte on Friday, even if she could get to Philly, that gives me time to dump a load of snow on them, so she can’t get to New York on Saturday.”

“Pure Genius!”  Karma ignored the prickling of icicles as she held her cheek close to his.

“Baby, with age comes wisdom,” his icy fingers encircled her heart as they lay back on her cloud.

On Thursday, the airline cancelled Suzie’s flights and rescheduled them for the following Tuesday.  She was sad to miss being a part of a world premiere performance of a work entitled “Mortals and Angels” at Carnegie Hall.  While greatly consoled by spending four extra days in the sunshine, Suzie worried about her BFF, her family and friends, and especially about the power lines and that long, long lane to her house.

On Friday, Old Man Winter conjured up enough hot air to create freezing rain at the airport in Charlotte. He howled and blew snow from the Carolinas to New York.  With Karma by his side, the snow fell faster and thicker, until, by midnight on Saturday, Maryland was covered with more snow than had ever been recorded in a two-day period, a whopping 30” in some places, obliterating the presence of roads, and, while all the airports closed for four days, the power held.

In Grand Cayman, on Monday, her laptop miraculously connected to the internet all by itself, and Suzie held her breath — in the warm sun — waiting for Tuesday …

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Karmically Challenged 

What I do all day—you thought I was reading “War and Peace?”

Today is Tuesday, or as I refer to it, “Post Something on Your Blog, or You’re a Big Loser” Day.  Unfortunately, since I’ve arrived on Grand Cayman, I can’t get my laptop to connect to the resort’s wi-fi.  (It connected easily the past two years.)  My iPhone is connected, as is my Kindle.  The Daughter’s Android is connected, and neither she nor her beau nor I can solve the mystery.  I am typing on my iPhone.  (See how dedicated I am?)

I blame it on Karma.  My trip down was an unmitigated pain in the you-know-what, but that’s always to be expected (see “Fly with Me, If You Dare“).  I was going to write about it, but Karma won’t let me.  My priest, jokingly (I think), says I need to call the bishop for an exorcism.  (Which, incidentally, I could use for the last decade of my life.)

These are all “First World Problems,” and I need to shut up about it.  I am well aware that, despite my life’s challenges, disappointments, grief, lawsuits, and heartbreak, I lead a charmed life.  Just this morning, a friend back home told me the temp was only 8, with a windchill of -5.  Yes, yes, friends in Michigan, I know that sounds balmy to you.  I have no idea what it is here, where I sit by the pool in my bikini.

Or maybe it’s just the Havana Club rum talking (which is how I get the nerve to sit in public in a bikini…that and the fact that there are no people around).

So far, I’m enjoying myself.  I haven’t had to pay for anything except the aforementioned rum (children can be such a blessing), but, to earn my keep in my own vacation retreat, (where I get the master suite), I also made lasagne for dinner, and my Key Lime Pie for dessert, while they are hiking.  Blech!  You couldn’t get me to hike without a cattle prod (which is why no men want to date me — so take heart— apparently, looking passable in a bikini at my age is not as important to divorced/widowed geezers as hiking and kayaking.  

Sudden thought:  what does a bikini imply that they may not be up for, if you get my drift?  I’ll have to think about that.  And NO!  I only post tasteful photos of myself.

Karma is not done with me, yet.  It seems there will be a significant snowstorm on Friday, when I’m scheduled to fly to Philadelphia via Charlotte, and on to NYC on Saturday.

Let’s spin Karma’s wheel (mixed metaphor?) and see where I spend Friday night…Charlotte?  Philly?  Or will Karma take pity on me and let me stay in Grand Cayman for one more night?

On the other hand, to cheer you up, it was supposed to rain here today, but the sun is shining, so, who am I to complain?  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo gloria!


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Rationalizing Resolutions

I’m so glad winter is here.  I didn’t think I would be, but I had a rough holiday season.  I overate at parties and dinners and a tea and three luncheons. I sang cheerful and poignant holiday songs at least once a week for six weeks and put smiles on the faces of strangers.  I gave gifts and got gifts and cards and letters and emails.    And The Daughter introduced me to Peppermint-Chocolate Chip milkshakes at Chick-Fil-A.  All that fun was exhausting.

I needed to put on the brakes.  If I had been a runaway train, at least I would have been moving and expending calories, but standing around with a glass of wine in my hand at a party doesn’t register much on my Fitbit.  Everything that I ate, from Thanksgiving on, settled in parts of my body that hadn’t seen fat in months, and it needed to vamoose pdq, asap, or at least before I leave on vacation in a couple weeks, where I will be required to wear a bathing suit in public in front of people who know me.

Mary See probably was making happy memories.

Mary See probably was making happy memories.

Did you realize that chocolates come with “nutritional statements?”  I didn’t either, but they do.  On the box of chocolates that My Sister gave me, they even break it down according to “milk” and “dark” chocolates.  I’m partial to dark chocolates, which are higher in iron than milk chocolates.  Milk chocolates have 2% of the recommended daily requirement of iron, while dark chocolate has 4%.  That’s twice as much!  Yay, dark chocolate!

I checked my other Christmas treats, and, sure enough, there was a nutritional information sheet for the pralines.  Who does not know that pralines don’t provide any shred of essential nutrients?  They’re just sugar, butter, milk, and pecans, which are probably the most nutritious ingredient.  Really, people.  It’s c-a-n-d-y.  No one expects it to replace any major food group, although it will probably be outlawed by next Christmas for my protection.  Glad I stuffed myself when I had the chance.

Plus, I ate potatoes.  Well, you can’t have the Christmas standing rib roast without mashed potatoes, can you?  What are you going to put the au jus on?  The Yorkshire pudding can’t soak it all up.  And no one would take the leftover mashed potatoes home with them, so I put them into a potato-corn chowder.  Then, I made scalloped potatoes because there were potatoes left in the bag.  I was tempted to make home fries or French fries or hashed browns, but I resisted.  Instead, I baked one and ate it with butter and sour cream.  I do that when I’m feeling content.  I can’t eat when I’m upset.

Like I said, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because, what is the point?  (see last year’s Resolutely Not Making Resolutions) I am not going to keep them.  Oh, I try to be sensible.  It seems reasonable for me to make changes in small steps.  Yep.  Two weeks is a reasonable length of time for my energetic (and somewhat scattered) brain to stick with something.  On New Year’s Eve, on the verge of not making New Year’s resolutions, I made sure that I had eaten all of the sugary chocolates, pralines, cookies, and cakes that were gifted to me in December.  And I vowed to plank every day.

I failed with the sweets immediately.

The Daughter and her beau came for dinner on Sunday, bringing the most amazing chocolate cake, a box of macarons, and — you won’t believe this — a “Red Velvet” cupcake, which is wrong for so many reasons.  I could have killed her.  PLUS, I made her favorite scalloped potatoes with the potatoes that were left in the bag from Christmas.  I am my own worst friend.

The cupcake, of course, was easy to resist, because there is no commercially-produced “Red Velvet” cupcake that will meet my standards.

“It’s terrible, Mom,” she said, as she handed it to me.  “Really.  I’ve never tasted anything like it.  The frosting isn’t even cream cheese, so you can eat it.  You taste it and tell me what you think it tastes like.”

“Of course, I’m not going to taste it, but that chocolate cake looks like heaven.”  And it tasted like it, too.  For three days.  About 4” in diameter and unfrosted, it had the rich flavor of cocoa and the texture of a Queen of Sheba cake without the almonds.  I made her eat a quarter of it and then ate one remaining quarter a day.

That was good, right?  I was tempted to eat the whole thing after they left, but I resisted.  I resisted eating the remaining half yesterday, just enjoying a quarter after lunch with a cozy cup of tea.  Today, I made it until lunch time, when I finished it off for dessert with an espresso…right after I ate the leftover scalloped potatoes.

Against all my principles, I tasted the Red Velvet without the frosting.  The Daughter was right.  It was completely tasteless.  Whew!  Saved a few calories there!  Besides, it’s sub-freezing today, and I can use a little blubber to keep me warm.  I still have the macarons to go, but I have planked every day and walked more steps than the minimum, so I’m actually feeling quite virtuous.

I just need to take it slow and easy.  Maybe if I take the first two weeks of each month and follow something.  Planking this month and (mostly) avoiding dessert.

Ok.  What can I add on in February?  How about avoiding dessert and keeping my closet clean for 14 days?   Between February 1 and 14, I will put away, in its proper place, everything that comes out of the dryer and goes on a hanger.  I will clip every skirt to its own hanger, carefully drape every pair of pants so it doesn’t need to be ironed before I wear it, put every shoe back on the rack, every purse on the shelf, every belt on the hanger, every odd sock in the sock drawer.  I will fold every set of sheets and all the clean towels and put them on the shelf instead of tossing them on the chair next to my bed.

That should work.  The first two weeks of February will end with Valentine’s Day, and, although Lent starts on February 10, the 14th is a Sunday, which, technically, isn’t actually Lent (there are 40 days in Lent; you do the math).  How virtuous!

DATE UPDATE:

In my second week of my return to match.com, they have not found me one, single “mutual match.”  That’s where they tell me what men are looking for what I have to offer.  They’ve thrown a lot of “Maybe you’ll like this guy” (I paraphrase) at me, and now they’re giving me options from out of town.  Way out of town.  Like, Watkins Glen and Nyack, NY, Hampton and Virginia Beach, VA.

I had coffee (that I purchased for myself) with a man one year younger than I who said he was retired.   He looked and acted like he was 80. He didn’t want to talk about his children, his previous job, or his education.  He said that he had been “in real estate” and fills his retirement hours “reading,” “playing a little golf,” and “travelling.”  No volunteer work.  No hobbies.  He wasn’t even close to being “Athletic and Toned” (more like “A Few Extra Pounds”), and, apparently, has lost the ability to carry on a conversation.  My BFF is more interesting.

Match says that I should “Make sure [I] haven’t been too restrictive with [my] matching criteria.”

Let’s review this:

Men 50-65. (I’m not sure I can take someone much older, if I could find someone who was interested in a woman over 50.)

Never married, divorced, or widowed.  (I’m not going down the slippery slope of “Currently separated.”)

With a photo.

Body type “About Average.”

Within 50 miles.

Some college education.  (I really like to have intelligent conversations.)

Most any occupation.

I’m not sure what else I could ask for.  I’d like someone who can cook, but I don’t say that because it seems to be a rare commodity in a man, although the Veterinarian and many of his friends were great cooks.  I’d like someone who knows when to wear a coat and tie, but that’s probably elitist of me, so I don’t say that.

Match tells me that more new people sign up between Christmas and the end of January than at any other time of the year.  I guess the competition is too stiff.  Too many attractive younger women who don’t mind dirty baseball caps and sunglasses and suggestive t-shirts and motorcycles, who kayak and cycle and hike in the wilderness and — <shudder> — camp.  You know what that means, don’t you?  The guy is too cheap to take you on a real vacation in a real hotel with running water.  And you get to do the cooking!

Oh, well.  I still have those macarons, so who am I to complain.  Life is good (mostly).  Soli Deo gloria!