Archive for the ‘la mia famiglia’ Category


Finally framed my Merglenn print! Isn’t it interesting where the flash hit?  Looks like I haven’t quite reached the third frame yet. But soon . . .

I was going to write a post with my *new* New Year’s Resolutions but got sidetracked.  It’s no big deal: Besides the generic “get organized, get out of debt and save money” I didn’t really have any.  I had purchased a scanner and planned to go paperless, but that would be a multi-year project.  I planned to spend more time on crafty/artistic pursuits, but had no specific goals, just a “do it already, get busy, do stuff.”  Meaningful stuff. Whatever that meant.

I took a loan from my 401K for my new roof

Last year’s resolutions were mostly met but for the financial ones. I have a good reason though: I was partially furloughed last summer and had to take a 20% pay cut. I was fully back to work after about a month and a half, but it was a setback nonetheless.

Things have been tight but I can finally see daylight at the end of the tunnel, so long as I’m not derailed by another medical emergency. First order of business after certain debt payoffs is a financial cushion, one I’ve not fully enjoyed for at least fifteen years.  Getting out of debt completely is second on the list, though it will take longer than a year to achieve. Still, the path forward is clear, and I look forward to a bright, sunny, debt-free existence in the near future.

crow-585x272 (1)

One thing I have “resolved” to do – which I suppose qualifies it as a “resolution,”  –  is spend more time in the sun. This decision came to me seemingly unbidden a few days ago, when I was  . . . well, doing whatever I was doing, minding my own business, probably housework.

While busy with this mundane whatever, something that *felt* like the last stanzas of a poem invaded my thoughts.  Something about putting my face to the sun before I die.  The thought, and the image it evoked, felt important, magical even.  So as not to dwell on it I quickly put it in a mundane context: “Okay,” I thought, “I will put my face in the sun. I spend too much indoors, could probably use the vitamin D.  In fact maybe it will prevent me from dying sooner.”

Jose Marti

Of course I Googled the phrase eventually, and found this poem by Jose Marti, the poet who inspired the Cuban independence movement:

I wish to leave the world
By its natural door;
In my tomb of green leaves
They are to carry me to die.
Do not put me in the dark
To die like a traitor;
I am good, and like a good thing
I will die with my face to the sun.

A Morir [To Die] (1894)

To the best of my knowledge, I’d neither read nor heard this poem before.  I’ll do my best to remain unperturbed that the poem is about death, which is *not* on my list this year.  Stepping outside to enjoy the sunshine, however, finally is.

This is always on my list

Drinking more wine is ALWAYS on my resolutions lists. A nightly glass of low-alcohol table wine really does seem to help my digestion.  My insides feel “healed” now, and I have a gut feeling (haha) that it’s due to important changes in my intestinal flora.  There is even evidence for this being the case, so . . . that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

WebMD: Drinking Wine is Good for Gut Bacteria

Enough about the resolutions. So what’s new? Bunny is getting ready to graduate from UArts and recently announced a move to California with her boyfriend. Thinking about it feels a bit like the wind being sucked out of me.  Then I take a deep breath and remember that this is the way life is supposed to go:  Kids grow up, learn trades, find mates and fly the coop, not necessarily in that order.  My child is right on schedule, and all is as it should be.


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on the road again

Summer of 2012. Almost gone.

Granted there are technically almost 18 days left of summer,  but for me the season ends on Labor Day so that Football Season – not to mention autumn decorating, which I love – may start in earnest.

It was a busy summer, with plenty of coming-and-going. However, it almost doesn’t matter who/what/where/when/why/how because it was The Summer Dad Died, so that’s how it will be remembered.

I have his desk now.  It sits across from my bed, so it’s the first thing I see in the morning.  On it is Dad’s old candlestick and a few photographs of him holding me as a baby.  I see it and think, “I have Dad’s desk.” Then I think, “Oh yeah, Dad’s dead now.”  If both of your parents are still alive you might not get that, how easy it is to forget how someone who remains alive in your head is actually dead.

Summer 2012 was also the season I became reacquainted with simple pleasures: The cool porcelain of an espresso cup.  Sunshine on the landing.  Cats’ noses and paw pads. Soap bubbles.  I’d been waiting for these feelings to come back.  Maybe it took a death in the family to discover that waiting for something lost to return is futile, that you have to grab life NOW.  Take a moment to reflect, and just feel, something, anything, it’s all around you, Life, waving hello at you, waiting for you to notice it before it’s gone.

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We stayed up the road from Canyon Ranch.  Someday, perhaps, we’ll actually stay here, hahah. (Luxury Experience)

What a wonderful time to be born!  And what a wonderful time to be a new mom, so long as it’s not me.  Would you believe my sister named my new niece after one of my cats?  ‘Cause it’s true:  She named her after my psycho bat-cat, this one here.  Bunny and I went on a road trip to see baby, mom and grandma last weekend and with the exception of a little rain it was lovely.

Baby with her new toys.  If you think they’re weird  . . .

My older niece collects Ugli dolls

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Plate of the Day

My mother didn’t like beets, so she never made us eat them.  She never made us eat turnips or rutabagas, either.  Root vegetables are garden overachievers, staples of a country winter diet, so I imagine she associated them with foods people ate when they couldn’t afford much else. 

I always assumed those purple beet thingies were “yukky” and avoided them as if they were poison. I only grew to love them last year, all because of Spooky’s cooking. Spooky loves beets, and I had no idea how healthy they are.  When it comes to liver detoxification, beets are the best!

Beets have been around for a long time. The roots and leaves of the beet were used in folk medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments. Ancient Romans used beetroot as a treatment for fevers and constipation. Apicius in De re coquinaria gives five recipes for soups to be given as a laxative, three of which feature the root of beet. Hippocrates advocated the use of beet leaves as binding for wounds. Since Roman times, beetroot juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. From the Middle Ages, beetroot was used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, especially illnesses relating to digestion and the blood. Platina recommended taking beetroot with garlic to nullify the effects of ‘garlic-breath. (Wikipedia)

It has been suggested the pigment molecule betanin in the root of red beets may protect against oxidative stress and has been used for this purpose in Europe for centuries. Beets have also been found to increase athletic performance! 

I’m not interested in running a marathon and I don’t need an aphrodisiac or a laxative.  I do need to detox, however, to further soothe my brainflammation.  So, beets it is.  It’s a good thing I’ve been craving salads lately!

Food Network: Beets in Recipes

Roasted Beet, Onion and Orange Salad

  • 1 pound beets, preferably very small ones
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 20 large pearl onions, about 1/2 pound
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh coriander leaves (also known as cilantro) plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
  • 1-ounce pecorino, optional, grated on medium-sized holes of box grater


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the stems and tails off the beets. Do not peel. Line the bottom of a baking pan with foil. Place the beets in the pan and toss them with half of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes.

Trim both ends off the pearl onions. Then toss them with remaining olive oil and salt and pepper. Add pearl onions to the beets and roast an additional 15 minutes, until beets and onions are tender.

Peel and remove the membranes from the oranges with a sharp paring knife. Cut the oranges in half lengthwise and then crosswise into thin slices. Seed the slices, if necessary.

Peel and quarter the beets. Lay the beets on a large platter. Top the beets with the orange pieces. Scatter the roasted onions around the beats.

In a medium bowl, combine the hazelnut oil, coriander, and orange juice. Whisk until well combined and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the dressing on top and sprinkle with coriander, toasted hazelnuts and grated cheese. Serve immediately.

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Another chapter in my personal saga, continued from here

Spooky’s house was full of strangers.  Floor washers, carpet cleaners, painters, kitchen renovators, furniture movers, gardeners, floor installers, plumbers and electricians, appliance installers and interior decorators were tripping over each other to get everything done by summertime.  It wasn’t long before we dismissed the decorator and decided to finish it ourselves. 

With his wife gone Spooky wanted everything cleaned or gone so he could start anew and learn how to love the house again.  It was almost as if he were trying to scrub her essence out of the walls so he couldn’t feel her anymore.  First to go was the sofa he’d been sleeping on for six years. Then the parlor furniture, and then the bed she’d been sleeping in. I was happy to see the tile and carpets professionally cleaned, and I was happy to get rid of anything she’d touched. However, I drew the line at hiring a professional to wash the kitchen cabinets, and so scrubbed them down myself, with bleach. By then he’d already spent tens of thousands of dollars on contractors and new furniture and besides, she kept coming by anyway.

We moved Spooky’s books out of the dining room and had hardwood floors put in, just in time for the new dining room furniture to arrive.  The chairs and sofas in the Florida Room were sent out to be reupholstered in a completely different color. Habitat for Humanity took some of the old furniture, and family took some of the rest. The painters were happy to get free TVs.  I really don’t remember what we did for furniture during that time, but we probably stayed at my house because there was no where to sit!

Spooky changed the doorknobs to the upstairs suite. “If she comes in, just run upstairs and lock the door,” he said. It was too soon to change the locks on the house doors because his ex still had two closets full of clothes that still needed to be moved.  She’d already taken all the household items she wanted, yet nearly every day we came home from work to discover she had taken something else: Artwork, cookware and bakeware, things she’d earlier said she didn’t want. Every day was a little bit like coming home to a robbery. Spooky took it in stride until he realized she’d taken the good can opener, and when the artifical plants disappeared – including a tree! –  that just about did it. We changed the locks and put her clothes in the garage.

We hired Spooky’s niece and nephew, both artists, to do the tile work in the kitchen and some of the painting.  They did a beautiful job, and when the granite-countertop people wanted to feature our kitchen in a magazine ad we stipulated that the company would need to give them credit for the tile and paint job.  The company said “We don’t do that,” so we told them to forget it.

I moved my personal belongings one car load at a time, hesitant at first. What if something terrible happened? What if she tried to move back in?  At first I kept everything in the bedroom suite with the doors locked. The less she knew about me the better. As the weeks passed I grew bolder and began to take up space in the kitchen, and in the bar, and then the library.  I was getting spoiled from having such a huge kitchen, a butler’s pantry and a wet bar, with 5 sinks within easy reach.  Compared to my little galley kitchen it was heaven.  I even thought about learning to cook!

Spooky gave instructions I’d never in my life heard before, things like “let the gardeners do it” after I pulled a few weeds out of the yard.  That took a little getting used to . . . uhhhh maybe 5 seconds of getting used to.  This was a big house with a big yard, and if we were to maintain it ourselves we’d never be able to do anything else!

When friends and family toured the work in progress, the women – only the women of course – asked me about the housekeeping.  “You’re getting help with this . . . Aren’t you?”  They actually looked concerned. I hadn’t thought about it, but realized I should. The house was huge, but designed in such a way that it didn’t need that much attention. Grey floors and granite countertops are wonderful that way.  “We’re pretty tidy,” I said, a little lamely. “We probably won’t need it.”  I made a mental note to talk to Spooky about splitting the chores.

We kept the blue grey tile and the storm grey carpet, but mixed in shades of sea, sand  and sunset to give it the beachy look it deserved.  Colors like Seafoam,Ocean Air, and Seapearl. Surf and turf, I called it.  Sky, driftwood, sea shells and dried beach grass. By summer we needed a breather, and what a lovely place to just lie about and breathe!  I planted flowers, herbs and tomatoes. My African violets bloomed like never before.  

It was a mellow summer, subdued and relaxed. The music piped throughout the house and every dinner was better than the last. We didn’t entertain much because we were still in stealth mode, but his family came by often and fortunately they liked me.  More like they hated his ex, which set the bar pretty low, but after the initial shock wore off they were relieved that – for the first time in years – Spooky looked happy. I was happy too, more at peace than at any other time in my life. I grew more chatty and sociable at work and found myself genuinely enjoying the company of others. I remembered to call my mom and dad. I found myself without time to blog anymore, because I was just too busy. I had a life now!

Traumatized, obviously.

I waited until Bunny left for college to finalize my move, at least the personal belongings part, since to this day I’ve not moved the furniture. It sounds like a big deal but mostly it consisted of relocating my four cats.  Spooky and I each took two and they yowled like we were trying to kill them, and skulked around the basement for a few days before coming up to check the place out, at which point I could tell they were intimidated by the high ceilings.  Believe it or not the place was too big for them!  Fortunately over time they got used to their new digs and returned to their normal activities; i.e., sleeping.  I think they like Spooky’s house better than mine now because they don’t have to fight over sunbeams.

Stuffed moose with port

By first snowfall I called it Home.  My own house lay empty but for the furniture and Bunny’s things. Renting a U-Haul was on our list of things to do, but neither of us felt any rush.  It was a bad time to sell with the economy in the dumps and the place needed some work anyway.  After the divorce is final, I thought. And not until then. There was still no indication of when “then” would be.

To be continued . . .

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The Empire Builder

Spooky and I decided to surprise my Dad on Fathers Day so we took a trip across the country to see him.  Dad was definitely surprised! 

A double-decker!

We went by train rather than endure the hassles of flying, and it was worth the cost:  Big seats, tons of leg room, easy access to our luggage, an observation lounge and a dining car.  Since overnights were involved we got a sleeper car, so we could sleep well and have a little privacy.

 The view was magnificent once we left the East coast! City views are pretty bad, since most northeastern train stations are in shabby parts of town.  But from Pennsylvania on it was beautiful: Farm land mostly, but also lakes, rivers, tunnels and mountains.

We had a four hour layover in Chicago and did somesightseeing. 

We went to the Art Institute and bought an owl tea set . So cute!  We use it on weekends.

The food was surprisingly good!  It was a two day/one night trip to get there, but we’d do it all over again.

In the city no less!

We also visited my mom/stepdad and an aunt and a cousin.  We toured parks and waterfalls and even a horse farm.  I took Spooky to my childhood home and showed him the neighborhood.  But mostly we just sat and visited, and ate, and drank, read books and slept!  Yes, I read Anna Karenina. On a train. Stop laughing!

There is an entire store devoted to Sponge Bob Square Pants. No joke.

We also went to the Mall of America and shopped, and ate.  The place is so big there is an entire amusement/theme park in the middle. With a roller coaster!  We shopped at Nordstrom’s and a few specialty stores.  I bought some makeup, some shoes and a big straw hat for laying in the sun, even though I knew I’d have to carry the thing all the way home.  Spooky bought a hat that looks Cuban, though it wasn’t made there, and a bunch of clothes, a few specialty teas, and gifts for family.

I was happy to see my family, as it had been awhile.  Everyone seemed well. A good visit all in all.  But now I need a vacation from my vacation 😉

My new shoes!  Lounging in the sleeper car on the way home

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Not Spooky’s house, but similar in style and feel

(Continued from here)

Life went on, the New Normal.  Every morning Spooky packed my lunch to make sure I was getting enough to eat, and every evening he cooked our dinner.  Bunny never had it so good, because I was always a lousy and most reluctant cook.  I gained fifteen pounds and Spooky actually asked me not to lose it . Is he the perfect man or what?  I lost some of it anyway.

Bunny clearly adored him.  “He makes my mom happy,” she told my family.  Bunny was graduating from high school in June and felt good about leaving me behind, because she’d just scored a scholarship in a private arts university in a nearby city and was moving in August. My heart ached a little – momentous family developments do that, even when they’re happy – but it all seemed so right.  We were both moving on at the same time.

Although it felt like forever, Spooky’s ex-wife-to-be settled in her new apartment within weeks of our return from Washington DC.   I’d told Spooky that I had wanted progress toward their divorce and I got it:  Their domestic arrangement finally mirrored their relationship, as in nonexistent but for their business, which they still planned to run for the time being.  Why she moved and not him is a different story, perhaps for some other time.

“It’s time for me to take you home for real,” Spooky said one day as we cleared my dining room table, my cats weaving between our ankles and tripping us up.  His own place was down the shore. “Just know we don’t have to live there if you don’t want to. I can sell. Really. I’m not attached to it.”  We had been debating our living arrangements but it was a silly discussion. Of course we I’d move into his house as soon as possible: It was almost three times the size of mine!  There simply was not enough room for both of our libraries in my little place, let alone both wardrobes. Where would I keep my shoes?   There was just no way we could live comfortably in my house.

There was more to it, though:  The thought of both of us selling our houses and uprooting ourselves simultaneously made me want to curl up in a little ball and die.  I couldn’t do it and stay sane, not with all the other stresses in our lives.  Even if I hated the house I would put up with it until things settled down.

 It was about a 45 minute drive to an enormous contemporary with lofty ceilings, balconies, sky lights and picture windows, decorated – if you want to call it that – in shades of white, silver and grey.  Spooky warned me about the cat – supposedly a big male attack cat – but Charlie just hopped on the bar and gave me a nose-kiss. “Oh my god he’s never done that to a stranger,” he said.  What can I say: I’m the Cat Lady. I patted Charlie on the head and he started to box me like Sugar Ray. This will be fun, I thought. I wondered how my own cats would cope.

I looked around and upward. Wow, the ceilings were two stories high!  How did they screw in the light bulbs?  The place was still furnished since his ex was happy to buy all new, yet somehow the place felt empty.  Lonely.  I drew in my sweater and shivered.

Spooky looked disappointed. “You hate it.”

I shook my head and began to wander. “I don’t hate it, it’s just . . .” Oh, how to explain it. Imagine a modern art museum stripped clean of its contents. The mostly bare walls were all white, as if the builders had primed them and left them alone, and the living areas showed no sign of life at all, even with all the bustling and upheaval related to her move. The only sign that anyone lived there was one kitchen counter by the bar, where Spooky separated the mail into three piles:  His, hers, and that of his daughter, who still lived there. I’d not met her yet.

The kitchen was large, with a walk-in pantry.  There was a huge media/living room/wet bar next to it, and an equally large Florida room with its own eating space. Then I saw yet another living room behind a pair of French doors (how did they decide where to sit at night?) and what looked like a formal dining room, except there was nothing in it but cardboard boxes and piles (and piles, and piles) of books.

the upstairs library, in the master room den

“That’s my library,” Spooky said. “At least, part of it. I was going to turn this room into another library so I could have one on every floor, but I never got around to it. It was just . . . well . . . At some point there was no point to doing any more work.  I figured why bother.”

The house was so big it needed an intercom system.  Each bedroom was its own suite and I counted bathrooms to get a feel for what I – excuse me, we – were in for.   A red light flashed at me from the ceiling, one of the motion detectors from the security system.  I stopped and it stopped.  I moved and it flashed.  I opened the door to a walk-in coat closet and saw that it was still full of her clothes.  I opened my mouth to say something but changed my mind.  “. . . It’s not that I don’t like it, it just feels cold,” I said, and shut the door.

The entire top floor was a master bedroom suite.  A lonely-looking platform bed was the only piece of furniture in the vast but poorly-lit bedroom, very depressing.  However, the master bath was a dream with a skylight, a whirlpool tub and an Italian-tiled sauna, and a two-person shower with heated tiles.  I felt the sudden urge to fill the tub with bubbles, light a few candles, pour some wine and soak for two hours. This would be my refuge, I thought.  It was amazing: My mental health improved with that single thought.

And ours is even bigger? Un-Belieeevable.

There was a library/den with a balcony overlooking the Florida room, and a huge walk-in closet. Two, actually: Including the vanity room it was more like a three-room dressing room.  I’d never seen anything like it.   I was almost relieved when I noticed Spooky owned more clothing than I did! That meant he couldn’t complain about all my shoes . 😉 

Obviously there was plenty of room for the two of us and all of our personal belongings, and all four – erhm, five -cats, plus kids, a dog and a pony if we wanted them.  Standing on the front-side balcony surveying the chandelier – it was very geometric and modern –  I took a good  look around:  The place really was lovely, well designed, with my mother used to call good bones and a lot of potential.  I could live here, if only we could add more color and make it look, well, happy. I looked at Spooky.  “It just needs a few coats of paint.”

Spooky sighed. “It needs a lot more than that.”

“Let’s give it five years and then decide if we want to sell.”

“Are you sure?”  I nodded, and it was on.

To be continued . . .

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