• All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Family & Life,  Rock House

    Country Mice: Thanksgiving at the Rock House

    Grateful to have QED closed for Thanksgiving so Christian and I could enjoy a quiet holiday at the cabin. It was just the right balance of work and play as I banged through my inbox and reading list. We decorated our new tree, hung garland and wreaths, enjoyed a fire both in real life and on Netflix, and kitchen time for making turkey dinner, brownies, ice cream (recipe in the next post) and a perfect looking omelette. We also started the Haunting of Hill House which is great TV while at a cabin in the woods. Our country mouse time is over…back to the city we go!

  • Craft Projects,  Rock House

    DIY Crate Coffee Table

    Mom & I made a coffee table out of crates and boredom. We crafted a cheap, easy, functional and practical table in about an hour and a half total. Here’s what you need if you want to make one, too:

    All done! Now to fill it with records and books!

    SUPPLIES
    * 4 x Crates ($40 w/o a coupon, plus tax, but Michaels *always* has coupons.)
    * 1 x Base (Plywood about 3/4″ thick, cut to 27.5″ square. $27 for a 4’x4’x3/4″ panel. I used the extra for making shelves on another project. You might be able to get smaller panels for cheaper but you need to cover the entire base.)
    * 4 x Casters (2″ or 3″ swivel – I got these for $14 total after tax.)
    * Stain (About $4 or $5 for 8oz or $8 for a quart. It only needed one coat, but we got a quart as we had other projects.)
    * 16 screws for casters (Cost = pennies! I used ones I had around the house)
    * 16 nails or screws to attach crates to the base (Same as above)
    * Optional – 4 corner braces

    TOOLS
    * Drill or screw driver to screw in casters to the base.
    * Hammer, drill or screw driver to attach crates to the base.
    * Paint brush & paper towels for stain (Same as above, but $4 tops)
    * Jigsaw or saw if you don’t have the plywood pre-cut at the lumber store. I have a jigsaw and love any chance to use it, so…

    INSTRUCTIONS
    * Screw in the 4 casters 2″ in on all sides.
    * Stain all 4 crates inside and out and the top and sides of the base.
    * Position crates on top of the base and affix them with a couple of screws or nails and THAT IS IT!
    ETA: We added 4 corner braces inside the empty center to hold a square “shelf” (I just cut a little square from the leftover plywood) to hold a vase, pinecones, Christmas ornaments or any other decorations we want. Fun!

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Rock House,  Uncategorized

    Cemeteries & Geocaching

    God, I feel gross.

    I took Griswold to Fosterdale Cemetery this afternoon. There’s a request from a woman on an ancestry forum trying to find her ancestor’s burial plot there and a Geocache happens to be hidden there, too. So, I thought it’d be a nice little adventure with purpose.
    Fosterdale Cemetery founded circa 1873
    The cemetery is a tiny little thing off Route 17B not far from Yasgur’s Farm and Bethel Woods where Woodstock took place. There are a lot of veterans buried here, and many flags decorating headstones were knocked over or the sticks broken from the fierce winds we had a few days back. I was sure to keep Griswold on the paths except for when I uprighted or repaired the flags. I wasn’t able to find the headstone for the ancestry researcher after two sweeps. Bummer.

    I headed over to where the cache was stashed. The description said it was “far away” from grave sites. But my GPS said I was within a foot from it, and I was fairly close to a very elaborate memorial for a young man killed in a car accident on September 5, 2011. I thought I must have my coordinates wrong, because it felt just a little too close to a grave to hide a cache.

    But there it was, buried under some gravel. I opened it, took out a trackable, logged my name and was re-burying it when I noticed a truck driving up. I took a seat on a downed tree and plopped Grizzy on my lap to wait and see where they were going.

    To my horror the truck stopped a few feet from me, the driver got out and knelt down in front of the young man’s grave. When he stood, a male passenger got out and the two of them checked on the shrubs and trees that were planted around the marker (and the cache), cleaned the granite benches engraved “Forever 21”, straightened a cross and spotlight and smoothed out gravel.

    I wanted to get up and walk away but I was frozen with absolute mortification. I had a baseball cap and big sunglasses on so the men couldn’t really see my face, and I didn’t make a peep.

    Here I was having “fun” trekking around for some silly hidden treasure in the same place where they pour out their adoration, devotion and grief by meticulously caring for the dirt that covers this boy they love.

    As they drove off, I started sobbing. Tears poured out of me like a waterfall. Niagara Falls on my face.

    Before coming, I’d worried about taking Griswold to a cemetery out of respect for the dead. It turns out I was the one I should have worried about. Guh.

    I, for one, will never, ever, ever Geocache in a cemetery again. Once home, I logged in to the Geocaching website. The cache was placed in 2010 before this young man died. I logged a note for the owner about what happened and that it was time to move the cache. I hope he does. And I hope Mr. Telesky is resting in peace, and I’m sorry I messed up what should have been a private moment.

    Telesky Memorial

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Mentoring,  NYC,  Rock House

    Christmas 2013

    I had an especially awesome week leading up to Christmas. I had three separate dates with my protégé which was the biggest treat. We hopped aboard a vintage train (pic at right & at bottom) to Midtown where we shopped at the Disney store and Toys R Us Times SquareNostalgia Train, and got tickets at the TDF booth for Newsies the Musical. Our seats were pretty high up in the mezzanine but this musical’s set design allowed for great viewing. The choreography was phenomenal and we enjoyed the show very much.

    During intermission, Jeaniah pored through the program matching each actor’s headshot and bio with their characters. A few minutes into the second act, the lead male was singing in earnest and Jeaniah whispered, “He has a very pretty voice!” I agreed and took note at how enthralled she was. At curtain call, she applauded politely for chorus, loudly for a few of her favorite supporting cast members, then screamed the highest pitched dolphin squeal that could’ve broken glass when the lead male took his bows, like we were at a One Direction concert. Her unbridled enthusiasm made me happier than any gift could.

    On the subway ride home, some boys started breakdancing in our car and could’ve rivaled any dancer in the Newsies chorus. Our car wasn’t that packed so it wasn’t too obnoxious and they were seriously talented, so Jeaniah gave them a dollar.

    A few days later, I picked her up after school. She opened my Christmas gifts for her: a bracelet loom, tons of rubber bands and charms for making the bracelets, and a jewelry organizer for her new bedroom. These were met with gasps of OH MY GOSH! and COOL! I also packed her bag with her favorite treats that I normally would put in a stocking like some gummy bears (Gummy bears?! I LOVE gummy bears!) and a bag of Goldfish crackers (Goldfish?! I LOVE Goldfish!). This cracked me up. I’ve known her for two years now, so of course I know what she wants and likes to eat and do and see. Her surprise was delightful.

    She mentioned that she had cards for her two teachers but wished she had gifts, so I let her pick two gifts from a shopping bag of heavily discounted Christmas items I had just snagged at Rite Aid. She chose an amaryllis and a candle/holder.

    Later that week, I picked her up after school to go see “Frozen” in 3D. We both really loved it and the theme song “Let it Go”. In the movie, it’s sung by Idina Menzel but when then end credits rolled, it’s this Demi Lovato version. Dang it is a catchy tune! I felt so happy from the movie, so the heck with it….I’m gonna SING! We sang what words we knew (not many) at the tops of our lungs and mumbled the rest and bounced around in our seats. I gotta take this girl to a real concert.

    ESB

    A couple of days later Christian and I joined her and her family at the annual Hour Children Christmas party with gifts supplied by the Marine’s Toys for Tots program. We got a few really nice pictures and made some crafts before Christian and I scooted out to LIC for the LIC Flea and the gorgeous view of Manhattan with the ESB decorated in green & red for Christmas with an awesome light show timed with music airing on 106.7. Fun! (Click here for the YouTube video of the light show.)

    All in all, it was a great week in the city with all it has to offer, but I was happy to leave it behind for a long “vacation” at our cabin upstate. We enjoyed dominoes, the wood fire, Vince Guaraldi, lots of good home cooked meals, “Cheers” on Netflix, making pomander balls, way too much candy and almost too much laziness. Among other gifts, I gave Christian a pair of Hunter boots and Morrissey’s new autobiography and a bunch of tech gadgets; he gave me a gorgeous vintage tub planter, a much needed wallet and  a 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The latter was really a gift to him: I stayed busy and out of his hair for a whole week. ;oP

    We rang in the New Year quietly around our fire, writing out our goals, the theme of which seemed based on this Samuel Beckett quote:

    All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

    Onward and upward to us all in 2014!

    Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Hour Children Christmas Party 2013 Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Nostalgia Train Newsies LIChristmas 2013 Tree2013 Tree Christmas 2013 Pomander Balls  Fireside Chat

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Rock House

    Window Pane Turned Picture Frame

    I found a junky old window, cleaned out the broken glass and caulk, got four new pieces of glass cut to size and ordered basic mats online which I trimmed with a box cutter. Then I chose four photos of bugs & a bird that I took at the Rock House, printed them out on photo paper and voila! A window pane turned picture frame for our dining room.

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Food & Drink,  Recipes,  Rock House

    Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice Cream

    Sopaipillas & FlagIn high school, I studied Spanish for two years under the tutelage of Mrs. Spooner. One assignment required us to make a Mexican dish of our choosing. I elected sopapillas because, A) I loved them, and B) I knew I could get them at Pancho’s at their freakishly cheap “all you care to eat” buffet. After chowing down, I could simply raise the Mexican flag at my table, request additional sopaipillas from my server, stuff  them in my purse, repeat a few more times and still be home in time for Moonlighting.

    “What’s a sopaipilla?” some of you might be wondering. It’s deep-fried pastry that can be used in all sorts of dishes, but is primarily served as a dessert served in the shape of a puffed up little pillow and served with honey. We would tear off a corner, pour a little honey in the hole, swirl it around and mmm, mmm, GOOD!

    I have never seen them anywhere in the Midwest or Northeast (though I’m sure I’ll hear from someone telling me where they serve them around these parts). The one time I did order them from a menu at a New York restaurant, they were not sopaipillas. They were hard & crunchy like cinnamon pita chips. That was my first and last attempt since 1991.

    Now that we have the Rock House, I’ve enjoyed cooking, baking, making, trying all sorts of things. So when I came across this sopaipilla recipe in In Style magazine, I clipped it. It’s been sitting in a drawer ever since. I mean, it looks delicious. But it also looks like a messy hassle. Look at the list of ingredients and all those steps in the instructions. Frying, too? Messy & bad for me and…ah, forget it.

    Fast forward to today when I came across the recipe stuck in a drawer. “Hey, wait a second? Isn’t a sopaipilla basically just puffed pastry?!”

    PUFFED PASTRY! AKA my new BFF and answer to all the world’s ills. Since discovering it a few months ago (Like I’m Chris Columbus or something. Heh. You’re welcome for The Americas, BTW!), I’ve used it for pot pies, egg soufflés, desserts, tarts, pizzas, you name it. If it came in queen-sized sheets, I would sleep with it like a down comforter. That’s how versatile and easy it is. How easy? I’M GONNA EAT IT LIKE A SOPAIPILLA!

    If you don’t make your own dough, this is the hardest part: Bake the puff pastry, drizzle it with honey. DONE! Screw you Bobby Flay & your stupid, messy recipe!

    Now, technically, that’s all a sopaipilla is, but I fancied it up a bit because when you get old the things that excited you when you were young only make you feel hopeless and empty and search for meaning in life. So I spiced it up a bit with sugar & cinnamon (which is how many folks eat their fritters & sopaipillas anyway. This was my first time.)

    Sugar & Spice

    INGREDIENTS:
    1/3 of one sheet of Pepperidge Farm’s Puff Pastry Sheet (they owe me a % of profits based on how much I’ve been pimping them out!)
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 tspn ground cinnamon
    Honey
    Vanilla or Caramel Ice Cream (Because screw it. WHY NOT?! It’s my mom’s birthday! {Or whatever excuse you need to justify this delicious decision.})

    Heat the oven to 400°F.  Cut the pastry sheet into 4 squares & bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.

    Place the sugar and cinnamon into a paper or plastic baggy and shake to combine.

    Add the hot pastries to the bag and shake until coated with the sugar mixture. Drizzle the pastries with the honey or, if you have a squeeze bottle of honey, let the diners tear off a corner and squeeze away themselves. Serve yourself first, though, because they’re best hot and you deserve the best.

    Add a dollop of ice cream to the plate and you have what I call Sugar & Spice and everything Nice Cream.

    Dunking in Sugar & Spice Waiting for Pastry Bon Appetit!

  • All Blog Entries,  Rock House,  Running

    Skinny Mountain Air

    “Worst run ever,” I posted on Facebook last Sunday. And it was. I felt like a beginner and the time on my Runkeeper app agreed. I set out for a simple 5k. I say simple, because I’m not a beginner and I had completed a 10k race only a week before. One week! Twice the distance. And I sucked. It felt like sand bags were tied to my legs and a Sumo wrestler was sitting on my chest. I’m at my fittest since my book came out! (Thanks friends, tour and hotel bar for the good times, but I’m happy to shed you!) How can this BE?!

    “Amazing how quickly I fall out of the practice of running in the mountains,” I continued. “I’ll try again tomorrow. Oof.”

    Typing that felt like a copout. I mean “mountains”? Really? Sure, I can see amazing mountain ranges in the distance as I run. Vistas that offer something beautiful, different, interesting with every run, every season. Flocks of wild turkeys, a cornucopia of colors, fuzzy caterpillars crossing the road not realizing they’re in mortal danger…so much to see, things to photograph, moths-in-the-making to save. Mountains are what I see off in the distance.

    I did go the next day as I publicly declared and it was worse. I only went 1.47 miles and was slower. SLOWER! Granted I was with Griswold, but even he was dragging! Usually he flies along, excited for the adventure, fresh air, wildlife and the best part: running back home. But he still trailed behind me, huffing & puffing.

    This required some research.

    So I scoured my Runkeeper history about when I last ran up here, when did I run here consistently, and just how high up are we? Which is why I can’t switch to Map My Run…I’ve got too much stored on Runkeeper and if theres one thing I love, it’s STATISTICS! I might even make an Excel spreadsheet of all the info, that’s how much I love examining each and every nuance. Is it too late to become a statistician for a living?

    Turns out we’re 1,247 feet above sea level. The race I ran the week before was at sea level or barely above/below. Hmm, interesting. While it’s not Machu Picchu where we had time to acclimatize, it’s still a significant difference from home.  Turns out, athletes regularly train in higher altitudes before races! Not 10Ks on Roosevelt Island but, still…

    I’ve always remarked that even though I workout less up here, I lose weight and tend to eat and snack less. And that’s a thing, too! Check out this article I found: Can Thin Mountain Air Make You Slim?

    Aha! So I’m not making it up! It’s harder to run up here and I take in fewer calories. I KNEW I LOVED THE ROCK HOUSE!

    Bolstered by my new knowledge –I don’t suck entirely, I just need a day or two to acclimatize– I ran two more short runs (5Ks) followed by 20-minute Bob Harper workouts. (Short but great. The hour long workouts are killer! I highly recommend them.)

    Based on these runs, by this time next week, all will be normal. Fascinating! (To me, anyway.)

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Gardening

    Paper Pot Maker for Eco-Friendly Gardening & Party Favors

    This June at the Rock House I’m seeding plenty of pots and staying here to watch over them in their early, delicate, needy stage. In anticipation of this, I’ve purchased this adorable little paper pot maker that recycles newspaper into seed-starting containers with no glue or tape necessary. Once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted outside, just plant them – pot and all. Here are three little samples I made so you can see what they look like.

    Paper Pot Maker How eco- and wallet-friendly can you get? But looking at the results –the cute little paper pots– I thought the pot maker could be used for party favors or place settings.

    To test it, I made a few little personalized pots out of brown craft paper, wrapping paper scraps & newspaper and, if used for food, I lined some with wax paper. You can tie them with ribbon or a piece of twine and, to personalize it, write guests’ names on the outside in colored sharpie or paint pen that they can take home with them. My tests were used with the limited supplies I have here at the cabin. If you have access to nice printed or colored paper, you can really make a nice little party favor.

    Paper pot ideas And, now that I’m thinking about it, if you make the pots a little taller, you can tie them at the top after they’re filled. In that case, you can have little takeaway gifts like bath salts (for the bath, of course) or confetti to throw at a wedding or…oh, man, the possibilities are endless…like:





    M&Ms for any holidayPaper Pots
    Hearts
    Kisses
    Red Hots
    Peppermints
    Gummy bears
    Jelly beans
    Candy corn
    Trail mix
    NutsPaper potsRaisins
    Gumballs
    Fresh cherries
    Raisins
    Saplings

    What other ways can you think of to them?

  • All Blog Entries,  Rock House

    Trash By Another Name

    I’m hopping on the hipster, green, gardening trend and getting myself an indoor composter. Here’s the one I chose for the Rock House upstate in the Catskills. I know nothing of composting but always feel awful bagging up rinds, coffee grinds, eggshells and rotten veggies when we pack up from a week at the cabin to head home to NYC. Since there are just two of us and it’s only a weekend home, I figured a 5-gallon composter was big enough. BUT: It turns out that compost can spontaneously combust. WTF?! Why does everything require an asterisk and at least eight hours of intensive research?*

    I still can’t have chickens or a goat since we don’t live there full-time which makes me very, very sad. I suppose I could be that lady who rides the bus with a live chicken except that I can’t carry it along with the dogs, parakeet and my overnight bag. Someday I’ll get a baby bjorn that can accommodate all my livestock. Till then, it’s composting, raised bed gardening, building bat housing and feeding birds, deer, beavers and raccoons.

    *Including this blog.

     

  • All Blog Entries,  Craft Projects,  Family & Life,  Gardening,  Mentoring

    An “Epic” Date

    After kicking off my gardening project, I drove home from the cabin so I could take my protege Jeaniah to a preview screening of “Epic” at the Museum of the Moving Image. When I picked her up, she and the other Hour Children kids were having a craft day with volunteers from the Kabbalah Center. We made jewelry, got professional photos taken and planted some flower seeds which took about 20 seconds. Throw some dirt in the peat pot, add some seeds, top with more soil, add water and voila. Four days later they sprouted.

    It was a great reminder of what I said in my earlier post: gardening is much more simple than the Internet would have you believe. Don’t be afraid! Jeaniah wanted me to keep both of our pots so I can plant them at the cabin. I plan to find a special spot for our little flower pots to grow together. It’s lousy with symbolism.

    Anyway, on to the movie. We were excited and surprised to learn that the director of “Epic”, Oscar winner Chris Wedge, was at the screening and would participate in a Q&A afterward. COOL! The movie is about a teenage girl who is transported (shrunken to the size of an insect) into the forest where she helps the “Leafmen” battle the dark forces after the forest Queen is killed. The movie itself was in 3-D and, damn, animation these days is simply breathtaking. I got dizzy a few times “flying” with the Leafmen on their hummingbirds that they rode like horses. So clever. Check out Metacritic for comprehensive reviews, but we gave it our thumbs up as did the other kids in the audience.

    Chris Wedge - "Epic" DirectorWe also enjoyed the Q&A with Mr. Wedge who was really  casual, funny and gracious with his time. Jeaniah seized up with shyness when it came to asking for an autograph, so I asked on her behalf. We wanted to get it mostly as proof to the kids at school that she’d seen the movie before it was in theaters. Last time we did this (a preview of the “Croods” which was okay), no one believed her. So, this time we kept her program and autographed ticket stub for her to use to “show off”. Take that, non-believers!

    Christian met up with us at Pizzeria Uno and during our drive home he told her about my undying love for David Lee Roth. When he showed her pictures of Diamond Dave, she burst out laughing and said, “He looks like a GIRL!”

    I spent way too much time defending my love and trying to find a better picture. None were to be found. He’s pretty ridiculous in all of them and yet…sigh.

    I can’t wait for the day I meet her husband and can tease her about how she wore Justin Bieber perfume.

  • All Blog Entries,  Gardening,  Mentoring,  Rock House

    Adventures in Gardening: In the Beginning

    Growing up, we dug up rows of dirt, plopped in some seeds and had fruits and vegetables a few weeks later. The Internet made it all seem so complicated. After all the research and over-thinking, it was time to get my hands dirty.

    I had a few days at the cabin and took the plunge on beginning my landscaping and gardening projects. I spent part of a day gathering rocks that I stacked at the base of the cabin, covering the concrete and creating a raised flower bed. Once it was in place, I filled it with soil from the woods mixed with bags of plain topsoil and two bags of high quality, fertilized soil. Then I planted some hostas that I purchased from Home Depot. Hostas are hearty, low to the ground, spread over time, and are great in the shade. I think this is the perfect spot for them as long as I can keep the slugs away.

    Behold the before and after:

    5864939688_1edbd2ba04_b After Before After After After

  • All Blog Entries,  Gardening,  Rock House

    Gardening Questions

    The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. So, I’m giving Facebook the big middle finger and taking my gardening posts elsewhere. The Internet is a huge time suck (weird, right?) and varying opinions leave me up in the air.

    Example: Some have said how impossible ferns are to transplant and how I should propagate from spores only to have others say that propagating spores is near impossible and I should just transplant. Lesson? Trial, error, time and patience will win. I just need to gain the confidence to try, err, wait and try again, if needed.

    Patio I spent some time clearing the weird patch of patio at our Rock House. I ended up with  66″ x 51″ patch of rocky earth that eventually stops at about 15″ deep when I hit the solid slate, giant boulders that the house is built on.

    I’m going to first try transplanting ferns in a straight line up against the house and fill the rest in with the rocks that I dug out. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try ferns again because they’re native (we have 4.5 acres COVERED in wild ferns) and I truly believe moving them 20 feet is gonna work at some point.

    Hostas  Meanwhile, hostas are sprouting on our walkway. This is our third spring owning this cabin and in spite of the hostas being trampled, eaten by deer & dug up during an installation of a French drain, they’ve sprung back each time. I love hostas and they’re obviously low-maintence. This and their hardiness makes me excited to move them to an area where they can actually thrive. Until then I’m going to build little wire cages around them so we don’t smash them again.

    Also, there’s a strange bush or tree growing by the outbuilding that no one can seem to identify. It’s not pictured in three very extensive gardening books and a horticulture expert drew a blank, too. So, I’ll keep my eye on it and decide whether it’s worth keeping, moving or killing. God complex, anyone?

    Bush or tree?

    Bush or tree? 2

  • All Blog Entries,  Family & Life,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    Happiness Is…

    During Spring 2011, our first at the Rock House, I worried to Christian:

    “I think something’s wrong with me. I find myself staring into the woods for long spells. I’m not even thinking of anything…just staring at birds, squirrels, trees, leaves, nothing. For hours.”

    “You know what that’s called?” He asked.

    I stared blankly at him.

    “Happiness.”

    Rock House in Winter

    Hmph. Interesting.

    I guess I would draw the old “Happiness Is…” naked cartoon characters here in this photo.

    For multiple reasons, we usually travel over the Christmas holiday. In fact, we had just returned from an amazing trip to Peru when we signed the papers on January 4th, 2011, to purchase our little cabin in the woods. But for our first Christmas as homeowners, we wanted to spend it in no other place. We got a tree, made sugar cookies from scratch, and played tons of Scrabble and Monopoly. It was perfectly peaceful and simple.

    The year 2012 proved to be exhausting –in a good way– for both of us. Between my book tour and Christian’s TV and stand up work, we found ourselves traveling more than staying home. So, again, we wanted nothing more than a couple of weeks in the woods at our Rock House. We were so lazy, we didn’t even put up a tree (we did hang fresh pine garland, stockings and some twinkle lights) or swap gifts.

    Instead, we bought this mini pie pan (two egg soufflés and two chicken pot pies I baked are pictured at left) and stocked up on a bunch of new games like Mystery Rummy (Jack the Ripper), BlokusMr. Jack in New YorkCarcassonneMexican Train dominoesLost Cities and new jigsaw puzzles.

    Are we humbugs? Not really. It’s just that every morning waking up in the Rock House –no matter what the season– is like Christmas morning. There is a feeling of lightness here. The freedom to do nothing. I don’t have to be anywhere. I don’t want to be anywhere. This is it.

    Since we’d no place to go, I sang, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

    Three was the magic number it seems. I enjoyed three snowfalls for 12+ inches of snow, three jigsaw puzzles, three seasons of Cheers, season three of “The Wire”, and three books (The Other Wes Moore, Hands of My Father, Just Kids).

    Over a week of being disconnected (I didn’t post a thing on Facebook, didn’t read the news & contemplated closing my Twitter account) and not being able to come up with a single goal for 2013, I finally updated my status to say, “Stick a fork in me.”

    I’m done. I have nothing to look forward to, to work towards, to want or need. Will this feeling change? Probably. But until then, I’m left to wonder how and why I tried so hard at anything.

    So perhaps the cartoon should read:

    “Happiness is…

    a terrible thing for ambition.”

  • All Blog Entries,  Food & Drink,  Random,  Rock House

    “P” is for “Possibilities”

    Since my book tour and promotion is coming to an end, I’ve been a little bored and wondering what I should do next with my life. I’ve been a publicist, producer, paralegal, paraprofessional, promoter…so obviously something that starts with “P”. But I’ve also been a writer, blogger, actress, teller, data entry clerk, vice president of a bank’s commercial collection department and a secretary. Basically, I’m up for anything and keeping myself open to possibilities which, hey, that starts with “P”!

    For a brief moment, I thought, “I should take a cooking class!” Then I remembered I’m not a Meryl Streep character. If anything, I’m more like Diane Keaton in Baby Boom minus the baby. (Hmmm….maybe I should adopt or inherit a kid?! Okay, someone take away the bottle, because clearly I’m drunk for even thinking that.)

    But as the daughter of a carpenter and having dwelled in the woods, I have more intuition and practical skills than Ms. Keaton did in that movie. My only bonehead mistake thus far is flashing an old man my “flower” and not holding one nostril as I attempted a farmer’s sneeze yesterday as I stacked my wood pile. This resulted in a jellyfish like blob that dangled from my nose which I wiped off with the sleeve of a sweatshirt. No worries, it was Christian’s so I was fine with that. (Hey, Christian, you might want to wash it before you throw it on again.)

    Meanwhile, I am enjoying cooking at the cabin. Time in the woods means I must plan and cook meals for myself since takeout isn’t an option and restaurants are pretty far and expensive. Plus, I have a lovely kitchen that I’m getting to know how to use. My crockpot has been a good friend (1 pot for cooking + cleaning = brilliant!) and grilling in nice weather has been equally delightful. But after two years, I’m starting to spread my hot glued Martha Stewart wings and try new recipes.

    My latest obsession is how to recreate Panera Bread’s yummy egg soufflés since there is no Panera within a hundred miles or so. I found a few knock-off recipes online but the problem is how to cook them. So now I’m salivating over this Chicago Metallic Pie Mold. I can make the Panera soufflés, chicken pot pie, individual dessert pies and who knows what else?!

    Add to my Christmas wish list along with a wood stove steamer. It took me three winters to discover that I could add moisture to the air by heating a pot of water on the stove. I threw in a few cinnamon sticks for aroma and now want to make tea with the cinnamon water. I don’t even drink tea but that’s what this place does to me! It makes me open to “P”ossibilities!

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    Confucius say: Dog may be man’s best friend, but pussy not far behind.

    Down to my last few logs leftover from last winter, I dialed a number from a roadside sign advertising firewood. A few hours later, seventy-two-year-old Max showed up in his big honking monster truck at sundown and drove off the edge of the driveway. Any further, and we’d have a big problem. I stepped into my rubber boots, grabbed a windbreaker and raced out of the house. I flagged him down and said he could park right where he was since we would be unloading the wood on the bottom level of the house.

    He wanted his truck facing the opposite direction, so I looked on helplessly as he plowed his way to the top of our driveway, turned around, came barreling back down, and skidded to a stop.

    Watching him behind the wheel reminded me of when I was eight-years-old, and I drove my cousin’s four-wheeled All-Terrain Vehicle way too fast with skinny little arms steering it. ATVs –like Max’s truck– are unwieldy in the wrong hands! Dad had plopped me on to the ATV with no protective glasses or helmet, just a quick lesson on how to make the thing go. I had shot out of the yard like a funny car drag racer and three very blurry seconds later Dad was disentangling me from a briar patch. After a quick inspection revealed no damage done, Dad apologized for neglecting to teach me how to stop. He showed me the brakes, and off I was again flying through trails till I ran out of gas.

    Max had simply graduated from an ATV to a two-ton truck that he drove way too fast with arms too frail. As he backed the truck off the edge of the gravel drive, the very wet earth gave way. I hollered that he should stop. “Let me just get the truck level,” he insisted. Back and forth he rolled, “leveling” the truck and tearing up the edge of the drive and making deep ruts in the mud. As if he sensed my anxiety he said, “Don’t worry, this is a 4-wheeler. I can get this in and out of anything.”

    Ya know what Confucius should also say? “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This is my yard, dill weed!

    Using a cracked plastic paint bucket as a step, he hoisted his old, arthritic body on the third try into the back of the truck and proceeded to unload the half cord of firewood at the end of our long walkway. (See photo at left to give you an idea.) The last load of wood we’d had delivered came with two young bucks carrying arms full to a pile they neatly stacked outside our basement door. Max was not a young buck and probably could not handle such strenuous activity. I would have to haul the logs to the house and assemble a stack on my own.

    I took a deep breath and reminded myself that he’s elderly, the damage is nothing a shovel won’t fix, and I could use the exercise. So rather than leave him out in the quickly darkening sky without help, I stood in my thin windbreaker and dress, and chatted with Max as he unloaded one. single. log. at. a. time.

    When one log went errant, I squatted to pick it up and quickly realized my mistake. In my haste to stop Max from getting his two-ton truck stuck in my ditch, I had run out of the house without putting on my leggings. Showing an old man your snatch has got to be Step #1 in the woman’s version of the book How To Win Friends and Influence People. It happened in a nano-second but I’m sure that even in the dusky night with the eyesight of a seventy-two-year-old, a heterosexual male’s brain is able to compute in a fraction of that time the image of a lady’s beaver. And after spending a week in the woods, a beaver is probably what my gal looks like.

    His eyes darted back up faster than I stood and we went along chatting away as though we were none the wiser. Among the things discussed:

    — He and his wife just returned from spending the night at Mount Airy Casino where she played the slots and he played poker. The casino puts them up, gives them steak dinner and they have real games unlike the closer Monticello Raceways.

    — He has three sons and a daughter. Of the four children, only one bothers to call or have anything to do with him. “They can’t be bothered.” [Insert sound of my heart breaking.] The daughter has three children (a 12-year-old and 9-year-old twins) and is the only one divorced. She and her cop husband split because she cheated.

    — A recent Kinsey study shows that women cheat on men far more often than previously reported because people lie on surveys.

    — Estrous cycles of animals rule their sexual appetite. Because a woman is almost always in estrous, her sexuality is much more fluid. Take deer for example…(I tune out a little at this point because I know about the sex lives of deer and a few logs went bonkers, and I didn’t want to flash the gash again.)

    — He “very much believe[s] in God” and he believes in Evolution “because you’d have to be a moron not to. I mean, it’s just common sense when you look at everything.”

    — Since humans think we should all live no matter what and so true evolution can’t exist, genocide has served as a man-made thinning of the herd. On his theory he said, “I can’t talk about this stuff around these parts or I’d be run out of town, but I feel like I can share this with you.” [SEE! I told you I should consider running for office!]

    I helped Max turn over the metal crate holding the last few logs and he packed up his bucket to leave. He was headed home to his wife whom he’d left sleeping in her rocking chair. Usually she prepares a three-course meal (salad, dinner, dessert), however, the trip was so exhausting and they ate so much at the casino, they were having an early supper of a simple bowl of soup.

    As he hopped back behind the wheel he said, “You have my number. Call me if you need any help and if you’d like to join me and my wife to a trip to the casino, you’re welcome.”

    “As long as you’re not driving,” I thought.

    Max continued, “I know that we’ve just met, but I feel like I’ve made a new friend.” [Step #1 is #1 for a reason. Friend WON!]

    Max was gone and my previously broken heart was mended and filled with love.

    This morning, I was tempted to call Max to say, “Hey, you offered to help. Well, can you help me load the logs into a pile?” I would’ve been joking, of course, but I didn’t want to make him feel bad. So I put on my big girl panties (literally and figuratively ) and got to work. Here is the result of my morning’s labor.

    ~Kambri 
    Always listen to your mothers. Always wear underwear. Never mind the clean part. Just wear underwear.

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    Thanksgiving 2012

    Without friends and family, Thanksgiving is just a fancy, fattening dinner with an inhumane amount of cleanup. So I’m thankful to have shared the holiday weekend with Christian and his stepbrother & sister-in-law at our Rock House. As y’all know, I’m not much of a cook but hot damn! I have yet to mess up a turkey. I cooked my fourth one (Ever! In my whole life!) and it was the best one to date. So juicy, so perfectly browned, so delicious! Christian got a fancy electric knife and surgically removed every possible ounce of meat with the precision of a serial killer. (Turn on!) Monopoly, charades, antiquing and a lot of food and drink equaled a sublime time. I hope your Thanksgiving was equally fun and relaxing.
    Billy Ray Cyrus & Kambri on Set
    We returned to NYC today to a full DVR. So the episode of  Are We There Yet? in which I appeared as a featured extra was bumped off the playlist because of 8 million recordings of Too Cute.*  My stepsister in Fort Worth happened to catch it live which is how I discovered it was on in the first place. Hopefully it will re-air some time, because you wouldn’t want to miss me staring into the back of Billy Ray Cyrus‘ perfectly coiffed head, would you? You would? Fine! Oh wait! What’s this? A still photo of the very scene? Lucky you.

    Walking Dead, Survivor, Dexter, 30 Rock & I Love the 1880s (the new History Channel Show that Christian is on) survived the Too Cute massacre so my dance card is full tonight. Especially after you add the eleven — ELEVEN — seasons of Cheers that are streaming on Netflix. I watched Season 1 over the long weekend and laughed out loud and harder than I have at anything in a very long time. I love me a good set-up / punch.

    So, I’ll see you after some zombies attack a pregnant woman, an 80s child star masterminds a coups, and Dexter and his sister do it. Yeah…it. You know, the usual.**

    ~Kambri

    *One guess as to who scheduled that series?

    **Now I know why I’m loving Cheers: It’s simplicity is refreshing.

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    Firestarters & Cabin Bedroom Wall Before & After

    For those of you with high testosterone levels, move along, there’s nothing to see here but more crafty, decoratey stuff.

    For the rest of you, here’s an update to my earlier post about my Mason jar addiction.

    It’s August, which in the Catskills means it’s campfire season! We had our first last night in the fire pit on our patio to keep us warm while we watched two episodes of “The Wire”. Cozy toasty and the smell still lingers in Griswold‘s hair, just another reason to snuggle my nose behind his ear. Anyway, while starting the fire with soggy kindling and newspaper, I was reminded that I wanted to make my own fire starters. I’ve saved egg cartons and leftover wax from candles all spring and summer precisely for this reason. Fire starters can be pretty pricey and why let all that wax go to waste? Bonus: scented candle wax gives added aroma.

    I stuffed cotton balls into the empty egg cartons, melted some wax (use leftover candles and Scentsy cubes that have lost their scent) in a makeshift double boiler (an empty can filled with the wax inside a pot of boiling water). Using a potholder & a pair of pliers to pluck the can out of the boiling water, I poured the melted wax over the cotton balls. Be sure to have wax paper under the cartons to save your counter, the wax will seep through. Use a toothpick to make sure the cotton soaks up the wax. Alternative materials to cotton balls are dryer lint and sawdust –they’re actually better but we don’t have a dryer or any sawdust piled up.

    When we start our fire tomorrow night, I’ll cut off one “egg”, light the carton paper and see if my homemade starter worked. Supposedly they burn up to 10 to 15 minutes each, as long as, if not longer than a store-bought starter.

    Now, onto the bedroom. The guy who restored the home from 2001-2007, didn’t put up drywall in the bedroom. It’s a style choice of his which we kind of like. We painted it a very light blue, but without drywall there’s no real way to hang anything. Then I had an idea! I got some 2x4s cut down to size which I painted & installed horizontally between the studs to create “shelves”. For extra security, I added a little “ledge” (like a dowel rod but not cylindrical) with some wood glue and two carpet nails. I thought it was a pretty good idea / solution. I placed some items on the ledges for picture purposes, but I’m not sure what will finally end up on the shelves. Whatdya think?

    Update: I forgot to include pictures of our fresh coat of paint (Sassafras Tea) in the kitchen & dining room and the new pot rack for the we hung above the stove. (Thanks to my in-laws for my birthday gift card to Crate & Barrel to help pay for it!)

    (Full Rock House photo set on Flickr.)

     

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    Rock House Update

    For readers who like home improvement, arts & crafts, before & after stuff, I’ve updated my Rock House photo set on Flickr and have tried to arrange them to show the progression from the day we got the keys (January 4th, 2011) to now.

    The Rock House - Spring 2012.

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    Step Away from the Mason Jar!

    I need an intervention to cure my mason jar craft addiction. In addition to turning a tiny jar into a sewing kit, I’ve made two mason jar match holders (simply stick a bunch of matches in a mason jar and hot glue some sand paper to the circular portion of the lid. But be sure to get strike anywhere matches) and mason jar salt container spout thingy. Lest mason jars have all the fun, I ate over a pound of cornichons so I could turn the empty jars into light fixtures.

    I’ve also been busy priming and painting wooden picture frames, a hat stand, a hideous lamp, a wooden plate shelf/rack and plain old 2x4s. The guy who restored the home from 2001-2007, didn’t put up drywall in the bedroom. It’s a style choice of his which we don’t mind. We painted it a very light blue, but without drywall there’s no real way to hang anything. So, I got some 2x4s cut down to size which, after the priming is dry, I will paint & install horizontally between the studs to create “shelves”. I think it’s a pretty good idea / solution. We’ll see!

     

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    Through the Looking Glass

    Today, I spoke to three people who didn’t have a single tooth in their heads.*

    After a week of staying holed up in our cabin and not seeing or speaking to a human other than my husband, Christian convinced me that I needed to venture outside. He’d been out several times and felt that my lingering fatigue and lack of motivation was due to some stink needing to be blown off. So, we looked up an antiques auction and set out for an adventure.

    Thirty minutes later we pulled up to building occupied by every weirdo in Sullivan County.** This auction house was really a sad little junk store selling off some recently deceased person’s effects. To pull in substantially better income, they should install a two-sided mirror and charge admission to stare at its customers in their natural habitat. They were a wild, motley crew who all seemed to know one another, for better or for worse, and freely exchanged pleasantries and ribbed each other. This was going to be fun. Interesting, and fun.

    A friendly, 20-something young woman greeted us and gave us our auction number: 121 written in Sharpie on the back of a paper plate worn so thin it felt like tissue and couldn’t have held a dollop of Cool Whip. The girl was a bit plump, not unattractive, and showed no signs of a meth habit yet she was as toothless as the day she was born. Two rows of her pink fleshy gums glistened with saliva.

    We passed a row of decrepit men waiting on discarded furniture and made our way inside to the “showroom”. I was still contemplating what could have caused such a young girl to lose Every Single Tooth in her head when I discovered that Christian and I had more teeth between the two of us than everyone in the showroom combined. Where are we?

    That’s when I spoke to the second toothless person. She was a middle-aged fellow shopper browsing rows of boxed up, dusty, broken household items. She called dibs on a fur coat and shrieked at anyone who dared fondle it. She threatened to shoot one man who tried it on. (To be fair, he was plastered and nearly ripped it.) She was joking (I think) but, well, I would not be testing her.

    The third toothless woman was 50-something and, like the first, worked for the auction house. She turned off an old tube television that was buzzing and flickering, the screen stuck on the same image. “Oh, were you watching that?” No, we assured her, we were not. I laughed because I was sure she was joking. She was not. Probably because it’s quite possible her other clientele would be content to watch a buzzing frozen screen.

    As we contemplated leaving–other than the sideshow, there was nothing of interest for us there save for a nightstand– a short young man with a trucker hat and flannel shirt quickly entered the showroom, scanned the room as though he were looking for something in particular, then locked eyes with me. A huge grin (several teeth still intact) spread across his face as he turned around and ran out as quickly as he’d come in. He’d come in to gawk at me. I was on the inside of the two-way mirror.

    I’m the weirdo, here.

    But wait a second. My friend Jim Hall once wrote a letter of recommendation for me for my application to join the Peace Corps. He compared me to the girl in To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, he used to call me by her nickname “Scout” as he mentored me at FirstMerit in Akron, Ohio. Jim was convinced that I had bravery in my blood and, more importantly, a specific kind of humility that comes only from a hardscrabble life living amongst and fiercely protecting physically and mentally challenged humans. “She is not afraid of the Boo Radleys in the world,” he had written. “Because she is of them. She is them.”

    That’s why I had kissed a drunk, toothless homeless man on the streets of NYC one day.***

    “It’s my berrff-day!” He had shouted, jumping in front of me and my friend Keith, blocking our path. Keith had been visibly shaken and tensed up as the very happy, very inebriated man slung around a bottle of hooch and stood too close.

    “It is?!” I had shouted back. “Yep,” he had slurred. “I’m FITTY!”

    “Fifty? WOW! Well, happy birthday to you!” I squeezed his cheeks, puckering his lips and gave him a big kiss. He lifted me off the sidewalk (or maybe I lifted him) and we hugged. It was a good hug, too.

    “Happy birthday!” I had sung out again as Keith and I continued toward our red carpet party.

    “What the hell just happened?” Keith had asked.

    “It was his birthday. I just wished him a happy one.”

    Back at the auction house, being gawked at reminded me that I was the outsider here with my full set of perfect white teeth, clean clothes that matched and fit, and body parts intact and functioning at around 90%. But I felt comfortable. I have spent many hours in various holes-in-the-wall with folks as hard up or worse off than these poor folks. It’s just been awhile and the undiluted concentration under one roof was a tad jarring.

    However, as much as I love making chit chat with strangers, whether they be of the freak show variety or not, my husband does not. Christian’s just not the social sort of butterfly and, like my friend Keith, gets squirmy when forced to make small talk.

    So when I informed him that if we did bid on that crappy little nightstand and won, it would mean we had to stay till the end to settle up and collect our goods. The table wasn’t that spectacular and its drawer held remnants of a life recently extinguished:  syringes, used tissues, and medicine bottles filled with pills taken to stave off the inevitable. Christian decided it wasn’t worth the wait or the effort. Agreed! We headed into the entry hall to return our tissue paper plate numbered 121 and, so as not to seem rude, browsed through a rack of used DVDs.****

    While waiting for Christian, I taught a mentally challenged lesbian with enormous, pendulous bra-less breasts***** what foosball is and gabbed about her favorite sports. Might I remind you this is the reason my husband thought I needed to get out of the house in the first place–I NEED to talk to people. She was people and equally desperate to gab.

    “If the Giants win this week they go to the Super Bowl,” she told me. I tried to explain the playoffs and that she was mistaken. There was no convincing her otherwise.

    In medieval times, she may have been a soothsayer or perhaps burned at the stake for witchcraft. Either way, if the Giants go to the Super Bowl, you can bet I will ask her for more predictions. Because I will be back. Because I’m of them and am them, and because I am totally going to bid on that fur coat.

     

    *Oh, there were at least seven other toothless folks there, I just didn’t have conversations with them. And it’s quite possible that their wisdom teeth were present but impacted.

    **I’m sure this is not factually correct.

    ***I say “one day” but I have been known to hug, kiss and give homeless people the actual shirts off my back. I don’t know why. It’s fun. Their faces light up like a kid at Christmas. Maybe one of them will kill me, but I doubt it. If so, all press is good press, right?

    ****They had an excellent selection. We scored Transamerica, Capote, The Warriors, K Street, Shaun of the Dead and Reality Bites for a grand total of $10.

    *****Her breasts are why bras were invented. Christian was amazed that the giant appendages that swung from her body are the same body part that men lust after. They are. Suck on that!

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    Christmas on the Rocks

    We usually head out of the country for Christmas (check out last year’s epic trip to Peru), but 2011 is a different sort of year for us.

    Almost one year ago we bought our first home (the “Rock House”) and just weeks after that we welcomed into our lives a rescued mutt (the “Griswold”).

    Since it’s our first Christmas at the Rock House and Griswold’s first Christmas EVER we are doing it up right. Christmas tree erecting, wood fire burning, vinyl records spinning, meals crock-potting, fresh orange juicing, cookie baking, movie watching, Scrabble and Monopoly playing…it doesn’t get much better than this.

    Day two had my boys cuddled up doing crosswords and staring out of the Rock House window at anything that moved. Guess who was doing what.

    Our tree has no decorations and we aren’t exchanging gifts, unless you count the rolling pin Christian bought me yesterday.*

    But really who cares?

    We’re together and warm and happy and this year has been one rife with gifts that can’t be bought. I hope this season is equally blessed for you and yours and that 2012 brings good tidings to us all!

    *Oh, I’m totally counting that and will use it in an argument years from now when he has forgotten that I asked for him to buy a rolling pin while running errands so I could make him sugar cookies.

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    Wiping Up

    Ah! The halcyon days of autumn at the Rock House! I want to scoop them up and smother them in a jar filled with nail polish remover to preserve them until they’re dust-covered, crumbly exoskeletons.

    I spent a lovely week in October partaking in the three Rs: Running, Reading and Relaxing. One evening, while watching La Vie en Rose, Griswold came cowering into the living room and hid behind the recliner. His tucked-under tail, panicked pace and look of mortification on his face could only mean one thing:

    There was poop stuck in his butt.

    I know I’m projecting human emotion on an animal, but he looked downright humiliated as I came to his rescue. Picture the saddest doe eyes, tiny whimpers, and a tail thumping quickly while still carefully covering the crime scene.

    Watching a French film –subtitles and all– while sipping a rich Malbec made me feel oh so chic. Needing to pause said movie to wipe and cut away feces from my dog’s rear end reminded me that I am not. None of us are. As they say, everybody poops.

    Another thing this experience taught me: My scissors are painfully dull.

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    Work on the Rocks

    I’m working “on the rocks” at our cabin in the Catskills, more specifically the “patio” between our cabin and the outbuilding, and having the most perfect day.

    First up, I took an early morning bike ride to and from one of the gobs of local post offices where there are no lines, everything you might need is in stock, and the postal worker is happy to see you. Read that last line again and appreciate the shock and awe of it. I’m tempted to abandon emails in favor of snail mail just to give me an excuse to go back. And the bike ride was just challenging enough to work up a sweat but without the “OHMYGODI’MGOINGTODIE” feeling that some of the hills around here induce. I came home to eat breakfast and read the paper on the aforementioned patio while listening to Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of American Music, took a trip to the hardware store (yes, that’s part of the perfect day…I could spend hours in them), I’m wearing flip flops and a sun dress and there’s just enough breeze and clouds to cool down the sun. Perfect, I tell ya!**

    The patio between the cabin and the outbuilding has been a rewarding, not-too-labor-intensive project. It started as a huge mound of dirt and rocks as deep as two-and-a-half feet in some spots and a ten-foot long by three-foot wide area. The pile was left during the renovations that took place some five years ago. I was convinced there was something worthwhile under the rubble or, at the very least, we could make the dirt level to where we could put down stones.
    Once the ground thawed, Christian and I went to work. We used some of the bigger rocks to build a stone staircase and began the sweaty, tedious job of hacking away at the rock pile. We unearthed a smooth patch of concrete patio along with some natural rock and some broken concrete slabs. The picture at right is just past the mid-way point. It’s great knowing something awesome and usable is underneath that pile and that it didn’t cost us a cent. But it’s not so great knowing that you have that much work ahead of you. After a while it was like pulling the string on a sweater…just when does it stop?
    As you can see from the bottom two pics, it was worth the effort. Once we patch a hole, add a few flowering plants, and a string of party lights and we have a party!

    **And, okay, so maybe it’s not PERFECT. Christian queued up Elvis Costello (blech) and, while Texas loves to brag about how big everything is there, lordy the mosquitoes here are the size of horseflies. And my Texans are saying, “Sheee-it, here we call them gnats.”
    Kambri
    Full Flickr set of Rock House photos here.

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    Martha Stewart Crawled Into My Ear & Laid Eggs

    And they hatched into tiny little Martha spiders that have taken over my body. This Crewsfly I’ve meta-morphed into is quite a handy little worker bee.

    Just a few dishes I have made lately include red beans & rice with sausage that could compete in cook-off, meatloaf & mash potatoes that would blow your WIG back, chicken tortilla soup* that tastes like you’re in #$&*! Mexico minus the sun and sand of course, and caramel apples that make your mouth water like a slobbery infant.

    In addition to various home projects like painting and hanging shelves, I’m awaiting my order of supplies to make homemade soap and have a yummy recipe for a brown sugar scrub that I might “accidentally” eat in the shower.
    Are you sitting down? Good, because check it out, I have even taken to sewing.


    We have a kitchen “island” which is actually an antique gas stove that is inoperable and missing a door creating an unsightly, gaping hole. So, I bought a gingham checked shirt at the thrift store for $3 and turned it into a little curtain. Check out the before and after by rolling over the image. If I had a machine & more cloth, I would have done it differently but let’s not get crazy here. You don’t live in a barn because your trailer got repo’d and not have to sew a few things by hand — hemming skirts, patching up holes and trying to make things last or look halfway decent like Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. I can sew. I just don’t. My hand job is perfectly fine serving both a function & adding a fun little kick to the island.


    Since I don’t have a machine, I just got a little emergency travel sewing kit from the hardware store. It was standard, containing a couple of needles and small spools of thread and that thing. You know the bendy little silver metal thing with the face on it. I stared at it curiously as I have in the past wondering what function it served. My first instinct was to look it up on the internet — which shows you just how long it has been since I last sewed: THE INTERNET DIDN’T EXIST. So I Google “sewing kit silver thing with the face on it” and got this answer.

    It’s a needle threader! All these years I’ve been painstakingly threading needles while the face on the silver thing was staring at me. How had my mother never shown me this when she was teaching me to sew? I guess she was too busy teaching other basic things like don’t steal, take candy from strangers, or tell people she smoked marijuana. There are some lessons I guess parents never get to. But that’s why we have the internet, to answer plaguing questions that your mother didn’t tell you. Like what is a clove of garlic or the silver thing with a face on it and is it normal for women have hair on their nipples?


    *Trust me, you want my recipe. I just need to find the paper I wrote it on so I can transcribe it. So, pray that I do locate it, because, like using a needle threader, it will change your LIFE.
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    The Carpenter’s Daughter

    Perfectly HungI may not have known what a clove of garlic is and may have had to consult the internet to confirm exactly what constitutes a stalk of celery, but I sure know how to use a drill. I used a level, calculated the exact spacing, drilled holes, inserted anchors and screws and hung these bad boys up.

    In less than ten minutes. Including gathering and putting away tools and cleaning up.

    Tomorrow I’m patching a hole with plaster, sanding and painting. That’s nothing.

    Kambri
    Saving face.

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    Things Cooking Chili Taught Me

    I’m at the cabin and cooked my 2nd crock pot dish. This time a chili recipe I got from my cousin Shari’s blog (see yesterday’s “I’m Your Night Plower” entry). A few things I learned in the process:

    (1) I could rake in the big bucks on “Supermarket Sweep”. I picked up everything on my list in order without needing to double back in a store that I’ve never stepped foot in before. Although I’ve never purchased things like cans of chopped tomatoes, cloves of garlic and fresh bay leaves, I instinctively knew where to find them.

    (2) Cloves aren’t just for smoking. The list called for two cloves of garlic. Check. It also called for three whole cloves. Cloves of what? I went in figuring my cousin Shari would know since she has seven children. You don’t keep seven humans alive without knowing such things. Sure enough, along with all the other spices, there was a bottle of whole cloves. Whole cloves are actually pretty small. They look like a really thick, brown, harder pistil of a flower.
    (3) A clove of garlic is just one piece of the entire bulb. So, I put in too much garlic because I thought the bulb of garlic was a clove. I didn’t put THAT much extra in, though, because peeling the pieces of garlic was annoying. And chopping them up made my eyes water and my hands still smell like an old Italian.
    (4) I want a garlic press. That’s something I never imagined me saying. I still want a jigsaw before a garlic press, but still: I want a garlic press so I never have to deal with mincing garlic by hand.
    (5) I follow the rules. The lines were long with people whose carts looked like they were cooking for the Octomom. I had about 25 or more things and they had express lines for 5, 10 and 15 items or less. I just couldn’t bring myself to get in the 15 or less line, even after seeing a guy with much more than I had do it. I simply can’t bear the idea that I’m the “some jerk”when a person with only 15 items gets in line behind me, has to wait and tells their waiting friend or family, “Some jerk got in line with like 30 things in the 15 or less line!” While my dad and I always remark about how much alike we are, this is definitely where we differ. No way would he wait in a regular line behind carts filled to the rim. No. Way.

    Side note: I lost my list which I had written on official White House Situation Room note paper that I snagged during a private tour of, well, the Situation Room in the White House. I like that some hillbilly is going to find my list and think that a real White House employee, with such extraordinary stress and job responsibility, is writing down a chili recipe and shopping list instead of, you know, helping keep America safe.

    Kambri
    Chili in a cabin surrounded by snowcapped woods is just about as Norman Rockwell picture perfect as life can get.

  • All Blog Entries,  Anipals,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    I’m Your Night Plower

    I woke up today with a mission: get paint, groceries to make my cousin Shari’s chili, and end my day at the cabin painting said cabin and eating said chili. I left the apartment, dragging a ticked off Chihuahua through the snow behind me while carrying 100 pounds of STUFF in a temperature more frigid than Gwyneth Paltrow.

    The alley cats that live in my private car lot shot me concerned looks and slinked away, low backs, shifty eyes. I smelled like danger. I was THAT flummoxed. Car cleared of snow, warmed and loaded, I set off. Never have I tried to find a spot and parallel park after yet another snowstorm (including the 10 years I lived in Ohio), and I’ve only driven a handful of times in ten years. I quickly realized I had a better chance at finding Bin Laden than a place to park near the paint store on Steinway Street. I had left an hour later than I hoped, Paquita was whining, and I just felt FAT all bundled up in winter gear trying to program the GPS and check for blind spots…like I was someone who couldn’t bend over and tie their own shoe. Also, I realized I dumped all my change in a collection jar at home which meant I couldn’t feed the muni-meter.

    “This is NOT cool. NOT cool, Universe! I just wanna RELAX! How do people LIVE in this city! No wonder I’m trying to get out!” I may have even screamed a nonsensical, “AGGHERRERHHHHH!!!”

    Ask and you shall receive!

    A spot miraculously appeared, the new muni-meters take credit cards but as I fished through my wallet a woman gave me her unexpired meter receipt with FORTY-FIVE minutes left on it. I went inside, got my paint and supplies and met zero traffic out of Manhattan. No, you were not slipped a roofie. I did, in fact, type that I had ZERO traffic out of Manhattan. I got to the Shop Rite in Monticello, pulled up my cousin’s blog for the ingredients and found everything I needed in a jiffy. IN and OUT in 30 minutes on a Saturday.

    I get to the cabin and DOH! The driveway wasn’t plowed! I thought we had already made automatic arrangements with our plow dude, but no. There is NO place to park as an alternative and, sure I could stay at a hotel but who wants to blow money on that and have groceries go to waste? A lot of freaking out and frantic phone calls later –The groceries! The dog! Where will I go? What will I do? — I started driving around and saw a truck w/a plow attachment parked in front of a convenience store. I parked,
    went inside and found a dude who looked like he might drive a plow (read: filthy, reflective coat, missing teeth and buying two packs of cigarettes).

    My radar was spot on: it was his plow and it turns out he’s my neighbor. In less than ten minutes, he cleared a place for the Thunder Nugget, and I took down his info and gave him all the cash I had. (Don’t worry, if you know me, I carry little to no cash.) But now I’m worried that he knows I’m in the woods alone. So, while chopping up garlic, I had fantasies of stabbing him in the neck with the butcher knife and splashing him with the simmering crock pot full of chili.

    But for now, I’m here. In the cabin with my Chihuahua, paint and chili. Just when I think I want to stay holed up and write a sequel to the Unibomber’s Manifesto, the path is cleared.

    Kambri
    Just in case: His name is Rich and he lives in a yellow house just up the road from me and I have his cell number programmed in my phone.

  • Christian Finnegan,  Food & Drink,  Rock House

    Domestic Adventures: Le Pot de Crock

    On January 4th, Christian and I bought our first home together: a little one bedroom cottage in Sullivan County, about a two hour drive from NYC. Perched upon two giant boulders on a nearly four acre wooded lot, the “Rock House” is a perfect retreat for us to escape the noise of the city. (View the photo set on Flickr.)

    We have room to roam and a chance to try things we haven’t been able to while in the concrete jungle. One of those things for me is using the kitchen for anything other than popping popcorn in the microwave. After seeing so many friends and family posting on Facebook about crock pots and delicious meals they were eating, I wondered what the big deal is.

    I asked folks about crock pots and received TONS of advice. Apparently all you have to do is throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, let it sit there slow cooking for a while and voila! Wait? That’s it? What’s the catch? THERE IS NO CATCH? How can this BE?!?!

    So other people –nearly everyone I know– love and enjoy crock pots and never told me about this magical machine designed to make meals while barely lifting a finger. What other secrets are they keeping from me? Granted, I use my oven for storage and, if I cook, it involves boxing great George Foreman. But in that case don’t I, more than anyone, need suggestions on kitchen domesticity? Come on, people, help a girl out here.

    I got the pot pictured because it was the only one at Bed, Bath & Beyond and at only $30, figured it was worth a try. Today marks my first attempt at making a meal: a pot roast or boneless chuck or whatever you want to call it.

    To keep my personality balanced, I listened to Metallica’s “Kill ‘Em All” while chopping up the vegetables. I also used a power drill several times today.

    Lest you get too excited, note that I had to look up how much a stalk of celery was. I mean I *know* what a stalk of celery is. When I was at the grocery store I grabbed a bagged bunch of celery and thought I’ll use a stalk for the roast and the rest I can munch on and grabbed some flavored dip / spread thing. But when it came time to looking at the ingredients/directions, I found myself asking “Wait! What IS a stalk of celery?” One stem or is the whole bunch a stalk? So I looked it up. The fact that the answer existed online is of some comfort (hey, other people wondered, too) but it is a reminder to me that like dancing, and drawing, cooking just does not come naturally to me.

    Kambri
    I forgot to look at what time it started cooking, so now I’m just guessing that it has about 5 hours to go. No delicious aromas yet, unless you count the Yankee Candle Sugar Cookie candle that’s burning.