One Crazy Summer

 

Do Something Every Day

 

Usually when I close my eyes at the end of a day I can think back on my waking hours and come up with a few things I accomplished, things that help me to feel like I didn’t waste my time. I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I do. And honestly, it’s rare that I lie there feeling like a complete schlub who didn’t do a damn thing worth noting. Big things, small things – I count them. And that nightly ritual really helps me to like myself. It might not be how you roll, and that’s okay. But I am definitely habituated to this behavior and it generally serves me well.

 

When I come to the start of a new season, like today, I find myself trying to figure out what I did for the closing period. How did  I spend it? Did my choices make a difference for me or for others? Was it enough? Was I enough?

 

It isn’t always a kind process. Sometimes I’m really down on myself, or grasping for anything to count as time well spent. Those times are hard, and usually point to a period of self-doubt or low self-esteem. Sometimes I’m elated to recount three months of accomplishments and experiences. Most of the time, however, I hover somewhere in the middle. I recall a few fun things, a few moments of service, a few standout happenings. Middle of the road ain’t too shabby, y’all.

 

This summer? Well, it was odd. There was a lot of uncertainty in my little world. A big move seemed possible and because of that, I spent more time than you can imagine in Atlanta, Georgia. Because I’m a goer, I made the best of it. (It wasn’t difficult.)

 

Lorinda and Mikki in 1980-something

 

Mister and I spent a weekend in Athens, GA, with my sister from another mister, Lorinda. I have loved this gal since I was 13 years old. She’s even more fabulous than ever and I still love her.

 

Creature Comforts - Athens, GA

 

I drank beer – gasp! At Creature Comforts in Athens, they know what they’re doing, y’all. For reals. While there, I took a photo with these two gals. I have no idea who they are. But I liked that they were willing to snap a pic with a complete stranger. And they smiled! Yeah – I dig that.

 

HIGH Museum of Art

 

I went to the HIGH Museum of Art. I’m a museum junkie, so this was really a no-brainer.

 

I got to spend time with cousins. People I not only love, but actually like.

 

Bugs - Kindred Spirits

 

I found a kindred spirit in my cousin Kathy. She collects and displays beautiful dead things. I like that. A lot.

 

Brunswick Stew

 

I made a quest to find delicious Brunswick Stew. People outside the South may not be familiar with this BBQ joint staple, but I’m not only familiar with it, but also obsessed. There are rules, y’all. When a bowl of Brunswick Stew is placed before me and I spy with my little eye a lima bean in the mix… Oh, lordy. That ain’t right. And that happened to me at a very popular place run by some Texans. Nope. I searched and searched and probably ate more little bowls of stew than most people consume in a year. On my last day of tooling around town, nearly defeated, I spotted this joint…

 

Daddy D'z BBQ Joynt - Atlanta, GA

 

Daddy D’z. I went in, took a seat and a chance. When the food was placed before me, I appreciated the beauty, but I’d fallen for that before. I slowly took a bite… And then I started crying sweet tears of joy. That stew was mighty close to what I loved as a child. And I was grateful.

 

Carter Presidential Library - Atlanta, GA

 

I went to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Not only is the facility beautiful, it is fabulously inspiring.

 

Jimmy Carter Quote at Carter Presidential Library - Atlanta, GA

 

I thought I knew about President Carter, but I knew nothing. He is a beautiful human being and was a fabulous President. Not only that, but he’s done more for the citizens of this country – in his post-Presidency years – than most living Presidents combined. I took my time going through the Carter Library. I shed a lot of tears there. I loved it so much. I would happily go again.

 

Maurine - Oakland Cemetery - Atlanta, GA

 

Because I love cemeteries, I tooled around Oakland Cemetery one afternoon. When I stopped in the visitors center, the gentleman there couldn’t have been nicer. He was also a bit misinformed, as he said that he’d been told Oakland Cemetery was more loved and better than the cemeteries of Europe. Had he gone to any of those, I asked. No. I told him that at first glance, Oakland looked to be a fine cemetery, but he might want to visit a few more before making such statements.

 

Margaret Mitchell Headstone

 

But it is a fine cemetery. Margaret Mitchell is buried there, if you’re into that.

 

Mayor Maynard Jackson Headstone

 

So is Mayor Maynard Jackson. His marker is beautiful. And here’s an interesting note about Mayor Jackson’s grave. In the South, the dead are buried with their headstones facing East, because that’s the direction from which Jesus will rise again, don’t you know. But Mayor Jackson’s marker is askew. It faces downtown Atlanta’s skyline, which can be seen from his burial site. He loved that city.

 

Sometimes I Drink Water to Surprise My Liver

 

I rode MARTA all over the danged place and walked more miles than a sane person should have during the heat of a Georgia summer. I also drank a ton of local brews and talked with people from all walks of life.

 

Georgia Green

 

It was lovely to be there. Folks were great. The city was green and beautiful. I soaked up about as much of Atlanta as I could.

 

Malibu

 

Closer to home, I spent a few days with friends in Malibu, which feels like another world. The booming ocean provided a beautiful backdrop for time with these adored souls.

 

M*A*S*H Filming Location

 

While in the ‘Bu, we hiked to the old M*A*S*H filming site in the Santa Monica Mountains. The hike itself wasn’t difficult, but the heat just about took me out. I will again do this hike, but will definitely bring more water. Dag.

 

Back at the homestead, I swam and swam and swam. Because we don’t have a pool heater, I try to get in the water as much as I can before the night temperatures drop so much as to cool the water beyond comfort for swimming. We made it until 14 September. That was the last day I could bear it. Once the water drops into the 70s, I get freaking cold. It bums me out once that privilege is done for the year. But that’s the way it goes.

 

And now, the light is changing. The daytime temps are still h-a-w-t, but the nights are quite comfortable. I’ve started studying different recipes, in anticipation of cooler weather. I’m ready to switch out my clothes for pieces not worn since winter. Social gatherings are increasing, as friends are back in town after their summer travels. Work on various projects has kicked into high gear. Autumn is here.

 

It isn’t lost on me that as I age I become more aware of the seasons. More appreciative, too. As odd as this Summer was, I found joy in its days. I rode out the unknowns and the difficulties and came out on the other side. And I loved it.

 

Pool Shark

 

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to remember the way it felt to tread water for an hour, the water lifting my body and bettering my health, but I remember now. Maybe tonight, when I close my eyes at the close of this first day of Fall, I’ll list the moments that occupied my time, checking off what served me well. And then, if I’m lucky, I’ll remember what it feels like to float. To trust the water. To be in the world and of the world. In my own skin.

 

Love

 

I Made It For Myself

 

Savory Cheesecake

 

This is a savory cheesecake I made for a holiday party. I’m not blogging the recipe. I’m just letting you know that I got up early to make it, took my time and tried to make the final dish not only presentable but also festive.

 

This is the damned social season, whether we like it or not. And that very often means bringing something to our hosts. Some folks specifically ask that we not bring anything. Some request a contribution to the table. Some attendees (such as myself) struggle with walking in empty-handed, no matter what our hosts have requested. For us, if we’re bringing a bottle – easy. If we’re bringing treats for a friend’s beloved pet – no problem. If we’re cooking something, well, that isn’t always convenient. And sometimes it can be stressful AF.

 

So when making the savory cheesecake, I finally learned something that’s escaped me all these years: I made it for myself. That’s it. Yes, I was gifting the dish to the party I was attending. But I didn’t need or expect praise. I wasn’t trying to garner appreciation for the preparation and steps I’d taken. I wanted to make that cheesecake because I wanted to eat that cheesecake! Plain and simple. And y’all – some things are meant for a group. Gi-normous, savory cheesecake is one of those things.

 

During this holiday season, as you go about your harried, hurried way, please don’t knock yourself out to try and impress others. You don’t have to lose sleep and you don’t have to stress. Not over attending a party, for cry-eye. Store-bought is not only acceptable, it can also be fabulous. And if you choose to make something that takes time, blood, sweat and maybe even tears, do it for yourself. View it as art. Create something you appreciate. The joy you glean from your experience will more than satisfy.

 

One last thing… When you do create a delectable dish that makes you happy, it’s easier and more fun to make than if you’d felt pressured and strained in completing it. Because of all your positive energy, it’s also bound to be well-received. That savory cheesecake? Oh yeah. It was devoured.

New Toy

 

Over the holidays, I got myself a new toy: a kitchen torch. Not only is this thing fun, it was also inexpensive. I like inexpensive, y’all.

 

Kitchen Torch

 

Anyhoo – I used it to make this amazing Creme Brulee. If you’re game, I highly recommend this yummy concoction, as written.  Even though I have a tendency to tinker with recipes, there’s no need when the goods are this great. And if you’re so inclined, I also recommend getting yourself a kitchen torch. In the words of the renowned sage Beavis, “Fire! Fire!”

Family Heirloom

 

Have you ever had a thing in your life that you just assumed would always be there? For instance, sitting where I am right now, I can see a couple of paintings I anticipate keeping until I die. I see a book I don’t plan to part with. I even see a very old (and very fragile) tapestry pillow that’s dear to me and that I will fight for. (I’m pretty sure it’s not Mister’s favorite, so a fight could theoretically come to pass.) Yes – I’m talking about stuff here, but it’s stuff I like. Stuff I love.

 

It happens. We fall for things. Sometimes we encounter something and know – all the way down to our toes – that we are smitten. Those moments don’t have to make sense. Those items don’t have to make sense. We feel what we feel and that’s that. Other times, however, with other things, the bonds are slow to develop. We don’t realize it’s happening, but those items are endearing themselves to us, day by day, year by year.

 

Broken Egg Plate

 

That’s what happened to Mister and me with our old deviled egg plate. We got it soon after we were married, as I thought Mister’s famous (and secret-recipe) deviled eggs deserved to be presented on a worthy tray. So I found a simple but lovely Indiana Glass tray and that was that. It survived multiple cross-country moves and multiple raucous parties. It has held all varieties of egg and then some. (We are big deviled egg fans, y’all.) And we loved it.

 

Alas – nothing is forever. The old egg plate made one last appearance at one last party and her number came up. My heart winced, at her loss, but Mister seemed to take it a bit harder. I guess I was surprised by that. But I also understood. I’m a sentimental gal. I can’t help but empathize with the sentimentality of others.

 

Because it weighed on him so, Mister took it upon himself to find a suitable replacement for the old egg plate. Without really knowing it, he tracked down another Indiana Glass tray. This time it’s blue. It hasn’t been christened yet, but will be soon. I’m sure the eggs will be delicious. And I’m sure that in no time our new family heirloom will endear itself to us and our table. Even if we don’t realize it’s happening.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

Last year, a few days before Halloween, I picked up a batch of Halloween Krispy Kreme doughnuts for a friend’s party. I live closer to the store, so I was happy to help out and save her the drive. That’s how you do for friends.

 

Anyhoo – while waiting for the order to be ready, the fine folks at Krispy Kreme were handing out hot-off-the-line samples. And I don’t know how, but I managed to get doughnut glaze on my glasses. I swear – I wasn’t tearing into that doughnut like a monkey or anything. I think it just must have been extra glaze-y. That’s the story I’m going with anyway.

 

Here’s to a Halloween of delicious, spooky treats. And to clean glasses.

 

Butthole. For Reals.

 

 

When it’s 95 degrees at 7pm, a gal is justified in being less-than-herself. That’s where I find myself as I write this.

 

I had wanted to tell you about some of my summer experiences. I’m hoping heat prostration doesn’t keep me from my task. First up, I visited Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa…

 

 

It was pretty fabulous. That hour wait to get in wasn’t anything to write home about, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re the shit, and they surely are.

 

 

I also saw Miss Angie Dickinson at an event. To say I never knew how fabulous she was/is, well, that’s an understatement. The woman rules, y’all. Seriously.

 

 

And then there was The. French. Laundry. I can’t even begin to write about this meal, as it was the most mind-blowing dinner I’ve ever had. I know I’m speaking in absolutes here, but it’s true. I’ve had amazing food in my life, and I expect to have more. This was incomparable. Truly. I’m not sure it will be matched.  I haven’t fully processed that, either. For the record, Mister and I have tried for a few years to get a rezzie to this joint. It finally worked out.

 

 

Did it cost us? Oh, yeah. Big time. Was it worth it? Yes. Bigger time. (Were we our usual dorky selves? Do I really need to answer that? ) Let me tell you this – I would not hesitate to do it again. It was that magnificent.

 

 

There was also the yard project, which needs some T-L-C, as the goddamn sun is baking the hell out of it. Mister and I will work on that this weekend, though, and we’ll hope for the best. Well, I’ll hope for the best. I think Mister just believes. My inner cynic doesn’t always allow that.

 

Oh! And I had surgery. I’m still under doctor’s orders, but feeling pretty much like myself. So I’m grateful for that. The no-getting-in-the-pool part sucks, as, you know, a hundred and eleven-ty and all. But I know that this, too, shall pass. And I’ll be healthier for it. (See – Mister’s belief is catching.)

 

 

And while I was recovering from my surgery (and dealing with the heat), I watched some telly. What I finished was the third season of “Grace and Frankie.” (Loved the last episode so much. And – you have to be really good to take a photo of the screen and get both characters with their eyes closed. I’m just sayin’.) Then I started “Luther.” I had wanted to watch this for some time, so it was overdue. The first episode hooked me, so now I’m in it. Good living, don’t you know.

 

 

My summer has also taken me to Napa for the first time (not the last, I hope), Park City, Utah, where I was eaten alive by bugs – no lie, Boston, my old stomping ground, and home. I’ve been lucky to get around a bit. And even luckier to have a place to return. Not everyone has that, you know – a home. Mine is filled with love. And a ghost. I embrace it all.

 

Speaking of Miss Harmon, she asserted herself a couple of months ago. Mister said something or other about how her ghost had not been around for a while. I told him she’d popped up a few weeks prior and relayed the following tale. I was entering the front parlor, and the glass door that closes off that room was open, but not fully (it was away from the wall). I found that odd, and proceeded to close it. Or at least I tried. The door stopped about a foot and a half from the wall. As it’s clear glass, I could see there was nothing blocking the path. I leaned into it, putting my full weight behind it, and still nothing happened. That’s when I said, “Damn it, Miss Harmon! If you want to hide some place, pick a better spot than behind a glass door!” Immediately, the door opened fully and that was that. I think she just needed some acknowledgement. She got it and we all moved on.

 

There’s a few weeks of summer left, folks. Sure – school for the kids has resumed (mostly), and vacations have primarily come and gone. Personally, I’ve got some projects coming up, as well as ongoing commitments and responsibilities. That’s life. For most of us. We’re doing alright, really. Remembering that kind of helps to trigger a smile here and there. Compassion is activated, too. For me, I know that I got to live another summer. Not even one is guaranteed, so I’ll take it. Even if the next few weeks are as hot as Satan’s Butthole, I’ll take it. I may not like it, but I’ll take it.

Vignettes

 

 

While I’ve been missing – from this blog and from myself – shit is still going down. Some of it’s good. Some of it’s absolutely useless. And some of it, well, you can’t always tell.

 

 

There’s a store I occasionally visit for home improvement purposes, and said store sits smack in the middle of the ghetto. Now – I’ve tried other locations of this particular store, locations in prettier locales, and not one of them has provided the same level of expertise and professionalism as the ghetto location. So I keep going back. In the daytime. Anyhoo – a couple of weeks ago, I was at the ghetto store and heard music coming from an open window of an apartment across the parking lot. I always take note of this apartment, as its windows are covered with various photos of the Madonna. On this particular warm day, the windows were open. Beneath the strains of laughter coming from inside, I heard Christmas music. And it was blasting. The whole scene made me smile.

 

 

Mister and I have recently wrapped up a turn on the Whole 30 diet. We were “compliant” the entire time and we did a good job of adhering to the rules of the danged thang. After re-introducing various foods, drink and substances, I can tell you that I learned eating avocado by itself doesn’t sit well with me. And my body (my head, that is) prefers beer over wine. Though I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge that I’ll be getting both in the future. And when we cracked open this bottle of Bordeaux, well, we were smitten kittens.

 

 

I have a new baby cousin! Actually, that little dude is my 2nd cousin once removed. (I’d love to tell you I understand all that stuff, but I don’t. I have to look it up – every time.) Life keeps going. As it should.

 

 

I’ve started a new painting, which may not sound like much but I assure you – it’s a big deal. After my mentor retired from teaching art, I was so depressed I didn’t even want to think about painting. (That depression added to the lowly feelings about the state of my fucked-up country was almost too much to bear.) So for me to set up my easel and put paint to canvas is a mighty step. And I know it.

 

 

I will have a piece or two in an upcoming art show in Los Angeles! It’s sweet. And nice. And I’m happy to be included. If you’re local and interested in attending the opening reception (which is free, by the way), let me know and I’ll send you the RSVP deets.

 

Other activities abound (work on the homestead, addiction to “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “American Gods”) and there will surely be more to come. The depression is slowly lifting, thank the lord, and I’m feeling more and more like myself. It’s a slog sometimes. Anyone who’s been through it knows how tough it can be to live with depression. I’m just a regular gal,  with no particular gifts or tools for dealing with this. I put my flip-flops on one foot at a time. And though I get tired of hearing myself say it, I am a fan of baby steps. And distractions. And truth. And I’ll keep going, because that’s what you do. Right?

My New Lover

 

 

I am currently having a love affair with Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Jalapeño Peppers. Like some other affairs, this one caught me off-guard and certainly wasn’t planned. My painting buddy Nicole told me about these fabulous peppers, just when I ran out of regular, old pickled jalapeños, and so I picked up a jar and gave them a whirl. Then they gave me a whirl.

 

At first, the sweetness threw me. I wasn’t sure I liked it. The sugary taste was odd on my weekly nachos. (May savory nachos.) But after getting through that first jar, I realized I liked it very much indeed, and swiftly moved on to a second jar.

 

I’ve now lost count of trysts jars and don’t give a rat’s ass who knows it. I’m even trying to figure out how to use the spicy, sweet liquid in a cocktail. If I figure that one out, I’ll let you know.

 

In the meantime, if you have access to a Trader Joe’s, I highly recommend these peppers. And if you don’t have access, well, too bad for you.

Head Cheese

 

 

 

Head cheese.

 

No – I’m not making an election referral. I’m talking meat, people. And I mean meat.

 

Head cheese isn’t for everyone. But it is for me. That’s why I made a pilgrimage to a great Italian deli earlier this week and the first item I procured was head cheese. The guy working the counter asked if I’d had it and I assured him that yes, I had. And that I am quite fond of it.

 

Truth is, I’m a sucker for the “odder” meats. Head cheese, blood sausage, offal – I love all of it. I don’t often eat those items, as they’re not as easy to come by as more ordinary, run-of-the-mill meats. And that’s too bad. For me.

 

I remember making Rumaki and taking it to a gathering a few years ago. As the host stood before the plate, droning on and on about how disgusting it was to eat a “filter” (liver), he very nearly consumed every last piece. Alternative meats are good. Even skeptics sometimes can’t help themselves.

 

Anyhoo – I’ll relish the head cheese I have on hand and that will do. I would encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and try one of the more crazy varieties of meat, but I’m guessing my encouragement would fall on deaf ears. We like what we like. Most folks haven’t been exposed to much variety. And that’s too bad. For them.

Nachos – How Do I Love Thee…

 

 

I am, of late, obsessed with nachos. You know nachos, right? They’re the things we order in bars? Drunk food? Tortilla chips, cheese, maybe some other good stuff?

 

I don’t order nachos out, not much anyway. Instead, I make them for myself at home. I lay out the chips and top each one individually and then I eat them right off the tray they cooked on. Sometimes there’s meat, sometimes not. But there’s always pickled jalapenos, cheese, salsa and sour cream. I’m not gonna give you a recipe, because your ass is grown and you can make your own damn nachos any way you want. But I do want to show you a photo of my nacho feast from the past week…

 

 

 

Yes. I love nachos. A jillion times over. Can’t hardly wait for this week’s batch.