Saturday, July 30, 2011

everybody talks about the weather...

Before we moved to Maryland, Ben and I had lived in Northeast Ohio our entire lives. (Well, there was that brief time when Ben lived in Libya, but that is a story for another day.) Anyway. Because we had always lived in Ohio, we pretty much knew what to expect from the weather, season by season. Sure, there were aberrations over the years. There were some summers that were so hot for so long that we forgot what it felt like to be cool in those pre air-conditioned (for us) days. There was The Great Blizzard of 1978 when our new little Toyota was buried under three feet of snow and nobody went anywhere. There was the freezing rain that fell in April of 2007 as we were leaving for Chicago to attend Tom and Kristy's wedding that wiped out all the wisteria blossoms, along with pretty much all the other blossoms, as well.

By and large, though, we could pretty much predict how the weather would behave in any given season. We knew it would snow too much in the winter and rain too much in the spring. We knew that on summer days when dark clouds rolled across the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance, a soaking summer rain would soon follow. We knew that Indian Summer would come each fall with colors so beautiful and air so crisp that we could forget for a few days that winter was almost upon us.

Those days are gone. Living in a different part of the country is, well, different - as we knew it would be. Since we live right outside of Baltimore, we expected the weather to be hotter and more humid in the summer, and it is. But day after day with temperatures in the upper 90s and even over 100° on several days is really worse than we thought it would be. Nor did we expect day after day (and week after week) to go by without even a hope of rain.

Everyone tells us, however, that this is not normal. "It's not usually this hot for this long." "We're breaking records every day." "We're in the middle of a drought." "The whole country is like this." And, you know, I believe that. I believe it all. But that doesn't help me understand what to expect tomorrow or next week or next year. Each day is a surprise to me. I just hope there are some pleasant surprises in the mix as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

about seizing the moment

Have I mentioned my garden recently? Because really I should. We have eight tomato plants, five pepper plants, some basil, rosemary, chives, and parsley. The tomatoes are San Marzanos, Early Girls, grape tomatoes, beefsteaks, Black Princes, and Pink Brandywines. The peppers are hot banana peppers, jalapenos, and red bell peppers. And all of it is rockin' and rollin' right now. Yesterday I made some marinara sauce. I filled a big basket with ripe tomatoes, banana peppers, and fresh basil, all from the garden. Ben helped me with the chopping - there was lots of chopping - and in a little over an hour, we were sitting down to eat incredibly fresh marinara sauce over penne pasta.

We have always had small gardens over the years, with varying degrees of success, but never anything even close to this one. I think it is because we have never lived in Maryland before, but Ben says it is because we have never had such an ideal location for a garden before. We have a long narrow bed along the side fence which faces south, and it gets sun all day long. I wish you could see it. Our garden is really a thing of beauty this time of year. But as I was chopping tomatoes for gazpacho this morning, I was thinking how really brief this season of plenty is and how really soon it will be over. So as hot as it is outside right now, I particularly want to get up from my computer and go out and have a few warm-from-the-sun grape tomatoes right away. Think I will. Hasta la vista.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I started this blog four years ago in July of 2007. I was suffering through the last painful weeks of working at the university and felt the need to have some place to chronicle my shifting emotions about my job. I tried to understand how the job I had once loved had morphed into the job I dreaded and couldn't wait to escape. My blog saw me through that difficult patch and I have kept up with it intermittently ever since. To date, I have written 210 posts, which you might think would average out to roughly 50 posts a year, but I didn't post at all in 2009. That was the year I was working at Miss Chickpea's, before Shelly lost interest and it all turned to crap. I was busy and happy with my job and my friends and my knitting.

In honor of this anniversary of sorts, I have been reading back over my old posts, and, all in all, I am pretty pleased with them. Some of them I remember very well, of course, but others I had totally forgotten about. The forgotten ones are the ones that interest me, and they make me glad that I took the time to sit down and write them. Thoughts and feelings I didn't remember have been preserved for me. I have tried in the past to keep a diary or journal but have never been successful at keeping up with it. This time I sort of have. And although I often feel discouraged about a lack of readers here, I made an important discovery. That my most important reader is -- me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

standin' at the end of a real long road

When we moved to Kent eleven years ago, I didn't know anyone there. I didn't have a single friend. I tried the ways I knew to make some. I went to a book discussion group. I didn't like it. I went to the fitness center. I didn't like it. What I needed was a job. That's how I have always made friends. And, the fact is, I have always made friends. Wherever I have gone, doggone it, people like me.

My brief stint working at a local public library brought me some friends, but they didn't last beyond my job there. When I started working at the university, however, I finally found some true friends. Friends I laughed and cried with. Friends I got drunk with. Friends I took vacations with. Friends who moved away and left me bereft. Friends who remained my friends even after I left the university five years later, feeling depleted and defeated. Friends who were some of the last people I saw before Ben and I made the big move. Joany, Kristen, Vince, you know who you are, but I want to give you a shout-out here. I love you guys.

Those aren't the only friends I left behind, however. Not by a long shot. When I started working at Miss Chickpea's, my co-workers there became my teachers and my mentors, and to my surprise and delight, my friends. Janet and Kathy and Dianne made it a pleasure to go to work every day, and I was delighted when the orbit of my schedule allowed me to work with each of them over the course of a week. We had fantastic customers at that little shop, and it was a pleasure to see many of them walk through the door, but I would be remiss if I did not single out Amy, who became a true friend to me. Even after the shop suddenly closed, we all remained close, and the knitting groups we attended were full of laughter. I miss you all more than you can know.

When we moved here, I was delighted to realize that there is a yarn shop right here in the town where I live. It was one of the first places Julie and I stopped on one of our outings. I love knitting. I love knitters. Surely here I would find kindred spirits who might some day - with careful nurturing - become my friends. But, you know, I didn't like it there. I didn't like the yarns they carried (too pedestrian) and the staff was not friendly and welcoming in the ways to which I was accustomed. I go back there periodically, but, really, I have plenty of yarn. What I need is friends! And it seems to me that I don't have any friends here because I can't find a job, and I can't find a job here because I don't have any friends. It's a bit of a conundrum.

I try to keep in mind that after we moved to Kent it took me a year and a half to find a job at the university, but I hope it doesn't take me that long here. Because I really need the money, and you know, ya got to have friends.*


*Yep, they're song lyrics, kiddies. From Bette Midler's debut album, The Divine Miss M. I must have listened to that album a thousand times, and probably could still sing every song on it, but these are the lyrics that keep running through my mind:

But you got to have friends
The feeling's oh so strong
You got to have friends
To make that day last long

I had some friends but they're gone
Someone came and took them away
And from the dusk 'til the dawn
Here is where I'll stay

I'm standin' at the end of a real long road
And I'm waiting for my new friends to come
I don't care if I'm hungry or freezing (freezing) cold
I've got to get me some

Friday, July 15, 2011

a bathroom of one's own (with apologies to V. Woolf)

I have a bathroom of my own. No one ever uses it but me. I have offered to Ben, to Julie, to Liz, to go ahead and use it, really, but they have all declined. Not that it is dirty or unattractive. Quite the contrary. It is a very pretty little bathroom. And, in point of fact, although it is very small, it is not the smallest bathroom we have ever had. In our house on Longford Avenue, I could stand in the middle of the room and touch all four walls. In my bathroom, I can only touch two of them. Still, it is very small. But since it is only for me, I don't really need it to be any bigger. And I assure you, it is very clean, most of the time. In fact, sometimes when I come in from working in the garden, I feel like I'm too dirty to use my bathroom, and have to use one of the other ones instead.

Ben painted the walls and the ceiling a pale blue that is one of the colors in the shower curtain we brought from the old house. I am very attached to that shower curtain with its soft shades of blue and green and violet. There is a snowy white valance at the window, and a white throw rug on the floor, which is hard to keep clean (in spite of my never wearing shoes in there) and gets thrown in the wash with the towels frequently. I have new light fixtures and the most elegant little medicine cabinet you have ever seen. Ben installed hooks on the door and a lovely glass shelf which holds beach memorabilia from summers gone by. A photo I took of Ben and the kids at the beach more than twenty years ago hangs above it. I prefer my bathrooms to have a cool, clean look, and this one does, with its pale blue and white color scheme.

What I like about my bathroom best of all, though, is that it's just for me. Only my stuff is in there. All the stuff in the medicine cabinet is mine. All the stuff under the sink is mine. All the stuff on the shiny glass shelf is mine. When I want to hang my hand washables up to dry, I don't even hesitate to hang them in my bathroom because they won't bother me - and who else is there to see them?

There are many things I like about this little house that Ben found for us here in Maryland, but one of my favorite things is definitely the smallest room in the house - my bathroom. And for that I say, thank you, Ben.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

it's gazpacho time!

Thirty-one years ago when I was pregnant with Tom, I found a recipe in a brochure in my doctor's office. The recipe was for gazpacho that one could carry to work, refrigerate, and eat. So I did. And thus began my absolute love affair with this cold, fresh, vegetable soup. There are as many ways to make gazpacho as there are people who make it. Ben and I had dinner at a friend's house where the cook was a former priest. He served gazpacho which he said he had learned to make in Spain, and that it was the only "proper" way to prepare it. He had thrown everything (even the bread) into a blender, and the result was flavorful, but thick and textureless. I prefer my own recipe.

This year I am trying to chop the vegetables a bit smaller at Ben's request. And, you know, I like it that way. The perfect spoonful of gazpacho has a bit of each vegetable on it, along with a crouton. That is more difficult to do when the green pepper chunks are 1-inch squares, as the recipe suggests. Need I say that the best gazpacho is made with the freshest vegetables? To that end, I waited this year until I had enough fresh tomatoes hanging on the vines to make up a batch. It is exquisite. I would like to just eat a big bowl of it for dinner. And lunch. Seriously.

The croutons are more important to the recipe than you might think as they provide a much-needed crunchiness. Imagine my dismay yesterday when I made up a batch of gazpacho, then realized we didn't have any croutons. I decided to make my own. I put a few slices of sourdough bread out to firm up, then cut them into cubes. I knew I could toss them in olive oil and herbs and toast them in the oven, but I pretty much don't turn my oven on from June to August, so that was out. Instead I put them in a skillet with the olive oil, a little butter, Parmesan cheese and parsley from my garden. I browned them until they became golden, crunchy little cubes. Perfection. Fresh croutons for my fresh gazpacho.

Ben and I had some gazpacho with our dinner last night, and I just checked the rest this morning to see if it needed more V-8 added to it. Of course it did. I like lots of broth so I added a couple of big glugs from the bottle, then more olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. A quick taste - oh man, I was doing the happy dance just like that wild-haired chick on the Food Network. I hope you will try my recipe and do a little happy dancing, yourself. Be sure and adjust the ingredients until it tastes just the way you want it to. That's what I do.


1 clove garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, cut into chunks and seeded
1 cucumber, pared and coarsely chopped
1 medium green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups tomato juice (I use V-8)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 to 3 drops hot pepper sauce (try Sriracha, if you have it)
dash of pepper
cheese and garlic croutons

Combine vegetables in a large bowl. Stir in tomato juice, oil vinegar, salt, pepper sauce and pepper. Cover; chill. To carry, spoon into a wide-mouthed vacuum bottle. When ready to eat, garnish with croutons.