Monthly Archives: October 2016

Weekend Snapshots 44

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Friday

I took the day off work so that I could spend it with my kids who had the day off from school. After a long and arduous quarter, and a week that felt like a hurricane on the heels of a tornado followed by an avalanche…it felt soooooooooo good to have a day of rest.

I took the kids to lunch at The Bebedero, a newish Mexican restaurant in Charlottesville…

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The friendly bartender explained that the service can be slow sometimes…

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So tired, but so happy.

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“Where’s the food?”

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Mmmmmm…delicious nachos.

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Camarones Ensalada Frio

We strolled along the Downtown Mall…

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“So that‘s how they change those letters!”

We had dessert at The Flat Takeaway Crêperie:

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We can highly recommend the Chocolate Chip Cookie Crêpe!

That evening my friend and I returned to the Downtown Mall to take our daughters to the Paramount to see their beloved violin teacher perform with the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra:

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Saturday

We spent the morning getting ready for my son’s Halloween party…

img_7232The day was punctuated by soccer games…My husband took our oldest son to his game in Lynchburg; I took our daughter to her game at Booster Park in Orange County. The park also happens to be adjacent to an airport and a skydiving outfit. I tried to pay attention to the game, but every thirty minutes people would fall out of the sky:

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Oh sure, that’s not at all distracting!

We rushed home to finish getting ready for the party:

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Ghosts in the Graveyard – a nostalgic favorite!

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Apple cider with a vanilla flavored bone and a gummy eyeball.

After dinner the kids took their flashlights and went outside to hunt for Halloween candy and to have an epic game of flashlight tag. They came in sweaty and red-faced and ready to watch their scary movie…

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Popcorn and candy corn fingernails.

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Vampire blood: Hawaiian Punch, cranberry ginger ale, grenadine, and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. Oh, and the blood of a vampire, obviously – (Preferably O positive for the best results).

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Thank you, Pinterest!

Sunday

Church! Choir! And Marie-Bette Café & Bakery in between!

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Trying to behave like this, when…

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…you really feel like this.

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Ebony and Ivory

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I’m shriiiiiiiiiiiinking!

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Happy Halloween!

Move over, Sisyphus

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img_7141The daily grind has been more challenging than usual these days. Since everything seems impossible and futile at the moment anyway, I thought I’d tackle a Sisyphean task that has been plaguing me for months. The side entrance we always use to enter the house has drainage issues. Rain was washing soil from the garden beds into the pathway. It got so bad, we would have to take a running leap to get over the permanent mud puddle that was forming at the base of the steps.

When I was a little girl, my dad took us to visit Mount Vernon. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what happened to me two days ago to save my life, but I can clearly remember the distinct pleasure of walking on the crushed oyster shell paths at Mount Vernon decades ago. They crunched softly underfoot and gave just a little with each step. With a visceral memory of that delightful sensation, I thought oyster shells would be the perfect solution to our mud problem. Back in the spring I discovered that our local Tractor Supply store carried 50 lb bags of crushed oyster shell for chicken feed and I hauled five bags home. After shoring up the sides of the garden beds with the plentiful quartz rocks that are all over our yard, I poured all 250 pounds of oyster shells onto the muddiest part of the pathway at the base of the steps. It worked beautifully! What a relief to be able to walk rather than leap over the path to get into the house!

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Now to figure out how to sift out all those darn leaves and acorns…

I’d meant to finish up the rest of the path months ago, but I’d run out of rocks, I’d run out of shells, and I’d run out of will. I had scouted out more rocks in the paddock, but the thought of digging them up and hauling them back just seemed too daunting. Finally this weekend I tackled the project. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop…even to change out of my church clothes. My husband has more than once accused me of the crime of “ballistic intention,” and I’ll admit guilt to this one. I worked like a woman possessed. I dug up huge rocks and dragged them back in multiple loads in the little red wagon we used to pull my kids in when they were little. And yes, I did it in my dress and gold ballet flats. img_1746The paddock has a beautiful down slope that made the first part of the trip a breeze. But then the upward slope would loom before me like a nightmare. Trudging up that slope with my load of stones over and over again crushed my spirit and made me feel like I would never ever experience happiness again.

img_1748But I kept trudging. It took me two days. I had to keep stopping every ten steps or so to catch my breath and so that my heart wouldn’t explode. Every now and then I’d give up, abandoning my burden to go inside and collapse in a quivering mass of flesh and ruined hopes and dreams.

img_1739For the very last load, my son pulled the wagon while I pushed from behind, and…we did it! The path is outlined:

img_1752Now all I need is another ten bags of crushed oyster shells…

img_1754…and a new back.

It was brutal. I’m physically wrecked. I had to give up every now and then to preserve the tattered scraps of sanity I have left. But I’ve outlined the path, and I’ll keep on going until the job’s done.

Weekend Snapshots 43, or: The Ice Queen Cometh

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My husband went to Scotland last weekend to give a talk at University of Edinburgh. He got to spend some time with our niece at her new school and he’s been able to check in on his parents in England. He’s also carved out a little time to do some hiking. It seems like he’s been gone for an eternity, a feeling that is only exacerbated when he texts me photos like these:img_7081

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…complete with breathless, rapturous captions about the wondrous beauty he is experiencing.

We’re having much smaller-scale adventures at home. For example, on Friday my daughter spotted this in our backyard:

img_1683We think that rather fearsome bird perched on the run-in shed is a Red-tailed Hawk. I had never fully appreciated what the phrase “sitting duck” meant until recently. My daughter did not at all appreciate my observation that this would make Reason #927 for not getting the pet ducks she’s been pining for…

On Saturday I made shakshuka for the first time, which – miracle of miracles – everyone liked:

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Oh, shakshuka, where have you been all my life?!

I adapted this New York Times recipe for the dish, substituting in ingredients we happened to have. (Sautée an onion, a bell pepper, and a few cloves of garlic. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. Add a carton of diced plum tomatoes and stir until sauce thickens. Stir in about a cup of crumbled feta or goat cheese. [I used a little of both]. Crack eggs over the mixture and bake in 375 degree oven for about ten minutes). The kids ate it all up with slices of buttery toasted sourdough bread.

On Sunday morning I picked up my daughter from a sleepover and we headed out to the field for her brother’s game. His team won by a large margin, but in the final moments they failed spectacularly at one attempt to get the ball into the net. A player kicked it from only about a foot away, but instead of going in, the ball got a little too much loft and improbably landed on top of the net.

How in the world did they not get that into the net?” my daughter spluttered, clutching her head in disbelief, “Grandma could have gotten it in!”

“Grandma’s Grandma could have gotten the ball in! I mean…”

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She plumbed the depths of her wildest imagination to come up with an even more preposterous scenario: “I mean…YOU could have gotten it in.”

end of the middleTears of remorse sprung to her eyes as soon she saw the shocked expression on my face. Of course, they immediately turned into tiny little icicles…

Brrrrrr, that was cold, little Ice Queen, but I still love you anyway.

img_7072I’ll probably forgive Mr. Scotland too one day…

Weekend Snapshots 42

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My family and I went to NYC this weekend to see my cousin in one of the final performances of Julia Cho’s Aubergine. It’s a play about the barriers to communication and understanding; it’s about the ways in which we try to commune through food; it’s about how we live and die. Our cousin played the part of Ray, a Korean-American chef who is taking care of his dying father. They have always had a tortured relationship marred by the inability to truly connect with one another. As his father lies comatose, unable to utter more than a groaned word now and then, Ray wrestles with the weight of all that was unexpressed between them during a lifetime. The play was beautiful and moving, funny and desperately sad, and so much of it felt very close to home…

Thursday

There were a lot of loose ends to tie up before heading to Arlington, where we would spend a night at my parents’ house before driving the rest of the way to New York. For one thing, we had to make sure the pets were set with everything they needed while we were gone. I did an inventory of their food supply, then handed my phone to my son and asked him to run down to the basement to take a picture of the new kitty litter we’ve been using so we’d remember which kind to restock. Feeling rather smug about my prudent foresight, I strode over to the pet supply aisle in the grocery store and pulled up the pictures on my phone to discover this:

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The Failure of Communication: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts

Friday

The next day my mom cooked my kids’ favorite lunch: tender, salty mackerel with crispy, crackly skin.

In Aubergine, one of the characters talks about how her father would always eat the head and tail of the fish and give her the middle of the fish. One day she serves him the head and tail of the fish and magnanimously announces that she’s giving him his favorite part.

“Rice pot!” (i.e.: Dummy!) he says with exasperation and explains that he had always eaten the head and tail so that she could have the best part of the fish.

As the audience absorbs this revelation, Ray asks, “What part did your mother eat?”

As so often happens these days, my mother was too exhausted by her culinary labor of love to eat any fish herself.

She wasn’t too tired, however, to take care of some other pressing business. Before we left for New York, she handed me a thick envelope. She had prepared an identical one for all of her children. I opened it to see that it was a map and description of the burial plots she and my dad bought for themselves a few weeks ago. She had also included the contact information for two minister friends who already agreed to perform their funeral services.

“We got a 10% discount for buying early!” my mother chirped brightly as she dropped her latest weapon of mass destruction on our heads. “I thought we should be buried right under some pine trees, but your daddy was worried about the roots spreading. So we picked a nearby spot where we’ll have a good view of them. Remember! Put your dad on the left side, and me on the right. We’ll be able to call to each other in the morning and say, ‘Good morning! Have you eaten breakfast yet?‘”

Oh, dear God! Waterboarding? The rack? These don’t hold a candle to the myriad creative and devastating ways this woman devises to torture me.

img_7041We drove up to NYC where we met up with the rest of our family:

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Admiring photos of the grandkids who couldn’t be there…

Saturday

Breakfast of the Champions.img_7022

My brother took my boys to the Pan-American No-Gi International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championship at City College of New York. Got that? Pan-American No-Gi International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Championship at City College of New York! Now say it quickly ten times!

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Meanwhile, the rest of us wandered around the vicinity of our hotel.

We stopped in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

img_1659img_1662Had lunch at Rosie O’Grady’s…

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Then headed over to the theatre to see the play…img_7028img_7037

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That night my four siblings and I spent a few quiet minutes with my parents in their hotel room, just the six of us. We thought we’d just have a casual chit-chat, but then my dad, a man who favors stiff pats over hugs, asked us to all hold hands with each other. He said a prayer for each of one of us and all the spouses and children in our family, asking for blessings for each of us by name.

Damn. Nothing like a good old-fashioned Pan-American No-Gi tag-team loving beatdown from your parents, the reigning champions of the emotional choke-hold. Clearly, this kind of thing should be banned, as there is no possible maneuver by which to escape.

Sunday

We drove back to C’ville. I decided to give my son some much-needed driving practice, and let him take the wheel for the last fifteen minutes of the drive:

img_7046It went pretty well until he almost drove off the side of the road…

There’s a line in the play I can’t remember exactly, but the gist of it was:

In the midst of life, we are in the midst of death…

I texted this photo of his traumatized little brother to my siblings:

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My sister wrote back, “Oooooh. So that’s what faster than a bat out of hell looks like!”img_7050

Despite the plot twists and turns, we made it back home safe and sound.  img_7051