Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Mother's China



I still can't believe she left it to me.  Not that I didn't read her detailed, hand-written will, but for some reason, it just hadn't registered.  Not until several weeks ago when baby sis said, 'I'll be happy to take that china off your hands if you don't want it' did I understand that my mother's china - one of her most prized possessions - was now mine.

Growing up in poverty, Mom tried all of her life to escape its stamp on her identity.  She was beautiful, well read and gracious in ways I will never be, but growing up poor scarred her.  Marrying my dad was her ticket to a better life.  I can only imagine all of the hopes and dreams she had while working to save money for her wedding china.  Its pattern and functionality suited her well and she used the large casserole dish often.  The rest of the china rarely came out, but when it did, the occasion was instantly made special.  We grew up knowing that Mom's china, and all it represented, was treasured.


B-man went with me to pack the china and bring it home.  He owned this task as if he was born to do it, wrapping everything carefully before fitting it perfectly into small boxes.  Once home, we realized that some rearranging was in order before it would fit into our cabinet. So the china sat, still boxed, in our dining room as we planned one day after another to tackle the project together.


Yesterday, I arrived home from work to see towels spread all over the counter in our kitchen.  I knew immediately what had happened.  B-man had taken the afternoon to gently wash each piece of my mother's china and arrange it in our cabinet.  He was placing the last platter as I walked in.  It's even more beautiful than I remember.

I wish I could tell Mom how much her china means to me and how this last gesture of her affection touched my heart.  I wish I could express to my husband, beyond just words, how much he means to me and how deeply he has changed my life.  What I truly understand now more than ever before is both simple and profound: I am well loved.

Photos my own

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Gluten Free June

Today's gluten free lunch
 
My body likes it better when I don't eat wheat.  It's not that I have a gluten allergy, although I fake one to B-man occasionally just to get an extra back scratch, which he cheerfully gives even though we both know I'm bullshitting.  In my world, preference toward something is just a hop, skip and a jump from an allergy to something else.  For example, I prefer clothing that is comfortable, which is a pretty clear indication that I have a full-blown allergy to business suits. 
 
So yeah, let's run gluten allergy up the flag pole.
 
Last spring - then again last fall - I stopped eating wheat and felt so much better.  Apparently it didn't improve my memory, because I'm 'experimenting' with it again now.  Fortunately, it's easy because I love rich, oily, fatty food like cheese, olives, avocados and hummus.  Deprivation is not on my radar, so wheat is the only thing I'm eliminating in June and perhaps beyond if my theory holds true once again. Clearly, martinis and wine don't cause any allergic reaction.  B-man knows that, too.
 
So what perfumes go with gluten free eating?  Nomaoud by Comptoir Sud Pacifique is a clear winner with its perfectly non-sweet rose, oud and incense.  So is Un Jardin en Mediterranee by Hermes with it's fresh greens, mint & tomato vibe.  I guess that means June will be 30 days of Mediterranean food and Mediterranean perfume. 
 
Day 8 and all is well.

Photo my own




Friday, June 6, 2014

How I Pick My Favorite Food Network Stars





It's Freedom Friday here because I'm trying to give myself more time to relax and do nothing.  One of my favorite 'nothings' is zoning out to Food Network.  "Chopped" is my NFL.

Rachael Ray was my first Food Network crush years ago.  She was energetic about all things foody and got me saying EVOO and YUMMO to the point that I annoyed even B-man, which is near impossible (we call him 'Jobie' at home because he has the patience of...well, you get it). Plus, she was just the right amount of chubby to be both cute and legitimate as a chef.  About my level of chubby, as I remember.

Since then, my size has fluctuated in both directions and I've noticed an interesting pattern: My body size determines my favorite Food Network star. 

For example, Giada De Laurentiis gets on my last nerve unless I'm feeling quite small, in which case I love her.  Right now, she's a skinny little bitch.  Maybe one reason she's so skinny is because she makes itty bitty hors de oeuvres that have 25 steps resulting in a bite the size of a dime.  I get anxious watching the process and can hardly get through a show without saying out loud, 'just eat it fer chrissake!'  Her big smile scares me.

When I'm feeling larger, I warm up to Barefoot Contessa, in spite of her gremlin giggle after everything she says.  It's not that funny, Ina, and we don't enjoy your show more if you're laughing. At least she cooks for people who actually like to eat, and her husband, Jeffrey, keeps it real by eating nothing but chicken.  Plus, she makes being fat okay.  Oh, come on, she's successful, she has a killer house in the Hamptons and you know she's got a great wine cellar.  And Jeffrey comes home fromYale every weekend to get a little sumthin' sumthin' and keep the magic alive.  In order to sleep soundly, I'm going to assume that's food.

Nigella Lawson is my favorite star of the moment because it looks like she could go either way by getting smaller or larger.  But maybe she's found her groove, who knows?  I love that she relishes food and eats with her hands and licks the bowl and takes big bites.  No dime sized food for her and no gremlin giggle.  Plus, she survived a divorce scandal which must have been traumatic now that we all know she got choked and smoked marijuana, not necessarily in that order.  This might account for the bowl-licking.  We're both post-trauma middle aged women finding comfort in food.  Nigella is definitely my favorite Food Network star. 

Until she's not.

Photo from bookpassage.com

Sunday, June 1, 2014

June Has to Suck Less Than May



Paige hanging out on the deck

May sucked.  So many things about it sucked that I can't begin to list them all.  For starters, I gained back the four pounds I lost in April plus one more for good measure.  Who knew that carbs count as a legitimate religion? (Let me know if you find a loaf-on-a-cross necklace 'cause I want one.)  We're not talking sweet carbs, but stuff like crusty bread dipped in olive oil or bread dipped in hummus.  Basically bread dipped in anything.  And kettle chips with melted gruyere on top, each nacho-like layer drizzled with olive oil and hot sauce then pulled apart and generously loaded with French onion dip, clam dip, fiesta ranch dip or any combination of dip and hummus. 

I want some now.

In addition to the carb fest, I've been very sad (which - hello - is why I needed the carbs in the first place). More sad in May than the first few months after Dad died, like it took this long to really sink in.  Holding in the sad and functioning day-to-day takes a lot of energy, by the way.  And grief shows all over me like a mask that I can't take off.  Visiting the farm for the first time without him on Memorial Day emphasized the loss even more.  From last Tuesday until this morning, I've been on the edge of tears constantly, had regular stomachaches, chest tightness and total exhaustion. I've had fears of dropping dead suddenly and then found myself wishing I would so I could stop pretending to be okay.  In the middle of all of this, I was preparing a 1-hour presentation for a large group of regional health care leaders that I delivered on Friday.  Apparently, it was the last straw.

Yesterday, I woke up crying and cried all morning as I sat on 'Squid,' the small patio at the bottom of our back yard. Paige sat with me, getting up occasionally to come lay her long nose on my leg before resuming her folded down position where she could watch every move I made. When I had cried all the tears I could possibly eek out, I felt almost paralyzed, like I'd had an out of body experience.  The rest of the day was a fog, although B-man and I managed to clean out our dining room pantry.  We put stuff on the table and floor so we could stare at it and wonder how in the hell we 1) accumulated so much stuff that we have never and will never use and 2) fit it all into this small pantry.  As soon as we were done rearranging, I left B-man to box up the giveaways because I could no longer think and had to channel surf until happy hour.  Thank you, God, for happy hour.

Today is completely different.  Not great, just...new, I guess.  My sadness has lifted some and I feel more ready to go on with life. This morning, as B-man and I were on the deck enjoying coffee together, I was thinking about the one year of grieving I have allowed myself.  I almost felt Dad lean over and say to me in his gentle, reassuring voice, 'you know, Kate, you don't have to grieve for a whole year for me.  Let yourself feel better now and enjoy the life you have.'

Maybe I'm ready to do that and maybe I'm not, but it gives me comfort to know that whatever I need to do is okay with him.  We have plenty of bread and chips, just in case.

photo courtesy of B-man

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blind Buy Gone Bad



Friday afternoon, my son JD met me for lunch.  Our German waitress, Claudia, scared the hell out of me with her laser stare and thick accent ('do you vant ranch dressing or no ranch?  Jus' tell me vat you vant and I vill brrring it!').  After lapsing into sheer stupidity under the pressure - I could neither decide on my dressing nor settle the check correctly - a perfume reprieve was in order.  JD and I sprayed and sniffed at Sephora and I decided that my trip home would include a discount store browsing session to find a perfume that could soothe my bruised lunch ego. 

Roberto Cavalli eau de parfum had been stalking me for a while, and on Friday, it was eyeballing me again as I checked my iPhone for reviews and pondered whether or not to make the purchase.   Until now, I've tried to avoid it and never even sprayed it on my skin.  However, my imagination insisted that I was cheating myself of something exotic and warm, sexy and creamy.  Plus, the box is pretty and I like the round shape of the bottle, essential criteria for a blind buy.

It's not like I came home and immediately put the perfume on my skin.  No, no, no.  The ritual always begins by carefully opening the plastic cover on the box, just in case it goes back to the store.  I open only the top end, then squish my fingers in to open the box and turn it upside down so the bottle lands gently in my hand.  Then the perfume is sprayed on a paper strip and laid aside to dry.  After about ten minutes, I go back and sniff...then sniff again...then mull things over while re-reading all the reviews on Fragrantica.  Perfume-to-skin contact never happens until this ritual is complete. I waited to apply the perfume until Saturday morning.

For almost an hour, I tried to like it.  I faked liking it.  I pondered every circumstance in which I could imagine ever liking it.  I walked outside so it could develop fully in the fresh air.  I fantasized about writing a post about not liking it at first and then realizing I loved it.  I even had our dog Paige smell it, and she took a sniff but suddenly lost interest and licked her butt instead.

That's when I scrubbed.

To describe Roberto Cavalli eau de parfum in great detail now would just annoy me even more.  Cheap, sweet and cloying pretty much covers it, and its barely touched package is going right back to where it came from.  I feel smarter already - Claudia might even approve.

Image from jeancoutu.com

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Menopause Mania: Jessica Simpson Fancy


God help me, I can't stop wearing celebrity perfumes. Now, it's Jessica Simpson's Fancy.  Maybe it's menopause.  I'm blaming everything on menopause, by the way.  Can't sleep?  Menopause.  Bad hair day?  Menopause.  My soup didn't turn out right?  Effing menopause.

Of course, I'm too old for Fancy...meaning it wasn't marketed for an almost 55-year old woman.  Nope, Fancy was meant for the young, sex five times a week, oops I got knocked up again crowd.  I'm like a 20-year old that loves Paloma Picasso.  We're both out of sync with our peers. 

Last week, B-man and I went on a much needed road trip (please don't make me fly - I promise to be good).  We ended up in red rock country that was half desert and half springtime (not that springtime doesn't happen in the desert, it's just harder to tell).  After pondering what perfume I wanted to wear from my usual 15-20 on-the-road selections, it was Fancy that most matched the smell of the air and the feel of the small city.  I had never worn it before, but brought it along as part of a Jessica Simpson 4-pack of travel sprays (I Fancy You, Fancy Love and Fancy Nights came along too).  Even though I tried to talk myself into several Diptyque offerings, Tuscan Soul and multiple other earthy, gutsy, downright sexy perfumes, it was Fancy that won out.

(If you get the earthy, gutsy, downright sexy reference, will you please remind me of the men's cologne that 70's commercial was selling?)

Here's what I like about Fancy: Yeah, it's sweet and berries and a little caramel and vanilla, but what I love about it - and can't quite get enough of - is the soapy whisper of the drydown.  Who would have thought Fancy was...soapy?  Just when you think you've got her all figured out and you're ready for the crème brulee, she throws in a touch of squeaky clean.  Brilliant.

Now I'm in hot pursuit of a full bottle and I'll be damned if any TJ MAXX in my city is carrying it.  Stupid menopause.

Image from nymag.com

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Perfume Throwdown: Fracas vs Truth or Dare






Until now, I have avoided Madonna's Truth or Dare like I avoid stair railings at our children's hospital.  Oh, come on, you just know there are boogers all over it.   Truth or Dare was so off my radar that I never even stalked it on Fragrantica, Make-up Alley or Google, and I stalk everything.  But then I see it marked down at TJ Maxx for $7.  Seven bucks... for 3.4 oz.  Kiss it, Inner Farm Girl!  Post stalking, when I saw Truth or Dare linked to Fracas, I had to do a side-by-side comparison straight away.  That's right, I said 'straight away' in honor of Madonna's phony British accent period. 

Here's the deal: they are just alike, except completely different.

Truth or Dare starts out all floral-sweet, like hard tack candy at Christmas. B-man said the top notes smell like the opening of Joop Homme (his 'let's go play' scent, which I absolutely love).  Fracas, on the other hand, starts out green and turn-up-my-nose sour, really.  Why so serious?  Next comes the Truth or Dare lemon and citrus phase.  Fracas, on the other hand, takes a totally different direction and smells just like Thumbelina, my childhood doll that peed her pants and landed face down in a cow pie after I dangled her out the backseat car window. She had a permanent 'birthmark' on her cheek after that, but I still loved her.  That's what I told my mom then and I can't think of a good reason to tell the truth now.  Except that she was Thumbelina Shitface after that.

Next comes the lemon and citrus phase of Truth or Dare.  Yeah, I know, I already said that.  Just consider it a repeat of the 'Like A Prayer' chorus.  Finally, Fracas gets to the dark, inky part that I love.  The tuberose here must be black and wilted because it has lost the sweetness that can make tuberose so...precious and squishy.  Fracas doesn't play straight tuberose on my skin and it has a decidedly naughty twist.

In the end, both perfumes are unique from each other, but not dramatically so.  Truth or Dare is more gardenia/benzoin/butterscotch and Fracas maintains a metallic smear of ink.  I wanted Fracas to kick Truth or Dare to the curb so I could tell everyone, 'I knew it ,they are nothing alike - ha ha!'  And Fracas had 'er in a headlock there in the heart notes, threatening to graffiti her ass with a fountain pen.  But in the final drydown, they are similar enough that I can't honestly say, 'ha ha!'  Just, 'huh, look at that.'

For me, there's no clear winner, mostly because it's not an apples to apples comparison.  Fracas is the mother of tuberose that commands respect and has a hair trigger bitch slap. Truth or Dare wants to party, and it's making me happy tonight with its sweetness and just enough jasmine to keep it from smelling like the oversize gardenia corsage that we gave Mom every Mother's Day until she worked up the courage to tell us she hated them.  We hated them, too, but thought she loved them.  I thought I hated Truth or Dare until it was cheap enough I worked up the courage to try it.  And guess what?  I kinda love it.

Image from fragrantica.com

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