Esther Williams

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MI am in Mexico.  All day I’ve sat under a turquoise umbrella next to the ocean, catching up on back issues of Esquire Magazine and watching the birds.  The osprey seems intimidated by the crowds on the beach, but must be really hungry since he swoops over us, clucking in an irritated manner, then dips his beak quickly into the sea for a fresh fish, flying away to his perch in the desert.

Much like the osprey, I get annoyed when the beach is too crowded.  We’re so often lucky to have this slice of paradise all to ourselves, and when we have to share, it isn’t easy. Today I stand on our condo patio and look to the left.  Then I look to the right. There are umbrellas and pop ups for as far as the eye can see!  Yet each group is quiet and peaceful and as happy as I am to be here.  Thank you, Universe!!!

Hubby and I almost didn’t come to the beach yesterday.  The last time we were here (just three weeks ago), the people on the beach were obnoxious.   I love when the ocean is as smooth as glass, yet that causes sound to travel too well.  Everybody was so loud! The three condos to the right of us housed a huge group of friends with sooooo many little boys running around unattended.  They ran through our yard and even stood on the beams of our stairs.  The parents (mid thirties to mid forties) played loud music all day and night.  To the right of us on the beach, a group of young people appeared each day. They were crass.  While swimming in the ocean, one very large girl (who needed a much larger suit) yelled, “I’m peeing!” to which her friend gladly yelled, “I’m peeing, too!” Every other word (always yelled) was a curse word.  They had loud music which competed with the loud music to the left of us. Let’s just say these folks were harshing my buzz.  Add to that a swarm of mosquitoes that tortured us while we were sleeping and a roach the size of a Buick who waved to me from the kitchen sink taunting, “Neener neener, neener!” as he ran into a crack between the cupboard and the dishwasher.  Oh, and I almost forgot the group of nude teenage girls we walked past on our morning walk. They were standing up (nude) taking selfies and didn’t even seem to notice us.  It wasn’t sexual, but there were families nearby and it just felt wrong.  Let’s just say I wasn’t in the mood to come back to the beach after all that crap.

BUT I’M SO GLAD WE DID!  The weather in Phoenix today:  100 degrees.  The weather at the beach today:  80 degrees.  The ocean is sooooo warm, and we are water logged from swimming so long.  The waves are medium-ish—not so big that it’s hard to get in, but big enough that they bounce you up and down in such a relaxing manner that you never want to get out.  The stronger tide brought in a bunch of seaweed, but we don’t mind and even had a little bit of a seaweed fight.  Which was fun for about one minute, and then I splashed and floated and swam, my body held up by the salty sea so light and buoyant and graceful that I felt like freakin’ Esther Williams.

And last night the full moon was AMAZING.  It looked red as it came up over the desert (it is the Strawberry Moon, you know) and then shone so brightly onto the beach that we took a walk, no flashlight required.  Tonight we will drive up Whale Hill to Casa Capitain where I will order my favorite shrimp tacos and a margarita as big as my head, and Hubby and I will admire the views of the sparkling Sea of Cortez and the twinkling lights on the malecon of this sweet little town.

La vida es buena.  Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary

Peaks and Valleys

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One hot morning last week I took a walk past our old house, which is (quite ridiculously) on the SAME street we currently live on, but about a half mile to the east.  It was very quiet and as I walked the path leading down to the small playground, my mind was flooded with memories of the five years we lived there.  There were children everywhere on bikes, on skateboards, playing basketball, running through sprinklers. Our friends on the street left for most of each summer, traveling to California, to the Midwest, or to their cabins up north, and yet there I was with our three kids and no swimming pool.  I hated to ask favors, but looking back I think how silly I was to not ask one of them if we could use their pool while they were gone (and how ungenerous for them not to offer).  I remember waking up every summer day simply wishing that something would happen.  Anything!  Oh sure, we had fun at Zoo Camp, at pizza lunches at Costco, playing board games, and swimming at Grandma’s house a few times a week, but for the most part, those summers were very dull for me.

Looking back I’m amazed at how uncomplicated our lives were and how naive and innocent I was in my thirties.  I was always wishing for something to happen, because yes, I longed for excitement.  But now I know there is a balance. I know that so many things are out of our control.  I’ve learned that instead of working as hard as I can to solve a problem, so many times a situation calls for one to do nothing at all.  Doing nothing is the hardest thing for me.  I always want to offer suggestions, make strategies, list pros and cons, make phone calls, gather info, etc.

Now life is full of so many little emergencies that I find myself longing for those old boring days.  This week alone I had to deal with so much stuff. I think there’s something wrong with our oldest cat because he’s lost weight and seems to sleep too much.  Ruby the Wonder Spaniel’s had diarrhea for four days now, and I have NO idea what she got into.  What I do know is she made four large stinky puddles in Patrick’s room when I was at school one day.  I had to pick it out of the carpet with my fingers (eeeuuuwww–I pretended it was play doh but still gagged several times). Ruby seems better.  Today we woke up to find William’s debit card had fraudulent charges on it and had talk to the bank for 30 minutes.  And worst of all, yesterday my Eve had to leave her mountain job working with the wildlife fire fighters because she could not pass the arduous pack test due to a bad case of bronchitis.  My heart breaks for her—she was so excited about her summer in Happy Jack, AZ.  She has a great attitude and swears she’ll go back next summer and pass that test.  My oldest son and his best gal are stressed out trying to find an affordable venue for their wedding next year.  I sure wish I had a big enough house to host it here.  On top of all that, I have a large pimple on my nose.

First World Problems, all, and I might say, well, next week will be better, but lately it just feels like one problem after another.  I remind myself that life is full of peaks and valleys. I gave myself a stern talking to:  Keep breathing.  Keep smiling.   Make gratitude lists. Take pleasure in simple joys (a good cup of coffee, or meeting a friend for lunch).  Take a walk and listen to the birds.  Watch every sunset.

Cheers,

Mary

 

The Day I Almost Got Run Over by the Light Rail (and Other Stories)

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On this quiet Wednesday evening, I’m trying to remember everything I wanted to tell you.  I leave notes for myself, but days later I can’t crack my own code of shorthanded and abbreviated words written messily in pencil on small scraps of paper.

One story I DEFINITELY remember is called, “The Day I Almost Got Run Over by the Light Rail.”  It goes like this:  A few Fridays ago, my adorable sister-in-law LeaAnne and I were cleaning out the last bits of stuff from the ASU House so as to ready it for sale.  (My kids lived there during their college years.)  How we ended up with 20 cans of paint, four large containers of pest control poison, two packages of weed killer, etc., I’ll never know, but we were responsible citizens and drove a whole trunk full of haz mats to the Tempe recycling center on University.  On the drive back we were chatting and when I came to a red light by a train crossing, I remembered that one is never supposed to stop one’s car on a train track.  So I was careful to come to a stop a few yards in front of the tracks.  Lea and I continued to chat, while I kept an eye on the light which seemed like it was red for way too long.  THAT’s when LeaAnne made a strange noise, and we both screamed as the railroad arm came down and bounced off the hood of the SUV.  Then we heard the clanging of the train alert, and I madly tried to put us into reverse.   I’d only driven Hubby’s new car once before and the gear shift is super awkward, but PRAISE THE LORD, the driver behind me had left space, and I backed up JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME as the light rail trains swished by in both directions.  I was shaking and looked around for any sort of warning I may have missed, but all I saw was one small street sign announcing, “Do not park on XX.”  Well.  THAT would have been good to know.  The next day I texted Lea and said, “I’m so so so sorry for almost getting us run over by the light rail yesterday.  Do you think we would have been smart enough to jump out of the car if we were on the tracks??”  She didn’t respond . . . so the next day I texted her again and she said, “I’m still wondering!!!”  All’s well that ends well, and I’m 100% certain I’ll have anxiety anytime I’m near a train crossing for the rest of my life.

Here’s a short list of other interesting moments from the past few weeks:

  • I binge-watched on Netflix Anne with an E, which is an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, which were favorite books when I was a preteen.  I loved every moment of this new series and am so sad that Season Two will not be available for a whole year.
  • I bought a squatty potty from Amazon which had been recommended by teacher friends and by my naturopath, but it turns out Hubby and I are naturally good at doing our business.  This weird stool thing actually worked against me, and when I went online to return it to Amazon, I was given a full refund and was informed they did not want the item back.  Imagine that!  (Let me know if you’d like to try it.)  (Note to self:  Do NOT buy trendy healthcare products.)
  • As long as I’m oversharing, I’ll confide that one hot day last week I decided to go for a long walk in pants that were very uncomfortable and developed a heat rash on my keister.  I was applying Desitin cream before bed each night and the problem was almost resolved.   I put the tube of Desitin in the same drawer as the toothpaste and one night when I was sleepy, I accidentally applied Colgate Optic White which had quite the opposite effect as the one which was desired and again, I think to myself, how can I be so bad at life when I’ve been alive for so many years????
  • I’ve not been able to lose any additional weight which I partially attribute to the fact that a little orange tube of Braunschweiger caught my eye at the grocery store a few weeks ago, and it’s become a sinful late-night snack.  I love it on Saltine crackers. When I was a child, my mom often packed liverwurst on white bread with mustard in my school lunchbox.  It’s not good for you nutritionally and is full o’ fat.  I love it.
  • Today I found a website called MyAnimalWeight.com where I found out my weight equals 7.9 honey badgers, 8.8 ocelots, 14.2 raccoons, 39 hairy tree porcupines, and almost HALF A LION!  Definitely one of the strangest websites I’ve visited–you MUST check it out.   I’m hoping to lose one honey badger by the end of the summer and a raccoon in the Fall so I’ll be slim for our oldest son’s wedding in January. Goodbye liverwurst . . . I’ll be seeing you in my dreams.

Cheers,

Mary

Vegas, Baby!

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Last month Hubby and I had a mini-vacation in Las Vegas.  The trip was his Christmas gift to me because my favorite band was playing a concert there at the fabulous Cosmopolitan Resort.  I am frugal to a fault; we stayed at Bally’s for $100, and it was fine.

It was the first time Hubby and I had been to Las Vegas in 28 years, which is due to the fact that the last time resulted in a terrible fight when we decided Vegas was the only place we were NOT compatible.  He thought we were going to sit at Blackjack tables the entire time; I thought we were going to have foofy drinks and check out all the casinos. When I woke up at 4am Sunday morning and Hubby was still out gambling, I was madder than a wet cat and I’m pretty sure I gave him the silent treatment for at least 24 hours.  It’s not that he lost money (he didn’t), but I didn’t get what I wanted. And one of the things I’ve learned in the past 28 years is EXPECTATIONS ARE EVERYTHING!

When I say Vegas has changed a lot in 28 years, I’m not kidding.  Wow!  Everything is Over the Top.  The buildings are beautiful, the restaurants are amazing, and the shopping is ridiculously expensive.  We didn’t go INTO any shops, but what a cool experience to walk through an underground shopping mall created to look like a street in Paris.  During our 48 hours in the Vegas, we saw huge aquariums, amazing works of art, terrific views of the city, dancing fountains, and the Bellagio’s Oriental Gardens which were breathtaking.  Picture if you will 3D butterflies the size of a small car  . . . made completely from flowers (mostly carnations) so they even SMELLED as beautiful as they looked. Magical!

And can we talk about smells for a sec?  After we arrived, I washed my face, redid my make up, redid my hair, and put on fresh clothing so I’d look my best for the Bastille concert.  It took maybe five minutes of walking through the casinos before my hair and clothes smelled like a big, stinkin’ cigar. OMG.  It was disgusting.

And can we talk about clothing for a minute?  I’d brought my coolest going-out duds, because, well, you know: VEGAS.  Vegas in the old days meant bling, it meant high heels and high rollers and high stakes; it meant your biggest earrings and your reddest lipstick.  OMG again:  What I saw were people who looked like they were sneaking out to the grocery in the morning before their showers and hoping not to run into anyone they knew.  They looked like the photos of Walmart shoppers I’ve seen on Facebook. Oh sure, there were a few exceptions to this rule, and I have to admit, the pair of jeans I brought for Saturday were too big and spent the day awkwardly pulling them up (oddly there are no suspender stores in Vegas, and the belts were all too pricey).

I’d promised Hubby some Blackjack table time since he was so kind to attend the Bastille concert with me.  I actually had a great time during our three hours at a $5 table at the Flamingo (it’s hard to find $5 tables these days).  The dealers and other tourists at the table were funny, and the bar brought us free drinks!  Well, can I tell you about free beers for a sec?  After number two, JUST SAY NO!  I thought I was fine, and then I stood up and it was all, OH NO, why are my legs made of rubber?  And how do flip flops work again?  I lost about an hour there and have hazy memories of walking briskly, exploring more casinos and zig zagging through massive crowds.  We walked 11 miles that day . . . which counteracted the very late dinners and too many cocktails!

Our room at Bally’s was very large and very clean and not too outdated . . . but alas, no in-room coffee pot.  Picture me at 2 am Friday night looking through all the drawers and closets so I can have the coffee set for morning, yelling, “NO COFFEE POT??? What is this, RUSSIA???”  When you’ve stayed out too late in Vegas and the next morning you’re trying to shower and ready yourself for the day and there’s no coffee until you can be seated at a restaurant, it’s hard to put two words together.  But we survived . . .

And the Bastille concert . . .  well, the concert was amazing.  (She takes a moment to smile, remember Dan’s face so close, swoons just a tiny bit.)  Eve and I saw Bastille on Tuesday in Phoenix, and even though it was really good, the guys in the band explained they’d spent the day in Texas making a music video. (You could totally tell.)  STILL fabulous, and so fun to attend the concert with my girl.  But in Vegas, they were really ON.  The Vegas concert was in a third floor ballroom at the Cosmopolitan Resort and we had standing room tickets, which I prefer since you can move away from people who are being arses.  Bastille put on an amazing show which I’ll never forget.

But I kind of got in a fight with some girls.  It really wasn’t my fault. I mean, clearly the event had been oversold, and we were packed in too tightly.  Picture me:  dreamy look on my face, completely engrossed in the performance, hand placed over my heart ( so embarrassing) when all of a sudden a group of six “Woo Woo Girls” pushes up through the crowd and stand directly to my left.  And they begin to talk . . . LOUDLY.  We’re only 25 feet from the stage where Dan is singing his heart out, and these girls are SHOUTING—how rude, right?  Why do you go to a concert to chit-chat??  I tap the shoulder of the lead Woo Woo girl and put on my sweetest face, and I say these words: “I’m saying this with so much kindness in my heart and you all seem like such nice girls, but I’d like to ask you a huge favor—-could you please be a little quieter, because I’m having trouble hearing the band?”  (Followed by a pleading, sweet look and sorry smile.)  Well.  Lead Woo Woo gets a really mean look on her face and says loudly to her friends, “OH NO, I think we’re in trouble!”  Then she says something I can’t hear to the other Woo Woos and they proceed to SCREAM through the entire next song.  I sighed.  At least I tried, right? And then they were truly much quieter after that, so HA HA, joke’s on them.  I vow to continue requesting proper behavior in a civil manner for the rest of my days, no matter how embarrassing it is to my husband or children or friends who are with me.

I know I’m going on and on, but I MUST tell you about the floor at this concert venue.  It bounces.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  I swear on a stack of Bastille albums that the floor was bouncing up and down at least 3 inches when people were dancing.  The lead singer came out on stage for the first time and stopped singing.  After the song, he explained that the movement of the floor moving up and down was “surreal”–I guess that’s one word for it.  I hope not to read in the future about the thousands of people injured when the floor of the Chelsea Ballroom at the Cosmopolitan gave way!

Apologies for this rambling all-over-the-place trip report, but that’s how Vegas is:  too much to eat, too much to smell, too much to see, and too much to talk about!  I’m still not sure if I liked Vegas, or not.  I’m thinking in 28 years, we’ll try it again.

Cheers,

Mary

 

Comings and Goings

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It’s been a weird month with lots of comings and goings.  During the last week of April, my family members went in all different directions, and I was left here at home. Patrick was away on a business trip; Hubby was away on business.  Hubby came home, then Patrick came home (he lives just a mile away).  William was home for 36 hours and took his girlfriend to Prom, then caught the shuttle back to college to study for finals.  Eve was working her job and packing to move, then she was in Spain with friends for more than two weeks.  She came home and was in town less than 24 hours before she packed up her little car to drive up the mountain and report up north for her new job.

All of these comings and goings are hard on a mom.  When someone is leaving, I worry and fuss over them, wanting to lessen their load by helping with luggage, travel snacks, copies of passports.  “Is there anything else I can do?” I ask (too many times, which I’m sure is annoying).  And then while they’re away, I worry that some terrible thing has happened.  I wake with a start at 3:10 am—did something happen to Eve in Spain?  I’ve heard about people getting a chill, waking at odd times, somehow knowing when a loved one is in trouble.

But the most torturous part of comings and goings are the returns: I’m filled with anticipation and can’t wait to see my peeps. One recent Friday, William finally arrives and is here for two minutes before he’s whisked away by his friends, me barely getting a minute to give him a hug and notice he needs a haircut.  Especially deflating was the day Eve returned from Spain.  I knew her flight was landing at 9, so I was happily cleaning the house and had favorite “Eve foods” in the fridge.  I kept looking at my phone and at the front door.  I was positively GIDDY! Her flight was late, and she texted when she landed.   Ruby and I nervously watched the driveway through the front shutters, and finally at 1:30 I texted, where are you?  She’d gone to her boyfriends and it wasn’t until evening that she came by for a short while.  I felt ridiculous—she is 21 and of course she wants to be with friends.  Expectations are everything—why haven’t I learned that lesson yet?  That was supposed to be the best day ever, and instead it was a terrible day for me . . . and I have yet to hear the complete travel report about Spain.

Of course part of all of this is I am grumpy to be left behind. I’m a big baby about that. Picture me sitting in my quiet house, the only interruptions being the occasional cat fight, or Ruby barking out the window at dogs walking by, or maybe the ring of the phone with people wanting to sell me solar panels or home security systems.  I sit on the couch reading a novel, occasionally looking up at the front living room window, sighing dramatically. Then I remind myself to plant my own garden, to decorate my own soul, to seek out friends when the house is too quiet.

But mostly what’s hard these days is the missing of my kids being here at our house with us.  I want to see their faces, I want to hear their stories, I want to laugh with them over some silly thing, I want to eat a meal with them, listen to a favorite song together.

I read this poem and understood exactly what Tyler Knott Gregson meant (though I think he wrote it thinking not of his children, but of his wife):

I will miss you
always,
even in the moments
when you are right
beside me
and I do not think
it is a weed
that will ever stop
growing.
It will always live there,
but my god
it grows the most
spectacular
flowers.

This is the life lesson I’m trying to learn right now:   To accept the comings and goings and instead of being angsty and demanding and an obligation to my grown children, I want to be a calm wise thoughtful person—a person my children want to return to to share their stories.  I’m so proud of all three of them, and I’m happy for all their adventures.  I want to be peaceful and patient and serene, knowing deep down in my heart my children will return to me when they are able.  Like in the children’s book, The Runaway Bunny, I want to be the tree they fly home to.

Cheers,

Mary

Mercury in Retrograde

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What a crazy week it’s been!  Facebook friends advised, “Be kind to yourself because Mercury is in retrograde,” and wow, that is advice I certainly needed this week.

This is going to sound untrue, but I swear with my hand on a stack of Bastille albums: Monday night was the first time I’ve ever slept alone in our house.  REALLY!  Hubby is on a business trip to San Luis Potisi, Mexico and having a grand time being wined and dined by the locals (and also doing some business during the day, I presume).  He’s certainly gone on business trips before, but I always had our kids here with me.  This week William is at college, Eve is on vacation in Spain, and Patrick is in Tucson on business. It’s been very peaceful, and I’ve been happy to get those last steps on my step counter (I’ve been aiming for 15K each day) dancing to loud music in the kitchen without anyone raising an eyebrow to the noise or my terrible form.

I’m not really alone:  We’ve adopted Eve’s cat for the next six months while Eve is away for an out-of-town job, so I have four cats and one dog for company.  So much easier to live with pets than children, though their Spring Shedding certainly has caused much sneezing and vacuuming.  They are adorable, and the initial hissing and chasing has calmed down.  It’s only been a week; soon they will be BFF’s.

I took Ruby in for a teeth cleaning on Tuesday and got a call mid-day from the vet explaining that the bill would be doubled because she had two rotten teeth needing extracting.  She was a sad mess the first night, but after 24 hours, she was doing very well. I’m eager to look in her mouth, but I like having fingers so have not tried to peek (she is very growly when I want to examine her).  Why do we always end up with such expensive pets???  Ruby is such a good girl; she is worth every penny.

I had two fun days subbing at my school with lovely young teachers who never make me feel old and are always so welcoming.  The kids are adorable, hilarious, hate nap time, and wake up all warm and snuggly.  Best job ever.

Back to Mercury being in retrograde:  Each day I’ve forced myself to drive the 20 minutes north to our house near ASU which we are prepping for sale.  All renters and Eve have moved out, yet they left behind a full household of belongings.  It’s overwhelming.  We’ve had ten different people live there over the course of 7 years, and each person left a little something or other that now I have to find a place for.  The walls need painting.  We need new carpet.  Tomorrow I will fill my car with paint cans and other haz mat items and take them to the Tempe Recycling Center.  I’m hoping students in the neighborhood will be happy to get free old couches and bookcases and chairs and a kitchen table, and OMG, I’m trying so hard to remain calm.  FIRST WORLD PROBLEM has been my mantra this past week.  Each day I’ve filled my car with boxes of stuff I think our daughter will still be able to use (pots and pans and silverware and room fans and lamps and her bed etc., etc.) because to buy all new is pricey.  Our garage is filled to the brim, as is Eve’s old room upstairs at our house.  I’m placing no blame on anyone, and I have no regrets. Stowing our college-aged kids away from our own home was good for them and for us. Out of sight and out of mind is one of my favorite mottos.  Please send me positive energy since I have a lot to do there before we can list our charming little built-in-1955 house for sale . . . and hopefully we will find a new owner who will love this house as much as we have.

With Hubby out of town, I’ve not cooked at all. He’s leaving Mexico at 4am tomorrow and arriving here at noon.  He’ll likely be hungry.  I always have leftovers or cold cuts and right now . . . nada!  I planned tonight to make a favorite recipe, chicken with red pepper cream sauce with pasta, but ACCKKKK, what I thought was an almost-full jar of marinated red peppers in the fridge was actually a jar of maraschino cherries.  I honestly considered it for a moment—sort of like sweet and sour chicken (?)–but YUCK.  I can’t let the poor guy arrive home with nothing in the fridge but approximately 100 bottles of condiments and no real food.  Eggs are always good, right?

It’s all good: I’m smiling after a fun happy hour with good friends this afternoon after work and am now listening to the soothing music of Brandi Carlile.  Tomorrow Hubby will be back from his business trip, and William will be home from Flagstaff to take his best girl to Prom.  Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary

A Blast From the Past

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Tonight I hosted our first meeting of the new Warner Ranch Book club.  I started it by asking if anyone was interested on our neighborhood website, and nine delightful women spent the evening in my living room getting to know each other and discussing a favorite book of mine called Plainsong by Kent Haruf.   I promised dessert, wine, and iced tea and had big plans for making a cheesecake and cupcakes, however, life got in the way, and I ended up baking some old tried-and-true recipes of cheesecake brownies and lemon company cake.

While looking on my blog for my favorite cheesecake recipe, I was delighted to read about a Monday of mine five years ago.  I laughed out loud; I used to be so funny! This is how most bloggers feel.  They post something and think, ugggh, that could have been so much better.  I was also pretty much floored emotionally by how much my life has changed in such a short time.  I miss having our kids at home, yet there is a new quality of serenity and order which I truly enjoy.  Plus, Hubby is still here and since we are BFF’s, it’s all good.

Here is the post from January 10, 2012 titled, “What I Did on Monday.”  And btw, I have no idea what that novel was about or where it went.  I think it ended up in the trash where most of my creative writing goes to die.

I had a beautiful and productive Monday. Here are some of the things I did:

Read the newspaper and snickered over the bickering Republican hopefuls.

Went to the library and picked up a copy of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, an old favorite of mine.

Met Amy at Starbuck’s for a morning of writing.  Chatted with Amy for 1.5 hours and wrote for .5 hours.

Discovered I have lost an entire chapter from the novel I’m writing. (I’m hoping Hubby can help me locate it on my computer.)

Had a lovely lunch with Lynn at Hong Kong Buffet. The big news of the day:  She has a grandson due to be born any day now!

Feeling ill from too many crab puffs, I took a break with The Secret History and alternately burped soy sauce-flavored burps and pet Lucy.  Isn’t it nice how cats don’t care if you have bad breath?

Did some research on the artists I am now assigned at the art museum, Seymour Lipton and Mike Kelley. I must say I so do not “get” contemporary art . . . but I’m trying.

Vacuumed downstairs and sucked up enough cat hair to make a new cat.

Found three bowls, two forks, a spoon and a plate under the couch.

Went to the bank.

Mailed birthday presents to my sister and my step-mother-in-law at the post office.

Gave Eve a wedgie. “That’s for leaving your dirty dishes under the couch!”

Discovered my Aunt Chris’ 60th birthday is January 16th. (I should’ve known that, but thank you, Aunt Linda, for the reminder!)

Went to TJ Maxx and bought four fabulous scarves. Which one should I send to Aunt Chris? The others go in my “emergency gift” stash in the closet. Found some super-comfy oh-so-cute Seven7 brand jeans for only $16.99 and HAD to take them home. I love you, TJ Maxx.

Came home to find Lucy having a serious coughing fit. I gently stroked her back, and she began to purr. She found a comfy warm spot on Grandma Summer’s blanket and took a long nap. She is still hungry for dinner, so we are not yet at the end. I hate hate hate that she is sick. She looks normal. Her fur smells sweet like it always has. (Maybe it’s all a big mistake?)

Made the kids eat leftovers for dinner (the fridge was too full, and I do not believe in throwing away food). Talked Eve into eating the dried up leftover cauliflower from four days ago—more revenge for the dishes under the couch (hee hee).

After the kids were in bed, found the cauliflower dish under the couch.

Took William and Nathan to Boy Scouts. Said “Happy New Year” to all my Scout friends, and gave Patti L. a big hug because she very gracefully turned 50 over the weekend. (My friends make it look so easy . . . why do I dread it so?)

Came home and made two individual cheesecakes. I have two six-inch springform pans that produce the cutest little sweets. I took a photo of a decorated mini-cake at Whole Foods and totally copied it (who was it that said there is nothing new under the sun?), and I must say I am quite proud. I am taking it to my dear friend Mrs. Brown because today we are celebrating her birthday.

I had fun decorating the cheesecake with fresh fruit, which always looks better when you put a little melted raspberry jam on it to make it look shiny. I used blueberries, strawberries and mandarin orange slices. I stood back to admire my masterpiece and took a lick off the jam spoon. WHAT??? PEANUT BUTTER? Who on earth would put a peanut butter knife into the almost-new jar of raspberry jam? I think I owe Eve another wedgie. Does this stuff happen to Martha Stewart?

Here is the recipe for a basic, easy cheesecake that turns out perfect every time:

Cheesecake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter two six-inch springform pans OR use a regular pie dish.

Smush a graham cracker crust into the bottom of your pan.

In a large bowl, beat 8 oz. cream cheese (softened) with ½ cup sugar and two eggs. Add 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon or fresh orange juice, ½ teaspoon vanilla and a dash of salt.

Bake for 25-40 minutes (depending on your pan) until it is firm in the middle. Cool before decorating!

Cheers,

Mary