Friday, September 15, 2017

Safe Travels, Most Beloved Hat

Let's just say my hat gets around. I wore it daily with pride in deep blue Massachusetts, and with only a hint of misgivings when I wore it somewhere redder. So of course it would come to Wyoming, Cheney country, with me. I hear Dick Cheney doesn't have many good things to say about the current administration. Which is about the best I can say about Dick Cheney.

I was wearing the hat in Jackson Hole, more for rain protection than for the sun. Everyone says hello to everyone else in the Town Square, I learned, native or not, and I learned quickly to nod and smile at anyone passing going the other way.

After one unremarkable smile-and-nod about a half-a-block later I hear a gruff, nondescript "Hey" from behind me which of course I ignored until I heard the additional, "Hey lady. You. In the pink." I turned and mouthed to a person approaching a confused, "Me?"

"Uh huh. You. What's that hat say? I want to see that hat again."

So I sucked in a little air and, possibly scowling a bit, I began, almost with an apologetic tone of voice. "You see, I'm from Massachoooosetts," I said, "and we run, well, a little bluer than some folks out here."

"Oh, I'm from Atlanta, and I know all about blue, believe me. I love your hat. Where'd you get it?"

Relieved, I told him about (and will now also tell you about) "Wonkette, W-O-N-K-E-T-T-E dot-com," I spelled out slowly. "The international home of the resistance."

We exchanged first names, and  Bert went on to tell me just how disgusted he is with what's happening in Washington, and that, being retired, it's his full time job to keep from letting himself get too depressed every day. So we commiserated a few more minutes until his ride pulled up, and he moved to get into the car.

As he was getting in, I caught back up to him. "Bert! Here - take it." and I handed him my hat.

"No, I couldn't," he replied, but I insisted. "I know where to get another one," I reminded him.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a $20 bill and tried to give it to me. I refused, and he refused my refusal. His car was waiting, so I laughed, and took it and thanked him.  I already knew I was going to buy another hat, so I bought an extra one to give away next time. You can, too. Right here.

I wish I'd gotten a picture of we two amigos. This one will have to do.

Leigh Lake, Grand Teton National Park

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Time Has Come ...

... the Walrus said, to talk of many things:
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax.
Of cabbages and kings,
And why the sea is boiling hot,
And whether pigs have wings* ...

You know what goes great with pigs and wings? Tom's barbecue sauce. I've debated forever whether to share his sauce. He tweaked it until it was perfect and then guarded it carefully. I, unable since birth to actually follow a recipe, have continued tweaking. For the good of all mankind and summer cookouts, here it is.

Tom's Barbecue Sauce

28 oz can crushed or pureed tomato
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c honey
2 T lemon juice
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T olive oil
1/2 c brown sugar
2 t chili powder
1/2 t basil
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 c white vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 t mustard powder

Combine in a heavy pot and leave on a high simmer (but do not boil) for 2 hours. Cool to room temp the chill for 2 days before use.

A few things to keep in mind. In case you don't already know this, barbecue sauce is an art, not a science, and it's open to interpretation. Also, if you ever cooked with Tom you know he had a rule to double whatever the spices called for in a recipe. These spices are already doubled. But go for it and let me know if you like quadruple thyme (btdt, you won't).

Also, "honey" and "brown sugar" are open to interpretation. You like malt syrup? Go for it. You want to use light brown instead of dark brown? There are no rules in barbecuesauceland. In today's iteration I'm using maple syrup and maple sugar in their steads. I would not recommend corn syrup or white sugar unless you consciously want to highlight another ingredient. In which case  you have to report back.

Also, for the love of God, at least double the recipe. I usually quadruple it. After it's aged I throw it into ziplock bags in 2-cup measures and freeze flat, with newsprint between layers to keep them from freezing into a giant block.

And if you've stayed with me this long, you've earned a bonus "recipe." To make Tom's pulled pork, cook a Boston Butt in a slow cooker with a bottle of liquid smoke poured over (Gross, I know, right? But it works.) for 18-24 hours on low. Remove the bone and waste, discard the liquid, and and break up the meat. Return the pulled pork to the slow cooker, stir in about 2 cups of barbecue sauce and heat through. This honestly could not be an easier recipe unless you used store bought barbecue sauce, which I have been know to do and it hasn't killed me yet, And now I'm wondering what oysters in barbecue sauce would taste like.


* Excerpted from Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Road Test

Blue is me. Grey is 98's Auntie Jeanne.

You're welcome.

Oh, and another thing I forgot about until this very second. So, the tester gets out of the car and I hop in the front and we drive off, into the empty-ish parking lot at the Watertown Mall . And I turn to 98 who's still driving and say, "I'm sorry. But it's not too bad. When we get home, get back online and make a new appointment and you can retest soon and we'll just practice like crazy in the meantime." And he replied, "What are you talking about, Mom. I passed." And I was, "Um, no you didn't." I mean, I was there. I just saw this whole thing with my own eyes. I saw the guy stamp on the permit. I didn't know what it said but I figured it was "retest required." So I made him stop the car and pull over and show me his permit. And sure enough, it was stamped, "passed." I was flabbergasted. I spent the rest of the ride trying not to clutch the door handle too obviously.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Happy Four-Twenty To You

Before I begin, I respectfully request my friends who still think highly of me take their leave. Anyone who loves animals, please also see yourselves out. I’ll wait.

Are they gone?


Starting in December of last year, possession and consumption of weed in Massachusetts is now legal. That said, it’s still illegal to buy without a prescription. Which I don’t have.

When I was a teen I never tried weed because even then I knew that as a parent I'd be the only one of my peers that could tell my kids that I hadn’t. Imagine my surprise, then, when the time finally came, and they asked, and then they didn’t believe me. I was pretty peeved.

Since then I’ve just been curious.

The purchase and sale rules not yet worked out by the state, I knew couldn’t buy it. One day it just so happened that I gave a certain son not named 98 some cash. And in a completely unrelated occurrence some days later I found myself in possession of a plastic bag of a substance I can only describe as smelling like a cross between freshcut grass and vinegar. That maybe someone had left to rot for compost. It was awful.

Weed. I got some weed. Now what to do?

Not that I'd given it a whole lot of thought (I had) but I wanted an edible, so I decided on that old classic, brownies. After a bunch of lectures from people far more experienced in the consumption of cannabis about how  "It stays in your system much longer if you eat than if you smoke, and are you really sure you don’t want to just smoke it, Mom  stranger?" I found a recipe for cannabutter, which involves a crockpot, butter, some water (to keep the butter from burning and the THC from vaporizing) and about 8 hours, according to the Internet, but I could only stand the smell for about 3.

So I simmer in the crockpot per the instructions and then strain the mixture through cheesecloth, just like they said. Anticipating the yummy brownies I'd make with the butter, the cheapskate in me got the better of me, I saw the leftover  steeped leaves and thought to myself, "I bet that’s still good for something,” and set the bundle aside on the counter until I’d had a chance to look it up. In the meantime, I chilled the butter mixture and called it a night. This was on a Sunday and I figured I'd make brownies on Monday.

Maggie, if you’re still here you should leave now.

The next morning Zoet had a case of the Mondays. She wouldn’t get up to go outside, but who could blame her? It was January and still cold and dark and she was asleep. So I picked her up and brought her out, and she did her thing per usual. We went back inside and I gave her the requisite treat, but she turned her nose up at Milk Bones, holding out for Greenies which any dog knows are way better. So I tossed the Milk Bone onto the floor next to her (probably muttering about how if I wanted a bellyacher I’d stick with teenagers but I don’t really remember because, well, I'm getting to that. The rest of the morning is a bit of a blur.)

A little while later I was back in the kitchen; the treat was still unconsumed and Zoet was still lying on the floor, but now in a puddle of pee. I panicked, and quickly called the vet to let them know I was bringing her in, and off we raced.

They noted her unusual demeanor: clumsy, jittery, and peeing all the heck over the place. They reassured me, took her for the day, and sent me on my way. They’d be in touch after they ran some tests and knew what was going on.

Back home, head spinning, I sat down to breathe. My eyes fell on a sock Zoet had been chewing. I’m the first to admit that normally when I see something chewed up on the floor I’ll just leave it there, with the rationale that if I pick it up Zoet will just find another sock/t-shirt/towel to chew on, so I’m being frugal. Since she was gone I picked it up to toss it, and only then realized … it’s the cheesecloth from last night. The weed cheesecloth. The cheesecloth that had all that leftover weed in it. HAD.

Instantly, an angel appeared on one shoulder and a little tiny devil on the other. Do I call the vet and admit what I’ve found? Or do I pay for all those tests and keep my mouth shut? Prioritize the dog’s needs? Or humiliate myself? Will it be the dog? Or me?

Is Maggie still gone?

If I live to be 120 I shall never overcome the shame I feel admitting this: Pride won. I’ll just pay for the tests. I can’t tell them! What would they think?

At that very second the phone rang. It was the vet. The situation’s urgent, Linda, and we’re taking her to the emergency vet. I knew this was God’s way of telling me to come clean, so I spilled. The weed, the butter, the cheesecloth. I told them everything.

They had never had this situation come up before (that they knew of, at least no one had admitted it) and after some vet-to-vet consultations and some more observations, it was determined that there really wasn’t any treatment and that she’d be fine, but we’d just have to wait and let her sleep it off.

And oh my goodness, did she sleep it off. I made my butter on a Sunday, brought her to the vet Monday morning, and that poor little thing pretty much slept until Thursday. She was able to walk about as usual by Tuesday morning, and by Wednesday she had mastered the stairs but it wasn’t until Thursday that we got our first bark at someone out front then run to the couch to bark at them on the off chance the walk into the woods out back. Because that’s how we roll.

After the fact that I realized that the cats were all a little more lazy than usual. I surmise now that Ruby, who I fed on the counter to keep the other cats’ food safe, consumed a bit of the butter, and knocked the cheesecloth to the floor, where the other cats had a chance with it, before Zoet swooped in, in that Zoet way, and scarfed down whatever was left to be scarfed. They were all back to normal before I even realized they might need attention, too, so I left the vet out of that loop.

In case you've never seen one, this is what it looks like when a doggie is ... resting comfortably. Very comfortably indeed.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Newsletter 2016

Holiday Greetings from the Gentiles!

Well, 2016 has been nothing if not eventful. A hinge broke on a kitchen cabinet (stay with me here). This was the third time this particular hinge had broken and it was a corner cabinet and a pain to replace. So, if I had to replace the hinge I might as well replace the stupid door. And I can‘t replace just one door and have a mis­match, so I have to replace them all, so why not get that pull-out pantry I’ve been eyeing forever? And since I’m replacing the cabinets, I might as well move the fridge to where I’ve always wanted it and replace it with the French door model I’ve always wanted, right? But the new stainless fridge would certain make the ivory dish­washer look shabby, so that’s gotta go, too. And with the new appliances and new cabinets, of course I need a new counter, which gives me an excuse to put in a peninsula where the table’s always been. And you know what would really pop? A backsplash that plays off the blue flecks in the countertop. Don’t mess with me, hinges. When I go, I go all in.

Probably my favorite part of the whole project (which also included a new floor. There should be a law against using grout on a kitchen floor) – when they pulled off all the backsplash they found the walls were not sheet­rocked, but were plywooded. “We’ve never seen anyone do this before,” the project manager said. “You never met my husband,” I laughed in response, but secretly confident that a cabinet would never rip away from the wall from being overloaded. Oh, Tom -- always taking things to the next level just because he could. The counter installers called me “Deb” for good reason: Scrawled in pencil on the plywood, and not in Tom’s handwriting, the message, “I’m sorry Deb. Will you still marry me?” As far as I know, Tom only knew one Deb, and she did marry the scribe who was apparently visiting from overseas during the last kitchen renovation. I’d love to know what that fight was about.

In September I spent 6 days in Iceland. I wanted a place where they drive on the right, somewhere I could get to nonstop, and where language would not be a barrier, so Iceland seemed a logical choice. It was the coolest vacation I’ve ever had, in the most beautiful part of the planet I’ve ever visited, and on the flight back I was already plotting my return. Loved it. Loved everything about it.

David had an eventful year too. He and Hannah are still doing well.  Now a junior, he changed his concentration (they don’t do majors at SLC) from theatre production to computer science and advanced math­ematics. That’s almost the same, right? He’s also starting to think about grad school, or what else might come next.

I mentioned last year that Geof would be joining the Army in 2016. He did, indeed, leave for basic training and armor AIT in August. The Army was not a good match for Geof, and the Army agreed to release him from his obligations in Nov­ember. He’s back home now and planning to start school in January in an aviation mechanics program. So while his career plan no longer includes the Army, that experience got him on the path he’s on now, and he hasn’t ruled out returning to service after graduation. So I see a good year coming up for him, too.

We wish you all the best for 2017, but now that weed is legal in Massachusetts … let’s be honest, we’ll talk again in 2018.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kitchen Update

Before. Note the missing cabinet door in the far corner by the window.
I picked the cabinets first.
Apparently I'm fond of light wood kitchens.
Then I picked the counter. I knew I wanted something
with a little more character than the plain ivory Corian, 
but I loved that  nearly indesructable Corian counter. 
I went with quartz. Apparently these drainage grooves are very European. 
La-di-dah. I just wanted to free up counter space.
My colors. I wanted to get rid of the tile and grout on the floor,
but also knew I didn't want hardwood since you step directly
into the kitchen from outside. I thought about trying to
add a mudroom, but instead I went with a vinyl plank floor
that is actually commercial grade with a lifetime warranty
in residential applications. The planks lock 
and it looks like hardwood, but is very soft on the feet.

Backsplash detail.
I'm not fond of the vast swaths of solid color of plain subway tiles,
but I knew I wanted a solid color with just a little visual interest.
This blue perfectly matches the flecks in the countertop. The grout is an epoxy-type that requires no sealing.
Only the wall behind the stovetop is on the diagonal. The sink backsplash and box window seat are straight..

The famous proposal.
She still loves you, man.
I had a very hard time finding them online when I was calling them handles.
They're knobs and pulls. Duh.

Now, the fun stuff.
Here's my pull-out pantry ... 

... and my broom closet! My brooms
have their very own space now.
The pantry and broom closet butt up against each other,
back to back. These tiny shelves  are perfect 
for the shot glass collection.

I kept my much-loved range, hood, oven and microwave. 
The microwave predates me, but man that thing is a monster,, and has
a convection feature. I put a warming drawer under the oven. 
The drawer has a slow-cooker feature, so you know I'll be trying a pulled pork in there soon.
I always wanted a french door refrigerator, but it couldn't go in its original spot because of the dining room wall, so I switched the oven and fridge locations.
The stovetop stayed where it was originally.

And what kitchen is complete without a pull-down, hidden knife rack
I never even knew I wanted one and now it's my favorite part of the kitchen.

Iceland, Part One

Iceland: Beautiful. Friendly. Rainy.
This sign greets visitors arriving at Keflavik International Airport,
about an hour outside Reykjavik. Words both wise and welcoming. 

Comprised of literally thousands of delicate layers, this formation reminded me of a fragile, sweet mille feuille.
From a little farther out, you see the basalt columns that formed naturally as the lava floes  spread and cooled and cracked  into their crystals.

 The photos above give a clearer view of the formation for sure, but I had to include this next view from a distance, for sheer scale. That tiny red dot at the cave entrance (center) is a person ...

Black Sands Beach was about a 2.5 hour drive from Reykjavik, outside Vik, on Iceland's south shore. I had decided early on that I'd stop at any information point/travellers' center/lookout that struck my fancy so the 2.5 hour drive ended up taking nearly 7, and I barely got there before sunset. I was particularly glad I was alone that day. If 96 and 98 had been with me, they surely would have smothered me in my sleep that night.

I drove past this memorial on one of the main highways several times before I finally stopped one day, expecting to maybe say a little prayer and be on my way. Sometimes I say a little prayer for people figuring even if I don't know their names, someone does. I was particularly touched by one of the markers: If you look closely you can see that one of the crosses has another, smaller, cross attached. I figured it was for a mother and child. I asked an Icelander learned the story. Roughly translated, 'These crosses are in memory of those who have died on [the road named] Sudurlandsvegur, between Reykjavik and Selfoss.' The memorial was erected in 2006 both as a way to remember the loss of life on the curvy road and to highlight for all the importance of maintaining the country's transportation infrastructure. I was very glad I stopped there and found this sweet, simple memorial.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

This will probably come up in the Christmas Newsletter, but ...

... I just got back from Iceland. More to come. But here's a funny story.

I was at a souvenir place looking for a magnet for my fridge. (Also coming soon: new kitchen pictures, including black stainless appliances that hold magnets! Yay for black stainless!)

I digress. So, I'm at the souvenir place and find a couple of magnets I like. I particularly like the first one, because Mark Twain is supposed to have said this about New England first, I think, and it's kind of a mantra around here. It was also crazy true about the few days I was in Iceland.

I also liked one printed in Icelandic but I didn't know what it said. I didn't want to buy it if it said something raunchy so I brought it to the cashier and asked her to translate. She responded, "I don't speak Icelandic." So I replied, "That's okay. I'll find another person to ask," and took back the magnet.

"No, no, no!" she laughed, and said again, "'I don't speak Icelandic.' That's what it says!" 

It was a classic Laurel and Hardy and I fear I embarrassed all Americans with my ignorance because ég tala ekki íslensku.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy Fatlipiversary, 96!

We all remember the great April Fools Day Blizzard of '97, right? In case you don't, it came at the end of an otherwise sparse winter, snow-wise, although I barely remember this, as Tom and I were still adjusting to the tiny human who had joined us five months earlier.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knew Tom, we had a very strict division of labor. The litter box  rule directed that he took care of the back end of the cats and I took care of the front end. Little did he know I early on discovered the rule's corollary: One cat's puke is another cat's gourmet take out.

Always looking for ways to educate myself about health concerns get out of the worst chores,  of course we I wanted to minimize my exposure to dangerous pathogens aforementioned worst chores when I was pregnant whenever I thought I could get away with it.  And until the day he died he took care of the litterbox, because "I might be pregnannnnnnnt!"

Another rule we had was that he did the driveway, and I shoveled the steps. This was our first major snowfall with the baby. We looked at each other, and at the snow outside. What we we supposed to do?  We finally decided,  "It's a tiny baby. Where is it going to go?" and put 96 on the floor on his back under one of those jungle gym things he could entertain himself with for five minutes while I went out and shoveled the steps. Really, no more than five minutes. I mean, it's three steps. How long could it have taken?

I came back in, and 96 had rolled himself over. I have no idea if this was his first time rolling over. But he was certainly new to the rolling over game, because he smashed his face in the process, giving himself his first bloody nose and fat lip.

Of course I took a picture. Then I applied the cold pack.

So, Happy Fat Lip and Bloody Nose Day, 96! Love you!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

This is Linda

This is Linda.
Linda talks a good game.
Linda is full of it.
Put your groceries away.
Avoid tragedy.
Clean the cellar more than once every five years.
Don't be like Linda.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Newsletter

Holiday greetings from the Gentile Family!

I suppose like every year, 2015 had its ups and downs. Two very sad moments came early in the year. First, when my mom, Ann, died on January 4, mere hours before her 85th birthday. And we lost Tom’s mother, Madeline, just a month later. In fact, her funeral on February 7 marked Tom’s fifth anniversary. They are all certainly loved, and truly never forgotten.

The kids are thriving this year. A sophomore at Sarah Lawrence, David is loving his academic life, including this semester stage managing a production of Marie Antoinette as the project for one of his classes. His very sweet girlfriend, Hannah, shares his interest in theatre production but is at SLC for premed. Hallelujah with a side of cowbell, she’s also teaching David how to drive. She’s in line for a lifetime supply of homemade cookies or maybe even some cold hard cash if she can actually get him a pretty little driver’s license all his own.  She’s a bit of a Renaissance woman.  Speaking of which, how picky is spellcheck at spelling Renaissance?” There’s 5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

 Geof has had a pretty eventful year. Becoming the athlete of the family a couple of years ago (You may recall previous newsletter references to track and lacrosse. Or maybe you don’t because let’s be honest. This is the Christmas newsletter. Who reads them? Never mind who actually remembers them from this year to next? No one. That’s who.) this year, his senior year,  he took on football, wearing number 82 as defensive back and wide receiver for the Arlington Catholic Cougars. After visiting Old Dominion in Norfolk, VA over the summer Geof was beginning to envision his college life there and was even talking about starting ROTC once there. But the military bug bit a little stronger than anyone expected, and he spoke with a local Army recruiter around the start of the school year. He passed his physical and his ASVAB a few weeks ago and took his Oath of Enlistment on November 17. He ships out for basic training at Fort Benning, GA in August, 2016.

I am still at Dana Farber a day or two a week, and have also done some volunteering at the Greater Boston Food bank. Every now and then I think about gainful employment. Then I think about all the new people I’d have to meet, and all my weirdo quirks and foibles I’d have to explain or hide and I sigh and shrug my shoulders and go back to my rainbow hair and my knitting.  I’m putting the finishing touches on the blanket I’m knitting for Geof. David got his blanket in time for freshman year at SLC, but Geof certainly won’t be taking his to basic training, so I want him to have it before he goes.

I spend a remarkable amount of time cleaning up cat poop and dog pee. Or dog poop and cat pee. I don’t keep track. All I know is the clock is ticking on these animals and every time I clean up one mess or another, every time the contents of the kitchen trash can get spread across the entire first floor of my house, every time I choke on animal fur free floating in the air, I remind them that extraordinary life-sustaining measures become less and less likely. Still, Zoet does her doggie things, and the Scruffy, Pixel, and Momo do their kitty things and all stays balanced in the world.

So, that’s it from us this year.  We all hope you have a safe and wonderful rest of this year, and a happy and healthy 2016.                 

Saturday, July 11, 2015