Random musings–thirteen

Trust

It saddens me that Brian Williams did something so stupid that it has probably wrecked his career, except as guest on late-night talk shows, where, ironically, he first began to embellish his stories. He was my go-to guy on the news. I trusted him almost as much as Tom Brokaw. Lester Holt is a great newscaster, but I just really liked Brian. I’ve tried not to watch or read the analyses of him, but it’s hard to turn away from a train wreck. They say he’ll be back in six months, but I think he’s done.

Luck

According to some beliefs, if you’re born on Friday the thirteenth, you will be lucky for life. According to others, you will be unlucky for life. I think it’s six of one, half-dozen of another. If you have a fear of this occurrence on the calendar, of which there are three this year, you have friggatriskaidekaphobia (Norse god Frigga, meaning Friday, and triskaidekaphobia, meaning fear of the number thirteen). I don’t believe in superstitions or good luck or bad luck. I believe that life just happens, and that we’re all unwitting pawns in the game of it.

Men and space

Why, when you’re busy doing something, especially in the kitchen, are men always standing where you need to be at any given moment? It never fails. I shoo David out of one place, because he’s in my way, and he moves to the exact next place that I need to be. Always.

He goes back to work–sort of

David’s been offered an advisory position at a company with whom he used to do business before he retired. It’s as much, or as little, as he would like to do. Of course, until he’s 66, another two years, he can only earn a limited income before it affects his social security earnings. Up to $12,000, I believe he said. That would be nice. Maybe we could actually take a nice vacation. It’s been so long, I don’t even remember the last one that wasn’t camping. It’s been at least three years since we even did that without taking the grandkids. Or we could pay down the home equity loan. That would be more practical.

Winter

It’s really getting me down. We had no January thaw this year. So far, February is pretty awful, too. We did have a couple of days last week that melted off some of the snow, but the icy driveway is still a hockey rink. Yesterday, when I was driving to the post office, I drove past our old house and noticed that the driveway there is even worse than ours. So, I guess we’re better off than they are. I’m just really, really glad I don’t live in Buffalo or Boston. We’re definitely better off than those people are.

My house has big windows

And lots of them. The family room has six, plus two sky lights. One wall is basically all windows. The view is great into the backyard, but even though they’re good insulated Andersen windows, there is still a lot of heat conductivity through all that glass. The only window treatments are ugly cornice boards and some filmy sheer panels that don’t even go across the windows. They’re just on the side for decorative purposes. It’s going to cost a small fortune to buy insulated panels to put up. Oh, I guess that’s what we can use the new income for.

Speaking of ugly decor

Well, it’s not ugly per se, but it’s definitely not my style. I’m kind of a minimalist. I’m not into in-your-face decorating. The cornice boards are the worst. I’ve never liked them, and I don’t understand them. I know they were all the rage about fifteen years ago. The house was built in 2002, so it fits that whole French Colonial phase of decorating. The colors don’t really suit me either. There’s a lot of beige/tan, which is fine, but it’s the eggplant, metallic dark green, and metallic gold that gets me. The kitchen is mostly beige with two walls that have those other colors in stripes, and those aren’t done very well. When they pulled off the tape it also pulled some of paint on the edges of the stripes. And then there are the three little strips of wallpaper border at chair level that seem to be afterthoughts. That has to go. I want to paint the kitchen a nice soft buttery yellow. It will help with the darkness in there.

Cave kitchen

Lighting is so important in a kitchen. I will never understand why anyone would design a kitchen in this day and time with only three light sources. Over the sink, an island light, and over the range. That’s all I have. There are no can lights in the ceiling, no under-cabinet lights, and the fixtures that we replaced were solid metal and didn’t let any light go upwards, only down. The room gets a lot of outside light in the afternoon, but I do any baking in the morning. I designed the kitchen in my other house with tons of lights. It was awesome. You kind of needed sunglasses when all of them were on. The nice thing in the morning though, was being able to turn on just the under-cabinet ones, which created a nice soft glow that was perfect for drinking coffee and doing computer work. I think that’s the thing I miss the most about my old kitchen. I guess I was spoiled.

Open concept

It’s all they talk about on HGTV, and stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops. I do love the open concept here. My other kitchen was next to the family room, but closed off, so that I missed most of what was going on in there when I was cooking. The stainless steel appliances that we bought are beautiful, if you want to clean them every single day. Not a practical thing when there are sticky-fingered kids roaming around all the time. So they basically get cleaned when there’s company coming, except for the handles. Those get a daily wiping. I’m hoping if I ever have to buy appliances again, there will be a new trend. Maybe avocado green? Or harvest gold?

Cooktops

Gas ranges were numero uno in my book. I had a gorgeous five-burner one in my new kitchen at the old house. With heavy cast iron grates and a double burner that either burned super-hot or super low. It was also extremely time-consuming to clean. Mainly because it was stainless steel, and if you didn’t clean it completely every day, it looked pretty bad. Also, that super-low burner wasn’t really that low. If I wanted something to simmer, I had to put a diffuser between the burner and the pot.

This house had a glass cooktop and it was worn out, and the space wasn’t fitted for gas. I did a lot of research, and decided to go with a Bosch induction cooktop, figuring it was the least objectionable of all glass cooktops. (I had not had a good experience with early ones.) Since induction cooking requires pots and pans that can be magnetized, most of my cookware wouldn’t work. I had way too much anyway. I put some of it in the camper, and gave the rest to my mother-in-law who spread them around to others. I didn’t expect to love this cooktop as much as I do, diehard gas cooking fan that I was, but I do. It took a little getting used to, but it’s so much more responsive than gas. When you turn the heat up or down, it’s instantaneous. There’s no side heat from the burners, so the immediate area is a lot cooler, important when you are standing over the stove stirring something delicate for a long time, and it doesn’t heat up the kitchen as much. And the best thing is the cleanup. What used to take me a good ten minutes or more, depending on the grease or spill factors, now takes about one minute. A quick wash with the dish cloth, and then a spritz with white vinegar and buff with a clean dry towel. Once in a while, I use the glass cooktop cleaner if it starts looking a little dull. I’ll probably never go back to gas, if I have a choice.

Icemakers

Icemakers used to be so simple. They were inside the freezer compartment. They made ice at a decent rate, and there was a fairly large storage bin. Both of the new refrigerators I’ve had recently are not so simple. The refrigerator I chose for the other house was a French door one. All the rage, and I did love the bottom freezer compartment, and the wide fridge shelves. The bad part was the icemaker. It’s located in the fridge area for dispensing, so the storage bin is very small, and with all the opening and shutting of the doors, there was a constant dripping from the condensation. It dripped down into the freezer compartment and there was always a big layer of ice forming on that side of the door. It wasn’t just the model I chose, apparently it’s inherent in that style. So, for this house I chose a side-by-side, the largest they make. The icemaker sucks. It’s larger, but it doesn’t make enough ice, or sometimes it barely makes any, and it gets big chunks of ice frozen together in the corners that I have to break up with a wooden spoon. It’s not like we only use it occasionally. With seven people living here, it’s an everyday thing. Thankfully, I have an additional fridge in the basement with an old-style icemaker. It makes a ton, so I dump it into the one upstairs. I do miss the ice from the French door one, because the ice was that really soft kind that is good for chomping. I’m never satisfied.

Bitter Greens

I’m reading a book set during the period of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, called Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. It’s about French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the author of Rapunzel, who was banished from the King’s court when she lost favor of the King. She was sent to a convent to live out the rest of her life. She had the choice to not go, but she would have lost her pension. I’ve only read a few chapters, but it grabbed me from the first paragraph. One of the nuns, Sœur Seraphina, tells her a tale about a child, Margherita, who was sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens. Her father stole some parsley from the garden of Selena Leonelli. When he is caught, she threatens to cut off both his hands unless he gives her his daughter. This is the story of Into the Woods!  The witch is Selena who, as a young girl, was the muse of the artist Tiziano. Ms. Forsyth is skilled in weaving the stories of Charlotte-Rose, Margherita, and Selena together. I’m so excited to find it!

American Sniper

We saw this a couple of weeks ago. It has been controversial. Some people say it glorifies war. Some say it goes the other way. I found it to do neither. Yes, Chris Kyle is a patriot in every sense of the word, but he is just a man doing his job, and that job is to protect his fellow soldiers. He has a conscience, which is much more than you can say for his counterpart on the Iraqi side. The movie was intense. Even though the acting, the story, and the directing was excellent, I really wanted it to be over about halfway through. Bradley Cooper is truly amazing in the role. He is Chris Kyle. Clint Eastwood was snubbed in the director awards nominations, probably because of his politics. I don’t agree with them either, but I think Hollywood needs to honor people for their work, not punish them for what they believe. He should have had a nomination.

That’s thirteen things, and now I’m worn out.

See you soon,

Susan

 

 

What if one is all you have?

Sometimes I think Miss Nelle Harper Lee got it right. She certainly got it right the first time when she wrote the perfect novel. She never wrote another one. Her friends and her publisher were exasperated by her refusal to write another book. But her fear that to write another one might take away from the perfection and beauty of To Kill a Mockingbird, especially if it weren’t quite up to snuff, makes perfect sense to me. I’ve often been disappointed by sophomore books by acclaimed first novelists. At best, they were average; at worst, they should have been burned before reaching the publisher. I’m someone who, upon finding a delicious page-turner, eagerly awaits the second and subsequent attempts. Or when I find an established author, will read everything of theirs that I can lay my hands on. It’s very disappointing when the next one falls flat, or fails to hold my interest for not even a paragraph.

Then there are authors who don’t really come into their own until their second or third novel. In this case, I’m thinking of Pat Conroy whose wonderful novel The Prince of Tides is number two on my list.  It was actually his fifth novel and, in my opinion, by far his best to date. Anyone who has read Mr. Conroy’s beautiful prose knows that all his works are semi-autobiographical in nature. Sometimes when one has emotional wounds that run deeply, one book can’t contain it all. Writing is an exploration of and, hopefully, a balm for those hurts.

John Grisham is one of the most prolific and successful modern writers, and I confess, I’ve been a huge fan. His first novel was actually A Time to Kill.  He shopped it around for a couple of years, getting turned down at all the major publishing houses, before it was picked up by a small publisher and only 5,000 copies were released.  All the while he was working on his second novel, The Firm, and with that one, he landed a contract with Doubleday. After it debuted and was such a smashing success, Doubleday bought the rights to his first novel. The rest is history.

We will never know if Harper Lee had another brilliant novel in her, but we can all be thankful that she knew there was the one.

Excerpts from To Kill a Mockingbird:

Miss Maudie Atkinson to Scout:  “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Atticus to Scout:  “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Excerpts from The Prince of Tides: 

The best first sentence(s) ever:  “My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.”

“I grew up slowly beside the tides and marshes of Colleton; my arms were tawny and strong from working long days on the shrimp boat in the blazing South Carolina heat. Because I was a Wingo, I worked as soon as I could walk; I could pick a blue crab clean when I was five. I had killed my first deer by the age of seven, and at nine was regularly putting meat on my family’s table. I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the low-country, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders…..

“When I was ten I killed a bald eagle for pleasure, for the singularity of the act, despite the divine, exhilarating beauty of its solitary flights over schools of whiting. It was the only thing I had ever killed that I had never seen before. After my father beat me for breaking the law and for killing the last eagle in Colleton County, he made me build a fire, dress the bird, and eat its flesh as tears rolled down my face. Then he turned me in to Sheriff Benson, who locked me in a cell for over an hour. My father took the feathers and made a crude Indian headdress for me to wear to school. He believed in the expiation of sin. I wore the headdress for weeks, until it began to disintegrate feather by feather. Those feathers trailed me in the hallways of the school as though I were a molting, discredited angel.

‘Never kill anything that’s rare,’ my father said.

‘I’m lucky I didn’t kill an elephant,’ I replied.

‘You’d have had a mighty square meal if you had,’  he answered.”