Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Color of Gratitude

My friend and I went out to dinner with my parents the other night.

We went to Dolce Vita, which has been a favorite Italian restaurant to frequent, over the years. 

The tone is always hopping, even on a Sunday night,
     or maybe it was because it was the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

The pasta dishes are all wonderful,
     but it is usually difficult for me to pass up one of the daily fish specials -
     rockfish, tilapia, or grouper 
     that melts in your mouth the moment that first bite lands on your tongue.

Our meal - accompanied by a nice bottle of red, of course.

At one point, the owner came over to clear some items out of our way. 

     "Don't touch that bread basket!" my mom announces, protectively. 

As he pulls his hand back in laughter, I tell him,

      "And she's not even Italian!  Can you believe that?" 

     "I'm French," she says, with confidence.

My dad quickly throws in,

     "And German." 

      "Oui, oui, Madame!" says the owner (Joe).   

Then, he leans in close and says,

      "You know the difference between an Italian mother and a French mother?"

Unfortunately, I do not remember the punch line,
     but it had something to do with the French mother using her knuckles.   

After our meal, the waiter asks if we will be interested in dessert. 

     "YES!" we all respond, without hesitation. 

With a smirk on his face, the waiter retrieves the dessert tray, for us all to salivate over,
     as he describes each one in detail. 
We pick three to share for the table - something with chocolate, something with almond,
     and something with coffee. 

Along with our dessert, a strolling accordion player stops by for a few requests. 

My dad is always good for that, and throws out a few suggestions.

The accordion player delivers, performing not one, not two, but three songs for the table.

We clap and graciously thank him, leaving a few dollars in his tip jar, on our way out.     

When we leave, the hour is still early, and I am not yet ready to call it a night. 

The energy of Dolce Vita has filled me up, and leaves me craving for more.

My friend and I meander over to The Wine House in Fairfax City,
     where the mood is much more subdued - the ambiance much more dark,
     but the smiles and warmth, along with the anticipation of a good glass of wine,
     convince us to stay. 

The wine is excellent - a glass of cabernet sauvignon. 

Surprisingly, I find myself still hungry, and wanting something to nibble on while I sip my wine,
     so we order a cheese platter, beautifully displayed with crackers, bread, and fruit,
     to accompany the four types of cheeses of our choice.

Our evening ends with a visit to the Fair Trade shop next door, filled with wonderful, unique gifts. 

Fair Trade, if you are not aware, are socially conscious, sweatshop free,
     environmentally sustainable crafts made by people from countries all over the world,
     providing low-income artisans and farmers with a living wage for their work. 

The simplicity and the craftsmanship that goes into many of these gifts always fascinates me. 

So many unique items to look at, I could spend hours appreciating each one,
     with all of the colors, textures, scents, and sounds.

I leave with a few unique Christmas gifts (my first of the season),
     and a new, festive accessory to brighten up my living room.

I walk away from the evening feeling very happy and full, both in appetite and in spirit,
     and the crimson colored pillow that now sits upon my couch - a sweet and comforting reminder. 


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Me and My Muffin Top - No Baking Required

My personal favorite is banana nut, though I really like pumpkin.
It's definitely a close second.  
I do NOT, however, appreciate the one that has developed around my mid-section.

No baking required - just zip up my jeans.

I had heard roomers of such a thing, from those who have been here before me.

   "Just wait 'til you're in your forties!" they would say.

But, I did not believe them.
THAT won't happen to ME, I thought.
But, it did.

When I first noticed, I tried to use my stern "mom" voice.

   "Go to your room, until I tell you to come out!"

And, like a rebellious teenager,  it did not listen.

It just continued to grow.

Time to regroup, I thought.

Exercise more?  Check.

Eat less?  I can do that.

Give up my wine?  Silence.  

As a parent of (more than one) rebellious teenager,
   I do not typically recommend this advice,
but I may just have to become friends with my muffin top.   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn Rain

Grey skies

drape the colored landscape.


too heavy to contain their tears.

Nature's call to be awakened.

Like a warm hug,

the earth will embrace

with open arms. 

     ~ Leslie Ellen Wynn (Morrissette)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reigning in Charlie

I made the mistake of allowing my dog, Charlie, "free reign" of the couch. 

His favorite spot is nestled on the very top cushion, 
   where he is high enough to see what is going on outside the living room window. 

Who could blame him? 

It's the best seat in the house.   

After discovering the slight dirty brownish color that is starting to take over that spot, 
   however, I am trying to "undo" my mistake.  

Not an easy task - I know.

He is pretty good about listening to me when I ask him to get down,
   though he gives me this look like,

     "What?  What did I do?"

Humans are difficult to understand, Charlie.  I know.   

The biggest challenge is how to keep him off the couch when I am not in the house. 

I KNOW that as soon as I leave, he leaps up to his favorite look-out spot. 

And, for those of you who are thinking, "Put him in a crate," 
   I have tried that route. 

That did not work out so well for him, OR for me. 

So, a friend of mine recommended placing tape, strategically on the cushions. 

Apparently, this works well for cats. 

I looked at him, full of skepticism, as he demonstrated how to apply the tape. 

After coming home one evening,
   I took Charlie for his nightly walk, and heard a strange sound. 

At first, I thought it was the sound of his nails scratching on the concrete. 

I stopped walking to see if the sound would stop, too. 

And, it did.   

When we resumed walking, the sound resumed, too.  

I stopped Charlie, and lifted up his paws. 

Attached to his front, right paw, was a long strip of tape.


Okay.  Now, what?   

"What?  What did I do?"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Hairy Eyeball Syndrome" (It's All About Balance)

Last night, I CRASHED on the couch. 

It happened towards the tail end of watching the movie, Juno, which is a GREAT movie, by the way. 

I had not seen it since it was out in theatres, years ago, and forgot how simply wonderful it is. 

The writing and the timing with which the actors deliver their lines is true comedic genius.

It is funny, and sweet, and real. 

It's the kind of movie that makes one feel privileged to watch, because everything comes together so well.    


     I was so tired and out of it, that I barely remember the trip upstairs to my bed. 

As I was barely conscious, I was not able to perform the basic functions of
          washing my face and brushing my teeth. 

Fortunately, I had taken my contact lenses out earlier in the evening. 

The thing is, I can't really sleep well when I have not completed my "bedtime routine",

so I tossed and turned for a good part of the night, until I finally forced myself out of bed,

grabbed my glasses off the nightstand, and shuffled over to the bathroom.

     "AAAaaaah!"  I shouted (to myself), as I looked at my reflection in the mirror.

While the hair on the LEFT side of my head lay flat and straight, the hair on my RIGHT
     was sticking straight out, as if only THAT half of me had been caught up in a wind storm. 

Oddly enough, my right eye felt strange, too,
     as if long strands of hair were wrapped around my eyeball.

I can only describe it as "Hairy Eyeball Syndrome", yet, there was nothing there - 



And, to make matters worse, apparently during the wind storm,
     I had been chewing on the inside of my left cheek (in my mouth), causing it to grow twice the size of what it should be, invading the space in between my upper and lower teeth.


"Well," I told myself, "At least I am just going back to bed.  Maybe this is all just a dream, anyways."

I washed my face and brushed my teeth, and stumbled back into bed.    

When I woke up this morning, like de ja vu, I shuffled back into the bathroom,
     and (like de ja vu)..................


The hair on the RIGHT side of my head was STILL sticking straight out,
     and the inside of my LEFT cheek was STILL swollen, BUT..................good news -
The "Hairy Eyeball Syndrome" in my RIGHT eye seemed to have dissipated.  

So while, unfortunately, it was not all just a dream, at least I felt more balanced, now that the "Hairy Eyeball Syndrome" had gone away,

             which means I shouldn't walk with a limp for the rest of the day.     


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's Do Lunch!

One cup of organic, creamy tomato soup,

accompanied by .........

one slice of whole wheat toast (slightly crisp),

served "open-face" with 2 thinly sliced, juicy, sweet, 

Beefsteak tomatoes,

fresh spinach, a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper,

and a sprinkle of shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese - 

baked in the oven,

until the cheese melts into gooey yumness.

Warm, healthy, delicious...............................

Autumn Lunch goodness. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Spoon Full of Sugar

Last August, I wrote a story about HICCUPS.

I described my personal experience with hiccups, as such -   

"My hiccups are LOUD and PAINFUL. I do not experience them very often, but when I do, they can last for HOURS, leaving me EXHAUSTED, though most people around me consider it quite entertaining and comical, causing them to double over (in pain), from laughing so hard."

This describes my experience from last night. 

Quite often, when I drink carbonated drinks,
hiccup . . .  will escape me.

Sometimes, a second one will follow, and if it does,
      there is that fear that a THIRD hiccup will follow, as well.

And if THAT happens, I'm in trouble.

I am, for sure, sentenced to an evening of

            HICCUP TORTURE,

which is what happened last night,
     when I was having dinner with my partner.

Well, ALMOST.   

The hiccups began after a swallow of carbonated water.

After about thirty minutes of one
obnoxious sounding, 
painful hiccup, after another,
(which my partner compared to the sound of a sheep),
I did what any intelligent, sensible, desperate 
person of the 21st century would do -


And then, an angel named Laura spoke.

      "A spoon full of sugar," she said, "and chase it down with a glass of water." 

My partner already had the spoon full of sugar and the glass of water waiting.

As he held out the spoon full of white, magical crystals, I thought to myself,

      "Damnit!  This is the first day that I have gone "candy-free" since October 31st,
             and here I am, about to eat an entire spoon full of the sinful stuff!"

One hiccup later . . . 

     "Give me that spoon!" I said.   

Into my mouth went the sugar, feeling dry and heavy on my tongue,
     quickly chased down by a glass of water,
dissolving it into sweetness in my mouth. 

Before I could put the glass back down on the counter . . .



But, WAIT. 

Seconds later . . .
                  no hiccup.

Minutes later . . .
                  no hiccup. 



I danced about the room like Mary Poppins, singing "Spoon Full of Sugar" in my head.

      Oh, the miracle of Facebook. 

                Oh, the miracle of Friends. 

      Oh, the miracle of Sugar.



Monday, November 8, 2010

Falling Leaves

"This time of year is always bittersweet. The vibrant colors of the leaves, boldly leaping out into the landscape, filling me with energy and life!  . . . will soon give way to the naked branches, fading into the background of the long, dark, winter days."
                                                                                       ~ Leslie Morrissette

Wednesday, I spent four hours blowing and raking,
                              filling twenty bags of leaves, from my yard. 

The next day, I could barely MOVE.         

Saturday, my boys were sentenced to yard work for bad behavior.

They did a great job mowing . . .  and raking . . .  and blowing.   

Later on, as I was trimming the bushes, I glanced up at the trees.

Half of them were still full of leaves.

Look at them TAUNTING me, I thought.

Like mischievous teenagers, waiting for darkness to settle,
     before gleefully dressing some unknowing person's yard with rolls of paper,
they cannot WAIT to shed their leaves, like confetti, all over my yard.

The next morning, the yard was covered in "confetti".

"Nature is, above all, profligate. 
Don't believe them when they tell you how
economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil.
Wouldn't it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place?"

                                                                                            ~ Annie Dillard

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Shuttle Run

Remember Field Day?

I LOVED Field Day.

Back in THOSE days, I was fairly athletic.

AND, they handed out RIBBONS.

Not for participation (like they do today),
                 but actually for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

I was BIG into ribbons.

I used to thumb tack them to the wall, above my bed.

One of my favorite Field Day events was the shuttle run.

Remember the shuttle run?

All you needed were two chalkboard erasers, and a stop watch.

Remember chalkboard erasers?

The rules of the game were as follows:

1) Stand on the designated line.
2) Run as fast as you can to the opposite line, and pick up the first eraser.
3) Run BACK to the first line, and place the eraser OVER the line
        (not before it, or you will be disqualified).
4) Run BACK to the opposite line, and pick up the SECOND eraser.
5) Run BACK to the FIRST line, CROSSING it (without stopping),
                            AS FAST AS YOU CAN.

Back, and forth; back, and forth.

Not everyone liked the shuttle run, but I LOVED it.

I was fast and coordinated, and could pivot, quickly, on my feet.  

As a parent, I feel my "shuttle run" skills have helped me tremendously.

Thursday night is my "shuttle run" night.

1) I start out at point A.
2) Pick up child/eraser number 1, and drop him off.
3) Immediately, I turn around and go BACK to point A to pick up child/eraser number 2.
4) Barely time for a pivot, I drop child number 2 off.
5) Immediately, I turn around to pick up
           child number 1 . . . AGAIN.

All of this MUST be done within an hour.

Any dropped erasers (or unforseen traffic) could cause disqualification.

Speaking of erasers, in walks child number 2 (returning from soccer practice).

I guess I need to feed him some dinner. 

Do you thing chalk dust would do?    


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Soccer Shoes

Shopping for soccer shoes is not just shopping for soccer shoes. 

It is shopping for ART. 

Rows upon rows of colorfully decorated designs, perfectly placed on the clear, plastic display shelves for every soccer loving, soccer player's viewing pleasure.

Reds and yellows, blues and greens, purples and pinks, or classic blacks and whites. 

Neon and pastels.

Glossy or matte?

Notice the lines and the shapes - the movements and the textures.      

I sat as I watched my eleven year old fantasize about the possibilities -

How will they look on my feet?

How will they feel? 

Will they make me run faster, kick harder................jump higher?

Fortunately, there were no other customers in the shop that day. 
He had plenty of time to critique EVERY shoe, standing over them
with his chin in his hands and a critical eye.   

In the end, he tried on two pairs, and decided on the bright, neon green, with the baby blue.


Now, for a new soccer ball. 

He brought his own money, so that he could add to his collection.
The balls were resting in a net, high above the top shelf,
and fortunately, the salesperson was tall (and patient).

     "You might want to get one that looks kind of PLAIN," I said.  "You wouldn't want to confuse your soccer ball with your feet."

The salesperson laughed.

But, he did not go with plain.
He went with yellow and purple, and left the store - a satisfied customer. 

Unlike collectible artwork, these investments will not be displayed on a wall at home,
but they will definitely be appreciated by one eleven year old boy.