Bella Rum

Three Things

1. Making a new recipe and using an old but seldom used pan in a way that I don’t usually use it, I burned the dickens out of my hand. I made stuffed chicken breasts (stuffed with olives, sliced almonds, dill and goat cheese). It was pretty easy and pretty good, but… I altered the recipe a little. Following the directions, I browned them on top of the stove, but instead of doing all the cooking on top of the stove, I put the whole thing in the oven to finish it off. When they were ready, and after I plated the breasts and was almost ready to sit down to eat, without any thought, I grabbed the handle of the pan to move it. OUCH! Ouch, ouch, ouch! I held a glass of ice while I ate. I slept with my hand on a cold pack. It’s fine now, but holy moly! Not-even-bad burns hurt! (I added goat cheese to the recipe because… well, because it’s cheese, duh)

2. H was behind a car that had a couple of kids in the back seat the other day. One of the kids gave him the finger. H was on his way to Kroger, and it so happened that they were, too. He waited for them to park. A couple that was our age was with he boys, obviously their grandparents. The boys ran ahead. H approached the couple, and told the man what the kid had done. The grandfather said, “I know he did. I saw him doing it and told him to stop. I’m very sorry.” They talked a little. H said the grandmother was very nice, too. Then they moved on to do their shopping. In a little while, the grandfather and the boy found H. The grandfather said, “He has something to say to you” And then to the boy, “Don’t you?”  “Yes sir. I’m sorry, sir.” H accepted his apology and told him that it all worked out okay this time, but that he better think before doing that again, that doing it to the wrong person could get him in a lot of trouble one day.

3. I have an appointment with Cindy for a haircut later this morning. Wish me luck.

Cup of Joe

It’s almost 5:30 am. I like it when it gets to be 5:00 am. To me, it’s a measurement that marks what is truly morning. The night is returning to its place, crawling over the curve and back to the other side… for a while. More importantly, it means that H will be up in an hour and a half,  and I will smell coffee.

He almost always makes the coffee. I think that started because I didn’t drink coffee in the early years. H was the only coffee drinker in the house in those days. He drank it like it was life’s blood. I couldn’t understand it. Why would anyone drink that bitter brew on purpose?

We used to vacation in Myrtle Beach during the summer before our son was born in 1974, and for a while after. We had finished our one-week stay in our room overlooking the ocean at the Sand Castle, a brick u-shaped hotel with a courtyard and large fountain. It was a charming place, nothing like the high-rise Sand Castle that would replace it later – more rooms, more profit, less charm. It was June, and we were on our way home. We’d had good weather that week, but the temperatures suddenly dropped and the cool rains began.

We stopped for lunch. I was wearing only shorts and a t-shirt. The rains soaked me to the marrow when I ran for the restaurant. I was freezing. When the server brought H his coffee, for the first time in my life, it didn’t look so bad. I ordered a cup. I didn’t drink it black with a little sugar like he did.  I added a little sugar, and then watched as the cream turned the coffee from black to mocha. I sipped. I’ll always think it was the day, the rain, shivering in the air-conditioned restaurant, leaving the beach and returning home, but the coffee was palatable, comforting.

I don’t think much has changed about my relationship with coffee. I’m still not a hard-core coffee drinker. I’m a poser. I look forward to it, I like it, but what I really like is the moment, that coffee moment, that rich, familiar smell that wafts so easily through the early morning air, but most of all, it’s joining in the ritual with someone else. It’s the social bonding, the starting of a day or a break in an afternoon, it’s holding the warm mug in your hands. The least of it is the taste.


There are several theories about why coffee is referred to as a “cup of joe,” but these are my two faves.

  1. In 1914, Secretary of the Navy Josephus “Joe” Daniels banned alcohol from U.S. Navy ships. They were left with coffee. Referring to a cup of coffee as a “cup of joe” was a way for them to register their dislike of the ban.
  2. Joe is a term for the average man, “the average Joe.” Following World War II, “cup of joe” may have been sustained by “joes” or average guys returning from the war. In the 1940s and 1950s, average working guys who ate breakfast at diners were served ‘cups of joe.”

Making the Cut

Not Liking:

My five-year-old grand decided she didn’t like her hair so much. When her mother wasn’t looking, she took the scissors to it. Now she’s sporting bangs. I know how she feels. I’m still looking for a new hair stylist. It’s a process. I’ve wanted to find someone closer to my house since we moved. For someone who practically lived on the Interstate (traveling back and forth almost every week to Dad’s), I’ve become picky about how far I’m willing to go for services. I like convenient and simple these days. It feels like a luxury to have the things I need so close by.

I tried a new salon last month. Julie of the many tattoos cut my hair, and left me with the old and too familiar helmet cut. Do they think older women flip over helmet cuts? I found my former stylist by stalking a woman in the grocery store who had a great cut. She was happy to give me the name of her stylist. I haven’t stalked lately, so it’s a wait-and-see situation for now.  I’m trying a new salon for my next cut. No worries. There are plenty of salons around here. I’ll find someone. It’s usually the back that’s problematic. It must be the crucial part of a good helmet cut.

I’ll take a pic with me this time. Sometimes that helps. One of these.





We made coq au vin this weekend: too much effort but absolutely delicious and got two meals from it.

Yesterday, H installed a new light fixture in the foyer. Nice. And he’s going to start on the ceiling in our bathroom today. I’ll cut in. The paint has been in there for days. We’re slower than molasses going uphill in January.

Is this month over half over? It’s time to get cracking.

Welcome to My Neighborhood

img_1567It’s early Saturday morning; it’s still dark outside. I like this time of day. The sun will creep over the rooftop of the house across the street in a couple of hours. We got a nice, deep snow last week, not like one of those pitiful snows of only a few inches where the kids are determined to make snowmen, but they end up with bits of dirt and grass sticking through, spoiling their frosty-white skins. No, this was a deeply satisfying snow, but it’s all gone now. Snows don’t last long around here anymore.

I think we have a neighbor who’s trying to befriend us. He came down to help H shovel the driveway. H met him a few months ago. We have one of those aggregate driveways. It has several long cracks. It looks like a once beautiful, elderly lady with too much makeup that’s begun to crack. H noticed this guy had the same issues with his driveway, but it had been repaired, and looked great. One day, when H saw him in his front yard, he stopped to ask him about it. He told H that he had repaired it himself.  H had been talking about whether to repair ours, hire someone to repair it or get a new driveway. The neighbor offered to help H do ours. Is that nice or what?

We haven’t met many of our neighbors. We’ve said hello to a couple of people we saw while walking. I’ve actually stopped my car to introduce myself to people who were working in their yards or taking their trash out to the curb. It’s a lovely community, but aloof. It’s small, and I think it would have helped tremendously if the developers had included a club house in the plans, a place people could come together, could rent for parties and receptions, form gardening and book clubs, etc. Such an oversight. It could have changed the vibe around here.

When we dropped off our things at Goodwill, H wanted to go inside and look around. He found a bike ($10.00), in excellent condition, for the youngest grand, equipped with training wheels and a basket. It’s a pretty little thing: pink and blue and white. Not a scratch on it.

Parasomnia and Men with Chubby Buttocks

sleepwalking-1H is still sleeping, but I’ve been up a while. I got a good night’s sleep, not waking until 4:44. That’s almost 5:00 a.m., and I consider 5:00 a.m. to be honest-to-goodness morning time. The night was uneventful. I don’t recall any dreams, and I didn’t swing on H or run into a wall or piece of furniture, or sit up in bed screaming at someone only I could see. In my book, that’s a thumbs-up kind of night. Speaking of books, I just ordered a new book. It’s a thriller/detective: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian. I’ve never read this author and know little about the book, but honestly… could I pass up a title like that?

I’ve finally come to the full-fledged realization that I’m a bona fide sleepwalker. I’ve probably taken this too lightly for a while, believing that these were only widely spaced, semi-isolated incidents that would eventually go away, or at the very least, would not become dangerous.

There were long stretches without any incidents, but they slowly increased in frequency and intensity. They started out with me sitting up in bed and yelling at someone only I could see, then a rebellious hand knocking water off a nightstand or hitting the headboard, and eventually to where I find myself today, running into furniture, tripping over things, jumping up and down and spinning in circles.

I had another dream a few nights ago. Putin had poisoned Barbara Walters, and she was dying. She asked me to get her purse and camera that she’d left in another room and a newspaper article she’d been reading. When I attempted to retrieve them, a man tried to wrestle the purse and camera out of my hands. I swung on him, and I hit H in the mouth. This is a problem. I suggested that he start sleeping in another room, but no go with that idea. He’s afraid I’ll kill myself in the middle of a crazy dream. The guard rail for the bed has not arrived, but it should be here soon.

On another front, I had an appointment with Dr. Heartthrob yesterday. He is so cute. After the visit, H wanted to go to lunch and make a few more stops, so I needed to use the restroom. I walked through a door that led to a hallway, and lightly knocked on the restroom door. No answer. I opened the door, and a man was in the midst of doing what we all do in restrooms. Oh, dear. He wasn’t wearing regular pants or jeans that have a fly. He was wearing sweat pants. They were down around his upper thighs, exposing his round, chubby heinie. He started to turn toward me. Without saying a word (no excuse me, no I’m sorry, no nothing), I closed the door as fast as I could. You must agree, conventional rules of etiquette do not apply in these situations. The important thing here was not apologizing, but preventing even a second of eye contact… or any other contact, and I did not want to see his one-eyed monster. Oh, my God!

I walked back through the waiting room, barley in control. It was all I could do to keep a lid on my bubbling, near-manic laughter.  Why is it that sometimes when we do things like that, laughter is the first response? I was near hysterical by the time I reached the car. No propriety, not an ounce in my bones, I put my head down and guffawed. Oh, the expression on that man’s face as he started to turn toward me. Thank goodness I closed the door before he even saw me, or before I saw it. Better for everyone.

Around the House

We’ve had some quiet days here with snow everywhere and no place to go. We did venture out yesterday to drop off a few things at Goodwill, to return a couple of Christmas gifts that didn’t pan out, and to pick up a couple of things at the grocery store.

Last week, when we started putting away the Christmas trappings, I saw a couple of things in the guest room closets that made me wonder why I’d kept them. So I tossed them. Then I saw a couple more and a couple more. The next thing I knew, we’d pulled everything out of the closets in both rooms, and the house was a mess again, but I never get over how good it feels to get rid of clutter. The closets look so nice now. There are even empty spaces. Our bedroom closets are next.

H put the paint and brushes in our bathroom two days ago, but we’ve done nothing. We only have our bathroom, the powder room and the utility room left to paint. Neither of us seems terribly anxious to get started.

H wants to renovate the kitchen this year. I just can’t get my motor started. I can’t stand the hustle and bustle of workers in the house. I usually find something to do outside of the house or retreat to the bedroom with a book. The guy who transformed our dining room into an office was a very nice guy, but after only three days, I was longing for all the dust and hammering and banging to disappear. Can you imagine the disturbance that renovating a kitchen will cause. On the bright side, it would give me something to blog about.

I’m off to get a cup of coffee. Happy tenth day of a new year to you!


sleepwalkingIt’s a little after 4:00 a.m. and it’s snowing. I opened the front door and flicked on the outside light. It looks like the inside of a snow glob after a child carelessly shakes it up and down. How can anything be so beautiful? I’m sitting here in the office, an old afghan wrapped around my shoulders, and comfy socks on my feet. H puts them in my stocking every year. Beyond soft and warm, they are delicious.

I had another sleep incident on Thursday night, the worst one yet. A few years ago, I participated in one of those sleep studies. There were two slightly unusual events. My legs twitched uncontrollably a few times. The other event was a little more unusual. I moved during REM sleep. REM sleep is when you receive your deepest and most restful sleep, and it’s when you dream due to heightened brain activity. We are asleep about 90 minutes before we reach REM and must go through several stages of non-REM sleep to get there. Paralysis occurs during REM sleep. It’s a safety mechanism that prevents us from acting out our dreams. We could dream that we’re jumping off the roof to take a little fly about. Oops! You can see why it’s important that we can not move during REM.

On Thursday night, I dreamed that my friend Patsy and I were vacationing, and we found a place where we could, for a fee, go on a boat ride. They had two boats. One was a huge, double-decker affair and the other was a yacht. I was holding one of my Pyrex containers that was filled with fresh asparagus. They were beautiful. When we entered the place, a man told me he was going to have to charge me for my asparagus. I told him we were going to buy a ticket for a boat ride, and he said, “Well, maybe I won’t charge you for the asparagus.”

We bought our tickets ($145.00 each) and got in line. Patsy asked me how we were going to return. I said, “The boat will bring us back.” She told me that the boat would not bring us back. It was a one-way trip, it was about 100 miles away, and we would have to find our own transportation back. I said, “It’s too far to walk back, and too expensive to get a taxi, and we don’t have bikes. Maybe we should eat the price of the tickets and stay here. She agreed, and we got out of line and started for the door. The man appeared again, and asked where we were going. Patsy told him we were not going on the boat ride. He eyed my asparagus, and I realized he was going to take them from me. I took off with incredible speed for the door.

The next thing I knew:

I ran into the fan (I sleep with a fan even in winter). I knocked it over, and slammed into the antique marble-top dresser, shoving it back a couple of inches, dislodging the marble, and pushing it back an inch or so. Do you know how heavy marble is? I crashed my hands into one of the drawers, bumped my knee, and managed to hit my chin on the way down. H flew out of the bed. I was stunned. He put a blanket over me and a pillow under my head until we could assess the damage – to me, not the dresser.

I’m okay. My knuckles on my right hand are swollen, and they sting inside, but they’re feeling better. My knee is okay. My chin is sore, but nothing is broken. A while ago, the solution-oriented Jean of Misadventures of Widowhood suggested that a bed rail would be a good idea. At that point, I didn’t think this would continue. Obviously I was wrong. I found a bed rail that will flip down during the daytime so it isn’t visible. I like that. Thanks for the idea, Jean.

No more sleep-walking blog fodder.

It’s supposed to snow until this afternoon. Yesterday, I picked up some ground chuck and beans and tomatoes and spices to make chili. H actually makes it most of the time. I still can’t believe that he cooks now. It will be a quiet day at home. I know you guys up north don’t get excited about snow, but we don’t get it so often down here anymore. As long as the power stays on, I enjoy the quiet beauty of it because I know it will be gone in a day or two, and who knows when it will return?


I managed to achieve the ubiquitous five-pound gain over the holidays. I told you my stuffing was delicious this year. That stuff kills me every year, and you must have gravy with it or what good is life? And mashed potatoes.

I got a set of hand weights and two boxes of chocolate covered cherries in my stocking. TWO! That’s what I call an incongruous pairing? I guess Santa decided I should get a little of what I wanted and a little of what I needed.

The fudge is gone, the cake is gone, the pecan pie is gone, even the black-eyed-peas we had on New Year’s Day are almost gone.

Yesterday, I started exercising again, and I returned to my reasonable, not ridiculously low, low-carb diet. I lost a pound this morning. I think this holiday weight is willing to go away quickly if I give it a little help, and I plan to do just that. The debauchery of the 2016 holidays is over.

I went to the grocery store and bought things like mushrooms, salmon, asparagus and strawberries. We had the salmon and asparagus last night. It felt good to eat a meal and not feel so so full at the end of it.

Now, about the decorations. With H’s help, I started at one end of the house – the kids’ rooms – and moved forward to the kitchen: scrubbing every flat surface along the way, removing ornaments from the window, packing up Dickens’ village, and the red place mats that I got for the holidays, vacuuming carpets, shaking throw rugs, removing linens, and returning fresh ones to the beds.

I opted to leave the tree and mantel in favor of restoring the other end of the house first. I usually take my tree down the day after the kids leave, but I’m not in a hurry this year. We’ll do it today, along with the rest of the indoor decorations. H took most of the outdoor decorations down a few days ago. Porch Pup is still wearing his Santa hat. It’s a little worse for wear. I think I’ll get him a new one next year.

The excitement has melted away. The hustle, the bustle, the crowds, and the high wire acts have all gone home. It was all so wonderful. We’re down to the behind-the-scenes work now, sweeping away the popcorn and scooping up the elephant poop. Soon we’ll be back to our dependable routine, and that’s fine by me. The party can’t go on forever. I like routine. We always seem to salvage our morning ritual, no matter what happens in our world. Even when the kids are here, we rise early, get our coffee while everyone else is sleeping, and return to the bedroom to watch the news (cooking shows nowadays). It’s a good way to start the day.

Forty percent chance of snow on Saturday.

H just got up and said he lost 2 pounds this morning. Men!

Our Highlight Reel

old-test-patternWhat a year! Most of us are ready to rip December off the calendar and move on to an untainted year, a less fright-filled year, a year that still offers hope. Twenty-sixteen was the scary kid next-door, the one who spends too much time in his parents’ garage working on God only knows what.

No matter what happens in the world, our personal lives continue, stuff happens. That means you have to listen to this end-of-year rehash of the last five rehashes, and then I promise never to talk health issues again… unless, of course, I have health issues. I can’t rule out a dental disaster.

Until the beginning of October, 2016 was a tough year for us. Even before the beginning of the year, I started having problems with physical activity. As the year wore on, even slight exertion became very difficult. To say the least, activity was limited. I leaned heavily on Amazon, Netflix and for distraction, and basically to keep my brainpan in tact. I am thankful for them. Remember the test patterns we used to get when there was no programming? This is 2016… um… 2017! No more test patterns.

Then came our October surprise, and I don’t mean James Comey’s announcement about Anthony Weiner’s laptop or continued leaks from WikiLeaks or that awful Access Hollywood video. Along came a new doctor, a new procedure and reclaimed energy. Walking a few steps had been a breathless, dizzying experience, but all that changed after the ablation on October 6. Life was restored to something close to normal. I could hardly believe it. We’re back to taking day trips. We went to Occoquan in early December with an old friend. A few days ago, we took the kids to Williamsburg, a trip we’ve delayed for a while. I walked everywhere.

So that’s the highlight reel of our 2016. A lot of things happened, but internally, the year was dominated by distressing health issues that improved in October; externally, the year was dominated by a coarse national dialog that continues to leave a huge question mark on 2017 and beyond.

At times, H and I plodded along, one step after another, literally, but we ended the year on a high note. There’s nothing like coming out the other side of adversity to make you grateful. I plan to take advantage of every day in 2017.

Please stand by.

Broken Things

plumberIf you’ve read here long enough, you know it happens this way every couple of years. Visitors come or visitors are expected. One thing breaks before they arrive, another breaks after they arrive, and one or two more things break before they leave.

The coffee maker died the day before the kids arrived. There was no time to shop for another. With four coffee drinkers in the house, we pulled an older, less fancy version out of the pantry and hooked it up. The day after Christmas, my son and H, who could not wait to shop for a new one, went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and picked up another. While they were there, my son bought a new espresso machine for their family because, why? Because men are like that. When buying machines or gadgets, they know for a fact that one is good, but two are better.

On Christmas Eve, just before they arrived, the kitchen faucet started making horrid sounds. H checked below deck to see what was happening. It was leaking. He put a bucket under it, and we lived with it until today. We went to Home Depot and bought a new faucet. May as well, they already have the rest of our money. H installed it today.

The Day after Christmas, two toilets (the guest bathroom and the powder room) broke within minutes of each other – no relation to each other. This could have caused a disaster of cataclysmic proportions with five extra people in the house, but H rigged both of them to work until the troops arrived. The troops arrived today when we picked up the guts for both toilets while we were getting the new faucet. Triple play for Home Depot. Before he started on the sink, H repaired both toilets.

I don’t think I’ve left anything out. My husband is a fixer and a rigger of the highest order. If he can’t make it new again, he will make it work until new can be had. Chewing gum, twine and a battery can light an entire city for three days if he’s in the mix. If the Russians ever attack our gird, his services will be in high demand.

Can you believe tomorrow is the last day of this disturbing year? We may not be beyond repair, but we are in need of mending. Let’s hope we find a few fixers who will  help us limp along until the troops arrive.

Note: Mercury is retrograde until January 8, 2017.