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Is it that obvious that I got a stupid smartphone 10 days ago and can’t make it do what it ought half the time including make the camera take a photo within oh, say, three minutes of when I press the damn touchscreen thingie and not take photos repeatedly five minutes after I’ve put the camera away?  I thought so. 

I’ve also recently  ripped up the carpet in our office in the midst of three deadlines, ransacking  the joint more than usual. My organizational skills are officially outmatched. Luckily, the wood floor that had been hidden by the carpet looks great underneath all the crap we had to move to rip out the carpet.  I’d show you if I could figure out how to make my phone talk to my computer. Good thing I have a vacation coming up so I can catch up on my user manual reading.

Ok, so I am capable of emailing myself a photo, and here is proof:

A Log Petrifies in Chesterfield

 One of my current projects is writing a piece for Richmond Magazine about Chesterfield History, so as you can see, I did some digging around and found some.  Somebody else can write the book.

Herewith another in a series of inventions I’ve invented that I really only thought of as opposed to actually making–a shower whose walls are wet boards.  I know. You wish you’d thought of it.  Take the idea and run. Make it happen.

What I’d like to see is a truly write-able and wipe-able tile-ish shower wall where I can jot down the brilliant and/or ridiculous ideas, lines, and full length speeches that come to me only in the shower.  Just as some people can really sing in the shower, I can really write there. But the second I step out and onto the bath rug, all is lost. It might have something to do with the mirror staring back at me.

You’re going to need to invent the marker that writes on the wall and doesn’t stain it or get washed away by the shower, yet can be wiped away when the time is right. It’s a challenge, but so worth it, I’m sure. Especially since all I ask in return is that you write me a check for 50% of the proceeds on your shower wall.

If you happen to live in or around Richmond, you’re likely hot, too, and it’s possible you’ve come across the most recent issue of  R•Home .  You know, you really should buy it. I don’t know who could resist this cover:

You don't want to miss this--

Ok, if Maureen Egan’s Hot Fun in the Summertime line sells more copies than usual, I’m wondering what demographic they’ve started to target. I’m worried. But it’s good for a chuckle any day.  I won’t give away my latest At Home column’s subject matter, but let’s just say the title (which I did not write) is just a tad misleading.

My idea of hot summer fun is actually blueberry picking at Swift Creek Berry Farm on Genito Rd. in Chesterfield County. It’s one of the rare times I’m happy to venture down the Powhite past Rt.288. It’s my favorite place for blueberries because their high bushes produce blueberries that are as good as real honest-to-goodness New Jersey blueberries–and I don’t mean the ones that are mass-produced in Hammonton, NJ. These suckers take me back to the blueberries of my  Cape May, NJ summers of yore.  They are perky and tasty and blue.

I picked every last one of 'em.

What more could you want from a food that isn’t chocolate? To my way of thinking, there just isn’t enough blue food in the world–and I don’t mean fake blue food. There’s too much of that.

Some people I know, some I even consider friends, think blueberries are not worth the picking. They believe blueberries are available in the local grocery store. There are blue berries there, but if you want blueberries that taste like blue food is supposed to taste like, i.e. not bland, then you are going to have to go pick them yourself or find a good farmers’ market.  I have it on faith that Swift Creek Berry Farm will sell its berries at  St. Stephen\’s Farmers\’ Market if you are not inclined to do the picking yourself. I won’t think that ill of you.  But don’t expect to see your name on the cover of a mag until you do some not so heavy lifting. Here I will admit to employing a device that goes beyond the pale (haha–old Irish reference yet a pun on pail as in plink, plank, plunk of Blueberries for Sal–Can you tell I was an English major? Try to keep up.) of hot summertime fun activity.  Due to the ingeniousness of my pal Amy, when we go picking, we bring along luggage straps with two clips on them so we can suspend the bucket from the strap around our necks and pick with two hands. Thankfully no photos exist showing this device in action. I’m pretty sure we looked hot though. At least now you get the picture of what hot summertime fun really is all about though to further confuse the issue, none of this blueberry stuff has anything to do with the column I wrote for the Hot Issue, so you still need to buy it.

Not to overwhelm you with fun or be bossy or anything, but to fully participate in my hot summer fun, you need to take your fresh-picked blueberries and go home and make (and eat) Blueberry Salsa Salad. It’s almost as fun to say as it is to eat.  That and some good bread and you have a perfect summertime dinner that isn’t hot at all.

I wake up every day thinking I can get everything done I need doing.  Somehow I believe this will be the day I check off thirty seven errands, fifty two emails, two dozen stories, five article pitches, a few children’s poems, and three essays in between planting dozens of annuals, buying more plants, weeding thousands upon thousands of weeds, transplanting 8 million liriope and daylillies, calling several people, organizing my desk, files, and closets, cutting up fruit for my fruit salad habit, making two pans of brownies from scratch for my other habit, and running 100 miles or so. Then sitting down to knit several rows of the throw I’m not making any progress on would be such a relaxing treat. Oh sure, running 100 miles seems slightly unrealistic, but I keep adding up the miles I don’t get around to running every other day and they add up.

I guess this approach makes me simultaneously sunny and stupid. Jim Croce couldn’t save time in a bottle, but it fits nicely in a trash bag.

I am using some words way too much in my current project: offer, feature, site, hipster.  In my defense, Richmond offers glimpses of more wannabe hipsters than other East Coast sites feature, but still. I overused the phrase March Madness in the Spectator Sports chapter and am so tired I substituted “hoops hoopla.” Oy. I suppose I should trademark it and print T-shirts and baseball caps and take it to the bank, but no thanks. It could actually be popular in LA or Louisiana. Dag. Another million dollar idea I don’t care about. Let’s hope somebody has already done it.

This afternoon I was in my office scrounging around for something that I didn’t think was there, but gave a look anyway. Under a few papers something I must have written in the fall–part of a children’s poem or picture book, I don’t even know–poked its cute little crumpled, papery head out.  I read just two typed words and saw scrawled notations in my handwriting scattered about.  Awww.  That’s my kind of writing.

Now I don’t know if it’s because it’s spring or because I didn’t get to bed until 2 a.m. this morning or because I am SUCH a good writer, but man– “bed” and “nest”–those are words.  I can work with them. I got a pang just seeing them there on the page. It didn’t bring tears to my eyes exactly, but just the way they looked–don’t worry, there were other words there, too–but the short lines–the minimalism.  Oh how I miss it. The thought of hanging around with warm and fuzzy words like bed and nest is so appealing right now.  I’m an underwriter at heart, just like my father before me. He was in bonding and insurance. I’m up to my eyeballs in overwriting this guidebook. Oh sure, I can go on. But I’m nearing the stage where my preface will say something like: “Welcome to Richmond. Have a great visit (or life) here. Find your own damned hotel (or house).”  Economy of words–just the way words should work.

I went to a talk by a well-known author recently. I’ve read a few of her books, and most likely you have, too. She’s known primarily for her writing for children, and I had heard her speak years ago in New York at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I remember thinking her talk then was crafted, with a few high points, but, on the whole, less than I had expected.  I wasn’t supposed to think that. She is a god.

My usual set of reactions to hearing a famous author speak ranges from jealousy to envy to bitterness to enjoyment to boredom to “what the hell?” to  “damn, she’s good.”  I am open to being impressed and enthralled, I swear.  At any rate, on this recent evening, as I sat down and saw unnamed famous writer in the first row and thought I recognized the woman about to introduce her, I couldn’t help but be a little envious. How would I introduce her? What would we have talked about at dinner?

There was plenty of hero worship in the room, but all traces of it waned once she started her essentially lifeless talk.  She was more full of bitterness than I had expected of someone who has had hundreds of books published. She castigated a lowly English teacher who had once dissed her work, mentioning that was one of the perks of being a famous writer, that you could get back publicly at those who had done you wrong.  A  librarian who hadn’t bowed down to her was similarly abused. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, surprised perhaps at her honesty  But it left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t want to be her when I grow up.

This is what it looks like when I finally stop stalling and pull out the makings of the Christmas stockings.

even messier than it looks

It’s reminiscent of some sort of holiday monster with the bells like eyes and the needles tentacles–vaguely lobster-like.  At least I have all the colors, needles, and the bells.  And of course, there’s the pattern from Bernat, a well-used, creased and crinkled copy of my grandmother’s well-used copy, full of her handwriting when she was mapping out different kids’ names.

Who are Rebecca and Jennifer and Cecelia, anyway?

Isn’t it said that a stocking of a thousand rows begins with 1 stitch? Heck, I’ve got the whole first row cast on…of the first of two stockings I’ve got to make and send up to Rhode Island…or else.   Shoot, I started my daughter’s stocking on Christmas Eve of her first Christmas. Knit all day and into the evening, through the reading of A Visit From St. Nicholas (the Grandma Moses’ illustrated version). After the story, when it was time to hang the stockings up, it wasn’t quite sewn up yet. My 4 year old son was worried, but the 9 month old was quite relaxed. I finished it before I went to bed, and all was well, so I’m barely feeling the pressure for these two stockings…yet.

Here’s how the first one looks now, hung by the chimney with care:

Babies don’t need presents anyway.

It’s December 1st and the pressure is on. I’m not talking about my recent book deal and impending deadlines, or my annual stupid caroling party and its attendant insanity, or the pressure of buying things for people who don’t need anything.  No, two people less than a year old will have me working my fingers to the bone this month.  Max and Ruby need their Christmas stockings pronto, and I need to knit them NOW.

My pals Max and Ruby aren’t bunnies, but I bet they are as cute as Rosemary Wells’ sibling characters. In real life they are cousins to each other, born a few months apart, just kissin’ cousins to me, but trust me when I say this, in my family, that’s close enough. Though I haven’t met them yet, I do groove on the fact that once I’ve knitted their Christmas stockings, Max and Ruby are stuck with me. Every December for the rest of their lives they will be forced to think of me–not exactly the founder of the feast, but the knitter of the sock. And they might even think I’m sweet, thoughtful, and kind, no matter what their parents and grandparents (who know me much better)  say to the contrary.  Knitting speaks louder than words, thank goodness.

Here’s a link to the first thing the Christian Science Monitor published of mine,

badly edited, I must say, that underscores the point that not all who knit are nice. We’re all nuts though, especially at this time of year. If only I could type and knit at the same time.

Don’t want to go all Martha Stewart on you, but a few days before Thanksgiving, it is crucial to plan one’s dinners to be anti-Thanksgiving kinds of meals. No poultry allowed until Thursday. No potatoes or bread either. I’m feeling bloated just thinking about all that bland food.

I like stuffing and mashed potatoes and rolls just fine, but to truly appreciate the Turkey Day meal I must do a pre-Thanksgiving detox and eat the antithesis of  Thanksgiving food before the big day. Not eating at all might be one way to go, but Mexican worked last night. Perhaps something Italian tonight. That still leaves Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This rain is making me pine for soup, so perhaps I will ignore my no chicken before Thanksgiving rule (which reminds me to plug The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater as a great read-aloud this time of year for people with funny bones and properly aged children) and make some Chicken Tortilla Soup. The Mexican influence makes the chicken unlike chicken in, say, Chicken Pot Pie, which I would never make within 2 weeks of Thanksgiving. Too much like Thanksgiving in a cream sauce with a crust. No need.  Julia Child entombed a duck in a crust, so it could happen to a turkey, too if we’re not careful.

Actually, that would be funny, and gross, of course, to come up with a one dish Thanksgiving.  Stuff the turkey with buttered rolls, slather it with cranberry sauce, throw a crust around it and jam-pack the roasting pan with  potatoes, squash, green beans and sweet potatoes. Not sure where the pumpkin pie fits in. Well, now that we’ve all lost our appetites…it’s time for me to hit the grocery store and buy lots of roughage.

The other night at a friend’s house for dinner, the sight of  yellow rubber gloves at each otherwise autumnal place setting was slightly unsettling. She had promised a fun evening with food. Hmmmmm.  Since our host is a health professional, I was relieved the gloves weren’t of the surgical variety. Not too appetizing.

Turns out everything else was, especially the mozzarella we made with help from a kit Margee had bought online. ( or will work)  It’s crazy how magical it seemed to pour milk into a pot, mix in a little citric acid, water, and rennet, and wind up with mooshy curds  between my fingers (glove-covered, of course).  Funny to be in a Mother Goose rhyme with actual curds and whey on a Friday night. Within thirty minutes we were slicing beautiful, fresh mozzarella on homemade pizzas.  Quite yum.  Everyone else at dinner had read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I am ignorant, but that just makes learning things I should already know more fascinating.

Yesterday as I was raking leaves, I was thinking in the way that I think, with very few actual facts bouncing around inside my head, how the hell anyone ever figured out that rennet turned milk into cheese?    Rather than actual thinking or fact-finding, it’s much more fun to imagine the poor little mother’s milk-drinking calf who ingested a lime and fell into a fire that didn’t exceed 135 degrees, was pulled from it, had its stomach cut open after exactly 4 minutes by someone both hungry and adventurous and then had the contents of its stomach sliced and diced into curds. Doesn’t sound nearly as tasty as what we ate. Had food-finding been up to me back in the day, we’d still be eating berries and nuts and nothing else. Thank goodness for more adventurous types because the perfectly rich and dense chocolate cake with raspberry sauce Margee made doesn’t grow on trees.

I’m back!