Thursday, April 20, 2017

A post in pictures: Gorgeous Bath

Pulteney Bridge in Bath, UK - one of the grandest bridges in the world

I was watching Persuasion the other day while folding laundry, and as Anne and the Admiral strolled through Bath, I suddenly recognized a fine old landmark.

"Hey, I've been next to that tree," I thought. "I took its picture!"

Then, suddenly, I was back in beautiful Bath with my good friend Holly, posing for a picture on Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon, delighting again in the graceful curve of the Royal Crescent, relishing the incredible buns in the oldest house there, Sally Lunn's Historic Eating House, getting chills of excitement as I walked above ancient water systems at the Roman Baths, and shopping near the gorgeous Bath Abbey constructed of that most famous limestone, Bath stone.

Holly and I visited Bath in April 2015, enjoying fine weather the entire time in a town where one of our favorite authors, Jane Austen, set two of her novels and where Austen herself lived for about five years.

I remember my brother saying. "All women are like, 'Ooooooh, Bath!', and men are like, 'Phflut, Bath.'"

What does my brother know? After all, does not Bath have the Jane Austen Centre? - a lovely place in which I wrote a love letter to my man with an old fashioned quill and blotter? (He didn't even appreciate the thought and effort; my note wasn't amorous enough!)

My nose looks enormous in the picture, but I don't even mind. I'm in Bath!

Is it not a charming place where my friend and I enjoyed a scrumptious tea at The Regency Tea Room (upstairs at the Jane Austen Centre) before posing elegantly with Mr Darcy?

How about the Roman Baths, constructed in 70 A.D. and smelling of and draining history?

(Though I wasn't tempted to plunge into that water as the Romans routinely did, I thrilled to walk across ancient stones upon which they trod, to view rooms, drains and ancient artifacts that they utilized, and to learn of the temple they once erected there to the goddess Sulis Minerva.

I must say, however, that the mineral water, such as Jane Austen and her friends would have enjoyed in the Pump Room, tasted terrible.)

Is Bath not the only place to boast the gorgeous Royal Crescent, completed in 1775 and designed by John Wood the Younger to give the growing Georgian middle class elegant town living in terraced houses?

And that fine old establishment that serves the most heavenly buns, Sally Lunn's?

Indeed, I defy my big brother. Bath is one of most beautiful places in the world with some of the lovliest architecture, and I - lucky girl! - got to experience it firsthand

As I strolled along the Royal Crescent two Aprils ago, intoxicated by its romance and history, I imagined taking my handsome husband to the luxury hotel that now occupies numbers 15 and 16 on a romantic vacation someday.

It would be just like a Jane Austen novel.

Maybe a little more amorous.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

It's been decades....

I had a dream I put on jewelry to go out and look at the stars.

If the night sky was going to be resplendent for me, then I had better make an effort, and so I put on a brilliant sapphire tiara and long sapphire earrings and stood out on a balcony, wooing the galaxies.


That dream was inspired by my first proper viewing of the stars since camping with family on my great-grandfather's claim during the summers of my teen years.

Friends invited us to their home in Eastern Arizona for spring break, far from this dusty old town and its light pollution. My husband and son wanted to go skiing at the still operating ski resort near our friends' home. My oldest daughter wished to spend plenty of quality time with her close friend. As for me? I wanted to hike, but high on my list of things to do in the country was to look up in the big, dark outdoors with all my city children and witness their awe.

A couple of years ago when staying near the Grand Canyon, I forgot to escort my children out for the big show. This time I had already put the little ones to bed when Analisa asked me, "Mama, are we going to look at the stars?"

I hastily grabbed the younger two from bed and fled outside and down the porch steps and walkway. After asking my daughter's friend to turn out the garage and porch lights, we spun around beneath a multitude of magnificent stars, the hazy clusters like enormous shimmering jewels, like my children have never seen. I sent one of the kids in to fetch their papa. I held Gabriella in my arms, and Matthew held Daniel, and I could not help but exclaim repeatedly to my family, "Isn't it gorgeous? Isn't it the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?"


I often will gaze into the night sky when I'm taking out recycling or trash at night. I can pick out Orion, and I'm always happy to see my friend the moon in all his moods.

But the stars appearing above my front street are only the most demonstrative ones. A chance to see the stars in full regalia is rare and humbling. For the many of us living a city life with maybe a daytime hike or short road trip here and there, the opportunity is far too rare.

So my advice?

Don't forget the stars. When you're out camping, sojourning in a cabin, or even traveling a long stretch of empty highway between towns at night, look up! Visit the real superstars of the universe. You don't even have to wear jewelry for the occasion.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Junkin' it up

If you want to be embarrassed about your family's spending/eating habits, just call your credit card company to report fraudulent charges. As they quote back to you a weekend's worth of expenditure to verify legitimacy, your embarrassment will grow.

"Wildflower...not sure what that is. Does that sound right?"

"We ate there Sunday after church. It's a bakery-cafe. It's fine."

"How about Smashburger?"

"Uh, yes..."


"That's right, too, I'm afraid."

"Robert's sizzling Barbecue?"

"That's a food truck that comes to my husband's work."

"Krispy Kreme's?"

I giggled.

"Boy, I'm really beginning to feel embarrassed about my family's eating habits! We're just such a busy family, you know?"

Indeed, how far my family has fallen!. We used to be the frugal ones, visiting McDonald's only on road trips, eating out only on special and rare occasions. We were so frugal and proud of it, in fact, that we scoffed at all the families who blew their money on fancy restaurant food as we smugly ingested our frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets and canned vegetables at home!

Now most evenings find us on the run to practices, meets, classes and games. Last weekend was especially hectic. A football and soccer practice Friday night, A football practice and three soccer games on Saturday (at least I had a roast in the crock pot for supper!). Then Sunday we spent the morning and afternoon at church for the installation of our new priest in the parish and a reception with the bishop afterwards. Thus, we walked to that bakery-cafe to eat light buttery pancakes, skillet potatoes and greasy link sausage for breakfast between masses.

My scintillating conversation about junk food receipts with the credit card rep ended with him ribbing me about the outrageous amount we spent at Krispy Kreme.

"$54 on doughnuts did seem like a lot! I'm just saying..."

We both laugh as I exclaim, "It was for the soccer teams, for end of season...honestly!" A pause, and then guiltily,  "Well, I mean, we did eat the leftovers..."

I didn't mention that the "leftovers" were approximately two dozen donuts.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Home, Husband!

At some point all marriages with two or more offspring reach the point where it's mostly about the kids. “I’ll meet you at the soccer field” becomes the most romantic invitation ever!

Every morning I shave my legs with high hopes, fantasizing about a glass of port and the kids going to bed early. But by the time evening comes around with its homework, dinner prep, and sports practices – and very little quality time with my guy - I’m exhausted and feeling that the day was a waste of good makeup. Suddenly I’m cuddling my mattress, snuggling my blanket and whispering into my pillow about just how much I love my bed. And the kids are still up!

I heard that just running errands together can be beneficial for a busy couple, but I think one recent jaunt to the grocery store -  where we got into an argument about spending more time together - belies that advice.

It doesn't help that our home is so small there is no privacy from the kids. The desktop is in our bedroom, for crying out loud! Maybe we could just slide the mirrored doors closed and neck in our bedroom closet. Or at least talk about taking a dream trip far, far away for our anniversary during which we'll sleep 12 hours every night and have hanky-panky in the middle of the day when we're still feeling peppy!

If I can't have more time with my spouse - if I can't literally stand by my man more than five minutes during the day - then I think I know what I need to curb my loneliness.

I need a home husband.

People (egotistical/delusional men? weary wives relieved to foist their man off onto someone else for several hours?) coined the term "work wives" to describe intelligent, efficient, pleasant women who make the work place run smoothly. My husband has two or three of them, the filthy polygamist! 

Well, I’ve decided I need a man about this house who I see more often and speak with regularly. 

We can discuss world affairs, the latest Netflix series and talk about what we did over the weekend. I can delegate tedious tasks to him like fishing in the garbage disposal for a clog. He can make coffee, and I’ll dictate my novel to him. And he won’t balk at the occasional paint or carpentry work. 

If I get real lucky, he’ll like long walks in the country, enjoy opera and be an excellent gardener.

Yeah right! Enjoy opera?

Who am I kidding here? 

I'll just go meet my man at the soccer field. Maybe there's time for a quick kiss.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Perfume for sale! Tree Hugger or Fresh Bread

There are legends of people who don't wear deodorant, because others assure them that their natural scent is so enticing, deodorant or cologne would only corrupt it.

My dad used to say fresh alfalfa was my mom's natural smell, and his expression clearly showed that he thought it was the best scent in the world. He made rabbit fare sound romantic!

I recalled this the other morning while lying in bed. My hair smelled really bad. I had spritzed myself with perfume the evening before, and the perfume had mixed with natural oils and big city particulates in my hair, making my crowning glory malodorous. I'm surprised my husband didn't move to the couch during the night.

My husband has a good scent. I joke about finding his sweet spot, behind his ear or on his neck beneath his whiskers. I'm pretty sure he could go a good three days without a shower and not offend me.

However, my scent comes from whatever Mother Nature decides to slap on me as soon as I step out the door after my shower. If there is even the slightest breeze, heat, humidity, pollution or dirt around, I end up smelling like dust, exhaust fumes and wet, decaying leaves. My skin and hair just soak it up! I suppose it's nature's way of claiming me, but no matter how romantic being an outdoor girl sounds, it certainly reeks! Even my expensive perfumes are whipped into submission by my inherent tree-hugging wild woman.

Maybe I should only hug Eucalyptus or Cedar trees from now on?

My husband, chivalrous as he is, actually told me recently that I smelled good - late in the day, too - but I'm pretty sure that was only because I had skipped my usual make-up routine, and he was grasping for something to compliment.

Fresh alfalfa? I'd be happy just to smell like stale cheerios!  I don't smell like anything fresh unless I've just pulled a loaf of bread from the oven.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hiding vehicles and avoiding calls

The three most irritating sounds are a doorbell, the knock, and a phone ringing. They mean someone is about to bother you, and usually uninvited.

How do we handle the strain of knowing our cellphones – an inhumane tool of intrusion that we carry around with us - could go off at any moment?  No wonder people have such short attention spans! They’re slaves to the knowledge that their dentist, child’s teacher or hair stylist could interrupt their life at any moment via a ring, buzz, beep, or annoying pop tune.

A few days ago my prehistoric cellphone was dying. Normally that would be a crisis of near apocalyptic proportions for the modern-day human enslaved to technology. I cast about halfheartedly for the charger, but all I found were the revitalizers for my kids’ tablets.

I figured my dumb phone would pass with dignity into temporary night. Instead, it kept emitting death yelps every few minutes for more than an hour, persisting like an opera tenor who keeps singing despite the improbability of drawing deep breath after stabbing himself. Eventually, I began screaming at my phone during each mournful beeping, “Just die! Die already!”, while wishing for a rubber mallet to help it along.

Thankfully, my husband’s number has its own ring on my cellphone, and it’s the only sound I truly welcome from it most of the time. But even then, when he calls from the store one too many times with a silly question, I want to remove him from my contact list.

I blame my aversion to being bothered on my dad.

On many Sundays of my childhood, Dad drove our car into a little hollow in the field behind our house to hide it. If someone unexpectedly knocked at the door on the weekend, Dad gave the silent, urgent command for us to stop in our tracks and crouch down out of sight of the windows. Then he held a finger to his lips with the intense look of a hermit. It was like freeze tag, only more tense. We dared not move or make one little squeak, no matter how our hamstrings ached, until the intruder gave up his efforts to bring us to the door.

Maybe that’s why I got into trouble with the law several years ago when my oldest son Berto called 911 by mistake as I was vacuuming. When I took the receiver from my laughing boy and hung it up, I thought it was merely a telemarketer - until a policeman banged on my door a few minutes later.

I wasn’t expecting a policeman, so I didn’t answer the door. I interrogated him through the wood, asking why I didn’t see his patrol car (around the corner, apparently) and what precinct he was from. Eventually, however, he tired of my evasive maneuvers and quite dramatically threatened to knock down the door if I didn’t answer it. At wit’s end, I called my husband at work and cried, “Honey, there’s a man at the door who says he’s a policeman! What should I do?”

“Answer it!” was my pragmatic man’s reply.

The thought had never occurred to me.

I’m this close to parking my minivan in the backyard on Sundays.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Favorite Christmas tradition: letting go...

Taz, our Yorkshire terrier, yanked his leash out of our younger daughter's hand last Saturday evening as I was finally decorating our home with nutcrackers and their snowman friends and my husband and oldest son were stringing lights on our roof. Our dog tore after a cat, but when the cat jumped our neighbor's low wall, Taz instead slid full force into it, causing a debilitating fracture or serious neurological damage (the specialists could not tell for sure).

My daughters were near hysterical. I was terrified for the poor creature, and my husband asked no one in particular, "What did you do to this dog?", when he saw Taz's immobilized state.

That is how our last week of Advent began, with a trip to the emergency vet where my husband and son waited five hours on a Sunday with little information.

We do know his left leg is lame, and our normally energetic fella gets to spend weeks in the kennel or a small room on strict bed rest.

Thank God, the days have improved since that unfortunate event, though I'm certain this Christmas will be remembered for it. After the initial tears and fear that our poor terrier might never be the same, we petted and loved him, forced him to take his medicine and more water than he freely imbibed, and I wiped his little tush as if he were my fifth baby. We nursed our pet while watching Christmas movies, threading a popcorn garland, playing games, making construction paper adornments and during breaks from shaping and baking cookies and stirring fudge.

We made do, putting on Christmas cheer after temporarily despairing of its arrival this year (at least for my part).

So I - and I hope my whole family - will have good memories of honored family traditions along with the bad ones of unexpected injury and its trials.

Every year I learn anew to choose which traditions to reign in, which ones to let go, and what new ones we can attempt to establish amid the chaos.

And you know what? This is what I've learned this year:

It's okay to try to choose the perfect gifts for relatives, but then realize you don't know what they are or where they can be found and just send something you hope they like (because you like it)..

It's okay to eat frozen pizza on Christmas Eve, because you waited too long to order tamales from a fine Mexican restaurant or farmer's market in town.

It's okay to begin baking and decorating just a week before Christmas.

And it's certainly alright not to hang up every last ornament to save yourself some time after the Christmas season has passed.

It's okay not to send Christmas cards again this year to childhood friends and distant relatives, even though you really wish you had.

And realizing that, since you are a Catholic, the Christmas season does not truly end for you until a few weeks from now at the celebration of the Baptism of our Lord, it's fine to send your big sister's family, also Catholic, their Christmas gifts in January.

It's all okay. Traditions should not be burdensome even though sometimes they are burdens we carry with love, no matter how exhausted or out of sorts we may be.

So here's to another Christmas Eve, my friends, anticipating Santa and celebrating our beautiful Jesus by going to Mass or another lovely church service.

May God bless us, everyone, and a very Merry Christmas to you all!