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Can't Buy Me Love? The Beatles were a little off on that one. - 2014-08-02
Recipe Safari - 2014-07-31
Going to Pot (and Pan!) - 2014-07-24
A Herd of Iconoclasts - 2014-07-16
A short study in FURY. - 2014-07-13

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2:23 p.m. - 2014-08-02
Can't Buy Me Love? The Beatles were a little off on that one.

MIL laughed last night. An honest-to-Godfrey big whooping belly laugh. Music. It was music. The first time we've heard her laugh since FIL died. No, even before that. The five (six?) months before his death when he kept failing and rallying and failing MIL didn't laugh then either or even smile much, so to hear her laugh last night was wonderful.

Her 76th birthday was this past Thursday. She'd spent the day with SIL. They went hiking. I believe MIL just wanted to be away and too busy to think much. Mick was a little miffed, but then he always is when MIL opts to do something with SIL rather than be with him. They're in their 50s but the sibling rivalry still runs deep and strong. Anyway, yesterday was our turn to fete MIL and she came over for dinner. (SIL is MIL's activity buddy and we are the 'eat and talk' guys.) I made chicken parmigiana with spaghetti in red sauce, tomato and olive salad, and zucchini muffins (more about those later). After the previous day's exertions MIL was more than ready to chill and chow. We hung out on the front porch as has become the usual.

Man, doing up the porch as our seasonal living room was the best idea ever! I come from a long line of kitchen visitors. People come over and we hang out in the kitchen talking and snacking and chugging endless pots of coffee, or did until we moved into this house with its tiny kitchen. Despite the little rolling cart/stool combo to sit at it's not really a good kitchen to be in when I cook because I'm like some madly enthusiastic orchestra conductor, I'm here then there and back again the whole time waving my arms and slinging pots and knives, it's fricken dangerous to be in my kitchen when I'm pulling together a big meal. So since moving here we've visited in the dining room and it was fine. However the enclosed front porch (now that it has comfy furniture on it again and not piles of crap and Mick's bicycle hogging the space) is just lovely. Being there is a bit like being in the car too as no one has to look directly at anyone else so confidences are more easily shared. Mick's rocker and the futon face out toward the windows and though we often turn and make eye contact it's easy to kick back, watch the birds, and let the conversation ramble where it may. Every mom knows the best way to get info from the kid is to talk in the car, and so it is with the porch. Though last night nobody was up for anything heavy and we kept things light and funny. This is when MIL let loose that wonderful laugh. Some dopey thing she and I chimed in on simultaneously and it cracked us both up. It was her birthday but that laugh was a gift to us.

Summer school is winding down and Mick has Fridays off. His father's headstone had finally been placed and Mick suggested he come with me on my errands and we include a stop at the cemetery. I agreed but was worried, I knew seeing his father's stone would be harder than he thought and wondered if having him be my bearer boy and shopping buddy was the best idea. Mick insisted though and off we went. To Shoprite to pick up MIL's cake and the weekend's necessities. Snafu #1- apparently this was the bakery clerk's first day or something because it took her over five minutes to assemble the box and even then it was a flimsy lopsided affair which came apart at the check-out and had to be taped back together with 'sold' stickers. Snafu #2- as is usual at midday Shoprite was crowded with old poops and young mothers accompanied by flying circuses of kids. The aisles were a melee of tantrumming toddlers, clambering shouting preschoolers, and nursing mothers trying to push laden carts with one hand while a baby gnawed on her boob, all the while traffic was backlogged as the old poops left their carts parked broadside in the middle of the aisle while they shuffled around taking twenty minutes to decide between flavors of Dinty Moore stew in a can. Snafu #3- because I am an anal freakazoid about how the cart should be unloaded and the shopping bags packed Mick's job is to remain behind the cart at the check-out and watch my purse. I unload and pack (sometimes I let him swipe his card and pay just so he feels less neutered) but yesterday the woman behind Mick could NOT be patient and not only jammed her cart into his ass but then elbowed him repeatedly while she unloaded her cart onto the conveyor while our stuff was still being rung up. Mick has space issues anyhow and this woman's crowding and physical assault with her cart maddened him like a bull. You can imagine the scene when Snafu #4 went down. We got home and the kid was nowhere to be found. I made a quick potty stop while Mick bellowed and bellowed for our dopey offspring to make an appearance. Long story short- Mr Wolf, in the cellar, with the too-loud headphones. A properly penitent Wolf took his shouted lumps and a very agitated Mick huffed off to the car. By now I knew taking Mick anywhere else was a baaaaad idea, he was just too sad and angry over confronting the reality of his father's headstone, but dissuading Mick is like stopping a cruise missile...imposs. Mick said he was coming with me to the farmer's market and the cemetery and by God that's what he would do. Snafu #5 came as no surprise. The main road between here and town is a two-lane dealie where once clear of our squib of a village the speed limit is 55mph. However some kind of weird amnesia takes over and the same drivers who roar down our 35mph road at 90 get out on the main road and slow down to 40mph. The whole twelve miles into town. This goes on in both directions- to town and from town. Not a biggie if it happened once in a while but this happens EVERY FREAKING DAY!!!! And if you're like Mick and must travel this route 20, 30 times a week the shit gets really old. So sure enough we get stuck behind some poky-pants pootling along at a mighty 37mph and my guy who's on his way to the cemetery to see his father's headstone for the first time goes completely batshit. There's exactly one passing zone along the whole tortuous route and luck had it that we could jam past Ms Poky-Pants who, btw, was yammering on her phone which is 100% illegal. Hell, she probably had another phone in the other hand and was texting on it. Personally I hope Verizon sends some thugs around to her place to break her legs and her thumbs. Selfish cow.

The cemetery. The county veteran's cemetery is very pretty, very organized, and very sad. Mick's father is buried in a plot which is quite handy to the parking lot and some benches. The headstones take several months to be delivered so when the dead are first buried their graves are marked with a little weather-proof sign on a stick just stating the last name. Until yesterday when Mick visited (usually with MIL) there was just this patch of rocky soil and some tentative grass with a wee sign. Yesterday my guy was smacked in the face with the bald truth- his father was dead and his body was right beneath our feet. The stone with its Celtic cross and full name and birth and death dates carved into granite left no room for denial. I rarely mourn the dead, but I have all kinds of sorrow for the living left behind and my heart was one big cramp of hurt for Mick. I comforted him as best I could, and damn if he didn't insist we still go to the farmer's market before going home!

So we did and it was a nightmare. Mick, hatless in the noonday sun finally gave up and retreated to the car, but better prepared (sun hat, white t-shirt, nearly bare feet) I plowed on and got everything we'd come for. This despite being stuck behind Las Tres Douches at nearly every booth. A trio of hipster yuppies in straw trilby hats and ugly German sandals who bickered and postured and fussed about the organic authenticity of each purchase and demanded cooking tips and wanted suggested wine pairings with everything including the apricot jam they got to go with their gluten-free baguettes. It was a relief to finally scoot around them to pick up a dozen ears of corn and some cukes at my very favorite stand and gas for a couple minutes with the doyen of this family farm dynasty, Mavis, a tough old broad who smokes unfiltered Luckies and has such a gloriously seamed, puckered sun-blackened face she looks fully sprung from a Dust Bowl portrait by Margaret Bourke-White.

Home again finally. I sent Mick upstairs to take a nap in the big bed. My room with its black-out curtains and window a/c and 400 threadcount womb is a napper's paradise. He did and came down a couple hours later wholly refreshed and eager to help with the dinner prep. Mick has zero kitchen skills but he did a really good job and saved me a bunch of steps I'd otherwise have to do myself. When the chicken was done, the salad marinating, the dishes washed, I set him free and went to work on the zucchini muffins.

For those playing along at home you know baking is NOT my forte. Ask me to whomp up something savory and I'm a happy girlie. Anything. Chilean sea bass. An entire yak. Whatever. But baking with its persnickety measuring and exact timing, oy. However a master's course via Alton Brown, the Barefoot Contessa, and that wretched bobble-head Giada, and I'm far more confident than before. For instance with the muffins I changed out the shortening for butter and used Alton's trick of using frozen butter and grating it directly into the bowl. Worked like magic and saved a ton of effort with the stupid 'two knives/pastry blender' method of incorporating butter into the dry ingredients.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's the recipe for the zucchini muffins. As I said, I substituted butter for the shortening and I skipped the walnuts. I loathe nuts in baked goods. It's a texture thing. Thanks to Alton I already knew how to sour milk. A splash of vinegar, add milk, let sit for 15 minutes, ta dah! Sour milk. So I soured the milk and grated the zucchini and assembled all the rest of the ingredients...except the baking powder! Somehow the can of baking powder I knew I owned had disappeared. I tore not only the spice cabinet but every other kitchen cabinet apart, even the one under the sink where the cleaning supplies live. No baking powder. Damn! Thoroughly frustrated I stomped up to Mick's den and told him my sad tale of woe.

Do you know what he did? No hesitation, he got up and said he'd go to Shoprite and get me some. On the instant. I gawped. No muttering the muffins could be damned. No side-eye. Nada. Baby needed baking powder so Baby gets baking powder. Mick had had a lousy day and we'd been to Shoprite once already and we still had a dinner with his mother to get through (MIL is chancy these days and we never know how she'll be, snappish and sarcastic has been the norm lately) and on his days off he hates to drive any more than he has to. (See above about the commute.) But off he went. To buy one lousy ingredient for some unnecessary muffins his novice baker of a wife was trying for the first time. Muffins with zucchini in them no less.

I was dumbfounded. Gobsmacked. Absolutely stunned.

Not a big deal, you say? HUGE deal for me. Remember you're speaking with the woman whose previous husband stepped over her semi-conscious body lying on the floor and made himself a sandwich. The former girl whose mother told her underpants that fit and being saved from the sexual abuse by her boyfriend were too much bother and damn me for even daring to ask in the first place.

When Mick got back with the baking powder I burst into tears and blubbered all over him. Bewildered, Mick patted me on the back and listened patiently while I snuffled and choked out an explanation. "But, Baby, you needed the baking powder. Of course I'd get it for you." More howls and tears from me. To Mick it was simple. His darling, his dear wife was going to all kinds of fuss and effort to make a nice dinner and it was his job, his duty, and his pleasure to go fetch me what I needed. No biggie. It's what any decent man would do.

To me? To me it said, "I love you" in a zillion different ways. Ways my formerly starved heart will never ever get over being delighted by and grateful for. Never.

And the muffins? They were delicious.


Happy, well fed, and well loved, ~LA

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