Post Pope Pfunk

I’m blue. The man in white is heading home. I’m not Catholic, or really all that religious. I used to say that I was “spiritual” which made me feel like I wasn’t dead inside because I didn’t believe in a Jesus or Allah or Krishna or L. Ron Hubbard. But now I’m ok with that. I believe in people. Collectively.

But that aside, I cannot believe the spirit of joy and love that I’ve felt from this man, head of one the wealthiest organizations in the world, through the TV! There’s just something about his face. His eyes and smile aren’t big and animated like the other faces we are used to seeing on display.

I swear I can feel his kindness and warmth. I’ve loved learning about his childhood, about his tendencies toward the poor and sick. I don’t agree with all his ideas, but I agree with his delivery. He condemns no one. There is no hell and fury. There is only acceptance and open arms. Imagine disagreeing with someone without hating them? What a novel concept.

Not surprisingly, I want to know more. I heard he had back problems, how did he handle this marathon visit to North America? Does he nap? Does he ever get some privacy? When does he eat? What does he eat? When he was in Philly did someone shove a cheese steak in his hand? Why weren’t there pictures of him having a slice of NYC pizza?

I liked turning on the news and not seeing Trump. I liked seeing Pope Francis in Madison Square Garden and millions of people trying to see him. I mean he doesn’t even have an Instagram! His followers are live.

I’m not saying he’s perfect. When I heard he gives sleeping bags to the homeless outside of The Vatican I thought, “gee, that’s nice but couldn’t a small portion of your institution’s wealth take care of all the poverty in Italy?”.

But I don’t care. I like him. A lot. I like the way he made me feel the last few days. I like that all the newscasters had to fill time with positive things.

And now it’s over. Trump and Putin are on 60 Minutes. I feel like people started yelling as soon as he left the country. It seems very ungodly.

The Edith Chair

My husband Joe and I have been talking about getting a new couch for ages. Actually he’s been talking about it. I’ve been avoiding the talk. Not because I don’t want a new couch, I’ve been avoiding it because I know what one piece of new furniture means. It’s a slippery slope. It’s also not that I’m frugal and I don’t want to spend the money, it’s just that I’m fine with it all. Yeah the sofa wasn’t perfect, but wasn’t horrible. It didn’t smell. It didn’t have visable stains. Was it comfortable? No. But I got over that like 5 years ago.

In the end, we went down the slope and got a new coach and a new rug, lamps, a new recliner for him and a chair for me. And an ottoman. A small one.

Years ago, shopping with him for anything new in the house would be an experience full of all the emotions. Laughter, sadness, tears, yelling, forgiveness, and finally reconciliation. Joe’s got opinions. Lots of them. My girlfriend April and I talk about this all the time. Her husband Pat has opinions too. We dream of husbands who don’t give a shit about furniture, wall colors, curtains, etc. I know men like that exist. The kind that just show up one day and see a whole new living room and say,” nice” and then go back to their football game.

In our house, we have discussions before I pick up a new spatula. No joke.

But! (this is where I back track) He’s gotten better. Mellow(ish).

This time around it was pleasant, easy, dare I say…fun.

Or maybe we’ve just both gotten older and decided to bend. A little.

We knocked it all out in about a week. In addition to what we knew we’d have to buy – Joe found a chair for me. He calls it the Edith chair. Are you old enough to know what I’m talking about? As in Archie and Edith? As in All in the Family? Google it.

Anyway I finally have a chair of my own. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that we situated it, by chance I swear, right across from a window. Do you know what that means?

It means that on the weekends I can sit there with my coffee and watch the neighborhood go by. I can see all the dog walkers and joggers.  I can also see the teens getting off the bus with their huge backpacks slugging their way home. Seems boring to you? Not me. I love it.

Here’s a shot of my view in my chair (working from home and daydreaming out the window) and my chair. Sorry I said “my chair” like a hundred times. I’m excited. About my chair.



Mise En Place Life

We spent the majority of our Saturday with some of my favorite people. Other than you, ofcourse. We rode up to an unexpected part of the Bronx, right on the Hudson River. I’ve known her for almost two decades so what I found at her house shouldn’t have surprised me. I’ve been to her apartment and I’ve seen what she can do with a space. I’ve been to her office and marvelled at the thoughtfulness and creativity. And I know her. She’s meticulous. She has good taste. She used to be my boss and drive me crazy with her good taste. Many a night were spent in the office catering to that meticulous, some would say obsessive, nature. It’s no wonder she found the perfect house for her and her family. I’d even seen some photos.

But it was bananas.

The view. The layout. The pool. The elevator. Bananas.

As I said to her when we toured her master bathroom (with a view of two bridges and jet propelled hot tub), “I’m filled with equal amounts of happiness and bitterness for you.”

Jokes aside, I was all happy for her. Because as careful and nutty as she is – she’s the most generous person I have ever met. Generous not just with materials, but with time. You have an idea for a business/wedding/event/dinner/party/dog/job whatever – she’s all in with you. She’ll spend hours talking with you about every detail. But she’s crazy. No doubt.

Back to the house. I didn’t take a ton of photos of the rooms because: a) I was too busy gawking with my mouth open to remember to take pics and b) I wasn’t alone. Sometimes other people (menfolk in particular) tend to get annoyed while I take 30 shots of each thing I like. Here’s the view from almost every room.

Let me preface this by saying that I am very blessed. I have a wonderful home that I love. A family that I adore. And a cat that I live with. I can’t remember the last time I got jealous. Like…jealous. In the true sense of the word. Biblical coveting of thy neighbor’s stuff kinda thing. I have wanderlust sometimes. I get dreamy about certain things I that I want to do, or places that I want to see,  but I’m not a shopper. I don’t get off on the newest, shiniest shoe or purse. When you say the word Cayenne to me I think of a pepper, not a car. You get the idea.

So imagine my surprise when we do the tour and see…her catering closet. Which would be normal if she was a caterer! And can I just point out that it’s not exactly a closet. It’s more like a mini room. Do you see my green monster coming out? Again, if I was alone I would have spent twice as much time looking at it. But because I was in public and not invisible, I nodded politely and moved along.

“A catering closet…um hmm..totally normal. You and Ina. Great.”

And then there was this cabinet….I think she called it the mise en place cabinet. I wanted to cry. I wanted it more than I’ve wanted anything. A cabinet full of little things to literally “put in place”.

You can keep your Blahniks and your Fendis. I want a mise en place cabinet. Actually, I want a mise en place life.

But of all the things I saw that day – there was one thing that rocked my world. No, not the pool on the Hudson River. Not the view at night when the bridge(s) lit up. Not even the Molten Brown products in the first floor bathroom. When she handed us our drinks, I looked down to see the most perfectly sized square ice cubes. (Yes Howard, I’m writing about ice cubes) Have you ever envied ice cubes? Sadly this isn’t my first time. There’s been a focus on ice cubes lately for cocktail drinks, you haven’t noticed? I have.  And these were the best. The were sized perfectly for the glass. They lasted for hours…ok…an hour. They were awesome. I know I need help. I sense you judging my sanity. And I don’t care.   

 I’m going to go now and make peace with my very un mise en place life. And with my stupid stupid ice cubes. Because that’s my lot in life. Some people have catering closets. I have a messy pantry full of open cereal boxes. But as Scarlett O’Hara said, “as God is my witness, one day I will have those ice cubes!”. Or something like that.

Here’s what my world looks like… This is an actual cabinet. Now you know you me.  

I rest my jealous case.


Bouncy baby

My son woke up last Sunday morning, and did what he always does – head right outside to the trampoline. Nothing makes him happier than a morning “sesh”. I woke up with him and did what I do – make coffee and then wait with a mug while just enough to make a cup gets made. Then I sneak a cup from the coffee gods before the pot fills up. It makes me happy.

As I was waiting, he flew back into the kitchen and said,” there’s a baby mouse on the trampoline!”. 

“Are you sure? Did you touch it?” I asked making a disgusted face.

“No, I just saw it bouncing with me.” He said as he ran outside, ” Mom, come on! Help me get it out!”

What? Excuse me? Yeah…no. You’ve got the wrong parent for that. I’m the parent that makes banana bread and makes you watch Jeopardy. I’m the parent that makes sure you smell good before you walk out the door. I am NOT the parent who removes rodents for you. 

Here’s what he brought back to show me how “chill” this thing was. I almost spit up my coffee.

I don’t remember what I said. It was along the lines of::

  • “Did you touch it??!! Wash your hands!” 
  • “Ewwwwwww”
  • “We have an infestation, say goodbye to the trampoline”
  • “It’s alive! It’s alive!!”

Luckily – my husband heard the ruckus and went to the trampoline. When he came back he said,  “That’s a baby squirrel – not a mouse. Probably fell from the tree on top of the trampoline. I took it out. What are you doing?”

“Waiting for coffee.” I said 

What’s German for murder?

Yesterday I was talking to someone at work who is turning the big 5-0.  She and her husband have decided to celebrate by going to Munich, Germany this year for Oktoberfest. She told me they are big craft brewery people and did the whole Oregon beer trail a few years ago and loved it. Because I can’t help myself and because I always think I’m helping, I told her my favorite Oktoberfest story from when Joe and I went to Munich for his 40th.

It involves this dude…

So before I tell you how my husband and I almost became a statistic – let me set the scene. Munich, Germany during Oktoberfest looks a little like New York City on New Year’s Eve – if it was only filled with Germans, Italians and Brits. The major difference is that this celebration lasts an entire week. My husband and I booked a hotel a few miles away from the actual fair (which is what it is. Rides, food, games, etc). It was the perfect distance – too far to smell the puke but close enough to see the hordes of people walking to their mecca morning, noon and night. Once in a while a sad, drunk dude held up by his two loyal friends would be walking the opposite way. It’s a 24/7 experience. You go to breakfast, you see drunk people. Wednesday at 4pm? Drunk people. But everyone’s laughing. Everyone’s friendly. Even the few Parisians we met there seemed to not hate us. What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t feel unsafe or threatening like a frat party gone wild. It feels celebratory and fun.

Then you make your way into the fair and have to decide which brauhaus you’d like to tackle on that day. The set-up is that each one offers a different variety of beer. The reality is they all tasted like Peroni to me.

Our second day at the fest we decided to go into the biggest tent – the Hofbräuhaus. Imagine 9,000 people singing John Denver’s Country Road over and over again. At first you think it’s insanity – then after a stein or two you wonder why anyone would listen to any other song. Ever. 

Once we got in, we looked around like visitors at a zoo. There weren’t people hanging from the ceiling but it seemed like there could be and no one would have said a word.  There were no empty tables so we found a spot to stand and Joe went to go find us a beer. There were no bars – it was all table service. If you didn’t have a table, you weren’t getting a beer.  

We took a good walk around the tent and ended up back where we were. No seats. Here’s when it helps to have a husband who looks like he totally belongs in any German or Irish pub. These are his people. 

He walked up to a group standing near us enjoying some beers and asked how they were able to get served. That’s how it began. Immediately this 10 foot tall (really) mustached fellow put his arm around Joe and said,” welcome welcome! We will get you whatever you want!” He spoke English with the perfect German accent,” Welcome to zee festival!”. 

He and his wife, a formidable woman double my husband’s size, took us under their wing. No waiting in lines for anything for us! They seemed to know everyone in the tent. They had grown kids and grew up in the city of Munich. They asked all about us and our travels and how we were enjoying their country. After a few hours the group they came with left and we decided to go to another tent with them. Why not right? We had our own private guides! We felt like locals. Let me also tell you all that my husband is generous by nature. And like all generous people, when someone is generous to him, he feels indebted. Our new German friends seemed to get all the drinks for free all night, we never spent a Euro. 

At the next tent they started telling us about their business. They owned a small bar in the basement of their home. They lived about an hour out of the city. By now I was getting tired. No matter how much fun I’m having, there’s usually a point in the night when I’m done. And because I wasn’t a fan of the beer, I was also pretty sober. 

“You two should come to zee bar tonight! We jump in our cah and go, yes?”. “If you want hashish, we have zat too..”

Then I got even more sober. A basement bar. An hour outside the city. Drugs from a German guy who looked like a Bond villain. I looked at my husband who was laughing and smiling and basically ready to hop in this car. I don’t think he heard any of the details of our impending death and disfigurement. 

“Our cah is at zee back of zee tents”, said his wife in a deep baratone. I tried to give Joe my usual eye. The one I use when the kids are around us and I want to say,” WTF?!”, but he wouldn’t lock eyes. He was in a German trance induced by John Denver. 

I decided to make a big dramatic scene and prayed that Joe wouldn’t fight me on it.  As we walked outside the tent I grabbed Hik and said loudly,” so sorry! I’m not feeling well, we have to leave. Maybe we will see you tomorrow!” And we started walking away. No goodbye. No nothing. Joe just stared at me. It didn’t matter. I’d explain later. When we were safe.

Were they dangerous? Probably not. Did I let my imagination get to me? Maybe. But here’s what’s kept me alive for 43 years. When I hear a stranger invite me to their basement, I run for zee hills. You should too.

The Kiln Life

We went to visit one of our favorite aunts – which I know I say often, but we have a lot of cool aunts. I can’t help it. Kathy is my husband Joe’s second cousin on his mom’s side and his godmother. She’s one of the first people I ever met in his family (Colleen, his sister, beat her out by a month). I remember Joe taking me out to Long Island, where she’s lived most of her life. We had just started dating and he was really excited for me to meet her. Kathy and her mom, Mary, were a huge part of Joe’s childhood. He spent every summer out there, living and working with them.

She was a single mom at the time raising two kids on her own and working a hot dog wagon that she owned on the beach. She was kind and funny and incredibly hardworking. She was also the life of the party. Cocktails and the beach life were what I remember about that time with her.

When Joe and I decided to elope and not have a big wedding – she’s who we called to help us. Any other relative would have tried to talk us out of it or tried to tell us that many people in the family would be upset. But not Kathy, she was all in. She’s one of the witness signatures on our license and we wouldn’t want it any other way. That day was also a milestone for her. She woke up the next morning and stopped drinking completely. She swears it had nothing to do with our wedding…

Since then she’s transformed her life completely. She’s been teaching for over a decade, she’s raised two amazing kids and had many other adventures in between. The one thing that hasn’t changed about her is her big heart. Her home is always welcome to all. I’ve never once heard her complain about guests or people visiting. She loves it. The more the merrier.

For the past several years, my daughter boards a bus in NYC and heads out to Aunt Kathy’s for a week. Sometimes it’s with a cousin, sometimes it’s with a friend. This year it was with both! We pick her up and usually make a weekend of it – that’s what we were doing these past few days.

She still leaves near the beach – that’s another thing that will never change about her. She needs to be near her ocean.

A couple of years ago she developed a passion for pottery making, and like everything else she’s gone after – she’s completely committed. She took classes. Built a studio. Bought a wheel. She’s in it. Deep.

Ofcourse I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The closest I’ve ever been to making pottery is watching the scene in Ghost. I mean I’ve gone to those paint-a-mug places a few times with the kids but that’s just overpriced coloring. I wanted to make something. To create! I get excited.

Kathy took me to her beautiful studio – in her even more beautiful back yard. She walked me through the steps and gave me clear instruction. Here are some shocking things I learned that you might already know, but I certainly did not: Clay is tough. Like really really tough. I thought it would be pliable and moldable. I thought it would fold and move easily under my hands. But it doesn’t. You have to use force and strength and balance. You have to have steady but really firm hands pushing and pulling it. Clay isn’t for wimps. You know when you meet those people that make pottery and you think they’re all soft hippies? They aren’t. They can break you with those hands. They’ve taken a hard piece of clay, controlled it, managed it, and made it yield to them. There’s friction on that wheel that can burn you. If you don’t center your clay with authority, it basically refuses to work with you. Clay is a bitch yo.

It took me three attempts to create something that looked like something – but it was addicting. I totally get why she loves it. Before I left I snagged some of her amazing pieces. Because I’m type A I’m trying to talk her into opening an Etsy shop so other people (like you) can also get her pieces, but she told me to calm down. She’s just doing it for fun (for now).

Here’s her sun filled studio

She has these beautiful Buddha statues all over her house – this one protects women, children and pets. This has nothing to do with pottery but I love the idea.    IMG_5151

These are her pieces that I grabbed. I was greedy. I don’t care. They are pieces of art!  

   The pieces look delicate and beautiful – but they can survive a lot of heat. Kinda like lady who makes them.

Hot Date

Well not really that hot, but my husband and I did sneak out to a movie last night. On a Sunday night. Aren’t we crazy? We’ve always loved movies. When we first met we went to a movie every Friday night. This was pre-Rotten Tomatoes so you really didn’t know what you were getting. It was great. We would see whatever was out. Action. Love story. Horror. We just loved going. We saw really good movies and really bad ones too. The only governing factors were the time of the show and the theater we saw it in. Now we need all of the internet to tell us it’s good before we deem to see it.

Things slowed down when we had kids – we saw fewer and fewer movies. Babysitters were hard to get – and it just seemed easier to just stay home. As the kids got older we started taking them to the movies with us, which meant most of what we saw involved princesses, action hero’s and toys. That was fun too.

We passed on our love of movies to them – actually just to my daughter. My son is a good sport but there’s a lot of other things he’d always rather be doing (although 2 summers ago we watched the entire Harry Potter Series together and he still talks about it). Kera on the other hand, loves movies like we do. She loves a good scary movie equally as much as she likes a good indie. And because she grew up in a world with YouTube, she loves documentaries too. My husband and I were secretly delighted to hear that she may want to focus on film production in college (or music. or something else). We acted all cool like, “oh that’s nice…”, when in reality we were both more like,” omg! omg! that’s what we should have done!”. What’s wrong with us? We need to calm down.

Where was I? We love movies. Now that the kids are older we have lots of opportunities to sneak out on our own, and we do. We love Oscar season and try to see everything nominated that we can get our hands on. We love the summer fluff movies and the fall serious moves (ok I love the fluff, my husband takes a nice nap). Our local theater just installed all recliner seats. If they start serving wine I’m moving in.

We come from a long line of movie lovers. My mother-in-law used to take my husband and his sister to the movies all the time. My family loved the movies too – hooray for Bollywood! When we meet people who don’t like the movies we are immediately suspect. Not like movies? Do you hate America too?

Long story long – we went, we ate popcorn, we had fun. Happy Monday!

(forgot to mention that we saw the The Gift. We give it two thumbs up and a very red ripe tomato)

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