Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hot As Blazes, A New Project

It's Tuesday. And it's hot here. Is it hotter this year? I don't remember this frying-eggs-on-pavement-Gatorade-swigging heat coming so early last season.

Either way, I'm coping. I adore the bright light outside at 8 pm. I adore the soothing hum of our air conditioner that sways the giant elephant ears out back. I adore this little multicolor succulent, the newest addition to our patio plant family.

I also adore swimming. And since we don't have a pool, I'm considering buying a plastic kiddie pool to sit cross legged in on the weekends. How's that for a mental image?

Here's a sneak peak at my newest spray-painted project. More too come, stay tuned. And stay cool. Drink plenty of water. It's the last day of June, and I'm afraid it's only going to get hotter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pee Wee's Playhouse Green: A Shutter Mishap on the Hottest Day of the Year

This weekend I hopped out of bed cheerfully Saturday morning. I'm always cheerful when I wake up to a house project. A cheap idea that can be completed with a $10 trip to Home Depot and a quick stop-off at Sonic for a peach tea. Those are the kinds of things that put a spring in my step. Those, and the never-ending flame that burns in my heart at the thought of winning the lottery.

I decided the shutters in the dining area needed a change. A summer makeover if you will. They were a dark shade of red, which I felt was a little too country. A little too wintry.

So off to Home Depot I went, the yellow morning sun already beating down angrily as the little thermometer in my car flashed 97. Eek.

Once in the store I chose (what I thought was) a stunning shade of bright green. I also bought this new cheerful succulent plant in celebration of my 'green' makeover. Actually, the spray paint was almost an exact match to this little sun loving plant. Turns out, bright green looks fabulous on a succulent. And perhaps not so fabulous on my shutters.

As I began to eclipse my formerly dark red shutters, I drew back in horror. My cheerful green was bright. Garish. Blinding. Day-Caresque. Matt ventured outside into the paint fumes, shook his head and said, "It reminds me of Pee Wee's Playhouse."
At this point it was 101 degrees in our backyard.

The color was so heinous that I didn't even take a picture of it. I thought about it. I thought to myself, "Hmmm... I should document this for the blog so everyone can see how ugly this is." And then I decided that my green-monster-shutters needed NEVER be digitally documented for posterity. Some things deserve to be forgotten.

I made a speeding, two-wheeled trip BACK to Home Depot in the scorching heat to buy some trusty old red spray paint. Red paint has never done me wrong. Green on the other hand, not so easy to pick.

And so the shutters went back to their state of red. Only this time, I picked a candy apple red as opposed to the brick red they were before. It's a subtle change, but a good one.

I also lost several pounds in sweat as I labored outside, hair matted to my forehead, simmering sun scorching the tip of my nose as I struggled desperately not to shout profanities. It wasn't a pretty day, and neither was I as I hunkered, white legs reflecting the sun like tin foil and one hand pinched over my nose lest I pass out from the ozone-hole-making spray paint clouding over our back yard. Needless to say, it's a day I don't care to remember.

But at least the succulents didn't fail me. Their shade of green is just perfect.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Little Caladiums That Could

Back in the spring, I planted about 20 caladium bulbs. And as luck would have it, we had a serious freeze that week. Days passed. Weeks passed. Rain poured. Trees budded, flowers bloomed, and yet...no caladiums.

I assumed all the torrential rain and freezing temps this past spring were the death nail in my caladium plans.

So I planted hostas all over the caladiumless flower bed, all hopes for a cheerful pink and red summer gone. But hostas are ok, so I forgot all about those little bulbs I'd given up for dead.

Perhaps I jumped the gun.

Because now, as you can see, we have little caladiums coming up everywhere. They're crowding in around the hostas; bright red, pink, green and white.

It's a happy accident, these haphazard muddled flower beds filled with hostas and caladiums.

I love happy accidents.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Wedding Photo Question

I received an email last week asking me if the wedding photo in my short story was real. And the answer is yes. The story itself is fiction, but there is an actual Japanese wedding photo in existence.

My grandfather brought this picture back from the Pacific after serving in WWII.

He found it in a deserted shack on one of the tiny islands in the Pacific (no doubt where Japanese plane spotters lived). Anyway, it's always seemed like such a sad photo to me. No doubt something must have happened to the groom to make him leave behind his wedding photo. I've always wanted to incorporate that into a story. Hence, the title.

Thanks for all the questions and emails you've sent me about my little short story. It's been great encouragement and yes, I'm still working on the sequel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fighting Fair

I recently read an article that stated fighting was a healthy sign in a marriage. A sign that the lines of communication are open and flowing.

Obviously, the article deemed some ways of fighting healthier than others. Speaking calmly and using the phrase "I feel..." was encouraged. Body slamming your husband while 'dropping the hammer' was not.

When it comes to the big things issues in life, we're pretty much on the same page. It's just the little things. Over the last eight years we've fought over idiotic issues. Stinky trash. Unchanged air-vents. Running out of toilet paper. Sleepwalking. Mabel's baths. Noodles stuck in the sink drain. Who may or may not have cut the cheese in their sleep.

But above all, there's always been laughter in our house. Even after a fight. Sometimes during. Laughter is the magical elixir that fixes a lot of things for Matt and me. The honey-like salve that binds up little rips in our armor, fills the air with lightening-bug-like cheerfulness after the storm.

Last night was a good example.

First, let's set the scene. We were watching an idiotic commercial for skin-smoothing lotion. It showed an emaciated woman smearing lotion all over her bare stomach. Frankly, she looked far more in need of a high-calorie trip to the Sizzler than skin smoothing creme.

Me, huffy, feeling fat: "Humpfh. She looks like she's starving to death. That automatically makes me NOT want to buy that creme."

Matt, silent, eating his supper.

Me, narrowed eyes, irrational emotions flooding over me: "Don't you think she looks terrible?"

Matt, face placid and glazed as he stared intently at his food: "You're much prettier. She's definitely too skinny."

But while she might be too skinny, the fact remained that this television model was still beautiful. Far more beautiful than me in my sweat pants and pimple creme on my chin.

Me, fuming: "Whatever. You think she's hot."

Matt, protesting loudly: "No I do not."


Matt clinked his fork into his supper bowl as angry wrinkles clouded his forehead: "Wait just one minute. I've done everything on the checklist. I agreed with you. I said you were prettier. I looked away from the tv and concentrated on my bowl of beans. I am undeserving of your anger."

Despite my irritation, I began to snort: "What checklist?"

Matt, still miffed: "The man checklist of avoiding getting into trouble for something I didn't do."

Me, laughing harder: "Staring at a bowl of beans is on the checklist of appeasing your wife?"

Matt shrugged, relieved as he realized he was not, in fact, in trouble: "I would have stared at anything other than that skinny woman."

Me, laughing full force now, quoting Matt: "Undeserving of your anger!? Hahahaha..."

And just like that, the fight was over. My irrational behavior quieted itself as I laughed and Matt still stared at his bowl of beans rather than the tv, lest another skinny woman get him in trouble.

Laughter is a big part of fighting fair.

Still Boycotting Jon & Kate

A friend of mine called me last night.

"Oh my gosh, did you watch Jon & Kate tonight?"

(Obviously, this is a friend that doesn't read my blog).

My response was short and simple, "Nope, I'm boycotting it."

And I am, in case anyone was wondering how that vow was holding up. Oh sure, I get the water-cooler version of what's happening once I get to work the next day from the fans in my office. But I'm still holding out, still clicking on some other channel than TLC during that hour on Monday nights.

I wish those kids the best though. I really do.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Shrimp Boil

We had a shrimp boil dinner with friends. No, we're not in Louisiana. But we're close enough in global proximity that Matt thought he'd take a swipe at it.

I'd never been a participant in a shrimp boil before. The concept of throwing shrimp, sausage, crab, potatoes, fresh veggies and hotter-than-you-know-what spices in one giant pot and cooking them together sounded weird to me. Chalk it up to my hillbilly heritage, but I was suspicious.

But that suspicion began to wane as Matt piled the food high in bowls and the spicy aroma filled the house. Those cajuns really know what they're doing.

I decided that a shrimp boil might be OK after all.

Mabel, on the other hand, finessed her "dart out from under the table to check for food" method of begging. It's one part crafty (guests always feel sorry for her) and one part preservation (the table shields her from the risk of being stepped on during parties in our small house).

In the end it was delish. Good summer dinner.

Fun times with friends.

And one seriously sulky schnauzer who didn't get even the tiniest bite of spicy shrimp. That would have been a Pandora's box of doggy puke I wasn't about to open.

Matt Cooks: Skillet Beef Tenderloin

I don't know about anyone else, but it seems easier to eat fresh, healthy things in the summer. Maybe it's because wonderful fruits and veggies are in season. Maybe it's because we have cucumbers growing by the score in our garden. Maybe it's because the Farmer's Market is so fun. Or...maybe it's because the heat makes me sweat, which makes my clothes stick to my back, which makes me feel fat, which makes me pass on pasta and bread and hot casseroles.

Either way, it's a win win situation.

Matt made a skillet beef tenderloin dinner and it was so gooood. Not to mention the fact that I get all excited about taking pictures of brightly colored veggies.

He sauteed the veggies in a sauce...

... and spread them on top of the tenderloin.

Here's the recipe, although Matt altered it to what we had in the pantry and the garden (fresh rosemary). I assure you we didn't have cognac or brandy in the pantry. Either way, this was yummy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sleepy Afternoon

It's a quiet afternoon in Calico Rock.

An afternoon of shade trees, swarming locust, empty streets.

An afternoon of reading chair naps and ticking kitchen clocks.

An afternoon of blue skys and front porch fans. A sleepy afternoon.

Lemon Thyme Surprise

A good friend remembers you love the smell of lemon thyme.

A great friend remembers and sends you a bar of lemon thyme soap.

Thank you Lynn!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Green Thumb, With a Side of Cheese

Thanks for all your praise for my yard. Some of you even referred to my having a 'green thumb.' I can assure you that's not the case. I simply chalk it up to the fact that after three straight years of planting things in a barren yard, eventually, some things were bound to start growing.

And since we're all in the summer-time flower state of mind, I thought I'd post pictures of a true 'green thumb.' The woman on the right is my great-aunt Lib. Another Elizabeth in the family tree. Shocker.

This was her garden. Or part of it. Mom says it was immaculate, with paths between bushes and flowers and climbing roses.

And how about Lib's get-up? How about her hat? Fur stole? I'll tell you what I wear in my yard. Too-tight shorts (thanks a lot York Peppermint Patties), flip flips from the 8th grade and old t-shirts. Something tells me Aunt Lib would not approve.

Here she is again in a garden. She's in front on the left. My mother calls posing for pictures like this "cheesing it up." Genetics are a powerful thing, are they not? Apparently, cheesing it up for photographs is hereditary in our family. Green thumbs, not so much.

And here's Aunt Lib again. She's the one with a black mark across her chest... why did people do those things to pictures? I'm not sure if this was her house, but how about those climbing roses? The ivy? The sweeping front steps? Sigh.
Aunt Lib was a true green thumb. I, on the other hand, am more of a gray thumb. Not green, not black, just somewhere in between. Maybe it would help if I wore a dress and fur stole to work in the yard?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blue Inside, Green Outside

Blue glass on the windowsill.

Green elephant ears growing outside.

They're the colors of summer; green leaves, blue water. It's times like this that I remember to be thankful. I'm thankful for sunlight until 9:00, skirts & flip flops, and long walks by the lake. I'm thankful for breezes in the pine trees, lightening bugs, and the smell of basil and rosemary on the back patio. Thankful.

* I appreciate all your concern yesterday about the 'cleanliness' of my stray chair. You'll be relieved to know that I used an entire lint roller, along with a thorough session with the vacuum cleaner, not to mention two spray-downs with bathroom anti-bacterial spray. I figure if it's powerful enough to disinfect a toilet, it should work on a chair. In the spirit of that little creepy lady from Poltergeist, "This chair is clean."