Sunday, June 13, 2010

Movers and Shakers

I had been thinking about having a party for friends and family once we finally got settled in our new home. Today, as I unpacked what seemed like the 200th box, I thought "Why not invite everyone in Glen Ellyn?" After all there are only 27,000 residents and by the looks of things we have enough glassware for everyone, no need for tacky plastic or paper! I mean, we do live in a green age, though the soap and water to wash such a lot of dishes might not be environmentally friendly.

What would I serve? Casseroles, as I unearthed 16 corning ware dishes of various shapes and sizes. Silverware would not be an issue as flatware, including the Caldwell family silver, silverplate and two sets of stainless would provide service for 40. We may need to resort to paper plates though as we only have service for 24 with our everyday dishes and china.

Our guests could take home leftovers in the myriad of Tupperware and Rubbermaid plastic ware that now completely fills its own cabinet. No need to worry if we ran out since we also found 3 rolls of plastic wrap, 3 rolls of aluminum foil and four boxes of Ziploc bags.

If brunch were the menu, we could surely provide efficiently and abundantly with two waffle irons, two griddles, two microwave bacon dishes and six frying pans. Two coffee makers working in tandem would offer decaf and regular in an array of blends--those found in the finest hotel chains as I found 36 packets of hotel coffee.

Following the meal, a conference call could take place with a speaker phone in every room. Ever safety-conscious, we also have at least 8 power strips with surge protection.

If all of this sounds a bit excessive to you and you are reminded of Richard Scrushy or Imelda Marcos, rest assured, you are not alone. One of the highlights of our unpacking today was when I opened a box marked "office" and discovered not one--but four pairs of cute black pumps! Technically the label on the box was correct as all were appropriate work footwear.

After five years of living in two houses 500 miles apart, why am I surprised to have doubles of everything? (OK so it explains the phones and kitchen items, but maybe not the shoes) It is daunting and more than a little embarrassing. As I view it all, I am ashamed that while there are starving and homeless people around the globe, we are opening boxes and asking ourselves two questions--1) Where in the heck are we going to put this? and 2) Why exactly did we think we needed it in the first place?

Unpacking is hard enough work but agreeing on where to put things presents another set of challenges. After opening a huge box only to discover it contained china and crystal, my inclination was to put this box in the garage or basement since we would not be needing these things for the foreseeable future, (this was before my great idea of inviting the whole village over for brunch) my spouse told me it could easily be put away and there was 'plenty of room' in the new kitchen unlike the garage or the 900 SF and thus far empty basement. As he proceeded to fill the uppermost shelves of each cabinet with crystal water goblets, champagne flutes, wine glasses and cordial stems, I began thinking that it was probably a good thing that I had not yet found the Cutco gourmet knives that I had been fervently searching for up until that point.

This notion was quickly dispelled as my darling husband changed course and helped me rebox the crystal and pack it in a smaller box for storage until a later time. He also took the time to put all the empty boxes out at the curb, making enough room to park my car in the garage; he put the barbecue grill together and cooked us hamburgers and hung a favorite family photo of the three of us.

Moving has been a part of our lives for 29 years. We have become pros at it, with this being our ninth house. We are getting rid of the duplicates though, as we don't expect to need two (or more) of everything any longer... Right after the big shindig...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Frozen Pond

As the sunlight flickers in through the blinds and I listen to a faint breeze from the open patio door, it is more than a little strange that I am gazing across the street at a pond with ice floes still in tact! Spring has made an appearance in Chicago this week. The low-tech dial thermometer on the deck registers an unofficial 60 (ish). And while we know Miss March is fickle and spring will not be staying, it's only here for a limited engagement; we are intoxicated with the promise of what's to come!

We have had snow on the ground in some form or fashion since early December. A couple of times, the meltdown began and just as the last of the slushy old snow was disappearing,
a new layer of the white stuff would follow. It was kind of like the lazy bimbo who doesn't actually wash her makeup off and start anew before she goes out for the night, she just layers on a new coat of foundation trying to freshen up her tired visage, hoping to fool the public.

Since our last snowfall around February 25, our neighborhood has gone from the pristine loveliness of the soft cottony fluff reminiscent of a newborn baby's blanket to the look of that same blanket five years later when its owner is headed off to school. Shrunken, discolored and full of holes, it is anything but attractive but somehow still provides a level of security and cannot be parted with.

The snow banks piled at the end of each driveway that once resembled the sugary dunes of my favorite Gulf Coast beaches have evolved to dirty pyramids a la the Luxor hotel in Vegas and then after thawing and freezing again morphed into icebergs dotting the North Sea with their sharp edges and gray translucence. Finally, by yesterday they had dwindled down to nothing more than used scraps of steel wool, leftover from some project--fuzzy and dirty and flung about the lawn.

Despite my hatred for the snow and my impatience for its departure, I have discovered some creative uses for it. I mean, isn't that what we are all about now? Repurposing? Certainly it is easier to clean up after one's dog when it is surrounded by a blanket of fluffy snow! However, based on what has been revealed since the meltdown, I am apparently in a very small minority of dog owners who think so! And those useless snow piles that linger long after the rest of the stuff is gone? A foot washing station for muddy paws! After all, dogs are like children-take them for a walk on a drizzly day and if there is mud, they are sure to walk in it! One trek thru the snow pile at the end of the driveway and voila--wet paws only! Much easier to clean.

When I awoke to rain this morning, a light mist was rising from each filthy gray pile and I could just imagine the Wicked Witch of the West shrieking, "You cursed brat! Look what you've done! I'm melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?" just like she does at the end of the movie when Dorothy accidentally douses her with a pail of water. When the sun came out at lunch time and I took Phoebe and Slugger on their midday walks, is it any wonder I felt like singing, "Ding Dong the Witch is DEAD", while we fairly skipped down the yellow brick road, er...I mean...sidewalk.

So, now as I stare at the pond that is dark murky liquid around the edges with grayish-white disks floating in the center, I am contemplating a bucket brigade or at least a hose long enough to destroy the the wickedness that reminds us that after all, it IS still winter. Just call me Dorothy...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Banned in Alabama

Since moving to Illinois, I have pondered the differences, some of them vast, between my new home and my old one. Certainly the most obvious one would be the climate. Alabama is beastly hot in the summer which generally lasts from May to October, followed by a glorious fall, a short winter and a brief rainy spring. Chicago is bitterly cold in the winter which generally lasts from October to May, followed by a short spring, a glorious summer and a brief rainy autumn.

I learned recently that Chicagoans actually LIKE the extreme cold, snow and ice and are very touchy when it comes to comments from outsiders. I read in the Tribune that it is sort of like a family member: NATIVES can complain as much as they want, but if OUTSIDERS say it sucks, they do so at their own peril.

There is another little matter that sets Chicago apart from Birmingham. In Birmingham, usually on the day after Christmas and most certainly by New Years Day, all Christmas decorations are down, put away until next year. As we entered the first week of 2010, I continued to see decorations. At first I thought it was because so many people here celebrate Orthodox Christmas so I kept my mouth shut. As I write this on February 3, I see Christmas lights in the yard across the street. Today I read in the Tribune that Chinese New Year's is February 14, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut a bit longer.

Speaking of the Chicago Tribune, that is another difference between my old city, Birmingham and my new one. In Birmingham we had one daily newspaper, The Birmingham News or as I liked to call it, The Birmingham Snooze. I could read the whole paper most weekdays in about 10 minutes, 30 on Sundays. Shortly after moving here, I wondered why I would get up in the morning, eat breakfast, sip tea and suddenly look at the clock to find it was almost noon. It was because it took me all morning just to read the damn newspaper!!

Here in Chicago we have not one but TWO daily rags, the allegedly more liberal yet infinitely more appealing Tribune and the less popular yet more politically conservative Sun Times. I have read both and despite my conservative bent, I prefer the Tribune. Something about that sleazy looking tabloid format of the Sun Times. While it may be easier for commuters to handle on the crowded Metra or EL, it just makes me feel like I am reading the National Enquirer. At any rate, the Tribune features the best local columnists, an excellent sports page and despite its liberal reputation, political cartoons by former Birmingham News cartoonist, the mostly conservative Scott Stantis.

I could go on and on about my newfound love for the newspaper but then I would never get to the point of this post. If it hadn't been for my favorite Tribune columnist, John Kass, I wouldn't be so well informed about Chicago politics and its many colorful characters like Governor Dead Meat and Senator How Ya Doin...I have inside info on how our president got elected, too. Something about Hopium and the Chicago any rate, all kidding aside, yesterday was the Illinois primary and like most Illinoisans, I was casting my vote against corruption. I wish I could say that this is another distinct difference between my new home state and my old one. Sadly it is not. It appears that Alabama and Illinois have an unwritten rule on term limits for governors, one term in office and one term in prison!

So after marking our ballots to "throw the bums out", Burt and I stopped by our favorite local pasta joint for dinner. Clara's occupies space in an unassuming strip shopping center on Highway 53. No fancy decor but the food is fabulous. It is owned by the daughter of "Mama Celeste" of frozen pizza fame and it is some of the best Italian fare I have ever had.

We started by ordering a bottle of red wine. The waitress brought the bottle to our table and I commented on how pretty the label was. She leaned toward me and said, "This label is nothing. We have another wine here with a gorgeous label but it's kind of racy."
"Oh really?" said I, raising my eyebrows. She leaned in closer and added breathlessly, "In fact, it is so racy that the wine is actually banned in Alabama!"

"Well all right then," I drawled in my best Alabama accent. "Y'all bring that one instead!" She looked a bit confused, so I explained further. "You won't believe this, but I am actually FROM ALABAMA and I would love to experience what I have been missing all these years!"

"You are?" she asked wide-eyed. "But what are you doing here?"

"Oh, I live here now. But I just moved here last year..." I trailed off.

She asked if we had moved here for work and before I could say, "No way, darlin. I just wanted to get out of that Podunk state, live a little and drink some real wine in a racy bottle!", my wonderful, ever-so-honest husband joined the conversation. "Yes, we moved here for work," he answered.

Looking across the table at me, he chided, "You are NOT FROM Alabama! We used to LIVE there but you are not FROM there!" While I was kicking him under the table for not going along with my fun, he looked sternly at our server and said pointedly, " We lived there for a long time and LOVED it. It is a great place and I think your story about the racy bottle being banned is urban legend."

Pretty soon she was back, not only with the Cycles Gladiator bottle of wine whose label featured a reproduction of a French art poster of a nymph on a bicycle, but waving in her other hand a printout of article about the wine and how the Alabama ABC did indeed ban the wines from being sold there. The ABC code prohibits any 'labeling or advertisement depicting persons posed in an immodest or sensuous manner.' Burt apologetically told her it was not necessary to bring the article. She replied that the bartender insisted since he didn't like being called a liar!

She suddenly got very curious and started asking about why people would want to ban a wine just because the label featured a little tasteful nudity. She asked if people were really that backward "down there." "Oh absolutely" I told her. "When the Baptists go to the grocery store with their children, the last thing they want little Susie or little Johnny seeing is nekkid folks on the wine bottles!" By now Burt was kicking ME under the table. I leaned in closer to her and added, rolling my eyes, "Why we even have a statue of the mythological god Vulcan that sits high atop Red Mountain with his backside exposed and the state is considering legislation that would make him cover up!"

By now I am having a great time but my husband is paying the check and hustling me on with my coat and out the door. In our rush, Burt nearly knocked the Christmas wreath off their front door! So much for my Chinese theory...Did I mention that the wine was delicious? A rich and dare I say it?.. full-bodied red!