Friday, May 13, 2016

Music in the Kitchen

In 1975, one of my favorite groups sang, "I love music, any kind of music."  Yeah, the O'Jays were speaking directly to me because I have always felt that way.  From The Beatles to Beethoven to Barry White to Backstreet Boys to Beyonce. Music is a mood-changer.  When I'm in love, I sing all day. When my heart is broken, I can't listen to it without dissolving into a large brown puddle of tears. Surely I was a musician in a past life; music moves me.  Two nights ago, as I sauteed slivered onions to throw into my chicken cacciatore, I  stopped tossing onions around just long enough to find the Spotify button on my phone.  I plugged my sound bar speaker into the wall outlet and hit the Bluetooth button. "So Much Trouble in the World," wailed Bob Marley.  I moved back over to the stove, humming and swaying to the beat, and got my wooden spoon into the pan just as my onions were threatening to stick.

Cooking held little interest for me when I was a young mother. Food was just nourishment, more or less. I tried to make it tasty, I tried to cook it well, but it was hit or miss.  Back in the stone age before Chopped, Top Chef and Food Network Star, home cooks had to wing it. You either had the knack or you didn't.  When a dish came out well, I was happily surprised and served it as often as I could.  My potato salad, modified slightly from my mom's potato salad, became the hit of the family; I was asked to bring it to nearly every family gathering.  When money was tight for a long while, I figured out that tomato sauce, cheese, Italian seasoning and pasta in any form could come together to make a dinner that would last most of the week.  My daughter, 11 at the time, couldn't wait for dinner each night. Little did she know that Ronzoni was the only thing standing between us and an empty refrigerator.  Had a few disasters along the way: I once tried to make spaghetti carbonara after having had it at a restaurant. After boiling up a gloppy mess of eggs and heavy cream that refused to transform into anything anyone would want to eat, I gave up and ordered Chinese food, fighting back tears. Back then, I never played music while cooking.

I don't remember the exact date or even the year... but somewhere in my late 50s, I suddenly wanted new cookware and kitchen appliances. See, what you have to know is that I'd never owned a full set of quality cookware as an adult. I had frying pans my mother gave me, a pot I'd bought here, and a pan I'd bought there. I had a toaster, but no blender. No coffeemaker.  A crockpot or Dutch oven?  I didn't even know what a Dutch oven was. But suddenly, I wanted to cook and I wanted to do it really well.  I finally figured out that cooking is both an art and a skill.  It can be satisfying and fun. And it can be very Zen: the chopping, dicing, slicing, stirring... it demands that you be present in the moment. Cooking can be a mood-changer. Like music. So now I always combine the two, whether I'm working a new recipe or putting together an old favorite.  I'm never happier than when my family comes over and I'm cooking for them. The bad news is that I barely have time to interact with them because I'm in the kitchen minding my pots and pans on the stove, but I don't really mind and I don't think they do either.  The music is blaring, I'm singing with Usher or Mary J. Blige or Justin Timberlake, the TV is going in the living room (baseball or football if my mother grabs the remote; HGTV if my sister gets there first. If my grandson isn't burying his nose in his handheld, any movie based on a Marvel Comics character will do nicely).  Voices are raised, not in anger, but so that people can be heard over the music and the TV and the other conversations going on in the room.  I pop in and out of the living room when I can but mostly, I'm in the kitchen.  Stirring my sauce and singing with Aretha. And I'm happy.

Adventures in Senior Dating...

"Good Morning, Heartache... here we go again...."
At the age of 59 or so, after a pretty harrowing 3-year period that shall be forever known as "The Dark Time" (a story for another time, dear readers), I decided to dip my toes back into the dating waters.  Some would declare that I'm just a glutton for punishment, but the truth is: I'm a diehard romantic. Always was, always will be. I love being in love and I can't change that about myself any more than I can change the color of my skin or the size of my feet.  It is what it is.

So.  What I have learned is that dating over the age of 60 can be as difficult as it is in your 30s.... maybe more.  There's an extra added challenge, however: health issues associated with aging that morph into mental health issues, which cause emotional weariness... and wariness. Many women my age have given up on love and sex. They claim that the men they meet are looking for a "nurse or a purse", e.g., someone to help them manage their health issues or someone to depend on financially.  I hope they are wrong. So far, so not too good...

I thought J and I were gonna be good for each other.  He was funny, good looking, had a silly sense of humor and our chemistry was immediate.  We laughed a lot, I dug his Queens/Italian-American accent and our physical relationship was fun.  But of course, he had issues with a capital I.  A sickly mother dependent on him, a business that he worked on 18 hours a day, and an emotional fragility that was both endearing and frustrating as hell.  The main problem was that he very much wanted a relationship but he had no time for one.  If I hadn't been so attracted, I could have dealt with a 'see ya when I see ya' kind of thing. But I've never really been good at being casual when I'm very attracted to a guy... and he wasn't good at being casual either.  Within the space of 3-4 months, we broke up and got back together three times.  The fourth time was a bridge too far... we both knew it wasn't going to work.  Sigh.
Moving on.

This next one shall be known as H.

H was an interesting person -- on paper.  A retired social worker, he filled his days and nights with two major passions: photography and writing plays.  He was proud of his hobbies, and I'm always drawn to creative people.  So once we got going, trying to be a supportive girlfriend, I eagerly looked at image after image and read plays and short stories, providing critiques (he was very interested in my thoughts) but one glaring problem emerged.  He just wasn't very good. His photos were flat and lifeless.  His stories were unimaginative. I had been drawn to his passion, but passion without talent is.... what?

Having said all of that, our relationship was mostly fun.  We were on the same page intellectually. I introduced him to the wonderful series, The West Wing, and he introduced me to Apple TV and rock and folk music that I'd largely ignored in the early 60s.  I loved to cook, he loved to eat, and was not just tolerant of a few culinary screwups -- he scarfed up those meals as eagerly as the ones that came out as planned.  In addition, we did the kind of "New York-y" things I love: outdoor cafes, movies, off-off Broadway plays, long car rides upstate on weekends.  Physical intimacy was fun, easy and fulfilling.

But I got restless.  Our relationship became routine. H was at my place every single Friday after work and that was too close for comfort, largely because as time wore on, I observed that he was not a nice man in ways that are and were important to me in a partner.  He could be a little rude to waitstaff, used blue language in front of my mother, could be dismissive when he was bored.  Impatient, not kind, and not really physically attractive. I was looking for love and I knew that would never happen. There was no arguing or lingering when we broke up. I shut down, he left angrily, unfriended me on Facebook (the horror! /insert sarcasm here/) and that was that.  I lost no sleep over it.

We'll call him W.  

W very much wanted a long term commitment, possibly even marriage. But he was not skilled at fulfilling a woman's needs emotionally and not particularly interested in fulfilling them physically at all.  He talked a good game but made little effort because he was consumed by his own health issues, physical, psychological, mental and emotional... and yes, he had them ALL.  He is kind, caring and has a good heart. I thought that with enough time and care, the relationship would become all that was promised. I believed it so hard that I moved in with him way before I was ready. He pushed, I acquiesced.  Big mistake.... but there was no way I could have known that I was going to become a 'bait and switch' victim.  Once I had moved in, he changed, slowly... but dramatically.  He slept a lot, physical intimacy died and he was completely uninterested in it although he swore that he was.  But he wasn't.  The woman in his life and her needs came secondary to his cocooning within his comfort zone. He was comfortable financially and fairly generous and it became obvious that he felt that as long as he could provide in that way, as long as his woman is fed, housed and clothed, what more could she need?  And he was like a little boy who constantly required praise and validation about his good deeds. "Are you happy with what I gave you/did for you/ where I took you?" "What did your friends think?"  "What did your family say?"  Men like this don't realize how basically selfish they are. It's not what they do for you; it's how THEY feel about what they did and how many people you told about what they did for you.  As long as his needs were being met, all was well in the world.

I've never really cared much about money and things. Nice to have, sure... but affection, warmth, attentiveness, physical intimacy, intellectual stimulation, a sense of equality and partnership... these are the things I crave. Bye-bye, W.  He took our breakup very hard... but his distress seemed more about his needs not being met than about his missing my presence. Certainly there are women in their 60s and beyond who want companionship but not sex; who are more than content to take care of a man in a similar way that they take care of their home, sons and daughters. I'm not one of those.

I started this phase of the journey at the age of 59. I'm now 62.  The search continues.  The struggle is real, my friends.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Breakfast and Other Stuff

Crustless spinach cheese quiche

So I'm trying to lose weight yet again and I've decided to try the meal plan that has always worked for me in the past: low carb. I'm not disciplined enough to do a strictly Atkins thing and I get bored with the counting and measuring that you have to do with Weight Watchers. 

What's great about doing low carb is rediscovering some recipes I've made in the past and finding new ones. And it's all healthy stuff. The only way to commit to a meal plan is to eat things you LIKE and I loooove these crustless mini-quiches I just made. Quick, tasty, nutritious, who could ask for more?

Moving on...... Note to self: Don't take off four days from work unless you have something specific planned. Feeling a little bit blue.... I took the Friday off before a three-day weekend and figured I'd clean up the apartment, get organized, and make some new jewelry. And I did all of that but the weather is warm and gorgeous and I'd like to be out in it but I am acutely aware that I'm currently partner-less.  I've never been the kind of woman that needed to have a guy around; I always knew how to entertain myself very well, and I still do. But I'm lonely. There. I said it. Out loud. The dating sites have not yielded many favorable results so far...but we'll see.

So now that that's laying out there, let's move on yet again:  I ordered some new supplies and I'm anxiously awaiting their arrival. I swore I wouldn't buy anything else until I sold at least one bracelet but I'm enjoying the crafting so much, I couldn't help myself. The good news is that I'm getting a lot more interest and more importantly, more eyeballs on my Etsy page lately.  Views have jumped and where views are, sales should not be too far behind. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A LIttle Bit of Whining... Until I Get Warmed Up.

I can barely remember the last time I was here.  Can't believe it's been this long but -- no matter, here I am. Let's catch up.

Not too much has happened. Still live in the same place, work at the same job, have the same cat.  But I decided to take my jewelrymaking in a new direction.  Several years ago, I made earrings and sold them at shows with my ex and was getting pretty successful at it... until my world blew up a few years ago.  And now I'm making mostly bracelets instead of earrings and I'm doing it by myself (no ex-boyfriend to muddy the waters... alas and alack, though, no ex-boyfriend to drive me and my stuff around. Oh well. Maybe I can find a replacement.)  But it's all good. Loving the way the bracelets are turning out and I hope they will sell.  So, I'm okay, all in all.

Well, except maybe for one thing... I turned 60 while I was away from you, blogger. Sixty. 60. Still not sure how this happened. And the thing is, what is bothering me more than the number are the more than slightly annoying physical changes that come with so-called 'mid-life'.  Where shall I start?

  •  Arthritis:  After 5 or so years of increasing pain in my left knee, my orthopedist suggests a total knee replacement. When it's very cold, rainy or snowy, I can barely walk without pain. My other knee is sometimes painful and sometimes I have an ache in my lower back. I've been pretty much ignoring all of this until I couldn't anymore.  Have decided not to have the knee replacement... yet. I'm going to try losing some weight and doing physical therapy and/or yoga/Pilates first.
  • Floaters: I've developed more floaters in my field of vision. They don't stop me from seeing but they are always there and they are very annoying, particularly when I'm looking at the white light of a computer screen. They cause several slight shadows to float across my vision all the time. It's disorienting and stressful and there is nothing I can do about it. No cure for floaters. Usually they either disappear on their own or the brain learns to ignore them... I wish one of those things would happen soon.
  • Weight gain. Almost forgot to mention: I quit smoking while I was away also, dear blog, which is a GREAT thing... but I've put on 10 pounds that refuse to leave. One of my boobs is slightly saggier than the other, the cellulite on my legs is more pronounced, I'm developing a tummy... and I guess this is what 60 looks like. 
I don't like it. But it is what it is and I'm just going to have to make the best of it. Considering that friends younger and older than I am are fighting diabetes, hypertension and other ailments, I probably shouldn't complain, right?

Moving on: I broke up with the clown I'd been dating for about seven months. Turned out he only thought he wanted a real relationship. What he really wanted was a friends with benefits situation, and I don't think he even really knew that.  He was retired, I'm still in the workforce and I prefer that my 5 to 9 life not be as mired in routine as my 9 to 5 life.  As it happened, he wanted to commit without really committing: spend every weekend together: I shop, cook and serve food while he writes the great American novel in his underwear, we watch TV, swap spit and bodily fluids, go to sleep, lather, rinse, repeat the next weekend... which is OK when you feel very close to your partner and there is a mutual desire to connect on a deeper level; to truly know the person.... instead, I was bored to stupefaction. No real intimacy. No passion. And that doesn't work for me.  He used the L word at one point but it was way too soon. It's been my experience that when a man uses the L word too soon, he doesn't have a clue as to what it really means. I was right again. Truth is, I wasn't terribly upset when I broke it off. 

I'm hoping for one more great love before I go toes up.  And I'm not afraid to try. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Time, Love and Catnip

For those of you who haven't read this blog previously, Bumblebee is a handsome yellow tabby that my ex rescued from the streets seven years ago. My ex worked away from home for weeks at a time, so I raised Bumblebee mostly by myself.  He's loving and affectionate while at the same time being the best predator I've ever seen. Bumblebee is as agile as he is affectionate. He can jump three feet straight up in the air to catch a fly, and can kill a mouse in less than five minutes. He's about fifteen pounds, but feels much heavier when he's sprawled all over my lap or laying on my chest when I wake up in the morning.  I call him my dog-in-a-catsuit because he follows me from room to room, and if he can't wangle his way onto my lap, he will find a comfortable spot as close to me as possible. Wonderful cat, you say? Sometimes yes, sometimes not-so-much.

Due to horrific financial circumstances, I had to let Bumblebee go for a time and luckily, my ex stepped up and took him in until I got my shit together.  We were separated for about a year and a half, although my ex sent pictures and I visited him from time to time. Now that Bumblebee and I are reunited on our journey, it's been both wonderful and incredibly frustrating at the same time.

My apartment has navy blue wall-to-wall carpet. I don't like wall-to-wall carpet at all but my budget was limited and with my credit rating trashed due to the aforementioned financial circumstances, I had to compromise on an ideal apartment. You probably know where I'm going with this..... In the time that we were separated, I had forgotten how much Bumblebee sheds. Like most indoor cats, he sheds year-round and in addition, he just happens to be a heavy shedder even though his hair isn't any longer than your average tabby.  Petting him for just a few minutes brings up a cloud of hair; if you even think about picking him up, have your lint roller at the ready.  On top of this, Bumblebee has this incredibly annoying habit known as "mowing". I've had cats almost my entire adult life but none of my former pets did this. When Bumblebee cleans himself, he sometimes pulls out large tufts of hair.

I first noticed this shortly after he reached adulthood. I'd come downstairs in the morning and find a pile of white and yellow fur in the middle of the floor, sometimes more than one pile.  He's had regular vet visits since we got him, so I know this isn't due to any kind of skin rash or problem, and I check him regularly for bald spots. There are none. After consulting a Facebook friend who is a vet and doing some research on the internet, I finally found out that this oddball behavior is called mowing and some cats do it.... just because. I suppose it's the equivalent of nail-biting or knuckle-cracking in humans.  Which would be okay, I guess, if it weren't so damned messy.  I don't have a vacuum cleaner -- yet -- so a few times a week, I walk around the apartment picking up groupings of 6 or 7 large tufts of cat hair. It's a constant battle, dampening the broom or a rag to pick up the copious amounts of hair that are already all over the carpet, and now this. Sigh.

Seems to me that the mowing is occurring a bit more frequently lately. Not enough to alarm me; just enough to annoy me since *I* am the one who has to clean it up. In addition, Bumblebee's affection meter has been off the chart since his return. If he isn't sleeping with me, he's on the floor right next to me. Hence, my sheets are covered in cat hair. When I get up to use the bathroom, he is right behind me,intent on rubbing my legs and actually trying to get up on my lap. Geez, Bumble, can't a woman even pee in peace?  Lately, I try to beat him to the bathroom and I shut the door behind me.  I usually brush him in the kitchen since there is no carpet there -- thank whatever god there is -- but that means whenever I go into the kitchen, I am accompanied by constant meowing. And it's kind of funny. When he wants food or treats, he lets out a standard "meeeoooow", but when he wants to be brushed or when I am ignoring him, his cry is a short, crisp, "MROW!" as if he's saying, "Um, what's your problem? I want to be brushed and I want some attention and you'd better get on it."  If I ignore him -- which I do when I really don't want to be bothered -- he'll keep at it for a few minutes, rubbing my legs incessantly and then finally, he'll lay down on the floor and stare at me.

Sigh. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I love Bumblebee with all my soul and we will never be apart again if I can help it. But the constant picking up after him and the incessant need for affection is wearing on me. I understand it, truly. It's evident that Bumblebee was as traumatized by our separation as I was. Anyone who says 'a cat is just a cat', or who thinks that cats are all alike has never been owned by one. But as much as I adore him, I find myself pushing him away as often as I pick him up because he's seriously getting on my nerves with this constant "love me!" behavior.

I need an occasional break and Bumblebee needs reassurance that I'm not going anywhere and something else to focus on, so what's the answer?  Here's what I came up with. I leave my window blinds up about three inches and I made a perch for him out of boxes that don't need to be unpacked so that he can see out of the window. Not much to see since there don't seem to be any squirrels in this part of Queens but there are birds occasionally. I made a cat toy out of twine that he could chase around when he gets bored and then I bought another shiny green cloth mouse toy for him.  Sidebar: I saw cat toys in the pet store made of gray or brown cloth that looked like real mice or rats. For the life of me, I do not get why anyone would buy such a thing. If I got up in the middle of the night to pee and saw that thing lying on the floor, I'd have a coronary. Already had the life drained out of me by having that exact experience in the past, more than once, with a real dead mouse. No need to repeat it with a fake one, thank you very much.

The toys have helped somewhat. When he's not sleeping or focusing on me, he will bat the toys around for a few minutes at a time.  On my next trip to the pet store, I may get him one of those feather toys on a long wire so that we can play together. Have to watch him closely with those sorts of toys, though. Some (stupid, uninformed) pet toy manufacturers put small bells or little embellishments on some of those toys which are choke hazards for a cat as aggressive as Bumblebee. Might be okay for a kitten or a less predatory cat, but my feline likes to make SURE whatever he's chasing is quite dead. I'd be wary of leaving him alone with anything that had a lot of loose feathers or bells that he might choke on.  At the very least, I'd have to spend nearly as much time cleaning up catsick as I do cleaning up after his mowing.

I also bought catnip the last time I went to the pet store. Not all cats respond to it, but for Bumblebee, it's like handing him a really good hit of Columbian Gold. (No need for alarm.  I haven't smoked weed in decades.... but I haven't forgotten). He'll eat it, roll in it, and then zone out for a few minutes. Sometimes he'll go to sleep. Do I feel bad "drugging" my cat when I need a break?  Nah. I only give it to him once a week or so, sprinkling it onto the cardboard scratching thing he likes. Makes him happy and gives me a few minutes or hours of peace that I sorely need.

I'm not unaware that bringing another cat in would probably be the best remedy for Bumblebee's restlessness but a) I can't afford it, and b) my landlord would have a conniption if there were two cats thundering over his mother's head. She lives downstairs. Bumblebee has only been back with me for about two months. My hope is that as time passes, he'll relax a bit and not feel the need to be underfoot every waking minute.

Where is Bumblebee right now, you ask? Sitting on my lap. I have to reach OVER him to type on the laptop. Sigh.

Wish us luck, ya'll.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Today is my birthday. Yay, me.  I'm still wondering where the last nine years went. Seems like yesterday I was just turning 50 and planning to move to Philadelphia.

I am learning that there is a peace in trying to take each day as it comes. It doesn't always work; we're always thinking about what we did yesterday and what we have to do tomorrow, don't we?  But I'm working on it. A dear friend of mine who is fighting cancer has always had the ability to enjoy every day, every moment as it happens. That used to annoy me sometimes because I've always been a bit of a worrier and a planner. But now I get it. I really get it, and I'm gonna try to take a page from his book. Can't do much about what hasn't happened yet anyway, right?

A few days ago, I rediscovered my jewelry blog. Started it quite awhile ago and completely forgot about it until I happened to stumble on it on my Blogger dashboard. I was going to scrap it but I've decided to keep it for awhile since I do have some followers there. (Wonder if they gave any thought to where I went and why I disappeared....? Probably not. Ha!)  Today I will post some of my latest offerings on that blog.

Today I am going to have a lovely lunch with my Favorite Daughter in Manhattan. The weather is predicted to be warm, sunny, and not humid. I had a horrible allergy/sinus attack yesterday and I was not looking forward to another warm, humid and rainy day.... and now it turns out that it's going to be exactly the kind of day I love -- it's barely going to be 80 degrees!  Thank you, Powers That Be. I know that this didn't happen solely for my benefit but I appreciate it anyway.

Yesterday I made myself a lovely lunch of Kidney Bean Dip with pita chips. Got the recipe from Nigella Lawson. It doesn't present well; in fact it looks like catsick - LOL!  But it tastes SO good.  And then I made myself a wonderful dinner of roast chicken with vegetables from a recipe from Giada DeLaurentis. Yummm.

A friend I haven't seen in many years was a strict vegan and exercise enthusiast. I used to ask her for tips on exercising and how to modify my diet. I've been trying to lose 20 pounds for the last 20 years, and I have lost it...although it came back and brought a few friends. I remember she always said, "Whatever you do, Lee, eat well."

Today I will eat well, enjoy the sunshine, and delight in the company of my daughter. But I'll probably spend a little time thinking about the next birthday, which will be one of those big ones: (cue ominous music) 60!  Friends have assured me that it won't be so bad.