nose

… that thing where you’re doing dishes and you smell a faint sour whiff of something somewhere and you sniff the air around you and you sniff over the trashcan and you sniff the actual dishes and let’s admit it you sniff in the vicinity of your armpit and you can’t find it but you finally sniff the sponge in your hands and you accidentally tap the very tip of your nose with the wet edge of the sponge and you recoil less at the unexpected warmth and damp than at the smell because WHOA THAT’S IT so you put all the presumed-clean dishes back in the sink to rewash them and you fill a small dish with bleach solution to soak and de-smellify the sponge and heck the dish brush too while you’re at it and then you wash all possibility of sponge-smell and bleach traces off your hands and then you do it again just to be sure and then you go out for a walk while you wait for the bleachy solution to clean up that sponge and as you’re rounding the corner you realize that you scrubbed and bleached everything in the sink and washed your hands but you never washed the tip of your nose.

Yeah, that thing.

abundance

This small apartment is crammed full of stuff — most of it mine, and much of it so very crammed in that we can’t get at it.

I keep paring down. I dropped off several big boxes of clothing at Goodwill and still I can’t see the back of the closet. I gave away a food processor and I still have two left. If a guest admires a [book/scarf/toy/kitchen tool], sometimes I give it to them on the spot and thank them for taking it.

The place is still littered with toys, games, DVDs still in their cellophane, shoes I’m waiting to break in, shoes I stopped wearing, beautiful trinkets that we were given and don’t need, winter coats that are too fancy, winter coats that aren’t fancy enough, books jammed into boxes where we can’t read them, favorite dresses hanging in the back of a deep closet where I forget them, luxurious bath oils turning sour and stale on the shelf, down comforters balled up under the bed getting musty.

My mindset of scarcity creates so much sad waste. I’m saving those bath oils, that velvet dress, those perfect shoes, that lovely down throw, the most delicate wineglasses, the expensive bottle of spirits, the crisp linen dish towels handed down from my grandmother, the folded swath of uncut lilac fabric. I’m saving them for LATER. I’m saving them for BEST.

But if BEST never comes, if it is never LATER, then those luscious goods, those indulgences, those luxuries… they sit and molder on the shelf.

I’ve made a resolution for September: each week, I pledge to use or dispose of at least seven unused, underused, or forgotten objects: one every day, or a week’s worth all at once, however it works out. No matter how much I give (or throw) away, the count resets each Sunday: if I toss out or rehome 30 items on September 1st, I still have seven to go the next week.

Expect the updates to be excruciatingly dull for everyone but me. After all, I’m the one unearthing those velvet dresses, drinking the expensive spirits, giving away toys, and opening up space in my cramped home.

Though September hasn’t started, I have: some construction in our building forced us to clear out a long-ignored closet. I threw out a dozen spoiled, soiled, spilled, or otherwise unsuitable objects.

unconditional

I came down with a cold just before New Year’s Eve, and it persisted until, ooooh, yesterday. That’s more than two weeks of snotty, sniveling sickness — and two weeks of experiencing The Fella’s shining example of unconditional love. Some simple acts of love:

- insisting I sleep cozied down in the bed with him instead of confining my coughing, hacking, restless, contagious self to the hard sofa.

- gazing at my slack, shambling frame as I change from a sweaty, baggy pair of gray PJs to a clean, baggy pair of gray PJs and saying (in a voice ringing with sincerity), “You’re so pretty!”

- driving to the restaurant whose name and address I don’t know to order the soup I can’t pronounce.

little things

A few small pleasures on this gray rainy day:
- new boots, bought in the last days of spring and packed away for a rainy day;
- sugar cubes, bought for champagne cocktails but distinctly pleasant to watch them melting in a cup of tea;
- a whole basket of fresh tomatoes, bursting with juice and scent, too gorgeous to cook or gussy up;
- a brand new sketchpad and an excellent pen;
- a few minutes stolen with The Fella, bundled up in bed with blankets and books.

For the moment, I’m directing my writing energy elsewhere, but I’ll continue to check in with little things — and little things can be good.

bright side

You know what stinks? Being awakened by the plumbers removing the toilet a day early.

You know what really stinks? Having to wake up your houseguest to break the news that there’s no toilet.

You know what’s great? Seeing how your houseguest takes it all in stride and and heads out to the local coffeehouse with you, just so the two of you can pee.

You know what stinks? Having to miss a trip to visit The Fella’s family because the unscheduled plumbers* need someone to lock up after ‘em.

You know what makes up for it? Spending that unexpected free evening with your own vacationing family for one last dinner before they go home.

You know what literally stinks? The rotted subflooring the plumbers tore up.

You know what’s adorable? How carefully they tidied up after themselves, leaving just a few smears of mold.

You know what figuratively stinks? Splashing bleachy water on the floor, then tracking it all over.

You know what’s kinda fun? Putting paper towels under each foot and shuffling around the apartment like a Muppet to clean it up.

* Adding Unscheduled Plumbers to list of potential band names.

A little color

Kitchen
I bought this string of lights at Pier 1 last week to perk up the kitchen. We can only remodel so much at once, so this adds some color to the unfinished ambiance. I’m now thinking of painting all the cabinet doors and drawers in these bright colors.

Too crazy?

gray area

Courtesy of friends JE & AC, who moved out of town over the weekend, we now have a new-to-us ginormous TV in our place. The two best things about this TV, other than the mammoth screen:

1. The Fella will no longer need to complain about “the blacks,” i.e., the fuzzy, indistinct gray-to-black range that hampered dark scenes showing on our previous flatscreen TV;

2. I will stop cringing for a split second every so often because my partner has muttered the unexpected phrase “Wow, the blacks are terrible.”

ginger beer: sweet and spicy!

Following up on my summer goals, I recently made another batch of home-brewed ginger beer. Sweet, spicy, with a wicked kick, ginger beer makes a refreshing drink on its own or mixed half-and-half with lemonade. For an evening highball, try a Dark & Stormy: ginger beer with a splash of black rum and a squeeze of lime. Mmm, you can feel that summer breeze drifting your way, can’t you?

This is an ersatz ginger beer; real ginger beer requires a ginger beer plant, a symbiotic colony of yeasts that carbonate the drink through fermentation. I decided not to buy or culture my own ginger beer plant. Instead, I followed Dr. Fankhauser’s instructions for fermented yeast carbonation, which gives a nice fizzy lift to a syrup-and-water base.

For my long-ago first batch of homemade ginger ale, I followed Dr. Fankhauser’s directions carefully. The resulting drink was tasty and fizzy and exactly what he promised, but not spicy and dark as ginger beer should be. For my recent batch, I brazenly modified the ingredients and the prep technique to produce a richer spicier drink, but the brewing directions remain the same.

A few improvements I made: cooking the ginger and spices with the sugar extracts more flavor and also eliminates the need to dissolve the sugar after it goes into the bottle. Adding the lemon zest, cinnamon, and clove results in a more complex flavor profile, and the peppers and peppercorns add bite and snap. Straining the syrup makes a cleaner, less cloudy ginger beer that’s far more pleasant on the tongue — no shreds or ginger to tickle your throat! I also added a bottle-sterilizing step for extra safety. Continue reading

For sale

This is the second weekend selling our wares for the people of Perth, and the people, they just aren’t showing. Granted, we haven’t advertised it well so it’s our own damned fault. Let me back up a bit by telling you that we’re taking to the road again, which is no big surprise, hey? If you know JM and me, you’re aware that we’re never in one place for long. We’ve been married for 11 years and the longest we stayed put in one place was a brief experiment in homeownership in Baden, Switzerland. We’ve been in Australia for over three years which is 21+ dog years of accumulating stuff. Please, please come buy it so we can take off again.