Thursday, May 31, 2007

O Office Chair, Where Art Thou?

Well, thirty days in and the biggest drama to hit my new work-from-home life has nothing to do with taxes or the ethics of working in pajamas or whether to watch Ellen or Martha, which are maddeningly on at the same time. So far, Ellen's ahead. No, the biggest dilemma has been the selection of an office chair. I've spent 29 days researching which one to go with and it's like trying to buy a car...every time you decide on one, you see a feature on another that sends you back to square one.

Should it be the $1000 Aeron, with the whizbangery and the namedrop-feature that comes along with it, where you can irritate everyone you know by saying "I was sitting in my Aeron this morning, pondering the national debt..."? Is that the right decision? Or should it be the also $1000 Think chair, which is actually more comfortable but not nearly as pretty and closes off any opportunity for furniture name-dropping because no one knows what the Hell a Think chair is?

All bets were off when I saw the Eames white leather chair, however. I rationalized and rationalized how I could justify a $2500 ass-holder. I lost sleep over it, trying to figure out how to hide the purchase. I mean, this wasn't like being a secret vodka-drinker, where you can just hide the bottles behind the shrubbery. No, this was a big white leather chair on wheels. So I did the right thing: I started looking at Target. And I found a sensible, $199 white mesh chair. I tried to order it today. Perhaps you can see those hateful little words, dear reader? "We're sorry, this item is out of stock." Oh, the wailing and the gnashing and the adult language! Such a scene has not been seen since Little Nell died. My life unfurled before me, a life spent sitting in a boring chair from Staples or Office Barn or Notebook Town or whatever the fuck those places are called. A chair which would look at home in a (I can barely type the word) cubicle. A chair which would fail to inspire me and would cause me to use Arial Bold over and over on every design project. Or Times New Roman at best.

And then! A ray of hope! Sister Meg suggested visiting this overpriced modern furniture shop and there in the far corner, just past the light fixture that bites and the Salk Vaccine martini drinking set, was The Solution! For a moderately sensible $395. She called her white leather(ette) siren song to me and before you know it, she was in the Element and on her way home. And now I sit on Luna Schlosser (named after Diane Keaton's character in Sleeper), giggling and typing these words, pondering where in the office I will put the Major Design Award trophies that are going to be piling up at any moment, now that my ass has inspiration.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Those Polenta Eggs

Some people have asked for the recipe for that polenta sausage scramble from the camping trip. It's so easy! And for my Kosher friends, it's fine for you because we used turkey sausage. But if you're that crazy kind of kosher with the dairy and the meat, maybe not....though are eggs dairy? I can't keep up with your crazy rules.


Saute a little onion in olive oil with 3 links worth of crumbled sausage of your choice. Add cubed polenta, made from half of one of those tubes of pre-made polenta you often find in the produce area. Push around in the pan until it's a little crispy. Add three or four eggs and mess around with it until it looks like this picture. You could gussy it up with basil or oregano or chives or whatever.

Serves two.

Garden, End of May

When Mom was visiting the house in April, I had the big idea to compact what was a large square-ish sort of shade bed into more of an L-shape that hugged the house more. This was going to require a lot of moving stuff and the growing of some new grass, but Mom was up to the task. She achieved it all in three days. I highly recommend her if you need some slave labor. So anyway, here are some pics of the results.

The main thing that happened was that the little nothing fountain that was sort of floating in the middle of nothing was now a focal point, just by running the little rock border right through the middle of the fountain circle. It's amazing how much of a player it is now. Sister Meg helped me dig the hole so that I could have a totally flush-with-the-ground fountain and a friend donated the tub and the flat slate-y looking rocks. I already had the bamboo spout. I love the way the rest of the bed spreads out from it.

And here are some miscellaneous other pictures of the patio/shade garden area. We moved most of the stuff at the wrong time, so I think next year it'll be amazing. As it is, I'm still thrilled beyond belief.

The small bed, across the rock path from the bigger bed. A lot moved out of here into the larger bed, so it's a little potted-plant heavy and a little puny-looking so far. I love that pulmonaria.

Japanese iris and lily-of-the-valley, both liberated from my grandmother's house a few years ago. They're thriving here; this year I had over 20 blossoms on the iris plants.

Meyer lemon buds. These got knocked off in a thunderstorm, so I have to wait for the next round to get a lemon, I think.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Perfect Camping Book

When I went camping earlier this week, I struggled with what book to read duing the downtime. A quick trip to the Modern Library shelves in the living room did the trick, as I found the perfect volume to take.

This book was sent to me by a friend in California. There's a bookplate in the front with an address, but the name is unreadable. "120 Laurel Ave, Palo Alto." Anyway, the stories were the perfect length to cram in around the edges of the day and nights in the campground. Before breakfast, before a nap, after everyone else was asleep. I got them all read except for the Steinbeck. I thought the winners were the Maugham, the Mansfield, the Cather, the Lardner and especially the Lawrence. Only one dog in the bunch, the Pearl Buck story. Has there ever been a hackier hack than she? I almost threw the book across the tent.

In addition to being the perfect book to read while hanging out around the campsite, it also looked really great on the picnic table.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Camp Fabulous

So! When I turned 40 last October, I asked all the party guests to bring me gift certificates to places where I could buy camping supplies. I figured that like cocaine and alcohol, camping could be addictive. But unlike those two, once you buy the stuff the first time, it's a pretty cheap addiction. Surprisingly, I have enough friends who follow instructions that I ended up with like $1000 worth of camping dollars. Two tents, one tent return, two sleeping bags, one stove, one spectacular steel-belted cooler and eight bajillion little crazy specific camping items later (egg holders, anyone?), I was ready and waiting for the Schedule-X-Weather window to open wide. As luck would have it, it was over Memorial Day weekend and I just couldn't bring myself to go camping with the hoi polloi over the Camping Cliche Weekend of the year. But! A friend suggested going from Thursday through Saturday and since I lead a life of leisure and can take off on weekdays, I thought this an inspired solution. The die was cast! Or the cast was dyed! Whatever that phrase is.

The decision was made to go to Frozen Head State Park, conveniently located in between Brushy Mountain State Prison and the Oak Ridge nuclear reactors. Sleep tight! It's a gorgeous park, just out of the way enough that the only people you run into are, uh, well, prisoners and cancer victims. Either way, they just want release.

The trip from Nashville to Wartburg (yes, WARTburg) on Thursday was done just past the crack of dawn and my friend Jeremy had sheet marks all over his face for a good five hours. Some people are Morning People. Jeremy is not one of them. He's more like a 3 o'clock Person. But! He paid for a breakfast burrito at Sonic so he's a friend of mine!

We arrived at the park and selected our site after dealing with a woman who spoke so s-l-o-w-l-y that I actually thought at one point she was talking backwards, just a midget and a red velvet curtain short of "Twin Peaks." We selected Site #3. This park had tent pads, which are hard to hammer the stakes into, especially if you forgot to bring a hammer. I'm just saying. However, there were all sorts of fossilized relics lying around, just pick one of those up. Indian arrowheads? Tiny hammers! Bang away.

Once I passive-aggressively bossed Jeremy around into setting up his own tent and most of the rest of the campsite while I sipped wine from a coffee cup, we settled in for Gourmet Camping Meal #1: food on a board (©KT). Cheeses, sausages, bready-type things. Perfect for a hike afterward. We hiked up to Debord Falls, which was already almost dry and then further to Emory Gap Falls, which was completely dry. Save us, Al Gore! Both were pretty but anyone who comes to Frozen Head like in a week will be sorely disappointed unless Katrina-style rains hit.

We saw Great White Trillium and Solomon's Seal and remnants of lady-slipper and that fairy-something, the ones the fairies are supposed to live under. Lady's mantle? No, that's not it. Something like that. I had a little shovel with me, since I was perfectly prepared to commit botanically felonius crime - they have Indian pipe at this park, people! - but I never did find anything worth stealing. I even had a cooler designated for plant-stealing! But it came home empty unless you count that Fresca can I put in it.

We hiked back down Bird Mountain (which honestly felt like an incline more than a mountain) and started prepping Gourmet Camping Meal #2: Salmon with Curried Cous Cous and Cucumber Yogurt Salad. Look, just because I'm living outside doesn't mean I have to eat like a savage! Fresh ground pepper is not too much to ask! Jeremy was in charge of cooking and he did a great job, folding everything up into packets of foil. All weekend long, packets of foil. Foil, foil, foil. Lots of foil. Now here's where things get fuzzy. Alcohol is prohibited in Tennesse State Parks, but we approached this policy with more like a, hmmmm, Don't Ask, Don't Tell attitude. Three bottles of chardonnay later, the lantern was crooked, there was a strange pinecone in my tent, and I had lost three games of Scrabble, even though I played great words like OVARIAN and was only one letter short of being able to play BLOWJOB. I staggered to my bedroom thingie, whassat called? - tent, I guess and passed out with my COFFEE cup in my hand. It was COFFEE, Ranger. I SWEAR.

Fresh as a daisy on Friday, we hopped out of our tents and Jeremy made Goumet Camping Meal #3, a polenta, sausage and egg scramble. MMMMMMM, I would eat this every day. If someone else would make it. You can also see in this photo that I was clearly the winner of Best Tablecloth in the campground competition....

Then we hopped onto the bunny trail, and did a five-mile round trip sort of deal, with streams and wildflowers and ridges and hemlocks and trilliums and all that. The surprising thing about Nature is that it's sort of the same plot over and over. Then: lunch! Gourmet Camping Meal #4, giant sandwiches with tapenade and fancy stuff, and ham and turkey. Like GIANT sandwiches. That is a jar of pickled green beans in the background. FANTASTIC. Then: naps! Oh it's my favorite part about camping so far, the naps.

After lunch, we had new campers next to us, an optician with tattoos and his wife and a young kid. The young kid latched onto us and kept coming over and socializing and to make a long story short, he was hugging us and saying "are you my best friend?" like within eight seconds and before you knew it, his parents were giving him this whole lecture about how he should be less friendly because we could be murderers and he could end up dead (we could hear this whole speech) and then the rest of the night you could see him staring out the tent windows while we sharpened the knives. We should have been more bloodthirsty in appearance, but I was wearing plaid shorts and there's a limit to bloodthirstiness when you're clad in Madras, I think. The parents were right to give the speech, but I hated being portrayed as a villain. He was a nice kid. I hate that that's what the world is like, that you can't be nice to a kid. I mean, I helped him find roly-polys under a rock. But I'm the Campground Murderer. So you watch for me, because I might as well live up to the label.

So then more wine! Ssssshhhhhh! Don't tell! Then Gourmet Camping Meal #5: pork skewers with fennel and onion packets (more foil!). This was great; I'd make it at home.

Then off to the slideshow at the amphitheater given by Ranger Kevin. Ranger Kevin! So funny to have a 21-year old ranger named Kevin! He was also wall-eyed but very nice; it was his fourth day on the job and you couldn't see the slides because it was still too light and the state park people won't let him work longer hours so he gives the slideshow in the daylight. That seemed so....governmental somehow. But he kind of has a great job, the summer ranger who gets to live in the best spot in the campground in a pretty big RV. We were jealous as we walked past it back to Site #3, where we polished off a box of French pinot noir. Sssshhhhhhhhh!

We were still being eyeballed as Campground Murderers by the five-year-old next door.

Then Saturday morning, we had a rerun of the sausage and egg thing, but instead of polenta, we used leftover fennel and potatoes. Best Food Ever. I'm serious. Then we packed up and drove back and all the way back, I was planning my next camping trip. The whole thing was great fun: the air, the stars, the muffled sound of campground laughter, the occasional deep pop of a campfire, the faint scent of a faraway skunk.

I can't wait to do it all again.