Monday, April 28, 2008


Okay. Breathe. We're still not completely done yet but the BIG THINGS are finished. I give you THE DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM! This is the bathroom with the year-long sink saga; we started with this sink but, due to a design flaw in the sink itself, it wouldn't empty properly; there'd always be a little pool of water. The one nice thing Expo has done is that they let me choose a different (much more expensive) sink and they didn't charge the difference, though after two years, I would have been very surprised (and hissy-fittish) if they had. This new wall-mount sink solves a lot of problems: you see more of the floor (which I love) and the basin itself is a little more substantial. That medicine cabinet is temporary; a wall-mounted mirror is going in as soon as I save the money for that. The sink itself has a partitioned drawer that's much bigger, so I can lose the medicine cabinet storage.

And! They moved the toilet back against the wall, so I no longer have a walk-behind can. Only three things left in the whole house: seal the stone floor, re-bead a glass shower wall and install the laundry room counter backsplash. You too could live your bathroom fantasies....just twenty-seven months later!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bonus Hike! And? Lost!

The Sunday Morning Hiking Club met again today, even though the President and Vice-President hiked yesterday at Grundy Forest. We did, after all, have 10,000 carbs to work off after our visit to the National Cornbread Festival and Crazy Person Convention. No other members of the Sunday Morning Hiking Club showed up today, however (probation looms, in your future, people), so it was still strictly an Executive Branch sort of hike. Chicago Meg and I headed out to Hamilton Creek Park to conquer the Pinnacle Trail. This is actually a mountain biking trail, but we only ran into a single lone biker.

Okay, this was one crazy, meandering hike. I swear there's only like ten acres of land or something but this thing snakes around a lot more than you might think. Mostly woods-hiking, but there were a lot of different micro-climates jammed into a very small area: woodland, meadow, rocky, suburban split levels. The trail book says it's only five miles but there's no way that's true. This was not a difficult trail, very gentle up and down, but we were EXHAUSTED at the end so we're sure the mileage is wrong. The map doesn't really reflect exactly how many trail junctions there were - and not a single one of them was marked. We kept passing slightly-unofficial-looking markers that seemed to be random numbers. 4! 3! 6! 8! Connector! What the fuck?

I think we chose correctly at every junction, though, and I will give myself some credit: at one point I knew exactly where we were because of the compass on my walking stick!. There was a busy road to our right and based on which way the compass said we were headed, I knew where we were. At least 90% of me did. The other 10% was sending a note to Sacagawea to come get me the hell out of there. I give Chicago Meg some credit here too: when I said we should go a certain way and she seemed to be leaning a different direction, she said "okay!" and we went my way and it did turn out to be the right thing. I'm not so sure I could ever be so cheerful while at the same time being positive that I was going to starve to death walking in a death spiral in the woods. Which is why she's the Vice-President of the Sunday Morning Hiking Club! I like Yes Men!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The National Cornbread Festival and Crazy Person Convention

So! The National Cornbread Festival and Cookoff. MY GOODNESS! If you open up Google Maps and type in "Crazy Town U.S.A.," I can state with a fair amount of certainty that you will be given the following answer: South Pittsburg, Tennessee. Just a quick trip down I-24 and over the Monteagle mountain from Nashville, this little old-fashioned town is definitely the epicenter of full-blown crazy ... especially if you are in the mood for some Jesus-inspired pottery, some Jesus-inspired stained glass windows or some Jesus-inspired chicken on a stick. Or, you know, cornbread.

Chicago Meg (who is watching her Chicago-style-life recede faster than ethics in the White House) and I drove down to South Pittsburg at the crack of dawn - we had planned a brief stop for a 2-mile hike in Grundy Forest, and it was a lovely little loop, all waterfalls and cascades and giant hemlocks and mountain laurel (not blooming yet) and it had that smell that I can't quite identify, but it smells like the Sierras. Are there hemlocks in the Sierras? I'm trying to figure out the lowest common smell denominator ... what is it?

BUT ANYWAY we were very focused on the Cornbread Festival. So we rushed the hike a bit and got back in the car and headed down the mountain toward Crazy Town.


The National Cornbread Festival and Cookoff is almost impossible to describe. Combine the supporting cast of Deliverance, a possible Food Network program called Coronary Challenge and TLC's What Not to Wear and you pretty much have it. Never before have I seen so many precariously-situated tube-tops in such close proximity to fried chicken and cross-eyed banjo players! Well, outside of my Baptism, of course. But! We paid the outrageous admission price ($3) and got our hands stamped with the image of a little red cast iron frying pan and entered. The first thing we saw when we entered was the souvenir hut (I bought the t-shirt with the image of a license plate that reads I82 MCH). We immediately headed to Cornbread Alley, which was this thing where you paid $2 and got samples of eight different kinds of cornbread on one plate. Okra Cornbread. Cornbread Donuts. Upside Down Cheesy Chicken Cornbread. Etc. Etc. Lots of shit that didn't go together. But still, it was funny. Chicago Meg didn't eat more than one bite of any of it! She hated the Okra Cornbread; it was my favorite. She liked the Cornbread Donut; I thought it was icky. The National Cornbread Festival is divisive, just like Barack Obama says race is. Who knew? Anyway, Obama Oeight!

From there, we walked the length of the Festival, past the craft tents and food court and carnival down to the Lodge Factory Outlet. South Pittsburg is the home of Lodge, the company that makes all that cast iron stuff. It was packed, so we had anxiety and left. We strolled back the way we came and happened upon a cornbread eating contest ("Don't choke" was the emcee advice) and an ice-cream eating contest. We missed the Buttermilk Chug, which actually I think I could have done well in - I do like buttemilk (don't clog the comments with your buttermilk-hate; I'll just delete them!). Then I bought a sculpture made up of a syrup can, two spools and two dominoes. I was cornbread-drunk! Then we sat and watched the first round of the Cook-Off. I was rooting for a lady from Arkansas who was making a cornbread hot brown, because I do like a hot brown. Food of the gods! Turkey, cheese sauce, bacon, tomato. And she was piling it up on top of cornbread! I don't know if she won or not; we didn't stay for the crowning. The emcee lady was some small-market news lady who reminded us that Memphis was in the state of Tennessee, then courted controversy by saying it might be okay to put sugar in cornbread (which it is absolutely not) and the crowd grumbled a bit and planned a lynching for later that night. Poor future dead news lady! Then we strolled over to this weird twilight zone where there was a roomful of restored Coca-Cola machines and beautiful vintage coolers which was freaky because I am a tiny bit obsessed with coolers, especially ones that say "Pleasure Chest" on the outside of them, of which there were two. Thank god they were $150 each; I could not have explained that to Sister Meg, especially since there are already four coolers in the basement. We also stopped into an antique store that had really pretty things where Chicago Meg almost bought this pretty piece of abstract metal that turned out to be a template for making parts for a prison door and since she has a crazy fear of prisons she didn't buy it and I discovered that I might need yet another set of dishes, these Noritake Silverdale things, which are just white with silver rims, but the shapes of the sugar bowl and creamer are a little space age and Japanese at the same time. So that was trouble and my new eBay search term is born.

Okay! So then we went all the way back down the length of the festival and back to the Lodge Outlet, where I bought some really pretty green speckled enamelware (25% off!) to ensure that I win the Best Campsite award during any possible future camping trip and Chicago Meg bought some magic crazy red suede gloves. We were just about cornbreaded out by this point, so we headed out and went to Dixie Freeze and got a brown derby and a peanut butter milkshake. That was pretty much the end of Crazy Cornbread Day, and I haven't even gotten to the part about seeing Jesus - though a picture follows - or the Hillbilly Restaurant that amusingly requires shirts and shoes or the giant ice cream-promoting cow but really: some things are just impossible to expain. You'll all just have to come and see it for yourselves next year, if you're in the mood for crazy....

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flower Power

A few pretty things from my garden. Things finally started happening. The world's most invasive Lenten rose; a jack-in-the-pulpit; and some columbine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The House That Jack-Offs Built

Some of you may know already that Sister Meg and I have been undergoing a double bathroom renovation for over two years. I won't post about that quite yet - you'll know how it all turns out when you open your eyes one bright morning and see MASSACRE AT DESIGN EXPO splashed on the color TV - but it might surprise you to know we've decided to upgrade the kitchen a little (through a different store, needless to say). Nothing super major - just countertops and a backsplash. The counters are gonna be a Corian-like product. We switched from a light granite to a grey granite finish at the last second (we'll see how that turns out). Stainless undermounted sink. White tile backsplash with a little stripe of pewter-finished detail liner. Two short chalkboard-painted walls. They already came and measured and the whole thing is supposed to be done in three weeks. We told them about our troubles with the OTHER store and they are amusingly determined to show them up.

In other news! The toilet leak turned out to be a shower leak so - totally still under warranty and now I think they have to replace my entire bedroom ceiling. Hahahahahaah, eat it, Expo. But until that is fixed, we have a toilet that works upstairs and a shower that works downstairs, and it's very confusing when you wake up in the middle of the night for a second or two. Sometimes I just go outside and pee in the bushes.

Monday, April 21, 2008


So! Sunday Night I went to Chicago Meg's house on the river for my first seder. Capital S on that? I dunno. It was so nutty! I had no idea. I mean! If I had known about this religion that MAKES you drink wine - FOUR TIMES! - I would have signed up for that ages ago. Chicago Meg said we were supposed to throw it back, too, so you really do get woozy pretty quickly. A lot of it was fuzzy to me - some familiar stuff (Miriam, river, reeds, blah blah, wandering, Red Sea) and some not so familiar (like why the "mortar" tasted like fruit; I mean if it's meant to be a symbol of enslavery, it seems to me it should taste bad, not magically delicious!) But whatever, no one asked me my opinion of the plot.

Chicago Meg set a lovely table and I was pleased to discover that there were lots of props. I liked the ten-plague-finger-puppets the best. These were actually a re-gift, originally given to me by my Lady Author friend Katharine Weber, but I passed them on to Chicago Meg because I didn't have any History of the Hebrews puppet shows planned in my immediate future. At the time. But now I might want them back! There were also finger puppets for the Four Questions, about which I will say: these are not the Four Questions I would have asked. But anyway, these four seem popular.

Chicago Meg lives on the river and her dining room overlooks the Grand Ole Opry complex. And you know what that means! Right on cue during the Red Sea part of the comes the General Jackson Showboat, chugging upriver, overloaded with buffet-grazing tourists and blaring "Sweet Home Alabama." Okay, no, not really, it was a different song. One we could not identify, but we all decided the story would be better if it was "Sweet Home Alabama," which actually does get played on the General Jackson steamboat every night, so we aren't changing the story too much. We toyed with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," but thought, no, that is too much for anyone to believe. We (okay: I) interrupted the story to all run out and take pictures of it.

Okay, so then there was brisket and matzoh ball soup and green beans and our friend Lauren brought a pavlova that was pretty damned great and there was wine wine wine, oh there was wine. Seems like there was one part where we had to go on a treasure hunt for a cracker. They made the non-Jews do it since there weren't enough kids (there was just one) to do it. The cracker was hidden in a grandfather clock. Sister Meg found it. Then we opened up the books again and finished the plot of Passover. I give the story an 8.

Then, just like Moses did after he parted the Red Sea and freed the slaves by writing the Emancipation Proclamation and inventing electricity (again: wine), we picked out paint colors for Chicago Meg's bedroom. Jamaican Aqua, which isn't at all the color you think it is. We also discovered that accent walls - where you paint one wall a different color - are OUT! Don't even THINK of it! PASS ME THE SMELLING SALTS! After all that finger puppetry and crazy made-up-sounding singing, it was nice to learn something at last!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Pantry Chronicles

No hike this week! It was crazy cold - at least for April - and Chicago Meg's parents were here (they taught us bridge!) so we were all distracted by that. We did go to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday, where stupid black-toothed Jewel squawked her way through a few songs. Last week it was the Opera. This week it was the Opry. Next week...what? Oprah?

I decided to tackle the pantry. It's been in need of cleaning, thinning and reorganizing for well over a year. So here are some thrilling pictures of that. The first three are the "during." Then the "after." Don't ask me why I have all that Splenda; I have no idea. Perhaps I am planning to give a bunch of mice cancer. YOU'LL NEVER KNOW. But this project ended up involving a hack saw and so that turned out to be a pretty exciting pantry-cleaning, when I got to use the Man Tools. It was harder than a hike and about halfway through it, I thought "I might actually just have to move." But I stuck with it and now it's practically the nicest room in the house.

Then I went to learn bridge and it's HARD and it's NOT COMPATIBLE WITH DRINKING because you have to pay a lot of attention. Chicago Meg's mother threatened me! "I'm GOING TO KILL HIM" was her exact quote. But then, I had just bid "five diamonds and a kitty kat!" or something, so maybe I deserved a little threatening. We'll see if it sticks. I did dream a little bit about it and Project Runway judge Nina Garcia was in the dream criticizing my bridge playing. Chicago Meg's mom and dad brought me what is supposedly the world's best beef jerky - from Smoky Davis in Idaho - so I look forward to the eating of that.

Then this morning the contractor showed up to start finishing the two-year-long bathroom renovation and ha ha ha the brand new upstairs toilet is leaking through the ceiling into my bedroom so now they have to rip out my bedroom ceiling to figure all that out, because if they go through the bathroom upstairs, they'll destroy un-matchable marble tile. I almost fell down laughing. Or crying. Or something. I can't even talk about it really; maybe one day I'll be ready. ANYWAY! Let's look at the pretty pantry to draw our focus! P-r-e-t-t-y. Pretty. No crying. There there. That's a good boy. Sssshhhhh.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Opera, Woods, Gnomes

Saturday, Chicago Meg and I went to the live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's "La Boheme," which they broadcast into movie theatres around the world. It's a pretty cool idea and it was fun, but if they'd cut out the seventeen intermissions and two hours of backstage chitchat, the whole thing would have been an hour and a half long and thus much less dread-inducing to most people. There were about fifty people in the room. It's funny seeing an opera in a movie theatre as opposed to an opera house - people still do all the annoying movie theatre things - unwrap sandwiches wrapped in what sounds like corrugated tin, chit chatting, cell-phone answering. It's not cheap - $22 - so I was a little irritated by all that. And then they left the lights up well into the second act and I had to go out and ask for them to turn down the lights in "La Boheme" and I was predictably greeted with "in the huh?" I'll go again, but I might go over to the fancy side of town the next time.

Then on Sunday, Chicago Meg and Nashville Carol and I went on a 2.5 mile hike in Edwin Warner Park, the Harpeth Woods Trail. Muddy, muddy, muddy. Also this one had a lot of "up" and it was not as easy as I would like it to be for when we go to Big South Fork in just six weeks (!); I am wondering if we are as prepared as we think we are. Chicago Meg brought her dog Cooper again and that was nice - he's a great dog - though because it was a beautiful day there were precisely eleventy thousand other dogs on the trail and so that slowed us down because Cooper is Still Learning how to handle the presence of other dogs. Sometimes he doesn't even look at them and sometimes he goes bananas. It's very unpredictable and we can't quite identify the trigger. Then as the trail skirted the picnic area, there was REALLY LOUD music, like half Latino and half Moroccan. And seriously, it was LOUD. I could barely hear myself complaining! This was the loudest Nature I've ever experienced.

The woods were filled - and I mean filled - with trillium. All along the trail, the whole time. I've never seen so much trillium. I kept pointing it out and the ladies were like "yeah, WE'VE SEEN IT" as they marched on. So then I quit pointing it out. We circled back down to the parking lot and loaded up and left. After that, Chicago Meg and I went and decimated a Target and a World Market. I bought sherbet lemons and a measuring cup. She bought a breadbox. Then we went to the scary gnome store. And so ended another fascinating Day in the Life. JEALOUS?