Book publishing. And everything else.

Going Full Martha

I’m trying to set up a schedule for regular cooking and cleaning. Who better to consult than Martha Stewart, who plans everything daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally?

So Saturday I did a big clean – combining seasonal, monthly, weekly, and daily. I was at it for about 7 hours – and this is a small space! But I moved furniture to vacuum, dust and mop. I cleaned windows (which, if you live on a main traffic artery, get…absolutely MUDDY, no lie). I wiped down Venetian blinds, cleared out my kitchen cabinets and wiped the shelves down, cleaned the refrigerator and freezer. I vacuumed upholstery and throw pillows. I took down the two light fixtures in this place and cleaned them, and swapped out the bulbs for eco-friendly ones (also so much brighter!).

I slept very well.

Sunday I did a food shop. I borrowed Bernardo’s car and ran down to Gerardi’s, our farmer’s market run by a lovely family from New Jersey who grows a lot of what they sell, and sources the rest as locally as they can. I got local eggs and butter, as well as beets (I gave the actual roots to Bernardo; I prefer the greens), spinach, onions, beefsteak tomatoes, basil, acorn squash, local corn, and decorative squashes. Then I ran to Met, which is a franchise run by a Staten Island Italian family that literally stocks EVERYTHING, and got soup greens, a large turkey leg, and some staples. Got a case of Trebbiano and Montepulciano at our wine shop, and a baguette and some chocolate lace cookies from our local bakery.

And came home and cooked.

I started with the veg. Reading this book has given me a lot of ideas (and I’m not even done with it yet). I sautéed the spinach with garlic and olive oil; I removed the spinach, kept the garlic in the pan, added some more oil, and sautéed the beet greens. I divided these into small portions and froze them.

I had some limp baby peppers and leftover mushrooms, so I sautéed those with some onion, and through THAT into individual-sized containers to freeze.

I soaked black beans and kidney beans, and put them into Ziploc bags in individual portions, and into the freezer they went.

I roasted two ears of corn, which turned into 3 servings of cut corn – which of course I froze in individual portions in Ziplocs.

I roasted an acorn squash – which turned into 4 servings, which I (all together now!) froze in individual portions in Ziplocs.

I made a stock with the turkey leg and soup greens, as well as the skeleton of a rotisserie chicken I had in the freezer.

I had some bread in the freezer that was on the verge of freezer-burn, so I turned that into croutons and made a stuffing with celery, onions, mushrooms, and some dried sausage.

It was also time to cook the ground turkey Bernardo had got for me a few weeks ago, so I made Swedish turkey meatballs (I know, Swedes recoil in horror). (And froze 2/3 of them.)

I’ve also had a craving for tomato soup, so I made a big batch of that and froze half of it for pasta fagiole later this week.

I had a chicken breast on the bone in the freezer in danger of drying out, so I poached it and made a lovely chicken salad with tarragon, white onion and celery. Lunch!

I made deep chocolate ice cream with many of the egg yolks; I made an egg white frittata with greens, mushrooms and goat cheese. I made polenta.

This should keep me for at least 2 weeks, possibly the entire month with the occasional meat/fish supplement. I find that since I’ve moved, I’m eating a LOT less meat than I used to. And I still have scallops, a beef pot pie, and moussaka in the freezer for variation as well.

My Grandmothers’ Plates

Today was Wall Day. I didn’t realize it when I woke up, but that’s how it turned out.

I’d ordered a bunch of stuff from Amazon – housewares, decor. But I’d also brought over all these plates from Bernardo’s house. My paternal grandmother would buy plain white ceramic and paint it – I have 10 of her plates. My maternal grandmother (and her mother, and her mother’s mother) has passed down a set of commemorative plates from WWII London – major London landmarks (and I think everyone knows how much I love this city – it is my favorite in the world).

So after I’d unpacked all the Amazon things and put them where they wanted to be (and it’s always a question – your stuff has to be comfortable next to your other stuff, and I am a firm believer in furniture making friends with other decor and appliances), and run a bunch of errands, I decided all the plates were going on all the walls today.

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Those are the London plates. They occupy either side of my main living room window.

Then there are some of the plates my father’s mother painted:


And the “dining room” – a little table where two people can eat:


Most of what I received from Amazon today was for my kitchen, which remains stubbornly cream-colored with red accents, no matter what I do:

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You can see how small it is, but it is fully equipped to provide phenomenal things (my gelato is to die for – I had some this afternoon after my errands and it was amazing).

I’m getting pretty happy with the place. More deliveries (for bed and bath) ensue this week, and there’s a console table coming as well. “Pleased” is a very good way to end a day, I think.

Learning How To Be

One thing I have discovered about being A Person Who Lives Alone is that…figuring out meals is extremely weird.

You’re only feeding yourself. But you don’t want to eat crap, you don’t want to serve your body badly. You want to be kind, you want things to taste good, and when you’re only cooking for one (and you are accustomed to cooking for many), this can be a little challenging.

This is why I have not beat myself up over tossing out leftovers I’m sick of looking at. But I do take notice.

I am also a small person. My appetite, as I get older, has diminished to a ridiculous level. I think of the pictures of Agatha Christie that I used to goggle at as a teenager. As a young woman, slender; as a middle-aged woman, robust and stout; as an old woman, slender again. You just don’t eat as many calories after a certain point.

Obviously I do what I’ve always done (Hermione-style!) and FIND BOOKS ON THE SUBJECT. But also, just in living, I am discovering things. Vegetables are good marinated and they keep a long time and they retain vitamins. If you find yourself with too many eggs, make ice cream because at least you can freeze it. One Seamless meal usually equals 2 regular meals, and possibly 3. OF COURSE YOU CAN’T EAT A WHOLE ROTISSERIE CHICKEN BY YOURSELF, YOU CRAZY WOMAN, so freeze whatever you’re done with, and make a good broth later. What goes in a salad? (I still haven’t figured that one out for myself.)

Living outside of someone else’s expectations of How Things Should Be is unnerving. But of course every day is an object lesson in that.

Head, Shoulders, Knees – oh, wait

I usually try to get in 3 miles a day walking in either Clove Lakes Park or Snug Harbor. In addition to the 2 miles per day running errands/doing housework/living, it adds up and keeps my weight down and my spirits up.

I appear to have re-injured myself last week, though. In 2004, I took a tumble on an icy East Coast ski slope and tore my ACL. The shock was immediate; I couldn’t walk, I had to be transported down the hill by a stretcher-sled, I was in the ER immediately while shaking.

This was a bit different. I wear sturdy shoes for my long walks. They are a bit heavy. It seems that the lower half of my right leg went one way and the upper half went the opposite way, and my knee caught the brunt of it. Already weakened (despite reparative surgery), it seems to have gradually given up the ghost. By Saturday night, I was wakeful, feeling it swell up as I slept. By this morning, I knew I had to go to the emergency room.

Thankfully, it is a holiday weekend and people seem to be having emergencies elsewhere. I was in and out in record time – X-Ray, splint (oh, how familiar), and- instead of crutches – a cane. So it’s not as serious as it was in 2004. With luck I won’t need surgery.

Bernardo, God love him, drove me to the hospital and back. He made me a wonderful lunch at his place, and drove me back to my apartment. I rested all afternoon, watching the rest of Miranda. I fixed myself a nice dinner of rotisserie chicken, creamy polenta, and English peas, with a lovely Indaba sauvignon blanc.

Fortunately, I had placed orders at both Peapod and FreshDirect, so I have PLENTY of food. I’m well-fixed for kombucha and seltzer and wine, caviar, cheese, bread (I know). So this convalescence won’t be half-bad. The splint is marvelous; with the cane, I can manage to get around fairly well without much pain. The shock has worn off (there’s always shock when you have internal bleeding, which this was, apparently), and I’ll have a nice bath with my bath bombs, and go to bed early.

Some Nights

Some nights I stay up/Cashing in my bad luck/Some nights I call it a draw – fun.

My sleep patterns have been odd. 11 hours one night, 7 the next. This tells me I have a way to go before I’m better.

It’s also a challenge to figure out How To Be. When you’re co-habiting, it’s kind of easy – you’re the other one. When you’re on your own, you…don’t have guidelines or expectations. Which could be blissful. But it could be scary.

What does a salad mean? Do I even want a salad? What’s lunch? What’s breakfast, for that matter? How much is too much? What if I want to spend the evening curled up in a chair, binge-watching “Call the Midwife”? When do I take out the trash? What’s worth getting outraged about?

I’m literally having to rebuild myself. It’s good work, but disorienting. There are three constants in my life right now: work from 9-5 (I’m keeping that clock religiously); my walk from 5-6ish-whatever; and God love her, the nearly constant communication with my best friend Rachel.

I don’t even know what to eat. Today I think I had mostly cheese.

Re-defining a relationship is hard, too. I’ve never been good with boundaries, which is why I’m in the predicament I’m in. I have a VERY hard time saying no to people I love. So tonight I spent the evening working, dwelling, ordering sushi, marinating in questions that are Hard For Me.

Marinating is important, I’ve realized. I’ve accepted its place in work. I’m learning to accept its place in life. As I rebuild, I have to re-invent my nights. I know from folks in recovery that nights are the hardest – my recovery’s a little different, but many issues are the same. Thank God for the Web. Actually, thank Tim Berners-Lee. There’s always company when there’s the Web.

Domestic Bliss

I slept late this morning. Till 10 – it’s been an age since I’ve done that.

Then I had coffee and breakfast and read the news until about noon. And then the cleaning began again.

My Dyson is lovely; the allergy/asthma attachments are amazing. I also love my Swiffer duster and mop. I cleaned the place in about 45 minutes; I love having such a small space to worry about.

And then cooking.

I made chicken stock. Then a white bean and leek soup. A bolognese. I froze extra beans for later. I made polenta for my breakfast this week, and a cherry tomato sauce to go on top. I made green juice, and pineapple/peach juice.

Later this week I will make chocolate ice cream, and an angel food cake. But for now, this is enough. I went to Bernardo’s for a glass of wine and a dunk in the pool, and a visit with his older daughter. Today was quite lovely, quite ordinary. I do love ordinary time. It’s very comforting.

Closer to Fine

I’m nearer a routine. It depends on what kind of day I have – there are those when I go to bed at 10 and wake up at 9; there are those when I go to bed at 11 and wake up before 7.

“Oscillation on the pavement always means there’s a love affair,” says Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps oscillation in sleep cycles means something similar – having a (very tentative) love affair with your own life and self.

The move is, essentially, complete. I expect my couch on Friday. I have a few more art items to fetch from the house (I just don’t know QUITE where I put them). I have several more things to order – ottomans and the like – but I have everything I need to function as A Person Living Alone.

I continue to go to this very intensive therapy. It’s a tough place – the song from “Little Mermaid”, “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, just rattles around in my brain as I pass people on the way in and wait with others in the waiting room. These are half-spirits, coming back into their own fullness (some of them – others of them, apparently, not so much). Being with them, even for 20 minutes a week (I usually arrive early and have to wait), tethers me to our humanity. We can insulate ourselves as much as we want – from lack of privilege, from poverty, from mental illness, from racial inequality – but none of us are immune. We live in the world. We have rights and some of us have privileges – and we have responsibilities toward one another. The greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility towards other people who don’t have those privileges.

(Yes, I am working myself up for some volunteer work.)

In the meantime, I am back at work. I am waiting for the Y to finish its renovations so I can go back to yoga again. I am winding down a Miss Fisher marathon so I can pine for Season 3. My life is my own and I need to figure out what happens next in it.

Cleanliness Is Next to…Asthma

For much of my adult life, I’ve had a cleaning person. My theory has always been: (a) leave it to the professionals (b) it eliminates a source of argument between couples. Even when I lived on my own in Brooklyn, I had a lovely person coming to make off with my dirt. Because it wasn’t just my dirt – I had two kids and a demanding job, and I needed help.

My job is still demanding. But my kids no longer live with me. And I have a massive dust allergy.

Bernardo has a cleaning person as well. When I moved out, the room where I spent most of my time was…largely made of dust, apparently. Once all my things were moved, there were several enormous mounds of dust behind and under things. She is great, but obviously I need to take matters into my own hands.

So I resolved to clean every week, and tonight was when it started. I Swiffer-dusted every horizontal surface from doorjambs to venetian blinds; vacuumed windowsills, upholstery, and my mattress in addition to the floors; wiped down everything wipe-able in the kitchen and bathroom; Swiffer-mopped the wood and tile floors; Windexed all glass surfaces that I could reach (outside panes of windows not so much). I showed this space no mercy. And it took approximately 90 minutes. I learned from the best: this guy. He cleans deep and he cleans fast. (No, I don’t wear the apron. And, as an asthmatic, I swear by Swiffer rather than cloth rags. But thanks to following him for five years back when my big girl was tiny and my little girl was not even a notion, I know my way around an apartment as far as cleaning goes.)

And I love my Dyson. It’s a stick vacuum, with about 20 minutes worth of vacuuming life per charge, but with this tiny place, I only need about 15 minutes for it to do everything I need it to do. It gets EVERYTHING off the ground, the furniture, the windowsills.

As of this evening, I institute a No Shoes Allowed rule. I’m probably the only one coming here except for Bernardo and the UPS guy. But that’s okay. My home, my lungs, my rules.


The art went up on the walls today. Not all of it – I still have some in the basement of the house – but about 2/3 of it. It’s lovely to see the photographs of my family on the walls. My mom took a selfie at age 14, and it turned out really well! It’s a photo I love, along with those of my dad at age 9, his mom, my maternal grandparents – it means so much.

And then there are the prints I bought when I moved in 2001. A Munch – not The Scream, but The Storm. When I was a kid, summer storms were an occasion of joy. The clouds would gather, my father would watch the sky, my mother would make us ice cream cones, and we would sit on the porch and watch the lightning. If there was no lightning, we would put on our swimsuits and dance around on the front lawn. I have a photo of my kids doing that while visiting my mom – it’s such a joyous feeling. So while The Storm means awful harbingers to most viewers, to me it is a symbol of happiness and ice cream.

I also hung up Matisse’s Red Studio, which is an homage to workspace. Because I work at home, it means a lot to me.

And then, in the bedroom, Starry Night. It used to hang in my kids’ room; I wanted them to have a Van Gogh to look at. My bedroom is done up in blue colors, so it goes – but more than that, it’s sort of sinister and yet comforting. We see more stars on Staten Island than the rest of New York City, but it’s still a bit challenging. It’s nice to have them where you sleep.

It’s so important to have a bit of yourself on your walls. I’m not finished, but this is a very good start.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley

I had all kinds of intentions this morning. And nearly none of them happened.

Instead, I was hit with a bout of reflux. I recovered in time for yoga, but came home to make some soothing polenta, followed by a dish of watermelon. I got no pictures hung. I got no floors vacuumed. When I had energy again, I hiked to the strip mall with TJ Maxx and Michael’s, and picked up some Stuff On My List.

Then I went to the house, and met up with Joanna (B’s ex, Gina’s mom, and my friend). We wound up having a lovely conversation that wove in and out of everybody else’s needs. I drove her to the ferry, and then came back for a dinner of barbecued chicken and a corn salad, and then Bernardo drove me to my apartment. I’m wiped from this day; not sure why. But I know I’m going to curl up with Miss Fisher and go to sleep early, and we’ll see where we are tomorrow with those intentions.

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