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Archive for the category “The Home”

Birds Near Me

I’m fascinated by birds – no idea why. It appalls me that there’s something I actually share with Jonathan Franzen. I suppose not everyone is perfectly imperfect.

My apartment is a block away from Clove Lakes Park, which is filled with all sorts of interesting birds – a family of herons, at least one cormorant, kinglets (who are not afraid of anybody, and bop alongside you in the bushes as you walk), and warblers (who do the same). The centerpiece of the park, obviously, is series of lakes and streams formed by glaciers in prehistoric times, which is surrounded by trees and brush for the birds’ habitats.

Three ways of looking at a cormorant:

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Two ways of looking at a great blue heron mama and one way of looking at one of her babies:

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One way of looking at a goose who is following you unassertively, for some reason you will never fathom because geese are foul, hissing monsters who only love you for your food:


I’m also two blocks away from the Staten Island Zoo; the YMCA where I go for yoga classes is right across the street, and doing sun salutations while the peacocks are loudly mating is hilarious and fun.

See if you can find the peacock and the peahen in the tree.

Peacocks in the tree

I’m also about a mile away from Snug Harbor. There, swallows, robins, and red-winged blackbirds swirl around me in an almost terrifying way while I walk around the little pond where they live. (If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of swallow dinnertime, it’s quite disconcerting.)

Red-winged blackbird banking in the field near the pond:


And a swallow barnstorming:


And finally, because it’s Staten Island, which is the Florida of New York City:


The bird that gets caught. This is the sight that greeted me when I first came to check out my apartment. Because gallows humor is my default mode, I knew this was a truly appropriate omen.

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.

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.

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.

I’m Always Blo – Breaking Down Boxes

Yeah, no bubbles were blown today.

I’ve unpacked the last of the boxes from the house. I have some pictures to put into storage, others to hang on walls, and I’ll bind up those boxes tomorrow. All my appliances and tools are here. The light bulbs are in all the lamps. All the yarn is gathered in. (What remains is Kid Yarn, which I’ll eventually retrieve and store.) I bought the produce I want to stock my kitchen with – tomatoes, avocados, peaches, etc. I took a delivery from FreshDirect which included flowers that DIED IMMEDIATELY NEVER DO THAT.

Tomorrow is the first day of my first full week in the apartment. I’m going for a mani-pedi in the morning, after all this boxing-in and boxing-out and schlepping and dragging. Then it’s yoga class. Then a stop by the Italian specialty store for some of their amazing mozzarella. And then home to put up pictures, vacuum with my Dyson – and take a lovely walk in Clove Lakes Park, where I am told there is a heron. REALLY want a photo of that heron.

And then Monday it’s back to work. I await a couch. I will soon order side tables, and a coffee table in the form of a storage ottoman with trays, once the couch arrives and I figure out how everything works together. My theory on furniture is, move in with what you’ve got, see how it wants to arrange itself, and order accordingly. All the pieces have to live happily alongside each other. My bedroom is really harmonious. It’s all these different pieces, gathered over the course of my adult life, and they’ve all decided to get along. But I had to get a new nightstand because the old nightstand quarreled with the new bed. You have to listen to your furnishings, or you get a bad environment.

Bernardo helped me return extra boxes to U-Haul, and took away the AC I’m not going to use. I have a dehumidifier coming; in a basement apartment, it’s already cool – it’s the humidity you have to worry about. A busy day – but Saturdays are like that. I’ll have a soak in a bit, after I configure the Apple TV, and then continue my marathon of Miss Fisher.

Man Plans, God Laughs

Well, instead of creating more peace today…

I puttered around the apartment in the morning, continuing to put things right. Then, in the afternoon, I emptied out the house of the remainder of what I need to live here – as well as providing a backstop for Bernardo so he could go to the gym; I got Gina off her van and gave her a snack as I was reconnoitering. So I arrived back at the apartment in Bernardo’s car (which is a Rav4, so big hauling capacity) with a zillion boxes (mostly of yarn), dumped them, returned the car, went for a swim and had a beer, and came back to the apartment kinda pretty tired.

Peace will have to come tomorrow. Tonight I made my first solo dinner in a long time – tagliatelle, with a tomato sauce made from garden tomatoes and cream, with pecorino. It wasn’t much, but I haven’t been eating much, and I ate it all while watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. There will be more deliberate cooking. Soups (I love making bean soups), sauces, curries (once my reflux is better). I bought a load of containers for freezing, and have a store of Ziplock freezer bags as well.

So it was busy. But good. Progress continues apace. I’m not used to this – I’m not used to a positive move-out. But it’s going well, all things considered. It continues to go well.

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