Adventures in Tidying

Last week I cleaned out two closets. This is a monumental accomplishment for me. It was perpetrated by the fact that we were away for most of the summer and unusually busy the rest. No time for Spring cleaning (not that I ever partook of this activity, cleaning is done on whim and windows of time). I was also inspired by a visit from my daughter, the most capable, organized woman I know. She juggles career, home, motherhood, and social life with ease. Well, I can’t imagine it’s with ease, but she manages—actually, she more than manages, she’s succeeds! Go figure. This innate talent for efficiency and control surely comes from a distant ancestor, as I’m certainly unworthy to take credit for it.
Nevertheless, motivated by her example, I dug into the horde that had collected in two closets, disposed of the useless and filled the trunk of the car with serviceable donations. Then I sat back in satisfaction—but not for long. Each day I’m forced to face a larger clothes closet in order to dress, stow clean clothing, remove and replace footwear. Also occupying this closet are my cloth shopping bags, past Halloween costumes, scarves, a safe, jewelry, makeup, assorted beads, tassels, clips and doodads that might come in handy someday…or not. Will a hatpin come in fashion in the future? Will I use the ten pairs of eyeglass frames I’ve taken from friends and family? Will grandchildren appreciate my Lone Ranger pocket watch? My Reddy Kilowatt earrings? My father’s Reddy Kilowatt tie clasp?
I have no idea of the value of the foreign currency from a dozen countries I’ve neglected to turn in after traveling, nor the jar of old coins. Who will appreciate my painted motorcycle jacket? Does holding on to my father’s wallet give me joy eighteen years after his death? Heck, yeah! The mini dress I saved from college in the 60’s—it still fits, though it can’t be worn outside in my dotage.
You see where I’m going with this…
A week’s gone by since my initial “surge to purge.” I open the doors of my two clean closets and my yet-to-be-cleaned closet, and stare but the fire is out. In an effort to motivate myself to finish the job (or, ok, evade the guilt of not finishing) I make a pilgrimage to a relevant site in my neighborhood, a monument to the dire effects of hoarding, Collyer Park, the site of the home of the infamous Collyer brothers ( ).
When I get home, I’m too tired to do any physical work, so in the course of looking up the story of the Collyers, I discover a site, with the same name, selling furniture. The irony frustrates me more and I retire to the sanctuary of Netflix.
I find contentment in the knowledge that my children (both) have surpassed me.
Maybe I’ll get around to that closet next week.
Anyone want to buy a motorcycle jacket?

My Summer Vacation

Day 0
Why am I planning a vacation? I live in New York City! Everyone else goes away and I have the city to myself (sort of). I hate airplanes.
Day 1
On the plane—Can’t sleep, iPad jumps when I try to read, no good movies, legs cramps.
Then we land, take our luggage on a bus, but the bus is a boat (vaporetto)! The boat is a bus! We’re in Venice! Canals, lagoon, pasta! Prosecco, gelato! Let me at it. Toilet paper in the hotel is gift wrapped! I’m not in Kansas any more.
Day 2 and…
Rialto bridge, Bridge of Sighs, Correr, Garabaldi St., gelato, Jewish Ghetto, Academia (May be most amazing museum ever! Bosch!), Murano (eh), St.. Marcos, Academe bridge at sunset, churches, churches, HEAT, museum of musical instruments, food!
I don’t want to leave…ever!
Day 6 Florence
Easy train ride. The hotel has given us a hand-held device with GPS and free international phone calls. “Hi, kids, eat your heart out.”
Day 7
Uffizi, David, museums, museums, HEAT, Galileo museum. Churches. Charlottsville 🙁
Day 8/9
Laundry day near Santa Maria Novella, loud smells. Museo del Bargello, walking, churches. Pitti palace, walking, shopping, eating.
Day 10
Tuscany, Siena, San Gimignano.
Day 11
Santa Croce, shopping, walking, eating. Did I mention HEAT.
Day 12
Train to Rome. Old hotel in back street below Spanish steps. Lovely. (see the view of cafes from our window)
Day 13 and…
Colosseum, Forum, HEAT, walking, eating, churches, flea market, ghetto, Kosher lunch (humus, baba, ahhhh), Borghese gardens (hot and dry 🙁 restful ), Piazza Popolo, Ara Pacis (slavery exhibit, oy!), Catacombs (bones removed because tourists steal them!), Borghese Gallery (Caravaggio, but we’re museumed out, can’t stop laughing, place is all marble like living in a [fancy] bathroom—where is the exit?) Last dinner—why am I yearning for fish tacos?
Day 17
Frantic message from our son at the airport, “R U OK? Heard there was an earthquake there.”

Pastry Confessions

I’m primarily an ice cream person, but occasionally my thoughts turn to pastry.
The women in my family (my mother and both grandmothers) were accomplished pie makers. My Manx grandmother baked with lard. As unhealthy as it is, folks went crazy for her creations, sweet pies and pastries as well as steak and kidney pie—a dish I never tasted as I lack the ability to digest meat. My personal favorite was Manx shortbread. Though I now possess two notebooks with recipes in her handwriting, as well as an ancient cookbook of hers, I found no recipe for Manx shortbread. The cookbook I inherited from her is “The Rumford Complete Cook Book.” It was originally published in 1908 and dedicated to Count Rumford who was “ennobled by the courts of Europe because of his pioneer discoveries in cooking” (in 1790 according to the book). The publisher of the book, Rumford Chemical Works, manufactured baking powder (since 1859) which is enthusiastically utilized in a many of the recipes in the book. A short introduction touts the importance of calcium and phosphates found in baking powder.
There’s a recipe for Scotch shortbread in Rumford but I didn’t remember grandmother’s having almonds in hers. The closest I’ve come to duplicating her shortbread is with another Scottish recipe. The directions call for a lot of butter (I use Irish), and entails kneading. Kneading for a period of ten minutes is more labor-intensive than it sounds. It’s best employed in resolving residual anger. Grandmother would be annoyed to learn that her shortbread was tainted by directions and ingredients taken from the Scots and Irish, cultures she considered inferior to the Manx.
I’m more openminded, not only in terms of pastry.
My other grandmother’s ancestors had been Americanized for generations. She was fond of apples. She baked with Crisco (also unhealthy). I favored her apple dumplings. She made them for me every time I saw her, and I ate them relentlessly.
I never saw a cookbook in her house.
This is my pastry confession: these days, as in childhood, I do not like the finished pastries as much as the uncooked dough. In fact, when I bake, I save dough in the freezer to eat at my leisure. I don’t use lard or Crisco, but the consumption of raw eggs in dough is hazardous, so they say. My mother was horrified when I stole dough to eat raw. It frightened her more than the possibility of putting an eye out, making faces that might freeze on my face, or having an accident while wearing ragged underwear.
I’m not generally one to court danger, but we have to give in to some temptations. What’s life without taking a chance now and again. I try to keep my consumption of raw dough outside the margin of stomach distress. Moderation is key, a harmless way of rolling the dice.
It hasn’t killed me yet.

live! (virtually)

I did a Facebook Live interview on June 12, 2017:

Join us for a Facebook Live on Monday June 12 at 11 am ET

Join me on Monday, June 12 at 11 am ET right here for a Facebook Live Q & A about my latest book Life, Death, and Beyond Smiggle's Bottom

Posted by Gay Partington Terry Author on Thursday, June 8, 2017