Sunday, December 14, 2014

From my Coast to yours...

Well.
Here it is. Two weeks until Christmas, give or take a couple days.
Nope. That isn't right. I just looked at the calendar. It is 12 days until Christmas, give or take a few hours.
Yet I sit here at 10:11 on Sunday morning drinking coffee and watching Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, while remaining in my pajamas. I need to run past my folk's house for an emergency homemade candy pick-up before stopping at the grocery for cookie baking supplies and then one last stop to pick up goodies for the work party gift basket. I need to finish the final gift shopping list for tomorrow.
And I haven't sent out a single Holiday card.

I am feeling surprisingly stress free.

Because in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss:

It came without ribbons! It came without bags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!*

however, it would be hard pressed to arrive without Otter Claus


Here's wishing that your Holiday Season is happy and healthy and silly and special and
a little bit more!*
While Harvey Flamingo sports a tasteful evergreen spray, Moe Cabeza, of Easter Island fame, feels there can never be too many Santas.

From the Coast of Illinois to What Ever Coast you call HOME
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

*From How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Seuss.

(I am hoping to return in the new year with the long anticipated travelogue of my sailing school adventure and general silliness. Because while the holidays have been quite pleasant, my writing life has been a little chaotic. Please check out the Sailing page for a photographic peak from Tortola, BVI.) 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

#WeAreSTL-kept my mouth shut too long

Here on the Coast of Illinois, I try to keep things non-political. I find that politics really messes with the easy going island vibe I am trying to cultivate. Unfortunately, events on the Coast have taken a nationwide turn and I feel the need to throw my two cents in.
Okay, not exactly my two cents. What I agree or disagree with is really irrelevant.
However, my belief about this town is very very relevant.
What do I believe?
I believe St. Louis is a city rich in history.
Soulard Market. The oldest open air farmers market west of the Mississippi.

One of many barges which have traveled up and down the river for years, supplying our country with grain and coal through both peace and war.

Eades Bridge - the first bridge to span the Mississippi.


Home of so many authors-Tennessee Williams for one.

I believe St. Louis has some of the best venues for live music.
rooftops in july

picnic tables next to bbq joints in the middle of downtown

open air cafes in the county


eclectic 'cafes' in South City (this also falls under home of many oddities, as this is the artificial leg of piano player James Crutchfield)
buildings so old....well, it used to only have one bathroom whose door barely closed
this would be that door

I believe St. Louis has some of the weirdest....ahem, unique sites to be seen.
flamingos in the snow

yes, that's a full 10 stories

horse drawn carriage in the drive-thru

a 'puking pig'...wait for it...

there it is...

I have no words...

and of course, the world's largest underpants
I believe that St. Louis – is more of a state of mind.
that enormous stainless steel arch? it is a symbol of forward movement
It is a magical place that is the SUM of its many communities; not to be defined by all the negative images displayed over the past few months. I am not a Pollyanna when it comes to real life. Yes, there are major issues with violence here. We have unemployment and homelessness and sports teams that choke in the playoffs. But tell me a place that does not have these issues?
The basic fact is, St. Louis is so much more. 

We have debated and protested long enough. Now we need to pull together, treat one another the way we wish to be treated.Think kindly and act kindly.

We need to pull together as a community. Not draw a line.
The Line. Lines should be for mapping purposes only. They should never be drawn to divide communities or people.
There is an initiative moving through cyberspace named #WeAreSTL. The goal is to return some positive vibes to our hurting community. I was not officially invited, but I am hitching my sailboat to the movement. Because this is not a sinking ship. It's sails are just luffing a wee bit. And together we can trim them in, catch the wind and move forward. 
I AM ST. LOUIS
 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving PS

Turkey. Sweet potatoes. Brussel Sprouts. Green beans. Cranberries-real and canned. Gravy. Corn casserole.

Plus:

Hash brown casserole. Hawaiian King rolls. Shrimp Dip. Stuffing. Pie. Whip Cream. A gigantic plate of homemade candies, (six varieties).



That is a lot of food for nine people.

And in the end, there is:

Nine dinner plates.

Nine dessert plates.

Twelve glasses.

Five wine glasses.

Two roasting pans.

Three pots.

One dutch oven.

Three crocks.

Plus:

serving utensils and knifes, forks and spoons.



That is a whole lot of dishes for nine people.



And I do not have a dish washer.




I prefer to clean up alone. I always have numerous offers to help but the biggest reason I don't have a dishwasher is the fact that I have a very tiny kitchen. There is no room for a dishwasher. Which means very little room for helpers.

I have clean up down to a science. And in forty-five minutes the above list was packaged, washed up and and almost completely put away.

(I let the glassware and the big pots drain overnight. I am not completely insane.)



My sister, her fiance, my nephew and our parents went home. Bart and our kids were in the front room, laughing as they watched the completely holiday inappropriate It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I took up my station at the sink and let my mind wander.

Washing dishes is almost as good for creative thinking as showering and driving.



It occurred to me, as I hefted the first enormous crock into the sudsy water, that the reason I don't mind doing the dishes is the fact that I grew up in a house of dish-doers. Which took me back to the many holidays in my Mother's and Grandmother's kitchens. The head of the respective house washed and we peons dried. Sometimes it was just my sister and me. When we were younger it was a variety of Aunts. The women chatted and we kids kept our mouths shut and gleaned tidbits of gossip about who dried her noodles in the clothes dryer, and whose mother dressed him as a girl when he was a young child.



I studied the various pots and pans:
             my Great-Grandmother's china

  Grossmutter. She liked to pinch. Hard. But I was little, I am sure she was a lovely person.

        Grandma S's crocks
the Pampered Chef roaster from my Mom
the Big Blue Roaster from my Sister-in-law
Grandma S cooked all the time. Except when she was a nurse. I clearly reaped the benefit of my Mom's Pampered Chef addiction, these are probably the best products out there. That roaster was a wedding present. At the time, I never imagined I would use something so enormous.

        the dutch oven from my son
This was the first Christmas present my son bought be all on his own. It is so heavy. Some day I will have to hire people to lift it for me and then I will pass it on to one of his, as yet nonexistent, children.

 the wine glasses from a dear friend
Look! We haven't broken a single one...yet...And oh my, the stories they could tell...

I have been doing a disservice to the kids in my family. How can they ever pass down all those fabulous tidbits of everyday minutia if they aren't in here drying and stacking and wishing they were the ones washing?

Guess what kids.

Next year there will be towels with YOUR names on them.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gooble Gooble!

It's that time of year again...
Time to over-stuff the fridge.
 
Never complain that the fridge is too full!

Time to torture non-sprout people with Brussels sprouts.

When did these become the gold standard of holiday veggies?


Time to perfume the house with the delicious smell of roasted turkey.

Ah the majestic bird. You have done your brothers in semi-flightness proud.


Time to gather the fam together and say Thanks!

Turkey coma. The real cause of zombie-ism,

Happy Thanksgiving from the Coast of Illinois!


Show me a more beautiful skyline.

Come back next week for a new installment of Coast of Illinois hits the road!


And don't forget the sprouts!

*On a local note: many events in this Coastal area have been on the news. I am proud to call myself a St. Louisan. Please, do not let the actions of a few influence your opinion of our wonderful town. Ultimately, we all want the same thing - a peaceful, productive and equal place to live. That world is possible but violence is not the way to achieve this. Treat others the way you expect to be treated. You might be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Suh Early...

It is 0230.

A. M.

I am completely dressed, make-up on, coffee half drank. Drunk? Really. It's 0230 in the morning. Does it really matter?

Here's the rub.
I am doing this voluntarily.
This has nothing to do with work. (see Beck and Call)

I rolled out of bed to the obnoxious alarm clock all for the sake of adventure.

My question is this:
Why can't an adventure start at a civilized hour.
Say 1030?

Did Louis and Clark leave for the great Northwest Unknown in the middle of the night?
Doubtful.
And these were two of the most adventuresome people I can think of.
You know why?
Because it is TWO THIRTY A!M!

(More to come.)
(after I get a nap.)

Seriously? Meriweather and William would never have been sound asleep on their straw beds.

Monday, November 3, 2014

#findAdventure

Welcome November!

Autumn is officially in the air. The cupboard is stocked with rejected Halloween candy and Thanksgiving is only four short weeks away!
Most importantly, my long awaited sailing school adventure is drawing near.
That's right. The Coast of Illinois is taking a road trip.
To an actual Coast!
Actually, an Island...but more on that later.

Consequently, I am in the inevitable pre-vacation tailspin.
I need to pack.
Do laundry so I can pack.
Stock the house with food for our now adult children who are on house and cat duty.
Buy cat food.
Update our will.
Be sure the kids know where all our important papers are.
Clean the house so it is clean when I get back.
Remind the adult children where the cleaning supplies are so THEY can have the house clean before I get home.
Clean anyway.

And to add to the frenzy, this vacation came with HOMEWORK!
I loved homework when I was a kid.
Now it's all I can do to read a newspaper.
The US Sailing Basic Keelboat Certification book is ninety-one pages long. I have had the book since April. I just finished it today.
Thankfully, I have a little more time plus at least three different airplanes to complete my studying.

I am alternating between little kid excited jitters and full blown nausea.

I would also like to present a challenge. 
Look closely. that's a navigational chart. I can't even use a GPS.
Thanks to the wonderful world of internets, I have become acquainted with a wonderful website- Adventures of Empty Nesters, and its founder Suzanne. She has begun a campaign to #findAdventure.
The idea is just that – find adventure in your life. It doesn't have to be a graded sailing trip. It could be a new restaurant you have been thinking of trying. Or a new exercise routine. Maybe a new language or instrument.
Shake it up!
Stretch you boundaries!
Open your eyes to the new and interesting. 
There is something to be said for stepping outside that comfort zone. (For me it is simultaneous cravings for and repulsion of bologna.Don't ask. I'm sure it is a comfort thing.)
And as you do, post your pictures and comments on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag: #findAdventure

Oh, and one more thing - you can now find me on Instagram! Search for 'Coastofillinois' then follow me! At present there is only one picture up there, but hopefully, I will get all the bugs worked out soon.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

For Pete's Sake! Close the Door!

There is something watching me as I sit here in the kitchen writing. It is quiet now but there have been footsteps, open cupboard doors, shadows where there is no light...
It may be her story...
But this is my story too.

We were in the house about four months. Nothing special, except to us. Oh, the previous owner had passed away; 'dead before she hit the floor' according to our neighbor. Which was no surprise given the amount of nicotine on the kitchen tiles and living room curtains. At least she liked to read. Along with all the nicotine stains the previous owner left a makeshift library in the basement.
We replaced the curtains, chipped away the tiles and added a faux brick wall. The books were donated to Goodwill, except for a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover and a vintage Escapade magazine featuring some B-List actor's wife as the centerfold. The previous owners not only had a penchant for smoking. Apparently they also enjoyed light pornography.

But it was our house now.
Nothing special.

Until....

My husband was at work, night shift. I was alone. Well, not exactly. Baraboo, our cat was there. Not exactly with me. She was never that sort of cat. But she was in the house. I went to bed with the plan of a good night's sleep before a big day of gardening.

I woke to the smell of smoke. Not the smell of a fire. Just the smell of smoke. Sitting up in bed, I took a deeper breath and the smell was gone. But as I lay back down, it drifted back into my nostrils, wrapping its tendrils around my head and seeping deep into my brain.

I sat up again. The smell was faint. But there was something else. A sound. Soft and fluttery, like the sound a page makes when it is turned slowly in a movie. My initial thought was how ridiculous it was. I had spent the past twelve weeks removing the previous owners remnants.

And then I heard the book hit the floor.

I quietly got out of bed and slowly walked to the doorway. I flipped the light switch and illuminated a nearly empty hallway. Baraboo sat at the far end, staring down the steps to the basement. She turned her head, the way a cat does, her expression a 'well, let's get this over with'.

Okay.

I walked to her side and flipped the stairwell light. The house was a split level. Four steps down to the landing and then another switch to flip.
Pause.
An invisible smoke curl and pages turning.
Four steps to the basement.
Flip a switch.
We were using the basement as a catch-all of items waiting for permanent spots once this level was finished. An old couch looked toward an as yet uninstalled wood burning stove. Several boxes towered in one corner. The leather front bar, a 'bonus' piece with our new upstairs furniture waited to be stocked, the bar stools sitting empty.
No smoke in sight.
No book open to a telling passage.

One last switch and the back of the basement lit up. Empty metal shelves lined one wall. All empty. Not a sound.
Not a smell.

I shook my head and looked down at the cat who gave me a look which said, "what is wrong with you. There's nothing here."

"Come on Boo. You're right." Together we turned and reversed our course. Lights flipping off. Rooms bathed in darkness as we made our way up the stairs. At the mouth of the hallway, the cat took the lead. Walking gracefully down the middle of the carpet, stopping before each open door, surveying the shadows cast by the hall light, then moving on. I followed along. One eye on the cat, the other on my bedroom at the end of the hall. Four doorways in between.

Bedroom on the left. Clear.
Bathroom on the right. Clear.
A second bedroom. Clear.
At the powder room door Baraboo stopped, I did the same. But rather than calmly sniffing the air and moving on she took a step forward. And with a low growl, she hunched her back, hair bristling from neck to the end of her tail which now stood at attention. Her tiny paws lifted her off the floor in a sideways dance as her growl became more intense.

My circulation stopped. Cold grabbed hold as every nerve in my body began to quake. Grabbing the cat I bolted for my bedroom, slamming the door and diving under the covers in less than three steps.

I never did look into that bathroom.
In my mind I heard our neighbor....'dead before she hit the floor'...
Only I would have a ghost who makes it's first appearance smoking and reading while on the toilet.
 
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!


Hope you have enjoyed this month of scary. If you have stumbled over here to the Coast then check out these links on the right.
And come back next week when the Coast of Illinois returns to it's 'normal' ridiculous self. Scary, but only because these ridiculous things really do happen to me.
Daily.