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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Ownership Class

We're homeowners! Even though our lawyer is not allowed to practice law for the time being, he lined up a replacement to take over our closing at the eleventh hour, and everything went smoothly. That is, we signed all the papers that were shuffled over to us. I guess we'll know how well it went after we get around to reading them.

To paraphrase Mr. Chalmers, owning, so far, is just like renting, except you give them all the money you have in the bank, pay a lot more every month, pay property taxes and insurance, and do all the repairs and upkeep yourself. Which is kind of scary. But then we remind ourselves that the first thing we plan to do is dig a huge pit in the yard and cook a goat in it (or a sheep; more on the meat issue later: our negotiations with a carniceria in Gainesville have been confused somewhat due to a language barrier). Most landlords would frown on that, I imagine, even in Georgia.

After closing ceremonies we went straight out to the house. We hadn't owned the place for half an hour before we'd been invited to church by three different people—the woman who sold us hamburgers in Comer on the way out to the house, and our next-door neighbors (who, incidentally, are under the mistaken impression that the property line between our houses runs from this pecan tree to that pecan tree; we'll see if they make a fuss when I start planting large bushes in what they thought was their yard). I'm relearning how to sidestep the religion question, a skill I'd let slide since I moved from Georgia to northern Virginia in seventh grade. The hamburger-lady exchange went something like this: "You'll like Carlton. Nice little town. The church is nice too." "Wha—which church is that?" "The Baptist one there." "Oh. Yes . . . Carlton does seem like a nice place to live."

So we're moving from Athens to Carlton gradually, carload by carload. When the TV makes the trip we'll consider ourselves Carltonians.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

God and Country

Thalia the bug went to her first rodeo last night, the FFA fundraiser at the fairgrounds in Comer. She saw calf-roping and -tying, steer-wrastling, and a parade of 4-H cowgirls on horseback wearing rhinestone-studded costumes and carrying huge Confederate flags. So much for 4-H.

I can safely say that this was the only Baby Björn at the rodeo.

She also saw a calf scramble, in which dozens and dozens of kids ran around the ring chasing a calf with a ribbon tied to its tail. The winner—the oldest-looking under-twelve-year-old in the bunch—got a free cowboy hat. We turned the bug around in her carrier to face the front for the first time. Her head still isn't quite ready for it, but it seemed to work okay while her dad was sitting down holding her steady. That way she could see everything—the sky, the bright lights when it got dark, the pink thunderheads in the distance . . .

Speaking of Thalia's perspective on the world, I was curious to see what her mobile looked like from her vantage point in her crib, so I took a picture.

Today as part of our all-meat diet we cut two rock Cornish hens into quarters, rubbed them with spices, and grilled them. Delicious and rich. But now all I want are steamed green beans with a side of steamed broccoli.

Grilled Cornish hens: Make a paste with crushed whole cardamom seeds, ground cumin, ground cinnamon, hot red pepper flakes, minced garlic, salt, a pinch of sugar, and olive oil. Rub it all over hen pieces; marinate in fridge for an hour or so. Grill.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

U.S. No. 1

Can somebody tell me what the deal is with these pecans?

A famous anthropologist gave them to my husband yesterday. Are they some kind of special Tifton variety? They look small, rounded (that is, not as oblong as regular pecans), and light colored. What should I do with them? Besides pecan pie, which I've never really liked.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chapter 4: A Monkey Wrench

In which the attorney scheduled to represent Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers in the purchase of their first house is arrested and charged with racketeering = Attorney is released on bond = And which concludes with the attorney telling his clients he's still on for Tuesday

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"May Require Heavy Hammering"

The bug and I spent the morning and most of the afternoon at the house out in Carlton assembling a Char-Griller barbecue smoker I picked up at Lowe's so it'll be ready to go the minute we close on Tuesday. The instruction manual insisted that you'd need two people to put the thing together, so it was a good thing I brought the bug along.

This new smoker looks a little cheesy, with its fake-redwood (or fake-cedar?) shelves and its unattractively scrawny legs and anemic wheels, but it seems to be made of better stuff than the one we had in Florida—it certainly went together more tightly. Most of the text on the box is in Spanish, and the words "al estilo Tejano" are repeated several times, which I think is a good sign. It's also bigger than the Florida model, with four heavy-duty cast-iron grid plates that could probably accomodate two slabs of ribs and a turkey, and maybe a small mess of chicken wings (the Super's specialty; stay tuned for that recipe). But the major improvement is the feature that allows you to lift the bed of coals to different heights, thus achieving various temperatures when you're straight grilling (as opposed to smoking). And the firebox on the side has a slide-out drawer that makes it easy to add coals or wood chunks during smoking, and to clean out the ashes when you're done. I had to leave the firebox unattached, though, because the directions started out by asking me to knock six holes in the side of the grill ("may require heavy hammering or the use of a drill with a 3/8-inch bit"), which I wasn't able to do without an actual hammer. It was also 98 degrees, and I was covered in sweat and the vegetable oil the whole grill was coated in, and did I mention there's this new kind of insect they have in Carlton?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

First Aid

The little grubworm had her two-month checkup today—her first time seeing a doctor since she was four or five days old. She's almost doubled her birth weight and is perfectly healthy, which I take to mean that my own recent diet of mostly Cheeze-Its and quesadillas, washed down with Earl Grey, hasn't had any short-term adverse affects. What new parents say about the first round of shots being harder on them than on the kid is pretty much true. She's sound asleep right now, and I'm still picturing her poor sweet face when she thought it was over after two shots and then the nurse went in for two more.

I haven't cooked much of interest the last couple days because I'm trying to get a chapter of a particularly horrendous freelance editing job (an all-new, fully revised edition of a recently fully revised all-new, all-purpose cookbook) out in the mail this afternoon and haven't had a chance to think about suppers much. (And when I thought about what I had for breakfast this morning—coffee and wasabi peas—it scared me, so I've stopped thinking about food altogether, at least for the time being.)

Wagner stepped on a piece of glass or something out in the yard and cut open his paw; this morning the Super doused it in hydrogen peroxide, which Wagner then tried to lick up off the ground. The foot doesn't appear to bother him any—but then, it wouldn't: he's the dog I caught chewing on a large shard of glass a couple weeks ago. (Our yard seems to be situated on top of a late-'80s garbage heap, because the dogs keep digging crap up and scattering it all over the place—Coke Classic cans are a favorite, as are, well, large shards of glass.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Together at Last

These are just about my two favorite things, best when taken together, and now the combination is immortalized in a blog. I'd never really even read a blog until very recently, when I started browsing and realized that just about everyone in my new knitting group has one. (New because I just moved to town, town being Athens, Georgia.) They're actually kind of fun, so I thought I'd try it out myself for a little while. Briefly immortalized, I should probably say.

On Saturday I made an "apple pudding," using a recipe from an old Southern Living desserts cookbook—lots of said fruit, plus walnuts, eggs, sugar, and so on—and I had a big dish of it for supper with Miller Lite in a can. (They say you're supposed to drink beer and eat lots of apple pudding when you're nursing, right?) Superintendant Chalmers grilled burgers on our front patio for dessert. Saturday was pretty great.

"Including party beverages"! Thank god.
Apple pudding: Beat 4 eggs together with about 1 1/2 cups sugar (this is 1967-sweet; I'd suggest using just 1 cup or less) until light colored. Sift in 2/3 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Fold in until just combined. Fold in 2 cored and chopped (but not peeled) apples and 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts. Scrape into a greased 9-by-11-inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned and crusty on top.
Soon after we move to our new vintage-1885 house in Carlton, we plan to have a fence-building party, at which a whole goat might possibly be cooked in a pit. My husband has always wanted to cook something by burying it and setting the ground on fire. So, readers, something to look forward to.

For the knitters, if there are any out there, the two most recent things I'm working on are: a bonnet/hood thing for the baby out of a gorgeous blue silk-cashmere blend, and the drop-stitch tank top from the second SnB book, in olive-green mercerized cotton. Having problems with both of them, so they're just sitting dormant, tangled up, on a pile of moving boxes.