Lyrical Laughs

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Working well (not) together

Last weekend we had a short visit from The Love Couple who happened to be in New Hampshire for a wedding. They came to Maine Saturday morning for about 24 hours – just long enough for it to be a tease, but in a good way. We were very happy to have them here and we made the most of it – after we cleaned the place up.

Yes, even though it’s family, Spouse and I went through the usual panic cleaning routine the night before and the morning of their appearance. On Friday evening he scurried around washing, cleaning, and shredding. I was distracted by social media, cuddling with the cats, and Modern Family reruns.

On Saturday morning I was up ridiculously early sweeping, vacuuming and cooking while he slept in. When the timing felt right I made enough noise to wake him up.

When it comes to projects that require our immediate attention and cooperation, we work very well together.

As long as we stay away from each other.

My mate will work on things until midnight and not be tired, but the growl he emits some mornings when the alarm starts ringing would send Bigfoot back into the woods. I, on the other hand, am falling asleep on the sofa by 8 p.m. many evenings. Morning hours are my most productive. That is why many times I start writing this column early Monday evening and might only get halfway through before I’m brushing my teeth and climbing into bed. That Tuesday morning you will find me typing, proofing and editing as early as 5 a.m., feeling refreshed and ready to tackle such subjects as tourists or junk email.

We didn’t decide on this pattern of collaboration of sorts, it just happened that way. Our partnership happens to consist of working separately, though it doesn’t always go smoothly. For instance, when we think we’re “helping” each other and are actually reversing the process.

Spouse: “Are you done with the Swiffer?”

Me: “No, I still have to use it in the kitchen.”

Spouse: “Oh… so I guess I shouldn’t have put it back in the closet yet.”

Me: “Please stop being helpful.”

I don’t think we're so different from many others who get a little lax with the housekeeping (to put it mildly) until someone else is going to enter our abode. At that moment we initiate our cleaning method, which is more of a stuff-it-in-the-closet/drawer/spare bedroom system. Hey, everyone has their own way of cleaning. Let’s face it - if I ever considered hiring someone to clean periodically, I would have to spend a week scouring before I would let them enter my home so they don’t leave screaming down the street.

But I digress. My point is that Spouse and I complement each other in our own odd way when it comes to panic cleaning, which is not all that different from panic harvesting, if you happened to be here last week.

It’s good to have someone who will work with you, even if the unspoken rule is that you are really working alone for the sake of avoiding a cleaning war. Of course, in last weekend’s case The Love Couple decided to surprise us by pretending to be at least an hour away. When they did arrive early I was still in my pajamas, unshowered and reeking of furniture polish and that morning’s breakfast. Naturally, I was not going to complain about having even more time with them.

We probably need to time things like showers a little better. Then again, hopefully the scent of furniture polish and breakfast felt like home to The Love Couple.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Time to hurry up and harvest

This weekend my freezer is filled to overflowing with various containers of stuffed peppers, tomatoes, eggplant dishes and a squash concoction - the result of a garden that seems small until we hit what I like to call Harvest Panic Season.

It began last week when temps plummeted from 70 to 40 in a matter of a few days. We knew we weren’t due for a frost yet, but it was still time to bring in our garden booty. Here is my method: cook, blanch, peel, slice, drag out every plastic container I own for freezing, then finally name the item and mark the date on the container so that I can easily identify them when I find them four years from now.

We really do try to use whatever we can (and whatever we can’t pawn off on friends and coworkers), but we have to talk about the tomatoes. I mean come on, when Spouse trudges in with bags bursting with big red fruits and plops them on our not-very-spacious kitchen counter, it becomes a consume and conquer mindset.

Here’s the thing about those tomatoes. For the past few years I’ve convinced my husband The Gardener to cut back on the amount of tomato plants he purchases. Reining him in proved to be difficult at first, what with interesting tomato names like Beefsteak, Better Boy, Brandy Wine – and that’s only the B’s. And let’s not forget cherry or grape tomatoes. By the time we were stripping the garden we could have made a float for the Tomato Bowl Parade, if there was such a thing. Hey, if they could do it with roses, they could do it with tomatoes.

Zucchini squash is another story. Ironically, Spouse is not a fan of zucchini during any other time of the year, and yet we have never missed a season of squash planting. They must taste better after he sweats half his body weight off sticking them in the ground in July instead of May when we (excuse me – he) should have started planting.

You need to understand that I grew up in a house of cans. If we wanted vegetables we turned to Del Monte – none of this grow-your-own business. Cream style corn and French style green beans (French style was as exotic as it got) were regulars on our table, right next to a slab of beef and mashed potatoes or chicken and rice. If it was a weekend we had pasta with Mom’s delicious homemade sauce (as if there was any other kind) and salad with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, but even that meal wasn’t vegetarian, because you didn’t have pasta sauce in our house that wasn’t loaded with ground beef.

Then I met Spouse (long before he was given that moniker) and I was introduced to his family’s garden. I should have known it was going to be trouble when his family tossed around words like Swiss chard and fertilizer as if they were naming puppies.

It has been a rewarding experience to grow our own veggies most of the time, like the year we got the most amazing Brussels sprouts ever, even though they were very small. There have also been garden fails, like two years ago when I thought I was buying cauliflower and it turned out I was the not very excited owner of six cabbage plants. Don’t you know those suckers came back the following year?

Fortunately, I have learned to make pretty good vegetarian dishes, and if they are lacking my technique is to throw in some chicken for balance. Still, we have an overabundance of one particular item. So in Henny Youngman style, if you happen by my house this week you may see a sign that says “Take my tomatoes… please.”

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The "other" tourist season in Maine

Summer is over, school is back in session, and the sidewalks in Portland are once again quiet and easily maneuvered - a stark contrast to those congested summer days.

Or so you would think.

The truth is, this is hardly the end of tourist season. In fact, another aspect of tourism is in full swing. Several times in the fall I drive into Portland and witness a change in the skyline that only happens when towering cruise ships come into port, spilling tourists out in droves.

This is a different sort of clientele, often retirement age or close to it (though there is no hard and fast rule that says you can’t be young and enjoy a cruise), and mainly without children since they’re back in the classrooms. The cruise ship crowd is usually adorned with some sort of identification dangling around their necks, naming both the ship and the passenger. I think it’s kind of funny because there is no lost and found booth for tourists in Portland that I know of.

Similar to the summer mob, this wandering crew also carries maps of the local area, searching out restaurants and gift shops. But before they get very far these folks are greeted by a very special breed of Mainer.

The crafters.

You can find any number of fun items along the sidewalks of Portland when the ships arrive. Maine is represented in knitted mittens, lighthouse photographs, gemstone jewelry and many other unique pieces on display. These hard working people are dragging their tables and many bins out and setting up eye-catching displays before cruise ship passengers have even had breakfast. They offer friendly smiles and stories of Portland Headlight’s history or the best places to search for tourmaline. I imagine cruisers must spend the evening cramming irresistible handmade trinkets into their luggage.

Cruise ships sound like floating adult amusement parks to me. What with the constant entertainment, pools, shopping and nonstop eating, a ship can fulfill the wishes of just about anyone who takes the plunge into the cruising world.

Spouse and I have talked about going on a cruise someday. Though I’m not totally sold on the idea, I guess it would be fun to be on the other side of the ship, you know, the side that’s sitting on the top deck with a cool drink instead of staring in wonder at one of these mammoth vessels. Of course, we would have to come across a fantastic price, so we’ll probably wait for one of those last minute deals where we’re not sure we would actually have a cabin... ma
ybe just a seat on the lido deck. Hopefully we wouldn’t have to clean the pool to earn our keep.

Our niece and her husband - both far from retirement age, by the way - came through Portland on a New England and Canada Cruise just last week. Spouse and I met them for lunch, which was a bit ironic considering their only time visiting us in Maine happened because they left Connecticut to board a ship that brought them here via New York and Boston on their way to Halifax and Nova Scotia. That’s a pretty roundabout way to meet for lunch, I would say!

I’m not sure Spouse and I will actually ever dive into the cruise experience. Maybe with the right amount of seasickness medication and enough activities and food to distract me, though, I might be willing to let someone navigate a gigantic tub across open seas with me in it.