How to Have a Päntsdrunk Weekend (with Wine Pairings)

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UGH.

This week though, am I right? It’s felt like an entire year of bad news and gut-wrenching images rolled into one giant horrible week.

Which is why I think most of us are just really looking forward to sitting at home, drinking wine in our underpants this weekend. Like, REALLY looking forward to it.

Well, good news. 1) You can (at least, I think you still can in this current, messed up iteration of America) and 2) the Scandinavians have already beaten us to it and they even have a name for it. Because—of course, they do.

Yes, the genius people from the cluster of countries who have already brought us the awesome celebration of all things cozy and comfortable (#hygge4lyfe especially in winter), have now given us a new lifestyle/wellness trend. Or, if not new, at least have given us a name for it. Two, actually.

Päntsdrunk, aka: kalsarikannit

Kalsarikannit

And, it’s specifically the Finnish who are responsible for this one. I don’t know any Finnish people (other than that they are consistently ranked as some of the happiest people on Earth), but I feel like it isn’t really overblown to describe them as geniuses.

As Elite Daily describes it:

“Päntsdrunk is basically what happens when you refuse to let FOMO get the best of you.”

OK, I’m already in. But, please, tell me more.

Päntsdrunk is a ‘path to recovery and self-empowerment,’ defined by utter relaxation and temporary escapes from real-world stressors, such as work emails or annoying small talk.”

I am all about self-care. I love to relax and escape. But not the type of self-care I have to actually leave the house to enjoy or participate in or be around other people to partake in. I get annoyed by people at THE SPA. Do you know what kind of self-involved, anti-social hermit you have to be to get annoyed by people at the spa??

So, it goes without saying that I’m only interested in self-care that can be practiced in the privacy of my own home in its utmost, laziest forms. This one, according to Finish journalist Miska Rantanen, simply involves “drinking at home, alone, in your underwear.”

new going out

Oh yeah. I’m (mostly) down. I do have a couple of slight alterations to make, though. 1) Change “underwear” to pajamas or loungewear, and 2) swap out “alone” for “with my beloved significant other who is in the same room but likely doing his own thing, with his own drink and doing it silently.”

I love this bit in the Elite Daily article, because holy hotdog, this roundup of activities just speaks to my soul.

“To be clear, at no point does Rantanen suggest that Päntsdrunk should be equated with binge drinking. Rather, it’s all about allowing yourself to relax while being totally sequestered from the ‘real world.’ An ideal Päntsdrunk night for me would assuredly be homemade cucumber jalapeño margaritas, along with a few seasons of Girls, a face mask or two, followed by a bedtime of 9 p.m. sharp……It allows everyone to do exactly what they’ve always wanted to do (and have probably already been doing in secret), without feeling bad for it on a Friday or Saturday night.”

Since I am so here for this trend, I want to offer up some wine pairings with some of my favorite self-care activities.

  • Reading celebrity magazines at the kitchen bar while XFE cooks us an amazing meal – This is one of my favorite activities, and one that I am very good at. I usually offer up a weak, “Anything I can do to help?” while distracting him with various celebrity gossip tidbits. Pairs well with a nice, rich Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Playing with/grooming/caring for Pinot and Port (our cats. Yes, they’re named after wine) – There’s a bit of an age discrepancy here, so I actually have two wine pairings. For Port, who is just over a year old and very active, I recommend a glass of crisp, dry Sauvignon Blanc. Because odds are pretty good that either myself or the cat are going to knock the glass over and spill wine all over the cream living room rug, so white wine = easier clean up. For Pinot, who is 7 years old, kind of lazy and literally plays while laying down, a bold Pinot Noir, naturally.
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The squad, ready to chill. 
  • Bubble bath and face mask – Light a scented candle, fill the tub with a healthy dollop of Laura Mercier bubble bath, slap on some Caudalie instant detox face mask, and pour yourself a glass of spicy Malbec. Just don’t fall asleep. I always do that and there’s nothing relaxing about being startled awake by a mouthful of heavily perfumed bubbles. Or spilled wine.
  • Organize and purge – There’s just something about color coordinating your closet/significant other’s tie rack/pet supplies and/or throwing out all your unused and unloved crap that is so, so satisfying and relaxing. You’ll need a mellow Chardonnay, some equally mellow music (Might I suggest some 90’s trip hop, ala Portishead or Sneaker Pimps?) and a couple of hours to just disappear into the trance that can only be brought on by Marie Kondo folding techniques.
  • Pinteresting – While I mostly think you’re supposed to keep distracting and upsetting technology at bay, I’m pretty sure Pinterest gets a pass. It is probably the most used app on my phone and my go-to when I want to kill time and dull brain cells. I can save and organize pretty pictures of pretty things all damn day. Plus, Pinteresting is just so hopeful for the future! Am I ever going to live in a mid-century modern bungalow in LA with a sauna room built in? Eh, probably not. But it doesn’t stop me from pinning every damn photo I see. Will I ever have a need to make frozen bowls with delicate herbs and greenery suspended in them to hold votives in? No! But their so pretty and Scandinavian! Do I really need to save all these fondue recipes when Trader Joe’s has a completely serviceable fondue kit? Nope. Not even a little bit. But I like to save and organize all these ideas. Which calls for a delicate and eminently drinkable Rose that can carry you through a wasted afternoon of picture sorting.

So go ahead. Get Päntsdrunk this weekend or sans-pants-drunk, if semi-nudity is your thing. We’ve all certainly earned it. Plus, we’ll probably need to store up our emotional wellness reserves to face the next 942 days.

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This Town Might Have a Dead Body Problem

Hey, who likes to hear about dead bodies? Or maybe I should say, “near misses with floating dead bodies?”

I mean, who doesn’t, amiright?

I realize this is a pretty abrupt manner in which to get started back into blogging. BUT, as a die-hard murderino (SSDGM, MFM crew), I have to post about this crazy, possible (but probably not?) hometown murder.

So, on the work front, things have been pretty busy since the beginning of the year, which isn’t a shocker – that is usually my busy period. But most of my really big yearly projects are slowly winding down (last big convention for the year is next week), so it’s been a nice quiet week here at Poe Communications/ National Detective/Sleuthing Services Agency, LLC.

cat detective

(Sidebar: Here’s a Buzzfeed list of 13 Signs Your Cat is Secretly a Detective).

And when my non-husband, XFE mentioned going to the gym at 6 am, I checked my pajama pockets for excuses and finding none, gamely agreed to go along with him. However, when we got to the gym, we saw construction crews tearing up the street to get to the water pipes and all the lights in the gym were off. After seeing other would-be gym goers leaving the scene, we surmised that our gym was probably not open. Yet, here we were, all dressed in spandex and ready to sweat.

Now, we live in Old Town, Alexandria, just a few blocks from the Potomac River. And along this stretch of Old Town, we have a lovely collection of waterfront parks, most of which are connected by a biking/walking trail that runs all along the Potomac. It’s pretty dang nice and its definitely one of my preferred running paths.

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Pretty typical waterfront park view. Notice no dead bodies clogging up the river.

Since the gym was closed, we decided to take advantage of the cool morning and go for a walk along the Old Town Waterfront, which will now be known as Scenic River Murder Path (SRMP).

We headed south. Because I’m a curious, snoopy sort of person, I spent a good portion of my time checking out all the various bits of debris that had washed up along the shoreline after the many heavy storms we’ve had over the last couple of days. I’m always surprised how many logs and just huge splinters of logs, along with just tons of trash end up stuck in all the various nooks and crannies along the SRMP’s otherwise well-manicured trails.

OT Waterfront
We walked along this lovely area. Keep it in mind.

This morning, as I was gawking at all the debris, I didn’t see too much of note, except for one foam-pontoon-looking thing that had washed up into a pile of logs and trash near the Potomac Riverboat Company office. At first glance, it’s large, concave white shape reminded me of a dead, belly-up shark, which caused me to do a double take and then laugh at myself over the idea of a shark in the Potomac River.

But then, this afternoon, XFE sent me this story:

How the body of a man ended up in the Potomac River in Alexandria is under investigation by the Virginia city’s police department.

The body was found Wednesday morning in the river not far from the marina in Old Town, not far from the Torpedo Factory, according to the Alexandria Fire Department.

Police will investigate how the man ended up in the water and how he died.

The man’s identity has not been released.

Holy Torpedo Factory, that was right where we were! How could we not have seen it? I was literally gawking at every bit of flotsam and jetsam and yet, somehow I had managed to not see a body bouncing around???

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Look familiar? Yeah. I know. Image from reporter Victoria Sanchez’s Twitter feed.

I immediately started looking for more information and found this:

A body was recovered from the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday morning, Alexandria Fire Department said.

Around 9:15 a.m., fire crews responded to the scene just off the Old Town Waterfront for a report of a person in the water.

The fire crew has handed off the incident to the Alexandria Police Department. The PIO does have much information that can be confirmed at this time, but it has been reported as death on arrival.

Wait a minute, 9:15??? We were right there! We were walking along the marina area at like, 6:30!! How did we not see anything??

But then, my Internet sleuthing got even spookier:

 A man’s body was found in the Potomac River Tuesday evening in D.C.

Metropolitan Police say the unidentified man was unconscious and not breathing when he was located. His body floated approximately 10 feet off the shoreline of Dangerfield Island in the Potomac.

According to investigators, there does not appear to be signs of foul play.

So, another, different body was found in the same river the night before. Oh, and guess where Daingerfield Island is? Just north of us, along that same hike/bike trail! Basically, (well, not basically, but literally), the two bodies washed up two miles and about 12 hours apart.

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That’s suspicious, right?

I have just so many questions, but I think the main one is: what was the deal with the water pipes outside of our gym this morning?

And, in slightly more upbeat neighborhood news, we’re getting a Taco Bell (free Nacho Cheese Doritos® Locos Tacos Supreme® for every murder mystery solved)! But also, it will serve alcohol (Margarita Bell Grande?).

Old Town is so weird. And apparently, dangerous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, Petunia.

Last Toons

We have a saying in my family. Well, maybe it’s just in my family, or maybe it’s a Southernism, I’m not sure. But when someone is especially old and ornery and not doing well, we’d say “the devil won’t take her/him.” It means that the person in question is so mean-spirited and bossy, that the devil’s afraid to let them into hell because they’ll take over and start running the place. It’s meant to provide some reassurance that the person you love will be with you a bit longer, so don’t you worry. And, it provides a little chuckle, an inside joke about that ornery, old person.

I used to think that about Petunia. She’s going to be here a long time. She’s too mean to die. The devil won’t take her.

Two weeks ago, we made the brutally difficult decision to have our ornery, old cat put down.

And, I’m crying (again) even as I type this. Because my heart….my heart is broken.

Petunia was in my life for 15 years, 8 months and 6 days. She was, for all intents and purposes, my baby. My heart. The only living thing I’ve ever nurtured and loved pretty much from the beginning of her existence.

I found her when she was around 6 weeks old, hidden up in the undercarriage of a car in my apartment parking lot, mewing for her mom. I have no idea how she got there or where she came from. I wasn’t even sure it was a kitten crying. I had convinced myself that it was a baby bird in some tree. After a day or two of trying to pinpoint the sound and finally realizing that it was a lost kitten, I laid on my stomach on the hot parking lot asphalt for hours trying to lure her out, with tears running down my face, same as right this minute, only back then, on that warm May evening, it was out of frustration that I couldn’t convince her to let me save her.

I never intended to keep her. I was a broke ass college student who already had one cat. So I took her to the vet to get her ready for adoption. Even the vet knew I probably was going to keep her.

The bond I built with her was the best part of me. With Petunia, especially over the last two years as her health declined, I displayed a patience and nurturing that I didn’t know I had and that I don’t really display in other relationships or other parts of my life.

 

It killed me to see her struggling, health-wise. Two-and-a-half years ago, she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. We tried medication, first a gel that was supposed to be rubbed into her ears. That didn’t go well. (Her history with meds is well documented). Then with a pill ground up and hidden in her food. She suspiciously ate it, and for a week or so, things appeared to be looking up. But late one night while my significant other, XFE was out of town, she had a horrible reaction. It scared me to death. So we sent her off for radio-iodine therapy—a tortuous 4 days of quarantine. But it worked and her thyroid levels improved.

However, some of the behaviors that had caused us to become concerned in the first place didn’t go away. Petunia never regained the weight she lost, even though she had a good appetite. She still paced in circles all hours of the night. She often seemed confused and unfocused, meowing at walls until I’d come and scoop her up. She still had tremors in her front paws. She had arthritis and difficulty finding a comfortable cat loafing position. Her balance and mobility were pretty poor. Her eyes dilated completely and stayed that way, no matter the lighting conditions.

The vet said it might be neurological, maybe dementia, maybe cognitive disorder. Just part of getting old. It was the first time we discussed quality of life.

We promised Petunia there would be no more vet visits (she absolutely hated going to the vet and had to be drugged just to get her in her carrier). We promised her we’d just make her comfortable and let her live out her days in peace.

She stopped coming downstairs as much, spending most of her time on our bed hiding under her favorite sweater, or in a makeshift bed we set up in the floor of my closet, or in her special scratching box/cat cubby that XFE had bought for her. But she was still eating well, drinking lots of water, using her litter box properly, grooming herself. She’d sleep with us occasionally, a tight kitten roll between my legs. I would stay still all night, not daring to move an inch, even if it meant I didn’t get much sleep.

If Petunia didn’t sleep with us, she’d pace – down the hall, up the hall, up on my side of the bed, over to the nightstand, jump down,  down the hall,  up the hall, up on my side of the bed….Sometimes she’d just stop in my bathroom and cry. I’d get up, no matter the hour, and go scoop her up and hold her until she calmed down. Sometimes we’d have to do this several times a night/early morning. It reminded me of those first tiny meows, and crouching on a hot asphalt parking lot, trying to convince a traumatized kitten that I was the best thing that would ever happen to her.

We had another ritual these last two years or so. While I was in the shower every morning, Petunia would come in the bathroom and jump up on the toilet seat lid. I’d come out of the shower and wrap myself in a towel and sit on the edge of the tub. She’d climb over into my lap and head butt my chin while I’d pet her (gingerly, to avoid her arthritic areas). She’d rub her face against me, re-marking me as “her person.” She’d lean into my chest while I held her as tight as I dared and whispered in her ear.

Sometimes, she’d eventually scoot down and try to find a comfortable position to take a short nap. The whole ritual could go on for 10-30 minutes, depending on her mood. But I didn’t mind. Even as my hair got dry and frizzy and my towel stayed damp and the bathroom got too warm or cold. I’d stay and hold her as long as she’d let me. XFE called it our “HR meetings.”

When Petunia stopped coming in for HR meetings, we knew it was a bad sign. She withdrew even further, showing no interest in anything other than her meals, and even then, just barely. She stopped sleeping on the bed, stopped sleeping with me at night, no matter how still I’d lie. She just stayed in her scratching box/kitty cubby, coming out only to eat.

Cubby cat.jpg

We knew it was time, but still, I wanted her to stay. I saw and heard about so many other cats who lived 17 years, 20 years, 22 years. Why wouldn’t our cat?

But she couldn’t and she didn’t. We had to be the ones to make the decision, for her sake. Before it got even worse and more difficult for her. We could have gone on worrying about and fretting over her forever, but we knew that she was done with living and I was just keeping her alive for my own selfish needs.

So, we let her go. And I’ve cried just about every day since because my heart still hurts, even though it’s half missing and has got this Petunia shaped-hole in it. Or, more likely, because it now has that hole. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I believe that when you die, you just die and you only live on as a collection of memories in the heart of those who loved you. But if there is something else, I hope Petunia is being her old, ornery self and giving the devil a hell of a time.

Toons at Payne
Healthier, chubbier times.

 

 

 

 

Post #987 on Why I’ve Not Been Posting More Regularly

My absolute favorite blog in the entire world is the Everywhereist. In fact, I almost don’t want to talk about it because I’m afraid you’ll wander over there and abandon my modest musings forever.

Every single post gives me the same mixture of emotions in this exact order: First, giggly amusement and head-nodding recognition. Then the real shit-storm begins: I’m overcome with intense jealousy (why didn’t I think to write that?), blinding inspiration (I’m going to write something just as good!) and finally, debilitating despair (I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a writer), all in the same millisecond.

So basically, I’m saying it’s all Geraldine’s fault that I’ve been lapse in my blogging.

Actually, she just had a post that perfectly sums up the agony of sitting in front of a blank screen every single day and trying to write for yourself or your imagined audience, or blessedly, most days, for profit. Even if writing is something you love, we all know that it is the things you love that can sometimes cause you the most angst.

And the thought of letting anybody down? Well, it’s paralyzing.

There are so, so many things I love about this post, but my favorite bit has to be this one, perhaps because it sums up the current sluggish blog-publishing situation I’ve found myself in:

 “I’ve noticed you haven’t written anything in a while.”

Really? I haven’t? Thank you for bringing that to my attention. Because it’s not as though I’ve been obsessing about that as I stare at my ceiling in the middle of the night trying to coax the words out of my head while feebly fending off crushing feelings of self-doubt. Nope. Definitely not.

Dear and incredibly-patient reader: This is very true. All of it is true. The whole damn post. I promise.

I’d love to tell you I’ll get my shit together soon and do a better job balancing the paid gigs with this little love-project, but who knows, really? More than likely, I’ll write a blog post here and there while I’m procrastinating on a paying gig on a topic that isn’t really my cup of tea. Like, today’s post, just for example.

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Cracking the Oyster Cracker Code

Yes, we went to London weeks ago, and yes, we’ve been back for a couple of weeks now, and yes, I owe the world some posts about the Ab Fab time we had. But to misquote Kanye, “Yo, London, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but….” (Sidenote: I had to bookmark this Wikisite of Kanye quotes is now bookmarked. Because, let’s be honest, when isn’t a Kanye quote hilarious?)

What was I saying? Oh yeah. Kanye. Or, actually, oyster crackers and why they absolutely, unequivocally, indisputably suck.

Kanye

This tirade is actually not completely out of the blue, and is in fact, London adjacent. We had no food when we got home, so we defrosted some leftover chili out of the freezer. Now, since I’m from Texas, the only suitable accompaniment to chili in my mind are corn-based: cornbread or Fritos. Chili and corn just go together. Period.

My beloved XFE is not similarly palate-encumbered (and apparently, neither are the people of Cincinnati, where this abomination is quite common). He seems to like oyster crackers, and his reasoning seems sound: they’re small, so you can control the portions and they stay crunchy in soups and chilis.

cincinnati chili
Cincinnati does all kinds of weird stuff to their chili, including the use of cinnamon and cloves. Oh, and putting it on top of spaghetti. I believe that’s called “bolognese” NOT chili. 

But it’s precisely this characteristic that makes me so suspicious about the makeup of oyster crackers. What the hell? Why do oyster crackers stay (for the most part) crunchy?

This article gives a bit of history, and clarifies that they are a flour-based product but doesn’t really explain why they stay crunchy.

I would parry that it is because they are horrible. Tasteless, bland, horrible pseudo-accompaniments. Not even good enough to sit next to Saltines in the cracker aisle, because at least Saltines have salt on them. There’s some effort at flavor with a Saltine. Oyster crackers? Not so much.

In fact, I think the recipe for oyster crackers goes something like this:

  1. Take a plastic tub of white paste.
  2. Cook it till hardened.
  3. Top other more flavorful items with the results.
  4. Watch your saliva dry up and your tongue shrink away from the horror.

ralph-the-paste-eater

So they are basically the equivalent of celery. No, scratch that. Because at least with celery, you can stuff that little groove with some spreadable cheese or peanut butter, making them a handy delivery vessel for some yumminess. You can’t spread anything on these stupid, mini-“crackers.” I don’t even recommend you try this, because I have and it does not go well. Those things just fly out of you pinched fingers. Plus, celery is good with Bloody Mary’s so again, oyster crackers < celery.

The other suspicious thing that about oyster cracker is that their shelf life is about equal to that of a cockroach. It’s true. We’ve had the same box of Trader Joe oyster crackers for ages. Because, how would you even know they were stale? They already taste stale and bland, so how would one distinguish a loss of quality? That very shelf life is why we recently had oyster crackers with our chili, and thus, put these odious little cracker wannabes on my radar and led to this long-overdue rant. They were just….there, like they always are, hanging out in our cabinets.

oystercrackers2
Do these look appetizing to anybody?? “No oils, no cholesterol, no preservatives, no flavor. Total waste of chewing.” 

I’m happy to report that no oyster crackers were ingested during our actual visit to London, but a bunch of other English deliciousness was so we’ll get back to that during normal, non-ranty blogging days.

 

Introducing the New World Headquarters for Poe Communications

After a very trying five weeks full of dust, construction and contractor butt cracks, I am back in my office (sort of) and y’all….it is gorgeous. Poe Communications aka Poe Industries Building/Construction/Contracting Services and Project Management Inc. got a major upgrade (thanks to all the damage done to my office when we had to get completely new framing done on our house, but I digress).

I say “back in my office (sort of)” because just like “Brokeback Renovation,” our contractor just can’t seem to quit us. He’s got a few little details to attend to (some wall patching near a couple of outlet plugs, some sink scratches in the adjoining bathroom caused by haphazard painters and their trowels), but he keeps putting off the final bits and blobs. So I haven’t hung my artwork back up yet, and my desk is floating in the middle of the room so the workers can eventually do the patches they need to do.

But, here are a few pictures of my new office from the other morning. The lighting is crap because it was a lovely sunny morning, but I was too excited to wait for good lighting.

Office overview

Obviously, when considering what I wanted my worldwide headquarters for my multi-media infotainment empire to look like, I did what every self-respecting work-from-home writer does: I stalked Pinterest. (*I also relied very heavily on the advice of my own personal interior design guru, XFE).

From Pinterest, I immediately gleaned that my previous desk was far too modest for such an impressive endeavor as content creation and promotion. So, I immediately upgraded that bad boy to a giant frosted glass and chrome slab of sleekness (from Ikea. Sorry, Pinterest. I know everyone else had Jonathan Adler desks, but I didn’t win any lotteries this week. And I really, really like my Ikea table/desk!).

Desk

I also saw a lot of blogger offices with those twee little bar carts with cute little mint julep cups holding cute little striped straws. Yeah, that’s not me. I see you’re stupid bar cart and raise you a wine fridge. Also, note the lack of glassware. At Poe Communications, happy hour starts whenever I say and we drink from the bottle.

wine fridge

I also saw a lot of blogger offices that used a gold Moroccan poof as an additional seating option, but I knew that was not going to fly here. After considering a bean bag alternative, I finally settled on a nice, roomy velvety throne like chair for Petunia, the president of HR here at Poe Industries to sit on.

chair

Apparently, she prefers the sunny spot on the floor.

HR Petunia

But I did cave to conventional blogger dictates when it came to the lighting. I would have to get a chandelier. And, it’s probably my favorite thing in the room (besides the wine fridge. And the striped wall, which was XFE’s idea).

chandelier

Isn’t it glorious? And my second favorite thing (or is it my fourth?): XFE moved my rarely-used-but-when-needed-it-is-essential printer onto a shelf in the linen closet. H

printer

Poe Communications sure has come a long way from it’s early days at the dining room table. From this first office incarnation:

early office

To this inspiring space:

Office overview 2

Now maybe I can get back to work! (and blogging).

Home Renovations and Cambodia’s Spirit Houses

There is an old Cambodian saying: “Open the walls of your house with caution. On the one hand, the evil spirits will be set loose. But on the other hand, you will discover all the mischief they caused behind your walls.”

That’s not really a Cambodian saying, but it totally should be. Especially considering the construction drama going on at our own house right now and the wonderful use of “spirit houses” in Cambodia.

We saw these intricate, small golden shrines everywhere in Cambodia – outside houses and businesses, gas stations, restaurants, just about everywhere. There was even a very simple wooden one at Choeung Ek. Most of the ones we saw looked like gorgeous, miniature pagoda temples or stupas, and were usually on a pedestal or wooden pole just outside the house or in the corner of a lot, around eye-height. Cambodians pray at them every day and make offerings of flowers, fruit, incense.

spirit houses

Spirit houses are sort of like an insurance policy for the home dwellers and one of many ways that religion is entwined with daily life in Cambodia:

“Where does this tradition come from? It is hardly a formal Buddhist practice, though it is so integrated into this very Buddhist society that it is accepted as part of the culture and beliefs. It seems that the spirit houses are part of far more ancient traditions, animist colored by the Hindu beliefs and gods that were part of Cambodian culture and life for a thousand years.”

As this blog notes:

Most spirits are finicky pranksters and they require respect from humans to keep them from interfering with a happy home or business. Offering a beautiful spirit house is the first step in appeasement.

Two thoughts here: 1) I should have bought a spirit house as a souvenir while we were in Cambodia; and 2) we must not have given the proper respect to the spirits that reside in our house walls.

We are getting work done on our house. The house we spent a lot of money buying just three short years ago. The house that was gutted and renovated before we bought it, thereby necessitating no work on our part for many, many years.

Yet, here we are.

We noticed some water damage on the wall under a window in my office. We concluded that the siding was leaking and it was probably time to get it replaced, something that had not been done during the renovation.

We went ahead and replaced all the back windows and the back door, while we were at it. And, we wanted to remove the substrate and install new insulation, also while we were at it. Pretty big project, pretty hefty price tag.

After the siding was removed, we discovered our framing (the original framing) was a disaster of epic proportions. Wood rot, old termite damage, water damage, even beams that had apparently been through a fire at some point and now resemble used charcoal. There’s a whole history of stories that were hidden behind our walls.

house construction

We also learned about the various short cuts the original contractor took during his renovation. Missing beams, particularly headers for window support. (hello, floating windows). Wood framing that doesn’t have the necessary metal brackets in place to protect them from electrical wiring (hello, fire hazard). A haphazard, jerry-rigged oven vent without proper metal plates to protect the wooden frame (hello, grease fire hazard). Short drywall that doesn’t completely rest on any beam and has left a 3-inch gap along the backside of my office that was covered over with interior trim (hello, high heating/cooling bills).

We’re pretty sure the old, leaky siding was the only thing that was holding the back of our house together.

So now we’re in it. We just started week two of this incredibly noisy, cringe-inducing project (there really is nothing like hearing workers repeatedly banging and sawing away at the outside of your unexpectedly fragile yet very expensive investment).

On the one hand, it’s good we know about all these problems and can fix them, even though “the fix” is now causing damage to some of our interior walls (we’re also down two window screens so far). But it also really, really sucks, and is going to cost us a fortune.

Hopefully, we’ve released all the bad spirits and they’ll leave our house alone now. Otherwise, we might be investing in a Cambodian spirit house.

Maybe I Should Warm Up Before Jumping Back Into This Blogging Business

Seeing as how I hurt myself at the gym yesterday, I am super pumped that today is Friday.

Get it? That's Beyonce, getting pumped? Get it?
Get it? That’s Beyonce, getting pumped? Get it?

I was at the hideously misnamed Club Strength. Our also hideously misnamed instructor, Meaghan* had set up various torture stations around the perimeter of the class workout room. We were to go around the room in groups of two and do whatever “exercise” was assigned at each torture station for 1.30 minutes and then move on to the next one.

(*I say misnamed because  all the Meaghans or Megans or Schmegans or whatevers I know have been really pleasant and this one was a group class instructor; ie: Meaghan McMeanies)

Here’s the main issue: I don’t want to work out with a buddy. Sure, Meaghan assured us that we weren’t competing with each other, we were “just suffering through this together,” but still. I don’t want to work out with another solitary person doing the same thing next to me. I don’t like to grunt and struggle next to another person. That’s why I don’t invite XFE to sit on the edge of the tub while I take a crap. “It’s ok. We’re not competing here or anything, we’re just suffering through this together.”

Also, that’s why I’m in a class, see? Trying to blend in inconspicuously in the back of a room filled with a bunch of other people. I do not want any one-on-one attention while I’m sweating and grunting and generally failing at basic body skills such as lifting something and then putting it down, or raising my head off the floor and then putting it down.

But no. Meaghan had her plan. It was going to be fun. We were “mixing it up.”

The real reason they're extinct. They couldn't get through Club Strength.
The real reason they’re extinct. They couldn’t get through Club Strength.

To make matters worse, but only marginally, I was paired with an octogenarian who wanted to regale me with tales of missing vertebra. I assured her I didn’t care how many reps she could do and was only focusing on my own pain, and then we got to our lopsided workout. Oh, and when I say lopsided, I mean my old work out buddy basically kicked my ass and was able to complete more reps than me on all but one torture station (a sit up station. Guess you need vertebra for those. Suck it, octogenarian.)

We were two stations away from completing our second rotation of torture when I injured myself. It was an alternating-elbow-plank-with-side-shoulder-rotations move. I was huffing along, sucking in my gut (also known as “engaging your core”) when I over rotated while alternating elbows and fell full on my left shoulder. I thought I heard a pop.

The move. Pardon the selfie, I just couldn't find a good image to use.
The move. Pardon the selfie, I just couldn’t find a good image to use.

I crawled to a corner and gathered up my pride so I could complete the last two torture stations (with modified moves, of course). I think my octogenarian workout buddy was secretly relieved.

The whole episode was painful and very embarrassing and really makes me want to swear off all group classes forever. I didn’t dislocate my shoulder or anything like that, but it’s still pretty tender a day later. I think my career as a professional plank artist is over. Apparently, my wimpy useless pasta arms are incapable of holding up my body weight for approximately 1.30 minutes. Awesome.

So in the spirit of failing at fitness, I bring you this video, which I stole from this funny girl. It made me laugh and feel slightly better.

Checking in with an Ang Moh

I had a big jump in my blog stats yesterday, which was quite surprising considering how much I’ve been slacking on the blogging. Turns out, starting your own business is really time consuming! I’ve been pretty dang busy lining up new clients, keeping existing ones happy, invoicing, paying taxes, etc., etc. I also have a major project/contract that is due in a couple of weeks, so it’s definitely been crunch time here at Poe Communications and Landscape Design Consultants (we don’t actually do any landscape or design consulting, fyi. But I do take care of our tiny little garden every day, thus, I am a gardening expert. And, I’m pretty opinionated, so if you really wanted a consultant, I could probably be down for that).

Also, I have something very weird and annoying going on with WordPress where my text box is short and squatty and it’s really annoying. It used to be a normal full size text box and now it’s all abbreviated unless I make it a full screen which I LITERALLY just figured out that I could do by hitting the square with the little x-arrow in it. 

I did recently redesign the blog. Now that I’m a proper freelancer/small business owner, I thought it was time to transition the site to a business website, with the blog as an added feature instead of the primary one. You can still reach thePoeLog, but we’re also Poe Communications (www.poecommunications.com). Like, properly. Meeting all your writing/editing/content marketing/brand journalism/social media management needs since late 2014.

So I thought that maybe the uptick in page views had something to do with that. But it turns out, folks were coming directly in to this post I did on Singapore. Turns out, someone posted it on a forum called Singapore Hardware Zone, which seems odd, but o.k. The title of the forum post was “THIS ANG MOH BU makes INTELLIGENT sentences about SINGAPORE!!!!??I AGREE WITH HER!!!!!MUST SEEEEE.” 

Sorry about the bold and all caps and exclamation points. But I do appreciate the sentiment. It actually perked me up and had me convinced that vVovoVersace was a genius. Clearly.

Of course, I had to look up what a Ang Moh Bu was. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know:

Ang mo is a racial epithet describing white people, mainly in Malaysia, Riau Islands and Singapore, and sometimes in Taiwan and Thailand. It literally means “red-haired” and originates from Hokkien (Min Nan).

Hilarious. And true. I am “red-haired.” Never figured out the Bu part, (probably means “girl,” or maybe like, “my boo?”) but Wikipedia did add another word to my vocabulary:

In Singapore and Malaysia, the term ang mo sai  (literally: “red-haired shit”) is a derogatory term used within the Chinese community for mocking other Chinese who are not able to read Chinese.

Don’t you just love languages?

The Inherent Romance of a Hypothetical Near-Death Experience

(photo via 1000 Awesome Things)

I know I declared romance to be all but dead just last week, but I wanted to share a recent text exchange between myself and my spousal equivalent, XFE. I think it perfectly highlights how love (and concern for your partner’s welfare) can continue to bloom despite distance, bad dining choices, and self-inflicted injuries.

Sure, it’s not the passionate stuff we used to send each other 10 or so years ago, but just knowing I can inadvertently scare the bejesus out of XFE on a moment’s notice is it’s own kind of small thrill.

Let me set the scene: XFE was hundreds of miles away on a mid-week work trip in a town with limited dining options. I have made dinner for myself at home, courtesy of Blue Apron.

This fairly typical, totally normal text exchange illustrates a couple of things:

  • Fried sage is a lovely and tasty garnish, but deceptively dangerous.
  • I am prone to choking (true.)
  • XFE is a very tolerant boyfriend who is used to high drama and hyperbole.
  • Cats are horrible EMTs; ergo:
  • I will probably die at home alone from a freak choking incident only to be found by XFE days later with a cat nibbling on my toe. (My biggest fear).

XFE: Took the crew to Ruby Tuesday for dinner tonight.

Me: Nice. Did you get fries?

XFE: No, I am having a salad, fish tacos and ice t

Me: If you come home and I’m dead, it’s because I have a piece of fried sage lodged in my throat. On the left hand side. Just scratching and stuck.

Me: Thanks, Blue Apron.

XFE: Try some water.

XFE: R u going to be ok?

Me: It’s just annoying. I’m not coughing or choking or anything.

XFE: Well, the “I’m dead” might have indicated it could have been more serious.

Me: Sorry. It was really annoying.

XFE: Glad ur ok

Me: I think I’m gonna make it. Call off the 911. Petunia finally showed up to seek her dinner, so I feel like I’m in good hands.

XFE: Glad to hear HR has u covered.

Me: You know it. Whew.

Me: Also, I burned my thumb. Knew I shoulda ordered pizza.

XFE: Sorry to hear. R u ok?

Me: Yes, it was actually really good. Now I’m watching a documentary with Toons. Bye.