I was reading recently about a 91-year-old widow who recently purchased her first home. The American dream. In an odd twist of fate, an incident involving a scam artist led her to discover her husband’s participation in the Korean War entitled her to a VA loan. Due to her advanced age, her daughter had to agree to move in with her to qualify her for the loan, but what an amazing achievement at this time in her life.
Over the span of my life I’ve owned four homes, including the one I’m living in now. My first house came shortly after my first marriage. Pregnant not long after the I Do’s were exchanged, we needed more than a one bedroom apartment for our unexpected addition. After some searching we put a bid on a house in our price range, about $1.50 and change, and when accepted by the seller signed our lives away. It was a great house in a not so great neighborhood, but it was ours and we were glad to have it.
No furniture to speak of, my husband took two twin beds and actually created a living room set which served us well for a year until it could be replaced by the actual thing. A dining room set was purchased at a garage sale. My bed, dresser, and night stands were purloined from my mother when I moved out, and the baby furniture donated by the excited grandparents to-be. It wasn’t exactly “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, but we were young and considered ourselves stylin’ in the suburbs.
As with many older houses, the house had problems. The plumbing, though working, tended towards sluggish. Equipped with central air, after fifteen years of service the unit labored on particularly hot days to keep the rooms comfortably cool. I availed myself of the two ring blow up pool in the back yard once the babies came along if the house got too warm. Two windows in the house were painted shut. Those that did open took the strength of Andre the Giant to shove them up. Former tenants, embracing the free-love movement capturing the country at the time, had hung love beads in each and every doorway. At first we found these charming, then annoying, and after having them wrapped around our necks and tangled in our hair, it came down to them or us. In the end, they had to go.
Our daughter was born in July of that first year. Three baby showers and doting grandparents contributed substantially to filling the drawers in the olive baby dresser my stepfather emblazoned with colorful flowers. A diaper service, a gift from a friend, provided us three months of service. Used diapers were placed on the porch in a pail on pick up days and returned folded and fragrant several days later. Once gone, I realized quickly what a huge blessing it had been. A washer and dryer were not included in our budget. After my husband’s entire supply of underwear, shirts and socks disappeared at the laundromat we managed to save up enough to get a used washing machine. The clothesline strung across the yard remained the only option for drying. Cloth diapers, smelling fresh when dried in the breeze, tend to get brittle enough to substitute as weapons of mass destruction despite how much fabric softener you loaded in the machine. Parents today lean towards disposables. What a godsend. Peel off the tape, fold the soiled diaper in a roll and toss it in the trash.
My sons impending arrival was disclosed by my obstetrician two months after my daughter arrived. Definitely I needed to look into what was causing this population explosion. By the end of the following summer I had two in diapers and still no dryer in place. At that same point my little girl became fully mobile. You can’t wait for your kids to walk, cheer them on as they take their first tentative steps, and then wonder as they poke through every nook and cranny of the house why on earth you were so excited.
This particular day I had changed a soiled diaper on my son, depositing it in the toilet for rinsing. During this procedure my toddler was scurrying about trying to carry on a conversation with me in whatever language babies speak. Not fluent in her language I held up my end of the conversation in mine as I placed a new diaper on the baby on the changing table. Note to God. Truly you need at least eight arms and eyes on both side of your head to manage small children. Please rethink this.
While finishing up I heard the toilet flush. Huh? Oh-oh. Grabbing the baby I rounded the corner to find my daughter beaming up at me and pointing to the toilet. “Yes, I heard”. A noise began overhead. A groaning of such proportions as I’d never heard up to that point and probably since. If someone had told me the Goodyear Blimp had just landed on my roof, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It began in one area over the commode and progressed across the ceiling. Placing the baby in the crib and grabbing my little girl’s hand I stared at the ceiling as the noise, if possible, intensified.
As if a dam had burst, water the color found on a tube of burnt sienna burst forth from every available orifice in the bathroom. The sink, the bathtub, and the toilet. Racing for the phone I called my husband. Given instructions I first turned off the water, then called Roto-Rooter, and finally surveyed the unpleasant and fragrant mess in left in the waters path. Looking up at me my daughter grinned. It is amazing they progress beyond their second year.
Roto-Rooter showed up an hour later. Removing his hat and scratching his head, the technician said “Please tell me it isn’t a cloth diaper”. “Sorry”, I said, “not your lucky day”. It was a relief to know I wasn’t the only idiot having done such a thing. After much groaning and speaking under his breath the clog was finally dislodged and life, as they say, returned to normal. This, naturally, as normal as mine ever chooses to be.
These burgers are such an unexpected and delicious burst of flavors. Yum.
Pita Burgers with Sweet and Sour Cucumbers and Yogurt Sauce
2 lbs. ground sirloin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fine black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup cilantro
4 pita halves
Feta cheese with sun-dried tomatoes (or plain feta)
Mince onion and garlic in food processor. Saute onion, garlic, cumin, cardamom, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes in oil over med-high heat about 5 mins. Cool.
Pulse ground sirloin in food processor until fine. Mix with garlic/onion/spice mixture. Add mint and cilantro. Form into 6 oblong patties.
Heat in griddle over med. heat until browned on both sides, about 4 mins. per side. Sprinkle with feta cheese, cover and cook on low for 3 mins. or until slightly melted. Drain on paper towels.
Sweet and Sour Cucumbers
1 English cucumber sliced thin
1/2 large red onion, sliced thin
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. Splenda or sugar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Place vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and pepper flakes in small saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour over cucumbers and onions and allow to marinate 3 hours.
1 cup plain yogurt (I used low-fat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. dill
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together all ingredients. Allow to sit in refrigerator for 1 hr. before serving.
Slather yogurt sauce on inside of pita halves. Insert burgers. Add tomatoes and lettuce if desired and top with sweet and sour cucumbers. Serves 6.