Love notes

"So, I need 2 ask U, do U like Bobby from our class? He rides by ur house all the time…"

This was posted on the Facebook wall belonging to one of my teenage "friends."

"Um…. no?" She replied.

This innocent little exchange caused me to have this epiphany:

Do These Kids Nowadays write love notes to each other?  Like on paper? With a pencil? Or an ink-pen?

I bet they just text. Or Facebook, or whatever. 

(WARNING: Here comes the part where I wax all nostalgic about how things were awesome back in My Day and, in doing so, I will sound like I'm 80 years old. I'm not. I'm 42. But I can't help myself. Ready? Here goes…)

I would imagine that texting is a stealthier and more secure method of message delivery. Back in the Precambrian Era  Great Depression 1970s and 1980s, you had to wait for your math teacher to turn his back and write on the board. (Sorry, Mr. Cameron!) Then you had to place your trust in the three classmates sitting between you and your crush, and hope that they would actually deliver your note to the intended recipient without getting caught. Or intercepting and reading your note, causing you to die of embarassment right there at your right-handed desk (even though you were left-handed, but all they had in the classroom was two leftie desks).

Of course, your note had to be short so he could read it fast (and in this we have the precursor to today's 140-character text message). The recipient would have to check the appropriate box – or circle yes or no – then refold the note and casually send it back your way.

Do you like me? Yes or no. Circle one.  Pass this back to me.

And then my mind wandered all the way back to the school tablets whose sheets we transformed into brief declarations of puppy love. Remember the tablets? They weren't notebooks; they were top-bound, lined tablets.  Not three-hole punched, not spiral-bound, not perforated. And the best thing was, they would give you one upon request! Remember that? You'd raise your hand and announce you needed a new tablet, and Voila! Fresh tablet! Gratis. They smelled so good and held such promise.

But the best part about a new tablet was, without question, decorating the cover. This was where your true artistic potential could be expressed, you with the loopy cursive and bubble i-dots and hearts and smiley-faces. Remember practicing how to write you and your crush's name?

Meg + Curt

Curt + Meg

Meg luvs Curt

2B + 2gether = 4ever

Meg McCormick

Mrs. Curt McCormick

I tried to find a picture of an old school tablet from the 1970s. If I remember correctly, the brand was "Educator" and there was a picture of a quill and inkwell and maybe a scroll. But when I Googled "old school tablet", here's what I got:

Stonet ablet
I know, right??? I'm old, Google, but I am NOT THAT OLD, okay?

And then I got a lot of this:


I'm sorry, but *that* is NOT a "tablet." 

WTF, Google??

Will Today's Youth ever know the thrill of receiving a sheet of lined paper, folded into eighths, slipped into your locker through the vent or tucked into your Trapper Keeper? Will they ever compulsively unfold and refold that note, until it starts to tear along the folds, reading and rereading it to discern any possible subtext? 

Will they ever feel tempted to correct their crush's spelling, or be ever-so-slightly put off by a misused your/you're or their/there or to/too?

(Shut up. If you've read this far, you already know I'm a freak, and if this isn't your first time here, you love me in spite of it. You can't be surprised to learn that I was compulsive about grammar and spelling at a tender age.)

Possibly the best thing about notes was, if necessary, you could destroy them.  Three weeks after you passed that note in math class, you were already on to a new crush, and any evidence of your previous crush could be burned or flushed or torn into teeny, tiny bits and scattered out the window of the school bus.

And then?

You could raise your hand and request a brand-new tablet.

What are your memories of love notes that you sent or received?


At the grocery store last Friday, an 8-ounce mesh bag of Italian chestnuts jumped into my cart.  I've been keeping an eye out for chestnuts – you don't see them just anywhere anymore. I bristled at the $6 pricetag, but it's a once-a-year autumnal fix for me, so I splurged. Soup Husband Curt "doesn't care for them" (which is what he initially told me about cilantro, which he later admitted he finds repulsive).

800px-Chestnuts_roasted Tonight I scored a few with an X and roasted them in the oven (for lack of an open fire on the premises tonight), and shared them with The Boss. He liked them.  Then I started waxing nostalgic about how much I liked them when I was a kid.  This was when Ross quietly excused himself from the room. But you're stuck here, so you get to suffer through hear the story:

My Great Uncle Roy (Grandma Sara's brother) gave us two chestnut trees when my dad died. We planted them, and they grew and grew and, after a few years, bore chestnuts encased in prickly orbs that were fun to mow over:

Thanks, Wikipedia, for both of these photos

So to me, chestnuts hold memories of a thoughtful uncle who shared our loss and whose gesture during a painful time stays with me, even though I've long since moved away from where those two trees grow.

Those trees put down scores of chestnuts and we could eat 'em all FOR FREE. We braved risk of stabbing our digits with those pointy outsides to get to the delicious nugget inside. Used to be, you could buy 'em for cheap by the paper bagful. But where are the chestnut trees in Maryland? And why was the only bag of chestnuts I could find in the grocery store imported from ITALY?

I decided to Google the venerable chestnut to see what I could learn.

"Heh heh heh, heh heh heh," said Soup Husband Curt who, confirming the rumors, remains a 12 year old boy trapped in a 44 year old man's body. "You said CHEST-NUT."

Among the sponsored ads and search results were the following:

Peeled, roasted chestnuts. A vendor selling peeled, roasted chestnuts. Because roasting and peeling them yourself is such an odious task? I mean, isn't that the fun of roasting them yourself?

Bring back the chestnut. A tree farm (nursery) whose mission is clear. (Hyperlinked because they have interesting historical info about the chestnut – go, read!)

Chestnut Roasting Pan. A "gourmet" cookware vendor who sells a long-handled metal pan with small holes in the bottom, useful for roasting chestnuts over an open fire.

French chestnuts. Imported from France, I suppose. Fancy.

Now I should admit here that in my world, chestnuts were never, ever something we added to anything that was stuffed into the cavity of a turkey and roasted on Thanksgiving. We are stuffing purists (and it's stuffing, not dressing, dammit) – bread with sauteed celery and onions and some seasonings is really the only appropriate thing to serve with a large fowl on the fourth Thursday in November.  But I realize, in some parts, "chestnut dressing" is traditional. But, to me, the ONLY thing to do is to roast chestnuts, then peel and eat them plain.

What are your memories of chestnuts, or your recipes or recommendations, or sources for cheap chestnuts in Maryland or PA? Please share in the comments.

I do windows

Complaining about housework when This Economy causes the dream of home ownership to elude more and more people is a bit like complaining about your job when the unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent.

And that's why I’m going to tell you, reader(s), what I did today instead of napping on my cozy couch and watching football so as to track points scored by the players on my fantasy football team (as the late games begin, the Soup Nazis trail by more points than I care to admit).  I opted not to wreck my night’s sleep and instead embraced the potential to attain the unmistakable feeling of accomplishment.

Not complaining. Not me.

Instead of napping, I washed five windows this afternoon, where “washed” equals removed the storm windows and washed every pane inside and out, and “windows” equals the old-style kind that are the same age as my younger sister (hi, Bets!). The windows do not tilt in for “easy cleaning.” They are single-pane glass with multiple panes on each.

(Full disclosure: Yesterday, Soup Husband Curt traded out screens for storms and washed a French door and a triple casement window above our kitchen sink, AND he helped me wash the last two storm windows… so I am not complaining about having to do this odious chore by myself.)

We don't often clean our windows. The last time they were cleaned was the fall of 2006, during the brief time when our house was on the market for sale. And THAT was such a fun time – Soup Husband Curt had taken a job in Central PA and moved up ahead of the family to begin work. I stayed behind for the first two months with a fifth grader, a third grader, and a one year old, plus a fur-tumbleweed-producing golden retriever and a vomiting cat, until we secured a house in PA.  Fortunately, we didn’t sell this house, but ended up renting it instead for a few months – long enough for us to realize that what really needed to happen was us moving back to Maryland, resuming our lives as if we’d never left.

Where was I? Oh, right. So three years ago, we outsourced the window cleaning then to some outfit whose coupon arrived in our mailbox. When you have a couple of people working it, the window cleaning process goes fast, and when they’re done, all the windows in the whole house are sparkling clean in just a couple of hours’ time.  When you’re doing it yourself, it’s decidedly slower. Cheaper – but slower.

I scrubbed spider poo off of storm panes. I vacuumed cobwebs and dead bugs out of the sash. I vanquished more stink bugs than I can count. I perched on a ladder and washed panes outside, then I went inside and did the same thing, using Sprayaway glass cleaner and pages of newsprint. (Look Ma, no streaks!)

And now? The windows look AWESOME.  I just need to keep the dog’s nose and the preschooler’s sticky hands away lest they smudge and sully my clean windows.

I worked hard!  But now it’s dark, and the late games are nearing halftime. I’m pouring a glass of wine and parking my butt on the couch, four hours after I originally considered doing so.

So, the old joke about “I don’t do windows?” Well, I understand why “they” used to say that. Or still do. This is not a job for everyone. But I? I do do windows. Or I did today, anyway. I may not do ‘em for another three years. I may hire the job out next year. But today, I did ‘em.