Classes are over. The final papers roll in at midnight tonight, but until then, I have one blissful day of no grading. My first project this morning was to finish the grapefruit pound cake that I’ll be bringing to this afternoon’s departmental potluck.
This recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I’m in love with this book. In addition to an earlier iteration of the pound cake (it didn’t rise properly because I had no eggs and so used banana, but it was fabulous nonetheless), I’ve also made the Sweet Peas and Shells Alfredo (with frozen peas – it’s December – and rotini) and the Plum Poppy Seed Muffins (I never buy plums, as raw ones make my mouth itch, but as soon as I read this recipe – browned butter in muffins! OMG! – I ran out and got some plums, and hooo boy, am I glad I did. That was a three-muffins-for-dinner night.) I’ve been planning on making the Big Cluster Maple Granola for weeks now; maybe today will be the day. If I get out to buy maple syrup.
(Last week I couldn’t figure out why my can of maple syrup was still so heavy but nothing was coming out of it. I opened the can to discover that the remains had crystallized into big chunks of sugar in the bottom. The worst of it? Try as I would with hot water baths and butter knives, I COULDN’T GET THE SUGAR CHUNKS OUT and had to toss the delicious-looking mess in the trash.)
My other, much less appetizing, household concern today is fungal gnats – tiny black flies – in the houseplants, including the little Norfolk Pine we bought as a living Christmas tree.
Last week, I put the purple flash pepper and the sickliest mandevilla outside to die, as they were clearly infested. It was a sad day: I’d been giving them plenty of TLC and hoping to coddle them through the winter. The remaining mandevillas are looking happy, but the continued presence of the gnats is worrying. Next fall, I’ll know to treat the plants properly before bringing them inside, by immersing the pots in water and showering the leaves.
I’ve found a list of useful tips for extermination here at Apartment Therapy, but if anyone has experience with these little monsters, I welcome suggestions.
Of course, there’s a lot of other stuff going on. Cat A returns to the doctor tomorrow after a gruelling 48 hours – we had to place a drop of a serum made of his own blood into his eye every hour on the hour, to treat a deep corneal scratch he got from the neighbourhood bully. (We dubbed this bully Asshole Cat the moment we met him, which was the day we moved in because he thought our house was his house. He now has a collar, so we know he isn’t a stray. Whoever owns him should be ashamed.) We still haven’t found a contractor to fix the rotting wall of the mudroom, and it’s probably too late now and we’ll need to wait until spring. I’m increasingly gobsmacked every month by the gas bill.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a dream I had a few years ago, when we were still safely ensconced in our lovely Outremont apartment. I dreamt that we gave the apartment up and found ourselves in a dingy semi-basement off a highway. We installed a futon on the floor (somehow our bed had disappeared) and prepared to go to sleep among the boxes. As I looked around, a grey despair settled over me. I couldn’t remember why we’d given up the Outremont apartment, and I couldn’t believe that this had been our only other option. Oh my God, I thought. For no good reason, I’ve ruined my life.
There are days, looking around our odd little brick house with the peeling window frames and the microscopic bathrooms and the rotting mudroom, that I find myself thinking, Oh my God, I’ve ruined… But then I listen to the silence of no neighbours above or below, and I look out at the little back yard where we will plant vegetables in the spring. I step into the hideous kitchen covered in blue laminate and spread my pizza pans over the seemingly endless counter space. I stand for a moment in the crumbly basement that hasn’t flooded since we had the exterior wall rebuilt.
The anxiety doesn’t fade, but it’s joined by something else: a piecemeal vision of a future where all of this is polished, caulked, planted, and ours.