Journal Entry: Stewing on a Sunday

This morning I woke with the left side of my tongue chewed red and raw. With The Chef away to attend a family wedding down in South Carolina for the last few days, my universe (Scout-the-Goldapeake-Retriever’s, too) is out of kilter, and I’ve slept fitfully, occasionally waking with doggie toes in my face despite the extra space in our big hooman bed. On Friday around 2 am I opened my eyes to Scout laying there like a sphinx, staring at me whilst enthusiastically wagging his tail, and thwapping my arm repeatedly. 2. A. M., gentle reader. In the wee hours of the morning this dog expected some schnug, which I gave him willingly, little massage-like scratches on his chest, until my eyes grew heavy and I drifted back into sleep. And so he thwapped again, cheeky canine.

In last night’s erratic sleep I dreamt of a new sport, I texted Chef David this morning, where hockey and golf are combined in a single game called golfy. In this imagined game one needs golf clubs and a hockey stick. You’d use a club to drive the ball down the fairway, and then the stick in a battle against other players on the green to knock the ball into the hole. But if you miscalculated and dropped the ball into a sand trap or water hazard, then fisticuffs would be called between you and your teammates. And somehow, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would serve as the ref to make this call.

Fitful sleep, I tell you, and a chewed-up tongue to show for it.

The Chef could text back only, holy cow.

His absence has given me some time to myself to be sure, which is its own kind of lovely, but also underscores all the helpful things he does every day and that I take for granted, like set up the coffee pot before we go to bed. I implored him to be in charge of this early in our romance because he simply does it better than I do. And before he left last week I bellyached to him that there’d be nobody to build a fire for me and Scoutie in the evenings. He set up tinder and logs before he left and said the only thing it needed was a match, and promised me it would “go.” I’ve left it alone, though, in part because it’s been fairly warm ‘til today, in part because if it fizzles I’ll be annoyed, and finally, because there can be only a single fire until he returns. (I know: I should be able to build a fire, and probably can as I did for the two winters I lived in a beautiful but isolated loft in the middle of Vermont, where the wood stove was an important heat source. It goes down like this: lots of wasted kindling, and lots of cussin’ before, finally, an hour later, woman makes fire.) I might relent and strike that match directly, though.

For his part, Scout’s been pretty happy to have me all to himself for a few days, although I know he’ll be as happy for Chef David to walk through the door soon, and to indulge in the special kinds of ear and belly scratching only the Chef knows how to give. But Scout and I have enjoyed our own kind of special time together. Yesterday was a perfect fall day in New England, with blue skies and just a few clouds, and still enough foliage on the trees for picture postcard-worthy landscapes. We drove out into the country and went for a long run in perfect conditions; I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Scout so happy on a run. But during the course of our morning, I removed two ticks—one from his leg, and another from his face. And when we were loading into the car to come home, I found another trying to burrow into the creamy patch of fur on his chest. Nice try, miscreant stowaway, but out you go. Scout’s vet says she’s amazed he tests negative for Lyme. I aim to keep him that way.

But together with a slightly dank odor wafting off the dog, the ticks were enough to convince me Scout needed a bath, where I could scrutinize the pink skin under his tawny coat more carefully. (Plus, the dirty dog-shaped spot on our off-white bedspread was reason enough.) Thing is, once you go down the dog bath road, you’re in it for an ambitious list of projects. Mine went like this: dog shower plus blow dry (Scout begins to shiver after his bath if he’s not completely dry, and we won’t have that). Then human shower. Then a stem-to-stern cleaning of the bawthroom. Then washing all the dog accoutrements: collar, leash, towels, rugs—and because one shouldn’t load a clean dog into a dirty car, I included the lofty backseat slipcover in the hairy pile of wash.

There was also the issue of the filthy-ish spot on our bedspread, which obviously begged to be washed. But because the nights are growing colder, I decided might as well get out the winter bedding. Which meant taking a deep dive into the linen closet to find the down comforter, and the duvet—and clean bed linens of course—and then wrestling the comforter into the duvet, which is always far more difficult and time consuming than it really ought to be. (More cussin’ ensues.) And while I was at it, I noted that both our nightstands were fairly coated in dust and dog hair, and so I might as well go ahead and take care of those.

In short, it was almost supper time yesterday before I left the house for the weekly shop, a thing the Chef and I do together on Friday evenings any other week—it is actually our date night, and don’t you say a thing. We misbehave and have more fun on this weekly outing than we ever see anybody else have. And we haven’t been thrown out of any stores—yet.

I got it done. Came home with my usual embarrassment of flowers to scatter around the house, groceries to see us through another work week, and extra Halloween candy for the throngs we expect on Thursday. And it has taken me all kinds of self-restraint not to tear into it. (Okay, I might have sampled a little.) But I came home to a sweet-smelling dog, a clean bawthroom, and clean bedding. Scoutie and I watched some of the movie Chef because it consoled us some about missing our own, before we called it a night.

Today is the polar opposite of yesterday—chilly, rainy, and windy, and we expect it’ll go on like that into the night. After I came home from yoga this morning I put on a stew. It’s nothing special at all, a recipe from an old Better Homes and Gardens book of the sort you’d expect to find in somebody’s 1950s-era kitchen (maybe even our Vermont kitchen back in the day when another family lived in this house). It’s bubbling as I write this, a pile of ingredients magically transforming into tasty nourishment in the big slow cooker. The smells of our summer kitchen, the fresh-cut succulent cucumber and watermelon, and the tender green lettuces we harvested from our own garden not long ago, have given way to aromatic earthy vegetables and slow-cooking meat and herbs. It will be tonight’s supper, and we’ll pack it for lunch all week long.

It went.

Soon enough Chef David will be home, and we shall rejoice. And stop stewing.

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