Monday, February 10 2020

paintings, snow, and goulash



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! That was definitely one of the busier weekends I’ve had. This morning, as I was showering, getting dressed, and sleepily passing through my morning routine like a lifeless ghost, I mentally sang that song from the movie Sing - you know the one that the gorilla kid sings? I’m still standing - yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m still standing - yeah, yeah, yeah… And while being at my breaking point on a Monday morning doesn’t sound very promising, the end is in sight. Most of yesterday was spent preparing Marissa’s three giant paintings for their trip to New York. I’m working from home this morning so I can help get it in the truck.

We got some good relaxing in yesterday morning, at least. The family slept in, eating eggs on the couch and watching YouTube videos while I finished writing. We got changed and headed out for the day, starting things off with a Portillo’s lunch. We grabbed a spot in the back and sank into the comfy booths, eager to dig into Italian beef, chicken tenders, fries, and a chocolate shake. As we finished eating, we got a little more serious about planning the day before departing for Hy-Vee to pick up groceries.

“I love it when we all pick up groceries together,” I said walking through the Hy-Vee parking lot. “We always have better snacks in the house when Momma comes with.” Rodney reach out and grabbed my hand as we crossed the road in front of Hy-Vee, stretching his other arm out to the sky, making a woosh sound. As in our custom, he was initiating spider shoot webs, where I pick him up and let him swing all the way up to the door.

We picked up groceries, then headed home. Marissa put Rodney down for a nap, then one by one, we moved the large paintings to our front porch so Marissa could get some pictures. For such a simple task as standing outside and taking pictures of Marissa in front of a painting, I had difficulty hiding my grumpiness about the whole thing. “I don’t know what it is,” I’d say to her later trying to suss out my frustration with Marissa in the dining room over some tea. “Maybe I just feel silly standing out in the snow taking a photo, or maybe I don’t like having to march back to you in between takes to show you the photo.”

We moved the paintings back inside, and Marissa continued touching up the sides with white paint while I moved outside to shovel some snow. Short on time before I had to start dinner, I only managed to finish our back porch and half the driveway. The neighbors were also out, and even though I was in a bad mood, I still offered up my usual small talk about shoveling snow. “Happy February, huh? Oh NOW we get snow, right? Great workout! Hey, I think you missed a spot!”

I headed back into the kitchen, kicking the wet snow off my boots and exchanging my coat for a cooking apron. For dinner, I was making beef goulash. I cubed some chuck roast and browned it in a pan, later adding onions. I toasted caraway seeds, paprika, and cayenne papper, de-glazing the pan with chicken stock and moving everything to my dutch oven to let the mixture simmer. The stock had already taken on the color of chocolate, and the hot smoky spices lingered in the air. I would let it simmer for an hour while Rodney, awake from his nap, helped pull some marjoram leaves apart. Rodney had just woken up from his long nap, and at first when he marched into the kitchen, he had made up his mind about cooking himself a box of paw patrol mac ‘n cheese, but he eventually came around to what I was making for dinner. I served the goulash on some buttered shell pasta with a dollop of sour cream. “I’m relieved that this tastes good,” said Marissa at the table. “It smelled so strong in the kitchen, I was starting to get worried.”

“That must have been the spices I was toasting,” I replied. “It started to smoke, and I’m not sure if that was supposed to happen, so I killed the heat.”

Putting Rodney to bed, we decided to break out his new bilingual Dutch childnren’s book, Jojo’s Speeldag. It’s a book about an elephant who, rather than eating his dinner, wanders away and screws around in the forest. Of course a Dutch book would be about not cleaning your plate, right? Rodney was intrigued. I alternated between English on every page, mixing in some fun new words like snuffel (an elephant’s trunk) and fruitbomen (fruit tree). “How did he like the book?” asked Marissa. “He didn’t even notice,” I laughed. “We could have been reading to him in another language all this time for all he knew.”

After putting Rodney to bed, I rejoined Marissa in the dining room to finish packing the paintings. It was a challenge. We wrapped the paintings in bubble wrap, then upon realizing they wouldn’t fit in the boxes, unwrapped them. We cleared the table, flipping the paintings over the top and shoving the box from the other end like a sheath. Marissa repaired the box, which had ripped at the edges from the friction, and meanwhile I stole away to move a filing cabinet into the basement. Finally, we turned the boxes on each corner, wrapping the outsides with seran wrap and cushioning the corners before finally bundling them all together as a towering mass of cardboard and plastic - the very same towering mass that looms over our dining room computer while I write this morning. I opened a beer, and we retreated upstairs, collapsing in our bedroom chairs.

We congratulated ourselves for the massive effort, then planned out the rest of the week before watching a movie on the couch. I broke out some chips and salsa, and Marissa stuck to the usual pregnancy craving inspired evening snack.

This morning, I’m hanging around the house so we can together lift the massive beast in the truck, which will carry the paintings to their new home in New York. The paintings are quite beautiful. I did my best yesterday to find time between the shlepping, photos, taping, hoisting, and lifting to just stop and look at them. Once the paintings are in the truck, we’re going to celebrate with a pizza lunch. I think I might even get a beer.

Hope you have a wonderful day today.