Chair-ish the thought

It was like spending time with an old friend the way the recliner eased back with a slight nudge when I sat in it after I got it home Monday night.

This was no ordinary recliner. I recovered from a tonsillectomy in that chair. I spent countless Saturdays and Sundays watching football in that chair. I even watched the Saints win the Super Bowl in it.

When Carolyn asked if I wanted it, I jumped at the offer.

I thought it would fit in the backseat of my car, but after wrestling with it for 10 minutes, I realized I’d need a pickup. In the end, I rented one after work and picked up the chair this past Monday.

I couldn’t wait to sit in it again. I spent many hours with either Bubba, Kamilla or Krista on my lap in that chair. I miss them bunches. Truth is, I wanted this chair as part of the divorce settlement, but that got to be nasty, so I just walked away from the house for a pittance and moved on with my life.

The chair, to the left, is where I watched the Saints win the Super Bowl.

As an adult, I had always owned a blue recliner.

The first one I picked up at Naquin Furniture in Thibodaux for $99 on sale in 1981. It was big and soft and comfy. It came with me to Florida, back to Thibodaux and then to Baton Rouge. I sadly left it on the roadside 19 years later when I moved to Nashville. There was no room for it in the U-Haul truck and my fiancée called it “nasty.” (That turned out to be a theme throughout our life together, but I digress.)

When we built our house in Murfreesboro, we got a blue recliner for the bonus room. This one was a Queen Ann style chair. Comfortable sitting in reading, either upright or laid back.

Carolyn moved it from the bonus room to the great room near the end of the marriage and I spent less time in it, though that’s where I saw the Saints win the Super Bowl.

That’s where it stayed until I picked it up.

It’s funny how memories work.

I wanted the blue recliner because it made me feel comfortable. A year after the divorce, when I could afford to buy new furniture, I bought the same exact chair from a local store in Nashville.

But they didn’t have blue in stock and it would be six weeks before they’d get another, so I settled on the maroon model and it has served me well.

Four years later, the blue recliner was mine again. So I sat down and gloated about the prodigal chair coming home. I moved the maroon recliner to the other side of the sofa and put the blue chair in its rightful place where I like to watch TV.

There’s really nothing to watch on TV on Mondays, so after a few minutes of sitting in the blue recliner, gloating, I was back at my desk in the spare bedroom reading Facebook.

Tuesday was much the same. WNPT had pledge programming and its pledge programming is the lamest of any PBS station I’ve ever seen. So I was in the office soon after the evening news went off.

Wednesday, I worked from home after a bout with my Meniere’s. I spent the morning at my desk, but felt worse and laid down in the recliner at lunch time.

The chair that helped heal me after tonsil surgery 12 years ago started giving me a back ache. I switched to the other chair and dozed off shortly after reclining all the way back.

I moved the maroon chair back to its proper place on Thursday and spent most of today in it, dozing off and on while cooking and home improvement shows alternated on WNPT. As soon as I have a leak-free place on the ridge, the blue chair will head up there.

Fond memories have their place in life, I’m certain, but I do believe they’re best left as memories.

If I owned any Rolling Stones songs, I’d play “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” right now. I met with the zoning director this afternoon and plans to redo the old barn into a house won’t work.

It’s too close to the road to be considered for residential.

So this weekend, I’m working on Plan C, which may actually be Plan A, since Plan A never really involved living in the barn any way.

I have several options, it’s just a matter of breaking out the measuring tape and seeing what will work best for me.

Plan A called for a few small buildings, paid for with cash as I go along, serving a variety of purposes, including living (bedroom, kitchen/dining, bathroom), storage, study/office, laundry room, etc.  That’s what I will do. I just have to site the house before I can install the septic tank and I was hoping to have the septic tank in place by the end of April.

The old barn, formerly known as the cabin, will still get torn down and a new roof put up. The roof will serve as my primary source of drinking water. The slab can be a variety of things, including a garage or a work shop or both.

The good news is that I only need a building permit for the building I plan to sleep in. The rest of the small houses are OK. I’ll only need a permit from the electric company to put grid power in any building, which has me thinking about solar power options again.

Don’t be surprised if Plan A looks a lot like this:

The weather lately seems to have everyone in the doldrums. Where it was snowing last week, it’s raining this week. With temperatures near normal and water in abundance, I can’t help but think I’ll be cutting grass again soon.

All in all, things are going well but rainy days like today make me think of one of my favorite poems by my favorite poet.

By Robert Frost

The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.


Whatever you’re going through, hang in there. It gets better.

Cutting edge

Tonight marks the start of the traditional pre-Christmas “Where did I put the scissors?” season.

It starts each year just a few days after I buy enough Christmas presents to decide it’s a good time to start wrapping some. It ends with my next visit to Dollar General.

There was a time when scissors played an important role in my life.

One of my biggest memories of Hurricane Betsy, aside from peeing in the back yard during the eye of the hurricane (a tradition that I have upheld over the decades), was the destruction of my third-grade classroom along with my school box, and special dispensation from the principal that we could have pointed scissors.

Pointed scissors made me feel almost grown up. That is until I grew up and found I rarely had need for scissors.

I remember carefully wielding scissors when I was 13 so I could put a “Home Is Where the Miller Is” beer ad from a magazine onto the homemade waste paper basket I made at Vacation Bible School.

Who knew that just a few years later, scissors would be so unimportant to me that I’d end up buying a new pair almost every year, especially these last few years.

I’m sure they’re around here somewhere, but they’re not where I think I would usually put them. I checked all the drawers, and looked under the piles of paper on my desk and dresser.

I’ll look again in the morning. But at $1 a pair at Dollar General, my time is better spent on just buying a new pair than trying to find the old ones. They’ll resurface at some point during the next year. And I’ll make a mental note to put them in  a place where I will find them later on. But I rarely find them again.

With new scissors, I’ll be able to sit on the floor and wrap presents tomorrow night. And when I’m done, I’ll put the scissors where I think they belong. And over the next week, I’ll go to that spot whenever I need to wrap more gifts. But as the Christmas season fades, so does my recollection of where I put the scissors.

One of these years, I’ll put them in the same place as the tape, which I usually find three rolls of when I’m looking for the scissors.

Cabin in the woods

“What’s in a name,” Mr. Shakespeare once asked. “Good question,” I reply.

I’ve been calling the building on my property a shed or a barn interchangeably since I bought the land in June. As of Friday night, it’s a cabin.

I slept there Friday night.

A shed is a place to store things. A barn has much the same role. But a cabin is a dwelling, where people eat, drink and sleep. And I have done all three there.

It’s my cabin. In the woods.

It’s not pretty. And it’s pretty drafty and got too cold for me to comfortably stay there Saturday night, but that’s all fixable. It will be replaced over the next year. But for now, I have a place of my own once again. I could stay there if I had to.

I’ll never forget the feeling in 1993, when, at the age of 35, I bought my first house. Mine. Not the landlord’s. That’s when I discovered that cutting grass isn’t as much a chore when it’s your own grass.

That feeling is back now.  It only gets better from here.

Happy Thanksgiving

With this being the first holiday since my mom died, I decided a simple Thanksgiving at home alone would do me some good.

Mom’s been gone for a little more than two months. Not being able to call her and talk has been the hardest adjustment since then, especially when it comes to cooking. My mom gave me the confidence to cook when I was young and served as a sounding board whenever I tried cooking something new.

And she made the best homemade noodles you’ll ever eat. I don’t like kneading dough, so I never tried to make her noodles, though when I told her about the Amish store near my property in Charlotte, Tenn., she told me that her family’s noodle recipe came from the Amish and I could probably buy dried noodles there and just cook them in chicken broth to get the same result.

Next time.

This year, I opted for a simple dish I first had when Carolyn’s aunt made it for us one Sunday. Technically, it’s chicken casserole, but it uses stuffing on top, so it smells like Thanksgiving, which is what we always called it.

Here’s the recipe, which came off of a box of Stove Top stuffing about 15 years ago:

  • 1-1/4 cups  hot water
  • 1 pkg.  (6 oz.) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
  • 1-1/2 lb.  boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 can  (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 to 2/3 of the empty soup can filled with milk

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Bring water to boil in a medium sauce pan, add stuffing mix, stir just until moistened, remove from heat and set aside covered for 5 minutes.

Place chicken pieces in 13×9-inch baking dish.

Mix soup and milk in a bowl until blended; pour over chicken.

Top with stuffing.

Bake 30 min. or until chicken is done.

This makes enough to feed 6 people. I haven’t figured out yet how to half the soup, so I have plenty of leftovers.

My candied yams recipe for 2 was adapted from the recipe on the can:

  • 1 15 oz can of Bruce’s yams in syrup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of syrup from the yams
  • half a stick of butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 pound of crushed toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Open the can of yams and pour 1/3 of a cup of the syrup into a measuring cup, discard the rest

Mix the syrup, sugar and butter in a small sauce pan and heat until blended

Put the yams in the bottom of a shallow baking dish and pour the syrup mixture over the yams.

Sprinkle the pecans over the top

Cook for 25-30 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Since I had two dished to bake today, I set the thermostat at 375, pulled the yams out after 25 minutes and upped the temperature to 400 for the last 5 minutes for the chicken.

They came out well. I heated up a small can of green beans in chicken broth and made deviled eggs while the other stuff was in the oven. Store bought bread and a slice of pumpkin pie I baked last night made a meal my mom would be proud of.

Happy Thanksgiving

Doing a little jig

When I was a kid, one of the best ways to tell if my dad was in a fun mood was if he was singing a nonsensical song. He had several, but second to his favorite “chicken in the bread pan pecking out dough” was “do a little jig and zig a little zag, come on down for the Sugar Foot Rag.”

They made sense to him because he’d heard someone else sing them before. We didn’t have the internet back in the day and WTIX didn’t play them on the AM radio. We just thought he made them up.

And he kind of did, because he would change the words to fit his mood or whatever he found funny at the time and they rarely had the exact same lyrics each time he sang them. He still sings them today. But I digress.

I was singing one of my dad’s versions of Sugar Foot Rag this afternoon. I bought a little jig, a Kreg jig, to be exact.

Kreg makes lots of jigs. I first saw them on TV 10 or 15 years ago and thought it would be a great tool for someone like me.

When they were divvying up the DNA, I got my dad’s metalworking gene, but the woodworking gene went to my brother (who also got the metalworking gene. Hey, wait a minute.)

My brother has helped me learn, though. Once he suggested I buy a long 1×4 and two c-clamps to use with my circular saw, rather than spend all kinds of money on a table saw. In a day, I was ripping the straightest cuts ever.

I picked up a little Kreg jig at Lowe’s (Model R3) and used it to attach a base to my homemade TV antenna.

I’ve been wanting to add a base to my antenna for five years. But while my brother’s advice on straight-edges empowered me to install attic flooring several years ago, his advice on attaching a base to the long wooden pole I use for my antenna wasn’t as empowering.

“Just drill some holes through the base and countersink some screws,” didn’t have the same effect. I had a vision of the 7-foot plus thing toppling over because I didn’t countersink enough. So it has sat on a back burner for a while.

I saw the Kreg jigs gain more popularity on DIY TV shows over the past few years, but their $100 plus cost always kept them on the “neat to have” list rather than the list for “need to have.”

Watching the Woodsmith’s Shop yesterday reminded me that the Kreg jigs could help me. And I discovered that I could do it with a smaller, portable jig that didn’t cost $100. If you want the generic name, it’s called a pocket-hole jig.

Portable comes in handy when you live in an apartment and your workshop is 50 miles away, like mine is up on the ridge. So on the way home after a rainy-day visit to the ridge today, I stopped at Lowe’s to look at things I need for this coming weekend on the property and picked up the R3 jig and a 2-foot long piece of oak 1×12.

As soon as I got home, I did a little jig and zigged a little zag, and within 5 minutes I had a nice looking 90-degree connection between the antenna post and the base.

It’s not finished. I want to add some stiffeners at the base and then seal the wood and drill some holes to permanently attach the antenna top. But it’s operational and ready for the next Saturday that I decide to just lay on the couch and watch the Saturday DIY home improvement and cooking shows on PBS and the TV signal acts up.

One foot, two foot, slew foot drag, build your own antenna with the Sugar Foot Rag ….


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