Winning the Battle of the Bidet

While some deservedly wax rhapsodic about their honorable service in battle on foreign shores, my battleground was much closer to home.  My master bathroom to be exact.  The day I stood my ground against 2 relentless, nay-saying Rednecks, will go down as my proverbial day of infamy, “B-Day” if you will.

From the first time my eyes made contact with one, on my first trip to Europe, it was clear to me, that these simple, porcelain, wonders of personal hygiene weren’t just officious European fluff.  They are an undeniably tangible sign of decency, progress, and just plain good manners.  With one test drive, I was hooked.  I swore that one day I would have one.

I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy (Photo credit: elena-lu)

Fast forward past many homes and many moves to The Ranch. My Beloved gutted our Craftsman style home, built in the 1920s, giving us a perfectly clean slate.  The word “bidet” passed my lips on more than one occasion, when the subject of our master bedroom design came up.  At first, he acted as if he didn’t hear me.  When it was clear that his selective hearing routine wasn’t going to work, he resorted to Ricky Ricardo-esque “Now Luuuuucy,” style withering looks.

Try as he might, My Beloved could not run from the B word for long.  Just over a month ago, our contractor, his dearest friend and fellow country boy, started work on the plumbing for the upstairs.  Up to that point, I had pretty much stayed out of the construction conversations.  But, as I saw “M.T.” working upstairs, I had to ask, “what about the bidet?” From the look on his face, I could tell that My Beloved had kept my demands for a bidet, a dirty secret.  “A what?” He then shot an incredulous look over at My Beloved.  Was this heretofore impenetrable bastion of  American roughneck masculinity going the way of the European pointy-shoed wimp? Rather sheepishly, My Beloved began to explain that there would need to be plumbing for both a toilet and a bidet in our water closet.  M.T. shot me a look, then looked back at My Beloved.  We may as well have been asking him to install an altar for human sacrifice.

The profound misunderstanding that these two men had of my continental daydreams, manifested in the single waterline coming out of the dry wall for the bidet.  That single waterline was for cold water.  Only cold water to a bidet? Did they need to be reminded of the intended function of this fixture?   For these two devoted outdoorsmen, indoor plumbing is a luxury, but seriously? Was this pay back for my fancy-pants bidet nonsense?  When I pointed out the hot water oversight, it was met with grumbles, groans, and fervent calls to abandon my pompous plumbing plan altogether. Not a chance.

With a hot waterline begrudgingly added to the mix, next stop?  The Special Order desk at the home improvement store.  My Beloved let me do all the talking–it was obviously painful for him to utter the word “bidet” to another masculine, grown man.  The old, salty dog of a salesman took delight in my request, and promptly asked, “you aren’t from around here, are you?”  He went on to confess that he had only sold one other bidet in his decades long career.  He sold it to a local woman a year and a half ago who came in wanting ” one of those European foot washer things.”

Now, I can happily say that one of the ultimate symbols of European sensibilities has finally taken it’s rightful place in my home.

My glorious bidet!

My glorious bidet!

Should there be any doubts, rest assured that no Rednecks were harmed during it’s installation.  In fact, both My Beloved and M.T.  are still wearing their Dickies and Wranglers, and it appears that both completed the job with their masculinity in tact.

Bottom line? A little Paris in one’s poison oak never hurt anyone. In the Battle of the Bidet, I’d like to think that My Beloved and I both won.  At the very least, it was a clean fight.


The Weary Executioner

As you well know, My Beloved is an avid and accomplished hunter.  When he is on the hunt, game beware.  The man will trek 15 miles into the Trinity Alps during an Indian Summer heat wave in search of a buck.  He has multiple game heads mounted and ready to hang in commemoration of his kills–although we have yet to find a suitable place outside the house to hang them.  Despite the tenacious heart of a hunter, for some reason, when it comes to insects, My Beloved suddenly transforms into some kind of pacifist Buddhist monk.

Case in point, just prior to my Ranch relocation, I had the grave misfortune of finding a very large spider, of the “terrifying” variety in my bathroom.  Hearing the shrieking, My Beloved came running, like the dutiful man he is.  I immediately ordered its swift execution.  I should have noticed the minute hesitation in his countenance.  I assumed that with my decree, the errant arachnid would be promptly meet it’s maker.  It is never that simple.

About 5 minutes later, believing the area was spider-free (and therefore safe), I walked back into the bathroom and entered the commode area to finish what I started.  From my seated position, I could see the trashcan where My Beloved deposited the tissue holding what I believed to be the intruder’s crushed remains.  Within seconds, I could see the edges of the tissue rustling and brown legs emerging.  Instead of having a peaceful tinkle, I witnessed a resurrection.

The spider was back and mad as hell.  The shrieking started up again, like an air raid siren.  This time, it was peppered with expletives and a healthy degree of inquiry about the quality of My Beloved’s work.  What had gone wrong?  My Beloved is an enthusiastic administrator of “the beat down,” when need be.  Had he gone Benedict Arnold on me?  Was he part of a scheme to help the spider fake it’s own death, thus avoiding my death warrant?  Wait a minute…I swear I saw a couple books by the Dalai Lama in his collection.  To this day, he has never offered a reasonable explanation for this calamity.

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama, is the leader of the exiled Tibetan government in India. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Photographed during his visit in Cologno Monzese MI, Italy, on december 8th, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward several months to The Ranch and yet another “spider in the bathroom” incident.  This time, the spider was larger and faster.  My Beloved had his work cut out for him.  My screams roused him from the Giants game he was watching.  Tissue in hand, he knew the drill.  This time, when he pulled his “I’m not squeezing tight enough to kill this thing” turn-coat shenanigans, it bit him in the ass. For the first time in my life I heard My Beloved scream.  It was a manly, Carhartt wearing, proud Marine scream, but it was a scream.  The spider had made its way out of the tissue in his hand, and wrapped its hideous legs around one of his fingers.   Cringe worthy indeed.

Just this past weekend there were a few suspiciously ineffective attempts at murdering flies and a wasp that made their way into our house.  Although they were killed “dead,” it was only under my vigilant supervision that they received the death knell.  My Beloved claimed to have dispatched a “huge” spider on our porch, but I have my doubts.

Clearly the timing of this rant is fortuitous.  Just moments ago, My Beloved knocked me out of the way in order to prevent my contact with a large brown spider seated on our mahogany window frame–clever and rather devious camouflage.  He ran to get a rag, which he immediately twisted in order to “snap” at the disgusting bugger.  My Beloved marksman, inexplicably missed and according to his account, it jumped out of sight. Right.  I am convinced that he is in cahoots with the vile insects plaguing this house.

Like any self respecting Parisienne at heart, I decided to direct my attention elsewhere until I can find a suitable solution to this treasonous, unholy alliance.  Champagne tasting! Cin-cin for now.

Some respectable French delights…not a spider in sight!

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Sunday Dinner on The Ranch, Je t’aime

I used to absolutely hate Sundays.  The bitter dread of the impending work week would creep up and punch me squarely in the face around 4:00 PM.  The late afternoon used to mark the time when my imagination would go into overdrive about how to delay the inevitable, mundane, often the painful return to my work-week reality. Sometimes the thought of having to return to the confines of my windowless office, with the occasional jaunt “upstairs” into the cesspool, clearing house for criminal activity was too much to bear.    In order to avoid an extended period of time in a women’s prison, I determined that instead  of allowing my thoughts to drift toward automatic weapons, I would channel my angst into something I love.  To redirect that energy is my way of blocking the punch of the dreaded work week, and smiling back at it as I kick it in the neck.  From this, Sunday Dinner was born.

Cooking is my escape.  It is my catharsis.  I have no technical training in the culinary arts.  Rather, whatever skill I have in the kitchen comes from sheer determination, an addiction to cooking shows (from Julia to Giada), a life long love affair with food, and a passion for entertaining the people I love.  Sunday Dinner is my ritual, it is my relief.

Sundays are now my favorite day of the week.  I spend all day in the kitchen dicing, chopping, browning, roasting, and baking–with my Pandora channel set on Dave Brubeck or John Coltrane, and glass of wine in hand.  I usually decide the Sunday Dinner menu by Thursday, and do all of my necessary shopping by the time I am Northbound to The Ranch on Friday evening, thus avoiding the supermarket wasteland that lies north of Whole Foods.  My Beloved steers clear of the kitchen, except to offer to be the official “taster” of my work.  Unlike my day job, Sunday Dinner affords me the unique opportunity of having tangible evidence of my efforts, be it in the form of braised grass fed short ribs, Valrhona chocolate pot de creme, or otherwise.  I love, love, love Sunday Dinner.  It is the one time during the week that the Ranch Family can get together and catch up.

Like any true Parisienne at heart, for me, the sound of my friends’ and family’s laughter and witty repartee, coupled with great food and wine, keep the specter of the work week at bay.  Isn’t this exactly what life is all about? Indeed, the work week is imminent, but my Sunday Dinner talisman against it’s evil, ensures that I don’t let it’s stink pollute my precious weekend a minute sooner than necessary.  Work will always be there.  These small, but powerful moments won’t.

Give Sunday Dinner a shot.  Spend your last hours of freedom from the work week sharing a meal with the people you love. It doesn’t have to be “fancy” or perfect.  You just have to mean it.

Tonight’s Delights?  Flank steak marinated in Meyer lemon, olive oil, and garlic, along with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts and carrots, and fresh pumpkin pie, of course.  The wine? 2010 Unti Segromigno from Dry Creek Valley.  Delicious.


Marinated Flank Steak--DIVINE!

Marinated Flank Steak in Meyer lemon, garlic, and flat leaf parsley–DIVINE!

The Makings of Pumpkin Pie from scratch!

My faithful kitchen sidekick…Diego

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Ranch Wildlife: When Bats Attack

Last Thursday night started out as a relatively typical evening on The Ranch.  My Beloved and I had taken our assigned seats in the living room–me on the side chair with my new knitting project and him on the couch with Diego and Tiberius next to him.  As usual, with sole, unrelenting custody of the remote, he was  flipping through the channels in search of shows featuring guns, gun smithing, game poaching, gold mining, explosions, mixed martial arts, or extreme violence.  Sometimes I wonder if taking up knitting was a sort of subconscious defense mechanism, tripped by my feminine-city dweller DNA.  Knitting is truly the perfect distraction.  Thankfully, it confines my “testosterone TV” exposure to the limits of my peripheral vision.  Gone are the days when I could watch French TV and foreign films on my couch with reckless abandon.

About an hour into our nightly routine, while My Beloved was tucking into a second episode of “Homeland” (a show I actually like) our evening calm swiftly descended into chaos, for me at least.  In a chillingly calm voice, which I now believe is a ritualistic method by which he attempts to prevent a full scale freak out on my part, he says, “Wow, I can’t believe that is in here.”  His voice was so calm that I did not immediately look up.  It was only when he slowly started to get up, that I bothered to look up from my “knit 2, purl 2” sweater ribbing.  When my eyes met his, I could see something fast and brown flying in large circles around the living room.  At first, I thought, “that is a huge moth.”  Heavens no foolish woman!  It was a bat.  A BAT!!!

little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)

little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) (Photo credit: K.P. McFarland)

I was seized by panic.  I could feel the adrenaline washing over me.  What in the name of all that is holy was a bat doing in my living room?  The bat flew in furious, frantic circles.  Out of nowhere it started diving towards our heads.  That is when I hit the deck. I was overcome with images of it getting caught in my hair or latching onto my neck.  Seeing me assume crash position on the floor, while we were under attack, sent My Beloved into fits of hysterical laughter.  Of course he had his wits about him!  Like the even keel Ranch Man he is, he simply walked over to the front door and opened it.  After doing a few more laps in our living room, the wayward flying mammal quickly found its way out and went on its batty way.  How he got into the house in the first place, remains a mystery.

I can say with confidence that I have no innate fear of the myotis lucifugus that graced our living room that night.  I actually think that bats are reasonably cute, as long as they are not rabid.  It is just a bit shocking to have one flying around my living room, without an invitation, warning, or the proper mental preparation (on my part.)  Seeing as though I am on the road to “Ranch Hard,” maybe next time  little myotis makes his appearance, I will offer him a treat.

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The Road to “Ranch Hard”

It has been 6 months since I first set foot on The Ranch as a permanent resident.  Although enthusiastically motivated by love, I could not ignore the hand wringing of my inner City Girl.  How was this going to work?  I have lived all of my life in cities.  I was accustomed to a comfortable cocoon of concrete.  Had I gone mad in swapping the relative comforts of city living for dirt roads and a 15 minute trek to the nearest “decent” grocery store?   Maybe a little, but the transformation that has occurred during my tenure on The Ranch perhaps says as much about me, as it does about the power of The Ranch.  The transition has not been easy, and it is by no means complete.  At times it has been down right painful. I have found though that picking up new skills, letting go of some of my neurosis, and broadening my appreciation of the absurd go a long way in helping to soften the blow.

The Ranch is a wild place.  Like Sparta, it is not for the weak.  When I came to The Ranch, the depth of my survival skills were, shall we say, limited.  It is safe to say that I could lead a search and destroy mission through the opening hours of the First Call Sale at Neiman Marcus, with the steely eyed discipline of a Recon Marine, but that was about it. I had purposely remained relatively ignorant about anything even remotely related to being “handy,” save a desperate, practically at gun point, late night lesson in sheet rock repair, facilitated by my one of my best friends who is an unapologetic slum lord.  In any event, suffice it to say, that I hadn’t the slightest clue where my fuse box was, much less how to use it if things suddenly went dark.  If there was a major disaster, such as a broken water line, a large spider, or heaven forbid, if my internet went out,  I figured I would just call my Dad. I learned quickly that such nonsense doesn’t fly on The Ranch.  As a long time resident of The Ranch, “Uncle E” would say, I would have to get “Ranch Hard.”

During these 6 months, I have made huge strides in the “Ranch Hard,” department.  I now know exactly where the circuit breaker box is in the house, and I have used it on more than a few occasions.  But survival skills on The Ranch call for more than just being savvy in the midst of ongoing construction and general chaos…it literally means knowing how to survive.  By all reasonable calculations, help IS NOT nearby, and even if it happened to be, it would take the authorities a while to get onto the property and sort out the exact location of the crisis. (Anyone who as read my piece titled “Ranch Ingenuity: The Wisdom of Looking Away,” will know that chances are “the crisis” would be found in the Bermuda Triangle of: heavy machinery, power tools, and my Beloved.)   One has to be able to think quickly on The Ranch, or risk being overrun.

Even the seemingly simple act of going to the grocery store presents unique challenges.  There are no more quick jaunts to Whole Foods.  My geographical location, not only requires me to drive almost an hour to get to the nearest organic-food-snob holy land, but it forces me to do something I never had to do before–plan ahead.  Trust me, I could more readily find a pound of “the devil’s lettuce,” than I could find a terrine of pate’ de canard, in these parts. In a pinch, yes, I can drag my butt to some grim alternatives such as the GMO den commonly referred to as Safeway, or a poser Whole Foods flanked by soap averse hippies, but frankly, at times, I’d rather get a tooth pulled.

In my previous life, I was able to keep things like dirt and dust at a comfortable distance. I was obsessive about cleanliness.  There is no place for such idle foolishness on the Ranch.  Why?  It would be too exhausting. There is a thin veil of the most aggravating, powdery, dirt on almost everything. EVERYTHING.  It’s the kind of dust that would make Steinbeck shudder.  My once immaculate car, now looks like I am a frequent flier at the county tractor pull.  The shine on my once glorious shoes has been replaced with a filmy, tan haze.  No matter what I do short of wearing a protective smock at all times, there will be large smudges of dirt or a filthy paw print on me guaranteed.  These days, I consider it a minor victory if I make it through the day without a co-worker asking me if I just had a nasty fall in the parking lot, or if I had been attacked by something.

My Chucks, Gucci loafers, and Cole Haan wedges nestled between My Beloved’s hunting rifle and straw hat…if you look closely enough you will see the dust…

The Ranch has gotten to me on a few occasions during these 6 months.  Whether it was my stockpile of extraordinary wines that was “cooked” due to inadequate storage conditions, the achingly slow internet connection I have since being “off the grid” equals “air card,” or the lumbering chaos of living in a house while it is under construction, I have had my share of meltdowns.  My Beloved, the patient, generous soul he is, knows when and how to talk me off the ledge.  He assures me that the proverbial dust will settle.

Thanks to the Ranch, I am, for the most part, now able to kill spiders on my own. I now know the difference between a tractor, bulldozer, excavator, and auger.  I can even navigate my way around the Tractor Supply Company. Never fear, my inner City Girl is alive and well.  Yes, I am a long way from Paris, but now I am home.

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