May 2009

I am completing my sixth month as a homeowner, and since we have had no major repairs, two weddings, eight births, and four attempted murders foiled due in part to people being touched by our home, I thought I would open the ol’ mailbox and answer some questions from you young homeowners out there who would like to benefit from my wisdom.

How do you keep your house from being robbed?

Ah, easy.  First, buy the smallest house you can find and make sure it looks like the other four houses around it.  People will assume you are too poor to own anything nice enough to steal.  They are sort of right.

How long do you live in a house before you know it’s haunted?

As a member of Boo Club, I know for certain that immediately upon unpacking, you can tell if your house is haunted.  Signature signs of ghosts: things being knocked over, hoots and wails of “you don’t belong here/get out of my house,” etc, and also the sight of ghosts.  These may be confused with signs of buying a home that was previously foreclosed, or also a sign of having cats.

Seriously.  Three days.  GHOSTS ARE SCARY.

With the warm weather,  my hubby and I have noticed an increase of ants in our  house, and are afraid that is a sign of other vermin, such as mice.  What are some organic ways to get rid of pests?

According to my favorite blog that is not written by anyone I know, you can use stuff from your spice cabinet, like bay leaves or teeny guns.

Back in your Museum District/Northside days, you and your buddy Susan were vocal opponents of possums.  Any updates?  How are you handling possums in the Southside?


I mean, when you see them now, are you still scared?

What do you mean, when I see them.  Have you seen any?

No, I don’t even live near you.  I live on a houseboat.

CRAP CRAP CRAP.  I thought this stuff didn’t happen to homeowners.  I thought possums were a rental issue.

What?  Of course not.  They are everywhere.

I think I’m going to be sick.

My partner and I are disagreeing on paint colors.  How did you and Richard decide on what colors to paint your house?

Now that you mention it, when I was driving to the gym, I saw a freshly killed possum on Forest Hill Ave.  It was so bright and large.  It makes me ill to think that as I type this, they are crawling all over my backyard, on my car, reading my recycled magazines, licking my seedlings.  I need to move.

possum loving

So it’s been said (by me, probably) that once you buy a house/get married/join Costco, you immediately become boring to people who are enjoying a different sort of life.  I am the most boring person you’ll ever meet these days, and mainly because I like to garden now.

The previous owners of our house started the garden, and all I’ve done was tear out about half of it (most of it may have been useful plants) and put in a few plants and vegetables of my own.  My mom and my sister both are yard folk, and I have asked them advice and such about the garden, but I can only retain so much information.  I did follow some of my mom’s advice and put aluminum foil around the base of a few vegetables.  I may have dreamed that she told me to do that, though. I like my mom’s “one for the cutworm, one for the crow, one to grow,” saying, to which I’ve added “if it can grow two feet and not produce anything edible or beautiful, I’m going to pull it.” I have idly thought about killing squirrels.

I’m not putting in much work because I figure that it all comes down to “seed plus dirt equals plant.”  Although I can do things to increase the probability of a successful garden, like watering and witchcraft, I enjoy my ignorant approach.  I don’t want to know that I should have done something else because with my commitment to Netflix, I don’t want to give too much time to anything else.  I don’t actually have to sustain anyone with this patch.  The best I can hope is that with an hour or so each week of weeding and watering, I can grow a decent salad.

But my real favorite part of gardening is pulling weeds.  Man, they grow fast.  Weeds grow like weeds!  There’s this particular weed that grows underground like a wire, so if you get a good hold on it you can pull up a few feet of root and take out a few more plants.  It’s pretty cool.  I don’t like creating as much as I enjoy destroying.

My sister’s wedding was this weekend.  It was a success.  We were well fed, the rain held off on Saturday, and the band played two Wilco songs.  Congrats to Doug and Christie!


I helped out with the flower arrangements (which normally would be my sister’s job but she obviously had other things to worry about) and on the back of the ferns were tiny, disgusting cycles of life:


It’s naturally-occurring patterns like this that make me afraid of gardening.  How creepy is that?  It makes me want to throw up forever.  Spores!

I had a long entry I was going to write about my new life as a gardener, but the highlights so far have been admiring a grub before my mom told me it was going to ruin my yard and I had to kill it.  Followed by timidly squeezing the grub to death.  Then proudly discovering earth worms making the soil healthy, then stepping on them.   I have this crazy, beautiful orange flower that is growing in the back yard and I went to inspect one of the flowers.  It had started to decay and all these bugs fell out.  I hid in the house for a week.  Nature is gross!

Here’s hoping my jalapenos work out, though.  Chili for everyone if they do.

Here are some pictures from the wedding, held at James River State Park (which, for the record, is gorgeous):




Our first lunch destination was closed down (fun fact: you can call places beforehand to make sure they’re open.  We really didn’t do that enough) so we found our way to Prince’s Hot Chicken (as recommended by Bret).   It was in a sad strip  mall, but was crowded.  During our hunt for these specific meals we definitely saw a lot more of the cities than tourism offices would suggest.  The cashier tried to talk us down from spices, but I ordered medium and Rich ordered hot chicken.  Gah.  So hot.  It was bright red and served with pickles on top on a giant slice of white bread, with the best baked beans so far.  It was really good but I couldn’t handle the spiciness and didn’t finish.

In Memphis we beat the bloated, drunken crowd on Beale St. and went to Dyer’s for burgers.  They had the kind of burger that I like, nice and simple (and deep fried).  I will dream about you, cheeseburger.  With fries and onion rings.


Lunch at A&R BBQ in Memphis.  Best.  Barbecue.  Ever.  Smokey and tender, with terrible amounts of cole slaw on top.

For dinner our first few choices were closed, so we ended up at the Cupboard.  They were about to close, and the food was okay (fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes) but I was underwhelmed.  Richard ate apple cobbler.  They were out of banana pudding.

Fun fact: Memphis (the non-Graceland/Beale Street sections) is great.  It was such a good time.  A nice-looking city, lots of interesting history, and everyone was super friendly.   And the Stax Museum is the best.   Also I ran into an old acquaintance from the shopping center where I used to work, and he got us into Sun Studios for free!  Yay!


Lunch at the Arcade.  I had that fried peanut butter and banana sandwich that everyone insisted I get.  It had chunky peanut butter.  I was into it.  My husband had a ham/brie/pear sandwich.  We both had salads.  I would definitely visit Memphis again.

Mississippi is just down the street from Memphis.  We took a suggestion from the kid at Square Books in Oxford and ate at Ajax.  It was hard to pick something because the selection was so good.  I had the tamale pie, with black eyed peas, and salad.  Rich had red beans and rice with sausage.  Apple pie a la mode for dessert, and I had chocolate chess pie.  Fun fact about Oxford: I thought I would be murdered at our hotel, but I wasn’t.


The other suggestion for a meal was the Bottletree Bakery, which was a good tip.  We had homemade granola, fruit, sausage and biscuit, and took a brioche and muffins (banana chocolate chip and blueberry) to go.  This was about the time where I admitted to never having read Faulkner, which I refuse to feel bad about.  Richard had never heard of “Funky Winkerbean” before I mentioned it, and that comic strip has been the single greatest literary influence on me.

In Chattanooga we happened upon Bea’s for dinner (through a Google search on where to eat).  This was tucked away in a working class neighborhood, and the set up was so charming and practical that when I retire I will suggest that someone else open up a family-style restaurant for me to go to.  We sat at a table with another couple and took our dinner from a buffet on a lazy susan that was constantly being refilled.  I ate fried chicken, a little BBQ, potatoes, biscuits, beans, and Richard had that and some ham.  The fried chicken was the best.  I wish I had a cleaner stomach to have enjoyed it better.


The original plan led us to Kingsport, TN (a good pal’s hometown) to go to Pratt’s Hams.  Tim and LA’s description of this ham finally gave Richard something to look forward to.  I had to talk him out of picking one up on the way to Knoxville and picking another one up on the way home.  I was able to talk him down to one visit.  Though when we got to the parking lot, le Sigh, it was closed (seriously, what is wrong with us that we didn’t check this sort of thing?).  However, across the street was Pal’s, which had also been described for us before.  It’s a drive-thru with a giant hamburger and hot dog out front.  SOLD.  I ate another cheeseburger (a good, mayonnaisey mess) and my associate ate two hot dogs.  And they were served with Frenchie Fries.  I could say that all day.  Richard told the cashier we hadn’t been there before and she told her coworkers “make sure it’s good!”  It was.


This was all supplemented by complimentary hotel breakfasts (Holiday Inn Express has good biscuits), snacks, and bananas.  And Cool Ranch Doritos.

My only regret is that I didn’t eat more banana pudding.

We are back from our honeymoon, which was based more around food than our commitment to each other.  Our trip across Tennessee was loosely planned.  All we knew is that we wanted to eat well and eat a lot.  And see some president’s homes along the way.  We fell asleep watching the Food Network and listened to something like ten podcasts of “The Splendid Table,” which I had never heard before and now am addicted to.

We picked our meals based on a couple suggestions from real people and from the book (which was a wedding gift from a few nights before) “Roadfood” by Jane and Michael Stern.  If we hadn’t gotten that I’m not sure what we would have done.  Our plan to end the trip with a ham in the car didn’t pan out — but overall I ate so terribly and deliciously that I’m currently having fried chicken withdrawal.  It’s a thing!  It’s how President Andrew Johnson died!025


Breakfast sandwiches at Ukrop’s.  Every road trip begins with these.

Lunch at Zorba’s in Roanoke.  Falafel for me, and lamb gyro for the  mister.  With fries and a coke.  Fun fact: there is a version of everyone I know walking around Roanoke.  Funner fact: The Richmond You is way cuter.

Dinner at Litton’s in Knoxville.  I had read about this in the NY Times travel section (because who appreciates Southern food more than Northerners?) and it is also in the “Roadfood” book.  We had cheeseburgers, with desserts of red velvet cake and sugar cookies.  Not the best cheeseburger, but pretty good.  I’m still mad at myself for throwing out the rest of the cake in Nashville.  It was possibly still good.


Lunch at the Tomato Head in Knoxville.  Southwest salad for me (chicken, corn, salsa, deliciousness) and Richard had a Tuscan chicken sandwich.  This place was recommended to us by the guy at Yee Haw Industries.  I liked it.  Fun fact: Knoxville is adorable.  I had no idea.

Loveless Cafe in Nashville for dinner.  I don’t know how this place can qualify as “Nashville.”  I”m pretty sure we passed by my high school on the drive over, that’s how far away it was from the city.  We had the same dinner because we are essentially the same person now (aww): Fried chicken, mac and cheese,  hash brown casserole, with tiny biscuits on the side.  I had banana pudding for dessert.  Richard had chess pie.

It was about this time in the trip where we got more sluggish and greasy.  Also I deleted all photos on my camera by accident the following morning.  The Loveless Cafe lived up to the hype, and was worth a visit.  And covered in chicken decor.


Lunch in Nashville at Jack’s BBQ (also recommended by the NY Times website).  Richard teased me for getting food recommendations from there, but the article was hung up in the restaurant.  I had a beef brisket sandwich, Rich had the pork shoulder.  There were three sauces to choose from.  I preferred the tangy, spicy one.  Also with mac and cheese (eh) and baked beans.  So good.  If I had a system of rating things then this place would get a high number.

For dinner we went to the Watermark, which was super fancy (think Julep’s, also think that we would normally not eat there, but it was a delightful wedding present).  This place was awesome, and happened to be right around the corner from our hotel.  I was full from red wine and Cool Ranch Doritos, plus lunch, when we headed over.  The waitress managed to convince us to order anything she mentioned.  We had grits souffle with goat cheese and braised bacon (pork belly, specifically) with white beans.  I had roast chicken with potatoes, English peas, and asparagus in a cream sauce, and Rich had grilled cobia , andouille, and crawfish etouffee (are those things?  I had to get him to write that out for me).  On a night like tonight, as I sit by the window strumming my guitar while I listen to the rain, I think about that 1/4 of the meal I left behind because I seriously couldn’t take another bite.  I have regrets.  Maybe if I didn’t eat all those Doritos, I could have finished my meal.  I had to imagine a champion food eater dunking hot dog buns in water as inspiration just to get a second wind to make a dent on my plate.

After all of that (and drinks for us both) we managed dessert, which was a strawberry poppy seed short cake with honey marscapone mousse.  Then we died!

Above photo is the dining room in Andrew Jackson’s home, the Hermitage.  His is a complicated legacy, but what I will remember most is how much I want to have those wall colors in my house.

My associate (also my real estate partner/roommate) is now my husband.  Please update your records.

*My Jane Eyre dream wedding did not happen because no one would carry through on my plan to have Richard legally marry a crazy woman from the Islands and later have her die in a castle fire.  What’s the use of a wedding planner if they can’t make your dreams come true?