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Every few months, I convince myself that I need an old-fashioned country breakfast, complete with some form of eggs, bacon or sausage; pancakes, biscuits or toast; grits; and coffee. All dishes I could perfectly well make at home, but dishes that, like sandwiches and salads, are somehow better when made by someone else.

Deep down, I realize that I don’t really want these foods for their sake, but for the link they hold to the past. Weekend breakfasts with my grandparents were some of the most special moments I had, first as a child, then as a young woman.

They were long, lazy affairs, with bottomless cups of coffee and free-range conversation. I got to know my grandparents, and they got to know me.

It wasn’t about the food, but man, the food. Endless stacks of pancakes, biscuits for days, homemade possumberry or muscadine jelly, crunchy bacon, creamy grits.

I realize this is the path that takes many people on an emotional — and dangerous — journey with food. Ice cream reminds you of Saturdays at the skating rink, but pint after pint doesn’t take you back there. Potato chips remind you of afternoons in front of the television, shoes kicked off and homework tossed in the corner, but munching your way through an entire bag won’t ever reinstate that feeling of freedom.

Food as comfort is a trap, a tasty one, and one we build for ourselves. Acknowledging emotional eating is vital, but also a little hollowing, making us recognize the void we’re trying to fill with food. Recognizing that void means knowing that the past is done, that the people associated with certain foods are gone, and those memories are all we have.

It’s an acknowledgement that, hopefully, helps us all have a better relationship with food, one that lets us make new memories instead of living in the past.

panniers

Maybe it’s a character flaw, but to be inspired to walk, run or bicycle, I need a destination.

That destination may be somewhat impractical – this is the time of the year, for example, when I try to talk the husband into strolls through the back, sorta swampy part of Piedmont Park, in hopes of spotting snakes. I’ve also had a bit of success getting him to stroll to the dog park, even though we have neither dogs nor any intention of getting dogs.

My go-to destination since we moved to Atlanta has been Trader Joe’s. It’s just within walking distance, although it’s a tad far in really cold or really hot weather. The parking lot is impossible to negotiate most of the time, however, and I would walk twice as far to avoid the ridiculous process of stealthily driving around trying to spot someone leaving. (Yes, there is overflow parking in the back lot by the movie theater, but it comes with its own set of problems, namely aggressive drivers who are angry that they were forced to use the overflow parking lot.)

But the walk is a slog, time-wise, 20-something minutes each way, with refrigerated items suffering in the sun all the way home on hot, sunny days. Not to mention my tendency to suddenly remember that I need 3 pounds of apples AND 3 pounds of potatoes, adding unplanned weight to the bags.

My rarely-used bicycle was, of course, the answer, but the only suitable bag choice, my reliable black JanSport book bag, didn’t hold very much, left a big sweat stain on my back and made the ride home less than enjoyable.

Finally, the husband remembered than panniers were a thing, and we were soon ordering bags and a rack from Nashbar. The Townie was our bag (technically basket) of choice, and we chose the Axiom Journey bike rack to hang it from.

The verdict? So far, so good. The bags hold a little more than I usually get during a standard shopping trip, and the three attachment accessories (hooks, Velcro and a bungee cord) mean they don’t bounce around too much, even with filled with groceries. As you can see, I forgot to bring bags to put inside the bags during the excitement surrounding my first trip with the new setup; the Townies are especially sturdy when the groceries are secured inside another bag and, therefore, aren’t bumping around inside.

The travel time to Trader Joe’s has been reduced to a mere 10 minutes, provided I catch the light at 10th and Monroe the right way, and go full speed down every available hill (which, of course, I totally do). The trip back takes a couple of extra minutes – you can’t go downhill on both parts of the journey, after all, and no matter how well-balanced the load is, it still adds weight to the ride.

All that time saved means more time to look for snakes and watch dogs. And I haven’t even mentioned the chipmunks.

tulips

One side effect of owning a cat for the better part of 18 years was a strict no-flowers-in-the-house rule. Yang loved nothing more than calmly sniffing a bouquet and then suddenly snatching a flower between his teeth, ready to chow down like a champion.

When the husband brought home a gorgeous bouquet of lilies for Valentine’s Day, I actually left them at home instead of hiding them in the closet until I could secrete them away to the safer confines of my office. They were a lovely, colorful addition to the condo.

During my next trip to Trader Joe’s, it occurred to me that people actually buy flowers for their homes, all the time, without holidays, birthdays or anniversaries as a prompt. Five dollars later, I had the perfect little bouquet of tulips to add a touch of spring to the living room.

It’s a small indulgence, but $5 every couple of weeks is money well spent to lift the mood of our small space. I’d trade them in an instant to have my cat back, though.

IMG_0880

Yang has been gone for almost a year. While we’ve discussed getting another cat, or another pair, we haven’t taken any steps toward doing so. I don’t really want just another cat, I want MY cats. I realize that sounds like the logic of an 8-year-old, but I miss my boys.

Last week, my office visited the Lifeline Animal Project in Decatur, Georgia, to walk dogs and socialize cats. Lifeline runs a private shelter housing many animals that have been abused or neglected; neuters dogs and cats at little or no cost to owners; runs a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats; and helps underserved pet owners get access to free vaccinations for their pets. Lifeline also manages Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services.

If it sounds impressive, it is. You should visit.

Anyway, I was hoping/dreading that I would instantly fall in love with a shelter cat. I think the husband fully expected to arrive home to a newly installed feline condo resident.

Didn’t happen. A couple of young cats snuggled right up to me, purrs and all, but the magic just wasn’t there.

You know what was there? Hives. On my face, where said young cats head-butted me. Short-haired cats are, apparently, not for me.

The only cat I halfway connected with is the beauty pictured above. She didn’t hide from us, but she wasn’t having any of the socialization we were doling out, either. She was, in short, her own cat.

She certainly wasn’t destined to be my cat, nor were any of the rest of the itch-inducing little buggers. I guess my perfect cat is out there, but Yin and Yang just showed up at our door one day and never left – they found us.

It’s going to be kind of hard for a long-haired cat to show up at the condo door, but I guess the first one that does gets to stay.

When we moved out of the house in Huntsville, I left my “china cabinet” behind. An IKEA shelf-turned-cabinet via the addition of a few doors, it was still in great shape (although mysteriously unphotographed), but entirely too heavy to move. Taking apart IKEA products seems inadvisable, especially products with hinges because, man, those things are hard to get right the FIRST time.

Thus, my favorite sunflower-patterned plates and bowls have been trapped in storage for the past year because buying furniture is THE WORST. Last month’s storage room flood destroyed one of my boxes, however, so the need to unload everything became a little more urgent.

Another trip to IKEA, another shelf-turned cabinet. This time we went for wide instead of tall, and chose a design that required six tiny doors instead of two or four larger ones. The hinge installation actually went pretty smoothly after we got a rhythm going – we almost went for eight doors, but figured out the liquor bottles were pretty attractive on their own.

Is it going to be too heavy to move? Oh yeah. But at a price of around $150, I can afford to pass it on in a couple of years if necessary. Our building has a healthy IKEA-reselling network, and not feeling obligated to move heavy furniture all over the place makes me extremely portable.

Weekend epiphany: You know you’re organized when your storage room floods and you’re not worried about losing a thing.

I got the call at around 1 p.m. Sunday: There was water in our downstairs storage room (it comes with the condo) and they needed us to come check it out STAT.

Ah, the struggle of donning pants on a Sunday afternoon.

The storage room contains a kayak, a couple of wetsuits, a few dishes, a plastic box of Christmas decorations, miscellaneous garage stuff and most of the husband’s books.

The books can be a contentious topic. We’ve designed rooms around those books, although “designed” is a misleading word, since we end up with ugly industrial-strength shelving wherever it’ll fit because there are SO MANY BOOKS. There’s simply not room in the condo for the whole collection, and I can’t stomach any more walls lined with wire shelving and plywood.

I had just brought the last box of my books upstairs a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been culling books for a couple of years, treating them like living treasures that yearn for love, adventure and respect. There are only so many that I’m going to re-read, and the ones that have sat on the shelf, year after year, awaiting their first read? They need some love, and I’m obviously not the person to give it to them.

Thus, I have one eight-section IKEA Expedit shelf filled with my literary treasures. I’ll invite the husband’s books upstairs (and we recently bought a smaller under-window shelf for his nicest publications), but the whole unedited collection is just too much.

A flood can be your best friend. He only lost a few books, the ones on the bottom of a couple of boxes that rested on the floor. Those got tossed, usually with a comment along the lines of “I don’t even know why I still have this.” My hope is that more introspection occurs.

But the best part of the whole adventure? Knowing that everything (and I mean that in the true sense of every THING, not including people and animals) that I love is within the walls of the condo with me. Photos are scanned and/or in one plastic tub next to my desk. Books are culled and shelved. Important paperwork is in a small safe, not scattered throughout random boxes. Artwork is hanging, not leaning against the wall downstairs, awaiting spot selection and, perhaps, flooding. Furniture is in place, not in storage for if/when we get a bigger place (fingers crossed that we don’t).

Can I instantly place my hands on any random thing you ask me for? No. Can I figure out where it is within 10 minutes without shuffling madly through random boxes of stuff? Most definitely.

Do your worst, washing machine across the hall from our storage unit.

After ditching the terrible kitchen that I gladly left behind in Mobile (huge room, no counter space, two outlets on walls spaced some 20 feet apart), I enjoyed the large expanse of a kitchen built in the late 90s, complete with tons of cabinet space. Pure suburbia.

I didn’t exactly get along with pure suburbia, however, and ended up in a medium-sized condo in Midtown Atlanta with a decidedly NOT medium-sized kitchen.

I like it. I donated the china that I’ve been packing around for nearly 20 years (china that was meticulously packed away in my paternal grandmother’s home, so don’t worry that I’ve thrown away some sort of beloved family legacy). I need one more smallish cabinet to keep my own wedding china, which is actually pottery, but other than that a smaller kitchen is definitely working for me. Less to dirty, less to clean up. Less cabinet space to attract stuff that has nothing to do with food prep.

On a recent trip to London and Paris (I’m not going to call it a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, because I fully intend to go back, but yeah, it was a big deal), I realized how much less kitchen I could live without. We stayed in apartments in both cities, beginning with a laughably tiny kitchenette in Chelsea:

kitchen

It really took the concept of “no counter space” to a whole new level, but it worked. We boiled pasta and heated sauce for Christmas dinner, and we scrambled eggs one morning. We also had a water kettle, microwave and toaster, meaning we could easily make coffee (via French press) and tea, plus warm up the occasional sandwich or other bakery treat.

In Paris, we added a dishwasher and slightly more counter space to our cooking area:
kitchen2

I think the most complicated thing I made here was oatmeal (dozens of authentic French bakeries within walking distance does not prompt a girl to break out the pots and pans). I also enjoyed the kitchen’s Nespresso Senseo coffeemaker, which I was disappointed to learn is no longer sold in the United States. While I hold anything involving K-cups in utter disdain, I could live with coffee made from those little filter packets every last day.

So much more to talk about from this trip later. Right now, I have to go enjoy the wide-open spaces of my tiny condo kitchen.

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