Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Five-Star Lodging

If you’ve been over to Zoë’s Mom’s blog lately, you will know that I spent last Friday night at her place in Connecticut. I was on my way back from a trip up to the office, a very sad trip, because my boss is leaving the company for an opportunity that is not to be refused, and we’re all going to miss her very much. This meant that, for a change, I wasn’t melancholy over the end of my life in Connecticut as I knew it. Instead, I was melancholy over the end of my life at my job as I know it. (This is not to say that things are going to be bad at my job. All the people I work with are extremely bright and talented, and we will continue to publish great stuff, but I will certainly miss the best boss I’ve had thus far in my tenure as a “working girl.”)

Well, let me tell you that if you are feeling slightly melancholic, and it’s a beautiful summer weekend in leafy green Connecticut, you really couldn’t even custom make a better place to say than Zoë’s Mom’s. It's five-star lodging at its best. Especially if you love to cook. Especially if you like to swim (but hate having to take care of a pool. Been there. Done that. Someone else’s beautifully clean and perfectly-temperatured pool is far preferable to the hassles of trying to keep one of your own that way. ZM is smart enough to have done something I never was smart enough to do, which is to hire someone to take care of the pool). Especially if you like the idea of sleeping in a room full of teachers’ editions of math textbooks that you can peruse. Include the added delight of Becky (whose company is always a blast) to the amenities, and I can assure you, it was just what I needed.

You see, ZM has a fabulous kitchen, with one of those big center islands that everyone can sit around, sipping wine, while the cook is busy chopping, dicing, stirring, etc. (oh yeah, and sipping wine herself). And ZM gave the whole thing up to me for the entire evening. I stopped by Trader Joe’s on my way over and picked up the fixings for a spicy (luckily, both Becky and ZM like spicy, as did, judging by the fact that he ate it, ZM’s husband, who joined us late in the evening) pepper, tomato, spaghetti, and cheese casserole. Becky’s a vegetarian, and I love to cook for vegetarians, because I don’t eat a whole lot of meat myself. Ask me to roast beef for you, and I’d be stymied. Ask me to figure out what to do with some tomatoes, and the sky’s the limit. We had a mixed green salad with blue cheese to go with this, and, for dessert, Becky brought her delicious mango upside down cake, the one she wrote about here, which she was afraid was going to be too sweet, because she’d accidentally added too much sugar, but it was just right. Not only was it just right after dinner, but it was also just right the next morning with bagels and coffee. In the midst of all this cooking and eating, I also got to read Zoë a bedtime story, an honor I did not take lightly. (Becky got the honor of helping her build shelters out of things like cardboard tubes and buckets, a task at which six-year-old Zoë proved to be extremely adept, causing us both to muse that if we were stranded on a desert island, or suddenly found ourselves in some nightmare world in which we were contestants on Survivor, we’d want to make sure we had Zoë along with us.)

ZM’s mother is a retired high school math teacher (among other things) who lives with ZM, but she’s been off in Europe, and so her “suite,” as ZM referred to it, was free for me, and that’s where I stayed. I had my own private bathroom, a TV if I’d wanted it, and shelves of math books (plus all kinds of other interesting books). I would have spent lots of time reading, but we were all way too busy talking until midnight, and I was exhausted from my week and long drive, so I pretty much collapsed into bed, despite the fact that Becky, my number one pusher, had presented me with the ARC of Miriam Toews’s new book, as well as the ARC of Robin McKinley’s new book, and Georgette Heyer’s Venetia. I resigned myself to the fact that those would all have to wait, as I slept peacefully under the covers among all those numbers and problems, trapped inside their own covers, surrounding me along the walls.

Saturday morning was swimming after breakfast. Despite our late bedtime, I woke up at 7:00 (funny, because when I had said I planned to sleep in, Becky had said, “You mean what, you’re going to sleep till 7:00, Emily?” You can see I’ve spent a few nights at Becky’s, and she knows what an early riser I am). ZM was up as well, and it wasn’t long before Zoë and Becky joined us. Zoë and I were the only ones who actually went in the pool. Becky was saving her energy for a trip to the gym (virtuous and brave Becky after our decadent night), and ZM was too busy doing things like running off to get bagels and taking Zoë to a birthday party. Becky’s and Zoë’s departures left ZM and me a little time alone in the house to soak up just a bit more relaxation and lots of chatting before I finally faced the reality that I needed to leave.

I have lots of friends in Connecticut who have invited me to stay with them as I travel back and forth, and I’m eager to do so. It’s such a nice way to get to spend quality time with those I miss. However, at this point, it's awfully tempting just to alternate between Becky’s and ZM’s every time, hoping they don't get sick of me and my incessant chatter about books.


Anonymous said...

Maybe they can merge google blogsearch and google maps, so a blogger can plan a trip and know which bloggers could put him/her up for the night. A bit like myspace or facebook, but you could choose to restrict the search to only the bloggers who read Emily, to make sure you get to stay with la creme de la creme.

Anonymous said...

You can come, I mean stay at our place anytime! That pasta casserole sounds yummy, how about the recipe?

Sad that L. is leaving, she WAS a great boss, but fun that she'll be over here in these parts. Another reason for you to visit!

ZoesMom said...

I can't always guarantee you the "math suite" but you are definitely welcome to stay at my house and take over the kitchen absolutely anytime. Actually there are math books all over the house so you'd be all set. The casserole was sooo good and you are right, husband loved it too. And Zoe definitely wants you to come back and read her another story. I had a great time so come again soon!

litlove said...

What a lovely time you spent there! And what nice things to do - to cook in someone's beautiful kitchen, read bedtime stories, swim in their perfect pool.... It sounds idyllic!

Rebecca H. said...

Sounds like a great time! You can add us to the list of people you can stay with when you are in CT, but I can guarantee you the accommodations won't be 5-star (there's a lumpy futon covered with dog-hair here for guests!). The food will be good though, whether you cook or it or Hobgoblin does.

Sorry your boss is leaving!

Emily Barton said...

Mandarine, clever idea. Of course, no one would ever get to stay with me, because I'd spend all my time off visiting others.

Danny, I will definitely come and cook. After all, you've promised me that coconut cake. I have some other friends who are moving back to Southern CA, too, so pretty soon all my friends will be out there, and I will no longer be able to put off visiting. I'd give you the recipe for the casserole, but I'm one of those annoying people who cooks by feel, so my recipes end up looking like something from your great-great-great grandmother's recipe box, with such helpful steps as "make a white sauce," because, you know, everyone knows how to make a white sauce.

ZM, no problem about the math suite. Talking to your mom about math would be preferable to the suite, I'm sure. I WILL come again soon (while Zoe is still young enough to enjoy bedtime stories read by others).

Litlove, "idyllic" is exactly the word I couldn't come up with that, you, of course, my dear, could. Thank you!

Dorr, I'm very eager to stay with you and (cook with) Hobs, even on the "lumpy futon," and despite the fact you got rid of your pool. I would hope Muttboy might want to sleep on the futon with me. And even if it isn't 5-stars, I bet you and Hobs don't offer up ghost stories to your guests and then leave them to fend for themselves way down the hall in an allegedly haunted house, so it's got to be preferable to being a guest in my home.