‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Thursday, May 31, 2007

biological anomalies



Obviously, the rhododendrons have bloomed. They are probably 15 feet tall and silly with blossoms. They are everywhere you look.

Then when I picked up Lucy from school I noticed a piece of cardboard covered with small, colorful sculptures. I recognized a small blue elephant, a duck, a rabbit, some flowers - all painted in shimmery pastels and just as cute as the day is long. When the teacher opened the door, she said, "now Lucy, I'm going to hand this to Mommy because it's very delicate. You can tell her all about it." This is the one we got:



And she did indeed tell me about it. Everything about it, in fact, except what it was. Finally she disclosed that Imogen had made a turtle and so she made one too. It is a turtle then.

When we drove up to the house Chris was already home so Lucy scampered ahead with her turtle. I dive for my cell phone and call in an advance warning.

(ring ring)

Chris: Hello my current wife
Me: It's a turtle
c: what?
m: trust me, you'll understand in a second
c: you DID NOT just buy Lucy a pet turtle.

What sort of reputation have I gotten myself around here? I am hoping it's a Lord Have Mercy What Will She Do Next reputation. I have always wanted one of those. I might have to buy Lucy a pet turtle now.

Also on today's list of things worth noticing - a median planted with perennials and little trivia signs sprinkled throughout. One of the signs said that scallops have 35 blue eyes. Or at least I think that's what it said (I was driving, after all). So I googled "scallops blue eyes" just to be sure I wasn't making stuff up and I found this.

I am linking to it instead of adding the image here because it's, well, a little creepy. Lucy used to have nightmares that there were lobsters in her bed. I might have scallop nightmares.

But it was a nice median.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wax on, wax off

incoming:
1 Oyster knife, to open fresh fresh fresh oysters brought to us by dinner guest. We must really live here now.
12 whole wheat cranberry pecan rolls from Pain D'Avignon, a bakery (mostly bread) that smells so delicious you absolutely have to sit down and eat something right there. They have good coffee, too.
2 more baby chicks, so now we have Christina, Madame Cezanne, Jane Avril, Whistler's Mother and St. Theresa in Ecstasy. It's getting crowded.

outgoing:
1 toy boat, flushed down the toilet by Studley

eaten:
soba noodles (tossed with fish sauce, lemon juice and olive oil) with smoked salmon, tomatoes and micro greens - from the Chinese and Asian cookbook sitting on the chicken box. I was so proud I photographed it:



I know, that's just plain weird. But it was really pretty.....

And then I chopped it all up, tossed it a bit and scooped it into bowls. Lucy, who is even more pretentious than I am at times, ate hers with chopsticks. The serving bowl, by the way, is made by Thea Tenenbaum. She is the potter I refer to in my "and the point would be" section. I first met her when I worked at the Boulder Arts and Crafts Cooperative. I am partial to her birds - especially the pasta plates. We use them nearly every day, as almost everything we eat fits best in a bowl-like plate (or plate-like bowl).

We're sort of Amish-ish when it comes to TV around here, but while I was typing I caught a glimpse of a PBS program called Craft in America. It was about, of all things, handmade pottery. Incredibly beautiful footage of a villa with tiled walls and lines of flower pots like one would find in Spain (only I think it was in New Mexico). Now making plans to turn gray shingled New England exterior into terracotta encrusted Mediterranean show piece.

We have no Asian market near here, but I have finally found 100% buckwheat soba noodles (no small feat when you live 36 miles out to sea) at Cape Cod Natural Foods. Although they have a great selection of things we like to eat, the atmosphere is disconcertingly similar to Barnstable Feed and Supply, where I have been spending a good bit of time lately. I suppose it's kind of the same thing, when you get right down to it.

I am not sure they have a sense of humor at Barnstable Feed and Supply. I can't help but feel like we get the "here come the people who have Absolutely No Clue" eyebrow when we walk in. They would be right, of course. But still. I think we may have gained some street cred since our first 3 chicks are miraculously still alive.

But only because I've been in the mood for noodle salads.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

art appreciation day

This morning I asked Audrey about the film crew allegedly filming a documentary. She confirmed that it was a documentary, adding that she had heard it was about the Whydah. That's more like it. I know people who dove on that expedition. I've even watched fireworks from the Vast Explorer. Neato. Now I can watch the movie and find out what all that gear was for.

And then I went to Trader Joe's so I could socialize and, oh, get some food. I asked about the artwork and lo and behold the artist was there. So she came out and chatted with me. She was glad someone actually noticed her oblique references to local traditions, places and oddities. I was impressed at her knowledge of such traditions, places and oddities and her response was "my family's been here 135 years, I better know my way around" or something like that. Which is typical. Even if you're born here you're not necessarily a native. No siree Bob. It takes generations to be a native. The rest of us are "washashores".

Anyway, Becky (I know her name is Becky because she told me and also her surfboard name tag says "Becky - the artist") has done all these paintings - at the ends of aisles and all over the walls. They had one for opening day of the Cape Cod Baseball League, a reference to Jack's Outback (which is a restaurant known for its courteous and efficient self-service and for a very long time had no sign so unless you knew it was down an alley behind another building, you didn't get to go) and a whole mural of Edward Gorey - who used to hang out at Jack's Outback. She brought down an old painting that featured two of our musician friends, which is what I was initially asking about. I took a picture of it with my phone, but then neglected to save it. I do, however, have over 900 pictures of the inside of my handbag.

She has a painting of Scargo Tower which is one of those places I always knew was there but never bothered to go, until I was about 16 and a half months pregnant and going out of my mind and Chris drove me around sight seeing and made me waddle up up up the tower stairs until I, gasping, admitted that it was pretty beautiful up there. That was also about the time we became better acquainted with Woods Hole. We put on a lot of miles, boy howdy.

On my way out Becky gave me a calender her friend had put together.

And about an hour later I realized I had left the calender at the register, along with my grocery list.

Normal people write their grocery lists on the back of a Comcast envelope, so if they leave it somewhere it is generally not a problem. My grocery list is in a spiral notebook that doubles as a journal. I put copy-writing stuff in there, story ideas, guest lists, love notes to my long-deceased childhood rabbit, you name it.

It was a little like the Brady Bunch episode wherein Marsha's diary is inadvertently sold at a garage sale.

I called them, and was sure I heard derisive laughter in the background. I disguised my voice, but they knew instantly who I was. After all, I had just spent 45 minutes on a guided gallery tour of Trader Joe's.

I did get it back, and finger printing has come up negative on the more sensitive pages. In The Brady Bunch, Marsha gets to meet the movie/rock (don't actually remember) star of her dreams at the end because of course her diary has fallen into the right hands.

So I may get to meet Donny Osmond after all.

Monday, May 28, 2007

and Panoramas

I was toodling around town at 9am and noticed several people sitting in beach chairs on the side of the road. There were clusters of people, strewn down the street. There was also a motorcycle policeman in the center of town, ready to .... I honestly don't know what he was ready for. And then I remembered our epic Memorial Day Parade.

I busied myself until 10 sharp, when the parade went by. Here it is:



That's only half of it. Exactly half. The entire parade passed by in under three minutes (I timed it). And there were little kids with fifes and drums and short legs, so they weren't moving all that fast. Even I can Memorialize for that long. It was a Memorial Day celebration for people with an inability to concentrate.

It probably tied up traffic for an hour and a half.

I stopped by the coffee shop on my way home and was astounded by the line. I felt a little guilty waiting, because Chris was home with the kids, but I had hit him up for coffee money and I wasn't going to give it back. So I got in line. And then I remembered the secret Coffee Only counter, where they also sell chocolate lobsters. I passed up the chocolate lobsters (white, dark and milk), got my cup, filled my cup and was out of there faster than (you guessed it) a Memorial Day parade.

This particular coffee shop also sells sugar plums and peppermint pigs at Christmas. And one Easter, before we were married, Chris got me a life-size chocolate bunny from there. I had to smash it to pieces with a hammer because I couldn't gnaw off more than the tip of the ears unaided. He doesn't buy me those bunnies anymore.

And since I have now made this connection, I realize that Weber grills are to Memorial Day what PAAS Easter egg dye is to Easter. And there will probably come a day when no one has any idea about either holiday unless they google it.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Greetings from Documentaryville

I have been hungry for Asian food lately. It's possibly because I am using my Chinese and Asian Cookbook to weigh down the anti-cat barrier on top of the chicken's box. I am also using a dictionary - they are the two biggest books I own. They are either making my chickens really smart or really afraid. They don't seem very smart, so I don't think they're paying much attention to the dictionary. So not-smart, in fact, that they seem unphased by the cookbook.

Lucky for them I'm not in the mood for Tamarind Chicken (we really just got them for aesthetics* and fresh eggs, so they'll be safe for awhile). Now that it's hot out, I'm all about noodle salads, fresh spring rolls and spicy slaw. Which is good, because I'm pretty sure none of those things are nearly as bad for me as what I just ate.

Liz and I have a tradition and we're not afraid to wield it. In the summer we get together regularly and go to our favorite place for fried summer food. Sometimes we go for sundaes or frappes (you don't know what a frappe is? You are not from here, are you?).

We've had assorted people join us on these forays. We started the tradition in the Summer of My Engagement. Since then, I had a baby, she got married, we've adopted some new friends, and I had another baby.

We need a bigger table now.

So on our way there this evening, I pass a beach parking lot and notice a huge tent and a satellite dish. Hmmm, I think. I pick up a friend who lives down the road and ask her about it - since I am too lazy or introverted or whatever to find out myself. She tells me they are filming... a documentary!

Now what is it about documentaries around here? In Friday night's post I requested that there be more documentaries on events that I attend, and that was Not My Beach. Maybe they are filming it at that beach in lieu of My Beach - like filming in New Zealand instead of on location in The Shire.

We have a friend who is a documentarian. Spell check doesn't seem to think that's a word, but she is one so it must be. Her movies make us cry but we still like her. Perhaps she'll know about the latest film crew. I'd ask her, but she's probably filming.

In the Shire.

*yes, a garden gnome would have been easier. And smarter. But Sissy, Buffy and Mrs. Beasley make nicer chirping sounds when they are falling asleep. And they still seem to like me.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

working from home

Today I cleaned my office.

Granted, my office is a table in the back corner of our bedroom (okay, simmer down all you Feng Shui experts). Still, it needs to be tidied, and I've been in a tidying mood. I've been in such a tidying mood that Chris now owns 3 pairs of socks, 2 t-shirts and a pair of shorts. There are 6 Lawn and Leaf bags full of what used to be his clothes, ready to go to Salvation Army. The kids and I were not spared the Great Clothing Exile, so we'll be spending the summer in our bathing suits.

Because you see, even though it doesn't seem like I work, I do. And I need a place to do it where I'm not repeatedly wishing I could see all the way across the room without visual assault.

Those of us who work from home have rights too.

Anyway, I'm trying to return the room to our original vision - which was a tranquil spot with eastern influence. By that I don't mean the boil-your-fish-in-milk and put-a-braided-rug-on-all-horizontal-surfaces eastern influence. If I squint I can still see that vision. I was shooting for something Asian - Zen and the art of making your bed with fluffy white bedding à la Lost in Translation - but I think I landed stylistically somewhere in Prague.

But back to the officey part of the room.

Although I can, technically, work while the kids are here and awake I am always afraid I'll look up to find that Studley has super-glued himself to the bathroom door, so I work at night. Or I get a sitter while I hide in the back. If she needs anything from me she has to slip a note under the door. It's not that I can't be interrupted, I'm just embarrassed about the state of my office.

Right now none of this matters because I am basking in the friendly glow of my laptop, smelling the lilacs through an open window and listening to the last of the birds settling down for the night.

It's a nice place to work.

Can you tell I haven't been out today? We made it as far as the wading pool. As far as I know, the whole world has boycotted our sandy spit of land in favor of a weekend in Vegas.

But I doubt it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

and now figs

Last night when Sarah came to pick up the baby she glanced across my livingroom and said "are those your sunflowers?"

It is high time for us to kick them out of the house. They must go forth and multiply, or build themselves homes of straw, sticks and brick or something. Because they're huge.

"The chickens ate ours," she tells me. "I have one left and it keeps wilting."

I am beside myself with pride.

But enough about last night. Today I spent the day battening down the hatches. I don't like crowds and a holiday weekend is upon us. I restocked the fridge and pantry, picked up drycleaning, bought a sunhat for Studley and flip flops for Lucy, had some pants hemmed, and stopped by Sarah's to gloat let the kids run in the sprinklers.

Before I left she gave me a small fig tree, grown from a cutting. I think it is safe to say we are now friends.

So I really could have ended the day right there, but then I would have missed the woman with seed packets pinned all over herself.

You see, we had been invited to a yoga/healing arts studio's grand opening. We made every effort to get there because a) our friend teaches there and b) we heard there would be sushi. I don't know what the flower packet thing was about. Perhaps she was incarnating fertility and abundance as an offering to the studio and its prosperity.

I thought I did pretty well finding a batiked tunic to wear.

It's a beautiful studio and certainly worthy of some opening day hoop-la. There was even someone doing a documentary or some such something about it. He was pointed out to me just as he trained his camera on Studley, who was making snow angels on the floor. No one seemed to mind, as stepping over a small child is part of their yogic practice. The studio, now that I think about it, is an interesting mix. The space is very cosmopolitan - clean lines, gorgeous floors, almost gallery-like in presentation - and the people working there seemed like they'd be perfectly content in a yurt. So which is it?

I actually like the mix - I want my surroundings to be gorgeous and well-appointed. And I want my teachers and massage therapists to be unimpressed with things material. Is this so much to ask?

I would also like more documentaries made of events I've attended. Then I can find out exactly what it is I went to.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summer Starts and Ends Here

I am writing early so that blogging doesn't interfere with my babysitting gig. My friend Sarah is dropping off her baby so she can play a gig of her own at The Wellfleet Beachcomber.


I did not take this picture.

Do you know what this means? Yes, it means summer has officially started.

I have been going to the Comber on and off for about a gajillion years. Every once in a while the bartenders from the Comber would come to the surfer bar I mentioned earlier and I remember being a bit awestruck. It was like they had dropped in off Mount Olympus. The Comber has this mystique - a sort of Holier Than Thou beach experience. One year I had a crush on the guy who worked in the parking lot. See? Even sitting in a lawn chair and taking people's money is cool if it's the right lawn chair.

It is part nightclub, part restaurant and sits on the dunes overlooking Cahoon Hollow Beach. Now Cahoon Hollow Beach is not for the faint of heart (and it's a tough haul when you're 7 months pregnant, believe you me). You have to walk down this enormous dune to get down to the beach. So then you're all hot and lethargic and you have to climb back up, with your cooler and your umbrella and your patio set for 8.

So here's what you do - head down with a towel, a trashy book and some sunscreen. When you're hungry, thirsty, bored, whatever, you trip blithely back up the dune, unencumbered. You then pop into the Beachcomber - handily located between you and your car - and get a little something. Maybe something from the raw bar if you're into the local scene (not kidding - the shellfish guy has a key to the cooler and he stops by on his way home from the flats at the shriek of dawn). There's an outside bar, or if you need a bit of shade, an inside bar.

But wait, there's more.

Obviously, there's live music (or at least there better be, since Sarah claims she's playing there tonight). They get all kinds of people. Ween, G Love, Tom Tom Club, Buffalo Tom, Burning Spear, Frank Black, Colin Meloy. And this year (oh happy day!) They Might Be Giants. I can't wait.

So why oh why am I sitting here instead of there? Because I am a nice person. And because I forgot what day of the week it was when I said "yes of course I'll be home". Boy, does she owe me.

So YOU go. And don't forget to buy a t-shirt

A few of my favorite things

Large, healthy strawberry plants--many with flowers already-- Please come by and dig as many as you'd like! I have a bunch at my house on a hill (separate from my other garden exploits), and they do produce sweet little berries! Please come during the day in Woods Hole so I can show you to the correct plot...

Reasons why I was all hot and bothered about this Freecycle post yesterday:
1) I have been wanting to get some strawberry plants
2) Garden exploits? I must know more. And take camera
3) Woods Hole?!?!?! I am so there.

We love Woods Hole. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) is there (acronym pronounced "hooey"). The Marine Biological Laboratories (MBL) are there. It is surrounded by water and boats and we feel like we are instantly on vacation every time we drive into town. I do not know a single person who lives there. I am sure that will change because surely the Strawberry Lady is willing to be my new best friend? I am due a drive there, so I go ahead and launch a field trip.

A friend calls me just as I arrive in town. I am waiting for the Strawberry Lady to call me, so I answer instantly. Due to all those pedestrians, I pull over to chat.

So I'm sitting in my car, across from a coffee shop and watching the local life. MBL & WHOI are somehow connected to MIT, and probably a bunch of the rest of it is too. It's this little harbor town with really smart people walking around and a definite college feel to it. Rumpled, professorial types ride up to the coffee shop on their single speed bicycles, newspaper tucked under one arm. People greet each other on the sidewalk. I want to be one of those people. I want to know some of the people who live in this town, who frequent this coffee shop and cruise in on a Schwinn, I want to do every single thing advertised on their community bulletin board.

I find a proper parking spot and go for a walk, over the drawbridge and through town. View from drawbridge:



I was planning to have breakfast at Fishmonger's Cafe but it is still too early in the season. Sadly, there is nothing that folds in my wallet and I am too embarrassed to ask the nice people at Pie in the Sky if they take credit cards. Probably just as well, since I don't really need to eat any meals at a bakery.

And still no phone call from the Strawberry Lady.

I do what any neophyte gardener does. I give up.

And on my way out of town I see a sign that says "Flying Pig Pottery - Open" so I hit the brakes and drive into what appears to be someone's personal driveway. But no, there are pottery signs and arrows leading me behind the house (sort of like a Far Side cartoon, really) where, lo and behold, is someone's pottery studio. She's set up shelves at one end with pottery displays and a bowl to put your checks in (please include 5% sales tax). I have only seen our friend Pam Black do this, but perhaps it is the next big thing among the potting community. Pam says she's never had any trouble and the bowl is slightly more helpful and courteous than some salespeople I've encountered. It's just like a country vegetable stand, but with no vegetables.

I can't decide between a bowl for me or a mug for Bella, so I leave. And I don't have to explain anything to anyone.

Maybe I'll get that phone call tonight and I'll get to go back tomorrow. What's another $12 worth of gas when free strawberry plants are on the line?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reason #14,871,349,127 why I love Jacob

Here's one of his posts:

New Phone Number

I'm carrying at least two mobile phones these days: my personal BlackBerry 7130e on Verizon and my company-owned BlackBerry Pearl on T-Mobile. I keep a T-Mobile EDGE card in my laptop bag and frequently have yet another phone on Sprint. That's way too many phones (and I hate Verizon Wireless), so I'm slowly weening myself off the 7130e.

But how do I distribute my new number to my loved ones? I could send a mass-email out or something, but that would be boring. On the other hand, I don't want to post my number on the Internet...in plaintext.

Instead I think I'll post my new number wrapped in a light encryption. You already have the decryption key. Subtract my old number from 14,871,349,127 and the result will be my new number.
"The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes...if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life." - Frank Lloyd Wright

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Make way for goslings

Today there was a june bug, legs flailing in the air, on my porch. It is hard to believe in evolution when such a thing as a june bug exists. Something which announces the coming summer by bashing itself repeatedly against ceiling, wall, wall, ceiling, floor, only to wind up on its back, flailing.

I should have fed it to the chickens.

Here they are:

We think Marsha (center, rear) had a fake ID, because she is obviously a week or two ahead of Cindy and Jan. She even has tail feathers. Cindy and Jan are just starting to get their tail feathers, which makes it look like they sat in something.

I mostly put the picture of the chickens in so I could label this as a chicken post - I was a little low on chicken posts. I added labels so you can go through and follow my steps to a perfect garden, vicariously tour my friends' homes, or whatever. I was in a tidying mood today.

I might need to add a Farmyard Animals label, as these marched through our yard this morning:

Lucy kept saying "mommy mommy look what's out the window!" and I thought Studley had tossed another toy out so I kind of ignored her. And then I looked, just to be polite. I noticed that we had left our picnic blanket out there (yes, we had a picnic lunch in the yard. We were very picturesque) and then I saw the geese. For a second I thought they were coming for the chickens. And then I thought oh for heaven sakes, next we'll have sheep. Things happen like that around here. I'm telling you, Green Acres.

Fortunately they ignored the garden, which has not so many signs of life and even fewer signs of a fence. The guy who's building our wall is in Italy at a wedding.

We can say he came from Italy to build our garden wall. Sweet.

Monday, May 21, 2007

renovations, revisited, redux

This morning I ensured that Lucy will be accepted at the Ivy League college of her choice. I took lunch to her teachers when I went for my parent-teacher conference. I hear they've been eyeballing her lunch lately.

It's a little embarrassing how pleased I am when her lunch is coveted by her teachers. Some people want their kid to have the coolest lunch box. Others like filling it with something other than peanut butter.

Of course, Lucy loves peanut butter.

So anyway, I drop off my suitcased sized cooler at school and head off to pick up the babysitter. On the way I catch a glimpse of the bay. Sometimes I forget that I am surrounded by water and seeing it always makes me catch my breath. I also like it when I notice sand at the edge of the road.

But if I hadn't gotten the memo about living near the water, I would have remembered when I picked up the sitter and got a tour of her family's house. They are renovating one of the old Captain's houses along Old King's Highway. Sometimes there are official tours of Captain's Houses, but I prefer to do it when they're not expecting me.

They have changed part of it to be open and light and modern, while keeping most of the house true to its time - like the original exterior, the captain's staircase, and angled upstairs ceilings. Half renovated, half restored. And definitely inhabited, which I like in a house. Coffee was made, mugs were within reach. I nearly sent the babysitter off without me.

Meanwhile, Chris is working on a Captain's Coop. Or something. He's spent the last couple weeks combing the internet for coop plans. They are legion. If we thought making architectural decisions for our own house was difficult....

Speaking of which, for those of you who have been with me from the beginning we still have no deck. Or sunroom, or terrace, or wrap around porch. We did talk to an architect and show him some of our ideas (which he approved of as being in keeping with the rest of the house). The next step was to send him some measurements and our house plans so he could do the drawings. Well the next thing I know I'm driving along the backroads and I spy a house with a wall of glass doors and I come home and say, "forget the sunroom, what we need is a wall of glass doors." Chris agreed. So we're sort of back to square one. And meanwhile this area has been declared to be in the Wrath of God Zone and so in need of hurricane tested windows (not good when you're adding a sunroom).

So Chris is putting all his architectural mojo into the coop. Here's the latest design he emailed me (we don't actually talk, just email).

(image of cupola thing here)*

I don't have the heart to tell him it's a rabbit hutch.

*I had posted the picture, but there was something about the image title that kept scoring me visits from people who were most definitely not looking for chicken coops. Next time I put a provocatively titled picture up, I'll make sure it's embedded in some of my very best writing.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

having coffee, taking tea

This morning my mother-in-law asked me to come make her a pot of coffee. I was a little nervous, because I'm not used to her coffee maker and I didn't want to make her something undrinkable. Making coffee, after all, is an art not to be trifled with.

If you have ever lived with me you know that I don't usually drink very much of my coffee. But I do love making it, smelling it brew, and carrying it around the house.

One day it dawned on me why this is so. Here is my Coffee Manifesto.

For me, the process of making coffee means that I am taking time to do something just for me. Not for the kids or my tea-drinking husband. Even before I had aforementioned family following me around, asking for a sip of this, a nibble of that and a pound of flesh, I have felt this way (without realizing it). I once bought an electric coffee maker with a timer, but that just didn't do it for me. I like making cafe Americano with my espresso machine. I also enjoy my French press. The more steps, the better. But once it's made, its usefulness has passed.

Conversely, if you invite me over and offer me a cup of coffee (or tea) I will drink all of it. Being offered something in someone's home is one of my favorite things. I think some day, hundreds of years from now, there will be a coffee ceremony not unlike the Japanese tea ceremony. Grind, measure, tamp....

There will probably not be steamed milk involved. It is loud, and getting milk froth on your nose is so indelicate.

After college I visited my friends Danny and Doug, who were living in London. They were squatting and I was a little afraid this meant that they were living in a stairwell somewhere. To my delight, they had a flat with a locking door, running water, lights and a 2 burner stove. One evening we visited a friend of theirs who was waiting to be evicted (he, too, was squatting). So here we are in his livingroom and he says (in his very British way) "cup of tea?"

Imagine this 20-something guy, in a not particularly nice part of town, about to get tossed out on the street. "Cup of tea?"

How lovely is that.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

space between the branches



I find things in the strangest places.

Today I found my salad servers on top of the juice glasses. I have found my mascara in the lego box. I sometimes recover shoes from the kitchen waste basket. Anything over 4 feet off the ground I blame on Chris, but generally Studley's* the culprit.

I think it's safe to say that Chris put (and left) the cup in the tree.

Tonight I have spent entirely too much time finding things. I have tackled, and conquered, the Hand Me Down Clothing Issue. It took me two hours, which is nothing considering that I have been stepping around 4 shopping bags full of kid's clothing for the last 6 months. I figured no one would notice it if it was on my side of the bed. And no one did. Including me.

I think there's a line in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about ridiculous messes becoming invisible over time. It's true.

My latest thing is Freecycle. Surely you know of this godsend? It's freecycle.org, and it's where you post stuff you're sick of stepping over so that someone else can have it and step over it. And once you post it you can indeed play favorites and give it to the most delightful person who emails you.

Sometimes I forget that I have stuff, so I frequently skim the "wanted" listings. I feel a little like Mary Poppins when I do this. You say you want rollerblades? I duck into my closet and emerge, wheezing and covered in dust, with rollerblades in hand. Who knew those were in there?

I figure if I weed out a bit more it increases the likelihood of things ending back in or near where they belong. Although I'm not sure who I'm kidding. At the very least, it means I can get up in the morning without being greeted by a symbol of all the things I have not yet gotten to.

And that's pretty great.

*Studley Dooright is not his given name and therefore one less thing for him to sue us over later.

Friday, May 18, 2007

groceries

Today I went to The Big City and stocked up at Trader Joe's. I don't know why they don't just put one out here - I always see about 80 people I know every time I'm there. Actually, I do know why they haven't put one here (I have a friend who worked in the food service industry and she knew Everything): Demographics. The average age of the people in my town is higher than their target audience. What they don't understand is that while we may look like a retirement village, they're really just a bunch of aging hippies who love spelt and almond butter.

So meanwhile, I had a little chat with the check-out guy and it turns out his friend is trying to get him to move to Colorado. Aha! Something I know about! So I talked his ear off about how there are 300 sunny days a year in Denver and it's only a brown cloud if you're not in the middle of it and I'm pretty sure I'll never see him again because he's either a) afraid of me or b) living in Denver, being unable to resist my sales pitch. So why am I not still living there? I happen to like it better here. And the people who grew up here happen to like it better there and that's what keeps the world from falling completely over.

Besides, there's no Trader Joe's in Colorado.

But they probably have something like our brandy, spandy new Shaw's. I've only been to our new Shaw's once - during an ice cream crisis. I had put off going because I had heard people were circling waiting for parking and it reminded me of Christmas at the mall and I started to itch. But now that I've been for the ice cream, I can hardly wait to go back.

No, really.

It's a "green store", which means they have skylights and the lighting changes according to how much light is coming in the skylights. And it smells good when you walk in. Yes, you read that right. There are things in my grocery store which Smell Good. Unbelievable. They were remarkably clever and put the produce and the whole food Lola-Granola sections near the entrance so your first impression is of colorful produce, fragrant soaps and luxurious ready-made foods. It doesn't matter that by the time you get to the ice cream aisle you're surrounded by beach chairs, dvd displays and waffle cones. And whoever designed it definitely spent some time in those other grocery stores where people go on purpose - not because they are slowly starving to death on the last of the ketchup packets. Stores like the co-op my friend belongs to in Vermont - where the signs are kind of cool and the colors aren't scary and the lighting is high tech without being industrial. And even though the ceilings are really really high, you somehow do not feel as though you're in an airplane hangar.

There's no one to talk to about moving to Colorado when you go through the self-checkout, but I'm sure the genius behind the skylights will fix that, too.

And for the record, I still have to buy eggs for the next 5 or 6 months. Lola, Delta Dawn and Ave Maria are eating us out of house and home. The first dozen eggs will have cost us about $178.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

locals

Have you lived where you live long enough to have stopped seeing it?

Sometimes I think back and remember how this town looked to me when I first moved here.

The first cottage I rented was on a pond. It was a summer rental, and tiny, tiny, tiny except for the enclosed porch, which was my bedroom. My room-mate's room had a window that opened into my room. There was another bed in the hall and we intended to get a third roommate, but she never showed up. The kitchen was under the eaves and you had to duck to get into the bathroom. The water was so full of iron I got rust stains on my white waitressing shirts. At night I would come home from work and go swimming in the pond. It was just a bunch of frogs and me.

I thought everyone lived on the water.

My next cottage was on marshland, which I mistook for swamp. I didn't appreciate it at first but did spend those years with a bird book on my night table. Red winged blackbirds are still some of my favorites. And the first time I saw a goldfinch I thought someone's pet canary had escaped (seriously. I'm not from here).

I remember seeing a vending machine that looked like it would have drinks in it but was actually dispensing worms.

I remember hanging out in a surf bar and thinking I was having this huge authentic surfer experience.

I wish I could go back to that bar and feel the same awe and delight. It barely seems like the same place now, and not just because they moved the door.

Sometimes when I go to The Big City (pop. 48,000) I come back on the side roads instead of taking the highway. There are stone walls and cottage gardens, little stores, village centers, hundred year old homes, a horse pasture and bay views. The cherry trees are a little past their peak, but still glorious.

Sometimes if the wind is right you can smell the ocean from the middle of town. You don't just smell it, you can feel it on your skin - a tingly saltiness, a thickness to the air.

I guess it's the same as with any other crush. Part of the infatuation is based on what we actually know of the person/place/thing, but a good deal of it is the fiction we create around them.

And as we become acquainted, the reality may turn out to be better than the fiction - even if it's a little less exotic than we first thought. And we find that we have become the exotic ones for those just starting to create their own fiction.

If they only knew.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Going around in circles

This morning I was Uber-Mommy, up at the shriek of dawn making oatmeal pancakes. I whisked Lucy off to school and stopped by a friend's house to water her plants while she's away. I put Studley down for his nap and realized I hadn't eaten any of the pancakes. So I hit the kitchen and had Frosted Flakes and whole milk. Oh my. Yes, I was still at my friend's house. Her pantry is different from mine. Then I tapped into her dsl and got a couple hours of work done. When Studley woke up he came and found me, played with my cell phone for a little while and called my boss - leaving her a lengthy message before sending a few pictures of my ankles. I finished up work and then played follow-the-leader with him for literally 25 minutes. Out of the kitchen, through the family room, down the hall, past the dining room, into the kitchen..... It was a bit like a walking meditation and I got heaps of stuff sorted out in my head. Yes, we're still at the friend's house.

Don't ever ask me to water your plants, feed your parakeet or let the cable guy in while you're away because when you get home you'll wonder whose clothes those are in your closet. She knows I do this, but gave me a key anyway.

So then we picked up Lucy and headed to the carousel. It's in a museum that is surrounded by gardens - veritable forests of rhododendrons. We walked through the gardens to get there, but then riding the bus back to the car is part of the fun. The bus looks like a pontoon boat. And for those of you who are jaded by tour buses that have a prerecorded guide instead of the real thing, this bus is for you. It went like this:

"So the first thing people ask me is, 'when do the rhododendrons bloom?' and I tell them, 'I have absolutely no idea.' I've been here 17 years and this year has been so crazy... Hello Carlos! Looking good.... that it's impossible to tell when anything will bloom. There's one that's not even close. There's another that.... Mario, you missed a spot! .... And if you look straight in front of us you'll see the most spectacular azalea in three states...." and so forth until finally we've greeted every gardener on the property and we arrive at the parking lot, where he adds (still on his microphone) "Ginger, I sure hope you feel better. You go right home and do what I told you this morning. It's a sure fire cure."

It really was the most spectacular azalea in 3 states and it reminds me - I forgot to water the plants.

since you didn't ask

Here are some answers to questions I was hoping someone would ask, but hasn't.

First, possibly the most interesting thing I have ever typed went unnoticed. I am one degree of separation from Homer Simpson because our friends Johnny and Joey were playing in a biker bar when Homer went in looking for Marge (episode in which Marge is kidnapped by biker gang). Johnny and Joey are members of the amazing band NRBQ and, as it turns out, look fabulous in four color animation.
I am two degrees of separation from Kermit the Frog because Chris went to the apartment of Joe Rapposo when he was working with the band Andromeda. Joe Rapposo wrote "It's Not Easy Being Green". I love that song.

No, Prissy, Dixie & Quixotic have not yet been eaten by the cat.

Yes, I do bear a striking resemblance to Eva Gabor in "Green Acres".

Can Paula actually sing? Yes. It's breathtaking actually.

Did I know that the rosemary was probably not dead, only sleeping? Yes, thank you, I just found that out. Rest assured that if it wasn't dead then, it is now.

I believe this is what is referred to as a "clip show" in the biz. You know, when you don't have anything to write because you've spent way too much time sitting next to a cardboard box in your livingroom, gazing at three items of fluffiness which are still amazingly alive.

We got them for the kids.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Flo, Midge & Eleanor

I frequent the ballet, symphony and opera. I like literary magazines, alternative music and sushi. I speak 3 languages, have made Napoleans from scratch and played the violin (all badly, but still).

And I have chickens.

Yes, chickens! I am so excited I can barely stand myself! First of all, they're cute and fluffy and seem to like me, secondly, they'll make this whole place make sense. People will drive up and say "what the..... oh! they have chickens!"

Besides, they'll cut my grocery bill in, like, HALF.

When we first thought about getting chickens we were concerned about the small matter of coyotes across the street. A huge, thriving, colony of coyotes. But we are building Chicken Run, a luxury compound with gated entrance and enhanced security features. We are quite sure they will be safe, although I may put one of our old baby monitors out there. And Chris is working on surveillance. Actually, they are already rigged with Chicken Cam and a microphone. This is Trout Towers, after all. They are in a cardboard box, but they have all the finest hi-tech documenting devices.

Chris picked them up yesterday. When I asked him what kinds they were he said "I don't know, they're chickens." He did remember something about colored eggs. So I asked if one of them was an Americana. He didn't know, but Lucy says yes. She was there and she remembers everything. Not always a good thing.

Are you impresed that I know about Americanas?

We didn't really care what kind we got, as long as they were capable of laying eggs.

We had hoped to get them from an elementary school class that was hatching chickens. We liked the idea of them coming from an academic environment. However, someone must have turned the incubator off at night to conserve energy, or maybe it was the cafeteria food, but either way, they didn't make it. And the baby chicks that will be put in the incubator as decoys to avoid heartbreak will have to be returned to their rightful homes when the squealing subsides.

So brace yourself for some posts that read "they are all sleeping in their food bowl. They are SO cute." and "I think they are even cuter today than they were yesterday." Whole, long, rambling chicken posts.

And we will keep them on leashes when we take them for walks. Hey, in this neighborhood, no one would blink.

Monday, May 14, 2007

community service, reconsidered

This morning on my way to work my car did just what it's supposed to do when I don't have children in the car: Drive in the opposite direction from work just long enough for my Dirty Little Secret.

Don't get excited, it's just a muffin and coffee. But it's mine and no one asks me if they can have one too or why I am not having oatmeal with skim milk.

I stop at a place that opened last summer, run by a nice couple with grown kids who understand the value of discretion, privacy, and hoarding. They seem to know everyone in town and address us all by name. The phone rings. "Hi, (name of business I am not disclosing for reasons of selfish territorialism), can you hang on a second?" It is bright and sunny and there are lots of people but everyone's so darn glad to be there, getting their own dirty little secrets, that it doesn't seem like a line.

I get a cranberry peach muffin and small coffee.

"Thanks for holding -sorry about that!"

When things get really busy sometimes they see me in line, get my stuff and surreptitiously hand it to me around the edge of the counter, whispering my total. I guess they don't want it to look like they play favorites, but they do. And I love them for it.

They have cd's from local musicians for sale on the counter - "New Uke State of Mind", with the artist standing on the front cover holding a ukalalie.

Today after the breakfast rush they are going to help their daughter move from her dorm to her new apartment. I like knowing things like this. I wonder too late if this means she will not be working there this summer. I'll have to ask them next time. It seems like a nice thing to ask, and also feeds my sense of community - a habitual pilgrimage to a multi-generational family run business is so much more rewarding than cruising past the drive-thru window of some nameless, faceless, small-business-eating chain (although I do like Starbucks and credit them with giving their stores more character than many non-chains).

But now my coffee is getting cold and eventually I really do have to start working.

You didn't see me. I wasn't here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The real meaning of Mother's Day

Lucy has been working on my Mother's Day card for weeks. She had it spread out on the coffee table and would say, "this is for you for Mother's Day. It's a surprise."

The front said
Fun Lucy
Tuo Susin

Inside there was a collage made from doilies, post-its and a couple radio station bumper stickers I had gotten from a rep. The post-its featured prescription medicine. She drew herself and an octopus and left some white areas so I could color them myself. It is about 24" x 18".

And although it is perfectly lovely, it is brunch which captured my full attention, for I am weak and fickle and as much as I love sitting at home and coloring with the kids, I am partial to going out. Especially to restaurants that have been closed all winter, waiting for the truly lucrative summer crowds.

The boards are starting to come off windows and the "Thanks for a great season! See you in the Spring!" signs are being replaced by "help wanted". Restaurants owned by friends and by friends of friends. Restaurants we've never been to but know everything about - especially the gossipy bits.

There are places that have the same chef, waitstaff and probably busboys year after year. And then there are the Free Agents, who drift. Because in other places if you have two jobs it means that you're not making it, while here, if you have only one job there is obviously something wrong with you.

So we went out to brunch to keep the economy intact. And because that's what one does on Mother's Day when your kids are too little to reach the egg poacher.

And then we napped.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Potters Potting

A few years ago I did the marketing for a woodfired pottery show. I marketed it so successfully that I was sure I could not go on without buying a piece of woodfired pottery for myself at the end of the show. And so I did.

And when I brought it home (it was a sugar bowl), I noticed that my life did not seem to change.

I realized that I had been taken in by a clever marketing scheme and was a) very proud of myself and b) a little confused. What exactly was it I thought I was getting besides a pretty neat looking sugar bowl?

In preparing for the show, I asked potter Ben Krupka if he used handmade pottery at home. Of course, the answer was yes. He said, "each piece has its own personality, just like people. It makes beverages better when housed in a handmade cup or mug. Really, if you think about it, there aren't many things we put to our lips. We use them to kiss and things like that, which make our lips a very sensual part of us. So I guess you have to treat them well. Why take such a sensual object and put a styrofoam cup or paper cup to them?"

Why indeed.

And then Sequoia Miller: “I find using industrial ceramics to be like having a conversation with a mute person. Handmade objects have a particular point of view that is a combination of the maker, the material, and the user. Using handmade anything simply gives you more to respond to. It’s like riding a horse versus driving a car, only much less inconvenient.”

There is something nearly metaphysical about handcrafted things that we use every day. It's almost as if the person who made it is sharing your meals with you. Someone has made something for you to use in your home. For you to drink your first cup of coffee in. To walk around the house with and eat your cereal out of. They actually thought about how it feels in the hand. How it will be used.

We've rubbed out the fingerprints and cleaned up all traces of humanity from so much of our lives. Why do we think that sleeker is better? There are times when it's really handy to be able to make a bunch of things that are identical (computer chips, indented hexagon slotted size 8 screws), and there are times when that really shouldn't be the criteria.

But I'll hop off my soapbox and tell you what happened with my sugar bowl.

After doing all my homework, I had a pretty huge appreciation for the process with which it was made. I actually appreciated something I bought after I bought it. And I continued to appreciate it. And then that rubbed off on the other things in my cupboard that people have made. And before you knew it, I was getting all warm and fuzzy every time I offered someone a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. And then I was appreciating the people who were drinking the tea out of my quirky, non-identical mugs.

And it really did make everything better.

And I don't actually know if there is such a thing as an indented hexagon slotted size 8 screw.

More People I Dig: Mark Shapiro, Sam Taylor, Keith Kreeger

In case you're curious, Ben describes woodfiring:
"People have been wood-firing ceramics for centuries. This method of firing produces a certain aesthetic created by the flame and ash. Wood ash settles on the pots and melts, creating a unique glaze. The flame flowing around the pots creates dramatic “flashing” on the surface of the pieces. Stacking the kiln takes three days, as I consider how the flame and ash patterns will affect each pot. The kiln requires three days of continuous stoking and consumes ten cords ofwood. For months ahead of a firing I am wood gathering and cutting. I use a combination of pine, willow, and cherry to obtain specific surface and color effects. I find and purchase wood which is either ready for removal from someone’s property, cast-off from industry, or standing dead. While I am able to control the firing to a large degree, the kiln yields surprise effects on occasion which are a large part of the joy of the wood-fire process.

"Because of the nature of wood-firing no two pieces will be exactly the same. At first glance some may appear to be the same, but on closer inspection one finds subtle nuances of difference. Because my forms are gestural and expressive of the personalities of people, this firing method suits my pots - as we all have marks which distinguish us from others. And, as with people, pairs and groupings may considerably compliment one another’s qualities."


If you have never seen a wood-fired kiln, click on Sam's link above. The kiln's are beautiful - buildings really. You walk in to load them. Often several potters will share a firing - partially to fill the kiln and also so they can take turns with the round-the-clock fire stoking.

Extreme Parenting

Last night I went to the theater.

I saw "The Extremes, in Concert" - six 50-something women with very funny things to say through dance, spoken word, song, etc. Sort of performance-arty, which sometimes makes me nervous for the people on the stage. I was not nervous last night because I was too busy trying to keep my mascara from running.

One of the things they said was "My mother wanted well-behaved children, a blissful marriage, a lot of money and an immaculate home. She was miserable. I'll take messy."

I couldn't agree more. Because when this is all said and done I don't think I'll be saying, "golly, I wish my house had been cleaner." Of course, my house is not in the state where DSS might take my children away, otherwise I might actually be saying that.

I'll take messy because having a family is the hardest thing I've ever done. It took me a long time to get married. I just couldn't fathom how someone could share their space with another individual and be happy. And now I share a very small space with 4 people, with 2 more people in close proximity.

And I learned that you don't share a space with another person and be happy any more than you live on your own in your very tidy apartment and be happy. Sometimes you are, sometimes you aren't.

But I digress. I work from home and the one day a week that I go into the office I refer to as "my day off". Because this stuff is hard. So it is a ridiculously huge compliment when people tell me I make parenting look easy. I actually hear this a lot, which puzzles me. But I figure I should go for it, and start a parental advice column.

Here's what I'll do. People write me with questions and I'll call my sister with them. She'll tell me what to do and I'll write it and sign my name. Easy! This is what I did every day for the first year of Lucy's life, so she's used to the phone calls.

In retrospect, it's a little surprising that I called her at all. Historically she would be the one to critique (and possibly ridicule). Her favorite line was "I'm just being the devil's advocate here....." Boy was she. To be fair, we were equally critical of each other - I of her lifestyle and she of mine. We never shared clothes, friends or very many common interests.

And yet when I'd call her for advice about my child, she'd be completely supportive of what I was doing and give me some pointers for things I might try down the road. She was never anything but positive and helpful. And she had some great ideas. This is, after all, what she does - help people raise their kids. And with her advice, it has gotten a little easier to stay balanced and sane and have kids I want to be with.

So maybe when they are in their 50's my kids will say "mom wanted to have fun with her kids and her husband, a home where people liked to visit, and enough money to not freak out."

But kids never say things like that in real life. So maybe they'll say "she was on the phone with her sister All The Time." And that's okay, too.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Suddenly, we're the conventional ones

Will I ever learn to take my camera when I am invited to people's homes? Really, if people invite me over, they should just prepare to have their homes photographed and splashed all over the internet.

I knew I was in trouble when Chris said - "wow, cool tree house." It's not a tree house, it's a guesthouse with its own bridge. And a couple ladders. And probably parking. This was no relation to the treehouse I built with a piece of plywood and staples.

Chris saw the treehouse before I did because I was having screen porch envy, having just gotten over my 70's-mod-entrance envy and an-artist-obviously-lives-here livingroom envy.

This post falls into the "how did we get such an assortment of cool friends" category. She's an artist, he's a chef. He also is involved in our community radio station and they're both really into music. We finally scored an invitation to dinner. Did I mention he's a chef? I tell you, we live a truly charmed life.

Their home looks like I Dream of Genie's bottle, but with lots of additions. There are these two identical rooms off the end of another room. They're mirror versions of each other, complete with lofts. His and Hers sitting rooms? No idea. Every surface is covered with cool stuff to look at. Thank goodness they gave us the full tour because I would have had to set a trash can on fire so I could snoop. You can't have a livingroom with that many visible entryways springing off it and not let people snoop a bit. It's not fair. Besides, people can't concentrate on a thing you're saying until you've shown them around.

Just make sure you keep track of them, or they'll get themselves all moved in while you're not looking.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

turkey fiddlers on the roof

Reasons I am a very nearly famous person:
1) I am 1 degree of separation from Homer Simpson
2) I am 2 degrees of separation from Kermit the frog
3) I am 0 degrees of separation from Genie Morrow

I assume that you count the people in between you and the famous person, because otherwise I would be saying that I am Genie, who I am not. Unfortunately.

Because she's very cool.

She's been quasi-housesitting for the winter and invited a bunch of us over to trash the place before she had to move out. Or at least I assume that's why she let me bring the kids.

What an amazing house to be allowed into. We started on the rooftop deck, with its lovely ocean view. To get to the deck we went through a series of rooms, all with pull-out places to sleep because you just know people are always dropping by and staying for a week. It's not a big house, but there were these spaces where you just wanted to go and hang out: A little brick patio tucked into a corner; a sitting room at the top of the stairs. If I were staying there, I'd be sleeping in a different room every night and moving from chair to chair with myriad cups of tea during the day. And now that the weather is warming I'd have a mattress pulled out onto the rooftop deck faster than you can say "who is this person and why is she sleeping on my roof?"

Genie made us dinner. When someone makes me something to eat or drink it is as close to taking communion as I will ever be allowed to come. There is something so sacred about sharing food. You could tell she had thought about every detail and tailored her choices to the friends she was feeding. It was amazing. I would give more details but if I keep thinking about it I'll have to drive back over for left-overs. I wish I was there now, actually, as I'm sure they're all still sitting around in the livingroom and chatting it up. It's not the sort of house to relinquish guests easily.

The only disappointment is that the wild turkey did not make an appearance.

After all, if you catch sight of someone's animal totem something mystical happens and you wake up to find you can sing in tune for the first time ever.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

she sings in French, no less

Yesterday a Suburban pulled up to the house. I watched out the window as a pile of 20-somethings piled out. I called my husband: "Honey, there's a band in our driveway".

I am usually friendlier than this and generally at least say hello. But I wasn't in the mood yesterday.

Today was better and although I still haven't met any of them I have watched them play frisbee on our street and have enjoyed listening to them lay down horn tracks. They are a ska band and I do have a weakness for horns so they are ingratiating themselves without even looking up to the window where I am watching them with my binoculars. Okay, I don't have binoculars, but I've seen my mother do the "watch the neighbors with the binoculars" thing so I figure it's just a matter of time.

They were still playing when I left this afternoon for Part Two of my amazingly musical day.

My friend Paula began taking voice lessons about 8 years ago. I don't know the exact story, but I imagine that you get to a point in your life and say "you know, I've always wanted to....". And so you do.

Today she had a recital. It was all so civilized and lovely, like something from another era (not that we're not civilized but really, if you think about it - not so much). The sun was streaming in the windows and you could see just a little sliver of ocean over the trees. It made me a little teary.

As I sat there listening I wondered what I would do if I could pick up something new to try. I think I'd like a drawing class. Or maybe dance. I'd consider a new instrument (I have played piano and violin), but I don't really have the attention span to remain interested long enough for it to be evident that I had taken lessons. I already knit, so that doesn't count.

And then I listened again.

And then I thought about my different friends and their lives. I have the friends who are incredibly well dressed and have all the coolest stuff you ever wanted. I have the friends who have incredibly little stuff and make you wish you had less stuff. In short, they're all good at their lives.

I think I'm pretty good at my life. I am somewhere right in the middle of incredibly well dressed and obviously-took-vow-of asceticism-in-past-life. I don't think I make anyone wish they were more like me, though.

A long time ago, whenever I had house guests I would stage this incredible life for myself. I'd make espresso and get fresh croissants from the bakery down the street for breakfast. I'd drink my espresso and read The Atlantic. I'd have chamber music playing. I'd meet friends for lunch, get together for cocktails, go to the theater. Have interesting people drop by. Eat healthy and exotic food.

I figured if I kept it up while my visitors were around they'd go home thinking I led the most perfect life. And then I would collapse into my usual slovenly lifestyle, completely exhausted.

If I did that now, Chris would give me away. "Hey, where'd these croissants come from? BJ's?" "When'd we get those little coffee cups?" "Why are you kicking me?" Besides, I have neither the time or patience to make my life look like something it's not.

But if I did, it would look like today.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The blind leading the trowel-leading-blind

So the woman who comes once a week to help my mother-in-law around the house told her that she thought our garden looked beautiful. This concerns me greatly as it implies she is, in fact, as blind as my mother-in-law and where on earth does that leave us? Either that or she's channeling a past life or she has a very, very vivid imagination.

Because it's pretty much just dirt.

I mean, I've put some stakes in for the snap peas to climb on. And two of the beds are heaped up in lovely concentric rows (see post re: weird MacGyver-y husband) but really, it's pretty much just dirt.

And that better change soon - specifically in the addition of a lovely, tall fence. Because the peas, oh yes the peas we've all been waiting for, have arrived. They are about 1/4" tall and multiplying probably as I type. I planted hundreds of them. There are also some very fine specks of green which represent, one hopes, mesclun mix. And this all means that the rabbits are Just Waiting for their moment, since we are still without a fence.

But we did make contact with a trained professional who can allegedly build a stone retaining wall so our garden will stop sliding into the street.

He has not returned our calls, which can only mean one thing, although I do not know what that one thing is.

So I'll just go ahead and put in the spinach because I am obviously on a roll and nothing can stop me now. If anyone asks, I'll tell them about the nitrates. "Yep, those nitrates make all the difference." I have no idea what nitrates are. I heard that if I plant winter rye when everything else has pretty much frozen solid in the garden that it will magically restore the soil over the winter. It seems like an earthy, gardeny thing to do, so I'm all over it.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to subscribe to Mother Earth News.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Neighborhood Gardeners

I failed to mention in yesterday's post that one of my neighbors is some sort of plant guru. They used to have an herbery and still have a greenhouse and spectacular garden. I do not know what is in their greenhouse and I suspect they have gotten to the point where they only grow for very select clientèle and are doing it privately and secretly so the rest of us hacks don't go asking for stuff.

She was out this afternoon, working in her garden as I tromped past with my brood - heading in to town for lunch (to ingratiate myself to the friend with the boat, if you must know). Something struck me about the way she was working. I do not work like that (at anything).

I plant at arms length. Crouch, poke, pat, rise, squint, repeat. She was sitting in her garden, surrounded by little plants, tucking them tenderly into very dark soil. My soil doesn't look like that unless I spill my coffee.

In the summer they sometimes entertain outside in their garden. Or they just sit in their lawn chairs with cocktails. Thy don't seem to do it in a "our garden is so much more inviting than yours" sort of way, which is what I'd be doing. They just seem to really like their plants.

I like eating my plants and I think they feel threatened which just taints the whole aura thing. My sugar snap peas are at this very moment cowering just beneath the surface.

So maybe I need to be a little nicer to my plants. A little less afraid of them. Maybe this year I will try some varietals (ha! a gardener term) that will make the vegetable patch more beautiful. Maybe I'll actually set up that table in a sunny window and start some seedlings in those little pots that gardeners use. Several of my sunflowers, after all, are not yet dead.

I'll start with basil because one can never have too much of it. It looks pretty planted between the tomatoes and smells divine in the sun.

And at the end of the summer I will again toss the lot of it in the blender with some pine nuts, olive oil, garlic & parmesan. Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Neighborhood

I just took a walk around our neighborhood.

I walked past the music teacher's house. I walked past the house where I am sure the orchid grower from Twin Peaks lives. I rounded the corner and came to the commercial fisherman's house.

I like having a commercial fisherman on our street, with his boat, buoys and big commercial-ly looking things. It gives me the sense that this may be a movie set and I am indeed living in Mayberry-by-the-Sea. I am also glad that he is not in some other business, like solid waste treatment or tire burning. I am sure that tire burning is a business, somewhere. We used to have a lobster fisherman here, too. Once we came home and found lobsters in our produce drawer. We think he put them there, although I suppose they could have gotten lost and were hungry for carrots. We liked looking out on his lobster traps, especially in the winter when they'd be covered in fresh snow and looking like some sort of New England Christmas card.

And then there's our house. We have 3 drivers living here, and 6 vehicles. We are exactly the sort of house that makes my mother's eyebrows meet her hairline. I grew up believing that each driver had no more than one vehicle. If you needed a truck, that's what you drove. If you were partial to golf carts then you jolly well better be willing to drive it to the dump with your old boxspring tied to the top.

We like our small, fuel efficient cars. But we have a smattering of other, project-specific, vehicles. And there is now a car out front that doesn't run at all. This is not our fault but we don't exactly have a right to raise our own self-righteous brows and ask it to move along.

I nearly joined the party and added yet one more vehicle to the flock. I decided it was high time to get my own beach cruiser, so I could take my family to the outer beach. I looked around for one briefly before becoming obsessed with something else. Which I have also forgotten about. As it turns out, it is all for the best as most of the outer beach has eroded and it does not look like there will be much in the way of offroad access this summer.

But it would have made a nice greenhouse.

And all is not lost, because our dear dear dear friends (who I hope are reading this) just got a boat - complete with a bathroom - and we are looking forward to spending our summer on their boat instead of on the outer beach (where there is no bathroom).

Other People's Lives

I do not have an addictive personality. I have tried, because it does seem kind of cool to be addicted to certain things (soap operas, hockey. Probably not heroine as it's so bad for your teeth).

That said, I am addicted to someone else's blog. I read it every morning, and when she doesn't post first thing, well, I twitch a little and keep checking compulsively.

This morning she had a particularly spectacular entry, which hit so close to home I figured I should either plagiarize or link. Too lazy for the former, so here you go: Lovemonkey's Blog

It reminded me of something that happened a few years ago. My not-yet-husband, a friend and I took our beat-up catamaran into the bay and sailed to a hoity toity resort where we beached the catamaran and scampered up to the bar. We sat in the sun and had cocktails by the pool in our shorts and t-shirts while wedding guests and resort vacationers carried on around us. At one point I heard a very well dressed woman on a balcony above say of us "now that's living".

Boy was she right. And the thing is, you can't buy that. I see people trying to construct their visions of how things are around here - little rose-covered cottage and all - but it always turns out more like Epcot than the real thing.

I did not marry my husband for the catamaran. Or because he gets me on the guest list for shows. But it helped.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Housekeeping

My house doesn't look as bad as it did this time last year. I know this because I sent a picture of my livingroom to my sister last year, just to show her how busy I was. She wrote back and told me I needed help. Some of it professional. And she asked if that was indeed her niece amid the clutter. You could barely see her little pigtails poking up from behind the laundry pile.

It's the beginning of May and things are getting busy around here. We need to rush around and get the people we work for ready for the big season, so we can all take a nice long nap after Memorial Day weekend which will last until the 4th of July.

So I have been looking at my house and thinking, hmmm, am I not working as much this year? Why do we sometimes have clean clothes? And then I realized - it is because my boss has been coming to my house to work.

On those mornings, I shriek, "she's coming, she's coming!" and run around in circles, stirring up enough agitation so my husband dashes off for his hazmat suit and starts cleaning. I run in circles, he cleans. Rest assured that our standards for a clean house are still spectacularly low. This morning we swept up the corn flakes and I put away most of the laundry that was sitting on the livingroom floor. There are still bins of summer clothes in the kitchen, waiting for me to sort through and figure out what to stuff back in the basement. There are still little piles of who-knows-what that safeguard the house from intruders who might think that no one lives here. We don't have intruders because sometimes it's hard to get the door open.

Outside our kitchen door is a small pile of goldfish crackers (I wrote "crackers" in case there are any animal rights activists looking for a blog to blacklist). Clearly a call for help from some small child - dropping fish over the gate, like smoke signals. "Help help, can you see my piggy tails? I'm the one behind the overflowing recycle bin."

But really, it is better this year.