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

Friday, November 30, 2007

wreaths

I got to use my hot glue gun again today. As it turns out, I have the Polly Pocket version.

Today was our Renegade Wreath Workshop, which we planned in lieu of the official wreath-making workshop at one of the local museums. I thought the museum workshop would be fun (and sufficiently dorky) and when I ran it by my croquet friends they were all on board - except Sarah. She suggested we have a wreath workshop at her house and she'd show us how to make them. After all, she makes dozens for her clients every year and has taught workshops and if we did it at her studio we could bring snacks.

Everyone thought this sounded like spiffy fun - except that at the last minute, everyone did not come. And by everyone, I mean everyone. It was Sarah and me, waving our hot glue guns around and eating snacks.

They blew it, is all I have to say. Because wreath-making is where it's at. Sarah showed me how to make the bow, and after several attempts (during which I thought I had it, but didn't) I successfully attached it to the wreath. And then I got to stick twigs in and glue things all over it. Sarah has all the right tools and toys - her Professional Grade glue gun intimidated mine a bit. We had rolls and rolls of ribbon and all manner of shimmering fruit and some juniper and rosehips. And pinecones and little birds and painted berries and artichokes. The trick is obviously knowing where to stop.

It was just like when we used to play dress up with the dog. Minus the hot glue gun, of course.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

updo redo

Today my mother took the kids shopping for their birthday presents. I told Lucy she could pick out whatever she wanted and then run it by Grammy. And then I told her no nail polish, no high heels, nothing Bratz, nothing with buttons that sing when you push them, no more baby dolls, no tarty costumes, nothing with lead or magnets or trampy innuendo and preferably no more princess castles with 500 removeable pieces because I'm running out of vacuum cleaner bags.

So Lucy did what she does best and picked out a whole bunch of things in the Under $8 Range. Studley picked out a book and some footie pajamas. My mother piled all of it in the cart and away they went. It took us an hour and a half. And then we came home and within minutes of unpacking, Studley cut the hair right off Lucy's Cinderella paperdoll. She took it bravely. Cinderella has sort of a Sinéad O’Connor thing going on now.

Because I am also good at these things, I threw some stuff in the cart while mom wasn't looking. I got Hop on Pop and a game called Charoodles. Charoodles will have to wait till the kids are older (although I love the idea of rigging it so Chris and I are sitting on the living room floor playing something like Pretty Pretty Princess by ourselves when unexpected visitors show up. He'll be wearing the tiara).

Hop on Pop is for now, because Lucy's reading a bit and I thought it would be fun to read together. She could read the big words and I could narrate the little ones. It would be like a duet.
Lucy: THREE TREE
Me: Three fish in a tree. Fish in a tree? How can that be?

Good, right? Except that she's just learning to read and although she's doing great it takes about 20 minutes for her to read "all tall, all small" and by page 27 I was ready to throw myself on the floor.

We decided that Hop on Pop is a chapter book.

It almost made the Glamor Booty Call Makeover Salon look like it might have been a good option. Except here's the weird thing - although she's been asking for all those Barbies and Ponies and Plastic Princess Mermaids that her friends have, when it came right down to it she wanted books and puzzles and paper dolls.

The subliminal tapes are working.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

today

Today Studley and I went back to the retirement home to visit our friend Mrs. Crane. She was glad to see us, even if she only recognized us as people who were there to see her because I said "hello Mrs. Crane!" very brightly when I walked into the sitting room. I said it very brightly so as to distract the gentleman resident who was trying to push past me and escape through the door to the lobby. The door to the lobby requires a code which changes daily. The code is printed on a business card and is essentially 1 for Sunday, 2 for Monday..... It's complex and I'm always afraid I'll forget it and be kept indefinitely and then I'll be the one trying to push past a visitor.

But really, I think I would be fairly happy there. There's something very relaxing about spending the morning with people who are just glad to be with you and don't remember all the foolish things you said 5 minutes ago. In fact, you don't even have to struggle with small talk because it's just nice to be there listening to someone tell you that your son has a cherubic smile and lovely red socks. Liz and I are looking forward to our days together in a retirement home. We will do all the activities and conquer puzzles and cheat at bingo. Our husbands will be off in another wing, hatching an escape plan (we will blow the whistle on them).

At 10:30 someone came for a Musical Hour. He played guitar and sang songs I didn't recognize because they were mostly from the '40s. All these quiet voices were singing right along with him, smiling. Yes, the voices were smiling. Mrs. Crane did too, sitting next to us and admiring Studley's socks.

When Liz and I are in a home, what will the music person sing to us? Adam Ant? A medley from Purple Rain?

And from there I went to lunch and was actually able to help Sarah sort out her knitting. If my mother had an internet connection and remembered the url of my blog, she would be gasping and giggling at that thought. She is the knitter. I am the great pretender. I can make something as long as I follow the directions exactly. I cannot make things bigger or smaller or use different yarn than what is recommended. Everything I make must be made from worsted weight yarn.

However, I discovered that although there are several blogs out there which refer to wine and knitting, it is not always best to mix them. Because you might start knitting backwards.

It is possible she did it so I could be the clever one for a change. It is hard, you see, to have very clever and gifted friends. When you have clever and gifted friends you do things like offer to bring cupcakes - commit to bringing cupcakes - to a party and then remember that the host was at one time a professional baker and everything that comes out of her kitchen looks like it should be sprawled across the centerfold of a cooking magazine.

Things that come out of my kitchen just generally sprawl.

And in the Medical Emergency portion of today's entry, I stubbed my toe. I woke up very early this morning to a cacophony of clucking. Sure that the fox was back, I dashed downstairs in my pajamas, waving a flashlight. All was well, except I missed the bottom step. Here's what I since realized:
  • Chickens cluck proudly when they are laying eggs
  • Two of the chickens laid eggs last night
  • If I ever hear them clucking in the wee hours of the morning again, I will either a) assume they are laying eggs, or b) throw poultry seasoning and some cranberries to the fox. My toe hurts.
And in other chicken-related news (it's amazing how much I can relate to chickens, no?) we got a new kids' cd today which has a song Chicken Impossible by The Nutley Brass. It involves clucking along to the Mission Impossible Theme. The link above is a Windows Media thingy. Or you can just google it. Trust me, it's worth it.

Greasy Kid Stuff: Songs from Inside the Radio

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chris just referred to a piece of sound equipment as a "hand soldered temple of audio goodness."

He's an odd bird, that one.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The scent of pumpkins

Yesterday when I remembered my college French class (19th century literature - as if writing papers in English wasn't laborious enough) it made me think of Chandler Burr, who happened to be in that class with me. Of course he did brilliantly. I, on the other hand, was in the library furtively speed reading Le Rouge et Le Noir in English to try and keep up.

He has three agents and speaks 5 languages.

Meanwhile, I am sitting here in my damask apron waiting for the pumpkin butter to finishing cooking so I can put it in quilted jelly jars and give it to Lucy's teachers.

I sometimes see his articles or hear him on NPR. He sounds just like he did in college. In fact, if we had voted on such things in college, I think we would have voted him "Most Likely to Become the New York Times Scent Critic." It just seems so obvious.

In Chandler's interview on NPR he talked about cultural perspectives - how something the French think smells fresh reminds us of Johnson's Baby Powder and how we think patchouli smells exotic but someone from India (I'm so sorry if I'm misquoting, but I think I'm at least on the right continents) thinks it smells like mothballs. Because that's what it was used for, I believe he said. To keep bugs out of things that were being shipped - lovely, exotic things that smelled lovely and exotic when they arrived in our Johnson's Baby Powder bestrewn ports.

Now I am obviously not in a position to speak with authority on scents, but I can tell you that my house smells absolutely brilliant right now. It smells sweet and satisfying. It smells like someone is taking good care of her family. Someone who is looking forward to having pumpkin butter on toast tomorrow morning. With tea. Sitting in a patch of sun. Yes, it smells like all that (I went a little heavy on the allspice).

So, to each their own (even though I'm spectacularly jealous of the 5 language thing).

Potiron
Kürbis
Kabocha
Abobora
Pumpkin

maybe just false eyelashes would do it

Even after all these years of being me I still like trying on personas. It's not the drastic changes of college, more a fine tuning. Like finding jeans that fit.

After I described us yesterday as bourgeois gypsies I started thinking about bohemians and puzzling over bohemians vs. beatniks vs. dharma bums and so forth. We are none of them. I know this because I did some thorough research (wikipedia). Yes, we fit the bohemian bill quite a bit - we are, after all, ENMESHED in the arts. But then:

Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or antiestablishment political or social viewpoints, which were often expressed through extramarital sexual relations, frugality, and/or "voluntary poverty".

Okay, so we're falling short. But I can be very frugal - which is why I'm going to the Karol Richardson warehouse sale as soon as they open today.

A few years ago that book about Cultural Creatives came out and we thought maybe it was about us. We may even have described ourselves as cultural creatives. So I did some double checking to see if it was accurate. Turns out we are not Cultural Creatives we are Completely Shallow (although I agree completely with "...dislike all the emphasis in modern culture on success and 'making it,' on getting and spending, on wealth and luxury goods." Oh, and I like the part about exotic places - especially when I can travel there luxuriously and buy things).

All of this poking around reminds me of being in high school, looking through the career reference section of the library and deciding who I should be when I grew up. Ironically, when I set off for college I intended to become a sound engineer. I am not cut out for any engineering and also have a very short attention span and am easily distracted by flashy course titles (oooh! 19th Century French Literature - in French! aaaah... History of the Weimar Republic! Egads, science requirements).

And then I wanted to go back to school and get my masters in Arts Administration. Fortunately I worked as an arts administrator first and discovered that, as noted above, I am not so into voluntary poverty.

For years and years I associated who I was with what I did for a living. Probably everyone does a bit of this. I was totally launched into crazy land when I started a family and discovered I couldn't continue working full time while being a full time mom. I had such visions (it all worked out in the end).

So maybe that is the persona behind it all. The one that makes a statement and then modifies it. The one that wants a certain aura of sophistication and then gets chickens.

I think that's who I'll pick to be this week.

Friday, November 23, 2007

euphemism gravy

Everyone raved about my pie crust, which is the only thing I didn't make.

I have never made my own pie crust. I have tried several times, each time giving up in a vile mood with dough in my hair. Chris has tried his hand, with varying degrees of success. One time he made a sesame whole wheat crust that had the taste and texture of dog biscuits. I may have discouraged further attempts.

We're making our own Thanksgiving traditions here at Trout Towers. Chris and I had very different upbringings, and so have a rich assortment of familial memories to draw from. His mother was a real live beatnik living in New York in the 50's. The holidays I spent with her were buffet affairs where people piled their plates and found a comfortable chair in the livingroom. No one was in the kitchen wigging out about things not matching. No one chilled the juice glasses and dipped them in powdered sugar.

That was my family. Even though it was just the four of us, we'd get out the good china, iron the table cloth and pass the relish tray. I seem to remember dressing for dinner. It was stressful, but very, very beautiful.

Combined, we have a sort of Bourgeois Gypsy thing going. The food is good, the people are nice, the candles are lit and the plates are pretty. No one wigs out (that I know of). We set the table in the middle of our bookshelf-lined living room because we can't fit everyone in the dining room. And that way it's easy to fling oneself into a comfy chair for dessert.

The first year I did the turkey, my mother-in-law mentioned she liked giblet gravy. So I found a recipe. It said to chop the giblets and sauté them, which was fine except I didn't know what a giblet was. Is it related to a gimlet? I googled "what are giblets" and found
Giblets are the entrails of a fowl. Today, when a chicken or turkey is purchased at the grocery store, the giblets are usually neatly wrapped up in the cavity of the bird. The giblets generally consist of the heart, gizzards and liver.

and
Edible internal organs of poultry and game including the liver, heart and gizzard.

oh
dear
God.

Edible internal organs? Entrails? Are they kidding?

I think giblet gravy will not be part of our Trout Tradition. I know it's a waste not to use the giblets, but seriously, chopping up the HEART and serving it to my FAMILY? Ewk.

What would my chickens think? I made the soup last night and had Chris smuggle the bones off the property before the chickens woke up this morning. I'm sure they knew something was up. They gave us extra eggs this morning. And an envelope of cash.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

23 hours and worth it

We made this no-knead bread recipe from the New York Times. You let it rise for 18 hours.

Declared successful.

Will report more after my nap.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

professional help

Today my friend Sue stopped by. I was glad to see her, of course, and then I was extra extra glad to see her because not only is she my friend, she is my house cleaner and it turns out this is her day to clean. Imagine, a house cleaner showing up unexpectedly on the day before Thanksgiving.

She didn't really show up unexpectedly, it's just that pretty much everything happens unexpectedly because we forget that things are expected.

Clear?

So she's here and we chat about this and that and then both notice that there is an entire spider COMPOUND in the corner above our heads and she says something like "good heavens, does no one clean your house?" And then I have to admit that I don't actually care if she comes and reads a magazine the whole time because for me, having a housecleaner means that if my house is a disgusting pit, it's not my fault. Really, it's just important that people know you have a house cleaner before they come to your house - so they know you didn't clean because it's Not Your Job (and to clean would be stepping on someone else's toes, now wouldn't it?).

And so the obvious next question is, when you are discussing the fact that someone cleans your house, what is the politically correct term for said person? I asked Sue. And she said House Cleaner. But that seems so, you know, pedestrian. So she said anything would be fine. Except maybe "charwoman."

I was thinking of something a little more highbrow, like "domestic" or "the help." I think maidservant may be pushing it. After all, she's my friend and oh, also? she is a better person than I am. For one thing, she probably doesn't have one-sided conversations with her invisible friends regarding what to call someone who graciously drops by and cleans one's house when one is out of one's mind with Thanksgiving preparations and is therefore napping on the couch. And she doesn't look around the house and tell me she'll come back when I am slightly more prepared (ie. there are available surfaces ready to be cleaned).

So it has to be highbrow for her as well as for me. I just want to sound ever so slightly sophisticated when I mention that I am employing a personal household assistant. But will people be completely clear that SHE is the one responsible for the continued well-being of my spiders?

To be fair, I'll probably have to claim responsibility for having just covered my kitchen in whipped egg whites. Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy the pie.

eggs, now $10 each

Chicken Update:
Eleanor Rigby, Penny Lane & Lovely Rita are all forking over fresh eggs. This leaves Polythene Pam. We are not sure why she is not laying yet. Did we not give her enough love as a baby chick? Were we too strict or somehow fail to give her the self confidence she'd need later in life? There are so many questions.

We can tell who's giving us eggs because we were very clever and got 3 different kinds of chickens. They lay different colored eggs. Polythene Pam will lay aqua eggs, when she gets around to it. If all else fails I may put the stew pot out by the coop to encourage (scare the eggs right out of) her.

We originally had four different kinds of chickens. She's Leaving Home would have laid white eggs if she hadn't run off with Mean Mister Mustard.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

handy around the house

Yesterday Lucy's slippers were sent home from school because a button had come off. I noticed them a little too late to run out and buy a new pair, so they were still sitting on the kitchen counter this morning. What was I to do? I couldn't just send them back the way they were. Her teachers would think I was a Bad And Irresponsible Parent. I couldn't send her without slippers - what would she wear at naptime? And yet, no one had repaired the button while we slept. I am not sure what I expected, but it never occurred to me that I would actually have to fix the darn thing.

It took me 20 minutes to find a needle. And then there was thread. And then there was finding the hole in the needle which has gotten smaller since I last used it. Also, the needle turns into two needles every time you get the thread near it and it's very hard to tell which one you're aiming at. Seriously. I don't need glasses, it's just a really tricky needle.

I am glad to report that the slippers didn't come back home today. I was afraid the button would pop off and hit someone in the eye. I knew I should have stapled it for extra security.

Now that I think about it, it probably DID pop off and hit someone in the eye. But rather than risk a repeat, the class most likely took up a collection and bought Lucy a new pair of slippers with their combined allowance. I hope they got a pair with no buttons.

Monday, November 19, 2007

haiku

symbol of bounty
the free range turkey becomes
a tryptophan nap

(okay, this was not my idea. I was doodling around and found Pensieve's request for a Thanksgiving limmerick. I couldn't think of anything that rhymed with caramelized shallot reduction flambé so I went with haiku).

more songs about buildings and food (or just food)

Surprisingly, we do not weigh 700 pounds. I am not sure why we don't. We are very like those hobbits, enjoying our breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, luncheon, tea, dinner and finally supper. With some treats thrown in.

We are partial to elevensies.

When we vacation, we like to do touristy things which involve food. In Vermont we toured Ben & Jerry's, Cabot's Creamery and Lake Champlain Chocolates. And when we buy souvenirs? They go in our pantry. This fits in with my plan for local domination - in which I get rid of the clutter, making it easier to find my pantry.

And I do need to find my pantry because it is slowly dawning on me that I will have a whole heap of people in my house in a couple days and they will want to eat. I need to find my brining pot. And I need to go grocery shopping because we have pretty much nothing in the refrigerator but eggs.

I cannot make a Thanksgiving dinner out of just eggs, unless I hard boil them and dress them up like pilgrims. The family I married into knows that my sense of humor is a tad off, so a pipecleaner-enhanced main dish may not surprise them. And if they are not surprised, why bother?

Thanksgiving is the time of year when I am glad to live in a house that has two kitchens. We are not kosher. We are copious. So people who feel smug about not sharing their house with three and a half generations plus a dog a cat and 4 chickens can now envy me with all their hearts because I will not be wondering what to do with all those side dishes. By side dishes I mean things like candied sweet potatoes, not the dog, cat and chickens.

But first I must find my house, which is currently somewhere behind the laundry baskets. Because who in their right mind goes on vacation the week before Thanksgiving? Someone who's thinking of making a hard boiled First Thanksgiving diorama for a centerpiece, that's who.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

home is where the french press is

I think the best thing about going on vacation is the way my heart sings when I get home. It's like getting dressed up for a party and then changing back into flannel pajamas.

It's good to see the place with fresh eyes. I stop seeing some of the great things about my house when I'm here every day.

I'm also seeing that I need to paint. Looking at my walls every day, I sort of gloss over the trouble spots. Now I'm sitting with my morning coffee, prioritizing which walls come first. Because now that I've been away, I'm more motivated to take care of the space I'm in.

And speaking of trouble spots, the vacations themselves can be sort of rocky at times. Chris and I have always been particularly good at working together in times of impending disaster, like the time we went to Maine (before kids) in his Jaguar and locked ourselves out of the trunk where, oddly enough, the gas tank was. And that time we went to New York (before kids) and came home to the apartment our friends loaned us to find that the front door key fit but did not work. Fine except we were coming home from the opera. The opera was War and Peace. War and Peace goes on for hours and hours and it was very late when we got back - even by New York standards.

My niece once worked for a couple who seemed to have a really great marriage. She asked them what it was that made them tick and they told her a marriage should be a sanctuary. How novel. For us, it's those rocky spots in our flight plan that make us realize what a sanctuary our family is. I'll just leave it by saying that this trip has made me very, very grateful for my family.

Did I mention that it's good to be home?

And that we can't wait to go back to Vermont because we are running out of cinnamon swirl bread?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

home again

We played "I'm thinking of an animal" on the way home from Vermont. As an illustration of why we are not homeschooling, I thought birds were mammals and Chris thought spiders had six legs. Our children are holding up well under the stress of ignorant parents and frequently correct us.

Although Vermont was lovely and it was absolutely beyond great seeing our friends, it is good to be home. Really, really good to be home. Besides, we have enough chocolate to last us several months. Or at least until Christmas.

We had snow before we left, which made everything even more beautiful. The fire was warmer, the air was clearer, the mountains were brighter. And yes, the coffee tasted better. I even found a cup of locally roasted coffee* in Burlington. Locally as in "roasted slightly down the street." There was exposed brick involved. And good music.

We're pretty exhausted after loading the eleventy-seven gallons of maple syrup in from the car, so a full report will have to wait till the morning.

*Speeder and Earls

Thursday, November 15, 2007

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd

Here's what I was afraid would happen:

We'd check in at the front desk and receive bundles of clothing containing our lederhosen and dirndls, which we would be required to wear during our stay. We would need to keep a change of clothes in our car and surreptitiously change in the woods at the bottom of the hill when we wanted to go to town. If we were not already well versed in the songs, we would be required to attend training sessions (including pitch correction intensives) until we learned them all well enough to sing when asked. For instance, if when we pass someone on a hiking trail and they say “high on a hill was a lonely goatherd” we respond “yoddle yoddle yoddle” or whatever until we are both out of earshot. And Sound of Music would play in a loop on the tv unless you read the entire guest services manual, including seven pages of family history and the words to all the songs, to figure out how to change the channel. Oh, and those infernal songs would play in the common areas 24/7.

Here's what happened:

We checked into the Trapp Family Lodge and were greeted by very nice people in normal clothes and no feigned Austrian accents. We found our way in the dark to the room they circled on the map, and let ourselves into what Chris described as an '80's ski condo - where I began having flashbacks of the 80's ski condos I have lived in. Surprisingly, all the surfaces have been left unstenciled and there are many pieces of furniture that do not have hearts and flowers carved into them. There is not a gigantic picture of Julie Andrews' face on our bedspread. It is all good.

I was so worried about possible Sound of Music Torture I forgot about what staying at an Austrian-inspired lodge meant. Specifically, afternoon cake and coffee.

So today we went to the Austrian Teahouse. I was all set to order the Linzertorte because it's the authentic thing to do and then I did a small, uncharacteristic, reality check. Because I don't actually like Linzertorte. I had the Bavarian apfelkuchen. They did have songs from the musical playing in the background, but I let it slide.

After college I was an au pair in Germany. I spent much of my time having cake and coffee at the bakery down the street, where I gained upwards of 15 pounds. The extra pounds were carefully documented in thousands of pictures, since I came home from Germany to be maid of honor in my sister's wedding. Needless to say, I had to have my dress altered.

So given my history, it's probably good that I spent much of my vacation fleeing the compound. Otherwise I might not fit into the car for the ride home. What with all the schnitzel with noodles and all.

Tomorrow: Burlington and Lake Champlain Chocolates. Oh yeah.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

coffee

This morning I set off to find the elusive cup of coffee. As may be abundantly obvious, I am not just going after a cup of coffee. I am in search of a euphoria-inducing coffee experience with subtle undertones of local culture.

As I drove down the hill it occurred to me that what I was looking for may in fact be something staged just for tourists, while the locals get their coffee at the Mobil station. I decided to overlook this possibility. It is my vacation and I can be in denial if I want to.

I found a coffee shop but it was closed. This supports my "just for tourists" belief. It shouldn't matter that it's the shoulder season if a place provides a life-supporting service.

I continued on and spotted a market with several cars in front. Surely there must be coffee?

Not only did they have coffee, they had all manner of espresso drinks. And as I looked around I realized that if we lived here, we would have to get more jobs in order to support our consumption of their prepared deli items. Unbelievably delicious-looking deli items - like vegetable napoleons, panzanella salad, herb tartlets and sesame noodles.

It almost doesn't matter that they serve Green Mountain Roasters coffee. Same as the Mobil station.

Obviously, my paradigm is skewed. Because as Lisa pointed out in yesterday's comments, I associate gas station coffee with a burning smell. If even the gas station coffee is good, have I unwittingly chosen to vacation in paradise?

Meanwhile, I got an email from someone at home who reported that the fog was "thick as soup." She is within the National Seashore, which sometimes gets wrapped in fog when it's clear a quarter mile away. I love that fog. It makes everything look different and somehow more peaceful.

I'm on a mountainside hoping for snow. It too will make everything look different and slightly more peaceful. And it will make my coffee taste even better.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

a few of my favorite things

When Lucy was a baby we went to Vail and stayed in a condo for a week. I am here to tell you, if you have a family, stay in a condo. First, you can throw your stuff all over the place and still have room to move. Okay, that may be the only reason. But it's a darn good one.

It's also nice letting the kids eat cereal while I spend the morning in my pajamas, instead of getting everyone dressed before someone expires from starvation. I don't know what happens to them during the night, but those kids will bite you if they're not fed promptly.

This is my round-about way of making my excuses for where we are staying. Because it's ironic, really.

I'm sorry, I'm not ready to admit it yet.

But it's a lovely condo. We're in a part of the world that is in its shoulder season. Which means that not everything is open. And the things that are open? You can't tell that they're open because there are no cars around. We like it this way. Remember, where we live we have 2 months of shoulder season and 7 months of off season. Really, really off season.

We had planned on doing some hiking, so we were glad when they handed us a trail map at the front desk. We were not glad when they told us they had brightly colored vests we could borrow because, uh, well, it's hunting season. Suddenly I don't really feel like taking my two precious veal chops on a hike.

Fortunately, there's always shopping. And doing touristy things! We've been on a tour already and have two more planned. Since it is us, all the tours are food related.

I am sure there is a coffee shop nearby that will make me wish I lived here. I have visions of a little place with locally roasted beans and a devoted local clientele. I keep picturing how the Beanstock used to be (the coffee is still great, even though the coffee shop is gone).

The only way to find such a place is to ask someone who lives here. So I did. I said, "where would you go for coffee around here?" And she thought about it a minute, during which I figured there were just too many places and she was trying to figure out which one was closest. And then she said, "you could try the Mobil station - the coffee's usually pretty good there."

It is now my mission to find a good cup of non-gas-station coffee. I will keep you posted.

heigh ho here we go!

Here's what we like about having Lucy in school: she's busy all day without making us play hide and seek 50 times, she falls asleep promptly at bedtime because she is so busy all day, and she is really close to being able to do all our math so we can stop counting on fingers and toes to figure out the tip at dinner.

Here's what we don't like about having Lucy in school: it's putting a huge crimp in our social style.

We used to stay out late with the kids whenever we felt like it. They were good and it didn't matter when they woke up in the morning. Now we have to be out the door at 8 and oh it is not pretty when we have to wake Lucy up. She is not, shall we say, a morning person.

And we can't do those "let's go to Maine for the weekend" trips because she would miss school and we would be bad parents. Also, if she misses school she will not learn percentages as quickly and we will have to do our own math a little longer.

Obviously, home schooling is not an option. We met some people at a wedding once who took their child out of school for a year and home schooled while they traveled all over the world. Tempting, but we'd have to hire someone to do the schooling part. It is hard to fathom how we can be so smart and yet so dumb.

Fortunately, there's an answer to this and it rhymes with Emergency School Closure.

Lucy's school will be closed for a couple days and if you were wondering what that sound of squealing tires was, it was our car heading north. The nice thing about living in a shoe with a heap of other people (besides always having someone around to help with hard to reach buttons) is that you don't have to line up someone to pick up the 85 Lands End catalogs that come while you're away.

Don't worry, I'll keep you posted with what a lovely time we're having. What other reason is there to vacation?

Besides, I can hardly wait to tell you where we're going.

Monday, November 12, 2007

armistice

So I was heading out of the house and I glanced down the hall to the window on the north side. There was a little light coming through the linen curtain, lighting up the curtain and making the old wood floor glow. The view through a room into another room, with the directional light, made me think of the paintings by the Flemish masters. So I stopped and looked again

The room at the end of the hall is the scene of some file reorganization, so it looks like someone came in the night and searched the house, dumping things all over our floor in their haste. I think a painter should come and paint a scene like this – you know, the modern version of those masterpieces. Because at first you're all “oh, that's so pretty... wait... what the...?”

That happens a lot around our house.

Chris lived in the house first and I moved in when we were married. I don't mention this in a “I waited until I was married to move in with him” sort of way. I mention it in a "this is so not my fault" sort of way. But I do think in our case it was good to wait. Sometimes it's good to be fully committed – with a signed license – before you find out exactly what you're in for.

So really, the crime scene in the back room is promising. Little by little we're tackling the corners that we've ceased to see. And little by little we'll have more of our house that we want to look at. And then it will be nice to have that painting – as a reminder to keep things filed in the future.

Last night we had dinner at a friend's house – a friend who is also having a closet problem. They had their house renovated last summer (tore off the roof and added a second floor). In the process, she shoved a bunch of stuff in their closets. Now that it's winter, she needs the things in the back of the closets and she told me (to warn me before we arrived), that the contents of her closets were avalanched all over the house. I'm not reporting it myself because frankly I didn't notice. She served roasted squash soup, using squash from her community garden. There was maple syrup and crème fraîche involved. I do not recall seeing piles of closet stuffing, but I do remember the way her kitchen smelled. Really, there should be at least as much weight placed on the quality of your life as there is on the quality of your surroundings.

By the way, the recipe came from the new Shelburne Farms cookbook, which I am buying as soon as I have a reliable internet connection back.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

the sky, as it turns out, is not falling

False alarm. Everyone come out of your bunkers. The end of the world is not nigh, as I previously had feared.

Chris went out and insulated the chicken coop this morning. I probably mentioned that Chris built our coop to resemble the Hirshhorn Museum, and I may have admitted that when I first saw it sitting in our yard I thought aliens had landed. Now it is wrapped in a shiny silver quilted blanket and looks more than ever like a spaceship. The chickens don't seem to mind. In fact, they gave us an egg. Which is why the world is not ending.

We took the egg, photographed it, showed it to the rest of the family, wrote some songs about it, boiled it and split it between 4 people. It was delicious.

It was also around $100.



I didn't tell you about it last night because we had no internet connection, which left us dazed and confused and looking at each other with "well now what do we do with our time?" looks. Chris suggested, as we sat on the couch together with our dueling laptops, that we at least network our two computers so we could play tic-tac-toe. On our laptops. On the couch.

I think our internet connection was down because I wore it out friday night - doing important things like searching for old Hogan's Heroes on youtube - until finally I was too tired to google and did my work. Eventually.

Friday, November 9, 2007

oh look, something shiny!

This is the problem with my charmed life: I work late because I spend my days doing delightfully dorky things with my kids. I also work on my computer most of the time, which is fine unless I'm under deadline. Like tonight. Because there's no place easier to get derailed than in front of a computer.

See? I'm writing this instead of working. Oh, and I'm also emailing because when you have a question late at night and you email someone, guess what? They're up being derailed, too. And the next thing you know you're blogging, emailing, IM-ing and googling lyrics for the song you just got stuck in your head. Oh, and working.

I don't usually blog in the middle of working, but tonight is an extra special night because I have A Lot To Do and it has to be done by tomorrow morning because there is a show opening and it cannot go on without me.*

And no, I didn't put it off until now. I've been working on this project for about a month. Very dedicated, I am. It's just NOW that I'm putting it off. Because, you know, there's a lot.

La la la.

Now I know I have some very organized readers out there and I'm probably giving them a nervous breakdown, so I'll stop and get back to work.

For a little while.

*okay it probably can. But it's best not to let the people I work for know that, right? Right then, back to work.

Perhaps you'd like to book some entertainment

Because I promote live music for one of my clients, I sometimes get emails like this:

Robert Matthew Van Winkle (born October 31, 1968), better known as Vanilla Ice, is a Grammy Award nominated, American Music Award winning American rapper and actor known mostly for the 1990 single "Ice Ice Baby."

He found major mainstream success, selling twenty million records worldwide.

Don't Hesitate! Book VANILLA ICE at your venue, TODAY!

What does it cost? $6600 and up, 3 rooms, one hot meal, production, backline (2 turn tables and drum kit), a vehicle rental buyout of $150.

Vanilla Ice travels by plane...no need to ask for routing dates.

  • Robert Matthew Van Winkle. Who knew?
  • Mostly for the 1990 single Ice Ice Baby?
  • Really, when it comes right down to it, we all just want a hot meal.
Love spam.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Medieval Times

Not far from Outdoor World was Medieval Times. Same structural bravado. Different gift shop.

My sister thinks it would be fun to go some night. You know, catch a little jousting, eat some turkey legs and throw the bones to the dogs. I think she's on her own on this one.

Because everyone has their thing, and Medieval character acting is not mine. For starters, the clothing looks uncomfortable. And I'm not so sure about the food. And I don't want to eat with just a knife. And my olde English is rusty.

Don't get me wrong - I like going to King Richards Faire. And I will always love my friends who are Medieval at Heart (just like I will always love my nephew, no matter how many musicals he appears in). I just don't have the house space and if I can't run out and buy all the accoutrements, why bother?

There's also the elf problem. Elves look like the Keebler Elf, right? Or do they look like Orlando Bloom? How can I be expected to recognize an elf - or know that I have Elf Ancestry - if I don't know if they are short and pudgy with cookie crumbs in their caps or tall and dreamy with no sense of humor but who cares? Medieval people need to work on some branding issues before I can get on board.

But this is the glorious thing about life, because I (no, wait, it's true!) have my own quirky things that I get all crazy about. Like croquet and the ballet and tea. And although I have no Asian Ancestry (or Asian Elf Ancestry, for that matter), I really loved hanging out at the Zen Monastery.

Seriously, the discomfort of a sweltering velvet gown with leg-o-mutton sleeves and itchy undergarments is nothing in comparison to what they do to you at a monastery. When I told you about it, I don't think I mentioned that they wake you up at 4am and make you sit completely still for, I don't know, hours before they feed you breakfast. I have been twice and would go back tomorrow if they'd let me take my kids (and teach them to sit completely still for hours). Oh, and they will whack you with a cane if you let them.

Some of my friends' husbands think I'm dorky (no, it's true). They think it's ludicrous to spend That Much Money to watch people sing, weep and then throw themselves from a tower. But then, I have never painted a team logo on my face.

See? We all have our thing. Have fun storming the castle.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

new furniture for the chickens

I had no idea a weekend away would provide me with so much ammunition.

My sister and I went from the sublime to the ridiculous - we stopped at the mall on our way to the airport. It took us about an hour to drive around the perimeter. And while doing so, we noticed a store (Outdoor World) that was roughly the size of our entire mall here on Merry Olde Cape Cod. Okay, so that's not saying much. But still, it was ridiculously huge.

It was so huge in its ridiculousness that we had to go inside.

There was a stone outcropping in the center of the store festooned with life size moose and a climber. Other animals too but I mostly noticed the moose and the climber for reasons of scale. There was a shooting range. And there was all manner of camouflage stuff. Including furniture.

I think camouflage is a popular pattern for things like upholstery and children's garments because I first noticed it at Children's Place. There was pink camouflage and beige camouflage. There were camouflage go-go boots.

Which is all lovely except that if there's something I'd like to be able to find, it's my kids. Also my cell phone, which is why I'm not getting the camouflage phone holster.

Which brings us back to Outdoor World. Oh come on, click the link - there's an awesome Flash slideshow.

I may be considered a trifle naive (maybe even dumb as rocks), but it took me a while to identify a heap of things in the store. Those little things you sit on that aren't lifeguard chairs because you're shooting at things, for instance. And the things that look like safes and are in fact safes but are for keeping your shotguns in.

This is not a store for people who name their chickens.

So I hope the people at the mall didn't mind me walking around and asking what things were and taking lots of pictures of things I have never seen in my life. As you all know, I don't get out much. And besides, people do that in my yard all the time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Castle Aaargh

The first trouble I had with the plastic castle was getting it to go through the x-ray machine in security. It was too light and couldn't push its way through the plastic curtain. The security agent assured me it only needed some weight behind it and the next thing I knew he was saying, "that's a fine looking castle in there," as he watched it glide past his monitor.

I had to carry it on the plane because my sister gave it to me as we arrived at the airport and I couldn't fit it in my bag - despite the fact that I had two things in a bag that I can generally carry a week's worth of clothing in. So I walked through the airport with an 18" tall plastic castle loose in a shopping bag. I got some looks.

Now I am pretty good at gaging how things fit together. For instance, I am quite good at picking the right plastic container to fit the leftover chili. And so I could tell, as I walked down the aisle of a very full plane, that my castle was not going in the overhead bin. So I found an aisle seat and tried shoving it under the seat in front of me.

Due to the ornate plastic landscaping at the base, my castle would not go past its parapet. I tried wedging it in at an angle - no dice. A flight attendant was watching me. She told me it would have to fit all the way under the seat and I should probably give up. It was confiscated.

I watched as my castle was carried over her head to the cockpit. She came back and said that the pilot had agreed to keep it up there for me. And then I saw it coming back, over the head of another flight attendant. I felt myself turning crimson and was very glad to see it keep going past my row. The flight attendant came back and told me that they were not allowed to store plastic castles in the cockpit and it would be in the back of the plane. I think the pilot realized that I had managed to stow all the action figures, including the stuff to launch with the trebuchet. Without plastic boulders and miniature pigs, the castle was just a waste of space.

Have you ever tried to get to the back of the plane once you land? I thought about abandoning it, but at this point too many people would recognize me as the Woman With The Castle.

The flight attendant suggested I check it next time.

Next time?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fells Point

On Saturday we had gusts up to 70 miles an hour and a torrential downpour all day. Chris told me it was raining sideways. He had to tell me this because as he was watching it rain sideways, I was skipping in a fairly straight line through the Baltimore airport. Tra la!

Yes, while my family was securing the chickens and stocking up on propane for the Jolly Camper waffle iron (in case of power outage), I was having a little weekend getaway with my sister. I didn't plan it that way - I sometimes like foul weather. I also like it about 10 degrees warmer than we get at this time of year, and sunny.

My sister and I went to Baltimore for the weekend thanks (in part) to Southwest Airlines, who lost Studley's car seat a few months ago. They gave me a shiny new one to use on our trip and when I expressed a lack of interest in trading it back for our own Cheerio-encrusted version, they bought me off with a travel voucher.

I told my sister about the voucher and she said, "great! Where are we going?" My sister is an Organized Person and when she says something like that she actually means it. The next thing I knew I was getting emails with links to B&B's and resorts all down the eastern seaboard. We wanted to explore a place neither of us knew, and we picked Fells Point - an up and coming section of Baltimore.

Chris was grumpy at first, feeling very left out as he too would like to explore Fells Point. "What are you going to do?" he asked, his chin trembling a bit. I told him we'd go shopping and then find a place to have lunch before we went shopping again and then do our nails and look at decorating magazines. He was suddenly very glad to stay home with the kids.

I had been to dinner in Fells Point once, but it was dark and I didn't really know where I was (as is so often the case). And so I was totally unprepared for a cobblestone street on the waterfront, lined with boutiquey stores and taverns. Oh how I love boutiquey stores.

We stayed at Celie's B&B, which you can't find if you don't know where it is (and if you're us, you might still have trouble). You go through a little wrought iron gate between two store fronts, and down a narrow walkway. It's enclosed but you're essentially squeezing through the space between two really old buildings. You can either go through the secret door into the lobby or continue straight and end up in the courtyard. If you continue into the courtyard you can peak over the walls into neighboring courtyards and sometimes catch a neighbor up on a balcony having coffee in a bathrobe.

I could have spent the whole day watching people in their bathrobes, but we had important shopping to do. I kept reminding myself that Chris would not let me back in the house with more pottery, so I kept myself under control. My sister went a little crazy with the spending though, and bought me a pin that says "Trophy Wife," because, well, isn't it obvious? (for those of you who don't know me, it's not actually that obvious. It is possible that I'm not everyone's idea of a trophy wife. Okay, probably no one's.).

We had planned to have tea at a little shop on Broadway but they had closed by the time we got there. Silly us. But there was a nice hotel on the corner and nice hotels can always be counted on to serve tea, right? I wasn't completely convinced of my logic but suggested it anyway. Imagine our glee when we found a sign in the lobby that read "Tea served from 4 to 5."* We were just in time. It was served by ghosts, which usually makes me nervous. No, I'm not afraid of ghosts. I'm afraid of actors. It always makes me a little fidgety when someone pretends to be someone he's not. But I got over it because the next thing I knew one of them was asking if I'd like milk and sugar. Yes, please. Ghosts are very civilized. We alive people are not always so civilized, so they passed out cards with tea etiquette. Included on the card: 1) Finger sandwiches should be nibbled, not gobbled 2) Sports is not an acceptable topic at tea 3) Sip your tea, do not slurp. It is not permitted for gentlemen to pour their tea into the saucer to cool. Oh, and you're supposed to pour the milk in the cup before the tea. So's you know.

After tea we had just enough time to primp for dinner. In our case, this was three and a half hours, because primping for dinner was pretty much the whole point of the trip. We took bubble baths in the jet tub, we did our nails, we lounged in the bathrobes. In the future, I'd like to only stay in hotels which provide bathrobes, please.

And it's a good thing we primped. When we emerged from our our exfoliated and very well moisturized fog we found the city transformed. Little clusters of 20-somethings were hovering outside all the bars (about 4o in the neighborhood, the ghost told us). And when we got to our restaurant (Mezze), it had transformed from a beautiful place with a delicious looking menu into Holy Smokes Where Did All These People Come From? We were told it wasn't bad for a Saturday. Sometimes you can't get in the door. The hostess was wonderful, telling everyone to get a drink and wait. She told us it would all work out. And it did, because although it took us almost 2 hours to be seated, we met some nice people and had fun chatting up the locals. And for the record, I have never seen so many perfectly groomed eyebrows in one place, ever.

And also for the record, I would have waited 4 hours for the dinner we had. It was a tapas restaurant and we had fattoush, tapenade, tuna carpaccio, chilled beets, and roasted portobellos. If you go to Baltimore, oh please visit this restaurant. It is divine. But wear your comfortable shoes because you'll be standing in the bar admiring eyebrows for a long time.

Turns out it didn't matter how late dinner was, because hey, how smart are we for planning a weekend getaway the weekend we go off daylight savings time? An extra hour of sleep, hooray!

In the morning we had a continental breakfast in Celie's little sunroom. I then bullied my sister into taking our coffee up to the rooftop deck (view of the harbor!) and she acted like she was going to be a good sport about it but then she just stood there quaking and turning a little blue, which just didn't make it seem as charming as I thought it would be. I had such visions.

But really, the weekend was just exactly perfectly what we had wanted. Right down to the toenail polish.

Tune in tomorrow for How I Got the Plastic Castle Home.

*it was $5 because we weren't staying there. Totally worth it. Admiral Fells Inn - tell the ghosts I sent you.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

car and driver, part deux

My sister bought a super luxury car a few months ago and at this point I think the car company in question is losing money on her.

When I got my car, the salesman sat in it with me for about two minutes to make sure I understood where everything was. Since I drive a very simple car, this was about 90 seconds longer than necessary. The remaining 30 seconds assured that I filled out the Customer Satisfaction questionaire properly. "Did your salesperson show you how to turn on the 8-track cassette player?" Oh, yeah.

My sister's car came with a tutorial dvd and a training session. The training session was automatically scheduled by the car when it hit 1,000 miles (or something like that). The car then synched itself to my sister's online calender and alerted her via text message of the appointment. While it was in there, it noted that my sister's haircut was scheduled after her high school reunion and would she like Lovely Car to reschedule it for sooner?

As it turns out, one training session was not enough. Today she (my sister, not the car) called as she was about to drive into the dealership. She reported later that there's a drive through bay. You drive in, tell the attendant what you need and someone scurries out to help you. She didn't give me details other than that, but I bet there are hot towels involved.

Today's question had something to do with her phone. I think maybe one of her friends has a new job and she needs to change the number. Because the phone plugs into the car, it is now the bound duty of the dealership to service her phone. While they reprogrammed the phone my sister opted to stay in the car, rather than changing into the provided robe and slippers and having a mineral water in the solarium.

Now I have always been perfectly happy with my car buying/owning experience. I've bought 3 cars from the same dealership and the salesman remembers my children's names. They also have popcorn. And some cranberry juice if you know where to look. I have always checked the "very satisfied" boxes on my questionaires.

But now I'm thinking I'll add a little something in the comment section. Something pertaining to spa services while we wait. Or maybe, if space is an issue, just those massage chairs like they have in the airport.

Of course the car itself does things mine doesn't do. But I happen to like calling Chris, telling him I'm lost and giving him yet another reason to sit in front of his computer with brow furrowed. GPS, pffft.

Besides, now that she has this car, it's another reason to go visit her. I haven't been cruising in ages.