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

Monday, September 29, 2008

The thrilling and long awaited recap of what I did last weekend is now posted on the COD website. Here's a direct link if you can't bear to do all that clicking.

me, dressed as a Native American with a tear on my cheek

So my weekend overview is all written up and in limbo while I figure out where it's supposed to go. It's brilliant, believe me.

In it I discuss the possibility of bailing on the weekend because the road to the cranberry bog I toured led me almost right to the door of Target. Let's see, go learn more about local agriculture or get off my soap box for a jiffy and roll around in shiny trinkets and household items made in China by small children? Shiny trinkets that are destined for the landfill in what will probably be record time? I was torn. I really did need some shelf paper.

I ended up going to the bog. We had to drive out there and the guide asked us all if we were okay driving on dirt roads with big puddles. I nodded yes, while rummaging through my bag for my AAA card, just in case.

Of course, I was not the only person driving an econo-box down these dirt roads. After all, many of the people on this tour are on board with the sustainable living thing and are driving Priuses and Subarus with No Farms No Food bumper stickers. It was the first time in a long while that I was not in the non-SUV minority. I wondered how many new recruits CLASH was actually getting, or if they were just CLASHing to the converted.

I write that as though I have always been interested in maintaining a sustainable kitchen. Give the girl some chickens and the next thing you know she acts like she's keeping house for the Swiss Family Robinson. Or the Swiss Family Trout, as our friends are fond of calling us.

I have long envied my friend Bella, who lives in Vermont - home of the Vermont Fresh Network. All these restaurants and markets have local offerings and display them proudly. Which is fine for them. I could live quite comfortably on cheese and maple syrup. But what do we have? Clams and cranberries. And the clams? Clams don't like me. It's as if they are Jonah and I am the whale. Oh great, I just likened myself to a whale.

Anyway, my point is that if I'm getting hip to this sustainable thing, a lot of other people are, too. And now we're really spoiled. I have to eat my own cooking tonight and I am not happy about it.

Now hold on to your seats, because I'm going to get all socio-politically metaphysical on you now. As I was driving to the bog I saw a big pile of plastic bottles at the side of the road. I thought about how we're clearing out our house of things like this. Ditching the bottled water in favor of filters and reusable steel bottles. Our house has stopped producing this waste. We're busy producing other waste, in the form of contractors trash bags full of clutter, on their way to the dump. Our end goal is to clear the house of extraneous matter. No senseless plastic things. No junk. Nothing that will need to be thrown out in a year. We are working really hard to clean it up, so it will run more harmoniously.

And in the Think Globally, Act Locally sense, what we're doing in our homes can't help but effect the planet. In a literal sense, it won't be our plastic bottles lying on the side of the road. In a non-literal sense, if we're holding on to junk in our homes, we're hanging on to junk in our world. We don't need junk, how did we get fooled into thinking we did? That we deserve and desire junk?

So now my renovation fervor is renewed, with the goal in sight of an easier to maintain, more balanced home. And by home I mean Home.

But I'll still probably get the cork shelf paper.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

CLASHing to the choir

I know, I should write a dissertation about why eating locally is better for the environment, supports local business, and is less (globally and personally) toxic, but really, I was just there for the food. The delicious, fresh, flavorful, immaculately crafted food.

I just spent the last few days visiting CLASH events from Hyannis to Wareham (there are more, farther out on the Cape, but who do you think I am? Wonder Woman?) and I have finally gotten to the point where I seriously cannot eat another bite. And that's saying something.

Thursday we went to the gala opening at CLASH headquarters - a tent behind the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis. There were people offering us food and drinks that they had made right here on the Cape. We saw a lot of these people:

(photo)

I spent most of the time talking to people about food I had never heard of and asking them to spell things. They're throwing around farm names and horticulture terms like it's no big thing and I'm nodding and smiling like I'm some sort of food critic and of course I know what they're talking about. It was like when I started waitressing and fumbled every single cocktail order. You want a what? Laphroaig? Are you kidding me?

Wianno Grille had these little caponata on brioche thingies made with buttercup squash. I had several. And Brewster Fish House had a local salad with some kind of soft cheese from Shy Brothers Farm in Westport. They're called Hannahbells and are the most delicious thing ever. You can buy it off their website.

On Friday there were talks on growing what you eat. Here's Sarah Swain after her talk on raising backyard chickens:

(photo)

She was swamped with people asking for more information. I think there may be a drop in commercial egg consumption next year.

There was also a talk by the East Dennis Oyster Farm guy, John Lowell. One thing he recommended was asking where the oysters come from when you order them in restaurants. If they don't know, he suggests you get the burger. He also explained that it's not okay to take oysters from one town and replant them in another. So if any of you Oysters Have Feelings, Too people are reading this stop releasing oysters back into the wild.

(photo)

At the end of his talk he asked if anyone would like some free oysters and let me tell you, it was as if Sarah was out there calling her flock of chickens. I have never seen people move so fast in my life.

(photo)

There were other treats, too.

(photo)

On Saturday, CLASHists had many choices. It was sort of a Cape-wide Open Studio of food. I headed up to Falmouth to watch a clam digging demonstration, and got there in time to not watch the demonstration. It didn't happen because of rain that also wasn't happening but probably did happen on Sunday, the rain date. And if you think that was confusing? You should have read the directions to get to Bournes Pond. It said to turn right on Menahaunt, but what it should have said was "turn left on the big street that has absolutely no sign whatsoever." I love New England. If a street is important enough, no sign is necessary.

I was sorry to miss the demonstration, as it involved a plunger.

From there I went across the bridge to Wareham for a cranberry bog tour. I followed the directions and was met with a very difficult choice: turn left for the bog tour, or turn right to bail on the whole afternoon and go to Target. I could use some cork shelf liners.

I went on the tour. And here's what I found out.
1) cranberries are vines
2) some of these bogs are 100 years old and have not been replanted - making for some serious heirlooms
3) bogs that are all sandy have not been punked by competing bogs. Dumping sand on your bog every three years helps the plants grow.

(photos)

By now I was starving - all this talk of clams and cranberries and not a darn thing to eat. So I jetted over to Feast of Falmouth.

What a lark! You get these punch cards and you get to try ten different samples of dishes brought by local restaurants. I stood by the trash cans so I could eat and discard my plates more efficiently. Also, they gave us these little plastic plates to balance all our stuff on, with a corner indentation for a drink. I'm keeping mine in my purse to use at wedding receptions and art openings.

(photo)

Child labor?

Once I had had my way with Feast of Falmouth, which by the way offered my car the nicest view it's had in a long time while it sat waiting for me, I headed toward Sandwich to visit Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen.

(photo)

I have a crush on the jam kitchen, and not just because Thornton Burgess' Smiling Pool is out back.

(photos)

On our way east we saw one of the aforemention sanded bogs. It's like pruning. I know this because now I'm really smart.

(photo)

And then there was a boy waving at the side of the road with yet another CLASH sign, inviting us to visit Gallery Gourmet on 6A in Sandwich.

(photo)

They have all kinds of yummy looking things and if I hadn't just eaten twice my body weight at Feast of Falmouth, I'd have been in big trouble. Go get into some trouble yourself if you're in the neighborhood. She just opened last spring and would, I'm sure, be delighted to see you.

From there I went home and fell into a food coma.

And when I woke up, I went back to Hyannis for more oysters at the Oyster Festival on Sunday. My new best friends John and Stephanie Lowell were there again, from East Dennis Oyster Farm. They were doling out oysters and offering some with a dash of cranberry pepper jelly. Oh good heavens. Also out of this world was the oyster sashimi from the Oyster Company. It was an oyster on the half shell with yellowfin sashimi, wasabi, cucumbers and citrus-soy vinaigrette. Don't even try making it yourself because theirs is completely perfect in every way.

And here's faithful COD reader Craig Poosikian shucking those Brewster Oysters. I had several. You know, to support our readership.

(photo)

And the icing on the proverbial cake was when John Rega of "Taste of Cape Cod" chatted with me in a food critic to food critic kind of way.

Obviously he's never read any of my food reviews.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Portuguese Sardines

You may want to stop reading right here.

I've been VERY annoying lately. It's taken every ounce of self-restraint to not call up everyone I know and say "sorry, can't talk right now. I'm covering a food festival and have important samples to eat. Did I mention I have a PRESS PASS?" Okay it's true, I did break down and call my sister to say that. And then my phone battery died. Which is good.

I have done nothing, no NOTHING that does not somehow relate to food in the last 72 hours. It has been heavenly. I'll have more details (mud! plungers! press passes!) on CLASH (Cape Land and Sea Harvest) soon.

Until then, I will tell you about our dinner last night, which did not require a press pass.

Chris and I went out WITH NO CHILDREN to Terra Luna, in Truro. It has been on our Do This Right Now list for quite some time, and we just realized that time is running out. Seasonal restaurants, why must you tease us so?

Our friend Tony is the chef there and he was kind enough to come out and chat with us while we licked the menu. I think maybe the waitress went and got him and asked him to come tell us to stop. It's not our fault. Everything looks really, really delicious.

He asked what we were looking at, did not approve and then announced that he was sending out the sardines. We were not sure if he was sending them as enforcement, or what. I pictured him going into the kitchen and shouting "release the hounds!" and someone would open the walk-in and sardines would flip-flop their way to our table like herrings in the spring.

This is not what happened. They arrived on a plate, completely unanimated and looking every bit like a painting. There were two, six inch long dead fish, criss-crossed on a plate with agro dulce onions, pinenuts, raisins and some kind of green that was maybe meant to be eaten but I'm not sure. Chris began eating the onions, trying not to make eye contact with either of the fish.

I kept looking toward the kitchen, hoping for some help, and finally had to request a tutorial from the waitress. She was brilliant. I always knew there was a trick to eating whole fish and now I know it. Ha ha! I will look so suave! Chris was still unconvinced and hid behind the bread basket. We did not discuss the fact that our vital-organ-eating chef friend just recommended our entire meal. We were not afraid. Okay, Chris was a little afraid. I resisted the urge to chase him around the restaurant with a half-eaten sardine.

Tony expects the sardines to be a "cult favorite," and he tells us how popular they were over the summer. I can see this, now that I know how to eat them. I think it's a little like knowing how to pronounce Welsh words - something to be a little smug about. So you would say, "when you go to Terra Luna you simply MUST have the sardines" and then be smug knowing that they will probably do it wrong and by doing it wrong they will know that you did it right and are therefore That Much More Cosmopolitan than anyone else they've ever met, ever.

Also? I don't know what agro dulce onions are, but they were delicious.

Meanwhile, back at the restaurant, our entrees arrive and we all swoon - dead fish included. You've never seen a dead fish swoon? It is something, believe me. Chris had the grilled duck and I had the wild mushroom ragu. Oh, they were divine.

We left just enough on our plates so we could say we had left room for dessert. Which was a lie, but we had it anyway. Chris taught the cobbler a lesson it shan't soon forget, while I horded the polenta and blackberry custard. I can do a lot of damage with a spoon if you get too close to my polenta custard. Just so you know.

And then we let the excellent staff go home for the night. It was past our bedtimes by the time we finished and sleep was closing in fast.

Terra Luna, thank you for a perfectly perfect night out.

---

How to eat a Portuguese sardine:

Lie the sardine on its side and with your knife, scooch off the very top edge of the spine. It will come off in strips. Then if you tip the fish upright, you'll see an indentation. Slide your knife into the indentation and the fish will fall away from the bones. Do this on both sides. Things get very boney from the fins toward the head, so you might leave that well enough alone. People do eat the tail.

This works for any whole fish. Anything with scales, don't eat the skin. Sardine skin is fine.

Don't be squeamish, now. It's worth it. Trust me.

Terra Luna is open Fridays and Saturdays for an undisclosed short period of time. If you miss them now, you'll have to wait until May.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

literary overload

All my life I have wanted to write a book. Okay, maybe not ALL my life, but at least since I was in elementary school. As life goes on, the margin of not-caring-about-booksness slims. Soon I will be at 100% wanting-to-write-a-book plus or minus a 5% margin for error.

Except now I'm not so sure. There are just so darn many of them out there already. I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a birthday present (Mollie Katzen's Pretend Soup - fab cookbook for kids) and was overwhelmed by all the interesting-looking new releases. I have been trying to stay out of bookstores lately and honestly it was a little like going back on real coffee after a few years of decaf. Holy mackerel.

Also, we have been excavating the house. Chris just emptied the hall closet and guess what? It was floor-to-ceiling full of boxed books. Floor to ceiling. When he emptied the closet, the boxes stretched all the way down the hall.

And that's not including the books on the bookshelves. The bookshelves which, by the way, cover an entire wall in the livingroom. It is also not including the books that are in boxes in Ruth's bedroom. Remember how I told you that Ruth is blind? Yeah, it's not right. I think it's like the feng shui equivalent of making her sleep on nails.

These, by the way, are all Ruth's books. Ours are still upstairs, quaking with fear as they watch their compatriots get carted off. We love our books, here at Trout Towers. We have a little hoarding problem.

Many of them we do want to keep, but many can go to good homes. Then there's the pile of comicly outdated self-help books. They are all mixed together downstairs, making it a little like panning for gold as we sift. T.S.Eliott sits next to "Healing Your Hamster's Psychic Distress," or some such nonsense. There are probably a number of first editions in there. There are probably a number of first, only and one-too-many editions in there. We are culling the herd.

And as I walk by these piles of dusty volumes, I think "do I really want to add my two cents to this pile?"

Maybe that's what I like about blogging right now. As much as I love books, it's nice to just put it out there and not take up any physical space.

Music has gotten to be that way. It kept shrinking until finally - poof! It physically vanished. Many books have gotten that way. I look at our dictionaries and encyclopedias and realize that I don't use them anymore because I look everything up right here. Which is good and bad. It's a tactile loss, but oh, the space to breathe in my home is remarkable.

At the rate things are going - technology zipping along, and me carrying on like a tortoise who thought the nap looked like a good idea - the books we read, maybe ALL the books we read, will be released in a digital format.

And my own story will be ready to enter the fray.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

soul-stealing averted

I have to have a word with Lucy's teachers. I need to ask them to please make sure any notes coming home are safely secured to Chris' shirt. Not Lucy's shirt - she can be trusted. Lucy would bring notes home, mark the calendar, arrange for Studley's childcare and email an rsvp if they trusted her with such notes. But they do not. Instead, they trust Chris. To which I say "what are you thinking, teacher people?"

Granted, I usually don't mind if things go astray on the days Chris does the school run. It's mostly things like volunteer sign-up forms, progress reports and Scholastic book orders - all of which I am happy to claim ignorance of. That's not completely true. I like the Scholastic book things.

But tonight as Lucy and I were folding laundry together (child labor!) she told me they had taken school pictures. Today. She told me about how they all had their picture taken together, and how the photographer took pictures of kids by themselves, except for her. And I said "HONEEEEEY!" and the upstairs neighbors looked at each other with that "Chris is in trouble again" look.

"Did you hear anything about school pictures?" I asked in my most accusatory tone (there are several to pick from). And because he is Chris, he admitted that he did and he may have forgotten to give me something they gave him.

So we have no school picture to document Lucy's time in kindergarten. When she looks through her pictures in later years I will have to make something up. "We were in Peru," I'll say. Then she'll ask why she's in the class picture and I'll have more explaining to do.

I already have a lot of explaining to do about that class picture. Parents far and wide will be looking at that picture and asking themselves "who is that child and what is she wearing and why?" Except they won't get through the whole thought because they will have succumbed to vertigo and fallen right straight over on the floor.

They can't be blamed. Who sends their child to school on picture day wearing a patterned shirt, an embellished skirt, plaid socks and sneakers? I'm thanking my stars right now that I didn't have time to create the multiple-accessoried updo she asked for this morning. Sometimes I humor her.

Now that I think about it, I was just saved days of "whatever shall she wear" fretting. And in hindsight, without this picture we might not have documentation of Lucy's early fashion sense. After all, how many school pictures do we need of perfectly dressed children smiling pleasantly at the camera?

I'm sure that's exactly what the mom last year said when she got the photo and saw her son standing in the front row with both his hands in his pants.

Note for the day: count your blessings.

Monday, September 22, 2008

talisman

Does anyone else out there see things when they first wake up? Things that aren't there?

For many years I've had a spider thing going. I was at a party once and a man I was talking to declared himself to be a prophet for some organizational acronym I hadn't heard of. I'd never met a prophet and immediately launched into my tales of waking spiders. How I'd wake up and see them clear as day, what they looked like, what they were doing when I saw them, and how they'd vanish like the Cheshire Cat when I tried to pick them up. I know! I tried to pick up spiders without my baseball glove! Only the sleepy ones, though. Anyway, he looked at me blankly and then said, "I'm a Political Science Professor, not a Professor of Arachnology." Oooh, Prof, not Prophet. Details.

So I still don't know what they're all about, and frankly, I've lost interest. They're like old friends now. I wake up and see them and say, "yeah, you look all real but I'm onto you." I think I read somewhere about Fiona Apple having a spider thing, too, but I might be making that up.

The other thing I see when I wake up sometimes is cracks in my ceiling. Not big cracks, just little ones in the paint. This too has ceased to freak me out.

There's a not-real spider that keeps showing up in a corner of our new bedroom. It's really big, like a daddy long legs on steroids. It does its thing in the corner for a few seconds and then fades to nothing. It was there this morning, and as I watched it, I noticed something different on our ceiling.

Instead of the usual waking-dream cracks, there were stamped hearts covering the surface over my head. Like the spiders, they faded within a few seconds and I was lying there admiring my freshly painted, pristine, white ceiling.

I think I love my house.

---

edited to add:
I told Chris about how I googled "imaginary spiders" and found a reference to hypnopompic hallucination, which is defined as "a vivid dreamlike hallucination that occurs as one is waking up." The interesting thing, I told Chris, was not that it had a name, but that there was no reference on the page to imaginary spiders.

He went into this big explanation about metadata and tagging and whatever else it is he talks about when I'm not listening properly.

"But," I said (interrupting him as usual), "this means that other people have IMAGINARY SPIDERS AND I AM NOT ALONE."

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

channeling Johnny Cash

I lied to Randy last night at his gig and told him we couldn't hear him practicing in the livingroom above our heads. I didn't want him to think he had to stop. Truth is, I love hearing music through the floor - especially when someone we like is playing it. He is also not hard to listen to. Through the floor it sounds like a cross between Johnny Cash and Charlie Brown's teacher.

Last night was his first gig playing out. He'd been invited onstage to sing a Cash tune from time to time, but never played guitar. I'm not a trained professional, but I thought he sounded great, singing and playing. My favorite part was watching him be nervous before his set. I don't know why I got such a kick out of this. Watching people suffer unnecessarily is not usually my thing. Maybe because I knew he'd be great and had nothing to worry about. I should know - I've been listening to him through the floor.

A friend of mine from one of the local radio stations met us out. She's one of those people who's recognized out in public just by her voice. Someone at our table recognized her within seconds. I tried to make Randy Even More Nervous by introducing him to my radio station connection and telling him she had come especially for him. But he was too busy mentally chanting "do not throw up on audience, do not throw up on audience..." to hear me. I wonder when people stop being nervous. When they're playing stadiums? And when they play stadiums, do they realize how many people are watching them?

Maybe I enjoyed watching him be nervous because it's a vicarious thrill watching someone push himself to the next level. To do something he was afraid of, and win. And not throw up on the audience in the process.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Recording thingy


See? I wasn't kidding.

technical difficulties

Oh hi.

On Wednesday I had an interview with a consummate interviewer, who had sooo many amazing things to tell me I just sat slackjawed and was glad I didn't have to take notes because I had Chris' handy recording device which looks like a taser. It's good to take along something that looks like a taser and put it on the table when you're interviewing someone. Puts them right at ease. Since the interview took place in a recording studio (not mine), my interviewee cued up "don't tase me, bro!" to start us off.

I had given myself a full 36 hours to write my story and had written the whole thing inside my head by the time I settled in for the actual typing part. Cup of tea, laptop. Ready? Set? Go!

me: Why can't I hear anything?
Chris: Did you look at the meter when you were recording?
me: Meter?

I had the taser set to "line-in" instead of "mic-in" which in plain speak means the taser was humming along happily to itself and paying no attention whatsoever to the conversation at hand. Which is fine for a taser but not so fine for a recording device. I have a 36 minute mp3 of absolute silence.

Lucky for me, I had two more interviews set up and all the time in the world to write the stories, assuming I didn't need to sleep, eat or shower. Which explains why this may sound like I have had not enough sleep and am cruising on adrenaline. HI!

Oh, and when I originally set up the interview I left a voice message with all the information anyone could possibly need. Except for my phone number. Forcing her to call around and get my number. Very professional.

AND I took the call wherein she busted me for not leaving my number while I was standing next to a Real Live Journalist, who was lining up his own sources and making sure he left his number. I don't work in an office, so this was a fairly random occurrence (we were both on the trail of wifi). He then began writing his column and let me tell you I have never heard anyone type so fast or with such gusto. He must need to replace his keyboard bimonthly.

I have a serious lack of typing vigor.

I have a serious lack of typing vigor and I lunched an interview. I am thinking of taking up bowling.

But oh! Why didn't I think of this sooner? I will sell the original interview on eBay. I for one would pay a great deal of money for 36 minutes of absolute silence.

Unless you're calling to tell me about what you lunched at work. And then I'm all ears.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Anti-theft sandwich bags on Lifehacker

Why didn't I think of this? Probably because I would pack my lunch, chortle, and then fall for it and throw out my own sandwich.

(thanks, Jacob!)

shiny happy people

Yesterday Rock & Roll Mama (who is giving away a spiffidy-doo t-shirt on her blog at the moment) left me a comment about how other people's lives look "so pretty and shiny. And you imagine that no one ever sees your life that way."

It's like when you're driving around at night and you pass houses with the lights on. Maybe you just spy them through the trees or maybe you get a good look, but either way your brain completes the picture and lo and behold you Just Know what that house is like and how nice it would be to live there. If your brain works like mine, it doesn't include a Shop Vac in the bathroom, junk all over the floor or fuzzy orange and blue stuff in the back of the fridge. Their lives are perfect.

Why do we not see our own lives this way? You know when you write a resume, and you have to think about all the things you've done and describe your strengths? Some of it may seem exaggerated - heck, I may update mine to include studying ballet at a college out west. It's exaggerated, but true.

That's what we're doing when we clean house for company or prepare a meal for guests. No, we don't live like that all the time, but we could if we wanted to. What I want to do, and what I imagine everyone else has already done, is to shorten the gap between our actual life and our life as presented to guests. And to do that, I need to know what to focus on.

Here are our strengths: People seem to like coming to our house. Most of those people are creative and have touched Trout Towers in palpable ways. Chris and I come from interesting families. Our parents have acted in movies, started theaters, produced plays, practiced architecture, studied at MIT, School of American Ballet and New England Conservatory of Music and have traveled around the world. Signs of them are all over our home. Even the parents who have never been here are still HERE.

Most importantly, there is almost always enough food to share with drop-ins and stay-lates and our kids know that we love them more than anything.

What is the shiniest part of your life?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

poser party crasher

Today was yet another day of living vicariously through the creativity of others.

We got to meet artist and writer E.M. Szuplat and photographer Ben Allsup in real life at the fabulous home they built themselves. I'm here to say, I want to start our house all over from scratch. We've often talked about blowing out walls and maybe parts of the ceiling and the house we were in today was a perfect example of what we're trying to accomplish. It was spacious and comfortable, with just enough nooks for cozying up in. They are soooo lucky they live at the other end of the Cape, or they'd find me in their kitchen with my coffee. Not only is their house fab, they are just the people we would hang out with if they'd let us.

They put out a quarterly photo essay journal called Ben Shot Me. I have the July issue and love it. Back when I first tried posing as an artist I looked for artsy magazines to put on my coffee table. There was one called Raw I especially liked. The cover was the heft and texture of watercolor paper and it was something like $97 an issue. Okay, maybe $20, but at the time it seemed like $97. Ben Shot Me is the magazine I would have picked up if it had been around then. It's filled with Ben's photographs and E's narrative and it's just silly brilliant. I'm not sure I ever read Raw all the way through, but I pick up Ben Shot Me frequently and revisit my favorites.

We stayed as long as we could but then had to bail because Chris had been invited to a clambake in Truro and was intent on going because they tossed out the ultimate Chris bait - they asked him to be the sound engineer. I had insisted that the kids and I Were Not Going but then I realized I'd have to cook if we didn't go. Also, Chris threw out the ultimate Susan bait - it was at a farm.

Maybe that's not the ultimate Susan bait, now that I think about it. He could have said anything about it and I would have been baited - it was the end of season bash for Payomet theater, it was held at the farm where Shakespeare on the Cape lived and rehearsed, and there was a real live clambake.

In all my years of living here, I had never seen a clambake. We got there just as they were unloading the pit and watched buckets of lobsters caravan past on their way to the serving tables. The kids sang and danced on the rehearsal stage, which was in a big, barn-like building. The whole atmosphere, with the rustic accomodations and the mix of theater people, reminded me of the theater our friend Liz's mother started in Orleans many years ago.

Here's something you didn't know about me: I was in a documentary with Kurt Vonnegut. While he was still alive. Okay, okay, I didn't actually get to meet him because his part was filmed separately, but I was an extra in some of the background parts and those background parts may eventually end up somewhere in the vicinity of the Vonnegut interview, so there. The documentary was filmed by Liz Argo and was a sort of memoire about growing up in the theater. She filmed part of it at a summer camp in January, in what was probably the dining hall. The farm we went to tonight reminded me of that camp and it gave me a greater appreciation for Liz' love of her mom's theater. I would tell you what it was called but no amount of googling is reminding me of the name. Olympic? Maybe.*

Meanwhile, back in real time, we ate lobsters and chatted with Shakespearean actors from Minnesota. One of them coached us on dismembering the lobsters because she had worked at a fish market in Provincetown all summer. "I smelled bad," she said.

Now we all smell bad and are covered in drawn butter. I brought the kids home and tossed them in bed, making a mental note to give them a good scrub down before school tomorrow - the moist towelettes may not have quite done the trick.


*Word from Liz - it was the Orleans Arena Theatre

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shine your sink!

Lucy has a loose tooth and is smiling her head off. It's her first - she's slightly behind her friends in this respect, and so it has been highly anticipated. I'm weirdly excited for her, too, despite the fact that it's a harbinger of adulthood. She has a loose tooth and the next thing you know she'll be packing boxes and moving out. Which is a bummer because we just got the furniture moved into her room and I'm not ready to turn it into a sewing room yet.

Yes, my kids are no longer sleeping on mattresses on the floor (overrun by mice, thanks for the reminder). I can just imagine their recollections of childhood: "Remember that time we got to sleep in real beds and our room had a CLOSET?"

Meanwhile, Chris wanted to watch the game last night. We have both a television and a sofa in our livingroom, but both are ensconced in boxes and piles and heaping towers of miscellaneous items which seemed so very needful when we bought them but now are a curse and a bane on our very existence. This is how vows of asceticism happen in past lives. Chris is not ready for his life of asceticism yet, so he started moving boxes - some to their proper homes, and some just off the couch. Then he carved out a niche between the couch and the tv, swung the tv around to face the couch and hooked up an extension cord. Once the tv was working, he climbed over the desk, the pile of linens and Studley's Radio Flyer Rocket and nestled on the couch amid piles of material posessions. From the door to the livingroom, it was hard to see him behind all the stuff.

Oho! Proof of invisibility in this particular spot: Studley just this second woke up and made his way down the hall. Despite the comforting glow of my monitor, he did not see me and my laptop nested on the couch and went back to bed. Maybe we'll leave it this way. It is so much easier than making my usual fort of couch pillows, emblazoned with "Keep Out!" signs.

Why are they awake, anyway? It's not even 6am and their awakeness is completely defeating the purpose of waking up early (is there a purpose for anybody being awake before 6am?). If there is a purpose for being awake this early, it is so one may enjoy the peace and solitude the early morning offers. Or not, as it turns out.

I woke up this morning to the siren's call to shine my sink and simply could not stay in bed. I was reading Sandwiched the other day (she's also a mom who's taking care of a parent) and she recommended FlyLady. FlyLady is the housekeeping version of Weight Watchers, from what I can tell. She has tips for getting things done lickety-split and encourages the formation of good habits, none of which take more than 10 minutes. I spent some time on the website last night and although I didn't accomplish anything on her bedtime checklist other than brushing my teeth, I had her call to arms ringing in my head all night. "Shine your sink!"

She says to take all the dishes out of the sink and give it a good clean. Which is fine, but where do you put the dishes? Surely you don't wash them first? And if not, do you put them all in one of these wine boxes that's sitting around and leave them outside the back door, same as everything else that's in the way at the moment? Obviously you don't put them on a counter, because the counters are full of paint brushes and mismatched plastic storage thingies. I am flummoxed.

And I'm going back to bed.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

wild kingdom

It seems I have a new house pet. I had seen it out of the corner of my eye a few times and knew intellectually that we were sharing house space, but it wasn't until last night that we met formally.

I was cleaning the kitchen and all of the sudden there was a mouse looking for crumbs on the floor under the coffee maker. It noticed me noticing it and froze. Tiny wheels spun in its tiny mouse head as it weighed the possibility of me as a threat. It decided I wasn't, and carried on. My own tiny wheels spun in my own head as I decided that it WAS a threat and called the cat, who sat less than five feet away. The cat ignored me. I think he had already eaten his fill and was all, "oh, I just can't eat ONE MORE MOUSE." Instead he rubbed his belly to aid digestion and initiated a nap. The mouse and I both shrugged our shoulders and went about our business.

Lucky for me, I'm not afraid of mice. There are, however, things related to mice which I am afraid of, such as stepping on one in the dark when I am barefoot. I am also afraid of extra work, including but not restricted to cleaning my pans before I use them just in case.

As I put things away in my kitchen and estimated how long it would be before I routinely washed everything, I became sort of hypnotized by the mouse. I figured since I was just standing in the kitchen watching the mouse make itself at home, I should grab my camera and take a few nature photos. In case National Geographic calls.

I took one picture of it peeking out from under the table and then waited for it to come out. It did. I tried giving it some direction - run towards the camera, hold your tail still, chin to the left - and it tried to oblige. We were both so busy with the photo shoot that we failed to notice Hunter S. Tomcat, who had awakened from his nap and was careening straight down on the mouse like Tom Cruise in that scene from Mission Impossible.

Except Hunter didn't stop before he hit the floor. He caught the mouse, dropped it to adjust his grip, and lost the mouse. The mouse squeaked in a most convincing way and darted back under the table. Hunter patrolled the area but came up empty.

mouse - 1
cat - 0

So now we have five adults, four chickens, two children, one cat and one mouse living at our house.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Did you hear that? I said we have ONE MOUSE. As if while the one mouse is being all charming in the kitchen there aren't another eleventy hundred of its kin developing gated communities in our walls, starting businesses and sending their kids to charter schools.

So they must go, or we must move them into a habitrail.

Any suggestions that don't involve spring-loaded splattering?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

climbing off our pedestal

Last night at 10pm we started moving the furniture out of our bedroom.

So, how'd you sleep last night? I slept great. Eventually.

I slept in my new bedroom downstairs and that made everything just dandy. We would have gotten to bed even later but lucky for me (and Chris), the Daily Show was a repeat last night. Yes, we worked for an hour and then Chris said "oh! will you look at the time..." and turned on the t.v. as if he were allowed to watch it at 11pm when our whole house needed moving. Okay, not our whole house, but a substantial portion thereof. So thank you, Jon Stewart, for saying the exact same things last night you said the other night. It made it much easier for Chris to Just Say No.

Earlier yesterday I was chatting with a group of moms and had to dash because I was Very Busy Moving. One of the moms said, "you know, you can hire people to do that for you." And it's true, I could. Except I'm a New Englander and it really irks me to pay people to do things NOT AS WELL as I would do them. Besides, I have no idea where things go and if someone else moved us, well, we'd never find anything ever again.

That said, as I carried drawers downstairs to reassemble in the new bedroom, I couldn't help but think "now why didn't we hire a mover?" Just for the unwieldy things. I'd do all the persnicketyness myself. Oh well, live and learn.

I think everyone should move out of part of their house for a little while. For one thing, it makes entire ant populations disband. And for another, I found my lemon zester. Finding my lemon zester makes the fact I can barely lift my arms all worth while. I don't have the strength to zest a lemon, but at least I have the tool.

We have the added bonus of having friends moving in upstairs, into what they are calling The Penthouse At Trout Towers. In fact, here they come now with another carload. I'd help them carry stuff upstairs but, to be perfectly honest, I don't want to. Can I just tell you how many times I've been up and down the stairs? Stairmaster, pfeh. I'm sitting in the dark, hoping they think I'm asleep.

I'm not asleep. If I were asleep I'd be having nightmares about my livingroom, which is filled almost completely with things that must be placed in rooms and drawers and cupboards and Good Will bins. There is literally just a walkway through the livingroom. There are no words to describe the mayhem.

So of course today was the day that the VNA person came to visit. They're apparently back on schedule for helping Ruth with her personal care - showering, and whatnot. They'll also help her pick out clothes, which offends me personally because I've been doing that for her and have there been complaints?

We chatted in the dining room for a bit and then she asked to see Ruth's bathroom, to make sure it was safe for her. I led her through the storage area/livingroom and could only imagine what she was thinking. Also the kitchen counters were piled sky-high with pans and Tupperware looking for new homes. Sky. High.

The VNA looked relieved when she saw Ruth's bathroom. She may also have wondered how a blind person was managing to get around amid the mayhem. And the answer to that would be, cheerily.

Ruth's been in better spirits than I've ever seen her. She figured out that on either side of her usual paths we've piled heaps and heaps of things. And that makes her laugh at us. So she goes about her business as though nothing ridiculous is going on. It's the blind version of covering your ears and singing "row, row, row your boat" very loudly.

Which is not a bad idea. I will do it right now.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

passive aggressive pleading

If anyone is out and about and happens to have some empty boxes kicking around, would you mind bringing them by the Towers? I won't make you come in and move anything heavy. In fact, I won't let you in. It is a very big mess and you might report me for making Lucy wash dishes and Studley clean the chimney.

Also if you happen to be at a hardware store we could use some more contractors' trash bags. I'm too smelly to go out, or I'd get them myself. In fact, you might want to hold your nose and leave the bags in the yard. I'll thumbtack the money to a tree.

xxoo


9/8 - we're all set, thanks! btw I didn't think anyone would take this seriously. Next time I'll ask for a vacation home in Tuscany.

Friday, September 5, 2008

art tarts

It turns out I am an alum of a college, based on my participation in a ballet class they offered. I just got a postcard from them, inviting me to join their alumni network, because, you know, I took a BALLET CLASS. Do they have me down as a dance major?

If you have ever seen me dance, you are at this moment yelling at your computer screen "GET YOUR MONEY BACK NOW, WOMAN!" Yeah, it didn't take so well. And it was a long time ago.

It was so long ago, I'm wondering how they found me. I have moved five times since I took that class - thrice across the country - and that's not counting the times I freeloaded at friends' houses while looking for a place to live (also thrice). My friend Bink was convinced my official address was General Delivery @ Zip Code du Jour. Oh, and I changed my name. Not for nefarious purposes, mind you. I just got married and was feeling like a change. I don't know why women choose to keep their maiden names. I would change mine fortnightly if I could.

So here I am, joining the alumni network for a college I may not be able to find again without first consulting a Google map. Seriously. And once I join the network, they're all "Hey, now you can connect with friends!" Except I didn't know anyone there.

Well, there was a boy who took a painting class there. What are the odds he'd be listed? I have some of his pastels in my basement and have often wondered how to get them back to him. That's right, these stupid pastels have moved across the country three times and have not once come out of their box because they do not belong to me. I don't even remember why I have them.

Oh great, he's listed. Now I have some sort of obligation to rummage through the basement and see if the infernal pastels have survived and then try to contact him so I can return them to their rightful owner. And he'll answer the phone and be all "no, really, I don't want to date you. Why are you calling me?" And I'll have to explain that I don't want to date him either and the only reason I called him 543 times that one night was that my house had been broken into and I really just didn't want to be alone. How was I to know he was out of town and had caller ID? Also, he had a great cd collection and I am shallow.

Maybe I should find out if he's famous and then sell the pastels under an assumed name. Or my own name, which is assumed. I'd sell the first one to my sister, who answered a phone call from him at an absurd hour of the night when I was visiting her. She's a huge fan. She was living her perfect life, with her perfect family and was not so sure about the seriousness of a relationship wherein I didn't know the last name of the boy who was waking her up by his very loud ringing.

Ooooh, maybe he's looking me up right now! Dang. I guess I shouldn't have set up the feed on my profile page.

Pastels? What pastels?

And I still don't want to date you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wellfleet Tails

While we're on the subject of traditions, I must bring your attention to this Wellfleet phenomenon: The Tail.

It is a piece of rope tied most often to the hitch of a pickup, but can sometimes be found on sturdy sedans and the occasional Vespa. It frays as it drags on the ground and gets all fluffy. It's maybe a fisherman thing? I've asked and there are a few theories circulating. Not even Wellfleetians are consistant with the story. Some people say it has something to do with WHAT HAS BEEN DONE in the truck. Which makes one raise an eyebrow to the Vespa. Awkward.

I used to see tails all the time. When I first moved here I wanted to do a photo essay/ coffee table book on Wellfleet Tails. Some of them were so big and ridiculous they looked like the truck was dragging a bath mat. And the ones on unlikely vehicles were especially photogenic. They are becoming scarce and I fear the golden era of this rich tradition may be on the decline.

If anyone has any insight, please advise.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

tradition

There are a few other traditions we have here at Trout Towers.

My mother-in-law spends every Christmas at the hospital - not on purpose. I have started wondering if maybe the food is particularly good at the hospital around the holidays because something always impels her to go there for at least part of December/January.

The other holiday tradition the house has is the septic's propensity to back up on holiday weekends. Sometimes it does it on regular Sundays, but you can be pretty sure that if the bathtub is making those gurgling sounds it's not a workday. Sorry, too much information.

Mr. Rooter Man came to see us today and declared our cedar tree a menace. He put a camera through the pipes so we could see where the roots were poking through. It looked like a scene from Alien, viewed as an ultrasound.

At least this time there were no playmobile pieces.

Monday, September 1, 2008

saying goodbye to summer

We went by the Beachcomber for a last hurrah yesterday but it was a madhouse.

"Why are all these people here?" asked Lucy.

"They're all saying goodbye to summer," I told her.

"But I thought they were GONE."

Frankly, so did I. The roads are eerily empty. Tables are available at restaurants. But when we went down the road to Cahoon Hollow beach we found both parking lots close to full and a line waiting to get in to the restaurant.

Which is funny because Labor Day at the Beachcomber is a bit of a gamble. Chances are they're out of what you order. The waitresses would probably do better to just bring you what you get and dispense with the ordering part. It's part of the fun.

Scene from the bar:

"Goombay Smash, please."

"We're out of those."

"Okay, a dark and stormy."

"Out."

"White wine?"

"Out."

"Do you have anything?"

"Here's your Bud Light."

Lucy thought about this "saying goodbye to summer" thing and announced that she would rather go swimming on the last day of summer. Just then someone in the kitchen said "hey Chris, want some chowder?" and an arm reached through and handed him a cup of clam chowder. I kept lurking, hoping someone would say, "anyone want some buffalo wings?"

Lucy was derailed for a moment while she ate the clam chowder. And then she was back to the swimming thing. I didn't have my bathing suit, so we proclaimed all of September "Saying Goodbye to Summer Month."

We're going to swim in a pond, the bay and the ocean (temperature permitting).

We're going to take a walk in the "White Sweeder Swamp" (White Ceder Swamp) in the National Seashore, where we are pretty sure fairies, pixies and magical half-frog people live.

We'll play mini golf one last time and hope no one wets their pants this time.

And there will be bumper boats.

Everyone has their own ritual for ending the summer. Or maybe they don't. We do, and ours includes figuring out which restaurants are only open seasonally and making sure we visit them before they close. Our short list of restaurants includes Blackfish in Truro, Terra Luna in Truro, Sol in Wellfleet and Mac's Shack in Wellfleet. We had breakfast at the Wicked Oyster yesterday morning, but are forgetting to check it off the list so we can go again. Oh Wicked Oyster, why must we love you so? You are breaking our hearts and our bank accounts.

In September there is also Boogie on the Bay, with music and food and friends. I will not be there as will be paying penance for some ghastly sin commited in a past life.

I will be at a Hannah Montana birthday party.