Monday, June 30, 2014

Freewheeling Saturday

Hudson, NY. Finding ourselves with a rare summer weekend with no gigs, and no rehearsals for Patrick, and no obligations, either, we made a brief escape. Having fallen in love with Kingston, NY, last fall, and feeling like we needed to do further explorations in the Hudson valley, we headed to the town of Hudson, at my dad's recommendation. It's a tony town. In a lot of ways, it feels like the richer parts of New York City. But we skirted politely around the high-end, mega-hoity-toity designer furniture shops and antiques shops where I knew I wouldn't be able to afford even a doorknob, and found a couple of more accessible ones, and a record store where we got a Norman Blake album for $5. Mainly, though, we walked and took in the architecture and enjoyed just being. There really is something magical about sitting on a bar stool in a town that is not your town, with no where to go, nothing to do, no one who knows where you are or expects you back. 

We stayed late. We walked down to check out a waterfront craft market-y thing with live music, then we tried a hike at the Greenport Conservation Area, but the flies.... oh, the flies. If I could make deer flies extinct... do you hear me? deer flies and English ground ivy, Lord. I'd be a happy woman. 

But I digress. We found a terrific, friendly little bar/restaurant and ate a wonderful meal out back in their courtyard garden. A firefly came in to check out my glass of Chardonnay. It was special. 

Something tells me I'll be thinking about this day in Hudson for a long time. 

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Where it gets cool

I went antiquing yesterday for the first time in a very long time. And wouldn't you know it, I had terrible luck all day. Don't you hate it when that happens? The one place I was planning on spending two hours and walking away with a whole box of booty was half closed for (long overdue) renovations. So I took a drive past my very favoritest of places, Old Odd and Unique, which is usually closed on Thursdays. But they were OPEN! And as I parked, I knew my luck was about to turn.

Some of my favorite scores have been had at this little shop of wonders over the years. Antique doorknobs. Old magazines. An old fan and an old radio. And this silver-plated belt I wear at least once a week in the wintertime. 

But I was not on a mission for trinkets today. I was on a mission for a pot rack. Specifically, something cool to turn in to a pot rack to hang over our stove. I knew I was headed to the right place. The guy is great: friendly and creative and knowledgeable, and fair. He led me to an old wagon wheel (too country) and an old stained glass window (too much color) and then to that fabulous wacky thing, something I'd never seen before: an expandable clamp-on luggage rack from the 20s or 30s. It would clamp right on to the running boards of a model T, he told me. I was sold. I was so completely and utterly sold. Coolest. Pot rack. Ever.

And then the punch card holder begged me to take it home, and I listened. That I've already hung, as you can see, on the partition between the kitchen and the dining room. I've never done anything with an "industrial" vibe-- never quite felt like it would match our space. But now, somehow, in this kitchen with its smooth stone counters and its stainless steel range, it fits. 

I have no idea how we're going to hang the luggage-come-pot rack, I should mention, but it will happen at some point in the near future. Some way, some how. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, the man lift has been put into place, finally, and it is time for this gal to commence House Exterior, Summer, 2014: Driveway Side.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Doggy date

Hey... you like sticks... too?

No way! This one's really yummy, want to try it?

Mooom! I think I made a friend!!!

We've been trying to get Del more comfortable around other dogs. He's great with the dog-in-laws, until food is introduced. Dogs we meet on walks are either, "oh hi, I'm a dog too!" or "BACK THE HELL OFF I'M THE DOG HERE!" His reaction can be a little unpredictable-- and I'm starting to think it has more to do with my body language when we're meeting a new dog than anything. But that is neither here nor there, really.

What this is about is walking Delmer Monday night and going by the park and seeing our friends Jay and Katie (and Chloe, their dog) and inviting them over for a campfire. Impromptu-style, the absolute best style for a long June evening. We'd all done a hike together a few weeks ago, which went really well, so we tried out Del's "host dog" skills. He was great. He shared his sticks. He tried to get rowdy with Chloe, (good dog-rowdy), and when she stepped all over him with her long deer-like legs, he decided maybe he didn't want to play after all. 

He made us proud. I love that proud-dog-momma feeling.

And, naturally, it was excellent to hang out with our friends (potluck friends) and catch up. The fireflies were out of this world.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Full, crazy, and good

First, the preparations.

Then, the welcome.

The feeding...

...and the feasting!

How wonderful it was to reconnect with my friend Steph! Back from the Great White North of Saskatoon, Canada, where she moved to right after we got married. I've scarcely seen her, scarcely talked to her (other than on Facebook) since. (I did cater her baby shower, and make her a baby blanket.) But we picked right back up. All these things: two children and a marriage and lots of crazy travel in her world, a dog and neverending house projects and lots of crazy gardening in my world. We snuck snippets of girl-chat in between the querulous toddler and squawking baby. We drank wine by the campfire, and watched fireflies, after dark. We schemed up a girls canning weekend for later in the summer. And we celebrated her return home to central NY, hopefully for good. Distance between girl friends can really stink, but the reunions are always so joyous.

And standing there in my kitchen, oh my goodness. WAA! My kitchen is SO awesome! So perfect for entertaining little get-togethers like this, the way we love to do. Jose and Steph and the kids spread out along the peninsula with glasses of wine (and jars of pickles) and we all chatted and laughed and I ducked and dived into the fridge getting a little of this or that for the meal, and it was perfect. I dished up a bit of snap peas with mint and feta for the chilluns, and dipped noodles out of the pot-- to test doneness-- that were snatched by Jose to feed to Ximena. Noodles + chilluns is a great equation. 

The meal was so fun and easy and, well, rustic. I guess that's the word for this direction my cooking has been leaning lately. I bought local strawberries, heavy cream, a few lemons, a red bell pepper, and an eggplant. Everything else came from the garden or the pantry.
  • Homemade pasta carbonara (just snipped chives, dill, sage, and parsley, black pepper, and a splash of heavy cream topped with poached eggs)
  • Snap peas with mint and feta (just lightly saute the peas in olive oil, salt and pepper and add mint and feta)
  • Mom's Chickpea Salad, which she made for our party, which I've since learned contains minced celery, red bell pepper, red onion, and black olives in addition to the chickpeas...)
  • Lemon Cake with Strawberries
Man. Spending time with these friends I've had for going on ten years-- it is SUCH a gift. I don't consider myself to be the type of person to make friends easily, honestly: it takes a long time for me to forge a connection that is DEEP as well as meaningful and fun. But once I have that deep connection, it doesn't erode over time. It stays put, even when a whole continent gets in the way. Still, I'm so happy to have this gal and her... well, BROOD... back nearby for visiting on those special Ithaca weekends. Lucky me, and lucky us. 

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pretty pictures

Nothin' much to say this morning, just some pretty pictures to share. I spent yesterday doing more unglamorous finish work in the house-- touching up baseboards, touching up the stairwell, reinstalling toe-kicks, painting the divide between kitchen and dining room-- and though it is very extremely unexciting, it also feels good to be chugging right along.

Partly, I'm not letting myself rest from kitchen progress because I'm wary of the momentum of a "break." It can be so hard to find the momentum of working, but so easy the momentum of resting slips in. And before you know it it's canning season and we're still not finished. See? No rest. Must. Keep. Going.

We have friends coming for the weekend-- old friends who've lived in Canada for six years and are back for the summer-- and it will be so good to see them. So good to scheme up a menu for my First Big Meal Cooked in my New Kitchen (!!!) and to make it happen. I can't tell you how good that kitchen feels, even in its incomplete state, even with things in drawers where they don't belong. It feels fitting-- like it fits the house, and our life, and ME. It's new enough, still, that I walk into it from the garden, or from the rest of the house, and it's like, What Have We Here! This is Pretty! I wonder who's lucky enough to have such a nice kitchen as this! Oh. Me. 

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Monday, June 16, 2014

After the rain

Yesterday was a day for garden catch-up. Amazing what one rainy week of June can accomplish out there-- both among the crops and among the weeds! Things are exploding. I so love this exploding time of year.

My tasks included weeding and mulching with grass clippings (yesterday I raked our whole damn yard-- a whole acre!-- to harvest as much grass clippings as possible), picking the cucumber beetles that are just starting to show up on my squash plants, de-suckering tomatoes, and picking the first peas. The mulching is not my favorite task, but the picking and de-suckering and even the bug killing are enjoyable. And there are few things sweeter than an hour in the garden with my mug of tea, scootching along down the path and picking a weed here and there. And watching the swallows, smelling those glorious peonies, and greeting the Pete-cat whenever he decides to come over and rub against me. It's times like these that my mind slows down enough to let gratitude in. LOTS of gratitude, for all the little joys of a warm June morning in the garden. 

I've been thinking lately about my transition-- which is now mostly complete-- from someone who buys most of her food to someone who grows most of her food, and how it's really going. It is work, to be sure. Work, and a lot of time. But really not that much time. People probably think I'm a slave to the garden, pulling weeds and watering and all that. And in dry times I am out there watering, that's true. But mostly what I'm a slave to is the cutting board, in harvest season. The cutting board and the blanch-pot and the canning kettle. The harvesting is the real work-- not the caring for things. I find that really remarkable. I'm hoping to find my way to better systems for harvesting, to make things more efficient, the same way I've found certain things in the garden that are huge time-savers. Mulching is one. It keeps the weeds down and the water in. It's a lot easier than composting (though I do that, too). 

Anyway, just some musings. A big post with a breakdown of how much work I put in and how much money we save might be in the works. Would anyone be interested in that? 

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Raining, it's raining...

Can you get excited about baseboards with me?

I mean, can I get a woot, or even a W00T, for baseboards, here? For the four hours I spent with the chop saw and a pencil behind my ear and a tape measure weighing on the waistband of my pants?

Alright, then. Can I get you excited about the primed toe-kicks resting on our dining room table?

No? Well, how about a new stairwell color?

Sigh. I have to tell you, these things don't have much excitement for me, either. It's been a very rainy week, which is just wonderful for the garden (we needed it!) but not-so-wonderful for the sake of diversifying my project-work. It's all been inside. Wednesday I cut the baseboards. Then I sanded and painted the baseboard pieces. Then I sanded down the wood filler I've applied to the stairwell, and painted the white parts white. (Why is stairwell painting always the fastest route to misery?)

Yesterday, I had all afternoon and into the evening, and I wore myself out. I installed the baseboards with the nail gun (paCHOW! paCHOW! paCHOWpaCHOWpaCHOW!), filled the holes, and taped off, then caulked, then painted, the top edge. Peeling off the tape while the caulk and the paint are still wet is the fastest route to a clean edge, so I've found. THEN I pulled off the toe-kicks (they clip on) and primed them. I'm going to paint 'em to make them blend in with the floor. THEN, because I wasn't dead yet, I taped off all the spindles in the stairwell (39), sanded down the hall and all the treads, and gave them a first coat of paint. That color I'd painted them years ago just wasn't doing it for me anymore, and the paint was in terrible shape, so I bit the bullet. Blerg.

And today it continues to rain, and I have desk work, and I am grateful. I took another photo of my garden this morning, which somehow came out even lovelier than the one I took Wednesday, so I will leave you with that.

After today, the rain is over for awhile, and I'm glad about that.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Garden update





November, 2010, before everything.

I wanted to get some close-ups this morning, but it's pouring, so we'll have to get by on a view from my office window. This is my favorite week of the year to stand at this window and take a picture. Everything I've planted is visible from above; the syringa and the peonies AND the salvia are blooming; the light is soft. 

So pretty. 

"Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are." Alfred Austin, a 19th century English poet, said that. I don't know anything else he's said or written, but I think that particular sentiment is sheer brilliance.

What am I? Oh, just happy. Happy and a little crazy, with these sweet early-June flowers bobbing on a rainy morning, outside my office window.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

House party, 2014

We do this party every year, and this was the best one yet. Each year is different, of course, but there are some common threads. Good people. Incredible generosity. Rings of lawn chairs, and vases of flowers, and wine bottles lined up like soldiers at roll call. We had flawless weather. We had my usual Mediterranean pressed sandwiches (which I started doing the first year and have always done and will always do, because they are delicious and easy and a big hit). We had a vat of potato salad from the mother in law, and a vat of incredible chickpea salad from the mother, and a vat of macaroni salad from our friend Mary, who is not related to us but brings macaroni salad anyway. 

The kitchen was a hit.

I had a multitude of proud daughter moments when people asked "where I got my cabinets." Dad. Dad did them. Yeah, he's amazing. I love getting to say that. I also loved getting to brag on my FIL, who did the floor, and my husband, who did everything else. 

I was a more relaxed hostess than last year. I made myself relax. Last year, I bolted out of my seat whenever new people came down the driveway. But I really don't need to do that, I told myself. People have been here before. I waved and hollered, "Food's in, booze is out! Welcome!" They got it. 

As a result, I got to take pictures this year! Pictures are the best. 

A lot of the new attendees this year were from our still-thriving Tuesday night potluck group. Every year, our circle evolves a little, deepens and strengthens, and this party is a wonderful, wonderful way of marking those shifts and keeping us rooted in our "timeline" here. 

Another thing I had time for was small people introductions. I had never done that before. The Gilbertsville kids-- my sweet neighbor Mia, and two other gals both named Maya (seriously. Gville needs some girl-name variety!) were introduced to Zoey, also sweet as can be, who lives in Binghamton. "Mia, this is Zoey. She really likes Delmer, too, and she likes to feed the chickens. Do you want to go feed the chickens together?" It's that easy. Within minutes, the kids were a pack. Awesome. They caught fireflies after dark.

The other thing that made this year stand out for me was the presence of our friend Andy and his new toy. He has himself a real, bonafide drone-- not the armed kind, obviously!-- for taking video and aerial photos. He flew it four or five times throughout the day, much to the amusement and fascination of all the kids, and many of the adults, too. 

Seeing your place from the sky is the most amazing thing. It's like, BOOM, this is all the work you've done in the past three years captured from above-- and to me it looks damn good. In a way it makes it look small, but in a way it makes our work here look more special and important than ever.

And the spirit of the day he was able to capture... that's just beyond words. The campfire part, especially. 

Oh man. I'm going to be loving these photos for a long time. 

What a day. I'm still savoring it.

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