Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thankgiving!

Given my traffic phobia, we spent the night at Mum's last night so that we didn't have to fight the masses on the roads. As it was it took us twice as long to get past Springfield, due to all the bumper to bumper. Yuck.

They treated us to dinner at their fancy dining hall and we came back up and traded jigsaw puzzles. We hit the road first thing this morning, no traffic, a clear lovely day, and at the last minute Dave said, okay, let's take the ferry to Port Jeff. We were almost the last car on (no reservation) and it was a perfect crossing, a clear morning, not much wind, not many clouds. Port Jeff is so lovely from the water. We got to Dave's mom's before noon.

So now it's Thanksgiving, with Lisa (Dave's sister), Wes (her fella), his mother and daughter, Brian (Lisa's son), his girlfriend, Amber, and Sarah (Dave's sister's daughter), Randy (her husband), and Maddox (their son), who along with Wes et al. are arriving later tonight. Yikes! It'll be quite a full house. Dave and I are going to take Lily to see Enchanted and add our nickels to the company coffers.

No bears lately but lots of birds. The guys who replaced our window a couple of weeks ago hung up the Dave's birthday bird feeder outside one of our bedroom windows -- high enough so the bears can't get it, at least 12 feet -- and we've spotted lots and lots of chickadees and tufted titmice. Lily, who has been on vacation since last Friday, climbs into bed in the morning and gets all excited every time she sees something really unusual -- Tuesday it was a cardinal, juncos, finches, although not at the bird feeder. She studies the bird book intently.

We ran out of the sunflower seeds that came with the feeder so Dave refilled it with cheaper seeds, and the birds don't flock nearly as much as they used to, it seems. Oh dear. The lady at the birdwatcher store in Northampton (address to come) says all birds eat the sunflowers, and only certain birds eat the other stuff. So we'll see. The only real problem is we can't watch them while we sip our tea in the morning. But maybe we can rig up something until the bears come out of hibernation.

I miss the country. I am glad I don't live in the city. Here's a story about our literate hometown from the Times.

Happy Thanksgiving! Just remember, two down, two to go (Halloween and Thanksgiving).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bag Day

Today is Northampton's annual Bag Day. There's where you get a bag in your Hampshire Gazette, the local rag, and when you shop with it at participating Northampton stores, which is most of them, you get 20 percent off. We went to A 2 Z to cash in on Lily's main birthday present from us, a gift certificate. A 2 Z is a wonderful toy store -- they call themselves a science and learning store, but they also have a lot of great games and toys -- probably the best that I've seen. It was mobbed at 10:30 this Bag Day morning. They told me it was their second busiest day of the year, after Christmas Eve.

Dave says that on Bag Day our neighbors go to all their favorite restaurants and get gift certificates, which they happily use all year. We don't have a lot of disposable income right now so we just stuck to this one shop. But it was fun.

I realized this week that we are here. Today is the year anniversary of our moving to Amherst (well, the Saturday before Thanksgiving; I think the actual date was the 18th, tomorrow) -- and I've been on the job for eight months and Lily's been in school for a whole term and we've been living in this house for almost five months. I think the Year of Moving is over; now we're in the Year of Landing. When we were leaving a friend told me it would take two years to really settle. I was counting on one but after one I can see what she means.

So how does that play out? Dave's out on a nature walk in our woods, with a naturalist talking about what is out there. Vernal pools, I think. I really wanted to go, to hear what this guy had to say. That kind of thing is right up my alley. And I know I feel better when I stretch my legs and when I'm in the woods. Unfortunately, I felt too overwhelmed to go. I felt more compelled to clean the bathrooms and change sheets and do laundry. I just don't get time to do that during the week; I don't get time to be home. Lily is a bit of a lump like me, although, like me, once she gets out there she likes it. But of course she didn't want to go, either. So we put on Wicked and I cleaned and she straightened her room and then played.

Pretty lame, huh. Oh, well.

My friend said to me recently, this is about the time when you realize, I've landed. I'm here, I'm done moving, and oh, dear, I'm still here! I didn't leave me behind! I still have to deal with all this stuff, whatever it is. Good and bad. So much is good here. And there's so much I want to change in myself, too, so much I was hoping would change -- and did change -- when we moved here. I feel much less stressed, for instance. I don't cough as much. I eat better. I feel calmer and I am spending more and better quality time with my family.

But also, it's true what they say, once you leave the city you never walk again. Everyone has to figure out for themselves how to get exercise here, a new friend said recently. We joined the local YMCA and went to Family Swim last weekend. We might go tomorrow. Lily is now taking gymnastics there on Thursday afternoons. Dave is working out a bit, I've gone a couple of times, and I have an appointment with a trainer tomorrow to show me the machines.

Negotiating work, family, exercise, and my spiritual practice is such a balance. Mostly I want to be with Dave and Lily. But the other stuff is great, and feeds me -- I can't believe how much I like working again! -- and I need it, too. So, it's all balance.

We're in Brooklyn the weekend of Nov. 30. Give a call if you can get together!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A reason to get a cat

Betsy sent this clip. Hilarious, especially if you like cats.

Christmas card pics?

These are from our hike in the woods a couple of weekends ago with our friends Anne and Billie. They brought their wonderful dogs, Australian shepherds, who had a wonderful time smelling everything. We had Dave's overnight waffles from Mark Bittman, and not-too-burned bacon (that's 'cause Dave was watching over it.)

In the group shot we are on the Fairy Rock that sits at the intersection of the Coles Meadow and Marian Street trails. Lily is wearing her Bement headband. Yesterday they shopped at the Bement school store and she bought a bumper sticker, a license plate frame, and a pencil, all with "Bement" on it. Gotta love that school spirit! (Whenever I start to get cynical about this stuff I consider the alternative, as in, she hates school. I much prefer the pride of bumper stickers and pencils.)

The one of Dave is taken at the dam, about two miles (?) a mile and a half (?) through the woods from our house. Isn't he handsome!

We're arguing about the distance; Dave thinks a mile, but it takes us at least an hour to walk to the lake and back. The bird blind is 45 minutes+ round trip, and I think it's still a good half mile from the dam. Can you assume a 20-minute mile on a mostly flat hike in the woods? Yes, it's got some up and down, but then, so does New York City, where the rule of thumb is that it takes a minute to walk a block running north and south (and twice as long for an east-west block, the avenues) and it's 20 of those blocks to a mile, so that's a 20-minute mile pace.

Of course, those are Manhattan numbers, but they mostly hold up in Brooklyn, too. You might have to slow down in the woods to get around a rock or something, but again, between the tourists and the strollers, that holds true in New York, too.

Tasos, we need your GPS!

PS from Dave: Our friend Lonnie was quoted in the paper last week about the mayoral election, and Chris, a kid from D&D, is on the cover of the Living Section today in an article about Big Brothers. We live in Small Town, USA.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This is hilarious

I meant to blog this when it came out last week. Steven Colbert writing Maureen Dowd's column. "There, now I've written Frank Rich's column, too." Check it out.

It's cold in my studio. In order to meditate in there I have to fire up the pellet stove in the family room next door and leave the doors open a while. I go in long enough to read my email and then dash out. So I've been meditating in our den, the downstairs room with all the books and the piles of boxes, and turning on that pellet stove. And I have my laptop on the island counter in the kitchen.

I hope to rig up something more permanent once the den is cleared out. And with any luck, that'll happen in the next week or so. The laundry room is almost finished -- last I heard Alex the Carpenter thinks this week -- and just needs finishing touches, like paint and doors. We need to decide on the flooring and put that down soon, as the floor is cement and very dusty. And we need to get shelving in there. Then we can put the boxes in there and free up the den for more than just storage.

Last week I spent the day with some Northampton and New York colleagues at some offices in White Plains and chatted with a designer from Family Fun. She's an artist and had lots of ideas for how to set up an art space for Lily, including an all-color bulb (?) I forget but it's better than the glaring fluorescents overhead now. And a shelf for her supplies, and a table, of course, and a radio/CD player. I feel inspired.

Oh, and we have a laundry chute! It has an opening on both the first and second floor. It's a luxury, but fun. Dave has big plans for the pantry off the kitchen, now that the chute is mostly done. And our new windows look great! They need one more coat of something, and the walls around their edges needs to be re-painted. But they are snug and warm and much bigger and let in much more light. We like them a lot, especially the three big ones at the end of our bed, looking into the woods, that replaced two little ones. We hung a bird feeder up there, way away from the bears, and most mornings it's the place to be for those with wings.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lily is NINE!

Our darling daughter is now nine years old. We've had a great birthday weekend, starting with Mexican food at Mi Tierra in Hadley and The Bee Movie on Friday night. The food is good and definitely worth a trip if you are local. Also the service last night was much better than in the past. The movie is pretty good, if you don't mind listening to Jerry Seinfeld for 90 minutes. I fell asleep for awhile (as Mike says, the seats were very comfortable), so I can't quite tell you what happens. But it was amusing and kinda even brings attention to the plight of bees nationwide. It was also preceded by an ad from Burt's Bees about the topic of the great aviary die-off.

Late Friday night Betsy and Tasos arrived from Washington, D.C. She moved there from Athens in the late summer and he moved from Congo by way of Athens about a month ago. We haven't seen them for two years, when they visited us in Brooklyn with his mother and daughter. We all went out for a lovely dinner at Convivium Osteria one evening with Helene and Dimitri and were witness and party to all kinds of "who's picking up the check" machinations. It was really a great evening.

Anyway, they came in and crashed in the family room all snug with the pellet stove fired up. We had pancakes yesterday, at Lily's request, and then walked down to the lake for a nice brisk stroll. We now have a practice of leaving pretzel crumbs on the railing in the bird blind and the chickadees see us coming and swoop down. They seem practically tame, they come so close. This is probably a bad thing and we should stop.

We told stories about the day and night of Lily's birth, naturally, although I haven't told her how they took her from me and wouldn't give her back until my midwife called the pediatrician and he called the baby nurse and yelled at her to give me my damned kid.

We made it back in time to get a quick bite before taking Lily to Build-A-Bear in the Holyoke Mall. Not my or Dave's idea of a great time, a birthday party in a mall. But the high school senior who was our Party Bear was very friendly and enthusiastic and the kids had a great time picking out their animal and their outfit. I was pleasantly surprised to see even the boys having a great time. Really nice boys there. One put his bear in a karate outfit and one in a fireman's.

Then we went down the row of stores to Ben & Jerry's where another nice high school student gave us our pre-ordered ice cream cake. We had remembered plates and napkins and a knife, but we'd forgotten candles, so I'd run across to Spencer Gifts, a raunchy that is still around (!) and of course the only candles they had were the kind that don't blow out. So Lily and her friends blew them out a while until Ren's mom, Peggy, noticed that they were way smoky and we were right below a smoke detector and sprinklers. So we pinched them out. Lots of pics were taken and will be posted eventually.

Then we gathered at home to have pizza. Peggy and her crew came in much later than expected, and it turned out that her car was creamed by some jerk trying to cut across several lanes of traffic. Airbags, cops, kids very upset, Peggy very upset, her minivan totaled, the other driver blaming her--it was all very ugly. She had to call for a ride to our house, and her husband, who she was supposed to pick up on her way, had to find another way home.

We were able to offer pizza and tea and a roaring fire and lots of sympathetic ears.

I slept hard all night, thankfully. Today we will show Betsy and Tasos Northampton. Lily has D&D and then we'll all eat lasagna and garlic bread, one of Lily's favorite meals. It's 23 degrees right now so it's good warming comfort food, too. Yea, Lily!

Friday, November 02, 2007


Here's a link to that puzzle.

Our windows are being installed as I type! Where we had two smallish windows on our bedroom wall across from our bed, we now have three much bigger and longer windows, essentially a wall of glass but in three frames so we can open them. It looks out into our woodsy backyard, and will be so nice all year round.

Dave has pictures of the pumpkins on his blog -- see address to the right -- and I will ask if he can also put up the window installation shots. Our man Alex is also finishing our laundry room in the basement, the room off Lily's playroom, and that's going to be awesome. He's Sheetrocked it all in and also had an electrician in to put in some more outlets and change some of the circuits. This room will also get a drop ceiling and some sort of floor, either a roll-out linoleum that can be relatively easily removed in case the floor gets wet, and some strong lights overhead.

He's also constructed the laundry chute (!) and cut some holes in the floors to install it; he needs to move some heating vents, unfortunately, but we are all hoping that's not a big deal. The chute will run from our bathroom upstairs through the pantry in the bathroom off the kitchen down into the basement next to the washer. Fabulous!

One of the first things we did was install a double work sink in that room, and Dave built a shelf above it for the dehumidifier and ran a tube right into the sink. The basement seems dry, in that it doesn't flood, but it does get too damp when you don't have a dehumidifier going constantly. And who wants to empty that all the time? When it runs continuously the basement stays dry. It's excellent having a sink right next to the laundry, too: I leave towels soaking in Oxyclean to get the mildew smell out, for instance, and then move them directly into the wash. This kind of thing feels small but huge, you know? A luxury worth paying for. The laundry chute is more of an extravagance, but it's fun, so what the hey. Nothing wrong with fun.

Also in that room, I think I've noted, will be storage shelves, so we can move the boxes out of the so-called den into there. Once the den is cleared we can put in a futon or something, along with another TV and DVD. It has its own pellet stove and gets very snug, and is also cool in the summer, so it might be another good place to put overnight guests.

Finally, Alex has ideas about building a shelf that hangs from the wall in the laundry room and opens into the room, as needed. I'd like that for a place to fold laundry, as well as for Lily to do any kind of messy arts and crafts. We have an old blender, for instance, that we want to use to make paper.

Finally, we are building a coat closet off that room. The idea will be that when you come in from outside you head downstairs first, where there will be more open space, and a bench to sit on and take off your boots. Not exactly sure what it will all look like, but I'm thinking the hallway will also have some empty pegs for guests to hang their jackets. We will also have some shoe and boot racks. This way we can keep mud and snow in a concentrated area. We'll see how it all works, I guess.

Sometimes I think, oh, my, we are really putting a lot of money into all these home improvements! It really can be endless, can't it. But we really want to be here for the long haul. It's a bit far for Lily's school, and getting her up at 6:30 in the dark is a chore; living in Deerfield would be a lot easier for her, at least. But it's 8:30 now, I have to be at work at 9, and I won't be late. My office is two miles away. We are on these lovely woods, but we have supermarkets and a soon-to-be food coop within spitting distance. We can hear the distant roar of I-91, but it's easy to tune out, and I love that we are a mile from the exit.

The more I think about living in the wonderful Hilltowns, say, north and west of here -- and they really are in the country, those towns, they don't get cable and they don't get DSL and we could have gotten quite a lot of land and a great house with the money we spent on this place -- the more I am glad we are here. It's the best of both worlds, to be on these wonderful woods at the same time as being so close to town. And I'm not sure it would have been a good idea for someone like me, who'd lived in New York City for 18 years, to be so isolated in the country, or for Lily, a city girl and only child going to a private school 20 minutes away and so doesn't really know very many local kids.

Yes, our bedroom situation, with both bedrooms opening on the bathroom, and one wall of our bedroom open to the cathedral ceiling over the living room -- ie, not a lot of privacy -- is a little wonky. But I have an amazing studio, Dave has an office, Lily has a playroom, our kitchen-living area is great for entertaining, we have two other rooms to hang in (family room and den), and it's close to town. Couldn't really ask for more.

This was the right choice.

PS -- HAPPY 10TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, OCT. 31, TO MY MOM AND DON !! I'll write the story of how they met some time, it's great.