Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fort River waves good bye

Last day of school

Yesterday was a Summer Friday for me so I was able to pick up Lily at the end of her last day of school at Fort River. When I got there I couldn't find Lily's teacher, and a parent of a friend of Lily's (the friendliest parent in the school to us and the one who hosts d&d) showed me where she was: To my surprise and delight, every teacher had lined up just ahead of the buses, which were loading up students. Lily's teacher had on a clown wig and Groucho glasses. Another one played her accordion, someone brought her dog, the principal wore a mortar board and carried a golf club. I saw two big signs, one from the P.E. teacher, wearing Rollerblades, that said, Don't forget to exercise! and another simply said, Read.

We gave Rachel her flowers and card, and then, as each bus pulled away, all the teachers waved like crazy and shouted good-bye! have a great summer! It was a gorgeous sight. I was struck by the fact that I had to ask Rachel if these indeed were the school's teachers; unlike PS 261 where we had been a family since pre-K and I interviewed and photographed them every year for the who's who, I had no idea who they were. It was a great thing, though, and at the end, the principal turned to them all and said, good-bye! have a great summer! and all the teachers cheered.

The move on Thursday went very well--Dave said even with all our stuff from the storage unit the house is still enormous (nothing like cathedral ceilings to make a house feel spacious). We are filling 2,000 square feet with 1200 square feet of stuff. And 1200 includes the Brooklyn bathrooms and closets, too, unlike most real estate. The 2,000 number doesn't include those areas or the basement rooms, two of which are finished.

After I got Lily we drove to the house (stopping at Ben & Jerry's to celebrate; I was astonished to be charged $7.50 for two small cones with sprinkles!!!! words cannot express...) and after oohing and ahhing over the paint, which they have finished except for small touch-ups, we all painted one of the rooms in the basement. Earlier Lily and I had pulled up the carpet and icky wet padding in that room, and the carpet guys had removed the floor tiles underneath so that Dave could bleach it. We're trying to dry it out and have dehumidifiers all around. The paint looks nice, just an off-white mistake the paint store was selling for cheap, and we put on the first coat. Dave and Lily had already primed it. One more coat and the carpet, which goes in Wednesday, and it will be a very nice room.

This is not a large trophy house by any stretch, but we have so much space we aren't sure what to do with it. Two rooms aren't fully usable, of course, Lily's and the family room, because of their stupid slanted ceilings. But we will make do. The paint looks intense and rich and vibrant, but we like it, and already, having some furniture in there, like the sofa and coffee table in the living room, tones it down a lot.

I went around later wiping down shelves and furniture. We put the boards back into one of the built-in bookshelves we haven't removed and I filled a couple of rows with cookbooks. Lots of room left. I mopped the floor in the three-season porch and opened the windows to try to get the dead body smell out of the closet there. Yuck. Next I'm going to mop the walls with some sort of cleaner to try to cut the odor even more. But with the windows opened, carpets removed, fresh paint on the walls--and stain on the decks--it is starting to look and feel fresh and alive and like it's ours.

Boy there's a lot to do when you move, isn't there.

Lily was sad at the last day of school, which her teacher pointed out was a good thing, as it means she's settled in. She had a good time at Fort River and I feel a bit sad at pulling her out, but I still think Bement and Northampton will be better for us as a family. Even if she ends up at Northampton schools it'll be better.

Oh, last Lily thing: We went to that strings recital for the younger grades on Monday that I mentioned, see photo above, and she sat in the first violin chair. I said to her teacher, I doubt she's the best player (they had upper class ringers in there to help the newer players), and the teacher said, she's a born leader. She wore a shirt that said "Believe" in big letters, and in the rehearsal they made her stand up and show everyone, so they too could believe in themselves during the concert. They played four pieces, each one twice because two kids were sharing a cello and this way each got a chance to play, and everyone sounded great.

Now Lily is on to the flute! She had her first lesson on Thursday in Northampton. I have showed her just a few things and she's fooled around on it at most a half hour, and she sounded amazing at her lesson. Her new teacher was really impressed and called her a natural. I am seriously considering getting a second student flute (they're cheaper) and taking lessons again, myself, with the same teacher. That way Lily and I could play duets.

A friend told me yesterday she thought I should get music back into my life, and I think she's really right. I miss it. Practising for an instrument is easier to going to a choral rehearsal a couple of times a week, and more intimate, more personal, if I have a teacher. I can really concentrate on arpeggios and scales and techniques. When I sing in a chorus it's all about learning the notes for me, much more than perfecting my technique. I love singing choral music but I think flute has a lot going for it. Also, since I played it when I was a teenager, I still remember a few things and it wouldn't be like starting from scratch on, say, the piano.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Moving soon

We're doing the move in two steps, this Thursday for the piano, my grandmother's secretary, and to clear out the storage unit. The rest will follow on the 22nd. So this is by of saying that I need to spend every free moment packing and otherwise helping Dave, who is doing the major work of this move on his own. So I won't be posting much, if at all, until we get a little settled. So here's a final update until I get time to post again:

Dave is at the new house every day, dealing contractors and painters and guttermen and all the rest. We all go over on the weekend days. Dave hosted his regular poker game (don't ask) in the family room on Saturday night and said they'd painted quite a lot, so we all went by yesterday to take a look. The living room is really blue! The kitchen, which flows out of the living room, is really yellow! The three-season porch, my meditation spot, is a nice muted green, but also very colorful. The guest room / Dave's office is a pale but strong teal. Lily's room is the most intense, with a robin's egg blue ceiling (the sky) and violet walls. It's going to be a trip, especially once the green carpet is installed. Her choices.

The only possible color problem is the family room, which was to be a rich brown color called cork but which looks a little too yellow, depending on how the light falls on it. This is also the color of our bedroom. We've only seen one coat, though, and keep repeating our mantra: "it's only paint, it's only paint." We can always repaint.

The deck guy is repairing and cleaning the decks and found some significant rot on the deck near the kitchen sliding door that it is starting to creep into the house floor boards, unfortunately. So we will be replacing all that and also the sliding door, along with the sliding door off the family room. Oh, well. If we can find a carpenter to install them the doors'll be lovely. And yes, the gutters are being installed tomorrow. Then Dave has to run pvc to drain the rainfall away from the house.

The paint should be done Wednesday, the first move Thursday, the carpets next Wednesday the 20th, and the rest of our stuff a week from Friday, the 22nd. My sister Cate is coming to help Dave oversee the second move, since I'll be at work (yea, Cate!) and then Mum is coming for the weekend to help unpack (yea, Mum!). Setting up the kitchen is top priority, of course, as well as finding sufficient work clothes. Not sure when the various carpentry projects will be done. Oh, and the stairs will be carpeted on the 27th.

Such is homeownership, right? To whit: In addition to all that there's going to be a lot of smaller projects, including painting the paneling in the second basement room and maybe replacing the drop ceiling; finishing the basement room that we hope will be storage and laundry and maybe art space, since we'll be installing slop sinks; organizing everything; fixing up the closet spaces, for instance, building shelves in the landing closet so it can act as a linen closet and bathroom storage overflow, building shelves in the basement storage room, and paneling the family room closet with cedar; and of course, taking a bath in our soaking tub. I've already invited a couple of friends over for dinner on July 1. We are looking forward to all those promises of coming to visit from our friends. These kinds of future events help keep us motivated.

Today is Lily's string concert at school, which of course I am going to, and Friday is her last day at school. Wow! Time flies! Next Monday is her first day of riding camp, which is really exciting, except that we'll have to drive over the bridge where all the awful construction is for four weeks. Oh, dear! This summer she's going to take flute lessons with the wife of someone I work with. We had my flute completely overhauled and it looks brand new and gorgeous. Lily is very excited and I am seriously thinking about taking lessons again, as well. Then she and I can play duets.

Friday night I was really hot and sweaty and when I got home after picking up Lily from her last pottery class I raced inside and said, let's go swimming! We threw on our suits and went over the swimming hole at the Fort River, where we'd gone last August on that magical Sunday that made me think I'd like living here. The water was really cold, icy, but we all dove in once, even Lily. She was so proud of herself! Being able to do that is one of the reasons we moved here. Now we just have to find a suitable swimming place on the west side of the river. No worries.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Growing things

This has been a really wonderful move for all three of us. Lily still aches for Brooklyn at times, but she's doesn't mention it nearly as much. Dave's really been a great playmate this spring, and she's been busy with all her various groups, the ones that are now finishing up, like the Jones Library book group and the Jones Library theater group and the Leisure Services pottery class. She's just got 10 more days of school -- they get out on the 15th this year, earlier than usual because there was only one snow day.

What I like about how I see Lily changing is that she is learning about nature in a way she never had in Brooklyn -- and me, too. It's real, here; here we live in it, we don't just look at it and try to get into it on the weekend. Sunday I was driving her to her Dungeons and Dragons group (don't ask) (did I mention D&D? she's a second-level elf druid) during a raging downpour. As we drove over the Connecticut River she was fascinated with what the water looked like, roiling and rough. Then on the way back it was completely still -- and on the third trip over it was both ruffled from the wind and calm in parts. She noticed it each time and was really interested and tried to describe it. I like that.

Great rivers in NYC, of course, but when we went over them we were usually so high you couldn't really see them, or focus on their textures. Here you are just above it so it's easy to pay attention. Last week this fuzzy pollen was so thick it scummed up on the water's surface and looked like pollution. Glad it wasn't.

I have really noticed all the farms and fields on my way to work. There's terrible construction on the bridge over to Northampton, where my job is. So I drive through Hadley on a road parallel to the main drag, which is route 9, and I pass by all sorts of farms. Today it occurred to me that I find it extraordinary that plants grow. I mean, I'm not a farmer, or even a gardener. When we got here in November the ground was frozen and any plant life was dead. Now it's been plowed and planted and weeded and watered -- I pass what look like migrant workers every day, although who knows where they are from, working hard -- and now the corn is as much as a foot high, and the rows of squash plants all have lovely orangy-yellow blossoms. I see rows and rows of little lettuces and their cuteness just cracks me up and amazes me.

When I tried to grow a little garden in Wellesley as a teenager I got some tomatoes, of course, but hardly anything else. I remember my cukes did terribly. I really had no idea what I was doing and it's wild that someone else does -- thank god they do! I was telling a friend here that I work as a magazine editor, and described the job to her. She looked at me in astonishment and said she'd have no idea how to do my job. My friend's a nurse, so I of course replied that I could not draw blood to save my life. That made her laugh because it's so second-nature to her.

Our CSA started up last week, and we are really psyched about it. Our share is at the Food Bank Farm this year, and we were lucky to get in it; it usually sells out its shares. Early on, of course, it's mostly greens and such, and the salads we've been eating taste amazing. Fresh, alive, really tasty. The cool thing is that because they don't have to truck their food to the city, like we had in Brooklyn, they can let other providers come to them. Dave has done the pick-ups so far and done quite a bit of grocery shopping -- they sell local eggs, beef, chicken, bread and muffins, hand soap, cheese, tofu, jams, and much more. It all tastes great and I'm really happy to be a part of it.

Along with asparagus it's been rhubarb season and tonight Dave made a strawberry (now in season, too) and rhubarb crumble. Yum. Dinner was that and a fresh CSA salad with arugula and their tahini salad dressing, fresh bread, and herbed goat cheese, Dave's own rice pilaf, and pork chops from Whole Foods. We are living very nicely here.

I saw another friend on Monday, like Sunday a cold and dramatically stormy day, and she laughed when she saw me and said, you look like a New Englander! I said, I do? I was wearing a Mark Morris baseball cap and a long gray microfiber raincoat, it might be a London Fog. She said, you look ready for the weather. It made me think, I am just more suited to New England than New York City. I've never been a clothes horse (I know this will come as a surprise) and I never let the New York City clothes vibe get too deep into my head; I certainly wore anything I wanted to in Brooklyn, especially when I wasn't working. Here it's not that people don't care about their clothes or their look, it's that the whole vibe is so much less intense. My first week at work we had a fire drill and 40 out of 45 were wearing blue jeans. My kind of crowd.

Oh, two last things: I've been reading about feng shui and I think our house has good vibes. It's south-facing, with a hill on the north side and a stream to the east. Also, the path to the front door is curved. If you know about this stuff and want to advise us on how to arrange the inside, please don't hesitate ....

Second, Lily cracked me up again just now when I was kissing her good night and she said, tell that cow to shut up! The neighbors have some young cows that can get very noisy when they are hungry. I said, well, we didn't have noisy cows in Brooklyn! and she cracked up herself. Their rooster is back at it again, after a few months of crowing on the other side of the house, I guess. I haven't heard much out of ole Rocky until recently. I'm excited about the new place but there won't be cows and there won't be roosters. There will be bears, so that's some consolation, I suppose.

Sure is a different life here. PLEASE, to all our friends reading, please plan on coming to visit us. We are here almost the entire summer. Come visit and let us show off our new place and show you around our new town. We can explore together. We are trying to make our home very comfortable for guests, and very welcoming.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Why can't we eat the blue goo? Peter and Lily when they were children

A frog we found in Groff Park, Amherst, along the Fort River a few weeks ago.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Strolling of the Heifers

We spent much of today in Brattleboro hanging out at the Strolling of the Heifers, the town's version of the Running of the Bulls. The name made me laugh out loud, as well as watching the Dairy Fairy, aka the Dairy Godmother, and her daughter lead off the parade.

We got up there around 9:30--it's about 40 minutes from our new place--and met up with the family of one of Lily's future Bement classmates and a friend of hers who also goes to Bement. Unfortunately the friend's friend is moving to Minnesota in July, and she is not happy about it; neither is the new friend. Lily knows all about moving when you don't want to.

The parade started at 10 and went for over an hour, with dozens of local farm kids walking their gorgeous heifers, most of them bedecked in flower garlands. There were also lots of people dressed up in cow costumes, really famous baton twirling artists and bagpipers, as well as various high school and grown up marching bands (all the band players wore farm clothes instead of their sequins). I loved it. Our friends had arranged to watch from a realtor-friend's porch up on a hill so we were shaded and a bit cooler and not so crowded. Other friends of our new friends were there, too, lots of New York ex-pats. It was pleasant and our realtor host had provided quite a spread.

Afterwards we all walked over to the lawn outside the Brattleboro Retreat for the afterparty, including various booths, those airy bouncy rides, a pretend cow you could milk, some farm animals you could pet, lots of free samples of stuff like local ice cream, a few folks selling stuff, lots of music, and some food. We all got free containers of a quarter-cup of heavy cream, which we walked around shaking. After the cream had turned to butter we ate it with Saltines and Dave pasted us with stickers that said, "I made butter." All the stuff was pleasantly sufficient, and not overwhelming. Pleasantly low-key.

Photos to come.

t was really hot, though, and I've resolved to leave my bathing suit and a towel in the car; you never know when you might have the urge to jump into the Connecticut, or a friend's pool.

We came home by way of our new place and stopped in for an hour to look, and muse, and think about what we want the rooms to look like. The remaining stuff has been carted away and the mothball odor has subsided considerably. The light is mottled through the leaves and lovely. I suspect some trees around the edges will be coming down eventually. There's really quite a lot of space inside for the three of us. We are all staking out our territory--mine is the three-season porch, where I plan to meditate and do yoga. Just sitting in there a few minutes today made me slow down.

It's kind of amazing to reflect back on how extraordinarily smooth this has been, how perfect the timing, my job starting the day Dave's unemployment ran out, for instance, and the house being available just in time for us to do some work and move in after school ends. We are very blessed.

Yesterday I made Dave get into the empty soaking bath with me--yes, we both fit, no we didn't turn the water on. The sellers had left a short guide on Japanese soaking baths. The intent is both social, when it's a large enough or public bath, and to rid yourself of spiritual dirt. First you rinse in the adjacent shower, then you soak briefly and warm up, then you wash thoroughly in the shower, and then you soak for a long time. Afterwards you are to find a place to "sit calmly and think magnificent thoughts." I'm down with that.

Friday, June 01, 2007


[Be sure to read Dave's asparagus blog! It's great!]

So we bought a house yesterday. Yikes! Wednesday was the walk-through, and that took about an hour and went very well. We want a little more of their stuff removed--it's hard to figure out because they also left us some furniture and cleaning materials and other stuff we do want, but not other. Anyway, it's going to be moved by next week.

Yesterday I ducked out of work just before 2:30. Our lawyer and our broker showed up, is all, and Dave and I. We met in a closing room (does NYC have closing rooms in their record halls?) in the Registry of Records just two blocks from my office, and we were done in 10 minutes. Our lawyer had been to the other lawyer already and everything on their end was signed. We signed and initialed a couple of copies and gave our lawyer a check and that was it.

I couldn't believe it. No paying the title guy a $50 "tip" just for showing up (required in NYC closings). No extra, oh, yes, this tax, too, and this paper. Not a single wrinkle. I was back at the office by 3 and that was only because Dave and I stopped to chat about the marvel of life in a small town.

Esther, our fabulous Brooklyn broker, had given us a cool closing present, check out her website, BooMaaArts, and our broker is threatening to give us something. So we figured turnabout is fair play and we gave a homemade CD to our broker, the sellers' broker, who we liked a lot, too, and our lawyer, Dave's new best friend. We called it House Music and it included songs like Home by Bonnie Raitt, Massachusetts by Arlo Guthrie (our official state folk song), The Long Way Home by Norah Jones, and Come On-A My House by Rosemary Clooney, and many more. Of course we ended it with the Stones cover of You Got To Move from Sticky Fingers. Our people were all great, really friendly and patient and professional, proving you don't have to be harsh or a schmuck to do the job well.

By the way, if you are related to me a) don't even think about getting me one of Esther's calendars, and b) know that you are probably getting one for Christmas. They are really neat perpetual birthday calenders. Esther is Dutch and says these are all over Europe; you just write in birthdays and anniversaries and that way you don't have to keep moving them to the current calendar.

After we closed, our friend Erika came over the house to help us pick our paint colors. It's a contemporary split level, so there's lots of weird angles and corners, and walls turning into cathedral ceilings, that sort of thing. Erika has a good eye and knows about those things, and the great thing is she didn't try to impose her taste on us, she just listened to what we wanted and made suggestions. It was excellent. So helpful.

FYI: All the window and door frames and floors are nice polished hardwood. The living room has a soaring cathedral ceiling that flows, really, over the balcony and into our bedroom: Our bedroom doesn't have a door on the living room side, just balcony overlooking the living room, a major concern but we're going to live with it for now. Just two rooms, ours and Lily's, will have carpets, and also the stairs and the landings.

Okay, this is for you, Mum. Here's the list:

living room, with two-story red/white/black brick chimney - the chimney wall is a pretty bright blue, and the side and opposite walls are the next lightest shade of blue, Honolulu blue, on the same strip.
kitchen, which flows in from the living room -- a pretty bright yellow. May be called sunshine yellow, or something like that. We didn't want it too dark a color and there's only one significant wall; the rest is underneath the cabinets.
family room
, off the living room -- a warm brown (but not too dark) on the walls and "rich cream," a slightly brownish white on the same paint strip, for the slanty ceiling. Or is it the other way around?
3-season porch off the family room, with big windows on three sides -- a dark, somewhat yellow green
Lily's room, she wants a jungle thing -- green carpet, violet walls and the same lighter blue shade on the ceiling. Erika has offered to paint stars and clouds on it!
Our bedroom - not sure yet. Was going to be "adobe," but we had to change the carpets, so now we aren't sure. The carpet is now a gorgeous woven wool with a streaky pattern and the color is "caramel." We aren't sure the adobe goes with it, is all.
Hallways - a chocolate brown carpet and rich cream, slightly brownish white, for the walls.
Dave's office/guest room -- Not sure. It's his call so who knows, but I'm rooting for a red-brown or a red-orange, personally.

There's two basement rooms, each with lots of brown bookshelves and old pine paneling. Dave's going to paint one of those rooms white, and maybe the bookshelves, and we'll put a durable Berber mixed color thing on the floor, with lots of brown and green and a touch of yellow. It'll be fine. Maybe it should be something else, a softer plush in a peacock blue, for instance. Oh, dear!

Anyone still reading? Does this stuff bore you to death? Sure does me, except if it's mine. But I know my mom wants to know. I think. Do you, Mom?

I'm not sure why, but now that we have a garage Dave has bought us a good-quality standing bike pump, and he keeps going over to it t0 pump air into the air. He says it's his workout.

Today I am off, the first of my six Summer Fridays, and we went over to the house--our house--to meet the carpet guy and the contractor. Really nice--they know each other, of course--and efficient and helpful. We are going to put a laundry room in the slab-floored basement part of the downstairs. I want slop sinks and a place to hang drying clothes. There's a stacked set right now in the bathroom off the kitchen and the sellers' realtor told me most people want that, these days. But I want room to hang my clothes and all, and wash stuff by hand. That might also be a bit of an art room, if we have some good light and put in a durable washable floor covering.

Hope I'm not crazy. We'll also have storage shelves in that room, for camping gear and boxes of papers and too-big clothes for Lily, that sort of thing. I also want to put my brooms and stuff in the closet where the stacked set is. Am I crazy? We can always change it back, right?

PS -- just listening to Our Town by Iris Dement; it's on our House Music CD. Dave found it on David Fischer's blog last fall and played it for me and Lily. The three of us just sobbed. Good night, Brooklyn. Check it out, the audio on Rhapsody for free, and the lyrics below:

"Our Town" on
her Infamous Angel album

And you know the sun's settin' fast,

And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,

Up the street beside that red neon light,
That's where I met my baby on one hot summer night.
He was the tender and I ordered a beer,
It's been forty years and I'm still sitting here.

But you know the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,

It's here I had my babies and I had my first kiss.
I've walked down Main Street in the cold morning mist.
Over there is where I bought my first car.
It turned over once but then it never went far.

And I can see the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,

I buried my Mama and I buried my Pa.
They sleep up the street beside that pretty brick wall.
I bring them flowers about every day,
but I just gotta cry when I think what they'd say.

If they could see how the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on now and kiss it goodbye,
But hold on to your lover,
'Cause your heart's bound to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to our town, to our town.
Can't you see the sun's settin' down on our town, on our town,

Now I sit on the porch and watch the lightning-bugs fly.
But I can't see too good, I got tears in my eyes.
I'm leaving tomorrow but I don't wanna go.
I love you, my town, you'll always live in my soul.

But I can see the sun's settin' fast,
And just like they say, nothing good ever lasts.
Well, go on, I gotta kiss you goodbye,
But I'll hold to my lover,
'Cause my heart's 'bout to die.
Go on now and say goodbye to my town, to my town.
I can see the sun has gone down on my town, on my town,