Sunday, September 28, 2008

My favorite Paul Newman movie . . .

. . . is hard to choose, but he gave an incredible performance in one the Times obit didn't mention, Fort Apache: The Bronx. What an incredible actor, and what an incredible humanitarian too. He saved The Nation a few years ago when it almost folded. Now that's a bailout I can go for. RIP, Paul Newman.

Two new Chance stories: One night last week, Lily was taking a bath in the Japanese soaking tub and Chance crept in there, sniffing around and batting at Lily when she peered over the edge at the cat from inside the tub. Lily likes it shallower and cooler than I do and I wasn't sure when I would get to take my turn, so after she got out I waited to fill it up with hotter water until after she went to bed. As she headed upstairs to bed I -- thoughtfully, I thought -- left the door open so Chance could go back in and look around.

I tucked Lily in and turned out the light. My mom called, and as we chatted, Dave putzed near me in the kitchen. Then we heard, SPLASH!!!! I looked at him and said, "I left the door open!" before either of us could move, this very wet cat came tearing out of the bathroom and into the living room, leaving a small stream of water behind her. Dave grabbed my towel, the one I'd left near the tub to use afterwards, and grabbed Chance. He wrapped her up tight and she peered from his arms looking very bedraggled. It was hilarious. Between drying her and cleaning up the said stream the towel was soaked.

She still likes to go in there and even jump up on the edge of the tub -- did she slip in that time, or did she actually jump in, not realizing it was half full of water? -- but I trust/hope she's learned her lesson about swimming. Thank goodness it wasn't hotter, and that she was somehow able to scramble out.

The second story is that Dave was on his way out one morning and she was sitting in the window near his desk and threw up her breakfast all over the window sill, the desk, and the floor. Yuck. He'd rather clean up kid puke, he said, and I agree. But as my friend Mary says, cats puke. That's the deal. So, okay.

She's a great cat. Lots of personality, very smart -- my stepfather gave her a cat toy, some small balls that she can bat around the house, and last night she dropped one down the stairs. It doesn't roll on the carpet down there and before Dave or I could get it and bring it upstairs, she appeared in the kitchen, with the ball in her mouth. She had gone down and picked it up and carried it up so she could keep playing with it.

She loves to play. She gets over-excited and nips a bit, but in those cases we say "no" firmly and drop her on the floor. Forget that. She's a love, loves to sit in your lap and purr and be petted, and we love to oblige, of course. I haven't lived with a cat since my dear roommate Anne moved back to Germany and took Mikesh, and that's just too long. I missed having a cat. I miss Anne, who was so despairing of ever recovering from chronic fatigue that she took her own life in 1996. RIP Anne. We loved you.

It's the season for picking fruit. This time I went way overboard and picked way too many peaches. With the help of Dave's mom I blanched them, some of them way too long. I did send some home with Judy and the people she rode up here with, but still, we have have tons more than last year, and they are pretty mushy. But I love them in my oatmeal or granola, and they're fine to cook with. We also picked and froze four quarts of raspberries, and made about two pecks' worth of applesauce. Gawd! Nothing like homemade applesauce!

I am discovering the wild world of FaceBook, and consider it all as research for when Lily becomes a teenager. It's fun to reconnect with friends I haven't talked to in years. I think a lot about friends, how to make them, be with them, keep them, move on from them. And it's nice to get more chances to learn these things, you know?

Yesterday Dave and Lily went to the Bement fall bazaar, and Dave got snowshoes and life vests for her. I went to the town's annual second-hand book sale -- another way to pass the seasons here is the annual sales at the vocational high school, which also includes skiis and skates, and plants, in the spring -- and came home with a big box of great stuff for all three of us. I spent part of the rainy afternoon alternating between The Story of English (companion to the PBS series from 20 years ago) and Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, where he handily articulates what I've been thinking for a long time, and backs it up with lots of direct evidence. If you want to understand why Ralph Nader continues to run, and people like me continue to vote for him, read this book.

One last thing -- Lily has been struggling in school, socially. Dave and I met with her teachers last week and came away feeling listened to and as though our concerns will be addressed. Some if it is her behavior, some of it is others, and some of it is the age and the fact that for whatever reasons -- she's an only child; she's younger than the rest of her class; she grew up in Brooklyn; she's a Scorpio -- she relates to people differently than a lot of her classmates. At any rate, we're looking at the local Waldorf school, called Hartsbrook -- love to hear from anyone with experience with Waldorf -- but we are going to work with Bement as far as we can and see if this will work for her. She is doing well academically and really likes that part of it, likes what she's learning. More TK (to kome), as they say in magazine publishing).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chance by chance

Look at those legs! Lily's, I mean. And those enormous feet! She has her father's feet.

taking a Chance

So I promise not to mention Sarah Palin (gawd, did you see Tina Fey on SNL last weekend?) (read the Mudflats blog about Palin) or the plummeting stock market, including my ever-more-measly 401K . . . read this article about what the press isn't doing and should be during this monumental election season, courtesty of David F.

Oh, okay, here's Tina Fey:

Mostly I am here to talk more about the lovely and mischievous Chance, and how hard Lily is working these days. And read this hilarious article from Smithsonian magazine by Megan Gambino, who may or may not be related to you-know-who.

We took Chance to the vet yesterday and everything checks out fine. She's a good weight -- and as an indoor cat we have to keep her at that -- and she seems very healthy. Her ears had some wax, which they cleaned. Her eye is weepy and it's not from a kitty cold, it's probably to do with her injury. She gets to see the opthamologist soon, lucky her, but it mostly seems okay.

She's certainly more lively now that she's making herself at home. Over the weekend we all woke up at 1 am to a crash! -- she was on the counter, which she never does when we're around, and knocked over a drinking glass. Two nights ago she pulled the log of firewood off the gerbil cage. What a clever cat! Now there are two there. She loves playing with the hippie beads hanging in Lily's doorway, and she goes for fingers and toes at a moment's notice.

But she also purrs up a storm and sprawls happily in your arms for a tummy rub pretty much every time we pick her up. And she's great for Lily, who has something to squish, and boss around, and take care of. She is learning to be around animals, and cats in particular, and doing a great job. She cleans out the litter box every day (or when reminded) and she does her share of feeding and brushing and changing her water.

And Lily is really growing up in lots of ways. Her year has started off very full but I think okay, although she came home from school two times this week in tears because some boys were teasing her. It's always about stupid stuff. She reminds me of me at that age: thin-skinned and no sense of humor about myself. She's also working like a dog in school and has hours of homework every night. She is taking flute lessons but has yet had a chance to practice, and I'm not pushing her, because of all the other requirements on her time.

I guess we are learning how to help her work this schedule. Aside from school shas choir on Tuesdays from 5 to 6:30, so that means she'll stay at school until 4:30, doing her homework. Or, like last night, she'll come home after choir, eat some food, and start working at 7:30 or 8pm. Actually yesterday was odd because we took her to the vet -- we wanted to make sure she came along too, at least for Chance's first time, so she could see how it all works, the exam and the questions and everything -- and then after choir we went by a party at the food co-op. She begged me to go and it was ending by the time we got there but we stayed a bit and she had some pizza for dinner. That's why homework was late.

I can see why these private school kids need such long vacations! They work so hard. School starts so early in the morning and they have so much homework every night. She has been quite emotional about it lately, especially as she gets back into the groove of it (math is a particular bear) and every now and then I say, you don't have to go to Bement. And she says emphatically that she wants to stay there. So, for now, she is there. It's a lot for a kid not yet 10, unlike most of her classmates.

I feel strongly that she needs to do the choir and the theater improv class because she really needs some friends, especially local ones. Plus she likes these classes a lot, duh, or we wouldn't do them. Oh, and she's taking swim lessons on Saturday mornings, which she is also very excited about all of it. The lesson for me is that I really need to be around home most of the time, and as present as I can be (which means I need to meditate regularly), especially on weekday evenings, so I can help get her going and stay organized and focused.

Tonight she had a particularly large amount of work, including a draft of an essay, so when she finished I tried to help with the little things, like get her clothes out for the morning, and pare down her notebook so it would fit in her backpack, and dig out her weekly K-BAR sheet (where she marks down how long she's read that day) after I remembered she forgot to ask me to sign it. (I'm psyched because she's finally reading the Little House books; she started By the Shores of Silver Lake tonight.) All stuff I would normally say, you do that. But this time I wanted her in bed before nine if possible. She almost made it but that's without bathing -- she's going to try a shower in the morning, in an effort to help her get to sleep sooner.

All this before Dave starts working full time. I guess this means no dog right now. We got too much to do. My goal is to stay calm and focused myself.

Does everyone's kid go nuts when they don't understand the math assignment, or they can't find the word in the dictionary? It doesn't help that the math sheets she brings home are incomprehensible at times. I'm not a huge fan of Chicago math.

OHHHHH !! PS !! one thing I forgot to mention: An angel came and answered our prayers: Two girls have moved in around the corner! Lily, age 9, and her sister Adeline, age 6 I think. They go to the Campus School downtown and their folks are divorced. This is their father's house, where during the school year they live two nights a week and every other weekend. They're great great great kids, love pretend and Broadway musicals. The father and I chatted and he went to college and grad school with half of my friends from high school -- small world. Turns out they went to the Y camp this summer together too, and the Lilies were in Grease together, even.

The girls had a great time playing all day Sunday afternoon, first at their house, then at ours. They can walk between the houses alone, which is kinda neat. It's just around the corner. Happy days!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Lily and Chance

A little dark, I know. This cat is a love. She's cuddly and squishy and still young enough (2) to be playful and kittenish. She has a tiny little squeaky meow (what a change from my Siamese, the late Felicia, who, typical of the breed, sounded like a baby crying) but she makes her needs known. She discovered the gerbils last night during dinner (ours; she didn't get them, although she sure did try) and we finally had to relocate them to a shelf under the living room window. It fits perfectly except we have to put a couple of logs on top just in case. Now we just have to remember to feed the damn things. Our friends who have this set-up call it Kitty TV . . .

Lily took Chance to bed with her on Sunday night and was still awake, an hour after turning off her lights. She said the purring was keeping her up and she wasn't used to someone else on her bed. Wicked cute. Last night she couldn't sleep and crawled into bed with us around midnight, so all four of us were there for a couple of hours. Too small!

She's really a sweet, sweet cat. We did good.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Welcome, Chance!

Our little family has grown: We got a cat today, this sweet two-year-old gray named Chance. We got her at the fabulous Dakin Animal Shelter in Leverett, about a half hour east of here. Dakin is terrific place to adopt cats and dogs, and they check you out thoroughly as owners before they give you an animal. They will remain a resource for us as we live with Chance (isn't that a great name?).

We looked at the cages first, the kittens -- I was convinced Lily would want a couple and they sure were adorable, but she said they were too bitey and scratchy -- and the adult cats, and then found Chance in the cat community room, where she was chillin' with a half dozen others in an enclosed room. She was looking out the window and I patted her and she turned around and checked me out and came over to be stroked. She's walking around the place now, hasn't said a word, hasn't scratched or drank or peed or nothin', just sniffing in every corner. Occasionally she lies down -- she likes the hardwood floors, it seems -- and relaxes.

She's very cat-friendly, the Dakin folks say. I was set on two cats but now I'm thinking we'll see how this goes, see if she seems lonesome or bored. I'm exhausted, for some reason. This is a big day for all of us.

PS -- yes, she has what appears to be some cataract in her left eye. Dakin took her to an opthamologist vet who thought she had an eye injury when she was very young. They think there's nothing wrong now (she does have a bit of a weepy eye, which Dakin thought was a kitty cold; I gather there's lots of stuff for these guys to catch while they're at a shelter) but to keep an eye on it.

Isn't she pretty!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Return To Camping!

So one of the reasons I wanted to move here was to go camping again. I figured it'd be easier from a place like Northampton than from Brooklyn. Indeed, it is! We just got back from a night camping at at the DAR state park in Goshen, about a half hour northwest. Goshen's a Hilltown and I really felt the difference in the environment as we drove up route 9 through Williamsburg. The temperature dropped, the trees closed in, and you could tell we were in the Country now, for real.

I haven't camped since before Lily was born and I was a bit nervous about that, and also about the fact that Tropical Storm Hannah was expected to hit late that evening. Getting a warning flyer from the rangers at the entrance didn't help. They said they'd been hearing predictions of 3 to 6 inches of rain, which could easily wash out the main campground down by the lake. For various reasons we were up at the group site, a couple of miles away, which has room for 25 at least and I think more like 75 usually stay there. (It's pouring pouring pouring right now, and I am so glad to be home, unpacked, showered, and dry. Wow, it is really coming down.)

This reminds me: I feel as though we had no nature in Brooklyn. I mean, sure we had rain and snow and sun, but it always felt removed from my life. If it rained hard it meant my pants would get wet on my way to the subway; if it snowed it meant I had to be really careful crossing streets: first climbing over the snow bank at the corner, and then avoiding the huge--and always deceptively deep--puddle on the street. Dave once helped an older woman get across a street in Manhattan. She'd been stranded for some time.

At any rate, we had to sort through all our camping gear on Friday afternoon, most of which I haven't seen in about eight years. I had to pitch the wooden stir spoons that were turning green from the damp garage where they've been stored. No big loss. And then put together our food and all that, and go get Lily at school. We got the car packed up, full to the brim, and got the kid, and then I realized we didn't have a tarp to put under the tent, so we went back to the Evil Wal-Mart and bought one and got to the site about 4:30.

It was cloudy and damp but the evening was still lovely. The site was gorgeous, wooded with large hemlocks mostly, and on a small pond. No water there but a composting toilet. There are a couple dozen picnic tables scattered around, with small firepits at each, and also a much bigger firepit with four huge logs around it to sit on, and several picnic tables nearby. Our friends Peggy and Todd and their son, Lily's friend Ren, weren't there yet but we figured they come any time.

We set up the tent near the big pit in the most level, least rocky site we could find. I was careful to spread my new tarp under the tent. We have a three-person domed tent, and I am here to tell you it's fine for three when your third is 3 or 4 but not when she's almost 10. No problem, we were just there for the weekend.

My dormant interest in camping has also been revived by a story I edited by the really wonderful Catherine Newman for the July/August issue of Wondertime, which includes a very complete list of gear. Very useful on this trip to remind me what to bring, although I added a few things and we are without a few things. When I was getting the tarp I also picked up a solar shower, at her suggestion, to use for dishwashing. Even though there was no sun so the water was cold, it was useful.

The tent's small space was immediately apparent, as Lily and I set up the sleeping pads and the sleeping bags. Yuck. And I made the mistake of thinking we needed clean clothes for the weekend -- not! We had a bag with two pairs of underwear and two T-shirts etc each. A change of clothes for the rain, yes, or as Dave says, changing into clean clothes after you swim or shower, maybe. But neither of those were options this time.

We set up the "kitchen" and I started putting kindling on the ashes in this massive firepit, when Lily noticed it was still smoldering. Tsk, tsk. The previous group should have doused it. Dave took Lily to get water at the main campsite, although I yelled at them as they started to drive away when I realized I'd be all alone in the middle of the woods with no one around for at least a couple of miles, the campground promised bears and moose and raccoons at the least, and no car to jump into. But as soon as I said that I realized I could light a fire, and as they drove away I was happy to see the kindling smoking; I didn't even have to use a match. It burst into flames and I felt that age-old sense of relief that my New England ancestors must have felt when they light their fires in the woods. I felt like a city-slicker to the max, but a conscious one: I try to be conscious of the fact that I have lived in one city or another, or a suburb, for my entire life, and not been in the outdoors as much as other city-dwellers.

Wow, it is still pouring out.

I fed the fire and Dave and Lily came back and still no Peggy, Todd, and Ren, and they had the grill. So I lit my trusty one-burner Coleman backpacking stove that I've had since I was about 22, and put some water on for Lily to have pasta. And just as Dave and I had decided we'd have a good time even if it was just us, they showed up. Yea! Another family who had said they were coming didn't, which was disappointing. But the six of us had a great time cooking and eating and piling wood on this fire and poking it and roasting marshmallows for s'mores.

Sleeping in this small tent was not so much fun -- the bag of clothes went to my feet and if I wanted to stretch straight out I put my feet on top of it -- and I woke up from time to time. I was asleep when I heard the rain start, and Peggy jumped out of her tent at the same time and turned on her headlights so we'd have light to see as we covered our stuff or put it in the car. The rain came down harder and harder, and I panicked, was the 3 to 6 inches starting now and where we going to washed out, and I envisioned us throwing all our gear in the car and driving off as Dave tried not to kill us.

But in the morning it had stopped and Dave made French toast and I made bacon and it's true, everything really does taste better when you're camping. I rebuilt the fire and we hung out near it most of the rest of the day. Everyone went over the pond for awhile, which gave me a chance to read Out Stealing Horses, which I finished, and really love, and now I feel like all the sentences I'm writing here are long and full of detail about my family and the environment and profound insights, but of course they aren't. We ate a lot, and they caught a bunch of minnows and a biggish perch and they made a neat boat out of vines and sticks. It had a little sail.

For awhile the sky was bright, if not sunny, but Peggy had heard that it was going to start raining around 5pm and as the wind picked up and the clouds got heavier we started to take down the tent and pack up the car. We took our time and just as we sat down by the fire it started to drizzle. So we doused the fire with about five buckets of water, stirring the steaming ashes and watching the water boil. And went home.

And oh, to be home! I loved being there, relaxing, doing nothing but smelling the fire and listening to a few birds, chatting, eating, reading -- but to be home, soaking in the Japanese tub! Having a garage is so handy if you want to do stuff like camping -- Dave backed up to the door and we unloaded everything into the garage and sorted it all out from there, left the tent draped over the car to dry a bit, spread the sleeping bags around the family room to do the same. (The floor and the sides of our little tent got soaked, as did much of our sleeping pads and the feet of our sleeping bags. Should I have not put down the tarp? There were several puddles in the morning.)

If this were Brooklyn we'd have stayed longer because we would have driven so far to get there we wouldn't want to leave so soon. If we'd left at 4, as we did today, we might get home by 7 or 8 instead of 4:30. Once there we would have double-parked in front of the apartment and unloaded everything. Then one of us would have tried to find a spot on a rainy night and the other would have carried everything inside and downstairs to sort out and clean and put away.

And yes, I'd have had theater and music and the city as the alternative to easy camping. But weekends like this one remind me that I made the right choice, that I didn't get to much theater or many museums and my work wasn't satisfying.

It's been interesting watching the friends shake-out now that we've moved -- I think I have many fewer true friends than I had imagined, which is probably just as well -- and really, friends were all that was keeping me in Brooklyn, in the end. We don't have a lot of friends here, just a couple each, and my closest new friend here just moved to an island off the coast of Georgia. But while that scares me -- what does it mean not to have a lot of friends? -- I am also glad to be starting with a bit of clean slate here. How often do you get to recreate yourself?

By the way, it's still pouring like the deluge. It stops momentarily and then starts up again.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Lily's first day

So she's started fifth grade. That sure makes a parent feel old. Next year she'll be in middle school, and I told her she could get her ears pierced. She's too much of a chicken to do it, doesn't want it. I also am considering getting her a mini-iPod so she can listen to music.

Last weekend I downloaded iTunes to her laptop and showed her how to upload CDs. She is totally into music now, all of a sudden, like within the last couple of months. She listens to musicals mostly, thank god, but also the occasional Miley Cyrus, and she had been asking if she could go on my computer and listen to my music.

So now Lily has her own music and can add more. And I now allow sharing on my iTunes, so she can listen to my music, some of which she knows and likes already. Dave isn't so sure this is such a good idea, but part of my motivation is keeping her up with the Joneses in class, helping her to stay current with what her classmates are doing, so she doesn't seem like a Luddite and she isn't cut out of the social loop. It's why I sometimes get a hot flash and think, we should get fancier cable, so she can watch Hannah Montana and stuff like that. But then I sit down and let it pass.

Speaking of which, she seems to really like her new homeroom teacher, Mr. Riddington, also her math and science teacher, who is friends with my sister's husband's brother. Got that? He's new this year, although he used to teach here a few years ago. Lily already knew she liked Ms. Lutsky, her social studies and language arts teacher.

She's going to take flute lessons at school, thank god (we struggled with her flute and practicing all last year and I think the structure of lessons will go a long way). And she's going to be taking a theater improv class on Thursday afternoons in Florence, not far from our house, and she's auditioning for the children's choir at the Northampton Community Music Center. They say almost everyone gets in, except if they are really young, and that this is a good way for kids to learn to sing. She loves to sing so much and I think if she has some help she will really enjoy singing even more, and be less fearful about singing in front of others. I've been playing her 5's on the piano and trying to help train her ear.

Finally, I am encouraging Lily to audition for the local Nutcracker, at the Pioneer Valley Ballet Company. It's a commitment for the fall -- rehearsals every Sunday afternoon -- but she'd meet a lot of local kids and get to work in a real theater. And she doesn't have to know how to dance. I am all for this. We'll see if I can wear her down . . . I mean, she doesn't want to play soccer, and these are great ways to meet kids with similar interests. Or maybe she should just take swimming lessons, so she gets some exercise besides her daily P.E.

The Oregon report

I feel so old and so hip, all at once: I've joined Facebook. It's really addictive at first, trying to find all the old friends and colleagues I can think of to see if they are on too and want to be my friend. And it's lovely to get back in touch with these folks, especially the dear Andy Reinhardt and my little bro, Marc Lowenstein. And to see Marc's delicious baby girl! Wow. Life does go on, doesn't it.

Tomorrow we are going camping at the DAR campground in Goshen for two days and I am looking forward to it but it's also something I haven't done in, oh, 15 years. Camping, I mean. I don't know if we have any fuel in the stoves, I don't know what's in all those camping boxes in the garage, I don't know if I'm even going to like this. What if we all get devoured by mosquitoes? Should I just be grilling at home and sleeping in my bed? Could be.

Something about seeing all those familiar faces on Facebook makes me think back to all these various parts of my life, LIFE, Milton -- I've been reading John Donne recently, first time since high school. I'm on the pro-Donne side, in case you were wondering.

A brief Oregon report:
Bondi showed us a great time. We ate wonderful food, enjoyed her lovely renovated home, went to two local town pools, had dinner with my aunt and uncle, went to the Japanese garden and the Rose garden, Lily and I spent the afternoon at the wonderful zoo, on and on. Just a lovely city, kind of what Northampton would be like if it were city.

The other part is that we visited Dave's cousin and husband near Hood River. They took us on a fantastic hike through some wonderful Pacific Northwest forest, those big old moss-covered cedars and doug firs, I guess, and after about a mile and a half we came to this extraordinary waterfall. It was awesome and awe-inspiring and a bit scary, especially when Lily stepped back toward the churning punch bowl in order to take our picture. We both said, "No!" at the same time and climbed back up to the path to go back.

That night they told us to sit in the hot tub while they made dinner, so we did, looking out over the Gorge and the cliffs and the trees. Really nice. The next day we drove part of the Fruit Loop and turned off at Mt. Hood, which towers above everything around it like this gigantic ice cream cone. Or maybe a sundae, with whipped cream on top. It's Oregon's Mt. Fuji, Dave says. It hadn't registered with me that it's volcanic, but of course, it's volcanic. Duh. The whole place is, with extraordinary cliffs framing you and pumice everywhere on the ground. Lovely. We ate lunch at the Timberline Lodge and had a chance to revel in the glories of the New Deal and the WPA.

Then we drove a couple more hours to Bagby Hot Springs (also here) and hiked in a mile and half through old-growth forest to these wonderful hot tubs hewn out of cedar logs and heated with 136-degree water piped in through sluices to your own private bath -- you let the water in by plugging the tub with a big wooden bulb and pulling up the wooden door. Then you go to the cold water tub with a bucket so you can cool the hot water enough to soak in it.

The logs were big enough for the three of us, although we got into the group round tub instead. That felt pretty risque 'cause the men there were naked, but one guy had his seven-year-old and she and Lily got on well. I guess the party starts as the evening comes on so we hiked back out after about an hour and a half. But it was awfully relaxing -- I gather the water has lithium in it, among other minerals.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

So I am inside laboring on this gorgeous day while Dave is outside clearing brush. I just joined Facebook because I saw that Dave was Friends with a friend of mine and I got jealous. I also have lots of friends there, apparently, and hey, might as well join the 21st century.

Having three mostly unscheduled days off like this is both wonderful and slightly terrifying. Lily and I spent Saturday morning reorganizing her bedroom. It started because school starts Thursday and you couldn't see her desk, what with all the junk on it. And we had to bring out her school clothes, and then I decided I wanted to lose her bookshelf etc etc.

Dave brought up a long, stepped bookshelf from the family room (over the garage) and it fits perfectly in the hallway under the eaves. So all her books are out there now, except for a few over her desk. She now has a bedside table and CD case too. Shelves are satisfyingly empty or at least uncluttered, and I plan to help her keep it that way. Clean sheets, every surface dusted, and a vacuumed floor go a long way too. Maybe I should get her to wash her windows and mirror.

Yesterday we went to Quonquont Farm up in Whately and got picked some apples and peaches, the latter not quite ready but the ones we got arefabulous. I want to go back in a week or two and get a couple of pecks and freeze them, like we did last year: blanch/peel/quarter and put into freezer bags. Yum! The apples we'll just eat, and in two weeks go back for the cheaper ground fruit and make it into applesauce. It was wonderful last year.

Like many farms around here, this place had a terrible summer, with hail several times, a microburst that took down a dozen trees, inches and inches of rain, even a tornado. But it was a gorgeous blue day and we were all outside. We stopped by Nourse Farm to get raspberries but they aren't ready yet. So we went to a farm stand and bought 20 pounds of tomatoes, seconds, which I blanched, peeled, and chopped a little, and froze in about a dozen quart containers to use for making red sauce this winter. I also have a bag of frozen plum tomatoes now and I made what turned out to be a tiny little jar of oven-dried tomatoes. Dave likes to cook with those.

The big thing about our place is the rain rain rain and the lack of sunlight. I really miss the sun, and if I do you know Dave does. It's sunny now and he's in the yard, as I say. Even if we take down 10 or 15 trees we still will never have a sunny spot. But it would be great to have a little more air and space and not feel like the house is being devoured by the woods.

The other big problem is man-eating mosquitos, which was one of the reasons we moved from Brooklyn. Yuck. They are nasty and Dave and Lily particularly welt up.

More news TK, as they say in the publishing world -- To Kome. We visited Bondi in Portland in mid-August for a week and I could see why she's so in love with trees. We went to the Columbia Gorge, visited Dave's cousin who showed us a wonderful time -- note to self, send thank you! -- and then went on to Mt Hood, the Timberline Lodge (!), and Bagby Hot Springs. I'll try to get to that soon.

Also thinking I should keep these posts shorter and more frequent.