the gregarious homebody

Saturday, December 31, 2011

10 Wishes for 2012

Let's not call them resolutions because then there's so much pressure. 
    1. See a friend find her feet again
    2. Graduate with a 3.9 cum GPA (I can't help it, I'm a dork) 
    3. Crack The Boy's teenage veneer to get to know the new him better
    4. Not react (negatively/personally) when The Girl is being 13
    5. Hold HH's hand more
    6. Get a better grip on a few things
    7. Get a new job career
    8. More patience for #'s 3 and 4
    9. More patience in general
    10. Health, happiness and all the rest for all I love

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    I remember the first time I met Pat.  I had mooched an invitation from Lynn to join her on a Girl Scout trip to Ringing Rocks in Bucks County.  I was still in the part of my life when I didn't feel like I had the good good friends that I wanted.  So much of having small children and staying home with them is comprised of joining play groups and talking to mothers and fathers and hoping to get a connection but sometimes that connection is only made up of the tenuous strings of both of you having small children.  

    I was so hoping for some real friends.

    So we got to Ringing Rocks when everyone from her troop was already there.  I had a vague recollection that the tow-headed girl with the Dutch boy haircut was little Caroline Ytsma because Lynn's daughter was in kindergarten with her.  I climbed over towards her and heard her talking to "Pat," the man next to her with the same-colored hair.

    "Pat!  Look at what this rock looks like!  
    Pat!  Listen to what this rock sounds like when I bash it in!  
    Pat!  LOOK!!"

    I asked Lynn who "Pat" was.  "That's  Caroline's father.  She calls him Pat."  

    I considered myself open-minded, hip, even mildly sophisticated in my early 30's.  But it would never ever cross my mind to "allow" a child to call their father by his first name, thinking it seemed....disrespectful somehow.  Once I got to know Pat, I understood Judy's reasoning for "allowing" it.  

    "There is no question of who the children's father is and how they respect him.  
    They just call him Pat."

    And she 's right.  Pat is one of the best fathers I know.  Pat's children had the best of him---teaching, snuggling, teasing, loving.  That first meeting was an indication of the level of involvement, genuine liking of his children and his wife that Pat had.   In a sea of Girl Scouts that first time we met, he was the one dad banging on those rocks with his girl. 

    And loving every minute of it.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Oh My God a Post!

    This woman is smiling because her house is clean and she had nothing to do with it.

    Becoming a grad student after working for 16 years in a completely different field as well as having two babies and raising them up was, in two words, an adjustment.  For the first time in a long long time, I began to focus on myself.  That sounds like a good thing—a relief—to someone who isn’t a mom and, in a lot of ways, it was.  But the guilt is never far behind when a mom gives a few brain cells over to things other than house and home. 

    But, after wrestling with all the child-related what if’s and getting over the fear that I would be the oldest person in the room—including the professor—I began to have an amazing time as a student again.   And the guilt began to fade away as I saw my husband (always a great father but a man with a full time job) take the reins with all the little tasks that make up a day in a family with children.  The kids began to look to him for help with things when in the past, no matter what I was doing (making dinner, taking a shower!), they would ask me even if he was sitting there, doing nothing.   He began to know their schedule probably better than I ever did, helping them with homework, signing permission forms, etc., while I could devote myself to reading for class and working on papers.   


    So, nearing the end of a three-year grad program, I’m now not only more educated and (hopefully!) a better candidate for a better job, I’m also a woman in a better marriage.  I never imagined that would be one of the perks of going back to school.  And while I still have some guilt that I don’t remember when my son’s history paper is due (or, honestly, what his History teacher’s name is), my kids have  learned two things from their mom putting them second for the first time ever: education, at any age, is important (and do-able!) and a good marriage truly is a partnership.   

    Sometimes it’s 50/50.  Most of the time it’s not.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Corners of My Home

    I can't be the only one 
    who is looking forward to the house not being 
    so full of humans 
    all day.

    Nine more days...

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    *Vermont, It Is

    Diners that serve eggs from their own chickens

    Supermarkets that sell all the necessities

    Cool enough temperatures to enjoy a drink by the fire

     Time to enjoy it

    Even cooler dogs

    Delicious factory tours

    So many places to swim

     And cute places  to window shop

    Beautiful wildflowers

     Once internet friends, now friends IRL

    And lakeside, wood-canopied lanes

    *Thank goodness there were no Bigfoot sightings. I was hoping for some moose though.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011


    Greetings from overcast, sunny, humid, cool, beautiful Vermont.  It's a complex state and I love it. I've always loved New England.  Although, truth be told,  I'm not known for being objective--I tend to want to move to every place I've ever vacationed and Vermont is no exception.

    Quechee Gorge

    However, I think that this vacation is especially sweet because we've waited so long for it.  Three years without a vacation may not sound like so much to loads of hard working people who are just happy to make enough money to pay the bills but because of The Economy (for a word with seven letters, it sure feels like a 4-letter one), these past three years have been a real challenge.

    Only The Girl thought to bring her bathing suit

    HH has always worked hard.  He's always worked like every job was the most important one he's ever had.  Getting laid off twice from two separate jobs in the past two summers has sucked way more than I could have imagined.  Like many men, he took it personally, and I think, measured his personal worth by it.  Which isn't fair at all.

    The Boy, more animated than usual!

    HH has also always lived by the clock.  It takes a looooooong time for him to relax.  He's always looking at what time it is to measure how long he has at a certain task until he gets to the next one. And that includes when he's having fun!  So this vacation has been a real gift.  Time to spend with his kids.  Time to take pictures.  Time to just be.


    I want to thank HH right here for making it possible.  He works so hard and all I can do (until I graduate and get a JOB) is try to make the off times good for him.

    Homemade root beer, black cherry soda, and eggs from their own chickens.  We recommend the Chelsea Royal Diner in West Brattleboro.  So does Road Food.

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    I Present to You, Fern, The Wonder Glider

    Below is the story I sent Design Sponge for their Before and After series (thanks for the idea, Judy!)

    Ever since I saw my friend Betsy’s red-painted metal glider that had belonged to her grandmother’s, I knew I had to have one.  They’re so charming and who doesn’t want to be rocked while potentially lying down?  Betsy’s was, I think, from the 40’s and solid metal with no need for cushions.  While searching and searching ebay, Craigslist, and vintage glider websites, the only ones I could find like hers were not only super-rusted (I expected that) but also $400 and up (I did NOT expect that).  And most of them were at least 3 hours away from my house.

    Then, halleluiah, I found Fern.  That’s what I call this little beauty, below: 

    I found her on Craiglist at a house that was right around the corner from where I work AND she was owned by fellow alumni of my grad school, AND she was $75!  I’m not sure what I love more—the Bakealite handles on the ashtrays (ASHTRAYS!) or the chrome on the sides that makes her look like a ’57 Chevy.  Though she was rusty, it was only surface rust.  And though most of the cushion covers were in good shape, they weighed a ton so we figured there was a lot of potentially moldy cotton filler in those bad boys.  Everything but the Bakealite handles had to be redone.

    Renovating her was a group effort; I decided to have her professionally sandblasted and powder-coated and then I painted her with trusty Rustoleum spray paint, my husband shined her chrome accents (with wet aluminum foil) and my friend Kris who owns One Green Poppy made the cushions.  I even got over my own sewing fears by making some throw pillows for her!  Now she looks like this:

    I may never get up again.

    Sources:  Fabric: Richloom Wilder Cabana; foam/pillow inserts: Joann Fabrics; paint: Rustoleum Ultra Cover in Satin Eden, glider: Craigslist

    Friday, July 8, 2011


    The garden is starting to get that bursting-at-the-seams look that can excite and bewilder.  Everything's growing exponentially because of a recent rain after some good hot days.  The weeds too, unfortunately.  But ever since I realized Square Foot Gardening was the way to go (thanks, Mommy), weeding isn't too bad.  

    Understand that I am a fair-weather gardener; I sweat just standing still so if it's really hot, there's no way I'm spending any real time Out There.  I have five 4x4' boxes and I can weed all 80 square feet (math!) in about 20 minutes.  Even I can deal with that.  Not that I'm going to today because, hello! It's H-U-M-I-D out there which is worse than hot.  Wet underwear weather, people. 

    (too much?)

    HOWEVER,  I did spend 3 minutes picking today.  Here's what I picked:

    What's more than a bunch?  That would be a shit ton.
    Woo-hoo!!  This is the very best part of vegetable gardening, apart from the eating.  Is there nothing more miraculous than planting an itty-bitty-teeny-weeny seed (and carrot seeds are even smaller than that) and getting something this big THAT YOU CAN EAT?

    I know!!

    And I haven't always had the best luck with carrots so this is even more exciting.  Here are some more pictures of the beauties.

    Small, Medium, and LARGE!

    Here at Topp-Down Organic Farm, we specialize in Saucy Mutant-Limbed Carrots!

    And more demure mutant-limbed ones (who might have to go to the bathroom)
    And sea creatures!
    And there are still pretty many carrots still out there growing in the garden!! How will I ever be able to use this many?  HOW??!!

    SERIOUSLY??  Is that ALL??  Let's break it down:  $2.50 in seeds to wait 2 months to grow the amount of organic carrots I usually spend $3 on at the grocery store?!  

    Clearly, not a bargain.  (And how do carrot farmers make ANY money?)

    SO MANY CARROTS!  not really.

    However, I'm also clearly not just in it for the cheap.  I love the planning, the watching-it-grow, and the harvesting.  It's psychically satisfying.  And I know I'll be really really happy when the tomatoes ripen and I'm no longer spending $2 on one decent tomato.  

    Tomatoes are a bargain.

    And lots of ...compost material!  Even Rosie looks perplexed.

     What's on the horizon for this garden:

    Potatoes are located in that ka-lassy tire back there.  Check out this space-saving technique!
    Tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, more arugula, more chard (and more chard, and more chard), basil, lemon thyme, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, canteloupe, pumpkins, blueberries, sunflowers, asparagus (in 3 years), potatoes, lettuce, acorn squash, and more carrots!  

    And that's just this summer!  I'm determined to try my hand at some carpentry with a cold frame from old windows to grow some winter greens, beets and broccoli.

    Until then, I'll be making carrot salad, arugula topped pizza, artichoke and chard dip, and many many platters of caprese salad.  And more things topped with chard.  And arugula.  And chard.  You get the picture.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Planning Our Route

    I decided to invest in a guidebook my friend Judy has been using successfully for years. 

    I am so happy.  

    Our vacation isn't until August but I am READY.  And now that I have this guidebook I'm ready to go even more.

    Why, you ask?  Because said book offers all the great places to soak up the history of our forefathers and mothers that is New England?  Because it divulges the places to get the best deals for antiques and folk art?


    Because THIS guidebook tells me where to get the best of these:

    From Dottie's Diner in Woodbury, CT

    or the best of THIS:

    From the 52nd Annual Hillbilly Day in Mountain Rest, SC

    Or, for all things that are holy, THIS!

    Belt's Soft Serve in Stevens Point, WI

    Try as I might to wish myself a different person sometimes, food and the enjoyment of food is a big part of me (ha. ha. ha.  Insert self-effacing joke here).  I truly believe that food, the preparation of it, the serving of it, and the enjoyment of it has huge anthropological import.  Really!  If you look at our blended society, for example, one of the things people cling to is their culture's food. And what's more satisfying than *ahem* learning about a local culture by eating its food?

    And, clearly, I'm no food snob.  My favorite place is a Mom-and-Pop place.  There's love (or something) in that food.  It's real.  It's friendly.  And,it doesn't waste effort being fancy.  

    So, I will let Jan and Michael Stern be my guides and just make sure I do lots of hiking to balance it all out.  Here they are now---and don't they just look like fun?!

     And, much as I would love to have their life--Steve and I would be great at it and he would be able to talk to strangers for a living---me thinks the picture above foretells the tale of the inequity of life that would most definitely be my fate.  

    Damn men and their metabolism.

    All photos from the Roadfood blog

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    What I've Been Up To

    Riding around in a pick-up truck with these knuckleheads

    To get these
    To make this

    Look more like this

    And FINALLY, after much looking, finding this

    And making plans to turn it into an After  so we can enjoy more of this

    tending to this

     So I can make more of these.

    I hope your Summer is as sweet as mine is so far!


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