Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boring Aprés Holiday Post

Fay, Pete and I are in California where, as usual, we find it warm and beautiful out and the locals are freezing.  Not literally obviously.

The holiday eating began the moment we arrived at my parents' house, around midnight Thursday night.  We've only just got our acts together enough to open the Christmas presents this morning.

Today we also went to the dog beach with Christian and Sarah and their dogs, Atlas and Johnny.

Now I'm going to go see what else I can eat and then play with my loot.

Good loot to you all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Party 2008

We had our holiday party on Monday night. It was supposed to be on Sunday afternoon but the weather didn't permit it. If I didn't think to invite you please accept my apology. It wasn't exclusive and I didn't mean to leave anyone out. I'm a great, big space case. Send me an e-mail and I'll invite you next time, hopefully before 2019.

I got the grocery shopping done in between snow storms and cooked and cleaned for a couple of days ahead of time. The weather report early on Sunday morning called for a mere four inch snow accumulation. Foolishly I believed them and made a HUGE white chocolate raspberry trifle. The party was supposed to start at two in the afternoon. I had all the preparations finished by 2:30. It didn't matter though because no one was coming. We told everyone we could reach to come the next day after six if they could.

Naturally not everyone could come on Monday. I almost didn't make it myself. At around four I noticed I was getting a migraine. "We're having this damned party," I thought to myself as I stuffed a banana into my face to cushion my stomach for the heaps of Advil I was about to take.

Pete's brother, Chris, and his family arrived first. That was great because my sister-in-law, Kristen, is the Party Queen and helped me put the finishing touches on the food. Then we were off.

It was an interesting mix of people (hi Alex M. and Liz K! I'm pretty sure they're reading) Most of the guests came solo and without knowing anyone there besides me or Pete. I am very impressed with their pluck. It seemed to me that everyone mixed very well. All conversations appeared to be moving smoothly while I passed by doing hostessy things. I'm proud that we know so many amiable people. It made me want to have another party just to see how other combinations of different friends would go.

Other things on the menu included Piquillo Pepper Cheese Crostini, which I found to be better the second day and perfectly fine but not all that compelling, and Spanish Olive and Cream Cheese Canapés, which I will make again at home but not bring to someone else's house since they need to be broiled (I did them little by little in the toaster oven as people came and went) There were chips 'n' dip, crudités, two kinds of cupcakes, The Devil In A Bag (Trader Joe's kettle corn) and the reason we had to have the party in the first place: the eight different kinds of gourmet cheese that my mom and dad sent us for Christmas.

I believe a good time was had by all and our last guests left at 2 AM.  Not bad.

When I have a migraine I can usually manage it with Advil. Advil takes the pain away but doesn't alleviate some of the other migraine affects. For example I find it very hard to focus and my language skills are diminished. I feel like I did a decent job of keeping up with the party even so. I suppose it could be equated with drinking alcohol. I did just as well hostessing with a migraine as I would have done if I'd had a martini or two. Unfortunately the migraine affects are lingering. For the last couple of days I've found myself forgetting what I'm doing in the middle of doing it.  I'm working really hard on these blog posts and hoping you can't tell that I'm still stupider than usual.


You're probably going to think I'm really twisted but I still like snow.

Sure, I whine and complain and moan and despair when I have to shovel it just like everybody else but afterwards I love snow. Last night Pete and I went out to the Beacon Street Tavern. While crossing the street I found myself admiring the moves of a particularly nimble man on the other side as he made his way over the snowbank piled between the sidewalk and the street. It dawned on me that I often enjoy watching people deal beautifully with adverse conditions.

I'm a bit klutzy myself. I love to see how other, more physically adept people handle these obstacles. I don't know if I think I can learn from their example or if I just enjoy witnessing a job well done, but you don't get the opportunity to see such things often on a summer's day.

I also enjoy maneuvering on and around snowy objects. I've always loved climbing on things and scrambling around. That's part of why I love rocks, trees and boats. Snow has the added advantage of unpredictability. Will the bank hold when I plant my foot on it or will I sink in up to my knee? For an able-bodied person snow can add a little fun and excitement to an ordinary walk to the grocery store. I even love the crunch crunch crunch sound that boots on snow make. Plus, falling on snow doesn't hurt much. Ice is a whole other bunch of bananas though.

I get my best work done when there's a fat blanket of snow all over everything. For some reason I find it reassuring. Everything's cozily tamped down and muffled and I don't need to worry about it so I can get on with my business. I think I've written about that before. It's still true!

I've been feeling a bit out of touch with my usual appreciation of the seasons lately. My projects and ideas and the other things that are going on inside my head have been more compelling. This year I noted the arrival of fall without my usual relish. I've been distracted. When I was a kid I loved snow without reservation. I've been mostly grouchy with it so far this year. It was nice to have an appreciative moment for the weather and the season last night.

It seems kind of backwards to want things to be a little bit more difficult than they absolutely have to be. Maybe it's a funny kind of coping mechanism? If you're dealing with something difficult and some minor irritation pops up maybe it distracts a little from the full impact of the real problem - it draws a little focus away. Or maybe I'm just a bit perverse.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Inanimate Objects

Last night at around eleven o'clock Marc and I went out to shovel the driveway. Sorry neighbors!

Why eleven? Because it took me that long to talk myself into doing it. I am a very self-indulgent person with somewhat poor impulse control. I'm trying to fight it but I don't know how well I'm doing. I do get the things done that I need to do but not until after I've watched too much C.S.I. or read the Manga that I wasn't supposed to buy myself or bribed myself to get out of bed with a piece of peppermint bark. This is part of the reason that I never go to bed on time.

Anyhoo, shoveling last night reminded me of some other tools that I LOVE: my rain coat and my good winter boots. Those items aren't clothing, they're shelter. I have a pair of Sorel boots up in Vermont. They are little houses for your feet. When you're wearing them you can walk on/in just about anything without a care and your feet will be WARM. I have city Sorels here in Brookline. They have silly faux fur on the outside that would get dirty and gross in Vermont. They have excellent city condition traction and also keep the old dogs WARM. I'd rather wear the Vermont ones to a bonfire though.

I invested in my first good raincoat back in the early days of Fay. I got a bright orange Patagonia. If you can stand to pay Patagonia prices their gear is the best. They really pay attention to the details so you get the best protection from the elements with the least visibility/mobility interference. The raincoat I have now is not a Patagonia. I got a deal on it. I'm still grateful for it but it's a little skimpy in places.

Gratitude is the key for me and tools. When I find a tool I really love I am grateful to it and respectful of it. You might think that's a funny way to treat an inanimate object. The thing is, here's another thing about me: I think everything is alive.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The drive down to Brookline on Saturday morning was incredible. I've seen ice storms before but not like this one. Everything you could see was glazed with a thick coating of ice. Like the Pyrex fairy had run amok. The forested hills were white with sparkling ice.

Along the roadsides all the trees were bent over, their branches drooping under the ice's weight. Huge, tall trees bent over to the ground. It looked like the roads were lined with giant frozen fountains or as if massive tidal waves of ice were about to crash over the road and obliterate the cars.

It was outrageously beautiful and astonishingly threatening. It was as if nature was saying "Look at my glory! Nothing is more beautiful than I am! I will wipe you off the face of the earth if I care to"

No one had power, only a few gas stations were open. In one small town cars were lined up for a mile and a half down both sides of the road to get in to the only working gas station for twenty miles. I'd never seen traffic on that stretch before.

Down in Boston everything was completely normal. Pete's band's Christmas party was scheduled for that night so he was hoping I could stay and go to the party. Our Vermont neighbors had offered to watch the fires for us so we took them up on it for Saturday night and I stayed in Brookline.

Pete decided to take the next fire-tending shift so on Sunday he went up north. About half an hour after he arrived, at about 7:30 PM, the power came on. Two days early! Thanks again CVPS!

So now Fay and I are back up in Vermont too. On Monday it was a balmy forty five degrees out. Today it's snowing again. My friend Michaela lives on a mountain top just outside of Brattleboro. Her power is still out and is likely to be out until tomorrow. I heard on the radio today that over one-hundred thousand "customers" in New Hampshire still don't have power.

Modern Western life is so much easier when the power and the plumbing are working normally. Unfortunately we know that we Westerners use power at an unsustainable rate. It's very likely that in the somewhat near future we're going to have to learn to live differently. Obviously it's possible to do - we've only been using electricity for a tiny fraction of human history. But wow, what a change that's going to be. God help us if it's a sudden change forced on us by uncontrolled events rather than a decision we make on our own.

In the mean time I'm going to try to remember to shower whenever I can and to keep the car full of gas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Adventure

That's my man, always on top of the promotional opportunities. It wouldn't kill me to follow his example a little more.

So that was one heck of an ice storm. The power's still out at our place in Vermont. Rumor is it will take until Tuesday at 8 PM before our power's turned on again.

The power went out Thursday night. No electricity, no heat, no water, no modem. Fortunately the phones are up and running. As Pete reported I stayed behind to keep the pipes from freezing. I was kind of looking forward to it. I was thinking it would kind of be like a snow day and I could do all the reading and knitting I've been wanting to do. It didn't really work out that way though.

Mostly it was dark and cold, uncertain and a little lonely. At the time I thought "this would be really fun with a bunch of friends. We could toast marshmallows and drink whiskey together." Yeah but we'd also be sharing the non-flushing toilets too. Less fun. I didn't get creeped-out or anything though.

I spent most of my time being the fire jockey. I had never been in charge of a wood stove before so I had to get the hang of it. I love new skills! I made a lot of trips between the house with the fireplace and the studio with the wood stove. Home base was the house since a wood stove mostly takes care of itself after you get it good and hot. In the beginning though I was going back and forth every fifteen minutes to check on things. Pain in the ass! It was a little stressful too wondering if I could achieve my objective and keep the buildings warm enough. I got splinters in both of my thumbs.

At least it was very beautiful. The moon was full that night. Iced over trees and plants are beautiful in any light. Each time I crossed from the house to the barn and back I got to admire the scenery.

First I want to say HEAD LAMPS. I can't emphasize that enough. Candles are cheery and sometimes smell good but if you really need to see what you're doing head lamps are the way to go. Get Santa to bring you some. Also, WATER. You've got to have water. I didn't have enough. My dishes are still dirty. Baby wipes are decent for washing your hands in a pinch but you can't flush the toilet with them. I collected what water I could from the roof melt in whatever pots and pans and bowls we had but it wasn't enough.

I was also very grateful for the gas oven/stove. Remind me to never switch to electric. Nothing keeps my spirits up like eating and cooking!

Fay and I slept on the sofa in front of the fireplace so I could keep the fire going through the night. That worked out fine. When I awoke in the morning it was about forty degrees in the house, fifty-one degrees in the studio and there were enough hot embers (thanks Mij!) in both the fireplace and the wood stove for me to be able to get them going again easily. Mission accomplished!

I fed Fay and made myself some coffee with a french press. In the mean time Fay, no longer on top of me in a pile of comforters, started to get too cold. I decided I should spend the daylight hours taking her down to Brookline so she wouldn't get sick. Then I could pick up plenty of water and other supplies on my way back up.

That didn't happen either. Instead it's Sunday, Fay and I are here in Brookline where there's power and heat and Pete's on his way up to work on the pipe project.

Yesterday is another story which I might tell tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Guest Blogger: Pete

Hi everyone. Pete here, Mel's ball-and-chain. Wanted to let you all know that we lost power due to the severe ice storm, so Mel (who is in Vermont) is unable to post today. I had to go to Boston today for some errands and a rehearsal for my band's 10th annual Holiday Jubilee show, and for the show itself, which is tomorrow night. Hopefully the power will be restored soon -- Mel is supposed to come to Boston to be a guest vocalist at this show (her specialty is singing "Santa Baby," sometimes perky new wave-style, sometimes femme fatale-style.)

Oh, I should say, Mel stayed in Vermont to keep the fireplace and woodstove going so that our pipes don't freeze.

Watch this space... will let you know how this all plays out. Hopefully we won't have to put a wig on Kevin Quinn and have him sing "Santa Baby." (Or... maybe that would be a good thing... hmmm...)

Happy (icy) holidays,

PS More info about this Holiday Jubilee is here:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Gear - A Big Pile Of Shiny Things

I am LOVING looking at all the shiny things people are selling right now. For example the Cusp website. Everything shiny! I love those Dogeared necklaces. The sweaters, the scarves, the makeup, the clutches - it's all shiny and fun. (I'm not so psyched about the Tory Burch humongo logo stuff though - just in case someone's looking for birthday gift ideas here. I'm not a logo kind of gal. It would make me really uncomfortable to be a walking billboard for someone else)

However, I already have a lot of stuff just like that. I should get it all out and play with it.

AND, all that stuff is giving me ideas for fun things to make!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Down Side Of Flashbacks

Driving up to Vermont last night I saw gas for $1.69 and it gave me the creeps. I'm not sure why but I think there's something wrong with cheap gas. Is it a flashback thing? I'm not comfortable when something triggers powerful feelings of being in the past? Do I think it's an OPEC or a Bush administration plot? Maybe it's just that I know gasoline is a dying fuel so it shouldn't be that easy to come by?

The other night Pete, Marc and I were out at a bar that was playing some 80's revival band's music. It sounded pretty good. It had a very accurate 80's sound. I was giving them credit but not that much credit. The music made me remember why I really liked New Wave almost thirty years ago: because it sounded new, like the future. Now the "New Wave" sound is retro. Its sounds fresh(ish) to people who are nineteen now and weren't around to hear it then. It's not ground breaking anymore, it's nostalgic.

Someone out there right now is making the new sound, the sound that will make us think of the future as progress. I can never imagine what it is. When it registers with the popular culture and I finally hear about it I know I'll be really surprised. I certainly didn't predict Grunge (Actually I found Grunge disappointing after Punk. Not in a Robert Hughes "young people today can't produce anything but trash" way though. Grunge just seemed apathetic to me - I couldn't relate so well)

I probably do have an aversion to being propelled into the past. I'd like to preserve some distance between me and the mistakes I've made. I keep hoping that the future can provide something better than what's already been. In my experience I keep becoming better equipped to deal with whatever arises. I consider that improvement.

Some things just seem to be getting worse and worse though. Then I think, "well people have always felt that way". That doesn't mean they were wrong - some things have been getting worse and worse. But we find ways to adjust. Sometimes we find ways to improve things. For example there's a flock of wild turkeys living in the Brookline High neighborhood.

I hope to God we can improve on gasoline.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I was waaaay too cranky to not go running today. Fortunately the weather is beautiful today: it's sunny and sixty degrees! What a break!

I found out that I'm kinda out of shape. Crap! I had a nice run at the reservoir and ran with my iPod for the first time ever. I'm not so nuts about the flapping earbud cable and the music did distract me a little from what was going on with my body. That said I'll probably try it again.

So yesterday when I was talking about the good people I've been encountering lately I neglected to mention the little old lady that ran me and another girl over with her wheelie suitcase on her stampede towards the D train we were all trying to board. I'm not exaggerating - she came from behind us and ran over our feet with her bag! That wasn't so awesome. It was okay though, no harm done. I didn't mention her, obviously, because she was off topic.

My job this week is to reclaim our house for the humans/pugs and make it less hospitable to the rodents. On Saturday I took a large load of stuff to Goodwill. We have a lot of recyclables ready to go for trash night tonight - yay! Progress continues. It feels good to get rid of the useless crud that seems to collect when you're not paying attention.

My goal is to make the house presentable for some kind of party I'm hoping to have soon. Inauguration maybe? It's been something like eleven years since we've had a party. That is inexcusable!

Before that I am intent on becoming Christmassy this year. Intent! Cleaning out the house is part of that. I'm also determined to either make my Christmas gifts or to get them at little "shoppes" this year. I've done my Christmas shopping on line for many years now. It's so simple and efficient. But once in a while I'll make it into a little brick and mortar and be really sorry I didn't go there in the first place. When you go to an actual store they have music playing and decorations up and people are (usually) feeling jolly. Sometimes they have nice stinky candles or potpourri going. It sort of gets a person feeling festive.

Okay, I'm going to stop babbling and move on to productive work! Then later maybe a bath (!) and too much C.S.I. watching and knitting. Cupcakes?

So much for my crabby mood!