Wednesday, November 27, 2013


We've known from the time we first saw our house that we'd likely make some significant changes to it, but have also acknowledged that if none of those changes happen we could live here happily with just a few mechanical updates.The usual stuff you'd expect to see in a 50 year old house, like the hot water heater or A/C unit, although we've experienced no worry over the buttercup yellow kitchen appliances.  They're General Electric all, with old-fashioned mechanical controls meant to last forever.

We bought the house from the estate of the couple who built it. It says something about their taste and the quality of what they built that the overall effect reads as less cheesy and more stage set (more than one person has suggested I could donate, say, the kitchen to the Smithsonian). Despite my hope to install something a bit more me, I'd have no problem using this kitchen into the future. It's not given us much trouble and, assuming parts are available when needed, there's no reason it won't continue to work well beyond my need of it.

Almost no reason. Last week I was up late and the house was very quiet. I noticed a distinct hum that seemed to originate in the wall between the ovens and the family room. I didn't think too much of it, because that same wall houses most of our electric entertainment devices, but noted it and went to bed. The next night neither oven would preheat above 150 degrees or so. Strange.

The kids and I were leaving town just a couple hours before my husband was arriving home so I jotted him a short note and went on my way. There was a hum the other night and now the ovens won't work. Not sure what's up - can you check it out? Prob. nothing. He would be gone again before we came back home so I hoped it was nothing, anyway, because I desolate without the ability to toast a slice of pumpkin bread in the mornings.

Turns out he had to remove the entire unit to discover that a certain wire looked as if it had been incorrectly installed nearly 50 years ago and had just last week finally broke completely. The hum I heard had been electricity arcing between the two ends inside the wall. Had I not heard it, hadn't tried to cook something, or not thought to ask him to look into it, well, I really just don't want think about it. The odds are slim that he'd have tried to use the oven while here on his own and then by the time I returned he'd be gone again and...let's just file this one under "feeling lucky".  Let's cross-reference a note to self, too:  OMG, call the architect STAT. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This Thing I'm Working On

Long ago I read a blog written by a woman who lived in northernish California. She was a mother with two children, an attorney with a Big Deal job, a reader, and homeowner who somehow also found time to cook lovely meals, plan beautiful, enriching family vacations, and quilt. It's the last of these that instilled  in me vast feelings of awe. Her quilts were astonishingly gorgeous, full of intricate piecework, and produced at a dizzying clip. I always thought that someday I'd follow her example.

420 squares and counting
They look prettier in person, really.
Someday has, kind of, arrived. Years and forever ago I started saving outgrown or used-up jeans with the idea that I'd make a denim patchwork quilt for my son. He'd started to grow out of his little-boy space bedroom theme and I started to imagine that I could quite easily create a sort of Pottery Barn-esque thing that would be both durable and attractive.  About a year ago I began cutting patchwork squares, having settled on a 5" square that would yield 4 inches with a half-inch seam allowance around.

Progress on the quilt - even simple squares as it is - is best described as "incremental" even without the lovely piecing I so admired in that much-missed blog. My son has long since given up on seeing it completed but I am making an Old Year's Resolution to complete the work before the calendar turns. 

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Every Leaf a Flower

Today was one of those fall days that seem to happen more often in books or in our remembrances than in reality.

The kids both begged to be "allowed" to rake, necessitating the purchase of a second so as to reduce arguing, and created large piles on all sides of the house. It's dark as I type and they're still jumping from pile to pile. I suspect they will be in soon wondering what's for dinner. We're having pork roast, risotto, rosemary carrots, applesauce, and relishes, in case you care to join us.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Entire Empires Have Been Based on Less

For all the elaborate organizational methods I have tried over the years, none has been quite as effective as humble adhesive note paper (did you know that Post-It and Sticky Note are trademarked by 3M and Société Bic, respectively? This means, among other things, that there's no non-awkward, non-trademark-using way to write about these things. Awkward it is.)

My house is festooned with stuck-on reminders of all kinds of work, kid, personal, dog, and social obligations.  I counted 20 earlier today but if I made the sweep again I could probably take down at least five. Then again, I'd likely replace them with whatever I need to remember - kid passport appointment on Saturday at the library! craft fair on Sunday! -  over the next three/four days so 20 seems like it might be steady state.

I don't really consider myself memory-challenged, but in the face of this evidence I probably need to change my tune. Would someone with life under control need to put a yellow note on the backdoor with the reminder that my friend's housewarming present is in the hall closet? Or a blue reminder on the tennis racket that there is no lesson on Sunday but to go to the history museum open house instead? I can't decide if I'm irrationally basing my life on small bits of paper and dabs of glue or if I am quite sensibly adapting to my own limitations. Perhaps a bit of both? As long as I don't someday write myself a note to buy more notes, I suppose there's nothing to worry about.  Right?

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Always and Everywhere

We spent the weekend a bit up north, enjoying the foliage and sites around the Hudson River. Nothing really notable happened. We took the dogs for a long walk, read a bit, watched old episodes of Phineas and Ferb and had an altogether lovely time.

My son spent the better part of an hour teaching his sister to skip rocks in the Hudson River.  At this point of the river there is more shore than banks and it is rocky with lots of excellent flat stones just begging to be shot along the surface of the water. Skipping was tricky for her to grasp at first but she is nothing if not determined and she tried and tried for almost 45 minutes. I didn't take a picture of her at that moment she turned to me having mastered the skill but I don't need one. The look of pure happiness is seared on my memory forever.  Would that all her efforts pay off so quickly in achievement and result in such joy.

I wanted to buy some spices and remembered that there is a Penzey's nearby. Turns out that it's located in a mall. Now, I don't love malls, but I also don't hate them.  I go when doing so makes my life easy and am always happy when another option presents itself.  Since I wanted the spices I was willing to head in and discovered the largest, most bonkers shopping center I've ever seen. There was an IMAX movie place, a skating rink, and a zip line attraction that wings (mostly young) people from one end to the other and up and down the several levels of courtyard.  It was impressive, not altogether in the good way, and overwhelming in the extreme.  The children, of course, thought the place was marvelous.

I was perhaps unattractively self-congratulatory when, after I'd asked them for their votes for Best Thing of the Trip, they unanimously selected the couple hours spent walking along the river.  Take that, crazy mall place.  
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