Friday, November 28, 2008

What City Please?

"Do you do family portraits?"

"Ahhh... no, we don't. We are an art gallery."

"Me and my fiancee want a family portrait and I just called a place here in Laconia. That's where I am. And they want $400." Very high pitched whistle through the phone and into my ear to indicate that $400 was a lot of money.

"Well there use to be a place up the street who did them, but I believe they are gone." I am quickly going through my mental Rolodex to come up with a solution to this gentleman's problem before he whistles in my ear again. I can't think of another portrait photographer.

"J.C. Penney use to do portraits. Do you know if they still do them?"

"Well, you might try calling them." I am still scanning my mental Rolodex... does J.C. Penney still exist?


So this is the glamorous world of directory assistance art galleries. I suppose if he gets stuck I could help him out in a pinch. I have figured out how to use the auto timer so that I can get portraits of my family.... all two of us. You get a pretty good sense of what my dog looks like from this photo- aye?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


For those of you unfamiliar with Fiddler on the Roof, that is one of its more rousing refrains.

It is that time of year to bake pies. I have been promising to bake the boyfriend a wild blueberry pie for many moons now. Thanksgiving seemed like the moment to pull out all the baking stops.

As a small girl... I mean really small... my mother would pull out the bottom drawer in one of our pantry cabinets so that I could stand on it to watch her make pies. As soon as she felt I could keep my balance on the drawer and do a task she handed me a small pie tin, leftover pie crust, a rolling pin and a dullish knife to cut apples. I was probably four or five.

I am not sure why I was singled out from all the girls in my family to learn this skill. Perhaps I showed early promise? More than likely it was just my mother closing her eyes and deciding which virgin to throw in the volcano. My mother hated baking and she figured the best thing to do was to teach a daughter so she would never have to perform this Thanksgiving Day task again. By the time I was eleven I would bake several pies for my family and a few to sell to neighbors.
Maybe my mother felt guilty about this (although I doubt it, she is probably still snickering at her cunning) so a few years back she bequeathed me all of her best baking tools. Her pastry cloth- which you cannot make pie without, a big wooden rolling pin, some antique pie plates and her beat up, old measuring spoon set.

Handling all these tools again takes me back to the magic of my childhood holidays. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, the Macy's Parade, playing games with my wicked Uncle Rufus, noise, confusion and food, food, food!

While I have never learned to properly roast a turkey, in a pinch I probably could. I would watch my mother intently- daring myself to touch the skin of the raw turkey-ewwww! I would help her mix the stuffing with my hands- the raw eggs were so slimy. She also taught me to brush my pies with milk so they would turn a golden brown.
I think she taught me pretty darn well. Especially how the chef always needs a glass of wine to ensure a good product. How did that sneak into the top photo?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And Brought To you By...

...Monsieur Henri's delectable muffins. Small but tasty- and nutritious!

He can curl up into the world's tiniest dog- like he has retractable legs or something. It makes me smile and it certainly makes me call him The Grande Muffoon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Plumbing the Depths of My Nerdiness

So I decided to plumb the depths of my nerdiness by rereading Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates which I had lent to my friend Louise. It wasn't due back at the library for two days. There are so many historical characters and historical events she referenced that thought I would benefit from a second read.

The second time through I was once again struck by the figure of Anne Hutchinson. She was a Puritan who arrived around 1635 and immediately caused trouble. She was also a religious visionary and an exceedingly bright and outspoken woman.... so this references my previous post.

The unfortunate aspect of Anne Hutchinson as a historical character is she only exists through the words of others. She never wrote any tracts or pamphlets, she was not a magistrate or minister so no one thought to write her speeches down. And most of the people who wrote about her also hated her. So we get her side through the lens of another.

You can read some of the transcripts of her trial though. She comes off as a very skilled debater... as a matter of fact, she runs circles around the magistrates trying her. They were left with one course- be rid of this witch before she poisons the general population. The irony is that this crazed female visionary forced the hands of the local powers who thought they should establish a college to educate their populace (men) against the tyranny of ignorance. Soon after Harvard was established.

Now I am not a particular adherer to the "OMG, we are the downtrodden" school of feminist thought. I find it self defeating and not to mention, EXCEEDINGLY humorless. But I do find there are lessons to be learned from our past. So....step up to the plate or quit 'chur bitchin'.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Mother, My Self

My mother is 72 and both a mentor for me and an occasional pain in my side, but she has taught me everything I know and she is still busy trying to teach me everything she knows. She is now retired and is throwing herself into whatever activities interest her. She is currently involved in an educational program for the elderly run through a small division of the state university. She called me the other day to ask about e-newsletters and how it might help this program promote their classes. She has been agitating for the school to make some changes and to update themselves. She let out a big sigh...... "I think I am just a loudmouth."

I could hear myself sigh. I had just been contemplating the possibility that I might be a loudmouth.... then I hear her admitting to a streak of loudmouthness. I am sure this must be genetic. Right when I had just gotten over the hurdle of looking like my mother, now I have to deal with behaving like her too?

This self reflection on loudmouthedness started about 3 weeks ago when I attended a board retreat for a non-profit I volunteer with. I feel I spoke up more than might be seemly... especially for a little old art major in a sea of lawyers and bankers. And this is my own twisted view of the world, but there was only one other woman on the board who spoke up with any kind of consistency and in a challenging way. I know the other women who serve are bright but they seem to lose their voice in these situations.

Sometimes I think I speak up not just to make a point but to get a seat at the table. If you don't speak up you are relegated to the role of do-er or assistant. Doing is a good and important thing.... someone has to get the work done, but I want to be part of the policy making. And I definitely see this as a gender based difference. A difference that I am not immune to..... so I struggle to behave like that woman I imagine myself to be.

Does this make me a pushy bitch loudmouth?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Am I Having Fun Yet?

I went out to eat with my friend Jen last night. We ate good food and had even better conversation. She makes me laugh so hard I need to change my underwear when I get home. She thinks this photo makes her look like she only has one eye. I disagree.... but maybe it looks like one of them is a glass eye. What do you think?

This is pretty much how I decide who I want to spend my time with. Do they make me laugh? Hard? Life is too short to not be laughing all the time.

Well.... if they feed me creme brulee I will spend time with them too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Command!

Silly Me. I have been wanting to know how to do the strike through command. Gut it! Goot it! Goht it! Got it!

Not only am I a nerd, but I am pretty easy to amuse.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Big Fat Government

One of the bonuses of getting off of work at 6 o'clock is being able to hop into my car and listen to Marketplace on NPR during the commute home. It is a show that takes a look at the daily news through the lens of the economy. It is done with wit which makes the 45 minute drive fly by rather quickly.

Tonight they did a quick story on a soldier in Iraq who called home to clandestinely plea with his parents to help get armor for the Humvees he and his buddies navigated through the war with. Unfortunately this young man was killed the following week. Fortunately his parents took him at his word and tried to find the equipment to help these young soldiers. They developed a "land shark" which is a small motorized vehicle which could pour water over road bombs until they were rendered useless. They recently received a government contract for $800,000 to manufacture these simple devices, but they ran into difficulty finding investors because the war may.. or may not end.

I know that the congress recently passed the budget for 2009.... with well over 1/2 of the budget going for defense: $515.4 billion for the Department of Defense’s (DOD's) base budget—a nearly 74-percent increase over 2001 as quoted from the US Budget. This doesn't even get into the few billion here and few billion there it takes to support all the other facets of the military.

Now- not for nothing- but shouldn't an army with these kinds of resources be running circles around a bunch of hooligans on horses in the middle of a desert? I can't help but think that the money is being spent on equipment to fight the type of war that no longer exists. Don't our soldiers need the sort of equipment for how war is conducted now? Namely a war fought by terrorists hiding in plain sight using IED's and suicide bombers. Why isn't our defense money being spent in a way that actually defends our soldiers? Why are they asking their parents for the equipment they need?

I am all for a strong military. I am certainly for providing all the care our veterans deserve. But I can't help but think of how Russia bankrupted itself in its quest for military might.... and all done at the expense and to the detriment of the people it was supposedly protecting. Are we headed down that same highway and does our new government have the gumption to say ENOUGH?!

Image of the installation of a new toilet at my father's camp in Vermont- and it cost under $100,000,000!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just In Time For Thanksgiving- Puritans!

I have just come up for air after finishing another book- Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates. When I say come up for air, I mean it. I gulped it down in two sittings. Her writing is that good.

It is a book about the Puritans, but more importantly it is about the roots of our country. I am reluctant to say that it is a history lesson for that diminishes what she is trying to say. The Puritans were complicated people not simply defined by the more contemporary interpretation of their religion. They were idealists and they were truly willing to put their lives on the line for what they believed in. Ironically what I was alluding to in my previous post is how willing people are to forsake their country for a simple political upset. Where would our country be if people hopped the "train to Montreal" every time their candidate lost? Apparently the Puritans were leading the way- hopping the boat for the New World because they thought England was a goner- what with all the barely disguised popery of the Anglican Church.

Even though the events took place almost 400 years ago it all seems so eerily present and personal. She has fleshed out the players- Governor Winthrop, Reverend Cotton, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson- so they become more than the two dimensional characters we were introduced to in 4th grade. Things are never as black & white as grade school civic lessons are forced to teach in order to fit 400 years of history into 260 45 minute periods. Once you start digging things really get interesting. Winthrop kept everyone placated while trying to establish a new home in the new world. Anne Hutchinson paved the way for our modern day Evangelicals. The most interesting character is Roger Williams- who founded Rhode Island after being banished from Massachusetts. He was a VERY early agitator for separation of church and state. But his chief concern was a state meddling in the affairs of the church. An unusual interpretation that had never occurred to me.

And somehow we think that Lee Atwater was the inventor of campaign mud slinging. He took his cues on digging up Willie Horton for the Dukakis/Bush showdown right from the Deputy Governor of Massachusetts Bay's playbook. Apparently Governor Winthrop wasn't fast enough in chasing a banished member out of the territory so his deputy started spreading word that he was soft on crime. Sounds way too familiar- ay?

As I read what I write I realize I don't do Ms. Vowell justice- her writing is witty, engaging and thoroughly readable. She will make you feel proud and patriotic about this country we have cobbled together.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Still Hopeful

My hell dog wreaking havoc on some unsuspecting foreign power or global economy.... more powerful than one small, furry dog, suspected he could ever be.

No regrets, no second guessing, no diminishment of the thought I put into my vote.

I love my country the way I love my family- unequivocally.

I would never run to another country in shame for how we acted- but put my head down and move forward with the most dignity I could muster. Even conservative writers recognize how good we have it here.

I hope this works.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Since Time Immemorial

Or at least since toilet paper was invented the local teenagers have covered this tree with it.

Inspirational- hardly. Unique- pfft. Diversion of pent up sexual tension- no doubt.

But it is certainly a huge display of tradition. I am okay with it.... especially the beautiful way the tissue blows in the wind.

Goes to show, it doesn't take a weatherman.... at least at Halloween.