Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Web of Women

Someone commented on the web of women in my life. I thought that was such a great phrase and I thought I would use this space to count my blessings:

Mum- my mother is my my biggest fan and supporter. I love her so much it hurts. I still run to her when I have a problem or need help. I have yet to reach the bottom of her well of knowledge and compassion.

Polly- Other Mother, my mother's best friend. I can't remember when Polly wasn't in my mother's, and our, lives. I love when she calls me "honey" and how she steps right into the role of mother at the drop of a hat. She loves me and I love her right back.

Louise- my best friend since I was a sophomore in high school. We have traveled a lot of ground together. She is clear eyed and unafraid to let me know when I have faulty thinking. She is also the friend that I can call anytime of the night and say "I need you now." And I do it for her too. She also tickles my funny bone to its very core.

Reta- my younger sister, who is so smart. When I need a reality check on people relations, business or larger philosophy Reta is the one I turn to. She is clear headed, non-judgemental and even tempered. She gives the best advice. If she says so, it must be right. Surprisingly she likes to giggle and be silly. I appreciate that aspect of her too.

Abby- my youngest sister. Abby is fiery and loud mouthed and very in touch with how she feels. When I need fashion tips or to blow my stack she is the one I go to. She knows that feelings need to be expressed to be understood. She allows me to be angry, upset, distraught and get to the other side exhausted, crying, sated and ready to figure it out. I indulge my potty mouth with her.

Michelle- started as a dog walking buddy and is now just a plain old friend. Michelle is my feminine friend. We enjoy doing girly stuff- shopping, antiquing, shoes, watching romantic movies that make us cry. She is totally right brained and intuitive- the complete opposite of me. She has a magical way of correcting me when I get overbearing or controlling. And she gets me to laugh at myself as she does it! We have had some damned fine adventures.

Annie- another dog walking buddy who turned into a friend. She is fiercely protective of me. She makes me feel very loved. It is a funny feeling to be protected by someone who is so physically tiny in comparison- but I'll take it! She is also supremely rational and a great help as I try to figure things out.

Jen- a force unto herself. I don't see her very often but when I do we fall right back into the yakking. She makes me feel okay about being both a strong, competent woman and a total screw up. She also makes me laugh until I wet my pants. (I mention laughing a lot because I hold it in high regard. If you want to be my friend, make me laugh.) Jen sees the power in me.

Susan & Lynn- I have known these two since grade school. That kind of continuity is irreplaceable. I mention them together because we always get together as a team. We know each other so well that we all know how hard to push the other and when to back off. This relationship is pure affection.

Maria- a dog walking friend. She owns a vacation home a mile from my house and comes up every other weekend or so. She asked to join me one morning as I walked past her house and we haven't stopped yet! I don't often meet someone who has my taste for covering miles when I walk. And it is a total bonus that she likes to talk about good stuff! She is like an older sister and serves as a sounding board on relationships and business. We are both good at pointing out to the other our faulty thinking, ruts, and other pitfalls of life. I appreciate her constancy and good humor.

When I feel unsettled these are the women I turn to. I feel lucky to count them as friends and confidantes.

1-Abby, Reta, Sarah, Susan at the camp around 1989
2-Louise, Sarah, Reta getting ready for the sauna around 1984
3-Sarah, Annie and my lovely Lady
around 2001

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Body Image

My friend, Maria, was up for the week at her vacation home up the street from me. She is a dog walking buddy but the best part is that she is a talker too. We always have something to hash over or work out.

This time she rolled out the door and then rolled her eyes “Thank goodness they wanted to cancel the brunch plans this morning. I feel like we have been eating non-stop for days.” Christmas seems to be a time of excess for everyone. She then recounted her husband and son’s unspoken contest to eat the other under the table. Maria is a diabetic so she is very careful of her intake. She is also very slim.

“Ugh, I just feel so fat after all that eating. I can feel it in my cheeks. I really need this walk. I have to be careful. Food is poison. ”

“But you are so slim.”

“I wasn’t always. When I went away to college I got into the afternoon cookies and got up to 160 pounds. I was a pudge.”

She rolled her eyes again and laughed- “Body image!”

“Yeah who doesn’t have a negative body image?” And I shared my bout with anorexia as a young teen. “I don’t think I was controlling things so much as punishing myself for all my flaws- body included.”

She laughed again and said “what flaws?”

“Come on- look at me. What’s to like?”

“You are kidding, aren’t you?”

"Yeah, right. I'm kidding."

Yeah- right. It’s still a struggle.

That would be me in 3rd grade before I cared so much about my body.... but I did love the paisley dress my mother sewed for me. I am still partial to paisley.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Audience of One

I let out a sigh as I allow Henry to climb between the front seats of the car to be next to me. He will stick his nose under my arm and flip it up in an effort to get me to pat him. He puts his two front paws on my seat so he can get a better view out the window. He continues to flip my arm and let out an occasional whine despite the attention I am paying to him. In short, he is a pain in the ass.

I got my little mutt 3 years ago knowing that he had some issues. His separation anxiety was the biggie. After owning him a little while I recognized that he would take off on me if he smelled anything good- despite a disorder which makes him stick to my side. How do you reconcile the fact that a dog has separation anxiety AND will run away given the opportunity?

I finally reached the conclusion that Henry is my karmic come-uppance. My dog is me. I like the security of knowing there is someone there to catch me if I fall.... and fill my water bowl. If I catch the scent of something delicious I want to follow my nose. I want to hang my head out the car window because it feels good, but I want to glance over to see that someone is still there. And when I am feeling insecure I want to be able to curl up on a lap and be petted till everything is right again.

I keep this in mind as Henry demands my attention while I am trying to drive my car. For whatever reason he needs its- and I give it to him because I love him. And I treasure the feeling of his warm, fuzzy belly as I remember those times he would gladly run away.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What Kind Of Dog Are You?

I am currently reading a book called Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. It is the tale of two women who bond over dogs and become best friends.

Like many friends they develop shorthand phrases and little inside jokes. One of their shared jokes is to try to figure out what dog breed people would be. This is an exercise they perform on both friends and strangers.

I am sure this gets easier with time to pair a human with their canine counterpart. I found my mind turning to figure out what breed I might be. I immediately thought of an Afghan Hound. I am lanky and athletic. I suspect I am a bit high strung but also aloof. I am definitely lacking the long tresses, but if I had a tail it would be held curled and at attention.

No doubt there are many people who think I am some sort of terrier.....

Monday, December 6, 2010

So You Think You Want To Be My Friend?

I called up a friend I haven't seen in a while to ask her opinion. We always start our phone calls off with "We need to make a date and get together. I have SO much to tell you."

I then proceeded to ask her opinion "but, oh wait you have to check out this website before you tell me what you think about my most current thought."

Her response...... "Great, now not only do we need to set an agenda to get through a conversation but I have to do homework?"

Yeah, pretty much.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Probably No One Is Reading At This Point....

....which is fine by me. I can get back to my original goal which was to work on my writing/communicating/story telling skills. It is far easier when you aren't writing to an audience.

I found myself worrying about what someone else was thinking recently. It rolled around my brain like a washer set to an extra rinse cycle.... over and over and over. What if I was misreading the communication cues? What if I was getting ahead of a conversation by second guessing a response? What if I was layering my hopes, dreams and previous experience onto a current conversation?

Ahh... after rolling that thought around for a while I realized it didn't matter what the other person thought and I acted on the experience I was having.

I feel better now.

Doesn't Henry look ridiculous in a tutu? I love Henry and my nieces who dress him that way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Drama On Pleasant View Road

Took the mutt for a quick after dinner stroll, but we had barely left the property when drama struck.

I heard peeping. Henry detected the source before I could even focus. A small grayish chick flopped about in the road. Feathers enough to flop about and really wear the mantle of " bird" but helpless enough to quiver at the huge set of teeth that is the omnivore poodle-boy Henry.

To complicate matters I heard a car approaching. To put it in perspective- I can hear a car approaching as it turns off the main road about 1/4 mile away. This noise is not to be confused with the other parallel road. I can also hone in on the whereabouts of any horse carriages tracing the loop by the echo of their hooves. All of this to highlight that this is a lightly traveled area where traffic is quite predictable.

Like Dudley Doright helping Nell tied to the track, I had ample opportunity to plan my rescue and execute it. I fumbled to tie my dog to the neighbors mail post. (Henry looked at this peeping bundle as an after dinner snack.) I dropped the lead twice but managed to get the task done. I looked up to see lights approaching so I ran into the road. The car slowed and I was able to shoo the bird to the side where it got tangled in the grass- wings akimbo.

I looked at its greenish tinge and thought baby Yellow Throat, but I looked up to see two common Sparrows fidgeting in the tree.

As exciting as this drama was I have learned to walk away. I did all I can do. I gave the baby bird another chance. It either figured out how to use its wings or it became a meal for the kitties next door. There is little else I can do to change the course of nature.

Life is hard all over.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


So I read someplace that you are only allotted a certain number of exclamation points in your lifetime. I am pretty sure the usage number was below 200. I am a "!" junkie. It expresses my attitude which is a bit boing boing. I checked out the titles to my last two posts and decided I have a serious problem.

What A Man!

Amongst all the other samples/goodies I received for being a judge this past weekend were a few items for the man of the house- a comb, scalp massager, bay rum after shave. I gave them to the boyfriend who immediately took a walk down memory lane to the time when men doused themselves in Old Spice...... in order to impress the babes.

The next morning said boyfriend shaved and decided to splash on the aftershave. He met me at the door as I returned from my morning walk. As I opened the door I could smell him. But I was not sufficiently impressed so he hugged me. It was a nice smell- certainly not offensive, but I may not be the best judge as I have very little sense of smell. Maybe he smelled like a big old flower.

But it reminded me of watching my father shave when I was a little girl. It was a morning ritual. A small dish held the soap which he would lather up with a short brush and apply to his face. The razor would make a trail through the lather- marking where he had been. His slightly upturned face would be reflected in the mirror- with the occasional pull of the nose or earlobe to reach a deep crevice. And then.....

...... the Aqua Velva. It was bright blue and held in a flat bottle. He would splash it onto his hands and then onto his face. I miss this. Men all use electric razors now. There is no romance, mystery or ritual to it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I'll Be The Judge of That!

I serve on the board of Main Street Concord, Inc., a non-profit committed to economic development through historic preservation. It is a program started by the National Historic Trust a few decades ago and it is still going strong. This long winded explanation is a way to account for being roped into a fashion makeover at our large annual downtown festival called Market Days.

I was not asked to be a participant, which is gratifying to know they didn't think I needed fixing, but to be a judge. I was concerned that I don't have any qualifications. I am not big on makeup. I don't own a comb or brush. My clothing veers towards the comfortable with a few forays into the outlandish (I love high heels!) But then I saw the line up of other judges and knew I would fit right in.

The six contestants were 5 females and one male. The majority were single moms or stay at homes that had neither the money or inclination to look their snazziest every morning. The gentleman, who was roped in, is running for state senate and is better known for riding his bike to work and promoting clothes lines to save electricity- which is to say that his looks fell to the bottom of his priority list. Six foot tall "before" pictures were displayed and each contestant with their team of hair stylists, aestheticians & clothiers were brought on stage to much applause. The transformations were amazing and each contestant was thrilled with their new look. One single mom of three won. It was really quite moving to be a part of this contest.

I took home a goody bag of gift certificates and oodles of samples as a thank you for being a judge. It was amazing how many things were stuffed into such a small bag! This evening, after a day of gardening, I decided to try a few of the products.

IN THE SHOWER: I used Alterna Hemp Shampoo & Conditioner. I don't normally use conditioner as my hair is short, wiry and I like it to stick up at unexpected angles- so natural is better. My hair didn't seem any different from when I use my cheapo Pantene shampoo. I used some Dermalogica body scrub to get the filth off of my legs and feet. It worked well- but so does my scrub brush. I used proprietary buffing granules from Breathe Spa- except it didn't say what I should be buffing. I took a chance and buffed my face, which normally reacts to anything too rough. This seemed very mild though- so I think I picked the right part to buff. I will have to try it a few times to see if my skin reacts.

OUT OF THE SHOWER: I opened up a sample of Dermologica Map-15 Regenerator. Because the printing was so small on the side of the little test tube I decided to wing it. I figured anything that small must be really precious and intended for the eye area. I was a little shocked to pour out a very fine powder. What the hell do you do with powder? I must say it applied rather nicely- practically melded with my skin instead of falling off my cheeks into the sink. It felt good but I didn't notice anything different and my boyfriend didn't think I looked any younger. I then applied some L'Occitane skin cream. I am afraid that I am a "if some is good, more is better" kind of person. I put a generous teaspoon into my hand and applied it to my face. It felt like shortening going on, but in a good kind of way. My skin is quite dry so it appreciates a good slathering up. After a while it soaked in and left my skin quite soft.

I want to laugh at the lengths and expense women will go to maintain their youth and beauty. On the other hand- I would love to maintain my youth and beauty. I may go so far as to buy the buffing granules and L'Occitane face cream- although I might get a shock when I discover how much youth & beauty costs!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog

Either you love the sound of a hound dog or you don't. I wasn't told that Henry was part hound....but there it is. I was raised with a Beagle as the family dog. The sound is pure joy.....very loud and insistent pure joy.

Even as I watch other people cringe or scowl it makes me smile.

Friday, June 4, 2010


So I think there is a story in this somewhere.

Since I got my dog Henry and started walking a paved route I have noticed that there is a serial banana peel thrower who lives on our road. There are peels thrown hither and yon. Sometimes on the roadside, sometimes in the grass, sometimes fresh, sometimes wizened and decayed.I don't see them everyday.... but that could be the scavenging of the local fauna thwarting my daily banana peel viewing.

It makes me laugh to find these peels- not sure why. I can imagine someone climbing into their car every morning, gripping their breakfast on the go. They seem regular enough to always grab a banana but not so OCD that they begin and end their eating habit at the exact same time- thus throwing the peel in the same spot every day. Perhaps they have a potassium deficiency and the doctor ordered a banana a day? Perhaps they are a creature of habit and can't start a morning without the pleasant and vaguely sexual defilement of a piece of fruit?

It has long occurred to me that I should be cataloguing these peels. My lack of camera hinders the archiving so I may have to break down and purchase a camera- a process I have recently started. Because I suffer from something vaguely similar to OCD it may take me a while. I am only in the fact gathering stage. In the meantime I continue to borrow the camera from work. And here you have the output of one day's walk....four different banana peels. These are all pretty old, but they seem to add to the story.

One of these days I will actually witness the serial banana peel thrower in action. In the meantime I will put these up for the amusement of my readers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day In The Life of My Garden, June 2, 2010

Things are looking mighty fine at Chez Chaffee. Behold those poppies- every time they bloom they surprise me with their beauty. The Snow in Summer is a billowing mass of white loveliness.

My peonies are perfect. I suspect the rose chafers are on their way to wreck their beauty, but sigh.... enjoy them while I can

I am smitten with my new planter. I have been coveting these echeveria for years and finally splurged. The pink blush on those chubby leaves make me want to pinch them. But like one of little nieces I just reach down to plant a little smooch on them to express my admiration.

And here is the new arbor- installed! My Henry Kelsey roses need to get to work now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


One of my artists is an elderly gentleman who lives in Canada. I have spoken to him once and met him once, but we email every so often. He is an absolutely charming and delightful correspondent. As he slows down his physical world becomes smaller but I suspect he reaches out to more people, like myself, to stay engaged and pertinent in the world of the mind.

Also like myself, he is a gardener and enjoys watching his plants and flowers move through their cycles. Yesterday he wrote to me that "despite being a potter who should enjoy bringing in flowers to fill my vases I prefer to enjoy them outside. The only culture that knows how to bring flowers inside are the Japanese."

I have always been miserly about bringing flowers into my house so this statement made a lot of sense. My boyfriend is a bit of a bouquet fiend. I always claim to not have enough to share with his vases. I realize that my artist/correspondent has hit upon the true reason. Flowers are never as alluring as when found in their native habitat- springing naturally from their clumps, stems, whorls, branches & vines. In nature they are spaced ever so perfectly, whether that is symmetrically or randomly. They face in the appropriate direction- out, so as to catch the most light or the attentions of a pollinator. There is a balance of foliage to blossom that seems right.

I have also worked hard in my garden to position them next to the perfect backdrop or complimentary plant- orange poppies next to a blue spruce, exuberant Rudibeckia next to severely upright Karl Forester Miscanthus, silver Lamb's Ear interspersed with the dainty blossoms of Grape Hyacinth. How could a bouquet compete with that?

THAT being said, I have always felt the most successful bouquets were mostly fillers and greens to set off a few blossoms. Or- the exquisite placement of a single flower in an Ikebana vase.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Household Addition

Being in "the business" I occasionally receive gifts from artists. It isn't expected. I assume my role as a supporter of the arts is to purchase artwork like everyone else, but it is always a delightful surprise to receive a gift- especially the gift of art from an artist I respect.

This past week Fred Lynch gave me a small painting from his Division Series. This series is currently featured at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine. While my boyfriend is as big a fan of Fred as I am he was a little leery of squeezing one more piece into our home. Like two little old ladies we fussed with items, moved them two inches, changed plants, considered moving furniture and finally came to a conclusion.

The small painting came to rest on a trunk underneath a large painting by Fred of a pink rectangle. The new painting contains a little of the same pink making a connection to it. The new painting also has a some ruby color which related directly to the Gerry Williams to the left. And to top it off we moved a beautiful fine line porcelain plate by Rebecca Lucerio next to the whole lot.

The placement of all of these pieces gives me an overwhelming feeling of pleasure and rightness with the world. The exquisite rendering of the plate is similar but different from the nervous line of Fred's painting. The low-res images, unfortunately, don't give you a sense of their delicate precision. The grouping's colors relate but aren't so matchy-matchy that you think you walked into a Pottery Barn display. And there is a sense of historicity- a connection from past to future of this particular aesthetic trajectory.

Finding these connections is one of the most enjoyable parts of owning an art collection.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Day In The Life Of My Garden, May 9, 2010

It has been a while since I have posted about my garden so this is just a little catch-me-up for those of you who care. Things are just beginning to take shape. We have a couple of below freezing nights predicted so the boyfriend is a mite afeared for the fruit trees which are in blossom right now. He also went out to pick all the asparagus that had poked its head through- better eaten than frozen.

There is a whole flock of pure purple Johnny-Jump-Up which is blooming its little fool heads off right now. As always it is a fabuloso contrast with the golden cypress. You might notice one stray sedum that ducked my hell bent for eradication trowel of death last summer- I just got sick of the cheap sedums from the grocery store showing up every spring full of promise - that only delivered a summer of heartbreak and mushy, withered stems.

Not too far from this complimentary color scheme are some last minute daffodils that are enhanced by the broad green back drop of rhubarb. Sometimes I think I like rhubarb more as a plantable than an edible. mmm, mm good no matter how you dish it up!

My purple smoke bush is just starting to show its colors- hope it doesn't get bitten by the frost the way it did last year. It is a particularly girly combination with the pink azalea and the fluffy ruffliness of the white iris in the foreground. Be still my fluttering heart!

And just because I have a camera in hand and this blog belongs to me I will inflict yet another season of Bleeding Heart on you! I love the bleeding heart but I am muy impressio'd by my Ladies Mantle. I dug up a plant that was swallowing a low slung sculpture and must have flung its seeds hither and yon. Now I have little plantlets everywhere- much to my avaricious delight. Nothing like too many plants to move and hoard.
Another shot of my Jane Kaufmann orb surrounded by pulmonaria and hostas getting ready to spread their wings. Right now they look like Piroulle cookies standing on end. Soon I will have to move the orb as the hosta are space hogs.

And here is what left of my disaster of a rose arbor. The wind finally did it in. The boyfriend bought me a new cedar one- but I need to make some concrete anchors so the wind doesn't do the same thing to it..... may find it a bit northeast of me in Goshen if it isn't properly battened down.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Big Wonder

I have been rolling these thoughts around in my head for several weeks and can't make sense of them still. They aren't hooking their carts up to other thoughts nor are they sorting themselves into the
appropriate cubby holes for future reference. Perhaps putting them down "on paper" will help.

A few weeks ago I was able to listen to the whole Speaking of Faith interview with Fr. Guy Consolmagno and Fr. George Coyne, two Jesuit monks who are astronomers with the Vatican Observatory. That is a sentence worth repeating and paying attention to- astronomers at the Vatican Observatory. Who knew there was an Observatory at the Vatican (or that they have an outpost in Arizona) or that there are monks with PhD's in Astronomy? I was also dumbfounded to learn that the Vatican Observatory has the largest collection of asteroids in the world.

What really grabbed me about this conversation between Krista Tippett and her two guests is how happy they both seemed. They were living their lives doing exactly what they wanted and were filled with joy while doing it. They both expressed awe and wonder at the world around them. Most astoundingly neither felt conflict in pursuing faith and hard science. The world was put before them to discover and more deeply understand their God.

This is not to say it was easy. Fr. Coyne said that faith is a daily struggle and not a given. He said there is an assumption by lay people that people of faith are sure of their beliefs. He stated that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.

Religion is something I have struggled with since my youth. As a young girl I questioned my church going neighbors, occasionally attended church with friends and replicated rituals I had learned at my first grade Catholic school with blocks for an alter and raisins to represent the body of Christ. In college I befriended Moonies and a feminist friend graduated to join a convent and move to South America. I was attracted to people with strong faith- much to the chagrin of my atheist Mom. I think I wanted to know more.

People of faith seem at peace with the world and the horrific things that happen. I could dismiss theirs as a simplistic view but I have to admit a bit of jealousy, and I think I am not alone in this jealousy. Many of the ideas from conventional religious faith have been co-opted by modern spiritual or secular humanist thought: be at peace with yourself, karma, ritual, communion, etc. But it seems stripped of the rigor of religious humanism. Why has this divide been created between spiritual journeying and the established religions?

I keep coming back to the two Jesuits who have reconciled their faith with the world around them, led productive lives, joined in the messy fray of human interaction and are joyful in the process. I am not sure this is something I can attain or if religion is a requirement to attain it. Or perhaps this is a lifelong quest.

Hellllooooo out there- any answers?

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Girl Orly

I dropped in to see my friend Annie- and her pooch Orly. Orly is a Briard who is 11 years old. She was one of my Golden Retriever's dearest walking buddies- as we would meet up most mornings for a brisk 1 mile walk. For a treat we might drive to an outer borough for a longer jaunt. As youngsters my Golden & Orly would race around biting each other and rolling on the ground. As they reached middle age this segued into companionable walking. They were just happy to be in each other's company - no interaction necessary.

Lady died at the young 7 years of age. Annie listened to me cry and Orly put her paw on my lap. She missed Lady too, but she was always happy to see me and soon welcomed my new pooch, Henry.

She was happy to see me this time too. She got her weak back legs underneath her and came as she heard my voice in the front yard. We spent an hour looking at the new sod, peas coming up and lolling on the grass with the dogs. I noticed that Orly's breathing was a bit raggedy and Annie squeaked out that she"just wasn't ready for this."

I remember saying the exact same thing as I negotiated the week that started at the vets and ended at a surgeons. Contemplating the death of a companion is difficult, doubly so when you have to make that final decision- when your companion can't speak for themselves. Watching Annie negotiate these same decisions brings tears to my eyes now. In some ways it was easier for me because Lady was clearly in the end zone and my decision was to pick which hour instead of which week. I can see that no one is ever ready for this decision whether a life is cut tragically short or it has been lived to a full and natural conclusion. That pain of loss is just as full.

My thoughts are with Annie, Orly and anyone else struggling with these decisions.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Summer Do

The weather has been so warm here in New Hampshire that it seemed the right time to give Henry his new summer do. This is a procedure fraught with wrestling, stern voices and much skittering around in the front entry that I close off to keep him from escaping. I use to take him to a groomer but these tough economic times forced me to buy my own clippers and experience the struggle first hand. Here he is with the new clip. I like to keep it a little long around his face so he doesn't look too ridiculous. He has a very long, thin snout.

After the clip comes the bath. I have found it easier to just take him into the shower with me. He hates showers about as much as he hates hair cuts. There is no struggling, just cowering. After a quick dry I let him loose to shake off and run away from me. He usually tries to find a sunny spot- even though it was 70 degrees! This is his "I want a new owner" face.

Now for the blow out!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Kill The Deer

This image taken from Iselli Nurseries which developed and sells this highly desirable little shrub.

I was taking a little stroll with the pup around the garden after dinner when I stopped for a good look at my Whipcord Thuja. It looked a little funny- like all its branches were bent down to the ground. Mind you it is a very slow grower and only started off as a 1 1/2 foot ball about 5 years ago, but it was looking particularly small. Closer inspection showed that not only were those branches bent to the ground but they were severed and actually laying on the ground. Its thin delicate bark was stripped from its cord like branches.

After a fleeting feeling of loss, my mind turned immediately to revenge. Kill the deer. Now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Food in Florence Italy!

Reta, Abby & Sarah enjoying light refreshment at the cafe at the Uffizi!

Freshly back from Italy with my two little sisters Reta & Abby- terrorizing waiters from Florence to Volterra. I suspect we were a wee bit gauche showing up at restaurants at the Ungodly early hour of 7 PM and giggling while ordering, but the waiters soon warmed to our charms and large tips. We also appreciated their food and service in an undeniable if linguistically stilted manner.

The food offerings were a bit disappointing to us- compared to my trip to Rome a few years back. Where were the artichokes during their harvest season? Where was the artichoke and olive pizza? It also seemed to be a much more pasta based diet in Florence- a real non-starter for a celiac. We sated our artichoke lust at the small grocery across the street with hotel picnics of cheese, salmon mousse, wine and marinated artichokes.

We soon hit our stride. The three of us, plus an honorary sister, new Sarah, who insinuated her way on to the taxi from the airport and into our forays for food, made for a foursome hell bent on culinary pleasure. We struck out to find the out of the way restaurants to deliver what we demanded.

The Osteria di Porcellini, not too far from the Porcellini Bronze (little boar), was our first attempt. The risotto with salmon and broccoli was decent but nothing a half rate Italian restaurant in the states wouldn't offer. What it did offer was Rafael sitting next to us and explaining the Italian leather trade. It was worth the price of admission. We checked out his shop the next day where his cousin summoned him from the factory floor with the promise of 4 American women. Our honorary sister, New Sarah, came close to purchasing but evaded the siren call of Italian shearling.

The next night we made a reservation at Il Santo Bevitore, across the Arno on the more funky side of town. It is a beautiful restaurant, but dimly lit. New Sarah sealed our fate as gauche Americans by stealing the candle from the nearby table to be able to read the menu. Our wonderful waiter, Camariere 2, castigated her but returned with a replacement candle. The meal was good and the service impeccable. Camariere laughed and helped us through the menu. We found a hopping little bar with live music on the walk home but we had already polished off a bottle of wine and an after dinner Limoncello. We stayed for a few songs and stumbled to the hotel.

The next day we were off to see sights without the others on the tour. We shopped and we went to the Opera del Duomo- a museum of original tidbits removed from the cathedral due to their delicate state. Once again Abby was in need of sustenance- and no one is happy unless Abby is happy. Reta turned around to point to some purple doors- "How about there?" It was a fortuitous choice and one of our best meals. Mangiofoco looks like a small hole in the wall but it is deceiving. There are many levels of tables and very fresh food cooked on the premises. There were ricotta and spinach tagliatelle, truffle honey drizzled on fresh pecorino and white fish in a delicate tomato sauce. The owner Max was our waiter and made the lunch an event. He even consented to a photo.

On New Sarah's final night we went to a much revered establishment- Buca Mario. The service was to die for, but we had just come off a wonderful lunch at Mangiofoco, it was noisy and the place felt a little overpriced. It reminded me a bit of those Boston restaurants that slide by on reputation and presentation. Good, but not great.

New Sarah returned to the US and the three graces continued on to Volterra- a cult destination for American teens due to it being the setting for the most recent Twilight series- New Moon. Nevertheless we found a light repast around 1 in what looked liked a cheesy dinner. Faux lacquer chairs and nearly non-existent atmosphere. We amused ourselves watching a young couple and their small child who was nearly a duplicate of my sister Reta's youngest daughter. The food was amazingly competent and satisfying for what basically amounted to an Italian diner. I had a delicious seafood risotto loaded with mussels. Then a class trip of Italian preteens descended for their lunch. We were reduced to tears watching them fight about food and who had to sit with the girls. Teens are the same the world over.

That night we vowed to eat at a tony looking little restaurant around the corner from our hotel. It was called Ristorante Enoteca Del Duca. We stupidly tried to go to dinner at 7- as the staff was sitting down to theirs. We were sent away- how humiliating! We showed up again at 7:45 and we were seated right next to the wine cellar. We were deep enough into the countryside that the waiter could not speak English. My sisters put me in charge of ordering wine. I am still trying to get the distinction between red and rose in Italian- it caused me to send a bottle back. Humiliation number two! We finally dived into the wine and started enjoying ourselves. My first course was ricotta souffle- light and lovely. Abby had spinach & ricotta gnocchi with truffles and a rich cream sauce. Reta had a light salad with pecorino shavings. We all tried Abby's gnocchi- they were just about the best thing I ever tasted- until my main course arrived. Reta had pasta with a pesto sauce. Abby opted for a light plate of grilled vegetables - a wise choice after her rich gnocchi. I had THE most amazing bowl of lentil soup I will ever have in my life! It was pureed and lightly rimmed with olive oil. Browned, extruded mashed potatoes formed a flower design around a raw egg yolk in the middle. Shaved white truffles covered the top. I pierced the egg yolk which ran over the top of the thick soup adding a rich creamy texture. The truffles were earthy and delicious. I wonder if anyone else has ever rhapsodized about lentil soup? We all agreed that while this was the priciest meal we had in Italy, it was worth every cent.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I have been thinking about the place of swear words in my everyday language. I hear them come out of my mouth and briefly consider that it is a habit I should stop, but then I never do.

I have read a few articles on swearing and realize there are people who are very interested in the function of swear words in our language. They can be used to express pain, frustration, hurt or to give emphasis to a thought. I suppose the problem is that for some people this is a constant occurrence ... so it loses its emphatic quality. Swear words are meant to shock so it is jarring when you are busy recovering from that shock every other word.

I believe I started thinking about this when I realized I had used an inappropriate word in front of a customer that I like a lot. Regardless- she is a customer. I apologized and told her that I feel she is more like a sister and thus familiar. Her response- "don't worry, we're family." Phew! Crisis averted. I also used the s**t word in front of an acquaintance/banker in town. It was to make an emphatic point- but why did I feel a need to resort to this language to get my point across?

Last night I went to a social event at my local Women's Club (who knew they still existed???). I met a new women and she let fly with a few "%#%#$'s" and a few "?@###'s." I took it in the context of her personality. She was exuberant and outgoing and made it clear that she was a straight shooter. I also took notice that she was comfortable with the off-color language.

About 30 years ago an employer whom I respected a great deal said she was afraid to swear in front of me because I never did it. At 18 years old I wanted to be a sophisticated grown up so I took to swearing like a truck driver in order not to put people off with my purity. The habit has been tempered over the years, but still alerts people to my exuberant, out-there personality.

I have to question its place in my conversation though. Is it really necessary (at my advanced age) to display an exuberant personality or wouldn't it be better to be the mysterious woman with still waters that run deep? What exactly am I conveying with this language?

Do you swear? Frequently?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Kinda Like This....

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."
— Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Bossy Capricorn's Book Review

"Their Motives differed, and they moved in fits and starts, but gradually, guided to a surprising degree by a Church increasingly global in its outlook and imperial in its ambitions, their efforts fed into a collective quest for knowledge, power and wealth the likes of which had never been seen before."

I have just finished reading The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester- a book nominally about the first map to identify the New World as America, but more importantly about the age of discovery. The above quote from the final chapter brings to mind a rather animated electronic discussion I have been having with my Uncle Rufus regarding the Renaissance. His Masters thesis, which he received from Tufts during the mid-60's, doubted the existence of the Renaissance. My perspective on this period in history are through the eyes of art historians while, I am sure, his definition encompassed a broader perspective. The above quote neatly sums up the arc of the quest for worldly knowledge, the range of players, the roadblocks and passions which defined the Renaissance. This book defines the humanists and outlines their role in promulgating it.

As I look out across the Atlantic in an Easterly direction it is difficult to conceive of a world as small and insular as Europe in the 1200's. The world had contracted with the declines of the Roman & Greek empires, but not quite as much as our grade school history books would have us believe. The scientists of Europe were still in contact with their innovative Arabic counterparts and the Eastward reaching Holy Roman Empire despite the Church Schism and the Crusades. It is eye opening to learn that at no time was it accepted doctrine that the world was flat among the educated. This bit of hysteria was reserved for the hoi polloi- perhaps abetted by the sovereigns and the Church to keep them from remembering how hungry they were?

Ironically it is the Church who sped up the flow of information by calling for Church Councils to resolve the Papal and Church Schisms. By calling together all church potentates along with their retinues that numbered in the hundreds the Church brought together the best and the brightest of Europe who had nothing better to do but share knowledge, books and maps while the plenaries bickered about minutiae. It caused an explosion of knowledge sharing which was only enhanced by the soon to be invented Gutenberg press...... which in turn made this knowledge available in a cheap and freely traded format.

What I find fascinating about this book is the undeniable synergy of Church, commerce & scholarship which pushed the world forward in its understanding of itself. It is easy to dismiss any one of these factions as unimportant in the age of discovery- either pointy headed map makers without the heart of adventurers or the Church that is only interested in maintaining the status quo. This book dispels all those easy interpretations and replaces it with a nuanced view of the time.

Get thee to a library.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Smolder Alert

Henry and his best, brooding, romantic-lead gaze.

This past Saturday Michelle and Melissa came over to eat, drink and watch movies. We are suckers for a romantic movie- especially anything Jane Austen-ish. Melissa brought over a BBC production of North & South. We watched the first two hours Saturday evening- at which point we lost Michelle to her grueling work schedule. The next morning Melissa and I were able to watch the last two hours- after a 5 mile walk to make sure we didn't get blood clots from sitting on our arses for so long.

North & South is the story of a South England woman who is exiled to the industrial North, where she meets, and slowly falls in love, with a factory owner. The male lead is played by Richard Armitage. He leaves Pride & Prejudice's Colin Firth in the dust as far as the brooding male lead sorts. Mr Armitage has perpetually scowling brows and eyes that give away few secrets. In the final train scene he finally softens into a smile and you can hear the collective sploosh of every woman's heart dropping to the floor.

I can't quite figure out why many women, me included, like this theme of the hard won love. Woman are all about the chase, whereas men generally want to cut right to the chase. The chase is what makes women swoon.

I also detect the theme of complicated men being more desirable that seems to run through so much female-centered literature.

What's the scoop?

*The title refers to a line from a movie- Lost In Austen. A time traveling fan of Austen is enamored of a truly brooding send up of Darcy. Mediocre movie, good line.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Consumer Purchase as Transformational Talisman

Out with the old- in with the new!

I have been working up to my 48th birthday for about 6 months now. I don't buy into a "birth" day. I like to think of it as more of a birth season. It stretches over days, weeks and occasionally months. This time it has involved a lot of shopping, miscommunicating with my boyfriend and a general malaise.

When I feel unsettled I try to buy my way out of it. I believe if I find just the right object that makes me happy all will be right with the world again. It usually ends at a certain dollar amount or until the feeling passes. This time it has been a rather long spell that started in August.

Goodness knows what precipitated it. I am guessing the no-where-ness of turning 48, which is nearly 49, which is practically 50. It might also be that as a woman you tend to become invisible to men around this age. Funny- I have never needed their feedback for my self-esteem, but it becomes obvious that it is the age of transition to doyenne.

As I struggle with the imminent 50th birthday and the self regulation of my esteem my purchases have leaned heavily towards the fashion arena. It gives me the sense of putting a good face forward. Of someone who is keeping up and still giving it the old college try. I don't want to become the person who is only interested in being the most comfortable- or soon I would be the woman who is willing to wear sweatpants and Crocs in public. I am trying to postpone that phase as long as possible.
In my quest to stay engaged with the world and project the image of one who cares what others think I have forsaken my LL Bean slipons. They are easy and comfortable but they are worn, torn and make my feet look like a brown pillow held together with electrical tape. I purchased a pair of boots that made me gush to the salesperson about how wonderful they were to sell them to me. I slipped them on the next morning and felt beautiful with no one present to even behold their beauty. They are a transformational shoe purchase! And they are even Goretex- thus practical!

And here it is the day after my birthday. I not only feel more beautiful- I feel more settled too.