Monday, December 31, 2007

on hiatus

Just a quick note to let you know that this blog will be on hiatus for awhile. In the meantime, have a happy new year!

Friday, November 23, 2007

A sure sign that summer is over

Snow on the barbeque. Those long, lazy days of summer are certainly past.

Old Man Winter is on his way. We've had our first flurries of snow today, with just a dusting over everything. Time to knit faster...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

There are no shallots in this town!

One of the things I love about living in this small town is the slower pace. I went to the grocery store today to pick up the last-minute ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner. I made a point of going early--mid-morning--to avoid the mad scramble for food that always happens the day before Thanksgiving.

The cashiers were harried, frustrated, and tired, as you would expect on this crazy day. But the crowds? Where were the crowds? The "crowds" consisted of three--count them, three--people in each checkout line. Oh, the madness!!

But there is a downside to being in such a small place. I've always taken for granted that I can get what I want, when I want it, from the grocery store. In Boston, I lived within a few miles of three different Whole Foods stores. In Austin, I was a short walk from Central Market. Here, we have Wegmans, which is a fabulous store--but it's a half-hour drive away.

But here, our options are so much more limited. Shocked to discover that our local grocery store was out of what I consider basics--fresh mozzarella, shallots--and shocked to see that all their so-called fresh herbs were brown and wilted (and still being sold for $1.99 a package!), I had only one other option: Walmart. And we all know how much I love Walmart... :(

Amazingly, Walmart actually had the mozzarella, but no shallots. There isn't a shallot in this entire town.
[image source:]

Oh, how I miss Whole Foods! Oh, how I miss Central Market! Mr. Wegman, please oh please open one of your stores here! We NEED you.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A beautiful sight

No, someone didn't egg our house. This is the sweet sight of an insulation installation. The last week has been chaotic, with workers swarming around the house, drilling holes, mixing the foam, and filling our walls with goo. (Actually, it's not goo, it's Air-Krete, a moldproof, rodentproof, fireproof insulation for walls) It's left our landscaping trampled (okay, there wasn't much landscaping to deal with, fortunately), and it left my patience wearing a little thin at times (such as when I had teleconferences for work and had to keep hitting the "mute" button so that my coworkers in two different states didn't have to share the noisy joy with me.) But it's done, and now we can look forward to a toasty winter.

It's hard to believe that people having been living in this house since the 1870s with no insulation in the walls. Do you know how cold it gets in the winters in the Finger Lakes? Well, I don't know yet from firsthand experience, but I've heard it gets COLD. (As a side note, there was an infamous Civil War prisoner-of-war camp in Elmira, just south of Seneca Lake. There's a reason the Confederates named it Hellmira, and it wasn't because it was hot!)

Anyway, the house looked like it's been in a street fight, what with all the patched holes for the insulation to go in. But it's worth it! A toasty house AND a lower fuel bill this winter. Can't beat that with a stick!

Of course, I still plan to keep warm by knitting. I'm about 2/3 of the way through my scarf project (begun in August! :( but I am stubbornly refusing to put a new project on the needles until this one is done. (Of course, that doesn't stop me from buying yarn for new projects--I just can't start them yet!)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Natural beauty

When I first moved to the Northeast, I was so disappointed when we moved beyond peak leaf season. The blaze of color was so amazing to these color-starved eyes that it was just downright depressing once the leaves started falling and the brilliant colors started to fade.

But after a few years of that, I began to look beyond the obvious beauty of the peak of autumn toward the more subtle delights. Here are a few that I saw the other day at a nearby park.

This bark reminded me of an Aran sweater. There are several trees that have this kind of twisted bark facing the lake, but the bark on the opposite side is linear. I wonder if cold winter winds caused this to happen? Nevertheless, it is quite stunning.

I've always loved the look of bare-limbed trees against a brilliant blue sky. Nature's lace.

Even though we are well past peak here in the Finger Lakes, this stubborn crabapple tree is hanging onto its leaves and fruits.What delightful color!

And this one just made me giggle. All the picnic benches lined up in this way reminded me of dancing poodles in a circus. I'll bet they'll look even more like poodles once they have snow on them in the winter!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Then and Now

So much has changed in the last year. Massive move from the city to the country, and nothing says it better than pictures.

Last year, just before Halloween, we went to the Boston Common to see the attempt to break the record for most jack-o-lanterns carved and lit at one time. With two little ones in tow, we didn't stay until after dark, but it was quite impressive to see the massive numbers of carved pumpkins in one place at one time. It was a beautiful sunny day, marred only by the pervasive stench of pumpkin guts in the warm sunshine....

Flash forward one year. A much smaller pumpkin patch, but beautiful in its natural setting. Plus, we had Portia with us this time to help pick out the best pumpkins. Bigger boys, too!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Study of American Wallpapers

I love my house.

Let me just say it again, I love my house.

I love the great tall ceilings and the leaded glass in the living and dining rooms. I love the cozy fireplace and the Victorian-era woodwork. I love the quirky upstairs bathroom and my office with the view of the backyard.

I do not, however, love the wallpaper.

Yes, there are acres and acres of wallpaper in this house. A veritable museum of wallpapers. And so I bring to you my study:

"It Takes a Village (to tear all this stuff down): A Study of American Wallpapers, circa 1970"

FIGURE 1: A delicate montage of daisies, cosmos, and monarch butterflies in tones of murky and murkier

FIGURE 2: An elegent faux-toile in shades of sage and dirty grey:

FIGURE 3: A garden of peach roses scattered over white frilly bits:

FIGURE 4: Um...daggers? half-completed crucifixes?

FIGURE 5: A scrubland scene viewed through dust-stained windows during a rainstorm:

FIGURE 6: Mud viewed through dust-stained windows during a rainstorm:

FIGURE 7: Invasion of the blue butterflies:

FIGURE 8: Just turn the lights off, please!

FIGURE 9: It only gets worse:

FIGURE 10: Was butterscotch the only color they had back then?

FIGURE 11: And my personal favorite. This isn't wallpaper; it's FABRIC. Nothing like some naughty bathing scenes to keep you entertained while you brush your teeth in the morning.

This concludes our study of American wallpapers, circa 1970. I'm sure it all looked stunning at the time. And I'm sure that my children or grandchildren will think I'm stark raving mad for thinking it's ugly. What do you think?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's about books today

Wanda at Fiberjoy has tagged me for a book meme. I've done a few of these from time to time, but I really like this one. Books, books, and more books!!

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?

Generally I prefer hardcover books. I plan to keep every book that I buy, and I'd much rather have a library of hardcover books than paperbacks. However, paperbacks definitely have their place--when reading in the bathtub or when traveling, for example.

2. If I were to own a book shop, I would call it…

Tracy's Books?

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is…
...difficult to decide! One of my many favorites comes from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The opening line is "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." It is a line delivered plainly--for it was largely true in Austen's day--and yet, there is a touch of irony in it, once you get into the book and learn more about Elizabeth Bennet's character.

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be…
Crazy Aunt Purl (Laurie Perry)! I've been reading her blog for ages and am now reading her book and enjoying every page of it. Plus, I think she'd be a real hoot to have lunch with!

5. If I were going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be…
my journal, so I could write down my thoughts.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…

would hold a book above me and turn the pages while I read in the tub, on or the beach, or on the couch...

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…

so many places! Hot, dusty secondhand bookstores in north Texas. The stacks of Davis Library at the University of North Carolina. The pounding of my heart in the archives of the Fawcett Library in London, when I first laid my hands on the papers of Teresa Billington-Greig, the British suffragette I wrote my senior thesis about.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…
none of them! I love to escape into someone else's life in a book, but I'm quite happy to return to my own when I'm finished reading.

9. The most overestimated book of all times is…

(in my world) everything that one of our competitors publish. I work in educational publishing, and as each new competitor's book is published, there's always a flurry of nervousness about how the competitors are going to take the market. But I've been in the business long enough to know that there is no revolution in this business. There is incremental change, certainly, but a single book never radically changes the market.

10. I hate it when a book… poorly edited. As an editor myself, I have little patience for companies that don't take the time to make books properly.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Genographic Project

Yes, I'm still knitting, but in the absence of anything interesting to show, I thought I'd write about something I just discovered: National Geographic's Genographic Project.

I know, I'm probably the last person to have heard about it, but I find it so exciting that I just have to share.

Under the auspices of National Geographic, Dr. Spencer Wells is heading this massive five-year study of human migration, charting the migration of peoples through the analysis of DNA. One focus of the project is the collection of DNA from isolated, indigenous peoples--those whose separateness is threatened by growing contact and intermingling with the rest of the world.

But the part of the project that I find personally fascinating is the public participation aspect. The project is collecting genetic samples from anyone who chooses to participate, providing further depth to the knowledge about the migrations of peoples. If you choose to participate, they send you a kit for you to take a DNA sample (through a cheek swab). Some weeks later, they will post your results on their website. You can find out more about your deep ancestry than you ever could have before. You'll learn which path your family took from our common origin in Africa. It's not genealogy; it's a glimpse into your own prehistoric past.

Of course, it's just a glimpse, a limited view into your past. Women will learn the migration path of their family only through the maternal line, because the mitochondrial DNA is what remains unchanged from one generation to the next (except for mutations, of course). Men can choose to trace their family's migration path through their paternal line (because the Y chromosome is unchanged except for mutations) or through their maternal line (through mitochondria). But I think it's absolutely fascinating to be able to get even this limited glimpse into this previously unknowable past!

Our kits arrived from National Geographic yesterday, and we'll be sending the samples in tomorrow. Then, waiting on pins and needles to see what we find out!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

If you're a foodie...

Since moving to this part of upstate New York, we've discovered some amazing foods at the local farmers' markets. Corn so sweet, so delicate, so delectable you want to eat it at every meal. Grapes so sweet and thin-skinned that they pop into sugary goodness as soon as you put them in your mouth. And pie....oh yes, the pies. Apple pies. Cherry pies. Fruit flavors so intense that there's barely enough room for sugar, and yet they're so sweet. Pastries so flaky like my mom used to make...or even better than my mom made. (Love you, Mom! Love your pie!)

And there seems to be a common denominator to all these lovely foods: they come from Amish or Mennonite farmers.

I know very little about the Amish or Mennonites. I plan to learn more, now that I'm living in an area where they live too. But as I'm going through my own process of simplification, of making life more genuine, of spending my time and my energy and my money on things that matter to me at my core, I wonder how they manage. How do they live their separate lives in this relentless modern world?

Last weekend, we went to Ithaca for the Apple Harvest Festival. Massive crowds of people from all walks of life, with so many ways of marking their separateness from mainstream American society. Hot pink hair. Tattoos. Piercings. Long, flowing, all-natural clothes. Black lipstick. And there amongst the rebels of American society, there were these plain people, entire families, some selling pies and other baked goods, others quietly observing the world around them. As we stopped to watch people ride the Ferris wheel (which, thankfully, none of the kids wanted to ride--I have a healthy fear of Ferris wheels from traveling fairs), I looked around and saw we were standing next to an Amish or Mennonite family watching the Ferris wheel too--the mother and girls in their starched caps, the father and the boys in their plain blue shirts, all in the same fabric. They were so unlike us, and yet, so like us. How do they find their balance in this crazy modern world? How do we?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happy Birthday, Portia!

On this beautiful autumn day, our Portia turned nine years old--last year of the single digits, last birthday before middle school, one foot in childhood and the other striving toward adulthood.

The world is your oyster, Portia! Make a wish!!

Enough with the birthday wishes, we want cake!!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Gorgeous autumn

I love autumn. And I feel so fortunate to live in a place that rewards us with brilliant colors in the fall.

In the part of Texas I grew up in, autumn was the time that leaves just went brown and fell off the trees. It didn't change the color of the landscape much, because it was already pretty brown from the scorching summers.

In school, however, we celebrated fall as if we were in the heart of New England. We drew pictures with bright red, orange, and gold leaves, and we made our own fall leaves out of colored construction paper--bright reds, oranges, and yellows. As an adult, I was known to make wreaths out of craft-store "silk" autumn leaves, just to have a hint of that eastern color.

Now that I've moved to a place where the leaves actually do change colors, it amazes me to think how eastern-centric we were in Texas. We not only mimicked the east with our fall colors, we did the same thing in winter--making snow scenes out of paper and glitter and glue. We only had snow once every few years--and never enough to warrant snow boots--and yet, all the pictures we learned to draw in wintertime had to have snow in it. Why didn't we celebrate the seasons the way they actually were?

But anyway, now I'm in the northeast and loving the colors. The trees started changing here quite early--at the very beginning of September--but we're still just approaching the peak of color. In the Boston area, the best color was always found the week of Columbus Day, but I'd always heard that this part of upstate New York was a little earlier than Boston. But here it is, just a few days from Columbus Day, and we still have a long way to go.

That's fine with me. I love the autumn and wish it could last a little longer. There are a lot of cold and grey days to follow, so I want to keep the memory of these brilliant colors as long as I can....

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Little boys, getting bigger

My two little munchkins just amaze me with their resilience. In the last month, they have experienced tremendous change. They've moved away from the only home they've ever known, left all their friends, endured weeks of living with all their own toys boxed up in storage, and living in temporary digs until our new house is ready.

I expected a trying time of adjustment--tears, longing, defiance, sleeplessness, worry. And yet... they surprise me! They've had their moments, but both boys are doing so well with all the changes going on in their lives. Of course, they miss all the people they love in the Boston area, but they are embracing this new life with both hands.

Yesterday was the boys' first day at school: Aidan in kindergarten and Douglas in preschool. This picture pretty much sums up their attitudes toward it--Aidan was a little hesitant, while Douglas was unmistakably gungho.

And while yesterday was officially the first day of kindergarten for Aidan, today was his first full day--without Mom. I was a little nervous for him, since he was a little flustered yesterday by all the crowds and activity. But today, he was so eager to get to school that I couldn't keep up with him on the walk to school. Then today on my lunch hour, I drove past the kindergarten playground on my way to the grocery store, I saw him running with a big group of kids. He's making friends already!

But the work continues. We're finally in our new house, with boxes and boxes to unpack. Moving is hard work....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Welcome to the Finger Lakes!

Whew! It's been a long slog, but we finally made it here. Multiple truckloads of household items and workshop items, getting cars from one place to another, getting kids and cats from one place to another, but we've made it!

We're in temporary digs for the next week or so--our house closing was delayed awhile for a number of reasons, but we're lucky enough to have a comfortable place to stay while we're waiting to get into the new place. We're starting to settle in--a few days ago, we took Aidan to visit his new school, and he got to meet the principal and see all the classrooms before the Big Day. Plus, he and Douglas have played at both playgrounds at the elementary school (they have one just for kindergarten and another for the older kids), so they both know there is FUN to be had at school.

And, I've already visited what will be my LYS, which is Finger Lakes Fibers. The women there are so friendly and helpful--just attentive enough to make sure you have the help you need, while allowing you space to browse and soak up the woolliness of it all. (And yes, even though they had a big sale on summer yarns in cotton and linen and bamboo and all sorts, I still was drawn to the wools, even though it was about 95 degrees on the day I visited...)

I needed a project to help me keep my sanity, but my yarn stash and needles and patterns are all in boxes...somewhere...! So, I bought everything I needed to make a lace scarf. First, the pattern: Fiber Trends double fuschia scarf (the pink one on the left). The yarn: Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool in a pale grey. It's my first lace project, and after one false start (complete with gnashing of teeth and a little sulking), I managed to learn the pattern and make quite good progress. Photos to come when I find my camera....