Posts Tagged ‘home’

So my triceps are aching and my hands tingled with “pins and needles” all last night.

Actually, I like shoveling snow. But I’ve had enough of it for the time being. Some young muscle-y young fellow showed up this afternoon and finished shoveling my driveway for the best $15 I’ve ever spent. “Where were you yesterday???”… I was thinking, while being ever grateful that he had spared me this last insult of having to clear a path just enough wider to squeeze the car out onto the street. The Car. Which I stupidly parked way back by the garage, about a mile and a half from the street, in the spot that I know is prone to drifting. By the way, my car is black.


My first words, Saturday morning, were reiterated a few hours later, by my Puerto Rican neighbor, who, upon opening her front door to discover  snow nearly up to her waist, simply exclaimed, “Oh my God!”

The nice thing about this kind of weather event is that it brings people out. I have noticed, in my neighborhood, a spectacular showing of men and machines. In fact, being the newcomer in these parts, it still surprises me that they all seem to know one another, having attended school together apparently, some time before the middle aged paunch and grey whiskers happened. Then there is the other slice of neighborhood, the one that says all with a keyboard post and shout out (it could be from anywhere in the world, but it’s) from around the corner.

One is concerned about the elder woman that lives across the street. Another is grateful for the refuge offered by a neighbor during a CO scare. Another is trying to find the owner of a trash can gone AWOL. We watch out for each other, and I like this about this multi-layered community. I like getting the (albeit) recorded message from my beloved Mayor, stating the parking updates and a reminder to stay safe and check up on neighbors.

Someone decided to call this snowstorm Nemo, which I think is both preposterous and endearing. Preposterous because Nemo is a name that’s been appropriated by  Disney, and endearing because,… well…! I’ve neglected thus far to mention that my own twenty-five year old daughter hightailed it from Boston, hound dog riding shotgun, to arrive here in Holyoke just before the storm hit. And speaking of Disney, it was this same 25 year old, who at age 5 would not eat flounder unless we called it salmon. Whatever.

It’s been Weekend Interruptus by all accounts. One more day of school is cancelled and with the good graces of our stellar DPW, all should up to speed by Tuesday. With the driveway cleared (and why this seems to me a marker of some sort, I don’t know, since I really don’t go out much!) it will be business as usual. DSCN0218

Oh, and I promise, the next post will be more about serious violin restorer stuff. I may just get out that “Heap of Cello Bits”. I have one more snow day to think about it.

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Sometimes, the neighbor boy, who I think is now eleven, has his Star Wars gear out. He shoots at me across the driveway, from his upstairs den, while I am washing dishes in my kitchen. Colored lights flash in my direction through the mid-winter gloom.death-star-7

I wave back.

Such is life in a small city neighborhood of Holyoke, MA. Conversations happen on many levels. I thought we had bonded one day last summer as I watered my newly planted dogwood out by the street. W joined me, plastic weapon in hand. I can talk droids, clones and Siths and the familial entanglements that bring classic tales of good and evil into high relief. I thought I was pretty cool, having clearly bested his own mother who, regrettably, knew “nothing” about Star Wars. Two or three minutes into our conversation, I realized that, while I had obliviously turned into an adult, Star Wars had morphed into much more than the six? seven? blockbuster movies that I remember gleefully taking in over the years.


Oh well, I deserve to be shot at, although I wish for the opportunity to parry with a light saber, and so measure my worth with a true exposé of art and intuition, things I’m good at.

I want to say, “Okay, W – how old were you when the first Star Wars movie came out?!” (1977) But that would be child abuse, so I keep that thought to myself. This kid is obsessed. With what, I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with making sense of the world, and I can’t argue with that. In lieu of a campfire and an ages- old tradition of oral story telling, I am willing to accept yet another installment of a good tale well told. Perhaps it will lead to a “moment” with my neighbor, and precipitate the inevitable conclusion that we are both, indeed, conduits of the Force.images-1

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I was planning to make pickles today, but since my source at the farmer’s market forgot about the request I submitted last week for a pile of cukes and fresh dill, my plan changed around 10 am this morning. I will NOT buy pickling cukes from Stop and Shop. I’ll wait for the next local market. If I’m really smart, I will make a note in my gardening notebook, which I never write in, and make sure that next year, I grow cukes. HOW could I be growing tomatoes, eggplants, greens, beans, peppers, kale, cabbages, brussels sprouts, tomatillos and NO cukes? Frankly, sometime last spring, after digging the second, or was it the third new bed in a relatively uncultivated property – vaguely, I remember flopping in the garden bench and thinking : “That’s it. Screw it!”

Now I’m sorry about the cukes, even though the pass on zucchinis was rather calculated. This time of year, in these parts, it’s almost impossible not to have a run in with a delicious, cheap zucchini that somebody else grew.

So instead of making pickles, which I will hopefully do next weekend, I engaged my tried and true decision making process, which is to seriously ask myself – what’s making me craziest, right now? It was the disarray of jars and varnishes, strewn about my back porch.

Three or four months ago I made fresh retouch varnishes. My own materials were low, but I was also preparing to teach a workshop, and so made up some fresh stuff to share with students. So today I finally  got around to finishing the project, which meant straining and dispensing the remainder in appropriately sized receptacles with labels and everything. The yield: about four times as much as I need. (Thank God I didn’t plant zucchinis).

This stuff is gold. I have about a three year supply, with plenty extra to share or use as leverage. The thing is, successful varnish retouch is largely about knowing your materials, so this is good. A relatively new facebook friend, and member of my community joked “Why 3 years? Is something happening in 2012 I should know about?” Not to worry. This is violin speak. Quintessentially slow art. I have wood in my attic that I bought years ago and may not use for years to come. If I’m smart, I’ll scribble “DO NOT BURN” just in case it outlives me.

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Sweet Supplication Rain

We are in the midst of a worrisome drought. And although we, here in Holyoke, MA, are not in imminent danger, as our friends and family elsewhere in the States have been due to forest fire, it’s been dry, dry, dry.

Actually, I take back that part about imminent danger: the other night after 20 minutes of smelling smoke that I attributed to the neighbors up the hill, who have a fondness for their fire pit (not to mention an obsession with fireworks), I discovered my next door neighbor’s garage lit up like a jack o’ lantern. An undetected ember from the previous day’s grilling extravaganza had been deposited in their trash can and neatly stowed in the garage (thankfully NOT near the mower and gas can), awaiting our usual weekly trash pick up. Twenty four hours later it was fully aflame before they (and I) realized it. They hosed it down and everything’s fine, except for the molten wad of plastic rubbish bin. I watched.

Anyway, this was not meant to be (overtly) a cautionary tale. I have been thinking about the weather again. In my own way. I was thinking about a friend I had back c 1980 for a short bit. Her name was Vicky and her mother was a landscape artist. Vicky earned extra cash by offering a typing service (now that’s a thing of the past). I thought she was very clever because she called it Alice’s Typing Service and so whenever anyone called asking for Alice, she knew it was a business call. This was long before email, multiple phone lines and voicemail, and long before I had any reason to think about the pros and cons of separating my own business life from my personal life. No further comment.

Vicky’s mother was working in watercolors and had gained herself a reputation as a painter of  Prairie landscapes. Vicky was from Kansas. Maybe this painting of her mother’s was in her apartment (in Northampton, MA)? or maybe it was a framed print? I don’t remember, although there was certainly NOT an internet search involved, which is how I came up with it just now (I’m sorry it’s not a better rendering, it’s a beautiful painting):

Joan Foth
Storm Lifting, 1980
Cloud Light Series
watercolor on paper, 25 x 35″

I’m a native to the Northeast, USA, so this image got my attention. In the New England landscape that I am familiar with, that kind of horizontal just doesn’t happen unless you are standing on the shore of the Atlantic. Thirty two years later, I’m still thinking about this.

There’s an adage around here: if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. It’s changeable. Maybe even more so lately. But I also wonder: here in New England, with our hills and valleys, maybe we just don’t see it coming.

There was one time, when I stood on the cottage porch in Gloucester, MA, with Marianne, and we watched something happening way out on the surface of the ocean, that we didn’t understand, until it was suddenly evident that we were seeing serious weather headed our way. We had barely enough time to drag the porch chairs in (which would have been on their way to Liverpool) and set our shoulders against the casement windows which were already being beset upon by fierce winds and soaking rain. Is this what it’s like to live on the prairie? Is that what I’m missing here in NE – an ability to read the horizon?

This afternoon, we finally had some rain. Last night’s event was mostly a light show – enough thunder to send the dog panting under the bed, but not a lot of real juice. Today, the clouds rolled in and spewed huge drops of soaking rain along their trajectory through my northwestern sky, while the sun shone from the southwest. Sun, rain, shadows.

I’m afraid to wish for more. The last time I attempted to invoke the rain during a heat wave was about a year ago. It rained alright. And the storm drain out in the street backed up into my basement. Didn’t see that coming.

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Owning an older home reminds me of raising my daughter. It also reminds me of running my business. It also reminds me of why I no longer work on double basses (even though I LOVE bass players) and small instruments (even though I LOVE kids)! It reminds me of everything and anything that requires serious prioritizing.

I have been criticized for “wiping up” instead of Cleaning, and power vacuuming the most trafficked areas rather than moving the furniture and creating a completely pet hair and dust free zone, which really only lasts for five minutes, but in my opinion, is still a good thing to do now and then.

Let’s face it. I am one person and I cannot do everything.

This weekend I painted the front door, even though I’d prefer to paint the whole house, which is an adequate, but excruciatingly BORING gray. I removed old, cheesy curtain rod hardware in the upstairs bedrooms, along with the errant THUMBTACK that the previous painters had simply painted over (sin against my very being!)  and then what did I do? Thankfully remembered the can of paint left in the basement by said hosers (painters) and proceeded to slap it on the damage I had created removing said crappy hardware and thumbtacks (even though there is serious adhesion issues at play here)! Hallelujia!  Am I happy about that? NO!

But, I am happy about finding a door in my garage (that’s another topic)  that clearly used to fit at the bottom of the attic stairs. Well, it’s there again (the attic door), even though it meant pilfering hinges from somewhere else. This is important because the attic door opens into an alcove adjacent to the room that WILL be my new workshop. The alcove is to provide light and a needed storage area. I’m imagining  secondary jigs, forms and less frequently used tools and materials. Yes, I have plans.

If you are a person like me, there aren’t too many things that you don’t notice at all. Sometimes this is a great asset. I am a good violin restorer. I was a lousy carpenter. To be kind, I guess I’d say I’m “detail oriented”. So the challenge is always to keep the big picture in mind and allocate limited resources to affect the greatest benefit while  ever moving in the direction of a larger goal. Which means some things must get short shrift, as much as it goes against my nature.

In parent-speak, I think the phrase is “pick your battles” – about the best advice I was ever given (thank you Liz). I asked myself constantly, “is this a big thing or a little thing”? Which meant that plenty of little things worked themselves out, or not, to some degree or other. The daughter has not only become a fantastic adult, but is also my role model in terms of learning to prioritize within seemingly overwhelming circumstances and, btw, making it all happen ahead of schedule. Clearly she didn’t get that from me. She’s 25, and it’s not that she has it all wrapped up. Hardly, but her mo is admirable. I have learned that what I might be inclined to call “cutting corners” is not intrinsically bad, if the corners are well chosen.

To be fair – about the front door? I also admit to having removed the mail slot hardware a few weeks ago, and painstakingly stripping it of a gazillion years worth of paint. Oh and then re-antiqued it – black in the recessed areas. Pretty sweet huh?

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It seemed appropriate somehow, this being Bastille Day.

Late last summer, I planted some little cabbage plants along the driveway. Really, I stuck them in, not  expecting there would be enough growing season left for even a late fall cabbage crop. Indeed. I watched the proverbial snow fall, since we didn’t have much of the real stuff, and didn’t give mes petites choux a second thought.

Then, we had a week of summer-in-March, and I discovered that one little intrepid cabbage had not only wintered over, but had already bolted out of the starting gate! This had promise! I was a proud mama!

I’ve become kind of accustomed by being met in the driveway by Madame La Chou, as she has become known in her maturity. Kind of like having another pet. Since I need that like a hole in the head, I’ve had to deal with the inevitable:

When to do the deed.

All my other cabbages are still (appropriately) babies, so it will be a while before we see another like Mme La Chou. Hers was a story of endurance, tenacity and determination and a grave reminder that it is always possible to wake up on the wrong side of the Revolution.

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Possibly the best thing I ever brought home from my visits to Italy:

I had my first spritz in Venice, in a bar at Piazza San Marco. I observed city workers in yellow safety gear and large rubber boots stopping in after their day’s shift to down a tall icy wine glass full of something I had to try. I was traveling solo and so it was all up to me to make this educational experience happen. I was motivated.

Some kind of sketchy Italian combined with some sketchy English and a few minutes later I had myself an Aperol spritz and a new best friend. I had opted for bitter, rather than sweet and I’m still not sure what the sweet option would be – maybe Campari, or maybe more of what I was offered on the train platform in Florence (that’s another story)!

I’m a little embarrassed that I’ve had to (cough!)google the proportions of Aperol, prosecco and seltzer. Then there is the issue of a slice of orange? like I had in Venice? or a green olive, as is recommended in some foody travel blog I read once (maybe they know something)? Personally, I prefer both. A slice of orange grabs your nose as you go for the dive, and the olive is that opening to another dimension as you come up for air.

By the way, a spritz is readily available in Cremona as well (this is a violin related blog), where I’ve had it served in the early evenings with a bowl of pistachios and/or a bowl of potato chips. I think it’s a northern Italian thing. Say “Aperol spritz, per favore”.

2 oz prosecco

1 1/2 oz Aperol

dash seltzer

orange slice, green olive and lots of ice

*note: be sure to add the Aperol last, after the seltzer and prosecco so that it diffuses nicely in the glass, rather than sitting at the bottom.

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