Friday, July 03, 2015

July, July

In the continuing adventures of our kitchen, Mark and I voyaged to Ikea yesterday and bought three base cabinets, which will make up about half of the kitchen (one wall, including the sink and dishwasher), once we get them installed. I do love Ikea, and it was a whole new experience doing the kitchen thing, which requires a print out from their special, buggy computer planning tool and a brief consultation with an Ikea kitchen "expert." Each cabinet comes flat-packed in brown cardboard, with plastic bags of hinges and knobs, and long rails and miles of kick plate. We split the project in half so we could fit everything in our little car, and so we wouldn't have to store too many boxes at once, and just to make it feel more manageable. It was an all-day project, and we'll have to do it again (but I don't mind; I really do love Ikea).

On the way to Ikea I saw a sad, sad thing. It was so sad I can't even tell you about it--I honestly don't want it to sit in your head the way it still is in mine.

I'll tell you about the sad thing I saw today, which was the inside of the new(ish) Anthropologie store in Portland, built in what used to be two spaces--the main one was the Chamber of Commerce, and the other was Casco Bay Books for seven years, before it was briefly an ice cream place and then a tea house. Our space is now just a "dressing area" at the back of the store, our former doors and windows filled in and covered up so you'd never know they were there. There ought to be a plaque or something. Hmm, maybe a guerilla plaque installation needs to happen.

Did you know it's July? As in, summer?? Tomorrow is the fourth, which keeps surprising me whenever I remember it (again). My garden is at the awkward place after all the blue/purple stuff is done, and before the yellowish stuff starts going. I planted a couple of things in the hopes of livening up the color combo (a daisy and some pink yarrow). I need to move things around and divide them, too, but it's pretty nice back there, green and leafy.

Here are some nice songs for you, courtesy of my brothers:

And this one, Laura Jane Grace covering Michael McDonald, so good.

Tomorrow we'll start assembling kitchen parts, and there's also the sink and faucet to be ordered, hooray!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rabbit rabbit!

“Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.”

-- from Snow Geese by Mary Oliver

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015


It feels warm these days, so warm that my body is confused, by the sweating and whatnot. So warm that I've switched my usual breakfast from my beloved oatmeal to my summer version of oatmeal, a variation on bircher muesli.

There are many versions of this, but I like to soak some oats in dairy or non-dairy milk (or apple juice)--you can soak them just a little while, but overnight is best. Then add fruit and nuts of your choice, and a couple of dollops of yogurt or kefir. I usually grate half an apple and add some toasted almonds, and as you can see I had some blueberries today. As you can also see, my coffee's on ice.

So that's what I've been eating lately. And that's what I've been drinking lately, although I'm eagerly anticipating a strawberry-rhubarb shrub I'm making (it takes a week), which when mixed with seltzer will be the perfect summer drink (I think). And speaking of rhubarb, I had never made anything with it until last week, when a bunch from the farmers' market turned into my almost-shrub and a glorious strawberry rhubarb pie, too.

I am proud of this pie, and I can hardly wait to make another one.

I've been watching (and savoring) The Americans and Mad Men with my trusty TV Club.
Reading (and loving) The First Bad Man, by Miranda July.
Missing my girl, who's getting settled in Mysore, where she's learning to speak both Kannada and Tamil this summer, before starting grad school in Chicago.
Digging in the dirt almost every day, just as I'd hoped.

This isn't the best photo of them, but you can see my lupines' happy green leaves and a couple of purply spikes (also forget-me-nots, always going crazy all over our yard, and some chamomile that came back, and some iris I need to divide...). Lupines are my favorite.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Liz Woodbury, Overheard in Portland Editor, At Home

Read this first (or at least skim it): Kate Betts, Onetime Harper’s Bazaar Editor, at Home

Now, enjoy the version from my life.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Liz Woodbury, the editor in chief of Overheard in Portland, was sitting in her favorite love seat in the dining room of her everyday house in Portland, Maine. “I call this the catbird seat, because you can see everyone coming and going--they can’t sneak up on you from behind, so you have the advantage,” said Ms. Woodbury, alluding to the stereotypical French follasse who is the resident eccentric of an apartment building, consumed with paranoia and nonsensical accusations.

Pedestrian-friendly Portland, she added, reminds her of small towns in the French countryside. “I know that sounds slightly pretentious,” she said, “especially since I’ve never actually been to France. But I like the village feeling and that everybody knows each other. There is something French about the scale and pace of life. I guess I can get away with saying that in the off-season.”

Ms. Woodbury, who is 47, has been a Francophile since her teens. After growing up in New York and graduating from a major midwestern university in 1990, she moved to Baltimore to become a writer, but instead had some babies and became a freelance roustabout and part-time flâneur, which is the subject of her new memoir, “My Paris Dream: Pretending I’m Always in the Great City on the Seine” (self-published).

The book chronicles her travels, shopping sprees, and love affair with a surfer named Hervé (some of the book may be slightly fictionalized). But it is most revealing about her trial by fire as a barista under the tutelage of her husband Mark High, the capricious bookstore-cafe owner and fashion maverick. She was lured to Portland in 1999 when her home in Baltimore was sold and thus belonged to someone else.

As she led a tour of the modest 1925 house that she and her husband bought with assistance from her father, Robert L. Woodbury, a bookman, it became apparent that her parents provided her with a sentimental education. “I feel both of their presences here,” Ms. Woodbury said. Many of the books in the parlor, she pointed out, had also been read by her mother, Mary Woodbury, a professional massage therapist and library aficionado. “I don’t exactly say this in the book, but she was kind of a stage mother for reading books and keeping dogs and gathering pottery shards on the beach, because she pushed me to keep a leash in my hand and my eyes on the sand,” Ms. Woodbury said.

Her father was the one who taught her about aesthetics. “He loves art, especially things they show at those museums in New York,” she said. “When I tell you that every surface in his house was covered in framed pictures, I am not exaggerating. Imagine what it would be like to live in a three-dimensional room with pictures on the wall. That’s what it was like at Mom and Dad’s house.”

Ms. Woodbury lives in Portland during the week (and on the weekends) with her husband--their children, Zoë, 22, and Isaac, 19, visit frequently during breaks from their impressive academic careers. She either has a consulting company that provides editorial content for luxury brands, or she eavesdrops on people and then puts what they say on the Internet. When she and her family moved into the Portland house sixteen years ago, she agonized before painting the rooms in bright, loud colors, correctly predicting that it would keep the family constantly on edge and cause them to have trouble sleeping. A dozen years later, she repainted in moody colors that made them all drowsy and melancholy.

Surveying three photos scotch taped to the wall on the second-floor landing, Ms. Woodbury recalled her family’s imaginary summer home in Block Island, R.I., which her father dreamed of buying in the 1980s. “It was a shack on the beach that my father modernized. Or it was a cottage slightly farther from the beach, all painted white. Or maybe a bungalow on a sandy road surrounded by beach roses,” she recalled. “He could’ve been a great architect.” She retrieved a vintage copy of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” to show off her high school graduation gift, and then described the 1986 shingled cottage that probably would’ve won an award from the American Institute of Architects or something.

Although Ms. Woodbury has spent much of her career in pursuit of the chic and cutting edge, only a few things in her home would fit that description, among them a table that was stolen from an elementary school classroom and a sofa purchased at Macy’s for a really good price. Also a framed photo of some Roma people that her father bought at a used book store.

Her favorite artwork is a weird painting by a former art student who used to come into the bookstore all the time, in the dining room. “She had a show at the bookstore,” said Ms. Woodbury, “and I’ve never been sure if we bought it from her or if she forgot to pick it up afterward. I can’t remember her name, hmm.”

The “greatest hits” from her fashion-magazine-reading years are relegated to the tiny closet in her bedroom. She pulls out a heavy flannel shirt and a pair of red fake patent leather rain boots. “Who makes ready-to-wear like this anymore?” she said wistfully. “I don’t know what to do with these clothes.”

She is more attached to the flea-market finds that remind her of Paris (though, again, she’s never been): the whimsical map of Paris in the living room and the black-painted mirror over the fireplace that’s always just been around.

An even more whimsical gold-framed mirror hangs over an old oak dresser that she got from her mother. On top of the dresser is a still life she composed with her collection of human and canine teeth, a bunch of miniature guns and knives, and hard plastic animal figurines. “Peter Martins gave these to me when I chaired the New York City Ballet gala,” she said. “Ha ha, just kidding, I stole them out of my kids’ Playmobil toys.”

In an adjacent room is a metal and melamine Ikea bed that belonged to her daughter and a small child’s school chair that her friend (a teacher) stole from the aforementioned classroom, on the condition that it be returned to her family upon her death. The juxtaposition is symbolic, she explained, because her friend was her daughter’s third grade math teacher: “Well, it’s kind of symbolic.”

Back in the dining room, the table was set for a casual lunch with the family jelly jars and the squarish white plates that came from Target. As if she lived in the French village of her imagination, Ms. Woodbury had ridden her imaginary bicycle into town that morning to buy an imaginary baguette and other provisions at Gorgonzola’s Cheese Shop (also imaginary).

“I actually bought this cheese at Trader Joe’s. It’s one of the treasures of Portland,” she said. “Cheese is my real weakness in life. You have to taste the truffle one. I usually eat it all, but I can’t have any now because I’m on an IBS diet.”

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A flowery band to bind us to the earth

I've been fighting this cranky feeling lurking in the background of my general happiness the past few days. Just irritation and this sense that time is speeding by, but instead of feeling melancholy about it I'm annoyed. At people, too. ANYWAY, there have been many celebrations this month and there are more to come, so aside from a cyclical dip in fund$ due to various celebration-related expenses and a bunch of late checks (ahhh, the freelance life), all is swell.

Zoë graduated from Barnard College and Columbia University!! We made several voyages southward, moving both kids out of their dorm rooms, attending graduation ceremonies, feasting on Indian food that I still can't stop dreaming about, meeting the girl's friends and teachers and bittersweetly enjoying the neighborhood and campus and community she's loved so very much for the past four years. We are going to miss the fact of her being there, knowing how close she is and how content.

Isaac had a mixed year--a school year he's got mixed feelings about, that is, although academically I could brag like crazy about what he's accomplished. I'm happy to have him around this summer. For a couple of weeks we've got both sweetpeas, and after Zoë leaves for another summer in India, we'll have Jonah here too. Speaking of Jonah, today's his sixteenth birthday, and we zipped down to Cambridge last night to celebrate with Mom and Dad, Adam and Jeannette and Oona.

So, pointing myself toward the summer, my goal is to savor it. Just that, not to let it slip past because I'm distracted by busyness or whatever. I hope to dig in the dirt, work efficiently when I'm working, finish this kitchen project, stay up late, eat outdoors, play games, walk everywhere, pick berries, clean the windows and then open them wide every day.