Friday, March 31, 2006

Your weekend line up
Deeps is extremely interested in getting to work on the banister and newl post on the first floor. His heat gun has been lovingly placed on the dining table – awaiting its next use. I hope the house doesn’t burn down.

My blog may slowly evolve into a house blog. I guess this is a natural evolution given that people’s lives change. They get married, buy houses, have kids, start dressing up like giant Canadian geese, get arrested for embezzling, or hold a knitting circle hostage. You know – life stuff.

(Sidebar: Despite reading all my books about economics and learning to be savvier with personal finance I have not been able to convince anyone to let me count my house as my “dependent” and thus open up a pre-tax flexible savings dependent care account. It would make my home improvement plans easier to achieve. My house depends on me! Oh laws – sometimes you lack imagination.)

Deeps has started compiling his list of projects for this summer – along with some tools we might need to do them. This year we’re focusing on what I call “back breaking projects” – they are not especially expensive (cost-wise) but require a lot of physical labor from us.

Of course we don’t know what we’re doing for a lot of this stuff and we’ve been consulting all our books. We’ve got a big piece of crown molding leaning against the wall in the hallway. I’m trying to find a video to watch about crown molding because I jus cannot picture it from the schematic drawings we have in our book. I need that This Old House Guy to show me. I watch him while working out at the gym, I feel like we have a good rapport.

Luckily, I can consult the internets and maybe the YouTube kids have some rocking home improvement videos. Probably unlikely, but according to those adage people I’m becoming a yupster so someone is eventually going to have to meet my demographic needs as neurotic homeowner not yet ready for a baby or even a goose suit.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The drunken guy and the garden gnome

I think this either sounds like a joke or some kind of dirty viral internet video. Anyway, it’s what I encountered yesterday on the T.

I hopped on the Red line at Park St. and ran into a colleague. We chatted for a bit about where we live, what we paid for our first apartment in Boston and about real estate – I just bought, she’s thinking about buying. It’s pretty boring fare (probably to everyone but us).

The train was pretty light on passengers (which was surprising at 5:45 PM) but we opted to stand. There was a guy near us – seated – wearing a cowboy hat. He smelled familiar – stale beer and drunk. Like he’d been drinking for a while.

He inserted himself into our conversation, politely – he even said, “Excuse me, but ….,” before sharing his impossibly cheap apartment in Harvard Square story. “But that was about 12 years ago,” he added.

My colleague hopped off the train around Central and I continued to ride along with the drunk guy. The woman near me was clearly horrified that the drunk guy kept talking to me. I was a little annoyed – I wanted to keep reading. But whatever, he seemed harmless.

Then he revealed a secret.

“There’s a garden gnome named Gary down in that tunnel,” he said pointing out the window behind him to the dark tunnel speeding by. “You’ll see it near where the old platform was when we get closer to Harvard Square.”

As we passed the area – he pointed excitedly. I leaned closer to the window to take a peek but didn’t see anything except an orange cone.

“Did you see it?” he asked.

“No,” I admitted. “He must be hiding.”

The drunk guy pondered this as he gathered his stuff to get off the train at Harvard Square, “I don’t think Gary is dangerous, but he is certainly wily.”

And with that, the drunk guy stumbled away.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

People must be easily impressed
Since we’re on the topic of “home projects” I thought I’d mention a weird little thing I noticed yesterday. We showed some friends our ideas about what to do in the backyard this summer.

As we chatted they made various suggestions that I responded to with different information. For example, we are planning on building a small veg garden in a raised bed. Our friend suggested building the bed with railway ties – an obvious solution that I also considered.

I just happened to do a little Googling about container gardening and about building raised beds – I came across lots of good, reputable sites that said using railway ties isn’t a good idea if you’re planning on eating things from the raised bed. The creosote coating on the railway ties can seep into the soil and that could be bad.

I mentioned this and my friends were surprised that I’d know something like that. How could you possibly know something like this? What resource could you use to find out such information? Some magical book?

This came up a few times during the course of our conversation about stuff to do in the back yard. People – the Google is for everyone. If I’d known people would be so impressed I’d just start Googling random things to bring up at cocktail parties.

But everyone knows I’d much rather talk about my LOST theories.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What it must be like to be my husband
Deeps is infinitely patient and supportive. I think if you’re a regular reader of this blog that’s probably pretty obvious. I am Lucy to his Mother Theresa.

Anyway – he’s become interested in doing a project in the house. Now we have several projects in the planning stages: crown molding installation, backyard makeover, cleaning out the basement and reorganizing it, painting the bathroom and now stripping the banister on our first floor stairwell. This last project is something Deeps dreamed up.

I’ve given him some small encouragement and made suggestions, but this is his project. He’s all over it.

Last night he waxed poetically about the heat gun he purchased to help strip the painted surface. He talked about three different kinds of low-smell, less toxic paint strippers. My eyes glazed over and I thought how can he be so excited about this?

Then I realized Deeps must wonder this all the time about me. He’ll participate in doing the work but he’s rarely the driving force behind ripping out an old tree stump or installing new closet doors. But now, something small and manageable has captured his imagination. At first, I couldn’t care less. However, upon further consideration I could not be more pleased.

He has the fever.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Revelations in the early morning
My alarm clock went off this morning and Deeps opened his eyes. Usually he sleeps through my alarm (he can sleep through anything: fire, plague, locusts, screaming babies, car alarms and loud storms).

I took the opportunity to show him the tangle of bedclothes (I’ve never used that word in a sentence!). The blanket and comforter were firmly wrapped around his body and almost fully placed on his side of the bed. I had an edge of the blanket and some sheet.

“Do you see this?” I motioned to the bedding.

“I guess I was cold,” he replied before rolling over.

“No. I was cold,” I replied climbing out of bed and shuffling off to the bathroom.

I heard him muttering to himself as I walked away. “I’m sure I’ll pay for that later.”

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Your head may be a tasty morsel
It’s becoming spring in Boston. I was never more aware of this than when the peregrine falcon buzzed close to my head as I walked cross the Common a couple of weeks back. I heard him first – the loud flapping of wings and he swooped low and landed in a nearby tree.

Tourists gasped and a guy with like a three foot macro lens went stalking towards him. Perry (that’s my personal nickname – you’ll understand how close we are) was busy grooming himself and ignored all the nerds (myself included) standing there looking at him.

I quietly phoned my friend to tell him what I was looking at – I tried to capture Perry’s majesty and instead said, “That’s one big chicken.” I think that was when the falcon started to get angry.

Two short days later I was walking through the public garden, laughing at the ducks making due with the mud puddle that used to be the lagoon, when I heard the loud flapping again. I looked up and Perry circled overhead once and again swooped down close to me.

I don’t know if birds are color blind – but I think I’ve made a friend. Or an enemy. I’m not sure if redheads have natural predators, but I hope it’s not a giant peregrine falcon. I’ve seen what he does to squirrels and I take back everything I said about chickens.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Never a bridesmaid
I went to a bridal shower this weekend. It kicked off at 10 AM yesterday. Yes – that is AM – 10 o’clock in the morning time.

We pulled into the parking lot around 10:15 – the sports bar is clearly a place best seen at night, in the dark, and while loaded. Deeps waited in the lot while I confirmed that a bridal shower was actually going to take place there and that I wasn’t about to become a victim to some kind of complicated March Madness sacrifice.

A waitress person said the shower was in the back, I saw a bunch of skinny white girls – it looked like the place. I waved to Deeps and told him I’d call him in a couple of hours when it was time to go.

I’ve never seen such a weird combination of sports memorabilia and bridal shower tradition. The shower organizer (matron of honor – I believe) brought the zeal of Mussolini to the proceedings – the games would run on time.

I drank two mimosas while sitting through long – but sentimental – toasts. Looking back, I think I should have ordered whiskey. But I thought that Mussolini would frown on that.

As it was, I apparently violated some unwritten dress code by wearing jeans. I did go to the trouble of wearing “black and gold” (I had to dig under my bed for some yellow gold) as specified in the invitation. Jeans? How horrible! What was I thinking wearing jeans to a sports bar for a sports-themed bridal shower! (I heard the skinny girls talking about this as well in breathlessly exasperated tones, “I was told not to wear jeans.”)

So we sat around for a while. Our waitress was terrible. I guess it was because the place was – totally empty at 11:00 in the morning and she was swamped or something. I never got butter for my toast. And my eggs weren’t cooked. I ordered another mimosa.

My friend seemed to be having a very good time. She was showered with love and affection. She wore the little veil and bows with great aplomb. She has great patience for such over-the-top acts of sentimentality and sweetness. I am not such a good person; I just find that my teeth ache.

After enduring songs incorporating Robert Palmer’s greatest hits as performed by bridesmaids and taking a quiz. I decided to cut out after I wrote my best pieces of marital advice on small pieces of paper in the shape of footballs. I had a yard to tend to and an unsupervised husband. He sometimes makes bad decisions when left alone for too long.

My best advice, by the way – it went into a box which I’m convinced will end up in an elaborate scrap book – is to make sure you open and fund a Roth IRA and to go for a high-yield savings account to build up your emergency fund.

I keep it real people. And I don’t need any special outfit for that. You can put that in your scrapbook.

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More than dirt

This is what my yard looks like after several hours of work with a hoe, a wheelbarrow, several hunded pounds of dirt (that's special grass seed dirty), fertilizer and some grass seed. That grass had better grow or I will be forced to kick someone's butt. Posted by Picasa

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Where fescue goes to die

That pile of old grass, dirt and branches over there? Yeah - that's where I'm fixin' to put my vegetable garden in a few weeks. Luckily, the yard waste collection starts again in a couple of weeks. Otherwise, my jalapenos would have no place to grow. Also - that ugly shrub? It is not long for this world. Posted by Picasa

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Wherein I lay bare my conspiracy theory about fashion
I was shopping a few days ago – I was looking for pants. As I perused several stores at the mall I saw a horrible trend: fairy fashion.

You know the wispy Victorian/Romantic/Fairy/Bohemian/Peasant look that retailers roll out every few years? Yeah that one – it’s back. From my description you’d think they’d be different – but it’s all long skirts, shapeless shifts and flouncy ruffles. Hideous.

My theory is simple: nobody really buys the stuff and it sits in a warehouse for two season, then the retailers push it back out in the market.

Nobody buys it because a) it is not attractive b) it is not flattering to many figures c) we’ve seen it ever two years for the past decade and d) most women don’t want extra ruffles on their boobs.

Sure some of it is okay – sloping shoulders and some of the tailoring of jackets. Except you make the jackets out of hideous material and did I mention the ruffles? They itch.

Mixed into this year’s lot are more and more gauchos. God knows I’ve made my gaucho position clear. I will pray that nothing bad happens to any of my long pants because if I have to replace them between now and September, I am screwed.

So that’s my theory – they can’t unload it and they just recycle it very, very often. At this rate, I’ll be dressed up like Queen Victoria crossed with an Argentinean cowboy by the time I retire. Should go great with my blue hair.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

America, I’m talking to you
My poll numbers are down and I’ve got to do something about it.

I know some of you have been less than excited about my fescue policies. But let it be said that I have spent a lot of time considering my options and talked with my best yard experts.

I have to fight the crabgrass and the best way for me to do that is with quick-growing fescue. Crabgrass is the most dangerous predator in my yard – aside from that freaky blue jay and the neighbor dog – we’ve got to get together behind fescue. It is our best hope for a lush green lawn. A safer lawn for the future.

I’ve also done a recent swing through the Midwest. I thought it went well – I kissed babies, I talked to old people, and I even did a few casual photo ops at the Super Target. Is that enough for you people?

You have questions? I have answers.

Yes, I’ve gained a little weight. But most of it is gone and I’ve redoubled my efforts to lose that weight this summer. Thanks for noticing.

No, I don’t know when we we’ll have a baby – if we’ll have a baby. We’re looking ahead but we’ve got issues we’ve got to worry about right now: that weird smell in the second floor bathroom, the trash that collects around my rhododendrons, and the shortened growing season in New England.

Plus we are considering invading – I mean attacking a crown molding project. That will require a lot of planning and thoughtful consideration before we start in with the saws. You have to measure twice and cut once. We may even have to measure three times. There are also the nail guns to consider.

Yes, my hair is longer. Isn’t it shiny?

No, I do not think that Deeps desire to exercise is a sign of the apocalypse. I do think the fact he volunteered to reseed the backyard while I am at a party on Saturday is a sign of the apocalypse. Begin praying to the god of your choice.

Finally – I’d like to thank those readers who have stuck with me through thick and thin. Some of you may be expecting a book from me. You may be wondering, “Where the hell is that book she promised?” Well – I haven’t sent them yet.

You go to the post office with the addresses you have, not the addresses you wish you had. I only have a few addresses and had hoped to get more so that we could go to the post office with a strong show of force – shock and awe. It should be a surgical strike, in and out in a few moments. Instead, I foresee it taking a few trips – over several weekends. We’re in it for the long haul. For that, I am truly sorry.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The day I knew would eventually arrive
I hoped, I dared to dream and yesterday my years of gentle prodding were rewarded – Deeps announced he wanted to get more exercise.

I think his announcement was closely tied to the arrival of a letter from his doctor with the results of his annual physical. Apparently the doctor thinks Deeps could… you know, exercise or something.

Apparently a million years ago we both belonged to the same gym. And allegedly we worked out together. I don’t remember working out together, but Deeps clings to this notion. Who am I to stomp all over his dreams?

So now we’re investigating options for him. I suggested he might try a gym, but for much of the same reasons I don’t like many gyms (except my current, fantastic girl gym) Deeps doesn’t like his options. Plus, I think if I go with him and work out as well, he might be more inclined to stay motivated. But going to my gym is out of the question since it is the fantastic girl gym.

Which leaves us with our local options – a yoga center and an old gym that looks like it was last updated in the Carter administration – Deeps has expressed interest in Yoga. As he points out, his people invented Yoga so why not give it a shot? Plus he figures it won’t be too taxing on his body as his gateway exercise.

I quietly laughed to myself. But he might not be totally wrong – if we pick the right class he should be okay. I perused the list of options and suggested a couple of classes (including one that might be considered Yoga for the elderly). We shall investigate the studio later this week and make our decision.

But even the fact that we’re discussing this – the man who has a frequent cheese buyer club card from the fancy cheese store – is a big step forward.

Of course my fear is that if he starts his Yoga class he’s not going to want to dig holes in the backyard. I might have to figure out how to squeeze in a few downward dogs between shovels of dirt.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ice Kitty

K, Loaf and Da came to visit us last month. At the time the mighty Poopus was a bit skittish around the kids. Due to recent developments I now know why. That cat is much smarter than I expected. Posted by Picasa

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Mother Lode
Sometime late on Saturday my father provided me with an ultimatum – I could claim the last of my belongings from the basement or lose them forever.

In fairness, I abdicated all responsibility for what I had left in the basement years ago. I gave Big Al the option of tossing all my stuff – whatever survived my sisters, the grandkids, a raccoon infestation and a couple of floods. But that wasn’t enough. You’ve got to go look at the boxes.

So I did. I found old stuff – diaries, notebooks and journals. I opened a few up and apparently when I was a teenage girl I like to write like I was an 80-year-old British lady. I tossed them. I found some moldy old letters (like the diaries they were incredibly damaged by water or worse).

At the bottom of one particularly nasty box were a couple of photo albums. They smelled like an old wet basement. I pulled them out and started flipping through them. I found a treasure trove of pictures of me and Peepers when we were younger – toddlers and infants even.

I grabbed handfuls of loose photos and pulled them upstairs to show Deeps. He’s never gotten to see anything like this before. I pulled out a couple of baby photos of my sister, Peepers. They’re the annual Sears portrait studio photo and they are terrifying. The outfit and the hair are enough to turn you white – but the weird facial expressions and my sisters’ overly large eyes (she eventually grew into them) make her look like a trippy anime character.

Deeps laughed and Slim asked what is so funny.

“Lyss is making fun of her sister,” my father casually replied.

“Again?” Slim asked.

“Again.”


So I ask - what is the most terrifying thing in this photo?


Sweet lord - this is what my mother dressed me in for my pre-school photo.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

An Open Letter to the Cat
I think it would be nice if we could go away for a weekend – not even really a long weekend – and you’d behave yourself.

It’s bad enough that I have to put up with your rage at 4 AM when you decide you’ll just meow and meow because OH MY GOD WE LEFT YOU ALONE FOR LIKE 2 DAYS. Keep this up and I won’t call your boyfriend Derek to take care of you when we go on an actual vacation that requires passports. I’ll just leave the back door open and say “good luck!”

To add insult and injury, while I’ve been away in the past you’ve taken the opportunity to throw up all over the house including, but not limited to my kitchen rug, my tote bag and my bed. This never happens except when we go away for 48 hours. The horror.

I don’t know what the hell you’re meowing about now, but you should shut it right now.



And don’t try anything cutesy. It will not work. Nothing says fun like cleaning up cat puke at 2 AM.

Sincerely,
The food bringer and poop taker

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Less corn, more houses

My parents live a few miles outside of Indianapolis. They have a large piece of land and for years we didn't have many neighbors - unless you count the horse farms. It used to look like this. But in a short span of time there has been a huge boom. Housing has exploded - the city has encroached and sprawled mightily.  Posted by Picasa

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There are houses everywhere - and where there aren't houses there are going to be houses. And where there aren't going to be houses, you'll find stuff to do to your house. Or you can eat a bison steak. Indianapolis has it all. Posted by Picasa

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Not satisfied with tremendously large houses on small lots of land - some guy decided to build this as his model home in an "estate" neighborhood near my parents homestead. Guess he doesn't need any trees. Posted by Picasa

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Four are cool with the group photo - J is unhappy with this group photography stuff. Bah humbug. Posted by Picasa

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Baby D is good - you could fold him up and stuff him in your purse and he wouldn't holler or nothing. Posted by Picasa

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The twins are extra advanced - already reading and playing some kind of complicated trumpet. Posted by Picasa

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A lawn, thirty-nine kids, sniffles, and a poodle in a red sweater

Just got back from our big trip to Indianapolis. We had to reschedule it from last month thanks to a labor dispute with a major airline. The sad thing is, given the current state of US airliners – that is not specific enough information for you to determine who the carrier is.

Anyway, we’re back. We saw all the kids including: 39 kids. I’m not sure there were 39 – but it seemed like. I might have been counting some of them multiple times. They all had the sniffles and are short and move around a lot. It’s hard to keep track of them without tagging them in some way – which I’m not allowed to do (thanks Slim!).

Today I’m attacking the lawn. It was 50 degrees all weekend in Indy – today we’re clocking in around 35 in beautiful Arlington. I figure the ground is only partially frozen. My dad’s lawn in a late winter, dormant state looks about 300x better than my lawn ever looked when it was alive (last seen alive sometime in July).

I’m raking up dead crab grass like a muther and my arms are tired. On the bright side, it means I don’t have to go to the gym because seriously – I’m doing hours of yard work. And taking a little break to blog because I know you people like it when I write about fescue and such.

Oh and there’s a poodle in a red sweater loose in our town. He/she has been on the run for a couple of weeks. I have read dozens of emails (from the town list) about him/her and the various spottings. I am seriously considering making a Google map for him/her.
Because it is hilarious how totally elusive this dog is and how damn near everyone in town is trying to capture it.

More later – including pictures, demographic analysis of Indianapolis (the city has exploded) and my thoughts about my family (thumbnail: they’re nuts).

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Check them out

My parents have a laptop – complete with a wireless connection – sitting in their kitchen. Oh and they got it well before I got mine.

Next they're going to tell me they've got the lasik eye surgery and have plans to be partially bionic by 2007.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

It’s not you, Boston, it’s me
There are a million reasons why Boston, or any city for that matter, will never displace Chicago from the inner circle of my cold, black heart.

Chicago was the first place I ever dreamed of visiting as a child. I remember, distinctly, covering a section about Chicago in my Social Studies class sometime in the second grade. I thought a place that big and with a Chinatown sounded like the most magical place on earth.

It was also the first place Deeps and I ever lived in our post-college, we’ve-got-to-make-it-on-our-own life. We loved living there. We loved the food, the people, the old movie houses, the dive bars and the distinctly neighborhoody feel of the place. Plus it has interesting architecture, it can still feel small, and it’s on water – all good things.

Boston is on the water, it feels small (it is small) and I’ve found some dive bars and we’ve made friends. I’ve been slow to warm up to Boston. I think Boston has been slow to warm up to me. New Englanders are just a bit more up-tight and reserved than we in the Midwest. And no matter how long I live here, I will always be “not from around here.”

Anyway, I’m growing to like the weirdness of the town that had two hundred year old houses but gives a Citgo sign landmark status.

I have come to enjoy the benefits of delicious fresh fish. I’ve expanded my horizons beyond fish sticks, salmon and shrimp. I’m never going to order “chowdah,” I’m a little nervous about the crazy cost of living (and by “a little” I mean it keeps me awake that we can never move from this house), and I still don’t understand gravy, tonic, or frappes. But whatever – we all have our peculiarities.

But the one thing that I think Boston is really lacking - something almost everyone can agree is fantastic - are bridges that smell like chocolate. Soon Chicago will miss them as well.

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Wherein I let others make the point for me
I think Lisa Schmeiser does a much better job articulating my frustrations with the movie-going experience. And she actually offers solutions. So I shall point you to her instead. She is smart.

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I call him Fluffy

I made a friend while we were in Portsmouth. He was guarding a cheese shop and looked like the size of your average fourth grader. I loved him so.... Posted by Picasa

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The View with a Room

This is the "water" view from our hotel. Oh yes, it was even more lovely in person. What I didn't photograph is the giant pile of garbage or something that sits just to the left and behind this pile of salt. Posted by Picasa

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But I'm not an annoying tourist

Across from the Portsmouth newspaper is a lovely old church. Yes, I realize it isn't framed in the most beautiful way. But it was all I could do to keep the eleventeen million tourist ladies out of the photo. Yeesh. Posted by Picasa

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When Democrats were a little different

The Portsmouth Times building in the center of town.  Posted by Picasa

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Shutter to think

This is an old house - I think it is open during the summer months as a museum - near our hotel. Or as I like to call our hotel, the great Salt Lick. Posted by Picasa

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spoiler warning
We regularly go out to dinner or for coffee with some really great friends who happen to live near us. You can always count on them to accept an on-the-fly invitation for coffee, dinner or a nice walk to the new Fro Yo place.

We cover a lot of discussion topics – but I find myself frustrated when we talk about pop culture, specifically television. They watch TV on DVD and are always way behind. I can talk about LOST season 1 but not what happened last week.

They decided they wanted to watch the Sopranos – but haven’t watched any episodes. So I can’t talk about why I thought the show was so good during Season 1, why it can’t recover from the events that ended Season 1 (and started Season 2) and ultimately lead to my frustration and eventual abandonment of the show. This happened like 7 years ago.

How can I have my watercolor talk about pop cultural touchstones – who died on 24, what do you think is going on with the baby on LOST, why the Sopranos just isn’t the same without Livia (remember her?)?

I have friends who don't watch television. I can talk about the shows with them, because they don't have any investment in the shows but still are interested in the ideas or issues they raise.

With our DVD-loving friends we improvise and talk about books – they’re pretty voracious readers. I enjoy our literary discussions. And we discuss the relative merits of lawn food, low introductory interest rates on credit cards, if our houses will drastically lose value, and whether or not we’ll go on vacations anytime soon.

I think we’re working our way through the problem. They’re considering getting a DVR through their cable company – which I think would solve some of our problems. At least, I think they could get caught up quickly on LOST. And since Deeps won’t listen to my complicated theories, I figure I can get foist them off on my friends.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

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Wherein we use inappropriate language for mundane daily events
Deeps and I chat a lot about random things: finances, weather, movies, the failure of retail giants, television, politics, or our families.

Sometimes we hear some funny thing on TV and incorporate it into our daily chatter – like a ‘word of the day’ calendar but for pop culture.

Last night we had a lengthy and heated discussion about dinner because someone needs to go to the grocery store and we’re at an impasse on the issue.

Me: Look Deeps, you need to understand that I believed there were dinners of mass consumption in the kitchen.
Deeps: But you had no proof.
Me: But based on my best evidence, I went in to the pantry in good faith.
Deeps: Your evidence? From what sources?
Me: I have intelligence sources.
Deeps: The cat doesn’t count.
Me: Look – make due with the dinner you have, not the dinner you wish you had.
Deeps: I’m ordering pizza.
Me: Oooh – that sounds good.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Wisdom of Oprah (via Cuddles)
I got a call on Friday night from my sister, Cuddles.

We chatted for a few minutes – talking about kids and family and work. Then I asked how she was doing with her budget.

Her resolution for this year was to get a better handle on her money – cash flow and savings. To that end, she and BIL have built a budget.

The budget is the source of pride, frustration and hilarity. I’m sure that’s true for most people. I think it is worse for Cuddles now because she’s gone from such relative free-and-easy spending to having to monitor it closely.

Cuddles: It is going okay. It can be hard.
Me: That’s true for most people.
Cuddles: Today on Oprah there was a show about debt diets – you know it was an Inspiration Friday.
Me: Really?
Cuddles: You should watch Oprah. She's got some good shows.
Me: I'm usually at work when it is on.
Cuddles: Oprah is good.
Me: I'll be sure to add it to my TiFaux schedule.
Cuddles: Today there was woman on who was in a lot of debt.
Me: I see.
Cuddles: She realized that she had been buying things to fill the void in her life.
Me: Huh.
Cuddles: Lyss, you’ve got to watch out for that. I recognize now that I might have been doing that.
Me: Wow. You had a breakthrough.
Cuddles: Don't laugh.
Me: Where is my sister? What have you done with her?
Cuddles: I'm just learning things about myself.
Me: That's good. I figured these things about myself a while ago. Self-actualization and all that.
Cuddles: You should watch out for it.
Me: I will. I will.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Like the Grand Tetons, but different
A lot of people have been asking, “Alyssa – what did you do over this incredibly lovely weekend?”

Perhaps a bit of yard work? Maybe a little painting? Tackle that crown molding project?

No – I did none of those things. Instead, I swept my husband away for a romantic weekend for his birthday. We headed to lovely Portsmouth, New Hampshire – just about an hour north and east.

We walked, we talked, we wandered, we ate, and we wandered some more. Then we visited our swanky hotel which I picked because it was nearly four stars and had views of the water. Oh it had views of the water alright – if you could look past the giant piles of dirt, sand and salt. Yes, we had a room with a view: of a salt lick.

I’m sending Hotels.com a nasty email about this.

Despite the less than delightful views, I’m happy to report we had a great time and enjoyed some delicious food. I am also the proud owner of not one but two novelty t-shirts. I’m now maxed out on odd sayings that I’ll allow to be stretched across my bosom. But I do enjoy a hilarious t-shirt for poker night or when working in the dirt. It makes me feel very edgy in a middle-class sort of way.

Deeps seemed to have a very good time: I bought him a couple of shirts and a jacket to go along with his weekend. Because if you cannot find anything else to do in New Hampshire (and there’s a lot of stuff) at a minimum you can enjoy the tax-free shopping. That’s probably cooler for our friends in Chicago where sales tax is around 10%. But less exciting for us - our clothing isn’t taxed.

Still. Isn’t it more fun to do it in New Hampshire? That should totally be their state motto and I would absolutely wear it on a t-shirt.

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Can't wait until high school

The GF mentioned that someone bought her nephew a pink tutu. I'm happy to report that the Handyman simply borrows his sister's in a pinch. I think he looks great. As does his sister, Peanut.

Let the record show that his mother said he looked like a little pink pig. I'm not going to lay my body image issues on him at the tender age of two.

Anyway, he's incredbily fun at parties...  Posted by Picasa

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

The iPod Tryptic

There are new iPod ads at Park St. and they've very quickly had new messages applied to them. So I guess there's a pretty anti-consumer or maybe just anti-advertiser strain of marker wielder on the Red Line. But who would carry around black permanent markers with chisel tips? Puzzling.  Posted by Picasa

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Handyman to the rescue

In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to call my nephew instead. Clearly this is a child who understands the value of a good level. I figure he'll be ready to play junior foreman to my dad during the great deck project of 2007. Posted by Picasa

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The mystery of the paper in the washing machine pump
I suggested Deeps call the Sears people sometime late last night. The repair people agreed to come out this afternoon to do the fix.

A few hours ago Deeps called me at work to give me an update.

Me: How much?
Deeps: Not that bad.
Me: So what was the problem?
Deeps: There was a piece of paper in the pump.
Me: I don’t carry paper in my pocket. That’s why I have a purse.
Deeps: Whatever.
Me: So what was the damage?
Deeps: It’s $130. I wrote him a check.
Me: Excellent. Except for the check writing part.
Deeps: Because we don’t have any money?
Me: Because I prefer to hide the checkbook from you.
Deeps: Your jokes are not funny.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Is this what it is like for Maddox Jolie?
Apparently my father is quite famous. I fully expect to be hounded by the paparazzi tomorrow when I leave for work.

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When washing machines attack
I’m not totally sure what Deeps has done to the washing machine. But it is, allegedly, behaving badly. And I may have to call a plumber. My husband, bless his heart, he catastrophizes a bit. As I type, he’s upstairs calling local laundromats to find out how late they are open. He’s not really into tools – but he loves that washer and dryer.

So there you have it. The first big homeowner catastrophe. We’ve come close a few times – once I turned off the furnace/water heater and we thought something bad had happened since I didn’t have any hot water for my shower.

Then we had the mysterious clogged toilet which was resolved with 3’ drain snake. And then most recently we had the weird dishwasher thing – it leaked bubbles all over the floor. Like that episode when Bobby puts all that soap in the washing machine? Except it was my kitchen.

Gah.

I’m collecting phone numbers, reading owners’ manuals and hoping for a cheap solution. Because I know it will never be cheap. Not for me.

Damn.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

More than words

On a regular basis I see graffiti. Not just tagging, but responses to questions or rebuttals to claims. In January, there were a lot of posters up for a Clorox campaign for a product that would kill germs and bacteria. At Park St. station, someone wrote on the poster, "kills good bacteria too".

A couple of weeks later I spotted this missive on the train at Alewife. Posted by Picasa

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Think warm thoughts

This is a view of the lagoon in the Boston Public Garden a few weeks ago. Things were a little more frosty and frozen then. I'm happy to report all the snow is gone and sometimes - over the din of tourists and crying kids - you can hear a bird chirping. I haven't smelled any skunks down here, but I still think spring might be on the way.  Posted by Picasa

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Happy Baby!
I am a bad blogger - I've been distracted with rantings about Oscars, horrible people, and bowling - and haven't mentioned that John and Janna are now parents of a new baby boy. Welcome to Elias! Gus is already on big brother duty.

When they came to visit this past Fall, I offered them money to name him Alyssa. They didn't go for it.

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Deconstructing Oscar
I think the best way to enjoy the Academy Awards is to a) be there as a nominee or b) at home at a high speed thanks to the magic of TiFaux.

I thought it was a good telecast when watched somewhere between 3 and 4 times the normal speed. I stopped to watch when Jon Stewart talked. He was funny. Sadly, few other people in the audience (besides George Clooney and Jamie Foxx) agreed. What a bunch of stiffs.

While I think the whole spectacle was rather uneven and disappointing, I thought Stewart did a fine job. He started slow and as he became more comfortable he was funnier. Was he Daily Show funny? No. Did you expect him to be?

Speeches were dull, dresses were boring – honestly ladies, flesh tones are made for undergarments – and less said about the interpretive musical numbers the better.

But the biggest blunder: the repeated hammering of the television audience about piracy and going to the theater. I’m not always sure who is served by the telecast of the Oscars: it seems to be an event better suited for the live audience than for the viewers at home.

We regular folks at home don’t like being condescended to – especially by a poorly groomed man who berates us for not going to see crappy movies in the theaters. Oh and while we’re there – maybe we’re stealing as well. That’s the kind of high-class quality service I expect from an airline.

The president of the Academy talked at length about how movies just can’t be enjoyed on DVD. Really? I have a lovely home theater system, Netflix brings movies directly to my house and I get way better snacks.

On Sunday before the Oscars we went to see Capote at a little theater down the street from our house. It’s a little jewel – not fancy, but still comfortable and relatively well lit, clean, and quite affordable for second-run films. But when I walked in to sit down, the woman in the aisle behind had her feet all over the seats in front of her. And she had gray hair! Purple Birkenstock lady – you are not at home.

Sometimes I think people don’t have enough shame.

Anyway, the movie going experience is degraded – we’re frisked before we get past the ticket taker, we are subjected to 20-30 minutes of commercials before the movie starts, the people behind us don’t understand the movie and the people next to us are breastfeeding their baby (I’ve seen this happen twice). And we endure all of this to see the finest work from Jessica Simpson?

I’ll pass thanks.

Hollywood has actually surpassed newspapers with the whining and hair pulling. Things are changing – technology makes it easier for people to make market and release their films. We’re really tired of the unexceptional, the uninspired and the uninteresting. Television has been better than movies for a few years now – the stories are better and more compelling. The actors give top-notch performances and we have the opportunity to enjoy the shows on our time and at our leisure thanks to new technology.

Maybe the Academy should ask Jake Gyllenhaal what he really thinks about watching DVDs on portable devices. Poor Mr. Gyllenhaal was slated to introduce a montage (oh God, another montage?) about film epics. As part of the intro he started to talk about how awkward it is to enjoy these films on portable devices. As he read the teleprompter he stopped for a moment and made a face then laughed a little at the ridiculousness of what he was asked to say.

Oh yes, the problem with movies – it’s all about the DVD.

And how do most members of the Academy get to screen those nominated films again?

Oh right.

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Bowling for Chumps
My friend dropped me an email late on Friday afternoon asking if I’d like to go bowling with her that night.

I’m not a fan of bowling – unless you count trick bowling (oh yes, it is real) on ESPN2 (we call it the Ocho at our house). I do, however, enjoy the cheap beer and fried food found at find bowling alleys around America.

And I’m starting to have a fondness for Candlepin bowling, which, as far as I know, is unique to New England - like frappes, triple-deckers and pro-choice Republicans.

We rolled into the bowling alley sometime around 9:45 to meet up with the rest of the group. They’d been there since 7:30 waiting for a lane. It was faster to wait for the regular 10 pin lanes. Oh yes – 2+ hours for the privilege of wearing rented shoes is why I don’t bowl more often.

We chatted, waited, and I ordered a drink. It cost $6.25. It came in a plastic cup with too much ice. Bowling was really starting to lose its luster for me.

We waited some more and eventually got a lane at around 10:40. I sat in a lane next too some enthusiastic high school students. I remembered what my Friday nights in high school were like. I wasn’t especially cool or hip (or popular) but I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a bowling alley.

We bowled. I was the worst bowler of the night with an astounding 43. I can say that my arm was pretty sore before bowling thanks to a particularly rousing training session on Thursday, which involved a tremendous amount of boxing. I was really working through some frustrations on the heavy bag and my trainer.

I think having a sore arm probably made me a better bowler. Another reason I don’t frequent bowling alleys. I like to keep my humiliations private and less sports-oriented.

As a bowler, I can’t offer you much. Except a lot of clapping and good moral support. And thanks to being the daughter of a jock, I know when to use the appropriate sports aphorisms.

Gutter ball – just shake it off. That’s what the spare is for. I may have been off when I suggested that someone had good hustle when they got a strike. But I did know enough not to pat them on the ass afterwards.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Walk softly and carry a chainsaw
When I smell skunks in the morning, I know it can only mean one thing – spring is getting closer.

Well, that and our car is probably going to reek for the next couple of days. Good thing we’re not in a carpool.

And spring means that we should start thinking about what we’d like to do – you know, the homeowner projects that we got so good at last year.

I’ve been doing some math and I think we’re going to have to delay the massive deck project until 2007. Disappointing – yes – I had t-shirts picked out for my free laborers, but we have other projects as well.

For example, we have several large and hideous shrubs that need to go. They are so large and hideous that I was convinced they were trees until Big Al came out to visit.

And I killed all the grass last year (that and months of no real rain) so I should try to bring it back this year. I made some success in the fall when I tried to reseed. I’ll redouble my efforts, as the ground becomes less frozen and more hospitable to growth.

What does all of this mean for you, dear readers? It means more fun action photos and before and after shots. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get up-to-the-minute coverage of all my project-related trips to the hospital. Because it wouldn’t be fun if there wasn’t a little blood and some crying.

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