Posts Tagged ‘New England’

Baby, it’s cold outside…

March 14, 2017

…and if I say that it’s because the low today is 40° and we’re in serious danger of some patchy frost, my sisters and family and all of my friends just might will most definitely chuck snowballs at me with enough force for them to make it.

Because it’s blizzarding back home, with about 20 inches forecast, so what – maybe three-foot drifts? I’m trying to remember. Enough that one sister (at least) joined the milk and bread (and wine) crazies, and bought a flotilla of apples – enough that her flotilla would be even when she lashed the apples together, making me worry that my other sister had hacked the first one’s account – one sister with OCD is all I can handle – and then reported back that she also got four bottles of wine (evidence again), two kinds of cheese (evidence for), and a frozen cake. DEFINITELY RHI, THEN! (Kim would have bought baking supplies.) So the Stisters are okay.

Meanwhile, I wore a sweater with a deep (and really cute) v-cut in the front and back necklines and I’m freezing. Because I forgot my scarf. The scarf that would cover that one teeny tiny patch and then I’d be nice and toasty warm. I did remember a coat, because my blood felt awfully thin when I opened the back door to let the dog out. It’s a good thing I know for a fact that my blood thickens right up again when I go home for visits, or there would be some sort of madcap immersion therapy going on right now.

You know – after I got over being cold because my neck is uncovered.

Good thing it’s going to warm up to 67° later!! (Here is where I tell you that I have three extra beds, a couch, and a lot of floor space for those who want to evacuate before the next Snowpocalypse.) Have fun storming the castle, everyone! Let me know, occasionally, that you haven’t gone all REDRUM!

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Five for a New Englandy Friday.

October 14, 2016

Morning, constant readers! It’s been a busy week with very little posting, so the challenge will be containing myself to just five items, but I’ll try my best.

1 I’m writing this morning from home. One of my favorite uncles is getting married this weekend and so I journeyed cross-country for a mini-vacation. It is killing me that the girlies are still in Tejas – as luxurious as traveling alone always feels, it feels wrong to be home without them. No one was there to hold my hand as I flew home (and I was feeling my phobia about flying), and indulging in vacationy delights isn’t quite as exquisite when I don’t get to share the joy with my honeys. I even stopped to listen for what the girls might be getting into upstairs at Kim’s last night before remembering it was quiet for a reason.

2 That being said, I am trying my best to enjoy myself, in spite of the alone time. Drinking in the Fall color outside, listening to the wind blow through the leaves, having to dress in layers of shirts and sweaters (because 40°) while cuddling with a book under the heating vent – it’s a special kind of heaven that I missed more than I thought. And it’s been more restorative to my mental health than all the intense therapy I’ve demanded these past few weeks. I need to visit home in the Fall more often.

3 One of the downsides to being home in New England instead of “home” in Tejas is that I’m going to miss my Gracie-girl’s first “real” dance. There have been a few dances before, in elementary school there’s a sock-hop every year, and a few dance-type family events at their church, but nothing as official as Junior High Dance. To say I’m excited for her is and understatement! She sounded a little less enthusiastic – like maybe she wouldn’t go – but I’m hoping it’s just nerves and that her friends talk her into it. I remember the crushing nervousness and fear I felt, and I don’t want boo to be scared into not participating like I did when I was her age. I told her that I was so overwhelmingly nervous for the first all of my junior high dances, but it becomes old-hat once you go to a few and know what to expect. So my fingers are crossed that my baby girl says to hell with nervousness and just does it. Even if I have to bribe her from across the country. Heh.

4 Thanks to the memory vault feature on Facebook, I was reminded that today is the three-year anniversary of when I found our red-haired border collie and drove practically across the entire state of Texas to see if she’d be a good fit for our family. Remember how I conned the shelter – already stuffed to the brim – to not only stop Fenway from walking the plank, but to keep her for another week so I could bring the girls back the next weekend to fetch our pet and surprise them? Best. surprise. ever!!! Fenway might be a giant pain the ass sometimes, and I really wish her bladder wasn’t so leaky or her heart so needy, but I can’t imagine our lives without our beautiful puppy!

5 I’m in a bit of a reading slump, but I did still use my traveling time wisely – I whipped through Dave Arnold’s Kids of Appetite while on the plane.  My expectations were high – Mosquitoland was one of my favorite reads last year – but KOA just didn’t grab me the same way. The characters didn’t feel fleshed out the same way that Mad Madam Mim tore into my heart. The most nuanced character was a dead guy, and while I’m not saying that invalidates or wastes the effort, I wish Arnold had done more with the people who were flying around the story. It felt like too many people doing too many things, creating a rather frayed story. A better editor may have helped. The story was good enough to make me read every word and it kept me busy for a three hour flight, but I’d wait for the paperback. 3 of 5 stars.

So there you have it! I hope everyone has an absolutely lovely weekend, even if it’s not going to be as fun, adventurous, or home-y as mine.

Top Ten Tuesday: Flashback edition!

August 23, 2016

Last week’s Top Ten Tuesday was themed “10 books about a place”, or something like that. First of all, can we discuss – there’s a theme that goes out?! I’m the dolt who thought everyone just picked their own theme, or saw something cool and piggy-backed. Apparently someone hosts and publishes a theme in advance. Brilliant!

Second of all, my dear friend Trish (I’m not picking, I swear) hoodwinked me into helping me think of some really good books set in Texas (Ruby by Cynthia Bond immediately came to mind). Of course I helped; I can’t resist any question about reading and books! And then that sneakypants wrote a post about books set in the BEST state: Texas! Which – no!! This is not the best state and I live here under protest! (Yes, yes, I’m going to be flooded with people who love it here. And that’s great! You can love it here! Keep living here! It’s just not a good fit for me and mine.) My (pretend) issue was that I contributed to such a list…uh, even though Trish hasn’t yet met read Ruby and didn’t use it for her list.

The point is that our banter challenged me to create a top-ten list of books from Massachusetts (although I reserve the “best state” moniker and twist it into a “best region” for New England because I simply can’t choose). So here’s my list. That I, um, came up with in 20 minutes after Trish asked. Yes, I’m ridiculous. (And well organized – I checked my New England list on Goodreads.)

I give you, in no particular order, my Top Ten Books set (at least partially in some cases) in Massachusetts:

Book175In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick. You know I tend more towards fiction, but this book had already been on my radar when the movie trailer hit everyone’s screens. The fervor caught me, too – and for good reason, I realized, once I started the book. I’ve read a bunch of books by Philbrick – he’s a New England historian I especially admire. His facts are straight, his storyframing is solid, and his writing reads like fiction. I read this while away for vacation meeting Jeff’s parents and it was a welcome escape at times. Has to be a 5 of 5 stars book for that action alone!

Book176Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane. I could have picked a couple of Dennis Lehane novels – he does love the Boston area. My original choice (a runner up, in fact) was Mystic River, which really captures the essence of Boston and its people so well. Lehane novels are gritty, but they’re good reads. He’s great at observing people and pinning them to paper. Shutter Island was another book I devoured before seeing the movie (with Kim, I believe) and it was creeeeepy as facking anything! Not something to read at night, alone, if you’re weak-hearted!

Book184All Souls: A Family Story of Southie, by Michael Patrick MacDonald. My sister Rhianyn kept going on and on about how I should read this, and so I finally picked it up at my used book store. It’s another non-fiction, a memoir this time, and once I started, I couldn’t put it down. Now – I’m not really from Boston. My sister Kim gives me crap all the time for identifying with it so strongly. I’m really from a much smaller city about 40 minutes east of Boston, just far enough outside its reach to not be considered a suburb (though it would be if the cities were here in Tejas). But no one writes stories about the Woo, and so I turn to stories about Boston – like this one. The people in All Souls remind me of the people in my hometown, and so I loved the book. The loyalty, the stubbornness, the contradictions, the poverty (although Southie has it way worse than my section of Worcester). It was hard not to root for the author and his family all the way through.

Book177Stronger, by Jeff Bauman (with Bret Witter).  The Boston Marathon has always been something that defined Boston. It’s one of the toughest and most elite marathons in the world of running. The survival stories after the  bombing at the finish line that occurred three years ago will define the residents of Boston for years to come. Our city repaired itself without a ripple, shrugging it off and running again as soon as the idiots were caught. The people who were hurt: not as easy. This memoir was written by one of the icons photographed that day, a man who lost both legs above the knee. It was a story I had to read, and one that I found honest, well-paced, and incredibly inspiring. It’s not for those looking for vicarious thrills in graphic medical or crime novels, but those looking for inspiration in how to keep on keeping on.

Book178Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey. This Caldecott Medal winner not only has gorgeous drawings to keep children engaged in the story, it’s awfully fun to read to your children, especially if you’re missing home. Bonus points if you bring out your New England accent while reading the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their ducklings. [Bonus story: I read this book to my children so many times that when we needed to walk single file while out in public, I told them to “duckling up” – and they knew what I meant.]

Book17986 Years: The Legend of the Boston Red Sox, by Melinda Boroson. This is another kids book with warm, detailed drawings, but the real fun is the story behind the Red Sox first World Series win in…yes, 86 years. Gracie was just a few months old when the Red Sox did it, and yes, I stayed awake for every minute of every game, waaaaay into the early hours of the morning. Reading the book out loud – even to my too-old children, even to myself – still gets me choked up, every time.

Book180The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This is one of my favorite classics, the story of Reverend Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne in the wayback Puritan colony of Boston. And I mean waaaaay back. 17th century wayback. The romance of the story didn’t do it for me, it was the gothic feel almost, the way everyone seemed doomed and the drama was over the top. Feelings, man – they’ll ruin ya. But it will be extremely entertaining for those reading the story.

Book181Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love all of Lahiri’s writing, but this was by far my favorite! Short stories that knit together, all of them filled with love and light and interesting musings far to clever for me to have imagined, and, yes, maladies of all sorts. The characters are rich, the writing richer – this is a collection not to be missed.

Book183Homecoming, by Cynthia Voigt. I re-read this series almost yearly. The story of four kids abandoned by their mom who has a mental breakdown while trying to drive them to the safety of a distant relative, the oldest daughter somehow walks the kids to Connecticut, improvising survival skills along the way. A gorgeous coming-of-age story and one about the value of family and knitting together in hard times. God, if you haven’t read it yet, I don’t know why. It’s certainly at the very top of this list.

Book182Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi. Ironically enough, even though I just explained that no one writes stories set in the Woo, um, this one is. At least, the beginning of the story is set there, and then moves on to a nearby suburb. The story itself is a spin on Snow White, a fantastic, wonderful, awesomely impactful story of the wicked stepmother as she inherits a stepdaughter, Snow White Whitman, who is beautiful and lovely and challenges Boy’s image of herself. Naturally, Snow gets shipped off to a distant aunt when Boy’s own daughter is born, but Bird is born dark-skinned, revealing that her parents have been passing all this time. The story is meaty and revelatory and filled to the brim with so much to unpack – be careful you don’t miss it for thinking it a simple story. Oyeyemi is genius.

Books that should have been on the list, but I actually kept it to 10: Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane; The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud; With or Without You, by Domenica Ruta; the Autobiography of Malcolm X (starts in Boston, so it counts); The Boston Girl, by Anna Diament; Girl, Interrupted, by Susannah Keyes; I Am the Cheese, by Robert Cormier.

In which Bee is part (or, um, entirely) lemur.

August 9, 2016

One of my favorite things I got to do with my family while on vacation was visiting the ropes course at Storrs Adventure Park. We tried to let Bee, our resident billy goat, go climbing while we were at Lake Winnipesaukee, but we didn’t quite have enough time for it. She took it well, but you could clearly see how crushed she was. And so Auntie Kim happened to mention that there was a similar course near where she lived…

By similar, Kim clearly meant “more awesome.” The staff at the adventure park were shockingly young, yes, but they all enthusiastically loved their jobs, engaged with the kiddos without once speaking down to them (it helps that the minimum age requirement is seven years old, perhaps), and explained all of the safety gear over and over for the few of us who weren’t repeat climbers. (Though we obviously will be – I would buy a season pass if I lived even two states away.)

Added to the awesomeness of being one with nature again was the fact that it was randomly Lemur Day at the park. There was free pizza, and – even better – a stuffed lemur was hidden one on of the seven courses each hour. Any child 11 years old or younger was welcome to pick one up and then redeem the lemur for a free pass – oh, and you get to keep your new buddy.

Bee and Gracie maybe grumbled when I insisted on starting on one of the basic courses, but I wanted to make sure everyone understood the mechanics. There were two combiners, or whatever you call them – giant clippy things – that attached to the safety wires. Once you locked one onto the heavy gauge wire, you used the red “tweazle” (no, I’m not kidding) to unlock the other clippy thing. Then you attached it, too. If the tweazle was blue, you knew to grab your giant slidey thing so you could race down to the next platform. It took us all a minute is what I’m saying. And then we whipped our way through the 20 or so events.

We had a blast! And I’m only the slightest bit bruised (although I could barely walk that afternoon – I miss running and regular exercise!). Bee was convinced she was going to find a lemur since only one other little girl in our group qualified. I reminded her that we might not run into one. We only had two hours before we had to go to back to Grandma’s house. And then, at the end of a zip line, you ran face first into this furry friend:

Storrs5

Bee was so tickled! It was her special activity, the one that make her feel like she was a priority, so I’m glad she felt even more singled out. Lemmy the Lemur hung out with that kid the entire rest of the trip. Bee even scoffed when I went all rogue and, you know, packed the thing so he wouldn’t get lost.

Yes, I imagine the ropes course will be a mandatory stop every time we go back. I’d like to go do a night course to see all the twinkly lights some time. It’d have to be in the middle of the summer – I hear it gets quite busy once the students come back from summer vacation – but someone I don’t think anyone will mind.

Especially not this kiddo.

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Five for Friday.

January 30, 2015

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep.

1. Why? Because there’s this tiny little insignificant game going on this weekend? Maybe you’ve heard of it? AND MY TEAM IS PLAYING!!! Yes, I woke up at an ungodly hour two days before the game because of nerves and excitement. I know I am ridiculous.

2. I am tippy-toeing my own lines today: I snuck in a Patriots t-shirt into my work outfit. Technically today is casual Friday, but I try to keep it classy casual. Not everyone does, but…whatevs. Today? I bent the rules a little so I could support my team. Loyalty is everything.

Pats13. Even my caffeine is cheering for my team! I have been saving this mug all week so I could use it today. And hopefully you guys will all see it again Monday. With an extra shot or two because I stayed up partying. Yes, indeed.

Pats44. And just in case I wasn’t excited enough – or maybe in case I get a case of panic or two, which, let’s face it, is entirely likely as I read article after article about the Legion of Boom – I brought my secret weapon. One of the Christmas gifts my sister Rhi gave me – my own private Patriots Bat-signal.

Pats2Pats3See, it looks like a pen…okay, maybe technically it is a pen. But pffft. I’m not going to actually use it as a pen. Nope. When I get really nervous, or I need our guys to rally, I press the button and the bat signal appears and then maybe I’m all “Na-na na-na na-na na-na, na-na na-na na-na na-na Patriots!” (Yes, I counted out the na-nas. Told you: 4:30 a.m.)

5. Maybe the best way to highlight for you just how nervous and excited and all-around stoked I am is this: Bee-girl, my football holdout, walked into the kitchen this morning after getting dressed and greeted me with a big smile and teasing lilt to her voice: “Just twooooo more days til the Superbowl, Mom!” If my anti-football girl is excited for me because of how excited I am, you know it’s a big deal. That girl doesn’t give two hoots for anything she doesn’t wanna.

This is big.

It will be epic.

And it’s going to take FOREVER before it’s here!

You guys go enjoy your Fridays. I’ll be over here playing with my Patriots Legos and watching the clock.

But I was a little excited.

August 9, 2012

I had a bit of a gigantic crappy day that was yesterday [to recap: car broke, work went insane, car was fixed but cost $203, the fake rain never landed at our house for the third day in a row, and Bee accidentally pulled out Gracie’s earring and the hole had partially closed, so I had to repierce the back of her ear. But! I’m going to ignore all of that and tell you something that happened this weekend. Something that will make me smile.

You all know my love for black raspberry ice cream and how for some ridiculous reason, Texas refuses to sell it. I can only indulge when I’m back home. Except for that one week when Kim found some at the magic Target where they sell our favorite kind of week; Dreyer’s wasn’t kidding when they said it was Limited Edition. When I went back to load up (you know, in addition to our 2 half-gallons), they were gone. I’ve checked every time I’ve gone back to that magic Target and nada.

Same thing went for regular Target and for the grocery store.

But I never stopped looking. Hey, I’ve lived here for twelve years, but what can it hurt to check the freezer aisle when you walk past? Nothing. And sometimes something like this will happen:

That, my friends, would be two shelves of Dreyer’s Limited Edition Black Raspberry ice cream. I came to a dead stop, shrieked a little, and whipped open the freezer door. I guess I caught the childrens as unawares as the ice cream caught me, because I kind of hit Gracie in the head with the whipping open of the freezer door. But don’t worry! It wasn’t that hard. She just yelled, “Mom! Uh…ow? You hit me.” I’m pretty sure that’s what she said anyway; I was hastily piling four half-gallons of ice cream into the cart like I was afraid they would disappear any second.

“Wait – what?” I asked her as I (somewhat) calmly strode towards the checkout lanes.

“YOU HIT ME with the door!” Gracie chuckled.

And then we all lost it. I was laughing, Gracie was giggling and re-enacting the scene, and Bee wasn’t quite sure whether to laugh or admonish me. I’m sure she was wondering just where her mama went and who this laughing, half-crazed pod person was.

But s’all good – I have black raspberry ice cream. Alllll the ice cream.

There’s something to be said about New England summers.

August 10, 2011

I knew I was going to want to make out with the overly mild summer temperatures before I left for vacation, but… Nah, no buts: I wanted to make out with it. In fact, I still do. I wanted to drunk-call those summer temps last night at 1 a.m. and beg them to come over for a little while. They were that nice.

I had forgotten just how divinely lovely they are. I thought I had remembered; I packed a pair of jeans for each of us, a pair of yoga pants to sleep in, and some sweat pants for the girls. We used those jeans every single morning. Most days we changed into shorts by lunch when the temps had finally climbed out of the 60s and – maybe – into the low 80s. We never used the long-sleeved shirts I packed, but we practically wore out the hoodies we brought. The girls would parade out the door in them, use them for a pillow in Auntie Kim’s car during the hour-long drive to Grandma’s house, ditch them for the day, and then use them as blankets for the ride home.

We don’t have crisp summer mornings here. The only extra shirt you reach for here in hell Tejas is to change out the tshirt you’ve already sweated through by 9 a.m. I miss the feeling of almost-cold that lingers in the morning. It makes your coffee taste sweeter. It makes the warmth of sunshine on your face later in the day feel even more summery. That crispness makes each morning feel like a do-over from the day before. I think I feel as much homesickness for summer weather as I do for mi familia. Certainly as much as I do for the places in my hometown near and dear to my heart.

It’s going to be 109° today. A limp, soggy, soul-crushing, a/c blastworthy day. Just like all the others here, 1500 miles and a world away from New England.

Thinking anti-hurricane thoughts (sorry Reed).

September 1, 2010

Right now, my sister Kim is crossing her fingers (and toes)(and anything else that will cross) that Hurricane Earl heads out to sea. I can’t say that I blame her seeing as she has just moved into her new duplex and just bought a car. Preparing for a possible hit by a major hurricane is enough to overwhelm everyone! At least she got her housewarming package yesterday, complete with the tornado kit I prepared for her. Ever since they’ve been predicting that Earl might swoop over southern New England, I’ve been snickering to myself over the timing of sending Kim a tornado-turned-hurricane kit. Perhaps now that she is so well-prepared, Earl won’t mess with her.

Really, I don’t appreciate the timing. Five years ago one of my friends was missing in the midst of the post-Katrina chaos. No one had heard from him or his family for days and there was no way to know whether it was because of the general mayhem or because they were hurt, dead, or missing. I’d really rather not go through anything even remotely similar with Kim or the rest of the fam, pleaseandthankyou.

Kim has a much better idea: in between hoping like mad that Earl heads for London, she’s planning a hurricane party. Cards and board games and good (non-perishable) food and flashlights and lots of friends. It sounds like so much fun that it almost makes a girl want to head towards “danger” just to partake of such revelry. Our favorite tornado chaser to mock to stalk, Reed Timmer, seems to agree. He posted earlier on his site:

As the storm turns to the north near the Outer Banks, however, dry continental air will likely be pulled into the circulation, and a slow transition to extratropical cyclone will begin as the forward speed accelerates toward New England….but I think Earl will pass a little further east, and likely stay off-shore (at least until Nova Scotia).  We will continue to monitor the progress of Hurricane Earl, and if it looks like a landfall is imminent, TVN will deploy in the Dominator.  Stay tuned!

Lemme just find my water wings and my flare gun and this chick is headed to where the party’s at…

More proof that God loves me.

February 8, 2009

Most people would never ever guess my favorite ice cream flavor. Black raspberry. Mmmm…I’m salivating just thinking about its heavenly creamy goodness.

Thing is, though, that it black raspberry seems to be a local flavor. A New Englandism. I got hooked during trips to Friendlies (a regional chain of ice cream shoppes). All the ice cream stands have it; in fact, at the Weagle Farm, black raspberry was the only flavor other than vanilla and chocolate to be offered as soft serve. You can pick up half-gallons of black raspberry ice cream at any of the grocery stores. But only in New England. It’s one of the many, many things that make me want to move back home.

However, occasionally, if you hop cross-eyed under a full moon and you’re really, really lucky, you might find some sort of black raspberry ice cream treat at one of the major grocery stores here. Not very often – I’m talking once or twice a year – but it doesn’t stop me from looking.

This morning I went to Walmart to pick up a few things, and as I always do when I force myself to shop there, I slowly perused the ice cream aisle, just in case. It’s one of the few places I’ve ever found it. No black raspberry ice cream, which was a real shame because the allergy monster has descended and I could really use a pick-me-up that would also soothe my throat.

I had no sooner let loose a rather dramatic sigh of despair when I saw them: Black Raspberry chocolate covered ice cream bar thingies. Made by some random diet company and made with Splenda so they only have ONE CARB EACH! I barely even registered the exhorbitant price. Didn’t matter. The rule goes that if you find ice cream-related product that is black-raspberry, you snatch it up. Heaven knows when you’ll find it again. The whole 1 carb each? That’s just proof of God’s existence.

Now, someone please stop me before I eat the entire box in one sitting.

Hello, Fall. Do pull up a chair and stay awhile.

September 16, 2008

Today was the second morning in row where it was chilly enough outside that I sent the girls to school in jeans. In fact, I probably should have sent them with light jackets – I had on long sleeves to stay warm in the icebox that is my workplace, and I was still a bit chilly.

 

This is one of my favorite times of year. The beginning of fall. The first respite from those blistering summer days. The nights when you can crack open your windows and feel the cool breeze stir some life back into your re-circulated, stale house air. Football cheers carry better in cooler air. Quesadillas definitely taste better in crisp, autumn air. Apples look redder, we all sleep better, and the air itself just smells crisper in the fall.

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