......finding a new home for lutefisk lovers.

(ok we don't love it. or even like it. but we're supposed to.)

27 November 2010

What was that???!!!!

I'm sitting at my kitchen table............and I just heard gunshots! I swear to god! Two of them! Pow! (pause) Pow! Like that! Are there deer hunters in my back yard? Can I not leave my own house? What is the protocol???!!!

If I were in my house in Minneapolis, I would lock the doors and call 911. But I'm guessing this is not the same thing. But just because they're AIMING at animals does not mean that humans can't get shot! It's not like they use special animal bullets or something (do they?).

Last year at Thanksgiving, I went for a walk in the woods on my in-laws property in central Minnesota........when I heard gunshots. Oh sh*t! I freeze and look around me - and see a man sitting in a tree looking right at me. And I don't have my glasses on but I swear it looks like he's aiming a gun in my direction. We're both still as statues. I look down to see what I'm wearing. All deer colors! I'm dressed like a deer. I wave to him in a very human-like fashion but he doesn't wave back. I'm afraid to move too much lest he think I'm a frightened deer trying to escape. That's when they shoot, right? But I can't shout because all the hunters will be mad at me for scaring the deer away.

WAIT! What am I thinking? I don't want to ruin his day so I'm going to let him shoot me?

So I start politely shouting - "Hellooooo.......I'm a girl, not a deer!" And when I feel that I've sufficiently made my presence known, I start moving toward the house. Rapidly and nervously but trying ever so hard not to move like a deer. Which turns into something like a penguin running.......all stiff-legged with my arms at my sides.

When I get safely to the house, I feel like crying and raging all at the same time (which is not unusual for me - but still). I can't go for a freakin' walk on private property? Because I might get SHOT?! But no one else seems as riled up as I am.........my husband in particular. Because it's deer hunting season. Like that's an adequate excuse for unintentionally shooting someone. Like if I HAD gotten shot, they'd all stand around at my funeral, holding their cups of punch, saying "Well, it WAS deer hunting season......"

(by the way, for those of you who don't know, I would like to have "Bust a Move" played at the conclusion of my funeral. My friend Martha has promised me she'll stand up in her pew and dance. Takin' it to the fellowship hall! Yeah!).

And now, sitting at my kitchen table, wondering if it's safe to go in my own backyard, I'm greeted with the same complacency. Mike is nonplussed about the gunshots and wondering why I'm so defiant. Can this really be normal?

I felt so much safer when I could just lock my doors, call 911 and know that someone would say "That's a big deal!" and start kicking some ass.

22 November 2010

The Art of the Home

Today, I hung the first piece of art in our newly painted house…………...and suddenly the house is ours.

I chose something new, something native, something dramatic to reignite the spark this house has needed for so long; you can’t give nothing to a house and then expect that she’ll give you something in return. This piece gives her an identity.

The image above is a self portrait by local photographer Alexandra de Steiguer as she stands on the Isles of Shoals.

The Isles of Shoals are a group of small islands and tidal ledges situated 10 miles off the coast of Rye, New Hampshire.

One of the islands is known as the site of Blackbeard's honeymoon and then for the notorious 1873 murders of two young women. The latter is recalled in the 1997 novel, The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve (and in the film of the same name),

This past winter marked photographer Alexandra de Steiguer’s thirteenth winter on the Isles of Shoals as the desolate rock’s sole off-season caretaker. From November to April the nine islands that create the “Isles of Shoals” are completely empty save for de Steiguer and the occasional, sometimes unexpected, guest.

My house is now grounded by a piece of art; something that lifts her identity out of the gutter and aligns her with the atmospheric coast of New Hampshire. This ain't no 1980's tract home anymore.

Here's a peek at some of the artist's other work:

19 November 2010

A Day in the North End

Liam and I are at our best on vacation. He's happy, excited and cooperative. Our recent cross-country roadtrip notwithstanding since he was all too aware that we were peeling him from his very existence. Replace "happy, excited and cooperative" with "whiny, contrary and stubborn" and you have our 2010 vacation in a nutshell. But, in general, both of us crave a change of scenery............Liam has always been energized by the new and different. As a baby, he would fuss incessantly until I walked him, face out, from room to room so he could seek out new material. "Playing" with him was a losing battle unless we went to someone else's house ("don't insult me with that teething ring! You showed that to me yesterday!").

On this vacation day, the two of us take the train to Boston. Taking the train into the city gives me a shot in the arm. It feels so urban, so communal........there's no public transportation in the woods. We see all kinds of people, of all colors, speaking all kinds of languages, young and old, well-dressed and sloppy, disabled and sprinting, happy, sad, angry, drunk, and happy......and more happy.

I give Liam some change to put in a homeless man's cup and it makes his day.........Liam's, not the homeless man's. Although, the man was lovingly grateful.

On the train, we look out the window and listen to our iPods and finally make our way to the Cafe Car for a snack. Liam is insistent that he make the choices and buy the items all by himself. I try to come in and look at the menu but he shoos me out. "Go sit down! Go sit DOWN!" he says. I think it's adorable how he's experimenting with independence until he returns with two shiny red cans of Coke. He shrugs and says "It's all they had."

Note to self: Loosen up on the Coke thing. If you want Liam to want something with all his might and lie, cheat and steal to get it........simply forbid it. *And we'll talk later about what a hypocrite I am.

Liam's time away from the city has been brief but impactful. He's wary in the train station. Holds my hand firmly (which was babyish the day before) and keeps admonishing me for opening my purse. He stays by my side the entire day - no breakaways where I scream and grab him by the hood. And he's nervous about missing the train home even suggesting we return to the train station early so we have plenty of time. Is this growing maturity or an emerging anxiety? Either way, it's nice. It's like the kind of parenting you see in TV commercials (but not the ones for cleaning products).

We make our way to Boston's North End and just become a part of the neighborhood for a few hours. We wander the streets, listening to people scream in Italian (they really do that!), stopping along the way when we see something interesting (or yummy.)

Speaking of yummy, we stop in Lulu's Bakeshop (to load up on Coke bottle gummies - it's the Coke thing again) and we make an exciting discovery..........are you aware that Cadbury makes a candy bar called a "Curly Wurly" which is a braid of caramel covered in milk chocolate? The "stretchiest, bendiest" candy bar in the world?! Does this sound familiar?! It's a MARATHON bar, people!!!!! If you're not jumping up and down right now, you were probably born in the 80's (the Marathon bar was discontinued in 1981 despite robust sales at my local Snyder's Drug store). We buy one for Mike. Who jumps up and down when he opens it and sees the chocolate covered braid.

Although the North End is nothing like the ghetto, I sing Elvis Presley's "In the Ghetto" all day. Like even the ghetto is a refreshing change when you live in the woods.

Here's a peek at our day:

We do research to find real Neapolitan pizza like our beloved Punch Pizza in Minneapolis. We find it at Antico Forno - Liam gives it a 5. The sauce is juicy but the cheese is a little Shakey's-ish. I still choke down an entire pizza by myself.

We find pocket playgrounds all over the neighborhood - dropped in between buildings like they exist in secret. We stop to play hopscotch and learn about graffiti.

Liam wants to know the origins of gelato and how it's made and why they don't call it soft serve. But the gelato-counter-girl doesn't know. Welcome to my world, gelato-counter-girl.

We visit the Old North Church of "One if by land, two if by sea" fame. Liam prefers the gift shop and begs for a giant pencil. Haven't we all begged for a giant pencil? And, just so you know, Paul Revere's statue horse is anatomically correct. Why I was compelled to check, I have no idea.

We tour Paul Revere's house in about 62 seconds flat. Which is fine with me. Did you know that he had 16 children? Keep it in your pants, dude.

16 November 2010

Everything is Wicked Awesome!

This is one of the paint stores on my circuit. It's wicked awesome! Actually, it's exactly like all the other paint stores but it has a wicked awesomer name.

13 November 2010

Reap What You Sow

There are some things you hear about a place and you hope they're true. You create an image in your mind and you hope it's not just something created for TV. But sometimes, we wander off the tourist path and stumble upon the less-charming reality. Driving in Ireland, Mike and I turned off the scenic route to increase our speed and I was like "This isn't Ireland.......it's Fridley." Everyplace has its strip malls and gas stations and apartment buildings, doesn't it?

But I'm happy to say that the picture above actually exists in my little New England town. A lovely little haven of color and goodness on a winding country road that I pass on my way home from virtually everywhere. Under the big umbrella each day were baskets of of plump red tomatoes, fat round squash and mason jars full of fresh cut flowers for $5.00. When we first arrived this summer, I was dying to buy flowers. How could you not buy flowers from someone who so clearly understands how flowers should be enjoyed? Cut fresh from a neighbor's garden and tightly packed into the simplest of jars to create a riot of color. But every time I drove by, the umbrella stand was unmanned. So initially, I take joy just from the sight of it.

But eventually, I pull over thinking I might have to ring the doorbell or something. And bless her trusting heart, I don't need to ring the doorbell because the farmer has a bucket full of money on the table. It's labeled "Honor System." And I pause to bask in the self-esteem boost I've just received; this farmer knows I'll do the right thing. And I pause again to appreciate how this person must believe that people are generally good by nature.

I put my five bucks in the bucket and choose my oh so charming jar of fresh flowers. Just then, the farmer appears from the backyard and, get this, she wants to make sure I don't overpay! She isn't pleased with the condition of the flowers that day so she knocks a dollar off the price. She peels the lid off the bucket and digs my money out of the collection and hands it back to me.

I was on my way to my car with my flowers.
Perfectly happy to pay full price.
But she stopped me.

So I ask her about her "Honor System" bucket. Does it work? Does she ever get cheated? And she answers proudly - not once has she been jilted. She's gotten a couple of notes that say "Don't have money today. Will pay tomorrow." And the next day, her bucket is always overpaid.......sometimes accompanied by more notes. Notes of gratitude or notes that include recipes for the previous night's dish.........a dish made with her produce.

It's the perfect example of reaping what you sow.

The umbrella stand recently closed for the season. The same way the Dairy Queen closes every year and shows us that warm days are behind us and it's time to get serious. But the umbrella stand gives me a toe hold; something to keep me from sliding backward into the occasional pity party. If I can make it through a winter here, I can look forward to a riot of color come springtime - just by dropping my five bucks into the "Honor System" bucket.

10 November 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name.......is just not the same.

I remember the name of every paint color I lovingly chose for 4041. Violet Vespers, Twilight Chimes, Willow Creek, Sweatshirt Gray, Golden Cricket, Sweet Pear, Rain Forest, Sand, Woodlawn and Mango Tango Beans. I chose Mango Tango Beans just so I would have more opportunities to say Mango Tango Beans.

I am done pretending that I don't choose paint colors based on their names.

Here's my routine: I stand in front of the wall of paint chips and let my eye wander. When it lands on a contender, I pull it out and read the name. If it's something intriguing - something that evokes a feeling, something that enhances my vision for the room..........something like Baby Chick or Winter Lake or Coastal Fog - then I hold on to it. If the name calls nothing to mind or worse, has an unpalatable connotation - like Ozark Shadows (too hillbilly) or Princess Ivory (too Disney) or Night Train (too derelict) or Angel's Wings (too evangelical) or Buckland Blue (who's that? it doesn't even mean anything) - then I put it back and keep looking.

When my painter arrives to discuss colors, I have a stack of paint chips and a folder full of pages torn from magazines. We volley names back and forth in our conversation like scientists spouting mathematical equations. She shows me a sample of a colors she thinks may work - painted on a paint stick. And I hesitate because I need to ask what it's called. How can I judge the color if I don't know what it's called? I fear the professional painter (and rational human being) might think me a kook if I say, "I don't know. What's it called?"

So I'm silent.....incapable of mustering an opinion. I try to sneak a peek at the can out of the corner of my eye. But it's not labeled. BLAST! I crack and let the words slip - "hmm......what's the name of it?" She nonchalantly says she doesn't know. So I can't add it to the list of contenders. It has no identity, no personality, no vibe. So the color is dropped.

She suggests another color called Litchfield which I immediately reject because I'm going for a relaxed coastal feel......and Litchfield is a small farming community in central Minnesota that sits in close proximity to the world's largest ball of twine. It just wouldn't work. It doesn't hit me until later that she never actually showed me the color before I rejected it. Momentary embarrassment.

For the main living areas of the house, we create a list of finalists. They are Sea Pearl, Shoreline and Pale Oak. We paint boards and move them all around the house at different times of day, in different light, for days and days. I keep asking Mike "Which one do you like now? How about now?" And he keeps insisting that they're all the same color. So I take full responsibility for choosing the color that will surround us each and every day for as long as we live in this house. It gets narrowed down to Sea Pearl and Pale Oak. And it's close. Very, very close. But, in the end, I choose:


Of course I did! Like you didn't know that! Because, as nice as it was, Pale Oak just doesn't mean anything to me! How can oak even BE pale, anyway? It just doesn't make sense.

So now you're wondering what Sea Pearl is, right? Those of you who have been inside 4041 know that I have no tolerance for boring colors. A room should make a statement - I'm spicy! I'm bohemian! I'm sophisticated and worldly! Walls that go unnoticed are a miserable failure. A waste of paint. But, like I said in last week's post, the final decision rests with the house. And here is what she chose:

Introducing........ Sea Pearl

I can hear you all gasping....."Kristin is using WHITE?????!!!! I don't even KNOW her anymore!" But this house could never pull off Golden Cricket with any sort of authenticity. This house is like your sophisticated aunt, maybe she's an art dealer, who continues to wear tailored Chanel well into her golden years. And she always has a fabulous handbag. 4041 was more of a spirited young woman coming of age during prohibition. She's a good girl but she pushes the boundaries. Maybe a suffragette. Destined to be a flapper.

But don't let the white fool you; it wasn't chosen to blend into the background. It was chosen to illuminate and pop like Coco Chanel's designer sunglasses.

That should get the "Sadness" outta here.

04 November 2010

Personality in a Can

When we first moved into this house, we knew that painting would be imminent. And necessary. Very, very necessary. The color blanketing the first floor is a light rust that we have named "Sadness." The upstairs color is called "Flesh." The trim is a cloying reproduction of a colonial blue that was chosen to compliment the twee wallpaper. Remember the wallpaper? The wallpaper that burns holes in your retinas if you look directly at it? Here's a picture in case you forgot:

Our plan was to paint a little at a time so we could ration our money in a reasonable fashion. I love how HGTV says that paint is the cheapest way to remodel your house; but that's only if you don't use a primer, you only do one coat, you don't paint the trim..........and you do the actual painting yourself. Which we haven't done since The Dining Room Debacle at 4041.......when the edge work along the ceiling (which was not square) wavered ever so slightly. It couldn't be seen by the naked eye but it bothered Mike enough to call in a professional for a whole new paint treatment. Lesson learned: it's very difficult for perfectionists to be frugal.

But "Sadness" and "Flesh" were starting to affect our moods. And I'm pretty sure they were making the house smell like actual sadness and flesh. Like scratch and sniff paint. I'd rather have the house smell like pot than sadness and flesh. (*for more information about our attempts to rid our house of sadness while filling it with the smell of mary jane, please read last month's post called "The Smudge Stick.")

So we scrap the "little by little" plan and commit to dousing the house all at once. Like a flea bomb. We call painters and get a bid. Mike looks at the bid.........looks up at "Sadness"..........looks down at the bid..........looks up at "Sadness".........and says "Let's do it!!! What can we sell?"

And now the fun begins. It's not like I haven't been thinking about this since the day the previous owners accepted our offer. In Minnesota, long before we moved, I'd say "Mike, what do you think about using a blue in the downstairs bathroom?" And he'd be like "What downstairs bathroom?"

Poor Mike is tired of talking about paint colors. It means nothing to him and I sound obsessed.

"Did you get a chance to look at that "Robin's Nest?" Do you like it more or less than "Bird's Nest?" What do you mean there's no difference? There is too a difference."

I browse paint stores daily, standing in front of the wall of paint chips, waiting for something to catch my eye and change my life. Pulling out one at a time, holding it up to the light, holding it down to the light, holding it next to a similar color, putting it in my bag. I have a circuit of stores I visit so they don't know I do this every day - so it doesn't look like I have a problem. But I can stop any time I want. I just don't want to.

When the accumulated mass of paint chips falls out of my bag, I feel the shame of a secret hoarder. So I start sorting and classifying them into separate ziploc bags when I get home. Then I distribute them around the house........to give the illusion of less. Mask the depth of my preoccupation. I can hear the conversation with my PA (Painter's Anonymous) support group : Did you visit a paint store today? (yes.) Did you visit a paint store yesterday? (yes.) Do you have paint chips hidden in your house? (yes.) Do you have paint chips in your bag right now? (yes! but I don't even like these! I've hardly looked at them!)

But, through the madness, a clear ending is in sight. I always feel that the proper color is ultimately chosen by the house, not the inhabitants. Just like with children, I provide a limited range of choices (ok, not limited at all) and the house's preference will eventually emerge. If it doesn't, then you're choices aren't good and you have to start over. I'm sure this house didn't choose "Sadness" and "Flesh;" and over time, it buckled under the strain of this persona. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone needs to set this house free.

02 November 2010

Vampire Weekend

It never occurred to me that Halloween culture varies by region until I found myself awkwardly dressing Liam in his costume on October 30th. That's right - October 30th. NOT Halloween. Apparently, our elected town fat cats dictate not only the day for trick-or-treating (any day as long as it's not Halloween. Seriously.......this is what I'm told) but also the time for trick-or-treating (4-7pm). Live free or die my ass.

The day takes me by surprise and I don't feel the proper amount of spooky anticipation.......because it's rushed. Something akin to that dream we all have where we're late for the final exam in a class we've never attended. Then I look at my watch and realize I've made no trick-or-treating plans........how is it done here? Do all the neighborhood kids go together or does each family go independently? Should I call and do some arranging? But wait - I'm the new girl. Shouldn't they call me? But maybe they're not calling because this is not traditionally a group activity........so there's my answer. Or maybe they're not calling because there's some secret trick-or-treating place like the mall or the fire station and everyone assumes we know about it but we don't and we'll be walking the neighborhood all alone. Or maybe they're not calling because they don't care for us. Oops - went too far.

Suffice it to say, it worked out well enough. Liam got a bag half full of candy including one full-size box of Milk Duds (super score!) and he traipsed up and down the street with some of the neighbor kids.......until he got bored and asked to go home. As in, "No Mom, we can skip these houses and go straight home (yes, I'm aware that I'm passing up opportunities for more candy)."
I can understand getting tired. I can even understand getting bored. But I don't understand turning down candy that you could easily get just by knocking on a door that's on your way home.
My theory for this strange behavior: IT'S NOT HALLOWEEN! There's a distinct lack of vibe in the air. BECAUSE IT'S NOT HALLOWEEN!

The next day - the real Halloween - was awkward. What do we do now? Do we pretend it's not Halloween? Is it just done? We put our thinking caps on.

We'd heard about a Halloween parade in Portsmouth (so apparently not everyone is so laissez faire about Halloween). Could this be the answer to our Halloween conundrum?

The answer is.......... YES!

This was not your average family-friendly Halloween parade with parents pulling train engineer preschoolers in Thomas the Tank Engine wagons. This was a march for every theater geek, starving artist and social outcast who feels invisible to the masses. This was an explosion of creativity. A rally cry for self-expression. A riot of belly dancers, zombies and drag queens topped off with a rag tag street performance of Thriller. It was a Pac Man chasing a little blue ghost down the parade route. It was Cheech & Chong with a joint the size of a broom handle. It was a suburban dad carrying a doll in a baby bjorn (a brightly lit cigarette hanging out of baby's mouth).
On our way back to our car, we walked under a shower of candy raining down on our heads. We looked up to find 3 little girls hanging over their balcony gleefully throwing handfuls of candy onto the street below. They had as much fun showering us as we did scrounging on the ground and filling our pockets with chocolate. They giggled and tittered and pranced like manic apparitions in the sky.

Now that's Halloween. It was the most fun I've had in a long time.

And so, for us, Halloween was not just saved but raised from the dead.
And I can't wait for next year.