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

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

31 January 2012

The Before and After: Exterior Edition

It took well over a year to install some personality into my house  -   primarily through a paint transplant (personality in a can gives you a good look at what my year was like).  It started with Seapearl and then moved on to  Emu and Baltic Gray and Berber and Waterfall and Peacock Blue and Split Pea and Woodlawn Blue and Light Pewter and Revere Pewter and Pewter Tankard (Paul Revere was a pewter smith, wasn't he?  When in Rome, as they say).  I am so familiar with the entire family of Benjamin Moore colors that I can identify most of them by sight.   Like a lightning round of  "Name That Tune."   When someone shows me their new kitchen, I can say  "Oh!  Is this Wasabi?   I love Wasabi!".  The guys at the paint store put my name on the mailbox and gave me a key.  We talk shop.   I've finally gotten to the point where I know the palette better than they do.   If we were playing "name that color", I could do it in one note (which is my actual "Name That Tune"  record, by the way.  It was "Tempted" by Squeeze).

Just like our interior was covered in  "Flesh"  and  "Sadness,"  our exterior was a color we called  "Milquetoast."   The trim was  "Creamy Milquetoast."   Or maybe  "Stale Milquetoast."   The color was so noncommittal that most people had trouble assigning it to a color family;   was it a yellow?   A beige?   A mauve?   And a crazy number of people thought it was blue.   How do you go from  "Is it yellow?"  to  "Is it blue?"   It's like saying the moon is either round or square.   But that's just how lacking in conviction this house was.

My house in Minneapolis,  the gray one with purple trim,  would suggest that I would seize the opportunity to create something bright and daring but when it came time  to paint this exterior, my methods had to change. This was no longer about my vision and what I wanted it to feel like when I cocooned myself in the privacy of my own walls.  This is our public space. To a certain degree, it belongs more to the neighborhood , the other houses that make up its family and the people who look at it as they drive by or gaze from their windows, than it is about me and my taste.

This house is surrounded by a neighborhood cloaked in understated formality,  proudly adhering to its colonial template without veering into anything that would reveal too much about its inhabitants;   white with black shutters,  gray with black shutters,  beige with black shutters,  and an occasional yellow with black shutters   -   the only actual color from the colonial palette that's acceptable in such a restrained place.   To fight that template would not only be disrespectful,  it would simply be unsuccessful.   Or worse,  absurd.   Having lived in a neighborhood of much loved turn-of-the-century homes that were often torn down to build McMansions,  I have to be sensitive to what this neighborhood strives to be.   No one wins when you try to override the persona that has naturally developed over the lifetime of the neighborhood  -  imposing my own ill-fitting preferences would make only one statement........interloper.   And just like property values,   my out-of-context home would dilute the design value of those around it.

So........what is a former purple trim house owner supposed to do?   In actuality,  houses from the colonial era were not white and beige and taupe and greige but a variety of saturated tones based on the natural forms of pigment available at the time.  Until the 1900s, all paints were made with organic pigments which made more nuanced colors impossible to achieve.  Instead you got orange, cobalt blue, emerald green, ochre and chartreuse.   Seriously!   If you drive around Portsmouth,  where the houses date back to the 1600's,  people are not only serious about their colonial era homes, they are also less afraid to express themselves, less afraid of being judged.   Even if that judgement is  "trashy."   Personally,  I'd rather be trashy than boring  (bring it on, Muffy!).   So it's not uncommon to see pink or purple houses and orange is downright common.   This is a much truer interpretation of the colonial color palette........but understandably, and ironically,  "untraditional."   The highest complement to a home in my neighborhood would be "tasteful"   -   and as much as I love it,  I don't think I could pull off orange as  "tasteful."

So I stalked the neighborhoods in Portsmouth, trolling,  looking for a house color that made a mild-mannered statement without disappearing into the background.   This ubertraditional / untraditional town would hold the key to my paint dilemma.

And I found it......

I had to knock on a stranger's door not once but twice.   After getting  home with the paint name in hand,  I realized that I hadn't gotten the trim color.   So I had to go back and humble myself again.   Knocking on strangers' doors is not an acceptable New England activity.   Especially FRONT doors!   GASP!   But this was an emergency.   An aesthetic emergency.

Was she friendly?   No.   I would say  "annoyed"  would be a better descriptor.   But now I know that mildly annoyed is a New England version of happy so I don't take it personally anymore.   So friendly, no.   But helpful,  absolutely.   Each time, she went to her basement, rummaged around,  and managed to find a leftover can with a label and a paint formula on it.

The winner is called..........Monhegan Sage.

Monhegan Island is an island off the coast of Maine inhabited by several generations of lobstering families.   At the moment,  it's best known for a shooting that took place on the town dock involving some vigilante lobster policers and an island resident who allowed a non-islander relative to drop lobster traps too close to their island.   Big no no.   That lobster is for islanders only.   Says who?   Says them,  that's who.   And if you trap "their" lobsters,  they'll shoot you.   So there.

THAT is just the kind of personality I was looking for!   It's deep,  it's dark and it's steeped in tradition.   And it looks like this..........

By adding the birch trunks near the door,  I connected the house to its wooded setting and added a little texture and dimension to it's giant, flat face.

We also removed the fanlight above the front door,  an embellishment popularized by Alexis Carrington in the 1980's.   Ok,  I made that part up.   But it seems like something she would popularize.

Now it's clean, unfussy, bold, at one with its setting, warm, welcoming, and thoroughly traditional.

I think I did it.   Whew.

24 January 2012

Donde esta el biblioteca?

Please excuse this interruption while I vacation in Mexico 
(la cucaracha, la cucaracha......daaa dadadadadaDA).........

20 January 2012

The King's Road

Fascinating scoop from small-town New Hampshire!   There's been a dust-up at city hall between the town council and a developer who has acquired a piece of property behind my neighborhood.   There's concern that this developer may develop the land in a way that would block or interfere with the King's Road.

"What's the King's Road?"  I asked.

In the woods behind our house is a path, a road, that meanders through the trees and around the rock walls.

It's beautiful and I love it but I've never gotten a straight answer from locals about whether or not it's public property.   I see people walking their dogs on the path every day but others have warned me to stay away  -  it's trespassing.   And truthfully,   I don't go back there very much because I can hear gunshots  - every freakin' time I hear gunshots  -  and start running back to the house like Daniel Day-Louis, Last of the Mohicans-style.  Ok, in my dreams.   I probably look more like Mr. Bean.    Maybe because I don't want anyone mistaking me for a deer.  I live in fear of someone mistaking me for a deer and shooting me.

And then there are the deer (lymey!).   The deer who gave me Lyme Disease and the neighbors who said  "Don't go in the woods!"   So I'd love to say that I commune with nature on this path every day but I don't.   And it's a damn shame.

But ANYWAY  this path behind my house is the King's Road.

"What do you mean,  "The King's Road?" "  I asked.

Apparently,  our land was granted to the people of the  "New World"  by the King of England  (King who?  I don't know!   Anglophiles, help me out!) on the condition that the road that traversed the land remain free and clear of obstacles in perpetuity.   Forever and ever.   The reason being that the road was needed to transport the king on his travels to the new world - should he decide to pay his royal subjects a visit.   That didn't work out so well.   But the condition still stands!   This remains The King's Road and our town council of 2012 is in the process of booting someone for gettin' all up in the king's face and potentially obstructing his road.

A road intended for the King of England, our nascent country's nemesis, actually runs through my property!  Or adjacent to my property!  Or within sight of my property!   I'm not sure!  I don't actually know where my property ends!   My point is that if this were 250 years ago,  I could see the King of England from my kitchen.

That is a tasty tidbit of gossip from the real housewives of New Hampshire.......

Colonial style!

17 January 2012

How do you want your life to go?

When I saw this man walking on the beach, steadying himself with his cane, holding the leash of his patient friend,  I had a surprising thought:

I hope that's me someday.

13 January 2012

A House Obsession

Since our move 18 months ago,  I've acquired a strange fascination:   houses.   I'm not talking about the insides and outsides of houses (that's a well-recognized, longtime full-on compulsion)  -  I'm talking about the house as icon.   The house as art.   Its shape, its form, represented as an image.

I dwell on art that has a house as its subject.   Not a pretty house that is depicted because it's a pretty house,  but a shape or image that stands for a sense of something.   Maybe a sense of place or a sense of longing or a sense of belonging or a sense of expression gone wild.   Or maybe a sense of understated comfort.  

I tear out magazine pages that feature interesting representations of houses,  I draw houses,  I buy art supplies that imply by their packaging that I can create a house.   I also take pictures of interesting houses.  And again, not pretty houses but intriguing houses.   Houses that have a personality and make a statement about what they do with their footprint.   Even just pieces of houses will grab my attention -   because they say something about their owner's feelings about their home;   how do they identify their home, how do they get to it, how do they enter it, how do they relax in it, how do they welcome people to it?

The urge to collect these images is strong enough to warrant some analysis.   Why do I do this?   Here are some theories:

1.   I had to leave the house I loved,  the gray one with purple trim,  in Minneapolis.
2.   I was homeless and lived in a hotel while I waited for my new home.
3.   Although beautiful by many people's standards,  my new house is boring and makes no statement.
4.   I wonder about the definition of home as I move my family from house to house.
5.   A new house is never a home because it can't speak for you yet.   Give it time.

Interesting, no?   Feel free to channel your inner Freud and offer your own theories.

Here's a glimpse at my obsession/collection (I use the term "collection" loosely;  as in please don't gift me a bunch of house tchochkes.  Obsession is much better;   I don't have a clear understanding of what drives this so your lovely house tchochke may not fall into the groove of obsession.......and I wouldn't have the foggiest idea why.   I'm so weird.):

10 January 2012

A Lyme Update

Having Lyme Disease seemed to be no big deal until I dug in and started treatment in earnest.   The first month of antibiotics and supplements went smoothly with the exception of a little headache here and there.   And the twice-weekly intravenous Vitamin C treatments went smoothly -  until it started hastening the killing of the infection.   Which is the point, right?   But as the infection dies off and leaves your body, it can be somewhat unpleasant.  It feels like you're getting the flu for about 4 hours at a time - and then you can rebound and be fine.  This is known as a "Herx Reaction" and is actually a good thing;  it means the treatment is working.

One day recently,  after a half day of fine,  the flu-ish symptom that decided to pay a visit was VOMITING.   I'm not good at vomiting.   I will do just about anything to keep from throwing up.   It shoots me back in time to when I was pregnant and spent 4 months with my head hovering over a toilet bowl;  a life lived in a constant state of on-the-verge.   My cheek spent so much time resting on the side of a toilet bowl that I started longing for one of those fuzzy toilet seat covers;  just a little bit of comfort would have been so nice.  This was a time when eating food was so uncommon that I can tell you everything I ate during that time.  At one point,  I was compelled to pray to see if that would stop the vomiting;   and as I hung my head over the bowl,  I wondered if I needed an intro like  "Dear Jesus" or if I could launch into it.   What's the protocol?   Would it still work without a greeting?

So now the Herx nausea visits me and I'm astounded at the lack of concern in my house.   I'm always amazed at how there's really only one caretaker in each house.  In my house,  it's me.  So what happens when the caretaker is sick?

After 2 hours on the couch, post-vomit, with no care whatsoever,  I feel steady enough to rise and confront my delinquent housemates   -   who have been having fun right under my nose in their non-vomity world while I suffer.

I walk slowly, a little hunched over, ever wary of the feeling in my stomach.   I climb the stairs and enter the party in the rec room like a Thriller zombie.   And no one even turns and looks at me.   With steering wheels and wii remotes and eyes glued to the giant TV screen,  it was the perfect example of  "what's wrong with kids today."  And their fathers, too, apparently.   So taken in by flashy graphics that they are completely oblivious to the suffering in the world. 

Finally,  I say,   "Is no one going to check on me?"

Daddy shakes off the wii coma and says, surprised,   "Oh!   You're up and at 'em!"

"No,  I'm not.   Just up.   I need someone to check on me and see if I'm ok.   What if I need something and I'm too sick to get up?"

One thing I've been working on with Mike  (unsuccessfully, for 17 years) is that a sick person can't yell or call out when they need something   -   either because they don't have the energy or because calling out will hasten the vomiting.   As in dude, if I'm dying on the couch,  I can't just call for you when you're at the other end of the house like  "MIKE!   I'M GOING TO THROW UP SO IT WOULD BE GREAT IF YOU COULD BRING ME A BUCKET,  PLEASE!   THANK YOU!   LOVE YOU!"

That's why you check on people.

So I chastise the party in rec room and the boys rally   -   they come downstairs to check on me and to make me a nice tray of sick food and drink.   Liam has quickly drawn a get well card and put a dollar inside.  So sweet.   But then it turns out to be a fake dollar and I'm annoyed.   Don't do me like that, bro.   Nauseous people are not so understanding of jokes.

Mike suggests I try a little ginger ale which sounds great.   And Liam offers to make me some toast.   But when they get to the kitchen,  they start yelling questions at me and expect me to yell my answers back to the kitchen.   Omigod.   Seventeen years I've been working on this.





I try to squeak out answers but they keep saying,  "WHAT?  I CAN'T HEAR YOU?"

So I just stop answering and hope they'll wise up and ask me face to face so I can give my answers with less effort;   so they don't pay the ultimate price for their laziness. 

Like  "CINNAMON RAISIN, PLEASE!"  (hork).   Cuz I'm not cleaning that up.

The vomiting is short-lived but it is something to managed;   as in don't drink juice while taking the antibiotic or don't take the antibiotic with more than one supplement or don't take too many things in the morning or don't take the antibiotic too early in the day or don't eat dairy within 2 hours of taking the antibiotic.   It's a puzzle.

If I don't follow these rules,  a minor headache can also weave its way into my day.   And a basic wooziness.   A fuzzy, tingly head.   Not totally unpleasant.   As long as I leave the forklift in the garage.

Everything is relatively minor (except the horking.   and, frankly,  i'd rather be lymey than horky).   So I follow the rules and I do what I'm told and I wait patiently so I can fully purge this New Hampshire tick business get the bleep out of here.

Stupid deer.

04 January 2012

A 2011 Review of Things Liam Said

I don't like Stevie Nicks.   He sounds like a girl.

What is the tiniest tsunami you've ever heard of?

 Which team is the most trustworthy?

If you could have any semiaquatic animal, what would it be?

LIAM:  Have you ever swallowed a fly?
MOM:  No.
LIAM:  Has Neil Armstrong?

LIAM:  Who's playing? Hey is that the Minnesota beavers?
DAD:   What are the Minnesota beavers?
LIAM:  The football team.
DAD:   Why do you think they're the beavers?
LIAM:  There's a beaver on that water tower.   You know, with the big teeth?

LIAM:   So Stevie Nicks is a girl?
MOM:   Yes.
LIAM:  But Stevie Wonder is a boy.

What's the hardest rock song you've ever heard?

What's the hottest thing you've ever eaten?

If I had Lyme disease, would you let me stay home from school?

What would you do if you were duplicated?

Have you hit your sprout yet?  It's when you get more popular.

Why did they put a nail in God's finger again?  

Why do bosses smoke cigars?

I didn't know they killed Jesus in Denmark!

HAIR STYLIST:  How would you like your hair?
LIAM:  Can I get blonde streaks sprayed in front?

LIAM:   There are two things you need to be girlfriend and boyfriend. First they need to be nice to you.  And then you need to like the way they look.
MOM:  Right. And there are lots of different kinds of beauty. I like tall, skinny guys with red hair.
LIAM: Except his hair died out and he's less skinny.

If you were on a ship and you were married and you died,  would your ring disintegrate like your body?

I hope I have this haircut tomorrow.

What would happen if you focused so hard on an upside down c that it became a right side up c?  Is that possible?

Tell me something about someone. (must've been desperate)

What is the world's most high tech country?

What is the biggest wave you've ever seen?

What is the sharpest thing you've ever seen that was not a knife?

What is the heaviest thing you've ever lifted?

LIAM:   Are we democrats or republicans?
MOM:   I don't like to generalize but we generally vote for Democrats.
LIAM:   So we're the ones who believe in God, right?

LIAM:   Mom, are you going to surf camp?
MOM:  I want to. I'll probably do it after you go back to school.
LIAM:  You should take your wedding ring off.
MOM:  Why?
LIAM:  So they don't know you're married.
MOM:  Why shouldn't they know I'm married?
LIAM:  Because then they'll let you do more stuff.

What would happen if you drained the sea?

How did the first wave ever created start in the ocean?

What's the biggest thing you've ever seen? (must've been tired - or out of questions)

Is there anything bad about a flea?

If you faint from having a fly stuck in your throat, would the fly just fly out?

How many times has Neil Armstrong won the Tour de France?

*Note:   As you can see, maturity hasn't quelled Liam's need to ask questions, generally from the backseat and almost always completely out of context.   I wish I could say I responded to all of these things with the confidence of a scholar (is there such a thing as a Scholar of Obscure, Unrelated Facts?) but since I was usually in the  midst of a left hand turn in heavy traffic, my responses were more in the category of  "What the duck, Liam?"   I don't see this ending any time soon so.....stay tuned for the 2012 edition of  "Things That Liam Said!"

01 January 2012

Happy New Year......

The theme of this New Year's Day is  "unseasonably warm."   I'm compelled on most January 1's to kick off my year with clean closets, an organized desk, a long list of unattainable goals and a vow to approach it with zen-like wellness...........but on this January 1, it's over 50 degrees and the sun is shining.   A rare commodity in winter.   So I ditch my plans to overhaul my life and head to the beach instead.

Per usual,  Liam whines and complains when I interrupt his Looney Tunes marathon to tell him that we're going to the beach.   I try to ignore but finally lose it when he demands to know exactly how long we'll be there:   "Will it be 30 minutes?   Will it be longer than 30 minutes?   More or less than 30 minutes?   If it's longer than 30 minutes,  I will definitely hate it."

At which point,  I spin around Linda Blair-style and say:


He hides his face in his hands and I say more quietly,  "Stop ruining it for me."

He remains quietly contrary until he makes his first discovery,  a bike reflector tangled in seaweed.   This is how it goes.   He expertly makes us miserable until the myriad discoveries are just too interesting to resist.   It goes like this every single time.   Every.   Single.   Time.   We repeat this story over and over and over;   you'd think he'd retain some memory of the fun he had the last 92 times he didn't want to come to the beach.

But his need to protest this place persists even 18 months after our move.

After the bike reflector,  he finds giant clam shells completely intact and a variety of dismembered crab body parts including something he insists is a "crab butt."   Plus,  we find a tiny snail leaving a trail in the sand reaching an amazing 20 feet behind him.   He was only a 1/4" long!   How long must it have taken him to go 20 feet?!   We all say  "It's Gary!"  and start meowing   -    which is only funny to those of you who will admit to watching Spongebob.

But most importantly,  Liam finally finds the thing that has eluded him on every single one of our visits to the beach,  the holy grail of beach finds:

A starfish.

So tomorrow I will clean up the Christmas mess and organize my life and get a new 2012 calendar.   Because today is unseasonably warm.

Happy New Year......