Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Solstice!!! Let It Snow. Ok, that's enough now.

It's been a while since I have truly felt snowed in, but this weekend counts. Here in Boston we had plenty of warning of an oncoming snowstorm on Friday morning. My coworkers and I nervously awaited the verdict on an early release at work, remembering the nightmarish commute the year before where people sat on the highway for hours. Late morning the e-mail arrived: 1:00 release! Woo hoo! Snow day! The charm never wears off. I never knew I'd get to have them as an adult.

The storm hit that afternoon and now it's Sunday night, and we really are buried from two separate storms. There's somewhere around a foot of white fluff (or maybe slush) out there. Any plans for holiday shopping and holiday parties were derailed. We now have a LOT of holiday cookies and buckeyes we were planning to bring to a party today, waiting to be eaten. We are valiantly doing our best to eat them to avoid the tradgedy of stale cookies. As for the shopping bag full of fancy chocolates Mr. Right bought for his cousins' kids, well, we may have to help with those later as well. It's difficult. But I am getting to actually catch up with various householdy tasks and hey, even a blog entry. And make a snowman. Mr. Right and I both liked his pipe.

I do love the snow, think it's beautiful and love to play in it. Cross country skiing is one of my favorite things. But I've got this bum foot, a fractured 5th metatarsal achieved very boringly while housecleaning. So no skiing of any form, and even walking in the snow is complicated. I've got what they call a ski boot instead of a cast, but ironically, it's terrible in the snow, mostly because of all the huge holes all over it which scoop the snow right into my sock. Ergh.

Today is the 6 month anniversary of Mr. Right and I. We were married on the summer solstice, the first day of summer. Now we have gone through two seasons together and it's the winter solstice, the return of the light. I like that we were married on an equinox, on a traditional day of marriage, one that reflects the seasons. It seems more real and powerful and grounded somehow.

So on this day of the return of the longer days, the return of sunshine and warmth which is so hard to imagine when it's dark at 4:30 and we can't go anywhere due to the snow outside, I wish you happiest of solstice. A wonderful holiday season, a happy 2009.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old Scituate Lighthouse

Mr. Right and I are big fans of taking walks. But where to go? It's maybe not so surprising -- I, the lady from the land-locked Pittsburgh, usually request walks in the woods. R, man born near the sea, requests ocean. We take turns on our destination and happily, we have both options nearby. And we are both pretty happy just to have such beautiful places to walk.

Last Sunday we decided to try and find the Scituate Lighthouse again after stumbling upon it several months earlier. We'd had an adventure trying and failing to find it again a few weeks ago. This time we applied some radical technology and actually googled it before we left and were able to locate it on a map! So we found it with pretty much no problem. It's a great spot with a fun story (see sign), and it couldn't be much prettier. Not that we're comparing lighthouses -- goodness, I could get myself in trouble in this area that way.

It was very very windy and cold, but we were happy with our success in finding it. And that I actually brought my camera this time. These walks are such a comfort, such an escape from the humdrum office and gym and commuting worlds.

My stepson described us as being "a family that likes to take walks." I thought that was kinda cool.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plymouth in November

We took a walk down on the jetty in Plymouth this past weekend. It was fun to see Plymouth in the height of its Pilgrimishness, and it was my first visit back since June. I took a picture of the Pilgrim women's fountain, site of our big event, surrounded by falling leaves. It's a pretty place. The statue reads, "To those intrepid English women whose courage, fortitude and devotion brought a new nation into being, this statue of the Pilgrim Maiden is dedicated."

The jetty in Plymouth is a wonderful walk. Jetties are new to me since moving to Massachusetts. This one goes pretty far out into the water and has lots of interesting graffitti that the kids know to look for along the way. including someone's graffiti-ed grocery list of milk and chips and dip. At the end we now always take a photo (well, two times in two years we have). So I thought I'd throw in a mushy picture of us, just for fun.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sick Day

It's a gorgeous chilly fall day, and I'm enjoying it all from the couch because I have been struck immobile by a nasty sore throat and achey thing. It's the only time I stop frantically running around, so I try to enjoy the immobility while it lasts before I start getting incredibly antsy. Blah.
Anyhow, it's been a while since I've talked about baking or cooking, and pre-illess yesterday, I made a loaf of the sorta famous "No Knead Bread" that was on all the internet baking circuits about a year ago. We make it on a sorta regular basis here in Braintree. It's incredibly easy, requiring only four ingredients (5 if you count water), and while it involves time for it to rise, it involves little to no work, yet it comes out like something from the fancy bakery. Before I had this recipe, I would occasionally make bread and it was always, well, cakey. Like banana bread but without banana, especially the whole wheat. It made you feel virtuous in a kind of "I made this and it's good for you" way. I think I usually used a Moosewood recipe.

Today as I watched the steam rise off the beautiful interior and admired the crisp crust, it is clear that I would never go back to the old way. I will post a photo as soon as I can find my dumb battery charger that is hiding from me.

I learned to cook with the Moosewood cookbooks. The first thing I cooked was my mom's tuna casserole, with all the Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and some sort of cracker topping. But when I moved to California for grad school into a groovy vegetarian/vegan co-op with 14 other college students, we had to take turns cooking and cook for 14 other people. I loved it. I loved the challenge of coming up with something good, and I liked it when it worked and everyone was excited about what you had made. And I liked it that when you cooked, other people had to clean up. I was (and am) a messy cook. We made lots of casseroles involving millet, chopped tofu, and vegan cheese. We even made a chocolate dessert with tofu and couscous that I still like but no one I know will eat.

I really don't ever cook from Moosewood anymore. Partly because we're not a veggie household. Partly because I've moved on to different cookbooks after finding the Cooks Illustrated world of obsessive test-kitchen yumminess. I still like paging through them and looking at the drawings and seeing the little notes I included ("needs lots more salt and some hot sauce" seems to be the mantra). Funny how your cooking self changes over time.

Back to the couch with me. I'm reading Ethan Canin's newest novel, America, America. It's OK so far. More complicated than I expected. I loved all of his previous stuff. Also reading more art books, and continuing to make art. Yay!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Still Some Art in There

I've gotten distracted from most things artistic in the last, er, year or so and I have missed my art life. So I'm returning, little by little.

I was once complaining that I didn't feel always feel "inspired" to make something, and a friend pointed out that a musician sits down and practices every day, whether or not she is feeling "inspired." I have a lot to learn about how to work with the muse, how to be patient, how to coax her into showing up, if only by being around when she might. I've taken up trying to keep a sort of artist's journal, drawing something, anything, a few times each week. That was inspired by the blog, Lifecraft, written by a woman I've never met whose story fascinates me and who would likely be bemused to know that I follow her work so closely.

I've also started to get all kinds of books from the library, trying to teach myself more about art history. So many holes in my education there. When I learn about it, I feel like I'm drinkly deeply from this well of history and well of meaning. I recently finished Robert Hughes' book, American Visions which is really heavy and hard to read just in a month from the library, but it was so much fun as a read that I pulled it off. I've now got a whole new armload of books about contemporary women artists. Yay!

And I saw a great movie called "Who Does She Think She Is?" about contemporary women artists struggling to make art in the face of the demands of family and work and all those normal life things that say "pay attention to me! over here!" There were five women, each with a compelling story, each with some really good, hard reasons for them to give up making art. But they don't, because they pretty much can't stop. It is so worth seeing, both for the inspirational stories but also because their art is really good, really satisfying stuff. I was particularly fascinated by the deeply religious woman from Ohio with five children, making cool but creepy fairy tale statues. Yikes! I could say a lot more about all of those factors, but I will hold off for now for fear of blog-book creep.

I have certainly continued to stay at least a little in touch with my artsy side through photography, and I have really enjoyed my new camera. It has been great capturing moments from this momentous year. It makes me wonder if I can do more with photography in a way that will satisfy my creative side. Hmmmm.

I started this entry thinking I didn't have much to report. Guess art gets me all going.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Time for the Annual Fall Photos

Mr. Right and I have doing our routine thing, traveling around getting to our errands and hangouts and meetings wherever they may be. But when it is fall in New England, these trips here and there suddenly become little mini-holidays of colors and kicking oneself for not having the camera. Who knew you would need a camera on the way to the post office? But the trees are just gorgeous right now and I don't think we've quite hit the peak yet. Fall in Pittsburgh was always beautiful too, and I'm not sure if the colors were any different or more or less beautiful, but because people travel from all over just to see our leaves here in New England, well, I guess it makes you pay a little more attention.

We stopped at a farm stand Saturday in New Hampshire and of course I went nuts with the camera. Between food and fall foliage, I was in my element. This little stand had something like 14 kinds of apples and weren't even trying to sell the raspberries and 5 kinds grapes they also had growing in profusion. So I was having these fun Napa Valley photos right in New Hampshire. I love the smell of grapes on the vine, so incredibly sweet. The last was a tree that was almost blindingly orange. It was just on a random side street. It made me happy that I wasn't the only person stopping to take photos of it, that all of us still get excited by seeing such a beautiful thing occuring in nature, even when it is the most normal thing in the world.

Oh and the last one I had to take as proof that canned brown bread really does exist here -- I had previously posted about this phenomenon. Here is a restaurant serving it for Saturday lunch, which is apparently a proper time to do so. I'm not sure if $5.25 is a good deal or not.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Photo Play

I had fun taking a couple of quirky shots at the wedding, so these are for people who enjoy something a little different.

The top one is just so tender. I really like it. Those little moments and details can just make me so happy.

I also got this one of the veil and dress. Not a complicated shot but I like how it came out.

The bride was so beautiful, I love this one of her Greek dancing ... it reminds me of a Sargent painting ... I love the shapes and color.

And then here below is some fun on the dance floor. I think you get a real sense of the pulse in this one.

A Lovely Pittsburgh Wedding: Don't Forget Your Cookie Bag

We had a great time at Tina and David's wedding. I don't think you need me to say much, just get to the photos, right? It was a gorgeous hot September day and of course the bride was stunning. The look of joy and relief on both their faces, so lovely. I remember that same feeling walking back down the aisle. Whew!

I like this one of Tina laughing:

And oh my goodness, I do love wedding cake. I can stare at photos of wedding cake for inappropriate amounts of time.

It's lots of fun taking photos at weddings. Now that I've been through the craziness of planning a wedding myself, I especially enjoy the details that I know the bride has agonized over for the past 8 months. Each of the tables had a fun photo of all the parts of Pittsburgh. Cool!

And speaking of my earlier post about Pittsburgh food, we have a very proud wedding tradition in Pittsburgh called The Pittsburgh Cookie Table. It's so ubiquitous at weddings in Pittsburgh that people at the wedding didn't even understand when I called it, "The Pittsburgh Cookie Table." It would be like referring to a "French Baguette" while in France: it is somehow ridiculously redundant. Whereas anywhere else in the country they are asking you the question, "Why are you having cookies at your wedding?" Of course we had one at our New England wedding, and it made me very happy as a true Pittsburgh Bride.

Anyhow, this was the mother of all cookie tables. It streched on for miles and had so many varieties I'm not going to list them all. Sufficient to say it was cookie heaven. My photo does not do it justice, but does demonstrate there were so many that everyone there packed up baggies to take home (and some unnamed bloggers may have packed more than one bag but only because the cookie makers told her to).

Pittsburgh Food

One of the many pleasures of Pittsburgh is its variety of exquisitely delicious-but-bad-for-your-arteries food. As I show Mr. Right around town, it's been important that he learns about these options. So far he has been an enthusiastic participant in my tours.

In town last weekend, to my great joy, we hit the Pittsburgh culinary jackpot: a Polish Food Festival! We had one of everything. We Have No Shame.

I took a photo of our tray. We've got stuffed cabbage, pierogie, haluski, and kielbasa (in the bun). I'm looking at the kielbasa and I'm thinking, yikes, my husband does love mustard. That's what those squiggles are. You can't even see the sausage. Well, it's one of the things that brought us together, our shared love of condiments. Salsa Girl, meet Mr. Mustard. What else could follow but true love?

And of course we went to Primanti's. I tried to get a shot that shows the french fries on the sandwich with the ubiquitous Iron City behind it. Pittsburghers put fries on sandwiches and salads. It's just what you do. I am proud to be from such a great city.

Friday, September 26, 2008

And Dillard57 Roars Back to Life

Roaring might be a bit of an exxageration, but I am returning to life on this blog. I was momentarily distracted by a little event back in June when Mr. Right and I tied the knot. Here is a photo from the day. If you want to read all the dorky details, feel free to do so at To sum up: It was a good day, beautiful and sunny. We are incredibly blessed with wonderful friends and family who joined us in Plymouth. We are very happy.

And so, back more or less to our regularly scheduled programming.

We spent this last weekend in Pittsburgh for my dear friend Tina's wedding. I'll blog more about the trip in a bit. But this post is just to say, well hello old friends of dillard57!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Painting Is Done Now the Next Thing

I've switched some these days from painting canvases to painting walls. After some seriously arduous wallpaper stripping, we finally were able to lay down a very nice coat of pale green paint in the kids' room. It looks nice! We were just amazed at how much it transformed the room. I know, this isn't revolutionary. People Paint Room! It Looks Nice! Details at 11:00!!! Nonetheless, we were proud, and I wanted to document the moment so here's Mr. Right, changing a room that looked like a warzone into something that looks like a bedroom. I mean, the walls really were that weird brown color you see underneath there.
That's what blogs are for, right? All of these random moments that no one really cares about but us. But who doesn't like to see the photos??? He's working so hard that his roller painter thing is a blur! Or it could be I used to low of a setting on the camera. Whatever. The rooms are done!!!

And of course, now the quest for matching bed spreads begin. Sigh. What have I become? Oy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Old Dog New Tricks

Not sure if I count as an old dog yet, but I'm learning new tricks with my new Pentax. There's this cool thing called depth of field that makes things close up look in focus and further away items look soft and out of focus. It's just a neat trick, but it can make a simple shot much more interesting. The photo above shows what I mean.

The salt shaker is in focus, the pencil can is not. You can switch so the pencil can is in focus and the salt shaker is not. Or so that they both are in focus. It all has to do with how open or closed your aperture is. Anyhow, that's it. My new trick. More soon and fewer salt shaker photos I promise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Watching Paint Dry: An Update

At this point, I'd be thrilled to be watching paint dry on the bedrooms, but at least we got the wallpaper stripped (thanks again to Ian and all those home blogs out there). The walls are pretty hideous underneath, but we're going to risk painting and see how it goes. It has been fun learning about paints -- just when I thought I was all set with Behr, Consumer Reports comes out with a whole new article about inside paint so I have to think about patrionizing the products of the Evil Box Store that Shall Not Be Named (click link for a cool site) since they were so highly rated for their paint. Hmmm. Even more alarming: there is one not far from my gym. Paint and politics may not mix, we shall see.

And just wondering, does anyone else enjoy paint chips as much as I do? I don't know what it is, but they are such fun little pieces of paper. I also had a pretty fun time on this site that lets you try out colors in a room. We humans like our pretty colors.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The quests have changed

I'm tired tonight so I'm not sure this will be an interesting or groovy blog entry. I was just pondering how my quests have changed. I've been here 10 years now and I'm not getting to know Boston as much now I have figured out my way around, nor trying to find the ne plus ultra brownie since I would argue I've found it. Now the big quest is finding the perfect seashell stamp for the Big Event. Is it this one? And then there's the garden lantern. Will it be big enough? Not to mention bands and sound systems and officiants and don't even get me started on figuring out what to put on the registry. For someone who likes to research whether or not she's using the best mayonnaise or trying to make her own from scratch, making this many decisions in a short amount of time is both wildly fun and incredibly exhausting! The internet is such a blessing and a curse for informational gathering.

Not to mention I'm not sure if people are as excited to talk to me about rubber stamp options as they were about talking to me about the best place to find hot chocolate. But hey, that's what internet discussion boards are for, right? To find people out there as obsessed with flush settings as you are so you don't bore your flesh and blood friends to tears.

So. Back to looking at stamps. Thanks CF and Bowl of Cheese for the leads on these! And once again I marvel how life has changed for me since Bonita the Duck.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Holiday Barn

I'm a sucker for barns. I can't remember if I've covered this in the blog before, but when I see em, I get all warm and fuzzy. My theory is that it comes from all those trips to Indiana through the Ohio Cornfields. (note to self, use the search feature and find that indeed, I am repeating myself).

Anyhow, if you like them too, here's a nice one for you, right near my parents home, taken during our Christmas visit home to Pittsburgh.

Stripping the Walls

And now for the home improvement blog. Mr. Right and I are starting to get his house ready to put on the market. Don't talk to me about timing -- we know. But we've got good reasons to move forward with the sale, so we have the get this 140 year old farmhouse ready for the rest of the world. So we are tackling the wallpaper in the bedrooms. In the kids room, it wasn't terrible looking paper, but there were some peeling areas and some completely blank areas. First photo was how it looked when we started. Then we proceeded to strip that layer (with the help of Ian's blog as well as a little This Old House). Well, there turned out to be four layers. Yikes!

As you strip those layers, you can't help but wonder who picked them out and who has been hanging in the room, staring at the cabbage roses or the snowflakes. Were they happy here? What were their lives like, here in the southern suburbs of Boston? You can't help but be nostalgic when you look at this old paper, hidden for so long.

The next step will be adding the new paper -- I'll share that when we get there. It's a satisfying project, if kinda messy.