Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summer of Subsistence

I find this hysterically funny: my sister and her family have a cat that, for the most part, stays inside. On Thursday he got out and went missing. Last night at about 9 pm, he turned up at the back door, and when let in made a beeline for...his litter box. Apparently the cat has not yet figured out that the world is just one big litter box for him.

In other news...I spent this morning driving up to Kittery to deposit my paycheck, since the direct deposit hasn't kicked in yet. Grrr. It's not a bad drive, just over an hour, but I hit pockets of angry rain, thunder and lightening which are never pleasant to drive in. I spent the drive thinking about consumerism, which has been on my mind lately, in part fueled by a month between paychecks, a vacation payout that was decimated by taxes, and a post here (warning: knitting blog!) where the author has made a pledge to not buy anything "unnecessary" until the end of the year. It's giving me pause to evaluate my own spending habits, something Wall Street would prefer we all not do at the moment, but when those of us who own cars that get 40 mpg freak out over gas prices Something Must Give.

I actually cut waaaaay back on spending when I moved to NYC, partly because it's an expensive place to live and partly because you can pretty much forget buying clothes there if you are above a size 6. I also, somehow, managed to stop buying stuff like makeup and lotion, which is sort of miraculous given that there is a Sephora practically every few blocks (Sephora, how I love thee...). I did continue my book habit, but for the most part bought them at The Strand, so instead of getting 2 books for $30 I got 4. This habit could be close to cured with a library card.

Yarn...well. I did buy some yarn. Insanely nice yarn which at $20 a skein probably added up. But...most of that has been or will be turned into gifts for people (whether they like it or not...I'm not sure how thrilled my mother was to receive socks for Mother's Day...). I have just the right amount of yarn now, at least for me: several skeins of sock yarn that will keep me busy, plus yarn to make a blanket for one of my nieces, and then a few random skeins that could be scarves or hats. So, I could easily put my yarn buying on hold for a few months.

The only other thing I really spend money on is food. I'm working on that one, which is hard because I gravitate towards organic stuff that costs more. I have started bringing my lunch to work, although I'm on the fence about whether this really is cheaper. I need to experiment more on this one.

At any rate, I think I may try not buying non-essentials for the summer. This is obviously going to be slightly arguable - I'm not going to quibble over whether I really need Newman's Own chocolate alphabet cookies. And I will buy stuff if it needs to be replaced (like new tights) or runs out (like camera batteries, which is why my photo project stopped short). So "need" might be a bit loosely interpreted. I'll make a list of the things that I want, and if I still want them at the end of the summer then I'll buy them. Given my loathing of delayed gratification, I suspect this experiment will last about 10 minutes, but I suppose I haven't got a whole lot to lose.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Boy am I grateful right now. First of all, I don't have a migraine. I got one last night, I suspect because our air conditioning at work died and I got dehydrated. (On the plus side? It was the one day that I didn't sit in my office shivering.)

Second, and in all seriousness, I am grateful that I didn't take the sublet in Newton, because if I had I probably would have been in a train accident this evening. I used to live in Newton and rode the T every day, and I'm really scratching my head over how the trains could have collided. I am anxious and sad for the trapped conductor and her family, but I also love hearing the stories about people helping each other out. It makes me feel like we as a species have a little bit of hope.

Third, less serious but still grateful: after carefully micro-managing my money for the past 2 weeks (which is not, um, something I generally do...) because, for long boring reasons, I haven't gotten paid at my new job yet, I discovered that my NY tax refund finally came through. I LOVE it when the universe provides like this. Although, I am still petitioning the universe for some semblance of a love life to utterly no avail. I think that might be even beyond divine intervention at this point.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Subconscious Is Out To Get Me Again

Today I did practically nothing, except start a new, fairly complicated sock pattern and walk to the lake near my apartment. In visiting the lake, I also discovered that I live across the street from a large state mental health complex. How utterly convenient.

I am really cranky for no tangible reason other than that I've been having bad dreams lately and they are bothering me. They aren't nightmares, but just unsettling dreams that frankly make me not want to go to sleep. For example last night I dreamed that me, my sister, and her old friend Beth moved in with my old boyfriend Bill in Tennessee. I pretty much hated Tennessee, and while Bill was totally sweet, I wound up not really liking him all that much either. In the dream, he wasn't exactly thrilled to come home and discover us living in his house, particularly when I reiterated I had no intentions of marrying him. There was a lot of nasty tension in the dream, and then at one point I was like, "wait, my sister can't be here with Beth, she has three kids. Oh my god, where are the kids?" and it was like I was in some parallel universe where her kids didn't exist. And I couldn't reconcile it in the dream. At any rate, it upset me on some deep karmic level and I can't seem to shake it.

So I went for a walk, trying to get myself out of my funk,
which was marginally successful. It's a small but pretty lake that reminds me a lot of the 'Hills:

But it wasn't quiiiite over yet. I got home from the lake and my internet connection went completely haywire, inexplicably making me cry. I left a whiny voice mail for T., although what I thought he could fix from Maine (possibly Alabama) is beyond me, and also silently chiding myself for needing a guy to rescue me. I dug out the wireless instruction book, though, and actually managed to fix it myself, though how my network preferences got switched from "ethernet adaptor" to "internal modem" is beyond me. But I fixed it, "all by myselps" (to quote my nephew), and THAT at least cheered me up.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Those Voices In My Head

I've noticed over the years that my "inner critic" often is actually not my own voice. If it's related to my appearance, food, health in general, or money it's usually my mother's voice that comes through loud and clear. I used to often find myself at the grocery store, surveying the contents of my cart and hearing my mother judge them (lettuce good, apples good, ground turkey ok, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING PUT THE Haagen Dazs BACK NOW). 

If I do something with any sort of risk involved, it is generally my father's voice that rattles around my head. Dad was quite present today as I hiked through the Upton State Forest. I heard him telling me this was a bad idea, nobody knew where I was, I could get eaten by a bear, bitten by a coyote, contract lyme disease from a tick, get attacked by an off-leash dog, fall down and break my leg, or be raped/killed by some whacko. Several of these possibilities were reiterated by signs posted at the park entrance (bears, coyotes, ticks, and off-leash dogs) which obviously didn't help. Normally I waste several mental (sometimes physical) miles with this lecture in my head, but the good news is that I'm getting much better at recognizing it and detatching myself from it. Because it's really hard to enjoy anything with all that negativity buzzing around my brain, and there's no room to appreciate stuff like this:

That's not to say bad stuff can't or won't happen, but I find that dwelling on all the negative possibilities distracts me from the reality of what is in the present moment- it's a beautiful spring day, the sky is impossibly blue, the pine needles are slippery, I hear birds, I see little purple wild violets, etc.

I did hear my own voice loud and clear, though, and it was saying, "How is it possible that I am so out of shape after spending 7 months in NYC?". I'm beginning to realize that walking often is not at all the same as walking far. Before moving to NYC, I regularly walked 3-4 miles several times a week, either on the rail trail or in Vaughn Woods (my blog header photo is of one of the bridges in Vaughn Woods). In NYC, the subway was one block away from my apartment (two if I took the 1 train), and one block away from my office. The grocery store was 2 blocks away, and the drugstore 3. The most I ever recall walking all at once was about 10 blocks, which I think is roughly half a mile.

I should have realized something might be amiss this morning when I put on my favorite summer pants and they barely fit, despite my weight being more or less the same. But as we all know, I have superhuman powers of denial. My body was not at all thrilled to find itself being propelled through the woods on an often rocky and occasionally steep trail that seemed to go on FOREVER. I probably only walked 4, maybe 5 miles max (I'm a little confused by the map), but half a mile in my legs were already grumbling. I forced myself on, though, because my lower back has been bothering me (those damned commuter rail seats...) and walking is supposed to help with these sorts of things. I also was determined to find the pond, where I imagined there would be a bench or a rock to sit on for awhile (which there was, a nice rock on the edge of the pond, but the bugs were unbelievable). And, I was determined to not be defeated by all the negative crap in my head, which was physically manifested by all the horse manure that was scattered throughout the park trails.

I've also been watching podcasts of Oprah and Eckhart Tolle, based on his book "A New Earth". This is the result of random internet surfing on Friday night, and as much as I hated Tolle's first book "The Power of Now" I can't explain why I started watching this. It bugs me when he says that if people don't get what he's saying then they just "aren't ready to hear it". That said, there is enough truth to what he is saying in terms of psychology and much Buddhist thinking (principles of which much Western psychology has come to embrace) to make it worthwhile; like most things, I take what resonates and ignore the rest. And what does resonate is how strong ego is, and how destructive it can be in our lives, and how being in nature can help shut down one's ego.

So I left the park all blissed out and drove out of the parking lot all happy, until I had some guy honking at me from behind. Apparently I had accidentally cut him off, and he yelled out the window "Hey dumbbell, can't you see?!" before squealing off in a huff. In truth, no, I couldn't see; there's a curve in the road for one thing, and there's lots of trees, and I suspect he was going way too fast for the road. In one of the interviews with Tolle, Oprah recounts being given the finger once and thinking, "there must be really something wrong with that guy", and never taking it personally. I, on the other hand, spent a good hour feeling like crap because somebody called me a "dumbbell" and I want to scream at him that he's a jerk and an idiot for not realizing it was at best only partially my fault, and he's a creep for being mean. So there. Apparently my ego is still quite intact and quite ready for a fight. Back to the drawing board...

Friday, May 23, 2008


So this is my morning wait:

This is from my vantage point on my bench, where I sit waiting for the train to come, somewhere between 7:50 and 8:30 am (I don't know HOW they claim a 90% on time rate; the train has been on time twice in two weeks). The photo gives you an idea of the stair contraption that I was trying to explain awhile ago (left side of the photo). This morning I was sitting there listening to my ipod and these were the first five songs, in the order they appeared:

"Hand in My Pocket" - Alanis Morissette
"Fear of a Black Planet" - Public Enemy
"Just One of Those Things" - Diana Krall
"Halftime" - NaS
"Seasons of the Heart" - John Denver

I guess my ipod/itunes takes that whole "random" thing seriously...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Whole Box of Happy

Look what I found at the grocery store today:

Clementines! My favorite thing ever!! Well, maybe not ever, but they are up there on the list of what makes me happy. And, in fact, there is such a list in the making. For the past two days, I've been trying to make a list of 100 things that I love. It actually isn't as easy as it sounds; I'm only up to #52 (reading trashy* magazines in the tub. Which is cheating, in a way, because "reading" and "long hot baths" were already on the list.)

So now I'm wondering if it is just a hard thing to do, finding 100 things in this world to love (I'm leaving people out of it!), or if I am defective in some way. I'm hoping it's just proof that I'm not very materialistic. It might be residue from NYC and having my life shaken up so much that I actually don't really know what I love anymore. Or, I might just be a ridiculous human being with hours of commuting time to fill.

*defined as People and UsWeekly, for the most part.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Waiting for My Ride Home

When I moved to NYC, I had grand plans of taking one photo per day to document my new city life. That didn't happen, for a number of reasons, and so I thought I'd try it here in Boston. I don't know if I'll actually post one picture per day; there are a lot of bloggers doing "30 days of photos" as well as a 365 photo project over at Flickr, and I'm not sure I'm that organized or will really remember to do it. I'm thinking that my only rule is that the pictures have to be about something I see or experience on a regular basis...but whatever, it's my game and I can make up the rules, or throw them out altogether if I so choose. So there.

At any rate...heeeeere's photo #1:

It's not a great photo, but is of something that has much daily importance in my new life. It's the commuter rail departure board from South Station. It's a large monolith that hangs from the ceiling, and I'm extremely interested to know why it isn't covered in pigeon poop, because there are lots of pigeons inside the building. But I digress. The commuter rail board has a twin that marks Amtrak departures, and then there is a ginormous one in between that is currently just a big, black, blank monolith just screaming for some prank by MIT kids. I walk to South Station after work and join a couple hundred other people standing around waiting for the gate numbers to be announced. When they are, there is a mad dash for the train that makes me think of the way ants swarm and totally freak out when you step on the ant hill. Even though there is generally a good 10 minutes to board the train between the time the gate is announced and when the train leaves, people dash anyway so they can get their choice seat. For me, it's a window seat in one of the last two trains, and not near anyone talking loudly on a cell phone. Also to be avoided is anyone who remotely resembles a tourist, women in pairs, or people with small children...all have the capacity to drown out my ipod, which seems to be stuck on a low volume setting at the moment. And, I discovered today that it is actually quite possible to fall off a moving commuter rail train. Nope, not hard at all. (It wasn't me, it was actually one of the conductors, and it was allllmost stopped and he didn't really fall, just kind of stumbled as he tried to jump off, but it set my mind reeling with possibilities just the same).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Drinking The Kool-Aid

This post will probably have nothing to do with drinking, or Kool-Aid, but the phrase was used in my company by three different people today, and I find that interesting.

One of those people was my old friend from grade school, C., who I hadn't seen in a few years and, oddly enough, works in the same building that I do. If this isn't Jungian synchronicity, I
don't know what is. She and I had lunch, and as I was telling her about my NYC adventures I realized how dark it all seems now. I mean, in my head, everything I remember seems dark, like the lights were always turned way down low. I did live there from October through April, the darkest months (thank you, day light savings...), and the apartment didn't get a whole lot of natural light, so in some ways it is not surprising that things seem dim in retrospect. But metaphorically, it was an emotionally dark time for me -- literally nothing seemed to go my way, whether it was my living situation, my job, or my relationships, even with my friends.

And so I'm a little weirded out by how radically things have shifted in just a few short weeks, to the point where I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. My living situation is just fine, my job appears to be one that I can be happy and productive in and yet not lose my mind, and old friends are turning up everywhere (even Utah!). My inner emotional drama from unrequited love has substantially waned, although I'd be lying if I said it was completely gone (the song "Where You Lead" by Carol King turned up on my ipod this morning, and I still squirm when I hear the lyrics: "I always wanted a real home/ with flowers on the windowsill / but if you want to live in New York City / honey you know I will").

Most strangely, I am starting to feel like "my old self" again - although I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that. A lot of it could just be that I'm actually getting 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis. The strange part is, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I went to NYC because I wanted to radically shake my life up, and now I feel like I've darted right back to my comfy spot. Granted, I appreciate my comfy spot a heck of a lot more than I did pre-NYC, but I have a pathological need for the NYC experience to MEAN something; I must LEARN something from it; I must be able to point to the scars and have some philosophical narrative to explain them. Leave it to me to have an existential crisis over things going well.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Random Sunday Update

1) When my sister first moved to this area back in the late 1990's, I couldn't imagine why on earth anyone would live out here. In particular, I loathe and detest Route 9. For the unfamiliar, it is more or less a highway, except at random intervals there are STOPLIGHTS so people can turn into strip malls and car dealerships. Which, as you might imagine, creates all sorts of interesting near-misses, if not outright accidents. I now have to drive Route 9 daily, but during the week I am driving in the opposite direction of commuting traffic so it isn't so bad. But on the weekend all bets are off, in either direction, and for one split second I missed running errands in NYC - no car necessary, just my own two feet and a subway card.

2) I ventured on Route 9 this weekend so I could go to Trader Joe's. Stephanie raves about them a lot, and so I went with high hopes. I was surprised that a full quarter of the store was liquor. I don't know if this is an anomaly here in Massachusetts, but I found it peculiar. But the prices and loads of organic stuff made it worth the trip. It also had a really odd customer mix this afternoon: Coach-purse bearing soccer moms and hippie students.

3) As much as I hate chain stores, I was deliriously happy to discover today that I could return things bought in different states at Staples and J. Jill.

4) I totally reverted to my night-owl schedule this weekend, AND drank caffeinated soda today, and I will pay for it dearly tomorrow morning.

5) I gave up on the curly hair experiment. I found it more work, and I don't think it looked that good. It may just be the unfamiliarity of it all, but I like it much better straight - even if it means I have regular half-hour dates with the hair dryer.

6) I now have Amy Winehouse stuck in my head.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Synchronicity a la Jung

The other day, when I started my job, I was handed a phone list and I immediately scanned it to see if there was anyone I knew.   Luckily, there was no one familiar but, as it turns out though, my best friend from grade school works in the same building (but for a different organization). This astounds me to no end; she herself just changed jobs a few months ago, and for some reason I thought her job was in the suburbs. But this has "Messages from the Universe" written all over it - at least, as I like to interpret "Messages from the Universe". I take this as yet another neon sign telling me I am where I am supposed to be, despite my lingering feeling that I hacked off a limb and left it in NYC.

On that note, I do keep hitting these sad pockets, usually on the train to and from work. For some reason, probably because that's the only time I have to really think, this is when it hits me that certain doors are now closed, and I keep having to scold myself for trying to imagine ways the doors might be crow-barred open at some future point. The only way I can stop myself is to remember very hurtful things, and hence the sadness. I suppose it will go away in time, but sheesh. Enough already.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day One

Today was my first day at my new job. The job itself seems fine, but I fear the commute will kill me sooner or later. It's about an hour and a half each way, the morning segment of which includes:

*me stumbling down one flight of ridiculously narrow apartment stairs at the (for me) godawful hour of 7:30 am
*one short car trip, most of which is spent sitting at the world's longest light
*one episode of cramming money into those impossibly tiny little Central Parking pay board slots
*one hike up, over and down a train staircase (which I need to take a photo of; it's one of the strangest things I've ever seen)
*one train ride with seats that never fail to cause one or both of my legs to fall asleep
*one three block walk

The return home is the same, minus paying for parking and navigating the train stairs, but presents the additional challenge of trying to remember where I parked my car.

It seems surreal to be back in Boston, though. I lived here from 94-98 and so it is one part familiar, one part strange (because so much has changed since then). And, I'm taking the commuter rail rather than the T, so that element has been removed as well. But this place has some memories just the same, and I was a little annoyed with myself this morning as I replayed certain episodes in my head (particularly one involving a long late-night walk from Cambridge to Boston, which time has proven to be life-altering in ways I could scarcely imagine and still can't quite believe). And, well, y'know, if you are trying to get over someone, I'd advise you to look at a map before planning your next move so you don't accidentally wind up in the object of your affection's hometown 'hood. *sigh* (Seriously. I can't win.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mackworth Island

I found my digital camera card reader while unp
acking my stuff, and was able to download pictures from my vacation. Such as they are, because I'm discovering that photos that look great on my camera do NOT turn out so well once uploaded. Not sure what that is about, but it was a pretty inexpensive digital camera so perhaps I got what I paid for.

At any of my favorite little places to go is Mackworth Island in Falmouth, home of the Baxter School for the Deaf but also a state park. It is a beautiful little place that overlooks Casco Bay, and its small parking lot guarantees a certain amount of solitude and quiet. The limited parking can be a hassle on nice weekends, and they don't let you wait for a parking spot, so I always try to have a "Plan B" in mind when I go there. I first visited here with T. and the Chloe dog, as there is a well-maintained hiking trail winding around the island that is great for both dogs and people. The trail is very even, although there are some steep access points to the shore, and there are plenty of spots to sit and picnic or just watch the water. I overheard one mother say that the 1.25 mile trail is "short enough for the kids to walk and long enough to tire them out for a nap". The kids also like building fairy houses in the community forest.

This was my first visit to Mackworth alone, and the first time that I actually made it down to the water. What did I find?

A snail graveyard. Or housing development, perhaps; I like the idea of snails leaving their old house here and finding a new one, before sailing out to sea again. But seriously - the ground was just covered in snail shells. I've never seen so many in my life.

I also found several glorious yellow forsythias, which contrasted beautifully with the blue water and sky:

But my favorite thing about Mackworth is how it smells. The salt water from the ocean combines with the pine trees, and provides a uniquely Maine smell. It compels you to breathe deeply, and when you do it feels medicinal. For native Mainers, I think we carry this smell in our DNA; there is something about it that is more than just home, it's primordial and in our blood. People "from away" can appreciate it, even love it, but it will never posess them the way it does us natives. I sat on the little jetty (top photo) and inhaled while watching several loons swim around sputtering at each other - it sounded like they were saying "Wow", and I had to agree.

A Room of My Own

Well. Here I am, more or less settled into my new sublet. I even managed to get my impossibly heavy computer upstairs and get the wireless set up all by myself (mainly because I watched Tom set it up at his house). There are still some things at my sister's I need to get, and groceries to be bought, but that's minor. I can't believe I've just moved AGAIN, and will do this in reverse in August when my sister leaves for California and I move into her house...the things we do for family and free rent...

Although I have a roommate, I am already feeling much better about this sublet compared to my last situation. Not only is this apartment on the top floor, meaning there will be no noisy upstairs neighbors playing music or dropping furniture on my head until 3 am, but I have a fairly bare room all to myself. It came with a bed (a twin...yikes!), a table (for use as a desk), and a tv/dvd. Nothing on the walls, hurrah! No tchotchkes to worry about breaking, or antique furniture to be paranoid about ruining! I can watch movies in bed! And, most importantly, I can actually feel like it's MY room and I'm not just borrowing someone else's. Oh, AND it overlooks WOODS. Happy, happy, happy.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Blissful Baking and Horrible Hair

My newly shorn hair was giving me fits this morning, so I decided it would be a stick-to-home sort of day. I leave in the morning to move into my sublet, so I began the odyssey of finding all of the crap that I have managed to scatter around T.'s 3,000 square foot house. I never fail to amaze myself at my capacity to wreak havoc with clean spaces.

Speaking of which...this afternoon I got a hankering to make some WHO bread. I scurried out to the nearest supermarket to buy ingredients, and just for fun scoped out locally made items. This was by no means a scientific study, and it is still quite early for anything Maine grown, but it was pretty much a bust. As it turned out, Shaw's has
a bazillion things that are organic, but the only locally produced thing I could find, outside of Oakhurst milk, was maple syrup. I couldn't even find local honey, which I thought was just weird. I also thought there would at least be local asparagus up by now, but the sign at Shaw's said "Imported". From where, I wonder?

At any rate, it's been awhile since I baked anything from scratch. The cockroach population of my apartment building in NYC made leaving any food out (eg, rising bread) just Not A Good Idea, plus there was very little counter space to work
with. T. has a grand, well-equipped kitchen with lots of space, and after my reading I had to do SOMETHING that qualified as cooking. I was nervous about whether the bread would rise or not, but it poufed up just fine. The first pan is in the oven right now, and the smell of fresh bread is leaking out of the oven. Ahhhh.

Now, if I could just do something with my hair...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thinking About Food

My reading this week has primarily been Barbara Kingsolver's book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", the story of her family's attempt at growing their own food and eating locally grown/produced food for one year. Much like books by Michael Pollan and Marian Nestle, it's got me thinking about my own atrocious eating habits, and dreaming of when I was little and got to eat raspberries, warm from the sun and straight off the bush, at my grandparents house.

Obviously, my own health is a consideration. I came out of the womb a picky eater, and was in my late twenties before I could stand having my mashed potatoes touch my peas. Intellectually I know it all winds up together in my stomach, but I just couldn't deal with mixed colors or textures on my plate. I also have a strong aversion to vegetables, although I am slowly getting better about that. For years my diet staples were Diet Pepsi, tortilla chips with salsa, and chocolate, so any change is an improvement. I was shocked to learn that red peppers are actually really good, particularly when roasted. I also was shocked to discover that I will forego ice cream for a couple of clementines, and that fresh spinach and arugula have miles over the plain iceberg lettuce I grew up eating. And, when I am at my grumpiest, I know that sweet potato "french fries" will never fail to cheer me up.

But beyond health there are socio-political ramifications about one's food choices as well, and those are the things I am dwelling on at the moment. I'm not going to get into the whole "meat is murder" issue - you either believe that or you don't. And, as all three authors point out, meat and poultry can be raised and butchered humanely, and those options are becoming more available (if expensive) alternatives. I'm personally more interested in the economic and community development issues related to food production. If there's one good thing about the current gas crisis, it's that we are now faced with the real costs of food production as it is trucked and shipped and flown across the world. A consumer-driven market gives us strawberries on our New England store shelves practically year-round, despite our short growing season. The off-season berries generally hail from California or South America, and they didn't walk to Maine. They were transported here by some gas-powered engine. Do the health benefits of eating strawberries in December outweigh the cost associated with fossil fuel consumption? What are the real costs associated with our food?

And then there's the whole "big business" thing...practically everything we eat has high fructose corn syrup in it, because we subsidize the production of corn. (I know there's some argument that higher grocery prices right now have something to do with government-mandated ethanol production, but I haven't fully investigated that). Most of our food production is mandated and controlled by large corporate "farms" (really, factories), which has decimated thousands of family farms across the country. Subsidies aside, communities disappeared along with these farms. One of my favorite projects was helping get a farmer's market started, and it was amazing the sense of community that grew up between the producers, which included a couple of celibate nuns, a young family with toddlers, and several old male codgers who chewed on toothpicks and said very little. It makes me wonder about what was lost when farming became a conglomerate.

Then, the cooking part. I really hate cooking. I will bake, but cooking real food as opposed to dessert or bread just doesn't enthrall me. I think it takes a certain amount of organizational ability that I do not possess. As a single person, it's often easier to get take out than to actually make a meal from scratch. I also hate leftovers; I can't eat the same thing several meals in a row. But Kingsolver's experience showed that she spent significantly less on food and arguably ate better. And, a friend of mine who weathers the ups and downs of self-employment has said that knowing how to cook provides a security blanket when funds are low: beans and rice are always cheap and can be seasoned in a myriad of ways. I like the idea of self-sufficiency. I like the idea of spending rainy Sundays making big pots of soup from scratch, or the smell of pot roast cooking away. The reality, though? Errrgh. All I can think of is how many dishes will have to be washed and put away.

Now, I must ready myself for LOST, a show where the castaways conveniently discovered a cache of processed foods to sustain them. Imagine that.


I have had an excellent week hanging out here, with several trips to the ocean that will be written about just as soon as I can find my digital camera card reader and can upload photos. In the meantime, I feel compelled to tell everyone that I finally chopped my hair off today. My hair is really thick and has been fairly long for the past several years, but it was starting to get wavy and a complete pain in the arse to manage. So. I should probably have not been surprised to find that once six or so inches were chopped off, my wavy hair got...curly. Yes, indeed. Much curlier than I ever imagined. Curlier, even, then when I used to perm it back in high school. The stylist assured me this happens to a lot of women as they age, but it was no real consolation. Now I'm wondering what the hell other surprises my DNA has in store for me.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday Adventure

Today was a perfect spring day, with a wonderfully blue sky and just a few random puffy clouds. It was too good a day to waste indoors, so I made my way up to Reid State Park for the afternoon. I had many a day in NYC where I wished I could just skip work and spend the day at the ocean, and it was a huge relief to pull into the park. I sat on the rocks for awhile, and then walked the beach where I found a couple of decent pieces of sea glass (one green, one white). It was just the sort of afternoon I needed, and both my body and spirit are happier for it.

On the way home, I stopped in Bath to visit Halcyon's and spent the rest of my birthday money (more sock yarn!), visited with an old (sort of) co-worker of mine, and then came home to an empty house. A BIG empty house.

Tonight: after compulsively checking all the locks - reading, knitting, and TV, hooray!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Misc. Sunday Update

1. Hannaford, how I love thee, despite your credit card scandal. I went to the Maine grocery store yesterday and just about swooned. First, after shopping in NYC and MA, let me tell you how cheap prices now seem here in Maine. Second, all my favorite foods are back, none of which were carried by any of my local NYC markets (and I use the term "market" loosely). Third, there were about twelve people inside the store and I shopped leisurely. The wide aisles allowed passage of more than one person. There was nothing harried about the trip. The produce looked like produce and some of it was even locally grown or organic. The fish counter did not reek. They happily bagged my groceries without pointing to a tip jar. I was delirious.

2. On the other hand? I've been out of the city a week now and have walked to and from the car. That's it. The rain isn't helping, but that is kind of a ridiculous excuse because I walked in NYC in all sorts of weather. Because I had to. And just as my body ached when I first moved to NYC because of all the walking, now it is complaining about sitting around all day. Something must be done about this.

3. Television is not helping problem #2. There's a TV in every room here at T.'s, and I am back to competitive channel flicking. It is difficult to knit when one of your hands has a death grip on the remote and is compulsively hitting the "next channel button". Grrrr.

4. I did spend a few hours with Augusten Burroughs new book, A Wolf At the Table. He is one of a handful of writers that I will actually buy hardcover for, and I have reread all of his previous books so much I can quote passages verbatim. I was really looking forward to this account of his relationship with his father, who is missing from much of the other books, but this book really disappointed me. There was nothing funny about it, and I found the writing to be choppy. It also made me hug the Chloe dog an extra couple of times; dogs do not fare well in this book!

5. Two books that are making me itch to make things: A Fine Fleece by Lisa Lloyd, which is full of beautiful designs for sweaters, scarves, and socks. There's even a sweater design called Halcyon! I am enthralled. I want to buy my own sheep. The other book is called Simple Sewing with a French Twist by Celine Dupay, which I have been eyeballing for months. There is a really nice sewing primer in the front of the book, and there are some really cute patterns for things that I want to make once I haul my sewing machine and fabric out of hiding. Birthday money well spent.

6. Sarah McLachlan singing The Rainbow Connection is also making me ridiculously happy at the moment.

This week: hopefully the sun will come out and I can spend a day or two sitting on a beach or a rock near the ocean.  I also hope to get in touch with a few friends, get my hair under control, and finish knitting a pair of socks. Ah, vacation...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Whoa / Gratitude

It's been a pretty insane week, that's just all I have to say about it. I got a job, and hope to start week after next (it's at a place involving children, so a criminal background check has to be completed before I can actually start). I also found a sublet that is a) cheap b) nice c) in a ridiculously quiet neighborhood. It does come with a roommate, which will be interesting, but it doesn't sound like she'll be there much. After so much grief over the past six months, I am just so happy and thankful for these two small miracles. I also have that feeling of the shoe dropping at any moment, but I'm trying to ignore it. (Possibly at my own peril.)

And now, I am writing this from Tom's house, with the Chloe dog sitting next to me - he was kind enough to let me set up camp in one of his many spare rooms for the next week. With the job and apartment set (move in next weekend), I actually get a whole week of vacation, and I'm looking forward to taking some day trips, getting my hair cut (finally), sleeping a lot, knitting, and watching tv.

Yesterday I turned 37, and it wasn't half as bad as last year - recall that I spent my 36th birthday home alone, sticking address labels on brochures for a conference I swore I would never manage again. (And I didn't.) This year, I had a small party with my nieces, nephew and sister on Wednesday night before I left, and then last night T. took me to dinner where I got impossibly drunk from one glass of wine. I came home, put on pjs, watched LOST, and fell dead asleep. Very content, which is kind of a nice change of pace.