Friday, December 31, 2010

There's Always Hope



The title is a few wise words a good friend recently shared which sometimes I forget. A sunny day marks the end of my first year of blogging. My wish is that my posts have entertained and/or illuminated the elusive concept of curb appeal as I try to build a life from both the outside in and the inside out. To all the kind words and support I have received I'd like to reply, "Happy New Year!" and may health, happiness, peace and prosperity be yours in 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Quest for Beauty



As a parent, you get a huge kick out of watching your kids grow and develop. My daughter has a fondness for beauty regimes of all kinds. Roaming the aisles of the drug store, leafing through glossy magazines and searching the internet for homemade concoctions to improve her looks is a regular fascination. Sarah presents a very poignant image while watching television with different odd foodstuffs slathered on her already beautiful face. I resist saying anything for fear of propelling her in the opposite direction of feeling even more insecure about her looks. Better to redirect her concern with her appearance by encouraging Sarah to focus on what's inside her mind and heart.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This salesgirl's last day


I spent my last day helping Dan and Jessie sell their jewelry in the city in their booth in Bryant Park. Huddled by the heater, I tried to smile at the many different people passing by- native New Yorkers and tourists alike. Soaking in the electricity of street life and the jolt it provided from my suburban oasis of family and hearth was a welcomed change. But the best part was that I made a new friend, Wendy, who had the booth next to Dan's. She is the creator of these beautiful hearts that are charming and inventive object poems. I hope the future allows me to get to know her better.

Resolution #1

Recovery mode and the desire to do better prevails. Where these gale force winds of sadness come from are still a mystery to me. I am relieved, intensely so that Christmas is over. I do feel sorely lacking where the holidays are concerned. James and I can provide the little luxuries, the food stuffs and well lit fires to warm their souls- but as transplants to the east coast the one ingredient lacking is family to surround us at certain times of year. I know this is a need that my children crave. En route to our distraction of Christmas day, we pass the houses with cars assembled and glimpse the silhouettes of people floating by the windows. There is a silent acknowledgment that somehow, we are without that nucleus that others' have of a tight circle of family and friends. Feelings of inadequacy come easily as a parent and I'm tired of all the less than moments that haunt me. Here's to succeeding at reaching out in love and friendship to create the sense of community that as humans we all desire.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Place your bets

Nothing like the day after the day after. Trying to put the pieces of my beleaguered soul together and trying to figure out the source of all the fissures and cracks that can render me unable to proceed. Locked in a time tunnel of sadness and loss, all the whys and wherefores are woefully inadequate to put it mildly. I can ponder the genetic component, I can try to trick myself in to feeling better, I can examine all the ways the glass is half full. I can explore all the ways I know I should be grateful, intensely grateful but then a dark wave hits hard and I am rendered mute and paralyzed by the way my heart hurts. This is not the first time that I have been assaulted by this powerful sadness and I know it will not be the last. At the core I suspect it is the feeling of failure that I feel for not having achieved goals long desired and discarded for lack of better fortune. No, what is required is to try and try again and in the trying craft a sense of purpose that fills me with a peace that propels me forward. Hopefully, with a sense of humor to weather the next dark wave. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holidays? Fun?

I'm not sure how much I like my family at certain times of year- and often at certain times of day. Objectively, standing outside and looking in- we probably resemble an attractive group. But in my heart, the lack of responsibility and lack of empathy for each other can utterly torment me. So, the holidays stir up many hard feelings that linger below the surface. It's good to keep busy during this season. The giving, planning, cooking and care that consume my energies and concern serve as a distraction to my greater frustration that my ability to parent effectively is woefully lacking. This era substitutes consumption for purpose, sarcasm for sincerity, and status for meaning. The questions remain- where do we go from here? And how do we get there?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Party Central

I'm in my bedroom- okay, I am hiding upstairs because my teenaged daughters are hosting a Christmas party downstairs. Just the sounds of the music and many happy, loud exchanges is a strange jolt to my sense of self. When did they get so grown up that they are able to entertain a crowd with minimal assistance from me? Fortunately for the men of my household, James is obliged to work late and Jacob is at a pal's house for dinner so I am acting as the adult of record. When I observed the table arranged with platters of food beautifully composed and candles lit I knew I had done my job as their teacher. I know I am not yet obsolete, I just didn't expect to feel so unnecessary so early in the game. Parenthood affords so many poignant moments but for me, this era has been the most profound to date.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Countdown

It's one week until Christmas and I admit, I'm wound a little too tight. A day at home without errands to run means a chance to pause and look at the chaos around me. Lots of undone chores. Some gifts to wrap but not a lot. Our finances require the exchange of small tokens and no one in my family appears to mind. It's a relief to know that more stuff and clutter does not await us. I'm not purchasing many gifts beyond a neat book to read, or new socks to replace the one's wearing thin and other useful items. I'm so grateful and overwhelmed that we might really be on the path to economic recovery that material things don't hold much sway. Christmas has come early this year for me. Having James back at work is the best present I could imagine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

9-5

For all the obvious reasons, it was a simple pleasure to sew James' coat button to his suit jacket first thing this morning. I brought the jacket back up to him as he was tying his shoes. When he exited at the train station to go to work, wearing the new overcoat I purchased for him yesterday, he looked ready for the trip in and the day that awaited him at work.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Diva Domestica


I'm having a major homemaker, wife and mother day starting with
Drive Sarah to school
Work on budget
Deep clean of the kitchen
sweep the floors
scrub the stove top
bleach the sink
Walk the dog
Head out in the car
fill gas tank in mini-van
mail package
pay Con Ed
drop off James' shirts at laundry
go to bank
go to mall
to Banana Republic- purchase very beautiful overcoat on sale for James
to Gap to purchase jacket and new jeans for Jacob
CVS for prints
Home to empty dishwasher
Jacob tries on new clothes
sort and start laundry
It's 4 p.m. and I need to attend to the clothes, make our bed
hang up James' new coat
think about dinner
pick up Sarah from school?
So the discussion I can't seem to find is the one that addresses how time intensive it is to take care of a family and run a home. The kitchen doesn't shine much less sparkle when counters stay grubby, leftovers remain visible and pots look drab. It is that aspect of replacing light bulbs, restocking of shelves, feeding pets, resolving necessities that all remain undone without a lot of personal effort. I can read all the hints in the world but none of them will ever manage all these responsibilities for me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First Snow


While fixing our morning coffee, I am treated to my first glimpse this winter of snowy backyards. Due to our house's setting, we have quite a bit of land between us and our neighbors, all of which adds to the sense of privacy we enjoy. I am very grateful for the many beautiful vistas framed by our windows. The ever changing aspect of our surroundings reminds me that things rarely remain the same.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Tree Part 1




I participated in one of our family rituals today. I went with James, Nora and Comet upstate to a Christmas tree farm where we selected and cut down a tree. It all went very smoothly- didn't get lost, didn't overpay and did not squabble once. We tramped around the farm in a populated field of pines looking for the perfect specimen. James cut it down and then with a little coordination we got it home without incident. Most of my expeditions lately have been to Bryant Park and it was lovely to head the other way into the open stretches of country and big skies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Renegade 2

I don't even know how to describe the fights that I can have with my daughter Sarah. She is a fully formed young woman now and her opinions can truly startle me. It annoys her that I don't go toe to toe with her when she's outraged- something I'd rather not do. In frustration she hurls all kinds of remarks at me. I'm sure lots of experts would tell me to knock her out cold in some fashion when she mutters her jibes of disrespect. I do believe that outside our home, with other adults who drive her crazy, she is pretty circumspect. She knows where the line is with everyone else. So, I let her rant and then she usually makes a dramatic exit. I'm left in the curious state of digesting her thoughts, especially her negative opinions aimed at me. Isn't motherhood fun?

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Renegade

My daughter just told me to "go away you failed photographer!" (My husband does tend to practice the art of sarcasm whenever possible and the ripple effect is no fun to observe.) She is especially testy in the course of doing anything she doesn't want to do (like making her bed, doing her homework, folding her clothes). It's easy to worry about the ineffectual adult I can imagine when I witness her lazy ways. Sarah told me as a member of her generation she is obliged to rebel against me and my values and has already started by no longer cleaning her room. Welcome to my world.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fontainebleau


For no apparent reason that I can explain, looking at objects can sometimes stir a fantasy and create narratives that race through my mind as if in a dream. As a homemaker, I try to bring elements of whimsy and the unexpected into the home that serve a purpose beyond utility and necessity. I'm hoping it promotes imaginative thinking for everyone and that I really like. I have never been to The Fontainebleau Hotel but since I brought this bag home, every time I see it, I feel a funny connection to this unknown place that makes me smile.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A New Chapter

                                                

It's a freezing Monday morning after Thanksgiving break and we've survived the return of routine. The amazing part of this morning- and something that hung over the family like a shining star all weekend- is that Dad is starting a job today. He caught the 7:22 train to the city dressed for business. I'm still feeling skeptical as though this is all an imaginary scheme that will be yanked from him (and us) in short order. But it does seem like it's really happening. By now, James has picked up his i.d. and is heading to the location where he will work. He is starting a short term contract with a new firm and will be doing project management in i.t. and finance. Exactly what he knows how to do. I am alone in the house and it's 8:45 in the a.m. It's hard to comprehend that my solitude is being returned to me. Since January 21st of 2009, James has been home as well. He used the desk in our bedroom as his office space and I worked down in the office. Both in the house yet worlds apart. During which time I got my paralegal degree, my real estate & notary license. It worked out to have him around helping with the kids. Nora, Sarah and Jacob have probably had more parental supervision than the average teens in our community. Watching him get dressed this morning to jump on the train was lovely. He seemed excited in a way that I haven't seen for a long time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

N.M.J., U.S.A.




This is the land I live in. Dust bunnies, piles, leftovers, and coats are all easily ignored by my brood. My husband is perfectly capable (or used to be) of strolling through a scene of utter chaos and continuing on his merry way to the object of his concern. (One could pause for a moment and think "What could I do right now to make things better?" I know- pick up all the shoes, or rattle the saber a little and get the kids going.) As a resident of Not My Job, U.S.A., I do get a little miffed at the lack of engagement around me. I fluctuate between being good natured, being psychotic (that's what I'm told) and feeling overwhelmed by domestic tedium. Sometimes I can't wait for them to grow up and leave, and other times I'm happy to be pulling my end of the bargain.

After finishing this post- James discovered a recently abandoned piece of bubble gum on the kitchen counter. One that Sarah forgot to throw away (or was she coming back for it later?). Another mystery from the land of curb appeal. I'm going for a detour outside to photograph the random azaleas that have appeared on the bush by the sunroom. Flowers that bloom at the end of November are much more fascinating to me than pondering the state of our household affairs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankfulness

I'm getting along with my husband lately- and for anyone who knows me, sometimes that isn't the case. It's nice to wake up on a holiday with a big meal to cook and like my family. I helped Dan & Jessie in Bryant Park yesterday and met all sorts of interesting people selling their jewelry collection called Made with Coins. Sometimes, in a lull of traffic I contemplate the effort of smiling at every strange face I see. The park atmosphere draws an incredibly wide range of people and the booth is situated in a good spot- near the nicest public bathrooms the city has to offer. I have had a few memorable interactions. Lots of great coin stories and coin trivia. Yesterday, a couple came in. He preceded to take out a small magnifier to look at the coins. It turns out that his job is designing coins for the U.S. Mint. He told me about the new quarters they are doing of the state parks and the larger special coins they work on. I marvel at the many positive encounters that life has afforded and today, I'm grateful beyond measure.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Troubled, Sort of

                                     

It's that kind of vague "what next?" feeling when so many things have been sorted out, delivered, done. Maybe there was more happiness in the getting ready, the worry and anxiety of pending deliveries, outcomes and unknowns. No, today there is no monumental challenge to keep me up at night, tossing and turning in the hopes that it will all turn out okay. The play at the high school has come and gone. The college application submitted. The party documented and c.d's mailed. Like the waitress in the limbo of checks on the table, I await the next obstacle, desire or necessity that will absorb my focus and concern. In the meantime, I inspect the garden and the last gasp of autumn's glow. Fading but determined to dazzle the eye. Restless and troubled, sort of.

Monday, November 15, 2010

In my opinion

Motherhood seems to be an endeavor where it's routine to feel that you should be doing better. If you manage to help one of your children achieve something they desire- the next day it can seem wrong and then what kind of job did you do of helping in the first place? You are suppose to be all things to all people, stay as fresh and adorable as the day before you got pregnant and manage to be chic and attractive without ever buying new clothes. (Kids are after all, very expensive.) You have to look for all those teachable moments, forgive all their irrational outbursts ("I hate this family and especially you!") and keep your mouth shut when you'd most like to vent about the frustrations of living with them. No one held a gun to my head and said "Now that you are over 40, you have to have 3 children." No, I signed up for this and most of the time it feels like a worthwhile enterprise. Undervalued, repetitive and low on the excitement chain (unless you like receiving phone calls in the middle of doing something important because your son just flew off his bike, appears to be bleeding from somewhere and needs to be picked up- right now!) Kids are great when they are asleep or off at school getting good grades and being good citizens to boot. But like all things worth doing- different days can leave you in a very different state of mind. Managing the family, the home and all the petty concerns can make the rewards of parenthood vague some days at best.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Arsenic and Old Lace





As a result of spending most of last week in the city, everything has kicked up a gear or two. Lots of things have to be delegated and it's mostly working. So somebody up there likes me. I'm having some nice opportunities to shoot photo stories for the Tarrytown Patch and that's a lot of fun. I ran into a neighbor while covering a recycling event and learned some great news. Later, watching my daughter and her classmates rehearse Arsenic and Old Lace in the high school auditorium, I was completely entertained. I really appreciate their teacher Mr. Kennedy and the fine job he does as their director. I created a photo story to post on the Patch featuring the characters who are featured in the upcoming performances and I am posting some of my favorites here!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Twist in my Routine

The cold has arrived along with the early darkness of life after daylight savings. I am going to the city to help a friend of James for the next week or two. He's selling a jewelry collection of his wife's designs crafted from coins and I am operating the booth at Bryant Park a few days a week. So odd to be thrust into the middle of Manhattan and watching all the dozens and dozens of people going about their business. My total immersion into the asphalt jungle- midtown version. I am happy to be of help but getting home after 9 p.m. after being gone all day makes me wistful for my normal routines. I feel completely disconnected from the family and a little sad. Not exactly feeling the thrill of retail but then again, I said I would help and I'm not going to punk out. The upside is all the designer bags, shoes and hairstyles that form their own kind of parade. I've been on the farm a little too long and this temporary immersion makes me realize how small my life has become.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday in Teendom




Saturday and no one needs to rush anywhere and do anything. No forgotten binders, notes, uniforms or lunch. We are free to take a moment and gather our wits. Teenagers can be remarkably invisible- off with their friends, hiding in their room with their friends, chatting online with their friends. The house feels quiet and busy at the same time. I'm prepared for someone to come knocking at the door or the phone to ring, "Is Jacob (Nora, Sarah) there?" There is lots to miss about parenting small children. How important it was to be with us and their easy expressions of love and connection. At some point, you have to back off and hope that all the unheeded advice has penetrated the noise in their young minds. My kids seem more or less sensible and aware of the dangers of risky behavior. Let's hope all our due diligence was a good investment in raising thoughtful young adults.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rain

Some kind of fatigue rolls over me and it's hard to know where to begin. "Live each day as though it were your last." Well that's a pretty tall order when the covers seem very attractive and I can't resist closing my eyes. I wake up to discover the kids have eaten dinner. Whatever they prepared worked fine as no one appears to be starving. Somehow the nucleus of my family is melting and rearranging itself and I'm standing on a mental sideline trying to recall what exactly I am doing. Hanging uncomfortably and feeling like it is all slipping by me. I have to redefine my purpose. Now that's one big understatement. Time to get a life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kitchen Dispatch



I'm having a very domestic week and it feels great. Suddenly in the kitchen more and cooking again. I'm trying to be a good frugal gourmet. James brought back a huge bag of leftover salad from the neighborhood party that was getting very soggy. So I threw it all in a pot and made homemade vegetarian stock. Then I used the stock as a base for cream of asparagus soup and it was extremely edible. Delicious even. Had to use a lot of All-Clad for that operation. The huge pumpkin that James carved was full of seeds. I love how yummy they are when you coat them and roast them in a slow oven. It was completely worth the impossible headache of getting the seeds all nice and clean of the pumpkin junk. Max came and went yesterday and his van is no longer in our driveway, Nora's application is moving along, and Sarah was positively sweet to me today- amazing. Here's to forward momentum.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tricked Out



                                 






















 Watching a horror movie with Jacob and winding down post-Halloween. The parties, hay ride, haunted house, shaving cream fights et al have been absorbed and enjoyed. Now it's time to eat leftover candy and blow out the lit pumpkins. (James truly has a talent for crafting and this year's efforts were no exception.) All the hoopla serves as a minor distraction from our real pending concerns. Back to my worries about the elections, the economy and our next set of moves. For the moment I'll succumb to a few peanut butter cups and appreciate life's blessings.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life Cycle Chez Moi

Another bewildering morning here on Evergreen Way. Nothing like two well tended teen aged girls finding new and ever more insightful negative terms to hurl at each other. Sometimes, my daughters make owning pets look very peaceful and drama free. No, there is no turning back. There is no safe haven, hospital or police station where I can drop them off in the middle of the night, in a basket with a sad note pinned to their chest. They are all ours and until they reach that pivotal moment of moving out I will endure all their nuttiness. It does make me cringe inside and I am forced to revisit all the brutal battles of my older brothers that I witnessed when I was a child. Ah, the circle of life and all its pleasures and heartache.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Emerald City

                                    

My husband loves to be involved with our community. To me, that is one of the more subtle elements of curb appeal- supporting the town in which you live to make it a better place. We each find our ways to contribute and volunteer and as a result know a lot of the different kinds of people who make our village so unique. Currently, he is working on the upcoming Halloween hay ride scheduled for this weekend. As a result, our kitchen is now home to his mural in progress. His version of the Emerald City. When placed in the corridor of the dark woods, I am sure some frightening aspect will be revealed. A demonic Dorothy and her terrifying friends. For now, it resides here as a monument to fantasy. Getting the kids out for school this morning we had his vision of this faraway place as our temporary companion. My spouse and his obsessions never cease to amaze me. Having painted all night- he will be one exhausted guy all day for sure.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Grey Thoughts

                                          

It's a grey day- a sort of in between day and I am suspended in my own time machine of worry. James and I attended a financial aid seminar last night and it made my head spin. So much to do and square away to get our eldest off to the college of her dreams and on to the next chapter of her life. My husband is off on a job interview and it's hard to even think about the possibility of his having steady employment again without wishing for it so hard my heart hurts. It's been one strange interval of economic uncertainty in which we have not been alone. So that softens the blow a lot. It's easy to feel inadequate and second guess every decision I ever made. The mother in me, the guide tries to act as my own parent and give me little pep talks every time my courage and hope begin to flag. When my kids open the refrigerator and scout for something to eat, or kick off their clothes and take a hot shower and then slumber in their cozy beds- I have to appreciate that in spite of all the difficulties we have managed to keep ourselves intact. If only for their sake, I smile and inquire about their day and prepare the next nutritious meal which with luck they will be happy to eat. A certain amount of pretense can go a long way to keep my sense of peril at bay.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday


Midway on a Monday and I am getting my focus back incrementally. The weekends mean having a lot of activity and the clash of different agendas. The time shifts differently as whatever I am doing, I expect to be interrupted. Lots of Plan B's for me. So far, a quiet phone today means a chance to hunker down. A day without too many plans can bring a lot of unexpected results. Here's to possibility.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parental Concern

                                         
The funny thing about parenting for me has been the necessity of being on the premises most of the time. I chose to stay home with my kids out of desire and default. (Okay, I also didn't know how to keep my business going in Manhattan and have three kids 5 and under.) When you man the oars yourself as a parent, drop everything when they are sick, try to attend to their more pressing needs- all the meals, maintenance and tasks that small humans require to keep moving forward, it's a certain commitment that you make. I was prepared for the kids (I think) but not really the laundry, the dental check-ups, the homework management and 24/7 personal counsel that parenting seems to require. Or maybe not. I'm sure I have all kinds of dumb notions about parenting that will send my children to therapy for years when they become adults. I am not ill-intentioned. They have owned up to that. I am interested in their well being and our community and the world. So, that's another legacy too. I'm hoping to promote their ability to care about something beyond themselves because someone has cared about them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A.M. Dilemnas

Another morning of domestic chaos. I've been sleeping through the alarm this week and the results aren't pretty. Two annoyed young ladies with their charming ways. "Why didn't you get me up!" "I told you to get me up!""Why did you sleep through your alarm?!" "Argh!!!!!". So, you get a jolt of adrenalin with the push out the door. Somehow, Jacob has graduated to another level. He gets himself up (okay, he goes to bed at a reasonable hour), manages to always find something he is willing to wear. Oh, and the best part is that it takes him 60-90 seconds to get dressed. The girls on the other hand, are often a protracted dilemna of style versus substance- and what did I wear already this week? I definitely remember how important my appearance, my entrance was each day when I got to school. Curious how little changes while so many other things do. Such is life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

City Life



Another day stacked with activity. Doing some research work in Queens for the Citizens' Jury Project to try to discover a source of vintage images for the New York State Supreme Courthouse located there. I went to Queens Central Library and the Queens Museum of Art and learned a lot. What a huge borough Queens is! While looking at a photo exhibit at the museum, I stumbled upon a panorama of the entire city of New York. It's in the form of a floor map that you can view from numerous vantage points and was originally created by Robert Moses for the 1964 World's Fair. Quite a unique way to look at the expanse of the city and all its waterways. From there, I met some neighbors and did a tour of the official residence for the mayor of New York City, Gracie Mansion. It was an amazing transition from this bird's eye view of the city in a 9000+ square foot space, to a charming wooden house on the edge of the upper east side with beautiful vistas and filled with history. New York affords so many experiences packed with its many residents and cultures. Sometimes I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Parenthood 101

                                     

One of my new assignments is creating photo stories for the Tarrytown Patch. It's not too hard to find things to write about as our area has some pretty interesting residents and enough activities to keep everyone busy. Yesterday I went and photographed at the Warner Library book sale. I asked different people to share their favorite find with me. When this beautiful woman held up a book on parenting- it was hard not to smile. Even the best intentioned people can raise kids who routinely drive them crazy. Knowing this gives me a lot of comfort. Life with three (often eye rolling) kids has held its own share of frustrations ever since they learned how to talk......

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Site Lines





It's one of those cloudy autumn Saturdays where the day is not full of plans or obligations. A day to poke around the yard and see how things are progressing. One of my favorite elements of curb appeal is site lines. My goal is to have beautiful things to look at, no matter where your eye is turned when you move around our property. It's a combination of perspective, composition, size of elements, time of year and so on. Something that evolves, challenges and pleases all at the same time. Properties with curb appeal draw you in. It's inspiring to have these views. Like food for the soul through one's eyes.

I took some time to photograph a project we did a few years back. (Someday the stacked flagstone in the top photo will leave.) Originally, the stone wall in our back yard bordered a gully that we completely neglected and used as a buffer. When the kids were little it was a popular spot for hide and seek. After our neighbor raised his corner and built a much higher stone wall, we saw an opportunity to raise our side to the top of his wall and develop the area as useable space. We brought in 20+ yards of dirt and used the talented Annie McGinnis of Going Native to fill our gully and then tiered it with a lower patio using stone that was on our property. (Her website features a lot of my photography.) We broke through the original stone wall that lined the upper part of our backyard, and added the path and steps to the new lower patio. The Japanese maples are volunteers from a friend's yard that I rescued a while back and we moved to this spot. The lower level was my chance to have lilacs, grasses, mock orange, a platform feeder for the birds, boxwood, ferns and hostas. Plus another spot to hang out, read, and hide from each other or gather with friends at night and make a fire in the portable fireplace- as my kids like to do.

Last weekend I went back to the gardener from whom we bought the lilacs and bought a new addition for the yard. It's called barrenwort and will turn shades of crimson as the fall progresses. The amazing thing about curb appeal are the opportunities imagined and obligations required of living in a house.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sailor


Third day of spirit week and today is sailor day. Sarah completed her look by making a cute paper hat. Last night, she and Jacob went to her high school dodgeball tournament. Sarah played for her grade and Jacob went to watch. Nora declined to go as she was too busy baking a cake at a friend's house for some senior event today. They kicked all the middle schoolers out of the dodgeball game and Jacob called very grumpy needing a ride home. It all worked out- except that the freshmen class lost big.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Prep Day




This is spirit week at school and the girls are enjoying all the traditions that it means. As part of spririt week the seniors (like Nora) get to pick what the freshmen class (like Sarah) have to be and their color (this year it's beige). Different days have different style attitudes. Yesterday was crazy hat day and today is prep day. Sarah takes her time and puts her look together the night before. Nora throws it all together last minute and is often in such a rush that it's pointless to take out my camera. She is already behind schedule. It's getting harder and harder to photograph Sarah as she finds it annoying. (I guess anybody would, as Nora likes to not so tactfully remind me.) They all make interesting subjects for my camera and ongoing diary. Hopefully they'll put up with me as their personal papparazi for a while longer.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Busy



It's been a busy few days with work and projects. I got to work with some engaging people and spent time at some lovely locations. It's always fun to work with kids! Today I shoot a portrait in Brooklyn of an artist who I think will make a great subject- so I'm looking forward to that. My children have been helpful to relative degrees and James has been very busy with the other zillion things that go on all the time. I'm really enjoying looking through a camera and trying to compose a memorable moment. It's a pleasure to create using autumn's golden light.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The S.A.T.'s


Nora has been the soul of determination the past year in thinking about her move beyond high school. Since Labor Day and the beginning of her senior year, she has definitely kicked it up a notch. We really appreciate her willingness to focus her efforts on this task. Today she is taking her S.A.T. exams (for the second time) and last night she studied, turned in at a respectable hour and woke pretty easily at 7 a.m.. In fact, she has been studying for this test for the past couple weeks, culminating with her complete focus (we think) yesterday. She had a study partner over and I found them hard at work in her room. They took a break to go get dinner, but other than that she spent most of yesterday and the day before hitting the books. I admire her work ethic a lot these days and am so glad she has one. (Hopefully she got a little bit of that from her father and me.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

All-Clad



I'm not really sure how I came to possess so much All-Clad. (Okay, that's a lie. I know exactly how I came to own so much of this stuff- I bought every single piece of it personally and brought it home). Somehow, when I came to live in a suburban house and found myself a wife and mother to three, I knew making dinner was going to be a big piece of my personal puzzle. I saw it as an investment in my cooking and could justify the expense (Luckily, both my husband and I were working in the city at this time). My first purchase was a starter set in the '90's. From then on, I always waited for some one-day sale at Bloomingdale's where I would arrive with my special discount off coupons in hand ready to procure the next necessary item for my batterie de cuisine. It is a comforting sight at certain times of day- to see the pots waiting to be deployed. Hopefully in a way that makes most people happy. ("What! Soup again! You know how much I hate onion soup!!!") How much money do I have tied up in All-Clad? Do I really want to know? Still, it has been an extremely good investment as the pots have been of great service for years, clean up beautifully in the dishwasher and still have years of use ahead. If you want pots for a lifetime, I highly recommend them for your kitchen. They also make great gifts and usually create converts of the lucky recipient. If only I could justify the expense of the current addition to their line of baking ware I would probably rave about that too. Unfortunately, the cookie sheets I inherited from my mom still work fine. One of those high end desires that I probably won't fulfill any time soon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Law & Order British Style


A little sleep deprivation makes parenthood that much more....trying. "I'm up!!" Door slams. "I've been up!!!" Stomp stomp. "I've been getting myself up for weeks!!!" Glare and eye rolling. Yes, my daughters are full of vip and vim in the morning. A picture of true enchantment. Jacob sips his cocoa in the kitchen and tries to stay off the radar. Somehow, getting ready for school doesn't pose the same Herculean challenges for him as for his sisters. And I'm groggy myself having indulged in the guilty pleasure of staying up way past my bedtime to watch television alone and uninterrupted. Now that the Law & Order franchise has gone Hollywood we are committed to seeing if it is as good as its New York parent. All that California sunshine gives the show a decidedly different air. While channel surfing later I came upon a true revelation- Law and Order U.K! Down to the graphics, episode formula and the percussive beats signalling a plot change. I felt the kind of t.v. excitement that can wake me up instantly. My favorite part was watching the courtroom scenes in the English mode. Can't wait to see what countries go Law & Order next.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Excitement for Mom

A very exciting thing happened to me today. Since the day Hodding Carter's excellent blog, The Frugal Guy first appeared on Gourmet's website, I've been hooked. His writing is so wonderful, his observations of his family's day to day life so acute and self awareness so humorous, that I've become a devoted fan. He has certainly been a huge source of inspiration (and support during this downwardly mobile economic time) as I craft my posts. A while back, I did comment on one of his posts and told him how much we enjoyed his writing and I made the bold move of telling him about this blog of mine and attaching it as a link. When I didn't hear back, it didn't bother me, as I imagine how busy so many people can be. Then on September 23rd, an email arrived from him with no subject in the heading.

Hi, Dorothy. I'm sorry I've been such a lame blogger. I've said this before so I understand if you remain doubtful but I'm really back now. Here's my latest post and I plan on writing a couple of times a week from now on. I think I'll even post something useful on occasion! Thanks, Hodding

PS--I love your photos. And I'll post your blog or highlight it or whatever it's called as soon as I figure out how.

Well, I was really happy to get that email. Really happy. I clicked on his blog today and I noticed there was a new feature, a blogroll.

Oh, and I’ve finally added some great writers to my blogroll. Check them out when you get the chance..

And there I was listed as a writer whose blog he recommends. Right there in type, my blog on Hodding's blog. Now that makes me really really happy.
Thanks Hodding!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Revlon Calling



We have in this house what can only be described as the love of nail polish. It might be a genetic trait as I have been fascinated with nail polish ever since I can remember. I have photographed manicured hands, painted with nail polish on canvas, photographed the bottles themselves as subject matter and printed a small book about nail polish names. So, it should come as no surprise that my daughters seem to possess a similar interest in this cosmetic form. For now, they are content to experiment with the colors I have accumulated using the medium of their fingers and toes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Miracle of the Pairs


This morning we had another small miracle. I call it the "miracle of the pairs." While folding the clothes, I noticed that all of Jacob's polo socks were matching up. Not a single sock in the bunch. That's not to say it was a complete miracle. Once again, there are the random single socks in the pile fresh from the dryer that I will never be able to match up again. (I really don't know how we manage to lose so many socks in the wash. Our previous washer was even worse- I pitched baskets of single socks years later with bewilderment. I'm sure it's something we all do wrong in the laundry). While only temporary, I savor the feeling of domestic calm when I can make something add up neatly.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Day of Documenting (Part A)




I had a really interesting afternoon photographing my friend Steven Salzman's artwork yesterday. Originally scheduled for Thursday, we had a weather delay as the rain made it impractical to shoot. Awoke to a clear and sunny morning. (Hit a few yard sales and bought a vintage Mark Cross ballpoint pen for $1.00. Looked it up online and new, it retails for $70.00. And it works. Brief moment of happiness). Delivered Sarah to her friends to attend our high school's homecoming football game and then off to the the city. Made my way to Steve's door downtown, delivered the gear to him, found a legal place to park the car and strolled back to his place on the crowded city streets. (There is absolutely nothing simple about shooting in New York City.) The afternoon light that streams in Steven's Tribeca loft is really the bounced sunlight coming off the row of buildings located across the street. It is a perfect light for photographing his artwork when combined with a reflector on the inside. There is such subtlety in what he creates that I feel lucky to stand in front of one. They are that good. I can attest to this personally, as I have been living with one of Steven's artworks for years, from another period that focused on incandescent paints that shift hue relative to where you are standing. Hopefully, you'll see in the above photos that I took at home today, what I mean. As a photographer, who spends so much time observing the light that surrounds me- his work provides a unique kind of visual pleasure and intellectual vigor that I always appreciate. I'm planning on creating a neat post about what I photographed yesterday. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween U.S.A.

                                   





It's October 1st, and for most people, the scent of fall is finally in the air. But for those of us fortunate enough to live in Sleepy Hollow, well, October 1 marks the beginning of the month long celebration of Halloween. Complete with enough haunted hay rides, pumpkin displays and endless community events to make Christmas seem like a quaint time of year. My gallant husband, honor bound to contribute to the festivities, is leaving his personal mark on a shop window on our main street and it's lovely to see his artistry at work. Here's hoping the rain doesn't wash it all away before October's end when the Headless Horseman finally makes his way through town.