Wednesday, December 31, 2008

december 31 and ready

Two years ago at this time, Colin and I were getting ready to storm the Champs Elysées in Paris for an all-out New Year's celebration in the city. It was exhilarating—and I don't normally enjoy New Year's Eve—with the thousands of people drinking Champagne in the street, toasting the Bonne Année, speaking different languages, falling into nearby cafés and restaurants for a late-night meal. I'll never forget that gigantic crème brûlée we had that burned for almost as long as Mummy's figgy pudding. We were determined to have a good time (and we did). The party wasn't so much a focus on our accomplishments of the past year, but an enjoyment of the thrilling moment and excitement of what was to come. Our relationship was on the cusp of a great thing...

Now, two years older—and a little wiser—I'm feeling much more determined to reflect on the milestones of the past year, for they are great indeed:
  • Colin got a promotion and is working his dream job at Burton; I'm working my dream job at EatingWell
  • I snowboarded off a jump in the mini-park at Stowe—and landed it perfectly
  • We took a trip to England; Colin met the English cousins, aunties and uncles
  • Colin's sister Jill got married
  • Colin and I bought our first place together, a home we absolutely adore
  • My sister Hannah moved to Portland
  • Au Lait lost three pounds—that's a lot for a cat
  • Mama Sonia—my last living grandparent—passed away. One of the last things she said to me was, "this is part of your education." Indeed is was.
  • Our parents—the Walls and the Algers—met for the first time up in Vermont; we had dinner at Trattoria Delia
  • Colin and I got engaged; he proposed under a tree at the Christmas tree farm
  • My sister Emma gave birth to a beautiful baby girl; I became an auntie

This year, we're celebrating New Year's in our new home. And we are ready to celebrate with gratitude and anticipation for the year ahead.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

distractions and contractions at Christmas dinner

Well, we made it through Christmas—a day we'll remember forever—though looking back, it seems as though everything were on fast forward.

It all started Christmas Eve. Em, Kev, Colin and I went out for sushi at Asiana. We knew Emi might have her baby at any moment and so we wanted to make the most of our time together. Dinner was wonderful. It was so quiet all around town. We ate a lot of maki. Emi had the non-sushi kind. I got a crazy roll called Kiss the Dragon and my favorite mango martini. We got to ride home in Em & Kev's new car—a Passat wagon—that they had already outfitted with a baby seat.

The next morning was Christmas. Em & Kev came over for breakfast and my parents arrived with lots of prezzies and all of the stockings (apparently Santa was too busy to bring them to Burlington himself). Kev made some fabulous bacon—the thick-cut kind from his special pig. Emi had made cranberry muffins and cinnamon rolls. Col served mimosas and bloody Marys (an Alger family tradition). Emi ordered an extra-spicy virgin Mary. She later told us she thinks that was the thing that put her into labor—her contractions started right after that. They went home for a while to rest.

Kev got new glasses in his stocking:

A little later, slight chaos ensued. Auntie Lucy and Uncle John arrived. I started prepping Christmas dinner. Colin was working on his mom's famous crab dip. We put out the ham. The pastelles were steaming. Dinner was just about ready.

Suddenly, my knife slipped as I was cutting an apple into matchsticks for the salad—and it sliced into my pinky finger. The cut was pretty bad and my mom said I should probably go to the emergency room. So Col and I jumped into the car and sped off to the hospital. An hour and a half, one tetanus shot and a glued-up, bandaged pinky later (thank God no stitches!) we arrived home again just in time for Christmas dinner.

Emi and Kev had arrived. My sis was more flushed that usual. And she kept leaving the room every few minutes. Was it really happening?

We sat down to a wonderful dinner with ham, smoked trout, pastelles, rice & gandules, tangerine green beans, and the red & white salad that started it all. Then there was the figgy pudding to ignite. But Emi wasn't in the room.

"Em, do you want to see the figgy pudding?" we yelled out.

She came in for the figgy pudding. We lit it. We took pictures. We pulled the crackers and put on our crowns.

Emi was gone again. Then she was back.

"I think we need to go," she said. It was really happening... We all got up from the table and tried to keep busy.

Colin and I finished the rest of the Abbot's Table while we video chatted with Hannah for a while. We pretended to eat popcorn together and chink our glasses in a toast. Then we took pictures of each other as though we were at the same party. We kind of were. And the party was fun.

The next morning, we woke up and got ready to go visit Colin's family in New York. Papa had news about Em—they had checked into the hospital at 5:30 in the morning. Holy cow!

We were packing up the car when Papa cried out, "it's a girl!"

What?! We were all in shock. So soon? Then we were all crying and hugging each other. She did it! Emi did it! I don't know why I think I expected her to be pregnant forever. The baby thing felt kind of surreal.

But she's real. And she's beautiful. And she's a really great suckler. Her name is Sapphire. Holy crap, I'm a auntie!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

gift wrap

Tonight after work, I picked up a big brown box from Em & Kev's house. It was filled, I knew, with prezzies from the West Coast—our sister Hannah wrapped them with care and shipped them off to arrive just in time for Christmas.

When I got home, I place the cardboard box untouched by the Christmas tree. I let it sit there while we cooked and ate dinner, while we did some things around the house. But finally, when Col relegated me to the living room for some personal time, I sat face to face with the cardboard box.

So, I decided to open it up.

I cut into the tape on the top and let the flaps fall open. Inside the box, Hannah was everywhere—she was in the beautiful wrapping paper, the artfully placed ribbons, the intricate hand-cut tags and graceful writing.

I felt my eyes begin to tear. I miss her. I do. I wish she could be here for Christmas, to see my ring and to be here when Baby Kouri arrives.

I pulled out one thoughtfully wrapped gift after another, and as I carefully peeled away the bubble wrap and blew off the packing peanuts, I felt somebody else's presence in that box, too: Mama Sonia.

Mama Sonia always used to send us boxes filled to the brim with prezzies, wrapped in luxurious papers, labeled with embossed stickers advertising the local gallery or special boutique where she bought them. She was always so thoughtful with her gift-giving. So thoughtful with the presentation. The whole package, which always included a Harrington's ham, smoked turkey breast and a huge round of Stilton cheese.

Hannah, you reminded me of Mama Sonia tonight and I felt like both of you were with me by the Christmas tree—the tree that witnessed Col's proposal, the tree that was felled in a fit of love and bliss. Now you (your prezzies) are posing prettily under it. And Mama Sonia (her hand-stiched angel) is perched at the tippy top. And the Harrington ham is chilling in my fridge (Poopy, I just read your blog about the chicken, so I know you can especially appreciate this point!)

You're here in spirit. xoxo

Friday, December 12, 2008


Every time I sit down to write this post, I come up blank. Part of me doesn't want to write it, because if I do it means that the one I wrote before it won't be at the top of the page anymore. Plus, whatever words I choose sound trite. Is it okay if I stay quiet for a few more days? I think I need to bask a little longer...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

o christmas tree, oh my!

This weekend, Col and I went to get our Christmas tree. It's going to be our first tree in the new place, plus we're hosting Christmas dinner this year, so Col had his heart set on 1) the biggest tree ever and 2) cutting our own.

He did some research and found a tree farm in Stowe, called Paine's, not far from the mountain access road, so we went there after snowboarding on Saturday.

When we arrived, we asked one of the guys, "where are your biggest trees?" He told us we'd have to walk all the way to the back of the property to find them. The walk was at least a half mile, but we were up for it. So we grabbed a saw and were off. We held hands the whole way. It was quite romantic actually.

We finally found the tall ones. The were really tall. But kind of scraggly around the middle. So we kept searching, zig-zagging in and out of tree lines, over stumps, under branches. Suddenly, I backed myself into a ditch and my foot landed in a deep puddle of ice water. It was so cold and wet! But I was determined to keep my spirits up. So we kept looking.

Finally, we found it. Our tree. It was perfect! Full and beautiful. And perfect. Here it is:

So we found it, but then we had to cut it down. Col got down on his knee to inspect the trunk and bottom branches. Then this happened:

"Will you marry me?" he said and burst into tears. That's right, Col pulled me down under the tree and proposed right then and there. It was the most romantic thing in the whole world. I was completely surprised and unprepared, but I managed to squeak out an "Of course I will!" before we both turned into puddles. The man in the tree tractor drove by at least once. He must have wondered what the heck we were doing.

After our little romantic session, we still had to cut down the tree. You know what they say about big trees: Big trees, big trunk. It took a while, Col was still shaking from the whole ordeal, but finally that man of mine cut down the tree.

We spent the rest of the weekend calling family and friends, drinking champagne, and of course trimming the ginormous tree, which, by the way, fits perfectly in our place.

And tonight we made some origami peace cranes for ornaments. Aren't they cool?

Holy crap, we're engaged. Loveyoubye

Sunday, November 30, 2008

col gets interviewed

I interviewed my boy Col for NPR's National Day of Listening. We went snowboarding together on Friday after Thanksgiving and I interviewed him on the way to the mountain, at the mountain, in the lift and then finally at home. I thought the location was very fitting.

Colin couldn't understand why I wanted to interview him. It's not because he has a lot of history under his belt--he's only 32 years old. But we both lead very busy lives and sometimes we can go through an entire week without really talking to each other. It felt good to set aside an hour of time to have a conversation and get to know each other again. He enjoyed it too, I think, and was honored to be asked.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

On personal accomplishments:

A favorite memory:

On life influences:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"sangweiving" & national day of listening

It's the night before Thanksgiving. Tomorrow Col and I will drive down to Sugarbush to be with my family and Kev's family. I'll be bringing my favorite Brussels sprout dish from Bon Appetit. Col's bringing the best-ever pecan pie from Harvest Market in Stowe (thanks Burton!). I tell you what, it's been Thanksgiving EVERYTHING at work. I can't believe it's finally here and I'm so excited. It might be my favorite holiday...

And just to let you know: Friday is the National Day of Listening. Storycorps & NPR want to inspire people to ask those around us about their lives and listen to their story. Storycorps even has a neato question generator to help you come up with interview questions. I've decided to interview Colin, my boyfriend of more than 3 years, since he's the one I'll be with on Friday. If all goes well, I'm going to post the interview here on my blog. (Provided he gives the a-okay).

Okay, Happy "Sangweiving" everyone.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

the first day: snowboarding, winter market, panang

We went snowboarding at Stowe yesterday for the first day of the season. It was snowing like crazy up there! There was a split second when I forgot which foot to strap in first, but once my board hit the snow, it was like we never even stopped for the summer.

When we got back into town, we hit up the first winter farmers' market of the season. They're happening the third Saturday of each month until April. There was lots there! We stocked up on root veggies, Brussels sprouts, herb mixes from Arcana, mixed nuts... there were vendors selling wine, cheese, bread, wild flowers, honey, maple syrup, produce, and lots of crafts and pottery.

Then Lauren cooked me a Thai panang curry dinner with some mad cooking skills she picked up in Thalaid. We drank mango martinis alongside. Yum!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Have I told you about the jellyfish at Hendricks Head?

When my dad became a preacher in 1985, he was assigned to a small fledgling church on the coast of Maine. We were living in the small town of Pawlet, Vermont at the time. We packed up and left our little house for good and headed off to Boothbay Harbor. I was just five years old.

We spent two years in Boothbay. They were magical years, despite some of our less-than-magical living situation. We lived first in a house in town. We were on the first floor and our landlords lived on the second. They were fighting all the time. Sometimes the little girls would come downstairs and stay with us until the fighting was over. Sometimes their mom's boyfriend would throw things out the window. I had the chicken pox in that house, after we went to England to see Gaffa for the last time. I think I got it from the cousins. I remember laying on the itchy couch and just couldn't get comfortable. Gaffa died shortly after. 

Eventually we moved out and went to live in a rusty old trailer right outside of town. One of the bedrooms was an addition and through the seam in the floor, you could see the ground below. That was where Hannah performed a seance with spaghetti and grape eyeballs. We all got in trouble. That was also where I got hit by a car riding my bike. I wasn't hurt, but the old lady driving the car had a scare.

The garden filled up with mud every time it rained. Mummy couldn't bring herself to tell Granny about the trailer.

We found solace in nature. We took swimming lessons at the Y and became very good little fish. So Mummy would bring us to the beach on Southport Island and let us swim far off to the back of the jutting rock that became an island surrounded by water during high tide. There, where the beach dwellers looked like baby crabs in the distance, we swam admidst the bulging beards of seaweed that swelled with the moving water. 

We were spooked by signs of life down below and scrambled onto the rocks, being careful not to slip in the slimy seaweed pods. There were mussels and crabs hiding beneath the seaweed tendrils. We knew, because in low tide, when their mop tops were pale and dry in the sun, we'd walk out and flip them upside down to reveal the wet squirming bugs beneath. But somehow, covered in dark ocean water, the tendrils came to life and were something less than friendly. 

On top of the small island, we'd run along the worn dirt paths and play "Let's Pretend"—an imagination game we made up on that rock and haven't really played since. "Let's Pretend" belongs to the rock at Hendricks Head. 

The road that takes you to Hendricks Head goes right by the beach where we played on the rocks. During high tide, the water rises all the way to the road, and the only thing separating you from the sea is a stone wall. At certain times during the year, hundreds upon hundreds of jellyfish congregate there to spawn. Some are left behind in the sand when the water recedes, so you have to be very careful where you walk, lest your feet get stung!

One night, my mother brought us there to watch the jellyfish. Have you ever seen a sea of spawning jellyfish at night? They glow electric blue. And the beach is transformed into a galaxy of stars, like a mirror of the sky above. It's pure magic.

I don't know what made me think of the jellyfish today or Hendricks Head. But I did, and then I wanted to write it down, so I don't forget. Although, I can't imagine that I ever would. Those memories are so clear in my head—they're unforgettable.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I've been watering my friend Lauren's plants while she's away. Tonight, when I went over to her apartment, I found two buds on her orchid plant. I think it might flower. Isn't that wonderful?

I always had the impression that orchid flowers require a lot of tender care. Mama Sonia was a whiz at growing orchids, wasn't she? They were her favorite. She had a special area for all her orchid pots and there was a little spray bottle sitting next to them that she would use to mist their pretty faces. I always pictured her garden in Puerto Rico just dripping with the floral beauties in all shapes and colors, some of them spotted like exotic sea creatures.

At her mass, there was a bundle of orchids tucked in with the rest of her bouquet, and I thought she would have loved that. I haven't seen an orchid flower since. And so I think, it will be nice if Lauren's plant blooms again, won't it?

These pretty pink orchids I snapped at the Winterpark Farmers' Market in Florida a couple of years ago:

Sunday, November 09, 2008

nyc, home

Just got home from a weekend in New York. We went down for a send-off for Mark & Kathleen—a sort of bon voyage to new adventures in England and congrats on the engagement all wrapped up in one fun weekend blitz. Highlights: another fabulous Moroccan brunch with Courtney at cafe Mogador; NY Firefighters save the day (and the apartment next door); a lovely bottle of white wine from the little shop around the corner; an out-of-this world Italian dinner at Aurora in SoHo; late-night dancing at Lit (that place never lets us down); and of course a 3 a.m. slice of the best white pizza ever. I want to tell you all about it and post pictures, but I'm just so tired right now. Gotta go to bed. Loveyoubye

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

i voted

Last night I had some terrible dreams. I found myself alone in a haunted temple with stony vaulted ceilings. The stones shifted shapes and lashed out at me—they were demons. Suddenly I was on the Metro in Paris and I couldn't understand what people were saying. (But how can that be? I speak French, I remember thinking.)

I didn't know where I was or how to get where I wanted to go. I got on the wrong train, one of those long distance trains that doesn't stop till the end. And it was going to a dangerous place. I was trapped. And the other passengers lashed out in front of me like the demons in the temple. They tried to rip my clothes; steal my passport.

Suddenly, I was back in the temple. But this time it was filled with people. I was crying uncontrollably. I realized it was a funeral. My friend's brother had died.

I woke up in a sweat, my legs and arms crossed so tightly. There was a sound coming from the street, the sound of cars driving slowly. I looked out the window. There were tons of cars lined up outside. They were all heading towards the school. And then I remembered: it's election day!

Election day. Just the thought gave me a chill. One way or another, all of this unrest will finally be settled.

I got ready as quickly as I could, then I walked out the front door and turned towards the Middle School. I'm lucky, it's just three houses away. As I walked closer to the entrance, there were tons of campaign posters and people holding signs. I didn't look at them. My mind's been made up for months. But I still got a chill entering the building.

We're making history today.

I walked up to the sign for district 3-3 and told the man my name. He gave me two ballot sheets. One for the official State of Vermont ballot and one for the city of Burlington. One of them was bright pink.

I filled out the ballot with a black marker.

Then I walked up to the machine that looks like a copier and put my ballots in one at a time. The volunteer next to the machine gave me an "I voted" sticker. I stuck it on my blue and white striped top.

Just a matter of minutes, and all before 7:45, but I feel so accomplished already. And at 1:30 today another huge feat comes to fruition: my sister Emi is defending her PhD thesis. I'll be there for the presentation with Kevin.

(I'm still trying to figure out the significance of the dreams.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

36 hours in Burlington, Vermont

The New York Times ran a travel story on Burlington, Vermont this weekend and the article was number 5 in the top ten most popular last time I checked. Read the story here.

I thought the writer did an okay job of hitting some cool sites. Lake Champlain Chocolates. Check. Radio Bean. Check. Flatbread. Check. Although I can't believe they went to L'Amante instead of Trattoria for good Italian. And, okay, I'm kind of sick of metropolitan journalists claiming that Burlington style is inspired by Birkenstocks. It's so cliché at this point, and frankly not true at all. Plus, do people really care that much about Nectar's—the birthplace of Phish?

I thought the Nylon Magazine review from last November did a better job of describing the city from the street rather than 1000 feet up, like this one does. (If you were a New Yorker visiting the city for the weekend, would you really want to spend your time at the Echo Aquarium? I think not.) Still, it's nice to know the city I love so much is getting some good attention.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

almost as good as the real thing

Okay, so not all of us are blessed with a working fireplace. Colin and I happen to have three fireplaces, none of which we can actually use. But this time of year, when it's chilly and wet outside and everyone's predicting snow (yay!), you kinda want to have the crackling noise in the background to comfort and warm the soul. So, here's our solution: one hi-def T.V. placed strategically in front of an empty fireplace, plus one ambient fireplace DVD from the Netherlands equals something so close to the real thing, it does everything a real fireplace does—it looks like a fire, it crackles like a fire—everything except emanate real heat. But it's got your other senses so fooled, you almost feel like it's warming you up. And with no messy clean-up, I'm thinking this is the way to go. Heck, maybe we'll even save on heat this winter. Just maybe.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

sunday styles

Can I just tell you how much I love the voice of Bill Cunningham? He's the gentleman who narrates and photographs the "On the Street" audio slide shows for the New York Times. His voice is the essence of old New York glamour and he has such a joie de vivre. It's hard not to smile when, in a recent show, he talks about how much money the French spend on baby fashion. And I was delighted to hear/see that sapphire blue and fuchsia (or any bright color), with an accent of black, is the freshest look for fall. We all need a little break from real news, right? Why not check out some street fashion today? (Make sure your volume is turned up!)

Watch it now: On the Street | Joie de Vivre

Here's today's slide show with pictures of fall fashion in New York City: On the Street | Windward

Saturday, October 25, 2008

winter farmers' market

Today was the last Farmers' Market. Kinda sad. I went down there with Emi and Kev. There weren't as many vendors as usual and the seasonal produce offerings were not as varied as they are at the height of the season in August and September. Still, I stocked up on root vegetables, onions, potatoes and squash. I can't wait to try some of the root vegetable recipes that my friend Carolyn developed at EatingWell for the November issue, like this root vegetable gratin. It was so good when we tried it in the test kitchen. The first time I ever tried rutabaga! It's so good. Well, I bought a bag of rutabaga and I tried to find parsnips, but the guy at the Lewis Creek stand said they only just started harvesting them and they wouldn't have them till the winter market.

Winter market! That's right, how could I forget? The Burlington Farmers' Market is going through the winter this year. Yippee! Now I can get my parnsip soup on.

The market will be held in Memorial Auditorium, 10am-2pm on the third Saturday of each month from December through April:

November 22 (just in time for Thanksgiving!)
December 20 (get your last-minute Christmas prezzies!)
January 17
February 21
March 21
April 18

Here's more info on what kind of food and art will be available.

shallots and garlic:


ugh, why do I get so nervous?

I just got home from the tech jam. It was very well-attended! So much more than I expected—I got very nervous at all the people staring at me—and did I mention they taped it for public access TV—and forgot half the stuff I was going to talk about. How do you forget what you do every day? It should be second nature. Well I forgot. And I got shaky. And half-way through I completely lost my train of thought and there was complete silence for about 30 seconds. How mortifying! Maybe no one even noticed...

While chaos was my inner monologue, the panel discussion actually went quite well—I think I was lucid enough to hand out a couple useful tips. And I met 3 really cool people:

Cathy Resmer, the online editor for Seven Days, seemed so happy to meet me and interested in what I do. Her enthusiasm calmed my nerves for a little bit. Turns out, our jobs are quite similar.

Steve Benen, a political blogger for The Washington Monthly—he writes every day for 9 hours straight!

And Marybeth Redmond from St. Mike's has such a contagious energy. I would love to take her course on converging journalism.

Too bad by the end I was so spooked, I booked it out of there so fast and completely forgot to say goodbye to Steve and Marybeth. So, if you're reading this, it was really nice to meet you!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

what I do at work

Ever wonder what I do all day at work? Sometimes I wish I could get a glimpse into the day and life of some of my friends. Seriously, the only times we hang out are around food or a drink or Project Runway—who wants to talk about work outside of work? Well, I do, for one. Now's your chance to hear all about me (and other web writers) and what we do behind the curtain on a daily basis. You know you want to know...

This Saturday, I'm going to be a panelist for the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Career Jam at Champlain College in Burlington. I'll be speaking on the "So, You Wanna Write for the Web" panel discussion, with Washington Monthly blogger Steve Benen and St. Mike's Journalism Professor Marybeth Redmond. Seven Days' Cathy Resmer will be the moderator.

We'll be there to talk about what we do, answer questions and share tips with people who are interested in pursuing our line of work.

And it's not just web writers either. There will be a whole slew of different companys and creative/tech careers represented. Here's a full list of panels and times. Ours is the first one of the day at 10 a.m. Cool!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

first snow of the season

It's a blustery one out today, and, yes, we've seen our first snow of the season. Just a few specks here and there whipping in the wind, but enough to get us excited for more to come. And I'm wearing tights and a scarf. And I have my car back with a fresh new window. And we're moving on...

As my dad would say in his hippy voice, "Peace, love and happiness all over this world." Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

busted, and trying to forget it

My car got smashed last night. They smashed the window and took nothing. Not even the $3 in change that was in the console. The invader got scared and ran away—Hannah saw him when she was coming into the house. He was running fast down King Street. She just thought he was some crazy kid. It was around dinner time. I was in the house writing on my blog, suspecting nothing.

So it wasn't until this morning, when I went to leave for work that I found my poor little car smashed, wide open and glass-strewn in the pouring rain. I called the police. They came, but there wasn't much they could do, especially in the rain. So Col and I cleaned up the glass and I drove to the service shop with cold, wet wind beating on my face. (It was the driver's window that they smashed.)

Now, $260 later (insurance didn't cover it), I have nothing to show for it. And neither does he. Was it really worth it? Well, I say I have nothing to show for it, but that's not true. My optimism has been scarred for the time being. I'm afraid to go out to my parking lot by myself now. I'll have to ask Col to walk with me to the garbage bin. Wonder what I'll do when he's away?

Monday, October 20, 2008

my favorite fall weekend

When you spend weeks looking forward to something, when you put all of your extra energy in total anticipation of the thing—be it holiday, party, wedding or whatever—if you do it right, you can sometimes let the momentum of that much-anticipated event carry you through another few days, even after all the people are gone and the candles are out.

You can live on the leftovers of smoked salmon and capers; finish half-empty bottles of fine wine; nibble on sweets from the fridge. It's as though the party lives on in spirit, glowing with fresh memories, reluctant to burn out. It isn't until you pour that last glass of wine and the last sticky drop drips into your cup, when your kitchen returns to normalcy and the linens are all washed, that you realize the party really is over. It could be a very sad thing indeed if you let your guard down.

Without exaggeration I can say that this past weekend was one of those moments; it was one of the most-anticipated and most amazing weekends I've had in a long time. As I sip on the very last glass from the very last bottle of wine, I would like to spend the next few moments remembering and sharing, instead of feeling blue that it's all over.

As I mentioned before, my sister Hannah flew in on Thursday night last week. She got in pretty late, but we had some catching up to do and a party to plan—a baby shower for our sister Emma—so we didn't waste much time sleeping. Isaac came over to hang out and we made to-do lists.

Finally, we did sleep and when we woke up, we got right to work (I took the day off work). We had to get all our shopping in before we met my parents for lunch at Leunig's. Friday was a blur. We mixed, baked, cooked, ate... went to Emi & Kev's for dinner. Auntie Lucy and Uncle John were there. And then it was Saturday—the day of the party.

The shower really was a great success. My mom made some beautiful arrangements for the apartment. The weather was beautiful. The food was good. All the guests were in great spirits. There were 17 in all, I think. And the guest of honor—our sister Emma—was thoroughly spoiled with gifts and attention. Some people lingered late into the afternoon. Then they were gone and Hannah, Mummy and I had to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. I was especially proud of the carrot cake and the make-your-own tea station (that was the party favor). Emi got lots of nice prezzies. I gave her a set of Peter Rabbit books. My dad made a bookshelf to put them in. My mom made woolly socks, pants and sweater for the baby. Hannah made a stuffed dog out of one of Papa Roger's old shirts.

We practically fell into bed for a long nap.

Later in the evening, we had a family dinner at the Bearded Frog in Shelburne. The food was amazing. I think the highlight was when Kevin ordered the County Fair for dessert—caramel apples, fried dough and maple cotton candy all served up on a plate.

Hannah and I kept on going: we met up with some friends down at 1/2 bar. It was so fun! We danced a lot. Steve was there and he gave me a copy of his new album as a thank you for dealing with annoying Isaac for the cover shoot. It's really, really good.

Sunday was just as fabulous as the two prior days. Those of us ambitious folks got up very early and went to church. Not me or Hannah though—we needed sleep! Then we all met for brunch at Shelburne farms and then apple picking at Shelburne orchards. The weekend came to a close with a lovely dinner with family and a few friends at our place once again. (This time Hannah cooked—she made yummy pizzas out of all the leftover food! Mummy made an apple crumble.)

I think it's unusual for so many great people to be all in the same place at once, all in the same frame of mind, all wanting to love and be loved, to enjoy life and give joy to others. Yes, we had a lot of good food and good parties, but in the end—and I know I'm going to sound cliche for saying this—it's the people who made it absolutely fabulous.

Here are a bunch more photos from the weekend.

Oh, and I promised I would post links to recipes from the weekend. Here are some of the best:

Sweet Potato Ravioli
Tomato-Basil Skewers
EatingWell's Carrot Cake
Vegetable Satay


Thursday, October 16, 2008

a big weekend planned

I'm just waiting for my sister Hannah to fly in to town. She's staying with us for a long weekend and on Saturday we're hosting a baby shower for our other sister Emi-Lou. We've never been aunties before... this is a BIG DEAL.

We've got a lot planned for the next few days. I took tomorrow off to spend time with Hannah and get ready for the party.

We're going to dinner at the Bearded Frog, Sunday brunch at Shelburne Farms and apple picking at the orchard afterwards. I hear it's gonna get cold round these parts. Real cold. Bring on the cold, I'm ready!

I will try and take lots of pictures. xoxo

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Nourishment doesn't have to cost a lot

It’s Blog Action Day today. That means that thousands of bloggers around the world will discuss a single issue to use the power of the web to “raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web.” This year’s topic is: poverty.

I think about poverty a lot. Growing up, our family didn’t have a lot of money. But my parents found ways to make the situation seem less dire. We always had a big garden, so we had plenty to eat in the summer months. And it was so exciting as a little girl to watch those cucumbers grow before my very eyes into something that was nourishing and tasted good. We didn’t always have the latest fad toys our friends had, but we did have soaring imaginations and so instead of playing with dolls, we built forts and moss fairy houses in the woods. One luxury we did have was the wide-open landscape of Vermont and Coastal Maine. So much exploring to do! Another luxury we had was our parents' unwavering love. We always ate dinner together, no matter what was on the table. That's a luxury I will never take for granted.

Now that I work in the foodie world, I think a lot about nourishment and how it relates to money. The fact is, good food costs a lot of money. But I don't think lack of money should ever be an excuse for living a life without nourishment. Here I'll tell you why. I found this piece that I wrote last year. I like it because though we didn’t have much growing up, it never felt like we were ever in need of nourishment. With a little imagination and resourcefulness, we were the richest and best-fed kids around:

What does real nourishment taste like?

Does it taste like an expensive meal? Does it taste of discovery or love or nutrients? Does it taste like a childhood story?

There was a crucial moment a few years back when I learned that nourishment has many manifestations. Nourishment for the body, for instance, tastes and satisfies in a very different way than nourishment for the soul. A meal that fills the tummy can in other ways leave you feeling very empty.

During that particular time in my life, I was eating very, very well. I was in good company. I was in a constant mode of discovery. But emotionally speaking, I did not feel nourished. And for that reason, my stomach was in constant turmoil.

Nourishment for the soul and nourishment for the body go hand in hand.

Nourishment does not necessarily mean an expensive full-course meal at a nice restaurant. On the contrary, the best and most memorable meals are the ones you scrape together with what you already have in your fridge and your garden (if you’re lucky). Perhaps because there’s an even greater summit to reach, the taste is that much sweeter.

Growing up, we never had much money, so we had to be very resourceful. If I wanted cookies or cake, I would make them from scratch. That’s how I learned to bake. It’s also how I learned to be experimental in the kitchen—mixing unusual flavors and ingredients to make something tasty.
I’ll never forget running out to the garden patch and plucking a cucumber from the vine. We would eat them skin and all—still warm from the sun—dipped in vinegar and salt. A poor man’s salad to be sure. But nourishing to the core.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

le mistral

In Provence, there is a wind so fierce and cold and persistent. It barrels down from the North of France, through the Alps and down to the Rhone Valley, whipping up everything into a scene of chaos. Le Mistral blows for days under a clear and sunny sky. When you live there, you learn to tie things down. The spices at the market are covered up. Colorfully painted shutters enclose you indoors. If you go out, you learn to wear your hair tied back. You learn to wear your coat, even though looking through the window the sky appears sunny and warm.

There's another wind that blows less frequently. It is a softer, warmer, Southern wind that blows off the Mediterranean Sea, bringing with it a shower of African dust from the Saharan Dessert. It is called the Sirocco wind. It sifts a fine layer of sand over the landscape. It leaves an orange film on the cars. It collects in ochre swirls on the sidewalk. It leaves a pleasant grittiness in your eyes.

It was something like the Provencal wind that blew today in Charlotte, Vermont. It whipped across the autumn foliage, bending trees sideways. Beating the doors in rhythm. Yet the sun shone clear and brightly and serenely high above all the mayhem. Something about the ochre colors reminded me of the Sirocco wind from Northern Africa. But everything else about it was Le Mistral.

It blew for only a few hours. Then it subsided almost as suddenly as it began. And then, there was rain.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Great pumpkin Charlie Brown!

We snapped this photo at the gas station today:

d.i.y. dining room chairs

We finally took the plunge and reupholstered our dining room chairs, which were Emi's before they were ours, and I think big Kevin's before that. We splurged on some beautiful tweed fabric from Rags & Riches, but were able to save money and time by reusing the old cushions underneath. (Who knew? At $29 a yard, foam cushioning is more expensive than the fabric itself. Ick.) So instead of buying new foam, we just padded the old ones with a new layer of batting for a little more bounce. Then we stapled on the new fabric—it's just like stretching a canvas really—while listening to This American Life's episode about the financial crisis.

To be honest, reuphostering chairs was a lot easier to maneuver than the report we were listening to (I had to listen to it twice to really understand it). But at least we feel a little smarter, more enabled, and we have a beautiful dining room set to show for it! So here are the pics.

And if you want to hear more about the moving parts behind the financial crisis, listen to This American Life's first collaborative report with NPR: The Giant Pool of Money. It's eye-opening.



Saturday, October 11, 2008

what's up, saturday morn

I hope Au Lait doesn't hate us forever. We had to bring the cats in for their check-ups this morning. She hates the vet. It was pretty much a disaster. She lashed out at the doctor so badly he had to go disinfect his wound and put quick-stop on it to stop the bleeding. The vet couldn't do the examination and told us not to bring her in again unless she gets sick or needs a shot. And if that happens, they'll have to put her under anesthesia to do an examination. It was that bad. But he was really nice about. "Occupational hazard," he said.

Suki was a doll. She watch the whole disaster take place without blinking an eye. And when it was her turn, she sat through the entire examination without moving or making a sound—even when they stuck the thermometer up her bum. Still, I think I'm traumatized now as much as Au Lait is and I'm glad we don't have to go back for a while.

This has to be one of the most gorgeous weekends we've had in a long time. The to-do list is long, but right now, we're just sitting around, drinking coffee, watching people walk by.

Hannah's coming this week. We're hosting a baby shower for our sis. The count-down has begun. Yay!

Monday, October 06, 2008

buffalo shuffle

Did I mention we went to Buffalo? That's where I've been the last several days. It was Mindy and Bobby's wedding and so we decided to take a long weekend and explore.

We headed out on Thursday morning early—Em, Kev, Col and I. Met up with Brett and Elisa before hitting the road. They had lil Zo Zo too. Stopped over in Utica at Brett's parents' house for an amazing Mediterranean lunch. Finally arrived in downtown Buffalo around 6 p.m. Most of the hotel rooms had hot tubs right in the middle of the room with a waterfall and everything. We were so busy, we didn't use it much though.

The next day, the boys had golf and the gals had plans, so I spent the morning walking around downtown Buffalo. I'd never been to Buffalo before. I was surprised to find a lot of beautiful architecture on my walk—new modern construction punctuated by decrepit brick buildings, industrial spaces, old stone churches on every block and beautiful Victorian mansions. Evidence of a golden age—a once thriving city, then falling asleep slowly, now redefining itself. Here's one of the modern buildings I saw:

The next day, we went to Niagra Falls. I don't have much to say about Niagra Falls. Even with no expectations, I didn't expect what we saw. The falls themselves were breathtaking, but I could barely see them beyond the crowds of people, tacky tourist traps and wacky black squirrels. It was like a theme park gone bad! And on the way back, we almost didn't make it across the border. But Kevin warned the officer at customs that we had to get back for a wedding. In the end, all turned out well and I'm glad we went. Now we can say we did it.

Finally, it was time for the wedding. It was a gorgeous thing. Mindy looked absolutely beautiful in her beaded Cinderella ballgown. Bobby looked absolutely smitten. The music was great; the party was a blast. Here are a bunch more pictures of downtown buffalo, tacky tourist traps, squishy babies and party snapshots. And here's Bindy:

Monday, September 29, 2008

goodbye, hello

Friday night, we hosted our first party at the new place—a goodbye party for our friend Jess. She worked with Col at Burton—has this amazing talent for textiles. But then Nike swooped her up. So she's off to Portland, Oregon, like somebody else I know and we bade her farewell with good music, happy people, friendly neighbors, a special guest and cheese curls. I guess it's lucky our chairs haven't come yet for the lounge area, cause it made a sweet dance floor for the festivities. Here's Jess:

The next day, Col and I headed up to my parents' house in Derby to see Aunt Lucy & Uncle John and attend my 10-year high school reunion (yes, just 10 years). Right outside of Newport, we passed Little John's gas station and I saw my friends Mandy and Sarah standing in the parking lot by the side of the road. I pulled in. There was a tow truck with Sarah and Joe's car on top. The car was all smashed up in the front. They had just been in an accident!

Luckily, no one was hurt—except for Rosita the car, R.I.P.—and pretty soon, we were back in the saddle and on our way to reunion. It took place at Paul's Sugar House in Derby. Hidden way back in the woods not too far from the Canadian border. We drove right past it the first time. We finally found it, but then we were nervous to go inside. We shouldn't have been. It was so much fun! So great to say hello to old friends. So interesting to see how much people have changed—or stayed the same. It's hard not to wonder, have I changed or stayed the same? Colin had a good time, too, I think.

The thing ended around 10:30, but I don't think people weren't ready to say goodbye. And so we filtered out to the parking lot and did some more chatting and catching up out there. We were so preoccupied with our conversation, that eventually we looked around us only to realize that we were the only ones left: Mandy & Ryan, Sarah and Joe, and Me and Col. Everyone else was gone! We stayed for another 20 minutes or so. Then Paul (you know, from Paul's Sugarhouse) came out and started talking to us. What a sweet old man. He had such a thick French-Canadian accent and his skin was all weathered. He told us about his business—how the 9000 maples he taps are so unpredictable, that he supplements his income with the wedding/celebration business. (Lots of people have their receptions there apparently.) He's been doing it for thirty years.

Any-who. I'm rambling now, cause I'm too tired to edit my thoughts. Here's a picture of Sarah, Mandy and Me, 10 years later, in the parking lot of Paul's Sugarhouse:

You know what? I think I can answer my own question: I don't think any of us have changed much at all (a part from the weddings and careers and new homes and new cities). And that's a good thing, I think. It's a constant we can count on...

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