Monday, March 31, 2008

with my english accent

We returned from our English vacation on Saturday. The trip was indeed a magical one and I'm so overwhelmed by what to write about first. So I think I'll try to do it over a few different posts. For this week's Eat Peas, I decided to write about the English roast dinners we had just about every night once we got to the country. London was a different story all together. Then there's Marston Magna and the Illingworth clan, staying in Minette Walters' cottage, many sheep and other animals, pasties and cider, Butter Boots, and more... I'll try to get to all or most of them over the next few days. For now, there's the bit on English roasts. And photos—all 800 or so of them. Enjoy :-)

England 2008 - London

England 2008 - Dorset


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

england bound

I know I've mentioned this before, but since this is now the only thing I can think about right now, I'll mention it again: we're going to England. We leave in just two days! The only thing that lies between now and then is one day of work. Oh, and the packing. I detest packing. I always fear that I'll forget something. Or pack too much. Or pack something too soon. What if I need it?

But the whole packing thing isn't enough to deter me from travel. Especially if it means we get to see our long lost cousins. Our aunties and uncles. To taste Marmite in the mother's mother land. And for Col and the whole family to be there with me.

Anyways, I just wanted to mention it one more time, because—in the true spirit of vacation—I'm leaving my laptop behind. So... now you know. That's where I'll be for the next week or so. Not here. Not blogging. Just enjoying life. And I'll have lots of stories and pictures for you when I return.

Speak soon!


Monday, March 17, 2008

real estate

I've been watching a lot of those reality real estate shows on TLC lately. Flip that House. Moving Up. Property Ladder. They suck you in. The people—happy couples—desperately searching for the perfect home. Always on a deadline. Always maxing the budget. Wanting more.

I wonder about that. Everyone aspires for the perfect home, don't they? Everyone has the right to. In its rudimentary form, a good home offers security and protection. To the lost and nomadic, it offers permanence. A perfect home is where you want to stay, where you feel good and happy and contained. And it proclaims this in all its physical luster to the outside world.

Even the origins of the term real estate refer to property that is immovable—that is planted to the land. The French call it immobilier.

Every human has the innate right to aspire for a home. But sometimes I wonder about the wanting more, and more, and more. We attach bits of our personal property to the house like flashy ornaments onto a Christmas tree. Adding new things/ornaments each year. Buying bigger and better houses to hold all of the things we've accumulated. The old things pile up in the basement getting mouldy. They get hauled out to the dumpster during renovation.

We do find comfort in those material possessions. I certainly do. I can't bear to get rid of my books, though they gather dust. The shiny new things are physical proof of our successes in life. But possessions can also be a burden. With each gratification, you lose a little bit of inspiration. Isn't that true? The more you build yourself up, the further you are from solid ground.

Sometimes, I wish I could just give it all away. But I'm not that strong.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

foggy day

Col and I headed to Stowe today. The mountain was totally socked in thick fog. I've never seen it so bad. We could barely see the ground, let alone the edge of the trails. And we were getting all dizzy. It was like swimming under water with your eyes closed. Which way was up, which way was down? Needless to say, we didn't stay long, which really bummed me out, cause I've been wanting to show Col how good I've been getting on the jumps. Oh well. We bought some jelly beans on the way home to cheer us up. Here's a picture of Col in the fog...


orange roses

Here's what's sitting on my kitchen counter right now. How pretty...


Friday, March 14, 2008

hong kong toys

Colin just got back from Hong Kong tonight. He brought me lots of good presents. Here they are.

This is the smallest handmade origami crane I've ever seen. Col got it on a stopover in Tokyo. It's on a lanyard—the Japanese love lanyards. You can hang it on your cell phone, camera, purse, keys. Anywhere to show off your personal style.

Last year, Col got me a fine selection of teeny-bopper socks and leggings during one of his trips to Hong Kong. They were a big hit. So he got me some more. And yes, I do love them. They're funny.

Sometimes the translations are funny. This one for Zocks cracks me up. "Guards against smelly. Guards against the perspiration."

A pretty Chinese purse to cover my checkbook. It has pretty sparkles on the flowers. You could even use it as an evening purse. Maybe I'll bring it to London next week!

Yummy Pocky chocolate sticks from Tokyo airport. Col knows I love the Pocky sticks!

This is my favorite present. It's a pretty leather purse with little embossed dragon flies all over. I love it. And so I put my origami crane lanyard on it.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

before or after the quotes?

It's true—at one time I was a complete nerd. Maybe I still am. Actually, yes, I'm quite sure of it. But if I am, them Emi is too. After a lovely meal chez Soeur, she and I sat down to (1) fill out a spreadsheet of what to pack four our trip to England—column one for checked baggage, column two for carry-on and (2) converse about the rules of punctuation usage around quotes.

It's easy to get wrong. But in general, the smaller punctuation marks—the periods and commas—are always included within the double quotes.
She said, "You're my friend."
On the other hand, question marks, exclamation marks and the like should go after the quotes.

Do you like the phrase, "You're my friend"?
But if the quoted material is itself a question, then the question mark goes before the quotes.

She asked, "Will you be my friend?"
This is all well and good—if you're American. The English put the period after the quotes. And while we Americans cringe at the use of single quotes (unless within the doubles), apparently the English don't mind either way. And that's why my British mother gets away with both here.

While I'm left wondering, "What's the point of it all?"

Sunday, March 09, 2008

sugar & ice

The irony of yesterday's trip to the sugar house wasn't lost on me. As we were sipping the hot life blood of our maple tree friends—and letting its warm tonic trickle down our throats—the trees were left to withstand an unbearable test of nature in the cold whipping winds of the ice storm. Their sap froze—hard, cold, unmoving. Some of the trees did not make it through the storm. As we drove back to Burlington today, we saw the destruction of what just a little ice can do. For some trees the weight of ice was too much to bear and they broke.

Luckily, though, the damage was not at bad as it could be. I remember the ice storm of 1998, when many of the trees in the north country were completely destroyed—reduced to messy piles of timber under the weight of a week-long icy tirade. Driving from the Northeast Kingdom up to Montreal, Quebec was like venturing through a gray wasteland, with sharply snapped tree stumps the only evidence of life that once was. Many new trees have since grown to replace them.

Thankfully, the two ice storms of the last week were not as bad as that. And the glimmering, ice crusted landscape is actually quite beautiful. Here are some pictures from the drive. And I've also posted pictures from the sugar house.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I love winters. I love them snowy and long. I even love them cold--sometimes. Even come early March, when most people are itching for the first signs of spring, I'm looking to the skies for a good Nor'easter. You have to love winters when you live in Vermont. Because they're inevitable. And not loving them makes living here a struggle.

That's not to say I don't love spring. And summer, and fall. I'm just not ready for them yet. So when I looked out the window on our drive up to Newport today with Emi & Kevin, and saw smoke coming out of a passing sugar house, I was perplexed.

"Why is there smoke coming out of that sugar house?" I asked.

"They started boiling sap this week," Kevin replied.

"Really? Cool!" But the minute I said it, I was a little bit sad. Spring already? It's too early...

We were driving through an ice storm--the second one this week. Ice was building up everywhere. On the windshield wipers, on the car antenna. It covered the landscape in a glassy sheath. It forced the the pine trees into a deep, stately bow.

"Should we stop by Hull's and see if they're boiling?" Kevin asked us.

"Yeah!" So we took the out-of-the-way way towards Enosburg. We pulled into Hull's sugarhouse in the pouring rain. There wasn't any smoke coming from the chimney.

We were greeted at the door by Kevin's friend Eric. "It's too bad. We just barely finished boiling!" he said.

"Isn't it too early for sugaring season?" I asked as we stepped inside the small wooden building.

"Yeah, this is just a bonus for us," he replied. "Sugaring season doesn't come for another couple of weeks. You can tell it's real sugaring season when you go out and look at the trees and see a ring of thaw around the base. If you go out there right now, the trees are still buried in snow."

There was steam coming from the vat where they boil the sap. I took some pictures.

Eric walked over to a small metal drum with a spigot and poured out three generous cups of fancy grade maple syrup, still hot. I wondered how much sap it took to bowl down to this cup of liquid amber.

"Here, have some of this," he said and handed us each a cup. "It's good for you." We drank the warm, sticky liquid--a sweet tonic like nothing else in this world. I finished in one grand swig. Vermont maple syrup--the first of the season. From the tree to the pot to my belly. Mmm!

We looked out the window across the street to a pair of ancient maples glassed in by frosty icicles.

"See that one there?" Eric said. "We call that one Old Faithful. We still tap it the old way with buckets. We tap about 200 trees with buckets. Not because it pays. Just for something to do."

I thought to myself, "That is so cool." They're preserving a bit of history there. Not for the money, but for the artisan experience. As we looked around at metal buckets filled with syrup, at old bits of wood with the scars of 40 years worth of sugar taps, I felt a sense of Vermont pride. Everything in the work room at that moment emanated a little piece of Vermont. The history, the hand work, the raw wood, the people, the dedication, the flavor.

We stayed and chatted for a bit longer. But soon we knew we had to get back on the road. Maybe it was the hot maple syrup still trickling its tonic magic down our throats, maybe it was the good old Vermont hospitality we received, maybe it was a little bit of both--but we all left Hull's sugar house feeling a little bit warmer, despite the ice raining down in pummels all around us.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

silver shoes?

Have you ever had to buy some? I was granted the task for an upcoming wedding that I'm in. I thought to myself, "No problem!" I needed some anyway, right?

Geez, I learned pretty quickly: silver shoes = tacky shoes. To be fair, I did search all over town, but the pickings were slim. So I resorted to shopping online. (I NEVER shop online. Do you?)

It felt strange at first, but then it became addictive. Scrolling through the 900 pages of search results on Zappos, adding 5 pairs to my shopping cart, taking some out, adding more, reading customer reviews, scoping out better prices at Amazon and The whole ordeal sequestered a good portion of an afternoon.

Finally I narrowed it down to 3 pairs. Two pairs at Zappos and one pair at Amazon. But I wanted to try them on first! How do you do that online? Zappos has this deal where shipping is free both ways. Amazon shipping was free too. I figured, "What do I have to lose?" So I ordered all three. That was Saturday. The Zappos box was on my doorstep when I got home from work on Monday. Are they CRAZY? I immediately felt guilty when I opened the box, saw all of the unnecessary plastic wrap packaging—and the heinous shoes—and realized I'd have to ship them back right away. I couldn't even look at them; the silver glare was too great. I felt guilty about the jet fuel wasted too. Cause I know they must've thrown them on a plane to get them here so quickly.

I also realized that I'm not a very good online shopper. As quick as I was to tape the box back up together again, I did manage a hasty try-on—and both pairs were terribly, terribly small. Even though the customer comments all said they ran big. Huh?

I thought the worst was over. I could go back to my brick & mortar ways. But then I remembered: I still had a box coming from Amazon. So I was already dreading it before it came. And envisioning more cumbersome returns. The box finally came today. (Freakin' snails pace compared to Zappos!) And...

I absolutely LOVE the shoes. I'm sorry Stella, but I'm keeping these. They're not tacky, they're not blinding, they're not boring high school prom shoes. They're artful, unique and—best of all—chic. Plus the idea of having to sift through even one more metallic strappy sandal is enough to put me over the edge. But don't worry; I probably won't be doing this again any time soon...

Oh, and here's the shoe:

Photo courtesy of


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

hot house of inspiration

I just happened upon this lovely little print in my bedroom. It's a handkerchief that Col brought back for me on one of his trips to Asia. I've been meaning to do something with it, so I put it in a pile of things I wanted to do something with, and there it's been gathering dust for months and months. Here, I'm passing it on to you...

What's her story—that porcelain lady—swathed in a riot of colorful silk color and wispy wisteria? She's a mother, perhaps. She is Nature. She is Imagination—awakened from her winter lull—leading us to to the garden of Inspiration. Hot house, more like. It is Vermont in March, after all. Yes, we awake slowly to spring around here. So here. Here's a seedling to add to your hot house—a beautiful image to inspire you today.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

chili bread bowls

At The Shed in Stowe, Vermont, they serve their chili in yummy bread bowls with melty, crusty cheese baked on top. I never get it though, cause I don't eat beef. Recently, Col and I discovered we could just as easily make this comfort food concoction right at home. That's right. You can buy these pretty little buns at the supermarket and fill them with your own homemade chili. Here's how:

With a serrated knife, cut a circle out of the top. (This is a fun thing to do with a group of friends—some people like cutting out circular tops, some square, some big, some small.) Scoop out the innards with your fingers and reserve for another use. Toast the bowls in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes until crispy. Remove the bread bowls from the oven and place on a baking sheet. Line the bottom of the bowls with grated Vermont cheddar cheese. Ladle in some hot chili. Then sprinkle some more cheddar on top. Return the bowls to the oven and cook until the cheese is nice and melty.

We made them with this delicious Multi-Bean Chili recipe from EatingWell.

Give it a try! It's the perfect warming winter meal.

Monday, March 03, 2008

happy sad, part deux

Is this the year of life? Last year, friends moved away. In the spring, my grandfather passed. Then Granny Dot in the summer. Then our old family dog Caleb soon after. Then we got Suki. Little kitty, lovely kitty. To bring the old lady cat Au Lait some new life.

Is this then the year of life?

Elisa just had her baby a few days ago. Precious Zoe. Nicci will pop soon enough!

There will be weddings. At least four this summer... maybe more to come. I had to buy silver shoes for one of them. They came in the mail today. Must send them back. Too silver. Too tight.

When people get married, they lose a little piece of you. Or is it the other way around? When people get married, you lose a little piece of them. When people have babies, they gain a new world. Their life purpose is made more concrete. You start feeling a little more lost in the world.

When people go and buy a house, you're still a renter.

That's just how I feel right now. When we got Suki, Au Lait became just a little bit sadder. She always will be now—just a little bit sadder.

I think it's okay for me to feel this way. To feel left out during the great milestones of other people's lives. It's not that I'm jealous or that I want to be the one in the gown or in the maternity clothes. Or in the coffin. I don't just yet. Truly. I'm not ready to be there myself. Just yet.

It's just that when others are at those milestones—the weddings, the births, the passings—they're substantiated in so many ways. By cultural affirmations, physical affirmations, public affirmations, ceremonies and celebrations. At that moment, any old person can look upon them and say, "So, that's where they are in life."

Whereas, those of us who are not quite there yet—those of us who are still working towards great milestones—are left floating around the sidelines, semi-transparent. Indescribable and so therefore somewhat invisible. Swooping in every now and then to affirm, to listen, to praise and to celebrate the lives of others. Happy, yet hardly noticeable in the grand scheme of things.

It's okay to feel this way. I think it's perfectly normal for everyone to feel this way—at some point in their life.

Still, I'm quite sure this will be a year of life. Yes, I'm quite sure of it.

happy sad

I've been trying to get my head around the feeling I've had over the last couple of days. My friend Mindy put it so eloquently this way: "Sad, happy!! Sad, happy!!" Is that what they mean by bittersweet?

Spent the evening cooking up a fabulous meal, Skillet Tofu Parmegiana. So ooey and gooey and good! Uncorked a bottle of delicious Côtes du Rhône. Put Keren Ann on the stereo. And sat down to a lovely meal—for one. And it was lovely. Not lonely. Though the words are the same, but for one letter.

And I made this Cranberry Muesli for tomorrow morning. Serving for 1 please! (I cut the recipe in half.) We'll see how it comes out.

Suki is skittish tonight. I think she misses her boy. I don't give her half the amount of attention that he does...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

on a jet plane

Well, Col's gone. I just dropped him off at the airport and when I got back, I felt as empty and quiet as the apartment I was coming home to. He used to travel a lot more, but I guess I'm out of the practice of having him gone for long bits at a time. This is one of his Asia trips, when he goes to visit a bunch of his vendors and manufacturers. Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan. I asked him to get me some tea from Taipei. They have nice tea there apparently. And maybe he'll bring me some more funky socks and leggings from that shop in Hong Kong with all the teenage girls.

While he's off working night and day and eating strange, fishy delicacies, I will be finding my way back to me. This is my time to resurface as an individual. I will focus on my own priorities and be reminded of what it's like to breath on a single plane. It is a very good thing to do. And I am happy to have the chance.

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