Trolling in South Hadley

Don't worry - this is not a picture of our new apartment.

It is, however, similar to what you would see on the windowsills of the South Hadley Electric Company. When Pat and I entered the town building on Monday morning to set up an account, we were greeted by at least 40 troll dolls behind the ONE woman who runs the shop. We couldn't look at each other the entire time we were there. Not when we saw the troll dolls. Not when we were told there was no online billing system. Not when we were informed that the only credit card they would not accept was VISA.

Where the hell are we?

Certainly not Queens.

I don't think I set up one account in New York that didn't involve going online or walking through an automated messaging system on the phone. But South Hadley is not New York. South Hadley does not have street lights. South Hadley sells gas at $3.68 a gallon. South Hadley has driveways, backyards, and diners. (And I mean legit diners; hole in the wall, small and stifling spaces and not the behemoths in NYC, where you can't look in one direction without spotting a chandelier.)

Talk about extremes. It seems I can't do anything in stages. I leave Exeter, RI, where I lived next to a farm and on three acres of land to Queens, NY, where I was lucky to find a parking spot on the street and a two bedroom apartment that didn't cost $2,000 a month. And now here I am - living in the mountains. Crazy.

You know what else is crazy? Our awesome apartment.

Our living room - not enough furniture to fill this puppy.

Two views of our extremely long kitchen (love it!)

Pat's office

The bedroom, and yes, that huge closet is just MINE!

Two views of my art studio. It's kind of empty (but not for long!).

Our back deck with our new grill (thanks Mom and Dad!).

Don't get me wrong - there are kinks in this place like any other rental. Light switches that do nothing, outlets that don't seem to work, wonky window blinds, etc. But already Pat and I are really excited to call this space ours for the time being and exploring the hood without the threat of a parking ticket or a meter maid!

This week has been spent performing lots of chores - buying food from the local farms, scouting out new gyms and getting some new duds for my new job (that starts tomorrow...gulp).

While I haven't been blogging here, I have been blogging elsewhere, including some blogs of some friends. I hope to be back soon with a new art piece!

Where else you can find me:

Stop Chasing Skinny - The Last Judgment

OMG Blog Love - A Quandary of Cuisine

On Blog Reading

A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with my Uncle Steve, whom I would classify as the most easy-going, crunchy person on my father's side of the family. This is a man, while joining me on a 13-mile hike, answered a cell phone call by whispering, "I can't talk right now - I'm in nature's cathedral." This is a man whose house I drove to every night after work to watch the entire coverage of the 2006 Tour de France. I remember those nights, particularly the moment when we stared at each other across the room, mouths agape and eyes bewildered, as Floyd Landis came back in Stage 17 with a victorious ride. I remember the sadness in our faces after discussing his subsequent doping charges.

So back to the discussion. I was explaining a friend's recent blog post focused on buying and getting fitted for a proper road bike. I was saying how the post made me laugh, as I basically did many of the actions the post advised against (i.e. buying a super expensive bike, not testing out saddles, buying clip-less pedals before I was ready, not getting back on my bike after a nasty fall). Of the numerous reactions I anticipated from my Uncle Steve ("Oh, you need to get back out there and ride." or "I was out on my road bike the other day..."), this was not one of them: "You read a lot of blogs, huh?"

I don't find Uncle Steve to be a critical person, but I do find myself to be a hypersensitive person, so this comment gave me pause. Do I read a lot of blogs? Has living in New York taken me away from nature and left me to dwell inside of a tiny apartment behind a computer screen? And if I do read a lot of blogs, is there something wrong with that?

I'll admit, the comment did bring me a tad bit of shame. I slightly felt like reading blog after blog classified me as having no life; as some voyeuristic sad Sally. His question evoked an equivalent reaction to being told you play too many video games or watch too much television.

But the fact is, I do read a lot of blogs. For me, blogs are the equivalent of reading an amazing article in The New York Times or staring at an incredible painting at the MOMA. They are, quite simply, a vortex of inspiration. Without blogs, I wouldn't have learned about Trisha Martin's passion for Eating is Art and created a mashup based on her work. Without blogs, I wouldn't have been inspired by Cindy Ferguson's papercuts. Without blogs, I wouldn't have learned what a nanibird is!

And then there's cooking. Blogs have helped me plan my dinner - from this recipe to that recipe to this recipe. Pat was just diagnosed as gluten intolerant, and without the help from this blog, I wouldn't know where to start.

Blogs also help me keep up on my friends - from those who are in the process of moving far away to those whom I have been countries apart for years.

So yeah, I guess I do read a lot of blogs and I am so thankful for it. Besides providing me with endless inspiration and fascination, they also manage to give me a much needed laugh after a long day at work. I'll leave you with a blog I just discovered, Better Book Titles, by Dan Wilbur. I've shown a few of my favorites below - see if you can figure out the original titles. [Uncle Steve, I think you will like them. I also think we should come up with two of our own and submit!]

And my personal favorite...

Also, you may not hear from me for a few weeks. I'm FINALLY in the process of packing my stuff for the big move to Massachusetts next Saturday. This means my art supplies have officially gone on vacation and my computer will soon follow. I have a few ideas percolating and always welcome a Copycat Mashup Challenge (like this one and this one), should the mood strike you!


Boondoggling in Brooklyn

Didn't know boondoggle was a word? Me neither. But thanks to my trusty thesaurus, I learned it's a synonym for procrastinate, and since I'm a sucker for alliteration...

That's right folks, yours truly has been boondoggling all weekend when she should have been packing and cleaning her itsy bitsy apartment. For this first time this week, I realized that a tiny little apartment can hold a whole lot of crap. As you can see, I've really done nothing.

[Click on photo to see larger]

And you know what? Rightly so! Pat has, after all, been slumming it in Las Vegas all week. He's "at a conference." Why should I be proactive and do the work of two? Why shouldn't I just go to Brooklyn and explore?

"Why would you go on this outing without Pat?" you ask. Well, for the sake of blog fodder (for this blog and my old, now defunct blog, "The Queens B"), I've dragged Pat all over this place for the past two years - museums and theatrical productions in Manhattan, Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Brooklyn College, and one strange festival on Staten Island. Pat has since learned from all this, and unless the outing will end with a steak dinner, he's not too eager to join me these days.

His absence was the perfect excuse for me to take the 1 1/2 hour bus and train rides into Brooklyn, specifically Park Slope (or as my sister accidentally referred to it one day, "Pig Slop"), and grab some lunch with my friend and Brooklynite, Alice. And grab some lunch we did!

Homemade turkey burger (none of that Jenny-O stuff) with garam spices gruyere cheese, pickled veggies and roasted potatoes. Amen, sister.

This was the moment when Alice discovered how we could avoid raising the debt ceiling over her huevos rancheros with heirloom beans and 3(!) salsas.

After sufficiently filling our stomachs with the superb food of Juventino, we decided to take a walk in Prospect Park. Unfortunately, I was sweating like a dog the whole time and was too lazy to take photos.

But I did take this photo of a row of brownstones in Park Slope....

...through Alice's car window. The reason why I took it through the car window is because we were seriously sitting for 10 minutes, waiting for woman (who puked out the side of her car then proceeded to stuff her face with pretzels - no lie) to give up her parking space on the street.

Ah New York, you sweet bitch, I'll miss you.

Nanny Peg


When life hands you potatoes, you make potato salad.

With Cain’s Mayonnaise – none of that Hellman’s stuff.

And green peppers and slices of hardboiled eggs.

And enough onions to make the Soup Nazi cry.

When life gives you a stomachache, you take some flat ginger ale, preferably Schweppes.

And eat Hostess Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecakes – cinnamon settles a stomach.

When life presents you with a rural road, brake sparingly.

There’s no need to stop at stop sign when you can easily roll through one.

Who needs Old Wives’ Tales and Farmer’s Almanacs when you can listen to the sound advice of Peg Morgan?

Margaret “Peg” Morgan was an awesome woman – straight up.

She was independent, non-judgmental, self-sufficient, and my grandmother. She was a woman who taught herself to drive a car at age 60. She was a woman who would spend hours peeling 2 lbs of potatoes, despite painful arthritis in her hands. She was a woman who would send you a card for any occasion, bring you to orthodontist/dentist/doctor/music appointments multiple times a week, and steam all of your clothes even when you told her you didn’t need your “dungarees” ironed.

To me, Nanny Peg has always been an amalgamation of different characters. She had hints of Mother Abbess from the Sound of Music, given her habit of saying the rosary every night and always singing an octave higher than everyone else at church.

She was a combination of all four Golden Girls, as she was the height of Sophia, enjoyed her smut like Blanche (she watched Days of Our Lives for over 30 years), exhibited the occasional innocence of Rose, and was a no-frills talker like Dorothy.

She also reminded me of Richard Alpert from Lost, given the fact that she always had the same appearance no matter the decade. Take 1983 – white permed hair, clip-on earrings, purple pants. Now look at 2009 – white permed hair, clip-on earrings, purple pants.

The summer before I moved to New York City I spent many days with Nanny Peg and my sister. Wednesday afternoons were spent running errands and eating lunch, and some of my most special memories of Nanny Peg come from these moments. I really struggled with moving to New York City for many reasons, but one of them was the fact that I would lose these Wednesday afternoons. Before I moved, Nanny Peg gave me this small wire angel; a symbol that would protect me in New York. This angel has been hanging my apartment for these two past years and thus far has accomplished its job.

Last week, Nanny Peg passed away at age 90.

As much as you can anticipate something like this, you are never totally prepared.

I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her when I left for Queens and I’m not ready to say goodbye to her now.

While I was mentally and emotionally getting ready for the services this week, I knew I wanted to make something for her; something that she could take with her and that I could keep with me. Printmaking seemed like a logical medium, given that I could make multiple copies of the same piece. When I was trying to think of what I wanted to carve in the linoleum block, my eyes drifted over to the angel she gave me.

After carving the design, I inked the block and pulled two prints. I placed the first print (with the most ink on the block) in her casket. The second print was for me. In a way, it seemed poetic; I am a piece of her, after all.

Despite this last week and the difficult moments that lie ahead, these past few days have given me hope. If anything, they have given me an appreciation for my family – my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who all pulled together and gave each other their support, their shoulders, their hands, and their hugs in order to make it through this event. It made me realize that like Nanny Peg, my family is awesome – straight up.