Picture This

Two things: first- my dog is a ham. Second, I’m so freaking happy to be done with this foyer, I almost want to paint something. Two months ago, I posted A DRAMATIC ENTRANCE all about turning my boring-as-dirt entrance into one with high drama. I imagined going dark. But that worked out the way it does when I decide to color my hair anything but blonde. I had regrets. I also had a hangover. It doesn’t pay to consider wall colors while drinking wine. Luckily, I came to my senses.

The wall color is Hawthorne Yellow, a Benjamin Moore product. I’ve been using BM for years, my favorite of their products is Regal in pearl finish.

I have about one hundred framed photos of immediate family, extended family, family I never met (yet) because they died before I was born. My mother’s mother was an only child, and out of her three grandchildren, I am the one most interested in our history.

I won’t bore you with it, because no one is as interested in a person’s family history as the person telling it. Instead, imagine your foyer, or entrance, or place where you throw your keys as an opportunity to visit yours.

This is Gigi. She isn’t a dog model, she just thinks she is.

OK, I give up. Who wants a treat?

Indoor Garden Party

It was supposed to be outside. My parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party, that is. Until the forecast called for rain, the torrential kind, with high winds. And it was going to be COLD.

Doesn’t Connecticut realize that it’s MAY? The day after the party (today!) is Mother’s Day. Isn’t the earth a mother?

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I imagined the 40 + guests enjoying the fragrance of the giant lilacs I inherited, walking in the garden, and generally taking the sun, eating, laughing, and talking until dark.

What happened the night before the party? A mad dash to swap out big round tables meant to be under the tent for smaller indoor tables under. . . the living room ceiling.

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It was an excercise in delegation: my aunt, my sister, cutting massive amounts of lilacs from the yard, and me, (on the way home from bringing the puppy to the kennel), stopping the car to gather pretty yellow weeds flowers from the side of the road.

It was an hour before the party (I was hopping in the shower) when my sister and twin sons made tissue paper poofs and opened white lanterns to hang from the dining room ceiling. They should have been in the tent. We all should have been in the tent.

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img_7613But, New England weather can never be trusted. And that, as it turned out, was a good thing. Because, the torrential rains never came. It wasn’t warm, but the wind stayed away. 

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By the time the sprinkles started, the party was hours in and nobody cared. Not a one. Cake can have that effect on a person. Also, lots of laughing, and eating delicious food (catered by Jessica Tuesday’s), and hugging in the beautiful Connecticut countryside.

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All these pictures are of my mom with one of her best friends, MaryEllen and her husband Jim, her cousins from Baltimore, and with my twins. My dad isn’t in them becasue he was where he’s happiest: looking at an old car, (it happens to be ours), a Morgan Super-Sport, Plus 4.

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Happy 5oth Anniversary Alan and Carol! (Dad and Mom to me.)

P.S. I made the cake and frosting from scratch. If you are looking for the best white cake ever, look no further. I found it HERE. The frosting is good, old-fashioned butter cream.

 

City To Country: Survival Tip #3

This is #3 in a series of 5

The following advice was researched heavily.  My husband and I moved our family of 5 + dog to the country nearly five years ago.  We were keen to relinquish traffic, long lines for everything and a crazy pace.  We also wanted a freer childhood for our sons and at school,  smaller class sizes.  While I was looking forward to the gorgeous landscape and my husband the fishing, I neglected to remember one important detail.  I thought the country was suburbia.

It isn’t suburbia.  It’s rural.  As in everybody put your mailboxes on one side of the road and grab a flashlight because it’s pitch-black at night-rural.

Time for a disclaimer:  Country living is not for everybody.  If you are the sort who enjoys more pavement than grass and for whom taking a hike requires a hazmat suit to avoid mosquitoes, snuggle into your favorite sofa at Starbucks with your Espresso Macchiato and assume the following occurrs in an alternate universe. 

For the rest of you?  Bookmark on your smartphone, pronto.

Tip #3:  Wardrobe

I like to read Vogue.  One of my favorite shows is Project Runway and I have a wonderful daydream where I am Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn’s love child.  I would grow up in the front row of the couture shows wearing hand-made suits and blowing air kisses. Instead I am in line at the grocery, wearing Gap and politely asking for “Land O Lakes American sliced tissue paper-thin.”  Make it work Mr. Deli man, or you’re out!

Did I mention that by living in the country you may develop a healthy imagination? 

You need a few items in your closet that will be especially useful. Besides the obvious: jeans, polar fleece ( I’m not kidding) and thermal tights, there are two items of apparel I have found crucial. You may enjoy the Net-A Porter website although there is little there that is practical except for the…

Hunter boots.  Buy two pair.  One to keep at home, and one for the car.  We have the same seasons as the city here:  Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  But we also have a bonus:  Mud Season.  When you suddenly find yourself driving down a dirt road to bring your child to a playdate and his friend’s mother wants to show you the horse barn, you will write me a fan letter.  The pair I keep on my back porch came in handy recently when our septic system service person called me to the back yard to “take a look down the hole.”  You can use your newly heightened imagination for the rest.  Let’s just say that afterwards I got in the shower fully clothed with my boots on. 

Swimwear.  The name of the game is Serviceable.  When you go to the local lake that serves as the town beach you need to have a Lands End one-piece that covers every area of skin you do not want on display when you need to move quickly.  I learned this lesson when on one 98 degree summer day, knee-deep in the lake with a healthy percentage of the town’s mothers and children there suddenly ran a woman towards me along the shoreline.  She was yelling “Watch out!, watch out!” and stopped in front of me.  She looked down and between my legs swam a long black water snake.  In the next 1.2 seconds I leaped David Lee Roth-like from the water and landed on the sand.  I am not proud to say I took no notice of the location of my children or anyone else.  I stood panting on the beach as everyone ran to see the monster disappear into the reeds.  Thankfully I was able to use the distraction to adjust my Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. 

Extra tipMake sure to tie your bathing suit top with a double knot.

If you follow my lead and get the boots and bathing suit you may decide to wear them together.  For this, a certain amount of confidence is required.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself strutting down the runway in your inspired get-up to “Country Girl Shake It For Me” by Luke Bryan.  I don’t know if you’re ready for primetime, but the snakes will leave you alone.

Next Week…Tip #4:  Leisure Activities

City To Country: Survival Tip #2

This is #2 in a series of 5

The following advice was researched heavily.  My husband and I moved our family of 5 + dog to the country nearly five years ago.  We were keen to relinquish traffic, long lines for everything and a crazy pace.  We also wanted a freer childhood for our sons and at school,  smaller class sizes.  While I was looking forward to the gorgeous landscape and my husband the fishing, I neglected to remember one important detail.  I thought the country was suburbia.

It isn’t suburbia.  It’s rural.  As in everybody put your mailboxes on one side of the road and grab a flashlight because it’s pitch-black at night-rural.

Time for a disclaimer:  Country living is not for everybody.  If you are the sort who enjoys more pavement than grass and for whom taking a hike requires a hazmat suit to avoid mosquitoes, snuggle into your favorite sofa at Starbucks with your Espresso Macchiato and assume the following occurs in an alternate universe. 

For the rest of you?  Bookmark on your smartphone, pronto.

Tip # 2:  House Hunting

Congratulations, you have learned how to navigate the hills and dales and are ready to choose your country plot and raise sheep!  Well, if not sheep then alpacas.  Alpacas are VERY popular.  No?  Well, at LEAST chickens.  The ones with those little feathery feet are ADORABLE.  You’ll get over all the pecking, don’t worry.  Agway usually has a sale on band-aids and think about all those lovely eggs.  You’ll be just like Martha Stewart.  But without all those hair and makeup people. 

As you house hunt, beware the listing that announces “Country Charm Throughout!  That is realtor-speak for “Wow this house needs half a million to update, is mouse infested and is standing up due to force of habit.”  Even said,  it’s hard to resist those houses!  I have referred to this condition before, I call it: Potential-itis.  It’s a very expensive affliction. You will see soaking tubs where there is a bright pink hot tub from 1978 or a Viking stove where there is an exhaust fan from 1954.  Occasionally its sufferers develop a nervous tic whenever the words “I’ll give you a price RANGE” comes from the electrician.  We toured several farmhouses that had “charm” manifested as crooked floors, leaky roofs and asbestos. You must have VISION!  My vision was for an extra-large dumpster.

One day I was watching TV in our bedroom and the Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell movie “Overboard” came on.  There were several scenes that take place in the living room where the decor was early-ugly with rustic influences.  There was a close up and I realized the wallpaper in the movie was the EXACT same as that in my bedroom.  It was a repeat scene of pine trees, a dog and a house.  The next day I rented a wallpaper steamer. True confession:  I still haven’t painted the walls yet but the wallpaper is gone and that makes me feel better.

We bought our house for the redeeming feature of being on a lake and not needing structural work. I use structural loosely. My husband and father were in the process of replacing our front door and the original one essentially fell off the house and onto the lawn.  They were bent over laughing when I ran to see what the noise was.  My father said “The door wasn’t tied-in to the house.  It was just RESTING there.”  Apparently the trim held it in place.  You will come to embrace these moments. 

You’ve moved into your new house, there are flowers on the front porch, eggs from your neighbors chickens in the cake you’ve baked and the children get to run free in the adjacent woods. A Bob Villa look-alike is repairing your 1850’s crown molding and all is right with the world!  You are even more elated because at the town meeting you hear that someone new has bought the oldest, most “charming” house in town.  She’s from the city and used to work as a hair and makeup person.  It’s A Good Thing.

Next Week…Tip # 3:   Wardrobe

City To Country: Survival Tip #1

This is #1 in a series of 5

The following advice was researched heavily.  My husband and I moved our family of 5 + dog to the country nearly five years ago.  We were keen to relinquish traffic, long lines for everything and a crazy pace.  We also wanted a freer childhood for our sons and at school,  smaller class sizes.  While I was looking forward to the gorgeous landscape and my husband the fishing, I neglected to remember one important detail.  I thought the country was suburbia.

It isn’t suburbia.  It’s rural.  As in everybody put your mailboxes on one side of the road and grab a flashlight because it’s pitch-black at night-rural.

Time for a disclaimer:  Country living is not for everybody.  If you are the sort who enjoys more pavement than grass and for whom taking a hike requires a hazmat suit to avoid mosquitoes, snuggle into your favorite sofa at Starbucks with your Espresso Macchiato and assume the following occurrs in an alternate universe. 

For the rest of you?  Bookmark on your smartphone, pronto.

Tip #1:  Defensive Driving

Maps.  Buy some.  Yes, the old-fashioned ones that require a Master’s Degree in origami to put back together.  GPS doesn’t work in the woods, Squanto so either use maps, print out your directions from Mapquest or get used to hearing “Would you like me to continue searching for satellites?” in clipped English over and over from your Garmin. I once cried tears of happiness when nearing a highway my GPS suddenly connected to the satellite only to discover that my son had changed the language to Canadian French.  I sang “Frere Jacques” all the way to Boston.

House hunting or settling into the area, you discover that people are no longer your problem.  In fact, the people you come in contact with every couple of days (just kidding!) are so nice you can hardly believe it.  When you get to the only stop sign in town everyone waves to each other, motions for the other to go first and often pulls over to chat with another driver.  Get used to polite.  No one honks their horns either.  I once swooped in with my Southern Connecticut driving skills and took another’s parking spot at the local grocery store.  The other driver parked elsewhere but she chatted about the weather with me as we got our carts.  In the city I may have ended up in the ER.

You will become adept at swerving to miss deer, squirrels, chipmunks, foxes and turtles.  It’s a good idea when navigating country lanes to assume Wild Kingdom will be ejected from the woods towards your car at any given moment.  Be on High Alert. My sons and I were on the way home  from what became known as the Adventure from the Dentist when after 40 minutes of winding roads the largest lumbering woodchuck known to exist connected with my left front tire.  50 pounds of gopher was no match for a Chrysler Town and Country van.  I was so shook up I nearly hit a tree.  When we got home I made my oldest son, then 11, check the wheel well for animal parts before I entered the garage.  I don’t think I ate for the rest of the day.  It was likely the impetus for my current vegetarian status.

You will be tempted to roll down your window when passing a farm and while pointing, yell “Cows!”  Resist or you will look like an idiot.  It took me a while to stop doing this (probably a year).  Just last summer I couldn’t help but remark on what I called an Oreo cow.  They have two black stripes and a white one in the middle.  I pointed out to the kids-“Hey it even has the milk!”  They just looked at me and said “Mom, seriously?  It’s a Belted Galloway.”

Next week…Tip #2:  House Hunting