Tuesday, June 27, 2006

not pretty as a picture

Poison ivy. Need I say more?

This was my goal for the weekend:

I also had grand plans of sanding the dresser that I haven’t touched since before Newport. Instead, there was the computer and a nap, ill-timed with Iris’s so that I had just fallen deep down the rabbit hole of slumber when her little voice began pealing, “Mama! I wake up!” Uhhhhhhhnn.

This is why I try to avoid naps – for me, the grog upon awakening is usually harder to shake than the urge to shut down in the first place. And then there is the disappointment and disgruntlement with myself for getting “nothing” done (robotic chores like laundry and unloading the dishwasher don’t count). For letting my creative spark flicker out. It used to be so much easier to waste time. Or I wasn't so hard on myself about it.

So, in conclusion: Blah. And itchy and covered in calamine. Pink! It’s the new fleshtone!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

corners of my home: front porch

This is the time of year when our porch is our favorite room in the house. One of our annual rites of spring is bringing the porch furniture up from the basement, washing it, and sweeping and mopping the porch floor to inaugurate our season of outdoor living.

There is so much to love about porch life. I admire the way that, though all the porches on our street are different, they share a sameness of size and proportion so that looking down the row of them is a little like looking down a patchwork colonnade.

In porch season, this is where we eat all our meals, play, read, hang out, and chat with passing neighbors. It is from the porch that Iris conducts her census of neighborhood dogs and urban wildlife. There are squirrels, of course (which she calls “Eichhörnchen” – since we visited relatives in Austria last year, she has a small but eccentric German vocabulary), and robins and cardinals, but also goldfinches who visit our sunflowers and even a local resident hawk. Once J and Iris saw a raccoon. I know, more disgusting than delightful is what you’re thinking, but if you’re two years old and have only seen them before in books, the thrill is akin to sighting a celebrity in the grocery store. Her father was also impressed. “I see raccoon,” Iris reported to me later. “Daddy say ‘Holy cow!’”

More corners here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

parent-dawdler role reversal

One day this past weekend, J asked Iris if she wanted to walk with him to the grocery store. She was as excited as if he'd suggested a trip to Totoro's camphor tree - so excited, she actually submitted to wearing clothes and shoes. While I got her appropriately attired, J tooled around on the computer. As he was in the midst of recounting the article he'd read, Iris announced, "I ready! Let's go Daddy! Let's go walk!"

J: You would not believe the amazing stuff people are using their iPods for! iPods are endlessly useful and fascinating! Mac technology is the great creative force of our time! (I'm paraphrasing here.)

Iris: Daddy, let's go walk!

J: Just a minute, sweetie, Daddy is telling Mama something. Something which communicates the reverential awe in which I hold Macintosh and all its sleek white machines.

Iris: I want go walk.

J: But wait, there's more....

Iris: Daddy, I want go today!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

fabric paint, ferns, and fathers' day

It's Fathers' Day, but I'm afraid we don't stand too much on ceremony around here. We had planned to go to a baseball game, but then J wound up going to one on Friday night, after which he declared he did not want to watch our pathetic Pittsburgh Pirates lose twice in one weekend. Fair enough. I did whip up waffles and strawberries for breakfast by paternal request, but other than that, today is mostly about household chores for us.

Yesterday I managed a few hours of blissful communion with my fabric paints, even though Iris decided not to accept our generous offer of a nap. I stamped these shirts with ferns using two shades of green fabric paint mixed liberally with white (I hope they won't fade back to black in the wash). One is for Iris' best friend Anya, and since I happened to have two little black T-shirts and plenty of paint, I made one for Iris too.

Here is the back of Anya's shirt:

Then I got to use every singe one of my letter stamps and every single color of my paints on this formerly plain white shirt:

Which unfortunately doesn't stand up to close scrutiny – can you spot the mistake?

I also decorated several pair of Iris' brand-new big-girl panties, but it seems like a bad idea to post pictures of one's child's underwear online (alas sigh grumble), so I won't.

Since it IS Fathers' Day, a final note. This little item – "Step up – I'm a stair/Or sit down – I'm a chair" – was J's when he was a child. His family saved it and now it is used by Iris. J, I love that you pass along to our daughter the best of your own happy childhood, and of course I mean much more than things. I'm thinking of Iris sitting on the counter while you make our dinner, learning what all the ingredients are and accepting as a given that Daddy is the family chef. Or going to the park and throwing her little rubber ball up at the basketball hoops, trying to make free throws like you. When I was in Newport, a colleague mentioned that she did not plan to have children because she could not count on her boyfriend to lift a finger to help, and, furthermore, that this was the case with all the men she knew. I am sure my face must have betrayed my shock and dismay. J, we should not have to describe ourselves as lucky to have a husband and father who is as as kind, as playful, as capable, as convinced of and utterly confident in us as you are, but we are. Oh how lucky we are.

Happy Fathers' Day to families everywhere.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


What a week. I am still digging out from under all the voice mails, emails, and everything else that accumulated at work while I was away, to say nothing of the dust, clutter, and laundry that proliferated at home. And I don't just mean the house. Iris had one bath – count 'em, one – while I was gone. I don't mean to accuse J of sloth or filth – he was gallantly single-parenting, after all. And Iris did get at least one foot bath in addition to her singular whole-self submersion. I'm just saying I came home to a glimpse of what life would be like for the two of them if I ever unexpectedly departed the scene, and it wasn't tidy.

I have been so busy, and subsequently so tired in the spare minutes I wasn't so busy, that I totally missed Stephanie's Week of Color, which I really wanted to participate in. Oh well, maybe I still will post some photos, just a little or a lot late, in typical fashion.

In the meantime, here are some recent finds I've been wanting to share:

I admit I was actually at work when I found this. There just happens to be a great big Goodwill store in one of the historic districts I work in/with, and I just happened to get sucked in the door while I was out there making site visits one day. And then I just happened to find this gorgeous little old school desk for $10! With its storage under the desktop, it has displaced our kid-size Ikea table and chairs for now as Iris' downstairs art station.

Of course I immediately laid my money on the table to claim it, but had to come back that evening to pick it up. When I did, I ransacked the shirt racks and found all these plain T-shirts – some in my size, some larger and smaller to fit family and friends – for future stenciling and printing projects.

Finally, behold my oversized souvenir of Newport:

This wonderfully geometric Danish Modern headboard is for a single bed, but we do have a couple of those, as well as a mid-20th-century dresser which will look very at home with this. I took this photograph in the antique shop where I found it. This piece, as I believe things are called when they come from antique shops, was definitely not a thrift find, but since it was the newest thing in the shop by about a century – possibly the newest thing in Newport, period – it was priced to move. Still, I thought at first I would have to leave it there since, having come by plane, I would have to ship it home, and after adding the cost of UPS, it wouldn't be a bargain anymore. But then a fellow summer schooler offered to take it back to New York in her car and store it until such time as we can rendez-vous at her in-laws', about an hour and a half from here. Jackie said there was nothing she wouldn't do to aid and abet a vintage bargain. Girl after my own heart.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Christianity for toddlers

Yesterday I took Iris to the park in the morning, and a five-or-so-year-old girl bent my ear with some truly weird tall tales featuring Jesus and Satan. (Also, she asked if Iris was my granddaughter, but that's another story.) Back at home, I was reporting this to J within Iris' earshot, and the following conversation ensued:

Iris: What's Jesus?

J and me: (look at each other in silence}

Me, raised without religion, to J, the former practicing Catholic: I think you should handle this one.

J: (further silence)

Me, finally jumping into the breach: Jesus was a very nice man who taught other people how to be nice.

Iris: Jesus teach 'bout hitting?

Me: Yes. He taught that hitting is not nice, and we should not hit.

Iris: I want touch Jesus.

J: Jesus died a long time ago.

Iris: Come back, Jesus!

Did you hear that, religious right? Our work here is done.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

neither here nor there

The sun has finally come out and it actually feels like June. The sea and the sky, which have been grey the whole time I've been here, are brilliant blue, and for the first time since I arrived in Newport I am not wearing my old grey cardigan sweater which was, unwisely, the only remotely warm item of clothing I packed. I am so sick of that sweater. I may never wear it again. But then how would my classmates recognize me if they ever passed me on the street?

Like a good chocolate cake, Summer School has been much too rich and dense to describe here. I'll post some more photos when I get home. Home to my loves! I miss them so, but at the same time I am a little wistful that this week is over. It was like the best parts of graduate school, with all of the pleasures and none of the responsibilities. Well, except for being in charge of the entertainment at our final party last night... funny how the modified Family Feud game that is so tiresome every year at my office holiday party was actually a lot of fun with this group of people who have spent every waking, and in some cases sleeping, minute with each other for the past ten days. I am no good at transitions, and I always miss people and places most right before I leave them. After the intensity of this week in Newport, it will be strange to slip back into my scattered little workaday life.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


OK, so it's a given that anyone who signs up for this trip must be an architectural history geek, but today my enthusiasm was literally dampened - if not drowned - by monsoon-like rain. Blow-your-umbrella-inside-out and fill-your-shoes-with-water rain. It was a very unprovidential way to see Providence.

And yet, a gem in the gloom was the Providence Art Club. After a parade of house museums and meticulously-restored period interiors - not that I am by any means opposed to such things - which can be so academic and formulaic, here was something so inhabited and idiosyncratic. It was almost impossible to capture the rooms in photographs, especially when they were crowded with 25 soggy Victorian Society students sheltering from a nor'easter, but here is one detail I loved: art club members' silhouettes painted on the dining room walls. Hmm, gives me an idea.

Monday, June 05, 2006

live from newport, rhode island!

Well, somehow I did get it all done, including even the much-needed start-of-sandal-season pedicure. This is what I left on Friday morning:

After getting on a plane in the rain (which I hear falls mainly on the plain in Spain) and flying to Providence, then shuttling to Newport, this is where I ended up by afternoon:

Not too shabby. In fact, this is about as shabby as it gets in Newport, summer playground of the rich and famous. Since I am neither of those things, what I am I doing here? I am attending Victorian Society Summer School, of course! Because 12-hour days of lectures and architectural tours is my idea of fun... one of them, anyway.

Oh how I do miss my family though. When I was first planning this, we thought J and Iris could flit up here to join me for a long weekend, but then I got the summer school itinerary and realized there was no point since I wouldn't have a nanosecond to spend with them. As it is I hardly have time to talk to them on my still-novel cell phone.

We did have a short conversation yesterday in which J told me about taking Iris, Kate and Gaia (a friend and her 5-year-old daughter who were staying for the weekend) to the zoo. He said the zebras -- my favorites -- were out, but they only saw them from the back, then handed the phone to Iris.

Me: Hi sweetie! What did you see at the zoo?

Iris: Zebra bottom and eh-da-dat [elephant] go bathroom!

Off now to hear fellow students give reports on their interests. After that, I am hopeful I can find a fellow Victorian enthusiast to go out for a drink with me. Yes, I know, go ahead and say it -- I really know how to have a good time.