Monday, December 26, 2011

Interview with Flyway

Thankful to have been interviewed by the folks at Flyway, a journal of writing and environmental concerns.

Read it here.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Solstice Party

Footage from OPA's solstice party - giant, flaming logs on our volleyball court paired with singing. My baby monitors contributed a steady out-of-range beep throughout. The night was capped off with an obnoxious but wonderful firework display that scared the dogs but did not wake the girls. No goats were sacrificed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Airport Theater

We traveled to Raleigh this last week to spend time with my family, and headed back to Vermont on Monday. RDU to BWI was a flawless flight. Then enter a 2 hour layover at BWI with 2 kids under 3. We found a television that was playing cartoons - the Snorkels, specifically. Fray did some yoga and refused to nap. We could sense the storm on the horizon.

We boarded the plane. Zephyr was flirting with anyone who would look her way, then proceeded to blow out her diaper...on my lap. The second half of the flight was devoted to 1) praying Frasier didn't start screaming about the horrendous smell and 2) damage control- I swaddled Zeph in her changing pad and a cloth diaper (Believe me - there was NO changing this in the plane bathroom).

We made it off the plane. Frasier, woefully undernapped, lay down in the middle of the high traffic walkway to the gates at ALB and refused to get up. We huddled in an old payphone area (stripped of phones) and changed Bebe Z while Frasier yodeled and screamed and tried to eat an old potato chip off the floor.

Here's hoping your travels are just as fun.

And I Said Unto Him...Give Me Your Cans

A gem from our trip to NC last week - just outside of Winston-Salem: Aluminum Can Drive for Jesus.

Comfort Food

Two dishes I'm serving tonight:

1) Kale, white bean, orzo, and sausage soup
2) Fannie Farmer's Classic Baked Macaroni (photo taken before tonight's baking with buttered breadcrumbs)

I wish I hadn't looked at the caloric details for the mac n' cheese. Wow. But, after tasting the sauce, a bowl of this stuff might be worth the 8 mile run it takes to counteract the cheesy indulgence.

the faithless vegetarian who cooks meat dishes for her carnivorous family and friends


the health food addict who makes dishes only the Dogtor (and his metabolism-from-God) can eat without worry, while I watch on with sad puppy dog eyes

Egg Time

Christmas means family and entertaining, which means baking and cooking and the Edgeworth Eggnog Recipe, which means we need 1,000 eggs to get through the next week. Thankfully, the juvie hens are laying! Just.

The dark brown eggs are from Rosa, our Rhode Island Red (I think). The medium-colored large eggs are from the Barred Rock gals. The tiny eggs are from Djuna, our beloved silkie hen.

The girls have new feeders and water bowls which hang from the barn rafters and hover mere inches from the ground - the girls were, to put it bluntly, pooping in their food on the colder days when they didn't venture outside the stall.

I can't wait to add more silkies - and maybe some Polish hens? - to Miss Sophonsiba's Finishing School for Wicked Chicks in the spring.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

A Family Pile

This happens. (Note Zephyr feet underneath the book and cat at the bottom.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Tree

On an unseasonably warm day last week, we went to a tree farm and selected our Christmas tree. Everyone except Zephyr took a turn with the handsaw, including Frasier, who then proceeded to jump on our backs as we tended to business.

As usual, our safety measures were exemplary.

(And yeah. Don't think I can't relate this back to George Michael. I can.)

Posh Bags

A friend recently posted the NYT profile of Muffie Potter Aston, which contains paragraphs such as the following:
... My closet is color-coded so everything is easy to find. I put on a crisp white Carolina Herrera blouse, and over that, a cream leather Valentino jacket. The off-white wide-leg trousers were also Valentino, and they went with Giuseppe Zanotti camel-colored ostrich high heels and my saddle leather Birkin. I have everything in my Birkins. They hold my world together.
I traveled to NYC last week. I was in town for a party and to film a video for my book. I realized that I would be unable to open my makeup bag in front of anyone - I had stuffed it all in a Ziploc bag marked "Corn." Luxe, baby!

As soon as I got home, I dumped out the bag I used to carry my things to the city and used it to pick up the veggies for my CSA.

What holds my world together? Ziploc and LL Bean canvas bags.

In other words, Muffie and I have a lot in common. Off-white trousers are very practical in my life, also.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Early signs of Bebe Z's career in bullfighting?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Kiss for PW

Dear Publisher's Weekly: I love you. Thanks for making this real, and for talking about my book in such a smart way. I love that feeling of learning something about my own work.

Read the PW review here. (Starred! Happy robot dance!)

Pinch me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Figure This One Out

One-eyed cat drinking water from the fishbowl, standing on a box of fireworks.

I can only explain the fireworks. I think they have something to do with our "kid friendly" New Year's Eve plans. Something to accentuate the bonfire.

Dinner Is Like This

Zephyr busting out of the Bumbo to reach for the salad. Dogtor multitasking. Mama cleaning before dinner is even over. Frasier figuring out how to prolong eating in order to delay the inevitable bath.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Highlights

Frasier enjoyed a chariot ride/leaf pick-up duty with OPA.

She also was particularly kind to our old and failing lab-guy, Captain Nemo. Do you ever worry that children sense something you don't?

Extra cuddles to the old man tonight, who is currently allowing the beagle to spoon him next to the woodstove. I know he's just too tired to move. Sigh.


Hunting Season Strategy

There is only one day a year when having a whiny toddler in a backpack is advantageous in the woods: the last day of hunting season.

Things started off well enough. Zephyr looked like a pink gnome in a fleece bunting, and largely grinned and drooled for two hours, occasionally squealing at the corgi or god knows - a rock? a tree? OPA and friends helped get Zeph up the mountain. Fray went potty in the woods. (This is big. Who wants to carry a mostly potty trained toddler on their back? High risk.)

We crossed rivers, leaping from rock-to-rock, despite wearing babies and experimenting with a new center of gravity. We were feeling rather pleased with ourselves, our snacks, and the 60 degree weather.

Then the shots began to ring out. A large man nervously admonished us for being on the trails during hunting season (fair enough.) I realized jogging downhill over slippery leaves and hidden rocks with a baby strapped to my chest was hard. Frasier turned the corner into uber-whine mode - infantile omnipotence in full effect. (I want to go through the tunnel. I want lunch. I don't want lunch. I want to go home. I don't want to go home.)

Ah, nature. (*Anyone else get an MJ "Rock With You" video vibe with the tunnel photo? )

Sometimes You Fall in Love

...with the people you're asked to write about.

I was so thrilled to get the opportunity to pen a piece on the International Sweethearts of Rhythm for Oxford American's annual music issue (this year based on bands from Mississippi). The Sweethearts were, in summary, the nation's first integrated, all-girl swing band. You name it, they battled it: sexism, exploitation, Jim Crow laws, financial troubles.

Read the article here.

I always love working with Oxford American. An honor.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Hell on Wheels

Sometimes we take turns pushing each other in wheeled vehicles.

Sad trombone for the girls in the stroller. Fray has inherited my resource anxiety and needs to know where her snacks are at all times. The girls are cold and restrained. Life is suffering.


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Depressed Friend

The Dogtor, a man of rational ideas and a fan of word economy, will occasionally surprise me with whimsy.

Me: How is Djuna?
Dogtor: Our depressed friend?
Me: What you mean "our depressed friend?"
Dogtor: Well - look at it this way. She doesn't leave the coop. She sleeps all day and eats in bed.
Me: She doesn't like the cold.
Dogtor: It's gross to eat in bed.
Me: Yeah.
Dogtor: Sometimes I toss her out of the coop and onto a goat.

This is the Dogtor's cure for depression: have someone rip you out of bed and throw you on a goat. Works every time.

Or not at all. Djuna hasn't moved from her coop in days (sort of like her namesake, stewing in a little apartment in Patchin Place in the Village). We used to think she was eggbound when she did this, but she's just a little broody hen who may be writing dark poetry on the walls of the coop when no one is watching.

See photo: Depressed friend does not like flash!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Woodpile Showdown

Today I checked a very important box.

When I moved to Vermont and had a daughter (and then another), I decided that I was going to get tough. I was going to be the woman I wanted my daughter to be, model the types of behaviors I would want to see in her.

I fail at this daily.

MMB (around midnight, nudges Dogtor): There is something in the attic.
Dogtor: zzzzzzzz
MMB: I think something is in the trap. Oh God.
Dogtor: zzzzz
MMB: Bo! Seriously. It's - oh God - it's caught in the trap and moving around. It's dragging the trap.
Dogtor: What?
MMB: Death throes!
Dogtor: Sigh.
MMB: Go up and look.

What he should say: YOU go up and look.

I'm working toward that. I'm not ready to wrangle half-dead varmints, but recently I've cleared dead chipmunks from the garage. That's something.

The list I made when I first moved here is as follows (with progress notes):
  • learn to drive stick
  • drive the tractor
  • use the rototiller
  • car stuff /changing oil and tires
  • not squeal upon discovering a snake (I'm about 50% here)
  • handle attic varmints/clear traps
  • chop wood with an axe
  • start the grill (seriously - I'm not reliable with incendiary devices)
  • start the woodstove (score -done)
  • start campfires (doable)
  • assemble tents on my own (check)
  • be ambivalent about bugs/touch random salamanders and frogs presented by the Dogtor (75%)

Today I helped the Dogtor stack wood. There is something about a large, messy stack of wood that eats away at two type A people. So we put Zephyr in a jacket, let her coo at the leaves, and started heaving wood. Chickens, dogs, and cats milled about; the corgi and beagle were hunting something in the wood pile and were climbing it like goats.

But there were about 20 logs which were still too big for the stove, and Lesson Time presented itself. It was time for me to use the axe. Now - there is a huge difference in learning to use the axe and being proficient with an axe. (See difference between first and second photo. The Dogtor...swoon.)

I swung, oh, about 30 times and managed to split 3 pieces. My fingers are cramped and shaky, but, to use a line from Frasier's potty training book, I FEEL PROUD OF ME.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fresh Air

This afternoon's hike through the old orchard. Dogtor toting Fray in the backpack. Mountains and Shaftsbury in the distance.

Joining Us at the Table...


She now occupies the vintage high chair (70 years old and counting). I remember, from this part of the developmental process with Frasier, that now is when I have to make peace with mess. Horrible, stomach-turning mess. Hair full of pureed peas. The scent of maple teething biscuits on skin. Sticky fingers on my face. Flung bananas. Gobs of food dripping down the front of baby clothes like lava.

I'm ready.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pre-Ordering BOLP

Hi there -

For those of you that have asked, you can pre-order my book on many different sites. But - for folks that like supporting indies, consider calling my "home" bookshops: Northshire Books in Manchester, VT, or Battenkill Books in Cambridge, NY.

Battenkill Books will take your pre-order, and when the books come in I will sign and personalize them for you. Connie, the proprietrix, has set up a helpful pre-order page.

I genuinely appreciate your support - of my book, and these great local businesses.

The Cat Pain Scale

Sometimes the Dogtor and I go out on a date. Sometimes.

And usually, after that date, which might include a dessert or glass of Maker's on the rocks, and some tired but almost-inspired conversation, we inevitably drive by the clinic to check on an inpatient or two.

My job, when this happens, is to mew and speak southern niceties to the animals while the Dogtor does less charming stuff like take their rectal temperatures and inject them with pain meds.

It goes something like this:

Me: OH YOU POOR LITTLE PUPPY. You need to eat your food.
Dogtor: She's fifteen.
Me: Can I touch her?
Dogtor: Yes. Can you actually hold her while I change her bandage?
Me: Mhmm. Oh you poor thing. You brave dog. Bless your heart.
Dogtor: I'm going to warn you that there may be some bleeding.
Me: Ok.
(Dogtor removes bandaging.)
Me (eyes wide): Oh for Christ's sake! Oh you poor thing!
(Dogtor listens to the heart.)
Me: That's a big incision!
Dogtor: I can't hear you. (points to stethoscope.)
(Dogtor puts on fresh bandaging.)
Me: Now look, dog. You have on new heart underpants.
Dogtor: Bandages.
Me (nodding toward next cage): Can I pet the cat?
Dogtor: Yes.
(Cat purrs).
Me: See? I help a lot.
Dogtor: (Silence)

What I offer these animals requires few skills, but a special constitution. Namely: a bleeding heart, the ability to stretch monosyllabic words to polysyllabic, and a tendency to panic at slight signs of animal discomfort.

See cat pain scale, above. You can thank me later for this resource.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Redemption Soup

In this pot lies our rooster, Ridgely.

Ridgely was a bastard. He twice drew blood from Frasier, once savagely attacking the back of her neck as she walked away from him.

What I'm trying to do: convince you (and myself) that he had it coming.

We thought about taking the risk of living with a vicious rooster on the property with two young girls, but ultimately couldn't assure ourselves that it was the right thing to do. We tried to find a rescue home - but no one wanted a rooster.

So the Dogtor did the hard thing - today he rounded up our thuggish little beast and, well, Ridgely is no more. I came home to find a pot boiling on the stove - stock in progress. The kitchen smelled like onions and the fancy bouquet garni a friend gave us as a Christmas gift. The Dogtor asked if I'd be willing to finish the soup after he left for work. I am willing. It seems important to participate, to share the weight of the decision.

Though I'm a vegetarian myself, I purchase meat for my family and company. I have to say that looking at the meat in our stock pot was a compelling experience. I realized how removed we really are from the meat we buy. There is something moving - at least to me - about seeing the body of a bird I listened to every morning in a pot of stock. A sacrifice, discomforting.

The backyard is awfully quiet today.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cider Weekend

Things that happened this weekend:
  • I wrestled with my vegetarian status and made pulled pork for house guests, in the spirit of a southern meal. Lots of inner dialogue. Could not bring myself to try more than a bite, but it smelled successful.
  • I made my first apple pie! Flaky crust and all. Sweet cream icecream.
  • House guests brought treats (good wine and Brooklyn cookies) and amazing conversation.
  • We hit an old orchard to supplement the apple supply we pulled from our own trees.
  • ~50 friends (including their progeny) came to the house to press cider - the upper floor of the barn was a traffic jam of Little Tyke cars, bouncing basketballs, etc.
  • We made ~36 gallons of cider and sent many to good homes.
  • Sunday was quiet - the Dogtor took beautiful pictures of the girls in the leaves.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Family Piles, Swinging, Apples

Here's some stuff that has happened:

  • Zephyr started eating solid food (Exhibit A: cross-eyed lust over spoonful of carrots)
  • My mom and dad came up from Raleigh for a long weekend
  • Apples ripened and we harvested them - a little late. That's okay - they'll still make good applesauce and cider.
  • Fray's backyard routine: Collect leaves. Pluck and eat mint. Scare Mom by having weird green stuff in her mouth (mint). Eat apples. Swing. Swing more.
  • I made a serious vat of raspberry jam.
Expecting lovely guests in this weekend for cider pressing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cousins, Apples, Pumpkins

To quote Glenn Frey again, the heat is on. It's cold in VT today. And I'm frightened that 50 degrees feels cold.

We are recuperating from a fabulous weekend that included a visit from my sister, brother-in-law, and my sweet-as-honey nephew. There were no prolonged conversations before bedtime - it was snack to pumpkin patch to bookstore to lunch to nap to apple picking. Beautiful chaos, the kind that memories are made from.

I ache a little at their absence.

Pictures compliments of Auntie Em.

Miss those guys already!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Endorphin Booster

Don't underestimate the power of swinging. It has been known to relieve tantrums, split knees, and tangle hair. It must be good for you.

I'm bringing swinging back. For adults. It's like swimming and sleeping - you never regret it.


Yes, I believe Americans over-use quotation marks. But these are not haphazard quotation marks - I very much mean to imply: the so-called vacation.

Two kids and time away from home is fun. But it is also absurdly exhausting.

Best to focus on the fun part, which was traveling to Portsmouth, NH and then to Eliot and Kittery, Maine, where we got to visit wonderful friends and see the ocean, which always does this Carolina girl good.

Highlights: BYOB lobster joints. Cool beaches. Rocks. Ships. Sandy diapers. Bouncy house. Rainbow face paint. Old homes. Wooden boats. Getting lost on a run. Meeting bad ass booksellers. Breakfast place with 60s camp decor and homemade granola.

Portsmouth is charming with just enough bustle. Maine is elegantly austere and haunted. We will return.