Auld Lang Syne

We're fluish so it's a quiet end to a busy year. It was a big year... Gabe and I had our first year of living together. My mom spent some time in the hospital. Put together the big trip to Italy. All in all... it was a year of adjustments and emotional stresses. But, it all worked out.

My hope for 2008 is that I can continue to simplify things and make time for creative projects and writing. Less running around and more doing. And more travel...

We are starting off the year with a winning lottery ticket. (Gabe is in charge of that project.) Happy New Year to all.

Christmas Cheer

It's balmy, wet day and we've opened the doors to let the fresh air blow through the house. Feels great to clear out the stale air. Who knows when the next warm day will come?

Tis the season for celebrations and visits from and to family and friends. I'm behind in that department. At the moment, I'm just wishing for quiet time... a chance to read, to think, to write a bit.

I'm feeling a down side to an adventurous life. If you have friends in many different cities, across time zones, in other countries... how do you keep in touch with them all? How do you let them know they are all special to you? Where is the time for the letters, the phone calls, the heart to heart conversations that keep you close?

Italian Adventure redux

Am headed to Italy with my cooking group [ www.forkingdelicious.com ] and a slew of other folks. A little over a year ago, my cooking friends were at my house for a wine and cheese party. I'd invited my Italian Group as well... they're interesting folks who like food and enjoy conversation... Everyone was noshing and mingling, and inevitably the conversation  came around to Italy. Everyone's excitement bubbled over and we determined that we would go as a group. I was to organize things... because I'd lived there and worked at these the vacation farmhouses. We had enough folks interested that we needed more than one house... so I began to corral commitments and gather money for deposits.

Eighteen months, 3 group meetings and endless emails later there are 35 people going to Italy to spend a week, in 5 houses, with 4 cooking lessons and one wedding to keep us busy.

I'm looking forward to being back--to seeing old friends, meeting some new ones, and exploring the countryside. I'm staying a second week to mellow out and show Gabe around. There is never enough time, but two weeks should be a good break.

Victorian Day Tea Party
Victorian Day was hot and muggy… I felt for the historical society folks who wore vintage clothing… large hats, high necked dresses and layers of petticoats… men in top hats and waistcoats. I was shvitzing in a 1950’s cotton frock (white with yellow poodles). I did get out one of my many hats – but it was a light straw cloche style, very cool.

Prior to the tea party, we strolled the main street and checked out the vintage cars (from a 1930s Studebaker pick up truck to a myriad of 1970s muscle cars. The historical society ran trolley tours through town and pointed out houses historical interest. There were wagons pulled by big golden Belgian horses… Lots of food – hot dogs, barbecue, hoagies, lemonade, iced tea, ice cream, kettle corn, etc. There were not as many artists and artisans as I’d expected, but Kathy Kellagher displayed her watercolors, and Jean X, one of the master gardeners in the area displayed her fabulous old chair planters spilling over with alyssum, creeping jenny and coleus. The event was larger than last year… so Riverton is building on its experience. Someday, I hope we will look a lot like the Wood Street Fair (Burlington City, 1st weekend after Labor Day).

Anticipating the heat, we fired up the A/C so the house would be cool and relaxing for the tea party.

There were two tables on the deck… each made up with crisp, spring colored linens and a vase of yellow spray roses. In the house, I set out the repast on the long dining table -- 

It was a very relaxing day. Gabe’s mom came by, as did my mom and her grammar school chum, Marie. They had wandered in the heat, so we cooled off in the house and chatted until Donna arrived with her mother, Rebecca. Rebecca lives in the city, and so was eager to sit outside and enjoy the garden. We obliged, willingly… the garden was lush and full of birds. It was a simple event to serve, so we had lots of time to snack and move between the tables chatting about all sorts of things. We talked about food, and cooking and how the world has changed… about gardens, and nature. Lesu arrived at about 5pm with reinforcements – 3 bottles of champagne! Gabe eventually claimed his mother to take her out kayaking. Donna’s brother came to take Rebecca home.

Lesu and I did a garden walk and discussed the things gardeners talk about – what to plant where, options for shade, hardiness… etc. etc. Maureen Murray dropped by for a snack and we enjoyed the waning afternoon and its light breeze. Maureen left for her porch. Gabe came back with Jenny, and we talked some more, quaffing champagne and nibbling on the leftover bits and bites.

It was a lovely day... Donna's tea cake was scrumptious and it went perfectly with the strawbs and cream. If we started rating our events, we could count champagne bottles consumed. This was a 5 bottle event... with 3 forking delicious girls and 6 guests.

The Porch is Officially Open
Always a trick up her sleeve, Maureen inaugurated the porch this year with a live musical performance by The Lightyears, Britain's new hot band. I'm not kidding.

They are hear for their second east coast tour and are friends with a neighbor who is a friend of ours. Maureen - in her best American Hostess Style - invited them to sunset, then to Treasure Day (where they graced the porch with a 3-4 song set), and finally to a lovely Sunday potluck dinner on the porch. She made chicken marbella. I brought roasted vegetables and couscous with kale. Add potato salad, cole slaw and I cannot remember what else. For dessert there was lemon meringue pie, pecan pie and hot brownies.

The Lightyears (Tony, Chris, George and the irreplaceable Danny) were a delight. Chatty, interested in others, happy to be in Riverton, thrilled to visit the Cherry Hill Mall. Great guys, all. And, as Maureen says, we caught them now, before they become famous...

Saturday I'm going to Milkboy in Ardmore to hear there gig. The little session on the porch was a taste. I'm looking forward to the full show.

And big congrats to the lads for winning the British Independent Music award for best up and coming band. Verrry nice..

It's funny how you perceive problems. I'm having trouble with my painting contract. It's becoming an obsession... last night I dreamt may contractor said I would to have sex with Dick Cheney to get my paint job corrected. (That is twisted and wrong on so many levels.)

The morning brings more stories of  war and governmental mayhem... Obviously, there are far worse things in the world than my paint job. Still.... a house is a more immediate and personal thing. It's a huge investment for most of us. Would you have sex with Dick Cheney to ensure good work on your house?

I met a landscape contractor yesterday through my job (real estate management) and had a great discussion about workmanship and integrity. It gave me hope that there still are people out there who take pride in their work... who won't put up with shoddy work for the sake of expediency. Painters who don't glop new glazing on top of old and leave ladder marks across your second floor.

Since we are talking about workmanship, I'd like to make a plug for a couple local enterprises I've had excellent experience with:

The guy who painted my house this time is not on this list. And who was this surprisingly bad painter? Ranier in Riverton.

April Fool
Tuesday we had temperatures in the 70s. Today, snow flurries. Just when I think I can turn off the heat and put on the sandals...

My first paint job. Its never easy, is it?

My house painters arrived Monday. Well, not really mine. I don't want them, I've just rented them for a short time... though not as short a time as they had planned. They came in Monday to prep and when I came home Tuesday evening, the shutters were back on the house and they were headed home with just the deck and porch second coat to finish.

A two day job? The house is small, but not that small.

We walked around and found that the re-glazing had not been done, the caulking was not thorough. Old caulk and old glazing were not removed. The sun damaged side of the house had not been scraped properly. Orange scuff marks from the ladder had been left on all 4 sides of the house where it leaned on the 2nd floor. There were spots left unpainted under the gutters, on the gutters, and on the porch. What I can say is that they taped really well. Their edges were pretty crisp. Far better than the prior paint job. That said... it was a surprisingly shoddy job for the money I was scheduled to pay.

Some folks think it's the single woman thing. Contractors cut corners where they can and if they think you won't challenge them on a part of the job, why not scrimp there. Other folks think that since my house is small and the job not a complex one -- no 16-color Victorian job -- that I got a "B" team he was trying out. I can believe that.

These guys are nice enough. If I were home all day with them, I would make them coffee and be nice. But they seem to have a different standard than the written standard the contractor sold me. I was  impressed that he came with a clear, written estimate (on time) and with a separate sheet of expectations -- his standards. Which in some ways makes this easier. All I have to do is go outside, with my standards list and tick off what has not been done. It's still subjective though. I say the glazing was not done. I can see some chipping off. But in other areas, they seem to have started regaling right over the old and creating big globby spots.

Do I expect too much? I think not..

But in the long run I think the house will look very good from the curb. It was a stark white with sage green trim. I've gone with a buttery cream color and 2 grassy greens as trim, lighter on the window trim and darker on the shutters. The contrast is not quite as much as I'd envisioned, but it still looks good. Subtle. The porch floor is a nice medium tone aqua, and the doors are melon. My 2 porch rockers are boysenberry -- a slightly red purple -- which will add a pop of color.  And I'll use the aqua, melon and boysenberry to do a little accent work on the porch posts. Not too much...  if I feel daring, perhaps a touch of gold. Like San Francisco!

March Madness Means Spring Cleaning
I'm getting my house re-painted! It's so exciting.... I've been agonizing over color chips for months. It's a big expense, so there is no turning back. If you miscalculate... you live with a stinging rebuke every time you come home. Here is a "before" of my house. Stay tuned for the "after' pix!

My due diligence went well... 7 calls, 3 estimates and like an Olympic judge, I threw out the high and the low bids going straight for the middle. This contractor is local, and has a history of doing the larger houses in town. His estimate was clear and professional. He was the same, if slightly brusque. Oh well... its all about the quality of the job. One down side... he is not as responsive to being careful around the garden as I would have liked. Rather dismissive...

Drop into my Flickr account to check out some favorite pix

Ch ch ch changes...
April 15th will mark my 3rd year here in Riverton. My roots are taking hold... I've made some good friends and am meeting more and more interesting people. Gabe and I have met some fellow kayak and tidal marsh enthusiasts and will be documenting the seasonal changes in the Pompeston Creek month by month.

Last week, we took a sunset walk over to the creek to see if any vegetation had broken through and were surprised to see two beaver swimming in the creek. For me, that was a thrill. I'm thinking we should get a hold of a night scope and come back in June when their might be kits around.

Forking Delicious
My food group has turned out to be a beautiful thing. We meet at least once a month at someone's home or a local restaurant to obsess about food and cook for each other. Its very supportive and collaborative... and most importantly, fun. Check out The Food Diaries link above to see what the group is all about. We call ourselves Forking Delicious and there is a picture from the Philadelphia Inquirer food section to the left.

We've been meeting for over two years now! We've been lucky to meet some very interesting folks and be invited to some cool foodie events, but the best is still when its just us sharing stories and cooking good food.

We'll be headed to Italy together in September, with an entourage of 30-ish. What began as a "hey, wouldn't that be cool" became a list of friends and family who wanted to come along. Now, Donna is getting married while we are there and we're planning all sorts of splendid meals and adventures. Stay tuned for more on that.

Memorable Names
I collect great names... most enthusiastically, great spam message names.  Recently, my friend Laura in SF reported two exceptional selections: Ghastly Cream Puff and Coltsfoot on Glum. The former sounds like the perfect race horse name. The latter, an old seaside town in the UK.

"Lovely vacation spot for the forlorn on the North Sea offering somber days of leaden gray mists and quiet sleeting evenings. Cozy up by the coal stove and read Ethan Frome. Eat spotted dick and toad in the hole to your hearts content... "

Tuesday feels like Friday

Winter storm advisory for the Philadelphia/South Jersey area! It snowed most of the day, intermittently with freezing rain. Made for a lovely, if unsafe, drive home. The thought (the distant memory unearthed) of a snow day -- SNOW DAY -- made me giddy all day.

Work is not really a snow day place. We're more in the "don't be a wimp and get in the car" camp... but by the time I got home, I was convinced it was Friday and I had a long weekend looking right at me.

Now... at 11pm... with no snow falling... I get to reality check myself and adjust to Wednesday at work. Drag... would have been great to stay home and go out with the camera in the morning.

And bake something warm and cozy... If we had an oven at work, would I bake at work?

Strip for Jesus

Caught a quick advert through Daily Candy that Johnny Brenda's was having a tribute to Russ Meyer -- THE Russ Meyer... he of the big-breasted starlet and Faster, Pussycat Kill Kill fame. The event was billed as The Hellcat Girl's Valentine Tribute to Russ Meyer.

Sounded cheesy, sounded over the top... sounded right up my alley.

Johnny Brenda's is so close to me... a quick zip over the Betsey and onto Girard. Parking is easy, the lights are dim, and they serve good beer. There is no light beer and no non-alcoholic beer on the menu. That surprised me, but you gotta love a bar that says, unabashedly, if you aren't there to drink good beer than we aren't really interested in chatting.

I ordered a local ESA. It was quite nice... slightly sweet with that slightly flat feel of a bitter. I can drink ESAs til the cows come home, but one effervescent lager and I am too full and too gassy. Yes, best to stick with ESA.

Back to the tribute... Full on burlesque. Pasties and all. Maybe I should say, pasties and nothing. The roar of the appreciative crowd egged these girls on something fierce... pasties and g-strings be damned. It all began with a really well done video montage of old fetish films (co-ed spankings anyone?) and Russ Meyer movie posters. The video used spot color and overlay to punch up the stills and old film. I was enjoying it immensely when the room filled with smoke and the stripping began.
Maybe the acts were not as polished as Gypsy Rose Lee... the postage stamp stage made any real moves a little hard. But some of the girls had fun routines... and at least 3 of the ones I saw put together some nice jazz maneuvers.

The kick off was a woman who appeared covered in breast shaped balloons, and did the shake, shimmy, pop... shake, shimmy, pop pop... until her costume was depleted. Best of the night? The girl who came out in a cocktail shaker bra and proceeded to bend over backwards, fill her shakers with liquor, cap 'em off and shimmy til they frothed. Next up... a woman who did a cabaret/Bob Fosse style number that suggested a lot and teased the way burlesque intended.

The crowd was a little hopped up... some men muscled their way to the front to stand head and shoulders over all the woman. Not very gallant. But, what are you gonna do? Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Found a couple hellcat shots while surfing Flickr the day after. Who knew?

Philadelphia Tales
Link to my Italiani Bravi conversation group on Google or check out
assorted pictures at Flickr
intro . 2010 . 2009 . 2008 . 2007 . 2006 . 2005 . 2004 . garden . kayak . travel . to see . to eat . Forking Delicious . My Umbrian Adventure
My piccola casa - before
Who Are These
Forking Delicious Women?
My piccola casa - after
The back of the house - after
The Lightyears in Riverton
The Lightyears Rock Riverton
chris, george and tony on the porch