12.20.2009

Making home: 1 month in


As of tomorrow, we'll have lived in this home of our own for one full month. It's been a whirlwind of unpacking, visitors, a new job, setting up, cleaning, and getting reacquainted with this town.

We're at a point where we can cook meals in our kitchen and relax in our living room. Other rooms are still a work in progress: the office(s), the extra room, our bedroom, the basement. There are still new lights to put up and photos to hang- and plenty of projects big and small. We've managed to devote parts of each weekend to making a dent in those tasks though, and slowly this is becoming home. (I'm grateful that any further painting as well as outdoor projects have to wait until the spring- at least the pressure is off there!)

Being homeowners is great and stressful, fun and expensive. A new journey- one requiring patience, an emergency fund, compromise, creativity, and a lot of can-do attitude. We're feeling our way along, and picking up new skills as we go (home improvement area as well relationship!).

We're getting to know our neighborhood, too. We've already spent time at The Fountain, Ultraviolet Cafe, the Spectrum, and Spinners, as well as with takeout from Ichiban and Sake Cafe. We've made a list of places to try, and places to visit.

Transition is the theme for now- missing old places, discovering places both new and familiar, making a home of our own, finding and keeping connections. Looking forward to Christmas morning in our home, Christmas eve and day with family, and New Years with good friends. Salut!

11.17.2009

With you my friend, I am there

It's a busy, busy week- new job, working on the house, packing, moving, you get the picture.

But I wanted to share one thing, as belated as it may be (and I hope it's not too late):

The beloved Adirondack Girl Scout camp that I attended for many summers - and that has been around for 70 years- is at risk of being closed.

Camp Little Notch has been among the very special places in my life-- and the lives of so many other women and girls.

For more information on the history of the camp, the issues at hand, the enormous movement that has been working to keep this amazing piece of land in the hands of the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, and to add your support to keeping Little Notch open, visit
http://www.friendsofcln.org/

And media folks, if you're listening: please consider covering this story. This is a story of love and friendship, nature and inspiration, of helping girls grow strong, and the power of place. And, sadly, it's the story of the economy and the choices that have to be made. It's a story worth telling.

11.12.2009

Things I'm looking forward to in Albany

  • Mozzarella sticks with raspberry sauce on nearly every menu. I'll say it again, Albany NEEDS to claim this as its own before the rest of the world catches on. These Albany Sticks are the best appetizer you'll ever have.
  • Not having to drive over the mountains in snow storms to be there for winter holidays.
  • Working downtown
  • Checking out the Troy Winter Market (summer too!)
  • Lark Street
  • Time with our families being a normal part of daily life, rather than a drive and an overnight stay and packing every possible visit into one weekend.
(Again, I reserve the right to add to this list- and I know I will exercise that right.)

11.11.2009

Things I'll Miss about the Valley

  • The mountains. Small but pretty, different every day, visible almost anywhere you go-- including from our apartment. I'll miss hiking and driving up these mountains, and watching them change with the seasons.
  • The restaurants. India House. Sierra Grill. Amy's Place. Apollo. Sunrise. Mount Tom's ice cream. I could go on and on.
  • And on the topic of food: Trader Joe's. It's going to be so very hard to adjust to living far from TJs.
  • The bike trails, oh the bike trails.
  • The laid back, work to live, happy vibes.
  • My Girl Scout troop.
  • Walking to work through charming Easthampton.
  • Berkshire Brewing Company's Steel Rail extra pale ale.
  • Working on a beautiful campus in a beautiful building with great people.

  • Our CSA farmshare, in which the farm was a 1/2 mile from our house, and picking up our share involved a weekly trip to the farm, picking flowers and herbs and raspberries, and seeing nearly everyone we know.
  • The running trails along the Mill River, through the woods, past farmland and community gardens. My running buddy.
  • Webs! (Although after packing up my yarn stash, it's clear I need to stay away from any yarn stores for a long, long while.)
  • Strolling Main St., Northampton
  • The potlucks
  • Trivia, and the Plunder Cats

(I reserve the right to add to this list as more comes up, which it will.)

Addendum:
  • The RMVs, which are generally pleasant, and a "long wait" is 15 minutes. And people still complain! They have no idea. I'm not ready to re-experience the Albany DMV hell.

11.09.2009

Ours

We hunted and searched, found and pondered, weighed pros and weighed cons, worked and saved, stressed and fretted, laughed and squealed and gasped, gathered papers and signed our names a thousand times, took a deep breath and handed over checks with many digits, and then: the keys were passed, and the little house was ours.

Holding hands tight and jumping in with shouts of joy: Another Big Life Moment, ours.

11.04.2009

Choosing Albany

Buying a house has been in our "next few years" plan for awhile. Originally we thought spring of 2010 would be a good time, but then these tax incentives came up and we found ourselves looking at the end of this past summer.

These grown-up decisions aren't easy- every part of this process has involved difficult choices.

I've spent years daydreaming about owning a home, but reality is different than those daydreams. We had to figure out what we could realistically afford (and come to terms with the fact that 'first house' and 'dream house' are two different things), and where this house would be. We had to think about what was important to us, and the types of visions we had for our life together. For years and years, our long-term plan has been to buy a home in Albany. This was the plan for a lot of reasons: our families are there, it's affordable, we like it, we feel a loyalty to it, we see exciting things happening there. This summer, we thought and reflected, weighed the options, and decided these things are still important to us. It would be difficult to leave our life in MA, but it was time. This place and these people will be in our hearts and our lives for a long time, I know. Our friendships are strong and will endure the distance, and we'll be back to visit often. But home is Upstate New York.

Over the summer, I was speaking to a friend who is expecting a baby in January. Her immediate family is spread out among four states (mom in South Carolina, brother in New York, dad and sister at different ends of Vermont, herself in New Jersey). She was lamenting the fact that she would have no family support system around her when the baby arrived. She had her husband, and there would be visitors, but all she wanted was to be in a spot surrounded by her immediate family.

Her story made me realize how lucky we are to have most of our family in one area. Our families are both tight-knit and great-- family birthday parties are regular events, cousins grow up close to one another, the support network is strong. We're not ready to have kids just yet, but when we are I want them to grow up in the middle of that kind of family. I want them to know our parents well, to see extended family more than a few times a year. That's important to both Patrick and I.

And then there's Albany itself. This city that I love, with so much potential, that needs people like us there. We have energy to give it, we see the good that is there and the good that can be there. We want to be a part of the community that is working to make Albany a great place to live. We've learned a lot from our time in the Pioneer Valley about strong communities and what makes an area vibrant. People in the Valley are proud to live here-- we want to bring that to Albany.

And so, if all goes well, we'll be Albany homeowners as of tomorrow. The next few weeks will be full of transition and sad goodbyes, but we're ready to return to our All-America City.

Getting here

Three years and four months ago, we moved to Northampton, Massachusetts. Pat was headed to UMass Amherst to finish a degree, and I was job-hunting after finishing my Masters program at SUNY Albany.

Our decision to head to Massachusetts was based on school, and our desire to live somewhere different for awhile. In the months leading up to our move, I started to worry. I wasn't sure I wanted to leave Albany. I liked life there. I had a good group of friends, I knew the area like the back of my hand, I liked being near our families, I was feeling settled. I was sad about leaving all that, and the idea of moving to a place where we knew hardly anyone was scary. Finding a job in a place where I had no connections was proving to be very hard. At one point, after a trip to MA to check out apartments, I cried in the car on the Mass Pike. I wanted to put the brakes on the plan to move and keep things exactly as they were.

But we didn't. We found an apartment that we loved, we packed a truck, and with the help of many reliable and strong friends, we moved our life to a new town in a new state. Not terribly far, but all of it new.

I took a job as a nanny while I looked for a 'real' job. In my free time I biked all the trails around town, I explored the shops on Main St, we tried the restaurants that we could walk to from our apartment. I missed Albany, but this place was growing on me. There were mountains visible where ever I went, the sky was unlike any other, the people were laid back, the attitude was right up my alley.

Slowly, this became home, and a lot of life happened here. We met some of our best friends, I found a job, we adopted a kitten, we invested in an air mattress which was used by visitors from near and far, we got engaged, we played trivia, we planned a wedding, we moved to another town, we celebrated the election of President Obama with dancing in the streets of Northampton, Patrick grew a beard (and a few months later, shaved it off), we had a winter of potlucks, we found community, I ran races, Pat helped grow a business, we took classes, Pat graduated, we developed our cooking skills, I had a Girl Scout troop, we climbed mountains, and we fell in love with this valley.

So why would we ever decide to move away from so much that was good? It wasn't an easy decision, but I'll tell you all about it in the next post.


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all photos by me except the last one, by Patrick.

10.29.2009

Moving forward

Last month, we spent our first wedding anniversary having our potential new home inspected.

Yep, we're in the process of buying a house! It's thrilling and terrifying and exciting and stressful and eeee!

The house (not quite ours yet, but close) is in Albany. While we absolutely love the Pioneer Valley and our friends here, our grand plan was always to settle in our hometown. We'll be within a few miles of both sets of parents, and we'll be able to give back to a city that is near and dear to our hearts (and maybe we'll get to attend some of those famous All Over Albany events!).

This is something we've dreamed about and worked towards for a long time- it's surreal to be in the midst of it. The next month promises to be bonkers, with packing and goodbyes and moving and painting and leaving my job and starting a new one. Stay tuned for more...



"Life is too short to waste. Dreams are fulfilled only through action, not through endless planning to take action." ~D. Schwartz


10.28.2009

Not so candid cameras


I love this idea. We adopted a number of antique cameras from Pat's uncle, and my dad has a rather impressive collection of his own. My dad's sat on a family room shelf when I was a kid, and occassionally I'd get him to show me how they worked, but for the most part both collections just sit in a box. This display idea is so whimsical and fun-- I love the playfulness of framed cameras, poised to take your photo. And look! A neon pink 110!

p.s. After trying both, I'm declaring Vi.sualize the image bookmarking winner over We Heart It - it's just much easier to sort and find images once they're bookmarked. My Vi.sualize page of collected images is here.

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(Image via Houzz)

10.27.2009

Just souper


Sunday night I made butternut squash soup.

Monday night it was potato leek soup.



And there is a batch of tomato black bean soup cooking the day away in our slow cooker at this very moment.

It's just that kind of week- gray and chilly, the trees quickly becoming skeletons, and a need for coziness in full swing.

10.21.2009

Little projects

I have a number of friends expecting babies this winter and spring, which seems like a perfect reason to dive back into some crochet projects. Conveniently, baby projects also tend to be small, and small/quick projects will be the key to me finishing anything this autumn and winter!

I have a Webs gift card (courtesy of Meg and Steve) burning a hole in my pocket- this might be the perfect excuse to buy a new crochet book.

(How adorable are these booties? I think I could handle making a few pairs of these for the little ones!)

10.20.2009

PR

On Sunday I ran a 5k on a very cold, rainy, windy morning. I made myself go- I had already paid the registration fee, and I was meeting two friends there. But I soooo didn't want to go. I sooo wanted to stay in bed.

But I went. I bundled up and I ran. Along with a couple hundred other brave souls, I ran past a 1700s-era cemetery, through muddy fields, and alongside tractors, all the while the wind gusts smacked and rain pelted against my skin. And I crossed the finish line with my fastest time since 2003 (and only 5 seconds off that time, my true personal record).

Patrick bundled up too and cheered me on, took pictures, was the great supporter he always is. It made the miserable conditions much more bearable. He even bought me a bagel, soup, and a chai latte at Woodstar afterwards.

I'm glad I got out of bed- and glad I got to spend the rest of the day on the couch, under blankets, sipping tea and eating brownies.

10.19.2009

10.16.2009

taking pictures

Photography has been a hobby of my dad's since he was in college. While I was growing up he photographed weddings as a side job, and before that he played around with portraits and processing. He has drawers and boxes brimming with photos- family, landscape, nature, you name it. At my parents' house there's a framed series of shots he took when I was just a few weeks old. He set up a homemade portrait studio in our basement- a white sheet as a background, some lighting, and a stool. The result is a number of black and white shots of me with each of my parents. When I was a kid he'd let me take his photo with his 35mm, showing me how to hold it and how to advance the film with my thumb using the metal lever and waiting for that satisfying click. Photography, in some form, has always been a part of my life.

My first camera was a neon yellow 110. I took it to summer camp, on vacation, and out to the backyard (somewhere there's a roll I shot of toads that my friends and I caught, all of them lined up in a wagon). From there it was various point-and-shoots, until my dad passed along his Minolta SLR to me when I went to college. I didn't use it a lot because I was so nervous about damaging it (the thing was so solid though- it was all metal, heavy, substantial), but I did bring it with me to London- some of my favorite photos from my months there were taken on Dad's old Minolta. For college graduation in 2003, my parents bought me my own Minolta SLR. It was just before the digital camera age took over, and within a few years I didn't have much patience for film. I used Patrick's digital camera (an early Canon A-series point-and-shoot) and in 2006 I bought a Canon Digital Elph- a camera I still use quite a bit-- I'm thinking of replacing the little guy with a newer model (conveniently, Elphs are now less than half what I paid three years ago). My main camera now is the Nikon D80 that Pat and I share- a wedding gift to ourselves, this is a camera we spent many years lusting after. I still have a lot to learn on it, and I still use my point-and-shoot fairly often, but the D80 is an amazing piece of equipment.
All along the way though, I've documented- regardless of the camera. I can't tell you the number of times friends have confessed to not worrying about bringing a camera along anymore because they knew I'd be taking pictures. And if I wasn't snapping, Pat certainly would be. I have albums and albums of photos from each phase of my life- although I admit most albums of the past few years are in the form of Flickr sets. I just checked-- 2,785 of my photos live on Flickr, posted between February 2005 and now.

I'm not a great photographer, and I have tons to learn (I've never taken a photography class, beyond 8th grade tech ed, but I'm always on the lookout for one- I'd love to. I tried to beg my way into a photo class in college, but without the studio art pre-reqs it was a lost cause). I enjoy the experience of taking photos and the way of seeing that happens when I have a camera in hand. I love documenting this way-- for me, it's been more about the moment and the emotion than the technicalities (although I recognize the importance of understanding the technology and concepts, and I know I need work on both fronts). But throughout my life I've wanted to remember these times, these places, these people, and these feelings. Sometimes writing does it for me, but sometimes only the snap of my camera will do.

10.09.2009

Heart It

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to save images from around the web-- photos that I like, inspiring rooms, crafty ideas-- whatever catches my eye. I recently happened upon a handy image-bookmarking site. We Heart It lets you save images found on their site as well as elsewhere (this page explains how it works). Unlike saving photos in a folder on your desktop, We Heart It saves source information along with the image. You can see the images I've hearted here (you can tell I've been into photos of homes recently, eh? The transition to fall has that effect.) Let me know if you sign on- we can be contacts in yet another online space!

Update: I'm also trying Vi.sualize.us, which may prove to be better if only for the ease of searching bookmarked images. I'll let you know the verdict!

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photo by flickr user Carlos Porto

10.07.2009

Recommended reading: Don't Talk With Your Mouth Full

My friend Holly, a fab cook, a mom to two cool girls, and a great Girl Scout co-leader, has started a food blog. It's witty and educational, and the recipes look tasty (I have yet to make any, but I plan to try the Rice-Stuffed Acorn Squash ASAP.) I've had Holly's food (and beverage) at various parties, and it's always creative and delicious.

Go read about Holly's kitchen conquests and feel inspired! Her blog is here.

evolution


A link floated by early this morning and led me into the world of old blogs- my own abandoned writing, and that of friends and former friends-- the stuff that seems to stick around on these here Internets. Reading just a few paragraphs was enough to remind me of just how different Now is from Then. It brought a wave of gratitude for the love and support in my life these days. The people we surround ourselves with make such an impact on the way we feel about life- I'm thankful to have so many fun, positive, caring people around me. I spent a couple years letting the wrong type of energy in- energy that made me feel insecure, anxious, and cut down. I have the ultimate control over how I feel, but part of that control is in who gets let in. I see that now, and I'm glad for the lessons that kept me moving towards the kind of energy that makes me feel empowered, happy, and loved. It's the kind I hope to create for others, energy that creates good.

My early-to-mid-20s were a time of growth and transition, of mistakes, of asking forgiveness and forgiving, of figuring out what I wanted and what I didn't. They were an important time, and there was plenty of fun among the tougher things, but I wouldn't want to go back. I've held on to the parts of those days that are worth keeping, and left the rest back there. In these late-20s I feel more confident, more grounded, more aware of where I want to go, what I want out of this life, and how I want to make those things happen.

I don't mind looking back and reflecting once in a while, but mostly I like this time and place right here.


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photo 1
photo 2

8.06.2009

Thoughts on Marriage

With recent engagement announcements (exciting!), upcoming weddings to attend (also exciting!), and our first anniversary on the horizon (exciting and whoa nelly!), I've been thinking a lot about marriage.

We've been married for nearly 11 months. And after 10 years of unmarried togetherness (including 3 years of co-habitation), what's the difference?

Planning our wedding, getting married surrounded by our loved ones, and embarking on this journey has been for us about renewed and fortified commitment to our relationship-- this thing that is bigger than either of us. There is him, there is me, and there is The Marriage. It doesn't shout about it or take up room on the couch; it's a subtle thing, but it's ever-present. We've always been a strong team and we've worked hard at good communication, but by entering into this larger whole our relationship has grown up a bit. Things have shifted in subtle but important ways.

Marriage sometimes (ok, often) gets a bad rap. Ball-and-chain, giving up your freedom, entering a life of boredom, something like prison, blah blah blah. But I've found just the opposite. Marriage, in the way that we've entered it, is freeing. It has freed us to dream big, to plan concretely, to rise above little things that used to butt in. Being boyfriend-girlfriend, and then fianc├ęs, I thought I was feeling the full joy of Us. But that was just a taste. This marriage has brought me a joyfulness I never felt before. Every morning I wake up and see his head next to mine and I am giddy (even if that head is snoring a bit). On top of the love and happiness we've always felt together, there is a new bliss and excitement and I-can't-believe-I-get-to-be-married-to-you joy in our lives. It's not something we take for granted- the marriage deserves our attention and nurturance and gratitude. Things aren't perfect, no way- that would be creepy. We have arguments and grumpy moments and I take bad moods out on him when I shouldn't (working on it...), but we get through to the other side. Above all of it, the little things and the bigger, is our Marriage, enveloping us and elevating us- as a couple and as individuals.

Yes, for us marriage is different. It is the most important thing I've ever been a part of.

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For some good thoughts on marriage:

Meg's Practical Wedding posts on the topic.
Laura Munson's thought-provoking New York Times article on her own marriage and a love that is strong, patient, and unconditional.
Cate's post on how marriage freed her.
Sara's Successful Relationship series is good as well as this post- It's about the Marriage Not the Wedding.

And on the lighter side, Real Simple's answers to "What is the Secret to a Good Marriage?"

p.s. Best wishes to Meg of A Practical Wedding who gets married on Sunday. Her blog brought sanity to my own wedding planning-- I can't wait to read about her wedding experience!



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photo 1 by flickr user h.koppdelaney
photo 2 by Upstate Photographers

6.18.2009

Adirondack dreams

On this dreary, rainy, chilly June day at the office I'm dreaming about sunny days on the lake. Just over a month until we head north for sailing, swimming, laying on the beach, sitting by the fire, taking in the stars.


5.04.2009

Shooting Stars

A few months ago I had one of those websurfing days where one link led me to another led me to another. I mean, I have those days all the time, but I'm telling you about this one particular time when a friend's Facebook page linked to a memorial page for one of her high school teachers. Something made me click it, which led me to a speech given at SUNY Potsdam by this teacher, Kathleen Sipher. I never knew her, but the text of that speech has stayed with me. You can read the whole thing, entitled A Survivor's Story, here (I recommend it, for sure).

The following bit in particular has popped into my head more than once recently, when I've had to make similar choices (and don't we all, everyday?):

"My husband is a morning person – he gets up promptly every day at 4 am. No alarm clock, no struggle to wake up. I’m definitely not a morning person – I was voted off the breakfast table by my family long before the show Survivor. Anyway, this morning at 4:30, my husband woke me up to tell me about this great meteor show going on. He said he’d seen dozens of meteors and did I want to get up and see it? Well, that bed was so warm and cozy and I was so happily sleeping that I told him to go watch it and tell me about it later. So he went away and I tried to go back to sleep. Then it hit me. I had to pee! Damn! I tried to put it off, to ignore it, but I finally just had to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. And while I was up, I looked out the picture window and saw him sitting in the hot tub and I then I noticed several shooting stars. So, I just gave in, put on my suit, and ran out in the 20-degree cold air to jump into the hot tub. We sat back in the warm water and counted the shooting stars we saw – in 45 minutes we saw over 500. It was absolutely awesome – better than the 4th of July.

So I guess the lesson from this little story is again that you shouldn’t give up happiness for pleasure. Being in that bed was so warm and pleasurable. And I almost gave in to it. But I would have missed an opportunity that is once in a lifetime."

-Kathleen Sipher

4.29.2009

Hello again, hello

It's been awhile since I've shared anything here. Life has been full, in mostly really great ways. I've been seeing a lot of live music, going on bike rides, taking an art class, watching the leaves and flowers burst, and easing myself back in to a running routine.

Here's a little (mostly) visual update:

Last week we saw three live shows: The Felice Brothers, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, and the Decemberists. Each at a different venue, each awesome.

The Felice Brothers had us all dancing and yeeehawing- the accordion was my favorite.



The Elvis Perkins show involved the trombonist in the crowd, that crazy marching band drum, and more dancing-



The Decemberists show was at a college (which apparently means ultra high security these days), in a gym, and it was rad. High-energy, wise cracks from Colin Malloy, and a perfect set list. I can't wait to see them again when they come back around in August.



Spiffying up the porch and planting herbs and flowers

...And then we were invaded by winged ants. Hopefully they are packing their bags, because while I'm sure they were very nice ants, they were not welcome on our porch, ok?

Sculpting and painting and printing and drawing in art class

I've never been a good artist, but I've always enjoyed it. This class if full of nice people, and I always leave feeling relaxed and inspired. Playing around in an art studio is an excellent de-stresser.

Finalizing the layout on our wedding book (finally)

This baby has gone to print. Just a few tiny little wedding-related ends left to tie up. We should also pick a few wedding photos to enlarge and frame, but that task feels incredibly daunting.

Buying and riding my new bike


I love it, I love it! Hopefully the bike trail will be fixed soon. (Read about the gigantic hole and the repair efforts here. You can even chip in to fix it if you want!)

Enjoying this place

There is tons of stuff going on in the valley these days, and it's been great to actually spend weekends in town taking it all in. This weekend alone is Northampton Pride, Twist, and Derrill's Race (my first 5k in two years, eek). Oh, and my herbs have sprouted!

I continue to be unsure of what I want to write about here. I want to come back to it, and I will, I just have to figure out how I want to go about it.

Happy spring!

3.24.2009

photos: recently

projects in progress

funfetti cupcake, for you

spring at the smith college bulb show, 3/21/09

selling girl scout cookies at the new england webcomics weekend

daffodils for a good cause