Friday, August 28, 2009

Retroblog August 28, 1983

Today is Sun, Aug 28, '83 Time

Monday, I went to Sturbirge Village. It was fun. I saw 3 horses. Sister Allen is nice. She sent a neckalce home with mom yesterday. It is a horse. Yesterday, I saw my first harness horse race. It was nice. We went to the Brooklyn fair and saw the race and had lunch then saw exibiths and I saw one of the biggest and smallest horses I have ever seen. Till next week.

For a girl who did not like to go outside or get dirty or sweaty, it is highly ironic that I was horse-crazy as a pre-teen. Before there were other media influences, pre-teen girls sometimes got severely affected by the "horse fever." On long car trips, rather than look at license plates, I would scour the landscapes for horses. Before I had bookshelves of science fiction, I had bookshelves of horse books, plus equine-related paraphernalia. I was influenced by horse authors like Walter Farley (Black Stallion) and Marguerite Henry (Misty of Chincoteaque). I begged my parents and Santa for Breyer Horses. (I even took riding lessons for one ill-fated session in a later summer, which actually cured me. If the folks had known that, they may have sprung for riding lessons sooner!)

As you can see, my trip to Sturbridge and to another local summer fair was all about the horses. I don't know what happened to the necklace, but I still have a few vestiges of the horse collection on my bookshelf, in literary, and in plastic mold form. In the process of removing boxes of my old life from the parental homestead, I found the box of the Breyer Horses that I wouldn't previously part with. I finally culled it down to three that had the most meaning to me, Black Beauty, Misty and her foal Stormy. Some of the vintage Marguerite Henry books are still in my personal collection. I even found some delicate bone china horses that are now part of my shadow box of precious items from my past, like my "silver" baby spoons, and precious amethysts.

It is thanks to Ms. Henry though, I still would love to visit Assateaque and Chincoteaque Islands one day. Not necessarily for Pony Penning Days or the annual Pony Swim, but one day during the off-season so I can explore and indulge my inner pre-teen. As I explained to someone after Derby Day this year, you may be able to take the girl off the horse, but you may not always get all the "horse" out of the girl.

The equine-loving gene is still in the family. Both of my sisters-in-law have ranching/farming connections and grew up around horses. It's so wonderful to see the kids up on the backs of these animals and looking pretty comfortable. Here's Christina and Amber off for a ride. Drew has been up on a mount too, but looks a little anxious about it here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reunion Rehearsals and Rerouting

For years I have managed to avoid organized school reunions. I have fond memories of my time in high school and college, but I stay in touch mostly with the people with whom I was really close. I'm curious about people, but really like the mystery of just wondering what they are doing. I could find out, but I'm too busy to use many of the social networking sites that have cropped up in recent years to connect with other people. Frankly, I think I prefer my inventions to what Google and Facebook might tell me.

After years of avoidance, it's time to face the truth. My alma mater is sending around information about my 15th College Reunion, and I've already made plans to go to a high school gathering after almost 20 years. There's no getting around it; I'm going to have to shake off the shy wall-flower girl, go to the social gatherings, and see what time has wrought upon my classmates.

To be honest, I can probably deal with my social phobias. I've had to deal with the booze-and-schmooze and meet-and-greets enough now in my professional life that I can deal with it for a few hours. However, it's giving the synopsis of my personal history that I really dread, i.e. that awkward three or four sentence discussion of family situations, kid counts, career milestones, and number and type of degrees.

Like these from Don't You Forget About Me: A Novel by Jancee Dunn, c. 2008 (A real writer can write it better!)
Took my first job after college as a stockbroker in NYC but got disillusioned. Married a great lady named Cindy and we have two kids, Matteo and Michaela. Last year my wife and I started a home organization company called Clarity Begins at Home and we are kicking Ass! Psyched for the reunion (47).

Grad-school—got MBA then did a stint at IBM. Five years at Citigroup, then settled in Randolph, NJ. Started adult day-care facility with brother-in-law in PA. Also moved into development two years ago, currently building town-houses in Union County (137).

“Are you feeling as old as I am? … Twenty years ago, we were going to the prom.” “Still in Richmond ... Michael and I just love it and we’re very involved in the community. Still a riding instructor, I have a great crop of kids this year. The parents are a little much, but I can handle it. … I’ve attached a pic of me on Senator, [a horse] (139).

Hiiiii! You look amazing! Goood, good, I live in Rahway, you know where that is, near Linden? How many kids do you have? Three? Well, then, you have your hands full, am I right? (188)

I live in Red Hook, in Brooklyn, and I’m a freelance animator, so I go to places like VH1 and work on some project for six weeks. Then I spend another two weeks in a coffee place, worry about where my next gig is coming from. …. I was once married and it lasted for eight months, so I suppose that’s all I need to say about that. (191)

It's a whole messy "me" conversation, and I was always told not to talk about yourself too much or sound too braggy. I always undersell myself, or better yet, avoid the conversation completely. Better yet, I wish I could just LIE! (Darn Google, my unique name, and morals; I can't!) I should have joined the CIA when I thought about it, so I couldn't talk about what I was doing! Can you imagine that conversation?

"So, Auntie Nettie, what do you do?"

"Well, I live in the D.C. area, and work for a federal agency, but I'm not allowed to tell you anymore due to restrictions placed on me by the Office of Homeland Security. If I told you, I would ... literally ... have to kill you."

Gulp! "Well, okay then. Let me show you these pictures of Junior and little Princess!"

I told you. I have an active imagination. G-Dawg and I talk about it all the time.

I was thinking about reunions and those types of catch-up conversations, when I stumbled across this quote in another novel. Wouldn't it be great if I could print something like this on a personal "business card," you know, one with contact numbers and salient personal points? I wish I had the guts to do it real life -- just to stave off those looks that I know are coming.

Please note: the emphasis in italics mine. ... and most importantly, my genes are not defective. My jeans are ....

We could have made a family … but we chose not to. First of all, my genes are defective and not to be passed along. I would not want to gift anyone with a DNA package producing the mental distress I’ve enjoyed throughout my days on the planet, nor would I want to live with anyone experiencing the same. Second all, I am terrible parenting material. I am a journalist. I observe from a distance, take notes, analyze, surgically dissect, and sew a subject back together as a written piece. Child rearing is a contact sport. Kids need more than a parent who observes them from the far end of the runway for some twenty years in hopes of getting material for a book, and that was the only reason I could think of to have a child.

Entertaining disasters: a novel (with recipes) by Nancy Spiller, copyright 2009
Pages 52/53:

Suggestions about politely turning a conversation around to the other person are welcome! I'll let you know how it all turns out later.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Commuting ViEWWs

I've been taking the Metro-North train home for years, and have never quite noticed what I did last Friday. I'm usually reading, staring off into space, or spinning stories about the residents who live in the apartments in the area. Plus, after so many years of commuting, you stop paying attention to what is familiar...

To set the scene: Trains pull into the platform at 125th Street right next to some apartments. This particular building is pretty sketchy and looks rather dilapidated. Residents on the upper floors have a direct look onto the platform and into the train cars. Here's a view:

Friday afternoon, I realized HOW blase one resident has gotten about her view. Look carefully beyond the "curtain" into the room beyond the middle apartment. Can't see it?

Look carefully at this closeup ...

I count myself lucky that I didn't see anyone using the furnishings in this room! But! Close the curtain people, PLEASE!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer Fridays 2009 - Finale

My last summer Fridays off were absolutely beautiful, with temps in the low 80s, low humidity and breezes, and filled with meals with friends.

On one of those Fridays, I had the occasion to have a leisurely lunch with my pal Javier, where we both commiserated over our busy schedules of multiple jobs, our lucky escapes from library employment, our fund raising trials, and family funeral escapades. Lunch was really an excuse to meet so I could turn over a large stack of piano sheet music to one of his schools -- so the next generation of little keyboard players can suffer through Chopin and Czerny. After having been stored in my parents' attic for about 15-20 years, where I spent one cold Thanksgiving-break afternoon culling five boxes down to one, and then one hysterical afternoon in my apartment weeding through that box plus my stash, the music I gave Javier really represented hours, if not months, of practicing, swearing, and sweating. I haven't closed the lid on my piano dreams completely. I've held on to a few librettos, autographed volumes, chamber music favorites, a mess of "Wolfie Momo" (aka Mozart), and all of my scale and exercise books in case, one day I decide that it's time to play again.

After saying goodbye to Javier and a good deal of my "youth," I caught a train over to the "foreign land" of the East Side to meet up with my friend Michelle at the Guggenheim.
(Empire State Building wayyyyyyy downtown!)

Michelle and I met in 1995 at Caramoor, when she was a summer intern for the 50th Anniversary. She came back to the institution a few years later, to work with me in fund raising, before leaving for sunnier climes in Miami. One of my Buffy buddies, she's been patient with my long silences over the years. Despite infrequent communications, Michelle's one of those friends that forgives, and with whom you can pick up a conversation like you just spoke the day before.

Although she was super busy on this trip, seeing other friends, family, going to weddings, and staying out in Brooklyn, she agreed to visit with me. It was both our first time at the Guggenheim, and before we dove into museum, we dodged around the many many European tourists and headed up to a little cafe tucked into one of the spirals to try and catch our breath and wet our whistles.
(View from the cafe)

[Somehow Michelle and I both missed the "do not take pictures" and "no cell phones" signs posted everywhere, until Michelle got scolded by a docent. Sorry! She was just following my example. Now you know, no photos in the museum. These were taken surreptitiously and with no flash. That explains the quality!]

I have to say, I always thought the Guggenheim was much larger -- like the size of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was surprised to see it tucked into the corner of Fifth, smaller than many of the mansions that surrounds it. The Guggenheim is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and while I was there, they were having a retrospective of Frank Lloyd Wright and his designs. On display were blueprints, renderings, and models of proposed designs for the museum, as well as some of his later works. FYI, did you know that one of the designs for the Guggenheim had it as a fuchsia building? or electric blue? or with the spiral going the other way? Weird.

Much of the work on display was very surreal, and very advanced for its time. Some of it's even too advanced for now. I felt like some of the models were displays for sci-fi shows, like the set designs and art departments had studied this designs to rip off for Stargate Atlantis and the Ancients. (Yes, I'm a geek.) Like this un-built beauty:

This visitor is sketching a model of a FLW-designed synagogue.

Michelle and I strolled up and around the spirals ...

almost there ....
Views from the top: looking down
looking up
Checking messages
Along the spirals there are little annexes and galleries off to the side. Like most arts organizations these days, the Guggenheim has an arts in education program. One of the galleries had works by local school children on display, which were very impressive. Of course I gravitated toward the yarn/thread works...
As we came off another loop, we wandered into the
gallery holding the Impressionistic works. After the futuristic FLW designs, the Picassos, Manets, Cezannes, and Matisses were a surprise. The works seem more approachable in the Guggenheim than the Met. You can get closer to the paintings, just don't get too close and cross the line on the floor (which you miss at first), or the security guards will step up and lurk menacingly.

On the way out, we of course had to stop in the most important section of all ... the gift shop. Don't forget to look down on your way of the museum doors, though, or you'll miss this Art Deco masterpiece.
After a quick trip through the Museum, we wandered back over to Lexington in search of a quiet place to grab a bite and really spend time catching up. We found a lovely little neighborhood trattoria, where we could talk face to face and have a very early bird dinner of della casa insalate (romaine/endive/radicchio salad) and mozzarella corrozza (fried mozzarella sandwiches) and Diet Coke.

Between news, meditations, and reminiscences, we watched a cross section of the world walk by. I wish I had been faster with my camera, because, in addition to the usual suspects and black clad New Yorkers, we saw a cowboy -- hat, vest, boots and all; a tiara-clad pretty princess being pushed on her bicycle by her courtiers; ladies in gorgeous saris and one in the most beautiful petal pink kimono.

I was to meet up with Michelle and her in Brooklyn the next day, but sadly, a migraine made that impossible. Now that we've reconnected again, I promised Michelle I'd be better with the communicating.
So, keep on reading and commenting Michelle -- I have to come down and visit you in Miami again!

Sadly, my plans to spend much of my last Friday off at
MoMA were derailed by work deadlines. Unfortunately not everyone gets summer Fridays off and grant report deadlines have to be met, projects for auditors need completing, and e-mails need to be sent. I spent much of the day in the office doing work and on the phone, but I did manage to squeeze in a few blog posts for the future as well, before heading off to dinner with another dear friend, Poopeh. Our schedules are insane, so we were both just as happy to hunker down in Grand Central and watch humanity pass by in a whir while we tried to cram a few months of news into just a few short hours.

Good friends are good like that.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Retroblog August 21, 1983

Today is Sun. Aug. 21, 1983 Time 4:14 p.m

This week was o.k. We went to the beach Tuesday and fun. Mom got pooped and girls camp. Tomorrow I might get to go to Sturbiges Village with Merrie Miss from Norwich If dad says yes. Mom already did.

So maybe Mom didn't have such a relaxing time at girls camp after all?

In this entry we have references to more church-related social activities with the most local congregations, the one located in Norwich, CT. Girls camp was usually attended by leaders and youth from all the congregations in the region, so Mom probably made these arrangements for me at camp. Another way to get one of the kids, at least, out of the house, so she could recuperate from camp. (We also have a reference to the classic child/parent divide&conquer/play-on-off-the-other technique.)

My brothers and I have fond memories of going up to Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Another perennial day-trip excursion for the family and a standard school trip for most New Englanders, we all remember running around, seeing the animals, going to the general store to buy penny candy, watching the blacksmith, and getting freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. While most of the Village was trying to be historically accurate, I don't think Nestle Tollhouse's chocolate chip cookie recipe had been invented yet. Who cares? Which ever marketing person okayed this was brilliant!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Awful Library Books

I think it's time to resume educating people about librarians, their duties, and their odd senses of humor. To that end, and as a public service, I'd like to share a new blog with you all, one called Awful Library Books.

The blog was started by two public librarians in Michigan, who cannot understand why libraries don't do more to "weed" the junk from circulating collections. (Well, we know why... the public doesn't like to see books discarded, no matter how cr*ptastic the books may be!) The blog is a collection of the worst of public library holdings, featuring books so old and obsolete that you won't believe that the material was/is still accessible to check out. No specific libraries or librarians are named to protect the guilty....

The photo here is from the July 13th entry, a book that is still in the catalog for many libraries. It reminds me of the old Dick and Jane books.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crafty Cakes

I might have previously mentioned that occasionally I suffer from EBS (Enviable Blog Syndrom) and CIC (Crafter Inferiority Complex), which is brought on by spending too much time reading the various crafting blogs out there in the Webosphere. Sometimes the symptoms lie dormant for month and years, until I'm attacked by a bout that can't be ignored. The only source of relief is to spend time studying recipes and tutorials, by making shopping lists or browsing through craft stores in search of supplies, and by getting reacquainted with the glue gun.

With the sudden increase of "bling and binkies" in the office, there will be many showers and parties in the office to celebrate these milestones of life. I volunteered to make a centerpiece for one of the baby showers, because I had been waiting for an opportunity to try my hand at making the Diaper Cake I had first read about over on homemadebyjill. This is her beauty. She even made the freaking flowers. Gorgeous, isn't it?

Photo courtesy of homemadebyjill

In my case, I was making a baby shower centerpiece for two lovely ladies who are having a girl, and who love purple and blue, tulips, and sunflowers. I altered the design so it would look more like a sheet cake and because I couldn't find the energy to schlep across NYC to the Container Store to pick up mailing tubes. The infrastructure is held together with a combination of packing tape, cardboard, and bulked up by more diapers and diaper wipes. The top layer of diapers and the crowning flower arrangement aren't secured to the first layer, so the cake can be disassembled for transport home to Queens in a taxi.

I made most of it during my lunch hour at my desk, killed two pairs of scissors, one huge packing box (the cardboard for the platter and infrastructure), many glue sticks, a few rolls of ribbon, and tissue paper. More importantly, I amused my colleagues who I called in to be my other sets of hands, and totally burned my fingers on my glue gun, because the cord was stretched around the printer and computer monitor and the piles of my work. All things considering, I don't think it came out too badly for my first attempt at one of these.

Here's the cake at the shower, along with culinary creations from colleagues, and 100 of the treats from Baked by Melissa.

Will I be making another of of these for other showers?
I don't know. ... Ask me in a few months!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where --" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

"--so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer Craft Bash 2009

Recently some of my crafty colleagues and I held a Craft Bash during lunch hour at the Big J. We had a beautiful space and lots of fun crafts to share with each other and the School.

Yoko makes handmade Japanese paper jewelry that is sold through boutiques and other shops in the City. She also goes out and sells in the markets in Brooklyn on the weekends. Look at her very professional displays!

I've mentioned Tori's domestic goddesshood on the blog before. She's amazing. This picture does not do her items justice. I should have snatched up that purple princess fairy child's apron when she put it out. Apparently Amber and Elle are fighting over the one that Amber already has. Danielle and her husband make the most amazing soaps. The whole room smelled wonderfully due to the fresh orange ones she made in preparation for the Bash. This was Kat's first foray into our Craft Bashes, and her handmolded chocolates were a hit. I think she got orders for private parties based on what she made to sell here. This may have been the genesis of another small business. As always, I had too much to display on one table. Strangely, the items I thought would sell didn't, and the things that I never would have thought would be popular were ... and were snatched up by co-workers I never would have thought would be into fuzzy stuffed animals! (Most items you see here are still available!)

While we didn't have a lot of customers, it was good to spend time with these ladies and see all our talents displayed. We're already to reserve dates for November and December, though using this space may be a "conflict of interest for the School." Darn facilities and lawyers and rules! We need room to craft people!

Stay tuned for updates on future Craft Fairs and Holiday Boutiques by Auntie Nettie and her crafty colleaques!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Retroblog August 14, 1983

Today is August 14, 1983 Time 7:18 p.m

This week I got to see Snow White and the 7 dwarfs. It was funny. Friday we were going to go to the beach but it rained so we stayed home and had fun. Tomorrow afternoon Mom is going to girl's camp. And won't be home for a week. Yuk, a whole week with Dad.

I had to go and look it up, (the Internet is good for those kinds of things), but back in the day aka 1983, Disney did re-release Snow White to the movie theaters. This was way back before VHS (don't ask kids) or even DVDs. With cabin fever setting in and not so much a.c., the parents must have thought this was heaven-sent. Take the kids to a movie. Cool 'em off, entertain them, and get out of the house. YIPPEE. Hi ho, hi ho. Off to Jilson we go.

At this age I was still too young to go to girl's camp. Even though she probably had to deal with bugs and even more annoying girls, at least Mom got out of the house. Poor Dad. That means he had to put up with US for a whole week! I wonder what hijinks we tried to pull on him. The excuse of "Mom lets us do it" wouldn't have flown with him. It was a novelty for us, and a trial for him. Don't let the "Yuk" fool you. A whole week with Dad was, and still, is a treat.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Fridays 2009 - Part Fourth

My Fourth of July at Caramoor was filled with flowers, friends, and fireworks.

As I was watching the fireworks, I remembered that the little toy camera shoots video! (Sometimes Auntie Nettie is a little slow...) I present here, then, my first attempts to use the editing software on the computer, and my first YouTube video! (Please to excuse the loud editorial comment mid-way through the shoot. We were very close to the fireworks and it was loud!)

If you must mock (ahem, BRO!, ahem), the professional's version can be found here!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Library-themed Ice-Cream!

What an excellent idea. Please go and sign the petition!

"Ben & Jerry's is considering launching a library-themed ice-cream flavour, after a campaign by a New Jersey librarian gathered thousands of supporters.

Burlington county librarian Andy Woodworth already has
more than 4,400 people signed up to a Facebook group supporting his plan, which he hopes will raise awareness of libraries "in the face of stagnant or slashed state, county, and municipal budgets"

Suggestions for flavours range from Gooey Decimal System to Sh-sh-sh-sherbet. Woodworth writes on Facebook that the logic behind the scheme is that "libraries are awesome, Ben & Jerry's ice-cream is tasty, therefore a library-themed Ben & Jerry's ice-cream would be tasty awesome."

Gooey Decimal System could combine dark fudge alphabet letters with caramel swirls in hazelnut ice-cream, he suggests, while Dusty Stacks could be a layered ice-cream with speckles of cocoa in every layer. Li-Berry pie could mix lime sherbet with raspberry sauce and pie-crust pieces, and Overdue Fine as Fudge Chunk could drop fudge brownies and white chocolate coins into milk chocolate ice-cream swirled with caramel. The fine details of Sh-sh-sh-sherbet aren't pinned down quite yet – it could be key lime, or possibly a vanilla/chocolate combination."

For the full article from the Guardian, click here.

I'd buy the Gooey Decimal System and the Overdue Fine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Fridays 2009, Part Three

Day two of my extended Caramoor weekend dawned brightly, with moderate temperatures and no humidity. I spent a very mellow day as the office volunteer, doing odd research projects, designing materials for the upcoming Fourth of July concerts, and doing other office odd-and-ends. Lunching in the courtyard with old friends and colleagues, and running in to other friends on the grounds throughout the day reminded me again, quite poignantly, how much I loved working with these people, but how glad I am that I'm not in the thick of it anymore.

As the sun started to descend, the energy on the grounds began to shift into what we used to call "Festival frenzy," where the concert attendees bring their excitement and enthusiasm to the venues.
On this occasion in particular, the energy levels were quite different from the usual classical music crowds, as the evening's performances were by the famous banjo player, Bela Fleck and a wonderful group of Malian musicians, featuring Oumou Sangare on vocals. From the first beats, we knew we were in for a treat. People were dancing in the aisles, conversing with Ms. Sangare in French, entranced by the energetic dancing of the backing vocalists, and cheering for the collaboration of Mr. Fleck and the talented African musicians.

While most of the concert was given over to Ms. Sangare or a collaboration between Mr. Fleck and her band, he did do a set by himself to start off the second half of the concert. When he came out and started playing, it was just the man and his banjo. He settled down and started playing, like he was just playing for himself. He managed to envelop a tent full of people in a sense of intimacy and brought us all to a quiet stillness with his skillful expertise and shy smile. It's amazing how one musician and instrument can bridge cultural differences and show a world how we are all really the same, despite language differences, geographic divides, and colonial histories -- all through the power of music.

Caramoor's house photographer and videographer pulled together a clip to give you a sense of the concert, which can be seen here, or below. (Produced by Howard Beaver, Vista Studios, and Gabe Palacio Photography)

I was so honored that Mr. Fleck took the opportunity to sign one of his earlier CDs for me. (It's good to have friends on the back-stage crew, so they can get that done for you!)

It was even more wonderful to get to see Caramoor in a different light. I had spent so much time there over the years, running around in the dark behind the scenes, making sure that venues were set up, that caterers got where they needed to be, moving furniture, hauling chairs, fixing lights, being security, and/or being the caterer myself, that I often didn't get a chance to appreciate the beauty around me. Caramoor's just as beautiful in the dark; you just have to stop and look at it.

It's probably not an exaggeration to say that I'm one of Caramoor's biggest fans.
This jewel is in good hands, and efforts being made to preserve its legacy. The legacy of Caramoor can be seen in other ways. Generations of families congregate there. Series of siblings serve as summer staff. Parents bring their children to events, and those children bring their children in turn. Family reunions are held around particular concerts. Friends bring friends, while friends and family of the staff come to visit and see where their loved ones disappear to in the summer.

One of my biggest regrets about my 12 years at Caramoor was that I was so busy, or thought that I was, that I didn't take the opportunity to share it more with my friends and family before I left for the Big J. Consider these blog posts my means of atonement.