Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Maureen here. Merry Christmas, everybody.

These cookies arrived in the mail yesterday from my sister Pat. The mail carrier left the package at our door before we were even up. Knowing what was in it, I ripped it open and Leslie and I had cookies for Christmas Eve breakfast.

These are, as you can probably tell, chocolate cookies. They also contain chocolate chips and raisins. Pat used our late mom's recipe, so I could tell the special ingredient was there. There's a hint of brightness or freshness that most people can't place, but I know it's a pinch of cloves.

And there I was, so many years ago, at my mom's kitchen table, helping her roll the individual cookies. Mom made a several varieties of cookies for Christmas time, most of which are recognizable to Italian-Americans. There were these, then three more of the same shape with white dough: one with chocolate chips and walnuts, one with chopped maraschino cherries, and one with lemon chips. The lemon ones were my utter favorite, but I can't find the lemon chips anymore. Each batch of batter made dozens of cookies. Little did I know that rolling all those cookies would prepare me in my adult life for making polymer clay beads. People see the beads and ask how I get them so round and even by hand. Pictured above is the method by which I learned! There were also pinwheels with fig or chocolate filling, candy cane shaped cookies with an almond flavor, and the traditional American sugar cookies (my least favorite).

Mom also made chocolate bourbon balls with a texture much more like a truffle. Despite the well-known fact that I do enjoy a well-made cocktail, bourbon has a scent I cannot abide. When I was living on my own, I converted the bourbon balls to rum balls (Myer's Rum is the best) and taught them to my best friend Deb. One December night, Deb and I went crazy, and in one marathon session we made rum balls, schnapps balls, Grand Marnier balls, and Chambord balls. There was plenty of tasting and testing. When we finally finished, I slurred, "Leshts go out for a nightcap." Deb replied, "Mo, it's a quarter to three." So wisdom prevailed. I went off to her couch for a long winter's nap.

My Aunt Amalia, who was born in Italy, makes these delightful honey balls that I do not know the Italian word for. They are quite small and mounded together in a pyramid. They are set in the middle of the table, and the happy consumers sit there, picking off honey balls and drinking strong Italian coffee and anisette. I always knew when the parental generation was going off into juicy gossip; they'd switch to Italian, so that we kids couldn't understand. This worked until my sister Sheila went to Spain for a semester. She became so fluent in Spanish she could pick up enough of the Italian to understand. My mother was horrified when Sheila interrupted one of these conversations to remark in English, "That's not a very nice thing to say."

The cookies I just photographed are on that plate next to the computer. If I look at them for very long, I'm sitting at the dining room table with my mom and my Aunt Frances, or even my late Aunt Jean. We're eating cookies from a beautifully composed tray, they're drinking coffee, and I'm drinking eggnog. They're laughing about my grandmother's latest drama or I'm complaining because my parents switched to an artificial Christmas tree. And it being Rome, NY, in December, snow is falling outside the frosty windows.

And so I wish (along with Irving Berlin) to anyone who reads this blog: May your days be merry and bright. And may all your Christmases be white.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Festivus

Maj. Kevin Romano in Bagram, Afghanistan

Maureen here. Hope you all survived the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength.

My Line of the Day`

Tonight I am singing with my group, The Songbirds at The Landing in Manchester by the Sea. Being able to do this comfortably is new for me. I am loving it! I am talking to Donna Dussault, a fellow Bird, about how we are literally singing for our supper. I make her promise to signal me if there is spinach in my teeth. The exact words are used were "check for garlands in my gums" God, I love alliteration!
Blog On,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jack Wind 1919 - 2007

Exactly one month ago today my father died. He was two weeks shy of turning 88. The death of my mother 6 years ago was as painful as anything I can remember. We were known for our difficult relationship and her death signaled the end of any chance that it could feel resolved on this earthly plane. My relationship with my father was not that fraught. He was passive in his dealings with people. It might be said that his motto was "Peace at any price". It was not until he developed dementia that I saw the side of him that was willing to aggressively stand his ground and do so with words I did not know he knew. How I wished he had stood up to her like that rather than the caregivers who did not deserve it.
Michelle, the closest to a sister I will ever have, called to say he would not last the day. I arrive in Brockton by 2:30 and go straight to the hospital. I spend the time talking to him, singing softly every old song from his era I can remember. I am in a time warp. By 7:45 my two brothers, Dad's caregivers and Michelle and her husband Jay arrive. The room is filled. A nurse comes and takes Dad off the respirator. In minutes he was ...........no right word comes.
We file out. They all seem so sad and yet, I am not. What is wrong with me? I am relieved for him. I am relieved for my brother, Rick who has born the task of managing Dad's care. He lived fourteen years longer than Beverly, his wife. He got to stay home. He ate wonderful home cooked food. I read the obits and I know that eighty eight (minus two weeks) is up there and then some.
I am shocked to realize that I feel freed from my childhood negative imprints. I have seen a life end and I know that in time it will happen to me. From now on I need to make sure that I minimize decisions made that are colored by fear.
And so it is, a month later. I feel more relief than grief. I have a heightened sense of making sure I experience the fullness of each moment. And more than anything, I want to make certain that the rest of my life is more about gratitude and less about fear.
Blog On!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Light Grows Ever Shorter

Folly Cove, December 10, 2:40pm

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

-Christina Rossetti

Maureen's back. Today is one of those days that never quite brightens beyond a grim twilight. We have been subject to mixed precipitation since about 9 last night - rain, sleet, snow, freezing rain. Leslie called it "sleezing."

When I lived farther inland, it was easier to ignore what was happening in the natural world, being surrounded by trees, wreaths, Santa hats, scurrying pedestrians, rushing cars. Here in Rockport, the contrast between Christmas and winter solstice is clearly evident. On the inland side of Granite Street, it's all brightly lit and beribboned. Turn your head and look out to sea. It's all shades of coldest gray. The ocean itself is barely moving; the waves are small as though the sea were huddled in on itself, trying to retain warmth.

It is an ancient custom in our hemisphere to acknowledge the dying and rebirth of the light. I wonder about my pagan ancestors in Ireland and the winter solstice. What were their fears? What did they think when they looked out to a sea as gray as Folly Cove is today?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Light Lurking or Maureen's Rules of Christmas Lights

Photo Credit: Heidi A. at http://www.uglychristmaslights.com/

Another reminiscence from Maureen about Rome, NY. As soon as I had my own car, the McMahon and Samson sisters started a new Yuletide tradition: light lurking. We'd drive around Rome, looking at Christmas light displays. In those days, Rome's population was mostly of Irish, Italian, Polish or German descent, therefore overwhelmingly Christian and mostly Catholic. Hence, lots of lights. Being the opinionated discerning person that I am, I came up with my own rules governing the design of the displays. Everytime we'd see a house with lights that clearly violated my rules, Sue Samson would sigh, "Oh, dear." She knew I was about to spout off, and it was especially annoying if we knew the people in the offending house. So for your edification, here are my rules for Christmas displays, and I'm warning you, I'm strict:

  1. Choose your color scheme and be consistent. If you're going to have white lights, then you should have all white, not white on the house and colored on the bushes. And yes, I can see your Christmas tree through the window, so don't think you can get away with white on the house and a fiber-optic tree.

  2. Your lights should be of a consistent type. I remember when the mini lights were first coming in and people would mix them with the 1950's type big, fat lights. People, were you color blind? The colors were not complementary at all. For example, the old lights had red and blue; the new ones hot pink and teal. And the size difference was jarring. 2007 addendum: you cannot mix white mini lights with white LED lights. The white minis are a warm hue, the LED's a sci-fi blue.

  3. Discovery made by a certain friend in Irondequoit, NY circa 1978: all red lights make your house look like a bordello. Don't do this. Even if your house is a bordello, do make an effort to be subtle about it.

  4. Re-read the Gospels of Sts. Luke and Matthew before planning your life-size Nativity scene on the front lawn. With my 12 years of Catholic education, I can assure you, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph were not in attendance at the manger.

  5. Another consistency issue: if your lights are going to blink, travel, or otherwise behave as though they are on the Vegas strip, please make sure you don't have some blinking at different rates, some traveling east-west, some traveling north-south. Trust me, you're better off just leaving them on steady. (I remember the one Christmas my dad decided to make the porch lights blink and Aunt Frances told him it looked like Joe's Bar and Grill. And the battle was on!)

  6. If you're going to violate the rules, then don't just add one strand of LED's to your all white display. Go all the way! Need inspiration? Rent National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or go to http://www.holidayinflatables.info/ . If in the Boston area, take a drive around Somerville, Medford, and Malden after dark. My sister Sheila and I used to do that for our Massachusetts light lurking and, to our delight, once found a house completely decorated with magenta lights. It was oddly dim and depressing.

  7. Your display should be over no later than January 6th, Feast of the Epiphany (the 12th Day of Christmas). If you have excessive snow and ice buildup, I will allow you to leave the ladder in the garage and the lights on the house for the sake of safety, but they must be turned off. Don't try pretending they're still lit for Valentine's Day.

  8. Any display is better than none, even if Rules 1-6 are violated. There's no excuse for ignoring Rule 7.

Two final notes: No, Leslie and I do not have lights up yet. That will happen on Sunday. And I welcome new rules from any commenters who would like to contribute.

Happy Larry Bird's birthday, Celtics fans!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Grand Ol' Right and Left

One of my favorite square dance moves is "the grand ol' right and left". Woman face in one direction while the men face in the other. The square has now become a circle. First you take the hand of the person facing you, then you extend the other hand and move foreward in the circle as you drop the hand of the first person. You have to let go of a hand to allow the dance to progress. I think that one dance move contains the point of life. The is no movement without the trust that another hand will be there. There is no growth without letting go.
Blog On!

Monday, December 3, 2007

It Worked!

What worked? Well, in truth I don't know since I just took everything. In addition to what I mentioned in my previous entry, I also ate lots of whole cloves of pickled garlic in oil with hot peppers, purchased from the salad bar at Stop and Shop. I have had success with garlic and hot peppers in the past. Really! In fact I discovered the healing benefits of garlic by mistake. Years ago I had another horrible cold. After a day of feeling like I had snorted cement I was determined to eat something I could taste. The turn around effect was undeniable. So I started investigating garlic. Turns out it has legendary curative benefits. The end result of my blitzkrieg Friday was that I woke Saturday morning, cured.
Nuff' said.
Blog On,

Friday, November 30, 2007

On Maturity and Having a Cold

Greetings from the Mucus Queen. I trust that my reign will be short.
One of the things I inherited from my Dad, who just passed away, was my view of the common cold. He did not sit back passively and let things run their course. I have expanded that attitude. How I deal with the common cold is nothing short of the buckshot approach. On the recommendation of my friend, Alexander (who swears his cold came from the woman who poured his coffee at the local caffeine emporium) I am taking Yin Chiao to bolster my immune system. I am only one day into it so it would be unfair to judge it's effectiveness. Janie passed on two types of Zicam which I started at the very beginning. I started with Airborne and have switched to Emergen C. Mid afternoon I begged my neighbor, Ginny for something mainstream. Enter, literally. Tylenol Extreme Cold.
And now the dilemma. I am invited to a party tonight at Susan's house. She is the kind of cook that you can count on to serve the sort of food that will be talked about for weeks. My taste buds, compromised thought they may be, voted, go. But this is day two and I am the human petri dish bearing fresh germs. I ask Maureen who can always be counted on for her true opinion.
So, I am staying home.
Blog On!

Monday, November 26, 2007


Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Macbeth, Act II, Scene II

Maureen here. My dog is now a very elderly lady; she has to get up at least once during the night to go out. I am a middle-aged woman; I usually have to get up at least once during the night to go to the bathroom. Our needs do not usually coincide. Thus, I have been stumbling around during the daytime with sleep deprivation.

Thanksgiving night was a particular horror show. Joon had an upset tummy and had to go out five times between 11 and 3:30, then was up again at 6:30. I stood in the yard with her then, looking at the full moon setting over the cove, shining golden in the reflected sunrise, with tears in my eyes from sheer tiredness.

But lo! Last night, we both slept straight through. I had actual REM sleep dreams. Today is chilly and gray with drizzle and fog. And I feel great.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Happy Fiber Thanksgiving

Maureen here.

Time to give thanks. Because this is allegedly a fiber blog, I want to give thanks in that context.

Thanks to the angora goats for giving us mohair. Leslie and I have both been working with Lion Brand Moonlight Mohair lately and loving it. (And thanks to the Northeast Angora Goat Breeders Association for the photo at right.)

Thanks to Ocean State Job Lots for selling Moonlight Mohair that normally sells for $8 a skein for $2. That allowed me to make myself a beautiful shawl for $24. (Local readers - don't bother rushing off to the Danvers store after reading this. I bought their last 6 skeins on Monday. Mwa-hahahaha.)

Thanks to Leslie for introducing me to the Essex County Needlecraft Guild. This group of talented women never cease to amaze me with the beautiful objects they bring to the monthly show and tell. They are so modest their descriptions usually start with, "Oh, that's just a simple..." I can't wait until the December meeting; it's the Christmas potluck lunch. Trust me, you don't eat for DAYS afterward. You just sip green tea and smile.

Thanks to Elizabeth Reed for teaching me this year about wet felting in her washing machine. She has no idea what a monster she unleashed.

Thanks to all those Canadian sheep who gave their wool for Patons Classic Merino, my current favorite for felting. It comes in lovely colors, crochets easily with no splitting, and felts consistently.

Thanks to Helen at Helen Parker Textiles (67 Broadway, Rockport - stop in and say hi!) for allowing me to continue felting in her professional washie AND for selling my crocheted and felted bags there. While I'm at it, thanks to Helen and Frank for being good friends and for having me over to watch Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 4 of the World Series. Happy nights for Red Sox fans (And aren't we all grateful that Jon Lester recovered from cancer to pitch and win the clinching game of the 2007 WS?).

Thanks to Grace Murray for being a great role model. Grace is of a certain age (she and Dave celebrate their 60th wedding aniversary today) and knits like a dream. She is also still willing to learn new skills and was in the lace knitting workshop with me at the ECNG last week. Grace, I want to be you when I grow up.

PS. Remember Odessa from previous posts? Thanks to the Great Huntress for catching the mouse the other night.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who Am I To Judge?

I have just returned from my post studio tour meeting of the Cape Ann Artisans. A large portion of the meeting was devoted to deciding whether or not to add new members. As always, that boils down to who would be a good addition. Here is where my mind splits. On one hand I am proud of being one of the twenty artisans who are known for high quality creative work. The flip side of that is who am I to judge? I have been on both sides of a judgement in the past and I don't relish either position. Especially where someone's right to express themselves is in question.
I remember years ago the furor that was unleashed by Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" which depicted a small plastic crucifix in a glass of the artist's urine. This work is often referred to when freedom of speech is being discussed. It has been both praised and condemned by people whose opinions carry weight. I sure am glad he didn't apply to our group.
Blog On!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

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August in September

It is always good to get a taste of something that you know, even as you are complaining in the moment, down the road you will remember is fondly. So it is with summer heat even if it is technically autumn. Come late October, knowing that it is going to get a lot colder than the current briskness, I will wonder how I could have written these words. Ah, to be able to slip outside without time spent adding layers upon layers of clothing. But today it hot enough to melt motivation in any direction.
Above is Odessa who somehow discovered that the tracks of the glass sliding door would cradle her sleeping form with no effort on her part. By the time I took this photo, the process had roused her from a peaceful sleep.
Now I know why Wegman used a dog.
Blog On!
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Recycling Old Tee Shirts

With so many cats in the house, the last thing you want covering the floor is
something you can't throw in the washing machine. The rug in progress

is crocheted from old tee shirts from a second hand store. I bought 100% cotton, men's extra large shirts which I cut from the bottom up in a spiral fashion. Being a knit fabric, the cut strip automatically rolled so there are few raw edges that show. It is soft, thick, quick to make and perfect for a bathroom or a pet's favorite spot. An interesting rug from friend's donated old shirts would give a patchwork look that would warm more than your feet on a cold day.
Have fun with the idea and don't hesitate if you have any questions to email me.
Blog On!
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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pray for Pavarotti

Maureen here.
I'll blog about something happier in the next couple of days, but I just read that Luciano Pavarotti is gravely ill as a result of the cancer he's been fighting.
I am not an opera expert, but I think his version of 'E lucevan le stelle' from Tosca should be his automatic ticket into heaven when the time comes.
Here's a YouTube link to see him sing this aria in character as Cavaradossi.
Il dio รจ con voi, Luciano.
- Edited on Sept. 6 to add:
And now the voice is silenced.

Friday, August 24, 2007

National Tribute to Spell Check Day

I proclaim August 25th to be National Tribute to Spell Check Day. Why? Because Spell Check helps me hide my spelling deficiency. What credibility would I have with my readership if they had to pick their way through my blog guessing what I meant?
God Bless the person who invented Spell Check!
Blog On,

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On Being Present at The Wedding of a Friend's Child

Maybe if I had had children it would not have hit me so hard. But there I am in Lynch Park for Amy and Joe(y)"s wedding. When I was their age I lived with my high school boyfriend (17-25) just down the street in an apartment where I hosted the groom's parents for my first adult dinner party. We ate "piece meal" as the science of cooking times was new to me. Now this 58 year old butt is sitting in the formal rose garden waiting for what will be one of the most beautiful brides I have ever seen to walk the grassy path to a man who is obviously eager to have her by his side for life. After the service I call my Aunt Ruth who lived next door to me way back then. Now she resides in an assisted living place in another town. She was one of the first people to show me by example that creativity was a gift and not a hinderance to living a "normal life". I leave a soppy, sentimental message, unsurprised to not find her in. Later at the reception I avoid the bridal bouquet tossing ritual. I sit with Joe(y)'s mom, Martha who actually wore a bra for the event. We are trying to figure out how so much time has gone by. It was the same conversation, but a different bra, that we had a few years earlier for her daughter, Jennifers wedding. I tell her we will be here in twenty five years or so for the grandchild's wedding. We will probably have the same conversation then.
Blog On!

Friday, August 17, 2007


Maureen here. Every season has its scents: evergreen for Christmas, turkey for Thanksgiving, lilacs for May. My nomination for the scent of August is basil. The lovely basil pictured here is straight out of Leslie's thriving garden. After it posed prettily for this portrait, it became pesto and was frozen to be used during a cold winter's day. The scent was intoxicating. It reminded me of Grampa's garden and of the herbs Dad used to grow. I would love to buy some basil essential oil and make myself a basil perfume. Wonder if I would end up smelling like an Italian restaurant?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Just A Start

I have been promising myself and anyone who asks that I would get going on redoing my website. I wish I had a good reason /explaination of why this has been taking so long. I don't. Well, not one that would hold up in court, anyway.
But here is a beginning idea of showing several pins at once. Three show the classic stick method, while the rest are the tab closure.
I would love to hear any feedback.
Blog On!
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Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Poem, "Aunt Martha's Afghan"

I am sitting in a doctors office waiting room. I am not happy to be there but that is not due to being nervous about being a patient. I am waiting for a friend who needed a ride. I see hours of my work day evaporating. I pick up the afghan that I had been making to go in my Aunt Martha's guest room. Busy fingers sooth the agitated mind. In front of me is a long koi pond that is as active as a small village. Rocks have been placed to form havens for the koi fry. It does not take long for me to feel peaceful as I crocheted in such a beautiful place. This poem percolated to the surface;

I made you this afghan
Call it a blanket or throw
There is so much more in it
I want you to know
Each stitch is a second
With you on my mind
Captured in wool
Frozen in time
In waiting rooms, meetings
Whenever I sat
Watching a movie on TV
Surrounded by cats
So wrap it around you
Feel it warm like a glove
Remember what warms you
Is really my love

Blog On!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What I learned from the Belle of Amherst

Thanks to my friend, Jeb, I was able to see the "Belle of Amherst" at Gloucester Stage last week. Lindsay Crouse was a very believable Emily Dickinson. What has most stayed with me is the manner of creative life she led. She never left the property which certainly limited her personal relationships . She didn't expend energy thinking about what to what to wear as she only wore white. She had, basically, a life devoid of distraction. I, in contrast, spend my days like a ball in a pin ball game, careening from one thing to another. I now have a new goal: to live the undiluted life. As of this writing I am not sure what that means, but I will document where this new goal takes me.
Blog On!

Parking for Saturday's Event

One note about the Rockport Fiber Fest: there is limited parking on Broadway. One suggestion is to take the Park and Ride trolley from the parking lot near the Rockport Transfer Station. You'll have to ask the trolley driver to let you off at the Community House which is one building down from 5 Corners on the left side of the street.

The Park and Ride lot is on Blue Gate Lane: the mapquest link is here.

- Maureen

Friday, August 3, 2007

Rockport Fiber Fest

What: A gathering for all people involved in fiber-related activities such as knitting, crocheting, spinning, needlework, embroidery, rug hooking and the like.
When: August 11, 2007 - 9AM to 3PM
Where: Rockport Community House, 58 Broadway, Rockport, MA
Why: Because we wanted to get together with fun people with interesting projects.
Who: Leslie is really the organizer, but I will be there making a purse to felt. Our friend Roseanne Hunter, the magnificent rug maker, is coming. I'm pretty sure Rob Porter will be there with yarn he just imported from China. And members of the Essex County Needlecraft Guild are going to try to make it. So come one, come all.
How: Just show up, bring a project to work on, and a dish to pass for potluck lunch. Another interesting location in the neighborhood is Helen Parker Textiles, right across the street. Helen paints textiles - wait till you see them.

Any further questions? Post a comment here or send me email at maureenmo3 at aol dot com. (You know how to really type that email address - I did that to fool the spambots.)

P.S. Leslie and I heard the Yarn Harlot speak at Borders in Burlington last night. She is just as funny and bright as you would think from her writing, and certainly gave me something to think about: there are 50 million knitters in North America. I'll stop there and let Leslie blog about her if she wishes.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wild Kingdom

As I was driving from Rockport to Gloucester early this evening (Upper Main near the vernal pools for locals), an animal darted across the road in front of me. It looked like it was about three feet long, weasel-like, with dark brown to black lush fur. It was my first visual sighting of the seldom-seen fisher cat. I had been warned about how dangerous they are to small pets when I first moved here; Leslie calls them "teddy bears with fangs." People wonder how many of the cat disappearances that have been attributed to coyotes are actually due to the fisher cat.
Mass Wildlife has an informative article about the fisher. It emphasizes how secretive and solitary they are, so I feel lucky to have seen one, especially in a situation where I didn't have to protect a pet.


Midnight, a couple of nights ago, I was out with Joon for her last pee of the evening. I heard a big splash from the cove, the kind of splash that was not a wave. I looked over to see the light at the top of a sailboat mast beyond the lobster restaurant, and realized I had also been hearing the tling-tling of nautical hardware. Another splash ensued, and I realized the night divers were back.

Just then, a bone-chilling sound came from the ridge over the marsh behind the house. "AWOOOOOO-yip, yip yip!" Coyote. Suddenly, I was transported from the New England coast to the New Mexico desert. As Joon and I hustled into the house, it came again, closer, "AWOOOOOO-yip, yip yip!"

- Maureen

Edited to add:

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th! Today is a good day to read the Declaration of Independence again.
I'd like to dedicate today's blog to all the Signers of the Declaration. These men risked everything. As Benjamin Franklin said to his fellow signers, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
One of the signers from New York, General William Floyd, was the head of a wealthy family on Long Island. They lost their home and lands in the Revolution when the property was taken by the British and Floyd was serving in the Continental Congress. After the war, when Floyds returned to Long Island, they found that the redcoats had pretty much had trashed the house and land. After Floyd served in the first U.S. Congress, he bought land in the wilds around the present-day Rome, NY (my hometown) and moved to Westernville near Rome to start a farm there. He is buried in Westernville, just a few miles from where I grew up. So here's to General Floyd - huzzah!
P.S. General Floyd was still alive when the first shovel was turned to begin the digging of the Erie Canal at Rome on July 4, 1817.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

How Hot Is It? Part II

Poor old Shug, trying to cool off all her parts.
Yes, Maureen is to blame for this kitty porn.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Maureen's back. It's hot here today. "How hot is it?" (Johnny Carson asks from Comedy Heaven.)

I remember upstate New York summer days. If there's any one word that defines a summer there, it's "humid." Thanks ever so much, Lakes Erie and Ontario. I remember dripping with sweat, sticking to the plastic chairs at our kitchen table, trying to sleep with a window fan grinding about 3 inches from my head. I remember wearing a wool uniform, going to a school with neither air conditioning nor fans. I remember the nuns wearing black head to toe, their freely perspiring faces encased in white plastic. No wonder they were cranky.

I remember living in Rochester during a heat wave that killed hundreds across the country. Thanks to the Kodak plant, my neighborhood smelled like a darkroom. I'd go to my favorite bar until about 1 in the morning, there for the air conditioning and companionship with my fellow sufferers more than for the drinking. The next morning, I'd fall asleep at my desk in the air-conditioned office. But I couldn't sleep in my own bed.

I remember driving through East St. Louis on a steamy, smoggy day. I couldn't catch my breath as though most of the oxygen had been boiled out of the air.

I remember Fenway Park in June, Wrigley Field in July, Ralph Wilson Stadium in August.

I remember waiting for a bus with my friend Maggie in Perth on a day that put the lie to dry heat being more comfortable. I felt as though an alien were pointing a giant magnifying glass straight at us. I thought I might spontaneously combust, leaving Maggie with a pile of ash to ship back to America.

I remember disembarking from a plane in Queensland, at a small airport where you walked down a movable set of steps directly to the tarmac. The heat there was tropical, the air so laden with moisture that it literally staggered me before I could get indoors.

I remember flying home from London where they were having the coldest, rainiest June since the year 16something and where I had contracted the worst sinus infection of my life. As the plane descended, the pilot announced, "Welcome to Boston's Logan International Airport, where the temperature is 36 degrees...Celsius." (That's metric for "I'm gonna die.")

How hot is it now? It's parochial school in a wool uniform hot. I'm living on Diet Coke and frozen fruit. My bull terrier didn't even finish her breakfast. The cats have been picking fights with each other. I had to spend two hours in the Shrine of Civilization (Rockport Library) yesterday to cool down enough to get rid of nausea. And the unkindest cut of all - it's too hot to crochet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Weekend at Pleasant Mountain Fiber Arts Workshops

Over the past year and a half I have experienced fiber weekends where I was a vendor, first and a teacher, second. Tomorrow I leave for Denmark, ME and three days of teaching at Pleasant Mountain Fiber Arts. I am free to concentrate on teaching for three whole days. I am just one of about ten teachers brought together by Linda Whiting who has pulled together a wide variety of class offerings including her own focusing on color blending and Rainbow dyeing. Besides Linda, I only know Roseanne Hunter who is single handedly responsible for my being a member of the Essex County Needlework Guild. Her knitted and crocheted rugs were the motivation for my showing up to hear her talk at my first meeting.
There is a wonderful variety of offerings. I was mesmerized by a group of women making punchneedle rugs at the Jamaica, VT Fiber Fair this past May, so I look foreword to meeting Rikki Gallagher who is teaching a class on designing for rug hooking. There are several workshops on a variety of felting methods. And spinning, one of my summer fiber goals!
What I love most about the fiber community is the shared love of learning and creating. I suspect there will at times be a blurred line between teacher and student. Expect a full report in the coming week.
Check out http://www.pleasantmtfiber.com
Blog On!,

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cook-Out Weather

Maureen here again. Yesterday in the warm summer twilight, I was remembering the cook-outs we had when I was growing up in Central New York State. First, they were always cook-outs, never barbeques, and usually on a Sunday night. My family always shared them with the Samsons, the family next door. They had two daughters, Sandy who is my age, and Sue, who is my sister Sheila's age.

The dads, in time-honored American tradition, would grill the hot dogs and hamburgers. In Central New York, a special treat would be coneys, a.k.a. white hots. They came from Hoffman's in Syracuse where people also called them snappy grillers. I adored them and still do. They are a mixture of veal and pork with no coloring added and have a different spicing mixture than conventional hot dogs. Also, being local, I guess they were probably fresher than the few national brands of red hots available at the time. Hot dogs and hamburgers were always eaten on white buns, toasted on the same grill. There was only one kind of mustard in those days, that bright yellow stuff.

Oh, and the dads were drinking beer while grilling. My dad didn't drink much at home, but when he did, it would be the absolute cheapest beer available. In those cook-out days, it was probably Utica Club. I swear in later years, when I came home to visit, the refrigerator contained a six pack of white cans labeled "Generic Beer."

The dads were "helped" at the grill by a neighborhood dog. Stubby was a beagle mix with not much tail, an unfailingly cheerful demeanor with kids, and an unerring nose for charcoal starter fluid. He'd be under your grill before you even got the thing lit. It was neighborhood tradition that Stubby got at least one hot dog from every cook-out. No wonder he was such a happy dog.

The moms, of course, made the side dishes. In the spring and earlier summer, we could get salt potatoes. These are baby potatoes that come in a sack with its own bag of salt inside. The potatoes are boiled in heavily brined water, so that when they are drained, they have a frosty coating of salt. They are then eaten slathered with butter, although in our house, that would have been margarine so that we could get our daily requirement of trans fats. Yup, a cardiogist's delight. If it were later in the summer, my mom would make potato or macaroni salad containing heinous amounts of onions and green peppers. Even Stubby wouldn't eat those. I much prefered Lorraine Samson's German potato salad.

If the weather weren't too hot to light the oven, one or the other of the moms would make Grandma Brown's Baked Beans. Now, no Central New York homemaker would have dreamed of simply opening the can and heating it. The canned beans were put into a casserole and dressed up with mix-ins like mustard, ketchup, or brown sugar. Bacon strips were draped across the top and the whole mess put into the oven until the bacon was cooked and there was a nice crust on the top. And the best part of Grandma Brown's was that the entire family could enjoy the sound effects for the next three days.

In my memory, there were no vegetables, other than pickles.

I do remember two desserts - either marshmallows toasted over the grill on sticks (S'mores were strictly a Girl Scout camp thing) or my mom's chocolate cake made with oil and vinegar. It makes a moist, black cake that's not too sweet, but the white frosting on top was almost pure sugar anyway.

After we were done, we kids would play croquet or badminton (and accuse each other of cheating), the dads would talk about cars or the races at the Utica-Rome Speedway, and the moms would make coffee. It could still be 90 degrees at 8 p.m. and my mother would insist on her hot coffee after supper; I could get a hot flash just thinking about it. As it got darker, we'd all spray ourselves with OFF because of the rampaging mosquitoes. Magically and suddenly, the lightning bugs would come out and happily flash along the croquet course. I feel sad about those bugs; I haven't seen one blinking in the dusk in years and wonder if they've fallen prey to some environmental screw up.

Finally, I remember one infamous Fourth of July cook-out. My dad had bought sparklers which were illegal but available almost everywhere. We kids were writing our names in the air with the dangerously white-hot things, when my dad got a brilliant idea. He clipped a line of sparklers to my mom's clothesline that connected from the house at one storey and then to the garage at almost two storeys off the ground. Dad lit the sparklers and pushed them out to maximum height. We were delighted with the waterfall effect until the fire department called. Chief Smith, father of my classmate Christine, warned Dad that other neighbors had complained and the show was over.

The four parents are all gone now, the family homes sold, and the Samson daughters and my three sisters and I are scattered from the shores of Lake Erie to Cape Ann. Utica Club is now cool retro beer for the grandchildren of our parents generation. You can still get coneys, Grandma Brown's, and salt potatoes in Upstate New York. I've talked to other exiles here in Massachusetts, and those are all items we remember fondly. And I still miss the lightning bugs.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Behold Me and Despair!

I am Odessa, the mighty and majestic. You are mere insects, crawling beneath me. If I chose, I could break through this screen and devastate your tribe. I would torture you, tossing you as mere playthings. I would eat you, one by one, crunching between my jaws, your screams silent.

But lo! I allow you to live. You should worship my munificence and magnificence.

- Transcribed by Maureen who found out what Odessa thinks

Friday, June 8, 2007

Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned From Sponge Bob Square Pants Collapse

Some people decompress by having a cigarette, a cup of tea or by watching TV. I was perfectly happy with spider solitaire until Maureen showed me the light. Go to http://www.aol.com/ and click on games. In the next window click on puzzles. Finally scroll down the dozens of offerings to Sponge Bob Square Pants Collapse. I turn off the volume as the sounds are distracting at best.
I must confess that I gave her grief about playing the baby version of Spider Solitaire. But her Sponge Bob scores were double and triple mine. Friend that she is, she actually let me watch while explaining her strategy. Nervous of ending the game, I never advanced the squares to the top. I manically burst small groups of same colored squares hardly keeping up. If I had earned a point for each time my heart beat I would have done fabulously.
So here is the secret: Maureen showed me that by running the squares up to the top and very quickly bursting the bubbles that present themselves, it is possible to click more productively. Being daring actually made it better all around.
I am one of those people that always sees a psychological lesson in anything. So from this I have learned that my natural tendency to play it conservatively undermines my results.
Thanks Sponge Bob!
Blog On!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Czarina of All She Surveys

Maureen back with another of the cats. This is Odessa, rescued feral, possibly the eldest, arguably the best mouser, certainly the most assertive. Odessa tolerates old Joon, but other dogs are THE EVIL to be warded off. She thinks she's the top of the totem pole with the cats and will let any of the them know when they've violated the hierarchy. Shug, who is the other candidate for oldest cat, was the first one here and sometimes stands up to Odessa, but not often.

If any of the other cats are being petted or brushed, Odessa will wake from the soundest sleep to bully her way in. She will push any of the other cats aside for attention. If you, silly human, do not immediately accede to her will, Dessa will slightly extend her claws on her right paw and just barely prick your arm until you render just due to her magnificence.

Odessa has a favorite spot by the sliding doors to the deck. She will sit or lie there for hours, looking outward. Many times I wondered: What is she thinking? Is she guarding us against coyotes or the hated orange tom? Does she fondly remember when she was wild and free? Does she hunger for bird sushi? Does she long for the soft brush of the long grasses against her silky fur? Does she remember being cold and hungry, bearing uncounted litters, being chased by predators?

The answer may be in my next blog. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Breakthrough at the MA Sheep and Woolcraft Fair

It has been a life long pattern for me to worry and conjure before an event, especially something I have never done before. My mind races with things, none of them happy, that only seem ridiculous afterwards. I am definitely better with each occasion that passes uneventfully, but the pattern still asserts itself. So I left for the show Friday nervous as this was my first show entirely solo and camping in my Camry sedan. I will spare us both any description of what I had projected. Let me just describe to you my key moment of peace.
Back from a hot shower in the very nearby bathroom I use magnets to affix screening to an open window for breezes without bugs. The air mattress and sleeping bag are rolled out thanks to the handy feature that allows the seat backs to fold down allowing access to the trunk from the back seat. I am nestled in with my cell phones' flashlight balanced on my chest allowing me one of my favorite rites of night, reading in bed (or bag). An orchestra of sheep bleat a lullaby. Through the skylight (rear view window) is the Berkshire's summer sprinkle of twinkle. In comparison to sleeping with a multitude of cats, this feels roomy. I had just completed day one of the show and I had good response to my work. Day two would start with a breakfast at a coffee shop in nearby Goshen that opens super early. I am at peace.
Needless to say I signed up for the same booth next year which I will be sharing with my friend, Judy Jacobs (http://ballandskein.com) and her beautiful hand dyed yarns allowing me freedom to roam a bit.
Blog On!

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Striped Beauty

Maureen again.

Leslie left me alone with the camera. My latest challenge is to get pictures of the cats without them moving.

This is Nefertiti, just under 2 years old, looking at the sun going down over Folly Cove. One cat down, four to go.

If you're at the Mass Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend, say "Hi!" to Leslie.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I am in awe

I just wanted to say that I have had that camera for years and I never got a photo that good.
'nuff said
Blog On!

Spring is Sprung

Maureen reporting. Cape Ann is a riot of blooming flowers, aka, pollen producers. A lot of the trees have their grown-up dark green leaves and some still have yellow-green frills. They make a great backdrop for all the blossoms. There's a photo op around every corner, as all the tourists have discovered.

Saw beautiful flowers and herbs today when I was at Goose Cove Gardens in Gloucester to pick up some tomato plants for Leslie. A class from the nearby elementary school was there; the kids looked about 5th grade age. Each student was buying one plant, and one of the boys said, "Hee, hee, I got catnip" just as though he'd scored something illegal.

So how do you like the picture? I am finally learning how to use Leslie's digital camera and Photoshop Elements. This is Basket of Gold, or Goldentuft, or Aurinia saxatilis. I took the photo around 6:45 pm so that the sunlight would be slanting. I remember from my long-ago photo class that the best times for outdoor photos are very early morning (ha! not bloody likely for me) and late afternoon. My next challenge is to get pictures of the cats without them moving. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Serious Motivation to Learn to Spin

The New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival was over the top for me this year for many reasons that I will go in to at another time. Now I just want to show this shawl that was on display in the building where the pot luck was hosted on Saturday night. I am seated, eating and zoning out after wonderful but long day. My mind is compiling multiple lists of things I need to do for future shows. I am talking stuff like things I should have taken along, designs should have made more of and the ever present list of reasons for not eating more of the cookies in the booth around the corner despite the fact that they are the best I have ever eaten. Next year, I dare you to try the ginger cookies and tell me that better ones exist at ( a location you can name and from where you can supply a sample.) In that spacey state I see the above shawl hanging on the wall across the room. Like Tony in the dance scene from West Side Story I walk to the shawl and stand transfixed. A handwritten note next to it expains that it was the result of misreading a pattern and is signed by the maker, Ingrid Bird. Back at the table I wonder aloud about the maker only to find that she is seated at the table. In that off-handed way that the truly gifted have she explains what she did to make it. I am now determined to try/do this myself.
Thanks, Ingrid!
Blog On!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Report from a Curmudgeon

Yeah, I'm the one that reported in March that spring was coming, tra la, tra la. Now I remember why I hate spring:

  1. The flowers. I'll have sinus headaches from pollen until July, then a couple of weeks off and the goldenrod starts. One of Leslie's friends brought in a bouquet of forsythia the other day, and everyone else said, "How lovely." I thought, "Oh, great. A snot producer." One of the cats ate the blossoms like they were Pringles and then puked under my bed, ruining a beloved Lord Peter Whimsey paperback that had been bedtime reading. I hate the *&^ flowers.
  2. Ticks. My poor old Joon was diagnosed with Lyme disease three weeks ago and is on a course of antibiotics. She feels much better and wants to go for walks every day; when a bull terrier wants to go for a walk, you darned well better go. And every day when I bring her home, I'm picking more ticks off her. Not only are they gross, I fear for her health. Yeah, I hate the *&^ ticks.
  3. Rising gas prices. $3.00 a gallon on Cape Ann and rising every 15 minutes. So now those urban legend emails are recycling about boycotting one or more specific gas brands. See snopes.com for why this doesn't work. The only way to spend less on gas is to buy less. So get off your butts and walk more, America.
  4. Tourists. Yeah, I know the local economy depends on them, and yes, it was a bad winter here. But for pity's sake, could they learn how to drive? One day recently, I was stuck behind a car with (who would have guessed?) Florida plates, doing FIVE miles an hour in a 30 mph zone. I could barely keep my car from stalling and of course, it being Rockport, it was a winding road with no passing and no alternative route. Then last night, as I was doing 30 in a 30 on another winding road with no passing, I was passed by a Jeep with out-of-state plates doing at least 40 and then accelerating once they were past me. Oh, and the library parking lot in Rockport? The one that's posted for residents using the library only? Wonder why one Sunday recently I saw cars there from Utah and New Hampshire? Wow, our little library must be nationally famous. *&^*^ tourists.

Maureen who is honking like Felix Unger with another sinus headache

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Day With A Yarn Over Marblehead

Knitting shops, more than any other business, tend to have the feeling of being in a friend's living room, and Jean Tierney's yarn shop, A Yarn Over Marblehead is a perfect example of that experience. It takes more than the usual comfy couch and ready tea pot to set that mood. What is immediately obvious is Jean's love of knitting; the doing of it, sharing of it and teaching of it.
Upon my (late) arrival I was warmly greeted by Jean and several friends/customers. There is an easy flow to the conversation as the afternoon progresses. One woman is working on a sweater in two colors with "I" cording. The pattern is complicated and she has opted to shape via darts that are so perfectly charted that I could see no interruption in the design. Another woman leaves and returns with her teen aged daughters who make themselves comfortable around the table as they use the wire I brought and the tools to easily fashion earrings.
Twice I hear Jean answer the phone and give lengthy advice about projects. That she truly cares about resolving their problems is evident. With that kind of support could knit those projects I wistfully look at now.
Blog On!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Blog About Litter Boxes?!

Is there anyone among us who does not think that they have discovered a better/best way to do something? If hefty credentials in the chosen field give weight to an "opinion", I would like to begin by stating that I have five cats. I think that equates to a PHD in litterboxocolgy.
Store bought litter has two inescapable problems: the cost and the tracking throughout the house. Old newspaper eliminates both issues (not an intentional pun). Use one section unfolded so that one page at a time shows on the bottom of the litter box. Place a second folded section on the bottom. Keep some folded sections nearby and add them on top if you want later. To change all you need to do is roll the long bottom section starting from the exposed and still clean top of the page. It takes seconds and costs nothing.
So if this blog is not up to the usual meaty, intelligent discourse you expect form me be glad I did not include pictures.
Blog On!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Teach, Be Taught and Reminded

Remember, this teaching concept is pretty new to me. Unlike the one on one situation in my studio, the shawl pin workshops are taught in yarns shops, community buildings or, as this one was, a private school. I start by saying that although it is billed as a shawl pin workshop you can make anything you want. I do a simple demonstration detailing simple forging, bending and finishing techniques then I switch into hovercraft mode to be on hand for any questions. Susan Levine, my high school boyfriend, Ben's sister taught me this way when I was about 19. Today I have a studio full of tools, but in watching a new student working through the concept of making metal do their bidding using just a few simple tools, I remember all the feelings of wonder I had. I miss the simplicity of that process.
I knew Anne from our days at Curves. We had spoken occasionally and always with a shared style of directness and honesty. I didn't know she worked at the school where the class was being held. I did know she wove beautiful baskets because we had both shown our work at the annual Annisquam Art and Craft Show. At first she asked a few questions and I remember doing another quick design. I don't think she had a goal to make anything specific. She picked up some pliers and some wire and started making a spiral. I love that shape as it stands for growth and change, two things I am wanting for myself. She completed one and then decided to try a different metal in a different gauge. Somewhere along the process the elements were linked together and leather chord added. The end result was this beautiful necklace.
With independent study I "show and tell" and they go home and work on their own. I miss being witness to the "Ah Ha" moments like I saw with Anne. It is seeing that moment happen for someone else that is hard to describe. It reminded me of my own "Ah Ha" moments and also gave me that hard to define feeling that came from knowing I had helped someone else to experience it. What a gift!
Blog On,Leslie

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Secret is Out

Or the jig is up.

The last two days here have revealed Mother Nature's secret. She will deliver spring this year. The air is milder, the wind a mere breeze, the birdies are tweeting. (Leslie can identify individual bird calls. Me - I can tell a mourning dove coo from a woodpecker tapping, but that's about it.)

The days are longer, the light in the sky less gray and more mellow, the cove a bright turquoise and not gunmetal gray. The cats have new nap spots for daytime; instead of downstairs close to the propane stove, they're taking over my bed upstairs under the skylight where the sun now streams in. I'm finishing up wool projects and thinking longingly of crocheting with cotton or silk.

Yeah, I know we're supposed to have a storm tomorrow. That's just a conspiracy by the supermarkets and the TV weather reporters to sell bread and boost ratings.
- Maureen

PS. It's now Friday. The rain is coming down in sheets, our street is flooded a quarter of a mile away, and the wind is howling. I still maintain it's a SPRING storm as there is no snow. Hope springs eternal, as they say.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Theater Therapy

Tonight was the 4th performance of the Vagina Monologues at the West End Theater in Gloucester, MA. This is the second time I have been in the cast of this amazing work. Both times they have required me to stretch. Both times have been the catalyst for growth. That, I am beginning to realize is what happens when I push myself out of the comfort zone. One minute I have a hard time imagining myself doing something with confidence and ease and the next moment I can't conjure up why I ever could have doubted my abilities. Truthfully there is occasional back sliding, but on the other side always dwells an expanded self.
The other benefit it the amazing cast members I met. They represented all levels of acting experience, a variety of ages and professions yet with all that mix there was a wonderful camaraderie. As with the last group, I know I will always feel a special closeness to the woman with whom I shared this time.
So if you ever are presented with the opportunity to be a part of local theater, jump at it! The rewards are unique and lasting.
Blog On!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Never underestimate a Bull Terrier

With Leslie in Portland, I'm here in charge of the shop, the cats, and the subject of today's blog - my mini bull terrier, Joon.

Joon is an old lady now; she sleeps probably 20 hours a day, spends a lot of the rest of her time eating or peeing. But in her younger days - what a rapscallion!
I first got Joon when she was retired from the show ring and couldn't be bred due to a heart murmur. The woman I got her from warned me that Joon needed to crated when I wasn't home. One of my friends (who had never dealt with a bull terrier) said, "Oh Maureen, just dog-proof the kitchen. You can put a baby-gate on the door and let that be Joon's room while you're out."
First time I tried that, Joon got the doors open under the microwave cabinet and had herself a Tupperware party. Exit all my plastic containers as every single one had been chewed on. So now that cabinet was empty, so the kitchen was safe, right? Hah.
The next time I went out, Joon got the door open to the half-bath off the kitchen. She found a big jug of laundry detergent in there, somehow got it to the middle of the kitchen floor and started chomping on that. When I got home, there was a rapidly-spreading blue puddle in the middle of the floor, and Joon was walking around smacking her lips with distaste. Not knowing what would happen to a dog who drank Arm & Hammer for an evening cocktail, I called Angell Memorial (the wonderful animal hospital in Boston). The vet tech who answered the phone could hardly control herself. This was the funniest thing she'd heard in a while, and she really lost it when I reported that Joon was burping bubbles. That was the end of Joon's Reign of Kitchen Terror. Back to the crate went she.
On her second birthday, my neighbors and I had a birthday party in our shared yard with Joon and their lovable Golden Retriever, Dillon. Joon shook off her party hat, ate her own treats, stole Dillon's while nipping him on the nose, and then puked. I could imagine the story in the local paper "Teen strips naked at party, assaults boyfriend, vomits in public."
Her most recent birthday (her 13th) was much more sedate. I'm hoping to see at least a couple more for the old girl, as long as they're happy ones.

Monday, January 29, 2007

January- yes Portland, ME- yes Mondays- NO!

Leslie here, reporting from Portland, ME. just seeing what the world off Cape Ann has to offer. In a few short weeks I'll be here at the Doubletree Inn for the Spa Knit and Spin event. I planned on seeing some museums and galleries and introducing myself to the local yarn shops who might want to host my Shawl Pin Making Workshop. Good idea on the wrong day. Museums are closed as are many of the galleries. That said, it's still great to be here. For those of you who visualize me sitting in a trendy cafe with a fancy laptop, sorry. I'm here in the Portland Public Library which is spacious and modern, using their computer.
Well off to find some more LYSs who don't care if it is Monday.
Blog On!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Long Live the Reflector Queen

It was the winter of 1968 and all the girls were getting ready for spring break. When it was sunny many of us skipped class and sat outside the cafeteria where is was protected from the wind. There we slathered ourselves with baby oil mixed with iodine to "protect" our skin and opened up our reflectors. These were large, three foil covered cardboard segments that opened to direct the sun's rays. Most of us were content with one but I do remember one girl with a short late '60's asymmetrical platinum bob who owned three ( face, torso, legs) to keep her mahogany skin, well, mahogany. We were told to wear those tiny plastic eye protectors that look like a cross between a lorgnette and Barbie's push up bra. Yeah, right! I remember being told I would be wrinkled when I was forty. I swear I remember thinking "Me? Forty? (another) yeah, right!
My mom never used a reflector but she gardened and played golf. She literally had a tan line through her shirt from her bra. I remember her regular visits to a dermatologist to undo years of unprotected sun exposure. She began to resemble a raisin. I started using high number suntan lotions.
I spent part of this morning in a waiting room that served many doctors, waiting to see a dermatologist. This was my first visit and I had been warned that I should expect to wait. By the time I saw him I had moved beyond being edgy from the wait to grateful. Sometimes waiting rooms will do that to you. Besides, I live in a small town and there were several people also waiting that I knew. I chatted until my name was called.
He looked: he sprayed; we talked; I left.
Long live the Reflector Queen.
Blog On!


Bright sun shares no warmth
Sea smoke drifts above the cove
Winter's coldest day.

- Maureen

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Six Loose Ladies.....and me

Well I finally took my "show" on the road. Yesterday afternoon I pulled up to the yarn store, Six Loose Ladies in Proctorsville, Vermont and walked in to what would be the setting for today's workshop. I could not have asked for a better place. The store is large with an open floor plan that allows for easy browsing. And everywhere there was something to see. Gorgeous yarns and fiber works of all kinds were on display. An installation in finger crochet meandered through a good portion of the shop. The air thrummed with creative inspiration. I was told that Susan, one of The Loose ladies and her husband, Peter had a place for me to say. And what a place.
The Golden Stage Inn was just down the street. My room was cozy and decorated, as was the rest of the inn, in a style to which I aspire. Everywhere was evidence of Susan's creativity. The bathroom was stenciled as was much or the inn's walls with subtle design elements that complimented the fabrics and paint colors. I read, slept and woke early the next morning to be at the shop by 9:00. Sandy and Peter were busy putting out breakfast for the skiers who are fueling up for the morning's caloric demands. I feasted on aplple stuffed French toast, fresh cut up fruit and coffee. The sausages were tempting but I'm still working of the Christmas excess.
I had a wonderful time and met really nice, interesting people. When I get back to Rockport I post my photos .
Till tomorrow, Blog ON!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Aries the Great and the Color Red

Maureen's back. I confess to being one of those people who only believes in her horoscope when she agrees with it. So here's the important quote for Aries from today's Boston Globe:
"Get involved. It's time to give back. Help someone who
can't do for him or herself or volunteer for a cause you believe in."

Well, didn't I feel smug. Not only am I crocheting those Fun Fur hats for Children's Hospital, I just finished two identical scarves for the Red Scarf Project. This project sends as Valentine's Day presents red (or any unisex color) scarves to college students who were foster children and have aged out of the foster system. The project is sponsored by the Orphan Foundation of America for these kids who most likely have no one to send them care packages at school.

Not that I'm so totally noble; don't expect that from an Aries. I had been working with earth tones for a bunch of Christmas presents. The idea of working with a good red really appealed to me, it is the color for Aries, and it gave me a great excuse to buy more yarn. Machine washable yarn was recommended (these ARE college students), so I went with Lion Suede in the Scarlet color. I had tried in a previous project to crochet it using an N hook in double stitch. Not only did I lose that lush, suede look, it wormed out of its stitches, and I had to rip an entire shawl apart. For this scarf, I used a J hook in a seed stitch (hdc, sc). Judge for yourself how it looks. The scarves are to be mailed this month, so my scarves and my friend Katrina's scarf will be mailed on Monday. If you're a fast knitter or crocheter, there's still time.

PS Leslie is away this weekend, teaching another shawl pin workshop. This means that George Clooney could come visit tonight and Hugh Laurie tomorrow night, if they wanted to. Yeah, I'm shallow.

Good night and good luck,


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Redefinition of the Self

It seems that we define who we are pretty early in the game. Most of that definition is fed to us by others and we absorb it without examination. My current focus is to rethink and retool those labels.
Because I am so aware of this now, I find it jarring when I hear people making sweeping statements about themselves that you know are outdated. Many times I hear "Oh, I'm not creative. I'm just having fun It's nothing." Sometimes what they have presented, be it a home cooked meal, a room in their house that they just redid, a photograph they have taken or a smashing outfit they have put together, is really out-of-the-box special. Since I feel the gift of creativity is the best of all, it is sad to me that they don't see how lucky they are.
And my own self-redefinition? It's hard to say exactly where that's going. I just know whenever I hear myself begin a sentence, "I never" or "I don't" or some other sweeping self definition, I stop. I think what might happen if I try a different approach. Curiosity can be a wonderful motivator.
Blog On!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Energy Exchanges, Teaching vs Selling

Both type of exchanges involve energy from me and money from them. There ends any similarities between selling my work and teaching my work.
Yesterday I taught my first shawl pin class to the perfect first students. There was a mother/ teenage daughter duo so I had that nice multigenerational crafting perspective. There was a woman from my needle work guild who taught workshops in needle arts so I had her perspective as a seasoned professional. A second woman from my needlework guild in her 70's bowled me over with her quick ability and design sense. I should have guessed since everything she brings to show is off the charts amazing. My friend, Katie earned the wild card award for her pure "throw myself into it and make something way different" approach. And my friend Barb just came to sit with us and polish her jewelry that had been awaiting her attention for years. Her fruit salad was the perfect side to my veggie Mexican lasagna. My oven has been flukie lately and given the Rockport Community House's unflukie one, I was driven to cook. We lunched in.
I first explained that a shawl pin has only three criteria: have no sharp edges to fray fiber and be easy and dependable to use. In my first demonstration with the wire I commented that it is basically the same to make a pin for shawls as a cuff bracelet. That's when I saw "the look" in my youngest student's eyes. Most of us have had it too. It's when you mentally leap frog from "A" to "Z" and think of all the potential in between and where you want to go with it. What a great feeling to know I had sparked it in someone else. Throughout the day there were mini variations of that moment. The biggest thing I noticed was how energized I was. My mind was a Waring blender full of ideas in many directions. All this and I got paid!
I love working from my studio/shop, but it can be tough to be knocked off course by a customer who has come in. Maybe I am in the middle of the great "Aha", about to boldly go where I had never been creatively before. Maybe I am in the middle of a project with a time limit. Once the "Open" sign goes up I have no control. But unless I work at odd times I just have to accept that as the way it has to be.
Meanwhile, I am already planning the next workshop powered by the head of stream from yesterday's experience.
Blog On!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Giving My First Shawl Pin Workshop

Tomorrow I start a new direction. I am teaching my first workshop in shawl pin making for people with no previous metal working experience. I have taught many times over the years in situations ranging from one on one in studio to small classes elsewhere. What is different is that I am in a more aggressive push to get me and my work out to a bigger world.
To my mind a teacher's goal is to stretch a student's knowledge while minimizing frustration . There is no creative direction that doesn't involve going down dead ends. How people deal with that is telling. My biggest "teaching" situation was with Beth Williams ( http://bethwilliams.com/ We met when she came to my studio to have a new wedding ring made for her husband. After a few meetings I was impressed with her own creative energy and her organized easy manner. I offered a choice: I could make her ring for money or I could teach her to make her own ring and she could teach me to be organized. And so began a seven year stint of sharing a studio and a friendship that continues to this day. I had always worked alone. I was amazed at what I learned watching her start from scratch.
One day she spent totally focused on one project doggedly inching her way on a complicated piece. My style is more like a spider spinning a web on LSD. I don't recommend it. Her project wasn't going so easily. I asked her what went through her mind as she worked. "Just getting this done," she answered. As I shut up and continued watching I became aware that I had a habit of running a constant negative chatter in my head. I also became aware of the cost of that habit. Awareness does not equal change overnight unless your name is Scrooge.
So as I start this stint of teaching I am reminded that the roles of "teacher" and "student"
do not have fixed boundries. What a gift that is!
Blog On,