The Kiln Life

We went to visit one of our favorite aunts – which I know I say often, but we have a lot of cool aunts. I can’t help it. Kathy is my husband Joe’s second cousin on his mom’s side and his godmother. She’s one of the first people I ever met in his family (Colleen, his sister, beat her out by a month). I remember Joe taking me out to Long Island, where she’s lived most of her life. We had just started dating and he was really excited for me to meet her. Kathy and her mom, Mary, were a huge part of Joe’s childhood. He spent every summer out there, living and working with them.

She was a single mom at the time raising two kids on her own and working a hot dog wagon that she owned on the beach. She was kind and funny and incredibly hardworking. She was also the life of the party. Cocktails and the beach life were what I remember about that time with her.

When Joe and I decided to elope and not have a big wedding – she’s who we called to help us. Any other relative would have tried to talk us out of it or tried to tell us that many people in the family would be upset. But not Kathy, she was all in. She’s one of the witness signatures on our license and we wouldn’t want it any other way. That day was also a milestone for her. She woke up the next morning and stopped drinking completely. She swears it had nothing to do with our wedding…

Since then she’s transformed her life completely. She’s been teaching for over a decade, she’s raised two amazing kids and had many other adventures in between. The one thing that hasn’t changed about her is her big heart. Her home is always welcome to all. I’ve never once heard her complain about guests or people visiting. She loves it. The more the merrier.

For the past several years, my daughter boards a bus in NYC and heads out to Aunt Kathy’s for a week. Sometimes it’s with a cousin, sometimes it’s with a friend. This year it was with both! We pick her up and usually make a weekend of it – that’s what we were doing these past few days.

She still leaves near the beach – that’s another thing that will never change about her. She needs to be near her ocean.

A couple of years ago she developed a passion for pottery making, and like everything else she’s gone after – she’s completely committed. She took classes. Built a studio. Bought a wheel. She’s in it. Deep.

Ofcourse I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. The closest I’ve ever been to making pottery is watching the scene in Ghost. I mean I’ve gone to those paint-a-mug places a few times with the kids but that’s just overpriced coloring. I wanted to make something. To create! I get excited.

Kathy took me to her beautiful studio – in her even more beautiful back yard. She walked me through the steps and gave me clear instruction. Here are some shocking things I learned that you might already know, but I certainly did not: Clay is tough. Like really really tough. I thought it would be pliable and moldable. I thought it would fold and move easily under my hands. But it doesn’t. You have to use force and strength and balance. You have to have steady but really firm hands pushing and pulling it. Clay isn’t for wimps. You know when you meet those people that make pottery and you think they’re all soft hippies? They aren’t. They can break you with those hands. They’ve taken a hard piece of clay, controlled it, managed it, and made it yield to them. There’s friction on that wheel that can burn you. If you don’t center your clay with authority, it basically refuses to work with you. Clay is a bitch yo.

It took me three attempts to create something that looked like something – but it was addicting. I totally get why she loves it. Before I left I snagged some of her amazing pieces. Because I’m type A I’m trying to talk her into opening an Etsy shop so other people (like you) can also get her pieces, but she told me to calm down. She’s just doing it for fun (for now).

Here’s her sun filled studio



She has these beautiful Buddha statues all over her house – this one protects women, children and pets. This has nothing to do with pottery but I love the idea.    IMG_5151

These are her pieces that I grabbed. I was greedy. I don’t care. They are pieces of art!  

   The pieces look delicate and beautiful – but they can survive a lot of heat. Kinda like lady who makes them.

Racism. The old fashioned kind.

I went to get a book for my friend’s son (a boy so beautiful he would blow up the blogosphere – but alas, his smart mama keeps him off the interweb). I try to get a book he will like and his parents won’t hate reading 1,000 times to him.
As I was perusing, I found this Thanksgiving book. I was drawn to it right away. Because of the way it was drawn.
None of that cultural sensitivity stuff from the newer books. Just good old fashioned stereotyping.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Everything that we called normal is now called hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, ADHD, cultural insensitivity and it’s evil twin – racism. Many 40+ olds like me are now in therapy or spending quality time in a bar reflecting and learning why none of that was normal. And it wasn’t normal or right. We were just too busy wearing shoulder pads to notice.
That’s why I was so surprised to see this book, published pretty recently.

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Look at these old school images.
Squanto and his pals actually have feathers on their heads – and mohawks – you know, cause their Injuns (which I now know is an offensive epithet and not a cute abbreviation. See, all that time at the bar helped). I’m obsessed with these pics. I can’t figure out why one of the pilgrims has a groovy Afro or why some of the pilgrims have hipster mustaches.

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The picture below brings me right back to elementary school. I’ve seen a version of this pic a million times. The pilgrims facing the cold, hard winter. Why don’t they just go into the warm wood cabins behind them? Duh. I should have been a pilgrim.

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Once they explain the “origins” of Thanksgiving, there’s a picture of a modern family enjoying the feast.

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I’m digging the addition of the African American grandparents – but where are the descendants of Squanto? Atleast 3 culturally insensitive jokes come to mind. I won’t write them. Cause I know what cultural insensitivity feels like, I’m an Injun too. Dot, not feather.
(I did not buy this book. I bought a Halloween book called Dem Bones instead. Much more politically correct )

Picture Imperfect

We finally had another book club meeting tonight. It’s been a long, bookless summer. Because why would I read a book if I’m not getting credit for it? Duh.
We read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. If you read my post yesterday you’d know that I straight up crammed the book in about 24 hrs. I’m so happy I did. It was LOL funny. How can you not love a book that waxes poetic about taxidermy, miscarriages, and blogging. You don’t think they belong together, but they do. Did I mention that the author curses more than a truck driver? (And can we change that expression? I’ve never heard a truck driver swear. Maybe it should be “she swears more than the Kardashians).

Instead of meeting at a member’s house, we were invited to The Artist’s Cellar. You’ve seen these right? You wine, you paint, it’s all good.
We had a blast. Babes with Books (BWB) rocked it. Here’s me and the beautiful woman who created BWB (I think. I mean I KNOW she’s beautiful but I’m guessing about the other part). We took a selfie. It was her idea. Or mine.

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We had adorable instructors named Cayla, Cameo and Jessica and the place was awesome. Booze, loud gals and detailed instructions – what could go wrong?!

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Here’s my masterpiece in the making.

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As always with this group, we talked about the book…oh…for a hot second. And then we talked about psychics, grandkids, medication and other miscellaneous items of urgency. A good time was had by all.

Here’s the painting we were supposed to draw:

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Here’s what I drew:

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You don’t see four trees you say? That’s called creative license! It doesn’t have anything to do with four trees merging into two blobs that I had to make into trees. Stop judging me.
We had a blast.

And here’s some pictures I took while I should have been painting.

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BWB!!

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Doodle Me Crazy

I have a confession. When I’m on a long telephone conversation, or in a long meeting, or in any place that requires my attention for more than a hot second – I doodle. I’ve done it since I was little. I do it in meetings. I do it at home. I do it anywhere. I do it everywhere. Sometimes if I’m in a meeting with very senior people, I spend parts of that meeting reminding myself not to doodle. Scared yet?

I got into massive trouble in elementary school for it, the teachers said I was “making a mess of my papers”. True that.  By high school my grades were so good, they didn’t care what my notebook looked like. They would have let me doodle on tables. That’s the beauty of Catholic school. A few A’s and you run the joint.

Through the years I’ve come to terms with it. It doesn’t mean I’m not interested or paying attention. It just means that I had a sudden, unstobbale desire to scribble something down. It’s like a tick. On paper.

Yesterday, someone at work called me out on it. “Nice drawing” they smirked. Uh oh. Oh well. I couldn’t hide it forever. The first step is admitting you have a problem right?

So here’s a glimpse of my bad habit. Notice sometimes I go abstract, sometimes I go modern – other times I go graffati. I’m so diversified in my doodle. You can’t take that from me. Send help. Or atleast some clean paper.

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No ask too many questions!

Years ago, when a large part of my job involved literally making invites ( or melting hot wax in a spoon at midnight in the corporate cafeteria to seal those invites- true story) we would scour NYC for the best of everything. We knew the really good paper houses. We knew which store had the perfect envelopes. We knew where to get great flowers and even prettier vases. We spent hours on font styles and spacing. Hours. But that’s what happy insane planners in their twenties do. Right? I’m sure the Millennials are confused. Oh you of Etsy luxury. You have no idea what it means to be really grass roots. Or maybe you do. I dunno. I’m just a middle-aged Gen Xer trying to get by.
Wait, what was I talking about?
It was so nice in the city today that I walked to a further train station than usual and passed a small, stationary shop. It reminded me of the shops we would haunt and hunt in. My favorite of these oldies was a ribbon store on 28th Street or 29th street. That’s right people. A ribbon shop. Imagine a world without Michaels or AC Moore. Before The Knot or even Martha Stewart Magazine. There was/is a little shop devoted to ribbons. You can look for hours for ribbons for weddings, for gifts, for your hair – whatever you want. What you can’t do is “ask too many questions”. All along the walls are small, but clear signs,” no ask too many questions”.
To this day if one of my kids is badgering me, or if my husband is interrogating my trip to the store – this is what I think in my head. NO ASK TOO MANY QUESTIONS!

Tabled

12 years ago we bought a table.
Big, sturdy,bright and cheerful.
Through the years we put it to task.
It’s been an ironing board, a bar, a buffet, an art table, a crafting table, a homework dump, and occasionally a place we eat our meals.
It’s…weathered. Distressed.
For the last 5 years my husband has hated that table.
Hated. A table. Like a normal person hates war or poverty.
He obsessed the dings, the scratches, the peeling paint, and the permanent mosaic of stains.
For the last two years I’ve covered the offending table with a tablecloth or place mat.
But it still bothered him.
I didn’t love it either. But I get over stuff quicker.
So last weekend we found out that a lovely family had moved into our community and into the country after years of saving up.
They proudly bought their first home but were short on furniture.
Are you thinking what I thought?
Do good and stop the hate?
Done.
Things moved quickly after that.
The family picked up the table and seemed thrilled.
My husband and I went out and we bought a brand new table.
The heavens rejoiced – or atleast my husband did.
It was delivered yesterday afternoon.
By dinner there was a scratch on it.
It was never the table. It was us.

Old scratched beauty and new scratched beauty.

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Look Book

I like pretty pictures.
If the pictures happen to be about food or home decor – all the better.
This past Christmas a new pal gave me a really great book called Edible Selby. Although I didn’t know it was great until now. I don’t deserve new friends. Don’t tell my old friends.
This past weekend I was reading the New York Times and found an article by the same author about a taco stand in California. This is why I love the Times. You may read it for the late breaking political and social news. I read it for its taco coverage.
Todd Selby is an artist, an author, a humorist and more. I have been reading his book all weekend.
It’s not a cookbook. It’s a book about cooks and cooking and food.

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It’s full of fun and whimsy.

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This is the page when I decided this book is for me.

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How can you not love an instructional book that starts with…plant the cocoa trees and harvest the pods. Ha! Double ha!
I also love the completely honest disclosure in the end.

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Tacos always lead to genius.

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