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.

A girl named Sue

A few years ago I was invited to join a group of gals on a girls weekend. They all grew up together or met in college and have stayed in touch since. I met one of those gals when she moved a few blocks down from me almost 7 years ago – and now I cannot live without her (or her family).

This past weekend was their annual trip and I joined in the fun.

We stayed in a cute little (actually it was pretty big) apartment right in the heart of St.Mark’s Place in NYC. Very hip. Very cool. Just like us 🙂

I can’t go into too many of the stories because we are moms, teachers, responsible employees that love our jobs and, well, we did some non-mom, non-teacher, non-responsible things.

Here’s what I can tell you about… we ate some really good food. Drank some really good wine. Those were the two themes of the weekend in general. Where should we eat? Where should we drink? We went dancing! We hit a cool, hipster flea market in Brooklyn and saw a celebrity (Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family). We ubered all over the place. And we laughed. Boy did we laugh. Sometimes at other people, but mostly at each other.

One of the best laughs we got this weekend was at my expense (what’s new). I had never met one of the gals that joined us, she grew up with most of the other crew but this was her first time with me. Somehow during introductions on the first day, I missed that her name was Chris. I am almost positive someone said her name was Sue. Or I heard the word Sue and associated it with her, or she looked like a Sue or something. Doesn’t matter. Her name was Chris!

Now, you would think that during the next 12 hours someone would correct me right? Wrong. I must have had multiple conversations where I directed a question at Sue/Chris. “Isn’t this breakfast great Sue?”. “Sue, do you like the flea market?” “Sue, how many kids do you have?”. MORTIFYING.

Finally, after a couple of glasses of wine on Saturday night someone pulled me over and said,”who are you talking about? Chris?”. Shoot me now. Dead. Oh the horror! The horror! Then I started blaming.

“Why didn’t you tell me?!!” I shouted! “You should have told me”, I cried! But I know why no one told me. It was funnier this way. They are all evil. Including Chris/Sue.

Anyway – here’s some pics to take your mind off my stupidity. The first pic includes Chris (she’s the one smiling sheepishly on the right). There’s some prerequisite post-wine selfies. A shot of all of us at Supper. Which was this fantastic Italian restaurant where we had dinner. So we had Supper for dinner. Get it? Hilarious. To us.

There’s also a picture of the flea market  and some info about it if you want to check it out yourself, a shot of our friend Jesse Tyler, and a shot of one of the gals dancing with the Phantom of the Opera – who also happened to be letting off some steam at the gay 80s club we danced at all night (until 11:30pm).

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‘Tis the season

For grumpy commuters to make tourists feel like crap. Lighten up would ya?

So she didn’t run down the escalator like a lunatic even though there was plenty of time.

So she brought a complicated snack (ok meal) on the train.

So she’s carrying a big gulp from the Radio City Christmas show.

So she’s talking full volume to her equally loud friend while she knits/needles/threads a Christmas thingie.

Leave them be. Stop glaring behind and looking. Stop making Tsk Tsk noises. Go to the quiet train with your judgy judgements.

They got all gussied up and enjoyed a day in the big city. Don’t be bitter because you worked all day while they enjoyed The Rockettes. Don’t ya see the festive pin on their coats?

Go back to trolling FB. It’s ok. They won’t be on your morning train.

Bless their crafty hearts.

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The Stuff That Sticks

Like millions of other people, I was working and living in New York City on September 11, 2001. Everyone has a 9/11 story. Riding into work this morning, my train car was full of people talking about that day. Like a train full of veterans that lived to tell about it. Many of them had lost co-workers or family, but today, they talked about the little things. The weather that morning. People helping each other. The police walking around Penn Station with their fire arms out and on the ready.

Their conversation reminded me of the days and months and years following the sudden death of my mother-in-law. My husband, his sister and I would talk through every moment that led up to her passing over and over again. We’d be eating together, driving together, you name it – and all of a sudden one of us would start talking about how all the events unfolded. It was a devastating loss but talking about it, somehow dissecting it with each other was good for us. From the outside it must have sounded depressing and morbid, or like we were adding salt to the wound. But really it helped the healing. And it felt so nice to do it with people who wouldn’t hurry you through thinking about that day into the,” she’s in a better place” or “you’ll be ok soon”. Mourning slowly and long is ok. Mourning in bits and pieces is ok.

9/11 and the weeks that followed are both a blur and extremely clear in my head. Here’s what goes through my head today about that day:

  • I walked into the building at work not having watched the news. My boss, now one of my best friends, was coming in too. She said,” Did you hear what happened?” We went upstairs, grabbed another co-worker, and went to a company coffee shop – called Java City I think. They had two TVs broadcasting live. A tower on fire. News channels hadn’t expected to show people jumping out of windows so we saw everything. All three of us were crying. I think everyone in that shop was crying.
  • Not sure how/when we came back down to our floor, or if the other tower had been hit at that point. TVs were brought into a small conference room on our floor and people were either frantically calling home or watching the footage.
  • Here’s a totally wacky thing. There is a comedian named Jason Mantzoukas who’s quite famous now. But on that day, he worked across from our floor and did presentation building. He was the funny dude who would help put together our agenda packets, etc. He’s the one that helped bring the TV into the conference room, and I remember spending part of that horrible day with him. When I see him on Parks and Recreation or in the movies – all I can think of, is him sitting with us and crying.
  • My husband stayed behind at work (a choice he regrets now) and I walked home alone, with a hundred other people. We were like zombies shuffling out of buildings and onto the streets.
  • The next day was surreal. It was the most surreal day I have ever been through. No planes. No cars. No buses. All the stores were closed. The streets were empty uptown. Downtown was still a war zone. There was almost no one outside.
  • Everyone that didn’t lose someone in the city was huddled around a TV watching the coverage. President Bush came on and threatened retaliation. It was exactly what we needed to hear.
  • One of the most miraculous things was that my daughter was only 3. Completely, happily, oblivious to all the chaos and manic fear. I have never been so thankful for bedtime routines and snack time.
  • One of our events a few months later was at a production of The Producers, which had opened that April in NYC. It was one of the first nights after 9/11 that I remember being in a big room full of people that were laughing and joyous.

So ofcourse I’ll “Never Forget” the loss. But I remember so many other things too.

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Wha???

Conversation on the train platform today. You guess which one is me.

A: “I can’t believe this train is late again”

B: “Oh it’s not late. It’s right here”

A: “What? Where? There’s no train on this station” Laughs “I see empty tracks! ”

B: “Oh sorry, I’m still asleep. I meant the train stops at this station, so it’ll be here” ….”Eventually”

A: “Oh right. That’s ok. I sleep standing up all the time.”

End of discussion.
Meeting of the minds concludes as the train pulls in.
NYC.
You can just blend right in with all the other weirdos.

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Camera Ready

A couple of months ago my father-in-law gave us an old Polaroid camera.
It wasn’t for a birthday or anniversary or any milestone. As is his habit, he’ll periodically give something to one of the kids that he thinks is important for them to keep and carry on. Many times it’s a piece of jewelry that means something to him, or a pocket-knife that was passed down by his dad, or even a nifty flashlight/lantern combo (flashlights are important). Occasionally he’ll give some sort of a weapon. Nothing scary. There’s a certain bayonet that lives in our house, in case of, you know, a zombie apocalypse.
It’s a sweet tradition.
This camera came with a story. As almost all the gifts do. A family legend that involved money owed, the Montauk police, false accusations, corruption and bravery. I can’t do the story justice, you’ll have to ask him yourself. What I know is that the good guy won. And thank goodness. This camera would go on to take the photos that helped define my husband’s family. It was quite the thing to own back then. State of the art and high-end. But photos were always important to the family.

We love photos in this house too. We’ve loved them before you could take a thousand a day. They are the art in our home and the gifts that we give.
Some of my favorite photos of my husband and his childhood were taken with this camera.  I posted a few below.

The shot of him in Carl Schurz Park by the river as a baby – look at that fierce dress his mom is wearing! On a side note, for years I thought it was called Carlshultze park because of my hubbies’ thick NYC accent.
The other shot is of his dad, in Montauk, soon after he got the camera. I love that picture.
But my all-time favorite shot. The one that I still catch him looking at on a regular basis, is the one on the couch with his mom and one of his sisters. Laughing. Carefree. And completely happy.
I know it wasn’t the camera that did that. But it was there. It helped capture the moment. In that room. By the river. In the field.
So we put the camera where it belongs, right alongside these amazing pictures in our home.
I get a little sad thinking about what I’ll give to my kids. I imagine it going like this,” Kids, here’s my iPhone. The first one ever created. It’s -1G. It’s what I used to take shots without filters and without posting or tweeting. Cherish it.”
Oh well.

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The Nerve

window cleaner

When you are on the 19th floor of a high rise, seeing this dude outside your window is a bit unnerving. I did what any insane person would do, I grabbed my phone to take a picture.

As I was taking the pic I heard him say,”this ones takin’ a selfie!” to the other guy hanging on the building. I turned around and shouted to the sealed window,” no, no! I’m taking a picture of you!” “I was trying to take a picture of YOU not ME”.

He smiled, knodded and went about his business. Tonight he’ll tell his wife about the employee that takes selfies instead of working, and they’ll both shake their heads in condemnation. Or maybe he stopped thinking about me a nano second after this happened. I dunno.

Just thought I’d share.

 

 

Come on!

How could all of these people have left work exactly the same time as me? Don’t they know I wanted to get home early today?
People. They’re a bitch sometimes.

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Domo Arigato NYC

Maybe it’s because I love it so very much that I have guilt. Yesterday’s post about how NYC can sometimes stink has me feeling bad. And because some folks reminded me that I sounded like a spoiled baby…waaaa….it smells bad. They said,” You know what smells bad? War torn Africa! Crime riddled Mexico! And small American towns with no good bagel shops. So chin-up! Get over it!”
So – like a cheap suit I’m folding today and telling you the good parts of my commute.

There’s this ridiculous view at the front of my building. Beautiful.

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Across from the pee block (ahem) is a little place called Underground Pizza. It completes me. Know why? Because it makes this…

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It’s the most amazing slice ever. On a side note, in college, my friend Maureen and I would go to this kick-ass pizza place called Broadway Joe’s. It was the best pizza in the city (they burned down and rose from the ashes in Upstate NY, but that’s another story for another day) We’d always get the same thing – a Sicilian slice. Then we’d ask the very Italian dude to scrape off the cheese and add more sauce. He’d do it – but he wasn’t happy about it. Then we’d load it up with red pepper and black pepper. Sigh. Good times. My college memories are of pizza not keg parties. I know you’re not surprised. (Tell me you remember this Maureen?!)
What was I talking about?

Last but not least – this is the Geisha that rides the subway with me every morning. We’re on the same schedule. She gets off at Fulton Street to go about her Geisha day. The first time I saw her I snapped a pic. Now I just pretend it’s normal like everyone else.

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checking in…

So whatcha been up to? Hope you’ve been having some Christmas fun.  Here’s what we’ve been doing – non sequitur.

  • Started my Christmas shopping in September hoping to get ahead of the game, but the game won. I am still not done and it’s 2 days after Christmas.
  • Went to the ER the day before Christmas Eve (long scary story with a happy ending, all is good).
  • Made 12 dozen cookies. 12. Dozen. 144 cookies. Know what I learned? Even after making 144 cookies I still want to eat cookies.
  • Headed to NYC on Christmas Eve and came home with tons of great gifts and happy memories (and saw a truly ugly sweater, thanks Aunt Stacy).
  • Hosted a neighborhood gathering at our house a day after finishing my first week at a new job. It sounds stressful but it was so much fun. It was the perfect way to kick off our holiday fun – and I learned how to make eggnog. And I also learned that you can only drink about 2 cups of eggnog before wanting to throw-up!
  • Had some killer Chinese food on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fa ra ra ra ra, ra, ra,ra ra.
  • Decided to cave in and get the kids a trampoline for Christmas. Look for future posts titled, “Why did we buy a trampoline?” and “Were we nuts when we bought the kids a trampoline? Yes!”.
  • Dropping off my girl for a session of winter camp today, sniff…sniff. It’s only 4 days but I really don’t like it when she’s gone.
  • Went to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Don’t listen to all those Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a sweet, visual, musical movie. Does it have anything to do with the short story? Nope. But it does make you want to visit Greenland and Iceland – so there’s that.
  • Only watched A Christmas Story 3 to 8 times, much less than last year.
  • Santa brought our son some more inappropriate Xbox games. What can you do, that Santa is a crazy mofo.
  • My girl wanted a saxophone for Christmas and we decided to go for it. Instead of buying it outright (incase she changes her mind like the guitar. or the ukulele. or the harmonica. or the…) we decided to rent it from a music and arts store. What happened next was a tragedy of errors that resulted in us going to that store 4 times. I have only one thing to say to the 8 dudes that work there,” dudes, wearing a skinny tie and having a hipster beard only makes you look smart if you aren’t completely incompetent and stupid. You morons.” Sorry. That is all.
  • After we drop off my daughter at camp, we head directly to my parents house for Christmas Part Deux. Time to push aside the figgy pudding and make room for the garam masala.

To go with the bullets that make no linear sense – here’s some random photos from the past few days! I’m sorry the boy has no shirt on – but that’s how he rolls in the house. Just keepin’ it real. xoxo

 

Here’s me wrapped up in a blanket reading my new cookbook (Pioneer Woman!) and my son looking like an angel playing a killing game. I have guilt. Can you tell?

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Can you guess which plate of food is mine? Hint: it’s the one that burns going down.

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Even in her “ugly” sweater she looks beautiful!

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Here’s my two favorite men. I think next year they can switch places in the picture :-).

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She loved her saxophone, no thanks to the dopes at the music store. Sorry.

 

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This is my kids exchanging gifts they bought for each other. Is there anything better than that?

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