The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Much of May May 13, 2013

Always too much to tell. A slower pace in the country? Occasionally, but not often. The first half of May has been very busy here. Rather than tell you all about it, I’m offering a photographic retrospective of the last two weeks. Hope you don’t mind – there are quite a few pics here…May Day 2013 165Starting with a surprise visit one morning by Phil on his tractor, who’d come by to plow our garden. He’s doing it for nothing. Just being a kind neighbor. I told him I felt guilty about his helping us like that, but he responded that Mr. Sessleman had done it for him once upon a time, he was just passin it on. Hope I too am able to pass on some helpful kindness one day.

(This is earliest May – note how few leaves are on the trees, then compare to similar shots just a week later)

May Day 2013 177I like this shot – tractor, Elihu, goose, all in motion…

May Day 2013 180Elihu runs down the driveway after the tractor

May Day 2013 057May 3rd, the fourth graders dance around the May pole while singing (in harmony parts!) and weaving very intricate designs with the colored ribbons. This is a rite of passage for fourth graders at the Waldorf School.

May Day 2013 065Elihu and Dierdre bow to each other before the dance

May Day 2013 047Grandma and Grandpa were able to join us…

May Day 2013 084

My mom remembers dancing around the May pole when she was in fourth grade, too!

May Day 2013 092A nice looking group, these wonderful fourth graders.

May Day 2013 016Goofburgers!

May Day 2013 099Elihu enjoys a little picnic with his grandparents

May Day 2013 155We take a look at the weaving job

May Day 2013 156Lovely up close

May Day 2013 160Then Elihu helps carry it off…

May Day 2013 118Now for a quick family picture…

May Day 2013 120Before zipping off to catch a duck…

 May Day 2013 146Notice Elihu, to the right…

May Day 2013 122No bait used – nothing but extreme motivation and a finely-honed technique

May Day 2013 136Duck time

May Day 2013 126A fine end to May day!

May 2013 Merck Forest 007…and a fine start to our Merck Forest field trip as Elihu chases a turkey vulture across a field…

May 2013 Merck Forest 024Visiting pastured sheep, Elihu dashes off in hopes of seeing birds…

May 2013 Merck Forest 107The view was gorgeous. All I can think of is how much labor was involved in clear cutting the old growth forests and making them into farmland – at this elevation and nearly three hundred years ago, no less. Boggles the mind.

May 2013 Merck Forest 040We visited pigs that lived out in the woods. !

May 2013 Merck Forest 065Kids feeding kids.

May 2013 Merck Forest 056Too cute!

May 2013 Merck Forest 083Now to see the beautiful draft horse

May 2013 Merck Forest 093The class sang a song about horses (in a round!) as they admired her

May 2013 Merck Forest 097Ben found a B on the horse’s side

May 2013 Merck Forest 112Elihu and I head up the hill to the barns in search of swallows

May 2013 Merck Forest 143Bingo! Such striking markings and color

May 2013 Merck Forest 148What’s this? A pigeon’s nest…

May 2013 Merck Forest 149With eggs! Hope mom comes back soon to brood… think we scared her off

May 2013 Merck Forest 147We watch the horse get hitched up to her gear. They really do farm with the horses here at Merck Forest.

May 2013 Merck Forest 152On the trail to the car everyone fills the ‘elevator’ tree

May 2013 Merck Forest 153Nora and I are having mint chocolate chip! This girl’s amazing – she used a balled up piece of tin foil from lunch to make a baseball, and found some sticks… within minutes she’d started a full-on baseball game.

May 2013 Merck Forest 157We’re at the local Battenkill Dairy – our ice cream was made right on the premises. All of it. !

May Apple Blossoms 2013 005Ah, the apple trees…

May Apple Blossoms 2013 008And the flowering Quince, too

May Apple Blossoms 2013 035Look who’s returned one week later to till! Thank you Phil!!!

May Apple Blossoms 2013 017While Phil works, Elihu picks violets..

May Apple Blossoms 2013 026and picks…

May Apple Blossoms 2013 029and then makes ‘Violet Angels’ in them…

May Apple Blossoms 2013 039Next on the agenda, some Cinnamon fiddleheads from our woods for supper. They’re fuzzier than Ostrich ferns (and slightly more toxic) and take a lot of prep. Mainly why they don’t work well in restaurants.

May Apple Blossoms 2013 041Cleaned and washed

May Apple Blossoms 2013 042Boiled, next to be sautéed in butter

May Apple Blossoms 2013 045We actually really liked them.

May wishing well ballet 2013 016Onto the Saratoga City Ballet’s Spring production of Alice in Wonderland. That’s our friend Freya in the middle…

May wishing well ballet 2013 054and this is our friend Mahogany

May wishing well ballet 2013 061Here’s the only boy in the whole group. He is good. !

May wishing well ballet 2013 038Love the en pointe thing. So much harder than it appears.

May wishing well ballet 2013 079All three Waldorf kids afterwards. Mahogany and Freya are in seventh grade.

May wishing well ballet 2013 084We went out for ice cream after the show (Atkins diet took a week off) and it was positively snowing white apple blossoms!

May wishing well ballet 2013 100So pretty

May wishing well ballet 2013 155A few hours later and it’s our annual birthday dinner at the Wishing Well!

May wishing well ballet 2013 106In short order Elihu was playing along with the pianist in the bar

May wishing well ballet 2013 133Elihu’s very favorite dish of all: Frogs’ Legs. ! (I think he’s playing drums on the table with their little leg bones. !)

May wishing well ballet 2013 108Yeeps. I’m trying them too. And they’re actually very delicious. And no, not really like chicken.

May wishing well ballet 2013 131The pic above our table (Saratoga is a racing town.) This is pretty incredible, huh?

May wishing well ballet 2013 138Happy 60th birthday to us!

May wishing well ballet 2013 137Thanks for singing!

May wishing well ballet 2013 142Yay! A picture of the two of us taken by someone other than me. !

May wishing well ballet 2013 141The Wishing Well is an old-world joint. Lots of wood, mounted moose heads and such.

May wishing well ballet 2013 144Elihu gets a good-night smooch from owner Brenda Lee (with whom I’d sung ‘Exactly Like You’ earlier in the evening – when I requested  it and the pianist had – gasp – never heard of it.)

May wishing well ballet 2013 146Good-bye  WW – see you next year! (We love the place, but must note that our fiddleheads were better than theirs and that the escargot was not good. Wine not cooked off, not enough salt or butter, and gritty. We’re very forgiving, but it was a lot of money for a not so spectacular dinner. But it was fun to actually hear a person playing the piano. Plus I have learned that I cannot casually drink a martini these days. I got fairly loaded on nearly nothing. Times are a changin’.)

This has been our wonderful month of May so far…

 

Flip Side May 8, 2013

Made it to the other side. I am now one of those ‘other’ people on the planet who walk around ‘being older’, as if they were completely unaware of it!  Naw, I suppose they’re aware. But what’s a person to do but march along the mortal path, make mistakes, learn the best one can… and grow older? Today, as I sit to create the quickest of posts, I have hit a particular grouping of keys which has just inverted the image on my monitor. !! Being a no-nonsense woman of action (and 50 years experience!) I simply picked the silly thing up and turned it upside down on my desk. And so there it will stay until I have some time to figure out how to ‘right’ it. Literally. But for now I will accept this as a metaphor for the second half of my life: it aint gonna be like the first half. Some shit’s gonna change. My world is gonna get turned on its rear… (and in a good way, I proclaim!) But until that time…

I’m here tonight to very quickly share some pictures from my birthday yesterday. It was a warm, breezy day, full of sunshine and without one single cloud in the sky. From my duties as recess monitor at my son’s school to a birthday gift to myself of an oil change and car vacuuming, some chicken smooching, a surprise visit from my childhood friend Sherry and her daughter Katy, and then a lovely birthday dinner with mom, dad and Elihu – complete with surprise new gas grill on the porch! – the day was about as perfect as a day could be. Let the photos commence…

May, 50th Birthday 2013 037My final portrait as a woman in her forties, thanks Elihu. Hey – I was pregnant with him in this same bathrobe!

May, 50th Birthday 2013 152A birthday tradition; I dig up perrennials from abandoned farms. How wonderful to share the beauty of these pink daffodils once enjoyed by old-time farmers Mr. and Mrs. Meunch, both now many decades gone. But their garden lives on here at the Hillhouse!

May, 50th Birthday 2013 138The girls are always close by to greet us

May, 50th Birthday 2013 144Elihu almost always has to get a proper smooching in before school

May, 50th Birthday 2013 066I just LOVE this fourth grade class. They’re making a fort. Lots of great ideas in this ambitious project.

May, 50th Birthday 2013 084They fight, yeah, but they work together really well too!

May, 50th Birthday 2013 079Dierdre’s got her own window!

May, 50th Birthday 2013 071Ok, one crazy shot allowed.

May, 50th Birthday 2013 098Sherry’s 50th is the 16th.  We’re next door neighbors and have known each other since we were 4. !! Sherry remembers all the crazy stuff we did together in the high school and college years. I don’t. I have to ask her to tell me the stories. !

May, 50th Birthday 2013 105We brought our own balloons – it was just lively enough

May, 50th Birthday 2013 120So few of us together, must you stick out your tounge, young man?

May, 50th Birthday 2013 110Mom was hell bent on actually lighting fifty candles. She did it!!!

May, 50th Birthday 2013 117No mean feat blowing em all out!

May, 50th Birthday 2013 128Elihu says goodnight to grandpa

May, 50th Birthday 2013 049We’re not sad or mad in this pic, just tired… plus the flash is hard on Elihu’s eyes. Goodnight all!

Thank you all for a wonderful day! We felt your love and good thoughts coming in from all over.

Sending you hugs and kisses right back. May each one of us know the love of friends and family on their birthday. !

 

T Minus 29 April 8, 2013

I know I’m making far too big a deal of this. My fiftieth birthday is one month from yesterday. Most of my friends have already been there, done that and most likely can’t get too worked up yet again about another person’s 50th. For those who’ve passed the mark, it’s simply their reality. It’s history, old news. Some like to tell you to ‘get over it’ or admonish ‘it’s just a number’… But it’s not so easy for me. I’m getting sentimental about it; I’m missing an era in my life that is quite definitely over.

To be more specific, there are two main reasons I’m ticking away the moments of my final forty-something year with a mild sense of ill ease: one is, of course the obvious; the irrefutable evidence that my body has passed its aesthetic prime. It’s a for-sure thing now. There’s no going back. Like Nora Ephron, I too have begun to hate my neck. I pinch the skin under my chin and rather than see it spring back to its resting form, it stays pinched. This is quite shocking to me. This is the crepe-y sort of skin that belongs to an ‘older woman’ –  my mother, or one of her peers… but certainly not me. This new discovery isn’t making me feel very good ‘in my skin’ as they say. It feels like someone else’s neck is on my body. It’s a new phenomenon, it’s disturbing, and I don’t see it getting any better with time. That’s sadly the truth.

The second reason for my ill ease: I’m not in Chicago at the time of this event. Rather, I’m here in Greenfield, where I simply haven’t got a whole lot of friends with whom to mark the day. I’d like to throw out a post on Facebook and have my Chicago peeps meet me at Dave’s Italian Kitchen and call it a day. The way I did when Fareed and I had our rehearsal dinner. The way we did when our son was born. The way we did for my fortieth. And so many other celebrations throughout our lives… Yeah. I wish I felt that I was home for this big one. But I suppose in a way, I am.

It is of course because of my parents that I’m even here to celebrate. And they’re just next door. So maybe I’ll just call the few friends I do have here and have em over to my parents. My dad never gets out, he might enjoy it. Mom’s a natural host with few opportunities to do so these days… It’s worth considering I suppose. I just feel like the date’s coming closer and closer and I have made no preparations – none mental, emotional nor logistic. (It’s my son’s 10th birthday on April 28th which takes priority!)

I just finished watching a movie called “Melancholia” in which a planet collides with Earth and ends everything. It was stunning how the film created that reality… one moment the planet looks like a benign second moon lighting the sky, the next day it’s a huge orb taking up half the horizon… And it sorta feels like my fiftieth birthday is that rogue planet, looming closer… nothing much one can do to prepare. But at least it might be worth having a really good party. Right?

 

Atkins One Week In January 21, 2013

While modesty prevents me from disclosing how much I weighed when I started my new diet campaign one week ago, I can happily report that I have lost three pounds since then. I do realize that when a woman appears to lose weight, she may in reality have lost nothing at all. We women retain a lot of water, and with our cycles our weight can easily vary by three pounds from one day to the next. Having said that, I’ll add to the mix that I no longer have a period, that my weight no longer does that ‘younger woman’ flux, and that I weighed myself at exactly the same time in my schedule one week later as a means to reflect the change in my weight as accurately as possible. So, in fewer words, the gist is this: Atkins works.

There are two things I want to report about my first week’s experience with this seemingly crazy, unnatural diet. First, is that I am very seldom hungry. Honestly. Even during the course of a regular, non-dieting day I am often uncomfortably so – and during a good old-fashioned low calorie, low fat diet I become absolutely ravenous. The only thing that would keep me going during a Weight Watchers diet was the reward of my weekly visit to Mr. Lee’s Evanston Grill for his locally famous and much beloved Bi Bim Bop. (That, plus the burning image in my mind of zipping up my beloved size 8 vintage cocktail dresses once again.) I had my oasis in each week – that glorious relief, that reward, those beloved flavors, that sexy, fatty, perfectly marinated beef. It kept me going. Then after my respite, it was back to a long week of hungry hours, of my being constantly preoccupied with my next bite, of watching my daily ration of points disappear quicker than I’d expected.

The second thing to report is not as encouraging as the first. It is this: salt and fat become tedious, and sweet snacks are virtually nonexistent on the diet. For me that’s generally ok – cuz I don’t really find sweet foods all that compelling. Sure, I love a great dessert, but I’m happy 90% of the time if my meal doesn’t end that way. And if given the choice between chocolate and salami, well… nuff said. But when you’re eating meat, eggs, fat and cheese – and the salty flavors that go with that territory – you find yourself really wanting the contrast. Plus on Atkins you can get a funky taste in your mouth in the beginning – as well as headaches (things I’d forgotten about) and you really want some relief. Even sugar free gum has carbohydrates, so the options that you might have thought were abundant are really not so. The solution? Ah, the Atkins staple; sugar free jello and artificially sweetened whipped cream. Now I really dislike artificial sweeteners. So much so that I cannot stand more than one sip of diet Coke – no exaggeration. However, in the context of some over-the-top, full-on fatty, heavy cream, a pinch of sweetener (gotta watch out there too – not all artificial sweeteners are low-carb!) can do the trick. So my relief comes in the form of jello – and changing up the flavors helps to reduce the monotony just a bit. (A very tiny bit, but a bit nonetheless.) Another tip: a shot of breath spray gives a little temporary relief too.

The fact that I awake each morning knowing that I won’t have to be distracted by hunger throughout my day is such a plus – I’d even go so far as to say that I see it as a kind of upgrade in my overall quality of life. I certainly can’t imagine living so strictly low-carb all of my life, but I can see the obvious advantage of exercising a little self-control and avoiding the gratuitous starchy foods that are all too easy to eat in large quantities. I don’t need heaping platefuls of rice or endless pieces of fresh-baked italian bread. If I set out to have a taste of rice, pasta or bread and am not starving at the outset of my meal, I think I’d be apt to eat less. Frankly, I piled on the mindless carbs mostly cuz I was hungry. (This does however require some planning; protein needs to be on board and in your system before you’re faced with some tempting carbs.) Not feeling such a terrible gnawing in my gut gives me much more power to say no. I’m not saying binges are off the map – I believe every experience has its time and place. But in abstaining totally, it’s given me a bit more perspective on how many carbs I used to eat, and how thoughtlessly I did so.

Sure hope I don’t appear to be standing on a soap box here, just want to pass on some of my observations from this first week of re-acquainting myself with the Atkins diet. Not sure if I’ll be as chipper and upbeat about it in the future as I am today. I’ll check in each week to report on the process – I myself am curious about how my feelings will change, and if my progress will be steady or stall out after just a few more pounds. I think I can increase the likelihood of my success if I step it up a bit too; if I add routine workouts and watch my carbs a bit more diligently I think it’ll help. Many was the time I ate more than I’d thought by making an assumption about something before checking first. (Pickled okra are not carb-free, who knew?) 

Although three pounds isn’t going to register on my frame, and my pants likely won’t begin to fit differently until I’ve lost a good ten pounds, I absolutely know that something in my body has changed. Also, I’m thinking it’s a good time of year to try out a new diet – no parties on the horizon, no food-related holidays to pose undue challenges and stress… and a still a couple months yet til my half century birthday. So I’m feeling ok, hopeful. A subtle feeling of dread is lightening as I assert a bit more control over my life. I do realize that total control over our lives is never fully within our power – but with that in mind, I am enjoying the result of my current, tiny success.

What I really miss most is a glass of wine. When I’ve seen ten pounds gone, I’ll treat myself to a glass. That first sip will no doubt be more enjoyable than so many that have come before… Til then, however, it’s one week at a time….