The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round and Round

This happened a couple of years ago, but I was reminded of it recently.  I had taken the kids to the Henry Ford Museum one dreary weekday.  At the time my oldest was three and I only had a one year old in addition to him.  Winter in Michigan can drive you stir crazy, especially if you have only young kids.  All of this happened in my pre-homeschooling days so I had flung myself fully into the whole “preschool mom” thing.  We sang Wheels on the Bus wherever we went, making up new verses when we ran out of the classics.  There were craft projects and sensory boxes and finger plays.  Really, it was an early childhood my youngest kids never experienced.  I like to tell myself that the littlest kids had a different, yet equally stimulating early childhood.  Like “separate but equal”, and we all know history’s opinion on that.

And, speaking of, it was Black History Month.  Black History Month always strikes me as funny since the word “black” has joined other words like “negro” and “colored” as historical words and “black history” has joined the United Negro College Fund and the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People as entities who refuse to change names to suit modern taste.   I always liked the symmetry of black and white; “African-American” is terribly imprecise: it doesn’t refer to Americans who recently came from Africa, or Americans from North Africa, or people whose ancestors came from Africa to Canada or the Caribbean.  Sadly, no one asked my opinion when we moved on from “black”.


So we come to the Henry Ford Museum that February not to learn anything about Black History Month (a 3yo and a 1yo preclude one from learning much about anything, ever) but more to look at old trains and cars and farm implements.  There’s a car you can “drive” as well as a harvester and a train.  It’s basically a 3 year old boy’s nirvana.  So we worked our way through the museum “driving” as we went.  In the center of the museum is the civil rights display whose center piece is the Rosa Parks bus.  On that day there was a field trip of 3rd graders, all African-American, getting a history lesson while sitting in the bus.

Owen wanted to drive, obviously.  And, since we know a song about what the driver on the bus says, he thought he’d throw that out there too.  So my lily white little boy marched up to the front of that bus of African-American students learning all about Rosa Parks and loudly said “I’m the driver of the bus and you all need to move on back (move on back, move on back.  The driver of the bus says move on back, all through the town!)  I’m pretty sure I heard crickets chirp in the silence that followed, but that doesn’t seem likely as it was February and we were in a museum.

Instead of explaining about the song and the driving and the fact that my son was three and, despite it being black history month, he wasn’t exactly savvy enough to purposefully make a racial blunder as profound as what had just occurred…instead, I scooped him up and ran away in horror.  Because I’m a good role model like that.



The Historic Preservatonist

Hawk’s nest atop the silo

We got a little surprise after Mass on Sunday.  As we topped that last hill on the drive home, we realized there was a car in our driveway.  A car with Massachusetts plates.  And then, something like Goldilocks, we discovered that there was no one in it!

The guy who owns our house, our friend and boss, had gone to high school with this guy who later got a ph.d from Boston University in historic preservation.  They had been talking for some time about this guy coming up from NY (where he now lives) to see the house.  There are a newly arrived from Philadelphia cadre of Brazilian carpenters (keep with me here) who will soon descend on the outside of our house to get it in to shape (I love that real life always has weird detail like that.  A whole gang of Brazilian carpenters!).  So really, the expert came in the nick of time.

The historic preservationist had been in Northern Vermont to check out an old log cabin and, all very last minute, stopped by.  The company COO let him in to our house.  As I work at the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and am dead tired afterwords (having heat-sensitive MS and standing for 7 hours in 85 degree weather is quite a combo) my house is at it’s absolute messiest on Sunday mornings.  So I was mortified, yet also a little thankful I didn’t have any notice as I likely would have flipped out and stayed up cleaning.

They (the preservationist has an assistant) had already been through the main house and barn but they had missed the servants’ quarters.  So I took them back in and then followed them around like an over-eager puppy because an expert on my house was standing IN MY HOUSE.

They took moisture readings and about ten million photographs and lots and lots of notes.  They looked at tiny little details like the mullion shape (the window on the left is older than the window on the right).

window2 window

He said the first one was original (probably 1810, we had thought the house was built in 1806 but he thought that was too early).  The white mullion has a shape typical of the Greek Revival period and is a little later (btw, I wasn’t scribbling this all down so I apologize should any other experts read this and I’ve messed it up).


The butternut moldings that surround every single door and window (well, not in the servant’s quarters, but everywhere else) were added during the Victorian era.  In my mind it is these moldings that really give the interior it’s personality; I can’t imagine what it looked like before they were added.  He dated the moldings by examine the joinery and edge shape.


As an aside, it seems like so much of the dating of things in his field has to do with everyone doing what is popular at that moment.  What happens when the individualistic folks do interior design?  I guess that by definition they are the exception.  And, though I like to think of myself as the quintessential upstream swimmer, I totally fell prey to the granite kitchen counter epidemic of the 2000’s so I guess we are all simple sheeple who go along with the herd.

barnWho wants to sit on my barn couch? And you thought my cellar was bad.

(You probably thought those window pictures were bad, but clearly the photography is just getting worse and worse)  There are multiple barns on the property.  The one next to the house was built around the same time as the house.  The main interior is a big open space with an old set of kitchen appliances, a derelict power wheelchair, and our collection of bikes, pool toys, golf clubs, etc.  The above picture is of one of the two “under rooms” (I’m sure there is a correct term but I have no idea what it is).  The preservationist kept referring to the barn as “significant” so I may stop thinking about it as the enclosure that houses our junk.
We have a giant industrial fan, which will come in handy in case we ever need to film a 1990’s style Nine Inch Nails video


The original “bathroom”, this tiny room in the barn would have contained a bucket.  I love that there’s still a mirror there.  Just in case you’d like to freshen up.


Every single porch column (and there are many) has been turned in to bird residences thank to woodpeckers.  Some of the holes are at head level and you can be standing outside, then there’s a rustle nearby and several birds will fly out of the columns.  Creepy.  I’m sure those Brazilian carpenters will have fun dealing with this.

tombstone (1)We had been told by some neighbors that some former owners (and, for a two hundred year old house I think it’s pretty cool that it’s on owner #3 or 4, depending on how you look at it.  The family name changed due to marriage but it was the same family for the first 175 years) that the marble paver at the base of our front stair was actually a stolen tombstone!  Leo and I have been discussing just how exactly to deal with this for weeks now.  It’s huge.  And marble.  And it’s very well buried in the ground.  So how should we get it up to see if there is writing on the reverse side without breaking it?  And, if it is a tombstone, how will we figure out which grave (now unmarked) it goes to?  These are home maintenance issues that just never came up in suburban Detroit.

So we asked about it.  As it turns out, the preservationist had done his doctoral thesis on the architectural reuse of gravestones (actually, the thesis title had about 40 words in it, my little mouse brain translated that into the above title).  So, in the entire world, there are probably only 1 or 2 other people who are qualified to tell us if this is a pilfered gravestone.  He said “no” which is 17 kinds of awesome as we never could exactly figure out the logistics in getting it up and returning it to it’s intended spot!

An official preservation plan is being written up right now, which I cannot wait to read.  He thought it was  a shoo-in for the National Register of Historic Places.  So the exterior paint continues to peel and the columns still have birds in them, but we are in fact moving forward on getting that fixed and getting it done correctly.


A photosafari through my cellar

This post is intended only for Mid-westerners and their westerly neighbors.  If you live in Vermont or New England or really anywhere East Coast, please leave now while you might have the tinniest modicum of respect for me.  If you continue you will likely say to yourself “that looks exactly like my cellar” and also “wow, she is really obnoxious and whiny” and you may never be able to look me in the eye again.


Just us flatlanders left?

I’ll continue.  A “basement” in Michigan is either finished (so a second family room) or unfinished (a place to store boxes, do laundry, and hide from tornadoes).  In Vermont, at least in a 200+ year old house, a cellar is where the mechanical stuff goes.  And also where one can keep one’s spider web collection.  And that’s it.  My only experience with an old cellar before moving to Vermont was that of the Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village which prepared me for this about as well as going to the French part of Epcot prepared me to visit France.



It all begins with the stairs.  It is impossible to descend the stairs without your head becoming completely covered in cobwebs.  I suppose it might be possible for me to dust or clean the stairway but I really cannot imagine having the time or inclination.  Ever.


Immediately to the right of the stairs is this lovely collection of pipes and faucets.  My home is “heated” (I use the term loosly as we are never actually warm, instead the “heat” is there mostly to keep our temperature ever so slightly above freezing) by radiator, baseboard heat, and also forced air.  Some rooms have all three, many rooms (every bedroom) has none.  Why three?  Why not simply expand one system?  I have no idea.  So maybe the faucets are radiator-related.  Maybe someone over the years just thought they looked nice.  I have no idea.


This is the oil tank.  In New England, people heat their homes with “oil heat” which is found deep under the ground in rare pockets where the remains of unicorns and fairies have decomposed in just the right conditions to create it.  It is priced accordingly.  The oil comes to our house via tanker truck and one must descend the horrible cobweb stairs periodically to manually read the oil heat tank level and then try to guess when the next $650 shipment should be ordered, usually monthly.  Yes.  $650 a month.  I’ve mentioned to many people here that it used to cost $120/month at the very most to heat my 5 bedroom home in Michigan but I’m pretty sure they don’t believe me.


Next to the tank is the “root cellar”.  That light bulb has long ago burnt out and, thanks to the flash on my phone, this is the first time I’ve ever seen inside.  Wondering what’s in that chest freezer from the 30s?  I dare you to open it.  No, really, I dare you.


The electrician thought that this might be the remains of the original cooking stove.  Can you imagine eating food that had anyway been prepared here?  Disgusting.  Please admire the loose and loamy dirt on the floor.  Our dirt here is almost pure clay, so why is this loamy?  Wait, don’t answer.  I’m better off not knowing.


A cheery window. I’d like to thank whoever decided to put the breaker box ALL THE WAY AT THE FAR END of the cellar.  Seriously.  Great idea.  Our house was wired for electricity in the 20s when people owned three electrical devices total and never updated so a breaker is tripped at least every other day when we dare to do things like run the dishwasher and have a light on at the same time.


I’m guessing this might have been a coal chute at some point.  Or not.


One of two tree stump stools, thoughtfully placed in case you want to sit down and really soak up the atmosphere down here.

So there you have it.  Please think of me and my poor basement-deprived children the next time you all go downstairs to watch a movie on the big screen.




Hey, look at that, I have a blog.  I nearly forgot.  I started selling at the farmers’ market (I think that’s where we left off) and then I started volunteering at the kids’ school two days a week and then we went to Maine.  So it’s been a busy time.

Maine was lovely, thanks for asking.  It’s 3.5 hours from our house and I’d never been before.  We rented a cottage near the beach in York and ate obscene amounts of seafood morning, noon, and night.  Leo and I had lobster rolls for breakfast twice.  Owen (who is allergic to shellfish) had mussels at every meal (they’re mollusks) and we managed not to sicken him with all the shellfish nearby.  Ice cream was consumed nightly.  Joe threw enough rocks into the ocean to raise sea levels globally by at least an inch.  Patrick carried around a pound of sand in his diaper wherever we went (ow).  It was lovely.


The house is actually getting towards being done.  I really didn’t think this day would ever come (which is funny because it’s only been a few months).  The upstairs bathroom still needs tile and I think we talked about a coat of paint on the pantry.  The outside of the house needs major attention but the inside is pretty close.


Before and after on the bathroom

Today the Vermont sales guy had a function to go to so we were short staffed.  Burlington has a little bit better sales than Rutland so I went there.  In Rutland I usually gave out 50 or so samples.  In Burlington I gave out 206 before I ran out of cups!  It was quite a day.  They were having a week-long jazz festival in the same park as the farmers’ market.  That started at noon so the last two hours of the market where nearly impossible to talk to people because of the extremely loud music.

I live near a woman who invented a type of rug punch (fascinating, no?)  After reading about her one night and then hearing multiple mentions of rug hooking, I got it in my head to try it out.  So I did.  It was a lot of fun (and I still have the other half of my 4 hour intro course to do) but it just killed my hands.  The hand surgeon had given me the steroid shots two weeks ago and they’ve already worn off which I think means that surgery is in my near future.  That also means that I probably should not sign up to spar in the next karate tournament (the only adult category is 18+.  Those 18yo whippersnappers should know they’ve dodged a bullet).  I could just compete in a different category, I suppose, but many of the forms popular with the ladies involve doing the splits or some sort of acrobatics and why oh why DON’T THEY HAVE A MIDDLE AGED CATEGORY BECAUSE I CAN’T COMPETE AGAINST TEENAGE GYMNASTS???

So, there you have it, from the farmers’ market to the structure of karate tournaments.  We still have 2.5 weeks of school left here before we move in to summer mode.  I still can’t decide if it will be more or less chaotic then.  I guess I’ll find out.


First day at the farmers’ market

I’m honestly not even sure how my selling whiskey at the farmers’ market came about.  I was bored, I remember saying that.  Not bored as in “I have nothing to do” (ha ha, quite the opposite really) more of a mental boredom where I am sick of doing the five million things I have to do.  So, somehow I fell in to selling whiskey (a product I am not overly familiar with).  I was told I could add my own products to the table too, and that’s right up my alley.

I decided that barbeque sauce was the expected product with whiskey and that seemed rather boring (and that’s what I’m avoiding) so I started with mustard.  I made a Dijon with whiskey instead of wine.  It was ok.  I also made a spicy sweet mustard with jalapenos and chipotles and whiskey.  That one came out quite well so I canned a batch.

Mustard still seemed a little boring.  I was looking for more (I realize that this entire line of thought would strike most as boring.  Other people sky dive or race cars or do stuff like that.  I turn to condiments for excitement.  So sue me.)  The inspiration hit when I was in the car: I’d do a donut, a WHISKEY DONUT, with bacon!

The first batch came out really, really tasty.  The whiskey gives it a wonderful warm nutmeggy sort of flavor and the bacon is subtle.  Perfect!


The market has to pre-approve all products and, unfortunately, I was too late for this week.  But next week will see me frying donuts at 5 in the morning on Saturday.  Living the dream!

I left the house at 7 in order to get to the market at 8 for set up.  It was pouring rain.  No lightening, luckily, but the rain was intense.  I managed to unload everything myself (I have carpel tunnel issues in both hands and need surgery so I was a little worried about that).

At 9am the market opened and I was offering whiskey tastes.  It was a very interesting crowd willing to drink whiskey in the am.  There were a few weather beaten old men, the sort I guess I would have expected.  But there were also several women who were enthusiastic fans, some younger and some older.  I guess whiskey is one of those things that appeals to a broad cross-section of society.  There were college kids (I carded them, all were born when I was in college and yet, by some cruel twist in the time-space continuum, were of legal drinking age.  I’m still trying to get that straight in my head).  There were seniors.  Men, women, upscale, and rough around the edges.  There was a group home whose residents seemed rather keen on sampling but the home staff shooed them away.  Even the old man with the face tattoos who had a nearby market table distributing free literature on keeping pet fish (I have no idea if or how he makes money doing that) was a fan.

Leo came with the kids around noon so we could switch off.  I was actually kind of sad to leave as things were really picking up.  I can’t wait to go back next week with my mustard and donuts.

Morning Glory Cookies

I like to celebrate the kids’ Saints feast days. “Like” means that it happens, oh, about 30% of the time (when I actually remember and have the energy). Owen’s Saint’s feast day is awkward because it’s right after his birthday and we’re all celebrated out by then. Mary’s is easy but also easy to put off because there are so many dates from which to choose. Patrick is a cinch to remember as St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty big deal, but it’s easy to fall into the corned beef and green beer trap (plus my Patrick is 1 so he’s a little young for green beer). So that leaves me with St. Joseph’s Day, which is today (May 1).

St. Joseph’s Day is apparently a big deal in Sicily. I love reading about all the recipes with olives and preserved fish and tomatoes. Unfortunately that would never fly here. I make all sorts of dishes for the family that I honestly think at least some people will like only to find myself begging and pleading with all four kids at the table to at least try it. So Sicilian food is out. And I’d already planned French dips for tonight. So I needed a dessert…I decided to make one, didn’t have the ingredients on hand for most so I made one up and it is AMAZING. I present to you…drumroll please…

St. Joseph’s Morning Glory Carpenter Square Cookies!

St. Joseph is often pictured carrying a carpenter square.  Unfortunately it also looks just like those weird sword weapons the orcs used in the Lord of the Rings.  Obviously, these cookies can be cut into any shape you like.  But I’m going the extra mile today.  He is, after all, St. Joseph the Worker.  If he was St. Joseph the Mail It In-er, it might be different.

St_ Joseph

Since we’re doing a mash-up of recipes, why not present it in a mash-up of styles?  I really like the Pioneer Woman’s blog and also Illustrated with Crappy Pictures.  So the following is an attempt at blow-by-blow picures like PW, but taken with my phone so…Crappy.


You want to use the smallest holes on the grater for this recipe.  Here’s the apple.  It’s starting to turn brown because Joe asked for apple cider, which I gave him, but he really meant apple juice and there was much back and forth over whether he would drink the cider.  Why do we have both juice and cider?  No idea.


The carrots are on top of the apples.  They look much happier, no?

20140501_130346Wring out the grated apple, carrot, and orange zest in a clean kitchen towel.  The juice is tasty and would cost you at least $3 at a Lebanese carryout place so wring over a glass if you so choose.  Wow, this looks like a hairball.  Stay with me, people, the results are AWESOME.

2014-05-01 14.03.32Cream the butter and brown sugar, add the hairball grated stuff and the rest of the ingredients.  Mix!

20140501_150919Hey look at that, the dough is almost the same color as my Harvest Gold counters.  That’s a karate cookie cutter, btw.  It looks like outline of a dead body all by itself though.  No one was murdered on top of my cookie dough.  Oh,btw, you really need sharp metal cutters to cut through the coconut.



I didn’t say they were gorgeous, I said they were DELICIOUS. Maybe carpenter squares aren’t the best shape.  I did the karate guys to hedge my bets.

2014-05-01 15.26.46

Joe ate more cookies than I am comfortable in publically admitting.  I  might have forgotten to tell the kids about the carrots in them.  No one noticed.


Morning Glory Cookies

1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
5 ounces salted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 medium carrot, finely grated
1/2 of a medium Granny Smith apple, finely grated
1 t vanilla
1 t ground cinnamon
zest of one orange

Mix the coconut, flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.

Place the grated apple, carrot and orange zest in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much juice as you can.  Stir the carrot, apple, and orange zest into the flour mixture, and mix until well coated and evenly dispersed. Stir the flour mixture and the remaining ingredients into the butter mixture until a dough forms, then knead a couple times to bring everything together. Split the dough in two, flatten each piece into an inch-thick patty, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees.

When you’re ready to bake the shortbread, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface 1/2-inch thick/1cm. Use a metal cutters to stamp out cookies, then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown just a bit.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on the size.




I’ve been suffering from a serious case of “meh” lately.  Maybe it was the 12 hour drive to and then again from Detroit for Easter break.  Or maybe it’s that it’s Spring and not nearly as cold, but still cold enough for a coat weather and seriously will I ever be warm again?  Or maybe it’s having a break and then going back to the grind.  Or the fact that I still have 8,456 boxes to unpack. For whatever reason, it’s “meh” all over here.

I decided that I couldn’t possibly put off potty training Joe any longer.  Potty training is – hands down – my least favorite parenting duty.  I started potty training Owen before his third birthday and it was a total disaster.  I was still recovering emotionally when Mary turned 3.  I put it off so long that she actually asked to potty train and that was that.  In one thousand years Joe probably wouldn’t think to ask so I put it off because we drove to Florida before Christmas.  Then we were about to move (the change would probably just make him regress, right?) then there was that drive to and from Detroit…

So that’s happening.  He is VERY motivated by candy (he demands “poop treats”, “pee treats” and even “fart treats” which are NOT A THING but he won’t believe me.  Hopefully we’ll be well established in this before the next 12 hour trip back to Michigan.

living room
I would add a before picture but can’t seem to find one right now.
Just know that it was bad.  Real bad.

My living room is box free!  Plus it contains a 6yo watching tv on the iPad who has thrown her dirty socks on the floor.  I’ll take that over boxes any day.  We shoved the coffee table to the side in order to practice karate there, which we do over the internet.  I probably should have bothered to put it back.  The books in the bookcase are a really odd mix of our college books, homeschooling books, kids’ easy readers, and cookbooks.  But I can sort them later, right?

I got all hopped up on homesteading blogs recently and decided to make face cream.  It actually turned out really well, better than the kind I had been using and much, much cheaper. It took all of 5 minutes maybe and now I feel totally self-sufficient, like I’m ready to shear my own sheep to make a sweater.  Directions here. Obviously it  smells like tea tree oil after you add the tea tree oil.  You probably put that together immediately.  I did not.

I’ve also decided to ferment a bunch of things after reading all those homesteading blogs.  The kids will just LOVE my new hobby, I just know it.  A family of 6 needs at least 3 or 4 kinds of sauerkraut, right?

The Rug

My husband has advised me that this “is boring”.  I like stories, especially old stories.  But, just in case you don’t, I recommend you scroll down to another post.  Or leave a comment telling him he’s wrong (pick #2! pick #2!).

Esther Lewis was something of an Addison County institution.  She came to Vermont back in the teens, as a child, with her parents.  They had been living in New York City but her mother, a Vermont native, longed for home.  They packed up their tiny apartment and took the train from New York, changing in Rutland to the Addison branch.

The population of Addison County didn’t really warrant a rail line of it’s own.  Instead the Rutland line was built as a link between New England and points West.  The Central Vermont Railway had already linked the Massachusetts line to Canada and the Rutland Railway would not stand by as they were boxed in.  So the Rutland built a link, over difficult terrain and at quite an extravagant cost, to run a train through a sparsely populated area whose residents could hardly afford a ticket.

After arriving at the East Shoreham station, the family piled in to grandfather’s wagon for a trip back to the farm.  It was springtime and the mud, thanks to the enormously high clay content, would ball around the wagon wheels until they arrived home nearly 3 times their original size.

The family settled in to the farm and Esther grew and eventually became a nurse.  As part of her occupation, Esther would visit and check in on many of Shoreham’s residents.  As the years went on the positions became reversed and the residents of Shoreham periodically checked in on the aging Esther.  She had never married and insisted on living in her parents’ farmhouse in much the same manner in which she was raised.  Modernity came to central Vermont but Esther didn’t much care for change.

Her stubborn insistence on living life exactly as it was in the 20s was also a facet of her appeal.  Neighbors would send their children over to check up on her and help her make soap or tie brooms, learning a dying skill in the process.  Esther saved all of her old clothes to be made in to rugs and it was rug making that 16 year old Jennifer Buchanan was sent over to learn.

Jennifer’s parents had grown up in Shoreham, occasionally being patched back together by Esther.  It was Esther that gave them their polio vaccinations.  Esther was even in the room when Jennifer’s mom got the news that she would become a mother.  So in part out of neighborly concern and in part to show their daughter a world before Walkmen and MTV, Jennifer was sent to Esther once a week.

Though initially unsure about Esther, the visits became highly anticipated by both parties.  Esther would bake a cake to share and Jennifer would often bring a treat such as apples, cheese, or even citrus fruit.  One day, Jennifer was held up after school at an Art Club meeting and, in an attempt to make up time, raced over to Esther’s farm.  Upon arriving, she asked to use the bathroom and was led out to the barn to find a tiny room with a bucket on the floor.  Jennifer always made a point of stopping by the bathroom at school before a trip to Esther’s after that.

One day Esther decided to show Jennifer the art of rug hooking.  She went out to the barn (the very same barn with the tiny closet and bucket) and came back with an armful of rags and an old burlap feed sack.  They carefully ripped the old clothes into tiny strips and sorted them by color.  The burlap feed sack was trimmed to a nice rectangle on which Jennifer drew the outline of a cat.  Over the weeks then months of the winter of 1991, Jennifer hooked the cat rug under the watchful eye of Esther.

Once the rug was complete, Jennifer gave it to Esther who proudly placed it on top of a trunk in her room, one of the very same trunks her parents had used to move from New York City.  Two years later, Jennifer left for college and five years after that Esther passed away peacefully at home having stubbornly refused all suggestions (no matter how strongly made) to give up farm life and move to the newly built nursing home in town.

Having no children of her own or really any blood relations left at all, Esther’s estate was to be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to the town library fund.  Jennifer, busy with her new life, didn’t hear about Esther’s passing for a week.  She asked her mother, still in Shoreham, to get that cat rug from the house so that she could have it as a souvenir to remind her of Esther.

The auction house had already cataloged the contents of the house by that point and Jennifer’s mother had to wait for the auction. Collectors and antiques dealers from all over New England (some even from as far as NYC) came for the auction.  Nearly 100 years worth of objects were in that house.  The barn alone contained 3 different butter churns and countless farming implements and equine accessories all destined to be hung on the walls of various chain restaurants to give them that “homey feel”.

When the cat rug came up, Jennifer’s mom was ready.  Unfortunately so were several New York City antiques dealers who didn’t see a teenager’s first rug hooking attempt from 1991 but an ancient piece of folklore whose original materials did indeed date from the 1930s.  Jennifer’s mom dropped out of the bidding after it passed $100; the rug eventually sold for $3,000.

Disappointed at not having a reminder of her time with Esther, Jennifer briefly contemplated a career hooking rugs as it might pay more than the $25,000 a year she was making as a junior assistant in the marketing department of a bathroom fixtures manufacturer. But she knew it would never be the same without Esther.


***This is a half-remembered story that was told at last month’s Shoreham Historical Society meeting.  Esther Lewis was a real person and the major milestones in her life above are true, at least as far as I can recall.  “Jennifer” stands in for the actual teenage girl whose name I cannot remember.

The Palm Sunday where feminine products rained from the sky

Apparently there are people who think “church is boring”.  That is never my problem.  Ever.  I have too many little kids.  I would LOVE it if church was actually boring; I could sit still, pay attention, maybe even learn something.  Instead, it’s chaos.  Always chaos.

Today is Palm Sunday.  The Catholic online world began steeling itself for Palm Sunday several days ago.  They hand out blessed palms at the beginning of Mass on Palm Sunday.  No child has ever not used these as weapons.  And so Palm Sunday is especially challenging for parents.

The town our parish is in has Easter break this week (our Easter break isn’t until next week) so there was no religious ed. before Mass.  That worked out perfectly as I planned on being a few minutes late to avoid getting palms until after church (I know, I know.  I do what I have to, to survive).  Unfortunately, we ended up being more than a moment or two late.  It was one of those mornings where both Leo and I were running around screaming things like “WHERE ARE THE BABY’S SHOES?” and “YOU MUST WEAR A SHIRT” (directed at a child.  Not Leo)

So we roll in right as the first reading starts.  The pews are full.  The kids are delighted that we have to sit in the balcony.  I hate the balcony.  There isn’t the public pressure to behave like you’d get in a normal pew.  The 3 year old thinks you can run around and the acoustics are such that it has a drum-like effect, amplifying every step.  The balcony is stressful.  But it was our only option.

So, I’m sitting in the balcony, 20 month old son on my lap.  The Palm Sunday Gospel is a participatory one so I have an open missal on my lap and I’m trying to follow along and keep the baby somewhat happy.  So I wasn’t really paying attention.  Something yellow flew passed my face.  It landed somewhere on the people below.

“What was that?” my husband asked.  “It was yellow.”

“I don’t know.”

We looked at each other.

Then I realized what it was.

Yellow.  About 3″ x 4″.  Lightweight.  “60% more absorbent.” “With wings”

That was an Always Regular that flew over the balcony.

I looked down.  The head usher was directly below us.  Everyone was at the most solemn part of one of the most solemn Masses of the year. “Let Him be crucified!” everyone read.  I turned bright red.  Stifled a laugh.  Leo was trying hard to keep it together.  The usher guy had been hit in the head with a maxi pad during the gospel.

Luckily I was too busy keeping kids in order to really be as embarrassed as I should be.  I found the pad, well under the balcony so I know there’s no way it fell there, on the same table with the blessed palms.  I grabbed it as surreptitiously as I could.  And tried to comport myself like I knew nothing about it.

And thus ends another non-boring Mass.  I can only hope Easter is closer to boring.

The 6 year old in the pink dress is really a liquor salesmen

It all ends with Mary, age 6, walking in to the Farmers’ Market this morning and demanding to know “Do you sell liquor here?”

Mary is the entrepreneur of the kids.  She is always looking to make a buck.  She doesn’t much like spending money (not more than any other kid, I guess) but she’s nuts for making it.  That all sounds like a great attribute in a kid but, when I ask for her help, half the time she wants to know the pay upfront and gets a little pouty when I tell her “nothing”.

When we first were considering the move to Vermont, Mary’s first reaction was “I’m going to have a roadside farm stand!”  She hasn’t forgotten this in the intervening months and, on the first nice day, she broke ground.


The whiskey company that Leo works for has toyed with the idea of having a table at the local farmers market.  They have many vegetable beds at their farm and could easily supply enough to sell.  Mary picked up on that and it was a done deal, at least to her.

I’m not sure how we started talking about her selling the actual whiskey, but that was mentioned.  Leo’s boss told her that she’d get a $5 commission per bottle.  Her eyes got wide.  “How many people are there at the Farmers’ Market?”  She was adding it up.  The train had already left the station and it was all over.

As she was going to bed, I tried to temper the excitement: “Honey, I don’t think they allow liquor sales in the Farmers’ Market”.  “But maybe, maybe they do!” she countered.  “And, if they did allow liquor sales, they wouldn’t let 6 year olds sell it”. “Let’s check it out together tomorrow”.

It was a plan.  Let the powers-that-be break my daughter’s heart!  I’m not proud of my parenting decisions but being the bad guy All. The. Time. gets old.

So, this morning, we headed out to the Farmers’ Market.  It just so happened that we were a little early so we stopped at the Otter Creek Bakery, you know, just to kill time (I didn’t pad in an extra 20 minutes on purpose, promise).  I’m in love with this place.  Seriously.  It is teeny-tiny and yet they have such an incredible variety of things (all yummy).  I got a cappuccino, adorned with a C (which I’d like to think was for me but is more likely for Cappuccino) and an almond croissant with orange zest.  Mary had an apple strudel and a hot chocolate.  It was amazing.  I love that place.


Middlebury Love cookies (that’s a green frosting heart right over Middlebury)

Then we hit the Farmers’ Market.  And Mary walked in, demanding to know if they sold liquor.  The guy she asked didn’t seem nearly as startled as I imagine I might be.  The winter market is in an elementary school and the guy thought that, that alone would probably mean the answer is no.  He thought it might still be possible for the summer market, though.  So thank you, Farmers’ Market Dude, for keeping my six year old daughter’s liquor selling dreams alive.  Hopefully the whiskey company lawyer (Leo) can do a little research on that on before Memorial Day. And then he can break her heart.  In the meantime, we’ll be developing alternate business plans.