Friday, October 23, 2020

No Time Like the Present, the Salem Edition

 

Salem bound!

On October 2, Ed and I traveled to Salem, MA to see an apartment. We couldn't help ourselves. Earlier that week, I spoke to the realtor from Taché and she sent over a listing that checked off nearly every box on our apartment "wish list." It was the right location, right amount of rooms, has designated storage and laundry, and is the right price. After some deliberation, Ed and I agreed: what the hell are we waiting for? What's the difference between moving in the Spring and moving now? So, we booked a room and drove to Salem to look at it. Yes, in the middle of a pandemic. We wore masks and changed them regularly. We washed our hands constantly, used hand-sanitizer, and took an overabundance of caution.

Ed and I in Salem, MA. October 2020

One week later we packed the car with some supplies, our air mattress and sleeping bags, and a bunch of boxes .... and signed the lease for the place. We were able to spend the weekend in our new Salem apartment! Yes, you read that right: WE ARE MOVING TO SALEM RIGHT NOW!!! We aren't waiting for the Spring. We aren't spending a whole lot of time planning this. We decided, WHAT THE HELL! There's no time like the present.

Our living room
The apartment is really a two story townhouse that was built in 1945. There are two bedrooms and an additional room on the first floor that Ed will use as his office. There's an eat-in kitchen, a second floor deck, and a HUGE basement area with laundry facilities. The space in each room is a little wonky and we will need to make some sacrifices. For example, there's no room for my current dining room table and chairs. We simply can't take them with us! The living room might need some innovative organizing. And the kitchen! Boy, is it dark in there. It's going to need a power strip for additional plugs and some kind of lighting. There's definitely an IKEA trip in our near future.

The door in my office out to the deck. Bijou is going to LOVE this.

Our immediate neighbors are both chefs and work crazy hours. They don't ever seem to be home and are quiet ... so far. We are located on a busy street, but we're confident that we can drown out the noise with thermal, soundproofing curtains. We've been shopping around for curtains that we can use year round and that also block out the light. There's a lumber yard across the street that keeps its lights on all night. These curtains should do the trick. I mean, it's not NYC busy -- the traffic dies down pretty early and the nights seem to be really quiet. 

On the deck with our gloriously huge Sweet-gum tree behind me
We didn't think we'd be able to get three bedrooms in our price point and were happily surprised that this place has a bonus room. We now both have our own separate offices. My office is on the second floor and is the only access to the deck! WAHOO! I can move my morning coffee, work, and art making to the deck! HELL YEAH! And there's enough room to grow plants, so we'll have a mini-garden and lots of flowers next Summer. Of course, Bijou is going to LOVE the glass-paned door leading out to the deck. She's going to have fun watching the squirrels and birds hopping around on the deck.



Our views are typical for the area. Unlike Downtown and the surrounding area, Mack Park tends to have more space between the houses and much more backyard space. The houses tend to lean more towards the 19th to mid-20th centuries, including plenty of Colonial Revival Sears styles and Craftsman styles. There are a few older homes peppered here and there. We really like the area, so much so, that we'd consider buying a house there. Yes, that's the goal. 

Our First Meal in the New Place: pasta

We were able to have our first meals in our new place that weekend. As usual, we had pasta for our first dinner. The above photo shows just how small the eat-in area is! We're getting a small table that will fit four people comfortably. If and when we get to have folks over for dinner, we'll figure it out. I think we can get six in that space without much fuss. 

Marblehead.

Yes, the townhouse is quirky and somewhat wonky. Yes, this move is going to be hard work and stressful. But you know what? We'll be moved in before Yule, maybe sooner, and we'll be ringing in the New Year in a place that we've wanted to move back to for 20 years. We'll finally be home were we belong. Hell, if I can look at these sights for the rest of my life, I'll be very happy.

It's time.
Let Pack-a-Polooza begin! WAHOO! This just feels so right on so many levels! Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Change Is in the Air

 


The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many.... September is dressing herself in showy dahlias and splendid marigolds and starry zinnias. October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception.  
~Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894), "Autumn," The Atlantic Almanac, 1868

A Most Merry Autumn to You, my dear, dear readers! I, for one, am thrilled that the burnt orange season is upon us. Here in Staten Island, NY, the trees are just starting to change and the squirrels are frantically gathering nuts for the coming winter. By the looks of their fluffy tails and how busy they are, we might be in for a cold and snowy season. The weather has turned surprising cool these last few weeks, especially at night. We haven't had to turn on the air conditioner the entire month of September! This is unusual for NYC where it doesn't start getting chilly until October. I'm not complaining, mind you. We've been able to leave our windows open and have been cuddling under a light quilt at night. It's been glorious!

Mask ordered from Modern Millie, Salem MA.

Change is everywhere we look these days. From the gorgeous changing landscape to the hair on my head, I have deeply and utterly embraced change this year. Maybe it's my age or maybe it's the pandemic ... or both ... but I've been acutely aware of my mortality. Turning 48 in the middle of a pandemic that has killed 204,000 Americans at the time of writing this blog post can really make you introspective. Considering the ages of my parents and grandparents when they died, I have between 20 and 45 more years left to live. I don't want to waste my time on things that don't make me happy and fulfilled. I don't want to waste my time on people who make me miserable or who use me for their own personal gain. I don't want to waste my time working on other people's projects. And I certainly don't want to live in a place that makes me utterly miserable. 

High Rock Park, Staten Island, on Mabon

I am in my Croning and it feels wonderful. I thought I was free-spirited and badass before. HA! I am in the process of becoming a raw and more powerful version of myself. These past few months have forced me to focus on what really matters and I have to say, it's been liberating. I really like who I am becoming. I want to get to know this person. I want to treat her gently and take care of her. I want to nourish her heart and soul as she embarks on this new adventure into the Autumn of her life.

The first bits of orange and red spotted on Mabon

The significance of Mabon and its meaning was not lost on me this year. Usually, I celebrate it as a yearly fact of life. This year it was deeply personal. AOliver Wendell Holmes stated in his essay for The Atlantic Almanac, 1868, these first bits of color are akin to the first gray hairs on my head. Like the landscape around me, my own Autumn is beginning. And like the trees in Autumn, I am determined to spend the next 20 to 45 years filled with raucous color and excitement. 

Mabon afternoon sun caught in the oak trees

With all that said, Ed and I have decided to move to Salem, MA early next year. I've already reached out to realtors and I've been applying to all sorts of fun jobs in my field and somewhat outside of my field. We lived in Salem in 1998-2000 and moved back to NYC to take care of my Mom, who was becoming more fragile. Our move back home also allowed me to finish my graduate work. We always regretted moving back to NYC. Whelp, it's time to find our forever home in the place that we feel happiest -- Salem. Just writing those words is making me smile. Salem! Good grief, I can't wait to be home! I can't wait to watch the boats come in and out of the harbor. I can't wait for our first snow storm! And my first cup of chowder. sigh ... Salem. 

The last gasp of Summer.

Even though I am applying for jobs, I am also writing a business plan for my own gallery. I have no idea if this will come to fruition, but it's worth the exercise. I'd like to carry rare books, prints, illustrations, and other ephemera. I already have an idea of what my first exhibition would look like! We'll see. I have a few people to contact to get some advice about this and I will be virtually attending business classes at the NYPL. 

Where the Earth Meets the Sky

I am a firm believer in True Will. I honestly believe that, if I'm where I should be and doing what I am meant to do, everything will fall into place. These past few years have felt like I was struggling against the Universe and my own Will ... never a good thing. The minute we put these plans into action, everything started to fall into place. Yes, it's going to be a challenge to move to another state ... again. Yes, it will be in the middle of the Winter and early Spring. Yes, there might be snow. But we will be in the place we adore. Everything will fall into place. I just know it.

Very happy that we get to grow old together.

Yes, this is the season of change and change is glorious!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

In Front of the Screen: What I Wear while Teaching Online



Tuesday's Teaching Outfit

The other day I had a student comment that I always look so nice even though I'm teaching online from home. She wondered if I only "dressed up" my upper body and if I was actually wearing pajamas or leggings on the bottom half. I think she and the entire class was floored when I stood up in front of the camera. Not only was I wearing a skirt, but I had on shoes. Sure, they were Converse sneakers, but I would normally wear those to teach anyway. I like to get to know my students and I tend to spend some time before class casually talking about their interests, majors, etc. By this time in the semester they start asking me questions about my interests and life, so it didn't surprise me to get this question. What did surprise me was their reaction to what I was wearing. Immediately, they wanted to know why I got all dressed up to sit in front of a computer screen to teach. It was a good question and a very good teaching moment about working from home and professionalism. 

Cutest skirt ever!

I'll be honest, I wasn't always good at getting up in the morning and dressing for the day if I was working from home. I got into some bad habits when I was in grad school, especially when I was writing my dissertation. I spent a good amount of time teaching or in the library. However, I did work at home quite a bit and I very rarely showered or changed out of my pajamas until mid-afternoon. This habit only continued when I was teaching at Texas A&M. My online classes were asynchronous, so I didn't need to appear before a live, virtual class. If I didn't need to be in the classroom or office, I spent my days in pajamas or loungewear.

What my students see in virtual class.

When we moved back to NYC in 2018, I vowed to eat breakfast and get showered and dressed before starting my day. I was tired of feeling sloppy and unprepared. I might not wear makeup every day, but I certainly do my hair and wear real clothes, even if its jeans and a t-shirt. I also try to wear real shoes, usually Converse or comfortable flats. When I don't, I slip into my LL Bean woolen clogs because they have a good amount of support. While I do walk around in bare feet, I find that my back and knees hurt if I don't wear shoes once in a while.

It's very rare you'll see me online without my glasses!
I can't see anything up close and that includes the computer screen.

Am I always successful at getting up and dressed in a timely manner? No. Do I always get fully dressed when I'm teaching online or meeting with people? Yes. ALL THE TIME. As I explained to my students, I am technically working and therefore, it's only proper to be professionally dressed. It makes me feel good and it puts me into the mindset to lead a class. Furthermore, it's a sign of respect for my students. Sure, I know that they're wearing pajamas or comfy clothes, and that's fine. I don't require them to show their video and most of them don't. However, I do share my video and it's only right to present myself professionally. It makes our class time feel more official and that makes a world of difference in the tone of the class.

What's actually behind the grey screen.

Like most of my colleagues and students, I am working in a room that does double duty as my office and bedroom. When Ed and I moved into this apartment, I gave him the second bedroom for his office. After all, I was still going to work and had assumed I would continue to do so. COVID-19 had other plans for us. Since I am teaching synchronously this semester, I bought an inexpensive screen toblock the view of my bedroom behind me. I'm not comfortable with my students or colleagues seeing my bed, bookcases, and altar! As Tim Gunn famously says, "Make it work!" So I did.


You might have noticed that my hair is considerably lighter and my bangs are starting to get longer. I lifted most of the black dye out of my hair with Extra Strength Oops. The ends of my hair are still darkish, but they aren't black anymore. What I am doing? No clue. I just know that black dye doesn't stay in my hair anymore. Within three weeks I'm grey at the roots and the color has washed out to a really dark brown. What's the point? I'm just leaving it alone and letting it grow. I don't have any plans for my hair except that I really, really want to be able to put it up in a ponytail. *shrug* I have no empowering proclamation of going grey, BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! It just feels ... right. As far as my bangs are concerned, I've had the same hairstyle for YEARS. I think it's time for a change. I'm just going to grow it all out and then find myself a good stylist. Until then, hair clips, bobby pins, combs, and hair bands are my best friends. 

How do you dress for working remotely? Are you a pajamas kind of person? Leggings? Or professional clothing? Do you wear makeup? 

The Run Down
Skirt and top: Unique Vintage, last year
Sweater: Macy's, last year
Shoes: Hot Chocolate Designs, last year
Bat stud earrings: Alchemy Gothic, gift from Ed
Moon necklace: Coven's Cottage, Salem, MA
Moon earrings: QVC

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Halloween Hunt: The First and Only Haul of the Season


Four foot "porch sitter" from Target with plush kitty. Pillows from past years.

Hello everyone! Hello! I have to apologize for falling off the face of this blog for a month. While I'm an old pro at teaching in the classroom and asynchronously online, this whole synchronous online teaching thing is new to me. So far it's going well. For the most part everything is well-planned and the technology is cooperating. However, it's my first semester conducting synchronous online learning and the prep work is time consuming. By the time I catch my breath, it's time to start the week all over again! Things are finally starting to settle down around here and I suspect I'll have a nice "rhythm and flow" going in no time. 

As you know, we weren't quite sure if we were going to do any in-person Halloween shopping this year. Even though Covid cases have dropped dramatically in NYC, Ed and I haven't been taking any chances. A few weeks ago, I speculated that the only shopping we would do was online and proceeded to post images of what we ordered from Target's website. In mid-August we decided to mask up and head to Michael's and HomeGoods to see how we felt about it. I'm happy to report that Michael's was a marvelous experience. Everyone was wearing masks, keeping their distance, and following the rules. HomeGoods, not so much. We ran out of there and haven't returned! We've been back to Michael's twice and were lucky enough to snag a few nice pieces. We also went to Spirit Halloween where we bought some Hocus Pocus merchandise. And finally, though totally unrelated to Halloween stuff, we ventured into Trader Joe's! Granted, we initially went to scout for pumpkin spice yummies, but we ended up doing our food shopping. It was SO nice to be able to pick out our own produce again. The store wasn't really crowded and everyone wore masks. The TJ's employees were extraordinarily helpful, understanding, and kind. SO YAY! Trader Joe's! We'll be back.

TARGET:

Vulture from Target

"Hide & Eek" mantel pumpkin with mini light-up figurines from Target

Besides the four foot, felt skeleton and kitty shown at the beginning of this post, we bought a bunch of things online from Target. I featured our purchase in THIS POST, so I'm not going to repeat myself. However, I do want to point out that the quality of Target's Halloween stuff is only getting better! The felt skeleton, matching wreath (not pictured), kitty, and vulture are well-made and look like they can withstand some use. The stitching and details, though simple, are just about perfect. The vulture is a lot like the crows from the past few years. They are balanced and can sit on their own feet without propping. 

"Hide & Eek" mini mantel figurines from Target

Last year, Target introduced wooden, mini mantel figurines to their "Hide & Eek" line. Our Target got this line very late in the season and we were only able to get two sets. This year they released a bunch for pre-order. As tempted as I was to buy all of them, I restrained myself. I only purchased the pumpkin scene and this adorable pirate set. I wanted Ed to have the pirate set to display with his plushy octopus/squid and Cthulhu collection.

MICHAEL'S

Blow molds from Michael's

Michael's has been "hitting it out of the park" with their Halloween offerings the last few years. They seem to be concentrating on two main themes:Vintage-inspired Halloween and Halloween Magic. They did something similar last Christmas with the reintroduction of the ceramic Christmas tree and the light up blow molds. I couldn't help myself! I absolutely had to get these vintage-inspired plastic blow mold figures. Sadly, they don't light up; however, their vintage vibe goes great with our growing collection of antiques.

Kitty and Pumpkin Man from Michael's

Pumpkin Man and Gate from Michael's

Kitty and Pumpkin Man from Michael's

These adorable plaster and paper Kitty and Pumpkin Man figures also have a very vintage vibe. If you've been following me for a while, you know that I have a thing for for Victorian Halloween imagery, specifically those on greeting cards and other printed ephemera. Decorations and party favors from the first half of the 20th century also interest me. I haven't started to collect these antiques yet, mostly because I just haven't had the opportunity to do so and because I don't have the room to properly care for and display them. However, I do collect objects inspired by the older aesthetic. I have a bunch of these plaster figures that were inspired by older examples because they're just easier to care for!

Palmistry Sign from Michael's

For the last three years, Michael's Magic-inspired collection has featured all sorts of divination and witchy-themed stuff. Some of it looks schlocky, but some of it -- like this palmistry light-up sign -- is well-made and well-designed. They also seem to be focusing on Salem, MA themed signs and paraphernalia. I have a lot to say about that, but will wait for later posts to do so. Yes, Salem had witch trials. Yes, modern day witches and pagans live in Salem. NO! That's not the only cool thing about the town! Holy smokes, I have TONS to say about this. But for now, back to my Halloween Haul. 

SPIRIT HALLOWEEN:


Hocus Pocus POP! Pez for Spirit Halloween

For a bunch of folks, Spirit Halloween is the place to get all things creepy and gory. For us, it's the place to grab exclusive Hocus Pocus stuff! I don't collect POPS!, but I do have a few. For example, I have the Addams Family POPS!, David Bowie as Jareth, Professor McGonagall, Mary Poppins, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Iggy Pop (yes, it's an Iggy Pop POP! HAHAHAHAHA!), and two different versions of the Sanderson Sisters. Billy Butcherson is on order ... and I couldn't resist these Sanderson Sisters POP! Pez. Aren't they adorable? Real collectors would have a heart attack because I take my POPS! out of the boxes to display them. I'll probably do the same with these. And I HAVE TO eat the candy!

Billy Butcherson and Emily Binx Tombstones from Spirit Halloween

Billy Butcherson Tombstone from Spirit Halloween

Emily Binx Tombstone from Spirit Halloween

The coolest Hocus Pocus merchandise at Spirit this year are these tombstones for Billy Butcherson and Emily Binx. Like most weird, spooky Goth kids, I like graveyards. However, I have a deep, scholarly interest in Colonial American stones. I've always loved how both of these stones refer to Colonial gravestone imagery, but don't copy it. These feel like a heavy plastic and I'm sure they were meant to be bookends ... well, that's what they're going to be used as!

YANKEE CANDLE:

Ghost tea light holder from Yankee Candle

Besides four candles (I had a "buy two get two free" coupon), all I bought from Yankee Candle this year is this ghost. It's a good size, however, I think it's plastic, which isn't a good material for candles. Usually, candle holders of any kind are made from ceramic, glass, or metal. This is kind of surprising, especially from a company whose only product is candles. I've been really disappointed with Yankee Candle Company since they were bought by some big candle company. The quality of the Halloween stuff has gone down and the candle smells are questionable. I still love their Harvest candle and will always buy the majority of their Fall food and spice candles, but that's the extent of it.

RANDOM FUN STUFF:

CANDY!!!

Of course no Halloween Hunt would be complete without loading up on CANDY!!! This was the first Halloween Candy Haul of the year. We did buy two more bags of candy corn/harvest mix in the last few weeks, but that's about it. I'm showing incredible restraint because I can eat my own weight in candy corn! More on why I'm not in a later post. 


Of course it's Pumpkin Spice Season! I know a lot of folks don't really like pumpkin or pumpkin spice anything, but we do. And yes, that includes Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Lattes. This was our first time getting Starbucks since March, so you can imagine how special this moment was for me. We've only had one additional PSL since our first one pictured here. We agreed that it would be safer to pour the drinks into our own travel cups. I'm not comfortable with putting my mouth on anything someone else might have touched or coughed on! *shudder*


Squishy Squishables

And finally, Ed bought me these two fabulous Squishables ... just because. Yes, one is a frog and the other is a PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE! Hehehehe ... sooooooo cute. 

We have one more Halloween order coming from Joann's ... that's what I get for going to the website to order four skeins of yarn for the hooded scarf I want to knit! Stay tuned.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

August Madness

 

An Outing to Michael's to Scout Out Halloween Goodies

Hello, my friends! Hello! Whelp, that's it. As of tomorrow morning, the Summer is officially over for me and the Fall 2020 semester begins. More on that in my next post. 

Let's face it, it's been a really weird, bittersweet, kind of okay, kind of shitty Summer. Like everyone else on this planet, Covid-19 canceled our Summer plans. We couldn't go camping or to Salem, and all of the concerts and outings were canceled -- no Bauhaus, no Dead Can Dance, and no 1920s picnic. The museums, zoos, and aquariums were all closed. Coney Island was closed. Hell, NYC was closed. Besides a few responsible (socially distanced with masks) gatherings with four of our friends, we pretty much stayed inside.

We've had to venture out to the dentist, doctor, and pharmacy. We also ventured out two weeks ago for Ed's birthday. Ed wanted to do something "normal," so we masked up and went to Michael's when it opened at 9:00 AM. Unfortunately, the didn't really have their Halloween stuff out yet. I managed to score a black Halloween tree on sale, but that's about it. I'm happy to report that there was hardly anyone there and those who were there wore their masks correctly. Our next stop was Home Goods. UGH. Yes, they had Halloween stuff out. No, we didn't buy anything. Matter-of-fact, we ran out of there as fast as we could! They were super crowded, folks weren't social distancing, and some people were wearing their masks incorrectly (not covering their nose or under their chin). It's sad because they had some more of the Royal Stafford skull dinnerware. More than likely we won't be returning this season. We will definitely hit Michael's again this Friday and we're going to Spirit Halloween. SQUEE!

A Very Happy Ed

Back to Ed's birthday ... the Birthday Boy wanted pancakes and bacon for dinner. I always use Bisquik for my pancakes and I just spice them up with cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, clove, vanilla extract, and a sprinkle of sugar. We're partial to super fluffy pancakes, as you can see from the above photo. 

Cooking, yet again.

I've been doing a crap load of cooking because we haven't been eating out. We've had take out three times, all in the last month. We canceled Hello Fresh because it's too damned expensive to keep getting the wrong ingredients or rotten produce. Instead, I've been riffing on the Hello Fresh recipes, especially the vegetarian ones. 

My riff on a Hello Fresh recipe: Farro and Roasted Vegetable bowl.
This kind of food makes me excited and happy.

I've been reading Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Intuitive eating and the anti-diet movement have been pushed as doctrine by the "health at every size" and "fat positive" adherents. It has also been demonized by the health and diet industry for IE's tenants of eating what you want and as much as you want until you are satisfied. I think that both camps are correct in their assessments of intuitive eating. However, FOR ME, IE has been very helpful. It's helped me understand the reasons why I eat certain foods even though I don't really like them (heritage, family tradition, assumptions that the food is healthy). It's also helped me understand my own fullness and hunger signals. I'll discuss this in a future blog because I think it's important, so stay tuned. 

Make a wish!

Of course the Birthday Boy got an ice cream cake! I ordered this delicious beast from Amazon Fresh. The cake is comprised of two HUGE chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream sandwiched in the middle. 

It's GORGEOUS!

The cake was one, big Chipwich! Ice cream is a treat in this house, even more so now that we need to remember to order it with our Amazon Fresh or Wholefoods orders! 

Quarantine Dance Party: "Attending" Heroes

Ed's birthday fell on a Friday this year and that meant we were able to virtually attend our favorite Cambridge, MA 80s dance party, Heroes. When we lived in Salem, MA, we religiously attended the Goth night on Wednesdays and 80s night on Saturdays at ManRay. We're thrilled that we can still dance the night away to DJ Chris Ewen's righteous sets. Granted, it's a little different nowadays. I can't chat with Terri, my favorite bar witch! And we need to watch out for our resident furry speed bump, Bijou. One day we will be living in Salem and we'll be able to attend Heroes in person. Until then, virtual dance nights will have to do.




Ah Bijou! She's growing into that long body, long legs, and huge paws! Petite miss, my butt! This kitty is getting big and fast. She's lovable, sweet, athletic, and quite a clown. It's been fun watching her become an independent, curious, and adventurous kid. Even though she's poking around by herself, she always comes to hang out with us when we're hanging out on the couch or getting ready for bed. She LOVES belly rubs ... even more so than Moo. She's been rubbing our legs and lets me kiss her head. What a doll!



I'd be lying if I said we weren't stir crazy! August has been a particularly difficult quarantine month. After five months of staying inside, we're climbing the walls. At least we're crazy together! HA! I have a feeling that this Fall is going to be canceled, too. sigh. Ah well. At least I have my Ed and Bijou, the Noodle Kitty.

Until next time!