November 2010


At the end of November, you might think I was talking about
the weather. But no, we have been gifted with day after day
of sunny skies and gentle temperatures….with the
occasional lovely rainy day thrown in for good measure.

No, it is me who is changeable…unsettled…fickle.

Forsaking my quiet coffee shop refuge (where I have
passed many afternoons during all these months of town
days) for a noisy and bustling one (and then longing for
the quiet again-sort of).

Feeling overwhelmed and overwrought with the
construction and change going on a-pace, but
loving my newly-finished studio space.

(view through my old studio door to the hole in the
western wall where my paper closet used to reside)

Wanting to re-arrange the furniture, but
wanting everything to stay the same and familiar.

Aching with loneliness sometimes and, yet,
wanting more and more solitude.

I must be a bit of a challenge to live with
these days, I am thinking.

It all came to a crisis last night when my
long-awaited cooker was installed in our kitchen.
My history of cooking appliances is this:

As a child I experienced a variety of avocado,
harvest gold and brown ranges and cooktops
(did we all?).

As a young woman-on-my-own it was
various funky white vintage cookers
in the little apartments and houses
I rented (the best era!)

As a newlywed, I inherited a harvest gold
range which was quickly replaced with a $100
bisque electric range-used. And the past 23 years
have seen that used electric bisque range replaced
with two others-almost exactly alike in looks
and price.

When the latest bisque range began to expire
(first the large burner, then the broiler, then
the oven-I have been learning the joys of only
stovetop cookery the past two months!), I
decided that it was finally time to buy something
good….something new….something not a
used bisque range.

I had tried this before, but I was unfortunate
enough to fall under the spell of the AGA many
years ago (I can’t remember exactly when…tho’ it
may have been around the time Rosamunde Pilcher
wrote The Shell Seekers) and anything that I
could afford just never came close…so another
used bisque range would be found while I
waited for the appliance industry to catch
up to my tastes (which they have yet to do,
mind you).

(quickly snapped photo of the AGA shop we passed by
in Edinburgh on a very weary walk from the train station
to our b&b last May)

So this go-round, after I determined that there was
nothing attractive available to me in the US under
the price of $10,000 (!), I decided it was time to fashion
my own cooker…heart of the kitchen…AGA substitute.
I found a simply elegant wall oven at Ikea (matte
black with knobs-not beeping digital buttons) and a black
cooktop, and a skilled and creative carpenter-friend
to build a cupboard to house them both. It would be
solid and mouse-proof….

…all my domestic heart could wish for in a cooker
(except that it isn’t an AGA). After weeks of waiting for
the cooktop to arrive (back-ordered and back-ordered
and back-ordered), it all came together on Sunday.
There was some hopping and clapping of hands…to
see my vision finally brought to reality (with lots of
hard work from my husband and our friend), but
strangely, after the clean-up and when I was left to
myself, I felt only nervous and bereft.

I left the big, black New Cooker in the kitchen
and curled up on the living room sofa for awhile
and then took a bath…hoping to dispel the bleakness.
Then I pulled myself together and went back into
the kitchen to make friends. The kettle boiled quickly
and merrily and I was starting to warm up to the
Behemoth when I began to experiment with preheating
the oven….and just after I twirled the knob into place and
pressed a little button…a fan came on…a loud fan! Now
I knew this oven had convection capabilities, but I didn’t
know that modern ovens run the fan ALL of the TIME
(to protect the precious electronics, don’t you know-
thank you internet). So the cloud descended again.
Noise is so trying and I was simply shocked to realize that
a favorite activity-baking-which has been a very quiet
one all of my life, would from this day forward always be
not-quiet. I still can’t quite take this in….but wait, there
is hope of an AGA in my future….yes? A silent AGA.
I shall cling to that.

If you have read to the end of this post
(and therapy session), you deserve a medal…
or atleast a cup of tea and a homemade
scone-courtesy of my Huge Shiny Noisy
new cooker. A cooker I will, no doubt, come
to love and treasure…

…once these ruffled days smooth out…

…or even sooner (she humbly admits). For this cooker
bubbled and browned a very nice cauliflower cheese
this evening.

living out of a suitcase

We all do it for a day or two or several,
but I have had the pleasure for ten months now.

When my mom fell down the stairs on Christmas Eve and came
to live with us sooner than we had expected (or prepared for),
as soon as we came home from the emergency room, my
husband’s and my downstairs bedroom became hers. We
moved up to my away-at-college son’s room under the eaves.
Just enough room for a double bed, one small dresser (for my
husband!) and a foot and a half or so of empty space
in front of the bookshelves.

That foot and a half, a vintage suitcase with lustrous
brown lining, red grosgrain ribbons (and the heart-
provenance of it accompanying my mother-in-law to both
boarding school and college) sitting on a bench, an Ikea
shoe rack, my dressing table and a basket for my socks
and tights…and life has been sweetly simplified the since
January. I do have a little closet for my dresses
and skirts just down the hall.

When the building is done and we can move back
downstairs, I am seriously considering the continued
living-from-a-suitcase and might fill my dresser with linens
instead of clothes. We have no linen closet, very few closets at all
in our very old house, and I like dipping into my silky brown
suitcase at dressing-time.

I have been working away at the uncluttering of our
, and have made many spots of clearness. But at the
moment, we are surrounded by too many piles and I realize
that my ambitions have been a bit unrealistic. I believe that the
coming holidays have been pushing me along, tho’ I didn’t
realize it until today. It is so hard to resist, that desire to have
everything Just So, but I am going to try. Tomorrow, I will
make a list of the things that will make me happiest to
have done before our Solstice-Christmas gathering and see
if I can’t accomplish them in a very part-time way in the
weeks to come.

It is easy for me to become a bit consumed by projects,
but then I miss out on little pleasures….so I am trying to
shift my attitude from a Getting Things Done one to one
expressed on the dust jacket of my latest read
Around the House and in the Garden
by Dominique Browning
(thank you for the recommendation, Julie!)

“…an insightful and moving narrative about
the solace and sense of self that can be found
through tending one’s home.”

That is more like it.