the more things change


So we're having a bit of work done around the place. 

At least the street is.  And what a process it has been. 


These blue pipes have been lined up in a field at the end of the street for months.  All summer.  Our friend Zach yells "BLUE PIPES!" every time his car goes past.  Then one day the BLUE PIPES marched to the end of the street, and slowly, slowly they've been making their way back down, underground.  Jean, Zach's mom, and I would take him on walks, and she'd stop in front of the ginormous holes, and say things like, "See the shovel Zach?  Look at all the dirt." Man that took me right back to Callum's toddler-hood.  We had a big digging-up-the-street project in front of our condo when he was Zach's overnight project.  That was a big deal.  Every night after dinner we'd pop Callum in the wagon, put his plastic construction cap on and go check on the progress.  The guys would stop their work (any excuse, I suppose) and tell us what was happening, and I'd say things like, "See the big shovel, Callum?  See all the dirt?"  I don't have conversations like that with him anymore.

Anyway, after weeks of steady progress, these guys got to our block.  By trash day this past week, they were in front of our house.  You should have seen me on Thursday, trying to go to school.  Two dumpsters in the street, the diggers, the BLUE PIPES, the trash truck, a school bus and me trying to back out Blanche, our Mini Cooper.  It was a near thing.  When Neel drove us to school on Friday, he just drove through Tyler's front yard.  Wish I'd thought of that.

The men of the block, young and old, have watched this process with much interest.  I've watched the dust accumulate on my car and wondered how much windshield wiper fluid I have left.  Each night we would come home to stories of shaking of windows and breaking of water mains.  Lots of excitement.  They've moved quickly.  The pile of BLUE PIPES that the kids were playing in on Wednesday are already underground.   The boys are fascinated with the big scoop of the digger and the tread of it's tires.  I feel antsy when I have to peer around it to try to cross the street.


On Saturday, I ran out to grab a few last minute things for dinner and I noticed an older man walking to the end of the street.  He was clearly there to check on the progress.  It was a lovely Saturday morning. Perfect for a quick walk up to the street with all the work.  This reminded me of my Grandad.  At some point in my late childhood, maybe even early adulthood a giant street refinishing project was undertaken on a street a block from his home.  He was in his eighties at this point I think, or at least late seventies, and each day he'd walk to the end of the block to check on the progress.  Every single day.  I like works in progress myself.  Maybe I get that from him. 

What I know is that I like it that men at the beginning of their lives and at the end of them too like diggers and BLUE PIPES and works in progress and dust and gravel, and any given man at any age on this street could probably tell me how deep these pipes are placed, how long they last, how much over budget they are on time and what exactly they are being put here for.  I like that.

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a funny thing happened on the way to moving in


This dropped by. If it's the anniversary of moving into our home it's also the anniversary of this. To read the science stuff go here. Welcome to the East Coast.  Hurricane Isabel thought she'd throw a  little welcome party.  What a wild start to our life here.  Looking back I'm not sure I can even describe how surreal I felt as that storm bore down upon us.  If you weren't in her path, perhaps you weren't aware that for several days she moved back and forth between Category Four and Five status, and every morning I would creep downstairs to chew my nails and watch the morning news, surrounded by unpacked boxes and a too long cable wire. 

At first I didn't think much about Hurricane Isabel.  We had just moved into what we thought was the house of our dreams.  We had a yard!  We had neighbors!  We had a Pig Pick'n!  Neel was doing what he always does at this time of year:  writing a grant.  And Callum and I were getting us settled in.  For four-year-old Callum it was like Christmas as he opened boxes of toys he hadn't seen in a month, and for me it was much the same as I picked out paint chips.

I heard the first faint ping of a warning bell when Callum and I stopped in at The Home Depot for paint one day.  A young lady at the door said (before I'd really even stepped foot in the place), "If you're looking for generators, we're sold out."


We just want some paint, actually.  And some switchplate covers.  Thanks. 

But then I started to look around at everyone else's carts.  About half the people there were like me.  Toilets.  Pipe.  A pack of washers or screws.  Your basic Home Depot Run that you make a bajillion times during any given home improvement project.

The other half of those Home Depot-goers had carts filled with cases of water, big drills, flashlights, batteries and sheets and sheets of plywood.  They were out of generators.  That's when I got a little nervous.  I got brave and asked around.  People made suggestions.  Get some of those tap lights (they last longer than flashlights), stock up on water.   Callum made our way back into The Home Depot and followed their advice and then we went home and called Neel.

And every morning as Isabel bore down on us, I watched my new local news station and wondered what to do.  Do we stay and ride it out or do we go?  I asked neighbors, but hey, I didn't know these people.  How rational were they really?  (Turns out, some of them, not so much.)  So Neel would beaver away on his grant and Callum and I would beaver away on the house, stocking up on spaghettios and water and batteries and we waited.

Fortunately as the storm creeped closer, it diminished down to a Three then (thank God) a Two and finally a One.  We decided to stay.  Our house is oldish (about seventy years), so I wasn't too worried about it, except for the fact that we have a new, untried addition and it was quickly becoming clear that said addition had been built mostly with masking tape.  And spit.  Maybe some safety pins.  Neel nailed plywood along the french doors and we crossed our fingers. And I had to hope that this tiny, tiny hill in this flat, flat land would really be enough for us not to need flood insurance.  It was too late to get it anyway.

As night fell on the seventeenth of September, squalls of rain started moving through. We noticed that a lot of women and children had left town, and wondered if we'd been foolish to stick around. On the morning of the eighteenth the wind had picked up, as had the rain. With the plywood up, the house was eerily dark for so early in the day. I was painting in the livingroom around ten when a particularly strong gust hit the house and the power went out. It stayed out for five more days, and we were the lucky ones. Lots of neighborhoods were without power for almost two weeks, but then the mayor lives a few blocks down (not that that has anything to do with anything). Around noon we got in the car and took a quick drive around. Remember the house that we almost bought? The one the migraine talked me out of? Totally surrounded by water. The water was a real concern. We're not on water here, but surrounded, only blocks away in any direction by tidal rivers, and as the hardest part of rain and wind was hitting our coast, so was the highest tide. Late in the afternoon, when we were safely tucked in, our neighbor Tyler took his car out for a look around. Twenty minutes or so later our other neighbor John was towing him back up the street.

I'm a casual studier of the hurricane. My friend Sarah once said that I like works-in-progress. Long before I lived on a coast so effected by these storms, I've watched their progress and studied their seasons. So I knew that we'd have it rough for awhile, that the wind would eventually shift and that after hours and hours things would calm down. We bedded down in the dining room, surrounded by the boxes which we'd kept packed thinking that if it flooded they'd be easier to move up and that if a tree fell on the house they'd be easier to move down. And although this room was the most protected in the house, that wind shift made it feel the most vulnerable. I kept a tap light by my side of the mattress, and when I woke up needing to go to the bathroom, I lay in the bed a long time trying to decide what to do. What was my safest route? The wind, although we should be on the back side of the storm, was screaming around the house now, and the night was dark as pitch. Was the guest bath on the landing of the stairs the safest? Or the one behind the kitchen, which may be closer, but deeper in the dark? This house was too new to me to know its secret safe spots yet. That was a long night.


We woke the next morning the way most communities do after events like these: to skies scrubbed scouring-pad clean. We loaded Callum in the wagon and leashed our old pup Phoebe and like many neighbors, ventured forth to check things out. Things had happened during the day before that we wanted to check out. I remember looking across the street thinking, "am I seeing more sky than I did before?" Turns out that early in the day those neighbors lost a Bartlett Pear. A branch from our gumball fell on Tyler's shed, pretty much killing it, but he was planning to do that himself anyway. Our tree just helped. And the plywood that Neel put up? Turns out that was a good idea. It looked like it had been pressure washed with twigs and branches and leaves.

Still, I remember standing on our front porch and looking around thinking we got off pretty good. But that was just our street. One street down, I thought was a dead end, and it was...but about six blocks further down. The trees that were down only made it look like a dead end. We still contend a twister touched down there. Further down in the neighborhood live wires littered the streets. Trees rested on roof tops and across streets and cars. We joined a gathering of people on a corner as a couple were working on exiting their house, by climbing a tree. Turned out it was our realtor. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Turned out some wonderful things happened too, though. Some neighbors came over during the storm so we'd have everyone's phone numbers in case anything happened. Every night that the power was off after the storm we were invited to someone's house for a cookout as they cleared out freezers (we were lucky, we hadn't even stocked our fridge). And I almost wonder, what would it be like now? I'm not at all saying that I want it now. But we did it almost totally alone. We didn't know anything. Much less anyone. It was terrifying. It was exciting. It was unifying. Even then. How different would it be knowing we could all open a beer together? Welcome to the neighborhood.

Got your own Isabel story? I'd love to hear it. Pop a post in the comments and let me know.

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big on the pig


Last weekend we also celebrated this. Our first weekend here was the 7th annual. It was literally our first day in the house. The day all of our stuff came from California and my two worlds alarmingly collided. Neighbors, so sweet, kept inviting us. I was up to my ears in tears and boxes, and I worried that we wouldn't have anything bring. Mostly I was scared and shy and just wanted to see what my dining room table looked like in our new dining room. I think Neel and Callum wandered down.


I feel more settled in now. Ready to party.


That's Bud and his wife Jeanette. Bud is the founder of the Pig Pick'n. He had a stroke a few weeks ago and called from the hospital worried about who was going to pick up the pig.


You bring your own beer (or wine), you bring your own chair and you bring a dish to share. It's the very best of potluck food. Deviled eggs, potato salad, black bean and corn salsa, mac and cheese. Plate after plate of everyone bringing out their church supper best. The fans keep the flies off.




As important as the sides are (and the beer), it really is all about the pig. Southerners take their bar-b-que very seriously, I'm sure you know. You can handle this one of two ways. Fill your plate with sides and eat them while you stand in line for bar-b-que, or fill your plate with sides, eat them and wait for the line to die down and then get your bar-b-que. That's what I did. Growing up in Tennessee, I had a Memphis style bar-b-que. While the sauce here is not different, the idea of the slaw on your sandwich is new to me. I like it.


The block we block off for the party is one of my favorite in the neighborhood, and I love this little pergola-ed nook. Neel, can we get one of these, please?

Wouldn't mind one of these either. I love it how people use it to travel the distance of two houses in style!


Kids run and play and near the end of the evening the MC stands up and introduces all the new neighbors. He thanks Bud and talks about how long the neighborhood has been doing this, including the hard, hard year after September 11, and how close the competition was this year for the winner of the Newest Neighbor Platter. Almost a dead heat, folks, it was that close. The kids get bored and want to get back to their hop scotch or football and the grownups pop open another beer. Yeah, I guess I'm big on the pig.


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the little gray house


This week marks our fourth anniversary in the little gray house. I did not want to move here. Don't get me wrong, Neel is my home, and if he'd asked me to move here, here, or here I would have gladly gone. I even did go here!


Still, knowing how much I loved Greece from the time I was a young, young woman, you can imagine how very hard it was for me to leave our home in San Diego. That was where I really, finally felt at home. When we first came here, to scope the place out, it was early April and our little town-to-be was in the throws of a Nor 'Easter. I forgot to pack socks. It wasn't the wind and the rain and my cold ankles that caused me to sit up and cry in our hotel room ALL NIGHT LONG, it was the bone-deep loss of the place that, from before the moment we'd landed, sang to my soul.

We came again, later that summer, to look for houses. This was at the beginning of that out-of-control housing market that has deflated so alarmingly, and there were literally nine houses for sale in the neighborhood we were looking. What a depressing time. I was leaving behind everything that felt special to me and every house we looked at was more musty and ramshackle than the last. We saw one house, in the middle of creaky old kitchens and warped wood paneling that almost had us. The migraine I had that night brought me to my senses, and I called a halt. We would, it seemed, take this gigantic leap across the country without a place to land. We quickly put a deposit on a furnished apartment, made plans to put our stuff in storage, and headed to the beach for the rest of the week.


It was there, floating on my back in the Atlantic, that I think I started to be all right. This place I know. Although I grew up land-locked, my summer vacations were spent on the Atlantic coast. North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia. I know these gentle waves and this soft sand. I love the Pacific Ocean, but in it's tumultuous waves never could I dream of drifting on my back so aimlessly to eventually put my feet down and putter slowly back to my blanket. This might be okay.


And of course it is. We went home and packed up and literally followed the little gray house across the country. Pictures came to us in Las Vegas, and when we finally arrived, we dumped our stuff in the temporary condo, took showers and drove over to see it. We couldn't believe our luck. It was the nicest house we'd seen here, and we signed the papers that day. This is such a lovely house. Quirky and cottagey, with a bells and whistles kitchen not found in most of the houses we had previously searched. I love it that the thick plaster walls have a texture like a sandblasted beach and that even in the middle of the summer my livingroom can smell like woodsmoke. I love the yard we're taming and the walls we're painting and the sense that we're settling in somewhere. Maybe for good.


Neel and I had a lot of jokes about moving to this neighborhood. The way people talked about it (and not just the realtors) you'd think it was the first step on the stairway to heaven. A "front-yard neighborhood." Throwback to the fifties. People watch out for each other. A grid with everyone's names and phone numbers in a four block radius. Neighbors bring soup or brownies or wine. (Although we had a bit of worry in the very early days when Neel came home from work and made me a gin and tonic and we stood in the front yard with our drinks. The only ones with drinks. I worried about the fact that we were the only ones with drinks. Then I realized that growing up in East Tennessee in the heart of the Bible Belt was different from being in the south. Very different.) I wasn't sure I wanted that. I liked my space. My anonymity. I liked it that all I saw of the woman who had the condo next to ours was her vanity plate "luv wine." Front yard neighborhood? The best thing about California back yards were the privacy fences.


I think mostly I worried that moving into this neighborhood would be like an expanded grown-up version of my life in Junior High. Everyone would already know everyone else, and there I'd be, all awkward and left out. The only one with my own last name. Early in our life here each of our immediate neighbors had parties on the same weekend. One, we were invited to. It was October. My first fall in years. I wore a sweater and socks. I felt hot and uncomfortable and just as awkward as I'd expected to living here. Callum must have picked up my utter misery (either that or he knew that the daughter of the house was pure evil), and was enough of a pill that we had to go home. Once at home, through our open bedroom window, we could hear the sound of laughter weaving it's way up from Tyler's screened-in porch. His wasn't really a party. Just friends over for dinner. But I tried to fall asleep and Neel could hear slurp, slurp of my swallowed tears. "Back home, I used to be grateful for a weekend to ourselves. We were so busy and had so many friends." Slurp, Slurp, Slurp. "Now there are parties to the left of me and parties to the right of me, and I don't have any friends." Slurp. Even then I was laughing. I knew how ridiculous I sounded.

Now it's SOBO and Crab Feasts and firepits on Friday and Saturday nights (in the front yard) and Planter's Punch and Progressive Dinners and the love knows no bounds. There's nothing finer than coming home from work or school to find some of my favorite people gathered in one of our front yards. When we pulled in from Callum's birthday dinner Friday night, there they were, firepit lit, torches glowing, beer cold. Junior High-Schmunior High. So now? Now I can't imagine living anywhere else. This is okay. Happy Anniversary to us.

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There has been the teensiest bit of complaint (Rebecca) that SOBO was not getting its due here in blog-land.

So in the evenings after work we gather in someone's yard. Bug spray is propped on the porch. The kids rush through their homework to eek out the last few minutes of sunlight in a quick game of football. Grown-ups complain about the company they had over the weekend or tell a funny story about something that happened at work that day. I sit in the middle of this watching Neel throw the football and commiserating with Jean, soaking it up and stalling dinner for as long as I can. Who wants to go inside?

Finally I capitulate. Slopply lasagne and early bedtimes urge me toward the house. As I'm crossing the street, back to the little gray house, here comes Rebecca, like a fairy-tale image of herself. She's beskirted and aproned and has a tray of crab dip (homemade, of course) from leftover crabs, leftover beer and crackers for us. "Come on! I thought it was happy hour!" she calls to me.


There's nothing to do but an immediate about-face and linger a little longer. (The crab dip was excellent, by the way, maybe she'll leave the recipe in the comments for us.) Later on, as evening was drawing in, I'd been back across the street for a third time. Dinner was finished, the dishes were done and jammies were on. I ran into Tyler on the way home from rowing from his dad.

"You know Lauren, I was thinking, we haven't had that first gin and tonic of the summer yet."

"My god Tyler. You're right."

"Well, let's pick up some Number Ten and get on that."

That's what it's like in SOBO. That's how things are around here.

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labor day weekend round these parts


There are times that I just imagine that it looks like I have a charmed life. That my days are filled with dapple-shadowed back-yards and sunswept beaches. And really, for strangers reading these posts, it probably does look like that a good bit. I know I've touched on some sad stuff here, and there were days that this summer has been really hard. And really, whose life is totally charmed anyway? For all of us those dapple-shadowed back yards can hide clobber-filled sheds (and I'm speaking both figuatrively and literally!), and sunswept beaches can swarm with red tide. Still, charmed is the way it really is sometimes. And that's how this weekend was for me.


We started on Friday night celebrating a birthday with some newish friends of ours. We've been hanging out with this other couple, some friends from work, since just after the first of the year, and it really feels as if we're starting to get a groove on. Do you ever notice that you have first dates as couples? It's funny to look back on those first nights that we went out to dinner when we're now teasing each other about "no mas Jose'" and how I saw Peyton Manning last night. We share an interest in food and movies and (for some of us at least) football and just being together and having a good time. Not a bad basis for a friendship, I think. The beribboned package is this (perfect for beach picnics). We made her put it together...a sort of beachy-trial by fire.


It's a good Friday night when your dinner consists of portabellas with blue cheese and a chocolate pound birthday cake. When you can grill sitting down and the beer is icy cold. When the water is warmer than the air and someone has a birthday so you can drink champagne. We've tried to do this little celebration several times and in a summer of near-drought got rained out again and again. At the start of a long weekend, this third time was the charm.


Not to be outdone, neighbor Rebecca decided to hold a crab feast on Sunday night. What a marvelous place we call home, really. Ours was a street in transition when we moved here very nearly four years ago. Older families moving out, young couples moving in. Well, those young couples are moving on with their lives, having babies, growing families, all sorts of crazy things and here we are smack dab in the middle of all the fun. We call ourselves SOBO, based on the direction of our block, and any given evening you can find the kids playing football across the front yards and the grown-ups drinking beer beside somebody's firepit. Sometimes, someone steps it up a little, formalizes things enough to ask for side dishes, and suddenly there's a party.

We aren't at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay for nothing, and apparently Rebecca had been thinking about picking crabs all summer. We had a perfect night for it. I've said it before, summers are muggy, buggy and hot here and they usually last deep into September. Not that night.  That night was perfect.  Clear.  Not muggy.  Star-filled and almost cool.  It's all part of feeling charmed, and I know our hostess felt that way.

A perfect cool evening with so much good food.

The kids were thirsty, and someone said, "Here's the lemonade." Well the kids drinks were in a bucket on ice. The stuff in the pitcher? Lemon drop martinis. Our kids our pretty sharp though. "This tastes like alcohol!!" was the horified cry, and the mistake was quickly remedied.

I have one friend who I knew would go into the crab-zone. "Gonna pick any for me?" I teased. I didn't think he'd really do it.

"Um," he said. It sounded sort of affirmative. It's clear, he's in the zone. As I prod his bubble, he continues his rhythm of WHAP with the mallett, crack of the claw, peel off the meat. I would not actually call the ensuing dialogue a conversation.

"I'll pay by way of a drink," I offered.


"What do you want? Beer? Wine? Planter's Punch?"


"Corona or Sam Adams?" Seriously, I think he found me annoyingly chatty.

"Corona," he grunted. I delivered an icy-cold Corona, got the tiniest sliver of crab meat in return and didn't see the guy for the rest of the night. It's a whole different world out there in crab-land.

People sat around this table deep into the night. Talking and laughing and always picking crabs. Music played, babies danced, people talked and laughed. As night fell, the firepit was actually necessary and you had that sense of being caught in a perfect moment in time. It just doesn't happen like that in real life.

Picking crabs, I must admit, is an art that remains elusive to me. I do love some crabmeat, don't get me wrong, but the process of getting it is new to me. Daunting too. Many of my friends are old hands at this, however. Growing up around here makes it a way of life. And Rebecca cracks me up. She is so lady-like in her pink and green strapless sundress as she ruthlessly wields her crab mallett and stuffs the meat in her mouth. She told us great stories of her granddad teaching her how to pick crabs a child, and as shift after shift would surrould her table Sunday night, she was almost always in their midst. I love the idea of growing up with something like this as part of your life. Knowing how to do it from childhood. Knowing all the parts of the crab from the feelers to the dead man's fingers. Knowing how to steam them (Miller Light and Old Bay) and what to dip the meat in (cider vinegar and Old Bay...always Old Bay, butter is for the weak apparently). And I love the way an activity is connected to a place the way picking crabs and eating crabs is so connected to this place, crab-land.

Sometime after ten Callum looked around and said, "When are we gonna have the crabs?" He'd been so busy circling the house with this huge pack of kids and icy pops and glow sticks that he didn't see all the dozens of pickers at the table. Patiently Rebecca sat with him and taught him every step. (She has photos of this, but they'll have to belong to another post.) One rule, "Don't pick crab for other people," shifted a little in this generational pass-down to, "Pick some for your mom." A fact for which I am very grateful. Even after I went to bed, he sat with her, picking crab until almost midnight. He's nearly eight, just a few more days now, and of this place more and more.

And even on Monday that feeling of walking glowingly through someone else's life didn't end. Monday afternoon we spent again with friends. Due to some camera quirks that have me very nervous, I don't have any photos, but this little guy captures all the joy I was feeling. The sun, the friends, the kids always hovering around, the water, the wind and the sense of "this can't be my life" as I swim out to a boat belonging to the Friday night birthday friends. He took us on a great ride. The water was so blue and the sun so bright. As I floated lazily on my back heading back to the beach, I couldn't help thinking, charmed, I'm sure.

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the leap

My pistons are still firing on "random" so bear with me if you will. We had dinner with our neigbor Jean and her two kids last night. Her husband's been out of town, so it seemed like a little company and distraction would improve everybody's mood. It's an easy thing to do, order a pizza and hang out while the kids play. Despite the difference in their ages, Jean's son Zach (who's not yet three) and Callum are quite close. They are always asking to play together and coming up with crazy chase and crash games that prove to be clearly ageless.

I often think that Callum is helping Zach learn about being a boy, a big kid, and that Zach is helping Callum learn about patience and love. Sometimes it's hard to take when your much younger bud keeps running through your barely-dry masterpiece or tries to paint right where you are painting.

But really what I think is that Callum and Zach don't have to help each other learn anything. It's enough just to love and be loved.

We took a leap of love yesterday and put in an application on a dog at the local SPCA. When Lucy-the-hound moved in we had a Grand Old Lady in residence named Phoebe. Pheebs was our first dog as a couple, she came to our wedding and moved across the country with us twice. She was nearly 15 when she died in February, and I still feel her loss quite acutely. What we did learn when Phoebe and Lucy shared this space is that we like having two dogs. A lot. Lucy would love the company, and I'd like to hear the steady click of another set of toenails on the hardwood. We've had a couple of misses on the search for our second pup, and this may prove to be another one. "Mandy" already has another application on her, we're the second. We won't know until Friday. Seems like a long time to wait. I'm trying hard to find that precarious place between feeling positive and desperate. To trust that if this is the dog for us, she will be ours. And if not, to know that all that matters is that Miss Mandy finds love and that our pup is still out there waiting. But oh, she was so sweet...

So here I sit, frozen between hopeful and desperate. Fingers crossed.

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30 is the new 20

Yesterday was my friend Rebecca's thirtieth birthday. (She's a baby.) I've said before that our neighborhood was tight, and Rebecca's mom invited all of us to her house for a surprise-ish birthday dinner. I say surprise-ish because even though we staggered our departures, Tyler gave her the hairy eyeball when she pulled out of her driveway before he did and she was instantly suspicious. Smart cookie, our Rebecca.

It's fascinating to me that people who grow up here don't tend to leave. I've lived in four different states since leaving home for college (and I have friends here who have nearly doubled that), but most of the folks we know in our neighborhood live just a matter of a couple of miles from the home where they grew up. While it's hard for me to imagine living in my old hometown, part of me envies being able to breeze into my parents' home, as comfortable there as I ever was.

Rebecca's parents' house is a real stunner. It's a gracious old Southern house in a gracious old Southern neighborhood. There's a beautiful formality to it that doesn't at all feel stuffy. A lot of these houses make it hard for me to imagine propping open the door with my butt while I flip through the mail and drop my keys on the counter. Hard to imagine my own day to day in such rich surroundings. This house is elegant, yes. But mostly warm and welcoming.

Her dad is an architect, and her mom has a great eye for design and color. Marry that with this uncanny ability to find the most gorgeous things at TJ Maxx and the Dollar Store and you have Jan's house. Sky-high ceilings don't hurt.

Dinner table, set for many.



They have this great wall where dozens and dozens of friends and family, cousins, brothers, aunts, neighbors and dogs have their height measured. Here's Callum showing how he's grown since the last time he was there. This is something else that I have trouble wrapping my head around. Staying in one place long enough to make a mark like this. I'm used to moving every 5-6 years, and when we were childless, I kind of liked it. I feel the tiniest bit itchy even now, just four years in. Will we stay in the little gray house forever? I don't know. Do I want to? Not sure of that either. It's like I have to adapt to long-term thinking. And that feels odd.

Just look at these lovely ladies. Color-coordinated no less. And in heels! Wow. This is something I'm not very good at yet. Dressing for dinner the way the Southern gals do. I wore a skirt, for sure, but with a plain white tee shirt. It's my uniform for summer. Not at all dressy, just cool and comfortable. I suppose I should have put on some lipstick. I wouldn't mind at all pulling on a dress or two. The heels, I'm not to sure about though.

Our hostesses' shoes. She matched the napkins too.

Unveiling, The Rebecca. (Oh my gosh, so flattered that she put it on right away!). Thank you, thank you to Jan and Bill for including us, and thank you, thank you to all of our wonderful friends who make me so happy just by being near. And to you dear Rebecca? Many, many happy returns of the day, my friend.

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the few, the proud

Our friend James retired from the Marine Corps last week, and we were invited to a party to celebrate this great event.

Because these guys are distant neighbors (who also happen to be school mates of Callum's) we rode our bikes the ten blocks down to the party.

The food and drinks took up three front yards and the band was in the back. It was a perfect Southern summer party, with barbeque, beer and sno-cones.

Roxanne's yard is a dream. She has all sorts of secret sitting places and pathways. I definitely have yard-envy when I'm over there.

The kids ran from front to back playing transformers or tag. The music was perfect, a thread of steel drums running behind friends and family meeting and neighbors getting to know each other. This is Max, the Party Dog, complete with lei.

My favorite part was the sno-cones. Like any seven year old, I love a sno-cone. I managed to limit myself to one, but Callum had three.

While I was slurping sno-cones, a lot of the other adults were enjoying drinks more along these lines. Rum and coke anyone?

I followed these guys around a lot. Seriously, they never let go of each other's hand. Let me grow old this way...

Thanks for a great time guys, and congratulations "Sleepy". Welcome to civilian life...and here's to a great adventure opening up before you!

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"greek dancing is very movemental, you know"

What a flurry of activity yesterday and what a fun evening. We have wonderful neighbors, and they were kind enough to step in and care for our pup for almost two weeks during our trip to Greece last month. What else could we do but host a Greek Night (Opa!) as a thank you.

We spent the day shopping. This is our local Middle Eastern grocery/restaurant. They had tons of Greek stuff that I thought would be tricky to get.

I cooked. AACK! Look at that mess! At one point I had every burner engaged. Neel is the chief dishwasher around here, and I even tried to call him to say, "Come and do my dishes!!" Interesting that he didn't answer his phone.

Callum he is giving Buddha a bath.

Thank-you gifts and ouzo with pineapple waiting to be drunk.

Even though it was a casual evening, we used Neel's mother's dishes, which I adore. They are Limoges, and we have almost the full complement. When I have time and money, I'll start searching out the setting and try to fill in the few blanks that we have.

I love setting the table for a nice dinner. This was my job as a child, and it stuck (although Neel frequently comes behind me to put the knives and forks in their proper place.) Soon I'm going to do a whole post about my dining room and dining room table. Now, settle down, it won't be right away. Still, I bet you can't wait to read that one.

Folks started arriving around 6 for mezedes and cocktails. Usually we see each other more in the summer, this is very much a front-yard kind of place, but we've all been busy, and it's nice to catch up. Lucy was wreathed in smiles and wagging tales. So glad to see everyone. It was as if we had the party for her alone.


The menu was pretty simple. I made Greek Salad, of course, pastisio and Greek-style green beans. All the rest were dips and spreads...I'm learning. And Mythos! Oh Mythos, how we loved you at lunch every day on our trip. I was thrilled to find it while I was shopping yesterday.


The babies were good. The grown-ups got full, and we all (well, almost all) danced.

My social son never ceases to amaze me. Neel and I hold our own at a party, and we've had some good ones here. Still, we prefer it quieter, more intimate. A couple of couples for dinner, just a quiet evening with a few friends. Not Callum. His heart soars when the house is full of people and kids. He shines in a crowd, unafraid to stand up and be seen and heard. Bossy only child, most insistent about getting us to dance, to move, dragging us into his orbit. I think it was after he'd danced around a Capri Sun pouch in lieu of a wine glass that he said it. "Greek dancing is very movemental, you know." We know. He's still crashed out asleep, worn out from all the fun.

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backyard morning

Oh. My. Gosh. What a glorious day. It's 75 degrees on the second day of July. Seven. Five. Seventy-five. I can't even believe it. (And no humidity, which is even more amazing.) We have all the windows open and the back door, and with the ceiling fan on in the tv room, it's almost...wait for it...chilly.


Callum has been jonesing for some bamboo lately. He had Neel ask a friend of ours if we could cut a piece for him to play with, and he's been making all sorts of plans for that day. He took a ride with our neighbor Tyler to go get a sprinkler last night and on the way Callum apparently told Tyler all about the bamboo. Well, Tyler is about the perfect kind of friend a boy could hope for, because from the front yard of another neighbor's house we watched them come home from the hardware store and walk right into Tyler's house. Nothing unusual in that, but out they came a few minutes later with Callum holding two tall sticks of bamboo. Instant gratification. Callum says, "I'm gonna get some bamboo." And Tyler says, "I have bamboo. It's yours." (And what a gift! In the less than 12 hours since that bamboo got to our house, it's been a cannon, a pole vault, a probe on a spaceship and a gate for Lucy.)

Last week Tyler took Callum on a (sort of) high speed chase to locate the Ice Cream Van after it sped past our house. He does that for me too. Manages to get me just what I need when I need it. Those stainless steel counters that reflect all my cooking photos back at me? All Tyler. There is so much I need to say about this wonderful block in my own little corner of the world here. (And Rebecca, who is too busy today to even stop by - hi Rebecca!- is being remarkably patient about it.) But where to begin? I'll start somewhere, soon. Promise

I'm having dinner with a friend tonight, so it's going to be "Man's Night" at our house. Neel and Callum are going to have (birch) beer and frozen pizza and watch some mannish movie like The Great Escape. How can I seriously expect some lettuce wraps and an Asian Pear Mojito to compare?

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