Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Game

We're in Pennsylvania for the weekend. There's a heatwave here, too, but heat and humidity feel better in Pennsylvania for some reason. I'm not minding it much, anyway. And it's not just because our B&B has a swimming pool.

As I was cruising the fiction aisles in my favorite bookstore this morning, I remembered a game I used to play:

Open up Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged to a random spread. Find the word "destroy" or "destruction" and you win. You get three tries. Then it's someone else's turn.

What do you win? You get to put Atlas Shrugged back on the shelf without having to read any more of it. I won on my second try. That's enough Ayn Rand for a few more years.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Sale at Garnet Hill

It's that time of year again. Garnet Hill is offering 30% off all women's apparel, even sale and clearance items, plus free shipping, through July 2.

It doesn't get much better than that, especially since so many items are available in a full range of sizes and colors right now. While clearance time is fun, it's the luck of the draw as far as getting just what you want.

I've been living in their Marseilles Tees for weeks, so this is my excuse to get one more:

I'm either too fussy about tees, or every other retailer makes them too long, too short, too sheer, too tight, too baggy, too weird, or too blah. (I'll let you answer that one.) But this tee is a winner. I'm also going to try their Rolled Cap Sleeve Tee in the same soft fabric:

Exchanges are always free at Garnet Hill, and I keep exchanging until I'm satisfied. It's hard to beat their customer-friendly policies. Happy shopping.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Possum at Work

Possum and I did some research and writing about a couple of works of Korean art today. Possum and I knew nothing about the subject, but I am pleased to announce that we now know next to nothing.

He claims that he picks up knowledge by lying on me as I read, a form of feline osmosis I hadn't heard about until now. I'm not sure how my torso transmits such information, but I'm too busy right now to argue with him or test his claim. And he certainly does seem to know as much as I know about Korean art.

Possum told me he wanted to use our earnings for this project to finally buy a bicycle rickshaw. He had wanted one badly for Christmas, was very disappointed (sulky, actually) when Santa ignored his wish, and is still obsessed with the thing:

I told him that Anthropologie doesn't sell them anymore, and that we have nowhere safe to park it. He sulked further. I feel sorry for him; his fantasies of riding around Boston, with me pedaling and the other cats perched beside him on that seat, are pretty delightful to hear. 

Possum sulks

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Make My Day

As I was carrying groceries home this afternoon,  I saw a meter maid ahead of me on the sidewalk. I would have said hello, but she seemed engrossed in what she was doing. As I passed by, a bright blue Jeep slowed down and stopped in the road beside her. The curly-haired woman behind the wheel leaned out the passenger window and got her attention. As the meter maid approached her, the driver said, "Here's a wrist corsage. It smells wonderful. Put in on and have a lovely afternoon."

When I turned around, the driver was handing the meter maid a corsage of peach flowers.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bedtime Tails

I was reading in bed yesterday morning and wanted a visit from Possum. I called his name — he has many nicknames that he responds to, so I recited several of them. He came leaping onto the bed, racing in from the living room, fluffed-up and wild-eyed. He stood on me, let me pet him for about 5 seconds, made I sure I wasn't in trouble, and took off again, flying away as dramatically as he'd arrived. Clearly I'd interrupted his morning plans, to watch birds from the window, splash all the water out of the communal bowl, or tease his sister. I called him again later on and he arrived with similar alacrity, lingering longer than before.

I'm not suggesting that it's a great thing when cats appear to be as obedient as dogs. That's nothing I'd want or expect from a cat. Possum wasn't obeying me, he was just being thoughtful. He has good manners with his people, if not always with other cats. I appreciate that.

Wendy frequently curls up on the bed with my husband at night, before I get there. I rarely see them together; she's usually gone by the time I arrive and, if I happen to surprise her, she races off the bed and disappears in her melodramatic feral way. But I hear smug reports about how she lies on her back, legs in the air, just within petting reach. It's still a delight whenever Wendy decides to hang out with one of us although she and my husband have regular routines now. She curls up, purring loudly, beside him as he reads in our leather armchair several times each night, but never for very long. Her feral instincts eventually overcome her desire for affection, but she'll return again for more belly rubs. If I sit in his chair, she might visit me for a few seconds but I'm clearly not her favorite. I'm still "Evil Mommy" to Wendy, no matter how I try to ingratiate myself with compliments, treats, and fishing her favorite toys out from under the bookcases. No matter how often I remind her that I was the one who insisted on adopting her, ignoring protests from a certain quarter that she was too wild and skittish and might never become friendly.

So it was a wonder this morning when she jumped on my side of the bed and sat beside me, blinking and wearing her demanding, "Pet me!" look. We can pet Wendy all over when she's in this mood — feet, head, chin, belly, tail. She never got the memo about how feral cats shouldn't tolerate more than an occasional backstroke or head pat. I had the glory of her presence for a couple of minutes before she took off. This probably won't happen again for weeks or months but it was nice to have my existence acknowledged. I'm happy for whatever crumbs* of her attention I am given.

Possum and Wendy

* Crumbs? That reminds me: I need to visit Crumbs Bake Shop to stock up on that banana-caramel flavor of the month before they disappear. They freeze well, or so I've heard.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hot Weather Survival Dressing

The Proper Bostonian officially decrees that, when the weather behaves improperly — say, shooting up into the 90s in June and dripping with humidity — we unhappy inhabitants may retaliate by being cranky, buying expensive "Venti"-sized iced drinks, and wearing shorts no matter what our age. That's what the PB is doing, and it feels like survival.

In Maine, everyone wears shorts. And, as everyone who has ever ridden on a Maine highway knows, Maine is The Way Life Should Be. So who are we to argue? If the shorts fit nicely and are a flattering length and your world has turned into an oven, I say go for it. In fact, I've decided that it's bad manners to wear wool suits, head-to-toe black, and similar garb in hot weather because it makes the rest of us feel sweatier just looking at you in all that unhealthy fabric.

This is not to suggest that I'm suddenly embracing rompers and string-bikini tops. I'm not going that far. (We don't need to see the whole back of a grungy, gray-white, industrial-strap bra under a completely backless blue knit sundress, either. Ahoy there, Berklee student.) As befits any PB, I'm advocating practicality and common sense, not outrageousness.

Actually, I've admired many pretty, airy, colorful summer dresses around town in the past few days. I've seen lots of cute sandals, summery handbags and straw hats, and casual, pinned-up hair. It's been a lot of fun to people-watch whenever I can bear to leave the house. (Guys have been less entertaining. So many are wearing long, baggy basketball and cargo shorts that make them look stumpy. And, on city streets, I'd rather see preppy, Nantucket-red or madras shorts over crazy-patterned board shorts any day.)

Since this is Boston, I've also seen a few women walking around in knee-high boots, including one pair of tight, black over-the-knee boots, worn with tights and shorts. This was yesterday morning, when it was already well above 90. Just looking at her made me feel feverish. I hope the soles of those boots have drainage holes.... 

When I need to look presentable in steamy weather, I'm relying on simple cotton dresses, too. I found these at Anthropologie; they are my summer uniform. But they are not as cool and comfortable as shorts. Nothing is.


This morning, I saw a young woman in a miniskirt entirely covered in silver spangles. She wore it with silvery flats and a thin navy cardigan printed with little anchors or something. This would have been a  spectacular ensemble in the evening. In fact, it could have single-handedly brought the collective Boston fashion IQ into the high-normal range, confounding the assessments of GQ and others. But in brilliant sunlight, the skirt was blinding; I had to look away. But who knows? Perhaps she was also being practical — planning to sit outside on her lunch break and grill a cheese sandwich on her thigh. That would be a survival skill, too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Possum and I have accepted another script-writing assignment for the MFA, which will probably make for a very busy summer. We hear we'll be writing about Korean art, European paintings, period rooms, and ancient jewelry for their handheld multimedia guides. This will be our third annual summer project and we're looking forward to it. We're both a little rusty but Possum is confident that we'll quickly get back in the groove. It will be great to earn some cash, too. Kibble doesn't grow on trees.

This gig is welcome news for Possum because he recently moved into his own studio apartment and that means expenses, of course. He also wants to get new carpeting and some art. Here he is, at home for an afternoon nap:

Bertie wonders why Possum's Apartment looks and smells
just like the carrier that takes him to the vet.

When Bertie had to go to the vet for a blood-pressure check while we were in Maine, our cat sitter carried him in Possum's Apartment. This was okay with Possum; he's easygoing and often lets Wendy crash at his place, too. It was less okay for Bertie. Our sitter walked him to the vet, first stopping at Bruegger's for a bagel. She reported that he began "screaming" there, attracting a lot of alarmed attention. She thought he was nervous, but we know that Bertie is a carb fiend. He was demanding bagels by the truckload in Cat language. Bertie had never been to a Bruegger's before and he knew it was a golden opportunity. He tried to make the most of it but, unfortunately, no one behind the counter understood Cat. He does have a thick accent.

After Bertie came home, the cat sitter zipped up the entrance to Possum's Apartment, not realizing that Possum can't manage zippers. He was locked out for a whole week. He was deeply relieved when we came home: not only had he missed me, he was anxious to get into his house to putter around and do this and that. He's in there now, trying to remember everything he knows about Korean art:

That's one of his favorite fake-fur mousies under his nose. 
Possum and Wendy are enlightened and refuse toys made with real fur.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Missing Maine

It's too bad that the first summer heat wave (if you don't count March and April) found us in Boston instead of Down East where we had the pool to ourselves most of the time. It's 10:15 pm and 91 degrees. 

I hate the heat with a hot hate, and I've been inside since noon. This morning I was interested in visiting Morticia, the giant corpse flower at the Franklin Park Zoo, which blooms for just a couple of days every 15 years, filling the air with the stench of rotting meat. She sounds irresistibly appealing, but it's just too darned hot. I'll have to catch her in 2027.

The heat did not catch me unprepared. After considerable deliberation and research, I bought a pair of Sharp air conditioners; several reviews said they were quieter than other brands. Wrong! They are ridiculously loud — impossible to tune out even when they're on the lowest speed. Imagine sitting on a jet or near an idling 18-wheeler. I tried hard to prevent this, but buying an air conditioner is a gamble: you can't test them in a store. You can't experience the racket it until someone (in our case, a fellow from Back Bay Hardware) has spent an hour or so installing it. We can't hear music, each other, the phone, or anyone meowing. Trying to look on the bright side: we don't hear sirens, the phone, neighbors, the backhoe in the alley — or anything. I wonder if we'd hear the smoke detector. 

Oh, and another thing: they don't really cool our rooms although I did all the calculations you're supposed to do to choose the correct size. And they don't cycle on and off as they should, they just blast away for hours with little benefit.

Tonight will be our first attempt to sleep with one roaring a couple of feet from our pillows. I expect to be rereading And Ladies of the Club long into the morning.

It's good to be home with our cats (I get especially melancholy for Possum when we're apart) but I miss Maine, where temperatures dropped into the 40s at night and a gas fireplace heated our bungalow. We'll be going back in August; our usual July trip was pre-empted by a business trip to Paris. I love Paris but I can't wait to get back on Route 1.

Some last photos:

Lobster shack in Wiscasset, where we stop for lunch.

Asticou Garden in Northeast Harbor, verdant after the rain.

There's one deer in Acadia National Park, or so it seems.

Flower box exploding in Bar Harbor.

Dinghies in Southwest Harbor.

Happy feet in the pool.

Maine in June: Bar Harbor

We took a walk along West Street, which runs along the bay in Bar Harbor. It's a quieter part of town, a bit removed from the scores of shops and restaurants, which are hopping throughout the summer, but especially busy when a cruise ship is docked. From West Street, we kept going along the water, and wandered through a private club and hotel. From there, it's a quick trip to the town dock and then the Shore Path, a scenic route along Frenchman Bay. Some photos:

A yellow house on West Street with columns and a view of the sea.

Gray shingles and the harbor in the backyard.

Islands in Frenchman Bay from the water's edge.

The waterfront pool at the Bar Harbor Club and Spa.
(It's members-only, but we sauntered through.)

Our slightly eccentric path took us through the club's 
parking lot, where we admired this VW Beetle's
spotless white leather interior. A perfect summer car. 

An even nicer pool at the Harborside Hotel, next door.

The Margaret Todd waits to board passengers near the town dock,
while the Holland America Maasdam is anchored in deeper water.
We've seen that ship here so often that we recognize it.

On the Shore Path: Ledges and the bay on one side,
hotel and enormous "cottages" on the other.

The lovely view from someone's backyard...

This Tudor-style house has manicured grounds and formal gardens.

That purplish tree is actually a lilac in full bloom.
I'd never seen a tree-size lilac bush before. Amazing.
I was sorry we had to keep our distance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Maine in June: A Walk Around Jordan Pond

The 3.6-mile walk around Jordan Pond is much more interesting if you try it in a slippery pair of flip flops instead of hiking shoes. Having done it a few times, I don't recommend it unless you really hate your hiking boots, as I do. The walk begins on gravel and progresses to a dirt path, then it gets rocky for a bit, and then finishes with a long stretch of raised wooden planks.

You begin by walking down to the pond  (it's actually a tarn) from the Jordan Pond House restaurant. That's actually the best view, since you see the Bubbles, two mountains, rising in the background:

The pond provides water to the town of Seal Harbor, where Martha Stewart and some of the Rockefellers, among others, summer. So the water is sparkling and clear, and swimming and wading are not permitted — although boating is okay. The pond is full of fish....

As you begin to circle the pond, the views look like this, with water on one side and woods and rocky ledges on the other:

We noticed that beavers had been busy on this tree: 

Further along, we saw their dam. It was big but messy; not impressive:

Then we came to another tree that they'd done in:

In my opinion, the entire point of circling Jordan Pond is to head to the restaurant afterward, for popovers and tea. Popovers have been eaten at the Jordan Pond House since 1870; it would be more sensible to skip Sand Beach or a visit to touristy Bar Harbor than to miss the popover experience.

You can sit outside, on wooden benches under green umbrellas on the lawn or you can sit inside, away from the yellow jackets. Or you can be ambivalent (often our choice) and sit on the shady, sheltered "swoop" that curves alongside the building but is still outdoors. 

View of the lawn, from the swoop. There's a fine view 
of the Bubbles and the pond from the lawn.

Wherever you sit, you have to have popovers. It would be a serious mistake to not have at least two, which you would quickly realize if you were ever foolish enough to order a meal that included only one. 

One popover. But don't stop there.

The staff ensures a plentiful supply of butter and jam.

Maine in June: Wonderland

Wonderland is a flat, easy trail around a stretch of rocky shoreline on the "Quiet Side" of Mount Desert Island. The wave are usually calm, and there are plenty of tidal pools to explore. When you're done scrutinizing snails, barnacles, and seaweed, you'll look up to refreshing views of rocks, woods, and ocean.

Maine in June: Lupines

We discovered lupines last June, during our first early-summer visit to Mount Desert Island. We begin seeing them as soon as we're north of Portland — suddenly they're everywhere. While some people cultivate them in their gardens, it's common to find them flourishing by the roadside or taking over a field.