Thursday, April 30, 2015

the truth is


When I glimpse my last post, with all those pretty pink houses, I feel a twinge of guilt. I do love the charming houses of Charleston and elegant squares of Savannah. I endorse them as great places to visit. But the truth is, I also have a real fondness for the scruffy cities, the neglected ones, and most of all New York City. And not just Manhattan, but Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx (where I lived, studied and worked). (Sorry, I've never been to Staten Island.) For years I worked in Paterson, New Jersey and now I have a studio in Lowell, Massachusetts--small industrial cities that never recovered after their factories shut down, cities that struggle, but also are havens for immigrants and artists.

Not to say that I don't appreciate the more polished cities, I do. I love them all. But I have a special feeling for the neglected ones, the battered edges, the rust and hard earned distress marks. I'm comfortable with underdogs. I'm not going to tell you to go to Hartford instead of Charleston for a long weekend, I'm just telling you something about myself here.

There's a lot less blogging and blog reading going on these days. I've been feeling inertia myself in that regard, but I love the connections I've made here, the friendships. You guys have sustained me through some difficult times. Maybe I just need to shake things up a bit to keep it going, be a little more real, a little less edited.

I'm going to the country this weekend. (my other love is landscapes--forests, mountains, deserts, rivers…) I think it's too early for wildflowers, but I can't wait for the sharp air, the scent of moving water.

*All pictures here taken in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

midnight in the garden (with pink houses)

Last week, with snow still in my yard, I took a quick trip 
to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.

I'm showing you cupcakes from Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah,
but actually, I ate the key lime tart, and it was perfect.
Sweet and tart and limey.

 These two fine ladies oversee your order. 
Before the tart I had grilled pimento cheese on ciabatta.
I instagrammed my love for pimento cheese and how hard it is to find in the north
and Susan of Southern Fascinations gave me her recipe (here).

So I'm going to make it, if I can find pimentos.
(I know you can get anything on the internet.)
And don't worry, it's fat-free.

 Savannah is filled with green, designed around 21 squares that have
massive shade trees dripping Spanish moss, and benches and fountains and statues.
Many of them are surrounded by elegant townhouses.


It's beautiful at night too, and a little spooky--
all that Spanish Moss
and there are ghosts everywhere.

 I kept seeing pink houses in Charleston.
I don't actually want to live in a pink house,
but I get excited when I see them.

This spectacular gingerbread house faces the river.

This one looks like pictures I've seen of Dutch houses.

Hard to get a good photo, but behind those verandahs
is a huge pink house.

It seemed that every block had a pink house

or church. 
The French Hugenot church.
Isn't it beautiful with the black trim?

The highlight of the trip was the Charleston garden tour.
They were mostly small and all charming. 
Lots of old brick paths, boxwood hedges, fountains and flowers. 
Comfortable places to sit in the shade and drink a mint julep 
or sweet tea (when you need a change from your verandah).
Small garden "rooms" and secret places, crumbling walls, and patina galore.

It's less than a two hour flight from Boston to Savannah and Charleston
and they are only a two hour drive apart, so to my northeast friends,
it's easy to make a short trip to either or both.
Spanish moss, pimento cheese and pink houses make a nice change.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

a florida weekend

When I got off the plane in Florida it was like walking outside after a matinee movie. Bright and startling, an altered universe from the cold and snow I left behind. One day I want to find what's left of the Florida wilderness, go to the Everglades, the Keys, some little islands that will show me what it was before it was paved over, something swampy and scary with wild orchids and alligators. Alligators are around--on golf courses for example, but I'd like to see one in its native habitat. I don't even know if those places still exist outside of books and movies.

You probably know by now how much I form my images of the world by reading. The last time I went to Florida, two years ago, I wrote a post about that, sort of. (here) In that post I also wrote about my brother in law's bit of Florida wilderness.

Since then, he's added goats and a donkey to his menagerie.

Anyway, this trip was about family. You know my father in law recently died, and we went to spend time with my mother in law. I grew up in a small, quiet family, and now I have almost no family, but the one I married into is big and noisy. And it turns out that big and noisy can be good for mourning.  There was more laughter than tears mixed in with the memories, the presence of the absent.

I saw herons and lizards and lots of pink flowers

 and ate some really good fried chicken,
outside, at a picnic table.

"It can look brand-new and man-made, but as soon as you see a place like the Everglades or the Big Cypress Swamp or the Loxahatchee you realize that Florida is also the last of the American frontier. The wild part of Florida is really wild, the tame part is really tame…fifty acres of Everglades dry up every day, new houses sprout on sand dunes, every year a welt of new highways rises. Nothing seems hard or permanent; everything is always changing or washing away. Transitions and mutation meld into  each other, a fusion of wetness and dryness, unruliness and orderliness, nature and artifice."

--Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief

Thursday, April 2, 2015

h is for hawk

Hello friends. I'm reading a marvelous book, H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald.
It's "one part grief memoir, one part guide to raptors, and one part biography of T.H. White," (who wrote about falconry in The Goshawk before starting The Once and Future King). That quote is from this essay on the book in The New Yorker (please let me know if you can't access it).

Macdonald writes beautifully, and I am making myself read slowly,
to savor it.

I'm going somewhere warm and sunny this weekend,
and am so excited to see real flowers growing out of the ground
as my year is still covered with snow.

(I meant to write "yard" not "year" but will leave as is--
it seems apt.)

It's a bit early, but I wish you a happy Easter, Passover, and weekend
filled with your favorite combination of friends, family, food, flowers
(and of course books).

xo, Jen