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I went home this weekend, to to be with my family and to see friends. I needed a mini-break, as they say in England. A small vay-cay. Some R&R.

I traveled home to remember what wide-open spaces look like when you’re driving on a lonely highway and you can see that point way out in the distance where the earth meets the sky.

And to remember what the cool, clear, fresh air smells like, almost minty and piny and cold in your lungs, but then warm. Spring in Wyoming means five different weather patterns in four hours—pouring rain, gale-force winds, blizzard snow (it didn’t stick, but it came down with a fury), beaming sun, and sad grumpy drear.

It felt good to be there, surrounded by things I know, people I love, small moments here and there that reminded me where I came from and why I am who I am.

I am eternally grateful, and immensely blessed.

But on my way back, I caught myself saying I was going home. “Oh, it will be good to be back home,” I said. But hadn’t I just come from home? Is Massachusetts now my home (say it ain’t so!)? Can I have two homes? Or three? Or four? Not actual buildings, but spaces—or feelings of all-is-ok-ness, one-ness, whole-ness. Is that what I meant by “going home”?

What is home? Where is it? Or who?

Before leaving for college, my parents told me no matter where I roamed, Wyoming would always be my home—Wyoming, my native land of the vast sky and big prairie. Snow in all seasons and drive-up liquor stores. Fly-fishermen and eagles on fence-posts. Mountains, streams, and antelope. I left Wyoming to see something new, to go someplace with “less dirt”. To widen my mind and my purview.

When I got to Mount Holyoke, home was where my bed was—

every year in a different place on campus, each room a special place for me and my thoughts, my books, my music. I felt good there, like I belonged. Like I was intrinsically connected to the place and the people there with me, those who came before me, and those who would come after me. Each year was new and different.

shannie, 1st year roommate. we broke the light. thelma & me.

But every late August, when I stepped back on campus, I felt like I was right where I needed to be. Soon I’d see my friends and we’d fall right back where we left off the previous year. It was a place of shared experiences, of self-seeking, of togetherness.

Then during the summer I went back to “home-home” as I called it. Back again to Wyoming, to my family, my room, my bed, my dogs.

My first job out of college was really when I first set up my own space that was really and truly mine, my new apartment. My walls, my kitchen, my art space.

And now Mark and I have a home here, in Watertown,

with our dog, our bed, our pictures.

I’m at home with Mark, in his hug. With his laugh and warm smile.

We feel good here, all together, “at home” in our 1200 square feet of room, and beyond that space the life we’ve shaped with one another.

All of this, and yet still I’m not certain. What IS home?

Is it a warm blanket? a friendly hug? where your family lives? where everyone knows your name? Could be… Surely it isn’t only the things around you, in your life, or the space they fill. Is it the people? Or is it just where you are, in that moment? And there, could it be many places?

Perhaps the answer is that home is where you are, where I am, where we are together, and that home will be ever-changing, ever-moving, because life is ever-changing, ever-moving. And in that movement will always be a constant space where we feel good, we feel like our true selves, we feel like we’re whole. And all those spaces will always be there, waiting for us.

I feel good knowing this. I feel calm. I feel at ease.

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So yesterday, amidst pouring, hurricane-induced rain, our friends Mark & Laurie hosted their 5th annual Meatball Cookoff (affectionately known as the Balls Party). We are still full. Entries are accepted into three categories: best meatball, best non-meatball, and best dessert ball. Laurie had told me about what had won in the past, so knew we had to go… balls to the wall (And yes, half of the fun of the Meatball cookoff is making jokes like that over and over and over again).

We hadn’t made meatballs in years, so first of all, we had to remember how to cook them. We had lots of ideas for what might make a unique and tasty ball, but eventually I decided on a pretty basic duo of pesto-infused beef and chicken balls. One had basil pesto, the other sundried tomato pesto. I ended up baking them for about a half an hour and they were nice and brown. Problem is, keeping meatballs fresh for an hour without being coated in sauce is tough. I named them Red Light/Green Light Balls, and once they got to the table they looked like this:

pesto balls

Anna decided to reprise one of her favorite recipes from Williamstown, a tasty double chocolate ball introduced to us by our friend Katie Kamieniecki. They are simple and easy to make but will blow your mind. The basic recipe is cream cheese, crushed Oreos, and melted chocolate. Noboday can resist! She called them…

Mmmm Balls

Competition was fierce this year, as there were 13 entrants for the “Best Meatball” category!

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One of our favorites was Anne Marie’s traditional, Italian meatball. Are you kidding me!? She told us she let them simmer for four hours. Everyone needs to know an Italian chef as talented as AMC. We could’ve eaten these all night:

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As we were all judges, we sampled everything. I took my judging very seriously… and sampled them all twice. We then rested for a bit and played Atari! After awhile, we all voted and the results were announced. And guess who won the best Dessert Meatball category? Anna! She was very proud. And she won an awesome chef’s hat!

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It was an absolute blast. Any else doing anything like this?

Hello All,

Wishing everyone this morning a Happy Easter, and hoping spring comes soon with new life and fresh moments of happiness and hope and love for the coming months.

Today I feel mixed feelings of happiness and sadness–happy because it -IS- almost feeling like spring, and we have new sprouts popping up that will bring good produce to us this summer; happy for the buds on the trees and the flowers popping up all around; excited for the coming of summer and all the warm days will bring.  But sad because I’m missing my family today… I know it’s hard for us to be away from our families on holidays, but for some reason Easter gets me every year.  And picturing my mum and dad at home dying eggs by themselves just breaks my heart.  So to all of our families far and wide:

WE LOVE YOU!  We miss you!

We will be having a nice Easter brunch soon and be celebrating the newness of the Spring with Annie–we’ve cooked up some yummy treats for her–Sunrise Enchiladas and Blue Ribbon Cinnamon Rolls, from a special Wyoming Cookbook given to me by my mother.  I’ll put photos up soon.  We’ll also be trying to plant some of our sprouts that have grown WAY outside of their little peat packs (roots everywhere! It’s incredible!) in hopes that they’ll be able to grow much bigger and faster outside…

Enjoy the day!  It’s a day of new life!

Hello Friends.

It’s been quite a while.  And we know that, because last time we blogged there was a giant freaking snow pile in our driveway.  And now, alas, there is not… nothing like actually, and especially today.  It was lovely outside.  And if I don’t see snow for another whole 8 months I’ll be a happy bear.

This weekend was good and fun and filled with good food, good friends, good games, and too much sugar.  Let’s do this thing in three categories:  Gardening; Friends; Sugar

Gardening:

YEEEAAAAHOOOOOOOOO! It’s _almost_ that time of year again, that time of big tomatoes, little squashes, and other fresh delights hanging out of our pot garden.  To get a kick-start this year, we drove over to our local Home Depot… which by the way is a great place.  Families of all shapes and sizes picking out seeds and gardening stuff, big guys with their little girls loading pink paint and lights into carts, and crafty types picking up wood and nails for their next projects, all with big happy smiles on their faces, and nice folks in orange aprons there to help you out.  Anyhoo, we were there for one thing: Starting Kits.  You can make your own if you have boxes, REALLY heavy duty plastic bags or plastic liners, wire of some sort, and plastic wrap.  OR, you can spend $5 and buy a reusable box with 50 little holes for 50 seed starts with its very own plastic top.  While we’d love to do our own thing, we couldn’t not spend the $5 plus $4 for a bag of special seed-starting peat moss stuff.  It seemed like a good idea, and we’ll see about that.  We also bought seeds for tomatoes, squash, beans, carrots, lettuce, various flowers and herbs.

We brought our wares back to the house and got straight to work:

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We organized a work space, and filled the box with the 50 spots with the peat mixture stuff…

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sprayed it with water, and added various seeds in rows…

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then we gave it a good drink of water and put the top on.  We did this three more times, and set them up in our back room under a plant light and turned the space heater up to 71.

Apparently these things like this kind of special warm wet climate… and the little boxes create a bit of condensation and sort of make it swampy… perfect conditions for turning from seed to sprout.

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We hope to have seedlings in about 7-10 days… and don’t you worry, you’ll be kept very well informed.  Yay for gardening!  Yay for pots and dirt and seeds!  Pot gardens!  Yeaaay!

Friends:

Later on Saturday evening we brought ourselves over to good buddy Seth’s house for some Settling of Catan and good food with our other lovely Anne Marie friend.  But boy were we surprised to see Jamin too, in Boston for apartment hunting (congrats to Jamin on his match at MGH!)

Settlers of Catan is a great game.  And you can call us nerds until you go blue in the face, we will not stop playing, nor will we take your teasing.  It is, a fantastic game.  See here if you don’t believe us.  You trade commodoties for other commodoties, all in the hopes of building roads and huts and cities and longest roads and largest armies.  And no, it is not like Risk.

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We played for about three hours… and I’ve never seen a board turn out like this (and I say that because, unlike most games, the board and state and rate and style and outcome of play is different every time).   Mark and I were on a side in orange against Anne Marie in red, Seth in white, and Jamin in blue.  Three parallel roads!! Craziness.  Anne Marie had the HUGEST road… like 12 lengths long or something (see the pic above), and everyone was so close (8 pts each with 11 to win in this game–we decided).

Seth kept moving the robber (yes! there’s a robber!) and stifling our sheep and brick winnings… and then the robber came off and Mark and I dominated, and then it was over.  But fun.  And funny.  Because everyone has their endearing ways of playing, such as in trading:

(Jamin: OK, guys…so here’s what I want. I have bricks. I want wood. Anyone? Anyone? OK, let me repeat myself: here’s what I want…)

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and evading the robber: (Anne Marie: But I only have two cards! I’m not strong! — except that she is strong… it’s just a ploy) and pointing out other players strength when they put down a road or settlement (Seth: OOOOOH… she’s strong! Oooooooh! Look how strong she is!) and me, I just like to deny everything… No! I don’t have any ore. Sorry.  Not today.  Sorry… (when I perfectly well do have ore, just not to trade with you).

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And Mark? Well, he’s generally just very tricky.  Very tricky indeed, and not to be trusted.

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Suffice it to say, it was good fun.  Mark made marinaded chicken and he and Seth skewered up some kabobs with yummy veggies, and we enjoyed good kabobs with some sort of cous cous that was spicy and delightful.  Good times.  Good eats.  Good friends.  Good game.

Sugar:

So today I probably consumed a pound of sugar. Or so.  Maybe two pounds.  But it was worth it.  Sammy Pants friend came over for a while and helped bake the lovely Easter Cookies.

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We made maybe 3 or 4 dozen or so…

And they are awesome.  Sammy is a cookie decorating machine.  Here are some of our finest:

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And anyone who knows anything about decorating cookies KNOWS that there is frosting everywhere, and it seeps out of every place.  And if one looks bad, you eat it.  Or if an ear falls off, you eat it!  Or if a giant glob of frosting accidentally on purpose falls off the knife, you have to catch it on your finger, and EAT IT!

And so we crashed.

And it was good.

The end.

Of a lovely weekend.

I cannot wait for summer.

Anna has gotten us back in full-blog mode, and there’s lots to report on. What a few weeks it has been! Last weekend we were in beautiful (cold) Killington, Vermont with college friends of mine. It’s an annual tradition, thanks to our wonderful host, Jessica. My highlight is always making fires — I love every aspect of it, and it’s not the sort of thing you get to do very often in a city apartment these days. The only minus is having to wash every bit of clothing you brought with you because you smell like a campfire. A small price to pay, in my book.

The spot is almost impossibly beautiful in the winter, as is obvious in this picture:

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Hiking in the snow is always part of the weekend, and this year’s snow crop did not disappoint. We were waist deep in many spots. On Saturday, we braved the snow and ice in an effort to cross a raging frozen waterfall. We made it, though my foot slipped back in the icy water. To warm up, the two doctors in our group recommended a few glasses of wine. Done.

Anna and I also did some playing in the snow. A few freeze-frame captures:

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We highly recommend this. You will smile like this afterward:

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On our way back to Boston, we made a detour through Williamstown. Of course we got purple cow cookies:

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Tuesday there was this little national matter that we are just now starting to understand completely. Wow.

Then Thursday, we met Loyal Reader Mark, who’s just taken a new job at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a night of Mendelssohn. Guy peaked at age 20, sort of like a college football player who goes pro to early (insert Maurice Clarett joke here). Anyway, it was our first trip to Symphony Hall, and the world-renowned acoustics are as good as described. Thanks, Loyal Reader Mark!

This weekend, we have had the great pleasure of hosting our good friend Darryl, who made the trip from Gambeir, Ohio. For readers who know Ohio geography (there can’t be many of you, can there?), Gambier is roughly 30 miles north of my hometown of Granville. Right in the heart of Buckeye Country. Can you tell I’m just a little bit jealous?

Anyway, before Darryl got here yesterday morning, Anna, Sammy, and I participated in a volunteer event at the Boston Food Pantry downtown with the Williams Alumni Association. Wet met Jessica there, too (as she too had thankfully unfrozen from Killington). For those of you who have never volunteered at a food pantry, it is good and meaningful work. There were roughly 80 volunteers there, divided into two teams on assembly lines. Ours looked  like this:

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Within a half hour or so, as task-specialization kicked in, we were operating as a pretty well-oiled machine. Jessica was a loader (lifting boxes off of the pallets onto the line for sorting), Anna and Sammy were first sorters (inspecting the contents of the boxes, throwing out expired or opened products, and discovering the weird stuff that people thought were a good idea to give to a food pantry — pregnancy tests, anyone?). I was proudly the runner, meaning I did a little bit of everything. Like storing the hundreds of mops and brooms we received:

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If you have never volunteered at or donate to a food pantry, we’d strongly recommend it. In 3 hours, our group boxed up over 15,000 meals, but the Boston pantry helps feed over 90,000 clients a week. Drop me a line if you ever want to go. As a nice thank you, the Pantry gave volunteers beautiful flowers that had been donated by Trader Joe’s. They are sitting on top of my blogging desk now, and are a great reminder of the cycle of generosity that service creates:

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Lots more to report on soon, hope you are warm and well-rested wherever you are.

This past weekend, Mark and I traveled out to the wild, wooley west to see Marcy, my oldest friend from growing up, get married in a four-day wedding extraveganza.  Wyoming is truly beautiful this time of year… if you can escape the snow, which unfortunately we didn’t.  But we had an enormously fun time seeing everyone, attending parties, and participating in a beautiful ceremony that took place inside the warmth and love of our childhood church while the wind and snow blew in heaps outside.

We flew in to Casper, an oil and gas town of about 60,000, elevation more than 5,280′ in the mountain plains of Wyoming, on a beautiful fall day.  I’ve actually never flown in to Casper during this time of year when the prairie cottonwoods and grasses have turned bright golds and oranges, contrasting against the evergreen junipers and lodgepole pines.  By the time I get home it’s already winter and everything is dead and frozen over, or during the summer fresh in bright green.  As we flew over the bluffs I was struck with the colors and how the flora stratifies just like the rock it grows on.

It was a 60 degree day, but much like New England–all we had to do was wait a minute and the weather would change.

Casper is home to many things, from one of the largest oil and gas industries in the lower 48 to Lou Tauberts Ranchwear with FIVE FLOORS of boots and hats and chaps and wranglers and lassos and bolo ties and big buckles and carharts and all kinds of western awesomeness.  The city is surrounded by ranches and farms and cattle, and more North American antelope per square mile than people.  But the one thing I suppose one could say Casper is famous… or infamous… for is… the Beacon.  A bonafide cowboy bar.

And yes, that’s right.  It says “Where the cowboys go SNEAKIN'”  And OHHH MY… do they ever.  And not just young cowboys.  Old ones too.  And cowgirls.  And cowladies.  They do the two-step to live music and then dance the night away to a DJ.  This is an incredible site to see.  Believe me–I am not making fun of this, the moves these people have are amazing.  One dance in particular they do is called the “Casper Slide.”  I don’t know exactly how it became the “Casper Slide,” because the dance doesn’t have anything characteristically Casper in it… just some kicking and stepping and twisting around.

I tried to catch a video of my friends doing this special dance (they are in the background… the girl with the veil is my friend Marcy), but a woman who was very in to her Casper Sliding stepped right in and stole the limelight… anyhow.  Watch and you’ll get the idea… both about the dance and about the awesomeness of the Beacon.

All Sneakin to the Beacon silliness aside, the wedding was beautiful and sweet and lovely.  We laughed and cried.  We took too many pictures.  We watched our friend become Mrs. Marvel.  We ate salmon caught by Marcy’s father and bacon-wrapped cheese-filled jalapenos (well, Mark did in any case–I stuck to the cheesy potatoes!).  We danced and drank too much wine.  And did I mention it snowed?  It did.  During the wedding and the reception and all through the night until more than a foot blanketed some areas and we all threw rose petals at Marcy and her Eric as they bundled into the limo and we all slid home to our warm beds.

In the morning, I awoke to this:

The snow kept us home one extra day due to a late flight and a would-be missed connection.  It was nice to be home, even for what only seemed like a minute, where the old dogs still love you and your bed is made just the same way it used to be.  The smells are there–for me it’s cider and something good cooking on the stove mixed with something I can’t categorize but that feels so familiar.  The colors and the weather and the dogs and the smells… they all remind me that no matter where I may be, Wyoming will always be my home.

It’s been raining now for a few hours.  Lots of rain. Super humid and everything’s damp.  The pot garden LOVES it though, and we like it because we won’t have to water the pot garden anytime soon.

What’s amazing is how people are still out and about in the city, even in the downpour.  We drove our friend Sammy to her home in Allston after a nice pizza and ice cream evening here in Belmont, and Allston was buzzing!  The rain was coming down so heavy that I could barely see driving and yet traffic was insane.  People all over, walking around and going to the bars.  For me, the rain is a good excuse to stay in and have a pizza and ice cream evening.  Which is exactly what we did.

Sammy–our good friend from Williamstown who now lives in Bean Town–and Annie, Mark’s sister (who recently got engaged–congrats to Annie and Shehzaad!) came over to hang out and eat pizza and ice cream with us.  Even Gordo got some pizza and ice cream.  We had two kinds of pizza–homemade (or partially homemade, we bought the dough at the Shaws)–plain cheese and garlic/broccoli/artichoke.  It. Was. Awesome.  And ice cream–Turkey Hill Peanut Butter Swirl and… wait for it… JR. MINT.  Yes, I did say Jr. Mint.   Little mini Jr. Mints, mint ice cream, and chocolate sauce swirled together in a fabulously minty and fresh mouthful of yumminess. Also, It. Was. Awesome.

Gordon got to eat the pizza bones and a Frosty Paws doggie ice cream treat, which is really just a frozen cup of peanut butter flavored doggie treat dough.  A little gross, but dogs go nuts for them and ours is no exception.  What a lucky Gordon.

What a fun night.

Yep, it’s still raining.

After Anna’s post on her triathlon, I feel a little silly saying that I played golf all weekend… but I did. And loved it all (except, of course, missing Anna’s and Molly’s successes!).

Three college friends (Dave, Brad, and Brad) joined me for the 48th Annual Williams Alumni Golf Tournament at the incredible Taconic Golf Club. It’s where I learned to play while working at Williams, and I realize now how spoiled I was.

About 240 players were in the tournament this year, and it always draws alums from across the class years. Teams of two compete in flights by handicaps, and each team ends up playing five nine-hole best ball matches. Brad N. and I ended up faring ok together in our matches, only losing badly to a team that hit a hole-in-one against us. Seriously. The guy had been playing 40 years and it was his first ace. Oh yeah, they also had three other birdies… best 15 handicappers I’d ever seen.

If you’ve ever played Taconic, the golf speaks for itself. The competition is incredibly into it, too, but in that fun, laid-back way that I like about Williams alums. Besides the golf, though, the main highlights involved hanging out on the porch post-rounds. Like this:

A typical scene after a long day of golf

A typical scene after a long day of golf

Among the things we did on the porch this year were:

– Drank about 6 pitchers of BBC Steel Rail Ale

– Ordered calzones from Colonial Pizza

– Talked about the Indians’ many injuries and slumping play with one of the team surgeons (Williams ’84… same guy who did Big Papi’s wrist surgery a few months back)

– Talked about the future of higher education with Texas oil executives

– Played bridge during a thunderstorm

– Were identified as “guys like us” by one guy who said his alma mater (Dartmouth) was being run by socialists (we did not inform him that, as we had arrived from Berkeley, South Beach, and Cambridge, it was unlikely we were, in fact, “guys like him”)

– Recapped nearly every good and bad shot we hit all day late into the afternoon

Anyway, it was a great time, as usual, and we’ve already secured our place in next year’s tournament by being the last teams to leave the clubhouse Sunday.

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