Sunday, May 30, 2010

Church Day

Happy Sunday! Happy church day. The Harlem churches will continue for 4 more weeks until I'm married and living in Durham, at which point I will commence with sharing pics of Durham churches. In some ways, Durham is just like Harlem, with most of its churches in its poorest and humblest neighborhoods. Some are houses turned into churches. Some have barred windows. Some are massive. I'm looking forward to living in Durham, learning about my new neighborhood, and sharing it with you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Old Piano Roll Blues

Even if I weren't planning a wedding, I would still have weddings on my mind: my brother has been constantly playing Pachelbel's Canon on the piano for the past two weeks to the point where I feel like I'm on the set of "A Wedding Story." The kicker? My brother doesn't even know how to play the piano. My parents have owned a player piano since I was in high school, but in those days playing it was more of a workout than an enjoyable entertainment. Because the bellows were completely worn out, you had to pedal the thing like you were coming down the home stretch of the Tour de France in order to get enough air to make the music play. Eventually we just stopped playing it because we didn't want to make it worse. But I'm happy to report that finally, after all these years, the player piano has been restored to its original glory. This year my dad was able to find a man who replaced all the broken parts, fixed every little thing, and polished the piano up and down, inside and out. Then he ordered a bunch of new piano rolls from QRS, which has been making popular songs into player piano rolls since the 1920s, apparently. Now we have a growing library of piano roll songs from classical (Pachelbel, Chopin, Strauss) to show-tunes (Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof) to older and more authentic favorites from the golden age of the player piano, such as "Nola," "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover" and "Come Back to Sorrento." Then there are random Polish polkas and stuff like "Dixie." Some of the rolls are very old and fragile, and can hardly play at all. Some, despite their age, seem just as good as new. All of them are fun. In fact, now that supper is over, the sun has gone down, and the day's chores are done, it might be a good idea to play "Yellow Bird" or "Hawaiian Love Song" as the family gathers round the piano to sing along.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday, Rain Day, Church

One minute the sun is shining through a blue sky; the next minute big fat raindrops are falling down through black clouds. Spring is like that. I found this Harlem church on a similar day in New York. When I left my house the sun was shining and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. A half hour later the sky was blackening and soon after I passed this church it started to rain heavily. But like a good New Yorker, I had my umbrella tucked in my bag. Not that that was any help to my shoes. And now that I'm not a New Yorker any longer, I don't carry an umbrella around, and I still never wear sensible shoes. But here there is usually a car to hop into or a house to run inside, and the only thing suffering from the rain is my hair which has been hopelessly curly and fuzzy all weekend.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brought To You By the Letter C

Yesterday I got the sweetest email from C saying, "let's go get our marriage license!" So he played hooky from work for a few hours and we drove out to the county seat. First we went to the courthouse where we were directed instead to the clerk's office by a very congratulatory old southern man. At the clerk's office we had to fill out a form, pay $60 in cash, and swear on a Bible that we were telling the truth. Then, amongst the huge books chronicling all the births, deaths, and marriages in the county for all of recorded history, C and I were given license to marry. It was just another step in the process that is drawing us closer together, entwining our lives, and in five weeks we'll be married!

The clerk's office was conveniently located above Whole Foods, so E suggested we pop in and grab a few lil bottles of Martinelli's apple cider and drink a toast to the occasion. The nearest park we could find was more of a cemetery, but that was fine with us, and E snapped a few pictures of me and C as we drank a bubbly toast and acted all cute amongst the clover-covered gravestones.

Later that afternoon I rode over to the feed store with my mom to pick up her new chicks. Peeping, scratching and pecking, they are so adorable and fluffy. My picture doesn't really do them justice, but they wouldn't sit still for the camera.

I also picked up a few bags of compost, and in the evening I drove over to C's house where we planted beans, tomatoes, and zinnias. The evening was cool and clear and it felt so satisfying to get my hands covered in rich dark earth and plan a vegetable-filled future with my man. After the crops were all in, we rewarded ourselves with dinner at a Chinese restaurant and, as we ate, the clouds came up and a short rain watered our garden, then stopped in time for me to drive home safely under a crescent moon. Lovely.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Strange how hard it rains now. Rows and rows of endless clouds, but I'm holding on underneath this shroud, praying. That Patty Griffin song is in my head, it's been raining so hard all day long. So much rain, the pool is full to the very top and is overflowing. The garden won't need to be watered for a week or more, and maybe my mom's spindly plants will finally start to grow. It's the kind of dark rainy day that makes you not want to do anything at all except curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a book. I feel like watching To Kill A Mockingbird or The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. My mom has been baking bread and cookies all day and complaining about how fast the world has been turning on its axle (smile!), and my dad stayed home from work to work on the basement electrical wires. He's putting in a home theater down there. Too bad its not done already, cause it would be a nice place to escape from this dark wet dismal day. Sigh...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

These Days

These days are full of good things. I'm so enjoying this time before marriage of preparation, learning, spending time with my family and with C. The weather is hot sometimes and I swim in the pool, and when it rains I sit on the front porch swing with my sisters and squeal at the lightning. After work C will pick me up and we'll go out, or I'll drive over to his house and we'll roast hot dogs and marshmallows in the backyard. The other day I was there and heard the jingle of an ice cream truck in the distance. Running to the curb, I willed the truck to come to me, and a few seconds later it rounded the corner and saw me waving. There's nothing like an ice cream sandwich on a 92 degree day, handed to you fresh from the freezer in the back of an old ice cream truck. C just laughed and watched me enjoying my childish treat. We never seem to run out of things to talk and laugh about, and if it's even possible, I think I'm falling more in love each day.

But times aren't all good. C is worried about his job, I need a job, and all the time I've spent outside in this Southern jungle have resulted in 19 mosquito bites that each itch like the dickens. Bugs just love me. Sigh... and there are other things on my mind too that have me worried, but I'm working hard to make things better, and it's hard to stay down when there are so many wonderful things happening around me.

My wedding invitations are sent, the dress project is progressing wonderfully, I bought a wedding veil, the ceremony and reception plans are coming along smoothly, and I'm absolutely surrounded by love. The world is beautiful, and I love life.

I guess I was going to write about today, but I don't even know what to say. Just that I love my man and how he comes to pick me up and take me to church. We walk into church hand in hand, we sing hymns together, go to Sunday School together, then separate, then come back together, look in each others eyes and get lost, and then we get congratulated by somebody, and then the Bishop sits us down and gives us sage advice, tells us that communication is the key to a good marriage, and we look at each other and realize that the thing we do best with each other is communicate, and we smile. We're going to have a great marriage! And then we drive home and have lunch and then we drive around the beautiful countryside and then sit and talk and laugh and drive some more, the car getting slower and slower the closer we get to my house. When we reluctantly say goodbye we kiss and smile, and then when he's about halfway down the driveway I can't wait to see C again. It sounds silly, and I can't even describe it, but it's just wonderful. That's my idea of a gorgeous day, and a sweet life.


Church of the day! It's a Harlem one, although eventually I will segue into Durham churches. I had the best day today! I'll write about it in a minute...

Thursday, May 13, 2010


My mom showed me how to pick the barely-opened peony blossoms, dip the stems in candle-wax, put the flowers in ziploc bags, and refrigerate them. This way, up to several months later we can take them out of the fridge, cut the waxy tip off the stem, put them in water, and the flowers will open up as if they were newly picked from the garden. It's a trick I'm taking full advantage of, because if I could change anything, I would have gotten married right now, during the peak peony season. They are just such lush, beautiful flowers, and this way I can at least have a few to mix in with my other flowers at the wedding festivities next month.

Meanwhile, my mom is making lemon-thyme cookies while her sourdough starter bubbles happily on the kitchen counter, she's also got a vat of wool on the stove being dyed, my sister K is trying to figure out how to grind her own minerals and make face powder, and the warm weather is making the garden outside surge and the frogs, spiders, and lizards that abound in North Carolina to find their way indoors. Yesterday I had to chase a large brown lizard out the door with a broom. So, it feels a little less like a wedding party around here and more like a witch's coven what with all the candles, herbs, wildlife, and concoctions. Now I just need to come up with a magical spell that will make the time speed up, because I can't wait to get married!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's In A Name?

The votes are in, the poll is closed, and all thirteen of you (including me!) have had your say about changing the name of my blog. As you know, it has been called "New York Minutes" because I was living in New York until just a few weeks ago. I started the blog when I went to the city in an attempt to capture the adventures I was having and share them with my friends and family. The name was a pun on keeping a log (minutes) and the fast-pace lifestyle of the big city. But now that I'm back in North Carolina, with no plans to return to NYC any time soon, and since I want to keep my blog, and since it's too much of a hassle to start a new one (and lose my 10 followers, half of you whom I don't even know?), I decided to just change the title name. The URL stays the same, and I'm still the same person I've always been, just closer to getting married and with slightly less interesting stories now that I don't have all of New York City to cull from.

But what sort of new name do I choose? Here are some ideas I had:

An anagram of "New York Minutes" was one idea that I had, so I went to the anagram server to see what it would come up with. But unfortunately names such as "Sky Mutineer Now," "Entwine So Murky," and (gasp) "Smoky Wiener Nut" are not names that I feel are appropriate to the spirit of this blog.

Next I turned to the name of the city in which I will be living, but Durham has little to offer in the way of blog-name inspiration, and my mom was horrified at my idea of calling it "The Durham Bull." Durham is also known as Tobacco City, the City of Medicine, and is a baseball town, but none of those things are particularly relevant to my life.

So then I started reading some poems that I like, and one by Sara Teasdale stuck out: Stars over snow, and in the west a planet. Look for a lovely thing and you will find it. It is not far, it never will be far. I really love that poem, and the idea that there are lovely things all around us just waiting to be found, so I though of calling my blog "A Lovely Thing." Other names inspired by poems I considered are "A Tiny Song" from Walter de la Mare's "The Warbler," because my blog is a little bit like the tiny song a bird sings to itself and its friends. Or, "Daring All Things" from an Edward Carpenter poem, but although that poem starts out really good, it is mostly about naked men and, while there is nothing necessarily wrong with that, I didn't really feel like aligning myself with it specifically.

But I also thought about just calling the blog "Holiday" because it relates to my name and the song that my mom named me after (the Beegees' "You're a Holiday"), and then that reminded me of a song by the Spongetones that C played for me the other night, as we danced together under the stars: "Every night is a holiday when I'm spending my time with you. Every night is a holiday..." So, if his nights are holidays and I am a holiday, and the blog is about my days, then "Holiday, Every Day" seems like a good thing to call it. We'll try it out for a while and see if it sticks.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Well, I still have a few Harlem churches tucked up my sleeve, even though I'm trying to accept the fact that I'm not a New Yorker anymore. I still keep referring to "my roommates" even though I don't live with A and J anymore, for example. Now my family are my roommates, and they are all completely crazy, but I am enjoying living with them anyway in these weeks before my marriage. In fact, I love spending time with my mother. She loves to work in her garden, and she keeps chickens, and she also loves to do things with her hands, like hook rugs and knit sweaters. Everything I can do started with her teaching me how, or encouraging me to learn. She has always been the perfect example of a righteous woman, showing by example how to live a happy life full of richness. All the wonderful things that can be said about mothers can be said of her, and then even more. I love my mom, and am so grateful for her!

Friday, May 7, 2010


The last few months I was in New York, I was keeping a horrible secret! If I told anyone, it could have meant social ostracization. People would have looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity, and they would not wanted to come near my roommates or me, or even enter our house. What was this horrible secret, you ask? In New York it can only be one thing: bedbugs.

Back in March I got a couple of really nasty bug bites. I thought maybe there were fleas in the rug, so I took steps to kill them, but the bites persisted, and every few days I'd get a few new ones. However, my roommates were unaffected. When the flea poison didn't seem to do anything, I began to get scared. Bedbugs are a serious problem in New York. Posters on the subway cars and buses alert people to the rising population of the pests, which are extremely difficult to kill. I feared the worst. But I searched my bed and my room for signs of the nasty little creatures to no avail. I looked for the clues that websites said to look for, and came up with nothing. Even still, I began carrying a spray bottle of alcohol around and dousing all of my belongings with it. Almost every day I'd change my sheets and take my blankets to the laundromat. I washed every article of clothing I own. I sealed my mattress in a plastic cover. Still no sight of bedbugs, but still a few bites every so often. But I wondered if I was imagining it. Maybe the itching welts were caused by something else? Finally, in desperation, I wrapped my entire bed frame in packing tape, sealing every crack and crevice, so that if there were bedbugs hiding in the paper-thin cracks, they could not come out and bite me. I began sleeping with my light on to discourage them. Once a haven, my bed was now a war zone.

Finally one night after working on my computer late at night, I decided to go to bed. I went to pull back the covers on my bed, and underneath the blankets, there was a bedbug! Small and flat and disgusting looking, it was walking slowly along, probably looking for me. I immediately killed it with alcohol, put it in a ziploc bag, and threw it away. Then I searched my bed, every fold of the sheets, for more bugs, but didn't find anything. It was very hard to sleep that night, but I didn't get any more bites. I continued to change my sheets and wash my blankets and be on the alert, but I didn't find any more bugs after that one, and didn't get bit again the rest of the time I was in New York.

After all the public service announcements I've heard, all the websites, and all the horror stories, it's surprising to think that there was just one bedbug, but maybe I killed the others in my efforts, or maybe the one was just a random hop-on. Sometimes you're forced to stand or sit very close to other people on the buses and subways, and it's easy for the little bugs to crawl from one person to another. So, I don't think my apartment was infested, and there is no reason for anyone to be afraid to come over and visit my roommates. In fact, I think I was pretty lucky to live in New York for almost three years and not have a problem with bedbugs before this. That said, its definitely something I never want to have to deal with ever again! Now that I'm in North Carolina, where it's hot and humid and the perfect environment for insects, I've been getting lots of mosquito bites, but they are nothing compared to those bedbug bites. In fact, I feel silly complaining... but I still do. Why do bugs like to bite me so much?!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Lazy South

New York is known for its hustle and bustle. Wherever you go in the city, there are lots of people going this way and that, taking care of business, getting things done, working it. Part of the reason is, most people just can't afford to be lazy in New York. The competition is fierce there, and if you don't step it up, you lose out. When I first moved to New York, I thought I would be overwhelmed by the pace of life, the hordes of people, the thick traffic, the abundance of things to do and see. With so much going on at once, how could one possibly do it all? But I wasn't overwhelmed, I just reveled in the knowledge that with so much out there, I would never be bored or at a loss of what to do. I picked and chose my activities, and packed my days full of work, play, and adventure.

Now here in the South, there is a lot for me to do: wedding stuff. I've got things to sew and bake, things to search for and buy, people to talk to, programs to organize, events to coordinate. There should not be a dull or lazy moment. And yet... in my parents' house, which is comfortable and large and full of food, I feel compelled to laze around in my pajamas and do little more than read a book or play minesweeper on the computer. I don't know what has come over me! If I go outside, the hot sun and languorous garden and trees all around me make me feel like doing nothing more than sitting on the porch swing and eating strawberries and watching and listening to fat bumblebees roll around in gorgeous peony blossoms, and fluffy roses droop like a quilt over the backyard fence. If I go in the backyard, I can't help but lay down by the pool and take a nap, an old and tired dog by my side. Wherever I go--the post office, the grocery store, the bank--I feel like everything is going slow and lazily along. So, I've accomplished nothing, but am having a delightful time not doing it. However, maybe today I will make a list of things to do, and get busy. Or maybe I will just get a bowl of ice cream and eat it in the garden by the pea patch, and watch the chickens hunt for grubs. At least someone is busy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Last New York Weekend

This past weekend my dad and mom drove up to New York in their big old Chevy Suburban to load up my belongings and drive me back to North Carolina. I was so worried that all my things wouldn't fit in the back of the car, so I was giving stuff away right and left, but in the end it all fit perfectly, with room to spare, and we drove back home with no problems at all.

But before that long drive, my parents spent a few days with me enjoying the city. On Friday we walked down the street to Grant's Tomb, a national monument right by my apartment that I'd somehow never been to see. It was gorgeous, and so interesting. Nestled in a grove of plane trees atop a little hill, the domed structure was hung with patriotic bunting and houses exhibits on the life of Ulysses S. Grant, our Civil War hero and President. Grant is indeed entombed there, along with his amazing wife Julia Dent.

Nearby is Riverside Church, where charismatics such as Norman Vincent Peale once preached. Peale enjoyed a friendship with the LDS prophet David O. McKay, and several paintings by artist Heinrich Hoffmann that are owned by Riverside Church are often used in books and magazines by the LDS church, a legacy of that friendship. We wanted to see the paintings, but the church was full of highschool students from all over the country who had convened for a choir and band festival, and the room with the paintings was being used temporarily as storage. So instead we sat and enjoyed the music of a high-school band from North Carolina (which, despite being bassoonless, was pretty good) and wandered through the cathedral with its gorgeous soaring stained glass windows on the inside, and incredible ironwork and stone carvings on the outside.

Hopping on the subway, we headed downtown for a Shake Shack lunch, which we ate outside the American Museum of Natural History. While eating there, a Japanese tourist/stranger walked up to me and said, "Hi, it's me. Is there shake nearby?"

Then, it was back up-up-uptown, and a visit to the Cloisters, that branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval art. Sadly, despite my Met membership, I had never been there, and did not want to leave the city without visiting. And I loved it! Now I'm sad I didn't go more often, because it is so amazing and beautiful and full of the most wonderful things. The famous Unicorn tapestries are there, countless gargoyles, carved wood figures by Tilman Riemenschneider, ancient jewelry, famous altarpiece paintings, and much much more. There are also gardens, fountains, and a terrace overlooking the Hudson River, which was looking more beautiful that day than I've ever seen it: blue and gold above trees bursting into their summer greens. I felt transported to an Italy of yesteryear.

On the way home we wended through the gardens of Fort Tryon Park, and came across a pair of woodchucks, happily chewing on the underbrush near their massive ground-burrow. Home again, we got barbecue from Dinosaur, and finished the day happily sated and tired.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm Back!

Sorry about the long absence of posting... but I've had so much going on! I enjoyed my last week in New York, then moved back to North Carolina. Now I'm here, and it seems very strange that I won't be going back to my Harlem apartment with its Hudson River view, or spending time with my awesome roommates, or jumping on the subway and exploring the wonderful city. Did I have enough time to do everything I wanted to do? Of course not. But there is never enough time. I'll go back and visit the city again someday, and it will always hold such an incredibly fond place in my heart. But now New York's not my home.

However, I do need to write about some of the things I did in New York before I left. I also want to talk about my plans here in NC, and blog about all sorts of other stuff, but first things first. I'm still unpacking, and I've got a huge to-do list, and... trying not to turn into a frazzled bridezilla while I count down the days to the wedding (less than 2 months away!!!) and try to make it all come together. So, stay tuned. I'll definitely be blogging more often now that I'm here. But the question is, now that I'm not in New York any longer, should I change the name of my blog? Please vote in the sidebar poll, and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading!