Super Sunday

Hairhoppers Redux, Q. Cassetti, 2011, pen and inkWell. It happens every year about this time. The high holidays. The culinary event that has us all anticipating the best…of commericals, of cheap beer and the endless amount of fat, and spice, and meat, and all that is bad and horrifying. Yes, its that Sunday, that special Sunday that has us all worshipping at the other temple to another god, that of sport. Its Super Bowl Sunday.Light the candles, char the burgers, pop the tops and tear open the chips. Put on your  sportingist clothing (preferably with some sports emblem on the front) and scream your head off when “your team” screws up in some painful way. Leap to your feel and scream like a monkey when they move the ball down the field by inches and feet. Holler obscenities at the man in the black and white shirt as he makes a judgement that fifty percent of the time is totally WRONG. All the while scooping up great shovelfuls of hot cheese and salsa, slatering ranch whatever on whatever, and dipping into vats of bubbling chili and more cheese. Then there are the wings, the dumplings and pizza. All reason to wash it down with something akin to Natty Ice, Bud Light or something equallly as unnoteworthy.

We learned how to behave like real Americans when we had Barbara living with us, sportingly goading us to be real, to eat the chicken wings—for Gods Sake…and to turn the damned television and figure out the game. She dragged us into the frenzy of planning and dethawing,frying and stirring til everything was just right. But now that she isnt with us, the total pinnacle of the super event has dwindled to the wimpy and mediocre job that I have assumed. However, the effort is worth it as Alex is a real boy and needs to have real parents who like “the game” and all the trimmings versus the pair of losers who know far too much about moulding, or esoteric computer programs, or live in their silly imaginary worlds of ideas and pictures, town planning and light fixtures. We have to put on our game face and enjoy the superior Sunday events while he leads us in the shouting, yelling and bad food consumption. It should be fun.

We did, however, go to Walmart to pick up cat food and milk—to have this holiday confirmed by glancing into the baskets of our fellow shoppers and boy howdy, the Super Bowl cuisine beats out Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter all rolled into one. Heaping carts of cheese and chips, gigantic cases of beer and wings, prebaked pizzas, more chips and pretzels, and frozen goodies like mozzerella sticks and mushroom caps just to pop into the oven and whisk quickly in between the viewers and the TV set to be devoured inbetween the shouting. They were even sporting Super Sunday garb…the branded teeshirts, hats and all else (probably down to the skivvies)—proclaiming their affinity and their foe. Let the games begin.

And be over….as there is a PBS double header of  Downton Abbey (my new fave) tonight. So we will have costume drama abbutting the “Big Game”.

I am sorry I have been remiss in writing. I am all caught up in work and the emotional pull of this college thing. We are planning the February break which will be quite a week. The lynchpin of that week is an all day meeting on the Tuesday for Rob in NYC on the new design project with Thomas Phifer and Partners. So the plan is to drive to NYC on Sunday. Go to Hofstra on Monday and get back to the city for dinner with a friend. Tuesday would be Rob in his meeting, Alex and I hang at the Met or do some music shopping… Its up to us. Wednesday we fly to St. Petersburg/Tampa FL to tour and visit Eckerd College (amazing school with good music and a robust support system for LD students). Then its spending the night near Eckherd…the next morning driving down to Boca to visit/tour Lynn University (which has a music conservatory program supported by a robust support system for LD Students) (and which A has already been accepted into). Then, we fly back to NYC/ Newark and shop at IKEA for bathroom stuff and drive north to the most perfect little village in the world.

Rob was nominated by caucus last Sunday to be one of the democrats to run for the two open Village Trustee positions coming up for reelection this March. There were questions, a little talk by Rob and then Rordan Hart, fellow trustee and all round amazing contributer who did the same. So much of the work of the Village Board goes unrecognized—or praised that it hurts, as a member of team Robbie to see him take unwarranted knocks by others who are not spending the valuable time he has outside of the 9- 7 p.m. that he has to himself. We will need to ramp up the promotion machine (postcards and handshakes) to get the Cassetti/Hart team reelected. There is so much valuable work for them to do.

Ellie is here with Tucker the Hunter. I need to get downstairs to get the wings working and the other goodies happening. Thanks for your patience.

Spring evening

Hairhopper, Q. Cassetti, 2012, pen and inkIt’s been a while. Sorry for my radio silence. But, I am back and ready to chat it up with all of my lovelies. Its after five and I am gazing at a lavender sky that is migrating to pink, gold and salmon. It feels like a lovely almost spring evening with the treat of the mild weather and and light after five. Its a quiet night here at Two Camp with Robbie doing the late night shift at the Museum and Prince Alex Cassetti, singing and dancing his way through “Once Upon a Mattress” as his momma’s little glittering star. I am back from a very invigorating Farmers Market Meeting…where we got into the small points—and got some real work done.

We are back from the trip to Landmark College and Hampshire. Landmark, to be quite blunt, was a disappointment. We all really wanted to have Landmark really rise to our expectations, but were all so saddened to discover that Landmark might be a bit like sending Alex to Siberia with no one as a friend, and no ability to be engaged as a musician and all round people person. We had an interview. Alex had an interview and then we were convinced to have another tour. Our charge to our amiable tourguide, to show us students…lots of students. We saw students…maybe 25 or 30 of them— none of them who were engaged, edgy or excited about anything. We were all trying to piece together a life for Alex with studies at Landmark, jazz studies at the Vermont Jazz Center (in Brattleboro) and a job off campus at the Putney Coop. Unfortunately, even with all this embellishment—we still couldnt see how it all could work to Alex’s benefit.

It would be education without friends, without passion. So, the next day, we focused on passion with help to make the passion ignite. Alex interviewed happily at Hampshire— thrilled at the custom tailored interview where he could gab on about music theory and the like with a lovely third year student. We took the afternoon to see Smith College’s art, music and drama department facilities (thrilling)—and spend time projecting out what that picture could be. What kind of help do they provide the students with learning differences. We hung out with Kitty and her Mod mates…and got some ground level insights into LD, into special help, into personal advocacy and got some interesting stories and great names of people to call, questions to ask. We are going to get moving on Kurtzweil 3000 so that Alex is familiar with this tool. We are going to maybe do a bridge program at Landmark to get him familiar with tools without having the semester committment. We will put his name in the hat for other schools. We are going to drive from the position of passion with skills being secondary…and lean on the things that make our boy happy and challenged. This is the richer slice…and richer rewards for him. Mildly put, its been quite a few days to get to this simple conclusion. All of us are feeling as if we were drawn through a keyhole backwards. Yikes.

Pursue passion. That is a reason to draw breath and live a full life, passion and engagement. We all can get something to pursue for money, a job, a life…but those moments at the dark, velvety late hour of the night when we wake should have a channel where passions can be stirred and anticipated versus focusing on the commonplace of checkbooks and taxes, musts and shoulds versus brilliance and beautiful. Life for Alex needs to unfold and challenge versus lockdown and to some degree, punish. We are all poised to make that chapter happen in the energetic, positive way he deserves. The path is not clear, but we are on it…and now we join together to see how it evolves.


Rejected valentine.Sorry I have gone radio silent. Its just been a bit busy. Friday was Ithaca College and then work. Ithaca College was fascinating…a great school, spectacular facilities and heads down, focused students. Impressive. Really impressive but maybe not the right program for our student. It definitely feels like a place that is great if you know the road you want to be on, you have the map and all you need is the gas and vehicle to get from here to there. We are more in the questing mode here. We are looking for passion and at many directions. To my thinking as a former targeted missile, this is a fine thing to do. It was cool to see the “other” school in Ithaca—with clever architects and siting such that every building and walkway opened to gorgeous high views of Cayuga Lake making me feel that we were definitely somewhere different than the Ithaca we know. The music facilities are the most superior we have had seen— with state of the art practice rooms, choral spaces, tidy lockers, engaging performance spaces. Their admissions building is a new, welcoming space which marries a welcoming professionalism with an environmental conciousness  that really communicates the spirit of the school. If you have a student interested in the arts, music, communications (The Park School)—in particular, who is a focused student, consider Ithaca College. Yes, its in our backyard, but is an outstanding program, a smaller more intimate experience, and clearly top rate.

Alex has Friday off for Superintendent’s Day. We are going to travel to Putney, Vermont to go see Landmark College. Landmark is a program you can do as a summer session, a semester, a year or two. It is an accredited program that is focused on teaching with learning disabililties (specifically ADHS, ASD and dyslexia) students to use assistive tools and techniques for reading and writing. They help place students in jobs and in other colleges  after this experience. This is an option that we need to see regardless of how we chose to engage. There are amazing tools out there…(Kurzweill 3000 and Dragon for examples) that if they were to become automatic for our student, it could make learning more fluid, easier and maybe fun (!). I will keep you posted.

Speaking of technology, I wish the Wacom Inkling would please come out…They promised it in September…

I am transfixed by the tragedy and drama that keeps leaking out of the Penn State Football program. Absolutely tragic, operatic, more disgusting and detailed than any novelist could embellish. The giants have fallen…and more to come. It was great hanging out with Rob’s barber, Ed Pesco and Brian, to hear their insight and impressions of this news (they are huge football fans)—with their research (they access football forums on various teams), the gossip that is floating out there and the hints at how huge this thing is. It confounds me that Jerry Sandusky, a pedophile, is out on bail without having to post a penny of his own money—without a cuff or anklet to track him. This man who “horses around” in the shower lives across the street from an elementary school and is residing there while his lawyer constructs an arguement to explain how this Sandusky is innocent. It was appalling arrogance and hubris to see that “Joe Pa”, Joe Paterno thought that he was more superior to the board of directors of the University to determine when he was going to retire. Thank goodness the Board got off their duffs to fire that old man and the university president along with him. Paterno thinking he could control his future in this…despite his essentially ignoring this obscene behavior under his leadership—approval by sheer neglect. I agree with Ed and Brian that they should clean house within this organization and even, if necesssary, shut football down for 5 years to focus on healing the University (and to my thinking, shift priorities to that of education and community)

Finally, it takes this level of foul play to have the national press focus on college football so we can really ask ourselves if this is where our educational dollars should be spent (to drive alumni donations)—This huge national college football phenomenon was bigger than the travesty that was being manifested in the locker room by a coach during his tenure and his retirement. The silence throughout the organization up to the top of the University to coverup and damp down these activities despite the distruction and abuse of these disadvantaged children for the sake of the university image as reflected in the football program. Why shouldnt a university be recognized, funded and rewarded for it’s change in the world of ideas, theories, discoveries, developments versus brawny, kobe-beef boys who can catch a ball? What does that say about us as a culture, a community, a people?

Mark Madden predicted this story in April 2011 in the Beaver County Times>> Lets see if his predictions are as true as the ones that have come out recently.

The weekend was prep for Thanksgiving. I made more cranberries, baked the layers for a Maple Walnut layer cake (from the current MSteward Food magazine), made stock and prepped all sorts of vegetables from the CSA. This week is more baking and planning Thanksgiving week’s pregame prep with veggies and potatoes. Our guest list is slimming down from 22 to 17 now. Bit easier (at least from the flatware standpoint)— Like a little Thanksgiving squirrel, I have the beginnings of our feast frozen and ready to go. By the day, it will be a glorious thing.

Summer lull

Green Man 10, Q. Cassetti 2011, pen and ink.Yesterday was a day of shuttling and shopping, cooking and floating, revelations and quiet. Rob went sailing with our friend Peter and our friend John on the prettiest little wooden sailboat on Cayuga Lake.

I took Kitty into her job by noon with a stop at the fabric store to buy fake fur to make  hats out of. We looked and touched pretty much everything in the store, ending up with a yard of tone on tone spotty cheetah type stuff that she was delighted with. I then did a little grocery shopping (for the crowd of 10 for lunch everyday) coming home to marinate chicken, brown a big hunk of beef for spaghetti sauce, and a mamouth pork butt into the crockpot for pulled pork (the crew loves it, its cheap and in the crockpot, not a lot of heat is generate). After all of that, I glanced at Alex and Jacob looking glum and uninspired, so I suggested I take them to Jacob’s favorite music store to see what there was to be seen. I dropped them off, and ran to TJMaxx for wrapping paper and thises and thats. Then, my phone rang and it was time to pickup the boys. With more time to kill prior to picking up Kitty, we went to the new Trader Ks to find some really great things for the boys. We took a long and neighborhoody drive down the hill to gather our girl and go to the lake for swimming. But that changed as Kitty went off to the last Blue Stockings game (one of our rollerderby teams) and Jacob and E. stayed chez camp for music and such.

So, Alex, Shady, Rob and I were lakeside and talked about how maybe Alex would like to spend a year (maybe Rotary) abroad to experience all of that. Bless him! He finally heard me…! How great would that be? and what a great calibration for him out of high school and into a world that loves him and that he can grow and expand in. This is so so great. He would so love it. Now, to  make it happen.

Today, we had a quiet morning with coffee and swimming.  Once Rob started to mow the lawn, Kitty and I went to pick peaches and raspberries. I have about 3 quarts of raspberries in the freeze with many many more planned (seeing the abundance of green berries ready to go in 10 days or so). The peaches were sublime with soft fruit on the ground with tremendously happy bees scavanging for the sweetness to take home to the hive. Maybe some bees and fruit need to become integrated into the greenman project.

Rain and then some

Sheep study, Q. Cassetti. 2010, digital.Luckystone is being swamped with rain. The cats are circling, looking for a warm spot to twist themselves into to ride out this Noah inspired deluge.There are branches on the roads, willows bent over and the water, coming down in sheets, also is rough and tumble—and high, in the lake.  Chet, the Lawnmower man would refer to this sort of rain as a “soaker” which, to someone who loves and works with grass is imperative to the greening of the ground…and keeping it green versus the tan straw that often happens by August.

The temperatures, as they often do mid August onward, keep getting incrementally cooler that multiple layers are not out of the question, and the anticipation of thick sweaters and heavy socks do not seem too much of a stretch. But cool and wet are Chet’s friends, so the grass will be green as we roll into September, the change of seasons, the start of schools and the shoulder to winter. In this spirit of autumn, I made up a big pot of Restoration Soup, otherwise known as Recycled Soup (comprising of left over corn, tomatoes, sausage, noodles, beans with seasonings) to prepare for the hoards that are going to descend on us this week with the deconstruction of the back walkway and the finalizing of the backwall behind our woodfired range. From no action to action immediately. So my group of 6 for lunch is now jumping to 9-10 and I need to recalibrate to accomodate.

We spent the morning talking with a friend and making plans for an interesting and very important project on the horizon. Soon, you will hear about the content, but not until I have it better in my sights and understanding…and how to grapple with it creatively to package it beautifully, compellingly and memorably to galvanize support, awareness and better understanding among all of us who now (moi aussi) are naively waiting for “it” to happen…and it already has. So, get ready to buckle down with me… More on that front later.

I was the shuttle bus yesterday for Alex…picking up and delivering. I got the raspberries in the freeze and did a quick shot at the Shur Save (Savior) and loaded up a cooler with the goods. Kitty and Rob and I went to Target and did some college shopping (with the rest of the world) and was stunned by the stacks of $29. microwaves, bookshelves, towering stacks of plastic totes. All the cheap stuff was wiped out with all the new apartments and dorm rooms being furnished that I was really glad we had done a bit of this earlier—and only had the health and beauty stuff to buy. Absolute insanity. The televisions were amazingly priced ( I guess one needs a personal tv to go with your microwave for college…note to self: you should pay extra to go to Hampshire as in room tvs are forbidden). And the shelves to the tvs were scoured as well. New world for this mom. Jeez.

I am reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel Amazon’s Editorial Reviews capture this: Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2010: David Mitchell reinvents himself with each book, and it’s thrilling to watch. His novels like Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas spill over with narrators and language, collecting storylines connected more in spirit than in fact. In The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, he harnesses that plenitude into a more traditional form, a historical novel set in Japan at the turn into the 19th century, when the island nation was almost entirely cut off from the West except for a tiny, quarantined Dutch outpost. Jacob is a pious but not unappealing prig from Zeeland, whose self-driven duty to blurt the truth in a corrupt and deceitful trading culture, along with his headlong love for a local midwife, provides the early engine for the story, which is confined at first to the Dutch enclave but crosses before long to the mainland. Every page is overfull with language, events, and characters, exuberantly saturated in the details of the time and the place but told from a knowing and undeniably modern perspective. It’s a story that seems to contain a thousand worlds in one. —Tom Nissley

I agree with Mr. Nissley. Its a gem. Maybe its an Audible book too. Could be good as a listen to.