I posted about my adventure today on my new gravestone blog! It was really fun, despite some giant teases. Going to Derby and Ansonia was totally unplanned… I intended to go to Wallingford, but since that failed, I tried North Haven, and when that failed I just said, “Well, I’m down this far anyway, and it’s a beautiful day… might as well try Derby!!” Good call, Self.

Driving around Ansonia and Derby was kind of crazy… it’s so hilly, with all sorts of weird little streets that meet up every which way at extreme angles. I called my parents (who were on vacation with my sister, so it was extra great!) for help finding the family gravestones in Ansonia and finding my mom’s old house. The house looks totally different from when my grandma lived there (I barely remember it, because I was 7 when she died, but even I knew it was nothing like how it was) because they put on all sorts of ugly additions and cut down all the trees and hedges and paved over half the yard. It was still fun/cool finding it, though, and I even talked to a neighbor across the street who knew my grandmother!!

gravestonegeek:

Today I went to FOUR old graveyards: Center Street Cemetery in Wallingford (failure, because the old stones face east, so they were all in shadow), Center Cemetery in North Haven (ditto), Old Derby Upton Burying Ground (success! well, partial success… the stones face both ways), and Elm Street…

I made Easter eggs! My favorite’s the hideous one. I wonder which one Dean will vote for? Also, my hand now looks exactly like when I used to make pressed cookies with my dad.

P.S. Note my Much Improved formerly-haunted scratch!

This is how I found out about the gravestone code.  It’s James Leeson’s gravestone, at Trinity Churchyard in lower Manhattan.  I went there with Thomas on the 4th of July and noticed the curious squares at the top of the stone, which I pointed out to him.  (They are actually pretty hard to see unless the lighting is perfect.  I took this photo another time, when I went back in September.)  Then I kind of forgot about it, because I often observe interesting details on gravestones, and there was a lot of other stuff going on that week.  Later Thomas must’ve researched the stone, and he told me how to decipher the code!  So I left that coded message for him at Chelsea Market.  But I don’t think he’s ever looked at it. :-( Maybe someone else will see it and figure it out.  

(Note that there is no letter J in the code, because originally I and J were the same letter.  Very cool.)

This is how I found out about the gravestone code. It’s James Leeson’s gravestone, at Trinity Churchyard in lower Manhattan. I went there with Thomas on the 4th of July and noticed the curious squares at the top of the stone, which I pointed out to him. (They are actually pretty hard to see unless the lighting is perfect. I took this photo another time, when I went back in September.) Then I kind of forgot about it, because I often observe interesting details on gravestones, and there was a lot of other stuff going on that week. Later Thomas must’ve researched the stone, and he told me how to decipher the code! So I left that coded message for him at Chelsea Market. But I don’t think he’s ever looked at it. :-( Maybe someone else will see it and figure it out.

(Note that there is no letter J in the code, because originally I and J were the same letter. Very cool.)

I had an OKAY birthday overall, but it ended GREAT: a perfect dinner at Fish Tag, and then my parents called on the phone and sang happy birthday to me and made me cry a little because it was so wonderful. When they called, they asked, “Are you looking out the window?” So I went to the balcony window and looked out at all the city lights while they sang. The call was the best—I felt loved, and we laughed and talked about nonsense and they said this Christmas was the best ever because Diane and I helped out so much so they were able to relax and enjoy talking with everyone and didn’t get tired out. I was really glad. They said they loved seeing us working so well together—ha!! (I didn’t get to talk to people that much during the big family gathering because I was doing dishes and stuff, but that’s okay. I don’t really like mingling anyway, and for me the game is the best part.)

I just picked out Fish Tag for my birthday dinner because I saw it on a map whilst planning, but it turned a blah day around entirely. The staff was SUPER nice, and because I went pretty early, I had the restaurant almost entirely to myself. Everything I ordered was delectable and just right, and they gave me a complimentary mini Smokey D margarita (El Jimador Tequila, Monte Mezcal, Cointreau, Pomegranate, Almond Salt) to pair with my Tuscan Kale and Smoked Trout Salad. I also ordered a plate with Gaspe Salmon and La Tur cheese (which I think is my official favorite cheese… I’ve also had it at MoMA, so I knew I loved it), which were artfully and deliciously served with bread and fresh and pickled vegetables, a succulent savory sauce, and insanely tasty Greek yogurt. For dessert, they let me order one scoop of Greek Coffee ice cream even though you’re supposed to get three scoops, and brought it out with a lit candle on top. ♥ ♥ ♥ I felt special and like it was really my birthday, and loved them so much in that moment. (I am tearing up just writing this—what the heck!!) I am not even usually a big ice cream fan, but it was smooth and intense and perfect.

My phone battery died when I was at Fish Tag, but I knew the restaurant was close to a subway station with the 1 line (part of the reason I chose it), so I didn’t panic at all. I just asked the waitress how to get there, and it was super easy—basically just turn left and walk to the corner, with the downtown platform across the street. I was pleased and proud that I confidently knew which line to take, which stop to get off at, and how to walk back to our apartment from there. Yeah, it was fairly simple, but for someone with NO sense of direction, it felt really good.

The reason the earlier part of my birthday was blah is basically just because… it was my birthday. My birthday is jinxed, so I wasn’t the least bit surprised. I have never had an unenjoyable day in New York before, but most of Monday I felt like I was just trying to get through the day and put it behind me. It wasn’t horrible or anything, but it was just off. I had lunch at Boulud Sud, which I thought I’d like because I love Bar Boulud and Épicerie Boulud, but it was kind of disappointing and I felt like I should have just gone to Épicerie Boulud for a much more pleasing and far cheaper Smoked Salmon Mauricette. The bathrooms down in the wine cellar—shared with Bar Boulud—were pretty awesome, though, and I did love KNOWING how to get here, from all my visits to Épicerie Boulud next door. Emerging from the Lincoln Center subway station and just immediately knowing where to walk really pleased me. I also liked how familiar the walk from Boulud-ville to Columbus Circle was, and seeing CNN’s time and temperature in the distance through the Time Warner Center globe: 50° on my birthday! What the heck?! It usually snows!

My afternoon activity was the American Museum of Natural History, which was a safe but ultimately unsatisfying and frustrating choice. Since I knew my birthday was jinxed, I didn’t want to do anything too risky, where I could get lost or have something go horribly wrong. So it was good (I have been to the 81st St.-Museum of Natural History subway station many times, so it was nice and familiar), but just sort of… ugh. I forgot I kind of hate fake models of natural stuff, and that it’s really annoying trying to find your way around that place.

The special Power of Poison exhibition was decent, but it wasn’t as good as the free Why Children’s Books Matter exhibition at the New York Public Library, so I felt a little cheated. (Come to Danbury, CT and get mercury poisoning!) (…just like the Mad Hatter!) (that part was cool).

Most of the core exhibits seemed sort of dated, overwhelming, and uninspiring, and the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life was just depressing. (Fake crown-of-thorns… ugh.) The special "Natural Histories: 400 Years of Scientific Illustration from the Museum’s Library" exhibition, which I had been excited about, was very meh. It was impossible to find, and when I finally found it, after walking endlessly in circles whilst trying to follow the map, it was just a tiny passageway with a fairly boring selection of enlarged illustrations lining the walls. (I was like, "That was IT?! I have lots better cool old scientific illustrations in books at home!")

At the very end I found my old favorite, the Halls of Gems & Minerals. Thank God. Real things at last. But by then I didn’t have very much time left to enjoy it, and my phone battery was really low, so I couldn’t take very many pictures. It was good, but not as good as I’d remembered. So, basically, I do NOT personally recommend the American Museum of Natural History. I like its fantastic subway station a lot better than the museum itself! Heh. But, I made it through my birthday okay, and everything turned out well at the end. And now it’s over! Yay! :-)

Wait! Wait!  I take it back!  This is my favorite photo from Christmas. Lunch on my parents’ porch: turkey neck! My dad took it, and I love how crazy/pleased I look.  Well, turkey neck is a delicacy I don’t get to eat very often! :-)

Wait! Wait! I take it back! This is my favorite photo from Christmas. Lunch on my parents’ porch: turkey neck! My dad took it, and I love how crazy/pleased I look. Well, turkey neck is a delicacy I don’t get to eat very often! :-)

This is my favorite pic from Christmas. Hahaha! My sister took it, when I was washing dishes during our big gathering on Sunday. Excellent proof that we were succeeding with the “Help Mom!!!” item on the agenda the two of us made up the night before! (And the “Take pictures!” item!) Other items included Arm Thing, M & D’s Orange, Rose Game, and Sit Around Talking.

"Rose’s Game," which I insisted we play, was awesome, as always. (We played it for the first time last year, and it’s basically the best game ever.) It’s sort of like telephone, but alternating drawing pictures and writing words, and everyone does it simultaneously. You need a big group of weird people for it to be good.

The Arm Thing is this: lie on the floor on your back and raise your arms in the air and see if you can lower them straight down to touch the floor behind your head with the backs of your hands. As I discovered in Pilates, I am horrible at this, even though I’m pretty flexible elsewhere. My overhead reach is abysmal, and when I attempt the Arm Thing my hands just STOP, with my wrists around nine inches from the floor. My mom and Dean can do it easily, but my dad can’t (he isn’t as bad as I am, though!), so I was curious if other family members are able to. Well, everyone tried it except Tom, and they could ALL do it, so with a sample size of twelve (including a remote report from June), ten could do it and two couldn’t, so I am clearly a freak.

When I finished Dorian, I read the short stories included in the back: The Happy Prince (wonderful; the ending moved me to tears!), The Birthday of the Infanta (boring; I started it and then bailed), and Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (readable, but silly and uninspired).  It was a smooth, quiet, and enjoyable journey; I very nearly had the business class car to myself, although the rest of the train was full!  The weird part was, my business class ticket was a few dollars cheaper than the coach tickets when I purchased it!  

The reason I took the train back from N.C. was so that I could stay longer than Dean and see my siblings on Sunday, and it was a brilliant solution!  (I came up with it, by thinking like Dean.)  David’s family gave me a ride in their RV from North Carolina to Maryland, and we even played some road trip games!  I loved having the extra time with them, although I was pretty tired that day because David, Diane and I stayed up until after 4 AM talking the night before, so I didn’t fall asleep until nearly five and had to get up at 8:15 for the trip. It was worth it! :-)

When I finished Dorian, I read the short stories included in the back: The Happy Prince (wonderful; the ending moved me to tears!), The Birthday of the Infanta (boring; I started it and then bailed), and Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (readable, but silly and uninspired). It was a smooth, quiet, and enjoyable journey; I very nearly had the business class car to myself, although the rest of the train was full! The weird part was, my business class ticket was a few dollars cheaper than the coach tickets when I purchased it!

The reason I took the train back from N.C. was so that I could stay longer than Dean and see my siblings on Sunday, and it was a brilliant solution! (I came up with it, by thinking like Dean.) David’s family gave me a ride in their RV from North Carolina to Maryland, and we even played some road trip games! I loved having the extra time with them, although I was pretty tired that day because David, Diane and I stayed up until after 4 AM talking the night before, so I didn’t fall asleep until nearly five and had to get up at 8:15 for the trip. It was worth it! :-)

Aaaaaaaa! I finished ALL my wrapping! Noooo. It was so fun! I wish I could post photos of my best and weirdest wrappings, but it would be too spoilerific, so I can’t. Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure my wrapping job this year deserves some sort of awards. Like:

- Probably Going To Be Impossible To Open Because of All the Layers: June’s ___. (Not to mention the glue.)
- Coolest Sneaky Reference to What’s Inside: June’s _________. Actually, most of her little presents have sneaky references to what’s inside.
- Most Environmentally Friendly and Still Good Looking: Mom & Dad’s ______. (I’ve re-used the paper at least three years in a row. The trick is to always wrap the exact same size box, so you can follow the fold lines from before, and don’t use tape. And start with good paper; the soft, thick, handmade-ish art store type works best. Instead of tape, I held everything together with a thing I knitted!)
- Contrastingly, there’s the “Did You Use An Entire Roll of Tape on This???!” “No, Only Half A Roll…” gift, also for Mom & Dad, on which I used leftover scraps from seven different rolls of wrapping paper, creatively plastered all over each other in a collage-like format. (This style was originally invented by Dean. It’s a good strategy when the piece of paper you want to use isn’t quite big enough.)
- Best Box: Carefully saved People’s Pops strawberry-rhubarb popsicle box (it held one single popsicle), used to hold a Pralus chocolate Mini Tropical Pyramid for my dad. Anything rhubarb related is clearly meritorious.
- Most Hilariously Presented Series: my stocking stuffers for my dad, mom, and Dean. And I particularly like that our family’s method of opening stockings (and presents) in age order from oldest to youngest is key.

I enjoy my own company and my indulgent introversion, but I am also very thankful for those few connections that are important to me. ♥

Here’s Part One of my complete Thanksgiving Report (very slightly expurgated from Twitter) (my account is private).

1) Woken up by phone ringing. Thought, “What the heck?! Phone???” and hid under blankets. (No one EVER calls on the phone!)
2) An indeterminate amount of time later, woken up again by my iPhone ringing right next to my ear. Even more bizarre!
3) Looked confusedly at the screen and discovered it was my parents calling. After a moment’s hesitation, answered.
4) Nice phone call, but was much amused by M’s shock that I’d be sleeping in at 11:30 “ON THANKSGIVING!” Me: “What else would I be doing?”
5) Decided it was no use trying to go back to sleep, and, plus, it was nice and sunny out unlike yesterday’s endless darkness, so got up.
7) Put out Thanksgiving treats for birds/squirrels/chipmunks, including a special bowl of farm stand nuts for the rodents. It’s cold out!
8) Returned inside & watched through kitchen windows with great pleasure as LOTS of birds descended on food & twittered around happily.
9) Made a cup of Rancho Aloha coffee in my Aeropress & drank while munching a bagel slim w/maple almond butter & reading The New Yorker.
10) Decided to tweet Thanksgiving. Spied on cute squirrel with binoculars, & thought about heroic pigeon Cher Ami while watching doves. ♥
11) Spent an absurd amount of time getting ready to go out, frustrated by face peeling off in flakes. I want to go somewhere, but where?
12) Decided the best Thanksgiving activity is probably a walk in the woods, so got all bundled. It’s blue & bare & bright out.
13) The minute I stepped out the door, I could hear our melodious wind chimes ringing far off in the distance through the woods. Wow!
14) The minute I stepped out the door, I thought: IT’S TOO COLD!!! Pressed on anyway.
15) Sounds: faint chimes, birds fluttering & chirping, woodpeckers pecking, dry oak leaves rustling. LOTS of different birds, all around.
16) New sounds: WIND blowing, tree branches squeaking, me shivering, more birds. No machine-made sounds discernible. My fingertips are numb.
17) Walking on trail now. Sounds: leaves crunching, corduroys vipping, teeth chattering, chimes. It’s still again but must be windy at top!
18) Now my nose feels numb. Reached top! What???! Hammock is tipped on its side! How did that happen?? Wind??? Chimes chiming like crazy.
19) Right after that previous tweet, my iPhone shut down & showed battery as drained, but when I plugged it in just now, it’s at 67%. WIMP!
20) What do you think this is, iPhone, the north pole? Walked back on trail, throat dry, eyes watering & tears running down face. Sunny tho!

(continued in Part Two…)

What the heck! I already went to Stone Church Cemetery in East Lyme, back in August!!  I did not remember it at all. How embarrassing.  My sense of direction is excruciating.  It did seem like I’d already encountered a Jonas Stewart stone, but I assumed it was just from seeing pictures.  (The one at that cemetery is the only known eastern Connecticut stone by him.)  But now I have a photo of myself pal-ing around with it, thanks to my dad!

Anyway, I’m still glad we went, because I got to introduce my Gs to Gershom Bartlett, Josiah Manning, and ol’ man Hartshorne. Most of the cemeteries along the coastline have carvers that I’m much less fond of, but East Lyme bizarrely has some of my northerly favorites. My dad really liked Manning, which is cool because we are related to Manning (not directly, but decently closely).  Plus, his parents were great friends with the Manning family when they lived in Storrs.  Also, the lighting wasn’t very good today, so I was thinking I’d have to go back.  But I don’t have to because I already went!  Heh.

What the heck! I already went to Stone Church Cemetery in East Lyme, back in August!! I did not remember it at all. How embarrassing. My sense of direction is excruciating. It did seem like I’d already encountered a Jonas Stewart stone, but I assumed it was just from seeing pictures. (The one at that cemetery is the only known eastern Connecticut stone by him.) But now I have a photo of myself pal-ing around with it, thanks to my dad!

Anyway, I’m still glad we went, because I got to introduce my Gs to Gershom Bartlett, Josiah Manning, and ol’ man Hartshorne. Most of the cemeteries along the coastline have carvers that I’m much less fond of, but East Lyme bizarrely has some of my northerly favorites. My dad really liked Manning, which is cool because we are related to Manning (not directly, but decently closely). Plus, his parents were great friends with the Manning family when they lived in Storrs. Also, the lighting wasn’t very good today, so I was thinking I’d have to go back. But I don’t have to because I already went! Heh.

Highly successful visit to The Book Barn this afternoon with my Gs (after Johnny Cake Hill Cemetery, lunch at the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe, and Stone Church Cemetery in East Lyme). I got exactly what I was looking for: a Signet Classics paperback edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and a set of fantastic Coleridge books!

I wasn’t looking for a specific Coleridge book, but I checked out the section where they reside to see what they had, and found Richard Holmes’ Early Visions and Darker Reflections, parts 1 + 2 of a highly acclaimed biography of Coleridge. (The back of the first book has a quote that calls it, “The best literary biography since Ellmann’s Oscar Wilde." Wow!) Part one is a paperback and part two a hardcover, but I don’t care. They’re both in perfect condition and were only $4 and $6 apiece.

As for Frankenstein, I wanted it because I have tickets for the National Theatre Live version next month, and yesterday I discovered to my surprise that I didn’t have it on my bookshelf alongside Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, Dracula, etc. I know I read it a long time ago, but I don’t remember it very well, so clearly I need to re-read it before November 14th.

Distressingly, my encounter with the Book Barn cashier went like this:
Laura: “Where would I find Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?”
Cashier: “What genre is it?”
Laura, confounded: “Uh… classic horror, I guess?”
Yes, the cashier had never heard of Frankenstein. What the heck.

It turned out that all horror books are at the Book Barn Downtown, where the much more literate cashier directed me to an entire shelf with a million instances of at least ten different paperback editions. It was fantastic! Naturally, I carefully compared all the different versions, and finally decided on the 1965 Signet Classics edition, which, when I brought it up to the register, caused the cashier to embark on an effusive oration about how that was the absolute ideal version (he made it sound as if he had thoroughly experienced each and every edition on the shelf). He went on for so long, and riffed on so many other tenuously related topics, that my parents left. I was quite entertained, but apparently they thought he was insane and repellent. It was pretty great.

(I will post separately about our cemetery adventures today and Monday!)

The view from Belltown Hill Orchards today when my parents and I stopped by to get cider and donuts. It’s about a mile and a half from my house. All the blueberry bushes have turned red for the fall and are so pretty!

We found out from the cashier that the cider they sell is pressed and pasteurized by Buell’s Orchard (in Eastford near where my parents used to live) but it’s made out of Belltown’s apples. The label just says Buell’s!  They should add their own Belltown sticker or something.  Or at least have a sign.

We all quite enjoyed cups of Kona coffee brewed in my Aeropress (my parents wanted extra water in theirs; apparently I like my coffee strong) along with the donuts (heated slightly in the microwave so they were delectably warm and soft), followed by cold cider.

The view from Belltown Hill Orchards today when my parents and I stopped by to get cider and donuts. It’s about a mile and a half from my house. All the blueberry bushes have turned red for the fall and are so pretty!

We found out from the cashier that the cider they sell is pressed and pasteurized by Buell’s Orchard (in Eastford near where my parents used to live) but it’s made out of Belltown’s apples. The label just says Buell’s! They should add their own Belltown sticker or something. Or at least have a sign.

We all quite enjoyed cups of Kona coffee brewed in my Aeropress (my parents wanted extra water in theirs; apparently I like my coffee strong) along with the donuts (heated slightly in the microwave so they were delectably warm and soft), followed by cold cider.

Dean and I had an absolutely wonderful dinner at Cafe Routier tonight with my parents (every bit of everything I ate was delicious, but the best part was being together!), and then we dropped Dean off at the Old Saybrook Amtrak station and I hung around talking with my parents at their timeshare in Westbrook for a few hours before driving home. Tomorrow we get to spend all day together, and the forecast looks nice for visiting an old cemetery or two along Boston Post Road down near the shoreline!

Also, my parents want to get lobster, because they don’t have lobster in North Carolina and they massively miss it. (Well, I guess they have it, but only at a restaurant or something, not like a tank at a grocery store or seafood market where you can just pick out a lobster, steam it up, rip it apart with your bare hands, and EAT it.)

One of Cafe Routier’s themes tonight was the Pacific Northwest, and I ordered steelhead (so did my dad). It’s a kind of trout that’s similar to salmon, and it was quite good. I love the name!