It seems to be a fitting time to revive Ginger Mouse. Almost to the day seven years ago I wrote the post Counterpoints, and waxed romantically about the geologic record contained in our soon-to-be stone countertops and the scores of pie crusts and chapatis to be rolled on them. Well, today is Thanksgiving and I made a few pies to celebrate. Here is how it actually went:
Ginger Mouse is back after a six and a half year hiatus, now with a new name, doctorgingermouse.com! That last post I wrote at the end of February in 2011 was filled with possibilities: twin babies, a new house. There were some unexpected impossibilities, too, life-altering events that seemed as if they came from someone else’s story. We’ll get to those impossibilities soon enough, but let’s get to know each other a little first, okay?
Along the way I’ve been learning a lot: how to be a physician and a mother, what I enjoy in life (cooking, being outside, family, writing) and work (definitely paperwork and other administrative tasks. KIDDING!), and how to let go and just let life happen.
So, get cozy and get ready to join me on my new, improved journey!
It’s hard to believe, but we’re moving into the new house in three days. Our first meeting with the builder, when Doug said “I can do that,” was on March 5th 2010. We hemmed and hawed for a while, thinking about whether we really wanted a project of this magnitude. But now, almost exactly one year later our project will become our new life. The house is by no means complete: the exterior is half primed, and not at all painted, we have no paved driveway, no grass, trees, or walkway yet. On the inside, we’re still waiting for our famed local stone counters in the kitchen.
Still, it’s hard to believe.
The day after Christmas, on the eve of a winter storm, is as good a time as any to think about Christmas trees. The New York Times recently published an article comparing the environmental merits of artificial Christmas trees to the real deal. It seems like one of those things that if you were so inclined, you could overthink to the point of driving yourself crazy. The article concluded that though real trees may have a green edge over plastic ones, in the end, maybe the environmental benefits are insignificant compared to the things we do every day like driving a car.
But what about when you’re deciding to buy an existing house, or build a new one… on an old Christmas tree farm? Not too many years ago our little cul-de-sac was in fact a Christmas tree farm. The owner sold the land to our builder, Doug, who then had a sale to unload some trees. And then over the next five years he built a few houses on the land.
Andy and I currently live in a one hundred year old school which was converted to apartments some time ago. Our apartment is on the fourth floor, built out of the attic. One of the best things about it is its ancient, partially-exposed skeleton. Huge chestnut beams support the ceiling of our living space. A beam enters our kitchen at an oblique angle and is bolted to the floor with correspondingly large hardware, rendering most of the open space in the room useless. I tried to count the rings on the end of a beam in our bedroom once, but lost count around 50; I could only conclude that it came from a very old, established tree. The beams are beautiful structures, and relics of an era. If I could I would saw a piece of one to take with us when we move, but I don’t want to be responsible for the building collapsing…
Rolling out crust for Thanksgiving pies makes me ruminate about kitchens. We’ve never hosted Thanksgiving ourselves, but I’ve made pies most years; it seems to be one thing that hosts are happy to farm out to guests, and it happens to be my favorite part of Thanksgiving cooking. Our first condo had four small peacock green squares of counter. At any given time only one was free for cooking. Making pie crust meant clearing small appliances off of a square or two and then inevitably bumping my elbows into the wall next to the counter. Our next apartment had a small kitchen with a luxurious granite island which was perfect for rolling crust, and even better for displaying the finished pie. In our current apartment we have a very large kitchen; most of it, though is empty space bisected by a beautifully awkward beam that holds up this end of the building. We’re left, once again, with not much pie-making space.
Just before I graduated from college I applied for a position with Teach for America. I had to present a mock lesson as part of my interview. After some thinking, I spent hours preparing exaggerated, colorful pictures of bird legs (think Big Bird) and used the countercurrent multiplier theory from my animal physiology class to explain how birds kept their skinny little legs warm. I was hoping for a high school science position. I did get hired, but to teach kindergarten in rural Louisiana. For many reasons I decided not to take the job. I did save those bird pictures, though, and a part of me will always wonder what life could have been had I taught kindergarten deep in the impoverished south.
I recently returned from a conference in Georgia, about 30 miles outside of Atlanta, and it wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. I was expecting a flat, brown suburban landscape bisected by packed superhighways. And there was a little of that but to my surprise as we drove south from the airport long rolling hills rippled out of the lush trees. Georgia was, in a word, pretty! Most of my time at this conference was indoors, breathing cool, dry, controlled air. The day before I left, though, I was able to get out, walk and even run.
Our neighbor who is a neurologist is almost done with a gut renovation of his condo. Andy and I recently went to see it and we stood inside the vaulted space which smelled crisp, like construction. New walls were punctuated by hundred year old chestnut beams. Everything was coated in an imperceptible film of white dust. Brian, the neurologist, explained how he thought of his place like a human body: its frame was a skeleton, electrical wires its nerves, drywall its skin.