Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Easter/Spring Break

We just finished about a week and a half of Easter vacation and Spring Break all rolled into one long, exhausting, but wonderful holiday. My parents flew out to spend the first half of it with us and then we wrapped up the week by driving down to Maryland for our niece's birthday. In the course of our adventures we hit nine different states. (OK, Pennsylvania was a wrong exit mistake. Damn you, Jersey Turnpike!)

We had a little Pre-Easter at Mike's parents' the weekend before.
This is one of the best photos he's even taken of the girls.

The girls are at a great age right now for going on adventures with their Nana and Papa.

We went to Salem to wander around town and visit The House of the Seven Gables.

The museum is actually a collection of buildings, including the house Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in, and a beautiful garden overlooking the ocean. The actual House of the Seven Gables (shown) was owned by Hawthorne's cousin, and he was inspired by his visits there to use it as the setting for his novel of the same name in 1851.

Running in the Garden

Papa and Maggie and the Sea.

They have some cute and interesting stuff for kids in the garden and in the former Counting House.

A spinning demonstration in the Jacobean Hooper-Hathaway House (built 1682).

After we left Salem, we went up to Plum Island, but it was too windy to stay on the beach very long. Maggie did not fall in this time!

Dying Eggs on Saturday Night

Easter morning

The following day was Boston Marathon Monday, aka Patriot's Day. It's a holiday for the city of Boston because the crowds and the race route make it almost impossible to get around town or to work. We decided to head out and around to avoid the chaos, and ended up at the Minute Man National Historical Park between Lexington and Concord. It was unintentional as far as the timing, but it turned out to be really cool to be there on Patriot's Day.

Minute Man National Park

The American Revolution began right on this road on April 19, 1775. 1,700 British soldiers marched out of Boston and up the Bay Road to confiscate stockpiled weapons from the colonial militia men. Not only Paul Revere (who went right down Main Street in the town where I live), but also William Dawes and Samuel Prescott rode through the night to Lexington and Concord to warn the colonists. The first shots were fired on Lexington Green at dawn, and then the British advanced to Concord where they were met by more Minute Men on the North Bridge. After the Regulars fired and killed two colonists, the treasonous order to return fire was given. This is the famous "shot heard round the world," after which the colonials chased the British all the way back to Charlestown. At the end of the day, 49 Minute Men and 73 British soldiers were dead. A week later, the British were cornered in Boston (which was on a peninsula at the time) and under a siege that would last 11 months until the war ended.

Mom and Dad on the Battle Road

Hartwell Tavern

Papa teaches Maggie the finer points of tree hugging.

The Hartwell House burned down in 1968, leaving only this enormous chimney stack and cellar foundation. It was fascinating to be able to see in this preservation structure how Colonial era houses were built and heated.

There was plenty of room for the girls to run in the sun...

... and climb trees. Maggie is surely part monkey.

The North Bridge

The Minute Man Statue is behind us.

The next day, we took my parents up to Portsmouth, NH, one of my favorite New England cities. We drove up through Exeter and Newmarket and Durham, which are all quaint little towns, and then wandered through the shops and pretty streets of downtown Portsmouth. Even though it was closed for the winter, we were also able to walk around the Strawbery Banke Museum grounds and look at the colonial and Georgian houses.

Tugboats in Portsmouth Harbor

Eventually we ended up having dinner in Kittery, which is the town directly across the Piscataqua River in Maine. So... Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and then a few days later Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, (Pennsylvania, oops), Delaware, and Maryland. Nine states!


The best part of the trip, though, was just to spend some time with my parents, chatting, playing with the girls, and eating pastries from our local Italian bakery. We had such a wonderful time!

Friday, April 11, 2014


Maggie Jane is sitting curled up sideways in an armchair, practically in the fetal position in a wreath of books, already half way through a Junie B. Jones even though we just got home from the bookstore. She doesn't hear me when I call her name. She is oblivious to Kate's interpretive dance performance of the movie Frozen. She is in the zone.

I'm not annoyed that she won't answer me. I'm proud. Catching her in the quiet reading pose feels similar to the welling up of love I get when I go in at night to tuck them back in and kiss them in their sweaty sleep. No matter how many things they've broken that day, no matter how much I've wanted to wring their necks, it's hard not to adore them when they are fast asleep. They can't possibly look more angelic than when they're being so good and so silent!

I know this new habit of hers warms my heart so much because it reminds me of me: I am a reader, and look how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. But I also have to admit that I really love my daughter's ability to read to herself because it's QUIET.

Peace and quiet have not been much a part of my experience as a mother. Books, on the other hand, have been there for me every step of the way. Maggie was a colicky baby who screamed bloody murder through most of her first six months of life and nursed around the clock. Delirious with fatigue, I started reading all of Agatha Christie's murder mysteries in chronological order starting with The Mysterious Affair at Styles. What else can you do while stuck on the couch all day with a cluster feeding newborn and insomnia-induced poor short-term memory besides whip through And Then There Were None for the 200th time? (I'm still not finished. I'm bogged down in the dreary post-WWII stretch.)

A few years later, Maggie grew into a sensitive, emotional, easily-overstimulated toddler who would launch into epic tantrums over the smallest things. Parking ourselves back on the couch to burn through a stack of her favorite picture books was often the only way to get through the day. And when I couldn't take another second of playing Fairy Princess Mermaid Cats or listen to one more knock knock joke with an esoteric kindergarten punch line, Curious George or the Lorax or Charlie Bucket came to my rescue. Letting my little wild child crawl up into my lap and tuck her curly head under my chin while we shared a book together has been a way for us to forge a quiet bond in the midst of an emotionally turbulent relationship.

At the moment, we are in a short lull between those preschool tantrum years and the impending tweenybopper "I hate you" stage. Things seem to be on a more even keel now that my baby bird has flown the nest. She goes to school every day with her backpack and lunch box. She's in the purple reading group, which is totally her favorite color. She tells me all about the little boy in her class who is SO funny and wonderful that she threw a rock at him on the playground and got in trouble. When we go to the bookstore or the library, she comes home with a short stack of thick chapter books, sits sideways in an armchair, and tunes out the world. Sometimes on Saturdays she and I stay in our pajamas all day, cuddled up under a blanket on that same old couch, reading our books side-by-side, and Mike has to take Kate to the hardware store because her bongo drumming is making us both crazy.

These will be the moments I look back on fondly when she's grown, and this common passion will be one of the things that holds us together when the road gets rocky. She's already got my old copies of Charlotte's Web and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


I was working on a post about a bunch of exciting albums that are coming out soon, but then I found out about this new Queens of the Stone Age video for "Smooth Sailing," my favorite song off their Like Clockwork album. I'm just gonna bump it up to the top. Yeah.

OK, so back to what I was saying about new albums...

I'm sure you can imagine the excitement over here at the Fowler household about the upcoming new Jack White album, Lazaretto, coming out June 10th. I think Mike is secretly checking the mailbox for it everyday even though he knows it won't be there. He's a member of The Vault at Third Man Records, so he'll get a huge box of goodies and a special blue vinyl copy of the record when it comes out. It's gonna be like Christmas in June for a certain special little boy Mike.

Maggie's totally fave band ever is The Secret Sisters, whose new album, Put Your Needle Down, comes out April 15th. She's so obsessed with them that we have had to insist that she choose SOMETHING ELSE, ANYTHING ELSE when it's her turn to pick the music in the car, because as much we love their last album, we can't listen to it EVERY SINGLE TIME for four solid years.

Here's Maggie's favorite song (a Hank Williams cover, she does have good taste) off the last album, The Secret Sisters -- "My hair is still curly and my eyes are still blue, why don't you love me like you used to do?"

Here's a video for a single off the new album:

And, finally, I'm looking forward to the new Felice Brothers album on June 17th, Favorite Waitress. Here's a preview they made:

This article in Esquire, an interview with James Felice, includes audio of a new song off the album called "Cherry Licorice."

Looks like we'll have plenty of good stuff to listen to on our big roadtrip to visit friends and family in the Midwest this summer! Can't wait.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Bunch of Random Shiny Objects

Y'all know about Bitter Southerner, right?! If you aren't reading it every Tuesday when the new articles come out, I just don't know how yer livin'.

As it says right at the top of their website: One Great Story from the South Every Week. We're here for a reason: to shed light on what it means to be a Southerner. Not what it meant to be a Southerner 20 years ago, and certainly not what it meant 120 years ago. Instead, let's talk about what it means to be a Southerner today.

The stories are kind of random, but often wonderful. Food, music, literature, culture, geography, photography, the ghosts that all Southerners seem to carry around with them. They have a little of everything. Here's one of my favorites, "From a Distance," about leaving home and "the old Southern duality thing."

This week's post, "Acadian Azaleas, 1979," is about photographer Rick Oliver who traveled around Bayou Lafourche in the Spring of 1979 taking polaroids of Cajun people with their flowering azalea bushes. If you go to the BS Facebook page, you can look at all the reader-submitted photos they've collected in the last couple of days of people posing (usually in their Easter clothes) in front of azaleas. I love it, even though I have to say my folks are more like crepe myrtle people.

It gives me the Bourbon and Branch Water Blues.

One small quibble is that Bitter Southerner is mostly focused on the Deep South, and I'm a little Fringe South. So another website that has great stories that are specifically about Oklahoma is the alternative, Tulsa-based, online news magazine This Land Press. Here's an example of a very Okie-centric article that I particularly loved about the TV show Mazeppa Pompazoidi, which I have never seen, but know about through my parents. If you've ever wondered who let Gary Busey on the TV in the first place, you'll want to read it! I also learned about this website, WhatWasThere, from This Land Press. WhatWasThere has searchable maps with user-uploaded old photos that show what a place looked like in the past. I can spend hours there!! Don't look at it! Oh no.

Here's another great link from my dear friend, Val, who knows me like I know the back of my hand. (Or should I say she can read me like a book?!?! Oh, see what I did there? Well, you will in a second...) It's a company called Litographs that sells t-shirts, bags, and prints of images made out of the text of the classic books they represent. They are tremendously cool shirts, AND it's a local business for me as it's based out of Cambridge, MA.

So, should I get The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

or The Great Gatsby?

I also love the Leaves of Grass design - perhaps for a tote bag?

Finally, are you listening to Parker Millsap yet? What are you waiting for? You're seriously missing out. Go here and watch this video of him singing "Quite Contrary" on a rooftop in New York City. You'll thank me.
Have a lovely Wednesday, you fine people.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Come with me and follow a little trail of breadcrumbs through the forest of my mind, children...

Last summer, I watched most of the Newport Folk Festival streaming online from NPR's website, primarily because I wanted to see Beck, Old Crow Medicine Show, JD McPherson, Andrew Bird, The Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earl, and actually a whole bunch of other people, too. It was an amazing year for the festival that I was sad to have missed in person.

But I did happen to also catch the set by Shovels and Rope, and had my socks knocked completely off by their great songs and incredible stage presence. I did not realize that I had totally missed out on the set by Hurray for the Riff Raff from the same concert. However, the couple from S&R had covered a HFTRR song that day and are friends of theirs and have mentioned them fairly often since, so I eventually found my way over to them, too. And from THERE, I've now landed on The Deslondes, who are friends of and record with the folks from Hurray for the Riff Raff (Remember this video for "St. Roch Blues" that I already posted? It has members of both bands in it).

Are you keeping up with me here? Do you need to sit down and rest for a minute? Push on, push on, friends, we're getting the part where you can sit and watch some videos soon, very soon. You're doing great.

So then I recently read this article in American Songwriter about the growing country music scene in New Orleans, home of HFTRR and The Deslondes, who feature heavily in the article, so I had to get over here today and get some videos of theirs up so you can love on them, too.

SIDENOTE: I gotta admit that calling this music "country" makes me a little twitchy. They describe themselves as "country-soul, swamp-boogie." I like that much better! I suppose it IS country music, technically. Like the way tomatoes are "fruit." I just happen to have PTSD linked to the word "country" and I'm probably in denial. (Shut up.)

Here, have look and listen and make up your own mind: