My Mary Tyler Moore Life

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My last day here and the cranes are back. Lots of noise outside.

There’s certainly a list of things I won’t miss when I return home: the endless roadwork and construction that has been going on around the hotel and the apartment building, the crane work that has gone on the whole time I’ve been in the apartment – today the cranes are hoisting giant letters to put on the side of the building next door. As a slow-waker-upper, I won’t miss having to go outside first thing every morning to walk Scout.

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But I will miss this apartment. I wrote about this last year, I believe, and I’m going to try to put it in words again this year. There’s something about being away from home in a cozy apartment that I find enormously appealing. While I miss my house, of course, I really like these periods away from home. I’m in Hartford to do my work and only to do my work. So all other distractions (save Scout this time) are out of the picture. I’m several floors up in an old apartment building with high ceilings and airy white walls. I can do whatever I want to.

Don calls it my “Mary Tyler Moore Life” and he’s sort of right. And, let me be clear, he totally gets it and understands the attraction. He’s not threatened by it at all. I was single for a long time. I didn’t meet Don until I was 41. I lived by myself in a series of apartments, from very small studios to one bedrooms. I liked being able to shut the door on the world and nest in my small space. (I am a veteran of very small spaces, believe me.) I am also someone who tends to be solitary. I like my own company. I’ve always been that way.

Living away from home in a little apartment, unable to do any of the many chores that need to be done back at the cottage, unable to be with Don, gives me permission to experience a taste of that life I used to lead. It was a life I liked very much. I get all the social interaction I need at the theater. I come home to a quiet (well, fairly quiet) apartment where all I have to worry about is what to fix for dinner, what book to read, what television show to watch, what blogs to visit.

Would I, at this stage in my life, want this all the time? A resounding NO. I love my husband, I love our life together, I miss him every day. I cannot wait until the three of us are reunited at the cottage, where we belong. Meeting Don and building a life with him has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I have a partner in life who is the loveliest, finest man I know, who makes every day an adventure, who loves me completely.

Would I trade that for anything else? Of course not.

But every once in a while, I get to go off by myself and live my Mary Tyler Moore Life for several weeks. I get to indulge that part of me that loved being on my own. How lucky is that?

Like clockwork, right about now I find I’ve had enough of it and I’m ready to go back home to my cottage and my husband and my dog. I reached that point yesterday, a day where it was damp and windy and rainy, where I watched part of the show but didn’t take any notes because the actors need to make it their own now, where I found myself thinking about packing and getting out of here, where I started thinking about home.

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Having a little pied-à-terre in the city is quite lovely. And it’s been even lovelier with Scout along for the ride. She has been great company and her adventuresome spirit has been a true delight. She’ll miss this little apartment, too – the rides in the elevator, the dogs she’s made friends with, the people on the street who stop and talk to her, the park, the park, the park, the scents, the sidewalks. Her other life in the country might be a little boring.

We’ll find some adventures there, my girl. We will.

Opening Night tonight and home tomorrow.

Book Review of Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon on Just Let Me Finish This Page.

Happy Friday.

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Coffee and Reading

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This is my new favorite way to brew coffee. Funnily enough, we’ve had this filter holder (maybe made by Melitta?) for a long time. It usually sits in a cupboard at home. I brought it with me, along with some individual filters. When I was in Chautauqua earlier this summer, Andrea, one of my roommates, showed me a collapsible filter holder (I’m including the link because it’s such a neat idea) that she took with her on the road. She is a costume designer and she travels a lot. She also likes strong coffee and this way of making coffee results in a good, strong cup. (I still want to get that collapsible holder!) She made me a cup and I was sold.

I suppose it’s the same idea as a Keurig, but much less expensive. Just the holder, a filter and however much coffee you want to use. I am a Peets French Roast fan, so that’s what I spoon into the filter. I’ve been using the teakettle here to boil water, add it slowly to the filter in a swirling motion and voilà! Great, great coffee. It takes more time, but I’ve been thinking about that. Just as making tea can be a sort of ritual, I think making a cup of coffee should be as well. It’s one of my favorite things about the morning, so why not honor that ritual?

When Don was here, I made his coffee this way and he really loved it. I think we’re sold. I don’t know when I bought this filter holder, but it was years ago and it probably cost $5.00 or less. Can’t beat the price.

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I finished this book yesterday.

I miss my friends in Mitford. Jan Karon has such a gift for creating a small town and all its inhabitants. It was over 500 pages long and I couldn’t put it down. Now I’m sad. Where are all my friends in Mitford, North Carolina? It’s a great gift when you can read a book and feel surrounded by friends. A great gift.

My mother loved these books and I would always let her know when a new one was coming out. I miss talking to her about them. Love you, Mom.

I’ll review it either tomorrow or Monday, depending on my schedule. But I’ll give you a heads up: it’s wonderful.

The show is going very well. Scout is doing well. She greeted me last night full of hyper energy. She ran a bit in the park (just a bit) and she ran down the street back to the apartment. I had to rein her in! She was hungry – so far, so good with the food staying down – and she doesn’t like me being away at night, so she was glad I was home. In fact, she had that slightly crazed look in her eyes that only Scout can get. I shake my head in amazement. Now, she’ll sleep through most of the day.

So I’m staying for at least one more night, and will most likely stay through Opening Night tomorrow, although I have nothing to wear. Then we’ll pack up early in the morning and head home.

More on all of that tomorrow: living in an apartment away from home and why I will miss it.

Happy Thursday.

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We’re Hanging in There

After talking to Darko last night and getting the okay to leave early, I came home to a Scout who was frisky, hyper, and full of energy.

She did her pounce. She ran a little bit in the park. She ran down the hall in the apartment building.

She was completely different than earlier in the day. So I called Don and updated him and explained what he already knew about me – that I didn’t feel comfortable leaving this early if I didn’t have to. It just doesn’t sit right with my work ethic. The show is in great shape and I could leave with no problems, but if I can see one more preview, I’d feel better about the whole thing. And if I could make it to Opening Night, I’d feel even better. We’ll see. I’ll just take it day by day. I sent an email to Darko updating him on the whole thing.

I’m not quite ready for our adventure to end. At least not so abruptly.

So, for today, I’m sticking around. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

I think Don is right: This is going to be the new normal. Scout will have good days and bad days – even good hours and bad hours. Our job is to be there for her through thick and thin. And we will.

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Hamlet is everything it should be; powerful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, funny. The acting company is superb. The production is gorgeous. I’ve worked on a lot of Darko’s productions. They are all striking and beautifully designed. But this one, this one is my favorite. Darko designed the sets. Fabio Toblini designed the costumes. Lighting and sound designed by Matthew Richards and Jane Shaw, respectively. I’ve worked with all of them before and I marvel at their talent.

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Photo by T. Charles Erickson for Hartford Stage

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Photo by T. Charles Erickson for Hartford Stage

A cast of amazingly skilled actors, a gorgeous design, and the words of William Shakespeare – nothing better. Truthfully, this cast made my work easy. I’m very lucky to be associated with this theater, and with this production. It’s been a very satisfying experience.

If you can get here to Hartford to see it…do. It’s an amazing production you won’t soon forget.

So Miss Scout and I are hanging in there for at least one more day here in Hartford. At the very least, I have about 50 more pages I have to finish in Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good so I can return it to the library before I leave.

Happy Wednesday.

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Warts and All

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We’ve had a very nice time together. Of course, it goes by much too quickly; this morning, I drive Don back to New Haven. And tonight, I’m back in the theater, taking notes on Hamlet. We’ve walked Scout, I took Don on a little walking tour of Hartford, we’ve talked and generally lazed about. Oh, and we did laundry.

Hey, you do what you have to do.

Scout is not feeling tip-top. She’s been throwing up her food occasionally. And I’ve noticed she urinates less often. I know that older dogs can develop kidney problems, so I’m concerned. But I’m trying not to worry too much, as I am the queen of worriers and worry can be debilitating. (I’m not too successful, though.) She’s almost 16 and I have to accept that, as well as the chronic diseases that can develop as our dogs age. Hopefully, I can get her stomach to calm down and then take her to the Vet when I get back home. Say some prayers, okay? It seems like there is a constant worry for her in the background of my days now. All the time. Don tells me that I need to let go of the worry, that I’m a wonderful mom, and reminds me that Scout is about a hundred years old in dog years and that means things are going to happen.

I know we’ve all been up against this. I certainly have with our dogs Winston and Riley.

I cannot contemplate life without her. I simply can’t.

I want to hang onto her as long as I can, of course.

I meant to write about Hamlet, but I’ve ended up writing about Scout and my worries about her. This is what happens when you write a blog with a new post every day, written on that day. No scheduling. Just real life, warts and all.

Happy Tuesday.

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Our Town

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Our Town was wonderful.

It was heartwarming, heartbreaking, poignant, funny, life-affirming, universal. The cast was uniformly excellent, including my husband, who astounds me each and every time I see him onstage. The perfect Dr. Gibbs.

The two young actors who played George and Emily were simply amazing. They broke my heart. I got to meet everyone backstage after the show and I’m sure I gushed – couldn’t help it. As always, theater is a small world. The young woman who played Emily is close friends with the young woman who plays Ophelia in Hamlet. The woman who plays the Stage Manager is very close to the woman who plays Gertrude in Hamlet. I love that about theater.

Our Town is sometimes thought of as that play everyone has seen or done, or the play that was done when you were in high school, or an old-fashioned play that doesn’t resonate today. I beg to differ: It’s one of the greatest American plays ever written. Simple, yet complex. About a small town, but about every town, every city, every place. Heartbreakingly profound. Brilliantly written by the incredible Thornton Wilder.

I confess, I hadn’t read it in years and I told Don I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen a full production, so the whole experience was deeply powerful for me. Luckily, I had my kleenex in hand for the last act, because I needed it. For those of you who haven’t read or seen Our Town, I will just say that the last act takes place in a cemetery. Thoughts of my mother, my brother and all those dear to me who have made their transition couldn’t help but come to the surface. Oh my goodness, it’s so moving.

I’m proud of my husband. His work is always excellent and he makes it look easy. Believe me – it isn’t.

We drove back here to Hartford after the show and a little girl got to see her dad. She did a few little jumps of joy, which tells you how happy she was to see him. We all took a walk in the park. I made some scrambled eggs and toast. We sat on the sofa and cuddled for a wee bit. Then the Hill-Sparks family hit the hay. We’re both more than a bit sleep deprived, so this will be a low-key day, just hanging out and enjoying our little family being back together after six weeks apart.

I got to New Haven with just enough time to spare to run into IKEA (which is just down the road from the theater) and get a new Ektorp slipcover for my blogging chair. It isn’t a great fit, but it does the trick until the day comes (will it ever?) when I have enough money to get the chair reupholstered. Since I’ve had it for about 15 years, and it’s quite old, I’m not holding my breath. I also bought a mug for Don to use while he’s here because the mugs supplied by the theater are too small and the handles are way too small for Don’s fingers. I would love to have had the time to look at all the displays but I was on a mission and I had only 20 minutes to power walk through the endless aisles to find what I needed.

Today we were jarred awake at 6:30 by the endless sounds of trucks backing up. More crane work. There has been construction work right next to Don’s building the whole time he’s been in New Haven, so we both feel inundated with constant noise. Really? They need to start work at 6:30 am? In Don’s case, he was woken one night at 1 am by trucks unloading and voices shouting. Are you kidding me?

Which begs the question: What happened to basic civility? Don’t bother, I already know the answer. It’s becoming a thing of the past.

Ending on a positive note: Don is here!

(Book Review today on Just Let Me Finish This Page: a wonderful satire, Lost for Words. Stop by!)

Happy Monday.

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A Couple of Links You Might Like

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The update on the Hill-Sparks girls:

I’m still sore, mostly when I try to sleep on my right side, but I feel much better. My wrist is fine now.

Scout is doing a bit better. She tried to pounce a couple of times yesterday and I had to stop her from tearing off after a squirrel when we were in the park yesterday. She also wanted to start ‘loping’ when I was walking her last night. Of course, I quickly stopped that. We’re being extra cautious.

Thank you for all that wonderful healing energy you sent our way.

I think Don will be very happy to check in on his girls tonight. I’m going to drive to New Haven to see this evening’s performance of Our Town. I cannot wait to see it! Afterward, we will drive back to Hartford and a dad will be reunited with his little girl. We’ll spend the day together on Monday and at some point on Tuesday, depending on my rehearsal schedule, I’ll drive him back to New Haven.

By the way, there is a neat video trailer with clips from the production. You can see it here.

And that church in the photo above is right across the street from the theater. It’s beautiful.

This morning I read an interview with actress Frances McDormand in the New York Times. I love her. Besides her obvious acting chops, she is as down-to-earth as they get, especially when it comes to our culture’s obsession with looking young. A quote:

We’re on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species. There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 – sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dies their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face. – Frances McDormand

There’s more. She is blunt and opinionated and I suppose I love it because what she has to say about aging echoes my thoughts. Indeed, you’re read them many times on this blog. And it’s so refreshing to hear those words from someone who works in film and television, where there is so much pressure to look a certain way.

It’s a wonderful interview. You should read it.

Less than seven days in Hartford. I’ll write more about Hamlet this week. It’s a wonderful production.

Happy Sunday.

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A Tough Day

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7:30 am on Saturday.

The cranes are back, people are shouting, the street is blocked off, more lifting and constructing.

It’s Saturday.

I know what’s going to happen. This whole project will be over just as I’m leaving town next Saturday.

I guarantee it.

I’m missing my little house in the country.

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I’m also feeling guilty because Scout seems to be very, very sore and I think it is because of her runs earlier in the week. Did I let her do too much? Should I have curtailed her activities? Was I irresponsible?

But she was so strong and happy and joyous. I could tell she was tired after the last run, so I decided she needed to stop that for a while. Today, she is clearly in pain. I’ve given her medicine. She was fairly okay last night but when she woke up this morning she was hurting. I don’t know whether it’s the way she slept or the fact that Scout has never liked it when we’re gone at night, and since I’ve been at the theater the last few nights, she gets stressed and ends up on the floor by the door to the apartment where she can’t get up.  I know that is hard on her.

She finally went back to sleep just now. Oh, my girl, stay strong.

It’s been a strange 24 hours. Yesterday, I hit my head on a low ceiling near the stage in the theater, which really hurt. Then, as I was walking home, I tripped on a pipe sticking up out of the sidewalk (why it was there, I don’t know) and before I knew it, I fell into the street. There was water and muck there from the rain of the previous day. I fell on my right side, bracing myself with my right wrist. Miraculously, I didn’t break anything. I was covered in mud, my bag got dirty, I scraped my palm and bruised my elbow and hip. There was a lady walking nearby and she ran over to me, but I managed to get up right away. It could have been much worse. If there was traffic in that lane, I would have been severely injured. As it was, I am very sore and last night during the show, my wrist started hurting a great deal. Today, it’s a bit better. I don’t think it’s sprained, just sore. Thankfully, when I fell, I had no time to tense, I just went with it and I think that helped me a great deal.

I was shaken by the whole thing and told Don I felt very vulnerable.

I hope today brings some relief for both of us, especially Scout. Healing thoughts, energy, white light, prayers – whatever your preference, send some Scout’s way, okay?

Happy Saturday.

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On Living (Temporarily) With Less

This is the end of my fourth week on the road.

What did I bring with me for this time away from home? Some books, my Kindle, my laptop, my filofax, clothes, research materials and reference books for my work here, some office supplies, some quilts, a pine-scented candle, my camera, some dog food and my dog.

That’s it.

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Scout and I have been happily existing in our home away from home with just those things, along with some fresh flowers and food.

And I am once again struck by the fact that I can get along very well without a lot of ‘stuff.’ The essentials do very nicely indeed. Normally, I do this sort of thing without my dog, so Scout’s inclusion on this journey has been a wonderful addition. And, of course, we miss Don, but he’ll be here for a visit on Sunday night.

But back to the point of this post. Small living, tiny houses, minimalist settings – all of that is very big right now. I can see the appeal of that sort of living, free of excess possessions with just those necessities required to live a fairly minimalist life. It’s very doable.

I love my things. I’m a collector. I like the cozy English cottage look of my home. But I can guarantee you that when I go back home in a week, my house will look very cluttered to me. I will have a yen to purge (which isn’t a bad thing.) I will look around and see lots of ‘stuff’. I go through this every time I return back home after being on the road.

Could I get by with just a minimum of possessions? Absolutely. I prove it every time I do this sort of thing. I’m just fine without all the extras. As long as I can read and write and take photos and be with my husband and dog, it seems that I’m okay.

But what about the things I’ve inherited from my mom and my grandmother? The books I love to see displayed on my bookshelves? The china and pottery I love to collect? The furniture that Don and I have found in the years we’ve been together? The paintings and lithographs and prints that we’ve chosen? The guitars that Don loves? My piano, passed down from my grandmother and played on by aunts, uncles, grandmother, mother and siblings?

You get the picture. I’m not going to become a minimalist.

But I could, if I had to.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.

Happy Friday.

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On the Road: Cupcakes on Wheels

Last week, as I was sitting at rehearsal doing my thing, I noticed a clear plastic container next to the stage manager’s desk. It held a cupcake. The stage manager on this show is a friend of mine, so when it was time for a break, I trotted right on over there and asked her where she got it.

“The Cupcake Truck” was her matter-of-fact response.

“The what??” was mine.

Both the sound designer (who was sitting right there) and I were more excited about this piece of news than anything we could think of at the moment.

Later, I walked with Darko over to the theater to see the set and we passed the truck, but it wasn’t a good time for me to ask Darko if I could stop and buy a cupcake, since we were on a tight schedule. I’m pretty sure I would have received an eye roll in response.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when I went back to the same corner to buy a cupcake.

No truck.

Now I was confused. So I made a mental note to google Cupcake Truck Hartford when I got home. Sure enough, there it was. The truck, actually called The Cupcake Brake, travels to different sites in the Hartford area. The web site lists where the truck will be on any given day.

Yesterday, it was in State House Square, a few blocks away from my apartment. Bingo!

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Hello, yellow cupcake truck!

The menu varies from day to day and the truck remains at the venue from 12 – 3 or until the cupcakes run out.

Isn’t this the best idea? (And, yes, in case you’re wondering, I’ve been bad about sugar lately. I’ll do better when I get back home. Comfort food, my friends, comfort food.)

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Oh. my. goodness.  It is indeed a ‘Sweet Ride.’

Here’s the menu for yesterday:

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I didn’t notice the Cake Pops. Next time.

I bought two: the Charter Oak Chocolate and the New England Autumn (which is a pumpkin spice). You can pick what kind of frosting you want, as well as the filling. I went with vanilla icing on the New England Autumn and no filling. The Charter Oak Chocolate? Chocolate icing and the ganache filling.

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Oh my.

I devoured the New England Autumn right before I had to go to the Final Tech/Dress run-through yesterday evening. I figured it might give me a boost since I was tired – and it did. Yummy, yummy, yummy.

The other cupcake is still waiting in the refrigerator. (I like my cupcakes refrigerated to keep the frosting nice and firm.) It’s a rainy, yucky day out there today so I can definitely see myself dining on a cupcake in the late afternoon. You know, to comfort myself amidst all this dampness.

Every town should have a cupcake truck, don’t you think? Actually, when I googled it, I saw cupcake trucks in other towns, as well.

My town might be a bit too little to support a cupcake truck.

Ah well.

Happy Thursday.

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The Park

Much of my off-time here in Hartford is spent reading or blogging or, most importantly, going to the park with Scout. The ‘park’ is Bushnell Park and it’s lovely. It has a carousel, walking paths, and a lovely pond. It has lots of green space and an outdoor stage. It has a gorgeous arch. And on top of the hill overlooking the park is the beautiful State Capitol building. I took some shots with my iPhone on Monday. I was on my way back from the library. It was an overcast day, which makes for some moody pictures.

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This section of grass is one of the places that Scout runs and romps every evening. Well, almost every evening. She was very sore last night and her body was protesting all that exercise, so I curtailed her nighttime activities. She needs to rest a wee bit. I have to be at the theater at night starting tonight, so we’ll see if we can find some romping time on the weekend – after my girl has rested. She’s overdone it, just like when her mama mows too much lawn in one day. Oh, those Hill-Sparks girls!

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More of her running turf. She runs one way, then turns and runs in another direction, then she runs in a circle. Do you see that light? There are lights along the walkways that cast a lovely glow at night and, somehow, the combination of those lights and the night and a park relatively free of people inspires her loping, running, joyful abandon.

That’s the pond to the right.

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There are usually ducks here, but I haven’t seen them this year. I have seen goldfish and either koi or carp (are they the same thing?) And, on two occasions, I’ve seen a Great Blue Heron standing in the shallow part of the pond watching and waiting to pounce on a fish. The first time I saw him, he ate one. I’ve tried to get a picture of him, but I’ve always had my iPhone with me and the images are too blurry. Amazing to see a Heron in a city park!

The portion of tech rehearsals where I am superfluous is just about over. I’ll watch some of this afternoon’s rehearsal and tonight we’ll have a run-through with the first preview scheduled for tomorrow night. I’ve been peeking in and it’s simply gorgeous with sumptuous Elizabethan costumes designed by my friend Fabio Toblini and a set designed by the director, my friend Darko Tresnjak. Such incredible talent!

I have a new post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page today. It’s all about one of my favorite places, The Hartford Public Library.

And if you’re participating in the Christmas Critter Felt Along, scroll down one post for two more patterns.

Happy Wednesday.

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