Our Town

long wharf

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.


A Couple of Links You Might Like

hartford church

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.





A Tough Day


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.


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.





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.


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.


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!


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.)

Cupcaketruck - front end

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

Here’s the menu for yesterday:

Cupcaketruck - today's menu

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.

Cupcaketruck - cupcakes

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.


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.




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!


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.


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.


November Felt Critter Patterns

It’s time for two new patterns in our Christmas Critter Felt Along. This month we have the Woodland Frog and the Wetland Fish. To see photos of the finished product, please visit Dawn’s post here. Since I’m working out of town and don’t have access to my felt and supplies, I couldn’t make this month’s critters. (I know…bad Claudia!)

Wetland Fish

This is the Wetland Fish pattern. To Download the Wetland Fish, click here.

To Download the Woodland Frog, visit Dawn’s post here.

We will have two more patterns available by the end of the month, so that you have time to make them for Christmas.

Thanks so much!


Making A Home On The Road


I don’t often buy a bouquet of white roses but we usually exchange a single white rose (or at least try to if we’re both at home) on our anniversary. These were relatively inexpensive at Trader Joe’s so I bought them on Sunday in anticipation of Don’s arrival on Monday.

The best laid plans….

So I spend some time yesterday cutting off the thorns and, lacking another vase, I put them in a drinking glass. They’re on my desk. And they’re awfully pretty.


There are now three different vases of flowers in this apartment. I can’t tell you what a difference that makes in a home-away-from-home. My rules for creating a cozy residence on the road? Bring a quilt or two, bring some books, pack a couple of loved accessories (a framed picture or a piece of pottery,) bring your camera, your favorite coffee or tea, a scented candle, add some fresh flowers, and you’re set. In my case, add my laptop and my Kindle. And this time, my dog.

Sometimes I bring Mabel, my Featherweight sewing machine – depends on whether I’m in the mood for a project and how far away I’m traveling. Mabel is heavy.


You’d be surprised what a difference those things can make, even in an over-decorated hotel room. They really make a statement in this loft-like apartment. They add pops of color, they add touches of home. I don’t do well if I have to stay for an extended length of time in a space devoid of warmth. If it’s just a week or so, I can get by with minimal. For example, earlier in the summer I spent two weeks in Chautauqua in a very nice, though minimal, apartment. But I was there for a limited amount of time and I had roommates. Not the time to do too much decorating. But if it’s just me? Absolutely. A simple touch or two makes it a home.


And a big fat NO to any vertical blinds. I’ll be honest here and say I detest vertical blinds. When I had to stay in the apartments in San Diego, I never used them. Instead, I bought inexpensive scrim-like curtains from IKEA for $4.99 and thumbtacked them to the window frame. I don’t use them here, either. The rubber band is to keep them from rattling when the air conditioning is on. They are moved to the side and hidden as best I can.

(If you like vertical blinds, great! I say this, and I probably won’t say this kind of thing again, because sometimes (thankfully, very seldom) there are readers who take offense when I have an opinion on something, as if my opinion is a comment on their taste or their decisions. It isn’t. It’s purely my opinion. Opinions are, by nature, subjective. Let me say for the record: When I share my thoughts on something, they are simply my thoughts and have nothing to do with anyone else’s preferences or choices. Other than saying that officially, there’s not much else I can do about it. It’s my blog, it’s about my life, therefore, you’re going to hear my thoughts on various matters.)

Back to the main subject. This apartment is in an old office building. Hence, the high ceilings and tall windows. It’s not large, but the high ceilings make it seem fairly spacious. No windows in the bedroom, but there is a cut-out at the top of the wall that lets some light in from the living room windows.

I like it. I’ve stayed in a lot company housing and these apartments are my favorites. The furniture is practical, much-used, and not necessarily what I would choose, but I can make the pieces work by draping a quilt or throw on the sofa, adding flowers in a vase to the dining room table, adding a quilt to the wall and a quilt to the bed (instead of the duvet provided.) This time, I brought a couple of small lamps from home as well. When I stayed in San Diego for 6 months and another time for 10 weeks, I shipped boxes full of quilts and pillows and accessories because I knew I would need them.

Absolutely worth it.

Several months back, I ran across an article on the web featuring an apartment in Massachusetts, just north of here. It, too was in an old industrial/office building, and when I looked more closely, I realized that it had to be designed by the same designers/architects that did this building. I’m not kidding – the kitchen is the same, the cut-out in the bedroom is the same, the only thing that’s different is the design of the windows. Here’s the link if you’re interested. It’s a great lesson in what you can do with a very small space.


Yesterday, I visited the Hartford Public Library, my favorite place in Hartford. Seriously, if I lived here, I would apply for a job there. I just love it. (Interestingly, the guy at the desk told me they were hiring!) I went there to take a lot of photos for a feature on the library that will be on Just Let Me Finish This Page tomorrow. But, of course, I was drawn to the New Fiction section. Immediately, my eyes hit on two books I wanted very much to read but didn’t think I could buy at the moment. I was pretty sure my card had expired and the man at the front desk verified it. Drat. I said I was working at Hartford Stage and was it possible to renew it? I didn’t think he would renew it without a Hartford Stage ID, which I didn’t have, but to my surprise, he did! So I checked those books out. Don’t know how I’m going to read them both in the less-than-two-weeks I have left here, but I’m determined to do it.

I’ve started Lost for Words, which is a satire. Oh my, it’s very funny, indeed.

Happy Tuesday.


Still Life While Sipping


Still Life On The Dining Room Table. I ran out to get a few things yesterday at the usual places: Target and Trader Joe’s. The alstromeria I bought when I first came to Harford finally bit the dust yesterday (it lasted three weeks!) I wanted to buy some more flowers and though the bright orange plastic pitcher I had been using for the flowers on the dining room table was an interesting choice, it had lost its allure. Looking for a cheap vase that I could reuse at home, I came across a large canning jar at Target – $1.99. Hello! You’re coming home with me.

I have another bouquet on the kitchen peninsula.


This vase was purchased when I first arrived – $3.99. I can always use vases back home.

Oh, you’re wondering about that tin?

Would you like to see a close-up?


As a well-known hot chocolate aficionado, you can imagine my delight when my eyes zeroed in on this tin when I was shopping at Trader Joe’s.

Sipping Chocolate. Well, I wondered, how is that different than hot cocoa?

I felt it my duty to read TJ’s description:

Not quite a hot cocoa. Hardly chocolate milk. Oh no. This is a chocolate experience meant to be sipped and savored…a European delight. One taste of our Trader Joe’s Sipping Chocolate and you may feel like you’ve been whisked away to a sidewalk bistro in Rome or Barcelona. This decadent chocolate elixir has been crafted in the European style using only the finest ingredients. Immerse your taste buds in this rich bittersweet chocolate. Simply add milk or water to enjoy this velvety smooth sipping chocolate at home.

You’re coming home with me.

Verdict: It’s really, really good. And it does have a wonderful bittersweet taste, which I really like. $3.99, if I remember correctly. I’m going to make some for Don when he comes to visit. Update: We’re delaying until next week. Don doesn’t have enough time off and we have realized it would be next to impossible to pull it off.


After being pretty much exhausted all day long, Scoutie rallied and did her running thing in the park last night. Oh, that girl! She simply amazes me. It’s truly magical. I had to run to keep up with her during last night’s adventure. Imagine!


This is the view out my window this morning. Not one, not two, but three cranes.

Try not to be jealous.

Thank you for all the wonderful anniversary wishes. We truly appreciate them, my friends.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page about my professional work with actors, words, and Shakespeare.

Happy Monday.


We Are Sixteen, Going On Seventeen


Sixteen years ago today, I married the love of my life.

Gosh, we look young here! This photo was taken the morning after our wedding by my sister-in-law, Suzie.

We’ve grown older. We’ve been together twenty years and have been married for sixteen. Our small, very private ceremony took place in Nevada City, CA, where Don was doing a one-man show, Jeeves Takes Charge. It was Monday, Don’s day off and, coincidentally, Columbus Day. The ceremony was beautiful. We both cried all the way through it. I had a cast on my left ankle, which had been broken in August. We exchanged single white roses. Afterward, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through the autumnal streets of Nevada City and since it was a holiday there were a lot of people around. They smiled and waved and it was beautiful.

I once thought I would never marry; indeed, had absolutely no desire to be married. Thank goodness I waited. Thank goodness I was happy enough with myself that I never felt I needed a relationship to feel fulfilled. But when, in my forties, I was ready to open the door to that possibility, Don walked into my life and the girl who didn’t want to marry suddenly wanted very much to be married. But only to this man.

What an amazing ride it has been! Thank you, dearest love, for everything. Thank you for understanding my eccentricities and neuroses, for making me laugh so hard that I can barely contain myself or my bladder, for your compassion and love for your fellow man, for your everyday kindness to everyone, for your wisdom, for your intelligence, for your cooking skills, for your wonderful craziness, for your infinite patience, for your back rubs, for being as silly as me – if not more so, for loving to cuddle on the sofa, for sharing the adventure that is our life together. And for being such a good dad to our dogs.

See you tomorrow, my love. Happy Anniversary.

P.S. Scout did it again last night! Running and running in the lamplit park. Amazing.

Happy Sunday.