From the Tiny Acorn…

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I saw these earrings the other day and my father immediately popped into my mind and I bought them. They come to me via an endlessly elegant purveyor of vintage clothing and jewelry in Great Britain who is known to me as @WillowHilson on Instagram.

It is with some great and ongoing sadness that I accept I am unlikely to ever have the chance to admire her windows in person and walk into her shop in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Actually I should be relieved because if she was a short subway ride away I would spend an absolute fortune on clothing, let alone jewelry and handbags. As it is, even online only the inability to try things on keeps me in check on clothing – that and the fact that she seems to turn up many items that run about a size smaller than I anticipate needing. However, once in awhile I give in and purchase an item or two from her photos. A lovely clutch came in this shipment too.

A recent window view of Willow’s shop. These photos of her window come out weekly along with a video of the process of creating them.

When my dad was young he had a small film company he called Acorn Films. I remember asking (in that way kids have), Acorn Films? In response he said, From the tiny acorn grows the mighty oak! It was the first time I heard that and it stayed with me and I have been known to quote it. The quote seems to be English in origin and go aways back.

The earrings in question.

As I run these days, I have started seeing acorns underfoot, especially where I run in Jersey, although Central Park and Carl Schurz have provided a few too. I think of dad every time I see them as well. I assume the local wildlife is happily consuming the bounty – squirrels nibbling away, storing them for winter. I don’t know what else might eat them, chip monks perhaps? My mom has a large colony of those guys. I see the acorns in the streets and on the sidewalks so I assume those are not ones that oaks will ultimately grow from.

In the city they mostly appear a bit stunted and the ones I picked up today are green. I read that the acorns are falling earlier this year which is why many are green, immature. Evidently the heavy rains we had recently probably caused this, although I gather that it can also happen if a tree happens to grow in an inadequate setting. I figure squirrels here in Manhattan are consuming them, but I have a hard time imagining that the rats or mice bother with them, however who knows what a resourceful rodent might munch?

My father was not a man prone to optimism so in retrospect it was an interestingly hopeful thing to name his nascent company. The acorn is a symbol of unlimited potential, that from a modest beginning something larger might grow. For me it is a sign of renewal, like the pomegranate, and of course autumn.

Small acorns in abundance and various states this morning on my run in Carl Schurz Park.

I don’t know too much about the specifics of his film company. I think he had some space over in the west 40’s, but maybe a tad higher or lower. I have the dimmest of memories of him pointing to a building once and saying it was up there indicating a corner window. I was told he paid for his equipment and to live the rest of the year by filming races at Monmouth Park in the summer for ABC locals news. I don’t know if there were ever any other colleagues or partners.

In his possession when he folded the company was film he had shot for a documentary on drug addiction which he never finished. Family life and a bustling job as a full-time news cameraman for the national and international bureaus of ABC took the place of this more creative work.

There is also a story my mother tells, not my father as I remember, of him interviewing and filming Anias Nin who famously refused to be photographed after a certain age due to an excess of vanity. (This stunned and even fascinated me as a child – I had never conceived of such a thing.)

Their agreement was that Nin would view the footage and if she didn’t like it he would destroy it – which he was ultimately forced to do. I’m not sure how dad met her – or wiled his way enough into her good graces to be given the chance. Meanwhile, evidently, mom was have a great time hanging out with Daisy Alden during those interviews and also occasionally in the kitchen during fancy parties dad was filming. I imagine my mom, much like me, occasionally shaking her head and saying, you need to understand, I’m just a girl from Jersey.

For now, I will sport my acorn earrings this fall always keeping in mind that we are never entirely sure which of the seeds we plant will take root and grow.

Scent

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Some Pictorama readers know that I was among the folks who lost my sense of smell when I got Covid a few months back. It slowly returned, patchy at first, as did my coordinating sense of taste which had disappeared with it. Over time I could suddenly smell the river again during my run and found that I wasn’t just guessing when I salted the soup I was making as I habitually taste tested it.

As foretold, as it returned I found that smell in particular, was a bit more messy than taste. Some smells seemed to break apart somehow. Perfumes in particular would sock my nose with overwhelming notes of alcohol or something chemical after an initial whiff of something more pleasant. I favored strong musky scents briefly, probably because they were strongest for my limited ability. I routinely sniffed the kitchen herbs as I cooked. Whiffs of dill, oregano, basil, but also spice like cumin, coriander, red pepper, ginger and mace daily.

Citrus was the last scent to come back, as well as taste. (Frustratingly though the taste of summer corn and tomatoes also lagged!) I made a practice of smelling citrus in all forms whenever I could and testing different kinds. It remained flatly unavailable to me.

As it happens the perfume I have worn for many years is a citrus scent that crosses grapefruit with something like an etrog. If you are unfamiliar with etrogs, they are a lumpy looking lemon-esque citrus fruit which is perhaps best known for being part of the observance of the Jewish autumn holiday Sukkot. While not familiar with them or the holiday first hand, I am told that my perfume is reminiscent of it with a strong lemony citrus note.

An etrog.

Somehow during the course of the pandemic I ignored the fact that I was almost out of perfume (sitting home didn’t require much) and even more notably, I missed the fact that it was suddenly hard to find and purchase. So, I have been looking around and sampling citrus smells.

I tried a pricey Tom Ford which I liked until I actually put it on me. There is something very disconcerting about not smelling like yourself and scents, those I could in fact smell over time, had an odd way of changing with my body chemistry. I frequently thought I liked something and wanted to take a shower an hour later to thoroughly get it off me.

Love the blue bottle, but this was more of an orange scent than I was looking for.

I revisited a few scents from when I was younger and was amazed at how much I disliked them, while finding them hauntingly familiar. Jasmine is one and while I still love to smell the actual plant I disliked every perfume version I tried. I wore Chanel for a period in my 20’s and early 30’s and I find it overwhelming now, although their Chance eau Fraiche was a citrus contender, but again there was something sort of heavy about it over time.

Another one from my youth – this one is also orange scented so maybe I was moving toward citrus already.

My grandmother wore a carnation oriented Chanel I believe, a pleasantly spiky scent that I have not been able to replicate, at least on me. (My very no nonsense mother tells a story of one day many years ago when I was still very little. She was taking the garbage out and suddenly she was surrounded by my grandmother’s scent. It was my father’s mother with whom she was close and she said she found it very comforting.) My sister wore Chanel too, No. 19 I think, but I don’t associate it with her. My mother has never worn perfume, but my father would bring it back for me and Loren from duty-free work related flights.

A very close entry.

I find something I think I like but then I find myself asking, do I want to smell like this all the time after an hour or so. Kim was brought into a judgement call occasionally. He had a really bad reaction to one of the early musky scents I tried. The good news was that over time I was able to smell much better again.

My beloved Green Tea is back!

I was on the verge of settling for a perfume by Diptyque (citrus but woody), when I tried looking for my Bulgari scent one more time and there it was! My beloved Au the Vert (Green Tea) unisex spray is available once again.

Mr. Softee Summer

Pam’s Pictorama Post: By the time you read this I will be heading to Denver for a conference having left at the crack of dawn. However, I leave this summery post in my place. Today’s ice cream post is a bookend of sorts to last week’s running in the heat. One advantage of running through the summer is it allows for the consumption of a certain amount of ice cream.

Long time Pictorama readers (and well, anyone who knows me) are aware that I have a serious soft spot for ice cream. In my world ice cream has no calories and if ice cream is available it should be eaten. Therefore, I generally do not keep it in the house, although this seems to have only a marginal impact on my consumption.

Ryan’s homemade ice cream. Hard to beat!

My taste preferences are eclective – I am not an ice cream snob in the least – however, if you say salted caramel my ears will perk up. But I like a soft serve cone, a bowl of strawberry from a local creamery or something more exotic at a restaurant making their own all equally.

I appear to have inherited my love of ice cream from my father and his affection for it was documented in a very popular post which can be found here. Dad was always up for a trip to the local Dairy Queen and usually had a container or two tucked into the freezer, especially in his advancing years. He went from being a plain chocolate guy to having a distinct preference for exotic flavors with bits of candy bar or cookie. I started as a vanilla girl and now like, well, more or less all of it.

The New Jersey version of my habit is largely centered around trips to Ryan’s whose homemade ice cream I only discovered several years ago. Their strawberry is epic and when the peaches ripen the peach is just heaven. Although if time does not permit a trip out to Ryan’s I might talk my friend Suzanne into a much closer trip to Carvel. When dad was alive Father’s Day and his birthday were often celebrated with a Carvel, Fudgie the Whale of a Cake. Jolly blue icing bits in the one I remember and yummy chocolate crumbly bits.

Fudgie the Whale. I remember some of the piping as blue though…

For many years there was a Carvel near me here in Manhattan, on the corner of 85th and First Avenue, although sadly there is a Starbucks there now. I would stop in for the occasional cone, but they were too far from the office to grab a party cake there. (I did used to bring ice cream to the office at the Met sometimes, but needed to buy it closer – ice cream sandwiches did surprisingly well for delivery, re-freezing and consumption. I would also occasionally grab one or two other people and go across the street where a Mr. Softee is resident for the summer and buy dripping ice cream treats for whoever was knocking around the office on a summer afternoon.)

Mr. Softee on the corner of 86th and Lex.

Unlike people who might find the Mr. Softee tune (generally Pop Goes the Weasel) or tinkling bells annoying, it fills me only with joy. Having grown up in a wealthy suburb it was unusual for him to make his way to us and we generally drove to the Dairy Queen for ice cream, but I hear it not infrequently in the city.

Lots of interesting options although I seem to be pretty stuck on my usual these days. I used to occasionally like the ice cream bars with a coating of chocolate and nutty bits and a chocolate core.

Soft serve ice cream is still sold in the Rumson spot where Dairy Queen (DQ) was, although it has been renamed Crazees. I have not had the pleasure of trying them. In high school I yearned for a job at Dairy Queen which seemed like the pinnacle of cool. Sadly it was a much sought after job and I lacked the connections it seemed. Instead I had to settle for working at a pizza place serving my second favorite food – and consuming large quantities of it.

Still the same barn shaped building but no longer the telltale red and white. Rumson, NJ.

However, this summer has been the summer of Mr. Softee. The extreme heat and humidity and a calorie margin of error that 7 miles of running 4-5 times a week gives me has allowed me to develop the habit of grabbing Kim on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon in search of the ice cream man. A classic vanilla wafer cone with chocolate sprinkles is just right for each of us although on the hottest days you need to eat it with a certain alacrity.

Colorful and somewhat whacky options on the side of the truck.

I understand the while Mr. Softee isn’t suffering from a lack of consumer interest, the rising prices of ice cream and condiments as well as gasoline has made it a difficult living. I can only offer each one I encounter my enthusiastic summer support.

June

Pam’s Pictorama Post: So I sat down this morning with all good intentions of ignoring Father’s Day entirely. Having bared my soul on the subject of our mutual Deitch Studio illness yesterday, I was thinking more along the lines of a toy post today. However, for whatever reason with the sun streaming hard into the windows early this morning I was out of bed and drinking coffee at an obscenely early hour when I got the idea of reading some previous posts. My Dad, Elliott Butler, died back in ’18 and I wrote a post that remains remarkable even to me that year about bringing him ice cream. (That post can be found here.) It was however the one from June of ’19 that really struck me.

Dad’s buddy, his cat Red.

I find myself dividing life into the before time (pre-March 2020) and the new time after. It certainly isn’t that there weren’t problems and concerns in the before time, but somehow reams of them got shelved over the past two years as we negotiated a world that at first was rocked by a pandemic and has continued roil and roll upside down.

Ryan’s Ice Cream in NJ.

I haven’t had the time, energy or inclination to spend a lot of time looking back or digging through the concerns of late ’19 or early ’20. I remember being crazy busy with work, traveling too much and feeling vaguely like it was spinning a bit out of control. My first thought upon being told to go home for an undefined period was that I would at last get enough sleep – and I did.

However, looking back on my post of June ’19 I reflected on one of the last cogent conversations I had with my father the year before who had had one of those strange lucid moments in a sea of not knowing where he was or what was happening, where he looked up clear eyed and asked if I thought my job (still relatively new at the time) was going to work out. Just a year in at that point, I gave him the honest answer that it was tough going and the jury was still out. (That post can be read here.)

Dad’s favorite cookies, a NY Black and White, also known as Moon Cookies.

He was always very interested in my career. Working in an office, raising money for cultural organizations was all very foreign to his work life of news, constant action and cameras, but he always wanted to know about it. We shared a love of travel which our jobs supplied in good measure though, and he was proud of me and what I did, if occasionally confused by what my work actually consisted of daily.

When I read the post I remembered the conversation well. There has been so much water under the bridge since then, but I guess the main thing is that he would have gotten a kick out of what I have achieved at my job over the past few years. It has been a rough ride, but somehow our performing arts organization stayed solvent, everyone paid despite some severe belt tightening and a lot of asking for and receiving help.

Recent photo of the Met. Dad was always proud that I worked there.

Three years since that post and I have a level of assurance about my work that was lacking back when he and I spoke that day. I pointed out that the thing about a challenge is there is the very real chance of failure. It was wavering in early summer of ’18 and I was still struggling a year later evidently. The tide started to shift though and luckily I wasn’t found wanting when the bottom fell out in spring of ’20.

The fight is never ending at a job where you bring in money and my exhaustion has returned after the pitched battle of these past years, although has different causes, and it hovers over me while I try to negotiate the new world. However, while the struggle remains I think I can say that the verdict is in and I have been successful which would have pleased him.

Meanwhile, I am planning on having a run (he would have thought the running thing was crazy, but would have secretly been sort of proud of it) and most certainly some ice cream with a tip of the hat to him later today.

Jersey Daughter, Part 2: Running

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I pick up from where I left yesterday, but use the opportunity to focus on running. Pictorama readers know that about 18 months ago I started running. I have slowly (very slowly!) built my distance up to 4.5-5 miles four or so times a week, as my work schedule allows. This morning, having a bit of leisure time at my disposal, I topped out over 5 miles.

Today was overcast but warm. Rain has moved in since so I am glad I got out early. (Although it means you all are getting this post later than usual as a result!)

This contemplative area with these plaques seems to be new to me. It ajoins the church property.
Close up of one of the plaques.

Running in NJ tends to encourage me to expand my footprint a bit as I investigate the neighborhood, poking down new blocks, cul de sacs and deadends. I am confident enough in my mental map that I don’t worry now about getting lost, although I tend to keep myself hemmed in to the east and the west by major roads it is easier not to cross.

As I have said in my previous posts about running, I run slowly. For a tall person I have short legs and therefore a less than impressive stride, but I cannot blame my overall slowness just on that. My feeling about running is pretty much that I find a pace I can generally just keep up, more or less indefinitely. As if I was an automaton toy, set into infinite forward motion. I will speed up around obstacles or otherwise as needed but there is a general lope that I keep myself to. Everyone passes me – people running with baby strollers pass me – the older and the younger alike. My only interest in increasing time is a sense of efficiency about the amount of time I have to devote to running and therefore the ratio of distance to time.

First flowers of the season I spotted in bloom today!

For me running is about being in the moment which releases me from all the nagging worries that I nurse throughout the day (and night) otherwise. I focus on my stride, where my feet are falling and the music (today was largely Bruce Springsteen in honor of New Jersey) which is familiar enough to be ritual as well.

Suburban life is stretched out before me as I run here. Today was no exception. The first part of my run takes me to the crossroads of several churches and a synagogue. This morning I was treated to the church bells ringing as I started out. This church is next to a playing field and a small wildlife preserve that I circle before heading back out into a neighborhood north of here.

I ran further north and then west than usual and encountered the elementary school for the town, tucked away behind a main street but somehow on a block I think I never encountered growing up here. The Viola Sickles School is a pretty Art Deco designed building. It has a large playground and playing field behind it which I toured. Just on the other side is a pretty little downtown street of restaurants and shops on a main road. My mom lived in one of the houses on that main street which was converted to a candy store which we used to visit occasionally when I was little. Somehow I couldn’t get rid of the idea that my mom grew up in the candy store but this was not the case. I think it was a small gas station that my grandfather had at that time and before they moved to a neighboring town.

This one needs a new roof, but what a sweet little house!

The houses near the school are old and lovely. These few blocks seem to have somehow escaped the general gentrification of the area. I hope someone buys them and restores them on their tiny lots instead of tearing them down.

I loop around and head south for the most familiar part of my run which I have been saving for last recently. It is overcast and the sun alternately fights to come out and gives up. Today is one of the warmest runs I have had this winter and the temperature is hovering around 50. Robins are everywhere, as well as sparrows, cardinals and bluejays. I see a bunny with a bushy white tail – too fast for me to get a picture. Back at mom’s the chipmunks are in evidence again as well. I spy the first snowdrops of the season in bloom and snap a photo of them.

Another cute little house on this school block.

Around mile four I start to feel it in my legs a bit. I use a GPS driven running tracker now called Strava as my phone seemed to be inconsistent about recording miles. I had some trouble with it at first – it would turn itself off which was frustrating – but I seem to have gotten past that.

Strava makes me more competitive with myself despite not really intending to – can I be faster on the big inclines? Go a bit further today? It sends me electronic encouragement for each of my runs. I am a sucker for its praise.

Knights of Columbus meeting establishment.

This week I see several book exchange boxes in the neighborhood, but don’t take the time out to examine them. I do note them however for future reference. Today I realize one is in front of the Knights of Columbus meeting place. I run through the parking lot and notice these rather special benches below.

Kind of love these benches with the American flags built into the design.

I realize that I am already over time and distance and still have to get home. I think of one of my favorite phrases – save something for the swim back. It is true of running – and many other things too.

Jersey Daughter, Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I find myself unexpectedly in New Jersey today. Mom’s health took a turn for the worse and I hopped down here on Friday night.

As some of you know, coming and going at odd hours to New Jersey these days I have abandoned the cold and limited schedule of the ferry in favor of a car service a friend suggested. Rides with Cash provides not only thoughtful and dependable service, but Cash, a beautiful Australian Shepard who climbs in my lap for ear and tummy rubs along the way. Petting Cash, talking music with Geoff, makes the ride go quickly and calms me on my more anxious rides like Friday. (For those in the greater, NJ, NYC and Philadelphia area, you can book Jeff and Cash here.)

Cash who operates as a canine co-pilot to Jeff on rides to and from NJ.

I arrived to find mom weak and very surprised to see me – I didn’t know I was going to be a surprise, but it was nice to see how happy she was once she realized she wasn’t dreaming. She has stabilized a bit and although still very pale from a loss of blood, she is stronger and eating well.

Mornings are my favorite time spent here and I am sure they are what I will remember most fondly in the future. There’s usually a nice hour or so when we are mostly just the two of us, before I go running and her next shift of help arrives. I drink too much coffee and she has some tea maybe. In the winter it would be dark out and I would be waiting for the sun to come up before heading out for my run.

Sun coming up out my window here this morning.

We are beyond fortunate that we have folks helping out who have some deep roots with us and over this period these strong women have formed a community around mom as they come and go, working out a schedule among themselves. The group somehow magically expanded when we decided that we needed someone overnight after mom got out of the hospital over the holidays.

This enclave of extraordinary women, all from Jamaica, have become my mom’s society and despite her physical woes her keen interest in them and their lives continues to grow. Like family, some are closer than others, sisters rather than cousins. However, as we share meals, work around the house and concern for mom, they are our clan. (Mom is still trying to feed the world and so much take out food is ordered to be shared by all. However, sometimes I cook or they do. Recipes are exchanged.) Mom enjoys the occasional visits of their children and grandchildren and she seems to be a favorite among some of the youngest.

Photo of a child me with a younger Mom, carrying my brother Edward in this photo.

I get to share in this deeply feminine society during my periodic stays. Everyone is fairly interested in my professional life and invested in the success thereof as they hear me pacing around the house on the phone or on endless Zoom calls in an upstairs room, where I am perched typing now. This is its own world which I enter when I am here. The tentacles are long though and at least one among my mom’s caretakers texts me periodically with anything she thinks I should know. It was a family friend, Suzanne, who is also devoted to my mom and like a sister to me, who texted me on Friday to get down here as soon as I can. Mom had been dismissive of my change in plans earlier in the day, but Suzanne was right and I am glad I came.

The house has a new inhabit, a kitten named Stormy. For those of you who follow me on social media you saw photos of Stormy posted as we tried to find her a home after Mom rescued her recently. (Yes, despite everything Mom is still managing to rescue animals as she has her whole life.) Once trapped and brought inside Stormy has turned out to be barely out of kittenhood and has the sweetest and most winning demeanor.

Stormy is now a permanent member of the Butler clan.

Well, my Dad used to say that cats only ever come into the Butler household and none ever leave and despite a fair amount of effort on our part it seems to be holding true. Stormy has managed to become a household favorite however and even those not especially disposed to cats stop to chat with her on their way around their business of the house. Stormy is presently residing in a very large, multi-level dog cage in the living room where she can be a part of the life of the house, but not yet subjected to the rough and tumble of the other kits. Needless to say, Stormy isn’t going anywhere.

Strangely, considering she is a stray, Stormy appears to be domestic and really likes people. She enjoys being petted, ear and even tummy rubs in particular. Her fur is kitten downy and although she greets the world with a somewhat unblinking wide-eyed and concerned stare, she seems contented. She is still eating copious quantities of food and is slowly filling out. I cannot imagine what her history is – she is so used to humans and handling and, it must be said, not Stormy in the least. (She was christened as such based on the blustering winter morning she was trapped on.) For all of her placid personality and evident enjoyment of handling she does not purr. She will occasionally grab your hand if you stop petting her and she lets out the occasional silent meow or soft growl.

Having this new little critter in the house as we navigate health care issues, and a growing war in the Ukraine which blares over the television via my mother’s endless devotion to CNN, centers us a bit on something nice. We saved Stormy, but she is doing her part. She is good for us too.

The morning is now in full cry and another pot of coffee and a Saturday run is in the offing. I will probably have a little more to say about that tomorrow.

Ode to a Fry Pan

Pam’s Pictorama Post: On New Year’s Eve I scrubbed my fry pan which had, after a sticky encounter with two Beyond Burgers, been soaking in the sink overnight. To my deep dismay, the handle began to wobble ominously, about to come off. I knew that this ten inch stainless steel friend was, after three and a half decades of virtually daily use, breathing its last.

There are, needless to say, many loses far worse than a fry pan and even I am a bit surprised at the depth of my sadness about its departure. It came to me as a graduation gift from college, part of a set with two sauce pots, a soup pot of a kind of stainless steel pot sets that are sold by department stores like Macy’s. There were lids that the soup pot and fry pan could share and sported a lid for the larger of the two pots. (That lid mysteriously disappeared during our kitchen renovation which I wrote about in a post you can read here. Kim and I really have no idea what could have happened to it and it took us awhile to realize it was really gone.)

My kitchen shortly after renovation in the fall of 2019.

They were a handsome group with reinforced bottoms and they distributed heat nicely. To a large degree I learned to cook with that set of pots. The pots and pans were a gift from my friend Suzanne who I credit with launching me with some early cooking lessons. During last week’s stay with Mom in New Jersey I told Suzanne of the pan’s demise. I’m not sure she remembers giving them to me although she allowed it was possible and certainly understood my sadness at its impending demise.

As someone who was trained as a professional cook I have undeniably put my pots and pans through their paces over the years. Uncomplainingly that fry pan has sauteed endlessly with a high flame under it. Countless piles of chopped onions and garlic have been softened in it, no smell like that few minutes when you start to cook something – perhaps the tang of tomato hitting right after the onion and garlic, or mushrooms piled in, the pan later to be deglazed again and with a bit of wine, scraped with an ever darkening wooden spoon. It will always be the smell of home to me. (I always remember one of the chefs I cooked with saying that you should never deglaze or use wine in a sauce you wouldn’t drink.) The pan is blackened on the bottom from high heat and flame, although the inside remains shiny.

Overgrown dumplings in a root veggie stew.

Pictorama readers know that Deitch Studio is resident in a glorified single room, perched high in a building in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. The small space devoted to the kitchen, an area that is by my own account generally fairly topsy turvy, but where I manage to spew out a series of soups, stews, pan roasted vegetables and even the occasional bit of baked goods daily. (Some posts complete with recipes can be found here, here and here.) These pandemic years have resulted in even more meals made and the pots have stood nobly by.

The tiny quarters of the kitchen has kept my toolkit of implements tight however and, other than a roster of sheet pans as I seem to just kill those off every few years, I have only added a small, lidded sauce pan and a much smaller skillet I acquired over the years – the small skillet was a wedding gift as I remember. (There also is a non-stick pan made of a mysterious material that arrived on our shores, black with white flecks. Works well, but I wouldn’t subject it to high temperatures.) The sauce pan was purchased after one of the two from this original set was left on a burner and damaged, although it has as it turns out, remained in rotation despite that. There is no pot storage in this kitchen and therefore the few pots and pans generally remain piled on the back of the stove, waiting their turn at use, as seen above.

The pan was designed with a handle at the front, to help heft a heavy pan full, perhaps lifting it from the oven. Oven friendly, it has done its time roasting food in the oven too – there was even a time, decades ago now, when I still ate chicken and would occasionally roast a small one or parts in it, adorned by carrots, small potatoes, maybe green beans, onions and garlic. (I believe it housed fried chicken once or twice too, my grandmother’s recipe which involved flouring it in a paper bag. I was just discussing that recipe with my now vegan mother the other day.) The front handle popped off while scrubbing it about a year ago. It seems it was a warning sign over the bow, alas.

I have known this pan longer than I have known my husband Kim and it has been a quiet companion of my entire adult life. Unstinting in its service first to single me and then to us; in it I can see my twenty-two year old self, setting up my first apartment and cooking my nascent solo meals. Still, practically speaking a skillet with a loose handle is an accident waiting to happen. I considered my options for speedy replacement as this pan is in service everyday. Remarkably similar sets appear to be available online, but fewer where an individual pan could be purchased and it is hard to trust the heft of a pan to an online purchase. (A recent purchase of a coffee pot resulted in one with metal so thin I cut myself badly on it the first time I cleaned it.)

The All-Clad replacement pan.

In the end I chose an All-Clad ten incher. The two most recent additions mentioned above were both an All-Clad pot and pan and they are well made without question. It is a magnificent pan, and if treated well these few guys will probably outlive me. The New York Times Wirecutter named the 12-inch the best fry pan a week later, further cementing my certainty that was a good choice. Still, I know cooking with it will be different, sloping sides containing less and different heating time. It will take some adapting. The fry pan arrived via William Sonoma yesterday – handle poking assertively and somewhat comically out of the side of the cardboard box, itching to get out.

Meanwhile, I just thought the fry pan of my youth deserved some recognition today. It has served admirably and owes us nothing, and it will be missed.

New Jersey cont.

Pam’s Pictorama.Post: This is just a bit of a follow-up for those of you who tuned in yesterday. I ended that post with a note saying that I had taken my mom to the ER. She was admitted and, as those things go, we started early, EMT workers milling around my mom’s tiny kitchen as they prepped her to go. She was fully lucid and in fact had gone from absolutely refusing to entertain a discussion of going to the hospital last night to announcing (rather grandly I thought) that she had made the decision the night before that she should go. Why argue with a good result, right?

Two of mom’s kits.

It is strange to be in this house without my mom. Because she is housebound since she moved here, I have never been in this house without her, even briefly. Her cats are equally at loose ends. Her closest cat fried, Beau, is walking around, looking at her chair and staring at us meaningfully. Well? What’s with you people? Where is she?

View from Mom’s room.

I left mom resting comfortably and settled in at the hospital tonight. Her room overlooks the Navesink River, not the river I grew up on (the Shewsbury) on the other side of town. Unlike the houses on the blocks where I grew up, the houses here stare imperiously down to the river, sharp drops with steep staircases switchbacking down to the docks and boat slips at the bottom. Where I grew up we were more or less at the level of the water – more likely to flood, but more a part of the life of the river too. Today, looking at the window I remember somehow finding myself on that side of town once when I was about 12 and getting it into my head to walk along the river, climbing fences and skirting around fences and docks. Eventually I had to give up, unable to get any further.

The groundhog!

Today as I looked out the window I saw a large furry dark brown animal. He occasionally sits up on his haunches, waving at me I think. A groundhog. Given the distance I think he must be a fine size fellow. I report on this to mom who can’t see him from where she is The nurse tells us they see foxes sometimes and baby deer have been romping out there.

The hospital is fairly well known to me. It is not huge, but it seems good and very caring which isn’t really an adjective I readily apply to hospitals. However, I purchased perhaps the single worst cup of coffee of my adult life from the cafeteria. I forgot that there is a perfectly splendid and very comforting Dunkin’ Donuts in the building. Tomorrow. Coffee consumption is an integral part of the long CNN watching days of hospital sitting.

River view from the lounge.

I am reminded of being in the hospital with my dad, years ago now. He had a window where he looked out onto the water. He loved to see the boats there he told me. We talked about how we would rather be out there instead of where we were. I think about that sometimes when I see sailboats when I am running near the East River in the mornings.

I am told that the trip to the hospital was necessary so I am grateful for the stars which aligned to convince her to go and give us a chance to fight again another day.

Fall Further

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am writing from New Jersey today. We are celebrating Thanksgiving early this year as mom worried about the potential exposure over the holiday with crowded travel. As she has a weaken immune system this has to be her call. Either way, a visit is good.

Mom’s cat Peaches is considering making friends.

I headed down on the ferry Friday and the weather is more spring than fall – although today it poured rain on my run early this morning. Still, I am glad to catch the last of the Halloween decorations as well as the less glitzy Thanksgiving ones. It is a lovely small town and the houses are set closely together and are always nicely kept and decorated for holidays. A middle school is one of the stops on my running loop and many of the homes house families with small children. The autumn leaf display is always stunning and I am glad to catch it as well – fall is not fall for me without it.

From my run earlier today.

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The nip to the air, the smell of decaying leaves, the light turning to an afternoon yellow I think we only see for a few weeks each year. Kim and I got married in the fall, October, a way to celebrate my favorite season.

I love the lead up to the holidays and Thanksgiving is in many ways the best – all the holiday of Christmas with less fuss and stress..And I am usually content in the face of winter each year – looking forward to what is cozy about it, down comforters, hot drinks, and books read in bed. Like many other folks maybe I thought fall would look different than it does as currently still looks much like last spring and even last winter.

From yesterday’s run.

When I leave here tomorrow I will head back to Manhattan to launch this week with the long awaited season opening of concerts at the House of Swing, the first orchestra concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on Rose Hall stage in close to two years. As celebratory as it will be, somehow the new world still feels nascent and unformed, less a return to what we knew and more a dipping our toe in the water of something new. It is hard not to yearn to return to what we know, the constant re-imagining is exhausting. Cat-like I have always liked routine.

My staff (and no less I) are exhausted as we embark on another leg on the long marathon that has been the pandemic. We only know that we drive ahead, but no idea of how much longer the distance is. Like managers everywhere I find myself with a staff this is whittled down to a fraction of its former size. It continues to dwindle as colleagues try to re-start their lives in different locales, causes or goals. Everyone remaining has taken on additional work, re-orged again, and their job redefined repeatedly. I myself wear at least three hats. Choices about what priorities will remain and which we will forgo shift daily.

View leaving the house for a run yesterday. Stormy weather.

As fundraisers, we prefer to be able to plan and living in an ever shifting world makes us cranky and short with each other. One of my consultants urges me to read Churchill speeches as a way to inspire me and help me rally my “troops”, but he is not my style and instead of urging people to make war I need to compel them instead to continued kindness with their colleagues and to try to imagine their way to a new way of being. Instead I will pull my running clothes on, put Beethoven on my headphones and head out into another fall morning to work things out.

Postscript: my morning run ended with a trip to the ER with my mom. Looks like the universe has more in store for this week.

Swanning

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My mother is not a collector, I inherited the gene from my dad and from his side of the family. His mother loved to attend auctions here in the city and stuffed their house with carpets, furniture and trinkets. She loved costume jewelry – in many ways I am her successor. My father was an accumulator as well, garage sales, auctions. He was a man who liked stuff. While there were no toy or photograph collectors, I’m sure Pictorama readers realize that this is the category I fit into – and at least in this way I take most decidedly after the paternal side of my family. (I most recently wrote about Dad’s passion for silver in a post here.)

My mom on the other hand is not especially interested in things. She can be discerning about what she likes and prefers, but generally speaking my mother just lived among the stuff my father accumulated without being especially engaged with it or the acquisition of it. This is not to say she didn’t enjoy a trip to an antique shop or flea market – she would pick up this or that. However, she does not possess a deep affection for the items of the world, nor the acquisition of them.

Undated snapshot of my mom.

A scientist at heart my mother’s passion lies deeply embedded in the natural world. As a result I grew up with a cheerful allotment of pet cats, dogs and fish. (Two past posts addressing this roster of pets and my early life can be found here and here.) We had a vegetable garden which she planted and tended and we lived on a river where we enjoyed a passing parade of waterfowl and aquatic life. Her father was a devoted fisherman and repaired outboard motors and made fishing lures for extra money, so she knew the waters of the area well. Much of the idyll of my childhood I have shared with Pictorama readers was shaped by my mother’s views, knowledge and interests in the nature world of the seashore where we lived.

One Thanksgiving, several decades ago now, my mother noticed a flock of swans in the backyard and became intently interested in them. Before long she was feeding them as well as watching them, along with the geese and ducks which also made our river inlet home at the time. Eventually an injured one turned up and she found someone to help heal it. Slowly she became involved with a loose network of people who were knowledgeable and would help when an injured swan or goose would cross her path. I remember visiting my folks and finding that I was sharing the guest bathroom with an injured swan overnight. (He was a noisy neighbor that night!) Strangely (to my mind anyway) mute swans are an intensely political and controversial issue for people who live on or near the shore. Other than to acknowledge that it is, and that clearly my mom falls on the side of protecting this wildlife, it is not my intention to tackle that topic.

For today all this is to say that on that November afternoon my mother recognized and embraced her spirit animal and although she loves all birds (and in fact all animals) she is deeply and especially attached to swans. She has devoted much of her time and energy in subsequent years to caring for them and defending them with all the resources she could marshal. In recent years, no longer living on the water and now mostly confined to the house, I say she still wields a mighty phone and computer. Her now tiny yard remains a haven for song birds who attracted by and enjoy bird baths and feeders, as well as a garden designed to feed them and the insects. (I wrote a little about her gardening in a post here.)

While living on the waterfront those many years mom photographed the swans, along with geese, ducks, other birds and of course our cats. Those photos proliferated on the walls of the house and my father, the accumulator, brought her swan related items and in that way she became an inadvertent collector of swan stuff. However, when the time came to downsize into the house she lives in now she shed most of it without regret. I think she rather enjoys living a more pared down life.

Therefore, as her birthday approached this year, it was never my intention to purchase items of this sort for her. However, much like those first swans years ago, these presented themselves to me in recent weeks and I found myself purchasing first the pin and then the photo. The pin hails from the British jewelry dealer Mia (IG @therubyfoxes or therubyfoxes.com, my most recent past post of an acquisition from her can be found here) who told me that five flying swans is the symbol of the Nordic countries, swans of different types being the national birds of both Finland and Denmark. Although unmarked, esthetically it appears to be made in one of those countries. Mom was never much of a jewelry wearer and wears none now really, but I think she will like having this, perhaps on a piece of ribbon, pinned up near where she likes to sit most days.

Meanwhile, a week or so later when following a sale by my Halloween supplier, the Midwestern Miss Molly (IG @MissMollysAntiques who I gave a nod to just last week in a post here), I stumbled across this early photo of two swans and again I answered the call and purchased it for mom. There is something about the reflections in the water I think mom will especially like. Later today I will pick up a frame and tomorrow I head to Jersey to see mom, slightly in advance of her birthday later this month.

Sometimes when I run in the mornings I see geese or ducks here on the East River, flying by, and I email mom and tell her they were waving to her in tribute. It felt like these items also arrived on Instagram pointedly just in time for her birthday this year. Maybe although dad is gone, he is still finding a way to send a few swan items her way.