Love + Madness

I organize pictures for my blog in folders with titles to jog my memory… Today’s folder was titled “love and madness” and I’ve been collecting in it for awhile. There is never a shortage of either here at Amber Lane and I’m guessing it’s the balance that keeps us going.

Pile Management is one of our favorite activities. What we do is amass a large pile of (typically) interrelated objects without intending to and, once it has gotten bigger than most sane people would allow as “passable,” we look nervously at each other. We examine the Pile from a distance like it’s a wild animal. We study it from all angles, trying desperately to find its weakness — the way in to its core. Once in the center, we have two options and we, invariably, pick opposite tactics… leading to more Madness than Love.

Fitz goes to the problem and tackles it head on — removing large items and winnowing down the Pile to a more manageable size. I go to the solution and work my way backwards — typically retreating to another room with less piles, practically making room in there, and then coming back to Pile Animal to disembowel it successfully. I’m sure both approaches work, albeit in different ways. And it’s constantly fascinating to watch two different brains at work. Perhaps, again, it’s the balance that saves us.

Some recent Pile Animals:

Last night we spent a few hours tackling our toughest Pile Animals to date — trying to make space for impending projects. Yes, projects! Not even just one but many, simultaneously! We are finally moving forward. But, to move, we need space. And I don’t mind finding it at all!

You see, February was pretty stagnant. Apparently, when it’s the coldest February on record in western Massachusetts, no one wants to get much done. So things just kept stalling… We tried to keep things lively though.

We celebrated Valentine’s Day and our own special day, February 24, the first time we said “I love you” … a magical moment originally coated in a haze of narcotics and cotton balls, like all our favorite moments (that involve my wisdom teeth!).


Ice sculpture in downtown Northampton, great use of what’s readily available this winter!

…And celebrating Fitz’s birthday! This was his birthday present – you have no idea how happy bread makes the guy. We also had a lovely salmon and wild rice dinner with our friends, Adam and Priscilla. And finished off the evening with a delicious buttermilk chocolate cake brownie I whipped up in my spare time! 😉

Hungry Ghost rye bread, still warm from the oven!

Hungry Ghost rye bread, still warm from the oven!

photo 1

Happy Birthday, Fitz! (He insisted we use this picture instead of one of him because he says, “This is what I saw that night.”) He’s adorable.

When there weren’t festivities beyond Amber Lane, we found time to be domestic

And insane


Fitz tackles the Central Business Architecture demon, throwing public notice signs and spec sheets out the window!

As per usual, I continued to address Men.


Local photographers.


And a map maker with great historical knowledge of downtown… Apparently our building used to be the site of Smith Carr Bakery… More research to come!

And we staged another coup at the Building Office.


Two bays toward the Grease Interception and one bay toward an indirect drain! Simple enough, right? That was a few weeks of research in the making. Now we only need 3 sinks (triple sink, hand sink, and grinder sink — don’t ask) in our 200 sq foot kitchen. Only 3. (We didn’t win on the bathtub as mop sink idea though. Gotta take what you can!)

But… not everything in February was as rosy as these cherished moments of Love + Madness. We also had the Big Freeze moment. Here’s the quick version:

Sunday, February 15 7pm, second floor of Thornes Market.

Our consultant delivers some boring, misguided information that frustrates us… and suggests we won’t be starting the project as quickly as we’d like. (At this point, we’re used to those moments. No need to go into the details.) I look at Fitz. It’s cold. We’re totally OVER this project. It’s 2 days before his birthday. I say, “Let’s just drive down to Pennsylvania for the week. We can’t do anything for 5 days here at Amber Lane. Let’s just leave.”

Brilliant idea, right?

Well… yeah… but our pipes. Sigh. Yes, our pipes. We are responsible for more than just us at this point, aren’t we? That’s what being an adult is all about… 215 year old buildings with inadequate heat and a winter that will not end! We went around in circles about what to do. Without getting into the minutia, we couldn’t just leave our heat ON. I know. Silly, right? The thermostat was upstairs… what’s left of the duct system is relegated to 1/8th of the downstairs… the 2 are entirely too far apart… our electric furnace would run for 5 days straight. Read —> $$$

So, what do we do?

8pm, Amber Lane, First Floor.

We decide to move the thermostat closer to the duct! That way we could leave it on, to go PA for 5 days, and it would self- regulate. Easy enough?

Brilliant. Now, turn it on. “Fitz, I said turn it on.” “It should be on.” “It’s not on.”

9:30pm, Amber Lane, on cell phone to HVAC tech.

Basically, we had wired the thing correctly but had blown a fuse in the furnace itself (not a breaker, just a measly little 5amp furnace fuse… made of plastic). So… not only would we NOT be going to PA but now we didn’t have a furnace at all. And the forecast was -6 degrees overnight. It was a dismal evening. However, the point of this blog is not to dwell on the negatives but to find the positives and the quirky and serendipitous moments inherent in the madness…

First, we got out the space heater and brought it downstairs next to the water pipes. I sat there on Ethel (our Victorian couch that is too big to be stored upstairs) and stared at our pipes, willing them not to freeze. I felt like a mother, resigned but determinedly in love with my colicky baby, Amber Lane. It was in this moment that I fully realized the magnitude of being a property owner. The weight and honor of that responsibility had revealed itself to me.

11pm, Amber Lane, on Ethel

I spent an hour on the phone with a dear friend… We lamented her woes and mine. It was strangely comforting despite the fact we were going through entirely different kinds of issues… Mine were colder (she’s in San Francisco), her’s were older (layers of culture and history). But, a friend’s voice can make all the difference.

Monday, February 16 8am, Kitchen


A whole new meaning to “iced tea.”

Kinda frozen…

9am, Home Depot, Electrical Department

5amp furnace fuse = 25 cents

We got 3.

Some other out-takes from that morning…


Wwe didn’t go to Pennsylvania.

But now we know there are 5amp fuses in our furnace. And we discovered the rare and elusive Pantimals. And Fitz got buttermilk chocolate cake brownie for his birthday. And we went on numerous other adventures that week that, in their own little ways, made up for the set back.


And now it’s March. And we are moving forward with the project!

It will be a good month. I can just feel it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: