All posts by Laurie Graves

I write about nature, food, the environment, home, family, community, and people.

From Baby Yoda to Waiting in Line

My Christmas shopping is nearly done, but after watching The Mandalorian, I was keen to buy some Baby Yoda T-shirts for my nerdy family, from my husband to my daughters to my son-in-law to my nephew.  (I was even going to sneak one in for myself.)

Is it any wonder that we all wanted a shirt with this adorable child?

I had read the T-shirts were available at our local Kohl’s, and that’s  where I went.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful. Although there were many Star Wars shirts available, there was nary a one with Baby Yoda.

Another woman was looking carefully through the stacks of folded T-shirts, and I asked, “Have you seen any with Baby Yoda?”

She shook her head. “No. That’s what I’m looking for, too.”

“Bet they sold out,” I said sagely.

“Yeah,” she agreed with a sigh. “Probably on black Friday.”

We continued to look through the folded shirts and then shrugging philosophically, we conceded defeat.

I did find other goodies, and I had to wait to pay in a line that really wasn’t too long. However, with only three registers open, the line moved slowly. Being a mother, I am used to waiting, and it takes more than standing in line for fifteen or twenty minutes to fluster me.

This was not the case for the woman behind me. I could hear her complaints before she even reached the line.

“In the old days, it wasn’t like this. Service has gone downhill. I’m not patient. I hate waiting. You’d think at this time of year they would have more cashiers. This is awful. What’s the matter with them?”

Her companion, a man, agreed placidly, “Yup.”

On and on the complaints went, and the man was either a saint or a fool.  His unruffled good humor never waned as he agreed with her.

Finally, she said to me, “Don’t you hate waiting in line?”

“No,” I said in a tone that brooked no further discussion. “It doesn’t bother me.”

I could have said more. If the woman hadn’t been so busy grousing, she might have noticed that one of the cashiers, a young man, had a luminous personality that on a scale of one to ten was fifteen. His goodwill flowed from customer to customer, even though he pretty much had to say the same things over and over. It didn’t matter. He greeted each customer afresh, as though it were the first time that he had ever done this.

One register over, there was an elderly lady in a wheel chair, and she  was buying lots of glassware that had to be wrapped. The manager came over to help the cashier, and I was struck by their patience and kindness. As they wrapped, they chatted and smiled, and the elderly lady went away smiling, too. I can only hope that I will be treated with such care if I am ever in a wheel chair.

Eventually the complaining woman took her complaining self to the register with the charismatic young man, who thanked her for letting him know that she was upset.

Now, I am aware that there are times when we should complain, but having to wait in line for twenty minutes is not one of them.

In all fairness, I must admit that in the past, I have complained about trivial things. But the next time I’m tempted to do this, I will keep that griping woman in mind and remember how much she missed.





Of Knives, Racing Cars, Harriet Tubman, and JoJo

This year we had a whirlwind Thanksgiving of movies, and there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. Our daughter Dee is a movie buff extraordinaire, and when she comes to visit, we catch up on movies. With the Academy Awards right around the corner,  we were truly spoiled for choice.

The title of this blog indicates what we saw.

First, there was Knives Out, a sharp, intelligent murder mystery with terrific actors and a political message that lifts it above the average story of this kind.

Second was Ford v. Ferrari, a surprisingly affecting story about car racing and class. The movie centers on car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and their struggle against “the suits” from Ford.

Third was Harriet, a biopic about the extraordinary Harriet Tubman, who was born a slave, escaped, and then returned to the South to lead other slaves to freedom.  What raises this movie above the standard biopic is Cynthia Erivo’s incredibly strong performance as Harriet Tubman. (Apologies for the small graphic. I hunted and hunted but couldn’t find anything bigger.)

Finally, we saw JoJo Rabbit, a dark comedy about Hitler and World War II. While most of us wouldn’t find much humor in this subject, the director, Taika Waititi, managed to poke his finger in Hitler’s eye while at the same time making a gripping story about the nature of fanaticism. (Another small graphic. Sigh.)

So there you have it—four movies, all worth seeing.

Now onward to Christmas! Because Thanksgiving was late this year, we only have three weeks to get ready for my favorite holiday. There will be a flurry of cooking, cleaning, and craft fairs.

Fingers crossed that the weather gods smile on us.

Giving Thanks for the Courageous Men and Women Who Speak Out

In the United States, next Thursday is Thanksgiving, a holiday that is not without controversy. I expect for Native Americans, the arrival of the Pilgrims was not something to celebrate. Yet to set aside a day to give thanks is not a bad thing, and that is what we focus on while not forgetting the past.

Because we are vegetarians, we don’t eat the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. Instead, I will make stuffed shells, something we all love. I have never cared much for traditional Thanksgiving food, and to my way of thinking, stuffed shells are a big improvement.

However, I will still be making pumpkin bread, a favorite in this house.

I have already put together—made is probably too grand a word—a peppermint ice cream pie with hot fudge. Waiting for Thanksgiving, it sits in the freezer.

Our daughter Dee, from New York, will be coming to Maine on Tuesday to join us. (Unfortunately, our North Carolina daughter and son-in-law live too far away to come home for this short holiday weekend.) As always, it will be great to have Dee here, and we will have a jolly time of movies and good things to eat. Therefore, I will be taking a week off from the blog and will return on November 25.

Because this is a blog about home, books, friends, and living in place, I don’t often mention politics. However, longtime readers will know that I am a progressive who, like many others, has been incredibly pained by the direction this country has taken with the election of President Trump.  For the past three years, I have felt battered by the coarse language, the hatred, and the actions coming from those at the top.

This week there were impeachment hearings investigating President Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine. Brave men and women from the State Department have stepped forward to testify, revealing a pattern of an abuse of power from those who should not only know better but also do better.

The men and women who have testified have received dire threats and still they speak out. To these courageous women and men, I give thanks. Their bravery shines forth as an example, urging us all to hold on to our convictions even when it might be dangerous for us to do so.




The Gardens in Winter

Blogging friends in New Zealand and Australia have been sharing photos of their beautiful spring gardens. Am I envious? You bet I am. Spring is one of my favorite times of year when everything bursts into glorious life.

Because I live Maine, which is in the northern hemisphere, winter is here, and spring is but a distant dream. I know. Technically it is still fall, but it sure doesn’t feel that way in northern New England.

However, my gardens in winter have their own austere beauty, especially now that I don’t trim back the plants in the fall. This idea came to me from my blogging friend, Jason of Garden in a City, who maintains that it is better for the natural world to leave the stalks and stems until spring. I have been doing this for several years and have become a real fan of this method.

Here are some pictures that I recently took in the front yard. Because we live in the woods, the lighting can be tricksy. This time of year, the sun—low in the sky—flickers briefly across the front yard and hardly makes it to the backyard.

So onward we go, spinning around the sun. Every season has its delights, even winter, whose cold touch stills all that is green and growing.


The Death of a Friend: Esther Bernhardt, 1937-2019

Yesterday, Esther Bernhardt, a dear friend for at least twenty years, died. I was prepared for this death—her granddaughter had let me know that Esther had had a stroke and was not likely to survive it—but I have lived long enough to know that even when you are prepared, the death of someone you love fills you with grief. As indeed it should.

It amazes me that only a few weeks ago we met for lunch at Barnes & Noble and had the type of conversation that I love best. We talked about books, politics, movies, and family. With Esther, I could let my mind range free, and she was always interested, even if she wasn’t familiar with what I was talking about. And for me, that is quite a gift, one that I never take for granted.

Long-time readers might remember past posts about Esther. Born in 1937, she grew up in rural Maine, and I liked nothing better than to hear stories of her girlhood. Even though only twenty  years separated us, it seemed to me that Esther grew up in a time that was far, far removed from my own. She remembered when many roads were not paved and what a treat it was to ride on a tarred road. She told of going to girl scout meetings and walking home alone for miles in the cold and the dark to find bean stew waiting for her. She laughed as she remembered her school bus that had long wooden seats on each side and windows that were only in the front.

“That bus was so dark,” Esther told me the last time we met. “I never could see who I was going to sit next to. I don’t know why that bothered me, but it did.”

“Because you were a child, and those things matter when you’re young. Sometimes even when you’re not young,” I said.

“Right,” she replied with a twinkle in her eyes. And, yes, Esther really did have a twinkle in her eyes. She was the kind of person who had a keen sense of humor and appreciated the ridiculous nature of everyday life. Whenever we got together, we always had a good laugh. Esther was just plain fun to be with.

Exactly a week ago today, Esther called and left a message. She had a new phone number and didn’t want me to think it was a telemarketer when I saw the unfamiliar number. I laughed when I heard that message because that’s exactly what I thought. Immediately, I called her back.

I knew her birthday was at the end of the month, and I also knew she loved my apple crisp.

“How about if I come over with an apple crisp to celebrate your birthday?” I asked.

“Sounds lovely,” she said, and we made a date for Monday, November 25.

Unfortunately, she is gone, and we won’t be able to celebrate together. But I will make an apple crisp in her honor and give thanks to all the wonderful times we shared.

I will also give thanks that Esther died exactly the way she wanted, at home, surrounded by her beloved family. She had a long life filled with both joy and pain, and when we last met, Esther told me, “I’ve had a good life.”

She certainly did.

Farewell, dear friend. How I will miss you. The road to your house was never long and sitting in your bright, cozy kitchen was one of the best places to be.