All posts by Laurie Graves

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

Diderot’s Guest Bedroom

Last week Clif and I painted and decluttered in preparation for the arrival our eldest daughter Dee, who will be staying with us until her office reopens, probably sometime in September.

Dee can work remotely from Winthrop as well as from Brooklyn. After a year and a half of not seeing her, we are delighted to have Dee stay with us for as long as she can. With the Covid variant spreading across the country, we figured it was better to have her come to Maine sooner rather than later—August was the original plan. Right now, trains and buses to and from New York City are still running, but for how long? Things might shut down again if Covid gets really bad. So yesterday, we collected Dee in Portland and brought her home.

Staying here for a couple of months is much different than staying for a week, the way Dee usually does. For such a short time, living out of a suitcase is no hardship, but for a couple of months it is another matter.

There is a closet in the guest room. However, it was stuffed with clothes I no longer wanted but couldn’t bring myself to give away. Also, the brown doors didn’t open well.

First order of business for Clif: Remove the doors and shave a bit from the bottom so that they can open easily. While the doors were off, he said, “Maybe I should paint them white and give them a fresh look.”

Good idea. While Clif did that, I sorted clothes and cleaned the closet. When I was done, the closet was empty, and there were many bags of clothes to go to Goodwill.

Clif and I regarded the scuffed walls of the empty closet.

“Paint that, too?” I asked.

“Yup,” Clif replied, and the inside of the closet got a  coat of paint.

From there, it was on to a small white night stand with drawers tucked in the basement. Perfect to go next to the bed. However, the top looked especially bad.

“Paint the top?” I asked.

Clif painted the top, but then the sides and the drawers with ugly yellow flowers looked horrible.

“Paint the whole thing?” I suggested.

After I sanded off the flowers, Clif painted the whole stand.

And what about the old clunky drawer pulls? Those had to go, and off we went to Lowe’s to buy some sleek black drawer pulls to go with the newly painted stand.

The room looked pretty darned good as Clif noted. Except for the corner with the open metal files containing documents from twenty years ago. Away went most of the documents—I did keep a few folders—and out went the stand to the side of the road. The yellow free sign did the trick, and the stand was gone by nightfall.

Readers might recall that this spring when we bought new chairs for our patio table, the twenty-year-old umbrella looked so shabby that it needed to be replaced. This was a prime example of the “Diderot Effect,” named for the famous French philosopher and what happened when he got a new dressing gown. You can read about it here.

As with the patio, so with the guest bedroom.

Phew, what a lot of work. But it was all done with heart, and how satisfying to get rid of the clutter.

Now, onward to August and to time on the patio.

Finally, here are a few photos of flowers I took last week in between cleaning and sorting.


Taking a Short Break

In Maine, July is a sweet time of year. The days are long, the flowers are abloom, and slippery roads are but a distant memory. (Fortunately, Clif and I work from home and therefore do not have to worry about slippery roads.)

Dee, our eldest daughter, is coming home for a visit, and I’m taking some time off to get things ready—do a little cleaning, do a little cooking. What a thrill it will be to see her after eighteen months. It’s the longest we’ve ever gone.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be taking one or two weeks off, but I’ll certainly be back in August, another sweet month when the black-eyed Susans are in bloom, the crickets begin to sing, and the grasshoppers are buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. I am always enthralled by the sounds of August.

I leave you with a picture from the especially shady part of my garden. As regular readers know, there are no truly sunny spots in our yard on the edge of the woods. And, yes, I long for a cottage garden. Somehow, the grass is always greener where the sun shines.

See you all in a week or two!


Rainy Day Music

Most mornings, I listen to music on YouTube as I check emails and read blog posts. It is a part of the day I greatly enjoy as I hear old favorites and discover new ones.

This morning I was going to listen to Foster The People’s Tiny Desk Concert—courtesy of NPR—but the rain stopped me. My desk is by a window overlooking the front yard, and even though the day was cool and rainy, it was warm enough to leave the window open.

As I was about to click on Foster The People, I became aware of the gently falling rain and the soft dripping sound as it fell on the road and the front lawn. I heard various birds—a cardinal, a tufted titmouse, a chickadee, goldfinches. From the little pond up the road, the deep croak of a bullfrog. And because I don’t live in paradise, the occasional car or truck. All sounds of everyday life from my home at the edge of the woods.

Later in the morning, the rain abated, and I went outside with my camera.

I took pictures of snapdragons in the deck box,

a mouse-ear hosta in bloom,

a red daylily above Minerva the cat,

the flower of another hosta, whose name I do not remember,

and a web with jewels resting on a coleus on the deck.


And for readers who are interested, here is a link to the NPR Tiny Desk concert featuring Foster The People.



Carolyn’s Garden: Obsession Daylilies

Yesterday, I visited a garden with 192 varieties of daylilies. Yes, you read that right—192 varieties. The garden belongs to my friend Carolyn Downing. On one-and-a-quarter acres behind her home in Winthrop, she grows this astonishing number of daylilies, which she sells to  flower enthusiasts who visit her gardens. The name of Carolyn’s business is Obsession Daylilies. What a sweet obsession!

Carolyn told me that thirty-six years ago, she started making the garden behind her home, but it was only four years ago that she started devoting a large portion of it to daylilies. There was no organized plan. Instead, there was a passion for plants, and Carolyn’s business sprang from her love of flowers.

Full disclosure: Daylilies are one of my favorite flowers, and when I stood in Carolyn’s backyard, I hardly knew where to look. In mid-July, the daylilies are in glorious bloom, and right now they are about a week away from  their peak. I was dazzled by so many different colors—yellow, red, pink, orange, white, near-black, coral. As Carolyn noted, the only color missing is blue. She also told me that there are a few varieties—red—that do well in part shade. I was oh so happy to hear this, and next spring I’ll be visiting Obsession Daylilies to buy some plants for my gardens.

Here are a few of the splendid daylilies from Carolyn’s garden.

With my wee camera, it is difficult to get the broad sweep of a large garden, but these pictures will at least give you some idea of the loveliness of Obsession Daylilies.

Although Carolyn specializes in daylilies, there are other flowers in her garden, including  liatris, black-eyed Susans, daisies, and poppies. Snappy garden art punctuates the beds, along with trees and hedges.

There is even a frog, with a sign pointing the way to its home.

As I wandered around this place of beauty that was full of fluttering, jumping life—frogs, bees, birds, and butterflies—I thought about how love is at the center of so much creativity, whatever form it might take.

Carolyn’s gardens shine with love, and that love radiates over everything, making this a special place. Blogging friends, if you live in the Winthrop area and have an ardor for flowers, put Obsession Daylilies on your list of gardens to visit.

Carolyn would like you to call first, and her number is 207-377-6316. Although she would be glad to sell you a plant, Carolyn is happy to have people just drop by and look at her amazing garden.

And for folks who are keen on flowers, that’s about as good as it gets.








And Then the Rain Came

A busy, busy weekend for Clif and me, two homebodies who live on the edge of the woods. And we never went farther than two miles from our home. (Of course, it does help when people come to your house.)

On Thursday—not technically the weekend but close enough—three new friends came for lunch, and the weather, not too hot, not too cold, allowed us to eat on the patio. Very nice getting to know these three.

On Friday, Clif and I headed to van der Brew for a rousing night of Trivia led by Nick the Librarian. We were joined by friends Claire and Lori, and what fun we had. As usual, a few times, we talked ourselves out of the right answers. (I still feel bitter over Berlin and Beyoncé, when the answers should have been Moscow and Alicia Keys.) But despite our missteps, we had enough points to finish in the middle of the pack, and we were pretty darned happy about that.

On Sunday, our friends Alice and Joel came over for a barbecue of patties made from Beyond Burger, which they agreed tasted like regular hamburgers. Alice and Joel were so impressed that they indicated they would be looking for Beyond Burger when they go grocery shopping. Naturally, we finished the day by solving the world’s problems. Good of us, isn’t it?

Over the weekend, the temperature dropped to 60°F and it rained. Normally, this would be a bummer for a holiday weekend, but after the extreme heat and the drought, it felt like a blessed event.

My new rain gauge collected an inch-and-a-half of water. The gardens should be happy for a few days, anyway.

Gray skies and rain make a perfect combination for photos of white flowers.

And here’s a bonus picture, taken before the rain came, of a lily and the world.


Nifty posts from blogging friends far and near:

Lavinia, of Salmon Brook Farm, wrote a poignant farewell to her beloved cat Hope.

Going Batty in Wales featured an oh so magical round house, much of which was built from recycled materials.

Thistles and Kiwis was greeted with a beautiful sky on the morning of her birthday.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, has posted mouth-watering pictures of hawker noodles.

On Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog there are some deep and insightful thoughts about Independence Day, better known as Fourth of July.


Finally, the return of a  feature I know you’ve all been waiting for—well, maybe some of you more than others—the video of a song I’ve been listening a lot to lately. “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads came out in 1985. Still seems appropriate.

Another Scorchah

As the title of this post indicates, today is another hot one for Maine, complete with a heat advisory warning. The heat index values are projected to be from 95°F to 100°F. Because we live inland, I’ve no doubt we will be on the 100°F side of things.

Here was the temperature yesterday afternoon. Note: The thermometer is in the shade.

Recently, I read that more people die from heat than they do from cold. I was a little surprised to learn this, but after discussing it with Clif, I understood. With the cold, you can bundle up to keep warm, and small structures, ranging from igloos to tents, will trap body heat. Sleeping bags will keep you toasty even in frigid weather.

There is no real equivalency for coping with extreme heat.  It is true that insulation and building color make a difference, but they only go so far.  We human beings are not equipped to deal with high heat.

Except we have no choice. Temperatures are rising, and those of us who are older know from first-hand experience that the weather is much hotter now than it was when we were growing up. Those old days are gone, and we must cope, which no doubt will involve air conditioners for folks like us who never thought they’d need them.

From time to time I have wondered if Clif and I have been too extreme in our response to climate change. Unless there is some sort of emergency, we will not fly. We severely limit our driving. Rare is the day when we leave Winthrop—good thing we live in such a sweet little town with a great library, a grocery store, and a brewery that has become a gathering place. Every two weeks or so, we drive to Augusta, a small city and the state’s capital. We pick up things that we can’t get in Winthrop and meet with friends at a local café for coffee and tea. We have a farm share with our own Farmer Kev and receive bi-weekly deliveries of fresh veggies from his farm. Finally, we don’t eat beef (or any other meat), whose production is a huge source of greenhouse gas.

But with the heat wave that has hit the country, I realize we have not been too extreme. Rather, we are not extreme enough. We should replace our gas hot water heater with an electric one. We should add more insulation to the attic to help reduce the amount of fuel we use. We should replace all our windows, which are the original ones from when our fifty-two-year-old home was built. And topping the list of all those shoulds: We should be driving an electric car.

Scorching heat leads to sobering thoughts, and to lighten the tone, I’ll end with some pictures of flowers and my gardens, which are still looking their best. Somehow, even during this time of climate crisis, we can be delighted by flowers and things that grow.


A Scorchah of a Week

According to the weather forecast, Maine is supposed to have a scorcher of a week. Or scorchah, as we Mainers pronounce it. (Mainers have a complicated relationship with the letter r. Someday, for blogging friends unfamiliar with Maine lingo, I will write a post about this.) Anyway, today there is a heat advisory, with heat values of up to 100°F. Thank goodness we bought an air conditioner last year. Hats off to Eva, who is keeping the house at a bearable temperature.

Is this Maine in June? I know I keep harking on this, but I’m old, and I remember the days when June in Maine was cool and rainy. Once upon a time, summer in Maine was oh so sweet, and I sure do long for those summers.

Fortunately, last weekend was not as hot. Instead, the weather was just right.  On Friday, my friend Claire came over for tea and chocolate chip oat bars. She brought her dear dog Hannah over, and how nice it was to have a dog visitor. Pretty nice to visit with Claire, too.

On Saturday, we went to one of my favorite places in town—van der Brew, a craft brewery and tasting room. Claire’s son Patrick (on the right in the picture below) was playing there that night, and a group of us went to hear him play a variety of rock and roll songs. Such a good singer and musician.

Before Patrick started playing, we bought pizza from Brick Oven Bakery, a food trailer that features pizza, bread sticks, and baked goods.

While waiting for our pizza to bake, we sat outside. Clif had a chat with our friend Jill, whom we hadn’t seen for a long, long time.

Next to our table was another dear dog, Beau, who gave me a high-five with his paw when I gave him a dog biscuit provided by his person.

Then came the pizza. Jiminy Cricket, that pizza was good! I could have a piece right now.

While unfortunately I can’t have a slice of that pizza right now, Brick Oven Bakery will be at van der Brew’s every weekend except one for the month of July.

This Friday night is trivia night at the Brew’s. Clif and I just might head down there for good food and plenty of folderol.

Nifty posts from blogging friends near and far:

Check out New England Garden and Thread for one the cutest little vegetable gardens I have ever seen.

From Thistles and Kiwis, food, glorious food.

From Tranature, a poignant poem about Xenia’s grandmother.

Canberra’s Green Spaces features winter pictures of one the most beautiful capitals in the world.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, features two snappy sculptures by the same artist. Then she asks, which is your favorite? I immediately knew which one I liked the best.


At Their Best

My gardens are what I call June and July gardens, when there are a few other colors besides green to liven the yard. The slugs and snails have yet to chew the hostas to ribbons, and everything still looks fresh. In early summer, the gardens are at their best, and I never get tired of looking at them.

It is not easy to take pictures to get the sweep of the beds, but the following pictures will give you some idea of what the gardens look like right now.

Here is the front yard.  As I’m sure you can see, there’s still a lot of green. But look! There is also some yellow.

And if you look a little closer, you can see the purple of Jacob’s ladder, which seems to be thriving. I am particularly fond of yellow next to purple, and I will be planting more Jacob’s ladder next year.

The yellow repeats itself in the backyard. The evening primroses are one of the few flowers that actually thrive in these gardens on the edge of the woods. Wish the evening primroses lasted longer.

Like the evening primroses, summer, beautiful summer, is all too brief.

Did We Leave Our Car Windows Open?

In the United States, last Sunday was Father’s Day, and to celebrate, Clif and I had went on an honest-to-God outing, something we haven’t done since March 2020, right before the pandemic closed everything down. First we went to the Colby College Art Museum in Waterville, where we saw an exhibit featuring prints of the U.S. artist Mary Cassatt (May 22, 1844–June 14, 1926).

My first impression of the prints was that they were subtle to the point of being dull. But a closer look disabused me of that notion. A lesson, that’s for sure—first impressions are not always accurate. Cassatt was a master portraitist who focused on mothers and children. Cassatt’s ability to capture nuance and emotion shines forth even in her prints. I was utterly amazed that she could give them so much life.

Here is a short video featuring the curator of the exhibit.

After looking at the exhibit, we wandered around the rest of the museum. We found ourself on the lowest floor of the museum, where there were no windows, and we heard a loud rush of water that sounded suspiciously like rain. Could we really be hearing rain so far down?

It seems that we could. When we went upstairs and looked out a window, we saw the rain bucketing in sheets.

Clif asked, “Did we leave our car windows open?”

Yes, we did. The day was hot and humid, and we thought it would be more comfortable to leave the windows open. Boy, were we ever wrong.

The tempest didn’t last long, and when we went back to the car, there was water, water everywhere pooling inside the center console. Fortunately, I was able to mop up most of the water with napkins from the glove compartment.

But the cloth seats were soaked, and after two minutes of sitting on them, so were our backsides.

Nevertheless, onward we went to the second part of our outing—to Buen Apetito for Mexican food. Fortunately, we sat at a booth with plastic seats. As we squished our way in, I explained the situation to our server, who laughed and took it in stride.

“No worries!” she said.

With that settled, we started with a beer—Lunch not Miller Lite— for Clif and a margarita for me.

We shared an order of potato flautases, which I forget to take a picture of. And because it was Father’s Day weekend, we also split dessert, a deep-fried banana tortilla with scoop of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

As we would say in Maine, wicked good.


Some Favorite Blog Posts from Friends Far and Near

Note: After marathon gardening for two months, I’m still not in the swing of things, But eventually each week I hope to feature more posts from snappy blogs I follow.

Ju-Lyn, from Touring My Backyard, received the gift of a kabocha  pumpkin, which is one I’ve never heard of.

From New Zealand, Thistles and Kiwis featured highlights of a trip to Auckland.