All posts by Laurie Graves

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

What’s Making Me Happy: The Book Cover for Out of Time

This week’s happiness post is a humdinger. James Egan, the brilliant designer at Bookfly Design, has created a fabulous cover for my upcoming book, Out of Time, which will be released in November 2020.

This is Book Three in my Great Library Series, where the heroine, Maya Hammond, must find a way to defeat Cinnial, the fallen librarian, whose burning ambition is to control the Great Library, where all information in our universe flows.

The mission to defeat Cinnial has taken Maya across the universe. In Out of Time, Maya travels even farther. She goes to a dimension called Elferterre, which is ruled by Magic rather than by Time, the dominant force in our universe. With her new team—Will, Jay, and Lexie—Maya embarks on a quest to steal a lock from a powerful elf named Galli. The lock will help Maya trap Cinnial.

In Elferterre—green and mysterious with a touch of steampunk—Maya, Will, Jay, and Lexie encounter allies and foes, including a talking cat, a witch, sprites, ogres, imps, and a mechanical horse. All the while, Magic swirls around Elferterre, enhancing the good and bad in every creature that Maya and her team meet.

Maya falls in love, treks again across the universe, and encounters her biggest challenge yet.

Will Maya have the courage to face this challenge? Or will she falter?

Readers, I will be sure to let you know when Out of Time is published. My first two books—Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost—are available through our Hinterlands Press website.

And that’s it for this post, even though I usually include three things that are making me happy. After all, what can top a new cover?

To read what small pleasures are making Thistles and Kiwis happy, click here.

The Day after the Hurricane

Once again, we got lucky at our home in the woods. Because the hurricane moved west, Maine got scraped rather than directly hit. But it was a hard scrape, and over 91,000 customers lost their electricity as trees came down across power lines.

Although plenty of people in Winthrop lost their power, we did not. The lights flickered several times, but that was it, and I awoke to the comforting hum of the refrigerator.  Such a relief. We have two freezers—one upstairs and one down cellar—and it would have been hard to lose all that food if the power had been knocked out for days and days, the way it often is on our rural road.

In a little while, Clif and I will head outside to put the patio back in order. The birds really depend on the bird bath for water, and yesterday they couldn’t figure out why the bowl was on the ground. They just sat on the pedestal and looked around, wondering where the water had gone. I felt bad for the birds.

Here’s a picture of our lonely patio. Soon the table and chairs will be back, and the bird bath will be put together so that there will be plenty of water for the birds.

Other parts of the United States weren’t as lucky as Maine. In particular, the hurricane hammered North Carolina, New Jersey, and other states on the Eastern Seaboard. I’ve heard from one New Jersey blogging friend, and all is well with her. I hope the same is true for other blogging friends whose homes were in the path of the storm.

And for all those who were hit by the hurricane, may the recovery  be swift.




Of Hurricanes, Hummingbirds, and Cardinals

For those of us who live on the East Coast of the United States, August has come in with a bang. Hurricane Isaias is ripping its way north. According to ABC, it sideswiped Florida and is now bearing down on North Carolina. (Fortunately my daughter and son-in-law live too far west to be bothered by the hurricane.)

Normally, Maine is too far north to be bothered by hurricanes. However, this one, forecasted to be soon downgraded to a tropical system, might very well come for a visit, bringing heavy rain to our area and the dreaded power outages in some places.

So, this afternoon I’ll be scrubbing buckets with lids and getting water ready should worse come to worst. So far we’ve been lucky with power outages and storms. Will our luck hold? We shall see.

In the meantime, here are Clif’s pictures of a hummingbird and a cardinal that visited our yard not long ago. They sometimes come at the same time, and Clif and I love watching them. The hummingbirds fly with a whir, and the male cardinal has one of the loveliest songs I have ever heard.

The pictures were taken with our not-so-wee camera, but the light was low, and the photos of the hummingbird are not as crisp as we we would like.

Never mind! I knew my blogging friends would enjoy seeing them.

And for those who live along the East Coast, stay safe!

What’s Making Me Happy: July 31, 2020

Here we are as July tiptoes into August. The weather has rocked between hot and humid and nice summer days.  Even in my shady yard, flowers bloom. Then they go by, and more flowers bloom.

On the edge of blooming are the black-eyed Susans, that lovely flower of late summer.

As a bonus happy point, these flowers last a long time, providing a burst of yellow in gardens that might be past their best.

Regular readers of this blog know that my husband Clif has Type 2 diabetes and has gone on a low-carb diet. Not long ago we discovered these tortillas wraps that have 5 net carbs per tortilla.

The tortillas are tasty, and we use them for wraps for lunch nearly every day.

But a few weeks ago, I figured out that they can also be used to make low-fat, low-carb chips to go with salsa.

The process couldn’t be easier. Put the tortillas on a cookie sheet, and cut into a dipable size. A pizza cutter works really for this. Brush the tops with a little olive oil and sprinkle with some salt. Bake at 375°F for ten minutes.

Et voilá! Crunchy, low-carb, low-cal chips that, as my Yankee husband notes, are pretty darned good.

And last, another Tiny Desk Concert. This time Aimee Mann. Readers might remember her when she was in the group ‘Til Tuesday. Aimee Mann’s songs are rueful, sad, and beautifully written. She’s as much a poet as she is a musician.

To read what small pleasures are making Thistles and Kiwis happy, click here.

One Square Yard: July 29

This post will be the last One Square Yard entry, as Becky B’s Square Perspective Theme ends in two days. What fun to frame my photos with a square rather than  a rectangle, and to see which shape works best with which picture. Clif has always been an advocate for squaring a photo, so I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with that perspective. Still, keeping an eye out for pictures that would look good squared has been a delightful challenge.

We have a smattering of wild blueberries in the yard. Fun to find a daddy-longlegs resting on some berries.

Another little visitor, this time in the bee balm.

And a spill of needles caught on the edge of a Frances Williams hosta leaf.

Because this is the last week of the Square Theme, here is a bonus picture, a repeat of the gorgeous daylily Flore Pleno. Plenty of flower is right! I didn’t think anyone would mind seeing these beauties twice.

The Heat Is on

The end of July. It is 80° F first thing in the morning. Too hot and humid to go on the exercise bike for 38 minutes, the way I do most days. Even though we have Eva, our AC unit, in the living room, there’s a limit to what she can cool. The exercise bike is at the other end of the house, away from the lovely  Eva.

The heat is supposed to break on Wednesday. Until then, I’ll skip the exercise bike. The road to nowhere can wait.

Fortunately, as Judy from NewEnglandGardenAndThread noted, the flowers don’t mind the heat.

The daylilies continue to punctuate my mostly green yard with bursts of different colors.

Tootlepedal, here’s a yellow one for you.

Knowing we can depend on Eva to bring the temperature down inside, Clif and I brave the heat and humidity to have drinks and appetizers on the patio.

Little Miss Watson gets her own drink.

And Bertie, the flying pig, is surrounded by blossoms.

Readers, it surely has been the strangest summer we’ve ever had. It seems endless, as though we have been suspended in some kind of hothouse heat trap. Part of me wishes it would end, and then another part of me thinks ahead to colder weather when there will be no drinks on the patio, and Clif and I will be mostly inside.

There is a bright note to all this. Because of all the biking I’ve been doing—and the weight I’ve been losing—my knees are getting better. As soon as it’s too chilly to sit on the patio, I’ll dust off my sneakers and start going for walks at least a few days a week.

The walks won’t substitute for going out and about around town, for visiting with friends, for having family come to stay. But at least I’ll see something besides the inside of the house.

After all, there’s a limit, even for a homebody.


What’s Making Me Happy: July 24, 2020

Item #1: About three weeks ago, I wrote about how Clif and I had yet again changed our diets. Clif has type-2 diabetes, and he decided to go on a low-carb regimen. I am on a low-calorie diet to lose weight, and there is a lot of overlap between our diets. Because of the caloric and carb restrictions, baking is pretty much out for us, but every once in a while, we want pancakes or muffins. Unfortunately, wheat flour is high in carbs, and Clif can’t have very much of it.

Enter almond flour, low in carbs and delicious in its own right. As to be expected, almond flour doesn’t taste exactly like wheat flour, but that’s all right with Clif and me. We’re both open to different flavors, and as long as we like the taste, we are fine.

I am happy to report that almond flour passed the taste test. Clif made pancakes with the flour, and they were delicious. And because I am a pancake fiend, this made me devilishly happy.

As a bonus, they look exactly the way pancakes should look.

Item #2: You might be wondering why the picture below of the simple white flower made me happy this week. However, those who photograph flowers know how hard it is to get a good picture of white petals. White tends to blow out, and I hardly ever a get a decent shot of a white flower.

But, lo and behold, I finally succeeded. What I did was focus on the center, on the stamens and the pistil, and this really seemed to help. Yellow is another color that tends to blow out, and I will be testing my technique with yellow, too. Too bad the evening primroses are not in flower.

On to Item #3: Thanks to NPR, I recently came across Jacob Collier, yet another musician I was unfamiliar with. I was really taken with his light, funky style.

Before listening, do take a close look at the four musicians. A really close look. Pretty amazing.

Colin Marshall, from NPR, writes: “Polymath musician Jacob Collier has been championing this style of one-man-band music videos since 2012, singing every note and playing every instrument. His cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”earned him a devout YouTube following at the age of 19, and he hasn’t slowed down since. The London wunderkind owns four Grammy Awards already, including two at the age of 22 in 2017, and his evolution as a bandleader has been evident in his live performances ( like when he came to NPR for a Tiny Desk concert last year). Now 25, and with nearly a decade of experience producing every aspect of his own music from his home, Collier is uniquely positioned to crank out his best work from quarantine. ”

Where there is a will, there is a creative way!

One Square Yard: July 22

Recently, I was invited to participate in a month-long July photo challenge—SquarePerspectives hosted by BeckyB from her blog The Life of B. The challenge is exactly what it sounds like: Rather than post photos with the usual rectangular cropping, the challenge is to post photos cropped square. So each Wednesday in July, I will be presenting a series of square photos from my own yard, which nowadays is the farthest I usually go. Hence the title, One Square Yard.

This little butterfly is most obliging.  She poses patiently as I take picture after picture and doesn’t even mind being moved. The butterfly was a gift from my mother-in-law, who has been dead for 15 years, which means the butterfly has been gracing my gardens for at least 20 years. She’ll continue to do so as long as I’m gardening.

As a rule, daylilies do not do well in my shady front yard. Not enough sun in most spots. This one isn’t exactly loaded with blooms, but there are just enough to make a good showing every summer. Usually, I’m not a fan of double flowers, but this one has me hooked. Maybe it’s the orange. Wish I could tell you what the name is, but like the butterfly, this daylily has been here for many, many years, and the little stake that came with it is long gone.

I am absolutely smitten by the hosta below—the heart-shaped leaves and the large white border that brightens any spot in the garden. And do you notice many holes in the leaves, the munching assaults mounted by slugs and snails? No, neither do I. Slugs and snails are a fact of life when you live in the woods. I have tried various eradication methods over the years, from handpicking to beer in bowls to Sluggo. And still the slugs and snails come. Therefore I have pretty much given up. Although the slimy little blighters chew the leaves to ribbons, the plants are not destroyed, and each year the hostas return hopefully, fresh and green.

But this little beauty seems to be slug resistant. Do I know its name? I do not. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that not knowing a plant’s name is one of my bad tricks, as my eldest daughter would put it.

But no matter. Beauty needs no name.

Waking Up to a Heat Advisory

Early this morning when I checked my phone, I saw there was a message for a heat advisory for Kennebec County, where I live.  The temperature is supposed to climb to the 90s, with heat indices between 95 and 100. Readers, that is hot. And the air is so humid it almost feels solid, as though I have to push to get through it.

This was the temperature when I got up. Please note that the thermometer is in the shade.

On went Eva, our new AC. She’s in the living room, but she helps bring down the temperature in the whole house. Thank goodness for Eva. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to work in this heat. And deadlines are approaching…

As grateful as I am to Eva, I resent being trapped inside by the heat. Outside, the patio beckons.

Daylilies have begun to bloom and the bee balm is glorious this year.

My usual habit is to go on the patio around 4:30 with a drink—usually non-alcoholic—and a snack. Especially during the coronavirus, it is the highlight of my day.

But not when there’s a heat advisory. Fortunately, the weather is supposed to break tonight, and tomorrow’s forecast is for a perfect summer’s day. After my work is done, I’ll be back on the patio!