All posts by Laurie Graves

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

My Love of the Little Things in My House

Confession time: I am someone who loves little things—call them knickknacks, tchotchkes, whatever—and my house is filled with them. They make me feel cozy, and not surprisingly I think the sparse, modern style is cold and uncomfortable. Everywhere I look in my house, there is something that makes me smile, and here is a small sample of what’s tucked in various rooms.

There is a lovely blue wall ornament that my blogging friend Shari made and sent to me.

A little wolf given to me by my friend Beth.

A handmade glass ornament given to me by mother, who has been dead for ten years. Whenever I look at it, I think of her.

A glass bluebird, given to me by my son-in-law, Mike, sitting in a woven basket given to me by my friend Judy.

A pottery bowl, with my favorite shape—the spiral—given to me by my daughter Dee.

There is a pattern here, I know. These little things were given to me by other people, and they were chosen thoughtfully.  All of them are handmade by somebody, if not the person giving me the gift, and this is true of many of the little things I have tucked here and there.

Time for some qualifications. I understand a dirty, cluttered home can feel as uncomfortable as a sparse one. I also understand that there can too much of a good thing, and in fact, nowadays, I hardly ever bring in anything to add to my collection of little things. Finally, I  understand that from an environmental point of view, buying too much stuff is not good at all.

But bucking the current trend of decluttering, I will not be getting rid of my little things—which bring me so much pleasure—anytime soon.

 

 

 

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Apple Crisp to Go

Last weekend was the time for taking down the Christmas decorations.  We did it on Saturday, January 5, which by some reckonings is Twelfth Night. (Others put Twelfth Night on January 6. We don’t have strong feelings about this and are willing to keep an open mind.)

It always makes me a little sad to take down the decorations and to put the tree away. I miss the the ornaments—some fanciful, some homespun, some lovely—and the soft glow of the lights.  Here they are, all packed away. Farewell, my sweets, until next December.

But I really didn’t have time to brood because after the decorations were put away, it was on to the next project—apple crisp, which we brought to our friends Judy and Paul.

We took it hot out of the oven, hence the towel and pan, and at Judy and Paul’s house, the crisp was still warm enough to melt ice cream when it was served. Somehow, apple crisp is such a cozy, satisfying dessert in the winter. Best of all, I am able to get local apples at a nearby orchard well into winter, and I plan on making quite a few apple crisps for friends between now and spring.

At Judy and Paul’s, we talked of many things—politics, American history, and the moral failings of our founding fathers, who pieced together a country but blighted it with slavery. Unfortunately, the ugly repercussions are still being felt today, over 200 years later.

Paul noted that our founding fathers—John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin—did the best that they could. But did they? What would have happened if slavery had not been permitted? No country? Quite likely, but things fell apart less than a hundred years later, with the Civil War. Even afterwards, so many people continued to suffer because of the color of their skin. And still do.

Heavy topics for a January day. Good thing we had apple crisp, ice cream, and tea to lighten the mood.

When we came home from Judy and Paul’s, Clif made some of his delectable homemade French Fries, and we had them with faux chicken nuggets, which are tastier than you might think. Alas, no pictures. I’ll do better next time.

Then we settled down to watch Trevor Nunn’s delightful production of Twelfth Night, filmed in Cornwall and starring, among others, Ben Kingsley and Helena Bonham Carter. We own the DVD and watch it yearly. I think you can guess on which night. A bit of trivia: In Nunn’s Twelfth Night, Kingsley plays the jester, Feste, and I based my own Feste, in Maya and the Book of Everything, on Kingsley’s performance.

Might as well borrow from the best.

 

 

The Still Cold of January

The merry hubbub of December is over, and, as always, I am sorry to see it end. Somehow, all the holiday preparations and bustle brighten this darkest month of the year.

Yet January in Maine has its consolations. Yes, it is one of the coldest months, but it is also one of the most beautiful, alternating between snowy days and then days so still, bright and blue  you can hardly stand the glory.

Wednesday was a bright and blue kind of day, and as I was out doing errands—mailing a book, stopping at the library, going to the grocery store—I brought my wee camera along. I knew I would find plenty to photograph.

I am a sucker for dried or wizened fruit on a bare tree, and I took this picture at the town’s Credit Union.

At the Post Office, I saw cattails, spikes of exploded fluff, by the railroad tracks.

Across the road from the post office, on Maranacook Lake, little shacks have been set up for ice fishing, and they have been clustered into a charming, impromptu village.

Then it was on to the public beach, just around the corner.  So lovely, empty, and melancholy.

But on the ice, there were more shacks to brighten the mood.

And onward we head, toward the full moon of January, the Wolf Moon.

Food, Fun, and Folderol

The holidays are over, and our eldest daughter is back home in New York City. What a grand ten days we had with her, and as always, I’m a little blue that all the fun and folderol are over.

We are, ahem, a family that is more than a little obsessed with food. On Christmas Eve, our tradition is to have a homemade cheddar cheese soup that I’ve adapted from a Moosewood recipe. It’s a lovely, rich soup, and we gild the lily, so to speak, by adding broccoli and tortellini.

Dee loves waffles, and whenever she comes, Clif whips up some of his wonderful, light waffles, made at the table and served hot. For a side, we had Morningstar Farms veggie sausages, which are a tasty substitute for the real thing.

For a Christmas present, Clif and I received a gift certificate to one of our favorite restaurants—The Last Unicorn—in Waterville. There was enough on the certificate to treat Dee to lunch, and off we went to Waterville. How festive The Last Unicorn was, and the food, so reasonably priced, was absolutely  scrummy.

Speaking of presents and scrummy…as is our wont, we had a dash of fantasy during this holiday. For Dee, we bought her this confection at  Scrummy Afters for a Christmas present.

It is chocolate, of course, but without too much imagination, one could imagine that a little dragon is starting to crack the egg. Dee couldn’t bear to chop it up, and she brought the whole egg back with her to New York.

This must have been the Year of the Dragon as Dee bought me this adorable ornament to add to my collection.

However, this holiday season wasn’t all food and dragons. We are a family of film buffs, and what better thing to do when the weather is cold than to watch movies? Let’s just say our tastes are what you might call eclectic, ranging from the Transformer movie Bumblebee to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to the fabulous Shakespeare series The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses. (The latter being a DVD set and another Christmas present for Dee.)

And guess what? We liked them all. For those who are tempted to sniff at today’s popular culture, I want to remind you that once upon a time, Shakespeare was part of the popular culture in Elizabethan England.

Now that the holidays are over, it is time to get back to work. Book Three in my Great Library Series is slated to be published in 2020, which seems like a long way into the future. However, as I’ve barely begun working on Chapter one, I’d better chop-chop. A lot of effort goes into writing and publishing a book, and 2020 will be here before I know it.

Happy, happy New Year to all my blogging friends. I wish you good health, good food, good companionship, and lots of creativity.

 

 

 

A Wonderful Week Ending with a Benediction

Yesterday, the rains lashed and lashed, clearing the driveway—a good thing—and melting most of the snow—not such a good thing as my perennial gardens are now exposed. If we have a cold snap, the plants will be in serious trouble. In Maine, rain in the winter is most unwelcome.

Still, I had such a wonderful, wonderful week that the rainy weather could not dim my pleasure.

First, our friends Gayle and Bob invited us over to view their collection of Santas, a truly impressive sight. This picture shows just a sample of the many, many Santas decorating their house.

After viewing the Santas, there were cookies, eggnog, and tea.

And finally a gift, a new Santa ornament to hang on my tree. This one is very special as it features a dog—reminding me of our beloved Liam, who passed in May. Also Santa’s hat makes him look like a real Mainer. I have a jacket with that very same pattern. Gayle and Bob, many, many thanks for an utterly delightful afternoon, for the cookies, and for the special ornament.

A day or two latter, a little package from Ireland came in the mail. My blogging friend Shari sent me these two lovely handmade ornaments, and how pretty they are on our tree. Thanks so much, Shari!

As if all that weren’t enough, Clif and I had the most extraordinary experience on Thursday at one of our favorite places to eat, the Red Barn, a modest restaurant that serves delectable seafood.

While we were eating, a woman who works at the Red Barn brought out a huge cake and carried it to a small woman in a bright red sweater. The woman called out, “Happy 100th birthday, Josephine.”

Everybody clapped, and everybody sang “Happy Birthday” to Josephine, which, by the way, was my grandmother’s name. As I clapped and sang, there were tears in my eyes. (Later, on the Red Barn’s Facebook page, I would learn that Josephine is called Mémère, French Canadian for grandmother, and Mémère is what I called all my grandmothers.)

Here is a picture of the oh-so-lovely Josephine.

Then, everyone at the Red Barn received a piece of the birthday cake as well.

Naturally, I had to go over to wish Josephine a happy birthday.

“So generous to bring a cake and give everyone a piece,” I said to the man and woman who were with her, and by that time I was so overcome with emotion that I didn’t even ask how they were connected to her.

“That’s the way she is,” the woman said. “Always so generous.”

I turned to Josephine and said, “Happy birthday.”

Josephine smiled at me, took my hand in her own warm one, and squeezed it firmly and affectionately. It is not every day that a 100-year-old woman squeezes your hand, and it felt like a blessing of sorts, a benediction.

I made my way back to the table, grabbed a napkin, wiped my eyes, and blew my nose.

That benediction stayed with me the rest of the day while we finished our errands. It is with me now, and it is something I will always remember.

A timely reminder that gifts can come in the most homely, unexpected places and  that chance is often involved. Forty minutes either way, and we would have missed Josephine’s celebration.

And, so dear readers, with this I close the year. I will be taking a break from blogging until the beginning of January.

Whatever your beliefs, whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate, I wish you many blessings in the upcoming year.