All posts by Laurie Graves

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

Nibbles and Tidbits

When Clif and I were younger and my knees weren’t as creaky, we liked nothing better than to cook up a storm and to have people over for dinner. Sometimes the gatherings were smallish—eight to ten people—and sometimes they were largish—twenty or more. Those were the days when I got out of bed like a shot and could zoom through the day.

Sad to say, but those days are gone. I keep busy with my writing, my gardens, and my home, but I don’t have the zip of my younger years. Nevertheless, we still like having people come over for a visit. Somehow, it is cozier to gather in a home than it is to meet in a restaurant, no matter how casual the place.

As the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way, and we have figured out how to entertain so that it doesn’t take a toll on my creaky knees. Our first strategy has been to have people come over midafternoon for tea and coffee. Most of our friends are retired and now have a flexible schedule. Making up a batch of bars, muffins, or quick bread is no problem at all, and what a pleasure it is to gather around the dining room table and talk. Also, a midafternoon event usually gives me enough time to write in the morning, which is something I do six days a week.

Our second strategy, for friends who have not retired, is to have a nibbles and tidbits gathering late afternoon, around 3:30 or 4:00. On Saturday, this is what we did, and here is what we served.

I am happy to report that the tomatoes and cucumbers came from my little back garden.

Last Saturday, we invited our friend Jill over. Years ago, Jill came to Maine from New York City, and how we met her is an interesting story.

When our daughter Dee graduated from Bard College, she decided to move to New York City. Her first job was with Macmillan Publishing, and one of her first bosses was Jill.

One day, when we were talking on the phone to Dee, she said, “Guess what? My boss Jill is moving to Maine.”

Really? To Maine from New York City?

“Yeah,” Dee continued. “And she’s planning on moving to central Maine, in the Waterville/Augusta area, where you live.”

What the heck is she going to do here?

“She’s going to work for Thorndike Press in Waterville. They publish large print books.”

Well, son of a biscuit. That was the last thing we expected to hear, and we wondered how someone who lived in Manhattan would adjust to living in central Maine.

As it turned out, Jill has adjusted just fine and loves it here. Over the years, we have become friends, and we always look forward to getting together with her.

On Saturday, Jill brought over chips, salsa, and an utterly delicious homemade guacamole, which we scoffed down. (Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of her lovely tray of food.) We talked into the early evening, the conversation ranging from family to politics to books.

We didn’t solve the problems of the world, but we sure made a stab at it.

But one thing is certain—having nibbles and tidbits with friends  is a fine way to entertain.

 

 

 

August, Stay Awhile

The crickets have begun to sing. Their sweet trilling songs signal the arrival of late summer, a beautiful time in Maine. And this year, despite the climate crisis, August in Maine is everything it ought to be. The days are warm and dry. The nights are cool. We have a little rain now and then. Such a lovely, lovely month, and I wish I could stop it from speeding by. August, stay awhile. Don’t hurry on.

By August, the gardens are usually starting to look a little tattered, but this year they still look pretty good. Perhaps it’s because we had such a cool, rainy spring, and everything got a late start.

However, the slugs and snails have been nibbling on the hostas.

Still, they don’t look too bad. Sometimes by this time of year the hosta leaves look like green lace.

For the first time, I planted nasturtiums in the patio garden, and they are thriving. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. It looks as though the  nasturtiums are ready to engulf the patio, and woe to those sitting on that side of the table. Feed me, Seymour!

This week the first Black-eyed Susan opened, and there are many more to come.

As is noted on the Better Homes & Gardens website, “Since black-eyed Susan blooms when other summer perennials begin to fade, this plant is a true sign that fall is near.”  Even though I love fall, black-eyed Susans are another reason to cherish August.

Various daylilies are still blooming. While they don’t thrive in my shady yard, they do add welcome bursts of color.

This weekend, we will be going to two plays. We will be having a friend over for nibbles and tidbits.

We will hold August close and be outside as much as possible.

The Corpse in the Compost

Fortunately, the title of this post does not come from personal experience. So far, there have been no corpses in my compost.

Instead, this is the title of a mystery novel written by A. Carman Clark. This lovely book captures the essence of rural Maine through the eyes of its protagonist, Amy Creighton, a woman of boundless curiosity who loves to cook and garden. She cherishes her solitude, but at the drop of a hat, she is ready to make muffins for friends and guests. When a corpse turns up in a neighbor’s compost, what is this freelance editor to do but to start investigating?

Amy’s knowledge of small-town life and her sympathy for the confined lives of some of the villagers makes her a sympathetic listener for both young and old.  Gradually, the details of the crime begun to emerge.

A. Carman Clark, a good writer and a good cook, was a friend of mine. When she was eighty-three, Arley published her first Amy Creighton mystery, The Maine Mulch Murder. Encouraged by the reception, Arley wrote a second book, The Corpse in the Compost. Unfortunately, Arley died before it was ready to be published, but she did leave a draft manuscript with notes and suggestions from a friend, from an editor, and from her daughter Kate Flora, also a writer.

On the Maine Crime Writer’s blog, Kate writes “Two summer ago, in the space between my own books, and nudged by Ann and Paula at the Mainely Murders bookstore http://mainelymurders.com, who had created a following for Maine MulchI sat down with the manuscript and started editing. As I’ve blogged about before, there were a lot of questions I wanted to ask my mother. As she was unavailable, I had to wing it. I’ll never know whether I made the right choices. But we were close, and I could usually find her ‘voice’ in making changes or amendments to the book.”

I’m happy to report that Kate succeeded beautifully in capturing Arley’s voice—crisp, precise, sympathetic, and observant.

“The Corpse in the Compost” is available through Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Corpse-Compost-Amy-Cre…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Be sure to buy two copies: One for yourself and one for a gift.  This is a gem of a book you’ll want to give to your mystery-loving friends.

The Patio Awaits

Somehow, the weather must have known that July has ended and August has begun. At least for the moment, the horrid humidity has gone. We no longer feel as though we are being squeezed and sapped by the heat. Instead, the warmth holds us in a gentle hand, reminding us of how sweet summer can be. And like Augusts of old, the past two nights have been so chilly that we have needed blankets.

A window is by my desk, and a turn of the head is all it takes to look outside and see a hummingbird working the hosta blossoms. In the bush by the window, a bird sings a piping, melodious song. I hear the buzz of grasshoppers, a true sound of summer, reminding me of the fragrant smell of a warm field.

At the end of the day, when the work is done, what awaits me is one of my absolute favorite places to be—our own humble patio.

Here is a side view.

Although you can’t see them in the photo, the Mardi Gras Parade daylilies have begun to bloom. Unfortunately, these daylilies are not thriving, but the colors are so pretty that I have left them there.

While Clif and I have a drink—sometimes cocktails, sometimes beer, sometimes iced tea—visitors come.

And on a fine August evening, caressed by the heat as I watch the birds and the dragonflies, I feel as though I am the luckiest woman in Winthrop.

Heat and Time

Hot, hot. Too hot. It has been 90 in the shade and oh so humid. Time seems to have stretched to the point where it’s hardly moving.

Next door, the dog has stopped barking, and the little boy no longer runs and yells as he plays. But earlier in the week, the chickens scratched and pecked in the yard.

Not wilting, not drooping, the lilies bloom bravely in the heat.

And the hostas look cool and collected as always.

The sun leaves our backyard around 3:30. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for the patio to cool down and for the black and white cat to take her place.

We both drowse as the heat presses against us and a few mosquitoes whine around our head. Sometimes she looks up. Sometimes I look over at her.

Right now, winter seems like a distant country,  a dim memory of white and cold and time spent inside.