All posts by Laurie Graves

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

The Consolation of Tomato Sandwiches

Here we are at the end of August, traditionally one of Maine’s most beautiful months. Time was when the weather was hot—around 80°F—and dry during the day, yet cool enough for blankets at night. It seems this era has passed, and now we veer between a humid 100°F heat followed by a forty degree drop to 60°F. So disorienting, especially to an old timer like me who remembers how sweet August once was in northern New England. It fills me with such sadness to think that those days are probably gone for good, that future generations of Mainers will never know the glories of a Maine August when the weather was nearly perfect.

Fortunately, despite the unwelcome change in the weather, tomatoes still ripen in August in Maine. In my yard by the edge of the woods, I only get six hours of sun at most during the summer. But I have found a variety of tomatoes—Juliet—that actually grows well in part sun/part shade.

Here they are on the vine.

And here are these gems in a bowl.

Juliet is a grape tomato, firm yet sweet and tart, perfect for many uses—sauces, salads, on their own as a side, and, especially, for tomato sandwiches.

Southern readers would probably cry foul if I claimed tomato sandwiches were a Maine speciality. Therefore, I won’t do that. However, old-time Mainers are as keen on tomato sandwiches as they are, say, on blueberry pie or corn on the cob. Tomato sandwiches are definitely a thing in Maine in August and September.

Simplicity in itself, tomato sandwiches consist of three ingredients, garden-fresh tomatoes, bread, and mayonnaise. All right, there is a fourth ingredient if you are so inclined—salt.

Some folks like white bread, untoasted. I am not one of them. I want a good whole-grain bread, and I want it to be toasted, thank you very much.

As I was making this sandwich, Clif asked if I wanted lettuce on it, too. I gave him a pitying look that indicated he should know better. After all, Clif is from Maine. But alas he does not like raw tomatoes and is thus unfamiliar with the protocol of a proper tomato sandwich.

Clif tried to defend himself. “You would have lettuce on a BLT.”

Yes, you would, but a tomato sandwich is not a BLT, and Clif received another pitying look.

With tomato sandwiches, you have a perfect combination of crunch, sweet, tart, smooth, and salt. With such deliciousness, I can almost forgive the high heat and humidity that is now August in Maine.



Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow:

Michele, of Rabbit Patch Diary, writes movingly of her eldest granddaughter starting school and other big changes.

In Change is Hard, Dawn finds beauty close to home, despite Covid, a hurricane, and other shattering events in this country.

On Etikser, rain provides the windows with a dreamy palette.

On Thistles and Kiwi, small pleasures—food and flowers—are still to be had, despite the uptick in Covid cases in New Zealand.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring My Backyard, is inspired by a trio of seventy-year-old men.





What’s on My Bookshelf?



A little belatedly, I am joining the What’s on  your Bookshelf challenge hosted by Donna, of Retirement Reflections as well as her friends Sue Loncaric, Debbie Harris, and Jo Tracey.  The challenge, open to anyone, is for folks to share their love of books by posting  what they’ve read each month. Catnip to this book nerd, that’s for sure. On Donna’s post, there are basic guidelines for readers who are interested in joining the challenge.

Recently, when I expressed interest in the Bookshelf challenge, Donna generously suggested I could start by featuring my own books. I must admit that this had not occurred to me. But after considering the idea for about two seconds, I thought, “Well, why not?” As an indie writer, I am always grateful to have venues for sharing my books, especially during this fourth wave of Covid, when we are staying pretty close to home.

Thanks, Donna, for letting me toot my own horn. Next month, I’ll feature what I’ve been reading rather than what I have written.

So here are the three YA fantasy novels in my Great Library Series, in order from left to right:

For readers who are unfamiliar with my books, here is a brief synopsis:

In my Great Library Series, two forces—Time and Chaos—battle each other for control of the Great Library, that mysterious place at the center of the universe where all information flows. When the series begins, Time is in charge of the Great Library, where the sentient Books of Everything are made. Then, the Books are sent to various planets to help guide the inhabitants.

Earth has a Book of Everything, and it is in big trouble. The Book is being pursued by Chet, aka the man who doesn’t smile. Chet  belongs to a shadowy organization called APO, which wants to kidnap the Book and stop it from helping Earth.

When Maya and the Book of Everything opens, Maya Hammond, a teenager, is on a train heading to Maine to visit her grandparents. On the train, she inadvertently gains possession of Earth’s Book of Everything. Once at her grandparents, Maya discovers the Book can take her back in time, and she goes to Waterville, Maine, in the 1970s, where she meets a boy named Andy.

From Waterville, Maine, it’s off across the universe—actually two universes—where Maya is caught in the battle between Time and Chaos. There are some victories, but there is also heartbreak and destruction. With strong forces working against her, it seems unlikely that Maya will prevail.

But onward Maya goes, despite her doubts and fears.

I am currently working on the fourth book in the series, and the planned release is fall of 2022.



A Feast for Fools

With the Delta Covid variant rearing its nasty, unwelcome head, our vacation last week was fairly restrained. The more we read about this ultra-contagious variant, the more cautious we have become. As cases soar around the country—even in Maine—this seems like the sensible and safe thing to do.

But we did squeeze in a few treats, and the last one on Saturday was especially fun, despite the weather being horribly hot and humid. With masks firmly in place, we went to Meridians Shop in Fairfield. Meridians is a store of delights that features wine, beer, chocolate, cheese, cracker, and nuts as well as other goodies. It’s even more of delight when you have $70 gift certificate. (Thank you, Rose & Steve!)

Into the basket went all kinds of goodies for a picnic at home. Because I am, ahem, more than a little food obsessed, it was a gleeful experience for me to choose rather expensive treats and not worry about the price. Beer, Brie, cashews, pecans, crackers, and chocolate all went into the basket. And cookies. Because what is a picnic without cookies?

Shopping done, we headed home straight into a bank of black clouds and a brief but thrilling storm. Thick flashes of lightening streaked across the entire sky. On the side of the road, the wind blew the Queen Anne’s lace back and forth, back and forth. The rain bucketed down so hard that we could barely see the car in front of us, but fortunately everyone drove slowly, and there were no accidents. Even with the windows closed, the sweet smell of rain on wet pavement came through.

It took us no more than five minutes to drive out of the storm. Within ten minutes, the rain had stopped and there were blue patches in the cloudy sky. The road was dry, and the Queen Anne’s lace was still. But a crack of thunder behind us reminded us that the weather gods have the last laugh.

When we got home, everything was wet, and eating outside was not an option. No matter! We would have a dining room picnic.

Here is an array of the treats we bought.

And a close-up of a beer that tickled Clif, who is from Bangor.

He especially liked the snappy slogan. After all, we think of Maine as north of north.

Apparently the beer was pretty tasty, too.

In fact, the whole feast was pretty tasty, a fine way to end our vacation week.


Nifty posts from some of the lovely blogs I follow

Note: Every week, it’s difficult to settle on six nifty posts from the many wonderful blogs I follow. This week, for some reason, was even harder. So many great posts. I could feature more than six, but lists that are too long tend to be daunting, and six seems like a good number. Anyway, here is but a brief sample of the terrific posts I read in the last week.

Yet again, Thistles and Kiwis dazzles us with food from fabulous Wellington, New Zealand. Am I jealous? You bet I am.

Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal features a fantastic way of potting up plants that doesn’t kill your back or knees.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, glories in cherry tomatoes.

On the Snail of Happiness, behold Speedweve! I am not sure I can adequately describe this device for mending sweaters. Read the post and marvel.

At Breezes at Dawn, a striking picture of red flowers against pines.

From mazeepuran, more luminous red.



Drinks on the Patio

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our daughter Dee is staying with us until she must return to her office. (No official date on that yet.) Having her here has been like a tonic for Clif and me, a real pick-me-up during this time of Covid.

This week, Dee is on vacation, and we have a week planned with simple pleasures, including a trip to the ocean, friends coming over for drinks and appetizers, and Thai take-out.

On Saturday, to kick-off Dee’s vacation, we had drinks on the patio

along with Clif’s legendary grilled bread.

Little Miss Watson joined us for drinks,

as did Chip. (Or was this Dale? We have a hard time telling them apart.)

We also had this jumper come to the table.

A note about Little Miss: She is an old cat whose instinct for hunting is weak.  Basically, she is an indoor cat and usually only goes out with us and then comes back in when we do. The chipmunks do not fear Little Miss, and they run around freely when she is out. Little Miss watches the chipmunks as they scamper, and I get the impression that she doesn’t think it’s worth her while to chase them.

Anyway…as we are on vacation with Dee, posts will be short and filled with pictures. Next Monday, I’ll return to sharing posts from blogging friends.


Yellow Jacket Update

In a previous post, I wrote about how we were being bothered by yellow jackets, a type of wasp common in Maine. They were buzzing the hummingbird feeders. They were buzzing us. No fun at all.

Sadly, we took down the hummingbird feeders. This took care of yellow jackets terrorizing the hummingbirds, but they still continued to pester us. Online, we read a tip about drawing away yellow jackets by putting sugar water in a bowl and setting it some distance from where you sit.

Easy enough, and that’s exactly what we did.

I am happy to report that this plan is working beautifully. The yellow jackets are so drawn to the bowl of sugar water that they leave us alone. Japanese beetles and ants are also attracted to it, and it seems that many of them can’t figure out how to eat without drowning. Every day, there is a collection of insect corpses—including yellow jackets—and the dish must be emptied, cleaned and refilled.

No matter. Cleaning and refilling the dish doesn’t take long, and it’s wonderful to sit on the patio and not have to worry about being stung by a yellow jacket.

As for the hummingbirds…the bee balm is still in bloom, providing plenty of nectar for those little Wills-o’-the-wisp.

In a week or so, we might put up one of the feeders to see what happens. We’ll see.

In the meantime, no pesky yellow jackets and hummingbirds that are getting what they need.