All posts by Laurie Graves

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

A Review of Out of Time by Piranha T.

While it’s wonderful to get good reviews from adults who have enjoyed my books, I especially like to hear from younger readers such as Piranha T. of Rapunzel Reads, a blog that features “Book Reviews By & For Kids.” (Piranha T.’s sister, Super Kitty, also writes for the blog.)

Recently, Piranha T. wrote a review of Out of Time, and her description of my book is so concise, thoughtful, and precise that I’m tempted to use snippets of what she wrote whenever I want to promote it. (Piranha T. has graciously given me permission to do so. )

Here is the beginning of Piranha T.’s review, complete with a spoiler alert:

Out of Time is the third book in Laurie Graves’s ongoing Great Library Series, preceded by Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost. If you haven’t read the other books, skip the description here—there will be spoilers about events in them!

The Great Library Series begins with Maya Hammond, a fifteen-year-old girl thrust into an ancient conflict between Time and Chaos. The mysterious Great Library is part of it, as are the wise Books of Everything, sent to many different worlds to help Time triumph. In the first two books in this series, Maya travels across the universe to aid the Books of Everything and Time in their quest to defeat Chaos once and for all.

If, like me, you read books written for children and teens or have young people in your life, Rapunzel Reads is definitely worth checking out. To my TBR list, I have added several books that the sisters have reviewed. Their posts are well written and to the point and have a clarity that is sometimes missing from the pieces of older writers. Also, sprinkled within their blog are interviews with authors of some of the books that have been reviewed.

Only time will tell what these two sisters will do when they are adults, but I can certainly see them going on to become authors and professional reviewers.

Write on, Piranha T.  and Super Kitty!

 

Friday Favorites: A Forty-Fourth Anniversary, See’s Chocolates, and Jon Batiste

Today is our forty-fourth wedding anniversary.  Hoo-boy! As I like to note, those who get married in Maine in March are apt to be hardy couples who can weather most anything. And so it is with Clif and me.

Because of the pandemic, there will be no going anywhere special. No matter. We bought plenty of tasty treats, including shrimp—the highest on the food chain that we’ll eat—good bread, real butter—oh, wowsah!—and a small chocolate cake. Holy cats! I can’t remember the last time I had chocolate cake.

We also bought some Sees chocolates and nuts, which will last us for a long while.

As we got married in March in Maine, you might think that we went somewhere warm for our honeymoon, but you would be wrong. Instead, we went to Montréal, where the snowbanks were as high as they were in Maine, and the snowplows traveled at a clip that was terrifying.

But what a wonderful trip it was, and yesterday Clif and I had a lovely time reminiscing about that gray European-like city. We ate tourtière pie, went to small cafés and pastry shops, visited a museum with a fabulous King Tut exhibit, stayed in a delightful hotel that could have been in the middle of Paris, and laughed at a smartly dressed woman who swore in French when a car splashed her at an intersection.

In those days, we traveled with the help of AAA, with little bound paper strips of maps called TripTiks. Readers, they were awesome and really made traveling easier. We found our delightful hotel through AAA. I think we just stumbled on the cafés, but that was forty-four years ago, and we might have used AAA for guidance with that, too.

Anyway, despite the passage of time, it made us both smile to talk and think about going to Montréal.

This week, for music in honor of our anniversary, I am turning to the buoyant Jon Batiste and his “I Need You.”

 

Here are some simple pleasures and favorites from blogging friends.

From Piglet in Portugal, a jar of smiles.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, got warmth from a snowy scene. (Someone from Maine just might have sent her a card.)

Thistles and Kiwis shared the many wonderful things popping up in Wellington.

Dawn, from Change is Hard, featured a picture of one of the loveliest harbingers of spring in the northern United States, the red-winged blackbird.

 

Episode 2 of My Podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door

It’s Wednesday, and that means “Hiding Luck,” Episode 2 of The Wings of Luck, is available from our podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door. In “Hiding Luck,” Jace and Thirret must decide how to protect Ginni the grenog and Tove the onnea  from the sinister elf, Donad Ashglade.

Thanks to all who listened to “A Grenog Comes to the Café,” Episode 1 of the podcast. I so appreciate all the kind words and encouragement.

Getting the knack of doing a good recording for the podcast has taken—ahem—a bit of work, but I have enjoyed the challenge, and I feel as though both Clif and I are more sure of how to make a good recording. It seems that old dogs really can learn new tricks.

Anyway, hope to see you at The Other Green Door, where they have the best croissants and magical relics in town.

Snow-Gauge Clif: Week 3, 2021

Last week, Clif and I took a walk on a March day that was so warm I took off my jacket. Hats and gloves were optional. But this is Maine, and today, with the windchill, the temperature has dipped to 0°F.  No walks are planned for today.

Fortunately, Snow-Gauge Clif did his measuring yesterday, when the weather was less brisk. And despite the cold temp, progress has been made. The snow has gone down, and the driveway, for the first time this winter, is mostly clear of snow.

In the backyard, which gets more sun, there has been even more progress.

There are actually a few teeny tiny bare spots on the patio. (I’m thinking of cheating this year and shoveling the patio so that we can have friends over when the temp hits 50°.)

The garden emerges, and there is bare ground. Joy, joy, happy, happy!

Best of all, a closer look reveals the first green shoots of the season.

Despite the whipsaw nature of March, we are cheered by these small glimpses of Spring.

Friday Favorites: A Spring Walk and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

In Maine in March, Spring is a fitful affair that comes and goes. Sometimes it seems like winter; other times, there is a hint of something soft and warm in the air.

Yesterday definitely felt like spring. The temperature reached the mid-50s, a heatwave as far as Clif and I are concerned, and in the afternoon, after our work for the day was finished, out we went for a walk.

I know from reading other blogs that some people get snowdrops and daffodils this time of year.

In Maine we get footprints in the mud,

water rushing down the side of the road,

and a bucket to collect sap for making maple syrup.

But because Clif and I are Mainers, this is what we are used to, and all these modest signs of Spring are thrilling to us. There might be more cold weather, there might even be snow, but Winter is relaxing his icy grip.

Also on yesterday’s walk, we thrilled to the sight of the snowbanks pulling away from the side of the road.

We stopped to chat with our friends Cheryl and Deny, who were out in their fenced-in backyard with their dogs. Our friend Judy, with her own dog, was visiting. How good it was to see them all, lovely dogs included.

We waved to other neighbors who were sitting on their front porch.

“Heatwave” I called.

“Yes, yes,” they called back.

And to follow a tradition that I’ve begun this year, here are Clif and I waving to you.

It might look as though I have some kind of third appendage hanging from me on the far left. Instead, it is the sleeve of my jacket. I grew so warm that I had to take off my jacket and tie it around my waist.

What can I say? I’m a “Mainah,” and after the cold of winter, 55°F with no wind feels pretty darned warm.

∗∗∗∗∗

This week for music, I’m going to branch out from my beloved Tiny Desk Concerts to feature a YouTube video of “The Impression that I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It seems to me that during this difficult year, most of us have been knocking on wood, and I bet these musicians are, too.

∗∗∗∗∗

Here are favorites and simple pleasures from other blogging friends:

Dawn, from Change is Hard, featured her smiling Sheltie.  And what could be better than a smiling Sheltie? Not much.

On the other hand, the birthday of a beloved child is pretty darned special, too. Ju-Lyn, from Touring My Backyard, and her family recently celebrated her lovely daughter’s 21 birthday. Happy birthday, Jo!

Thistles and Kiwis wrote about all the cool things popping up in Wellington—art, parks, food. What a great place!

Announcing Episode 1 of Our Podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door

Today, on this warm, sunny Wednesday in March, we are releasing Episode 1 of our new podcast, Tales from The Other Green Door. The podcast is an offshoot of my novel Out of Time, and it involves two elves—Jace Willowdale and her cousin Thirret Greenwood—and their adventures in Portland, Maine. They run a café called—ta-da!—The Other Green Door, where they not only bake tasty treats but also collect magical relics.

Each Wednesday, for the next eleven weeks, we will be dropping a new episode of “The Wings of Luck,” the first tale from The Other Green Door podcast.

In episode 1, “A Grenog Comes to the Café,” an unexpected visitor turns up at The Other Green Door, setting in motion a dangerous chain of events.

Hope to see you at The Other Green Door, which has the best croissants and magical relics in town.

Snow-Gauge Clif: March 8, 2021

From last week to this week, the snow has barely melted. It is, after all, early March in Maine, which is much like February—still in winter’s grip with the possibility of one or two major snowstorms. The temps go well below freezing at night, and when we get up in the morning, the house is a tad below 60°. A little brisk, as we Mainers might say.

Here is Snow-Gauge Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

Outside our living room window, icicles hang from our shrubs.

But as we make our slow way through March, I can feel a softening. For one thing, the days are longer. It is light well before 7:00 a.m., and it doesn’t get dark until 6:00 p.m. Sheer bliss from the days of December, when the dark closed in at 4:00 p.m.

Also, perhaps most cheering of all, the birds have begun their spring songs—chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals. How I love to hear them. The bird feeders need to be refilled frequently as the birds are coming more often than they did during the winter. Perhaps they are fortifying themselves for the hard work of starting and raising a family.

This week, the forecast is for temperatures to be in the 40s and even the 50s. A regular heatwave after the cold of February.

Am I ready? You bet I am.

As soon as the patio has a clear spot for the chairs, and the weather is consistently mild—above 40—we’ll begin having socially distanced visits again.

Taking Stock: One Year into The Pandemic

Here we are, one year into the pandemic. Other bloggers are noting this anniversary and rightly so. Covid-19 is one of the seminal events of our lifetimes, affecting not only states, regions, or certain countries but also the entire world.

Did I see it coming? Yes, I did. Starting in January 2020, I was keeping close track of where the virus was and how fast it was spreading. When Covid-19 left China at the end of that month, I knew it would travel easily to the rest of the world. Planes, trains, and automobiles became friends of the virus. (Click here for NBC’s timeline of the pandemic.)

In February, I started preparing. I can smugly report that I stocked up on toilet paper and other essentials that became nearly impossible to find. We put up plastic shelving in my husband’s office, and the room soon came to resemble a grocery store. I like to think I wasn’t hoarding and instead was stock piling, but I know there can be a fine line between the two.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how long the pandemic was going to last. In my naivety, I expected Covid-19 to be gone by summer, much like the seasonal flu. How wrong I was. Despite what certain politicians initially wanted us to believe, Covid-19 is no seasonal flu. Instead, it is a new and deadly virus that our bodies are unprepared for.

The first week of March, Clif and I went into a personal lock-down. How lucky we are to have our own modest but snug home and pensions that  cover the necessities of life.  We could easily hunker down and stay safe.

But our eldest daughter Dee lives in New York City, which soon become one of the epicenters of the pandemic. Day and night, ambulances rushed patients to the hospitals, and in the background we could hear sirens wailing, one after another, when we spoke to her on the phone.

Again, luck was with our family. Despite having plenty of opportunities to be exposed to Covid-19, Dee, along with the rest of her office, somehow dodged the bullet. More good fortune: She can do her job from her own apartment. Sometime in March 2020, Dee’s office allowed everyone to work from home and has continued to do so.

Still, we worried terribly about her, and many is the time I wished Dee were with us in Winthrop instead of by herself in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn. But that woman has fortitude in spades and has weathered the pandemic with courage and resourcefulness.

Ditto for our North Carolina kids, Shannon and her husband Mike. North Carolina, so far away from Maine, was another Covid-19 hotspot, but Shannon and Mike were able to work from their apartment much of the time and thus far have not contracted this dreadful disease.

Hoo-boy! Worrying from afar is no fun. At all.

What to say about the rest of year? Holidays spent lonely and alone. Zoom calls serving as visits. Socially-distanced gatherings with friends on the patio. Masks, an essential accessory.

On a national level, it has been nothing less than a surreal experience as we watched politicians lie and deny and make a bad situation ever so much worse. You all know whom I’m talking about. History will not judge them kindly even if today they are still bloviating and lying and in the news.

This country endured a nail-biting election, a big lie about the outcome, a beautiful if subdued inauguration of a new president who has hit the ground running and is doing his best to get the country back on track.

Then, the assault on the Capitol. With horror and grief, we watched on the news as this horrible event happened in real time. Another impeachment followed by more lies and an acquittal.

What. A. Year.

However, there have also been bright spots. Essential workers—doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, farmers, bakers, teachers, and many others—kept society running, often at great risk to themselves. Building on past research of other coronaviruses, scientists from many countries worked together and raced to find vaccines for Covid-19. And by gum they have. The roll-out has not been smooth. How could it be when our goal is to vaccinate the world? But great progress is being made.

Technology has been a blessing, a way to stay in touch with loved ones.

And you, my blogging friends, have also been a blessing. Near and far, you have helped keep me connected and sane.

I will end with this song by R.E.M. Oddly enough, despite this crucible of a year, I do feel fine.

The Return of Snow-Gauge Clif, the First Week of March 2021

Long-time readers of Notes from the Hinterlands will know what March brings to central Maine—the return of Snow-Gauge Clif.  Each week until the snow is gone, usually sometime the end of April, my husband, Clif, will venture forth with his trusty red yard stick to record the melt rate.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but by the time March rolls around, even Mainers who like winter—guilty as charged!—are ready for the snow to melt and for spring flowers to start blooming. But in northern New England, Winter is no hurry to make way for Spring.  We just have to wait. And wait. And wait some more.

So without further ado, here is Snow-Gauge Clif, measuring the snow the first week of March 2021.  When this picture was taken, it was raining, and there was about a foot of snow on the ground.

Here is Clif in the front yard.

And then in the backyard.

We always hope the snow will be gone by April 22, which just happens to be our youngest daughter’s birthday.

  • Although I am confirmed homebody, this time of year my thoughts turn to places that are warm and free of snow. “Island in the Sun,” by Weezer, exactly captures my longing to escape March in Maine. (As I write, the rain has stopped, an Arctic wind is blowing, and the temperature, with the wind chill, approaches 20 below zero. And that’s Fahrenheit, friends. Plus we have lost our power.)