All posts by Laurie Graves

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

October Delights and a Contest

The calendar has flipped to October, and the weather has reacted accordingly. Mornings are a little on the chilly side.

There have been frost warnings for our area, but our yard is so well protected by the woods that the tender perennials haven’t been struck yet. Despite the cool weather, the impatiens are still thriving. What a year it’s been for them!

But the rest of the plants are definitely past their best. Nevertheless, they have their own fall beauty.

The ferns, no longer green, are instead a crisp brown.

Sedums mix with the red leaves of evening primroses.

And the seed heads of the black-eyed Susans stand at attention.

But what I like best about October is its nutty smell as plants go to seed and leaves lose their green. Unfortunately, I can’t capture this delightful smell. Sure wish I could.

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And now for the contest!

To celebrate the publication of Of Time and Magic, I will be giving away a copy of the book. Also, I will be giving away three calendars featuring the nifty map Clif is putting together for Of Time and Magic. To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comment section, and I’ll add your name to the list. I will mail the book and the calendars anywhere in the world, so readers outside the United States, please don’t hesitate to enter the contest.

The contest begins today—Monday, October 3—and will end Saturday, November 5.

Whether you live near or far, don’t be shy about entering this contest.

 

 

Still Time for a Little Fun

Unfortunately, because of high winds last weekend—thanks to Hurricane Fiona—we didn’t get to have our family picnic to celebrate birthdays. Disappointing, but when we saw how hard Fiona hit the Maritimes, we really couldn’t complain. (One of my blogging friends wrote to tell me that Maine power companies had sent trucks up to help with the widespread power outages.) Next weekend, we’ll try again for a birthday picnic.

I’ve been busy, busy, busy working on my book Of Time and Magic. We got the first proof copy in, and as you can see from all the page markers, I found quite a few things to change or correct. I expect there will be at least two more proof copies before the book is ready to be printed for readers.

Despite all the hard work of editing, I still found time to have a little fun.

There was Gloomhaven with Dee and Clif.

And our friends Dawna and Jim invited us over for quiche and salad—Yum!—and S’mores for dessert. Double yum.

Dawna and Jim’s daughter and son-in-law built them this snappy fire pit.

Jim started a fire,

and the roasting commenced.

As you might have noticed, the marshmallows on the left are a little on the toasty side.

No matter! Tuck them between chocolate and graham crackers, and as we would say in Maine, you have a wicked good sweet treat.

 

Now I’m 65

Last week, I turned sixty five. In the United States, sixty five is a milestone event. At last, I can go on Medicare, a federal health insurance program, and not have to worry about where I will get affordable health insurance. (Alas, over the years, it has been a big worry.)

As with all milestone events, there came a certain amount of reflection when I turned sixty five. Here is what I wrote on Facebook: “Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was fifty three, and I remember wondering if I would make it to my sixtieth birthday. Turns out I was lucky. My cancer was not aggressive and while I needed radiation, I did not need chemo. And here I am, at sixty five. Very, very grateful.”

Yes, very grateful indeed.

There will be a family celebration this weekend for me and for Clif, who also has a September birthday.

But on my actual birthday—a bright, clear, windy September day—my friend Dawna came over and  brought me this sweet assortment of goodies.

The lavender and basil came from her own garden, she made the card, and the jam and honey are local.

Wowsah! Who could ask for anything more?

Many, many thanks, Dawna!

 

 

Back Again in the Same Year

Well, working on my book Of Time and Magic took longer than I thought it would. What I had hoped would be a week or so stretched out to a couple of weeks or so. No surprise. Such things always take longer than expected. There is still more fiddly editing to do, but the major work is done, and we are on track for a late fall publication, the end of October or the beginning of November.

It wasn’t all work and no play at our home by the edge of the woods. A good friend, whom I’ve known for thirty years, turned eighty in August. I made a little chocolate cake—vegan, no less—and we met on the patio for tea, coffee, and cake. I gave her eighty Hershey kisses tucked in a special glass commemorating this milestone birthday.

How lovely it was to make the cake, pick some flowers from my garden, and get together on an afternoon that was so fine—warm but not hot with a deep blue sky—that we both wished we could  somehow preserve this weather for days when the sky is gray, and the slush is deep. (March, I’m talking about you.)

Impossible, of course. But at least the memory of chocolate cake, fine weather, and black-eyed Susans will be there to cheer us up.

 

 

See You in September!

As the title of this post suggests, it is time for another short break from blogging. To borrow from The Great British Bake Off, I am in the semi-finals with the editing of my upcoming book Of Time and Magic. There is still much work to be done before I push into the finals. (Fortunately, since it’s just me, I don’t have to worry about the competition.)

See you the first week in September!

Another Saturday in the Park

August, buzzing August. During the day, there is the high-pitched whir of the grasshoppers. At night, a chorus of crickets. (I know. I keep going on about crickets and grasshoppers. But I love their songs so much. ) The days have been hot but not humid, and the nights are pleasantly cool.

Last week we got a whole inch of blessed rain, not a downpour that beat down the garden but instead nice and steady. More rain is expected today, and again it will be most welcome.

What is it about raindrops on flowers?

Speaking of flowers…the August flowers and vegetables continue to thrive.

Coleuses, moved from the front porch so that Clif can work on the window, peek through the rail from the driveway.

The black-eyed Susans continue to brighten the late summer garden.

In the back garden, there are plenty of ripe tomatoes to have some every day for my lunch. Soon, perhaps, there will be enough to make a sauce. The variety I plant is Juliette, one of the few tomatoes that thrive in my part sun, part shade backyard. However, I love this sweet, sturdy mini-roma tomato so much that I would plant them even if I had a sunny yard.

On Saturday, a hot but dry day, we met friends in Augusta’s small but lovely Capitol Park for pizza and a chat. We are still being cautious about get togethers, and we like to meet outdoors.

Here is a longer view.

Finally, a treat of a package came last week—The Necromancer’s Daughter, a new fantasy novel by my blogging friend D. Wallace Peach. Wonderful cover, and I’m certainly looking forward to reading the book.

 

Before and After

Last Monday, the horrible heat broke with the temp dropping from in the 90s to in the 70s. Much, much better but still humid. On Thursday we had a light rain—wish we’d had more—that cleared the air, and now here we are with August weather very much like the August of my memories: clear, not humid, cool at night, and hot, but not too hot during the day. I could take many more months just like this with the grasshoppers buzzing, and the hermit thrush singing in the morning and the crickets’ chorus at night. Even though I have creaky knees, this weather puts a spring in my step.

Here are a few views of my front yard gardens, in the dappled light of  morning.

Clearly, the black-eyed Susans are the stars—along with the toad and the mermaid—of my August garden.

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Through the hot and the humid, the cool and the delightful, Clif has been hard at work replacing a living-room window, well past the point of needing to be replaced.

Before.

And after.

Once Clif has finished with the window, he will tear off the old cardboard siding—I’m only exaggerating by a little—and replace it with wood siding. We’ll even be getting a new porch light. The old one has been there for at least forty years, and I don’t think we can be accused of getting rid of it too soon.

Still, we do like to keep things as long as they are useful, and we are careful not to get rid of anything willy-nilly.

With all these improvements, how spiffy our entryway will look!

Next summer, onward to another part of the house with more windows and siding to be replace. Never a dull moment at our home by the edge of the woods.

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With my upcoming book Of Time and Magic, I am at the very picky, eye-straining stage of editing, of going over every line to catch as many errors as I can.

On this blog, cutting back to one post a week was a good plan, and I will be doing this for the foreseeable future. Eventually, I hope to be back to featuring other bloggers’ posts. This takes more time than you might think, and right now most of my energy is going to Of Time and Magic.

Also, I would like to get back to book, movie, television series, and music recommendations. I really, really enjoy getting recommendations from other folks and adding them to my various lists. These recommendations expand the horizons of this Maine writer who can go for weeks without leaving the house and yard. With your mind, you can travel anywhere, no matter your circumstances.

So, many thanks, blogging friends.

Until next week…

 

 

 

Too Darned Hot

For the past four or five days, the temperatures have been 90°F and very humid. With the heat index, it has felt closer to 100°F. Too darned hot. Is this really Maine in August?

It seems that it is.

This heat has knocked the stuffing out of me. (A Facebook friend described it as feeling depleted. Yes.) Our little air conditioner, whom we’ve named Eva, is simply not up to the task of keeping our home cool. The best we get with her is 80°. Better than 90°, I know, but not much of a relief. Strange to think that until a few years ago, we didn’t even need an air conditioner in our home in the woods. An attic fan did the trick.

But there have been a couple of bright spots.

Unlike me, the container plants seem to thrive in this heat and humidity.  I have never had such a burst of impatiens on my front steps.

The begonias look pretty darned good, too.

Then there are the tomatoes, “the jungle” as we call it. Lots of green tomatoes and enough ripe ones for a sandwich or a wrap at lunch.

Also, on Saturday, we had a visit from Shannon and Mike.

Along with their dogs, who were thrilled to see us, Shannon and Mike brought donuts—fresh, thick, and perfectly fried. I’m a fiend for donuts—I once wrote an essay called “Desperate for Donuts”— and these were oh so good. The half-donut in the picture  is the result of me not being able to wait and grabbing half before we had our lunch.

For readers in or near Tewksbury, Massachusetts, those delectable donuts came from Donna’s Donuts.

This week, the heat is supposed to break, and we’ve even been promised night temps in the lower 60s. Oh, yes, please! This Mainer really doesn’t like the temperature to go much above 80°, and my happy place is between 65° and 70°.

Well, I’ll have to adapt to this warming world. Soon Clif and I will be checking into heat pumps, which cool as well as provide heat.

Until then…

The Cover of “Of Time and Magic”!

Woo-hoo! Double woo-hoo! Here is the cover of Of Time and Magic, the fourth book in my Great Library Series. James T. Egan, of Bookfly Designs, created this beautiful cover. I really do think it’s my favorite.

 Of Time and Magic spans two universes, many planets, and the high seas. It concludes the story begun in Maya and the Book of Everything, when Maya began her fateful journey on that train from New York to Boston and gained possession of the enigmatic Book of Everything. Publication will be in the fall, probably in October.

Sniff. My little baby’s all grown up.

Lunches with a View

Last week, Dee and Clif were on vacation, and except for keeping up with all my lovely blogging friends, so was I.  We played games—Gloomhaven is our current obsession—watched movies, and spent plenty of time on our patio on the edge of the woods.

But because we were on vacation, we splurged with a couple of day trips.

First we went to the ocean, to East Boothbay, to have a picnic lunch on the rocks. This is becoming a summer tradition for us. The views are gorgeous, and because East Boothbay is off the beaten trail, there are no crowds of tourists the way there are in Boothbay Harbor.

For the past few summers, great white sharks have been spotted off the coast of Maine. This is something new.  The sharks are apparently drawn by the warming ocean water and the abundance of seals, their prey.

Dee and Clif scoffed at me as I scanned the water for a dorsal fin. But there was nothing. Just the gulls and the rippling water. However, the next day, there was a great white sighting at Popham Beach, not that far away from  East Boothbay. In our younger years, we have swum at Popham Beach many times. The beach had to be closed until the danger was past.

“See?” I said to Dee and Clif.

They made no reply.

Here’s a little mood music from the great John Williams.

While I felt perfectly safe on the rocks in East Boothbay, I would not go swimming in the ocean now that the great whites have moved north. The sharks have become part of our ecosystem, and we have to learn to live with these big predators. For me, that involves staying out of the ocean and instead swimming in pools, lakes, and streams. Shark attacks are rare, so this might be an abundance of caution. Still…

Our next outing was a little more placid and a lot closer. We went to Hallowell, a nearby town, for lunch and drinks at Burano’s Wood-fired Pizzeria. They have a deck overlooking the Kennebec River, and it was a perfect place to have our lunch. (Because of Covid, we are still not eating inside in restaurants.)

The food was delicious.

We had pizza, of course,

as well as spicy fries,

and drinks.

This was a huge treat for me as we seldom go out to eat or order takeaway.

Now, it’s back to work, and that feels fine, too.

It’s good to rest and have special treats, but it’s also good to return to the regular routine.

And, in a week or so, I should have some exciting news about the cover for Of Time and Magic, Book Four in my Great Library Series.