Category Archives: Celebrate

An Anniversary Weekend and Snow-Gauge Clif

Our Anniversary

Last Saturday counted as an action-packed day for two homebodies who can be found most days at their house on the edge of the woods. It was our forty-sixth wedding anniversary, and as is our wont, we planned a day of simple pleasures that revolved around food.

First, breakfast. I made a batch of vegan chocolate muffins from my own recipe, one that I have come to be inordinately proud of. With them, we had veggie sausages. A good start to the day.

For lunch we headed to Augusta to the Red Barn, which specializes in fried food. Both Clif and I are crazy about fried food, but for obvious health reasons, we seldom have it.  But for our anniversary we figured, what the heck, and we threw caution to the wind. We brought our own dairy-free ranch dressing for reasons I’ll explain later. The food—piping hot mixed veggies—were oh so good.

Then it was off to our local supermarket to pick up nondairy cream cheese for a taste test comparison. Clif is lactose intolerant and not just a little bit. Because of this, we are always on the lookout for nondairy alternatives to food we love. Time was when supermarkets in central Maine did not offer much in the way of dairy-free products, but that is changing. On Saturday we found two cream cheese alternatives to go with crackers and drinks in late afternoon.

I am sorry to report that neither of the cream cheeses came through with flying colors. Vevan, the one on the left, had a muddy taste where the flavors were jumbled but nothing stood out, and the Kitehill, while marginally better, had a strange undertaste. Readers, if any of you have nondairy cream cheese recommendations, I’d love to hear about them.

Fortunately, we had better results with dessert. We’ve had this before, so we knew what were getting. The “So Delicious” on the carton is no exaggeration. This frozen dessert is one of the most delicious I have ever tasted, and that includes dairy ice cream. It is smooth, rich, creamy, and filled with chunks of cashews and chocolate. Who could ask for anything more? Its one drawback is the price—$5 for a quart. But since it was our anniversary, we figured we could splurge. Besides, $2.50 apiece for a dessert for a special day isn’t so very bad, and it was worth every penny.

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Snow-Gauge Clif

Today is the vernal equinox, and even in central Maine, we are seeing signs that spring just might be coming. I’ve heard the spring songs of cardinals and chickadees.

However, in our shady yard, the snow is still pretty high.

Here is Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

Still a ways to go before we are snow free.

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Listening

While my favorite genres of music are Alternative Rock and Folk Rock, I am also very keen on Baroque Music. I know, I know. Quite a spread there. When I work on my fiction, I always listen to Baroque music, and I’m particularly fond of Vivaldi.

So on this vernal equinox, here is a farewell to winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Winter. In Maine, we still might have a snowstorm or two, but we are definitely heading toward spring.

South of the Border for a Birthday

On a brisk Saturday morning,

Clif, Dee, and I headed south, south, south…to Massachusetts, to celebrate our son-in-law’s fortieth birthday. Mike’s actual birthday was at the beginning of the month, and he and Shannon had a weekend extravaganza in Boston, where they went to a French restaurant and were served food  that was oh so good.

Mike is a pizza hound, and the natural choice for our get together was, of course, pizza from one of his favorite places.

The pizza was pretty darned good as my Yankee husband would put it.

There was a toast to the birthday boy. Some of us had wine, and others had beer.

The dogs waited patiently for their pieces of crust. Somara in her comfortable spot on the couch. (Sorry the picture is so out of focus.)

And Holly at attention.

Finally, there was chocolate cake, and here’s a happy picture of Mike and Shannon with Holly in between.

For a special present, we all chipped in some money so that Mike could pick out a nice watch. He is still doing research on various watches and hasn’t decided what he wants.  No need to hurry because as Mike noted, this is a watch he will have for the rest of his life.

So happy birthday, Mike. It’s wonderful that we live within driving distance and could celebrate with him, Shannon, and the dogs.

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Watching: Navalny

Navalny, a CNN documentary about the Russian opposition leader Alexy Navalny, is as gripping as any spy novel. In 2020, Navalny was poisoned in Russia, and what follows is so astonishing that I will end the synopsis here. Best just to watch this incredible story unfold without knowing too much. Navalny has been nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature, and I hope it wins. This gripping movie is showing in theaters and is also available on HBO Max.

 

 

Happy 2023

The holidays flew by at such a dizzying pace that I hardly had a chance to take any pictures. But what a good time we had! Our daughter Shannon, her husband Mike, and their two dogs stayed with us all the way through Christmas and beyond to the next day.

I did manage to take a picture of our Christmas morning brunch. The pumpkin bread was homemade; the cinnamon roll was not.

On Christmas Eve day, my brother, his wife, and their son came over for a celebration. By gosh, with everyone grouped in our small living room and the coffee table filled with appetizers, it felt like old times. Lots of talking and laughing.

As for COVID…all our guests had had it recently, and they were up-to-date with their vaccinations.  We felt as though the odds were in our favor, and as it turned out, they were. None of us caught COVID over the holidays.

Good things sometimes arrive in the mail. From two of my blogging friends, I received two delightful Christmas packages.

The first one came from Judy of New England Garden and Thread. She knows how much I love my home, and she sent me this beautiful calender with a picture of her own home. Her granddaughter did the artwork, and what a wonderful job she did. You can bet that this calendar will never be used to wipe hands or dishes. There is a pocket for a dowel, and I plan to hang it in my office, where I can see it when I work.

The second came from my friend Betsy, who follows my blog but doesn’t have one of her own. She knows I have a Santa collection, and she sent me this delightful duo. The larger one is a candle, which will never be burnt.

Many thanks, Judy and Betsy!

After Christmas, there was a much-needed week of rest. Our daughter Dee, who is staying with us, took a week’s vacation from her job, and we did the same with our work. Except for an errand or two, we stayed home. We also took a week off from our rather stringent low-carb regimen and ate what we wanted. We slept late. We read. We played board games. We watched, among other shows, two seasons of Britain’s Best Home Cooks. In short, we had a wonderful time.

Reflecting back on our staycation, I am both amazed and gratified by how little it takes to entertain us. The term low maintenance really does describe us, and I can’t help but think that if you take pleasure in simple things, then your days are full and happy.

On New Year’s Eve, the three of us—Clif, Dee, and me—had a tasty appetizer night.

We watched Avengers: Endgame and nearly timed it right so that Iron Man snapped his fingers at midnight. (We were off by 30 seconds or so.) Ah, well! The New Year came anyway, a little after Iron Man’s snap of the fingers.

In 2023, I plan to continue blogging once a week, on Monday, unless something comes up and I need to change the day. Occasionally, I might add an extra post.

A very happy New Year to you all. I am so grateful to be part of this blogging community, and I look forward to reading your posts in 2023.

The Countdown Begins

In the northern hemisphere, we have less than a week until the shortest day of the year, less than a week until Christmas, less than a week until our home will be filled with dogs and family.

I am happy to report that my cooking is right on schedule.

I’ve made chili,

more pumpkin bread,

and I put together a pie using peppermint ice cream made by Gifford’s, a Maine business.

All are in the freezer waiting for the big day, and the cupboards are bulging with goodies to go along with what I’ve made.

On Friday and Saturday, to get us all in the mood for a Maine Christmas,  Mother Nature obliged with a nor’easter.

During the storm, here was the view from our living room,

and here was the backyard from another room.

Unfortunately, the snow was wet and heavy and knocked out power to more than 100,00 customers in central and southern Maine. Today, there are still over 18,000 customers without power. Given that the entire state only has a population of a little over a million, a fair number of households lost their power last weekend.

We did lose our power, but only for a few hours in the middle of the night, and we scarcely noticed it.  As I’ve mentioned before, although we live on a country road, we are lucky to be on the same line as the town’s fire department. Every time a bruiser of a storm comes, we give thanks that our power line is linked to the fire station’s line.

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My new book, Of Time and Magic, continues to sell very well. In fact, Of Time and Magic has sold better on release than any of my previous books. Many thanks to all my blogging friend who have bought Of Time and Magic. If you haven’t bought a copy yet and want to, never fear! We have plenty of books in stock and would be happy to mail them in the U.S. after the holidays if that is more convenient.

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If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very merry Christmas or Joyeux Noël as we Franco-Americans would say.  I will be taking a blogging break until the new year. Wherever you live, whatever you celebrate, I hope the last days of December are filled with warmth, merriment, good food, family, and friends.

And a happy New Year to all!

Must Be Santa

At least for now, the warm spell is over, and in Maine, December finally feels like December.

This morning I woke up to find we’d had a dusting of snow overnight.

And there was frost on the outside storm windows.

But all is warm inside our house on the edge of the woods.

On Saturday, I started my Christmas baking and made cookies, chocolate chip. Most went into the freezer—raw and rolled into balls. But I baked some to be eaten ahead of time.

The Santas are out, here, there, and everywhere. Carol Ann, of the lovely blog Fashioned for Joy, asked me to share some pictures of my Santa collection. Ask and you shall receive.

This week, more Santas will be coming out. There will also be more baking—pumpkin bread and ice cream. I’ll make a big batch of chili. All for the freezer to be ready for the big weekend.

And of course a flurry of cleaning. After focusing on my new book Of Time and Magic for so many months, the cleaning is much needed.

Ho, ho, ho!

Simple, Quiet, and Good

At our home on the edge of woods, Thanksgiving was simple, quiet, and good. I made two loaves of pumpkin bread and thought we would have one to eat and one to freeze for Christmas. Silly me! We ate those two loaves as quick as can be, which means I’ll have to make two more for Christmas.

We had a nice little brunch on Thanksgiving morning. As you might notice, we even had dessert, leftover homemade chocolate pudding from the pie I made. Good thing we don’t eat like this every morning.

I forgot to take pictures of our Thanksgiving dinner. Too busy cooking and getting ready for our little feast. Afterward, we were all too stuffed to do much of anything, and we settled in for some episodes of Season 4 of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition. Past seasons of the Baking Show—British and American—are available for free on the Roku channel. There are commercials, and they are often clumsily inserted, but the shows are still worth watching.

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Outside, the snow has all melted, and the gardens are in a strange in-between state, not quite fall, not quite winter. There’s still plenty of green on the lawns, but one morning there was a skim of ice in the ornamental bird bath.

Black-eyed Susans, their petals long gone, lean into another plant, whose name, alas, I have forgotten.

And Minerva, in her wisdom, presides over the front garden.

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The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree. It is an artificial one, and while I miss having a real tree, I don’t miss the mess or the expense—in central Maine, $50 is about the least you can pay for a decent-looking tree.  (I know it is much higher in other places.)

Still, it gives me pleasure to put up our ornaments—some plain, some silly, some old, some new, some poignant. The house ornament was made by my blogging friend Judy of New England Garden and Thread. 2020 was indeed the year we stayed home, and to me the ornament is a lovely reminder of all the ways we stayed in touch during that first terrible pandemic year. Many thanks, Judy.

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A couple of days ago, a special card came into our home—another beauty from my blogging friend Alys of Gardening Nirvana. Alys made this card from a 100-year-old National Geographic. In the lower-left-hand corner is the word Maine. In the middle, White Pine. The white pine is Maine’s state tree, and the tassel is its state flower. My oh my! Thanks so much, Alys.

Yet again, as the day grows shorter and the nights grow longer and the cold settles into our yard, I am reminded of how much there is to be grateful for.

 

 

Presenting: Of Time and Magic

It wasn’t that time stopped in the library. It was as if it were captured here, collected here, and in all libraries—and not only my time, my life, but all human time as well. In the library, time is dammed up—not just stopped but saved.                                                                                                          ~The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The big day is here with the release of Of Time and Magic, Book Four in the Great Library Series. Of Time and Magic 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.

Already the response has been excellent, and I’ve begun receiving orders.

If you would like to order a paperback copy of Of Time and Magic, this link will bring you to our Hinterlands Press website. Shipping is free in the U.S., and I would be more than happy to inscribe your book.

Even though the ebook is available through Amazon, the paperback book is not yet available through them. Unfortunately, we have been having problems with Amazon, and the issues are yet to be resolved. But Of Time and Magic is available through Ingram, which means that you should be able to order the book at your local bookstore.

Finally, dear blogging friends, you might be interested in knowing that Of Time and Magic is dedicated to you.

Here is what I wrote:                                                                                                       Of Time and Magic is dedicated to my wonderful blogging friends. Because of your support and encouragement, my Great Library novels have traveled all around the world. No small feat for an indie series.

Many, many thanks to you all!

A Simple Birthday Celebration

We are not a fancy family. Our celebrations are usually held at home, and they feature favorite foods of the people being honored. So it was with our eldest daughter Dee’s birthday gathering on Friday.

Dee wanted biscuits, and I was particularly pleased with the way they came out. Once upon a time, I made them regularly, but now that we are on a low-carb diet, they are an occasional treat. I was glad I hadn’t lost my touch, which can easily happen when you don’t bake often.

My old tattered recipe gave Dee a giggle. It is certainly a minimalist recipe.

I also made a potato and cheddar soup, which everyone loves. Alas, I forget to take a picture of it. The soup is served with tortellini and steamed broccoli.

But I did remember to take a picture of the cake, also made by me.

Although we like to keep things simple, we do like a pretty table, with flowers as the centerpiece.

Our daughter Shannon, her husband Mike, and their dogs Holly and Somara came for the celebration, and what a jolly time we had. The day was warm enough for drinks and appetizers on the patio in the backyard, where the dogs could stretch their legs. We talked about all the things we love to talk about—books, movies, television shows, and, yes, politics. (Fortunately, we are all on the same page when it comes to politics.)

The day was particularly golden.

Both up

and down.

In Maine, October is such a beautiful month for a birthday.

And how lovely it was to have everyone around the table once again.

Happy birthday, Dee!

Friday in the Park

The pandemic took away many things, but one thing it has given me is a fondness for parks. Leafy, green, and usually free, they are great places to meet people for a leisurely afternoon. You can stay as long as you want to—no pointed looks from servers indicating that it’s time to leave. If you bring a picnic lunch, the cost is no more than it would be if you had lunch at home. If you feel like splurging, there’s takeout.

Before the pandemic, we seldom met people in parks. Now it is one of our favorite things to do, and I expect we’ll be doing it long after the pandemic ends.

Last Friday, we got together with our daughter Shannon and our son-in-law, Mike at Rotary Park, a small but pretty park in Kennebunk, Maine. (U.S. readers might recall that the Bushes have a summer home in nearby Kennebunkport.) Kennebunk is almost exactly halfway between where we live in Winthrop and where Shannon and Mike live in Massachusetts.

And here’s another great thing about most parks—dogs are allowed if they are on a leash. So it was with Rotary Park. Shannon and Mike could bring their dogs, Holly and Somara, and not have to worry about getting back home to let them out. Plus, it’s nice having “the girls” join us.

Holly on the left and Somara on the right.

 

The day was sunny and warm, and we settled on the grass in a shady spot near the rushing Moussam River.

But there is also a gazebo with picnic tables where folks can have their lunch.

Because the park is in the center of town, there are plenty of places nearby to grab a bite to eat. For a belated birthday lunch, Dee, Shannon, and Mike chipped in to buy us takeout from Kennebunk Rice and Noodles. Both Clif and I ordered the drunken noodles, which were utterly delicious. Clif likes hot food. By the time he was done, his face was red, and he was sweating. Me, not so much. A gentle little zing suits me just fine. Luckily, we were able to choose how hot we wanted our noodles to be.

Yes, I ate the whole thing. I could have some right now.

 

Dee and Mike are pizza hounds, and right across from the noodle shop was Kennebunk House of Pizza. Nice to have different choices for different tastes.

After the food was finished and Holly had slyly slurped some of Clif’s coffee and both dogs were given pizza crust ends, we settled down for a long afternoon chat. There were presents and chocolate cupcakes. We talked about what was going on in our lives and what we were watching. We took a stab at solving the world’s problems, with predictable results.

Late afternoon, as we were getting ready to leave, we all agreed that Rotary Park was a great place to meet in the spring and the fall. (Too cold in the winter, too crowded in the summer.)

We will be back. Until then, I’ll be dreaming about those drunken noodles.

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Speaking of watching (and listening!)…this lovely song—“This Wandering Day”— is from the television series The Rings of Power, a prequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I have been a huge Tolkien fan since I was eleven, but it seems to me that you don’t have to be a Tolkien fan to appreciate the beauty and sadness of this song.

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!