Category Archives: Celebrate

Food, Fun, and Folderol

The holidays are over, and our eldest daughter is back home in New York City. What a grand ten days we had with her, and as always, I’m a little blue that all the fun and folderol are over.

We are, ahem, a family that is more than a little obsessed with food. On Christmas Eve, our tradition is to have a homemade cheddar cheese soup that I’ve adapted from a Moosewood recipe. It’s a lovely, rich soup, and we gild the lily, so to speak, by adding broccoli and tortellini.

Dee loves waffles, and whenever she comes, Clif whips up some of his wonderful, light waffles, made at the table and served hot. For a side, we had Morningstar Farms veggie sausages, which are a tasty substitute for the real thing.

For a Christmas present, Clif and I received a gift certificate to one of our favorite restaurants—The Last Unicorn—in Waterville. There was enough on the certificate to treat Dee to lunch, and off we went to Waterville. How festive The Last Unicorn was, and the food, so reasonably priced, was absolutely  scrummy.

Speaking of presents and scrummy…as is our wont, we had a dash of fantasy during this holiday. For Dee, we bought her this confection at  Scrummy Afters for a Christmas present.

It is chocolate, of course, but without too much imagination, one could imagine that a little dragon is starting to crack the egg. Dee couldn’t bear to chop it up, and she brought the whole egg back with her to New York.

This must have been the Year of the Dragon as Dee bought me this adorable ornament to add to my collection.

However, this holiday season wasn’t all food and dragons. We are a family of film buffs, and what better thing to do when the weather is cold than to watch movies? Let’s just say our tastes are what you might call eclectic, ranging from the Transformer movie Bumblebee to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to the fabulous Shakespeare series The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses. (The latter being a DVD set and another Christmas present for Dee.)

And guess what? We liked them all. For those who are tempted to sniff at today’s popular culture, I want to remind you that once upon a time, Shakespeare was part of the popular culture in Elizabethan England.

Now that the holidays are over, it is time to get back to work. Book Three in my Great Library Series is slated to be published in 2020, which seems like a long way into the future. However, as I’ve barely begun working on Chapter one, I’d better chop-chop. A lot of effort goes into writing and publishing a book, and 2020 will be here before I know it.

Happy, happy New Year to all my blogging friends. I wish you good health, good food, good companionship, and lots of creativity.

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Wonderful Week Ending with a Benediction

Yesterday, the rains lashed and lashed, clearing the driveway—a good thing—and melting most of the snow—not such a good thing as my perennial gardens are now exposed. If we have a cold snap, the plants will be in serious trouble. In Maine, rain in the winter is most unwelcome.

Still, I had such a wonderful, wonderful week that the rainy weather could not dim my pleasure.

First, our friends Gayle and Bob invited us over to view their collection of Santas, a truly impressive sight. This picture shows just a sample of the many, many Santas decorating their house.

After viewing the Santas, there were cookies, eggnog, and tea.

And finally a gift, a new Santa ornament to hang on my tree. This one is very special as it features a dog—reminding me of our beloved Liam, who passed in May. Also Santa’s hat makes him look like a real Mainer. I have a jacket with that very same pattern. Gayle and Bob, many, many thanks for an utterly delightful afternoon, for the cookies, and for the special ornament.

A day or two latter, a little package from Ireland came in the mail. My blogging friend Shari sent me these two lovely handmade ornaments, and how pretty they are on our tree. Thanks so much, Shari!

As if all that weren’t enough, Clif and I had the most extraordinary experience on Thursday at one of our favorite places to eat, the Red Barn, a modest restaurant that serves delectable seafood.

While we were eating, a woman who works at the Red Barn brought out a huge cake and carried it to a small woman in a bright red sweater. The woman called out, “Happy 100th birthday, Josephine.”

Everybody clapped, and everybody sang “Happy Birthday” to Josephine, which, by the way, was my grandmother’s name. As I clapped and sang, there were tears in my eyes. (Later, on the Red Barn’s Facebook page, I would learn that Josephine is called Mémère, French Canadian for grandmother, and Mémère is what I called all my grandmothers.)

Here is a picture of the oh-so-lovely Josephine.

Then, everyone at the Red Barn received a piece of the birthday cake as well.

Naturally, I had to go over to wish Josephine a happy birthday.

“So generous to bring a cake and give everyone a piece,” I said to the man and woman who were with her, and by that time I was so overcome with emotion that I didn’t even ask how they were connected to her.

“That’s the way she is,” the woman said. “Always so generous.”

I turned to Josephine and said, “Happy birthday.”

Josephine smiled at me, took my hand in her own warm one, and squeezed it firmly and affectionately. It is not every day that a 100-year-old woman squeezes your hand, and it felt like a blessing of sorts, a benediction.

I made my way back to the table, grabbed a napkin, wiped my eyes, and blew my nose.

That benediction stayed with me the rest of the day while we finished our errands. It is with me now, and it is something I will always remember.

A timely reminder that gifts can come in the most homely, unexpected places and  that chance is often involved. Forty minutes either way, and we would have missed Josephine’s celebration.

And, so dear readers, with this I close the year. I will be taking a break from blogging until the beginning of January.

Whatever your beliefs, whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate, I wish you many blessings in the upcoming year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Many Faces of Santa

I am someone who loves diversity. I am fascinated by the food, stories, and ways of other cultures. To me, these differences bring richness, variety, and snap to life.

It is one of the reasons why I used to enjoy going to New York City to visit my daughter. (Alas, my creaky knees can no longer handle the subway system.) So many different types of people—short, tall, thin, fat, brown, white, black, Asian. Wonderful! On one trip, I remember sitting at an outdoor table and just soaking it all in.

I collect Santas, and the ornaments on my tree reflect my love of diversity.

Here is a traditional one.

Here is a fantasy Santa who looks like a wizard. After all, I like to say i was born in County Tolkien, even though I was really born in Kennebec County in Waterville, Maine.

There is also a Father Christmas type who resembles the late great Canadian author Robertson Davies.

And this is one of my favorite Santas.

There is even an Uncle Sam Santa.

Finally, here is a north woods Santa, which honors where I live, north of north, where the winters are still very cold.

The generosity of this season, personified by Santa, embodies a big-heartedness that can embrace all cultures and take in their beauty.

We would do well to carry this lesson with us throughout the year.

A Circle of Generosity

The first week of December has nearly skipped past, and what a nice week it has been. After working so hard on Library Lost for so long, I have decided to wait until January to tuck into my third book in the Great Library Series. (I am still uncertain about the title.)

Instead, I am going to celebrate this cold season of short days and twinkly lights, a time of year I love dearly. For various reasons, we no longer enjoy hosting big parties, but we do like inviting friends over for tea, coffee, and cookies or warm apple crisp, and that is what we are doing this December. Then there is the Christmas bustle of cooking, wrapping presents, and decorating. I don’t want to rush through the season. Instead, I want to savor each day, each activity.

Christmas can be seen as a time of excess, and to some degree it is. But is also a time of generosity, a time of giving, a time of thinking about what someone else would like rather than what you would like. All to the good, as far as I’m concerned. Simply put, we can’t have too much generosity, a virtue that is often in very short supply, especially in this country.

In the spirit of encouraging generosity, here are a few stories. Last Sunday, we went to our friends Judy and Paul’s house for tea. For a Christmas present, she gave me this lovely vintage post card that she had picked up at a seasonal pop-up called Yuletide in a Yurt. (For readers who live within driving distance of Monmouth, Maine, this is a lovely place to buy locally made gifts.)

Here is the front.

And here is the back. In 1913, Marian sent Bessie this card. Now how cool is that?

Then Judy told us a story of unexpected generosity that had come into her life.  A week or so ago, she and Paul went to a local restaurant to have lunch. As they were making their way to their booth—Paul has health issues and walks very slowly—a woman in the next booth smiled at them as they took their seats. Then, later, when the woman left, she looked directly at Paul and Judy and smiled as she passed by. When it came time to pay the bill, the server told Judy, “The bill has been taken care of by the woman who was sitting in the booth next to you.”

Judy was flabbergasted as well she might be. How often does this happen? It has never happened to me, and I think it was a first for Judy. There was no explanation left with the server as to why the woman paid the bill, but I have a notion that the woman observed Judy and Paul and how loving, patient, and kind Judy is with Paul as she helps him cope with his disabilities. (Readers, Judy really is a wonder.) I expect the woman was moved and wanted to do something nice for them. This is all speculation, of course, but I think it’s a good guess.

After lunch, as Judy was going home, she stopped at a light and noticed a woman standing nearby, with a sign asking for money. Judy noted how worn, tired, and discouraged the woman looked. Digging frantically in her pocketbook before the light changed, Judy found $20, about the same price as lunch, and handed it to the woman.

Now it was the woman’s turn to be flabbergasted. “Thank you, thank  you, thank you! You have no idea how much this will help.”

The light changed, and Judy had to drive away.

And that, dear readers, is a perfect circle of generosity, a lesson to keep not only for Christmas, but for the rest of the year as well.

Look What Came on a Snowy Day: Library Lost!

The books have arrived! Library Lost, the sequel to Maya and the Book of Everything, is now available. What a thrill to see them, so vibrant and red, in the box.

Library Lost is the second book in my Great Library Series. Two forces, Time and Chaos, battle each other for control of the mysterious Great Library, where all information flows. In the middle of this battle between Time and Chaos is one kid from Earth—Maya Hammond, who has traveled back in time, across the universe, and then home again with a Book of Everything from the Great Library.

In Library Lost, Maya is once again on the move, this time with an Apprentice Book named Ariel. As Chaos gains an edge, it doesn’t take long for the action to spiral into mayhem and destruction. However, Sydda, the Great Library’s director, has come up with a daring but dangerous plan that involves Maya.

But Maya has grave doubts. How can she ever prevail against such a powerful force as Chaos? How, indeed?

Library Lost can be ordered directly from Hinterlands Press. For orders in the United States, shipping is free, and you can get your very own signed copy of any of our books. We are also having a holiday sale: Order both Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost for $28, and again, shipping is free.

For those who like or need to order through Amazon, here are two special offers. Through the end of December, the Kindle version of Maya and the Book of Everything will be available for $0.99. And here is an even better deal: If you buy the paperback edition of Maya and the Book of Everything, the Kindle version is free.

My husband, Clif, and I will also be attending several fairs in Maine between now and Christmas. Central Maine readers, all you need to do is click the events button at the top of our Hinterlands website to see where we will be.

A heartfelt thanks to the many blogging friends who not only bought Maya and the Book of Everything but also took the time to write thoughtful reviews on their own blogs. I so appreciate this.

A reminder: The drawing for the free copy of Library Lost will be held on Thursday, November 29. There are still a couple of days to enter the contest, and I will mail the book anywhere on this planet. Anywhere.

Finally, the credo of the Great Library Series can be summed up in three words: Love Your Library.

But, blogging friends, you already love your libraries, don’t you?

 

A Very Brisk Thanksgiving

Yesterday morning this was the temperature, and a brisk wind made the air feel even colder.

There were frost ferns on the door,

and other windows were frosted, too.

No matter. Clif built a fire in the wood furnace in our cellar, and the house was cozy and warm.

This year we had a quiet Thanksgiving, with our daughter Dee being our sole guest. Although Clif and I missed those who couldn’t come, we had an absolutely delightful time. Being movie hounds, we watched two movies. The first was the excellent The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a dark, haunting Western presented in six episodes by the Coen brothers. The Ballad is available on Netflix. The second movie was the not-so-excellent The Square, which we thought would be a story about modern art and its uses (and abuses) but instead mostly turned out to be the tale of a hapless, bumbling museum director who seemed to be in a permanent state of arrested development. Ah, well!

This year we had a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner, and it was very good indeed. Clif and I have been going down the vegetarian path for years and are now mostly there. Dee has been a vegetarian since her college days. So we dispensed with the turkey and made the sides the main meal. For dessert was homemade chocolate cream pie, but I forget to take a picture of it.

In the upper left hand corner of the above photo is what looks like a golden roll. However, American readers will recognize this roll for what it is—a biscuit.

Here is a closer look at the biscuits, arrayed in glory on a platter.

American biscuits are something like a scone, but they are not at all sweet and make a fine accompaniment to almost any meal, especially stews and soups.

Biscuits are also good for breakfast, and that’s exactly what we had this morning, along with scrambled eggs made from the beauties our neighbor brought us.

Tonight, there will be leftovers and pies.

The feasting continues!

 

All Dancing Together

Despite the chilly, rainy day—or maybe because of it—despite the sorrows of the world—which are many–today,  a week after the election, is a day for music, for celebrating because gosh darn it there was a blue wave. And blue is my favorite cover.

This song, by the terrific band R.E.M, captures how I feel on this drizzly day. Not only do I love the catchy, upbeat tune and words, but I also love the diversity featured in the video—young people, old people, black, brown, Asian, white, thin, plump. All dancing together.

And if I’m ever reincarnated, I want a voice just like Kate Pierson’s.