Category Archives: Celebrate

First Snow of Winter

Officially, winter begins on December 21, but in Maine, winter begins with the first real snowfall. That is, the accumulation must be over four inches, and the snow must not melt during the next sunny day.

I think this storm, although just starting in central Maine, will fulfill both requirements. There is something exhilarating about the first real snow of winter, that cold tang, the softness of the snow.

Yes, winter will grow old, but right now, on this Saturday afternoon, as we prepare to decorate our tree, both Clif and I are in perfect agreement: Let it snow.

So it begins!

 

 

 

 

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A Special Anniversary—Maya is One

Yesterday was a very special day for Clif and me. Our fantasy novel—Maya and the Book of Everything-–had its first birthday. Or anniversary. Or whatever. The book was launched on November 28, 2016, and this certainly brightened, at least for us, an otherwise dismal year for the country.

Even though I wrote the novel, I used the word “our” because Clif was (and is) such an integral part of the process that it really is his book, too. First, he was one of a handful of careful readers who found errors and helped me keep the plot on track. Second, he did all the page layout, both for the paper copy and for the ebook. He continues to help me as I give presentations—lord, am I ever grateful for his technical expertise—and he goes with me to various craft fairs.  Many, many thanks, Clif, for your invaluable help.

While we are on the subject of giving thanks, I want to thank the many friends, both near and distant, who have bought Maya. Merci, merci! Because of your generosity, Maya has not only been read in the United States, but also in England, Ireland, and Canada. It is no small thing for an indie book to travel so far. As for my new blogging friends…well, Christmas is coming. Perhaps you have someone in your family who loves fantasy novels. While Maya is technically a book for young teens, it is also a crossover book that adults enjoy reading. Maya is easy to order. Just click on the book’s cover in the upper left-hand corner of this page. There! Done with the shameless self-promotion.

Maya is our first book, and over the course of the year we have learned a lot and, of course, have made more than a few mistakes. The happy thing we have learned is that Maya sells really well at various events, and next year, we are going to increase the number of places we go, not only with Maya but also with Clif’s anthology, The Wave of Time. Lucky for us, Clif and I really enjoy doing this. We both work from home, and it is a nice change to get out, meet people, and talk about our books.

By a very happy coincidence, on Maya’s birthday, I was engaged to speak at my town’s wonderful library, the Charles M. Bailey Public Library. Richard, the director, did a great job with publicity, and there was a nice turnout, with plenty of old friends as well as people I didn’t even know. We sold quite a few books, and what a lovely, lovely way to celebrate Maya’s birthday. Thank you Richard and Shane and to all the people who came to my Threads of Realism in Fantasy presentation.

Now, onward to the second book—Library Lost. I’m over halfway done, and I’m hoping to have it published by next fall.

 

 

Resting with a Cat on My Chest, Hoping for an Angel Sitting on My Shoulder

On Sunday evening, this was the scene at our house.

In fact, I wasn’t resting at all but rather reading and commenting on the many blogs I follow. This is always a delight as I can go around the world yet stay on my couch with my cat—the notorious Sherlock,  who certainly knows how to make himself comfortable—and my mug of tea.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it was a merry blur of food, family, friends, and movies. We are a family keen on movies, and we saw two over the holidays—Coco, which we liked very much, and Murder on the Orient Express, a remake that got a resounding “Meh!” from all three of us.

Now it’s onward to Christmas, my favorite holiday. There will be Christmas movies to watch, cards to send, goodies to cook, presents to wrap, gatherings to attend, and twinkling lights to set out.

In Maine as well as elsewhere, December is the darkest month of the year, a good time to ponder the Christmas sentiment “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All.” Unfortunately, we are far from this notion, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reflect on it, now and for the rest of the year, too.

And if we can slide in a little “ho-ho-ho,” so much the better.  This Christmas song—“We Need a Little Christmas”—perfectly captures the way many of us in the United States feel right now.

Here is a version by the folks from Glee.

I’m hoping to find that little “angel sitting on my shoulder” sometime soon.

A Time to Be Grateful

As noted in yesterday’s post, in the United States, we celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. This holiday always falls on the fourth Thursday in November. It’s a time to eat (usually a lot!) and give thanks for the good things we have.

I’m not going to mince words. For progressives, this has been a very difficult year, and because of this, it hasn’t been easy to count blessings. The worries, ranging from nuclear war to dismantling the Affordable Health Care Act, are not trivial.

Nevertheless, there are blessings to be counted. So far, this country is at peace. So far, the Affordable Health Care stands. So far, there is a free press that hasn’t bent to those in power.

On a more personal level, I have a snug house, a loving family, and a terrific library that allows me to go far while staying home.

I also have a wonderful circle of friends. Today, I want to give special thanks to my blogging friends who have enriched my life is so many ways. Through pictures and words, I travel near and far, I learn new things, and I am immeasurably enriched by the creativity—in all its various aspects— of my blogging friends.

So many, many thanks to all my blogging friends. You not only enrich my life, but you also remind me that there is still much that is good in this world.

 

A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

All right. I have a confession to make. I am not a huge fan of Thanksgiving dinner. I know, I know. This makes me sound, well, Un-American. After all, this tradition is in honor of the gathering of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans way back before there were green bean casserole and sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. As legend has it, in the 1600s, everyone came together to celebrate the harvest festival. (This sounds a little too jolly and pagan for the Pilgrims, but what the heck. Maybe it’s true.)

And so it has gone, with the food changing over the years. When I was young, we had a meat and potato stuffing to go in the turkey and a medley of different vegetables. In the week before Thanksgiving, my mother baked like a crazy person, and her fudge was, in a word, incredible. (I often wish I had a fraction of her energy.)

I am sorry to say that for me, with my sweet teeth—never mind tooth—the fudge was the best part of the meal. I have never liked turkey that much, and mashed potatoes are a little too bland for my taste. Turnip and squash are all right, but my heart doesn’t leap with joy when I see them on the table.

Then there is the work. Oh, there is plenty of it, and everything must come out at the same time and be reasonably warm. Usually, by the time the food is ready, my appetite is nearly gone. After that comes the clean-up, and when it is all over, I feel like lying on the bathroom floor for an extended snooze. (A friend’s mother has done this, and my sympathies are with her.)

Last year, Thanksgiving was particularly rough. Shannon and Mike were in North Carolina, and Clif and I had been working hard on Maya and the Book of Everything. When Thanksgiving was done, I felt even more exhausted than usual, and I was seriously considering going out to eat this Thanksgiving.

But eating out at Thanksgiving is expensive—at least $100, including the tip, for two people—and it’s just not as cozy as being at home. What to do, what to do?

Dee, our New York daughter, is a vegetarian, and it suddenly dawned on me that my life would be significantly better if we had a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, say, stuffed shells or baked ziti. Because while I’m not a fan of Thanksgiving dinner, I am a huge fan of all things Italian, and the baked pasta dishes can be—wait for it!—made ahead the day before Thanksgiving.

This notion made me so giddy that I thought, “Well, son of a biscuit, I could even make a chocolate cream pie on Thanksgiving morning if the rest of the food was ready.”

And so settling on stuffed shells, I proposed the alternative Thanksgiving dinner. Dee was all for it. She doesn’t eat turkey anyway, and our friends Alice and Joel, who will join us, are good sports and very flexible. However, now we come to Clif, who LOVES Thanksgiving dinner, but he, too, was a good sport and agreed to my stuffed shell suggestion.

But I could tell he was a little sad, and last night we had a quasi-Thanksgiving dinner of breaded chicken thighs, baked potatoes, corn, and stuffing from a bag. It was pretty darned good, and a snap compared with the real event. Clif’s desire for stuffing was satisfied, and clean-up was no problem at all.

Thus it is that onward, with a lighter heart, I go toward Thanksgiving. The house is reasonably clean, the shopping is done, and we have a plan devised for the rest of it.

I’ll still be making pumpkin bread. After all. But I have a funny feeling that stuffed shells will be a new Thanksgiving tradition in our family.

 

The Great Pumpkinfest: Part Two

Here are some more pictures from the Great Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta. Such a fun event! I plan to go back next year, but maybe on the Tuesday after the actual fest. That way, the pumpkins will be complete but won’t have started to decay, and there won’t be as many people.

Now, an interlude with a flower, a beautiful rose that somehow managed to bloom in October.  In Maine. It almost seems miraculous.

Back to pumpkins.

The end. Until next year.

The Great Pumpkinfest: Part One

Yesterday, I went with my friend Dawna to Damariscotta for its annual Pumpkinfest.

Damariscotta is a lovely little village—population circa 2,000—nestled beside the even more lovely Damariscotta River, a tidal estuary of the gulf of Maine. Here is a shot looking out from town onto the river.

Because of the natural beauty, artists have been drawn to this area, which means the village has a zippy, arty vibe.

Yesterday, when we went to Damariscotta, the village was certainly zipping as various businesses and individuals were getting their giant pumpkins ready for the fest. (Today is when the fest officially opens, with a parade and many outside vendors as well as the pumpkins, of course. We were told that the town is packed, and it was best to come very early to get a parking spot.)

But first things first. As the day was drizzly but clearing,  Dawna and I decided we would begin with lunch, and that if we were lucky, the rain would be gone by the time we finished our meals. We went to a place called Crissy’s, a breakfast and coffee bar, open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.

I am happy to report that my BLT was mighty tasty and it, along with every thing else on the menu, was reasonably priced. Honest food at honest prices. My favorite kind of place to eat.

And by gum, when we were done lunch, the weather had indeed cleared, and for the cherry on the sundae, the light was bright overcast, just perfect for taking pictures of pumpkins.

Outside of Crissy’s, a young woman was in the process of creating a hatching dragon inspired by one of my favorite series, Game of Thrones.

We crossed the street and came upon this beautiful carved pumpkin.

The man who was carving—I didn’t get his name—explained that this Pumpkinfest was done totally for fun. It was not a competition. There were no prizes. Now, competitions have their place, but I love the idea of a fest where the pumpkins are carved, painted, and decorated for sheer creative enjoyment. However, while I didn’t question the man any further, I expect there is still some friendly rivalry to see who can come up with the most creative pumpkin.  Whatever the case, this master carver looked as though he was having a good time.

Then, for something completely different, stylish black and white.

And next, a hideous clown. (There. Now you know how I feel about clowns. )

That’ll do for today. Tomorrow, I’ll post some more pictures of this fun Pumpkinfest, to get all of you in the mood for this season of ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties.