Category Archives: Celebrate

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

Saturday in the Park

On Saturday, Clif, Dee, and I headed south of the border—to Massachusetts. For many Mainers, our border is the Piscataqua  river that flows between Maine and New Hampshire and the imposing eponymous bridge that spans that river. This bridge is the primary way out of Maine for points south, and it gives the state the feeling of being an island. Silly, I know, but that’s how it always seems to me when I leave or return to Maine.

The Piscataqua River Bridge. Photo taken by Doug Kerr.

Across the bridge we went, through a sliver of New Hampshire and then to Massachusetts where our daughter Shannon and her husband Mike live. Shannon’s birthday was on Friday—Earth Day—and how wonderful it was to be able celebrate her birthday in person. (For the past six years, when Shannon and Mike lived in North Carolina, birthdays were celebrated from afar.)

Saturday was a lovely warm spring day, and for the birthday celebration, we headed to a pretty park in a nearby town.

We set up our chairs and enjoyed the fine weather. Here is a picture of Shannon and Mike. In the background, you can see the fringe of spring green on the tree to the left of Shannon.

We got take-out from Bartlet Street, a nearby restaurant that caters to meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Truly, there was something for everyone.

Dee ordered a bagel with roasted chickpeas and mashed avocado. Quite a feast! I could have a bite of that right now.

As we ate and talked, people and dogs came to the park. A little boy ran in delight, touching and counting rocks and benches. Dogs on leashes sniffed and trotted across the green grass.  A group of young friends, laughing and happy, brought a blanket and had a picnic. Particularly touching was when a couple came with their senior dog, a yellow lab, who was lame with arthritis. They had ramp to make it easier for the dog to get in and out of their vehicle. A much-needed example of how we humans can be kind and thoughtful.

After lunch, we saluted Shannon with cupcakes. Happy, happy birthday!

In honor of this sweet day, here is a song that no doubt many of you will remember.

Snow-Gauge Clif: Let the Mud Begin

On Saturday, March 19, a heavy rain fell as though it were a day in April. If the rain had been snow, as it would have been in years past, Snow-Joe would have gotten quite a work out. Instead, the rain came down, down, down, and most of the snow went away, to be replaced by mud.

Here are pictures of the tracks I made going to the compost bins in the backyard. The mud was so deep that I wondered if I would lose my shoes on the way to and from the house.

As you might have guessed, Snow-Gauge Clif’s job is coming to an end. Barring any last-minute snowstorms, I expect we have a week or two at most.

The shady front yard still has 7 inches of snow at its deepest and a skim of snow over much of the lawn.

The backyard is quite another matter. There is a spot that has 7 inches of snow—where Snow-Joe threw it—but for the most part, the lawn is bare.

Here’s a better photo of the backyard. Note the patio and how the snow is nearly gone. As soon as the mud dries, and we can walk on the lawn without fear of losing our shoes, the blue chairs will come out.

Finally, here’s a photo of our listing clothesline, which is a little on the tipsy side. When the yard dries out, Clif is wondering if he’ll have to reset the clothesline. Never a dull moment at our home on the edge of the woods.

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In Addition: Cheers to 45 years!

On Saturday Clif and I celebrated our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. We marked the occasion with an appetizer night featuring dumplings, a cashew dip, and other assorted goodies. Appetizer nights are a favorite at our home, where with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of enjoyment, we have many different treats to nibble.

There was also a toast where we used lovely glasses given to us by our friend Doree Austin on our first wedding anniversary.

After our appetizer meal, we watched a film that I highly recommend—Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, a sweet low-key movie from Bhutan that has been nominated this year for an Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

Filmed in Buhatan and written and directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, this charming movie tells the story of a young, uninspired teacher, Ugyen Dorji, who is sent to a remote mountain village to fulfill his teacher contract. Does Ugyen want to go to this village, accessible only by foot and a journey of many days? He does not. Instead, Ugyen wants to go to Australia and follow his dream of becoming a singer.

But up the mountain Ugyen goes, finally making it to Lunana, a poor village that has some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. During the course of the movie, lessons are learned and taught. In its own gentle way, Lunana examines the notion of culture, of whether to leave or to stay.  Best of all, Lunana manages to avoid being predictable, which gives the movie a nice twist.

For those who have Kanopy, Lunana is available free for streaming. For those who don’t have Kanopy, other streaming options include Vudu and Prime Video, where the movie can be rented for $6.99.

Lunana is definitely worth $6.99, and so far it is my favorite foreign film of the year.

 

Christmas in February

After going through two years of pandemic quiet, we recorded last weekend in the excitement column in the Ledger of Life. (Thanks to Tootlepedal for introducing me to this term.) The cause of the excitement? At long last, our daughter Shannon and our son-in-law Mike came for a visit.

With them they brought the inimitable Holly

and sweet Somara.

The title of this post gives a clue as to how we celebrated this weekend. The Christmas tree behind Holly in the first picture is also a clue.

For various reasons, Shannon and Mike were unable to join us in December to celebrate Christmas. But because we knew they would eventually make it to Maine, we decided to keep the tree up until they did come, which happened to be last weekend.

We had a jolly time of gift giving and conversation. We played Christmas music, and outside there was a soft sprinkle of falling snow. Although it was February, it felt like Christmas.

After presents, we introduced Shannon and Mike to the board game Horrified, which they both liked very much.

On Sunday, Shannon, Mike, and the dogs left Maine to head home, and we bid them a sad farewell.

On Monday, we got up at God-awful o’clock—3:45 a.m.—to bring our eldest daughter Dee to Portland to take a bus back to New York, where she has various things to take care of.

Now it’s just Clif and me, and, yes, it’s more than a little lonely.  Yet I can’t help but think how grand it is that we so enjoy being with our kids. Both Clif and I feel that there is no better company than Dee, Shannon, and Mike. We are lucky parents, that’s for sure.

When we returned from Portland, we each took a little nap. Getting up at 3:45 certainly isn’t our thing. Then, down came the tree.

The living room is now back to normal.

As soon as her business is taken care of, Dee plans to return to Maine for a while, and in March, we will to go to Massachusetts to visit Shannon, Mike, and the dogs.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to play a game we bought Shannon for Christmas—The Big Book of Madness, recommended by Carol Ann on her fabulous blog Fashioned for Joy.

More good things to record in the Ledger of Life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

En Hiver

In the still, in the cold…

Although I love spring and summer and the lengthening of the days, I also cherish this time of year, this time of giving, this time of rest, when I have tea on the couch at 4:00, and out the big window I watch the sky go from blue to black and the bright shine of Venus, which glitters just above the horizon.

I will be taking a blogging break from now until the New Year. Because of Covid, it will definitely be a staycation, but it will be a luxury to read in the mornings, play board games in the afternoon, and watch Oscar nominees at night. And, of course, nibble on treats.

I know many of you are wondering about Little Green, our trusty electric snow thrower. Clif did indeed find the problem—a rascally rodent, probably a mouse, who not only made a nest inside Little Green but chewed the belt in half as well. A new belt is on the way.

Because I am Franco-American, I wish those who celebrate Christmas a joyeux Noël.

And to everyone a Bonne Année.

Whatever you celebrate, have a joyous and safe time. I hope your holidays are filled with warmth, merriment, and good food.

See you all in 2022.