Category Archives: Celebrate

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.





More Birthday Folderol

What a two weeks I had of birthday preparations and folderol. They whipped by in a happy blur, first with my daughter Shannon and then with my daughter Dee. Their stay here overlapped long enough for all of us to go to Riverside Farm Restaurant for a birthday brunch on the lovely deck overlooking fields and a stream.

The best present, of course, was having my daughters here. Shannon lives in North Carolina, and we only see her twice a year. Dee lives closer, in New York City, but even so we don’t see her as often as we would like. This means when they are here, I focus pretty much exclusively on them, and I cherish the time I have with my daughters.

Normally, our birthdays are simple and low key, but as this was a 40th and a 60th, the celebrations and gifts were a little more elaborate. One of the sweetest gifts I received and have ever received was this necklace from both Dee and Shannon: A little bird “nest” with two fresh water pearls, symbolizing my two girls.

Here is a closer look.

Among other things, they also gave me a Maya-blue water feature that is solar powered. Right now, it’s on the patio, but next summer it will go directly in the garden. The water pouring from bowl to bowl makes a lovely, relaxing sound.

Going along with the gardening theme, my husband Clif gave me these snappy clogs. However, they are far too pretty for me to wear in the garden. At least not yet. Instead, I will wear them out and about on damp autumn and spring days. I have a scuffed pair of garden clogs for mucking around, and when these are scuffed, they will be worn in the garden.

For Dee, we decided to do something both fun and foolish—forty presents in honor of her forty years.  Numbered, so that she would open them in the proper order. Let’s just say there was a flurry of getting ready for this present extravaganza, and we all agreed that forty was as high as we would want to go with this idea.

Dee lives in a small apartment, and we made sure to mostly give her presents she could eat, drink, wear, or experience. Naturally, we had to indulge in a few punny gifts—four boxes of tea, four T-shirts, forty rocks in a vase. (Shannon came up with that last one, and I love it.) We all had some good laughs as Dee unwrapped her forty presents.

So now the celebrations are over, and Dee and Shannon are back in New York and North Carolina. I don’t mind saying it’s been a bit of a let down as Clif and I settle back into our routine of biking, working on our various projects, and taking care of the house.

Well, birthday celebrations can’t last forever, and what a good time we had. Happy memories for both Dee and me as we go forth into our respective decades.

One more thing to note: We also celebrated Clif’s 66th birthday, but it was definitely eclipsed by Dee’s and my birthday. However, please don’t fret for Clif. When he turned 60, we threw a big party for him,  which he thoroughly enjoyed.


Going to Circus Smirkus

In September, I will be turning sixty, and with milestone events, it is our custom to celebrate early and often. Therefore, as a kickoff for my birthday, Clif and I went with our friends Lyn and Stephen to one of the most delightful shows I have ever had the pleasure of attending—Circus Smirkus, a youth circus featuring jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, clowns, tightrope walkers, and anything else associated with the big top. (Except animals, and for that I am grateful.) On Monday, Circus Smirkus was performing in Freeport, about forty miles from where we live.

Circus Smirkus is based in Greensboro, Vermont, and as noted in their booklet, it is “a nonprofit arts education organization whose mission is to promote the skills, culture, and traditions of the traveling circus, and to inspire youth to engage in life-enhancing adventures in the circus arts.” Kids go to Smirkus camp and audition for a part in the Big Top Tour, which runs from July through August. If Circus Smirkus ever comes to a town near you, don’t hesitate. Go see this extraordinarily talented and energetic circus troupe of youthful performers ranging in age from twelve to eighteen.

For me, the thrill started as soon as we had parked, and I caught a glimpse of the big circus tent, which transported me to the days of my own youth and the magic of fairs and circuses. It didn’t hurt that the tents featured my favorite color—blue.

Inside, the tent was a glorious night-time blue, and we got seats high in the back, which gave us a terrific view of the ring.

The theme of this year’s show is Midnight at the Museum, where a mischievous young boy unlocks the museum doors at night and lets loose various “exhibits,” which gives the young performers ample opportunity to strut their stuff.

And strut it they did in a series of jaw-dropping pieces. Over and over, as performers whirled, stretched, spun, walked on the tightrope, and did other amazing things, we said in astonishment, “Oh, my gosh! How do they do that?” In one piece, young girls as octopuses stretched and twisted their legs in ways I didn’t think was humanly possible. In another piece, featuring explorers from the South Pole, young performers zipped up and down the “South Pole” at breakneck speed, stopping just short of hitting the floor. Two young girls on the trapeze showed not only great strength and agility but also great trust in each other. One wrong move, and down to the floor they would have crashed.

Here are a couple of pictures from the show. These photos only give the dimmest impression of what we saw and don’t really convey the energy and vitality of the kids.

Two other things of note: There was live music, where the musicians reacted to what was happening in the ring, and the whole show had very nice pacing, with acrobats followed by clowning followed by jugglers.

After the show, we all went to Gritty’s  in Freeport, and we marveled over what we had just seen—the skill, the energy, and the talent of these young performers.

I had one of my favorites—fish and chips—and it was very good indeed.

Lyn and Stephen have seen Circus Smirkus many times, but this was a first for Clif and me. Even though I won’t have the excuse of a milestone birthday, Clif and I decided this should be an annual event, where we get together with Lyn and Stephen for the snappy Circus Smirkus.

What a way to kick off my sixtieth birthday!



A Sad Fourth of July

Tomorrow—July Fourth—is a big day for our country,  a time to celebrate its birthday. Accordingly, there will be parades, picnics, barbecues, and fireworks.

We will be having friends over for an appetizers and salad party, where Clif will make his legendary grilled bread. I’ve made a homemade vanilla ice cream pie, and I’ll drizzle blueberry and strawberry preserves over the slices for a touch of red and blue to go with the white.

I wish I could write that I am approaching this holiday with excitement and joy, but I am not. Never, since I have been politically aware—a necessary qualifier—have I seen the U.S. in such a terrible state,  with a leader who feels perfectly comfortable tweeting about women and blood and a congress gleefully intent on stripping millions of people of health care while giving huge tax breaks to the rich. In short, it is heartbreaking to see what this country has become.

I know. We’ve been in dark places before, and we’ve somehow manage to work our way out of them.  So perhaps we will  be able to shake off the greed, hate, nastiness, and fear that has gripped this country and emerge better and wiser. But, of course, there are no guarantees.

Therefore in sadness and in hope, I am posting a picture of this lily, a lone survivor of lily beetles and marauding  skunks intent on finding grubs.

May this country survive its marauders and bloom, bloom, bloom.


Happy Birthday, Meridians!

On Saturday, Clif and I went to the town of Fairfield, about thirty miles away, to celebrate the third birthday of Meridians. a snappy wine, beer, and food shop owned by the son-in-law of some friends. Because of the distance, Clif and I don’t go to Meridians often, but we always enjoy this local shop whenever we do visit.

For the third birthday celebration, there were beer and wine tastings plus utterly delicious chicken tacos courtesy of Outland Farm in Pittsfield.

Here are some pictures of the event.

A happy little crowd tasting wine, beer, and chicken tacos.

An Asian chicken taco with slaw and a zesty peanut sauce. I could have one right now.

Michael and Heather Holland, the owners of Outland Farm. How lucky Maine is to have such a wealth of young farmers. At their farm, along with chickens and pigs, Mike and Heather have apple and peach orchards as well as other varieties of fruit. We will definitely be making a trip to Outland Farm when the peaches are ready. Oh, fresh peaches!

One of the great things about a wine or beer tasting is that you actually get to sample different types that you probably have never tried. I’m not a beer drinker, but Clif is, and he found a beer he really liked that was brewed in Bend, Oregon. Naturally Clif bought a four pack, and what better place to drink beer than on our own patio?

A very happy birthday, Meridians! May you have many, many more.