Category Archives: Celebrate

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.

Happy 200th Birthday, Bicycle!

Today, on the excellent website treehugger, I learned that today is the 200th anniversary of the bicycle, which was invented because of an environmental crisis—a volcano that caused a famine that led to the slaughter of horses and thus the slowing of transportation. Treehugger’s article is fascinating, especially to a bike lover like me.

So happy birthday, bicycle! I have had my own Blue Beauty for twenty years. I’ve ridden it many miles and plan to ride it for many more to come. Not only is it a great way to stay in shape, but the bicycle also goes at exactly the right speed, fast enough to actually get somewhere but slow enough to smell, notice, and enjoy everything around you. (Thanks to Cheryl and Kerry for pointing this out.)


Memorial Day Weekend: First Bike Ride, First Barbecue

We’ve had a cool somewhat rainy May, but Saturday and especially Sunday turned out be warm and sunny. Accordingly, Clif brought up the bikes from down cellar, and on Sunday, we went for the first bike ride of the season.

A brief backstory: Through last fall and winter, I have been, ahem, a bit sedentary. I do have an excuse—I’ve been extremely busy with Maya and the Book of Everything—but let’s just say that my body has not been impressed with this excuse. Or with the amount of chocolate I like to eat. So the beginning of May, I took the exercise bike by the seat, so to speak. I decided no mater how busy I was—and I continue to be very busy—I was going to ride the exercise bike for at least thirty minutes a day for six days a week. Oh, that road to nowhere is a boring one, but I persevered.

Yesterday, the pay-off was more than evident. We went eight miles, which included a decent hill, and I was neither winded nor exhausted after the ride. We started out at lovely Norcross Point, where families were enjoying the sunny day.

As we biked by the lake, I heard a loon call. A little later, I saw a blue heron fishing by the shore. (Alas, I didn’t get a picture. ) I could smell lilacs and lilies of the valley. People grilling meat. Such a day!

We stopped to take a picture of our friend’s garden. Very fitting for Memorial Day when we honor the men and woman in the military as well as the people who have passed from our lives. Gone, but still remembered.

Here’s a closer look.

When we got home, up came the big green patio table, and we were ready for our first barbecue of the season—turkey burgers.

We settled at the table, enjoying our drinks—beer for Clif and iced green tea and honey for me.

After a leisurely lunch, Clif mowed the lawn, I planted, and we both pronounced Sunday a finest kind of day.

The cherry on the sundae? Later that night, I was listening to the New Yorker Radio Hour before falling asleep, and David Remnick, the incredible editor of the New Yorker, referred to something someone said as a “quotation” rather than the more commonly used “quote.”

I must confess, this is one of my grammar crotchets. Quote is a verb, and quotation is a noun. But, as with many things grammar, this is changing with use, and most people say or write “quote” when they really mean “quotation.” I’ve resigned myself to this. Why fight the inevitable?

But, oh, it made me smile to hear David Remnick use the correct word.

Our Favorite Nephew Graduates

Last Saturday, I got up before breakfast, as my mother would have put it, and was on the road by 6 a.m. Off to the University of Maine at Orono I went to see my favorite nephew—Patrick Meunier—graduate from college. The ceremony started at 9:30 a.m. As there were over 1,000 students graduating, it was important to arrive at the university a couple of hours before the ceremony began in order to get a good place to park and good seating.

This I did, and I was even able to save seats for Patrick’s parents—my brother Steve and my sister-in-law Rose—an aunt and uncle, and his maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, Clif was not able to come. It was simply too long to leave the dog, and now that Liam is blind, we don’t feel comfortable asking any of our friends to take care of him if we are to be away for a long time. But Patrick is a dog lover, and he understood about Liam.

My mother passed away nine years ago, and how I wish she had lived long enough to see Patrick graduate. She helped take care of him when he was little, and she loved Patrick very much. To bring a piece of Mom to the ceremony, I wore one of her favorite bracelets, and it was comforting for me to have something of hers on my wrist.

Because we arrived so early, we naturally had to wait a while before the ceremony began. Somehow, I didn’t mind at all. I watched the people stream in. I chatted with Steve and Rose, and the time just zipped by. The ceremony was held in an arena, and there was a jumbotron flashing scenes from the inside. But then, a little before 9:30, the cameras turned outward and focused on the large stream of students  in blue marching toward the arena. Later, we found out from Patrick that there wasn’t any rehearsal. The students were told to march in some semblance of a line, and by gum they did.

Into the arena they came, and our little party strained eagerly to see Patrick. And there he was, smiling and radiant and looking oh so happy to be graduating. “After all,” Clif would say later. “He’s worked hard to get that degree.” Indeed he has.

Here’s a picture of the marching students. Can you guess which one is Patrick?

As I watched his beaming face, I felt my eyes prickle with tears. I’ve known Patrick since he was a little baby, and I’ve watched him grow into a fine young man—kind, energetic, and determined—who loves art and theater and movies. I had to speak very sternly to myself so that I didn’t go from being misty eyed to outright blubbering. I am happy to report I was successful.

Considering how many students were getting their degrees, the ceremony moved along smartly. The commencement speakers were Heather and Abe Furth, local entrepreneurs and a power couple who started their first business—Woodman’s Bar and Grill—when they were twenty-three. The Furths took turns speaking not only of the importance of fearlessly going forth in life but also of making a commitment to local economies and communities. Very impressive.

Then the graduation ceremony was over, and out we went into the blessedly rain-free day, the first in a while. Naturally, we took pictures.

After pictures, we went to a restaurant in Brewer, the High Tide, right beside the Penobscot River. Such a lovely view! To mark this momentous occasion, I had one of my favorite things—a lobster roll—and as we ate, there was much merriment and joy.

The title of this piece indicates that Clif and I are playing favorites when it comes to Patrick. As Patrick is our only nephew, this is not strictly true. However, even if he weren’t our only nephew, he would still be our favorite.

Best of luck, Patrick, as you begin your creative journey!




Earth Day and a Birthday

Today is Earth Day, a very special day in our family. Not only is this a day to honor the beautiful blue planet we live on, but this is also the birthday of our youngest daughter, Shannon. We’ve always thought it was oh-so-cool to have a child with a birthday on Earth Day. (Our eldest daughter just missed having a birthday on Halloween, and that’s cool, too.)

So happy birthday, Shannon! I know you will have the finest kind of day in North Carolina. And by the by, your yearly birthday wish has come to pass this spring—the snow is completely gone from the yard and woods by April 22.

A birthday celebration two years ago

As for Earth Day—I’m going to paraphrase what Scrooge said in A Christmas Carol: “I will honor Earth Day in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”


A Beauty of an Easter Weekend

A few days ago, the weather forecast was for sun on Saturday and rain for Easter Sunday. Clif and I had planned to have crab-meat rolls on the patio on Easter, but as the forecast didn’t look good, we decided to have the rolls on Saturday. After all, our philosophy is to celebrate early and celebrate often.

Saturday, as predicted, turned out to be a beauty of a day. In honor of the occasion and of the lovely weather, we brought out the round white table from down cellar. I felt like jumping up and down with joy. It is always a thrill to have the outside furniture on the patio, and soon the large green table will be joining the smaller one.

Oh, what a nice little feast we had, with a shared whoopie pie for dessert.

The sun was warm, the red buds were showing on the maples, and all around us birds called, sang, and twittered. Best of all, in April, there are no biting bugs to vex us, which makes time spent on the patio even sweeter.

Today, Easter Sunday, did indeed start out cloudy, and in the spirit of celebrating often, we decided to have a small Easter brunch of egg-in-toast and turkey bacon.

By eleven, the clouds were gone, the sun was shining, and I made a pot of green tea sweetened with honey. It will be chilled for iced tea for mid-afternoon when we go out on—you guessed it!—the patio.

It’s shaping up to be a lovely Easter weekend, the gateway to spring then summer and lots of time spent outside.