Category Archives: Five for Friday

Five for Friday: The Golden Age of Illustration

Today’s post is going to be a little different, a reflection of my newest obsession, the golden age of illustration, which ran roughly from 1880 to 1920. As Artcyclopedia puts it, advances in technology allowed for “accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art,” both in books and magazines.

Nowhere was this more evident or glorious than in illustrations for children’s books. Beatrix Potter, of course, comes to mind, but there were many others, too: Edmund Dulac, Jessie Willcox Smith, Walter Crane, and Sir John Tennial, to name a few.

As chance would have it, there is even a Facebook group called The Golden Age of illustration. I joined the group not long ago, and that’s when I became hooked on illustrations from this period, especially the ones for children’s books. Not surprising as I write books for young people.

Many of the images from this period are in the public domain, which means we are free to use them as we wish. Clif, who is a talented graphic artist, has caught the golden age of illustration bug and is working with some of the pictures. He has been enlarging the illustrations, smoothing the pixels, and retouching the illustrations. We plan to sell matted prints at fairs we go to, and he has done research about the artist and the books the illustrations come from. This information will be included with the prints.

Below are five of the illustrations he has worked on, and they are by Edmund Dulac and Jessie Willcox Smith.

This is one of my favorites. The illustrator is Edmund Dulac, and the picture is from the story “A Little Girl in a Book,” written by Mrs. Rodolph Stawell. Funny to think there was a time when women writers went by their husband’s name, but there you are. Progress has definitely been made on that front.

This is another of Edmund Dulac’s illustrations, and it’s from “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s not a scene I’m familiar with, that’s for sure.

Jessie Willcox Smith did this illustration for The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.

As well as this one—Little Red and the Wolf—otherwise known as Little Red Riding Hood.

And finally, here is a Jessie Willcox Smith’s illustration from The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley.

Today, there are many fine artists who create illustrations for children’s books. But for me, there is something about pictures from the Golden Age of Illustration that captures the wonder, magic, and even the dread of fantasy and fairy tales.

I wonder what it was from that period that allowed illustrators to tap into art that goes so beautifully with the stories.


Five for Friday: Gone, Baby, Gone

Ta-dah, ta-dah! The patio is officially snow free, a full ten days before we wanted it to be that way.

This is how the patio looked yesterday morning, with just the smallest patch of snow on one edge.

Here is a closer look at that stubborn little patch.

Stubborn or not, that patch’s days were numbered, and by late afternoon, the snow was gone, baby, gone. Note the hay on the walk rimmed with snow. No, our yard is not totally snow free, but it sure is good to see the patio once again.

Snow-out from the patio put in me in such a good mood that I decided to sweep the driveway. Hundreds and hundreds of little cones had fallen, the most I’ve ever seen in our driveway in spring. What a nice feeling of accomplishment to have the driveway free of those little cones.

And maybe, just maybe, Clif and I will take down the Christmas lights next week. It is time, that’s for sure.

Five for Friday: Our Own Little Yard

I know this will probably make me sound like a boring fuddy-duddy,  but one of my absolute favorite places is my own backyard. We only own an acre of land, and our backyard, fenced in for Liam, is probably about one-half acre. But our property, modest though it is, abuts a watershed for the Upper and Lower Narrows Pond, the primary source for Winthrop’s drinking water. So behind our house is a big woods, full of life and mystery.  It’s not ours, but it gives us an expanded feeling, especially as no development is allowed on this land.

From December through March, our backyard is snowed-in, and except for the shoveled paths, it is not accessible to us. (To our great delight, the birds and squirrels, however, still come and go. ) But as soon as the snow melts, the yard is open to Clif and me, and I never get tired of looking around to see what’s going on. Spring, summer, or fall, there is always something to notice.

The goldfinches, who are making a sound and a fury most days, are flocking to the feeder, and the males are slowly beginning to show their beautiful summer plumage.

And speaking of slowly…the irises are starting to poke through the layer of leaves in the garden. Perhaps next week, I’ll clear those leaves and see what else might be coming up.

When I’m  in the backyard, I always like to look into the woods. Right now, I can actually see a little ways in, to the stone walls that once bordered this land when it was all fields and no woods.

Most of the trees have yet to bud, much less leaf, so last year’s beech leaves still provide a subtle yet shimmering beauty.

Finally, I like to look up at the huge pines that border our yard.

After a long winter of mostly looking out the bathroom window—my blind—it is such a pleasure to be out poking around my backyard, watching as spring gradually shows her pretty face.


Five for Friday: Pizza and Fun, with a Dash of Fancy

On Wednesday, Clif and I went back to Cushnoc Brewing Co. for an early supper.  For our anniversary, Shannon and Mike gave us a gift certificate to Cushnoc, and when it comes to having fun, Clif and I never shirk our duties. Our friend, Alice Bolstridge, met us, and before I post pictures of our meals, I am going to indulge in a bit of fancy.

As I wrote in a previous post,  Augusta was established in 1629 by English settlers from the Plymouth colony. Cushnoc, a Native American word meaning “head of tide,” was Augusta’s original name. So far, so factual. Now comes the fancy. I am a fool for Shakespeare, and I started thinking about the dates—how his death in 1616 was just thirteen years before Augusta (or Cushnoc) was established. I began to wonder, had any of the English settlers heard of Shakespeare? Perhaps even gone to one of his plays? Or better still, did any of them ever meet the great man? If the settlers were Puritans—and most probably they were—then it’s highly unlikely they  went to one of Shakespeare’s plays. Still, it’s fun to speculate.

Now back to pizza. When Clif and I go to Cushnoc, we want to sit by a window that overlooks the Kennebec, and for some reason, I really like the juxtaposition of the fire escape with the river.

As an appetizer, Cushnoc offers some fire-roasted sweet and spicy nuts, and we can’t resist them. I’ve decided I want to learn how to make my own so that I can give them as presents for holidays and other events.

And what goes along with spicy nuts? Why drinks, of course—a beer for Clif and a cocktail for me. Clif had a Belgian-style IPA, Eternal Golden Eagle. Quite a name! Clif thought it was good but tends to like the American-style IPAs better. I had a drink called a Belizean   Sunset, a combination of vodka, orange juice, grenadine, and triple sec. My oh my, it was delicious, a creamsicle for adults.

Then came the pizzas. For Clif and me, the Sand Hill Classic, topped with Genoa salami, peperoncini, fresh basil, and red sauce. So good, so good. In fact, Cushnoc’s pizzas are the best I have ever had in Maine. Period. (Portland Pie Company is coming to Waterville, and it will be interesting to see how their pizzas compare with Cushnoc’s. All in the spirit of research, you understand.)

Alice was more adventurous and had the Mill Park Pie, topped with roasted butternut squash sauce, bacon, shaved Brussels sprouts, and balsamic drizzle. Unusual but very tasty. (Alice let us have some of hers.)

You might have noticed that the cooked pizzas are set on cans of tomatoes. A great idea. Just like buildings in a city, going up saves space down below, and at most pizza places, the table is too crowded with the pizza pans, the plates, the cutlery, and the drinks.

So there you have it. Another terrific meal in, of all places, Augusta, Maine. My only complaint with Cusnoc’s is the noise level when there are a lot of people, and on Wednesday, the place was pretty darned crowded. Unfortunately, our aging ears can no longer tolerate a lot of background noise. The restaurant is cavernous, and I don’t think there is anything that can be done about the noise.

But I do have a solution. In the future, we will go for an early lunch, before the place gets crowded. That way, we will be able to have really good pizza and still be able to hear what the other person is saying.



Five For Friday: Signs of Spring

As I’ve mentioned before, it has been one heck of a March, with three bad storms—all nor’easters—right in a row. A fourth blew up the coast last week, but it decided not to come this far north. While we were sorry for the folks in New York that got hammered, we were grateful to be spared.

Even as recently as two days ago, when I took the dog for a walk, it felt like winter, and the air smelled cold. Truth be told, I like that smell—one of the joys of winter.

But today—wonder of wonders—it felt as though spring was at least thinking of coming to Maine. The day was warm, soft even, and I decided to go out and about around town to see if I could find any signs of spring.

Up the road, I found a few pussy willows that were just beginning to show their pretty faces.

In town, at Norcross point, a little park by Maranacook Lake, there was a sure sign of spring in Maine. Mud, glorious mud, and this is just the start. But we have to get through the mud before true spring arrives, which was why it was irritating to have so many snow storms. They just delayed the coming of mud.

But still, there was plenty to admire at Norcross Point—the trees by the lake, the blue water, the receding line of ice. Around here, there is always great speculation about when there will be ice out at the various lakes and ponds. Another month, I think, and I’ll be watching.

And just to remind readers that winter is not quite done, here is a picture of the snowy park and the empty benches.

Leaving Norcross Point, in true Maine fashion, I got stuck in the snow and the muck. Years of experience have taught me to proceed with a very light foot in such situations, and I was able to work my way out by backing up until I came to more solid ground.

So it begins. Come mud, come spring!





Five for Friday: When Bad Weather Comes, Eat Pie and Muffins!

Another week, another nor’easter. This mourning dove illustrates how we Mainers felt as we  cleaned the snow from our driveways and walkways.

Yet not all hope is lost. Do you see what I see when looking at this picture? Snow and branches, yes, but also little buds. Clearly, the tree thinks spring is coming even if the weather says otherwise.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that nor’easter number four is predicted for next week. How much bad weather can one region get before it starts to feel like showing off?  I think we crossed that threshold two storms ago, and still the storms come. Right now, there is some debate as to how fierce the next nor’easter will be. It all depends on how close to land it is. May it be far out to sea, away from ships and people.

At this point, some readers might be wondering what the heck a nor’easter is and why we dread them so. Here is a definition from  AccuWeather: “[T}he main difference between a hurricane and nor’easter is the size of the wind field. According to NOAA, a wind field is the three-dimensional spatial pattern of winds…Hurricanes have a narrow field of strong winds with a concentration around the center, whereas a nor’easter’s winds are spread out…For example, a hurricane may only have a 30-mile radius of a strong wind field around the center, while a nor’easter may have a 100-mile radius of a strong wind field from the center.”

Simply put, a nor’easter is a winter hurricane with a very large wind field that can cause a lot of damage. We are right to fear them.

But let us turn our thoughts away from nor’easters and instead focus on one of my favorite subjects—food.

In the U.S., because of the way we order our dates—month and day rather than the reverse—we had pie or pi day on Wednesday, March 14. Pies are one of my favorite things to make and eat, and in honor of pi day, I made an apple pie. I bought local apples—McIntoshes—that had been perfectly stored so that they were still slightly tart. Our friend Mary Jane came over to have pie with us, and I even convinced her to take a slice home. After all, one pie for two people is a bit much. Not that we couldn’t eat it all, but we certainly shouldn’t.

Another kind of pie is pizza. Before digging into the apple pie, Mary Jane, Clif, and I went TJ’s in Monmouth to have some beautifully cooked pizza.

Then, to gild the lily, Mary Jane gave us some donut muffins, which we had for breakfast the next day. With a hint of nutmeg in the batter and the sugar and cinnamon on top, those muffins were utterly delicious. Many thanks, Mary Jane!

To conclude: The weather might be frightful, but when the food is good, somehow things don’t seem quite as bad.




Five for Friday: Storm Quinn

I know. Today is Thursday, which means I’m one day early with my Five for Friday. But Storm Quinn arrived last night, a little later than expected, and he has thrown our schedules off kilter.

Yesterday, we spent a good part of the day getting ready for Storm Quinn. In the evening, Clif fretted about us losing our power, and he got up in the middle of the night to put wood in the furnace. Not knowing this, I got up early to tend the furnace, and I was mighty grateful to see a nice bed of coals. Then, before breakfast, Clif and I had to clean the steps, driveway, and walkway so that Liam could do his business.

All in all, a hectic morning. Nevertheless, I still found time to take some pictures, and I found five worth sharing. “Why wait for tomorrow?” I asked myself. “Why not share them today, while Storm Quinn is still news?” Hence Five for Friday on Thursday.

But before I share the snowy pictures, I’ll provide a brief weather report for Winthrop, Maine. We got about a foot of snow—not too heavy—and hardly any wind. Really, for us, it has been an average snowstorm. Thus far, we haven’t lost our power, and I am cautiously optimistic that we won’t. As has been the case with so many storms, southern coastal Maine got hit the hardest with wind, and there are thousands of people in that part of the state without power.

Also, I understand that New Jersey and parts of New York got walloped with too much heavy snow and power outages. Sigh. I hope the sun comes out and melts away the snow. And I certainly hope that people get their power back soon.

Here are my five snowy-day pictures from our early-morning clean-up.

Clif, of course, was out with Little Green.

Liam explored his reduced kingdom.

Gideon, our little guardian of the backyard, has been pushed sideways. He looks unhappy, don’t you think?

Our feathered friends, understandably hungry, flocked to the feeder.

Finally, my clothesline is waiting for spring.

And so am I!