Category Archives: Friday Favorite

Friday Favorites: Donuts, A New Yorker Piece, Tiny Desk

At the top of this week’s list of favorites is a bag of Mrs. Dunster’s Bakery Donuts we bought at our local supermarket. Once a week, I allow myself a treat day, and for me, a donut connoisseur from way back, there are few treats better than a donut. In all my long years of eating donuts, I have never had  commercial cake donuts better than the ones made by Mrs. Dunster’s.  I will even go one step further: Few local bakeries make better cake donuts than Mrs. Dunster’s does. They have the satisfying heft, tang, and taste of homemade donuts, that special je ne sais quo that is often missing even from locally made donuts.

But here comes the bad news. Mrs. Dunster’s Bakery is located in New Brunswick, Canada, and Maine is the only state in the nation where you can get these nuggets of deliciousness. Maine might be a small, poor, remote state, north of north in the lower 48, but dang we have a good source of commercial donuts readily available at our local supermarkets. Best of all, these donuts freeze beautifully. And a good thing, too, because as much as I love donuts, I am not about to eat a whole bag in one day. While these donuts might be fresh, they are not going to last a whole week in the bread drawer without going dry. So into the freezer they went, where they will wait for future treat days.

Now for a literary pleasure. In this week’s New Yorker, I came across Rivka Galchen’s excellent personal history essay “Better Than a Balloon,” in which she describes what it’s been like to have lived for ten years in a decidedly untrendy neighborhood in New York City, near Port Authority and Penn Station. As someone who has been to both these places many times, I can vouch for the truthfulness of Galchen’s descriptions of the sleaze and the shabbiness of the area. And yet this neighborhood—where people work, live, shop, and eat—is also full of vivid life, a community even, where much is made of Galchen’s young daughter when the two go out and about.

“Better than a Balloon” is New Yorker writing at its finest. Galchen expertly weaves in the personal with her observations of people and place. We get a sense of her and her daughter and this dirty but dear neighborhood that she has called home for a decade. It is a long piece, and I was sorry to come to the end. How often does that happen?

In the United States, February is Black History Month, and from the NPR website, I learned that “NPR Music’s Tiny Desk series will celebrate Black History Month by featuring four weeks of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and playlists by Black artists spanning different genres and generations each week.”

Here is the fabulous Meshell Ndegeocello—quiet, powerful, honest, poetic.

 

Favorites and small pleasures from other bloggers:

From Thistles and Kiwis, an adorable cat puzzle for Valentine’s Day.

From All Things Bright and Beautiful, visual Valentine’s Day treats in Singapore.

From Change is Hard, jaunty daffodils, which always brings a smile.

Friday Favorites: Fudge, A Tiny Desk Mug, and the Luminous Alicia Keys

An unexpected gift came in the mail yesterday—a box of fudge from Sweet Tooth Fudge. I have long been a fudge enthusiast, and Sweet Tooth Fudge, right here in Winthrop, makes some of the best. Ever. This treat was sent by Shane Malcolm Billings, the much beloved former Adult Services Librarian of our town’s library. On the enclosed card, Shane wrote that he was sorry to learn of Sherlock’s passing and hoped the treat would provide some comfort during a sad time.

How very thoughtful! I really miss our punk of a cat and was moved by Shane’s lovely gesture. Many, many thanks, Shane. And the fudge is utterly delicious.

As for music…I have another Tiny Desk Concert to share. Are you surprised? I am so keen about Tiny Desk Concerts that for Christmas Mike and Shannon got me my very own Tiny Desk Mug, which I regularly use for the many cups of tea I drink during the day.  This mug, sturdy and large, is now one of my favorites, and I use it all the time.

Anyway, this week’s Tiny Desk Concert features the luminous Alicia Keys, who combines an astonishing musicality with warmth and mindfulness. What a musician!

 

Here are some favorites from other blogging  friends:

Thistles and Kiwis, once again, showcases some delicious food she ate this week.

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful celebrates Chinese New Year during this time of the pandemic: “In the spirit of togetherness, we will usher in the Lunar New Year in the best way we can.” Happy Chinese New Year to you and yours, Ju-Lyn!

Friday Favorite: Little Miss

As many of you know, on Tuesday we had to have Sherlock, one of our cats, put down. Despite Sherlock’s, ahem, challenging ways, we loved him very much. I miss him terribly, and I get a lump in my throat whenever I think about him.

Fortunately, we still have a cat in our household, and this week’s Friday Favorites is dedicated to Sherlock’s litter mate, Ms. Watson, whom we call “Little Miss” because of her gentle nature. (The picture below was taken a couple of summers ago.)

To say that Little Miss’s personality is the polar opposite of Sherlock’s could not be more of an understatement. Gentle, shy, skittish, Little Miss usually runs and hides when friends come to visit. She is affectionate with us, but for over twelve years she was completely overshadowed by her domineering brother. Yet, we love her as dearly as we loved Sherlock, and Little Miss is a great comfort now that he is gone.

“Stay healthy!” I tell her. “Live for many more years.”

Little Miss makes no reply except to blink at me.

Before we took Sherlock to the vets to have him put down, I set him down on the kitchen floor, where he clearly wanted to be, in the middle of things, as always. Little Miss looked at Sherlock, went over to him, and gave him two gentle licks on top of his head. Then she moved away.

A farewell? An acknowledgement of the greatly diminished state Sherlock was in? Yes, I certainly think it was the latter and perhaps the former, too.

For the past few days, Little Miss has definitely been at loose ends, frequently coming into my office to see me, and meowing so that I will pat her, which I gladly do.

A blogging friend asked if we planned to get another cat to keep Little Miss company. I don’t think we will. In fact, I’m not sure if I want another cat when Little Miss goes. It seems that the older I grow, the softer I become, and it breaks my heart to have them put down. In our household, animals seldom, if ever, go in their sleep.

But we shall see. Because we feed the birds, our house is a mouse magnet, and having a cat definitely keeps their numbers down. Plus, a house feels more like a home with a cat or a dog around.

In the meantime, Little Miss brightens our day and makes us smile, reminding us how our fur buddies help to open our hearts and consider creatures other than ourselves.

And, as I noted in my previous post, that is a lesson beyond compare.

 

Here are some favorites and small pleasures from other blogging friends:

From Thistles and Kiwis, a recovering cat, food, and good movies.

All Things Bright and Beautiful features an oh-so-lovely Light to Night festival.

Friday Favorites: Cookie+Kate; 40 Fingers Play Vivaldi

Even though I have been a home cook for over forty years, there are times when I want to add new tricks to my repertoire, especially now that my husband and I are eating both low carb and vegetarian. (Not an easy combination, that’s for sure.)  One of the blessings of the Internet is that it is easy to find new recipes and techniques.

Got a head of cauliflower you want to do something with? Go on the Internet. Want to learn how to bake tofu? Ditto. How about roasting frozen vegetables? Ditto, ditto.

One site that I kept returning to is called Cookie + Kate, with Cookie being a dog who patiently waits for bits and pieces to drop her way and Kate being one heck of a cook who comes up with delicious, healthy vegetarian fare. I tried several of her recipes, and Clif and I thought they were all very tasty.

I like getting free information as much as the next person, but only to a point. Even though our budget is as big as a minute, I try to support as many creatives as I can—those who create must pay their bills, too. Therefore, after getting so many good recipes free from Cookie + Kate, I decided the time had come to buy her cookbook, Love real Food. And so I did.

At $16.69, this beautiful, hard-cover book is a bargain. It is well laid out, and the photos are gorgeous. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the ingredients are neither exotic nor expensive, a real bonus for a frugal cook. My only criticism is that nutritional information is not provided. Because the recipes comprise such healthy ingredients, it’s not a huge problem, but it would be nice to know the carb and sodium count.

After looking through the book, I made the Moroccan Butternut, Chickpea, and Couscous Stew. The verdict? Utterly delicious with its warm, spicy flavor and variety of textures. Definitely a make again. On this cold January day in Maine, I could have a bowl right now.

Next on the list? Classic Tomato Soup, thickened and made creamy with white beans rather than heavy cream. (Clif is lactose intolerant. I’m sure you can picture how much fun it is to plan meals.)

I’ll keep you posted.

Now, onto music! Here is something a little different, courtesy of my blogging friend Frank from Beach Walk Reflections, who featured this video on a recent post. (Do check out his lovely blog if you get a chance.) Along with being keen on alternative rock, soul, and R & B, I’m an absolute fool for Vivaldi, whose music captures both the joy and the tenderness of life. Those 40 fingers in the video below do a fabulous job with Vivaldi’s music. And, holy cats, what a setting!

 

Here are some favorites from other blogging friends:

In All Things Bright and Beautiful, Ju-Lyn features art from a wonderful exhibit her family recently went to.

Among other delights, Thistle & Kiwis shares pictures of a beautiful evening walk through Wellington’s lovely Botanic Gardens.

Dawn, of Change Is Hard, goes to Detroit’s Belle Island and finds an oh-so-special image.

Friday Favorites: Scenes from an Inauguration

Wednesday was a huge day for Clif and me, for this country, and, I think, for the world. Despite the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago, we had a lawful transfer of power. Joseph Biden is now the president of the United States.

Finally, finally, Trump, his family, and their entourage left Washington, DC. I could write all kinds of snarky things about his departure, but I won’t.

Instead, I will focus on President Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Despite the restrictions that were put into place because of the raging pandemic and enough security after 1/6 to make the Capitol look like the Green Zone in Baghdad, the inauguration was a joyous, beautiful event filled with firm resolve and hope.

Here are some scenes, clipped from YouTube, that I was particularly struck by.

First, Lady Gaga, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. As the comedian Stephen Colbert noted, Lady Gaga looked as though she were wearing a red carpet instead of walking on one. Yes, she did. Lady Gaga is someone who certainly likes to make an entrance. But holy cats can she ever sing. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is not a song for the fainthearted, and Lady Gaga didn’t stumble even once. Indeed, she knocked it out of the park, as the saying goes.

Wednesday was also a day of firsts as Kamala Harris—the first woman, Black, and South Asian—was sworn in as vice president. Even though it has taken too long to have a woman as vice president, this was a proud moment for this country. I hope I live long enough to see a woman sworn in as president.

Then, of course, the main event—Joe Bidden and his uplifting yet honest, plain-spoken words as his speech outlined the many challenges this country faces. And his confidence that this country was up to overcoming those challenges.

The most beautiful, luminous part of the inauguration was when a young poet, Amanda Gorman, delivered her radiant poem, “The Hill We Climb.” When she was done, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

For comic relief, there was Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, one of my favorites, complete with mittens and a practical jacket. Bernie is never anything less than who he is, and for this I am grateful.

Finally Demi Lovato’s soaring song “Lovely Day” from the Celebrating America broadcast, an evening program which followed President Biden’s inauguration.

In the background, as Lovato sings, are faces that are black, brown, white. There are women, men, and children of various ethnicities. This is what America looks like, and we should rejoice.

Friday Favorites: The Solace of Heroes, Nature, and Music

It has been over a week since a right-wing mob attacked and ransacked the Capitol—1/6 is a new date to remember for its infamy. Right now, silver linings are pretty hard to find, but I can offer you the story of a hero, of how Eugene Goodman, a lone Capitol police officer, using himself as bait, lured the mob away from the Senate Chamber. I am in awe of how this man had the courage and the presence of mind to do this. I salute you, Eugene Goodman. I also salute Huffington Post reporter Igor Bobic, who filmed the event on his phone.

Closer to home, January continues to provide cool solace for the ills of this country. Many people in the north dislike January because of the long nights and cold days. I am not one of those people. I have always found January to be beautiful and brilliant yet soothing, a time to reflect and rest before boisterous Spring makes her appearance.

Here is a January picture of the Lower Narrows, peeping through the lacy fingers of the trees and bushes.

What would Friday Favorites be without a Tiny Desk Concert and the solace of music? This time the fabulous Andrew Bird, who not only can play and sing but also whistle like, well, a bird. As someone in the Tiny Desk comments section asked, “Is it wrong, do you think, to envy someone’s whistling ability?”

To read about more favorites from blogging friends from around the world:

Thistles and Kiwis, who surely eats better than most people I know.

All Things Bright and Beautiful: Really, Ju-Lyn? A cobra?

Friday Favorites: A Perfect Snow

Yesterday we had snow, but today the sun is shining in a deep blue sky.  To a Mainer, few things are as invigorating as light, fluffy snow and crisp air. I realize this might be hard to understand for those of you in warmer climates. But remember, I was born in Maine and have lived here for most of my life. To me, snow and winter go together like blueberries and muffins.

After breakfast, outside I went to take pictures. I will admit that my bare hands were chilly, but still it was fun to take in the beauty while taking pictures.

Here is a picture of our house nestled in the snow. The red makes it look festive, I know.

Out back, I always enjoy looking at the stonewall, a reminder of when the whole area behind our house was fields, not woods.

Then I turned my attention to small things, which are really my favorite subjects.

A fallen branch,

and a branch still on the tree.

My holiday wish is that winter brings us more storms like this, where the snow is light, and the power stays on.

Good things from fellow bloggers:

Barbara, from Thistles and Kiwis, notes her not-so-small pleasure of being formally recognized as a New Zealand citizen. Congratulations, Barbara!

From The Curious Introvert, The Week in Seven Photos, that features darling Harper, Baby Yoda, and a Christmas Tree made of books, one of which just happens to be my very own Library Lost.

And last, but certainly not least, from Canberra’s Green Spaces, a post that highlights a live koala in a Christmas tree, kangaroos lounging in a park, a generous gardener, an adorable dog named Charlie, and much more.  What a place!

 

Friday Favorites: An Ornament, Santa Presents, A Chapbook

In keeping with this generous season when the days are short and the nights are long, I received three sets of lovely gifts from friends near and far.

From my blogging friend Judy of New England Garden and Thread, I received this lovely but oh-so-apt ornament. Even for a homebody like me, 2020 has been a bit much.

From my friend Betsy, whom I met through my blog, came this wonderful collection of Santa gifts. After I grouped them together for this picture, I put them on the shelves in the living room with my other Santas.

And my friend Claire, who lives nearby, brought me this chapbook of pieces compiled from a class she taught on memoir writing. I know several of the people who wrote for this book, and I really enjoyed reading their memories and reflections. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but what a gorgeous cover.

Many, many thanks to Judy, Betsy, and Claire!

To read about other bloggers’ small pleasures, join All Things Bright and Beautiful for a look at Christmas trees and Thistles and Kiwis for beautiful flowers and mouthwatering food.

 

Friday Favorites: Out of Time Compliment; Thanksgiving Meal; Melancholy Christmas Song

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I received this comment from my blogging friend Susan, who very kindly put my new YA fantasy Out of Time at the top of her TBR list and quick as a wink read the book: “I really enjoyed it – yet another page-turner from you and I was grateful for some precious escapism. I just need to complain that you kept me up very late finishing it.”

What a nice compliment! Music to a writer’s ears, actually. Many thanks, Susan.

As was planned, Clif and I had a very quiet Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, it was a nice one, with the food being quite a treat. We have been eating low-carb and low-cal for so long that we both thought it was bliss to have stuffing and share a baked potato. All a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Finally, a melancholy Christmas song—“The River”—from the great Joni Mitchell. Somehow, this song really captures the mood of 2020.

 

For more favorites and small pleasures read Thistles and Kiwis and All Things Bright and Beautiful.

 

 

Friday Favorites: Builder’s Tea, Dash & Lily

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have recently finished proofing my YA fantasy, Out of Time, and it is now officially published. And what a lot of work that was! Lucky for me that as I was proofing, I had something to give me a little pep, a recommendation from my blogging friend at Tangly Cottage Gardening Journal. That something was Builder’s tea, which bills itself as a full-flavored “cuppa.”

Yes, it is. I can only let a bag steep for two-and-a-half minutes rather than the customary five. But after all, Britain wasn’t built on chamomile, and I suspect few writers are fueled by chamomile as they labor and toil on their books. (A fun coincidence: Chamomile tea plays a major role in my new book, Out of Time.)

By the time I was coming down the homestretch with proofing, I was gulping down Builder’s the way a lost traveler in the desert would gulp water at an oasis.

Recently I confessed that I have begun putting up my Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, a sort of no-no in the United States. Well, I have another confession: I have started watching Christmas movies and specials, too. I know, I know:Talk about jumping the season. But I can’t seem to help myself. For the most part, Clif is a pretty good sport about my holiday-movie obsession, but my kids are starting to wonder if some kind of intervention is necessary.

However, because of my early viewing, I am able to make recommendations to those who need a little holiday cheer. And this Friday that honor goes to the Netflix limited series Dash & Lily, a sweet, charming Christmas Rom-com that will became an annual tradition in our house.Now, it must be said that the premise of most, if not all, holiday shows requires a willing suspension of disbelief, not a problem for someone like me who reads and writes fantasy novels. In short, these are not plots that will stand up to nitpicking. And so it is with Dash & Lily, the tale of two lonely teenagers in New York City who start a romance via a red notebook—left by Lily—that Dash finds at the fabulous, wonderful Strand bookstore that calls to me like a beacon whenever I visit the city. (Eighteen miles of books? Holy cats!)

Dash is a cynical teenager who has been hurt by his parents’ divorce and by a former girlfriend who has left the city. Lily is a creative book nerd who feels out of step with kids her own age. (Did I identify with Lily? You bet I did.) For different reasons, both Lily and Dash are adrift at Christmas.

Most of the episodes involve Lily and Dash, without ever meeting, leaving clues and tasks for each other via the red notebook. But through the course of the series we see that Lily and Dash are kindred spirits, and gosh darn it, we sure do root for them.

As an added bonus, New York City is gorgeous during the holidays, and in Dash & Lily, Christmas time in the city has never looked so beautiful.

So if you want a little holiday cheer during these gloomy times, do watch Dash & Lily. I guarantee you will be smiling by the end.

For more joy and small pleasures, check out the blog Thistles and Kiwis.