Category Archives: Friday Favorite

Friday Favorites: A New Frog, Backyard Visitors, a Sara Kays Song

Jackie Knight is an indefatigable gardener with a penchant for owl garden ornaments. On his blog, her husband Derrick Knight has noted that Jackie has 100 or so owls in her delightful gardens.

My penchant is for amphibians, primarily toads and frogs, and I have my own little collection of garden ornaments. Recently, I was inspired by Jackie’s example, and I ordered another frog to add to the group that hangs out by our porch in Toad Hollow. (Frogs are welcome, too!)

This new frog also has a solar light, which gives it an oh-so-lovely glow. I will never have as many amphibians as Jackie has owls. Unlike her, I have to bring my buddies in for the winter. But it’s fun to add a new one to the group every now and then. A simple pleasure, to be sure.

An even simpler pleasure is to sit on the patio in late afternoon and see the little visitors that come to our yard in the woods.

There are cardinals,

mourning doves,

and chipmunks. (This one is a particularly feisty critter who charged a pair of mourning doves. Wish I had gotten a picture of that.)

Watching over it all is Mei Ling, who bears strong resemblance to the chien-gardes, magical relics that are featured in my podcast Tales from the Other Green Door. 

For music for this week’s Friday Favorites, I chose Sara Kays, a very young singer—she’s twenty-two—who got her start on TikTok.   The song I’m featuring—“Remember that Night?”— deals with romantic love and loss, themes that are of central importance to teens and young adults. But even we older folks can cast our minds back to those days when someone we dearly loved stopped loving us. It happens to most people. And while we move on and usually find someone who suits us better, we can remember, with a bit of nostalgia and sadness, an early love that didn’t last. Kays reminds me of Joni Mitchell, a little, and Aimee Mann. I’m hoping to hear more from this talented, soulful newcomer.

Favorites and simple pleasures from blogging friends:

From Book Chat with Shane, his 10 Most Anticipated Books. Shane was once the Adult Services Librarian at our town’s library, and his devotion to books fills my heart with joy. Shane’s favorite genres are literary fiction, thrillers, and mysteries, but from time to time he also adds a dash of fantasy to his reading.

The Curious Introvert, in Today’s Musings, takes solace in both nature and culture. Michigan, where she lives, has been designated as the country’s Covid-19 epicenter. Sigh. Let’s hope that spring and vaccinations soon put a stop to this rampaging virus.

Thistles and Kiwis rejoices in fall colors, food, and an Easter celebration.

And Ju-Lyn, from Touring My Backyard, is fascinated by the art of the staff.

 

Friday Favorites: Gingerbread Tea, Favorite Muppets & Rainbow Connection song

I am a devoted tea drinker—coffee is too bitter for me—and one of my favorite places to get tea is from Harney & Sons, where tea can be ordered online. (The shipping is free.) For Christmas, my daughter Dee bought me a tin of their Gingerbread Festival tea, and I am hooked. When I ran out , I promptly ordered myself another tin, which came in this week. Happy, happy day! The tea has a lovely gingery slightly sweet taste, a perfect low-calorie drink for late afternoon.

For media: Two episodes of Pop Culture Happy Hour, a podcast that I’m a big fan of. Pop Culture Hour, hosted by a regular rotation of arts journalists, features pieces about books, movies, television shows, and music. Frequently, other podcasts are recommended.

This week, the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew, led by the plucky and perky Linda Holmes, explores a question that is dear to my heart—who’s  your favorite Muppet? I am too old to have watched either Sesame Street or The Muppet Show when I was a child, but I watched them with my children and found the Muppet Universe an utter delight.

On Thursday, the PCHH crew delved into their favorite Muppets. You might disagree with their choices, or you might find themselves nodding in agreement. But really, aren’t all the Muppets wonderful in their own offbeat ways?

On Friday, PCHH revealed the results of a listener’s survey for top ten favorite Muppets. I was surprised by some of the choices and rankings, but I will not reveal the results.

I will, however, share who my favorite Muppet is: the green soulful, slightly melancholy Kermit, who works so hard to keep everything together. As a Franco-American, I am drawn to his sheer froginess as well as his work ethic. 😉

Do you have a favorite Muppet? If so, which one?

As for music, how could I resist “Rainbow Connection” by none other than Kermit the Frog? Brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

Simple pleasures and favorites from blogging friends:

Thistles and Kiwis writes about a trip to Queenstown, New Zealand.

Ju-Lyn, from Touring My Backyard, journeys back in time to explore the new Gallop extension of the Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Belmont Rooster illustrates how to sneak in the back way and uses Classic Editor in WordPress rather than Block Editor. I am conflicted about this. I prefer Classic Editor, but I have learned how to use Block Editor and can see its merits. Anyway, complete instructions are given should you want to use Classic Editor, which definitely qualifies as a simple pleasure, especially when compared with Block Editor.

Friday Favorites: Fruit & Veg, Great Pottery Throw Down, Bruce Hornsby and The Range

Today is a typical Maine March day—gray, drizzly, depressing. In Maine, Covid-19 cases have not dropped, and according to the New York Times, Maine’s Covid risk is deemed very high. In addition, there are forces throughout the country that are on the rampage, trying to make voting as hard as possible for people who don’t look like they do, as Bruce Hornsby would put it.

Plus, WordPress has cast its wicked magic, and I am trapped in the kingdom of Block Editor. I know some bloggers actually like it, and that’s great. But for a poor old hack like me, who has more projects to fill my time than there are hours in the day, the last thing I need is a new blogging format to figure out. (Whine, whine, whine just might lead to wine, wine, wine late this afternoon. 😉 ) Eventually I’ll get used to Block Editor. I just hate spending this much time on it when I have other writing to work on.

Therefore, this Friday I really, really needed simple pleasures to cheer me up, and just in the nick of time, all the way from my blogging friend Betsy in California, came this assortment of deliciousness. An added bonus is that I had never had kumquats before, and what a treat to sample these tart, citrusy gems, which come from Betsy’s backyard. (The lemons come from her backyard, too, and the artichokes from a farmers market.) Many, many thanks, Betsy!

Onward to media! For a soothing, fun show—much like The Great British Baking Show—you can’t beat The Great Pottery Throw Down, recommended to me by my blogging friend Quercus. Several things make Throw Down a bingeable series: quirky judges, plenty of time spent getting to know the various contestants, and the sheer audacity of some of the items that are made. For example, toilets. Have you ever thought of constructing a toilet out of clay? And then actually have it flush? No? Neither have I, and to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to go about it. While I could probably manage a badly constructed plate or mug, a toilet is an engineering feat far, far beyond my capabilities.

We watch the show on HBO Max, which requires a subscription. You might be able to get the show on other channels.

Because I mentioned Bruce Hornsby in my opening paragraph, this week’s featured music is “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Some of you might remember this terrific song from 1986. Unfortunately, Hornsby’s message is still relevant today.

But on a happier note—dang, that man can play the piano.

Here are favorites and simple pleasures from other blogging friends.

Ju-Lyn, from Touring My Backyard, is enjoying a new extension of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

From Thistles and Kiwis, so many delightful simple pleasures, including food, dance, books, going to the hairdresser, and blogging friends. Hear, hear for blogging friends, who not only expand horizons but remind us that there are so many good people around the globe.

Friday Favorites: A Forty-Fourth Anniversary, See’s Chocolates, and Jon Batiste

Today is our forty-fourth wedding anniversary.  Hoo-boy! As I like to note, those who get married in Maine in March are apt to be hardy couples who can weather most anything. And so it is with Clif and me.

Because of the pandemic, there will be no going anywhere special. No matter. We bought plenty of tasty treats, including shrimp—the highest on the food chain that we’ll eat—good bread, real butter—oh, wowsah!—and a small chocolate cake. Holy cats! I can’t remember the last time I had chocolate cake.

We also bought some Sees chocolates and nuts, which will last us for a long while.

As we got married in March in Maine, you might think that we went somewhere warm for our honeymoon, but you would be wrong. Instead, we went to Montréal, where the snowbanks were as high as they were in Maine, and the snowplows traveled at a clip that was terrifying.

But what a wonderful trip it was, and yesterday Clif and I had a lovely time reminiscing about that gray European-like city. We ate tourtière pie, went to small cafés and pastry shops, visited a museum with a fabulous King Tut exhibit, stayed in a delightful hotel that could have been in the middle of Paris, and laughed at a smartly dressed woman who swore in French when a car splashed her at an intersection.

In those days, we traveled with the help of AAA, with little bound paper strips of maps called TripTiks. Readers, they were awesome and really made traveling easier. We found our delightful hotel through AAA. I think we just stumbled on the cafés, but that was forty-four years ago, and we might have used AAA for guidance with that, too.

Anyway, despite the passage of time, it made us both smile to talk and think about going to Montréal.

This week, for music in honor of our anniversary, I am turning to the buoyant Jon Batiste and his “I Need You.”

 

Here are some simple pleasures and favorites from blogging friends.

From Piglet in Portugal, a jar of smiles.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, got warmth from a snowy scene. (Someone from Maine just might have sent her a card.)

Thistles and Kiwis shared the many wonderful things popping up in Wellington.

Dawn, from Change is Hard, featured a picture of one of the loveliest harbingers of spring in the northern United States, the red-winged blackbird.

 

Friday Favorites: A Spring Walk and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

In Maine in March, Spring is a fitful affair that comes and goes. Sometimes it seems like winter; other times, there is a hint of something soft and warm in the air.

Yesterday definitely felt like spring. The temperature reached the mid-50s, a heatwave as far as Clif and I are concerned, and in the afternoon, after our work for the day was finished, out we went for a walk.

I know from reading other blogs that some people get snowdrops and daffodils this time of year.

In Maine we get footprints in the mud,

water rushing down the side of the road,

and a bucket to collect sap for making maple syrup.

But because Clif and I are Mainers, this is what we are used to, and all these modest signs of Spring are thrilling to us. There might be more cold weather, there might even be snow, but Winter is relaxing his icy grip.

Also on yesterday’s walk, we thrilled to the sight of the snowbanks pulling away from the side of the road.

We stopped to chat with our friends Cheryl and Deny, who were out in their fenced-in backyard with their dogs. Our friend Judy, with her own dog, was visiting. How good it was to see them all, lovely dogs included.

We waved to other neighbors who were sitting on their front porch.

“Heatwave” I called.

“Yes, yes,” they called back.

And to follow a tradition that I’ve begun this year, here are Clif and I waving to you.

It might look as though I have some kind of third appendage hanging from me on the far left. Instead, it is the sleeve of my jacket. I grew so warm that I had to take off my jacket and tie it around my waist.

What can I say? I’m a “Mainah,” and after the cold of winter, 55°F with no wind feels pretty darned warm.

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This week for music, I’m going to branch out from my beloved Tiny Desk Concerts to feature a YouTube video of “The Impression that I Get” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It seems to me that during this difficult year, most of us have been knocking on wood, and I bet these musicians are, too.

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Here are favorites and simple pleasures from other blogging friends:

Dawn, from Change is Hard, featured her smiling Sheltie.  And what could be better than a smiling Sheltie? Not much.

On the other hand, the birthday of a beloved child is pretty darned special, too. Ju-Lyn, from Touring My Backyard, and her family recently celebrated her lovely daughter’s 21 birthday. Happy birthday, Jo!

Thistles and Kiwis wrote about all the cool things popping up in Wellington—art, parks, food. What a great place!

Friday Favorites: A Chinese New Year Card, Call My Agent, Leon Bridges

A few days ago, I received another unexpected treat in the mail—how lucky am I?—this time from my blogging friend Ju-lyn of All Things Bright and Beautiful. She sent me a Chinese New Year’s card, all the way from Singapore, along with two lovely bookmarks made by “crafty older daughter.” What nimble fingers crafty older daughter has.

Such a delight! Thank you, Ju-Lyn. The card is on the metal bulletin board by my desk, where all I have to do is glance to my right to see  the jaunty lanterns and the impressionistic market. And thank you crafty older daughter. The bookmarks, ready for action, are on my nightstand, next to my TBR pile of books.

On Netflix, Clif and I have been watching—all right, binging—a delightful series, Call My Agent (Dix pour Cent in French).  Set in Paris, the show is about ASK, a company of agents and their assistants that works with promotes, soothes, and takes care of actors. The agents and assistants are quirky, competitive, and flawed without being hateful. Famous French actors—Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert—make hilarious guest appearances. Sometimes the episodes are laugh-out-loud funny, and sometimes they are moving as Call My Agent explores issues that actors, especially women, must face. If you love movies, especially French cinema, then this is a series to watch. As Arlette, one of the agents, notes, “When things are getting you down, there’s always the cinema.”

Yes, there is.

Now onto music! I am a huge fan of R & B, and Leon Bridges, only twenty-six when this Tiny Desk Concert was filmed in 2015, seems to be channeling those who came before him, especially Sam Cooke. Music for the ages.

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

Ju-lyn, of All Things Bright and Beautiful, features a gorgeous pineapple cake that is also a work of art.

Thistles and Kiwis features, along with mouth-watering food, the fabulous Botanic Gardens, which are within walking distance of where she lives.

Piglet in Portugal has many things to smile about: a new website, a new book that identifies wild flowers in her local area, and weight loss.

 

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.