Category Archives: News

A Tale of Two Gardens & a Short Break

At my home on the edge of the woods, my gardens look their best in June, July, and August. This time of year, they are at a frowzy stage, with lots of drooping yellow and brown leaves and spent flowers.

The back garden, more formally laid out than the ones in the front yard, is most definitely past its best. The glory of its summer days are long gone.

However, as you can see from this view from one of the windows in our house, the backyard is still a nice place to be, even in autumn.

In the front yard, the gardens are more haphazardly laid out and are not as lovely as the back garden when it’s at its peak.

However, in autumn, the “tangly” nature of the front gardens really shines, reminding me that late bloomers have a certain loveliness. Perhaps the same is true of people as well?

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Next week will be a busy one for me. In between painting and refurbishing one of our bathrooms, we will also be celebrating two birthdays—my 64th birthday on the 15th and Clif’s 70th. His birthday is not until the 27th, but we are firm believers in celebrating early and often.

I will therefore be taking a break from posting, reading other blogs, and commenting.

I plan to come back the week of September 20th.

À bientôt!

 

Yellow Jacket Update

In a previous post, I wrote about how we were being bothered by yellow jackets, a type of wasp common in Maine. They were buzzing the hummingbird feeders. They were buzzing us. No fun at all.

Sadly, we took down the hummingbird feeders. This took care of yellow jackets terrorizing the hummingbirds, but they still continued to pester us. Online, we read a tip about drawing away yellow jackets by putting sugar water in a bowl and setting it some distance from where you sit.

Easy enough, and that’s exactly what we did.

I am happy to report that this plan is working beautifully. The yellow jackets are so drawn to the bowl of sugar water that they leave us alone. Japanese beetles and ants are also attracted to it, and it seems that many of them can’t figure out how to eat without drowning. Every day, there is a collection of insect corpses—including yellow jackets—and the dish must be emptied, cleaned and refilled.

No matter. Cleaning and refilling the dish doesn’t take long, and it’s wonderful to sit on the patio and not have to worry about being stung by a yellow jacket.

As for the hummingbirds…the bee balm is still in bloom, providing plenty of nectar for those little Wills-o’-the-wisp.

In a week or so, we might put up one of the feeders to see what happens. We’ll see.

In the meantime, no pesky yellow jackets and hummingbirds that are getting what they need.

Diderot’s Guest Bedroom

Last week Clif and I painted and decluttered in preparation for the arrival our eldest daughter Dee, who will be staying with us until her office reopens, probably sometime in September.

Dee can work remotely from Winthrop as well as from Brooklyn. After a year and a half of not seeing her, we are delighted to have Dee stay with us for as long as she can. With the Covid variant spreading across the country, we figured it was better to have her come to Maine sooner rather than later—August was the original plan. Right now, trains and buses to and from New York City are still running, but for how long? Things might shut down again if Covid gets really bad. So yesterday, we collected Dee in Portland and brought her home.

Staying here for a couple of months is much different than staying for a week, the way Dee usually does. For such a short time, living out of a suitcase is no hardship, but for a couple of months it is another matter.

There is a closet in the guest room. However, it was stuffed with clothes I no longer wanted but couldn’t bring myself to give away. Also, the brown doors didn’t open well.

First order of business for Clif: Remove the doors and shave a bit from the bottom so that they can open easily. While the doors were off, he said, “Maybe I should paint them white and give them a fresh look.”

Good idea. While Clif did that, I sorted clothes and cleaned the closet. When I was done, the closet was empty, and there were many bags of clothes to go to Goodwill.

Clif and I regarded the scuffed walls of the empty closet.

“Paint that, too?” I asked.

“Yup,” Clif replied, and the inside of the closet got a  coat of paint.

From there, it was on to a small white night stand with drawers tucked in the basement. Perfect to go next to the bed. However, the top looked especially bad.

“Paint the top?” I asked.

Clif painted the top, but then the sides and the drawers with ugly yellow flowers looked horrible.

“Paint the whole thing?” I suggested.

After I sanded off the flowers, Clif painted the whole stand.

And what about the old clunky drawer pulls? Those had to go, and off we went to Lowe’s to buy some sleek black drawer pulls to go with the newly painted stand.

The room looked pretty darned good as Clif noted. Except for the corner with the open metal files containing documents from twenty years ago. Away went most of the documents—I did keep a few folders—and out went the stand to the side of the road. The yellow free sign did the trick, and the stand was gone by nightfall.

Readers might recall that this spring when we bought new chairs for our patio table, the twenty-year-old umbrella looked so shabby that it needed to be replaced. This was a prime example of the “Diderot Effect,” named for the famous French philosopher and what happened when he got a new dressing gown. You can read about it here.

As with the patio, so with the guest bedroom.

Phew, what a lot of work. But it was all done with heart, and how satisfying to get rid of the clutter.

Now, onward to August and to time on the patio.

Finally, here are a few photos of flowers I took last week in between cleaning and sorting.

 

Taking a Short Break

In Maine, July is a sweet time of year. The days are long, the flowers are abloom, and slippery roads are but a distant memory. (Fortunately, Clif and I work from home and therefore do not have to worry about slippery roads.)

Dee, our eldest daughter, is coming home for a visit, and I’m taking some time off to get things ready—do a little cleaning, do a little cooking. What a thrill it will be to see her after eighteen months. It’s the longest we’ve ever gone.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be taking one or two weeks off, but I’ll certainly be back in August, another sweet month when the black-eyed Susans are in bloom, the crickets begin to sing, and the grasshoppers are buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. I am always enthralled by the sounds of August.

I leave you with a picture from the especially shady part of my garden. As regular readers know, there are no truly sunny spots in our yard on the edge of the woods. And, yes, I long for a cottage garden. Somehow, the grass is always greener where the sun shines.

See you all in a week or two!

 

Busy, Busy, Busy and Books, Books, Books

Spring is galloping toward summer, and I am scrabbling to keep up. I’m not behind, which is a win for me. But there is a lot of planting to do, and that will be my focus for the next couple of weeks. Onward, ho!

However, I did take the time to visit our local Barnes & Noble this weekend. Shane Malcolm Billings, who once worked at our town’s library, alerted me that a certain series was displayed not once but twice in the store—with local writers and in the YA fantasy section. (Shane now works at Barnes & Noble as well as at another library.)

First, with local writers. What a treat for this indie writer to see her books displayed all in a row—Maya and the Book of Everything, Library Lost, and Out of Time.

Then in the Young Adult fantasy section. There was even a blurb/recommendation written by none other than Shane. Many thanks, Shane, for your wonderful support!

When the staff became aware of who I was and why I was there—to photograph my books—they asked if I would sign all the copies.

This I did, and the books received an “autographed” sticker.

After which Clif and I went out to celebrate with ice cream.

And here this short post will end. Usually, I feature links to other blogs, but until the plants are planted and spring chores are finished, I must be brief.

When this crazy but wonderful season is over, I will be back to a more normal blogging schedule.

Until then…

Cutting Back to Two Posts a Week

As Stephen Foster once put it, this is the merry, merry month of May. The grass is greening, the dandelions are blooming, and the birds are singing.

For Mainers who garden, it is also the busy, busy month of May. In northern New England, spring is a rushed affair. By the time mid-June rolls around, the gardens are so well established that you had better have all the composting, fertilizing, and moving of plants done or you are out of luck and out of time.

To add to the merriment, I am also in the thickets of At Sea, Book Four in my Great Library Series. My current podcast story is winding down, but I’m still working on it. Then there is blogging, and while the writing is more casual, I spend a fair amount of time on each post, even fluff ones such as my Friday Favorites.

In my younger days, I could have managed it all and still have energy leftover for night-time projects. I kid you not. Once the children were in bed, I used to do fun little things like, say, paint cupboards or clean out a closet. As I look back at my younger self, I marvel at how much energy I had. Now that I am a senior, evenings are spent watching an hour or two of television before going to bed far earlier than I ever would have imagined when I was in my twenties or thirties.

This is a roundabout way of explaining that I will no longer be blogging three days a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Instead, I am cutting back to Monday and Wednesday for the foreseeable future. Having an extra day to work on my book will be a big help. And who knows? Some rainy day, I might even be able to clean out a closet. We’ll see. Books, podcasts, and gardening always seem take precedence.

I will still be reading and commenting on other blogs. Such a wonderful community and a real source of comfort during the past year, which has been scary and lonely and just plain stressful.

Also, on Mondays, I will continue featuring posts from other blogging friends. I enjoy looking outward as well as inward, and it is my pleasure to share posts from folks near and far. Formerly, I did this on my Friday posts, and I decided it was a feature I want to keep even though I am cutting back.

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So here are some  posts from blogging friends near and far:

On the green banks next to green water, Clover and Ivy found a lone goose to add more atmosphere to this already moody picture.

On Thistles and Kiwis, along with the usual photos of mouth-watering food, is a photo of a tree with foliage so glorious it made my heart leap.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, takes a detour that brings her to some wonderful, funky public art.

 

New Blue Chairs

On Saturday, there was great excitement at our home in the woods. Six new chairs were delivered for our patio—our living room as soon as the weather is good.

Because we are Mainers, Clif and I are not ones to get rid of things willy-nilly. Mindful of both the drain on our budget and the drain on the environment, we like to keep things as long as possible.

And so it was with our previous chairs, which we had had for twenty years. The seats were, ahem, tired. Very tired. (One had even ripped.) Twice we had scraped and repainted the arms and legs, but the rust was making such inroads that a third time seemed like a fool’s errand.  In short, it was time for new chairs.

And here they are!

Naturally, we needed to have drinks to celebrate the arrival of chairs that not only look good but are also comfortable.

May the new chairs last as long as their predecessors did!

As for the old chairs…Did we toss them out? We did not. Instead, we tucked them down cellar to be used—primarily by Clif and me— when we need more than six chairs.

After all, we don’t want to get too drastic about throwing things out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Problem Solved: I’m Now Getting Email Updates from Blogs I Follow

Today’s Friday Favorites has been preempted by a Friday unfavorite— WordPress.com—and a solution to a problem they created that is even worse than Block Editor.

As some of you might know, for the past few days I have not been receiving email updates from WordPress blogs I follow. This has  been a very bad thing for me as I follow a lot of blogs, and email updates are a huge help. For the past two days, I have been blundering around in an attempt to keep up.

Readers, this was not a happy time.

Clif, who is my site’s chief administrator and all around computer guy, checked the settings on his WordPress profile. A day ago, he found that unbeknownst to us, a box had been ticked in a section called “Block Emails.”  (Thank you, WordPress poltergeist.) He promptly unchecked it.

Problem solved? Not quite.

I, too, am an administrator, and that dastardly “Block Emails” box was also ticked on my WordPress profile. The box was duly unticked. (On the other hand, I am still ticked off that WordPress would torment me this way.)  But hallelujah and glory be, I am now getting blog post notices in my email.

I mention all this because a blogging friend noted that she hadn’t been receiving many email updates, either.

So I figured—yes, friend, this can happen to you.

Should this indeed happen, here is a screen grab that Clif put together to help you escape from the WordPress poltergeist that wants to block bloggers from receiving email updates.

Here are Clif’s instructions:

“Go to the upper right corner of WordPress and click on your profile picture. This will take you to a page called “My Profile.”  On the left side, choose Notification settings. Then go to the Reader Subscriptions tab at the top. Click on this. At the bottom, you will find a section Block emails.

Uncheck this puppy if you want to receive email updates from blogs you follow on WordPress.com.

Good luck. I hope you never have to use these instructions.

Here is my conclusion: WordPress is a giddy thing. Fortunately for them, the WordPress community is so wonderful—supportive, entertaining, illuminating. Otherwise, we’d never put up with their shenanigans.

 

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!

Announcing Episode 1 of Our Podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door

Today, on this warm, sunny Wednesday in March, we are releasing Episode 1 of our new podcast, Tales from The Other Green Door. The podcast is an offshoot of my novel Out of Time, and it involves two elves—Jace Willowdale and her cousin Thirret Greenwood—and their adventures in Portland, Maine. They run a café called—ta-da!—The Other Green Door, where they not only bake tasty treats but also collect magical relics.

Each Wednesday, for the next eleven weeks, we will be dropping a new episode of “The Wings of Luck,” the first tale from The Other Green Door podcast.

In episode 1, “A Grenog Comes to the Café,” an unexpected visitor turns up at The Other Green Door, setting in motion a dangerous chain of events.

Hope to see you at The Other Green Door, which has the best croissants and magical relics in town.