Category Archives: People

One of the Highlights of My Year

On Saturday, I went to The Art Walk in downtown Winthrop. It’s a lovely shop that features handcrafted items from local artists, authors, and crafters.

As it turns out, The Art Walk features my books, and I am happy to report that my novels have been selling well there and in many other places, too. So well, in fact, that almost every day, UPS comes by with another box of books to replenish our supply.

While I love to go to The Art Walk to buy special gifts for family and friends, last Saturday I was there for a book signing. (In between signing books, I did manage to buy several presents.)

As I sat by my table and listened to Christmas music and the happy chatter of holiday shoppers—somehow small stores have such a good vibe—two women, a mother and daughter, walked in and came right over. I am friends with both on Facebook, and I knew they might be coming, but because it has been thirty years since we last got together, it was such a treat to see them. Thirty years ago, the daughter was a little girl. Thirty years ago, they lived in Winthrop. Thirty years ago, the mother helped me bake a peanut butter cake for Clif’s birthday.

But then, as such things happen, they moved out of town, and we lost touch with each other. I know there are a lot of bad things about Facebook, but thanks to Facebook, we reconnected.

And here’s the most wonderful thing—we chatted as though we had met as recently as last week. There were no awkward silences, and the conversation just flowed. As the title of this post indicates, seeing them was one of the highlights of my year.

They bought books, and I signed them. Before they left, I promised to have them over next summer for lunch on the patio when the flowers in the back garden are in bloom.

The mother promised to make a peanut butter cake to celebrate finally getting together after thirty years.

Can’t wait! I’m already planning what I will make for them.


Too Darned Hot

For the past four or five days, the temperatures have been 90°F and very humid. With the heat index, it has felt closer to 100°F. Too darned hot. Is this really Maine in August?

It seems that it is.

This heat has knocked the stuffing out of me. (A Facebook friend described it as feeling depleted. Yes.) Our little air conditioner, whom we’ve named Eva, is simply not up to the task of keeping our home cool. The best we get with her is 80°. Better than 90°, I know, but not much of a relief. Strange to think that until a few years ago, we didn’t even need an air conditioner in our home in the woods. An attic fan did the trick.

But there have been a couple of bright spots.

Unlike me, the container plants seem to thrive in this heat and humidity.  I have never had such a burst of impatiens on my front steps.

The begonias look pretty darned good, too.

Then there are the tomatoes, “the jungle” as we call it. Lots of green tomatoes and enough ripe ones for a sandwich or a wrap at lunch.

Also, on Saturday, we had a visit from Shannon and Mike.

Along with their dogs, who were thrilled to see us, Shannon and Mike brought donuts—fresh, thick, and perfectly fried. I’m a fiend for donuts—I once wrote an essay called “Desperate for Donuts”— and these were oh so good. The half-donut in the picture  is the result of me not being able to wait and grabbing half before we had our lunch.

For readers in or near Tewksbury, Massachusetts, those delectable donuts came from Donna’s Donuts.

This week, the heat is supposed to break, and we’ve even been promised night temps in the lower 60s. Oh, yes, please! This Mainer really doesn’t like the temperature to go much above 80°, and my happy place is between 65° and 70°.

Well, I’ll have to adapt to this warming world. Soon Clif and I will be checking into heat pumps, which cool as well as provide heat.

Until then…

Getting Together after Two Years

Yesterday was a big, big day for Clif, Dee, and me. After two years of not seeing our youngest daughter Shannon and our son-in-law Mike, we got together with them at their new apartment in Massachusetts. Previously, they lived in North Carolina, a very long way from Maine. But in November, they moved to Massachusetts, only two and a half hours from our home. We are overjoyed that they are back in New England, where we can have regular visits with them.

Because Covid is still raging in the U.S., we decided we should take extra precautions. Masks for inside, but what to do about lunch? Mike and Shannon came up with a solution—a propane heater for their small sheltered patio. (Who is that strange masked woman in the corner?)

The propane heater was an experiment, with none of us too sure exactly how it would work on a chilly forty-degree day. Readers, I am pleased to report that the heater worked beautifully. All of us, even those who like it hot, felt comfortable for the few hours we stayed outside. When Clif went to the car for something, he said he could feel the difference as soon as he left the patio.

“This is just like a little café,” Dee noted, adding that these propane heaters are common in outside eating areas in New York City.

The café’s bean soup tasted especially good on a chilly day.

Another treat was seeing Shannon and Mike’s two dogs, Holly and Somara. Although it’s been years since we’ve seen them, they remembered us and gave us enthusiastic greetings.

Here is Miss Holly.

And here is Miss Somara.

A final bonus was seeing this tree next to Mike and Shannon’s apartment. I had never seen a tree like this before, and I was fascinated by the peeling bark and the color. I did a little Internet research, and I think it’s a paperbark maple, originally a native of China. If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

Although we have Zoomed with Shannon and Mike many times over the past two years, there is nothing like chatting in person. What a grand time we had talking about books, movies, television shows, and various other things.

Late afternoon, we left reluctantly. But with Shannon and Mike so close to Maine, we will soon be seeing them again. And as long as the weather isn’t too cold, we can eat outside at Shannon and Mike’s café, with the propane heater providing plenty of warmth.


Komorebi: Sunlight Streaming Through the Trees

In a recent post, I featured this picture of glowing November leaves.

In the comments section, my blogging friend Susan Rushton noted “[t]he sunlight through the trees illustrates the Japanese word Komorebi I was reading about earlier in the week.”

Although I have long admired the Japanese for their ability to use a single word to express a concept, I had never heard of komorebi before. I decided to do a little research.

From the Chicago Botanic Garden I learned “[t]he dapples of light and leaf are caused by the pinhole effect—the same concept that allows a pinhole camera to work. Light passes through a small hole—or in this case, the gap between leaves—and projects an inverted image on the other side. This effect is especially notable at dawn or just before dusk, when one can observe a cascade of shimmering amber light. While the sight is familiar and nostalgic, there is no English word for this phenomenon. There is, however, a Japanese word: komorebi.

“There are three important parts to this word: 木 (ko) meaning tree, 漏れ (more) meaning to escape from, and 日 (bi) meaning sun. Together, the characters mean something like ‘sunlight filtering through trees.'”

Inspired by komorebi and the Japanese, I went out in search of more amber light filtering through the leaves of trees. I was not disappointed.

By the edge of my deck, I came across this astilbe. Even though the astilbe is not a tree, it seems to me that the sunlight glowing through the plant’s leaves captures the beautiful quality of komorebi.

Thank you, Susan, for introducing me to komorebi, a concept that I both knew and didn’t know, which has come to me each fall as the leaves change to russet and yellow and the sun slants sideways not far above the horizon, casting a golden glow over the landscape.



The Last Golden Days of October

October, one of the most glorious months in Maine, is coming to an end. This year, the leaves were a blaze of glory, and the slant of the sun just added to nature’s pageant. By the last week of October, many of the leaves have fallen, and I have raked the driveway clean while Clif has used his electric mower to pick up the leaves on the lawn.

Still, that slant of the sun and the last golden bits make a fine ending to this wonderful month. Soon, austere November will be here, but for now I am enjoying every last bit of October.


To make an already terrific month even better, our eldest daughter’s birthday is this week. For the first time in over twenty years, she is here with us, and we will be able to celebrate with her. Ages ago, she took this week off to go visit her sister in North Carolina. For various reasons, the trip didn’t work out, but she decided to still take the week off. This means we can celebrate early and often, our favorite thing to do.

Unfortunately, the week promises to be a rainy one. Never mind! We are keen on movies and board games, both of which are perfect for rainy days. Pizza just might be in the mix, and, of course, cake. After all, what is a birthday without cake?

And, if the weather allows, we just might slide in another trip to Wolfe’s Neck State Park.

Fingers crossed that the weather gods smile on us.

Meeting Blogging Friends from Afar—Jason Kay and his wife Judy Hertz

For me, one of the great pleasures of blogging has been getting to know so many wonderful folks, near and far. Over the years, the bloggers have become friends as they’ve shared details of their everyday lives—their gardens, their cooking, their families, what they’re reading, and other enthusiasms.

Last week I actually got to meet one of my blogging friends from afar—Jason Kay, of Garden in the City, a very accomplished gardener. He and his wife Judy Hertz came all the way from Illinois to visit Maine. Jason emailed me, wondering if we could get together for lunch.

Yes, yes, I replied. Come to our home for a picnic, and Clif will make his legendary grilled bread.

This Jason and Judy did, seeing a part of Maine that is definitely off the beaten path and would never qualify as quaint.  While central Maine has some lovely countryside with lakes, forests, and hills, it is also the home of many factories, now abandoned, and there is a certain grittiness—earthiness if you want to be polite—to the area.

We all hit it off immediately. Because Jason and I have been reading each other’s blogs for a while, we already knew quite a bit about each other. And, as it turned out, the four of us have similar interests and tastes, which meant the conversation flowed.

Here are Judy and Jason in our backyard on the edge of the woods.

Clif’s grilled bread, as to be expected, was the hit of the picnic.

We didn’t think to take a picture of the grilled bread served that day. For those unfamiliar with Clif’s legendary grilled bread, here is one from another picnic.


Naturally, we talked about plants and all things green and growing. (Alas, my gardens were way past their best.) Jason has been interested in gardening since he was young, and the gardens around his home are a beautiful sight to behold. Visiting his blog, of course, really gives a sense of what he has accomplished over the years.

However, for a delightful overview of Jason’s gardens, here is a piece from Fine Gardening. Read, look, and marvel.

All too soon the afternoon was over, and Jason and Judy left.  What a fine afternoon we had, with the weather in the 70s and barely a cloud in the sky. Even the yellow jackets more less behaved, with only one or two buzzing around us.

Here’s an invitation to blogging friends who are thinking about visiting Maine when the weather is warm: You are welcome to join us for lunch on our patio at the edge of the woods. Clif will make his legendary grilled bread. I will provide other goodies.

See you next summer?






A Scorchah of a Week

According to the weather forecast, Maine is supposed to have a scorcher of a week. Or scorchah, as we Mainers pronounce it. (Mainers have a complicated relationship with the letter r. Someday, for blogging friends unfamiliar with Maine lingo, I will write a post about this.) Anyway, today there is a heat advisory, with heat values of up to 100°F. Thank goodness we bought an air conditioner last year. Hats off to Eva, who is keeping the house at a bearable temperature.

Is this Maine in June? I know I keep harking on this, but I’m old, and I remember the days when June in Maine was cool and rainy. Once upon a time, summer in Maine was oh so sweet, and I sure do long for those summers.

Fortunately, last weekend was not as hot. Instead, the weather was just right.  On Friday, my friend Claire came over for tea and chocolate chip oat bars. She brought her dear dog Hannah over, and how nice it was to have a dog visitor. Pretty nice to visit with Claire, too.

On Saturday, we went to one of my favorite places in town—van der Brew, a craft brewery and tasting room. Claire’s son Patrick (on the right in the picture below) was playing there that night, and a group of us went to hear him play a variety of rock and roll songs. Such a good singer and musician.

Before Patrick started playing, we bought pizza from Brick Oven Bakery, a food trailer that features pizza, bread sticks, and baked goods.

While waiting for our pizza to bake, we sat outside. Clif had a chat with our friend Jill, whom we hadn’t seen for a long, long time.

Next to our table was another dear dog, Beau, who gave me a high-five with his paw when I gave him a dog biscuit provided by his person.

Then came the pizza. Jiminy Cricket, that pizza was good! I could have a piece right now.

While unfortunately I can’t have a slice of that pizza right now, Brick Oven Bakery will be at van der Brew’s every weekend except one for the month of July.

This Friday night is trivia night at the Brew’s. Clif and I just might head down there for good food and plenty of folderol.

Nifty posts from blogging friends near and far:

Check out New England Garden and Thread for one the cutest little vegetable gardens I have ever seen.

From Thistles and Kiwis, food, glorious food.

From Tranature, a poignant poem about Xenia’s grandmother.

Canberra’s Green Spaces features winter pictures of one the most beautiful capitals in the world.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, features two snappy sculptures by the same artist. Then she asks, which is your favorite? I immediately knew which one I liked the best.


Judy’s Hosta Plus a Couple More

Long-time readers will know that hostas are a major feature in my gardens. For years, I went for plants that had glorious blooms. One after another, I lost those plants. All right. I’ll admit it. I craved a cottage garden. But, when you live in the woods, you are doomed to heartache if you try for a cottage garden.

A few years (and tears) ago, I gave in to hostas, especially in the driest beds.  My moister beds do have a little more variety, but even in them, there are many plants that won’t thrive.

Slowly, I learned to appreciate hostas and the wave of various shades of green they bring to the front yard. Their blossoms are modest but pleasing. (Be gone, all thoughts of corn flowers!) But here’s the most important factor of all: They grow and flourish where most plants just fizzle. Snail and slugs might munch their leaves to lace, but the hostas are not intimidated. Each year, they rebound with vigor. Surely there is a lesson in all of this.

My blogging friend Judy of New England Garden and Thread is also a fan of hostas. Last year, during the height of the pandemic, she sent me a package, which—lo and behold!—contained a hosta. It was a little droopy, but I know how sturdy hostas are, and I planted it right away.

Judy, you will not surprised to learn that this hosta is thriving. Here is a picture of that beauty, whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten.

Many thanks, Judy!

And here are a couple more pictures of some of the hostas in my garden. Just because.

Snow-Gauge Clif: Nearly Done for the Year

As you can see from the pictures, Snow-Gauge Clif’s job is nearly done for the year.

There is still a bit of snow on the ground, a holdover from the last little storm we had. Will we get more snow in April? Maybe, maybe not. This is Maine, and when it comes to the weather, anything can happen.

But we are definitely sliding toward spring.  Bird song swirls around our home in the woods, and when I go outside, it makes me smile to hear it.  No silent spring, thank goodness.

Our neighbor next door left eggs on our steps, and those eggs were very welcome as our supply is dwindling fast. She left a sweet, concerned note taped to the carton, telling me she had wiped the outside with Lysol and to let her know if we needed anything.

So very nice to get a note like that. Especially as Clif and I are now considered elderly by the CDC. (Us? Elderly? How could that be?)

Coronavirus News from Maine

From the Portland Press Herald

A Cumberland County man in his 80s was the first person in Maine to die from the coronavirus.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 168

The News from All Over

From CNN

The United States is now the epicenter of a shifting global pandemic. With more than 82,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, it has surpassed China, Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit countries to date.

So how did America get here? A series of missteps, and missed opportunities: a failure to take the virus seriously even as it brought China to its knees, a fumbled federal government response to testing that left the US in the dark about the magnitude of the outbreak, and a desperate shortage of masks, personal protective equipment and ventilators that has put both medical workers and patients at risk.

And in a stunning development, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today he had tested positive [for Covid-19.]

From NBC

The House on Friday passed the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it quickly.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 549,604

Global Deaths: 24,863

My Take: No doubt the stimulus bill could have been bigger, better, and fairer. (When oh when are those at the top going to start taking responsibility and paying their fair share?) Nevertheless, many, many everyday people will be helped by this bill. For some, it could mean the difference between staying afloat and drowning. And that is no small thing.



A Weekend of Trivia, Chocolate Pretzels, Music, and Friends

What an action-packed weekend we had! It started on Friday morning when Clif dipped pretzels in Ghiradelli chocolate to bring as a treat to trivia night at Van der Brew.

Now what could be better than beer, popcorn, and chocolate-covered pretzels?

I’ll tell you what. During the trivia game, I actually answered a sports question correctly. As I’ve mentioned before, sports is not my thing, and I always dread those questions because I never, never know the answers. Except this time I did. The question was this: Which baseball team won the World Series in 2016 after not having won since 1908? Readers, I almost fell out of my chair. Thanks to Chicagoan Scott Simon, the most excellent host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, I knew it was the Chicago Cubs. (I can still recall how excited Scott Simon was in 2016 when the Cubs won.) Holy cats, I was thrilled that I remembered this. The rest of the night had its ups and downs, but through it all I basked in the glow of my knowledge of the winner of the 2016 World Series.

For someone who lives in the hinterlands, the excitement of Friday night would have been more than enough for one weekend. But, readers, there was more. Much more. On Saturday I went with friends to Mount Vernon (population 1,640) to listen to the Sandy River Ramblers, a blue grass band. All the players and singers were good, but my oh my that mandolin player—Dan Simons—was outstanding. His fingers flew so fast on the strings that I thought my heart was going to break. Here’s a picture of Dan Simons playing the mandolin. Unfortunately, the light was not good, and I wasn’t sitting near the stage.

Then it was Sunday. Friends invited us over for for a late afternoon dinner. Other friends were also invited. We drank wine, we had delicious macaroni and cheese, and one of the best homemade cob salads I have ever eaten. I made my not-so-famous apple crisp. Kittens romped around us as we talked about music, books, and politics. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures.

But what a way to end a terrific weekend.