Category Archives: People

Quercus and Lisa Save the Scones

For the past couple of months, I have been trying to make scones. Note the word trying. You might also remember Yoda’s pithy advice about trying.

But readers, try I did. I used one of Alton Brown’s recipes, and although my scones tasted good, they came out flat as a cookie (American for biscuit). This meant I couldn’t easily cut them in half and spread butter on them. And what is the use of making scones if you can’t cut them in half and spread something on them, whether it be butter, jam, or cream? None, as far as I could see.

But being persistent, I didn’t give up. After all, I reasoned, I have a light hand with biscuits (the American kind) and pie crust, and there seemed to be no good reason why I couldn’t make decent scones.

As I have come to do with so many things, I asked my blogging friends for guidance. Lisa, from arlingwords, suggested placing the scones closer together so that they would rise rather than spread. And the inimitable Quercus had three pieces of advice: Add more flour,  use a two-inch cutter, and make sure the dough is thick.

Yesterday, in another attempt to make good scones, I followed Lisa’s  and Quercus’s suggestions. I am happy to report that I finally had success. My scones were light, they could be cut in half, and they were not too sweet but sweet enough.

My scones were square rather than round or triangular, but Quercus had assured me that shape didn’t matter.

Clif, undeterred by their square shape, pronounced the scones “pretty darned good,” which is Yankee for delicious and high praise indeed. After eating one, he hurried back for seconds.

Now that I have figured out how to make good scones, the time has come to make them for friends when they come over for tea or coffee.

 

 

Nobody’s Environmentally Perfect

On Saturday, our friend Diane came over for lunch, and Clif made his tasty pizza. As a hostess present, Diane brought a jar of her delectable applesauce, made from old-timey apples from an orchard in southern Maine. Those apples are so sweet and so good that the sauce doesn’t need any sugar. What a treat!

Mainers are of the opinion that almost anything goes with applesauce—I think it’s because not so long ago, fresh fruit was not easy to get in the winter in this northern state. However, we draw the line when it comes to eating applesauce with  pizza. Instead I made a salad and a homemade vinaigrette. But that night with a supper of egg and toast, we broke into our jar of apple sauce.

After lunch, we settled into the living room, and our talked ranged from politics to the environment. Diane is as keen about green living as we are, and at one time she lived in a solar home on a dirt road in a town so small that it makes Winthrop look big.

So I look to her for green advice. While Clif and I have made good progress with the trash we produce—we’ve cut the amount in half—there are things we still struggle with. One of them is Ziploc bags. We wash and mend them, but eventually there are so many holes in the bags that we must throw them away. And there they are in the landfill for a long, long time.

Slowly, we’re weaning ourselves from Ziplocs. We use jars for leftovers, both in the refrigerator and in the freezer. If we buy rolls or bread—mostly I make my own—we save those wrappers to be reused. But we haven’t quite made the break from  those darned Ziplocs.

I explained this all to Diane, and she said patiently, “Nobody’s environmentally perfect. The important thing is to do the best you can with the resources you have.”

Wise words. As I’ve written before, Clif and I live on a budget as big as a minute, which means we can’t buy as much local and organic food as we would like. But we buy as much as we can afford, and I cook most of our food from scratch.

Both Clif and I are conscious about what we use and what we discard. Because we are Mainers, this is not that hard for us. We were both brought up to keep things until they were so worn that, really, nobody else would want them.

Then, today in Treehugger, I read a piece by Sami Grover that questioned how much difference personal responsibility makes when it comes to tackling climate change. Grover writes, “In a world where unsustainable choices are the default option, where fossil fuels are excessively subsidized, and where environmental costs are not borne by those responsible for the damage, living a truly sustainable life means swimming upstream.”

Even though I like to think that Clif and I are making a difference by living as lightly as we can, in fact we are just two tiny fish “swimming upstream.” Until the system changes, it will indeed be very difficult to turn the tide of global warming. (Thought I’d stick with the water metaphor.)

Nevertheless, Clif and I try to live ever lighter. Somehow we just can’t go back to our old ways when we produced four or five bags of trash a week. A week! Most of it was household garbage—paper, plastic, boxes, food scraps. While we might not be environmentally perfect and perhaps never will be, we have made progress, which gives me hope.

Readers, do you have any thoughts about this?

 

 

March Misery

Readers unfamiliar with Maine might think I’m exaggerating when it comes to the horror of March in northern New England. Au contraire! And I have the pictures to prove it.

This was the view this morning from my office window.

Here is another one from a slightly different angle. Note the spitting snow and the hard, dirty snow banks.

Yesterday, Snow-Gauge Clif did  his measuring duty with his trusty red yard stick.  Hats off to Clif for looking so cheerful.

In the backyard, Clif doesn’t look quite as cheerful. Maybe it was the penguin-walking he did over the icy paths to get there. Fortunately, he didn’t fall and break anything.

Despite all the griping, I do have to admit that some progress has been made in the driveway.  There are actually bar patches of tar amid the ice and snow.

So onward, ho! April is just around the corner, and as I sit at my desk and write, I can hear a male cardinal singing his sweet song.

Spring is coming, albeit ever so slowly.

 

Crazy Mainers and Ice Cream

Not far from where we live is a fabulous ice cream stand called Fielder’s Choice. They make their own ice cream, utterly delicious and reasonably priced. Even by American standards, the servings are huge.

Right after Christmas, Fielder’s Choice closed for a few months, but with spring supposedly on the horizon, they are back. In what has become an annual ritual, Clif and I, along with our friends Claire and Mary Jane, went to Fielder’s Choice for opening day.

Here is Clif, posing by the listings of ice cream. No, he is not a double-fisted ice cream eater. Instead, he is holding my peanut-butter ice cream cone. My absolute favorite.

Note the down jacket Clif is wearing, and the next picture will illustrate why my cone was in no danger of melting. Here, standing by a snow bank on a cold March day, are three lovely Mainers with their ice creams. We northerners sure know how to have fun.

To complete the frosty theme of this post, here is snow-gauge Clif in the front yard.

And in the backyard.

I hate to be pessimistic, but it seems to me that even though Fielder’s Choice has reopened, spring is not right around the corner. Not by a long shot.

At Quiet City Books

Yesterday, as part of Lewiston’s Sunday Indie Market, Clif and I went to Quiet City Books, where we had our own little table for our own little books.

Quiet City Books is one those shops that feels like home to all nerdy, wordy folks who love books. (Yes, that would include me.)  Courtney MacMunn Schlacter, the owner, has managed to tuck in bright, funky art and sweet little gifts among an astonishing assortment of books that appeal to readers young and old.

What a delightful way to spend a winter’s day. We sold some books and chatted with Courtney, who has a commitment to making Lewiston a better place. We talked about how too many people only hear what’s bad about Lewiston, a mill city that has seen better days, but nonetheless has a lot going for it.  Thanks to Courtney and other bright, creative people, Lewiston now has a hopeful spark.

So readers, if you live in the area and find yourself in Lewiston, stop by Quiet City Books, look at the art and the books and support this wonderful local store.

Glasses of Shame

All right. The first proof copy of Library Lost has been edited, and a second proof copy is on its way, with an expected delivery of next week. Normally, this  would be a chance for me to catch my breath and maybe get some much-needed household chores done. But…we have two fairs this weekend, and, just to add a merry touch, a nor’easter is blowing up the East Coast. Will the fairs be canceled? And, our perennial question, will we lose our power? Stay tuned!

Last week, Clif had a cataract removed, and the procedure was a huge success. His vision is greatly improved, and he hardly has any restrictions on what he can lift. But I promised you a funny story about his cataracts, and here it is.

First, we must have a picture of Clif wearing what he has dubbed his “glasses of shame,” which loudly proclaim cataract surgery and old codger satus. The gray hair, of course, just adds to it.

Even with a procedure as minimally invasive as a cataract removal, fasting is necessary. An upset stomach during the procedure would be a Very Bad Thing. Clif’s surgery was just past noon, and by the time he had sufficiently recovered, it was about 2:30 or 3:00. Even though Clif  was woozy from the sedatives he had been given, he was hungry. Extremely hungry.

The nurse was in the room while we were discussing where to eat, and she said, “There’s a Kentucky Fried Chicken just down the road.”

“Do you want to go there?” I asked Clif.

“Yes,” came the prompt reply.

Thus one of our guilty pleasures is revealed—we both have a soft spot for Kentucky Fried Chicken. A leftover from our youthful days, I suppose. We hardly ever eat there, but when we do, we enjoy it.

The nurse helped a wobbly Clif to the car, and off I drove. At KFC, there was, of course, no nurse to help Clif. There was just me, significantly shorter than Clif and with creaky knees to boot. In we toddled—a woozy Clif with his glasses of shame and me doing my best to hold a steady course. I can only imagine what we looked like.

Because we hardly ever go to KFC, we had no idea what the various meals included. Swaying slightly, we studied the large menu sign on the wall behind the counter. Finally I asked the woman who was patiently waiting for our order about what sides came with one of the Big Box Meals.

Without hesitating, she leaned over and said in a loud whisper, “Ask for the senior citizen special.”

And so we did, saving ourselves about $10. We each had two pieces of perfectly cooked chicken, a surprisingly light biscuit, hot mashed potatoes with gravy (yes, they were instant), and cole slaw.

As we ate, we giggled about being urged to order the senior citizen special. This is a first for us as usually we have to ask for it. But I suppose we looked like a pair who was in desperate need of a good deal.

Everyone once in a while, there is a benefit to being gray haired and wobbly.

 

 

 

Kit, Dogs, and Kids Leave

This morning, Shannon and Mike packed the dogs and the cat into the car to begin the long trip back to North Carolina. While there has been flooding in their area, the waters have receded, and their town house, on a hill, remained dry. Other people in North Carolina have not been so lucky, and I expect it will be a long time before some areas recover. How terrible it must be to have your home severely damaged or destroyed, and I always feel so sorry for those who have endured such a loss.

On a happier note…we had a wonderful week with Mike and Shannon. The best part was just sitting on the patio and talking. We are lucky indeed to have a daughter and son-in-law who love books, movies, and art as much as we do. So much to discuss! Also, when it comes to politics, we are like minded, and that is another plus.

Yesterday, as a farewell breakfast, we went to Forage Market in Lewiston, and Shannon and Mike were very impressed with the food. Holy cats, those bagels are good. I bought extra for us to have this morning, and the day-old bagels were still pretty tasty.

The house is quiet now, and as always after our children leave, we feel let down and blue. Fortunately, we have a little something to keep us busy.

The cover for my upcoming fantasy novel, Library Lost, is nearly ready, and how exciting it was to see the proof.  I am thrilled with the cover, which will be a perfect complement to Maya and the Book of Everything.

As soon as Library Lost’s cover is ready, I’ll be posting it on this blog for everyone to see.

And next week, I will return to reading blogs and commenting. This week, with all the talking, eating, and having fun, I just didn’t have the time to keep up with everyone.