Category Archives: People

TEA AND COOKIES ON A RAINY APRIL DAY

Yesterday was a day of April showers. Actually, it poured. But all the better to take away the last bit of stubborn snow that clings here and there in our yard. Living in the woods is great during the summer, and we are protected from the worst of the winter winds, but it also means that on Narrows Pond Road, our yard is one of the last to lose all its snow.

cookies on plateMy friend Sybil came over for tea and chocolate chip cookies, and nobody can brighten up a gray day like Sybil. She had just returned from a trip to Chicago, where she had visited with her son and her daughter-in-law, who is a choreographer. Indeed, Sybil went to Chicago especially to see her daughter-in-law’s show, and Sybil said it was marvelous. Apparently, even the Chicago Tribune agreed, giving it a very good review.

In May, Sybil will be going to Cornwall, to visit a friend and stay (I think!) for 16 days. “I’m going to bring the Joy of Cooking so that I cook some meals while I’m there,” Sybil said. “That’s a long time to stay with someone. My friend will help me convert the measurements.”

“What a lovely time to be going to England,” I said.

“Yes, the bluebells will be in bloom.”

“Listen for the cuckoos,” I said.

“Don’t you think they sound a lot like our mourning doves?” Sybil asked.

“Maybe a little,” I said. “But it seems to me that cuckoos have a crisper call.”

“I’ll listen for them,” she promised.

From there, we moved on to discuss BBC, specifically Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Sybil recalled how during the 1970s, when Upstairs, Downstairs premiered, her children used to come running as soon as they heard the theme for Masterpiece Theatre. “Even my husband, Ray, eventually came to like the show,” Sybil said.

Good for Ray! Let’s just say that not all men like period pieces, and leave it at that.

From Upstairs, Downstairs, which I also loved in the ’70s, it was on to the current remake of Jane Eyre, which is playing at Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.

“We must go see it before I go to England,” Sybil said.

“Yes,” I replied. An unsurprising note: Clif is not at all keen on seeing Jane Eyre.

All too soon, it was time for Sybil to leave. I packed some chocolate chip cookies for her. “Just give me four!” she instructed. “I have no self-control with those cookies.”

Well, my daughter Dee has said they are my specialty, and I have to admit those cookies are not too bad.

I gave Sybil five. “One for the road,” I said.

Sybil laughed. “One for the road.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO RI-RA FOR SHANNON’S BIRTHDAY

The bayYesterday, I drove to Portland to meet my friend Kate and my daughter Shannon for a birthday luncheon. We do this three times a year—for each of our birthdays—and Portland is a half-way point for both Kate and me. (Shannon works in Portland so it is very convenient for her.) The birthday “girl” gets to choose the place, and Shannon chose Ri-Ra, an Irish pub right on the water.

As befitting an Irish pub, the wood is dark—cozy rather than gloomy—and there is an upstairs and a downstairs. We like to eat upstairs, by windows that overlook the bay, and because we got there early, Shannon was able to pick a table that was not only by a window but also by the fire, which felt very good on a damp and rainy day. While we waited for Kate, Shannon and I looked out the window as we chatted.  Portland still has a working waterfront, and with its docks and boats and warehouses, the view is interesting rather than lovely, but nevertheless very pleasing to me. Shannon and I saw ducks—eiders, I think—swimming in the bay. We also saw a loon, still wintering on the ocean, but as soon as the inland lakes are clear of ice, I’m sure the loon will move to its summer quarters. (As of today, the ice is still on the ponds and lakes in central Maine. And no peepers yet.) The clouds moved across the sky, and patches of light shone here and there as the weather began to clear.

Kate soon joined us, and we had a good conversation and as well as a good meal.  There were little presents. Both Kate and I like to give homemade goodies as birthday treats, and she made some of her incredible chocolate cookies for lucky Shannon. With my husband’s help, I had made peanut butter balls—a whole pound of them—a favorite of Shannon’s. Then, along with the cookies, Kate gave Shannon some spices and barbecue rubs (I can’t remember the brand) that she especially likes. I gave Shannon some note cards made from pictures that my husband, Clif, had taken.

sandwich on plateThe food came—a rich seafood bisque for Shannon; a pastrami sandwich for Kate, which she proclaimed one of the best she’s ever eaten; and a grilled portobello sandwich with basil, fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers for me. My sandwich was so tasty that I started thinking about how I could make a similar sandwich for myself for lunch. (Clif, alas, does not like portobello mushrooms. Silly old thing!)

“I could broil the portobello for a quick lunch,” I said. “The other ingredients are easy to get.”

“Maybe marinate it in some balsamic vinegar,” Kate suggested.

“With chopped garlic,” I said.

“Maybe I’ll come over for lunch,” Kate joked.

Unfortunately, she lives too far to come over for lunch.

When it came to dessert, I decided it was high time to be stern. “Look,” I said, “here is how it usually goes. We order three desserts. I eat mine, and then because I am a glutton who can’t stand to see food go to waste, I finish both of yours as well.”

“Wait a minute!” Kate put in. “We always eat some of your dessert, too. You don’t eat it all by yourself.”

“Maybe I’m exaggerating,” I admitted.

“Just a little,” Shannon said. “As usual.”

“Still, I think we could make do with two desserts, don’t you?”

Yes, they agreed, two desserts would be plenty.

So with some very good Irish tea, we had dessert—chocolate cake and apple in puff pastry. And it was just right.

THE LET THEM EAT BREAD REPORT

Bread CartoonThe Project: To bake and give away at least one loaf of bread each week in 2011. 

The Reason: A personal protest against the rampant selfishness of our society. 

The Bonus: It’s great spiritual practice, as well. 

Loaves of Bread Given Away So Far This Year: 20  (I counted several times, just to be sure I was right.) 

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Actually, last week I goofed with the weeks. (Counting is not my best thing, not even when it’s easy.) I put down that it was week 12 of my Let Them Eat Bread project when really it was week 11. This is week 12. Ah, well!  

This week I gave two loaves of bread away: one to my friend Diane Friese, whom I wrote about in a recent post, and one to my friend Sherry Hanson, who is unfortunately struggling with a recurrence of ovarian cancer. 

I have been friends with Sherry since the early 1990s, and I met her through a group called Maine Media Women. Sherry is one of those rare souls who is both creative and organized. (Those traits often do not occur in the same person.) Her house is shining and clean, but has funky, decorative touches that make it interesting. Sea glass, fish she has made from driftwood, and the color blue ripple through her house. Sherry teaches writing classes, is a fine poet, and has also written nonfiction for various magazines. She runs, she bikes, she roller blades, and Sherry must be as trim now as she was when she was a young adult. 

It seems grossly unfair that this creative, energetic person should be fighting ovarian cancer. As a matter of fact, it is unfair. No other way to put it. But she is, and it’s back on chemotherapy for her, back to not feeling well, back to not living a normal life. 

“But I’m hoping it will give me more time,” she told me. 

Yes, more time. As we age, that is what we all want, and I sure hope Sherry gets it. 

I must say that bread seems like a small thing to give to someone who is quite literally battling for her life.