08 December 2017

christmas past

it's a few weeks yet 'til christmas, but we are putting up the tree tonight. this is unplanned, but the tree is in the yard, up against the house, and why not now? the not-so-little girl is anxious to decorate, so in comes the tree, we find the stand and the box of ornaments and she begins. she remembers from year to year how she and i like this tree to look: the old red flocked birds are indeed "flocked", all gathered together on one the side of the tree. her great-great grandmother's sequined ball is high up near the top, so you can look up and see all the sparkles reflect the tree lights. delicate ornaments still go near the top of the tree, a reminder of long-ago christmases when we had babies and dogs. 

we listen to christmas music as she decorates and i make us supper. suddenly, she's in the kitchen at my side, with one of the old plastic filagree balls in her hand. there's something inside, she says. listen. and i hear the quiet rattle. we investigate, and find something tiny and cylindrical inside. she shakes and tips and tries to bring the object to a large hole in the ornament, but it's shape won't allow it to be pulled through. finally we resort to tweezers and gently tug. and out it comes. 

it's paper, and it's old and thin. slowly, carefully, the not-so-little girl unfurls the scrap and reads its contents: december 24, 1985. and it is signed, in a childlike scrawl, by her mother.

how can this be? it's been right there, unnoticed, for thirty-two christmases! we can't wait to share our find with the girl herself! but she does not remember placing such a note and is as astonished as we are. more quick math and we come to the realization that, when she hid this note, she was ten, and exactly the age that the not-so-little-girl is now.

on her own, the youngest of us decides to return the note to its original hiding place and add a second one, this one dated december 8, 2017, and signed in her own childlike hand. she hopes some christmas as she decorates, her own daughter may notice the tiny rolled notes hidden deep inside her great-grandmother's gold filagree ornament, and be just as surprised and delighted by their discovery as we all were this christmas.

20 November 2017


the holidays are coming, beginning with thanksgiving in just a few days, and i have been cleaning, prepping, and making lists. when i poll the family about preferences and expectations, the not-so-little-girl reminds me that we alway have cookies for dessert. i guess i have inadvertently made yet another tradition, so tonight and i drag out my old cookbook to make the dough so she can decorate cookies when she comes on wednesday.

the book falls open to the recipe, such a mess is the page it's on. forty-five years of splattered dough, greasy smudges, and messy fingerprints distract me from the familiar words as i follow them to make the dough. after i set it in the refrigerator to chill, after i clean and put away the mixing bowls and spatulas, i sit with choral music and tea to type the ingredients and directions into google docs, my recipe box in the cloud, where all my old favorites these days reside, annotated and ready to share when the time is right. i think to cut and paste it here, where i have not been in a very long time.

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies
From McCall’s Cookie Collection © The McCall Corporation 1965
...these are the sugar cookies we made every Christmas when the girl was a child,
and later at Thanksgiving when the not-so-little girl was young…

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon (or more!) nutmeg
1 cup soft butter
1 ½ cups sugar
1 egg
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; set aside.
In a large bowl of electric mixer, at medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and egg until light and fluffy.
At low speed, beat in sour cream and vanilla until smooth.
Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well combined.
With rubber scraper, form dough into a ball. Wrap in waxed paper or foil; refrigerate several hours, or overnight.
Divide dough into 4 parts. Refrigerate until ready to roll out.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet.
On a well-floured surface, roll dough, one part at a time, ¼” thick.
With floured, 2 ½” round or scalloped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Using spatula, place, 2” apart, on prepared cookie sheets. Reroll trimmings and cut.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire rack; cool.
Makes about 6 dozen (the round 2 ½” ones).

My notes: Pshaw! We never made plain old round ones! We made trees and Santas and reindeers and gingerbread men and stars - and leaves and turkeys at Thanksgiving!! These are very good, especially the ones that get rolled out first - rerolls are not as light. Don’t roll too thick. They taste best frosted and are yummy with eggnog.

Our frosting: 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar and 2 ½ to 3 tablespoons of milk. Beat with wooden spoon, add more milk if too thick. Color with food coloring, of course. Keep a little white for snowmen, and Santa's beard. 

i head to bed now, content in the knowledge that the recipe is preserved for the girl, for her daughter, for posterity. and for tradition. 

22 July 2016


in the midst of the summer gardening and room painting and kitchen redo (no, it's still not done), i am trying to clean out useless things. stuff i've held onto for most of my life that means very little or nothing to other people. things i don't want the girl to have to deal with when it comes time to clean this place out for the last time. here is a perfect example of what i mean. it's the end of a roll of vinyl wallpaper i bought in 1981. 
we were moving out of state, leaving family and friends, and starting new jobs. the girl was turning five, and beginning school in a few months. with all the details of the packing and moving, uppermost in my mind was making the transition as easy and fun as i could for her. we rented a house sight unseen because it was in a small rural neighborhood and had a big yard and four bedrooms. we chose for her the room with the most light and the most nooks and secret spots for playing. and i made it a priority to have it completely redone and beautiful before we moved in.

and this is the bedroom wallpaper that she and i chose, sitting one evening on the porch swing of the house we would soon be leaving, the only home she'd known. we both gasped when we turned this page, and knew we had found the perfect wall covering. in an effort to capture the experience, i saved this piece when we left the rental for our new home in our new state. and i've had it ever since, tucked in the back of the bottom drawer of her bedroom dresser. 

of course, my tastes have changed significantly since then, and i am now admittedly horrified to think that i imposed such graphic chaos on so young a psyche. but at that pivotal, transitional time of our lives, it was just what we both needed. 

29 June 2016

june ketchup

again, i am woefully negligent in my postings and offer a few errant accounts as proof that i was in awe of my surrounding this beautiful month.

first, these lady slippers, discovered on the usual walking route of the leading edge of the property's boundary line. i have seen many such plants deep in our woods, and for years have hoped that they would propagate down the hill. and i swear these were never here before. but this year, thirteen plants, all in one quite visible spot. i wish i had been more aware earlier in their blooming, and have made several notes to self to look for them next spring. 

next, this flash of brilliant blue in my peripheral vision one morning while making coffee. i abandoned the coffee to watch it, and debated leaving the window to get my camera. more and more, i am having those moments when i must choose between watching in quiet awe or grappling with the camera to document. in the end, i went for the camera, shooting rapid boosts of not-very-great photos before he flew. i have never seen a bird this blue, and wonder if it might be an indigo bunting. i expect i won't see one again for a long while.

and finally, these irises, blooming profusely on their own, and covering the unkempt hill up to the woods. they do not last long but they are beautiful while they're there. i'm always happy to see them and silently thank whoever came before me and had the presence of mind to plant them. 

20 June 2016

one last ride

in this, the month of her birth, the not-so-little girl bemoans the fact that she will soon be too old to ride the mechanical rides at the local outlet mall. for many years, she's been too big to ride them, but every time we're there, she squeezes herself into one and begs for three quarters. being the good grandmother that i am, i, of course, oblige - and off she goes, blissfully a little girl again, laughing and whooping for the two minute ride. but now it's different, because the age limits are clearly posted on each ride, she can read them, and she knows she will very soon be out of the age range.
to mark this mournful passage, i gift wrap a roll of quarters, and off we go, the two of us, on the eve of her birthday, to ride one more time the merry-go-rounds and vehicles and animals that have given her such gleeful joy for so many years. and although it takes more time that we have and more money than we should probably spend, she rides every single one. and that's okay with me.

30 May 2016

out of place

found, in the woods, on the dirt driveway of friends, this maple leaf only recently unfurled on its branch. staring up at me, a circlet with colors that mesmerize. how does this happen, these odd colors, when the rest of the world is newly vibrant green? after some research, the driveway friend tells me the center is the tiny egg of a gall wasp. so now i know what it is - but i still don't understand. 

21 May 2016

shoes x 4

it's no secret that i hate to shop, and especially for clothes. so time-consuming, and such a waste of energy when i wear the same things day after day after day. i recently spotted these shoes online, and bought the orange pair so i didn't have to drive to the mall to shop. they were inexpensive, they looked comfortable - and it turns out, they were! so i bought another pair - and then another - and yet another. i think i'm finished now, although they do have a nice white pair that would look good for summer...

20 May 2016

tiny volunteer

the tiniest of lupine plants, nestled among the wild violets under the garden bench, so very far away from any host plant. wondrous...how does this happen?

18 March 2016


it's her 3/4 birthday, she tells me. in three months, she'll advance a whole whole number. where has the time gone, i continually wonder. but then - look! thankfully, you're never too old for an egg tree...

12 March 2016

a spring visit

standing at the open window, washing morning coffee cups and cereal bowls, i am thinking of my mother and how she loved spring. new growth in her garden, geese returning to the river, sitting outside - she was always glad to see winter over. perhaps i get that from her. 

from the corner of my eye, i see something drop like a stone from a high branch of the lilac tree outside. too fast and straight to be a leaf, i think, as i step to the door to investigate. and there she is, right outside my back door.

i have heard cardinals this spring and saw a male from a distance a few weeks back, but never the elusive female. there's no seed out there because i haven't fed winter birds - or winter mice - in years. and there was no male in sight, watching his mate from a high maple or hemlock branch. 
she visits for a long while, then flies back up into the lilac, and finally, off into the deep woods. i took about twenty shots with my telephoto lens, all through a winter-dirty window pane, so as not to disturb and to keep her around as long as i possibly could. 

06 February 2016

tea time - or coffee?

seems more and more, i turn to tea over coffee in the wintertime. it warms these bones, soothes a dry, scratchy throat, and smells fragrant and light. earl grey, ginger, english breakfast, lemon zinger, chai, all served steaming hot and laced with local honey from a young friend's bees. for breakfast, i need hot coffee, at least one cup, all year round. in summer, i'll drink iced coffee, and likely too much of it! but on sharply crisp, bright winter afternoons like this one, i'll take a mug of hot tea. how about you?

31 January 2016

light times two

in the foreground, one of my window candles, this year battery-operated ones on a timer set in early december to coordinate with dusk. in the background, a large hill, probably a mile or so away, brightly lit by the rays of the sinking sun. i should have reset the timers weeks ago, but every evening this sight is a joyous reminder that the days really are getting longer and longer.

30 January 2016


at work, i have deemed myself the designated recycler and, two saturdays a month, i'll take the excess paper - the old magazines, the outdated newspapers, the packaging materials - to the transfer station. after i'd done this for several years, i found out from area children that the nice elderly man at the recycle house passes out tootsie pops to kids when they recycle. hey - i recycle! i like tootsie pops! so i mentioned it to him and last fall, he began to include me! he knows i only like the chocolate tootsie pops, so he always saves one for me. but today, a windfall - one that made me smile all the way home.

27 January 2016


around noontime, i realized it was not only sunny and above freezing, it was actually a bit warm outside. so i went out into the yard in my indoor birkenstocks. i sat for a bit, i took some photos, i enjoyed the sun. when i had to come back inside, i opened the kitchen window and smelled the clean air while i worked and cooked and puttered.
but within an hour, the sky darkened, the wind began to howl, and a snow squall blew in, lasting about thirty minutes. new england really has some crazy weather, but it's one of the things that makes this an interesting place to be!

18 January 2016

more like it

so here finally is the winter we've all been waiting for, some for longer than others. it's cold, a monday, and nothing of any consequence is happening. but while washing dishes at the sink, i was pleased to spot, amidst all the new white, the vibrant rose of the not-so-little-girl's birdhouse, its top permanently removed by a persistent squirrel. and i was delighted when a random glob of suds leapt up onto the backsplash and formed itself into this tiny, soapy heart.

january. not much to write home about. 

11 January 2016


kitchen redo begins today. it's been a long time coming. i have no idea what i'm doing. wish me luck.

10 January 2016

rainy day in january

sitting inside at the window, looking out at the bleak and rainy landscape, having bread and the last of the girls' strawberry jam. it tastes like summer.

08 January 2016

a pumpkin feast

see that fat, furry little guy? in november, he decimated every october pumpkin i tossed into the compost pile. this was a tiny sugar pumpkin that i thought i might cook and freeze, but it sat too close to the woodstove and began to get mushy. so yesterday, on my way to put it in the winter compost barrel, i thought better of it and pitched it out into the side yard. and there he is - back again for one last pumpkin lunch!

30 December 2015

a little christmas

christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year, and this year's holiday was wonderful in so many respects. the time between thanksgiving and christmas did not pass as quickly as it had other years, and i had plenty of time to do what i wanted to do to celebrate and needed to do to be ready for the day. i volunteered at our local community center and school so i was around excited little kids - not to mention the excitement in my own family. the girl, the not-so-little-girl, and i got all dressed up one sunday night and went to a fancy restaurant for dinner, to one of those places with beautiful christmas displays. it's something i have wanted to do for many christmases and i am so glad we made that memory. i celebrated advent at church and loved the preparation for jesus' birth. christmas eve here was fun; christmas day at the girl's was wonderful.

but something just wasn't quite right this christmas and try as i might, i just cannot pinpoint it. i am chalking it up to the mild weather, the lack of snow, and the fact that it was a brown, almost green, christmas. it's the only thing i can think of.

29 December 2015

origami delight

one saturday this fall, i chanced to meet and be part of a conversation with a lovely and quiet man, probably a little older than me. what we talked about must have been pretty general and of little significance, because i can't remember the topics. what i do remember is the fact that he was actively interested in whatever it was we had to say. he asked questions, and was a very good listener.

before he left, he presented us each with an intricate origami dollar, crisply folded into a beautiful symmetrical object. mine was a heart, backed on a felt square and carefully packaged into a tiny sleeve. at the back of the package, a card with a greek proverb, a shiny sticker, and a tiny jeweled bauble. clearly, this man was intentional in his presentation.

we were so taken aback to receive such a lovely gift from a stranger. we tried to pay him, but he declined. we offered dollar bills so he could make more, and he told us it wasn't necessary. he wouldn't give us his name, only asked that we enjoy his small gift.

i stood the dollar heart on my desk here, and thought about the chance encounter for days. months later, i am still in awe of all that transpired. why would a stranger do such a thing? not only is he spending a great deal of time making these for people he doesn't know and likely will never see again, he's giving away his money a dollar at a time. obviously, his simple reward is in the delight and enjoyment of his recipients.

a few weeks ago, as i inserted my card into a gas pump a few towns away, i found something blocking the slot. i removed it, and was elated to find another origami dollar, packaged in the same manner, this one folded into a tiny shirt. my glee was apparent as i pocketed the treasure and pumped the gas, grinning like a fool. how lucky was i to encounter this man, not once, but twice? by the time i was finished, i knew how to repay this man. i returned the shirt dollar back to the gas pump slot in hopes that the next person would find in it as much delight and enjoyment as i had.

28 December 2015

autumn, odds & ends

it borders on embarrassing to be doing this - posting photos and writings from up to four months ago. but i've been feeling guilty about not writing, have been missing blogging, and thinking lots about how to get back into the swing of things. i've decided there is no gracious way to do it other than beg your forgiveness, thank you for your concern, and just jump right back in. so i'm playing "ketchup" again, and fashioning several posts of remembrances that i should have been here long ago... 

thanksgiving. it was lovely, meaningful, quiet. the not-so-little-girl was in charge of decor, so she painted dried oak leaves and personalized them with guests' names. an unseasonably warm day, and we opened windows to let out the heat from the turkey roasting. 
pumpkin pie, made from a pumpkin i roasted myself. it was burned, but delicious. and i'll never use canned pumpkin again. 

fruits and vegetables, ready to roast in the oven for squash soup

the festive kitchen chalkboard, with a turkey suggesting that we eat more chicken. 
snowdrops, coming up in the garden in december. worse than this, the girl's snowdrops actually flowered. it makes me wonder what they'll do in april, when they're supposed to appear. 
and look. here's the carrots from the garden. they were short and stumpy, but quite tasty. next year, i'm planting twice as many. 

finally, bernie sanders. i have seen him twice this fall. generally, i am pretty quiet with regard to politics, trying to be respectful of others' opinions. but this year, i just can't do it. 


in my defense, fall this year stretched for month after glorious month, with warm days and brilliant nights, and i was away from my desk and outside as much as was possible. in september and october, the foliage was blindingly beautiful. i spent so much time stopping and marvelling at the incredible show of color new england had this year, that i didn't take any photos, save the few you see here. i knew my skills could never do justice to the beauty i was seeing with my eyes, so i didn't even try. and, now that it's gone, i don't even think i'm sorry i did that.

the other thing: as much as i adore fall, i was dreading the thoughts that winter was coming next. last winter must have taken a toll on me, one who always loved the beauty of the season. it was just too cold, too snowy, and much too long. so when autumn continued into a bright and clear november, and then morphed into a balmy, dry december, i wanted to take advantage of every outdoor moment i could. i put on my blaze orange scarf and strolled into the woods during hunting season. i drove with the window down. i painted and stained and polyurethaned. i sat outside til dusk and read. i stood in the yard and gawked at the night sky. and i reveled in the fact that i could wear a denim jacket and sneakers instead of wool coats and boots.
as i write this, we are anticipating our first significant snowfall. our brown christmas is just over, january approaches, and it's okay for snow now, i think. i just hope it's not as much as last year. 

27 December 2015


this one deserves its own post, late or not. when friends go on trips, i ask them to bring me back a rock. here's one that a friend found for me. do you see the face?

mid to late summer

time at the beach was again a high point of my summer. weather was perfect, rental was fabulous, but being with family was the best. assorted brothers and sisters came and it was wonderful to spend time with them. after years of being together on a regular basis, i miss them now that our parents are gone, and i so look forward to this extended time with them every summer. also, the girl and the not-so-little-anymore-girl both were there for a few days. so much fun...such precious memories. 

here's july's blue moon rising over the atlantic. the not-so-little-girl thought it was pretty funny that it was a pink blue moon. 

i took lots of low light photos as i grappled with manual settings on my camera to try to graduate from shooting in automatic. sometimes it worked, sometimes not. 
the other summer highlight was a prolific vegetable garden, the first in many years. did I take any photos? no. just beach-y things this summer. although i think i might have a shot of harvested carrots around here somewhere...