I remember being taught to play the piano and being supplied with two mnemonic devices. The lines on the staff for the right hand could be remembered by Every Good Boy Does Fine(e,g,b,d,f). The white spaces spelled out FACE(f,a,c,e). I still call that tip to mind when I look at a new hymn on Sunday. Mnemonics exist to help our struggling memories over commonly forgotten facts.

A couple of tips in school have stayed with me for sixty years. The difference between principle and principal is that the principal can be your PAL. Desert and dessert have different numbers of the letter “s” because you only want to cross a desert once but you will always want two desserts. Most repeated, despite the handy feature of spell check, is “i before e except after c or sounded like a in neighbor or weigh.”

Theoretically names can be brought to mind more easily by inventing a personalized mnemonic. The idea is to take a person’s characteristic and link it to the person’s name. This has never worked for me, probably because I start laughing thinking up the trick. Let’s see: “he is a real pill and his name is Bill.” Not a good plan. However I am able to remember a man’s name I see every Sunday although I always start down the wrong path with it. His name is Angelo, but I keep thinking it is Anthony. A nearby restaurant is called Angelo’s, and now I struggle to think of the name of the place and then can think of his. Not a very quick trick for sure.

I would love to know any other mnemonics that my readers learned or still use. Until then, “a pint’s a pound the whole world round.”

“Berry Delicious”

As you can see in this photo of me in 1949, I have always loved raspberries. We have a thicket of raspberry plants next to the garage, and the photo on the right shows the most recent picking of ripe berries. Our vines produce two crops each summer, and the crops are bigger every other year. This year is a bountiful one. The early summer taste good, these late ones taste even better.

Raspberries don’t ship very well. They are fragile, spoil quickly, and yield their juice at the slightest pressure. The ones sold in grocery stores must be a special variety, bred for their ability to stand travel, so they are firmer and much less sweet. Even ours will begin to go bad by the next day, providing an ready excuse to devour them quickly. They are excellent stirred into a batch of Greek yogurt with a little granola thrown in if desired.

I have written before about how lovely it was to walk around my old neighborhood in what had been an Italian part of Portland, Oregon. My daughter and I would pick figs, pears, apples, plums and blackberries which were abundant in the area. I haven’t seen any local figs here, so they probably need a warmer climate. As you can tell from my posts, I am loving the height of summer and the abundance of fruit. Soon apples will fill the farm stands, a clear sign that autumn has begun in New England.

“Just Lookin’ For a Home”


Well equipped to protect himself from the skunk, my husband crept up on the trap, threw a sheet over it, and opened the latch. Then he waited. And waited. And waited. Tired of waiting, he propped open the trap door with several (salvaged) bricks and called it a night. Apparently the skunk had become used to his new quarters and was in no hurry to leave.

By the next morning the skunk had wandered off, having determined that no more broccoli was going to magically appear in the strange wire home he had so recently discovered. And so another wildlife saga comes to a denouement on Broad Street. Guess my husband will get to return to one of his favorite August pastimes–eating the peach crisp I just made him.

Speaking of peach crisps, I recently spent some time with my New England baking cookbook and found that in addition to peach crisp I could also make peach buckle, peach slump, peach cobbler and peach grunt. Apparently those cooks had to keep coming up with various ways to deal with the surplus of peaches that arrive at the end of summer. But I am sticking with the famous peach blueberry pie I mentioned earlier and the very simple peach crisp currently sitting on the kitchen counter.

I hope the woodchuck relocates himself. I hesitate to find out “what evil lurks in the heart” of my back yard waiting to walk into that trap.

“A Woodchuck With Stripes?”


Well the Hav-a-Heart trap, baited with broccoli, failed to catch the wily woodchuck. Instead, a skunk wandered in for the food and is now pacing back and forth. My husband, who once before released a skunk from the same trap, is trying to remember exactly how he did it without getting sprayed. Somewhere close by I assume a woodchuck is having a good laugh. (I would call it a chuckle if that wasn’t so corny.)

It’s beginning to look like we live in a dangerous place: spiders, tornadoes and now skunks. So much for my attempt to paint our backyard as a quiet retreat!

“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

A few days ago my husband came into the living room to startle my grandkids and me with a terrifying tale. He had been out moving some bricks along the walkway(he the champion of salvaged bricks!) and after turning one over confronted the largest spider he had ever seen. Putting the brick back down, he went on gardening. Suddenly the spider leaped(literally) onto his hand, ran(literally) up his arm and around to the back of his neck. He was able to shake it off before it could think about biting him.

Listening to his account, my grandkids immediately yelled in unison WOLF SPIDER and began to squeal, shriek and generally show their terror/delight at the encounter. They had spoken about wolf spiders to me before, but I had dismissed the discussion as exaggeration on their part. After a family search of Google, we determined that it was indeed a wolf spider. They don’t spin but catch their prey by running and jumping onto it. The sting apparently is dangerous only to the elderly and children(thus a threat to all of us reading the information.)

These creatures have eight eyes, hairy skins, two extra legs in from by their mouth and a face that does indeed resemble a wolf. The kids really wanted to see one and really didn’t want to see one, proving more ambivalent than I am. I had no idea that such menaces lived in our back yard and have no desire to encounter one myself. I had lived blissfully ignorant that running, jumping spiders lived in Connecticut. It will be hard to return to my happy oblivion!



Sitting down to dinner last night after an afternoon of intense thunderstorms, lightning and pouring rain, we noticed that things seemed to be getting even worse. My husband thought we should turn on the weather news, and at that moment his phone alerted him that the weather was about to be more severe. As we left our food on the table, went into the living room, and turned on the television, we were startled to see that the prediction was for a tornado basically just a few hundred yards away from our home and coming our way. We hurried to the basement and sat there listening to the news give way to the dreaded blaring warning system without the accompanying “this is only a test.”

Although we heard two loud groaning noises, unlike any we had ever encountered before, the storm passed overhead and went on to threaten the neighboring towns to the east. We emerged from the basement, surveyed the yard, and went back to our meal. Save for many cardinal flowers now lying prone, we escaped any real damage. Fortunately, though they appeared on radar, no tornadoes actually touched ground in any Connecticut towns last night.

I had always thought tornadoes were storms of the American Midwest, such as the one in the Wizard of Oz in Kansas. But it turns out that very localized tornadoes do hit New England from time to time, doing intense damage but in very limited areas. I am grateful that the alert system now sends messages to cell phones as well as televisions. We were informed, safe and dry for a tense few minutes. Fortunately only our heart rate and blood pressure showed any effects!


“Return of the Woodchuck”


The photo on the left is our Hav-a-Heart trapped baited with broccoli, the image on the left a fat woodchuck in Massachusetts. I am hopeful that the fat brown rear end of a woodchuck we saw scurrying across our driveway on Sunday night didn’t move down here from Massachusetts. I also hope that the creature didn’t successfully swim over from the meadows across the Connecticut River where we relocated one a while back. I suspect, rather, that this is a literate woodchuck who, reading my most recent posts, realized the eatings were good in our yard and has moved in.

Because the previous animal ate all of my sunflowers, my husband bought two potted sunflowers and transplanted them in the empty spot in the garden. Figuring that the word had gotten out to the local woodchucks that there were new sunflowers to eat, the trap is sitting next to the new sunflowers. We should soon learn if sunflowers or broccoli appeal more to this new invader.

I have been surprised by the variety of wild animals in our neighborhood, including skunks, possums, deer, foxes, rabbits and, or course, woodchucks. Almost no new development has occurred here, so the neighboring woods and wetlands have stayed pretty intact for many years, allowing the animals to successfully survive.  Birds abound here too, with eagles nesting along the river and many smaller birds nesting in the trees. This year woodpeckers have been particularly abundant with more young ones  surviving than I have seen in the past. On balance the joys of living among all these creatures almost compensates for the ravenous woodchuck. Almost!


“The Street Where We Live”


One of my favorite songs from My Fair Lady extols the virtue of the “street where you live.” While I don’t have Freddie outside serenading Eliza, I do live on a street that I love. I thought I would post a picture of the three houses to our east with our white house in the foreground. Here you can see the sidewalks I insisted on having when we bought our house. You can see many more salvaged bricks between our lawn(carefully hand weeded by my husband to protect the birds) and the sidewalk. On the left is the street that connects us to the main road at the far end of the picture. Because of its location, our street is plowed every 30 minutes or so during winter. Our wires are all overhead, including electric, cable and phone. The lopsided tree in the distance was pruned to avoid the power lines in case of a limb toppling storm.

We know all the people in these houses, despite dire warnings that Americans don’t know their neighbors. One is an electrician, another a motor vehicle department worker, another a widow of a projectionist. We look out for one another, especially making sure that the widow is safe, taking turns plowing her walk and driveway in the winter. My husband knows many more of our more distant neighbors  from the time he spends hand weeding the front yard.(“Why don’t you just use weed killer?” a frequent question.)

At the end of the street to the top of photo there is an intersection with a small group of shops: a convenience store, a barber shop, a liquor store and a Chinese take out. Just a few more minutes away one can walk to a dollar store, a bakery, a nail salon, and a pizza parlor. And with a few more minutes walk(maybe 10 minutes in all) you arrive at a large grocery store, a drug store, a Home Depot, a pet store, a craft store, a party store, a clothing store and several fast food restaurants. I wanted to live in a house that was walking distance to whatever we might need, and ours suits my demand. The location also works for many of our neighbors without cars who frequently walk by our home on the way to the shops.

Upscale? Not at all. Exciting? Rarely. A perfect place to live.


“A Wider View”


I always thought that I was pretty informed about the world. I knew more geography than the average American, I had a basic grasp on U.S. and world history. I knew that the United States was just one out of many countries that housed good, thoughtful, responsible citizens. Still I have learned so much more since I began following blogs from around the world. It turns out that I still held fairly one dimensional views about a lot of places.

Take New Zealand, for example. I have never been there, but friends have told me it is the most beautiful country they have ever visited. I knew that it had a rapid response after a mass shooting. So in my limited view, it was a great place free of problems. Then I read a New Zealand blog where the writer mentioned the homeless situation in New Zealand. What? Homeless in New Zealand? I promptly went on line and read about the very real problem of homeless people in New Zealand. My view had to widen.

Then there’s Kashmir. I had never even thought about Kashmir until I started following a blog of a college student who wrote there. He had only intermittent access to the internet since it kept being shut down. That got my attention of course. How could the internet get shut down in what I thought of as the free country of India? And of course now Kashmir is the focus of much news reporting, only recently coming from the local people who once again had their internet access cut off. I have no position on the India/Kashmir tangle, but I never even knew it existed before I kept a blog.

I have acquired book lists, song titles, movie recommendations, and recipe ideas from following others. But I am most grateful for the international community which took me out of my–as it turns out–very parochial view. Thanks everyone.

“Backyard Oasis”


I have always loved having a back yard. Perhaps this began in my childhood with the first house I lived in as a child. Outdoors always gave me a sense of freedom to play, to dream and to read. Even though I now find comfort indoors, I still love having a back yard, if only to gaze out upon as I go through my day. Fortunately, my husband loves working outdoors and has turned our back yard into a true oasis. Here is a third view of the yard, this time highlighting the brick walkway he made from salvaged bricks, the picket fence he made from boards, the blueberry fortress and in the far back corner the grape arbor, reinforced by salvaged boards. The scruffy patch of lawn shows the work of our dog!

We live in a single family neighborhood, with one house for each lot, usually at least 50′ by 100′.  In Oregon, where I spent the first fifty years of my life, this was the most common type of housing. Recently, however, Oregon has changed their laws. In any town over 25,000 people, single family zoning will no longer be allowed. Talking recently to an old friend in Portland, I learned that the idea of single family neighborhoods is now considered “out of date” and a “new paradigm” of multi-family housing is now preferred. I guess this resulted from the great numbers of people moving to Oregon and expecting to find a place to live. But the character of the state will be vastly different from when I grew up there.

I am glad that here we are still surrounded by individual houses with yards. I enjoy the pride each homeowner takes with their little “estate.” No one near has much money, but all are happy to have a place of their own to call home.