“Cautious Reentry”

Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

I began this blog five years ago in July of 2016, before Trump and before Covid. I did it rather as a lark to get my writing muscles toned up again in preparation for longer, much postponed, writing projects. To my surprise, it turned into an activity totally unexpected. It became a vehicle for sharing, albeit cautiously, about Trump and Covid. Most importantly, especially during the enforced 15 month quarantine, it kept me connected to a world of other writers. Before I started writing I had no idea how rich in connections my life would become through the simple vehicle of a blog.

But recently, I took several weeks off, rather like an academic sabbatical, to question what plans I had for the future for my blog. I considered signing off all together, but that felt rather like severing a limb, so that idea died. Then I thought about a regular structure, such as once a week. But that didn’t fit with the way ideas actually come to me, in small bursts rather than in one long piece. So instead, I have come back.

What do I write about? Well it has always been quite eclectic, from childhood reminiscences, to book reviews, to observations on New England, to food I find on the road, to artists we collect on the travels we take when not locked down. So I expect the blog will continue in exactly the same vein. I have ignored all sorts of advice for a “successful blog,” whatever that means. I don’t focus on one theme. I don’t try to reach a huge audience. I don’t have a predictable schedule. But I do respond to all comments, not including spam of course, and I do comment on a wide assortment of other writers’ posts.

I will be seeing you again, as often as the mood strikes. And it seems to be striking pretty regularly once again!

“You Take the High Road”

Quechee Falls Vermont

We drove west along Route 4 in Vermont looking for the state park and the visitor’s center which would take us to the trail head for Quechee Gorge. It looked like an inspiring spot with a deep gorge and a flowing waterfall. I had seen a photo of people standing on a bridge admiring the view and assumed that the path would take us to that lookout spot. After a quick visit to the center to check out the trails, we set off on a trail into the gorge. A lovely walk through deep woods, we went down into a valley then back up to the rim of the gorge. However neither the river nor the gorge nor the waterfall were visible through the dense woods.

Finally we emerged at the dam pictured above which uses the falling water to produce electricity. It was lovely, the sound refreshing, the view pleasant enough, but not quite what I had been expecting. We set out to return to our car, me not looking forward to the return 45 minute hike.

On way back we looked up to see a group of people standing on a bridge. We found some stairs to get up with them and discovered we were on Route 4 with a bridge crossing the gorge. A large parking lot sat across the road. All these people had simply driven up, gotten out of their cars, and seen the gorge from the bridge. Unbelievably enough, our car was parked about a block and a half east on Route 4. We had merely to cross the highway to be on our way. We had definitely taken “the long way around!”

And the view from the bridge?

The “Mother Ship”

King Arthur Baking (pre-COVID!)

I do a lot of baking and have since I was a girl. My first oven was a burn risk toy electric stove. Then I met Mrs. Wade, leader of my Camp Fire Girls troop, and really learned the ropes. She taught me how to make muffins without the dreaded “tunnels.” Her kitchen was well equipped, very unusually so in the 1950’s, and she even had a marble slab to use to roll out pie dough.

Even before I moved to New England, I had begun using King Arthur Flour for my bread. But once we moved within range of their main store in Norwich, Vermont, I tried to stop in whenever our travels took us anywhere near. Of course we have gone nowhere since September of 1999. But recently, seeing that Vermont had as low covid rates as we did, we planned an overnight trip to Norwich. If we were younger, it might have been a day trip, but we aren’t. So tomorrow we drive the two and a half hours to Norwich, have lunch outside the store, and buy any new products that appeal to me. (And that would be a lot of things!)

We are staying over in an inn and then exploring Quechee Gorge, a Vermont State Park, in the morning. Depending on the rain, I may get a few photos worth posting.

Have I mentioned we are going on a trip?!!!!

“Sweet Solution”

Peach/Blueberry Pie

In Connecticut the peach season and the blueberry season overlap for just enough time to make one pie each summer. However, since we had the abundance of South Carolina peaches and Charlie’s blueberries were also coming on like gangbusters, I had an opportunity to bake a pie just in time for the 4th of July. Here, in all its glory, is a red(pie plate), white(sugar dusting), and blue delight. Actually it was already half eaten by the time the holiday arrived!

If you have read me in past summers, you already know about the history of this luscious dessert. If you are new, however, the story is worth knowing. When Charlie and I were first dating I told him about an amazing peach/blueberry pie I had made in the summer of 1969 from a recipe torn from the local paper. I had, in the meantime(18 years) lost the clipping. A devoted pie eater, he got in touch with the newspaper’s food editor(back when they still had one) and set her on the hunt for the recipe. She found it, typed it out and sent it to him. It is that peach/blueberry stained paper I still use.

And since the blueberries continue to ripen and the local peaches will eventually be ready, he can look forward to an unprecedented second peach/blueberry pie this August.

“Quite Peachy”

As advertised

Some time in the early spring I received an advertisement for the “Peach Truck.” It was a very cheerful message, painting the story of a young couple in Nashville, Tennessee who traveled the country stopping at various places to sell peaches. Knowing how much Charlie loves Southern peaches, I put in an order to pick up a crate in late June. I eagerly awaited the delivery and the produce.

We drove to the appointed meeting place and looked around for the pickup truck and the friendly young people vending sweetness to the North. Failing to see anything looking like the ad, I looked around further. Then I spotted

In actuality

OK. I had fallen for the pitch. We picked up a crate of rock hard peaches from South Carolina, headed home, and spread 25 pounds of peaches out on a cloth in the basement to, as the young man who handed them over said, “get soft.” Well if I had wanted rock hard peaches, I would have bought them from the local grocery.

Since I had given the crate to Charlie for his birthday I was very disappointed. But the story has an excellent ending. The peaches did in fact ripen. And their flavor far surpassed any we had eaten in many years. Juicy, full of intense peach flavor, they finally lived up to Charlie’s standard for the “perfect peach.”

Now about having 25 pounds of ripe peaches at once….(stay tuned)

“Fresh Off the Stalk”

As we did last year, we bought a share of a local farm through a program called CSA(community supported agriculture.) Spending the money in early spring allows the farmers capital to plant new crops. Then each week we take our bag to the farm stand for our share of the produce. While theoretically we would lose our money if the crops completely failed, this farm has supplied food for years and the risk is very small.

The first week we received fresh asparagus, newly cut from the stalks that morning. I cook asparagus regularly in the late spring, often either steaming or oven roasting it. The vegetables available in the local store usually come from Mexico. I was used to the taste being fairly bland, definitely needing the addition of lemon juice for adding zest.

I was amazed to taste real local asparagus for the first time that I can remember. The taste was pronounced, delicious and needed no seasoning. Clearly whatever allows the stalks to travel from Mexico and arrive with a snap in the store takes a toll on taste. I had no idea of the difference in the flavor possible when it had just been harvested.

I think the summer will be, as was last year’s, a reintroduction to the true flavors of vegetables. Locally grown and picked, they have no need to travel or to keep for a week, depriving them of flavor. Here’s to what lies ahead from our neighbor’s gardens. Eating local is more than a fad, it is a promise of real flavor, often missing at the super market.

“Good As New”

Many years ago we bought this picnic table and benches unfinished. We painted them a lovely green and used them for a while. When the paint wore down, we sanded and repainted them. Remembering how tedious this job was, we put off doing the job from summer to summer. Yes splinters were likely if you sat down too fast, but we could deal with that. Finally this month Charlie decided to restore them.

After sanding for nearly a full day he realized that it probably would have been smarter to just get a new set. But by then in for a dime in for one hundred dollars, he kept at it. Many hours of sanding, one coat of sealing primer, three coats of outdoor paint later, we moved the restored set to the deck. Sadly now the deck looks in need of a restoration. Next year—maybe.

“Why Sea Otters?”

I first saw sea otters off the coast of Monterrey California and promptly fell in love with them. While they were nearly hunted to extinction for their fur, they are clinging on in small groups at various points on the Pacific Coast. I bought an otter magnet at the Monterrey Aquarium and the collection was on.

I imagine there are many women my age who have collected a lot of something or another. Some women collect spoons, others figurines, others religious artifacts. I collect sea otters. That makes buying me a card or a small gift quite easy for my family and friends. As long as it has sea otters on it I will love it.

Buy why sea otters? A quick reading about their lives may resonate with more than just me. Sea otters basically eat, play, love and rest on their backs. If they don’t want to float too far away they sometimes anchor themselves in a bit of seaweed to stay stationary. They lie on their backs and crack open shellfish and devour the insides as they float. They make excellent mothers and can be seen on their backs with their babies resting on their chest. And I can’t deny that they have the “cuteness” factor in spades.

May they increase and multiply!

“33 and Counting”

June 18, 1988

Thirty three years ago. on a sunny Saturday in Portland, Oregon, Charlie and I brought our lives, our three children and one dog together “until death do us part.” We had very traditional vows(minus the obey) and a simple ceremony at a Friends church in front of around 100 friends and family. We hosted a very low key, alcohol free reception in the church basement complete with nuts, coffee, punch and wedding cake. The church women decorated the tables and cleaned up for us.

We had some idea of the obstacles before us, each entering into our second marriage with children from the first. Our pastor had taken us through over a year of weekly premarital sessions making sure there was nothing we hadn’t discussed before we said “I do.” But we had yet to live with each other which was sure to present new challenges. Fortunately the congregation in a Quaker ceremony basically weds the couple and promises to support them in their marriage. Especially during that first year we leaned heavily on fellow congregants to do just that.

We have weathered a lot but are still thriving together. Our kids are in their forties now, on their own. We are looking for a new puppy to replace our recent loss of Grace. We own our home, a couple of cars and the accumulation of many years of treasured art and possessions.

I would do it again in a heartbeat.

“Beach Read”

Perfect Beach Read

I love well written, deeply plotted, character and descriptive rich novels. I also need to have a “beach read” every summer. The qualifications for my definition of a “beach read” are pretty basic. Preferably the cover should feature a drawing of the beach. Failing that, however, in the case of the book pictured above, plot can qualify it. The plot should be utterly predictable, involving two unlikely people forming, despite all obvious obstacles, a romantic connection. I prefer no mention of throbbing or thrusting, both of which distract me from my purpose of reading such a novel–to completely relax.

A good “beach read” has many of the characteristics of going to the actual beach. There you probably consume food you don’t usually eat at home even though it doesn’t contribute to your health goals. You probably feel no need to “account” for your time spent. You probably lose track of time and commitments. You may do “touristy” things that you are too “sophisticated” to do back home. Your inner sloth emerges quite happily.

In my experience beach reads are a woman’s secret summer pleasure. I don’t know if there is a male equivalent. But I can recommend the very silly summer publication of The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren. A total tech nerd invents a machine to pair people by genetic tests. A dubious woman takes the test on a dare. The predictable ensues. Enjoy.