SUPPORT SYSTEMS, CONTINUING

September 20, 2020

               In August 2016, I wrote here about household problems, quoting Bev in Snowy when she says that everything in her household seems to be causing “disaster after disaster. The major ones were, the water heater sprung a leak, a stove burner caught on fire . . . the washing machine broke down, and Etta’s horse fell in the swimming pool!”
               Two years later, a month after Don died, I wrote here about how household problems “became my responsibility when Don’s health began failing. I started to assemble what I thought of as a ‘support system’ for our house. Oh, how spoiled I had been by the luxury of Don’s being able to fix almost everything! And for the times when he knew he needed help, either with our house or one of the places we looked after in our little caretaking business, he had assembled people who were his support system, who came to the rescue.”
               I concluded, “My support-system people have also been coming to the rescue. For example, here’s what was happening one recent busy day: the carpenter was retiling our shower; the plumber dashed in to fix the kitchen faucet; and the handyman arrived to investigate a smoke-alarm problem.”
               During that time I learned there was another support system, that of family and friends. We’re all learning the importance of this during the pandemic, aren’t we.
               Last week I thought more than ever about support systems. My niece came for a visit, after visiting my stepmother in northern New Hampshire and before visiting my sister in Maine—a loving tour of her aging relatives! Her support ranged from help with computer problems to the cooking of wonderful meals for the table and for the freezer, and there was lots and lots of laughter.
               Then after her visit, I went out to lunch with three dear friends from our high-school “Gang.” We try to get together each autumn. Masked, we did so this year, meeting at the Village Kitchen restaurant I’ve mentioned often here. Ah, the comfort of shared references, such as other friends’ names, Laconia’s street names, this and that, then and now; we knew what each other meant.
               Also, of course, shared memories. I particularly enjoyed this: We were talking about 1950s clothes, and two of us said, “Remember pink shirts? Remember Don’s pink button-down shirt and chinos, and white bucks?” and “Wasn’t he handsome!” (I must point out that I was not the one saying that, so it was a very objective opinion!) And we all sighed happily, reminiscently.
               The support systems continue.

“THE 85 BEST THINGS TO DO IN NEW ENGLAND"

September 13, 2020

            This is the 85th anniversary of Yankee magazine, and in the September/October issue one of their features is a list of “The 85 Best Things to Do in New England.” I turned to this immediately, hoping that I’d done some of them.
            Yes! I counted up twenty-six. Here are some of my favorites:
            “Buy L.L.Bean Boots at their birthplace”: I grew up with L.L.Bean catalogs ever-present in the house, my father studying them, now and then making a decision. If you ordered boots, you had to trace your feet on a piece of paper and send that. What a great occasion when his boots or fishing gear arrived! Years later, on a fishing trip in Maine, he finally went to the actual store, back when Freeport hadn’t yet become an outlet-malls mecca. Don and I had bought our first Bean boots by mail, tracing our feet, but we were so impressed by his description of the store that when we made our next trip to Maine we too went—and were so overwhelmed by the array that we ended up only buying a bandana! (In years since, needless to say, we have bought rather more there, including Bean boots.)
            “Survey the Maine Coast through the Eyes of a Sailor”: By taking a trip on a windjammer. Don and I did this in the 1990s, on a small windjammer, spending a night in a harbor near the island of North Haven. It was this tall ship’s first trip of the season, sort of a shakedown cruise, and we were the only passengers, which made it seem extra-adventurous. I remember most vividly the cook. This young woman, who hadn’t worked on a ship before, was nervous but confident, and she fed us and the crew fine meals from her little galley.
            And speaking of meals, the 43rd Best Thing in the list is “Eat Like a New Englander” and begins, “New England’s most iconic foods—chowder, baked beans, blueberry pie, and the like—are more than mere items on a bucket list. They’re edible artifacts, telling stories of immigration, history, and agriculture.” For blueberry pie, one of the recommendations is Helen’s Restaurant in Machias, Maine. This is another place we heard about from my father, the pie and the view, after a fishing trip had included a stop at Helen’s.  He reported happily that you could look out the window beside your table right down into the Machias River. So Don and I did the same the next time we were in Maine.
            “Reconnect with the Revolution”: the American revolution, “and for maximum fife-and-drum drama it’s impossible to beat Minute Man National Park in Massachusetts.” In an old family photo album there’s a photo taken on the Lexington town green, which is guarded by a Minute Man statue, with me holding a balloon by its string. Each April our family went down to Lexington, my mother’s hometown, to visit my grandparents and go to the Paul Revere Day (now Patriots’ Day) celebration. What always made the biggest impression on me was how far Lexington’s April had advanced into what Snowy would call “the green and yellow time,” while in New Hampshire our spring was still more a bedraggled brown.
            And (food again), next-to-last but definitely not least on the eighty-five list: “Whoopie It Up: Any whoopie pie is a good whoopie pie; that said, make a point to seek out the Ghiradelli chocolate version at Moulton Farm in Meredith, NH.” Oh, yes!

2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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And

   DESSERT SALADS?!

September 6, 2020

             Noting that “I think Snowy would love this!”, a friend sent me a printout of a piece by Sheri Castle titled “The History of the Strawberry Pretzel Salad.”
             A what salad??? Strawberries and pretzels could be called a salad? Avidly I read on: “Yes, it’s a dessert, and yet it’s called a salad, which is the way of many vintage recipes that call for a little (or a lot) of Jell-O. Many culinary historians think it started way back in 1904 when Mrs. John E. Cook of New Castle, Pennsylvania, won third prize (a new sewing machine!) for her perfection salad—a congealed raw vegetable number—in a recipe contest . . . The term salad seems to have stuck, even when a misnomer. I grew up eating strawberry pretzel salad in North Carolina . . .  There are a lot of desserts that call themselves salads—the cookie salad, the ambrosia salad, the candy bar apple salad—but strawberry pretzel salad is the queen of them all.”
             And as I continued to read on, I learned that this salad starts out with a pretzel crust—a what??? Yes; “Using pretzels instead of the usual graham cracker crumbs was a real aha moment back when few home cooks thought of using a little salt to balance a sweet dish.” Then there’s a filling of cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla. Then a topping of strawberry Jell-O and fresh strawberries. Most recipes, I was told, use Cool Whip and frozen strawberries, but she advises against this.
             Well! I was reeling with amazement. At least I had read recipes before for ambrosia salad—and had I actually made it in my young-married years? I seemed to recall that its main ingredients were bananas and shredded coconut. Shredded coconut might’ve been beyond my budget.
             And then soon after I had received this strawberry-pretzel recipe, I was cleaning house with the Food Network when I heard the words “candy bar salad” and spun around to stare at Girl Meets Farm on the screen. I beheld Molly Yeh saying, “It’s a Midwest specialty, and it’s really a dessert,” as she began making the candy bars from scratch. After they’d solidified in the fridge, she chopped them up and combined them with vanilla pudding, whipped cream, and chopped apples. I decided it was the apples that qualified this dessert to be a salad—and healthy.
             And I was inspired to get out a cookbook from the past to see if any Dessert Salads were included. It’s my grandmother Ruth’s copy of the Lend-a-Hand Cook Book put together by her church’s Lend-a-Hand group. She had contributed several recipes and, leafing through, I was momentarily sidetracked by her recipe for “Corn Cake,” remembering all the cornbread I’d enjoyed in her kitchen. She hadn’t contributed any Dessert Salads. But, to my delight, in the salad section I found that one of the women had supplied a recipe for a perfection salad such as the one that won third prize in the 1904 contest and in the desserts section a frozen fruit salad appeared.
           I told my sister and niece about strawberry pretzel salad. We’ll be making it sometime, and they agreed with my friend that Snowy would love it.

  2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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And

POUTINE AND POSTSCRIPT

          Last week another of New Hampshire’s WMUR New Hampshire Chronicle segments got my complete attention. It was about the annual New Hampshire Poutine Festival, which somehow I hadn’t heard about ever before. I learned that usually the host is the Franco-American Centre of New Hampshire in Manchester, but this year it became a road show with restaurants from Nashua north to Littleton participating.          
          In case you haven’t encountered “the French-Canadian classic” poutine (pronounced pouTEEN), I should explain that it’s a dish made up of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Who wouldn’t love these ingredients—but maybe (we timid folks wonder) not all together all at once? Don and I hadn’t heard about it in our youth, and the first time we saw “poutine” on a menu was in a restaurant in Vermont near the Canadian border. We were curious, asked the waitress what was in it, and then didn’t dare try it because Don had had heart surgery a few years earlier and we were being very careful. But years later when we saw it on the menu of a new restaurant in the Laconia area we were more casual, ordered it, and laughed a lot while devouring it.
          The restaurants in the Poutine Festival Road Show have some variations on the theme of the three basic ingredients, such as adding chicken and peas, or maple syrup and bacon, or even duck confit!
          A French-Canadian dish that we had heard about from Laconia friends in our youth was a meat pie called tourtiere but pronounced TOOT-kay as in “Tootsie Roll.” In recent years, Don and I would occasionally treat ourselves to the meat pie from nearby Moulton Farm’s farm-stand bakery and we also made it several times ourselves. We used my niece’s paternal grandmother’s recipe. I gave this recipe to Bev in The Husband Bench and named it “Memere’s Tourtiere a la Bev.”
          A P.S. to last week’s excerpt from Sandy Oliver’s column: I thought from your interest that you’d like to read more of her “wilted lettuce” history: “Cooked lettuce historically found its way into soups, too, especially ones for fast days, like this one from Hannah Glasse, 1747, entitled ‘soop meager,’ but hardly meager with butter, onions, celery, spinach, parsley, and ‘a good Lettice cleanly washed,’ and water for broth, thickened with a little flour, dry bread crumbs, and seasoned with pepper and mace, then finished with beaten egg yolks and a dash of vinegar. If you have green peas, you can add them. If you aren’t fasting, use chicken broth.”
          Lettuce Soup rang a bell in my memory. Had I ever made it or just read a recipe? I checked my facsimile edition of Fannie Merritt Farmer’s Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, copyright 1896, and there it was. I hadn’t made it, but it’s fun to read:
Cream of Lettuce Soup
2 ½ cups White Stock [made with “knuckle of veal” or chicken]
2 heads lettuce, finely cut
2 T. rice
½ cup cream
¼ T. onion, finely chopped
1 T. butter
Yolk 1 egg
Few grains nutmeg
Salt
Pepper
Cook onion five minutes in butter, add lettuce, rice, and stock. Cook until rice is soft, then add cream, yolk of egg slightly beaten, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove outer leaves from lettuce, using only tender part for soup.

  AGATHA CHRISTIE’S 100th ANNIVERSARY

August 30, 2020

          In Publishers Weekly’s August 3rd issue, there was an article titled “In the Study, with a Typewriter,” by Liz Scheier. It’s about a milestone for Agatha Christie:
          “This year is the 100th anniversary of Christie’s debut, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the book that introduced Hercule Poirot—or, as an ad that ran in the Nov. 6, 1920, issue of PW called him, ‘a new type of detective in the shape of a Belgian.’ Poirot and a later Christie creation, amateur sleuth Miss Marple of fictional St. Mary’s Mead, became household names, and even a global pandemic can’t stop the grand doyenne of crime fiction. ‘We’re selling more than usual, even though many bookshops are closed,’ says James Prichard, who is chairman and CEO of Agatha Christie Ltd. and Christie’s great-grandson. ‘People return to beloved childhood books in times of crisis. There’s a sense of justice in her books, and you know that things will be tied up at the end, which is reassuring.’”
          Childhood books. As the article goes on to say, “Many Christie fans started reading her early and were hooked for life.” In January 2018 I wrote here about Agatha (I feel I can call her by her first name!) and quoted The Cheerleader’s description of Snowy’s bedroom: “In this pink-and-white room, childhood blended into girlhood . . . In her white bookcase were the Five Little Peppers and Bobbsey Twins and Honeybunches and Maidas, but there were also more recent birthday-and-Christmas-requested books . . . and books she herself had bought, paperback Agatha Christies . . . ”
          I also quoted Andrew Wilson in a PW interview about his series in which a fictional Agatha Christie solves crimes: “I’ve always been a fan. She was a transition between the reading of my childhood and more adult literature.” I continued, “A transition. Yes! I vividly saw myself on my bed in my pink-and-white bedroom reading my first Agatha Christie, my mother’s copy of Three Blind Mice and Other Stories. Then all of my mother’s other Agatha Christies.”
          I mentioned this 100th anniversary to Penny, my sister, and we agreed that our favorite Agatha Christies are two Miss Marple mysteries, Murder at the Vicarage and The Body in the Library. When I was writing Site Fidelity I had a grand time deciding that the summer theater Bev had just joined would include Murder at the Vicarage in its performances. Being a newcomer, Bev shouldn’t get the Miss Marple role, so I settled on her getting the role of Mrs. Price Ridley who, Snowy recalls from reading the book, is a “matronly parishioner who wore matronly hats.” Thus Bev came up with her version of such a hat.

© 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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And

POUTINE AND POSTSCRIPT

August 23, 2020

          Last week another of New Hampshire’s WMUR New Hampshire Chronicle segments got my complete attention. It was about the annual New Hampshire Poutine Festival, which somehow I hadn’t heard about ever before. I learned that usually the host is the Franco-American Centre of New Hampshire in Manchester, but this year it became a road show with restaurants from Nashua north to Littleton participating.
          In case you haven’t encountered “the French-Canadian classic” poutine (pronounced pouTEEN), I should explain that it’s a dish made up of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Who wouldn’t love these ingredients—but maybe (we timid folks wonder) not all together all at once? Don and I hadn’t heard about it in our youth, and the first time we saw “poutine” on a menu was in a restaurant in Vermont near the Canadian border. We were curious, asked the waitress what was in it, and then didn’t dare try it because Don had had heart surgery a few years earlier and we were being very careful. But years later when we saw it on the menu of a new restaurant in the Laconia area we were more casual, ordered it, and laughed a lot while devouring it.
          The restaurants in the Poutine Festival Road Show have some variations on the theme of the three basic ingredients, such as adding chicken and peas, or maple syrup and bacon, or even duck confit!
          A French-Canadian dish that we had heard about from Laconia friends in our youth was a meat pie called tourtiere but pronounced TOOT-kay as in “Tootsie Roll.” In recent years, Don and I would occasionally treat ourselves to the meat pie from nearby Moulton Farm’s farm-stand bakery and we also made it several times ourselves. We used my niece’s paternal grandmother’s recipe. I gave this recipe to Bev in The Husband Bench and named it “Memere’s Tourtiere a la Bev.”
          A P.S. to last week’s excerpt from Sandy Oliver’s column: I thought from your interest that you’d like to read more of her “wilted lettuce” history: “Cooked lettuce historically found its way into soups, too, especially ones for fast days, like this one from Hannah Glasse, 1747, entitled ‘soop meager,’ but hardly meager with butter, onions, celery, spinach, parsley, and ‘a good Lettice cleanly washed,’ and water for broth, thickened with a little flour, dry bread crumbs, and seasoned with pepper and mace, then finished with beaten egg yolks and a dash of vinegar. If you have green peas, you can add them. If you aren’t fasting, use chicken broth.”
          Lettuce Soup rang a bell in my memory. Had I ever made it or just read a recipe? I checked my facsimile edition of Fannie Merritt Farmer’s Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, copyright 1896, and there it was. I hadn’t made it, but it’s fun to read:


Cream of Lettuce Soup
2 ½ cups White Stock [made with “knuckle of veal” or chicken]
2 heads lettuce, finely cut
2 T. rice
½ cup cream
¼ T. onion, finely chopped
1 T. butter
Yolk 1 egg
Few grains nutmeg
Salt
Pepper
Cook onion five minutes in butter, add lettuce, rice, and stock. Cook until rice is soft, then add cream, yolk of egg slightly beaten, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove outer leaves from lettuce, using only tender part for soup.

 

© 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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And

PANDEMIC LISTENING AND READING

August 16, 2020

         When the pandemic closed our library, I panicked. I’m sure lots of us did?
         I was especially worried about audiobooks, because my bedtime-listening seemed more necessary than ever to fend off all the new fears. I had my own little collection of audiobooks, but if I kept listening to them over and over I’d have the damn things memorized. I dreaded trying some computer access; I needed the familiar, the CDs. Penny, my sister, to the rescue! She sent me a stack of CDs from her collection, such as Donna Leon, Louise Penny, Maeve Binchy, Julia Childs’s My Life in France.
         And now that the library is semi-open, I’m listening to Hid from Our Eyes, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s latest, a brand-new Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery, her first in seven years.
         For reading during the closure, I caught up on an accumulation of newspapers, magazines, and books I’d meant to get to someday. In a recent Publishers Weekly I’ve now taken note of a couple of books to suggest to our librarians for future reading, both books to be published in October: Nothing Much Happens: Cozy and Calming Stories to Soothe Your Mind and Help You Sleep, by Kathryn Nicolai (PW concludes its review with “Nicolai accomplishes what no other author would want to hear: these stories can put people to sleep”); Pottering:A Cure for Modern Life, by Anna McGovern (PW concludes, “Those who have tried their hand at hygge . . . and the like will find themselves right at home here”).
         In the August of issue of Maine’s Working Waterfront newspaper, Sandy Oliver’s “Journal of an Island Kitchen” column is titled “Let Us Be Thankful for Lettuce: This leafy vegetable thrives on cool islands.” She writes about the abundance of lettuce in her garden and how she sometimes even grills or broils it, “a variation on the very old recipe of wilted lettuce made by heating bacon fat or vinegar and dribbling it over lettuce with a sprinkle of sugar on top,” which I’ve read about but never tried. This summer, because many farm stands aren’t open or only partially, I’m hankering for lettuce-right-out-of-the-garden, especially Buttercrunch, my favorite. I’ve decided that next summer I’ll plant a big pot of Buttercrunch to join the pots of herbs on the picnic table.
         With library books available now, I’ve just finished reading Growing Old: Notes on Aging with Something Like Grace by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, who lives in New Hampshire and whose other books include The Hidden Life of Dogs. She is fascinating, opinionated, funny—and serious. About her husband’s death she wrote, “Love is one thing when you fall in it, because this involves yourself and another person who is clearly someone else. It’s quite another thing after you’ve joined so tightly that you might as well be one person.”

© 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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MOBILE BUSINESSES

August 9, 2020

           Last week on New Hampshire’s WMUR’s “New Hampshire Chronicle” program, there was a segment about “mobile businesses” in the Granite State. These do seem to be thriving during the pandemic, don’t they, here and elsewhere.
           In this segment, we learned about a yellow bus named “Wandering Spouts” that’s a greenhouse on wheels where people can shop for houseplants and more. A converted Thomas’s English Muffins truck has become the “Quilting Bee,” a mobile quilt and gift shop. And the pink “Relax and Flow Paint Party Bus” offers people a place to enter and slow down and dabble. In a “Chronicle” program last month, we learned about a mobile service for dog massages and another for a dog spa where your pet can be groomed. My sister has sent me photos of her DIY trimming of Paris, her little Bichon Frise. Penny says a mobile spa would’ve been welcome!
           I’ve written here before about my memories of delivery services in the past. This is a fictional version in my novel A Lovely Time Was Had by All, whose narrator had worked at a U.S. Air Force high school in England in the 1960s and lived off the Base in a nearby village, in a former estate’s laundry cottage divided into apartments:

           These shopping excursions weren’t really necessary, since so many products were brought right to our doors. There was the milkman who arrived every morning to leave four pints for Stella [her American neighbor] and one for me, our amazement at learning that milk wasn’t sold in quarts here equaled only by our astonishment at next realizing that refrigerators were not, to all British, as necessary as food itself . . . Three times a week the breadwoman’s van came honking through the forest and all of us Clopton Park womenfolk and children gathered under the trees to wait until she parked and opened the doors in the back. Together, by trial and error, Stella and I discovered what to buy from those trays of cakes and crumpets and tarts and loaves unsliced or sliced. The butcher’s car was a miniature station wagon, and his young helper carried to us in a big wicker basket the meat we had ordered. Kerosene was delivered once a week to my apartment by the man we called the Pink Man because kerosene was known as paraffin here and the brand was Pink Paraffin. He arrived in a bus that combined a grocery store and a hardware store, and Stella and Amy would come out of their apartment and climb up into it with me and we would browse the shelves of saucepans and soap powders and teapots while he pumped paraffin into the barrel in the dooryard. The coalman came to Stella, and eventually, when I tired of going to the Base laundromat, the laundryman came to me. I kept thinking of Dolly, my grandmother, and how she would have been perfectly at home here. To my grandparents’ Bridgeford house had come a meatman, a breadman, an eggman, a dry-cleaning man, and although these delivery services began dwindling away, Dolly still had a milkman and a fishman until the day she died.

 © 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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BACKYARD WILDLIFE

August 2, 2020

           At this time of year the first sound I hear, when I get up in the mornings when it’s still dark and I listen at the bedroom windows, is frogs burping gently in the beaver pond in the backyard.
           The last sound I hear at bedtime is birds being talkative in the trees.
           Wildlife can be cozy.
           However, in the mornings after I’ve exercised and showered and got myself together, when I step outdoors to say, “Good morning, Morning!” I look both ways to make sure a bear isn’t coming around a corner of the house, especially from the path out of the woods that Don and I dubbed “The Bear Highway” because bears mostly seem to favor this approach.
           Recently my sister asked my niece’s husband, a biologist, why I had so many bears at my place. He replied, using a scientific term to describe my locale, “Ruthie lives in bear heaven.” The environs are perfect.
           I haven’t yet seen a bear this year, but probably only because I haven’t been looking at the right time. One morning I did see evidence of a bear’s presence overnight: the big metal trash can, in which I store sunflower seeds in the winter and which, empty, I move to a spot beside the shed in the spring, was knocked over. Last year I discovered it knocked over and partly but vigorously crushed by a bear who must’ve been disgusted because although it smelled yummy, it was empty.
           More wild wildlife:
           As usual, there’s the occasional howling of coyotes during the night, the Wild West out the bedroom windows.
           Back to coziness:
           The sight of a big flock of wild turkeys swarming across the lawn, investigating the backyard, silent and seeming almost like soothing water swirling and eddying.
           The time I was weeding the garden and happened to look up to see a deer and fawn nearby across the pond, the deer grazing, the fawn bouncing.
           I remember a sight I didn’t see but Don vividly described. He saw a beaver leap off the pond’s opposite bank, creating the biggest splash he’d ever seen one make, “like a kid cannonballing into the old swimming hole.”
           And always there’s the amusement of watching chipmunks. Last month on Maine’s WCSH TV morning news program, the daily “stumper” question asked, “How many acorns can a chipmunk fit into its pouch—seven, twelve, eighteen, twenty-seven?” I guessed seven. The correct answer: twelve! I also learned they can fit in seventy sunflower seeds and thirty-one corn kernels. Clever chippies!

 © 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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MAINE BOOKS

July 26, 2020

           In Site Fidelity I had fun mentioning the Maine reading material that Puddles and Blivit put in the guest room in which Snowy and Tom stayed while visiting them: “A little bookcase held a selection of books by Louise Dickinson Rich, Kenneth Roberts, John Gould, and other Maine writers, and also issues of Down East magazine.”
          So I turned eagerly to a feature about Maine books in the June issue of Down East, “100 Books Every Lover of Maine Should Read,” chosen by the Down East staff. The books are listed in alphabetical order by title. Of the twenty-nine that I’ve read, here are my favorites:
          Arundel, by Kenneth Roberts. His historical novels are Maine classics. I grew up with an assortment of them in my parents’ bookcases, his name a sort of “household name.” And when I was old enough, I read them.
          Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey. His Make Way for Ducklings was the McCloskey book in my childhood, and I loved it. I was introduced to Blueberries for Sal by my niece when she was about ten years old and told me its plot to scare me when she and my sister and I were picking blueberries and keeping a wary watch for any bears who might join us.
          Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White. Another book I read later in life, White’s Stuart Little being the one in my childhood.
          Come Spring, by Ben Ames Williams. His name was another “household name” I remember seeing on several books in my parents’ bookcases. Two of those books survived to reside here in our bookcases Don built.
          The Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett. A beautifully written book; another Maine classic. During a Maine trip, Don and I explored the Tenants Harbor peninsula using as a guide an article (probably in Down East) about the actual locations of places in the book. We found them. I don’t think I often use the word “thrilled,” but I remember realizing that this was the emotion when I looked out at a view of a little house facing the ocean.
          High Tide at Noon and My World Is an Island, by Elisabeth Ogilvie. Thanks to my sister’s discovery of Elisabeth Ogilvie’s books in a Maine library, I was already a fan when Don and I moved to Sandwich and learned that one of our neighbors, Lib Kennedy, was her cousin. Lib invited Don and Penny and me to meet Elisabeth at her home in Cushing, Maine. Talk about being thrilled! After the visit, Elisabeth and I corresponded for several years; I wrote a piece about this for “Ruth’s Neighborhood” after she died.
          Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field. In my childhood I read this book about a doll over and over.
          An Island Garden, by Celia Thaxter. I’ve long loved her books and poetry. Penny and Don and I visited her garden on Appledore in the Isles of Shoals.
          We Took to the Woods, by Louise Dickinson Rich. She was a very entertaining writer, funny and honest. Don and I read this book in England and it made us decide that when we returned the States we too would take to the woods and live a homesteading life. Instead, we ended up in Boston!

 © 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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GARLIC

July 19, 2020

            This Sunday is National Ice Cream Day—and I’m thinking about garlic ice cream!
            Perhaps that’s because last week I saw in my diary a July 15, 2015 entry that said, “I hoed the garden and pulled up the first garlic.” I grew garlic for many years, and I had two cookbooks devoted to garlic. In one there is a recipe for garlic ice cream. I liked to try culinary experimentation so why didn’t I try making garlic ice cream? I guess the only explanation is that we didn’t own an ice-cream machine and I didn’t want to spend the money to buy one for an experiment I was pretty sure Don wouldn’t like. (He liked chocolate best and I liked everything, and I could be lazy and buy these at the store or a dairy bar.)
            For years I’d grown onions and scallions and chives, but I’d never had any luck growing garlic until we learned that one of Don’s former students and her husband who live on an organic farm in northern New Hampshire grew a lot of garlic. I asked them for advice about their methods.
            In August 1999 I wrote a piece describing this for “Ruth’s Neighborhood” on my website, titling it “Glorious Garlic”:

             . . . Adapting their methods to my smaller garden, I at last found success, which still strikes me as unbelievable.
            Every Columbus Day I plant rows of garlic cloves, fretting that the little nuggets won’t survive the winter. I spread some hay over them, and soon enough there’s snow on top. Throughout the winter I gaze out the window beside my desk, seeing snowdrifts across the garden and shivering for those cloves. But early in the spring, as the snow melts down to the layer of frosty hay, green shoots valiantly stab upward. Hooray!
            That feeling of triumph never really lessens during the summer while I weed and water. Those rows of garlic are the most satisfying sight in the whole garden. Along about mid-July, stalks [or stems] start to curl, forming a small bulb, a bulbil; I cut them off so the main bulbs’ energy won’t be sapped. [These curly stalks are the “garlic scapes” that eventually we all learned to put in salads instead of on the compost pile.]
            Around the second week in August, I carefully dig up the garlic, shake off as much dirt as possible from the damp bulbs, and lug basket-loads up to my office (a garret) where I spread them out on newspapers on the floor to dry.
            That’s where they are right now, and the aroma is heady as I write.
            When they are dry, I’ll brush the remaining dirt off the bulbs, trim them (this hard-stemmed variety can’t be braided), and put the harvest in mesh bags for storage. But I’ll set aside the best of the bulbs to replant on Columbus Day, once again doubting their survival.

            I may not have garlic ice cream on hand today, but I do have vanilla in the freezer. Happy National Ice Cream Day!

© 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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BIRTHDAY CAKES

July 12, 2020

            Penny (my sister) and Thane (my niece) have been here to celebrate their July birthdays, staying at a lakeside cabin colony where they’ve stayed these past few years. A birthday means cake, and what kind to make this year is a very important subject we’ve been discussing on the phone in three-way “conference calls” for months.
            Last year they made a cake that Penny had made in Thane’s childhood, a Zebra Cake, the icebox cake of chocolate wafers and whipped cream. When sliced, the cake has stripes. The whipped cream proved to be a challenge because the cabin’s kitchen didn’t have a whisk or an eggbeater, nor did the owners in their cabin. Thus, while Penny and I watched in admiration, Thane whipped the cream with a fork for a great amount of time with great success.
            We finally decided that we would repeat this cake and they would bring a mixer or borrow mine. But this year the challenge became the wafers; Penny couldn’t find any. Another pandemic shortage? Eek, what other cake to make? During the last-minute phone discussion before their trip to their cabin, Thane said that because Penny is a big fan of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, how about a chocolate layer cake with chocolate ganache and a cherry filling and topping? And whipped cream. Yes!
            Penny and I have never made ganache, have only seen it done on TV, and this was rather like a cooking show as we sat in the cabin and again watched Thane create. Penny and I also reminisced about our childhood birthday cakes. Our mother always made an utterly delicious Fannie Farmer’s chocolate layer cake with white seven-minute frosting. For special birthday parties she did buy a cake from Laconia’s Laflamme’s Bakery, a yellow cake with white frosting and pink and blue Happy Birthday piping and rosettes. In my novel The Cost of Living, Polly say that something was “all pink and blue, like those sunsets I used to call birthday-cake sunsets because the colors were like the decorations on the birthday cakes Mama used to buy at Picard’s Bakery.” I still call those sunsets “birthday-cake sunsets.”
            Penny hates coconut, so of course I reminded her about Don’s tales of his mother making a coconut cake for his birthdays. (In fiction, I gave those birthday cakes to Bev’s husband, Roger). During our early-married years I made Don one at least once; then he decided he preferred chocolate and together he and I “invented” a chocolate cake frosted with whipped cream and coconut. And then he suggested a combo he remembered fondly from a Laconia drugstore frequented by the older kids. (Penny and I remember only venturing in once or twice, in awe of those kids in the booths. Was one of them Don?) He recalled that this drugstore served, in addition to sodas and frappes and sundaes, a slice of “fudge cake with hot-fudge sauce and chocolate ice cream.” So we made that for his birthday-cake dessert one year.
            To return to July 2020: Penny and Thane’s cherry-chocolate birthday cake with whipped cream was luscious and loving.

© 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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A COLLECTION OF QUOTATIONS

July 5, 2020

            In the never-ending effort to keep my various desks and tabletops tidy, the other day I went through one of my batches of notes, this one a collection of various quotations I’ve come across and jotted down.  Here are some:

            “Many go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.”
            Henry David Thoreau. His observation is being quoted on the TV screen on Maine’s WCSH Channel 6, as a sort of calming station break. A fly fisherman is standing in a brook, and his graceful fly-casting reminds me of my father fishing.

            “Music is perhaps the most powerful of all art forms.”
            Malachy McCourt. My sister gave me his Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad, in which he made this statement. Being involved in another art form, I hesitated to agree but because of his “perhaps” I did.

            “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.”
            Rudyard Kipling. At this stage in our lives, Penny and I look back in awe at all the hard work we have put into our gardens, all the dirt under our fingernails.

            “You just go on and on until you fall over.”
            David Hockney. In a TV interview, the artist said this about continuing to paint in his old age, and I fell over laughing.            

            “I’m much happier when I’m writing, rather than playing golf or being retired. Writers don’t retire; they can’t—it’s not a job. What would you retire from?”
            Paul Theroux made this closing remark in a Publishers Weekly interview.

            I’ve always meant to read Ursula Le Guin but I never did until my niece recently gave me No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters. There is much to laugh over and remember and quote in this collection of her acerbic, forthright blogs, but what I jotted down was:
            “I’ve lost faith in the saying ‘You’re only as old as you think you are,’ ever since I got old . . . If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.”

© 2020 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

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ARCHIVES INDEX

CURRENT ENTRIES

A Collection of Quotations  (July 5)
Birthday Cakes (July 12)
Garlic (July 19)
Maine Books (July 26)
Backyard Wildlife (August 2)
Mobile Businesses (August 9)
Pandemic Listening and Reading (August 16)
Poutine and A Postscript (August 23)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 30)
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
The 85 Best Things to Do in New England (September 13)
Support Systems, Continuing (September 20)

APRIL - JUNE 2020

Doan Sisters Go to a British Supermarket (April 5)
National Poetry Month 2020 (April 12)
Dining Out (April 19 )
Singing (April 26 )
Results (May 3)
Laconia (May 10)
Schedules & Sustenance (May 17)
The Passion Pit (May 24)
Sunday Drives, Again (May 31)
Riding and "Broading" Around (June 7)
Learning (June 14)
Hair (June 21)
Best of New Hampshire (June 28)


JANUARY - MARCH 2020

Audiobook Travels  (January 5)
Catalogs  (January 12)
The Cup & Crumb  (January 19)
Ironing (January 26)
Mailboxes February 2)
Books Sandwiched In   (February 9)
Bathrobes or ?  (February 16)
Two Audiobooks and a Magazine(February 23)
Social Whirl in February (March 1)
Food for Hikes (March 8
Pandemic and Poetry (March 15)
An Island Kitchen (March 22)
Red Hill (March 29)

OCTOBER -- DECEMBER) 2019

Pumpkin Spice  (October 6)
Houseplants, New and Old(October 13)
Pumpkin Regatta  (October 20)
An Over-the-Hill Celebration  (October 27)
Joy of Cooking  (November 3)
The First Snow  (November 10)
Louisa and P.G.  (November 17)
In the Dentist's Waiting Room, Again.  (Nov. 24)
Portsmouth Thanksgiving.  (December 1)
Phyliss McGinley and Mrs. York 
(December 8)
Marion's Christmas Snowball, Again  (Dec. 15)
Christmas in the Village  (Dec. 22)
Christmas Weather  (Dec. 29 )

JULY -- SEPTEMBER 2019

The Lot  (July 7)
This and That, Again  (July 14)
Out of Reach  (July 21)
Maine Foods (July 28)
Summer Scenes  (August 4)
Old Home Week  (August 11)
Sawyer's Dairy Bar  (August 18)
Reunions  (August 25)
Maine Woods and Matchmaking  (Sept 1)
New Hampshire Apple Day  (Sept 8)
Castles and Country Houses  (Sept 15)
Shakespeare and George  (Sept 22)
Wildlife  (Sept 29)


APRIL - JUNE, 2019

National Poetry Month, 2019  (April 7)
National Library Week, 2019  (April 14)
Dorothy Parker Poem
 
(April 21)
Spring Is Here!  (April 28)
Department Stores  (May 5)
Archie (May 12)
It's Radio! (May 19)
The Big Bear (May 26)
A Boyhood in the Weirs (June 2)
Pinkham Notch (June 9)
Latest Listening and Reading (June 16)
Setting Up Housekeeping (June 23)
Pizza, Past and Present (June 30)

JANUARY-MARCH 2019

Squirrels (January 6)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Kingfisher (January 19)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Home Ec (February 3)
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Our First Date (February 17)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)

ARCHIVES INDEX: 2018

March, 2018(first entry)
Earlier: See Ruth's Neighborhood

The Old Country Store (March 25)

April, 2018

The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (041518)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing;;
Food & Drink Poems
(April 22)
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)

May, 2018

The Green and Yellow Time, (May 6 )
The Weirs Drive-In Theater  (May 13)
Going Up Brook, revisited  (May 20)
Lilacs (May 27)

June , 2018

Seafood at the Seacoast? (June 3)
Springtime Sights (June 10)
2018 Motorcycle Week (June 17)
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (June 24)

July, 2018

Off Season (July 1)
Fireworks (July 8)
Donald Hall(July 15)
Seen and Overheard (July 22)
Don's Health(July 29)

August, 2018

Telling Don (August 5)
Update--Don (August 12)
Donald K. MacDougall 1936-2018(August 19)
Summer Listening(August 26)

September, 2018

Dining Out Again(September 2)
Five & Ten  (September 9)
Support System  (September 16)
A Mini-Mini Reunion (September 23)
Keene Cuisine September 30)

October 2018

A New Furnace (October 7)
Love and Ruin (October 14)
Sears (October 21)
Sistering (October 28)

November 2018

Farewell to Our Magee   (November 4)
A Mouse Milestone (November 11)
Bookmarks (November 18)
Thanksgiving 2018 (November 25)

December 2018

Clothesline Collapse   (December 2)
L.L. Bean Boots(December 9)
Latest Listening (December 16)

 

CURRENT ENTRIES (April -(June) 2020