Ruth Doan MacDougall: "Ruth's Neighborhood"

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January - March, 2024


March 31, 2024

          Lately around the house I’ve been singing “Goodnight, Irene” and “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena.”
          I first heard Pete Seeger with the Weavers singing these two songs on a record on our family’s Victrola in 1950. The cause for singing them now is a book that Thane, my niece, has given me, WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE by Pete Seeger, published in 1993. How had I not known that he’d written an autobiography? And one brimming with songs, music notations, lyrics—and photographs, with Pete’s voice telling stories!
          As I’ve described before, in the 1960s I got an urge to learn to play a banjo; that is, a Pete Seeger type of banjo, five-string. It had been years since I’d played the piano; how could I play a stringed instrument? In the music store I saw the answer, HOW TO PLAY THE FIVE-STRING BANJO. By Pete Seeger.
          I practiced every afternoon for ten years. Don and I sang. We also collected all the Pete Seeger LP records we could find in catalogs and sang along with Pete. Looking at the songs in his autobiography’s index all these years later I could hear in my mind the songs on those records, from “Andorra” to “Yankety-Yank.”
          By the 1980s life was getting too busy for my practice sessions and my banjo “hobby” ceased. But we kept singing along with the records, the lyrics a part of our speech.
          In January 2003, Thane reported to us that—wonder of wonders!—Pete would be doing a concert in Syracuse, where she and her husband and son lived. Hamish, their six-year-old son, would be one of the children singing with Pete and the community choir! Needless to say, Don and I were in that audience. We all joined in the concert’s last song:

                    “This little light of mine,
                      I’m going to let it shine . . . ”

          Last month I was delighted to see in the February 26 issue of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY a review of a book about Pete. Then I saw a double-delight in that same issue, a review of a book about his father. Here are excerpts:

“CHOPPING WOOD: Thoughts and Stories of a Legendary Folk Singer by Pete Seeger, with David Bernz. Jawbone (publisher); to be published in May. Folk musician and producer Bernz gathers an endearing mix of ‘thoughts and stories’ drawn from his conversations with folk singer and liberal activist Pete Seeger (1919-2014) from roughly the mid-1990s on . . . Seeger emerges as a humble lover of humanity who used his music to fight injustice and inspired a ‘new generation  of political singers’ and fans. It’s essential reading for folk music fans.”
“A CHANCE TO HARMONIZE: How FDR’s Hidden Music Unit Sought to Save America from the Great Depression—One Song at a Time by Sheryl Kaskowitz.    Pegasus; to be published in April. Musicologist Kaskowitz (GOD BLESS AMERICA) spins a spellbinding account of the New Deal’s Music Agency, a 1930s government project that aimed to foster solidarity among out-of work Americans through folk music. Housed under the Resettlement Administration, which established cooperative homesteads across rural America for the unemployed, the unit was led by Charles Seeger (father of Pete) . . . Kaskowitz [combines] the bureaucratic maneuvering and evolving ideology of the Music Agency . . . with a sweeping on-the-ground narrative of the Great Depression’s hardest hit regions. The result is an exhilarating slice of American history.”
          Another song I’ve been singing around the house is the theme from Pete’s TV  show, “The Rainbow Quest”:
                    “Oh, had I a golden thread
                     And needle so fine,
                     I’d weave a magic strand
                     Of rainbow design
                     Of rainbow design.”

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


March 21, 2024

           Recently I listened to the audiobook of DIRTY THIRTY, the latest in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. One of Stephanie’s adventures is a road trip with her friend Lula from their hometown of Trenton, NJ, to Maine’s Bangor area. Lula is full of voluble anticipation about this road trip but eventually she becomes just as loudly disenchanted as the miles go on and on and on.
           People used to say simply “trip,” not “road trip.” Why, I wondered, did people start to add “road”? To differentiate the trip from an “air trip”? I turned to Google and found definitions such as “a long-distance journey traveled by automobile” and “a trip taken by a sports team to play one or more away games.” I learned that it can also be a verb! Have I ever heard it used that way?
           Well, last Monday, because I hadn’t been anywhere since the end of January I decided the trip Wanda and I were making to an appointment at Dartmouth-Hitchcock could be called a road trip, even though it’s only a one-and-a-half to two-hour drive.
           And familiar sights along the way seemed fresh to me. Squam Lake had a sheen of ice in a cove. But the 104 Diner’s sign reassured us, “Spring Has Sprung.”
I thought of the road trips Don and I had made to Maine, during which the anticipation stayed with us all the way Down East. And of course I remembered the road trip Penny and I did to South Carolina, which inspired the one in HENRIETTA SNOW when Snowy and Bev visit Puddles. Then there were the side trips Penny and I made during our Cotswolds stay; the longest from Chipping Campden down to Jane Austen’s House in Chawton . . .
           Wanda and I went past a sign that had always intrigued me, Haunted Whispers Vineyard out of sight down a road. Then there was another sign I didn’t remember, a farmstand called Primitive Pickings. If we made this trip in the summer, we could stop there.
           Then we were definitely in the Connecticut River Valley, where my father’s family home had been, in Orford. He once wrote about it, “Falling in love with a locality can be as powerful an emotion as falling in love with a person. In some form it lasts a lifetime.”
           As we neared Dartmouth-Hitchcock, we heard and saw a helicopter approaching. Alas, someone was making an air trip.
After the appointment, we continued our tradition of rewards at the Dunkin’ Donut in Enfield. Back on the road, in Canaan we saw that there was still snow on Cardigan Mountain’s rocky summit.
           My thoughts returned to those beloved Maine-coast road trips and also to the March section of Celia Thaxter’s ISLAND GARDEN DAYBOOK. She wrote about an ocean trip to the Isles of Shoals from her winter residence on the mainland:
“My upper windows all winter are filled with young Wallflowers, Stocks, single Dahlias, Hollyhocks, Poppies, and many other garden plants, which are watched and tended with the most faithful care till the time comes for transporting them over the seas to Appledore. A small steam tug, the PINAFORE, carries me and my household belongings over to the islands, and a pretty sight is the little vessel when she starts out from the old brown wharves and steams away down the beautiful Piscataqua River, with her hurricane deck awave with green leaves and flowers, for all the world like a May Day procession.”
           When Wanda and I neared the 104 Diner we saw that the other side of the sign said, “Lettuce Do the Cooking.”
           And soon we were home.

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


March 17, 2024

          Earlier this month I stepped outdoors on a sunny afternoon that followed days of rain and I heard for the first time this year a loud liquid-y swelling noise. It was the brook, the brook in springtime spate!
          And when I looked at the woods beyond the backyard I imagined I could also hear the sap running in the maple trees. This is what a March imagination can conjure up; this is New Hampshire Maple Month, with March 16th and 17th designated as Maple Weekend.
          Back on March 20, 2016, I wrote here about maple syrup: “In an old photograph album from our childhood there’s a photo of my sister and me sipping sap from a spout  stuck into a maple tree above a bucket. Our parents had moved from a farm into residential Laconia but our father was still tapping a few trees to make some maple syrup on the kitchen stove. We ate the syrup on pancakes, of course, and we also poured it onto fresh snow.”
          In the 1970s in Farmington, NH, Don and I tapped some of the maple trees on our land, planning to make syrup. But the steam from the boiling on the stove in our little galley kitchen got so thick we gave up.
          Maple Month is a time when I remember the “Sugar House” chapter in THE HIGH MAPLES FARM COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes and Reminiscences of Farm Life by Edna Smith Berquist, published in 1971. The farm is in Gilford, NH, next-door to Laconia. One paragraph I especially like to reread:
          “When our youngest brother, Joe, recalls those year on the farm, he thinks of sapping as the hardest work of all. ‘Yet I really enjoyed it the most,’ he says. ‘Forrest usually did the boiling, but sometimes I took over after I got home from school, so he could leave to have supper and do his own barn chores. It was a big responsibility—tending the fires, taking care not to let the sap in the holding tank get so low the pans would be in danger of burning on. Still, I liked being there alone, working in the early evening. After awhile someone would come down from the house to bring my supper and stay awhile to keep me company. Mother always sent down fresh rolls or biscuits. We’d keep the food hot back by the smokestack. With a pot of coffee and some eggs hard-boiled in the sap, nothing could have tasted better.’           Boiling eggs in the sap!

 I  also enjoy rereading the book’s index of maple recipes:
"Maple Butter
          Maple Butternut Bars
          Maple Butternut Fudge
          Maple Candy
          Maple Corn Muffins
          Maple Custard Pie
          Maple Divinity Fudge
          Maple Fondant Balls
          Maple Ginger Cake
          Maple Glaze
          Maple Icebox Cookies
          Maple Pecan Pie
          Maple Rum Custard Pudding          
          Maple Sauce
          Maple Sponge Pudding

          Maple Sugar, Soft"

          After writing this, I’m looking forward more than ever to the maple syrup and maple candy from our neighborhood sugar house. The candy is made in the shape of a maple leaf—and in the shape of the state of New Hampshire!

  © 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


March 10, 2024

             From women in automobiles to Barbara Walters to authors’ mothers, the subjects in these three PUBLISHERS WEEKLY reviews have stayed in my mind:
“WOMEN BEHIND THE WHEEL: An Unexpected and Personal History of the Car by Nancy A. Nichols; Pegasus; published in March. Journalist Nichols (LAKE EFFECT) offers a unique and captivating history of women and cars. Combing through decades of carmakers’ advertisements and marketing strategies, Nichols finds that not long after its invention in the 1880s, the automobile became ‘our most gendered technology’—both marketed directly to women . . . and strongly equated to femininity (‘The equivalency between the female body and the car body was drawn so early and so clearly that it was caricatured in a May 1920 VANITY FAIR cartoon.’) . . . Marked by the author’s keen eye for detail and irony alike, this perceptive study will compel readers to reevaluate their own relationship with cars.”
             Alongside this review is a Q&A by Rachel Lazerus with Nancy A. Nichols, and I enjoyed her remarks. An excerpt:
“Q: You describe women seeing the car as an extension of their domestic and workplace spheres in a way that men don’t.
A: Very early on, women started to accessorize and make their cars into places that were useful for them. There are early pictures of women hanging bassinets from the rooftops of cars, of women creating essentially cribs in the backseat . . . The minivan was the first vehicle where women really owned that duality in their car’s overall design. Women wanted those doors that slid because, in a regular car, if the doors open and you’re in the front seat, you can’t see the kid. But if the door slides, you never lose sight of your kid . . .

Q: What’s one more surprising way gender interacts with car history? 
A: . . .Historically, in order to build, say, a shopping mall, you have been required to include a set number of parking spaces. I found examples of how those spaces were made much bigger than necessary, taking up more land, because the builders felt women couldn’t park well.

             “THE RULE BREAKER: The Life and Times of Barbara Waters, by Susan Page; Simon & Schuster; to be published in April. Page (MADAME SPEAKER), the Washington Bureau chief of USA TODAY, presents an authoritative biography of the broadcast news legend, who died in 2022. Offering astute psychological insight into Walters, Page credits the nonstop hustle her father displayed as a booking agent with stoking his daughter’s ambition . .. Page pays careful attention to the relentless sexism Walters endured throughout her career, noting that her boss at CBS’s THE MORNING SHOW hired her as a writer in 1955 because, in his words, ‘she had a darling ass’. . . While Page rightly lauds Walters’s trailblazing accomplishments, she’s clear-eyed about her subject’s shortcomings . . . Incisive and evenhanded, this is a triumph.”

             “MOTHERS OF THE MIND: The Remarkable Women Who Shaped Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, and Sylvia Plath” by Rachel Trethewey; History; to be published in April. Journalist Trethewey (THE CHURCHILL SISTERS) presents a revealing examination of the complicated relationships three famed authors shared with their mothers . . . Virginia Woolf craved the approval of her mother, Julia Stephen, who was often distant but recognized her daughter’s talents from a young age . . . By contrast, Trethewey notes that Agatha Christie received unconditional love from her mother, Clara Miller, after whom Christie modeled Jane Marple . . . Sylvia Plath and her mother, Aurelia, had a more ambivalent relationship, sharing an ostensibly close bond that masked Plath’s resentment of what she perceived as Aurelia’s over protectiveness . . . It’s an original take on three literary legends.”

             To end with an entirely different subject: I saw my first chipmunk of spring last week!

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


March 3, 2024

             Last Sunday in my post I mentioned that niece Thane had given me a lovely tin of Girl Scout chocolates. This has got me thinking about my Girl Scout years, which culminated with a Girl Scout trip to Washington, D.C.
             In THE CHEERLEADER I wrote about Snowy’s Girl Scout trip:
“The main thing they learned in Washington was to inhale. They’d stayed at a Girl Scout camp; their troop had a troop house where they made breakfasts of juice, powdered scrambled eggs, burned toast, and cocoa, and prepared the sandwiches for their sight-seeing lunches, and, when they didn’t have supper at a Hot Shoppe, cooked Girl Scout suppers like Rum-Tum-Tiddy, but they slept in a colony of tents, four girls to a tent. The first day of sight-seeing, Puddles slipped away and bought a pack of cigarettes, and that night in their tent she and Snowy and Bev and Nancy Gordon got sick and dizzy, but they learned to inhale.”
             My Girl Scout years began with first being a Brownie. But in a way they began before I was born. My Grandmother Ruth had been a Girl Scout leader in Lexington, Massachusetts.
             So of course Ernie, my mother, became a Girl Scout. Their troop had a marching band, and Ernie played the bass drum. That is, because she was too short to carry it a taller Girl Scout marched in front of her wearing it like a big backpack and Ernie followed, beating on it. Years later, how she laughed, describing this. The story inspired Penny to take drum lessons, tapping on a practice pad.
             The main thing I remember about being a Brownie was the importance of wearing a uniform for the first time. Then came our Flying Up (from Brownie to Girl Scout), a ceremony in the clubhouse at one of Laconia’s parks, Wyatt Park, near where I lived on Academy Street, its playground’s swing sets very familiar—but now I felt that I was growing up, getting too old for such childish play. I’d become a Girl Scout and this meant a new uniform.
             However, my new uniform made me feel guilty because it WAS new, from O’Shea’s Department Store. Some of the other girls had hand-me-down or secondhand uniforms, and you could tell because the green was faded. I knew how embarrassed I’d be if I were wearing one; I was awfully sorry for them and awfully glad mine was fresh green.
             Our leader was Janet Walker, a nurse whose husband was a doctor, and she was simply wonderful. The only assistant leader I remember had a pottery shop and oversaw some of our crafts; I hammered metal into an ashtray to give my parents. (Cigarettes again; ye gods, those were the days!)
             Our meetings began at the Methodist Church and then changed to the basement of the Unitarian Church. In the summer we met at a Girl Scout day camp at Belknap Mountain Recreation area (a ski area where Penny and I went skiing with our father); I remember gathering wildflowers and pinecones before lunch, for centerpieces on the picnic tables.
             We became Senior Scouts and were rid of green uniforms. We made green skirts and badge sashes, to be worn with white blouses. Now we were working toward the goal of the Washington trip. We had a food sale, a rummage sale, and we put on a play, THE BIRDS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL, which I directed. Another honor: every year we marched in Memorial Day parades and one year I carried the flag. (Because I’m—guess what—short, it was a rather precarious honor.) We went to a Girl Scout Jamboree on Lake Winnipesaukee’s Bear Island, and my friend Gail and I had the adventure that decades later inspired the “Blue Island” tale Bev tells in THE CHEERLEADER about the boyfriends arriving by motorboat and invading their tent.
             In 1955, during the spring vacation of our sophomore year, we got on a bus in Laconia and took off for Washington, with a stop in New York City on the way!
After the trip, meetings were anticlimactic and finally came to an end. All these years later I continue to be grateful to Grandmother Ruth and to Ernie. And to Janet Walker; indeed, I have named my Rollator walker “Janet.”

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


February 25, 2024

             As usual I’ve had intriguing reading on the Sandwich Board recently. Here are some of those posts:

ISO Brick

I am looking for standard sized red brick to repurpose as walkways/raised beds in my greenhouse. No rush, so if you have some and they are buried under snow just let me know when they are accessible.

Eggs, so many eggs for sale

We have lots of eggs for sale this weekend! You can find them on North Sandwich Road. Just look for the chicken mailbox.

Bob’s Baguettes; 2/22, Bob’s Baguettes

Coming to the Foothills by nine this morning. [When Bob posts this announcement about bringing his fresh-baked baguettes to the village café, I’m always reminded of how I began baking bread in the kitchen of the old Cape that Don and I rented in Lisbon, NH, from 1962 to 1964. Our favorites in my repertoire were a Dill Braid bread, very dilly, and French bread, very sophisticated!]

Monday Music Jam

A great way to celebrate Presidents’ Day is with music . . . come join the jam. Runnels Hall, Chocorua. Everyone is welcome to bring an acoustic instrument and join the jam. (Arts Council of Tamworth for more information.)

3/16”  Maple Tubing Tool

Maybe a long shot, maybe not: looking to buy or borrow a 3/16” maple tubing tool. This allows a tee to be inserted while there is tension on the line. [Hooray, tapping maple trees, it’s the start of the maple syrup season!]

Mama Bear Corner Store, South Tamworth, NH

If you missed the Girl Scouts selling their cookies last weekend or want more, I have them here. This year they came out with a new gluten-free cookie. [My source of Girl Scout cookies is Thane, my niece, who is godmother to a Girl Scout. This year I learned that in addition to cookies the Girl Scouts now have chocolates; Thane gave me a tin of Mint Treasures! And I recalled how in my Girl Scout years I was not a good salesgirl, mainly asking only my parents and grandparents and a couple of neighbors to order cookies. How I admired my friend Gail, who sold approximately a million!]


            I just saw a dog on Stevenson Hill Road. It is a slight in build grayish brown dog that from a distance at first glance looks like a rather emaciated coyote but is not and has a pink collar I believe.

Paneer Masala Curry at Bearcamp Center

            We have some full dinners available along with portions of my personal favorite, paneeer masala curry. This is a curry with complex flavors (though not much heat, so don’t worry!) that come from a “gravy” made painstakingly with tomato, ground cashews, butter, cream, ginger, garlic, fenugreek, Kashmiri chili powder, and garam masala, It has chunks of paneer, a fresh Indian cheese with a feta texture but none of the saltiness. Served over rice. Enjoy by donation! [Ah, memories of how Don and I, New Hampshire natives in our twenties who thought Italian restaurants exotic, went to England and discovered the excitement of Indian restaurants!]

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


February 18, 2024

           I first heard the word “postholing” years ago when climbing 4,054-foot Mount Hale. Recently the word was written about by Ed Parsons, an acquaintance whose CONWAY DAILY SUN hiking columns I enjoy.
          In his February 3rd column he wrote, “Postholing—when your legs are sinking deep into the snow with every step—on a mountain trail is not enjoyable for the one doing it and leaves a dangerous imprint of their passage for those who come later . . . Please be prepared when you go on a hike. This time of year that includes snowshoes if the trails are not packed down.”
              Our Over-the-Hill hiking group did the Mount Hale hike in late spring. The hike was in my father’s 50 MORE HIKES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: “hiking distance (round trip) 8 ½ miles; walking time 6 hours; vertical rise 2,320 feet.” In his description of the hike he gives hikers a warning: “Snow lingers in the upper spruces as late as the last week in May.” I suppose we Over-the-Hillers thought we were so far into spring we were safe but we did encounter some snow on that part of the trail—not much but suddenly enough for one of the men to shout, “I’m postholing!”
Dan (my father) wrote about the summit, “Views are becoming overgrown.” They certainly were, so I decided to remove Mount Hale from the editions I did.
              Another term that has intrigued me is “forest bathing.” When I first heard it and learned about this Japanese practice, mindfulness amid nature, I immediately thought of Dan, immersed in forests all his life, and I knew what his reaction would’ve been if he’d heard the term: quizzical amusement and appreciation.
              On Maine’s WMTW earlier this month there was a segment about a Maine Forest Therapy Guide who leads groups to a Biddeford park to experience forest bathing, focusing on the senses. Another term was also used: eco-therapy. Earlier I’d heard the term “nature deficit disorder” on a PBS program.
              The first locale that all this makes me think of is The Lot, which I’ve written about here, our nickname for the small chunk of woods on Lake Winnipesaukee in which Penny and I reveled. Our parents bought it as an escape from the confines of our Laconia apartment. They didn’t build a camp. Dan pitched a tent, on weekends we camped out, and Penny and I bathed in the lake and the woods.
Next I think of the woods behind my Sandwich house where I took walks in the afternoon up to the mossy lagoon above the brook’s waterfall where I would stand and absorb the watery silence.
              And finally I think of the Kilkenny. I had to replace a backpack in 50 MORE and Steve Smith, friend and hiking-books author, suggested this region of New Hampshire. So I set off with Amy, my backpacking pal, recording “3 days, 2 nights; 16 ¼ miles; walking time 11 hours; vertical rise 3,100 feet.” Afterward I started writing the hike: “During this leisurely backpack into the Kilkenny region of the northern White Mountain National Forest, you will walk through forests of white birches, visit secret little Kilback Pond, camp beside Unknown Pond, and look out at vast wilderness views from Rogers Ledge and the Horn. The excitement and anticipation of any backpack is enhanced here because of the sense of far-north adventure.” And there’s all that forest bathing!

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


February 11, 2024

             In February as Valentine’s Day approaches, our thoughts seem to turn often to chocolate, don’t they. And there’s chocolate on TV, in commercials and on programs.
              Last week when I sat down to have lunch with the Food Network I realized the program was a rerun of a “The Kitchen” show I hadn’t seen before. It was devoted to chocolate. One of the four hosts made a chocolate-covered strawberry tart. Another made brownies, and there was a discussion about the types: fudge-y, chewy, and cake-y. They made a Brownie Bombe with fudge-y brownies pressed to line a bowl that they then spread with softened chocolate ice cream, making a well in the center. Into the freezer it went. They had a frozen one waiting in the wings, and they filled the well with hot fudge and whipped cream and topped everything with crumbled brownie bits, and walnuts. Back into the freezer. A finished Bombe was then inverted onto a plate and we all held our breaths—hooray, it came out of the bowl!
              Next the hosts rated “Surprising Chocolate Pairings.” They all liked chocolate milk with ground ginger and beef chili with cocoa powder (some years ago I began adding cocoa to our chili after reading a Mexican mole recipe); they disagreed about chocolate-chip cookies made with Parmesan cheese and about chocolate-and-avocado truffles. They ended the show with a finale of chocolate Manhattans!
              I began thinking back to my introduction to chocolate in the kitchen of the apartment in Laconia. Did chocolate milk come first or hot cocoa? I remembered the blissful taste of chocolate syrup right out of the Hershey can before the syrup went into the glass of milk. But what I remembered best was my mother’s Toll House cookies meltingly warm from the oven. The most delicious treat in the whole wide world.
              In the summer of 1956 when my best friend, Sally, and I started working at Keller’s Restaurant on Main Street, I encountered a terrible temptation. By then at age seventeen I had sworn off chocolate because we were told it was bad for our complexions. No more chocolate ice cream for me; strawberry and pistachio instead. No more hot fudge sundaes; hot butterscotch instead. However, when you entered Keller’s what did you see but the soda fountain on the right and, on the left, the candy counter displaying a luscious array of Keller’s chocolates made on the premises. (Booths in the back.) I don’t recall that I lapsed, but it was torture.
              I’ve mentioned here before that when I was grown up and eating chocolate again, I “invented” a chocolate cake I remember fondly. Don and I loved coconut so I frosted it with whipped cream and shredded coconut. It was sort of an Almond Joy without the almonds.
              The other day I asked Thane, my niece, what her favorite chocolate creation was. She said, “Zebra Cake first comes to mind.” In 2020 I wrote here about how I had this refrigerator-cake concoction of chocolate wafers for the first time in 2019 when she and Penny made it, an old favorite of theirs, for their July birthdays celebrated at the Mirror Lake cabin colony.
              As you know, February is doubly romantic for me because on February 11, 1955, Don and I had our first date; that is, he picked me up at a dance after a high-school basketball game. This year I’m remembering my amusement a few months ago when on Maine’s WCSH “Morning Report” there was a mention of “slow dancing” and the two older male hosts had to explain to the young female host what “slow dancing” was—explain on live TV in proper TV language. Needless to say, I got giggling.
              Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


February 4, 2024

              I was tickled by the introduction by David Adams, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY adult reviews director, to PW’s “Spring 2024 Fiction and Nonfiction Preview” in the December 4th issue. He wrote, “Hang onto your hats, folks, PW’s announcements issues are no more. From here on out, we’ll be calling this feature exactly what it is: a PREVIEW of adult fiction and nonfiction titles publishing in spring 2024. We’re still getting used to the new name around the office—there was even talk of a swear jar and a $1 fine for every utterance of the word ANNOUNCEMENTS . . . ”

Here are the main books that got my attention in this Preview:
  Art, Architecture & Photography:
BREAKING THE BRONZE CEILING: Women, Memory, and Public Space by Valentina Rozas-Krause, edited by Andrew M. Shanken (Fordham Univ. May 7, trade paper) reassesses the role of women in public art, with a particular focus on the lack of female memorials around the world

Cooking & Food: HEBRIDEAN BAKER: AT HOME: Flavors & Folklore from the Scottish Islands by Coinneach MacLeod (Sourcebooks Feb.13) serves up a medley of traditional dishes, stories, and songs that celebrate the author’s home country

              [Happy memories of the trip Don and I made to the Hebrides.]
THE NEW PLANT COLLECTOR: The Next AdTventure in Your House Plant Journey, Darryl Cheng (Abrams Image, March 19). THE NEW PLANT PARENT author returns with guidance for cultivating a garden indoors.

Memoirs & Biographies: THE EDITOR:

How Publishing Legend Judith Jones Shaped Culture in America by Sara B. Franklin (Atria, May 28). In the first biography of Jones, Franklin examines the Knopf editor’s work on such classics as ANNE FRANK: The Diary of a Young Girl, and THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, pulling from interviews with her colleagues and previously unseen personal papers

    Mysteries and Thrillers
: THE 24TH HOUR by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Little, Brown, May 6). In the 24th Women’s Murder Club novel, the club members have a celebratory dinner in San Francisco interrupted by an assault conducted by a woman with a rare memory disorder. [I listened to audiobooks of some previous books in this series, which I enjoyed; a reminder to continue!]

WHEN YOU SEE MY MOTHER, ASK HER TO DANCE by Joan Baez (David R. Godine, March 12). This autobiographical collection from musician and activist Baez reflects on her contemporaries (Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix) and childhood while offering personal recollections of family, places, nature, and art

              Back in November I wrote here about how when PW’s holiday-gift-books issue arrived in October I thought it was too early to think about the holidays. Well, it’s never too early to start thinking about springtime, is it?

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


January 28, 2024

              Last Tuesday on Maine’s WCSH “Morning Report” I learned that it was National Pie Day. This great holiday inspired the program’s Daily Stumper. The hosts told us that each state has a favorite pie and Maine’s is blueberry, of course. Apple pie is the nation’s most popular pie. Question: Which is the most popular pie in the United States after apple pie?
              Multiple choice: (a) Pecan; (b) Blueberry; (c) Key Lime; (d) Cherry.
              Just for the hell of it, I guessed Key Lime. Hosts Sharon and Lee and meteorologist Todd guessed Cherry. And they were correct!
              Later out of curiosity I Googled to check my memory about New Hampshire’s favorite pie. Apple; the runner-up is pumpkin.
              Pies. One weekend morning recently I was puttering in the kitchen with “Mary Makes It Easy” on the Food Network keeping me company when I heard a word I’d never heard before. Pithivier. I swung around to the TV screen. Mary was doing a show about using leftovers and she was putting the remains of a roast-beef dinner, vegetables and gravy and all, into this puff-pastry creation. The result had a shape like a dome, reminding me of the gold dome on New Hampshire’s state capitol building. Oh, if I’d known about pithivier in my serious cooking years I’d’ve made one!
              And naturally I later Googled for details and recipes. Wikipedia told me that a pithivier is “a round enclosed pie usually made by baking two disks of puff pastry with a filling stuffed in between. It has the appearance of a hump . . . it is named after the town of Pithiviers, where the dish is commonly assumed to originate . . . The filling of pithivier is often a sweet frangipani (optionally combined with fruit such as cherry or plum), but savoury pies with vegetables, meat, or cheese filling can also be called pithivier.”
              As the saying goes, you learn something new every day.

              For something old and cozy, there’s always the Vermont Country Store catalog, with the food as much fun as the other items. I’ve mentioned here before that I also enjoy the first-page piece written by the Orton brothers. In the latest catalog, Winter 2024, it’s by Gardner Orton and begins, “I grew up hearing a lot about Robert Frost, as he was my grandfather Vrest’s friend. They’d sit around on each other’s porches telling stories, trying to out-New England each other. So it’s no wonder that I know by heart (as I’m sure many of you do) one of his best-loved poems, written when he lived just down the road in Shaftsbury, Vermont. This time of year it’s often on my mind. I think of Robert Frost’s poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ . . . ”
              This made me realize that although we all know the poem by heart, it’s been years since I read it on a page. So I got out my dear old copy of THE GIRL’S BOOK OF VERSE and read:
              Whose woods these are I think I know,
              His house is in the village though;
              He will not see me stopping here
              To watch his woods fill up with snow.

              My little horse must think it queer
              To stop without a farmhouse near
              Between the woods and frozen lake
              The darkest evening of the year.

              He gives his harness bells a shake
              To ask if there is some mistake.
              The only other sound’s the sweep
              Of easy winds and downy flake.

              The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
              But I have promises to keep,
              And miles to go before I sleep,
              And miles to go before I sleep.

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


January 21, 2023

            As usual I started a new year by starting over in my copy of Celia Thaxter’s ISLAND GARDEN DAYBOOK, which I’ve mentioned here before. It was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1990 with excerpts from her gardening memoir, AN ISLAND GARDEN, illustrated with lovely “Pictures and Illuminations” by Childe Hassam. The first January excerpt is:
“He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters this world with a passion for flowers in his soul.”
            This was Penny, my sister!
            The next January excerpt:
“Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer. A lonely child, living on the lighthouse island ten miles away from the mainland, every blade of grass that sprang out of the ground, every humblest weed, was precious in my sight, and I began a little garden when not more than five years old.”
            That island was part of the Isles of Shoals off New Hampshire’s and Maine’s coasts. Celia’s father was the lighthouse keeper. The DAYBOOK’s Frances Tenenbaum’s Editor’s Note says,
“In 1848 Celia’s father bought Hog Island, the largest of the Isles of Shoals, and moved his family there. He renamed the island Appledore and built a resort hotel, one of the first in the country, which became a vacation retreat for such literary New Englanders as Henry David Thoreau, James Russell Lowell, John Greenleaf Whittier, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Nathaniel Hawthorne . .           (In later life, she [Celia] was a member of this literary circle.)”
           I am always shocked by how young she was when she got married.
           The Editor’s Note continues,
        “Celia lived on Appledore Island until she was sixteen, when she married her tutor and moved with him to Newtonville, Massachusetts, near Boston. The couple had three boys, one of them mentally disturbed, and life was not easy for Mrs. Thaxter. Her husband never ‘found’ himself professionally, and the family lived on such minimal support as his father offered. Nor was Levi Thaxter supportive of his wife’s writing, although her poetry, for which she was best known during her lifetime, was published in THE ATLANTIC, HARPER’S and other magazines.
        “Celia Thaxter took painting lessons from a young man with the French-sounding name of Childe Hassam; supposedly it was she who convinced him to Americanize the pronunciation to Childe HAS-sam. And every summer she returned to her beloved island. Her husband refused to go . . . increasingly the couple led separate lives.
        “After her parents died, Thaxter moved into their cottage and devoted herself to gardening. Although she spoke of it modestly, her garden was spectacular . . . she wrote AN ISLAND GARDEN in response to the many visitors who asked, ‘How do you make your plants flourish like this?’ . . .
        “Celia Thaxter died on Appledore just five months after her book was published, in 1894. At her funeral, Childe Hassam gathered bayberry branches to lay on her grave.”
        Alas, “the hotel and many other buildings on Appledore, including Thaxter’s cottage, burned to the ground in 1914 . . . Poison ivy and scrubby vegetation such as alders began to invade. Thaxter’s garden lived on only in the pages of her book—and in Hassam’s paintings.”
       But there’s a happy ending: “In 1978 Dr. John Kingsbury, director of a Cornell University marine biology laboratory on the island, undertook to restore Thaxter’s garden, using the detailed plan in her book. A group of volunteers now plants and maintains the garden every summer, and once again the glorious flowers, blooming in the sea air, have become an attraction for tourists.”
      And in the 1990s, Don and I and Penny took the tour out to Appledore to celebrate Penny’s July birthday and the passion for flowers in her soul.

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


January 14, 2023

           The snowstorm I mentioned last Sunday brought Sandwich a foot of snow. The friend who does our plowing arrived that evening at 8 to plow the driveway, and on Monday about 5 a.m. a town plow went rumbling along the road. So as planned, Wanda and I could set forth at 8 a.m. for an appointment at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. When we passed the 104 Diner, we saw that their always-interesting sign said: FREE COFFEE FOR PLOWERS. Our heroes!
           Here are some of the always-interesting postings on the Sandwich Board these past few weeks:

Loose Pig: A friendly pig is on the loose on Elm Hill Road. [Photo of pig.].
[December 30th New Year’s Resolution.] Tamworth Farmers’ Market 10-noon Saturday: I hope you will join us in resolving to buy locally when possible and judiciously when buying globally. It’s a complicated world out there for sure.
Look out for mushrooms, fruitcake, raw dairy and cheese, breads, baked goods, farm-made jams and condiments, microgreens, honey and maple syrup gifts, storage veggies, meats, fish, and hot breakfast sandwiches and hot chai and coffee!
           [Don and I always resolved to go to this farmers’ market in nearby Tamworth but somehow we never did. However, we went faithfully to the smaller Sandwich Farmers’ Market and I remember fondly how we always had a breakfast sandwich made with Sandwich eggs and Sandwich bacon or sausage.]

ISO Companion Rabbit. I am looking for a new companion for my spayed female rabbit. She has recently lost her longtime hutchmate of 7 years and I fear she is probably lonely. I would like either another female or neutered male.

Firewood from Woodshare. Sandwich has a firewood-sharing program dedicated to helping local folks who may need temporary assistance in staying warm. Please call me to discuss your situation and how we can help. Sandwich Woodshare Coordinator.
Christmas Tree. Any area farmers taking Christmas trees for their sheep/goats?
Does anybody have a cold plunge tub? Before we go and purchase one I thought I would check here. The wonders of the Sandwich Board. Yes, we could plunge into the lake with joy and adventure, hee hee hee, but it is now frozen and don’t want to chop a hole in the ice every day. This is what we are looking for.

[Advertisement picture showing tub and the head and shoulders of a man sitting in it. He seems rather startled.]

Gingerbread at the Library. Run, run, as fast as you can—into the library for our Gingerbread-themed storytime and craft this Saturday morning.

           After my appointment, Wanda and I continued our little tradition of stopping at the Enfield Dunkin Donuts. No gingerbread or farmstand-local breakfast sandwiches, but a ham-and-Swiss croissant, a cream-cheese bagel, hash browns, and bacon! 

© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  


January 7, 2023

           Lots of folks were lamenting the lack of snow in December; no skiing or other winter fun. But I’ve been thinking about the dangers of snow because of a small old booklet sent to me by Carolyn, a dear friend since our Keene years.
           It is THE WILLEY SLIDE: ITS HISTORY, LEGEND, AND ROMANCE. The paper cover feels like parchment; the pages and illustrations within are still glossy. The title page says that it was written by Rev. Guy Roberts and that it is “A narrative giving briefly the History of Crawford Notch and The Willey Slide, also the Soltaire Legend and the Nancy Romance.” The copyright date is 1925; it was printed in Bristol, NH.
I            turned immediately to the “Nancy Romance.” I mentioned Nancy here before when I wrote about my father’s Nancy Pond hike in 50 MORE HIKES IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. Ever since I did the hike to the pond with the Over-the-Hill Hikers, I’ve been haunted by Nancy.
           The Rev. Guy Roberts wrote,
          “The story—which is true—relates that one Nancy Barton came to Jefferson, N.H., with Colonel Whipple, as a servant in the family. While here she became engaged to a farm hand of the Colonel’s who had completely won her affections. The wedding day was finally set the year being 1778, with Portsmouth as the place of its consummation. Nancy, after entrusting her two years’ savings to her lover, went to Lancaster to make certain preparations for the event. During her temporary absence her perfidious lover left for Portsmouth, leaving no explanation nor any message for the girl . . .
           “Stunned by the news on her return at night she decided to at once follow him, and in spite of all warnings and entreaties set out on foot in hopes to overtake him before dawn at his probable camp in the Notch. The month was December, snow had already fallen and a biting west wind was blowing. It was 30 miles to the first settlement in the Notch with but little road thru the wilderness other than a hunter’s path marked by spotted trees. On thru the awful night she pressed only to arrive at the arduously sought camp after her lover had left, finding the ashes of his camp-fire still warm.
           “Nothing daunted, she again pressed on, cold, wet, and famishing, clambering thru the wild pass of the Notch which only one woman before had ever passed, toiling thru deep snows, over rocks and fallen trees, fording the turbulent and frozen Saco, until at last utterly exhausted by her super human efforts, she sank down at the foot of an aged tree on the bank of the brook that now bears her name . . .
“Here her body was found wrapped in her cloak but cold and stiff in death on her nuptial couch amid the snow, not many hours afterward by a party of men who alarmed for her safety had followed her from Colonel Whipple’s . . .
“The sequel to all this is, that her unfaithful lover on hearing of her sufferings and awful death, became insane and afterwards died a raving maniac.

           But as I finished reading this, I thought of a more recent romance, a happy romance: Dan and Marjorie, my father and stepmother, met when my father did the Nancy Pond hike with Marjorie’s hiking group.


© 2024 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved.  

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The Roaring Twenties (December 26
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Sept. 19)
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Party; Also, Pizza (February 13)
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Jeeps (January 31) Poems and Paper-Whites (January 24) Peanut Butter (January 17)
Last Wednesday  (January 10)
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Welcome, 2021December 27
Cornwall at Christmastime( December 20)
 Mount Tripyramid ( December 13) 
New Hampshire Pie ( December 6)   
Frost, Longfellow, and Larkin ( November 29)
Rocking Chairs ( November 22)
Thanksgiving Side Dishes ( November 15)
Election 2000 ( November 8)
Jell-O and Pollyanna ( November 1)
Peyton Place in Maine  (October 25)
Remember the Reader  (October 18)
Sandwich Fairs In Our Past  (October11)
Drought and Doughnuts  (October 4)
Snacks (September 27)
Support Systems, Continuing (September 20)
The 85 Best Things to Do in New England (Sept
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 3
Poutine and A Postscript(August 23)
Pandemic Listening and Reading (August 16)
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A Collection of Quotations  (July 5)
Best of New Hampshire (June 28)
Hair (June 21)
Learning (June 14)
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Sunday Drives, Again (May 31)
The Passion Pit (May 24)
Schedules & Sustenance (May 17)
Doan Sisters Go to a British Supermarket (April
National Poetry Month 2020 (April 12)
Laconia (May 10)
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Singing (April 26 )
Dining Out (April 19 )
Red Hill (March 29)
An Island Kitchen (March 22)
Pandemic and Poetry (March 15)
Food for Hikes (March 8)
Social Whirl in February (March 1)
Two Audiobooks and a Magazine(February 23)
Books Sandwiched In   (February 9)
Mailboxes February 2)
Ironing (January 26)
The Cup & Crumb  (January 19)
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Audiobook Travels  (January 5)


Christmas Weather  (Dec. 29 )
Christmas in the Village  (Dec. 22)
Marion's Christmas Snowball, Again  (Dec. 15)
Phyliss McGinley and Mrs. York  (December 8)
Portsmouth Thanksgiving.  (December 1)
In the Dentist's Waiting Room, Again.  (Nov. 24
Louisa and P.G.  (November 17)
The First Snow  (November 10)
Joy of Cooking  (November 3)
Over-the-Hill Celebration  (October 27)
Pumpkin Regatta  (October 20)
Houseplants, New and Old(October 13)
Pumpkin Spice  (October 6)
Wildlife  (Sept 29)
Shakespeare and George  (Sept 22)
Castles and Country Houses  (Sept 15)
New Hampshire Apple Day  (Sept 8)
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Reunions  (August 25)
Sawyer's Dairy Bar  (August 18)
Old Home Week  (August 11)
Summer Scenes  (August 4)
Maine Foods (July 28)
Out of Reach  (July 21)
This and That, Again  (July 14)
The Lot  (July 7)
Pizza, Past and Present (June 30)
Setting Up Housekeeping (June 23)
Latest Listening and Reading (June 16)
Pinkham Notch (June 9)
A Boyhood in the Weirs (June 2)
The Big Bear (May 26)
It's Radio! (May 19)
Archie (May 12)
Department Stores  (May 5)
Spring Is Here!  (April 28)
Dorothy Parker Poem  (April 21)
National Library Week, 2019  (April 14)
National Poetry Month, 2019  (April 7)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Our First Date (February 17) 
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Home Ec (February 3)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Kingfisher (January 19)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Squirrels (January 6)


Clothesline Collapse   (December 2)
Thanksgiving 2018
(November 25)  
(November 18)
A Mouse Milestone (November 11)
Farewell to Our Magee   (November 4)
Sistering (October 28)
Sears (October 21)
Love and Ruin (October 14)
A New Furnace (October 7)
Keene Cuisine September 30)
A Mini-Mini Reunion (September 23)
Support System  (September 16)
Five & Ten  (September 9)
Dining Out Again  (September 2)
Summer Listening (August 26)
Donald K. MacDougall 1936-2018  (August 19)
Update--Don (August 12)
Telling Don (August 5)
Don's Health (July 29)
Seen and Overheard (July 22)
Donald Hall  (July 15)
Fireworks (July 8)
Off Season (July 1)
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (June 24)
2018 Motorcycle Week (June 17)
Springtime Sights (June 10)
Seafood at the Seacoast? (June 3)
Lilacs (May 27)
Going Up Brook, revisited  (May 20)
The Weirs Drive-In Theater  (May 13)
The Green and Yellow Time, (May 6 )
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing (April 21)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (April 14)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Old Country Store (March 25; First  FB entry)

Earlier: :Ruth's Neighborhood
(multiple entries, 2011 - 2017)