CHRISTMAS WEATHER, 2019
December 29 2019
I hope all went well with your holidays, traveling or at home, but from the scenes on TV I fear that the weather probably caused some problems. In a way, the hot weather in the Midwest struck me as the most scary or eerie, even while I was smiling at the sight of people playing outdoors in shorts.
During most of Christmas week, our weather here seemed normal—and typically rather cold, twenty-degree mornings, thirty-degree afternoons. I began to relish this after seeing those balmy scenes of Minnesota, etc. Because I don’t trust the bears to be sound asleep for the winter yet, I bring in the birdfeeder at sunset. When I put it out at sunrise, stepping outdoors in my boots into the fading darkness, bundled up in my parka though I am, the cold morning is always one hell of a shock, but I began to welcome it. Normal weather!
Penny, my sister, was here for Christmas, and we opened presents together, as in our childhood we had opened our stockings together before our parents woke up. The gifts included chocolate oranges, reminding us of the tangerines we used to find in the toes of our stockings. And there were gifts of goodies to warm us up, such as Candy Cane Green Tea and crumpets. Also, I was given a new set of long underwear to combat the winter weather.
After Christmas dinner, we drove down to the town beach on Squam Lake, to sit for a while with the car heater going and give Penny a change from her Maine-seacoast scenery: here, the scenery we grew up with, a lake below mountains. The lake had only recently iced over, the ice looking as thin as the ribbon candy that was part of our childhood Christmases. The surface certainly wouldn’t hold ice-fishing bob houses, but it was ice on Christmas Day.
Thursday’s weather was much the same. Then came Friday morning, when Penny had planned to return home, depending on the weather. We got what the forecasters call a “wintry mix.” Freezing rain. Rain in December in New England. We looked out at the doorstep and the driveway coated with glare ice, and our New Hampshire and Maine news reported dangerous roads, car accidents. The Sandwich selectmen’s office posted a notice on the Sandwich Board telling us that the road crew was sanding the roads (one sanding truck had already gone past the house), asking us not to travel “unless absolutely necessary”—and adding that the dump was closed “until the roads are passable.” This was definitely a serious warning!
Penny decided to stay another day. Hooray! I made more Candy Cane Green Tea, and we began to talk about grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.
She returned home yesterday, the thermometer up to forty degrees. We wondered if we soon would be wearing shorts.
Not quite yet. There are snowstorms in tomorrow’s and Tuesday’s forecasts.
Happy New Year and New Decade!
CHRISTMAS IN THE VILLAGE, 2019
December 22, 2019
One of the poems in The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley is about Christmas in her New York suburb, and it’s titled “Christmas Eve in Our Village.”
In our village, the first weekend in December is declared “Christmas in the Village.” This was its 43rd year. The events included Breakfast with Santa at the Corner House Inn, horse-drawn wagon rides around the village center, and a soup-and-chowder luncheon at the church. You could go shopping for arts and crafts and other gifts and treats at the community center, the elementary school, the Sandwich Home Industries gallery, the Sandwich Historical Society, and other places around town; a mini-book sale was held at the library and a winter farmers’ market in the grange hall.
And now, with fresh snow, the village is a classic New England Christmas scene. As I pulled into the library’s parking lot one afternoon last week, I was especially delighted by the sight across the street of a young woman beside her car putting on skis and then skiing off across the athletic field, gathering speed, swooping wide, almost dancing. Joy.
The last verses in Phyllis McGinley’s Christmas Eve poem are:
They [children] cluster, mittened, in the park,
To talk of morning, half affrighted,
And early comes the winter dark
And early are our windows lighted
To wheedle homeward the benighted.
The eggnog’s lifted for libation,
Silent at last the postman’s ring,
But on the plaza near the station
The carolers are caroling.
“O Little Town!” the carolers sing.
My best wishes to you. Happy Holidays!
PHYLLIS MCGINLEY AND MRS. YORK
MARION’S CHRISTMAS SNOWBALL, AGAIN
December 15, 2019
Don’s sister, Debbie, and I were talking about Christmas traditions recently—and the one we reminisced about most was the dessert that their mother made for Christmas dinner, which one of Debbie’s daughters still makes. I always intended to make it but never did.
I wrote about it here a couple of years ago, and seven years ago I wrote a longer piece for my website’s “Ruth’s Neighborhood.” This seems to have become sort of a Christmas tradition for me! Here’s an excerpt from my “Neighborhood” piece, “Marion’s Christmas Snowball.”
When Snowy has supper for the first time at Tom’s house, the New England boiled dinner that his mother serves is exactly what Don’s mother, Marion, served the first time I was invited to Don’s house. Marion was a very good cook. Her mother ran a boarding house in the Weirs, and that’s where Marion learned her repertoire, from meat loaf to liver and onions, from creamed cod to chicken pie. She was renowned for all her pies, apple, blueberry, custard, all of them . . .
Her repertoire was basic New England fare. So I was startled when, after Don and I were married and I became part of his family’s Christmas celebration, Marion didn’t serve a pie after the big turkey dinner; she served a glamorous dessert that she called a Snowball.
It was ambrosia!
She was never clear about where she got the recipe; probably she’d forgotten. Don remembers that his aunt was more experimental and wonders if Aunt Barbara might have seen it in a magazine and suggested it to Marion.
1 ½ T. plain gelatin
4 T. cold water
1 c. boiling water
1 c. orange juice
Juice of 2 lemons
1 c. sugar
Set in refrigerator until wiggly.
Whip: 1 pint heavy cream Fold into gelatin mixture.
Remove brown crust from: 1 angel cake.
Break cake into small pieces.
Put waxed paper in a bowl.
Put in a layer of gelatin and a layer of cake alternately until full.
Whip: ½ pint heavy cream
Cover with: Whipped cream
1 can coconut.
Decorate with: Red and green maraschino cherries
PHYLLIS MCGINLEY AND MRS. YORK
December 8, 2019
I thought of Snowy’s envying Bev’s naturally curly hair when I recently rediscovered Phyllis McGinley’s poetry. I was browsing in my poetry bookcase, wondering which book to dip into next, and I happened to notice the title on the slim binding of a paperback: The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley I hadn’t opened that book in decades and decades, but I suddenly remembered how much I’d enjoyed these poems. I opened it and saw that I’d written the date I’d bought it: May 1958. On the copyright page I learned that the paperback edition had been published in 1956.
And the review quotes on the back cover reminded me of what fun she was. Orville Prescott in the New York Times wrote, “ . . . dazzling technical skill . . . deft perfection . . . bright lucidity . . . Other poets write funny light verse, but they don’t capture the readers’ affections in nearly so firm a grasp . . . because they lack her grace of spirit, the serene wisdom that animates so many of her poems . . . She puts a tender and true insight into beautiful words and that, I submit, is one of the finest things a poet can do.”
And thus I began reading. The poem that reminded me of Snowy and Bev is titled “Meditations During a Permanent Wave” and it begins:
Of the small gifts of heaven,
It seems to me a more than equal share
At birth was given
To girls with curly hair . . .
Slaves to no beauty salon,
Ladies whose locks grow prettier when moister
Can call the world their oyster.
And it continues for four more verses about the benefits, including:
. . . ’Mid floods or wrecks,
Examples to their sex,
Steadfast they stand,
Calm in the knowledge not a hapless strand
Of hair is straggling down the backs of their necks.
And later last week I startled myself by thinking of this poem when I was reading the Sandwich Historical Society’s latest excerpts from the old Sandwich Reporter newspaper. One of them was about a November 1883 windstorm: “Monday night the wind increased almost to a hurricane, blowing down buildings, chimneys and fences, tearing off boards and shingles and breaking down trees. A great many Maple Orchards are considerably damaged by trees being blown down...Lewis Sanborn, Ezra Quimby and Benjamin Collins each had their timber lots destroyed. Mr. Gale lost a new shed. Mr. York, we understand, had his house moved from the foundation, two feet one way and three feet the other, with Mrs. York inside.”
As I was feeling great pity for these people in the storm, especially Mrs. York terrified inside that house, it occurred to me to hope that she was lucky enough to have curly hair to help her withstand such a hair-raising experience.
December 1, 2019
Last week during the TV coverage of Thanksgiving-time, from travel in terrible weather to suggestions for side dishes, I watched a New Hampshire Chronicle program that reminded me that a New Hampshire woman started all this.
Sarah Josepha Hale, born in Newport, NH in 1788, was a remarkable person. Married with five children, she wrote books and poems (including “Mary Had a Little Lamb”) and was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine for forty years. She joined the campaign to have Thanksgiving declared a national holiday, and a letter she wrote to President Abraham Lincoln made him decide in favor of this idea.
New Hampshire Chronicle hosts Erin Fehlau and Sean McDonald talked about her while visiting Portsmouth’s Strawbery (yes, only one “r”) Banke Museum for its celebration of Thanksgiving traditions. Strawbery Banke, as its website says, “in the heart of historic downtown Portsmouth, has eight heritage gardens, thirty-two historic buildings” and much more. “The Museum’s restored buildings and open space invite visitors to immerse themselves in the past.”
Strawbery Banke is the inspiration for “Old Eastbourne” in the Snowy Series. When Don and I were living near Portsmouth in Dover, we saw and admired the beginnings of the restoration work. So when I was writing the Snowy sequel I decided to create Eastbourne and Old Eastbourne as the hometown of a fictional poet, Ruhamah Reed, about whom Snowy wanted to write her thesis. And thus Snowy drove to Eastbourne in her $200 secondhand car to an appointment at the Old Eastbourne headquarters to be shown the poet’s home, which was being restored. Here’s her arrival in Eastbourne:
Then finally she came upon her destination, the waterfront, where a mountain of white [later identified as salt for winter roads] was piled on a dock, apparently deposited by the huge black ship being prodded out of the harbor by tugboats, which looked like bathtub toys beside it. She turned and drove past dilapidated warehouses to a lone building newly painted cream. It didn’t give the feeling of having been transported and set down there; it suggested a resurrection like a phoenix risen from the site where it belonged. A small creamy sign said: OLD EASTBOURNE.
Watching that New Hampshire Chronicle Thanksgiving program in Portsmouth, I thought of Sarah Josepha Hale’s Thanksgiving accomplishment, I remembered making up my version of Portsmouth, and, Thanksgiving bringing to mind food, I wondered if I had chosen the color “cream” for the restoration project because of a Portsmouth restaurant Don and I had enjoyed during our Dover days, the Blue Strawbery, very avant-garde, where strawberries weren’t served with cream or ice cream but with sour cream and brown sugar for dipping.
IN THE DENTIST’S WAITING ROOM, AGAIN
November 24, 2019
Last week at my six-months appointment at the dentist’s, I thought of how I absolutely know that Don and I first met in a dentist’s waiting room. I wrote about this three years ago:
During my routine dentist appointment recently, X-rays showed a cavity. It’s been years since the last such discovery. Mainly cavities were a childhood ordeal. So as I made the appointment to get the cavity filled, I was ten years old again and dreading what could be sheer torture in the 1940s–50s.
Then I remembered the happy memory.
Don was two years ahead of me in school; we went to different elementary schools and didn’t meet until high school. But we realized that we must have been in the same places at the same time, particularly Laconia’s two movie theaters on Saturday afternoons. With working-papers he had worked grilling hot dogs in the window of the Karamel Korn shop on the Weirs boardwalk; I think I saw a boy doing that, though I can’t remember details.
We knew that we had both gone to the same dentist. Don claims he spent most of his childhood at the dentist’s. And one time long after we were married, he was joking once again about this when suddenly I had a flash of memory, utterly clear: I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, across which sat an Older Boy reading a magazine. Over my own magazine I kept eyeing him. He was very cute, slightly freckled, brown hair, rugged.
He was, I realized all those years later, Don.
I’ve never in my life had such a vivid memory strike me. When I described this to Don, I said that I couldn’t be absolutely sure what magazine he was reading but I bet it was Esquire. The waiting room always had a good supply of those. I bet I was reading Life magazine.
In the sitcom Mad about You, there was an episode in which Helen Hunt’s and Paul Reiser’s characters sense that they’ve seen each other before, and the camera shows them as children passing each other unknowingly in a museum. After my memory’s camera retrieved the scene in the dentist’s waiting room, there was no longer any “unknowingly” for me.
Happy Thanksgiving! I’ll be feasting with family and friends. My gratitude and best wishes to you.
LOUISA AND P.G.
November 17, 2019
The “House for Sale” column in the November/December issue of Yankee magazine is titled “Intellectual Property” and it’s about an “1811 Federal-style” home in Walpole, New Hampshire.
I learned that James Michener had stayed there in the 1930s, when the house was the Old Colony Inn, and that he’d later put Walpole scenes in his Hawaii novel. But what really got my attention was this: Dr. Jesseniah Kittredge bought the house in 1830 and in the 1850s let the Walpole Amateur Dramatic Company use the unfinished attic for rehearsals and performances—and four members of that company were Louisa May Alcott and her sisters!
The Alcott family lived for three years in Walpole, during which time Louisa played Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan’s Rivals in 1855 and acted in other plays. Also, two events occurred that became part of Little Women, the loan of a piano and an outbreak of scarlet fever that struck the two younger sisters.
As I’ve written about before, my grandmother Ruth was born and grew up in Concord, Massachusettts, and she took Penny and me often to the Alcotts’ house there, the Orchard House. I returned with Don when I was writing A Woman Who Loved Lindbergh. I wish that when he and I were living in Keene (in the married students’ barracks) I’d known about the house in nearby Walpole; I would definitely have driven past, imagining.
By the way, the Yankee column tells us that the house is listed at $924,000.
In the latest audiobook I’m listening to, Faith Sullivan’s Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse, I’ve encountered another favorite author, the one in the title, P. G. Wodehouse. Years ago I read two of Faith Sullivan’s novels, Mrs. Demming and the Mythical Beast and The Cape Ann. Characters from the latter reappear in Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse, which takes place in a Minnesota town in the early 1900s onward. Nell Stillman, a widowed third-grade teacher, is coping with life, with the confines of a small town. She attempts to escape from her troubles in books: “Life could toss your sanity about like a glass ball; books were a cushion. How on Earth did non-readers cope when they had nowhere to turn?”
Then she discovers the writings of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, first of all Love among the Chickens, followed by other books. “Mr. P. G. Wodehouse, it turned out, was an entirely new experience. He was delicious, lighter than air. Generous to a fault. His rhythms, the way his wit kissed a phrase and sent it dancing . . . She laughed aloud and fell in love again and again.” His books promised her that “I’ll show you an innocent place and I’ll be there when you need me.”
I’ll be rereading some P. G. next.
THE FIRST SNOW
November 10, 2019
My sister and I are apt to remark that one of our family traits is “going off on tangents” in conversation. The challenge is to find our way back. Last week this tangent started with a weather forecast and ended with bread-and-gravy. I’ll try to retrace the steps:
The forecast was for the first snow of the season. Looking at the weather map of New Hampshire on the TV screen, I suddenly could only think of the snow imagery in that short story, “The Dead,” in James Joyce’s Dubliners collection. I’ve always remembered this use of snow, but I realized I probably hadn’t read the story again since college.
So I found the old paperback in my bookcases, opened it to the index and then to this last story in the collection, and there was my handwriting, the notes I’d taken in the Language and Literature class, sitting on the floor in the living room in one of the houses (dorms). Amusing to me now and also poignant, the notes said things like “snow changes meaning thru story; all characters tense; resolution—thru natural event; story has contained snow all way thru—culminates in ‘falling’ at end; sensory image and mythic image; contrasting implications—snow outside, stuffy inside.”
I reread the story, past other margin notes, and arrived at that last description of snow, also marked: “It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right; snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves . . . ” on to the story’s end.
I told Penny about rereading this story and said I’d hoped that literature would help me face the upcoming first snow. After we stopped laughing about this vain hope, we began remembering childhood, back when we’d actually hoped for snow. Especially the first snow for Thanksgiving, when we would go “over the river and through the woods” to our grandparents’ house (in Lexington, Mass.), albeit in the gray Mercury instead of a sleigh. We remembered the luxury of their dining room, a room that we didn’t have in the apartment we were living in during the 1940s, their table set with the best china from the dining room’s china cupboard. We remembered details of the Thanksgiving feast. And then we began talking about how she and I were fed supper on Thanksgiving evenings at the kitchen table, a supper that in its way was as delicious as the feast had been: a flat soup bowl of buttered bread with reheated leftover gravy poured on top.
P.S. Guess what? The first-snow forecast turned out to be a false alarm here in Sandwich. We got rain and some flurries. So the real first snow lies ahead, and I’ll try to look forward to it. As one TV reporter said, “There’s nothing quite so beautiful as the first snowfall.”
JOY OF COOKING
November 3, 2019
Perhaps you’ve seen the news that this month a new edition of The Joy of Cooking is being published, updated by Irma S. Rombauer’s great-grandson, John Becker, and his wife, Megan Scott? After reading this news, I went to my cookbook bookcase to hold the two copies I have, the one that was a 1950s wedding present from my grandmother and the one I bought in the 1970s.
And I remembered my first sight of Joy of Cooking, when my mother got a copy. How astonished we were to see the recipes’ ingredients incorporated into the directions instead of listed at the top, so you didn’t have to keep looking back and forth! In the new edition’s review in the October 7th issue of Publishers Weekly, this method was mentioned: “The signature method of interweaving ingredients with instructions remains, supplemented with rich troves of information, like a three-page spread on mixing and matching salad greens.” The review concludes, “Becker and Scott have improved upon a classic without bending it so sharply that it will feel dated in a decade—quite an achievement indeed.”
In the same issue there was a Q&A interview with John Becker, in which he was asked, “What of the original did you try to replicate?” He replied, “We tried to preserve the sense of being there for cooks, not necessarily trying to prescribe, but trying to be a resource for cooks. A lot of people make Irma out to be a pioneer, but instead she’s somebody who takes the stance of a peer and who is a friend in the kitchen.”
Speaking of pioneers: my sister has given me a clipping from the Fall 2019 Pioneer Woman Magazine about the new-edition cookbook. This “Ode to Joy” piece reminds us that “When Irma S. Rombauer wrote The Joy of Cooking in St. Louis, she wasn’t trying to create one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time—she was just trying to survive. In 1930, a year before it was published, her husband died by suicide, and she needed to support herself. She taught cooking classes at a local women’s organization and loved to entertain, so she compiled a cookbook . . . ”
Penny also gave me another clipping from that issue of the magazine, about favorite cookbooks and collecting cookbooks. This again sent me to my cookbook bookcase, to look at favorites amongst the accumulation. Our mother’s copy of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer is the first one we learned to cook with. In the ensuing years I bought a more recent edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and used it a lot. Also dog-eared is Adelle Davis’s Let’s Cook It Right, my favorite in my middle years. Then there are the literary ones, The Jane Austen Cookbook, which Don gave me, The Barbara Pym Cookbook, and The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book (a new hardback edition published in 1985 complete with the famous/infamous recipe for “Haschich Fudge,” omitted from the 1954 edition because of “American Puritanism” but included in the 1960 paperback edition!). Other favorites: Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest. And cookbooks from various places, such as What’s Cooking at Moody’s Diner, the Maine diner beloved by Don and me and by Bev and Snowy.
The latest cookbook in the bookcase is a present from my niece, Where Cooking Begins: Uncomplicated Recipes to Make You a Great Cook, by Carla Lalli Music.
I’m getting hungry!
AN OVER-THE-HILL CELEBRATION
October 27, 2019
Tuesdays are the hiking days for the Over-the-Hill Hikers of Sandwich, NH, so a Tuesday was decided upon for the celebration of the Over-the-Hillers’ fortieth anniversary. Last Tuesday evening the party was held at the Hobbs Tavern in West Ossipee, attended by seventy-nine of us, the hikers and the hiking-or-non-hiking spouses, from Sandwich and neighboring towns.
I hiked with the group for twenty-two years. On my first hike with them, we climbed Smarts Mountain, on a trail that a few years later the Dartmouth Outing Club named after my father. My last hike was in Kimball Wildlife Forest; an ice-cream stop is part of the Over-the-Hill tradition, and after this hike we stopped at nearby Sawyer’s Dairy Bar, where I had worked one high-school summer. And there were similar personal connections to most of the hikes I did in between, because I was updating my father’s hiking books amid this camaraderie up and down mountains.
At the Hobbs Tavern we old and new members mingled, then sat at about a dozen tables and were welcomed by the new “den mother,” who had organized the celebration beautifully. Hikers were recognized for completing the list of New Hampshire’s highest mountains, to applause and cheers. And there was remembrance: older hikers read the names of hikers who had died since the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration. One of the hikers who’d died was the hiker who showed us how to deal with the too-long laces in our boots. When you’re tying them, he’d demonstrated, go around twice to make the knot. So we had named the knot after him. During the mingling, a friend and I had talked about him, and I’d said to her, “I think of Jack every morning when I tie my shoes.” We agreed that this was a fine legacy.
And of course during the celebration I remembered Don’s participation. He hadn’t hiked with the group but, with other non-hiking spouses, had come to our planning-meeting-potluck-suppers. As Shirley Elder Lyons, a retired Washington newspaper reporter and the wife of a hiker, wrote in her delightful Over the Hill Hikers and How They Grew . . . and Grew . . . and Grew, Lib Crooker, our original den mother, “created a button for folks like me that said ‘Party Person.’” Don was a party person, too, and with Shirley and other party persons had many a laugh while lounging around listening to us earnestly (mostly) planning the next year’s hiking schedule, glad that they themselves didn’t feel the urge to slog up some damn mountain.
The evening was a great success. So many memories—arriving at the trailheads and setting forth; the exhilaration; the spells of simply putting one foot in front of the other (my father wrote, “Climbing is like sawing a log with an old-fashioned bucksaw. If you think ahead to the sawed pieces, the job becomes sweating drudgery. Don’t think of the top. Enjoy the climb.”) Then at last the summit views (“The universal reaction at the instant of stepping out on the rock is awe blended with delight. The impact lingers in your memory. It’s not the scenery alone; it’s the power underlying our green and stone-ribbed world.”)
And as the dinner ended with servings of cake, I remembered those end-of-hike rewards of ice cream.
October 20, 2019
“If we could find anything more ridiculous to do, we’d probably do that, too.”
Last weekend I was watching the Maine Channel 6 news about the long weekend’s Damariscotta Pumpkin Festival and I was already giggling, when one of the participants being interviewed made this remark. I burst out laughing. He was talking about the Pumpkinfest’s highlight, the regatta.
I’ve mentioned this regatta before, but it definitely deserves being mentioned again. Another person affectionately referred to it as “the height of absurdity.” Who first had such a crazy idea, turning a pumpkin into a boat (and not Cinderella’s carriage)? Buzz Pinkham. Contemplating a giant pumpkin he’d grown, he suddenly wondered: would it float? After it was in the water, he recalled, “I got on top of it and it didn’t sink.” So the feat was possible. He hollowed it out and made history.
The regatta is held in the Damariscotta River. There are divisions of competitions: paddle boats, powerboats, and a polo match. Volunteers organize everything. Buzz told a reporter, “It’s a community builder. ‘Only in Maine.’” This year a team of two Channel 6 NewsCenter meteorologists, Jessica Conway and Ryan Breton, were determined to win first place in the paddling race. In front of an audience of 2,000 people, Ryan made a false start, his pumpkin was swamped, he got wet. (You can imagine how many times that has been shown on TV and devices.) The NewsCenter crew pumped out his pumpkin. With Jessica in her pumpkin they persevered and their team of two triumphantly came in second.
The paddling is funny, but what I find extra-hilarious is the sight of a guy sitting in a pumpkin trying to steer an outboard motor in the manly manner of the men I’ve seen in motorboats on lakes all my life
Only in Maine? Laconia is having its Pumpkin Festival this weekend. In the newspaper I saw that the list of events included a fifty-four-foot tower of jack o’lanterns, pumpkin carving, pumpkin displays, but still no pumpkin regatta. How I long for there to be one in the lake near downtown, Lake Opechee!
Ah, autumn. Recently a friend sent me this old children’s rhyme:
Come, said the wind
to the leaves one day,
Come o’er the fields
and play with me.
Put on your dresses
of scarlet and gold,me.
for winter is nigh
and the days grow cold.
Eek, winter? It’s time to think ahead to December? Well, Friday morning on Channel 6 I learned that the Blue Bell Ice Cream Company has released its Christmas flavor early this year: Christmas Cookies.
HOUSEPLANTS, NEW AND OLD
October 13, 2019
When the three spider plants in the kitchen become pot-bound, I replace them with their offspring; that is, the baby spiders they produce, which I’ve rooted in water. Penny, my sister, is a plants person, a landscape designer, and during her visit last week she did the replacing maneuver for me, far better than I ever have, while we talked about plants we’ve had and the ages of the plants throughout this house.
In January 2016 I wrote here about these plants:
At this time of year, when attention turns indoors, I fuss more with our houseplants than I do in the spring and summer, when they’re rather like furniture that needs watering. And now that I’m paying attention to them, what strikes me is their age. Most of them have lived with Don and me for quite a while.
The oldest are the grapefruit plants. Sometime in the 1980s, when Don was eating a grapefruit he tucked a few of its seeds into the pot of a houseplant in a kitchen window, just for the hell of it. They sprouted. I’d previously grown avocado plants from pits—was it called “garbage gardening”?—but I was skeptical about Don’s experiment. The seedlings grew. Soon I was transplanting them into pots of their own. The plants eventually reached the living-room ceiling and Don had to prune them! Over the years a couple of them have languished and died, but the three survivors are now so much a part of our lives that we’re startled when guests exclaim over them.
Other old friends include the Norfolk pine, prayer plant, pittosporum, and a Christmas cactus given to us by Penny, who is my green-thumb expert whose advice has come to the rescue many a time.
When a plant is beyond rescuing, Penny reminds me about Thalassa Cruso’s TV series, Making Things Grow. Thalassa was not sentimental. If a plant wasn’t thriving, out it went. We laugh over the time Thalassa quoted from Tennyson’s poem “Crossing the Bar.” Penny says, “Remember how she was holding a dead potted plant in her hand while she intoned, ‘And may there be no moaning of the bar!’ and then she threw the plant, pot and all, over her shoulder without looking back to see where it landed. And she carried on.”
The newest plants in our house are the spider plants . . .
. . . Unlike Puddles’s mother, I’ve never tried growing geraniums indoors year-round. Penny has overseen my descriptions of this feat.
And now in this autumn of 2019, Penny’s house is full of geraniums she has brought indoors for the winter!
October 6, 2019
In A Born Maniac, when Puddles returns to New Hampshire from South Carolina in 2001 for an autumn visit, I reported that after encountering pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin pie, “Puddles was getting a little sick of pumpkins.” If that visit had been in 2019, I would have written, “Puddles was getting a little sick of pumpkin spice.”
On a recent New Hampshire Chronicle program, there was a segment about how “New Hampshire has gone gaga for pumpkin spice,” and numerous examples were shown in visits to places around the state: pumpkin-spice doughnuts, pumpkin-spice whoopie pies, lattes, wines, ice cream, candles, goat-milk pumpkin-spice soap, and goat- milk pumpkin-spice lotion. The segment ended with a sign outside a shop saying: We Don’t Have Pumpkin Spice Pizza!
Pizza? The next day on the Sandwich Board there was post from the North Sandwich store that announced an apple pizza: “New Test Recipe: Come Get It While It’s Hot! Sweet and Savory Pizza Pie: Granny Smith apples, red onion, bacon, crumbled bleu cheese, drizzled with maple syrup on pepper pastry crust.”
My taste buds are making the transition onward from apples to pumpkins, and unlike Puddles I’m not sick of pumpkins—or pumpkin spice. Yet. I’m a purist about whoopie pies—gotta be chocolate—but last week at the small supermarket in Center Harbor I found myself standing in front of the bakery display, staring at pumpkin whoopie pies. But eventually I compromised, choosing Pumpkin Spice Crème-Filled Cookies.
Ah, October! Lately I’ve been dipping into a poetry anthology that was a textbook for my Language and Literature (Lang & Lit) course at Bennington. Much amusement over the copious notes I made in the margins beside some of the poems. One poem without notes, just a little underlining of alliteration, is a Robert Frost poem I don’t remember at all, so now it is new to me and perhaps it will be to you, too, or perhaps it’s an old friend. The title is “October”; here’s an excerpt:
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow . . .
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)
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)
March, 2018(first entry)
Earlier: See Ruth's Neighborhood
The Old Country Store (March 25)
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)
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