Thursday, November 30, 2006

December, almost, plus meatballs and cats

But it's still in the 70s here. Thank goodness I can visit blogs all over the world, to see some photos of snow.

We are to have spaghetti and meatballs, so I'm practicing with my camera:

And, oddly enough, this occurred while I was working:

If you knew how these guys scratch and wrestle, you'd be very surprised at this calm setting! They even settled down for a nap together.

This has been a very interesting month of putting up a blog every day and reading new ones; I haven't found my voice—that's for sure—but I think teetering out on the ice has been a good thing. I'll keep going until the ice breaks and I fall in over my head.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

something big to come down

Since we moved here there have been many changes. Of course, the usual day-to-day shifts— moving from one grade in school to the next, a new car, new kittens to grow into grumpy cats.

There have been others; having relatives staying during Thanksiving meant remembering my mother, whose sudden death in 2001 left such a void and was such a shock that I missed most of that year.

Talking about her and other relatives has brought back my sleepwalking, which hasn't come up since right after L was born. Waking while walking in the dark is the most disorienting experience; it is eerie to suddenly come upon yourself, facing a wall in the bathroom, say, when you were otherwise engaged in your dreams. Like reawakening to a shift in your reality.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

random thoughts and an image

I've been meaning to write about this oddity; I asked my guests during Thanksgiving if they had heard of this before (they of course living near a much more cosmopolitan city than I do) and they never had. In fact, their looks could only be described as quizzical. Let me give you a quote from our local paper from a food column that ran recently:

Using hot rocks is a new cooking method taking larger cities by storm. Restaurant X will be the only place [here] for diners to experience it. It's a process that brings certain uncooked foods to the table, where they are cooked on hot rocks tableside.

I'm not sure what this process would even look like! And what "certain uncooked foods" are they talking about? How big are the rocks? Big and flat? Many stones together?? Where's the heat source?

Also, just to give you an idea how much I detest folding and putting away laundry (strangely, I don't mind separating it and putting it in the machine and the dryer), also giving me a chance to use my camera, here is my shameful clean laundry basket. The washer is full of clean wet clothes and the dryer is full of clean dry clothes. Does anyone like to fold and put away laundry??

Monday, November 27, 2006

time to think

We've bid our guests goodby; they have a six-hour drive ahead of them. But we're sorry to see them go; they are always thoughtful and up for anything. We are pretty tame here, though. Friday, we took an amble around, crossing the bridge twice:

We ended up sitting outside at a restaurant, having some appetizers and wine, then took a walk along the river.

We took a drive, ate out quite a bit, but mostly we sat around and worked on these:

L and I helped teach Sunday school; we helped girls make Anglican rosaries, which we learned quite a bit about. Then a baptism. A full day.

But our guests and we reminded each other of things our parents had done or said, so it was a nice way to reconnect with the past and keep some memories alive, which otherwise may have been in danger of disappearing.

After the whirlwind of Thanksgiving dinner, the rest of the time flowed along, nothing to eddy the currents of our visiting.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


It's been difficult to write during this time, with people popping in and out, hosting, helping with Sunday school. I will be more inclined to circumspection next week, when I have time. After I clean the house, clear out the laundry room, and get back to work, that is!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Lot's of time on the road to a destination that wasn't as much fun as it had been.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday after

We are not going to any mall. Instead, we're going downtown to take a walk and sample some free samples at various independent sellers.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Not much, you?

Not much to say. Relatives have arrived and we are talking. Tomorrow we will have 9 for dinner.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

a lot of work

Every Thanksgiving, I find myself trying new recipes, like the new one for stuffing/dressing I made today. This involved making a pan of cornbread. Then, cutting up apples, pears, and onions; sauteing onions; adding mushrooms, sage, thyme; adding the fruit and some cranberries and cooking. Now the fruit mixture awaits meeting up with the cubed cornbread inside the turkey on Thursday. And of course, I'll make of batch of the regular Pepperidge Farm kind for those who won't try the exotic.

I also made the cranberry mixture from Gourmet and parboiled and peeled three pounds of tiny white boiling onions for creamed onions and those caramelized onions in mustard and maple syrup.

D came through the kitchen while this was going on and said, "Well, you've got most of it done!"


Sunday, November 19, 2006


Birds like these
are tucked away in an old biscuit tin; they were begun when my mother was a child. Now I have them; will they be completed in my lifetime, or will they go on, in their unfinished state, to haunt my daughter, to taunt? I've gotten them out to remind me of my mother, my grandmother. And to finish them, and stitch them together into a fabric that will tie up the generations.

windfall (er, not)

This morning, an e-mail that begain like this

Attn: Dear Beneficiary,
On behalf of the Trustees and Executor of the estate of Late Engr. Heather Stuart; I once again
try to notify you as my earlier letter was returned undelivered.
I hereby attempt to reach you again by this same email address stated on the WILL.
I wish to notify you that late Engr. Heather Stuart made you a beneficiary to her WILL.
She left the sum of Seven Million One Hundred Thousand Dollars (USD$7,100.000.00) to you in the
codicil and last testament to her WILL.
Engr. Heather Stuart until her death was a member of the Helicopter Society and the Institute of
Electronic & Electrical Engineers.

was in my e-mail in box!

Wouldn't it be utterly fantastic if this were true! I wonder if anyone responds to these spams? I hope not!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Yes, it's coming, and soon. We're having a total of nine here. I'm using Gourmet magazine this year

[damn! there's a bird pecking on the outside of the house—pound the wall; gone . . .]

and will give Tart Cranberry-Onion Relish; Green Beans with Ginger Butter; Roasted Sweet Potato Spears w/Bacon Vinaigrette; some kind of parsnips (not with the black truffle butter as featured in the mag, though); plus the usual mashed pot./stuffing and of course the turkey.

Tuesday is cleaning day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

lights, camera . . .

Here it is.

The finished product from the receipe found here.

So, today I've taken the first steps into learning to integrate the camera with the computer.

I can tell you, I needed my instruction booklet every step of the way!

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I met with my knitters today; a great way to get some knitting done and listen to all kinds of gossip. But of course anyone who's sat down, needles and yarn in hand, with like-minded individuals knows that!

But, it's like that add for Las Vegas: what happens here, stays here. Or in our case, what's said here!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

cold, wet, and rainy

Today it's better to be in than out, so I'm getting caught up on my work and ordering gift cards (done!) for S, BIL, and Ns. Hope they like where they're being sent to shop.

And I certainly don't want to go out in this weather; not that I can, without borrowing D's key. I've recently mislaid my car key (twice), my watch, the TV remote, my cell phone, and my passport. (I think this may have something to do with the subject of the poem found here.) I've found my key once, but now it's missing again; I just found the remote after several weeks' time of its visiting the space between the bottom of my mattress and the footboard; the cell phone was under the car seat (perhaps key is there?); passport was attached to its renewal form under a stack on my desk.

Maybe I'll start writing little notes to myself on scraps of paper, like my grandmother did, and forget where I've put them . . .

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Yes! we finally have a digital camera, with an instruction booklet more complicated than anything I've seen. I had to have it to hand when I inserted the software disc into the compter so I could follow the steps to open this, and click that.

It's a very intimidating little machine that seems to be able to do everything, including shooting movies.

I can't get used to the fact that there is no film in there; the entire concept is alien. How does this work?

I feel about it as I did about the first computer we got--afraid to touch anything for fear it would disappear into a black hole. Back then, I treated the Mac as if it were an elaborate typewriter--and I guess I still do!

Well, over the next few weeks I'll probably be posting my "art" photos. Beware!

Monday, November 13, 2006

End of the Season

Today is the last pickup at our CSA's drop-off point. Last week we got quite a bit more than I bargained for; who expects eggplant in November?

I love going out there; the road bends around, and the left is indicated only by a handmade wooden sign tacked onto a tree. Down the narrow rutted lane in the woods and suddenly the sky opens up like a bowl overhead. All the plants are laid out in straight rows; no one hurries. Calm like nowhere else.

I miss the garden we had 15 years ago; that was one big patch behind the sagging shed. It was the last place to find snow in the spring. It's where L led my mother down along the rows, naming each vegetable: "lets" "bits" "bokli" "'mato"

We canned a lot from that garden, my mother and I. She taught me how to lay everything out, sterilize the jars, tops, and tongs. How to boil up the pickles and the jam. The kitchen was big enough to push the table across the room, next to the dormant woodstove so we had room to move when the pressure was on, when the pickles had cooked just enough and it was time to fill the jars, just to the right level.

My mother would have preferred we had stayed in that house, instead of moving so far away. I found a canning jar top with her handwriting: pickles, august 1988. I put it away in an envelope, just to look at.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


The weather is clear, cool, crisp; I'm sitting in front of my computer, taking a break from my nutrition text, trying to figure out where all my time has gone to. It seems just last year, not ten years ago, that I had a spirited 5 year old; now my daughter is looking forward to learning to drive! She and her father have decided that I don't have the temperament to teach her (phew); D has already taught two how to manage, and he's exhausted just thinking about a third.

I remember my mother teaching me, in busy New Jersey; at first I would always stop at yellow lights. The notion of slowing was somewhat difficult to grasp; it was either on or off, 0 or 1. Changing lanes on the highway—THERE was a challenge at the beginning. My poor mother saying, " NO, make a smooth transition. You don't TURN into the lane!!"

But I managed to drive myself (with my mother in the passenger position) all the way to the New England state where the car was registered to get my license. With the official in the car, I drove; stopped; turned; signaled; parallel parked.

Then: "Put on the hand brake."

I sat there for what seemed an hour. Then I pushed down on a pedal I hadn't known was there. "Is this it?" I asked.

"Yes, it is," said the official, and signed the document that allowed me to get my license.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My morning thus far

On my way to do my altar guild duty, I was almost sideswiped. I was lucky; the other driver saw me in time and stopped. But still.

Otherwise, it was a wild, rainy, windy drive down the hill, with the leaves swirling down in front of me and dancing under the wheels of the other cars. At church, there was a group praying on this Veterans Day, so we went about our setup quietly. We have a nice rhythm and routine as we get the church ready for Sunday. The presence light creaks down on its metal cord and is doused, then is replaced and cranks up again.

The only annoying aspect to altar guild is that the hymn numbers are not big enough for their slots on the hymn boards and flutter down to the floor as soon as they are put in place. Someone bakes our Communion bread, so there is always (except once!) a ready supply in the freezer.

It's soothing to be in the nave, with the only light coming in through the stained glass. Mundane activities become meditative. . .

Friday, November 10, 2006


Every Friday is Knit-In, and I shall work on:

Mason-Dixon linen towel's

Ene's Scarf.

I'm having a bit of a hard time sitting down and concentrating on anything for too long a period of time. Plus there seems to be a kind of a crowded situation in the laundry room requiring my attention.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ene's Scarf

Thursday is knitting group; started Ene's Scarf from Scarf Styles, and worked out what was (to me) the knotty issue of the repeats of the pattern moving over to the LEFT each right side row. We googled Ene's scarf, and there are many others who have either made it or are in the process.

I love my group; very different types gather around the circular table. Didn't realize some of us were quite so politically conservative. . . . The results of the election rather rankled. And this is one of the few outlets I have to be in a social setting on a regular basis. Makes me have to participate in the conversation, but it's surprising what issues are brought up. What is it about wool that acts to smooth the way to the confessional?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The fact is that I'm remembering my writing workshops thirteen or so years ago, going out into the snowy dusk, down one mountain and up the next, to get to the cozy living room, lit with soft light from a few table lamps. Chairs would be pushed companionably around the trunk in the middle of the room, each time holding something different: old photographs, maybe; a collection of stones and feathers; fabrics. A cup of tea, and then we'd begin, each writing in a notebook (or not writing, maybe); thinking.

Then, the most scary time: reading, which was something I couldn't do for quite some time. But I remember Laura's poems especially, and Gene's, too, of course.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


We braved the rain and fog to get to our town's gym to vote in this very heated mid-term election. I'm very worried, as many are, the direction that we're all headed for, locally, generally, globally.

However, I don't think I've ever seen so many people at the polls as I did today; there was barely a parking spot to be had. After signing in at several card tables, I took my ballot to my cubby and blackened the ovals and wrote in one candidate's name for town council. But I can't help thinking: ultimately, will anything change? Is this a fair and honest system, or is it so corrupt that my vote will be, in the end, meaningless? It seems pretty depressing and hopeless out there, and the divide between the super-rich and the super-poor is getting wider, with the middle class disappearing into the breach. Listen, I pay for my own health insurance, so I can't afford to get sick.

My fingers are crossed against what may be the will of the "majority".

Monday, November 06, 2006

In which I make a cake

I need to be doing something else, besides sitting in my office. Or cleaning. Or worrying.

Then I rememberd Laurie Colwin's two collections of writings on food from her Gourmet column. I had a subscription to that magazine when these were coming out, and it was a treat to read them every month; her writing was so immediate and conversational, and it seemed that she and I shared similar ideas. She even bought the same Bread Alone bread I was then buying—and the same Walnut Acres staples! Then her first book, Home Cooking, came out and I got it in hardback.

She was only 48 when she died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Unbelievable; she wrote so lovingly about her young daughter and all the treats she made for her and with her. Her short stories and novels are always the ones I return to when I can't think of what else to read.

So today I made a chocolate cake from More Home Cooking, her friend Karen Edwards's version of buttermilk cocoa cake. And I used up the last of my buttermilk . . .

Here it is:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

2. Mix together 1-3/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3. To these ingredients add 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter, and 2 teaspons vanilla.


4. Turn the batter into the pan, bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and let it cool for 5 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


The news about Rev. Haggard of Colorado, like so many other high-profile evangelical preachers, isn't that he is, and they have been, hypocritical to their preachings and teachings. It's that Haggard had direct, and regular, access to President Bush and the White House! THIS is the story. Why does a confessed deceiver and hypocrite have easy acess to the president, who has descibed himself as "The Decider"? This is not just a regional news item. It's about the nation and its future!! Democrats, pick up on this!


Today, we'll see the matinee and final performance of the play at L's school, at which she and her quartet are performing for a dance scene.

Last night, another member (one who drives!) kindly came by at the appointed hour to pick L up and, once their scene had ended (coinciding with intermission) DRIVE HER HOME!!

D and I laid and lit a fire in the fireplace, settled in for a relaxing evening, when of course the phone rang; L found out her ride was staying for the entire thing and, as she didn't want to, asked/demanded that someone come and pick her up because she had homework to do (Saturday? hmmm).

Sigh. We let our fire die down and wended our way down the hill to school, whose parking lot was jammed to bursting. But out she trotted, right on time.

We'll all see the whole thing today. And we have to get there an hour or so early for tuning up and so forth. But D and I can walk down to the river to watch the regatta—and it's a beautiful day, with a bite in the air. L and I saw some of the activity yesterday, watching them glide under the bridge in their different jerseys (is that the correct term? costume?).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Stretching Beyond

I discovered the other day that a group, consisting of individuals around the globe, posts a photo a day of something to do with where they are, and the diversity and intimacy is astonishing. On November 1, some of them united to show "something that will disappear soon": I saw a cosy tea table set with an afternoon snack waiting for two boys to come home in Finland; a cigarette in an ashtray on a bar in Paris; even my city is represented! And I'm finding it a challenge to figure out where the local photos have been taken.

This is a good portal to this group. Now I'm considering a digital camera, though I want to figure out how to use my mother's old Yashika-Mat.

Otherwise, L is off to work at the libary; her quartet performs in her school's play tonight (offstage, during a dance sequence). Very demanding schedule this week, but I think it is a good thing. Tomorrow we'll see how Jane Austen has been adapted for the stage.

Friday, November 03, 2006


D and I raked and raked, the leaves still fell all around us, the air crisp, the sky a Mountain Day blue. The activity did not have its usual futile aspect; the pile we raked and created felt like an accomplishment.

It will be great to step out into weather this morning for an amble around, maybe taking the trails with E's dog. I feel much better up and away from my desk.

But, a little black cat has fallen asleep on my lap; I hate to wake her . . .

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another day

Another day with a little black cat on my lap, but one that started with a beautiful photograph and poem, with their reminder of this time of year remembering those who've gone. Little lights flickering in the dark can focus our attention on what we are really feeling, more so than any words—but sometimes words help us. There is a little book I look at sometimes, The Quiet Eye: A Way of Looking at Pictures, by Sylvia Shaw Hudson, which is quite contemplative, pairing an image (paintings, mostly) with a quote. It sets a smoothness against a jarring day.

I remember lighting candles in France for my mother: one in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in a church that most certainly was built on a Neolithic holy site, which was lit only by candles and was so dark and cool against the day.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 1

I'm sitting here with a little black cat on my lap, after the cello, backpack, laptop, gym bag, L and D have all been flung (or flung themselves) into the "old" car and lumbered off down the hill in various states of mind.

Thank goodness: another Halloween has gone away. But this is merely the portal to the entire series of cataclysmic events known as the HOLIDAY SEASON. Thanksgiving is not so bad, but only because I like to cook and relatives I haven't seen in a while (a few years) will be here.

But then there's Christmas . . . and this year I am not even attempting to buy presents for my S, BIL, and nieces: gift cards for all. The past five years or so have been a general misery of buying things for them, wrapping them, boxing them up, taking them to the post office. I just cannot do it anymore. Leaving this part of the whole Christmas equation off the page will, I think, restore sanity (at least a bit).

I'm not even sure when this generalized miasma overtook me; I used to do all the things that make this time of the year special: bake cookies, make ornaments, decorate, be generally cheerful.

Hmmm. Well, there is yoga to take my mind off all of this.