Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Trying something new - a home video

I have seen a little video icon next to the photograph one, and I thought I'd give it a try. I put this on my Facebook page today. This is the side yard, off the kitchen door. I fed the birds and they were just beginning to come to the feeders.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

On this Christmas Eve

Just the words, 'Christmas Eve' give me a feeling of warmth, contentment, peace. When we are parents of young children - those are probably the most wonderful of all Christmas Eves. The little ones have gone to bed early and are so incredibly excited for the morning. The parents are often up late, putting together toys and wrapping the presents from Santa Claus.

Two grandchildren stories from today. These are the words my daughter-in-law, Estée wrote on Facebook:
Conversation between Campbell and I regarding cookies for Santa 
Me: I can’t wait to make cookies and leave them out for Santa tonight! 
Campbell: So Santa eats cookies at every house he goes to? 
Me: Yes, he needs the energy to fly all over the world to deliver gifts. 
Campbell: That's a lot of cookies. Too many cookies aren’t good for your body. 
Me: Well that’s right. Should we leave something else for Santa then? 
Campbell: Yes I think probably chips and hummus. 
Tonight Santa Claus will be pleasantly surprised by our offerings of cookies, and chips with hummus.
Isn't that just so delightful. It warmed the hearts of his grandparents, that's for sure.

And then this evening, a text from Margaret:
First night ever, Hazel told me to shh and not sing to her. She 'had to go to sleep.' Santa is serious biz.
Made the Nana cry to read those words.

We are expecting quite a big Christmas snow so Michael and Estée and the boys won't be coming up tomorrow. Tom and I will walk down the hill to Margaret and Matthew and Hazel's house and will celebrate with them. On another day, when the roads are good, we'll have our Christmas with the rest of the clan.

I'm feeling quite like Gladys Taber tonight as I sit alone in the living room with the Christmas tree and all the decorations and books surrounding me. I wish I had her gift with words, but I shall simply wish all my dear readers, my faithful readers the most wonderful Christmas and the very best of New Years.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Stillmeadow - December

Gladys begins her December chapter with words all too familiar to those of us who live in the country.
Living in the country in winter is not easy. It is not simply sitting by a log fire and reading that good book. It is no life for lazy people. 
She goes on to talk about being "snowed in" and losing power. She says the local people call it "the electric."  I have a very vague memory of that term being used when I was a kid, but I sure haven't heard it for ages.

It is never made very clear about when the husbands of Gladys and her friend, called "Jill" in the books, stop becoming part of the scene. I believe both couples broke up. There is one mention in this book of "urging my husband to bring in more wood."

Gladys has wonderful neighbors who do a lot of the strong-arm chores. Even though they have help, I greatly admire these women moving to what was then a kind of wilderness. I imagine Gladys' Connecticut like in the old movies such as Christmas in Connecticut and Bringing Up Baby - rural and remote. In her time it was becoming 'discovered' by various writers and celebrities looking for a simpler, quieter way of life.
and if there is anything a city-dweller can have half as pleasant as a filled woodshed, I know not what it would be.
And all these years later, I still feel this way. We don't have a woodshed, but we have a woodpile, and it is as good as money in the bank. Whatever weather comes our way, we can be warm.

Some people cut, split, and pile it themselves. Some buy it cut and split so just have to pile it. In the over forty years we've burned wood, we've done it both ways. Some years we've gotten log length wood and both cut it and split it. Some years we get cut, but unsplit. This year we got cut and split because there was a lot of work to do, and there wasn't the time to get wood ready.

Tom has a step-uncle who lives nearby. He is in his early eighties, and still puts up his own wood. He loves the work. He scoffs at old friends who hire people to do their yard work and then go to a gym for exercise. He would rather get his exercise doing real, necessary work.

Gladys writes of snow:
When the first snow arrives, I really give myself up to winter. The air comes cold and sharp and there is a quickening in the blood, a feeling that the seasons are rolling around quite the way they should, and all is well. 
 But in the city, snow is looked at quite differently.
In the city the street-cleaning department looks on snow as a crisis. There is always a terrible to-do over snow in New York. One would think New York was a tropical city, and snow an unheard-of phenomenon. Generally, before the snow is carted away there are various battles. The head of one department accuses the head of another department of inefficiency. Taxpayers write in to the papers about their streets. The mayor issues orders to car owners. The taxis never have chains; they skid into one another and the drivers get out and shout furiously. The snow is loaded in trucks with machines like hay loaders. Finally, as the last load roars away, the weather turns warm and it rains.
Because these essays were written during and after the Second World War, there are occasional mentions of the unease of those years.
Christmas is almost upon us before we get over Thanksgiving. Many simple folk like me are thinking long thoughts as we wrap the packages. We are still waiting for peace. We are insecure, when we have won the war. Civil conflicts exist everywhere, peoples are still starving, Labor and Management are embroiled in half the world. Nations still argue unsolved issues. Race prejudice snakes along every hidden byway.
Gladys' "long thoughts" focus on what individuals can do to make the world better. Loving one another, teaching tolerance to children, having faith in "all the human beings of tomorrow." She is a woman much like any of us today. We hope for the best, we try our best, we try to not get discouraged. There are always more good people than not even if they are never reported on in the news.
I came back from a trip to New York, tired and anxious about all those things which pile up when a housewife goes away. One of those lovely, early snows had been falling for hours, and I drove through a kind of lacy twilight down the winter road. I saw my friend walking away from Stillmeadow along the shadowy path, and she waved and said she had been to the house. I drove on, and there was the house in the sweet twilight of snow, and on the door the Christmas wreath she had carried over and put up. Deep green of pine, cinnamon brown of cones, a spray of gay little bells, and a flash of rosy ribbon.
"This," I thought, "is what I mean by Christmas! To come home, after absence, and find the gracious thoughtfulness expressed, the good and gracious warmth of friendship." 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

All the books of 2017 - part two

Part one is here

9. I haven't read any books with a 'magical' setting.

10. As with # 2, I don't keep track of pages, but probably Jacqueline Winspear's In This Grave Hour.

11. From the first minute I read about Magpie Murders, I knew I wanted to read it, and that I would love it. I bought it from The Book Depository in November 2016 and read it ten months later. That's a long wait for something I couldn't wait to read!

12. I didn't finish any series this year.

13. I definitely read more mysteries than any other genre. This year I've read a lot of old ones, which I love.

14. Don't know what my last read of the year will be.

15. Favorite reads, in no particular order, would be:
How Many Camels Are There in Holland? Dementia, ma, and me by Phyllida Law
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor
The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons
The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson
The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

This has been a fun little activity. I hope to write a follow-up to my Half a Year's Reading post here, but we'll see how the time goes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Today's picture and a Simenon quote

Outside the wind was still blowing from the north, and the daylight was uniformly cool and hard with, however, behind the massed cloud, a hint of yellow, which was like a promise of sunshine.

From the story, Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook
by Georges Simenon

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cookie Bars

Eleven years ago this month, when I'd been writing for just a couple weeks, I posted a recipe for Magic Cookie Bars. As delicious as they taste, I don't make them very often because they stick to the pan. They've cracked and broken as I've tried to remove them. But from watching the British cooking shows, The Great British Bake Off and The Big Family Cooking Showdown I've learned about parchment paper.

I've owned some for ages but used it for only a roasted potatoes dish. Why haven't I tried it for brownies, etc.? I have no idea.

This recipe is a variation on the one I posted. You may find it here. I chose to not use any nuts, and honestly we like the taste better.

First line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. I cut off the excess.

Melt 3/4 cup butter on low temperature.

While it is melting, put one packet of graham crackers

in a plastic bag and roll them out to make crumbs.

Mix the crumbs with the melted butter and put in pan. Pour over the top one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk.

Mix together 1 1/3 cups of chocolate chips with 1 1/3 cups coconut. I've begun using Guittard because of the non-GMO lecithin and the fair trade cocoa. Plus, they are delicious. I'd only heard of Ghiradelli but this is another San Francisco company that has been around for ages.

Sprinkle the chips and coconut mixture on top of the condensed milk.

Bake in a pre-heated 350º f. oven for 25-30 minutes.

I made these for Hazel and Tom's 4th and 67th birthdays this year, and they were much loved by all!

Just to be sure they were good before posting the recipe, I made them a couple other times lately!!

To have some food fun, visit Weekend Cooking this week and every week!

Friday, December 8, 2017

All the Books of 2017

I saw this on a fellow blogger's instagram, and was immediately interested.

I thought I'd do a few days at a time.

1. My first book of the year was Dead Sand, the first in the Lewis Cole series by Brendan DuBois. I wrote a bit about this series here. I love these books. I love the way the author writes. Pure pleasure reading them.

2. I don't jot down the number of pages in the books I read so I'm not positive, but I think the Little Book of Hygge was probably the shortest.

3. I can't really answer in the 'best sequel' category because I read so many series books. I'm always reading a sequel it seems, and I like them all so much that I continue on.

4. My favorite cover is the book I'm reading right now.

It is a photograph done by Keystone-France/Gamma Rapho. It is such a beautiful view of Paris where this collection of Christmas stories is set.

5. Ah, new to me favorite authors. Such a good year for this category. Brendan DuBois, Natasha Solomons, Josephine Tey, and Basil Thomson.

6. A tie for beautifully written book - one fiction, The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons and one nonfiction, The Perfect Summer 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson.

7. New favorite characters would have to be Lewis Cole and Inspector Richardson in the Brendan DuBois and Basil Thomson books.

8. I reread two books. Battles at Thrush Green by Miss Read and A Rumpole Christmas by John Mortimer. These are two of my all time favorite authors and it is always a joy to reread any of their books.

I'll come back and do the rest in a later post.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

She likes the vac!

I'm very happy with my new Shark vacuum!

1. Even though I thought I wanted bags, I'm loving the ease of emptying the bagless vacuum. I couldn't change the bag in my old one. It was too complicated for me, so Tom did it. Also, no more expense for bags. I usually used one+ every time I vacuumed.

2. Hose is softer and more pliable than my old one.

3. Controls are simple and clear, and not many of them. In fact, the whole design is simple.

4. Easy to change it from doing bare floors to rugs.

5. Much lighter to carry up the stairs.

6. It is noisy, but I expect it has to be to be able to pick up dirt. Suction is good.

So, a great success!

Monday, December 4, 2017

The chosen vacuum

This is what I ordered today after reading your comments, and reading many reviews on the internet. I'll report back when I've tried it out. It is still a minor miracle to me that I can click a button and in two days a new vacuum will arrive at Windy Poplars Farm.

Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Canister Vacuum (NR96)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Back again asking for vacuum recommendations

I first asked you about vacuums 7 1/2 years ago! Here is the post. Then I bought one, which I wrote about here. Well, I can't tell you exactly how long that vac lasted but I do know that we've had three or four more since then.They break, they don't work, blah, blah, blah. I can't remember all the companies.

I am 7 1/2 years older and and more tired. I hate hauling out the vacuum and dragging it around for hours. I am not an everyday vacuum-er. I like to do it once a week and be done.

I want a light vacuum.

I want a quiet one.

I want bags. I've tried the bagless kind and emptying them was a huge mess.

I want a canister. I can't lift the uprights.

I have a yellow Labrador retriever - the 365/24/7 shedder! As long as we are healthy, this is the only breed we ever want despite that one little problem! So, I need a really tough vacuum.

I am willing to spend the big bucks if all my criteria are met.

Many commenters on the earlier post recommended Dyson, but I've read negative things about that brand, too. I expect there are new models that have come on the market. I've been all over the internet and have some ideas, but I would really like it if you could tell me what you have (and love and hate).

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. And sorry to bother you yet again!

If I sound agitated, that's because I am. Yet another vac went kaput today.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Stillmeadow - November

I've embarked on a year long reading adventure - Gladys Taber's The Book of Stillmeadow.

It is set up in monthly chapters, and that's how I'm going to read the book. I did much the same thing in 2011-2012 when I wrote about a book by Gladys and another by Rachel Peden. You may find those posts under A Year with Gladys and Rachel.

The book begins in November. Though so many people don't care for this month, it is one of my favorite times of year. I like the opening up of the woods, the quiet, the early darkness. Outdoor work isn't calling me and I can focus more on the inside, both of the house and my own inner self. It is a time for reflection.

I'm reading a 1984 reissue copy of The Book of Stillmeadow. It was originally published in 1948. The copyrights listed go from 1937 through 1947.

There is an introduction telling the reader how Gladys Taber ended up at this old farm in Connecticut that she named Stillmeadow. It's a lovely name, don't you think?

I've always loved books about city people who pull up stakes and move to the country to make a life there. Mostly they don't have a clue what they're doing, and yet they daily come to learn all they need to know. I believe the first series of books I read about this was Derek Tangye's books about moving to the Cornish coast and growing flowers. I mentioned him in one of my early postings. If you've not heard of him, this is a good starting place, and there's a wonderful Facebook page.

Gladys and her friend, called Jill in the books, were both married with children and living in New York City apartments when they began to dream about a place in the country. They thought at first that it would be a weekend place, but it became their life and the source of Gladys' many writings over the years.
I began to keep a kind of diary the year we found Stillmeadow. There were so many things we wanted not to forget and the family liked a journal to refer to. Sometimes it was recipes, directions for doing over the old furniture we had bought at the auction, notes about the puppies. And sometimes it was my own thoughts, a record of country living. It turned out to be a kind of potpourri of happenings at Stillmeadow.
And after nine years, it was filling so many scrapbooks that the cupboard was full. So I made a selection of the parts that would represent our life in the country and copied it out - a staggering task.
And now we have the Book of Stillmeadow.
As she begins the November entry, I was rather amazed to read something quite similar to what I wrote in my very first blog post. Had I read it in another Gladys' book, or did I come up with that thought myself??
At night, little faraway houses, never seen in summer, suddenly prick the dark with their lamps. 
She writes, "All the browns, a thousand browns, come out. Rust-brown, sand-brown, topaz-brown, and the faded gold of harvest fields." And she notes that in her Connecticut hills, "This is a peaceful, serene land, and never quite so peaceful as now, with the crops in, wood piled high, houses snugged down, brooks running slow with leaves. The days grow shorter. Dusk comes before we are finished with the day."

I think that's it. With all our capabilities and determination, we are still ruled by the natural world at least to some extent. I rather love it that I am not in charge of how long the daylight lasts. Even with a headlamp, or barn lights, you aren't going to pile wood. You are stopped. If we give November a chance, it can change us in profound ways by giving us the opportunity to look deep and maybe change some things that need to be changed. Things we don't even think about when the sun shines and "the livin' is easy."

In all her writings Gladys moves back and forth from her own personal world to the world at large. When she watched the sun going down,
My heart got to aching for all the sad people all over the world. I wanted so terribly to share the color and the peace and the serene fall of evening and the clean cold air coming up from the water. And I wanted families together, going quietly home at night. This, I thought, is what we must have in this world again, somehow. Not power and glory, not magnificence. Only freedom for folk to work and be at peace in their own lands.
She warns against "things."
Happiness is not upholstered in velvet, nor lighted by the push of a button. If we start a new wild scramble for material luxury, we shall begin a toboggan slide to destruction. I do believe in pleasant living, as much as our means afford - but I wish we could chart a modest course between overelegance and simplicity.
All these decades later and we are still striving. As the Talking Heads wrote, "Same as it ever was." Gladys Taber is a woman for all seasons and all ages. Her words are as meaningful today as when she wrote them. She offers solace and hope to the reader by showing us her deep and basic humanity, and her knowledge of what is important.
The house was warm and inviting when we got home, and smelled of bayberry and burning apple wood. And white moonlight began to sift through the windows. This time of year has so much comfort in it, when all is said and done. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Quote du jour/Nadiya Hussain

I've been greatly enjoying The Big Family Cooking Showdown on Netflix. In a episode I saw last evening, there were two great quotes from Nadiya Hussain who is a presenter. You may remember she won The Great British Bake Off in 2015.

"Oh, my God, mashed potato is my favorite thing in the whole wide world."
"I would rather have a baby than make soufflé."
Nadiya Hussain

Please do visit Weekend Cooking for all things cooking related.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eleven years

I just wanted to note that it has been 11 years since I began writing this blog. Things in the world and in my world have changed in ways I never, ever could have imagined. I was still in my fifties and now I am 3 months away from 70. How is that even possible?!

Since that day, there have been two marriages, three grandchildren, a child building a house on our land. Animals have died, and new ones have come into our lives. Thankfully, so very thankfully, the family is doing well. Nina (Tom's mother) will turn 90 the day before I turn 70. Her husband is now 94. My 'babies' who were 24 and 21 when I began the blog are now 35 and 32.

My immediate hopes for the blog are to write more often, and a bit more in depth. I kind of miss writing about the books I've read. I want to write more about gardening and cooking, and the little ones, Hazel Nina, Campbell Walker, and Indy Thomas.

Thank you to all my readers who are still here. I write a post and before I can blink you have taken the time to write back. I am encouraged by you and warmed by your caring. I don't get to visit any of you nearly as often as I think of you, and yet you still stop by and read any letters I have the chance to write.

I'll leave you with a photo from yesterday of the yard off the kitchen. I think my favorite time of day at Windy Poplars Farm is between 9 and 10 in the morning. The light is so wonderful.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Grocery shopping

This week's installment of Weekend Cooking is a collection of questions. How do you shop for food? Do you go once a week, twice, more often? Do you plan your meals and buy accordingly, or do you just have a vague idea and buy things thinking you might use them?

I am prompted to ask because I seem to be throwing away too much produce. When I buy watercress and some leeks, I'm positive I will make soup, but somehow the days fly by, and they must be thrown out. It is wasteful, and a bit embarrassing to be so cavalier with food that I am lucky enough to be able to buy. I must change the way I shop. I looked back on the blog and found that just a year ago I was talking about sort of the same thing. Really? How long does it take me to learn, to try a new way of shopping?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Homemade popsicles

When the kids were little we used to make them yogurt popsicles from yogurt and frozen orange juice. I decided it was time to make them again. Not just for the grandchildren but also for Tom and me.

Just two ingredients - frozen, concentrated orange juice and vanilla yogurt.

I emptied the frozen juice into a bowl and let it soften. Then I mixed it with half a quart of yogurt using a hand whisk, added to popsicle molds and put them in the freezer.

Today I ate one, and it was delicious. No artificial colors or flavors, no pesticides, just purely good food. This is a perfect snack, or even a lunchtime meal.

These particular molds have a cool little straw for when it melts.

Please do visit Weekend Cooking for more food related postings, or to add one yourself.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Today's picture/house painting

The last time we had our house painted was thirteen years ago, and that was just the front because of a special occasion. The rest of it had been peeling away for decades! We are so very pleased. We hired two young guys and they were done in a couple weeks.

Back side of the house, before - it had been scraped at this point

and after

We went with a darker gray, painted the porch ceiling which was just wood before, and decided to change our Tomie dePaola doors for a red that we love. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017


I thought some of you might get a kick out of this clip from New Tricks.

Then he and his wife go to The London Library. They walk in and he says, "This is heaven." Later he tells his colleagues: "No racks of CDs or DVDs. No misery memoirs. It smells of books."

 A little addendum. At the end of the show, in which Brian was almost killed in the library, he says "I've had it with libraries. They're full of weirdos. This is the way forward (he holds up an e-reader). Linked to the internet, it allows me to access the world's literary culture from my own armchair. I've just downloaded The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin."

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Quote du jour/John McGahern

On this very hot and humid late September day, I am sitting in front of a fan, reading How Many Camels Are There in Holland by Phyllida Law. She says that she read the following quote on the flyleaf of a book she bought at an Oxfam shop. I think it is just wonderful.

The best of life is life lived quietly where nothing happens but our calm journey thru' the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything.
-John McGahern

I had never read the name before so looked him up, and he is a well-thought of Irish writer. How could I live this long and never have heard of him?? You may read more here. I am interested in reading That They May Face the Rising Sun and his autobiography called Memoir.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Quote du jour/Pearl Bailey

My kitchen is a mystical place, a kind of temple for me. It is a place where the surfaces seem to have significance, where the sounds and odors carry meaning that transfers from the past and bridges to the future.
Pearl Bailey

This quote is in my birthday book. Yes, even in these days when various social media and our own phone alerts can tell us when it is someone's birthday, I use my book. I keep it open to the next birthday coming up, and when that is past, I go to the next one.

The Susan Branch drawing that accompanies the Pearl Bailey quote.

Isn't it wonderful? I love this kitchen. I want to peek in the drawers and cook on those green tiles. Pretty much as different from the kitchens I see in magazines as is possible. Mine is more like this one. My butcher block counters and lower cupboards are from 1981. I don't expect I'll ever change them. I did get rid of the upper cupboards years ago, and Tom replaced them with open shelves, which I love.

I was just saying yesterday that most of my favorite things are in the kitchen -that new-to-us kitchen table and my aunt Mabel's cupboard I told you about earlier this summer,

the Larkin desk, and the Hoosier.

Together they make the kitchen homey to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Today's picture/Week nine CSA flowers - 2017

This week I thought I'd try something fun, and made three bouquets from one. I so love these flowers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

FaceTime fun

Even though the cousins see each other pretty often, it is still great fun for Hazel, Campbell, and Indy to FaceTime. What a great invention, especially for families that live far apart.