Friday, March 27, 2009


In 1993 a customer of mine gave me a loaf of home made bread. it was the best bread I ever tasted. I raved about it to her, and she gave me a cup of her bread starter. You can see the starter here in this blue striped crock. I have had the starter all the years since. It has moved with me multiple times, once across country. I have made countless loaves of bread with it. I lost touch with the woman who gifted me with the starter and recipe, but I think of her each time I knead dough. The loaves I make are often gifted to friends, neighbors, graduates, people recovering from illness or welcoming a new baby or grieving a life lost.

I call the starter "Seymour." The crock it lives in once belonged to my sweet mother in law. It is very old, and perhaps belonged to her mother before her.

Once a week I feed Seymour... it is a living organism in my refrigerator. When I want to bake I add it to sugar, salt, flour, water and oil. And it rises up, fragrant and full of promise. Then I punch it down, place it on my beautiful wooden bread block and knead it and shape it into loaves. Communion loaves for church, gift loaves for friends and neighbors, loaves for toast and breakfast. Recently I have learned to make a sweet breakfast confection called "Schnecken," a cinnamon and pecan laden taste sensation. I alter my bread recipe from time to time... adding more wheat to the white flour, adding oat flour, cornmeal... whatever strikes my fancy. The end result is always a treat; warm from the oven, sweet and fragrant. There is something impossibly homey and comforting about fresh made bread.

Seymour was a gift that has given and given and given.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A day so nice....

I blogged it twice!
I made Rachel's favorite breakfast, waffles with berries and whipped cream. Then we set out on what, when she was wee, she would have called "a big adventure!" We drove south, stopping where we felt like it. We did a little shopping, as little sight seeing. A bald eagle flew low, low towards us, majestically taking our breath away.

We discovered a fun little town with a shop full of wonders, and had a snack at a cute old country store.

Then we went to Pemiquid Point and scampered over the rocks, breathing in air riddled with sea salt and evergreens.

Home for her favorite supper, corn chowder and biscuits... cheesecake for dessert... and presents that made her shriek with glee.

I'd say it was a lovely beginning to her next decade. And I loved it, too. A day so nice, I blogged it twice.

And now she is ....

Today I am remembering funny things she did and said when she was small, the famous two year old phrase, "No. I do all by myself." Followed by (in the sweetest, most cajoling little voice, ) "You wanna help me, Mum?" The tantrums and "tooshie flops," when she'd get so mad she'd lift her little feet up and fall smack on her diapered behind. I'm remembering how she could carefully and gently bottle feed orphaned kittens at the tender age of two, and her magical way with animals in general. I remember how she liked to perch on the counter and chatter and help while I cooked. I grin to recall how one night when Chris and I had planned a rare "kid free" outing and our babysitter stood us up, Rachel gleefully held our hands as we walked about on our evening and said, "From now on, I go on ALL your dates with you." And she pretty much did! I remember making blanket forts and snuggling to watch movies, jumping in rain puddles in our bare feet, waking up to her sweet little voice, "It's GOOD MORNING to YOU!"
Happy Birthday, my sweet girl. It's a new morning for you as you step off into adulthood.
You are and always have been adored. It has been a privilege to be your mommy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I hate for you, Gentle Reader, to think I am obsessed by my chickens... but alas, this seems to be so!

Two of the four "ladies," are broody now, sitting on nests, looking fiercely at intruders, and waiting to hatch eggs. Since, as I have previously explained, we are rooster less, the outlook for baby chicks was bleak!

Last night we drove to Belgrade Lakes to the home of where we purchased "the ladies" last year. And we brought home a dozen eggs, hopefully fertilized eggs. Last night I tucked the eggs up under the broody girls, 4 for one, 7 for the other. One got cracked when Layah, the chicken pictured here, gave me a vicious pinch and I was startled and smacked the egg in my hand on the nest box, hard.

The chicken man told me that if I had a 50% hatch I'd be doing well. In 21 days we will see if the ladies long nest-vigil has been worthwhile, and perhaps we'll have wee little peeps dashing about the coop. I have to imagine there is not much cuter than a bunch of wee chick's.

Stay tuned ... more obsession photos to come, I feel sure!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sap rising...

Sometimes spring shows its face while still maintaining the monotone colors of winter. Dull metal sap pails sprouting from ancient maple trees like this one make my heart sing. The buckets catch the sap as it rises from the deep roots up to the branches of the tree. The collected sap is cooked slowly so the water evaporates, and what remains is the very taste of New England... maple syrup. The maple trees within miles of my house are all sporting buckets now, so that later I can pour the harvest over ice cream with walnuts, or sop it up in hot, fresh buttermilk pancakes. Spring has a flavor!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Herald of Spring...

The ground is still covered with dirty snow, and the walk from the house to the chicken coop is nearly impassible due to ice, but there are flashes of color here and there and the air is beginning to resonate with bird song. One early color is that of the Robin's, that arrive far before I think they should, when there is little in the way of food to sustain them until mating season. They look miserable as they huddle in the branches of fruit trees, nibbling on last seasons dry and wrinkled fruit. But soon, soon, the gardens will be full of grubs and worms and the Robin's will lay nests of eggs that reflect the sky. In New England color creeps back onto the landscape in tiny increments. I greet each small promise of spring as it comes, from the tulip leaves poking up under the crab apple to the rosy blush on the uppermost branches of the birch trees.
Indoors I still stoke the wood stove with solid oak and maple, and curl up under a quilt on the sofa, but soon I'll throw the windows open wide and warm air will disturb lace curtains. Loons will return to call on the lake, I'll paddle my kayak on ripple mark waters and embrace the warm days of the next season on my life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A treat on four feet...

I looked up from the kitchen table and saw this lovely site. She is at the far end of the meadow, but because of my super duper zoom lens I was able to see her up close and personal... right down to that daintily lifted foreleg. Soon the grass will green up and life will be easier for the woodland creatures. This deer looks pretty healthy, though, despite the long winter. How lucky am I to see wildlife right outside my house? Very lucky, that's how!

Monday, March 16, 2009


This weekend we attended a 90th birthday party for my friend Marge May. The party was held in Jamaica Plain, (near Boston.) There was quite a crew there, people from my hometown and a good sprinkling of kids I went to Masconomet High School with, as well as a favorite old beau I had not seen in 26 years or so. It was a terrific party and so fun to touch base with some people from my "roots." Chris came with me, which was sporting of him since he didn't know anyone. We stayed the night at sister Deb's, and she and her husband cooked us a wonderful supper. For the first time since any of us could remember it was just "us," with none of our kids. That felt odd, but was kind of nice, too. Chris and I both enjoyed the quiet car time together, and getting away, even for just a night, was very relaxing. It was a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

And THEN...

And then I learned to make Schnecken! This is the word for "snail," in German. Schnecken is like... um... cinnamon buns on steroids. I make dough (from scratch, oh yeah!) and then roll it out. I layer the dough with softened butter, brown sugar, lots of cinnamon, raisins and pecans. I then roll the dough up like a jelly roll. On the bottom of a cake pan I put MORE butter, brown sugar, more cinnamon, pecans and a droozle of corn syrup. Then I slice the rolled up dough into disks and lay them in the pan. Let them rise, then bake. When they are cooked I turn the whole mass out onto a clean platter. The SMELL of this as it cooks... it is so good you want to eat the air! But really, it is best to wait and eat the Schnecken... it is totally delicious, and beautiful, too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Snake on the table...

Rachel thought Shendi might enjoy a little sun. On the porch in late afternoon the sun streams in warm enough to belie the actual frigid temperatures. Immediately upon being placed in the sun, Shendi became very still and let me take a number of close-up photos. In this one, when it is full sized, you can see her tongue has tiny spots on it. Who knew? Her head is only about as big around as my pinkie finger, but her last skin measured 27". She is a fascinating creature, I must admit. Still, the idea of having a "grand snake" is taking some getting used to.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

From egg to ...

I cracked open the crazy looking egg from the previous post, added a few more and baked asparagus quiche. It was the eggs first, best, destiny!

Poor chicken..!

This gi-nor-mous, lumpy, corrugated egg was delivered by one of my hens. All I can say is, "OUCH."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bald Eagles and sisters...

My sister, fondly known as "Dicy," died too young of cancer. Dicy was the funny sister. A bit rebellious, she was the darling of the family in many ways. She was kind, overly generous, and always ready to make someone laugh. She loved nature, and had a special fondness for large birds of prey. The last day I spent with her, we rode in her boat around Merrymeeting Bay and she pointed out the nests of Bald Eagles and Osprey. The birds delighted her. At the time her head was bald from chemo therapy, but her spirit was intact.

Several weeks later she left this earth, and while I grieved, my head was peppered with images of eagles and osprey. A short time late, I moved to Maine, (a move that felt so right!) I walked outside one day and heard a strange noise. It was the call of a large bird of prey. I stood in my new yard, late for work, listening to the sound coming closer and closer. It came from the lake, across the trees and meadow, towards me. And then I saw it, a young Eagle, flying my way. It landed in the uppermost branches of a tree across the street from my driveway, and sat there, staring in my direction calling and calling and calling. All the little hairs on the nape of my neck stood at attention.

Two years later my remaining sisters and I went on our first ever kayak trip together. We paddled from a large pond, through a boggy area, down a river and out to a smaller pond. We laughed and talked as we paddled past herons and other water fowl. At a huge granite outcropping we beached our red kayaks and clambered out. We swam in the warm water and each of us was joyful... almost complete. The only thing we lacked was our missing sister.

When we finally climbed up on the sun-warmed rock, I fashioned a small wreath from the stems of flowers growing in cracks on the granite face. The youngest sister, I plucked a silver hair from my head and wove it through the green stems. My older sisters followed suit. Our completed circle of stems and plucked hairs was rather lovely. We paused a moment, each in memory of the sister lost, then together we flung the wreath upon the water.

Long seconds passed as we were lost in thought. The sister-wreath bobbed on small waves. Our reveries were shattered by the haunting call of an eagle... winging towards us though the impossibly blue sky. It circled the rock we stood upon, dark wings, white head, chilling voice. For one wonderful moment we were four again, sisters united.

Loon calls broke our magic spell. The three of us remaining sisters paddled back, the setting sun at our backs, feeling oddly complete.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Tired after a long day of teaching and tradeshow, I rode a crowded elevator up to the 13th floor. Standing next to me was a little girl who looked to be about 7 years old. As the doors shut and the elevator swiftly lifted, she tilted her shining face up at me and whispered in total wonderment, "It gets us there so FAST!"

And in one sentence she washed away my weariness and let me share in her excitement of the magic that surrounds us. Not just an elevator, but a shining push-button silver adventure.

Oh! The things I take for granted!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 6, 2009

Special spirits...

This man's name is Frank. He is the greeter at the Atlanta Pet Fair, and at many other grooming industry trade shows that I attend. He and his team work security at the shows, and they are among the nicest people I have ever met. Frank is the kind of person that sort of radiates kindness and goodness. I smile just to see him... he ALWAYS remembers my name, always has a kind word, a hug, a gentle tease for me. He is a person that I do not know well by any stretch of the imagination, but I treasure him just the same. He is one of those souls who enrich the lives of those he touches. We need more men like Frank in this world.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Tomorrow I am heading south... out of the snow and sub zero temperatures to Georgia, where it is supposed to be in the 60's. That sounds nearly tropical compared to the -08 degrees it was when I went out with the dogs this morning. It was so cold that Poppy pug was convinced she could not walk across the snow back inside after she was empty. She stood, paralyzed, lifting one foot, then another, making hardly any progress until I scooped her up and carried her inside.

Of course, I'll be in the hotel most every moment all weekend, but I will SEE some blooming flowers and trees on my way to and from the airport. I wont need a winter coat or hat or fuzzy mittens. And that will make me know that spring is marching this way, sometimes paralyzed by the cold, to be sure, but coming just the same.

We will embrace the mud and bugs and be buoyed by birdsong and sunshine and daffodils. Come north, spring, come north!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Great Unveiling!

Here is a little pile of what has been keeping me quite busy for the past few months. I decided to write a little book, and then I actually DID it. For that I am so pleased! Pleased that I followed through, and have something to show for my efforts.

We chose to publish it here at home, so that part has been keeping my husband busy. I wrote, photographed and did the lay out, Chris is printing and binding. I think my job was the easy part.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gearing up...

In 4 days I fly to Georgia to be a part of the annual Atlanta Pet Fair. This is an event I look forward to all year, but gosh its a lot of work to get ready! This picture shows me giving a class at last years show. This year I am slated to work at the German Red Clipper booth, and give 3 hours of educational lectures. I am putting the finishing touches on the lectures, and doing a bunch of other things in preparation for the show. One of those things is printing and binding the book I just wrote. I am introducing my little book at the Pet Fair.

We are anticipating MORE SNOW tonight, perhaps as much as 15 inches. So, I add "brace for storm," to my long list of things to do.
On the upside, I can pretty much guarantee there will be flowers blooming in Georgia, and that little taste of spring will be a delight.

And while we are talking about delights... I just found out I was nominated for a couple of truely nifty awards! if you want to go see. Yikes!
Posted by Picasa