Monday, December 25, 2017


The tree was trimmed and gifts wrapped.

The little dogs hovered by the wood stove. The weather?  Very cold, windy and snow. Lots and LOTS of snow. All told, a foot of fresh fluff fell on top of the 5 or so inches that were already on the ground. I don't remember many Christmases that had a big storm, and this one was a really something.

When we looked out the window, the air was white.  Luckily we spent much of yesterday cleaning out all the animal houses and filling them with fresh bedding. It was nice to know that with the coming storm, all the critters had a warm, safe place to settle in for the blow.  This morning we filled all the water containers and topped up their food, handed out Christmas treats, then came inside to watch the storm from where it was cozy and warm.
Breakfast was waffles, sausage and mimosas. The dogs were impatient, wanting us to hurry up so they could open their stockings. 

The little fluffy dog next to Bravo is Millie. She is a grooming customer that needed a place to stay over the holiday and thought this would be more fun than a kennel. She was right. She and Bravo race and romp and play tug o' war and zoom circles through the house.  She loved the toys Santa brought.

Bravo and I got a new "pup" tent!  I can take this with me to competitions for him to hang out in, instead of a heavy metal crate.  It opens and closes as easily as an umbrella, and is light to carry.  

We also got a hand made, needle felted replica of Bravo... 

It was made by a groomer friend of mine, and I love it!  

On Christmas Eve we had Rachel and Evans, along with Evans dad, brother and his girlfriend, and our friends Scott and Marion, here for supper.  Chris cooked a prime rib, perfectly.  I made twice stuffed potatoes, squash, and delicious gingerbread with Haagen das vanilla ice cream and home made caramel sauce.  Evans dad brought Ukrainian poppy seed cake and Toll House Pie.  There was  peach tart, too.  I goofed and didn't get the planned appetizer prepared when I should have, and our pop overs were an epic failure. But no one seemed to care, and we had plenty of food to go around.  It was a pleasant gathering. 

Then today, delicious breakfast and thoughtful, caring, generous, gifts and a peaceful day as the storm raged.  The dogs were delighted with all the toys and treats.  Rachel and Evans headed home around lunch time, and Chris and I were here alone.  There was a nap, animal care, snow removal, delicious left overs for supper, and all of it was simply lovely. 

I've been lucky... I've had a lifetime of happy Christmases.  I know many people who have not, and that makes me sad. But I am grateful to have been blessed with the people in my life who have made the holiday so special.  I don't know what the future holds, but I will always have warm memories of of Christmas. And this one was especially sweet. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Grace under pressure...

Sometimes there are bumps in the road of life.  No one is immune to them, but it is how one reacts to them that makes all the difference. 

I recently have been privy to glimpsing the reactions of a couple to some fairly routine difficulties they are experiencing in selling a home.  Each setback sends them into whirling maelstroms of upset, tears, gloom and doom.  The term grace under pressure does not apply to them.  Their reactions whip everyone around them into a bit of  frenzy and despair. It is miserable.

I had an appointment in Camden after work today.  Rachel offered to drive me, and we left in time to do a bit of shopping first.  As we were motoring through Rockland her little car hit a sunken manhole cover, hard.  We didn't think too much about it, popped into our favorite jewelry store, and then headed off to my appointment.  Rachel's little car was making a funny noise, and she pulled over to the side of the road, thinking a chunk of ice was in her wheel well.  That would have been nice.  Instead she found...
a very, very flat tire.  "Oh heck," she said. Then she got into the car, drove it carefully into a parking lot right across from where we stopped, and tried to get her spare out of her hatchback.  The hatch door was jammed and wouldn't open, so the spare was unreachable. She tried to climb over the back seat to get it, but that didn't work.  Meanwhile, I didn't want to miss my appointment, so called, explained my plight and asked if I could come a little late.  When I got the OK on that plan, I called a cab and was off.  I also called my husband to see if he could leave work a little early and come pick me up when I was done.  After all our years together, I knew exactly what his reaction would be.  He would be kind and anxious to help.  I was not dissapointed.

Rachel called her brand new husband at work. He left early to rescue her, bringing hot chocolate and a AAA membership with him.  And all of this has me thinking, about bumps in the road, flat tires, displaced plans.  For some couples, the entire episode could have ended in a fight.  "Why didn't you pay attention? What did you hit the pot hole for? Those are brand new tires, we can't afford to replace one." My husband could have complained, "I can't leave work early and come all the way there!" I can imagine any number of scenarios where a bump in the road could end up in all manner of  unpleasantness.  But that didn't happen.  Chris picked me up, offered to buy me dinner, then brought me home. Evans met Rachel and stayed with her, waiting and waiting for AAA. They made an event of it, grabbing a bite to eat while they waited.  And it wasn't fun, but no one got upset or ugly. And both Rachel and I had spouses we could depend on to help us when we needed them.  My elderly aunt used to tell me, "You have a true help mate in Chris." It delights me to see that my daughter has a true help mate in Evans.

Bumps and grace.  The former are inevitable. The latter make life so much sweeter.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Aimee came from New Hampshire, she and Rachel had a plan. 
It involved lots of cinnamon, some cookie cutters and mandatory giggles.
They were making ornaments to decorate for Christmas.
Thick, sticky, fragrant dough, rolled and cut and baked, low and slow, until they were hard as wood.
We hit an antique store, (or 3) while they cooled. 

And brought home a few small treasures. 

Once back home, we broke out the paint and glitter, and went to town. The end result?
A big pile of precious, sweet smelling, ornaments.  We'll tie ribbons to hang them with and have little delights to use or gift.  And a sweet memory to treasure. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tick tock...

From my earliest memory, my mother had an antique clock that presided over the living room mantle. The wood was dark, the glass on the door wavy and ancient.  The finish on the metal face was crackly, and each Roman numeral had been painstakingly painted by hand. The decorative bit under the face is reverse paint on glass, in gold and green. A heavy brass pendulum hung behind the door, perfectly still.  Though the original key was tucked inside the case, the clock never worked.

Last summer my sister called.  "I am getting rid of things. You don't want mom's old clock do you?"
You bet I did!  She brought it with her when she came to visit next, and with joy in my heart  I put it in a place of honor.  There was something missing, however. The clock had no voice, it's hands stuck in the same place they had probably been for the last 60 years or more.  It seemed ridiculous to me that though this clock had been a fixture in my life for EVER, it had never once worked.

Recently I hustled it off to my favorite jeweler.  "I have a guy that can fix this," he said.  "It will take about 2 weeks.  Yesterday he messaged me. "Your clock is ready. It keeps perfect time. Stop by when you have a chance, it will be $150."

I was there by noon today.  The jeweler showed me how to carefully wind the clock. To my delight, it has an alarm, too!  Like magic, there in his noisy, busy shop, the pendulum swept back and forth.  I carried the clock home carefully, polished its wood with lemon oil, and set it back in its new rightful place.

I stepped outside for a moment, and when I came in the entry room was not silent. There was a resonant ticking sound, like a welcoming heartbeat in my home.   All day the hands have been tracing across the the crinkled face, keeping flawless account of the minutes. It's slumber over, the voice of time is finally echoing comfortingly through the air.

Monday, December 4, 2017


Last summer, Rachel and I were at a Fiber Fair, and my phone rang. It was a friend calling, and when I picked up I could hear background noise on her phone that sounded just like the background noise where I was standing.  Sure enough, she was also at the fair, and asked me if I knew what color wedding gown Rachel was planning on. I didn't, but told her I guessed something in the ivory family.  She didn't divulge more, but I had my suspicions.  

A bit later that day, we bumped into her, and she had a basket filled with luscious yarn, in the prettiest ivory tone.  Hand spun Merino wool, fine, yet warm. 

Months passed, the wedding gown was bought, and a few weeks before the wedding my friend stopped in, with a gift.  When Rachel opened it, her eyes filled with happy tears.  Carefully laid on tissue paper, was a beautiful, amazing, hand-knit, shawl. It was intended for a fall bride to have to cover her arms if the day was chilly, and it was beyond lovely. "It must have taken you days and days," my friend replied, "Actually, it took months and months!'  She then added, "You can use it for a receiving blanket for a baby someday, too, and really make it a family heirloom."  More tears ensued.

How could anything be more special?  A gift of creativity, kindness and love.  Something to be treasured for ever.  Thank you, sweet Felicia!

Frosty morn...

This morning dawned clear, the sun spangling on the thick frost that covered everything.
A ruined feather from a Silky chicken caught my eye, each tendril etched against the grass.

Abraham donkey's coat is so thick that frost covers his back, mane, and ear tips.  His fur insulates him so well that his body heat does not melt the crystals. I push my fingers deep under the fluff, and his skin is toasty warm.  Chanel is coated with shavings. We cleaned her pony cozy yesterday, and she clearly enjoyed a snuggle in the deep, fresh, bedding. 

Everyone gets grain for breakfast, and they look forward to the meal.  I let the goats into the yard while they dine, so there is no arguing with the horse and donkey over which food belongs to whom.  I am teaching Bravo how to fetch them back to the pasture when they are done, and he is making progress with the work. Afterwards we come inside and the dogs eat. Then Bravo takes an upside down nap. Apparently herding goats is BIG WORK.

A visit to the local hardware store yesterday showed that Christmas is bustin' out all over.  We bought our Christmas tree and have it up, I will work on decorating it tonight.  

There is a fire dancing in the wood stove, and the sun is melting the ice crystals that gathered during the cold night.  The day is full of plans and possibilities, all beginning at dawn out in the beautiful, frosty, morning. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


This will be a short little post. It's about contentment.  I am writing this at 6:30 in the evening.  I had a perfectly lovely day; it was busy at work but not too busy, and the day flew by in a blur of nice people and pets. 

I took a break mid-day to check on the critters, toss them fresh hay, make sure everyone had thawed water. I threw the ball for Bravo and delighted to watch him stretch, flat out, and race after his quarry.  He always tosses in a few leaps and twists, all glossy in the sun. It makes me happy to see him, young and strong, handsome and glad.

I had thawed some local, grass fed,  ground beef for supper. All day I pondered what I would do with it. Around 4:00 PM I decided I'd make a meatloaf. About once a year I want meatloaf, and this was the night.  So when the last dogs left at 5:30 I dashed to the kitchen and threw one together while the oven heated. Then I popped it in to bake and went outside to feed more hay, and check all the water containers again, and make sure the poultry were locked up safely in their nice, freshly cleaned coops. 

Once back inside I fed the dogs, put on the super cozy, soft, comfy PJ's my sister gave me, (she lives to make sure people she loves are warm and snug,) and cooked the rest of the supper.  And now I am tucked under a quilt on the sofa. The dogs are snuggled in next to me. It's very quiet, except the hum of the washing machine taking care of the days towels.  The house smells of supper, and my husband will be home any moment.  And I am steeped in contentment.  It is one of my very favorite feelings.

Friday, November 24, 2017


Most years Thanksgiving is our biggest entertaining event, and I spend a lot of time planning, cleaning, organizing and getting ready.  However, since we've recently had a wedding here, the place was in pretty good shape.  It was a good thing, too, because food poisoning or a virus or such laid me low for days before the event. 

And since you probably don't know this, the days just before a major holiday are always very busy grooming days, because people want their pets clean and sweet for company visiting.  Our grooming  schedule was full, and I didn't want to disappoint anyone, so I soldiered through some 10 hour days, (with a LOT of help from my sweet Rachel.) I was better by Wednesday, but far from my usual self, but I got much of the the food prepared and house company ready. 

 Thursday I felt more like myself. I finished up the the food preparation, tucked the turkey, (which was raised on a sweet farm a mere 2 miles from our house and butchered by, then sweetly donated to the feast,by my friend Rai,) under a blanket of butter-soaked cheesecloth. 
Soon the house was filled with people and my favorite moment happened... when I stop and look around and see everything looking warm and festive, and hear the happy sound of chatter and laughter.  At the core, this is what I am most thankful for. The people in my life. I am so grateful that they come here to share the day with us. Each of them brings joy. 

 I did a bit of cuddling with some of those special loves this Thanksgiving. 

(OK, not "people," but much loved!) 

As always, sister Deb helped SO much. We make a great team in the kitchen. And then nieces Aimee and Elyse, along with the ever-stalwart Rachel, chimed in to bring food, help prep, decorate, clean up, and so much more... 

They are learning how to prepare and present the feast, so that someday the baton can be passed, and they can carry on the traditional gathering, with a flavor all their own. Meanwhile, it is my fervent hope that they are tucking happy memories of these events into their hearts and minds. 

Friday dawned, cold and clear. It is sister Deb's birthday.  She is one of the unfortunates who has a birthday that kisses a major holiday and she is short shifted on celebrations. But she SO deserves a celebration. She is one in a million, and I am so glad she is related to ME. 
As tradition has it, we gathered for breakfast (or brunch, or both!) and decorated gingerbread houses. Because, in our family, the next big holiday starts now... 
We start with generic Ginger Bread House kits, then embellish the heck out of them.  Meanwhile, we snack on leftovers, talk, giggle, conspire and have a peaceful and lovely time. 

I know that many families are ripped by strife and angst. For the most part our family is cohesive, and for that, I give many thanks. And now I gird my loins for the upcoming holidays. My first decoration is prepared. 

 I hope the holidays are sweet for all who read my blog!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November and gratitude ...

I love the month of November.  Even in New England the weather is often mild, with lots of gray, crisp, days that make cozy clothing and a fire in the wood stove seem just right. It's a month to make hearty casseroles and fragrant soups, home made bread, or pans of corn bread steaming in a cast iron skillet.  With the busy days of summer behind us, the firewood stacked and the gardens put to bed, it seems a time to take a deep breath and rest a bit.

And there is Thanksgiving, like a bright promise on the calendar.  Usually this holiday marks our biggest party of the year here at FairWinds.  This year, however, the wedding overshadowed it, and the thought of feeding a mere 15-20 people instead of 80 seems like a walk in the park. Besides which, much of the normal preparation of the house and yard has been done in advance for the wedding festivities.  And, because we have hosted Thanksgiving for so many years, and because we quite like the same old menu we have been been preparing for all this time (with a few slight variations along the way) cooking the meal is a familiar and comfortable exercise.

Today I unpacked some favorite Thanksgiving decorations.  A cornucopia basket to hold some squash and such...
the handsome, colorful turkey and a copper bowl full of dried flowers join with hand knit pumpkins from my niece to cozy up the top of the 'fridge.

I gathered up some of the remains from the wedding flowers and made a happy decoration for the dining room table.  I like how Bravo is photo bombing the first shot.

As I puttered about and placed holiday items here and there I was warmed to think about how soon the house will be filled with family and friends and the savory scents of the traditional feast.

And the clocks changed to standard time. Most people I know complain bitterly about this, but to me it feels like I've been given a whole extra  hour to do with what I will.  I like how evening gathers early and the warm light from the house spills out the windows, welcoming.  It feels so cozy. It makes for long nights cuddled up with a good book (or my laptop!) and early bedtimes.

The leaves are mostly gone from the trees, the ones that are left are coppery and rich.  Now I can see the pond from my windows, glinting beyond the barren branches.  The horse, goats and donkey grow thick, luxurious coats. I push my fingers in deep and feel the warmth held close to their skins. They lean in for more attention, enjoying the sensation. The garage walls are lined with bale after bale of hay, perfuming the air in the sweetest possible way. I carry it by the armload out to the animals, and lean on the fence, watching them greedily pull mouthfuls of summer-scented food into their ever-hungry mouths.  Flocks of Canada geese V overhead, transporting me back to my childhood home when I hear their lonesome calls. In an instant I am raking leaves with my father, and smelling the scent of them burning from their fragrant piles, as tendrils of smoke climb up into the pewter sky to meet the migrating geese.

Yes, I love November.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The kind of man I married...

This morning I had things planned rather tightly.  I had two dogs that belong to friends here for a sleepover, so I was up early to take them for a nice walk.  Then I did animal chores, prepared my weekly deposit from work, and then bathed, dried and brushed one of the dogs that had stayed here.  I had to leave the house by 9:30 to get Bravo to a training class at 10:00.  Chris got up early so he could take my truck, which was filled with bags of trash and bins of recycling, to the transfer station.  He didn't want me to have to drive all the way to class with a truck bed full of things that might fly out.  He timed things carefully, and filled my truck with gas while he was at it.  He takes great pride in filling my gas tank each week so that I never have to do it.  He pulled into the driveway at 9:29, truck pre-heated, tank full, bed empty, and a bonus.  A fresh donut, which he had carefully wrapped and stashed over the defroster vent so it was toasty warm when he handed it to me.  Ahhhh.
He had spent the time while I was gone running errands and catching up on laundry. We had more than usual due to being without electricity for a couple of days, and because, to be honest, I stink at doing laundry.  When I got back I finished grooming the visiting dog, and then Chris suggested that it would be nice to go for a little drive and grab a bite of lunch out.  I mentioned that a favorite store was having a big sale, and I happened to have a generous gift card to that store from my nice sisters-in-law.  "Saddle up!" he said, and we were off.  We had some excellent seafood and I couldn't help but notice that several other couples in the place sitting, eating, and not talking.  Chris kept the conversation humming along, and I laughed so loudly a few times that heads turned.  This guy is never boring.

Next he took me to the store with the big sale, and waited very, very patiently while I tried on a lot of things. He weighed in on color choices when I found a very cozy jacket to buy. Back in the car he took an unexpected detour and explained, "You'll want ice cream." Well, of course I would. I always do.  He treated me to a cone and we headed home.

Chris works hard at a job that marries complicated technology and users of that technology.  He has this amazing gift of being able to explain the perplexing working of computers, cell phones, tablets and the like, to people, without ever seeming condescending.  4 days a week he has a one hour commute each way, and one (or sometimes more) days he also has to drive an additional hour or so to different offices.  Many a day he leaves the house by 6:00 AM and does not get home till after 7:00 PM.  He never complains. But on the weekends he really, really, likes to indulge in a nap. And he likes it even better if I join him.  By and large I am not big on sleeping in the middle of the day. Napping can make me oddly grumpy. So most times I'll go snuggle up with him and read a good book. This time of year, when the temperature is a bit crisp, my hands, arms and shoulders get cold because they are not under the covers, but rather, are out in the air.  And sometimes after I've clutched the book for a long time I get to feeling really chilly, and I'll set the book down and draw the covers up over my icy skin.  And then I feel drawn to my husbands warmth. "The furnace of my being glows brightly," he often quips, and when one is feeling chilled to the bone, snuggling a very warm husband seems like a good idea.  So I snake my frozen arms around him, feeling a pang of guilt because I know how perfectly horrible it feels to be all warm and somnolent and have someone who is the opposite of warm touch you.  He never flinches.  Instead he wraps his big arms around me, pulling me tight, and sharing his toastyness. That's the kind of man I married.  Warm donuts, warm conversation, and endless patience, even when confronted with frosty skin. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bravo wins big, (and other deep thoughts...)

Friday I skipped out of work early and hit the road.  Bravo was riding shotgun.  We headed north, on some scenic back roads, until we hit 95, then we drove, and drove, and drove some more. Soon there were no towns, just numbers. We were deep in what Mainers call, "the county." I listened to a book on Audible, and it was terrific, making the miles fly by.

 Finally we arrived in Presque Isle, a sweet little college town. We'd been there before, last spring, for a similar event. Dog training in a discipline called "Wag It Games."  Bravo and I have been training in Games since he was a young pup,we both think it's a lot of fun. This time he was 6 months older, and it really showed.  He was calm, confident, and paid good attention to me as we trained, and later as we trialed.  The proof, as they say, was in the pudding.

It went like this, both Saturday and Sunday mornings we had fun lessons and trained.After a friendly lunch, there were trials to see how much the dogs knew about the things we had worked on.  The top picture is from Saturday, when Bravo won some very nice ribbons.  The second picture was on Sunday, when he got a whole new slew of ribbons and his first "title" ribbon, which he found to be quite tasty. He was such a good boy, all weekend long, and we both had a really good time.

The weather took a nasty turn Monday morning, with hurricane force winds. I drove home white knuckled all the way.  Bravo, however, felt fully confident in my abilities, and snoozed happily the entire trip. There were many trees down along the roadsides,and huge gusts of wind buffeted and bluffeted my little truck.  Over 500,000 homes in Maine were without power. Including ours.

The weather was unseasonably warm, which was good. Except for the fact that I have several big freezers filled with locally raised pork, beef, and home raised chickens.  I went to bed last night fretting and worrying about things thawing. All day today there was no power. I could not work.  I cleaned the kitchen, and the bathroom, and the the front and living rooms. I cleaned the wood stove, swept the floors.

Rachel had brought me a special book to read.  When I was a child I adored the Little House series of books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I still have the collection, and re-read them from time to time.  Rachel had found a book called Caroline, Little House, Revisited. Based in the 1870's, it takes the story of the famous family into account from the mothers point of view. She
was a very young  woman, pregnant, with two little girls. She and her husband packed everything they could fit into a wagon and headed west, pioneers, in search of a dream.  I paused between cleaning chores, (with no running water and no electricity) and snuggled on the sofa, reading Caroline's story.  My brief period of not having electricity paled in comparison to her life, and put the little pause in my regular routine nicely into perspective.

The house feels different when there is no electricity. Even during the day, with the light steaming in, things are oddly quiet. There is no hum from the refrigerator and freezers. No sound of water rushing through the pipes as the washing machine or dishwasher spin and churn.  No music from the stereo, no whir of the fan of the computer.If I wake in the night, there is no glowing face of the electric clock, no familiar swish of  the window fan. And since we have well water, there is no flushing the commode. I missed that most of all.
The dogs notice the quiet, too. They seem a little subdued.

I grilled bratwurst outside at dusk, and kept it warm on the wood stove. And then, in a whoosh, the lights were on.  Magic, really.  What would Caroline Ingalls have thought of all the conveniences I enjoy?  I try hard not to take them for granted, always, but especially so after doing without for 30 hours or more.

So tonight, I am grateful for a lovely weekend away with my smart puppy, (such NICE people there!)
 safe travels, great books, electricity, the people that keep electricity coming to my home and running water.  That's a lot to be grateful for.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Taste of fall...

It was another beautiful, warm day, but I know cooler fall weather is around the corner.  I left the house early this morning for some errands and appointments, and when I got home decided I should take advantage of the lovely temperatures and put my front flower gardens to bed for the winter.  They have been so riotously flower-filled all summer, I was sad to see them go, but had to admit they were looking bedraggled.

I pulled the dying plants up by big armfuls, filling my enormous wheel barrow to overflowing, twice.

I know most people must struggle with what to do with all those plants.  I have no problem, however.

The goats, styling in their blaze orange, hunting season finery,  mobbed me at the gate, tearing huge mouthfuls of plants off the wheel barrow as I tried to move it out to the manure pile. I gave up and dumped it about 15 feet from the gate, and they descended upon the mess as if it were a fabulous smorgasbord.

Our visiting buck found the rose bush clippings to be particularly delectable.

Halfway through the project I popped back in the house to get supper started. I tucked a roaster chicken, raised right here, some local squash and sweet potatoes, into my trusty cast iron skillet.  Then I poured a mix of melted butter, honey, lemon juice, garlic and rosemary over everything and slid it all into the oven.  A harvest season meal, for certain.  As I dug and hauled I could catch the occasional tantalizing whiff of it cooking as a breeze wafted the scent out of the open kitchen window.

The next time I have a little free time I will rake the beds to rid them of the last stems and leaves and smooth the dirt. I should also cut back the foliage from the lilies, I realize now as I look at these pictures.  But the bulk of this job is done.

I fed the animals, threw Bravo a ball one hundred times and locked up the chickens, while a blood-orange sun sank behind the ridge. The lights from indoors were warm and welcoming as I kicked my dirty boots off on the deck. I came inside to find supper perfectly done and the house perfumed with savory smells.

It was a good day.