Monday, October 18, 2021

Fun with Grumpy's Tongs by Me Josie

Tongs are very useful for moving the Castle People and their pets around.

You have to do it very carefully. Watch how I pick up this horse.

It doesn't hurt him.

It is like an exciting ride high up in the sky.  He likes it.

The tongs are Grumpy's, like the spatula is Meema's. He uses them when he cooks on the grill. But I am using them now. I moved all the Castle People out to the table with them. And I took the Castle People for high up rides around the living room. 

Meema says maybe I will use the tongs to put them back before I go home. I tell her We'll see. Right now I am busy.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

Unearthing The Secret Garden

I've long been a fan of Marta McDowell's elegant and knowledgeable garden-related prose. For me, as a gardener a writer, and a reader, my cup overflows when she turns her discerning eye to writers and their gardens. Beatrix Potter, Emily Dickenson, Laura Ingalls Wilder have all received their due from this fine writer.  But, oh! when she takes on Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, it is a match made in gardening heaven.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in saying that The Secret Garden is one of the formative and best beloved books of my childhood. And McDowell's account of Burnett's life and writing and gardens is a sumptuous feast of delights. Much like Louisa May Alcott, Burnett supported herself and her family by writing 'pot-boilers.' With the publication of Little Lord Fauntleroy, she became a wealthy woman--and was enabled to support her gardening passion in a manner most of us can only dream of.  Gardeners! Cartloads of rose bushes! Delphiniums by the bushel!

During the course of her life, Burnett made gardens at three homes--one in England, one on Long Island, and one in Bermuda. McDowell details the making of these wonderlands in such vivid description that the photographs and illustrations of which the book is full, are hardly necessary, delightful though they are.

And learning about Burnett herself was fascinating. I've had an almost lifelong acquaintance with Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden) and Sara Crewe (A Little Princess) and I loved seeing how they echoed bits of their creator's life.

Highly recommended, especially for gardeners and fans of The Secret Garden.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Friday, October 15, 2021

Fall Gardening-Lite

My touchy back and imperfect balance make impossible the kind of gardening I once did. But it's fall and it's time to plant some pansies. If deer or chipmunks don't mess with them, they will bloom through the winter, their smiling faces uplifted as the sow melts.

A few share space with a snapdragon, dianthus, and golden oregano in the planter by the greenhouse door.

On the deck, I pruned back the evergreens in the blue pots to make room for pansies.

We'll enjoy seeing them from the dining room windows. And there was a bonus--one pot had a fine crop of chickweed, just right for the evening salad.

There are more pansies to plant but that will entail making space in some overcrowded beds. Onward and upward in the garden--at my own slow pace!


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Autumn Light--Cheap or Rich?

 A commenter on one of my recent posts of photos from around here said she'd always disliked autumn light, calling it 'cheap light' because it isn't as direct and full on as summer light. 

True enough. Summer light is hard-edged and clear while autumn light is mellow and a little blurred around the edges. Kind of like the difference between young people and elders.


But I've always loved the golden haze of autumn. To me it's a magical, liminal time--not straightforward like summer. I see the air as rich and heavy with memories of the past spring and summer, waiting to be wiped clean by winter.

And that's maybe another parallel with people.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021


Hey, it's me Josie again. I had another sleepover at Meema and Grumpy's on Monday night. 

I took Margot down to watch the goldfish and we counted seven.  Well, counted them because Margot is only one and can't count while I can count to 100 if someone helps with the -ty numbers like 40, 70, and 90. Meema got me to count when she turned the lights out to go to sleep but it didn't make me sleepy. 

Of course we did some painting.  Meema is still working on a bunny. (She is pretty slow but I can finish a picture in no time.)

Meema says I am moving from my abstract/color field phase to more representational pictures. (I just did it to make her happy because she asked it I could make a tree. I made purple water, a yellow sun and two trees--apple and banana--and one more.)

I put some of my babies to bed in my old crib. Now that I am a Big Kid, I sleep in the bed with Meema and Blue Elephant and Snugglepuppy and Margot and Dolly. And a few books. Sometimes I have to tell Meema to skooch over (she is very large.) And sometimes Corycat gets on the foot of the bed. But we all sleep together very nicely, once Meema settles down.

I love sleepovers but Meema says one day a week is enough if I don't want her to get cranky. (Sometimes she is a little cranky anyway like when I had to take Dolly and Blue Elephant and Margot into the grocery store and she didn't want to carry them for me. She didn't want to carry my suitcase either and I had to leave it in the car. But mostly she is nice and reads books and gets me food when I ask politely. I ate four apples in one day. You have to have apples when you are reading.)


Monday, October 11, 2021

What I Did This Weekend

Saturday I worked on two Rabbit Rabbit pictures for November and December--which is when you'll see them. Today, I made an attempt to paint without the comforting ink lines I find myself wanting to use. The bunny is copied from a picture I found on the internet and the leaf is from an old photo of mine. Both still need a little more work. I struggle with browns and grays--always wanting to throw in something bright.

Done previously: Above is from a photo taken on the road I travel to pick up the Josephine from preschool. I love the roofline on the falling down pigpen--that's why I took the picture. The sign is actually farther along the road but I felt it needed to be there. (Prama means, among other things, the means by which one obtains accurate and valid information about the world. It is for the Prama Institute which is next door to Mountain Breezes Preschool.) I am pathetically bad at trees and foliage.

More bad trees and foliage. This is taken from a picture of an oil (or acrylic) painting someone (Martin?)posted on FB. I was so drawn to the house with its orange roof and turquoise shutters that I had to try it. It scratched the itch but fell far short of what I want. No matter-- I learn a bit more with each try.

And below are drops of water--from an exercise in one of my painting books. I was so delighted that they actually look pretty much like waterdrops.



Sunday, October 10, 2021

Corycat Feels Unappreciated

After days of rain and gloom, we had a beautiful morning. All of nature seemed to be calling me to go out and kill something. So I left by my private door (a loose screen that no one seems to notice.)

My efforts were rewarded with a fine chipmunk. Thinking to cheer up The Woman (she doesn't seem to have much of a life beyond attending to our litter box and food,) rather than consume the tasty morsel, I brought it in to share with her and put it on the rug by her bed.


What a nice surprise for her, I thought. I wonder if she'll eat it right away or play with it first.

An artful presentation, I thought, sure to please.

So what happens? The Woman is putting away laundry and almost steps on my gift. Is she thrilled? Does she thank me?

She does not. She makes a funny noise and picks up my lovely offering by the tail and goes outside with it. She doesn't even bat it around a bit. When she returns, it is without my chipmunk.

If she didn't want it, at least she could have left it for me. I could have put it in my secret place in her workroom (a basket where there is lots of fabric) and saved it for later.



Friday, October 8, 2021

History and Historical Fiction

Volume 2 of Churchill's History encompasses the Tudors, the exploration and settling of the New World, the Puritans,  and Charles I and II.  I made my way through it, pausing now and then to return to historical fiction--a genre that I've always enjoyed as a painless way to learn about the past.

My paperback copy of The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton dated back to the late Fifties or early Sixties (the cover gives it away) and was falling apart so I availed myself of an ebook. It's a terrific story about the factions at work in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (and much of what would become New England) and the travails of an independent-thinking woman in this rigid society. The story--based on fact--puts living flesh on the bare bones of history.

Another novel I re-read, inspired by Churchill's History, was The Child from the Sea, Elizabeth Goudge's romantic take on Charles II's liason with Lucy Walter, mother of his (illegitimate)son, afterward the Duke of Monmouth. Goudge 's settings come alive, and so do her characters as we follow them through the reign and execution of Charles I, the dour interregnum of Parliament, and the Restoration of Charles II. Painless history--and if liberties are taken, it's in aid of making it a good story. In a foreword the author, in the best tradition of historical fiction, explains her sources and admits her suppositions. It's a delightful story, if a bit of a tear-jerker.

I realize that I've come full circle--I began (many years ago) by reading historical fiction which gave me an interest in history which has now sent me back to historical fiction. I think the two work very well together.


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Cicada Killer Wasp

These critters keep showing up in our house. I think it's a first in our forty-plus years. They are huge but non-aggressive--though John did get stung when he picked up one he thought was dead.

They are either crawling on the floor--at which point I toss a heavy folded dish towel over them and transport them outside--or zooming around overhead. 

Evidently they look for cicadas to paralyze to provide food for their own young. Maybe they're desperate due to a lack of cicadas--I saw only one this year.

More about these critters HERE.