Sunday, December 31, 2023

Breaking Up Christmas Again


The tree comes down today, per my grandmother's injunction that it must be out of the house before the New Year or bad luck will ensue.  

I find that I'm both sorry to see it go--it's quite pretty-- and eager to move on to the less cluttered look for the New Year.


Dismantling the tree and putting away the ornaments will take most of the day--fortunately our New Year's Eve plans are pretty modest--a bottle of bubbly well before midnight and so to bed.

Tomorrow there will be collard greens and black-eyed peas, along with the pork marinated in mojo (garlic, orange juice, lemon juice, salt, and oregano) that is simmering in the slow cooker and perfuming the house right now. 

I'm not sorry to say goodbye to 2023 and its heartbreaking humanitarian crises around the globe. May 2024 see some improvement.


Saturday, December 30, 2023

Our Hideous Progeny


An excellent read for this strange, somewhat patched together and unnatural time between Christmas and the New Year.

Set in England of the 1850's, the novel takes inspiration from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and from the ferment of scientific interest in recently discovered fossils of dinosaurs. A third strand in the tale is the status of women (inferior.) 

The novel's protagonist, another Mary, is a feisty, intelligent woman, a scientist whose work is often preempted by her feckless husband, also a scientist. Oh, and she is the great-niece of Victor Frankenstein himself, and has discovered lost papers of his with information that may, with industry and luck, allow her to repeat his experiment in animating dead flesh.

Challenged by growing poverty, her all but useless husband, an unwelcome and predatory associate, and the strictures imposed upon females, Mary is indomitable. I cheered for her throughout. (She put me in mind of yet another Mary-- Laurie R. King's Mary Russell.)

As the novel reached its climax, I found my sympathies strongly engaged in a rather unexpected quarter--which I can't discuss for fear of spoilers. 

This is an odd but engaging read.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Is That A Frozen Pond?


Maybe not.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Time Out Of Time


This time between Christmas and New Year's Eve is, in my mind anyway, not a time to be particularly productive but rather a good time to piddle about. New Year's Eve will be spent taking down the tree--it's been some while since we felt like staying up till midnight, much less going out.

So, aside from meals (during which I try to make use of the leftovers from Christmas Day--winter squash soup tonight,) my only self-assigned task is to write some thank you notes. And I turn even that into more piddling about, doing little watercolor experiments on the cards. 

Next year I'll get back to the deep cleaning.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

My Favorite Gift--A Story by Josie

This was for me and John from Josie. Here is the illustration and below, on the back, an explanation (artist's statement.)

Her mama said she did it all on her own without asking for spelling help. Her spelling is phonetic and rather Elizabethan in that a given word might have several different spellings.

I love her imagination and description.

This below is a Post-It note she made for John. It's Bailey with claws. Note the characteristic division of sun and sky.


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

It Was Quite a Day




Monday, December 25, 2023

Merry Day!


                                          May your day be filled with good things!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

What, Christmas Eve Already?


 So, for the past several weeks, I've been thinking Christmas was on Tuesday. I rarely look at a calendar and seldom pay attention to the date. Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I learned the truth--Christmas is on Monday and Ethan and Aileen and their two dogs are arriving today.

It's not a big deal; all the presents are wrapped and under the tree. Aileen is bringing homemade ravioli for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner. I just need to make ambrosia and some cheesecake squares for tomorrow's feast.

There have been Christmases when I was frantically wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve or John was unhappily assembling the Millenium Falcon after the boys had gone to bed. We are older and wiser now, and better prepared.

Many, many years ago, John was doing some last-minute shopping in a big store Asheville and ran into one of our friends who was looking for gifts for his wife and sons. John said the friend had a look of wild-eyed desperation but finally hit upon a solution: he would buy three .22 rifles for gifts so he could get out of there and go home.


Saturday, December 23, 2023

Bucatini with Salsa Rosa


Though I've been accused of chopping up onions and garlic while I decide what I'm fixing for dinner, last night I actually had a plan.                                                                                                                                                              

There was bucatini (hollow spaghetti) at the store for the first time in ages and, in my mind, it was calling for a creamy sauce. So, start the water to boil for the pasta. Now sauté the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in butter, season with salt and mixed Italian herbs, stir in a couple tablespoons of tomato paste then flood the pan with heavy cream and simmer till it becomes the thick creamy sauce of my dreams.


I stirred in a little fresh spinach  and some red pepper flakes.


                        Topped with Parmesan and with a spinach/ red pepper salad on the side, it was a satisfying and quick supper. Meatless, but not low calorie, more's the pity. 

We were in need of comfort food--our new dryer is not working, and for a while it seemed that our new oven's electronic controls were possessed by evil spirits. And with family here for Christmas! Arrgh!

But John the hero went to You Tube and found the fix that exorcized the evil spirits. In the oven, at least. The dryer is waiting on a part.


Friday, December 22, 2023

OLD WOUNDS Revisited


I blame the Solstice. This somewhat dreamy time had me remembering, or trying to remember odds and ends from years past. And then I began thinking of Old Wounds, probably my most personal book. 

While there's a lot that is fictional--the plot and the people and the relationships, there's much that is based on our first years on the farm. So I re-read it.

I reread stuff all the time. And while I was writing this one, I read it over and over. But a lot of time has passed and I found myself caught up in the story, even as I nodded each time I saw words in a character's mouth and remembered where they'd come from. Elizabeth's mother's complaint about the outhouse, for instance, is a word for word quote from my own mother.

Elizabeth and her daughter Rosemary are great readers and oddly enough, they love the same books I do. (At the beginning of the book Rosemay is reading The Dark Is Rising, which I just finished rereading.)

It's been quite a while since I last read Old Wounds--long enough that I'd actually forgotten the identity of the killer. Looking back, I'm amazed that I managed such a convoluted plot. 

And I was amused to see that the irrepressible young Laurel has a lot in common with Josie--who didn't show up till about ten years after the book was published.

I was less amused to see that in one chapter I had called the county seat of Elizabeth's Marshall County Ridley instead of Ransom. This, after multiple times proofreading. And a professional copyeditor.

Still and all, I'm right proud of this one--if only for my own entertainment. Write the book you want to read, is advice given to writers. And I evidently did.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Winter Solstice


The Winter Solstice always seems to me like the real beginning of a new year. The sunrise, hidden amidst the trees on the ridge to the right, has gone as far south as it can. Tomorrow will begin the long trek north. Spring Equinox will find sunrise due east, in the center of my horizon, and it will continue moving to the left till it's behind another clump of trees.

But for now, I'm celebrating the Return of the Light. Amidst all the chaos and clamor of our world, the Winter Solstice seems like an eternal verity.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

First Snow, Kinda . . .


Not much of a snow but I took a few steps in it for luck.

And Josie got her snow day--spending it with Grandma Nancy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

The Best Day EVER!


Monday was an AMAZING day! At school we had a Christmas party with lots of cake and chips and some carrots. We had secret Santa presents and everyone got a bag of little presents. Also I made this LOVE sign for Meema. My teacher wrote the word and I put on the pink dots.

(A boy in my class was being bad and yelling and talking about peepee and saying bad words and he had to go to the principal's office, and he also had to sit with the police officer during lunch. The police officer is very nice and waves and helps people get in cars, but I would rather sit with my friends.)

And then, to make the day MORE awesome, we got out early because snow was coming. I was so full of cake, I didn't even ask to go get an ice cream cone. When we got to our driveway, there were packages waiting and two of them were for me, Josie!

The first one was from my Aunt Margaret who lives way up north where there is lots of snow. It is a picture of a beautiful fairy to hang on my wall.

The lady who painted it is a friend of Aunt Margaret's and she painted it for her daughter after her daughter had a dream about a fairy who looked like this.

Then there was a package from Sandy who is my Fairy Godmother. First, I opened the card . . .


And it was a pop-up! Pop-ups are my favorites!

The present was Colorforms! There are a million different shapes in all colors, and you can make pictures on the black backgrounds. I got started making a castle!

I showed Meema all the stuff I got at school, and we read a book and did a bunch of other stuff. Then I decided to vacuum the rugs to calm down a little.


Do you like my new gloves? I will need them because, guess what! It started snowing just when it was time for me to go home. 

Maybe there will be a Snow Day and no school tomorrow.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Decorating the Castle Tree



Sunday, December 17, 2023

Time Was...


Looking through my pictures for something to post, this called to me. Taken on one of the walks through our woods, one where I used to take the dogs (that's Molly, a sweet Golden mix I inherited when her person went to a nursing home--Molly and my friend are both long gone now.)

This is the mental health walk I used to take every day when my invalid (and cranky) mother-in-law was living with us.

It was down this leafy path that I was dragged on my belly by our two Akitas, who, in determined pursuit of a squirrel, jerked me over. I didn't let go and eventually managed to pull them to a stop.

And this was the path on which I visualized Elizabeth Goodweather (Old Wounds) having a brief, guilty encounter with an attractive neighbor . . .

Good times--not forgotten.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

An Early Christmas Present


Rudy Giuliani, once acclaimed as "America's Mayor" has been ordered to pay 148 million dollars to the two Georgia election workers he has repeatedly and baselessly accused of tampering with the vote.

Wasn't it a long, strange way down? And how happy I am for those two women whose lives have been turned upside down by lies.

Friday, December 15, 2023

'Tis the Season

Whatever you celebrate, I hope the season is good to you.

We are as decorated as we're going to be, and the holiday cards are in the mail. 

As soon as the sun is over the yardarm (5 pm,) I think I'll have a cider. And relax with The Dark Is Rising.
I think I'll have a cider