Celebrating the Small things – the first of 2016


This is the Celebrating the Small Things blog hop, run by Lexa Cain and her two wonderful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits.



It is hard to believe that (at this moment) 2015 is winding down and 2016 is about to begin.

I remember for many years there was always a depiction of a baby getting ready for the year, sometimes as an old man crept out the other side of the image – the old year leaving for the new year.  I didn’t like the ones I found, but this one makes me smile.

My family always sat up together to watch the ball drop in Times Square, and we would sip a glass of champagne or, sometimes, Cold Duck, which we kids liked a little better.  Grandparents would get misty, I would get sleepy…

On New Years eve 1999 (turning to the year 2000) we all got together and watched New Years all over the world.  It was wonderful, though there was a video of a Jordanian baptism that just wouldn’t stop. 

“And now we take you to Paris!” 

And the baptism would show again.  We all began chuckling.  Everyone looked happy, we were happy, it was all good.

So what am I doing?

Well, I’ll be sipping Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, whichI received as a Christmas gift.  I’m always happy to drink Champagne.

It’s a happy drink.  I remember one summer where a burgeoning case of depression (job woes, employers moving, ailing loed ones) was nipped in the bud with a glass of champagne drunk with family.

I’ll probably be sitting and watching the fire with a cat on my lap.  My money is on Little Miss Mess, a/k/a Frida, who has appeared in this blog a time or two.  She’s peppery, sweet and very affectionate.  Unlike a long departed darling, she does not like Champagne, so there will be more for me.

…and maybe I’ll break out my current work in progress and pick away at it.

Tomorrow, early, I drive to my mother’s to spend the weekend.

I hope you’ll all be with those you love, who love you.

And I’m ending with something pretty to look at:

Happy New Year!

July 14, 2014 – Wishing the People of France a Happy Bastille Day!


I am a student of history.  History tells the story of people.  If you read history, you will learn something, or be reminded of something.  You will find how the pieces of the puzzle of human and national relations fit, and you will understand the present.


At the very least you will never be bored.

Bastille Day Fireworks over the Pont Alexandre III, Paris
My father loved France.  I studied the French language.  I was 2/3 of the way to being fluent.  I am a little out of practice now.  But my French served me well when I visited Paris and loved nearly every minute of it.


My studies in history have made me aware of something that is not generally known nowadays:


P. O’Brien – The Battle of the Chesapeake

If it were not for the intervention of France, the fledgling United States of America might never have been able to survive its war with England.  France recognized the United States in 1778, and sent troops, munitions and naval forces to assist in the fight.  In Europe, France formed alliances with the Netherlands and Spain, leaving Britain without an ally in that conflict.  French troops served under George Washington.    The French Navy fought the English at the battle of the Chesapeake under the command of Admiral DeGrasse, an action that directly led to the English surrender at Yorktown. 

Charles E. Stanton, an aide of General John (‘Black Jack’) Pershing, upon landing in France during World War I, gave this speech at the tomb of Lafayette at the cemetery of Picpus in Paris:

“America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here.”

I wish the citizens of France a splendid Bastille day, and years of prosperity and peace.

Vive la France!

Celebrating a Break in the Weather





It is Friday and time to enjoy VikLit ‘s blog hop that highlights small celebrations, the things that we tend to ignore unless something or someone joggles our elbows and says, LOOK!

Today I am celebrating not only the end of the work week (though the fact that I have work during these difficult times is a celebration in itself) but also the fact that Ye Olde  Wizzardes Who Thinke They Hath Ye Means To Foretell Ye Weather are predicting a cooler weekend.

My dog won’t sit around and pant so much, I can pull a blanket up to my shoulder, and I can even wear a bathrobe, which for me is a necessity, whether or not I will roast in it.

I hope they are right.

What are you celebrating?  Why don’t you join us?  The link is below!

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Celebrating the Small Things – December 20, 2013


It is Friday again, and a time to stop and take stock of the small things we celebrate, often unknowingly.  Thanks to VikLit, who had the idea for this wonderful bl0g hop, we can remind ourselves of the beautiful things in life that make our days just that much more lovely.  You’re welcome to join – head on over to her blog!

Details are at the end of this post.

I remember, years ago, the first time I bought a condolence card for someone.  I write notes now, of course, but I was in 9th grade then (age 13 for non-USA folk) and I wanted to express to someone my regret at her father’s death.  The card showed white roses and it said ‘God gave us memory so that we could enjoy roses in winter’.

Roses in Winter


It was a nice sentiment and a pretty picture.  At that point I had all my grandparents, both my parents, and had never attended a funeral.


The card was well-received.  And it was true.


Memory allows us to enjoy roses on a snowy day.


I realized this anew over the past week.  Memories of happy times, of good parents, of laughter and caring and some scolding – all came back to me.  And (for those who read Proust) I didn’t have to dip a madeleine in my tea…

I was bored, recently, and found myself remembering travels, books, conversations with friends.  In some cases they were better the second (or twelfth) time around.

Relax – it’s just meatloaf with an onion at the ‘wrist’


What would we do without memory?  How would we know where to go?  How would we equip ourselves for each day’s endeavors?  savor a wonderful meal we enjoyed with others? Or avoid the wretched meatloaf served by the corner restaurant?

We wouldn’t even be able to sing along with our favorite songs on the radio.  For our passengers in the car, that might actually be a blessing.

So I am celebrating memory.


(And I am remembering that today is a Friday!  I hope you all have wonderful weekends.)




http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Friday Celebrations – Chocolate Cakes, Baking and Ahhhhhhs


Welcome to Friday celebrations.  thanks to VikLit, who conceived of this blog hop (and finally signed up for it…) we pause every Friday to think about the small things to celebrate, and share them with others.

I am celebrating something that happened yesterday, but which is pertinent for today because I have the other half of the item that caused the celebration at home with me and ready to be devoured.

You see, I like to cook, and I especially enjoy baking.  I ran across a ‘Chocolate Stout Cake’ conceived by a local brewery, that is three layers of magnificent chocolate goodness and iced with a dark chocolate ganache.  It is very chocolatey but not horribly sweet, which is a good thing.
The cake is the invention of The Barrington Brewery, a Massachusetts establishment that is well worth visiting.

Click on the photo to go to the site..

I was enjoying what the British might call a ‘Plowman’s lunch’ and happened to look over and see a splendid chocolate cake.  ‘Chocolate Stout Cake’.  Hmmm…  I was too full to consider it, but I remembered it.  When I ran across a request for the recipe printed in a gourmet magazine Bon Appetit, I snapped it up and made it.
Click on THIS to go to the recipe.

A lovely recipe.  It sets up in about twenty minutes, cooks beautifully, can be halved or quartered without any trouble and, if you have the self-control of an angel, gets better if you can put off eating it for a couple days.

I made one of them yesterday and brought it in to my office.

I work with some blase’ people.  No reaction, no enthusiasm, at least around my area.  But there was little reaction…until I took it into the lunch room. 

It is so lovely to watch people enjoying something you offered.  One fellow, who looked rather like a Hillbilly, saw the cake, zoomed right over saying ‘woo-HOOOO!’, cut himself a slice and ate it, smiling beatifically.  He did not know that the chef was standing by.

Isn’t that what it is all about?  In everything we offer?  Making something we think is wonderful and hoping that others enjoy it, as well?  It is nice if they know who you are and thank you, but the beatific smiles are sufficient.

I’m still smiling, and it’s Friday – and I’m driving down to visit my mother.  Cheers, all – have a wonderful weekend and enjoy your own blessings!
http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Celebrating a Revelation…


Friday is celebration day thanks to VikLit’s delicious blog.  Every Friday we sit back and notice something that has happened that is worth celebrating.  A nice cup of tea?  A vacation?  an accomplishment at home or work?  Anything that makes you smile and count your blessings.

Today I am celebrating the fruits of yesterday’s revelation.  I had been feeling under a great deal of pressure for a number of reasons – my father’s impending funeral in December, a book I’m finishing up, another book I’m getting closer to finishing, the fact that I really need to organize my house…

It all came to a head (almost literally) yesterday when I stood, left my desk at work, strode out the door and took a twenty-minute walk through the parking lot.  People walk there a lot.  It is beautiful, as I had noticed driving in there, but I had never done it.  However, I needed to blow off some steam, it was ten minutes to eleven in the morning, and I needed to get out.

Crisp breezes were rattling the dry leaves on the trees.  The sun was sparkling – it was splendid and beautiful, and I will jot the description in one or another of my notebooks.  I was, however, striding along, gritting my teeth and thinking aloud.

…and it struck me, suddenly, that while there was a lot of stress at that moment, much of it was my own doing.

Dad’s funeral would go off in December at Arlington Cemetery with the caisson and the flag and the band and the buglers, and I would actually enjoy it, as would Dad.

And the books I was working on were publicly scheduled to be produced in 2014.

There was no reason for me to be spinning around like my cat chasing her tail.  I didn’t have to finish them tomorrow.  In fact, I didn’t have to burn myself out at all.

…The wind caught a gulley full of dry, red leaves and whirled them toward me with the sound of a stampeding herd.  I watched, transfixed.  It was splendid.

So…my being stressed out was my own silly doing.  I could set the projects down and work on my NaNoWriMo project, which promised to be fun  And I could spend twenty minutes a day decluttering.  (And maybe I should start with my mind?)

Twenty minutes later I was back at my desk, sipping a cup of hot coffee and smiling.  I put away my two WIP manuscripts.  I’ll fiddle with them in December.

And last night I designed the (projected) cover for my NaNo effort (It’s a fantasy/fable)  It needs work, such as making it apparent that we are looking at a crocodile and not a rock, but this is OK for now:

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Small Celebrations – October 11, 2013


Once again it’s Friday and time to happily participate in VikLit’s wonderful blog hop marking the small celebrations that make life special.  Why don’t you participate?  Details are at the end of this post.

We commemorate small celebrations, and this week I’m posting about one of my smallest.

cold morning, affectionate little girlfriend – happiness!

She is seven pounds, ten years old, chocolate brown, feisty and very sweet.  Her name is Frida and she came to me in May of 2005 through the kind generosity of a friend.  Frida is a Burmese cat, a breed that originated on the Malayan peninsula.  Go to Thailand and Burma and you will find little brown cats walking in the streets.  This little girl’s ancestors came to the United States in 1930, accompanying a sailor who had taken ship at Kowloon.

I’ve loved Burmese since 1965.  I have owned them since 1980. 

In her I have my best little girlfriend, my feisty little angel, and a peppery but sweet companion.  Who could ask for more?  She’s worth celebrating!
http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Small Celebrations, October 4, 2013


Today is Friday, time to celebrate the small things or, if you like, to invite others to join us in celebrating our small things.  There’s a linky list at the bottom of this post: why don’t you look around, enjoy the celebrations and – maybe?  – sign up yourself. VikLit is a wonderful hostess and we have lots of fun.

I am currently enjoying and celebrating a nice, hot cup of tea with milk, my morning drink of choice.  It truly helps get the day going, and I like it strong:


Today I’m celebrating my favorite season – Autumn – and the various views I enjoy driving to work or just walking through my neighborhood.

 

On a more mundane front, I’m celebrating my new book cover (the old one was somewhat lacking) and the fact that I’m working on a story I’ve loved for years but had on the shelf for a long time:

Old cover:

New Cover: 

 

…And it’s a weekend, or will be, and I’ll be visiting my mother and helping her to shop for cars.  Something else to celebrate: she is a ladylike Holy Terror to car salesmen who think they can take advantage of elderly widows!

 


http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Celebrations, September 13, 2013


This is a simple blog hop started by Viklit.  Every Friday we stop and take note of the things we sometimes overlook, which make our lives so enjoyable.

Today I am celebrating the first honest to goodness vacation I have taken since before my father died in August of last year.  The past year has been filled with a number of things and involved a great deal of travel and worry and fatigue.  

Today, however, I am celebrating the end of the week and the beginning of the weekend, at which time I will insert myself into my (rental) car, check the level of gasoline in the tank, grin at my sister, who is coming with me (it was her idea, actually, and head up north to the pretty harbor of Boothbay, Maine.


Boothbay Harbor at Sunset













This is the sun-filled piece of heaven with which I fell in love back in 1999.

Over the next three days we will be driving around, visiting yarn shops, I’ll be taking photos, and we may even go on a whale watch cruise.  Whether we see a whale or not, we will certainly be seeing the sea, the rocky coast, feel the breeze in our faces.

And who knows?  We may very well see a whale!


How about yourselves?  Come join this blog hop and share the little things that make you celebrate!  Or just hop about and see what everyone’s celebrating – and thank VikLit for starting it!

http://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=179014

Fabulous Fourth Fresh Berry Pie (recipe)


The Fabulous Fourth is upon us here in the United States.  I will be visiting my newly widowed mother who for grit and humor is unsurpassed.  She called to tell me that a neighbor admitted that she would be alone on the Fourth, so Mom said, “Well, spend it with me!  My daughters are coming and we’ll cook burgers and hot dogs!” 

She then called to ask me if I minded.  Minded?  Generosity?  Kindness?  Not I!  I’ve been the beneficiary of it quite a lot over the past several years.  How could I object?  

Fresh Raspberry Pie

I immediately offered to bring my favorite berry pie.  Mom said it might be a good idea.  So I made it, and here is the recipe. It is a simple fresh berry pie.  Not too sweet, rather perishable, easy to make (if you know what  you are doing and don’t waffle instructions).  And if you do it right, people think you’re the greatest chef since Brillat-Savarin.  A good thing if you go for such.

It’s easy, delicious – how could I not share the recipe?

So here it is:

Must use fresh berries!


FRESH BERRY PIE

I generally use raspberries (they eat them in Heaven, you know…) but you can use hulled strawberries (cut up slightly) or peaches, cut up (and drain them) or any other berry you like.


UNBAKED PIE SHELL
If you are one of those who likes to have people believe that

you never, ever, EVER use store-bought anything, you buy a frozen crust, thaw it and crimp the crust with your fingers once the thing is thawed.  Somehow, a crimped crust just looks more homemade to eaters.  Me, I don’t mind buying them (but check ingredients; some crusts do have sugar in them).  I also make a very good crust from scratch.  It’s a nearly-forgotten skill.  Rather like starting a fire using kindling.

BAKE THE CRUST:

Heat oven to 375.  Take a standard dinner fork and prick the crust all over (bottom, sides).  Holes everywhere.  If you have any pie weights, pour them into the crust to keep the thing from wrinkling.  Dried beans or peas work well, but then don’t use them in soup.  Bake the crust for no more than 15 minutes.  It should be golden brown.  Let it cool while you fiddle with the filling:





FILLING:

1 ½ cups cold water
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 small package of gelatin.  If you’re using raspberries, use raspberry gelatin.  Sugar Free is fine.
3 Tbs granulated sugar
2 pints fresh berries, with any bugs or dirt picked out and washed off, well drained


PUT IT TOGETHER:

In a large saucepan combine until smooth:
1 ½ cups cold water
2 Tbs cornstarch
Bring to a boil, cook and stir constantly for two minutes, till thickened.  Take from the heat and stir in the gelatin.




The (very strong) temptation, if you have chidren watching as you stir in the gelatin, is to cackle, look slyly at them, and say with your best Wicked Witch of the West voice, “Poison!  It is Poison!”

Now we learn whether one is utilitarian or artistic…
UTILITARIAN:
Stir fruit into gelatin, mix well and pour into crust, and let it chill in the refrigerator.
ARTISTIC:

 Pour about ¼ C of gelatin mixture in the bottom of the crust and spread it. 

Add about ½ of the berries and drizzle half of the remaining gelatin over them, making sure most of the berries are held by gelatin.  Add almost all the rest of the berries (hold back a handful) and drizzle the rest of the gelatin over it.  Pretty it up and place the remaining berries on top.  Let it chill.

 
You can served this with the whipped topping of your choice.  I prefer whipped cream, myself, and I whip it myself, thankyouverymuch.  (But I also enjoy spritzing the pressurized stuff)
 
Leftovers are delicious stolen from the fridge at midnight…

Happy fourth, you all!