In case you have lost track of the date, Christmas is next week. I have decorated to the extent that I feel able, and am enjoying the cheery visuals provided by the little lights against the greenery and the orange pomanders. The magic of the season is greatly aided by the fact that I’m actively working on ignoring the constant rumble of my children disagreeing with one another. It is hard, but necessary, to ignore the shrieking in order for me to survive right now.

Speaking of survival, the theme song for this holiday season is the Judy Garland version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, which will nearly kill you if you listen too closely to the lyrics while simultaneously experiencing Judy’s voice.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yule-tide gay
From now on
Our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

My daughter made a snowman pomander.
The beloved Christmas village: the site of much mayhem and chaos as the kids fight over how it should be arranged.
The biggest tree we’ve ever had, a hedge against 2020.

Lo, The Summer is Over

I’ve been quiet all summer — at least online. In the real world I’ve been my usual self, blabbing on and on in a manner that transcends the seasons. But the summer is over, and now it is time to turn my attention to the virtual side of things. Maybe I associate spending hours on the internet with cooler days and crisp nights, parallel to the intense desire to sit around by the fireside that kicks in every fall. Anyway, not to overthink it or anything. The point is I’m back. Here. Posting.

Starting with a summer album of sorts. Even though my online self has been comatose, my offline self has been racing around working on various things, some of which I’ll post about during the coming weeks. But as far as summer projects go, visits to family were mixed in with various creative projects, including our town’s weekly farmers’ market and the Madden Road Music Fest in Ohio, which was held on the farm this year. The ol’ homeplace, in folk song parlance. Continue reading

At Home: 3.19.14

Like the snow still lingering outside, right now my house is dirty, grey, and irritating to behold. I looked around this week and realized that being trapped (more or less) in this place for the last several months has become a sort of anthropological experience: signs of small children and the worlds they create are everywhere. Sometimes the signs that children dominate this place  are random, sometimes they are deliberate, little displays set up with care. Until I step on these displays and kick the composition across the room. Which leads me to my biggest surprise as a parent, and it’s not how very terrible potty training has been. It has to do with how much kids love the floor. How much they adore littering the floor with stuff,  taking every opportunity — and where none exists, they create one — to throw things, small and large, on the floor. A large part of my day is picking stuff up: library books (please don’t tell Carol, our beloved librarian, this fact), legos, puzzle pieces, cups, food stuffs, more cups, articles of clothing, on and on and on. But it’s not just the floor, children just generally love a surface, any surface, to spill things on, write things on, leave things on. So this month’s “At Home” photo essay is dedicated to my dirty, end-of-winter house and its small inhabitants. And to the fact that we bid winter goodbye this week, at least officially if not in reality. So long winter, 2014. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, you monster.

The Obvious & Not So Obvious

The Obvious:


The Not-So-Obvious:

Whortleberry Pudding with Brandy Sauce
3 cupfuls of flour
1 cupful of molasses
1/2 cupful of milk
1 teaspoonful of salt
a little cloves and cinnamon
1 teaspoonful of soda dissolved in a little of the milk
1 quart of huckleberries or blueberries, floured Boil in a well-buttered mold two hours. Serve with brandy sauce.

Brandy or Wine Sauce
1 heaping teaspoonful of cornstarch, or 1 tablespoonful of sifted flour
1 cupful of sugar
piece of butter as large as an egg
1/2 cupful of brandy or wine Stir cornstarch in a little cold water to a smooth paste (or instead use sifted flour); add to it a cupful of boiling water, with sugar, butter, boil all together ten minutes. Remove from the fire and when cool stir into it brandy or wine. It should be about as thick as thin syrup.

Source: The White House Cookbook, 1887

*post-Thanksgiving meal update: I did indeed make the pudding for Thanksgiving, which seemed to go over fairly well considering that Americans don’t generally indulge in English-style pudding at the communal table. I made a few changes to the recipe, however. First of all, I don’t have a proper pudding bowl so I just used a mixing bowl with a plate on top for a lid. I had to use more milk than the recipe called for to get the right consistency — maybe a 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup? And for the berry I used blueberries instead of whortleberries. The whortleberry is an archaic name which refers to a few different kind of berries, most commonly a huckleberry, which I didn’t even try to track down. As far as the sauce goes, I made a rum sauce instead of the brandy sauce. The rum sauce version which was definitely richer as it used half a cup of butter instead of a “piece of butter as large as an egg”.

Rum Sauce

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
Rum to taste, about 3 tbsp.
Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Slowly stir in 1 egg, then add the rum. Heat and stir over low heat about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

The Last Vestiges of Life Before Destruction

The dramatic title of the post is in direct proportion to the dramatic descriptions in predicting the havoc that the storm — due to arrive nearly any minute now — will wreak here on the East Coast. Terms like “apocalyptic” have become commonplace over the last few days. But I took my primitive pre-storm panic impulses in hand and refused to race to the store to buy loaves of bread and gallons of milk. (I’ve never been clear on why we all buy milk when the electricity is almost certain to go out. Guzzling warm milk by candlelight while eating slices of bread…ummm…delicious.) Instead I raced out to take pictures of the last traces of the our yard & surrounding woods in Autumn. It’s always sad to say goodbye to Fall, that beautiful season of decay. And this Fall has been especially lovely, with day after day of cool air and blue skies, of sunlight filtered through intense yellows and variations of orange and burnt umber. I don’t know exactly what the color burnt umber is, but I’m using the descriptive anyway, as it just sounds like Autumn.

So here it is: The Last Moments of Burnt Umber Before the Apocalypse. Which will no doubt sweep it all away. And when the veil is lifted, our field of vision will be limited to the skeletal remains of trees and a sky the color of slate. This will be the state of things for approximately the next, oh, six months or so. The Storm is coming, and with it, the beginning of the long, dark New England winter. Bring on the candlelight and warm milk.

Our street…

The ocean — calm for now — just beyond the trees.

cosmos, still in bloom.