Monday, August 02, 2021

a better way

Most of us try to limit waste. Kids wear lots of hand-me-downs from sibs, they're taught to love the library, we're careful with our trash. Small things, but they add up. Still, the temptation to stray -- to buy cheap stuff, to throw away, to hop in the car for everything -- can be strong. You have to lecture yourself occasionally to do better. I suppose I had one of those "try to do better" days today.

My morning starts with garden work and there's quite a bit of it to do. I had let things go just a little and I needed to catch up. 

I took a few garden photos, understanding that these may well be the last carefully composed ones for the season. 

Why? Well, because my camera is struggling right now. There are three malfunctions, some more pressing than others. It needs to go away for a few weeks for an overhaul. It was so tempting to trade it in for a newer model! The outlay wouldn't be huge -- used cameras still command a great price if they work well and come with a warranty (I always have extended warranties on these guys). But the fact is, when fixed, this camera will once again be just fine for me. I am rough on all cameras (even though I try not to be!). I always wear one around my neck, even though it's heavy. Daily use, knocks and bumps -- they take their toll. May as well stick with the older model. It's good enough.

Breakfast, on the porch. Leftover muffins -- still good, even though any true muffin baker will tell you that these little gems have a very short shelf life. You should bake them on the day of consumption. Well, I heated the old one and it was fine!

In the afternoon, I packed up my camera. Time to take it to the UPS. It's not that far from here -- a couple of hills, a handful of turns and you're there! Maybe ten minutes by car.

Or maybe I should bike over? Gardening isn't very tough these days. I could use the heavier exercise. The car could use a rest. Half an hour moderately fast bike riding each way -- no big deal, right?

I bike. And it feels so good! The hills aren't unmanageable, the air is cool, the breeze -- magnificent! And there's no heavy camera around my neck. That one is strapped with bungee cords to the back of the bike. In a box. Ready for UPS.

So what happens now? I had crossed my fingers that the camera would (more or less) function until I passed my daughter's birthday, and it did. But surely I don't want to give up on pics for the next three weeks! Ah, there is always the dinky backup one I used to take on longer trips. But the more likely candidate is my phone. So many excellent photographers use phones for spur of the moment picture taking. Time to reach for mine when the moment calls for it!


Evening. What's for dinner? Well, we have all these leftovers! Bagels from Sunday brunch. Chicken fingers from the kid dinners on our Saturday night out. A couple of ears of corn. A few pieces of smoked salmon. Soup from last week. Normally I would scoff at some of this stuff: older bagels can be tough to love. Chicken fingers from the childrens' menu too is a culinary stretch. But in fact, in that list of foods, we can scrape together an excellent lunch and a reasonable dinner. Cut up the chicken fingers over a salad with chopped up tomatoes and you really do have something very yummy. 

I'm not as perfect at clearing the fridge of leftovers as Ed is. At some point I'll say -- that's just too old! But at least I've come to the point where I'll try to imagine a better way to serve something still fresh if not exactly recently prepared. It can be a challenge, but honestly, it feels good to look for a better way to manage your day. You do your bit and at some point it becomes second nature to not waste. Maybe even to be an Ed, who'll tell me: just take off the moldy part and eat what's underneath. Honestly, it's got tons of flavor!

Sunday, August 01, 2021

and now, 40 years later...

Such a beautiful day, in all ways! Lovely cool breeze, partly cloudy skies. You want to be outside, you want to be inside with windows wide open. I wake up thinking again how lucky to be celebrating my older girl's birthday on this glorious beginning to late summer.

Because the younger family is staying at the farmhouse, my attention is focused on them as I get up not quite with the sunrise, but not too long after either. 

I do a quick dash to feed the animals. I clip just the obvious lilies on my path. I mean, what if the visitors see the wilted flower heads, right? Okay, I fuss about the gardens. You know that already!

Inside again, I have a task: bake muffins. Yes, I could just bake the "perfect blueberry" ones I did a few weeks back, or I could do two batches: one with blueberries and sour cherries in the other. It's a little more ambitious, but I have a helper after all!

Ed and I have a light breakfast once the muffins are baked. Someone has to taste the finished product!




And now it's time to take off for the birthday daughter's home. But first, a question for you, little Primrose -- which one is your favorite flower??

I'm thinking the kids all are expressing their color preferences, no? Primrose is big on purple.


At my daughter's home (she is forty today!), we set up brunch foods outside on her deck. Another family gathering!



And of course, it's luxuriously wonderful! The kids flit in and out, sometimes I follow them, other times I linger on the deck to catch up with my older girls...

It's one of those protracted meals that you could stay with forever. Well, okay, maybe not forever, but for a long long time.

Before everyone scatters, I want that photo. Of course I do. Of the kids...

And this one, of all of them in my lap. 

And then it's time to say good bye to the younger family which is never easy, but there is so much good feeling from this weekend that I'm loaded with their presence. I'm satiated. For a little while anyway.


Toward evening, there is yet another birthday event  -- this one with friends and colleagues. The kids wanted wanted to make an appearance and we watched people come and go, some of them former colleagues of mine, so that was fun, and there was a cake and more singing..

And then the kids took off to visit their babysitter and I drove home to the quiet of the farmette where I can take the time to review the weekend in my head and, in my most self-indulgent hour, review all those parental milestones and now grandparental milestones that make up family life. I don't go back in time very often, but today -- well, I do, because you know, when your sweet little girl is forty years old, you want to think back to when she was just one day old, or maybe three years old (when her sister was born), or maybe when she was a teenager, away at music camp...


Or turning twenty or thirty, and now forty years old.

Yes, it's a beautiful day to be a parent. Happy birthday sweet little S (often called just that by me in real life). Happy, happy birthday!

with so much love...

Saturday, July 31, 2021


It's very hard to surprise someone who is part of your family but lives with her own family, even as you see her practically every day. Things slip out. Like for example your sweetie will say something inadvertently revealing. Or, you will send a text confirming something to the wrong person. You then have to lie your way out of that one. Or her kids will find something in your house that's supposed to be part of the surprise. I mean, how many ways can you accidentally spill the beans on a surprise? In the end though, I think we pulled it off! We surprised her! Here's what happened:

The Chicago portion of the family wanted to do something special for my Madison daughter this weekend. The idea formed that they should  show up unexpectedly for a birthday dinner with her (she turns forty Sunday). Great plan! Then came the practicalities. My birthday girl is expecting a farmhouse meal today. Sunday evening is booked with another event. Too, the kids are bad secret keepers. And, of course, there's Covid, so we have to plan carefully. Outside eating only. People have vulnerabilities and there are kids.

We arranged it all: the dinner, the cake, the brunch the next day. Lots to do in preparation for the arrival of the Chicagoan tribe. And of course there are the gifts, the flowers, the brunch foods. Then my birthday girl, innocently unaware of all this, tells me she'd love to go to the pool on Saturday. Just me and her and the kids.

Gulp! Well okay! I can do that! Clean garden very early, do market, rush to pool. Come home, possibly with a kid in tow, feed lunch, drive child home so that I can, behind their backs, run for the cake (it's being baked elsewhere), decorate it, and clean up the house for soon to be visiting younger daughter and family. Phew! So far so good!

And then comes the big moment where my son-in-law drives the birthday family ostensibly to the farmhouse, but then he veers off to the restaurant where we all shout -- Surprise!

She was genuinely surprised. Shocked actually. And it was a beautiful evening! At Quivey's Grove, where we used to go for special dinners many, many years (decades?) ago, when it used to be "in the country." Now it's flanked by superhighways and strip malls, but the space is still very large and very green. Day one of a weekend of celebrations! Photos will help put color and texture to the day:


1. morning garden clean up. The tall lilies alone generate some 40 or 50 blooms each day. Snip, snip, clip, snip!

Somewhere in this pot of herbs and nasturtium, there is a strawberry plant with a ripening strawberry. See it? What are the chances that a cheeper wont find it? None.




Waiting... She's not in any hurry!




Definitely a late summer display:




Only in nature do purple and pink go so well together with red and orange!




The Big Bed: still a canvas of color, albeit a more delicate painting now...




2. Breakfast: Ed! Get down here!

Watching the monarchs over breakfast...

3. To market: those two bouquets are going home with me!

4. The Goodman pool: So empty today...

5. Can I come to the farmhouse for lunch? Sure you can!




6. Cake: pick up at bakery, decorate at the farmhouse. My pansies are edible! The kids sampled them earlier. Snowdrop said they taste like asparagus!



7. The arrival of the Chicago young family: they come to the farmhouse before we all head out for dinner.




 Leaving for Quivey's Grove...



8.  At the restaurant: waiting for the arrival of the soon to be surprised birthday girl. Shirley Temple cocktail anyone?


They're here! Stunned at this turn of events! Hey, Shirley Temple cocktail, anyone?







There is a large field by our table. Could it be more perfect for the kids?




But of course, the birthday dinner is the main attraction.










Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...



 Happy birthday dear older daughter...

Happy birthday to you...


I always said that birthdays create opportunities for us to let go of the everyday for just a little bit and take stock of the extraordinary, the wonderful stuff in our lives. Both young families here for the birthday weekend is nothing short of sublime. Happy birthday celebrations to us all, happy birthday (well, tomorrow!) to the amazing daughter who started it all -- family life, played out over four decades of beautiful adventures!

With love indeed...