"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Maple Sugaring--with Sheep!


I visited the farm with the sugar house that we've been going to for many years during sugaring season. The weather has been unseasonably cold and the maple syrup makers are hoping that it will run long, given that it's late. This past weekend was Maple Sugar Weekend when the sugar houses are open to the public with special events. I was otherwise occupied, so today I went up to the Ridge to see what I could see. And found a crowd of school children getting a lesson in syrup-making!



The sugar house.


The condenser.


Fuel for the condenser.


The product!


More products!


Truck with sap barrel.


The main reason I visit this farm instead of the multitude of others is, of course, the animals. Sugar season and lambing season coincide!




I love touching sheep. This ewe came right up and begged for a pat!


The cattle.


My favourite cow--black and white, of course. Like my dogs!

 
Sap collection at a different farm.
 

And collection system at yet another farm farther along the road.

 
When I say it's been "unseasonably cold," I mean it has been in the single digits or even below zero overnight, which is highly, highly unusual for late March. Daytime temperatures have bare broken freezing on most days. Fortunately a warm-up is on the forecast. And, in case I doubted that spring would ever come, I actually spotted a sign of summer--a daylily is starting to wake up from its long winter sleep!
 
 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

March Forth! (My Birthday)



 
It might turn out to be the chilliest March Fourth on record in these parts, but thanks to the Chap it's springtime in the house. In addition to the lovely birthday flowers, I have other presents to delight me:
 
 

I'm also very happy to have the carpenter and a guy from the flooring company making some progress in the kitchen today. Based on their work schedule, I do believe the End of the renovations is approaching. We're at the stage where the dogs will have to go to the kennel, and we'll become even more reliant on restaurants than we have been up to now. But that means that we're in the final stages.

Though the daylight has lengthened and the sun rides higher in the sky, Spring doesn't seem particularly near. I think I'm going to need to travel to find some before it ever reaches New England!


Friday, February 28, 2014

The Shortest Month Can Seem Reeeaaaallllyyy Long

At last, the final day of February, and happily this isn't a leap year!

I'm glad to say farewell to a month of being mostly housebound, due to--

too much snow....


...endless construction





... and some  extremely frigid weather.
 
 
However, I was able to enjoy my indoor garden of flowers.
 
Real ones.
 



And silk ones. 


 
 
And I was here to witness the first visit from a pileated woodpecker!
 
 
The renovations aren't yet finished, though we hope the carpentry work will be completed on Monday as promised. More flowers are on the way--my jasmine flowers are budding, as is my banana shrub, and my moth orchid has developed some interesting and promising protrusions.
 
Lots of exciting happenings in March. Yes, it can also be a snowy month, but it's also maple sugaring season, and I'll be getting out a lot more. And we have high hopes of the sort of temperatures that will allow lots of melting!
 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Studies in White


 
Jewel and Ruth wonder when the snow will stop falling.
 
 Their doggie igloo (Dogloo) is truly living up to its name. I've shovelled and swept away the snow more times than I can count.

 
The birds rely on the feeders for sustenance. On the day I shot the photo below, we received a fresh foot...on top of all the other snow we've had.
 
 
Even on sunny days (which this one is), we find reminders of winter. I came upon this one in a shopping centre parking lot. I suspect it will be there for many, many weeks to come.
 

My rose garden. Before it received the added foot...and then another several inches more. Snow is a wonderful insulator for the roses, and a fertiliser as well. I look forward to a rich summer of blooms.

 
The current warming trend (the temperature is in the upper 40s F) is very welcome, as is the sunshine. We mustn't get too used to it, however, as the dreaded "Polar Vortex" is on its way again early next week. We've endured Winter Storm "Pax" and Winter Storm "Rex" and no telling what lies ahead. (A little voice is reminding me that "March is the snowiest month....Please, not this year!) Hard to believe, but we've not even (yet) received record snowfall for the season. And I don't think I want to.
 
I do try not to whinge (much) about the weather--I'm a snow lover, having grown up without much of it--and even I am finding my enthusiasm for it waning. Yet I know other regions of this nation--Atlanta, where I once lived--have suffered far more from harsh weather.
 
In Great Britain, rains and floods have devastated places I know and love. It has been painful to see the footage on the BBC and hear descriptions via radio. One of my ancestral villages on the banks of the River Severn, has been significantly flooded since Christmastime. I fear I will find it greatly changed when I return, yet I know that nature has a way of covering damages to a landscape rather quickly. The damages to property and livestock are less easily mended.
 
As for mending property, the renovations resulting from the leaky water line in the kitchen have proceeded. We're in a lull where the cabinetry work are concerned, concerned, but the vestibule and hallway flooring is being installed as I write this. The kitchen flooring has been ordered but isn't expected to arrive for at least another week and a half, meaning a delay in the placement of the gas range. I manage to make meals without it, but my pent-up desire to do some really intensive baking must wait rather longer to be satisfied. My birthday cake might have to come from a bakery!
 
On these snowy (and often noisy, due to construction) days, I've been transported to other places via some very fine novels and memoirs. I hope to soon post my impressions of them...which will be a nice change from photos of snow, more snow, and a bit too much snow!
 
 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

February & Flowers


The amaryllis was a gift from my mother at Christmastime, and it's putting on quite a show. Beside it is another, a Christmas gift from the church over a year ago, which presently has 4 buds of a very deep, dark red, and it is about to bloom. Soon I will bring out the one I've had for more than a decade--a pink/peach colour--and entice it out of dormancy.

It's the time of year when I rely on hyacinths of various hues for aroma and for beauty. Winters are long, and these flowering bulbs add to my wellbeing!


We had an unexpected visitor last weekend. This little shrew emerged from under the ground to nibble the dropped seeds under the bird feeder.


We've had some extremely frigid temperatures, but they always moderate. And of course, we've had snow--though not as much as other places on the Eastern and mid-Atlantic states.


We've been using these wonderful turf bricks in the woodstove. They put out a nice heat, and while they're burning--and even afterwards--the house smells wonderfully of peat. A nice reminder of our years when the Chap worked so frequently in Ireland.


Tree-trimming crews have been working in our neighbourhood. On the day they trimmed across the road from our house, I had fun watching the men in the buckets...but it was awfully cold weather.


Those aren't the only workmen we've had around. The installation of our generator is ongoing, after a long delay. We had a leaky water pipe in the kitchen--behind a wall--which caused a lot of damage. As a result, we'll get new flooring there and in the hall and the foyer. As a result the installation of our new gas range and range hood is held up. Some cabinets had to be taken down, and more of the wall needs to be cut away so insulation can be added. We've had to shop and select and make decisions in rather a hurry. After all those renovations we did last summer (new flooring, new paint, new lighting, electrical work, etc.) I didn't expect to be living in a construction zone again. It's especially difficult in the dead of winter, when I can't escape to the garden or the lake cottage. But we hope the disruption will be behind us in a couple of weeks. And the result will be wonderful! We didn't bother doing much with the kitchen last year because we were doing just about everything else. Little did we guess that it was fated to be updated!

Today is Candlemas, and Groundhog Day in the US. Punxatawney Phil, the "official" weather-prognosticating rodent, saw his shadow this morning, but Ground-dogs Ruth and Jewel did not. Signals are mixed. They were avidly watching Puppy Bowl X a little while ago, but now are napping comfortably on the sofa beside me.

I'm juggling writing, revising, and fitting in other projects as best I can. I'm also in garden-planning mode. I spend lots of time with the catalogues of rose vendors and on various websites, but with the ground completely covered in snow, I can't remember where I was planning to add more bushes. It's at least two months before I can do anything but dream.

Time to light some turf!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014

 
 
This new year has already delivered a winter's worth of snow, along with some significantly frigid temperatures. Fortunately I didn't have any meetings or necessary errands during the harsh weather and could hibernate indoors! This week we're experiencing the traditional January Thaw, with temperatures well above freezing (as opposed to the below zero Fahrenheit we had for so long!), accompanied by rain and fog. Today is pleasantly sunny.
 
This is the time of year when my indoor garden is especially delightful. Currently or recently in bloom: sweet olive, passiflora, crown of thorns, hyacinth, and my white azalea, which I've had for well over a decade...possibly as long as 15 years.
 


Soon to come are the amaryllis...the red one I received at church last Christmas has sent up a flower stalk. My mother gave me one this Christmas and it's sprouting 2 flower stalks. I've got a third, a gift  given to me 11 years ago by our late Bishop, which I'll bring out after the other two are finished.

Today is a day of remembrance for me...The duchess in my historical novel died on this day, and because her birthdate went unrecorded I honour her today. Here are two portraits of her, made three years apart.

 
 
My accomplishments this year--so far--include lots of writing, much planning, regular ballet exercise (not because of any resolutions, it's just what I do), and overseeing some final home improvement projects. Before Christmas we replaced the washer and dryer that came with the house with the kind we had at the Lodge. The installation of our whole-house generator has begun. And we're getting a new gas range. My meetings for this month are behind me. Later this week I shall probably head over to the State House to give testimony in favour of a bill that I always voted for when I served in the Legislature. I hope I remember how to behave like an "Honorable," which I still am!
 
Thanks to those who expressed their kind condolences about my father. Much appreciated.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve 2013


 
Jewel and Ruth are awaiting Christmas.
 
 
 
Because of this snowfall last weekend, the day after our big holiday party--we'll have a white one, even though we've not had any snow since then.
 






The Chap and I are having a very simple and quiet Christmas Week. We'd planned it that way, after such a busy year of transition (new job, new house, new habits) and travel. But our desire for peace and reflection is even stronger following the unexpected death of my father five days ago. Late last evening I returned to New Hampshire after attending his funeral and spending time with family. He lived a long and full and very rich life, was deeply loved and admired by all who knew him. We greatly appreciate the presence of so many relatives and friends--and all those fond and/or funny stories they shared. We who love him are thankful he is at rest now, and we'll forever miss him. He was so very pleased and excited about our move earlier this year, and enjoyed the photographs of our new house and the Christmas and party decorations.

May all who celebrate today and tomorrow have a blessed Christmas. Best wishes also for a happy and prosperous 2014.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Home in London and Home at Home


 
 
Yes, I know. Another long gap between posts. Couldn't be helped!
 
We voted in the municipal election as new residents of the city, and the next day flew to that other city of ours, London. Our arrival coincided with the monthly pub night of London Historians, to which I belong. And our hotel was only steps from the pub where they gather. So after we checked into our suite, the Chap and I trotted over there and were warmly welcomed. Here I am with Mike, the president of the organization. Looking rather chirpy after a 6+ hour flight and a couple of pints of cider!
 
 
 
I believe it was the next evening that we headed to Mayfair to dine at a longtime favourite restaurant. It the first of our 3 dinners in or near Shepherd Market.

 
 
We had timed our visit quite well for seeing exhibitions. On a single day we managed to view the Gillray prints and caricatures on special display at the Bank of England Museum, a special Victoriana exhibit at the Guildhall as well as the regular collection, the Cheapside Hoard at the Museum of London. And the Chap took care of some errands as I headed over to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the Pearls exhibition (saw a lot of jewels that day!), and met me after we had both seen all our favourite bits of the museum. I took lots of photographs.
 
 
One drizzly day I went to tea with a friend who lives near Notting Hill and we lunched in Westbourne Grove. By the time we left the restaurant-- Granger & Co--the rain was bucketing down. My friend kindly gave me a lift to the Olympia Exhibition Centre where I was meeting the Chap--we had tickets for the Winter Antiques Fair. We spent ages there, and by the time we left the rain had stopped.

The next day, Saturday, was also rainy. We dodged the drops by taking refuge in the shops along Jermyn Street and Piccadilly--Floris and Paxton and Whitfield and Hatchards and Princes Arcade till midday. The Chap's former business partner from Bristol invited him to dine at his club in St. James's Square--the Army & Navy Club, known as "The Rag." We always enjoying going there--it was a lovely reunion and a delicious meal. We parted ways, then met up again in Marylebone for drinks in a hotel bar we've frequented for decades, followed by dinner at our old familiar Indian restaurant nearby.

Despite the two drenching days we were otherwise most fortunate in the weather, as you can see from this photo of Westminster Abbey on Remembrance Sunday. We watched on telly as the Queen and the Royal Family and the representatives of the services laid their wreaths at the Cenotaph. After the parade began we walked over to the Abbey, only a little way down the block.

 
 
The Field of Remembrance is a most moving sight to behold, and it fills me with deep emotion every time I see it. It is such a powerful indictment against war...and the most amazing testament to the bravery of the men and women who lost their lives in defence of their nation and empire.
 
 
Also on Sunday we changed hotels, returning to the one in Mayfair that we know best. Here's the view from one of our windows.
 
 
It was such a glorious day that after settling in we went for a lovely long walk through
the neighbourhood, ending at Hyde Park. It was filled with ramblers, we weren't alone in wanted to be outdoors. In addition to dog walkers and push chairs, there were bench-sitters and many rowboats out on the Serpentine.
 

Prior to my arrival I had reserved some 17th century letters and other materials for reading at the British Library. The next week I was able to access my materials, and at the end of my reading day the Chap met me and we both explored the magnificent Georgians Revealed special exhibit, which had just opened.

 
The library's impressive entrance hall was adorned with 18th-century style decorations, and the exhibition shop offered many delights.
 
 
I posed for my usual callbox photo--a couple of times. The series is now extensive. At least I know how to escape....
 

The Father Christmas in Selfridges was there last year. I'm not sure they ever let him out!

 
Our last day in London was wholly given over to Christmas shopping. We started in Princes Arcade.
 

 From there I went to Fortnum's & Mason, which has a very foodie window display.

 
If you visit Fortnum's in the morning, early in the week, you can avoid the scrum. It wasn't that calm when I stopped in briefly on the previous Saturday!
 

 
I wasn't as keen on the Selfridges windows this year at I usually am.
 
 
 But we were there for the turning on of the Christmas lights in various streets...this is St Christopher's Place, off Oxford Street.

 
We were already feeling quite Christmas-y. And then we met the man himself at Heathrow, in the British Airways Club Lounge. Like us, Santa was travelling in style!


No time to recover from jet lag. A few days after we returned we attended a neighbour's "Game of Thrones" themed birthday party.


 
Once our first Thanksgiving in this new house was behind us, it was time for decorating it for our first Christmas here. At the weekend I made a wreath for the primary front door (we've got two, the other has a pine frond and pinecone swag).


We cut our tree at a farm not very far away. On Wednesday I finished stringing the lights, and yesterday I put on the ornaments...including the new ones purchased in London a fortnight ago.

 
And now, I think, I've caught you up on what's been happening...here and abroad!