"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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bits & Bobs

The woods surrounding the Lodge are showing colour.

But the gardens are still displaying their own colours, too.

False sunflower.

Turtlehead--oh, so popular with the bumblebees!

Winterberry. (Small wonder I've got Christmas on my mind already!)

On Saturday night at the lake cottage, the Chap and I--and the girls particularly--experienced the earthquake that struck our state. Only at first we didn't know what it was. Little did we realise that earthquakes make noise--what we assumed was the furnace loudly coming on or a rumble of thunder or a big vehicle backfire or a boat crashing into our dock turned out to be a temblor of 3.1 on the Richter scale. The dogs raced around barking for quite some time.

In subsequent days we learned that nearly everyone who wasn't sleeping through it (the quake struck at 11.28 p.m.) heard a similar sound and their animals were similarly freaked out by the experience. No injuries, no damage--lots of stories.

On Monday evening I met FFTNC for the final wedding dress fitting in Concord and we had dinner at the Lodge with the Chap and the girls. Yesterday FFTNC went shopping and met a friend for lunch. It was damp and misty all day and last evening was positively tropical! Like a rainforest! Today is bright and sunny and less humid and warm. I've spent the day at the Lodge, updating websites (not my own, alas) and tidying my office (nearly have it the way I want it) and planning a trip and marinated some lamb chunks in red wine and coriander and pepper for tonight's shawarma dinner.

I also walked the girls round the little lake. The breeze carries the scent of autumn, the leaves are turning, the wild asters are blooming and the ferns are golden. Someone had a little sailboat out on the water.

Colder weather is on the way soon, bringing more rain. I'm undecided about when I'll next make for the cottage. At this season we study our respective calendars and discuss when we should start closing up. I'm not quite ready yet. We're approaching our wedding anniversary and the anniversary of my very first visit to the cottage as a bride, and it's a special--and beautiful--time to spend there.

But I must admit, living in 2 different locations for the past 6 months, wonderful as it is, makes me ready to hibernate in one place for another 6 months! Plus I've got a worsening case of travel fever....I so try very hard not to go away during cottage season if I can help it. And as soon as the house on the Big Lake is closed up, I'm desperate to expand my horizons.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Morning on the Bay

After an occasionally stressful week, which concluded with some strangely, unseasonably hot weather, we're all thankful to be together at the lake cottage.

The girls and I came up at midday yesterday and the Chap arrived later, directly from his office. We had a pizza feast and marvelled at the warmth.

This morning, after Ruth & Jewel & I returned from our first walk of the day, we all went down to the dock--the Chap & I took our second cups of coffee with us. It was quiet and peaceful and quite deserted. No boats, no ducks, no people. Only a kingfisher gliding right in front of us--too quickly to photograph.

It's still warm but there's a good breeze now.

Tonight we're dining at El Centenario. It's been a few weeks...I've missed it!

Enjoy your weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Soul Food

Yesterday was busy. On our morning walk, the dogs were all too aware that we were marching through rodent territory. With the acorn crop constantly tumbling to the ground, the chipmunks and squirrels were darting about everywhere, a huge temptation to Ruth and Jewel--plenty of tugging on the leashes. Late in the morning Ruth got loose. I saw her wander onto the neighbour's property and assumed she was either chasing a rodent or going to greet someone. I also assumed she'd come trotting right back but she didn't. I called her back, and whistled--she's always very responsive and obedient but not this time. I followed in that direction. No sign of Ruth.

I walked up the hill. I wandered over to the brook. I searched where our and our neighbours' cars are parked. No Ruth.

Because she didn't respond to my calls, I knew she'd roamed out of earshot. Increasingly concerned, I took Jewel to the car and set out on a rescue mission. Jewel, convinced that we were leaving the lake without Ruth, was more than a little freaked out, whining and fussing: "No, stop, we CAN'T go without Ruth! Why are you leaving her behind?" We failed to find a little black and white dog during our driving tour, so I returned to the cottage hoping she'd be standing at the door. She was not.

I rang the neighbours to alert them to the situation. Then I tied Jewel--still whining and agitated--in the side yard as "bait" and went to tidy the kitchen.

A few minutes later I checked on the dog--and found two of them. Ruth had returned after an absence of half an hour or so. Prayers answered.

In a much calmer frame of mind I walked up the road a few houses for our final road meeting of the year, where we approved the budget and contract for re-paving. Immediately afterwards the girls and I returned to the Lodge.

I'd walked off my breakfast and missed my lunch, so I was really glad the Chap and I had a dinner invitation with a friend who is a most excellent and enthuisastic cook. Especially of Asian dishes.

We sat on the porch drinking apple-tinis and catching up. His kitchen was a wonderland of bamboo steamers and spice containers (as seen in the photograph above) and enticing aromas.

He treated us to a first course of steamed lotus leaves stuffed with sticky rice and his outstanding Chinese dumplings.

The second course was Chinese broccoli. The third course was a wonderful spicy curry over rice.

And then, a delicious pineapple upside down cake.

It was an evening of good conversation about family and faith and London, drinking wine and Grand Marnier, and enjoying the attentions of a large and affectionate black dog. He, like Ruth, had run off earlier in the day, and had returned safely.

All around, the hues of autumn are in evidence. I haven't heard yet whether it's expected to be a "good" year for foliage but in my experience there's no such thing as a "bad" year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Non-working breeds

Ruth (reclining on upper step) and Jewel (seated below) are relaxing, an activity at which they have considerable experience. I'm fairly certain I can liven them up with the offer of a road trip later this afternoon.

The air feels cool. Here and there, the leaves are beginning to change hue. I need to shift my summer clothes from closet to storage and replace them with autumn attire!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Primary Day

Even if I hadn't known it was voting day, the national media are all over the story here in NH.

I met all my deadlines for this week's articles and tasks and web updates. There weren't many of them but it's nice to have a clear head and light schedule.

After lunchtime the dogs and I returned to the Lodge--my legal residence--so I can vote. I'm catching up on newspapers and having a cup of tea. In a little while I'll head out to the polling place. After that, a bit of shopping, a dinner date with the Chap, and a diocesan meeting that we attendly jointly.

The highly touted high turnout that was expected might have been a myth. Anecdotally I'm hearing that numbers seem low. The Chap voted on his way to the office, at the height of morning workday rush, and was only the 45th person.

For the first election in quite a long time, I shall not find my name on the ballot. It's a rite of passage for me. A positive one. There's more legislative responsbility next month, but this period of public service is swiftly winding down.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This Day Again

The morning dawned exactly like that one 9 years ago. Pure, cloudless blue sky and sunshine and crisp, clean air. Today is, in fact, almost unbearably identical to September 11, 2001.

Last night at the Lodge the Chap and I were reminiscing, prompted by a History Channel special on the grounding of all the planes within 3 & 1/2 hours.

He'd flown out on the 10th for a business trip that was mean to last a couple of days. A very long and lonely week would go by before I saw him again. He had to drive himself home from Wisconsin in a rental car...the airports were still closed. My parents were in Scotland; my brother in Atlanta. The in-laws were scattered about the country.

"I still have the undershirt and knickers I bought in Beloit, on my way home," my husband said last evening. He'd run out of clean clothes.

I suprised us both by starting to cry.

This morning he wore that t-shirt.

I can't not remember the horror and disbelief that walked with me that day, that week, and ever since. Those events are directly responsible for immediate and gradual changes in our lives. Ultimately he chose to work in a different profession. I changed directions in my writing. We committed ourselves to public service and expanded our volunteer activities. The only thing we didn't alter was our habit of international travel.

In a curious way, I'm rolling back time to 2001. I've ramped down some of my public activities. I'm re-evaluating my volunteer efforts. After 9 years of intense involvement in more things than I will enumerate here, I have an urge to nest--and to be more selective in the way I spend my time in service to others.

And I've returned to the very same writing project that I was beginning to work on in the autumn of 2001. My view of it has changed over time, my focus is different.

All of this gives me an eerie sense of stepping back through the years to pick up pieces of a life only vaguely remembered. I'm still me, but different. The world is the same, yet changed.

I woke at the Lodge today. I was lying in exactly the same spot in bed I was when the local radio announcer broke in to say a "small plane" had crashed into one of the World Trade towers in Lower Manhattan. Only this time the Chap was lying beside me, and a different pair of dogs slumbered on the floor beside our fourposter.

I've blogged about September 11 several times. You can read my reflections if you wish: Remembrances and The Longest Morning and Dividing Line.

I came to the lake cottage today with the dogs...so peaceful, hardly a boat on the water even though it's a weekend. If I didn't already know, nothing could more clearly indicate that Labor Day is behind us.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Glory of the Morning

Our mornings and evenings are beautifully cool now, a great relief after our late summer heat wave of last week, with temperatures 90 and above. We've also received some much-needed rain--though not enough, and not from Hurricane Earl, who fizzled to a drizzle by the time he arrived.

I'm in residence at the Lodge this week, for better access to a multitude of meetings, music lesson, and receiving any overnight guest who might care to stop with us (our FFTNC), her wedding dress fitting (oh, it's so gorgeous), and a series of routine annual medical appointments.

At the weekend I cleared out a very scary section of our attic loft where accumulated clay pots and planters and unused plant stands and partly filled bags of potting soil and stakes and other indoor and outdoor gardening items had taken over. I organised everything and got rid of so much. Assuming it might be useful to others if not to me, we set up a little giveaway spot by the little lake with a sign that said "FREE!" and less than 48 hours later all dozen or so items had vanished.

On the home decor front, I've made changes in our master bedroom (new colour scheme, new duvet cover, new pillows.) I think we might next alter our guest bath/shower room, so I've been busy with the measuring tape and I haunt the aisle of the local Lowe's and Home Depot, picking out cabinetry and tile flooring and sink and stuff.

When I surface again, I'll probably be back at the Big Lake...

Friday, September 03, 2010

Home Improvements

I know, it's been a long time since I popped in. Much of the time I was at the lake cottage, revelling in the solitude--although the Chap and I did attend a neighbourhood cookout on Sunday. Perhaps the record-shattering hot weather (nearly a week of over 90 degrees) sapped my mental energies. Yesterday in Concord my car's temperature gauge fluctuated between 95 and 99. The air is better today, as Hurricane Earl approaches New England. We don't expect much out of it except rain, which might give us a chance to test the efficacy of our new chimney cap, which was installed yesterday.

I've spend so much time away from the Lodge of late that whenever I return, I marvel at the changes here. Our kitchen and dining room renovations are completed. I'm doing a bit of re-decorating in our bedroom as well.

Here's a little tour of what has been accomplished.

New granite counter top, undermount sink, and faucet.

When I was growing up we had a set of Harvest Pear china, and when my mother offered it to me I was delighted. I've got so much china of my own, everyday, antique Blue Willow, and 2 fine china patterns, that I use Harvest Pear for decoration and utility. So I've hung some plates over the counter and use the large pitchers to hold utensils and some of the bowls and other vessels for plants.

The kitchen and dining room walls are now a pale green and the ceiling is creamy white. The French Knot cabinet pulls are new. Am waiting on the back-order to arrive so I can install the matching drawer pulls. Also, there will be a shelf over the microwave, for more cookbooks. Many of them fit perfectly into the topmost cabinet.

When cooller weather arrives all the plants on the deck and the porch will come inside. I decided to buy some antique tables for plants. One of them is this old sewing table--with working foot pump. Once I set it in place, I realised that my great-great grandmother's chair would be a perfect match! She was quite a needlewoman, and needlepointed the chair cover.

And in other chair news, one of the chairs in the upstairs sitting room just returned from the upholsterer. After admiring it, the girls insisted on showing off for the camera.

It's a holiday weekend. Other than a political dinner tonight and watching hurricane coverage on telly, we've got no particular plans. The next fortnight will be madness, so I prefer a quite few days.

Wishing you a lovely weekend, too.