A joyous occasion the weekend before last when we said goodbye to summer with a wedding in our garden.

Our oldest granddaughter, Crystal, married her fiance Bruce (Bo) Howes. Grandpa Max had the great honor of officiating at the ceremony. It was a small wedding, with the exception of four friends, it was just family.

Crystal and Bo had written their vows and planned the ceremony. Her brother, Alex, and his wife Jessalyn, had spent the week before helping them plan how to keep people socially distanced and still have a proper celebration. Tables were scattered about the patio and back yard where the wedding dinner was served.

Crystal’s Auntie Laura and Jessalyn cut flowers from the garden to adorn the tables, and the arch that Alex and Bo had built as a backdrop for the vows.

Crystal was driven to the site in a golf cart accompanied by her mother and father. Leading them were Alex’s children, Lennin and Trigger, driving in their little battery operated Cadillac Escalade.

Trigger and Lennin leading the way.
Crystal’s radiant smile has brightened every occasion since she was a little girl. This day, everyone was smiling.

A wonderful ending to a rather dreary summer.

Bright spots

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We’ve had a bright spots in this lonely summer of the pandemic. Before she left for college mid-August, Cecelia gave us a porch cello concert.

Bach and Beethoven

We had two celebrations the last week of August. Our son, Doug, celebrated his sixtieth birthday. It was a pretty subdued party, we gathered in his backyard, socially distanced, masked, but able to chat and catch up with everyone. It was the first time this year that we’ve been with our daughter, son’s, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, all in one place. Cecelia had already left for college, Granddaughters Leah and Claire live Connecticut, and their brother David is on Olso. They would have completed the party.

Later in the week, Max and I celebrated our anniversary by braving the outside world to spend a night at a little Gloucester inn. We had a lovely dinner on the terrace, overlooking gardens, marsh, and water.

View from our turret window


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I was in my fifties when I got my first passport, and started traveling. Whenever I was away, I sent a postcard to each of my grandchildren from each place I visited. It was the way of keeping in touch. There was no internet, and telephone calls were difficult and expensive.

I traveled alone so the nightly ritual of writing postcards made me feel closer to my family. It also provided me with a way of reviewing my day. I hoped it would also keep me connected to the children when I wasn’t physically there.

Postcards and postage was a big part of my travel budget. I bought way too many postcards, I took my own photos, but postcards depict scenes that I couldn’t capture with the camera. The cards that were never sent have accumulated in a drawer. Occasionally I look through them and remember where they originated, mostly they’re just there.

Social distancing has limited physical contact with friends. We don’t meet for lunch or a movie, there are no bridge nights, and family from out of state aren’t visiting this year. Those dozens of postcards from forty-five countries hidden away in a drawer made me think that I should do something with them. I’ve been mailing them to friends that I’ve not seen in years, and friends that I usually see often. I enjoy choosing a card for a particular person, and crafting a message. It feels so much more personal than email.

In a couple of weeks, Cecelia will leave for Colorado Springs where she’ll enter Colorado College. Social distancing, masks, and other concessions to the pandemic will make a very different experience for her than it was for her brother, Hunton, two years ago.

Cecelia’s final weeks of her senior year meant online classes. The All-School Concert and the annual awards ceremonies were not held. Cancellation of sports, music, and end of the year events left students and teachers using all their creativity to make the end of year activities special.

Graduation itself was via Zoom and video, After the afternoon video program, the students and their families drove to the school where the Beverly Fire and Police Departments led a parade of cars through the campus. The driveway was lined with teacher’s, socially distanced, waving and cheering.

The students, masked, walked across the porch of the house to receive their diplomas.

Cecelia received a silver medal as finalist in Le Grand Concours, the National French Contest.
She also received the Founder’s Award. The prize given to a student or students who best uphold the values of the school set forth by the founders. It is the prize that Hunton received two years ago, and that mom Miranda received when she graduated from Waring in 1990. A tribute to three outstanding people. We are so proud of them.

Congratulations Cecelia and all of the seniors who head into the world in such uncertain times.

There aren’t any.

This is the first summer in memory that we haven’t been making plans for a vacation trip. We won’t be driving to Michigan to visit my sister Beth.

We won’t be taking the ferry to Nova Scotia, and then on to Cape Breton to see the breathtaking coastline.

We won’t be driving to West Branch Pond Camps in Kokajo, Maine for a few days of fishing and relaxing in a primitive log cabin.

I won’t be meeting my friend Theresa, who lives in Beckley, West Virginia for our yearly excursion. We’ve visited gardens and museums in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York City. We’ve toured Falling Waters, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, and spent a few days in Amish Country.

This summer of social isolation, we won’t be enjoying summer theater at the Gloucester Stage Company, or driving to Ontario for the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake. There will be no meals at the Boathouse Grill bar, or Ithaki.

Writing this list of what we are not planning makes me appreciate the richness of our lives. We take so much for granted. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a lovely location, safely cared for by our large family. We watch our great-grandchildren, Lennin and Trig, play in the yard.

Granddaughter Cecelia and her friend Annie practice cello and violin on our porch, private concerts, just for us. We can Skype with two-year old Rowan who lives in Connecticut. There is so much to be grateful for.

We have lovely memories of those wonderful summer trips. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to travel again. In the meantime, we’re just going to enjoy the pleasures of home.

Walking through the orchard store today seemed a little surreal. There are major alterations to the interior, designed to keep customers and staff safe. New walls, plexiglass panels, hand sanitizers, and curbside pickup. Like so many things in our newly changed world, it will take some getting used to. We hope it won’t feel too alien to our loyal customers.

We had been looking forward to showing off our stunning new wine bar. It was built, in Max’s garage, from five different woods, harvested and milled from orchard trees. The design was intended to allow greater ease, and access to wine tastings. For the present, it is there to be admired. Wine tasting is on hold for the present. Perhaps by fall, it will be possible to use it, or not.

My sister in Michigan sent a photo of herself, wearing a scarf tied across her face, taken when she went food shopping. She said that she had been smiling at everyone in the store, but realized that no one could see her smiles. Now she says “hello”. I’m trying to remember to speak when I see someone. We need every human contact that we can manage safely.

The next few weeks and months, the country will be taking first steps in trying to establish a “new normal.” I am curious, and apprehensive, about how that might be.

In the meantime, one day at a time.

This morning the sun is bright. From the window behind my desk, I can see clumps of yellow daffodils, the pink blooms of my magnolia tree, graceful branches of golden forsythia waving in the breeze, and in the distance, the first pale pink peach blossoms.

All are encouraging signs of normalcy. Otherwise, things aren’t normal.

It’s over a month since we went into isolation. No one has been in our house, and we have not been in another house. We see our great-grandchildren playing in front of the house. Our daughter and granddaughter shop for groceries and leave them on our porch. It’s hard to keep track of what day it is. I’m sometimes surprised when our grandson calls to ask if we have any trash or recycle to put out. That means it must be Sunday.

Last week, I went to the orchard office for the first time. I work alone there, although Doug and Miranda are in and out. We are all masked and practicing social distancing. Returning to work gives me a bit of structure to the days. Otherwise, I read, do crossword, or jigsaw puzzles, and cook. I found a great recipe for whole wheat bread with nuts and seeds in it. In the evening Max and I play card games or watch Netflix. My goal for the coming weeks is to begin getting more exercise. These cold gray days, it is hard to get motivated to leave the house for walks.

The orchard store will open next week. How it will function isn’t exactly figured out yet. Safety for everyone will be the first priority. The bakery will have goodies, and the wine shelves well stocked. The greenhouse tomato plants are thriving and by the end of May we should be harvesting asparagus. It will be a work in progress.

Spring is here

Forty Years

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This space has not been updated since the spring. Our summer was marked by some travels and a major change. Our grandson Alex with his wife Jessalyn and their two children are now our next-door neighbors. They’ve bought our house while we will live in the attached guest house.

With aging comes change and for me, life review.

The window over my desk looks onto the orchard where pick-your-own takes place every September and October. Watching wagon-loads of families disembark and disappear among the trees makes me think of forty years ago this fall, our first year as owners of, what was then Goodale Orchards, now Russell Orchards.

We opened on September first 1979 . There were no strawberries or blueberries or peaches, no bakery, no winery. There was a small sales room for selling the cider and pre-bagged apples. Pick-your-own visitors entered from a separate entrance on Northgate Road and often didn’t even come to the orchard store.

There were 900 apple trees planted nearly sixty years earlier, a few pear trees and a shed a mile away where cider was pressed. Over the years, those old trees have almost all been replace by thousands of dwarf or semi-dwarf trees. One of the first changes was adding a cider mill to the back of the barn. Berries, cherries, peaches, and other fruits were planted. A greenhouse was built for growing tomatoes and other vegetables. The bakery followed soon after the cider mill, and then the winery.

Since our beginning in 1979, each of our children have been involved in the orchard in some way before going on to other endeavors. Ten years ago after a tech career the orchard ownership passed on to our son Doug and his wife Miranda who have continued to expand and improve the orchards.

Four of our eight grandchildren grew up on the orchard and we we are delighted that two of our three great-grandchildren will now grow up here.

Life is good.


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The abundance of fruit makes me anxious. I should be doing something with it. I should be freezing and canning and baking. Once my freezer would have been packed with berries, cherries, and peaches. There were jars of different varieties of jams, jellies, and chutneys. It has been a long time since hungry teens, our children and their friends, came to the table with voracious appetites.

I should be… But of course, I shouldn’t. Those days are over and I’m glad that I don’t have to spend sweltering summer days stirring jam over a hot stove, peeling and chopping fruit, and scalding jars for canning. It was a lot of work but worth it at the time.

Our first home had a large cold cellar, it gave me great satisfaction to enter it and see the rows of jars of tomato juice, canned peaches, pickles and relishes. I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment and knowing that we were well supplied with food. I grew up watching my mother and her mother canning and preserving it seemed natural to follow their example.

Soon after World War II, there was, to them, a wondrous invention. In our town a food storage facility opened. It stored food in “lockers”, huge freezers with rows of doors that opened to an individual section. My grandfather rented one to hold the meat from his chickens and pigs. He’d say to Grandma, “I’m going to the locker on my way home from work, what do you want me to pick up?”

There has been a freezer in my cellar since soon after I married but it seemed magical when I was a little girl, that Grandpa could go to the locker and bring home food for dinner.

Is there anything more annoying than trying to get a purchase out of its ironclad plastic packaging? I recently had a drippy cold that I thought some Vicks Nyquil Liqui Capsules might help. It took heavy scissors to cut through the plastic and then I had to pry them out with fingernails.

My new oven thermometer arrived encased in hard plastic that not even my heavy scissors could pierce. Medication bottles come with child-proof packaging. It takes a child about thirty seconds to get into one, I end up having to ask for help. Or how about those little packets of condiments that come sometimes with a sandwich, mustard or catsup or mayonnaise. Often they have a little place that says “open here” but of course, they don’t tear. Fingernails don’t dent the plastic and finally I resort to my teeth, a definite no, no, according to my dentist.

Forty years ago my dear friend and octogenarian, Susan, used to complain about packaging. She remembered when you could go into a store, ask for a pound of sugar, or a few ounces of tea it would be scooped out of a barrel into a paper bag and weighed. Or at the hardware store, bins held screws and bolts, tools were hung on nails Medication tablets came in paper envelopes counted out by the doctor’s nurse or druggist. I found her complaints amusing, now I feel as grouchy as she did.

On a brighter note, the sun is shining and the strawberries are ripe. I love to walk through the orchard and see the bright red berries glistening under the green leaves. Good picking right now.

Some fifty years ago one of our favorite restaurants was the Blue Strawberry in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We went there every few months. They served a seven course fixed price dinner, The only choice was meat, fish, or fowl. The food was creative and delicious. The dining room only seated twenty-six people in a charming brick-walled room.The menu varied from season to season but dessert was always fresh strawberries with bowls of sour cream and brown sugar for dipping. That is still one of my favorite ways to enjoy strawberries and so easy to serve.





May wasn’t quite as bad as April but it was cold and raw. It rained 21 days in April and by May 12th, it already rained 7 days. Enough already! So far in two months we’ve had 32 days of rain. The May flowers did bloom and when the sun shines the garden looks lovely.

Complaining doesn’t do any good but it gives us something to talk about. Everyone I meet has a comment about it. Given that Detroit has had rain on 21 days of the last 28, and the Midwest is getting hammered by tornadoes and floods, I’m going to stop grumbling.

There are good things happening too. The baby plants I got into the ground last week are thriving and I haven’t even had to water. The wildlife gives us something to watch and talk about. There is a brazen little fox who travels around our yard as though she was a house pet. We see her most days. There are wild turkeys strolling around and a robin has made a new in one of our trellises. I was thrilled to find the eggs and have kept watching. The nest is too high for me to see into but I can get the camera within photo range.

Today there are four little feathered robins snuggled into the nest.


Robin’s nest

Dinner time

It’s a full house.

A frequent visitor is our persistent raccoon. If we forget to bring in the bird’s suet, he’s sure to be found balanced on the porch railing, clawing away at it.

Hold on!

If only he wasn’t so messy, Suet all over the window as well as his face.

Tech 1

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“You must pair your device with your television,” read the directions on Max’s compilot. That is a small gizmo to wear around his neck while he watches TV. It is supposed to transmit sound directly from the television to his hearing aids. He can even hear it when I turn the sound down so that I don’t hear it.

“How do I do that?” He asks me as he reads and re-reads the directions.

“I don’t know, I haven’t read the directions.” I look at the booklet, it’s gobble-de-gook. “Have you charged the battery?”

“Yes, of course.” He pushes buttons and turns the sound up and down and gets more and more frustrated. “This doesn’t work, it’s no good, a waste of money.”

We call Cecelia, our seventeen-year-old granddaughter. She reads the manual and doesn’t seem at all puzzled. “Just push this button and hold this button and…” Voila, it’s working.

A few scenes of spring:

We wait eagerly for the first Baltimore Oriole of the year. This one arrived May 4th.

May 7th the first hummingbird.

Three years we’ve planted magnolia trees, finally one survived the winter.

This azalea blooms spring and fall. It is a winner.

The crew has been busy for the past few weeks getting ready for opening day. There is always excitement and anticipation when we open the doors on May 1. The barn is again redolent with the fragrance of baking pies and frying donuts. Fresh coffee, cider, and other goodies wait for the return of our friends and neighbors. Although the weather could be better we know it will soon be warm. Outside my window I can see a cloud of pink peach blossoms over a field to my right. When the apple trees bloom in a couple of weeks there will be clouds of sweet smelling pink and white flowers as far as I can see.

I have vivid memories of our first visit to the orchard forty years ago in March 1979. Max, weary of working as an aerospace engineer, heard about an orchard for sale. We had to walk through it. I just remember a cold day, what warmth the weak winter sun might supply was negated by the stiff breeze that whipped over the open spaces. The apple trees were unimpressive. They were gnarled and barren. The trunks were knotted and twisted, big limbs splayed horizontally, hanging not far from the ground in places. They looked too weary to go on. The walk seemed interminable, I shivered as the wind blew off from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.  I didn’t think the trees looked very promising.

We had to tour the barn, it was equally unimpressive. It was a huge old structure with big double doors at both ends. Once upon a time those doors would have allowed a team of horses and a wagon of hay to pull straight through. Now a weird looking wooden contraption took up space in the middle of the floor. We were told that it was used for sorting and sizing apples. Open lofts on either side held stacks of wooden bushel boxes, blackened with age. A smaller room had been built to one side, it was the sales room where customers came to buy apples and cider. Against the back wall was a stone fireplace and along the sides a few brightly painted two tiered green stands hugged the walls. They would hold bagged apples during the selling season. The outside of the barn was pocked with spots where shingles had blown away.

Not a very auspicious beginning but determination, hard work, and a vision turned the orchard into a great place to work and live. For the past fifteen years, Doug and Miranda have continued the vision and hard work to make it a productive farm as well as a place for people to visit and enjoy.

A friend in Norway sent me this recipe.  I sent it to Hunton who made it for his roommates, he pronounced it a winner. On his recommendation, I made it for a group of friends, definitely a winner. It is incredibly easy. No crust to make and roll out, no need to peel the apples, just mix everything together and bake.

Swedish Apple Pie
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 generous cups of coarsely chopped apples
(Optional: Add 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts)

1) Mix first 6 ingredients together to make a thick batter.
2) Stir the apples and nuts into the batter, mixing well.
3) Pour into a well buttered 9-inch pie pan.
4) Sprinkle the top with the mixture of sugar and cinnamon.
5) Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the apples are easily pierced with a fork and the batter looks dry.

Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.

This was so easy and so good. Of course the ice cream or whipped cream are my choices but it is good without either






















































































The directions were very specific. Turn off from highway 321 onto Dollywood Lane. It will turn into Upper Middle Creek Road. Turn right onto Boogertown Road which will eventually be Powdermill Road. Turn right onto Manis Hollow Road which will turn into Loafer’s Glory Way. At the stop sign at the top of the mountain, turn left onto E. View Drive. There will be a hidden drive after the second cabin on the right.

The directions didn’t say that every one of these roads twisted and climbed and dropped and at times the road narrowed with sharp drop-offs on the left or the right. Or that once found, the hidden driveway was hidden because it dropped so steeply that it felt like we were going over a precipice.

We were on our way to a family reunion in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. These directions took us to the top of a mountain and a charming little cabin that we were renting for two nights. The reunion was nine miles away, down and up more twisty roads and we would need to make the trip up and down four times, once at night. It was an adventure.

Once submerged in the hot tub on the back deck with only stars above our heads, it seemed worth the journey.

Yesterday I got on the train to Boston and realized that I did not have my phone. It had been in my pocket and apparently slipped out as I was getting out of the car.

I don’t think that I’m addicted to my devices, especially my phone. It is true that I send a few texts, look things up on google occasionally, and read the New York Times headlines every day, but, I don’t play games or read books or watch YouTube or movies on it. It isn’t really a necessity for me…

Until I don’t have it. As I was getting out of the car I told Max that I’d call to let him know what train I would be taking home. I felt a real moment of panic. How could I let him know without my phone?And the phone is my only way to tell the time. What if I couldn’t be sure I was on time for my appointment. The train was late getting in, I had to get the T across town. What if it took longer than usual and I couldn’t call to let the office know that I might be late?

I have traveled all over the world without a phone, or a table or a computer and don’t remember ever worrying about how I would manage. How did I become so dependent on a device!

I did get across town and was on time for my appointment. I did get back to the train station in time for the 4:30 train to Ipswich. I remembered that there is a pay phone at the Ipswich station. It would be just fine.

The payphone didn’t work, it was raining, everyone else had disappeared while I fumbled with quarters that kept dropping to the return slot. I felt like crying. A man was approaching, I asked if I could use his phone. “Yes, of course.” Max was waiting for my call, he picked me up and took me to dinner, a reward for the day’s trauma.

Swedish Apple Pie

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Our grandson Hunton is in his first semester of college in Colorado. His mom has been sending him Care packages of apples. He texted me last week asking for an apple pie recipe. By chance, that same day my friend Cheryl in Norway had sent me a recipe she called Swedish Apple Pie (not sure why it isn’t Norwegian Apple Pie but…). I sent it on to Hunton. The next day I got a message from him. “Made the Swedish Apple Pie last night for my friends, they loved it, it was gone 2 minutes after it came out of the oven.”

This is the first year of his life that Hunton hasn’t been home at the orchard during apple season but his texts and Instagram posts look like he is managing very well. It seems lonely here without him. Sending a child off on their own for the first time is sad but necessary. His mom and dad seem to be holding up well. I imagine a busy apple season must help.

Hunton, 2000


Swedish Apple Pie

1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 ts baking powder
1/4 ts salt
1 ts vanilla

Mix all ingredients above and then add 2 cups apples and whatever else you like- raisins, pecans (or other nuts)

Put in a pie dish and top with sugar and cinnamon (use ginger or nutmeg if you don’t like cinnamon).

Bake 35 minutes at 175°C.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if you like.

Hunton baking, 2003

The British Cook , Hunton is at home in the kitchen.

A Little History

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It’s thirty-nine years since we bought Goodale Orchards and began our farming life. The orchard had already been operating for nearly fifty years and didn’t bear much resemblance to what exists today. The apple trees were few, old, tall, and gnarled. The section for pick-your-own was at the far end of the orchard, with a big field for parking that was off Northgate Road. We sold apples, cider, preserves, and candy in the orchard store. No cider donuts, no wine, no bakery, no ice cream or summer fruits.

We sometimes think back to those early years and marvel at the changes. The whole family contributed to the orchard along the way. After a few years, Max became tired of the question, “Do you work for the Goodales?” He changed the name to Russell Orchards. There are now thousands of dwarf trees, berries, veggies, peaches… The list goes on and on: bakery, winery, hay rides, and animals.

Long gone are pre-bagged apples lined along green painted shelves in the small room (now the wine tasting room) that was the store part of the barn.  Our first year the cash register was a sectioned drawer in a small table that sat by the door. We used a hand-held calculator to add up purchases and counted out change in the old way. On slow days, we put a basket on the table so customers could come in and help themselves, leaving money in the basket.

Today our son Doug and his wife Miranda are continuing to change and add to and improve the orchard. It is wonderful to see the PYO fields from the window above my desk and see the steady stream of hay wagons dropping people off to pick apples and taking people with full bags back to the barn store. It has been a great adventure.

Barn in 1979

View from the back porch of the farmhouse. The greenhouse is now here.

The end of the barn with the new animal shed we built in 1979. The old gas pump was used for the tractors. The equipment barn and the animal barn is now here.

This was taken a few years later. Cider was sold from these old refrigerators and we’d added some local cheese for sale.


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The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is a book I recently read. It was written by Margareta Magnusson who says that she is between 80 and 100 but she has no plan to die soon. Sort of like me. She has five children and doesn’t want them faced with the chore of getting rid of a lifetime accumulation of things. Sort of like me.

I’m pleased when I read her suggestions and realize that I’ve already done many of the things she recommends. I’ve called it “downsizing”. My photos are digitized, important papers are filed and easy to find and my closet only holds clothes that I wear. After a life time of collecting things, I’ve spent the past twenty years getting rid of them. There are some things I haven’t quite managed to let go of. Small pieces of china that belonged to my grandmother who died when I was ten. Several damask tablecloths and more than fifty napkins that were also my grandmother’s. There are gifts that I never used but never could give away.

I have two bins of Christmas ornaments that haven’t been opened in years. There is a chasen, a Japanese tea whisk made of bamboo that reminds me of a tea ceremony that I was invited to in Japan. There is the hand embroidered tea towel given to me by a Romanian friend and a stone from Australia. These objects and many more are tucked away, there’s no room for them in our little house. There’s no need for me to keep them for someone else to sort after I’m gone.

It’s time to do some more Döstädning (dö, Swedish for death and städning for cleaning).

One idea that I am going to use is a Throwaway box. Magnusson says that she’s putting things into it that don’t mean anything to anyone else but that are still precious to her. Some love letters, special cards, old photos and small objects.  After she’s gone, she hopes that her family will have no problem tossing the whole box.


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We are feeling a sense of loss today. Hunton, our youngest grandson, left for college Friday.  Six other grandchildren have also gone away to college but it seems like this one is especially bitter-sweet. He is the only one who had grown up next door to us. We will miss him popping through the door with a “Hi Gramps,” and sprawling his six foot length along the window seat. He and Grampy watch soccer and golf chatting about the players and the teams and the sports.  I listen, enjoying their shared experience.

Watching children and grandchildren grow from infancy to adulthood is a wonderful experience but it comes at a cost of loss. The past nineteen years have flown by so quickly leaving us a bit stunned. This tall handsome young man is the same chubby baby who chortled on our laps, the toddler who shared Grampy’s peanut butter and honey sandwiches at lunch time, the boy who built amazing contraptions out of scraps of wood. He built camps in the marsh and the orchard, created videos of cooking demonstrations and other creative Youtube clips. Star athlete, good student, and a good friend. He awed us by joining his mother and sister in Miranda’s annual concert and later singing in school soirees.

We know that Hunton is beginning an important stage of his life and despite the geographical distance, we are with him all the way.

Hunton visiting his namesake and great-grandfather. With them are cousins Eric Hunton and Jalen Hunton.


Skiing Tuckerman’s Ravine                           Skiing, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, all Hunton’s sport

The British Chef taping a video for Youtube.

The heat this summer seems more oppressive than usual. It is hard to find the energy to do much more than the bare essentials. All spring I looked forward to summer bounty from the orchard and gardens and now it seems a bit overwhelming. Peaches still cluster on tree branches despite the bushels that have been harvested. I bought jars to make Peach Freezer Jam but as each day passes I think, “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Our peaches are so ripe that juice drips from my fingers as I eat one. That’s the way peaches should be, sweet and juicy and delicately flavored. I used to be frustrated that I couldn’t buy peaches that were actually ripe. Picking them while still quite firm is better for storing but, to me, a peach has to be soft and juicy. Contrary to common belief, peaches may soften after they’re picked, but they don’t actually ripen more.

Tomatoes, peppers, and onions are just some of the vegetables that call to me. Once upon a time I would have been canning tomatoes, simmering tomato sauce, filling jars with dill pickles and grinding up cucumbers, green tomatoes, peppers and onions for piccalilli. This ennui makes me feel guilty, I should be taking advantage of all this bounty.

Blueberries are still plentiful, blackberries look to be a bumper crop, cherries, currants, and raspberries are finished but looking out the window over my desk, I can see apple trees hanging heavily with apples. I would soon be able to make applesauce and apple pies for the freezer but I won’t. When I had a family of seven to feed, the freezer and fruit cellar shelves couldn’t hold too much food. Now even if I found the ambition to preserve all these wonderful fruits and vegetables, two old people wouldn’t made a dent in them.

Even so, we have fresh blueberries on our cereal, tomatoes daily, salads with lovely greens from the garden and juicy peaches for dessert. I will make the jam, probably peach-blackberry, and put a few bags of sweet corn in the freezer. That’s one of the best vegetables to freeze and one of the easiest. I blanch the ears in boiling water for a minute. Cool them in an ice water bath, cut the kernels off and freeze serving size portions in plastic bags.  Last year I froze mounds of corn on a waxed paper lined tray and then vacuum sealed them. Out of the freezer, I just put the pouch in simmering water and serve when hot.

I found a new vinaigrette recipe that we like a lot. It is made with Balsamic vinegar that is reduced by half by simmering, before being combined with other ingredients. I is a bit more complex and holds up well to spinach and romaine salads.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cups olive oil
1 scant tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 scant tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Place vinegar in a small sauce pan and bring to boil. Boil until reduced by half, 3 or 4 minutes. Pour into a bowl with other ingredients and whisk until completely blended. If it seems too thick, thin with a little water. The mustard seems to keep it pretty well emulsified. I usually put it into a glass jar and shake vigorously until it’s blended, then store it in the jar.




I’m certainly not in the Anthony Bourdain or M.F.K. Fisher food adventuring league but I’ve eaten some interesting food in many places around the world.

In the past thirty years, I’ve eaten meals in forty-five different countries and enjoyed most of them. One that stands out as perhaps the best meal I’ve ever eaten wasn’t in Paris or Rome or San Francisco but at The Wheathill, a tiny restaurant in the small town of Bangor, Northern Ireland. It was deceptively simple, slices of perfectly cooked chicken breast with mushrooms and spinach. The chicken was tender, moist and delicious. We were told that it was locally grown chicken, brined and then cooked sous vide. Delicious.

Usually it isn’t the food that is memorable, it is the people who have shared their homes and lives with me. Food is a universal way of bonding with others and I’ve enjoyed some wonderful meals and experiences.

Saki toast in Kyoto. 2005

In Japan I was invited to stay in a Minka, an old traditional Japanese home with sliding walls and tatami mat flooring. After a chilly day visiting temples where I had to remove my shoes and walk barefoot on icy floors, I was warmed by a bath in a deep steaming tub before sitting down to a feast prepared by my hostess Toshie, in a tiny, tiny kitchen. Tofu, mustard greens, meat  and noodles, all separately boiled in a pot at the table. There was also rice with slices of pickled mushrooms and vinegar as well as cucumbers and tomatoes.

Breakfast in Russia, 2008

I’ve been on very few organized tours but in Russia, I took a river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Along the way the travelers were divided into groups of eight and taken to breakfast in a private home. Natasha and Mama lived in a huge gray concrete apartment block. Despite its dreary exteriour, their tiny apartment was warm and welcoming. They served porridge and blinis with homemade jam for breakfast. Neither Natasha or Mama spoke a word of English but we seemed to communicate. After the meal Mama brought out song sheets and led us in singing. That led to much laughter and fun.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 2004

In Kyrgyzstan I joined a Habitat for Humanity work party. We were rehabbing old apartments for several families. I spent two weeks scraping paint off from window casings and scrubbing walls. What made it fun was getting to know the Kyrgyz people. They prepared lunch for us each day. Often it was al fresco, served on the grassy dirt in the courtyard. They laid down a long tablecloth surrounded by rugs and mats for us to sit on They prepared the food in their own homes and often carried by bus, to our work site. The food was always fresh, hot and plentiful. There were bowls of fresh fruit (strawberries, peaches, apricots, sweet cherries and raspberries), cucumbers and tomatoes with dill, and two kinds of bread were always spread the length of the cloth. Meals were sometimes a clear, spicy soup with big chunks of potatoes and carrots with a beef or lamb bone and a bit of meat for flavor. Other times there would be a traditional noodle or rice dish with bits of meat. Everything was served on china dishes accompanied by tea served in china cups.

I’ve had great good fortune in being able to travel and experience different cultures and foods.


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No water! Not a drop for two days.

The sink is full of dirty dishes, drinking water is coming from melted ice cubes (thankfully a good supply in the freezer), the counter has honey all over it from refilling a honey bear. When I made dinner last night, I became aware of how many times I run my hands under water as I’m preparing food. No showers—or hand washing—or  laundry. The toilet is marginal, kept nearly under control by gray water in a barrel outside. We can pour a bucketful down the hopper occasionally.

During the storm last Friday, we heard a crash and thought that lightning had struck nearby but we couldn’t find any damage. Friday evening we realized that we were only getting a trickle of water from the taps and by Saturday morning, no water. We were unable to reach the repair people until this morning. As I write, they are replacing a pump in the well.

Other countries seem to be much more willing to conserve. I’ve noticed that guests visiting us from Japan and Europe turn the shower on to get wet and then turn it off again while they soap and shampoo, then turn it on again for a fast rinse. I’m guilty of standing under a hot shower long after I could have turned it off. I’m reminded of a visit to Australia a few years ago. I stayed in nine different homes over the course of six weeks. In every one, a bucket in the shower collected water for the gardens. Dirty dishes were collected in a pan all day and washed together at the end of the day.

In hotels there is nearly always a sign in the bathroom talking about water usage and asking that guests hang their towels if they will reuse them. We hang them and almost always, they are replaced by fresh towels.

Ipswich has a water ban in place, as do many nearby communities. Most of us read about water shortages and agree with conservation measures but don’t necessarily follow them closely. Our weekend experience has made me much more aware of how much I take water for granted. I’m determined to do better.



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In 1995 I was volunteering at the International Institute of Boston where I had been trained to teach English as a Second Language. I was assigned to Kleng, a Vietnamese refugee woman. Her husband and four older children were attending classes in ESL but she was at home with a small child.

I went to their Dorchester apartment twice a week for three years. Often the entire family would sit around the table and participate in the lessons. We became great friends and have remained good friends since.

Although Vietnamese, they were members of the Montagnard, a tribal group from the Central Highlands. The Montagnard are Christian and have long been persecuted in Vietnam, especially after the war because had they sided with the Americans.

Dong, the head of the family spent time in prison after the war. As Kleng learned English she told stories of unimaginable hardship. She is a tiny woman, who would climb into the mountains to gather bundles of wood for fuel to cook and then carry them home on her back. When her husband was imprisoned, she carried an infant daughter and ten pounds of rice to visit him weekly. A lengthy bus ride and then a walk of several miles.

Last weekend Max and I were delighted to be invited to the wedding of their daughter Lyia. Lyia was in middle school when the family moved to Boston. By the time she graduated from high school she had become proficient in English and graduated at the top of her class. She went on to college and earned a degree in Graphic Arts and recently graduated from college with a BSN. She and her husband, Dustin, are both registered nurses now.

I’ve been enriched by my relationship with this family and am grateful that they’ve been part of my life.

Kleng with daughter Lyia and her new husband, Dustin

Kleng is wearing a Montagnard traditional dress made for her by her oldest daughter who lives in Vietnam

“Someday people will be able to talk on the phone and see each other at the same time.” My father used to say this during our very brief and expensive telephone calls after I married and moved twenty-five hundred miles away from home.

My father was a milkman with a high school education, He was not a curious or technical minded person. He had been devastated when I moved so far away. I believed that seeing a person over the telephone was a fantasy and wish that he was expressing. It certainly seemed impossible to me.

Now I can Whatsapp my sister in Michigan and talk for an hour for free. I can see her new hairstyle and how she has rearranged her living room.

My granddaughter-in-law can post photos and videos on Instagram and seconds later, I get a ping on my phone letting me know they are there.

We watch the news on television. Something he sees makes Max ask, “Where are the Canary Islands?” I’m not exactly sure. I whip out my phone and Google it.

In the 1960s we moved next door to Susan Story Wonson, a lovely woman who had been born in 1886. I often visited her on Sunday afternoons. Her stories charmed me.

Winston Churchill died the month after we moved next to Susan. She made it very clear what she thought of him. “Oh, that dreadful man.” One summer as a little girl her family had traveled by train to Bar Harbor where they stayed at a big resort hotel. Winston Churchill, in his teens then, teased her by tugging at her long, red, ringlets. Seventy-eight years later she still couldn’t abide hearing his name. Even his WWII leadership couldn’t change her opinion of him.

Susan marveled that she had been born to horse and buggy and was now living in the age of jetliners. Telephones, television, space exploration, a man on the moon even.

One of her stories was about her longing for electricity. By the 1940’s most American homes had electricity, but not the Wonsons. Each evening Susan’s father would go to the cellar to stoke the coal furnace and to smoke one pipe. She would carefully rehearse her argument for installing electricity, not the whole house, just one line into the corner of the living room where she could read and sew. He would return to their sitting room, adjust the gas lamp, settle in his wing back chair, and pick up his book. Susan would give her carefully reasoned argument, he would not acknowledge her words and soon retire for the night. He never said no, he just never said anything.

The first thing that Susan did after her father’s death in 1946 was to install electricity throughout the house.

I wonder what Susan would have thought of Snapchat and Whatsapp and Facebook. Sometimes I wonder what I think.

My mom and me with Susan Wonson, Christmas 1970

My father has been gone for fourteen years but I still miss him. He was the sweetest, most gentle man I’ve ever known. Daddy taught me by example. He was a man who always tried to see both sides of an issue. If someone was rude to him he’d say, “I don’t know what kind of a day that man/woman has had, I don’t think they’re mad at me.” My friends have often commented that I wouldn’t know an insult if I was given one. I always assume, like Daddy that they’ve had a hard day.

Driving down a street in town he’d wave at everyone. When I’d ask, “Who is that?” He’d reply, I don’t know but they might know me.”

Daddy was a religious man in the tradition of the old Scottish Presbyterian church. He didn’t believe in shopping on Sunday (it meant you were causing another person to work), or smoking or drinking (defiling the body). He thought card playing was associated with gambling, therefore was wrong, and he believed that dancing led to danger. He had a little booklet describing how dancing could arouse passions.

We waged silent battles around some of these restrictions. I didn’t want to smoke but refused to “take the pledge” (sign a paper saying that I’d never drink alcohol). My friends and I played cards hour after hour and my mother intervened so that I could go to school dances. Daddy never gave up on me and I always tried to please him.

Dancing with my father, 1990

A photo that I’ve always treasured was taken at my nephew Eric’s wedding. I persuaded Daddy to dance with me. His first and only time on a dance floor.



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My brother Charles passed away yesterday after a long struggle with COPD. Just a few weeks ago he had moved to South Carolina to live near his son, Brad. Throughout his last week he was surrounded by family. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren visited often, his granddaughter Nicole spent nights by his bedside and his wife Virginia held his hand through the long days. Brad was there at all hours of the day and night. A few weeks ago, in a telephone call, Charlie had said with sadness, that the three of us siblings would probably never be together again. I think he was aware that our sister and I were both there to say goodbye.

Charlie was two years younger than I and had lived in Florida for many years. We both married young and lived in different parts of the country. Over the years we saw each other occasionally, usually at weddings or funerals. The past few years, as his health worsened, I tried to visit him at least once a year.

On those visits we would reminisce about our childhood, share photos of children and grandchildren, play cards, go out to dinner, and take excursions to area attractions. His son and grandchildren lived in other parts of the country. I had never even met his daughter-in-law, Elaine, until two years ago and don’t remember ever meeting his grandchildren.

I watched his family as they surrounded him with love and care. I knew him as my younger brother, a man with a great sense of humor who enjoyed meeting people and playing golf. He was a man who loved to sing he loved to talk. Last week I saw him in a different way, as an adored father and grandfather. A gentle man who had always been there for his family and who would leave a great void in their lives.

I feel privileged to have been able to share in his last hours and sorry that I hadn’t really known the lovely, nurturing side of him.

Charlie and me, June 1940

Charlie, 1956




Charlie ~1953

Family wedding 1999

Any grandparent will tell you that one of the greatest pleasures in life is spending time with grandchildren. Over the years we have delighted in watching our eight grandchildren negotiate their world. There has been much laughter, occasional tears, and always enthusiasm and energy. From preschool sing-alongs and library story hours to soccer games and camping trips, jigsaw puzzles and games, and many excursions, our grandchildren have given us great joy. Our youngest grandchildren, Hunton and his sister Cecelia, have always been a delight. We’ve loved the birthdays and holidays that mark the years for them and our older grandchildren.

Last week we watched proudly as Hunton, graduated from the Waring School. He shared the Founder’s Prize with his friend and classmate, Jackson. The prize is given to a student or students who best uphold the values of the school set forth by the founders. It is a prize that his mother received when she graduated from Waring in 1990.

Jackson and Hunton after receiving their award

Graduation is also a bittersweet time for grandparents as well as parents. The children are ready to go out into the world. Often that means going far away as Hunton will do in August when he leaves for Colorado College. In two years Cecelia will also be making her way in the world.

Over the past few weeks we’ve watched Hunton bring the house down with a rousing “I Am A Pirate King” from The Pirates of Penzance at a school event. His sister Cecelia sang the solo “Laudamus Te” from Vivaldi’s Gloria in the all-school concert, the same solo her mother, Miranda, had sung at the school when she was a student. Given their mother’s talent as well as that of their grandmother Daisy Nell, it is little surprise that Hunton and Cecelia are following in their musical footsteps.

The Pirate King

Hunton after graduation wearing his laurel wreath with sister Cecelia at his side.



As we watch Hunton and Cecelia move into their adult years, we have other joys awaiting us. Saturday we will celebrate our great-grandson TJ’s first birthday. His sweet sister, two year old Lennin will be there also. In March we welcomed another great-granddaughter, Rowan. We have much fun to look forward to.




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Photo albums fill my bookcases. One for every year since 1974 and one for nearly every trip I’ve taken. I have just been going through the photos taken over the winter. Hundreds and I will have to choose a few that are representative.

I’m not sure how we decided to go to Malta but it was a good choice. We were charmed by the island and its history. A rocky limestone cropping in the Mediterranean at the intersection between Europe and North Africa, it was first inhabited 7000 years ago. Although everyone speaks English (it was an English colony for 150 years) Maltese is the language we heard everywhere. It developed through years of invasions by neighboring countries. Most significant influences are Sicilian-Italian and Arabic.

Arial photo of Valletta.  By CatalinBindiu – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51396861

I found this photo online, it gives a good perspective of the city and the country as a whole, although it doesn’t capture the steepness of the city.

We stayed at two different Airbnb apartments in Valletta, the capitol city and another in Burgu, just across the harbor. The first was close to the water which meant that we had to walk up a steep hill to get to any other part of town. All were in old buildings built of, what else, limestone.

The stairs leading down from our first apartment. The steps are worn from hundreds of years of footsteps.

The apartment in Burgu was charming with a kitchen in the cellar, a small balcony off the second floor living space and two steps up to the tiny bathroom. A treacherous climb for two senior travelers.





Public transportation was impressive. At the city gates, a fleet of buses go to every corner of the island, few taking more than an hour to get to any location. A forty-five minute bus ride took us to Marsaxlokk a town known for its colorful fishing boats. We had lunch overlooking the harbor.

A typical steep street leading up to the city center. The balconies on the buildings are found all over the island.


One day we visited the village of Siggiewi and the Heritage Limestone Park and Gardens. The displays showing how limestone has been cut throughout the ages were fascinating. No machinery was used until after World War II.  There are temples built of limestone that are 6000 years old. It was hard to imagine how those early people could carve stone to make those structures. As we walked back to the bus stop we heard a loud roar, I said it sounded like an elephant trumpeting, Max said it sounded like a lion. We looked back and, it was a lion.

Tulip “Miranda”

Last year when I visited Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, I saw this stunning tulip. I had to have it for my garden. It’s in full bloom now.


In early January we were in Las Terrenas, a town in the Dominican Republic. We’ve gone there several winters. It’s a time for reading and relaxing and painting. One thing we have a hard time with in DR is the way trash is disposed of. After a big rain, the beach will be lined with all kinds of debris, mostly plastic and most of that empty bottles. It was nice to see them being put to use.

Christmas tree Las Terrenas style

Later in the month we spent ten days in Jamaica’s Treasure Beach, a quiet part of the country several hours from the big cities and resorts on the island. Denford, who has worked at the orchard for many years met us at the airport to take us to our hotel. It was dark and raining. A three hour trip took us seven hours wandering up and down washboard roads. Denford did an amazing job of avoiding the biggest potholes. There were no road signs to show us the way. No stores were open and when we occasionally saw a person to ask for directions, they didn’t seem to have heard of Treasure Beach. We finally found it by following signs for a restaurant we knew was there.

We spent a day with the JAMS, our collective name for our Jamaican workers. Max had visited them before, twelve years ago. It was my first visit.We met Ivan’s lovely wife Sharon and two of his sons. Then had lunch with Boisie, where we met one of his sons. Bob lives nearby, there we met his sweet daughter and his mother-in-law. Billy and Denford came to see us there. The only one missing was Phillip (Fast Car) who lives some distance from the others. They are now back at the orchard where Boisie is beginning his twenty-ninth year.

Ivan, Denford, Max, Billy, Boisie and Bob in front. Oliver, our driver is on the right with Billy’s brother behind him.

Ivan and Sharon with their son, Ivan Junior

Yesterday morning when we got up, there was a Baltimore Oriole on our deck railing. While eating dinner, we saw the first hummingbird of the season. Our first oriole sighting last year was on April 30th but given the cold spring, we were expecting the birds to be late in arriving. They must have amazing internal clocks that move them north at the same time every year.

Baltimore Oriole, first sighting of the year.

I can see part of the orchard from my window. Yesterday I could see a smattering of peach blossoms, the hot weather was perfect for them. This morning I can see a pink cloud from my desk. The magnolia is about to drop its blossoms and the leaves are appearing. The daffodils have been blooming for a couple of weeks and today, the first of our tulips are opening.

Peach blossoms


First tulip

My roses, alas, didn’t fare so well. I have had nine tea roses for years that were vigorous and gave us glorious roses all summer. This spring, only one looks good. The rest had blackened canes that showed no signs of life. I pruned them all to the ground. This morning, I see leaves appearing from the base of the plant on five of them. Maybe they will make it after all.

Late this afternoon I walked through our gardens again. More tulips are starting to open. I love this time of year when the earth seems to waken, sending an explosion of color to us. The trees burst into different shades of green and spring flowers brighten gardens all through town. Driving along North Main Street today I was awed by a huge magnolia tree. It is already past its true glory but I had to stop and photograph it.

Magnolia on North Main Street.





Happy Days

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All kinds of good things happening. It looks like spring might finally have arrived. From my window I can see six inches of tulips leaves poking up in the soil and some of the daffodils look almost ready to bloom. I’m planning to prune my roses today, they don’t look like they’ve done well over the winter.

Grampy and I spent the winter traveling in warmer climes. We came home late in March to be here to welcome another great-granddaughter. Rowan Russell Minter was born March 29th. She is the daughter of our granddaughter Leah. She joins her cousins, Lennin Lou and Trigger John Russell, the children of our grandson, Alex. They make our lives even richer.

Last night, we were blown away by seeing Miranda Russell, our daughter-in-law perform at the Larcom Theater in Beverly. Her yearly concert is something we look forward to. Last night she was joined on stage by her children, Hunton and Cecelia. Perhaps only a grandparent can appreciate the feelings of pride and love that filled my heart, watching them sing.

 Miranda, Cecelia, and Dolly Farha, one of Cecelia’s classmates.

Daisy Nell, Miranda’s mom, Hunton, Cecelia, and Miranda.


Miranda, Gareth Buhl, Hunton, Eli Biletch, and Tano Barendsen-Rossi,  Hunton’s classmat

Today’s sunshine, the new baby, the concert, all make me joyful this morning.

The orchard is awakening from a hard winter. Buds are swelling and I can see a tinge of color across the peach trees from my window. The orchard store will open next Saturday, April 28th, a new orchard year begins.

The fragrance of apples as I walked through the orchard jolted me into the realization that summer is waning. Already the nights are cooler and the days just perfect with warm temperatures and low humidity. In the orchard store, the scent of peaches still predominates but that will soon be overpowered by the presence of all kinds of apples.

We spent several weeks traveling in July and August. It was fun but also makes me feel like I’ve missed summer. We hadn’t made travel plans other than my trip to Vieques, One morning Max said, “Let’s go to Nova Scotia,” so we did. We spent several days on Cape Breton Island, the northern part of Nova Scotia. We followed The Cabot Trail,  a drive that follows the stunning coast line around the northern edge of the island. Intrigued by a little dot on the map called Meat Cove we turned down a dirt road that ended at a lovely little cove with a campground and a restaurant. It is on the northernmost  part of Nova Scotia and got its unusual name because it was a stopping place for early seamen to come ashore and hunt game for meat.


Cape Breton Island coast.

Nova Scotia was the site of some fierce battles between the French and English, both wanting a foothold in North America. We visited Fort Louisbourg, built by the French as both a fort and a settlement. It was lost to the British who abandoned it when they settled further inland. It was buried over the centuries. It has been excavated and rebuilt to look like the original. We had lunch in a tavern there. Our wine and turkey pie were served in a pewter cup and bowl, our only utensil a pewter spoon. Potatoes were considered poisonous by the French in that period so the vegetables were carrots and turnips.


Turkey Pie ala 1744

Prince Edward Island is only an hour away from Nova Scotia by ferry. We spent a day driving through prosperous farmland, charming villages and beautiful beaches. There were also some striking red cliffs in addition to the long red sand beaches. It looks like a lovely place to spend a week.

PEI Cliffs

PEI Beach




The first week of July I spent a few days on the island of Vieques just off the coast of Puerto Rico. The rustic lodge was in the rain forest with the sound of frogs peeping lulled me to sleep and the chirping of birds wakened me. There I feasted on tropical fruits. Every morning the day started with mangoes and starfruit picked from trees just outside our door.

The fruit season here at the orchard starts slowly in June with the queen of fruit, strawberries. Before we get our fill of those, suddenly the raspberries and cherries and blueberries and peaches are ripening. I have blueberries on my cereal, snack on cherries mid-morning, eat a peach for lunch and make raspberries smoothies in the evening. Summer wealth.

Walking through the orchard I see the pears and apples, still small and green but I know that by the end of August they will start to ripen as the summer fruits finish for the year.

There was a time when I would have been baking daily making pies and crisps and rich fruit desserts but I don’t do that much anymore. Lemon squares were always a family favorite. I discovered they are even better with blueberries added. They freeze well so it is worth making some to keep on hand for an occasional treat. I cut them into squares, freeze them on a tray without them touching each other. Once frozen I can put them together in a container.

Lemon Blueberry Squares

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces

4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Mix the flour and the powdered sugar together. Process with the butter in a food processor or cut the chunks of butter into the flour and sugar with a fork or fingers until the dough holds together when pressed.
2. Press the mixture firmly over the bottom of a greased or parchment paper lined 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven until the crust is golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.
3. While the crust is baking mix sugar, flour and baking powder together. Whisk the eggs with the sugar mixture. 
4. Whisk in the lemon juice and lemon peel, then stir in the blueberries.
5. Pour the egg mixture over the browned crust. Return to the oven and bake until the filling is just firm and does not move when the pan is gently nudged, about 25 minutes. 
6. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. 

Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Oh my, June is nearly over. Today we have blue skies, temperature just under 80° and almost no humidity.  A perfect day. Although we’ve had a lot of chilly wet weather earlier in the month is seems to have been fine with our home gardens. The roses are flourishing and shrubs blossoming. Starting with daffodils in April and tulips in May and now the roses, we’ve seen beautiful blooms from every window. I just had to share our bounty!

Daffodil and early tulip

Stunning double red tulip named Miranda!

May tulips


Gertrude Jekyll rose

Climbing roses planted last year.

Roses, late June

Three years ago we planted wild flowers in our meadow. They never bloomed, we thought the seed never germinated, then a couple of weeks ago, the meadow was filled with them!

Wildflowers in the meadow

I often find myself commiserating with my peers about how aging isn’t any fun. Just recently I’ve realized that isn’t true. I have as much fun as I’ve ever had. It’s true that there are some physical limits to the things I can do but whatever I do, I have fun.

We’ve just welcomed our first great-grandson, TJ Russell. Yesterday we saw him for the first time, he was four days old. Holding his warm little body in my arms and then watching his fifteen month old sister Lennin give him kisses made me think what a lucky woman I am.

TJ in Great-Grampy's arms

TJ in Great-Grampy’s arms

Monday our 17 year-old grandson Hunton left for six weeks in Europe, his sister Cecelia, 15, will join him in a few weeks. Another granddaughter Leah and her husband William are in the UK for three weeks. Travel is one of my passions, that our grandchildren can travel and be introduced to different lands and cultures fills me with joy.

We are fortunate to have eight wonderful grandchildren. Not all are traveling but they are all an ongoing source of delight. Old age for me has great rewards. Children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Today on Facebook I read something that I could identify with. “You don’t stop having fun when you get old, you get old when you stop having fun.”

It’s true, as long as we have family and friends, theater and movies to enjoy, good food to delight our palate, travels to plan and undertake and books to read, I’ll go on having fun.

A few weeks ago when I went to Pennsylvania we stayed in the town of Intercourse. It is a name that often causes snickers or raised eyebrows. It seems incongruous for a town that is in the heart of  Amish country. Apparently in the 1700s the town was called Cross Key after a tavern by that name, or perhaps because two main roads intersected there or maybe because intercourse was a term used in those days to signify social interaction and support in the community. There seems to be some haziness about the origin of the name. For some reason, the name was changed to Intercourse in 1814. Some time in the 1900s there was an attempt to change the name back to Cross Key, but people in the village didn’t want it changed.

The countryside around the town is farmland with rolling green hills and neat farms every few miles. The farmhouses are large but dwarfed by the bigger barns and silos. The remarkable thing is that many don’t have electricity. I saw farmers plowing their fields with teams of five or six horses and clothes hanging to dry from long clothes lines.

Farms with buggy and car on the same road.

Farms with buggy and car on the same road.

In the village the enclosed black, horse drawn buggies are seen everywhere. They drive the busy highways seemingly undaunted by the cars and trucks speeding along. Scary! The Amish are Christians and believe in living very simply. They are a sect of Anabaptists who came from Germany to avoid discrimination following the Reformation. They eshue modern technology like electricity, tractors and cars although there are some who do use some things like tractors. The Amish dress is simple, the men we saw wore belt-less pants with suspenders and had untrimmed beards. The women were wearing white bonnets and calf length dresses. We saw men, women and children riding kick bikes, sort of like a bicycle without a seat and propelled by kicking.

Village parking lot

Village parking lot

Buggy in Town

Buggy in Town


The town itself is comprised of shops selling quilts and food items and rustic furnishings. It is self-described as “quaint”. Friday and Saturday there were hordes of people wandering in and out of the shops. The parking lots were full.

Sunday morning we awoke to a silent town. Every shop and restaurant closed, parking lots empty and the only people we sighted were Amish families, in black suits and dresses, walking to church.

Kick Bike

Kick Bike



The birds that feed outside our dining room window keep us entertained. Three years ago, for the first time, a Baltimore Oriole arrived in May chirping outside our window.  We were thrilled and immediately set out orange slices and grape jelly. He stayed with us for a few weeks and then disappeared. Since then, one or two come every May. I prepare in anticipation by putting out the orange and jelly the first of May. Last year one arrived with his mate on May 9th. The male glistening black and intensely orange colored, his mate, less bright. Last Saturday, April 29th I put the orange and grape jelly out, not expecting to see the birds for another week or so.  Sunday morning, the 30th, there he was!

Two Baltimore Orioles. I wasn't fast enough to capture the three together.

Two Baltimore Orioles. I wasn’t fast enough to capture the three together.

Yesterday we were excited when three males appeared together. We have counted twenty-four different birds on our feeders but none are so brilliantly colored as the orioles.

Another delight last week as I walked through the orchard was seeing the cherry trees in bloom. I don’t remember ever seeing them so heavily blossomed. The apple trees are nearly at full bloom too. It is a glorious time in the orchard.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms


It’s that time a year again when everything feels fresh and new. Every day the leaves are bigger on the trees, daffodils sprinkle our vista and to our surprise and delight, there are peach blossoms. We were certain the freeze in March did them in. The orchard opens today and we’re looking forward to seeing all of our old friends again.

Last week I took Amtrak to Pennsylvania to visit a friend. We spent a lovely, warm sunny day at Longwood Gardens wandering along paths that wind through 1077 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows in the Brandywine Creek Valley region of Pennsylvania. We saw spectacular displays of spring flowers in huge beds, lingered by the Italian Water Garden and spent a couple of hours in the conservatory. Longwood Gardens is the largest botanical garden in the US and the  conservatory is a huge, ornate greenhouse covering 4.5 acres. It houses thousands of plants in many different habitats.

Pink and White spring flowers

Pink and White spring flowers

Italian Water Garden

Italian Water Garden

Silver Garden in the Conservatory

Silver Garden in the Conservatory

Stunning double red tulip named Miranda!

Stunning double red tulip named Miranda!

We have our own little botanical garden next to our greenhouse here at the orchard. It holds plants of all the different fruits that we grow in the orchard. There are fruit trees and the shrubby fruits like blueberries and currants. Growing close to the ground there are strawberry plants. We want to show how each fruit is grown and in what season.


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The Sunday after Thanksgiving is Russell Orchard’s traditional closing date for the year. The apples are all harvested and the cider pressed. It’s a time for reflection and looking ahead. The orchard family will scatter now for the winter. The Russells have some time for a well earned rest before they begin planning for next season at the orchard. I’ll go to the Dominican Republic for a few weeks in the sun and then perhaps travel a bit.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a talk I heard recently.The topic was gratitude. The speaker believed that when we feel gratitude, it enriches us. It is a personal feeling but it also affects those around us. It gives us a chance to think beyond ourselves. It was a good reminder that we have responsibility for the way we think and feel about the things in our lives and in the world. I joined my son Matt’s family for Thanksgiving. I had been asked to give the grace at dinner. As I thought of what I wanted to say, that talk on gratitude prompted my grace.

“We live in uncertain times. We are barraged daily with famine, war, and fear. Thanksgiving is a time for us to remember how much we have to be grateful for. Despite all the turmoil in the last year, we are still the most fortunate people in the world to live in the United States.

We gather today with the beauty of the sea outside our windows, wrapped in the warmth of this home, to share our thanks for the many blessings that are part of our lives. To be here together with our family and friends, is the greatest joy imaginable.”

Reading the newspaper and watching TV news, I feel frustrated that there’s not really anything I can do to “fix” any of the injustices and inequalities I see in this country. In small ways I do whatever I can but it’s important that I remember all the things that make me grateful. Family, friends, good health and not least, I live in America. I want to remember this as 2016 ends and 2017 begins.


The annual Polish Picnic occurred in Ipswich a few weeks ago. My friend Ann Fessenden told me that she’d bought some galumpkis at the picnic. “What are galumpkis?” I asked.

It turns out they’re Polish stuffed cabbage. I’ve actually made them a few times but not in many years and I just called them “stuffed cabbage”. They sounded good but as I recall, quite a bit of work. Ann had found a recipe called Lazy Man’s Stuffed Cabbage that tasted as good but was much easier to make.

I made the recipe. It was a big hit, a nice Autumn dish. It made a large amount, enough for a crowd or lots of leftovers. I made a couple of changes, the recipe called for tomato soup to be poured over the top before baking, that didn’t sound so appealing to me. Instead, I used crushed tomatoes and added a few things.


  • Medium size head of cabbage
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • ½ lbs cooked bacon coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 medium green pepper
  • ½ cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cooked white rice (1/3 – ½ cup uncooked)
  • 1 egg



  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven 375 degrees.
  2. Cook rice and set aside to cool.
  3. Coarsely shred the cabbage it thick long pieces and set aside.
  4. Chop the bacon coarsely and saute until crisp. Remove from pan.
  5. Dice the onion and green pepper and saute in the bacon fat. Discard remainder of the fat.
  6. In a large bowl, add meat, bread crumbs, onion, peppers, bacon, rice, egg and salt and pepper.
  7. In a 9X13-inch pan, place a layer of the shredded cabbage so that the bottom of the pan is completely covered.
  8. Add the meat mixture on top of the cabbage and press into the shape of the pan.
  9. Add another layer of cabbage to cover the meat mixture.

Mix tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper together and pour over the casserole. Cover with aluinum foil and bake for two hours until the cabbage has softened and the flavors well blended.

I was a child during WWII and can remember listening to President Roosevelt’s reassuring radio broadcasts. Perhaps that’s why I’ve had a long fascination with the Roosevelt administration and the family. I’ve read many books about the Roosevelts and the War by historians but I recently read three books written by employees.

The first was White House Diary by Henrietta Nesbitt, the housekeeper who came to the White House from Hyde Park. She had been a long time friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.

I enjoyed reading Mrs. Nesbitt’s descriptions of menus, endless teas and luncheons and receptions. It was nothing to have thirty for lunch followed by teas in the afternoon with several thousand attending and then a dinner with another thirty in the evening. There were always house guests in the White House and Mrs. Nesbitt had very definite views about the kings and queens, prime ministers and political men (always men) who visited.

It’s been fun to read about Winston Churchill shuffling around in a one piece jump suit, downing copious amounts of whiskey and talking strategy with the President or Queen Elizabeth’s (the present queens mother) maid asking for hot water bottles to be placed in the queens bed despite Washington temperatures in the 90s and no air-conditioning.

Mrs. Nesbitt’s menus tend toward celery curls and stuffed olives or soup served with saltines. Gelatin salads appeared often and chicken salad seems to be the standard lunch fair for large group. It was the Depression and Mrs. Roosevelt wanted to have what the people of the country were eating.

I liked the White House eggnog recipe. It was served on New Year’s Eve. Twelve eggs beaten with one pound of sugar. Three quarts heavy cream, one half pint rum, a quart of bourbon, brandy and nutmeg to taste. I imagine it wouldn’t take much of that to put one under the table.

Crown Princess Martha, in exile from Norway, came for a long stay after Norway fell to the Nazis. She brought a recipe that became a favorite of President Roosevelt and “earned a place of honor” in Mrs. Nesbitt’s files.

Pig’s Feet in Sour Sauce

Pick out four nice, clean, white pigs’ feet, simmer in salted water until nearly done. Add one-half cup vinegar, two large bay leaves, one medium onion cut in quarters, eight peppercorns, six cloves and cook until tender. Chill overnight, skim fat off the top and bring the sauce to a boil thickening with arrowroot, add perhaps a dash of vinegar and some sugar, and serve with mashed potatoes.

This is one I don’t think I’ll try.

A book by William Rigdon, Sailor in the White House: My 11 Years of Service to Three Presidents was an interesting account of traveling with FDR, HST and Eisenhower.

Alonzo Fields wrote My 21 Years in the White House. He was chief butler and started under President Hoover. He describes the Hoovers always dressing for dinner, even if it was only the two of them. They had seven course meals, formally served, with the butlers standing unobtrusively by while they ate. It was a surprise to him when the Roosevelts moved in, had simple meals and dismissed the servants while they ate.

The three books together entertained me enormously. A bit of history to ponder. I can’t help wondering what White House life is like these days.


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A week of surprises and now I’m trying to come back to earth.  Monday last week I arrived home to find my sister Beth in my kitchen, “Surprise!”. Beth lives in Michigan and was last here in May, I hadn’t expected to see her again until next year. She said she had come to take me to lunch on my birthday.

Thursday we went to the Wenham Tea House for lunch and then shopping. I was expecting to go to dinner with Beth and Max at The Market in Annisquam in the evening. We arrived home to find the driveway filled with cars. Surprise, a party! Our neighbors Tom and Mariann had opened their home to the celebration. I was stunned, especially when I saw the people who were there to fete me. Cousins from South Carolina, Michigan and Ohio. Friends from Michigan and Rhode Island, family from Connecticut and New Hampshire all mingling with Massachusetts family and friends from many parts of my life. It was an amazing evening.

There was more, family and friends who couldn’t make it to the party had sent video clips and our Haitian friend in the Dominican Republic sent a greeting with a birthday cake photo. I received online greetings from friends in England, France and Germany. Such riches!

I guess it is a sign of how oblivious I can be to what’s going on around me to realize how many people were so able to keep the whole thing from me. My daughter Laura seems to have orchestrated the event with the help of her brothers and Beth. I am still enjoying the afterglow of that wonderful evening.

Some final words on Food Waste. Yesterday’s New York Times Opinion Page features a debate about how to reduce food waste in the United States. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/09/21/keeping-food-on-the-plate-and-out-of-landfills/ease-hunger-with-a-better-food-rescue-system.  I’ve copied the section that suggests things that we, as consumers can do.

1. Curb overbuying. A packed fridge may be comforting, but rarely do we eat everything in it. Using meal plans, shopping lists, and a little restraint can go a long way.

2. Store smartly. Proper storage can maintain food quality and freshness. Use airtight containers for most foods.

3. Use it up. Eat up everything in your fridge regularly. Frittatas, stir-fries, and soups make great catchall recipes. Or just Google a list of what you have for meal ideas. Designating a special day for this can help — Fridge Fridays, perhaps?

4. Freeze. Almost anything can be frozen and kept fresh: bread (best sliced), milk (shake when thawed), eggs (raw but scrambled), and cheese (shredded for cooking). Don’t forget to freeze leftovers, even if just for a few days.

5. Understand expiration dates. “Use by,” “best by,” “enjoy by” — these are generally not expiration dates but suggestions as to when the product is at its freshest. Most food is often safe to eat days, weeks, even months after those dates.

One thing that has helped me cut down food waste is shopping more frequently. I try to buy only what I know I’ll use in a few days.

We’ve always composted vegetable peels and other food preparation scraps but it’s gotten easier in the past two years. Ipswich and Hamilton both have curbside composting making it easy to save anything no longer edible. Bones, moldy cheese, slimy vegetables, fruit and vegetable peels, all go into the compost as well as tissues and dryer lint and even kitty litter.

Food Waste II

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I am in an Irish pub eating cottage pie, one of my favorites. I’ve eaten less than a third and I’m stuffed. “I wish the portions weren’t always so big,” I say to the waitperson. “They didn’t used to be,” she replies. “It’s because of the American tourists.”

Sometime in the late 1960s I went out to lunch with an elderly neighbor. I was amused when she ate half of her meal and then pulled a plastic bag out of her purse and tucked away the rest of her lunch for another day. In those days, portions were reasonable and few people couldn’t finish a meal.

Today we’re offered a 12-16-ounce steak, twice as much as most people should be eating usually preceded by a big basket of bread with butter or olive oil. Fat 8-ounce burgers are served on a huge roll with a side of fries. Fish and chips a local favorite comes as a plate heaped with deep fried fish, fries and onion rings, it can come to over 2000 calories, as many as most people should consume in a day. And then, if we can’t finish the meal, we’re offered a take-away box. Although some restaurants are changing to recycle-able waxed boxes for take out, it is still too often packaged in styrofoam, not a recyclable material.

Portion comparison 1950 and today

Portion comparison 1950 and today

A few weeks ago my order of Chicken Marsala arrived in a large bowl full of linguine with four large slices of chicken breast on top, all glazed with a rich sauce. I brought the extra home, it made a meal for two and I ended up putting some of the pasta in the compost bin. It was still too much. I always come home with leftovers and I like leftovers but I’d much prefer to finish my dinner. I was taught to clean my plate. I don’t remember a restaurant meal in the past ten years when that’s been possible. No, a correction, there are two places we go that offer half portions. I know that many people order one entree to share but if we are out for a nice dinner, we like to make our own choices.

Portion Distortion

Portion Distortion

 I sometimes order from the appetizer menu but even that seems to be up-sized. Not long ago an appetizer of potato skins with cheese and bacon was six huge baked potato halves with most of the potato still in the skin. Another time when I asked if I could be served small portions, I was offered the children’s menu. I sometimes ask the waitperson to tell their managers that it would be nice if half portions were offered. Once I was told that I should go to a competitor, an answer I don’t imagine a manager would appreciate.

If I had the energy I’d try to start a movement encouraging every person who finds portions too big to tell the manager. I’ll continue with my own campaign.

The Department of Agriculture found that in 1970 25% of American food expenditure was for food eaten away from home. A Bloomberg report in April 2015 reported that spending on food away from home had now surpassed food consumed at home. Dining out has become more common, perhaps because there are more two-income families, more women working and the increase in fast food restaurants. That doesn’t explain why portions have grown.

Food Waste

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I’m on my soapbox here.

I’ve read a number of articles recently that discuss food production, consumption and waste. It doesn’t seem to be high on the radar of many people. Water and energy use are major issues but few consider the amounts of both needed to produce food and how they are also wasted.

  • One third of the planet’s food is wasted, enough to feed two billion people.
  • In the United States, six billion pounds of fruit and vegetables are wasted every year. They are either not harvested or unsold because they don’t look perfect.
  • Globally 46% of fruits and vegetables never make it from farm to fork.
  • In California’s Salinas Valley thousands of tons of fresh greens are trashed because they don’t have sufficient shelf life to ship.
  • The United States wastes thirty to forty percent of the food produced while one in seven people has food insecurity.*

In small pockets of the world a few people are trying to actively use food that would be wasted. I’ve read about chefs who are raising awareness by creating dishes using vegetables that are misshapen or blemished. Others are donating extra food to community kitchens where food is prepared for the homeless. At a resort in Las Vegas edible food scraps are sent to a pig farm where they’re fed to the animals.

  • In North America and Europe research has indicated that 620 to 660 pounds of food per person is wasted every year. A third of that is wasted by consumers. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa and Asia the waste is less that half of that. Most of the waste there do to a lack of technology. Inadequate refrigeration or ability to process food efficiently.

Supermarkets throw away huge amounts of food that has passed the “sell-by” date. Restaurants have to discard tons of partially eaten meals. In Britain, the Sustainable Restaurant Association surveyed London restaurants and found that about a pound of food per customer per meal was wasted. Two-thirds in preparation and another third by the customer.

Not too long ago I was astonished watching a friend going through the refrigerator and throwing out anything that was out of date. Sour cream, three days past the date, unopened; cream cheese, unopened; a barely used half-gallon of milk, all tossed in the bin. Those dates don’t indicate that food is no longer edible. Most foods are safely used long past the dates. Throw them out only if the odor is off or there is visible spoilage.

*Too Good to Waste, National Geographic, March 2016

When I leave the office every day, I make a detour through the veggie room picking up some corn or tomatoes or berries. Whatever looks good. Thursday I found purslane bundles in the refrigerated case. I’d never heard of it. A brief research told me that it is a weed often used as a vegetable. After trying it in potato salad, I’m a new fan. It also made a great addition to a tossed green salad with its crunchy, sort of spicy flavor.

“Common in our yards but little known in the North American kitchen, purslane is both delicious and exceptionally nutritious. is the most frequently reported “weed” species in the world. It can grow anywhere that has at least a two-month growing season. Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. ” Mother Earth News, April/May 2005, by Frances Robinson. Purslane is also good for you. It tops the list of plants high in vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acid.. Purslane provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus.

What’s not to like!

Potato Salad with Purslane


3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 plum tomatoes
1/4 pound purslane
1 large cucumber—peeled, halved the long way, seeded and cut into half-moons
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, (more or less depending on tastes)
1/2 cup chopped mint

Vinaigrette of choice*

  1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large shallow bowl.

  2. Season with salt and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Allow to cool. Layer the onions over the potatoes, followed by the purslane, cucumber, tomato, red pepper flakes and mint. Just before serving, pour a bit more dressing over the salad and toss well.

    *My Favorite Vinaigrette

    1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon sherry vinegar*
    1-1/2 teaspoons coarse Dijon mustard
    1/3 cup grapeseed oil**
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    ¼ teaspoon sugar
    Salt and pepper

    Place all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.

    * Or raspberry vinegar or seasoned rice vinegar
    ** I like grapeseed oil for salad dressings and cooking It is light and nearly tasteless with a high smoking point when sauteing with it.


Emily’s Garden was the name of a writing retreat I attended last weekend in the historic village of Essex, New York on Lake Champlain. This lovely garden was designed with the poet Emily Dickinson’s garden in mind.

The retreat was held at the home of author and university teacher Kate Moses. I joined Kate, her colleague Elizabeth Cohen and five aspiring writers. They taught us a lot about writing but the food was what made the weekend memorable. Kate made everything from scratch with local ingredients, many flavored with herbs from her garden. We were greeted with a menu for the weekend. This was just the first meal.

Welcome Meet and Greet Cocktails and Appetizers
Cucumber & Elderflower gin and tonics, wine, beer
Cherry pico-de-gallo
Fresh local cheeses with crostini
Elizabeth’s hummus & homemade pita chips
Spiced olives
Prosciutto crisps

Local cheeses with fresh figs

Local cheeses with fresh figs and cherries

Panade (Provencale gratin of bread, tomatoes, rainbow chard)
Watermelon salad with nectarines, radishes, mint, fetaLocal greens
Tuna Confit with white beans
Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Plum Sorbet
Fresh fruit tart

There was home cured salmon for lunch with chevre and sorrel pesto; homemade Greek yogurt and granola for breakfast; Lemon-Lime Shortbread and zucchini bread for snacks and much more. Besides the plum sorbet, there was silky smooth intensely dark chocolate ice cream and  buttermilk cinnamon ice cream, perfect for someone like me whose favorite food is ice cream.
A real standout was the pound cake, is was so rich and flavorful that the tiniest slice was enough to send everyone into silent awe while eating it.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze


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The heat this summer has been reminding me of my childhood. There was no air conditioning in those days and Michigan could be brutally hot in July. I remember lying in front of my bedroom window at night, trying to get the smallest puff of a breeze.

The sound of those summers was hearing the drone of the announcer giving the play-by-play of the Detroit Tiger’s baseball team while Grandpa sat in his shirt sleeves with his ear next to the radio. He was seldom without a suit jacket but it was a concession to the temperature. Never short sleeves though.

During World War II my father worked at AC Sparkplugs as a tool and die maker. The factories were sweltering. As soon as he got home we would climb into the 1934 Ford and drive a mile to Picnic Lake, a small weed surrounded pond with a tiny sandy beach area. We didn’t have a shower (or bathtub for that matter), it was where he could wash off the factory grime and sweat. Once the war was over he left the shop and worked as a carpenter. I don’t remember him every going swimming again.

One of our occasional summer treats was homemade ice cream. My brother Charles and I would go with Daddy to buy a big chunk of ice. When we got home he put it in a burlap bag and beat on it with the flat side of an ax. When It was crushed enough, Mamma would bring out the tall gallon-sized can that she’d filled with a mixture of eggs, sugar, vanilla, cream and milk.

The container fit into the bottom of a bigger wooden barrel-type container. The can held a paddle that attached to a heavy metal gear with a crank on the side. This fit over the top of the barrel. When that was all in place, Charlie and I started scooping ice into the space around the can. A layer of ice and then a layer of rock salt and then another layer of ice. Near the top we had to be careful with the salt. It was important that it not get into the container and spoil the ice cream.

In the beginning Daddy let us turn the crank but when the cream started to freeze, it was too hard for us. He had to take over. When it was too stiff to turn any longer. He took the can out of the icy water and into the kitchen. We hovered near Mamma’s elbows, each with a spoon, while she pulled the ice cream covered paddle out of the center. Those first few bites were the best. The sweet, creamy, vanilla flavor along with the slightly icy consistency was my favorite food.

After graduation from high school, I worked as a service representative for Bell Telephone in Detroit. My desk was in a huge room with sixty other women. If the temperature reached 90 degrees we were sent home. Supervisors stayed to take calls. When the thermometer reached the high eighties we’d keep our fingers crossed that it would reach 90.

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

5 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 quart heavy cream

Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla, add cream and pour into a one gallon freezer can. Add milk to withing three inches of the top.

Place in freezing tub. Layer ice and salt while turning the crank constantly. Stop when it’s too stiff to turn.

Summer 1953, not so hot this day.

Summer 1953, not so hot this day.


It is fun to travel and fun to come home. We arrived late Tuesday night after missing a connection and hanging out for five hours in the Toronto airport before getting another flight.

Here are a few of the photos (out of hundreds). We traveled south from Dublin sort of following the coast. We were as far south as Cobh in Co. Cork, west to the Dingle Peninsula in Kerry, up through Galway, Mayo and Donegal before turning east into Northern Ireland. We stayed in Derry and then in Bangor, east of Belfast, before returning to Dublin and then home. The entire country was green, green, green.

We visited castles and ruins and a couple of museums but mostly enjoyed the beauty of the countryside and the friendliness of the people.

Dingle Peninsula

Dingle Peninsula

These rock lined fields are typical of this part of the country. We were told that long ago each field had a separate name. Note the road, it is narrow with little room for vehicles to pass. I was driving and didn’t want to meet a tour bus on one of these curves.

A stone house on the Dingle Peninsula

A stone house on the Dingle Peninsula

We would like to have gone into this building and asked about how a roof made of stone is constructed and works in the wind and rain of the area but it was closed.

Father Dyer's Folk Village in Glencolumbkille, Co. Donegal

Fisherman’s cottage in Father McDyer’s Folk Village in Glencolumbkille, Co. Donegal. It is one room with an open fire at one end with a hole in the roof for smoke to escape.

The Folk Village Museum is a cluster of several small cottages, called a ‘clachan’, perched on a hillside overlooking the sandy curve of Glen Bay Beach in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal. It was started by a priest, Father McDyer. At the time of Father McDyer’s arrival in 1951 the parish of Glencolmcille was suffering from a long-standing cycle of unemployment and emigration. Over the next three decades Father McDyer worked to help break this cycle, lobbying for amenities, organising community projects and supporting the development of local industries, many of which, like the Folk Village, are still successful today. (quoted from website) It shows a glimpse into daily life in past centuries. It was a hard life.

We had never seen this kind of thatching before. The ceiling of the houses are bog wood (wood dug from under the peat bogs, left there eons ago when there were forests). Thatch is laid over that and secured with ropes made from twisting together local materials.

Open fireplace in one room cottage.

                                  Open fireplace in one room cottage.




Map of Ireland made of stone from each county.

                         Map of Ireland made of stone from each county.

This map is striking and the women in the visitor’s center were excited about it. It had just been dedicated two days before we were there. Each county provided the stone for their representation. Note the Gaelic county names.



A hedge school. When the English ruled the country it was forbidden to speak or teach Gaelic. It would be taught in these little hidden spaces.

A hedge school. When the English ruled the country it was forbidden to speak or teach Gaelic. It would be taught in these little hidden spaces.




Several areas along the west coast are Gaelic speaking. The road signs are in Gaelic and English. We were surprised to find that people living there speak Gaelic, or Irish as some call it, in their every day lives.

A field with drying peat. We kept seeing fields with mounds. It took us some time to realize that after the peat is cut, the brick sized pieces are made into little pyramids and left to dry.

A field with drying peat. We kept seeing fields with mounds. It took us some time to realize that after the peat is cut, the brick sized pieces are made into little pyramids and left to dry.