Hurricane Sandy

October 29, 2012

Lots of rain and wind outside. Cookies inside.

From Pooh: “just a little something….” (Pumpkin Preferences)

October 18, 2012

Pumpkin-shaped and pumpkin-flavored: pumpkin has really popped around here! Yesterday’s pumpkin project was pumpkin ravioli (trying out my ravioli forms for the very first time) and earlier this morning the kitchen was full of pumpkin shortbreads and pumpkin granola. My brain was whirling: thought I could pump my bread machine full of pumpkin, yeast and a few other things and see what came out! What pumpkin procedure or pumpkin panacea might I have missed?

Think about sensory triggers that spell h-o-m-e to you: freshly baked yeast bread, cinnamon cooking in anything: snickerdoodles, or maybe the little-kid memory from that one time when you made homemade Christmas cut-out ornaments from applesauce-cinnamon dough, Thanksgiving turkey in the oven, the sweet vanilla from Grandma’s Sugar Crisps, and probably piles of pumpkin pie pieces. Or maybe it’s a whole other category: the scrubbed scent of Mr. Clean hitting you the minute you open the door, or Murphy’s Oil Soap, or the fresh pine from the Christmas tree. Do certain sounds set off signals to you? You probably couldn’t write a list of all of these. A few minutes ago when I was behind our house picking the last basil leaves off of our plant before the black spots cover them all, I heard the chimes from First Methodist Church playing “How Great Thou Art,” and I went back in time. I hadn’t known that would’ve been on my “list,” but it was. What do you think of when you see bright leaves on the trees, or on the ground next to deep red mums or a line of orange and yellow ones? Can you remember your dad buttoning your jacket up a little more when the autumn crispness came into the air?

It’s pretty pumpkin-y around here right this minute. No one is scheduled to arrive…..but if someone does, wonder what memories might be triggered? It’s a great time of year, don’t you think?

Looking For the Stump

October 8, 2012

It was Caroline Thompson’s stone that we’d wanted to find (see previous blog post) – sort of an afterthought as we walked along.

Downtown, then to Wilmer Park, onto the Rail Trail, back through the college, then over the footbridge and into the cemetery we went – Barbara and I. We didn’t find Caroline’s stone stump among the tombstones, but that was our last stop; it was time to go back home, so we did. Such a luxury to be able to go for a walk in the middle of the day – and an added bonus to be able to go with Barbara, one of my high school classmates. We hadn’t had a plan; we simply walked and talked.

I enjoy listening to Barbara’s tales of teaching high schoolers, and about her current college students needing remedial help. Her McDonald’s analogy of putting in her order for a double cheeseburger but receiving a fish sandwich being like assigning a compare-contrast paper but receiving a cause-effect paper impressed me, but it apparently sailed right over her student’s head. When she had asked him what he thought she’d do when she got the fish sandwich, he’d said, “Eat it anyway?” She’d had to correct him, saying that she would send it back, just like she would have to do with his paper. McDonald’s employees who failed to make corrections would eventually get fired, which was coincidentally a word beginning with “F.” She advised him to heed the wisdom of the burger.

We were on the Rail Trail when we were talking about life stages, which I remembered a couple of hours later when I was sitting on the couch with Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees and reading the first line on the first page, “The Maytrees were young long ago.” We’ll be 60 next year, so yes, I guess we were young long ago, too. Barbara was saying how when her little girl was a baby, she had loved holding her and carrying her around. But when she got bigger, she loved holding her hand and walking beside her, and that she’d had no desire to keep her at her previous stage, but would enjoy the one she was in. I said that it was like that with me, too. Barbara said that she had no desire to be 16 again. Even though she had enjoyed her whole life, she didn’t want to go back. I agreed. It didn’t work so well for Emily in Our Town, and it doesn’t sound like a good idea now. We both love the age that we are today. Our talk turned to childrens’ books, and we were on to the next topic.

Sitting here now, thinking about our walk today, reminds me of a time when David and I were away. It was probably 25 or 30 years ago, and we were in the Shenandoah Valley for a couple of nights, just the two of us. We didn’t have a plan then either, except that we’d wanted to walk along the trail close to where we were staying. And so we did. We simply walked and talked. It was one of our sweetest times away – simple and unhurried, in juxtaposition with our hurry-up life at that time as young parents. It was a real luxury then, too.

Simplicity. Luxury. They really do go together, don’t they?

History: A House and a Hurt

October 7, 2012

I’ve been really livin’ local the past few days. It was the Kent County Historical Society’s annual historic house tour on Saturday afternoon in the midst of a big War of 1812 weekend, which began with a lecture on Thursday night, another lecture by the author of In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, and ending with a skit featuring Miss Kitty Knight and Philip Reed.

I guess this local living emphasis really all began with people. And ways to love them. I had our grandson on the brain as well as our great-niece and great-nephews, as I was wondering about exciting stories to tell them and books to read to them. I’d had a conversation on Thursday afternoon with the Director of the Kent County Historical Society at the Geddes-Piper House where she referred to this same principle of people connections, when she said that it wasn’t just about this 17th century chair or that 18th century chess set, because history was bigger than that; history connects the items and facts with the stories of the people who used them and lived them. Well, I can tell you that I found her charming, engaging, and super-friendly; she was making personal history with me on the spot, as I connected with her instantly and with her “take” on her job – that of preserving and passing on story. I really was all ears. I determined to soak in all the history I could so that I could pass on cool stuff to the next generation of children whom I love!

Prior to this weekend, I’d begun reading a book that my father’s sister, Aunt Elizabeth (Duvall), wrote. It’s a local history book (which seemed so exciting to me when I heard about it – we had a copy but it had never occurred to me to actually read it; it was just fun knowing she’d done it): Three Centuries of American Life: The Hynson-Ringgold House of Chestertown, 1988. So about a week ago, I picked it up. I’ve read the first third of it. I have to say that it is dry reading – mostly facts without much story – but the names are familiar to me, so I’m pushing on. I did latch on to parts of it, though. There was the bit about the chess set that Daniel Webster and Henry Clay had used, and then I saw that same set on Saturday when we did the tour! It was next to the coconut cup on a little table. Can’t tell you about the table, but the cup is a different matter; it has quite a story! It was given to Miss Caroline Thompson by her fiance….who ended up becoming engaged to her sister when Caroline was out of town! Do I need to even say that Miss Caroline got rid of that cup as fast as she could? The cup got passed down through a different family, but it came back to the house after Caroline left it – after her death, (after she died at age 100). Apparently, the whole thing really made its mark on Caroline, who never married, but who did quite well enough on her own, thank you very much. She was a woman who must’ve known her own mind and even after death got the last word on the subject. She did consent to having her body placed in the family plot, but it was not in the nice, neat row that the others rested in. It was at the edge, and her tombstone wasn’t a nice, neat rectangle; it was “a carved granite stump, complete with bark, fungus growth, fern and even broken sticks and nuts, supposedly left by a squirrel” (p 30). So you see what I mean. The stories grab you, and make you want to traipse off to the cemetery to see the stone and sort of salute the sassy lady. …Which is actually exactly what I intend to do this afternoon – AFTER calling the kids to see who wants to go on a history hunt …. which will also include a story and the hind end of a horse ….

Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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