Respite in the Salt Air

There are times when you just need an opportunity to play.  Today was just that.  Cait and I spent last night in Rockport, MA after a wonderful concert by Deborah Henson Conant at the Shalin Liu Performance Center.  As usual, sleep was short and I got out of bed at 6:00 AM, dressed and took out the camera.  Staying in a spot on Bearskin Neck allows you to be in the heart of some amazing things.  Here is some of what I saw this morning.






Lobster shack.


Shack (6)Point of reference.

It only took 40 minutes for me to be centered once again.  I need to make more of an effort to take my camera out every single day.




How Things Change

140410 Sunrise

I don’t sleep much these days.  I wake up early in the morning (often very early).  I squint at the clock to see if it’s too outrageously early to get up.  My rule is if it’s before 4:30 AM I have to stay in bed.

Getting up really early affords you the opportunities to see the sun rise.  It seems like I take a photograph from the same spot looking out the living room window a lot but in doing so I’ve seen some amazing sunrises.  Yesterday was a perfectly clear beginning to a beautiful spring day.  Finally!  It has been one long winter.

With spring also comes some huge life changes for me (all of my family really).  After spending the past 30 years travelling from Enfield to Rowe and back I will be moving there full time in May.  Unfortunately I will be moving there without most of my significant others.  They will continue the weekend commute.

This was not an easy decision to come to.  Dad will be coming home and I will be staying with him.  Every single person that hears about it has asked me the exact same question, exact same words “So, how is this going to work?”  I tell them all the same thing – “I won’t know until I’m in it”.  You do what you have to do.

It seems as though everyone I know my age is dealing with the same issues that we are.  We are all caring for our aging parents in one way or another. I’m not sure most of them are living separate from their spouses for days at a time but our relationship is strong and we look at it as another thing to work through. I am fortunate that my father is pretty capable at this time.  His health has stabilized.  He’s pretty sharp as well.  Throwback Thursdays could take on a whole different tone with him telling me the stories behind the photos.

I think the loss of sleep comes when I wake up and start thinking about what I take with me and what I leave behind.  I look at it as leaving things behind because I will be leaving a large piece of my life in Enfield.  Don’t get me wrong, I will not miss Enfield for a minute.  I will miss my home, my bed, my furniture, my tchotche.  This is the part that has almost immobilized me.  I wander around the house at times and think “Should I take this?”  I packed a few things and brought them to Rowe at the beginning of the week.  When it came time to unpack the box I just wondered why I packed what I did.

My life has been so different in one place or the other.  I guess I didn’t realize how different each life was until I had to think about walking away from one.  I moved to Enfield when I married Bill. My kids were born and raised there.  They are grown and I went through the empty nest thing years ago but I will be leaving the Mom part of my life in Enfield – at least the biggest part. Not sure that makes sense – suffice it to say that this will probably be the biggest change I have ever made.

Time will tell.  I was horrified when my father was in rehab and then moved to assisted living.  I couldn’t imagine my health being bad enough for someone to move me away from a place I loved and had lived in for 50+ years without so much as a discussion.  I knew that if his health stabilized I would bring him back to Rowe.  He’s counting the days, for different reasons I’m sure.

I take comfort in the fact that I will be able to garden more, walk in the woods, sit and soak in the birdsong, play with Chester.  Compensation for being put into a somewhat difficult situation. I will also be able to see the sun rise from the same spot every single day.

The Pantry

140404 Pantry

I finished building and painting the shelves for the pantry.  The painting was fine but the building was not without its cursing.  There is nothing like trying to fit something that’s square into somethings that’s not.

Sunday I moved a few things into it but will work on that in earnest this week.  There is still the pantry closet to build that will be going in on the end of this in what was once a shower stall.  The floor will then get another coat of paint.  That will have to wait for a few weeks since there is another room that needs finishing.

This is the perfect solution for the time being.  Eventually this room will be going away to make room for a kitchen expansion but for the time being a little paint and elbow grease has made it into something functional.  It’s kind of amazing how you can use a little imagination and come up with this.  Remember this is how it started out.

140308 Bathroom to Pantry (4)

One project down, thousands more to go.


The Clocks

140405 Clocks (3)

This past Saturday morning the family clocks were taken from the house for cleaning and regulation.  They were taken by a man I have known since the early seventies.  I have known that something needed to be done with them for many, many years.  They used to run.  I missed their chimes and the deep tick tock of the oak wall clock.  There is nothing that whisks me back to childhood faster than closing my eyes and listening to that clock.  There were times at my grandparents house when it was so quiet that was all you heard (I have to add that it is a particularly loud clock).

140405 Clocks (2)

The story goes that this clock was taken from a factory by my grandfather.  They were replacing it with something else I assume, I’m also assuming it came from a woolen mill.  It was filthy, black I’m told.  He painstakingly took it apart, cleaned it up and got it working.  Then it was placed on the wall in his parlor on Stafford St.  There it ran for most of my life, it probably ran for a good deal of my father’s.  When my grandmother left the house for a nursing home it was the first thing that came to Rowe.  There it ran on the wall in the living room for another 20 or more years.  My children had the pleasure of growing up with it’s sound and presence for their childhoods as well.

140405 Clocks (4)

The workmanship on this clock is spectacular.  The woodwork, the brass is beautiful.  It is the sound that is most important to me though.  We complain about not knowing what time it is in the middle of the night because it no longer runs.

I have to tell you there was a little anxiety when these clocks went out the door on Saturday morning.  The only reason they did is through a conversation I had with someone the day before.  She told me her brother in law was repairing clocks now that he’d retired to Heath and gave me his phone number.  I went to high school with him, worked a summer job with him, knew where he lived.  The only other lead on clock repair I’d had was a guy in Conway.  I didn’t know him but I knew he was good – I just couldn’t call him.  I didn’t know where he lived and I couldn’t let them go.

I’ve been told it will take about 6 weeks to get them going again, they will then be returned, put in their respective spots and started up.  They will be worked on until they are running perfectly.  I’m beyond happy about this and so pleased they are with someone I know.  I’m also looking forward to waking up at 4:00 AM and knowing what time it is.



Throwback Thursday

1937 Holland Pond (1)

This is my favorite photograph of all the ones I have from my father’s side of the family.  A few months ago I was thinking about our connection to water, swimming and boating and thought about this image.  I went looking for it in the place I last remembered it being located and it was missing ( along with a lot of other memorable photos).  I came across them a couple of days ago – woo hoo!

This image was taken on Holland Pond in MA around 1936.  I really don’t know any of the story around it.  Who’s boat was that?  How far away was the photographer (no long lenses then)?  Was this vacation?

My father has been filling in details as photographs have been coming out from family members recently.  He told me that every year his father had vacation in the first weeks of July because the mill shut down. This is when they went to Canada to visit family and took time to do vacation sorts of things.

My father looks like one happy kid in this photo.  I recognize that smile – our children were brought up on water and in boats.  They always had that same smile while they were on the water.

1937 Holland Pond

They also took the photos with each other.  Vacation photos.  Take my picture photos.  It’s nice to see that has happened for as long as there have been consumer cameras.  Now these common photos are family treasures.

1937 Holland Pond (2)

When I go through my archives and now with new images coming to light I know that this was probably my grandfather’s 1928 Chevrolet Coupe.  My father tells me about an accident they had with it in Canada.  It’s funny what he remembers (everything).

It’s funny how things repeat themselves over and over again, generation after generation.  My parents always took vacation the last week in June or the first week of July.  We always take ours around the first two weeks of July.  Maybe it’s a regional thing because of the weather but I’m willing to bet it has more to do with your upbringing.  Just as I’m willing to bet these take my picture moments are half done out of the notion that it’s what you’re supposed to do while you’re on vacation.



Weaving Wednesday – April Fools

140401 April Fools (1)

Last night’s weaving class was one disaster after another it seemed.

My towels were tracking funny in the loom, the more I wove the worse it got until the weft had taken on a decidedly diagonal line.  I asked Pam if I should take off the toweling and tie the warp back on but we started out trying to see if we could just start over again and make it straight.  We checked all of the mechanics of the loom, tightened every screw, nut and bolt.   A few picks into it the problem was still there and it became obvious that the tension was more loose on one side than the other.  I had to unravel a good amount of weaving to save the warp length.  Wasn’t as bad as it sounds, once I got going it was almost relaxing.

140401 April Fools (2)

As I’m unravelling my mess, Jan, to my left is having the exact same problem.  It was hard to believe that both of us, doing completely different projects had the same thing going on.  It was true.  After tightening up her loom and measuring and remeasuring to see if it could be anything else she had to unravel her project as well.

As we were rebeaming my warp we found a problem with the brakes on the loom that might have been a factor in my whole fiasco so we had to pay attention to that before I continued.  All in all a rather stressful night for Pam.

While we were talking about warp tension she told me I should post a few photos of another project that has turned into what I would consider a nightmare.  A class member decided she wanted to weave yardage for a jacket out of chenille.  The pattern is lovely and they thought they had beamed her warp perfectly until she began weaving.

140401 April Fools (6)

In the process, while moving the warp forward, all hell has broken loose with her warp. This may be the nature of chenille since none of us has ever woven anything wider than 10 inches.

140401 April Fools (3)

The only way to salvage this was to use lease sticks in the warp while weaving.  This holds the tension evenly (although I couldn’t tell you how at the moment).

140401 April Fools (4)

Every time the lease sticks get to the heddles everything behind it has to be untangled as the sticks are pulled back.

140401 April Fools (5)

I’ll be honest with you – this might just be the project I would walk away from.  Or it might have turned into yardage for a vest instead of a jacket.

All in all last night was the first night I might have thought for a second we were the biggest April fools of all.

First Gather


Another wonderful post by one of my favorite bloggers.

Originally posted on Ben Hewitt:


I arrived home at 3-ish yesterday afternoon, strung out from the juxtaposed sensations of hurtling through the sky and the physical stagnation necessitated by air travel. Leaving the small bubble of my life is always shocking; one could forget (as I do) what has happened to wide swaths of America’s landscape, and particularly those swaths extending from our urban centers. Traveling for dozens of miles past a seemingly endless array of convenience stores, fast food franchises, chain hotels, and shopping centers, the traffic an equally endless flow of color, sound, and smell is not something I experience very often.

I can never help but wonder what used to exist in these places, what sort of plants and animals have been displaced by our need for discount electronics, premium unleaded, and 99-cent cheeseburgers. And I cannot help but believe that over time the body and mind eventually become if not immune…

View original 576 more words

They Are Never Safe

Chickens Poster1

There are times of the year and in certain locations that there is very little you can do to protect your flock of chickens other than sit on your deck with a shotgun.  The other half of last year’s flock was killed today while in what we thought was a secure coop – closed in.  Cement foundation, wired windows, new door.  Once the carnage is cleaned up the forensics will begin, maybe.  Having to deal with your hens being killed by something two years in a row is too much really.  Makes you never want to raise a chicken again.


140330 Heat Gun

I have done my share of stripping paint over the past few years.  When your house is over 200 years old there are always more than a few coats of paint on the woodwork.  I have used strippers and they are pretty caustic and never give me quite the results I expect.

My brother-in-law is a painter, glass blower, jack of all trades kind of guy and he is always giving me tips on how to make my renovation projects easier.  A while back he told me he had started using a heat gun to strip the moulding in a house about the age of ours and the results were amazing.  I had Bill get one through the tool guy at the shop and began my first project of stripping the paint off of the floor in a bedroom upstairs.  The result was nothing short of amazing.

I didn’t fully appreciate how amazing this tool is until I began stripping this door yesterday.  This is one of the doors to the library that has been painted at least 5 times, the last coat being latex (which is a totally different issue).  Most of the paint when heated just popped right off in huge flakes.  It was a mess to clean up but I had most of one side of the door stripped in a matter of a few hours.  Mind you this needs to be done in a room wide open to the outdoors with an exhaust fan going.  Fortunately yesterday was above freezing.

This door has some holes that will need repairing.  The hinges and thumb latches need to be replaced as well.  Williamsburg Blacksmiths is a local forge that produces the reproduction hardware for this period home using the same methods probably used when the originals were made.  They are perfect.  Hopefully by the end of this week I will have this door done and be working on the other.  Then onto the door casings.  Both of the doors in the room do not close so I’m hoping taking them down, stripping them and rehanging with new hardware will fix the problem.  My sneaking suspicion is that a lot of it has to do with the paint, but new hinges will certainly help.

The photograph was originally taken for the 100 Happy Days project I’m working on with a number of family members.  I was thinking how happy I was to be using this tool but the more I thought about it I realized that when you’re stripping woodwork the only happy part is when you’re finished.

Food Friday – Brownies

One of my absolute favorite things to do is cook for other people – especially baking goodies.  There are times when nothing will do but chocolate.  There is comfort in it, there are lifetime memories associated with it, chocolate is love.

I was asked to bring “brownies or something” to Paul’s celebration of life tomorrow.  I immediately knew the recipe I would use.  For years I had a reputation with my family members (especially my children) that I was the master of disaster when it came to baking brownies.  As the girls got older they would bake brownies often using a mix.  They had no trouble at all.  Me, well let’s just say if it comes out of a box I am completely incompetent.  I would burn them, or they were so undercooked they would be inedible.  I think it was because I followed the directions, messed up and then over compensated on the next try.  Amanda had it down, knocked off a couple of minutes for the particular pan she was using and they always came out perfect.

I took this as a challenge in the back of my mind, one day I would conquer my relationship with brownies.   I read this recipe years ago in Yankee Magazine and it completely changed my outlook on brownies.  It’s called Julie’s Brownies and really is the best recipe ever – deep chocolate, sugar crust, brownie perfection. The only caveat is it makes a HUGE batch.

Brownies (1)

The recipe starts off with 8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and 3 sticks of butter set on low heat to melt together.  I once made the mistake of using semisweet and although it was a near disaster there were many people who liked their cloying sweetness.  (I wasn’t kidding about my problem with brownies).

Brownies (2)

While the chocolate/butter is melting butter your pan and sprinkle it with sugar.  I just dump a mound in the middle of the pan and shake it around until the pan is coated, then dump the excess in the sink.

Brownies (3)

This has such a wonderful smell while it’s heating through.  Once melted let it cool to room temperature.

Brownies (4)

Now I know not everyone likes walnuts in their brownies (or anywhere for that matter) so I chop about 3/4 of a cup to be sprinkled on half of the pan, this way everyone is happy.  I buy walnuts and pecans in bulk, use a vacu-sealer and freeze a cup and a half per bag.  I always have nuts for that impromptu baking session.  That nut grinder?  If you don’t have one get one, they are awesome and go right into the dishwasher.

Brownies (5)

Half a dozen eggs go into the stand mixer.

Brownies (6)

Along with 3 1/2 cups of sugar.  You read right, 3 1/2.  I measure carefully knowing this is another potential hazard for me – losing count.

Brownies (7)

Once the eggs and sugar are mixed you add the vanilla.  I made this for Christmas presents a couple of years ago – it is amazing.  There’s another disaster story that goes along with this.  One time I was making these brownies, grabbed the orange extract and put in the two teaspoons – aarrgh.  Those were an epic fail.

Brownies (8)

The chocolate/butter is added, then the flour and mixed until just combined.

Brownies (9)

Then poured into that nice sugar coated pan.  This is a 12 x 17 jelly roll pan.  That’s a lot of brownies my friends.

Brownies (10)

Before they go into the oven I sprinkle on the nuts.  These look delicious and smell heavenly while baking.

Brownies (11)

And here they are out of the oven, perfect. Once cooled I will cut them into squares and arrange them in a basket to be delivered to the church tomorrow.  Some of the people I love the most will be there and even though they probably won’t  give a thought to who made the brownies I will know how much love was put into them.