Celebrating Thanksgiving

pumpkin in snow!It’s so accepted these days to have all your Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving but it’s hard for me to join the holiday rush.

I want to savor Thanksgiving with all the orange pumpkins and colorful gourds and our family. Our Thanksgiving table centerpiece is built from shades of fall with some dried seed heads from the garden I gathered in warmer weather.

This year I’m sticking to the Thanksgiving theme indoors but the overripe pumpkins had to go. We have cold weather and snow and more of it as the days pass. It’s nonstop snow today. The landscape and roads are snow covered and it looks more like Christmas than Thanksgiving outdoors.

So I broke with tradition this year, pulled out my pumpkins, gourds, and fall decor that filled the urn at our entry and replaced all that with a small pine tree. I’ll notIMG_7782 add any holiday adornment to the tree until after Thanksgiving. The big metal turkey still stands guard out in the snow.

Today we have family arriving by cars and plane. Until we shuttle everyone to their destinations later today, the kitchen is being used to make pies and a number of other snacks, deserts, and sides that can be made early and refrigerated or frozen.

Cranberry sauce, chess pies, stuffing, salad dressing recipes all come from family sources… siblings, parents, grandparents… a few recipes that have been used for generations. Several years ago, with much help and input from six siblings, I collected our family favorites and printed them in a little book for any family member who wanted one. Of course they all did and so did a few neighbors and friends. Recipes have become much more healthy online today but somehow we love to go back and use the recipes from the old South with too much butter, bacon, mayonnaise, sugar, and salt. Memories…

OIMG_7788n the cover of the cookbook, I chose a photo of my parents as I remember them back when I was a youngster. Sorry that my dad was not living when I completed the project but my mother loved the book with lots of memories and photos of her, our dad, and their brood.

At the back, I added pages of childhood photos of all seven siblings growing up in a much simpler time. It’s my children and grandchildren who love the recipes and the snippets of fun and humorous memories from each each of their aunts and uncles that accompany every recipe they remembered best. It is fun how the youngest sister remembered chewing on the flavorful strings after our mother cut them from around the Sunday roast, or a brother remembered selling soft shelled crabs he caught at our summer cabin just off the Chesapeake Bay to the highest adult bidder… after letting our mother have first choice, of course.

I’d like to think those years were golden years when children were given much more freedom to venture forth and discover the world on foot, on bikes, or even in the rowboat at our summer cottage. As long as we were home when the dinner bell rang, it was all good.  If you watch the PBS Masterpiece program, The Durrells in Corfu, you’ll get a sense of our lives and the freedom we had growing up. Controlled chaos with lots of animals! It was a very good thing!

Maine 2018

Maine.  What’s the appeal? Maine’s rocky shorelines dotted with sandy beaches draw thousands of vacationers to Maine. And then there are folks like us who are drawn to the dozens of fresh water lakes where rustic camps dot the shoreline. Bliss for me is watching a thick fog roll in over a lake waterfront while sipping a morning cuppa joe.

Thompson Lake 2018

Coffee could be followed by a morning paddle through the fog, the only sounds being the paddle dipping in the water and the not-so-distant call of the loons. In this tranquil setting, this could be the most exciting thing you do all day!

Fog burning off Thompson Lake 2018

Our summer stay was on Thompson Lake, a seven-square mile lake surrounded by beautiful mountains. The lake is in the top 5% of the cleanest lakes in Maine. On our boating expeditions around the lake, we could see the bottom at about 30-feet deep before we headed out into areas where the depths were close to 120-feet deep.

Both in deep waters and around the parameter of islands were prime spots for the grands to try their hand at first-time real (or reel 😄) fishing. A lake fished for bass, salmon and trout, all our small fishermen caught were little sunfish that were all released to see another day.

fishing 2018

It was not uncommon to spot a bald eagle on one of the many islands or hear the echo of loons any time of the day. With a reported 20 pairs of loons breeding on the lake, we felt fortunate to have a pair with their tiny offspring foraging in a cove near our camp daily. What a sight to see!

loons 2018

Days were spent doing whatever we pleased. That could mean doing nothing at all or it could mean a venture inland. Unlike the summers of my youth on the salty shores of our grandparents’ rural cabin in Virginia where siblings and cousins played cards or Monopoly to pass an afternoon, this generation has modern options for afternoon lounging. All good….

Thompson Lake 2018

Evenings were spent enjoying all the traditional summer activities….sitting on the dock, listening to the loons, watching sunsets, and toasting marshmallows over an open fire.

Thompson Lake sunset 2018

I think I’m sold on these rural lake camps of New England where nature abounds. It seems each summer we are on a different lake but it’s all so similar…. quiet, tranquil where nature rules and we are allowed to enter and absorb it all for a short time.

Thompson Lake 2018

 

 

 

Shades of red, white and blue

The Fourth of July, Independence Day, means different things to different people. In addition to the significance of the day and diverse interpretations, it is a holiday and a time for family and friends to gather together with a big emphasis on food.

Susan's Flag

Yesterday Google Doodle featured an interactive map with recipes for popular regional and state dishes. It stated, “The 4th of July is the USA’s most scrumptious summer celebration: a time when friends and family get together to celebrate the nation’s independence by cooking, boiling, frying, baking, grilling, or blackening their favorite regional dishes.”

The most searched recipe in New Hampshire was Apple Crisp, “a classic New England dessert.” We love apple crisp but for us that  dish is one we enjoy during apple season when the juicy fruit is picked fresh from local trees. For our gathering, we chose the fruit ripening on trees now: Cherries!

cherry pie

I can remember a few years ago that everyone seemed to have a red, white and blue border of annuals to show their patriotism on the Fourth. Our master gardener group in Virginia planned and planted for it in our community.  Even though I don’t plant one now, it was fun yesterday to spot shades of red, white and blue scattered here and there around the home.

Red

White

Blue

Beyond the red, white and blue, the backyard barbecues, and fireworks, the Fourth is an opportunity to pause and reflect on what it means to be an American, an American of any color or creed in these turbulent times and what the future of our country may be. My wish is for all to have a meaningful way to celebrate the day.

Summer Vacay 2017

With small mountains of snow surrounding us this January 9, more pleasant thoughts are carrying us back to the warm days of the past summer. Our seasonal travels have taken us to visit several mountain lakes in the few years that we’ve lived in New England.

And last summer our vacation took us to a new one on our radar, a Maine lake where we enjoyed three generations of family fun with youngster from age 10 months to the really old folks (us!).

summer vacayThe small village is named Lovell, just over the border from New Hampshire, and the body of water is Kezar Lake, a gorgeous, deep, clean lake surrounded by the rural hills of Maine and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Kezar Lake, ME

Kezar Lake

It is a very quiet lake. Jet-skis are discouraged as well as loud motors on boats. We spotted a good share of kayaks and pontoon boats and early morning fishermen with small motors on john boats. At first glance you might think that you’re the only folks on the lake due to the deeply forested waterfront that hides camps and rental cottages.

After a couple of days, we boated around the 9-mile lake and could make out the modest cabins that blended so well into trees from afar. We weren’t the only people staying on the lake after all.

We were told by locals that this lake community frowns upon showiness and conspicuousness in architecture. Peer pressure seems to prevent the mcmansions from being built for the most part. We boated around the lake a couple of times to check out the real estate and were enchanted by what we saw.

Kezar LakeWe would boat awhile, but it was much more fun to turn off the motor and drift, allowing our able fishermen to have a moment to practice a little casting, then reeling in their (plastic) catch of the day.

Catching a plastic yellow perch

A great many of the camps we saw were rustic and small, very similar in color to the log cabin where we resided, dark brown stain and forest green trim.  Our accommodations were modern and comfortable indoors with the latest conveniences but instead of tv and internet, we were usually found frockling on the waterfront or catching up on summer reads beneath the pines.

Kezar.Lake.JPG

I have to say I fancied everything this lake offered… maybe a little more than other lakes we’ve visited… so far that is. It matched the flavor of my grandparents’ rustic log cabin in Virginia on the shores of the peaceful Chesapeake Bay where I spent seemingly endless summers in my childhood.

Kezar Lake

Kazar Lake Camp

Kazar Lake 2017Locals residents and summer people want to keep the lake and the camps just the way they are… quiet, clean, and rustic with all the local traditions kept in place.  A local proprietor shared the news that the King family, Stephen and Tabitha, the well-known authors who reside part-time somewhere around there, purchased the sole campground on the lake, then closed it down. That took jet-skis and lots of boats from the lake and folks couldn’t be happier. We didn’t go looking for Stephen King but folks said it’s not unusual to run into him at local establishments. I don’t think we went out shopping or eating out enough…. but, hey, I finished two books.

Kazar Lake

Kezar Lake’s water is clean, one of Maine’s cleanest lakes. The sunsets are spectacular over the White Mountains and I can’t say enough about the absolute QUIET… except for the crickets and an occasional duck or two.

Living on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, we feel so lucky that we’re mere minutes from the ocean, yet the mountains of New England are oh-so-close! Salt water? Fresh water? We love ’em both and we can take our pick any week of summer. How divine is that??

Sunset on Kazar 2017

 Only 51 days more days till spring
Oops! Boy, am I wrong. It’s 69 days as of January 10. Sigh….

One holiday to the next…

Last week, I felt blessed to be in the midst of family for Thanksgiving, thinking about those family members who couldn’t be with us and reflecting on those who are no longer with us. Somehow those family traditions and tried and true recipes make everyone’s presence felt. What a week it was!

It was all good with some minor setbacks: three little children with colds, one mother fighting a cold, and at my house, a computer that bit the dust, a dishwasher that kicked the bucket, and signs of an impending cold. So, with houseguests, dishes piling up in the kitchen, and no computer, I’ve technically been offline (except for emails on my iPhone) and not checking the blog world. Thankfully, my recovered computer was plugged in two days ago and the dishwasher was repaired yesterday. Life is better.

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We did all the usual fun things over the week…eating too much, watching the Macy’s parade, walks, shopping Black Friday sales in Portsmouth and encountering a very New England Santa passing out local coupons…img_0221

Exciting for two sons and a son-in-law was a weekend trip to the Ohio State-Michigan game in Columbus. With two of them OSU fans and one a Michigan grad, someone had to come away disappointed in this double overtime matchup.

With the turkey off the table, the glitter and lights of Christmas are in full swing everywhere. I’ve barely rolled my pumpkins to the curb at my house. I think it’s time for a little holiday music and a trip to the tree farm….