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Celebration Season – Eat Your Heart Out

Heath Gourmet Club

Celebration Season this year has been quite lengthy. We had one rowdy family Christmas on December 22, but then a quiet adult Christmas  on December 25 with only one child and his lady, and a dear friend who always joins us for Christmas dinner. On December 29 the Heath Gourmet Club celebrated Christmas with a theme of Looks Like a Wreath to Me! Nearly every course was wreath-like. My savarin pans came in handy for the main course which was grape leaf covered rice and beef, with roasted cauliflower in the center and braised kale with colorful dice peppers surrounding it. My Green celebration bread was a big hit. Gourmet Club has been serving ourselves for over 31 years! Wonderful food with never a single failure, and friendship.

Wreath de Noel

The finale was not a Buche de Noel but a Wreath de Noel with lots of fabulous chocolate ganache, pistachio marzipan (home made) and topped off with a fondant ribbon.

Grand and great-granchildren

Yesterday, we drove throught the nearly 20 inches of snow that the last two days have brought for a final family Christmas. The eating continued with some of the Butternut Squash soup I made for Gourmet Club, and delicious pumpkin pie. The children all agreed that pumpkin is a vegetable and they were very happy to eat their vegetables.  It is impossible to get all the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren together anytime except in the summer, but we had a very nice showing. They even stopped moving long enough for a posed photo.

Son, grandson and great granddaughters

There were a few quiet moments. Reading Aloud. Lola, the youngest, got a new copy of Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. Happy reading. Happy day. Happy family. And a happy new year beginning tomorrow

What Comes After Thanksgiving? The First Snow

The Major and Rory

Thanksgiving Day dawned mild and sunny.  There was little left to do in the morning at daughter Betsy’s house so there was time for a stroll and for The Major and grandson Rory to have a tete a tete.

Thanksgiving crowd

Things got a lot busier at daughter Diane’s house, especially in the Thanksgiving kitchen. Cooks and kibbitzers gathered near the stove to be there when the turkey came out of the oven.

The Thanksgiving table

It is impossible to get everyone in the frame at the Thanksgiving table but all 15 of us were there. We couldn’t reach the Texas branch of the family who were in Pittsburg (?) with the Lawn family but a toast was drunk to family and friends, near and far.

Lawn Bed

Post Thanksgiving weather was cold, breezy and raw. This morning we woke to snow. The flurries are slight, the air is still, and the temeprature is up to 32 degrees, but the ground is covered.

Japanese lantern

We are poised for a peaceful moment, but time does not stand still.

Christmas wreath

The Christmas wreath is hung and the dance towards Christmas has begun. The halls must be decked, the oven fired up and beds prepared for guests.

Mr and Mrs Vegetable – Garlic Heads?

Mr and Mrs Vegetable

When we finished the remodel of our kitchen a few months ago I took Mr and Mrs Vegetable out  of the drawer where they have been living for the past two decades. I remember these from my childhood when  they hung on the kitchen wall in  New York when I was about five (1945) and then in the farm kitchen in Charlotte, Vermont. My brothers and I found them in a big storage closet  along with our childhood Christmas ornaments after my mother died in  1990. We split up the ornaments, but neither of my brothers wanted Mr and Mrs Vegetable so there was no bickering when I happily took them away.

However I never put them up on the wall until now. Now my kitchen wall is worthy of these wonderful ‘sculptures.’  My husband and I have taken to greeting each other with open arms when he arrives home at night. Somehow, after some months, this still makes us laugh. Two silly people. What can we do?

Mrs Vegetable up close

This morning as my husband prepared his morning coffee he gazed at Mrs Vegetable and said her head, and Mr Vegetable’s head, and declard they were garlic bulbs. Garlic bulbs? I don’t know if any American housewife c. 1945 even knew what a garlic bulb looked like.

Garlic Bulb from our garden

All the other vegetables that make up their bodies are easily recognizeable: potatoes, tomato, carrots, lettuce, peas, green pepper and beans. I never gave it much thought but always assumed the heads were some kind of turnip. We disagreed, but by the time he left for  work I was coming around to his way of thinking, and he was coming around to my way. What do we do now?

Do you have vegetable sculpture in your kitchen or dining room?


Heath Fair 2012

Heath Fair Quilt

For the first time in seven years weather at the Heath Fair was just right. Not too hot. Not too cool. Not too breezy. Just right. It seems all the world thought the day was just right, too. I don’t know how many records were broken for number of attendees or business for the various vendors, but I can tell you that when I arrived Sunday afternoon to take my turn at the new Authors Tent, set up by Jack Estes and Betsy Kovacs of Pleasure Boat Studio, I was told there was no room to park. Workers were scurrying to create a new parking area at the far end of the Fairgrounds, but they let me park ‘illegally’ so I could arrive on time to read from my book The Roses at the End of the Road.

The Friends of the Heath Library book sale broke records, for book sales and raffle sales. We have to thank all those who donate books and prizes because they are loyal supporters of the Heath Library who understand how important the children’s programming and book collection is, while also appreciating the necessity for good Internet access. The Friends of the Library support both.

Mother Earth

When I saw Mother Earth being dressed in a beflowered and beleafed gown and readied for the Fair Parade I was sure I was seeing another record being made – for the largest puppet ever to appear at the Fair. This twelve and a half foot figure was designed by Larry Sampson, one of our newer Heath residents, whose day job is designing and building sets for movies and whatever dramatic project calls on his skills. The puppet was built by Sampson with the help of the Lyra Johnson and the children’s summer reading program, and dressed by Kara Leistyna, our Town Coordinator, who is also known for her talents as a seamstress. This was the largest dress she has ever made, with the biggest hoop skirt in Fair history.

I am sure all kinds of other records were being set by exhibitors. I know the excitement when a child wins his first blue ribbon for a piece of art, or for her squash. I know the laughter of my daughters who participated in their first skillet toss. No blue ribbons expected or needed for that competition.

The theme of the parade this year was Right to Farm. Now when you enter town on either Route 8A or Avery Brook Road  you are greeted by a Right to Farm Community sign. Heath does not have the dairy farms that it once did, but there is a beef farm, blueberry farms, maple farms and bio fuel farms. Sunflowers! Some energetic gardeners are selling their surplus asparagus and eggs and etcetera from a roadside stand. Some have even been known to sell perfect produce to local restaurants. Farming is not done on the scale as in years of yore, but our whole society is now thinking of the value of small local farms and how they can be an important part of our food security.

Ostensibly there is a lot of competition at the Fair, but while competing in the friendliest possible way there are lessons to be learned,  rules to be followed, and new opportunities to be discovered.

My garlic is on the plate

This year I entered garlic for the first time. Inspired and tutored by Rol Hesselbart, Heath’s garlic king and the man who gave me my first seed garlic two years ago, I searched the Fair premium book for the garlic category. It was not there. All I could do was enter my garlic under Vegetables – Other.

How to do it? All the other vegetable categories explain how to display your veggie – two squash or ten green beans or five onions. Uniformity is always key to winning a prize, and following directions like “stems must be on fruits and vegetables.”  Surely that didn’t mean the whole garlic stem which is about two feet long.

With no direction, I finally decided I would clean five of my most uniformly sized dried garlic bulbs, trim the roots, and trim the stems to about two inches. They looked very much like some of the onion exhibits.

When I brought my entries in on Thursday night another garlic entry was already there, but with no direction, this entry was a little bundle of garlic bulbs with long stems. How were these to be compared?

In the end, neither one of us won first prize. That honor went to Doug Mason who made a whole big bouquet of garlic bulbs, with long stems beautifully bound. Well!

The judges do the best they can, but they had no direction either. There was clearly a problem. More people in town are growing garlic and more people may very well want to compete for the blue ribbon next year.  The upshot is that by the time the Fair had closed we garlic gardeners learned that not only would there be a separate category for garlic next year, there will also be a special Hesselbart prize. Does that mean a blue ribbon might carry more than a $3 premium?  We can only wait and see. ###

Between the Rows –  August 25-2012

Composting and Recycling at the Heath Fair

We try to make the Heath Fair as environmentally sound as possible.


Flax for Textiles, Oil, Nutrition and Paper

Rory with snake

Rory had to go home to reorganize for Boy Scout camp, but not before he caught this snake in the garden. He has such sharp eyes. I’ve seen a lot of snakes this summer, but none as pretty as this one.

Rory harvesting garlic

We keep Rory pretty busy with travels and projects – and chores. He began the garlic harvest and I finished today.

Rory the baker

Time with Granny and The Major is never complete without a couple of stints in the kitchen. Rory’s specialite de maison is Saumon en Papillote, but its always fun to make a few pans of  sugar cookies.

Flax growing at Historic Deerfield

One day The Major, Rory and I coaxed granddaughter Tricia to come with us to Historic Deerfield. We got a great tour of  the Wells-Thorne house, and a brief tour of the Stebbins house where I  worked as a tour guide for a few months in 1972. Or thereabouts. We went to the History Workshop where we saw flax growing.  We got to see how it got from being a plant in the soil, to fiber that could be used for weaving, sewing, rope, and paper.

Harvested flax

The second step is to harvest the flax.

Flax retting

Then the flax has to be  soaked in water for at least two weeks. This is called ‘retting’ which essentially means rotting, to loosen the outer fibers.

The retted flax then has to be dried. It is now ready for the work that gets done indoors. This display includes the equipment to ‘brake’ or break down those outer fibers, then ‘hetcheling’ which is kind of like carding wool,  to release the long flax fibers – known to us all as linen.

We are all familiar with linen tablecloths, towels, and clothes, but did you realized that linseed oil is from flax? And nowadays flax seed is recognized for its great nutritional value because it contains a high level of Omega-3.

The beginning of linen paper

The hands-on project  that is organized for visitors this summer is paper-making, using tow, the shorter pieces of flax fiber. Historic Deerfield Museum staff was on hand with all the supplies needed to help us make our own paper. Here Tricia has perfectly filled her frame with tow.

Tricia and Rory making linen paper

Tricia is taking the next step while Rory gets started.

Drying the paper

The  job begins with wet tow, which has to be dried. It took three blue towels to get out as much water as possible.

Removing the paper from the frame

Then the wet paper is knocked out of the frame. It only took a little encouragement.

Rory 'scutching'

It needs further drying. This step is called ‘scutching’  Afterwards the paper is laid out on trays to dry. Visitors who come the following day will get to use this handmade paper to make a little journal. We made our journals out of paper made the day before. A fair exchange all around.

This project will be continuing until August 30.  Historic Deerfield is a great place to take children. And adults.

Sunny Sunday With Friends and Mass MoCA

Brunch Buffet

That’s Tinky Weisblat’s blueberry cake and frosting. More food coming out of the kitchen. We built up our strength before heading of Mass MoCA

Great Porsche

Not My car. I look good in it though.

By BGL Arts Cooperative

Off to our favorite museum, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, with grandson Rory. This sculpture is made of discarded barriers from the Canada-US border.  You can ride it, and I did. The O Canada exhibit was fabulous!

The Mountain, mixed media by Graeme Patterson

Chris Millar - Mixed Media

Crash Landing

Rory in crashed spaceship

Grandson Rory is NOT responsible for the crash landing.

Space travelers live in tight quarters.


In Between - Installation With Arrows by Michael Fernandes

You had to look but this exhibit, random arrows shot from a cross bow, were scattered through the O Canada exhibit.

No gardens in this post, but I’ll soon put up photos of a Mass MoCA garden. Art is where you find it! For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.


Weekend of Plants and Memorials

The Ladue Family on the Bridge of Flowers

This Mother’s Day weekend was filled with flowers, and memorials. The Ladue family, Kimberly, Troy and Lisa, visited the Bridge of Flowers and presented the Bridge committee with a donation that will help keep the Bridge in bloom. Their mother, Margaret Oliver Ladue was a flower lover and (among other things) worked in the gardens of an assisted living home. Through their family foundation, her children are able to support their mother’s interests in education with an annual scholarship and by supporting other organizations that reflect their mother’s interests. For more about the work of the foundation you can click here.

Edie Gerry, Buckland Library Trustee

I was also happy to attend the planting of an American Elm tree at the Buckland Public Library in memory of John Powell, a Buckland native whose final work for the town was the help he gave the Library with its new addition to make it energy efficient. I treasure my memories of John when he visited the library and we tried to figure out which books of his favorite authors he had not read, and his memories of the town in earlier days. Just this past week the Library received notice that it was awarded Silver Leed Certification.

Caitlin, Diane and Tricia

My Mother’s Day was filled with so much lively family that there was hardly time to take photographs. My gift was hours of labor in the gardens. Mowing, digging, planting, fence building – and the opening of the Cottage Ornee. I did one picture of daughter Diane with her two daughters as they prepared to leave, with potted plants for their gardens. For all of them including, daughter Betsy,  and grandsons Rory, Tynan, and Ryan (teenagers getting ready to drive!),not to mention the ones who could not be here, Philip, Chris, Kate, Greg, Anthony and Drew, I am truly grateful.

Mother’s Day – The Family is Coming

Sargent crabapple

Mother’s Day has arrived and children and grandchildren are on their way.

My Girls – International Women’s Day

My family July 2010

It was quite a job getting everyone in the family together in one spot even at a family reunion. My brother and sister-in-law bookend this group, but the rest of us include our five children, their spouses and the grandchildren. That is three daughters and three granddaughters.

With my oldest son's daughter and her daughters

My oldest son’s daughter Tracy (our oldest granddaughter) who lives in Florida couldn’t make the 2010 family reunion, but she and her two daughters, Lola  on my lap, and Bella on her mother’s lap, made it up for Christmas in 2011.

Lola and Bella got to meet their auntie Diane and her daughter Colleen. Lots of girls! We’ve got girly girls, dramatic girls, quiet girls, energetic girls, bookish girls, fashionable girls –  and sometimes those categories overlap. None of us can be described easily.

While my three daughters have supported each other (mostly) over the vicissitudes of life that appear over nearly 50 years, they are all very different, with different interests, talents, aspirations and strengths. The granddaughters are also very different, walking different paths, and still finding their own passions. The great-granddaughters promise to be as individual and unique as all the other women in the family.

On this International Women’s Day the theme is about Inspiring Futures  for our girls. There are many organizations that make this their mission, and you can read about many of these initiatives here, but all of us want to inspire the girls in our life as they walk into their futures. We don’t need to imagine specific careers for them, but we can try to inspire them to good health, strength and confidence. We want them to find work that they love. We want them to find their own inspiration.

Christmas Joys and . . .

Son Philip, me, grandaugher Tracy with her daughters Lola and Bella

What is any big family celebration without a few tears. Alas, although Bella loves looking at photos of herself, she does not like knowing the camera is pointed at her. It is not often we get four generations together. What a gift. Tears and all.

Great Granny and Bella

Reading Aloud is one of my great pleasures – on any day of the year. I was happy to introduce Bella, oblivious to the camera now, to one of the great children’s book authors and illustrators in Massachusetts – Jan Brett. We had a good time looking at the wonderfully detailed illustrations in Daisy Comes Home.

We were thrilled that granddaughter Tracy and her family were visiting from Florida, and that they will be moving back to our area this year. The best gift of all.

Yesterday’s extravaganza was Chapter Two of Christmas 2011. We spent Christmas Eve with dear friends, Christmas Day with son Chris and his lady Michelle, and Chapter Three is scheduled for Thursday when we go east to celebrate with our two daughters, their children, and even a reprise of Philip’s branch.  I hope your Christmas cheer is lingering, too.