Archive for January, 2013

Another Desultory Day


I’m dreaming of summer though we have lots of winter to live through, to enjoy, until even spring comes to Ohio. Actually the weather people just told us that early February will be the coldest weather around here since 1996 which I cannot recall at all.

I’m so desultory because tomorrow I’m leaving on a jet plane for Baltimore where Emily will pick me up and drive me the two hours back to her home near the Chesapeake Bay. And getting ready for such events makes me more dithery than usual! I wasn’t going to take a suitcase with me, but again, there are so many things to take to Em & Co. that I am filling a suitcase with most of that! And I keep thinking of more things, though I’m quite silly by this point, packing extra egg cups for them and fabric panels with the alphabet on them for the girls, along with lots of books and two pair of blue and white polka dot rain boots from Alice and a lot of other things. If I am normally disorganized, getting ready for travel makes me even more so! But in the happiest way, of course.

And we are having a lovely sunny winter wonderland sort of day here, and the skies are supposed to be clear tomorrow. It’s a joy…..But thank heaven for lists. I hope to remember my camera and to have things to share when I return.

I’m taking my kindle which has a new audiobook of Celia’s House by D.E. Stevenson downloaded on it. Andy set up the wireless for me which seemed to be lost when we changed the registration from him to me, and I bought some new silicone earphones yesterday…

I’ll be back on Tuesday……

soup matzoh ball soup

Meanwhile, (desultory, right?) I wanted to let everyone know that I am doing my best to keep National Soup Month (January, for very good reasons) by serving a lot of delicious soups around here.

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One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.

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Sunday was warm – even at the frozen lake and nearby – and Alice told me they stayed home. But Monday they returned to Holiday Valley. It was a good day on the slopes, but very few people were on them, and Nathan and his friend were able to have a ski instructor just for them for nearly the entire day.

Nathan ski vacation jan 2013 warm sunday no skiing








The picture above is from Sunday when Nathan was walking along the edge of the lake without even a jacket on. I’m not sure how long he did this! It looks cold to me.


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Skiing at Holiday Valley

So, it looks as though Alice, Michale and Nathan are having a lovely time at Holiday Valley, in Ellicottville, NY. And even Stephen who is enjoying hanging out with our lovely neighbor Meridith up at the lake doesn’t look too unhappy with life!  My skiing days are over, and have been for a long time, but I remember learning in the alps and having a wonderful time for the next 20 years or so, before arthritis made my knees rather uncooperative. And I’m thrilled that they are having fun on the slopes with their friends.

Nathan, Alice, Mike Holiday valley jan 2013

Alice, Nathan and Mike ready to hit the ski trails.

Nathan ski vac jan 2013 meridith babystng Stephen

Our wonderful neighbor Meredith holding Stephen. She’s a great babysitter!

Nathan and friend in Holiday valley jan 2013

Nathan and a friend at Holiday Valley.









Impossible to get these words to stay next to the pictures they belong to. Why even try, alas?

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Dreaming of The Point

That would be Point Chautauqua and that whole world around Lake Chautauqua where I’ve spent substantial parts of my life since 1981 (and actually, before).

Chaut winter 2013 jan the bell tower

At the moment it’s rather a world of snow and ice. It’s always colder there than here in Ohio, a blessing in the summer and a big part of the reason those Victorians decided to have a  summer resort (or more) there. Even in the winter it is a blessing for those who love skiing and winter sports.

My daughter Alice and some of her friends are supposed to go  up for the weekend and ski at Holiday Valley in Ellicotville, about an hour and a half further into the Alleghenies.  I hope this turns out to be fun for all and that my grandson Nathan, eight years old and an eager beginning skiier, will be enough recovered from his flu to take part.

chaut winter 2013 january sleighing

On the institute grounds they sometimes have sleighing in the winter, especially during the winter festival. I’ve only been to this a few times, but it’s lovely and they build a huge ice castle for it. I mean HUGE. It’s called I.C.E. Ice Castle Extravaganza.

Paul and I went to this together and were amazed and delighted.


Chautauqua winter ice castle in mayvilleThis is from 2008





Chautauqua winter festival snow castle 2012

And this from 2012.




This festival happens over the President’s Day weekend in February.

But before that event which I won’t be attending, I’ll be traveling to Maryland for a long weekend with Emily, Ingmar, Sofia and Clara.  Sofia says they will have a “surprise” party for my birthday. Hope it works out well!




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Today I am taking down my Christmas decorations…A sad moment, but happy because it is the feast of the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Three Wise Men.

And I always wonder, as I pack up all these well loved ornaments,  what will happen in our lives between now and next Christmas. I try to anchor myself here in the present moment, but still have this wondering curiosity about the future. Don’t you?

art three wise men

Emily and Ingmar and their family had a meal of cheese fondue on Christmas Eve, roasted goose with red cabbage and a napkin dumpling for Christmas dinner, and Raclette on New Year’s Eve and I said I would tell you more about them, so here is an attempt. A rather superficial attempt, but one which may point you in the right direction if you wish to try any of this yourself.

Fondue which comes in many guises, is perhaps most commonly cheese fondue and there is at least one recipe which goes back to the late 1600s. I think it comes in and out of fashion. It was in style when Paul and I married in 1972 and we received, as did most of our friends,  a fondue set as one of our wedding gifts, a pot in which to heat the cheese mixture set over a holder for sterno as a heat source, with six long handled forks for people to use to dip whatever they wish to coat with the simmering cheese. This can be bread, potatoes, and many other things.

I’ve also had, in Germany, meat fondues in which small pieces of meat are cooked either in hot oil or hot broth, like a sort of Mongolian hot pot. And I’ve heard of chocolate fondue, but never had it.

This sort of meal, along with raclette, is arranged so that people can eat in a very leisurely manner while talking together,  and a fondue supper can last hours!

Raclette is probably still less well known in this country. It also needs some equipment, a two layered heated apparatus for melting cheese on the lower level, on little wedge shaped spatulas, and an upper leveL for cooking other things. You scrape melted cheese onto whatever other food you want to eat with it…I think it began in Switzerland, and if you are interested in raclette or fondue you can Google them, and also look them up on amazon.com. They are both lots of fun with a group of people who enjoy being together.

I’ve had more meals of fondue and raclette in Germany than in the US. I think it is more popular there for parties.

Some people eat special meals or special desserts (cakes with lucky charms in them) for the feast of the three kings, but we don’t, even though my husband and all his nine brothers and sisters had Maria for their first “middle name” (not an unusual custom  among Catholics in some European countries) and Baldizsár for the second (except his fourth sister Maria herself who was not, luckily,  named Maria Maria.) Baldizsár is the Hungarian for Balthazar, the third of the three kings.

xmas 2012 em and ingmar's xmas table

This meal which Ingmar makes for Christmas is a  tradition in his family. Roast goose is wonderful, though there is less meat on it than I first imagined. (I had tried it once, myself, before I ever knew Ingmar, and was not happy with my results!) Ingmar can roast goose superlatively, without it being greasy, and with all its special flavor.

Braised red cabbage is something everyone in my family loves! It’s easy to make and there are many recipes… And the napkin dumpling, which is a version of a bread dumpling – semmel knoedel – which is tied in a napkin and cooked in boiling water and then sliced and eaten with goose gravy over it is a dream. I still don’t have Ingmar’s recipe. There are several online, but I bet his recipe makes a better dumpling! It is, in my imagining, like the “ball” that is talked of by Miss Matty’s old beau in Cranford, when he is describing the meals of his childhood. No broth, no ball, no ball, no meat…..

And now, I am quite hungry!

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Seven Swans a Swimming

Today, the first day of 2013, is the seventh day of Christmas, the day one receives “seven swans a-swimmin'”. They are supposed to represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe, right judgement, knowledge, courage, and reverence. Or in Latin, “spiritus sapientiæ et intellectus, spiritus consilii et fortitudinis, spiritus scientiæ et pietatis;  et replebit eum spiritus timoris Domini.” Thanks to Sr. Noella, my Latin teacher a long, long time ago, (shortly after the earth cooled as my friend Michele would say) from 1959 to 1961, I can just make out the meaning of these words!

xmas 2012 seven swans

But I seriously doubt I could get far with Caesar’s little book which begins telling us that Gaul is on the whole divided into three parts.

Today Alice and her family are on the eight hour drive back to Ohio from celebrating the New Year down by the Bay with Em & Co. I’m glad it’s not the weather of day before yesterday or even yesterday. We have a good ten inches of snow around here. Yesterday it snowed all day, invisibly, and in the evening when Andy and drove to Alice’s to check up on the well being of Nathan’s Christmas hamster, Juniper, we saw three single car accidents (in the ditch) on the way over and back, less than five miles.  We were very careful!

I want to share a few more photos from Christmas and New Years with our Maryland cohort. One thing they did yesterday was visit the lighthouse park at Piney Point. More of it was open than ever before and they not only were able to play on the beach, but they toured the lighthouse museum, were taken up to the top of the lighthouse, saw the little house where they tell about the U boat which was sunk off Piney  Point shortly after WWII. It was captured off the coast of Scotland but brought to the US to be examined because it was invisible to sonar and we wanted to know why. Apparently it was covered with some sort of experimental rubber which achieved this. When the Navy was finished investigating it, they sunk it and now scuba divers can look at it in warmer weather. I hope these facts are reasonably straight! But you can search for more about it.


xmas 2012 fia tree

Ingmar and Em use real candles on their tree, but they are only lit for short periods of time and carefully supervised and a fire extinguisher is at hand.

xmas 2012 Alice and Em et al on Piney Point Beach

Looking back to Piney Point beach and lighthouse……

xmas 2012 Em at Piney Point

Em on the dock………

xmas 2012 fondue supper

Fondue supper on Christmas Eve……..

xmas new years 2012 at ems

Raclette supper New Years Eve

I will explain more about there two suppers and show you Ingmar’s wonderful Christmas dinner recipe in my next post.

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