Friday, January 29, 2010

Laughing Later

We said we would laugh about it later, both of us a tad uncertain how long it might take for the experience to become funny.

So begins this, a true story.

Though it reads like the tallest of tales.......

Commemorating our January wedding anniversary in the high style it deserves presents the occasional problem, as the weather rarely cooperates in celebratory fashion. I suppose, ideally, we should take off for warmer climes, fly away from the grey skies of home to relax on a pink sand beach, cradling fancy little drinks in our pale little hands as we await Swedish massages and dinners that end with creme brulee. We have indeed done just that several times. More realistically however, we usually opt for a nice dinner out, swaddled in coats and scarves and often dodging icy raindrops enroute. Over the past couple of years, we have enjoyed anniversaries en famille, with both Edward and Apple coming along for the celebration, usually a hike in the woods or an outing at the lake. One such trip occurred two years ago, with decidedly unexpected results.

Our anniversary fell on a Sunday that year and we had headed out to one of our favourite destinations, a lovely, rather romantic, garden setting a couple of hours from town. It was a beautiful day, graced with the most salubrious sort of weather, especially for a January. We had a marvelous time, all four of us, following winding trails in the winter sunlight, sipping hot cocoa by the glassy lake. Eventually, the light turned to mauve and dusk was upon us, so we all headed to the car, the four of us tired and happy and ready for our dinners. Little did we know, much like the fabled musician who fiddled away during the burning of Rome, as we were frolicking in the woodland, there in the parking lot, unbeknownst to us, our car had expired.

Blithely unaware as we were, we turned the key and immediately discovered our trusty Passatt overheating in a way that cars are just not supposed to do. Slowly, slowly, we coasted out of the gardens, hoping to make it to help, all the while well aware that Sunday evening in the middle of nowhere was not the best time or place to find it.

The only establishment open in town was Little Piggies, a restaurant whose very name was a certain hindrance to any female appetite. We pulled in and The Songwriter ventured inside, leaving me with the dogs, who were attempting to remind me, through piercing, focused stares, that their own dinnertimes were fast approaching. The Songwriter soon returned with an address of a “hobby” mechanic scrawled on the back of a greasy menu, and we limped away down the road.

Turning into the man’s driveway a few seconds later, my heart, which had been teetering on the edge of fear, much like Humpty Dumpty atop his wall, finally fell with a thud. A more vividly Southern gothic scene could not have been imagined. We bounced along in the ruts of the drive, past an enclosure full of slack-jawed bloodhounds, and came to a pitiful halt in front of a faded old barn on which a homemade sign bore the words - written in red and in such tiny letters they practically screamed for a psychoanalyst’s interpretation - ”cash only and no checks from wachovia bank”.

No one was in sight, but I had the distinct feeling that we were being watched. Sure enough, Edward and I turned to look to our right and discovered a herd of donkeys placidly gazing our way from their place in a pen by the barn, their dull expressions perfect pictures of asinine ennui. Of course, Edward immediately told Apple to look (!), and the chorus of barks and growls than ensued was deafening.

As we sat there, in the dying car, in the total darkness, in the freezing cold, hours from home, on our wedding anniversary, waiting for a “mechanic” we’d never clapped eyes on, questions naturally arose. What if he didn’t show up. What if he couldn’t fix the car. What if he turned out to be a homicidal maniac who intended to eat us for dinner. The dogs were quiet. They knew this was serious.

To be continued on Saturday night......

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


There are roses on my bedside table. I am a lucky girl.

It is my wedding anniversary.

And this is the best poem for today.


I Will Make You Brooches

I will make you brooches and toys for your delight

Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.

I will make a palace fit for you and me

Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.

I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,

Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom,

And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white

In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.

And this shall be for music when no one else is near,

The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!

That only I remember, that only you admire,

Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Enjoying January

January is a nesting month. The pages of the calendar are a bit clearer now, our schedules not quite so demanding. In cozy hibernation, much like artist Amber Alexander’s satisfied bear shown above, we have more time to read the books we’ve been saving, to see the films we’ve been curious about. Time to cook that recipe we’ve wanted to try. To pull out that difficult knitting pattern and work away with no deadline in sight. Time to to clean off our desks, clear the tinsel from our thoughts and prepare for the rest of the year. A wonderful time really, and here are a few of the things I’m especially enjoying whilst hibernating in this, the first month of the year.

Oh, and Amber's wonderful book-reading bear is named Byron and you can see more of her work HERE.



After all the knitting I did for Christmas presents, it’s been fun this month to knit a few special things just for myself and the Songwriter. In the holiday issue of Vogue knitting there were several patterns for cowls, or as I like to call them...Snoods. (Shown here on my two favourite models, who were kind to help out, even though neither of them has any need for warm clothing.) Trust me, these things are fabulous. When the cold winds blow, just tuck your chin down in their wooly warmth, or pull them up over your head. You’ll be in heaven! I am currently working on a splendid hat for The Songwriter. Terribly fun to knit and it reminds me of something Albus Dumbledore might wear.

You can see it HERE.

Edward and Apple kindly modeling my snoods!


I’m crazy about these wonderful personalized bookplates, so much so that I gave some to everyone in my book club for Christmas.

Be sure to check out the entire shop HERE.

So many delightful designs.



A hot cup of Horlick’s Light Chocolate Malt every night by the fire. One of life’s true pleasures in my humble opinion. We don’t have this particular incarnation here in the states, so I have to try and get it shipped in from the UK, but it’s worth every effort. More warming than brandy on a cold winter’s night.


House Portraits

I always feel as if our beloved cottage is really the fifth member of our family, so it seems fitting that its portrait would hang on the walls. Some years back, an artist who often does work for me (in fact, his work is in every room of our house, much like Carl Larsson’s) created such a portrait and we just adore it. If you are fortunate enough to dwell in a house that you love, it is such a delightful thing to have its portrait painted. Patricia van Essche can do just that and can do it beautifully. The illustration below is just one example of her work.

Go HERE to see more.


Fair Isle Gloves

The Songwriter surprised me with a wonderful gift at Christmas. A creamy brown pair of hand-knitted Fair Isle gloves, straight from Scotland. They are sold by Thistle and Broome, a site devoted to the art of my favourite place in the world. From teddy bears to Orkney chairs, dog leads to riding habits - all gorgeous and all handmade in Scotland. I had fallen in love with these gloves a while back. You may choose which of the knitters you’d like to create your very own pair.... mine were made by Agnes Bowie... and they arrive soon after, made exactly to your measurements.

Go visit, go shopping, HERE.


Wedding Dresses

I suppose it’s because my own wedding anniversary occurs this week, but I often think of weddings in January. I catch myself glancing at the bridal magazines, creating whole white rose extravaganzas in my mind as I stand in the check out line at the market. Recently, I have begun to get a bit bored with all the strapless wedding gowns. They all seem so similar to me. Perhaps that’s why this one captured my fancy. If the Songwriter and I were walking down the aisle again this month, this just might be the one I’d choose.

You can see more HERE.



Here in the states, Masterpiece Theatre is currently airing a brand new adaptation of Jane Austen’s, Emma, and it’s a winner. Wonderful performances, with sets and landscapes that are absolutely swoon-worthy. Romola Garai makes the most gorgeous Emma; she plays her with just the right balance of irritating conceit and utter charm. I really think this will be the definitive production of Emma for me from now on.

You can sneak a peek HERE.


Marvelous Meryl

And on the subject of film.... I am so enjoying watching marvelous Meryl Streep pick up award after award for her perfectly delicious performance in Julie and Julia. So well deserved! How I hope she wins the Oscar!



I adore this Cotton Milk Mask from Mario Badescu. If you’ve been playing outside all day in the cold, it’s just the best thing ever.

Go read about it HERE.


Dogs at Play

Watching Edward and Apple play every day, especially in the snow we had a couple ofweeks ago, is just about the most fun I can think of. Pure abandon. I have recently discovered a blog where everyone can enjoy the happy sight of dogs at play, on the beach no less!

Go take a look HERE.

I dare you not to smile.



These wonderful handmade shoes remind me that warmer weather will be here soon. I can see myself wearing these everywhere come Springtime.

Go see them HERE.


Winter Walks

And finally, walks with Edward are fun at anytime of the year, but the winter ones are best. We both want to run. This passage by from a poem by Amy Lowell captures the joy Edward and I both feel when we’re out for a walk in the icy air.

"So with the stretch of the white road before me,

Shining snow crystals rainbowed by the sun,

Fields that are white, stained with long, cool, blue shadows,

Strong with the strength of my horse as we run.

Joy in the touch of the wind and the sunlight!

Joy! With the vigorous earth I am one."

Amy Lowell, from A Winter Ride


So, how about you?

What have you been enjoying about January?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Behind My Frosted Windows

It is impossible to wander this planet and not be humbled in the face of its abundant curiousities, wonders I can never hope to understand, beauty I cannot grasp. So many mysteries. So many questions. Why do I have the same crooked index finger that my father had? How does The Songwriter manage to play the piano so beautifully, by ear? How does Edward know to come sit by the front door a full five minutes before I pull in the driveway?

Why do some of us recognize true love early on, whilst others spend years in the searching. Why is selfishness so often justified, greed so often rewarded?

Why do the innocent suffer?

I have sat behind my frosted windows these past couple of weeks, listening and reading of the horror that is Haiti, frustrated in my impotence, heartsick at the very thought of what those people are facing. I give my money, I say my prayers. I wonder why I was born where I was, why I am comfortable and safe, surrounded by love - warm, well-fed, and hopeful.

Call me idealistic, but I have always truly believed those old sayings from the sixties, the ones that exhorted us to “bloom where we’re planted”, to “be the change we wish to see in the world”, to “think globally, act locally”. In the work that I do for my neighborhood, my community, in the smiles and the kindness I try to show to the strangers I meet every day, I like to think it is making a tiny bit of difference, warming just a corner of creation and that, perhaps, just perhaps, that wee bit of warmth might spread to other people, other places. And then I am knocked to my knees in despondency by the magnitude of suffering in a place I know so very little about, lost in my inability to help or even comprehend.

As of Thursday evening, Americans had given over $355 million to the various organizations that are attempting to alleviate the suffering in Haiti. I encourage us all to contribute where we can.

The Red Cross is accepting donations


Also, The Songwriter has offered his song, Brand New Day, for a free download at a special site for Haiti relief sponsored by Paste Magazine.

You may access the site


Just make a donation through one of the organizations on the Paste site, and you'll be able to download the song. Once you've made your donation, and you're ready to download, simply scroll down the song list till you see his name, Pat Terry.

Faced with the incomprehensible, we do what we can.

And we pray.


I have had the echo of this old Stephen Foster song in my head all week.

It just won’t leave.

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears

While we all sup sorrow with the poor

There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;

Oh, hard times come again no more.

While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay

There are frail forms fainting at the door

Though their voices are silent their pleading looks will say;

Oh, hard times come again no more.

“Tis the song, the sigh of the weary

Hard times, hard times come again no more

Many days you have lingered

Around my cabin door

Oh, hard times come again no more.

by Stephen Foster

Painting above, Winter Mood, 1957 by Nikolai Mikhailovich Romadin

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I love to cook. Really. At night, I often curl up in bed with a cookbook, reading it like a novel. I have cooked dinners for family, dinners for friends, for old palates and young ones, for the famous and the shy, never tiring of the process nor the effort. Always, when I am happily about the business of cooking or baking, Edward and Apple are with me. Dozing on the kitchen rug, sitting by the stove, smelling the aromas, hoping for a taste. They are wonderful companions for any chef.

A couple of weeks ago, much to their surprise, all the measuring and stirring, the beating and kneading, the delicious smells floating through the air, were all exclusively for them. For you see, I made homemade dog biscuits for the very first time. So much fun to make, and so easy. The biscuits had to dry in the oven overnight, and at breakfast the next morning I must confess that I was rather amusingly nervous as I waited to see if Edward and Apple approved of my creations. Edward sniffed his. This was something new, after all. He looked at Apple. Then he grabbed his fat biscuit and dove under the table, followed immediately by Apple. They both munched away, sending satisfying crunchy sounds up to my ears. I was thrilled.

If you have dogs and love to cook, I encourage you to give these a try. The recipe is quite easy and it makes a gracious plenty of biscuits. I’ll be making more tomorrow and am considering adding a bit of grated carrot to the mixture. Edward loves carrots.


Dog Biscuits


3 1/2 cup all-purpose (or unbleached) flour

2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup skim milk powder

1 tablespoon (or 1 package) dry yeast

3 1/2 cups lukewarm chicken or meat broth

1 egg beaten with about 2 tablespoons water (for egg wash)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease cookie sheets. (I baked them on parchment paper, so I skipped this messy step.)

Mix together all dry ingredients.

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm chicken or meat broth. Let yeast broth mixture set 10 min. Then stir in flour mixture until a soft dough is formed. If the dough is too sticky you can add more flour.

Roll resulting dough out to about 1/4" thick. Pull dough apart into biscuit sized pieces and brush them with egg wash.

Bake on greased cookie sheets at 350F for 45 min. Then turn off oven and leave in overnight to finish hardening.

NOTE: As I said, these make quite a lot of biscuits. I put some in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until the dogs finished the ones in their biscuit jar. They would also freeze well. Just let them thaw overnight.

Painting above: Winter Sunshine, 1940 by Phillis Walters

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Dog Star

The man in the moon was in hiding.

In his skeletal, sickle-shaped state, he knew all too well that his light was too meager, too thin, to compete with the one who tonight ruled the skies.

For the heavenly wolf had appeared once again to lay claim to the firmament; the celestial prism of old who has steered the hand of the sailor, commanded the Nile, and sowed bright seeds of wonder in the heart of the shepherd alone on the cold windswept hill.

Sirius, The Dog Star, had returned.

An unblinking eye hanging high in the sphere of a cloudless January night, he stared calmly into our cottage window, as incandescent as a diamond.

From his place snuggled down in his fat paisley bed, the white dog was lost in a black and white dream, a canine film noir seen only by him.

His sleep was deep, not a sound of his breathing was heard.

When suddenly, up from the depths of his soul came a sound so arcane, so immortal, it drew shivers from the humans huddled up in their bed.

A howl.

Starting softly as an idea, then building and building to a crescendo of unfathomable feeling. A song from his ancestors, a chant from the angels, lifted up to the light of his very own star.

The enigmatic melody stayed in our minds long after its notes had diminished.

Another profound reminder of all we do not yet know.


Sirius, the brightest star in the whole of the night sky, is best seen on dark January nights. It can be found by using the constellation Orion's three-star belt and drawing an imaginary line to the lower left. Its true colour is blue-white, but it often blinks with all colours of the spectrum due to its proximity to the horizon and our constantly shifting atmosphere. I had no idea that Edward was aware of its presence, but learned better.

Painting by Theodor Severin Kittelsen