Monday, December 31, 2007

The last of 2007's storms

We woke up to another big snow storm, I've lost count of how many there have been in December and there is another predicted for tomorrow, but that will be January. I'll keep taking pictures like the one here throughout the winter to measure the snow against the raspberry bushes.

As the snow falls and the year draws to a close, I am thinking of some of the personal highlights for this year. The problem with naming them, is that I will surely miss some important ones. Send yours or any of mine that I missed along as a comment or an e-mail if you like.
  • Winter hike up Cannon Mountain with E and the WPI TKE's
  • Hike to Angel Falls to watch A climb the ice
  • Seeing E get the President's Award at WPI for his work in Namibia
  • Nordic skiing at Mont Sainte Anne in Quebec with C
  • State Nordic meet at Presque Isle with M
  • Titus Andronicus with S and C in Washington, DC
  • Screaming in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium when A-Rod hit a walk-off grand slam
  • E's graduation from WPI
  • M's high school graduation
  • E's wedding to the lovely, kind and brilliant Ann(a Kentucky girl!)
  • Higgins reunion in Hopkinsville, Kentucky
  • C's performance at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville
  • Hiking 28 of the 4000 footers in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine
  • Finishing Harry Potter by head lamp in a tent in Baxter State Park
  • Taking the girls to college
  • E's happiness with his first engineering job
  • S's happiness at the prospect of the Peace Corps after graduation
  • Thanksgiving with all the kids
  • The health and happiness of my parents

A snowy quest

For the past 9 days, the first website that I check over my morning coffee is the hiking community blog, Views from the Top. Views from the Top is a great resource for hikers to check trail conditions, read reports of other hikes and get information about anything related to the outdoors and hiking. Much of the information on the site is geared toward the trails on the 48 4000 footers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Climbing all of the 4000 footers is an accomplishment (one that C has almost completed) and there are certain groups of people who try to do it as even more of a challenge by doing the peaks all in one year or even one season or even twice in one season but since 3:56 a.m. on December 22, 2007, one individual has been trying to climb all 48 4000 footers in the miniscule time frame between the start of Winter and the end of the year.

Reading the posts as he and others strategized the hike and following his story through postings of hikers who have spotted him or heard from him during his infrequent breaks is probably one of the most exciting sports events of the year for me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winter walk, December 30, 2007

Today is a warm-up day, the temperature is comfortably above freezing for the first time since Thanksgiving and I decided to head out across the Webb River into Back Kingdom. After a month of reading nature blogs and re-reading Bernd Heinrich's The Winter World and Donald Stokes, A Nature Guide to Winter, I had a heightened awareness of all sorts of subtle nature activity as I headed into the woods.

I was excited to find a dead tree that was tipping a bit and was all washed out under the roots. so I crawled up into the hollowed space
expecting a bear--or at least tracks or scat of an animal that might have taken shelter in there, but no signs, I'll keep checking it through the winter. There seemed to be a tunnel at the back of the hollow, but I wasn't brave enough to stick anything in to see what might stir from its torpor.

Friday, December 28, 2007

North of East-West

After our Christmas visit to Scotia, C and I headed home. The most direct route takes us north from Rutland through the heart of Vermont to Montpelier and then east on Route 2 to Dixfield. I've been traveling that stretch of Route 2 since college days in Burlington and it is one of my favorite drives. Often treacherous this time of year, but always beautiful. On this trip, we took a turn north off Route 2 in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom to visit a friend. The countryside that lies north of Route 2 in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine is a vast hidden kingdom of remote and untouched beauty. In Vermont, it is termed the Northeast Kingdom; in New Hampshire they say The North Country; in Maine it is the Western Mountains until it becomes The County.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Grouse Tracks or was it?

Grouse TracksI've been enjoying reading A Guide to Nature in Winter by Donald W. Stokes over the last few days and spent Christmas Eve enthralled by the chapter on winter tracks in the snow. So today when C and I headed into the Adirondacks to cross country ski at Lapland Lake, I was excited about the prospect of testing my newly acquired winter nature skills.

We got off the groomed trail and "bushwacked" on our skis into the woods. The snow was kind of icy and creaked as my skis slid along the crust. As I skied along some distance behind C, I was alert for tracks. Suddenly, I was certain that I was following the trail of a ruffed grouse. The grouse likes to keep to the ground rather than fly, so it is equipped with little comb-like protrusions on its feet that appear as the days get short in the Fall and come off in the Spring when the days lengthen. The little combs act like snowshoes and allow the grouse to cruise over the snow.

I became even more excited when I realized that there wasn't just one grouse, there were two--on either side of where I skiied along in C's tracks---oops, actually, I guess it was the imprints of his ski poles not a ruffed grouse that I was tracking.

The picture above is the real thing, found on the web. The ski pole tracks looked similar but were farther apart and in addition to being on both sides of the trail had a telltale deep hole in the center.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Gift!

On another Christmas many years ago, my family's grief was like a cloak that we were unable to shake loose after the sudden loss of our patriarch. His death left us all feeling vulnerable, responsible and irredemably sad and lost. Somehow, this book came into our lives--it wasn't written by our patriarch, but the story could have been.

The book was Christmas Gift! and it was written by Ferrol Sams, a storyteller and physician from Fayette County, Georgia. The book celebrates a boyhood in rural Georgia and the simple joys of family, country living and childhood.
I've gone on to read many of Ferol Sams' other books and they have all delighted me, but Christmas Gift! gave Christmas back to my family in 1990. Thank you, Dr. Sams.

Norman Rockwell Museum

As we headed from visiting Caleb on the Cape to Scotia, we stopped at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

What a treat to see all those beautiful pictures in that setting, he was a great wordless storyteller

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nutcracker Surprise

One of my favorite holiday traditions is The Nutcracker. As I write this,The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is dancing through my head.

In 1993, M was only 4 years old at Christmastime and S was 7. We were living close to Washington, DC at the time. With tickets to a performance of The Nutcracker at the Warner Theatre in hand, I dressed those little girls up in the most beautiful dresses in the world. They wore matching dark green dresses with a pattern of holly and berries and cream colored yokes, hand painted with a winter scene of holly and cardinals. The girls were beyond lovely in their dresses, tights, hair bows, and patent-leather shoes. We headed downtown, got off the metro at Metro Center and walked with our clickey heels to the theatre.

Our seats were in the first balcony in the first row of the second section. S was beside me on my right next to the aisle and M was on my left. As we sat in our seats watching people come in and waiting for the ballet to start, M dozed off against my shoulder and S, as always was as alert as an owl watching everything. Suddenly, men in suits with walkie talkies appeared in front of us and people stopped coming up the stairs.

The next thing we knew, in walked the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, along with several other people including one that I recognized as President Clinton's mother, Virginia Kelley. They sat just in front of us in the last row of the first section. It was then that I realized that Chelsea Clinton would be dancing in the performance.

Hillary Clinton looked around and caught my eye and looked at the two little girls on either side of me and we exchanged a genuine mother-to-mother smile. At that moment, she was not the First Lady of the most powerful country in the world, nor the architect of health care reform, nor a future presidential candidate. She was a proud mother, at a ballet with her mother-in-law sharing a smile with another mother.

Snow Day and Pasta Feed

We woke up yesterday morning to heavy snow which continued all day, canceling school and court but not the ski team pasta feed at our house last night. A wanted to include his climbing buddies--climbers and skiers are totally compatible--fit, active, interesting young people who have the ability to ingest thousands of calories and burn them off instantly.

The best part of the day, though, was that M and S arrived home from college. It is mighty nice to have them home again. Sweet, smart girls. I'm a lucky mom.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


When I arrived at court today for my lawyer of the day duties for juveniles, there were television cameras and reporters all over the place. It would seem that our little Farmington District Court was the setting for an extradition hearing on a man who was arrested last night in Kingfield for a horrible murder committed almost 30 years ago in Indiana. As the sheriff's car pulled up to the back of the courthouse with the prisoner, I actually saw a cameraman for Channel 13 hang out of a window in order to get the footage. In sharp contrast to that, Kevin Joyce did an admirable job of representing the defendant. Kevin has a real air of professionalism and competence about him and always does a good job for whoever he represents. Most all of the attorneys that I am privileged to practice with in this rural outpost of civilization are the same way. The lawyers of western Maine--the jokes are not about us.

Another generation

C took his guitar into school yesterday and played a Dan Fogelberg song for the kids so they could share the beauty of the music and know why all the folks between 40 and 60 felt a loss. For his high school English students, he played this

Leader Of The Band

An only child alone and wild, a cabinet maker's son
His hands were meant for different work
And his heart was known to none
He left his home and went his lone and solitary way
And he gave to me a gift I know I never can repay
A quiet man of music denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once, but his music wouldn't wait
He earned his love through discipline-- a thundering, velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand
The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band
My brothers' lives were different for they heard another call
One went to Chicago and the other to St Paul
And I'm in Colorado when I'm not in some hotel
Living out this life I've chose and have come to know so well
I thank you for the music and your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough
And, papa, I don't think I said 'I love you' near enough

We watched this performed on a Youtube video and speaking after the performance, Dan Fogelberg said that after "Leader of the Band" there was nothing left unsaid between he and his Dad, who died shortly after the song was written.

Christmas cookies

Last night was the night we decorated cookies. J took a picture of some of them on a sparkling plate under the tree.

Christmas Cookies
3/4 cup shortening (part butter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Mix thoroughly shortening, sugar eggs and flavoring. Blend in flour, baking powder and salat. Cover, chill at least 1 hour. Roll and cut into shapes. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.
For icing, I combine some confectioner's sugar, food coloring and a small amount of water and try to be creative in design.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I overheard a conversation this morning that went something like this, "Well, I just met him and he seems really nice--he said he's from Louisiana but his driver's license is from North Dakota, so I'm not sure where he's from."

Is it really possible to not be sure if someone is from Louisiana or North Dakota? I think that if the accent didn't give it away, then surely one question could ascertain their state of origin.

Some possibilities:
  • So, I've always wondered what is the Atchafalaya?
  • What exactly is in jumbalaya?
  • How do you pronounce b-e-i-g-n-e-t?
  • What is that green vegetable in gumbo?
  • Marie Laveau did my hair, do you like it?
but, you couldn't miss with this one
  • So, what direction does the Red River run?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Thanks for the music

Yesterday, Dan Fogelberg died at his home in Maine.

Run For The Roses
Born in the valley and raised in the trees
Of Western Kentucky on wobbly knees
With mama beside you to help you along
You'll soon be a-growing up strong
All the long, lazy mornings in pastures of green
The sun on your withers, the wind in your mane
Could never prepare you for what lies ahead
The run for the roses so red
And it's run for the roses as fast as you can
Your fate is delivered, your moment's at hand
It's the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance
And it's high time you joined in the dance
It's high time you joined in the dance
From sire to sire, it's born in the blood
The fire of a mare and the strength of a stud
It's breeding and it's training and it's something unknown
That drives you and carries you home

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Kittens

Grass Farming

After a terrifying first section on industrial food and a disillusioning second section on organic food, the third section of Omnivore's Dilemma gives me something to take heart in. Michael Pollan visits and, for a week participates in, a sustainable farm in Virginia. The working philosophy of the farm is that the sun feeds the grass, the grass feeds the animals, the animals feed the people, the people take care of the grass. The farmer manages the grass in such a way that it is constantly being nourished by the animals that it feeds. Different animals are rotated into pastures on a strict schedule that maximizes the benefit to the animals, the benefits to the grass and factors the recovery time needed for the grass.

A google search found grass farms in Maine. It makes sense to me to use these local resources for as much of our food as possible and to plan my trips to pick up food to coincide with my ordinary travel in order to minimize the environmental cost.

1 lb beef (I used organic, next time it will be sustainable)
1/2 lb. sausage (ditto)
1 egg
1/2 cup of barley
1 can of organic tomato paste

1 onion, chopped up
minced garlic (suit yourself)
season with organic maple pepper

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.
Enjoy for a meal, but meatloaf's real treat is the sandwiches from leftovers. I love to have it sliced onto wholegrain bread and sprinkled with alfalfa sprouts. Many years ago I had to make sandwiches for a homeless men's shelter in Nashville and thought about what would taste like a warm hug and decided on meatloaf sandwiches and alfalfa sprouts.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nor'easter heading our way

NOAA's National Weather Service

Everybody is battening down the hatches in anticipation of a big storm tomorrow. My court hearings for Monday have already been moved to Wednesday, the snow from Friday's snowfall has been cleared away and the cupboards are full of all of our snowed-in favorites. When the climber makes it back around midnight, I will be able to relax and enjoy the captivity and the beauty. Study hard, M and S, there will be lots of snow for you to play in during your semester break. Miss you, E, hope Pennsylvania is full of snow, too.

Coos Canyon

I just got the most wonderful gift in the mail, a photo CD labeled Climbing 2005 from a talented photographer named Tom Randall.

In October, 2005, Tom was driving around shooting foliage photos up Route 17 and stopped at Coos Canyon. Coos Canyon
is a scenic spot in Byron, Maine between Mexico and Rangely a few miles south of the height of land. What his lens found, along with foliage, was A climbing the cliffs. Tom shot many pictures that afternoon, they exchanged phone numbers and a few weeks later Tom went with us to New Hampshire to shoot at Cathedral Ledge. Tom's gift to me of a CD with all those photos was found with great pleasure in my mailbox this morning.

Today, A is in Rhode Island with two other high school friends and Rolly--his climbing mentor, to compete in a climbing competition at a rock gym. They wanted to have a pasta feed last night to
get them charged up with carbs, why not? We've done pasta feeds for ski teams, cross country teams, soccer teams and track teams, why not the climbing team. So,we whipped up spaghetti and meatballs, lots of garlic bread and brownies. Then about the time I got the kitchen cleaned up, the boys decided they wanted to make puppy chow for the road, so they pulled out the peanut butter, chocolate chips, chex and powdered sugar and made what A described as "imagine deliciousness".

Friday, December 14, 2007

Politics and Bird's Nests

I can't get enough of the chapter on Nests and Dens in Bernd Heinrich's Winter World. In this amazing chapter, he tells how animals make the nests for keeping themselves warm or incubating their young.

For instance, a robin builds her nest in two days. The first day she makes a pile of grass, twigs and birch bark strips at the spot she has chosen. The next morning at dawn, she begins bringing mud in her bill and depositing it on her pile. After each deposit she "squatted down and vibrated her body for a second or two then got up, turned a few degrees and repeated the squat-vibration. She performed as many as 16 of these routines after dumping a single billfull of mud or other debris."

Since my last reading of the nest and den chapter, whenever I see mean political news on the television, and it is hard to miss living an hour away from New Hampshire, my mind immediately goes to imagining a robin selecting a spot, gathering her building materials and carrying teeny amounts of mud in her bill, squatting, turning and making her nest; it's so beautiful and so natural and it really has NOTHING to do with mean political news, I can't imagine why my mind does that juxtaposition.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Christmas Tree and A Snow Blower

Just in time for another snowfall, my dad offered us his snowblower. After years of trying different driveway clearing methods:
  • shoveling (painful)
  • plowing (expensive)
  • ignoring (slippery)

the snowblower seems like a good option. We'll try it out tomorrow--I'm hoping the snowblower appeals enough to the Y chromosones in the household, that I won't be pressed into service.

While picking up the snowblower, A found a really pretty Christmas tree in the woods behind his grandparent's house. It's leaning up against the barn right now, flocked in fresh snow.

Children's Christmas Party

Today is the Children's Christmas Party at one of the courts where I practice. It is a party for the children in foster care in our district. The court staff do a wonderful job of transforming the building into an inviting, happy place and there is always delicious food and entertainment and Santa and presents. The children always seem to have a good time and I certainly enjoy being part of it. Unfortunately, this will be the last year for the party. As seems to happen way too often, one person managed to close it down for the rest of us. Whenever something like this happens--when a curriculum that I like gets changed in my children's school or a TV show that I like gets canceled or when an event that is valuable for everyone involved is terminated then I wonder why don't we speak up when we are satisfied? If only then dissatisfied speak up then they affect change.

Nor'easter blowing in for climbing competition

I chatted with E this morning and they are getting ice and winter weather in central Pennsylvania. We aren't supposed to get much in Maine from this storm, but there's a nor'easter headed our way for Sunday.

Fingers crossed that the storm won't start until Sunday morning, since A is heading to Rhode Island on Saturday to compete in a climbing competition and I hate to think about him driving back in a blizzard. He's been training on the wall at home and on the outside cliffs and last night asked me to sew some fleece onto the front of the legs of his favorite climbing pants so that he can saturate the fleece with chalk and be able to re-chalk without reaching into his bag. Ingenious--maybe we should try marketing it!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A wool sock day

Today was a wonderful work-at-home day for me. I wrapped up in a favorite wool sweater and cozy socks and kept the fire going, petted lots of cats, met C for a slice of pizza at Chez Ellis during his de minimis teacher lunch and still managed to write a couple of reports, read stacks of discovery and return a bunch of phone calls. But, in between all the productivity, I couldn't help but drift in daydream to Chile and April, 2008.

Yesterday, I e-mailed brother and said, "Aconcagua is near your new country--can we go?" He e-mailed back and said "Of course, we can."

Back in the days when my heart had the elasticity to read fiction, I loved to read books by Isabel Allende. She is a Chilean author who writes so lovingly about her homeland that, from her stories, I feel like I have already been there. Today, I looked at her website and found her 2006 book, Ines of My Soul and think, maybe it's time to take a chance again.


On Saturday afternoon, M called from her freshman dorm wondering how to make fudge. I gave her a recipe and all evening imagined how it might have been for the girls to smell fudge bubbling in their basement kitchen. Can there be happier smells than fudge-in-the-making or bread-in-the-baking?

Chocolate Fudge
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate or 4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
Butter an 8x8 inch pan. Combine the chocolate or cocoa, sugar, milk, and corn syrup in a medium-size heavy pot, stirring to blend all the ingredients. Set over low heat and, stirring slowly, bring to a boil. Cover the pot and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and wash down the sides of the pot with a pastry bush dipped in cold water, then continue to boil slowly, without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage (234 degrees F). Remove from the heat, add the butter without stirring, and set the pot on a cooling surface or rack. Do not stir until the syrup is lukewarm (110 degrees F), then add the vanilla and stir without stopping until the mixture loses its gloss and thickens. Pour it into the buttered pan and mark into squares. When firm, cut into pieces and store airtight.

Tom & Atticus Hike The Winter Whites For MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center: We're Home

Make a cup of tea and get comfortable, this is a wonderful read.

Tom & Atticus Hike The Winter Whites For MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center: We're Home

Monday, December 10, 2007


Aconcagua--the highest mountain in the Americas

It's 22,841 feet and in Argentina near its border with Chile and dominates the skyline west of Santiago.

Sometimes I see clouds and think for a moment they might be mountains.
I wish I could see mountains and think for a moment they might be clouds.

A Time to Talk

A Time to Talk," by Robert Frost from The Poetry of Robert Frost (Henry Holt).

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, 'What is it?'
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Working on a weekend

This has been one of those weekends where I've worked at least as much on Saturday and Sunday as I did during the preceding work week. It's kind of depressing and I wish that I had been more efficient during the work week so that, right now, I could be on a snowy trail somewhere, breathing cold air and looking out at snow capped vistas instead of in my office drinking Polar seltzer water and procrastinating over the last task to finish up.

C has been grading all weekend, so we've both been acting like workaholics instead of the hikeaholics we usually are. Maybe next weekend.......

Tonight, I'm off to Rumford to watch my mom's Christmas cantata in its last performance of the season.

High School Baskeball

Last night we went up to the high school for the first boys' basketball game of the year. This is the first time since we've lived in Maine (9 years at Christmas!!) that Dirigo has fielded a boys team with a real shot at winning. In the past, I've always felt really bad for the boys' team because they were so overshadowed by the girls and let's admit it, Dirigo basketball games are about the only thing to do in Dixfield during the winter and the basketball players are all we have as celebrity. But this year--the tables are turned and the boys looked great, they have lots of good solid players and then Chief's little brother who is 6'8" and doesn't miss the basket.

We sat with Chief's parents and caught up on what he is up to and then, lo and behold in he came. He looks great, asked about E and the wedding and introduced us to his fiance.

It's funny how in high school, you have a bunch of kids who take the same classes, learn from the same teachers, play the same sports and have similar experiences; yet after high school graduation, they scatter and each pursue something different and become their own unique self.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Morning coffee

Every morning, I head downstairs, hit the button on the coffee maker, stoke up the wood stove and wait for the coffee to drip into the pot allowing me to raise a cup and welcome the day. I go through phases with my coffee cup of choice--somehow the cup seems to reflect where I am in life at any given time. For the last six months, it has been a cup from the Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket. The cup is white with the cafe's name and a logo, tastefully drawn with thin red lines, on the front and the words "Friends gather here" on the back. The cup has a thin lip that feels good on my mouth and is just the right size for the first morning cup. It's an easy cup to face in the morning, it doesn't draw attention to itself or demand that I drink more or less coffee than I want in that first dose. If the cup is dirty when I wake up, I wash it while the coffee drips. If it has been carried into A's room with a bedtime cup of juice, I creep in and remove it from his bedside. The cup is an important first step in my day and without it--who knows where the day would go?

The first cup that I got attached to was a gift from a boss in 1982. It was a white cup, wider and larger than my current cup. My boss, Dr. Sjogren from the University of Vermont, brought it back as a gift after going on a trip to Germany and it had a scene of a German town on it with two spires rising above the buildings and I think a little bridge between the spires. I used that cup daily through all the lean years--I wasn't a coffee drinker initially but I must have drunk tea and hot chocolate from it. After my UVM days, the cup traveled along as I had moved to Pittsburgh and then San Antonio and then Tennessee and then Washington, DC until finally one sad day while living in Iowa and walking Angus early in the morning with my cup of coffee in one hand and his leash wrapped around the other hand, a car drove by and Angus jerked the leash and the cup flew out of my hands and broke on the ground. That must have been in 1994 or 1995--quite a long run for a cup with daily use and that many moves--but I mourned it greatly--the cup had seen me through the births of four children and innumerable insomniac nights. It was the one consistent thing for me through all the moves and after each move, while unpacking, I knew things would be alright once I removed the newspaper from my pretty German cup and put it on the counter.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Missing S already

No more beautiful blue sky today, it's cloudy and gray and there is still lots of snow on the ground and more in the forecast over the next week. This is perfect weather to be knitting and crocheting and ever since a week ago when I learned that S would be going to the Caucasuses or Eastern Europe for 27 months with the Peace Corps--all I can think about is what I can make to keep her warm and wrapped in her mother's love while she is far away.

I'm so proud of this beautiful little girl who really isn't a little girl any more. Everything that she has done in her life is brave--she's always worked outside of her comfort zone. In the summer between 8th and 9th grades, with Darrow Camp , she hiked the 100 mile wilderness; in the summer between 9th and 10th grade she went to northern Quebec and canoed on a river in the wilderness for six weeks never seeing another soul except the 10 people she was with; then in 10th grade she decided that she wanted to go to Limestone, Maine for boarding school and she did--hours away from home. In her senior year, she decided that she wanted to go to Washington, DC for college--about as far from Limestone as you can get in terms of population, diversity and activity. She more than succeeded in college and now she's heading for 27 months of teaching English in countries that I can barely even pronounce. Most importantly, to me, her mom, she did all that while developing into one of the nicest people that I have ever met.

So, until she leaves and while she's gone I'll knit and crochet and sew and bake and send her things that I've touched and hugged and slept with hoping that the love will get through the miles.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A beautiful blue sky day

Today the sky is that shade of blue that we get up here on crisp wintery days. If I had a camera, I would take a picture and you would be nostalgic for an early winter day in Maine--no one gets nostalgic for late winter days in Maine (April, May, early June...)

As promised yesterday, the crock pot is simmering with my organic stew. As if the Omnivore's Dilemna didn't have me freaked out enough about the food supply, there is an article in this week's Newsweek
about diet and fertility. Not that I'm personally concerned about fertility--apparently whatever I ate in the 80's did the trick. But the study gave more information about the risks of too much animal protein. I guess if organic meat is more expensive and we eat less of it and get more protein from other sources, then we'll be better off all together.

I'm off to Good Will Hinkley this morning to see three teenagers. I've always liked Good Will Hinkley and I"m glad that we have a place like it in the state of Maine. It's a big campus with a working farm, it's own middle and high schools and lots of cottages for kids to live in with house parents. I wish there wasn't a need for it, but there is and I'm glad that it's there. In my experience, it gives kids who are without many choices, a good chance to grow up positively. I was interested to realize from reading a book called Why We Run by my favorite author, Bernd Heinrich, that he had spent many growing up years there. From my reading of the book, his memories didn't seem particularly fond, but he did grow up to study great things and to be able to write about them so that the rest of us could understand.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Organic Meat

I've been reading the Omnivore's Dilemna
and am really scared about our food supply. I'm only through the first part of the book but what I have learned so far (and this is probably an over-simplification) is that we are intentionally over-producing genetically engineered corn and fertilizing it with a petroleum-based fertilizer and then feeding it to cows whose four stomachs were not designed for corn but for grass. These poor cows are getting up to "harvest" weight in 14 or 15 months instead of the 3 or 4 years it would take on grass. Because the cows aren't built for this hormone-laced corn, they get sick from eating it and are kept alive and growing due to massive amounts of antibiotics. One veterinarian at a feed lot was quoted as saying that if they weren't slaughtered at 15 months, their livers would probably burst. The hormone-laden and antibiotic contaminated waste produced by all the cows in the feed lots gets into the watershed and pretty soon it's into the water supply.

As if that isn't all bad enough, some of the excess corn produced by American farmers (at a financial loss) and subsidized by the government, is used to put corn syrup into just about everything and the cheap calories are contributing to the obesity epidemic.

So, what to do??? I have no idea on a big scale--I'll leave that up to the smart folks running for office; but as for me and my family, we are going organic. I looked on line for organic meats--I could get grass-fed beef from California, but maybe something closer to home without the environmental impact of transporting it across the country. Today, on my way home from court, I stopped at a nearby organic farm and picked up some stew meat. I'll make a stew in the crock pot tomorrow and we'll start our new lives without hormones.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Do we really have four cats?

One of the nice things about working in a little building just 50 feet from my house is that on days when I'm in the office I can run inside and feed the wood stove or keep a constant cup of tea going.

Back before the kittens, when we were a two-cat household, I would also give Handsome and Little Bear a snuggle every time that I went into the house--but now with the two new kittens, it takes 15 minutes to make my inside run. I pet every cat or kitten that approaches me as I head from the door to the wood stove, then while my tea kettle is heating up I pet whoever is wrapped around my feet. Next, I usually head to the bathroom, the kittens follow--the boy kitten who goes by the names Simba, Aselin, Marmalade, Bam Bam, or Fluffy is particularly fascinated by the flushing action. The little girl kitten, who goes by the names of Nala, Lucy, Judith, Pebbles or Puffy laconically follows her brother. She loves the wood stove and spends hours sleeping close to it while he prowls around and pretends that he is a tiger. Little Bear and Handsome tolerate the youngsters but don't seem overly impressed.

No complaints, though, I love the cats and the kittens and being able to run into the house and pet something warm and sweet. Thanks, M and S for finding them.

Dinner on a snowy night

At the end of our snowy day yesterday, I wanted to make something tasty and warm but that didn't take too long in the kitchen. A recipe that I found this fall in Southern Living Magazine
and modified a bit to suit our tastes, seemed like it would fit the bill. Here it is,

Pan Seared Chicken Breasts

4 tsp dried Italian dressing mix
3 tsp paprika
2 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 chicken skinless, bonelss chicken breasts cut in half
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 cup chicken broth
Stir together Italian seasoning and next 4 ingredients. Sprinkle evenly on both sides of chicken
Cook 3 breasts in 1 Tbsp. hot oil over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat with remaining 3 chicken breasts and 1 Tbsp. oil
Saute garlic in hot skillet 1 minute. Add chicken broth and cook 2 minutes stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Serve sauce over chicken.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

We woke up at 5:12 this morning to the ring of the phone bringing the wonderful words, "No School Today". While C rolled over and went back to sleep, as teachers are allowed to do on snowy days, I got up to check on the status of the Maine District Courts. As always happens when we have a blizzard, I was scheduled to be in South Paris today. Fortunately, the Judge decided to cancel and so I faced the prospect of an unexpected snow day, too.

The forecasters predict that we may get as much as two feet of snow before it ends tomorrow morning. That is good news for all the winter activity businesses in Maine as well as for all the winter activity participants, like us!!

Yesterday, before the storm, A and I went to Pinkham Notch and he climbed up to the top of Mt. Washington with some friends while I hiked around on the eastern side of the mountain up to Tuckerman's Ravine. The snow was pretty well packed on the trails, I never even got to use my new traction devices. I didn't see any wildlife or even any tracks, disappointingly, but I did enjoy seeing the rivers in a semi-frozen state. The area around rocks was frozen, whether the rocks were under the water or above, the water ran around and over the ice and had a very greenish tint. I guess it's the minerals that make it that way, but I'm not sure why it is more pronounced now, unless it is contrast with the white ice.

I got back to the lodge before A did, so I curled up with a cup of coffee and E's latest wonderful reading recommendation The Omnivores Dilemna
I'm thinking that I'll probably never eat again after reading 100 pages of that book.

Well, I'm going to have fun with this blog. I was inspired by reading one by a young woman who teaches with C, Amity Beane

It seems like a fun way for me to keep up with what I'm up to anyway.