The Advent of Advent

Checking the calendar yesterday, I noticed it was the second Sunday of Advent.  Was Thanksgiving early or late this year?  How is it the second Sunday of Advent and there are no wreathes, trees, or lights at my house?

20 days until Christmas.

The good news, despite a few occasional dustings of snow, is that milder temperatures have prevented any accumulation of the white stuff and I’ve made slow and sustained progress cleaning up the yard.  And I got the garlic planted before Thanksgiving, so I’m going to take a cue from the Winter Warlock and just keep putting one foot in front of the other with all the seasonal tasks and events.

On Saturday, I interviewed a cookie artist.  Say what?  Yes, a cookie artist.  I’d seen some perfectly coiffed cookies in my day, but I just assumed they were made in far away factories by mechanized die cutters and frosting injection molds.

The truth is stranger than fiction.

While doing my pre-interview research, I learned there was a whole sweet world of confectionary crafting more appropriately called “sugar art” and its offspring, “cookie art.”  But the exact genesis of cookie art eluded me.  Was it the Wilton Cake Decorating craze of the 1970’s passed down from mother to daughter, interrupted by Martha Stewart and her fondant, then transposed onto cookies with a rebellious shaken fist of independence from the shackles of Miss “It’s a Good Thing?”

Oh no, my Martha-envy is showing.

Cookie art is growing in popularity and part of this hobby’s appeal is how easy it is to learn the basic techniques and create simple yet professional-looking cookies to bring to your next cookie swap.  The internet is full of blogs, YouTube videos, and forums, plus pictures and information across all social media.  Free.  Some of the most creative and popular cookie artists, or cookiers (as they call themselves) are only too happy to share their skills, tips, and sometimes even their secrets with novices.  There’s camaraderie and an esprit de cookie corps among these talented individuals.  Who wouldn’t want to drag out the old stand mixer and mix up a batch of dough?

But the best part of my research was realizing I would be interviewing a real mover and shaker in the sugar world and she was practically in my own back yard.  Dany Lind, of Dany’s Cakes, is a nationally recognized sugar artist.  Her work has been featured in many of cookie-dom’s most popular websites, like Cookie Connection.  She’s also one of the instructors for the 2017 Cookie Con, the largest gathering of cookie artists in the world, being held in March in Salt Lake City.

It was a fascinating 90 minutes and I learned a lot.  Research done, questions answered, and now I’m on to breaking a few eggs, sifting all my notes, and putting the final cohesive icing on the story.  That’s the tricky part…

You’ll have to pick up the Lewiston Sun Journal next Sunday, December 11, for the big Fig Newton.

One foot in front of the other.

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Bright Shiny Objects

Something about this “wreath” caught my eye, but today I’m having buyer’s remorse.

holly-jollyBright, shiny object syndrome.

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Return to Arundel

On Saturday, November, 26, 2016, I finished reading Anthony Doerr’s 2004 novel About Grace.  This novel was the 24th book I’d read in 2016.  The author won a Pulitzer prize for his 2014 novel, All the Light We Cannot See, a very popular title and a New York Times best-seller as of this writing.  He shares the luminous listing with such authors as Jodi Picoult, Jeffrey Archer, and Danielle Steele.

The best-selling Doerr book was circulating; I put my name on the waiting list and settled for what the library had to offer of the author’s other works.

About Grace was an interesting book.  I suspended disbelief and made it through 400 pages to the somewhat happy ending; the story wove through a twenty-five year span of time in an Alaskan hydrologist’s life.  When I finished, I put the book on my nightstand and thought about what to read next.

I spent some time analyzing the 24 books I read this year, sorting my Excel spreadsheet one way and then another.  Almost half of the books I read were by one author during the first half of the year.  Because I was rusty at reading, these formulaic books helped re-establish the habit.

The oldest book I read was Kenneth Robert’s historical novel Arundel, written in 1930.  This book was also one of my favorites, a thrilling account of the overland trek of Benedict Arnold’s Revolutionary War soldiers through Western Maine to Quebec in 1775.  One passage I underlined, written in the voice of narrator Steven Nason:

“To me, as I huddled in my blanket, it seemed weeks ago that we had passed Morgan’s riflemen coming up from the last of the Chain of Ponds, their bateaux rubbing their shoulder raw; and I thought what young men sometimes foolishly think when things look dark:  that in one day’s time I had grown to be an old, tired man.”

I’ve started to read the sequel, Rabble in Arms.

The second oldest book I read was Listening Valley, by Scottish author D.E. Stevenson, written in 1944.  A random read, the recently republished book was sitting in a display at the local library.  It was the story of a quiet and introspective young Scottish girl and the circumstances of her life in the years leading up to World War II.  She marries a much-older man who dies unexpectedly.  As she grieves his death, she remembers the lesson he taught her:

“Robert had made friends with life, and life had been good to him…She had begun to see what he meant.  Not to shut yourself up and grieve or dream but to go forward with your eyes wide open and accept what life offered.”

first-snowIt snowed here last week, ‘twas Wednesday, I think.  It was beautiful to look at through the glass, but better that it didn’t stick around.  It gave me time to read.

My reading volume is average and generally tilted toward dead authors.  As I think about next year’s reading, I’ll need to include some specific non-fiction titles to compliment my writing goals, but I’m pleased with my accomplishment, as average as it might be.

Reading…it won’t save the world, but it’s a temporary escape from it.

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Something’s Not Right

Sometimes I type fast.  Most of the time, actually.  But my netbook is old and slow and I’ve not successfully replaced it with something better.

It acts up, it slows down.  I keep typing fast.  Sometimes, the great eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg (as I like to affectionately call Google and all its dominion) look down on me and with a scowl, tell me:

“Something’s not right.”

Indeed, something’s not right.

order-redux

I had a long essay planned about virtue signalling, The Bell Jar, and why I’m never going to write a novel of fiction.  But it’s Thanksgiving and I dislike the holiday.  I wonder if I ever blogged anything to the contrary?  No, I don’t think I have, although I’ve blogged prolifically about Thanksgiving in general.

The truth?  I don’t like it.  But I’m not going to loosen my dirty diaper’s safety-pin and empty that shice on you.  Because it’s Thanksgiving.

I’ve got plenty to be thankful for.

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Counting Candles

Handy’s father, Marcel, turns 98 today.  We celebrated his birthday yesterday; five of Handy’s six siblings were there.  (His youngest brother lives in California and couldn’t make it.)

happy-birthday-marcel

Marcel was born just after the first world war ended, he joined the army in 1943, and landed at Omaha beach two days after the initial assault.

He got home from Europe on November 12, 1945 and got married 12 days later.  The rest?  Family history.

Many happy returns of the day, Marcel!

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Red Leaf Lettuce

The other day, I got an e-mail from my friend Shelley.  She asked if I’d ever blogged about The Christmas Tree Shops and the mother lode of junk they sell.  I scratched my head.  I knew I’d blogged about it before, but what did I call the post?  Did I tag it with the words “Christmas Tree Shops?”

I told her I would see what I could do, but I had a “customer complaint” letter to write to some regional lettuce peddler who shall not be named.  I’d bought a bag of their “Spring Mix” and the red leaf lettuce had gone bad and junked up the whole purchase.  Into the compost bin it went after only two days.  I tried to pick the rotting pieces off from the good, believe me, but it was nigh impossible.

This will be the second “customer complaint” letter I’ve written to a peddler selling lettuce in bags and boxes.  The first one was done via the web, so I don’t have a copy of it.  Why do I even buy lettuce in the grocery store?  I ought to know better by now.

Like the fateful day I took a trip to a Christmas Tree Shop, I got what I deserved.

That link will take you to the blog post I wrote about the Christmas Tree Shop and a whole discourse on shopping.

Maybe I should write a complaint letter to myself.  It’s not easy finding things on this blog; it doesn’t look “professional” either.  I’ve done some fiddling around with the widgets and the settings, but it always looks “homemade” to me.  Maybe it’s because I’m old and impatient and don’t have the time to spend a whole weekend sitting in front of a computer.

the-geraniums

Here are my screen porch geraniums, transplanted to the kitchen window for the winter.  I have no complaints about them.

Posted in Friday Pillow Talk

Broken Celery Stalks

Last Monday, I broke my vintage celery stalk spoon rest.  I’d had it for a long, long time; from at least the early 90’s when you could find mid-century domestic pottery at church bazaars and holiday craft fairs.

I was devastated.

I put the four pieces of pottery in a bag and stuck it in my desk until I could think clearly about the next steps.  I had to write my bagel article, work at the polls, and then do five days of work in three.

On Saturday, I snuck over to the Cabot Mill Antique Mall and the adjacent flea market.

“Do you have a celery stalk spoon rest in your collection,” I sheepishly asked booth proprietors.

“Did you break one?” they’d ask.

“Yes.”

“No.”

Finally, on Saturday night I broke down and asked Handy to glue it back together.  Back in business again and I’m sure I’ll find one in my travels.  Then I’ll have two, but you know what they say.  Two is one and one is none.

I’ll leave you with a wonderful song about celery stalks, written by trombonist Will Bradley and first recorded in 1940.  The original version is very good, but I liked this Lawrence Welk version with Mr. Wunnerful cutting up the rug.

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