Stirring up Some Thanksgiving Dust

The house was cold this morning when the frigid light of the nearly full moon streamed into my bedroom.  I turn off the heat before I go to bed for two reasons.  First, the clanging ducts and vents are noisy and I am a light sleeper.  Second?  Well, forced hot air furnaces are just too hot and dry for pleasant sleeping.  I set the thermostat to fifty degrees before I go to bed, thus silencing the Vulcan-like hammers and suppressing the blowing hot air.

This habit also gauges the outside temperature.  If it’s a mild evening, the house’s internal temperature rarely dips below fifty-five degrees.  A frigid morning like today?  The furnace will kick in at fifty.  Paul Cousins, my favorite weather guesser, used the term “record-shattering cold” for this year’s Thanksgiving.

With the gobble-fest being early this year, who would have thought we would have snow so soon?

I haven’t raked my leaves and finished cleaning up my gardens.  There are many things still undone.  I planted some daffodil bulbs by flashlight two weeks ago and we shall see if my garlic goes in before the ground is completely frozen.  I’m hoping next week’s predicted warming and rain might make it possible.

I’ve been busy stirring up the dust here at the old house, ripping up carpet and stair runners.  I’ve painted a few things too.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I hired Rastus to paint a few things.  “Rastus” Combs had done a lot of painting for my friend Gina Mason.  He came highly recommended by Pam and Frank Hogan too, who had done painting for me previously and were booked solid through January, 2019.  It will be tricky getting the new carpet installed before Christmas.

I love Thanksgiving and the peace and quiet her in the ripped-apart dusty living room this morning.  Rastus did a good job making things brighter.

About a month ago, someone masquerading as an interior designer visited and told me my living room looked kind of “old lady.”  I wasn’t angry or insulted.  It wasn’t the first time someone had critiqued the room.  A dear friend suggested it was too “dark.”  Can I help if it I like brown?  The pseudo-designer gave me a short list of things I could do, we swapped a few texts, and then she vanished into thin air.  After living here in this house for four years, the “old lady” assessment served as a “call to action.”  Thank goodness I am not entertaining anyone for Thanksgiving this year, what with all the dust flying.

Speaking of aging ladies, I looked over some of my older Thanksgiving posts.  I’m fond of this one.

It’s interesting to read blog posts I wrote before I moved back home.  They are filled with a melancholy longing to be in this place called “home.”

And now I’m here.

That was what I thought of this morning as the frigid light of the nearly full moon streamed into my bedroom.  Now I’m here.  I made it home.  How can I not be grateful?

Posted in Home | Tagged

The Duchess Slant

This morning while researching information for this post, I asked myself…” where have I been for the last 10 years and how did I not notice Kate Middleton’s ascent to the heights of fashion icon?”  Was it my lack of a Tee Vee and my eschewing fashion magazines and blogs?  Or maybe my wanton disregard for all things pop culture?

David Patrick Columbia mentioned Kate briefly in June, 2010.   How did I miss that?

Whatever it was then, I’m now fully woke to Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge.

To paraphrase Joseph’s Mankiewicz’s dialogue in the 1950 film All About Eve, “Kate, Kate, the Golden Girl, the Cover Girl, the Girl Next Door, the Girl on the Moon.  Time has been good to Kate.  Life goes where she goes.  She’s been profiled, covered, revealed, reported.  What she eats and what she wears and whom she knows and where she was, and when and where she’s going. Kate.  You all know all about Kate.”

Her Royal Highness, Kate Middleton, is a beautiful and stylish woman.  The daily released images and videos of her present a confident 36-year-old woman who exudes grace and glamour.  Does she post hideous filtered selfies to a secret Snap chat account?  I don’t know.  I hope not.

She is young enough to be my own daughter and I find myself quickly logging into “What Kate Wore” each day for fashion inspiration.  Her Royal Highness is noted for embracing fashions ranging from ready to wear to haute couture.  She has lots of expensive shoes; I do a quick calculation in my head and know I won’t be following in her footwear path.  I was inspired, however, to bring some shoes to one of Maine’s three or four cobblers for new heels.

Is there a royal cobbler?

Mostly, though, as I analyze the Duchess’s daily couture, I feel a sense of loss.

Once upon a time, average Americans could purchase fashionable and well-made clothing everywhere.  Here is my lovely Aunt Dot in 1953, an average American:

The other day, my mother texted an invitation for an afternoon walk.  She put on her coat and then donned a red beret.  Sure, she was only wearing jeans and sneakers, but there was something lovely and graceful about her thoughtful addition of the beret.  We walked around town and then we parted ways as I headed towards the post office.  I looked back and watched her walking down School Street alone and I was struck by her still spry and womanly walk, likely a product of a long-ago indulgence in women’s magazines.

I do not know where my new sartorial interests will lead; they say the Duchess never wears orange.  That won’t do for me, what with my closet full of orange attire.  But I do find myself angling my gams into the Duchess Slant when I sit for long periods of time, like during last week’s day at the polls.

Duchess slant?  Here is a picture that shows how easy it is.

I am trying to be a little more graceful as I age; there’s nothing wrong with that.

Posted in Just Writing | Tagged , , ,

A Donut Placeholder

It’s been a busy week here, sending shoes and clothes to be repaired before the snow flies and ripping up carpet.  Shopping for a snowblower and having lunch with a good friend.  Getting an oil change.  Working at the polls.

My brain is full right now.  Let’s put the donut placeholder here on the digital page and reconvene next week.


Posted in Cooking and Food | Tagged ,

The Lutheran Binder

A few weeks ago, on October 15, 92-year-old Dorcas Reilly died.  Never a household name in her lifetime, Reilly’s fame will live on in a simple and heartwarming recipe she created in 1955.  While working in the Campbell’s Soup test kitchen in Camden, New Jersey, she put together the Green Bean Casserole.

You know the dish.  It’s right next to the oblong Pyrex casserole of candied yams and marshmallows on the Thanksgiving table.  Adjacent to a cylindrical serving of cranberry jelly on a silver salver.

It’s so easy to make, although I’ve never made it.  Neither has my friend Shelley.  We may have had it once growing up, as I vaguely remember sneaking a fried onion from a can in the cupboards.  The dish is unhealthy, according to my mother’s standards.  She’s read the labels and determined the fat and sodium contents to be over the limit for vibrant good health.  “I made it once, but those fried onions are very bad for you,” Helen said in a text to me this morning.

I clipped the Associated Press obituary from my local paper and contemplated casseroles.  I have never established much of a casserole repertoire, although I think women of another era, like Dorcas Reilly, did.

Dorcas Bates was born in Woodbury, New Jersey in 1926.  She graduated from Camden (NJ) High School in January, 1944.  Her future husband, Thomas Reilly, claims to have fallen in love with her in 1940.  Following high school, Dorcas went to the Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University) and received her BS in Home Economics in June, 1947.  She went to work at the Campbell’s Soup Company, headquartered in Camden, after graduation.  Allegedly, the Green Bean Casserole recipe was created in 1955, one of hundreds of recipes she worked on.  The idea was to create something tasty that could be prepared with ingredients most cooks kept on hand.  And who doesn’t keep a can of creamed soup at the ready?

According to Wikipedia, Campbell’s created canned cream of mushroom soup in 1934 and it “was widely used as a casserole filler in the Midwest so much that it was sometimes referred to as ‘Lutheran Binder.’”  Those militant Lutherans, using a creamy soup to bind casseroles together.

Bates married Reilly in 1959 following his service in World War II and Korea; Mrs. Reilly left Campbell’s in 1961 to raise her family.  She would eventually return to the soup manufacturer and retire in 1988.

In 2002, Dorcas Reilly donated her recipe for Green Bean Casserole to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, headquartered in Canton, OH.  The Hall of Fame operates a museum in Alexandria, Virginia.

Although not mentioned in the syndicated obituaries, Dorcas Bates Reilly was a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, whose slogan is “Women of Poise and Purpose.”  She was active in chorus and theatrical groups, she was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and a Daughter of the American Revolution.  She was a long-time member of Haddonfield First Presbyterian Church where her funeral was held on Saturday, October 27, 2018.

This is a slice of luscious carrot cake I had at Flux restaurant here in town last week.  Did you know you can throw a can of tomato soup into a carrot cake?  Jason LaVerdiere doesn’t, but I’m going to head to Flux for a cup of coffee and some cake later today.  I know it’s Halloween and I should be digging around in the cupboards for candy corn and Snickers bars, but I want to talk to Jason about green bean casserole and Lutheran binders.

After all, today is also Reformation Day.  Maybe Jason can reform Green Bean Casserole into something new.

Posted in Cooking and Food | Tagged , , , , ,

The Culprit

A few months ago, I found an old cast iron floor register in the basement.  It had been painted battleship grey and was nothing to behold.  Nevertheless, I brought it upstairs and cleaned it up.  It would almost fit in the corner intake register.  I might paint it a different color as part of my living room “face lift.”  Or something like that.

For some reason, I stored it at the top of the stairs.

Bad idea.

In the early morning darkness, I stubbed my toe on it as I made my way to the upstairs office.  My breakfast protein shake flew out of its glass and hit the wall.  Some of it splattered on my turtleneck and even landed in my hair.  Early morning chaos.  Thank goodness I rumble around this old house alone with no one to hear my profane exclamations.

My writing mojo disturbed, I post this scene of nothingness today.

Posted in Just Writing

A Day in Town

The Maine Historical Society’s current exhibit, Maine Eats:  The Food Revolution Starts Here, opened on March 2, 2018.  As an occasional food writer, I have longed for a spare minute to see this exhibit.  I e-mailed a Southern Maine friend and artist; we made a late lunch date to meet in Portland.  We had a wonderful visit and a corn-shaped Abenaki basket on display inspired her to race home and paint.  I, myself, was intrigued by the giant Italian sandwich display.

Visitors could wrap themselves in ham and cheese, while cuddling up with a green pepper.

Was the Italian sandwich invented in Maine?  Yes, it was.

I found the exhibit underwhelming and light on content.  Was it my eager anticipation that let me down?  I’m not sure.  They do have a pleasing and well-stocked gift shop, although nothing enticed me to open my wallet.  A pleasant highlight to the trip was a peek Robin and I made into the Longfellow Gardens, which are behind the Longfellow House and part of the Maine Historical Society complex.

Following our visit to the exhibit, Robin and I had lunch and we talked about art.  Part of the reason for our meeting was so that she could loan me one of her canvasses, Timeworn Elegance NO. 1.  I’d seen the painting before.  It’s a 30 x 40 inch treatment of Venetian plaster on wood.  I’ve thought about the piece ever since I first saw it and the color and design inspired me.  It will be the centerpiece of my living room “refresh.”  You know, get new carpet, maybe a new sofa, a bit of paint and rearrangement.  Take down the ceiling fan from the early 1980’s.  The whole project is now “in progress” and when complete, I’ll share the beautiful art with you.  And have a party to celebrate.

I’ll have it catered, with lots of local Maine food…maybe even some Italian sandwiches.

The Maine Eats exhibit runs through February 9, 2019.

Posted in Cooking and Food | Tagged , ,

Early Autumn

On a day like today, it would be too easy to say my two favorite words in the English language are “early autumn.”  In the disquieting world of social media, this type of dramatic hyperbole abounds.  Nevertheless, after a few weeks of cool and rainy days, we are in the midst of riotous tree color and summer-like temperatures.  I slept with all the windows open last night.  It was lovely.

It was early autumn.

There is a certain excitement to this time of year and I’m sure I’ve blogged about it before.  It’s hard to describe, but I felt it last week when I went to my old office in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a work event.  I shed a little tear of happiness and gratitude as I waited for the Memorial Bridge to reopen after a barge passed through.  I’d stopped at The Beach Pea in Kittery for a box of cookies for my co-worker friends and seeing the new bridge in action was fascinating; it gave me a moment to pause in my anticipation of the work visit.

Woody Herman captured what I’m trying to explain perfectly in 1949.  Can you hear it?

Let’s push thoughts of window washing, snowblowers, and winter woolens aside for today and rest in the early autumn vibe, shall we?

The morning glories haven’t given up yet.  Hail early autumn!

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