Ruth Ann's Strawberry Salad

 My mother hated to cook. HATED it. In a later era, and with some investment and encouragement (which she never got), she might have been either a concert pianist or a college professor.  Instead, she was a secretary, and retired to be a housewife. I may be biased, and my own preferences may be showing (whoops!), but I don't think she was ever very happy. So, not liking her role, she read a lot and cut corners. She was the 1950s queen of frozen food. Canned foods were also high on the list -- green beans, for example, which were boiled until they were a sodden mess.  It didn't help that Dad was a picky eater, and wanted nothing more than, as the Brits say, "meat and two veg."  Though I do have a suspicion that the Brits ate much better than we did, most nights. Much better . Meat was always, always well done, if you consider that flaky brown stuff we had meat. I never knew meat had any taste, and to this day I lean vegetarian -- although veggies didn't have much

Autumn, and a scourge of geese

 My mother and grandmother loved the change of seasons, especially the arrival of fall after a long, humid Delaware summer. The minute the mercury fell into the 50s at night, out would come the blankets and comforters. The furnace would purr into life in the early, cool mornings.    Gran, who lived with us, would cut bouquets of pyracantha (which we called "firethorn") from the bush in the backyard and place them around the house. There was always one large bouquet on our hearth. It proclaimed the change of season in the heart of our home.  My mom even had different curtains for the cold season -- I think this was a thing in the 1950s and early 60s. I'd come home from school one day and -- presto! -- the whole house would be changed into winter garb. I wish I could say this is a tradition I've maintained. I'm lucky if I remember to wash all the linens, much less change them for seasonal ones.  And it wasn't autumn at our house until Mom called me into the yard

A quiet night

It’s a quiet night here on the porch. The sun will soon set (noticeably earlier every night now), and the birds are taking a last few nibbles.  Max is gone now. The treatment we hoped would work was not a success, and after hours of seeing his kidney values go in the wrong direction, we agreed with the vet that it was time to let him go.  It’s brutal. If you’re a pet lover, you know how bad it is. The grief just bursts you open. Breaks you. When I sit at my desk, the nearby armchair is empty now, for the first time in 14 years. It’s about all I can stand.  Grief is hard. Relentless, for a while. Grief reminds you of every loss you’ve ever endured. Other pets. Humans you also loved. The people affected (or killed) by Covid-19. Grief breaks all that open again. It’s a bad feeling, to say the least.  And yet.  Every loss, every breaking-open, presents a growing edge. Maybe we become more sensitive to others in their own grief. Maybe we are able to help.  We mourn, we heal, we move on. It’

Birds in the Rain

Here I sit on the porch, watching two sparrows on the seed sock and listening to a gentle rain.  My best friend gave me the seed sock for my birthday,  since I’ve  been trying to lure the local goldfinches. I saw one up on the telephone wire the other day, observing with his little head tilted while the sparrows fed. He seemed approving, but did not commit. I saw him later at the other feeder, where the big birds go. Come on, buddy! I’m trying to feed you here! My 14-year-old dog, Max, stayed overnight at the local animal hospital, to receive treatment for his UTI. We hope the damage to his kidneys can be somewhat reversed. If it were plain-vanilla organ failure that afflicted him, we would have had to let him go. But an infection? I feel like I should fix that. Last night he was responding quite well. Below is the photo the hospital sent me after they admitted him.  He’s at the Mt. Laurel Animal Hospital. I have never found a more caring bunch than these folks. They have 50 vets, so t

Grace's Boeuf en daube (beef stew from Provence)

 This little cutie-pie is my mother in law, Grace Sterling (nee Lloyd), when she was all of about 20 years old. When I met her, Grace had returned to nursing after a hiatus of many years. She worked in the nearby community hospital in Hamilton, New York, and was greatly loved there. In due time, she spent nearly 4 years in the skilled nursing wing, where she was lovingly cared for by nurses whose lives she had touched. She passed away with some of them by her side on December, 14, 2011, at the age of 86. Grace could do anything, or so it seemed to me. On a snowy night, with a doctor snowed in at his home, she delivered a baby with not much on her side except common sense and her own experience of two births. "Well, maybe just push a little," she told the mom, and then caught the baby as he made his exit. I found this story quite exciting, since I'd had c-sections myself and found the whole natural birth process quite mysterious (not to mention terrifying).  Grace could al

Good Lammastide!

On August 1st, English villagers celebrated the feast of Lammas, in honor of the wheat harvest. The term “Lammas,” in fact, derives from the Old English phrase, “hlaf-maesse,” or “loaf-mass,” when a loaf baked from the newly harvested wheat was blessed at the local church. Lammas was also the occasion of country fairs, often held with the intent of hiring new laborers for the continuing harvest season.  Of course this celebration, like many others appropriated by Christianity, is much older. Lammas, known as Lughnasadh in the Wiccan/Pagan cycle — the Wheel of the Year — honors the Pagan god, Lugh, on the occasion of his marriage. It is the first of three sequential harvest festivals in this tradition: Mabon and Samhain are the others.  We shouldn’t fail to notice that Lammas is a “cross-quarter day,” lying equidistant between the summer solstice, known as Litha, and the autumnal equinox, known as Mahon. By the time Lammas rolls around, we are descending into the dark, the season of sho

The Long Sorrow

This is day #134 of the Long Sorrow. I call it the Long Sorrow not because I have been deprived of my precious routine and activities, but because so very, very many have been deprived of their precious lives. And because many more people are now dying, and will die, largely because Donald Trump and his Republican cronies do not care.  My husband and I are older now, with  those famous "underlying conditions," so we began quarantining on the 12th of March, and we have not really stopped.  I have groceries delivered, and have ventured out, gingerly, to a few places, mainly to buy bedding plants. I did have minor surgery on the 1st of July. Oddly, I felt safer in the hospital than anywhere else, except at home. My husband is playing tennis again (outside only, and with great caution).  I am enjoying my garden and my front porch, and I'm very grateful that winter is a long way off.  Church is open again, with many rules and restrictions, but not many have chosen to attend in