Moments of Joy

On the day we made an apple pie during Lady Baby’s visit over Labor Day, I saw pure happiness. Not stated, not “Oh I loved making this pie,” (as we might say) but a glow of pride and triumph.

Her parents came home just as we took the pie bubbling with brown sugar, apples, and cinnamon out of the oven, and sitting in the garden in the sunshine we all ate pie. Both parents and her Poppa Jim said, “I’m pretty sure this is best apple pie I’ve ever eaten!” Still, Lady Baby didn’t say much. She ate her own slice with relish, then headed to the Buffalo for a nap.

With the whole family here, we had a busy few days. Lady Baby delighted in Sweet Baby, played games with Uncle Tutu, and spent much time with both her parents (including a backpacking adventure that ended in an overnight deluge of all the rain we missed for months).

But earlier on the day of the apple pie, we walked up the driveway in our aimless, purposeless way doing what we do best, just being together without any particular agenda. Lady Baby wheeled her little red wheelbarrow and picked up fir cones and rocks (“keepers” she said).

While I sliced apples (picked by Lady Baby and her dad from our columnar tree), she played the ever-popular “farm” game with her Poppa Jim. Our younger son had assembled a dollhouse (inherited from my young friend complete with people and furniture), and I could hear some discussion about whether animals belonged in the barn or the house.

But not until later did I realize the importance of the pie. After her nap, she still seemed so pleased. She insisted on sitting next to Granna Katy, and I received unsolicited hugs (the best kind to get from a grandchild, though it’s hard not to request them). I loved these moments of gladness – for her, for me.

Not minding the sudden wind and rainstorm that welcomed them and changed our summer weather abruptly to autumn, the L.A. contingent stayed a record 10 days. They walked often with Sweet Baby in the front carrier – she’d stare up at trees and sky till her eyes closed and she slept against her dad.

Completely wordless in expression, Sweet Baby provided moments of pure joy. When Lady Baby would focus on her (which she did a lot), getting down to Sweet Baby’s level face-to-face close with toys to encourage her movements on the rug, Sweet Baby would beam. We all think that Sweet Baby smiles specially at us – but we get nothing like the long-lasting, eye-crinkling grins Sweet Baby gave her cousin. A blissful look, her dad said.

On departure day, Lady Baby came over in the morning from the Buffalo, crossing the garden by herself to open the door and declare: “I love you Granna Katy!” I said “oh and I love you!” tears popping. She asked if I would miss her when she left, I said “more than you know!” She replied calmly with that agreeable head nod she gives when wanting you to go along with what she’s saying: “But you have Frances, right?”

And that’s true.

Opal apples 1

Twelve Days Before Christmas

By tradition, the 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day – celebratory days, Christmastide – and last until the sixth of January. But I’ve been taking liberties with tradition (and the song) and will offer posts for 12 days until Christmas Eve – in a “my blogger friend gave to me” sort of way.

It’s been fun to think of the posts – but challenging to try and represent fragrance or music, and I do love both. When I pack up bright red and shiny green holly for Alaska, I include rosemary, knowing it will bring a different and welcome note to the package. Rosemary for remembrance, for hospitality, for flavor. Like cinnamon, clove, and orange peel – seasonal essentials for centuries like holly – so welcome at Christmastide.

I know you will fill in the fragrance and the sounds at your house to stir your memories.

Enjoy these days – let your spirits rise, and thank you for reading the blog!

Polka Dotted Pear


September Light

If you ever think about moving to Washington, September is the time to visit. You could file away memories that would last through every contradictory rainy or windy or dismal day, you might ever encounter after your move. (Fewer than rumor suggests.)

Washington has everything: mountains, sea, tall trees, farmland, and a real city. September here is Tuscan gold, when slanting light burnishes fields, foliage, and each morning’s wide sandy beach.

The calling birds have gone, leaving those who stay for the winter, busy with provisioning and eating. It’s a privilege to cross the parched lawn and hang clothes, sun hot on my face.

Last week, after our window washers worked their magic, I walked around startled by the sparkle. September seemed a lottery prize, a reward for colder, grayer days. Some mornings the breeze has an edge, but day after day since Labor Day we’ve awakened to blue sky.

In the garden on the columnar trees, apples grow to real apple size. Blueberries ripen on the third and final bush. A surprise this year – huckleberries – many. They mature in the way of native plants, each berry cluster offers one ink blue berry at a time – enough to make batches of muffins and for the chipmunk that often visits.

Berries of all colors, ripe tomatoes, and every vegetable imaginable fill the Farmers’ Market and arrive in our CSA. From east of the mountains, fresh corn and bushels of stone fruit complete the harvest bounty.

I’m grateful to live here – and grateful for September!



Our young friend and her mother came for a visit at the beginning of June, rainy, cold June. She’s learning to cook this summer – seems such a smart thing to do – learn to cook in an organized way – what a great start for this lifelong pursuit!

In her first project, she and her mom made guacamole (a treat we never seem to make even though we consume lots of avocados.)

Using Bittman’s recipe, they mashed two ripe avocados in a bowl, along with a tablespoon of minced shallot and a quarter teaspoon of garlic. Then they added a teaspoon of chile powder (you can use instead a stemmed, seeded, minced jalapeno chile), salt and pepper, and tablespoon of lime juice.

It was fun to watch how much learning is involved in even such a simple recipe – cutting open and preparing an avocado and a lime, mashing, mincing, measuring.

The guacamole (kept green by leaving the pits on top till the rest of dinner cooked) was delicious, and we ate it with sweet potato quesadillas. But our young friend’s mother said – “Really it’s best with chips!”

‘Tis the Season – Pomegranate Season!

It’s a short season, but pomegranates are part of the magic of the holidays with plump red flesh bursting with juice surrounding each tiny seed. The seeds are festively packaged inside a leathery skin, shaped like a Christmas ornament!

Pierce the outer skin in quarters – one at time – then peel and separate the delicious (rich with potassium) seeds from the inedible, pithy white part.

Mark Bittman suggests doing it under water – or inside a plastic bag to keep from spraying red where it isn’t wanted. Or just be careful, and lean away from your party duds when preparing a pomegranate.

In salad, or just by the mouthful, enjoy!