Archive for October, 2012

The trees are mostly barren now, their spectacular colors swept into breezy drifts of crinkled mounds of yellow and orange and red; onto the grass, the drive, hither and yon. We had such a glorious fall here on the Cutoff, I know, but today I felt the first bite of winter nipping at my heels.

We still haven’t had a hard frost, but the air has turned colder. Mornings are crisp and evening comes early with candles and lamplight guiding our way. The furnace has kicked on and I needed my gloves this morning as I started the car. Not for long. Just long enough to herald a change in seasons.

Soups and stews have replaced grilled chicken out on the deck and summer shirts and sandals have all been switched to winter sweaters and cozy socks.

Oddly enough, today had the feel of snow coming. Temperatures reached fifty degrees, but the clouds were dramatic, heavy and grey with patches of blue here and there as the sun kept shifting its focus.

I thought of it all as I went about my day’s business. The cold, the dark, the comfort of home with its welcoming glow of light and warmth and comfort. As I thought my thoughts went again to all those on the East Coast who have battled the winds and waters and wrath of Hurricane Sandy. I thought of their unimaginable losses in the wet and cold and dark and fear, and I felt humble and hopeful all at the same time, thinking thoughts of recovery and comfort in the days and weeks and long months ahead for my countrymen and women to the east. My prayers are with them.


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Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the caldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and caldron bubble.

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

Song of the Witches by William Shakespeare

Image of Girls Night Out by Will Moses

Just one more for girls who wanna have fun – after the ads.

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The Cutoff is blanketed in a quilt of golden snow as the leaves continue to fall, their softened sounds a magical mystery. It has been a most beautiful Autumn here. I knew it wouldn’t, couldn’t , last, yet, like all good things, I kept hoping for just a bit longer. I wandered about in the leaf strewn grass, soaking up  the colors, the mustiness and the crisp air, recalling the summer afternoons sitting under the arbor, sipping tea and reading.

My eyes were drawn to a flicker of gold in the distance. A ray of sunshine was playing tag with something. I needed to walk back to see what it was. Can you see it just beyond the bluebird house? Click on the picture for a better view.

My footfall was noisy as I dragged my feet. One must drag and crunch and shuffle through leaves to fully appreciate them, don’t you agree?  I marveled at how our landscape had changed overnight, exposing things hidden during the lush days of summer. Ancient farm implements, long forgotten by previous owners, emerged from their hiding spots,

and I caught a slight movement from within the brush. Can you see her? Our eyes met and held for a spell, then I walked on as she bent her head down, gnawing at whatever was tasty upon the forest floor.

The rest of the foraging expedition were eyeing me from the other side, waiting for me to move on . . .

. . . and so, I did, looking for that hint of gold I saw from the arbor. I found it. It was a single leaf, stopped in its descent by the tip of a small twig which had skewered it like a toothpick in search of an appetizer.

The sun illuminated its translucent beauty and I stood in awe at nature’s perfection.

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We get our kicks on Route 66. Not “kicks’, exactly, but Kix Cereal. You see, about a mile or so from the Cutoff, sitting on old Route 66, is a store where we buy groceries. Another mile or so east sits one of the many Historic Route 66 signs that dot the United States. As we hit a slight rise in the pavement, the magnificent skyline of Chicago comes into view. Some twenty miles away sits Buckingham Fountain, the gateway to Lake Michigan and the symbolic beginning of Route 66.

This now historic two lane highway once took travelers from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California, ending in Santa Monica. Route 66 was the 2,451 mile Mother Road to a better life for many and the great migration west; those escaping the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression, seeking jobs in the fertile fields of Southern California, looking for wartime employment, or the glamour and excitement of Hollywood.

Route 66 wound around and through small towns and large, from the midwest to the southwest and the Pacific Coast, It brought tourists to their diners and motels, offered a place to settle down and start a family, or provided the opportunity to see local attractions as more and more people began to own cars. This long stretch of highway and the cars that rode on it helped support the economy of many towns. When the interstate highway system was completed and Route 66 was decommissioned as a highway, many towns and villages suffered economically, changing the way of life for many.

Many of us remember Dinah Shore as she blew us all a kiss each week from her television show and encouraged us all to “see the USA in your Chevrolet”

Then there were these two fellows on the television series, Route 66. They made young girls’ hearts go pit-a-pat each week as they drove the cars that all the fellows longed for – and still do.

When I first left home for college, we drove Route 66 to Normal, Illinois. I will always remember that first trip to school, my dad behind the wheel, my mom trying to keep a stiff upper-lip, my own mixed emotions at leaving home for the first time. We drove out of the Chicago suburbs,  past cornfields, Joliet, more cornfields, on and on. It seemed forever, until we approached Dwight and the first stop light from Chicago. There was a diner at the light were we often stopped for coffee and a piece of pie.

As long as I’m riding along on the memory lane of Route 66, I should mention the Dixie Truck Stop near Funk’s Grove. Heading toward Springfield, they had some mighty tasty hamburgers and interesting people to watch. I believe it is still in operation, though with new owners. More “kicks on Route 66” through part of Illinois. The phrase was first made popular by Nat King Cole. It is fun to listen to as he sings about all the places the Mother Road passes.

Do you have any memories of Route 66?

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It all started with Perpetua’s tasty post on soup. With the nip of frost in the air, I’d already been making soups, but her mention of  such intriguing delights as parsnip and apple soup and the flurry of comments that followed, with every soup imaginable described, some with recipes, my taste buds were on high alert. Since her post, which can be found here, I’ve made vegetable barley soup and tonight’s chicken dumpling. I love soup anytime, but the pot always seems to be simmering the most come Autumn.

Thinking about cooking soup and eating soup led me to thoughts of Robert Newton Peck’s book, “Soup & Me”,  especially  the hilarious chapter titled “Havoc on Halloween”.

Soup and Rob are childhood friends and we follow their mischievous boyhood adventures reminiscent  of Peck’s own childhood. I’ve blogged about “Soup & Me” before which I am incorporating into this post.

My introduction to Soup was as a substitute teacher after our Jennifer was born. I was called in to a 4th grade classroom and there in the lesson plans, right after lunch, was scheduled a Robert Newton Peck book. I remember the children settling down quickly after lunch, eager to hear the next chapter, and so I began. Never having read a Soup book before, I didn’t know what I was in for until the words became blurry on the page as I tried, unsuccessfully, to stop laughing at the hilarity of Rob and Soup, in their Halloween costumes, one a pirate, the other a ghost, with an enormous pumpkin taken from Mr. Sutter’s patch, hauled into a wheelbarrow. and rolled down Sutter’s Hill to a party at the Baptist church, all to impress Norma Jean Bissell.  Of course, the wheelbarrow with the heavy pumpkin picks up speed and the boys quickly lose control, as did I, laughing as loud as the children in the class.

From the street, there was one step up to the door of the Baptist Church. The door was closed. Actually it was a double door, painted red, coming at us like a giant red square. I tried to let go of the handle of the wheelbarrow, but my cramped fingers would not unlace. Just then, the one front wheel of the barrow hit the one step, and several things happened in rapid succession. The wheelbarrow, which had a split second earlier been traveling down Sutter’s Hill at a hundred miles an hour stopped with a buck. The pumpkin flew out and straight ahead. Soup and I tripped over the suddenly immobile bin of the barrow. The big pumpkin smashed open the doors of the Baptist Church, rolling at full steam down the center aisle. The aisle was waxed wood, causing Soup and I to slide on our bellies right behind the pumpkins. Pew after pew flew by. 

Events did not stop there. 

I didn’t see Norma Jean Bissell. But as I hurtled forward toward all the surprised faces, I did see Mrs. Stetson . . . kids were bobbing for apples in a huge tub of water. An adult was among them. Raising his dripping face from the tub of water, with an apple in his mouth, was none other than Mr. Hiram Sutter . . .

From “Soup & Me” by Robert Newton Peck. Illustration by Charles Lilly.

So from soup to smashing pumpkins, my mind floats like the leaves falling from the trees, with a hearty laugh tossed in for good measure.

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To Look at Any Thing

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:
To look at this green and say,
“I have seen spring in these
Woods,” will not do – you must
Be the thing you see:
You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,
You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.
-John Moffitt


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My good friends at Amazon are so nice. They email me every day. Sometimes they email me more than once; in the wee hours of the morning, on the weekend, during a holiday. By-gosh-by-golly, there are so many emails from them I  couldn’t want for more, AND they call me by name. Hi, Penny! We have just the books you are looking for – and they do. They seem to know all my tastes in literature and music and even some things I didn’t know I was interested in.

As I was sipping a steamy cup of tea this morning, there were my A-friends with a whole slew of books they knew I would love. Books, whether on actual or virtual shelves, always get my attention, so, I scrolled through the book jacketed recommendations. The title of “Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages” made me pause. One click and there I was, instantly intrigued by this book about things left in books.

The author of “Forgotten Bookmarks”, Michael Popek, has compiled this collection of things he has found between the pages of books at his family’s used and rare bookstore in New York. From bookmarks to letters, bandages to pictures, ticket stubs to razor blades, anything and everything seem to be hidden among the pages of books.

Mr. Popek even has a blog all about things he finds in books, which I believe became the catalyst for the book (correct me if I am wrong) and can be found at www.forgottenbookmarks.com. It is a fun site to visit and there is even a children’s book giveaway there today.

I love bookmarks, though my page in a book is often left with a receipt for the coffee I was drinking, a napkin, or a newspaper clipping. I’ve been known to snip the corner off of an envelope to hug the corner of the last page I read, but I never, ever dog ear a page, even though I have a very pretty box that is filled with bookmarks I’ve picked up here or there, found in amongst family things, or been given by friends. Don’t get me wrong, I use them too, it’s just that odd things do find their way in between the covers of a good read, don’t they?

Not too long ago, going through a box of my dad’s things, I found inside a very nice collector’s edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “House of the Seven Gables” and little note written in my father’s beautiful script:

Please use clean hands when handling this book.

Have you ever found anything interesting or unusual in a book? Do you use a bookmark? What other things do you use to mark your place?


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