Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saratoga's Secret Gardens, 2011

My sister, her daughter-in-law, and I set out late this morning for our annual trek around Saratoga as part of the Soroptimists Secret Gardens Tour. 
Despite the overcast day, we had plenty of company.

There were lovely vignettes...

...and awesome vistas.

There were clever twists.  Here, ordinary PVC pipe with a few slits became a vertical garden feature.
There was beauty in small spots and dappled shade.
There was garden art with attitude. Look at me!
There were tiny urban gardens that offered something to see in every nook.
After a lunch stop at the Country Corner Cafe, we finished the tour and came home with lots of ideas to try in our own gardens. If the rain will just hold off, I will be out weeding and digging and snipping spent blooms in mine tomorrow.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summertime: Cakes and antiques and gardens, oh my!

The last day of the school year is often a bit perfunctory. The desks are cleared off, planbooks and keys are handed in, and at our school, we gather for breakfast together. My contribution this year was a Scandinavian lemon - blueberry coffee cake, pictured above. Around it I scattered some aromatic herbs from my garden: mint, sage, lavender, sweet marjoram, rosemary, tarragon, edible marigolds, and Johnny jump-ups, along with some lemon slices. It all tasted and smelled and looked like summer. Not a crumb of cake was left.  A friend said I should win the prize for presentation. (Smile.)

So now the fun really starts. Tomorrow, I may check out the annual Round Lake Antiques Festival. The village of Round Lake, NY is a pretty little community of  Victorian cottages nestled together and oozing charm. It's quite near us and if the weather cooperates, I will likely spend at least a little of Saturday there.

On Sunday, my sister, niece, and I will be taking the Soroptimists of Saratoga Secret Gardens Tour. There are still some tickets available. Check out the link. I will be bringing my camera.

Plus, it's jazz festival weekend at SPAC.  How can we fit all this in?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day - In memory of and in honor of some good dads, granddads, and step-granddads

In honor of Father's Day, a tribute to some good dads seems in order. I have been lucky and proud to have known quite a few.

The photo above is of my father, John Matthews Coombs. He grew up on the coast of Maine and always  loved boats and being out on the water. My father wasn't a warm and fuzzy guy, but he was funny and smart and interested in many things. He read widely, enjoyed chess, played clarinet badly, and died too young at age 62. I am sorry that he never met my three children. My oldest son is named for him.
On Father's Day, here's to you, Dad: father of three, grandfather of six, and so far, great-grandfather of seven, with one additional step-great-granddaughter. I wish you could have known them all.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.
The man in the center of this photo, above, is my grandfather, Percy W. Coombs.  My father is probably taking the picture. The child my grandfather is holding is my sister, Mary, who would have been Percy's first grandchild. (Also in this photo, L-R, are my Aunt Shirley, Uncle Ed, Uncle Joe, my grandmother, Mary Prendiville Coombs, and my mother Henrietta Coombs. I don't know the dog's name.)
Percy Coombs loved his garden and his hometown, Boothbay Harbor. He  suffered along with the Boston Red Sox and played killer bridge.  He was a man of few words and many talents. I miss him and miss spending summer vacations at his home on One Road's End.
Percy Coombs was the father of four, grandfather of thirteen, and I'm not sure I can accurately go beyond that. 
Happy Father's Day, Grandpa!
Here above is a photo of my husband, Bob Conner, taken around 1988.  Our daughter Molly liked to "honk" his nose. Apparently young Thomas found this quite amusing, too.
Happy Father's Day, Bob! You're still a pretty funny guy.
Bob is the father of two, step-father of one, and, to date, has three beautiful step-granddaughters.
And here above is my husband's father, Grandad Bob (Robert Conner, Sr.) This photo was also taken around 1988.  He is cuddling with our daughter, Molly.
Grandad Bob was the father of two, grandfather of six, with one step-grandson.
Happy Father's Day to you, Grandad Bob.
Here is a photo of my first husband, Dan Machell, with our son, John. Dan and John had built a winning Cub Scout pinewood derby car together and had the hardware to prove it.
Dan is the father of two and has three beautiful granddaughters. Happy Father's Day, Dan.

Below is Dan's father, David Machell, also pictured with John, but a good twelve or so years after that Cub Scout photo. Dave has been an important and loving presence in John's life, as was his late wife, Marge. John's first child is named for her: Marjorie.
Dave is the father of five, grandfather of eleven, and has three great-granddaughters.
Happy Father's Day, Dave!
Below, here is son John yet again, this time as a dad himself. He is holding his youngest daughter, Franny, who was born earlier this year. John is the father of two beautiful little girls.
Happy Father's Day, John! I am so proud of you. Being a good dad and husband is the most important thing you will ever do. I love you, Mom.
Our son-in-law, Jason, is pictured below, carrying a very cute sack of potatoes named 'Lexi.
Jason is the father of one beautiful girl... so far.
Happy Father's Day, Jason!
In modern life, with divorces and remarrying, family trees can become pretty confusing. The two people in this last photo, below, are not really related in any way. The occasion is a Gaffney family Fourth of July pool party. These two people are a step-son (my son John) with his step-grandfather, Stanley. But I include it because, well, the idea of family should be inclusive. Stanley M. Ayres was part of our children's lives but sadly, he was estranged from his own two children for most of his life. He never knew his own grandchildren.
Thanks, Stanley, for the hugs and cuddles you gave to our children. May you rest in peace.
And Happy Father's Day to you, too. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wascally Wabbit

You wascally wabbit, you! I see you. Stop eating my blueberry bushes! You're lucky our Jack Russell mix, for her own safety, isn't usually allowed to be loose in the front yard... Where's Elmer Fudd when you need him?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strawberry Moon

Listening to Vermont Public Radio on my way to work this morning, I heard the newscaster mention that we would have a strawberry moon tonight. Only in New England have I heard anyone refer to June's full moon as a "strawberry moon". What a lovely phrase.

Google tells us that some parts of the world are having a dramatic eclipse of the moon tonight. Alas, we in the northeast United States won't be able to see it. But where skies are clear, we will be able to see this full moon that comes when strawberries are ripening in our part of the world.

When our children were small, I liked to take them strawberry picking in Granville, NY, near the Vermont border. We'd make jam, sometimes to put up in jars, or sometimes just make freezer jam. Freezer jam is so much easier and tastes fresher, I think.

A very simple but sophisticated June dessert is fresh strawberries marinated in orange liqueur. Just wash and slice the berries  and pour over them a generous dash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier and let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Serve them by themselves in a pretty dish or ladle them over ice cream or a light pound cake.  Voila! An elegant warm-weather dessert with almost no work. It's the perfect thing to savor as you watch the Strawberry moon rise tonight...


Monday, June 13, 2011

Africa University Choir tonight in Troy, NY

The HH* and I are planning to check out the Africa University Choir tonight at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

According to their PR,  "The Africa University Choir is a select group of international singers who perform sacred and secular choral music covering the Western and African repertoire of varying periods as well as contemporary compositions."

Africa University, located in Mutare, Zimbabwe, is related to the United Methodist Church, which is sponsoring this 14-day tour.

See: for more information.

* HH = Handsome Husband

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mystery flowers

In my June garden, two yellow perennials live happily side by side. They bloom faithfully each spring and both plants seem to be tough as nails. But what they are, I cannot say for sure. The first, I think, may be called sundrops.

Next to the "sundrops" are these plants, below. Yellow loosestrife, perhaps? Who knows? Do you?

Whatever they are, I appreciate their cheerful persistence.

With all the rain we had this spring, the clematis vines are finally putting on a good show. I haven't had much luck with these in my dry garden, but this year they are much happier.

I'm not sure what variety these are. I inherited them from the previous owners of this house. Don't they look like something Dorothy Lamour should tuck behind her ear?

Our flowering spirea shrubs, below, are looking lovely, too. Hearty, reliable, nearly impossible to kill. These, too, were planted by a previous owner, but I didn't like where they were located. I hacked them back, crudely dug them up, and plopped them down again in a new spot with little ceremony. I swear they were growing again before I filled in the new hole.

My garden is Darwinian: whatever can survive here is welcome. From very cold winters to steamy summers, with dry sandy soil and plenty of hungry bugs and rabbits, we have it all. So if our assorted mystery plants feel at home here, I am glad to let them be. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Girls in Bows

Earlier this year, when Bee Balm Gal was too burned out to blog (suffering from TBOTB syndrome?) our daughter-in-law posted this picture on Facebook. It is of our granddaughter, Marjorie, then not-quite four. She had done her own hair that day, and was replete with bows.

Half a continent away, at about the same time, Bob's cousin's granddaughter, Charlotte, also made an appearance on Facebook. Charlotte is about the same age as Margie. Charlotte, too, was feeling cosmetologically creative that week. Charlotte is pictured below, as she appeared on Facebook, also well-bowed. 

Although these two young ladies have never met, it is clear that they should. Great minds think alike!

And, yes, girls, you are both quite right. Life is short and you can never have enough bows in your hair.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June is bustin' out all over!


and iris!

...because it's June! (June, June, June.)


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bebop-A-Reebop Rhubarb Pie

I made a strawberry rhubarb pie for tonight's dessert. Homemade crust (my mother's recipe) and fresh rhubarb from my friend Dee Seidel's garden. (Less romantic, the strawberries came from the supermarket.) Nonetheless, it was delicious.
My daughter was home recently and had one request I did not manage to fill: to make her an apple pie. My excuse- it was a busy and HOT Memorial Day weekend.
But today was cooler and calmer, and fresh rhubarb was shared, so a pie seemed more doable. But I owe you one, Molls, and I won't forget.
Love, Mom