Tuesday, November 28, 2023

I am grateful

 "Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind."

-- Lionel Hampton

Because our family is spread out geographically, the times we manage to come together are all the more precious. It takes a willingness, time, expense and energy on each person's part to make it happen. I am grateful. 

Making pierogi on Thanksgiving Eve.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Galloway clan has made its way to Farm Dover; with Jack arriving from Berlin two weeks ago, followed by Kasia (his financée) the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Mary, Brian and their two greyhounds arrived the same night, driving from Brooklyn. Maggie and family (in New Albany) have been back and forth, serving as airport greeters, treating Jack to a Peppa-Pig singalong at the Center for the Arts, participating in our early Secret Santa dinner and gift exchange, and feasting with us at Thanksgiving.

Slowly, the coming-together process unwound itself with Maggie and family leaving last Friday to continue celebrating Thanksgiving with Nate's family; Mary and crew leaving early Saturday morning for their long drive back, and Kasia catching a flight this morning back to Berlin. Jack is staying a few days longer but is off to the airport and some in-town errands, leaving the house eerily quiet this morning. 

Our farm house was designed for Ed and me to live comfortably. It was NOT designed for 8 adults, 2 children and 2 dogs to co-exist over days at a time; but somehow we did. My favorite memories will always be the in-between times when dishes were done and we all jostled for a spot to settle in for conversation. Much to their chagrin, greyhounds Saltie and Rita were often asked to give up their prime positions on the couch and relegated to doggy beds on the floor. 

Fortunately, there were long walks on our trails, late-night pool games in our basement, a big cardboard box on the covered porch for grandkids to play in and a fire in the outdoor fireplace in which to roast marshmallows. Somehow, we made it work; and I am grateful. 

Airport greeting committee

Family hike to the Fairie Village with (most) of Ensor cousins

Stairlanding commandeered for Magnatile creations

Dressed to avoid deer hunters

After the puddle jumping 

Nicely cleaned up for a friend's wedding celebration in Bardstown, KY

Peppa-Pig fans

Lego project under construction

At this point, I don't know when we will all be together again. I do know it will not be soon enough! 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Cousins: Bound Together by Pieces of String Too Short to Save

...Pull the strings
and out tumble green orbs. 

Peas in pod!

We were girls in families of brothers, 
Yet never made to feel we should do, or be, or think less. 

And now, in a newness of time, we celebrate our similarities.

--from Pieces of String Too Short to Save

A little over a year ago I got an email from my friend and amazing artist, Dudley Zopp, asking if she and her cousin might come to Farm Dover for a short artist-in-residence stay. Dudley lives in Maine; Bibby lives in Ohio. They needed a place to collaborate on a book project. Without a moment's hesitation, I said "yes!" -- for I knew what a delightful guest Dudley was as she has spent time working on her art at Farm Dover ever so often since 2015 -- and I was curious about the project she was cooking up with a long-lost cousin.

They came for a few days in mid-September of 2022 and were, as I knew they would be, easy guests. One stayed out in the cottage; the other upstairs. They would gather in the kitchen for breakfast and then disappear to the back porch where they would shuffle old photographs, small sketches of pea pods and hollyhocks, words and concepts, binding options, and paper samples. From my kitchen window I could tell that some serious -- and rather magical -- brainstorming was going on. 

They would take breaks, going off on solitary or companion walks through our trails and meadows, but eventually would make their way back to the porch and continue with their collaborations. At dusk, they would stop for the day, gather up their materials, and have dinner with Ed and me. And then disappear to their respective bedrooms for the night. 

Here's all I knew about their project: They shared a grandmother; their fathers were brothers. Dudley and Bibby were both only daughters in families of boys. They were born nine years apart and grew up nine miles apart. When their "Muzzie" died in 1964 in Lexington, KY, the family found a small box on an upper shelf of their grandmother's closet. Written on the box top was "Pieces of String Too Short to Save." The box, and its contents, became a family joke.

The years went by. Dudley and Bibby both moved away from Lexington and contact between the two diminished. Then in 2021, Bibby reached out to Dudley to offer condolences on the loss of Dudley's brother. The two women promised to stay in touch and later that year Bibby and her husband came to Maine to visit. In their conversation, the infamous box was mentioned and Bibby jokingly said that they should write a book about it. Dudley agreed. The concept for a book was born. (Here's where I picture these two women joining pinkies for a pinky swear and then tying a bit of string around their respective fingers so as not to forget to work on it together.)

Nearly a year later...

In yesterday's mail, I received a beautiful copy of their collaboration. It is a limited edition (15), hand-bound, book of vignettes in text and images, written by Bibby Terry; illustrated by Dudley Zopp. 

The book is a tribute to their grandmother: Sarah Louise Burton Milward. They acknowledge that she showed them that nothing -- neither a memory nor a piece of string -- is too small to save. 

The book is a thing of beauty. The best part is that the cousins, who have worked so hard to commemorate their shared stories and the legacy of their family, have grown closer and have developed a true and flourishing friendship. And that, tugs at my heartstrings

Blessed be the string that binds.... 


You can find out more about Pieces of String Too Short to Save, at Dudley's most recent Substack newsletter

Thursday, October 5, 2023

The Carolinas: a Short and Sweet Trip

A week ago Monday, Ed and I set off on one of our car trips; this time heading east to the Appalachian towns of Greenville, SC and Asheville, NC. As with each of our trips, we take our time, often choosing back roads or going out of the way to find a good cup of coffee/scone or BBQ sandwich. This trip was short and sweet — only five days — but jam packed with all the things we love to do.

We chose Greenville because we stopped there one night on our way home from a trip down south and were smitten by its vibrant downtown. We wanted to see if our first impression would hold up. It did! 

We stayed at the downtown Westin Poinsett Hotel, a beautiful old hotel located next to the best bookstore ever and just down the street from the Yee-Haw Brewing Company. Dinner the first night was at Sassafras Southern Bistro.

We spent the next day exploring downtown Greenville, starting with a latte and pear galette at Coffee Coffee, a coffee shop by day, a dim-sum restaurant by night. Afterwards, we took in the Upcountry History Museum, a small museum that examines the long history of South Carolina's upstate counties.

Then we headed to West Greenville to check out the Six & Twenty Distillery where Ed purchased two bottles of their specialty whiskeys. We lunched on the patio of Persimmon on Main, a Persian spot; for dinner, we chose Restaurante Bergamo, which features northern Italian food and drink. Both good choices. 

The next morning it was on to Asheville, via the old road, looking to buy some boiled peanuts along the way. That night, we had a reservation at Cúrate, a spanish tapas bar and one where we had dined six years ago on another trip to Asheville. The menu was extensive and every item sounded delicious. As much as I love studying menus to come up with a hopefully brilliant dinner, it was just too hard. So we asked our server to bring us his recommendations. He did, and from the first course of pan de tomate with anchovies, to the last of basque cheesecake with a glass Pacharian liquor, our dinner was exquisite. 

On Thursday, we spent the entire day exploring the North Carolina Arboretum and the Asheville Botanical Gardens. We happily wandered though the gardens, trails and forests. I have an app on my phone called “Picture This” which does an incredible job of identifying plants based on a snapped photo. It got a great workout on our explorations. 

When we told our kids of our travel plans, Mary sent me a link to a restaurant she had on her radar in Asheville: Neng Jr’s. As described in a Bon Appetit article, “Chef-owner Silver Iocovozzi has created a restaurant where Filipinx flavors meet North Carolina traditions.”  The very week that Mary told me about the restaurant, it was named as one of the top 2023 restaurants by the New York Times

Of course, reservations at the 20-seat spot were impossible to come by, but the reservation page noted that one could call for a last-minute walk-in spot should someone cancel. It was a long shot, but I called that morning and left a message asking if any spots were available. Sure enough, that afternoon I got a call saying they had had a cancellation and a table for two was ours at 7 p.m. It was our great fortune as the night was one of the most joyous and memorable meals we have ever had. 

We took an Uber to the restaurant and were dropped off at the restaurant’s Haywood Street address. We had been told to walk down a nearby alley, past a large mural and enter the restaurant via a back door, and then up a dark staircase.

We were warmly greeted by Cherry, husband to Silver, and shown to our tiny table in a tiny room. It was one of the strangest and most intimate restaurants I’ve been in, with only with four tables and a dozen seats at the bar which overlooked the open kitchen. Even from our table, we could observe Silver smiling, dancing and cooking up dishes, assisted by the bartender, one server and one dishwasher. 

The menu was limited but our server did a wonderful job of explaining each item. We ordered. I wish I had taken a photo of the menu because I can’t recall the names of the dishes we ordered. The names might be forgotten, but the tastes were not! One course was a pickled shrimp dish served with steamed rice served in a bamboo segment, another a grilled eggplant and our main course was a beef cheeks stew.

For dessert, we shared a scoop of cheddar cheese ice-cream. Yes, you read me right: Cheddar Cheese. All strange. All delicious. I would go back in a heart-beat and would encourage any who are adventurous diners to plan ahead and make a reservation.

With memories of that glorious meal, we headed home the next morning, pulling into our drive 850 miles later. What fun it was. 

Thursday, July 13, 2023

The Maine Thing

The main thing about our Maine thing was the chance to be together for a whole week. 

On July 1, we gathered at the ferry in Rockland: Jack and Kasia coming from Berlin by way of Boston; Mary, Brian, Saltie and Rita driving from Brooklyn, by way of picking up Jack and Kasia in Boston; Maggie, Nate, Hazel and Norbert, Ed and me flying from Louisville to Portland and then driving north to the ferry. Our final destination: Vinalhaven, a quiet island off the coast of Maine. No one has ever accused us of planning easy-to-reach vacation destinations! 

But, we all made it — and what a joyous week it was. One big, rustic farmhouse;  a barn with bunk beds, a swing hung from the rafters and a ping-pong table; acres and acres of fields and woods and a tranquil cove. It was our kind of place. 

For all but two meals, we cooked at home, gathering around a long farm table or outside on a picnic table. Seamlessly, the kids volunteered to grill brats and burgers, flip pancakes, make a run into town for live lobsters, cook up skillets of Polish schnitzel, and pasta carbonara. We all agreed that we ate better that week than anyone else on the island. 

Our time was filled with solving a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, collecting shoreline shells and other treasures, picking wild blueberries, celebrating my birthday, reading aloud from “Charlotte’s Web”, watching birds, improving our foraging skills, cheering for 4th-of-July-parade floats, riding bikes, and swimming in the cool, clear waters of abandoned quarries. 

As a mom, nothing pleases me more than to see my grown children and their significant others enjoy each others’ company and to watch Hazel and Norbert relish the attention they receive from their aunts and uncles. 

Not entirely sure how much the rest of the gang enjoyed the trip, but plans were overheard for a reprisal next year. Hope so. 

I leave you with some (okay, lots of) photos….

Saved the best picture for last. Hazel and Norbert appeared in “Big Cousin” shirts to announce the news that a little cousin would be joining the family in January. Mary and Brian are expecting a baby girl — and we all are beyond excited. The more the merrier -- that's the main thing!