Category Archives: Holiday

Happy Grandma’s Birthday, everyone!

My grandmother, Martha Louise Miller, was born in Avon, Connecticut on August 3, 1900. Traditionally we have wonderful weather to celebrate her birth and today was no exception: bright and sunny with a cooling breeze; good for cutting hay or picking green beans, and remember to wear your bonnet!

I went looking for a photograph to share on her day and found this being used as a bookmark in Psalms in a family bible. Here she is, on the left, about six years old with her two older sisters all wearing warm and stylish hats.

Snow sisters

And the verso, in her daughter’s handwriting:

mlb-photo-verso

Happy Merry from Christmas past

This awesome holiday drawing was done by our son, circa 1995.

christmas at our house

There are details here that deserve commentary:

  • We built this house when Boy was a toddler, so there some things have received more emphasis than they might have from a child that didn’t witness quite so much construction for instance – light switches. As in, hey – we now have electricity!
  • Yes, we did store kayaks on hooks from the ceiling. In our defense, it’s a very small house with very high ceilings and it seemed like a good idea at the time?
  • Snow falls off that steep metal roof like king-sized mattresses being dropped from 40′. It sounds like thunder and was obviously a big part of his childhood.
  • Our neighbors were often in the front yard, spoiling for a snowball fight. I don’t remember the Darth Vader get-up but it’s possible.
  • My partner is a landscape painter. That painting hanging on the wall is a pretty good reproduction of a Robert Pollien.

May your season now be merry, and may you have joyous records of the time spent before!

The Social Capital Owl FAQ

hOWLaween

1. How long has this foolishness been going on?   About 15 years now.

2. What is Social Capital?   The Wikipedia article is pretty good. I find myself aligned with Francis Fukuyama as opposed to Bill Putnam, who wrote the most commonly accessed book on the subject, “Bowling Alone”, and who I feel is heavily influenced by a false sense of nostalgia for the white male nirvana of the 1950’s in the US. Fukuyama describes social capital as “shared norms or values that promote social cooperation, instantiated in actual social relationships”, which I feel describes the owl-community fairly well.

2. How did the SCO get its start/How can I start a SCO on my road?   One day I started cutting down a small spruce at the edge of the road and was interrupted (as one is with small children) before I chopped down the stripped trunk. A neighbor came by and plopped a yard-sale scare-owl on the convenient pole. Someone with a great imagination decided to dress it in a baby tee-shirt advertising the Common Ground Fair and here we are. I imagine you could start by setting a naked owl statue out by the side of the road and then quickly walking away –  the key seems to be allowing anonymity, at least to start. Don’t spy on the owl goings-on!

3. What’s your favorite owl outfit?   Someone added a mortar board (it might have been a party favor?) when our son graduated from high school. That was very sweet.

4. Do you ever dress the owl yourself?/What’s the easiest way to dress an owl (statue)?   Generally the owl just shows up in a new outfit based on the season or an upcoming holiday. Patriots games are a big inspiration, and so is Halloween. Baby clothes from a thrift shop or yard sale used to be the easiest costumes to use, but now I buy small dog outfits when I can find them cheaply. They come with velcro fittings and come in a frankly frightening array of holiday/sports/occasion choices.

5. The owl has been exposed to 15 years of road salt and blistering Maine summers; will you find another one when the plastic finally crumbles?   The owl is indeed faded and worn, and his/her eyes are not their original sparkling yellow. I think we’ll probably have a neighborhood wake and family burial in the back yard at some point, and then go looking for alternatives. Suggestions, anyone?

 

Pysanka

pysanka with chicken

Connie T., who lives a half mile further down our road, has a flock of chickens which lay beautiful blue, tan, and stark white eggs. I know this because occasionally I come home to a box of these beauties on the doorstep – what a treat! She also makes Pysanky, the beautiful Easter eggs that that have been made in Russia and the Ukraine since prehistoric times. No actual eggshells from that time exist, but ceramic replicas have been found from all the way back to the 3rd millennium BC. Legend says that pysanky keep the Serpent at bay, and that as long as sufficient numbers are made each spring the horrible monster will stay chained to a cliff in the Underworld. Thanks, Connie, for making the world a safer place!

easter-egg-front easter-egg-border easter-egg-verso

heaps of quince

And now, back to 1939

New Year’s is a good excuse to clean up and out, and I was down cellar drinking coffee and looking through boxes for most of my day off. (We did take a walk through deep snow and bright sunshine down at Seawall in the early winter afternoon. The sun was already going down at 3:00 pm.) I found this photo between the pages of a 1965 era copy of the Hartford Courant, with a key on the back in my mother’s handwriting. A note on the back of the photo reads: Smith Family Reunion at Montague, Sept. 1, 1939. (Click to enlarge.)

Smith Family ReunionFrom various other records I believe this is Montague New York, not New Jersey, but please feel free to confirm or correct in the comments. Montague, NY had a population of 78 in the 2010 census.

My favorite couple in the photo are Dave and Mabel Turner, below. Mabel was my great-great Grandfather Robert Wiley’s sister. The clothing, their expressions, the furniture dragged out on to the lawn, it’s all wonderful.

smith-turnersThis is my grandfather, Frank Watson (Wat) Burnham, Jr. In 1939 he was 36, with red hair and blue eyes, married to Geraldine (Wiley) Burnham, below.

smith-watson In this detail are my grandmother, Geraldine (Gerry), and her mother, Bessie (Smith) Wiley. Bessie is Robert’s widow,

Geraldine and Bessie WileyGerrie was five years younger than Wat. I only remember her as a much older woman of course, but I loved her dresses, generally a dark cloth with a lighter pattern and fastened with a brooch at the neck. I also love Bessie’s smile.

Happy pie day

pie pie pie crispMmmmmmm. From bottom to top:

Pumpkin pie, recipe by Fannie Farmer, variations: no additional milk (evaporated milk only), homegrown pumpkins roasted and pureed, not from a can, 4 eggs not 3 (to make up for the lesser amount of milk, and accommodate the fresh pumpkin texture). I’ve been unable to find accurate versions of my 1950’s edition FF recipes online, so I’ll post them later.

Apple pie, recipe by Martha. Variations: Locally grown, fresh picked Cortland apples were very juicy, added 1 Tbs tapioca and let the filling ingredients sit for 15 minutes before added to the pie shell, doubled the amount of spices.

Maple pecan pie, recipe from Martha as well. Variations: twice as many pecans. The original recipe only takes 1 1/4 cups and that’s too high a ratio of pecans to filling for my taste.

Pear and cranberry crisp with gingersnap crumble, recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Variations: added some local dried cranberries for texture and sweetness. This was a new dish for me this year and it got great reviews.

Oh, and there were cream puffs in honor of R’s birthday. Fannie Farmer’s recipe for the pastry, with creme anglais filling and ganach top from The Professional Chef.

cream puffs