Thursday, March 17, 2016

Top of the morning to you

by Helen DePrima


March is an iffy month with promises kept and broken. Crocuses poke their heads up through last fall’s dead leaves and warm sunshine gives way without warning to snow squalls that send vehicles caroming like bumper cars. After a week of summer-like temperatures, I’m building fires in the wood stove again.

         Right now the view from my kitchen window is pretty uninspiring: dead brown grass and receding snowbanks, but
when I walk my dog I hear birds’ spring song after a winter of silence. Robins are pecking industriously in the mulched perennial borders, and geese are passing overhead with no fear
of hunters’ guns until their return migration in the fall. If I’m lucky, bluebirds will decide this year that that Audubon-approved house on the old maple will be an acceptable place to raise their young. My friend the lame crow has made it through another winter, hopping on a crippled foot but claiming his share of stale bread and pizza crusts on the front walk along with his buddies; his disability doesn’t seem to hamper him much.

I fan out seed packets like a deck of cards and imagine color and flavor, pink and magenta cosmos and zinnias, sweet corn and peas picked with water already at the boil on my big black restaurant range. This summer’s gardening project will include transforming a hidden corner behind the ell from the dumping ground for broken flower pots and extra tomato cages to a pocket garden where I can take my morning coffee before the sun peaks over the rooftree. The hundred-year-old bench salvaged from a refurbished baseball stadium is surprisingly comfortable, and knee-high pots overflowing with petunias will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. I’ve already built a miniature stoop at the door which will save me steps running out to the garden at the last minute for fresh herbs.

Of course, we still have time in March and even April for another blizzard to blow in over the Gulf of Maine, but that’s life in New Hampshire.


by Liz Flaherty


To the surprise of no one, our family's pretty rife with Irish heritage. There's a good bit of German and Swiss in there, too, but the famine of the 1840s brought the O'Flahertys and the McKissicks to Kentucky and Indiana and they cheerfully went forth and multiplied. It was one of the greater dreams of my life to visit Ireland, and in 2009, we did just that. The only disappointing thing about that trip is that to date, I've only made it once.


While we were in Ireland, we did what every self-respecting Irish-American does--we went pubbing. Every night. It was because of these pubs (particularly one named--you guessed it--Flaherty's, without the O' our family dropped years ago) that McGuffey's Tavern came into being and Back to McGuffey's, my first Harlequin Heartwarming, was born.

On a bus tour one day, we passed a small meadow. Since all fields are small, we didn't think much about it, but most of them are surrounded by hand-built stone fences. This one, however, had a wrought iron fence, and it was a graveyard from potato famine days, when the dead were buried in an unmarked, common grave. The bus grew quiet. Another field, no bigger but much brighter, was filled with yellow irises. The contrast was cruel, but it fit. I can't yet explain how one small country can be so light and so dark together, with magic and music and dancing all around.

Inside the churches, no matter their age or size, you could feel the emotion of the believers. In a Catholic church, a group of tourists held a Sunday school class. Across the sanctuary another group knelt in silence. Everyone was respectful. There was no graffiti.

It was a wonderful trip. I tend to remember it in little pieces (which I think is what's left of my memory these day), but what pieces they are. Golden irises, children dancing in pubs, and the sound of Gaelic--as pretty and poetic as I imagined it. The night--our last--when we went out to listen to Irish music and heard instead the music they loved, which was Johnny Cash. 

The pieces will have to keep me for a while. Until I go back. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

30 comments:

  1. Thank you for the vivid pictures you both painted with words, on what promises to be another rainy day in Ontario.

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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    1. Lots of rain here, too, not to mention the wind! And, while we're here, Happy Birthday to Helen DePrima!

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  2. Top of the morning, Kate. Another dreary day here too, but any day I'm not shoveling snow is a good one. We're going out of a lobster dinner in Maine for my birthday, with Indian pudding for dessert -- not many restaurants serve that.

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  3. May the sun always rise at your back... It's going to be a beautiful day here today. About to go on my morning walk. No one celebrates St. Pats day here. I did buy some Irish Soda bread the other day. Hope your good weather arrives soon ladies.

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    1. Hi Roz! St. Paddy's Day is a big deal here because of all the Boston Irish. No corned beef and cabbage for me today but I'll make a real New England boiled dinner for Saturday night with enough left over for red flannel hash. I still have a few potatoes in the cellar from my last fall's crop, a good ending for last year's harvest.

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  4. It's sunny here right now (shh...don't let the weatherman know--it'll rain again) but cool. I wouldn't say we actually celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but I always like being Irish. :-)

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  5. Our neighborhood celebrated St. Patrick's Day on Tuesday (the chef is a teacher and he had in-service days today and tomorrow) with great enthusiasm, though we are a Dane, a Frenchman, a Brit, and a few other fractional nationalities that spice the pot. As Catholics, St. Patrick's Day is always big for us. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HELEN! And thanks to both of you for those beautifully written, atmospheric glimpses into your lives. I feel as though my little 7 x 7 office is filled with your spirits. Happy Day, Everybody!

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    1. Your neighborhood must be the most fun one ever! I've never lived in town (except for about five years a long, long time ago) but it I did, this is how I'd want it to be.

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    2. I'll be in touch when the next house goes up for sale! Would so love to have you here.

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    3. Hi Muriel -- what fun to live in such varied neighborhood. My daughter lives in Brooklyn and loves being able to buy exotic ingredients for her recipes within a couple blocks of her apartment.

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  6. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Ladies! After days of monsoon-like weather, we are in the midst of a three-day break. Going to be gorgeous and sunny here today. Liz, your trip to Ireland sounds wonderful. It's on my bucket list. My mom always made corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. I don't even know if that's a real Irish dish, but I looked so forward to it every year!

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    1. I'm not sure if it is, either, but I think it must be. I just found out today that a very long time ago, blue was the official color of St. Patrick and--I think--of Ireland. I'm feeling so unsettled now!

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    2. Hi Carol. No corned beef and cabbage for me today but I'll make a real New England boiled dinner for Saturday night with enough left over for red flannel hash. A local market makes their own corned beef; I've never tasted better. I still have a few potatoes in the cellar from my last fall's crop, a good ending for last year's harvest.

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  7. Two fun posts. Enjoyed both of them. Only three more days until it's officially spring. Can't wait!

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    1. Oh, my gosh, me, too, Judy. And I think the wind is going to blow it in to us!

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    2. Hi Judith! I think we had spring last week, several days of sunshine and temps in the sixties. Now we're bracing for a nor'easter with more snow coming in this weekend. New Hampshire is heavenly from April through November, but I'm thoroughly tired of winter by this time of year.

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  8. I went to Ireland in the summer of '98 and it is still one of the best memories I have! I remember thinking that it made perfect sense why green was the color associated with Ireland because it seemed to be everywhere you looked. I loved the Cliff of Moher and the pubs in Dublin and Killarney. We kissed the Blarney Stone and shopped for wool sweaters. Such a great time. I hope to go back someday. And there's nothing I love more about spring than the flowers! Thanks for a great post ladies :)

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    1. Oh, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. I didn't want to leave the Islands, but other things were waiting.

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    2. Hi Amy -- I'd also love to visit Ireland but I doubt it's in the cards for me; my husband refuses to fly. Our specialty is road trips, especially the roads less traveled. We've wound our way through back roads through farmlands and along bayous and across Indian reservations using old-fashioned paper maps -- GPS just doesn't cut it. We meet the coolest people away from the usual routes.

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  9. What a great post!!! Ladies, I love all the photos. Sadly, I've never been to Ireland and had intended to visit. Never considered the pubs. Now I want to accelerate that trip idea!! Happy st. Patrick's Day!! I did the whole thing corned beef, glazed carrots, cabbage, Irish soda bread. No green beer. I draw the line! ☘☘☘☘

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    1. Sounds wonderful, Catherine. Your meals and parties always do! I'm not a beer drinker, but my son says you can't taste the green. :-)

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    2. Hi Catherine -- your menu sounds great! What time is dinner?

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  10. Beautifully written posts, ladies! I've never been to Ireland but it sounds like a fun place to visit. I can understand why you want to go back, Liz. And Helen, Happy Birthday. Enjoy your day and your birthday dinner.

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    1. Hi, Linda. Thanks for coming by!

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    2. Hi Linda -- thanks for the birthday wishes, and the lobster was delicious. We sat in a booth overlooking the river which separates Maine from New Hampshire and watched a loon in its winter plumage fishing in the tide race.

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  11. I've always wanted to go to Ireland! And always claimed to be Irish because I had red hair...once upon a time. Now I don't know what color it is. Great post, Liz! And Happy St. Paddy's Day to you!

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    1. To you, too, Pat. I've had my time with red hair, too, but only because I loved it. I lost my natural color more years ago than I care to admit. :-)

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    2. Hi Patricia -- I too was a red-head many years ago, more the mahogany color of a bay horse. My grandmother had beautiful auburn hair as a young woman; the color showed with my aunt in the next generation and I got lucky the next go-round. Sometimes I'm tempted to try and recreate that younger look but I'm too cheap and lazy to deal with the upkeep of coloring my hair.

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    3. Helen, I didn't see your post! Your hideaway sounds wonderful! I wish I had a green thumb--I'd plant something around my deck.

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  12. I love finding little garden spots in unexpected places, like a tiny park on the foundation of a razed building. I get a kick out of creating from others' discard; my favorite planter is an old tin washtub I found at the dump. It leaks which gives good drainage for my petunias and sweet and trailing ivy.

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