Downton Abbey, Season 6, Episode 1: The Birds & the Bees & Mrs. Hughes

The Beginning of the End

Who among you didn’t get a little lump in your throat at the opening credits, knowing that this is the last first time you’ll watch a brand-new Downton Abbey in a brand-new year? For the last six years we’ve anticipated this show every January; it gave us something to look forward to as we emerged from the holidays. And now it is all coming to an end.

It is coming to an end — just like all them big ol’ English country houses came to an end, the ones packed with furniture and paintings and silver, with servants stacked from cellars to rafters like cordwood. Sometimes you just got to call it, to quote Lord Neighbor-who-auctioned-off-his-stuff: you’ve got to “stop hanging on to what is no longer supportable”. And lest we all get too sentimental, let us remember that Downton Abbey, however wonderful the show once was, is no longer supportable. It’s time to put the old girl down. But first! We shall enjoy many last suppers around the table with the Family Grantham, many below-stairs antics, and many, many discussions about how the times just continue to change and change and change.

Continue reading

A Book Party!

Book Project cover

Book cover

Not too long ago (June, to be exact), my friend Mary Faino and I released a book through her small press, Paper Mermaid Press.

It’s called A Day in Rockport, and highlights some of the gems, hidden and otherwise, of this coastal New England village. Mary illustrated the book and I wrote the text. It was a bit of a backwards process — usually the text comes first in children’s books. But in this case, I think it works, as the illustrations are so lush they practically speak for themselves.

Mary and I have been meeting together over the last few years, partly to work on the book and partly to drink tea and talk about Rockport, and even beyond, if we’re feeling cosmopolitan.

We would love to have you join us this weekend at Mary’s shop, The Paper Mermaid, 57 Main Street in Rockport, for a Book Party! Lots of treats, framed prints from the book, a Scavenger Hunt, and a book reading (don’t worry, the book is a short one) will be part of the fun.

Hope to see you there!

Poster

Local Culture

Local culture is one of those trendy phrases that permeate, well, local culture (and beyond), but shoring up local culture is where I spend most of my energy. Why do I do this? For reasons that go way beyond nostalgia, way beyond trying to capture a sense of a simpler time. Life wasn’t necessarily better in the past in so many ways, but in our technological race to improve our lot in life, we are losing many of the distinctive aspects of the human experience, much of it having to do with occupying a unique place in the world, being surrounded by unique culture.

It’s too much to get into right now, especially because when I do bother to write a blog post or update the site, The Roving Home is given to an overview of things — aesthetics lite, if you will. I don’t usually go into the heavy duty reasons for why I’m involved with the particular events I’m involved with, but maybe I should do this more. Do more explaining about the investment of time, money and energy I put into building and restoring a sense of place. We often hear of the problems that come with the homogenization of America, and, on a larger scale, the effects of globalization in flattening cultures. We hear about it so often that it has lost its power to affect us. Or maybe we don’t even understand what the big deal is. But it is always worth a pause to consider what we are throwing away before we toss it: your grandmother’s recipe for kielbasa? Your dad’s banjo? Your uncle’s old fishing gear? This applies to buildings and furniture as well as songs, heirloom seeds and ideas. Please think before you throw, as the recycling adage goes.

We need to pay attention to what we have around us before it is completely gone and we are all eating the same industrialized waste and sleeping in reassembled flat-pack beds from IKEA (at least the beds will be attractive, some small consolation).

Continue reading

Lo, The Summer is Over

I’ve been quiet all summer — at least online. In the real world I’ve been my usual self, blabbing on and on in a manner that transcends the seasons. But the summer is over, and now it is time to turn my attention to the virtual side of things. Maybe I associate spending hours on the internet with cooler days and crisp nights, parallel to the intense desire to sit around by the fireside that kicks in every fall. Anyway, not to overthink it or anything. The point is I’m back. Here. Posting.

Starting with a summer album of sorts. Even though my online self has been comatose, my offline self has been racing around working on various things, some of which I’ll post about during the coming weeks. But as far as summer projects go, visits to family were mixed in with various creative projects, including our town’s weekly farmers’ market and the Madden Road Music Fest in Ohio, which was held on the farm this year. The ol’ homeplace, in folk song parlance. Continue reading

Making Music with the Family

A few weeks ago my brother, who is a songwriter and musician, and my niece and nephews, who have a band and play with my brother for as many of his gigs as they can, stayed at our house for a week while they did some recording and made a few stops on their Northeast mini-tour in support of their new album Blinded Again. The band crammed in a lot on this early spring visit: a supper around the fire out in the woods (cold. so very cold), a few beach walks, trips to Boston and lots and lots of music-making. Our living room was stuffed with instrument cases and instruments: a cello, fiddle, a couple of guitars, a couple of banjos, a mandolin and more covered every available surface. It was a great and crowded week, and we missed them as soon as they pulled out of the driveway. I can tell I’m getting older because I kept wanting to ruffle their hair and hug them and talk about how “special” it was to have them all staying with us. And I wanted to bake them cookies and extra food to take with them on their various excursions out of the house, though I didn’t do too much of the latter. I was too tired from all the excitement. Which is further confirmation that I am getting old.

If you like indie-folk, traditional Americana style music, check out their music:

DDMRBtitlepage

The band, looking cool in every sense of the word.

Feast!

feast table long viewToday is the greatest feast day on the calendar (The “-mas” in Christmas literally means feast in Latin). The day which conveys, above all other days, the spirit of generosity and fellow-feeling. So it seems fitting to share a few images from a dinner which took place on December 14th at Flatrocks Gallery which took generosity of spirit as its guiding principle. Net proceeds from the evening went to support the work of the Open Door, an organization which feeds thousands of people here on Cape Ann while offering a range of other crucial services.

The owners of Flatrocks Gallery, AnneMarie Crotty and Cynthia Roth, wanted to hold the fundraising dinner in conjunction with their current show, also called Feast! and asked food writer Heather Atwood and myself to help put the event together.

The menu was conceived and cooked by Heather, who provided a four-course meal via several crock pots and giant roaster full of ingenuity, metaphorically-speaking. The food evoked warmth and light and conviviality and coming inside out of the cold and dark to sit together elbow to elbow with strangers, eating at a common table via candlelight. Like an idealized version of a 17th century wayside tavern where it’s warm and clean and everyone smells awesome.

The mulled wine and roasted brussel sprouts start the evening by the fire.

The mulled wine and roasted brussel sprouts start the evening by the fire.

The guests ate and drank mulled wine over the fire on a beautiful snowy New England night before heading inside to eat and drink some more. A fisherman/musician neighbor, with a great white beard and the evocative nickname of Sasquatch, stopped by with a guitar and a set of reindeer antlers on his head to offer a bit of spontaneous song in return for a bit of spontaneous cheer — given in the form of warm appreciation and a pull of whiskey. The spirit of the Irish mystic poet-priest, John O’Donohue, was at the table in the reading of his work (he would have fit right in). A few more songs, played on the flute along with a banjo and guitar, came at the end of the meal, and the guests even had the chance to join in, singing on the chorus in full voice.

On the way out the door, guests could stop by the photo booth for a chance to put themselves in the middle of a huge painting of a true medieval feast, hanging ham hock and all.

Heather Atwood looks appropriately medieval at the Feast! photo booth.

Heather Atwood looks appropriately medieval at the Feast! photo booth.

It was a warm evening on a cold night, at nearly the darkest time of the year in our part of the world, and at every point in the evening we stopped to remember, and remember again, that those of us who have much are blessed when we make an offering of our abundance, out of the fullness of our hearts.

Vintage cookbook pages were used to make the cones that held the evening's menu.

Vintage cookbook pages were used to make the cones that held the evening’s menu.

Grace Before Meals

As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots
And slender stems of growth,
On its voyage toward harvest,
The kiss of rain and surge of sun;
The innocence of animal soul
That never spoke a word,
Nourished by the earth
To become today our food;
The work of all the strangers
Whose hands prepared it,
The privilege of wealth and health
That enables us to feast and celebrate.

— John O’Donohue, 1956-2008