Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Quotes

Photo by Sara Tavares

Sister Sara Tavares posted these quotes from BookBud Bulletin recently. Enjoy. Also see a special tip to preserving your fall leaves below.


Delicious autumn!

My soul is wedded to it,

And if I were a bird I’d fly.

About the earth

Seeking the successive autumns.

George Eliot


Every leaf speaks

Bliss to me.


From the Autumn tree.

Emily Bronte, “Fall Leaves, Fall”


Everyone must take

Time to sit still


Watch the leaves turn.

Elizabeth Lawrence


Autumn is the

 mellower season,

& what we lose in flowers

We more than

 Gain In fruits.

Samuel Butler


“Aprils have never

 meant much to me,

Autumns seem that

Season of beginning,


Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffanys


Fall colors are funny.

They’re so bright and intense and

Beautiful. It’s like nature is trying to

Fill you up with color, to saturate you

So you can stockpile it before winter

Turns everything muted and dirty.

Siobhan Vivian, “Same Difference”



 the year’s last loveliest smile.

William Cullen Bryant


I would rather sit on a pumpkin,

And have it all to myself,

Than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

Henry David Thoreau


Preserving your leaves

My mother had a trick she used to preserve the color in fall foliage leaves, and I have since seen this technique suggested in old folk formula books. It really works, and the leaves stay on the branches and keep their color for weeks. I’m happy to share this tip, and use it myself. Here is her secret:

All you need is a little bit of vegetable glycerin, water, and newly cut branches with colorful leaves. Just put about 1/2 a teaspoon into a vase full of water, stir, and then add the branches. With this, the leaves stay on the branches and keep their color for weeks. Refresh the water and glycerin every week. Pure vegetable glycerin is available in health food stores.

A Time of Gathering

Fall is the time of year that we gather things to see us through the winter. Last month we “gathered in the hay” and gathered boughs to bank our farmhouses with. Many of us will seek out our favorite apple picking grove to gather our favorite apples—can’t beat those Macintoshes! We might also visit our favorite apple cider stand like the one I used to visit in Connecticut every year.

Children will beg to visit a farm or roadside stand to pick out their favorite pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern for Halloween. On some farms you may find gourds to pick out and varnish to put into a homemade cornucopia for the Thanksgiving table decoration. They are like snowflakes—no two are alike it seems.

Great-great niece, Alyson, gathering her pumpkin for Halloween.

Some people really get into the season and add a scarecrow or a witch on a broom to their outside lawn or porch decorations for the season. They will gather hay to make their stick-like figures. They may also add pumpkins with scary faces. (See some ideas below).
People also gather. Now that the outside fairs are over, like the Union Fair, folks gather at their local churches for their annual Church fairs. I always loved going to them. I see that the Federated Church in Thomaston had a fair lately where they raffled off a homemade quilt. Raffles are popular up home, along with auctions and family-type suppers at churches and other organizations like the VFW.
Apple Butter
Here in the south some country women will make you a batch of “apple butter” if you ask them real nice like. I had a neighbor next door to me once who advised me that she would make me some if I gathered some apples off the tree that sat on my rental property and brought them over to her. I had no idea what apple butter was, but I did as she asked and what she gave me in return has become one of my very favorite spreads.
As you will see by the recipe below, it really isn’t butter at all, but rather more of a thick jelly spread. You can find it in most southern-style restaurants here. I always ask for it at the Waffle House if I’m having toast. Here’s a recipe I found for you.
Homemade Apple Butter
(Courtesy of Food Network Kitchen)
  • 4 pounds assorted apples, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Combine the apples, apple cider, brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves. Puree the mixture in a blender in batches until smooth (or use an immersion blender).
Return the mixture to the pot and bake, uncovered, stirring every 30 minutes, until thickened and deep amber, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours (the timing will depend on the kind of apples you use). Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.
Try it on:
Pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, grilled cheese, PB&J, toast, biscuits, cornbread, pork chops.
Carving a pumpkin with your favorite kid
Check out the downloadable pumpkin-carving stencils on this readers digest site. This is one example at:
Other seasonal decorations
There is a great video on the Martha Stewart site about making your own scarecrow:
“How to Make a Decorative Scarecrow for Halloween” at:
Have a wonderful fall season and thanks for listening.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cursive Writing—Curse or Cause

Can you read the title of this blog? If you can’t you are probably 25 years of age or younger and you were never taught cursive writing in school. Not many school children today are taught the old Palmer method as I was in school. I can remember how we laboriously practiced the Palmer method of cursive writing. Here is a sample of what we saw on our blackboards and tried diligently to replicate on our papers:

We used pen and ink on the special days when we had penmanship classes.

Curse or Cause

So my question to you is: Has cursive writing, the bane of every school child from the 1800s to present day, a present-day curse owing to the introduction of computers and the digital age; or can we find “good cause” to continue teaching cursive writing to school children?

I have been following a thread on this subject which recently appeared on Facebook. I will discuss that a little bit later. First let’s look at the history of cursive writing to better understand where we’re coming from.

History of Cursive Writing

I found a good history of cursive writing on Wikipedia. I will paraphrase some of what I learned here:

“The Palmer Method of penmanship instruction was developed and promoted by Austin Palmer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“It was determined that the method was a more simplified style than the previous
Spencerian Method, a popular form of cursive writing since the 1840s.” The Coca-Cola logo below is a sample of the Spencerian Method:
 “Under the Palmer method, students were taught a uniform style of cursive writing with rhythmic motions. Left-handers were usually made to use their right hand.”
(My brother, a lefty, was a victim of this cruel practice. Most left-handers who went through similar discrimination ended up with terrible handwriting in their futures.)
“The method developed around 1888 and was introduced in his 1894 book Palmer's Guide to  Business Writing. Palmer's method involved "muscle motion" in which the more proximal muscles of the arm were used for movement, rather than allowing the fingers to move in writing.
“Proponents of the Palmer Method emphasized its plainness and speed, that it was much faster than the laborious Spencerian Method, and allowed the writer to effectively compete with the typewriter. To educators, the method's advocates emphasized regimentation, and that the method would thus be useful in schools to increase discipline and character, and could even reform delinquents.”
I don’t know that the teaching of penmanship ever reformed any delinquents. I really doubt it. However I would like to introduce my “cause” for the continuation of penmanship classes in schools today. By the way, notice that the Palmer method was an answer to the newest technology of the time--the typewriter.
I’m not the only one who believes in the discipline of practicing good penmanship. However, my own penmanship has deteriorated over the years due to several causes I won’t go into here. I find myself interpreting my handwriting to others from time to time. More and more I will print rather than use cursive so that people will understand my writing better. Have I given up on cursive writing? Far from it. (By the way, learning shorthand can also be very useful. I use it when I’m taking notes on something so it will be less stressful on my arthritic hands.)
Survey on WMAS 94.7
The thread I talked about above comes from WMAS 94.7 radio in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was begun by Donald Carman who I think is a member of that station.
Donald posed the question:
“Massachusetts is one of several states that want to keep penmanship lessons in the curriculum. Do you think we should keep cursive writing alive?”
Of the 148 people who answered this question on the thread, all of them replied with a resounding “YES.” There were no “Nos” in the bunch.
Why do we feel so passionate about this subject? Here are some of the reasons put forth by some of the people in this survey.
1.    Real estate agents who are doing Title Searches and have to read old deeds often have to read cursive writing.
2.    When you are asked for a signature on a legal document. I don’t think to this point that non-cursive writing is acceptable. Must we go back to the old X to mark our signatures?
3.    It develops mental acuity.
4.    Dyslexic children find it easier to write when they can connect the letters.
5.    So they can read their birthday cards sent to them by their family members who were taught to write cursively.
6.    I commented that cursive writing teaches kids good hand-eye coordination which hopefully they will carry over into other areas of study.
And Furthermore
A few more thoughts on the subject.
My own experiences in teaching penmanship remind me of one student I had who had cerebral palsy. He was mainstreamed into the public schools and he tried his darndest to excel in school. He was a terrific writer and poet, even in the 5th grade, and I hope he pursued that career later on in his life.
His name was Robert and penmanship, of course, was very hard for him. I had to grade him on a 5th grade level and the day he finally managed to get a “C” in penmanship was a very proud day for him. The whole class congratulated him on his success.
Ironically, the Palmer method I taught to my kids in school was just as hard for me to master. I doubt I could ever write a “perfect” Palmer method alphabet on my own paper.
To me, learning how to write cursively is the same as learning how to read. If you can’t read, you can’t learn anything about anything. Here’s another story to share with you:
A fellow teacher had a student who had been held back twice in grammar school. He was about to turn 16 at which time the school system would have to let him go if he wished to leave. His big problem was reading. According to him, when he became a truck driver, his ideal job upon leaving school, the only letters he needed to know were “E” and “F.” You guessed it, “Empty or Full.”
The teacher posed these questions to him:
“How will you read your manifests? How will you read directions on the road, like detours and the like? How will you read a map, if necessary?”
I would pose some of the same questions to those students who don’t want to have the “bother” of learning what is an old and unnecessary skill to them.”
Consider the following:
I don’t have to know cursive writing because:
I’m not going to be a real estate agent
I’m not going to become a genealogist.
I’m never going to read an old family Bible.
I’m never going to sign my name on any legal documents.
I’m never going to study history and its old documents for any reason.
I can always ask my parents to interpret my grandparents’ writing for me.
You might as well say, “I don’t have to learn math because I’m never going to be an accountant or bookkeeper or keep my own accounts in order.” I don’t have to study science because there is no need to know how the world came to be or how I came to be or how things in our world work.
Get my drift? YES! Keep the learning of penmanship in our public schools; and while you’re at it, teach them how to spell too.
Thanks for listening.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pumpkin Fest in Damariscotta

I brought you pictures of last year's event in Damariscotta with pictures from cousin Mary Sue Weeks. These are the pictures she took of this year's Pumpkin Fest in Damariscotta.