Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Goodbye to a beloved author and namesake

The first time I read a Maeve Binchy book, I think I was about ten or eleven. It was Circle of Friends, one of her best-known books and an enduring favourite of mine. Over the years, I've read just about every book of hers, or at least all the ones I could get my hands on. I have several of her novels on my bookshelves, although I buy them second-hand. And, of course, I named my darling Maeve Catherine after her (and my mom). So it was with tremendous sadness that I learned of Ms. Binchy's passing yesterday at the age of seventy-two. I actually took the step of writing to this treasured author, who had no children of her own, shortly after my Maeve was born. I never got a reply, but I'm so glad that I sent it anyway, given that her life briefly overlapped with that of my precious baby girl, who is now nine months old. Here is what the letter said:

Dear Ms. Binchy,
I am a great admirer of your work, and have read all of your books, many of them several times over. When you gave a talk at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa (my hometown) many years ago, I had you sign a copy of my favourite novel, Circle of Friends; I must have been about 12 years old at the time. Anyway, I wanted to write and tell you that on October 27th 2011, I gave birth to a baby girl, and my husband and I named her Maeve, after you. (We also have an older daughter, Daphne, named for Daphne Du Maurier, but I didn’t write to her descendants.) It is my hope that as she grows up, my beautiful daughter will find a career she loves and that enriches her life as well as those of the people around her, and that she will enjoy a long, happy marriage, just like you. In turn, our little Maeve also has parents who think she’s just wonderful.
Warmest regards,

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The funny book

At my sister's wedding, her father-in-law shared that, for each of his four kids, he and his wife kept a little notebook where they would write down the funny things each kid would say. A funny book. I thought this was a great idea, especially because we are prone to commenting that D says the funniest things, and then we can't remember what exactly she said. Initially, I did have a little notebook, but then I lost it, so now I keep track of her comic remarks in a Word document on my laptop, which is usually nearby. I include the date, and any relevant background info in square brackets. Today's bon mots:

[At the dinner table, just as Hubby's about to say grace] I will ask the blessing! Dear Lord Jesus, -Maeve, close your eyes- we thank you for the hash browns, amen. And we thank you for the rain that we don't drink, amen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cottage 2.0

This is the cottage I've been going to since I was little. It's rustic- think no indoor plumbing or electricity- and wonderful. I remember reading Kit Pearson's Looking at the Moon when I was younger and thinking how nice it would be to have an extended family cottage compound like the family in the novel. On the holiday weekend, I got to experience the closest thing to an island cottage where everyone goes for the whole summer.
Sunset on Friday night

Hubby says this is a typical Bible college ad

D only got to stay up for one campfire, and she loved it. Cautiously.

The baby got one bath to last her the whole weekend

D had two baths; this one, and one on Sunday morning due to pancake syrup

The extended fam on Saturday

People I love, holding kids I love

Our branch of the family tree

D's first canoe ride; again, cautious enjoyment

Hubby's specialty crepes

M dozes on the quilt our great-aunt made for D

Sweet summer

Oh, I do love summer: park visits, cottage weekends, garage sales, farmer's markets and fresh produce! After being away for two weekends in a row, we stayed in town this past weekend. On Saturday, I did the grocery shopping (ALONE and, yes, it was amazing) and stopped by a couple of garage sales. Or rather, the same garage sale twice. Initially, I bought a little Fisher-Price foldout dollhouse for 25 cents and a pair of ballet slippers for a dollar. I noticed a sweet blue dress-up gown with a tiara, but I didn't have enough cash for it with me. I figured that if I couldn't get it out of my head after grocery shopping, I'd get some money out and go back for it. By the time I got there, they were packing up the garage sale and really just looking to offload a bunch of stuff, so I got the dress and tiara, plus a second foldout dollhouse and another pair of ballet slippers, for the tremendous price of 5$. Hey, I have two girls, I'll probably need doubles of some things. So, that's D birthday shopping done. The unfortunate thing about it was that I forgot to take the gifts inside until the next morning when we were going to church, so she caught sight of one of the dollhouses. I decided to let her have it now and keep the rest of the things in her present stash for October.

D's birthday prezzies...shhh, don't tell her!
The garden thing is working better for us this year, as Hubby took over and did an awesome job. There are zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and carrots in the nicely boxed-in garden he's made. While we wait for the veggies, the fruit is almost more than we can handle. Rhubarb is done for now (I'm hoping to get a second crop later in the season, like we did last year), but we've harvested so many raspberries that even D is getting sick of them. You know those huge Becel margarine tubs? We've filled at least three or four of those, and we're not done yet. I've been on the hunt for other-than-jam recipes to use them up, and started with Smitten Kitchen's raspberry breakfast bars. I used butter for once and loved the results.

Our raspberry bushes are unbelievably abundant this year!
How on earth do food bloggers take pictures of finished products with none missing?
The girls were incredibly patient with me while we ran errands this morning, so after lunch we played in the backyard. I cleaned off D's old swing to put M in, and filled up the kiddy pool. D found some daisies in the desert wasteland of our backyard, so I picked them and tried to remember how to make a daisy garland, with mixed results. It was cute, but had no staying power and was disassembled within seconds of the photo below. M, meanwhile, seized the opportunity to try out her standing skills on the swing. I'm not even mad. That's amazing. I mean, she was belted in and everything. (But I put a quick stop to it.)

This is what we call her "flat grin". It's one of my personal faves.

You cannot leave this kid alone for a minute

(Except when she's sleeping)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dissimilar sisters

Remember the time when D crawled up the stairs before we had baby gates? Well, because I have a blog, I can look back and see exactly when that was. August 14, 2010. Today Miss M, who started crawling at 6 months and pulling herself up at 7 months, made her way right up those same stairs. D was ten months old at the time; M is just eight.

This is just one of many points of contrast between my girls. M naps well during the day, but has only slept through the night a couple of times. D never napped in her crib (only in her swing or my arms), but she was sleeping through the night at four or five months (granted, her bedtime was much later). M started rolling over at four months; D never really rolled enough to make it into the baby book. Actually, when M started rolling, I asked D if she could do that as well, and I had to demonstrate what I meant! The girls look pretty different, too; although their colouring is similar (deep blue eyes, light brown hair), M's dimple distinguishes her smile. And overall, their features are just not that alike. Funny enough, D looks like one of my sisters, and M looks like my brother! I don't know why I'm so surprised; they are entirely different people, and have been from the start. There are so few pictures where they look alike that I've made a folder called "Similar Sisters"; it has all of five photos. This is not one of them.

My favourite milestone is coming soon, or so I hope. In early July 2010, when D was just nine months old, she woke up from a nap in Daddy's arms, looked straight over at me and said, "Mama." I can't wait to hear what M's first word will be. Probably "Go!" or something like that.