postcard: billings farm

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Step into the 1890 farmhouse and make yourself right at home.

Can you smell the biscuits in the oven?  Feel the curve of the pump handle in your hand?

Don’t get too comfortable though, there’s work to be done.

Maybe the cows are ready for milking.

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Or it’s time for butter-making in the creamery.

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Could be there’s ripe tomatoes ready to pick in the heirloom garden. Or supper to cook on the kitchen’s grand black stove.

There’s always work to be done, but be sure to make time for a quiet moment to graze awhile and simply smell the sunsoaked grass.

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Are you ready to receive visitors in the front parlor?

Or is it time for bed after a long day’s work?

Early to bed, early to rise is a way of life on the farm.

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There’s so much to explore at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, VT where blue skies and green pastures meet at the horizon and the rural history of Vermont is a  just short walk back in time.

An interactive museum, the Billings Farm features films and exhibits on farming history, maple sugaring, ice cutting, and life in the farm community.

The farm animals befriend visitors right there at the pasture fence or back in the barns: draft horses, dairy cows, chickens, and sheep.

The 1890 Billings farm house offers you a home and hospitality from the past: the business end of farming and function in the farm office with its majestic standing desk,  family living quarters, and the glorious pastoral views from every window.

Billings Farm is owned and operated by The Woodstock Foundation, Inc., a charitable nonprofit. An interactive museum and working dairy farm, be sure to try some of the Billings Farm cheddar cheese!

Open daily, May 1 through October 31, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.




A Lick and a Promise

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Sometimes living, quietly and without much fanfare, takes over my whole house. Bananas brown in their bowl. Last Sunday’s flowers wilt and dry on the kitchen island next to half a week’s mail, and yesterday’s lunchbox. I’ve kicked off a pair of sandals (or two) at the tired end of a day and left them right where they landed.  And despite my very best intentions to maintain order, it’s time to admit I’ve somehow lost all control and the detritus of life, my life, is utterly in charge.


This post is not about down and dirty cleaning. Let the dust bunnies stay where they lay. This is about giving the house a lick and a promise, as my Nana used to say.

A lick and a promise cleaning restores order, plain and simple. It’s straightening the couch cushions, starting a load of laundry, and giving the throw pillows a quick lesson in who’s the boss. It’s about hanging the dish towel nesting next to the sink and hauling upstairs whatever’s been sitting patiently on steps one, two, and three for a week or so.

A lick and a promise cleaning isn’t about doing more, or even doing better. It’s about doing later.

It’s about promising to dust the very next rainy day. It’s noticing the disorganization of the pantry cupboard, and planning to rearrange it this summer when you either have more time or more inclination. It’s about understanding you have better things to do today, and giving yourself permission to put off all the rest of the stuff until tomorrow.

A lick and a promise is knowing what you can live with and what you can’t.

For me, that means a clean counter and no dishes procreating in our sink.  And I don’t much care about what’s going on behind the scenes in the cupboards. Not today.  I’m okay – today – with laundry in the basket, but I’ll be sure to gather any left stranded on the floor. Maybe I’ll make the bed, but I’ll leave changing the sheets for tomorrow. Could be I’ll sweep, but I won’t vacuum.

You get the idea.

Because a lick and a promise gives you permission. Permission to enjoy today … because today, I’ve got places to go and the world out there is sunny, and warm, and spring!

And so I’ll give the house a lick and a promise, and leave – knowing at least it’s peaceful and tidy when I’m ready to return.

life lessons: at the far end of mothering

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I almost never see a dandelion patch without thinking of a little child – student or son – arm outstretched with a loving fistful of droopy, yellow dandelions for me. And since it’s been awhile since I’ve received one, I’m caught a little surprised at how nostalgic I feel about the prolific yellow bane of our backyard.

There are scads of books on mothering and parenting and raising children.  How-to tomes. What to expect, what to avoid, how to be hands-free and all that. Maybe mothering today’s a bit more complicated.  Or so it’s probably always been to anyone who’s living it.

Personally, I’m at the far end of the mothering spectrum. And I’ve found few books to guide me. There’s a few about boomerang kids, but not much else beyond transitioning through the teen years and we’re past that too. And as far as flying objects go, I’m not much worried about boomerangs and more concerned with balloons.

I’ve had a whole handful of four, beautiful, bright, helium-filled, boy balloons and one-by-one each string loosens from my grasp. One day soon, the final of the four will lift, floating off free. And away from me. As should be. After all, independent, self-sufficient, productive citizens are the end-zone goal.

It’s just that when it comes to expecting … no one ever talks about what to expect at this point in the child-raising timeline. Saying goodbye is  not something you think about as you rock your infant, chase after your toddler, or sit across from your child’s teacher at a parent conference. Honestly, raising children is about as in the moment as it gets. Who has time or energy to think about the future when the here and now is so very consuming.

Truth is, the little dickens start leaving and living their own lives from the very first defiant, No! They have thoughts, dreams, and ideas of their own, and sooner or later – you’re in the way. You know it’s coming, but somehow you don’t expect it. Each milestone stands on its own, a point on the timeline toward departure. And once that last balloon wrests itself free, you watch it float skyward and wonder whatever in the world you’ll do next.

It’s been a wild ride couple of decades through each age and stage, but no fair lasts forever. Near as I can figure out, mothering young adults feels no less puzzling than the first years did. It’s another stage, another question mark in the life-long series I signed up for. I’m guessing I’ll be finding my own way just as my children find theirs – each of us simultaneously starting a new stage of life, on our own – together.

A Day in the Life of a Woman

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I work hard. Sometimes too hard. But hard as I work, I almost never give myself credit. No stars on my sticker chart. No atta girls or pats on the back. I’m never entirely satisfied … self-satisfied.

I thought a lot about women yesterday. Me, sure, but me in terms of all the rest of us.

Are you like me? Is well done never quite good enough?

I’ve reached an age where I don’t feel the need to self-psychoanalyze why I am who I am. It doesn’t much matter anymore how I got to be the me I am.  I’m more forward thinking these days and want to know where I’m going next.

But back to the credit. Can’t we all give ourselves a little more credit for all the good we do in the world? Credit for all that gets done because of us? Let’s give ourselves a moment of self-satisfaction for the crying babies we soothe, the corporations we run, and the patients we care for. Let’s tally points in our plus column for the words we write, the dishes we wash, the bills we’ve paid, essays we’ve read, and the fires we literally and metaphorically extinguish.

Let’s thank the women who do what we cannot: the chefs, lawyers, sales clerks, teachers, and child care workers. The all of us. No matter what I do or you do, not one of us can do it all. (Despite our very best efforts.)

I’m so grateful to the kind, young woman at Ulta who steered me in a better cosmetic direction without ever once making me feel old or less than. So grateful. It’s hard to be an aging woman, and she didn’t make me feel like one. Thank you for seeing me and not my age, Ulta woman.

Let’s remember and reach out to the women who feel forgotten, looked over, or invisible. Let’s say hello to the elderly, smile at the mom hauling a dozen birthday balloons from the dollar store, and start a conversation with the woman who looks so sad or lonely on the subway.

We’re all in this together – some alone, others with partners by our sides. Some of us are raising children and wonder about their future just as others of us get ready to retire and wonder about ours. We worry. We dream. We love. We grieve. We think. We vote.

We’re thin and not. Young and not so young. We’re blond, brunette, and chemo-bald. We’re store-bought and homemade. We’re mothers and mayors. We’re sometimes forgetful, always busy, loving, intelligent, brave, and beautiful. We’re a country of women, a world of women, and a culture of women. To try to define us somehow limits us for we are not and will never be a type, a party, a race, or one-size-fits-all.

We will resist judgement, criticism, and definition. Believe me, we’re probably already busy judging, criticizing, and defining ourselves over and over, day after day. At least I am. And I’m probably feeling not quite good enough.

I cannot speak for all of us, and I’m not sure I need to tell you my story. But I’ll listen to yours. I see you. I recognize you. And I know you.

Because I’m a woman too.


Snow Day


There’s something pretty special about a snow day.

Whisper of disbelief:  It’s a … Snow Day.

Like all of the very best of good fortune, a snow day is really sort of magical.

Dream-like and unexpected.

And, of course, I had all the very best intentions to use this sudden abundance of time so wisely, so well.

But magic simply won’t permit such practicality. Or allow itself to be managed.

Because magic is … well, magic.

With a spirit all its very own.

And so, I wasn’t all that productive … but here’s a list of my very favorite picture books about snow… because the spirit and magic of a snow day never grows old.

1.  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats


2. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs


3. The Big Snow by Berta Hader


4. Snowflake Bentley by Jaqueline Briggs Martin


5. Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner


Photo credit for book covers to Barnes and Noble. 

Note: The links I’ve provided are for the love of literature … not profit.

Winter and Oatmeal


My skin’s had a rough winter.

And it’s only February.

I was diagnosed with rosacea about a month ago. My face often feels like it’s burning. The inflammation and itch spreads from my ears, to my chin, just above my eyebrows, and all across my cheeks.

I’m a vision.

I’m also not convinced I have rosacea. Symptoms aren’t always consistent, no matter my diet, and it’s winter in New England so that means drying heat, drying cold, drying wind … drying skin.

I was prescribed a cream by my doctor and admittedly, it helps soothe the inflammation and burning. For a bit, anyway. But it also dries my face something fierce and results in flaky rough patches everywhere.

I thought maybe it was time to return the doctor’s cream to the medicine cabinet and turn to my pantry for a little relief.

I remember my toddler son’s struggles with eczema and the soothing nature of oatmeal, so I started there. After a little more research, I learned yogurt has soothing properties of its own. Yogurt moisturizes, helps reduce discoloration, and calms feisty skin. And don’t forget the honey – also a natural moisturizer.

I mixed about a third cup of oatmeal with some very hot water and let it set a bit. I added enough water so I achieved a slushy mixture with a little more water than oats. Instantly, the hot liquid took on the milky oatmeal tone, and the oats softened. Finally, I mixed in equal amounts of honey and plain Greek yogurt – about a tablespoon of each.

Let the smearing begin.

I mostly used the liquid and left behind the oats.  Immediately my red skin returned to it’s normal New England winter whiter shade of pale.*  There was a bit of stinging sensation at first, but what followed was pure bliss: No itch. Therefore, no scratch.

With my facial skin improved, I’ll be straining the remaining liquid into a soothing bath for the rest of me.

It is winter in New England which means a good, long soak is necessary for survival.

*Thanks to Procol Harum for the perfect description of my New England winter skin.

In January


As I write this morning, small pellets of ice or sleet or some kind of freezing rain tap at our windows. It’s an hour or so before sunrise, but when I peek out by porch light, I can see a couple inches more than a dusting of snow. And the wind blows.

It’s January, and I’m almost always cold.

Funny thing is, the best way I’ve come across to feel cozier in this long month of dark and cold – is to get outside.


It’s hard, I know.

It’s exhausting just getting dressed. All those layers. Bundling up. Hat head. Clunky boots.

Brushing off the car. Hauling in the groceries. Pumping gas. Feeling something close to what must be dread at the anticipation of walking from warm house to cold car.

Doing anything regular feels harder, and there’s always a quick intake of breath with the first step outdoors and then the reactive thought … man, it’s some kind of nasty cold out here!

But the first step is important … because it leads to the next and the next and I’m outdoors and breathing in the cold air and it feels a little bit like I just woke up from some sort of full body slumber.

After a bit of a walk, I feel energized. Awake. And very grateful for the cozy warmth I walk back into when I’m done.

Grab a friend and go for a quick 15 minute walk.

It’s like peppermint for the soul.