The slow-motion demolition of The Club Room is underweigh.  (And yes, it’s “underweigh,” as in anchors aweigh!) The owner is retiring because of illness and everything in the store is half off. I picked up an adorable hand-painted canvas of a rabbit and am collaborating with my sister in Florida in choosing the colors of floss for it as a gift for her. There is a sweetly-sad expression on the rabbit’s face an incredibly hard thing to draw in any case, and particularly in this case, where the lines must match the grid of weave so it can be stitched. And all for half price.


The weather has turned chilly and wet again – maybe those decades-back forecasters warning of a new ice age were right after all?

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Watermelon, Geraniums, and Rectors

I love watermelon – but not twenty-first-century watermelon. The current variety, the seedless – also seems to be increasingly tasteless. I bought one on my grocery shopping trip yesterday. I looked for the seeded kind but the only variety offered anywhere was the seedless. I wish I hadn’t bought it. There’s a curious taste to it, reminiscent of a noxious weed, and it was not at all sweet. I am going to see if I can find a throwback farmer somewhere who grows the old-fashioned kind. Yes, yes, I will spit slick black seeds in a steady stream, but the taste of the sweet red fruit those seeds come packed in is a hymn to summer.

The mottled-red geranium I bought last year that was advertised to tumble artlessly over the sides of the pot didn’t. Or didn’t tumble far. And in fact one main stem grew stubbornly upright. But the blooms were very pretty and it looked so healthy in the fall I brought it into the apartment and kept it over winter. In very early spring it resumed blooming – and collapsed until its stems were draped downward onto the table, leaving bare black soil on top with a couple of lines of naked stem along one edge. I brought it back outside and hung it on a pole, where it continues to reach for the floor, and I planted a deep red dianthus to cover the bare soil. And now the naked stems of the geranium are producing tiny leaves. I’m not sure if they will sprout upward or follow their older brothers in the massive green waterfall over the edge.



Tomorrow evening the Calling Committee of my church will get its first chance at a phone interview of one of the candidates for Rector. There are so many ways this can go well and almost an equal number of ways it can go badly that I can barely wait for it to be over so we can discuss it. Our seven-member committee is a wide and marvelous mix of talents and skills, one thing it won’t be is unproductive. This is such an important task for a church to undertake that I’m surprised to find myself among the members of the Committee. I’m more known for my hats than my theology.

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Eye on the Sparrow

This coming Saturday we are holding a party in our building celebrating Hats. I have a large collection of hats and I’m bringing most of them to the party for the ladies to try on. We’re serving cucumber sandwiches, lemon bars, cookies, lemonade, hot and iced tea. I have an interesting recipe for the sandwiches: Buy a loaf of that hors d’oeuvres bread, the kind that is about two by two inches. Mix a packet of cream cheese with an envelope of Hidden Valley dry salad dressing mix (a little mayonnaise makes it creamier) and spread it thinly on a slice of bread. Top with a slice of fresh cucumber, and top that with a slice of pickled ginger. Delicious! I must remember to bring down mirrors.

I almost killed a sparrow Saturday morning. I was coming out the front door of our building and I pushed it open right into the path of a pair of squabbling sparrows. The male thumped hard into the glass and fell to the ground. He lay stunned for a few seconds, but as I reached to pick him up, he scrambled to safety under a bench. I have found that picking up a stunned bird and keeping him in a quiet dark place (a shoebox with holes punch in it is good) for a few hours frequently results in a restoration to health. This fellow was already aware enough to try to get out of my way, so I went on my errand and he was gone when I got back.

I have nothing to report on writing except that The Chronicles of Deer Abbey are available in both paperback and e-book from Amazon.

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Busy, Busy!

Things are piling up on me.   Our Calling Committee is planning to talk to the candidates for Rector of my church, by phone and face to face, and we’ve got questions to sort out and dates to meet them to decide. I’ve got a mink coat to auction off to raise money for our Capital Fund – meeting the auction company today. I’m trying hard to finish the needlepoint Christmas stocking so I can enter it in our State Fair (probably won’t make the deadline). And the desultory fiddling around with the plot of Tying the Knot, which I can’t seem to write but also can’t leave alone.

Publicity to begin for The Chronicles of Deer Abbey, which is now out on Amazon as an e-book. The paperback still needs proofreading, but should be available in less than a week. They’re at Monica Ferris Presents.

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Notes From All Over

An amazing sight last Tuesday afternoon. A magnificent bald eagle landed in the street that runs beside our building and pecked at the demolished body of a run-over rabbit while crows, who had been holding their own feast, objected loudly. One crow dared to land behind the eagle while others cawed from nearby trees, but the eagle turned to give him a hard look, and he decided the better part of valor would be to join his friends in the trees. Then the eagle scooped up the last large fragment of red flesh and leaped into the air, to disappear over tree- and housetops. It was a glimpse of, like they say, nature red in tooth and claw. Well, beak and talon.

Technically, it is too early to plant. Here in this part of Minnesota, the informal rule is, wait until Mother’s Day. But the temperatures have been so mild, I couldn’t wait, and put up my plant pole and transplanted the azalea I got from church into a bigger pot. This is the third year for the pole, and I like it more than ever. I bought it at our State Fair and it’s an easy way to get a lot of plants in a small space, stacking the tilted pots up it. Last year I had a geranium that was so healthy in the fall that I kept it over the winter in our apartment. It started blooming in February and I was glad to get it outdoors last weekend. It’s the variety that droops over the edge of the pot – which it didn’t do last year, but does this year.


And here’s a picture of Java the Bombay cat, showing off her exotic profile.


Last night we were introduced to the applications of candidates to be my church’s next rector. They seem different from one another but very qualified and it’s going to be a hard choice. And I’m still thinking this search would be the basis of a good mystery story.

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Deer Abbey and Hats

Here is the cover of the hardcover version of The Chronicles of Deer Abbey. I love the vivid colors of it. We are going to get a couple of copies to look at and approve and then the book will go on sale from Amazon in a couple of weeks. This is very exciting!


We had a lovely Easter. Good friends, good food (too much food, of course), and a movie. We watched “Moana,” which was even better than I thought it might be. Then I got out my hats and Ann, Becky, and Tanya tried them on. I had made an agreement with Ellen that every time I brought home a new hat, an old one had to depart.  [Ellen, the webmistress, would like to note at this point that she has something like fifty hats. Monica is not a crazy cat lady, she’s a crazy hat lady.] My new spring hat was a success on Easter Sunday, so I had to decide which of my other hats I could part with.

Tanya and Becky are coming with us to Magna cum Murder in Indianapolis this fall and Tanya wanted to wear a hat in honor of the occasion.  So I told her she could  have her pick.  I have a rather beautiful purple felt hat with a bunch of curly feathers and ribbon on one side that looked really good on her, and she chose that. I was a little sad to see it go, but I know Tanya will take good care of it and will love it as I have. Then Becky tried on my “Mardi Gras Parade” hat, a silver lamé number that is towering twirls and a big medallion, flat on the back and with a little brim in front. Or, if you like, flat on the front and with a little brim in back, you can wear it either way. It looked amazing on her, and I have agreed to loan it to her for Magna. I’m not sure which hat (or hats) I’ll bring.

The event is a mystery convention and takes place at the Columbia Club, a historic and very upscale place in the center of the city with old-fashioned rules such as gentlemen must wear a suit or blazer and tie in the formal dining room. The sort of place you almost expect to see Christie, Sayers, Marsh and Allingham at a table having tea and talking about poisons. Ann fell in love with a strange hand-crafted hat in autumn colored fabric I might loan to her some time, but not to Magna, as she’s too insecure to travel.

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Deer Abbey

I wasn’t going to buy one, honest! I already have many, many hats. Yes, I know: Easter bonnet. Very traditional. But though I made an appointment with Angie Sandifer in Saint Paul when she surprised me with an email (I thought she’d gone out of business), I made up my mind: no new hat. But I went over to her studio loft in the big old warehouse on the east side of the city on Saturday afternoon, and went into the big room full of light and hats and managed to like several of her offerings, including one spectacular black and white one with a long, long feather, without so much as asking the price of any of them. Then she showed me a new technique she’d been working on: taking a piece of thin fabric and somehow working it onto a hat so smoothly it looked painted on. Okay, that was nice. But still no sale. Then she showed me a picture of a hat covered with pink and wine and yellow flowered fabric she’d taken to an exhibit and all my resolve dissolved. Oh, my, it was lovely! But, she said, the hat was sold at the exhibit, and she didn’t have another. I don’t know if I was more relieved than disappointed or vice versa.  “However,” she said, “I have another piece of fabric, I can make one for you.” So this coming Saturday evening I’m going back to Saint Paul with a big empty hat box to bring home yet another hat. Here’s the picture she showed me.


The weather has been all over the place lately. Last week we had two or three days of temps in the upper seventies, and it felt like June. Yesterday evening a chilly rain started to fall, and this morning everything is covered with a thin layer of sticky snow, even the tiniest budding twig, startling to the eye and very beautiful.

I’ve been doing a final edit on the manuscript of a book put together from four “chapbooks” I wrote back in the 1980s as a study for a character I’d invented. She is Margaret of Shaftesbury, Abbess, and she lived from 1400 to 1485, mostly in a small nunnery in the foothills of the Cotswolds called the Abbey of the White Stag (Abatia Cervi Albi, after the vision of St. Eustace). AKA Deer Abbey. Its Mass Priest is “a small brown fellow with kind, anxious eyes, who means well” named Father Hugh of Paddington. I wrote about one a year, and now Ellen and I have drawn the chapbooks together to make a novel of a little over two hundred pages, if you include the endnotes. The chapbooks were thoroughly researched but lightly written, self-published, and earned me a Laurel in the Society for Creative Anachronism. I’ve always been very fond of the story that they tell, but didn’t really notice until now, editing them as one piece of writing, how my writing improved as they went along. The last one is really rather fine. We’re going to e-publish them as The Chronicles of Deer Abbey, endnotes and all. Look for The Chronicles on Amazon in the next couple of weeks.

I’m wearing the hat to a glorious Easter morning service at St. George’s, then we’re giving a dinner for some friends. The menu is very traditional: Spiral-sliced ham, Aunt Velva’s Bean Salad, mashed potatoes, candied yams, steamed asparagus, deviled eggs. My friends are bringing pies. I hope your holiday is pleasant, too.

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