Monday, December 4, 2017

Better Late Than Never

    How many of us did counted cross stitch in the 1980's and 90's? Raise your hand! It was quite the thing back then and I've run into several women working on beautiful samplers now. I recall it being a relaxing hobby... until my eyesight got so poor that I couldn't see the threads anymore. I recently found this precious snowman stashed away in my closet. He's traveled with us all the way from New York to Alabama and Virginia. This piece was all stitched except for three alphabet letters. I finally  determined to finish him because I like the sampler pattern with the letters forming the snow and the snowman makes me smile. Originally, I stitched one for my mother-in-law way back in 1995 or so. I had it framed and gave it to her as a gift. I started to make this one for myself and I never finished it. Until today.
     It's stitched on a linen background using one individual strand of embroidery floss crossing over two strands of linen for each cross stitch. It was a difficult task to finish those last three letters. I couldn't see the threads even with my glasses on. I asked Steve to hold a magnifying glass over my work for me. I only had three measly letters to stitch, how hard could this be?! He got impatient with my impatience so, he taped the magnifying glass to his music stand and walked away. A friend asked if I would be adding the finish date at the bottom: 1999-2017. Nah. We'll leave it at 1999. Now I just need to find the right frame and he can be hung this Christmas.





Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Girls Get the Tree

    Audrey, Baby Violet, Angus-the-dog, Tess and I went to get the Christmas tree today. They walked up the hill and across the road to the tree farm and I drove the truck so we'd have it to haul the tree home. Steve stayed behind because he was in the middle of a project. He helped carry the tree into the house and he secured it into the tree stand for us when we got back. While we had our hearts set on a skinny tree, it was tempting to purchase one of the beautiful Balsam firs the owner showed us. I told the girls that we were looking for the least worst tree. We were going to rescue an ugly tree and make it beautiful. We held firm and found the skinniest tree without too many dead needles. There were two more appealing, skinnier ones that I would have preferred, but they had vines and too many dead needles around the trunk. We strolled all around the upper and back fields just for fun before we settled on the right tree for us. Of course, it was one of the first trees we saw when we first arrived. Tess had fun taking pictures and Violet loved the fresh air.
     After we had the tree loaded into the truck, I put it in four-wheel-drive and drove through the back entrance of our property and down the hill. I once tried growing evergreen saplings on this hill as a mini tree farm of our own. They all died that year. I had the thought that maybe I should try it one more time. The little hillside field is the perfect spot for a crop of trees. In ten years or so, we could cut our first tree. Hmmm. I see another spring project in the making
     When we got home, Tess put on some Christmas music and we got busy placing the lights and beaded garland. We took an eggnog and stolen break and before we knew it, it was time for Tess to go to work and for Audrey to head back home. I did some clean up around the tree and realized all the ornaments still needed to be hung. I went to see what Steve was doing and he was dozing in his chair. His suggestion for us was that we drop everything and go out to an afternoon movie. So we did. "Thor: Ragnarok" was fun.
     Finally, around 7:30 this evening, I handled all the individually wrapped ornaments and found the perfect placement for each one on the tree. What seemed like a chore was no chore at all. The room was dim, the old ornaments were a treasure to handle, and the final result was beautiful and peaceful. It was a good day.
I was talking to Violet. Tess said we reminded her of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Discussing the options for a tabletop tree.

Pulling vines off the trunk of the least worst tree. Our tree!
    
    

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Final Farewell to Autumn


     ♫ Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat... ♪ Before the Thanksgiving turkey is even out of the oven, folks are gearing up for Christmas. I stubbornly leave all our fall decor up until Thanksgiving weekend is completely over. One thing I was sad to part with were the leaves I collected in New Hampshire last month. They won't keep forever and the Christmas tree is certainly coming into the house on Saturday so, the leaves must go. I gently gathered them off the bookshelves and carried them outside to the sunshine and let the breeze scatter them into the yard. It was a fitting good-bye to autumn.
    

     These little hands will accompany us to the tree farm to hunt for a tree on Saturday. I've been keeping my eye on a couple of trees throughout the year when we go for walks past the field of trees. I like skinny trees that I don't think anyone else will want. For some odd reason they appeal to me and I think they would be very pretty all decorated. Of course, any tree is beautiful once it's all decorated, no? The family is in agreement that we should have a skinny tree. We'll see how well we can all agree when we actually get there to cut one down. Audrey and Tess are taking over the decorating this year. They've shown me a lot of Pinterest ideas and they are all pretty. My rule is, however, that we have to use items we already have or items found outside in nature. We'll see what they come up with. I'm sure they'll stick close to the tried and true fancifuls that we've enjoyed throughout the years.
     Steve and I were in Lowe's last weekend and something Christmasy made me stop and exclaim, "Christmas is coming!" I think it's time to have our annual viewing of "Elf".



Friday, November 24, 2017

Resting, Restorative November and Revolving Doors

  

     November is a vastly changing month here in Virginia. It starts out on the mild side with colorful leaves still on the trees and green grass in the fields. Then it whisks up frosty mornings and wind that blows the trees bare and brings the smell of winter at its back. In between, it fluctuates between days that are bright and mild and others that are bleak and gray with cold rain that seeps into our bones.November prepares us for winter.
     Knowing that snowflakes may fly anytime now, I feel an urgency to prepare the yard for winter. I mowed the lawn for the final time last weekend and emptied the dead flowers from their pots. In unceremonious fashion, I ate the last holdover tomato from the garden. (The poor tomato didn't taste like summer as I expected it might. I think the cold weather shocked all the flavor out of it.) We try and hold onto fall as long as we can but, Steve has begun to feed the wood stove in the basement and we're talking about Christmas dinner menus.
     Our diet has changed to fall harvested foods with an occasional grilled hamburger as the weather allows. There are two recipes that I have particularly enjoyed this season. The first is a Butternut Squash Soup recipe that Chelsea made for us in New Hampshire. It comes out of a Martha Stewart Food magazine and it uses fresh butternut squash and fresh ginger. We topped it with roasted, spicy pumpkin seeds as the recipe recommends. It is outstanding (if you like butternut squash and ginger) and super healthy. I have used other recipes for butternut squash soup that call for apples and chicken stock. While those are equally as good, I love the ginger in this recipe. The second recipe is for Maple Dijon Cream Dressing . It is fabulous on salads of greens with apple slices, crumbled Camembert cheese and toasted walnuts. Click on the recipe names and it will take you to the website with the recipes. Enjoy!
     We enjoyed these Thanksgiving days of rest from the regular routine. Even though the long weekend was busy, busy, it still felt restorative by being off of the usual routine. We have big changes coming up for December and January. There will be a crowd here for Christmas, thus the push to finish the basement project, which I will post about separately. Tess will be moving out of state for college and I will have to end the denial phase in which I currently reside. With her move out, we may have three more bodies moving in, temporarily. Audrey and her little family are selling their home and plan to purchase land and build a new place for themselves. So, we offered them the newly emptying upstairs as a layover instead of them renting a place. It's a regular, revolving door around here. As long as bodies don't mind sleeping on the floor, we have no problem.
    

Monday, November 13, 2017

Happiness Is Rubber Boots and Incredibles Suits

     Having grandchildren who live far away is made more bearable by modern technology. These two photos are a very small example of the many that brighten our day.
     As I was falling asleep the other night, these images popped into my mind. I went on to have a wide range of thoughts and emotions as I thought about our grandchildren and prayed for all of them and their parents. At some point I must have fallen asleep, but these images have remained with me and have continued to make me smile through the following days. The locations are almost eight hundred miles apart but the children they represent all reside in the same tender spot in my heart.
  



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Maples

There can never be too many maples. I think Virginia needs more maples. Even on this rainy day the maples in the front yard are bright. 


Earlier in the week, it was sunny and mild. Here are things around the yard from those sunnier days. 

Oh those maples! This is the maple in the side yard with the sun filtering through the leaves. : ) 

 The begonias and ivy geranium are still happily blooming. We did have a hard frost, but these are close to the house, so they weren't touched by it yet. I'm sure they won't be with us much longer.



     I have my usual reading chair in the corner of the dining area. There's a window next to it with a view of the maples. Besides reading, I daydream and nap in that chair. Recently, when I looked out the window at everything colorful and growing, I pictured all the cells that make up each leaf and blade of grass grass and bark; the cells in the dahlias, the birds and the insects that are hidden from sight. I imagined the dirt under the grass and how it teems with organisms, worms and bugs. All of these things our eyes scan every day and we glance over all of it without a second thought. I thought about how every type of cell is different, every one unique in its function, yet all working together. Maple leaf cells, earthworm cells, geranium flower cells, brain cells, how complex yet beautifully simple and perfect.
     I look out the window at the mind boggling, smallness and bigness of it all and it's impossible not to see God. Whatever more proof could man need. If life, simple or complex, can spontaneously create itself, then I seriously need to see that happen. I am confident it can never be. All of the patterns in nature are bound by the laws of nature to follow a pattern. Physics and chemistry and math allow us to see a stability and order to the universe. A leaf cell will never grow a pig's heart and an earthworm will never grow a human brain. It's thoughtful and planned and very much under control. Just for grins, I read some discussion boards on quantum mechanics and the subject of randomness. ("Randomness" is slightly off subject, but I couldn't help it.) It's like hanging out with Spock and Sheldon at the same time.
"Randomness is just a word to compensate our lack of proper understanding. It's logical that actions cause reaction. Everywhere and always." 

     And this is why the house isn't dusted... I need to stop looking at the maple trees.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Flying High With Mixed Emotions

     It was such glorious weather again today! After I got home from work, I ate a quick lunch, changed into work clothes and went outside to clean up the garden. I collected the last bowlful of cherry tomatoes, then began pulling up the dead vines and doing a general cleaning up. I towed the lawn cart behind the mower up the hill to the gully behind the tree with the fort and swing. This is where we dump our yard waste and it composts down nicely. The big tree's leaves had fallen, but the branches provided a little shade so I sat there for a while, taking a break and enjoying the view. None of the neighbors were around this afternoon and the whole area was very quiet. It was just me and the breeze and a couple of crows off in the distance.
     Before long, I heard the sound of a small engine plane approaching from the northeast. I spotted it in the sky and noticed it was a biplane. It's not often we see these and I eagerly watched it approach. For some reason I expected to see an old looking plane. It was actually painted a bright shiny blue and yellow and it looked right smart in its shininess. On the underside it was marked, "Army" with a star on the under wing. It was very pretty and it was flying fairly low. As it passed overhead and went behind the tree line, it made a gentle turn to head back the way from which it came, over the vineyard. I stood up and walked out into the open to watch it depart. maybe the pilot saw me because he turned and came back around. What a treat! I was happy to watch this pretty plane circle around again. When he left for the second time, I gave him a big wave. Surprisingly, he turned and came around a third time and tipped his wings at me. Then climbed vertically for a few seconds before dipping back down right over our house. I was thrilled at this little show, yet perplexed at this exchange between total strangers. I felt solitary, standing in the open on the hill with no one to share this experience with, not even a phone with which to capture an image. It was a completely random occurrence but my mind was filled with its own interpretations of the exchange.
     My father came immediately to mind when I saw the Army insignia on the plane. I have been debating with myself between keeping my father's army memories alive with requests for information and forms to complete on his behalf vs. letting it all be buried and put to final rest and closing that chapter of our lives. Just this morning, I was filling out another form and struggling with myself on this topic. Emotions of grief are still fresh even after all these years and each time I revisit my parents' past, it's like reopening a wound. I want to honor my father but it comes at an emotional expense. It's difficult to keep the past alive and still live in the present and future. So, when this plane came from the northeast, the direction of my parents' home, and performed for me with "Army" written on the underside, I took it as a sign for something. Who knows what. I'm sure I'm being overly emotional about it, so I'll let the topic rest and it will sort itself out. I'll never forget that pretty plane, though. Whoever the pilot was, "Thank you!"