Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wood Sprites, An Old Fashioned Halloween

I never know where these wee folk might appear! This year, the wood sprites have made a playground of my hutch.
We have sister, little brother and mother.
A Schleich squirrel is guarding the babies. One of them sleeps in a walnut shell stuffed with moss.
1. I do have a thing for wool felt. The book, Felt Wee Folk by Salley Mavor  has directions for sewing these adorable dolls. Their bodies are shaped from bendable pipe cleaners, wrapped in embroidery floss. Colorful wool felt is cut for clothing and embroidered for whimsy. Their heads are painted wood beads with dyed sheep's wool for their hair and an acorn cap tops off their ensemble. Aren't they adorable? They do take hours to make, but the crafting is as much fun as the playing with afterwards.
2. Our little town of Fincastle celebrates Halloween in an old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell-ish way. At 6:00, as the courthouse bell tolls, hundreds of costumed children gather at the town square. They march down the block en masse, in a parade of sorts, up to a big old house where a witch brews a roiling cauldron. Each child receives a bag of candy from her and then is set free to trick-or-treat around town. Many homes are fully decorated with eerie sounds, smoke machines and costumed candy-givers. Orange lights are strung across the streets. (They're the large, old-fashioned kind of bulb from my childhood.) The First Presbyterian Church transforms its basement into Hogwarts Hall and little children cling to their parents in the dark as creepy hands clutch at their legs. I walk around alone this year to take in the sights and laugh at the spectacles. Daughter #4 still dresses up (as an "old-school" ghost) and helps a friend take her little brother around. Our friends open their home to invited guests and serve baked goodies and hot cider. They have counted about 300 trick-or-treaters. I end my evening there, to warm up, chat with friends, and wait for Daughter to meet me. At 8:00 we walk back to our parked car. The streets are almost deserted, but those orange lights do keep it cheery.
3. I have two packets of candy in my pocket. : )

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Good Riddance Sandy, Turning Inward for Warmth

I stared at it for an hour, waiting for a UFO to emerge or something.

1. As Sandy departs, the clouds break up and create spectacular formations. This one remained stationary while all the others went scudding by. I watched it until the sky turned black and I couldn't see it anymore.
2. A tarp has blown into the horse field and is snagged on some weeds. The horses do not like it one bit and they get all goofy. First, they run for their lives from it. Then, they gallop back to it, stand very still and stare it down. A step closer, then another step...oh wait, we need to run from it again! And off they go, repeating this behavior until I go out and rescue them from...The Tarp of death!
3. Blustery, snow-flurried mornings call for a special breakfast. I make a bowl of Cream of Wheat, buttered and honeyed. I sit in a soft chair with a shawl around my shoulders to breakfast and enjoy a bowl of comfort.
4. Schools are closed but it's too miserable outside to go anywhere. I finally finish sewing the penny rug/table mat. This prompts me to add a few more fall touches to cozy up the house for darker days ahead. I especially like the electric candles placed in corners here and there.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Vulnerable and Secure One, Two, Three

1. Henri can be quite adorable. He will hide his face in my armpit if he's afraid of someone, particularly the Vet. Today, the Vet.'s assistant was holding him and he buried his face into her armpit. His shared affections warmed some hearts and made people smile today.
2. It was plain nasty out there today. A miserable day to be out and about, but nothing was cancelled so off we went. At 6:00 we finally tumbled, wind-blown and damp, into the house. What a welcome feeling the heat and lights were to us.
3. We check in with one another, family and friends, to see how everyone fares in the storm. We live in a vulnerable area for power outages, so I don't offer anyone shelter here, but others offer shelter to us if we need it. The wind has ramped it up to howling proportions and it slams into our house as it races down the mountains. It will be a long night, but I am made secure by everyone's calls and texts.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Open Studios, Is It Time Yet?, Changes

1. Armed with a map, Daughter #4 and I crisscrossed the county and visited ten artist's studios during this weekend's Open Studios event. It was an exciting, inspirational day! The artists gave personal tours of their studios, chatted about their art and took a keen interest in each and every visitor. It was a beautiful autumn day, soft and gray with fallen leaves everywhere. Many of the artists live in the countryside with a few located right in town, so we had a very pretty drive. Their studios are large, lofty spaces, with huge windows and beautiful vistas unfolding beyond. Daughter commented on how she loved the smell of the studios and we both enjoyed seeing hundreds of paintbrushes, tubes of paint and artwork lying about. All had walls lined with pieces for sale at surprisingly affordable prices. Well, maybe not for me the hand carved grandfather clock at $25,000. But I'm sure it was worth every penny. You will understand why if you visit HERE. We can't wait until next year with hopes to do this again.
2. Each time my cell phone rings I think it may be Daughter #1 to say she's in labor. No calls today! But I did tell her to preface her call with, "No, I'm not in labor." when she does call so I'll know right away if it's the call or not.
3. We put new drapes up in our kitchen/great room. It transforms everything to an entirely new room.

Why I Burned the Applesauce, Shining, Where I've Been

1. He brought me a gift from Miami in a petite 3" x 3" tin.
2. Bright, shining blazes of gold are hard to ignore out the windows. I keep most of the shades down to block the warm sun, but I leave a select few open so I don't miss the gold as I go about the house.
3. Walking home, I think how much I prefer the approach to our house from the back. This approach means I've been in fields and woods, in the garden, on dirt roads or feeding the horses.Yes, I like returning home from this direction.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Questions, Seasons Blend, A Happy Girl

1. That jaw dropping moment when I gaze up into the night sky and I'm sucked into the depth of space. After that initial, startling moment, I begin asking my, "Why and How" questions to God.  
2. Windows are open to a warm breeze. A candle called Sweet Honeydew blends its subtle scent into the air and it's suddenly a summer day in autumn.
3. Talking to Daughter #1 on the phone, I hear granddaughter talking and singing to herself in the background.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Battle of the Studios, Just Add Water, Nice Stuff!

1. These two lovely and talented piano teachers give a concert each year for their students. To make it more fun, they have a contest to see which teacher will have the highest percentage of their students attend. Can you tell who won bragging rights this year? The sound of two grand pianos at the hands of these ladies was amazing. Sara keeps a blog over here: Pajama Pedagogue.
2. A variety of circumstances caused Daughter #4 and I to be alone on the weekend of her actual birthday. We made plans to have lunch out to mark the day as special. At the last hour, two additional daughters and their boyfriend and husband were able to join us. It was an instant party!
3. We visited Main Street Primitives while we were in town. When we first walked in, we  noticed the wonderful candle scents and immediately wanted to stay. I liked just about everything in the shop.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Landscaping Project Phase 2

A little after sunrise, waiting for delivery of our trees.

W.'s delivery truck in the shadow of the church.

Moving trees around the property.

A lovely, old tractor.
1. The heaviest workload of a nine month project is completed today! Using an all volunteer work force and entirely donated funds, we have planted a total of 190 trees, shrubs and plants. It was a lot of work. But the good will of the people, their generous spirit,  and the fact that we labored together made the load much lighter.
1.a. How many ladies does it take to plant a tree?  We made it three... and a good team we were. I  still picture J. (married 50 years) with the hoodie drawn tight around her face to keep warm. She laughed the entire time we shoveled, hefted, huffed and puffed.
2. An observation: Little children get very excited about planting things.
3. Steve's call from New York was perfectly timed to my respite on the hill. I was sitting on the grass, waiting for Mr. R. and Mr. K. to fill the water tank when he called to check in. His project up there was also going well and we shared our good reports.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Score!, Freshened Up, Par Avon

(Shh. I hope Daughter #3 doesn't see this post. It explains why I was ten minutes late for my appointment with her this morning.)
1. While driving down Route 220 at 8:30 AM. I spot a sign that says, "Estate Sale". I normally pass these up, especially if I'm in a hurry, but this one pointed into an upscale neighborhood. I made a quick u-turn, giddy with the prospect of finding something great; my heart skipped a beat. (Literally, but I think it's menopause). Everything was disappointingly overpriced, but I did find two books and these coasters. I call these my "grandmother coasters" because Steve's grandmothers had these in their homes. Cost: 40¢ each.

 2. I unstitched the slipcovers from the rocking chair pads, removed them and laundered them back to a crisp white. Is it possible that such a simple thing gives me pleasure? Yes. In a big way.
3. Retrieving the mail, I see there is a letter from her pen friend in Australia. Everything about it is unique and foreign, from the envelope to the picturesque stamps to the handwriting. I like carrying good mail up the drive for someone. There's a good feeling in being the bearer of good news, as though we somehow have some part in it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On the Hunt for Bittersweet, A Visitor Who Feeds, The Avengers

Clouds hung low and the cool, damp air was laden with the scent of dirt and leaves.

Found it! It likes to grow in thickets.

Cheery orange and yellow. It smells like honey.

Arriving at my door.

1. I thought I should go on my hunt before the rain began. The bittersweet isn't really that elusive; it grows everywhere and I know where to find it. The crop was thin and the berries smaller this year, given the hot dry summer, I suppose.
2. Feeding our friend's animals, they are so excited to see me! The horses trot behind me to the gate where they I let them into the greener field.
3. Daughter #4 and I watch The Avengers. I jump and clap and cheer for our two favorites, Captain America (hers) and Thor (mine).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Kind of Math, Taking a Break, Cornbread Dressing,

1. I finally have my gardening day! I'm eager to get my hands in the dirt and fix up a few things. Perennials multiply and divide themselves, so this is one of those, "something for nothing" deals. B. gave me some of her Ajuga, Chocolate Chip plants last spring and they have spread already. I divided them up under two shade trees and I love how they look there.
2. I began with a light jacket, but quickly shed that after half an hour. Even in short sleeves, I still needed a little break after a time. I was already in the shade, so I flopped back, stretched out my legs, and took a break right there on the grass. It was peaceful and quiet except for a few crows off in the distance.
 3. Another "something for practically nothing": Leftover corn muffins are turned into Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing. (This blog has the recipe that I used, except that I halved it to serve 4.)
4. Two Motrin in the evening. Motrin is my drug of choice for aches and pains. The gardening was SO worth it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Happy Movie, Soup Beginnings, The Hunt for Bittersweet

1. What does it mean to be happy? This interesting documentary attempts to answer that question. What it reveals is not surprising. Deep down, we all know what true happiness is all about. But it's well worth the seventy-five minutes to watch this thoughtful film.
Here's a quote from one study cited in the film:
"We asked people to count their blessings on a regular basis. Say, every Sunday night you sit down and write five things for which you're grateful and try to contemplate that. And we found that the students who counted their blessings once a week, every Sunday night, became happier."
2. Pasta Fagioli begins with the rendering of Pancetta in olive oil. That in itself smells wonderful. Add diced carrots, celery, onion and minced garlic and that sauté kicks it up another notch.
3. On my walk with Henri and I searched the roadside for the orange Bittersweet I like to gather each year. We found none growing close by so, tomorrow we'll need to venture further.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Daughter #3 Cleaned Her Room, Crackling Down the Road, Dark and Steamy

This is not her room

This is not her room.

This is not her room.
This is not her room. But I am laughing now.

1. I find them in closets. I turn around and see one on the guest room nightstand. I try to put linens away in the upstairs spare room and I find them tucked into empty dresser drawers. They're beautiful, and I chuckle at her inventive ways of stashing them in all safe places, but it's like a mice infestation. I don't even know what to think...except that I love her...and her addiction.
(This child never played with anything but horses. I do not exaggerate. This was all she ever asked for or purchased for nineteen years. Now she's decided not to keep them in her room.)
2. The wind has kicked up and falling leaves litter the road for the first time this season.
3. Rainy Mondays and ironing seem to belong together.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An Autumn Sunday in Western Virginia

1. I awake early, quietly brew coffee and make biscuits and try to decide whether to wake everyone for church. Feeling the tiredness in my own bones, I decide to let them sleep. We have a few overnight guests and everyone stayed up well past midnight. In the sleepy house I hear snoring... it sounds rather peaceful.
2. Another gorgeous fall day! Daughters 2 and 3 go riding. After they return, we make another small fire in the rusty old fireplace on the patio and roast hot dogs until they are blackened and perfectly done. We get the peeps from the freezer (that we saved since Easter) and roast them and some S'mores.
3. Daughter #2 put her photos on the computer for us. These are a few of her Sunday shots:

A friend's property
Sounds of Autumn
A Woolybear on the table

Osage oranges


Peeps before...
...Peeps after. Hard and crispy on the outside, marshallowy on the inside. Easily addicting.
Pumpkin Porter and a hot dog with the works

The quintessential S'more

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Youngest is Turning Sixteen!

 1. This day is picture-perfect for a bonfire! Daughter #4 is celebrating her sixteenth birthday by inviting friends to share in our annual fall fire. Steve gathers wood and tears down our rickety garden fence that we've been saving to fuel the fire. Two daughters gather roasting sticks and hang outdoor lights while I cook enough chili and cornbread to feed an army. Later, we all help load the pick-up with tables, chairs, pumpkins and whatever to drive out to the field for setting up.

2. We use the horse's run-in shed as our serving area. It's built with cedar log posts and rough wood and I think its rustic nature will serve this purpose well. I set out a checkered tablecloth, hay bales, pumpkins and twinkle lights and the shed is invitingly fall-ish. Steve spreads hay on the floor and runs electricity for our chili, hot chocolate and music. Another table, closer to the fire, holds all the fixings for roasting hot dogs and S'mores. At 6:00 guests begin to arrive...

3. Grown-ups keep warm near the fire while teens keep in constant motion, mixing and mingling. Later, as the fire dies down, the youngers run off for a long game of flashlight tag. We relax near the fire and watch flashlights skittering across the dark field. They straggle back from their game with appetites and serve up more helpings of food. One by one, rides arrive to take them home. A handful stay at the fire until very late, but only after extinguishing the house lights for star gazing. Sweet sixteen saw six falling stars...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's This?, First Sale, For You

1. Seniorita-the-Horse had a bird sitting on her back this morning. I interrupted their tête-à-tête and felt somewhat embarrassed when they both looked at me and the bird flew away.
2. Daughter #4 has sold one of her photographs.Of course, it has made her very happy to make money doing something she loves.
3. I have the pleasure of buying gifts for people today. Daughter #4 is turning 16, Daughter #1 is having a baby, and there's an 8-year-old boy who gets a goody bag for helping out with something. I enjoy shopping for others, thinking of that person as I browse and imagining what might make them happy. I don't normally shop for little boys, so that gift was a fun challenge. Fresh Market has wax lips. Now, whose bag should those go in?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

From the Eastern Shore, Brrr, Noser

1. Virginia bloggers from The Frog and PenguINN are visiting our beautiful Roanoke Valley this week. We had an opportunity to meet this afternoon, albeit briefly, which was pretty cool.
2. Lately, I use my morning coffee cup to warm my hands.
3. We're all friends in this study so we're comfortable diving right into the discussion, thinking it out as we go along and throwing ideas out to the group. We're also really good at laughing at ourselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Relaxing With a Cigar, Garden Clean-Up and Checkbook Balancing, One Heaping Tablespoon of Nat King Cole

1. The cigar box that holds my sewing has the sweet, woody aroma of tobacco. This soothing scent evokes thoughts of tweed, earth, woods and good sherry. I love the smell of unburnt tobacco.
2. I've procrastinated two chores as long as I dare. Today was the day that I talked myself into getting them done. Now that I've done them, I don't know why I didn't do them sooner! They weren't that bad and I pat myself on the back for the rest of the day.
3. I listened to a Nat King Cole album while I baked a "thank you" cheesecake for a friend. The music was mellow, lyrical and timeless. I wondered, might the music make the baking turn out even better, sort of like singing to one's plants?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Toasty Floors, Osage Oranges, One Man's Junk...

1. The wonderful smell of woodsmoke in the air. This time it's coming from our own house.
2. Osage oranges litter the ground. As always, I'm intrigued by their texture and bright, lime green color. I gather up several in a bag with plans to use them decoratively in the house somewhere.
3. All my favorite shows bunched together in one night- Antiques Roadshow, Market Warriors and History Detectives. This makes it easier, and even pleasurable, to stay awake while waiting up to give #4 her ride home.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Welcome Autumn, Fall Flavors, Two Sisters Still Playing Together

1. The crisp autumn air and dreary rain hasn't dampened anyone's spirits. We all welcome the cooler air and rejoice in the fact that it now feels like fall.
2. Pink applesauce! A little surprise that happens when you cook the apples with their skins on and then run them through a food mill. Mari asked for "more pink" during dinner.
3. I cooked a dinner befitting the season: roasted pork tenderloin with butternut squash and red onions roasted alongside, fresh greens beans, applesauce and dinner rolls rounded out the meal. We haven't eaten this combination of foods since last winter so they all seemed fresh and new for us to enjoy.
4. I see a little blond sprite go running and laughing down the hallway. She is sans clothes and diaper after just having a bath. A few seconds later her mother and aunt come running and laughing after her in a "catch-me-if-you-can" game.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Filling Up, Grandbaby, Changes

1. This is plain fun, like playing with Playdough. I fill a ziploc bag with manicotti filling, then snip off a corner.  With a little squeeze, the cheese filling pipes into the shell.
2. In anticipation of his arrival, I buy him something fleecy soft to wear... with ears on it.
3. This may be the last mowing of the season. Those two raspberries may also be the last of the season. The branch of forsythia that's flowering is most definitely the last of the season and the three tomatoes are sadly the last. Cold weather is forecast and I think about all these "lasts" when I'm working around the property.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Elaborate Food Scheme, Planting Seventy-Six, Letting Go

1. Like graffiti artists who strike in the night, spiders leave beautiful artwork for for us to discover in the morning. This was a huge installation and the spider must be sleeping it off somewhere.
2. We walk the church property, planning the placement of trees. It comes alive off the paper and I can envision it will be beautiful and park-like. After driving all over the place and running crazy errands, it feels good to stroll around in the fields.
3. I finally crashed at home in an old comfortable chair and ate my dinner at 9:00 in front of the debate. I was worried it might not be good for digestion, but it was OK. I fell asleep three-fourths of the way through. (Not for lack of content. I was just so tired.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mist and Rain, A Boy, His family and His School, Pretty Town

1. We're still in a period of rain and it suits me just fine. It sounds soothing at night and is still comforting somehow by day.
2. I finished reading another good book titled, The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. It contains no sex, and no violence. It's simply a very well written story with thoughtful passages and a solid story line.
For example, I like the image described by the main character, a boy, when he is looking upon the setting of their one-room schoolhouse. He observes,
  "Out beyond the play area, there were round rims of shadow on the patch of prairie where the horses we rode to school had eaten the grass down in circles around their picket stakes. Perhaps that pattern drew my eye to what I had viewed every day of my school life but never until then truly registered: the trails in the grass that radiated in as many directions as there were homesteads with children, all converging to that school-yard spot where I stood unnaturally alone.
     Forever and a day could go by, and that feeling will never leave me. Of knowing, in that instant, the central power of that country school in all our lives."

3. I drove to Lexington today and had excuse to walk the sidewalks a little. Lovely old homes fill the town and large shady trees beginning to add splashes of color with rain-soaked bark line every street.

Monday, October 1, 2012

On the Road and Back Again

1. I hadn't thought about the autumn colors when we left Virginia behind. So, I was surprised by the beauty as we drove across central New York state. The rain deepened the colors and mist on the hills made it more beautiful.
2. Steve travels with me and the ten hour drive is much easier.
3. A perfectly matched pair of black horses cantor along a side road with their necks stretched out long and their manes flying as they effortlessly pull a black buggy.
4. I enjoy nature's color palette of purple Asters intermingled with Goldenrod in every field.
5. We rolled down the windows at the toll booth and I breathed in deeply. "The air smells good!", I said. "Pine trees!", we said in unison.

6. I see this stone house every time we drive across New York and I always admire it. The field in the foreground has become boggy, perhaps from a nearby beaver dam. It was an inviting homestead once upon a time. To the left are Birch trees! I've missed seeing the white bark of the Birch. A path is cleared between those birches, climbing a hill into the woods.
7. Tight, lingering hugs and lots of kisses on the cheek with my mom when I arrive and as I depart.
8. There is always laughter around the table with my mom and sister. Belly-holding, eye-watering laughter.