Monday, December 31, 2012

How We (Don't Normally) Celebrate the New Year

Steve and I prefer not to make a fuss over New Years. However, we are parents and parents make sacrifices so their children might become more well-adjusted than ourselves. Tonight was the occasion of the last minute,"Um, OK..." Party.

1. Determined not to make a special trip out to shop for the party, we pulled everything together spontaneously. Aren't spontaneous parties the best?! That the house was still decorated for Christmas made it a breeze.

My old standby method to make the table festive, but maintain usable space. Red tea lights from Michaels, fresh balsam snips intertwined with sparkly, beaded garland.

2. Twelve teens; nine girls, three boys and not an awkward moment.

Girls happily stand around the piano and sing Phantom of the Opera. They sing it in a variety of fashions- pretty, silly, deep voice for the male parts, operatically, and so on. Sprinkled with plenty of laughter.
3. I knew having 72 champagne glasses (from daughter #2's wedding) would come in handy one day. We only needed a dozen tonight, but the effect was fun. Sparkling cider in real glass champagne flutes made toasting in the New Year a bit fancier.

4. We live rather far out in the country for some parents to make two trips to drop off and pick up their child, so a few parents stayed and visited with us. I enjoyed their company and it made it much easier for me to stay awake until after midnight.

Best Wishes for Your New Year! May Every Moment Be Abbondante!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's Not Even That Cold

1. There's a bit of snow on the ground by morning, but most of the whiteness is fog. Every creature must be holed up because it is deathly quiet outside. The moisture in the air makes it very still and void of 'sound', almost like a heavy snowfall.
2. I've become too soft, trying to stay warm all the time. I go back outside in the afternoon and take a deep lungful of the cold, sharp air. I stay out long enough to let the cold numb my ears and chill my face. Frigid winters used to be part of who we were in upstate New York. It made us hearty. Dressed properly, a person can be outside all day in this. I decide to get my attitude straightened and embrace the cold.
3. I skewer a couple of marshmallow peeps and play by the wood stove for a while.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Morning Has Broken, The Range, Evening Treat

1. Skyscapes after a storm are dramatic and stunningly beautiful. Thick, low, gray clouds break open here and there where the sunrise peeks through in shades of pink.
2. Mountains loom up in the distance, their tops frosted with a dusting of white sugar.
3. Fruitcake sliced so thin, light shines through the candied fruit like stained glass. A small sip of eggnog on the side.

8:30 PM. A mom phones me: " S. told me that B. told her that T. told him that there's a party at your house for New Year's?"
Me: "Umm, OK." (begins laughing uncontrollably)

We're Not laughing At Him, We're laughing With Him

Jonathan sports a mustache.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A White (Day After) Christmas, Simplicity, Time Lapse

1. What a surprise to wake up to a white landscape! Sleet tapped at the window throughout the day, giving us perfect excuse to stay inside.
2. After days of eating beyond our routine, a simple bowl of pasta made a satisfying meal for dinner.
3. One of the gifts we received was a DVD of our granddaughter's first year. It was fun to see her first year compacted in time like that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Predawn Magic, Giving and Receiving, The Future

Marian in her new hat and a new nightie and adorned with ribbon.
 1. Mari and I were the first awake early this morning. We sat together, she on my lap, and shared this wondrous, magical Christmas morning. The lights on the tree lit the room revealing pretty gifts  placed all around. I see that other Santas have been here after me.
2. Thoughtful gifts, fun gifts, gifts with stories attached, gifts to share; our love and caring for one another is expressed through our giving of even the smallest thing.
3. Mari slept in our room last night to be away from the noise of late comers and late night preparations. After I came to bed, I listened to her in her crib, her even breathing and her little mumbles in her sleep. I stayed awake pondering this other little person in my room.
4. Everyone pitched in the breakfast preparations, which I really appreciated. (Breakfast actually ended up being brunch.) Grapefruit sections, Bacon Cheddar Scones, and scrambled eggs. The older kids brought the ingredients for, and made Bloody Mary's. This was a new addition to our menu and I think my favorite item : )

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Can Only Imagine- One Beautiful Thing

I heard a beautiful version of the Christmas carol, "Do You Hear What I Hear". My imagination wondered what it would have been like, to be one of the shepherds on a dark hillside, to see a star unlike any other heavenly body ever in the sky before. The fear and wonder! And then, to hear a heavenly host of angels. I can only imagine. How would I have reacted to that spectacle, alone, outside on a dark night.Well, I can only imagine the privilege to be one of those shepherds and have such news revealed to me in such manner.
This is my reminder of what we are celebrating. The birth of a king! Not just any king, but a Savior. It is so easy to feel celebratory if we stop searching for the 'Christmas Spirit' in the things we do, buy, eat, see, etc. and simply remember what it is we are celebrating. A King has been born. A Savior for all mankind. Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I wish for everyone's heart to be so full of the joy and excitement of knowing what these shepherds knew, and heard, and saw.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like..., Play Time, Newest Family Member

1. Snow flurries! It's windy, blustery and cold outside. The flurries are sparse, but the few that blow outside the lighted window are pretty. We all agree that now it feels like Christmas.
2. Audrey sits at one end of the table cutting snowflakes. Mari and I are on the other end making the dolls dance to Harry Connick Jr.'s Christmas CD. Mari has fits of laughter when the dolls do a somersault. A two-year-old's laughter is infectious.
3. He smiles in return to my smile and I am deeply in love again. I kiss his baby soft hair and the back of his tiny baby neck. Jonathan is six weeks old and it's the first I've seen him since he was born.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chapstick, Looks Like Snow, For the Chandelier

1. The off-to-work kiss he gives me has cherry Chapstick on it. It reminds me of sledding, wintry walks and snowy, woolen mittens.
2. The sky has a look of snow about it. We share our wishes for snow even though we must admit, the chances are nil. Sometimes, just hoping is pleasure enough.
3. Henri and I took some scissors with us on our walk up the hill. We gathered cedar clippings for a little decoration. (You can see them below) They give off a sharp, citrusy smell around the table.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Nice Kind of Shopping, Thank You Postal Workers!, Handing Over the Kitchen

1. Tess and I shopped downtown in Roanoke. It was a lot of fun! We walked through the Farmer's Market where the stalls were lined in evergreen wreaths and garlands. The pine smelled wonderful! We went in and out of little shops that had bells on the doors, unique items for sale, pressed tin ceilings, and business owners who take a personal interest in their customers. I prefer this over the mall any day.
2. Fifteen minutes 'til closing and the line at the Post Office is long. One customer has a 48 pound box of citrus waiting for him. The clerk can't lift it and the postal inspector comes from out back to help her. Others have boxes and packages of all shapes and sizes. There's someone's big box with Amazon emblazoned on it; what would we do without Amazon? Everyone is jovial and pleasant which makes waiting no chore at all.
3. I'm prepared for a second round of baking after dinner until Steve comes home with all his ingredients for brewing. I forgot he was going to brew, which requires his use of the entire kitchen. I'm glad for the excuse not to bake tonight. I put everything of mine away, happy to relax and then go to bed early while he stays up until midnight, boiling, stirring, mashing and cooling.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Beauty, A Hit, Savory

1. Neighbor K. knocks on the front door to bring us a beautiful poinsettia. It's breathtaking red color fills the crock where a dull corner is now bright and merry.
2. The Slow Cooker Bacon Jam fills the house with a wonderful aroma. When Steve comes home from work, he makes a beeline for the kitchen and asks, "What's cooking?" He has a sample and asks, in a voice filled with hope, if it is for us to keep.
3. A busy day of baking ended with a pot of Vegetable Beef Barley Soup. It was a satisfying meal with plenty of mushrooms for me, but too many for her. I took her's : )

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reach Out and Touch It, Ups and Downs, In Liquid Form

1. Monday settles in with dense fog. By mid-afternoon it hasn't budged from the valleys and remains thick and unmoving. The word 'surreal' is overused, but I must use it to describe this fog and the eerie feeling that it is a living, breathing creature who sleeps in the deep places.
2. Back to reality after a festive weekend of visiting and celebrating with friends and family and all good things. Life is a balancing act.
3. 8 pm. and I'm still hustling around the house, getting laundry put away upstairs and catching up with the girls. While we talk, I keep hearing this sound that I can't seem to identify. I stop mid-sentence and ask, "What is that sound?" It's rain, they answer, looking at me like I'm nuts. I haven't heard the sound of heavy rain in so long, that I didn't recognize its sound on the roof. Nice!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

It's Cool at the North Window, She's Shopping, Invited Out

1. I absentmindedly set things on the windowsill. Later, I saw how pretty the red and green were together. Until I chop them and use them, they will be my decoration.
 2. Sitting in a crowded parking lot, I see Tess' head in my rear view mirror, bobbing up and down between parked cars, looking this way and that, as she searches for ours.
3. Being invited to a dinner party at someone's home we've never been to before, nor that I know very well, is a mixture of anxiety and anticipation for me. Who will be there, what kind of foods will be served, will I have contributions to the conversation , etc. etc. Of course, any worry was for naught. Our hosts were perfect, their home beautiful and friendly, and the food was beyond excellent. It was nice to be out, doing something Christmasy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It is too difficult to find words today.
I am happy my husband returned home, I smiled at photos of my grandchildren, I did all kinds of average, everyday things. Throughout all of these things, my heart is heavy with sadness for the children and families in Connecticut, for the innocence we have all lost, again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dinner for Six, Making It Work, Studying

1. The table sparkles with glass, silver and candles. The Wednesday night ladies are invited to dinner and they all deserve a treat!
The Menu
Fresh Green Beans
My favorite Riesling
Decaffeinated coffee and  Buche de Noel (of course!)
2. In decorating, I like the challenge of finding new ways to make old stuff 'work'. Rip it apart, cut it up, rearrange it or simply plop it in a different place, and it's new.
3. All communication had gone dark while she studied for finals. (I wasn't to speak to her or even ask her if she was hungry- it was too much for her to think about.) Now, her elation in successfully completing finals is shared via text messages. They contain exclamation points.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cool Down Papa Don't You Blow Your Top, A Mouse In the House

1. Rubber gloves:check. Chlorox: check. Apron:check. Music to eradicate germs with: check.
I didn't set out to clean kitchen cabinets today, but mouse evidence in the bread was cause for emergency action. I love the music I chose; a 1944 recording of The Bing Crosby Show. They sang this wonderful song that my mom and dad used to sing.

2. In 2003 I bought two beautiful Christmas tablecloths from a company that was going out of business. One of them was 107" long and I tucked it away in hopes of, one day, having a long table to use it on. This is the year! Today I ironed it in preparation for guests this holiday season.
3. "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" is a book we enjoyed when the children were young. What happens if you give a mouse, oh let's say... a scone? He keeps you company, scurrying about your room while you try to study for finals. Yes, Audrey had a full wastebasket in her room (finals week) and the little guy ran back and forth between it and the closet all evening while she studied, long after I emptied the basket. I just know there will be scone crumbs tucked among her clothing. Oh, life at my house today! The moral of the story: #1. Do not give a mouse a cookie...or a scone...or hamster food...or candy wrappers... #2. Life is more fun with a sprinkle of the unexpected tossed in.
PS. It's now morning and I wonder how she slept last night? ha, ha.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eleanor's Elf, Mom's Time Out, Red On White

1. This dear little elf belonged to Steve's grandmother. He's old and faded and he still sits on the hutch and watches over our Christmas every year.
2.  L. and I babysat our friend's three little ones this morning. They were a breeze to care for, brought many smiles to us, and the time flew right by.

3. The Christmas little people have taken a liking to the ironstone lids hanging on the wall. I'm not sure I can let them stay; they look a little goofy. Which is exactly why I think my granddaughter might like to see them there.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

From Six to Two, My Style Minus 30 years, For You

1. How does it come to pass that only two of us decorate the tree? Tess set up her ipod and speakers with Christmas music and together we made the tree shine.
2. I can't wear any of the styles in these particular stores, they are all suited for teens. But, I love to see the fabrics and designs and imagine what outfits I would combine if I could. One young man asks the dressing room attendant if the outfit he is considering looks OK. She gives a nod with words of encouragement. He then looks at me, where I sit and wait for my daughter, and I give him a thumbs up.
3. I always print off coupons before I go shopping. Sometimes I print extras to give out to other shoppers. Today I had some I wasn't using, 25% off, $15 off, and $10 off. I handed them to random people who were in line or preparing to purchase. I love to see people's faces light up like that.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Choosing the Tree, Breaking the Egg Routine, The Aftermath

Behind our house, the tree farm is to the left. Virginia Mountain Vineyard is center.

Funny little guy.

There were plenty of skinny trees, but we went with a more traditional shaped tree again.

1. Henri and I walked over to the tree farm and Steve met us there with the truck. The mild weather felt all wrong for a Christmas task, but the moment Steve cut our tree and the pine smell met our noses, there could be no mistaking the season.
2. Tonight's dinner of baked chicken with cut up Italian sausage, red peppers and sweet onions was very good. I think Tess was happy it wasn't eggs or soup again, as is the routine when Steve's away.
3. Sitting back with a second cup of coffee after the plumbing disaster is cleaned up. On an even more positive note, it happened when Steve was home.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Our Town, Greenfield, The Second Half of Today

Painting by Ed Bordett depicting Main Street in Fincastle
 1. Old-fashioned Christmas lights are strung across the streets, crisscrossing our entire little town. It's heart-warming to drive through this quiet little place after dark and let its peacefulness settle into my soul.

Photo circa1934 by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Structure dated at 1760

2. B. and I took the dogs to walk at Greenfield today. Greenfield was a plantation which, by 1783, spanned 2,100 acres.This log cabin structure is still standing, although it was altered sometime after 1934 with a cinder block addition on the far side. We walked around the old buildings and followed many, many trails. When we returned to the car, I was startled to see that we had been walking for 2 1/2 hours! (Henri slept all afternoon.)
3. I spent the afternoon baking (cheesecake and sugar cookies) and played my first Christmas CD of the season.
4. Steve is home! Travel weary and scruffy, but home!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Little Bit of Christmas, In a Box, In a Bag, Overdue

1. The eggnog from Homestead Creamery is bottled in thick, glass bottles which, I'm sure, makes the eggnog taste better. I have a little glass with pretty cut edges on the bottom that I reserve just for my sip of eggnog. It an experience in its entirety.
2. Dragging the storage totes up from the basement, I experiment with how we might decorate Christmas this year. I will never be one of those who prepare for holidays months in advance. I live in the moment and can only do Christmas at Christmas. Cards, singing, shopping, baking, it's all just beginning to happen now. I envy those who have it all together way ahead, but my efforts at this have always been half-hearted.
3. The neighbors gave us a bag of fresh citrus from their Florida trip. The grapefruits are huge!
4. The piano tuner came today. Tess comes home, tries out all the keys and smiles.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Prepared, A New Trick, Call From the Top

1. Once I have the beef stew simmering, I go outside to do a few garden chores. It smells so good when I come back inside that I cannot wait until dinner tonight! Tess and I will have exactly 1/2 hour, from 6:00 to 6:30, to come home, eat and go back out. I'm so glad this will be waiting for us.
2. Henri digs in the dirt like a dog. He is a dog, but in all his eight years I've never seen him dig like one.
3. Just when I'm at the top of the hill, ready to go back down, my cell phone rings. It couldn't be better timing. I sit back and have a phone chat with my sister while I enjoy the view.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Are Moms Great or What?!

 Facebook conversation between two sixteen year-old girls: 

E: I saw it at Goodwill, and said, I WILL BUY THIS, but I had no money so my mom had to buy it for me.
THaha that's awesome. I actually had to haggle with the antique dealer to lower the price of the camera. Except I didn't know what to say, so my mom did most of the work.
EMoms are the best! I mean, I do not think I could make Thanksgiving by myself!
TI'm actually terrified of the day when I have to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my family.
E:  Same here!

 I am laughing so hard. I had no idea that Thanksgiving was the standard by which moms were judged.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where Charlie Brown Trees Grow, Preparations, A Beacon

Waiting for ornamentation.

1. I went into the woods in search of a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It was quiet and solitary and I could have extended my search forever just for the sake of walking in the woods. But I heard a small noise, probably a squirrel, which reminded me it is hunting season and I was endangering my life. I got the tree and skedaddled!
2. It was one of those, I-feel-good-when-I-clean days. I de-cluttered in general, organized the basement storage room (so I could get at the Christmas stuff) and scrubbed three bathrooms. All in preparation for hauling out more clutter. Makes sense to me!
3. It's comforting to see the neighbor's lights back on. They were away last week and it was so dark and abandoned-looking across the field there.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Three Beautiful Ways to Gift

1. I like to be excited about the gifts I give people. This year I'm very excited about giving this to my son-in-law. He loves bacon (and food in general). I know, Bacon Jam? It sounds funky at first, but I think it's going to be good! Click here for recipe.
2. The other gift I worked on today, which I'm excited about, is a custom calendar for my mom. Shutterfly has a fun design site to create such projects. My mom will love to have photos of our family since she doesn't see us very often. She doesn't have a computer so we don't get to share all of our photos with her unless we print them. Click here for Shutterfly.
3. My last bit of Christmas shopping arrives via UPS or USPS. I love the wishlists my kids create on Amazon's website.  Amazon allows you to add items from other websites, which will link directly from your list. The lists remain year-round, so they're handy for birthdays or other occasions, too. Just look for the 'wish list' tab to the right of the 'cart' tab. Click here for Amazon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I've posted over here today: 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No One Else Will Want It, Stylin', Now Appearing

1. Each time I walk Henri, I go past the Christmas Tree Farm. I've been scoping out the trees each time I go by and I have my heart set on a skinny one. It has lots of character. I hope the family will oblige.
2. She borrowed one of my scarves, one that I thought looked old ladyish and would never have chosen for her. Man, it looks great on her! I need to rethink that scarf...or let her keep it.
3. We rounded a curve in the road and gave an audible gasp! The moon rose huge and bright above a dark mountaintop. The man-in-the-moon's face looked chubby on a moon so big.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Simmering, Mulling, Shimmering

1. I've made a delicious pot of chili and a pan of corn muffins to leave on the back burner. It's a late night for everyone's dinner and this will sit and wait nicely for us.
2. I'm contemplating 'forgiveness' a lot lately. I come up with more questions than answers. Luckily, I have friends and Steve who will debate and ponder and humor me when I ask all of my, "what if's" and "why's". I might have to write more on this...
3. The daughter who isn't home much and stays shut in her room studying most of the time is super-excited about Christmas. It's not about the gifts, but the preparations and decorations. She says she wants to decorate the house so that when someone walks in, "Bam!", they'll see Christmas. Poor child, this is not how I operate. But I humor her and stay silent while she clears off two bookshelves for the Christmas village. (I was hoping to leave it boxed this year. What a scrooge I am! )

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shopping, Fueling the Fueler, Beer and Grill

1. Tess and I shopped two small businesses today, in honor of "Support Small Business" day. (It was purely selfish motives, really) Photo USA for 35mm film and camera batteries for Tess and Main Street Primitives in Salem, VA for me. We did our part!
2. Steve chopped more wood to fuel the wood stove this winter and I made lunch to fuel him.
3. Tonight, we met Chelsea and Chad at The Tap Room in The River House. Steve wanted to try their beer on tap (over 30 to choose from!) and I wanted to enjoy a meal out. Between the five of us, we ordered chili verde, a hamburger, a turkeyburger, pork carnita, a grilled chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries. The place was hopping, but the service was good and we had fun. I found a couple of photos posted over here: The Pizza Fan.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Something Different To Do, Repeat, Brave Blossom

1. Wanting to do something special, yet wanting to steer clear of any crowds, we drove to scenic Lexington, Virginia where we browsed my kind of mall- antique malls! Once inside the doors, we scattered in different directions, hunting down our favorite things. Only one of us purchased, though. Tess found a 35mm Minolta camera with case, lens, and flash for $40. She's excited to experiment with film.
2. Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner. Who doesn't love that?!
3. A tiny, lone blossom on the crab apple tree fills my heart with tenderness.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

I'm thankful to have people in my life who make me laugh.
She's back there...
finding fun in ordinary things,
...and making it impossible to take a family photo.
1. There's that rooster crowing in the woods again. I haven't heard him in a while. I like his company in the early morning, when the stars are just beginning to fade.
 2. It was a beautiful, mild day. After dinner, we sat on the porch and relaxed in the sun. Chelsea opted to spread a blanket on the grass and took a nap there.

3. My family makes me laugh. Well, we all make each other laugh.
3a. We played a paper and pencil game similar to 'Gossip'. One story turned out so funny that when I woke in the middle of the night, it popped into my head and I started laughing all over again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Preparations, Comedienne, Back Atcha!

1. My mother taught me to always prepare dessert first, then work on the dinner. I have no idea where that came from, but that's how I do it. The day before Thanksgiving is traditionally my baking day, simply because it makes sense. I set pies on the hutch so they are out of the way and they look pretty there.
1.b. Pumpkin pie filling with cinnamon, ginger and cloves while it's being mixed in the bowl smells so good. I lift the bowl so Steve can smell it too. (He's washing the kitchen floor!)
2. Audrey is good at imitations. She stayed in character all afternoon and evening and had us laughing to tears during dinner.
3. The man doesn't know most of the people who drive by his tiny shack in the holler, but he gives each passerby a big wave and a smile. I give a big wave and smile in return.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tanner and Me, Clean Sweep, Upsatirs/ Downstairs

1. Eighty pounds of puppy romps through the house. He has no idea of his potential for destruction nor does he care in the least, which makes it so funny to watch.

 “I had never thought of Marley as any kind of model, but sitting there sipping my beer, I was aware that maybe he held the secret for a good life. Never slow down, never look back, live each day w/ adolescent verve and spunk and curiosity and playfulness.”
John Grogan, Marley & Me Illustrated Edition: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog

2. I give the brick steps at the back door a good sweeping. Free from leaves and clutter, it seems much more welcoming now.
3. She's gone to bed early with a cold. A few minutes later she texts me from upstairs: Would I please bring her a hot water bottle?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Funny Boy, My Pie Spilleth Over, Does Withdrawal Come With This?

1. He's hiding.

2. Apple pie filling has spilled over, into the oven and it smells good. My dad used to put an apple core or orange rind on top of the wood stove in our basement when he had a fire burning. They gave off a sweet, woody aroma.
3. Gluten free pros: One week down, five to go. I don't notice any difference except that I'm eating less because-
Cons: THERE'S NOTHING GLUTEN FREE TO EAT IN MY HOUSE, ARGHH!! What happens when you're lactose intolerant and gluten free? All you think about is pizza.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Lighting, I'll Do It Right Away, Everyone's Favorites

1. Steve installed the 'new' chandelier. I'm equally excited about all three of the ugly lights being removed. We're replacing the other two with recessed lights.


My personal electrician

After. Thanks B.!
2. Knowing someone who is so completely dependable that when they say they will do something right away, you know for a fact, they will.
3. A wonderful, shared pre-Thanksgiving meal. There was such an abundance of food, the ladies were shuffling dishes this way and that to make room for more as they kept on coming..

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Color Spectrum 2, Meeting Up, Where Have You Been?

1. Oh boy, do I ever have some new favorite music! Today I listened to The Dear Hunter Yellow, Green, and Blue CD from The Color Spectrum. (I actually positioned my car behind slow vehicles so my drive would last longer.) A totally different sound than yesterday's Black, Red, Orange CD, this features acoustic and steel guitars and beautiful melodies demonstrating Casey Crescenzo is a gifted and versatile artist.

It's hard to chose a favorite song from this CD.

2. We ladies have made a habit of going out to lunch or breakfast to celebrate whichever of us has a birthday that particular month. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and it's always fun. Everyone has busy schedules, but we manage to find time to meet for an hour or so, share a meal, laugh, celebrate and then scatter to the four winds to finish out our day.What's even funnier are the loonnng email chains where eight or ten ladies try to figure out a day and time that will work for all of us to meet. We almost have that down to a science, I think...
3. I am feeling so much better that it's made me realize how unwell I have actually been for the past nine months. I'm almost afraid to acknowledge it for fear that it will slip away. But I am so thankful to feel well and energetic that it brings me tears of gladness.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking the Silence, New to Me, After a Long Drive

1. The fields are white with heavy frost and the sun hasn't risen to touch them yet. Night's stillness hangs in the air with silence like a vacuum. Suddenly, I hear the eerie cry of a fox in the woods. The cry is long and mournful and sounds almost like an owl. It echoes in the trees as it calls over and over again. It stops for a moment and the silence returns. To my surprise, the the call is returned from fields far away. Back and forth now, the foxes call to each other and I'm frozen in place, unable to go inside and warm myself for the beauty of it all.
2. I borrowed Tess' music for my drive today. It's the first time I've listened to The Dear Hunter and I must say, very cool! The percussion is fantastic and the tunes and harmonies weave interesting melodies between the heavy guitars. I've only listened to the Black, Red and Orange CD from The Color Spectrum, which Tess says is the heaviest. Tomorrow I'll listen to the Green, Blue and Yellow CD and see where that takes us!

3. Steve has come home a day early!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Beginnings could happen more than once, or in different ways. You could think you were starting something afresh, when actually what you were doing was carrying on as before."

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Decisions, Decisions, Oldie But Goodie, On Biscuits

1. Monday, I overheard Tess talking to herself at the computer. Someone had asked her to draw a turkey and she was contemplating, "Hmm, do I want to draw what everybody else would draw? Or, do I want to be an overachiever?" Today she asked me if I would bake an apple pie for her class's Thanksgiving party. I said I could do that, "Or!" I said with excitement, "I could bake each person their own apple-shaped turnover!" She turned to me and said, "Mom, do you want to make what everybody else would make or do you want to be an overachiever?" I'm still laughing... and I don't know the right answer.

2. Steve built these speakers around 1985. They are huge, unattractive things that have been a bone of contention between the two of us for years. They are plain ugly and I fuss over the fact that they take up so much room and there's no way to 'decorate' them or hide their utilitarian form. When the girls were toddlers, they all pushed their pudgy fingers into the papery centers of the speakers and dropped little toys down into the square holes. But, they still grace our living room for one reason only- they put out BIG sound.  These speakers still bring me loads of joy with the volume cranked up while bake and clean, as I did today. Once, Steve offered to remove them to the basement and I had to say no, leave them be.
3. Neighbor W. asked if we wanted him to bring us anything from Saunder's Brothers. I asked for fig preserves. He brought us that and much more. Thank you for kind neighbors!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Am SO In Love Again, Home Time, One Woman's Trash...

1. Claire's friend at Poetic Lens took some beautiful photos of Jonathan at five days old. I love what photographers do with baby photos these days. May his countenance forever be this sweet and content.

2. An entire day to stay at home and catch up! Sort of. I didn't get to everything, but I did simmer down half the bag of those apples and canned them. It was very satisfying to have that done.
2b. I walked Henri, which was good for both of us. It's so freeing to just walk and think.
3. B. is renovating and is casting off the exact wrought iron chandelier that I was saving to buy for our kitchen! She dropped it off today and I am doing a happy dance.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Sunday Sermon

1. Four true and thought provoking points were made in the sermon this morning. The first two being:

#1. The earth is flawed and subject to catastrophe.
#2. Standing together and living in community is better than isolation.

In response to catastrophe, my inclination can be to withdraw into isolation. However, tonight it proved best to fight that urge and join with a community of friends to give a send-off to a dear family moving on to another state. We attended a bonfire on this mild evening, tables set up all around to accommodate the dishes carried in by each of us. A dark starry night, a warm, crackling fire, talk and laughter all around.
The last two, for your own consideration:

#3. There is a good place somewhere where vulnerability is no more.
#4. There must be a way to get there.


Friday, November 9, 2012

A Good Deal, Could I Buy Just the Boxes?, Mom is In the House

1. Ikenberrys sells these 50 pound bags of "horse apples" for $14. We called them "utilities" or "drops" in New York.  These are the apples culled out of their store bins that are bruised or imperfect. This mixed bag will be cooked down into applesauce. But not before I make a few pies and dumplings first. I feel like I've won a prize!
2. I visited the Clinique makeup counter at the department store today and browsed products that boast great results for aging skin. I enjoy handling all the tidy little boxes the makeup is packaged in more than actually owning the makeup.
3. Tess says, "This is why I like it when you're home. There's food!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughts From This Week Past

1. I traveled for this momentous occasion without a camera. (!) I sparingly used a borrowed computer  and shied away from TV and radio. Without these distractions, time slowed down briefly and I lost track of what day it was. It was all rather dreamlike, nothing at all like my usual days.
2. Day one: I wasn't accustomed to toddler talk and her mom interpreted some for me. Day two: I understood her and began to use some of her terminology. Day three: I became fluent in toddler talk and was puzzled as to how I didn't understand it previously. Day four: I interpreted for others.
3. Mari and Henri sit on the grass together, gazing in the same direction. She puts her arm companionably over his back.
4. She was my friend before her son married my daughter. When she arrived at our children's house for the new baby's birth, we had an evening to ourselves, babysitting Mari, our shared granddaughter. After Mari went to bed, we each poured a nightcap and caught up on the year since we last saw each other. When I had to leave the next day, it was reassuring to know my daughter was in good hands.
5. She says her "No's" in a sing-song way which make it impossible to be annoyed that the toddler is saying 'no' to me. "Mari, shall we go in now?" "♫ ♪ Nooo thaaannk yoou ♪ ♫"
6. Baby hair, baby mouth, baby hands, baby feet, baby ears, baby smile, baby knees, baby neck... precious, adorable boy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Here We Go! (In More Ways Than One)

1. Nervous energy is redirected into stocking daughter's freezer. Two loaves of cranberry bread, two chicken pot pies and two pans of baked spaghetti. I doubled everything.
2. Jonathan has entered this world weighing 9 pounds 13 ounces. Poor son-in-law, I kept having him repeat that weight to me over the phone. Then I said, "You're kidding me, right?"
( Daniel does not kid. +  He and Claire (5' 4") are neither tall nor large. = It was hard for me to comprehend.)
3. Mari and I are on our own! I see so much of her mother in her that it readily brings back those days when I was much younger with little ones of my own. When I ask her questions like, "Do you want to go potty?", or "Should we put this barrette in your hair?" she answers, "No thanks."
4. The elections matter to me. But, after today's personal events, I see it in a different perspective. I go to bed without knowing the results, yet having great peace.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Nest, Labor By Laughter?, I'll Be There

1. A little house finch abandoned her nest in the Derecho last July. I've given it a home on our shelf where it reminds me of the fragility of life.
2. The daily phone call from Daughter #1 begins with, "I'm just calling to say Hi!". She messaged me later, saying her husband is trying to help her go into labor with laughter.
3. Tomorrow I drive to Raleigh. The plan is that there will be a baby by Tuesday. It's difficult for me not to worry about my daughter; it's what mothers do. But I try to focus on thoughts of the new baby we already love and cannot wait to meet!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

It's a Ritual, Cross This One Off, My New Favorite Month

1. I make "To Do" lists for Steve because he likes to cross things off.
2. He re-purposed the posts from the vegetable garden into end-stakes for the raspberry bed. He added a good sized cross bar to each and now I can put my glass insulators along the top.
3. Aside from the danger of being shot by hunters, November is the perfect time of the year to walk in the woods. All the undergrowth has died back, the floor is carpeted with sweet smelling leaves and there are no gnats or bothersome bugs. The temperature is perfect, neither too hot nor too cold and I like to hear the bird calls echoing from the bare trees.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Roasted Beef, Mushroom and Barley Soup, Safely Home, Casting My Vote

Photo and recipe courtesy of Everyday Food
1. Today I made this delicious, hearty soup. It was quick to prepare, the meat was tender and the soup flavorful and satisfying. Roasting the ingredients really brought out the flavor. I think carrots would be an excellent addition next time.

1 pound sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces *Buy this tender cut since it's being roasted
1 pound cremini or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and caps halved
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water *I used vegetable broth
1/2 cup quick-cooking barley *I used regular pearl barley, soaked for 6 hours
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together steak, mushrooms, shallots, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beef and mushrooms are browned, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a medium pot and add broth and barley. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high, then reduce heat and simmer until barley is soft, about 12 minutes. To serve, season to taste with salt and pepper and top with parsley, if desired.

2. Steve is home! He's been away a lot lately.
3. I had the honor and privilege to vote today.

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.