Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are You Free?, In and Out, Didn't You Get the Memo?

1. I was in Roanoke for an appointment, so I decided to phone Chelsea afterward and see if she was home. She was, so we met for lunch, just the two of us.
2. So much driving around, I covered 150 miles today on mundane errands! But it made me appreciate my final entrance into the house this evening when I could finally retire the car keys for the night.
3. All the cows are gathered in the southwest corner of three cow fields that I pass. It just seems rather odd, as though they all got a memo telling them to go there and wait.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Will My Life Magnify?

Something always comes to fill the empty places. And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me. This, this, makes me full, and I "magnify him with thanksgiving" (Psalm 69:30), and God enters the world. What will a life magnify? The world's stress cracks, the grubbiness of a day, all that is wholly wrong and terribly busted? Or God? Never is God's omnipotence and omniscience diminutive. God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It's our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks, and I swell with Him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot.          Ann Voskamp

Bedside Beauty, Picked It Up On the Way, The Children

1. Fourteen months later, the orchid has bloomed again. Our neighbors gave it to us on Christmas, 2012 and I have watered and waited patiently for this day. The blooms are a delicate, buttery yellow and so pretty.
2. Dinner is in the bag. Literally. Subway. I have provided.
3. I'm awake at 4 am. so I text Chelsea to see if they're back. They were due in around this time. She texts back and says, "Yes, I'm doing laundry!" She's my flesh and blood all right. : )
4. I read about the grandchildren on a blog Claire keeps for the family. Mari's stories endear her to me and I long to scoop her up in my arms and hold her close.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Prettier, Doing Their Own Thing, What's It Like?

1. After reading Diane's blog, I poured my dish liquid from the ugly plastic squirt bottle into this pretty Ikea vase. I tried a shaker spout like Diane used, but it was too hard to get the soap out. Just pouring it out works better for me. It really does brighten up my sink area. Just the simplest thing can perk up my entire day. (And make everyone else in the house think I'm nuts.)
2. A black and white, spotted Spaniel with long silky ears trots across a farmyard, nose to the ground. A little beagle follow his footsteps like Follow-the-Leader.
3. My family is scattered today and we keep in touch by phone. New York, Denver, Miami and here in Virginia. The main topic of conversation is a weather comparison. New York and Virginia are similar, but one gets to report 85° from Miami and the other reports a foot of snowfall in Denver!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Encouragement, Provisions, Settling Into Evening

1. Sitting in the waiting room at the oral surgeon's, mourning the loss of my tooth in pure vanity at the thought of becoming a toothless granny. Suddenly someone says, "Hello!". I look up and see an acquaintance; a young professional engineer, a beautiful wife, and mother whom I admire. She shyly covers her novocained mouth and gives me a hug. She's had a tooth out and gone through months of restoration. God, in His infinite wisdom, knew exactly what I needed today.
2. A phone call with the offer of a small job that fits perfectly with my needs. Yes, I've been praying for that, too! Can this day get any better?
3. In the waning light at the end of a rainy day, I light the lamps and draw the shades to make the rooms cozy.
4. Recalling our Catholic roots and enjoying fish on a Lenten Friday. One of three favorite fish recipes I use regularly:

                                                        Fillet of Sole Parmesan

1/2 c.grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c.butter 
3 Tbl. mayonnaise 
3 Tbl. chopped scallions 
1 1/2 lbskinless sole fillets (I use cod)
2 Tbl. lemon juice
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1. Grease the rack of a broiler pan; set aside.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise, and scallions Set aside.
3. Measure the thickness of the fish fillets, then place them in a single layer on the prepared rack of the broiler pan. Brush the fillets with the lemon juice and let stand for 10 minutes.
4. Allow 4 to 6 minutes of broiling time per 1/2-inch thickness of fillet. Broil the fillets 3 to 4 inches from the heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the cheese mixture over the fillets. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes more or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and the topping is golden. Garnish each fillet with additional sliced scallions, if desired.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Heartwarming Flick, Body-Warming Soup, Signs of Spring

1. I indulged in an afternoon movie on Netflix. As with books, sometimes you try many before you're surprised with a gem. 

2. A favorite soup that cooks up in less than 30 minutes. Our freezer holds the secret ingredient, pesto made in the heat of summer and stored as treasure for winter.

Pesto Tortellini Soup
½ small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl. butter
6 cups vegetable broth
1 9 oz. pkg. frozen or refrigerated tortellini
2 c. frozen mixed vegetables
¼ c. prepared pesto
 Parmesan for topping

In a 4-qt. sauce pan, sauté onion, garlic and butter until onions are translucent.
 Add broth and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook 1-2 minutes less than the package directs.
 Add the frozen vegetables and simmer until vegetables are heated through.
 Stir in pesto and serve.
 Serves 4-6

3. Finding signs of spring on a sunny day before tomorrow's ice storm.

The greening up in the farmer's fields

Early bloomers at our front door.

More greening up in the stream beds.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Knowing When to Admit Defeat, The Pretzel Knot, Hospitality

1. Tooth #30 is no more. "Good riddance!", I say.
2. As I'm putting on my coat, the assistant shows me a new way to tie my scarf. I feel like a little child, unable to speak with gauze in my cheek, chin up as someone ties my scarf for me. Then she unties it and says, "Now you try it".
3. Neighbor K. kindly brings us her Tomato Alfredo soup. I haven't eaten all day and by dinner time, I am ravenous.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Revelation Song

No singing for me again at church. But I really enjoyed listening, especially to this one:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Tooth From Hell, Eating Chocolate and Shopping While on Drugs.

1. Still waging war against infection. The kind Dr. O. thanked me for calling him on a Saturday. I'm simply counting hours and popping pills, numbering the days until I scream UNCLE. (Which I expect will be Wednesday.)
2. We do have a lot of good chocolate in the house and I can chew on one side.
3. Tess and I ran into Chelsea at the mall. After we split up, she texted us to tell us the shoe salesman in Macy's had a very cool Scottish accent. We re-joined her there so we could talk to him, too. He was happy to gab with us and Chelsea and Tess each bought shoes...which was in no way related to his very cool Scottish accent. : )
3.a. Chelsea came back to the house to model her new suit for the job interview she has, which is very far away. We are so happy for our children's success, but Tess and I are still crying at the thought of it. It's too sad to even think about.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Looking for Spring, It Should Have a Name, Thank You Amos?

1. The day started out much prettier than I expected, cheerfully sunny and springlike.
2. I was fascinated by the videos coming out of Russia of the meteorite. On a universal scale, meteorites aren't that big, but they enter our atmosphere with sonic speed and sound, creating quite a spectacle. Neighbor W. sent the link and Steve and I huddled at the computer screen to watch them all.
3. I'm on a committee of five, three men and two women, assigned with a very serious task. We correspond daily via email in addition to weekly meetings and there are pages and pages of material to wade through. This morning one of the men inserted a little inside joke into an email, calling another of the men not by his real name. Amidst all that seriousness, it made me laugh out loud.

A passage I like from Ann Voskamp:
     "I wonder too...if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.
     To see through to God. 
     That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hard to Ignore, Sweets, Temptation

I can't take a clear photo today.
 1. Tess came downstairs unusually grumpy this morning. I wished her a Happy Valentine's Day and she said, "Or, Happy Singles Awareness Day."
2. I love to see the girls' reaction to the plate of cookies on the table. I bake iced sugar cookies only on special occasions.
3. I'm not allowed any hot beverages or foods, but I make an exception for my morning cup of coffee. Forbidden things taste even better. (I just realized the weight that last sentence carries.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Almost Chickened Out, But Didn't

1. The endodontist is a soft spoken, southern gentleman. His quiet drawl has a calming effect.
2. I'm pretty sure his assistant was pregnant, although I'm careful never to ask about that in case I'm wrong. But I figured if anything horrific was going to happen during my procedure, they wouldn't have a pregnant lady in the room. This reasoning made me feel better.
2.a. He thanked her each and every time she handed him something or did something to assist.
3. Once I felt the strands of suture threads draped across my cheek, tickling my nose, I knew he was almost finished. When he said, "All done.", I gave him a thumbs up.
4. Even though there is healing to wait for, I am so relieved this is over that my spirits are instantly lifted. I was honestly dreading this day and now it's passed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible." Ann Voskamp

1. I open a new bag of ground coffee and the aroma wafts into my sleepy brain, nudging me awake.
2. We're reading only a chapter per week at a snail's pace, but I savor the words more this way.
2.a. I am very particular about Christian reading material and have no use for a large portion of it. In general, the female authors can be far too sappy for my taste. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp 
is one of the exceptions. Her writing is poetry and her thought process, beautifully insightful.

"Isn't it here? The wonder? Why do I spend so much of my living hours struggling to see it? Do we truly stumble so blind that we must be affronted with blinding magnificence for our blurry soul-sight to recognize grandeur? The very same surging magnificence that cascades over our every day here. Who has time or eyes to notice?"

3. A huge chunk of ironing gets done. The best part is delivering it to the closets.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekend in Raleigh

1. Steve and I had a little getaway to Raleigh to see Claire and her family. I even enjoyed the drive with just the two of us alone. Now that our children are mostly grown, we can have "alone time" whenever we want, yet we seldom do.
2. The grandchildren are a joy to be with. Jonathan (Jack) has a most pleasant personality. He has smiling eyes and adorable little eyebrows. I look at him and wonder about the man he will grow to be.
3. Mari is all about laughter and fun. She is as busy and independent as any two year old can be. She calls her drawings on the window glass her "artwork." I think it's special that her mother hasn't wiped it off. It also adorns the window over the kitchen sink which means she must have climbed in order  to put it there. Too funny! Yes, she's still sporting the fur hat at times : )

4. Claire and Daniel took us to the Kid's Exchange sale at the state fairgrounds. It was a bargain hunter's paradise for anything babies and children. As the photos show, the thing is huge, but it was all very well organized and definitely worth checking out.

photos from

Friday, February 8, 2013

Another Friday Off from School, A Little Theater, Belated Wings

1. We woke to about 4 inches of beautiful, heavy snow this morning. It clung to every branch and twig. By afternoon, it was all melted. I really don't mind this kind of winter.
 2. A few miles drive on some back roads and we reach the little town of Buchanan (pronounced Bu'-can-an). There is a little movie theater on Main Street, built in 1919, that still shows movies. I was getting more of a 50's vibe as I sat there but either way, it's old and still kicking.
2.a. We saw Life of Pi which is an excellent movie.
3. I fried up a huge batch of chicken wings for dinner...with Blue Cheese dressing. I wasn't home last Sunday to make them and the craving for them didn't go away.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tidying Up, Privacy in a Box, Righting the Universe

1. Someone new is coming for tea. Before I can set out the china, I have to clean the house. Sometimes I need a really good reason like this to deep clean.
2. Youngest receives a phone call for her very first job interview. Her phone rings while we're driving in the car and before she answers it she says, "Don't listen." I'm driving on the interstate and she's sitting right next to me. What am I supposed to do? Goofball.
3. Steve returns home from his trip. After all these years of marriage I'm still so happy when he comes home, like everything is right again.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Next to My Chair, My Favorite Bird, It's a Sign

1. It's feast rather than famine with books to read. This has been my spot lately, reading four books at once with two in waiting. Another is at the computer where I can type notes.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- in depth study for small group
Cutting for Stone- almost finished and reading for enjoyment
Exuberance The Passion for Life- chock full of information, taking notes 
One Thousand Gifts- just began for Wed. night study, first chapter is excellent
Arabella- waiting
The Horses of Proud Spirit- also waiting
2. Last week Chelsea told me she saw bluebirds when she was out. I envied her sightings and made a point to look for some around our place. There they were; I just had to look for them! I counted nine bluebirds playfully fluttering from fence posts to ground.
3. Later in the day, Tess and I saw a huge flock of robins on a neighborhood lawn. Our car was stopped so we rolled down our windows to listen to their beautiful song. I know nothing about migratory patterns, but my hunch is they are heading back north. Get ready for spring, Northerners! The robins are on their way.

I put on Leon Russell's Will O' The Wisp for housework today.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Old Apples, Old Wood, Old Tooth

1. I found a bag of five, slightly shriveled apples in the spare fridge. They're not good enough to eat raw, but too good to throw away. I cooked them into an apple pie which turned out especially good.
1.a. Mondays are her long day with piano lessons directly after school. I brought her a warm slice of pie to eat in the car for the forty mile drive to lessons. That and a carnap gave her a little boost. (We stayed up way too late last night.)
2. I took the back roads through some of the hollows where most people heat with wood stoves. They must all use different kinds of wood because each had it's own unique woodsmoke scent. One in particular smelled old, really old. But it was the good kind of musty, old that I like. It makes me think of very old city houses I've been in with a lot of history soaked into their wood.
3. I was looking forward to my consultation with the endodontist today in order to bring some closure to this ongoing toothache. He told me the solution. It's the one I hoped he wouldn't speak of and the one I dreaded because I've had one before and it's very unpleasant. But I made the appointment to go forward and if I can pull this off again I will be a very brave person indeed.
*This isn't a pleasant and beautiful thing to put in my day, but I want to mention how bad the "before" is so that I can write about how good the "after" is next week, when it's all done.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Reading, Little Girl, Baby Boy

1. It's been the perfect weekend for curling up with a good book. I haven't had a worthwhile novel to read in a long while. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese has broken that trend. The story begins in 1950's Ethiopia, the setting, a mission-run hospital.Your imagination will be guided by the author from here!
2. A two-year-old girl, who does not know me, is left in my care. She eyes me suspiciously, ready to cry or even worse, scream. I make believe I am cooking goldfish crackers on the play stove. Very soon, curiosity has her sidle up to me to play along. I send up a silent, "Thank you" of relief. She is happy and content to pretend together, feeding goldfish crackers to dolls and stuffed animals, and ourselves.
3. A friend's baby is Christened today. Her mother handmade his long, delicate gown which has been worn previously by her three older children. The gown's slip is embroidered with the names and dates of each of their Christenings. Little baby lies content in someone's arms as we finger the light-as-a-feather voile and read the beautiful embroidery, stitched so lovingly in pure white.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

From the Frigid North, To the Steamy Bayou, At the Source

1. The air is frigid, the sky, a dreary gray. Snowflakes, the sharp kind that prick your skin, are falling hard. This was ice skating weather. Even the darkest, coldest season had a unique gift to offer, a silver lining inside its bleak exterior. 
2. I saved this movie for the weekend, giving it special consideration. It's a narrative film with a sprinkle of a child's fantastical imagination. The actors are excellent.

3. Sitting by the wood stove, poking at the glowing embers, the hypnotic effect of heat and flame.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Roads Are Fine, Complementary Colors, Baked Potato Soup

1. School officials called it a 'snow day'. We bundled up and met friends at the coffee shop at 9:00. Any change of the routine is welcome as I feel cabin fever slowly creeping on.
2. The blueberries' and oranges' are pretty together, deep, dark blue and bright orange.
3. My favorite Potato Soup recipe turned out exceptionally good this go around. Was it the cold, blustery weather, the right kind of potatoes, our appetites? Who knows, but I highly recommend it. (I didn't have bacon this time, but it's easily omitted.) 

Baked Potato Soup

5 lbs. russet baking potatoes (6 large bakers)
½ lb. bacon
3 cups 2% milk, at room temp.
1 stick butter or margarine
3 c. onion, minced
7 ½ c. chicken or vegetable stock
½ - ¾ c. flour
½ tea. thyme
1 Tbl. parsley
¼ tea. Cayenne red pepper *I never use this
1 tea. or less of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash and dry potatoes; poke with a fork and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until soft. Cool to room temperature. *Refrigerate for 1 hour to speed up the cooling. Remove the skins and coarsely chop the potatoes. Set aside.

Finely chop the bacon and fry until crisp. Drain on paper towel and set aside.

Place 1 ½ c. of chopped potatoes in a blender. Blend or mash with a little water to make the potatoes thin, yet smooth and creamy.

In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. In a separate pan, heat the chicken broth to boiling. Using a wooden spoon, gradually mix the flour into the onion mixture. Continue stirring mixture for 3 minutes. Do not brown. While stirring the mixture, slowly add the chicken broth into the onion mixture. Next, add the potato puree. Mix well, using a whisk if necessary. Lower the heat to simmer and cook 30 minutes. Stir often to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pan.

Add milk, parsley, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper and the remaining potatoes. Cover and simmer another 30 minutes, stirring often. If soup is too thick, thin with more milk.

Add ¾ of the bacon and mix well. Serve garnished with remaining bacon, cheddar cheese and chives, if desired.

Serves 10-12