Friday, May 31, 2013

Into the Deep, Playing Hooky, Little Lights

1. Slowly, slowly an enormous turtle makes it way across the road. It rests for a moment in light dappled shadow. It's shell is the color of mud and moss. It looks like an army helmet, ancient and battle-worn, discarded on the road. It inches its way back to the deep, dark prehistoric places of woods and water.
2. I have the day off, so I sign Tess out of school early and we drive downtown to do a little shopping. We do this so rarely that walking on the city sidewalks makes us feel like we're away on a vacation somewhere. We, "Ooh" and "Ahh" over the fun clothes at La De Da and Tess comes away with a unique and fun outfit for her piano recital this weekend.
2a. A lady has just been to the farmer's market across the square and she shops with a potted plant in her arms. She says this is the best way to spend an afternoon- with plants and pretty clothes. I agree.
3. Fireflies in the fields! Lots and lots of them! I'll need to teach Mari and Jack the poem when they come to visit this month.

by Elizabeth Madox Roberts:

A little light is going by,
Is going up to see the sky,
A little light with wings.
I never could have thought of it,
To have a little bug all lit
    And made to go on wings.    

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sticks and Stones, Improvisation, Natural Air Conditioning

1. The second graders divide themselves between two tables for lunch. Most of the kids sit at one table and five boys sit at the other. It's pretty much been that way every day and yes, those five can be a hand full. One of the five called me over today and said, "Ms. Lee, they said we're the trash table." Wow. I stopped dead in my tracks. I took a seat at the table with the boys and said, "There's no way this is the trash table. I'm sitting here and I do not sit at trash tables. I only sit at cool tables, so this has to be a cool table. Plus, I don't see any trash at this table, I only see 'cool' ". The boys smiled at each other and sat up a little straighter. "Now tell me what you're good at", I said. "I'm good at math", said one. "I'm good at science", said another, "And soccer!", added a third. "You guys are so cool! You're good at so many things!", I said as I got up to get back to work. Trash...seriously. Be kind to each other, people!
2. There's a wooden horse near the front steps at the theater at Hollins University. it's about the size of a small pony and painted like an old fashioned carousel horse. When we walked by it today, we saw a bird land on it's face and disappear. As we got closer, we saw a hole in the horse's face and a bluebird family was making a home there.
3. The evening air has turned gently cool after a very hot day. With several windows open to catch cross breezes, the house turns fresh and cool and comfortable.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Two Little Fellows, Another Beautiful Day, Evening Drive

March, 2012. This little fellow was about two days old.

Here he is today, now a yearling munching on our very tall grass.

Audrey and I call him Chip after the horse in the children's book, The Little Fellow by Marguerite Henry. 
Chip (with halter) and Hal are half brothers. Same father, different mothers. Chip is one year old and Hal is two. Their father's name is Hallmark hence the name "Hal" for the two-year-old. He was herded away from the food by the other horses at the farm so he's thin. He should be able to grow nice and plump now.
It appears they will get along very well. 
Chip rests while Hal keeps watch.
1. I'm glad there are horses in the field again. I love to sit and watch them.
2. I happily spent the entire morning and part of the afternoon out in the garden. It will never all be done, but that's the whole point. There's always more to look forward to.
3. I didn't think I would care to drive over the mountain to Buchanan this evening, but Tess needed a ride, so off we went. It was a beautiful evening for a drive! I saw a large cornfield with corn about 4- inches high, a family with company enjoying an outdoor picnic in their yard, someone burning a pile of brush, and flags flying here and there. It was the epitome of summer just beginning.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Sunday Drive

We drove through Floyd, VA, onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to Rocky Knob and Mabry's Mill. We spread our tablecloth for a picnic on the grass at this pull off. This elevation is 3574 feet. I recall Chelsea telling me they were hiking in the dessert today at over 10,000 feet. I can't imagine!

The sound of the water wheel and the soft clank of the metal gear on wood, over and over in a rhythmic pattern, was a pleasant thing to hear.

The weather was absolutely perfect! Seventy degrees, sunny with no humidity.

Runs and flumes carry the racing water to the wheel. On the left, water pours over the edge as a way to regulate it from being too swift.
Thick moss grows on the wood structures. The combination of shade, water spray and the soothing sound of the water wheel make this an inviting place.

We saw these pretty orange blossomed bushes/trees all around the parkway. I don't know what they are as I haven't seen anything like them around Botetourt. I want to say Azalea or Honeysuckle, but they aren't like the Honeysuckle vines I'm familiar with and the leaves aren't like Azalea. Can anyone tell me?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Springtime in NY or is it VA?, Searching, Working As a Team

1. We're having the kind of temperatures that remind me of a New York spring. It's chilly to the point of invigorating this morning!
2. I left the house early to have breakfast with a committee of people that have become very dear to me. We pray that our task is almost complete and our church will soon have a new pastor. It was a good day!
3. When I returned home, Audrey and Steve were flushed and slightly worn out with digging the raised bed garden. I'm anxious to get the plants into the ground however, since I'm not doing the manual labor, I must be patient. Henri's role in the project was to be adorable. (Photos courtesy of Tess.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stormy Weather, From the Kitchen, Leisure

Taken from the front door. The lightening was still fierce and I was afraid to step out.

1. A cold front makes a dramatic entrance. As it blew away to the east, the setting sun shone through  the clouds in the west and lit the landscape with a burst of golden light. The rainbow was a bonus.
2. I hadn't cooked all week due to the heat, which is probably why tonight's cooked meal was so delicious. This is my favorite meatloaf recipe. The baked onions served on the side elevated it to top status. I've posted the onion recipe before, but it's worthy of a revisit.
3. Reading on the porch, one of my favorite summer pastimes.

Little Cheddar Meatloaves
1 egg
¾ c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
½ c. breadcrumbs
½ c. chopped onion
1 tea. salt
1 lb. lean ground beef
 2/3 c. ketchup
½ c. packed brown sugar
1 ½ tea. prepared mustard

In a bowl, beat the egg and milk. Stir in cheese, crumbs, onion and salt. . Add beef and mix well. Shape into eight loaves; place in a greased 13x9 baking dish.
Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard; spoon over loaves.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 F. for 45 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and a meat thermometer reads 160 F.
                                                  Baked Onions with Gruyere
5 medium sweet onions such as Vidalia
2 tea. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 c. low-sodium beef broth
2 tea. Soy sauce
1 c. finely shredded Gruyere
2 tea. finely chopped fresh sage

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat shallow baking dish (large enough to hold 10 onion halves) with cooking spray.
Trim about ¼ inch off top and bottom of onions so that halves sit level in pan. Cut onions in half crosswise and then peel them. Arrange onion halves, cut sides up, in baking dish.
Brush exposed tops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake about 35 minutes.
In glass measuring cup, mix beef broth and soy sauce. Remove dish from oven and pour sauce over onions. Return to oven and continue baking about 1 hour, basting occasionally. If liquid evaporates, add a little water.
Remove dish from oven and sprinkle cheese and sag evenly over tops of onions. Bake 5-7 minutes more until cheese is melted.
Serves 10

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Original, Blowing From the Mountains, Eggs, Milk and Bread

1. A huge Cumulonimbus cloud towered to staggering heights in the blue sky. It was a beautiful sculpture of nature born out of a weather pattern and contorted into something magnificent.
2. It was hot and humid by 3:00 this afternoon. too hot for spreading mulch and pulling weeds. But spread and pull, we did! I was cheered when the sun went behind clouds and a distant thunderstorm blew cool breezes our way while we worked on.
3. We didn't care about dinner, it was too hot. As the evening turned to dusk, I decided to make French toast served with maple syrup. Tess and I agreed that it was just the right thing to have.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Frozen That Way, In Between Time, Mindless Peace and Quiet

1. A young, black cat holds himself in a comical posture. Rear end in the air with front legs stretched out in front, he faces into some tall grass and becomes as still as a statue.
2. When I drop daughter off at the coffee shop, I buy a cup of iced coffee to-go. Then, I drive up the hill to our church property, roll down the windows and read a book, sipping iced coffee until it's time for my meeting. It's the perfect spot to catch a breeze and enjoy the view.
3. The lights are off in the library and it is quiet and dim. I shelve non-fiction into nice orderly numbers; 952, 811.1, 978,54. I don't even have to think about it, it's all so simply black and white.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekend in a Nutshell

1. I rolled the last coat of glossy enamel paint onto the porch ceiling. In the background, the new Bischoff CD played on the big stereo speakers. Earlier today, I dragged the hose through the house and onto the porch to give it the annual scrubbing. We're now ready to use the porch for the summer!
2. The Buchanan fairground was filled with people on Friday night for the "Relay for Life" cancer fundraiser. People set up booths for their teams and team members walked a circular track to raise money. The event lasted all through the night. Luminaries inscribed with the names of people who battled, or are battling cancer lined the perimeter of the track. It was hard not to get choked up walking past those hundreds of luminaries. Part of the entertainment for the evening featured Tess and her friend Hannah singing with Hannah's family's bluegrass band. Tess and Hannah harmonized beautifully. Tess was smiling and really having fun up there on the stage.
3. Seven-thirty a.m. on Saturday morning:  B. picked me up for a trip to the Covington amphitheater "Trash to Treasure" flea market. We had big expectations. After weeks of anticipating some good deals, we were sorely disappointed. So, B. pointed the van in the direction of Lewisburg, West Virginia and we redeemed the morning with good things. We lunched on healthy veggie wraps and iced coffee at a nice cafe. Then we browsed shops, antiques, and a health foods store where we found some great herbs and grains being sold in bulk.
3. Daughter #1 is here with her family! Mari and I spent the afternoon together while everyone else was busy. We both enjoyed our one-on-one time together.

Mari put a whole marshmallow into her mouth.

Jack is 6 months old and sitting up now.

4. I ate my first grilled hamburger of the season at our church picnic lunch. It was delicious as only a first can be.
5. At the end of Sunday, when everyone was gone and the sky still hung heavy with clouds and mist, I made my way to the garden and worked away three hours. Although it was soaking wet, the weeds pulled right up and the mist kept all the gnats away. I've been unable to find Creeping Germander at any of our local nurseries and I had my heart set on using it for a particular garden bed. B. encouraged me to separate and use what I already have growing. I hadn't wanted to disturb the pretty, established mounds but, I liked the idea of filling a garden bed for "free". Then, I discovered another area of Germander I have growing out back, so my supply is even better than I realized. I'm in business!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Composed, Sweet and Salty, From Scribbles to Charcoal

1. Jherek Bischoff's "Composed" is is something entirely new and wonderful. My CD arrived today and just in time for an evening of driving. I love the different melodies interwoven in this song.

2. I ended the day with potato chips crushed and stirred into a bowl of chocolate ice cream. I needed that.

"Xena" in charcoal.

3. Daughter #4's high school held its annual "Knight of the Arts" tonight. This is an evening for  students who participate in music, drama, or art to have their moment in the spotlight. I am amazed by what this age group is capable of creating. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Change in the Weather, A Light Bulb Moment, Red Winged Calls

1. A summer-like morning with windows opened starts the day with scents of sweet grass and soft air.
2. I've been assigned to help fourth grade students with math.The irony of this makes me laugh. I abhorred fourth grade and my teacher, Mrs. McKay who ridiculed me and my inability to memorize the multiplication tables. Today, a little girl hugged me after I help her understand her fractions. It's finally all come around right.
3.The Red-Winged Blackbirds are enjoying the tall grass in the field this year. I hear their calls whenever I'm outside. We haven't put horses in that field yet which is why the grass is so tall and I think the birds enjoy that habitat. I hope they'll stay after the horses arrive on Sunday.

New at the Farm, Animal vs. Human, Easy Living

1.Spring time brings with it new babies at the horse farm. Audrey was the first to find this little Hackney filly yesterday morning. Isn't she the cutest thing?!

I love her legs in this photo. She's trying to find steady ground..
The massive barn is almost emptied of hay. At the end of the month, it will be filled back up again. If I wasn't wearing my better clothes I would have been climbing those bales : )
I always know where to find Russel the Peacock. He'll be admiring his reflection in the chrome.
I chased him away. 

2. I enjoy the quiet of the farm. It's inhabited by at least a hundred animals and yet it's so quiet and peaceful. Why can't one hundred children be this quiet? What is it with humans and nervous energy and chatter and noise? The contrast of the farm to the school cafeteria is astonishing to my senses. There's no point of even comparing the scent of hay to that of cafeteria broccoli.
3. I walk to my car at 9:00 pm. and the sky is still pale. The warm air and longer days make life seem a little more carefree.

Monday, May 13, 2013

“When love and truth are churning together in your stomach, you have to be in mission.”                     Tim Keller

Saturday, May 11, 2013

They Think of Me, I Think of Them, My Definition of Mother

1. My far away daughters have sent me flowers. In between those deliveries, Daughter #3 comes to sit and talk with me. (You can't imagine what a rare occurrence this is.) These loving gestures make me feel blessed beyond measure. I whisper my thanks to God throughout the day.
2. I had to sort through several boxes of books and papers to discard stuff that got wet in our basement earlier this week. I salvaged most of the children's drawings and laid them out to dry. I'm a hopeless sentimentalist. Notice the word "mental" in the middle part of that word.

Mother's Day 1995- The fish and octopus are fingerprints.

1996- This was the "Climbing Tree" in our backyard in New York.

By Audrey around age 5. Steve and I laughed about the pile of horse poop.
1998- Budding Artist

3. I think being a mother is about loving and giving of oneself to others in a caring way. I mother my daughters, of course, but I also mother my husband (which he doesn't particularly like) and my dog. I mother my mother, I mother my sister, I mother my garden. I mother all the children in my care each day and I may even be an overbearing mother to my friends at times. I don't think you have to biologically give birth to offspring to know or experience mothering.

Friday, May 10, 2013

As Close As I'll Come to Famous, The Next Project, Timber Ridge Road

1. Do you remember in second grade when you would ask everyone, including the lunch lady, to autograph your yearbook? That still happens : )
2. Neighbor W. delivered our landscape timbers today! We're converting the vegetable garden to raised beds and these untreated railroad ties were a pretty good deal. I'm most excited about tidying up our weedy garden and getting it all under control. The project will take a couple of weeks, since it's raining again, but I'm photographing before and after to see how we come along.
3. An eerie fog lies on the back roads following a nighttime thunder storm. Our headlights probe ahead as our car slices through the mist, sending it fluttering aside as we coast along. I lock the doors and tell Tess it's in case aliens try to abduct us. But, all we see is a cute, little mouse scurrying across the road and plenty of tiny frogs.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sunshine!, Rip Van Winkle, Say Cheese

1. Buttercups on the windowsill. Waves of them sweep yellow across the horse field.
2. I intended to take a little cat nap and woke up two hours later! I must have really needed that nap so I'll just go along with that.
3. When I dump the ricotta from its plastic container into the bowl, it stays molded in the shape of the container. I like the perfectly shaped edges and I swipe a piece off to eat.
3.a. Calzones made with said ricotta, dipped in marinara sauce for dinner.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

This Rain Has a Personality, It's One Way to Clean Out a Basement, Turning Off the Day

1. I have loved the rain these past three days; the dark, heavy skies, the muted atmosphere, and the water soaked colors of spring.
2. Steve handled it, entirely. Just as I was getting ready to leave the house for a meeting, I saw a floor mat floating at the bottom of the basement stairs. My heart sank, I assessed the damage, I called Steve to come home, and I left. He bailed us out : )
3.  I came home late, too tired to care about anything. I burrowed into my bed pulling the warm quilt up to my chin and feeling ever so grateful that I've ended up right here.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

In the Garden, with Chores, and Butterflies

1. I've had two Saturdays in a row to work in the garden! It felt good to get caught up on garden chores I would normally have done way back in March. As I worked, I tried to think of a good name for this bed. I've always called it, The Step Bed, but I don't like that name. It's a mish-mash of flowers that I've planted it without rhyme or reason so, I think The Crazy Quilt might be better suited.
It took all morning to clean up this perennial bed. I also had a few Beebalm and Daisies to transplant here from the vegetable garden. I still need to trim the grass and plant the pot..another day. The Dogwood on the right has more of the Ajuga under it that I planted last week.
2. I also got a huge stack of ironing done and I washed the bathroom floor. I realize these are not beautiful things, but they've been hanging over me like a gray cloud and it felt really good to get them done, done, done. That's a beautiful thing!
3. Tess and I sat on the patio to enjoy the sun and we noticed many butterflies all over the place. I brought her camera out and followed them around, snapping photos and enjoying their movements for quite some time.

This one liked the mud.

This was more the color of a moth, but the antennae looked like a butterfly's.

A Praying Mantis egg case in the lavender. Good for the garden, but watch out hummingbirds. They will eat you.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Excuse me! It's "Lunch/ Instructional Aid" if you please. Not "Lunch Lady". Yeah right.

I'm SO glad it's Friday! In the cafeteria lately:

Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

Can he be a diva?

A table of eight year old girls calls me over. "Patrick is telling me I'm sexy". I walk over to Patrick and crouch behind his seat to have a chat. "Did you tell her she's sexy?" With chin raised, he confidently says, "Yes." I go on to explain why girls might prefer to be called 'pretty' or 'cute' rather than sexy. I tell him he can trust me on this.

Every day a little first-grade boy goes to the fountain to wash his apple or grapes. I call him my little raccoon.

Nine year old boy sitting with a table full of girls raises his hand to call me over. "What does B.J. stand for?" With a blank expression I reply, "I have absolutely no idea." I eye the girls and walk away, heading straight for the kitchen where I can let my red face settle down.
Poor R. I know the girls put him up to that.

Each Friday I hand out little slips of paper with a topic for the kids to discuss at their tables. Today's is, "What job would you never want to have?"  Two boys want to tell me their answers. I wished I had time to hear more.
1. I would never want to clean people's teeth. Yuck, that's disgusting!
2. I would never want to have to cut down trees.

Wednesday, Boy 1," I just threw up in the bathroom. Can I go to the nurse?"
Thursday, Boy 2, "I just threw up three times in the nurse's office."
Friday, The Janitor, "I got a call to the third grade boys bathroom. Someone's been sick in there."
Friday, Boy 3, "I have a tummy ache." I send him to the nurse.
Me to the lunch ladies: "Wash your hands a lot. There's vomiting."
Poor nurse.

"He's looking at me." "He's talking to me" "He's sitting next to me" "He said..., She said..."
Me to everyone: "Only raise your hand to call me if it's important!"  And they still call me for all of the above.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Boy, Big Boy, Just the Ladies

1. The voice mail has me perplexed for a moment. Then it becomes clear; it's baby Jack laughing! I save it so I can listen to it again, whenever I like.
2. Southern States was humming with plant buyers this afternoon. It's a different crowd than Lowes or Home Depot. These customers are overalled farmers, of retired age, browsing with their wives. In my opinion, they are the experts and I ask them questions about which tomato plant they prefer and when will they plant?
3. The Ladies haven't gotten together in ages! Tonight we all went out for dinner, purposely choosing a place that wasn't too noisy or crowded so we could have a good, long visit over our meal. We lingered so long after paying our bill that we ended up starting over and ordering desserts. All of us have been carrying extra responsibilities and this evening was a balm to our hectic lives.

*I still see two tomato varieties that my dad always planted. "Big Boy" is a variety that first appeared in Burpee's catalog in 1949 and "Supersonic" is another hybrid that's been around since 1968. Both are excellent, large, slicing varieties. For sentimental reasons, I always try to buy at least one or two of what my dad grew. But do your homework, they may not produce well in all areas.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Changing It Up, Wishing They Would Stay, Dumplings

1. "Bonjour!", I said to the first grade table. "Let's all speak French today! Parlez vous Francais?"
One little boy looked at me with mouth agape and promptly fell off the back of his seat. After some giggles and another, "Bonjour!", their high little voices answered back in unison, "Bonjour!"
2. I can't breathe in enough Lilac scent to save up for even a minute. Why, oh why can't we store it up in our noses to last throughout a day? The blooms are beginning to fade and I'll have to wait an entire year to breathe this heavenly scent again. I suppose this is what makes it so special.
3. The lunch ladies gave me a bowl of delicious chicken and dumplings they had left over. It was more of that good kind of comfort food and it revitalized me for afternoon errands. I was surprised to learn they made the dumplings from scratch.