Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sweetness, Finding Nonni, See You...Before Too Long!

1. I think he is to have wavy, red hair. He is so mild-mannered and sweet that we all want a turn holding him.
2. I love to hear the grandchildren when one of them calls, "Naw- nie!" "Are you?!" Their little voice goes room to room looking for me.
3. Everyone was here at the same time! Never mind that it breaks my heart when they leave and the house is too quiet. I find consolation in knowing that love is to blame.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Really??, All Mine, It's Beginning to Feel Like Christmas

1. The look of joy and disbelief on R.'s face when he asked his wife if the guys could smoke cigars in the house and she said yes.
2. I crammed all my errands into yesterday just so I could free up today to stay home. I hoarded the  entire day to myself to sew and bake and decorate and wrap. (The laundry and chicken soup happened, but they were incidentals.)
3. It was cold and wintry feeling outside. The sky looked like it could snow at any moment. Even though a snowflake never fell, it set the right mood for Christmas preparations.
4. Tess and I ended the day by setting up the lighted village together. We weren't going to bother with it this year but, in the spirit of Christmas, we changed our minds : )

Friday, December 19, 2014

Baking and Giving

1. Packaged up and ready to give; gift wrap transforms the ordinary into something divine. It's only cupcakes and apple butter, but way more fun now.
* The Cooks Nook (and maybe Michael's) sells ingenious cardboard inserts for the cupcake boxes so the cupcakes can't slide around.

2. Lynn gave me the lead on this Red Velvet Cupcake with White Chocolate- Amaretto Frosting recipe last winter. It is a heavenly combination of flavors and worth every minute in the kitchen.

3. Tess' friends ask for these Hermit Bars every year. She takes the whole batch to school and shares them in the cafeteria. I like the box we used for these.
*I omit the candied ginger on top and only use it as called for in the dough.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Happy Place, Elves Are About, We Both Stayed Awake

1. That moment when I realize I'm in the Baking Zone and how happy and content I feel to be there.
1a. The packaging for all the goodies are as much fun as the baking. The Cook's Nook has all the bakery boxes, labels, to meet every baker's needs. I love that store : )
2. I walked away from my desk for only a minute and found a gift there when I returned.
3. Steve and I found a little common ground on a movie choice and watched it together. Godzilla. (His choice really, not mine) It was fun that we watched it together.
3a. Throughout the movie we each occasionally glance at each other to see if the other is still awake. We're getting old together.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Silhouettes, Warm Plastic, The Jackpot

1. These intricate, laser-cut, wood silhouettes were given to me by B. She purchases them directly from the craftsman at the Kriskindlmarkt that is held each fall in Clifton Forge. I got the bright idea to hang them on the lamps so we can enjoy the detail.

2. The warm plastic smell from the hot laminater at school smells just like Christmas. I think it evokes a memory I have from childhood of making wreaths from strips of plastic. We tied dozens of plastic strips to rounded-out wire coat hangers. Bunched together, they formed  fluffy white wreaths. We added shiny red balls and they were hideously pretty. I hope somebody uses the laminatoer again tomorrow.
3. I went to the mall for two small things. I ended up spending two hours there and got a little too warm and too tired. However, one my way out, as I passed Victoria's Secret, I remembered a coupon I had in my purse. It was one of those secret kind that the sales associate has to reveal for you. I figured it would be a 10% discount or something nominal and I would check it and be on my way. It turned out to be for $50.00! It was my lucky day. I did a quick look around and used it to purchase something for someone else.

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Old, Old and New, Mood Lighting

1. Tess gave me my Christmas gift early this year. Considering the gift, it was definitely the right thing to do.

An antique pine cone ornament...

and an antique bell ornament.
2. Tess had her last Christmas recital as a piano student on Saturday and tonight she had her first Christmas recital as a piano teacher. I've been listening to her practice Rhapsody in G Minor, Op 79, No 2 by Brahms for months now. I may just know it by heart. Following is a performance of this Brahms piece by a twelve year old. Enjoy!

3. Evenings at Christmas time are when all the bright house lights are turned off and only the tree and candle lights remain. It almost makes me feel the need to whisper. (Although anyone who knows me knows that I rarely have a whisper setting.)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My Helper, Ice Breaker, The Last Hour of Today

1. A little boy in Spider Man pajamas kneels on a stool and helps me make punch for the party. It's his home and I am a guest. He is confident and in charge as I slice limes for him to drop into the punch. He insists they are green peaches. I ask if he would like to taste one. He says no, he doesn't like green peaches. He cleverly uses tongs to pull cranberries, one by one, out of the bag and plop them into the punch. Once finished, he is off to bed.
2. People whom I judged to be shy were shouting and singing during a game we played.
3. Late into the night, a perfect half slice of moon, tipped on its side, was on the rise. The eastern horizon glowed with its white light. I paused and took in a breath of sharp, cold air. Turning to the south and west, I tipped my head back and saw a sky filled with brilliant stars.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Neverland, Dressing It Up, Sitting Near the Fire

1. In reality, time is racing by. In theory, I live in Neverland where "time is never planned". Ever since Mary Martin's Peter Pan aired on TV, I believed in Peter Pan. As a child, I truly thought Captain Hook lived under a hill near my house. I became a Todd Rundgren fan in high school and Neverland became my theme song. I often sing it in my head, especially on days like today.

"And that's my home where dreams are born and time is never planned."

2. Slowly, slowly, the house is getting decorated for Christmas. It's a tender little affair this year, being done in small strokes at a time. We first put up the tree. On another day, a snow globe. Today I put the candle lights in the windows. And so it goes.
3. Lunch at B.'s! I so enjoy this time with friends to talk about things and hear one another's perspectives. The friendship of these two ladies is a blessing to me. Our husbands are also good friends and I'm aware of the rarity of such a friendship. I purpose to treasure it. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Bountiful Pecans, For When Baby Visits

1. This ancient hymn gives voice to the mystery of God's plan for our salvation. Originally composed in 275 AD. and set to a 17th century folk song , it remains hauntingly beautiful to this day. For me, it provides the focus and pace that I crave at Christmas time.

Steve hones his technique

Mini pecan pies ready for the oven

2. Pecans! Sara and Walt gave us a bag full of fresh pecans from their parents' tree. In our kitchen today was the sound of hammer on pecan...for about an hour. Steve whacked and cracked. I stirred and baked : ).
3. We secretly bought all baby items for our party's gift exchange. Sippy cups, wipes, a bumbo seat, etc. We wanted to surprise one of the couples who welcomed their first grandbaby last week. The look on Sherry's face as we all took turns opening gifts that were baby items was priceless. At the end of the game we handed all our gifts over to Sherry and Sam. (Great idea, Lita!)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Order! I Demand Order!, Sending Love, Ready for Printing

1. Some kind of  'messy bomb' exploded in my house and I am extremely grateful to have this day to set things right again.
2. I wrapped gifts for our far away loved ones and padded them into parcels with care. My desire is to gather love and sentiments and make them tangible so they can be put in a box.
3. It was a long evening of spreadsheets and numbers, accounting programs, and notes. We were rewarded at the end with a cleaned up budget that was ready to roll for 2015. My "little" math mistake of putting a plus sign instead of a minus sign wasn't too embarrassing.

Friday, December 5, 2014

I Love My Job, Razor-Cut Mullet with Heavy Bangs, The Week That Flew Right By

1.How Things Go at the Office
"Good Morning!" work work work work laugh work work laugh work work work work laugh laugh laugh work work work..."See you tomorrow!"
2. Poor Chelsea got a really bad haircut the day before, to the point of tears. (I was torn between telling the truth or saying it didn't look too bad.) We were to go shopping and have fun together but her mood was pretty low. I suggested we go and try to have her hair fixed. With hopeful optimism, we headed to Indulgence where Amanda worked a miracle. She had to cut off all the hair Chelsea spent months on the trail growing out, which was disappointing. But at least she was smiling again.
3. These cool gray days suit me. I prefer clouds to sun and cool over warm so I am in my element this week.
4. The kitchen table is spread with fabrics, notions, pins and threads. I thought about how long it's been since I sewed anything and how good it feels to be back at it. 
5. Audrey was hanging out at the house when I got home this afternoon. I walked in to find her and Bella camped out on the sofa. Bella's eyes are very expressive and I had to stop mid-sentence because of the way she was looking at me. Like most of our beloved pets, she thinks she's human and I have to agree.
6. Audrey and I walked over to the tree farm, cut down a tree, and carried it home by hand across the field. Bella ran circles around us and Henri...well, let's just say that Henri had to sniff every leaf and twig. The four of us had a good time. : )

Sweet Bella and her funny faces.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

It Starts Out a Little Sappy, But Oh It's Beautiful! Prepared

1. Our voices unite in a song of prayer. These lyrics break my heart and soul because they are so beautifully true. 
"These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou may'st find thy all in me."

2. To stand shoulder to shoulder with one hundred other people in song is such a gift. Some of us can't sing worth a lick, but when it's all swirled together it always sounds beautiful. This is the way I imagine Heaven will be. Billions of voices from all eternity raised in praise to God.
3. A warm-up has arrived. We go around the yard, tossing out the pumpkins, gourds, and dead mums. We put the lawnmower away and generally prepare for winter. I think we're all tucked away now.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Done Deal, You Lookin' At Me?, Evening Out

1. Steve chose the son-in-laws' gifts online and BAM!, Christmas shopping is done.
2. Cows are funny, curious animals. When Henri and I walked to the mailbox, the herd turned and walked toward us en masse. It's hard to believe Henri and I are that interesting.
3. We met up with Steve's co-worker and wife at Blue Five for dinner and live music. Melissa and the Growlers perform Blues, Funk, and Soul.

Friday, November 28, 2014

What's All the Fuss About?, My Choice, Advanced Style

1. Daughter #4 and her friends left the house before sunrise so they could go to the mall to see what Black Friday was all about. They've never been. I told them the word of the day is 'patience'. She texted me a while later and said there was no one there and nothing that made it worth all the fuss. I gladly rest my case.
1a. She was very excited about her one purchase, though.
Prada $300. Some store at the mall $9

2. Now me, on the other hand, I went to Walmart. And only because we had the pressing need to get Advent candles before Sunday. I reasoned that since I was feeling very mellow from all the food I ate the day prior and patience was my virtue today, I could handle Walmart, at high noon on Black Friday, no problem. I'm happy to report that we sailed right in and out of there without even anyone in front of us at the checkout. It was painless. painless as Walmart can be.
3. I watched this movie tonight. It has me thinking a lot. It's more about attitude than style. I told Steve that I think I need to be eccentric as I age. He said I am already eccentric. Ha!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Together, Here and There, Telephone Pictionary, Sharing Thoughts

 1. The snow cover makes it feel more like Christmas than Thanksgiving. That's okay. The bottom line is that it's a holiday and we're gathering round the table.
2. We make and receive phone calls to loved ones who are faraway and cannot be with us.
3. One of our guests brought a bottle of Muscato- one of my favorites! I sip one glass with dinner and another when the day is done and my feet are up.
4. When we were finished dining and settled into comfortable chairs, we played one of our favorite games. It's guaranteed for lots of laughs. Instructions HERE.
5. It's a rare opportunity to sit and have a long length of time to talk with a daughter, one-on-one. I'm so glad the opportunity presented itself tonight. I was shocked to look at the clock and see that it was midnight when we finally went to bed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

People's Kindnesses Saved the Day, Including Husband's

1. We woke to a persistent, heavy snow! To everyone's surprise, school was in session and it was a morning of telephone chaos at the office. Right in the midst of it, our third grade teacher's husband came in with Panera bagels, a large carton of coffee and a box of Krispy Cream donuts. How we thanked him for his generosity! It was appreciated beyond words.
2. The snow and the winter wonderland it gave us was really beautiful. Yes, it was inconvenient, uncomfortable, and too early in the season, but it was so pretty.
3. Steve drove us to work in his four-wheel-drive so, we arrived home together this afternoon. We walked into a freezing cold house and a power outage. Steve set to building a fire in the woodstove and starting up the generator. I'm so thankful he was here.
3a.We dined on S'mores and then popcorn for dinner.
3a. Power was restored at 7:00pm and by 7:30 two pies were in the oven. (The generator can run everything but the oven. We cycle the other utilities on and off as needed such as lights, heat, and water.)
4. Our mailbox was knocked down into the ditch. It happens more frequently than we care for. We were waiting for packages to arrive, so Steve parked his truck at the end of the drive and waited an hour to catch the mailman as he went by.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Simmering, For Me?, Getting Ready

1. I LOVE to create something from practically nothing. Chicken and turkey stock is one of those things. I had two turkey breast carcasses left from Sunday and I used a simple recipe to make a ton of stock. The stock is then poured into one-cup portions and frozen. I used Styrofoam cups because I had plenty on hand. Once frozen, I tear them out of the foam and store them in Ziploc bags for use all winter long.

2. I received two beautiful gifts from out of nowhere today : )
2a. B. left a pottery bowl filled with candies along with my eggs this week. It is the prettiest form with a beautiful profile.
2b. K. dropped by with a gigondo poinsettia in shades of pink. I have the perfect spot for it. The house is beginning to look festive!
3.It's still so mild outside that it's hard to believe we're talking about a possible snowfall for tomorrow. I sweep up the porch and make it winter-ready. The winters and summers seem to muddle themselves together sometimes.

Monday, November 24, 2014

In Hand, Puzzling, Helping

Flickr photo by Muffet/liz west.
1. I captured a milkweed fairy and brought it inside. It sits under the cloche in company with the peacock feather and bird's nest.
2. Adding pantry items to already full shelves was like solving a puzzle: If I move this there, then I can slide that over... It was also a game of chance: If I stack this on top, will it topple over?
3. A friend emailed to tell me she found boiler and pearl onions somewhere and do I want her to pick some up for me.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tune In, Checking It Twice, Showing Great Restraint

1. I turned the radio dial and hit the NPR station just as "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" was coming on. It's one of my favorite shows with it's clever word plays and witty panelists. It also made one hour of my drive fly right by. You can listen to the episodes HERE!
2. The internet was invented so that I could Christmas shop online. I don't know who invented coupon codes, but they should be commended as well.
3. I was confined in a car for three and a half hours with a box of Godiva chocolates. Alone.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Baby Dear, Insomnia, Dancing and Hunting Bears

1. How much love can our hearts hold? It is infinite and overflowing.
2. To give mom and dad a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep, I took baby downstairs with me at 3am. (My nighttime wakefulness has its upside.) I swaddled him close to my chest and we rocked and dozed for three hours.
2a. I rest my lips on the top of his head. I have so much to say to him.
3. I've noticed that Mari doesn't simply walk, she skips and dances along. She'll obediently hold my hand and the joy in her movement flows up my arm.
3a. Mari, Jack and I watch our shadows as we walk along, holding hands. I can't recall the last time I took an interest in my shadow. I hate this "growing old and serious" stuff.
4. We were digging trenches to capture tigers and crouching in caves to escape from bears. Mari took charge of the flashlight as we three huddled in the coat closet when suddenly an animal scratched on the door! For a moment, our game became more real than the children bargained for. It turned out to be Henri-the-Scnoodle wanting to join us in the closet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Catching Up in Raleigh- Happy Times!

1. We finally have big enough trees on our lawn that dropped a decent amount of leaves this fall. I rattled through them when I trudged up the slope, scattering them with the sweep of my feet.
2. I made the drive to Raleigh under sodden skies. I'm satisfied that November doesn't disappoint and presents itself under no disguise. It's bleak, damp, and deeply rusted.
3. With weeks and sometimes months between visits with the grandchildren, it allows time for me to see how much they've grown and changed. The first thing I noticed on this trip is that they didn't run from me like they used to when I entered their front door. That has to be good, right? : )
3a. Books are simply the best tool to bring adult and child together. It's common ground, a shared experience. It's my favorite activity and I'm glad it's theirs, too.
4. Sending Claire and Daniel off to the hospital at 5:00am with hugs and kisses. Very soon they will be three and their family will be five.
5. Oh, he is a dear! Matthew entered the world loved and treasured, as every child should be. We were able to visit him within hours. Words fail me when I hold a newborn miracle. "Oh my goodness!" is about all I can manage.
6. I was struck by Mari's tenderness and love toward her baby brother. She held him close and enveloped him with love, kissing his head and tenderly rubbing her cheek on his baby hair. She had her eyes closed in bliss. I do believe she is in love.
6a. Mari, who is four, was wishing for a baby sister to share her room. When we got home she said, "It's okay if he's a boy. He can still share my room with me."
7. Mari and Jack were highly entertained by our dolls singing and acting out, "The Wheels on the Bus". The dolls also performed the "Hokie Pokie" at which point Mari threw her doll down and danced it herself. Two-year-old Jack decided he was able, and we ended our day in song and dance.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bambi's Dad, My Love, Dreamland

1. I eased onto the brakes and slowed the car in time for a buck to cross the road. His leap over a barbed wire fence with front legs tucked under a thick chest and his head held high under mighty antlers was majestic. Time slowed for a moment and then he bounded across the road. I thought, "Oh I hope no one shoots this one. This one needs to live."
* With all the gunshots ringing in the woods these days, I'm afraid to even walk the roads. I don't mind hunters. I'm just afraid of those who are careless. I think of the bullet hole in our roof...
2. Tess and I had another fun college visit today with a personal tour of the music department. The recital hall houses a beautiful, Steinway grand piano and when Tess began to play I got goosebumps. The sound was so rich and varied, more beautiful than any other piano I've ever heard. We went on to meet another faculty member downstairs and he called the piano seductive. He was right. We went back upstairs and Tess played it again. We were easily falling in love with a hunk of wood and metal.
2a. One of the practice rooms had a worn baby grand piano that was decades old. Some of the ivory was missing from a key or two and long ago someone painted it white. The music rack had pencil writing on it. It was a little poem to the effect of, "please love me". It was a dear, old piano.
3. Not bothering to fight the sleep that weighted my eyelids heavier and heavier; I gave in and drifted off at the embarrassing, elderly hour of 8:30.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Happy Tumbles Out, How I See It, To Benefit W.A.R.

1. We have no idea where #4 might go to college; it's a quest at this point in time. However, she did think it was a lot of fun to open this letter and have confetti tumble out.
2. It's a perfectly flat, gray, November day. No wind, no shape to the clouds, just flat and cold. It's the epitome of November. Sometimes things are supposed to be cold and flat and gray. That's what normal is.
3. A friend held her annual W.A.R. party this evening and, as always, the items for sale were beautiful. The dining room table overflowed with jewelry, scarves, purses and other handmade items from around the world. As I handled each piece, I imagined the woman who crafted it and the small  connection we have from halfway around the world.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wrapping Paper, Lunch from Walmart, Kept in a Jar

1. Who would think purchasing Christmas wrap could take an entire afternoon?! I went to Walmart, Target, and Tuesday Morning. While the selection vs. price was appalling, I did have fun poking around all the stores, especially Tuesday Morning. The gift wrap results of these three stores is as follows:

a.Walmart has the largest selection of the three and the lowest prices.
b. Target has a line of pretty, coordinating papers, but they're $5.00 per (thin) roll. The less expensive paper on the opposite side of the aisle was not attractive to me.
c. Tuesday Morning has almost no paper, but the little they have is very pretty. Prices are still moderately high considering square footage on the roll.

Paper-choosing neurosis aside, I purchased five rolls at Tuesday Morning and none of it matches. I'm proud of myself for breaking the need to have coordinated wrapping paper. Breaking free of this habit makes me feel like I just won something.
2. Lunch was a bag of peanut M&M's and they were delicious.
3.The peach preserves I put up last August taste just like summer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

By Hand, Much Better, Burning

1. B. sent over a loaf of bread that she baked. It's so pretty I hate to cut into it but, at the same time, I can't wait to eat it!
2. Yesterday was one of those irritating days when everything was out of sorts and nothing went right. I told myself that it was just one of 'those' days and it would pass. The silver lining in this is that I am aged enough to know it's true!
3. I walked without a jacket this afternoon and the sun really heated up the back of my neck. The weather person said cold air is barreling down from the north so I tried to soak up all the sunshine I could today.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bravery, A Favorite Dinner, Birthday Month

1. A young father maneuvers two shopping carts up and down the aisles of Walmart. He's pushing one cart with a baby in a car seat in it and pulling the other cart, which he carefully loads with groceries. He is the picture of calm and happiness. I smile and nod to him and he explains that his wife works third shift at the hospital. I tell him I think he is a brave and a wonderful husband and father.
2. This recipe for Chicken and Gnocchi has become one of our all-time favorites. It's a satisfying, comforting dinner for a cold and blustery evening like tonight.
3. How could I forget to mention that Jack turned two this week! I talked to him on the phone and Claire said he listened intently. Then, Mari got on and chatted quite a bit with me. Her birthday is also this month as will be their new baby brother or sister who arrives in two weeks!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Good Deals, We Were Not Alone, The End, Ready for Baking Season

1. I stopped at Heritage Family Market to get another loaf of Italian Cheese bread. (I thought it would be great for grilled cheese sandwiches.) I saw bay leaves, which I needed, and coriander, and corn meal. My hands were getting full so I broke down and got a shopping cart and added a bunch more stuff. Obviously I wasn't just stopping in for a loaf of bread any more. This store is too fun and their prices are incredibly low.
2. The wind didn't trouble Henri and me too much because the road followed a low spot through the woods. But, it blustered and rattled the dry leaves in the upper tree branches. It made such a racket that it sounded like we were accompanied by a thousand tempests who wouldn't leave us alone to walk in peace and quiet.
3.We shared the very last, vine-ripened tomato from the garden.
4. Those spices I bought in #1 caused me to clean out and rearrange my spice and baking drawers. That was fun!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Love is Not Hearts and Bows, A Little Shopping, Pop's

1. I saw this video over at Sayable where Brene Brown talks about love and forgiveness; real-life topics which both fascinate and overwhelm me.


2. I purchased my first Christmas gifts today. I discovered that two of our daughters desire the same gift and neither is aware of it. How fun is that?!
3. We headed over to Pop's in Grandin. It was a nice day to be out with another day of mild weather.
I ordered an afternoon cup of coffee hoping it would get me over the slump later this evening with the time change. (It did!) They serve the most amazing gluten-free cakes at Pop's. We shared a huge wedge of coconut creme cake.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bounty, By the Road, Bread and Butter

1. This must be a good year for pears. Down a back road, we walked past two pear trees that had dropped their heavy crop to the ground. We filled our pockets with unspoiled pears and munched on another while we continued our walk.
2. That walk gave me more energy than a nap. It was filled with beautiful things to see as well. Bittersweet tumbling over fences and hedgerows, rose hips also climbing a fence post, and leaves in reds and golds still clinging to the trees.
3. Oh my goodness, the bread from Heritage Family Market is so good! Chelsea brought us a loaf of Italian Cheese Bread and we ate it with our soup. As I slathered a second slice with butter, Steve gave me a look. I said, "What? I walked three miles today." And he said, "Yes, but you spread ten miles worth of butter on there."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Gray Month, Applying It to Life, A Warm and Safe Place

1. Snow flurries dart and scatter under the light at the front door. Whose inner child doesn't leap at the sight of first snow!
2. I'm drawn to the beauty of the hills and mountains that fill the view from the church windows. This is one place where it is okay to gaze out the windows and ponder things, seemingly daydreaming, yet hearing every word.
"And this mountain that is in front of me will be thrown into the midst of the sea."

3. A walk after dinner is now a walk in the dark. Up on the hill, I turn back and see the smoke rising from our chimney and I smell the wood fire burning. I watch the smoke rise and curl in the wind.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Goings On- the Good, the Bad, and the Creative

1. The fact that it was Halloween wasn't forefront in my mind during the day. So, every time I saw a costumed person out in public I was taken a little off-guard. The result was a day punctuated with little surprises for me.
1a. Just a reminder of what's not OK- An adult delivery man who approaches an elementary school with a bandana tied over his face. No blood, no gore, just a bandana. This was probably the scariest thing I saw all day.(We refused him entry until he removed the bandana.)
2. We had a quiet evening with Tess and Ian hanging out at home. Tess thought we should listen to The Edgar Winter Group's Frankenstein so we put it on the turntable. Then we got into searching some other songs with Halloweeny titles. I couldn't find the Alan Parsons Project, The Raven, but I did find Lucifer. Ian put on ELP's Pictures at an Exhibition with it's classic pipe organ which fit the mood of Halloween perfectly.

2b. We dined on pancakes and bacon. In my mind, this is a Halloween meal because my mother happened to make it one Halloween when I was little and it stuck in my memory as associated with Halloween. Simple as that.
3. I had a good and hot cup of coffee with dinner. It was comforting on this chilly, damp evening.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Hallowen!, Read to Someone, Flavors of Fall

1. Our Awkward Family Photo made it to the Hall of Fame at You have to know Steve to know his sense of humor...
2. Daniel's conversation with two-year-old Jack still makes me laugh:

Jack, running up to us with a book in his hand: Read to you! Read to you!
Daniel: Say, "Read to me."
Jack: Read to you. 
Daniel: Read to ME. 
Jack: Read to you.
Daniel: Read 
Jack: Read
Daniel: To me
Jack: To me you.

3. I chose a fall menu for our lunch with Autumn Bisque made with butternut squash accompanied by grilled sandwiches made with cinnamon swirl bread, apple butter, paper thin slices of MacIntosh apples, and American cheese. I think lunch is my favorite meal.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I Love..., Left Behind, Still Around

1. There is a Milkweed seed floating by. They are such soft and delicate little structures that I'm compelled catch them and stroke them on my cheek before I send them on their way again.
2. At the back door I notice the imprint of a little mouth on the glass. It definitely belongs to a little child I wonder whose tiny mouth kissed the glass.
3. I'm still amazed by all the blooms going on around here. My Otto Van Luyken laurel is covered in white blooms (and an occasional honey bee), the red begonias that I thought I would dislike, but now love, stand cheery and bright, and our friends have cosmos blooming in their yard. My inner calendar will forever be on New York time so this all continues to be a surprise for me.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Touring, Just Us, A Bit of Porch Time

1. Tess and I toured the campus of Hollins University. One hundred year old red brick buildings are nestled among huge, old trees on idyllic grounds. The beautiful scent of age graces the interior of many of these structures, reminding me of the rich history that has gone before us.
1a. The library's third floor contains all books authored by Hollins graduates. The shelves are full to overflowing with authors such as Annie Dillard, who wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon. This space was truly inspirational.
2. Audrey and Jared came over to join us for burgers on the grill. It was just the four of us tonight and I enjoyed the intimacy of such a visit.
3. The weather has turned mild enough to be out on the porch this evening. Eventually the wind kicked up and drove me inside, but it was nice while it lasted.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Autumn Dinner, Guests, Shelter

photo courtesy of
1. I made Rosemary-Garlic Pork with Roasted Vegetables for our dinner guests tonight. It was a perfect autumn meal. Just to smell this dinner roasting is worth making it.
2. Daughter #2 phoned this afternoon and asked to come spend the night. I had just enough time to pick her up and get back in time to cook. I was so glad she could join our dinner party and spend the night at home. The extra helping hands didn't hurt either.
3. The colder temperatures are accompanied by gusty winds. I'm grateful for every little windbreak when I'm walking Henri, whether it's a hedgerow or dip in the landscape. Anything to be sheltered from that wind!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Youngest is Older, Pretty Dessert, Cute Movie

1. Youngest turns eighteen today. Oh my goodness, where does the time go?
2. I made fruit pizzas per her request. The brightly colored fruits arranged in starburst patterns are a treat for the eyes (and taste buds).
3. We watched Thirteen Going on Thirty, which was apropos for the occasion.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gathering Fall, Choosing Surprises, What's Cooking

1. I was inspired into creativity by the variety of little pumpkins and gourds at Southern States. Later in the day, Henri and I brought home some bittersweet from our walk and added that to the mix. Lastly, I found an old cast iron griddle at the antique shop I like to browse while Tess was at her piano lesson. I put it all together and voila!
1a. The little pumpkins have cute little tendrils on them 
2. I also gathered up little surprises for Tess' birthday tomorrow.
3. I made Slow Cooker Pork Cacciatore for dinner. The pork cooks to tender perfection and falls apart on your fork. It's delicious over pasta.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Morning, Afternoon, and Evening

1. The really neat thing about volunteering, the thing that brings me joy every time, is that I end up working side by side with someone I don't know very well. Two or more of us are thrown together in a situation, perhaps in the dirt pulling weeds as we were today, and suddenly the labor doesn't feel like labor any more.
2. Our friends have once again dusted off their antique apple press and made a party of cider-making. We arrive with a bag of horse apples, two empty gallon jugs, and a dessert to share. The whole affair is work intensive. One person washes the apples, another loads the hopper, another churns the crank, and another presses the pulp down into the slat bucket. Two more people pour the juice through a filter into various jugs. It's a chilly, fall day with lots of good food and a jolly time all around.
3. The nights have finally turned cold for the first time this season. I snuggle under the down comforter and enjoy the hibernation, at least for a few hours.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Let Me Out!, Breaking Up, Put Your Feet Up

1. After several days of rain, the sun finally shone through breaks in the clouds. I couldn't wait to be outside! When I opened the back door, I could just feel the possibilities of things to do.

2. Looking back toward the house, the sky was overwhelming. The clouds are always most beautiful after a storm.
3. Steve returned home from his trip just as we sat down for dinner. He was so tired and I was glad there was nothing pressing he needed to do so he could crash and go to sleep early.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Subdued, The Office, Bed Time

1. It's a classic, rainy Monday morning. Whatever I imagine the archetypal rainy Monday to be, today was it.
2. Some of the school children are chronically speechless when they come into the office. They walk up to my desk and stare at me with a look of fear in their eyes and expect me to read their minds. I have found that if I just start asking questions, especially easy questions like, "What's your name?" their faces flood with relief. Although, if I ask for their last name, the look of fear returns.
3. I'm sitting on the bed reading bedtime stories to grandchildren Mari and Jack. These are the same beds our girls slept in when they were young and for a moment I am back in time and nothing has changed even a bit!
3a. Jack has learned the art of somersaults. Because of his compact, two-year-old size, he reminds me of a little roly-poly bug. He somersaults around on the floor while I read bedtime stories. He does the same in the bathroom when we brush teeth. It's interesting, going about my business with a little boy rolling around at my feet.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

From Me To You, Might As Well Sleep, My New Love

1. An older couple from church gave us a bag of apples from their apple trees. These are the kinds of gifts that are dear, are they not? The apples are plain ugly, just like old-fashioned, home grown apples should be. They smell terrific and are full of flavor.
2. What a dreary, rainy day! I took one official nap in the recliner, then I dozed off two more times in my chair while I was reading.
3. Steve bought me a paring knife from Williams Sonoma to replace my favorite knife which he broke the tip off of several months ago. The old knife was a perfect five-and-dime knife that was so old I don't recall where it came from. The new knife is a Cadillac of knives and I am deeply in love with it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Birthday Weekend, Bonfire, DIY Photo Booth

1. Happiness is little visitors who wear cuddly sleeper pajamas and come down for breakfast hugging teddy bears.
2. The weather broke long enough for us to take a walk. I was surprised by all the wildflowers still blooming: Asters, Golden Rod, Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace, Butter and Eggs, Honeysuckle, and Morning Glories.
3. The rain also held back for just enough hours so we could hold Tess's birthday bonfire.
 We adjusted the plan and kept the food close to the house in case we needed to bring everything inside quickly. We set this up under the arbor, which is always pretty when lit from above with small globe lights. We placed luminaries near the opening in the fence so guests could easily find their way into the field after dark. Tess set up a photo booth in the horse shed, close to the bonfire. She and her guests had great fun filling an entire memory card with their antics. These photos are a great keepsake for her 18th birthday as well as something fun to print and share with her guests.

She made a poster,
added a suitcase filled with props,
created a backdrop with streamers and tissue paper flowers,
set the camera on a tripod, and clicked away!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Subtle Shift, A New Path, Dinner Parties, It's the Little Things

1. Autumn colors have shifted from a palette of blue, green, and gold to deeper burgundy, yellow, and red.
2. Henri and I walk across the field and meander a little bit because it's much more interesting than the roadside today.
3. About every four months the ladies at church mix up into little dinner groups and one lady volunteers to be hostess. You never know who you will dine with until you show up! Tonight's dinner was a five course, autumn meal, finer than any restaurant could serve. The best part is talking to women with whom I would otherwise never have much chance to sit and visit.
4. Every single day my co-worker thanks me for helping her as I leave work.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

An Elastic Waistband, Company for Dinner, For Now...

1.  You know how a favorite, comfortable outfit just makes your day? I found one of those to wear today. It wasn't a perfect day, but I sure felt good maneuvering through it.
2. Daughter #3 called at 5:30pm. while driving home from work. After some small talk, she asked the leading question, "Are you having dinner tonight?" (You know what this question means.) "Yes, I'm cooking dinner."  I calmly answer. She can't see me peek into the pan of boiling potatoes to check the amount and frantically pull open the freezer door to count how much fish was there. "Can we come over?" she asks. "Of course! That would be great!" I reply, "We have exactly enough." And we do. And I'm truly happy they're coming over.
3. Daughter #2 is making a very long road trip, solo. I know now that a mother is never finished feeling anxious for her children to be safe no matter how grown they are. It is with great relief at the end of the day when I know she has reached her destination safely that I fall soundly asleep.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Trust, Energized, Boiling Down

1. The young dentist promises I will feel better. He is so sure that I believe him. He prescribes steroids, along with the antibiotics I'm already, taking and within hours I improve! I am so deeply thankful for relief from the pain.
1a. When I was debating about which endodontist to choose, Daughter #3, who is a hygienist, suggested I choose the younger doctor. I felt like I was taking a huge gamble since his practice was only open for four months, but I took her advice and she was right!
2. I fell into such a deep sleep in my car while I waited for Daughter #4 at her piano lesson that she startled me at the window when she came out. I was a little embarrassed, but we laughed and I felt so good and revitalized that it was worth it.
3. The last five pounds of apples is simmering into apple butter. All night it simmers and all night the house fills with autumn: apples, cinnamon and cloves. (and a little nutmeg and allspice)   

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Roosting Box, Fire Building, Finishing Touch

1. We put up our first roosting box for small birds. A roosting box differs from a nesting box in that its intention is a warm home for winter rather than a place to nest and rear young. We're hoping the bluebirds find it first. A section of capped dryer duct attached to the pole serves as a snake baffle.

Wire mesh around the entrance will deter racoons, cats, etc from reaching in.
2. Steve spent the rest of the day making music with the chainsaw. Tess drove the pickup truck around the field helping her dad haul and pile the wood. It will be her October birthday bonfire : )
Amassing the wood.
She separated the wood by size. That's a pile of black walnuts mixed with grass in the foreground.
3. Audrey, Jared, and Ian joined us for dinner and we ended the day with a perfectly decadent chocolate cake.

*I'm on an alternating combo of extra-strength Tylenol, 600mg Motrin, and Hydrocodone following a root canal last week. Dental work for me will never be easy. I surface through the pain for an hour or two as the medicine kicks in, then down I go again. It was a glorious day in which I wish I could have participated more. I was merely an observer of this one.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Weeds to Riches, Chainsaw Weather, Floating Entertainment

1. Tiny pink wildflowers, barely visible in the tall grass we were stomping through, are brought into the house where they adorn the windowsill.
2. The old fruit trees that line the neighbor's lane are dying away. It's sad to see them disappear this way, but they do have one more thing to give us. Steve will cut the sour cherry and the apple into firewood to warm our basement this winter. I can imagine their sweet smell already.
2a. An apple pie spilled over into the oven and the juice burned on the bottom. That good smell  reminds me of the firewood above.
3. I stood absentmindedly watering the shrubs and staring into space when I saw a lone, white, fluffy seed go floating by. It meandered on barely a touch of breeze, up and away, far from where it had come.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Light and Dark, Who's Your Decorator?, Halloween Cat

1. Early morning fog settled in all the valleys. I drove to work through an alternating landscape at every hill and vale.
2. The colors in this waiting room are a treat for the eyes. One room has walls painted a soft lime green and the adjoining room wears an equally pretty sky blue. Soft furnishings include pillows in braided lime green velvet and others textured in bright pink. It's a feast of both color and texture and it's beautifully done.
2a. I wish it could be a sure sign that the dentist is good. : )
3. Tess's piano teacher has the prettiest black cat I've ever seen. He/she is petite in size with pure black fur and emerald green eyes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Out to Lunch, Typical, Back in the Zone

1. We met up with friends at the Natural Bridge Hotel for lunch. It smells old when you walk in there- the good kind of antique-shop old.
2. The red faced, perspiring lady trying to drag two little goats up the road on a leash asked every smiling driver that drove by, "Did you lose some goats?"
2a. The lady had no idea goats were as stubborn as donkeys. If it wasn't for their pitiful cries, she would have left them to the coyotes. She threatened them as much while they balked their way up the road.
2b. She discovered that these goats chase cars. Putting that knowledge to good use, the lady's daughter drove her car, with flasher lights on, as an escort for the goats (and the lady at the end of the leash). The goats ran after the car forcing the lady to run, too. Now they were getting somewhere!
2c. The lady was relieved when the goat's owner finally drove up. The owner put them in the back seat of her car, leaning in to get them around the baby car seat. "Thank you!", the lady said to the owner. It seemed a silly thing to say, rather than the owner saying it. But, the lady was truly grateful for the goats to be gone.
3. Where were we? Oh yes, baking apple crisp and canning apple butter. That's much better.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Early Autumn Landscape

1. Apple butter simmers overnight in the crockpot. When it has turned from golden to mahogany, I seal it into little jars and it's a treasure.
1a. I ran out of canning lids and Steve offered to drive out right way to get more.
2. It was a beautiful, early fall day in the garden. I pottered around, switching out the spent annuals with lively mums and pansies.
2a. Plants are still in bloom everywhere. The leaves are beginning to change color and it's interesting to see the two coexist.
3. I spoon warm applesauce over a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream. It tastes like apple pie รก la mode.

Lynn at Good Things Happened sent me this clay tray. I use it to hold fresh water for bees or any little creatures who might need a drink.

Otto Van Luyken Laurel is in full bloom. The blossoms have a very sweet scent and we saw a honeybee on them.

These sweet little Gardenias are also blooming. I have to get down on my hands and knees to smell them, but they're worth it. : )

Loverboy needs to go home. Anyone want to buy a stallion? He's not ours, but he is for sale.

The Forsythia puts out a few blooms with changing leaves.