Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Think of It in Ten Years, Fumes, Post Rain

1. Under study: our landscaping. All I could see were boring solutions until our neighbor gave me wonderful suggestions that I would never have seen on my own. Especially his suggestion of not wanting to block out the western sky. It does treat us with beautiful views.
2. The office supply cabinet smells really good. It has a sweet, papery, inky odor from all the goodies inside. I look forward to needing more staples.
3. Muck-proof muck shoes. Walk anywhere without fear of muck!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Drapery, Creating an Atmosphere, Lunch- My Favorite Meal

1. Rain droplets cling to the window screen like a sparkling jeweled curtain.
2. It's a wonderful, full day of rain with heavy clouds. The landscape soaks it in and turns a deeper green.
3. We caught up with each other over lunch and coffee, talking between bites of our huge sandwiches. I made paninis of pesto, mozarella, tomatoes and capers on thick slices of sourdough bread. The tomatoes and capers are sauteed for a couple of minutes first, then drizzled with a tiny bit of Balsamic vinegar. Each bite is of crispy outer ridges of bread filled with soft cheese and tons of flavor. Yum!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Practically Perfect in Every Way, Saved, What Do You Think?

1. This day is so perfectly pretty, I don't know what to do with it! It's like a delicious and beautifully decorated truffle, about three bites big. Do you pop it all in your mouth at once in one big, ecstatic burst of wonderfullness or do you slowly nibble it away, sweet bite by bite, to make it last longer?
2. We visited Audrey's newest family member, Bella-the-Dog. She's a rescued dog whose owners abandoned her at the veterinarian after her second still-born litter- and she's only three. She's sweet and docile and Audrey and Jared are completely in love with her.
3. A conversation between three-year-old Mari and her dad:

When we were eating dinner, Daniel asked, "Mari, why do you think blowing on your food makes it cool down?"

 Mari, "I don't think."

Daniel, "Yes you do! Tell me what you think."

Mari tentatively asked, "Is it called electricity?"

I guess she remembered something about that conversation about static and lightening.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Shade, A Silver (Stinky Brown) Lining, "Oh Look!"

1. Finding a bit of shade at the trunk of an old tree, I sat on the grass to rest. Its new leaves haven't fully unfolded, but the little shade it managed to provide was refreshing.
1a. I watched an ant, a hornet, and a wasp go about their business in the grass and leaves. I sat, observing each creature, and realized they have no thought for me at all.
2. Thank you horses, for the fertilizer.
3. By chance, we drive past the Civil War encampment along the James River. It's sunset and white canvas tents line a tidy row where soldiers sit at their campfires. Across the field, an array of cannons all point south. Some young ladies in wide hoop skirts invite us to their dance. We're tempted to stay but it's late and we have to move on.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Loving Means Letting Go and It Stinks, A Diversion, The Wolves and the Lamb

1. One last, heart wrenching goodbye this morning. I do believe this was the hardest of all. We walked together for a mile or so, then parted at the wood's edge. As she disappeared down the trail, we called, "Good bye!" and "Love you!" back and forth. Her final good bye echoed off the trees. After that, it seemed like the whole world went silent. I tried to appreciate the bird I heard singing in a tree, but it couldn't fill that danged, silent void. Thank goodness Tess was with me or I would have totally lost it.
2. I'm feeling drawn to the garden more and more this year. I have no big plans, just little tending things. I hope to keep even the littlest areas nicely tended.
2a. Tess chose a sweet little birdbath for Steve on his birthday. Every day when he comes home from work he asks if any birds have been in it.
3. Neighbor W. was out with his two shepherding dogs and Sadie-the-Lamb. All three animals play chase-the-ball and frisbee. It's funny to see the lamb romping with the dogs. I think of the movie, Babe, and how the sheep called the dogs "wolves".

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Peaks of Otter, Hiking the Blue Ridge, See Ya

1. It was a perfect day for a drive on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. I stopped for this shot of the Peaks of Otter. The day was so beautiful that I was tempted to stop at every overlook

2. I hiked a short distance and perched on a rock to wait for Chelsea. I felt quite alone. I thought about that for a while: What it would be like to be alone for five months in the woods and dependent almost entirely on myself.

3. The trail is mildly rocky and one must look down to hike. She didn't see me until she was practically upon me. We drove to the market to stock her pack with four days worth of (unhealthy) food and then we went home and cooked a nice fish dinner.
 4. We had too many good-byes this week! But, isn't it good that we love and care for each other enough to say good-bye? Shakespeare captures this feeling in these familiar lines from Romeo and Juliet. I say and feel all this in my super condensed version of, "See ya!"

'Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone—
And yet no farther than a wan-ton's bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.
I would I were thy bird.
Sweet, so would I,
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Night at the Museum- Looking Back

4,534 miles per hour!!

Imagine being in a museum after hours. It's dark outside and the place is strangely quiet of people noise. The audios on the displays still play throughout the museum, to no one in particular: rocket sounds, airplane engines, and hissing air. It's both thrilling and eery to walk among the exhibits alone, especially with these background noises coming from nowhere.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am left speechless by what man does with a tin can. I view the earlier examples of flight as nothing more than paper, spit and glue. The audacity and imagination of man to attempt such feats! Then he progresses to tin cans and explosives. The North American X-15 reached a speed of 4, 534 miles per hour. Can you imagine?! The controlled power is astounding.

Don't even get me started on these rocket boosters. They're my favorite display. Five massive rocket boosters propelled Saturn into space. Are we nuts or what?

I love contrasts. Just down the road from the space museum is the National Art Museum. The miracles there are worked in tiny brush strokes. Both museums leave me speechless. Man is using nothing, nothing but his imagination and whatever resources he can pick up around him to create masterpieces on canvas and in the air. I see the inspiration of God in all of it. And because I believe that, then I know this is a drop in the bucket compared to what God once created with His words and to what exists that we cannot see. The most astounding, amazing, wonderful creations of man are nothing more than a speck when compared to the mind of God. And there I am, speechless again : )

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saying Good-Bye, Calling, Meeting Needs

1. Thankfully, everyone doesn't leave at once. That would be a shock to my system. We still picnic in the yard, laze on the porch and make plans for the week, the summer, and the year before everyone leaves.
2. Steve, Tess and I were eventually left alone. We worked together in the garden this evening. We heard Sadie call, "baaa" from across the field. It's the cutest little sound and makes us smile very time we hear her.
3. Our harsh winter was rough on the garden. I tended the little plants that survived and gave them a makeover of sorts. This ebb and flow in gardening is what keeps it interesting and ever-changing.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Family Photos: Out-takes

What really happens when we try to take a family photo:

Somebody gets silly

Somebody gets silly

Somebody gets silly

Everybody gets silly

The majority get silly.
Somewhere in the five hundred photos we took we'll be lucky if there's one Christmas-card-worthy shot.

1. Oh my gosh. Everyone is here! It's wonderfully exhausting.
2. Mari timidly announces that she is going to have a baby brother or sister. My response is something like this: ??!!??!!
3. We look up from our conversation and see Jack proudly wearing Aunt Tess' sandal. He got it on all by himself. : )

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy Easter!

Two week old Sadie-the-Lamb follows Jack.
1. The Redbud trees that grow on the perimeter of the woods are all in bloom. They're the pretty pinkish haze in the background.
2. All four girls are home this weekend; a rare treat indeed! This evening was perfect for a bonfire. We carried all our food across the field and dined fireside on veggie chili, corn muffins, fire roasted hot dogs, carrot cupcakes, and marshmallows, of course.
2a. One of Chelsea's friends from the trail stopped to spend the night with us. Tanacity is his trail name and he is co-founder of We all enjoyed getting to know each other, however brief it was. He was appreciative of the home atmosphere, food, bed, and shower and we were all appreciative of his company.
3. Our neighbor brought his little foster lamb to visit. She is the sweetest thing with her swishy tail and tiny, "baaa". Mari got to feed her a bottle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Interests

1. We kept ducking into stores just so we could warm up. The Stonewall Kitchen store was my favorite. They had the most wonderful Lemon Sage bar soap.
1a. I've never heard of a store devoted entirely to Marshmallow Peeps, but there it was. The poor, unappreciated Peep in all its glory. They even had a car with a huge Peep on top. (I need to get photos off the camera.)
2. I was very proud of myself for venturing out on my own and arranging my own transportation. I texted Steve to tell him where I was attempting to go...just in case.
2a. The crazy thing was, my destination was under two miles away. I go that far when I walk the dog at home! Sadly, these were not walker-friendly highways.
3. The most perplexing thing I've ever observed: A beautifully set banquet was set up in the hotel atrium. Linen covered tables, gorgeous salads with heirloom tomatoes and cheese, two glasses per place setting filled with ice cubed drinks, and artistic-looking desserts were at each place. My friend and I sipped coffee nearby and wondered who was to dine at these beautiful tables. Then, four waiters began clearing it all away, dumping all the food! My friend and I looked at each other in shock. I asked a waiter what happened. In broken English, he told me it was set up in the wrong place. Then another waiter with limited English said no, they were shooting pictures, like a movie, and now they were all done. I'm not sure which version was true. Either way it was unbelievable.
3a. Tonight was our function's banquet. They served over a thousand of us, plate by plate, and beautifully done. I always marvel when chef's cook huge quantities of individual, artistically arranged dishes for four courses to perfection.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today's Rainy Agenda

1. Faced with a day of heavy rain, we took a taxi downtown and strolled a museum for the morning. Another quick taxi ride got us to Pi Pizza for lunch- my favorite! Our deep dish pizza with artichoke hearts, minced garlic, and lots of melted cheese under the sauce was perfection.
 2. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum was the setting for our private party tonight. It was bliss to be able to tour this museum with no one but our group in it. Buffets and bars were set up throughout the museum so we could dine and drink as we toured, all to our hearts content. This was really "the bomb" as they say and I can't thank the hosting company enough for this brilliant evening.
3. Steve presented his paper at the conference without a hitch. He could finally relax tonight...and so could I. I was watching the time all afternoon thinking, "Now he's getting ready...Now he's speaking...and so on." I'm a nervous wreck for those types of things.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday in Alexandria, The Gaylord

1. The briny smell of the ocean reminds me of Maine. It was the first thing I noticed when I walked to the water's edge this morning. A friend and I took a two mile walk around the harbor at sunrise.
(It felt like another two miles to find the way back and forth to my room. This place is like a small city.)
2. A short water taxi ride took us across the harbor to Alexandria. We spent the day walking cobblestone streets and little side roads lined with historic brick buildings. We lunched at a restaurant in one of these old, brick buildings. The atmosphere inside was dark, created from aged wood beams and brick walls with only one window at the front. We sat at a table in front of this window. A well made shrimp cocktail and a lobster roll satisfied my seafood craving.
3. Reunited with our husbands for dinner, we were invited to the lounge at the top of the 18th floor of the hotel's atrium. One of my favorite tables (aside from the dessert buffet) was the cheese and antipasto buffet. The hosts paired cheese with a perfect compliment of fruit for each one. Some of the fruits were in the form of slices of a sticky gelatin concoction with a consistency similar to Turkish Delight. I don't know what it was, but I need to find out : )
3a. Surrounding the atrium was a balcony overlooking the harbor with Washington DC in the distance. It was mild this evening, so we stood outside to enjoy the breeze and the view. The cleverly designed guardrail was lined with glass to preserve the view. Nice for others, but it meant vertigo for me! Needless to say, I stood against one of the pillars.

Exterior back of the Gaylord Hotel
Interior atrium

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Country Mouse to City Mouse

1. An evening cruise on the Potomac took us past the Washington Monument after dark. It was brightly lit and standing tall below a full moon. Our vantage point was peaceful compared to the  bustling city and airport across the water.
2. It certainly is a cultural shock to go from mountains to mega-resort overnight like this. I'll enjoy all this metropolis has to offer and take solace knowing that in a few hours I can be back home again.
3. Standing on deck, laughing with friends; Steve searched out the dessert buffet and brought us all a sampling.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Visit With Chelsea! 600+ miles down, about 1500 to go.

Pop with three fourths of his girls : )
 1. We found her in the parking lot at Food Lion downing a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips. It was an overwhelmingly joyful greeting, especially for her dad and sisters who haven't seen her in over a year. My instinct was to critically look her over from head to toe to make sure she was well. She looked really fit!

 2. We had fun at the laundromat, keeping her company while she performed a mundane chore. There's not too many ways to wash your only clothing if your wearing it. She uses the "rain poncho technique".

3. I can't begin to describe what a perfect afternoon we shared. The weather was glorious, the mountain views were beautiful, so many trees were in bloom, the hostel had a nice porch where we spent our time, and we packed plenty of food along.

Things I thought about after the day was done:

-In the parking lot at Food Lion, I had tunnel vision. I was so focused on Chelsea that, for a minute or two, I had no idea what was going on around us. A moment later, I realized people were staring and cars were driving past as though everything in life was perfectly normal...and of course, it was.
- I couldn't help myself from assessing her condition. I had to be sure that every little thing on her was OK, from her ears to her toes.
- The overwhelming joy and love we felt was impossible to contain. Tears of joy...
- Her sisters gave her one or two hugs and a moment later had to give another. We felt compelled to keep touching her when we first saw her.
- The girls are all great storytellers. Catching up on each others news was done in stories.
- It was very hard to leave her at the end of the day. Very hard. But we'll meet and part and meet and part many times over in our lifetime. The parting will never get any easier.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chelsea and the Boy Scouts, Longer, Just Do It, Two Treats in One

1. This post brought tears to my eyes. The kindness of this Boy Scout troop toward my daughter...this is what life is all about and how people are meant to treat each other.
2. When I take Henri out early in the morning, I notice the sky is brighter and sunrise is coming earlier.
3. I am on a mission to check jobs off my list and free up some play time for Easter break. The more productive I am, the more productive I become. Productivity begets productivity.
4. B. stopped by with some Tello Fix* from Germany. As though that alone wasn't enough, she put it in a glass canning jar with a hinged lid and topped it with a nest made of purple Easter grass occupied by a silver birdie. 
*Tello Fix is a gourmet bouillon of sorts. It makes every soup and stew extraordinarily better. Sadly, it is not available anywhere that I can get my hands on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blooming, Sweet and Sour, Getting Here

1. White blossoming trees are everywhere! Literally hundreds and thousands line every roadway and all the woods. The Redbud is just beginning to open its deep, pinks blooms so, we're in for a real treat later this week.
2. I caught the smell of grass today. It wasn't the sweet smell of summer grass, cut with a mower on a warm summer's evening, but rather a pungent, newly green grass, not yet ripe.
3. What will take her five days to hike, we can drive in a mere ninety minutes. Time for us to visit her, I say!
3a. I asked her to tell me her food cravings and she gave me a pretty long list. She consumes over five thousand calories a day in order to hike twenty miles a day...after day...after day...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Building Raised Garden Beds

We began this project last spring. It's finally completed and ready for the 2014 planting season! Click here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Familiar Sound, Swiftly, Goodness

1. A gentle thunderstorm rolled over us right at bedtime last night. I enjoyed hearing this first storm of spring, especially a gentle one like this. 
2. The fog crept into the valleys this morning. Its movements were fluid, like a snake.
3. Daughter #2 has written about receiving heaps of goodness on her hike. I see all these generous people as angels watching out for my daughter. Every cookie, shelter, or ride into town is a blessing that does not go unnoticed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools, Going Sockless, It's Official

1. Netflix got me! "Hmm, a movie along the lines of Benjamin Button called, Rotisserie Chicken. Maybe it has something to do with chefs or cooking? I clicked on it to see. It was a rotisserie chicken... turning on a squeaky gear...for an hour and thirty-four minutes. I love a good April Fools joke!
2. Wearing shoes without socks isn't the most comfortable thing, but it definitely feels like a warm weather thing.
3. A text from Daughter #3 to say she passed her board exams. This after two weeks of knowing her anxiety, wondering and waiting.