Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No Snow Here, Just Beautiful Sunsets

    It was surprisingly beautiful today, sunny, mild again, and pretty. I enjoyed my walk with Henri so much that I came to the realization, for the first time in my life, that a winter with warm temperatures and no snow would be alright with me. I immediately tried to banish such a dreadful thought from my mind because thinking such a thing must mean I'm getting old and soft. But it was so pretty today and it was so nice to walk with my jacket unzipped, how could I not enjoy it? And then we had this sunset right around 5:00 pm. What is not to embrace about this day?!
     As I rounded the back of the house, I saw Mari's artistry near the basement stairs. There had been lichen and moss on it as well, but those must have blown away. I like the things that she leaves behind to remind me of her. I can still see her bending over this and working intently on her creation.

     We tell ourselves the days are beginning to get longer again, but it's still dark so early. By late afternoon I methodically go through the rooms and turn on all the lamps and candle lights. It makes the house feel cozy with a warm, golden glow. Anything to banish the darkness until spring arrives.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Don't Blink

     Once again, Christmas has come and gone in the blink of an eye. Looking over my photos, I don't see any creative or artful shots. I took the iconic Christmas morning photo depicting happy children sitting on the floor surrounded by torn wrapping paper. It was perfect.
     The weather was too warm for my northern taste of what Christmas should be, but Steve loved it and declares that the entire winter can remain at seventy degrees for all he cares. Some of the stand-out memories from the weekend include:
1. Driving through fog and rain to the store, alone at midnight, for infant Tylenol. It was actually a peaceful experience and I was wide awake. We thought Matthew might have an earache and I will do anything for that little cutie.
2. Seeing Mari and Jack enjoy these Hop Balls. We had these when our girls were young and they enjoyed them. They're a great way for cooped up children to expend some energy when it's rainy and they're fun outdoors in nice weather as well.
3. Answering my phone in the morning and seeing Chelsea's face! I didn't know about Facetime and I was so shocked and surprised when I saw her face on my phone. That was a real treat. We "Facetimed" two more times after that and included everyone.
4. I love to give gifts and it felt so good to give my gifts. I received some really nice things as well : )
5. Gingerbread cookies with Homestead Creamery eggnog makes me do a happy dance.

On another note, I watched two very good movies. The first one I found on Netflix instant play and is called Little Boy. Usually instant play movies on Netflix are just so-so, but this one is really good! It's a heartwarming story about the cutest little boy ever and how he longs for his father's return from war. There are characters you will want to love and characters you will want to hate. The actor who plays Little Boy did an excellent job. It's simply an all-around good movie.

The other movie I enjoyed, which was on DVD from Netflix, was Finding Vivian Maier. I am fascinated by this woman and her photos. It was an excellent documentary that answered almost all of my questions about Vivian Maier except, "Why?". I guess I shall forever remain fascinated...

Monday, December 21, 2015

It's Never Enough!!

     I've been pondering this whole 'people-getting-depressed-at-Christmas' phenomenon. Obviously people are depressed all year round, but depression tends to rise at Christmas time. I admit to having some melancholy moments myself. Tragedy and illness don't take a Christmas break, do they? I am fascinated by the strange dichotomy of people feeling depressed while simultaneously creating this frenetic celebration. We are hell bent on finding that Christmas spirit even though we're a frazzled mess or secretly crying in the bathroom. We attempt to recapture childhood memories by reliving a perfect Christmas past or glue and tie our way via Pinterest to a picture-perfect holiday home. Cue the snow, please. We are seeking perfection. We think we can recapture this by giving the perfect gift or creating the perfect party. We keep searching to create with our own hands the perfect Christmas and it can never be. Nine times out of ten, it will fall short because something is always missing. Every gift we give or receive, every cookie we bake may bring a smile and a moment of satisfaction, but it will fall short of our heart's deepest desire. Within days we will be longing and seeking all over again. We want our loved ones back, we long for fractured relationships to be mended, or we suffer for poor health to be healed. More gifts or that perfectly decorated tree can't make it better. The moment we think we've achieved it, we turn around and something else is out of sync. It cannot be fixed by our own hands; not in a million years. No wonder it all comes to a head on this one day of the year that we want to be perfect, Christmas.
     How can we find joy when our hearts are broken?  The world is broken in a way that man cannot repair, not individually nor collectively. Joy will come only when we realize that we can let go of our striving to make it perfect. We need a Savior. We need to know that we need a Savior. Jesus came and fixed it for us. He is the substitute perfection for all of our imperfection. Therein lies our hope. That is what we are celebrating!
     So, rejoice in burnt cookies, light strands that have gone dark, tears shed for the mothers, fathers and children we desperately miss. This is exactly what we should feel. We need to know what we are missing and be able to name it. We are celebrating all that is broken and that God sent a Savior to mend it and to make it more than right! There is nothing more to strive for other than to keep our eyes focused on Him. Every year and every day I need this reminder.
     I love how Handel's Messiah takes the promises of Isaiah and sings it to fruition with the Gospel of Luke. Listen to this beautiful oratorio this holiday season and hear the promises of the Gospel put to song.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light;
and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.                                                                                    Isaiah 9:2 & 6


Friday, December 18, 2015

Scattered Thoughts

     Cold, blustery air blew in today and we saw snow flurries! I ran outside with the camera, but it was too dark to capture the flurries on film. Or is it on digital? What do we say now? I thought the house looked peaceful, though, so I took its picture.
     It seems like there's so much going on in general yet, at the same time, things are pretty mundane. Tess completed all her finals and can enjoy a little break from classes, Christmas is wrapped in pretty paper and placed under the tree, Mom fell again and knocked out a tooth, Steve is changing jobs within the company and may travel less, but work more, if that's possible, and I decided that I'm saving up bubble wrap and I'm going to wrap my mom in it for protection. Oh, and Steve started building a very long handicap ramp from the back door to my car. It's not very pretty, but as my mom slowly shifts from walker to wheelchair, this will be an absolute necessity in order to get her out of the house. I think the grandchildren are going to love playing on it as well. I overheard Steve tell someone that it's sixty-four feet long! He's building it out of his head with no drawn plans. He designed it in sections using complete 4x8 sheets of pressure treated plywood (not shown) on frames (shown), bolted together. The ramp can later be disassembled and reused as sides to build a shed. Genius!
     It was so warm last week that we were all outside in T-shirts. In contrast, this weekend got cold enough for a nice fire in the wood stove thanks to the enormous load of hickory that Steve, Simon, and John cut over Thanksgiving. Hickory has a strong, distinctive odor and I was a little worried about how it would smell when it burned. But it smells much, much nicer burning than it does 'raw'. Steve found two boxes of marshmallow Peeps in the freezer and we roasted a few tonight : )
     My thoughts feel pretty scattered, which is simply a result of how my brain has been functioning lately. It's hard to stay on topic these days. My guess is that it's because I am standing guard, ready to race into action when something bad happens (mainly with my mom). It's hard to focus on any one thing for very long or to allow myself to completely relax. I'm aware of the long term implications  on my own health and I'm working on that as well. I can't help anyone if I start to fall apart. I have many, many thoughts on how our society approaches elder care and how little support there is for home care of the elderly. But that's a whole other topic for another day.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mistletoe and a Broken Nose

     Steve and I have the same taste in Christmas trees. We like the kind that look like bottle brush; a stick up the middle with bristly branches sticking out and lots of empty space in between. They're not exactly Charlie Brown trees, but the skinny ones come pretty close. I think they are called Canaan Fir. Nelson's Tree Farm still had plenty of these trees in their fields. Some of them have grown too big to be practical, but we were given permission to take the uppermost part of those too-big trees if we wished. The elder Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, who started the Christmas tree farm, passed away a few years ago and their four sons have kept it running. One of the sons planted 1400 new seedlings. We spoke with him and he said they are still unsure about the fate of the property. It could end up being rented or sold, but he hopes to keep the tree farm operating. We saw rows and rows of the seedling trees when we were hunting for our tree.
     Here we have it! It looks huge in this photo! We cut off the upper three fourths to be our Christmas tree and saved the lower boughs to use for other decorations. We always have a good time walking over to Neslon's to get our tree. Every year I say I'm going to cut one of the super scraggly trees and use it in our upstairs hall and then I always find an excuse not to bother.
     The next day, we came down from the high of tree trimming happiness when Mom took another bad fall. She broke her nose again; this being the third time in the past eighteen months. We spent Sunday evening in the ER and got home around midnight. The Carilion Emergency Room staff gave us the bare bones basic treatment of a CAT scan. Otherwise her care was pitiful. Her entire ER experience took place in the hallway. It was degrading. We sat in the hallway for three hours and I had to keep moving her gurney because it was in the way of others passing by. I noticed the hallway was numbered along the top of the wall just for this purpose of parking gurneys with patients. We were parked at number ten along the hall with three other patients, one of whom was vomiting. She was in her nightgown and slippers, it was cold, and she was in so much pain. I kept trying to cover her bare legs with the skimpy flannel sheet. My poor mom is too old to be handled this way. They never even gave her an ice pack for her swollen nose and eyes. Once the radiology was complete and they knew the extent of her injuries, I asked the nurse if they could give her some Motrin for the pain. The nurse winced and said she's have to put in a request to the attending doctor and it would take a really long time to get approval. She actually told us it would be quicker to get the Motrin after we got home. So we waited for them to discharge her, we drive thirty miles home, and then (four and a half hours after she fell), she got some Motrin. She was too tired for the ice pack.
     My mom is a real trooper and she's handling this very well despite feeling miserable. While I nurse her back to health, I worry about the next fall which inevitably will come. I feel like she should avoid the Emergency Room at all costs, but what are our alternatives?  My friends suggest going to Lewis Gale rather than Carilion and we might try that, if or when there's a next time.
     In the meantime, Christmas comes in fits and starts. I wrap a gift here, place a decoration there, and somehow it all comes together beautifully. Then, in the late afternoon when the sky is darkening and the tree lights are on, I park my mom in front of the Christmas tree and she starts remembering stories. I remember too. It's one of those places in time where love and loss and pain and joy all intermingle and the memories are cherished.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In the Quiet After Everyone Has Left

Youngest comes to say hello to oldest.
     As quickly as they came, they are gone. It was a perfect week. The weather was gentle with warm, sunny days and a bright, full moon at night. The daughters and their families injected life and fanfare into the house. There was much coming and going, games, hikes by day and walks under the moon at night. They played the piano, chased the grandchildren, stoked the bonfire, gathered and split a winter supply of firewood, and cooked for us. We attended a baby shower for Chelsea, ran to the supermarket too many times, and Claire and Daniel hiked MacAfee's Knob with baby Matthew. (That's the Knob in my header photo.) We feasted on Thanksgiving day and three days afterward. The best part of all was simply having this time together to visit, talk, and share plans for the future.
     Inevitably, Sunday morning came and the last children departed. I allowed myself a few tears at the window. It was too wonderful a week to have it end with tears and I'd much rather remember it with a smile. I walked around the house and found items accidentally left behind- a child's toy, a sock, a dryer full of laundry that was not my own! Yes, it was a crazy, busy week. We'll see one another again, as often as we are able. Steve and I went out for a few hours while Tess stayed with my mom. This diversion from the too-quiet house helped a lot.
     The first day back to the Monday routine was drenched in clouds and rain. How apropos to have daybreak greet us with cold and dreariness. I had plenty of time to think while I did laundry and washed the floors. My car is out of commission for a couple of days, so I will take down "Fall" and prepare for "Winter". After all, Christmas is coming!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving and Joy

My thoughts today are focused on a devotional by Edward T. Welch in Heart of the Matter. I've read it over and over because it explains joy so simply and so well.
     Thanksgiving is gratitude for a benefit we have received. Joy includes gratitude, but it's true delight is in the beauty of God and the deep goodness in all the things that come from him. Joy draws attention outward with a non-possessive appreciation for something that is good.
     For example, you are in a boat and about to die. The winds have whipped the waters in to a maelstrom that will engulf you within minutes. Jesus speaks a word and the waters are still. No one, however thanks him. They are all too amazed (Matthew 8:23-27). This amazement at Jesus' power is the beginning of joy. It is not primarily self-referential. It is more than satisfied to contemplate the majesty of the One who just spoke.
     Another example: You are blind. Jesus is coming and you call out for mercy. When he stops, he asks what you want. You ask for sight. When he gives it to you, you don't simply thank him, you follow him. This too, is the beginning of joy. Your attention is captured by the Giver more than the benefit received (Matthew 20:29-34).
     The word thanks and thanksgiving can be found dozens of times in Scripture. The words joy, gladness, rejoice, and enjoy can be found hundreds of times.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gang's (Almost) All Here

    I shouted with joy when Chelsea and Simon walked into the house. They caught me by surprise when they arrived much earlier than I expected. We haven't seen them since June- too long ago! Everyone has a full week of 'togetherness' planned- the four sisters, niece and nephews (grandchildren ), and sons-in-law.
     It troubles me that we are down to floor space for the grandchildren's sleeping arrangements, but no one is complaining. Our house was ample when we built it thirteen years ago and now we are filled to the brim. There were six of us then and now we are twelve. It's all very, very good.
     In between satisfying meals and baked treats, the young folks have been active. They had a nice tramp in the woods this afternoon and came back with stories, photos, and a big rock. One photo was of a large bear print in the mud. The attention, however, was on the rock that Simon found. It appeared to be a Geode and everyone was eager to cut it open. When Steve suggested they set up the saw with the diamond blade, the excitement was just like Christmas morning with a gift to be opened. Everyone quickly bundled up before it got too dark to work outside and Ian and Simon donned safety goggles and took charge. It was a very hard rock! It was more solid than hollow, but it had many little pockets filled with crystals making it fit the definition of a Geode. I don't know all the technical terms of rocks in geology, but it was pretty inside. The guys sliced it up into large and small chunks and everyone had a piece to call their own.
     After dinner, we played Apples to Apples. That gave us a wonderful dose of laughter to end the day.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


We've had some beautiful sunsets and sunrises lately. I love the brushstrokes in this sky.

It's been a week of ups and downs. I drank too much coffee on Wednesday and had a rant on fakebook. I was inundated with one too many political re-posts from 'friends' and I flipped out. On one hand, I'm still trying to deal with my embarrassment for hurting people's feelings with my bluntness. On the other hand, I'm tired of feeling used by 'Friends' and their political propaganda agendas, both left and right. I know all about the little arrows to hide this and block that, but seriously...? The bottom line is; I'm not on fakebook to talk politics. I just want to see posts of rainbows and puppies... and photos of grandchildren.

Yesterday was half a day spent cleaning up after someone who wasn't feeling too well. I won't say any more on that subject.

On a happy note, the kids are all coming home for Thanksgiving! They'll begin to arrive this weekend and trickle in through Wednesday. Our texts this week all began with, "I'm so excited!!"

We will have as many as five different countries and four faiths represented by the guests at our table this year, including Muslim and Hindu. We will celebrate our commonalities and ignore our differences. If only the world could do the same. Our Christianity is something we must live. It is should be evidenced in our every inhale and exhale. It is a gift we've been given to be able to live this way; it's for anyone who desires it. Sure, we fall short (and offend people on fakebook) but we have such a forgiving God! Every single day I am thankful I am forgiven through Christ on the Cross, once and for all eternity.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Parsley, Sage, Terrorism, and Thyme

The post title sums up the wanderings of my thoughts and the invasive attributes of terrorism.

I went to the garden to clip herbs for the meal I was preparing. The act of gathering growing things to flavor our food is one of my favorite elements of cooking. Its simplicity reminds me that our sustenance is reduced to surviving off the earth and all God has provided us. We have the freedom to make as much or as little of that as we like.

Terrorism violently removes humanity's freedom of life. We have all been raised to firmly believe and embrace the fact that every person has the right to, "...life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

That might seem like an obvious, trite statement to make. But, considering both the base element at terrorism's core and the scope of its reach in current history, we see evil incarnate standing at our very door.

Some time in the early 1970's I was searching my high school library for a research paper topic. I ran across a singular book on terrorism. The book discussed the handful of terrorist attacks at that point in history, which were very few. I remember thinking they were far away from U.S. soil and it was hard to connect with a topic that seemed irrelevant to my life. There was also very little research material in the library system to which I had access.* It's hard to believe how much this has dramatically changed during my lifetime.

Granted, terrorism has existed throughout history and the multitude of factors contributing to the form of modern terrorism we see today are too many to get into here. But, in general, something changed in the late 1960's and terror became internationalized. From media attention, to weapons and bomb capabilities, to social media; terror attacks have greatly increased in scope and magnitude. One thing has not changed though and that is the core of terrorism. It is evil, it is blood lust and it is cult mentality.

So, as I walk in my fields and in my little garden, I pray for France and her suffering. I pray for my children and grandchildren, for the world they inherit and for whatever their future may hold. My Christian faith tells me that evil has already been defeated by Christ crucified on the cross. Good has triumphed over evil, forever and ever. Amen! I embrace that fully. But, it doesn't take away the suffering and heartbreak we must endure on earth. Nor does it take away the goodwill we have toward mankind and my sincere prayer for everyone to know Peace.

* These were the days of card files in drawers, no internet, and very limited access to libraries for a teenager who didn't drive yet.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Treasure Hunting


I am forever, hopelessly bringing things into the house. Finding beautiful castoffs in nature is like finding treasure. Last week I found the pine cone branch on a hike and the week before I found the two Black Walnut shells in our field. A imagine a little animal, probably a squirrel, cleaned the nutmeat out of the shells and there they were. They are the prettiest works of art!

Acorns are a perennial favorite.  I've saved baggies full. Each fall I pick out a few favorites for the windowsill. Audrey gave me the biggest acorn several years ago when she found it and thought of me. These are at my kitchen sink window where I see them every day. On the right, there's a hickory nut that I found buried in the dirt when we were clearing branches in the field last weekend. We don't have any hickory trees on our property, so I imagine a little squirrel must have carried it here, buried it and forgot about it. That endeared it to me and I gave it to little Schleich squirrel. It reminds me of the children's story, Miss Hickory which Steve read to the girls when they were little. It's an imaginative, classic story with Squirrel always trying to steal Miss Hickory's head.

Bird's nests, a dove's egg, rocks, a peacock feather from Russell Crowe-the-peacock, more pine cones - I set things everywhere on the bookshelves.

Ian brought an edible fungus to show us over the summer. I can't remember its name, but he said they are a delicacy. They grow on dead oak trees and smell extremely pungent. Judging by smell alone, I couldn't have eaten it. It was too pretty to throw away, so I kept it around until it dried out. Now that it's dried, the smell has faded so I cloched it. (made up term) I found the Blue Jay feather in the yard this summer.

It wouldn't be autumn without Bittersweet around the house. It grows wild along the hedgerows and it's hard to take a walk without stopping to admire the Bittersweet vines. I set sprigs of it everywhere, on windowsills, in bouquets. The berries smell like honey, but they are poisonous.  Be cautious with this if little children are around the house. (Many years ago a certain daughter chewed a bittersweet berry or two on a wreath we had hanging on the wall. She climbed up on the sofa to reach it- the little monkey. We immediately called poison control and since the berries were over a year old and hard, they said we needn't worry. It was still a scare.)

I have sticks with bug galleries, junk found in barns, and don't even get me started on rocks. I recall driving home from a camping trip with rocks under all the kids' feet on the floor of our car. This reminds me of the movie, The Long, Long Trailer. Haha! Lucy and I have a lot in common.

One thing I have always wanted to do, but never really got started on, was to carry a small sketch book and take the time to sketch things out in nature. We did a few of these when we home schooled and I saved the drawings of seeds pods, honeysuckle, and a bird one of the girls drew. I tend to carry my camera nowadays, but sketching is a rewarding pastime and it slows a person down considerably, which is a good thing.

The fun with treasure is in the hunt or in the surprise of finding. The enjoyment of recalling a particular walk or the moment when a child handed you a treasure lasts a long time when the object sits on the shelf. Some treasures are fleeting and disintegrate over time, but no matter. It a good excuse to take another walk and perhaps, if we're lucky, we'll find more treasure.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Vineyard Dressed in Gold

A transparent community is not simply one where we talk about what God did yesterday and how we came to enlightenment and grew and how today will be different. A transparent culture of confession is one where we say, “Here is where I am today and I am afraid I will always be like this and my inclination is to hide it away.” That is true transparency. That is true confession. - See more at: http://sayable.net/2015/10/stinking-christians/#sthash.cptXJHz7.dpuf

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost
A transparent community is not simply one where we talk about what God did yesterday and how we came to enlightenment and grew and how today will be different. A transparent culture of confession is one where we say, “Here is where I am today and I am afraid I will always be like this and my inclination is to hide it away.” That is true transparency. That is true confession. - See more at: http://sayable.net/2015/10/stinking-christians/#sthash.cptXJHz7.dpuf
A transparent community is not simply one where we talk about what God did yesterday and how we came to enlightenment and grew and how today will be different. A transparent culture of confession is one where we say, “Here is where I am today and I am afraid I will always be like this and my inclination is to hide it away.” That is true transparency. That is true confession. - See more at: http://sayable.net/2015/10/stinking-christians/#sthash.cptXJHz7.dpuf

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Roaring Run, A Walk in the Woods

     Autumn is by far my favorite season for hiking in the woods. The temperatures are comfortable, there are no bugs, and the fallen leaves smell incredibly good. It's an entirely different landscape with bare trees and no undergrowth. The mountainsides are visible rising up behind the woods and there's a better sense of the terrain.
     The aid was with my mom this morning, so when B. suggested a hike, I happily agreed! Roaring Run is a popular local trail that follows a stream and several cascades leading up to a waterfall. It's a super easy hike, perhaps a mile and a half round trip, and only a twenty minute drive from home. The creek dominates the landscape with the trail hugging its banks and crisscrossing it with bridges. Its rushing water guides hikers upward toward the falls. Henri was our little trailblazer and energetically scampered up and over rocks. Considering his age of ten years, he was quite limber. Lindy, who is years older than Henri enjoyed the trail as well and was a sweet girl to oblige the climb in her gentle way. We tackled the trail at a comfortable pace, stopping now and then to sit on boulders and enjoy the beauty of the woods. Bits of color still dot some trees while leaves cascaded down in slow motion all around us as we hiked.We passed not a soul on the entire way up. We chose an alternate trail on the way down and by that time, we spotted several other hikers on their way in. Although everyone was friendly, I'm glad we had the woods to ourselves for a while. There were a few men trout fishing where the creek widens into large pools at the trail head.
     Afterwards, we rewarded our appetites with coffee and biscuits on B.'s porch. Yes, it was mild enough to dine outside! These are fleeting opportunities as evidenced by the rain that began to fall on my way home. The air remains mild, but the chilly nights and cool breezes have soaked into the rocks and ground so nothing emanates warmth anymore. If you sit down on a rock or the ground, it will seep with cold! November sets in with its inevitable gray dampness.  It's still beautiful, though and it's a good thing I like rainy days.

Henri the Trailblazer

Henri keeps watch while we sit near the stream below him.

My prize find; a fallen branch of perfect pine cones

Monday, November 2, 2015

With a Little Help From My friends

     This beautiful scene is our neighbor's yard. It sits up the hill behind our house where I like to walk. This weekend proved to be an emotionally difficult one in caring for my mom. Not for any reason in particular, but for just feeling discouraged in general. We both had those colds and as minor as that may seem, it's still very disruptive to a ninety-three year old and her caregiver. Steve's extensive travel schedule has become wearying as well and we both simply crave "normal"... whatever that is. But, the walks I take with Henri are good medicine! Even if I can only circle the property, that's something I cherish. On better days I can wander two to three miles and return home feeling very refreshed in my attitude. There have been many little things that have proven to be big encouragements. Here are a few:

1. Neighbor W. regularly phones when he's going to the farm market to see if we want any produce. A little thoughtfulness from a neighbor is no small thing. Pass it along!
1a. He asked if I'd spoken to the new neighbors and I had not. I told W. that they don't wave back to me in passing on the road. He said they don't wave back at him either. We both felt better knowing that it wasn't anything personal. Haha!
2. Tess saw my discouragement yesterday afternoon when I shed a few tears while I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink. She made me take off my rubber gloves in order to give me a proper hug.
3. An invitation out for coffee. Best diversion ever!
4. A friend phoned with recommendations for two potential granny-sitters. (I don't know what else to call it, so I've come up with that title.) I'm hoping Steve and I can begin to go out on a date once or twice per month.
5. Mom said she wants to go out to lunch later this week. We can most definitely do that!- as long as her cough subsides.
6. L. gave me a daily devotional and it's wonderful for two reasons. First, the book is well made. I have an appreciation for a well bound book with quality paper and a good feel to it. It's a neat, tidy book printed on smooth, pure white paper. It's just a really nice book to hold. Secondly, the internet devotionals weren't doing it for me. I prefer to read in a chair with a book. I'm old fashioned that way. So, here I am, set for three hundred and sixty-five days. I just thought of reason number three: L. gave it to me : )
7. There is a monster-big Praying Mantis on the window screen for the second day in a row. It is fascinating to observe in a creepy-fascinating kind of way. It actually turned its head to look at me when I walked up to the window. That ET shaped head on that little neck tilts and turns just like a human head. Tess saw it grab a ladybug and we watched it eat for a minute. Every time I glance at the window, it's still there like a familiar companion.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Birthdays and Visits

     There were many happy events over the last seven days that I haven't had a chance to write about. We began with Tess' 19th (!!) birthday. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that our youngest is nineteen. We then had a three day visit from Claire and Daniel and the grandchildren. I was high on 'cuteness overload' with the three little ones here. Steve returned home briefly on Sunday, having half an hour in passing with Claire and family before they departed. He brought me some excellent toffee, which I shared : ). That afternoon we were able to attend a dinner reservation made weeks earlier at Tizzone. Twice per month Tizzone's holds wine pairing dinner events and this was the first one we tried. This one happened to be a four course dinner, each course being paired with a Bordeaux wine. The meal was delicious, the aperitif was my favorite, and Steve and I enjoyed being out together along with friends, old and new.
     Aside from all this, we've had some breathtaking autumn days. I even enjoy the rainy days when we make the house cozy with lights on in the day time time and blankets on our laps when we curl up for a movie at night. Most of us know the importance of cozying up our living environments on these shortened fall and winter days, but did you know the Danish are experts at this and raise it to an art? It is known as the Danish art of hygge. You can read all about it here.
     Before I could gather my thoughts to write about any one of these events singularly, my mother and I both came down with heavy colds. Needless to say, we've had several nights of disrupted sleep. I hope we will turn the corner on this and feel better soon. Steve is away again, which may mean he has been spared the suffering. We're trying very hard not to pass it on to Tess. She's too busy with school and work to get sick. I'll leave a few photos to highlight our week until I feel more up to writing.

Preparing Tess' birthday dinner of an excellent beef stew in the crockpot and...
... fruit pizzas!! Good recipe HERE 
We've been making these for years and they are so much fun to decorate and they taste great. 
For the grandchildren, I baked pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies, frosted them, and gave the kids candies to decorate them with funny faces.

Yes, bikes are allowed inside at Nonni's house : )
This little guy is ready to take some steps.
We also visited the sheep,

looked for the chickens,

and ran home across the field.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Waxed Paper Leaves

     This is one of three maple trees that we planted the year we built our house. Every autumn this  tree puts on a bright display of foliage. I think it's rather special because I can find every color leaf on this one tree- from yellow to orange to red, and many blends in between. This is its eleventh autumn here and the eleventh time it has given me delight. While mowing the lawn yesterday, I decided it was time to save some of these leaves before they all fell and blew away.
     What child hasn't ironed fall leaves between sheets of waxed paper? I recall the smell of waxed paper melting under the warm iron since the time I was five. I continued this autumn ritual with our girls when they were little and I continue it now, even after they've grown. Gathering leaves for a purpose, whether it be to iron them in waxed paper or to create a great pile to jump into, is half the fun. I gathered the prettiest leaves I could find and brought them inside. I arranged them between sheets of waxed paper and then sealed them in with the iron on a low setting. I like to frame them with black construction paper because I think it makes them look like stained glass. I use an exacto knife to cut out the center of the squares of black paper to make a neat frame. It's a free and easy craft that gives me pleasure every autumn. I keep  these preserved leaves around the house through Thanksgiving, long after the trees have shed all their color. It's a wonderful way to keep the color alive just a little longer than nature intended.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Autumn Salad

    Today was very productive. In addition to tons of laundry, I canned nine jars of applesauce, cleaned three bathrooms, washed floors, and mowed the lawn. When I see 'nine jars of applesauce' written down it doesn't look like a big deal, but it is! I always consider home-canned foods as treasures. Maybe it's because it takes a bit of work to get from raw produce to can-on-a-shelf. Anyway, I canned nine jars of applesauce today. The family will be so pleased this winter when we bring a jar up from the basement to eat with our roast pork.
     I thought it would give mom something to do if I asked her to help with the applesauce. I started by having her quarter the apples and I planned cut out the core. But, when I saw her technique I thought for sure there would be bloodshed. So I switched to doing the quartering and had her cut out the core. My heart skipped a beat many times during our prepping of the apples.  I hope mom feels pleased to know that she contributed to the process of putting all those pretty jars on the shelf.I know
     We're still enjoying salads for lunch even in this cooler weather. Our current favorite is red leaf lettuce, slices of ripe pear, cubes of cheese, roasted pecans, and honey Dijon dressing. We've switched from peaches and almonds on our summer salads to pears and pecans for fall.
     While mom took an afternoon nap, I went outside to mow. It was a gorgeous day and I was so happy to be outside! The leaves are just about at their brightest colors and I couldn't resist bringing a small pile inside. More on that later...


Friday, October 16, 2015

IKEA and Parts South

     If Steve and I could have three days away with the only restriction being that it's within driving distance, where would we go? Why IKEA, of course. Not really, but it was the destination we chose. We were supposed to go three months ago to buy some Poang chairs for the office but Steve has been traveling so much and my mom needed a caregiver, so we kept putting it off. Finally, we took this opportunity during my sister's visit to go on our little road trip. We tied it in with a visit to Claire's family because we've missed going to visit them at their home. Claire and Audrey asked us to pick up some items from IKEA for them as well and I was armed with a list. It was ridiculous how excited I was about this road trip. Steve went along with my high spirits and probably enjoyed himself just as much. He even bought something for his contractor friend at work.

     IKEA is the kind of place where you should expect to spend hours, if not the entire day. They even have a cafeteria so you can stop to eat or snack and then continue to shop. We took a coffee and dessert break. The entire place is designed with simplicity and cleanliness in mind. It's super organized and just plain fun to browse.
Coffee and dessert cafeteria style

The cafeteria- Mary Poppins was playing on the screen near the children-sized tables and chairs.

The warehouse (or playground for Steve). 

Loaded up and ready to go.
  After browsing the showrooms and marketplace, customers use the warehouse in self-serve style to pick up what they've chosen to buy. There are employees everywhere to assist should you need it. In my opinion, IKEA has taken a mediocre product and marketed it very well. They have a great design team, evident in their room displays which are packed with great ideas. They've made shopping for the home fun. There's nothing high-end there, just good, simple, functional, affordable stuff for the home or apartment.
    After leaving IKEA in Charlotte, we drove to Raleigh, to Claire's house. It turned out that the NC State Fair was this very same weekend! The fairgrounds are within mere minutes from Claire's home. She and I took the children on our second day there and we had a great time. I enjoy fairs and this was my third trip to this one in particular. I like the agriculture displays, the animals, and the food! (Not in that order.) It was an overcast day which made it more comfortable to be strolling around outside. It was hard to choose which foods to eat because they all smelled so good. We ended up having the roasted corn: fresh corn, roasted in the husk, peeled open and dipped in melted butter, a corn dog, funnel cake, and cotton candy. Claire made excellent kettle corn at home, so we didn't buy any of that. The grandchildren were so easy to please and they went along with whatever Claire suggested. It was very crowded and we must have walked miles; it was great!

Look at the size of these melons! Notice all the potatoes behind the melons. This is a great fair.
It was worth the stickiness!
     It was time to drive home much too soon. We took our favorite back roads home to Roanoke and made our usual stops at a couple of antique shops along the way. It's time for my sister to return home and for our days to return to the routine.