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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Walking Days


Audrey and Bella came for a walk today! It was the perfect day for such a walk. Bella is the best companion dog. She was happy and even exuberant during the entire walk. Henri was a good boy, too. We gathered leaves, bittersweet, and dried grasses for Audrey to arrange at her home. All photos were taken by Audrey with her phone camera.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Flock to the Mountains

     The first hints of fall color arrived in our mountains this weekend. I spotted a lone red leaf on one of our Maple trees and took that as a sign to join the migration to the Blue Ridge Parkway on this Sunday afternoon. I knew mom would enjoy another drive and I knew my sister would love the views, so up we went. The overlooks were busy and almost everyone held a camera. The sun had just returned after another day of rain, the temperatures were in the 60's, and flecks of autumn color dotted the mountains and valleys. The entire parkway felt like a festival.
     We were able to help mom out of the car at one overlook and it was worth the effort. Even with her limited vision she knew something wonderful was spread before her and she loved it. She remained in the car at the other stops we made, but still enjoyed the views because most of the overlooks are designed to enjoy the views from your car. It's the perfect outing for those with limited mobility.
     We stopped at one of my favorite picnic spots, one of the many places where the Appalachian Trail crosses the parkway. I have an innate tendency to long for escape to the woods and fields when I feel suffocated by the day to day details. It's akin to being thirsty and yearning for a drink of water. I walked over to the trail marker where the trail tunneled into the trees. I could smell the leaves and the damp earth and it was so very quiet. I imagined myself stepping onto the trail and walking into the woods and smiled at the thought. The longing was almost irresistible. I fingered the car keys in my pocket and turned back to the car. My mom and sister would be lost without my guidance... nor would there be the ice cream cones I promised from Bruesters if I walked into the woods. Some day I'll go for a walk, just not today.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Some Kind of Busy

Chelsea's bouquet
      My sister is visiting for two weeks and it has made a nice change to the routine. One of the things which we do best together is laugh. Everyone knows how siblings have subtle, uncanny commonalities that mainly go unnoticed by outsiders. We weren't best friends as children, we didn't share the same friends or clothes or anything like that. But, we do share a sense of humor. We react to things the same way, reply with the same inflections in our voices, and enjoy the same foods. Tonight we laughed until we were breathless at episodes of the Carol Burnett show. It goes without saying that my mom has enjoyed having both of us by her side and I've enjoyed having a 'partner in crime' in caring for mom.
     Steve-the-best-husband-ever drove five hours on Saturday to pick up my sister for us. He did this after flying home from Florida just the day before. Two days later, during dinner on Tuesday night, he was called back to Florida. He was on a plane again by noon Wednesday. We've ended up having a girls' week!
     For entertainment, we took a drive up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather was glorious all week and afforded us beautiful views. We had a light picnic lunch at the Peaks of Otter and Mom pointed out the window a lot. She didn't say anything about what she was pointing to, she just pointed at things. The next morning Candy and I joined friends at the coffee shop, then we went to the country store to buy pumpkins and gourds. We kept the fall theme going by making a batch of caramel apples per Tess' request. (We all just ate one while watching the Carol Burnett Show.) Yesterday, Audrey was off work and joined us for lunch at the White Oak Tea tavern. You can't beat that place for its cozy ambiance. Their Chicken Almondine Salad is always a favorite.
     I had business to attend today at the Federal Building downtown. My destination was the Virginia Department of Veteran's Affairs. While waiting my turn in the waiting room, another client, an older man, approached me and asked my connection to the military. I told him my dad was a paratrooper in WWII and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He gave me a fist bump (the new handshake these days) and he choked up and started to cry. I was taken aback and didn't know quite how to respond. The next fist bump he tried to give me, I covered his hand with mine and patted his arm. He thanked me for my father's service and he said it's a shame how our veterans are treated and they deserve better. As he left the office, he stopped at the door, turned back to me and said I made his day. I thanked him and said it was mutual. Finally, I was called up and the lady who assisted me was also very kind. She was retired from the Navy. One thing I always take away from anyone I meet from our armed forces is their respectful demeanor and exceptional manners. Maybe it stands out compared to the norm these days. I think it makes a positive difference in relationships, whether business or casual.
     Amid all this busyness, our second daughter quietly remarried this week on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. The photos she sent were beautiful and my heart is full of love for her and her new husband. We all eagerly await their visit at Thanksgiving. I'm already getting things ready : )

Friday, October 2, 2015

Still Raining...

Glass pitcher filled with water
     Well, we're in a holding pattern with this rain. It switched yesterday from a balmy rain to a cold, windy rain. The house was so cold and damp this morning that I turned on the heat. I was particularly thinking of my mom who is cold all the time. We've had warnings from the local emergency services about flooding and power outages, so I filled up every container I could find with water. Steve was away again this week and without him it's tough for me to get the generator running. Without power we lose our well. No well=no water in the house=no toilet flushing. Not a pretty thing. Tess laughed when she saw I even filled the cookie jar with water. I wasn't taking any chances. By the way, Tess impressed me last week when we lost power. She was able to get ready and make it to her morning classes without running water or electricity and she still looked pretty. How many girls can do that?
     This weekend we're gearing up for my sister's arrival. She's coming to see mom for two weeks. We have some fun little outings planned and I know it will be a good time for everyone. At the least, I hope to drive us up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic. The sunshine is forecast to return along with milder temperatures. It will most certainly be a celebratory event!