Friday, December 23, 2016

Welcome Christmas Come This Way, Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day!

The sheep is a new gift this year. The slab of barn wood, a gift from a few years ago. I like how old and new combine to create something totally new. This is how our Christmas feels this year.
We added some glitter to the candle box on the windowsill over the kitchen sink.
Audrey and I gathered pine cones and the little tree on one of our walks. The county had just come along the day before and hacked and sawed all the overgrowth from the roadside. Evergreen boughs were left on the ground for the taking.
Some years the lights are white and some years they are colored, but the ornaments always remain the same- with the addition of one or two new ones found in antique shops or estate sales during the year. : )

The wee folk took up residence in the cedar garland this year.

Audrey helped : )
     I am not sure how I feel about the Christmas celebrations this year. I should rephrase that. I know how I feel about Christmas. I love to celebrate the birth of our Savior in every true and real sense of its meaning. Steve has always said that we celebrate this every day and it's true. December 25th happens to be that day the world celebrates it (on steroids) and it's wonderful. But, here in my own little world, as in many people's little worlds, loved ones are gone and perhaps others can't be together for logistical reasons. Missing and longing can make Christmas time feel hollow and empty and leave our hearts aching. And yet, we celebrate. This fact alone gives me great courage. Whether there are  two or ten around our Christmas table, we will celebrate. Christ came to earth to save all mankind. This small seed of knowledge is enough to kindle a fire that burns bright through the ages, bright enough to still give us great hope over two thousand years later. No matter what circumstances shake our own individual lives, God became man and walked among us. Rejoice!

Isaiah 9:6
  "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."


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Past

     The founder of the Wooly Sheep Farm Rug Hooking Group invited us all to her home for our annual Christmas party. Being the newest member, this was my first visit to Hazel's house. Her home embodies all that she loves in the way of Primitive antiques. Even the home's design and construction, which is modern, evokes the Primitive style. Most of the modern conveniences such as appliances and electronics are hidden behind cupboards. Upon our arrival, her husband had a warm fire crackling in the fireplace. Fresh evergreen sprigs and berries filled baskets and adorned mantels, vintage Christmas cards glittered on shelves, and pewter and salt glazed ware lined every hutch and pantry. It was a treat for this history and antique lover to be entertained for the day in such an environment. It was a fun party with excellent food and fun. Being rug hookers, we enjoyed a crazy gift exchange where everyone brought a fat quarter of wool. Most of the women tucked extra little gifts in with their wool gift bundles and there was a lot of stealing of gifts involved. All I can say is, there were no losers in that game because all the wool was beautiful.
     Hazel was happy for us to enjoy her collections and photograph to our hearts' content. I took a few photos of my favorite tableaux.  Enjoy!

Serving hutch in the kitchen

Desserts in the pantry

Poinsettias add a splash of bright color in the living room

An antique hooked rugs hangs behind a child's toy horse in a hallway.
Salt glazed pottery in the pantry
A sweet little hooked rug mat of a Christmas tree

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Around the Place Lately

     All of a sudden, autumn has turned into winter. The shortened daylight hours and temperatures in the thirties and below make it hard to mistake winter's arrival.  By late afternoon I go around the house and turn on various lamps and twinkle lights to make it feel cozy inside. But, it's hard to ignore the dark and cold on the other side of the window.
     The fallen tree from last summer is now all cut up and stacked in the shed. The shed structure used to be the run-in shed for Audrey's horses, but they are long gone and this year we've begun to call it the woodshed. It will henceforth be called, "The Woodshed". Steve likes to go out there with his axes and chop wood. It fuels the wood stove in our basement, which in turn warms our wood floors and gives us a place to roast marshmallow peeps. That fallen tree has given us a great gift in all of this. I would have preferred it remain standing, but it gave us a fantastic bonfire and now it is burning clean and hot for our wood stove.

          I finally gave myself permission to get started on my next rug project. My rule to self was that I must to finish getting ready for Christmas before I could begin a rug. Now that the house is  decorated, the shopping complete, and the two grandsons' stockings sewn, I can begin my rug! I'm experimenting with hand dyed wool for the first time. I will also use regular, mill dyed wool and I have a foraged piece of wool garment from a thrift store that is the perfect color for some leaves. So far, it looks great. Steve took my picture when I was transferring my pattern onto the primitive linen backing. My thought at that precise moment was about how good the linen smelled. It smells like hay, nice and earthy. I love working with it. Every week I get together with two ladies who are teaching me the craft. I enjoy the hours that we sit together. They have so many stories of life to tell and so much gentle wisdom to impart through those stories, and this all while our hands are busy creating. 

You can imagine the excitement at school as we lead up to the holidays. Children come to school wearing Santa hats and reindeer ears. Many children have come carrying boxes to their classrooms in which to capture gingerbread men, and someone sprinkled chocolates on my desk when they walked by. One little girl was late to school because that mischievous Elf-on-the-Shelf made a mess with sticky bows at her house. The Roanoke Children's choir came to perform for our school, three tour bus loads of them! It was a beautiful sound, indeed. Personally, I prefer a gentler, quiet Christmas time, but I still rejoice in seeing others' festivities, especially the children's.
     Speaking of children, our granddaughter made my day when she mailed this little note to me. She has drawn pictures and written little notes to me before, but this one seemed especially grown up now that she is six years old. I smile every time I see this note with the two little blue pompoms taped to the card for an extra measure of happiness.

Monday, December 5, 2016

At the Tree Farm

L: " Umm, I don't know, Steve. I think it's really too big."
S: "Trust me. It will work. It's a great tree."
L: "How tall is it? Look at it next to me. It's huge."
S: "We'll just use the top part."
L: "It will be shaped all wrong. No no no. Maybe I should walk home and get the tape measure. You want me to walk home and get the tape measure?"
S: "C'mon. Let's just get it. "(He raises the saw)
L: "No! Just let me check the front field one more time to see if there's a better one up there. OK? Let's go look. If anyone takes this tree in the meantime, it's fine."

There was a "normal" tree in the other field. Thank goodness.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

     When Steve was in college he started making paper airplanes. The spare room in our apartment was his study and he spent many late nights at work there with his books. The only thing that I can recall adorning the walls of that room was a string tacked across the wall with dozens of homemade paper airplanes clipped to it. He created planes that glided for yards and yards, planes that spun in flight, and planes that looped-d-looped. He weighted planes with paperclips or pieces of whatever to give them the right stability. For sport, he hung balloons from the door jambs and taped straight pins to the noses of his planes so we could fly them into the balloons and pop them. We flew them out of our second story apartment window to see how far they would go and we searched for wide open spaces without breezes to test flight certain models.I treasure the memory of how something as simple as paper and tape could occupy our penniless evenings during those college years.
      Steve's paper airplanes were a far cry from the typical, triangular paper airplanes I learned to fold as a child. I am clueless when it comes to engineering things. But, Steve designs his planes with function and form and he never tires of drawing new designs. Part of the fun is trying them out to see which ones fly better. He has amassed quite a fleet of planes and they are all now drawn on the computer. When it's time to play, he just prints them off.
     I must admit that I wasn't the enthusiastic audience Steve deserved for his paper airplanes. They were fun, but I lost interest quickly and I didn't appreciate them from an engineering standpoint. Years later, when our girls came along, Steve had a new audience for his planes. They embraced the paper airplane concept without question and quickly discovered that coloring them was also a lot of fun. A second generation of paper airplane flyers was now born. My involvement in those years was picking up all the scatterings of paper airplanes from the floor... over and over and over again. To me they were like litter strewn about after a parade. I would pile them in a corner or collect them into paper bags. Once in a while I would rebelliously throw some away without asking. Those that I found far under the sofa, covered in dust were my least favorite. But, usually I saved them for a while in case one of the children came looking for that one, very special plane they had colored.
     Steve likes to amuse children with the planes, but not every child shows interest in them. If he sees a fidgety little boy in church, he will slip him a paper airplane folded from the church bulletin. If their eyes light up, he might hand them a plane folded from home for the next few Sundays so they can play with it after church. Now that our grandchildren are old enough, the archive of Steve's paper airplane designs has re-emerged to entertain a new generation. Our four-year-old grandson, Jack, has shown a keen interest. He likes to stand on a chair and throw the plane hard to see how far it will go. Jack is only four years old but, he has a long attention span for the planes. His sister, Mari, has once again popularized the art of coloring the planes. During the children's last visit, they spent long stretches of time coloring, folding and flying paper airplanes with Pop. Our kitchen table looks like it did two and three decades ago, strewn with paper airplanes, scissors and tape. Steve is smiling. I'm smiling, too. I'm also back in my role of bending to pick up the dozens of paper airplanes strewn about the house like that same old litter after a parade. I just finished collecting a paper bag full and tucked them aside in a corner of the kitchen. They're all brightly colored and cheery, waiting for the parade to return.

Matthew is only two and doesn't quite care about the planes yet. Right now his sole interest is trains. He played with this one toy for the entire weekend.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

I Laugh in the Face of Chaos! Ha Ha Ha Ha!

     So this is our kitchen at one o'clock in the afternoon on Thanksgiving day. I laughed out loud when I went through the photos and saw this. It's so real. I'll admit that I was a little stressed at the moment this photo was taken. I had just discovered that one of the two turkey breasts I planned to cook for our dinner had a bad odor to it. I decided to drop everything and drive the twenty five miles round trip to the supermarket to exchange the stinky bird. Thankfully, all the side dishes and desserts were staged or already cooked and the weather was so beautiful that the family didn't even miss me while I was gone. They were all playing outside. So, I made the drive, got the fresh turkey breast, rushed home and had them both cooked and served only twenty minutes later than planned.
     In general, this sums up how all my days feel lately. Everything is fine, the days come and go without incident, but I can't seem to get a hold of peace and tranquility. I definitely can't get a hold on housework. I will cut myself a little slack and reason that we've had a lot of house guests and activity in November. I've also been sewing and making some Christmas things and I let everything, including the housework, slide because I would much rather sew or hook. But I do wonder why it feels like time is passing much more rapidly these days (and years). I wonder if perhaps the world truly is spinning faster but the scientists don't notice it because the entire universe is moving faster and it's all relative, so it's impossible to detect or measure. I'm sure astrophysicists would laugh at my theory, but someone is going to have to convince me with solid proof that time isn't fleeting the way I imagine it is. 
     My best laid plans for these next few weeks are to get on top of all the housework before the next round of house guests arrive at Christmas. My sister and her family will celebrate with us and I'm excited about their visit. In the meantime, I will try to get my head out of the clouds and stop pondering the state of man and the universe. Admittedly, that chews up more time than anything. Evidently God has already answered all that and put the entire thing in order and we'll celebrate that very fact with the birth of our Savior in a few short weeks. What a relief to know I can rest with that assurance. There is where we find true rest and peace and tranquility. There was another place I found a bit of quiet time and tranquility, just when I probably needed it most. It was during the time it took to drive to the supermarket to exchange the turkey breast. That thirty minutes in the car, all alone on an empty highway, (because everyone else in Botetourt was home having their turkey), was actually quite peaceful. Lemonade out of lemons. Peace during chaos.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Contrasts and Thankfulness


     Wow! What a blast of siding ripping, shingle flaying wind we just experienced these last three days. It is finally calm today and it feels eerily quiet compared to that howling banshee we heard both day and night. I don't think anyone got any sleep. We lost some siding from the house and our neighbor had a huge piece of metal something fly off his chimney. The temperatures also dropped by twenty degrees. It certainly gave us a sampling of what is to come when winter arrives.
     I was just admiring our little rose bush with its cheery blooms the day before. It is a treat to see such pretty flowers in November. In seasonal contrast, the bittersweet vines that represent fall trail up the trees and fence posts right across the road. It's fun to see bits of summer bloom alongside pieces of fall like this here in Virginia.
     I heard reports of snow in New England on Monday from my sister and daughter. In keeping with my fickle self, I both shake my fist at the blustery wind and cold, yet feel homesick for the gray skies and barren landscape that are November in my mind's northern eye. How I wish I could have the best of both worlds, north and south. I suppose the roses and the bittersweet represent this inner struggle I experience to know where I belong.
     As our children have grown up and expanded our family, the folks around our holiday table now fluctuate from year to year. We never quite know who will be able to travel or who will decide they want to begin their own family's traditions at home. Steve and I are fine to go with the flow. Sometimes there might be four of us around the table and other times there could be twenty-four. This Christmas, for example, we will have no grandchildren here. Instead we will have four dogs (and their owners). Now that's a new one for us!
     Whatever loved ones may be around your table this holiday, whether they be two-footed or four, I wish you a blessed time together, filled with thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

When the Bough Breaks...

     When the faraway residents of the family come to visit, it is always a cause for celebration. As soon as Chelsea announced the dates she would visit with Simon and Hugo this fall, we all began to make plans. My part of the planning centered around sleeping arrangements for ten guests and food for seven days. Steve's part was to oversee our annual bonfire that would culminate on the weekend. We were blessed with perfect weather for the entire duration of the week. Temperatures remained in the sixties every day and the nights became chilly enough to feel cozy. The grandchildren (and big children) played, others hiked, and some romped in the fields and bushwhacked trails. The menfolk sampled their fare share of beer, and we all ate a lot.
     Simon wielded the chainsaw for two days and finished cutting down the large tree that fell over the summer. The older portions of the tree, mainly the leafy branches that were already dry, had been piled earlier this summer to fuel the bonfire that we knew would eventually come. The newly cut trunk and larger branches will fuel our wood stove next winter. I've never seen anyone work so long and hard to cut up a tree, yet consider it play as did Simon.
     Claire and Daniel's children all have November birthdays so, we included birthday gifts as part of the weekend celebration. Each child is so unique and it's fun to see their personalities blossom as the years go by. During one quiet moment on Sunday afternoon, I looked out back and saw Steve pushing Jack on the swing. The swing hangs from a tree way out back, up on the hill. While Steve pushed Jack on the swing, Jack yelled out to the hills and fields in order to hear his echo. On and on he swung and on and on he yelled.
     I love being Nonni and I hope for all the grandchildren to have happy memories of coming to Nonni and Pop's as the years go by. We received news that a new grandchild will join the family next summer. Chelsea and Simon are expecting a baby brother or sister for Hugo. Oh boy! (or girl!)
     As our lives cycle with births and deaths, joys and sorrows, I bade another goodbye to my mom at the bonfire when I placed some of her personal belongings on the flames. There were certain items that remained after her passing that I felt too personal to dump in the landfill or to donate to charity. With a heavy heart I carried these to the fire and whispered to her how much I miss her. It's impossible for my heart not to break all over again each time I confront this loss. Surrounded by the children was the best possible way to surge through the sorrow.

Simon works on what remains of the fallen tree.
Hugo is nine months old!
Claire, Chelsea, Henri, and Jack

Tess and Ian

Jack waves from the treehouse.
Simon builds the small fire for roasting hot dogs.

Fashioning roasting sticks was part of the fun.
Jared and Audrey
All of our play took place under the beautiful Super Moon

Daniel and Matthew, Claire and Mari
Lighting the bonfire

Chelsea and her roasting stick

The guys worked very hard to keep the fire safe and contained
Steve keeping watch with rakes and shovels while Tess enjoys a snack. (potato soup or tirimisu?)   
Steve's brother Jim even happened to join us on his way home from North Carolina to New York!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

     Something Steve and I have wanted to do for years but could never seem to find or take the time to do was visit Williamsburg. We finally made it and it was well worth the wait. We barely scratched the surface of all there was to see and I could gush on and on about the architecture, the cobblestones, the bricks, mossy roofs, tidy privets, amazing gardens, the beautiful church, sheds galore, and the amazing history at every turn. We spent ten hours roaming at our leisure. We toured the interior of several buildings including the Capital, the Palace and several small establishments like the blacksmith and apothecary.We must go back again, but in the meantime here are a handful of the hundreds of photos we took.

I had no idea Colonial Williamsburg was so big.
A tiny portion of the main thoroughfare, Duke of Gloucester Street where Steve's favorite spot, the blacksmith's shop is located- on the left in the rear.
We enjoyed roaming the side streets and back alleys.

Every detail was beautiful and every spot used for something, like this little square patch of ivy.
I really liked the Apothecary shop. It smelled interesting.

A beautiful Live Oak on (or near) the Palace Green.

It's all about the details...

First we visited the simple person's garden, which was pretty amazing.

Then we walked to the Palace gardens. Oh my! The left and right sides are flanked by two allees of trees.
Here is the allee on the left.
I chose this perfect place, in the allee, to eat my truffle : )
The rear of the Palace.

Bittersweet espaliered on the wall! I've never seen this done with bittersweet.

We attended an organ concert by candlelight while children and families were trick-or-treating outside. It was fun to be in town after dark with all the Halloween festivities going on. It was also remarkable to sit here in the Bruton Parish Church knowing it was built over 300 years ago and pondering who else in history may have sat here.
The following day we drove along the Colonial Parkway along the Powhatan River and the site of the Jamestown settlement. Another reason we must go back, to see Jamestown.