Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Projects Finished, Started, and Never Ending

    In actuality, we have started more projects than we have finished, but I think I can safely say we're having fun in the process. For every two steps forward in completing anything, we seem to take one step back. That's how the bedroom redo feels anyway. On the plus side, we bought a new mattress and we're sleeping in our bedroom again. The maple hardwood floor that Steve installed is gorgeous. (You can see it under the bench in the photo) He drove all the way to New York to buy the maple back in March so it would match the rest of the flooring in the house. This time we used a satin polyurethane finish rather than glossy and it's much prettier. The backwards step (or leap in terms of time consumed) was our drive to IKEA this weekend to buy some final touch items like curtains. IKEA has a 100% linen curtain called AINA at an unbeatable price. The downside is that we don't have an IKEA nearby and they charge $50 to ship them. Crazy! So, we decided to drive three hours to IKEA in Charlotte, NC and make a fun day of it. It was fun, alright. We had a blast. I bought three pairs of  the Aina curtains, in white, for our bedroom, along with some other odds and ends. We enjoyed a great lunch in their cafeteria (Their vegetable balls are delicious!) and then we drove three hours back home. As soon as we got home, I opened a pair of the curtains and held them up to the window. I was hugely let down to discover that the curtains aren't actually white; they're off-white. Against our white window trim and white bedding, the curtains look very yellow and cast a yellow tint in the room. Steve didn't see it as big deal, but in all fairness, this is the man who wanted to buy a huge metal bucket for an ashtray. Haha! My entire body language is saying, "You've got to be kidding, right?"

To me, the off-color was a big deal and there's no way I could live with it so, they will be mailed back. Steve knows me well enough by now and laughingly says I'm crazy as a loon. And I know him well enough to know that he was serious about the ash tray. Either way, we had a fun day at IKEA. and I will never speak of this goof again. I will now order seventeen yards of white linen and sew our curtains, but not before I first order fabric swatches to make sure it's white linen and not off-white. Lesson learned.
     In the realm of almost finished projects, here goes:

This was a natural colored wood bench from my mom's kitchen. I painted it with two coats of Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint in a color called Aubusson Blue. This is my first experience with chalk paint and I like using it a lot. I distressed the finish after it was painted but before I sealed it. Since the bench will be used out on the covered porch, I can't use Annie Sloan's wax. I understand the wax will not cure in high temperatures. Instead, I will finish this with a coat of flat Polyvine polyurethane. It's a water based product, but since the bench won't be directly out in the rain, it should be fine. Another unfinished part of this project is the cushion I still need to sew from the outdoor fabric shown in the photo. I love the colors. I bought it with my red geraniums in mind and I think all the colors will be pretty together out on the porch.

     The second "almost finished" project is my hooked rug. I just need to add a couple of rows of green border, sew binding on the edges and it's done! I enjoyed the entire process and I learned a lot by hooking this as a beginner piece. I already have my next project planned and I can't wait to begin. I hope to get better with practice. I would compare this to a potter's first piece of thrown clay or a painter's first painting. First attempts are usually clumsy, as mine certainly is. There are so many flaws to this rug, which I won't point out, but I can say that I have much improvement to gain in color blending and execution. There is a large group of rug hookers who meet each month at a local church. I attended their meeting for the second time this past Saturday. I saw dozens of beautiful rugs in various stages of hooking and learned so much by talking with these lovely ladies and asking questions. One lady came up to me and introduced herself as one of my neighbors! She lives two miles up our road and we will certainly become friends. I will also continue to meet with Eleanor this week as she mentors me in the craft. A large, positive side of having a craft, any craft, is the social aspect of it.

     The last, but not nearly the least, project I'm working on is the garden. We have so much to do out there. This is the side of our bedroom. Steve pulled out a huge lilac that was on the left croner. (The planting of the lilac so close to the house falls under my Crazy-as-a-Loon title) The roots were so deep on that thing that he used the pickup truck to pull out most of it, then a pick ax to dig put the rest. It was intense labor. We replaced it with this tall boxwood. The week of rains came and I still need to get back out there and pull up the rest of the coreopsis and rock geranium. Then, I will plant a row of low growing, round boxwood with some flowers behind them. We still have a shed to build... I won't even say, "Stay tuned" because we will never be finished and at the moment I like it that way. As in everything, the process is the experience.

     This was the view from our back hill this evening. Tess and I rejoiced over this beautiful rainbow. It didn't end behind the tree line, but rather in front of the trees, in the field across the road from our house. Putting the day in perspective; sure, we had our long ride to IKEA for almost naught. We also have glitches in our lives, broken relationships, stressful jobs, endless unfinished projects, and even deep sadness. But, look at this! How can we say anything but, "God is good." We will seek Him in the good and the bad, and in the process all along the way.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Finally! A Good Movie

It has been a long time since I watched a movie that is good enough to recommend. "The Intouchables" is a heartwarming, uplifting, really good movie. It's also based on a true story. I got it as a DVD rental from Netflix so it isn't available on instant view, but local libraries or Redbox may have it. It's a French film with subtitles and it came out in 2011.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Between You and Me, Keeping It Tidy, Scallops With Mushrooms and Spinach Recipe

 We keep a path mowed between us and our neighbor's house. The grass is tall now and the seed heads glitter in the sun. I was walking home here.

We also keep the perimeter of the fence line mowed. This is where Henri loves to walk. (Lately I feel the need to be on the lookout for snakes, though.) The trees on the right are the old apple and cherry trees left from when the property was a farm. There's some serious haying for Mr. B. to do here!

The brambles are covered in blooms this year. I'll have to check back and see if they produce a bumper crop of wine berries or something similar.

 I can't say how much I love using raised beds. They are super easy to tend in every way. We put up three strands of electric wire fencing around the beds during the growing season. Otherwise the deer would have it all and we would have none.
This is the spinach and Swiss chard Simon planted in February. I've harvested spinach twice now and the center leaves are still producing. To celebrate the spinach, I made a recipe of scallops and mushrooms with shallots on a bed of wilted spinach. It was delicious!

Scallops With Mushrooms and Spinach

20 sea scallops
1/4 c flour
Good olive oil
4 T unsalted butter
1 c chopped shallots
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 c dry white wine
8 oz fresh baby spinach
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges to garnish

Pat scallops dry and season with s & p. Toss scallops in flour. Heat 2 T olive oil in large saute pan. When the oil is very hot, add half the scallops and saute on one side without moving until they are browned, about 3 minutes. Turn scallops and cook for about 2 minutes to scalloops are still a little raw in the center. Transfer to heatproof platter and keep warm. Repeat with remaining. Melt butter in the pan and add the shallots; cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms cook for 4-5 minutes, turning often until browned and tender. Add the wine and scrape up brown bits. Cook for 2 minutes to reduce wine. Add the spinach to the pan in handfuls, so some wilts before adding more. Toss the spinach wtith suce to help it wilt. Add spinach mixture to the scallops in the oven. Sprinkle with Parmesan and back for 3 minutes until scallops are just cooked. Sprinkle with pepper and serve hot with wedges of lemon.

Serves 4

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Pleasure of Rain


    We've had nothing but rain, rain, rain, with intermittent breaks of sunshine. I scooted out between storms to do some planting. I have to say we have the nicest neighbors. William is all about bartering for goods and services and, lucky for me, he is a landscape designer. So, for example, they feed our dog- I bake them goodies, I feed their cat- they give us produce, they mow our field- I give them  homemade canned relish and Steve helps with some mechanical/electrical stuff. This time, we fed their farm stock and William gave us a whole bunch of leftover plants from his nursery. It's a bonanza! He gave us six boxwoods, seven salvias, three astilbes, one blue indigo, three catmints, and three gardenias.  A few of them need a little TLC in the form of some fertilizer, but they are otherwise healthy. He assures me he couldn't use them and that I saved them from certain death. For me, this is an incredible amount of money we saved on landscaping. Alog gardening lines, I also had  fun potting some annuals. The gardens are settling in with all this rain to be lush and beautiful.
     I bought the evergreen shrub, above, on sale last November to use at the front door for Christmas. The saleslady was doubtful it would survive in a pot. It was so cheap that I decided to give it a try anyway. It ended up thriving in the pot and now I hate to take it out. The basket in front was a Christmas gift from Chelsea and Simon. It was filled with games and snacks for the whole family to enjoy. We played the games, ate the snacks, and now I have re-purposed the basket for flowers. I lined it with a piece of thick plastic, poked drainage holes in the plastic and then filled it with potting soil and assorted annuals. It's so pretty and it makes me happy every time I walk in the front door.
     Finally, I've worked all week at finishing our master bedroom suite. It feels like the project that will never end. The baseboard trim is finally all painted and we are ready to move back into our bedroom. We ran into a little snag in the master bath. It also needed a renovation, but we were going to put it off as a separate project. I thought I could just paint the vanity that got banged up from my mom's walker and it would be fine. Well, I failed to properly prep the vanity and it wouldn't take the new paint. Ugh! I am so ready to be done with all of it. So, we're going to bite the bullet and redo the bathroom now.
    It's been hard for me to work in the master bedroom suite. I'm sure it's the source of my melancholy this week. My mom's dresser still sits in the closet back there until we can move it upstairs. The dresser smells like my mom. I hid her pocketbook in one of the drawers. For some reason, this  pocketbook breaks my heart. I cannot bear to open it. I know her glasses are in it, her kleenex, her mints, and her wallet. How can a mere object be the source of so much pain? I thought if I kept going into the room each day, little by little I would get comfortable being in there, but it's much harder than I expected. A lifetime of love and pain and suffering have been funneled into this specific spot on my earth. I'm sure it's partly due to the level of care I was providing to her in those last eight months, but I had no idea the loss of a mother, given my age and her age, would bring the tears and broken heart of a child. Some things never change and the love of mother and child are ageless and eternal. How odd it seems to be both happy and content, yet deeply grieving.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Week in Review/ True Journaling!

   I recall last week as a week of rain. It flew by so fast, but now if I think about it, we did have one day of sunshine. Claire and the grandchildren came for a three day visit. Their antics always make me smile. It's very much like watching the lambs next door, or any baby animals, they both amuse and intrigue. I could sit and watch the children play for hours. Tess and Steve prepared different crafts for Mari and Jack and they loved them. Tess painted paper tiaras and crowns with them and Steve helped them make cement garden stones. I won't forget being up in the tree house with Mari where we sang opera into the woods and listened for our echoes.
     I made progress on my hooked rug and I found a replacement cutting wheel for the fabric stripping machine a friend gave me. It's a vintage machine made of metal and very sturdy. Because it's old, the parts are hard to find. The internet is the end-all solution to these problems and Voila! I now have a working machine thanks to a helpful lady in Indiana. The wool to make a primitive hooked rug must all be cut into 1/4" strips. It would be time consuming to cut so much wool with scissors or rotary cutters, so they make little hand-cranked machines that you bolt onto a table, feed your cloth (in this case wool) along the metal plate while you crank the handle which runs the cloth over the cutting wheel and cuts it into strips. The rug hooking ladies get a kick out of calling themselves  hookers and strippers. Anyway, I've got my next two rugs planned out : )
     Chelsea and her little family moved to New Hampshire this week. We are very excited to visit them in New England this summer. We are also more than excited to think of holding our newest grandson again and getting to know him better. It's nice to have a new, happy reason to visit up north.  We've had great adventures in the south and we now live in a very beautiful place in Virginia, but my inner compass forever points homeward, to the northeast.
     We spent this Sunday in a different way than usual. I'm not a fan of Mother's Day nor other similar commercialized holidays. My daughters were all wonderful in honoring me with attention, so it's not about that. It's just a personal thing I guess. I dislike artificial reasons to be nice to people. Who needs a reminder to be nice to their mother on a specific day? I also knew if I went to church I would cry blubberingly during the music with thoughts of my mom, so we changed it up today and Steve and I went out together in the morning and then I cooked a Sunday dinner for Steve, Tess, Ian and me. There was no Sunday singing, but we did have music in the car : )

Monday, May 2, 2016

Magic in the Rain

     We've had magnificent storms the last two days, mainly in the late afternoons and evenings. This morning the fog settled low in the hollows, but it was bright and warm at the elevations above. I was super excited that I planned to drive up on the (Blue Ridge) Parkway this morning because this type of weather creates the most spectacular views of the mountains.
     I set out early with two coolers full of sandwiches, sodas, and fresh fruit to leave on the AT for the hikers. It's peak season for through hikers right about now which means lots of hungry hikers in the woods. As soon as I set out, I noticed most of the back roads were littered with debris and washout from the storms the night before. As I approached the Parkway entrance, I saw the barricade up and the southbound lane was closed. I felt like a knucklehead for not checking on the road conditions before I left home. I was not only disappointed to not get onto the Parkway, but my main concern was what to do with all this food?! I turned around and drove in the opposite direction toward the Peaks of Otter to give myself some time to think. I needed to figure out where else the trail crossed the Parkway so I could leave these coolers for the hikers to find. I also mourned the fact that I couldn't travel to my favorite overlooks and watch the fog on the mountains this morning.
     It was a peaceful, solitary drive and I soon remembered exactly where I saw an AT sign at a road crossing last year. I turned around at the Peaks and headed back to the spot from my memory. Sure enough, there was the AT sign and a little parking area. There was a footbridge with a decaying log off to the side that proved to be the perfect spot to leave the coolers. It would also be easy for me to come back to retrieve them at the end of the day. The water was rushing swiftly down the mountain and under the bridge. Off to the left was an entire meadow of maidenhead ferns! I've never seen a whole crop of ferns like that. The trail appeared  well traveled and I was happy to leave some things the hikers might enjoy.
     On my return trip later in the evening, I arrived only minutes before another storm broke loose. It was dusk but the thick clouds and fog made it look like night. This time I quickly ran down the slope and over the footbridge, making two trips to retrieve the coolers. All but one sandwich and three oranges were gone. I think the cans of soda on ice were really popular : ) I forgot to leave a garbage bag and someone thoughtfully left a plastic bag tied to one of the coolers. Everyone who followed left their trash in it. The AT hikers are the most conscientious people about not littering the woods. (They are much more considerate than the locals who throw trash out their car windows everywhere.) So, all in all it was a pleasant bit of driving and I am happy to think a few hikers enjoyed a hearty sandwich and an icy cold soda on their hike today.

It was hard to find a clear view without getting on the Parkway.
Appalachian Trail Crossing

Trail magic : )

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Singing

I wish I could have found a live video version of this song to post. I like the song so much that I'll share it anyway because the lyrics (and melody) are so beautiful.