Saturday, February 25, 2017

Family Week

     About twice a year, Chelsea and her growing family drive down from New Hampshire to visit us in Virginia. Claire and her family will then drive up from North Carolina. The gathering is always a cause for celebration and a chance for the four sisters to see one another. Everyone likes to be outdoors and we partake in whatever activities the weather permits. There have been times of sledding and snowmen and times of water balloon fights and BBQ. By far, the family's favorite pastime is a bonfire. Last week, we were lucky enough to have a combination of very mild weather and an accumulation of branches and brush to burn. The temperatures climbed through the fifties into the sixties and seventies by week's end. Simon spent a day gathering the brush from different areas on the property. He lit a smaller campfire on Thursday and it was kept burning throughout the weekend. This smaller fire is more convenient for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Ian and Simon camped out in the field on Friday night and the older kids enjoyed an evening under a clear sky filled with stars. We lit the big bonfire on Saturday night and the littler kids got to stay up late and enjoy the fun.   
     Needless to say, the week goes by much too quickly and it's a little sad and quiet after everyone leaves. I immersed myself in laundry and cleaning up and it was a good distraction. I also took on a few extra hours at work this week, so there wasn't much time for me to wallow. : ) Sadly, Audrey and Jared weren't able to join us for the weekend portion of our activities. Audrey caught the cold virus that everyone had been sharing and it was bad enough to keep her resting at home. There's always next time.

By day...

... and by night

Aunt Chelsea built a teepee.

Pop and Nonni : )

Steve, keeper of the fire.
One year old!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Latest Reading Material

It's time to catch up on some reading! There was a lull over the holidays and I missed having a book or two by the side of my reading chair. I'm playing catch-up and thought I would share what I've read over the last two to three months.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
This is a sweet story of a sixty-nine year old widower who lives life in a very precise manner, day after day, since his wife died. One day he finds a charm bracelet his wife had hidden away and his curiosity is piqued to know where it came from and why he never knew about it. He begins making inquiries and follows clues as each charm reveals something about his wife's past. His monotonous life suddenly takes an interesting turn as he must travel to the source of the clues in order to unravel each charm's meaning.

A Gentleman in Moscow
 A Gentleman in Moscow received a rare 5-star rating from me on Goodreads. In 1922, a Bolshevik tribunal sentences Count Alexander Rostov to house arrest at the Metropol, an elegant hotel in the heart of the city. Once a guest in the most lavish rooms, the Count now must live his life in the hotel's attic for the remainder of his days. An interesting array of hotel guests cross his path and deeply affect his life. Riddled with humor, embellished with elegant history, the Count must find his purpose within this small but wonderful enclave.

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey
I've been interested in learning more about the politics of the 1960's and the causes of the radical social unrest at that time in order to compare it to what we see in politics today. This is only the beginning of what could end up in a life long attempt for me to understand that era. I combined this reading with "Destructive Generation" by Peter Collier and David Horowitz. Wow. Obviously what we see on the surface of political passion is only the tip of what lurks beneath. The author was raised in the environment of the radical left and we see his earnest life's work to promote the beliefs of socialist agendas in a time that culminates in the 1960's. His work with the Black Panthers leads to troubling revelations and Horowitz begins to question his beliefs. Revealing, yet troubling, this book is well worth the dive into this topic. So much of what I recall hearing in the news during the 60's pops up in this book. However, being a child, I had no idea the social and political upheaval in our country followed such a purposeful agenda of the radical left.

How High the Moon
It was time for a little "fluff" after reading the previous heavy topic. It is often difficult for me to believe authors who write from a child's perspective. Most of them don't pull it off very well, including this one. This story is about an orphaned girl whose mother runs away, leaving her with the mother's boyfriend. He is a sweet guy who does his best to raise this spunky girl. The story presents a cast of small town characters in a 1950's setting. It was an okay read, but nothing to write home about.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
This is the last book I just finished. It's currently in high demand at our library, perhaps because it speaks on a topic rooted right here in the Appalachian Mountains. The author was born and raised mainly in Kentucky by his grandmother in a dirt poor environment. The story is the author's memoir, but, he also discusses the plight and causes of the poor families living in this region of our country and the hopelessness that persists from one generation to the next. With the encouragement of his grandmother, J.D. Vance finds a way out of the vicious cycle, joins the marines, and goes on to graduate from Yale Law School. He purports to be the very rare example of what most kids living in the Appalachian culture experience. Their plight is not very different from that in our inner cities. It's an interesting topic, again if you want to read something thought provoking and current to today's issues.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Autumn's Grand Finale

     I began hooking this rug at the very, very end of autumn, sometime around December 10th. This is where I am today. The most difficult part has been finding wool in the colors I envision for the design. As I became ready to hook the border, I found a small piece of wool in the perfect shade of brown in a local antique mall where a vendor sells wool in one of the stalls. It wasn't a big enough piece to complete the border and I lamented over how to acquire more of it, even messaging the vendor to see if she had more. (She did not.) A rug hooking friend asked me to give her a sample of it so she could go home and check her wool stash to see if she might happen to have it. Lo and behold, she phoned me right away to say she found some in a drawer! We both rejoiced over the phone knowing what it means to find just the right piece and color of wool. This good news prompted me to cut the piece I already had and begin work on the border, knowing more wool was on the way. Yay!
     I completely enjoy every hour I spend working on these rugs. The time is peaceful, contemplative, and nourishing to my creative spirit. It's amazing how the mind is freed up to really delve into thought when the hands are busy like this. I think about my family and friends, I pray, I ponder books I'm reading, and I work out solutions to problems weighing on my spirit. In the end, there is a beautiful rug to throw down on the floor or hang on the wall. Woven into it are all those people and thoughts that occupied the many hours to create it. Many of you, my dear family, friends, and readers, are in this rug. : )

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Catching Up and Keeping Up

     We've had a bit of the flu, along with a few other viruses, going around here. The nurse's office at school has been busy and we've taken turns at home with all of it. I doubt there is anything left for us to catch at this point! I trust it is all behind us now and we can get on with enjoying our weekends by not spending them in bed.
     We enjoyed having Claire's children here last weekend while Claire and Daniel went skiing. The children were happy and content with whatever we provided them for food and entertainment. Sunday afternoon turned out to be sunny and mild so we played outside. The kids were all over the place, running and exploring. We started out wearing jackets and hats but, those were quickly shed since it was warm enough for shirts and sweaters. Henri and I kept up pretty well, all things considered. : )


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hanging Children's Art

     The grandchildren's drawings always make me smile. It's amusing to hear them tell about their drawing and to understand the reason behind why they used a frowning face, the swirly squiggles, or a fish floating in air. I always feel enlightened when they tell me about their picture and I usually end up commenting something like, "Ah! Now I see it!"  Sometimes I will pencil a little of what they tell me on the back and I always add the date.
     I have folders and boxes of drawings my daughters made from the 1980's and 90's. Steve and I still laugh at most of them when we have occasion to take them out. There's Audrey's early drawing of our dog tied to a tree with a little pile of poop nearby. (She drew it like she saw it.) We have drawings of their dream houses and their friends, and many horse drawings. One day I will find a way to display some of them so we can enjoy them more often. For now, I decided to hang some of the grandchildren's pictures because they visit often and I thought they would enjoy seeing their pictures hanging here as much as I enjoy having them.
     I chose clip frames because they are simple to use and there is no need to figure out competing frame colors, sizes, etc. They are inexpensive and readily available at Michael's or online. They are easy to change out as I expect I will do as the children continue to draw and create artwork. I happened to already have six frames in the 9 x 12 inch size. These turned out to be the perfect size for drawings done on copy paper. There was a slight gap between the paper and the frame, so I used construction paper in varying colors behind each picture to set them off in the frame. The added burst of color helped with the effect I was going for.
     The six pictures made this boring, blank wall suddenly appear cheery. There is room for more frames, which is good because there are two more grandchildren due to arrive this summer! As long as I keep the drawer filled with paper, pencils, and crayons, the children will keep us supplied with a lifetime of art... and smiles.