Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Queen of American Lakes; Lake George, NY


     In all of my American travels I have yet to find a lake I love more than Lake George. I suppose the nostalgia of spending childhood summers there camping and riding the lake steamboats may have something to do with it. But, in its own right, Lake George is a grand and beautiful lake. It is located in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. At thirty-two miles long, it is the largest of many lakes that dot the Adirondacks. Brant Lake, Loon Lake, Schroon Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Lake Placid, Fourth Lake, Racquet Lake, are just a few of those cold mountain lakes. All were formed by the movement of glaciers and are fed by springs so the water is clear and cold. 

     Two hundred islands are scattered over Lake George. A handful of islands are privately owned and the rest are owned by the state of New York. They are maintained by the state for camping and day picnicking. For a small fee you can rent a spot with a boat dock, grill, and outhouse. Whether you want to spend one day or a week, it's a fun way to have your own little slice of piney heaven all to yourself.

    Much of Steve's family also summered in the Adirondacks. They spent their summers at Brant Lake and after I met Steve we spent many of our dating weekends at their place on Brant Lake. Steve taught me how to sail on the catamaran, paddle in a canoe, and water ski. (Steve was a pro at skiing and I could barely stand up.) One of Steve's brothers has continued the tradition of summers in the Adirondacks and still goes up regularly. This year, their youngest daughter planned her wedding to be on Lake George.

     The wedding was at The Barn at Lord Howe Valley in Ticonderoga, Lake George. It is a stunningly beautiful wedding venue nestled in a valley with a mountain backdrop. The timber frame barn soars to the roof like a cathedral. The young couple planned a fun wedding with lots of music, dancing, great food, and good memories. We enjoyed spending the day with our family in this happy setting.

     When we learned of the wedding plans last year we decided to find a house to rent for the week and make a vacation out of the trip. We found a lovely house on Lake George in Bolton Landing. W shared the week with my sister and brother-in-law. The water in Lake George this time of the year is a chilling fifty-four degrees. It was difficult to get in and swim but we had loads of fun nevertheless. My sister and I laugh a lot when we are together. She is a jokester and I enjoy making her laugh. We spent the week mostly just sitting on the dock watching the changing moods of the mountains and lake. We ate dinners out, took a few lake tours in my brother-in-law's boat, spent some time on an island, played games,browsed the little shops in Bolton Landing, and visited the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake. It was pure relaxation which was exactly what Steve needed from his overly busy work schedule. 

     We decided to rent the house again next year. With the same families returning for "their week" year after year, available weeks rarely become available. So we decided to keep our spot rather than lose it. I am already looking forward to going back. I doubt we'll see another rainbow off the dock like the one we saw below, but we took it as a sign that we should return.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Girls' Getaway Wintergreen Resort

    The introduction of Airbnb has opened up a new realm of traveling options these days. Decades ago, our options of overnight stays were confined to hotels, inns, and the standard bed and breakfasts. There may have been a hostel here and there, but they were not common in the US. So, if a town didn't have a hotel, inn, or traditional bed and breakfast, we were out of luck. Nowadays, we can travel to any destination we fancy and find a nice, clean place to stay. Over the past few years, we have stayed at several Airbnb's and they have all been exceptionally nice. For privacy, a unique experience, access to out-of-the-way places, and options for families to all stay together in one home, Airbnb's are great.  

The view from the neighborhood at Wintergreen Resort

     Last week, two friends and I rented an Airbnb in Wintergreen Resort, Virginia. This destination is only an hour and a half drive from home so it afforded us a three day getaway without needing to spend a lot of time in the car. We packed our rug hooking and cross stitch supplies and headed to the mountains. Our goal was to make some progress on our crafts away from the distractions of home and duties. We ended up having a lot of fun! The rental house was three stories large and we each had our own bedroom and bath. It offered all the amenities of home along with a huge deck where we could work outside in the sun and shade if we chose. We were renting the house off-season (it's a ski mountain) and we were splitting the cost three ways which made this a very affordable option. 

     I had never been to Wintergreen and I was struck by the beauty of our Appalachian mountains. I was in awe of the multitude of homes built right on the mountainside yet hidden by trees in an unobtrusive way. I enjoyed the serenity of the woods, watching and listening to the variety of birds, walking on a trail nearby, and stepping away from everyday chores. It was good to get away and explore some place new. It was equally good to go back home feeling refreshed and inspired. 

Our view for dinner at The Edge restaurant at Wintergreen.

The waterfall at Upper Shamokin Trail, a loop trail open to residents at Wintergreen Resort. We could hear the falls from our deck.

Current rug project approximately 2x3 feet in size. I hand-dyed the background wool for my interpretation of a punch needle pattern by Kathy Barrick. I wanted a very simple color palette for this rug.

Almost finished with this counted cross stitch pattern by Stacy Nash. Stitched with one strand of thread over two strands of 32ct. linen. The white thread of the house and fence show up brighter in person, thank goodness.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

"Goodbye Reality, Hello Vegas"


     I found the quote for my title online and it reflects my Las Vegas sentiments precisely. Reflecting back on my week in Las Vegas leaves me with so much to contemplate. The environment is so foreign to my reality in every way, the geography, the opulence, the sadness of the human condition, the noise, the lights, the fun, that I still find it hard to wrap my mind around the place. Judging it by my own experience, I had a great time. I met nice people, the food was fantastic, I saw an exciting Cirque de Soleil show, I enjoyed the warm sunshine, and I didn't bet one penny. We stayed at the MGM resort and each day I went out exploring the area. Our room was nice and quiet but once one steps off the elevator to the main lobby and casino, it is an explosion of noise and music and people. How crowded this place is! I found the the array of humanity to be the most overwhelming. The scene from the cantina in "Star Wars; A New Hope" kept flashing through my mind. All the languages, styles, and craziness of humanity swirl about within a few square miles. 

    The week prior to our trip was filled with a visit from all our children and grandchildren. It was the annual, "Everyone Come Visit at the Same Time" week. We had two bonfires that week, ate lots of food, didn't break much of anything, managed to stay out of the poison ivy, and mostly laughed. The grandchildren are growing up but not so much that they didn't enjoy some Cotton Candy Explosion ice cream. (Violet is missing from the photo.) They also still enjoy the blow-up swimming pool. The weather was so hot for two days that we dragged it out and blew it up and the kids had a blast in the water. Chelsea found some good, local, family friendly hikes and I accompanied them on one hike to a wetland area and waterfall that isn't too far away from our house. We had all the woods to ourselves and it was lovely.

     Now that the house is empty again, I see all the signs that our little people left behind. There are hand prints on the windows, a Lego block under the chair, a carefully constructed fairy house, a collection of stones in the garden bed, chalk smudges on the wall, and crayon pictures hung on the fridge. I'm taking my time putting everything back in order. It's gardening time so I divide my day between inside chores and outdoor fun. These perfect, seventy degree days won't last long and I want to enjoy every moment. It's back to reality, which after Las Vegas, is pretty swell. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Recent Reads

 The Lincoln Highway: A Novel

I loved this book! Towles previous novel, "A Gentleman in Moscow" was one of my top favorites so I was eager to read this one as well. Towles' storytelling is mesmerizing and his writing is brilliant. He not only writes beautifully and descriptively but he brings his characters alive in such a way that you really know them. The story in "The Lincoln Highway" is not complex but it is compelling. You can't help but become personally invested in the plight of the characters. I easily give this a five star rating. My only complaint is that after reading such a good book, my next read is destined to be a letdown...

The House of Mirth (Signet Classics): Wharton, Edith, Quindlen, Anna,  Gorra, Michael: 9780451474308: Books

Well, well, well. Not such a letdown after all. I can't even say why I chose this book but I am so glad I did. Two five star books in a row is unheard of but here we have it! I have never read anything by Edith Wharton before and this was new territory for me. To be more accurate, I listened to this novel on Audible. The narrator, Eleanor Bron, was masterful in her reading and spoke in that perfect east coast aristocracy that was familiar to the ear earlier in the 20th century. This is a tragic tale about a woman born into high society but left penniless by her father at his death. She must keep up a certain standard of living in the only circles and lifestyle she knows however, it becomes more and more difficult as time goes by given her lack of money. Wharton's familiarity with society during this time period is personal, from what I understand. Gossip, elitism, old money, new money,  and women whose only goal is to marry well are the driving force behind this tale. Wharton's writing is of the time period and beautifully done. It makes me a little sad that all of this beautiful language and grammar has gone by the wayside.

Mass Market Paperback Swann's Way: Remembrance of Things Past, book one Book

I am currently listening to, "Swann's Way, Remembrance of Things Past" by Marcel Proust. This is the first of seven volumes of Proust's memories of his childhood in high society France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is elaborate and rich in detail. While the detail may bore some readers, I find the depth of memory from this author astounding. I doubt Proust was aware of the historical journey he would be providing to 21st century readers simply by telling of his childhood. He recalls in detail the little Madeleine cakes he would be given dipped in tea. In his heavenly description of their flavor, I find myself wanting one and wondering where can I get a Madeleine and even if I could procure one, would it would taste the same as Proust's French baked cake of the 19th century? He also has me pondering high society parenting in that time period which seems a little harsh to me today and leaves me shaking my head in wonderment. Yet, here we have a literary genius which leads me to think perhaps not coddling children, as they did back then, built strength and character. Oh well, so far I am enjoying the journey on which this book has taken me. *Amazingly, I was at Sam's club on Saturday morning and I saw Madeleine's on the baked goods table! I read the label and they were made in California. I would have bought three or four but a box of twenty-five was too many.

The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine

Another amazing book that I am currently reading is, "The Angel and the Assassin" by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. This is a scientific piece that explores tiny cells in our brains called Microglia. First discovered in the early 2000's, these little cells play a huge role in the immune function of our brain. Scientists once thought our brain was separate and excluded from our body's immune system but recent research has proven otherwise. Anyone who struggles with auto-immune diseases, mood disorders, Alzheimers, and an array of other health issues may want to explore this book further. A doctor recommended it to me after I mentioned the brain sluggishness and other health issues that followed my contracting Covid last year. This is a fascinating book, although I have no idea where it is leading as I am only one third of the way through. I really hope it has positive leads and a good ending, of sorts.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Beauty, Beauty Everywhere!


     Imagine the gaudiest procession of bridesmaids dressed in poufs of ruffles and flounce in all different colors. Wedding guests would whisper at the fashion faux pas of such a thing and consider it to be an overindulgence.  However, when Spring puts on such a show, we can't get enough! Everything is in bloom right now; daffodils, crabapple, redbud, tulips, wild mustard, cherry, and pear. It's a crazy riot of color and we love it. The periwinkle and ajuga ground covers add purple and blue from below and yellow daffodils and trees in every shade of pink bloom along the interstate. Even the new grass in its bright shade of lime green adds vibrancy to the color palette. This morning, in the dim light of dawn, the pink crab apple tree looks like it's covered in snow. The red crab apple tree is bloomed in a pink that is beyond description. Every time I walk past the window it startles me. I try to soak it all in and save the memory of it. I want to recall it long after it's passed. Inevitably the memory fades and I forget about the vibrancy of color during the dead of winter because I am startled and surprised anew by it each spring. I suppose that's the way it is with new life. It's meant to excite and stir us (and the bees) into action.

     This week I paid a visit to a couple I hadn't seen in several months. They had some health issues last year and I last visited after the gentleman had come home from the hospital. He has recovered very well and it was good to lay eyes on them and have a catching up visit. Julida served me a piece of cake on a china plate and a glass of sweet tea poured over ice in a cut glass goblet. While I sat at the table, she brought me their guest book to sign. What an old fashioned idea! It made me giggle to think of signing my name. That thought was quickly overtaken by how to present a nice signature. It's rare to have to present a pretty signature fitting of a guest book. After I signed the book, she took out her camera to snap my photo. I gave her my best smile and said that I would not let so much time pass until my next visit. 

     After I left from my visit, I drove to a dry cleaners in Roanoke called Wheelers. It has been there since 1950 and it looks like it has not changed one bit. It smells like the dry cleaners I remember from childhood. It has a warm, hot-iron-on-clothing smell. It makes me feel warm and cozy. The geared and numbered clothing racks pass behind the front counter and snake up and around the high warehouse-like ceiling of the place. I imagine they can accommodate a lot of laundry and the racks looked fairly full. I had dropped off eleven yards of white denim to be washed and pressed before sending it to a seamstress who will sew slipcovers for me. The owner handed my package to me across the front counter. My fabric came back to me as a large parcel neatly wrapped in brown paper. The paper was sturdy, yet thin and crispy to handle. It was an old fashioned bundle and I bet this is exactly how they have been returning bundles of cleaning to customers since 1950. I had to break the seal to make sure I had the correct item but I hated doing it. I wanted to keep the parcel just as it was. 

     All these little incidents of the day were wonderful as they occurred. Simple, old timey things like sweet tea in cut glass, a guestbook, and paper wrapped laundry. These are such grounding things to me, things that say life has not changed so much after all. Spring will always come, we can rely on it. We can also choose to make beauty happen by taking the time to serve cake on china if we feel like it and wrapping parcels in brown paper if it makes us happy.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Forgiveness, Being Grateful and Playing in the Line to Confession

      For the first time in over forty five years, I went to confession. It's a long story but in a nutshell; I was raised Catholic, practiced my faith as a Protestant for many years, then returned to the Catholic church a few years ago. Almost every Catholic has a funny story to tell about confession. Despite the anxiety-producing wait in line to have your chance at purging your conscience to the priest, it's really not that bad. As kids, we hated it and tried to avoid it like the plague. We agonized over what to confess. We agonized over rehearsing the prayers taught to us by the nuns so we wouldn't mess them up in the confessional and embarrass ourselves.We shuddered at the thought of Father Reilly's booming voice yelling at us from his hidden presence in the confessional. I recall the time he yelled after my younger cousin, "Come back here, you're not done yet!" We were all waiting our turn in the pews and Rich didn't hear the Father calling to him. We all waved our arms and whisper-yelled to Rich to, "Go back, go back! You're not done!" Oh Lord, good times, good times.

     Nowadays, I openly admit to my priest and fellow Catholics that I struggle with the Biblical case for confessing to a priest. I speak up in Bible study. I share the way I understand things and I seek answers for those things I do not know understand. I think everyone appreciates the lively discussions and we all come out learning so much more when we ask questions. The main thing I have learned about myself in studying the Christian faith is that 99% of the time I overthink things. I am so intent on finding the Truth, with a capital "T" that I do not allow faith and trust to lead me. When I do take a step of faith and fully trust that God has His hand in this, I am almost always blessed. So that is what I did for confession yesterday. Even though I may not agree with or understand the scriptures backing this practice, I figured I have decided to follow this Catholic faith so, I am going to trust.

     Once I made this decision, the rest was a piece of cake. As with all anxiety situations, it is best to run at it head-on and embrace it. So, I imagined myself eagerly rushing to the confessional, smiling with excitement at this opportunity to put my faith into practice. Instead of old Father Reilly sitting in there, I imagined God was waiting for me, smiling down at my child like faith. I spent the morning making a list of my sins for which I wished forgiveness. It was easy. I typed it up in Microsoft Word. This was serious. 

     I have been confessing and repenting of my sins directly to God all these years without ever typing them out. This process really gave me an opportunity to reflect on how I felt about these transgressions and how I would like to change. I would be verbally presenting them to someone else, a representative of Jesus, and allow another person to verbally forgive me. It was humbling. 

     Standing in line at St. Gerard's in Roanoke gave me time to get nervous again. There was choir music playing from a large speaker and the stained glass windows were beautiful to reflect upon. I heard french horns in the music and I imagined the angels blowing their horns because Leonora was going to confession. As each person before me emerged from the confessional room door, I glanced at their faces to see if anyone was crying. No, they all looked fine. I had no idea who Monsignor Golden was but his was the line I was in. Was he a yeller? Did priests even yell anymore? Was there a confessional booth in there or did I have to sit face-to-face with him? Would it be too dark to read my typed notes? Was I allowed to read my typed notes? I thought I best review them and try to memorize my sins while I waited in line. I told my friend who was in line with me to watch for smoke exploding out from the cracks of the door while I was in there. I hummed a death dirge under my breath.

     Finally, it was my turn. I opened the door and walked in with confidence. Monsignor Golden was sitting right there in a bright little room with an empty chair facing him. He was dressed in proper priestly attire with a beautiful purple shroud across his shoulders. He smiled and motioned for me to sit. 

     And I was forgiven! 

     As light as I am making of this matter, my faith is something that I hold dear and take very seriously. The sins upon my soul were a weight that God, my Father, always wants me to unburden to Him. Technically, I knew God had already forgiven me but this was a new step of faith on which I had embarked. 

    I must make note that this is my personal journey into my faith and I hold no one else to this standard nor do I expect anyone to hold me to theirs. We each have our own walk of life to take and this is mine alone and this is how I choose to do life and practice my spiritual faith. 

     The penance I was given by Monsignor Golden was to read the Bible passages about the Passion of Christ. He gave me no "Our Fathers" nor "Hail Mary's". I didn’t feel like reading the passion was penance and I will gladly do it! My only regret is that I wish I had asked Monsignor Golden why this was my penance. I would like to know the significance of how that ties will n to my sins. But there I go again, always needing to know the why's.

PS. I include this experience as ‘play’ because it fits the parameters for play. I felt safe, I had a connection to the others alongside me and I felt a belonging. There was also risk (Hell!). My friend and I quietly laughed to tears while we waited in line and I shared all my thoughts with her. I recall all of this with joy. After all these years, confession still does not disappoint.




Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Gratitude, Joy, and Play

A happy spring quilt mat that I am finally getting around to finishing.

     A randomized study in 2003 at UC Davis's academic lab studied gratitude. It found, "Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported less physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week." 

    Gratitude, joy, and play have an important affect on our brains. Of those three, play can become lost for many adults. We get busy with life, jobs, child rearing, etc. It's easy to let go of play because we don't realize how important it is. Technically, play involves a feeling of safety among friends along with feelings of connection and belonging. You then throw an element of risk into the mix. If you think about childhood games like Dodge Ball, Hide-and-Seek, Tag, etc., there was a risk involved in being 'found', being 'It', or being hit with a ball. Those risks brought about excitement. Happy excitement does good things for the brain.

     I have been thinking about the joys of play after spending a day last week with my four year old granddaughter. She initiated a day of outdoor play that was sublime. We chased after bubbles, climbed a little tree, swung on the tree swing, climbed rocks, and made flower nests. All the while, she narrated what we were pretending and what my role was to be. Soon, I was completely caught up in the play and when the day was done, I slept soundly. There was only the slightest element of risk; as much risk as a Nonni will allow a four-year-old in a tree. But there it was. : )

     In 2009 I began this blog in the model of a blog called, "Three Beautiful Things a Day". It was intended to help me move through the grief of losing my sister Charlette to cancer. Recently I learned that, "Practicing gratitude does not erase difficult emotions and grateful people do not deny the difficult aspects of life. However, practicing gratitude helps us access the positive side of the spectrum, moving our brains back into a neutral position." (Curable)

     So, my intention is to use this space to bring back around Gratitude, Joy, and Play. The first two will be easy. Play will be a challenge because at this point the scope of my playing revolves around the Scrabble board. But considering my age, most play will involve risk. Heck, walking down the stairs involves risk! So, I trust the age factor will make it easier to come up with ways to play.


Friday, March 25, 2022

Oh This World...

     Some days it is a struggle to go about our business when the news of the world is so disturbing. I purpose to keep busy and lose myself in the day at hand but my heart aches beneath it all. Most days I am 'making' something; making dinner, making the garden, making something from fabric and thread, making a sick friend more comfortable, making someone laugh, and so on. When we create or minster to others I think we are attempting to turn our emotions into something tangible and beautiful. Whether it's music, painting, sculpture, or some stitching, we can't help but take the raw materials God provides us and fashion them into something expressive and wonderful. And then there are those who tear down. I won't describe those people because we all have known someone like that or have observed them in the news. There are a multitude of reasons for why people tear down, you can imagine. Builders up and tearers down, this is my oversimplified version of things right now.

    Spring is in full swing in Virginia and I don't take one bloom for granted.  Wednesday was the darkest, rainiest day and even that was a wonderful day, turning everything greener. It was a good day to craft and sew. I alternate between hobbies and lately I have been sewing clothing. Last year I found some basic, wonderful patterns from 100 Acts of Sewing. I enjoy sewing with natural fibers like linen and cotton and these patterns were a great success with those. I am expanding my wardrobe with a few new pieces of color this year. I am also trying out a shirt dress pattern that is new to me and a little bit fussy to make with a collar. I am nervous about making this one a success mainly because I want it to work out so badly. Before I use expensive fabric on a new pattern like this, I sew a mock-up out of muslin. I have tried many patterns over the years that either didn't fit right and need adjustments or were not flattering at all. Making them up in muslin gives me a chance to make adjustments where needed or to scrap the pattern altogether. I do need to force myself to take this extra step because it is time consuming but, it is well worth the time spent in the long run.

    When I was a teenager, I embroidered designs onto my clothing and I thought it would be fun to do a bit of that again. Recently, I made a cell phone carry bag out of a piece of linen that I embroidered (Embroidery pattern by Blackbird Designs). It turned out nicely so I decided to sew embroidery onto the pockets of the next tunic I make. One thing about handcrafts is that there is a lot of time to think while making things (or pulling weeds!). Sometimes I fill the quiet with an audio book or podcast and other times I just let it be quiet so I can think and pray. 

     Today at noon the Pope will consecrate Russia and Ukraine. To non-Catholics this won't mean much but in the Catholic faith this is an historic, meaningful event with the hope of bringing peace to Russia and the world.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022


   Six years ago today my mother passed away. She died in my home, in my bedroom that we made into her bedroom. I am frequently reminded of her life and death there just for the fact of it being there. Everyone loses their mother and I'm not different than anyone else. But the baggage of childhood, the love of mother, the connected spirit and flesh that we share with our mothers makes that relationship, and loss of it, especially poignant. For my own sanity and self preservation, I push those memories aside because they are too sad and painful for me to recollect. I cope in ways that I am still learning and I focus on the good and I try to stay in the present. Now and then it is a little harder, like on anniversary days like today. For the final three days of her life my mother was unconscious. I sat by her bedside, held her hand, prayed, sang songs, and talked to her. But mostly, I listened to her breathe.

   I learned long ago, when studying Genesis, that when God created man he breathed life into him. Man's first breath was God's breath. In Exodus God tells Moses who he is by simply saying, "I am". God was was telling Moses his name and his name is existence itself.

    These days, I am learning how important it is to breathe. I have learned that when we are in fear or under stress, or extreme anxiety, we tend to hold our breath or we breathe fast and shallow. Part of meditation is to find "the breath" and ground ourselves simply by breathing. If our mind is going haywire, our heart is racing, and panic fills our head, these can all be brought under control by our conscious breathing, among other things. 

     A friend shared this writing today and it was timely for me on this day. It brought me great comfort and something to ponder.

 written by – Sandra Thurman Caporale

There was a moment when Moses had the nerve to ask God what his name is. God was gracious enough to answer, and the name he gave is recorded in the original Hebrew as YHWH.

Over time we’ve arbitrarily added an “a” and an “e” in there to get YaHWeH, presumably because we have a preference for vowels.

But scholars and Rabis have noted that the letters YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. When pronounced without intervening vowels, it actually sounds like breathing.

YH (inhale): WH (exhale).

So a baby’s first cry, his first breath, speaks the name of God.

A deep sigh calls His name – or a groan or gasp that is too heavy for mere words.

Even an atheist would speak His name, unaware that their very breathe is giving constant acknowledgment to God.

Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filing their lungs.

So when I can’t utter anything else, is my cry calling out His name?

Being alive means I speak His name constantly.
So, is it heard the loudest when I’m the quietest?

 In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs. 

In joy, our lungs feel almost like they will burst.

In fear we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down.
When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.

When I think about it, breathing is giving him praise. Even in the hardest moments!

This is so beautiful and fills me with emotion every time I grasp the thought. God chose to give himself a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive.

All of us, always, everywhere.
Waking, sleeping, breathing, with the name of God on our lips.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Coconut Cravings


   I have been craving coconut custard pie for two weeks. I tried an online recipe last week that called for a fancy butter crust. I made the pie and shared it with friends only to be dismayed at the tough and soggy crust. Not to be deterred, and still craving coconut custard pie, I made another attempt last weekend. This time I used my plain, tried and true Crisco pie crust that my mother taught me to make decades ago. It was my intention to halve the recipe and make three small pies because this time only Steve and I would eat them. But then I got thinking that I was craving coconut custard pie pretty severely so why not make the whole batch of filling and cook the extra as custard. 

I haven't made custard in years but I knew it needed to cook in custard cups placed in another pan of hot water. I got out my mother's cook book for the cooking directions for custard and went to town. It felt really good to have the kitchen in full baking mode. This was something I did almost daily years ago when all the girls were young and we had lots going on. Now I mostly bake only if someone is coming over to help eat it or if we need desserts at church for something. The little hand pie in the photos is made from a leftover scrap of crust, not to be wasted. I filled it with a spoonful of raspberry preserves and a few frozen blueberries. It was a success it in own right and held up strong in competition with the coconut custard. Everything was delicious and four days later only one pie and one custard remain to be eaten. We will take care of that today.



    For instructions on baking the custard, I referenced this thick and heavy cookbook which was my mother's. She once told me she received it from the publishing company for selling magazine subscriptions sometime around 1942. This cookbook has everything you need to know about cooking anything. There are things in here that most of us would never cook today, like Pheasant Soup, Boiled Oyster Plant, or Sweetbreads Supreme. Clam Juice Cocktail anyone? However, this book is a wonderful resource and some of my happiest childhood food memories came from this book, like the recipe for Brown Beef Stew. Years ago I spotted a copy of this cookbook at a yard sale in Massachusetts and bought it. My mom was still alive at the time and still used her copy and I wanted one of my own. I think my sister has one copy and I have the other now. I know most of us don't bother with cookbooks anymore when you can quickly look up anything you want to make on the internet. I search recipes all the time that way. But when it comes to the old tried and true foods like coconut custard pie, mom made it best.

Friday, February 18, 2022

At the Bird Feeder


Everyone gets along for a moment

    Steve and I are entertained every day by the bird activity outside our kitchen window. For years we have had a birdbath next to the patio and we often laugh at the birds' antics in the water. This year, Tess and Blake gave us a bird feeder which we hung on a tree a couple of yards away from the birdbath. Both of these items are on the patio right outside our big picture window in the kitchen. From here, we can see the comings and goings of the birds all day long. In addition, the girls gave Steve a trail camera for Christmas. He has gotten creative with it by setting it on the ground beside a tray filled with birdseed in order to capture photos of the birds. The camera is motion triggered and takes a photo every so many seconds. By the end of the day we have hundreds of bird photos. Between the birdbath, the feeder, and the camera we have quite a thing going on. Who needs TV?

     We have observed that there is definitely a pecking order with the birds based on their size. It goes like this; crow, woodpecker, blue jay, red wing blackbird, cardinal, finch, titmouse, sparrow, chickadee. We have mocking birds and bluebirds here but they don't seem to visit the feeder, although they enjoy the birdbath. The littler birds all get along and are very sweet about dining together. The bigger birds, not so much. 

Look at those red feathers!

      Two weeks ago we saw huge flocks of robins in the field. Their numbers could be heard every morning from a quarter mile away. There was chatter all over the county about sightings of these flocks. As quickly as they appeared, they seemed to be gone. I assume they briefly stopped here on their migration back to the north. Yesterday was especially exciting because we saw red wing blackbirds at the feeder. As a young child, my father taught me that these birds were the first harbingers of spring in upstate New York. Each March my father would stand at the open front door and listen for them. He would get very excited when he heard those first calls of, "Cock-a-ree!" I can recall huddling by his side at the door straining our ears to catch their call. After those long winters up north, that call was a welcome sound to be sure!

     In a short while the birds won't need our seed anymore. We have already noticed that on the milder days they don't take as much seed from the feeder. They will still be very active on the birdbath throughout the summer. We will be watching them from the screened porch rather than from inside the cozy warmth of a winter kitchen. Knowing Steve, he will find a way to photograph them in the bath. He will move the trail camera to some other locations on the property with hopes to catch pictures of the elusive bobcat that I saw twice last year. If we are lucky enough to spot it on the camera, I will share it. Fingers crossed!

Little bird waits his turn.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Book Reviews

 Who doesn't love a good book? I feel lost when I don't have a current book to read. Like everyone, I have my favorite genres and I get excited when I hit the jackpot and find a good book to read. I would say that out of every four or five books I read, one of them is really good. I don't read romance novels nor much fantasy. I also can't read  anything containing graphic violence or sex. I don't find it entertaining or enriching. I decided these past few weeks that I needed positive, happy, interesting subjects. So the following list will reflect that trend. Although I linked these from Amazon, I don't always purchase from them. I like used books, Kindle books, borrowed books, Audible books (which is Amazon), and library books. I have used Goodreads for years as a way to keep lists of the books I have read, what I want to read, and what I never finished reading. It's a great website for browsing book reviews, too.

Every Day is a Holiday by George Mahood

This author decided to celebrate each day, for six months, with whatever national holiday it was assigned. There was National Walk Barefoot Day, National Curmudgeon Day, and all kinds of other zany holidays. He gave each day his all and celebrated it in whatever meaningful way he could devise. Being a dad with three children and a wife, he would often include his family in those celebrations. I laughed out loud at many of his stories. I listened to this on audible and the narrator's English accent reflected that of the author's. It's definitely a happy, funny book. To note, there is a bit of swearing if your listening aloud with young children in the room or car.

Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The author owns the second largest bookshop in Scotland and he has many stories to tell about the everyday running of the shop, the customers he encounters and the townspeople he crosses paths with. Shaun is sarcastic and a bit ornery but his sense of humor had me laughing at his tales. The audio book provided over nine hours of witty, interesting topics and a peek into a life of bookselling that I never imagined. It will definitely leave you with a desire to support your local bookshop and shaking your head at the crushing power Amazon has over small booksellers.

Three Men in a Boat (Not to Mention the Dog) by Jerome Jerome

This book was first published in 1889. It is a jovial story of three friends and a dog who decide to take a float down the Thames. It's a simple story reflecting the humor of the time yet remains thoughtful, witty, and often very funny. The boaters get tripped up on many occasions and have interesting encounters with local folks. "The story describes the incidents of their river journey, along with a multitude of humorous digressions and anecdotes, and musings upon the historical associations of passing towns and landmarks." The telling of how girls tow the boat along the canal had me laughing out loud.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Steve and I listened to this book on our drive to Savannah and back. It was an amazing science fiction adventure that had us engaged at every minute. Weir is a meticulous writer of science fiction, describing that math and reasoning behind his characters actions and encounters. The main character, Ryland Grace, is just an average scientist and middle school teacher who ends up needing to save the earth and other planets to boot. A great book for all readers, not just sci fi fans.

Next up on my list is, "Journal of a Trapper" by Osborne Russell and "Fifth Business" by Robertson Davies. I'll let you know how they go!

I did read three other books between the above listed and they were OK but not close to being a favorite. They were, "The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot" by Marianne Cronin, "The Rose Code" by Kate Quinn, and "One Two Three" by Laurie Frankel.