Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Holiday Carols Update

Holiday Carol Update
Here's the response from the Marketing Director at the local mall to my last post:
All of our shoppers celebrate the holidays in different ways. We want
to wish everyone a special holiday wish...and the use of Happy Holidays
crosses all religions.

I appreciate your comments. Thank you

I appreciate her prompt and proper response, but she missed the point of why this sign was so hilariously PC - the awkward paraphrasing of well-known Christmas song. I've been thinking of other songs that could be sanitized for the season:

Silent Night, "Wholly" Night
"Higher Being" Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Oh Come, All Ye Spenders

The First "Shopping Season" the Angel did say
Hark the Herald "heavenly beings that some believe in" sing
Joy to the World, "someone" was born
We wish you a Merry Solstice

OK, you get the idea. Any contributions?


Monday, December 20, 2004

Happy Holidays

The length merchants go to avoid the term Christmas is absurd. I drove by Glenbrook Mall this afternoon and the big sign said:

"It's beginning to look a lot like the Holidays"

Oh yes, let's change the words of a Christmas carol to avoid mentioning the reason why millions of dollars are being spent in your stores. I sent Glenbrook an email suggesting they may be interested in this post. Perhaps knowing that the buying public is laughing at them may change their policy.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

My First Thursday Three
Not being a southerner (not even a smidgen), I've read with interest the Thursday Threes which usually have a southern theme. But this time, Possumblog gave me something that transcends the Mason-Dixie Line.

1. The ol? Tannenbaum--fake or real? When does it go up? And when does it come down? Not only is it real, but we grow the trees ourselves so they look real. The last time we bought a "real" Christmas tree, it had been spray painted! It goes up Thanksgiving weekend and comes down quickly after Christmas. I cut the branches off it and use them to protect my garden over winter.

2. Shopping--fake or real? Oh, wait, that?s the last question. Here we are--do you wait until the last minute or plan ahead? Do you give gift cards? Both. I bought two dolls for my nieces last summer in their own satin lined boxes (coffins?) but I can't find them anywhere. I have truly tore the house apart. So I'm substituting my favorite book to give and to receive - books. Gift cards have become the gift du jour for inlaws since they have everything they need and could possibly want. Of course, this year one son suggested a $2000 gift certificate to Dell Computer!

3. And finally, where do you carry out your celebrating, of whatever sort it might be? At your house, at a relative?s house in the area, or out of town? For years, we have spent Christmas Eve with my inlaws followed by the midnight candlelight service at church, Christmas morning at home, and then left in the afternoon for the 12 hour drive to my mothers. Then my brothers and sister and our families meet the Sunday before or after Christmas. This year things are a'changin'. Mom's moved home and inlaws decided to celebrate Christmas Day. So Christmas Eve at home with a special request dinner of Cornish rock game hens followed by church service. Christmas morning at home (Santa still comes to our house). Christmas afternoon at inlaws. Day after Christmas, 30 odd (take that any way you wish) Bishops will converge on my house for our celebration.

Birthday

Happy Birthday to Me
And it has been a happy birthday so far. Mom surprised me at Tuesday morning's Bible Study by bringing in these unusual rolls which I remember her making fresh on Christmas mornings. I remember because we could open our stockings before breakfast, but we had to eat before opening the rest of the gifts.

Crispy Cookie Coffeecake
1 pkg. yeast
1/4 cup water
4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk, scalded
1 T. cinnamon
In small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. In large bowl sift flour, salt, lemon rind and 1/4 cup sugar. Cut in butter. Combine eggs, milk, yeast and add. Combine lightly. Refrigerate overnight. Divide dough in half. Roll each piece 18" by 12:. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixed with cinnamon. Roll up tightly. Cut in 1 inch slices. Place cut side up on greased baking sheet and flatten with palm of hand. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Ice. (Mom pipes on icing in a lattice pattern by putting all the rolls next to each other and making large thin lines of icing across all rolls.)


My family is getting me scrapbook supplies, which I bought on sale and assuaged by guilt for spending so much by giving them to my husband to give to me. He also gave me a bottle of Baileys, a real treat on cold winter nights in front of the fire. I had a long birthday conversation this morning with my girlfriend and another sent me a funny ecard. There will be 15 members of my family at the Christmas band and choir concert tonight so I will enjoy my evening. And I'm spending the day baking Christmas cookies.

This is not quite the celebration that would have pleased me 30 years ago, but I've become wiser with the years.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Chirstmas Semi-Formal

Christmas Semi-Formal
Saturday night was the Freshman semi-formal and both boys attended - Ron in his new suit and Rick in a tux he borrowed for the show choir Christmas program this week. They were so handsome and grown-up. It's hard to believe how quickly they've grown.

Rick had a "date." They went to the dance separately and returned separately, but he bought her a wrist corsage and had their picture taken together. Ron asked a girl but she was not allowed to go.

Rick is on student council so he spent three hours Friday night and another four hours Saturday morning and then until after 1:00 am after the dance putting up and taking down the decorations. Sweet hubby helped transform the gym despite finals looming this week.

One of the chaperones reported to me after Sunday School that Ron was amazing in his ability to mix with adults (from principal to sherioff to janitor) and kids (from cheerleaders to the goths). "He has a future in sales." Ron's response was "I'm not like that, Mom." I'm not sure what his idea of salesmen are, but I pointed out that his cousin is making a good living at CDW and his eyes lit up. Ron reported Ricky acted like he always does at dances. I know what that means. He was a wild dancing man, throwing himself on the floor and generally enjoying himself and embarrassing his brother.

Do the girls know the effect they have on these teenage boys? Ron (Mr. Black and White) told me that most of the girls would have been sent home if the dress code was enforced.
"They wore spaghetti straps, Mom. Their dresses were held up only by
these thin straps the size of spaghetti
."

Yes, son, I know what spaghetti straps are even if you will never see me in one.
"And then the rest of the girls didn't even have those straps. Their
dresses weren't held up by anything
."

Called strapless, my son.
"When they danced, the girls had to keep one hand on the the top of their
dresses so their tops wouldn't fall down
."

Poor girls, when they tried on the gowns, they forgot they had to dance in them.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Nutcracker
This is an email I received from my niece describing her evening with her niece, my three-year old great niece.

Oh, we just had the most wonderful night last night!

First, Morgan came over, and I chased her through the house with the Nutcracker, so she wouldn't touch him for a few minutes, but eventually warmed up to all 4 nutcrackers as long as I handled them. I put them in a conversation position so she could make their "mouths" move and have a brilliant discussion about all the candy they would like to eat, and whether they wanted to go climb the christmas tree. Then one of the nutcrackers called another a "poopie" and I forced them to break it up. So then she played with my nativity set, and seemed to have most of the story down, except for one part where Mary told Joseph, "You're not the baby's father" (perhaps the beginning of a "Cops" episode?). When we left, the arrangement showed that baby Jesus had been left with Jeremiah, the shepherd/babysitter, while Mary went and whooped it up with the wisemen.

Then, we put on our prettiest party dresses and went to the ballet, Nutcracker in tow. At first, she didn't want to carry him (that freak bites, you know) but I had to get the tickets out, so she deigned to carry him at arm's length. However, Nutcracker's social value was vastly increased in Morgan's eyes when she saw the one on stage....after that, she just couldn't cuddle him enough, and held him most of the performance.

Morgan was wearing a beautiful white dress, and carrying around the Nutcracker, and people would just catch their breath and gave her all kinds of compliments on how adorable and sweet she was. She did a wonderful job of watching the ballet, and seemed to understand a lot of what was going on. (I don't know if she necessarily made the abstract connection that most of the people dancing in the second act were supposed to be candy and coffee and tea, but oh well). She even helped me find the car after the show....that child is freakishly sharp. We then went back to my house and worked on decorating the tree a bit, and then her mommy and daddy took her home to bed, just like Clara after the big party.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

My Christmas Story

My Christmas Story
My church asked for Christmas stories to videotape for Christmas Eve services. The following is my story.

This is my Christmas story. I’m telling this story, even though parts of it are painful, to encourage those who may be having a tough time this Christmas. It is my story but it is also the universal Christmas story of hope.

It was Christmas Day, 1988 and my husband had just left me. My emotional state is hard to describe – despair, shame, grief. I decided not to tell my family and friends so I wouldn’t cause them pain. Sounds unselfish but I suspect an unhealthy dose of pride was involved in that decision.

So I woke up alone on Christmas morning to that special hush and indescribable light of newly fallen snow. Large flakes were still coming down. As the day progressed, I became increasingly filled with despair, grief, loneliness and self-pity. I was heartbroken.

Finally my eye caught the old hymnal, the one we used when I was a child. I had strayed from God after I left home, but He had been calling me home. And He called me again that Christmas morning through old familiar carols.

So alone in my home, on a snow covered Christmas morning, I opened the hymnal and sang every verse of every carol: O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Angels From the Realms of Glory, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, and the list goes on.

Halfway through I was on my knees worshiping the God that sent us his son and by the time I was finished I was prostrate before the King.

Eventually I stood, walked to the back window. As I looked out on that pure white morning, the ground was covered with red. Cardinals. Redbirds. I’ve never seen that many cardinals in a flock, before or since. Birds on the ground, birds in the bushes, birds in the trees, flashes of red flitting back and forth. I stood in awe at this remarkable sight. It was as if God decorated the world this Christmas morning just for me.

Finally, I wandered to the front window and there were more cardinals! I laughed and danced from window to window to catch this amazing sight. My house was surrounded with cardinals, God’s sign of hope to me, saying, “Yes, child, I came to earth for even you.”

So if you are hurting this year, let me encourage you. Hold onto God’s promises. Who knows what he has in store for you? A year after the caroling redbird Christmas, I met my husband. We were married two years later and three years after that, He gave us twin five-year-old boys. And my life has not been the same since! As I mourned the ending of one phase of my life that Christmas morning, I was given the only true hope - Emmanuel. God with us.

Christmas List

Christmas List
I asked the boys to make a Christmas list for me and here was the first thing on Ron's list:
Dell Gift Certificate - $50 to $2,000

I'm glad he gave me a range!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Parenting is like a roller coaster

Parenting is Like a Roller Coaster
When I was childless I envisioned family times like we had Saturday night. Ricky was baking chocolate chip cookies to take to church the next day, Ron was separating the materials for our second grade Sunday School class, and hubby was putting the final touches on a project. I flitted between each, helping as needed. Christmas music was softly playing and the tree was lit. The talk was pleasant and fun. I stopped for a moment and soaked in the pure joy of this family.

Then the roller coaster started its perilous descent. I learned from my niece that one son behaved extremely irresponsibly with repercussions not only to him but to classmates that must rely on him. His response to us was defensive, which only served to push our buttons. Voices were raised and his father "walked" him back to his room. (What do single mothers do with teenage boys? They respond so differently to males.) He spent the rest of the evening in his room, his TV and computer privileges are pulled, and he is on a very short leash until he can prove himself trustworthy.

A lot has been written recently about why people blog. My reasons have changed over the 2+ years I've been doing this. Now it is to help me maintain some perspective on parenting during these turbulent teens.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Coz Every Girl Crazy 'bout a Sharp Dressed Man
The twins are involved in support roles with their basketball team (manager and videotaper) and are required to dress up on game days. So one son has decided to wear a dress shirt and tie every day to school. What gives? ZZ Top seems to offer the only logical explanation.

When I was in high school, we had dress-up day. So my friends and I did. I dressed up in a toga and this was long before Animal House was made. We were sent home second period after the business teacher burst into tears at our disrespect of her special day. We weren't even in any of her classes. I do remember my math and science teacher indicating that he thought it was pretty funny.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Bulbs

I planted the last of the bulbs, about 25 species crocus of assorted colors, next to the front sidewalk today. I had to bruch aside the snow and then leaves but the soil was warm and crumbly.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Babushka

Babushki of the Revolution
If you are having a hard time understanding the situation in the Ukraine, or if you are relying solely on mainstream media for your understanding, check out Tulip Girl's November 27th entry. I've been reading her for some time now, drawn in by her passion for life - family, homelife, infant care, spirituality. Then she finds herself living in the Ukraine during this political upheaval and blogging about both the human and political perspective.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree
One of our holiday traditions is to cut our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving from the 25 scotch pines we planted at our tree farm for just this purpose. The first year it was a wee spindly tree, but the last several years, the trees have been gorgeous. This year it is huge, perhaps 12 feet tall. It only fits in the enclosed front porch which has a high ceiling. The males in the house wrestled it into our standard-sized tree stand and we started putting lights on it last night. The tree fell over several times, so now there is a hook in the ceiling with a cord holding the tree upright. It works for me, just don't look too close. The mini lights look ridiculous on the huge tree, so we invested in some larger lights today. I also bought a dozen very large golden bulbs because I know my ornaments are going to get lost on it. When I got back from the store today the twins had hung the lighted window/lawn decorations on the tree (candy canes, star, Rudolph) and it looks just fine.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving
I just talked to Mom on the phone and she reminded me that it's been about a week since I posted anything, so here it is. Thanksgiving was at my sister' home. Peg and I take turns hosting the holidays. This year she has Thanksgiving, I have Christmas, she has Easter and then I have Thanksgiving next year. Meanwhile the three brothers have parties in the summer and I have my fall river party. Sprinkled in between are special events such as graduations and birthdays. I am so blessed to have a family that enjoys each other's company. When I was in my early 30s, I had dinner for my family before we went to the theater. I didn't remember my roommate's remark, but my Mom did, "Does your family always have so much fun?" Yes, we do. What a legacy from my parents and grandparents.

The whole family usually goes for a long walk after we eat, but with several inches of wet snow on the ground, we had a raucous snowball fight. I was an observer along with my niece Jennifer, until we were walking back to the house and I nailed her with a snowball. She sputtered, "but, but I'm wearing a skirt!" and then proceeded to pummel her sister with snowballs. Jon, my 12-year- old great nephew, came in last, soaking wet and asked each person in turn, "Who was the super star today?" Of course, he was.

My contributions to the meal were homemade yeast rolls, our family's traditional cranberry nut bread, broccoli health salad (totally misleading name with the bacon and mayo), and my special spinach (baked in a bechamel sauce with onions and Parmesan cheese.) Last night I cooked noodles, added the leftover spinach and ham and baked it for dinner. Yum. Here's the cranberry bread recipe:


Cranberry Nut Bread
Sift together:
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Combine juice and zest of one orange, 2 tsp. melted butter and enough water
to make 3/4 cup all together. Add one well-beaten egg. Blend dry
ingredients and liquids just enough to dampen all.

Add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts and 1 cup raw cranberries, washed, dried and
cut in half. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Close to the Earth

Close to The Good Earth
Sunday evening I tackled the ivy again. One square yard to go but it is the last remnant of the landscaping that came with the house: black plastic covered with large stones and 20 years of accumulated top soil overgrown with English ivy. Three five-gallon buckets of stones so far, but I was interrupted when Sam, our yellow lab, sensed a deer in the field and bolted over the fence to protect his territory. I followed, not through the fence opening, but through the path the dog has worn and over the wire fence he smashed down to about 18 inches. Deer in the distance hesitates and looks at Sam who hesitates and looks at me, trying to decide whether to obey me or the primal urge to track the animal. He decides to obey me but not wanting to give me too much pleasure in his behavior, he meanders around the field sniffing. Meanwhile I find THE PERFECT FIELDSTONE to add to my collection for that far distant day when I build a fieldstone retaining wall. It is almost past dusk now and I pick up the stone, call Sam and trundle back to the house, through the dog path and not quite over the wire fence.

Time slows as my body creates ever smaller acute angles with the ground. I have enough time to lift the field stone over my head so my face won't smash into it. Contact. Face buried in soft forest duff. Right hand resting on a rotting stump. Left hand awkwardly wrapped around the field stone. Ok. Take stock. I'm breathing. I can wiggle my toes. Boys are in house electronically engaged. Hubby is studying at the Boys Club. I will just lay here until they miss me. Sam comes over to check me out and starts nudging/licking my face. Better take action. Get up. Stumble into the house. Ron's eyes get big at his moaning, dirt covered mother whose shirt is ripped down the sleeve. He leads me to the bathroom to clean my wounds, gets me an ice pack and proceeds to fix supper. Rick covers me with blankets, brings me a glass of OJ and finds my book for me. Hubby gets home and, after ascertaining my injuries are not serious (severely strained left thumb and backache), inquires, "Help me understand. It is dark. You are carrying a heavy stone. You come up to the fence and stop. Lift one leg over and then the other leg over."

In small voice I answer, "Nooo I'm striding back to the house and totally forget about the fence."

Monday, November 15, 2004

Titles
Ron spent the weekend at a regional Campus Life high school event called "Go Mad 2004." He ran the first two words together every time he said it and I giggled to myself. Try it.

I just started subscribing to Better Homes and Gardens and the first issue I received had an article titled, "The Pie That Binds." No thank you.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Show Choir Fall Preview

Show Choir Fall Preview
Ricky made his debut last night, as did his cousin Caecilia, with a Gershwin medley. It was beautiful. The joy in Ricky’s face, a grin that wouldn’t stop and sparkling eyes, was evident to all based on comments after the performance. This happened in the 7th grade talent contest, when he sang acapello “Down in the River to Pray” from “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” and we locked eyes, the joy escalating between us until all else faded away and he was just singing to his Mama. I had to look away, afraid he would float off the stage – which of course would make him lose his place!

Morgan, his three-year-old cousin, sat behind us last night and her father told me that she pointed to Ricky on stage and then pointed to me several times. Then in the "meet and greet" time after the concert, Caleb, her 18 month old brother, became enamored of kissing my mom, his great-grandmother. With a serious little boy face, he leaned to her for a kiss about twenty times. My sister and I couldn’t stop laughing.

The highlight of Ricky’s night was the "meet and greet". Dressed in a white tux, it was a time when this freshman man-boy could hug and kiss all the pretty Show Choir girls in congratulations. When he got in the car to go home (after a mild argument “No, you cannot ride with the senior boys to the Mexican restaurant.”) he asked me, with a big grin, “Do I have lipstick on my face?”

Friday, November 12, 2004

Last Bouquet?

Latest Additions to Fall Bouquet
Yesterday I added a viola (purple and light yellow blooms) and another sprig of purple veronica to the dining room bouquet. These are the latest blooms; are they the last blooms?

Update on Ivy
As I spent five hours yesterday grubbing up the English ivy, I kept muttering about the fool who said, "Well begun is half done." Ha! That person never tried to clear a bed of forty years of ivy. I figure I have about five more hours to get the roots dug up.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Accident Update

Our Litigious Society
I had an accident last week and so far I've received four (!) letters from personal injury lawyers. One lawyer strongly recommended that I go to the doctor even if I did not have any evident injuries. One included a business card that looked like a credit card. One gave some good advice (reminder to file form with state) before soliciting my business. The one I received yesterday was from Indianapolis! No wonder Alan (my friend who pulled out in front of me) said he was so glad that if he had to cause an accident, he was so glad it was someone nice like me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Third Day

Yesterday I wondered what today would bring. I walked out onto the back deck just in time to see a great blue heron fly out of the pond with a six inch fish in his mouth. He flew through the woods, dodging trees, turned around in a clearing and flew over my head. Losing a game fish was a lot less traumatic for me than when a heron ate the prized pet kois from my friend's pond earlier this year.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes
Steve just called me outside to listen to the sandhill cranes as they regrouped in the woods behind the house. What an unusual call -- warbling? yodeling?

Last night - northern lights. Tonight - sandhill cranes. Wonder what tomorrow will bring?
Weekend
We saw the aurora borealis last night, thanks to the heads-up phone call from my sister. As we were watching the dancing sky, I said, "Now all we need is a shooting star." Less than two minutes later, a huge star shot across the sky.

The first hard frost withered my garden last night...at last. I kept picking what I thought was the last bouquet of the season. Last week was tansy, hyrdrangea and black-eyed susan. Yesterday, rosebuds, dark blue veronica, cosmos, foxglove and a large white fringed dahlia. The bittersweet in the woods is glowing so that will be what I gather next to bring the outside in.

Saturday both boys had all day classes. Ron went to a daylong Hapkido seminar taught by Master West and Ricky had a daylong show choir rehearsal with guest choreographers in preparation of the first show next weekend. Yesterday we cleaned out the shed and garage, preparing for winter. Ron brought down all the Christmas decorations from the attic (decorating the house for each season is his thing), but we wouldn't let him start decorating. That is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for our family.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day Accident
No, I didn't hit the wrong button. I double-checked. But voting was delayed from early morning until early afternoon.

The fog came in quickly this morning, too late for a school delay. So as I was running Ricky to the high school for early basketball practice, we drove by the middle school which is a voting site. The stream of cars in front of me all were turning right into the school but I was going straight. I slowed down as the car in front of me turned and then slammed on my brakes as someone pulled in front of me turning left. I had about ten feet to stop. I was not successful.

Check Rick. He's wide-eyed but fine. Call 911. Call Steve. Check other driver. It's Alan! I know him. A former co-worker and fellow Master Gardener. He's in severe pain, but gracious as usual. EMTs load him on back board and take him away. My prayers go with him, as he has a hip and back that occasionally require him to use a cane (although he's only in his 40s). Steve takes Rick to school. Tow truck comes and hauls away vehicles. Cops leave. Steve picks me up and takes me home. Iron pants and shirt for Steve and then clean the house.

A few minutes ago, Steve said you don't look so hot. Actually I feel like H-E-double toothpicks. (Radarism via Little A) So I'm off to bed. I'm a little sore. I called Alan this afternoon and he will be fine.

The other insurance company called this afternoon and suggested that I have my insurance company pay the damages and then subrogate the claim. ha! I was in the insurance business and I know better.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I Would Have Won
I took Ron to the Halloween party at the martial arts studio tonight. I was not in costume, but I told him I was going to sign up for the costume contest as a middle-aged woman. You had to act out your costume and I was going to walk across the stage: fan face "Is it hot in here?" wipe brow "Or is it just me" flutter bottom of blouse "I'm sweating." blow down front of blouse.

Even without telling him my vignetter, he was aghast at the thought.

A word for younger women reading my blog: PMS is nothing. It's just getting you prepared for the next stage.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Bringing in the Pots

Bringing in the Pots
Yesterday I tackled my outdoor containers. Every year I try to overwinter the unusual (and overpriced) annuals that I can't resist in the spring. I'm usually not sucessful, but it doesn't keep me from trying. Eternally optimistic, I am. So I started some leaf cuttings as well as trimming back plants and bringing the pots into the heated, enclosed front porch. It's starting to look like a jungle, but I love it.

Can you believe that the tender tubers cannot yet be lifted? The dahlias are still blooming.

Bouquets

Spring Bouquet for Halloween
It has been very warm this fall and some spring flowers are blooming. I picked a bouquet yesterday of the last of petunias combine with the annual Pentas. The forecast today is in the 70s so I'm waiting to pick the rest of the flowers to give them a chance to blossom out some more. Forsythia. Forget-me-nots. Foxglove. Hydrangea (one small bloom). Roses. Bells of Heaven. Daylilies. Of course, the cosmos and black-eyed Susans are still blooming.

Raisin Brownies

Brownies
Tulip Girl asked for a brownie recipe that uses cocoa, no baking powder and white sugar because certain ingredients are difficult to obtain in the Ukraine. I thought of Aunt Joan's Raisin Brownies immediately. They are super moist, not chewy, melt-in-your mouth chocolately goodness.

Raisin Brownies
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbs. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup raisins (or 1/2 cup nuts or nothing)

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Combine dry ingredients and add. Add vanilla and raisins. Pour into an 8 inch square pan, greased and floured. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar while warm.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

2005 Books

Book Ideas
After several years, my book club has refined how we choose the books we read and discuss. Everyone submits three books, we vote on one book from each person, and vote for three books at large from the remaining books. If you are a reader, you may be interested in the recommendations. As usual there are several books that I will read whether they are selected or not and there are several books that I'm not interested in at all.
Ivy Update
With the English ivy partially dug out of the driveway bed, I'm now wondering why I ever wanted to do this. Some of the stems are an inch across and I am having to use a heavy mattock to dig the roots out. Jumping up and down on a sharp shovel does not cut it.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Ivy Bed

Another new bed!
Even thought I went furniture shopping with Mom today, this bed is not a sleigh bed, poster bed or even the pencil bed that I’ve been eyeing for some time. This winter I will have the pleasure of designing another gardening spot, about 15’ by 5’ between the driveway and the house, with the bay window jutting into it. Until yesterday, this little piece of land was filled with ivy, which looked lovely against the brick fa├žade of the house, but it kept trying to sneak into the house by creeping through the windows.

So this week I cut the ivy back to the ground. Cut is actually much too dainty of a word for this activity. I used a garden knife, clippers, and a mini-mattock. Despite the tools, my knuckles are raw from scraping the brick. The next step is to eradicate the ivy by spraying and/or digging. The dense woody roots may require use of a pickaxe! Once clean, I can amend the soil, probably with shredded leaves, so next spring I will be ready to plant.

As the bed rests this winter, I’ll be snug inside dreaming of how I will use this good earth. It segues into my cottage garden, so I will need to keep a similar style. Height is needed between the garage doors and the bay window. I’m thinking about a trellis with clematis or roses, tall grasses, or perhaps a columnar evergreen for winter color. I’ve decided to put window boxes around the bay window. Not only will they be attractive accents in the landscape, it will improve our view from the inside.

The bed is limited to 5’ in width by the house and the driveway. Actually, it is more like a parking lot. It has bugged me for years. They could have put a parking pad on the other side of the driveway, but they chose to put it in front of the house. I've asked Steve to rent a jack hammer and dig it up for flower gardens. He responds with either an incredulous look or “Put it on the list.”

Friday, October 22, 2004

Applesauce

Applesauce
Three bushels of apples are now off my counter and in my freezer. About half of the apples I sliced, fried in butter, and stirred in brown sugar and cinnamon. We will use these as warm side dishes or as toppings for pancakes (especially the gingerbread pancakes) or ice cream.

With the rest of the apples, I attempted applesauce. I was up until 1 am making it one night this week and it turned out runny - like pulpy apple cider. I stuck it in fridge and went to bed. The next morning, I strained it through cheesecloth and all was well. When I served the applesauce and apple sauce juice last night (with spinach quiche), my family raved. So I ended up with about $5.00 worth of applesauce and juice and it only took me seven hours. Tell me again why I'm doing this?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Katherine Hilliard Bennett Young

Katherine Hilliard Bennett Young
Or Kitty as her brother John called her in the Rondeau just posted. She is my paternal great-grandmother. I cherish my grandmother's locket that has a picture of Kitty (her mother) and Lawrence (her son and my father) in it. I framed a newpaper article Kitty wrote for the Buffalo Courier interviewing a female drummer (traveling salespeople).

I also have several of her books with correspondence and clippings stashed inside. Inserted in one of the books, Wild Earth and Other Poems by Padraic Colum, are several letters from the poet including some interesting discussion of the unrest in Ireland and how his friend (whom my great-grandmother admired) was executed for treason. The poet inscribed the book with the following blessing:

May the Olden
One whom Fairy
Women nurtured
Thro' seven ages,
Bring you seven
Waves of Fortune!

For Katherine Hilliard Young
Padriaic Colum
April 1921

Friday, October 15, 2004

To Kitty - A Rondeau

To Kitty - A Rondeau
"And after partaking of Sunday eatables he was bidden to write." - G. Innesly
You bid me try, Dear Kit, to write
An impromptu, at once, to night!
A rondeau, too, with thirteen lines,
And with the choice of just two rhymes;
Think of the task! at best - not light,
But when the muse, that nimble sprite,
Be stuffed with turkey, it is quite
Beyond my pen, and yet - pass lines!

You bid me try.

But still I strive; I'm in a plight;
Ah! Curses be on appetite,
And woe to him that overdines,
His verse with humor never shines,
And though my form "twill blast and blight,

You bid me try.

From John M. Hilliard, Medina, N.Y. Christmas,
1901.

Carnival of Recipes

Check out the Carnival of Recipies.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Syrian Nutmeg Cake

Carnival of the Recipes
I submitted my first recipe to the Carnival. This is a favorite from my childhood that I took with me when I established my first kitchen many moons ago. It is an easy and elegant dessert and always gets raves. The bottom crumb layer forms a crunchy crust for the moist cake, unless you pat the crumbs down and then it becomes rockhard. I use the 9 inch pan and I find it usually takes a lot a longer to bake than indicated.

A friend made a similar cake but used almonds and added orange zest to the batter. She didn't use nutmeg, but some other spice that I simply can't recall (cloves? ginger?). It was very good.

Look for other great recipes this Friday when She Who Will Be Obeyed hosts the carnival.

Syrian Nutmeg Cake
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cut butter into sugar and flour until finely crumbed. Sprinkle half of the crumb mixture in a well-greased 7" springform pan (do not pat!). Mix baking soda and sour cream and add to the remaining crumbs along with egg and nutmeg. Beat until smooth. Pour batter over crumbs and sprinkle with nuts. Bake 1.5 hours at 325 degrees or until center is set. Can also use a 9" square pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Serve warm or cold, with or without whipped cream.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

River Party

Fall River Party
Saturday was the tenth annual Bishop gathering at the St. Joseph River. Not having a rain plan, I was pleased to awake to blue skies and sunshine, and the cool air made it a perfect fall day.

At 2:00, 25 of us gathered - from 18 months old to 81 years old. We cooked Beef Gascon in a large kettle over the open fire while the rest of the family brought side dishes and desserts. Tim brought bushels of apples from his trees, which has become part of the fall ritual.

In the afternoon, part of us went up to the Highlands and part of us stayed at the Property. (Yes, we own two river properties in addition to our home - which makes for LOTS of mowing.) In the barn at the Highlands, Mom was giving away some of her stuff she couldn't fit in her new apartment. The brothers and sister and I were reluctant to select anything in case others may want it, but the grandkids had no such compunction. (My son Ron has been reading Dad's WWII training manuals all week.) Tim brought his black powder musket and made some loud noises shooting the targets while the teenagers played a game of football.

Back at the property, Steve gave rides on the riverboat, even after night fell. The teenagers also took the canoes out; luckily no one fell in this year. Last year, Caecilia fell in after her canoe was rammed by her brother. I never saw anyone move so fast for shore as the canoe floated downstream.

The stew was done so we gathered to eat after praising God for our family and the day. After we took the kettle off the fire, Jennifer fried some bacon and mush for entertainment as the bacon grease caught on fire. Sated, we sat around the fire and told scary stories. One story made even the adults shriek in horror: President Kerry. We hid in the dark to scare the returning nighttime river boat riders. However, Grandma hid in her car and had trouble with her automatic headlights, etc.-our sides were splitting watching her antics. Andy's title is still secure though-the kids said that no one at the river has ever hidden and scared them as much as Andy once did. Then the storytelling started again as Mike softly played his guitar with Jennifer on harmonica with 3-year-old Morgan helping her. Each story outdid the previous one until Jenny capped off the evening with a thinly disguised Stephen King tale adapted to the Saint Frances Bass Mansion.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Gardener of My Soul

Be the Gardener of my Soul

I was exchanging e-mails with a friend from church this morning and she shared this prayer with me which I'm sharing with you.

Spirit of the living God, be the Gardener of my soul.
For so long I have been waiting, silent and still -
experiencing a winter of the soul.
But now, in the strong name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:
Clear away the dead growth of the past,
Break up the hard clods of custom and routine
Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge.
Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,
Cultivate and water and tend my heart,
until new life buds and opens and flowers.
Amen.

UPDATE: I tracked down the author - Richard Foster. In his book "Prayers from the Heart" he says he is indebted to Carol Mullikin for the image of God as Gardner of my Soul.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Ricky's Rant

Ricky's Rant
The twins had their 6-month dental check-up yesterday with their pediatric dentist. Ricky needs work on his permanent teeth that the pediatric dentist is not comfortable doing. He released Ricky and referred him to a dentist who treats adults. (I first wrote "adult dentist" as if they've been going to a child dentist.) For some reason, the switch upset Ricky mightily. Can you believe that both Dr. Olinger and I teared up? We've been through so much with the boys and I also saw it as another sign of my boys growing up too quickly for my comfort (although sometimes they are not maturing fast enough for my comfort.)

So on the way home, Ricky starts talking about the switch, getting more and more upset and not listening to any reason. His emotional outburst then extended to the recent switch in medical doctor due to HMO changes. Ron tried to get him to stop, but I wanted to hear what Ricky was thinking. Here's Ricky's conclusion:
"And it won't be long before we are going to school dirty, wearing rags
with oozing sores all over our bodies and no one will want to be our
friend."


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Mainstream Media Reformation

MainStream Media Reformation
This article (via Instapundit) elegantly captured my opinion about the mainstream media. I thought you may enjoy it also.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Volunteer Army

Volunteer Army
Ron has decided to volunteer for the Army when he graduates high school. This is more than idle chatter. He has talked to new recruits, only checks out war books in the library, researched it on the web. Halfway through the presidential debates last night, he turned to me and said, "If Kerry wins, I'm going to wait until he is no longer commander-in-chief."

If Kerry is elected, the volunteer army may be in trouble if other young men feel the same way about the danger of being under Kerry's leadership. So return of draft may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Gambling Update

Gambling Debt
Quick update on Ricky's gambling debt. I asked him about it tonight and he said that the boys were just joking with him and he doesn't owe them anything.

So I hope he learned several lessons from this episode. Time will tell.

Still can't get the image out of my head of 1950s bad boys rolling dice in the back alleys, leather jackets, white t-shirts with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve, ducktails.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Essence of Teenage Boys

Essence of Teenage Boys
After school, Ron dropped the mail on the table and handed me a catalog. He had studied it as he slowly walked down the driveway and decided that I'd better throw it away, because this and this and this, pointing to specific pictures, was inappropriate. The catalog? Victoria's Secret.

Then after the normal uproar over homework (if it's not due tomorrow, it doesn't have to be done), they went to the girls soccer game at the high school. Home again, a little more study, a little more attitude. One boy is practicing his sarcasm (from the word sarka`zein - to tear flesh like dogs). So Steve and I played tag team working with the boys so neither one of us would wear out. Finally it is their bedtime and Rick looks at me tentatively, "Mom, I have a little problem at school."

Before school started this morning, he played Texas Hold 'Em, lost, then discovered the boys were playing for money. He has been forbidden to play poker, since we know that there is a gambling epidemic in the school system. Too many boys with too much time and too much money with too little supervision.

"How much, Ricky?"

Deer in headlight look. "More than five dollars."

"How much more?" I never did get a clear answer. "Who was playing?" He didn't want to say. "Isn't poker forbidden at school?" No answer.

His father told Ricky it was his problem so Ricky had to come up with the solution. Ricky offered two solutions: welsh on the bet or rat to the principal. Steve and I exchanged incredulous looks and explained to our oh-so-un-streetsmart son why those may not be good solutions. I then suggested to Ricky that he could pay it out of his allowance over the next few weeks.

"What?!!" slamming his open palms on the table, "That's MY money."

book recommendations

Books
It's about time for my book club to choose books to read next year. I'm always on the prowl for good books. Does anyone have a recommendation? Fiction or non-fiction. New releases or old favorites. Any genre. I'm open to all ideas.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Fall Garden

Fall Garden
It's been a while since I've written about my garden, because it's been a while since I've spent any time in it. I do miss it. It grounds me. This is true even though the pun is weak.

A month ago I wrote about the mid-summer doldrums in the garden. I solved some of the problem by filling clay pots with yellow, purple and white end-of-season, drastically-reduced-in-price annuals and strategically placed the pots in the bare spots. I also aggressively cut back many of the perennials. The pots are now lush with growth and the perennials sprouted fresh foliage.

The Autumn Joy, having provided structure in the earlier garden, is flush with dusty pink flowers. These are complemented by the simple dusty pink rays of mums with their yellow centers. The yellow is picked up by the Stella D'Oro daylilies amd moonbeam coreopsis putting on their final display. The last roses of summer are blooming, pink and cream, with a spicy fragrance. The toad lilies are still blooming although slightly past their peak. A few yellow rudbeckia and white cleomes have decided to continue their blooming. This is crowned by the sway of the blooming grasses. In a few weeks, this display will change as the foliage changes and seed pods add interest.

This has been a strange year, weather-wise and otherwise, so I'm not too surprised to see late spring plants blooming now - especially my foxglove and forget-me-nots.

Monday, September 27, 2004

My poem

My Poem
Here's my poem, written by an Aardvaark, based on my blog, my prize for winning the baby pool:

Earth Girl
She keeps an online journal where bits of her peek through
She has a loving husband and a teen-age boy ( X 2! )
She left behind her corporate job and the luxuries it afforded
To spend her days in other ways (for which she's been rewarded)
She likes to bake and cook and sew and always seems to think of others
Playing 'monster tag' in the dark, I know she's not your boring sort of mother!

She often tells us of her pond
And other things of which she's fond
Like sunrise and the morning dew,

Lilies, butterflies, blackbirds, cherries
Fireflies, iris, fresh blueberries
These are just to name a few

The way she writes of growing things
Displays the inner joy they bring
Creation in its verdant glory
And as they grow up all around
You sense with sight and smell and sound
The things she tells of in her stories

I'm glad she lets us tag along to see the world through eyes so kind
When Earth Girl's in her garden, contentment isn't far behind.
// posted by LittleA


My husband smiled when he read it and then said, "I used to write you poetry." I nodded. He did..when we were dating. I suspect I shall get another one soon.

I think LittleA hit it pretty close, except for the sewing part. I have a recessive craft gene and haven't sewn since high school. Ever since I left the corporate world, getting my sewing machine fixed has been on my To Do list but it has never Been Done.

While I left behind my corporate job, it was not of my choosing. I was ignobly, unjustly kicked out on my kiester. The best thing that ever happened to me.

And the monster tag reference said as much about LittleA as Earth Girl. I suspect the idea of running around in the dark, with the moonshadows of trees being "safe", appeals to his sense of childlike fun. That is a good thing and I wish it on all of you, my three readers.

So those of you who know me well - 20, 30, 40, or 50+ years - can you add a verse or two to round out this portrait?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Dogs

Beauregard
This is National Dog Week, so I'm going to honor one of my favorite dogs ever - Beauregard. Goofy. I can't deny that Beau was a supremely, exquisitely goofy dog. Anyone who spent time with Beau used that term - goofy. I prefer the term "character." Beau was a character and he had character.

Beau was a mixed breed with a lot of blue tic hound dog in him. In fact, this picture looks a lot like Beau. He was strong and muscular - cut like a body builder. His coat glistened and he had that special light in his eyes.

He had free rein of the woods, swamp, and fields around our house. He never ventured into the road or other people's property, preferring his solitary roaming. I once saw him sail over a high fence from a stand still, gracefully touching the fence with all four paws, kissing it for balance.

One of his favorite sports was counting coup with groundhogs and opossums. Once he cornered a bobcat, intending to engage in his favorite sport. Not a scratch on him, but his howling and the cat’s snarling woke us up to investigate.

In his old age, his sport of choice was frog hunting. He would spend hours and hours circling the pond, knee deep in water with his white tipped tail straight up and nose down. The frogs joined in the game, jumping over his back as he passed by them. At the splash, he would look over at the sound, with no idea what it was.

Of course, he treed raccoons his whole life. Once he had three raccoons treed- one in each of the three wild cherry trees next to the shop.

My father, when slowed down by heart failure, would sit with Beau next to our pond, patting his head and telling Beau in a soft voice, "I know what your mother was and I know what that makes you." Beau would thump his tail in ecstasy.

He had distinctive barks for friend or foe, animal or human, wanting out, wanting in, and of course for the hunt. But unlike most hound dogs, he did not howl all night long, only for a purpose.

He was the runt of the litter and would quiver at loud noises or around people - after barking like crazy. Once he hid under the truck hood, scared of thunder. We never could figure out how he got 70 pounds of dog up through the wheel well and under the hood.

He was gun shy too. My husband was shooting mice with .22 shot shells. Beau came and hid by him, not knowing that he had the gun. Of course, standing next to the shooter may be an indication of how smart he was.

He finally grew old, suffering greatly and we said goodbye to him. Even the vet cried as she put him to sleep. Several weeks later, we received notice of her significant memorial gift to Purdue University in his memory.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I won!

I won the baby pool!
And I am waiting for my poem. Another great reason for you to daily check out the Little Aardarks. Congratulations, Lenise. Jordana, I hope I don't win your pool since my weight guess was very high.

Say a prayer for the Aardvarks, especially Mrs. A as she has taken on the care of her ailing mother. We just moved Mom into the "yellow retirement apartments" and I am so thankful that she is in good health, sound mind, kind heart, and witty mouth.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Cross Gender Dressing Day
Today is designated Cross Gender Dressing Day at the high school, part of the silliness of homecoming week. One son wanted nothing to do with it, rolling his eyes in disdain; his twin thought it would be great fun to wear a sports bra stuffed with kleenex. We absolutely refused to let him do it. I know, I know, teenage boys dressed up in drag when I was in high school for huge laughs, but it's a different world today.

On the way out of the house, though, he did grab my brightly flowered baseball cap. I let him wear it.

I wonder if some misunderstood transgender student will contact the ACLU and sue the school?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Grape Juice

What's in your freezer?
One third of my freezer is very colorful. Red and blue and purple. Cherries and blueberries and concentrated grape juice. Oh and two gallon freezer bags of blackberries. The Montmorency cherries came pitted and lightly sugared in a large tub from the Southside farmer's market and all I had to do was separate it into freezer bags. The Blue Ray blueberries were picked by the boys and I, cleaned, individually frozen on cookie sheets and bagged. The Concord grapes came from my in-laws and I spent Sunday afternoon cleaning them, slowly cooking the grapes, straining them, reducing the juice into a concentrate, adding a little sugar and pouring into freezer boxes. The blackberries are from my bushes, prepared the same as blueberries.

Since leaving the corporate world, I've started preserving fruit. Berries from the grocery store in winter - whether fresh or frozen - are totally unsatisfactory compared to the fruit I freeze. Even the teenage boys notice the difference. And Welch's grape juice tastes like colored sugar water compared to the intense grape flavor produced from boiling down your own grapes.

I know the same is true of vegetables and perhaps next year I'll venture into corn and green beans. There is no way to cost justify the effort. A can or bag of corn from the store is less expensive than home-grown and preserved even without considering labor. The only reason to do this is the taste. And the satisfaction of admiring your freezer contents.

Friday, September 10, 2004

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent
Book club was at my house this morning and we were underwhelmed with this book. Easy read, but odd structure. And the characters were confusing so it was hard to empathize with them. Next month, I'm leading the discussion on the book I suggested, "Good King Harry." I loved it, but it is different from the other books we read. I'm not sure everyone will be willing to slog through the bloody war scenes.

So my house appears clean. Only I know about the very tall stack of papers beside my bed and the magazines stacked next to it. Oh and the laundry room is piled high. Wish Mrs. Aardvaark was here to sort and wash those clothes. (Scroll down to the "Soundtrack" entry.) I sat on the couch during book club, looking east through the bay window. Sunshine was trying to stream through it but the window attracts spiders. I didn't have time to wash the windows when I was cleaning, so I swiped the duster across the outside windows. I was dismayed to see that my efforts resulted in smears. I decided to ignore it and enjoy my women friends and the discussion.

Why didn't I have time to clean? I recently accepted a freelance job requiring an intensive amount of work over four weeks. And I am going to Mom's next week for five days to help her with the final packing and move. Actually all five of her kids are helping plus one spouse. And grapes and more grapes and even more grapes will be delivered by my in-laws this weekend, so I have to work in some jelly/juice making before I leave.

So much for all those projects I was saving until Fall when I would have lots of time with the kids in school.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

End of Summer
We closed the pool yesterday. There will still be days we wished it was open, but we have too many trees nearby and it is hard to keep it clean. The walnut tree has been depositing its tiny leaves for several weeks now.

As we sat on the back deck, it sounded like a car was crunching down our gravel drive. Then the sky turned black with a flock of grackles.

The Autumn Joy and Sweet Autumn clematis are in bloom. The tomatoes look worse for wear. In the meadow, the butterfly weed pods are bursting open and the wild asters are in bloom.

The sky is bluer than it was a few weeks ago.

The males in the house leave every morning for school.

I don't need a calendar. Fall is here.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Walking in the Rain

Walking in the Rain
Steve walks at least a mile every night. I join him about once a week. Several days ago, it struck me that it was very foolish not to walk with him every night. Besides the obvious health benefits, I enjoy his company. Night walks are intimate; our conversations or companionable silences are deeper than during the day.

Tonight it was raining during our walk, a soft gentle rain at the end of a hot day. The rain and the darkness seemed to intensify smells. The fragrance of our
Sweet Autumn clematis that drapes over the meadow fence was the most enjoyable. The smells that did NOT need to be intensified were wet dog (Samson) and skunk.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

3(ER) + Exploding Brakes = My Week

As I pulled up to the stop sign on the way to Bible Study last Tuesday, loud metallic clangs came from the left front of my car. I limped the half block to church; found a ride home; and had the car towed to the garage. Their report: Your left front brake rotor exploded. There was no warning. I'm just glad it happened when and where it did. In two weeks I'll be traveling 600 miles to Mom's house on superslabs. The almost $800 bill (brakes, door bushings and short in the electric locks) wasn't so good.

Then Thursday afternoon, I decided to cut down the thistles in the meadow before they went to seed. I love the purple flowers but I know they will take over if I'm not diligent. Samson, our yellow lab, was romping around the meadow and ran right into the thistle I was cutting. I ducked my head to minimize damage, but part of the thistle went into my eye. Friday morning it was still there, so I drove to the ER. They took out a small piece but 12 hours later it was getting worse. So back to the ER to finish the job. The eye is fine now.

Then this morning, we made another trip to the ER with Ricky who has an ear infection. Antibiotics and pain medicine will cure him quickly.

Not from my parents who weren't even nominally superstitious, but somewhere I heard that bad things come in threes. I've always wondered when you start and stop counting. And once you hit three, do you start counting again?

No other word for it but slaughter
There is nothing I can write to address this horror. Mark Steyn addresses the failure of the print media to address this situation, but I saw a grieving mother knocked a TV camera aside.

Link via Instapundit.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Gingerbread Pancakes

"Whoa"
"Next time, double the recipe"
"Let's have this more often"
"Exactamentally what Dad said."

Thanks to Jordana for a new recipe that was a hit in our house. Being one who cannot make a recipe as written, I added raisins.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Monarch

Caterpillars at Last!
For five years, I have been letting milkweeds, THE favorite food of monarch butterfly caterpillars, grow along the pond, but I've not attracted any until this year. I just discovered two caterpillars! I've been tempted to clean up the growth because the pond is smack dab in the middle of our front lawn (though separated from the road by a small woods and the meadow. I'm glad I didn't do anything more than cut back brambles, goldenrod and other unwanted verge vegetation. Of course, the muskrat helps control the vegetation.

Student Council

Don't Give Up
Ricky's on Student Council for Carroll Freshman Campus. This is something he has wanted for so long - he's very social, loves to have fun, likes to make plans, and is interested in politics (usually expressed in political ranting). He tried in 6th, 7th and 8th grade and didn't make it. Finally! The first meeting was this morning and I can't wait to find out how it went. It sounds like a good group of kids and, as all parents know, peer groups are so critical for teenagers. So Student Council and Show Choir are two good activities for this son.

His twin, Ron, is struggling to find his place. He's interested in the baseball team, but I'm not sure he understands how competitive it is. Most of the high school players have been on travel teams and have devoted more effort to the sport. He is enjoying his martial arts class and has become obsessed with the Armed Forces. It started with 9/11 and then the coals were fanned after doing a report on D-Day last year. He has been watching a lot of WW2 programs, including the final segment of Band of Brothers last night. He plans to join the Army after high school, even talking about the program where he can take basic training between his junior and senior year. I'm not so sure this stubborn, authority-challenging son will do well in the Army, but it might be a good thing. I sure have mixed emotions - pride for his thought process and fear as a mother.

Three years ago, God gave me this verse for my sons:
{For I am} confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

So I continue to lift them in prayer, but with faith that God knows the desires of this mother's heart for her sons and will continue to work in these boys.


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Missed the Bus

"Missed the Bus, Mom"
This is the phone message I retrieved when I got home yesterday, about 15 minutes before the bus was due to drop off the boys:

Mom, this is Ricky. I missed the bus. I'm going to a friend's house who lives near the school. See ya!

I know no one who lives near the school. Where is my son? Why didn't he stay put if he missed the bus and I would pick him up? Why didn't he call my cell phone? Why didn't he at least give me a name and number?

I call my husband who is on the way home from school. I'll stay by the phone and Steve will drive by the school. Ron gets off the bus and informs me that Rick did not "miss the bus" but made a conscious decision not to get on the bus. Ron thought about it but decided it would be best to come home. Good decision by one son. Bad decision by his twin. Ron thought Rick went home with Mike, or perhaps his name is Steve. Little help there. Ten more tense minutes and the phone rings.

Mom, this is Ricky. I'm on my way home. Steve's mother is driving me home.

It seems that Ricky passed his Dad's car and decided he better get home.

So Ron's grounding ended yesterday and Rick's grounding started. He's grounded because of the lie - "I missed the bus." I've read that the frontal lobe isn't fully connected in teenage boys' brains (girls connect earlier than boys), but can we survive until those neurons start popping?

We had just talked to both boys about staying put if they are "lost" after a friend's 12 y.o. nephew wandered downtown Chicago from 2 PM until 3 AM. He must have had a whole flock of guardian angels because the police stopped searching for a lost boy around midnight and began treating it as a criminal case. The boy just kept walking, "Gotta find Mom." If he had stayed in the vicinity, the police and their bullhorns would have been effective. Of course, Rick didn't think he was lost. He knew where he was.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Dividing Irises

Divide and Multiply
I spent Saturday morning at the church dividing the bearded irises. The task was long past due and the rhizomes were so overgrown they looked like cobblestones. Luckily a recent rain softened the ground without making it muddy.

At 8:30 it was just me and an elderly gentlemen who had to rest quite often because of a failing heart. Bless his heart, it isn't failing in the most important sense...it is loving and giving. Not only does he joyfully volunteer for church but he's caring for his wife with Alzheimers.

Then three other faithful gardeners showed up and we divided the work - the other man dug up the irises and the rest of us split off the spent rhizomes and trimmed the foliage of the healthy rhizomes for replanting. There are three beds at the church with overgrown irises and we almost finished one bed. As the morning passed, we quit digging them up properly; we just dug holes out of the cobblestone rhizomes and trimmed the tops.

Why is it called dividing plants when the result is multiples of the original? We transplanted 30 plants and are giving away two huge tubs of iris starts. If you want some lavender bearded iris starts, stop by at Huntertown United Methodist Church.

Recipe - Onion and Cheese Pie

Recipe - Onion and Cheese Pie
My menfolk don't love onions the way I do, so I took the opportunity to make an old favorite when hosting my Women's Group last Friday. Lots of rave reviews, so I thought you may enjoy this recipe.

10" unbaked pastry crust
10 oz. cheese - half Swiss and half Gruyere or however desired.
2 T flour
2 large onions, sliced
4 T butter
1 tsp. chopped basil
2 large firm tomatoes, sliced
2 large eggs
3/4 cup cream

Melt butter in skillet. Add sliced onions and saute for about half an hour.

Toss grated cheese with flour and spread 1/3 of cheese on bottom of pie. Spread onions over cheese.

In the butter that is left in the pan, heat the tomato slices with the chopped basil for a minute or two. Arrange tomatoes over the onions and cover with remaining cheese.

Beat eggs with cream. Pour over cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until top browns.

Cool slightly but serve warm.

Variations that work: Sprinkle top with shredded Parmesan Cheese. Saute chunks of red pepper after onions and before tomatoes. I sliced the tomatoes very thick since they weren't firm.

Variation that didn't work: mushrooms - they tasted good but made the pie much too runny (or maybe it was the juicy tomatoes from my garden). Next time I may saute in separate pan and not add the mushroom juice to the pie or perhaps I will use more flour for extra thickening.

First Love(s)

First Loves(s)
Rick was seized with some serious soul-searching this weekend. His current heart throb is resisting his overtures because, "You don't know anything about Love. You have a different girlfriend every year. You can't make a commitment. "

We were in the car as he was pondering what to do about this perception. He resolved the issue by saying, "Well, if it doesn't work out with Girl1, then Girl2 likes me and she sure is cute."

Friday, August 27, 2004

Either Or

Either/Or
Via Curmudgeonry

Hardback or Paperback - I love hardback books but recently switched to paperback unless I'm certain it's a keeper
Highlight or Underline - and scribble in the margin
Lewis or Tolkien - Easy choice
E.B. White or A.A. Milne
T.S. Eliot or e.e. cummings - Hard choice - takes me back to my college years. Haven't read either since then.
Stephen King or Dean Koontz - neither. I've read King but not Koontz
Barnes & Noble or Borders - Borders is closer
Waldenbooks or B. Dalton- neither
Fantasy or Science Fiction - neither
Horror or Suspense - neither
Bookmark or Dogear - I have a collection of bookmarks, but I usually use whatever slip of paper that's handy
Large Print or Fine Print - I'm getting old
Hemingway or Faulkner
Fitzgerald or Steinbeck
Homer or Plato
Geoffrey Chaucer or Edmund Spenser
Pen or Pencil
Looseleaf or Notepad
Alphabetize: By Author or By Title
Shelve: By Genre/Subject or All Books Together - But it ends up all books together after the other readers in the house hit the shelves
Dustjacket: Leave it On or Take it Off - usually that's my bookmark
Novella or Epic
John Grisham or Scott Turrow
J.K. Rowling or Lemony Snicket - She wrote the book that finally spurred one son to read
John Irving or John Updike
Salman Rushdie or Don Delillo - I've never read either one
Fiction or Non-fiction - About ten years ago, I gave myself permission to read fiction which I love.
Historical Biography or Historical Romance - Both, as long as it's well-written
Reading Pace: A Few Pages per Sitting or Finish at Least a Chapter - or until I fall asleep
Short Story or Creative Non-fiction Essay
Blah Blah Blah or Yada Yada Yada
“It was a dark and stormy night…” or “Once upon a time…”
Books: Buy or Borrow - As I said, I'm a bibliophile, but I usually borrow non-fiction. It's rare that I reread non-fiction.
Book Reviews or Word of Mouth - I read reviews but I believe word of mouth

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

High School

High School
Yesterday was the first day of the first year of high school for the twins. How can that be? Where are my little boys? Who are these strange men-boys in my house?

Unlike some teens, the boys still talk to us about their day - who they met, first impressions of teachers, the pretty girl on the bus. ("She might be the ONE!") Mom, who came home for Aimee's wedding, spent the evening with us and I'm not sure what she made of all the teen chatter. Ricky asked her what my high school years were like. Luckily she refrained from telling any of my rebellious teen stories, which I'm sure he was hoping to hear. She seems only to remember the good times. I hope I'm the same with my boys.

A couple from church whose twin boys are raised sent us a note last spring: "Enjoy your boys. We are." I needed that encouragement because raising teens can be hard. It is easy to get caught up in their emotional turmoil and not enjoy them for just who they are at the moment.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Flowers for All

Late Summer Bouquets
My niece called late last week and asked if I could provide flowers for 8-10 tables for her informal wedding celebration last Saturday in Indianapolis. I said yes and then gulped because my garden is in its late summer doldrums. So I did what younger sisters do - I called Peg for help. She has a beautiful garden, but was in the same situation. Summer blooms are spent and fall blooms aren't out yet. The rudbeckia looks nice but Aimee's colors were pink and blue and white.

So we bought Stargazer lilies to tie the outdoor bouquets into the indoor bouquets she had and also to anchor the outdoor bouquets with some bulk. Aimee provided blue-green quart ball jars with sand and shells in the bottom because they got married on the beach in the Virgin Islands. Peg and I picked what we had and were amazed at the variety and beauty of the blooms. Pink and white cosmos with its ferny foliage, white cleome, a stalky pure blue wildflower, and obedient plant came from my garden. Pink daisy-like mums, blue salvia spikes, small white allium flowers, and a few zinnias came from Peg's garden. Peg had dainty satin bows with long tails left from her daughter's wedding to finish the bouquets. The bouquets were beautiful.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

School Shopping

Sizing by Area
I give the twins a back-to-school clothing allowance and they choose their own clothes, but I insist that they try them on for my inspection before we buy them. The jeans that Ron tried on looked great, so I didn't do any further checking when he selected three more pairs. When he donned a new pair of jeans yesterday, he couldn't breathe and was stumbling on the excess length. Well, he could not find any 34/32 jeans so he bought three pairs of 32/34.

The boys are very different in physique and Rick was appalled at having to buy his clothes in the boys section. The styles are the same as in the men's section, so no one else will know...except everyone who reads this blog!

The trip back to the store to exchange the jeans, though, cost me another $100 somehow. Shoes, shirts, umbrellas and sunglasses - all the essentials no matter what the weather.

School shopping gets to be a bigger chore every year, and much more expensive. But no complaints from me because this end-of-summer ritual will be a thing of the past all too soon.

I'm Back

I'm back
Mom and I worked hard packing for her move home and had a good visit at the same time. We almost finished packing her sewing room/den, and the supplies and a packing process are in place for Mom to continue packing. We got slowed down with memorabilia, including reading letters that Dad wrote to her from France during the war. What great letters - funny and poignant and thoughtful. She thought I read them when I was younger, but that was my sister.

We also started packing her china and crystal. I had her write the provenance of some pieces, because I just won't remember what was my grandmother's and great-grandmother's.

I made a dent on her books but when I thought I was finished, she showed me two closets filled with books. I am a bibliophile legitimately.

Mom and Dad moved to Arkansas in 1981. I was shocked. Kids were suppose to move away from their parents, not the other way around. And why Arkansas? Mom's from Indiana and Dad's from the East Coast. But they loved their small community in the Ozarks and we spent many great vacations there. I felt sorrow for the passing of this time, and I cannot imagine what Mom must feel, especially as it was her last home with Dad.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I'm already three hours late leaving for Mom's, but thought I'd dash off one more message. Posting will be light to non-existent for the next several weeks. Meanwhile here are some sites I enjoy(and someday I will add a blogroll):
Curmudgeonry
Sand in the Gears
Lilek's Daily Bleat
Tulip Girl
A Little Ardvaark (but he's taking a break also but check out the old posts)
Real Live Preacher
The Lingual Nerve
Diary of the Food Whore (watch language)

And for some political sites:
Instapundit
Day-By-Day
(cartoon)
Tongue Tied (on being PC)

Enjoy!




Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Blackberry and toad lilies

Spotted Blackberries and Toads
Lilies, that is. My garden is abloom in dots.

The unfortunately-named toad lily, or Tricyrtis hirta, is blooming by the front door under the clematis and next to the astilbe. I have two cultivars, both gifts so I do not know their names. They are starting to spread and I think I will be very happy with their neat appearance. The flowers are gorgeous but small, so it is nice to have them by the sidewalk to enjoy them.

Scattered among several gardens are blackberry lilies, Belamcanda chinensis, in the flowering, pod and seed stages. The start came from Aunt Barbara and they freely self-seed, but have never been a nuisance.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Mom's coming home...for good! She finally sold her home in Arkansas and will be moving back to be near her five children and their spouses, fifteen grandchildren (including spouses) and six great-grandchildren. I will be so happy to have her near me. It will be a hard transition since she moved away about 20 years ago and she has to establish herself again. Her social life was very active in Arkansas, so now she has to find a new church home, a bridge club, a painting group, a Red Hat Society and other activities that she enjoys. I'm heading out later this week to help her start with the packing. Since she is moving from a home with LOTS of storage to an apartment, deciding what to keep, what to give away, what to throw away and what to store will be emotionally wrenching for both of us. My goal, though, is to make this move as easy as possible for her. My sister will be going down later to continue the process and I hope to be able to squeeze in another trip before the final move, if I can work it into the school schedule of husband and sons.

Here's our criteria for the move: "Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

This sounds great, but it ignores the impractical and less than beautiful sentimental items.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Blueberry Picking

I Found My Maker on Blueberry Acre
OK, so that's bad, but it kept going through my head as I picked 13.8 pounds of fresh blueberries today at Blueberry Acres, just a few miles from my house. They are clean and in the freezer. We use them almost exclusively in pancakes - just throw a few on the uncooked side of the pancake before you flip it. Last year we ran out in February, so we are going back tomorrow to pick some more. Antioxidants for all.

The low tonight is suppose to be in the 40s, setting a record for low temps on this day. It makes working outside pleasant but I am NOT ready for fall.

If you decide to go blueberry picking, do not wear sandals. I finally took them off and went barefoot. So now my fingers and toes are both blue.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Magazines

Magazines
At The Lake last Sunday, my sister handed me a present, tied with a pretty ribbon and a nice long handwritten note: The Limbaugh Letters. She's trying to convert me, ever since she read my post about not listening to him.

Before we tightened our belts, while I was still working, here are some of the pubs we got:
Canoe and Kayak
Horticulture
Fine Gardening
Garden Design
Smithsonian
Discover
Fortune
Newsweek

Green Prints-The Weeders Digest

Peg (my sister) gives me her back issues of Discover and Good News, and she gave me a gift subscription to Christianity Today. Friend Susan gives me her back issues of Smithsonian and National Geographic and friend Renee gives me back issues of Fortune. Does anyone want to share their gardening magazines with me?

To what magazines do you subscribe? This is an excellent way to quickly get to know someone and initiate conversations about their interests. When I was in sales (yes, reinsurance sales is on my dusty resume), this was one of my favorite questions to ask a prospect over dinner. What's in your magazine rack or beside your bed or by the toilet or piling up on any flat surface or all of the above?

Monday, August 02, 2004

Cheesehead
Ron is a Green Bay Packers fan, a cheesehead. I'm not sure this is connected to our recent grocery shopping trip when he filled my cart with cheese - eight pounds of it.
Flowers in my hat
As my husband and I walked with my sister and her husband along the high grassy ridge of their newly purchased lake property (acres of land), my husband picked a small vetch flower and put in the brim of my sun hat. Then he added a small stem of purple clover and a small bud of white yarrow. We all started looking for a yellow flower to complement the bouquet and settled for a wild mustard flower. It was a pretty little bouquet and such a sweet gesture. This is one of the many reasons I love my husband.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Last July Day
I spent the last day of July in my garden - eight hours. The result is a large mound of detritus with a small portion of the garden looking great. I weeded, deadheaded, cut back and staked. The entry path and garden look great. The border of ladies' mantle undulates in its fresh green growth. The columbine foliage is no longer brown and stalky. The perennial salvia are little clumps of blue-green foliage. The pinks are no longer covered with dead flower stalks. And the Siberian iris foliage is not flopping over its neighbors.

Next I will tackle the shade garden where all sorts of weeds are lurking and the spent stalks of the hosta blooms are waiting for the compost pile.

There are two spots of incredible beauty. The bed between the hill and the pond is sparkling with a traditional mix of black-eyed susans and coneflowers, with a few late-blooming daylilies adding to the bright display. The other spot is in the shade garden where magic lilies have poked up between late blooming astilbes. The fern-like astilbe foliage anchor the bare stemmed lilies, and the pink and lavender astilbe blooms perfectly complement the colors of the lilies.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Gardening in July
My garden always looks bedraggled and overgrown in late July. The early summer flowers are spent and the foliage is flopping and brown; so I cut it down to encourage a new flush of foliage but that takes several weeks to appear. So now what? This year I went shopping for super sales on annuals, potted them up and placed them in the bare spots. I like it. Next year I think I will buy extra annuals in early spring and propagate them into "nursery pots" ready for placement in July.

I met Renee earlier this week to look at the landscape plan for her backyard. She may comment on this further, but her objectives were to eliminate some of the grass, attract birds, tie together existing elements (clumps of trees, perennial garden, deck and bog), add an understory to the trees, and screen view of neighbor's house. The designer did an excellent job with design and plant selection. Since work was underway, we headed over to her house to see the transformation. My favorite part was the bluestone patio and walk off the deck. Instead of trying to tame the bog, Joe Pye weed and filipendula rubra are being used to make the transition from wild bog to landscaped yard. A raised bed using river stone was added to the middle of the yard and planted with shrubs and plants bearing berries and seeds to attracts birds. Two clumps of trees were tied together into one large bed with a small strip of grass between it and the raised bed. On the other two sides of the raised bed are pea gravel paths edged with river stone and mulched beds. Here are some of the plants she added: Kerria, several viburnums, Henry Lauder's Walking Stick.

A friend invited me to her house this morning to discuss plant ideas for her rock garden. Before going over there, I pulled out my reference books and read up on suitable plants. When I got there, it was not a rock garden, but rather a large raised bed with fieldstone walls. I'm not a garden designer, but we had fun for several hours determining her objectives for the garden, siting the focal point, and doing a rough sketch with some plants. Her husband may be surprised to discover that he will be putting in a water garden, although she assured me that he loved doing that type of stuff. I did "borrow" some ideas from Renee's plan, but it will look totally different. I'm anxious to see how it turns out.

Yellow Belt
Ron passed his Hapkido examination last Friday night and got his yellow belt.  This has been a good experience for him.  He just glowed with the accomplishment.


Ricky's camp adventures
He was flying high when I picked him up last Friday, chattering all the way home while assuming typical cool teen poses in the car.   No letters home though -  "Didn't have time, Mom" -  but he appreciated the emails I sent him.   Arriving home, Steve asked him about camp.  Cursory answer.  I've discovered the boys talk right after an event, but their attention soon turns to other adventures and then the story dribbles out it bits and pieces.

His body is bruised and battered, but not broken.  The counselors told me that he was the target of some hazing, but it appears to have been handled well based on questioning Ricky.      Even though this was church camp, he did pick up some new words and discovered mooning.  He has not tried it out yet, but I can tell he thinks it is funny. 




Monday, July 26, 2004

I sat down this morning with the intention of adding several posts - Ricky's camp adventures, night on the riverboat, late July flower gardens, more on funeral songs - but Renee sent me an IM asking if I wanted to meet for coffee in a few minutes and look over the plan! That is the landscaping plan for her back yard.  I'm off.   I've got priorities you see. 

Friday, July 23, 2004

eh? or is it huh?
I awoke this morning to the most beautiful clear blue sky.  It was about 70 degrees and no humidity.  What a change from the week of 90 degrees with 90% humidity.  Ricky's still at camp and Ron was helping his Dad so I took advantage of the weather and free time to tend the gardens at the church. 

People often stop and talk while I'm gardening.  That is one of the blessings of gardening at the church.  Today was no different...except one woman.  "Do you do anything else with your life except take care of this garden?"  eh?  She followed that question with, "That's sedum.  It is so ugly.  I never did like sedum."  huh?  My irritation with her has disappeared, replaced by feelings of pity.  With those social skills, I suspect she has few friends.  I think I was gracious but I was so dumbfounded that I'm not sure.   
Name Games
After bantering about our names, Steve decided his Halloween costume this year would be Mothra.   Yes, my given name is Martha and I'm a mother and I like flowers. 

We decided the moth would be easier to make, but the caterpillar would be scarier.   I think this is just talk, but he is the man who built a sidewheeling river boat, so we'll see.

Has anyone seen this movie?  Somehow I missed it.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Favorite Hymns
The comments under "Blessings" made me wonder about my favorite hymns, specifically what hymns are so meaningful to me that I want them at my funeral.  With time and more thought I suspect this list will change, but here are my first thoughts:

  • Amazing Grace of course would be on the list, just don't sing it to the tune of Gilligan's Island
  • Be Thou My Vision has both meaningful lyrics and a haunting Celtic tune  
  • It Is Well With My Soul has always been a favorite.
  • And finally, the version of  Swing Low Sweet Chariot on the olds Blues CD I have
  • Oops, I almost forgot Mahalia Jackson's song about what she's going to do when she gets to heaven.

What songs do you want played at your funeral?   



Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Who to believe?
Steve and I discussed the Berger affair this evening.  I first heard it on NPR.  He first heard it on Rush Limbaugh (which he does NOT listen to when I'm in the car).   I heard that Berger took some papers home and misplaced them, but the papers weren't important for the 9/11 commission.  Steve heard that he stuffed them down his pants like a common shoplifter. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Blessings
Rick and I took a break during the Third Day concert at the amusement park.  He looked at me and said, "Let's hurry back, Mom, and continue getting blessed by God."
 
Third Day is a high-powered Christian rock band with a high energy show, with a southern rock flavor.  It was one of my favorite bands at the three day Spirit Fest concert, but I knew a few of their songs from singing them at church.
 
One of my regular readers mentioned in her blog that she doesn't like Christian music.  I didn't comment, but I firmly believe there is no such thing as Christian music, only Christian lyrics.  The music of many of our "ancient" hymns started as bar songs with Christian lyrics replacing the bawdy words.  I think those who don't like "Christian music" usually don't like contemporary music regardless of the words.  But Christian music can be pop, rock, bluegrass, classical, folks, and gospel (of course).  I can't think of a single Christian jazz song or band, but it may exist somewhere.
 


Monday, July 19, 2004

Skateboarding for Jesus
I delivered Ricky to the Outer Edge Skate Boarding Church Camp this afternoon.  He's staying in a geodesic dome tent (with a wooden floor) with 11 other boys.  No electricity and no running water.  They will be traveling to area skate parks.  This is his first time at camp and the first separation from his twin other than overnight stays at grandparents.   I think it was harder for me to leave him than for him to have me leave.  At least I can send him emails and I sent him with stamped addressed envelopes with the hope that he will write home.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Tillers
Misunderstandings can occur when a boat person (my husband) says to a garden person (me), "That tiller sure worked great today." For a moment I thought I had a new garden bed, but he had perfected a way to steer his gasoline-powered, sidewheeled river boat.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

I'm Back
I survived three days at the amusement park.  Then one day home for laundry and repacking and the boys and I headed off to the lake.   Is this a linguistic quirk of northern Indiana or does everyone say "The Lake" when it could be one of hundreds in the region?  We rented a cottage on a small fishing lake and the boys weren't sure they wanted to go because no speed boats are allowed.  In fact, trolling motors aren't even allowed.  You have to paddle or row or pedal your boat.   They had such a great time they didn't want to come home midweek - fishing, kayaking, swimming, Scrabble, birding.  But I insisted they come home, because my husband had arranged for me to have the last three days at the lake with my girlfriend.  It was a much needed rest and now I'm ready for the rest of the summer.     

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Summer Fun
The boys and I are off to an amusement park for three days and two nights with the church youth group. I'm bringing four books. Hope that helps see me through. It is suppose to be hot, hot, hot and humid. I suspect I will spend most of my time at the water park, reading. Well, that's where I told people they would find me. I'm looking forward to the evening concerts though.
Plant Talk
"I have found my spiritual gift" said a friend after working in the church gardens. "Deadheading."

I've thought about this as I've snipped spent flower stalks in my garden this week. As much as I love flowers, there is pleasure also in cleaning up the plant after its display, tranforming my ragged garden into a rich tapestry of foliage. Some plants I let go to seed because I want more next year; others I snip immediately to encourage a flush of new growth and perhaps more blooms. Confession: I sometimes thank the plants for their beautiful display and wish them well as I cut the flower stalk, clean up dead leaves and inspect for bugs.

When Ron was little, he helped me plant tulips. As he put the bulbs into the ground, he'd say, "Go to sleep little bulb." And as he patted soil over them, he'd say, "See you in the spring." I started to laugh, until I realized he was mimicing me. I wasn't even aware that I talked to the bulbs as I planted them. Nothing like children to make you aware of your behaviors.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Home Projects
The view of house, after crossing the creek, has improved dramatically with some simple but intensive maintenance projects last week. The biggest was handwashing the siding. Yes, I know we could have used a power washer and chemicals, but it needed the intense attention of a scrub brush and cloth, similar to floors needing an occasional hand scrubbing instead of the routine mopping. Of course, we dripped all over the windows, so they are (mostly) freshly cleaned. Then a few paint touch-ups and the house just shines!

Now we are tackling Steve's workshop, replacing the industrial siding with vinyl that matches the house. Steve runs an efficient crew and the boys are learning a lot, including a practical application of geometry to calculate the area of the gable ends to determine how much siding we need to purchase.

They are also learning about working hard for eight hours. The first morning we got up early and put in four long hours and then broke for a leisurely lunch. The boys thought the workday was done, but they were in for a surprise when we went back at it for another four hours.