Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Without getting too long and drawn out, I shall say that my blogging absence has been both for lack of time and lack of sometimes knowing what to say.  In the last month, I've struggled with a sudden health issue that was picked up on in routine bloodwork.  After a week fraught with tests and scans and worry, and being taken off several medications, I am settling back down. It's amazing what medications can do to you and I tend toward the side of having most, if not all, of the 'less common' side effects.

I am eternally grateful for the love and support of my friends when these things come up and I am blessed beyond measure to be feeling much, much better.

I am perplexed that is it hot enough here that on this 23 day of December we have turned on the air conditioner in the house. Sleeping at night with the windows open...  It's very hard to get in the mood to decorate or bake cookies while wearing a tank top and shorts. 

As we prepare to attend Christmas Eve Holy Communion services, I look forward to having my children all together for the blessing that comes from the sacrament.  There is nothing that touches my heart more than seeing them kneel at an altar. They bless the mother heart of me in ways that can not be put into words.

This is the time of year that I always thank God for the life that he's given me another year of, and for the blessing of family to love, and friends to hold dear and the deep and abiding faith that is mine.  Celebrating the birth of Christ gives me a renewed spirit to see me through the next year, no matter what challenges I may face and what new blessings abound. 

I wish you, my friends, a Holy holiday in every respect, a Merry Christmas, with family and friends and the sweetness of many blessings and a blessed life in the new year to come.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Let the games begin!

On the way to Thanksgiving day, there's a lot of things that happen in advance.

One of those things is making bread.
I like to use cornbread and day old french bread in my dressing (loaf bread or day old biscuits work too).
So today, I baked a round of french baguettes.



Now, I know better than to think that there will be any left for dressing, but that is why I started today.
Two days, consecutively, making 4 baguettes each time, and I'll surely have a few little hunks tossed into the fridge by Wednesday.

This is the recipe I use.  Easy and not much trouble, as far as homemade breads go, it's nice and hard on the outside and wonderfully chewy on the inside.  This is not a traditional French bread recipe that begins with a poolish and takes several days.  This is simplified, get it done today version that works well for me.

French Bread

Makes 1 boule, 2 batards, 4 baguettes or 8 petite pains

2 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 teaspoon of sugar
2/3 cup of warm water (I use hot tap water)
4 cups of flour (I use a combination of bread flour, semolina and white wheat, heavily loaded toward bread)
1 cup of cool water
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

In a large bowl, pour the warm water over the yeast and sugar.  Stir it and let it sit about 10 minutes.  It should become foamy and bubbly.

Alternating a cup full of the flour mixture and the cool water, make additions while stirring.  Keep adding until you get a dough ball formed which is soft and elastic.  Adjust water and flour to gain the proper 'feel' of elasticity.  When you get a good texture, knead this dough for 8 to 10 minutes.

Oil the dough on all sides, lightly, and set it to rise in a large container until it triples in size.  This should take between 1 and 2 hours, depending on temperature and humidity.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface. Divide the dough equally. ( I eyeball it, it's bread, for goodness sakes, not rocket science!)  Make which ever shape your little heart desires.  We love baguettes and the four of them look like so much 'more' bread than one large round boule.  I also don't get crazy forming baguettes (which explains a lot about how they look).  I grab a ball of dough, and 'playdough' roll it to form a long skinny 'stick', then stretch the stick to the length desired.  You see in the photo above, that I got 4 different lengths (even if you discount the one with a small hunk missing).

I bake the french bread on a baking sheet, with a silicone baking mat, onto which I toss a tablespoon or so of cornmeal.  Lay your bread (which ever shape) on the mat, and cover it.  Let it rise again, between 1 and 2 hours, till it more than doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  You can brush the bread with an egg glaze (one egg white, one Tablespoon of water, whisked thoroughly) or not.  I didn't.  I kind of prefer it with a brushing of butter when it comes out of the oven.  Either way, I get a nice crispy crust.

You also need to take a nice sharp razor blade or knife (note in the photos that I need to get a new razor blade, as mine is getting dull and drags through the dough) and cut diagonal slices in the bread at intervals. This allows for oven rise and keeps the bread from becoming misshapen while baking.

For one round boule, you bake it about 35 minutes.
For batards, and baguettes, about 22 minutes.
For buns, about 18 to 20 minutes.
When done, the bread, when tapped, should sound hollow.

French bread is best eaten the day that it's cooked.
This is never a problem here.
If I do happen to bake it on a day when everyone suddenly develops dinner plans elsewhere, I simply a baguette or two to the neighbors.
This makes for happy neighbors and less enticement every time I walk back through the kitchen.

Printable version of the recipe:  French Bread

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Frosty morning wake up call

First this disclaimer.  If you are not inclined toward harvest of wild game, then this post is not for you.
Move along and come back another day.
It's part of what we do here... what surely has been done since the Native Americans lived on the banks of the river and every generation since. Venison is a part of our diet. We know where it comes from.  It is hunted for that purpose.  None of it goes to waste.

This morning, about 6 am, I was sitting in my chair having my morning cup of coffee, warm pup at my feet.
As usual, the house was quiet, the tv news was on, but nothing was really stirring around.
The oldest boy* was in the woods hunting, like many mornings this time of year.

* The oldest boy is a grown man, in every respect.  Definitely not a child, but he is my boy, a child of my heart, my first son.  He'll always be my 'boy'.  For the rest of this story, he'll be referred to as my boy.

A solid hard frost was still lingering after our first good freeze.

Suddenly, my cell phone rang. 

What did we do in the world before cell phones?  
I do remember those days, but will admit to 'needing' my connections through that phone.

Anyway, I answer and it's my boy.  He's hit a doe, she went down and then got up and ran.  He'll wait a few minutes then track her.  In just a few minutes, I get the call that she is maybe in the gully.

Now, for the uninitiated, let me explain the gully.  In the early part of the last century, this property was farmed in cotton.  Not a big plantation, mind you... but the kind of cotton you'd grow and harvest with your family members, to sell and pay for the very few things that you didn't raise or grow yourself.  Horticulture wasn't then what it is now.  Very few soil amendments went into the large fields and the topsoil and ecology of the land suffered.  Rains came and erosion began and huge, gigantic gullies,,, great chasms of dense red soil, deep enough to sit a large house in... grew.  And they grew all over the south... not just on this place.  With many years of consistent hard work, we have managed to stop the erosion and now the steep hillsides began to grow pines and brush.

So, we have a deep, steep brush and pine filled gully.  The perfect place for a deer to hide.
The boy knew that he'd delivered a kill shot... so we have to find the deer.

So I ask, "Shall I bring the dog?"  Here I am referring to the soft warm pup at my feet, not quite a year old, one week out of surgery to spay her, but very smart, very trainable and very willing to do work.
I put on my bathrobe... my purple polarfleece bathrobe. and some tennis shoes.  Otherwise, I'm wearing my pajamas.
I leash up the pup and we head off to the site of the initial hit.
My boy meets us.  Flushed with warmth, he looks like an advertisement for country living.
Tall and striking, gun slung over his shoulder, he points to where we need to start the trail.
The pup takes the hint and nose down, starts to track.

I hand over the leash... thinking that I'm going back in to finish my coffee.

There's a fire in the fireplace, all cozy and warm. 
I want to sit beside it.

And for about 15 seconds, things are fine.  She's tracking off in the right direction......
... then I turn to leave.  

And she looks back. 

And then she sits down and refuses to budge.


She begins to whine and fuss and try to run to me.

NOOOOooooooo.... I think.... No. No. No.
I do not want to take a hike about the back 90 acres... I do NOT.

And there they stand... beautiful boy... beautiful dog... beautiful frosty, clear, clear cold field, dense, thick woods...
... deer down somewhere in the woods close by that needs to be prepped and on the way to the freezer.

Sigh...

 So, looking very much like someone's mother in a purple bathrobe, I join the search party.
Through brambles and bushes, up hill and down vale, we track.

At some point, I realize that she's tracking where the boy has gone looking for the deer.

We go back to the last point on the tracking trail where there was blood, and give her her nose...
and were suddenly off in a new direction.  Less than 20 feet away, we found the deer.
In a very short time, the doe was off to the processor and the very excited puppy and I were sitting by the fire... 


... thinking how invigorating that it was to start the day, in the freezing cold, hiking about the place...

                                               ... picking out the thorns and twigs.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

River adventure

I have lived on the river for the majority of my life.
I learned to swim in it.
I have fished in it.
I have canoed and kayaked upon it.
I have played in it.
I have put my children in it from their infant days.
I have slept beside it and I have sat and contemplated life from it's banks.

It is, for me, peace and tranquility and a centering force.  When all the world around me is nuts,
the river is there , yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

Several months ago, I attended a class to learn how to monitor streams and rivers for quality of the environment.
I recently got my 'kit' for water testing from a 'friends of the river' group.  Kits were paid for by grant money and were instrumental in many of us being able to volunteer our time to begin to record and monitor on a regular basis.



The requirement is to routinely and regularly test the water according to the specifications of the Izaak Walton League of America Save our Streams Quality Survey.  Using standard scientific method, you sample several different areas (the same area each quarter) and do a count of macroinvertebrates. Having records over time may be invaluable if and when changes occur or the river economy is threatened.


Macroinvertebrates are sorted into Taxa Groups and the water quality is rated depending upon the quantity and variety of 'little critters'.  Group One organisms are not tolerant of pollution and their presence generally signified good water qualities. Group Two organisms can exist in a wide variety of water quality conditions and Group Three organisms are tolerant of pollution thereby signifying by their presence that the water quality is poor.

Group One macroinvertebrates were largely what was found in the class that I took, roughly 1/2 mile downstream from my own property river edge.  We found only a few individuals from Group 2 and no individuals from Group 3.

The last Sunday of October, I talked my main sidekick on the weekends into accompanying me to the river to do my first official volunteer testing.  He volunteered to drive me and while interested, at first was sort of "'ho-hum'  what are you up to now?"

First and foremost, I learned that it was VERY cold for October to go barefoot into the river.


It was achingly cold... and there's really no way around it, unless I had the forethought to have brought some waders with me. (Bet your bottom dollar that I'll do that in January!)

So, I start the sampling and right away, I get a number of very lively specimens.




Now, we aren't exactly going after the tiny fish, but this one was in the net. All counted creatures were released unharmed back to their home location after the count.

And there were numerous macroinvertebrates so small that I had to use the magnifying glass AND my reading glasses.


 A take away tidbit is that if you find snails, you can easily determine if they're indicators of clean water, or poor quality.  By holding the snail oriented up and down, if the operculum opens 'right facing', then it is a 'clean water' indicator.

A bit of an amusing observation is that as the organisms were sorted into the trays as they sat in the sunshine, and the water became warmer than the temperature of the river, they became much more active.

Overall, I was happy to determine that my little stretch of the river had excellent indications of being healthy and clean. Wetland conservation and sustainability is important now and for our future.

And by the time I was done, I had not only a willing participant sidekick, but an excited one who wants to see how the future surveys go.  I had also determined that 4 hands were necessary and 6 would have been ideal!




Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Renewed intentions

So, I intend to get back to visiting with you regularly.

I've actually intended before but so many things have taken the spotlight.

Seasonal employment has come and gone.  When added to the heat and humidity of summer, it zapped my desire to do anything more than really necessary and not even all of the necessary things.

I find myself headed into the holiday season with a serious backlog of household chores and an intense desire to sit on the porch rocker and watch the leaves turn their beautiful autumnal tones...
... and to pick up the pecans before the squirrels get to them...

... or to lunch with friends whom I have missed during all of this.

The knitting group at church goes on, and really merits a post of it's own.  It's a small group ministry and it's become so very meaningful to me, and I believe, to others.  We have taught beginners and brought together experienced knitters and crocheters of all ages to make items with our hands to bless others.  And on the way, we've discovered the blessings that always abound when folks of like-spirits get together and share their lives regularly.  You find yourself thinking of them on other days and other times, and praying for the concerns of their hearts and lives.

I love the cooler, crisp mornings, but kind of miss the longer daylight hours of summer. 
I enjoy planning a holiday meal and look forward to a time when kith and kin draw near.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Fall Bread Recipe

One day this last week, I bought some Bob's Red Mill 5 grain rolled cereal.

I love really hearty grain mixtures.  This one is a blend of coarsely rolled whole wheat, rye, oats, flax seed, barley, and triticale.

I love these sorts of grains even more in the fall, just as the weather turns, which makes something instinctual in me want to bake bread.

I've been counting calories and attempting to behave, so have been making far less bread products.
With only two of us home most days, I really can't rationalize baking multiple loaves of bread, or multiple times a week.

In an effort to find a recipe for bread that worked with the cereal blend in the 5 grain cereal, I went to the website for Bob's Red Mill and spent a happy hour reading recipes.  Then, I printed off a recipe entitled 'Freckles and Warts' and proceeded to alter/change/exchange ingredients until I had what I now consider a perfect fall afternoon bread, that also makes perfect fall morning toast, and with which  I will make a positively yummy bread pudding or some fall morning french toast, depending on which way the wind blows this afternoon!

The bread is a mid density bread, with a barely sweet flavor and a pleasant chewy texture.  It has remained soft for several days and is so very fragrant.

This is a remarkably poor photo of the bread, but it does give you an idea of texture.



This is MY version of the recipe!

  And I'm not a fan of the descriptive name 'Freckles and Warts', so I'm going to be every so creative and call it 5 grain cereal bread!

Five Grain Cereal Bread

1 1/3 cup of warm water (I used it right from the tap)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dried yeast
1 cup of Bob's Red Mill 5 grain rolled cereal
1/2 cup orange juice
4 Tablespoons of demerara sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ginger   (all spices are ground spices and I didn't actually measure... I'm a spice tosser!)
2 1/2 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons of buttermilk
1/2 cup of dried, sweetened cranberries


In a large bowl, pour the hot water, the juice (at room temp), the buttermilk and the oil over the 5 grain cereal.  Add the yeast and the sugar.  Let it sit about 15 minutes for the yeast to begin working and the grains to soften.
Add all other ingredients and stir until it comes to a ball of dough.  I needed to add a couple more handfuls of flour. Amount of flour always depends on moisture in the flour and in the environment, and practice teaches you what good bread dough 'feels' like.

I kneaded in the large bowl for four or five minutes, then tossed in the cranberries and kneaded till they were mixed into the dough.  I greased it lightly with a little olive oil and let it rise for about an hour, or until doubled.

I then shaped it into a loaf and put in a well greased glass loaf dish (because I couldn't find my best metal one)
and covered it to rise, until it was a good inch over the top of the loaf dish.

Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes and check it for doneness.  Mine was done to utter perfection.
Had I found the metal pan (which has a shape that I prefer) I'd have cooked it at 350 degrees and checked it at about 32 minutes.

Here's the printable recipe:  5 cereal bread



Friday, September 30, 2011

Oh, my...

I have really fallen down on my blog... and I promise to do better.

This has been more of a challenging summer and early autumn than I've had in a while.

So much heat, so many changes...

First and foremost, let me whine...  (yes,,, I am going to whine).

I'm a bit more than 5 months into the Tamoxifen regimen, which is a preventative for breast cancer in my case, and I'm still struggling with the side effects of the drugs.
The struggle has been far greater than I had imagined.

With that being said, I have seen the doctor several times and I'm not willing to go off of the drug, which greatly reduces future chances of cancer.  In the weighing and balancing of things, dealing with the side effects of tamoxifen is preferred to dealing with the side effects of surgery, chemo and radiation that I've watched a number of friends and family endure.  Its' not a promise or a certainty... this tamoxifen regiment, but it's a pretty good shot ... and so I continue on the drug.  Pretty much the only issue is some serious hot flashes... hot flashes on drugs if you will, which are far more manageable during the day, than at night.  I've always been a person who needs their sleep, I LIKE to turn in early and I love to rise early for the day.  Lack of undisturbed sleep has been a serious issue this summer.

I struggle onward with this issue.

Ok... that's enough whining.

Uhm... maybe not....

I've been temporarily back at work... such is the life of the part time folks of  state parks.  State parks in every state, and national parks as well have suffered tremendously in the economic melee that has been our lot these last years.  Having found something that I absolutely adore doing, and knowing what it takes to run a park while short staffed, and having much respect and admiration for the dedicated few who persevere when it would be so much easier to look elsewhere, I am again facing the time of 'job not funded.'...

It's not that I can't find things to do... I can... It's that's where I want to be... where my heart is...
and it's tough, tough, tough to not just get up and go.

Somedays,,, a lot of days,,, you simply don't get what you want.

Ok, so NOW, maybe I'm done whining...

Okay... so maybe not...

The heat this summer really laid waste to the garden.  We had some vegetables, but everything burned up supper early, even given the best efforts that we could manage.  As folks on a country well, we are not able to run water day and night to the garden, and so the garden is effected by serious drought and weeks of 90 to 100 degree temperatures do not make it easier.  I miss the gardens of better days... miss the leisurely stroll to pick 'supper' from the rows, in the late summer sun, miss being able to can and preserve for the winter and miss being able to share the bounty.

We are rethinking the garden... considering raised beds, which will be easier, I think, as we age.
Rethinking what to grow.
I've evolved to a more 'year round' garden perspective, rather than canning and preserving so much as I used to do, but instead, eating more in season,with what will grow at the time.  I'm liking that approach... it's working with the fewer mouths that I have to feed.

This summer we ran an experiment.  We did not purchase any plants, but started everything from seed.
I started at least a dozen types of heirloom tomatoes and also that many types of peppers from seed.
Some of the tomatoes were amazing... with the heirlooms faring much better with the heat and drought than the 'standards' that are sold in town.  The heirloom seeds were pricey, but I have saved enough for next year, making it a more cost effective process... certainly more effective than purchasing the plants at $3/plant.

The pepper experiment was a resounding failure... planted too late, they didn't survive transplant, leaving us with a deficit of peppers, which add much to our diet.  Will try that one again next year, but also be prepared to purchase some, if again faced with failure in the pepper department.

The other experiment was to purchase cheap seeds... at discount places, for things like squash and beans.
I'd really not consider it a success either... Perhaps, I'm snooty where seeds are concerned.

The cheap seeds did come up, but did not produce true to what they were supposed to be, in some cases.  The beans did not produce nearly as well as our previous 'high end' seed, nor did they hold up to the difficult weather circumstances.

The only area that did produce beautifully from cheap seeds were the lettuces... Amazing turnout from packages of seeds that costs ten cents.  Variety was nice, though not as much as from a pack of seed that costs $5, but for the price difference, fresh, beautiful lettuces were an acceptable 'cost cutting' measure.

Ok, so that's about all the whining I can take for today...

I promise to return with a better attitude, promptly!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Laughter in the night.

I've not said a lot about this latest venture of taking the last child off to college.

Largely, because it's sort of side swiped me and I'm not sure what to say... most days.

Perhaps we'll discuss that a different day.

But the experience has gone to prove that old adage that every child is different than it's siblings and hence you must react differently as a parent.

Now, this is not to say that things aren't going well... they are, but one of the differences is that he's been home both weekends that have comprised his college career so far.

Last night, quite late, he came grinning through the door... and regaled us with tales of the week and all that entails.

And then, really quite late, from my bed,  I could hear the laughter of two brothers... one of whom just graduated from the same institution and one, who's career there has just started.

Low, adult male voices, serious by turns and then the laughter... until the early hours,,, when I drifted off to sleep.

Oh, preciousness ... this sibling love.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Regardless of how busy I find myself, I've nearly always got my camera in my pocket.

While uploading the photos, I realized that the photos were sort of an essay in and off themselves.


I made myself a birthday apple pie... cute.. huh?


Young 'jakes' in the early morning, out for a stroll.


A celebration to honor those who fought and those who died in the American Revolution.


A frequent reminder that people still die for our freedom today...


And I caught my favorite fellow, rocking and reading on a Saturday afternoon...

Monday, August 15, 2011

August

So, here I sit on the eve of my fifty-first birthday...

taken quite by storm of having the last child leave home this week for college...

I will admit to the house being much too quiet, just now.  But we'll adjust, as we always do.

Physically, I am rather very tired of the extreme heat of the summer and looking forward to a few things.

... the fall garden, which begins to be my 'favorite' gardening season, while there's still warmth and sunshine to get things growing to carry into the late fall and after the crisp toastiness of the summer has worn off.

Gardening is so very different now than just a few years ago... we practice a 'graze' style harvest...

Instead of picking huge bushels and baskets and canning and freezing, I find myself living more seasonally.  I head to the garden and pick 6 collard leaves and 3 tomatoes and a single squash and make a pasta sauce... just enough for a meal.  A hand full of peppers, a small onion and a zucchini, tossed in with a chicken breast and some white wine or lemon juice also make a  nice pasta sauce.  A hand full of basil or two twigs of rosemary... two fresh hen eggs and a ripe tomato.

I've had to force myself to work on knitting projects for a knitting class of very special women at my church.  I love teaching others to knit, but simply haven't wanted to knit anything at all in the heat.  I look forward to cooler weather when sitting and knitting 'feels' right and the race gets on to make some new caps in advance of winter's chill.

I realized that it's been weeks since I sat on the porch... so long, in fact, that when I sat in the rocker over the weekend, it was 'dusty' and dirty from lack of use.  So it's time to dust off the rockers on the porch and rock a spell.

I look forward to planning Thanksgiving and seeing friends and loved ones gather in for what can only be described as a very rambunctious affair.  It's a highlight for me, and I very much look forward to it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Current tomatoes

This summer, we've run an experiment with growing everything from seed.  And because of issues with our previous seed company, we decided to take a two pronged approach.
We ordered heirloom seed from a couple of different companies and we tried some 'cheap' seed from places like Dollar General and Walmart.

I'm sure I'll sit down, after the summer is done and size up what I think about the different approach.  I will say that this summer has been far less expensive from a standpoint of the garden input and while there's been serious heat, which has taken it's toll, I've been impressed with a few of these plants.

By far, the favorite fun new little tomato is the 'current' tomato. 


You can see it's size compared to a penny.  The little tomatoes are not only quite tiny, but they're absolutely packed with the most delicious flavor I've ever eaten in tomato form.  Their texture is different than other small tomatoes as well and is quite firm.  When you bite into the current tomato, they absolutely explode with flavor.
For the first week that any were ripening, we had a terrible time getting any into the house, but instead , stood and snacked on them in the garden, still warm from the sun.


They're very good in salads and in sauces and make the very best fresh out of hand snacks.
The tiny tomato comes from a delicate but rangy plant that has borne up well under the vicious sun and heat indexes of more than 100 degrees F for several weeks now.


The tiny current tomato will join our garden plan for years to come as it's proven itself for us this year.
Edited to add.  These seed came from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Their website is www.rareseeds.com.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On becoming a mother

So I've been spending a lot of time awake at night, which is a bit unusual for me.

And I'll admit that a lot of that time is spent trying to refocus from the things that worry me, to regroup in the deep abiding trust that makes it easy to sleep deeply and soundly.

But last night, as I lay there and thought, I thought about the fact that today marks the day that, twenty six years ago, I became a mother.  We, as a couple, became parents.

While there are lots of moments that define a couple and a person, becoming a mother singularly meant more to me than any other of my life.

No long exclamations about the daughter who brought this to my life... simply to say that having her in my life was then and what still today makes the sun shine on each new day for me.  To hear her voice, to put my arms around her reminds me that my life is blessed beyond compare.

What I remember about that day were a couple of things...

The morning of her birth I picked green beans.  Truly, hugely pregnant, I did the squat and pick, heave my heavy belly up and squat and pick and repeat so forth on down the long rows of beans.  That morning, like today, was blistering hot.   So, the very last thing that we did together, as a pair, before her birth, was garden.

And then, I remember her eyes... at birth, even while still attached to her umbilical cord, she was perfectly silent, but her eyes were so huge and so expressive.  At the moment of birth, she looked so very deeply at her father and then at me, as if to say "I'm here to change your life"...

and so she did.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An hour...

This morning, I found an hour...

What happened was this... instead of my normal 5 am wakeup cold dog nose to my sleeping hand, Stormy slept until 6.

And when I did awake to her smiling face, doggy breath, I realized that for the first night in a while, I'd slept soundly and peacefully... awake and fresh for the morning.

So, instead of going back to bed and passing out until 7 something, when I'd need to rush to get the animals cared for before leaving for work...

... I found an hour.

An hour... for a brief, day brightening devotion...

... for a egg, fried in olive oil and a sliced tomato on a piece of toast...

...kitten snuggling, chicken feeding, garden plundering...

...bird watching, dog romping, porch sitting...

The extra hour gave me time to breathe, to choose to take a moment

to think.

I realize that I've been complaining about the heat... and the 'busy - ness',,,
and not looking near enough for the beauty in it all.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oh, my... so good.

One flour tortilla...

One peach, diced...

...sprinkled with a little sugar...

...maybe cinnamon, if you like.

Fold the tortilla in half, chock full of peaches.

One teaspoon of butter in a little black iron skillet.

Flip it a couple of times, till it browns...

A peach sort of quesadilla, but without the cheese.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Updates and such...


No... we have not fallen off the face of the earth!

We've been adjusting to:

having TWO boys rambling around the place, again....

and a return, albeit temporarily, to work at the State Park...

...and a garden growing beautifully.


... a kitchen full of fruits and veggies...


...excessive heat...



... emergency eldercare... my mother in law broke her hip and needed a partial hip implant...


The days have been too short to get it all done.

Though there have been greater than average challenges this month,  Tommy and I have managed to escape  not once, but twice on lovely, day-long 'dates' that left us refreshed and sneaking in at midnight giggling like teenagers.  I'd forgotten the simple pleasure of spending time away from the cares of the day to day things in helping to counterbalance the 'heavier' things in life.

I promise that I'll catch you up on things...

promise!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The recipe for the best batter.

Right now, I'll go ahead and tell you that I KNOW that this is not the healthiest recipe that I'll ever share.

And it ranks right up there with strange things that work out very well....  recipes that you look at and say "what?!!!".

You know how sometimes you need a batter for things that you want to fry?

Like those first tender, sweet squash, or stuffed squash blossoms, or green tomatoes or okra or onion rings...
 I could go on.

This recipe makes onion rings that I promise you, are unrivaled.

And it doesn't require any special tricks or equipment.

It does require that you do NOT taste one as you're cooking,,, unless you're home alone and you expect to eat dinner while standing at the stove.  They're addictive and quite, quite yummy.  If that IS the plan for dinner, then go ahead... knock yourself out... you have my permission.

When I make onion rings, as I did this evening, I peel and slice up a couple of large white onions. Separate them into rings. Get some oil screaming hot!   Toss the onions into the batter. Use a fork to grab one and toss it into the oil.  Very quickly, it should sizzle and 'float' to the top.  Flip it once and let it turn a nice golden brown, then take it out to drain on a paper towel.

I don't have a deep fryer... I simply put a cup and a half or so of cooking oil into a saucepan.  I don't fry food often enough to use a deep fryer, and when I did have one, it required an awful lot of oil, that I had to store and reuse, and it made such a mess.  Better a saucepan and an occasional 'frying' event.

On to the recipe:

Batter for Frying

3/4 cup of plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt  (depending on what's being fried, I might make this 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
2 Tablespoons of corn starch
3/4 cup of water

Whisk all ingredients together.  Will make a very watery batter.  So watery and thin, in fact, it will not look like it's going to work,,, but go ahead and do it anyway... you'll see!  Dip your veggies, which have previously been prepared, into the batter, let the excess drip off and put it in the hot oil.  It should pop up off the bottom and start to float pretty quickly.  Turn the battered veggie and let it cook until it's a beautiful golden brown.

Drain on paper towels.    Try HARD not to eat one... really hard... and try to keep the boys/girls/spouses from starting in on the goodies before you get them on the table, because otherwise, you're gonna need to go cut up some more veggies and mix up some more batter....

... ask me how I know.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Graduation


So, the youngest one graduated from high school....  and except for the moment when his sister mentioned that this was the first time in 12 years that there wasn't one of my children playing "Pomp and Circumstance" in the band ensemble, I kept my chin up.

Luckily, there was a malfunction of the equipment that would have played the DVD of photos of all the graduates set to the sort of music that makes mothers dissolve into helpless puddles all over the gym.
So, I escaped  having to snort and sniffle my way through the last hour or so of the ceremony.

I've been a mom for a long, long time...25 years, to be exact, and I'll tell you, nothing feels quite as right as
realizing that the kids are going to be ok in life, regardless. Ten years ago, I was critically ill and there were days that it did not seem that I might see this day.  For this day, I am grateful.

Solid education, multiples of diplomas and degrees  represents several things.  It does represent the fact that their father and I have consistently demanded a high standard of achievement.  As a parent, I do believe that you have to require their best.  But more than anything, it represents kids who have been sturdy and capable in doing what was required of them, by their parents and their teachers, professors and mentors consistently and constantly for years.  It represent their understanding that hard work, day in and day out, pays off.  It represents that from the oldest to the youngest was a steady stream of excellent examples and support of each other... they've been each other's best cheerleaders.  It represents that they have been blessed with bright minds and healthy bodies and solid character to do the job at hand.

It represents a beginning...the taking in hand of all that they've learned and setting forth on life's journey, better prepared and ready and willing to work hard and undertake the tasks that they'll come up against in life.

For these young adults,,, my children,,, I have prayed every day, every single morning and night of their time on the planet, for their lives to be as God would plan.  I have prayed that their educational road will serve them in the lives that they are meant to lead.  I expect them to use their knowledge and their skills to the best of their abilities and I pray for them to have family and friends who love them and support them on their journeys, not just on the happy days, but when the days are long and hard and when the struggles come, as they certainly do. I pray that they always have each other to stand beside, shoulder to shoulder, arms around each other, love and support that only siblings can know.  I hope and pray that their closeness as siblings, continues through their lives of work and busy-ness.

I pray that their world of work and their spiritual journey are not far from each other, so that they may serve God and mankind as they were made to do.

I pray that I live to see their lives unfold and that they know how much their mother loves them every single day of the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How not to be bored


Last year, about this time, I realized that more than half the teenagers that I know were spending a LOT of time posting on Facebook about how bored they were.

Now early on, as a parent, one of my pet peeves was the whiney intonation "I'mmmmm bored!!!!"

I made my children the ultimatum that if I were to so much as hear the B word (bored) that I'd be arranging for them to do the very many things that I could think of that needed doing.

And as they are smart children, it did not take very many times for them to 1. learn to entertain themselves better and 2. develop a widely ranging vocabulary of words that were synonyms for 'bored'.

Anyway, last  year, I wrote out the following and issued it as a challenge to the group of kids that I love most in the world.  I'm sharing it here, because we're right at the cusp of summer, when so many parents will begin to hear those fateful words... I'm so bored...  

Share the list... and share with me the amazing things that happen when you employ the list...

Things to do to prevent boredom


I am discovering, thanks to FaceBook that lots and lots of teenagers haven't been given the dictate that is in force at the Weaver household... "If you use the word 'bored', even a single time, I will FIND something for you to do!"

Here you go, kiddo's... and I don't want to hear anymore about being bored!

1. Take your UNhappy little hinney outside for a walk, a run, a bike ride.
If THAT bores you, then pick up a broom, a rake, a shovel and rearrange dirt, dust or landscaping (check with parents first about that last one). Walk the dog, brush the cat, teach them new tricks. Take a nap under a tree, camp outside overnight, even in the back yard. GET OUT!

2. RUN, do not walk, to the next nearest home of an elderly person (do NOT mistake 50 for elderly!)
Knock on the door, introduce yourself, and then procceed to 1. sit and visit and 2. ask them what they need help with. then DO IT! This should keep you busy for quite a while... and you will learn some valuable lessons and loneliness will be averted on more than one count!

3. Find a kid... preferable another kid that is being bored... Not one your age, but one younger than you. Think (*yes, you can do that in the summertime) of 3 things that you know, or can do that this kid cannot and TEACH them. Spend some time making, building, working on something. Take them on a walk and see how many different birds you can identify. Teach them to make lemonade. Build a sculpture of found objects. Get creative!

4. Pick a new skill,,, something that YOU want to do, or have been interested in. Get your parents on board here... do some research... figure it out. implement a plan for learning about your new passion and be better for it at the end of the summer!

5. Do a good turn daily... a good deed... even small ones... You will smile at yourself when you're all alone. Pick up some trash and put it in the proper place, return the shopping cart to the store, smile at the angriest person you see. YOU will be better for it.

6. Go fishing (catch and release), take a hike, a serious hike... there's a state park IN THIS COUNTY with two trails 2 1/3 miles) that is free for you to walk. Take a bottle of water and explore the outdoors.
(THEN you will not die of heatstroke that first two days of band camp!) Ride a bike.

7. Make a plan for your family and implement it... how can you reduce and recycle? Your parents are tired of telling you to turn off the lights and not waste stuff... they get worn down...you pick up the charge for a while and see the savings (of finances AND the planet!).

8. Be an official volunteer... The local hospital has need of volunteers,,, the local nursing homes...
take your instrument and simply practice in the day room at the local nursing home... get three friends together and play together...brighten the day of all who live there and all who work there. Smile while you play!

9. Thank people... thank a police officer, thank a teacher, thank the folks at the YMCA, thank the person who checks you out at the store. If you have time to be bored, you have time to sit down and write a thank you note,,, to your parents, your grandparents, your friends, the mailperson!

10. Catch up with folks who have moved away. Sit down and take pencil and paper in hand and WRITE a letter.

11. Clean your room! Move the furniture around (amazing what you find under the bed!) REdecorate. Do a good job and your parents will be stunned... stunned, I tell you!

12. Clean something that is not your room... the fridge (do you KNOW how happy this makes parents?)
the laundry room, the utility closet... Your parents will wonder what is wrong , but they will NOT question this!?!

13. Go the public library and use this free resource... read magazines while you're there and read a BOOK A WEEK over the summer. (some of you can do way better than that, and if you do and report it to me, we shall find a treat!)

14. Practice that instrument DAILY. Annoy your family, the neighbors, the animals in the neighborhood. Practice early and late and in between. Become the BEST at what you do!

15. LASTLY, Study for the SAT... I don't care what age you are, what grade you're in, what you're doing after highschool... go online to the study places and DO it. Go to the public library and check out the study books. DO NOT ROll your eyes... you KNOW I'm right! If you each send me (or post) a word of the day from the SAT lists, then we're all gonna learn a lot of new words this summer!

Do not waste the summer! Wake up each day, every single day, and make a plan.
Dont' get to the end of it and only be able to say "I was so BORED!".

Report what you're doing... I shall be so proud and you shall not have to work at Camp Weaver all summer!

hugs all around,
dawn

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You wanna go for a walk?

Such sweet words... when said while clearing the dinner table...


.... from the oldest brother to the youngest.

They'd eaten more in a few short minutes than I can remember them eating in a while, which reminds me to step up the meal planning and preparation to keep up with the new demand of having both boys at home for a while.  The leftovers consisted of a single half ring of a slice of red onion and less than a half cup of baked beans...

Dinner was full of good natured jostling and recounting the day's tales.
Stories broken by serious chowing down.

And then the older one said "you wanna go for a walk?"

Quiet settled in as the old door creaked shut behind them. 

I count my blessings that they're good brothers to each other... that they love each other and crave time to spend together.  I love that they're outdoorsy and are competent in the wild.  I love that being afield and in the woods brings them peace of mind and I love that it brings them together.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

jumping off place, indeed or Landscaping run amok II

This last week, as I have already reported, we've had a little too much snake action.

Part of the problem is that I live in the country, in the wilderness, where nature abounds... snakes are part of nature, you know.

I do not begrudge them their place... it's when they encroach upon MY place that we began to have issues.

I do not mind an occasional slither by... I DO mind discovering a satisfied, lumpy snake in my chicken coop.
I do mind looking down while I'm hanging out the laundry, to discover a 7 footer 'smelling me'....

...uh. no...

This leads me to conclude that it's time to mow.  The grass has been mowed this year, a time or two.

Admittedly we take a very relaxed view of mowing... as mentioned before, we don't have a lawn, so much, as we have a grassy collection of stuff in the general vacinity of the house, barns and hundred acre wood.
When we were first married, the Chief Grass Mower Man wouldn't get the job done before he started over, spending every waking moment that he was not at work mowing the grass... not fishing, not napping, not playing with the kiddies... mowing the grass.  Sort of like once upon a time, I mopped the kitchen every night before I went to bed...

Really.

Then, somewhere along the way, we caught on to the fact that the children were growing faster than we could imagine and by doing all the repetitive chores with obsessive compulsion we were missing out.

That, and when it takes 15 gallons of gas to mow to the place and gas is $4 a gallon, then we can also use the excuse that it's simply ecologically sound to let the permaculture take over.

Until the snakes of spring arrive.

Yesterday, after a snake relocation event and another 'getaway' failed attempt at the second relocation of the day, I'd had all I could take.

I set off to mow the grass.  Now here, I'll refer you to the previous story of my moving mowing experiences on the new mower.  Yesterday, I dutifully sunscreened myself, fixed a water bottle, grabbed a hat and toodled off down to the barn to do a little rearranging of the snake habitat.  To discover that there was no key...

With the assistance of the now fully engaged side effects of tamoxifen, I became rather furious.  After searching for an hour for the key, to no avail, and sending several obnoxiously repetitive text messages to the Chief Grass Mowing man, demanding to know the location of the key, I abandoned all hope of fixing the problem and moved along to something else.

I spoke to the Chief Grass Mowing man on the phone later in the day, from work, and felt rather foolish, to discover that the key had been, all along, right on the hall stand, front and center in front of the door, for all the world to see.  Like I said,,, I'm gonna blame fury on the drug....

Anyway, this morning, I watched the kid get off to school, ... really there's not so much to do when they're 17, sort of a 'tell me your schedule, do you have your suit for the concert?, have a good day!' sort of thing.
By 7:15, I was out the door, key in hand, sunscreen in place, to take advantage of the early morning cool.
Alas, filled the tank and attempted to crank to discover a dead battery.  Now, I'd been warned that this might be the case... so I had to 'jump off'  the mower, so that I could hop to it~!

I'd never jumped off a mower before... luckily, I grew up pretty self sufficient and luckily we have the necessary equipment on hand.   For a few moments there, I was literally, in the jumping off place. 

Anyway, finally,,, finally... I was off an mowing.  While I mowed, I had time to think about a list of things that one should know when mowing with one of these machines:

~  I know I repeat myself, but if you remove one hand from the control bar of the speeding demon, to, oh, say wipe your nose or get some spider web out of your mouth, it WILL begin to spin... in circles... at full speed.    Yeah...  Remember that next time.

~  There is no intuition on the part of the machine when you are too close to things,,, laundry lines, specifically... If your hand/eye coordination fails you in that moment and you zip on under the laundry line, at full speed, of course, you just MIGHT get snagged by the adjustable drawstring of your apron, which was innocently minding it's own business on the clothesline.  Luckily for you, the adjustable feature of the apron strings, after a nice firm tightening around your neck, gives way, leaving you with a rakishly good looking 1 inch wide 'scarf'.  Refer to item above as to why you cannot use your hands to remove the rakish apron strings turned scarf.

~  If after two hours of mowing, you feel the call of nature AND you need to do things that you should have done before cranking the machine, like move the water hoses, giant tree limbs and all the stuff that puppies can drag about your yard, and you stop... you have to jump the machine off again.  It's ok... was time to re-up the sunscreen anyway!

~  You should never let things distract you... beautiful wild roses... tiny wild strawberries...wild daisies blowing on the breeze... because, again, you are traveling at warp speed.  The tiniest lapse in attention can net you a newly cleared path through the hedges or the excitable enjoyment of coming upon an embankment too fast, AND the understanding of how these things happened in the past...

~If during the middle of mowing, at warp speed, you suddenly round a bush, to discover a 7 foot version of the EXACT reason why you are doing this chore, all coiled and excited and ready to strike, and you do NOT react quickly enough, it IS possible, instead of running over the innocent snake that it's coiled body can be lofted onto your right foot (with which you were attempted to apply the non-existent in this machine brakes) and subsequent to which you MIGHT scream like a little girl and shake your foot violently.  (No woman or snake was harmed in this incident, by the way!)  The snake escaped to the pasture across the road, probably to come visit with my chickens tomorrow.

~ You realize that it's time, again, to do some serious trimming of low hanging limbs and some of the aforementioned permaculture.  You realize that you should not turn so that the grass clippings land on the ornamental pond and float there, like so much green confetti to amuse the fish.  You consider changing the shape of things like the herb bed to make it more easily mowed around (and give you more room for basil).
You decide to mow 'paths' in places where footpaths are, in the direction of the river and the woods. 

~You might get to thinking that this is just the most fun you've had since the last time you rode a rollercoaster, or at the very least, any theme park ride where you don't know what might happen next.  You get kind of 'revved up' and 'wide open' and all kinds of delighted with how the yard begins to look.  That's a good thing... you need to be wide awake when you're on this mower!

So, I have put the snakes on notice... please, pretty please, go back to the woods and to the river, or visit the neighbors and leave me to my yard and chicken coops undisturbed.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother'sssssss Day!

But not the pretty, quiet, happy Hallmark version...

No... not us...

We hugely prefer to be original in our approach.

Just a little before midnight last night, Stormy made a discovery about poisonous snakes.

She discovered you should not try to eat one.


After several hours of obvious pain, hysteria on the part of the paternal unit here, and admittedly, significant worry on the part of the maternal person, we have a tail wagging, swollen head, I survived eating a copperhead dog.


We didn't sleep very much last night.

After sleeping in and enjoying a late breakfast with our 'just home from college' boy, we settled into various pursuits about the farm.

During my (very late) run to the chicken pen, I discovered a little Mother's Day surprise...

right on time, we began this adventure every year, usually early in May...

It's called...


Snake relocation program... or "GET DOWN HERE and get this snake out of MY CHICKEN PEN!"

Prior to marrying my husband, when this happened on the farm, we dispatched the snake with no questions asked and no friendly hands-on relocation program.

Then, I married this fellow and he preferred to catch them and relocate them.
I am now convinced, especially if I don't have to do it by myself.

So that is what we do now....

We take them for a scenic drive about the country.  Often they are accomanpied by people in varying states of country dress, because it next to never happens at a convenient time when we are properly dressed for a Sunday afternoon drive.

The snakes never seem to mind.

We make sure that our snakes get a nice location to began their new lease on life, someplace other than my chicken pens.


This is Sis... You will notice that Sis is nice and trim... this means that we need to look for the kittens.

Happy Mother's Day, Sis!

Sis is the provider of barn kitties, which keep us rodent and snake free... obviously we need to step up the work on that front...

Truthfully, Sis has been trying to do the job alone, after coyotes and dogs took a toll on the barn kitty population.  I'm sure we'll be reporting on the new additions shortly.


I watched the boy working in the garden for a while this afternoon... I'm so glad he's home.

He helped his daddy put up the deer netting around the garden ...

...after a while, I wandered down there to see what it was that he was up to...





He was adding his own special touch.  You see, he's a fan of deer hunting AND gardening and especially cooking fresh wonderful things from the garden.  We'll see how these new additions help in the never ending job of trying to keep the deer at bay.

And last, but not least, Daisy came up missing this morning or late yesterday... she's so quiet and good you don't notice her, but we do miss our creatures if we come up short.  After a bit of searching and angst, she reappeared this afternoon, so we are no longer worried.


The boys are presently lighting the grill to grill some dry rubbed chicken and I'm looking forward to a late meal and things settling down.... we've had enough excitement for several days.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Graduation

Today, my middle child, my oldest son graduated from college.

We had to get up LONG before the sun arose and for the first time in years, I had to run around the house waking everyone up.  We stumbled around and dressed and drove into a heavy,thick fog in to the capital city.


In the last three days, more than 6000 students received degrees from the University of South Carolina.

And in the midst of the mayhem that comes with that, my boy received his degree in Biology, with honors.

This past Thursday, in a downpour of rain, we moved him home...from his apartment, with all his worldly belongings.  His younger brother, who will head to this same college in the fall, helped to move his brother one more time.  He lovingly points out that he has been moving people to colleges for more than 9 years now.
It's good to have a brother who loves you.



As we found seats in the arena where the 9 am service was held, with thousands of other happy families all around us, the younger one said "Man, I'm hungry... does this place have hotdogs?"

No, son... no hotdogs at graduations....

We sat with his girlfriend's family and we anxiously watched and waited while the graduates assembled until we saw our own take their place.



And then that familiar, beautiful ceremony, the conferring of degrees, took place.

And somewhere in there, about the time he got up to take his place in line, my heart filled until tears poured from my eyes.  In an overwhelming moment, in a single flash, I recalled two things.

I recalled that for virtually every single day that I was pregnant with him, I was on bedrest.
I laid, on doctor's orders, on my left side and I prayed so very hard for him to come to be and for him to be alright.

And he was.

And then I thought about when he was not quite three and through a series of medical issues that began with the flu, he and I spent weeks in a pediatric care unit, some if it in intensive care, as he fought for his life and as I prayed, again, for his life to be spared and for him to still be alive to be my child.

And he was.

For this, I am so grateful.

His very life has been an extraordinary gift to me, in so very many ways.

For his being so many good things... honest and hard working, calm in the face of trouble and life, in general, sensible and sensitive and  funny, intelligent and a very thoughtful and  loving man, I am so very grateful.



I am thankful for this young woman, who is a special  part of his life.  She, likewise, is one of the most genuine, sincere and beautiful young women that I have ever known.  We are all blessed for her presence in our life and I am delighted by the love she shares with my son. As she continues her education this fall, she will be in my prayers continually.



And so today, as he stood, tall and handsome, clad in the garb of academia, striding forward to take what he has worked so hard to earn, I prayed again, for this amazing man, who is my son.  I wish him every hope and dream come true, but I also wish him a life filled with love and family.  I pray for strength to face all that his life will bring him, for through him, I was brought to realize how fragile, how very tenuous is that attachment.


Friday, May 6, 2011

WHAT?!!?

So, I go into the chicken pen to feed up and collect the eggs... I toss out some lettuce and some leftover grits and other assorted 'treats' from the 'compost' bucket...

and about the time the food hits the ground, the chickens explode....

... I mean they literally explode into my face, squawking, flapping... they hit me with full force and I dropped the feed bucket that I was carrying. 

It is then that I realize that a very quiet German Shepherd has entered the pen behind me...

I almost had a heart attack... and though my girls had gone nuts.

There was no bad behavior... merely curiosity, so I didn't scold, but it was one of those 'have a heart attack moments' that you get sometimes.

I suspect the same is true for the chickens...  who went back to feeding as soon as the situation was corrected.  Dog outside, calm reigns in chicken land.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Daisy sits!

So, it's cold... and no, though my personal thermostat is rather wonky, I'm pretty sure that it's cold.... in South Carolina... in May!

And I have my baby tomato plants outside hardening off and my even more precariously small pepper plants...

and an angel wing begonia, which had actually reached the ceiling in it's indoor location, that was repotted today...

and the two penis plants...


Ok, so they are actually plumaeia plants that I could not resist after we'd taken the tour of the greenhouses at Disney World some many years ago.  We have lovingly (ok, begrudgingly) cared for these two plants for years and years and we never get anything more impressive than two massive phallic stalks.

I mean we jokingly said that we'd grow them for wedding flowers for our then early teenage daughter.  And  every single spring and summer we coddle and fuss and make all kinds of  'to do' over the plumarias, which reward us by standing sentinel and stately and occasionally bearing a few awesome leaves on top.  By 'we' here, I mean me... with the exception of the boys giving them the awesome name of 'penis plants', the plants have been my personal cross to bear.
The daughter has grown up, gone to college and to medical school and gotten married with nary a plumaeia blossom having shown it's face.

Sigh...

Anyway, they can't get below 40 degrees or some such....

and it's cold outside...

And for some reason, I still care...Perhaps I should go watch the weather to find out WHY is so unseasonably cold tonight... but I digress...

Anyway.  I went out onto the front porch to retrieve the plants and when I opened the door, Daisy sauntered in....

Now Daisy has lived here for many years... and for the most part, she asks for little, and she likes to be left alone.  Most days, she dislikes, immensely being singled out for petting and she especially despises any sort of need to get in the car and go, oh, say, to the vet.  In all this time, she has NEVER come into the house.

I open the door and here she prisses...

Daisy... in the house...

She goes right over to the table with the dog treats on it, barks twice and SITS DOWN.

Daisy has never , ever, never, ever sat on command.

That little rascal... she has been watching the pup training,this week, as I've been working with Tank, and she has been looking in the door apparently, to see where the treats were coming from.

The little bugger walked right in, barked and SAT.

Daisy got a LOT of treats... and she got petted

and then she freaked, because freaking is what Daisy does best.

She barreled out the door, mouth full of treats, back to her pillow on the porch.

Maybe the plumeria will bloom this year...

Random thoughts

Things have been crazy busy here the last little bit. 

Spring is in full swing (we are all polinated, sneeze, snort!)

People are winding down college careers and beginning to move.  The shift of worldly belongings that has happened here for 9 years (wow... time sure does fly!) will happen again this week.  The old house will finish squeezing to near bursting and things may or may not settle down to a new kind of normal.  When the graduate gets home, we'll sort through his things, and some things I've been waiting to have sturdy help to do.

The baby chickens are growing ... crazy growing... I must get some photos... they're at the wonderful, juvenile, oh-so-ugly phase... it's awesome.

The dog has outgrown my wildest imaginings, but continues to learn and be an amazing companion. We have managed to capture a clip of her 'singing' to the baby on a phone... she is a delight.

People are finishing up highschool careers and planning the move to college.  Ironically, the same college that will be shedding one of our own, will be gaining a new one in the fall.

A bit of gardening, though not much to see yet...

A bit of sewing....

A bit of complaining, on my part, about generally feeling like I've been hit by a hay truck.
The side effects of Tamoxifen are beating me about and I was growing increasingly irritable until yesterday, when I saw the doctor, to discover that that wasn't all.  Medication for bronchitis and a sinus infection should help to clear up some of what I've found so oppressive this last couple of week.

I left the doctor's office, feeling somehow instantly better, as though having a valid reason for the puny-ness of late.  I have a physician who is so gentle and so calm and who both listens and hears what I say. One of life's greatest blessings is having a doctor that I'm comfortable with, who serves as my medical 'home' and who listens and weighs in and helps me find a balance on the health care see-saw that I've been on lately. 

I didn't need to be anywhere on a time schedule, so stopped at the local library in the big city. 

I love libraries.  I love the little local library.  But I've been needing a couple of resource books so decided to stop at the bigger library, where I proceeded to get lost in the reference area for quite some time. I didn't realize exactly how lost I was until I heard giggles and looked up to see an adorable teenage girl reversing herself to go down another aisle... because I was seated, cross legged in the middle of the aisle, shoes off, reading, as though I were right at home.

Home to cook dinner and get in the last of the eggs of the day. 
Petting the pups and the old dogs, herding in the chicken escapees...
A little weaving, a little reading till the kid gets home...
A late meal, conversation, coordination for the next few days, so that we're on the same sheet of music, so to speak.

The last thing that I did before bed was change over some laundry. Having forgotten to hang it out, it was much too late and the weather had been storming pretty fiercely earlier.  As I worked in the laundry, I noticed the night noises coming through the open window.  Frogs and bugs and night animal chorus, refreshed from the rain and the cool of night. A large moth fluttered softly against the screen, which kept it from it's journey to the light and as I turned off the light and headed to bed, followed by the thumping of Stormy's feet and her nose, cold against my leg, her singular vocal yawn which signals that it's time to rest for a while, so that we can get up tomorrow and do it again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Almost wordless Wednesday






A very normal boy...









Faith filled service transforms us....



Maundy Thursday Service

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Looking into eyes

This morning I attended the funeral of a dear friend.  Someone I've known since childhood and in these past years, we've shared a church family. A fairly sudden serious illness, a sudden loss of one among us who will be missed. The hope of Easter fullfilled in our midst, so real that we can touch it.

Today was filled with all of those up and down emotions that come with these living life experiences.
Sadness for your loss and for the pain of his loved ones, laughter at memories so very true and sweet,
that ridiculous intermingling of all of those emotions where at one instant you don't know exactly how to describe the feeling... except that it is certainly one of those times in life that you are presently aware of the fact that you are, indeed, alive.

I became very, very aware, while standing in the cemetery, of the eyes that I looked into.

Brightest, clearest blue, crinkled with a smile.
Darkest, deepest brown filled with a tear that has yet to drop.
Green with gold flecks that radiate.
Blankness of expression or
Glint of depth of pain.


We are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eewwww...

I dropped a dozen eggs....


I opened the deli drawer in the fridge and it was sort of , slightly wonky... and when I pulled the drawer, the dozen eggs just below it leapt from the fridge

and landed

on my feet.

Beautiful, blues and browns of every hue, burst forth with golden orbs and albumen

onto my feet.

I am not amused.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Might want to go get a tissue....

... the mama's reading this... you're gonna need a tissue... maybe some of the rest of you too...

Last night was the Band Awards Banquet... of his senior year.

Truthfully, he's only had two band banquets...before last year, we didn't have these.
Awards, when they were given, were passed out at the end of year concert.
This is way different... and I offer up a special gratitude to those who made this happen, those who planned and prepared, cooked and decorated and made it pull off without a hitch.

I love the banquet.  I love to see the light in their eyes, their 'spit-shined' appearance, all curls and glitter and heels, suits,ties and dress shoes and a dozen fragrances rolled into a happy, twitter-pated moment.  In a world where casual is the 'standard' and slouch is  an actual fashion term, there is a night were they're so beautiful that  that alone brings tears to my eyes.



And then there's this

and this

and this


Time and time and time again, child after child, after child, no formal handshake... no arms length presentation...

In a world where people on a momentary basis hurt each other physically,where the evening news is often horrifying, in a world where teachers and professionals of all types have been relegated to sterile distance,  thank you, Lord in Heaven above, for a program where children are touched and hugged and physically cheered on, encouraged and connected with, their mentors and teachers and each other.
For growth to occur and for love to connect, we must touch each other.  Plain and simple, there is no alternative to it.   Hand to hand, arms encircling, head to shoulder, cheek to cheek, toe to toe in a circle on the floor.  Family, in whatever form it takes, must touch each other.



There were awards.  And it's nice to be recognized for hard work and consistency and excellence.
It's nice to be singled out or honored as a part of a team.
Very important... this business of positive reinforcement... very important.

Of equal importance is continuity.  Show them what it takes to earn those awards.  And give them the opportunities to earn them for themselves.  Exact excellence... help them to get there for themselves.

A significant part of the banquet, especially for those who come next, is finding out who the officers and drum major will be for next year's marching season.


He made them stand, to wait for the call...


Tense and beautiful... a learning moment if ever there was one.


And there they are... the future of the program ,,,   leaders every one, charged to work together, for the betterment of the program and charged with uplifting each and every member, as they, themselves have been helped to achieve.  A better life lesson in teamwork they will never encounter, regardless of how long they live or what they choose to do in life.

Look at their smiles... eager anticipation for the future, but in the moment, excitement and happiness.  A couple of them were missing... not rounded up in the fray of 'after ceremony' crush of hugs and tears.  They are included, if not in a snapshot of the moment, in the year that follows this one.




And speaking of the future...  these two are among the graduates... and it puts that ache in my throat to see this photo.  CJ's father and I went to high school together. We go WAY back.  And as little 6th graders, these two found the drumsticks and the snare drum, and all the rest of the percussion equipment too tempting to resist.  And side by side, they have daily beat their way through a thousand pairs of sticks at least.  I have a photo of them as 'band babies' and they were both wearing the child size uniforms... but those faces,,, those same exact smiles... and those arms around each other...

... that's all that I can say about that.

The future of the drum line is safe.... safe and in good hands, literally and figuratively.
The energy and the drive and the sticks were handed over last night.  Taariq, there in the middle, steps up to the position of captain and he is so, so ready for it.  He'll lead a line that will feel a momentary adjustment without it's seniors and they will all look to him... for that strike of the snare that signals 'go'... for the leadership and the 'push' when they need it and for a calm, steady hand with a group that is known for it's sheer energy and pulse.   To the left is a kid that the band lovingly nicknamed LT... little Trent, and yes, he does remind me of Trent in those early days... Oh, the adventures that band can hold, the lessons they learn, the important and life changing things that lies before them.


Last year, began a new tradition of giving the seniors a blanket.  Embroidered with the band logo and their name and the number of years that they were in marching band.  A beautiful keepsake to take with them, where ever their future takes them, to wrap around them for warmth and comfort, symbolic sign of the family that remains with you when you go.  Send them on their way surrounded with that connection, covered with the warmth of their past, to places where they may need that strength... that touch connection... a physical symbol of an inward lifeflow of which they have been a part.

 

One by one... hand to hand...

standing in a line together... for the last time...


Standing acknowledgement of their peers for that moment...


Thank you to a school district and administrators who continue to see the importance in Fine Arts Education.
Continue to fight to keep the program and advance it.  The world without the music will be a dull place indeed and these children, from every end of the school, need this for them and in them. It takes them places... it fills them with confidence in a way that nothing else does.
It teaches...
                  it teaches.

Thank you to Hugh, who when Trent was 3 and 4 and 5... tossed him on the band golf cart, let him be the water boy...gave him drum sticks and turned him loose.

  Thank you for patience and life lessons and giving each of my three children  individual attention and letting them be who they were.  Thank you for guidance and friendship and for caring.  Thank you for that video tape of Elizabeth's graduation, when I was too ill to be there.  I shall never, ever, ever forget it.  Thank you for doing all of the above for the children who will never say thank you, and for the parents that you'll never see.  You and I both know that you don't do it for the thank you's... you do it because it's the right thing to do. I do appreciate that, more than words can ever say.


Thank you to these beautiful young people, our future in every sense of the word.  Thank you for loving each other, for those smiles when I hit the band room door.  Thank you for sharing your tears and laughter, your life stories and your future hopes and aspirations.  Know that as surely as the sun comes up on the morning, that I pray for you, asking God to guide you and to bless you, to hold you close and let you know that you are loved.  I ask for a light for your path and friends to make the way easier.

You know where to find me if ever you need me and there's not one of you, for which I will not answer the call.

A special thanks to Graham, for giving me a gift last night... for putting into actual words a precious thought.
You touched my heart.

Thank you David...

... for calling them children, for they are.  Too often they are rushed... call them children and when they act like children, as they sometimes do, give them that moment, instruct them and move on.

...for telling them that you learned from them... for an open sharing of what it's meant to have these particular participants on the beginning of your life's journey as a band director.... for letting them see the human side and the struggle sometimes, but for keeping the 'push' on for excellence, even when the going is rough.

...for that positive "yes?" at the end of your sentences.  For the expectation that their answer will be another positive 'yes'... From the first time that I heard it from the tower that first day of band camp, until the last time last night, it will be, in my mind, your trademark stamp on my child's band career and on my heart and soul.