Thursday, July 31, 2008
Sometimes I Quilt....
Never say never. Three and a half years ago I joined a sewing group, thinking I'd sew, while they were all quilting. Actually I believe I said, 'I'll NEVER quilt."

I quilt. Our quilting group consists of about ten consistent members, we meet weekly at each other's homes for a day of quilting and friendship. Sometimes we do group projects - everyone does their version of the same pattern. This is my version of our latest group project "Fresh Cuts" - very simple piecing, and 'make you want to pull your hair out' construction. It still needs sashing, then the actual quilt sandwich, the quilting done, then the binding. I'm planning to use it as a turned-on-point table topper in our dining room. It's 48" square right now. The grey behind it is my flannel design wall, a great quilting tool for setting up a quilt.

This one is more special. Last Christmas each Sew and Sow member made a 12 1/2" block for every member who participated (nine of us), using fabrics that fit the theme the recipient had chosen. I chose 30's fabrics. Each of these blocks was pieced by a member of the group, then they were all given to me at our Christmas luncheon, while I gave away nine blocks that were all completely different to fit the other quilters' choices. I took my nine blocks and came up with a design to piece them together and this is what it turned out like. It still needs the sandwich, the quilting, and the binding and it's going to be thrown over a white rocker on a sunporch looking over a lake. That's the plan anyway. Once a year our group has a summer cookout, and this year Joyce put up clotheslines so we could all hang our quilt tops, during the 'big reveal', showing each other what they'd turned out like. Nine beautiful quilts. Husbands were appropriately interested, with a good amount of oohing and aahing. We hadn't fed them yet, and they likely knew they had to sing for their supper!

Our next big plans involve a two night stay at Chataqua on the Lake, in upper New York State the end of September. There's a quilting conference featuring Eleanor Burns, where 5000 quilters are expected to attend. We'll load up two or three cars with our machines, fabric, good snacks, and pjs and make the three hour drive for what's sure to be an unforgettable weekened. This year's Christmas exchange is a grab bag event. Each of us is making one 16"x20" block, in 'neutral colors' and each member will draw out one block at the Christmas luncheon. It should be just right for framing.

The quilts - icing on the cake. Time with friends on a consistent basis - priceless.


  posted at 7:15 AM

Tuesday, July 29, 2008
What's On Your Nightstand?

What's On Your Nightstand

My husband has often teased me, that I need a library cart, rather than the standard issue nightstand next to my bedside. I'd have to agree as it's usually pouring over with a STACK of books. Never just one. There's usually the non-fiction, serious, get your act together book, then something a bit more light for late-night reading, and a devotional or two, the latest issue of one of several magazines, whatever Bible study lesson I'm currently behind on (is that an oxymoron or what?), and sometimes even a cookbook or two. Does any truly serious reader really only have ONE book next to her pillow?

Last night (at 12:22 am actually) I finished Debbie Macomber's "Twenty Wishes", and I'm about to start "Satisfy My Thirsty Soul", by Linda Dillow. My daughter, Sarah gave it to me for either my birthday or Mother's Day, and it's beginning to get dusty as it sits there patiently waiting for me to grab it. I just turned these back into the library: Water for Elephants, Glass Castle, Comfort Food, Every Mother is a Daughter, and Mistaken Identity, after making note of all the titles in my 'books to read' notebook. I'm always sad to turn unread books back into the library, but being realistic I can't read that many in three weeks, and they're all good choices for curling up with this fall, while the sounds of football create a sort of white noise in our family room.

Here's what my nightstand really looks like. One glass of ice water next to antique lamp from my MIL's home, photo of DH from when we were dating, one clock, one old fashioned phone with a cord!, and books, books and more books. Bottom of the pile - "How Not to Look Old", recently reviewed at Five Minutes for Books, and I'm really enjoying reading through it. (First tip was switch from brown lipstick to pink.) Truly too many books, too little time. Messy nightstand - happy life!

To see what's on everyone else's nightstand, run over to Five Minutes For Books, where you'll get a glimpse of this new monthly feature. Better yet, join us in sharing what's on your nightstand. And if it's one neat little book, feel free to keep that tidbit to yourself. I can't even take a chance of my husband getting wind of that information.


  posted at 8:00 AM

Monday, July 28, 2008
Fairy Foals in Our Midst
I'm over at Five Minutes for Books, reviewing an absolutely beautiful children's book. Once you read the review, you might well want to win one of the three copies Source Books is giving away. Please leave a comment over at FM4B, for me (there, not here!). I'll do a random number drawing for the copies in conjunction with Melanie / Chilihead's Bloggy Giveaway Carnival. on Friday, August 1.(Is that a paragraph full of links or what!)

If you're interested in winning a copy, please be sure to leave an email where I can contact you. You don't have to have a blog, just a way for me to contact you. Sourcebooks will be sending the books out, so I'll need to be able to easily get your mailing address to them to do one mailing.

This was an absolutely precious children's book - When it arrived in my mail, I literally stood at the kitchen counter, eating my lunch, reading the first page, and couldn't put it down. The gorgeous drawings should encourage any young child to look over your shoulder as you read from its pages. I'm keeping my copy to read to my own grandchildren, but there are three other copies out there, just waiting for homes! I'm turning off comments here, so you can go there instead. For today, go to Five Minutes for Books. You can come back here in a day or so, and I'll share some fun photos of our weekend activities. We crammed as much summer fun as we could into every day. Hope you did too.

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  posted at 8:00 AM

Sunday, July 27, 2008
Waste Not, Want Not, and Being a Bit Bi-Party...
Without being specific, let it be said, not that you probably haven't already figured it out from the past 99 posts, but I'm pretty conservative. That in itself would give you a 99% good chance at figuring out which way I vote most of the time. So I don't usually get on bandwagons for causes and saving the environment and that sort of thing. You won't ever find me ringing your doorbell, asking you to sign a petition to save the earth. That being said, I ran across a guy this weekend, actually a guy's blog, in Parade magazine. I'd venture to say he and I cancel each other's votes most of the time, but his thoughts intrigued me. So I skipped over to see what he had to say.

Jonathan Bloom is his name, and he's busy writing a book on how much food we Americans waste. You can read more of what he has to say here, at Wasted Food. It intrigued, encouraged, cheered me, to see this young man care so much about something most of us don't give a thought to. Actually, it maybe just flabbergasted me that a male would spend any bit of time thinking about how much food we Americans waste than the typical young male who is generally all about mass quantities of beef, carbs, fat, etc. At least most of the males I've run into, raised, or had sit around my kitchen table. He pointed out that grocery stores routinely waste a good portion of produce just to stage the rest of it, making it look enticing to you and me, the consumer. And of course the cost of that wasted produce is passed on to us, the consumers who need food to look attractive to be enticed to purchase it. Apparently there's a move underway to encourage grocery stores to put out less produce, let us consumers grow more used to the stripped down version of the market, and thereby waste less.

I find this whole idea fascinating. The grocery store does this, but I'd bet my bottom dollar the guy who actually grew the food, then dragged it to the local Farmer's Market to sell, I bet he didn't pile loads and loads of lettuce under the lettuce, hoping only to sell the lettuce on the top of the pile!

I also read, awhile back, a strange book. Actually I listened to it on audio while driving here and there. It was called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and her husband, Steven Hopp, with a running narrative by their daughter, Camille Kingsolver (you can see their website by clicking on the link above). It was their memoir of a year spent eating only that food they raised, or purchased within 100 miles of their home. They ate strawberries about two months out of the year, maybe a smaller window of time than that even, but I bet the ones they ate were fabulous, and much more appreciated than the ones I'm used to eating whenever I want them.

I even read this past weekend that the main reason our grocery costs are sky-rocketing is that the food we eat, for the most part, has to travel all the way across the country, so we're paying for the cost of the gas. Interesting, interesting.

Living by the creed that nothing is an accident or coincidence, but rather that God's hand is in all that comes at me daily, or at least that it can all be used by Him to change me, and those around me, I find it interesting that I'd read this book, or be interested in what this young man has to say.

Contrary to what your mother may have told you, if you do not clean your plate the kids in China will still go hungry, and here in the United States they will too. But maybe, just maybe by buying less, consuming less, wasting less, each of us can do our part. My part - while it will likely sound a bit strange - for today my part is to take last night's spinach lasagna and turn it into a fine soup. Or stew. Or goulash, or whatever you want to call it. I'm confident I can take the two meager servings that are left and turn them into enough soup for tonight's supper, and lunch for two tomorrow. I can take those somewhat dried up burger buns in the fridge, brush a bit of butter and garlic powder across them, with just a sprinkle of parsley, and make them into a fine get-by version of garlic toast.

Tomorrow I can look in the back of the fridge, the bottom of the vegetable drawer, and the deep freeze and see what's already in there, and cook it, rather than running to the grocery store again, or eating out, or grabbing fast food.

I remember years and years ago seeing an episode of Julia Child's cooking show. She was visiting someone and they gave her the challenge to make dinner out of whatever was in their fridge, and of course she did. She made a fabulous meal with what they had on hand. Maybe, just maybe you and I can too. Even if it's 'once-in-a-lifetime'. That's what I call it when I come up with something that will likely never be created in my kitchen again. Maybe making a bit of 'once-in-a-lifetime' now and then will play just a teensy, tiny part in saving a life. Iron sharpening iron - isn't it wonderful when we can learn from those God places in our path, just by 'coincidence'....


  posted at 12:32 PM

Friday, July 25, 2008
Attitude Adjustment
"Things are for us only what we hold them to be. Which is to say that our attitude toward things is likely in the long run to be more important than the things themselves."

A. W. Tozer


  posted at 8:00 AM

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Knit One, Purl Two....
About nine months ago I began knitting, under protest. My oldest daughter, Sarah was convinced I should learn, and that I would like it. I was sure she was wrong. She was right. I learned, and loved it after the first frustrating week, as my fingers struggled to learn the motions.

My tendency is to jump in with both feet to almost any new endeavor, and this one was no exception. In nine months I acquired quite a bit of yarn, all the tools, the knitting bag, the books, learned the name of most of the staff at Bloomin' Yarns, and knit some hats and scarves. That was fall and winter.

The the seasons changed, spring came, then summer. It's hard to knit when the temperature is over 90 outdoors. Knitting is much more suited to seasons that keep you inside, curled up on the sofa in jeans and sweaters or hoodies, with a fire crackling away, and chili in the crockpot. So I haven't been knitting much. I actually hadn't been knitting any since early Spring.

I also haven't been watching any TV. None. Not even the nightly news. Then we decided to make the switch from our old, monster TV to one of those big, flat screens. DH likely thinks we got the new TV to be ready for upcoming football season, I am waiting for the Olympics myself. The new season of reality TV will begin soon, and we're having fun checking out the TV guide and recording fun stuff like King Kong, or King Arthur, or Batman - all in high definition. Jaws - Jaws in high definition should be enough to keep us out of the water awhile!

Surprisingly, it's making for cozy evenings inside, curled up on the sofa, attempting to escape the summer heat where dinner is more of the grilled chicken or burgers, rather than the comfort foods of chili and cornbread or potato soup and grilled cheese.

And curled up on that sofa, my fingers that had been away from it awhile - they remembered. They went right back to that motion I'd read about in all those knitting books, that motion I was told they would remember. They did. There are a few wonky lines in the pattern of the afghan square I'm working on, but that's okay. Rather than focus on the mistakes, I'm going to let it mark that point in my knitting, when I picked it back up and my fingers remembered what to do, even if my brain got a little off in the count.

There's a life analogy there I'm pretty sure. Making mistakes, having them leave permanent reminders, but then focusing on the positive, and moving on, in life, or to more squares completed, to Olympics, then the sounds of football and reality TV in the family room. All cozy - all good.

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  posted at 7:45 AM

Monday, July 21, 2008
A Day of Tending the Nest
Monday - my very favorite day of the week. In fairness it's likely because I don't work outside my home, or it might be my least favorite. Monday seems to me to be the day to 'put everything back where it really belongs'. It's been a day that I've often tried to shove too much into. So I'm going to try something new - starting this week - set aside Monday as a day of blessing my home, my husband, and my heart.

Here's what I see going into Monday: clean the house, not deep cleaning, but enough to make the house smell and look good. That will involve some vacuuming, mopping the kitchen and bathrooms with water scented with peppermint oil. Then vacuuming and dusting most surfaces. Next, the laundry will be washed, dried, folded and put away. In fairness 'laundry' for us is only two or three loads, and I've always loved doing it, so it's a pleasure chore for me. What's more satisfying than taking smelly socks and clothes nasty from yard work and transforming them into something that smells fresh by evening?

Then I'll throw together a loaf of bread and put together some kind of soup or stew in the crockpot. That way supper will be ready when DH walks in the door. I love for him to walk into our house, and smell something yummy.

After that, I'm done. Ready to spend the rest of the day sewing or quilting or reading or knitting or scrapbooking - one of those activities I truly love but don't often spend an afternoon enjoying. Today it's quilting!

So Monday was already my favorite day - and it's about to become even more so!


  posted at 8:25 AM

Saturday, July 19, 2008
Bats in the Belfry...
Theoretically speaking, if one was to walk into the storage room, through the door opening, over to the extra fridge to grab a bottle of water, so she could go outside and mow grass, and when she turned around to step back through the door opening, she saw a big, brown leaf, a leaf that had obviously blown in from the garage, she would proceed to walk over and pick it up.

Then at some point, because there is indeed a God in the heavens, she might pause for just a moment, and notice that said big, brown leaf had nodules on it, little bumps at the corners, and it was a bit raised up and puffy looking. She would stop dead in her tracks, don't you think, take a long, hard look and realize that without her glasses, which were upstairs, she could not know for certain, but the chances were 99% that said leaf was not a leaf at all, but a bat. A bat that was not there seconds ago.

Which means that if it was not a leaf, but rather a bat, then it was not a dead bat, which is really still not an acceptable type of bat to have in one's basement storage room, but still 100% better than an alive bat. Then she'd likely realize she was trapped in that room, with no phone, no way of getting out without walking past the very alive bat, taking a big chance that the minute she stepped over it, it would swoop up and fly up the leg of her shorts.

Theoretically speaking, one would not choose that as a way to depart this earth, having dropped dead from an over-active heart when the bat flew up the leg of one's shorts.

One would realize at that moment exactly what 'cold, clammy' felt like, as she broke out in a cold sweat, her heart racing, the hair on her arms standing straight up. Then she'd summon every ounce of courage she had and walk to the door opening, step over the bat and scurry up the stairs, phone her husband and tell him he needed to come right that instant to capture the bat and remove it to the outdoors.

When he did that exact thing, she would, theoretically, tell him why he was once again her hero. She'd stand in amazement as he dropped a clear container over the bat, and her eyes would bug straight out of her head as the alive bat stretched its wings all the while making little squeaky noises, and DH continued to hold it in his hands, which were protected by a file folder, but still she sure wouldn't have been able to do that, and he didn't scream or hesitate but just walked right outside and set the alive bat free, and if he was the least bit afraid himself he sure never showed it. And she'd be just a wee bit scared to go downstairs for the next twenty years or several months, not sure which yet. Theoretically speaking of course.


  posted at 5:30 PM

Friday, July 18, 2008
Danny Gospel - Review
You can find me over at Five Minutes For Books today, reviewing a very unusual book, Danny Gospel. It's unlike anything you've read, and some have compared the style of debut writer David Athey to that of Leif Enger, who wrote Peace Like A River. Run on over and see if it sounds like something good to grab and head to the hammock. I thought so.


  posted at 7:28 AM

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Let's Break Up Then Do the Rebound Thing
My sister, Barb told me she's been getting the hateful little red thing next to my blog name on her bloglines subscription, the one that tells her my feed isn't good. And we're not talking about my cooking this time. Who the heck knows why that happens? I sure don't. She told me that she unsubscribed to me, then resubscribed and it was just fine.

One of the blogs I subscribe to is 'Blogging Basics 101', which I find to be really helpful. Sometimes I already know how to do what they're telling me about, but often I have no clue, and I go there and learn something. Sometimes I still don't get it after I read the post. I recently read something about 'burning your own feed', and my eyes rolled back in my head a bit. I went back two more times before I decided to give it a shot. Not that I really understand why I need to do it, but it apparently makes subscribing to a blog work better, and that's enough explanation for me, and you can tell with that techy description it's a sheer miracle I got it to do it's thing at all.

So I'd like to ask anyone who regularly reads this blog to break up with me - unsubscribe in bloglines or whatever reader you use. Then please, please go back to my main template and click on that little orange and white button that says 'subscribe in a reader', on the left side, under my template header. When you click on it, it will be very easy to choose whatever reader you normally use, and there should be a good feed to subscribe to. I'm hoping that will fix all the wonky problems people have been telling me they're having, either seeing new posts, or leaving comments or seeing comments. If you've never subscribed but rather are using a bookmark, this might be an easy way for us to keep up visits.

So let's break up. Then could we please remember we miss each other, recall when we used to give each other that funny look that spoke volumes without words, and then let's think of the future we had planned together, all the great vacations we were going to take, how our kids were going to be best friends, and grow up and marry each other, and we'd remember the funny inside jokes we had that nobody else understood, ... oh right, wrong relationship, wrong memory. But I would like it ever so much if we could rebound, if we could continue on in this cyber-friendship, and all you have to do for that to happen is click on the little button. Supposedly. I don't understand it, but that's how it works. I think. If you want to understand it more, feel free to hop over to Blogging Basics 101. It's a great website for all those techy thingamajigs.


  posted at 10:49 PM

It's A Comment Conundrum
I got a comment, asking where my comments were. Had I restricted them? I've gotten emails in the past from my sister, letting me know they had disappeared. Again. So here's the deal:

I never do anything to comments. I don't do word verification. I don't restrict them to registered users. I rarely even edit them, and have only removed two in two years. So okay, that's not quite 'never' but rarely do I mess with them at all. I do read every single one of them, but it's not like I get 100 comments on a post either. I chose Haloscan, after my daughter, Sarah told me about it. It has nice editing and tracking features, i.e., a lot of control, should questionable comments ever begin to come my way. I'm also able to leave a comment for the commentor, right below theirs, rather than ten comments down as is the case with Blogger comments. Sometimes Blogger appears and Haloscan disappears, which isn't supposed to happen. When you sign on with Haloscan, Blogger comments are supposed to disappear so as to not confuse commentors, but again, that isn't always the case either. Sometimes it just has to be those little pesky wood nymphs, don't you think? There is never a practical explanation, so maybe that explains it.

Awhile back I considered doing some posts that didn't allow comments, the few that were too deep - a splaying of my mental gymnastics, or posts that were lame and would never justify leaving a comment. It was too much work to bother with it, going back and forth, trying to decide when to enable, and when to disable, so comments are always enabled, they are never restricted, and rarely removed. Removed only if the comment is hateful or pornographic and that's about it. So - if you want to leave a hateful, porno comment - you can do so and I'll go in and remove it as soon as I'm aware of it.

When you can't see my comments, something has gone wonky. I went into Haloscan and told it to save all the settings that should have already been saved, then I did the same with Blogger. Then I noticed that if I pay $12 a year Haloscan will upgrade my account to 'premium' and those ads that come up at the top will disappear. I've gotten a few emails or comments that some are offended by what is being advertised, so it seemed worth the $12 to pay to get rid of them, $1 per month seemed a good buy for that. As soon as I gave the $12 through PayPal, the Haloscan comments reappeared. With no ads displayed.

Not that I'm saying it'll stay that way. Past behavior is supposedly the best predictor of future behavior, so I have my doubts. However, when they are there, there shouldn't be anything offensive at the top. Just like most of the rest of life, throwing around even a little bit of money usually gets results. We'll see if they stick.

P.S. My mom will be pleased with the use of 'conundrum' I do believe. She made all six of us kids look up words in the dictionary every summer for years and years. Webster's definition of conundrum: 'a puzzle'. It describes comments exactly!


  posted at 8:00 AM

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I Don't Feel Bad About My Neck....
A fellow blogger suggested that I read the book by Nora Ephron, 'I Feel Bad About My Neck', not because she'd seen a picture of my saggy neck (it isn't)(yet) but because she thought our writing styles were similar. I was so excited to have someone even think I had a writing style I ran right over to the library and tried to check it out. It was on a wait list, which I thought to be another encouraging sign. I added my name to the wait list and waited.

When the book became available, I ran right over and grabbed it. Being a diehard book nerd bibliophile I started by reading both of the inside jacket sleeves and the back, plus all the reviews, and the editor's dedication page. Apparently Ms. Nephron is quite accomplished, having written 'When Harry Met Sally', (and for any of you familiar with that book, that scene in the restaurant, for some reason my mind goes back there now and then and I've made a final decision - I could NOT act that part out). She also wrote 'Sleepless in Seattle', 'Silkwood', and 'Wallflower at the 'Orgy' which I can immediately relate to and may have to check that one out too. Anyway, the woman can write and doesn't write anything like Danielle Steel or Debbie Macomber or any other big-time female writer that comes to mind. One of her lines in '....Neck' is that she cannot understand why anyone would bother to write fiction when there's so much going on in the non-fiction life that is just unbelievable.

So, back to the point. The book was funny, interesting, very different, and true. Ephron tells it like it is from her point of view. Some might find it offensive. I mostly found it to be really delightful non-fiction. Her entire point is that aging somewhat sucks, which is does, so I know immediately that I can trust her to be honest. Her entire point is that we begin to slide faster down the hill of decline as we age, unless we spend a fortune holding it at bay, and even then a girl can only do so much. I read the last few chapters curled up on the sofa, but as with any really good 'girl book', I see that there are only eight pages left so I tell DH I'm off to run a bubble bath, the only proper place to finish my book. You have to soak in, absorb the last few pages and being alone is better than being with anyone right then, so there is no room noise, and you can laugh or cry or both and nobody will think you're a little bit crazy. The tub is the perfect place to finish a book, any book.

I run the bath with scalding water and volumes of bubbles, set out a towel, a glass of ice water to combat the profuse sweating about to commence, my glasses and turn the bathroom clock so I can see the time. I climb in gingerly, letting each leg, then foot, get used to the boiling. I slither down so the water is up to the neck I don't feel bad about. Being completely clothesless, I put on my glasses, then much like eating a really good dessert, I read slowly, to savor. I turn the last page, hold it in my hands for a minute or two to take in the last thoughts, then close the book and set it aside on the towel. I take off my glasses because I don't need to see to bathe, but I did need them to read.

I bathe, removing the sweat acquired during this scalding bath, then grab the razor. Being brand new it has one of those little plastic caps on it and I realize if I continue to fuss with it there's a good chance I'm going to slice my finger because I Can't See. I put my glasses back on, remove the cap and proceed to shave. That's when I take a look around, at something other than my book which is now finished. I see little black hairs growing on my toes, actually they're long black hairs growing on my toes because I haven't seen them in a very long time because it's almost six feet from my eyes to my toes and I don't bend over that far very often or ever. Sadly, I shave my toes.

I shave my toes. I NEED to shave my toes. When I get old I won't be able to shave my toes but those hairs will still be growing, and I wonder if there's a maximum length they will grow to, and then I think back, to all those old movies, old versions of 'When Harry Met Sally' where the starlet is in the clawfoot or sunken tub, covered up to the necessary point with voluminous bubbles, talking to someone who has chosen that moment to enter the bath.

I'm glad for her she wasn't finishing the last few pages of a really good book. I'm betting she doesn't a have long, black hairs on her toes, and I realize I've never seen a single starlet wearing glasses while she enjoys a bubble bath. My neck - it still looks just fine to me, even with my glasses on. Having to wear glasses in the tub to read, or to shave my toes, I'm not feeling so great about that actually. Ms. Ephron and I have that in common, because if her neck is saggy then I'd bet my bottom dollar her toes are hairy too. It's just part of that sliding faster down the hill of decline as we age. But as she so wisely points out, considering the alternative I'll take the sasquatch look.

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  posted at 7:39 AM

Monday, July 14, 2008
Why We Blog
Well, there are about 99 good reasons to blog, and then there are a few that are more of the OCD, trying to avoid cleaning bathrooms, etc. and we just won't discuss those few. But one of The Best is the connections we make, this side of heaven. Melanie, over at Big Mama, knew I had a deep yearning to see two of the homes we lived in growing up, not because they were palaces but rather because they weren't. Probably something many of you can connect with - isn't it just a deep down, warm, fuzzy feeling to remember a house as big and grand and perfect in every way and then you see a current photo and realize it was little, and at best modest, and you wonder how on earth your parents were able to stand having that many hooligans contained within it's walls, but that's the stuff memories are made up of.

We moved something like 24 times by the time I was 15. That's more than once a year. There were a few homes that we lived in for a bit longer, and some even ran into two or three years and they became 'home' to me. Melanie was in Beaumont, Texas this past weekend, (1500 miles away from me) and out of the blue surprised me, my sister and my mom by asking us if we knew the addresses to these two old places, and she'd try to find them and photograph them.

She'd drive around in the July Texas heat looking for old houses and taking their photos, for three people she's never met.

It should not surprise me a bit that she found both. That is one determined girl. And apparently one who has a high tolerance for smothering heat and humidity. I'm guessing she looked lovely the entire time she was busy with this too and that commercial, "don't hate me because I'm beautiful" comes to mind, in the nicest sort of way. I can just imagine her climbing in and out of the car, with the heat hitting her, and then her powdering her nose to remove the 'glisten' because we all know beautiful women don't 'sweat'.

This is 7170 Click Drive, and somehow, 35 years later I still remember the address to it. The layout of the streets, the neighborhood name, and the fact that my brothers swam in the canal at the end of the street, in spite of the fact that everyone knew there were alligators in there, and they'd come home and get a whuppin' for doing so, but said it was still worth it to beat the blasted Texas heat. I learned to roller skate on that driveway. My playhouse was in the laundry room at the end of the carport. I could tell you the layout of that house perfectly to this day. There were tall pine trees in the back yard, and clotheslines where Mama let us use her freshly washed sheets to make forts and I was at least 30 before I understood the sacrifice involved in that, considering the laundry six kids had to make. I even still remember the phone number, TW2-8816 and the single phone in the house was black, with rotary dial numbers and sat in a little built in alcove in the hall where Daddy and everyone else could hear every single word you said. Conversations were generally pretty short.

This side yard is dear to me because an older couple lived just beyond that big tree. They had a little dachtsund, which we called a 'weenie dog' and they'd hire me to babysit him sometimes when they ran to the store, which I now understand was a sacrifice on their part, and a nice way to send some candy money my way, and they probably knew the minute they drove off I snoop all through their house, because I did. I mean, they had a window AC unit and that meant they were rich and I had to know how the rich lived, which is no different than reading People Magazine today. Which I don't, but I did snoop all through their house. I also thought they were rich because they each had their own bedroom, and now I know it means he snored, but I didn't know that back then. Nobody in our house had their own room. My four brothers shared a room, with two sets of bunks, so I thought it amazing some people put only one person in a room all by themselves. That had to mean you were rich, right?

We lived through two hurricanes in this house, and I remember rowing around the front yard in a row boat, looking down and seeing electric eels swimming in the yard. When you're a little girl you tend to think that is very cool, in a scary sort of way. Patricia and I made clover necklaces while laying on a blanket in that front yard, the entire neighbhorhood played tag many nights with that tree as home base. We caught fire flies in glass jars and after we'd jab the lids with the ice pick, we'd take them inside and set them on our nightstand to watch til we fell asleep. The Erwins lived across the street and we automatically liked them because they had seven kids and that meant their momma had to go upfront at the little Baptist church down the road, every single Mother's Day, for having the most kids, and our momma seemed very pleased that she didn't. The Erwin's Daddy smoked and played the electric guitar in the back bedroom amidst piles of laundry, and I found that all very exotic. My Daddy was a mailman, and played the harmonica and hated cigarettes. So Mr. Erwin was very interesting.

My brother was a paperboy in this neighborhood and Peppi the big dog lived at the end of the street. He bit Gary's leg wide open one day delivering papers, so I stayed away from their house from thereon, and still am a bit afraid of other people's big dogs. Danny Bacon lived at the end of our street - my first kiss. I danced and sang "Day Dream Believer" one street over with Pam and Patricia and Rose. It doesn't look like much, but I'm awfully fond of this little house, and it even touches my heart to see a car in the driveway, to know people are still living there and making their own memories.

And everything that the word 'home' conjures up in a mind is somehow tied up to this little grey house.

It used to be white. I don't know the exact address, but it's THE HOUSE ON EMILE. In my mind it's always been called that. My brothers and I played under that house. We picked pecans off the lawn for mama to make pecan pies. I played on that porch during downpours. The steps seemed so long back then. My sister and I played dolls in the sideyard you can barely see, and the woman who lived just beyond us quit giving my sister piano lessons when she learned our mama had tuberculosis, for fear of the germs. I was just sure this house had been torn down from termites or age, or both. That it still stands amazes me. That Melanie took all that time, that she even thought to offer, to go find it and take the photo -

That's one of the best reasons for why I blog. It's about connections, and people and seeing their amazing hearts, when they're just doing what comes to their mind. Thank you Melanie for starting my day off with happy tears. I owe you an iced latte for starters and a big hug when we meet, either side of heaven.


  posted at 8:27 AM

Sunday, July 13, 2008
Take Me Out to the Ballgame....
DH entered at work and won four free tickets for a a night at the ballpark. Off we went to watch the minor league 'Wild Things' play the Gateway Grizzlies. It's a smaller ball park, full of fun activities for the kids, with a nice hometown feel. Landon is just shy of two so he got in without a ticket at all. It promised to be a fun night of footlong hotdogs with generous squirts of mustard and catsup, followed by soft-serve ice cream, while we sat right behind first base, with loads of action.

Alas! When he caught sight of the Wild Thing mascot - a big furry creature about seven feet tall (i.e. costume with big eye holes, likely worn by young girl about 5'2" who keeps the crowd going), he was terrified! As soon as he saw this creature, he was all eyes, keeping track of where Wild Thing was. Normally a light-hearted little guy, dancing and singing and jumping all over the place, the possibility of this furry creature coming anywhere near kept him quiet and very close.

Sure enough, Wild Thing came over to visit for a bit. When we all tried to encourage him to say 'hello' his only words were a very strong "Bye!". After the emotional flooding event, the payoff was lots of snuggles for Papa.


  posted at 8:07 AM

Friday, July 11, 2008
Thanks Sandy!
Thank you Sandy (at 4 Reluctant Entertainers)! When your package arrived I was actually 'entertaining' if you will. I had a girlfriend over for a day of scrapbooking, we had fancy fare - tuna salad and crackers with past-their-prime grapes that we shared, and she brought a cake she'd thrown together - one box of angelfood cake mix with a can of crushed pineapple, stir together and bake. We threw on some cool whip and a bit more pineapple and downing it seemed to wash some of the leftover tuna residue away :-)

When I asked if she'd snap a photo of my new lovely gifts, she suggested the wine and glasses, but since it was middle of the day and this isn't the deep south, 40 years ago, this was staged. Beverage of choice was actually raspberry lemonaide, which we consumed in vast amounts. An entire day of scrapbooking, which included little scrapping but much talking about life, men, cooking, ministry, friendship - great first use of my new apron. We also took out one of the dark chocolates, split it down the middle and enjoyed it too. I expect DH will consume the rest of them at sporadic intervals. I don't believe, however, he'll be going anywhere near that pink apron but it sure does look cute, hanging on the hook next to the fridge. I'm going to wear that thing out - I promise!


  posted at 7:53 AM

Thursday, July 10, 2008
Five Minutes for Books
Something new is up! I've been asked to be a regular reviewer over at Five Minutes for Books. And let me tell you, when I walk down that aisle someday, to receive that award that doesn't exist, when I stand behind that podium with the microphone in my hand, my momma who drove me back and forth to the Terrell Park Library EVERY SINGLE WEEK - well, yes, she'll receive all the praise. My love of books began with the Dick and Jane series and hasn't waned a bit over the years. I tore through every single Nancy Drew, fell in love with Misty from Chincoteague Island, moved on to the Nurse Sue Barton books, then there was the period when I read biographies of Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, whoever tickled my fancy.

The banner day of the week during those long, hot summers was when the bookmobile parked at the corner, up the street from 7170 Click Drive in Beaumont, Texas. I'd walk around the inside of that little converted bus, shelves lined with book after book, knowing I could check out whatever my little heart pleased. Truth be told, I still miss that little blue card with the metal strip running through it. Back then it was the only card in my little wallet and I was beside myself every time I reached up and handed it over to the librarian to run through the swiper machine. As soon as I returned those three, which was generally about 2.5 days later, I could take home three more. The constant-these-days crick in my neck may well be due to all those hours spent walking down aisles with my head cocked sideways, reading spine labels.

So, okay I'll never get a book reviewer award, but I will get to read a lot of great books and tell you about them. That alone will make my mother smile. If you converted all the gas she burned driving the station wagon with the woodgrain decal peeling off in places, two seats forward and one seat back (and thank the good Lord I didn't have to ride facing backwards because it was determined early on that forcing me to do so would necessitate hosing out the vehicle), back and forth to the library week after week after week, these days that would be enough cash flow to feed a family of four for a week. She had quite an investment in developing this love of mine. I'd still rather have a musty smelling hardback, discovered amongst the mess at some discount bookstore than a pair of the newest trend in shoes. I'm thankful Jennifer, over at 5M4B, only requested a headshot, since I'm not sure I've pulled off matching shoes and outfits more than half a dozen times in what is getting to be a longish life.

Books - they go with everything. You can run over and check out my first, sure to receive an award review - Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon. The ladies over at Five Minutes for Mom have put together this new site, with a great team of reviewers. Different ages and stages of life - we'll all be busy sharing our thoughts on how to clean our house using all those new cucumber scented products what we've been reading while curled up on the sofa. So be sure to bookmark the site, then you can grab a bowl of nacho chips or popcorn or M&M's and head to the sofa. Exercise? Get in your thirty minutes and check it off the list. Then grab a good book because you don't want to miss the really good stuff!


  posted at 12:00 PM

Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Try If You Dare....
I didn't name it - he did. Here's the email Tom sent me, with all his wonderful recipes included. I wouldn't mess this up with one bit of editing. His version is completely delightful, just as it is. Enjoy!


Try if you dare

BarBQue Sauce and Solvent

1 - 18 oz. bottle Kraft Thick n' Spicy Barbecue Sauce - Original
1/4 cup honey
3/4 to 1 cup ketchup
1 cup Country Time Lemonade (dry powder) Mix (6 scoops if using spoon in package)

I add to measuring cup in order listed above. Sometimes I add a little garlic salt, when I remember. For those that don't like ketchup, cut Country Time accordingly.

I use this when grilling to get the grill marks (think from sugars in sauce) and to keep from drying meat out. I use on chicken, steaks, burgers, and ribs.

Back Ribs

Been buying boneless back ribs from Sam's (have used country style boneless ribs before - not as lean).

I have been using the following "dry rub" recently on ribs, steaks, and skinless chicken breast.

Cut into manageable size - 2 to 3 ribs, trim any excess fat

Wet (wash and leave moist), sprinkle with Adolph's Meat Tenderizer and Emeril's All Purpose Essence spice (all sides). Wrap in saran wrap (couple of pieces per saran wrap). A ziplock bag would probably work. Blame this inane step on Emeril, I am impressionable. It does seem to season and tenderize meat effectively. Usually like to let set in fridge overnight, but a couple hours will suffice.

Place ribs in backing dish, place a coating of bbq sauce on top - bake covered 2 to 3 hours at 260 degrees. Low and slow. Drain off grease.

Coat with bbq sauce and put on grill (medium heat). About 5 to 6 minutes per side. I usually try to get a little char / grill marks. Baste with sauce each time I turn.

No pride in authorship, change as it suits you all.


See? See why we're crazy about him? Recipes from a man, straight out of the hills and hollers of Kentucky, who didn't cook at all three years ago and now he's watching Emeril. How could we not love him? I promise - every one of these will be worth trying your hand at, and 'changing as it suits you all' as he so perfectly puts it. Thanks, Tom.


  posted at 11:23 PM

Sunday, July 06, 2008
What Really Matters
Was your celebration of the 4th as wonderful as ours? We drove from Pittsburgh in a grey mucky drizzle, til we hit the Indiana state line. Right then, with fields of corn and soybeans on each side of the highway, the skies parted and the sun appeared! There was some celebrating going on inside our car, for decent visibility!

After we pulled into Tom and Carlotta's driveway, unloaded our stuff and took over a corner of their home, Friday evening was spent on catch up talking, then eating dinner together, with pecan pie and ice cream for dessert. 'Watching fireworks' consisted of glimpses through the neighborhood trees. We weren't there for fireworks.

There was a funny technological moment - Tom and Carlotta have a Wii - something Don and I had heard of but never seen. I tried my hand at bowling, but the fun really started when Tom and Don began to box each other. There was finally a knockout although I won't tell you who won! It was hysterical watching these two grown men gyrating all over the room, literally out of breath punching each other virtually. We may be needing one of those for our grandkids' visits. I can see why they are a big hit in senior citizen homes - you can have a blast with them, while sitting down.

The rest of the weekend was spent practicing for our upcoming retirement. We sat and talked, then we sat and talked, and when we got restless, we moved to another room, or outside, and sat and talked. About the past, good times, good memories; the present - what we were up to, how the kids are, and the future - what's in the plans. Our second night was spent at a local barbeque joint, with T&C's friends, Don and Becky, who are becoming our friends too. These four people have spent the last 35 New Year's Eve's together - quite the feat! Isn't it lovely when you like the friends who like your friends?

We've been friends with Tom and Carlotta for over twenty years. I have to share here that Carlotta was diagnosed about three years ago with early onset alzheimers, and their lives have changed in many ways, big and small. It was Tom's sharing that diagnosis with us that compelled us to jump in the car, after a ten year dry spell in visits, and make the drive to see them two years ago. This visit was soft and dear and wonderful. When you, or someone you care deeply about, is facing something so big, it changes everything. What you once took for granted, and now and then appreciated, becomes so precious. As we sat and listened to Tom and Carlotta telling us that this past year has probably been the best in their marriage, I knew we were the privileged guests at a conference for two on how to live life. A conference on what's really important, and what's not. What to grab ahold of, and what to let slip through our fingers because life is just so precious and fleeting and hard and wonderful and heart-breaking and exquisitely beautiful and painful and hysterical and complicated and impossible to understand and it's easy to miss out on realizing that today is of such incredible value, no matter what it holds. Silverware being neat in the drawers doesn't matter much when you compare it to what does.

What today presents each of us with - we don't always have much freedom to choose that. What we do with it, how we handle it - that's pretty much up to each one of us. It's easy to think you know so much, that you have life all figured out - til you are blessed to spend time with a couple like this, who've been dealt a tough hand, and they've not only been brave, they've chosen not to be bitter, nor keep it to themselves. Rather they've accepted it for what it is, and been humble enough to share it with those around them, opening their lives to allow others to be blessed by being involved in their lives. Sitting on their patio, watching the neighbors come back and forth across their fence, grown-ups, babies, dogs, board games, tools being borrowed and lent - it felt like the best seat at a symphony to sit and take it in. All these people who have become a part of their family since T&C decided to open their doors and share what they're dealing with, rather than keep it to themselves. Good food, good times. Priceless lessons from precious friends.

Tom has become quite the cook in the past couple of years, and he tells me he has a recipe for oven-baked baby back ribs with his own homemade barbeque sauce. Maybe he'll let me share it here with all of you.

Labels: ,

  posted at 6:53 PM

Thursday, July 03, 2008
Stop Entertaining!
We're headed to Indianapolis for a weekend with dear friends, Tom and Carlotta. While chatting on the phone with Tom, I gingerly asked, 'surely we were there just last summer?' and he let me know - it's been almost two years since we got together! Good grief we need to retire - there's just not enough time for DH to work, we've got places to go, people to see, and miles to travel before we rest! Since Carlotta has put away her cooking utensils in the last few years, I asked Tom if he'd let me do the cooking, or at least bring the cooking, and he and DH can hang over the grill, finishing it up. He agreed.

So I grabbed one of my favorite cookbooks - Perfect Recipes for Having People Over, by Pam Anderson. I've mentioned this book here before. Before I started looking over the recipes I noticed this:

"Stop Entertaining: We all understand the importance of gathering with friends and family. So why don't we do it more often? It's fear - fear that we don't have the time or skill to pull off a meal that will be good enough. That's why it's important to stop entertaining and just have people over. The very word 'entertain' makes most people cringe. A recent Gallup poll found that Americans rank entertaining - along with filing tax returns and visiting the dentist - as the number-one stress-related event in their lives. Entertaining scored even higher on the stress chart than childbirth."

Then she talks about when to 'have people over'.

"Deciding when to have people over can be a little like waiting for the perfect time to get married or have a baby or buy a house; you may never get around to doing it if you delay til the conditions are just right. It takes courage to invite them, ready or not, but it's powerful when you do. And here's the reality: most people cook so infrequently that any home-cooked meal is special. In fact, I've found the more down-home the food and the more casual the setting, the livelier and happier the party."
So we didn't even wait for them to invite us over. We emailed and asked if we could invite ourselves, for two nights, and we'd bring everything, except the pecan pies. Tom and Carlotta always provide the pecan pies. Can I just tell you how that endears them to me? I plan to eat it for dessert and breakfast, two times each. 650 calories a slice, and worth every one of them.

So here's what we're having for our 4th of July / longstanding friendship celebration:

Sear-ahead steaks, chopped caesar salad, roasted red potatoes, sliced cold watermelon, and pecan pie, gathered around a table where we didn't worry a whit about the centertpiece, or the linens, or anything like that because sometimes it just doesn't matter that much. This is one of those times.

Four friends, who haven't seen each other in almost two years - that's what matters. The food is just extra. Happy 4th everyone - hope you're spending it by either having someone over, or maybe even being so bold as to invite yourself to sit around someone else's backyard table, or curled up on a blanket with a picnic basket watching fireworks. I don't know about you, but that sure sounds better than childbirth in my mind!


  posted at 9:06 AM

Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Blogger Love
So first it told me I had 200 new posts. Which I obviously don't because I've slept, eaten, cleaned our house, run errands, read a bit, picked up my knitting, etc. etc. etc. and if I had 200 new posts all the previous would have been impossible.

Then it told my sister I had 200 posts, and I can only imagine that she was a little relieved to see that was not in fact true.

Now it won't let anyone leave a comment, in spite of the settings being set correctly to do so, and I've reentered them three times, told it to save them, and it won't budge.

But since I don't in fact have time to do 200 posts, or reenter for the 4th time whatever it would take to make comments enabled, then I'm just going to let Blogger get over itself, which it will eventually. And by the time it does I may well have 200 posts. I'm not being anti-social, but since blogger isn't in the mood to cooperate, feel free to just read and then talk the comments you would have left, right outloud. It might make your family wonder enough about you that they'll cut you a wide path, and you'll have some much needed time alone!


  posted at 2:22 PM

Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Doing a Happy Dance
Let's dance - the happy dance! We're switching from our gabillion pound, 35" TV to a flat screen. The deal DH and I made was this: if he would be willing to get rid of the surround sound that I absolutely despise, I'd be willing to have a TV that was honkin' big and the first thing you see when you enter our family room. He bit - fast. When we married I was in love with country blue, wooden ducks and floppy-eared bunnies, all over the place. He liked leather furniture, with chrome accents. And yes we really believed we were perfect for each other, felt exactly the same way about every single thing in life and would never have a 'heated discussion'. Ever.

I hate, hate surround sound, because - it surrounds you. All the way into the kitchen, with the family room doors closed. I think that's the same reason men love it - all that power coming through the sub-woofer speaker and if Rambo or Terminator is playing on the tube, all the better. So we've been talking awhile, like several years because it takes engineers and OCD people quite awhile to decide anything, about switching to the techy look. Which of course he's had a deep down, long abiding love for, all these past 28 years.

The country blue and bunny stage is over, I've moved on to, I hardly believe it myself, a leather sofa and recliner and ebony black accent tables, i.e. the Pottery Barn look. (Still not the chrome, but I wouldn't be saying 'never' at this point.) So we've nailed down a TV, after going to about ninety-nine six different places. We printed out fascinating articles from the web on LCD vs. Plasma, 720 vs 1080, viewing angles, and after starting with the idea of a 42" TV, we settled on a 46", because sometimes with men it really is about size, and if we'd started with a 50" we'd have ended up with a 60" and unless there's movie popcorn being served, I think 46" is big enough! Sometimes it really is all about manipulation compromise. We've just about sold all our current equipment on good ole Craig's List, hip hip hoorah! As much as that 35" TV weighs, I'm amazed we didn't have to pay someone to take it off our hands. When I got the email asking how much it weighed, I said "a lot. Bring at least three people to get it out of our home." And still they want it. But that's not the point of this post - here's what is.

We found a table for this TV at our favorite furniture store in town, for what I considered a decent price. It would be here in less than a week, good too, since the TV will be sitting on the floor otherwise, and with the two hairy beasts who live here, that's just not a great idea. I'm confident we'd be eating dog meatloaf if one of them broke the new techy toy, while doing their nightly head-gnawing thing. When we decided to shop, I emailed several girlfriends who had recently switched to flat screens and one of them told me where she got her cabinet. On a last minute whim, after looking at this table, taking a photo of it on my cell phone and emailing it to DH who said it was just fine and a good price, I stopped in this other store. There sat the EXACT SAME TABLE, for $80 less, and I could have the floor model today. All I had to do was call up our son-in-law, promise him pizza and a beer, and he'll run over and pick it up with DH tonight. Right after that, someone in our town is coming over to buy our surround sound (good, before DH renigs on his part of the bargain!), and Monday someone else is coming to pick up the old, monster TV and cabinet.

So hip hip hoorah for Craig's List, hip hip hoorah for girlfriends who save you money, and hip hip hoorah for big, strong son-in-laws who can easily be bought with $20 worth of Pizza Hut pizza. I figure we're still $60 ahead of the game. We should be all set up in time for 08-08-08, Summer Olympics, one of my very favorite things to watch on TV, sans surround sound, because really I don't need to hear the water in the pool that close, or all those grunts and groans from the male gymnasts. But I bet DH would like it better if we did.


  posted at 5:40 PM

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    Girl Raised in the South

    I have a deep, abiding love for full octane coffee, sewing, knitting, quilting, reading, cooking, gardening, God and my family - not in that order.

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