Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Procrastination



One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
~Dale Carnegie

Since it's been established that eclectism is my bag, it should come as no surprise that I also mix metaphors with abandon. My neighbor's maple tree is at peak color and I have certainly been enjoying its magical-ness. ;> (Check September 1's post for a comparison.)

Today, I am planning to do three things that I have put off for too long. I know one of those things is applying for a job that would be perfect for me, but is a second-shift position, which makes it more of a challenge than I would like. Nevertheless, I'm going to apply. There's no harm in that. The other two I haven't even figured out yet, but I will and I'll tell more about them next time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Decorating Inspiration


Before


Proving that it is possible for me to be inspired, especially with tons of help from Melissa at the Inspired Room (see link under "favorite blogs") and Linda of Restyled Home (note especially Linda's 9/20 post), I am trying my hand at autumn decorating using both gals' good tips.


After

I do think I need a different mum...a bushy, fuller one.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tribute to the First Day of Autumn

Fear







Women

Women have no wilderness in them,
They are provident instead,
Content in the tight hot cell of their hearts
To eat dusty bread.

They do not see cattle cropping red winter grass,
They do not hear
Snow water going down under culverts
Shallow and clear.

They wait, when they should turn to journeys,
They stiffen, when they should bend.
They use against themselves that benevolence
To which no man is friend.

They cannot think of so many crops to a field
Or of clean wood cleft by an axe.
Their love is an eager meaninglessness
Too tense, or too lax.

They hear in every whisper that speaks to them
A shout and a cry.
As like as not, when they take life over their door-sills
They should let it go by.

~Louise Bogan


This poem means a lot to timid old me. Fear sometimes grabs me by the throat, shakes me all around, and leaves me hearing shouts and cries in whispers.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dang Doughnuts

Today was supposed to be the perfect day for making doughnuts. That's because I don't listen to weather reports and just because I had made the decision to slave over hot oil, I felt it reasonable that the weather gods would have it be appropriately autumnal. The weather gods hate me; it has been hot and humid all day.

Then the doughnut dough was wet...very. I added more flour and they became tough.



Still it was fun to have the family here...both my son and daughter and both the grandsons and the grandpuggy, too. One family member actually appreciated my efforts.



As the kids were leaving, I asked if they'd like to take any of the hockey pucks with them. My daughter said, "No, thank you."

I teased that she didn't care for mother's cooking and she said, "No, even if they were good, I would say 'no.'" :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Slop, Goop, etc.













Dang good thing that I described this blog as an "eclectic mix." Talk about eclectic! I'm all over the map...hahaha.

The photo shows one of my favorite things to eat. I've been on the Dr. Phil diet plan for three years now. (I'm not his best spokesperson nor his greatest success story.) Anyway, everyone who has tried my slop/goop recipe loves it. My sister introduced it to me, but I've modified her recipe by adding two extra tablespoons of sweetener. Yup, I love my sweets.

Slop/Goop Recipe (Maybe you can come up with a better name for it.)

Ingredients:

√ 1 cup plain, unsweetened, unflavored yogurt (look for active cultures)

√ 3 TBS Splenda

√ 1 teaspoon real vanilla flavoring

√ ½ cup unsweetened fruit...fresh or canned...crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges or bananas are my favorites

√ 1 TBS finely chopped walnuts

√ 1 TBS local honey (find yourself some local honey for many health benefits)

Method:

Whisk together yogurt, sweetener, and vanilla. Mix in fruit. Drizzle honey over the top and sprinkle on the walnuts. Simple and delicious, healthy and nutritious, and it tastes like dessert.


Now here's where the eclectic stuff comes in and you'll note what is sitting on my dining room table. ;) Yes, those are whoopie pies. Yes, I had one for breakfast. See why I'm not Dr. Phil's finest example?




No, I didn't post this just to show you what a scamp I am; If all goes well, I hope to add another photo here later to show some progress. The last wall came down this morning. I like the open space so well that I almost changed the plan to have a little wall go back up in order that guests be directed a little further into the room before heading into the kitchen. So check back and see what happens by day's end. For now, I'll leave you with this photo of where we are in this moment.



Edited to Add on 9/22/07:



My apologies for telling tall tales yesterday. I should have known that there would be no way for my very sloooowwwwww contractor to get that much accomplished in one day. He's a dear, but he isn't the speediest.

He left me with a frightful mess...you will note the vacuum cleaner is in the middle of the floor...ackkk...so I just left it until this morning. I'll do better next time about making big promises over which I have no control.

I'm sad to see the light go. I really am. Not sure quite what to do about it, but something must be done. Perhaps it'll mean a larger window over the sink and perhaps it will mean much more lighting than we had considered. Right now, it's looking depressingly dark.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Creating Home



Creating a home has always been a love of mine. I have long felt that a sense of home could be created under a bridge.

Stories and books about creating home have delighted me all my life and I think that it is a widespread interest. When I taught first and second graders, the Boxcar Children books were a favorite. In those stories, four siblings create a home in a boxcar. The whole idea delights children of all ages.

There's a woman who lives near me who has created a gem of a home in an old boxcar. Her home has been written about in local magazines and newspapers. Edited to add: While looking to see if I could find an internet article on this intrepid woman who lives in the woods of Maine in an old boxcar, I found a blogger instead. Have I mentioned how much I adore blogs? How much they are like finding treasure? I have? Oh well, the blog is called Boxcar Kitchen: A Big Dinner from Small Onions. (This blog no longer exists.) Isn't that a great title?

One of my favorite books as a teen was The Enchanted Barn where a family creates the perfect home in an old barn. I have seen some barns that I would love to live in.

Currently, as you all know, I am reading The Sojourner where a home is being created from a formerly cold and sterile environment. Trees, flowers, and herbs are planted, decorative pieces have been brought in, warm old woods have been introduced, and the smell of the most delightful cooking fills the air. If they talk about a freshly fried doughnut one more time...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Apple Orchard Day



It's about time to head to the orchard for some apples. Last night I dreamed of apples so that's as good an indication as any. Who doesn't love an apple fresh from the tree, rubbed to a high shine with a shirt tail, and eaten on the spot while the sweet juices run down the chin?

My apple orchard fondness goes away back. I spent every Saturday of my autumns from the ages of 8 to 14 in an orchard. That was before migrant workers came to do the work and crews of local housewives took to the orchards with their children in tow.

My mother was one of that number and my sister and I were just two of an entire army of children. They kept us in line by making us work. We picked the drops for 10 cents a bushel. My mother, working with the apple ladders and picking from the trees, earned a mere 25 cents a bushel. A forty-bushel day was considered a good one for a tree-picker.

When I was twelve, I graduated to picking from the trees myself. This was my first real experience with having a boss. Mine just happened to be a tall, lanky farmer wearing overalls who was so soft-spoken that I had to listen very carefully. The first thing he warned me about was that my fingerprints were showing up on the apples. He demonstrated how I would have to roll them off using my palm. I also must leave the stem intact or the apple would rot during its long storage season. I tried to always do my best and soon I was just getting approving head nods and big grins. Far preferable!

At the end of a day in the orchard, when the sun was setting below the ridge, there was nothing better than to lie back in the grass beside some gnarled, ancient apple tree and simply watch the day end.

Now, I make my annual trek to the orchard for old time's sake. Sometimes I select my own apples by wandering down through the orchard, but more likely, I'll just select a bag of already picked apples. Later, when the apples are gone, I'll not even return to the orchard preferring to just head for the farmer's market.

This article on apple selection from Spark People is helpful. I'm going to follow their advice about apples best used for baking. I usually go with Cortlands.

Finally, if planning to do a lot of baking one really needs this apple-peeling gizmo. I found mine at LLBean.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making Progress



Sharing the progress that has been made. The addition has nearly all its fitted boards. They surround the room...walls and ceiling. It looks much lighter now than before when all that showed was the dark brown of the insulation backing. This makes me smile because the one thing we needed the most was light.

Soon we'll have to select light fixtures, which should be fun. I think. Maybe not. Two heads are not always better than one. ;>

Monday, September 17, 2007

Being a Nonni



This is my youngest grandson Jake who is a delight and who arrived just a year and six days after his big brother Sam.



Sam and Jake are two very bright spots in my life. They are active and fun and keep me from being too stodgy and old.

I might have imagined that granddaughters would be more in keeping with my rather girly tastes and interests, but you can not imagine how striped tee shirts and blue jeans appeal to me now. I used to wander by the little girls' section and look longingly at the sweet (way too sweet by half) outfits, but these days, I make a beeline for the tees and the jeans.

It's true what they say: "Grandchildren are God's way of saying that the world will go on."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Breakfast



Peanut butter cookies and milk...a complete protein. Why waste time with bacon and eggs? ;>

Yesterday I used Martha Stewart's recipe for peanut butter cookies; next time I'll be returning to my own. I've also been wondering if refrigerated peanut butter is making the difference between Martha's and my grandmother's recipe. Grandmother's recipe makes a crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie; Martha's recipe is all crunchy and heavy on flour.

Pre-diet, peanut butter was left in a cupboard because it was eaten rather quickly. Now it is stored in the refrigerator and maybe that could account for the difference. Perhaps I'll have to experiment. Nah, that would be complete and total sabotage.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Sojourner

When I recall the summer about to pass, I may forget the year, but it will be known as Cross Creek Summer or the summer that I met Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I know that this is twice in not so many weeks that she's been mentioned, but I am thinking of her now as a dear friend. I want to sit down at her kitchen table and partake of her peach pie and sweet iced tea laced with something stronger. It doesn't matter that she died before I was even born...I can't part with her yet.

I was thrilled to learn that Rawlings had purchased a farm in the state of New York and had lived there in order to write about it. The result was The Sojourner. I was a bit concerned to learn that this book is a novel for reasons already stated — this need of mine to linger at her table. So I waffled about ordering (once again from Abe books) before finally placing my order and being done with it. Hope that I'll not be disappointed.

Now it's here; I'm very excited; I'll be reporting back. Off to tell my friend Skitten this news; she's the only one who really cares I suspect. :>

Friday, September 14, 2007

From the Pitiful to the Sublime

I am in the process of putting my garden to bed. My disappointing garden. It's a disappointment because gyspy moths attacked when I least suspected it and munched their way through my flowers before I even knew what was happening. They made nests in my lilac bushes that I was fortunate enough to discover before it was too late. Wish that I could say the same of my neighbor's lilac.



They took my beautiful deck pot from this



to this.



Granted, even the chomped version would look better with my little grandson Jake featured prominently front and center. Ha!

After some research, I discovered that even if it is a cold winter, gypsy moths will actually do better in the spring. They'll need less heat to wake up and be on the move. Isn't that just weird?

In the early 80s, gypsy moths chomped their way through acres and acres of forested areas. The sun shone down hot upon us in the middle of July because we lost our tree canopy. I shudder to even think about it. At its worst, the state sprayed the woods and that's the only thing that stopped them. I hope that spraying can happen again if these things stay on the move.

Okay, that's enough for the pitiful news, now I'd like to share a sublime blog from the UK. What I love about Ramblings From an English Garden are the photos of beautiful, lush gardens that enlarge when clicked upon. If you need a little down time, this is the spot for you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Valentine in September


Everyone has a few claims to fame and one of mine is knowing Juanita. One of hers is knowing Rob. It's a two degrees of separation thing. Ha!

Rob Kelley is the leader of a band called Blue Mist that hails from Austin, Texas. If any of you ever have the opportunity to attend one of Blue Mist's performances, don't miss it!

Valentine Lady (no longer available) is a song written for Juanita. I listen to it a lot! Hope that you'll have a listen, too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Does Great Disaster Equal Opportunity?

Recently, a friend and I were discussing some pretty terrible events in the lives of some of our mutual friends and acquaintances. We can never really be aware of all that others are dealing with. So many suffer in silence.

At one point my friend sighed, drained her coffee cup, and said, "Well, they say that in China the symbol for great disaster is the same as the one for opportunity."

Gee, I really liked the sound of that so I went off on a little Google search this morning. This is what I found...



So, what do you think? Do they look alike to you?

No? No. Not at all.

But just because the story about the symbols didn't exactly hold true doesn't mean that great disaster doesn't equal opportunity, does it? Because I'm counting on disaster equaling opportunity.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering



This morning, first thing, I lowered the flag to the half-mast position. September 11 will never come and go unremembered for as long as I live. This is true for most Americans, I am certain. There are those who still remember Pearl Harbor with the same devotion.

Six years ago, I was a preschool teacher on an excursion to the library with my students and other teachers. The hour 8:45 came and went without any particular notice as the class listened to the librarian read a story. This was followed by a craft time.

At 9:00, we were collected by our dear bus driver Gil who looked at each of us adults with pure terror in her eyes. I will never forget how pale and upset she looked. Gil had the radio on and the news was terrible. A plane had crashed into the north tower and all hell had broken loose.

One of the teacher's husbands was a construction worker in NYC at the time, and she began to weep softly. Just as news of the first jumpers came across the airwaves, I asked Gil to please turn off the radio. The little ones had become frightened, too, and were now asking questions. "Why are you crying, Mrs. M? What's wrong? Why are you all sad?"

By the time we had arrived back at school, the entire parking lot was filled with parents' cars and in less than 5 minutes, all the children had been scooped up and taken home. I was grateful for those concerned parents. I was grateful that the children would be home in the bosom of their families because, in my own fear, I had no idea how the day would end or if any of us would live to see the end of that day. It seems almost laughable today, but then it was my reality.

Today, another Tuesday, I think of all those who live in New York City who must rise again to the day despite their fears. May God bless them and all of us.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rain

The rain is raining all around
It rains on field and tree
It rains on the umbrellas here
And on the ships at sea


Or something like that. Just remembering this off the top of my head...Stevenson, I think.

So, yup, it's raining. We need the rain. It matches my mood. I am hoping that in the same way that the plants need water despite being beaten down by it, that my spirit will be renewed even if I currently look a lot like this...drooping.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Needed: A Good Laugh

All those whacky little forwards that friends email me can be really annoying, but every now and then I find a keeper. And, lucky for me, I can share it with you and all because of You Tube. It's called Remember.

Here's a fun blog from a gal who gives me a laugh almost every day. She says that she's menopausal, but she looks too young. Anyway, visit her blog and have a chuckle on me right here at Just Livin' Large.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Decluttering

Not even sure that "decluttering" is a real word, but it's something that I think about every single day. It used to fill me with dread. No more. Now, I can't wait to get rid of things...like roses that are not quite up to snuff even if they did just arrive yesterday.

Anyway, this passion to get rid of things extends to almost anything with one notable exception — I have been collecting Country Living magazines for many many years. They have a special place in an old trunk at the foot of my bed. When the trunk gets full, I must purge. But it looks as if I have a lot of room yet.



However, this heavy trunk did result in my having to have my bedroom floor reinforced.



The things that I am willing to go through to satisfy my habit!

Leaving you with an article from Martha Stewart, loaded with links, called 100 Reasons to Get Rid of It.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mother Theresa and More

Last week, when news of Mother Theresa's perpetual dark night of the soul was revealed in anticipation of the new book Mother Theresa: Come Be My Light, I felt such sadness...deep deep sadness.

This might seem odd to some because I am neither Catholic nor have I ever endured 50 years of abandonment or pain. According to the article I read, Mother Theresa wrote that the silence was so great that she looked and did not see, listened and did not hear. Just reading those words again, I feel that same pang that I did when first reading them. After all, this is Mother Theresa we're talking about...the wee woman who gave the lowliest of the low grace, mercy, and love just the way that the Lord did.

Strangely enough, I have been comforted by a humorous column written by Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald. You can find his article right *here. My favorite quote from this article follows.

"You know, sometimes, I think atheists have a point. When you see nothing, when you feel nothing, isn't it logical to conclude it's because there is nothing?...I think the only reason I don't go with them is because of all those other times when you do see...something. When you feel so connected to something so vast it defies comprehension. It fills you. It settles you. It gives you peace. And you say to yourself, 'Lord, where did that come from? It couldn't be my imagination, because I couldn't imagine anything so...perfect.'"

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Slow Process

The contractor assured me that he'd be all done with our addition by the fourth of July...this year. He began in August 2006 and, so far, I see few signs that he'll be done before Thanksgiving. Good thing that I am a patient person. The price that we agreed upon has not changed except for the extras that have been tossed in.

Because of budget constraints, we didn't hire an architect. Might have been a big mistake, but it has been fun to look at those early representations that I worked up on PAINT and to see the reality of it now. We still have a long way to go, but I thought I would document two items for now.

This is the picture that began it all...



Source: Pella.com

And this is where we are so far (try not to laugh)...



It's not much, but it's all I have for today. Hopefully, before another year passes, there will be more to show.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

It's a Banner Day

Oh, yes, it is. If you haven't visited before, I am in the middle of banner woes. I've seen all the wonderful ones that other bloggers have and I am jealous.

Yesterday, I spent much of the day visiting banner tutorial sites where I discovered that my fascination with creating blinkies was going to be a help...or not. Anyway, I think I've now created six banners. Very bad ones. So pardon me while I continue to fuss with it until I land on something that feels right.

Today is also back-to-school day here in the Northeast. In honor of that, and all my former years of teaching, I'd like to share a video of Taylor Mali. Apparently, he is or was an English teacher and his sense of wit and humor is razor sharp. Writing this blog has proven that my proofreading needs improvement so that's why I've chosen The Impotence of Proofreading. It's a bit racy so take warning.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Pemaquid and Points Beyond

"Throw roses on the sea where the dead went down.
The roses speak to the sea,
And the sea to the dead.
Throw roses, O lovers--
Let the leaves wash on the salt in the sun."
-Carl Sandberg
(1878-1967)





What a beautiful day my daughter and I enjoyed at the ocean yesterday!


A few days earlier, I had received an email from my dd who said that we should spend the day Sunday going to Pemaquid Point and other places. My daughter so rarely invites me on day trips that I thought that she had me confused with one of her friends, but when the Google map arrived, I emailed her: "Are you talking to me? Because, if you are, I'd love to!"

The day began at 9 a.m. and we didn't return home until nearly 13 hours later. What a fun time!

Just popping in a few of my photos now...









After leaving Pemaquid Point, we traveled on as far as Belfast
where we shopped at The Cherished Home. My daughter loved the colors that Genie has pulled together for her rooms. It was very soft and feminine. I even purchased a couple of items...a table runner and a flip-flop flyswatter. Maybe now I can keep my own flip-flops on my feet.



The day ended with ice cream of course! Thanks, darling, for a beautiful day and for teaching me so much about enjoying a stress-free driving time!!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

When Morning Fills the Skies

After a fitful night of tossing and turning, dreaming about weeding plants that had long, ugly roots, but were easy to pull, I awoke with the words from an old hymn in my head... When morning fills the skies, my spirit awakening cries, may Jesus Christ be praised. Odd juxtaposition of thoughts, eh?

Well shoot! After I've been fiddling with this blog for days, editing, moving stuff around, tweaking, etc., I discovered that this blog is not set to private; never has been, never can be. Ha! My apologies to anyone who may have revisited and discovered this. Anyway, from now on, I shall just leave it as it is. Maybe. If I can stand it. I've been slogging more than blogging. Perhaps I'll be able to have more fun with it now.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Welcome, September!

I love the beauty of autumn with weather that is crisp as a Macintosh. It's not that summer doesn't have its delights, but autumn is my season and September is almost my favorite month.

Yes, I know that summer is not technically over for a few more weeks, but it "feels" like autumn and that's the important thing. There'll be fairs, fires, apple orchards, and apple pies.

The trees are already beginning the blush of the season. My neighbor's maple is tinged with melon hues...utterly charming.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blueberry Muffin Day



There was something about my apron collection and the gorgeous day yesterday and, of course, the fresh blueberries waiting in the refrigerator that made it feel like a blueberry muffin day. Such days have to be bright and sunny with low humidity.

I actually couldn't find my favorite apron and then I remembered that it was still hanging over the cupboard door at my mother's. When I called and asked her if she noticed anything out of place in her kitchen, she couldn't think of a thing, but laughed when I asked what was hanging in the corner.

The apron wasn't the only thing that I couldn't find. I spent quite some time looking for my recipe book. With construction going on for over a year, many things have been packed away and the recipe book was one of them. Still, I found it eventually, and despite finding a blueberry cake recipe with the blueberry stains all over it to prove that I have used it many times, I couldn't find a muffin recipe.

The berries had been picked by a friend of my mother's and given to her. My mom, in turn, had brought them back from her vacation and given some to me. The blueberries had been carefully and cleanly picked, but still needed some sorting. One problem was that they were picked and stored in a container much too large, which caused a lot of squashed berries. I hate to see them go, but they make an awful mess unless used in a berry pie. I cleaned even the squashed ones and ate them with cream. No sense in wasting one since blueberries are my favorite berry.

I have a friend who often tells me about the inadequacies of my pantry. She has a point. Yesterday, when I gathered my ingredients, I had no flour, no sugar, and no eggs! The printed recipe that rests on the table is *To Die For Blueberry Muffins from All Recipes.com* I couldn't resist the title. "To Die For" sounds fantastic, doesn't it?!



Using a cookie scoop works perfectly for getting those muffins a uniform size and for less muss and fuss. I can be such a sloppy baker!







The finished product. They really must have been "to die for" since there were none left this morning!

P.S. I am still learning about formatting. Repeated edits in hopes of fixing it have failed so my apologies for those who, like me, find it completely unattractive. I'll keep trying to get it right.