29 April 2009

Dogwood Cuttings

It's amazing how much beauty is free for the taking. Just outside my door and a few snips later, I became possessor of a gloriously large show of salmon-hued dogwood blossoms on green-sprigged branches.

'Tis true, they weren't entirely happy to stay in my (recently thrifted) basket-weave, milk glass vase ($1.99). They kept trying to escape, popping over the edge like one of my children from a too-hot bath. A quick dash to the garage, I returned, armed with a zip-tie from Pops' bountiful stash. I hog-tied those branches in a most unceremonious way and they have yet to reoffend.

Don't mess with a mama trying to pretty-up the dining table.

27 April 2009

Rooms for Rent

The family went off to church yesterday and I stayed home. It was really good to just be. I sat outside with some tea and my bible and read. I read in 1 Thessalonians and in the Psalms and thought about my grandparents. Yesterday was their wedding anniversary. It would have been 57 years. Later, while I was praying, I heard a thunk, thunk. It seemed to be coming from our bird hotel.

When Pops and I were dating, he helped me build a CD storage tower. It was quite nifty. But in recent years, we've gone mostly digital and decided it was time to re-purpose it. Pops and Peter cleverly removed the knobs, drilled some holes, and attached it to a lone post out by the playhouse and the snowball bush. We all got a good giggle over it and didn't think it would really appeal to our feathered friends. Apparently, we were mistaken.

I pulled out my Stokes Field Guide, and determined that these two industrious parents are Black-capped Chickadees. They are flitting about the yard and readying their nursery with great enthusiasm. I'm not sure how big of a brood they are anticipating, as they are preparing the top two rooms for occupation.

"Good Morning!" they seemed to chirp to me. "Would you like to watch our little burgeoning family?"

Why, yes. Yes, I would.

26 April 2009

Celebrating Life

The grief is deep because the love is so great. We celebrated my grandmother yesterday. Old friends and family came to smile, laugh, hug, and cry. She was a dear, dear woman ... and a feisty one, too.

None of us could share about her without commenting on her strength and spunk. The night before she passed, my dad was to carry her up to her bedroom. She insisted on walking halfway up before letting Dad scoop her up and take her the rest of the way. What a determined little Italian lady she was.

She was also a woman who depended on the Lord and trusted His will over her own. Story after story I heard of how her faith and strength of character ministered to the people who found their lives crossing paths with hers.

We're not ready to be fine yet. But we will be.

Death has been swallowed up in victory.
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(I Corinthians 15: 54-58)

23 April 2009

Life as a Slideshow

Preparing a slideshow for the memorial service on Friday. My heart is confused lately. Surging with sweet relief and breaking with grief. Memories, however, remain my treasure.

21 April 2009


There is the joy of new life that arrives. There is the sorrow of that which departs. We serve a God who is sovereign over all.

My Grandmother went home to Jesus today.

I rejoice. But I miss her so.

19 April 2009

I'm an Auntie!

•Baby Michael James•
7 lbs. 10 oz

17 April 2009

Miss Ruby & Priscilla

Recently, the girls have taken to playing school. Lucette and Jane take on respective teacher/student roles as well as the monikers, "Miss Ruby" and "Priscilla."

Miss Ruby typically begins school at the refrigerator with her pupils and a semi-circle of dining chairs before her. An alert Priscilla and a collection of dolls and stuffed critters sit willingly. Everyone is expected to participate and there is strong caution about misbehaving. Disciplinary action is always such a drag.

After magnet letters have been fully utilized, the individualized instruction commences. Miss Ruby will pull Priscilla over to a sunny spot and they will work on penmanship and engage in occasional discussions of favorite snacks.

After all, a good teacher must find ways to identify with her students.

**Note: Priscilla's dress was made by Great-Mother, passed down from the growing Miss Ruby.

Dried Papaya Spears

15 April 2009

Silver Service

I was able to visit my grandmother on Easter Sunday. We couldn't stay for long. It is very tiring to have visitors. Not long after we arrived, she brought me upstairs -- she had something for me. On the coffee table sat her silver tea service. A wedding gift from Great-Aunt Jewel, including pot, creamer, sugar, tea tray, and a large serving tray. They were to be mine.

As a little girl, I used to drink tea with my grandma. She showed me how to hold the lid of the pot secure and tip, ever so carefully. The milk from the creamer would cloud my cup of black Twinings with gloriously thick plumes. The sugar spoon was passed with a knowing smile. We'd discuss life and she'd tell stories. I particularly liked tales of her early years and could never get over the fact she once worked for two men, Mr. Body and Mr. Finger. "It's true!" she would giggle. "That really was their names!"

Now grown, sitting on the sofa together, I asked her what she liked to use this service for. Writing on the back of an opened envelope (ever the thrifty lady, she is), she wrote, "Socials. It's nice to be busy." (The tray, she continued, was good for cakes, sandwiches ... and with a wave of her hand ... any variety, really.) She has spent a lifetime hosting and serving others and busy, she has always been.

This set is a treasure by any standard. Given from her hands to mine, the past meeting present with the hope of the future -- this is the real treasure. And she mine.

14 April 2009

Aunt Pauline's Pecan Pie

 Aunt Pauline is good at many things. Hostessing, gardening, laughing at my lame jokes... But while possessing myriad skills, I must say she really does excel in the kitchen.

She made pecan pie. It was really good. I had two pieces. I had to force myself to avoid complete gluttony and walk away from the third that was taunting me.

I think Easter should always include pie. In fact, I think pie is the perfect celebratory crescendo to any holiday. Hmmm. Which one is next? Earth Day? Flag Day? I wonder if Aunt Pauline already has plans...

13 April 2009

Loving a Little Chick

Aunt Dawn brought baby chicks.
Lucette declared this to be the best Easter ever.

Easter Dresses

The girls looked very sweet in their Easter dresses. Although we did have to stuff the cute little sleeves into some sweaters ...

... 'cause it's cold and rainy! Hurry up with the picture, Mom!

He is Risen!

It was so exciting. Jesus was not in the paper mache tomb! The cloths he had been wrapped in lay in a pile. The onion had been rolled away, the guards were out cold, and there was an angel upon the tomb declaring "He is Risen" ...

... to the top of the mantel!

He is Risen, He is Risen, Indeed!

12 April 2009

Great Expectations

"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation ..."
(1 Peter 1:3)

11 April 2009

Vibrant Eggs

The children always love coloring eggs for Easter. I confess, the cups of dye to be spilled (just green this year), eggs to be cracked (3), and the over-excited emotions of the experience can leave me a little anxious. We do use raw eggs, which I realize adds to the peril, but it seems our family can only eat so many hard-boiled!

One of our favorite tricks is to wrap the eggs in rubber-bands. It creates quite the pleasing effect with very little fuss. And since completion, Jane is having trouble holding herself back. When she peeks into the fridge, they beckon her like jeweled candies. I don't think I've quite convinced her that they are still just regular 'ol eggs.

Now I must dash off to finish the laundry, do some vacuuming, get dinner going, and see what can be done about the whole can of aerosol sunscreen Jane secretly sprayed on the carpet and bedding in her room. Comparatively, maybe coloring eggs isn't such an ordeal after all!

09 April 2009

Marbled Cookies

Here's the cookie recipe that had driven me to giggle-fits a couple days ago. Yummy!

.5 c butter
.5 c brown sugar
.5 c white sugar

1 egg
.75 c sour cream
1 t. vanilla

Mix in:
.5 t. salt
.5 t. baking powder
2 c unbleached flour

1 c semi-sweet chocolate (choc. chips are fine)
*melt in microwave, stirring frequently (Watch out! I severely burnt it the first time!) or in double boiler 'til mostly melted

Cool chocolate slightly and pour over batter. Lightly fold in chocolate. Do not mix completely, just until a swirled, marbleized pattern is created. Bake 20-22 minutes at 300 degrees. Do not brown.

Lenten Apologies

Jane received a palm frond from her children's bible study class. While she delighted in waving it vigorously and declaring "Hosanna, Hosanna!" all about the house, it became a dodging effort for those of us around her. Turns out, it really smarts when a palm frond darts into an eye.

When Pops came home Jane was proud to show it off. This brief conversation ensued:

Nice palm frond, Jane!
It's for Jesus. For Easter.
Yes, I like it.
It's poky.
I see. What do you do with it -- do you wave it around?
What do you say when you wave it around? (
Thinking she'll reply with a "Hosanna")
Sorry. It's poky. You just have to say sorry.

She was so earnest. It was so hard not to laugh ... too much. Now I can't stop picturing Jesus riding in on the donkey with frond-bearing people proclaiming "Hosanna" ... and then a profusion of apologies over wounded eyes.

08 April 2009


Pops will be happy. The beautiful garden box he built last summer will finally be put to good use. The children and I set to the seedlings yesterday.

Peter worked industriously at the pot making. We love this nifty device. Recycle newspaper to make little seedling homes and when time to transplant to the garden, just plop the whole thing in the ground.

The girls at work filling the pots. (I particularly like Jane's mismatched boots.)

I have a very laid-back approach to veggie gardens. Peas, pole beans, herbs, tomatoes, and squash typically do well and anything else that survives is bonus. We never really know what we are doing, so we feel successful with any amount of harvest!

07 April 2009

Jane Smiles

Oh my goodness, I cannot stop cracking up at these photos. Jane was helping me make cookies and was was so cute eating nibbles of the dough. I snatched the camera and when I asked her to smile for me, this is the series of "camera smiles" I got.

Eventually I'll pull myself together and post the recipe (the cookies did end up rather tasty), but for now ... I've got to ease this giggle stitch out of my side.


Apparently, this recipe was a depression-era favorite. No milk or eggs! While we did have milk and eggs, this recipe was also popular with my family as we were growing up. It's hard not to love a wonderfully simple recipe that happily widens the eyes of children!

Crazy Cake

Mix together in 9x13 pan (No other dishes to dirty!):
3 c. unbleached flour
2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
2 t. baking soda
.5 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

Make 3 wells with the back of a large spoon. Pour into their own well:
.75 c. canola oil
2 T. white vinegar
2 t. vanilla

Pour over all and mix well with a fork:
2 c. cold water

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve very large pieces!

06 April 2009

Grape Hyacinth

While the children developed dangerous fire skills (under Pops' fine tutelage), I distracted myself with my neighbor's gorgeous spread of grape hyacinth.

It's Just Science

This was happening while I was inside doing the dishes. Apparently, a conversation about the intensity of sun rays coupled with the attributes of magnification, lead to this wholesome Sunday afternoon play. "It's science!" Pops would gruff. "It's fine. I'm right here in the garage."

... And then the neighbor came over. I was concerned with fostering potential neighborhood delinquency, but his dad didn't seem to worry either: "Sure. It's fine."

In this photo they were focused on "smokin' up" a piece of cardboard, but you can see the melted plastic cup carcass to the left (crayons and twigs came later). It was at this point Pops was rummaging around for extra sunglasses as a safety precaution for onlookers. Well, I guess that's somethin' ...

05 April 2009

Man Camp Pt. II

Some of the man-boys at the camp-out (Peter at far right). Notice they are in a muddy wheelbarrow. I can only imagine the fun they halted to gain this photo.

04 April 2009

Man Camp

The boys left yesterday for an overnight "Man's Camp-out" with the church fellows. There was lots of grunting, guffawing, and big-talking as the vehicle was loaded up.

I had asked Pops what he'd like me to prepare for the trip, but no answer was ever really given. I began to realize that extreme non-preparation was part of the adventure element of this excursion. As they were about to take off, we did have this brief conversation:

Do you guys have sleeping bags?
Do you have pillows?
Don't you want pillows?
Men don't need pillows.
They don't?
No. They just roll up their sweatshirt.

So ... the girls and I sent them off with a pan of sweet rolls and a set of smiles. They promised to have fun while spending lots of time doing dangerous things and having toot-offs. I'm sure it will be a grand time indeed.

Good Read

If I actually kept a list of favorite books, I think this recent read would have to go on it.

The story is wonderfully written in journal format by an intelligent, transparent, and witty seventeen year-old character. Cassandra writes from a once abandoned and crumbling English castle, which is now home to her impoverished and highly quirky family.

I was particularly entertained by the melodramatic and humorous musings peppered throughout the book.

Another great luxury is letting myself cry -- I always feel marvelously peaceful after that. But it is difficult to arrange times for it, as my face takes so long to recover ...

While written sixty years ago and set in the 30's, this composition reads remarkably modern. It is fantastically peculiar and yet causes surprising introspection. The author seems to write from a secular perspective and then dances with some rather touching thoughts on God and the establishment of church. I like authors who can whip up a dish that merge flavors of sweet, cynical, honest, and funny ingredients.

Since I had such fun with this library find, I thought I'd patron ebay and purchase an old copy. (Old books are indeed so much more fun than new!) Well mercy me, the old copies were selling for 100-450 dollars! Perhaps I will simply content myself with an eight dollar reprint after all...

03 April 2009

Pretty in Pink

We attended Lucette's spring concert tonight. She had batted eyelashes and sweetly suggested that the dress I was making her for Easter would also be lovely for her choral event.

So, last night I finished off the bodice and this afternoon I was hemming the skirt when I should have been making dinner. (Sorry about the leftovers, family. Fashion trumps nourishment, tonight.)

The dress did turn out awfully sweet. When I found a whole bolt of this fabric at the thrift store (for $2.99!) the girls pranced about the house wishing they could be adorned in it. The material was quite thin, so I lined the bodice with white muslin (hello, never-been-used white bed sheet!) and made the skirt two layers. The pattern had an option for a coordinating pinafore, so I just used the pattern for the skirt portion and basted that piece right onto the existing skirt. The result was an adorable double layered skirt that I liked even more that the original design.

I also tried to get clever with the bodice attachment when I attempted to streamline the process and avoid putting a "lap" in the skirt. Hmmm. I made it work, but I see now there was a purpose to the extra step. That's what I get for being sassy with those instructions.

The concert was very cute and Lucette performed in a most dignified, "I'm-almost-six" sort of way. The dress is going back into the closet until Easter and I'm back to the machine for dress number two. Jane has presented her demands.

I'm happy to oblige.

02 April 2009

Spring is Pretty

When the girls and I set off for a walkabout the other day, we returned with some lovely bunches of budded twigs. After a little trim and a plop into some matching (and thrifted) milk glass vases, we were quite pleased with ourselves.

What we weren't expecting is how happy they'd be. Yesterday they announced their pleasure with little white blossoms. And such lovely house guests they are!