Sunday, August 30, 2009

B r u n c h

Some friends are persistant. In a good way. I said my birthday was over, but this very special mother and daughter insisted we meet for breakfast to celebrate since they were out of town last month during the new decade festivities. They are very dear to me and we've been friends for so long. The day I stopped by to welcome brand new baby Emma is as clear to me as if it was yesterday. Now she is almost taller than me. (I'm so excited we will sing in the M*ssiah together this Christmas!) When Boniface said this cute restaurant used f*estaware, I knew I had to bring along my camera! We two generations had a good time!

Click on to see the details of this cute place!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Street Strings

I was profoundly affected watching The Sol*ist recently. Some movies are like that for me. The story lingers in my mind. This one did for several reasons I think. My father played the cello, and I did too (for a short time when I needed to learn an instrument in school.) I love its low, mellow tones. In the film it was neat to see a man playing a cello on the street, rather than a guitar or violin. I love any movie that boldly shows the gritty part of life. And, I appreciate the portrayal it gives to mental illness on the streets. I felt like the film gave a good try at getting inside the mind of someone with schizophrenia. Lastly, the ending spoke volumes. It was not a pie-in-the-sky, all-things-work-out ending. It was reality, but mixed in that reality was a profound statement of what comes from looking outside oneself and giving to another. The "normal" guy in the film was the one whose life got better because he was willing to step outside his comfort and give to one "not so normal," including giving the very sacrificial gift of friendship.

And, in realizing the reality of life at the ending of the film, one comes to ponder what is really "normal." Some things in life actually are OK the way they are, and don't need to be "fixed." I recommend the film, albeit with a language caveat (not overwhelming, or gratuitous, but definitely there).

Photo: my dad and his cello; photo by HSF.
PS: 38 happy years for the Gardener and I today ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Joy in the Mundane

After a busy few weeks, a full day at home (well, until 3 pm) brought so much joy I was almost astounded. It was so refreshing to putter (quotidian kind of things). To be away from the computer (where both my jobs bring me far more than I'd like), to listen to music, to do simple household chores, change a few things around ... and delicious time to do these things. I even got a project done. And sang the rest of the day because of it.

I had to return my mother's old glass plates used at a party to a cupboard. Before I did so I decided to overhaul the entire cupboard. So surprising to find myself with an extra whole shelf to use.

Such a good feeling. I'm still smiling about it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lost and Found

I just crossed "little bird" off my newest kind of list, called "LOST." We tend to like lists at our house, and my newest is a list of missing things. Somehow it feels therapeutic and helps my angst to jot down the current lost things on a list and "let them be." Some things go on and off often: glasses, keys, camera ... and of course, the Gardener always says, "Be patient, you know it will turn up."

When we were in the mountains I bought two little birds as a birthday gift for a friend. At least I thought it was two. (There's incredible self doubt that can arise when things go missing, by the way.) The birds were so cute I thought I'd put them here or there and enjoy them until the birthday arrived. So when I went to gather D's gift together I could only find one bird. I looked everywhere. I even asked my sister and DIL who had shopped with me, if they remembered me buying one bird or two. Finally I gave the gift to my friend, rather embarrassed, telling her to stay tuned, the second bird might fly in some day.

Today, 5 weeks post birthday, as we sat around our dinner table, my eyes focused on a little arrangement I had under a cloche. I gasped loudly and could not believe my eyes. I'm sure you can guess who was tucked into the foliage. D, watch for a flying bird.

For some beautiful collages see Little Red House.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Random Rose

I found this rose in my kitchen the other day. If it was meant for me, I certainly am thankful. I am partial to the color.

That same day I was walking on a busy street near our house, thinking about what an ugly part of the walk it was. The sidewalk was overcome by weeds, overgrown shrubs were hanging over a shaky, tall fence, causing me to bend my head to get through, a handful of littler lined the edge of the street ... As I looked up after climbing through a particular rough patch of overgrowth, I discovered a lone beautiful flower shining its face over the fence. Beauty right there, in the midst of the ugliness.

It's always good to notice the beauty: "When we view the little things with thanksgiving, even they become big things." (Jan Karon in These High Green Hills.)

Photo of my random rose drinking from my grandmother's oil/vinegar decanter, circa 1910. After writing this I found out the rose was not meant for me, but I did enjoy it immensely.

This was first published in May '08. For more Sunday Favorites see Happy to Design.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Especially for Lydia

This is especially for my friend Lydia Grace who knows a lot about being a grandma. She gave me this "vintage" Beatrice P. bowl recently ... and I wanted her to see it in use! Thanks LG!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

another shopping tale

Today I stopped at a popular chain grocery store. Wide aisles, well oiled grocery carts, nicely dressed people, good lighting, soft music ... it was the perfect place to spend a little extra effort studying food products as I had some time. Oh, and did I mention "expensive prices?" Of course, compared to the store where they put a lot of stuff up on walls. I wanted a particular item I could only get at this store.

Time to check out--quiet time of day, only two checkers, one was working on a huge order and the other had a "one item" person in line. Who would you choose? Turns out the one item person was exchanging, or something complicated, so the manager had to called, etc. etc ... as time marched on...

Along came a "Higher up," I'll call him, as often happens when there is a jam at the check out. He had seen what was going on from behind his big desk and noted that I had been there a bit too long, waiting patiently. Just then another woman arrived in the check out area, and hesitated not knowing where to turn. "Higher up" looked at me, an "older" woman, and then at the other customer, remember, not in line yet, and called her over to his counter. She happened to be in short shorts, blond, tanned and, you know, quite cute. Of course he should have pulled me over to his lane; that is how it's done. He glanced over at me sheepishly, plain and simply squirming in his eyes, and I knew that he knew that I knew that he had profiled the situation and chose young over older. Just one of those things.

But there was some redemption to the age thing. After my order was completed, the young checker rather gingerly asked if I was in a certain age bracket. "Just arrived," I smiled broadly.

"Well then, you get a discount just for today." $3.50 off the bill. What a deal.

"I'll take it ... there are benefits to growing older."

Now fully aware of my age she asked if I needed help with my shopping cart. "Oh no! I'm not that old," I quipped back. I sped up my pace as I pranced out of the store, noting the young blond woman still checking out. Wow, "Higher up" must be a bit slow on the job.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Rosy View

When I remember, I grab my sunglasses as I go out the door for a walk. The ones I have now give a rosy glow to the world and what a difference it makes. I had them on today and everything was just more beautiful. Especially the clouds in the sky--they have more of a definitive outline to them. Maybe heaven will be like this. It certainly is a lovely way to view the world.

A blogging friend of mine has a blog called Rose Colored Glasses. Give her a visit. I find her outlook on life is just like putting on those rose colored glasses. She is optimistic and cheerful. I love her "Thankful Thursdays" when she writes about something she is thankful about. You just can't have a bad view of life if you are being grateful!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blessing a Bride

On a hot summer afternoon, we gathered to bless a young bride ...

(for more Mosaic Mondays see Little Red House )

... with cool lemonade in an antique punch bowl ...
... with tempting treats ...

... with the passing on of traditions ...
... with laughter and tears, prayers and blessings ...
... with written words of wisdom in a red journal she'll add to as she grows in marriage and life ...
...and with gifts for her new life.
And one of us wore shoes that made us all smile. We wanted her to dance.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Making of Bonbons

I've never made candy before. And it shows. And I know better than to try something new, such as making bonbons for a bridal shower. At least practice once before. Right!
But the recipe in a well known home and garden magazine looked so fool proof. Certainly I could manage it. Simply follow the directions completely. I devoted a morning to it. Got some advice before I started. And got a little frantic mid morning. Two phone consultations--one trip to the grocery--one mercy visit by a friend--later, I pronounced them finished. But they certainly didn't look like the gorgeous photos in the magazine. (Well maybe two did, and they will be front and center.) I learned a lot about making candy during this special little time.

I went off to an appointment, leaving my very best of the bunch (the last to be made after some experience under my belt) still chillin' in the frig on a cookie sheet. To my utter amazement, two of the "good ones" were missing when I arrived home. TWO. I immediately went to the only possible culprit...the Gardener. I was really angry. He looked at me innocently with big adoring eyes. "There were plenty. The only reason two are gone is that one was sooo good, it begged eating another." I asked him how he knew how many I needed, and did he know how much work I had put into them, and that he took two of the best of the lot? But how would he have known, really. So of course, for the remainder of time these little pups were in the frig, this sign appeared.
I am certainly glad my good friends are coming to this shower. They will understand when these little candies don't look like M. Stewart made them. The important thing is that they are deee licious! (Ground up oreo cookies mixed in cream cheese, covered with white dipping chocolate--how can you go wrong with those ingredients.)
I'm not sure if my now vast experience in candy making will cause me to attempt any more of such nonsense. Either way, ready or not, here we go to the shower!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Double Fun

Tucking my camera into my bag is not first on my mind when I prepare to go to work at 5 a.m. I wish it was, though, so I could give you a glimpse of life in the busy newborn nursery at our large city hospital. Early in the morning, while the doctors are making rounds and disrupting sleeping newborns by examining them, the babies grow impatient with hunger and the crescendo of sometimes 30-plus babies crying rises to a loud pitch. We nurses can block out the sound, unless it's all quiet and only one baby is crying. Also our ears are tuned to a different sound, when it's a more serious cry meaning something is wrong, or a baby chokes, and we rush to save a life.

Summers seem to be especially busy for some reason (count back nine months). A full moon or a storm a-brewing always brings in the babies any time of the year. (I can actually look at the moon at night and know how busy the next day will be.) But this summer it has been wildly busy (good job security). And what has been most unusual is the number of "multiples." Primarily twins. Twice last week we had FIVE sets. Never in my many years of working there have I ever seen that. They were all about 36 weeks of age. It almost got confusing! They take extra care to be sure they regulate their temperature adequately and and are eating well. So sweet!

Photo: my twin aunts, who as a young child I collectively called "Aunt Twinnies"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trusting the World Again

"I began to trust the world again, not to give me what I wanted, for I saw it could not be trusted to do that, but to give unforeseen goods and pleasures that I had not thought to want."

And so we gathered around another table to feast on the riches of friendship, reading, and Hannah Coulter, and all she could teach us about life. Wendell Berry amazed us with his insight into womanhood, aging, farming, grieving, and much more. It is difficult to give even a glimpse into a book where there is so much to think on. It's a book to be read again and again, soaking in its wisdom, its beauty of words strung together and hung on a line right into our hearts. It met us in ways we never would have dreamed at the time we chose this book for our book club.

"... Little happinesses did come, and they came from ordinary pleasures in ordinary things--the baby, sunlight, breezes, animals and birds, daily work, rest when I was tired, food, strands of fog in the hollow early in the morning, butterflies, flowers ..."

Late into the night we stayed, our thoughts forming words to share about what we took from the book. Talking about small towns, farms, war, our lives in an urban setting, quietness, children leaving our homes ...

"After your expectations have gone their way and your future is getting along the best it can as an honest blank, you shape your life according to what it is. We had a lot of years still ahead of us. It was up to us to make them good, and we did."

I think we will all be visiting Hannah Coulter again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

grace on four wheels

I love my w-lmart routine, when it works. I go early in the morning, before the place livens up. I park at the far end right next to a cart return and go in the garden center. I get my exercise walking to the farthest point for milk and eggs, and return to the garden center to my favorite (older women) checkers. We actually know each other and chat a bit. It's so much more peaceful in the garden center, away from screaming kids and long lines. I try to keep the whole deal a secret so no one else gets this idea and it becomes a noisy, crowded place.

Of course a good cart with four functioning wheels always makes the day go better, as any historic readers of this blog will know. I have a thing about those WM shopping carts. Last time the wheel was so bad I had sore arms and was exhausted after wrestling the cart, full of food, from the farthest corner to my check out ladies.

So today I go and look at the long line of waiting carts. If I choose one closest to me, and it doesn't work, then I can still grab one at the other end of the line, closest to the door. One of my favorite checkers was messing with the carts at the far end. I took a cart and with a sinking feeling noted the wheels were going four different directions. Amazingly, she noticed too, and understood. "Here," checker-turned-friend said, "Take this one. It works."

What a smooth ride I had. I sailed through the shopping trip. Such a small piece of grace meaning so much to me. When I checked out with my wheel-checking-checker, we discussed the dismal shape of the shopping carts. She knows, and told me most of them are bad, and they keep bugging management about it. It's so nice someone else understands (and actually cares about customer satisfaction). Such a simple thing to make a day just a little bit better.

Photo: Little One, not in WM, but with shoes and ball from WM.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Thousands of Words

Pictures, that is, are worth a thousand or more words. This is one of my all-time favorites pictures because there is so much to see in it. My sister took it in Italy, showing her artistic talent in yet another form (photography.) I love the sense of peace that I feel when looking at this. (Also love the color of the car.) Seeing clothes drying on a line always gives me a contented feeling. I think that it is afternoon. Errands are done, the laundry is drying, the stew is slowly simmering, and ... through the open door a soft breeze is blowing ... don't you feel a nap coming on? Maybe that's why all seems peacefully quiet right now. My guess is the cooker of meals is quite in shape from climbing those stairs with her daily groceries. And when children play, their voices ring in an echo throughout the courtyard, don't you think?

First published in August 2007; photo by lulu
For more "reruns," see Happy To Design.

Friday, August 07, 2009

showing your age

Our culture today seems to prolong adolescence. Maybe we are obsessed with youthfulness. We certainly try to stay young or young looking and acting as long as possible. In my grandparents' day this was not the case. People generally became adults and married at a younger age and looked their age sooner than we like to today. I have always been fascinated with photos of my grandparents' generation especially (I think my parents' generation have kept fairly young looking.) Case in point, the photo above. These two ladies apparently were friends of my late aunt. My guess is that they are in their 50s more or less. Granted the clothes were probably somewhat in style (not that that mattered all that much in those days) but, do you see what I mean? They certainly look their age or older! And I look at photos of my grandmother at a younger age than I am now, and she looks like a little old lady! Maybe they had more on their mind back then––like surviving the war and the great depression, earning money for their family––and therefore just accepted life as it came to them. I wonder why we, in the culture of today, constantly seek that fountain of youth.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Two languages needed to be a grandmother? No one told me. But I've learned after spending some quality time with Little One that sign language is something I should learn. When I see her hands moving, I've come to realize it's not all random movement, but she's talking. She already knows a lot of words in English, but her vocabulary also includes some signing, which she has absorbed through watching what she will tell you is called "signing time." She hasn't watched it all that much either, but her little mind is a sponge! Sometimes she'll say the word and sign at the same time. After watching with her, my old brain processed a few words. So when we decided it was time for a bath, I didn't say the word, but stroked from my shoulders downward and she knew where we were headed. Bilingual at age one.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

describing beauty

"He talked quite naturally while we ate about the difficulty of finding words to describe the luminous mist, and why one has the desire to describe beauty.... Perhaps it is an attempt to possess it, I said, or be possessed by it, perhaps that's the same thing. Really I suppose it's the complete identification with beauty one's seeking."

from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Come For Tea

A silly "thrill of a lifetime" for me was being served a true Dorset tea by an English woman in her 250 year old house in the little town of Wareham, England, surrounded by Saxon walls (though half the size of what they had originally been). This is living in real history. The old house is in incredible shape, with inside shutters and an amazing English garden in the back. This is one of those houses whose door opens right up on the winding village street, each house attached to the next.

We entered through the tiny car park at the back gate. The "coffee" table was laid with the tea things. Napkins, small sterling silver butter knives, small blue and white plates, cups and saucers, and the cream and sugar. After we had given our greetings, we sat down and out came the tea pot, a plate of buttered scones, a plate of buttered raisin toast and a Dorset apple loaf cake. And of course, raspberry jam and divine clotted cream that was the "cream of the crop." The very finest top of the cream. It looked like yellow butter. The proper way, though much debated, is to put the jam on first and then a touch of the cream. Milk in the teacup first of course. Mmmmmm. Around and around the lovely goodies were passed. "You must have some more." It seemed the thing to take more than one, and have seconds at that. (This type of nonsense must only be allowed because the Brits walk so much!) I was so touched. I just sat and thoroughly enjoyed the moment, taking it all in, not believing I was where I was.

Interesting conversation with the tea preceded a tour of the house. Then we walked down the road to the 11th century parish church...where there was a flower festival wrapping up. We saw a cast iron baptismal font that was carefully hidden when Lord Cromwell turned anything made of iron into canon balls. The church had been burned once, rebuilt, and at one time fell down. But the very front chapel in one corner is original. It is now a prayer room. As I stared at the small chairs gathered for their current mid week prayer service, I could not help but sense history in a tangible way. Here believers had gathered throughout history and prayed for things like the Black Plague, the French Revolution, the War of 1812--you get the picture.

First written in August 2006. For more favorite reposts see Happy To Design.
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