Wednesday, September 30, 2009

girls' night out

Our large church had a girls' night out last week--groups of eight organized in homes for a meal together. Our director of women's ministries arranged each group and I didn't know most of the women coming to my house. It was great fun getting to know new friends.

I used my Johnson Brothers' Old Mill dishes as they certainly go with an autumn theme.
My grandmother had this pattern later in her life, and my mother inherited them after Grandmother died. I absolutely loved this pattern, so chose it for our "everyday" dishes when we got married. Very soon I got tired of seeing them at both my house and my mom's and eventually put the dishes away for years. Now I love using them, especially when our extended family gathers around the table, for they bring a host of memories. I now have my own, my grandmother's, and my mother's, so have quite a large collection.

I asked each girl to bring a "show and tell" that could fit in her purse--something about herself that would help us get to know each other. They brought things like a coupon notebook, photos, a journal, a fan, beads, an i-phone, and college team towels! It was effective, as I still remember interesting things about each girl. We had a great time around the table. You know, when women get together, conversation flows pretty smoothly!
For more tablescapes, see Between Naps on the Porch.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

a peek at the weather

When I was young did I notice the weather so much? Maybe it's because I live in the south now, and the weather can be so varied. I can't let today go by without a mention of our beautiful, gorgeous fall weather that has suddenly arrived. Cool, crisp mornings, and not so warm sunny days are predicted for this whole week. Last week we had dark skies and high humidity as it tried to rain. Finally the rain came on the weekend, clearing the air. Amazing the energy such weather brings!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

wedding memories

Fall has come, but memories remain of a wedding not so long ago, in an old church that sits in the middle of downtown. It used to be the chapel for an orphanage. Now it schedules weddings every two hours on weekends. The sense of those gone before fills us and makes us pause ... and then the bride begins her walk down the aisle.

For more Mosaics on Monday, see Little Red House.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Simply Put

IT WAS A VERY BUSY DAY ... no time to stop and catch my breath. Ten wee ones to care for, 10 mothers to teach, multiple blood tests to do, admissions to admit, etc. Midst it all, I lost my notes that told me many important details on each patient. My worst fear. I lost them for a long time and was helpless without them. I looked and looked and looked as panic began to set in. I'd been praying, but realized I needed to stop and focus on praying. "Lord, show me please." Very slowly, as if in a time lapse, a picture came out of darkness into a clear focus. And I knew where to look. There they were. Tucked under a baby's crib.

For the rest of that day it didn't matter how pressed I was, for I sailed around as if the best thing had just happened to me. God heard and answered my prayer. He rescued me.

Originally published Sept. 22, 2007.
For more Sunday favorites see Happy To Design.

taking stock

It's a "British kind of day," we say on days like this. The air has cooled down and rain comes on and off. We enjoy even more a warm cup of coffee or tea, and find ourselves looking for a sweater! Soup is simmering on the stove. Can it be fall has really arrived? It's luxurious not to have to go anywhere today, and the Gardener and I are enjoying "puttering" around the house.

After my "fence dream" post I wondered if I did not sound thankful. It was meant only to say what a lesson it is to me to realize the "grass is not greener" on the other side of the fence. Being thankful for what we have is always a good exercise, that needs to be done frequently throughout the day. So this morning I took stock.

The list is longer than I can even comprehend in my mind, but a few are: today; God's grace flowing towards me like a river for the next thing I need it for (in a minute, right?) (per John Piper's analogy); a husband who cares for my mother as much as for us; two boys God gave to us as a gift--who bring much joy mixed with a little spice; a sweet granddaughter who has a wonderful mother; a warm home filled with things that bring thoughts of others; the opportunity to love babies and teach their moms how to care for them; a mother who answers the phone in her beloved, familiar voice when I call her every day; and freedom for many things, including--and especially--worshipping the God I love.

Of course there are many more.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

fence dreams

Sometimes during those rare moments when my brain slows down, I have dreams of how I wish life could be. Not that I'm not content, but just those---"allow myself to slip over the grass to the other side of the fence" moments. I'm sure that for many of these dreams, once they would actually take place I'd say, "What was so great about this?"

Sometimes I wish that:
*I could read the paper over coffee in the mornings, sun streaming in the windows.
*I could watch TV morning news shows (probably one day of this would suffice).
*I had a green thumb so I could produce a beautiful garden and flowers that flourished.
*I had a mind that could comprehend better, and an ear that listened well.
*I lived on a block in a neighborhood where I could walk to the center of town. This obviously comes from my "Leave it to B*eaver" childhood where life was just like that.
*I didn't have so much dizziness in life with working two jobs, endless projects, care for people, obligations, etc. so that I had plenty of time to leisurely plan well and to leisurely care for others well.
*I could settle down to read more books.
*I could actually plan out a week of menus.
*I could take an afternoon nap next to an open window, curtains blowing in a gentle, warm breeze.
*Little One lived in our town so we could pour ourselves into her life.

BUT, our neighbors have a fence between our yard and theirs, and when I look over, I see that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. It's a good illustration and a good reminder to me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

fall, you are welcome

Even though everything, in a sense, is dying or going dormant during the fall season, I welcome it as it brings new energy, a wonderful change from a stiffling hot summer, and, somehow, new hope for the cycle or renewal of life that the changing of seasons illustrates to us.

I had some time to putter around the house last weekend and enjoyed changing things around a bit, welcoming signs of a new season.

Some leaves are already changing color and daintily dropping to the ground. But we will still be raking these leaves into December!

Check out Rhondi's Rose Colored Glasses for more "Welcome to Fall!"

Monday, September 21, 2009

new life in the garden

There I sat, alone in the surgical waiting room. The Gardener was having his ruptured appendix cared for. I don't remember feeling scared, but I probably was. I was only 26 or 27. Communication was not instant back then. No cell phones, no computers, no easy way to grab some friends to come and sit with me, especially with late night emergency surgery. I remember the doctor coming out and telling me how bad it was but how he thought he got the infected fluid pretty well cleaned out. Time would tell, he told me, as he got ready to leave for the night. Relatives didn't stay overnight at the hospital back then like they sometimes do now, so after things seemed stable, I drove home to our dark apartment.

I loved our little cozy second story flat along the railroad tracks, noisy as it was when a train came along. I had painted every room to my heart's content. I climbed the steps, unlocked the door, and turned on the lights, heading to our sweet little green bedroom under the alcoves. I had plants in the window ... or my attempt at them, as I didn't have a "green thumb" then and still don't. I don't remember much about any of that time, but this moment of turning on the bedroom light is as clear as if it had just happened.

Over in the window, a little dying asparagus fern I loved had sprung to life. New, healthy growth sprouted all over a previously dried up plant--just during my long day of work and the long night of the G's surgery. It was clear that it was a message from God, the Author of life. He could give a dying plant life, and He could give the Gardener new life.

This summer some major heat and lack of water about killed some of our garden plants. As the weather has tempered a bit, they too have come to life again with new color and vigor, as if they are pleased to be back. I love it when I see that happening. It makes me think of that little asparagus plant. Renewal. New life. Tender care.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Simply Spectacular Chocolate Cake

This simple chocolate cake recipe has a touch of cinnamon taste to it. I found it in the newspaper, having been submitted by a young girl. I make it often in a 9 x 13. I've also made this in other kind of pans. It's flexible -- it's my favorite! It is so moist that people exclaim every time I serve it!

Chocolate Applesauce Cake (makes 12 servings)
2 1/2 C flour
1/2 C baking cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks margarine or butter (3/4 cup) at room temperature
2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C applesauce
1 C buttermilk (or plain yogurt, or regular milk with a tsp of lemon juice or vinegar)
1/3 C boiling water

Heat oven to 350. Grease baking pan
Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In larger bowl mix sugar and butter, add eggs one at a time, applesauce and vanilla. Beat well. Add 1/3 of dry mix, and 1/3 of milk and continue to all added. Mix well and add 1/3 cup boiling water. And beat again. Batter will be thick. Pour into pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool before serving or adding powdered sugar on top.

This is a good cake to make ahead and it stays good for days. It is also so simple to serve. After it cools, or just after slicing, sprinkle with some powdered sugar for a pretty effect. Try a lace doilie for a design. Or a simple heart (but the cake must be cool and just to be served for the design to stay fresh). And what is it about chocolate cake? Always good with vanilla ice cream or a glass of milk, but this one does not need icing! For more yummy things to eat, see Foodie Fridays.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sunday Dinner

Sunday dinner seems to be a dying tradition. Sort of old fashioned, but we like to keep traditions. There is something leisurely about having such a meal, especially with friends and family gathered together. And after a big meal at noon, don't we feel like a traditional "Sunday afternoon nap?" This past weekend we had eight around our table for Sunday dinner.

The best way to manage such a thing is to prepare as much ahead of time as possible. I set the table simply; that's just how I want it to be on such a day.

Fresh flowers from the garden are the best! So sweet, though small and simple.
The dessert is made the day before.

Sunday morning I get up early and prepare as much as I can. The salad plates are waiting.

The tomatoes and other salad fixings are washed.

The serving dishes await.

The chicken is ready for the oven.

The make-ahead whipped potatoes to be rewarmed.

Teapot and cups stand at attention.

I set the oven timer. That is where the faith comes in. While we are at church, will the oven go on and do it's baking? My heart always skips a beat when I come home after church and unlock the door. Will the kichen be warm and basking in delicious scents? The oven timer drama adds just a touch of intrigue!

The guests lingered. That's always a good sign. We enjoyed a wonderful time together.

Be sure to stop by Between Naps on the Porch for more tablescape views.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

a simple change

Sometimes you just need a little change. Maybe no time for much, but just a little breeze of a change. I've wanted to add some kind of curtain at this door-less door frame going from our bedroom to the "anteroom" connecting to our bathroom. (It has a counter and a sink, and I call it either the "anteroom" or "the room I really don't need.")

I was so busy last week with a project I had very little time to devote to home, but I felt the need desperately. It somehow gives me a lift to do something little and quotidian. I found a slim tension rod when I was out at the store. I came home and searched through my grandmother's hope chest (at the end of the bed) and found some old lace. Then I went to my ribbon box and found an old ribbon that was both green and blue (the color of the two rooms that the curtain would divide.
I had mentioned the idea to the Gardener on and off and he wasn't impressed with the thought. But I did it anyway. That night I went to bed before him, hoping he wouldn't trip on it or something as he hadn't seen (or at least noticed it) yet. The next morning he admitted he liked it! Just a small change, bringing a smile!

For more wonderful metamorphases, see Between Naps on the Porch!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How to Cut an Orange

"Do it lovingly--in perfect quarters like little boats, or in staggered exfoliations like a flat map of a round world, or in one long spiral, as my grandfather used to do. Nothing is more likely to become garbage than an orange rind; but for as long as anyone looks at it in delight, it stands a million triumphant miles from the trash heap.

"That, you know, is why the world exists at all. It remains outside the cosmic garbage can of nothingness, not because it is such a solemn necessity that nobody can get rid of it, but because it is the orange peel hung on God's shoulders like a chandelier, the wishbone in His kitchen closet. He likes it; therefore it stays."

--from Robert Farrar Capon in The Supper of the Lamb, our next book club read. I've barely begun it, and already am collecting quotes from it. This will be fun!

This was first published Feb. 2008, and is probably the post from my blog most accessed via internet search. I guess a lot of people want to know how to cut an orange! The book was great fun, by the way.

For more Sunday favorites see Happy to Design.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

a little bit of blue heaven

Walking into the home of a blogging friend, who you've known only through her blog, is a bit like entering a TV set, or something that is very familiar. It's hard to describe the feeling. Rhondi, of Rose Colored Glasses (isn't interesting how we label ourselves "of such and such a blog" just like we would say "of such and such" a town?), and I live very near each other. She invited me over for tea, knowing I love afternoon tea, and love all things blue. I thought I had a lot of blue and white in my house ... well, she has much more, and has it all so tastefully arranged among other colors that you are not overcome by blue, but just delighted by it all. I loved looking around and seeing things I've seen over the years by reading her blog. That and her lovely quilts--which she designed and made herself--were just a feast for the eyes.

I've seen this blue and white tea set many times on her blog and even read the story about it. So it was a special treat that she used it for our tea!

And we hit it off right away ... lots of common interests, and even a common friend! It was a fun afternoon, and just proved a benefit of being in the blogging world--friendship. I felt like I'd known her a long time! Thanks, Rhondi!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

At One?

"Hi!" "Hi!" "Hi!" Little One, at 15 months loves to greet everyone, persisting until she gets a response. Yesterday, we were on a boat and went to fill the gas tank. A handsome young man pumped the gas and I saw her notice him right away. She said "hi" over and over. I finally caught his attention and let him know a little girl was trying to say hello. When he gave her attention and said hi back, Little One melted. She slid down on the seat, giggled, looked back at him, smiled, and made squealing sounds. It was really funny. When he left, she sat up high to watch him leave, saying and waving "bye." Maybe its an instinct we're born with. A better title here might be "Born to Flirt."

Photo by DB.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Fall is in the Air!

There is a hint of fall in the air here in the south, even at this early date. We are thankful. Of course it makes me think of all things fall--traveling in cooler temperatures, making soup, hot drinks, projects around the house, getting out the winter recipes ... all because the cooler air brings energy! (Click on for larger view.)

For more beautiful mosaics, see Little Red House.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Things ...

... that is: small towns, back roads, old doors, windows, flowers (especially daisies), my friend's home-made quilts, mailboxes (for what they contain), and tea with all its trappings. Of course there's more. Life is full of favorite things!

From the archives: this was originally posted in November 2007. For more Sunday favorites, see Happy to Design.
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