Friday, December 31, 2010

farewell 2010

Some random favorite photos from 2010. As always, a picture helps me to remember
... and there have been many good times to remember from this past year, all with a heart of gratitude.
 Best wishes in the new year.

Connecting to Dear Little Red House. Check it out for more mosaics!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Every afternoon around four o'clock there's a rustle at the door and the sound of a key turning the lock. The door swings open. The Staff has arrived. It's the highlight of the day.

Yawn, the rest of the day is pretty boring ... lounging on the couch, staring out the window, an occasional romp or attempt at mischief.

But this time of day is best. If it's the Tall One, there's usually some lingering to play a bit. If it's the Mother, there is some sweet talk but not a lot of petting, and she seems a bit preoccupied. Fresh water, clean litter, more food. Then watching while they make quick dash in the Closed Door Room to water a plant. A chance to run in there and hide in hopes of extending the visit a bit.

Before you know it, it's lights out, alarm on, key in the door, and away They go. Quiet house again.


I'm not a "cat person" but we are taking care of our neighbors cats for an extended period of time. I feel sorry for them alone all day. Occasionally they leave us an overt message of displeasure, but for the most part it's going well and I'm adjusting. I'm even finding them a little cute. Like when I check the house for their mischief and they run from room to room with me like little children showing off their good behavior. I noticed that they waited until the day after Christmas to start undecorating the tree. Could they know?

But I sure I understand why some say that "Dogs have masters and cats have Staff."

not my photo

Sunday, December 26, 2010

christmas card

We had a white Christmas. Well sort of. It started snowing after dark, so officially we had snow on Christmas. But when I woke early this morning, Boxing Day, the world was white with new fallen snow. As I drove to work with big flakes bouncing on the windshield. I was astounded by the beauty. Many homes, particularly the larger ones towards downtown, had their Christmas lights on, reflecting softly on the snow. Since I don't remember a snow like this at Christmas, I realized that for the first time our fair southern city looked like a Christmas card. I'm so glad I had that beautiful drive this morning! With the dropping temperatures tonight, we may have the snow around for at least part of another day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

to stand or to sit

We were planning 13 around our table last week ... 13 was a squeeze so I 
decided I'd be what I call a "Swedish mom" (not sure where I got that from)
 and would not sit at the table but serve everyone. 
I'd would just pull up a chair to the side to join in coffee and dessert.

Sometimes I actually prefer that; it seems easier.

But at the last minute one person canceled, so I found myself sitting at the table. 
We were pleased to so easily fit 12 around the table, and enjoyed using
 the beautiful "pearl-like" poinsettia tablecloth my SIL gave us.

It was cozy,  to say the least. 

Merry Christmas!

Connecting to Between Naps on the Porch for other tablescapes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

ready and waiting

My mother gave me these punch cups with her punch bowl long ago. I never dreamed how often I'd use them--especially the cups, as I did for hot cider the other night. They are very old, but sturdy and just keep going. As I looked at them lined up on a festive tray, I just had to get my camera. I'm such a "visual" person!

Linking up to Mary's Little Red House for Monday's Mosaics!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

about the Manger

From my sister's Christmas letter: "Each Christmas as we struggle to preserve a sense of worship and gratitude amidst all the busyness which accompany this time of year, it seems as though there is some point [when] God breaks through and moves me with a song or verse, or maybe a word from a friend, and I am blessed. This year it was the last line of one of the songs in our choir cantata, sung as a solo by a sweet and clear soprano voice: 'The manger held it all.' So simple and so profound.

"Everything we need in this life and the next was held in that Bethlehem manger 2000 years ago. Our hopes, desires, dreams, and above all our need for forgiveness and fellowship with God, are all gathered up and met in Christ Jesus. One of [our] father's favorite Christmas carols, 'O Little Town of Bethlehem' says, 'The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.'"

This is the second time I've reposted these thoughts from three years ago. Please see Chari's Happy to Design for more Sunday reposts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

letters from afar

One thing I enjoy so much this time of year is sitting down with a
hot cup of tea and visiting with old friends!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

altered soup

Brrr ... it is cold outside.  A friend said today that 15 degrees is a lot colder to a southerner than to a northerner because our old bones we aren't used to such cold, nor do we have the "equipment." For instance, today I wore a fleece jacket which is usually adequate for our winters. So we layer underneath. But realistically, how many layers one person wear? We have to be able to move our arms, etc.!

Seems like all I want is to do is slurp hot soup or sip hot tea or coffee. I made what has become one of my favorite soups the other day. Here's my altered recipe. Each time I make it a little differently, of course ... and it's a healthy soup for sure.

Salmon/Sweet Potato Soup
1 large chopped onion sauteed in
3 Tb butter; add:
1/4 C flour
3 C chicken broth
2 C milk
1 large sweet potato peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 pound skinless salmon fillets (or chicken pieces) OR canned salmon, which I use
1 small broccoli stalk cut into small pieces (I used fresh spinach instead)
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

I sauted the onion, adding the sweet potato after a short bit. And then I put it all together.

Stay warm!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

around the house

It's finally looking a bit like Christmas around here.

Can you hear the music playing?

See Mary's Little Red House for more Mosaics!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

my big white bowl

My mother recently gave this big "pasta bowl" to me. 
 It's a family heirloom for sure.
The company that made it began in 1835 (Petrus Regout). Sure enough there is the oval "P. Regout" stamp on the back of the bowl. My great-great grandmother, Klazina, packed it up and brought it from Holland in 1888, when she traveled here with her girls after her husband died of smallpox. 
I wonder what all Klazina used it for, and why she chose to bring this particular bowl. 
Certainly there would be plenty to buy in the "new world."
 (But they were not wealthy, apparently the family lost all their money in a huge fire.)
I've already filled it with fruit, and now with some Christmas balls. I'm sure I'll find all kinds of things to do with my bowl--all very carefully of course! And here's something to ponder: Did my great-great grandmother ever think it would last through four generations, and that a female descendent 
would do such a thing as    b  -  l -   o  -  g     about it? Hardly!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

do you hear what I hear?

It's amazing how here in the (currently frigid) sunny south, the slightest hint of a snowflake or a touch of sleet can cause the "it feels like Christmas" spirit to swoop down onto all things. A cold, chill-to-the-bone drenching rain added even more to that feeling as we went into the city the other night for Christmas at the symphony.

The crush of cars and people (a big football game was taking place) and the Christmas and city lights shining even brighter in the rain, caused us to think for the briefest of moments that we might be in the "big apple." Sharing the evening with friends added to the festive time.

We climbed up to the "nosebleed" section where we had an excellent ariel view of the jazz pianist's hands on the keys, working his craft. This evening has been a traditional birthday gift to the Gardener over the years, but last year he missed most of December homebound with the agony of shingles. So this year, it was doubly sweet to snuggle close to him as we shared the delight of the sounds of Christmas. I never take his company for granted; his sitting beside me is something to thank God for every day.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

again, messy deeds

The other day I lingered in bed after the phone call came telling me I could stay home from work. The luxury of sleeping in tempted me briefly, but is easier said than done when my mind begins to work. I wiggled my toes and stretched as I thought of the luxury of unplanned free time. The gift of a day. Maybe I would just spend the whole day reading. Or making a few Christmas cookies. Definitely time for myself.

Then I remembered an elderly friend who had been rushed to the hospital the night before. I should check on her and maybe I should take my mom along with me to visit her. There was someone else I needed to visit in another hospital too. And find a plant to take to her. And then there was another older lady who I needed to help with a change to a new drug plan. Suddenly my day seemed to be planned for me as I hopped out of bed to start it. I decided, OK, this would be a day of "giving to others." I pictured myself serenely gliding through the day, bestowing acts of kindness on others like the sprinkling of fairy dust.

Well it certainly did not turn out that way. I did do what I needed and wanted to do, but it was a big case of one thing can lead to another. Throw in the mix holiday traffic, not finding the right plant at the store where I thought it would be, and dealing with some extremely inept insurance people on the phone for an hour reducing me to tears. The day deteriorated rapidly.

I came home with a splitting headache many hours later (long after I would have arrived home from work). I had a talk with myself on the way. What led me to believe that acts of kindness come wrapped in ease? Did I think I was owed a "smooth sailing" just because I was helping others? Nowhere does God say our doing good for others will be pain free. If anyone knows about that, He does.

One of my prized possessions is a little soup bucket. The story, as I understand it, is that my great grandmother used it to take soup to sick people. I have a mental picture of a tiny Dutch woman in her heavy brown cape, walking down a city street carrying a little pot of soup and probably a basket of bread too. My soup bucket reminds me to think of others. My guess is that she didn't have an easy time with her good deeds either. 

Originally written December 2007. I still find helping others is messy, don't we all?
See Chari's Happy to Design for other Sunday favorites.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

no elves in a row here

Our house doesn't look like Christmas yet, except for the tree up, thanks to our kids helping at Thanksgiving. I am trying to take life as it comes and not wish to have all my Christmas "elves in a row" like they have been in other years. These days I'm consumed with moving my mother to her new home in assisted living and then cleaning out her apartment. Every step I take holds memories dear, and even some new things to discover about my parents. It's not just moving ... it's much more, and something that cannot be done overnight.

And a poignant moment: as we were literally moving some of mom's furniture to her new room, just down the hall, in a room quiet except for soft music coming from a small cd player, a friend's mother left this earth. I was so glad I could leave my task and go down to be with her for a bit.

And for some reason, comfort came from a photo e-mailed this morning from a friend in England. I've stayed in her house and know this scene out her window ... somehow it brings a smile to think of her snowed in--snuggled down with her hot tea and blankets.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

who knew?

I don't have a great knowledge about silver stuff. What silver (-plate, most likely) I got for wedding presents, I eventually got rid of. And now, of course, I wish I had them gleaming in my china cabinet. I've always admired my mother's little salt and pepper shakers. And I've wondered why one top was glass and the other silver. Since I'm silver-clueless, I asked her the other day.
"Oh," she answered very matter-of-factly, "Don't you know that salt tarnishes silver?"

As long as my dear mother lives, there will always be something I can learn from her. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

some hard rock at home


I've always been happy with our gray speckled laminate kitchen countertops. So when Eldest son, who installs granite countertops, wanted to give us granite in our kitchen, I didn't really care either way. In fact, I was a little apprehensive about what it would look like. But I knew he took pride in his work, so we agreed--after all, the price was unbeatable! He worked long and hard to find us just the right color--black with some gray flecks and even a dash of blue as a nod to my love of blue and white dishes.

The big day of installation arrived. I had other obligations so missed the whole show, which maybe was a good thing. When I arrived home, I could not believe how good they looked. I am both touched and thrilled. And what I love most about them is he knew me well enough to choose exactly what I would like. His love of granite and all its many varieties does remind me of when he was little, and loved to collect rocks and quartz, etc.


I've come to notice something interesting about granite. No matter what I set on its shiny black surface--the humblest left over container ... or my grocery list ... or even a banana peel-- the granite makes each thing look so, so good! It's like it all gets dressed up ... just like how the plainest person can look so much better wearing fine clothes and a little make up. I'm sure there is a life application here, but my brain is tired at the moment, so I'll leave you to think about it.

Linking to Between Naps on the Porch for Metamorphosis Monday

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

raising the song

"Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home."

Monday, November 22, 2010

bag lady

I like to organize but don't think I usually do a great job ... but there is one thing that I just love to do when we are expecting house guests for several days. When I finally get to sitting down and planning meals, I write out the     h   u   g   e    ,    l  o  n   g    grocery list. And with a prayer for clear thinking, I head to the store. Usually the recipes are well known to me by now, so when I come home I separate the ingredients for each meal into piles. And each pile goes back into a bag.  I have a wonderful closet under the stairs which holds far more than it should, but there's always room for those grocery bags. (And I bet an official organizer could do a lot with this little nook of a closet.) The bags are all lined up in there now, for company is a'comin' soon.

When it comes time to make a meal, I just go grab the bag for that meal! I surprise myself with my cleverness . . . LOL.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

just do it for me ...

In recent years I have started decorating for Christmas pretty early. I get it all out in the spare room and do a little at a time. But it seems harder and harder for me to lug out all the stuff and decorate, especially since I am on my own now to do it (though I still try to reign in some of the young folk to trim the tree when they come around). And while our house used to be filled to the brim with relatives, Christmas is getting quieter and quieter as babies have come, expanding families, and making it hard to travel and all fit under one roof. So this year it will be just us, an occasional pop in from my mother living nearby, and some in's and out's from our children. And maybe a small or large party or two.

So, wondering if I had it in me to drag it all out and decorate this year, I suggested to the Gardener that I pare it down even more than I already have in recent years. Now the Gardener does not have a lot of great memories of childhood Christmases, so Christmas with our family in our cozy house means a lot to him.

He cut my chatter short. "Just do it for me, only me," he said quietly.

Will do my love, with pleasure.

Reposting from November 2007 and could be written today. Joining with Chari's Happy to Design  for Sunday "reruns."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

a brighter place

My mother's number rose to 89 today. We had a good time. All her children got together to give her one of those electronic photo frames. Youngest helped me load on the photos but I still don't have it right, for if I can't figure out how to easily turn it on, how will she? So it remains at our house until ....

We treated her to a favorite Italian restaurant. But before that she spoke on the phone to sister, daughter, son, friend ... and the very icing on the cake--her first skype session with a brand new great grandson (#2 of a set of twins, yes you read that correctly--#1 twin was away in nicu working on some breathing issues) from his hospital room! He yawned, stretched, cooed, opened his eyes, and turned to look at his grandma who was holding him. Yep, we saw and heard it all. After we "hung up" mom turned to me and said,"What an amazing world we live in."

The best fun of the night was in a card from a friend that mom and I share. Her humor is unstoppable. The above image is scanned from her card and inside she penned, "Has anyone tried putting all your candles on a cake? It certainly would make your world a brighter place!"

Well, no we haven't tried fitting all those candles on a cake. In fact, there was no cake at all this year, only brownies from a friend (as long as it's chocolate we're good here.) But it was a wonderful birthday, blessed by abundance of new friends (most of her old ones are no longer on this earth), family, and the smiles of now 8 great grandchildren!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

color feast

It might be me, but I think this autumn has been the most spectacular fall we've seen in years. The colors took awhile coming, but once finally here, they have been fabulous.

The red, brown, yellow, gold, and orange set against the still green leaves or the ever present green pines have been a sight to behold. Add in the mix our deep blue skies --- or even a gray day ... either background shows off the vibrant leaf colors like shiny jewels.

Maybe it's because I've been so busy this season, and have been driving to my mother's each day, but the time in the car looking at all the color has been a true feast for my eyes and for my soul.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

autumn in a garden

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

See Little Red House for more mosaics!

Friday, November 12, 2010

zippy tea

When the girls came for tea the other night I opened a new box of tea a friend had given me. It was made by Aveda and called tea/th`e (sorry I can't get the accent right over the "e").  Organic of course. When you take the first sip, its rather bland and reminded me of camomile tea, which I often drink before bed. But just as you are about to swallow the sip, something explodes in your mouth and it's truly delightful. Everyone then had to try some and we all were exclaiming as the delicious flavors of licorice root, peppermint leaf, sweet fennel, and basil filled our mouths (ingredients per the beautiful organic-looking box). Also according to the box, this tea should calm your senses and promote a sense of well-being. I'm not sure we noticed that, we were so busy enjoying the flavors but I'd definitely consider this a "party tea." Tea with a "zip."

Check out Foodie Friday for some great recipes!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

eating the scones

So the girls from our small group came over to eat the pumpkin scones ...

and some apple pie ...

and sip some hot tea.

Since they all have young children, they took note of the quiet in our house.

And enjoyed it.

I suggested some classical music, you know ... to go with the tea atmosphere.

But they preferred a quiet background to their conversation.

See Susan's Between Naps on the Porch for more tablescapes.

pumpkin scones

                                3/4  C canned pumpkin puree        1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
                                1/4 C melted butter                         1 egg
                                1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce             1/2 tsp. salt
                                2 tsp chili-flavored oil                    1 2/3 C flour                                   
                                ground white or black petter           2 1/2 tsp baking powder                
                                1/2 tsp baking soda                         Milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In large bowl combine pumpkin, parmesan, melted butter, egg, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and oil. Stir to mix.
In another bowl mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Fold into pumpkin mixture until combined into a dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat into a one inch thick oval. Cut dough into scones using a round 2-inch biscuit cutter. Place about one inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush tops with milk to glaze. Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Cool slightly and serve warm with butter (or good with cream cheese as well).
You can freeze baked scones in airtight containers for a month; Thaw for an hour at room temperature. Wrap in foil and reheat in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. Unbaked scones can be put on baking sheets linedwith parchment paper and frozen up to three months. Do not thaw before baking as directed, simply add 2-3 minutes to the baking time. Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens,

I gave the Gardener a sample and he declared them good and, desiring of a second, he had to hear the sad word, 
"They're saved." Friends coming over for a little tea party tonight. I like their savory flavor.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

another wedding

A recent wedding in a small town church where the Gardener grew up. Coincidentally, the grooms from this wedding and last week's wedding mosaic both happen to be 6'4" or taller. (Tall men always seem so tall to me, which is strange, since I look up to the Gardener all the time (6'6") and am quite used to his height.)

Connecting to Little Red House for Monday Mosaics.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

generosity, and the lack thereof

     The day started out warm and humid with rain and threatening clouds. By the time we were on the train headed uptown the clouds had changed to bright sun. But then, as if a gift withdrawn, the wind and dark clouds furled again across the skies ... only to be replaced once more by sunshine, this time bringing cooler temperatures. Friends were taking us out to dine on a gift card they had received. So generous of them--they could have used the card three times themselves rather than sharing it with friends.
     The meal was lovely, and my entree--a favorite Chicken Marsala--was perfect. I boxed up the remains, thinking about the mouth-watering second meal it would make. And now my story splits.

Story One: Walking on the train platform, we were approached by our second panhandler of the day. A quarter for some fast food? That wouldn't buy anything. My box of food suddenly felt very heavy in my hands. Maybe I should give it to him. But I didn't, sitting it down on the bench next to me as we waited for our train. Once we hopped off the train back at our car, I realized the box wasn't with me. I'd left it on the bench. Serves me right, I thought to myself. Quick lesson here ... and I breathed a silent prayer that panhandler friend would circle back and find the delicious meal and enjoy it for me, as he should have--if I'd been generous.

Story Two: Generous gift card friends headed home, stopping on the way to try and find a pecan pie for a church Thanksgiving dinner the next day. No pies to be found. They passed a fruit stand with a "Pecan Pie Sale" sign. Alas, it had just closed. Cash register sales tallied, all in process of being locked up for the day. 
     They made an attempt anyway, but the answer was "no," even if cash was offered. Walking back to the car, our friend noticed that the pie seller was running after them, pie in hand. "Here," she said,"take a pie. No charge. Enjoy. They are to die for. You'll love it."

Originally posted two years ago this week. See Chari's Happy to Design for more "Sunday favorites."

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