Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the unwrapping

 I felt like I was in a scene from Pride and Prejudice. That scene where the sisters pour over a letter, examining the penmanship, and looking for other clues to tell about the sender of the letter. A package from Pondside arrived in the mail this week. I had just come home from a busy 12-hour shift. Such a welcome surprise to find it waiting for me. I didn't rip it open; for awhile I just looked at it. It had come such a long distance across the country. The address was beautifully written and a heart or two here and there decorated the brown wrapping paper. Lots of tape. Just the way I send a package. I took it with me to my office, but then decided I should bring it downstairs so the Gardener could join in the fun of opening it.
 I don't often participate in blog "giveaways" and have only won one other that I can remember--an Elizabeth Goudge book from  In a Garden (she had two copies of the book; you can see one on her sidebar). But when I saw that my blogfriend Pondside was having a giveaway of a sweet counted cross stitch she had done, along with some tea...I just had to toss my name in. I used to be an avid counted cross stitcher...and I love tea...and I feel a kinship with Pondside as we share a few things (at least) in common. For one, the Gardener and I celebrated our 25th on the island where she lives. And last summer Pondside kindly helped us figure out what to do with our fireplace by searching and sending us our inspiration picture. So when I added my name I just so KNEW I would win.
 Her shoebox opened to reveal beautifully wrapped little packages, along with a sweet note in a graciously flowing handwriting (still in the Austin mode here). Three boxes of tea (each one individually wrapped and tied with a pink ribbon ... isn't the unwrapping half of the suspenseful fun?) A tea strainer with the tiniest teapot attached to keep the little chain out side the pot where it belongs, and her beautiful handwork! Thank you my creative friend! Your blog always inspires me!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bordering on the Magnificent

"My mother has been lately adding to her possessions in plate, a whole Dessert-spoon 
and six whole Teaspoons––which makes our sideboard border on the magnificent. 
They were mostly the produce of old, or useless silver."

 Written in a letter from Jane Austen to her sister, Cassandra, Dec. 27, 1808.
It sounds like Jane Austen's mother also went thrifting. 
I too enjoy finding an occasional treasure in a teaspoon ...
... or using pieces of my mother's that "take me right back" ...
For instance, sliced tomatoes in the summer were served with this round serving spoon.
Such a merry group!
Connecting to Mary's Little Red House for Monday Mosaics.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"sweet nothings"

The man was tall and wearing an overcoat while holding a hat in his hand. His snowy white hair was perfectly groomed. He had to bend slightly to talk to the pretty woman as they leaned against the wall near the door. She clasped his hand, gazing up at him with shining eyes filled with love and just a touch of shyness. After what seemed a lifetime of marriage, they now lived apart and a public hall was where they said their goodbyes. When the time came that she needed the care provided there, he came along and lived with her while she got used to the place. Once she settled in, he went back home to live. After 60 or more years of marriage, their life together was now fragmented into his visits.

For a minute I was back at the main hall downstairs at our college girls' dorm. It was near curfew and couples were lined up along the walls, whispering those "sweet nothings" that people in love whisper to each other, sneaking kisses, lingering for those last minutes before time to part.

Back to the present. The love in their eyes; his tenderness towards her--caused my eyes to turn away from their private moment. I remembered the year before my dad died and my own parents had to be separated in the same way. It was heart-wrenching but necessary, and there was some relief in that. It's just unimaginable to me that such a thing might happen to the Gardener and me. But as I've watched people grow older at the retirement community where my parents have lived for the past 20 years, I've learned the slogan I hear them repeat often: "Old age isn't for sissies." I am amazed at how they take what comes with courage, live how they need to for what health issues they face, and do it all with grace and a good dose of humor. Deep and abiding faith and love glows through their circumstances.

I hope that if such a time comes to me that I will have even an ounce of the amazing contentment, gratitude and grace that my mother––and this sweet couple––show me each day.

Photo: My parents

Monday, January 23, 2012

Afternoon Tea

Henry James wrote, "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."
Stopping during the day for a cup of tea is good for the body and is good for the soul.
 It's especially good in solitude, and it's especially good when shared with friends.
One of tea's best features is that it allows us to   s  l  o  w   down.
There is the beauty factor ... tea seems even better poured from 
a pretty pot into a pretty cup!
Connecting to Rose Chintz Cottage in celebration of her two years of sharing tea times!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

spud boats

So my mom and I were waiting for her bloodwork in a crowded waiting room. 
We were forced to found it amusing to watch a segment of RR 
cooking something my mother has made as long as I can remember. 
RR called them "fully loaded baked potatoes in another form."
 My mom calls them "potato boats."
Apparently influenced, that very night I found myself making potato boats 
to go along with our salmon. First you bake them to not quite done.
Over the years I've learned to boil some water in a pot where I will mash the
 potatoes, mainly to get the pan heated up, leaving just a tad of the water at the bottom of the pan.
Carefully slice the potatoes in half and  c a r e f u l l y  scoop the 
potato into the pot, leaving the skins intact.
Mash them with salt, pepper, butter, sour cream, whatever you want. RR 
added sharp white cheddar cheese and horseradish! My word! So under the power 
of influence, I added some grated cheese to the mix.
Fill the potato skins with the mashed potato. (Hint: I sometimes bake a small
extra potato so the "boats" can be a bit full ... they are prettier that way. My mother always 
sprinkled with paprika after adding a slice of cheese on the top. 
Bake 'til heated through. RR added another step--she wrapped the boats in
bacon x 2 and baked them on a rack! That's a bit over the top in the
cholesterol department, but I think it was for super bowl or something festive.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The King's Kids, in all shapes and sizes, gathered at the front of our church this past Sunday, standing tall or sitting straight, while waiting expectantly for the music to begin. When it did, their faces spread into huge smiles and their hands began to expressively sign the words of "Glorious Day." One after another came to the front of the group to take his or her turn to "solo" sign portions of the song. Graceful hands. Loving eyes. Shining young faces raised in joy-filled worship.

One January Sunday each year our church especially salutes Life. This year it chose to have our special needs Sunday school class lead the congregation in worship. When I could pull back from the worship for a moment, I thought about how the parents of these young adults had chosen life, and how these kids had brought––yes, many challenges––but also much joy and gladness. No hang-ups, no pride, no prejudice ... just pure and selfless love comes from the hearts of these wonderful kids––love for others, and love for their Heavenly Father.

As tears poured from my eyes, I couldn't help but notice others wiping their eyes as we watched the King's Kids' delight in worship. A standing "O" saluted their work as they high-fived each other and headed off the platform, each one accompanied by a caring adult mentor.

I'm so proud of our church's care for families with special needs' children. It's called "His Abilities."

Photo of some of my Lakeshore Block Play People. I love how this company includes diversity and little doll figures with special needs. My young nieces gifted me with a small collection as they know I'm not too old to play!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

scrapping in the thirties

Scrapbooking has been around a very long time apparently. My cousin recently sent me this crumbling scrapbook of his mom's, given to her by her grandfather, who apparently did all the cutting and pasting. My great grandfather was a very busy man with a successful building business, many rental properties, a family ministry ... yet he found time to do something like this for his granddaugthers? (since they were twins I'm guessing he made two books). The most interesting picture is the one of the woman in pants (this was the early 30s) looking in on the little girl having a tea party with her doll. I'd love to know the story behind this pic. I'm wondering why my great grandfather did this --no one seems to remember. I think I'd have picked many of the same pictures he did, but I guess that shouldn't be too much of a surprise.  :-)

Connecting to Little Red House for Monday Mosaics.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

comfort in a bowl

The older I get the more I enjoy a cold, cloudy, rainy day. I always think, "This is an English kind of day," and remember our visits there. Maybe it's because I always long to slow down and it's much easier to stay home in bad weather. I'm all for coziness, too, which comes more easily on such days. And then there's soup. Always better on a day like today with cold rain and even some sleet earlier on. Love it! Tonight I started our soup with a tuscan white bean soup from a package and then added all kinds of things. I was intrigued by what was written on the label of the package, and I must credit the brand: *lessi. It said, among other beautiful comments about soup, "There is a saying in Southern Italy that ... translates to 'Soup does seven things. It relieves your hunger, quenches your thirst, fills your stomach, cleans your teeth, makes you sleep, helps you digest, and colors your cheeks.'" And I'll add that it's a great decongestant, and, for some reason just brings one comfort!

Reposted from four years ago this month. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

spin cycle

Part of my laundry routine used to be to throw my weight across our little too-full apartment-sized washer during the spin cycle. It decreased the banging and clanging and rocking. Otherwise I thought the shaking floor would bring our elderly landlady flying up the stairs to check out the clatter. To me such a set-up was better than carting everything to a laundry mat. When we lived in Africa, I learned how to wash clothes in a bucket or agitate them with my feet in a bathtub, or, far more easy, push each item of clothing or cloth diaper through the wringer into a rinse tub with my spanking brand-new, but old-fashioned wringer washer. Then they were hung on a line in the sun and hopefully dried before the afternoon rains. It seems however I did the laundry all those early years of married life, it left a lot to be desired, at least in my mind

For 12 years now I've gratefully enjoyed a small laundry room on the main floor of our house. It's really painless to use. But I  do    l  o  v  e    laundry rooms --- looking at state of the art ones in magazines or on blogs. I think to myself: wouldn't it be wonderful to have a sink next to the machines? A folding table? A place for the ironing board? Maybe some extra cupboards for storage or space to do do extra food preparation or craft projects? How about a hanging chandelier?

These thoughts attacked ...  and that's all I wrote to this post awhile ago. Where was I going with this? If only the spin cycle in my active mind would remember. LOL. But meanwhile we interrupt this post to tell a sweet story, sort of on the subject of laundry.

Little One was visiting earlier today and saw a clothespin on the table. It was immediately called into action as a princess--with a napkin ring being the tiara. I asked her if she knew about clothespins. Remembering how as a child I loved to play with my grandmother's colorful plastic clothespins, I grabbed more pins, some dishcloths, and a little piece of rope. We hung up a clothesline and began to hang out the laundry. The cloths quickly became different colored princess dresses, and before long we were packing them in my little red suitcase and boarding a train and collecting tickets and unpacking our dirty clothes into a laundry basket to be washed and dried on the line.
I had explained to Little One that sometimes instead of using a dryer we hang clothes outside on a line to dry in the sun. I think she got the concept. Suddenly I heard her singing "Sing a Song of Sixpence..." I thought she was just happily singing a song as she hung out the "clothes." But when she got to "the maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes..." I realized her active little mind had made a connection.
Her baby brother was simply enthralled with all the activity.

Monday, January 09, 2012

the anatomy of a tea party

1. Gather some sweet little girls and a pretty teapot. (These are all second cousins.)
2. Bake some little tiny cookies and be sure to ice them.
3. Teacups: little china ones are fun. Add a tablecloth and pretty napkins.
4. Prep time: a little blush, some light lipstick and a hair brushing 
makes entering the tearoom extra special.
5. Candles and Peter Rabbit.
6. Real, decaf tea, watered way down, and cooled to lukewarm. Oh yes, the sugar 
and cream too. Very important: the stirring with wee spoons.
7. Sipping and stirring and munching and stirring some more, all wrapped up in giggles.
 Good times. For their grandmas too.
Many of these photos are by the other grandmother who I call Lulu--on my blog.

Connecting to Rose Chintz Cottage for TeaTime Tuesday and Sweetology for Happy TeaParty Tuesday.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

so very simple

It really doesn't take much for a bunch of children to have fun. Fresh air, sunshine,
 a walk to the park, a playground, energy .... and squeals of laughter!
Linking to Mary's Little Red House for Monday Mosaics!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

after the rush

I'm taking my time this year putting away the kiddy dishes, and other reminders of 
the lively time we had over the past two weeks when 
12 people laid their heads to rest at our house (in two segments).
Yes there's much laundry to be done, beds to be changed, 
for more will come before long ... linen to fold, napkins to iron ....
... and still decorations to be put away ... I'm taking my time for three reasons:

1. I've caught a little virus and am trying to rest more.
2. I love leisurely cleaning up after such a wonderful time, as it gives me time 
to remember, to reflect, and to solidfy memories in my mind and heart.
3. If I have a goal at all this year, it's to slow down and take better care of myself. 
There is no better time to start than right this very week, taking it all slowly. 
I need to learn that the tasks-to-do list will wait for me!
And, I'm reflecting on the year ahead. For several reasons, I do wonder what 2012 
will hold for all of us. I'm thinking it may be a year that we'll remember 
above others. But I love the peace I have as I face the "blank pages." 
I have total confidence in Who is writing them.
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