Wednesday, February 29, 2012

water anywhere?

Rumor has it our water bills will triple soon. When I hear of such potential hardships coming our way, I remember living in West Africa. Though it was without a doubt the hardest three years of our lives, it is a time I would not trade for anything. In fact, those years rank high among the best years. We lived in a house in an urban area and had running water and electricity. But there were times when I wish we had neither because the utilities only worked about half the time anyway; they were far from dependable.

For instance, cooking dinner for guests––in the middle the power would go off.  Run for the lanterns and light the gas stove (whose fuel we rationed so carefully) and continue the cooking. Lights back on, back to the electric stove. That particular meal, I remember, power went on and off six times as I cooked.

We learned to take bucket baths, downspout showers, and use a bucket of water six different ways. We washed two loads of clothes in the same water. No wasting water while brushing teeth. We didn't take our meagre, erratic water supply for granted and developed a deep respect for its versatility. When we came back to the US we found that we had changed in many ways. It was a long time before I let the water run from the tap. We had a hard time spending money in restaurants. But when Hurricane Hugo put us out of power for 10 days, we did OK. We knew the ropes.

I know we've softened as time has passed. We haven't forgotten, but we don't always have on our minds how it was back then. I think our survival skills would return if life ever becomes difficult here. I'm terribly grateful for all I learned those years.

I guess God has new ways to teach me things now that life is relatively easy. We may have plenty of water and other luxuries, but there are lessons to be learned with health struggles, aging parents, changes in so many areas of life ... I try very hard to look on it all with gratitude ... for the good and for the hard, for how we learn, and for what is yet to come ...

Up top: Not my photo; to the side, that's me with almost-to-my-waist-long hair tied up. The only way in all that heat and humidity! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Love Letters

I found this packet of letters so sweetly tied with a pink ribbon and buried in a box of my parents' "keepsakes." As a young bride my mother had written on the top: "Let your conscience be your guide. This is the personal property of _____." I haven't read them (so far ...)  There are plenty of others to read as my parents saved many letters. Hundreds from my grandparents. Any time I want to step back in time, I'll have an easy way to do that.

Connecting to How Sweet the Sound for Pink Saturday!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Keep 'em Raised

I've learned if you raise your eyebrows, a lot of the sagging around your eyes goes away. That is, as long as you can keep them up. When a co-worker had her eyelids "done," I started looking at my own. Oh well.

The other day I was at a large department store. I looked around somewhat overwhelmed at where to start seeking that needed garment. Suddenly a young beautiful blonde came around the corner, clothes glued to her skin, and make-up perfect.  She came right up as if she was looking for me. I'm a little confused at what she said as she approached, but for the briefest of delirious moments I thought she was there just to assist me in finding what I needed. (LOL. Wouldn't that be nice?!)

Alas, she was not. But her sweet personality just warmed my heart. Initially, that is. "I would love to give you a five-minute make over. You just need to bring this coupon downstairs." She pressed a coupon into my hands and I think she saw the change come over my countenance. The encounter was very brief as I had no intention of spending my precious time having a make-over/sales pitch. As she walked away she said, "I think we could help you do something to make your sagging eyes look better." Or something to that effect. It reminds me of another time I was at that same mall. A young woman walked up to me, thrusting a hand cream sample at me, "Your hands are terribly dry, try this." I'm laughing and wondering, is this sales approach just geared to women over fifty? At least I'm laughing!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the staff of life

The recent news about the high level of sodium in bread got me in the mood for a little bread baking. We love oatmeal bread, so that's what I made. I'm still searching for my mother's recipe, but until I find it, this will do! The 1/2 cup of molasses gave it the dark color. A hearty bread full of flavor.
1 cup uncooked oats
2 C scalded milk
1 pckg yeast in 1/2 C warm water
1/2 C molasses
2 t (or less!) salt
1 T shortening
4 1/2 C flour
Let the oats sit in the hot milk until lukewarm. Then stir in the rest, knead, let rise in warm place, punch down, divide into two loaves (I made one loaf and 12 dinner rolls) and let rise again. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 350 for another 30 minutes. You can oil the top of the loaf for a softer crust, or leave it crusty. Good toasted!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

healthy drinking

"Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary."
(an old Chinese proverb)

do they text from heaven?

The Gardener must have read my recent post about not wanting expensive fresh flowers, because he gave me some. Well, from a budget grocery store. When I came home he was gone and obviously had been in a hurry leaving as they were stuck in a water glass, still wrapped up, and very much dying. But the gorgeous color of yellow drew me to them and I got to work (yellow roses are special to me.) Amazingly when I took off the dying petals and trimmed them up they came to life and are so beautiful. We are enjoying them. I'm sure there is a life lesson here, like "never give up on something ..."

The day after Valentine's as I was driving, my phone beeped with a text. I read it at the next red light. My eyes popped out a bit. Obviously this must have been sent to a wrong number, but for a brief time I let it seem like my dad had really texted me from heaven. It's what I would have wanted to read.

The only thing a little in question is his last statement, "See you soon." Of course time has no measure in heaven, so hopefully this isn't literal on our time frame. :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What We Give Away

My grandmother was quite a writer, and when I found this recently in her handwriting, 
I was pretty sure she wrote it herself. Either way, it was nice to find, 
and make into a valentine card.
 "In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son ..."  
 Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

from the heart (s)

(Just playing with p-cn-k on its way out of town).

Have one!
Joining Mary's Little Red House for Monday Mosaics!

Friday, February 10, 2012


I always think of Valentine's Day as more of a girlie kind of day than something little boys would like. Maybe it's all the pink and hearts and flowers ...  I can't see the Gardener getting too excited about being given a bouquet of cut flowers, but he would love a flowering plant in the ground (as a matter of fact, he just bought me one for Valentine's.)

Quite frankly the reason he got us me a flowering plant is because he knows me well.  I have a hard time seeing too much money spent flowers that fade so quickly. That's just my little hang-up. (I think it's partly due to my Dutch background, but also the years I lived in Africa.)

But back to little girls ... after raising boys, I'm enjoying the plethora of little girls in our extended family, not to mention our own "Little One" ... and it's fun to do little bits of sweetness for them. I've been spending a good deal of time in doctors' waiting rooms with my mother of late, and have enjoyed the captive time to crochet while we talk.

 I originally started with little hearts for hair "bows,"(inspiration here) but after "Little One" vetoed them, I switched to the more substantial flowers, and tied in the little hearts! Whether or not they will be worn, I surely had fun making them!

Connecting to Pink Saturday at Beverly's blog.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Speaking of Cookbooks

Speaking of cookbooks, one of my favorites is the More With Less Cookbook. I took this with me to Africa years ago and have used it ever since. It's my most worn cookbook. I have my favorites, but I feel like there is so much more yet to explore in the book.

It's more of a practical cookbook, giving recipes that allow you to live "close to the land" and cook economically. Lots of international recipes are included. It's sort of a humble cookbook that emphasizes seasonal, organic cooking, and did so long before such cooking was so popular. 

A Christmas Snoopy marks my most used recipe, which I really don't need directions for. I recommend it and there's not a kid I've served it to who hasn't loved it. I always use small chunks of chicken I've pre-cooked, and add a few beef buillon cubes which makes the sauce richer. You can't skip the step of separately cooking the peanut butter in oil, and do so by stirring slowly but constantly, as it tends to burn.

There is a 2011 updated edition to this book with current statistics and nutritional information. I've also learned about yet another book by this live-close-to-the-land concious group called Simply in Season. It shows which fruits and vegetables are in season when, with recipes to match. There is a colorful kids' cookbook by the same or similar title that looks like great fun. Do a G. search for it and you'll find the titles easily.

And that's it for cooking today. Friends we knew in Africa years ago have come to town and are taking us out to eat. Otherwise I'd cook the recipe above for them, for old times' sake. It's been a busy day, so I'll welcome a restaurant and the time to focus just on them!

Saturday, February 04, 2012


Quite a few years ago our now deceased but much beloved dog ate a chunk out of the Betty Crocker cookbook I received at my wedding shower. I mourned. For me, she is the premier of cookbooks, the stable one to go to. I eventually found another worn copy at a used book shop.

But strangely I've been feeling a bit sorry for my cookbooks, lined up quietly like soldiers waiting to be called to duty. It's become so easy to grab a recipe from the computer, or pull out a scribbled "how to" written down at a friend's delicious dinner party. Or just to pull ingredients out of the frig and cook whatever comes together.
There's a few things I always pull Betty out for, one is an apple pie. 
Old friends are coming for dinner tonight. It will be a simple table, and a simple fare,
 with concentration on just enjoying being together on a rainy night. 
There are friends like this––as comfortable as "old shoes." Friends that we're blessed to 
grow old older with. We'll sit around, maybe listen to some of the "oldies," have conversation, put the 
coffee pot on, and lace the pie with a little vanilla ice cream, per the Gardener's request. 
It should be fun.

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