Thursday, February 15, 2018

February 14, 2018

We were just home from a short and sweet trip to celebrate our Valentine's Day.  We spent a few hours at a local nature preserve and wetlands.  We were still in the driveway unloading a few purchases when our daughter (a high school teacher) called.

I could hear it in her voice, just from her hello, something was wrong.  She told us what happened in Florida.  We went inside to search the news.  Remember when a school shooting would be non stop coverage?  Those days are gone.

On a day to celebrate love, a horrendous act of hate and violence was perpetrated.  Seventeen people who went to their school yesterday morning as students and employees, were not going to return home.  Let me say that again, they were at school, a place where everyone should be safe.  But America, (and we think of ourselves of one of the great nations on the planet), can no longer keep our children safe.

Today my daughter's students are full of questions.  What will they do in her classroom when it happens?  "Ms. Jewell, would you take a bullet for us?"  Did we ever dream teaching would be such a dangerous job?

Gun violence is so common place, sooner or later we will all be touched by it.  Make no mistake, it's coming for you.  

Until then we are heartbroken.  We offer prayers to God.  Well God helps those who help themselves, and our legislators are standing in our way.

Valentine's Day will never be the same again.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ties to Memories

As January is winding down, so has my production level.  Even though there's many projects to start, ones' with deadlines creeping ever closer, I find myself wanting to be quite still.  I've found I can spend quite a bit of time writing in my journal, staring at the bird feeder, reading and listening to books, and of course knitting while watching movies and streaming shows, all the while not feeling too many moments of guilt about not getting anything done.  I did manage to paint one watercolor, a Charley Harper bird study.  I'm considering it for my first attempt at rug hooking.

Otherwise, keeping with my current state of mind, I'm only doing enough housework to stay afloat.  Knowing that spring will be here soon and then I will be itching to give the place a good scrub makes it all seem OK.  Also, we had two grandchildren for a sleepover last weekend, and the next two weekends have scheduled sleepovers as well.  So really, what's the point?  All I need to do is make the place livable for the two of us until the next kid crew happily checks in.

What I have been happy to put my efforts into lately is cooking, because after all, we have to eat.  It started with the idea that I wanted to try to make homemade biscotti, and now I'm in love.  I've found that one slice with a cup of my favorite tea in the afternoon can really turn my day around.   Just a note about this tea, we first discovered it in the family waiting room at the birthing center where four of our eight grandchildren were born and we've been drinking it ever since. It's quite possibly the best tea you'll ever drink and does a remarkable job at soothing your soul.   

A few days later I had a dentist appointment.  In preparation to be kind to my sensitive mouth I wanted to fix soup that evening for dinner, but none of my regular standbys were sounding very appetizing.  Then a favorite from my childhood came to mind, French Onion Soup.  When I was a girl there was a department store in downtown St. Louis, Famous-Barr.  In their lovely tea room I would have lunch with my mother, feeling very fancy, eating the most delicious French Onion soup you could ever put in your mouth.  Nothing I've ordered or made since has come close, until now.  If you want to make a small investment of time for a huge return in flavor, try this recipe from Epicurious.  

Two days later on the night of the sleepover I made another childhood favorite, my grandmother's chicken and dumplings .   Making it for my own grandchildren sparked more fine memories.  Other simple tasks done mindfully, like shining my shoes, bring memories of watching my dad doing the same thing.  

I suppose now that I'm older I spend more time looking to the past.  When I became a mother, memories of my childhood guided me along, steering me towards (and away from) parenting decisions. I'm delighted that now with grandchildren, happy childhood memories frequently come to mind once again.  

Over the past weeks I have not been a total slouch.  I have risen from my chair to take winter walks, not only in my neighborhood, but for activism as well.   My daughter, granddaughter and I participated in our second women's march, lifting my spirits and renewing my motivation for change.  After a year of our current administration I had been feeling exhausted.  

Some things to share:

Book recommendation: When Breath Becomes Air.  Some background articles can be found  here: 

Even if you don't do everything this article suggests, just reading it had me breathing deeper and feeling more mindful and connected.

Finally, I bought these bowl covers to lighten our footprint. I love them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Birthdays and Birding

I’m doing my best to savor winter and I thought I’d share just how it’s going.

It’s always a little sad when we pack away Christmas.  I’ve written before about my difficulties with moving on.  This year I decided to hold on to our Christmas tree a little longer.  I moved it out to the deck, strung cranberries and popcorn, and filled orange peel halves with bird seed.  To say my deck is a bird hot spot is a vast understatement.  Watching the tree, along with the other two feeders has brought me hours of entertainment.  The Juncos and Cardinals are regulars, but I was a bit surprised to see a Finch and a Woodpecker at the window feeder.
During the wee, early hours of Christmas Eve, we had a magical dusting of snow. It didn’t last the day but for those of us still up at the time, it definitely made it feel like Christmas.  The day after I put the tree out we got our first true, measurable snowfall.  A couple of years ago I bought a tiny book and snowman kit.  I think this was the first snowfall we’ve had since I bought it.  I also made another ice lantern, which together with my little snowman and bird tree made it truly nice to look out the window.
Our oldest son’s birthday was this past week, and our oldest daughter’s is next week, so there were gifts to be made.  A gift they both appreciate is homemade cherry jam, so a batch was made over the weekend.  The cherries Paul and I pick and pit each June from our three cherry trees.  I freeze them in four cup bags, the correct amount for pies and jam.  Paul also made some beef jerky to give.  And then a black forest cake for my son, his favorite from when he was a boy.   
We had a brief respite from the freezing temps so we dove out to the lake’s state office to buy our annual camping pass and I was tickled to find free pamphlets.  We took a drive through the campgrounds, which feels like our second home, and were surprised to see the little mounds of snow and ice around the trees in the lake.
I’m starting a reading marathon after my trip to the library yesterday.  I had made a purchase request they buy The Wild Dyer, that along with two nature journals and also a kindle loan of When Breath Becomes Air should keep me reading for a bit. 
Finally, I’ve been watching the third season of Broadchurch, sadly its final season.  It’s such a great show!  You know how, if you watch crime shows, American crime shows will over explain what’s happening with ridiculous dialogue to make sure you don’t miss anything?  Not with British television.  They assume you are paying attention and are smart enough to keep up.  If you’re knitting while watching, as I always am (finished my socks I was working on), keep the remote handy to rewind so you don’t fall behind.  Also, if you haven’t seen the movie, The Finest Hour, it’s a good one. 
Hope you're having an enjoyable, not too dreary January!                                               

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Starting 2018

The first week of 2018 is all but in the books and as it turns out, the coldest days of the season have fallen in the same week as well.  I know we have nothing to complain about compared to what folks on the east coast are enduring this week.  But still, it’s been brutal!
With the incredible cold, I thought it might be a good time to try my hand at making some ice ornaments and an ice lantern.  I’ve seen these throughout the years but when I saw Reading My Tea Leaves post I was reminded of them again.  I did some frigid foraging, assembled my creations, and left them out on the deck overnight.  I hung the ornaments near the front door and on the bird feeder.  (The new window feeder has been seeing a lot of action too.)  We lit the lantern on New Year’s Eve and positioned it near the window so we could enjoy it from the living room.
My first morning of the New Year was spent cuddling with our youngest grandchild, Sophie, while she cuddled with the doll I made her for Christmas.  Her mother says she adores it which thrills me to no end. This was her second New Year’s Eve with us and this year we made her a balloon drop.  We did this all the time when our kids were little.  (We never were for going out much.)  I was delighted the next morning when I saw on our son’s Facebook page they had done the same thing for their girls, keeping the tradition going for another generation.
During these single digit temperatures, Paul and I have been spending our time huddled inside watching movies and listening to audio books.  We’ve listened to Mr. Mercedes and are a third of the way through Finders Keepers, the first two of a three book series by Stephen King.  It feels great to be reading again, something that falls away during the holiday making season.  I’m also finishing Tom Hank’s book, Uncommon Type.  Another blog I read, Small Things, is having a Yarn Along where we link photos of what we’re reading and knitting 
All that sitting under blankets has created a lot of time for knitting. I went with a bunch of smaller projects for some instant gratification.  I finished a hot water bottle cover and now I’m knitting some socks.  I also finished two hats for Paul and me from the same pattern I made for everyone else for Christmas.  Several of us were out to eat together this week and had our hats on.  The bartender made a special trip over to our table to comment on the hats, a nice moment for me.
            The moon print behind us in our hat photo is a photo Paul took last month of the super moon.  Yesterday I was looking at the newest Sundance catalog and there was a print of the moon for $698 dollars.  So I thought I would include ours that Paul took and that we had printed on canvas at Wal-mart for $29.  Just as wonderful in my opinion.
             During the holidays we always try to make it downtown to Union Station to take in the Christmas decorations and holiday festivities.  While we were there a young woman's Quinceanera was being photographed.  One of the young men in the party spotted me stealing a photo of them and shot me a pose.  I loved it!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Making Christmas

Whew!  That was my exclamation late yesterday afternoon, (Christmas Day), when I finally sat down on my sofa without any knitting or sewing in my hands.  Unlike last year when I finished well before Christmas Eve, this year I was rushing to finally finish two hours past my deadline on Christmas Eve Day.  And yet, everything worked out wonderfully in the end.

This year's handmade gifts were four rag dolls made for the youngest granddaughters, and sixteen knitted hats.  I always find it a little bit magical that sometimes I can start out with a stack of fabrics and an idea and after a considerable amount of stitching produce something I love.  And oh how I loved these dolls!

The hats were knitted in coordinating yarns linking our four children's families.  So many of the children's hats were the same size or too close to tell "who's is who's", that I embroidered name tags to sew inside each one.

During the holidays, besides the handmade gifts I'm working on, from Black Friday through New Years Day I have a mental list running of things I want to make sure I make, do, and savor.  Barring any later realizations, I think I've accomplished it, although there were some close calls.  Late on Saturday during a conversation going over the menu for Christmas Eve with one of my daughters I realized I forgot about a family favorite casserole I make every year, Fida Kahlo's Macaroni with Spinach Sauce.  So, add one more late trip to the store. (And still there was yet another trip to the store at midnight on Saturday.)

And during all of that hand stitching I work my way through all of my Christmas DVDs.  At one point while watching my second favorite, The Family Stone, my husband asked "which one is this?"  And when I told him he answers, "But that one always makes you cry."  Yes it does!  And that's why finally on Christmas day, when all the work is behind me I watch my favorite, It's A wonderful Life, and cry again.

Here's to all of us closing out the holiday season of 2017 with much joy and even more love and peace.