Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Delightful Little Things

Last Friday my kitchen was turned into a jam factory. This has become a June family tradition for several years running now. The jam is strawberry and the whole family pitches in. Um – not the dads exactly. No, they come over later for the pizza and table talk and frequently bring the dogs – as they did this year. But before we descend on the kitchen we must go to the berry fields and pick them.

Sierra is the youngest and at four and a half she really gets into it. Eight of us trooped up and down the rows and she followed here and there. “Look at this one Grandma!” They all do this and the moms and this grandma nod and smile. But this year Sierra had more to say. She strolled over to me and asked if I needed her help. “Sure,” I said as I looked into her small bucket. “Okay,” she grinned back. “I have good strawberry eyes.” On the Cuteness Scale she’s way up there.

Yesterday was a great garden weeding day. Rain the night before and into the morning. I hoed and pulled and dumped grass and weeds until my back ached. Our garden is no Eden and the weeds know it. They grow in profusion right alongside the good stuff. But after a while I need to stand up, stretch and walk. So down the hill I strolled and didn’t my eye catch a little bit of red glinting in the grass. At first I thought it was a lost button, but on closer inspection, which involved putting my nose very close to the ground, I saw that the red spot was really a tiny mushroom. With a shiny red cap. Quite enchanting. Much more so than when I came upon a snake in the grass last week. Eww.

We’re currently dog sitting for number one son. He and his family are off to Toronto for a week of fun and relaxation. Their dog, Casey, is with us for six days. She’s young, a lab mix, and in possession of two soulful dark eyes that make you do all kinds of crazy stuff. Like – for no reason – I’ll say “squirrel!” just to see her head whip up and her ears perk (okay, I guess that's a reason). She knows what a squirrel is and will joyfully chase them from the yard. Those eyes tell me she’s ready for any squirrel in combat gear who might be up to something.  She’s a good pup.

Today I’m going with a friend to a new meat market. Well, new to me. This friend has brought wonderful eats to parties we’ve both attended and she’s wanted to take me to Rolfs for a while now. I’ll report back to  you  on all the little delights I find there.

What can you report to me this week?

Photo: my little red-capped mushroom

Thursday, June 25, 2015


When I was a much younger woman I thought being passionate about flowers was an old lady gig. I’d seen too many windowsills in the homes of old people that were lined with pots of struggling African violets and dusty geraniums. The rims of the containers were often crusted with residue and dried dirt and the atmosphere reeked of moth balls and outdated opinions. Well, guess what? I am now an old lady who loves flowers.

What's that, you say? How did it happen that a hip young gal who made sure her hair, clothes and attitudes were current, ever become that thing she once derided?  It was a slow progression my friends, and it began with one of these.

My friend Carol used to “walk the yard” with me in tow. This was when we were both young mothers and she would waltz me around her yard while the kids were all quiet and conniving in the family room.

“I planted these a month ago,” she’d say, pointing to some marigolds. Then we’d be on to the phlox or roses or whatever else had taken her fancy that year. Her descriptions and enthusiasm made me look a little harder at flowers. And, for a while, we were completely able to ignore what might be going on in the family room.

Or it may have been the altar flowers. Designed by floral artists and offsetting with color the candles in their brass holders, the living flowers and dancing light testifying to the beauty in God’s world. Serving on the guild allows me to get up close and personal with glistening petal and shining leaf. Then I see the delight on someone’s face when the lovely bouquets are presented after the service. A flowery reminder of our hour in the pew.

And then there’s the artists. The ones like Georgia O’Keefe who painted flowers in such a way that they seem the most stunning of creations. Go look at her renderings of poppies or morning glories – simply breathtaking. Or how about the geniuses who created greeting cards and postcards back in the day. You know, the ones that we now designate “vintage”? I look for them on Pinterest all the time. The artist’s brush gives an element of delicate whimsy to flowers and plants and somehow I’m comforted by that.

I suppose anything we come to examine closely begins to make inroads on our souls whether for good or ill. The good for me are these little gardens that brighten our yard this year. Planted them both with my little old lady hands. You know, those stalwart gals of the African Violet League were onto something. I’m glad I lived long enough to fashion a part of my life after theirs.

You live, you grow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Still Amazed

This is a worthy repeat – I think. All of these things still amaze me. I’m a simple woman. I hope you enjoy the read or the re-read if you've been with me a while. Happy Tuesday!

Things That Amaze

Skype. Oh, my word. When our number two son left us to go live in Washington state with his family, we had no idea that one day we’d be able to visit his bedroom / office and chat face to face. Like through cyber space. He and the girls sit and talk, play with the pugs, run to the kitchen to get a snack and all while we’re watching. Or running to get our own snacks. Until someone figures out how to transport us through the screen to actually be in the room with them, this is the best thing ever. Um – and I think the airlines will lobby against that transport thingy. Could happen.

Seeds. Yup, they’ve been around for a long, long time. But each time I scoop up shovels full of the thousands of maple “helicopters” that fall from our trees in October it occurs to me. Every single one of those little stinkers has everything inside it to make a whole tree. And when I look up at the ginormous maple they’ve come from – well – this simple girl is in awe.

Water. The other day I was attempting to convince my grandson that water is the only thing that truly quenches thirst. He was hanging on the refrigerator door looking for water with flavor – like a Capri Sun or perhaps a beer. Ha! Just kidding. He’s only twelve. I highly suspect he wasn’t all that thirsty, just a little bored and wanting something sweet. He knew Grandma would not deny him the juice. I also remembered Jesus’ cup of cold water statement and how giving it was like being Him for the recipient. That guy knew what he was talking about. And he had no clue about Capri Sun.

Babies. The tiny little us. And most of the time emerging well formed with everything inside to become something wonderful. Bald, toothless, openings on both ends to let stuff in and let it out again (yeah, this happens when we’re old, too). Skin like velvet and a demanding wail that turns Mama’s head and heart to serve – immediately. Makes Papa proud and grandma and grandpa even prouder. Where would we be without them?

Okay at this point I was going to mention faxes, an invention that formerly amazed me. But I’ve been informed that the fax is passé, was never that amazing, and I’m only showing my ignorance of all things electronic if I go on about it. So I won’t say anything further.

What amazes you?

Psst: If a fax machine amazes you, too, call me. There’s a group forming.

Photo:  www.freeditigalphotos.net       

Friday, June 19, 2015

Good Fathers - Now Departed

I wrote this poem years ago when a friend’s husband died. I share it with you today in honor of all the good men who have passed on and were beloved husbands, fathers, sons – and especially in remembrance of Clementa Pinkney who only a few days ago was brutally cut down by a madman in the prime of his life and ministry. If your dad, father, papa, is still with  you, be glad. Love him up good, because you just never know how or when the call from Home will come.  

Death Doesn’t Part Us

Somebody’s child died today,
somebody’s long time love.
Somebody’s daddy, somebody’s friend
has gone to our Father above.

For everyone who loved him
mere words cannot explain,
the sorrow, fear and grieving,
the disbelief and pain.

But we walk not alone in this
no, God will see us through.
He’ll show His great eternal love,
and what that love can do.

Friends will come to comfort,
family to give aid.
Days will pass, time will heal
for these things now we pray.

So take him to his mansion, Lord,
good husband, father, friend.
And whisper how we love him
with a love that will not end.

On a brighter note – Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful father’s out there, but especially to my husband John and our sons Eric, Blaine, and Carl. Love you bunches!!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wise, Breedlove & Crosby

 Sounds like a law firm doesn’t it? Well, perhaps if they’d known each other. And they would have been a force to reckon with. In the course of my daily curiosity about everybody and everything I came across three amazing women I’d like to tell you about.

Brownie Wise

I learned of her while watching a PBS special. You know what Tupperware is. Right? C’mon, you gotta know. Well Brownie Wise is one of the reasons you do. She was an early representative for the brand and became wildly famous for her efforts. She was the quintessential Tupperware Lady and developed the “party plan” for the company. She also  made buckets of money for them. Women loved her for her expertise (ladies, let me show you how to “burp” those lids) and her fashion sense. She even gave one of her dresses away to an admirer. Loaded with charm and the ability to persuade she was a rare bird in her day – a female executive in the 1950’s. Gotta love a woman like that. If you’d like to know more about her follow this link.
Sarah Breedlove Walker aka Madame C.J. Walker

The first black millionaire in America. Whoa – now what? Yup, this extraordinary woman is one of the reasons I can go out an buy a straightening kit for my fuzzy-in-the-summer hair. I found her by researching such products because I really hate my summer hair (a little side note there). Anyway,  born in 1867 to former slave parents, Ms. Breedlove took the world of cosmetics for black women to soaring heights and made a fortune doing so. What hustle and moxie she must have had! Those are good things when you need to make your way in this world. And long before Oprah, too. Sarah built her retirement home on the banks of the Hudson near J.D. Rockefeller and Jay Gould. Bravo! Thank you Madame Walker and my hair thanks you, too. More here. 

Fanny Crosby

What’s your favorite hymn? One of mine is Blessed Assurance. The words for this iconic Christian hymn were written by Ms. Crosby whom I learned of from a book given to me at Christmas titled “Then Sings My Soul” by Robert J. Morgan. Born in the 1820 Fanny lost her sight at six weeks old due to treatment for an eye inflammation that damaged her optic nerves (later disputed). But this didn’t seem to have an effect on her gift of writing. She penned her first poem at the age of eight and never stopped. She wrote a thousand secular poems, poetry, political songs, and cantatas, one of which, The Flower Queen, was the first cantata written by an American composer. She was famous all over the place and I’ll bet you never heard of her. She was blessed with 94 years of life with which to accomplish all this and she’s one of my heroes. Here’s a link if you want to know more.

Fame is fleeting and as the generations roll on those who dance briefly in its flame are soon forgotten. But thank God for people who, in their time, rise above it all and accomplish things that affect our lives whether we know it or not. Don’t you think?

 Image: Free Digital Photos

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Oh, Boy - Summer Salads

It’s going to be in the 80’s today. I just got home from the grocery store with my supplies for summer salads. Wanna know what kind?


Oh, let me count the ways. Yesterday I plucked a bunch of strawberries from the garden, cut up a red pear, washed a handful of blueberries (on sale 2 for $4) and threw them all together in a bowl. Drizzled with honey and let the flavors blend. Oh, Yum!

Way two is pistachio salad or some call it ambrosia or 5 cup salad. So many names but this one deserves them. It’s so good.

I package instant pistachio pudding mix
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 container Cool Whip
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup coconut

Or you can vary  this. Uses walnuts instead of the coconut. Or mandarin oranges instead of the pineapple.


I have a pasta salad that makes a boatload and is so  easy.

1 pound thin spaghetti, broken in half and cooked until tender.
1 8 oz. bottle each of Italian dressing and a creamy dressing (Parmesan Pepper is good)
Drain the spaghetti and run under cold water for a bit.
In large bowl add both bottles of dressing, toss and place in fridge overnight. (yes, both bottles)
Next day add sliced pepperoni, black olives, a tablespoon of dill weed and a tablespoon of seasoned salt. Stir together, chill again and serve. They’ll be sobbing for more – it’s that good.

According to one family relative my mother made the very best potato salad and our pinochle pal, Ed makes the best German potato salad. Another friend’s sister makes green pea salad and I love cucumber salad. Slice a cucumber, add some water, white vinegar, salt, pepper and chill. You can add some sliced onion to it, too.

I could go on and on. But I’ll post more about food all summer. Betcha can’t wait. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, June 8, 2015

Smell That?

Of our six senses the most evocative is our sense of smell. This came to mind a few days ago as I contemplated the upcoming visit of our #2 son and his daughters. Last summer, Lillie, the youngest, made a remark as she came through our back door, “Aw, that wonderful smell of Grandma’s house.” She was smiling when she said it, so I knew it wasn’t a bad thing – like Grandpa’s socks strolling over to greet her. It made me smile.

While visiting Texas in March a similar thing happened when I first walked into my brother’s home. Some pleasant fragrance graces nearly every room in the house, kind of an antique store boutique-y thing. Later I learned from my sister-in-law that essential oils may have something g to do with it. She uses them in several ways and the scent of cedar, lemon, pine and other natural odors lightly permeate the air. I’ve just ordered a “beginners sampler” from Amazon – the socks don’t have a prayer!

One of my favorite authors, James Herriot, who wrote of his life as a country vet in 1930’s Yorkshire, mentions smell in his books. His favorites differ markedly from mine, however. Rich animal scents like hay, muck and clover did it for him. Entering a barn was a mountain top experience. I have to admit there is some appeal there – well – except for the muck (read poo). I think of Herriot whenever I pass a farm.

Let me ask you this. If you were blindfolded and taken from house to house, could you tell whose home, among friends and family, you were in just by the smell? I could, even if all sound was deadened and the road to get there was well disguised. Maybe this is what we have in common with the canine. Even though their sense of smell is 30 times greater than that of a human, still I can appreciate why they sniff everything (okay, not the crotch area, which the family dogs seem to go for first) in order to identify their surroundings. 

Something yummy baking in the oven. Sheets fresh off the clothesline on a windy day. The whiff of a once loved perfume. The pencil shavings, floor wax, gym shorts, and chalk odors from the classroom. An over-full bowl of brilliant red strawberries. Go ahead, plunge your nose into them. Lavender, sweet basil, or wild roses, here today and gone tomorrow but leaving a scent memory behind.

As you go about your day today, do it with your nose on high alert. Put  your sixth sense, which has to be related to smell, to work and pile up some scent memories. Your life will be richer for it. As for me, I’ll be out there smelling the rain.

Image: Free Digital Photos    

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Out and About

Well, I’ve been out and about and noticing things again.  Spring is my favorite season when life is just busting out all over the place. Lawns and flower gardens are coming into their own. I planted impatiens in the beds bordering the front porch. This year I sprinkled some plant food at the base of each clump of flowers – told them it was good for them – and they are lovin’ it. Spreading out like crazy. Visible from the road even. And that’s saying something when your property is choking with trees, bushes and weeds.

A few days ago I watched as our two youngest granddaughters were fooling around in the kitchen. The oldest was teasing her sister and uttered “Oh Go*” which got her a stern look from yours truly.

“Uh, oh. We don’t say that at Grandma’s house.” She knows this and grinned.

A heartbeat or two later, with more fooling around, her little sister spouts, “Unicorn.”

By this time I was somewhat distracted like grandmas get when fooling around  becomes tedious. But she’d caught my ear. “What?” I said.

“Not God, unicorn.” Her eyes twinkled as she grabbed her sister’s shirt.

“Oh, unicorn.”  Kids. Just when you think they’re not listening. What could I do but laugh?

Yesterday spouse and I took advantage of the senior discount offered at our Shop Rite in Hudson. About a fifteen minute drive south, but worth it. I make a list, grab my shopping bags and discount card. Off we go - it's kind of like a date. We're nearing home, hitting the last stretch of highway, when right ahead we spot a police van, lights on, stopped in the middle of the road. I immediately feel guilty. And then curious.

“Uh, what’s this?” I said to my driver, Mr. Husband.

There was no car in front of the cop’s van but his lights were whirling.  We came up slowly behind, moved into the passing lane and cautiously went round him. And that’s when we discovered the reason for the stopping and whirling. A huge turtle was crossing the highway in front of the police van. Strolling along like she had all the time in the world and, with the police on her side, why not? I could have kissed that man in uniform – but that’s probably a ticket worthy offense. Or not. It would be a totally "grateful granny" type thing for sure.

So – what are your plans for the weekend? We have ballgames, a dance recital, church and gardening. Maybe even outdoor grilling. Life is good. I hope that for you, too. 

Image: Salvatore Vuono                                  Free Digital Photos 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Book Towers - Gotta Love 'Em

Librarians all over the country are going to cringe from what I’m about to reveal. You can use books for something other than reading. Gaassspp. Settle down, I’m not talking about fuel for the campfire. Gosh, that wouldn’t take any imagination at all, would it? No – I’m talking about, among other things, book towers.

It began with #1 (and only) grandson when he was about three. I've always believed in stimulating children's curiosity by engaging with them in activities that both delight and thrill. When they’re three it doesn’t take much. So there we were, in the living room, with a bunch of books around us. Largish hard cover kids books and some smaller board books like Sandra Boynton’s “Barnyard Dance”. I picked one up, spread the pages, and stood it on the floor. Picked up another and put it crossways on top of the first. Before you know it a tower was growing and Sam was enthralled. He handed me more books. Now the tower was bigger than him. One more book for the top, “Barnyard Dance”, and . . . CRASH! (Okay, librarians rent your clothes).

Well, how exciting was that? “Do it again, Gramma!”  And so we did. And the tradition continued with all the grand kids as it did last night in our small attic room where I’ve cobbled together a playroom for them. Here’s a visual.

One of the tallest ever made and Melodi had to use a chair to place the last book. She giggled, “I’m scared.” No, she was delighted. “What if it falls on me?”

“It won’t fall,” I said, hoping I wasn’t lying. It didn’t. And she felt like an Olympian for placing that book just so and having it balance on top. I cheered and her face split in a grin as did her little sister’s.

After we basked in the glory of successfully building such a masterpiece, we gently dismantled it. No book was harmed in this endeavor and, as a kind of bonus, it was all gluten free.

One day, when they’re all over twenty one, I’ll tell these grand kids a few true stories of thrilling and devilish child’s play. Like when I was a kid and we made rubber band guns. We’d find a straight stick, sneak one of Mom’s clothespins, get a few rubber bands (from the newspapers thrown onto the lawn) and assembled the weapon.  A notch on one end and the clothespin on the other, held securely by one of the bands. The second rubber band was loaded, securing it at the notch, pulling it back and clamping it into the jaw of the clothespin. If you were lucky this second band was a nice wide one. That would be your RB54 (Rubber Band 1954) and conferred great status. Then it was time to go hunting for victims – probably the sibling who’d most recently offended you in some way. Wedgies come to mind.

This was also a gluten free enterprise as was the beating you got from the parent to whom the sibling ratted you out.  OR – the sibling made his / her own rubber band gun and then there was a real bloodbath. Boy, those were the good old days, huh?

So, you see librarians, book towers aren’t so bad.  Correctly built, they rarely fall. And on the bright side, there’s legislation pending to rid the world of the evil (but exciting) Rubber Band Gun, most especially the RB54. I can’t decide whether to organize a protest or not.  

PS: If you’d like other ideas for using books creatively, such as race car tracks, forts, or train tunnels, drop me a line. I never seem to run out of  ideas.