Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Special Christmas Gift

My youngest daughter, who retired in December, 2009 after serving 30 years in the United States Air Force, is keeping herself busy learning how to act like a civilian, and is quite enjoying it.  She has turned into "Susie Homemaker," cooking and decorating, and gardening, etc.

Daughter is highly proficient at cross-stitch, having produced some very lovely and intricate works of art over the past twenty years or so.  However, one of the crafts/skills that she has not practiced for thirty years is any sort of general sewing.  She raised two boys and found it easier to buy their shirts and trousers ready made, rather than attempt to make them at home -- besides which, sewing well takes time and effort, and her responsibilities in the Air Force left little time for that sort of thing.   A seamstress she was not, although she owned a small sewing machine which she used to patch her boys' jeans and mend tears, etc.

One of the delights she discovered in her new home town in Nebraska was a fabric shop (which I visited with her during my trip in July - she was trying to make "vintage aprons" at the time) replete with hundreds, if not thousands, of bolts of lovely fabrics, wonderful patterns and other "sewing stuff," and staffed by friendly and helpful people who also teach classes in quilting, from beginner through advanced techniques.  Even though Daughter didn't really know much about even basic sewing, she signed herself up for Quilting 101, the classes for which began in mid-October.

Around the middle of November (last month), she told me that she was making a quilt for my Christmas present, and hoped to have it finished by that date.  I was pleased that she would make this effort for me, but had no idea what to expect from a fledgling seamstress.  My gift arrived on Monday before Christmas, with instructions to open immediately, which I did and -- what to my wondering eyes should appear but this:

About all I could utter was "amazing!"  This beautiful quilt was made by a daughter that had called me only a few months ago to ask me how to find 3/8" on a ruler!!

I think she did a wonderful job on her first large quilt (it measures 50" x 70").  It has thirty blocks, she told me, each containing 14 different Christmas-themed fabrics, with a total of 30 different fabrics in the quilt. The pattern is named "Tree's Up! Lights On!" and was designed by Sandy Gervais (anyone who quilts is probably familiar with her fabric designs and patterns.)

The back side looks like this:

so it's beautiful from either side.

To make it even more special, she has embroidered "secret messages" for me into some of the quilt blocks, and signed it at the bottom --

How special is that?!

At this writing, I'm trying to decide how and where I can display this very, very special gift so that I can see it all year long.  It probably will go into my bedroom for most of the year and come out into the living room at Christmas time.

In the meantime, it's chilly in my house, so the quilt is a cuddle-cover, me beneath, cats on top, as I watch TV from my recliner.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the Angel is stilled,
When the Star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and princes are home,
When the Shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To Find the lost - To Heal the Broken - To Feed the hungry -
To Release the prisoner - To Rebuild the nations -
To bring Peace among brothers and sisters -
To make music in the Heart.

- Howard Thurman

My Christmas wish: May all the blessings of this day be with you and those you love.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Day, 1949

During all the times that I can remember from the time I was born until I left home, my mother always prepared a delicious dinner (the noon meal) for Thanksgiving Day. The food for the occasion was dependent upon our family's financial circumstances, but usually included a roasted chicken, Mama's wonderful cornbread dressing, home-grown green beans with bacon (no ubiquitous Green Bean Casserole back in those days), candied carrots, ambrosia (fresh oranges and coconut), yeast rolls made from scratch, cranberry-orange relish, and a pie or two -- a mincemeat pie (Mama and I especially liked mincemeat) and a pumpkin pie. It was a meal to which we all looked forward, mostly for the pie, which we did not have very often.

However, the Thanksgiving Dinner of which I have the strongest memories bore no resemblance whatsoever to the feast described above. Herein lies the tale.

I was 15, a sophomore at Central High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My best friend was a classmate named Betty J. We spent much time together at school and visited each other's homes regularly on weekends.

In mid-November, Mrs. J. invited me to go on a picnic on Thanksgiving Day (weather permitting) with their family - Mrs. J., Betty, and Betty’s cute brother, Dan. Their destination was the foothills of the Sandia Mountains north of Albuquerque close to a (still) small town of Bernalillo (burn-a-lee’-yo). We would leave around 10:30 in the morning, drive to the Bernalillo area, find a suitable picnic place, have our lunch and return home early in the afternoon. Mama wasn’t too enthused about my missing Thanksgiving dinner with the family, but after I begged and pleaded, she gave me permission to go with my friend. I was ecstatic!

The day dawned bright, clear and very crisp, as a November morning in New Mexico should be. The trip took only about 30 minutes and we were soon unloading the picnic basket and the blanket/tablecloth onto a hillside that was surrounded by piñon pines. The air was filled with the scent of pines, dry earth and rocks. (Do you know that rocks have their own smell -- especially in large quantities? At least, I think they do.) I was excited by the prospect of being able to pick piñones (peen-yo’-nes), otherwise known as pine nuts. Pine nuts, which are very, very tiny, are most often roasted, which causes their shells to become brittle and easy to crack, revealing the sweet, sort of rosin-tasting nut within. However, raw piñones also are delicious, even if getting through their shells is a bit more difficult (one does it with one’s teeth.) Not everyone likes pine nuts, but I really, really like them, raw or roasted.

But, I digress.

After we had explored for a while, and had picked a double-handful of piñones, Betty’s mother called us to lunch. I had no idea what she had brought in the picnic basket, but I soon learned. Our Thanksgiving meal consisted of a jar of sweet pickles, a can of Vienna Sausages, and a large can of pork and beans. 1-2-3. The end.

The pickles and sausages we could eat with our fingers (napkins were provided), but Betty’s mother had brought no plates or bowls and, as it turned out, only one (1) spoon for the beans. I well remember that we passed the can of beans from one person to another, sharing not only the can of beans, but a spoon, as well.

When I got back home, I’m sure I made a bee-line for whatever was left over from my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. As you might expect, I have no recollection of what my mother had prepared, but I will never forget eating cold pork and beans with a shared spoon on Thanksgiving Day.

I leave you with these words from W.E.B. DuBois

"Give us thankful hearts...
in this the season of Thy Thanksgiving.
May we be thankful for health and strength,
for sun and rain and peace.
Let us seize the day and the opportunity
and strive for that greatness of spirit
that measures life not by its disappointments
but by its possibilities,
and let us ever remember that true gratitude
and appreciation shows itself neither
in independence nor satisfaction
but passes the gift joyfully on
in larger and better form."

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving Day -- even if it's pork and beans.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recipe for "Yum! Yum! plus Bits and Pieces


My sister has posted the recipe for the Lemon-Pear-Basil deliciousness that I wrote about last week. It may be found in the comment from "Nutmeg" following my original post. Or, here (only the comments section).  The recipe falls into the "very easy" category.


Bits and Pieces

It started raining around midnight last night, and is still raining at this writing (8 a.m.)  The rain gauge outside the kitchen window indicates that we've received a bit over an inch of much needed precipitation.  It's been very, very dry since mid-summer, and every drop is welcome. Fortunately, the overnight lows are not yet in the freezing range.   Ice-covered streets and trees are not something to which I look forward. Here in central Arkansas, we are much more likely to have ice than snow.   My thoughts have been with those in Minnesota and Wisconsin as they dig out from the recent snow-dump.

* *
I learned yesterday that my youngest daughter (YD) and her son (Nebraska) may be coming for Thanksgiving. YAY! I'm hoping the roads stay clear enough to make a safe trip. They've already had a bit of snow up there.  If she comes, she'll be bringing her "new" dog with her: Thule, an Afghan Hound.  I've not had an up-close-and-personal encounter with an Afghan Hound before. I am very fond of dogs, and they of me (usually), so I'm looking forward to meeting her.  How my cats will react is another matter.   YD has two cats, so perhaps there will not be too much mayhem.

Post post edit: Another call from YD this morning.  They are not coming for Turkey Day; maybe Christmas.  Shoot!

* *
Gardening Daughter received a brief telephone call on Sunday evening from her son who is in Coast Guard boot camp.  We think it was a "morale call;" he has a bad cold and is feeling generally yucky and down in the dumps.  I know that boot camp is difficult, both physically and mentally.  I'm keeping him, and the others in his class, in my prayers.  Only about 4 weeks to go. His group is due to graduate on December 10. Hang in there, "M.!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yum! Yum!

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Lemon-Pear-Basil Tart

This past Sunday afternoon, I accompanied Gardening Daugher, her husband and 16-yr old daughter to my sister's home in Hot Springs Village.  Sister had asked GD and hubby to assist in realigning some closet doors which had jumped the track.  She and brother-in-law are, like me, getting a bit physically challenged when it comes to manhandling stuff.

Mission accomplished, Sister served us a delicious late lunch/early supper of Portugese Kale Soup and bread, followed by a heavenly dessert.

The base of the tart is lemon cake, made from a mix, topped with sliced firm, but ripe, pears (Bartlett's, I think - Sister will let me know), covered with a thickened lemon sauce (juice of one lemon, sugar, cornstarch and water) and then chilled.  The unexpected and utterly delicious additon to this sweet was fresh basil leaves, shown, and the expected whipped cream (not shown.)  Basil, lemon, pears and cream in combination made my taste buds sing!  I had a second bite and would have had thirds, but all those present at the table thought it was wonderful, too!

Your pear tart is a winner, Sister. Are you making another one anytime soon?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inquiring, and Wandering, Minds

Driving home last evening in the all-too-early darkness since "Fall Back," my companion and I were chatting, as we usually do.  Our topics of conversation vary greatly, and it's usually not "girly stuff."  This time was no exception

We are concerned for a young church member who is suffering from post traumatic distress syndrome, having recently returned from what must have been an horrific tour of duty in the Middle East Conflict.  If you're a praying person, please be sure to mention the men and women of our armed forces, and all those in harm's way.

What this young man is currently experiencing brought to mind the experience of a college friend who had served in the Navy during the Korean Conflict. (Ever notice how all our "non-wars" are "Conflicts?")   My friend's ship came under attack and an enemy shell struck the magazine (ammunition section), blowing the ship to smithereens and causing all sorts of injuries.  He survived without serious physical damage, but for years thereafter was startled almost to the point of fainting at any loud, unexpected noise. I don't know that he ever completely recovered from the experience.

In a complete departure from that painful subject, I suddenly began to wonder why the word "magazine" is a used both in a military sense and as a descriptor for such things as The Ladies Home Journal.   This morning, I looked it up: the answer is below, compliments of dictionary.com

1575–85; < F magasin < It magazzino storehouse < Ar makhāzin, pl. of makhzan storehouse; in E figuratively, as “storehouse of information,” used in book titles (from c1640) and periodical titles (in The Gentleman's Magazine, 1731)"

Later, with more cheerful things.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Playing Around

I've been playing around with the Blogger Design templates this evening and rather like this one. The colors are to my liking; I am, at heart, an "earth-toned" person.  Besides, I like this particular header background; it seems appropriate now that the ducks and geese are arriving in our area.

It's easier to make changes to the template than I realized and, as fickle as I am, this may not be the last change. 

I would welcome your comments and opinions of the newly selected design.

Other Stuff

I've been a busy bee. It's time for another rubber stamping group activity sponsored by myself and my stamping partner.  In a week's time, 22 ladies will meet to make four cards each of six separate Christmas designs.  I'm responsible for preparing the materials, sample cards and instructions for three of the designs; my partner will do the same for the other three.  My card designs required that I cut almost 900 separate pieces of card stock, plus 88 pieces of ribbon.  The designing and cutting are done, thank goodness; all that remains is to assemble the pieces for four of each card and put them in "baggies" for distribution to the participants. 

In other stamping activities, I made a fancy-dancy 50th wedding anniverary card (much, much more complicated than my usual designs) for my sister and her husband in Virginia. I putzed around with it for almost 2-1/2 hours trying to make it look like I had envisioned.  I hope they like it; I'm not likely to make another one of the same sort for some time -- if ever.

Also, I'm trying to design a variety of masculine "Thinking of You" cards. My grandson "M" shipped out last week to boot camp at the United States Coast Guard training center in Cape May, NJ.  I think he needs mail from his grandmother every week.  He is 19, is Gardening Daughter's only male child, and bears part of my name.  No, he's not a boy named "Sue." His middle name and mine are the same -- Allen.

[My mother had already decided what my first name would be, if I were a female child, (which I was) but was struggling to find a middle name that she liked for her first born.  She was so relieved to be delivered of me after 48 hours of labor that she chose the last name of her attending physician (Dr. George W. Allen) for my middle name.  It's caused all sorts of confusion over the years, especially among government officials who think the "Allen" in my name is my maiden name. I often have to pull out my birth certificate to assure them that it's part of my given name.]

We haven't heard from "M" except for the obligatory form letter letting us know that he arrived and giving us his mailing address.  I hope we have a newsy letter from him soon; I'm anxious to know how things are going.   The only advice I gave him before he left was to eat the food that was set before him when it was set before him. I suspect that he'll need all the energy he can get. He's tall and very slender and could use a few pounds on his frame.

It's finally turned "chilly." I had to turn on the furnace for a while this morning. When I awoke, the temperature inside the house was below 60 degrees. That's too cold for me and the cats.

I wish you a pleasant weekend, wherever you are.

Friday, October 15, 2010

These Boots Were Made For *

I have a lovely next door neighbor, the one I've mentioned before who was so kind to feed me during my illness earlier this year. She and I visited across the fence the day I was going to work in the back yard (yesterday's post). She expressed concern that I was wearing sandals because she had observed several snakes in her back yard, and had killed one she described as a "ground rattler" on her patio. I eased her mind by assuring her that I would dig out and don my snake-resistant "rubber boots" before beginning my tasks.  I'm happy to say I didn't observe any snakes anywhere in my yard, but there are some unmowed areas where they might be lurking.  I suppose it doesn't hurt anything to be cautious.

 My person, as seen by a charitable observer, would be described as "matronly." I'm well padded from my shoulders to my knees, but that's where the padding stops. I still have trim calves and ankles (I think), and long and extremely narrow feet.   Both my father and mother had very slender feet and, evidently, I  inherited a double dose of  genes which resulted in my having "spaghetti feet." I've never in my whole life had a pair of shoes that really, truly fit.

I used to dream of running away to Italy and ordering ten pairs of custom-made shoes, a luxury which has been denied me, so far, and with no prospects of it happening in my lifetime.  I make do with what I can find, locally and on the Internet, but even a 4-A (slim-slim) shoe is still far too wide. I must have been behind the door when God passed out size 7-B feet. 

Gardening Daughter also has skinny feet, but not quite so narrow as mine.  When I was responsible for keeping her shod, it was quite a challenge to find shoes for her that came anywhere close to being a good fit. My other two daughters can buy shoes almost anywhere, as their feet are "normal."  I'm jealous.

As you might imagine, my boots don't fit my feet, either. I have to wear three pairs of socks just to keep them from falling off.

*someone with wider feet

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Even More Stuff and Junk

I was able to work in my yard for several hours last week, a sorely-needed task. The front yard, which I had mowed the week before, was still in pretty good condition, relatively speaking (it has its problems.)  Other than a light shower earlier this week, it hasn't rained for quite a while, and it's the time of year when grass slows its growth, anyway.

The back yard was another matter. I could have fed several head of livestock back there.  I've often thought that city living has its drawbacks, since a nice nanny goat would be of great assistance in keeping the area trimmed down.  It took two sessions, with resting between, to get it all trimmed and mowed, but it looks much better.  I noticed that in areas where the grass/weeds don't grow, the earth was like dust. When I finished mowing I got out the sprinkler and ran it in several areas long enough to put down at least a half-inch of water.  I hope my plants appreciate the impact that's going to have on my water bill.

Until the last few days or so, the hummingbird feeder in the back yard had been taken over by honey bees, which swarmed the openings in great numbers, several hundred at a time. They would completely drain the reservoir in a few hours. I was able to observe them closely without fear of attack; they were too busy feeding to pay me much attention. 

I don't mind feeding the bees; the hummingbirds that had been visiting have fled for more southern climes. I don't know why they "wussed" out after a few days of low temperatures in the high 30 degree range; if they'd waited a few days they could have experienced record-setting high temperatures for October -- eight or nine days in a row in which the high temperatures were in the 90's.  So much for Fall!

Due to lack of rainfall, there's not much color in the neighborhood trees.  There is a red-leafed dogwood a couple of doors down, but you can see from the photo above that the foliage has been stressed.  My own poor Japanese Maple is so tatty-looking, with brown, curled up leaf edges, that I haven't bothered to take any photos.  I've watered it many times over the summer, but the leaves have still suffered heat-shock.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Real Things of Beauty

Rose Bouquet

Gardening Daughter (GD), as you might imagine from my previous mentions of her, is a lover of flowers.  She has taken a part time job, which she enjoys very much, with a small local florist.  Her boss was invited to attend a seminar sponsored by the largest wholesale florist in our county, and she, in turn, invited GD to attend with her. 

My daughter enjoyed the seminar, which lasted almost a whole day, and was very interested in the presentation of one of the featured demonstrators, a commercial rose grower from Ecuador who is trying to create a market here in Arkansas.

GD was quite taken with the Ecuadorian roses, a generous quantity of which she was able to bring home.  She brought me the arrangement pictured above, which is no more than a bunch of roses in a vase; nothing more was needed, in my opinion.

The grower maintains 10 hectares (almost 25 acres) of greenhouses in which nothing is grown but roses.  What a heavenly place that must be.  I can only imagine what it must look like when the roses start to bloom.

One of the roses (a separate photo below) is the largest I have ever seen.  It does not have quite as much "rose" fragrance as the smaller ones (which are not "small" except compared to this one), but it is remarkable for its size.  I wonder how many of these beauties grown on one plant?  I placed my gnarly hand to the side of the blossom to show relative size.  A huge flower, is it not?

The red roses are particularly beautiful. There must be hundreds of petals in each bloom; I've never before seen a rose with so many. Photo below.  Observe how the petals swirl.

I've had the bouquet for an entire week and all the flowers save one are in excellent condition.  The huge rose has opened up even more, and while it's not as beautiful as it was the day it arrived, it is still lovely -- hasn't shed a single petal.

Amazingly, although the cats have been very interested in the flowers, they haven't taken any actions which would damage the flowers.  That's not always the case; I've had several bouquets in the past that have been picked apart in a few days, despite much scolding.

I hope you're having a lovely weekend.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Thing of Beauty?

Self-Portrait : 09-24-10

I suffer again from respiratory discomfort - not yet to the "distress" level. This time, I think it's allergies, or a combination of germs and ragweed, but to be on the safe side, after self-medicating and staying in bed for a couple of days, I visited my physician yesterday afternoon.  $338 later, I had undergone an X-Ray of my sinuses (slightly infected), extensive blood analysis (I still have a bit left), a steroid injection and two prescriptions.  I'm still alive today, and feeling somewhat better, thanks be to God.

All that as it may be, I felt I  had to mow the raggedy front yard today.  It's supposed to rain a bit for the next few days, and I was sprinkled upon as I was bringing the mower into the back yard, which put an end to my mowing. Besides, I was ready to give it up; breathing through one of those Maxi-Masks can be hard work. 

As I think I may have mentioned in an earlier post, our city gub'ment is quick to send hateful letters to folk who let even one solitary patch of grass exceed 8" in  height, and threaten to come mow your property and send you a bill unless the "problem" is taken care of immediately.  I think I shall apply for a job in that department (the sussing out of unkempt yards, that is), as I have seen several yards in my vicinity in DIRE need of a good mow.  Those folk are either exempt from city harassment, or they just ignore the epistles.   I haven't seen any city workers out with their mowers on those properties.  Can we say "discriminatory practices?"  Or do the powers that be only send letters to the folks they know will comply, even if they're 100 years old with one foot in the grave?


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ode to a Misplaced Cup of Coffee

My younger sister continues to insist that my memory is not quite as good as I think it is, even to the extent of sending me a very cute, handmade birthday "report card" with the heartless indication that I was falling short in the memory department.  She's about put me off the idea of recounting any events that occurred during our youth -- at least when she was present.  I shall henceforth have to be very selective in my reporting.

However, to be fair, she may have a point.  While I steadfastly deny that my long-term memory is faulty, I have noticed (quite a bit, actually) that my short term memory is playing me false.  To demonstrate the latter, I offer you the following which I composed this morning (may be read with the melody of “Tannebaum” running through your mind. If you’ve forgotten the tune, may I direct you to: Tannebaum )


Oh, Coffee Mug, Oh, Coffee Mug,
Where have I put you this time?
I set you down and walk away,
Another thought has come my way.
Oh, Coffee Mug, Oh, Coffee Mug,
Where have I put you this time?

My favorite mug, not hard to see
Where have I put you this time?
I leave you and the brew gets cold.
It’s clear to me I’m getting old.
Oh, Coffee Mug, Oh, Coffee Mug,
Where have I put you this time?

Cup of delight, so gently brewed,
Where have I put you this time?
Sometimes you’re in the microwave,
Your gift of warmth I sought to save,
But you’re not there, Oh, where, Oh, where,
Where have I put you this time?

Not on the desk nor counter top,
Where have I put you this time?
The bedside chest is a choice spot
But are you there? Oh, no, you're not.
Oh, Coffee Mug, Oh, Coffee Mug,
Where have I put you this time?

I could go on, but enough is enough.  Thank you for your indulgence.

Although I have a small home (6 small rooms and bath), I sometimes give up the search and brew another cup.  Usually before bedtime, I find the missing cup in, you guessed it, the last place I look!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Memory - 1953

I have previous admitted I am a pack rat, and tend to hold on to a large and diverse number of items that have some value to me, sentimental or otherwise. While working in a bookcase a couple of weeks ago, I ran across a journal "Don't Forget to Remember" that has been part of my pack rat's nest since Albuquerque days (we moved to Arkansas in 1950).  Embossed on the deep brown faux leather front cover is "Strong's Office Supply, 403 West Copper Ave, Albuquerque, New Mexico."  The book belonged to my mother, but the inscription stating such seems to be in my own juvenile handwriting, and as far as I can determine, she never made any entries in it. 

Inside are a number of list of facts, as they were in the 1940's. Included are lists of such things as land areas, continental populations (the continents listed being Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, South America, and Oceania.) North America's population was shown as 175,800,224.  That must have been from the 1940 census. The list also includes longest rivers, largest lakes, biggest deserts, largest cities (London was listed in first place with a population of 7,742,212,) largest islands, biggest seas and highest mountains.  There follows a list of states (neither Alaska nor Hawaii is included), a two-page spread of the Declaration of Independence, a list of presidents and vice presidents of the United States, ending with Harry S. Truman, a list of national parks, and an extensive list of major world events, ending with a short list of events from 1946.  The book must have been printed in late 1946 or early 1947.

The address book portion of this journal seems to be written by several hands, none of which were my mother's.  I recognize both of my sisters' and my own in the compliation of the list.

I must have taken this book with me to college, since in the Memoranda section are listed two line items of income dated 9-8-53 and 10-5-53, the first being $1.00 for babysitting for Mrs. Carter (who was my boss at the college post office where I worked), and the second being my paycheck from the post office in the amount of $18.60. That was probably for the month of September, since I went to work there on September 6 or 7.  As I recall, I was paid 40 cents an hour.

Although the entries are sporadic, with many blank dates, on a whim, I looked at September 1 (1953) and found a full page entry in my handwriting:

       "Well, today was the great breaking off point. Through am I with my job for the duration of college. How I hated to leave; practically cried all over the place. Everyone has been so sweet to me.  "M" came back Monday. Tonight she gave me a pair of beautiful nylon (unmentionables) as a farewell gift. I wonder how they are going to get along without me?  Probably very well.
        Jo B is back from Glorieta. She saw Betty quite a lot. I really enjoyed talking to her. How I would like to see Betty. I wish I could be going to school with her this year at UNM (University of New Mexico.)  B.M. has offered to show me around the school campus and help me register, but I think I will decline the favor.  P.S. No bonus. H.J. broke his promise to me and I really needed it, too."

My job had been as a bookkeeper/teller at the local bank, where I had worked for about 14 months after completion of high school.  The college to which I was going was Arkansas State Teachers' College in Conway, Arkansas, now known as the University of Central Arkansas.

If I remember to remember (heheheh), I may dip back into this book from time to time to share a few glimpses of my life from over 50 years ago.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Butterflies - No Memories

 Butterfly on my Butterfly Bush

The days of this month (and year, for that matter) have evaporated like dew in the morning sun.  I believe it to be a true observation that the older one becomes the quicker the time seems to pass. 

As I look back on what I have (and have not) accomplished in the past 31 days, I can give myself credit for: keeping some semblance of order and cleanliness in my home; major furniture rearrangement in my living room; a bit of downsizing by identifying and donating several household items, large and small, to family or charities; preparation and successful completion of another (well-attended, thank you) Stamp Camp; and quite a bit of work in the church office as I prepare for the transition of our financial records and other documents to a newer (not new) computer.  Oh --- and I spent about 2.5 hours yesterday morning weeding the "north" flower beds in the church garth (and I have the aching muscles to remind me, today and for several days to come, I fear.)

However, when I think of the things that I ought to have accomplished as well, I don't feel much satisfaction.  As I am wont to say "Whose fault is that?"

Gardening Daugher called me a couple of days ago, excited about discovering a chrysalis in her yard, one which she had not seen before.  A bit of research on Google led her to believe that it is the chrysalis of a Gulf Fritillary Butterfly. If any of you readers have information to the contrary, we'd like to know it. Thanks.

The photo below does not do it justice.  In the sunlight, the "points" on the outside glow like molten gold.  I was interested in the fact that the "spider web"-looking strands around the chrysalis are spun by the caterpillar itself to protect the chrysalis.  Daughter is keeping a close eye on it, hoping to see the butterfly emerge.

Gulf Fritillary (?) Chrysalis

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


ahn-wee' -  lassitude, listlessness, languor, weariness

I am stricken by all of the above, and I blame in on what seems to be interminable HEAT! When the heat index is 120, I don't want to do anything except wear loose clothing, set the air conditioner thermostat to "meat cooler," sit in my chair, look out the window and sip cold, sweet tea!  Even that wears me out so much that I have to take an afternoon nap!

I wish I had a big bowl of this:

I have seriously neglected writing to this blog, and appreciate those who have missed me.  At present, I'm not doing anything that's worth writing about. It had been so long since I posted that my sister called to be sure I was still drawing the requisite number of breaths.

I make myself go outside to tend the bird baths and water the plants, which are suffering mightily from the heat. Even an otherwise welcome breeze does nothing except dry them out even more.  A hanging basket watered in the morning requires another soaking by mid-afternoon.

Ah, well!  I will be remembering these days more fondly when the icicles are hanging by the wall!

I shouldn't complain -- really, I should not!  If I stop to think for even a minute about the men and women in our military who are assigned to the Middle East, I remember that they are walking around in flak jackets, helmets, and carrying heavy loads in temperatures that make an Arkansas summer pale by comparison.  God Bless you all, my dears, and keep you safe!  I am ashamed of myself! 

More, later, but not too much later.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lycoris Squamigera

OR "Naked Ladies"

After almost giving up hope of having any flowers this season, I spied a solitary bloom peeping out from behind a basket of Lantana, which I had inadvertently placed on top of the place where I planted several Lycoris bulbs last year (see here for details). It remains to be seen if any of the other myriad bulbs I planted will flower this season.

The dear people from whom I received the bulbs, Carol and her husband of "Coward's Corner with Luckie" told me that I might not have any blooms the first year. Carol shared a gardener's wisdom - "one year to rest; one year to grow; one year to bloom."  Perhaps I am still ahead of the game by having any blooms at all.

The photos above were not taken in situ, as the flower stalk had been severely warped by the Lantana container, so I clipped it and brought it inside to place in my kitchen window, and I love looking at it. 

I'll be closely watching other places where I planted bulbs in hope that some others may show their colors this year.  I do so enjoy these beautiful flowers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Sight I Might Not See Again

While I was a way on a nice, long visit to my daughter's home in Nebraska, the Sanseveria (Mother-in-Law's Tongue/Snake Plant) that I've had for years put up a flower stalk.  Gardening Daughter tells me that she's never before seen one in bloom, but from research on the web I learned that the plant is a regular bloomer, under the right conditions.  My absence must have been the condition.   Since some web information said these plants may bloom only once every ten years, I truly might not see it bloom again.

The blooms are pretty, but slightly malodorous.  Google comments on the plant contain reports of the blooms smelling slightly of carnation, but such is not the case here.  It's not bad enough to put it outside, but I wouldn't want a bouquet of them.

I'll get back to my "Butterflies and Memories" posts soon, along with some snippets about my trip to Nebraska.  I had a lot to do to get ready for my trip, and a lot to do upon my return, besides which driving almost 700 miles in one day sort of wore me out.  Missed you all.  I'll be trying to catch up, soon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Butterflies and Memories Part 2

Butterfly on Abelia, 2009

Although I am unsure of the exact date, but probably in the summer of 1942, we moved to Albuquerque after my father went to Grand Junction, CO. Other than remembering that we came on the Trailways bus, I don't remember anything about the trip, nor of moving into the furnished house at 706 N. Second St. (now disappeared forever, along with many blocks surrounding it, to make way for big banks and other commercial buildings.)  The address, 706, placed the corner lot on which the red brick house stood at seven blocks north of Central Avenue, or Route 66, which was the "Main Street" of Albuquerque.  Mama's place of employment was also on Second Street, probably in about the 300 block, so it was very well placed so that she could walk to and from work.

 About all I remember of the house itself was that it had a few steps leading up to an open front porch, a living room which contained a piano (to our delight), probably a couple of bedrooms (although I remember only one), a kitchen, bathroom, and back porch.

 The bedroom that I remember contained a brass bed with a tall headboard. That bed is where I spent a great many days during my "Childhood Illness" about which I wrote at length last year.

My memories of "706" are somewhat limited, probably due to my being so sick most of the time we lived there.  But, I wasn't sick the entire time, and the memory butterflies have left me with a few snapshots.

At some time after moving from Las Vegas, we must have acquired a "wringer" washing machine, which was housed on the back porch.  I was too young to participate in the laundry process, other than probably hauling dirty clothes to the machine, but I do remember that I was fascinated by the wringer.  So much so that, at age 8, I considered it an appropriate instrument of punishment for the younger sister who simply would not mind me when I told her to do something. This torture (as she now describes it), which was applied only once, was to have her hand and arm inserted into the turning wringer until she agreed to comply.  I thought it was a dandy way to bring about cooperation, but she squealed on me, and my mother applied suitable persuasion upon another region of my body, which compelled me to abandon the practice.

It was in the yard of this home that I first explored smoking.  Real tobacco not being available in our house, my friend Helen and I discovered that Rabbit Tobacco, which grew in profusion, could be picked, dried, crumbled and rolled up in toilet paper to create a substitute cigarette.  This practice was not long continued because my father, upon one of his visits to Albuquerque from Colorado, caught us.

Another memory is of my mother's "Jewel Tea" dishes.  Jewel Tea dishes were a free gift, or at least of very low cost, that came with the purchase of Watkins products, such as vanilla, spices, and other food stuffs.  Watkins products were personally delivered to one's home by "the Watkins Man" who drove a small commercial van with "Watkins" emblazoned on the side.  I suppose Mama had been buying Watkins products for some time, for she had quite a collection of Jewel Tea "Autumn Leaf" dishes, probably a service for six. The dishes were glazed pottery, with red, brown, orange and gold designs.  I understand that they are quite "collectible" these days.  We used the Jewel Tea dishes on Sundays; I don't remember any other dishes, although we must have had them.
Example of "Jewel Tea" ware

On one fateful Sunday afternoon, Mama had washed the Jewel Tea dishes that had been used for dinner, as the noon meal was called in our household, and as she dried them, had placed them on the "drop leaf" kitchen table prior to putting them away in china cabinet.  Said table had the leaf extended and the leg to support the raised leaf was in place.   Younger sister, full of energy from lunch, was running through the house at breakneck speed, probably being chased by yours truly, and was just short enough to run under the table in her getaway efforts.  She ran under the table, all right, knocked the supporting leg from under the leaf and all the Jewel Tea dishes came crashing to the floor.  There may have been one or two surviving pieces, but that was it.  For all intents and purposes, Mama's hard won collection of Jewel Tea dishes was gone, gone, gone! 

Same sister had a penchant for playing with Mama's dishes, some of which, I learned later, were wedding presents.  At least two pieces that I remember suffered disaster at my sister's hands -- a platinum banded stemmed compote, and a peach-colored crystal sugar bowl.   She maintains to this day no memory of these occurrences, but I do!

Another thing I remember was a huge fire at a lumber yard which was located perhaps 6 blocks from the house.  The fire started after dark, and I recall standing outside in the front yard, hearing the fire truck sirens, smelling burning wood, and watching burning embers and smoke shooting into the sky.  The lumber yard was completely destroyed, and the fire believed to be arson.

One last memory before I wrap this segment up.  After my "illness" I was occasionally allowed to walk my sisters and baby brother, who was about 2 years old, to the neighborhood park. about three blocks away.  Exposure to sunshine was deemed to be a contributor to my recovery.  It was on one of these excursions that I found, lying next to a trash barrel, a copy of "Sunshine and Health" magazine, which had some very interesting photos in it.  Turns out it was a nudist publication.  I took it home with me, where it promptly disappeared.

It's funny what one remembers.

We moved from "706" to 607 N. Second during the summer of 1943, before I entered the third grade.  The new house was somewhat larger, and it was closer to Mama's workplace.  We lived there for over two years, and I have lots of memories of that place to share.

Until next time, I leave you with a few more 2010 lily photos.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Butterflies and Memories Part 1

I have decided that memories are quite a lot like butterflies. Some flit in and out again, darting between receptive brain cells but never staying long. However, others sit for a while and leave permanent impressions, light and airy as they may be.

It's amazing how many butterfly memories one can recall, given the opportunity.  Having recently undergone an extensive period of quiet, restful sitting and slumbering,  I have remembered quite a number of things that have occurred during my lifetime.  It's not that I've just remembered them, nor has my life "flashed before my eyes"; most have been floating in my brain cells for many years. However, I've been putting them in an order of sorts.

Most of these remembrances have no historical significance whatsoever, and will be boring in the extreme to most who read them, but they are occurrences that have shaped my life. Some memories are of historical happenings, and readers of similar age will have similar memories -- when I finally get to the historical stuff (H) -- but there is only one (H) in this Part 1.

My earliest memory (don't laugh or doubt) is of my first (as in one year old) birthday party, cake and all. At age 6 or 7, I began to describe it to my mother. She told me there was no way I could have remembered it, but my description of the room and the view from the window was so exact that she finally had to agree that it truly was a memory, as there were no photographs of the occasion, and our family lived in that house only a few months past that date.

I have lost any memories of things that happened from then until I was about 4, except discovering my first pet, a cat named Black Pepper, doing his "business" in a bushel of peanuts on our back porch. I must have been about 3 at that time.  

I have only  "snapshot" memories of happenings from age 4 to 6 when our family lived in El Paso, TX.   These include:

       * Mama taking me to the first movie I ever saw, starring Deanna Durbin. I still remember the melody and some of the words to a song she sang in the film.
       * seeing the lit-up 1938 community Christmas tree in downtown El Paso after we left the movie; it was a thrilling sight for a 4 year old, and seemed to reach to the vaults of the sky.
       * moving from a room in a rooming house to a big house on Hill Street, which had about 25 steps from street level to front door (I recall I fell down them several times).
        * visiting the little girl across the street even after Daddy told me not to (my little friend had German measles, and although I didn't know it at the time, Mama was pregnant with my baby sister, born 1/1/1939).
        * the spanking I got (with a razor strop) from Daddy when he found out I had played with my sick friend.
         * seeing my baby sister's bald head in bed with Mama.
         * my two year old sister putting Black Pepper in a dresser drawer, where he stayed all day. We could hear him crying, but didn't find him until bed time.
        * playing with the boy next door and getting stuck in the cactus bed between our houses.
        * losing my first tooth in a piece of apple during a supper with my parents' friends, Mr. and Mrs. Pollard.
        * Mr. Pollard teaching me to eat the skin of the potato because that's where all the vitamins are (I still do that);
       * Mrs. Pollard, "Podough," giving me the Minnie Mouse quilt blocks.
        * going to Juarez, Mexico on the bus with Mama when she went shopping for  groceries (Mama told me when I was in my 40's that Juarez was the only place she could afford to buy meat, and she didn't know if she bought beef, pork, horse, dog or cat, or something else entirely, and she didn't care - meat was meat).
      * seeing wild canaries nesting in the trellises over the patio of our home on Montana Street.
      * eating stucco sand with a spoon with my friend, Edna (is that called pica?)
      * starting kindergarten and my first school book, which was in Spanish, "Juan y Maria en Casa" (I've written about my first day in school in my diatribe against a certain brand of canned evaporated milk.)
      * a strange landlady who stood on a chair in our kitchen and stuck her finger in an open light socket -- on regular basis (I think we didn't live there very long).
       * packing up to move to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Mama crying because she couldn't take our furniture.

I was almost six when we moved to Las Vegas. I don't remember the move at all, and I don't remember my first day at school, first grade, but I do remember:
       * my teacher, Mrs. Kole.
       * my good friend, Cherry, the only black girl in the class, perhaps in all of Las Vegas.
       * a boy named George, who called Cherry the "N" word and made her cry, and I punched him in the nose and made him cry, and bleed, and Mrs. Kole sent me home with a note.
       * Christmas of 1940 when I got a pair of roller skates and a doll with jointed legs and arms, held together inside with rubber bands. The doll was dressed in a red dotted swiss dress with a white apron, and had long black braids, tied on the ends with red ribbons. On that same day, my younger sister "wound up" her legs and arms until the rubber bands broke and the arms and legs fell off. Mama couldn't fix it. That was the last doll I ever got as a present. When I get to heaven, I want long black braids and a red dotted swiss dress with a white apron. Do you think God will let me dress that way, or will I be content with what I get?;
       * Mama accidently pushing a fine crochet hook through the palm of her hand, and having to cut off the hook end to pull it out.
       * getting a new baby brother in April, 1941.
       * having to move from our furnished apartment because the baby cried too much to suit the landlord, who lived upstairs.
       * our wonderful new landlords, Mr and Mrs. Carpenter, who loved all of us and the baby; we loved their big house, where we lived in the entire upstairs.
       * Daddy coming home from the CCC camp on a Friday night after dark and Mrs. Carpenter's Chihuahua bit him on the leg, tore his pants and drew blood.
 (H) * December 8, 1941. I sat on the stairs and listened to the radio when President Roosevelt announced that Congress had declared war on Japan.

I have posted earlier about my Daddy going to the Army sometime after Pearl Harbor. In reviewing some old documents just this past week, I discovered that he did not actually go to the Army until May, 1942.  He was sent to an Army base at Grand Junction, Colorado, to teach automotive mechanics.  Mama and the rest of us moved to Albuquerque, some 75 miles away, where Mama had obtained employment as a bookkeeper/secretary at a large electrical wholesale company, as there was no employment available in Las Vegas.  My memories of the actual move are sketchy, at best, but I remember that we "moved" on a Southwest Trailways bus, all of our household items (no furniture) in boxes in the luggage compartment. We rode together on the back seat of the bus, and my poor mother, who all her life suffered from motion sickness, had to manage 4 children age 7 and under and be sick at the same time. I cannot imagine how she did it.

End - Part 1

If you have endured this far, your reward is a photo or two of my 2010 day lilies which, for the most part, have bloomed without benefit of my hovering presence. Several varieties have already "shot their wad" and I'll have to wait until next year to enjoy watching them bloom.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Water on a Collard Leaf

As I was washing the collard greens my neighbor gave me, the beads of water on the leaf caught my eye.  As you already know, I will take a photo of almost anything, and this was no exception.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hay Bale Gardening

I promised last week, and again day before yesterday, that I would post about my venture into Hay Bale Gardening. The method is simplicity itself.
1 - Purchase/acquire the number of hay bales you think you will use; Gardening Daughter brought me four.
2 - Align or space bales as desired; mine are in a "U" configuration (photo above.)

3- Bore holes into the bales to the depth of about half way into the bale and remove hay.
4 - Scoop out a bit more hay around the sides of the bottom of the hole.
5 - Add potting soil,  packing a bit into the extra space created at the bottom.  (photo above)

6 - Plant desired plants. 

Already in place in my bales are several cucumber plants (photo above), three varieties of peppers (Tam Jalapeno, Sweet Banana, and Italian Roasting - the taller plants in the first photo), and two tomato plants.  There are several holes ready for planting. At least one, perhaps two, of them will receive Italian Flat Bean seeds. These are the "bush" variety, and should need no support.  "Kentucky Wonder" pole beans will be planted along the fence. I've told my neighbor, the one who has been bringing me all the delicious meals (see previous post,) that she could pick whatever showed up on her side of the fence.  Last year, we had the same arrangement when the tomatoes she planted on her side of the fence sent out shoots to my side -- which eventually bore at least a half dozen fine tomatoes.   Yum!

In addition to the plants in the bales, Gardening Daughter planted some potatoes inside the "U."  The seed potatoes were laid on bare dirt, then covered with about 6" of hay. The idea, as I understand it, is that as the potatoes sprout and leaves begin to emerge from the hay, one just keeps adding hay to the top (not covering the leaves, of course) and the new potatoes grow into the hay. No dirt on the potatoes when you harvest them.  We'll see how this works out! I have to laugh a bit; Gardening Daughter is doing her best to turn me into a farmer!

I'll keep you posted as the crops "come in."

More, later.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Playing Catch Up: The "other" Iris; Other Flowers; Stuff and Junk


This is the other Bearded Iris I mentioned in my last post.  A pretty thing, isn't it? I'm glad I got the photo when I did; Sunday's 5.5" downpour, which fell in about 45 minutes, beat the remaining bloom to pieces. 


Other flowers in my yard are starting to bloom.   Yay, Spring!    The hybrid day lilies are in full bud; the first one, shown above, opened this morning. I no longer remember its name; it's one of three varieties that my Virginia sister sent me several years ago.
"H-14," the otherwise unnamed day lily that I mentioned last week and in June, 2009, is full of buds and about ready to pop. I expect to see multiple blooms any day now. 

Last year, Gardening Daughter and I created a window box that I can easily see from my kitchen, and it's generally the first thing I look at each morning.  I planted in it two pots of multi-colored Calabrachoa (Million Bells) and four small pots of Sweet Alyssum.  I had no idea at the time how much pleasure it would bring me.


The spent flowers do not have to be picked off for it to continue to bloom, and it has made a lovely cascade. All in all, a most satisfactory plant. It receives the morning sun, but is shaded from the strongest heat of the day.


I've been under the weather for the past week, having developed a particularly nasty sore throat on Tuesday last, which turned itself into general upper respiratory symptoms with lots of coughing; I seem to be prone to this sort of illness.  It's going around town, and must be transmittable by telephone, as my Nebraska daughter reported yesterday that she had almost exactly the same symptoms. No fever, just extreme discomfort.  Biological warfare, that's what it is!

Next door neighbor, about whom you will hear a bit more on Thursday, has been keeping me supplied with edibles. Earlier last week, she delivered meatballs and spaghetti sauce, collard and turnip greens cooked with ham, cooked pinto beans, pot roast with rice and sides of green beans and toasted garlic bread. I asked her if she had "taken me to raise," but she assured me that these were leftovers from her cooking for her two adult sons.  All were gratefully received; I didn't have a lot of energy to devote to preparing meals.

This afternoon, she called to ask me if I felt up to "messing with" some collard and turnip greens. Her nephew, who lives in a neighboring town, has a large garden and keeps her supplied with all sorts of fresh veggies.  I accepted from her a large bag of collard greens, a large bag of turnip greens, a bag of beautiful leaf lettuce, and four lovely spring onions. It took me a while (ah... several hours, between sit-downs) to get them all picked over, thoroughly washed and bagged for the refrigerator.  There are some good eats coming.  The lettuce is already earmarked for Wilted Lettuce, like my mama used to make.  If you've not ever had that particular Spring delicacy, you've been missing something tasty!!

After picking and washing and bagging, I know why these particular veggies are known as a "mess" of greens!  I surely did make a mess!

I promised I would post about Hay Bale Gardening, but enough is enough, and that post is already written and scheduled for Thursday.

More, later.