Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Golden Day

It's a very special day today, and the sun came up and was warm and sweet where I live. The trees are changing color, and the hickory trees and tulip poplars are a particularly rich and beautiful shade of gold right now. My morning commute involves a drive through the country just north of our city to the inland Navy base where the Norwegian and I both earn our daily bread. In the mornings and afternoons, the sun is at the precise angle to light the treetops. The entire woods look burnished and bright. It's breathtaking. We've been watching the deer, fearless in that area, step out into the open fields on the edges of the base. There's one small group, a few does and their young fawns, led by a regal buck with a nice eight to ten point rack, that we've seen a couple of days in a row now. I think they must know there's no hunting allowed on the base, and that even in the afternoon during the exodus past the south gate, they can feed in safety and peace.

On this day, fifty years ago, in a small town in north Alabama, my dad married my mom. They met at her workplace. He was a switchboard equipment installer for Western Electric, and the cotton company she worked for needed a telephone upgrade. My mom noticed him pretty early on in the job, and made excuses to frequent the ladies' room so she would have to walk repeatedly past the place he was working. One thing led to another, and they finally married at a little Episcopal church with red doors on Gordon Street. Everyone laughed about that last part, since that was my dad's first name.

Life and Western Electric took them all over the south. The first five years they were married they moved more than 30 times, in a tiny Airstream trailer--the littlest one they made. Dad had a penchant for big old Buicks, so at least they had a sturdy vehicle to pull their little home behind them. Year one brought Gordon, Jr., who left them almost as soon as he arrived. The near three years brought them my two sisters. I arrived six weeks before the assassination of President Kennedy. Our brothers arrived in odd-numbered years as well.

We stayed in the same city after 1963 and all of us grew up there. We had a backyard garden. Dad stayed with Western. We went to grade school and beyond, the Army, the Navy, and so forth.

It wasn't always easy between them. It wasn't always peaceful. The 1970s were rough on a lot of people and while we weren't devastated, neither were we entirely spared. The 1980s brought greater change--retirements and graduations; the 1990s brought grandchildren and war. And still they soldiered on.

I don't know what it takes to be married for fifty years. I look at the Norwegian and wonder what we'll be like at that milestone--he'll be 101 and I'll be 94 and 7/8s. I hope we'll be the complete embarrassment of the retirement home--still sneaking kisses and holding hands.

Dad died two years ago, suddenly, awfully. Mom was done with her treatment for lung cancer, but unfortunately, lung cancer wasn't done with her. Her third brain tumor left her in September with an esophagus so constricted she can neither eat nor drink. She has a feeding tube in her stomach now that she pours a concoction of nutrition that smells awfully like Carnation evaporated milk into six times a day. Her adrenal glands are both covered in tumors that have metastasized from her lungs. Today though, we took her flowers and a card covered in gold. It was so small a gesture to offer for 50 years of hope and love and tears and joy. This wasn't the golden anniversary we expected, but life isn't always what we ask for. The best we can do is to live and love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day At Last

Hello friends. If you're reading this within the confines of the 50 United States, then for you, as well as for me, it's election day.


We've come a long way, baby, from the early primaries in New Hampshire 20 months ago, to the major party conventions this summer. We've learned more than we ever cared to know about the personal lives, financial condition, voting records, favorite colors, religious proclivities and bad habits of all of the candidates, and their family members as well. We've come to question knuckle bumping as a possible terrorist gesture. We've learned to equate visiting a National Guard armory as foreign policy. We've (hopefully) learned to be more careful about judging others by standards we might not so much wished to be judged ourselves.

There's a lot at stake today, both nationally and locally. If you voted today (and my fondest hope is that you did), then you probably were greeted with a number of referenda germane to your particular locale, and perhaps some Congressional candidates as well. I wouldn't presume to suggest you vote for a particular party or candidate, but I do pray that you found candidates in all areas, and positions on all issues that you could, with good conscience pull a lever, touch the screen, poke the chad or otherwise let "x" mark the spot.

Tomorrow, God willing, the sun will come up regardless of the outcomes, but let us dearly hope that whoever wakes up happy tomorrow also wakes up resolved to occupy his or her respective office with dignity, grace, fairness and compassion. We all deserve to be heard. This land is my land, but just as surely, this land is also your land.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Women of Note

Today is the birthday of Marcia, marcia, marcia. She's a strong, gorgeous woman and we're trying to encourage her to write more often. She also makes a marvelous marciarita.

I just watched a good bit of "The Devil Wears Prada" with Dear Daughter and the Norwegian's daughter. We laughed at the notion that a size 10 is the new 14. What a hoot. It's an hysterical movie although I must confess to loving the shoes, none of which I could ever wear.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And another thing...

A big happy birthday shout out to young Amicus, the number one son at Fine Old Famly. Twelve is a very good year. Enjoy every moment of it!

Facing up to Facebook

So, here it is, day two of NaBloPoMo, and amazingly, I'm writing my second post in a row. Okay, my second post in a row for quite a long time. NaBloPoMo is a kind and user-friendly group that encourages creative writing through blogging, by offering advice, support and incentive to bloggers to commit to daily postings for 30 consecutive days in November. Believe me, I WANT to post everyday. I have plenty to post about, and given that blogging is so much cheaper and convenient than therapy, you'd think that I'd be running off at the with postings.

I have a deep, dark confession to make. The real reason I have fallen off on blogging is that I've been cheating on my blog with this little hussy. Yes, I can now admit that I've fallen into the clutches of an Internet social networking site. Oh, it started innocently enough--a funny "status" comment here, a peek at a friend's photo album there. I'd check my page in the morning and then again when I got home from work. Every day I added another friend or two--always someone I already knew and either worked with or had social dealings with. Some of my friends were even children of my friends. We all were gradually sucked into the vortex.

Next I found myself surreptitiously checking my page at work. Quickly, and only when I was done with a project or having a short break from the intense and important work of shuffling paper from one beaureaucratic desk to another, I'd bring up my page, and feed my "virtual pet" (as if I don't have enough real ones) or add a plant to my "virtual" green plot (while worrying about how my victory garden was going to get weeded this week.

I started checking my "friends" lists of friends to see who they knew that I might know. I started searching for people from my past--co-workers, classmates, cheating dirty dog ex-boyfriends who by all rights should be in jail or under an NFL stadium end-zone. This simple little tool became a means of checking out people without having to actually deal with them and scope out the lives of those I was better off without in the first place.

Like any other addiction, weaning myself from this black hole of a website has been a challenge. I tell myself "if I check my page before going to work, then I promise I won't even peep once during work." Of course then a message will pop up in my E-mail in-box telling me about a comment or photo post one of my friends has made, and the urge to go check it out is overwhelming. Like the siren song of a coffee pot when you've already had your limit for the morning, these maddening little reminders that someone you know is also online tease and tickle your attention.

I'm getting better though, really. I'm learning to save most of my Facebook checking and posting for the weekend. It really is inconvenient to try and post things during the day. The time I spend on Facebook is time I could spend cooking, helping Dear Daughter with homework, sorting clutter, snuggling with the Norwegian, hugging a bunny or even blogging. I guess it all comes down to remembering that those things that are really important to me are the ones most deserving of my time. And that probably doesn't include a page that takes and takes, and gives only little soundbites in return.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Saints and Sanity

Hello again, from long ago. It's the first day of November, which is not only the feast of All Saints, but also the first day of NaBloPoMo. The former is a collective day to reflect upon all those who served God well and who now rest in glory (but who don't have their own special designated day of remembrance), while the latter is an initiative for bloggers to strive to post at least once per day for 30 consecutive days. Given my recent track record, I can say it's going to be a challenge to pick up that gauntlet, but I'm surely going to give it a try. For today, at least, I'm back.

I've always loved All Saints--the idea of honoring all saints, and the happy music that accompanies this particular low feast. I love the hope and optimism that even someone like me can actually be a good servant and answer the call. I'm still a work in progress. Tomorrow, the children of our parish will come to church costumed as various saints and people from the Bible and join in the opening processional as a reminder that saints do indeed still walk among us.

We've had an interesting couple of weeks filled with great joy and some real sadness and tragedy. Life does that to us. We are lifted up and then brought low. Today the sun was shining and we shared some good times with good people. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, but I am fairly certain I will be here to write about it. Good night, all.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I've Been Busy, Seriously

I promise to write a proper post soon, but in the meantime, who wants to see wedding pictures? The Norwegian and I finally tied the knot good and proper on 27 September. Now we're just busy living happily ever after...

We're still waiting on the proper pix from the photographer, but in the meantime, here are a few taken the morning of the wedding and just after the ceremony.

Me and

Dear Daughter.

The cake that nearly killed us all.

Dear Daughter of the Norwegian.

The beautifully decorated trellis on
our side porch, where we held the ceremony.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who Put These...Snakes on my...Driveway?

I won't include the universal adjectives that make this paraphrased quote from a notable movie starring Samuel L. Jackson so memorable, but I think you get the message.

Today is seven days before our wedding. Our home wedding. Our OUTDOOR wedding at home. In the yard. I'm in the kitchen making 300 grissini, chocolate classic buttercream frosting to frost the groom's cake I just assembled, and I've got a pot of homemade tomato basil soup on the stove just in case anyone should want. The Norwegian is off playing golf. Miss Baby is layering double chocolate cake with raspberry preserves. The dog is at the door staring at the driveway and whining.

Miss Baby took her out and suggested I come outside and see the snake. I'm thinking grass snake. Ha. That would be easy.

The neighbor's brother, a naturalist, came and caught it in a trash can for us. It's still out there and I'll upload pictures later, but please tell me how I can host 75 people at my house next Saturday if there's a nest of COPPERHEAD SNAKES somewhere in the yard????

Just this morning at the Farmer's Market I ran into an old friend from school and she remarked how calm and collected I am considering my wedding is in seven days. I recounted the tasks I'm trying to finish up and she laughed out loud at me. I do still have to bake the wedding cake and decorate it, hem my daughter's slip, teach Sunday school tomorrow, bake 300 grissini, mold fondant decorations for the groom's cake, make about 35 gallons of variously flavored buttercream frosting and iron all of the cloth napkins in the free world. But I really do have have it all under control.

Until now. Snakes in the yard. If anything could turn me into Bridezilla, this would truly be it. I bet Martha Stewart never had to plan a wedding with reptiles in the yard.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Know He Had to Pick Someone

...but Joe Biden? JOE? BIDEN?

Good grief. God help us all.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Recent Stuff

The past month has been full of all kinds of exciting things. We went to New Orleans twice in July--once to drop Miss Baby off for art camp, and then once again to pick her up. The Junior Norwegian was with us by the time we went the second trip. Since he'd never been to New Orleans, he had an adventure. He trekked through the French Quarter with his dad to see the wonderful D-Day Museum and the Aquarium of the Americas, while Miss Baby, my sister and I went to Crabby Jack's and had this:

If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, Crabby Jack's roasted duck po boy would definitely be a contender. Miss Baby ALWAYS opts for the catfish, but I also love the half'n'half (half oyster and half shrimp). Pour on the Louisiana Red hot sauce and stand back peoples. Crabby Jack's is small, hot and crowded, but so worth it. The photo above represents HALF of what you get for $9. You couldn't buy that much duck to roast for sandwiches for nine bucks, much less the crusty bread and dressings. I believe a fully dressed and wrapped sandwich could be used as a weapon, much like a Louisville Slugger. And in New Orleans, sometimes that is a good thing.

Baby Britta is now teenager Britta, and that means we finally had to make the decision to have her altered. This was not an easy task, since she is truly a terrific little dog and would have beautiful and smart puppies. However, an excellent personality is not always a guarantee that a dog will be a good mother, and we do think there are enough animals in the world who need good homes without us operating as amateur breeders. The Norwegian made the appointment and took her to the vet, where she was pampered and loved. Two weeks later, she's doing fine and has regained the weight she lost. Saturday she basked regally in the sun on the side porch with her dad.

Somewhere about that same time (early August), Miss Baby had a most eventful orthodontist appointment. After being in the chair for about an hour, she went downstairs to the parking lot and completely tanked. She swears she didn't really pass out, but the Norwegian had to fireman-carry her limp, unconscious self back upstairs for a mop-up of her bloody knees.

By the time they got home, she was bleeding again. I took her on a circuitous tour around town, in an un-air-conditioned Subaru in 100 degree heat (while wearing panty hose, no less), of some of the nicer minor medical clinics, one of which didn't accept our health insurance and the other which had closed mysteriously. We finally ended up at a hospital emergency room 15 miles from home (did I mention we live two miles from an excellent teaching hospital?) where she took seven stitches in her right knee. There was some high drama for a few days surrounding pain, itching and the general novelty of having black thread in your kneecap, but she healed up pretty nicely, and even removed her own stitches in the bathroom, much to my combined relief and disgust. Plus, showing up on the first day of seventh grade with a gaping wound apparently earns you all kinds of kid-cred.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wedding Sweatshop, part 1

I'm getting married in 37 days. It's only taken me fourteen years, countless miles, more bad dates than I care to think about and just a few sleepless nights to get to this point. Some people do marriage the easy way--they find someone wonderful at a young age, get married, have some nice children and live comparatively happily ever after.

I actually tried this route, twice, with Bad Mistake Number One and Bad Mistake Number Two. Without going into a great amount of detail, let's just say I got the worst of my life's crises out of the way while I was still young and healthy enough to withstand them.

So now, at the ripe old age of forty-mumble-something, I'm getting married in 37 days. The Norwegian tells me he loves me, he tells me I'm beautiful and that I'm a good mother, he tells me he wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I'm awed and humbled and excited and amazed at all of this, but in the sweet way that he has, he doesn't just say these things, but helps me to believe them about myself as well. There's so much to love about this man, but I guess to sum it all up would be to say he's just himself, and that is so wonderful.

Planning a wedding at this age is completely different from planning a wedding at an earlier age. Having been down this ahem, aisle before, I'm not only older, but I've learned a few things along the way. Not that there haven't been the giddy moments of bride-like excitement and anticipation, but for the most part, this has been a dream-time of thinking small, looking deep within ourselves and finding what we really want--from life, from marriage and from this one celebratory day as well.

And this is how it really should be.

We're getting married at the best possible place--home. Several reasons--the desire to keep the festivities small and intimate and health and mobility issues of various family members -- played a key role in this decision. In fact, our house-hunting centered as much around "could we have the wedding we want in this house?" as did "could we finish raising our two teenagers in this house?" We found the perfect place in our half-acre of greenspace. The house has been duly blessed by our parish priest and is now a fit place, even in the eyes of the church, to start our life together.

Keeping it small means doing a lot of things ourselves, but that's okay. A lot of the websites and magazines ground out by the behemoth wedding industry devote a great deal of time and space to wedding budgets. There are even charts to advise what "average" weddings generally cost in a given zip code. For instance, the "average" wedding in our zip code of midtown Memphis, Tennessee suggests we should be spending roughly the cost of brand new SUV to tie our particular knot. Thank goodness this wedding will be anything but "average." The Norwegian and I are, admittedly, unusual people, and naturally, our wedding will combine our religious and family traditions, but on a scale manageable enough to keep it enjoyable for everyone involved. And that certainly includes us, first and foremost.

Once we decided on a budget, we immediately began looking for ways to come in lower. This has become something of a game almost, as we delight in great finds at estate sales and thrift stores and continue to come up with accoutrements that are just the right thing. This entire experience has been a great pre-marital exercise for us both, as we have the opportunity to examine closely what truly matters to us individually (him--family traditions and Navy heritage; me -- comfortable shoes and a taste of vintage) and as a couple (all of the above, along with a good photographer and a caterer who understands us). It's been so easy to agree on just about everything--from old Blue Willow serving pieces, to the vintage lace dress for Dear Daughter found at a yard sale, to the quasi-Mediterranean menu Elio the magnificent has planned for us. Along the way, we've ditched everyday wedding expectations (cheesy favors, garter tossing and flower girls) for homemade cakes and candies, a wonderful Gipsy jazz quartet and his family's heirloom wedding solje.

We designed our own save-the-date cards and invitations, using the great Alfred Eisenstaedt V-J day photo, and printed them on the Mac'n'Smac. Here they are, drying on our dining room table. The joy and exuberance captured in this photo illustrates perfectly how we feel about one another and our family, and was the perfect image for the invitations.

Friends and family are helping out with decorations. Here, MelBoe and Dear Daughter try out combinations of colored tulle for swathing our side porch. We're draping our leprous old wrought iron railing in the equivalent of two football fields of six-inch tulle. It really makes a difference!

Dear Daughter has started helping me make candies for the reception. Last night we dipped the first batches of about 300 creme de menthe chocolates.

A small, at-home wedding will require at least 100 yards of assorted colored ribbon. Don't try to fight it. Resistance is futile. Just make the run to Michael's. Then plan to go back again for more. At least twice.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Grace-Filled Poem for Today

by Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll,
a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
a packing-case places, and almost any slope
defeats her modest hopes.
Even being practical,
she's often stuck up to the axle on her way
to something edible. With everything optimal,
she skirts the ditch
which would convert her shell into a serving dish. She lives
below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
the sport of truly chastened things.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jolies Maries

Back in June, I blogged about my growing collection of religious figures. As we settle into the new place, with new people in our lives and a new concept of family, I find myself drawn more and more to the Holy Family. These three people: a carpenter, a young girl and their infant son, sum up so clearly (for me, anyway) the everyday struggle of humans everywhere to live in obedience to God, unified by a common thread of love for one another.

Early on in our search at estate sales and yard sales, I found this lovely Mary vase.

She stayed awhile on a shelf in my kitchen, holding the occasional gardenia and bringing a sense of peace and serenity to the area around my sink, which is often anything but peaceful and serene.

A couple of weeks ago, she found a new home, with someone who needed her more than I did. Best Friend of Dear Daughter is moving away with her family to the magical land of N orthc Aro Lina. Dear Daughter called me at work one day, sobbing in that soft, breathless way of a child whose heart has been utterly shattered, devastated by the realization that while she was in New Orleans on her annual summer adventure, Best Friend would be packing up and heading east. She was searching the house for something to give Best Friend as a memento. She'd come up with a few personal items, but wanted something really special. After a bit of thought, I suggested she give her Mary. She waffled for a while, not wanting to give away something of mine, but I assured her it was really okay. Finally, she made the decision and took the vase to Best Friend, who by all accounts, seems to love her.

I love the idea of this version of this Sweet Mother coming into our life for a brief while, and then going on to watch over and be loved by someone so dear to our own hearts. Besides, I know that even without the image, Mary never really leaves us. Her fingerprints really are everywhere.

Saturday, at another estate sale, I walked into a homey little Midtown bungalow near the cathedral. In a downstairs bedroom, waiting for me on a night table was this beautiful lady.
She now occupies the same spot in my kitchen as the previous figure. It's good to have her back.

This afternoon when I came home from work, there were two packages waiting. One was addressed to me, and contained the shattered results of a recent eBay purchase (more on this in another post), but the other was sent to my dear Norwegian. In it, was this delicate figure.

I love her Italianate features and her red hair. She's on a shelf in the Mom Cave up front. I love that the Norwegian thought to find her and bring her home. Of course, I also love the idea that it could be the other way around.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Due to lack of interest

Monday has been cancelled. Please feel free to go about your ordinary business. Today's weather: anticipated high of 100 degrees, with a heat index (due to high pressure and excessive humidity) of 105 or greater.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

From Ralph's "What Just Happened Here?" Line...

Words just can't explain this. You'll have to look at the photo. While shopping today for some nice khakis and a summer dress shirt for the Junior Norwegian, I found these pants. They pretty much defy description.

I just don't know any men, or any women, for that matter, who would be caught dead in a pair of bee-dazzled khaki summer crops. Absolutely bizarre. But they are on sale at Stein Mart, if you're so inclined.

More Food Porn

Some of my friends laugh at me for taking pictures of things I cook and eat. I'm sorry--I can't help it. In addition to being completely addicted to cooking and eating (kind of like I'm also addicted to sleeping and breathing), I am a very visual person. I love for food to look as good as it tastes. In the summertime, this is so easily accomplished with the bounty of local produce that is currently coming in.

Earlier this week, The Norwegian and I, newly divested of Dear Daughter (who is in New Orleans for three weeks doing her summer art camp thing), wanted a light, easy dinner we could enjoy at a civilized hour (8:30) with a nice glass of wine. As the temperature was still in the high 90s, there was but one clear choice: Caprese Salad.

I am growing four types of basil in the backyard. We have lush Genovese basil; tiny and delicate globe basil; opulent Purple Ruffles basil (also known as Opal) and spicy Thai basil. I pulled a few leaves of the Genovese and an equal number of the Purple Ruffles and set about building the perfect Caprese.
I layered beautiful fresh tomatoes from a local farm with the basil.

Next, I added slices of new buffalo mozzarella cheese. I haven't learned how to make this yet, but as soon as I find a reliable source for suitable milk that hasn't been shot full of hormones or pasteurized to death, I'll be adding that to my list of fun things to do.

I dressed the final product with some nice olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The Norwegian poured us a glass of wine and we tucked in. Simple and delicious. Life is really good.

In the Still, Quiet of the Night...

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am baking ciabatta at four a.m. Can't you just smell the rosemary...
And I can truthfully say, it's absolutely sinfully delicious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You're Not From Around Here, Are You?

People are often surprised to learn that I'm actually a native of the south. Though I was born and raised (in sight of water) in Memphis, I avoided cultivating a southern accent, and thanks to my parents' mixed marriage (she being Alabamian and he being Yankee, but not damyankee), I was raised with the best of both worlds. I grew up eating grits, white beans and turnip greens and I do make the best cornbread in the tri-state area, with the possible exception of Miss Baby, who is catching up to me quickly. I also learned that there was so much more to life than the Maid of Cotton pageant, duck-season, walking horses and SEC football.

Both cultures struggled mightily to instill in me the three Ds--dignity, decorum and decency. To some degree, they got through to me, although I do have my moments. By and large, I can with complete humility say that on a daily basis I at least strive not to behave like an absolute jackass. And most of those days, the sun sets on a fairly successful endeavor.

The cardinal rule of growing up in Memphis in the late 1960s and 1970s was "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Blessed (somewhat dubiously) with a sharp tongue and a ready mind, this is a real obstacle for me at times, but I really do try hard not to let some of the awful stuff roiling around in my brain actually spill past my lips.

Or in the case of blogging, drip and ooze out my fingertips. I've spent the worst part of today trying to figure out how to address a blogpost that was brought to my attention today. It not only name-checked me and someone very dear to me, but it lumped us in the same space and time with someone whose behaviour and attitudes are frequently questionable and most certainly do not reflect our values and beliefs. I write, as vaguely as possible, in hopes that those who know me and who might have read this person's blog will recognize the great gap between that writer's perspective and my own.

Blogging is a wonderful medium, allowing a great deal of freedom of expression and creativity, but as in any form of communication, there are rules and standards, often more implied than actually spelled out. Generally, it's a good rule of thumb that if it's something you wouldn't say out loud to someone, perhaps you shouldn't be writing it and launching it out into the ether. Or maybe that's just my upbringing. Another good rule is that unless you have specific permission or a reasonable context, it's unprofessional and just plain bad form to blog about coworkers and events that happen in the workplace or in an environment directly connected with the workplace.

Anyway, suffice it to say, I was not at all pleased to see my blogname linked to this person's immature and racist titter at some local politicians whom I not only hold in rather high esteem, but whose campaigns I have very publicly supported. The attitudes of the writer only support my belief that it truly is best to say nothing if one cannot think of anything original, civil or mature to say. I would also dearly hope that this blogger would study the definitions of "humor" and "racist." In a place like Memphis, where the cultural baggage definitely won't ever fit in the overhead compartment, it is essential to be aware and sensitive to the differences in races and cultures. Suggesting that we simply "lighten up" and be tolerant of remarks that smack of stereotypes and consider developing "a funny bone" serves only to reflect upon the juvenile and narrow-minded attitudes of the speaker.

As a child, I was sometimes farmed out to the churches of various family friends for a few days of Vacation Bible School in the summer. Despite being reared in a High Church Anglican parish, I really enjoyed those informal, hot days of glue sticks, hand clapping, grape juice, sugar cookies and singing songs that were ever so much livelier than the formal hymns we sang in our home church. One that has stuck with me through all the years was the one whose lyrics went "Oh be careful little hands what you do." In the nature of songs for children, the litany went on to include "be careful little eyes what you see" and "be careful little ears what you hear." The last verse reminded us to be mindful of what we say, lest little hop-toads and imps escape our lips and be scattered out into the void. There are those out there who blog who would do well to heed this advice.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Modus Operandi

One of my sweet little friends just sent me this piece of flair on Facebook-- "Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor, the Devil says "Aw crap, she's up."

Hee hee hee.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Two Elizabeths

For some reason I can't add these links in the sidebar, but I want to hip my readers to two of my old friends (well, not as old as I am, but I've known them both long enough to refer to them as "old") and their respective blogs. Both are named Elizabeth--one is a piranha-owning CPA (can you just smell the irony?) who works at the music studio I used to manage; and the other chucked a regular nine-to-five last year to launch a career in the beauty products industry and is apparently screaming her way up the career ladder as she carves out her own unique niche in one of the coolest neighborhoods in town. One is a blonde, one a redhead, both are fabulously funny and interesting people.

CPA Elizabeth is currently wrapped up in planning a DIY wedding with input from friends, family and the giant wedding industrycomplex. If you've never been to a wedding in the south, you've got a lot to learn. You can read her adventures at this link.

Rock star Elizabeth appeared on the Montel Williams show today, and appears here on a semi-regular basis. Have fun, and tell 'em I sent you.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Measuring Up/Day of Reckoning

Dear Daughter, my 12 year old, has been going through a growth spurt. I've always known that she would be tall, based on the size of every branch on her family tree (but me). The day she was born she clocked in at a respectable 24 inches long and 10 pounds, 11 ounces. Yes, you read that right. I gave birth to a two foot tall infant weighing the same as a sack of Yukon Gold potatoes.

Anyway, I was still not prepared for today when we stood side-by-side and looked in a full-length mirror and I realized she now has a half-inch of headspace above mine.


I'm going to bed to drown my sorrows in some Geritol.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Domestic Tranquility

Continuing with the theme of being happy at home, here are some more recent photos. They are in no particular order, and represent nothing except a few of the reasons why "East, West, home best."

I call this painting "Mommy and Me." Dear Daughter painted it two years ago at school during a workshop by a visiting artist. She and the artist really clicked, and DD still raves about what she learned in a 45 minute session with this woman. I love this painting--it's simple, happy and sweet. It will always have a special place in our home.

Sleepy space. The paint was chosen by the previous owner, and we simply love it. There are plantation shutters along one wall. I open the top shutters to let the morning light in. It's beautiful. Oh, and Mrs. G, please note the Laura Ashley comforter and bed set chosen by the Norwegian (who is about as gay as Mr. G!). Not bad! The furniture is a matched set dating from the 1940s found at an estate sale. The pieces still have the tags on the back from the factory. The bed is in an upstairs bedroom awaiting the arrival of the Norwegian's son, but we love the dresser, chest and twin nightstands. It's all very Ozzie and Harriet, kind of like us.

This is our downstairs family room. Yes, we also have an upstairs family room. It's not conspicuous consumption; it's delight in finding an antique house with tons of room for both adults and teenagers. This room is 19 x 28, and features "vintage" flooring (that's pronounced "funky old linoleum"), a giant window overlooking our sweet, green backyard and gardens, and a long stone hearth with a gas fireplace. I have trouble picking a favorite part of this room--there's so much to love in here. It could very well be the stunning view. It could be the built-in cabinets on three sides of the room. It could be the lovely old tongue-and-groove panelling. It is very likely the half-timbers in the ceiling that were milled from a tree that once grew in the backyard several decades ago. This is the Norwegian's Man Cave, and is gradually filling up with memorabilia from his thirty year career in the United States Navy.

This is the Mom-cave. It's really the living room, but upon seeing the wooden radiator covers and the gorgeous paint, I staked this out as my own little piece of paradise. There is a wood-burning fireplace and a set of French doors leading to the side porch (where the Norwegian and I will be married in 88 days or so). There are two built-in cabinet/bookcases on the wall leading to the dining room. This room has a set of antique mahogany and brocade furniture we found at an estate sale for a ridiculously cheap price. It is perfect for this room.

My piano will go in this room eventually. This is such a peaceful and sweet room.

Cinnamon/brown sugar raisin bread, cooling on the kitchen counter this morning. Can you understand why I hate to leave this place to go to work?

Most of us. The Norwegian, Dear Daughter, Baby Britta and me. Not pictured are Alix Bunny, Roselle Rabbit, Eulalie the Lovebird, and the Norwegian's son, who will join us in September. Do stop by and see us sometime!

St. Joseph lives in the Mom Cave, watching over our family. I found him in front of a small shop in Franklin, TN weekend before last. He has been our family patron for many years now. If you really need something, ask for his intercession. Here he basks in the early morning sunlight. We visit often. Unfortunately, Britta thinks he's after her Secret Squirrel and unleashes her Dachshund sailor language on him. You can click here (I hope) to see more objects in the Mom Cave.

Peaches from a local orchard fill my giant pottery mixing bowl. Can you smell the sweet scent of summertime?

This silver ewer held holy water for our house blessing last Saturday. I love how it looks against the blue slate of our back door foyer in the late afternoon sunlight. After everyone left and we were cleaning up, the Norwegian and I added the water to our backyard waterfall. We have birds and squirrels that make daily visits. Nestled in the shady southwestern corner of our backyard, it is a haven of beauty and serenity.

The built-in butler's pantry in the kitchen. I've posted a photo before of this, but it had some stuff placed there by the decorator hired by the realtor. That's my antique tole platter with a giant shrimp painted on it. The rabbit tray often holds bread for our family meals. Behind the glass is my modest collection of Blue Willow ware. I pick up occasional pieces when I find good, old ones. I don't want an entire set, but the tiny bowls and dessert plates are graceful and delicate. I love the old colors and the sound the china makes when it clacks against another piece.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Friends

Thank you all who stopped by yesterday to see my house. I'm sorry I didn't exactly follow the rules and explain about the heart of my home. When I think seriously about it, the heart of my home comes down to the people share it with me--the Norwegian and Dear Daughter. We're also getting the Norwegian's son this fall, so we'll expand outward and draw him in as well. Our house is a cocoon of happiness, partly because of the house itself, but mostly because of what we all bring to it.

I tried to answer all of the comments that were posted yesterday. I'm glad everyone loves the red paint in the dining room! It was here when we bought the house and we love it too. If you think that paint is great though, you should really see the original wood molding throughout the house. It's beyond words.

As I said, we're having a house blessing service today and then a more traditional (secular) house warming. I'll post photos as soon as I can. Please check out the new links from new friends, and do come back often.

Bye for now from Memphis.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hasta La Pasta

Continuing with the dual themes of do-it-yourself, locally produced food and hearth and home, here is a recap of two consecutive evenings from earlier this summer. I had been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s most excellent “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” and it occurred to me that my own daughter had never taken part in the ridiculously simple, yet enormously satisfying process of making pasta. When she was small, I used to make homemade ravioli, which, because she was small and much less sophisticated than she is now, she absolutely refused to eat.

Times have changed though, and it was high time to introduce her to the happy world of homemade noodles.

The ingredients are simple:

The process, even moreso.

The most time-consuming part of making noodles from scratch is the drying phase, but luckily, it can be combined with all kinds of alternate activities, such as…um, sleeping.
She did all the work herself, from mixing the ingredients, to rolling out the dough with a juice glass, to cutting it with a paring knife.

The end results looked good, and tasted better than anything in a red cellophane package. Even before cooking.
The next day, Dear Daughter lured Best Friend over to the house, where they proceeded to ransack the pantry and refrigerator and create a four-course meal, complete with hand-written menu, and served with red-headed panache. We dined on a lovely green salad, cucumber and buttermilk soup, Hasta La Pasta, served with tomato sauce and sautéed mushrooms, and finished up with peachy blackberry cobbler. We couldn’t have dined finer at any price anywhere else in town.

And our hostesses were far more charming than any local wait staff I can think of.

The Norwegian, through a glass, yellowy.

Our dining room is just one of the places at home that warms our heart. Some of our best times are around this table, eating simply, laughing deeply, loving warmly.

Golf Mystery?

Can anyone analyze why I might have dreamed last night that this man was my podiatrist? Or why I was giving him putting advice? (Ditch the belly putter.) Or why he was living in my neighborhood or asking me to marry him?

I wasn't even eating anything strange before bedtime. Too bizarre.


I'm behind the eight-ball today. I promised Mrs. G of Derfwad Manor I would post about the heart of my home. I meant to do this and Mrs. G is one of the people in my world that I truly hate to disappoint.

I especially wanted to be a part of her virtual home tour because the Norwegian and I have been making so many great strides in setting up housekeeping. Slowly but surely, we are creating so many warm and happy places in our "new" old place. I suspect that this has every bit as much to do with the people in the house as it does the objects, but we are certainly making a conscious effort to only bring "stuff" that we really need and love into our home.

Here are a few photos from when we were looking at the house, and maybe one or two since we moved in. I'll add some descriptions later. We're having the house blessed and warmed (read "Caddie Woodlawn" for details on this) tomorrow. I will try and get a more detailed posting and new photos up after this weekend.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

In Just Is...

So, after twenty years of greasing the wheels of justice and employing stall tactics worthy of a three year old deferring bedtime, Exxon finally got its way. Figures.

If you've ever visited Valdez, Ak., and perhaps taken a boat through Prince William Sound by Bligh Reef, you know firsthand the importance of, say, not hiring an idiot raging drunk to pilot your vessel through this narrow and rocky passage.

Money. It really changes everything. Dammit.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hoppity Houseguest

This is Bosco, the big ol' Boy Bunny. He belongs to Best Friend of Dear Daughter, and has been staying with us this past week while her family is house-hunting in North Carolina. Despite coming into a household of two middle-aged doe rabbits (both of whom combined weigh about as much as Bosco's head), a very bossy lovebird and a miniature Dachshund who has a maximum attitude, he's had a rather good week of it.

Yesterday evening, we carried him out to the backyard for a little playpen time on the grass. He played a bit with Alix's whiffle ball and was mighty grateful for the fragrant treats from the herb garden.

He even tolerated a kiss from the puppy, who really just wanted to know why he got to play with the green ball and she didn't. We'll be sad to see him leave us on Monday, and even sadder when his family moves away later this summer. The best friends are always bunny friends.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

To a Young Girl

This from The Writer’s Almanac:

"It's the birthday of Anne Frank , born in 1929 in Frankfurt, Germany. It was on this day in 1942 that she received a red and white plaid journal, from her father, for her 13th birthday, and she started to write her diary, a diary that she called by the name of "Kitty." A few weeks after she started her diary, Anne's older sister Margot got a notice to report to a Jewish work camp, so the Franks went into hiding in an annex in Amsterdam. They couldn't bring suitcases, because it would look suspicious, so Anne had to wear two vests, three pairs of pants, a dress, a skirt, a jacket, a summer coat, two pairs of stockings, a wool hat, and a scarf-even though it was July. Four other people lived in the annex with Anne and her family, and they lived there together for two years. They had family friends who helped them survive, who brought them food and supplies. Anne wrote about being scared, and about injustice, and about missing the sunshine; and she also wrote about things that many 13-year-olds write about in their diaries. She wrote about how mad she got at her mother, and how she wanted privacy; she wrote about her crush on the teenage boy she lived with, and how she thought it was unfair that her parents liked Margot best.

In August of 1944, someone tipped off the Nazis, and they raided the apartment and sent everyone to concentration camps. Anne died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen just a few weeks before British troops came to liberate the camp; and of the eight people who lived in the annex together, only one, Anne's father, Otto, survived. Otto returned to Amsterdam, and a family friend told Otto that she had found Anne's diary in the annex after the Nazis had left. Anne wrote in the diary that she wanted to have it published, and so Otto wanted to try and honor his daughter's wishes. It took a while and was rejected by several publishers, but it was published in Germany in 1947, and the United States in 1952. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has sold more than 25 million copies, and it is considered the second-best-selling nonfiction book in history, after the Bible."

Anne Frank was born a year after my own father, who died two years ago on the 16th of June. When I try to imagine them as contemporaries, it's somewhat difficult. I only knew my father as an adult, and despite the few photos and family stories, it’s hard to imagine him as anything but. Of course, none of us had the opportunity to know Anne Frank as anything but a young girl, so it’s equally difficult to imagine what she might have been had she survived.

There is so much to consider when making the attempt to wrap your mind around Anne Frank the living, breathing, thinking and feeling person, as opposed to Anne Frank, the emblem of the Holocaust. When I try to imagine Anne as a real person, outside of the larger than life person she’s become thanks to her journal, it helps to look to my own daughter, who will celebrate her own 13th birthday in four months. Naturally, there are some glaring differences between the two of them, but I would venture to suppose that most girls of that age have conflict with their mother, long for privacy, secretly eye some boy or other and harbor resentment toward siblings. I find myself wondering what the sound of Anne’s laugh was like—was it spontaneous and nutty, like the unselfconscious outbursts of Dear Daughter? Did she find wonder in the world of roly-polies under clay pots of flower seedlings? Was bedtime ever a struggle, or did she read aloud to her pets? Through her diary, we are given an all-too-brief look at her day-to-day life, in conditions that, at best, were arduous. Still, questions remain.

Then, what might the 23 year old Anne Frank have been like? Or the 33 year old? Would she be a young mother by then, a university graduate, an accomplished musician? Would she have worked for the creation of the state of Israel, or raised chickens in her backyard? Would she, at 73, been like my own father, slightly irascible, prone to seizures, fond of her grandchildren?

Only three short years separated the day Anne Frank first received the diary that would ensure her immortality and the day she died in 1945. She was forced by unimaginable circumstances to cram a lifetime’s worth of observation and thought into those brief years and somehow make them fit into the pages of a slim volume. She did a remarkable job.

Anne Frank said, "Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love!" God only knows how great she would have been at 80, and how much love she had yet to give.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What Fruits These Morsels Be!

With local beauties such as these, who could be worried about salmonella?

I can’t really claim to have jumped on the recent “locavore” wagon, because for the most part, I’ve eaten locally grown (and often homegrown) produce most of my life. Naturally, I don’t raise bananas or pineapples or kiwis in the backyard, but I’ve resisted the ugly produce in big-box supermarkets for years. When Dear Daughter was about seven, she saw some pretty half-pint containers of blueberries in the local Kro-zhay and started pleading for them. As it was March, I was suspect. The fact there was no price tag made me even more wary. I asked a nearby stocker what the price was, and he told me seven dollars.

Whoa?! Seven bucks for approximately 50 berries the size of my thumbnail? I so don’t think so. As I put them back, he looked at me like I was the unreasonable one and said, “They came from Chile!” I retorted, “Did they fly first class?”

Know your foods, people. There is joy in growing your own (okay, it’s also work, but it’s good, useful work, unlike say, moving piles of paper from one bureaucratic office to another). Stop by those local produce stands. Meet the guy with the truckload of melons. Not only will you likely avoid salmonella (or worse), you’ll be stimulating the local economy, and not some megalithic farm corporation run from an office, rather than from the seat of a Farmall.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bathing Bird

Saturday morning was hot and muggy, and we turned on the sprinkler system—partly to see how and where it works, and partly to make the hydrangeas happier. We're not the kind of people who would actually install a sprinkler system, but we were amused to discover that the previous owners had done so. There are so many flower beds across the property it does make sense, if only to not completely wear yourself out hauling water. I must say, I do enjoy taking water to the herb and vegetable garden. Visiting my baby plants and seeing what they're up to is worth crawling out of bed before the humidity awakens. It's not bad exercise either. I was, however, glad when the Norwegian bought a length of hose to make the task easier.

Back to Saturday. We let the sprinklers run for about 15 minutes, checking to see what range the system had and what was not covered so we'd know where we still need to water. Out front, a small pool of water collected on the driveway near the front porch. The Norwegian spotted this lovely girl taking a dip. We watched her for several minutes before I collected my wits enough to grab the camera. Witnessing a few brief moments of nature acting without regard to the presence or interference of humans is a true serendipity.

I made a video clip of her walking around and splashing, but the file is too large to upload here. I'm learning and will do better in the future. We're so fortunate to have abundant bird life around our home. The neighbors have two purple martin high rises in their front yard. From my kitchen window I can see the parents congregating in the morning and the young peeking out of the holes on the painted gourds. The afternoon show is just as spectacular, as the adults wheel and zoom as they orbit the poles, bringing mosquitos and other insects for dinner.

Our backyard waterfall, which we all love as much as Britta does, provides water not only for the doves and martins, but for robins and crows. They take turns visiting the fall and slaking their thirst on these hot afternoons. They all take turns grubbing about in the garden. So far, nothing we've planted has been damaged, but I do wonder about what will happen when the tomatoes start coming in.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Extended Family

I’m not even going to try and explain the lengthy absence. There are simply too many factors and I won’t bore you with them. Those of you who live close enough to me have seen the impact of some of them recently. All is well. Remain calm.

I have been decorating and surprising myself along the way. The great spiritual two-by-four has been in action and I’ve come across some truly great additions to the living room. I’ve been intrigued with the concept of the Holy Family for a long time, and am finally realizing my goal of having their physical presence at home. The Norwegian and I were shopping for dining room chairs in an old shop, and I mentioned casually that I needed a St. Joseph or a portrait of the Holy Family to complete the living room. We walked down another aisle and found this hanging on the wall. It’s perfect and so sweet on my wall now.

I love these old images. There is such love and peace in them. They seem seem like they’ve been recovered from a school or church. I don’t really know, but they belong in our circa 1922 living room. They're made of plaster and look Italian, but I haven't been able to find out anything about them. If anyone recognizes the artist, I'd love to know the origin.

I saw the “big sister” to this vase in an antique shop last week, but didn’t get her. I really like this little one that I found at the same yard sale that yielded the two plaques above. Last night I cut a few blooms from the gardenia shrub behind the waterfall and stuck them in the vase. We call her “Our Lady of the Kitchen.” She’s very good company while I'm cooking or cleaning.