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.