There's no place like home.

There's no place like home.
Home is where my husband and I reside; wherever that may be.

Monday, October 20, 2014

From the inside looking out

Outside my is dark with millions of stars winking above and a little crescent moon floating effortlessly above our little corner of the world. It is quite nippy out, about 45 but oh so fresh and clean smelling!

I am thinking...about changes.  Change comes, it is the true definition of life, and no matter how much we might fight it change of some kind is inevitable.  This week I want to think about and concentrate on conscious and deliberate change.

I am thankful...for forests, streams, and the scent of dying leaves in the air.

I am remembering...the sight of this tree in my son's backyard.  We kind of got to know each other when I was visiting last month.  The tree and its setting symbolize for me the rightness and tranquility of Ryan and Kathleen's home.

From the kitchen...there must be some major cooking going on today.  The refrigerator is bare of leftovers so this lazy wife has nothing to fall back on.  I think fettucine with spinach, mushrooms, and feta, a baked chicken, and summer squash will be on tonight's menu.

I am reading...three books at once suddenly. I have managed to fit reading into my life again (for now) and seem to be trying to make up for lost time.  I have a couple chapters left in Mother Theresa's biography, The Dog Listener has been entertaining me all weekend, and St. Therese's biography is filling my heart with renewed hope.

My husband continues to be my rock and my connection with sanity.  The oneness of marriage is a grace and blessing that cannot be overstated nor should it be neglected.  I pray that I am a similar help to him and that he too considers me a partner that he is pleased to walk through this world with.

Surprises and blessings...yesterday we took mom to a nearby mill and historic sight in order to get her out and get some exercise.  She gets plenty of stares as she trundles along the wooded paths with her walker.  By the time that we left for home her cheeks were pink and she was trying hard to tell us something of her feelings about the afternoon.  There is a nature trail at this site that is a mere 3/4 of a mile long. However when you get to the halfway point at this covered bridge you might as well be hundreds of miles away from anything. The silence and peace are so profound.  The only thing to be heard the whole time we were walking was the conversations of the stream as it made its way over the rocks in its bed and the rustle of leaves as the pushed their way through the crowds of hangers on on their way to the ground.

In the creativity department...I made and sold five minion hats this week along with the two that I am sending to Layn and Christopher. My granddaughters, Kaycie and Savannah have outgrown the ponchos that I made them a almost two years ago so it is time to come up with something larger.  Purple and pink are their favorite colors so of course I had to paw through my stash and find just the right combinations to please my little princesses.  This is my first effort.  I hope they like them.

A few plans for the rest of the hard and pray harder.  The weather man is calling for sunny, cool, and crisp fall days with downright chilly nights for the whole of this week.  I plan on being outside as much as I can soaking in the scents and sights of autumn.  Maybe take a drive up to the mountains later in the week.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...I think I could sit and watch and listen to the mill wheel turning every day.  There is something about the sound of water that sets my thoughts in order and takes the tension out of my body.  The constancy of the turning wheel with the endless fall of the water makes me think of the shower of grace that God pours onto us.  We just need to be the wheel that catches his blessings, makes use of them, and then passes them on to others.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Hints, tidbits and a little look inside

Outside my is dark! Of course it is dark since the time is only 3:42 AM!  We had some serious thunderstorms in the night with quite the downpours!  Because I rarely, if ever, sleep when the thunder is booming and the lightning is flashing here I am sitting up with no hope of making up for lost z's.  Autumn has finally arrived here in the south.  The past few days have been crisp in the morning and evening with warmish afternoons.  The colors, though not as brilliant as back home, are changing and mellowing the countryside.  Southerners seem to have some kind of thing about burning leaves so the air lately has been redolent with the acrid odor of burning leaves. 

I am thinking...about circumstances and happenings and how they can either be accepted as means of grace and sanctification or they can be railed against.  Yesterday was one of those happenings.  Due to a migraine on Saturday afternoon I wasn't able to get to confession and evening mass.  Still in need of confession I decided to drive into Anderson where there is a parish that offers confession before all the Sabbath masses.  Because of a bike and running race that I didn't know about the drive to and from mass, usually around 40 minutes took me more like 90.  My first reaction is usually to get annoyed and push the speed limit and/or find an alternate route.  Yesterday I decided to arrive at church calm and disposed to be with the Lord so I spent the trip to mass "examinating" my conscience, as my kids used to say.  The way home was spent reciting the rosary and listening to the Divine Office.  In spite of the rain and the delays I am happy to say that I arrived at both locations, mass and home, much more relaxed and disposed to be pleasant.

I am thankful for...farmer's markets, antique malls, and unusual architecture.  Saturday, before the rain moved in, we spent the day at a truly exceptional farmer's market in Anderson, browsing an antique mall, and enjoying a walk through the historic part of town admiring the architecture.

From the that it is definitely cooler I am going to make Pork and Mushroom Stew for our supper tonight.  Whenever I make this dish I think about my son, Adam who is a particular fan.  Though we will have it over brown rice rather than mashed potatoes the memories this meal will invoke are as comforting as the food.

I am reading..Accidental Theologians by Elizabeth A. Dreyer

I am hearing...the soft sound of rain on the roof, the whir and buzz of the ceiling fan over my head, and the grind and plop of the ice maker dumping its load into the bin. I miss the chirp of the occasional cricket that would make its way into the house in NY at this time of year.  Other sounds that are missing here are the soft rustlings of the tenants of the old walls of the farmhouse, the soft snuffles and snorts of the pigs across the road, and the awakening sounds of the cattle across the road as they come to the feed bunk to see what has been left from the night before.

A few plans for the rest of the week...there is a little bit of sewing left on my big boat project to finish. I didn't count on the stress and strain working on marine canvas would have on my hands so it is taking longer that it should.  I have picked up a sewing student and will spend this week working out scheduling kinks, developing a lesson plan, and generally looking forward to the new challenge.  

Updates and reflections...because there are those who actually read this and are interested I include a bit about my mother.  Physically she is strong and very healthy.  We take her walking and she and Doug do her exercises every day so her strength and mobility are maintained.  An added benefit of all the exercise is better sleep at night, for all of us!  Mentally she is very much subject to the vagaries of her disease.  When she speaks she isn't always able to find the words that she wishes to use which is a frustration for all of us but we manage to figure out what she means most of the time.  She has no idea who anyone she meets is but that fact doesn't seem to be a bother either. She just nods and goes about her business.  Her world is mostly populated with memories from long ago and people that either are no longer alive or she hasn't seen in decades.  However, if that is what makes her happy and peaceful who are we to jerk her into a reality she cannot understand nor tolerate.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...

This is an old railroad depot in Anderson.  The space inside is home to a very large antiques mall.  Though the items for sale are either overpriced or hardly useful it was fun to spend part of Saturday browsing through the treasures housed there and remember times long past.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Always a pleaser!

When the weather turns cooler and things start to slow down on the farm having a jar of some kind of filling and comforting soup on hand is a must.  Some of my best memories consist of a warm mug, a cozy quilt and being curled up in a chair on the porch.  Watching the men chop corn while enjoying the rich texture and flavor of squash or sweet potato soup go hand in hand with fall. The fact that this is made with a pressure cooker makes it fast and convenient.

Sage-Scented Butternut Squash Soup (or sweet potatoes)

1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
2 cups chicken broth
1 c water
3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4-1/2 tsp dried sage

Heat the butter in a 4-quart or larger cooker. Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat for a minute or two.  Add the broth, water, a pinch of salt, and squash.

Lock the lid in place. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Quick-release the pressure or allow the pressure to come down naturally. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.

Stir i the sage. If the squash is not very soft, cover and simmer for a few minutes. Let cool slightly. Pass the soup through a food mill or puree using a standard or immersion blender. Reheat and adjust seasonings.

Fall cooking and good eating.

I am a soup person.  That's not to say that I am soupy (I don't cry remember) or that it is all I eat, I like everything.  I am a soup person because making and consuming soups of all kinds is to me the most loving and comforting thing I can do to feed my family.  When the kids were little my son, Adam, (who is not a soup person) once asked me, "When can we have a normal meal?" Adam is definitely a meat and potatoes man.

Last week a friend shared a recipe that she had found online.  When I saw it I knew that both Doug and I would be adding it to our list of favorites.

Unfortunately I printed the recipe without the name but here it is.

1 (19oz) bag of frozen cheese tortellini
1 small bag of fresh spinach
2 (14.5 oz) cans of Italian style diced tomatoes, drained
1 block (8oz) of cream cheese (softened)
1 lb of ground sausage (I used some leftover cooked chicken)
3-4 cups of chicken broth (start with 3, add 1 more if it looks like it needs it)

Brown the sausage and put all ingredients in crockpot, chunking up the cream cheese.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Serves 4-6
Keep an eye on your tortellini, it may get done sooner.
If still soupy, leave lid off for the last half hour or so of cooking.
For a Friday version omit the sausage and use vegetable broth.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hints, tidbits, and a little look inside

Outside my is still dark and a cool 45 degrees. Finally the days are fall-like which is a balm to the spirit. Temperatures sink into the 40's at night and though it has been getting into the 80's on some days they are dry days.  The brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds of a northern autumn are lacking but without the sweltering heat and humidity I could almost start to like being here.

I am thinking...about the rhythm of life and connections between myself and the seasons.  Yesterday we went to a nearby orchard and picked apples.  Though I am really not an apple lover the taste and smell of them at this time of year is an absolute must.  The same thing is true of pumpkin.  The beautiful color of the orange rind and the mixture of pumpkin and nutmeg seems to be a fitting punctuation to the cooler temperatures and shorter days.

I am thankful...for the new car my brother bought for me. 

From the kitchen...there will be more apple and pumpkin smells coming forth.  I have a couple of large bags of apples to turn into sauce to be canned and a very large pumpkin to be cooked down and packaged for the freezer.  

I am reading...the authorized biography of Mother Theresa.  

I am hearing...silence.  Cocooned in the house with all the doors and windows closed it is blessedly quiet.  For a change the neighbor's dog is not barking, the increasing traffic noises on the highway are shut out, and my charge is still asleep.

A few plans for the rest of the week...I hope to get the sewing job that is on my table done by Friday and shipped out on the weekend.  God only knows if that will happen.  Today though I need to take time to put up the apples and pumpkin that we bought.  Although floors, bathrooms, and mountains of laundry call out to me too I find that they are more easily put off when it is cool and sunny outside. Perhaps an afternoon spent rocking on the swing with my knitting while chatting with my daughter is in order as well.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...

Yesterday in our travels we came upon this fellow standing in his pasture.  When I got out and lifted my camera to take his picture it almost seemed as if he struck this pose just for me.

Another place that I happened upon in my travels.  There is something about water that draws me to it.  The silence in this place combined with the ruins of some old building whispered a story of times gone by.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hints, tidbits and a little look inside

Outside my is still dark. Lately the mornings have been blessedly cool while the days warm up to the 70's. If the sights and smells were right I could almost close my eyes and imagine that I was back home.  Unfortunately when I take a sniff the scent of turning maples and poplars is sadly missing.

I am thinking...about schedules and places that I need to be today.  It is not often that I go out during the day since I haven't a car regularly but today is full of appointments and errands and my brother has graciously loaned me his vehicle so I must needs make the most of it.

I am thankful sister Sharon and her listening ear, sympathetic heart, and affectionate hugs.

From the kitchen...the cooking will have to commence since there is nothing leftover from the weekend.  Perhaps some southwestern chicken stew and fresh biscuits is in order.

I am reading...Under the Banner of Heaven.  It is a story of religious zeal taken to the extreme. It certainly makes one think about faith and the authenticity of it.

I am hearing...crickets and the other night bugs murmuring their early morning greetings to each other.  The sound rises and falls as if there is some urgency to what is being said.  The neighbors behind us are up and about as the sound of their sliding glass door heralds the smokers out for their first cigarette of the day.  Next door another neighbor's dog gives a few morning barks as if to say "Don't forget I am here to sound the alarm if need be."

A few plans for the rest of the week...I need to get through today and all its concerns before the rest of the week can be contemplated.  There is always the usual, the routine, and the ordinary to keep me busy punctuated by the urgent, the unexpected and the novel that fills in the extra time.

One of my favorite things...learning something new.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you... (actually lots of pictures)

Two of my beloveds dressed in their best. That old man only gets better with age.

My daughter, Kim and Savannah. These bits of time that I capture with my camera are just snippets of the love that is celebrated when we are all together.

A rare picture of Jason sitting still and actually posing for the camera.

I don't know which of these two shots I like better, my guys being goofy or my guys being goofy.

Uncle and Niece reunion.  This touches even my not so tender heart.

The smiles of these ladies, just a moment captured for always. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hints, tidbits and a little look inside

Recently another of my sons got married out in Tacoma.  As with any large family any time together comes complete with all the essentials, food, high jinx, work, and more food.  This trip also contained a little of the elegant and a whole lot of time spent with people who love each other.

The mother of the groom got to spend an afternoon enjoying high tea in a VERY fancy hotel in Seattle.  The best manners came out of moth balls and a lot of fun was had by all the ladies present.

Of course there is always time for some real down home food and good times.  An evening spent at the Puyallup fair tempted appetites with barbecue, burgers, and cotton candy.

The high jinx included monkeying around while exercising.

Dad and daughter time was soaked in and stored away for later on.

Since we were in Starbucks country those of us who like coffee were tempted to indulge our fancies.

Lighthearted moments were hoarded with baby smiles and princess kisses.

The bride, though already beautiful, polished herself up in preparation for her groom.

And grooms got silly with nieces for the first time in forever.

New friends were made.

Laughs abounded and silliness spilled out of all the faces.

Grandpa and Uncle Ryan managed to get a little work done and a lot of chatting over a pile of stones and a truck load of pavers.

Uncle Jason cooked, and cooked and treated one and all to meatballs and sauce.

Of course a gathering of this family isn't complete without pizza.  Jokes, hugs, tears, and love were all spread around and shared over the family meal.

Hints, tidbits, and glimpses

Outside my is still dark and cool, oh so cool! When we were out in Washington we had a taste of nice cool weather, sweatshirt wearing, snuggle under the blankets, hot tea drinking weather. For this native of the North it was refreshing to experience real mid-September cool mornings and evenings and warm-ish days. 

I am pictures this morning. My head is full of falling leaves, sun dappled woods, and paths strewn with oak leaves and acorns. Yesterday's hikes took us into just such a picture.  There was a gentle breeze blowing which filled the day with the scents of oaks, evergreens, and the stream that flowed along the path.  The plop and plunk of falling acorns punctuated each step and gave the day its own unique song.

I am thankful...for a man who loves the mountains, forests, and adventure as much as I do. Yesterday we wandered our way along winding roads into the DuPont Forest in North Carolina.  One sign boasted that we were in the land of waterfalls and that didn't disappoint. The music of the water falling over rocks and making its way down cliffs and gorges sang its way deep into my heart and rests there now.

From the kitchen...I will be inaugurating the cooler weather with London broil, mashed potatoes, steamed zucchini, and perhaps something sweet for dessert. My husband is back at work and will no doubt welcome a hearty meal to finish up his day with.

I am reading...the Outlander series again for probably the third or fourth time.  I have been watching the TV series on Starz and I have to say they do a good job but it can never come close to the book.

I am hearing...the morning songs of the birds.  In the past half hour traffic has picked up on the highway as people head out to work and two planes have taken off from the airport.  Soon the bus will come through the neighborhood and the kids will be off to school.  All of these sounds that play in the background of life around here remind me of the sounds that I am missing.  Ian chopped corn this weekend and filled the bag for winter feed. I missed the excitement, smells, and sounds of heavy machinery running on the farm.  I missed the wonder and joy on Layn's face as he took it all in.  I missed the pride and excitement that Ian shows at this very visible evidence of his ownership and hard work.  It is the work that he loves and I revel in his satisfaction.

 A few plans for the rest of the, order and routine that is what I have planned. Now that I have had such a glorious vacation it is time to get back to the daily tasks that mark my vocation and responsibility.

One of my favorite things...silent reminders of past joys.

Here is a picture thought that I am sharing with you...

The smiles on their faces says it all for me.  My kids are truly happy to be in each other's company.

Friday, September 19, 2014

New yummies!

On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest I came into the possession of some really yummy recipes courtesy of my daughter-in-law.  Tonight's offering was a new twist on Mac and Cheese.

Aelpler Magrona

2 quarts of water
1 1/2 tbs salt
4 c potatoes (cubed 3/4" thick)
1 1/2 c elbow macaroni
1 med onion (chopped)
1/2 c butter
1 lb finely grated cheese (Gruyere or Emmthaler or a mixture)
1 pint of heavy cream

In a large pot bring the water with the salt to a boil. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Simmer for four minutes. Add pasta and cook until tender.  Drain in a colander.  Brown the chopped onions in the butter  until caramelized.  Layer the potato/pasta with the cheese and onions.  Top with the heavy cream. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.