"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Craving Pretty

A mysterious cache of pearly marbles left amongst the foundation stones along the west wall of our house
I'm totally to the part of the move where I am so sick of sorting out boxes that I really feel like, "Does anybody mind if we just burn what's left?" But of course I would be married to the type who minds intensely. There is no throwing anything away unless there's a really good reason. *sigh* (and other small ways we balance each other out)

So, since there's no torching technique escape available I find myself daydreaming about pretty instead. I crave prettifying at the moment. I want so badly to make beauty instead of trying to find a spot for the spices and sorting through the kids clothes for what should actually go in their drawers again or flying madly through the packing paper in a million boxes trying to figure what in blazes happened to the knife rack. (which we found last night by the way! Hooray!) I want to paint and hang curtains and arrange vases of flowers, and set up displays on the built-in next to the fireplace and hang art on the walls.

For the moment, I'm trying to make myself unpack at least one box a day and satisfying my artists itch with little bits of pretty. And its working...slowly the boxes are disappearing (none left in the dining room!) and little spots of beauty are showing up too. Here's a tour of the latest little pretty bits.

Isn't this little end table/ magazine bin/ lamp combo cute? I love it. Totally found it on clearance for 25 bucks.
Stained glass sun-catcher in the playroom window.

Ficus tree in the office.

A china cabinet! All set up with pretty things! I look at it about 38 times a day for reassurance.

And then....ya'll....my aunt sent me a totally spectacular care package and included hoards of pretty things. I'll share a few of them. (I have really great aunts)
Look. The most stunning salt and pepper shakers ever...who came with a little china trough for their feed, or your butter....whichever you wanna supply.

A handmade sign...to remind me which way to go for a swim. Its a replica of the one at the family cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan.

And these amazing hand-blown glass napkin rings. The little starburst is a hollow tube for water so that each napkin can be encircled by a little vase with little flowers tucked into each one. Is that incredible? I sense a dinner party in my future.

So great. I feel more pretty in the wind. 
(for instance, wait until you see me hand the lace curtains that were in the same box!)


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Really Seeing

I heard an interview with a professional hostage negotiator, of all things, yesterday and he got me thinking about really seeing other people. Its so easy to be really judgmental about the people around us that we disagree with, who irk us, who seem evil, who screw us over in some significant way....but, I have been struck lately by the power in choosing to really see them instead.

This hostage negotiator guy was talking about his job (which he had done for decades) and at some point asked the interviewer what she might imagine would be the most important quality in an individual considering his profession. She suggested a few options that came to her mind: ability to control emotions, strong logical thinking, a powerful voice, thorough knowledge of the law...etc. Nope. The thing he had in mind was the ability to see the hostage taker as a real person with their own needs, a person who is looking for something who is trying a desperate act to either silence the pain of their need or in some strange way meet it. The best skill a hostage negotiator could posses is the ability to really see people? Wow. That bowled me over. What compassion! What humanity!

The fact that a professional in the FBI has spent years practicing really, truly seeing some of the worst in society doesn't mean he's a person of immense love, after all...the point is the connive a way to get the hostages free and that usually means either arresting or shooting the perpetrator, but still...the concept is so powerful that it seems to me that it would have to impact you. Practicing compassion and valuing human dignity and looking under all the bad stuff for a way to a single person's heart seems like a deeply powerful and profound thing to do over and over until its your knee-jerk reaction for interaction with a criminal.

I have heard before that we should love our fellow man, all men, because they are our kind. All humankind deserves respect just because it is an innate right , but I feel like this reason....understanding people's underlying needs and motivations takes things even further. Its not a bland blanket statement..."because they're human" or a vague notion, its individual specific and it takes us down to the deepest level of that particular person's driving force. We all have needs. Its not some early baby step on the road to maturity, something we once did before were so together. Needs are ever-present and healthy to boot. I feel like understanding our grouchy neighbor, our totally annoying four year old, the person who cuts us off in traffic, even the guy on the five o'clock news who shot a 15 year old in New York City or Hitler himself, the Western World's greatest scapegoat for evil...is a very good thing. Its a good thing because it develops in us a compassion that is always relevant and a hope that can see value where we're really tempted to dump a heap of culturally acceptable boiling anger.

Such is love. I aspire.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gettin' On Toward Fall

Well folks, there's no two ways about it, its gettin' on toward fall suddenly. When we leave to take A to work in the morning we're a whirl of sweatshirts and jackets and the baby blankets I stash in the car are suddenly popular again. We buckle the seat belts and tuck in the "covers" around car seats and tootsies.

We're just finishing Grapes of Wrath, down to a maddening handful of pages that looks so thin every time we get in the car and yet we can't seem to get through. Even Ru is listening closely to the tense ending and today when we stopped reading because we'd arrived at our destination he demanded, "What? Is that the end???" Thankfully, we still have a few more pages to go so no, the story didn't end with the Pa and Uncle Jon's levee breaking and the whole world washing away. Whew. Ru and I sure would like a little resolution though! Heavens! Nobody can take cliff-hanger tension for four or five car rides straight.
A friend saw my apple cake plea and sent me a tempting little recipe of mysterious appeal and power right into my very own inbox. I am positively salivating as I look forward to dashing madly down the kitchen while The Littles are still asleep and whipping up another apple cake. The boys will happily split the last slice of Hilda's Apple Cake and then we'll be on to quality control for the next round.
And now I'm off to whip up autumnal sweets and then madly unpack another box or two while the snoring continues. Sending a little extra crisp air, and a firework display of orange leaves to your neck of the woods...from me to you.


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Last Share

Its Monday and I feel somehow like "Real Life" is just beginning again. Our house is truly our own again as all the guests are gone home, and we're off and we have enough dishes and underwear out of boxes to begin zipping along on a somewhat normal path. Today I'm starting my calorie counting again and my daily chore list and we're off to pick up our last round of the farm share.

Its been a good summer, but its time for decidedly more autumnal things like long story hours, crackling fires in our new fireplace, wall painting, letter writing and yes, lots of baking. I'm all for collecting the last bit of produce but I'm ready to wave goodbye to the weekly car trip frenzy that goes with it. 

A very happy Autumn to all of you! And I'm off through misty rain, extra tissues in my pocket for all the runny noses to get the last of the kale and the garlic and then home to a cozy dinner in our house that's starting to feel like our own.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Apple Cake Quest

I have a yen to find the perfect apple cake. Have been wishing to do so for about 8 years, ever since an acquaintance at work surprised me with an apple cake she baked me. It was divine and when I asked her for the recipe a bit later she said she had no idea where she'd gotten it from! Drat! Anyhow, the perfect apple cake is now lost to all time and eternity and I'm on a quest to find it.

Hilda's Apple Cake, which I tried today is not it. Too fluffy and dry....not moist enough and not nearly enough apples. One down. I have a whole tab of bookmarks full of apple cakes and have marked many of them in my cookbooks with little Post-It flags. And its only September after all! October will be full on apple cake testing! I'm ready.
Our dear little, ancient oven that came with the new house is frightfully off temperature in relation to the dial on the top...I'd say on average its about 75 degrees off....but, you know, sometimes I think it is even more.
Baking in it is an adventure in and of itself...even without a life changing apple cake quest in the works. Handily they sell little thermometers that can hang sweetly from the rack inside the glass window and give away the real numbers so that you don't keep scorching the bottoms of muffins. Heh.

But back to the cake quest. Do you know about the perfect apple cake? If you do, please end my misery by zipping the recipe over forthwith!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Road Stories

One of the really fabulous things that happened when A's mom was visiting us this past weekend was storytelling. I have mentioned before that we have a little tradition of using long drives and boring times in the car when the kids are wiggly and nobody can be good anymore for storytelling. I am a pretty verbal person so the notion of telling tales together for fun is pretty appealling. There's also something in my that connects the concept to my Native American ancestry. I can trace my relations back to a genuine chief's daughter and I imagine hopefully that my predilection for the spoken word has some connection to old times around tribal fires and huddled evenings amongst the furs in the wigwam.

Anyhow, it sure does the trick for my small boys in the car. They stop wiggling and they listen astoundingly. There is far less fighting and far more giggling (if its that sort of story) and as a bonus, they've learned a lot about moral truths, the exploits of their relatives and the beauty of the spoken word. They know how to build suspense, how a good story begins and ends and on the sly I sometimes catch them spinning little story worlds of their own behind the bookcase, in amongst a labyrinth of Lego or snuggled down in a pile of pillows, giggling away on their bunk beds. Story is contagious and powerful and clearly special.

Ru is in the habit of asking for stories whenever the drive we're taking appears longish and even though the answer isn't reliably "yes" he  tries to get the story mill grinding. He asked in front of A's mother and I hastily explained the idea while planning on shutting him down for sake of adult conversation and instead she beamed and said, "Oh! What a good idea! Lets have some stories!" She was not only a good sport, she was a fabulous contributor. I told her that the core plan was the relate real life stories, with an emphasis on our own familial past (our childhoods, our parents, our grandparents, ancient family lore...etc.) and she dove right in with all kinds of magical tales about her children having tension filled adventures, her brother's wild exploits in nature and the time a turtle tracked paint all over her childhood basement. Wonderful stories that I hope I can remember well enough to repeat and repeat so that they become a part of our canon.

Have you sat and told the stories of your own adventures or the high times of your distant relations? Its a great thing to relive all the incidents, but even better to tell it to a small eye sparkler who will stop breathing for the tense bits and giggle-shriek over the embedded jokes.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Green Dreams

Spending all my spare time reading the huuuuuge pile of garden books  you can see in the photo above, that A and I brought home from the library. There are little stacks of them all over the house...dinner table...floor....bed...end table....everywhere! And my nursing/book time is all green. This means that I'm spending all slow moments problem solving or imagining or chuckling over garden thoughts. I am having dreams filled with Latin names, people.

Tonight I thought I'd share a little video of an urban farmer I admire. I hope she's not too edgy for the audience. Please no flaming me because she makes you cringe. *wince wince wince* I think she's really cool, although admittedly what she's doing is a bit beyond the pale.

I used to dream of doing something like her, but now I think we'll probly stop at bees for livestock and not get a whole lot wilder than a few fruit trees and a small water feature in the garden department. Um...I think. Heh.

Time to get brave and go measure our plot so I can draw up the blueprints and get this garden hacked out. I am being a total wimp about the numbers. Drawing to scale w/ a million measurements? Enough to make a green thumb quake in her boots.

Now what page was I on?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Color Is My Friend

I love it when brilliant housekeeping solutions occur to me. Once in a while genius hits. My latest solution of great fabulousness has been dying my sheets.

I have always purchased all white sheets (um...except when occasionally I snatch up a randomly patterned sheet set that I liked). I guess what mean is I  mostly purchased crisp, white cotton. But you know, it got a little more confusing when our guest bed was a double, our bed was a queen, the boys beds were twins and everything...or um...as I mentioned...most everything was white.
At first I figured the tags would be enough to help me tell them apart. I mean they all say what size you're dealing with, right? No sweat.

Yes, but tags fade with time and also there's only one tag....which means that after you fold the sheets up and then they sit in a basket waiting to be put away or you throw them haphazardly into the linen closet, without making sure they're on the right shelf then when you want a sheet for the double...you find yourself unfolding and turning in circles, a while stack of sheets at about eleven o'clock at night while guests wait down in the living room. Heh.

So then I thought I'd use Sharpie and label in the corners. I put a letter denoting the size in two corners...oh brilliant me, and found that after I got lazy and wrote only one letter or still couldn't seem to find the correct corner, I was still unfolding sheets to figure out what exactly I was holding in my hands.

Ah, yes and then the real solution occurred to me. Dye them.

You may remember this post from a while ago? Rit is my friend. I was raised to think fondly of it. So, I picked up some more Rit at my local grocery store (they are sold at most groceries) and whipped up a colorful froth in my washer. Now the boys sheets are sky blue, the guest sheets are sunny yellow and our sheets are the only ones that are crispy plain white.

Except for the fact that as you can see down there on the twin shelf at the bottom I missed a couple of the twin sheets that were hiding in a hamper during my dye session. Its okay though....they still sell dye down at the grocery store and I can fix that one!

I do love solving problems with color, creativity and succinct cleverness.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Have Dishwasher Will Scrub.....

The biggest news of the hour is that we now have a dishwasher!!! Hooray! I feel like I won the lottery. Its amazing how much time, counter space and energy it takes to be without one. Maybe I'm a wimp, but it feels like such a massive load off my shoulders to get one installed.

We also did some minor kitchen adjustment in the process, moving our refrigerator to the other side of the room and installing more counter top and a small side cupboard and drawer next to the new pot scrubber.
Here's the "Before" kitchen arrangement....we moved the fridge over against the wall in the far left corner of the shot...and put the dishwasher in its place.
Was so very proud of myself for hauling my three children to the Re-Store and picking out a used counter top and an appropriately sized side cabinet piece to nest against the dishwasher...purchasing and loading it into the car.

All my measurements were great and everything fit together like puzzle pieces. The countertop was a bit big so the installer guys cut it down for me, but they were so precise and careful that they did a better snug custom fit than I could have ever "found" someplace.

I now have soft spot in my heart for hard working Polish appliance installer men. Truly, they were the best. Now I just have to figure out how to get their extension cord back to them after the left it in our dining room.
I plan to hang the microwave in that funny niche the fridge left, up above the dishwasher, which will give me even more clear countertop.

Fridge in its new home on the opposite side of the kitchen

But just look at the results!