Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Faces

One of the very sweet pleasures of living in a somewhat temperate climate is that here in the South pansies are planted in the fall.  No, not the spring.  Not wait until the ground isn't frozen anymore.  Not wait until Easter is around the corner.  None of that.  Pansies are planted in the fall.
So, this fall I planted the smaller version of the pansy, the johnny jump-up.  Just love these cheerful, happy little faces.  So, bright and full of the anticipation of getting their feet out of the claustrophobic flat and down into the rich, deep earth.
The sun shone, the rains came.  They were happy. 
And then, just when they were beginning to get comfortable, in blew snow and deeply cold weather.  Because that's part of planting the pansies in the fall.  They have to tough it out.  Things get really bad.  They're just not sure they can make it.
They have to put their heads down and struggle through the tough times.
They will.  They always do.
And then, before you know it, the sun will begin to shine.  And between the delicate, muddy feet of the courageous little johnny jump-ups some daffodils will begin to push their way up, up, up.  And the johnny jump-ups will lift their heads to the warm sun and the ruffly daffodils will spread their skirts.
And we'll know spring is here because we'll see rows of yellow daffodils standing up to their ankles in the happy faces of the johnny jump-ups.
I can't wait to show you. 
Until then, they wait, these little survivors. Waiting for spring.  Making it through the winter.
It will come.  It will.
It always does.

Monday, December 27, 2010


After the swirl of people, the crush of deadlines, and the hyperactive fun that was Christmas (and the days before and after) I was so glad that today slowed down, and





Be still.

Be quiet.

Be unwound.

Or as much as is possible in this household.

I found peace in diving back into the daily living.

Making hot chocolate for cold, snowy boys.

Attacking the mounds of towels that breed in our bathrooms and laundry room.

Playing a few stimulating rounds of "Feed the Kitty" with Youngest Daughter.

And even starting a new dishcloth to replace the tattered shreds that are the remainders of several old cloths.

Yes, altogether a very satisfying day.

No expectations, goals, or lists.

Just . . . quiet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

If You Were My Neighbor

If you were my neighbor, I'd trot up the mountain to an enchanting little bakery, Flat Rock Village Bakery to be exact, where the baker magically combines organic flours, fresh ingredients, and local produce to create scrumptious artisanal breads . . . sourdoughs, baguettes, scones, bagels.

Then I'd look at the day's offerings and think and ponder and ponder and think exactly what you'd like the best.

And I'd finally decide on Three-Cheese-Garlic-Basil because I can smell the basil wafting out of the brick oven. And I know that it's havarti, cheddar, and provolone today . . . melty and delicious inside.

Back home I'd come and wrap up the bread, all steamy and crusty and encircle it with raffia. And then I'd attach a little tag that says "JOY" on it. Because that's what I'm wishing for you on this Christmas Day.

And even the snow falling outside wouldn't keep me from running next door to bring you your gift.  And to wish you a sweet Christmas. 

And to wish you joy.

His joy.

For anyone who seeks it.

The best gift.

I know.

I've found it.

Merry, merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Color / Christmas Magic

There must be some  . . .

(Middle Son's Airsoft pellets)

Christmas magic in the house.

(Youngest Daughter's crayons)

Because everywhere I look . . .

(Boys' Shirts)

I'm finding Christmas color . . .

(Tins of tea)

. . . in the most unusual places!

 (Last night's salad)

Enjoy your day, sweet friends!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Newest Crush

If there's anybody that's going to come to the party a day late and a dollar short, it's going to be me.

Which is why, of course, I am just now discovering the simple beauty of "baker's twine."  Absolutely charming, in the understated way that brown kraft paper or newspaper is a simple, charming wrapping paper.

Of course, once I finally began to notice this twine and find out its official "name," I see that it is everywhere. Shoot, I probably got a gift decorated with it last year and never batted an eye.

See what I mean . . . classic, simple, slightly rustic.  I love it!  Just love it!

Today, the sweetness of this unpretentious baker's twine is making me smile.

Now, here's hoping that I can find some. Because I really must have some for my neighbor gifts!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Gypsy Girl Prepares for Company

Today, I am cleaning!
Family comes in two days.  And so, I am cleaning.
Dear-Sister-in-Law and her husband wouldn't want me to be cleaning. Wouldn't want me to be getting things tidied up for them.
And the truth is, I'm not doing it for her . . . well, not really. I'm doing it for me. So that I don't have to think about my messes while family is here.
You see, my husband was raised by a Swedish homemaker. By the time he was old enough to figure out what "normal" was, he had three teenage Swedish homemaker sisters.
If you're doing the math, that's 4 Swedish homemaker females, keeping house for one impressionable young boy.
So, we can hardly blame the boy for thinking that all women kept house like his Swedish family.
Unfortunately he married a dreamer/thinker that would rather be dreaming and thinking than cleaning.
A girl that has some gypsy in her and doesn't notice piles of clean towels that need to be put in the linen closet.
A girl from a family of globe-trotting vagabonds, that just can't make pushing her chair up to the table, or putting the phone back in its cradle, or squeegeeing the shower walls a priority.
::sigh:: Poor dear. It's been 20 years of adjusting. I think he's coming along splendidly.
Letting go of all expectations works every time.
So, for him and for me and for my loved in-law family . . .
Today I am cleaning!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Lantern

"Make a craft," said the first grade teacher.

"Make it fun. Make it creative."

"Make it something from another country."


The handwriting was on the wall. Youngest Daughter's Explore-A-Country craft was going to become my project.

We picked the Philippines.

We have no connection to the Philippines.

We have not been there.

We know no one there.

However, Family Fun had a star lantern on their web site that looked just right.  And we both felt that cute was a lot more important than relevance . . . wouldn't you agree?  Especially after we chose colors that would compliment Youngest Daughter's bedroom.

Materials were assembled:  tissue paper, basswood strips, glue, rubber bands.

A star was formed.

So far, the 7 year-old fingers had not been able to cut basswood, form a star, or wrap rubber bands.

We soldiered on.

(Please note dog's snout resting comforably on crafting surface.)

Two stars made, front and back attached. Now onto the tracing, cutting, and gluing of 20 different triangle shapes from tissue paper.

Hmmmm. I remember a half-hearted attempt to glue on a couple of triangles by Youngest Daughter. But by the time the glue had stuck to her fingers, the tissue paper had stuck to the glue, and the perfectly traced and cut triangle had made a slow, soggy rip, Youngest Daughter was done . . . finished . . . out-of-there.

I finished the gluing, fondly remembering a certain night of my childhood which found my engineer-father, at 2:00 in the morning beautifully executing a miniature weather station (complete with rotating satellite dish) while my brother (whose science project was due the next morning) slept blissfully and unconcernedly in his bed.

Despite Youngest Daughter's abandonment, I rather loved the light streaming through the delicate tissue paper and began to enjoy myself.

Glorious tissue tassels were attached, and Youngest Daughter was able to present to her class "her" project. A Philippine Christmas lantern, filling the streets in the Philippines at Christmas time, to remind all of the star that hung and shone over Jesus' manger.

The class ooh-ed and aaah-ed.  Teacher's Assistant's complimented her on the fine job she did.  Classmates wondered how her small, 7 year-old hands could have created such beauty.

Youngest Daughter smiled placidly and accepted all compliments calmly. No one noticed the Tacky Glue still under my fingernails . . . or the splinter alongside my cuticle. No, this was Youngest Daughter's moment.

And, yes, the lantern does look quite lovely and color-coordinated hanging in her room.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Shhhhhh! Don't Tell!

This Christmas there is one item that is not coming out of the Christmas Storage Bins.

It's been a part of our Christmas for 17 years.  It is the Christmas Carousel.

This carousel was given as a gift to Oldest Daughter on her one year-old birthday.  It has a giraffe, elephant, tiger, lion, zebra, and deer that go up and down magically as 12 carousel-organ-style tunes play, repeatedly, from the carousel itself.

In theory it is a lovely thing.


In reality, any 7 year-old child cannot get enough of it and will play it

continually . . .

throughout the day . . .

until . . .

you think . . .

you may . . .

go mad.

One clue that you are losing your sanity is that as the "Hallelujah-Chorus-carousel-style" winds down, your mind is already forming the percussional introduction and subsequent notes to the following "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Or you may find that as the violin sweetly plays "Away in a Manger" during Sunday morning worship, you are tapping out the accompanying rhythm on your thigh . . . calliope style.

It is rough as a parent, but parental love covers all.

Now that there are 3 teens in the house, however, the level of tolerance of the Christmas Carousel is all but gone.

Indeed, after a mere 15 minutes of Youngest Daughter enjoying the bright, cheerful carols, while the menagerie ascend and descend on their small golden poles, there are calls and hollers from the upstairs:

"Can somebody please shut that off?  I'm going crazy!"

"Turn that thing down!  I can't stand it!"

"If you wonder where I am, Mom, I'm in my closet . . . inside my sleeping bag . . . head first . . . with my ear muffs on."

There was only one thing to do.  Leave the darling Christmas Carousel in the bin . . . at least for this year.

Just wondering . . . when does saving your sanity cross the line to Christmas cruelty?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One Decade

It was ten years ago.  My husband was enthusiastically watching a college football game.  I'm sure I was doing something child-related.  At that time, we had a 7 year-old, a 6 year-old, a 4 year-old, and a 9 month-old.  So, of course I was doing something child-related.  I was probably making a snack, breaking up a fight or changing a diaper.  We really didn't need any more commotion to the family . . . no more wildness in the house.

At that moment, 2 tiny puppies wriggled their way between the boards in our fence, entered our yard, and entered our lives.  We found a little grassy nest back behind the fence where they had huddled for warmth before bravely looking for a home.  One looked like a German shepherd; one looked like a golden retriever.  But because of their age and the way they were nesting together, the vet determined they were brothers . . . brothers dropped off in a neighborhood in hopes that someone else would take on the responsibility that their owners reneged on.

We may not have needed commotion and wildness, but we got it.  They lived in the kitchen.  They chewed up cupboards, pooped on the floor, ate cookbooks, gnawed table legs.   For years, our house had the faint odor of puppy-ness, and the value of all our furniture dropped dramatically.

But they became family, as surely as anyone to whom I had given birth.  They wriggled their way into our hearts that day.  And, just like family, they alternately frustrate and delight, annoy and endear.

They have been known to warn of intruders, comfort sad little hearts and obediently stay off all couches, chairs and beds. 

And they have been known to pee shamelessly on silk curtains, gnaw stacks of expensive Post-It Notes, and gobble up a warm pan of lasagna.

But they're family, and we couldn't imagine life without them.  I'm so glad 10 years ago two little puppies looking for a home found ours.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thanksgiving in the Mountains

Yes, yes, I know that Thanksgiving is a week past and that Christmas is in the air, out of the attic, up on the mantle, through the airwaves.  But I must have one tiny mull over a sweet, sweet Thanksgiving. We were at my brothers . . . out of the town, up in the quasi-mountains, overlooking a town, in an artist's and nature-lover's paradise.  I am not an artist.  I do love nature.  My brother and his family are artists . . . creators . . . imaginers.  Going to his house, experiencing nature, feeling the artsy vibe, getting out of the scramble of the city, feels like vacation . . . like soul rejuvenation.

They have little artsy stacks of beautiful stones stacked by the doorstep.  And they fit.  

And this birdhouse has probably been welcoming birds for 50 years.

We ate lovely, earthy foods out of heavy bowls and wooden serving pieces.

These homes, overlooking Hendersonville, NC were built in the 30's as summer homes . . .

. . . mountain homes, where you could go to escape the swelter of the city.

They are charming.

I seriously want one.  My little escape. . . out of the town, up in the quasi-mountains, overlooking a town, in an artist's and nature-lover's paradise.

 Thanksgiving dinner was yummy.  Family felt warm and connected.  I really enjoyed . . .

  . . . our Thanksgiving in the mountains.