Thursday, July 31, 2008

my roots

Back Row: Dad, Michael, Mom, Teresa.
Front Row:
Me, Billy Judy, Jimmy.

Where to start...where to start?

This, my dear readers, is a family portrait circa 1976. Obviously, it is the year my step-brother Michael graduated from high school. I'm a little fuzzy about how old he is --and also I am pretty bad at simple addition.

I'm really, really good at playing the piano, though.

I will demonstrate self-control and not make fun of our attire. (They call that self-deprecating humor, for the record.)

Here is another fun shot of four of us (Jimmy, Judy, Billy, Teresa) in the backyard of 38 Bayberry.

We were pretty cool kids, as far as the neighborhood goes, and all because of that pool with the blue-green stripes. It was bigger than the Daigle's. It even had a slide.
A curving one.

I remember divvying our pool up into pie-shaped sections in order to make sure each of us had exactly the same amount to clean with the pool-vacuum. By the time the job was done, it was time to hook up the hose all over again.

As I recall, it took ten minutes to vacuum each share and fifteen minutes to scwabble about it.
(No matter how I spell "scwabble", it still looks wrong.) (Edit* "squabble?)

As to this particular photo, I again exhibit self-restraint in the clothing-critique department.

I'm crumbling, though. I must give in to remarking upon the elephant in the living-room.
Not only is Billy doing a "Horrible Hulk" impression, but he is dressed like a member of a traveling circus. Actually, if you click on for a better look, you might notice his screwy-looking expression. What was wrong with this child??

Mom, I'm sure we were under your watchful eye from the kitchen window. But maybe you shouldn't have let us dress this way. Maybe you should have seen ahead thirty-plus years and predicted I would post this photo on the world-wide web for all to see.

But then again--maybe you knew that in thirty-plus years hence, Judy would need a break from the stresses of life, and photos like this would be just the ticket.

They know everything.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

a letter to Mrs. Pearce, housekeeper

Dear Mrs. Pearce,

I wish to express my appreciation for your performance last evening.

My, the patience you have for those two incorrigible scoundrels, Col. Pickering and Prof. Higgins!
Your elegance, attention to decorum, and pure "grace under fire" truly held the performance together. Why, if you hadn't constantly demonstrated self-control and perfect ladylike restraint, the whole show would have dissolved into absolute mayhem!

Despite the uncalled-for antics of the aforementioned "gentlemen", you kept the servants and household in proper order. Honestly, Mrs. Pearce, I don't know how you do it. Included in the hubbub of your post, you had to change your complete attire 5 times in the space of three hours. Of course, I have utter confidence in your ability to uphold this type of standard for the remaining 6 performances.

After the last curtain calls, my dear domestic friend, you will (alas!) return to the hum-drum life of managing your homestead in Madrid, where an array of characters and the standing cast of husband, children, and grandchildren await you.

I stand ready to assist you in the downloading of any stress or strain in the days to come, preferably over gourmet dessert and coffee---at any bistro with tablecloths and atmosphere that you choose.

I remain your Obedient and Admiring Servant~

Mrs. William Hull
Knapps Station, New York

Saturday, July 26, 2008

a wild time

All it took was a one-hour drive to the Adirondacks.

Throw in some assorted yogurt containers, bug spray, picture-perfect weather, and two people who are crazy enough to venture into the woods for wild blueberries...and you have described my day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the girls make ZA

ZA is a bonafide word, totally kosher as far as Scrabble goes. It means, "pizza".
Now you know.

We made za tonight. Boy, did we ever.
Whole-wheat crust, thin. Rubbed with EVOO and crushed garlic.
No sauce. Rather, a generous toss of diced roma tomatoes.
Thinly sliced yellow squash.
Lightly steamed broccoli.
Fresh spinach and basil.
Three kinds of cheese.
Oregano, too.

We threw it our pieces of art (one round and one rectangular) into a hot oven and waited for the searing heat to do its thing. Only one thing could have made this za even better, and that's this.

Now, wouldn't that make a dilly of a za.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

a little night music

It is night.

Crickets and other summer creatures frolic in the inky-black meadow--a mariachi band outside my window. I imagine them in their snappy jackets of green, brown, and black, beating time cheerfully by strumming, sawing, whirring, and croaking; each according to their ability. Most of them sport mustaches, I think. And pointy-toed cowboy boots.

It is night.

Farmers are already half-way through their journey of sleep, dreaming of the morrow's plunder- when supple yellow meadows will be invaded with red tractors. Behind them, rows of teeth-like scythes will chew and spit, chew and spit. The whine of gears, the pummel of pistons, the jostle of tires over ruts: it is the dream-music of summer.

It is night.

An owl keeps his night-watch, listening.
Listening to us sleep. Listening and watching.
He shifts on his perch
under the white-drum moon.

In and around the farmhouse, other music:
the rise and fall of chests with airy breath,
the sharp cry of a child,
a mother's murmur.

In the pantry, vinegar spiders its way deep into the fruit.
a dog stirs in his warm bed of grass
the dust of a long day sifts to the floor,
a star silently scrapes the sky,
someone prays while half asleep.

pillows catch worries

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

sound the alarm

There are sundry kinds of alarm clocks.

People are jarred awake by bells, whistles, coo-coos, beepers, rock music, chimes, or the smell of coffee. Personally, I don't relish falling asleep with the knowledge that something mechanical will eventually go off like a shotgun, leaving me to start my day in momentary panic. How much better to perk up gradually to the muffled sounds of my dear husband easing himself out of bed, rummaging in the closet, and pulling on his socks. In that way, sleep is shaken off like a cozy blanket--a few inches at a time.

This morning I was doing just that--creaking open a sleepy eye every now and then toward my digital clock to gauge how much pillow-time I had until my morning walk and then drifting back into a semi-alert snooze...when I was jolted fully awake by the sensation---

the very real sensation--

that something was crawling in my hair.

At times like this, the mental images flash by at lightning speed.



I will spare you the details of my reaction to this phenomena. Let me just say that maniacal shrieking and leaping higher than my natural ability were included in my antics. Oh-- and multiple loud and shaky declarations of MOUSE. IN. HAIR.

The circus was over when said small rodent sped across the bedroom floor and scrambled into the dark recesses of Hubby's closet.

For heaven's sake.
I just don't know if I can actually sleep in my bed anymore.

I can't think of any way to end this post.
Have a nice day, everyone.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Adirondack paradise

Yesterday was like a dream: water, sky, sun, and paddles. Since May, Friend #32 and I had planned to kayak for a full day in the Adirondacks. She is my kayak-partner--and she is moving to Texas.
This trip was our last hurrah.

--until next time, that is.

The early morning on Barnum Pond set the stage for a glorious day of exploration.

That's Friend #32 taking in the view while balancing her state-of-the-art paddle across her lap.
I am very envious of that paddle, by the way.

I need that paddle. It almost wrecked my morning to think of how much I wanted that paddle.
But moving right along....

The pearly-gray clouds soon gave way to a sparkle of sun that lit the brush along the rim of the water from within. Its beauty helped me forget about that way-cool paddle.

Even the edges of the swamp quivered with color.

I am always captivated by what manages to grow on the water. A fallen tree becomes a nurturer for bright plants and moss. This, I learned later in the day, is rightly named a "nurse-maid".

After Barnum Pond, we put in at Cascade Lake. Here is a dramatic view of this long, narrow slice of deep water. The cloud-cover makes it look foreboding, but once we got underway, the clouds departed and the water looked quite friendly.

I looked for the Loch Ness, but didn't find him. I had my camera ready, just in case.

At the end of the "trail", we turned around and hit gale-force winds straight on. Really. At times we were buffeted so hard that despite digging in like maniacs, we were going backwards. It didn't help much that I was laughing hysterically.

While we were huffing and puffing, some annoyingly buff guy glided by us in his state-of-the-art kayak. He smiled at us. Or maybe smirked, I couldn't tell.

Everyone has state-of-the-art stuff except for me.

After thoroughly but slowly conquering Cascade Lake, we strolled through the town of Saranac Lake, had lunch, and did a little window-shopping. Inspired by the scenery, we decided to find one more place to paddle on our way home.

This pond beckoned us. (We gladly responded. Wouldn't you?)
We were told by a fisherman that this little pond connected to another little pond, which eventually connected to Osgood Lake. Sounded good to us!

We loved the narrow canals that led us from jewel to jewel! A wooden foot-bridge spanned the passageway, reminding us that we were not Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain.

Or Native Americans.
(Although Friend #32 has some connections in that department.)

She nicely offered to trade paddles with me for a stretch. I nicely offered to trade back with her after a polite while. She had the nerve to call my paddle "a lunker". A lunker.

Other than that, she's a really nice friend.

We were completely done in by all this exercise, I'll tell you, but also completely exhilarated.

We packed up for the drive home. While Friend #32 organized her stuff and checked her e-mail, phone messages, and GPS in the air-conditioned truck, I plundered a patch of wild blueberry bushes. To each his own, I always say.

On the trip home, we talked about our perfect day. Except for a few bug-bites, I wouldn't have changed a thing about it. I made sure I expressed my appreciation to Friend #32 for helping it happen.

She is one of my favorite travel-buddies and I am going to miss her ready companionship.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

food, food, food

-Every day, I endeavor to incorporate the goodness from the garden into our meals. Tonight's meal is already in the crock-pot: Curried Beef Stew. Some of its ingredients (cilantro, peppers, and peas) were harvested this morning. Steamed rice and a home-grown salad will round out our mid-summer meal.

-Our shipment of sour cherries is ready for us, thanks to an Amish farmer near Depeuyster. #1 Daughter found a simple recipe for sour cherry jam. You can bet that a cherry cobbler will be on the table in the near future, too!

-Yesterday found me in a well-equipped kitchen, putting together elegant entrees for 26 elegant ladies. It was a benefit luncheon and garden tour for the Remington Museum, and the day was perfect for al fresco dining. I was surrounded by the beauty of china, silver, linens, gardens, and cheerful friends all afternoon.

-Last night, I crashed 1942 for dinner. I inhaled two bowls of Korean dumpling soup over rice and two Korean-style vegetable pancakes with red pepper sauce. It was entirely amazing. Instead of dessert (coffee ice-cream!), the chef (Song) and I played a few Mozart piano duets.

Now, that's a sweet way to end a meal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Today was a river-day.
The edges of the water were dotted with delicate water-flowers, open like cups.

Patches of unshorn grass which grace my lawn do not appeal to me.
But-- mammoth tufts of unshorn grass gracing the riverbank delight me.

Is this what they call "azure skies"?
In the distance, you can see the old railroad bridge. Along this bend in the river, one can begin to hear the waterfalls of the Norwood dam. It is a lovely sound.

For my last leg of my paddle, I draw close to the roaring falls, and then turn around and let the current carry me to my journey's end. It is an invigorating way to end my time on the river!

Monday, July 14, 2008

rain-forest in my backyard

It's a jungle out there.

The successive days of heat, humidity, and soaking rain have transformed my little garden into a tropical rain forest of sorts. If you stand still, you can almost hear things growing.
Elephant-sized leaves have eclipsed the broccoli while jack-in-the-beanstalk sized vines slither brazenly through the carrots and spill out into the lawn. There may be weeds in the alleys between the beets and the lettuce, but who can see through all that foliage? Not me.

We will dine on creamed peas this evening. A royal dish, indeed! We have eaten swiss chard rolls a few times already. I have found a recipe for roasted baby beets that looks enticing. Of course, the salad greens just keep coming, thanks to my system of "pick a row, plant a row".
We also picked up a shipment of sweet cherries on Saturday, and you can guess what that meant. "Cherry-overload"--if there can ever be such a thing.

Lest I leave my readers unduly impressed with my healthy diet choices, full disclosure compels me to share the following:
Over the weekend, I consumed cheese-smothered fries, way too many pecan-squares, and plateful after plateful of bean dip made with cheez-whiz. I do not regret one single bite.

I plan to work off my weekend-excess by weeding the jungle.
Bring me my machete!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

morning surprises

Every morning, a surprise awaits me.

After a few stretches and blinks, the first thing I do is scout the sky. The locals around here will tell you with surety: no matter what season it is, you never know what you will get in the weather department. The morning sky is always my first clue.

Will it be grey? White? Blue, dusted with clouds or blazing with the hue of robin's-egg? Will the wind be whipping the crab-apple boughs in the side yard? Or will the air be still enough to hear the easy conversations of the mechanic across the road as he tinkers in the open garage?

Every morning, another surprise awaits me.

One might think that after all these years, I would cease to be stirred by its presence, but no. It delights and surprises me always.
As near as the life-blood that courses through my veins, His faithfulness and mercies are new every morning. Every morning. A clean slate. A fresh start. A new day that begs to be lived, chock full of possibility and brimming with promise.

Jesus said there is trouble enough for the day, and ain't that the truth! May I not borrow any from yesterday or use my worry credit-card to obtain tomorrow's. Rather, my prayer is to gather up the generous provision that meets me bedside--and carry it with me, one hand in the bucket, ready to withdraw.

--no matter what color sky is my portion.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

vantage point

The other evening, while slurping down wedges of piping-hot pizza, we watched the movie Vantage Point.

It was certainly riveting, and aside from all the shooting and bloodshed, I liked it a lot. The plot revolves around a presidential assassination and the viewpoints of different people who were present when it happened---and to say it was an action movie is an understatement! I almost ripped the seams of our new leather couch, crawled under the coffee table, and bolted from the room in sheer horror. But other than that, it was really good.

(I hate shooting and bloodshed in movies. In real life I hate them even more though, which is what really counts in a person.)

Anyway. The movie got me thinking. The art of seeing things through others' eyes is an indispensable tool, and one which I don't practice as much as I should.

Here is a recent example of my own skewed "vantage point" that made me laugh. (With me, a little self-deprecating humor goes a long way.)

In order to beat the heat tonight, 5/6ths of the folk that live at 3108 piled into the PT and pointed the green kayak toward the lake. 3/5ths of us were going to swim. 1/5th was going to stroll around. The last 1/5th was going to kayak. When we pulled into the park, we saw one of our favorite families already frolicking on the beach.
A lovely surprise! The general response from the members of 3108 was "yipee!"--as they really love hanging with these particular people.

"Hey!" said I aloud to no one in particular. "How is it that they came to the lake and didn't think to invite US?"

This ludicrous statement, mostly in jest, was immediately followed by a rather sheepish and somewhat softer self-correction.

"Well, yeah....I guess WE came to the lake tonight and didn't think to invite THEM...."

It was interesting to me how my assessment of the situation changed when I stepped out of my own point of view. It was a short and powerful lesson about seeing things differently.

I wouldn't make a movie out of it, though. It definitely needs a car-chase.

Monday, July 07, 2008

at least I posted

-I should post more often.

-I also should get a chart going in which rooms are cleaned in a systematic way. And/or a meal-planning flow chart with grains, legumes and complex carbohydrates marked up with different colored sharpies. And/or a journal with daily goals and scriptures to motivate me.

But in all reality, it's probably not going to happen. My personality really balks at such things.
And since I have been shuffling along alright for years with my same old system of "squeaky wheel gets the grease"---I think I'll stick to it. I don't recommend it for everybody, though.

(By the way, I thoroughly admire all those who have those cool charts on the fridge. I really want to be more like you.)

Even though I was really really tired this morning (thank you, pounds of mystery yellow pollen which coat my bedroom dresser and my red car and my porch table), I still kayaked for about an hour. It was mostly lazy drifting with short spurts of "hey look, there's a blue heron I wonder how close I can get to him oh never mind he flew away"--but it was something, anyway.

-I found out why my amazing Dyson vacuum has been acting wimpy. #1 Son pointed out the filter with the inscription "clean every six months". I did---and my spider-weapon is back in action. Death to Arachnids, I say.

-We had spicy gumbo over rice tonight. And grilled sausage. And a garden salad with craisins, toasted pine nuts, fresh peas from the garden, and bleu cheese. I must say, it was heavenly!

-The best moment of my day? Looking out over the beloved faces that serve in varied ministries of my church. These are wonderful faces; I cherish every single one of them. We met in our pastor's home over dessert (of course!) to pray and discuss vision for handling church growth. What a wonderful problem to have!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

south of the border

Mango Salsa on the Screen Porch

Over at momandus, they are tossing around summer meal ideas. Grilled meats and veggies, salads, cold sandwiches, and other easy-fix meals are all up my alley, for sure! But here is one category that begs to be expounded upon: the world of salsa.

It's an exciting world--one full of possibility. Once you have partaken of fresh salsa, you will never go back to the overcooked, tomato-paste-laden stuff from a jar. Trust me on this.

The basic ingredients are:

a base
(tomato, tomatilla, peach , pineapple, mango or combo of any)
accompanying veggies (sweet onion, cucumber, bell pepper, red and yellow pepper, crushed garlic)
a source of heat (jalapeno or any other pepper with a kick, freshly chopped ginger, hot pepper flakes)
a zing of herbs (fresh cilantro, mint, or parsley)
a squeeze of lime
salt and freshly ground pepper

I like to chop everything pretty finely by hand, although you could use a food-processor for everything but the tomatoes (for texture's sake). Don't make the mistake of making a bowl-ful of chopped tomatoes with a few sprinklings of other stuff! You will be disappointed with a bland dip for your chip. We call that "wimpy sauce" around here. Put lotsa extras in there, like a good senorita.

Serve with white tortilla chips. Be sure to have a tall glass of iced tea handy to whet your whistle.
Or to douse the flames, depending on how liberal you were with the hot stuff.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

photo-album fun

It is time to clean out the photo-bucket, my dear cyber-friends---and you are in for a treat. Or at least for a head-scratching experience, as some of these pics make absolutely NO sense.

I will attempt to explain as we go along.

Strawberry Shortcake- No explanation needed for this one. It was consumed after a hearty dinner and an afternoon of power-kayaking. I helped myself to seconds, too. No regrets, folks.
You can regret other things, but never regret strawberry-shortcake.

Poodie at the Lake -
The sun was beginning to set, which provided the perfect lighting to show off her beauty. And although she gave permission for me to post the picture, she will have a canary when she sees what I wrote about it.

The Gang -we feed them AND entertain them.

Dear Mother-in-Law - posing in her backyard. In her hand is a wildflower of some kind, ready for pressing. I love her hat!

Friend #7 in the Kitchen -she threw together some memorable salsa on Sunday. We dove into that stuff with lime tortilla chips, and sometimes with fingers. We licked our bowls. We were hardly able to play Scrabble even. It was THAT good.

Rabid Coyote Warns Passerby of Oncoming Attack - alternately titled: Stuffed Animal at Adirondack Auction awaits Loading into Someone's Trunk.

The Dock at Norwood Lake -where I lounged happily last night after boating. Can't you just hear the lap, lap, lap of the water and smell the wet rocks?

Purple Rain -falling on a lonely highway.

Our House is a Very Very Very Fine House -and the people who live in it are pretty fine, too.

A recent visit from Ira brightened our spirits. We love this young man. He is headed to Texas and then to somewhere on the Southeast Coast.

Someone hitched a ride with Ira---and not just anyone. Stefi's loveliness on the outside is a mere shadow of the loveliness on the inside. She is a gem and I love her.