Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

V: Joy to the World!

This holy season finds "C" and I both facing challenges in our families. These tribulations include relationship difficulties, serious illness of extended family, death of a long-time neighbor and close friend a week ago, and loss of job to a family member.

My oldest daughter just came home from the hospital after a two day stay for pregnancy complications. So instead of wrapping gifts and baking cookies, I've been caring for her three children and my youngest daughter's new infant son "Jack", as the babysitter arrangements didn't work out. So, weariness covers me like a heavy woolen cloak, but I do have a turkey to roast tomorrow, and a few sweets to prepare with grandaughter, Julia.

"C" has a house full of extended family visiting from the East coast. I know she is enjoying cooking and visiting with them all. Like me, she has family who are facing difficult times, and her soon-to-be ex continues to cause grief, but we both place our hope in something beyond ourselves. I would like to share this favorite Scripture with you this day. Our "Christmas card" to you!

"For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel."
Luke 2:30-32

This Christmas season may you find your hope, your peace, your joy in Him. Blessings to you and yours. V.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

C: Entitlements, or Who’s Training Whom?

Yes, I understand that the dogs are spoiled. I do try to keep the separation clear between homo sapiens and canine in this household. Unlike V’s “Dudley” or my sister-in-law’s “Sophie,” my dogs do not presume to sleep on my bed. But they each have their own bed at my bedside. I’m not sure that’s particularly “canine” but, still, it is on the floor.

My dogs both sit beautifully on command and obey the basics. I make sure to order them around every so often just to remind them. “Stay!” I will command, for no good reason. And they both dutifully do, albeit with rolling eyes sometimes as though they are humoring me; but they do it. Rarely do they give any offense whatsoever. Still, the title of “Pack Leader” sometimes seems to hang in life’s gray area around here. Sometimes we can blame that on others….

Take the couch, for instance. Scout is eleven years old. The first nine years of her life as a dog in the house were spent contentedly on the floor. You know, where dogs live? It never-even-crossed-her-mind to get on furniture. Then, when my in-laws had to move away, they could not take their beloved dogs. Sport, their larger dog, was euthanized, a sad task that had been put off for a while. Sport was having major joint and other health issues. Putting him down was something that had to be done, and their move forced that issue.

Perky was their miniature fox terrier. She was old, too, but she moved in with me when her family moved to a senior complex that does not allow dogs (go figure). This was pre-Chili, when Scout and I were on our own. Perky was never under any illusion about pack leadership; she claimed and walked in that authority—in a sweet way, mind you. It’s just that if Perky wanted something, she got it, by hook or crook. She taught Scout a thing or two…watch and learn. The couch was the first lesson.

One thing about Shetland Sheepdogs is their intensity. Because they watch everything so closely, waiting on their opportunity to be of service, their little faces seem to speak their thoughts. This is her "I wish you wouldn't take my picture" face.

You should have seen Scout’s face when Perky first leapt up on the couch to lie down for a snooze (so much better than the hard floor). Scout’s face registered sheer amazement. You could almost hear her thinking, “Wow! I didn’t know dogs could get up there!!” So, she joined Perky. Two dogs on the couch. And, believe me, once that genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting it back in. Scout has remained an evening couch dog ever since, long after Perky has departed this world.

But the thing that has me writing this post is a recent development and it revolves around one of my dogs’ favorite English-language words: “Treat!” The sound of that word will perk these babies up like no other. When it is spoken, they immediately stop what they are doing and prance joyfully to the cabinet where the dog treats are stored. And, as embarrassing as it is right now for me to admit it, there is quite a selection to be had. Just look at these "Canine Carryouts." Think they make them in those fun T-bone shapes for the dogs??? I don't think so....

Now, in my defense, let me say that the array of treats has grown out of my kind consideration for little Scout. As she has aged, I have noticed that hard biscuits sometimes seem difficult for her to manage, and she cares not one whit for the rawhide chews that Chili loves to gnaw on. Concerned about this, I began shopping for varieties that would allow Scout to enjoy her treat time as much as Chili does. But here’s what is happening now:

We go to the treat door, which is eye level for the dogs. (Probably a bad tactic, right there, huh?). The door is opened, and their long snouts shove right in, greedily sniffing for the treats they know are stored there. “Sit!” I gruffly command; and they both move back onto their haunches, awaiting the favor of a tasty morsel. I pull the treat-of-the-day out and dispense one to each. Chili always happily takes whatever is offered, carrying it into the breakfast room to enjoy. But then comes the vignette that has me re-thinking relationships around here.

Sometimes Scout, like Chili, courteously takes her treat and goes off to enjoy. But, more often than not, she exercises another option: discrimination, of the gourmand kind. She will carefully sniff the treat and then sit back a little and look up at me, her eyes saying, “No, thank you. I am not in the mood for that today. Please offer another.” And, here’s the kicker: I do!! Instead of saying, “Take it or leave it, mutt!” I return the treat to its packaging and search for one that pleases. Sometimes the second choice is a charm; sometimes it takes me three times to please. Some days I believe a silver tray might be in order...

Now, you might think that Scout just has her favorites and perhaps, I should stick with those to make things easier. Nay, not that simple. Scout likes all our varieties of treats, with the exception of the hard rawhide mentioned above. It’s just that some days she’s just not in the mood for dog biscuits, notwithstanding their “oven-baked goodness,” preferring Pupperoni, instead. And, then, there are days when Canine Carryouts (usually a favorite) just aren’t the ticket; “May I have a ‘Beggin’ Strip,’ instead, please?” Of course, she can’t really say this—I have to scramble to read her face and mind to come up with the treat that pleases.

What have I come to? Is it age that has brought me to this? Will I soon be wearing a red hat and toting a little Chihuahua in a purple sweater around? Yes, I do realize that these observations are not really about my dogs…they are about me.


PS – It cannot go without saying that when my dogs visit Mother-in-law (daily while I am at work), they are always given a treat. MIL keeps big dog biscuits for Chili and little ones for Scout. But there is NO VARIETY!! (Horrors!). And Scout does not pull her “No, thank you” routine on MIL. They both seem excited and pleased with her offering…talk about pack leader. I’m afraid to think about what this says about the pack at my house…

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

C: God in Nature...A Sermon for You

If you have read very many of my posts, you know what a blessing my dogs are to me. When I was sent this video by a friend, I thought "Wow! What a sermon is that!" I had to share:


Sunday, December 6, 2009

C: It's You and Me, Baby.

This past week the Turner Movie Classics showed 84 Charing Cross Road, and my son and I happened on it shortly after it began. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this movie, nor do I ever tire of it. My son, his first time around, was enchanted, as well. The acting is superb (Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Dame Judi Dench), and the story draws me in like a sponge…and is a true story.

Here’s the gist: Helene Hanff, a writer in New York, pre-WWII, goes in search of hard-to-find volumes by writing to a second-hand bookstore in England—at 84 Charing Cross Road. Frank is the manager of the store and, over twenty years of mail orders and written discourse, he and Helene grow to be very close, that friendship circle including his staff as well. As you watch this movie, you watch this little group of friends through the war and you see the events of their lives unfold through letters back and forth across the Atlantic. And the movie itself is so very stylish. Here's a taste:

If you are looking for spy action and car chases, skip this. But if you want a true, wonderful story with deep character development and a story about the best kind of friendship, you will want to brew some tea and sit down to this movie.

As I sat watching it this time, marveling at the long-distance relationship that developed between the two main characters, I could not help but think of you, my friends in the blogosphere. It was amazing when the next day I visited Willow Manor and found that she had watched the same showing (again) and had been sitting there thinking of blogging as well.

In the case of Helene and Frank, they never met personally. And, yet, they became the closest of friends. Each was dear to the other, and it is a fascinatingprogression of the movie to see that relationship deepen and the longing each had to actually be in the presence of the other. Never realized.

There is one (for me) pivotal scene, where Helene reads from John Donne of our connection with one another
All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and His hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to another.

I believe Willow Manor is right; blogging is the pen pal method of today. It is possible to come to know people with whom you have never had the pleasure of keeping company. And, it’s funny, but after reflecting, I think my blog friends may see my “essence” even more clearly than my nearer friends do. When I write my posts, there is the comfort of an air of anonymity. I am not obsessed with keeping my identity secret, but I do write at large under the pseudonym, “C.” This gives me a little more leash and, I believe, it gives my readers insight into who I really am.

I have thought in the past that blogging is a method of re-inventing myself. On my blog, I can hone the qualities I want to present and just not mention those other irritating parts of me that might be evident to those who sit in the same room. But I have come to think that, rather than re-invention, what I feel when posting is a certain freedom. It’s really “me set free,” rather than a different me.

And this ramble is to say this: I do feel connected with you. I do feel that there are those of you whom I “know” but have never met. There are some of you who, when I read one of your posts, I think, “Yes, that sounds just like ________!” And this about people whom I have never met. Some of you live on the other side of the globe (what a blessing to have that connection!!) and it is not likely I will ever meet you personally. But meet you I have.

The one time I have actually met with a blogger friend, Add Humor and Faith..., she was exactly as V and I had grown to know her. It just bolsters me in my belief that the connection of friendship need not be physical, but can be nurtured long distance. And what a blessing to be able to connect in the way we do on the internet.

Go watch 84 Charing Cross Road. See if it doesn’t remind you of “us!” Blessings to you all. C.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

C: Something to Anticipate!

Knowing I would love it, my brother-in-law sent me this link. And, indeed, I enjoyed this trailer immensely. Watch it all the way to the end--I love the final scene!!

These few images from this documentary made me think about how we are all so alike and yet our cultures approach things so differently (a baby drinking from a stream??? I love it!!). I cannot wait to see what this film can teach me!

I think this comes out in April 2010...I'll be waiting!! C

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

C: A Christmas Craft Tradition to Share

I am not especially "crafty." I love arts and crafts (don't all children?), but to call me "artistic" or "talented" craftwise is a stretch. Still, our creative juices seek outlets, don't they? Whether they are very high-grade creativities or not. And I find that it is the crafty activities that lend themselves to capturing personal family memories.

When my son was small I developed the habit of keeping up with significant events through the year. I have used a calendar for this or a list in my Bible where I would see it frequently and add to it as things occurred. Along toward Christmas, I would take myself to the craft store, buy the largest plain ornament I could find, and white, green and red paint pens. At the top of the ornament, I printed my son's name and the year. Then all over the ornament I would print the "happenings" of the year.

These are not the most beautiful ornaments we have. But every year when we decorate the tree, my son stops to read each of his memory ornaments and remember the good times and bad. "This is the year I starred in the Peter Pan play!" "Oh, I remember Chuck falling from the horse and breaking his arm!" "Look! This is the year we went to San Francisco!"

I thought I would share this with you because it is a cheap, easy (even I can do this) way to grab memories for years to come. It is a lot of "bang" for a little buck. And, just think: when your child grows up and leaves home, he can take with him a box full of memories to hang on his own tree! And, if I ever get any grandkids (!) I plan to continue this tradition for them! C

PS - Yes, it did occur to me to add pictures of my own "memory balls," but they are STILL in the attic! We are planning a special tree-trimming night when my niece and nephews arrive, so the ornaments won't come down for another week or so...so just close your eyes and imagine! You get the picture...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

C: Feeling “Not Normal.”

My soon-to-be-ex husband has fairly poor taste (in all but first wives, mind you). Let me give you some examples: When we were into our marriage about two years, we lived in an apartment owned by my father, so we felt at liberty in “decorating.” I indulged his whim by allowing him to follow his dream and paint the kitchen cabinets cobalt blue with lemon yellow doors. The effect was horrifying—like something out of “Yellow Submarine.” Something like this:

This color scheme did not last long.

He struck again when we built this house. He made the arrangements for gutters to be installed. On the day of the installation, I got a concerned call from the installers. Could I come out there, please? My husband had specified “chocolate brown” for the guttering (unbeknownst to me), and the installers wanted me to be certain before installing.

When I arrived, the Hispanic installer explained in very broken English, very pronounced Hispanic accent that if he installed it, the gutters would look “not normal.” He kept using this phrase, like it was a widely-accepted adjective in English, seemingly unaware that it sounded, well, “not normal.”

We can do this, but it will look not-normal,” and “If you want a not-normal house, we will put them.” “Senora, I beeeeeleeve that it will look so not-normal that you will not like it.

Now, close your eyes and picture a light-colored home with rich chocolate brown gutters outlining the entire roofline. It would stand out against the roof, and it most definitely would stand out against the light, neutral color of the soffit and sides of the house. I called my husband and described what I thought it would look like. His reply? “Exactly what I intended!! I thought it would look great with the contrasting colors!”

I nixed the chocolate guttering, of course, not wanting my house outlined in brown, and chose the color closest to my house’s color (and was eternally grateful to the installer for following his gut on this one). But his “not-normal” phrase has stuck with me the intervening 12 years.

And “not-normal” describes how I sometimes feel about myself. You know, not quite “abnormal,” which has such a pejorative sound to it; but not typical, either. I think we all have our mind-pictures of what “normal” people do in daily life; I know I do. I was thinking to myself the other day about my “not-normalness,” which usually gets on my nerves. Here are a few of my “not-normals”:

I think normal people care a whole lot more about housekeeping than do I…a whole lot. For example, I think normal people probably make their beds every morning. Mine is lucky to be made up a couple times a week (well, at least some weeks I make it up a time or two…). Here is what it looks like most of the time:

Don’t normal people have some idea what the weather forecast is? Not me! Nope! I just can’t even think about it. Hence, sometimes I find myself in a courthouse two counties over, with the sky starting to rain cats and dogs, I have no umbrella. As I gaze out the door, bemoaning my lack of umbrella, opposing counsel with his/her umbrella says (a little snootily), “Didn’t you hear the forecast? We knew this was coming…” Whether he or she shares the umbrella to the car depends on how the case went…if I won too big, well I just get wet…

With holidays coming up, I picture “normal” households in my mind, as they bustle to get ready. For example, don’t most normal people send Christmas cards? I mean actually send them….I never do. Oh, some years I labor over just the right ones, spend a little time addressing some and a whole lot of time writing personal notes in them. Of course, later (say, around New Year’s Day when I am clearing up of holiday decorations), I discover my half-done cards…never sent. I believe it has been decades since I actually mailed out Christmas cards. Sigh. And the thought of them is so warming…

So you see, I am “not-normal,” and in so many ways that I do not have space here to recount. It would make me feel so much better about myself if you would comment and share ways in which you, too, are “not-normal.” Then, again, if you are one of those “normal” types, feel free to so-state! C

Monday, November 23, 2009

C: Must Denigrate!

I feel very much like I am in a countdown to Thanksgiving. It is Sunday evening, and I have three full days of work at the office ahead of me. But the turkey is in the fridge, thawing, and the ham is down at MIL's because my refrigerator is bursting at the seams. There is an undercurrent of bustle that is surpassed only by that before Christmas...soon on the heels of this bustle! No wonder I'm exhausted by New Year's.

This year my mother will spend Wednesday night with me, as will my niece Ellie and any other nieces who want to join in. We will spend Wednesday evening baking pies and getting everything ready for the "real" cooking on Thursday morning.

We will, of course have pumpkin pie (obligatory)and Ellie and I have a new dessert recipe to try out--may be reporting to you all on that outcome. Though I like that whole-berry-orange fancy cranberry sauce, my entire family insists on the jellied sauce as well.

My mother's specialty is cornbread dressing to go with the turkey. Ummmmm. She makes the best. Cornbread plus some canned biscuits, chicken broth, celery and onions and seasonings (salt, pepper, sage)and an egg or two.

We make a huge pan, because this stuff is absolutely divine left over. In fact, I think the best part of Thanksgiving may be the leftovers. This dressing is so good that my brother has been known to slice it cold out of the fridge and put it between two slices of bread for a "dressing sandwich!"

And this year we will, once again, hear from Mom how the dressing is not quite right. Nevermind that it is the best stuff you could ever hope to find. Invariably, one of us will say, "Mom, this dressing is soooo good!" She will reply something like, "Why, thank you! But I do believe it is a bit dry this year." Other excuses we have heard: "Too much sage." "Too salty," "Not enough sage." The question this year is not "Will she denigrate?" Rather, it is "What reason will she give this year for proclaiming her dressing not quite up to snuff?"

My Aunt Nita does the same thing. "Aunt Nita, these are the best chicken and dumplings!" Aunt Nita: "I think the dumplings may be too 'doughy,' don't you?"

These two women are wonderful cooks and, surely, they know it! But their comments are not quite false modesty. I don't really sense any manipulation in them. I've thought about it and decided it's manners, pure and simple. I think it is the Southern way, as these two sisters are decidedly Southern Belles. One must slightly denigrate one's accomplishments...

But, denigrated or not, be assured that my household will have some of the best cornbread dressing in the land, for it is being made by the master! I can only hope the same blessing finds its way to you!

Happy Thanksgiving! We all have much to be thankful for. C.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

C: My Favorite Room

You will never see my home in the decorating magazines. I am just not that "together." Still, like everyone, I have my own "style," which could be called (if you are being generous) "eclectic." If I like it, it's there. I don't spend a lot of thinking about what looks good together. My house is just a collection of my whimsy.

And there is no more whimsical room in my house than my powder room. It is so covered with quotes and sayings that some of my family laugh and call it "the reading room," because as you are tending to business, there is much to read!

I wanted to share this room with you and, impatient being that I am, cannot wait until someone better at photography can help, so bear with me...

The top photo is of the wall and corner directly across from the toilet--right in the line of view, as it were. The three prints are by Brian Andreas, one of my favorite artists. His work is called "story people," and indeed, these pieces do tell stories. I love them because--like all bloggers--I admire agility with words. I can't quote everything on these walls for you in the space of this post, but just to give you a taste of storypeople, the top print says:

Most of the stuff I say is true because I saw it in a dream and I don't have the presence of mind to make up lies when I'm asleep.

Over the toilet I have this framed collection of greeting cards quoting wisdom from the mouths of babes.

The one that most of my family attributes to my first-born personality is the one that says:
If you'd just do what I tell you, I wouldn't have to be bossy. Addison Graves, age 4.

I couldn't agree more...but my favorite of these three is by young Maura Stuard, age 8, who said,

Sometimes you just need to take a nap and get over it.

Then there is my penchant for all things Wizard of Oz. These bookmarks came from Barnes and Noble, and they have quotes by the Wizard, himself, to each of the characters--except, of course, for Dorothy, who discovered wisdom on her own.

The Lion's quote is:

As for you, my friend, you are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger you have no courage. You are confusing courage with wisdom.

Above these are framed bookmarks with the two witches from the same story. Glinda is saying, "Only bad witches are ugly." The Wicked Witch of the West intones: "You say 'wicked' like it's a bad thing."

Most of my decorating is on the cheap...framed greeting cards and bookmarks. But I have some "art," too. Under this glare is an original cartoon cel of Wiley Coyote, signed by Chuck Jones. On the opposite wall is The Pink Panther over Friz Freleng's signature. So, even my "art" is a bit whimiscal in this room!

And, finally, I have a favorite of all these sentiments (it's my favorite right now--subject to change by conditions in my life or my mood!):

There's more, but no time...thanks for taking this tour of my powder room! C

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stick Horse Cowgirl V: When the Frost is on the Punkin

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodders in the shock...
When the "frost is on the punkin" is when I get in the mood to bake breads and desserts and cook savory broth-based soups and stews. Winter settles heavily on my spirit with the chill in the air and lack of sunlight, so these last days of autumn when the leaves have already fallen from the trees is when I begin gather in to hibernate. If I didn't have to get up and go to work, I could stay in my nightgown all day, sipping my favorite English Breakfast tea, reading, cooking and perhaps a little needlework.

To compensate for the lack of sunshine, I light candles and oil lamps to help dispel the gloom of long dreary days. I do love my fireplace, and this season is when we begin to light a fire every night and on Saturday mornings. Thank heavens for our woodburning fireplace--it's truly the heart of our home! In the ten years we've lived in this country house, we've never had to purchase firewood. We have so many trees on our property and kind neighbors who offer their fallen trees, that we have had plenty. So in the spirit of sharing and thankfulness on this week before the traditional holiday, I would like to share a favorite recipe that I often make in autumn. I will be baking it this weekend to take to the school where I work for our Thanksgiving Feast in the classroom.

Frost on the Pumpkin Bars


Mix together in a large bowl: 4 large eggs, 1 cup of vegetable oil and 2 cups of sugar and 1 (16oz.) can of pumpkin. In another bowl mix 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, l tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. cloves,and 1/2 tsp. nutmeg. Beat eggs, oil and sugar. Add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour batter in 12" x 17" jelly roll pan or rimmed baking sheet. It WON'T run over. Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool. *I use 1/4 tsp. allspice instead of cloves. It can be used to replace ginger and/or cloves if you wish. I prefer the slightly more delicate flavor of allspice.

One 8 oz. brick of cream cheese, 1 stick butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 1/2 c. powdered sugar and 2 T. milk. Blend well with electric mixer and frost cooled cake. Cut into bars. This is a simple but delicious dessert that never fails to please! They are SOOOO good!

Besides sharing our thoughts and recipes, "C" and I both really believe in promoting our friends in the blogging community. So in this spirit of community, I hope everyone will drop in to visit at Chickens in the Road. Suzanne McMinn is a talented writer/blogger who we both enjoy a lot! She has amazing photography, good humor and wit and awesome recipes to boot! She is in the final running of a contest sponsored by Sam-e for Good News Blogger. She is perfect for this job and it would also be lucrative for this single mom. From her site you can click on Sam-e to vote for her every day til December 7! I hope you'll watch her short video promotion-it's great!

On a final note, I have discovered a talented artist you might be interested in. Her name is Julie Whitmore . Julie has an Etsy shop and does custom orders. Her unique faience pottery is amazing in it's originality and charm. Visit her and let me know what you think! It's all about community and sisterhood. V.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

C: Little Spindly Legs—Eight of Them

I know that the book of Genesis has dubbed the serpent/snake as our “anathema,” but for me it’s always been spiders. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to load up on boa constrictors as pets or anything, but snakes do not send me into screaming meemies, just respectful avoidance. Spiders, on the other hand, just freak me completely out. Really, it makes no sense…look how much bigger I am, and not one spider has ever actually hurt anyone I know. What gives on this? But, as much as I dread them, I cannot bear the thought of stomping on them. Basically, I just choose to give them the right-of-way.

Last Sunday I was sitting in church when I had a spider moment. The church has concrete floors scored into sections. They are a rich brown color, smooth as glass and shiny. I was sitting there on the aisle during the sermon (yes, I was listening, I swear!), when my spider radar went off. My eyes shifted to the aisle floor, where a small spider (less than dime size) was making his way toward me. Yes, directly toward me!

He was about three feet away. My mother-in-law, sitting beside me, noticed my focus on something other than the preacher. She spied the spider and leaned over. “Put your foot over and squash it,” she said. This is something I could not do. I scooted my feet to try to change his course. It worked, and he began traveling toward my purse! I could NOT have him taking refuge there (the horrors of that began to swirl in my mind). I reached over and grabbed my purse off the floor.

He changed course once again and began to move away from me out in the aisle. As I watched him wander up the aisle, I thought about how small he was. Why, I was a giant next to him! What, on earth, was I doing, shrinking from someone so much smaller than me? And why would I want to kill him, anyway? He was not bothering me…I mean to say, he was bothering me, but he did not intend to bother me.

And, of course, my mind moved on to other inane things: How conscious of us was he? Was he frightened, or did he not realize the danger he was fixing to be in as we paraded down that aisle to receive communion? And, furthermore, what was God’s view of this creature? And should we even contemplate taking a life in God’s house? Isn’t God all about life????

Oh, my mind was racing. Just as it reached a philosophical crescendo, the guy in front of me noticed the little spider and reached his foot out. Squish!! He was gone. Not so much as a smear remain (probably all on the guy's shoe). Really, I was rather stunned. After mentally waxing eloquent in my mind about this spider, this all seemed rather brutal and unnecessary.

I still don’t really want to cozy up to spiders, mind you. But by the end of the service, I had moved my perception of spiders from something like this frighening image:

To this (having worked myself up into empathy for the spider):

And I realize that neither perception is particularly realistic. And I realize, too, that my next encounter with one will likely repeat the same insane fright response as always...some things never change.

Y'all reckon I overthink things??? C

Sunday, November 15, 2009

C: Pie Day

V and I had planned to get her granddaughter, Julia, and my youngest niece, Ellie, together to make Christmas gifts and do a little baking...oh, we had big plans! We set the date and began gathering materials/ingredients. As I look back, I laugh at our ambition! We gathered enough for three days work, let alone a day with two little girls!

Our group grew. My mother, never one to be left out where her children are grandchildren are concerned, came over Friday night to spend the night with Ellie and me. Mother-in-law joined us as well, and Julia's mother came to witness the festivities. So we had a nice little inter-generational group! Friends, all, who were also eager to catch up with each other's news and exchange a little innocuous gossip.

I put a pot of beef barley soup on the stove and dragged out the panini machine so we could enjoy soup and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. V, the girls and I went to work. The rest of the women sipped coffee, offered advice here and there, and generally yucked it up with a high-old girlfriend time!

Of course, we did not nearly complete our list of tasks, and we had one real disaster (I'll tell you later...maybe), but the pies were a triumph! This is one of my very favorite pies, and I must credit Sandra Lee of the Food Channel with the inspiration for this recipe, although I have tinkered with it. It is my favorite kind of recipe--simple and wonderful! I call it my "Cherry Berry Pie," and though I love it all year round, I especially love to make it at Christmas because I think the red is so pretty. Here we go (concise recipe, without the charming photos, follows):

JULIA AND ELLIE MAKE "CHERRY BERRY PIE" (Their very first pies!)

You will need piecrust for top and bottom of pie. We used Pillsbury ready-made crusts.

One can of cherry pie filling, as shown by Julia:

One package of frozen mixed berries:

Add 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken. Squeeze in juice from half a lemon and a little lemon zest (girls were fascinated by the zesting tool).

Mix it all up, as demonstrated by Ellie:

Pour into bottom crust, and top with your choice of top crust "styles." We used the decorative piecrust cutter from King Arthur Flour.

Pop in a 400 degree oven for about half an hour til the crust is golden and Voila! You have a pie to be proud of!!

Mmmmmmmm. One pie was cut and mostly eaten with our lunch (finished off later by yours truly--I'm sooo bad!). All-in-all, we had a wonderful, comforting "girlfriend day!"

Here's the recipe:

Cherry Berry Pie
crust for double-crust pie
1 can of cherry pie filling
1 package of frozen mixed berries
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
squeeze from half lemon and zest, if you like
1/4 cup sugar

Mix all the filling ingredients together. Pour into bottom crust, top with other crust, bake 400 degrees til brown, about half an hour!

And, if you add a hearty lunch, little girls and wonderful old friends/moms, you will get that warm, holiday feeling!! C

Thursday, November 12, 2009

C: It Takes So Little to Amuse Me

Let me just say this right up front: I am no housekeeper. I’ve said it before, but you have no idea how much it needs to be restated. I am only hoping that all those beautiful pictures of my blogging friends’ houses are staged, at least to some degree. In the interests of full disclosure, you need to know that if you see a “tablescape” or floral arrangement from my home, it most likely will never be done with any kind of wide-angle. Believe me; I can only manage “neat-and-tidy” in the smallest of areas, tenuously-contained against the happy chaos of the rest of my home.

Let’s put it this way: I’ve often envisioned what would happen if I just up and disappeared….police would, naturally, be called. They’d look around for clues and immediately conclude that there are signs of a struggle. My friends, however, would solemnly shake their heads and reply, “No, officer, no clue there—this is just the way she lived…

I could make excuses, I suppose, but I have long since decided that I am me and nobody else. My chaotic house is not a function of laziness. It is a function of busy, busy plus lots of interests. I am interested in everything. Therefore, I have books piled everywhere on every imaginable subject and fiction of every imaginable genre. And, folks, I NEVER get rid of a book.

I have magazines from the usual Martha Stewarts to the unusual literary magazines. I have a veritable craft store, heavy on the paper (for which I have a fetish). Look, I have a saddle on a saddle rack in my bedroom. It is a stylish, unusual accoutrement for my boudoir décor—except that right now it has clothes hanging off it. Get the picture? (No, actually, you won’t get a picture of my boudoir…)

And, of course, there’s this blogging thing, which I’d ten times rather do than run the vacuum.

With that background, you will understand what an extreme irony it is that I went in search on the worldwide web for a way to actually fold fitted sheets. Now, this is counterintuitive, isn’t it? Who would have thought that a non-neat-freak would give a rip about folding fitted sheets? Well, here’s what drove me to it; my downstairs linen closet:

Enough said? (I’m trusting you to still love me after this revelation.)

And I found out how, BUT WAIT!! I found something even more interesting! (Think I’m ADD? Yep!). I stumbled upon this wonderful video on “How to Fold a T Shirt!” Let me tell you, I fastened onto this with the hyperfocus that only an ADD person can manage. Just look at this:

After much (MUCH!) practice, I have mastered my "good solid" pinches. So, I’m now happily folding my T-shirts as they come out of the dryer, and they look so neat and pretty stacked up. Just like in the stores. Colors so reminiscent of Easter eggs.

Fascinating (for some of us, at least. Well, one of us at least). I’ve never had this concentration of “neat-and-tidy” before. It’s actually a little out of hand—I’ve been going in search of T-shirts to fold. We’ll see how long it takes for the “new” to wear off.

Oh, yeah. Back to that sheet-folding thing: there is a “proper” way to fold fitted sheets, and this genteel woman was kind enough to share with us:

Actually, I think Jill exaggerates: folding fitted sheets is not really one of my biggest challenges, but whatever...Pretty neat, though,huh? (Like that double entendre?). But, me? I’m busy folding those T-shirts! (so much fun). And, now that I know how to properly fold a fitted sheet, here’s what my linen closet looks like:

Sigh. Maybe soon….I’ll keep you posted. C.
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