Riding Life!

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

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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

C: Just Ask Dorothy—Magic Shoes Make All the Difference.

Last week I got a beautiful vase full of long-stemmed roses from a client. I must admit that I don’t get all the credit. It was to both my senior partner and to me. Our client’s sweet card said, “Just something to show how much I appreciate all your help in my dilemma.”

This client pays us for our service, and we expect nothing more. But it is the sheer unexpectedness of it that makes this kind of gift such a pleasure to receive. He is a wonderful older man who is, indeed, in a dilemma. We are working hard for him but certainly he did not have to do this. Just look at them!

Although it is not typical for me to get gifts above my fee, neither is it rare. In our business, many times there is a personal bond forged as we steer folks through some very trying problems. It makes me feel like I’ve done a job well when a client feels moved to give me something more personal.

Just last month I received this necklace.

It is hand-made by a client and came in a little jewelry box with foam flowers pasted across the top. It has earrings to match, but I left them at the office and could not include them in the photo. On the box she had written me a sweet note, wishing me enjoyment of my new jewelry. I wear this necklace all the time and I think of my client, who I know is on the mend from several years of woe. I greatly appreciate the need for her to “get personal.”

Over the decades of my law practice, I have received gifts of hams, homemade summer sausage, homemade Christmas goodies, tins of cookies, an ink pen that wrote with gold ink and many other wonderful mementoes. But one client gift which just stands out is something I never expected to receive from a client. This gift came during some of my darkest days of domestic trial—during the depths of my “zombie state,” if you will. And there’s a little back-story:

Some of the ladies in my church had conspired against me. They knew that I was grief-stricken over my husband’s betrayal (yet again), and that my marriage was in its last stages. There was a women’s retreat the weekend coming up, which I intended to avoid at all costs (intending, instead, to go to the cave). The conspirators came together, purchased my place at the retreat and gathered to force me to go. Truly, I felt that I had no choice. I was rather grumped up about it.

That grumpiness was not helped by an e mail I received on the day I was to leave for the retreat. Just before going to Court for the afternoon, I checked email and found this: “Tonight at the first meeting following dinner, we will have ‘show and tell.’ Please bring with you an item that makes you feel special.”

Well, you just try out having your husband leave you for someone thirty years younger and then try to find something to make you feel special! This is a challenge, to say the least…I left for Court grumpier than ever, dreading the “Show and Tell” session, knowing I’d have nothing to share. This was just not something I wanted to do. As I tried my case that afternoon sort of on auto-pilot, I kept running that Show and Tell scene through my mind. It really began to worry me…until I arrived back at the office.

There on my desk was a box. There was a little note on top that said, “Because you are special.” It was from a client. I opened it, and this is what was inside:

Would you have ever thought a client would buy her lawyer a pair of shoes???!!! No way! But she had determined some time earlier that I needed these cute shoes with the flowers all over. She had seen that I often slip my shoes off in the office and pad around in bare feet. She had asked my assistants to find a time when I did this and check my shoes for the right size. She went right out and bought me a pair. I swear, it lifted my spirits like nothing you’ve ever seen. I think these shoes might have been sent by God. And at just the right time!

I packed the shoes up and drove off to the retreat that very afternoon. After dinner we all gathered and pulled out trinkets to share. I was the only one showing off shoes, and I modeled them for the ladies, telling them my story. Everyone got such a charge out of it, and I wore them the entire retreat, jeans and all.

I refer to them now as my “magic slippers.” They aren’t ruby slippers like in the Wizard of Oz movie, but just like Dorothy’s slippers, they had the power to transport me. I think it’s just a case of “God moves in mysterious ways.” Sometimes through magic shoes! C

Sunday, November 8, 2009

C: Gang Violence in the Country

The other night MIL and I were watching some tube together when I realized I had forgotten to bring her the mail I had gathered as I came home. I drove back down the driveway (dogs chasing along as they always do), and the dogs and I ran into the house to grab the mail.

As we came back out, Chili spotted something off the porch--in the pitch blackness. Off he went. As you can see from this photo taken from my front porch in the morning daylight, I am surrounded by woods. There is a small meadow between me and the forest edge. At night the light from my porch does nothing to penetrate the dark even five feet outward.

I could not see what Chili was doing; but before long I heard...the unmistakable sounds of a dog fight. There is little that raises my blood pressure more. I had no flashlight and I had no way of knowing who was getting the best of whom. After a few seconds (seemed much longer), here came Chili running back at top speed.

As he cleared the steps to come on the porch beside me, the woods came absolutely alive with howling. There were coyotes out there!! From the sound, there were a lot of them, although I understand that a few can sound like many.

We are accustomed to coyotes out here, and they don't bother us. From time to time we will catch sight of one, but about the most damage they do is that I suspect them of offing my kitties. I think Chili must have sensed one too close to the house and took off after him--bitting off more than he could chew when the whole gang arrived to the rescue of their mate. Here's Chili near the scene of the crime in the daylight.

Chili, Scout and I went back to MIL's, and we brought the dogs in. Chili had a bleeding nick on his hindquarters--nothing to worry about. But he had blood all over the ruff of his neck. We speculate that this means the coyote might have gotten the worst of it.

Chili was keyed up something awful! He paced and looked out the window, and I could tell his adrenalin was pumping by the way he shook every so often. When I told the story later, my brother said he was trying to say, "You just don't know what's out there!!" Probably so.

All this evoked images of Old Yeller, the burning of the rabid cow in the night, and the appearance of the rabid wolf, which was intercepted by the brave Yeller, to his eventual death. What a story! As the title song says: "His coat was yeller, but his heart was true blue." Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a little Miley Cyrus song to spur your own memories of this heroic dog story.

I learned from you that I do not crumble
I learned that strength is something you choose
All of the reasons to keep on believin'
There's no question, that's a lesson, that I learned from you

And one more picture of my own heroic dog, Chili

And, if you haven't both seen the movie and read the book, "Ol' Yeller," well, I don't know if you can call yourself literate!

This post and the clip makes my eyes a little misty at the thought of my dogs' loyalty! I loooooooove them! C

P.S.We are seriously thinking of getting a female Belgian Malinois as a wife to Chili--raising our own counterterrorism group!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

C: Holidays Coming--Continued...

Before I get back on the holiday theme from last post, let me share with you what I saw when I stepped out on my back porch to feed my kitty this morning about 6 a.m. It was just coming light.

As I look at these pictures, what I now see is a yard covered with leaves that need raking (YOU are charged with being non-judgmental about those, if you please.) I know these don't compare with the beautiful fall photos on other bloggs. What I was doing when I snapped these was trying to capture just a bit of the peaceful solitude I felt this morning as I went out there. I love where I live. As you can see, I am surrounded by forest (there's a tale coming next post about the woods!). Do you think that mysterious circle in the bottom one could be one of those supernatural orbs??? (How exciting!).

Enough digression; back to holidays.

Joolzmac of Simply Joolz commented on my previous holiday post, saying that in Australia they have fewer holidays and, hence, fewer times of gathering with all the family. She's right--it's like the holidays are excuses for the family to gather and command performances to see family you don't often see. I look forward to these times, and I think my family does, too. And "family" includes friends-who-are-famiy, too, like V and her brood.

Each year on Christmas Eve for the past 20 years or so, we have hosted a Christmas Eve dinner. Here's the routine: We gather at 5 ish, have dinner, sing Christmas carols, and the kids each get a "Christmas Eve Bag." They love this tradition. It is a gift bag full of little individually-wrapped cheap gifts. I have come to realize that the gift, itself, is not nearly as important as the build up for getting the bags and the joy of unwrapping 15 or so little gifts. The excitement is high. I found this picture of V's three oldest grandchildren who just opened their bags.

After that we visit until everyone disperses early evening to go prepare for their own Christmas morning traditions and some leave to attend Christmas Eve services.

Our Christmas morning is the same each year, too. We have sausage/egg casserole and apple crepes for our breakfast after we have opened presents. Christmas evening we always join our good friends "over the mountain" for dinner. Last year was the first (in 40 years!) without my husband so, as I said, I was a bit of a zombie.

This year we are looking forward to a new treat! My sister-in-law (husband's youngest sister) and her four wonderful bright-as-pennies children will be with us for a week, including Christmas! This is the first time we have ever been together with them for Christmas. It is going to add such depth and dimension to our holiday tradition, and I see it as part-and-parcel of coming out of that zombie-state I mentioned in the previous post. It is a joyous signal that good things are ahead.

My son and I have already begun stocking the larder for the bottomless pit those nephews are! (I love it! Feeding them will, in turn, feed me emotionally!) And we will continue our tradtions, only with them included and with the nuances they will bring. For example, my niece has requested a "real" tree instead of our artificial one. Wish granted!

Mother-in-law is obviously ecstatic that so much of her brood will be here, I will have all my family and friends gathered 'round! What could be better? I will keep you posted on all our preparations and let you in on our celebrations!

So, I'm feeling like my treasured traditions are merging with some new ones. It is, indeed, an awakening for me. Thank you all for your encouraging comments!! C

Thursday, November 5, 2009

C: Holidays Approach!

After Halloween, I always feel like I am in some kind of "home stretch," with the race culminating at Christmas. For some reason, New Year's Eve/Day are a bit anti-climactic. We hustle and bustle for Thanksgiving, picking up speed for Christmas, and then New Year's is a sort of time of rest after the holiday frenzy.

This year is going to be different for me, and I am so looking forward to it. I don't mean to imply that I did not like my Holidays Past. To the contrary, I loved them. We have strong holiday traditions which I may write about in another post. But the last "normal" holiday season we had was in 2007, before my husband took a powder. The past two have been tinged heavily with the flavor of a family in distress. I'm thinking this year will be the first "good" season in several years for my son and me; I can just feel it.

My home was the gathering spot for a lot of my family at Thanksgiving, and I kept my two ovens humming with too much food for this feast day. The last two Thanksgivings have been spent at my brother's home, and those who normally would have been at my house were there, too. His family has their own tradition of gathering with my sister-in-law's family, including out-of-towners and combining Thanksgiving with Christmas. They have a riotous white elephant gift exchange, and the refugees from my Thanksgiving tradition were welcomed there with open arms.

This year, we're coming back to my house, and I'm looking forward to it. I remember two years ago when it was apparent that my husband would not be around. The family pretty much announced that the feast would move to my brother's house. I was devastated. It was the first Thanksgiving that I did not do most of the cooking. I can now relate to older folks who must give up these kinds of duties and how hard it is for them...guess I can look forward to going through that again!! Must keep the torch passing...

But the family was right. I was probably in no condition to host. I mean, who wants a Zombie presiding at table?

This year, after two years of Zombie-ism, I have shaken the Zombie off. I am feeling more emotionally-revived and am anticipating cooking and watching the kids run outside with the dogs and to gathering around my dining table. I'll have both my mother and mother-in-law with me, each contributing to the meal because they, too, love to cook and be a part of that.

And, for the first time in a couple years, I can truly say I am thankful. I can't say I'm living up to the admonition to give thanks in all things, but I'm at least thankful for some of life. Life is looking okay right now; at least good enough that I feel I can tackle challenges instead of them tackling me! I feel like I'm in that stretching phase of waking up after a long sleep. Maybe the holidays are what will bring me completely back.

I can see that this post is rambling much longer than I had intended. I really need to go to work folks, and I've probably passed your attention span, so I'll save the Christmas thoughts for the next... C

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

C: Inspiration from Julia

A couple weeks ago we had a real girlfriends’ night out. My mother, mother-in-law, sister, niece, V and V's two daughters and daughter-in-law (have I left anyone out???) went to see Julie and Julia. I liked the movie because for me it was a “double whammy.” I love blogging and I am a foodie/cook, although not of the Julia Child caliber.

Although I enjoyed the humor and the victory of the movie, the most prominent thing I took away from it was the image of Julia’s kitchen with her husband marking a peg board to outline where each and every pot should hang. Man! That image would not
leave my mind.

My son and I are NOT (let me repeat, NOT) housekeepers. When we put pots away, they are generally “chunked” into the space beneath my range. No careful placing of the pots for us! What that means, of course, is that space turns into a nightmare. Nothing can be found without getting down and digging through pot upon pot, and things topple over and out of the cabinet with alarming regularity.

So, we have this equation: that total inefficiency thing PLUS we have this blank wall between my kitchen and dining room. Hmmmmmm. Hmmmmm. Hmmmmm.

The thought of Julia’s pegboard would not go away, so I determined to have one of my own. I planned it, designed the trim in my mind, thought about what color I should paint the peg board (vacillating between pale yellow and pale green--kind of like Julia's, shown in the picture above). I thought about how to build the frame hang the peg board away from the wall. I concentrated on how to miter the corners of the trim, having never done such a feat and just knowing in my marrow I can do it. I thought and thought and thought and thought about this project.

Now, something else you must know about me is that I will plan and scheme and design this type of thing for days on end and then never get around to doing it! I rebelled at the realization that it is entirely like me to dream about this for months on end and never get it done. I whipped into The Home Depot on my way home and bought these items:
Three 2 foot x 4 foot pieces of pegboard, opting for the ease of handling this size offers over the 8 foot sheets. These were brown on one side,white on the other.
Three four-foot pieces of 1”x2” trim
Pegboard hanging hardware

These were the minimum...they did not quite live up to my “dream” of a perfectly-trimmed, beautifully-painted area but, by golly, they were enough to get the job done!

That evening my son and I screwed the trim pieces into the wall and then screwed the peg board on the trim pieces, making sure all was level. No trimming of the edges, no pale yellow or green paint. Just peg board hanging on the wall. And Voila!!

And, you know, that’s probably going to be as far as I’ll ever get, and I am just fine with that! What I know about myself? I would never have gotten to that trim thing, etc., and I like the white side of the peg board well enough that I talked myself out of painting it. No decorator, me! I actually like the utilitarian look this has. Makes me think I'm organized.

And, trust me, there will be no outlines of pots drawn on this peg board! I am way short of the organizational ability to make that kind of permanent decision about pot placement! But look at these wonderful little baskets that just fit right into the pegboard. Now there is no more searching for potato peeler or lemon zester!!

And, just look at my meat thermometers and other long, skinny tools hanging from this screwdriver holder:

Aw, lawzy! This is making me giddy with happiness!!

The change has been wonderful. Now the below-the-cooktop area is reserved solely for the seldom-used. I even have room there for the crockpot. My pots and many of my utensils are just a half-step away from the stove, hanging within arm’s reach on my "Julia Child Pegboard." And—best of all!—I love seeing my cookware displayed!

Thank you, Julia! C
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