Tuesday, September 19, 2017

While the Hubby's Away ....

First off, let me say that some of your comments (sadly) are not coming through to me via email, as they used to do. So if I fail to email you a reply, I do apologize. Emailing is how I usually communicate with commenters; I rarely go back and read the comments on my actual blog post. Anywho, remember this fun pic of my chickens (alas, before Ruby's tragic demise)?
I decided to paint them for my Autumn Journal.
I'm trying to decide whether to outline them in black with a Sharpie thin-line.
When Beau is frustrated or grumpy, he nabs kleenex from the waste paper basket, and leaves it shredded on the floor. Here is an especially large example of this naughty behavior.
Adam is visiting his mother a bit, so I made dinner, which I rarely do. You know ... cook. I didn't bother with meat. The kale, the applesauce, and the tomatoes are all from our farm! The potatoes, no. Our potatoes are still in the ground.
If you care to read an exciting account of our encounter with a snake while the snake-slaying husband was away, please click here. I'll finish off the story soon. Or rather -- Ned will finish off the snake soon.
This morning the air was cool and blustery. Probably the result of hurricanes off the coast, but I prefer to say it is Lovely Autumn, coming to visit us. I opened the house -- front door, back door, and two windows -- to let that autumn wind blow through.
 I do love how our house, a little sharecropper house, is so airy, positioned to catch the breezes, high ceilings to lift the heat. It's very pleasant inside.
I'm making a new pot of chai. (Here's the recipe.) Adam says he loves how this makes the kitchen smell.
 I must get after my weaving today. I need to have more scarves to sell at the Ol' Front Music Festival, coming up in Oriental in 3 weeks.
 I've been passing the time with singing and playing my autoharp. I'm practicing "Forever I Will Love You, Lord" and the sweet "Hear My Cry, O Lord."
 But today's big job, aside from snake-hunting, is making another batch of soap. This time, these scents: Clove/Cedarwood, Balsam, Coconut Mango, and Linen. 
Now Beau says it's nap time, so we will nap during an episode of "Escape to the Country." Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Orange-Date Muffins

Yes-indeedy! This recipe is a keeper! Wow - what nice flavor and texture!
 You can click over to Granny Marigold's blog for the recipe, or you can read it here.

 Orange-Date Muffins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop up one whole orange, including the peel. Put it in a blender with 2/3 cup of orange juice and pulse until only little bits of orange remain. Set aside.

In a mixer (or you could do these by hand if you like) with paddle attachment:
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 scant cup sugar

I whipped these three at high speed to fluff the butter as much as possible. Granny Marigold had said that they don't rise much. I wanted to see if I could get a better rise from them.

Add the orange mixture to the butter mixture and mix just a little. You don't want to deflate that butter and egg. (I also wonder -- could you add a second egg and decrease the amount of orange juice?)

Add dry ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix only until all ingredients are incorporated. Gently crumble in 1/2 cup chopped dates. I bought the little box at the grocery, and it was a perfect amount. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake for 15 -18 minutes until just beginning to brown on the edges.

Okay -- I had some regular muffin liners and some "jumbo" ones. Interestingly, the muffins rose as high as the liners they were in, so you see the one on the left is taller and fluffier than the one on the right. I don't think I put more into the larger liners; I wanted the muffins to be the same size. So perhaps this batter will rise as long as it has something on the sides to "climb on"? Some cakes, I think, are that way also.
 A dab of butter on anything baked is always a good idea.
 Inside texture. And oh-my-word, the flavor is a deep, luscious orange, and the dates are soft.
I will be making this recipe again! Thank you, Granny Marigold!


About nine years ago, I suppose, my oldest child left home for college. It was rather a wrenching experience for me. Around the time of his high school graduation he made me a little CD of "Essential Classical" music to play in the car. We both love classical music, and I listened to that CD until every single track was jumping, and I couldn't listen to it anymore.
Track #4 was a sweet, simple song played on guitar. Since Philip didn't give me a play list for the CD, I had no clue what that song was called. I only knew that it broke my heart every time I heard it, and because it reminded me of his departure from home, it always made me cry.
For nine years I've wondered what that song was called. Because the CD is too old to play, I stopped listening to it, but sometimes I still think of it.
And just now, I was listening to my new Pandora station. (Don't you love Pandora?) I have a station with only classical guitar. And that song came on! I found it!! It's written by Stanley Myers, and called "Cavatina." John Williams plays it exquisitely.

Today I feel as if I've brought a little piece of my heart back home. I'm not the only person, apparently, who's brought to tears by this small song. Each time I hear it, all of me is reminded instantly of how overwhelmingly I love my son. Isn't music powerful?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Books, Soaps, Muffins, Etc.

As Lisa said, I have also been a bit remiss in posting lately. The weather's been cooler, and walking outside in the wind is such a thrill! I love autumn, and the chillier and windier it gets, the more I love it. Today I bought chicken feed, chicken grit, and some onion sets at the farm store. I put most of the onion sets in the ground in the garden. We live in a place where you can grow onions over the winter -- who knew?
Adam and I stopped in at Buckhorn Books here in our little town. I found four books.
 I began reading Julie and Julia right away. I did enjoy the movie, but the book is (sad to say) a bit more hard core. Julie Powell is not a nice girl. I'm tempted to put it away and pull out My Life in France, which I've read before. Julia Child is much more appealing that Julie Powell. Her book was only $1.
 The sweet little Jan Karon book was $1.50. The Strangers Gaze (isn't it odd that there's no apostrophe?) is an anthology of pieces spanning four centuries, all about County Clare, Ireland. The nice thing about an anthology is, if you don't like one writer's voice, there's always a new one a few pages over. People like William Penn, John Wesley, William Thackeray, and Thomas Carlyle all contribute. It cost $1.50
The travel book is by Elizabeth Shackleton. The fly leaf mentions her "author husband and his many travels," but I've yet to discover who this woman is. The book is set in 1925. She traveled with only a maid. A small hotel, per day, cost her only $1.75. How lovely! This book cost $2.98.
I did finish my homemade pot-pourri, and I'm very pleased. I sprinkled some clove and some cedarwood essential oils on the mix, and it smells fabulous. It's in a shallow decorative bowl in the dining room.
 I made soap last week. This is lavender, plus two bars of eucalyptus and one bar of clove.
 The ones with poppyseeds are balsam scented. The other four are a sandalwood blend.
 A lovely friend at church has begun making wreaths for our four church doors, changing them each season. She just hung the autumn ones. Aren't they pretty?
 Another childhood friend has started a facebook group for readers of Jan Karon's books. I read many of them years ago, but haven't read one in about 7 years, I guess? So it was fun to find this little one, very sweet. Today is my fasting day (for health purposes), so it was challenging to read about Esther Bolick's delicious orange marmalade cake!
Speaking of oranges, I'll be trying Granny Marigold's orange-date muffins, found on her blog here. I'm convinced that true, fabulous orange taste is obtained by using the whole orange. Can't wait! I also plan to make a little chocolate pudding this week, or perhaps a chocolate bread pudding. Doesn't that sound yummy? Bread pudding is a perfect autumn food. Well! Maybe I should add a few fall recipes to my Autumn Journal, yes? Orange-date muffins would fit that bill nicely too!
What are you baking lately?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

I've Got a Happy Place!!!

Oh, yes I do! It all started when Julia went off to college, and I hate to say that because it sounds like I'm glad she's gone. Well ... I am glad she's gone because she's happy at college and it's good to fly away from home and all. But back to my happy place -- There's this little back room in our house, too small for a bedroom. It was Julia's "hang-out room," where she lounged, had good wifi, ate her snacks, and left dishes and food wrappers strewn around. I also keep my books, yarn, and soap-making stuff here. But her paraphernalia was clearly more assertive than mine, so I left her at it.

And then she left.

And now it's all MINE! (I've mentioned this before.)
 (((Sigh))) I simply did not realize how much I utterly needed, desperately needed, this space. Adam is right. He's been right for years; I am cut out for lots and lots of creative activity. It's what makes me happy. So at 54, I now begin wholeheartedly to throw myself into creative enjoyments. They're not tasks. If they were tasks, I don't think I'd enjoy them.
Look at all that fun! Plus tea!!!
 I walk in the room when I want to, and I paint or write or sketch.
I stitched a gold border around my Autumn Journal. Happily, I had a bit of extra embroidery floss, so I added a leaf.

 I keep my pens, pencils, and watercolors at hand, open, always. That was half my problem before -- being creative took planning. Everything was in drawers. Plus I didn't have a good place, a spot.
 I didn't even realize what I needed was a window, but I did.
I love the old typewriter. It used to work, but it's been moved around and put in boxes too often. Now it's full of dust.
 This cup and saucer are Villeroy and Boch, Burgenland pattern (that's for my dear mother, who has a V&B pattern of blue and white). I keep Jill Barklem's The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge nearby for inspiration.
 I usually write poetry on my computer, but I rarely finish a poem, and more rarely put it on my blog, because so many of them are sappy and bad. Sappy poems with predictable rhyme and tiresome metaphors are a dime-a-dozen. But in my journal I can safely write as many stupid poems as I like, and nobody will know!
 I find painting utterly relaxing because I know I'll never be good at it, really good. Like -- nobody would ever pay money for my painting. So it takes all the pressure off. I look at Susan Branch's work and other beautiful illustrators, and it reassures me that I can safely dabble away and relax.
 Would you like a little cottage to dream in?
 Oh, before I leave, something practical. I had a horrid white stain on my desk. I suspect it's an old water stain, but the desk was left in the house when we bought it, so I don't know. It was bright white.

Recently I read somewhere (on one of your blogs?) that olive oil mixed with salt would remove water stains from wood. So I tried it, and this was one wicked stain. In the first picture, I'd already been scrubbing enough to know that a photo might be warranted. You can see the stark improvement in the second photo. With hard finger scrubbing it did fade not quite away. I'm very pleased, and what a simple fix! Olive oil and salt -- remember that.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Starting the Autumn Journal

 I am horrible at using Adam's little homemade books to write in, but I love using them as holders for artistic endeavors. I gathered a few autumn items from the outdoors:
 I sketched a leaf and colored it in with pencils. The paper Adam uses for these pages is not good for watercolor paints.
 I've put both packets of pages into the cover, which is made of heavy felt. I may embroider that felt ... later.
 And it's all held together with a handy elastic band. These really are wonderful little books. This one is 6" by 9".
 Then I did some more leaves I'd found in the pasture.

And I tucked them into the pocket Adam included in the book. The pocket is made of heavy scrapbook paper and has a flap.
And what is an Autumn Journal without a blustery day scene?

This gum ball was a challenge. 

This is R. Anne. She was my next subject, and this time I chose to use watercolors.

Adam included a little pocket in the back of the book with sheets of mixed media paper in it, so I could also paint. Now R. Anne will travel around with all the autumn art I will do.
Maybe I should write an autumn story? Or some autumn poetry? Or at least copy a few favorite autumn poems? Here's my favorite autumn poem; I've shared it before. I think I share it every fall!

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon, release another leaf;
One from our trees; one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost --
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

And now, after reading that again (and trying again to commit it to memory), I feel a need to be outdoors and not in front of a computer screen. See you later! I'm off to the pasture and then to the garden!

Friday, September 1, 2017


This morning I flipped to the back of my prayer list journal, which I write in sporadically. I found a page titled "divorces to pray for." I'm not certain, but I think this list was from 2011 or thereabouts. Nine couples were listed there. Nine marriages dead or dying. Nine loves lost. Nine families crushed. Nine sets of children whose lives were destroyed.

I study that list now, years later. In five marriages, it seemed the husbands had gone crazy and left for no good reason. And in three of them, it seemed the wives had done the same. In one marriage I lacked enough information to be sure. I remember feeling my world, my own marriage, was shaken to the core when all these people I'd known and loved were breaking apart and breaking each other.

Just now a friend on Facebook shared this quote from a movie:
"Why is it, do you think, that people get married? Because we need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage you're promising to care about everything - the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things - all of it, all the time, every day. You're saying, 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.'"

The horrifying thing in divorces, to me, is to watch one human say to another human: "I once promised to care for you as no one else on the planet would care for you. I renege on that promise. I don't care what happens to you anymore. I want to cut you out of my life."

Are there crueler words to say?

The divorce which now consumes my extended family will occur in five days. This couple were not on this list, although I have been praying and praying for their marriage for years. The husband does not wish the divorce and loves his wife still. The wife had told me repeatedly over the years that she did not want divorce, that she had no reason to divorce him. Yet now she is. It is like an explosion destroying everyone, destroying his life, destroying the children. Considering that there was never any infidelity and never any violence and never any abandonment (on his part), it is one of the cruelest and most vengeful divorces I've ever witnessed.

This morning I re-examined that list of nine couples. One husband and one wife who were abandoned by their spouses, are now dead. Two other wives, likewise cruelly abandoned, are remarried, as is one husband. Three wives and one husband remain single. Of that last man, I will say this: I knew him a little 25 years ago. His wife was only a Facebook acquaintance. I watched their marriage implode there, online. She was angry, bitter, took the kids. As I watched it all, I'm sorry to say I assumed that she was so angry and bitter because he must've done something awful -- probably had an affair. Years later I found out the truth: she just left him. He didn't do anything wrong. Perhaps he was difficult to live with? Did he say the wrong things or not say the right things? Did he neglect to do what she wanted? How many years did it take her to act on her lack of love? To manipulate her departure? But in spite of his innocence in the situation, he lost everything: wife, children, home, job. Everything. And people looking on (like me) make such assumptions!

My heart is breaking this week, and I find it difficult to function because my brother, like this other fellow, is right now in this pain. There's nothing I can do but pray and tell him I love and support him. But he doesn't want a sister. He wants his life back that has been ripped from him by the person who had promised to value him and be the witness of the worth of his existence, when no one else on the planet would do it. 

Cherish your spouse. Cherish your marriage. If bitterness or distance encroach, address it in yourself. If love starts to fail, intervene. We should tell ourselves that we love each other, because we grow to believe what we tell ourselves. And I pray that all of you have spouses that will do that as well. It takes two to make a marriage. It only takes one to destroy it.

"For I hate divorce," says the Lord.
"So take heed to your spirit,
that you do not deal treacherously."
Malachi 2:16