Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Table Full of Thanks

This morning I experienced one of the great joys of motherhood: listening to my grown (and nearly-grown) children talk, laugh, bond, re-connect ... while I cooked away in the kitchen with sweet potatoes and green beans. The dogs were happy too.
Adam spent the morning cooking up a storm at church preparing for our big dinner there.
Eighteen of us sat around the table -- young and old, members and visitors, families and singles.

I decorated the long table where we served family style, as usual.
Julia loved sitting between these two littler girls, teaching them all about napkins around the neck.
My plate, loaded with goodness.
After dishes and cleaning up, and then transitioning the church decorations from Thanksgiving to Christmas (because this Sunday is the first of Advent after all!), we came home and collapsed. But before I knew it, two big boys were out in the field, starting up a conflagration --
Peter and Philip rolled that big crepe myrtle stump all the way back there and turned it over into the fire.
As twilight deepened into night, we girls watched the menfolk work.

We relaxed there and had s'mores, and then realized it was only 6:30 -- we all moaned  in disbelief because we were so tired. Now we're lounging in the living room, talking about movies. But I bet we'll be too lazy to put one in the machine and actually watch one.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We've had a lovely day with lots of pie left over.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Thanksgiving is around the corner, just hours away. Driving from the other end of the state, Peter arrived this evening!
He was dog attacked immediately.
Adam put some Christmas lights outside today -- he loves Christmas lights. This way, Philip and Kara can easily find our house in the wee hours of the night when they drive in, after many, many
hours of driving from Chattanooga.
I baked and cleaned today.
Two pumpkin pies. Two loaves of pumpkin bread. Pie crust for two apple pies to be made in the morning. I'll add sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and regular beans to that. Adam will be at the church making turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls. Our church dinner will be such a feast! About 15 of us will be there, I believe.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! May you spend the day reminding yourself of the grace and love that's poured out in your life from God and from others.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Of Stove Pipes and Chinese Lanterns ...

Life is busy, busy right now, folks! And it'll only get busier from here to the end of the year. There's a wintery peace that falls over me, after Christmas, and I'm eager for it this year.
Have you missed seeing boats? Yesterday while at the farmers' market, I noticed this interesting vessel bobbing at the town dock:
She's called Lapis, crewed alone by a French Canadian named Miguel. He was quite nice and invited me aboard.
I like all the windows on this boat. It gives a bright, friendly feel to the cabin. He's live-aboard (has been for about 6 years, I think he said, so he needs a good living space inside).
The greenery first caught me attention. He had several plant containers like this full of greens and herbs. He covers them when it's chilly at night.
Then he pointed to the front deck and said, "See my stove pipe?"
Yep, he has a woodstove in his catamaran cabin! Adam says this isn't too rare among boaters, but I'd never seen it before. He invited me below and allowed a photo of the cabin. He has a hanging basket of fruit, a cabinet of essential oils, a comfortable bed, wood stowed in the front, lots of cooking equipment. It was quite homey. I'll blow this photo up large so you can see it.
I wanted to take more photos, but didn't want to be annoying. He was kind and welcoming. There was a single burner for cooking. He doesn't have a boat cat, but he says he's willing to have a pet.
In the midst of our busy, sometimes stressful life, Adam brought me ~
I'm making progress.
Julia is enjoying a silly art project she found at Michael's store. Have you heard of "Wreck This Journal"? Each page has a silly instruction like: Drop this book from a high place, or Document your dinner on this page (with food samples), or Splash coffee on this page, or Rip this page out and throw it away.
Julia chose a Chinese city scene for this page. I love the lanterns.
This is my favorite page so far. The lanterns!
The pages together.
Julia and I made a bet that Philip would (my bet) or would not (her bet) remember the little yummy treat they used to make together in Statesville about 5 years ago. It's called a caterpillar: graham crackers with nutella slathered, topped with large marshmallows and baked in the oven till soft, with chocolate chips or M&Ms atop.
Oh yes, he remembered, immediately. That made her happy, but I won the bet! Haha -- so as a reward I get the B&W pictures above with the Chinese lanterns! Yay! I will preserve it. If it stays in that crazy journal, it's sure to die.
And last but not least, a picture of a crazy squirrel, hanging upside down by his feet with a pecan in his mouth.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Salt Watercolor Art

I've been meaning to share an art project I did with my 6th graders a few weeks ago. I found it at this website. I needed plenty of school glue and lots of salt.
And some good stiff paper -- paper that will remain straight and firm if you hold it only at one corner.
The students wrote on the paper with the glue. They wrote their own names, little messages, a friend's name, a parent's name. It was sweet.
Then they carefully brought the paper to the salt table. There, we liberally shook salt onto the glue until it was well covered. Then we firmly tapped the residual salt away, into a big bin.
At the next table they sat and dabbed liquidy watercolor paints onto the salt. This is the fun part. I looked for liquid watercolor paints, but they were hard to find. So I used tempera paints with water added, and this worked just fine too. We had six colors.
I did my love's name, of course.
Even the boys who initially moaned, "Ugh! We have to do a stupid art project?" later did multiple pages because they enjoyed it so much. Success! With sixth grade boys!!
One student who had a momentary spelling lapse, did this one:
The instant I saw it, I asked if she wanted it. (She didn't.) So I asked if I could keep it. Because something weird and inexplicable appealed to me about this simple message. Keep Clam. Keep tight. Keep yourself contained. Keep happy-as-a-clam. Something a little seaside about that one. "Keep Clam and Love." Not sure why I liked it SO much, but I did!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Almost Heaven

As promised, here's the rest of our visit to my home state. There's a path through the woods from my parents' house to my brother's farm. I love the tree shadows.
My brother and sister-in-law's farm from a different angle.
My other brother, who is a surveyor, bought an apple orchard from an elderly man a few years ago. I don't know that an old apple orchard is a very lucrative affair, but he's sure having fun with it, and my two farmer brothers spent hours talking apples. The business name is Ott's Orchard. He sent home a quart of their apple butter with me -- yummy!!
He brought three large boxes of fresh apples for us family members to share. He has Jonagolds:

And Golden Delicious:

I've probably mentioned before my sister-in-law who makes such amazing things -- jewelry, candles, beauty products. Her goods are carried at Tamarack. Her candles are particularly stunning. Look at this pecan pie. It's a giant candle! Even the little pecans are made in wax molds. And it smells as incredible as it looks. It's a full-sized pie.
We all gathered at the farm for a big dinner on Thursday night. Marshall (the apple farmer) and his family had already left for their home, but most of the rest of us were there. They still have fresh greens growing.
My lovely parents were game for a photo. Daddy is 87, and Mother is 81.
We served from the kitchen island because there were about 17 of us, I think.
It wasn't until I looked at my plate that I realized my sister-in-law Anne had truly put on a feast for us, after she taught school, commuting 45 minutes each way, and took a son to his orthodontic appointment. These are busy people, in addition to the farming they do.
Supper: asparagus, garden green beans, baked garden corn, salad, grilled chicken, stuffing, roasted potatoes.
Also available: grilled pork loin, mushrooms, and my mother's yeast crescent rolls. And for dessert we could choose from angel food cake, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and two kinds of ice cream. It's a wonder we didn't have a few explosions in the dining room!
We also celebrated birthdays for these two lanky young men, both turning 16. Nathan (left) already had his birthday. Justice's birthday was on that day! Here, Nathan sings to his cousin while the candles flame away.
I caught them as they blew together.
Nathan's cake was such a conflagration that the candles re-engaged. Here, he tries to beat them into submission, while his dear mother stays his hand. Justice is laughing.

I confess -- there were so many tall, lanky teenage boys hanging around during our visit that occasionally I forgot which one went with which brother. They've all grown up so very fast! I had the joy of spending a few hours with my niece Mercy, who is also interested in handwork and crocheting. I taught her a little bit of what I've learned, amazed at her concentration, persistence, and talent. All the children are handsome, lively, and gifted in some way or another. Some have academic gifts, some have interpersonal skills, and some are quite artistic. It's a delight to see how God grows each one.
Sandra, a blogger friend, mentioned her pride in her West Virginia heritage. I understand. It is a very beautiful state, often overlooked and even ridiculed. But West Virginians are tough, hardy, no-nonsense people used to pulling a hard-scrabble life from rocky hillsides in bitter weather. I don't live there any more, but I'm so glad I have family who do!