Sunday, October 31, 2010

End Table Angst

I remember being a newlywed, and having almost no furniture. We had the big stuff (just barely): a couch, a TV, a bed, a kitchen table. I had no: lamps, rugs, or end tables. And when friends came over who drank things, I soon realized the importance of an end table! If you're looking for an end table, here's a fun site with all kinds of them!  My VERY favorite one is actually a coffee table trunk.  Isn't it gorgeous?

Our first coffee table was Adam's dad's foot-locker from Vietnam.  Isn't that great?  It was beat up, and vaguely green.  I bought a can of mauve spray paint and gave it a make-over.  And after 4 babies, the paint was scratched and the trunk was mauve with green showing through.  When we had the money, we bought this:
It's been great, but it's the coffee table that the kids are growing up with.  Feet are propped on it.  Drinks are set on it.  Movies are watched on it.  We just had a game of Clue on it today :)  It's well used, and I've never told myself that it will look pristine.  I'm thinking I'll spring for that trunk I linked to above, after the kiddos are out of the house! Just in time for grandchildren? (BTW, Philip spray-painted the foot-locker black, and took it off to college. Three generations of men in the family have used that thing!)

But on to end tables.  Awhile back, I got this one, I think from TJ Maxx.  The top of it lifts right off, and can be used as a tray.
I love gate-leg anything.  I may have already posted about this little delight that I found at Salvation Army. If you have limited space, this kind of table is SO useful.  It can slip in anywhere (it's only about 6" or 7" wide), but if you open it up ...
... it's this big! Two people can set plates and cups on it.
Now that we have Bible studies at our house regularly, and serve snacks, I really need a table near each guest.  What's your favorite end table?

How to Improve your Eating Habits and Shock Your Friends

Over a year ago, I made some fundamental changes to my family's diet:

1. I started baking our own bread. I still buy tortillas and some hamburger buns, but the sliced sandwich bread we use daily is homemade.

2. I stopped buying most store cereals. My son rebelled, and I still buy frosted flakes for him, but otherwise, I don't keep 4 or 5 cereals in my pantry anymore. For about 6 months I made granola for the rest of us, but they eventually got tired of that, and mostly eat toast at breakfast now.

3. I stopped buying Crisco and canola oil.  I'd read too many scary things about these two, and decided to replace them with coconut oil (yeah, I know, GASP!!!), more olive oil, and lots more butter.

4. I'm buying only whole milk.  No more low-fat products in this house.

5. I'm buying farm-fresh eggs and organic chickens.

6.  Hardly ever do we: eat junk food (processed/ pre-made) at home, go out to eat at restaurants, or eat fast-food.  Mostly, this is a financial change for us, but I'm sure it's healthier too.

It's been over a year.  Just this week, I'm pulling back out my winter clothes.  And guess what?  Those fitted skirts are no more snug than they were last year at this time.  Now, granted, I am not a skinny woman.  Still, with the addition of whole milk, coconut oil, more butter, etc. -- I'm not a pound larger than I was a year ago.  Neither is Adam.  I find this surprising, and encouraging.  It tells me that it's not the good, healthy fat in our diets that is making us heavier.  I'm convinced it's all the sugars we add, to compensate for the low-fat tastelessness.  And I'm tired of sugar;  I don't want it like I used to.

Anyway, here are three fun articles for your reading enjoyment, all from "Simple Organic":

Five Foods Women Should Be Eating by Katie Kimball

Three things to eat to Stay Healthy This Winter by Katie Fox

Five Foods Everyone Should Eat to Avoid the Flu also by Katie Kimball

You'll be surprised, perhaps shocked!  I found that the changes I made over a year ago, are probably keeping us all healthier this year. I think I'll go make an egg on toast right now!

I know a whole generation of Americans are devotees of LOW-FAT everything.  Rethink it, guys.  Has the whole fat-free trend made America skinnier? Healthier?  If we strip all the fat and sugar out of our foods, what do you think we'll replace them with for flavor?  Yep, chemicals.  No thanks!!

Many thanks to Jo-Lynne at "Musings of a Housewife" for faithfully reminding me of how to eat right. You're the best, JL!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pizza Evening

Now that Adam has resolved his oven door issue, he is cooking in his bread oven again. It's such a quick cooking time, that he needs to prep the pizzas outside, next to the oven, so we set up a table and bring all the fixin's outside. He puts corn meal on his pizza peel so the dough will slide off easily onto the floor of the oven.
Pizza #1 is in the oven.  He has already scraped almost all the embers/fire out of the oven, but it's still about 600 degrees. These pizzas cook in about 4 minutes.
When he removed the embers from the oven, he dropped them into the firepit, and we started a nice fire in there. Peter plays soccer with Sandy in the background.
Three pizzas in the oven.  We were expecting some friends of Peter, but they couldn't come, so we invited our friendly neighbors, and they came up and sat by the fire and enjoyed the pizza.  It had such a great, crispy bottom!
This is the newest door arrangement.  The inside is a piece of metal from Adam's tool box.  The outside piece is "wonder board."  It seems to do the trick.
The finished product -- this one is only cheese.  He made 6 tonight.

Oh Golden Autumn!

Feeling Very Fallish

Last night, we went to some friends' home for supper, and what should I see there?
This fabric pumpkin is much nicer and fancier than anything I would hope to make, but still, it inspired me to see that somebody else has thought (generally) the same thoughts. Isn't it cute?
My friend loves to decorate, and this is her Halloween mantle. I took this picture with a flash ...
... because this is what it looked like without it! Spoooooky!
Anna wanted to go on a walk in a local park, and it became a family affair. Such a perfect day, with cool air and fall leaves blowing all around us.
This was the most golden tree in the park.
Julia had to investigate this ruined fireplace. I much prefer tromping through leaves and underbrush, than trudging along a beaten path that hundreds of humans have walked today in their usual exercise. I miss beating my way through trees along ridge lines in the West Virginia mountains. Once you get to the ridge line, the walking is lovely!
Some trees are turning; others remain green.
We heard music and voices, and found this little group strumming away.
Tonight, Adam will make pizza in his oven again.  Last week he had great success, and feels he is mastering the problem of the oven door -- how to keep adequate temperature in the oven, when the temperatures themselves seem to destroy all doors.  His 4" solid oak door burnt up. Now he has some other metal thing rigged up.
I haven't turned on the house heat yet. I'm trying to wait as long as possible. We just got rid of those horribly high electric bills from the A/C in the summer, and I don't want their winter counterparts just yet!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Old Ways

Finally today I tended to some mending. It made me feel like I lived 200 hundred years ago, patching a pair of linen pants so I can wear them longer.  Okay, so maybe the use of an electric machine isn't quite "200 years," but you get my drift.  These days, clothing is pretty much disposable. Patching clothing is a lost art.  But hey, I really like these pants! I also patched a shirt and a dress.
And as I was digging around in my sewing paraphernalia (into which I dig rarely), I found this, a most elegant and gossamer glove.
Before I married, my mother gave me some gloves. I believe they'd come from an elderly friend of hers, a very dear friend, who'd died. I adored this glove, but alas! It was just that - one glove.  Not a pair.  So I chose another pair to wear at my wedding, not quite so elegant nor so gossamer.  But because of its sheer beauty -- not its usefulness -- I kept this one. It nearly turns the hand to lace.
Our local egg man, who has been bringing eggs to my front door weekly for many months, told me on Wednesday that his hens are slowing down, and his new hens aren't quite laying yet, and well ... he can't get me any eggs for at least several weeks.  Eek!  I'm so used to farm-fresh eggs, I had a serious aversion to getting a dozen at the grocery.  And then I remembered my neighbors -- right next door! -- who have chickens.  I asked Allie on facebook if she had eggs, and she did.  They gave us 18 gorgeous ones, and she didn't want me to pay her.  Does she know how expensive farm-fresh eggs are?  Bless her.  Well, I made pumpkin bread today, and took over a min-loaf, plus a nice clump of fresh rosemary, which I know she likes.
Not exactly bartering;  it's more like helping each other out.  Still, in a little way it sent me back to the past much like the patching of clothes.  Swapping fresh eggs for herbs and bread is such a savoring to the soul.  I like it. So much more fun than sliding the credit card through the machine and lugging the plastic bag to the van in the parking lot. Perhaps old ways are best.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bread Supper

It may be devoid of both fruit and vegetable, but we occasionally enjoy what we call "bread supper." Adam starts over a day ahead, making sponges for a country loaf (below) and baguettes. I'm so, so fortunate to have a husband who absolutely loves making perfect bread.

I can't tell you how wonderful the crunchy, chewy crust is, on this bread. If you're "texture" person, this bread is for you!
Here are the baguettes, so beautiful. We five ate both of them in a trice! (trice: n., a very short time, a moment, an instant)
This is what we serve:  honey butter, brie cheese, strawberry jam, and the two breads. Adam makes the honey butter with Plugra, a special European butter that you can find at some stores. The brie is just from WalMart, and I like it with the jam. I was very naughty and ate both crusty heels of the dark loaf that were on the table.  It's a huge loaf; we'll have some left for tomorrow.  But Adam says the baguettes will be worthless after about 8:00 tonight.  He's so picky! Worthless, my foot!
I'll catch up on my fruits and veggies tomorrow.  Does the jam count?

The Tenacity of Life

When I feel like giving up, I look at plants.  Have you ever seen anything more tenacious than a plant?
As part of a science project, Julia germinated some bean seeds. She chose 2 to put into a little soil and place on the window sill.  Every school child does this. But her wonder at its individual life, as it shoved its head above the dab of soil, her exclamations of "It's so cute!" as the seed leaves pushed from the seed -- how refreshing!
Here is a sansevieria, otherwise known as "mother-in-law tongue" plant. A friend gave it to me. And just this week, I noticed the strangest thing -- a flower (I think...). I had no idea these ugly, homely plants actually bloomed.  That's silly, I guess;  do all plants bloom some way or the other? Some bloom only under great stress, I've heard. I wonder why? Can humans be that way too? Do we blossom when we are under trial?
"Thus far and NO FARTHER!"  This is what I've dictated to the ivy crawling up my front wall. Recently I trimmed it back to a line.  Toe that line! In a few weeks, it will have sent up new shoots and will be encroaching into my territory again. I use a bricklayers trowel to scrape it off the bricks (the BEST method!), and snip it off.
But some of our ivy is less accessible.  Just a little over, this ivy is wandering up onto the window panes. Can you see how one of the windows is slightly open?  That's because the ivy has slipped inside.
See?  Little rascal! I'll have to go do something about it.  The Martha side of me says, "Get out of my house! It's my job to keep things tidy in here!"  The Mary side of me wonders at its tenacity;  it will keep trying! I admire this trait. I wish I had more of it myself, that drive never to give up, to look upon repeated rebuffings with a smiling eye and send out a new shoot of hope. "Life returns, begins again," as a song goes.
This poor plant, my mother gave me.  She calls it a weeping fig. I've killed it nearly-dead twice, dried it out both times.  And she said to water it, prune it, and wait. And wait. And slowly new little leaves appear.  The upper plant is dead, you see, but the roots are very alive. When one is rooted in good earth, resurrection is always possible.
Life is tenacious because it is of God.  It is what (in my opinion) God is made of -- it is who He is. He is life, and all that is connected to Him tends toward living, not dying. May my soul tend toward Him, as a bean sprout leans toward the sun.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A poem for today's weather:

Sleep now,
The luscious sleep of raindrops
And low thunder in your dreams.
Leaves swirl and mist curls
And a dying fire blows the light out.
Sleep now.

Wake to dusk and gray skies,
The steady drip grows to a long rain
A long afternoon
Of tea and nap and rivulets of thought.

Dream again,
Dream of years ago
When you visited a stranger’s house
And slept in her dim parlor
Through a timeless afternoon
Of Chopin and distant voices
Sounding like spattering rain,
Within and without.

October 27, 2010
Copyright by author 

Lookin' Swanky!

Peter had "dress to impress" day at school today. Yesterday was "dress from the past," and he looked more like a 1920s man. He likes suspenders, and now claims he wishes he could dress up all the time. Good lookin' guy! Adam's like that too -- he will wear his Sunday necktie all day long, and say he's not even uncomfortable.  I'm the opposite;  I'm taking off those nasty pantyhose as soon as possible.  I must admit, I haven't even WORN the things in the past several years.  I despise them. (Now, you see how we women can drift from our kid's school day, to wearing pantyhose, in just a few words. So sad. Early dementia.)
I dabbled in the pumpkin sweater last night a bit. This is a crude demonstration of the type of "feather" stitch I'm thinking of. I liked this color yarn before, but after using it, it doesn't really stand out.
This is a pretty serious needle. It's good though, because I only have the small neck of the pumpkin to reach in through, and this long needle reaches into spots that my hand couldn't.
I got this needle at a junk store, with a craft project of some sort, many years ago. It was for Anna, but she was too little to trust with such a weapon.  A running joke in our home is that Anna leaves needles and pins ALL OVER THE HOUSE, and always on the floor. She must shed them. But this needle, left on the floor, could do some serious damage!

In the Mirror

You’re a member of the modern-day church. What do you think of Old Testament Israel? During the days of Jeremiah, they were a wicked, disloyal, sinning, false-worshiping bunch of people. What did God accuse them of? Not helping the needy. Not listening to His Word. Turning to things other than Him for fulfillment and adoration.

Yet they had confidence. They said, “We are delivered!” We are saved! We are God’s people! We’ve got nothing to worry about! Of course, we sin, but it’s all taken care of. That’s part of being Israel, the chosen of God.”

Sound familiar?

I have an interesting story. A friend of ours is involved in a neat, community group that is very ecumenical. It has Muslims, gays, atheists, Protestants, Catholics, Jews – all different types. They gather and informally discuss topics of interest. At one meeting, the discussion was about hell. And my friend noticed that all the Jews were sitting apart, not engaging in the talk. They were asked why they didn’t get involved in a discussion about hell. And they said, because it didn’t pertain to them – they were God’s chosen people, and weren’t going to hell. They were all going to heaven, so this discussion didn’t matter to them.

Oh my!

That’s confidence, my friends, but it’s a false confidence. It’s the same confidence Israel, Judah & Jerusalem had back in Jeremiah’s day. And – it’s the same false confidence the church has today. God’s complaints against Israel are also leveled against us:

Does today’s church meet the needs of the poor, the fatherless, the homeless? Or do we turn our backs on them and wish they’d go away?

Do we listen to God’s Word and long to be convicted by it? Or do we prefer instead to hear lovely platitudes, soothing words that say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace? Do we assume we have peace with God, when we don’t read His Word, study His Word, demand that it be preached from our pulpits rather than contemporary self-help concepts? What are you studying in Sunday school, if you’re going -- God’s Word, or something else? In your devotions, if you have them? Does your pastor simply read a passage from the Bible, giving it lip-service, but hardly returning to it to dig out the real food there for you? Is he giving you his own ideas, or God’s Word?

“But,” you say, “We don’t worship false gods.” What do you love, adore, long for, and think of? What do you fear and respect? What do you see as powerful? If you adore your work or your children more than God, if you fear death or terrorism more than God, if you think the government is more powerful than God, then you have false gods in your life. Fix it.

“But,” you say, “We’re God’s new people! We have hearts of flesh rather than stone! We’re saved by Jesus’s blood and we know GRACE—we’re nothing like Israel.”

Were they saved any differently in the Old Testament? No. They looked forward to a saving Messiah, as we look back to Him. We should have no false confidence there. We should stop telling ourselves, “We are delivered,” when we are neglecting God’s Word, neglecting the needy, and turning to other loves. Today’s church is in a state of unfaithfulness as evil as in Jeremiah’s day.

God told them what to do: Repent. Turn. Cleanse yourselves. Dedicate yourselves to My Word and OBEY ME. Love me, and live as if you do!

(Oh, we don’t like that “obey” word! It smacks of legalism! We don’t have to obey anymore, do we? We have grace instead, right? But what is obedience, but embracing God’s model for living life? How can you claim to be His child if you reject His model for living?)

God longs for us to long for Him. He wants no rigid, grudging obedience. He wants us to run to Him – the Word made into flesh in Jesus – and say, “You’re right, Lord! You’ve been right all along!”

Look in the mirror. Be sure that you don’t see Israel there.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blogging Fame!!

Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement....

But today, for the VERY first time, I got an email from a company here in the US, which noticed my blog, and would like for me to do either a give-away, or a review of a product for them.


I don't know that it exactly qualifies for blogging fame, but it's a little step up.


This blog is a part of my home, in a way.  When I invite you here, I feel as if you're coming into my living room, sitting on my red couch, sipping tea in front of the fire.  This is a personal space, not a business space.

I don't monetize my blog, as they say.  You won't see ads on the side bar of this blog, anymore than I'd be likely to put a billboard in my front yard, or try to sell something as you sit in my living room, sipping tea.


Absolutely NO offense intended to those wonderful bloggers who do monetize and advertise and do all that jazz.  But, for now, I like my blog the way it is.

So, a give-away? Sure.  A review?  Fun! But you can expect this blog to stay a friendly place with just you, and me.

Back to the Pumpkin Sweater

Here we go again! Is this the silliest craft project you've ever seen?
Any of you who sew on a regular basis and have working brains, will know what I did wrong last time. Care to hazard a guess?  Yep -- I pinned the sweater right-side-out.  Sigh. (For those who don't sew, you have to do things wrong-side-out, so you can turn it right-side-out, and all the sewing will be on the INSIDE. Unless you like wearing your seams on the outside. I wanted the knit on the outside, and the purl hidden....) So, the first thing I had to do was remove ALL the pins, turn and reshape the sweater around the pumpkin, and re-pin it.  Then came the fun part:  leaving one seam open, and trying to slip the real pumpkin out of the sweater pumpkin.  It felt vaguely like my sweater was giving birth. Hmm. It was a tight fit.
By the time I got to the sewing machine this afternoon, I was running behind. I had successfully made brownies and shipped a care package to my college son.  My laundry downstairs was to that chaotic point where there are socks and underwear strewn across the floor. I had only barely begun supper (lasagna), and was feeling frazzled. As you see, my sewing machine is O-L-D.  It was my grandmother's machine, from the 1950s.  It weighs about 300 lbs. and makes terrible noises, but it never quits. When it came time to thread the needle, for the first time ever, I had to break down and go get the granny glasses I bought at WalMart.

Young women, let me tell you -- when you reach 40, your eyes start to go. You can't see thing that are close, and you can't see things that are far away, and each day that in-between distance of good vision dwindles ever so slightly.  Mine is now about 4 feet. It's amazing how SEEING the needle hole is useful when threading it.
Once I actually get the machine out and set everything up, I do enjoy sewing. This happens about once a year.
After every seam, I had to dash into the kitchen and work on the spaghetti sauce. We do not DO store-bought sauce in this house. So, I had to make sauce before I could construct lasagna. Being in a hurry, of course, I turned up the sauce too high, it bubbled wildly, and burned my finger. After I got it simmering nicely, I had to dash to the shower and wash my hair, since I have community chorus rehearsal tonight.  Such is the life of a busy housewife.
When I got all the side seams done, this was the result.  It looks rather like a deflated balloon. My idea is this: to sew a type of feather stitch on the side seams with yarn, including some lines down the side where there aren't any seams, to give the effect of the ribs on the side of the pumpkin. This yarn work I can do while sitting on the couch, and we all know that couch-work of any kind is preferable to non-couch-work.
I pulled out various remnant pieces of yarn.  Here are four colors I'm considering. I prefer the darker ones, but I may do a selection of them.
"And what will you DO with this pumpkin-shaped sweater, MK?"  you ask.  Well, I want to stuff it full of something that will not rot and smell bad, will generally take the shape of a pumpkin, and then I'll set it out on the front porch, and hope it looks vaguely like a pumpkin from the road.  I'll need to finish off the top with something green that looks like a stem.  I may also need to run a nice hefty string, taut from the top to the bottom (through the center of it), to make the stem and the bottom tuck in, as they should.  I'm thinking of stuffing it full of plastic WalMart bags, because they're not good for anything else and presently have about 2000 of them wadded up on my pantry floor.  I'm too much of a guilty greeny to through them into the trash, but too forgetful to take them to WalMart each week to recycle. Then my sweater pumpkin with plastic innards will probably be blown from the porch by the wind, and bounce happily down the street.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Studied Spontaneity

At the ladies’ retreat this weekend, which I did enjoy, the music of choice was contemporary praise music. And before I get into this post, I want to say that I know contemporary praise music is precious and worshipful to many people. Many churches use and enjoy it. And not all contemporary praise music is the same, of course. As with any batch of music written during any time period, some of it is excellent and some is very poor. It takes times, sometimes decades, for humans to weed out the excellent from the mediocre, discovering the truly valuable and discarding music whose only real appeal was dated to the years around its creation. My goal here is not to disparage all contemporary praise music, although I freely confess that my personal preference is for traditional music in worship. I love many hymns. I particularly love singing Scripture, especially the psalms, which were written for this use. And I’m thrilled when I find well-composed praise music whose text is Scripture itself. I hope those will last for generations.


This weekend, I finally discovered part of what bothers me about how contemporary praise music is “done” in the church. I had to come home, describe the singing to my husband, and then realize as I spoke, what had annoyed me. And it’s this: a musical form that prides itself in being spontaneously emotional, is actually (and obviously) very studied, very prepared, very choreographed.

Choreographed emotion. I think that’s what bothered me.

Let me describe. A pretty young woman led us in singing. Her voice was lovely (if a little pitchy), and the keyboard player didn’t blast us away. We began each time with a short song that went like this:

Oh, draw me, Lord,
Oh, draw me, Lord,
Oh, draw me, Lord.
And I’ll run to you.

We sang this ditty about 10 times, with increasing volume, harmonizing and extemporaneous improvisations on everyone’s part. That means we sang that one line about 30 times. I do appreciate the wonderful concept of desiring God to draw me to Him, and that my response should be to run toward Him. But I really, really, don’t need to sing it 30 times to understand. There’s no point in it. And as I found myself bound to do this (well, I did drop out after a bit), I felt frustrated and a bit put out. This was supposed to be worship, wasn’t it? Not “vain repetition”?

After this, we proceeded to sing a couple more praise songs, some of which I didn’t know. One was called “Amazing God,” which seems to rotate its tune on three descending notes over and over (and over and over). Why the mind-boggling simplicity? To help people sing it? But if this is true, why the incredibly difficult rhythms, which make it virtually impossible for a group of 30 women to sing anything remotely “together,” as in, let’s sing our words and notes at the same TIME. And, of course, there’s not a bar of actual music to be found in the place, just in case anyone wanted to offer music that might be done well. For the God of the universe. We sing that He is indescribable and amazing and awesome, and then we offer the most mediocre musical production imaginable.

(Calm down, MK. Get back on track.)

Okay. So, finally we sang a song that I do love, “In Christ Alone.” Our church choir has a choral arrangement of this, and it’s fantastic. Even the piano part is a thrill to play!! I love it. At the retreat, it was blended with “The Solid Rock” in the middle, which was awkward, but I’ll not address the badly-done key changes or the timid entrances. Nor the truly horrible typos. (It’s one thing to misspell a word. It’s quite another to turn it into a cuss word in the process. In a praise song. Whatever happened to editing?) In the final stanza, we sang about Christ’s victory in resurrection, and our victory in Him.

And the song leader signaled for all of us to stand as we sang these powerful words of rising and victory. Which was nice, but I got the impression we were supposed to do it as an emotional response to the text and the music. But aren’t emotional responses like that supposed to be spontaneous, particularly in contemporary praise music? Rather like raising one’s hands in the air? What if she had signaled for all of us to raise our hands instead of standing? How bizarre would that have been? Is there an assumption that all of our emotions are uniform? That they would all be expressed in exactly the same way?

And when the song finished, there was a hush, and then the keyboard player tried to give us the right note to sing just ONE LITTLE LINE of “Oh, draw me, Lord.” But the song leader couldn’t get the note right, and came in too low, and those who followed her were at odds with the piano, and those who followed the piano were clashy with her. Sigh. After a moment, we all found each other. And ended the musical experience with that one, single, plaintive cry.

Very emotional. Very choreographed. Studied spontaneity.

And this is what I ask of the contemporary praise crowd: Be consistent. Be real. If you claim to be spontaneous and emotional, then don’t, PLEASE DON’T, plan it out ahead of time and feed it to your audience, so they’ll do all that spontaneity at the same time. Or, if you want to plan and study and choreograph, I’m cool with that too. I believe in prepping for worship. I do it every week. But don’t then deceive yourselves or anyone else that the performance is suddenly leaping from the heart. The choreographed emotion rings so hollow to me, and makes me feel as if the whole thing is fake. It makes me want to sit on the back row, cross my arms, and write a blog post.

Old Friends

While I was at my parents' house, I picked up some things that they wanted me to have. One was a fragment of carpet, a rather large fragment -- 8' x 12'.  It's big enough to go in my dining room. My dining room floor looked like this, a nice wood floor.  But in spite of putting felt bottoms on our chair legs, and then putting on plastic gliders, I knew we were scraping the floor each time we ate.
The carpet was large and cumbersome, and I was concerned that 2 of the edges are unfinished. It had been cut up to fit a space before, and a few pieces needed to be removed.  I used Adam's exacto knife to cut and trim the edges more evenly. I dragged the carpet up from the living room, where we'd unrolled it.
And this is what it looks like in the dining room.  I wasn't sure I would like it, but I do. It will protect the floor, which is what I really care about.  And if we spill on it, it's not a big loss.  But I do have one question for myself and for you:  why do we protect floors with carpeting, when the carpet keeps us from looking at the very floor we want to keep beautiful ... but never see?  A quandary.
My mother was also clearing out some treasures. Now, my mother is an interesting person.  She has many gifts, and one of them is her ability to choose and keep good friends.  An extraordinary percentage of my mother's best friends have been artists, really fine artists.  How to explain this?  Only that something in the artist's temperament appeals to her, and when she meets an artist, she can't help but befriend her.  Thus, my mother's home is full to the gills of beautiful pieces of art that her friends have given her.  It's nice, I suppose, to decorate one's home from Hobby Lobby or Pier One or Bombay Company.  But I much prefer my mother's method.  Almost every picture in her home was done personally by my brother Max, or by a dear friend.

One of these friends is Carroll Karlak.  Carroll was a unique woman, and a good friend to me as well.  She was dear, kind, simply and unassuming, and very, very gifted. She loved to paint animals.  She accompanied mother and me to the Jackson Zoo, took photographs of the animals, and painted them. Anyway, Mother graciously gave me a few of Carroll's smaller pieces.

This blue floral piece has a fun story.  Carroll gave mother this piece, wrapped up in a white box.  Instead of wrapping the box, she decided to paint the top of the box with the same picture she'd put on the artwork, so she did. When she gave it to my mother, I got the box!  Of course, it was only on a white box top, but that didn't matter to me! I framed my first "Carroll Karlak" piece, and put it on the wall.  This weekend, my mother gave me to "real McCoy" too :)
Here's another lovely piece.  I disassembled both of these to clean the glass.  Inside the red one, I found a note card to mother from Carroll, taped inside behind the print. Like Tasha Tudor, Carroll tended to ornament her notes with fun drawings and examples along the margins.
They're hanging together in my living room now, right next to my spot on the couch, where I can enjoy them.
Here's one of Carroll's animal pieces -- elephants.  When I put this one up this morning, Julia said, "Oh! I love that one! I'm so happy we have it now!"  We'll look at it every day.  These pieces remind me of Carroll and what a wonderful woman she was.  She died a number of years ago, and is deeply missed. But I know we will be with her again in a few short years in heaven, and she'll be painting again for eternity.
And two more pieces my mother gave me.  These are also rather special.  I remember the day she bought these, when we lived in Hopewell, Virginia.  Mother went to some artistic event, I don't know what it was.  She saw a woman painting door panels, and she loved her work.  But we were not wealthy, and mother couldn't afford to buy them.  What she did have, however, was an old home with lots of doors, some already removed and put in the basement, I imagine! She offered the artist a door (or two?), in exchange for 2 painted panels, and here they are.  I think my mother got the good end of that deal! The artist got a few spare panels to use, but we have enjoyed her artwork now for almost 40 years.
A close-up of the flowers.
Artwork is an old friend. I'm grateful to my mother for sharing her friends with me.