Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I Have Been Remiss ~

That's a phrase my parents would occasionally use, "I have been remiss ..." in doing whatever duty they had neglected. I have been remiss in blogging.

At last the outdoors don't feel like a furnace set to "high." Now it's simply hot. Each day reaches the mid-80s. I'm ready for the next break in the weather, when our highs will be in the low 70s. That's my favorite weather.

We had stopped tending the garden. I assumed the okra was finished. I don't know much about okra. I visited the garden yesterday and found some okra too big/old to eat (and threw them into the grass), but many were fine.
I'll try to go pick them every other day, so they are small, until they stop producing. Okra are hard workers. We'll plant them again next year. Adam fried some the other night that we'd frozen before, and they were fabulous -- much, much better than any from a restaurant.
I've been painting a lot of cards, and sold quite a few lately too. I won't share them all here, but here are a couple. A friend requested some beach/water scenes.

I dropped in at the thrift store yesterday and found two treasures. Books were half-off, so they were 50 cents each.
I love both these authors. I've started Rosemary Verey's book already; she's a famous English gardener. I turned straight to "September" to read what she thinks about this time of year. I'm sorry to report that I'm utterly bored with both the Elizabeth Goudge books I'm trying to read. I know it doesn't seem possible -- The Child from the Sea and Island Magic have both failed to hold my attention. I'm still trying. She was prolific, and I suppose no author who writes that much can have winners at every turn.

I've been longing for one of the large, beautiful wreaths that another vendor sells at the market each week. They are expensive, and I'm too stingy to spring for the price. But then we reached a bartering arrangement: some of my cards for one of her wreaths! Hooray! The beach/water cards are for her. Here's my new wreath:
It's very large and beautiful and autumnal. It's too big to squeeze between either our front or back doors and their matching screen doors, so it's hanging inside on the guest room door.

Anna mentioned that grandbaby Isaac might like some books for Christmas, so I shopped at my favorite online used book purveyor, Abe Books. The first to arrive in the mail was this gem:
It's in pristine condition.  In fact, I ordered all Tasha Tudor books for him -- six of them. I may go shopping for a few other favorites that he really must have in his children's library. How could childhood be complete without Miss Suzy and Martha B. Rabbit?
He's a very happy, very smiley baby! I tell Anna he is happy because she is such a good mama.

The ladies from our church, plus a couple of neighbors, have started up our fall Bible study again. We took a group selfie since 8 of us were present! That's nearly a record for this busy bunch.
These ladies are some of my dearest friends, precious every one.

Henny Penny and her four babies are just fine. I think they're two and a half weeks old now. I've actually been out in the yard just a little ... in the morning, when it's cool ... weeding. I planted four lantanas plus a sedum, "Autumn Red." 

That's it for now, friends! I hope all is well with you in your neck of the woods!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The First Cool Morning

That was this morning - I walked out on the back deck, felt the breeze (blowing east from Hurricane Humberto, thank you, Humberto) and said, "Ahh! I survived another horrid summer!"
Yesterday Henny Penny took her four babies out into the big world of the chicken pen for the first time. (Oh, sorry about the Instagram link! But if you click over, I think you can watch it fine.)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Mary Kathryn Christiansen (@marykathryn.christiansen) on
Adam has been working many hours for the U.S. Census, which means I have many hours at home alone in a quiet house, just Beau and I. I love peaceful, productive morning hours at my desk.
 I've learned, after all these years, how to make the perfect little French press of coffee for myself. A candle. Diffuser oil. A little lotta editing.
Before the editing, I paint. My brain's not awake yet, and painting is a good first activity.
A little water, a little paint.

 Writing and editing are much harder than painting. Adam says they're much harder than walking/driving around door-to-door gathering census information too. But we both love writing. When I can't fall asleep at night, I lie in bed thinking through the plot of whatever story I'm at plot-thinking stage in. It helps me fall asleep.
Sunset on Saturday. We are heading into a pretty time of year.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

What a Week!

I'm pooped. I told you how I wore myself out emptying the guest room of its furniture. Well then I had to paint the room. I didn't take many photos, but here's a short video of the room when I'd just started doing the trim:
The guest room was my catch-all room. I had boxes of china and family photos under the bed, plus bags of baby clothes from when the kids were little. I had boxes of fine crystal and the boys' Legos in the tiny closet. And so many books, books I need to give away.
Philip's shoes when he was an itty bitty

Philip wore this shirt when he played t-ball as a 4 year old.
I have the cutest photo of him running bases, wearing it.

I enjoyed Jan Karon books years ago,
 but now I want my daughter to have these. Or somebody. Anybody?
I spent much of one day at the top of a ladder, reaching the corners of those 10-foot ceilings. I was exhausted. The next day I painted the floor. I pushed myself, wanting to get done. My legs have not recovered. Here is the "after" video:

Adam just went into our bedroom and said, "Now this room is the worst one in the house." He's right. "You should do this one next," he added. Ha! Not until my legs have recovered! It may be a while. Still, I'm very pleased with the guest room. Not too bad for a 100 year old sharecropper house!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Blue Flowers Watercolor

 These flowers were some of the "hurricane painting" I did to calm myself during Dorian :) I was surprised they came out so well -- except the first flower, the one on the lower right. I was utterly disappointed in its shape.
 I tried to work with it, adding more black paint, even ink. It still did not satisfy me.
 But it was good practice, which was its purpose. I was again surprised when I posted the watercolor on Facebook and a friend said that she liked that flower the best! Isn't that cool? So I touched the flower up a little more with colored pencils, popped the painting into the mail to her, and now I don't have to think about that flower any more, haha!

I liked the concept well enough to attempt another one. I've been wanting to replace both of the not-quite-beautiful watercolors I framed in the spring, with something better. Here is the second Blue Flowers watercolor:
 I popped it into the frame (sadly, with a red mat trim that looks kind of wrong) and am enjoying it on my bedroom wall.
Today I decided to do another, but in orange/yellow/red.
I wish I hadn't put that bit of blue in the background. After this photo I tried scrubbing it a bit to make it lighter, and adding a very light blue wash around the edges of the flowers. I think I should have left it alone. As Adam tells me, "Don't forget the white space!!"

Staying Busy

Life is like a hurricane, and we're spinning in it. Sometimes we're calm in the eye, sometimes we're thrashed by high winds and nearly sick with the speed of it, and sometimes we're lolling around on the fringes of the tempest, thankful for a rest. These are days of being swirled around.

Henny Penny has five baby chicks so far! We're waiting to see how many more will hatch, if any. Some eggs are "duds," unfertilized.
That one there is not ill; he is a "Naked Neck" variety.

I made shampoo bars. I was down to my last bar at the market stall.
I'm weaving a scarf. Cool-weather items at the market will be needed soon.

Autumn is a busy, sometimes frantic, time of year. Because it's September I'm teaching a Bible study again, leading a handchime choir, and singing and accompanying in a local chorale. That last bit, "accompanying," sounds so little, but it takes a huge amount of practice time at home.
 The handchime choir (at church) is preparing just one song for our Christmas program in December, so that's not too hard. I want variety in that program so I decided to play a simple piece on the recorder also. Problem is ... I don't know how to play the recorder. How hard can it be, right?
 Adam bought this wooden recorder many years ago. I'm learning the tune to "Good King Wenceslaus."

I've knitted fingerless gloves until I'm sick of them. Here is the last pair.

 But this morning, rather than doing anything creative, I wore my body out! Before grandbaby Isaac comes to visit at Christmas, I wanted to paint the floor in the guest room. 
 It was under shag carpet when we bought the house, and has remained in this ugly state for 4 years. I covered it up with rugs.
 First I cleared off half of the front porch. (The other half is Adam's study area in the cool months.) I started early when it was relatively cool. All the items from the guest room will be shifted to the front porch during this project. I cannot stand to just empty a room into another room, thus making a small house like this nearly unlivable until the project is finished. I can't move this chair alone; it's too big for the door. It's a great chair. My mother gave it to us.
 See how empty the room is getting? Adam left for New Bern early this morning to finish his training to work for the U.S. Census this time around. So I'm doing all this with my own girl muscles!! The front porch thus far:

The porch is well-enclosed in plastic sheeting (which withstood Hurricane Dorian), so I think everything will be fine.

I've taken two Tylenol and will spend the rest of the day doing easier things like painting or weaving. Actually ... I'm feeling like a trip to the thrift store, which makes no sense since that guest room was chock full of lots of stuff I've been tucking under the bed out of sight. So Much Stuff. I am noticing items that really should go to the children now that they have homes of their own ....

Time to go check on Henny Penny again. So far she's being a pretty good mama.

Saturday, September 7, 2019


I'm on the downhill side of middle-aged, and my memory is going down the hill with me. Why is it that some aspects of memory slip away just as others become more vivid?

When I was visiting my mother I confiscated another photo album. She's often told me to do so; there are so many photos and albums, and better to sort through them now than all at once, in a weepy hurry, after she dies. These albums bring back a flood of memories. This was a little album with a note from my daddy in the front: "May 1998 thru." His precise, architectural handwriting is easy to spot, especially years before a stroke made it wobbly.

1998 was a busy year. One granddaughter was born that May. Evidently that summer the two oldest grandchildren came to visit my parents at their home in the North Carolina mountains and attended camp. Afterward a grand road trip began -- my parents drove to West Virginia and then out to Iowa to return those two kids to their home. Along the way they visited other kids and grandkids. Here are a few photos from this album, hopefully in order:
My daddy with Kesse, oldest granddaughter

Daddy being silly with my kids, which was a regular occurrence when he was not yet elderly.
I think he and Mother took the kids on a hike in the Cradle of Forestry.

Two Iowa cousins playing with three younger West Virginia cousins.
Cousin ties are strong in our family, mostly thanks to efforts by my daddy, like this road trip.

One of my all-time favorite family pics.
The expression on my daddy's face shows exactly how he felt about family, grandkids, and life in general.

Back in Iowa, three sisters lounge in a pool in Independence.

I sometimes wonder now how the kids remember these days, but this photo shows how I remember it: Peter snuggled in his grandmother's lap. Lorien snuggled in mine. Cousins huddled together in fun. Family together. My daddy's hands around it all. The children's days were full of play and hours of freedom (and lots of beanie babies).

My daddy's 70th birthday party. Silly hats on grown men.

We spent a lot of time at my parents' mountain home.
 It was a place of safety, peace, and love for our family.
Yes, that's the kind of TV we had back then!
No cell phones. No internet. No facebook!

Our kids spent a lot of time outdoors playing at my parents' house.
I only regret that Julia wasn't born yet, or she would've been in the thick of things with these umbrellas!

My daddy was an over-comer. He had a rough childhood in a difficult family followed by two years of dangerous war in Korea. But he set his mind to having fun and family, and did his best to accomplish a life in which he poured his life into others. This was a challenge for him, but he tried. He was a doer -- he was not a man with deep emotional reserves to talk long into the wee hours of the night. (That was my mother.) He was the man who worked hard to provide the infrastructure of life -- home, trips, camp, good advice, church, financial help, keeping in touch, and more -- that eased the lives of others, especially his children and grandchildren. He had many people leaning on him, and it was never too much. 

I miss him every day. I wondered for a second why he's on my mind today. Then I realized his birthday is in two days. He would be 91 years old. He never expected to live as long as he did, but I think he stuck around to help everybody as long as he could. I never feel he's far away at all. And I don't feel that he's gone. The Bible says that we're surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses" - those who've left this earth before us. Daddy's in that cloud of supporters, cheering me on. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Painting for the Hurricane

Yes, I decided to stay for the storm. I couldn't face another road trip just yet; a night of howling chaos outside followed by some days of no air conditioning seemed preferable to bumper-to-bumper evacuation traffic. 

Hurricane Dorian is due to arrive in our backyard in about 24 hours or so. Very early Friday morning (in the wee hours) should be the worst. As long as a tree doesn't fall on the house, I'm not really scared of wind or rain or thunder. We may get a little flooding but nothing like we've seen from the Bahamas -- nothing.

To calm my 'fraid nerves I've been painting. Little cards wouldn't do it for me, so I went hunting for a resource photo online and found this:

Image result for watercolor painting blue flowers
This is NOT my art work. I'm just using it as inspiration.

I tried a little card first -- an imitation.
Then I pulled out the massive roll of watercolor paper my son and daughter-in-law gave me, whacked off a big piece, and started painting before I could chicken out. I haven't done much "big" work. But since its only purpose was to calm me down before a hurricane, who cared if it turned out awful? Here is the development of the Hurricane Painting:

The ugliest flower. I worked on it later. Ugh.

I cannot describe how delightful it is to lay water down on the paper in a shape, dip my wet brush into some wet pigment, dot it into the water, and see it spread within the boundaries of that water. Ahh -- calming. I like it better than some of the other bigger ones I did, and I might swap them in the frames soon. I think I could paint those blue flowers for hours.

Tomorrow I'll need to paint again. Last day before the onslaught. Dorian should pass just next to us, rather quickly. But it will feel like a hurricane, no doubt about that. Most of the people we know who've lived here a while are staying also. Here's to hunkering down!