January 6, 2015

In the bleak midwinter...

New Year's Day began with the sad news of my aunt's passing.  Although she had been struggling with health issues for some time, and had recently been moved to hospice care, the news was still a shock.  Aunt Carol, affectionately know as TOB (tough old bird) by those that loved her, left us with enough happy memories and funny stories to shore us up when the grief threatens to catch hold.  She had planned her funeral down to the very last details, including instructions to the pastor to start the song over if we didn't sing with enough gusto!  So sing we did, with hearts full of love even if they were breaking just a little at her absence.

Aunt Carol on the left, my mother on the right
Carol was my dad's baby sister, and after my dad's passing she was a wonderful companion for my mother---they shared a passion for playing cards and treating themselves to McDonald's ice cream sundaes!  She was a dedicated nurse, and helped deliver countless babies in eastern South Dakota for many years.  She worked the night shift and would often stop by on her way to the hospital for a little night chat with my parents.  I always stood in awe of her amazing ability to pull whatever she needed from her sturdy work brassiere...a hankie, a pack of cigarettes, car keys...you name it, and out it came from its secret hiding place!

My husband and I braved the frosty weather (and by frosty I mean unbelievably freezing cold) and made the trip back to South Dakota.  And while it was lovely to see so many relatives, it was hard to say goodbye, and also difficult to realize we are now one step closer to being the senior generation. We have very big shoes to fill.  We both realize how lucky we have been to have parents, aunts and uncles who cared--who were there for us--and lived their lives in such a way as to serve as remarkable role models for all of us who follow.

I purchased my first "smart phone" just before the new year, so I experimented with my phone's camera on our trip.  The travel from the church to the country cemetery offered some really stark South Dakota scenery, fitting, I suppose, for the sorrow of the day.


As we drove by snow covered fields the lyrics to Christina Rossetti's poem drifted through my mind:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.


November 18, 2014

A taste of the French Quarter...

Good morning!  A week ago we were strolling through the French Quarter and enjoying the sights, sounds and in particular the TASTE of New Orleans. This week we are back home in Wisconsin, where the sights and sounds are a little different.  Instead of blues, I have Barry Manilow playing on my kitchen CD player:


And instead of lush green balconies


this is the view from my front door:



No palm trees in Wisconsin, 

 

 only snow covered spirea...



But while I can't recreate the warmth and sunshine and joie de vivre that we so enjoyed last week, there are a few things I can attempt to re-capture.  I am, at heart, a Southern girl when it comes to my food preferences, and I was delighted to find this towel in the Quarter, which now proudly hangs on my kitchen island:


Did someone say simmerin' grits??!  


and sizzlin' bacon?!


BEST BACON EVER!!
Praline bacon (baked with a topping of brown sugar and pecans)
Recipe from a great New Orleans cookbook I found in the Quarter (more on that discovery in another post!)



So I turned a lazy (and cold) Sunday morning into my own little Cafe' du Monde and served up a little Louisiana flavor right in my own kitchen.   Besides the grits and bacon, orange juice, coffee and scrambled eggs, I tried my hand at French beignets. We sampled them last week and I brought home a mix to give them a try.  
Cafe' du Monde

Cafe' a la Scales



And here are my beignets...not a bad first attempt!  I'm really glad my husband does the dishes, though, as sputtering grease seemed to land everywhere!!


Cafe du Monde

A plate of small hot beignets
coated in a snow squall
of light powdered sugar

a dense cup of oh so hot
coffee with chicory

at 3:00am, near Jackson Square

Jazz and spice in the air
Before last call,
in the Big Easy

--Raymond Foss, 2005


Happy Tuesday!


November 13, 2014

Road trip!

Two cars, eight people, sixteen hours and two days down, and sixteen hours in ONE day coming home!  My husband and I set our new all-time record for most hours driving last weekend, but it was surely worth it!  We headed south to the Big Easy, the city of cafe au lait and beignets, crawfish and creole cuisine, gumbo and grits.  South...where the air was redolent with the smell of the mighty Mississippi mingling with fried calas (rice) cakes and roses still blooming in the French Quarter.

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We were delighted to attend our nephew's wedding and bask in the warmth of the sunshine and the happiness of being surrounded by loved ones.  As Martha Stewart would say...a wedding---it's a good thing!  We also had free time to wander the French Quarter and make new memories.  This poem by Vince Vance, penned in 2011, describes the essence of what we discovered on a lovely Sunday morning stroll through the Quarter:


I Am New Orleans 

by Vince Vance
        ...upon the 125th Anniversary of the Monteleone Hotel, the heart of New Orleans

I'm American, European and African... all by chance
I'm Satchmo, Jumbo, Fountain, Fats, 'Fess and Vince Vance
I'm the roux in your gumbo; I'm the rice in your beans
I'm a levee that will never break; I am New Orleans.


My blood is the River, my heart is the Quarter
I'm a corrupt politician; a slave that was martyred
A girl who lost her way and a Bourbon Street Queen
A Streetcar Named Desire; I am New Orleans.


I'm praying in the Cathedral; I'm living in sin
I never sleep from the bustle or the fear I live in
I smell like French Bread; my snowball's nectar cream
In a city that care forgot; I am New Orleans.


I'm stronger from lies; I'm bigger than The Dome
I'm the Saints; I'm the sinners; I am a place called Home
I'm sweating in December; I'm purple, gold and green
I'm Catholic and I'm voodoo; I am New Orleans.


I'm Dixieland Jazz; I'm Redfish Court-Bouillon
I'm the Carousel Lounge, the Knights of Babylon
"Throw me something. Mister!" Yeah, I hear y'all scream
But this parade never ends; I am New Orleans.


I'm coffee and beignets, a ferry to Old Algiers
I'm the Best Bank, Metry, St. Bernard, I drink Abita Beer
I'm a Jambalaya of People seasoned with moonbeams
I'm Mardi Gras on Canal Street; I am New Orleans.


I was sold by the French and saved by Ole Hickory
There's water all around me, but I can never come clean
I'm eight feet below sea level and I'm slipping out to sea
Katrina changed me forever, but I am still New Orleans.


They tried to call me Chocolate City; it's okay we're white and black
You can drench me with oil but I'm always coming back
I'm the healer Dr. Mary and all of Blaine Kern's dreams
I'm an old hotel called Monteleone; I am New Orleans.






November 4, 2014

I had a mother who read to me...






Oh my goodness!  I guess I am learning the hard way that a habit that bites the dust is hard to re-establish!  When I first started my blog I decided I would post every week day and take the weekends off, which worked really great for quite a while.  Then...I had a grandchild on the way (baby blankets! knitted baby hats! baby showers!) and a daughter getting married (crafts! crafts! crafts!!!!!) and I had to choose between crafting/planning/organizing/executing or blogging on a regular schedule.  But coming back from a writing hiatus right before the holidays is making it difficult to stick to a five times a week writing schedule, so for now you can plan on my posting a new blog every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  Hopefully that will give me time to give you a few peeks on all the crazy, happy times I've had the last few months and still allow me to put some ho-ho-ho into my holiday preparations!  

My grandmother Beulah Badger and four of her six children.  My mother is on the right.

Up first?  A project I've been wanting to show you for a long time, but getting all the pictures took longer than expected!  A former colleague of mine gave me such an unexpected, memorable and thoughtful gift year before last...he and his father built a Little Free Library for me.  I had wanted to dedicate one to my mother for a long time, but my woodworking skills are beginner level and it was just too much of a project for me to handle.  I was so touched and grateful for this gift.  Thank you, Jeff and Russell!!  I finally got it assembled and painted and was able to present it to my mom when she was here for her birthday.


I had a hard time deciding how to finish the exterior--so many choices!  But when I came across these durable, exterior travel posters I knew I had found the perfect finishing touch, representing a few of the book series that my family loves.  First up, Narnia.  I have wonderful memories of reading this entire series to my younger siblings during a long and uncomfortably hot station wagon trek from South Dakota to Washington state.  We dreamed of the "endless winter" and Edmund's Turkish delights while we valiantly tried to keep our hot, sweaty bodies from touching each other!  Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for amazing tales of courage and faith that kept us enthralled for 1,365 miles (but who's counting?).


I smile every time I remember my family's use of six bookmarks and three copies of the same book, with six eager readers fighting over their turn to read the latest Harry Potter installment!  And the children weren't the only ones anxious to check in on Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the professors! My husband and I were just as excited to have an imaginary butterbeer at the Hog's Head Tavern!


And now that we are all "grown up" (alas) we take our fantasy in more adult fashion.  But there are still enough dragons and magic and sword craft and tales of derring-go to keep us fascinated as we traverse the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones epic series:



A peek inside shows you today's offerings--it has become so popular that books change daily!  It warms my heart to see cars pull up to swap books, walkers slow down and browse, and kids on their way to school peek inside to see what might attract their attention:


And all due to a grandmother who could recite poetry at the drop of a hat and a mother who instilled a deep love of reading and left me with a life long love of the printed word.  As Anne (with an "e") would say, my mother and I are kindred spirits when it comes to our love of books!



So of course today there is only one poem I could possibly choose.  I love you, Mom, and thank you thank you thank you for sharing your passion for books with me!

October 30, 2014

Cape Cod, October 2013
I must confess, right now I'm missing the hustle and bustle of having young ones in the house (don't worry, I'm sure that yearning will be long gone by Saturday morning!).  My children all loved the fun of dressing up on Halloween, and intense discussions of costume ideas started long before the pumpkins were fat and ready for carving.  One of these days I'll have the time to scan and convert all my old photos into digital so that I have more photos to share, but I did unearth a few memorable costumes from the past:


Ahoy, maties...pirates and dragons were my first attempt at costume design---not bad for a novice!  I blush now to admit, but the little dragon's face is green from mint toothpaste.  Seemed like an inspired idea at the time...


Ah yes, Batman.  This is the Batman who INSISTED on a gold belt to complete the costume.  So I did what any mother who has LOST HER MIND would do, and drove twenty miles back to the school where I taught band and borrowed a marching band uniform belt before we went trick or treating.  Because you wouldn't want to let Batman down, right?  Fortunately the cute pumpkin was pretty laid back.

And then there was the "easy" witch costume from Family Fun magazine.  The one that took hours to make and ended up with glow-in-the-dark ORANGE paint exploding from its tube in the family room and covering furniture, carpet, windows, walls and even the ceiling fan with globs of orange fluorescent paint.  But it was worth all the aggravation in the end...she made a cute witch, didn't she?  And besides, it gave us an instant eerie orange night light in the family room for years!

One final picture...a real "blast from the past".  All the way back to 1972 and my sibs, decked out in their Halloween finery and ready to take on the streets in search of the biggest candy bar!



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As the pumpkins said, isn't Halloween fun?

October 28, 2014



Oh my goodness, I am soooo loving my new role!  I was looking forward to being a grandmother, but until you actually hold a sweet little baby in your arms you don't really understand how precious and wonderful your new position is---I don't have to make the hard choices, I'm not responsible for child rearing decisions...I just get to have fun!  And fun was in abundance last Sunday when my husband and I got to hang out with our darling Lily all day--here are a few peeks at what we did:

We played games:


We faithfully followed the feeding schedule:


Grandpa introduced Lily to the Steeler Nation;


which I balanced with my love of reading (got to keep things even!)


And while Lily was napping, I indulged in all things "Grandma"....


 Finally mastered the dreaded double pointed needles...


 and finished my first baby hat!


Lily seemed to like it!


And I baked an apple pie to surprise my son and daughter in law after their long day--first time I made "home-made" pie crust in over twenty years!  


What a perfect day!



We Love You


We loved you from the very start,
You stole our breath, embraced our heart.
Our life together has just begun,
You’re part of us our little one.
From the day we first knew,
Our mind was filled with thoughts of you.
We’d daydream of the things we’d share,
Like bedtime stories and teddy bears.
Like first steps & skinned knees,
Like nursery rhymes and ABC’s.
We thought of things you’d want to know,
Like how birds fly & flowers grow.
We thought of lessons we’d need to share,
Like standing tall & playing fair.
Each nap time we lay you down to sleep,
We gently kiss your head & cheek.
We count your little fingers & toes,
We memorize your eyes & nose.
We linger at your nursery door,
Awed each day we love you more.
Through misty eyes, we dim the light,
We whisper “We Love You” every night.
We loved you from the very start,
You stole our breath, embraced our heart.
As grandparents and grandchild our journey’s begun,
Our heart’s yours forever little one.