Saturday, January 30, 2016

A House Wren And Roses In Winter

   I found this perky little wren up on Amy's desk yesterday. She said I could take his picture knowing full well he would come to live on this blog. His warm, brown aspect on a sunny, cold January day pleases me. 
   I would frame a collection of drawings done by the talented folks in my family and create a wall collage of them. This is definitely on my bucket list for the next ten years. It will be part of the wall decor in the front room library. Another proof that homemaking can be an art. 
   Jenny, how is your leaf framing coming along? Do one for this collection while you're at it. 

     For those of you who keep fussing that the pictures on this blog are too small. Please, click on the picture and it will get big enough to see. Please let me know in the comments if this works, okay?
   The desk is Brad's quick creation at Amy's demand of rough sawed boards and bracing. It took maybe an hour. Now she has everything laid out, ready when she is inspired. Her desk chair is a backless kitchen chair that Francis refinished one day when she was looking for beauty and function for a chair for her home made desk. 


 Roses from Wal-mart. When Amy and I shop together at Wal-mart for the family needs we can't seem to walk past the flowers without seeing if there's anything for us. The roses were in pretty good shape this time. These had firm, promising centers and the whole bunch was less than ten dollars. We brought them home and trimmed the stems so that fresh water would wick up easily to open these beauties up. 
    Lately, I have been noticing that a few of our kitchen tools are in bad shape. This week I bought new measuring cups and spoons of brushed stainless steel. Is that what you call it? They're beautiful! Yes, I threw the old into the trash. Don't ask. They're gone for good. I wouldn't "bless" anyone else with such worn out things. I have memories of making do after our house fire a few months after we were married. All of our new and nice was destroyed. We couldn't afford to replace it. Everyone was generous and meant well and we were grateful and still are; but we lived with worn out tools and furniture for many years at this house. I learned something from that. Give of your best to those in need, not your worn out that you've stopped using. 
    I suppose that experience also taught us to enjoy re-purposing and making the old and shabby, beautiful and homey. 
 Oh wow! There's the screen we removed so that the camera could stop picking up the screen instead of the birds. Better go take care of that! Jake Coblentz made that screen for our dining room window many years ago. He made a few other screens, too. I was half frustrated at the time. I had big plans for new windows soon. Am I ever glad that didn't happen. We would have certainly installed cheap non grid windows if we could have. Now, we know better. The only kind of window to put in this old house would be custom made windows that swing in on hinges just like the ones we have. I think I am smart enough now to leave well enough alone till then. 
 A walk on a very cold winter day back when we had our one cold snap so far this winter.
   It was so cold the smoke from the chimneys froze in the air and wouldn't blow away. And if you would throw a glass of water up in the air it would freeze and tinkle on the way down. Or some such nonsense. Does it ever get that cold? We love our winter days. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

When I Am Ninety

 We spent Saturday evening and Sunday with Mom/Grandma Graber this past weekend. The roads were good and our student driver did a great job. He didn't appreciate how the traffic picked up after Eau Claire and soon handed the wheel over to his dad. His road test is coming up. Then we'll have completed all of our children's formal driving training. Wow! It feels just as good as all the other mileposts: weaned, potty trained, educated, and baptized! God has been good to us and our child rearing despite our mistakes. There, now that I've sounded all parental and stuffy. 

Here's the grandmother's chair. She sits here a lot these days. At ninety, she could sit more and be fine. But she still would rather be up and doing. Elv took her up on her offer to make us supper on Saturday night. Then we didn't eat enough to suit her. She accused us of having stopped for supper on our way down. We hadn't. We ate her supper of meatballs and potatoes and pie. She's still a good cook, too. But I think after this, we'll try to bring our supper with us. Though we'll still let her make the pie.

 So the point of going down to see Mom Graber is that she is the mother and needs to be visited. She won't always be there to visit. Losing Dad almost twenty years ago when nobody was planning for that gave us all a better sense of how quickly parents can be taken from us. So we make the most of the moments we have left with them.
     We suspect that Mom likes our visits because we bring the children along. She and Brad always play table games. Actually, this is what she thinks the point of our coming to visit is: to play table games with Brad.  He likes it, too.  So it's okay. Her world has shrunk down to those who come to visit or send cards, pictures, and letters. She still goes to church, but doesn't hear very well even with hearing aids.
   I always feel introspective about our own old age in years to come, after a visit with Mom.

 It's easy to decide today how I shall spend all that free time when I am ninety.  She told me that part of what keeps her busy is how long it takes her to do anything.
    "Even getting out of my chair takes much longer lately." She explained, talking about how her days still go quickly.
    I'm watching and listening as she describes her life and interests to us.
    "I am so forgetful. And I don't like that about my life."
    She is forgetful, but she didn't repeat her stories as much this time as she has before at times. Instead she is finding bits of trivia coming to the surface in her mind and she can remember the most amazing things. She remembers things like the birth weights of each her sons.
   I also noticed that Mom has struggles of the mind, lately. She worried that we hadn't enjoyed the church service. She apologized for the poor singing. Then I wished I hadn't mentioned how quiet the singing had been. It was good singing, truly. She wondered if it had really been as long as it felt since we had been to see her. I honestly didn't know how to answer her question. Is it possible to visit often enough?
    We must continue to pray that she have victory over discouragements.  I'll admit I'm a little bug-eyed seeing how the enemy doesn't leave even the aged alone. Let's pray for our parents as diligently as we pray for our children.

 It does work better to sit closer to Grandma to be heard.
   This time she talked about how old and rickety her possessions are becoming. That she really has nothing that anybody is going to want when she dies. She has talked about this for the last ten years. And I think she's worried that she really will be around for another ten years. 
   "I hope I don't live as long as Mama did."
   And I think she really means that. She loves life but she's ready to go home, too. Almost all of her peers are already on the other side.

 I could get all poetic about this picture. One of them standing on the banks of Jordan; the other back a few miles with most of life before her. And all that sort of thing. I won't bore you with that.  It's interesting to think about though.

 Mom feeds the birds. I am entranced by birds. There were goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, slate juncos, blue jays (Mom shoos them away), a pair of cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches. So I stood at the window with the camera and clicked away. I kept telling myself Sunday morning before church that it was silly to take pictures of birds and didn't move toward it. But after lunch, I decided that it would be great practice learning how to use the camera better. So I caved in. I'm so glad I did. Now you all can tell me how I could have improved my focusing and lighting, please.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's Cold Outside

                 And warm inside. Here's our fireside on a cold evening. All of my homemaking finesse finds a different place to live in the winter... not by the fireside. Three unmatched catch rugs: coals, firewood chips/dust/dirt, and the door mat. Cords, in a living room with only two electrical receptacles, and the important fan, finish off our winter cabin decor wonderfully. It's cold outside! When the stove is keeping our house warm in sub-zero weather, we don't mind this mess. We rather enjoy it even though it requires a daily vacuum so that we aren't wading in it and dragging it all over the house.

Fresh flowers on the dining room table is a highly recommended expenditure around here during cold weather.
   I bought a bag of chocolates, too, but Brad sat by the candy dish and methodically worked half way through that stash. So no picture. At seventeen and having no "schpeck" on his frame, nobody minds. Cookies would be cheaper, though.
So I baked up a big batch of the usual oatmeal, chocolate chip variety and parceled them into sandwich bags and they're in the freezer for his use. That will last a few days. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Color In Our Lives

 On a Sunday afternoon at home, by the fire, sub-zero winter sunshine, music, the creak of the warming stove, and the quiet hum of the fan for my only company. Everyone else is napping or having his own alone time. It's very quietening and lovely.
    We had an ordinary week. Everyone worked or did school work. Daily chores. Meals. Laundry. Clean up.
   There were little places of unexpected pleasures along the way, too. On Tuesday evening after Children's Ministry the young folks ended up here for soup and visiting. They came in glad for the embrace of wood heat. They walked in the door leaving boots and coats behind in the porch or on a nearby chair and headed straight over to the stove. None of your small talk or dilly-dallying over greetings. Bee-line comes to mind. I love having our house fill up with youth who know how to sit and visit and enjoy the living room circle as well as a good volley-ball game or snowmobiling. So after they emptied the chili soup pot and cleared most of the garlic toast away, someone passed out coloring pages and pencil colors. So there we were coloring and visiting. Young people are among my favorites. 

  Thursday Susan Lattin showed up here on an errand and because of car trouble stayed over night. We used to visit till midnight but not lately. Too old, I guess, and we did get to visit all evening the way it was.
    Saturday my dear husby called me at work to ask if I'd like to go to Perkins for lunch with him. Would I! So I skipped for an hour to solve the world's problems with him.
    I also got the "new" camera functional and am learning how much I don't know about photography. It's a good problem/challenge for me.
    Phone and media visits with our children this week were especially nice. Gwen (5) wanted to visit on Zello Wednesday evening on my way home from work/Duluth but had to go because it was time to get ready for church.
   Lance asked over the phone one day what is my foundation/reason for being a Christian. It is heartening when a son makes sermon prep a two week adventure of gathering testimony and opinion.
There were deadlines for bill paying and heavy equipment to keep warm and running in sub-zero weather. Elv found his machine cold and lifeless with frozen batteries on Monday morning. He brought them home and parked them by Brad's cabin woodstove for all day.
  That was the day he worked downstairs all day with jacks and oak logs which I told you about before. Having him home all day added wonderful color to our lives. Having the work started on our bedroom did, too.

My mom, children, grandchildren and friends make my days interesting and worthwhile by way of social media. Besides, one morning I had coffee with old friends around the dining room table.
   The grown daughter at home is talking and thinking and pontificating about something dubbed "victim-hood" by Calvin of Calvin and Hobbs. I get to listen in. I suppose she has no idea how often these convictions are going to be challenge in the next while having said them out loud. But that's okay. Such challenges will establish the truths she is discovering. BTW, Brad took off reading over Christmas time one year reading Calvin and Hobbs. Never underestimate the power of literature. Use it carefully, though.

    Saturday evening after work I went to Wal-mart for candles, candy, and flowers to give our home comforts a little boost for the weekend.
   In the evening, we played three games of Catan. The last game was a terrible fizzle because the numbers that I needed were not rolling, so I was left stranded and helpless with no buying power. It's just a game. My real life is much better.
   Benny sat beside us in church this morning. I realize that it's time Benny's attention is caught by his grandpa who is preaching. As soon as Elv realizes this, Benny and Rodney will not be bored during church anymore.  Elv is a good preacher like that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New Camera

 Finally, my "new" camera has arrived. Photography 101 is the newest winter project.
I want to continue with this blog; but I really need to improve a few things. The first, is camera prowess. So I listened to my first ever, serious tutorial on how to get a great picture. Oh my, I really am a dead head in the big world of photography.

This morning, I studied this camera itself. Found out it has umpteen settings for a pretty decent point and shoot. And that I can actually control the outcome of a shot. For me, that's amazing. Still having focus issues, though, as you can see.

This one has no edits. But poorly focused.

 This one has a vignette edit, but I'm thinking better of it.

   I need someone to explain to me is how a plain old flat phone picture can be "bigger" and inferior to a camera picture that is quarter the "size". I suspect it's not size, after-all.
   I have a lot to learn.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Cold January Day

It's a cold January day. Elv is home today puttering about beams with a level and jacks, posts and ceiling tiles. I hear him and Brad down there now talking and deliberating about how much to lift it. Elv came up here and laid the level on the floor here and there asking himself, "Shall I raise it the whole inch, or just part way?"
"That's what you always ask when you work on this house." I answered even though I knew he wasn't necessarily talking to me.
"The doors don't fit anymore." He says in mockery of our complaints in the past.
Our old house is always a work in progress. Now it is the basement getting insulated at last. No more damp in the summer and cold in the winter. But, progress is a relative term. Before we can do one thing we have to back up and do other structural things. You don't even want to know. Hence the beam dance today.
    The camera I've been anticipating did arrive.  Brad sent me a picture of the package while I was at work when it came. YES!!!! I texted back to him.
As of this morning I still cannot use it. Amazon has even now shipped an adapter that I'm missing. Oh well, let patience have her perfect work! 
    Today I am sitting on the couch with my lap top on my lap, feet tucked under my skirt to stay warm. Every few minutes I get up and either shut the draft or open it for a little to be my own personal regulator of the heat output from the wood stove. The flames lick the glass  happily when the draft is open and droop sullenly when I close it. I am convinced that a little electric thermostatic control could be installed to save firewood and my getting up all the time.
    My sister Amy posted a verse on FB this morning about living generously and the promise of pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing returns. That verse always makes me think about the blessings/windfalls that I fail to take account of properly. It's too easy to keep track of the wrong side of the ledger or any ledger at all. I suspect that pressed down, shaken together and overflowing are not about ledgers at all. More about abundance and plenty, which ideas are hard to corral into math, which is just as it ought to be. 
    A friend dumped all of her excess gf flours onto me the other day. Her bakery is kind of closed for the winter, and nobody is baking THM anymore around here anyway. So, that was a real windfall for me. This morning I took cups of almond meal, sorghum flour, and brown rice flour and mixed up some muffins. Don't ask me for the recipe, please. I never use a written recipe for muffins. You need to follow a few simple rules: the correct ratio of baking powder to flour, a little sugar, some eggs, fat, and spices. Last of all, throw in the right amount of frozen blueberries, in this case, and bake in left over Christmas cupcake papers... muffin pans. I sprinkled a few of Lisl's Thai maple flavored sugar squares on each one before baking. Little gourmet touch there.
    So, the beam guys came up from grunting/hauling oak logs around down there for uprights and took a muffin break. I put cold shavings of butter on the two halves of mine and ate it with a fork. Food, fit for a king! The guys poured milk and sugar over theirs and ate them with a spoon.
    The days are still rather short. You just get the day going good and suddenly it's two in the afternoon and clouding over and dusk is coming soon. I love this about winter, though. Because long winter evenings are ever so nice with warm stove fires and family times. I have a fresh pot of coffee ready. Amy will soon be home from work and then we'll have our coffee here by the fire and catch up after the weekend. You're welcome to join us. There are a few muffins left, too. And they're still warm.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year Inspirations

It's the time of the year for short days, winter blahs, and viruses. The sun is somewhere but we don't get to see it so often as we'd like because it's cold outside and we live where the trees filter both the sunrise and its setting.
It's the time of the year for too much stuff left over from the holidays: in the fridge and around the waist. The time of the year when a diet seems more like defeat than like trimming up a bit.
January has always been the month that I get decidedly bored with my house and my life. The children need to settle down to school, but nobody remembers the routine. And everything is dusty. Piles of books, games, projects, and misplaced household things are like noise in the library. Something has to change!
Yes, it's time to make changes. I am watching/listening to our daughters as they live and discuss the battle of winter depression and languor. It's real and it will get you down, girls.
So I remember. And I recognize what's happening. I see you working through these days and it makes me want to somehow wade in and help. I'll try to mind my own business then; yet I think it helps to hear from those who've been there.

     Add something new to your quiet time. I read a lot of Elizabeth George books during those days of feeling like life is grey. The greyer the day, the more needful was my quiet time. I added a journal and have been keeping it for 20 years now. Write your prayers out. Pray for a verse for you today.Write it there, too. Make a shelf or a basket by your chair where you rock the babies and put your book, Bible, notebook and pretty pen in there. Always handy and always something new to look forward to.
     Another thing I do every January is to get rid of clutter. The clutter of the holidays: Christmas decor, new gifts that haven't been put away, the movies and books we used, candy jars, burned out candles, you name it. Get it all tidied, stored, or returned.
    Last October when we had to abandon patio suppers and evening bike rides to batten down the hatches from rain and cold it was fun to set up candles and cozy corners for evenings at home by the fire. We added rugs and piles of books, remember? And it was fun to have the warming ambiance of puzzles laid out and stacks of fuzzy throws.  But now it is time for clean surfaces and cleared corners.
     The days are getting longer already, did you know that? Add some white to your world indoors to match the snow outside. White as in dusting all the furniture and clean doilies. White as in clean sheets on the beds. White as in a clean and cleared bathroom.  Add in a new laundry basket and hamper in white. Wash and fold away the extra throws from the living room. Wash that nasty kitchen rug and bleach the counters and door handles.
     Plan some simple soup suppers for these cold, sunny days in January. White chili, cheeseburger soup, and chowder.
    And take your vitamin D.  Our family doctor says that all of us girls should take vitamin D always here in our northern clime.
    Why not pack those babies all up and come over and see me? I'll get you to help me clear one of my surfaces around here. I bought a can of white pickling paint months ago for the bathroom in this house to refresh the knotty pine walls. It's time now.

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