Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"in the dark"

"New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark. ..

Contemplating the Christ Child in the manger scene is not a matter of fleeting sentimentality but a wonderful grace and opportunity to let go of our bright ideas about God, so that our eyes are open anew to the God who is...God deliberately, mercifully, made himself small in Bethlehem at a predawn hour so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him as the light of our life, a light that always shines in our darkness, a light that only love bestows and discovers."

                                                      -  "borrowed", from here

Monday, December 28, 2015

staying in

I saw this on a Tumblr blog, but don't know where it originated.

Too cute to resist, though.

*Okay - it's from Lily and Val

Friday, December 25, 2015

fun at Joanne's

Feasting, and always laughing,

and Teddy doing the cute cat thing and getting into a bag.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Love, the Lord is on the way

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

homemade wrappings

I bought a pine cone and a chickadee stamp, and Cyndi gave me one for these trees and a couple of other things on my birthday. The snowflakes were borrowed. I also bought white and charcoal stamp pads. I'm determined to use my *free* wrinkled brown packing paper for gifts as much as I can, which means actually ironing it sometimes, but I'm doing that two or three times a week, anyway.

One difficulty I'm having is finding ribbon to match. This stretchy piece of silver came in handy. I have a lot to learn, and will get more practice later.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas card box

The cards we've received are usually put in a small basket, but this pretty box seems a better choice.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Love, the bird, is on the way

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledgling time has chosen.
People, look east, and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


and a good day for baking cookies and making curtains.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

a dolly-ism: keeping it all under control

However busy your holiday season,

make sure to stay on top of your Christmas card list.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

some Christmas sparkle

I grabbed the sparkling tree as soon as I walked into the museum gift shop. Funny how there are some things you don't have to think twice about.

Maybe fourteen inches high; a rigid narrow cone, with what seems to be a sequined trim wound round and round it, stiffened with something. The trim, if that's what it's made with, isn't totally sequined all along it, but it looks like a light brownish yarn or thread with some sequins dotted along it, which keeps the whole from looking garish.

It's on a shelf above the sink, a just-right mix of rustic glimmer.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Love, the Guest, is on the way

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

the birthday

In case anyone wondered how my birthday went - it was very, very nice.

It started out, on the day, with a cake baked by a co-worker - birthday people always get a cake where I work - and it was a good one: chocolate, with pudding and sour cream in the batter, plus chocolate chips. And cream cheese frosting!  Yes, that was a big hit. Later, my brother got out of work early and picked up our dinners from a favorite deli in the next town. I got their mac 'n cheese, which is excellent.

The next day Debra treated me to lunch at our favorite brunch place. So much charm there

and even outside the place.

I had crab cakes! Deb had fancy French toast, with white chocolate and raspberries!

Later, two consignment shops - one with prices more like a tag sale, and I saw a metal angel with great personality.

One dollar. And a handful of linen napkins for three.

On Sunday, my generous brother picked up Nancy and Eileen  and the four of us went to the city, to the art museum, which has recently re-opened their cafe. So, a nice dinner there, and then a wander around the place to see the paintings, and their annual Christmas tree festival.

That's Nancy in the plaid skirt. She was stopped twice and complimented on her attire. (red tights, too!) She looked so festive.   

I wanted my picture taken with Vincent.

But I forgot to look at the camera. ahem.

This is a modern art area on a higher floor. Looking down, we were able to see a concert by a local black church choir. Such singing! It seemed like each one did a solo - they were all that good.

We so enjoyed the day!  And, I was successfully distracted from thinking about turning sixty. ;-)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"He stirs"

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
 See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. 
Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 
The Lord will possess Judah as his portion in the holy land, and he will again choose Jerusalem. Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the Lord! 
For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

-  Zechariah 2: 14-17

mosaic at Church of the Holy Spirit in Chora, Turkey

Thursday, December 10, 2015

swirly bowls

I got these sturdy bowls for a dollar or two apiece at the supermarket - just a few, for the times when we need something microwavable.  The blue ones are cool to look at in summer; gold for fall into winter.

Red for Christmas time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord"

Today was a feast of Mary - the Immaculate Conception

(by Murillo)

I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation,
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.

Nations shall behold your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you shall be called by a new name
pronounced by the mouth of the Lord.
You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord,
a royal diadem hold by your God.

- from the book of Judith, chapter 13

Monday, December 7, 2015

Henry eats a blueberry

There's no picture of it; it happened so fast. The blueberry container tumbled out of the fridge and they were all over the place. He seized his opportunity, and ate one.

I never give fruit to the cats; it can't be good for them - they don't show interest in it, anyway - cats can't taste sweet. So it's kinda funny that Henry ate this blueberry.

He's not saying if he liked it. He's not saying anything. But I say, "Henry, you'll eat a blueberry, but you won't eat my homemade roast chicken, or baked fresh fish." Really.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

light in the darkness

"Christ is the light not of our eyes but of our minds. In Advent, we cry out in the darkness: O Lord, make us see! As Christ comes to us in word and sacrament, in prayer and in daily life, we do indeed begin to see the world differently by the light of faith. We see by his eyes rather than our own. And as we see, so we live."

                                                      -  Magnificat, December 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

about aging

It's my birthday!  I'm sixty. Nobody really wants to think of themselves as 60, but of course, we want to keep living. So it's not the worst thing, even though inside we're still feeling like we must be twenty five.  But I didn't have a real problem with this milestone - I mean, it is what it is.

A story:

 I remember my cousin Charlie, years ago, having a big problem with being thirty. He's more than ten years older than me, but at the time I thought, thirty? what's the issue with that? But I did have a real problem with forty. And I didn't expect that.

When I turned 36 I became aware of something inside me, something that was beginning to be alarmed at the idea of turning forty. I was surprised at it, and a little concerned, but it wasn't with me all the time. At thirty seven, it was a little stronger, etc., until I was 39 and I realized that I honestly didn't know what was going to transpire when I turned forty, because there really isn't anything you can do about it, is there?  Well, I mean, reasonably. But there was this dread within, which could only come to a head on the day, and - what would I do?  Go into a panic?  I didn't know.

At that time, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. I'm a political conservative, for the most part, and when he started his program, there was precious little in the media for conservatives - they are overwhelmingly Democrats and it is evident in their reportage. So, Rush was a real breath of fresh air; now I feel I've had enough of that kind of thing.  Anyway, one day I was washing the floor, and listening, and he (he's a few years older than I) said when he was a kid, he always looked forward to getting into his forties!  He could see that most folks were just finding out their place in the world in their twenties, getting established in their thirties, and by their forties, they were comfortable and knew where they belonged. I perked up at this speech, and it made me feel better. But for only a short while. Because I realized something: this "thing" within me was not a matter of logic or reason; if so, I could talk myself out of it. Even though I knew it didn't make sense, it was still there, and I didn't know where it came from - why it was there.

The day came - I was home, not working. I know what time I was born - 3:43 pm (EST) and during the day I'd find myself looking in the mirror, wondering if I'd flip out or anything. Suddenly, I realized the time had passed. I looked in the mirror; the realization came to me, deep within - I looked the same, I felt the same, everything was the same. That "feeling" fell away, and never came back.

This realization, of course, was nothing earth shaking, but the way it resounded within me was, I guess. I haven't had a recurrence of this either today, or ten years ago. It was all very strange, but I'm grateful, to say the least!

The end.  :)

Henry, who only worries about his next meal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hanukkah buns

A Jewish co-worker, for the past two years, has treated us to a Hanukkah lunch at work. She schleps in a big soup pot and skillet; she makes matzoh ball soup and latkes from boxes; she works hard, considering she's not a cook and freely admits it. So we have a nice, warm lunch and applesauce!

Well, this year it dawned on some of us that she might like us to chip in with something, so Cheryl is going to make kugel and I was thinking of rugelach. The problem was that the traditional fillings aren't chocolate, and that's what she was craving. So, I googled rugelach with chocolate filling. But, this is what caught my eye - we all agreed I should try them.

I was quite nervous about it - as much as I like to play with yeast bread recipes, I wasn't going to mess with this one. The rising times were longer than hers, and I think hers look nicer than mine. I think if I ever make them again, I'll give them a shorter second rise - mine look too puffy compared to hers. They are in the freezer, and our party is next Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"the ancient dream of peace"

Behold a broken world, we pray,
Where want and war increase,
And grant us, Lord, in this our day,
The ancient dream of peace.

A dream of swords to sickles bent,
Of spears to scythe and spade,
The weapons of our warfare spent,
A world of peace remade.

O Prince of peace, who died to save,
A lost world to redeem,
And rose in triumph from the grave,
Behold our waking dream.

Bring, Lord, your better world to birth,
Your kingdom, love's domain;
Where peace with God, and peace on earth,
And peace eternal reign.

             -  from Magnificat, December 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

afternoon snack

I saw the squirrel from the kitchen window, on the bridge railing, holding an apple. I was surprised at it; I see them with small things like nuts. Then he was gone, leaving the apple in his place.

Did he mean to come back to it? 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

wrapped in glory bright

"During the first part of Advent we look not backward toward Jesus' first coming in Bethlehem but forward to Christ's return at the end of time in glory."

                                                   -  from Magnificat, November 2015

When thou shalt come, O Lord,
Wrapped in thy glory bright,
Then shall the earth in terror quake,
The sun withhold his light.

When thou shalt come, O Lord,
Then to thy judgment -bar,
E'en as a mighty stream, shall flow
The sons of men from far.

When thou shalt come, O Lord,
Then shall the books be spread,
And from their secrets thou shalt judge
The living and the dead.

When thou shalt come, O Lord,
Then save me by thy pow'r,
Let not the flames of wrath o'ertake
Thy servant in that hour.

When thou shalt come, O Lord,
In mercy let me stand -
No guilt upon my conscience laid -
Approved, at thy right hand. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

the Polish lady bakes again

My brother came home Wednesday with something baked by that Polish lady  - the one who could open a bakery, I'm sure.  I thought it might be that gingerbread she'd made the first time, but no.

Who's complaining?  She bakes everything to perfection.

Friday, November 27, 2015

little neighbors

Two little mice surprised me when I went to (finally) empty my composter for the garden; it's been so mild I felt no urgency. I'd disturbed their slumbers!

They were so cute, and seemed unafraid of me. Or, too paralyzed by fear. Either way, I actually ran in the house to get my camera and they were still there!

You can see that I was quite close, and I apologized profusely. I wanted to shoo them back in and wait till spring to use the compost, but then one jumped away and down the driveway, and the other followed.

Over at the garden I looked up and saw that I was being watched.

But he hadn't seen the mice.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

October 3, 1789

"Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor; and - whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me 'to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks for his kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of his providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner inwhich we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which he has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, and peace. and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best."

                                                              -   George Washington   from Magnificat, November 2015

A Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

leaf cookie template

I've been wanting to make these cookies; I have no leaf-shaped cookie cutter. I do have a pumpkin shape and I may use it, but I really like these as leaves.

I went outside and took the first flat-ish leaf I saw, which wasn't so simple because they're mostly dried up and curling. But this one - which was softer and flatter when I brought it in - got traced and lines drawn on it, and I hope to use it whenever I can get to it. The dough is made, and waiting.

Monday, November 23, 2015

a very long rise

I once heard Claus Meyer say - talking about bread - that you should let it rise for twenty four hours if you had to. I'm glad he said it and even gladder that it stuck with me.

Saturday I mixed up some dough for oat bread from Kneadlessly Simple. It was already afternoon, and without thinking, I used cold water which is what I usually do, but the night before. The dough, which contained just one teaspoon of yeast for two medium sized loaves, wasn't going anywhere. I knew I didn't want to end up having to bake it in the middle of the night, so into the fridge it went. I removed it before bed - between nine and ten o'clock, but in the morning it was still just like a lump. The thought came to me to toss it, but I said No! I had the three days off in a row - it had to rise sometime! I would just wait. Consequently, that first rise took all Sat. night and most of Sunday to happen. I then deflated it and put it in two loaf pans for the overnight.

This picture was taken maybe midday today. And I still waited a couple of hours more before baking. The total rising time for this bread not counting refrigerator time, was a day and a half!

In the midst of all this waiting and checking I realized the house was two degrees cooler than I thought, so I turned up the heat. So there were several factors involved there.

Meanwhile, I was so busy cleaning, etc., that I actually forgot I was baking bread and when the oven timer went off the loaves looked almost burnt. But I will tell you: they aren't burnt, and what with all that slow rising, so much flavor developed that it. is. truly. delicious.  And these are the things I find so fascinating about baking bread.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

just a funny story

"If you read all the signs", said Dick at breakfast, which is the time we always take for leisurely conversation, "you realize they work the caretaker with rigid discipline."

Did he mean church, cattle, or children? We had been discussing all three. I waited while he drank the milk out of his glass, poured cream and then coffee into the glass.

"They don't want a lot of loud talk and conversation. They won't tolerate changes. They don't want to be driven; they just want to be served." The church, I decided.

"You try to get them in, and they'll stand in the doorway, blockin' the way...." Yes, the church certainly. His words exactly described the Maple Grove congregation pausing between the old stone wall and the front steps to talk plowing, tractors, crops, and beef prices, reluctant to break it up even when the old upright piano starts clanging: Bring them in, bring them inStill, it might be the children; sometimes it's hard to get them in to meals.

"And if one of 'em has horns, she's got things her way. Now horses will go right in and kick the slats out of everything they don't like, but a cow will just stand there, lookin'..."

It was a relief, finally to know.

                                                        -   Rural Free, by Rachel Peden

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

artisan bulb dibber

Yesterday was so unexpectedly mild - I ran outside to finally plant my crocus bulbs in the front bed, around the rhododendron. I know I should have done it two months ago - they're the earliest-blooming - I hope they'll have enough time underground. It's been so much warmer than usual, that I didn't know if they'd start growing under there before their time. We'll see.

My brother had been going to Agway when I yelled out, Get me a bulb dibber! Do you know, they didn't have one?  He brought me back a thing which will take a chunk of dirt up - you stick it in the ground and twist - and make a place for your plantings. But it's not a bulb dibber. I had to go online, and when I saw this on etsy, that was it!  A real beauty.

Monday, November 16, 2015

fresh dill

Debra gave me some of her dill plant a few months ago. I stuck it in the ground, but it didn't seem to go anywhere. Till recently, that is. And after a couple of hard frosts, too!  Spread over a good portion in one of the gardens, low to the ground and lush, like it must be springtime.

I decided if it wants to take over that much space, I'm not going to thwart it.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

rest in peace

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
Let perpetual light shine upon them,
May they rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, November 13, 2015

a simple button

Right before the warm weather arrived, I finished the Lily Linen dress pattern from Tessuti Fabrics. I made it in a light corduroy and so was only able to wear it once, until it recently got cool again.

It has a wide neckline and I have narrow shoulders, so it gaped and I didn't like it. I looked through my online pins, and saw this (the third photo). I love it. At first glance, you think she is wearing something way too big for her, and just found this overlarge safety pin which happens to make it all look fabulous. But the bottom seems to fit, so I guess it was made that way. It's terrific anyhow. And I wouldn't mind trying that idea out on a very large knit top of some kind, maybe. But, my dress. This kind of thing could work there! - but something more permanent than a pin.

I thought of tacking it down with an embroidery stitch or two, but the truth is, I'm not much at embroidery. A button!  Suddenly, it came to me. I dug around and found the one I had which looked best, but nothing special. And, voila!  I really like it.

excuse the clumsy selfie

I wore it today and no more gaping. And even though it's not in the center, nothing seemed lopsided. Yes!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

affirmation for Val

I just was reading Val's post here, and then picked up my book, Rural Free by Rachel Peden.

"Do the winter fields look pretty to you? asked Dick (her husband) as we stood at the front window watching the children get on the school bus.  I thought the view of bare trees and snowy fields, through John Fielder's living room window, was just simply beautiful. John's window looks out on a faded red barn, a nice-sized creek, and a stony hillside with two dead elms at the foot of it. Actually, if the rain's not running down your neck, and your feet aren't cold, any winter day on the farm is beautiful, he added. "

This book was written in sixty-one, and was recently withdrawn from our library collection. Well, we have to buy new things, and we have to make room for them! But, I love these kinds of writings. This woman was no Gladys Taber, but any journal type book of farming or country life - from the past, especially - is so appealing.

[About Dick]: "A year at the Purdue University did not change his farm way of talking, any more than a comb could take the curl out of his dark hair. But a man can be poetic by nature and yet express himself in the handy, accurate language of farmers. 
He has prejudices and strong personal opinions. He is left-handed, tall, slightly stooped, and now wears bifocal glasses. He likes to read; prefers the sophisticated New Yorker magazine...to the farm magazines, which he finds depressing. "

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The Pity of the Leaves

Vengeful across the cold November moors,
Loud with ancestral shame there came the bleak
Sad wind that shrieked, and answered with a shriek
Reverberant through lonely corridors.
The old man heard it; and he heard, perforce,
Words out of lips that were no more to speak -
Words of the past that shook the old man's cheek
Like dead, remembered footsteps on old floors.

And then there were the leaves that plagued him so!
The brown, thin leaves that on the stones outside
Skipped with a freezing whisper. Now and then
They stopped - and stayed there - just to let him know
How dead they were, but if the old man cried,
They fluttered off like withered souls of men.

-  Edwin Arlington Robinson

Here in the U.S. it's a day to honor veterans, but today I've been thinking about the first world war, and the armistice which is being remembered abroad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

more bread ruminations

I have spoken here about the bread-making method I usually use, but there's another. My usual  method is to mix up the yeast, water and some of the flour the night before, which is some kind of preferment, and then finish it up the next day. Of course, I'm doing this on my day off. But sometimes on my days off I can't seem to get to it - and I confess that I don't really want to eat store bought bread anymore.

Way back when, I tried the five minute artisan method, but it wasn't for me. I didn't want dough in the fridge all the time; I certainly didn't need to make one loaf per day; I did not really want all my bread to be similar, from the same base recipe. I did want to experiment with different bread recipes.
After poking through the bread books on Amazon, I settled on Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. Yes, this was it!

She has many recipes included - it is a cookbook, after all - and all the ones I've tried are very good tasting. (although I will say that her amounts of water seem like too much - I always end up adding much more flour; either that, or I just start out with half of her suggested water amounts.) But it's also a method, and at the end she explains how to adapt your other bread recipes to this method of hers.

Very basically, you are roughly mixing up her ingredients - and she uses a very small amount of yeast - with ice water, and then refrigerating the dough for three to ten hours. It's then put out at room temp for at least twelve hours, and maybe up to twenty four.  You then shape it, and let it rise the second time, which is usually two hours; then bake it.

This is very convenient if you're working. Yesterday afternoon I mixed up my dough, and it was in the fridge from 4:45 until ten-ish. Out on a kitchen shelf all night, and until I came home today after five. I immediately reshaped it into a loaf, and let it rise. It's very helpful to have different ways of baking your bread according to your schedule! Not to mention that the long rise in the cold is what develops the flavor. If you're interested in bread, check out this book.