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Posts from the ‘Home and Children’ Category

Exploring the Possibilities

Canon 50SX, minimal cropping. This is a black walnut collected from my farm in Wisconsin. I have a huge bag full of them waiting for me to crack open, collect the meat and use in culinary explorations; the husks are used to make walnut ink and dye, the shells can be ground into pincushion filling and mulch. What other uses/possibilities are there? My word/phrase is Explore the Possibilities

Each week, Ricky Tims issues a photo challenge. The first one each year is always a focus word. It is always fascinating to see what images people have chosen to represent their word or phrase; some take some take some thought to make the connection between the image and the word.

I was surprised to see my metadata show up as part of my image here—so I won’t write more about black walnut usage.

My dad would crack the walnuts for about fifteen minutes on the anvil in the basement putting them in an old pie tin and then he would pick out the meat during evening television time. Sometimes he would make fudge on a Sunday afternoon using those black walnuts.

Sometimes I sit on our front porch and crack/pick out black walnuts. Easing the frustrations of the day while whacking away at those hard shells, sampling the occasional bit, and remembering a different time with the problems and concerns and worries of those days long forgotten–and only the memory of the taste of those nuts and the sound of my father’s voice and the grin on his face and the callouses on his hands.

Fifty Y plus some days

Last month, a week before Christmas we celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary. It was considerably lower keyed than I had thought about the previous year at Number 49. But then each year has presented its own set of challenges.

I suppose it would be incumbent upon me to wax eloquent regarding the triumphs of such an accomplishment and offer sage advice to those with fewer years or facing the beginning of their relationship but the truth is, you just show up every day and deal with whatever problem is staring at you at the moment.

With all the social distancing it was hard to come up with something that felt celebratory—and in particular with nasty weather outside—reminiscent of the day before our wedding when the groom’s party was over an hour late to the rehearsal—and I wondered if I was going to be left at the altar—it was in prehistoric times of no cell phones—the drive was extremely foggy requiring slow progress. The next day, our wedding day, was bright and sunny but very cold—and husband to be washed his car, not realizing the washing process would freeze the door locks requiring him to crawl in through the back–while dressed in his tux.

We spent our honeymoon in a cabin in the Wisconsin North Woods—I got dumped into a snowbank from the back of a snow-mobile as the snow-mobiles don’t corner nearly as well as a motorcycle. We ate bean soup cooked on a wood-burning stove that heated the cabin.

So with such an auspicious beginning, it should not have come as a surprise to spend our fiftieth eating appetizers from the frozen food section of the local grocery store—shopping being limited to less than fifteen minutes door to door for me due to my high risk status and previous near encounter with a ventilator—and then later a trip to the beach for our ‘formal’ fiftieth portrait.

I had thought to wear my wedding dress, yes, it still fits—but not exactly appropriate beach attire. But then I’m not planning to wear it again–but maybe next year?

Should we aim for another fifty? or just settle for one day, one week, one month at a time? Probably far more practical and doable.

Waiting Around

With the holiday season in full swing and people putting up Christmas decorations before the Thanksgiving turkey is thawed prior to roasting, people wishing the year would end, and rude comments made about the year’s events….I am being polite here; there are other words I would use to describe the commentary over the past few years and especially this year.

It seems that people are wishing their life away instead of looking at what they do have. Perhaps the long years of schooling have given me the sense of what delayed gratification looks and feels like; perhaps growing up on a farm where few things if any were instant click on an icon type projects; perhaps some of my artwork constructed one piece, one stitch at a time or perhaps my natural introverted nature puts a different spin.

I can’t say this year has been fun. I don’t enjoy wearing a mask; I don’t enjoy not seeing family or friends; I don’t enjoy virtual church, I don’t enjoy the most exciting project of the day being what shall we have for supper tonight, and then there’s scrolling through social media trying to find something that isn’t a nasty comment about someone or something.

But there is a comfort in routine and rules. Rules create boundaries that we may not like but are there to create order. While I may think stopping at the end of my driveway in rural Wisconsin is a foolish endeavor, it is meant for my safety and the safety for others—although those others may rarely drive past my house making the whole idea of stopping seem a frivolous and useless task.

Routines keep us moving and to use the old maxim-keep the world turning. Children and dogs—and us–thrive on routine. It is knowing what is expected and the predictable outcome that gives comfort when chaos descends upon us. The occasional outlier—a vacation; an unexpected gift or visit, a new job shake up our lives pleasantly—and then there are the others that are not so fun—and we are grateful to return to the humdrum of making coffee at 3:30 AM to get ready to drive to work at 4 AM.

Those days and weeks of work were tolerable because there was always some sort of reward in the offing—perhaps a wintery day spent on the beach or staying up late to photograph a lunar eclipse.

Roseate Spoonbill at Sea Rim State Park, Texas

Empanadas

Empanadas filled with pineapple or sweet potato are usually on the shelf at the local Mexican bakery. But what if I wanted to give them a try myself? With pandemic still in full swing or maybe even an upsurge in recent months, cooking/baking has become a renewed past-time. If I can’t go out to eat, then maybe I can experiment in my kitchen……

Diligently I sought out a recipe/instructions on the internet. I could have called my daughter-in-law but although she speaks English quite nicely, I find it difficult to understand over the phone. But I found a nice tutorial complete with videos–I could almost smell it cooking. He made a meat mixture and given that it is almost Thanksgiving, I used ground turkey meat.

Some years ago, I found myself with some time to go shopping in a Crate and Barrel store. How can anyone resist walking out of there without some small treasure at hand? I found a small press—I thought for empanadas–but now I think it might be for Chinese dumplings.

I made the dough, chilled it, and then rolled out nearly three dozen sort of circles. The guy on the video made it look extraordinarily easy–but my edges were always ragged and the shape more like an abused oval that had been through a hurricane or two.

So here they are.

They were tasty; but I think I will try to find a larger press; and someone made reference to finding the dough/crust circles pre-made—or even using puff pastry.

Cotton Fields

My grandmother had picked a stalk of cotton during one of her trips to Georgia and displayed it in a vase on top of her upright piano. In that same vase were some stalks of oats I had picked for her on the edge of one of our fields. She had covered the grains with brightly colored aluminum foil–a painstaking task occupying many hours. I always wondered where she had gotten so many different colors–purple, green, blue, red—we only had the plain silver. And now that I think back on it, I am sure she scavenged that foil from floral arrangements from the three cemeteries she maintained as one of her means of income.

I wondered what fields of cotton would look like—maybe like a field of white roses near Geough Georgia, a small town consisting of a cotton gin, a post office/general store and a school. I had been volunteered as a newly minted MD to supervise a health clinic at the school– I think they mostly talked about diet and brushing teeth.

Texas does grow cotton and here is one of those fields. Menger was a cotton farmer who developed several different kinds of machinery to process the cotton. I stood at the side of the field to take this photo; there was cotton as far as I could see on both sides of the road.

cotton flower

A fence, a chicken, two dogs and Hurricane Delta

Hurricane Delta arrived and left quickly enough but not fast enough to wear out her welcome. The wind was not too bad in comparison to Hurricane Ike or Rita or even Humberto. We got some rain but again not too bad in comparison to Harvey. And we lost power for only an hour and a half compared to Laura–most of a day, Rita–ten days, Ike–ditto.

But we were left with a large part of our fence caved in and a carpet of crepe myrtle leaves and tiny to not so tiny branches in our backyard. The cattle panels lining the back fence—a necessary item due to some of our neighbors envious of our belongings and a dog that thinks the world is hers to explore—were twisted.

I suppose we should feel complimented that we are considered to be able-bodied enough to deal with the consequences of a hurricane without assistance. I have been picking up the leaves and twigs using a rake and a wheelbarrow, spacing out the trips to the brush pile on the street. We bought a kennel for the dogs and put it together.

However, the dogs were not good sports about the kennel, whining and crying and I felt incredibly vulnerable without that fence. The dogs required walking two or three times a day plus two trips to the dog park–one excretory function apparently can only be accomplished with a bit of running about—–and I only run if someone yells fire. They also thought it was fine to just sit and survey their surroundings for long moments==my back does not enjoy standing—walking or sitting—but not standing.

So off to Home Depot to get some T-stakes, and then some effort —–actually considerable effort even using a long board and pipe as a lever—raising these long panels of fence, propping it up in several places. We did not renew our windstorm insurance or house insurance so thankfully I do not have to deal with adjusters who seemed to always tell me how over-worked and stressed they were as they handed off my claim to yet another adjuster.

We now have a fence that looks intact–but wouldn’t take much to knock it down, a chicken that lays eggs three to four times a week—she skipped the days of the hurricane and the day after—and if chickens had lower lips, hers would have been stuck out as she had to stay inside her coop until the fence was repaired— and two very spoiled dogs.

I have more sticks and branches to pick up, but my back says it is done for the day and needs to rest. I do have a few sewing projects to work on—and then it will be time to make a pumpkin pie and supper.

Postcard Day

There are so many ‘official’ days celebrating or honoring things—I’m particularly fond of doughnut day and then there’s pi day. Last week was World Postcard Day—and also home-made cookie Day.

I have long enjoyed collecting postcards and have a nice collection of the Mississippi River, bridges over it, boats in it. My favorites are the ones that have been mailed with the lovely hand-script of days ago on the backs along with the postage stamps marked with the date. It is like holding a piece of history in my hands.

I have also belonged to a group that randomly assigned addresses from around the world to send and receive postcards. It is a great hobby for someone whose work hours are erratic and whose health precludes more active hobbies.

When I heard about October 1 as World PostCard Day, I retrieved my selection of cards and addressed them to as many young people as I knew in my family. I have yet to hear if any have been received. But it was a fun adventure selecting postcards and then attaching Bugs Bunny or Disney villain stamps to each.

poatcards along with a bill or two ready to mail

Pumpkin Moon

Days seem to pass without a lot of definition and not being quite sure what day of the month it is or even what month it is seems to be a common malady in these really weird times. In times before paper calendars and watches and electronic devices, people kept time by the phases of the moon and the changing seasons whether it be fall color or rain.

Yesterday was a full moon.

A year or more ago, there was an eclipse of the moon—we observed it on the nearby beach–it was definitely very cold that night–but it was fun. The next eclipse, I took photos standing on the sidewalk in front of our house despite the street lamps. That was also a fun adventure as we interspersed it with a movie—the wonders of DVD’s and Netflix where you can stop whenever you like.

This October there will be two full moons—yesterday’s–taken from my front porch and then on October 31—the Blue Moon.

I suppose it looks a bit orange—and that is Mars just below it. Venus is also visible in the morning sky but it is hard to pick out much due to the street lamps.

Another view from my front porch

A Man and His Dog

My Dad always enjoyed the company of dogs, tolerated cats if they were good mousers, hated chickens unless they were in pieces on the dinner table. My mother was not so fond of large dogs and in their later years, they had a Lhasa Apsa.

Our first dog in this house was Babette She was originally the neighbor’s dog but with three little boys coaxing her to come play with them, the neighbor finally gave up keeping her in his yard and gave her to us. Babette was a poodle mix, loyal, and empathetic to the max. She always seemed to know who needed some extra attention.

We spent some years without a dog; but then acquired two rescue puppies after our home was burglarized and vandalized by some neighbors.

Toby, the tall one and always up for an adventure is part Border Collie and we think Lab. Dora is Australian Shepherd/Border Collie and knows her duty is to keep tabs on my husband. This includes bathroom door guarding, waiting at the door for him to return from wherever he has gone. The first time he left without her, she panicked; racing from window to window and shrieking. Now in her more mature years, she knows he will be back.

They have become accustomed to daily trips to the local dog park—and as a treat one day we took them to Cat-Tail Marsh. We walked along the dikes and then returned home–everyone was tired and ready for a nice long drink of water.

The marsh is part of the sewage treatment of the city and while that doesn’t sound very nice, it is actually a wonderfully diverse ecosystem with lots of birds and the occasional alligator.

Today I ventured out to the dog park. Toby and Dora were beyond excited over the prospect and were extremely well behaved, waiting for me to put their leashes on before we arrived and letting me take them off when we returned. We didn’t stay long as another dog arrived about fifteen minutes afterward—but I feel accomplished…..and got a nice doggy kiss of appreciation on the way home.

Powering up after Hurricane Laura

jetsam-mAccording to the National Weather Service, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Marco was responsible for the last minute wobble in Laura’s path to deviate into Louisiana instead of here in Beaumont Texas. Just east of us in Orange County and I’m told they had significant damage. We were on the ‘clean’ side of the hurricane and outside of a lot of small twigs and a carpet of crepe myrtle leaves on our lawn escaped most of the damage.

fern20jetsam-mHowever, our power went out and some neighborhoods will not have power until sometime this next week. Our internet which is quixotic in the best of times is even less reliable.

live20oak20cluster-mFriends and family have called to see if we are okay….now that we are in the ‘feeble three legged cane’ age group—although neither of us possesses such a thing. Running a generator to power our refrigerator, a box fan and our freezer took some doing including dismantling my pantry shelves to get at the plug for the refrigerator—why don’t appliance people put an accessory plug somewhere near the front of the machine?

pink20vine-mWe have power now and we are trying to clear up some of the trash left behind. I took a few photos around the neighborhood—while I could focus on the things that have destroyed or the boarded up buildings, there are plenty of those photos taken by others.

purple20flower-mIt is hard to get back to ‘normal’ whatever that is in these days. I decided I would clean out my sewing machine desk drawers—what a wealth of useless stuff I found! Instruction manuals for a DVD player long consigned to the trash as non-functional, several packages of rotary cutter blades–like most I use mine until they cut like I am chewing on the fabric instead of cutting it cleanly.

down20the20street-mYesterday I brought back an unused cart from the shop to see if I could put the bits and pieces of fabric—too big and good to toss—seems I am related to my grandmother who lived through the Depression and World War II rationing. Today I might do some sorting and see if I can use that new saw I bought to cut up some of the larger limbs so I can haul them to the side for big trash pickup day.

Tomorrow is a new day—we have tonight’s meal planned—pizza from the freezer.