Saturday, March 27, 2010

Birthday Mum and Birthday Boy

Happy first Birthday to littlest Grandson and to his lovely Mum --- He was born on her birthday, one year ago today!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Don't Mess With The Tried And True

Residents of the Chilly North, to wit Lily, Hubby and boys, breezed in to have breakfast with us last Saturday when we were barely out of bed. They'd driven all night, en route to a week at the beach, another hour south of us.

In anticipation of their arrival I had made a cake. I found the recipe in the food section of the newspaper earlier in the week. It was called Depression Cake. Two cups of hot, strong coffee were involved---always a good sign. A generous number of raisins, some shortening, some sugar and lots of spices were added. No eggs, no butter, no milk---hence, a cake that could be made when those commodities were in short supply, during the Great Depression. What the heck, I thought. I always like to try something new.

Lily could not help smiling when she spotted the cake on the kitchen counter. Lifted the cloth covering it, smiled, and said "Oh! Chocolate!"

"Oh-oh!" I thought. "Now I'm in trouble."

I should know better than to mess with the tried and true. Keeping my voice cheerful, I explained how I'd spotted it in the paper last week; how it sounded "interesting." How it was called Depression Cake....Surely she'd be intrigued by that.

"Oh. I think you mean 'Depressing Cake,'" she responded glumly.

"Why depressing?" I asked, knowing full well.

"Because it looks like chocolate...But it's not. I call that depressing!"

Looked like that cake was going to stick around for a while. Grandson number one said he'd try some, but one bite and he changed his mind. What had I been thinking,I wondered. Some of the pistons in my brain [brains have pistons,right?] must have mis-fired......No one was showing the least bit of enthusiasm.

The OC likes a smackeral of something sweet with his tea in the evening. That's something he has in common with Winnie the Pooh...As a result, he has something else in common with that endearing bear! But even he turned up his nose at my Depression Cake. So, if you want the recipe, you'll have to call the newspaper. Or dig down to the bottom of my rubbish bin.

Yesterday I made another cake. A Tried and True cake. A cake I've made a few hundred times before. And carried it to Lily at the beach. To atone for my sin. A cake I knew would not depress her. Because it has cocoa and chocolate chips. And, in case the calories incline her towards depression, the beach is right outside her door, so she can run it off......

By the time we left the beach last night, every crumb of the Not-Depressing cake had vanished.

Which just goes to show, if you have a sure thing, don't turn your back on it in favour of a depressing experiment!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Little Rant By A Little Voice In My Head

Emboldened by my success at growing radishes, [see above], albeit puny ones, in spite of impressive verdure [today's word of the day from Merriam Webster!] I decided to apply to take a master gardener course offered by the county. Bit of a leap from novice radish grower to master gardener, but, one should aim high I've always heard. Not that I'll be magically transformed or anything like that. All day, every Friday, for twelve weeks, will be devoted to trying to cram horticultural knowledge into the few wits remaining in my cranial cavity, if I'm accepted into the course.

I see-sawed back and forth about applying, but then figured, looking at it from a purely selfish point of view, I could only come out ahead, as my brain would be snatched from the gaping jaws of senility by the necessity of flexing and stretching it to accommodate all this seed and weed know-how.

Filling out the form was easy, until I came to a question near the end.

"Do you work?" was the question. As in, "Are you employed?"

This usually rattles me because I know the answer they expect from the likes of me. I'm possibly a little hyper-sensitive on the subject since my father-in-law, bless his aged, bald, and shiny pate, has made a point of needling me about my lack of "gainful" employment for the last forty years. He especially likes to tell tales from the old country. One in particular, about a new bride whose f-i-l informs her, soon after her marriage to his son that, in his household, those who don't work don't eat. All the while casting pseudo jocular glances in my direction. As though washing his son's underwear and raising his grandchildren were merely hobbies to fill the gaps between tropical vacations and frothy bubble baths....

Reluctantly I marked the "No" box. But a rebellious little voice in my head objected, and went on a little rant. Something like this:

No. Instead of working I like to spend my days cleaning toilets; sweeping floors; keeping ahead of clutter; changing bed sheets; doing laundry; folding clothes; occasionally even ironing them; shopping for groceries; planning meals; cooking meals; cleaning up after meals; trying not to trip over the cat; taking the aforementioned, decidedly unwilling animal, to the vet, which cannot be accomplished until he is in the cat carrier, into which he can only be wrestled by three muscular grown men wearing leather gloves and face protection.

Or one determined housewife who does not work.

Other desultory activities include, but are not limited to, staying in touch with the children; listening to problems; making sympathetic noises when I can offer nothing better; cheering them on when things go well; remembering birthdays; visiting my aged and cantankerous father-in-law, grinding my teeth and holding my tongue while so doing [years of practice]; pulling weeds; planting vegetables; pulling more weeds; planting more vegetables; making lists; losing lists; making more lists; wasting time looking for lists I've lost; writing on Blogger; searching, always, for a pen that works---in a house that has as many pens as a raccoon has fleas; making, remembering, and keeping appointments with doctors, dentists, chiropractors, vets and friends; trying to make regular dents in the UFO pile; trying not to start new projects that will ensure I do not make those dents......

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Changed my answer to "Yes."

Next question: If "yes," what is your job title?

General dogsbody?

Don't get me wrong. I have a good life and much to be thankful for. As long as I keep the house from falling down, I can set my own schedule, and carve out time for the really important things in life --- reading, writing and quilting. I only think about running away to join the circus once every three weeks or so. Besides, the circus is here. Just because I don't get a salary for being the ringmaster doesn't mean it isn't a job...doesn't mean I'm not employed.

So, revised short answer: Yes, I work.

What else could I add that might tip the scales? Flexible schedule. Plus, I'm willing! Important because, in return for the knowledge, those who complete the course have to commit to many hours volunteering at garden and plant shows, answering phones---and, intriguingly, writing articles. Now they're talking! But one is probably required to have a clue about gardening before one can write about it! Ergo......

How am I doing Isabelle? I shouldn't blithely toss out vague promises, such as "I'm going to post something every other day." Because you never know who's listening and taking notes. I hereby amend my foolishness to "every other day, or two, or three, or four or even seven!"

And still waiting, and sighing, for reciprocation from the motherland [or maybe that should be the sisterland....]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Keeping Isabelle Happy..........

Bumbling along from day to day, I sometimes wonder where I'm going, why I'm going there, what, if anything, will happen when I get there, and does any of it matter? When I was growing up there was no requirement to think, apart from muddling out the answers to arithmetic homework. In fact we were discouraged from questioning, especially in matters of religion. The Church had all the answers, even before we asked the questions. Don't worry, put your faith in God, say your prayers, do what you're told, go to confession on Saturday, to Mass on Sunday, don't pull your sister's hair or kick your brother in the shins, don't eat meat on Fridays and, for heaven's sake, keep your legs together.

But now, it seems to me, religion has lost its stranglehold on our lives. I find myself disillusioned, and vaguely angry that I was fed all those pat answers, and frowningly discouraged from asking "why?" and other impertinent questions. I have not suddenly stopped believing in God, but it does seem that a lot of what I was taught growing up were simply stories to make us conform, to make us behave a certain way, to make us easy to control. And who is it that wants us to be so docile?

One of the "givens" was that if we lived by the rules we'd go to heaven in the end and be happy there for all eternity. Heaven was a vague, pastel place, full of fluffy clouds, and angels sporting huge, feathery wings, making beautiful music on various stringed instruments. It was a place where you would be re-united with all the people you had loved who'd died before you. The party line was that the only thing that died was your body. Your soul, or spirit, that intangible that made you you, would live on. It was up to you, and how well you conformed with all the rules, whether you would spend eternity in the pastel place, or in a fiery, much hotter place, listening to horrible rap for all eternity.

Several people I loved have died over the years. When I was younger I just assumed they went to heaven. Certainly I hoped they did, since I wasn't anxious for anyone close to me to end up in the other place. But it has always bothered me that I have never had the slightest feeling that those people, who were close to me, are close or somehow nearby, watching over me, now that they're gone.

There's little comfort in the phrase "Life's a bitch and then you die." So, even though I'm suspicious now of a lot of what we "learned" in school from the nuns, I still cling to the idea of a life of the spirit, of the effectiveness of prayer, of trying to be "good," even if there is no "eternal reward." Just because I'd rather be good than bad. And then you get into definitions, and you could speculate all night!

I wonder if everyone is torn this way between the "life's a bitch..." attitude and wanting to cling to beliefs that comforted us when we were children? I really want to believe there is a master plan, that Someone with a clue is in charge, and that we can trust that Someone to ensure that the universe, and our lives, and our childrens' lives are unfolding according to plan.......

I hope St. Patrick smiled on you today...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ladybugs Resurrected

While blog wandering recently I happened upon this quilt. Birds sang, bells tinkled, nerve endings tingled----temptation beckoned seductively, "you know you want to!" But, in a display of supreme self control, I beat that monster down. Joseph's Coat has many charms, not least among them those clean, clear, singing colours, the really neat way those circles go together [yes, I read every word of the multi-part tutorial, which only served to increase the temptation] and the fact that it is applique.

But no. Not now. Not when the teetering pile of UFOs has not diminished one whit in the past year. At some future date, when that pile has been beaten into submission, it may be feasible. Until then, I'll just have to be strong.

The most immediate reason I shouldn't start a major new project now is this:

Started tentatively for Number One grandson,[eight years ago!] it was still not finished by the time he arrived, at which point it became apparent that
#1---he was a boy, and maybe the quilt looked a bit girly; and
#2---as he grew it became obvious that, not only was he a boy, he was a vroom-vroom kind of boy, attracted to machinery, and trucks [which he famously and hilariously mispronounced] and other things that made growly, gravelly noises. Back to the drawing board to plan a vroom-vroom kind of quilt. Which was accomplished with the able assistance of Rise who was visiting at the time.

Originally uploaded by Mollybawn

And so the ladybugs and flowers slowly sank into the UFO pile. And then, a year ago, grandson number four was born, and came to visit at Christmas. I'd been embarrassed by the rushed quilt I'd made for him when he was a newborn, so consulted with his mum, who loved the ladybugs, and thought they'd go beautifully in her garden-themed nursery. You'd think I'd have gotten on the ball in the new year, but until now, lethargy.

Last week I spread it on the dining room table, thinking if it's out I'll start quilting it. But it intimidated me. The actual quilting of a project is the part of the whole process I'm least adept at. I gave it a wide berth, avoided making eye contact with it for a week. The weather was cold, my fingers were stiff and achy, and it just seemed too overwhelming. The first step is the hardest. Finally, today, I boldly grabbed the needle and took the first stitch. And then a second, and a third, and before I knew it I'd quilted a whole block!

I love how it looks and wish I'd started ages ago! It also helped that the weather warmed up and loosened my fingers. I have nineteen applique blocks to go---agh!--- and then the matter of the plain alternate blocks, but at least now I know it can be done. The question is can it be done in time for the little man's birthday at the end of the month??

Meanwhile, I'm adding Joseph's Coat to the list of quilts I'd like to make before I die, but after finishing at least a few of the projects in The Pile!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.....

"Wintering in Florida" has taken on a whole new meaning this year. Not since 1958 has the state had such a brutal winter, understanding, of course, that "brutal" to a Floridian is different than "brutal" to a North Dakotan. Still. It's been a lot more about huddling indoors, wrapped in multiple layers of whatever woollies you didn't blithely toss away when you made the decision to go south, than frolicking on the beach in your scanty bikini [not, my dears, that I would, even on the hottest day, subject the rest of humanity to the sight of this aging bag of bones in such a garment......]

So it was a long overdue treat to sit on the dry brown remains of what used to be our grass, yesterday, and indulge in an hour of catching up with the Little Blister, while the sun warmed my back. She'd been moaning earlier in the week in an e-mail, that I need to post more often; every day for instance! Whoa! Have you seen a blog post from her in recent memory? Didn't think so. And she has so much she could write about. Certainly she has a livelier life than I do. Which is part of the problem. She has dilemmas such as washing her hair or [and not being an option] doing the grocery shopping. Whereas I have time for both. But I'm guessing nobody would be enthralled by posts on either subject.

I decided to humour her. Because I love her. Not because there's a hope in hell that she'll respond by posting something new on her blog. Though where's the harm in hoping? I might not post every day, but I'll try for at least every other day, until the well runs dry. Which shouldn't take too long.

So, what subject does the normal Irishwoman, walking down O'Connell Street, love to talk about and find endlessly entertaining?

Why, the weather, of course.

If you said "The weather" before you read those words, you may go to the top of the class!

While the rest of the country was busy shoveling white fluffy stuff in the last few weeks, we've been shoveling [while shivering] brown stuff. Dirt. Soil. Found in a garden. Used to grow things. Like vegetables. Because, in spite of all appearances, we believe Spring will come!

We moved here nine years ago and it's taken me that long, and many unsuccessful attempts at growing tomatoes, to get it through my head that, just because Spring and Summer are the time to plant a garden up north, the same is not true down here. So in December, I bought a couple of tomato seedlings and boldly planted them, and behold! They grew! And produced beautiful, plump, blemish-free, green tomatoes, which, by now should be ripe and juicy and red, if the winter from hell hadn't intervened. My beautiful, blemish-free, going-to-be-so-tasty, best-ever tomatoes perished on the vine, in spite of all the mollycoddling, the shrouds of old blankets, and teepees of old sheets we erected around them to protect them from Old Man Frosty Winter. There were just too many really cold nights. Sigh.

Duly chastened, we modified our expectations, and planted rows of peas.

And radishes, broccoli, beets, carrots and lettuce for good measure.

The Bean did the donkey work and I did the fun stuff---poking holes, dropping in seeds, covering them up. Then off he went to school for the week and I set to watering,traipsing back and forth from the house to the vegetable patch, wobbling unsteadily under the weight of two heavy watering cans. To check on the babies and make sure they weren't thirsty. Normally we'd have water available right there, but the freeze cracked our pump so, until it got fixed, traipsing, wobbling and sloshing were the order of the day. Mercifully, we had several rainy days [and nights.] And now the pump is fixed, traipsing over.

Days to germination: 4-7, the radish seed packet proclaimed. Based on my own personal research, I'd have to say they're lying. Or maybe the seeds are bashful about peeping up when there's a mad Irishwoman bending over them five times a day, muttering, cajoling, willing them to pop. It seemed like forever before the first sliver of green poked up through the dirt. But they gathered courage when it became apparent that the mad Irishwoman was harmless, if a bit on the over-eager side. You'd think it was magic, I was so excited! You certainly wouldn't have believed I came from farmers; or that I've done this before, or that my mother had two green thumbs and a full set of green toes; or that the Bean only has to look at a seed and it coyly sprouts, or that all his siblings grow gardens too.

It's always magic.

Another weekend came, and with it the scholar, who planted parsley, chives and cilantro, just so those sweet little peas and radishes wouldn't be lonesome. My list for this week includes a trip to the garden store for a few more tomato seedlings. To have another shot at home grown tomatoes. But they'll be mollycoddled in pots until this crazy winter scarpers on out of here, back to wherever it came from.

Meanwhile, it's not as warm yet as it normally is in March, but the sun is shining and there's a sporting chance we might salvage a few typical "Wintering in Florida" weeks out of the tail end of the season. But even if we do, there'll be no sightings of this Irishwoman in a bikini!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Westward Ho!

We went away the w.e. before last.......

To Paris?

New York?




None of the above. We went to Las Vegas where nothing is as it seems. We didn't go for the gambling, or the shows, or the nightlife. We're not much into that kind of partying lifestyle. A cousin, a rarity in the OC's life, was getting married there, and he wanted to show her a little support, as there wasn't a lot of it among family elders! He is very fond of her, figures she's a grown-up and deserves a chance to be happy. So off we went into the desolation of the west.......

The bride was beautiful, and radiant, and in full possession of her wits and her sense of humour!

Since Vegas is likely not a place we'll go again, we hoofed it all around town, craning our necks at all the touristy sights. It was interesting, but all so false, and mercenary, the glitz and bright lights signifying-----what?

We got out of town the second day to see the Hoover Dam. An engineering marvel to be sure.

What I liked even better than the dam, though, was the new bridge they're building.....I have always been in love with bridges, from the humpy-backed little bridge that signaled we were getting close to Granny's when we went on Sunday jaunts out the country long ago, to the Verrazano Narrows in NY to the Golden Gate In San Francisco. This one is scheduled to be finished in September, and, already, it looks amazing!

I'm glad we went to the wedding, though Vegas would be the last place I'd want to tie the knot. Which just goes to show there's room for all kinds of different ways of doing things in the world. If I had it to do over, I'd still head for the hills and the heather. But this was not about me. This was someone else's idea of bliss. And as they were headed off to the Grand Canyon afterwards, I'm sure they had a lovely time. Call me dull, call me boring, the nicest part of going away, anywhere, for me, is coming home to my own cozy nest at the end of it all.