Friday, December 23, 2011

"God Bless Us, Every One!"

Merry Christmas!
 
                                                                                                                                

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Flurries....

So, you're wondering what happened to the rest of "Auntie Ita?" It's coming, it's coming, but in the meantime we've had flurries. Yes, I know that sounds improbable, given that this is Florida and all, but I wouldn't lie---we have had flurries! Flurries of sewing, shopping--God bless the internet!--and flurries of baking. Not to mention the flurries of anxiety at having left everything to what feels like the last minute....... wasn't it only yesterday that we served up the turkey??

Every year I promise myself I'll start, at a leisurely pace, in January and by December I'll have beautiful gifts made for everyone. I hate buying stuff "Made in China!" And besides, Auntie Ita coached me well in the joys of handmade gifts. She dropped the ball on teaching me how to pace myself though!

So there I was, this past week, stitching like a mad woman to make Mug Rugs, having belatedly had the brainwave that they are what I would make for everyone at the office. Have you heard of them? I found them here as I wandered hither and yon on the "quilternet." Not just a coaster, yet not quite a place mat, the first one I made was fairly small, a cute little mini quilt! Flushed with success, I made another. It was slightly larger, but, guys use bigger mugs I reasoned, so it was all good. I managed to curb my enthusiasm for the next few, but then my designs got more involved and...... well, I haven't yet made one big enough to use as a tablecloth, but it's only a matter of time! I probably got a little carried away but what's not to love? You can design, execute and finish in a couple of hours....heady stuff for a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator like me! 

And then the flurry of baking. Ah yes.  I was making a cake last night for today's lunch-time party at the office so I thought "Why not be super efficient and make a batch of Peanut Butter Kiss cookies while I'm at it. " I measured out the dry cake ingredients in one bowl, and the wet cake ingredients in another, and set them together at one end of the counter. Likewise for the cookie ingredients but at the opposite end of the counter......Well, you can see where this is going!. In spite of painstaking efforts at order and organization I managed to goof. Manfully helped I was by the Bean, who, at a critical moment in the proceedings, came swanning through from the garage, blathering about orchids he was mounting on pieces of wood, and expecting me to be fascinated by it all. So there I am, listening and doing my best "fascinated" imitation, meanwhile picking up the dry cookie ingredients bowl from one end of the counter, carrying it to the other end and efficiently dumping the contents into the bowl of wet cake ingredients, all without spilling anything on the counter.

Sooo efficient!

Except, it slowly dawned on me, as I added the chopped nuts with a flourish,

WRONG BOWL!

Under normal circumstances I behave like a lady. Under normal circumstances I do not curse.

These were not normal circumstances.

When I calmed down, which took a while, I scraped the sludge-like batter into the pan and grumpily shoved it into the oven. After all, there were two sticks of butter in there. If nothing else, I could chalk it up as a science experiment.

 It wasn't quite as dense as a block of cement, but it was close! I propped my eyelids open with toothpicks and continued baking into the wee hours of the morning.

This evening there has been a flurry of wrapping for a Christmas box for California Girl whose livestock logistics do not permit a trip home for Christmas. The baking flurry continued as I wanted to make those Peanut Butter Kiss cookies. There's just enough room in the box to squeeze some in before sealing it up. But the devil was standing behind me as I took the first batch out of the oven. He made my hand slip. Up flew the cookies into the air, then gravity kicked in and they crashed to the floor. This time I think I actually invented some new cuss words---very loudly invented some new cuss words!

I think it's time to hang up my apron. The last thing I need is to precipitate a flurry of psychotic episodes and have to spend Christmas on the psych ward!!




Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ode To Auntie Ita


Of all the gifts I have ever received the ones from Auntie Ita are the ones I remember best. She had a knack for choosing gifts....Or maybe she was just a good listener with a lively imagination. It was she gave me the Katie books ["What Katy Did,"  "What Katy Did At School" and "What Katy Did Next"] at the exact moment in my life I was ready for "chapter" books. And after I read "Little Women" she took me to see the film starring June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor. That's when I decided I didn't want to be me anymore, I wanted to be Jo. Auntie Ita brought a new outfit for my doll, Susie, whenever she came to visit. She was a marvelous knitter and the doll outfits usually consisted of a skirt and cardigan, or jumper, with a matching hat and sometimes even gloves and shoes. Her work was exquisite and I loved the buttons and fasteners and ribbons, all the important little details to which she paid so much attention. I was learning to knit in school and she encouraged me to make stuffed teddy bears, hot water bottle covers, tea cozies and such. Guess what everyone got for Christmas?

I loved to get on my bike and cycle across town to spend the afternoon with Auntie Ita. She lived in a tiny little cottage at the bottom of convent grounds. I think it used to be the convent gardener's cottage. Her fron garden was a joyous riot of flowers and rose bushes. Inside, her living room had a narrow shelf all around, full of photos of her friends from down the years. Maybe it was there that I developed my fascination with the stories old photographs tell.....Happy people, suspended in a moment in time.....What became of them? Are they still smiling and happy? What turns did their lives take after that photo? How magical an instrument a camera was to be able to capture such moments.......In between the photos there was a profusion of knickknacks and souvenirs. What my mother called clutter, but to me was an endless collection of stories.... just ask the question!

On rainy days she would let me crawl up into the tiny attic at the back of the cottage. It was like heaven for a child like me, an Aladdin's cave of yarn, scrapbooks and crafty treasures! On fine days I'd be off outside to play with the Breen boys from the big house next door, and the snooty, almost-too-good-to-play-with-me girls who went to Laurel Hill, the posh school behind Auntie Ita's cottage. It was on one such occasion  that I suffered one of the greatest humiliations of my life. The time they uncharacteristically let me be the first to climb a certain tree. Flushed and flattered, up I went. Hoots and jeers and uproarious laughter broke out below as the assembled multitude craned their necks for an eyeful of the horrible, old fashioned knickers my mother made me wear! They were mawkish pink and came almost down to the knees, which had elastic, the better to seal in the warm air and keep you cozy, albeit extremely unfashionable.

But Auntie Ita knew how to soothe the humiliated. She made the best comfort food---strawberry jam and banana sandwiches on thick slices of fresh bread. My mother made ham sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches, all of which tasted delicious, but only Auntie Ita thought far enough outside the box to serve up sandwiches of strawberry jam and sliced bananas!

One year she gave me an autograph book for my birthday. I still have it. On the first pastel page she wrote "It is not of much use to be entreated to turn over a new leaf when you see no kind of  reason for doing so." Good advice, even today.

The entries go downhill from there, with gems from school friends such as "I wish you luck, I wish you joy, I wish you first a baby boy, And when his hair begins to curl, I wish you then a baby girl." We were cooped up all day with the nuns, catching occasional glimpses of boys in the far off distance. We were understandably intrigued by this other half of our species about whom we knew so little. Well, some of us, those with boys on the brain knew a bit more. I was of the prim, goody-two-shoes camp, having no desire to come to a bad end, which is what having  boys on the brain allegedly led to. So quoth the nuns who were committed to keeping us in the dark. Boys were like strange, exotic animals. Fascinating, yes. But what, exactly, were you supposed to do with them? The nuns weren't telling. But look at us now. Nature finds a way!
The ever popular "Roses are red, violets are blue....." and variations thereof shows up on several pages of the autograph book, some of them polite, others not very, as illustrated by the one that ends with........."the smell of your feet would give me the flu!" I thought that was tasteless, even at the time, but didn't want to ruin my book by tearing out the page.........

[to be continued]




Saturday, November 26, 2011

Norman Rockwell Does Not Live Here...........

The table has long since been cleared, the dishwasher loaded, the leftovers stowed, Tom's carcass simmered overnight, turkey soup made, supped, and frozen.

There has been a rare sighting of the OC at the head of the table. The Prince of Carpathia faced him at the other end, with his Nursemaid in attendance, she giddy with joy to be dining on food not tasting like farina! There were not one, but two Sons, one Girlfriend, myself and the cat rounding out the company, though I hasten to assure you the cat was under the table....

The Prince was animated to have an audience for his stories. He fancied himself a wag and  master teller of tales in days long gone. Most eyes get glassy when he starts on the thousandth telling, but hark! Yon maiden, the Girlfriend, she of the limpid eyes and the spellbound look, thinly covering her desperation---he has found a live one and has pinned her in place with his own ancient blues. No pity from her Boyfriend who is enjoying her predicament. Oldest son, more tolerant, asks leading questions, tongue in cheek, as though any encouragement were needed! Other conversations fly back and forth, plates are refilled, wine glasses replenished, and if the Prince is a little miffed that everyone is not hanging on his every word he has learned to deal with it. He sees it as one of the more disturbing trends in modern society. But what can you do? The tales must be told, over and over and over again.

The  turkey was juicy, the mashed potatoes fluffy, the gravy tasty, the cranberry sauce tart, the sweet potatoes delectable, as usual, the new recipe stuffing uninspiring [back to the tried and true next year!] the green salad crunchy, a perfect compliment to the creaminess elsewhere.....Pumpkin praline cheesecake for dessert and no fear anyone would go to bed hungry.

Everyone behaved themselves [well, the Prince did try to get on his Obama hobby horse, but voices were raised and he doesn't have the strength to shout......] So yes, you could say that everyone behaved themselves.

There was no bloodshed. In spite of its ever present possibility, we do have much to be thankful for!

And so we gave thanks, with hearts hopeful for the future, and glad to be together in the present.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ragged And Random.....




My sister, The Little Blister, appeared on my blogroll yesterday! No warning, no mention in our last phone conversation, just there: "Empty Nest, Riseoutofme." I felt a surge of delight! How long has it been?  A year! Twelve long months of nothing new? I speak to her regularly by telephone. I had her here in May and June. But I love it when she writes, and reading her blog was another connecting thread that I have sorely missed.

What brought her back? Loneliness? The rattling emptiness of her nest? We long to have time to sit and think, time for ourselves, time to finally do all the things we never had time to do while they were growing up. Time to read all the books, time to write, time to sew. So we sit and think....



........about them, about how far away they are, about how much we'd like a "just because" call.  Sometimes I ruefully think I'm getting my comeuppance. How did my mother feel when I blithely took off across the ocean without so much as a backward glance, and only a sporadic letter here and there? No computers, no cell phones, just miles and miles of distance....and silence. I'm so sorry mum.  Now that it's too late.

The older I get the more I appreciate my mother. She was a very private person and things were much more formal back then. She never bared her soul to me. She was the mother and I was the child. No blurring of the lines...... How appalled she would be at this blogging lark, where you hang your heart on your sleeve, for total strangers to see. I used to be more like her, but life has a chastening effect. It  humbles you and makes you care much less about keeping up appearances, especially if those appearances are false.

But, ay. Total strangers. There's the rub. With actual friends spread far and wide you get to thinking of your blogging friends as real friends. Connecting with them lessens the lonliness. And life is a lonely business.

There, I said it.

 Humans need connection, at least the female of the species, And the male too, though they're more about the tough exrterior, and maybe some of them don't need, or even want, connection on an emotional level ----- God forbid I should be emotional. How weak and needy and annoying. Just give me the facts ma'am; stick with the facts and we'll be on terra firma......Oy.

The lure of the blog....Reach out into the darkness with a humble bouquet of random thoughts, some of them ragged and ill-formed, but no matter. There's always a chance you'll hit a chord and some empathy will come winging back to you whilst you sleep, and there in the morning you find it. Validation. Your crazy thoughts are maybe not so crazy after all. Others have felt just so. Thank you God for bloggy friends!


I would hazzard a guess we're not the first to feel this way, to long for the empty nest and then not care much for the cavernous echoes.

Freedom takes a little getting used to when your life has been over-scheduled for thirty years, but we're up to the job. With a nest not quite empty yet, I'm ready. Put me in coach. If we can only weather this latest glitch, I will be embracing freedom, though, sigh, I'm not holding my breath.

We're in this together Blister. Not just you and me, but anyone who has ever arrived in the delivery room and realised, in consternation

"There's no room here to turn around, I have to see this through! "

And see it through we did. Thus far. They just forgot to tell us, amid all those contractions, that it wouldn't end when they turned eighteen; it wouldn't end when they graduated from college.....

What they forgot to tell us was that it would never end. Being a mother changes you forever. Crazy, crowded nest, nest with only a few stray feathers, or Empty Nest. No matter. They've got us in thrall. Until we die.

Courage Blister! You'll have more time to write!        

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NaBloPoMo Dropout

Ambitions were lofty but then I just couldn't---Drone on and on about the humdrum details of my days---every day. You should be grateful.

Today for instance. Would you prefer to hear about my alarm clock making rude and obnoxious noises at 6:30 this morning, and my brain indignantly responding.........It's Tuesday for pity's sake! I get to sleep at least one more hour....But.......oh yes! I did agree to go in for an hour to cover for an absent Pat who, sadly, had to attend the funeral of a dear friend; 

Or about my visit to the doctor where I was scolded for not having shown my face since May......Really??May?? I thought time flew when you were having fun, so what I want to know is where's all this fun I must be having if time is flying by so quickly?? Since I'd played hooky for so long, the rn, Donna, lined up all that had to be done [to keep me from crumpling into a pile of dust on the clinic floor] starting with a TB test on the forearm-sting like a bee, come back in two days---what? Can't I just call and tell you how it looks? But she was adamant. The law requires that I actually see it...That's what I get for playing hooky....Another hour-long drive in two day's time.....that must be a component of all that fun I haven't been noticing myself having! Likewise the chest x-ray for which I was lined up next. [RA is what ails me, though as long as I take the magic potions it really doesn't bother me.]

Or, how about getting blood drawn? Hmmm? Always exciting.....We have to make sure those magic potions don't suddenly turn toxic and mess with my innards...]Jeff the big, genial, teddy bear of a man who draws blood left me sitting a minute while he went off to find butterflies---No, not out in a meadow, but in the supply room. His preferred method. How he wished he'd invented them.
I agreed, and we sighed a while about how, if he had invented them, he would not be here drawing my blood, but off sailing around his island in his yacht. For myself, I told him, I'd be happy to have been the office grunt who had the bright idea for Post It notes......And Pat would like to have invented Whiteout......and if the moon were made of green cheese the residents of Wisconsin would be ecstatic!  I wonder what it is, maybe frustration, at a lack, that sows the seed of an idea for a new invention?

Or maybe you'd find it more riveting to sit in my passenger seat and navigate the tortuous path from the doctor's office to the university; you could read the map so I wouldn't have to, thereby enabling me to safely arrive at, and inspect the Bean's new living quarters.....

Or how about joining us on the trip home? We stayed off the interstate, choosing instead the quieter, more scenic route, only to inch along at tortoise speed due to, not one, but two accidents, within a few miles of each other. Which totally negated the restorative benefits of the scenery.....

You see what I mean? Could you stand a daily dose of that?

Rejoice and be glad.

How about a nice cup of tea?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bliss = A Good Book

When The Little Blister came to visit, back in May she came laden, as usual, with books, because we are Barbarians here and she wants to civilize us! So I piled them on top of the already groaning stack on my night table. One of them was The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. It took me a long time to get into it. At the time I was mired in other matters, and by the time I'd crawl into bed and open the book, I was too exhausted to read more than a few pages before my head slumped over and my eyes sealed shut. I expressed to her my lack of enthusiasm.

"You just have to read more of it at each sitting," she scolded me. So, like a good girl, I soldiered on.  And was glad. She recommends going back and reading it again, but, too many books, too little time.

Next I started on Ghost Light by Joseph O'Conner, a fictionalized story of a love affair between the Irish playwright, John Millington Synge, and a working class girl who acted in some of his plays. He was of the Protestant landed gentry and she a Catholic from a Dublin tenement. Not the usual recipe for great Irish romance! It starts when she is an old lady living in a London slum, freezing because she has no heat, and close to starvation because she has no money for food. Bleak sounding I know, but a story wonderfully told. She warms and nourishes herself, and us, with her memories.

Here's a taste from the last chapter......


"There are eras of every life that have a carapace about them, a scar grown out of the woundedness. We gaze back on them as though they had meaning, contained intimations of future things - the seeds of the very subsequence we are now in a position to see. It is tempting to persuade ourselves we suffered a kind of illiteracy - we could not read the runes because we were young, or green, or undiscerning, or blind to the consequence. But that is not the truth, or not the whole truth, unmediated; for we sensed, even then, that this framed time must end and that all would be changed from this out. But we were adrift in a maelstrom of human feeling; already it was too late to swim. And we must somehow have wanted it, preferring the storm to the harbour; the hurts, the shattered feelings - the hurts to others too. We are innocent of nothing we chose. All our lives we do battle in the manacles of our mothers. But even the shaken chain has its music."


There's still a tottering pile on my night table, but they can wait. I'm busy rereading Ghost Light.

Give it a try. You might love it, as I did.

Thank you Little Blister!

And thank you Mr. O'Conner for a great yarn.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Oh The Cuckoo is a Pretty Bird,She Sings As She Flies----In English, Irish, Latin, French....

There was a brief lull in the action this morning at work. For several minutes after messages were listened to and charts pulled for the day the phones didn't ring and we got to talking about what we'd do if and when we ever have enough time on our hands. I'm there two days a week and Pat, who manages our small office, is there four days. She would like to get more time in her sewing room. I'd like that too, but I'd also like, some day soon, to be involved with teaching English as a second language. Pat, who is a very positive and encouraging person, was instantly enthusiastic and said she thought I'd be wonderful at that, especially as I knew what it was like to have to learn English..................

Ahhhh, say what?

"What do you mean Pat?" I asked, puzzled.

I speak English, have done all my life. And I can limp along in German and French, albeit causing great mental anguish to myself and whoever is listening. None of which makes me any more qualified than the next person to teach English to foreigners.

Turns out Pat thought I'd grown up speaking Irish, that everyone in Ireland spoke Irish. Which is a logical thing to assume. but so far from the truth. The Sassenachs did a grand job of almost squashing Irish. Children back in the old days got punished for every word of Irish they spoke, so very soon, being Irish and therefore brilliant, they learned to speak English instead. When I was a child, and Ireland was independent again, Irish, which is a very difficult language, was just something we had to slog through as the nuns tried to undo the damage done by generations of English rule.

It was an uphill battle. They started us in Kindergarten and pounded it into our heads every day until we left school at eighteen.  I liked it well enough, but shhhh! Don't tell the nuns, I liked French much more! That is something I can only now admit. Back then I would have been branded a traitor.  How unpatriotic! Irish was up there with Latin. I loved the words, but Dear God! The grammar!

On our honeymoon we drove all around the west and northwest of Ireland. One day, walking along a road in Donegal we met a local. He raised his hat to us and greeted us in Irish.

"Dia is Muire guit!" I gamely replied.

All those years of daily slogging should be good for something, right? And besides, I had a newly minted American husband to impress and I was quick to recognize an opportunity to knock his socks off. So I spouted some small talk about the weather to our new acquaintance. He wrinkled his weathered brow in puzzlement.  He didn't seem to comprehend a word and hit me with several sentences in a row, not one word of which I could understand. I knew he was speaking Irish, but that was as far as it went. The newly minted husband was having trouble keeping a straight face, and my own face was turning a deeper shade of red with every Irish word the man spoke.

Ochone, ochone!!

Alas and alack Patricia my dear, I won't be bringing any special linguistic brilliance to the teaching of English as a second language!



Note to Ali Honey: I don't think I speak with too much of an accent. At least not until I hear my own voice on a phone message....Then I think it's my sister I'm hearing!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Strange Sounds From The Cuckoo's Nest

There I was this morning, sitting at a corner table at a Dunkin' Donuts, not in my neighborhood, a cup of coffee untouched in front of me, gazing out at Tampa driving by. The morning was clear and crisp. The sky was wish-you-were here blue, proving that,while blue skies may be a component of happiness, they cannot do the job alone. An Hispanic woman sits with her back to me, energetically bombarding the man sitting across from her with questions, giving him no space to answer. Another little Latin lady pushes a broom by my table and smiles. I smile back.

Across the street a sign for "Lupton's Buffet" peeks out from behind a palm tree and transports me instantly to our first base in California and Claire, who lived down the street from us and was doing a PhD in mediaeval literature. I imagine she felt, as I did, that she had arrived in Outer Mongolia, but this was where Uncle Sam had sent our second lieutenant husbands so there was nothing to be done but grin and bear it. The husbands all car pooled to the rocket lab every day and when the car of the day arrived at Lupton's the door would open and disgorge N, briefcase in one hand, hamburger and coke in the other [at 6:30 a.m.!] proving that just because you were a graduate of Yale didn't mean you had a clue. Just look at  Dubbya.

But Claire was classy. I took a Rennaissance Literature class from her that made me wonder why on earth I'd done P.E. But then, that was back when I didn't have a clue either. We dipped into all kinds of famous and fascinating works including Dante's Inferno [Claire's cat was named Beatrice] and The Decameron. They're on my bookshelves still in hopes that one day soon I'll drop everything and read them. I've heard  of procrastination and taking a while to get around to reading something-----but forty years?? The time may finally be right, the stars correctly aligned.....should start with the Inferno, as, given the events of the past year, it would be, hands down, the most appropriate choice.

And then I was out of time. The last of the morning customers, sitting alone in the corner, intermittently chewing on the end of my pen  and scribbling, because it's NaBloPoMo time and I'm going to do one day of it at least.....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I have Not Lived In Vain

                                                                                                                                                               No, I did not help a fainting robin unto his nest again, but I saved this butterfly! They laughed hysterically when I came running into the house in search of an implement to free him......

 But I had the last laugh as he fluttered off to freedom!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Time For The Birthday Song!




                                                        Here she is with the love of her life..........



And here she is with his foal, who wants to be her main squeeze, explaining to him that he needs to mind his manners.




And here she is, canoodling with him anyway because he said he was sorry and she's a pushover for anything with four hooves, a mane and a tail, especially these two....

Happy [belated] Birthday R! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Death, Taxes, and Lost Elasticity

bra_20 by wallygreeninker
bra_20, a photo by wallygreeninker on Flickr.

Death and taxes. And several other pesky things in life......They're here to stay so you might as well put on your big girl panties and put up with them.....

You have to clean the toilets regularly, and sweep the floors, and change the sheets, and feed the natives, and clean up cat barf and straighten the cushions and clear out the newspapers, and make up things to blog about because Isabelle is squemish about pictures of dead squirrels!

Having gotten by with casual clothes for the past decade, you now find that the little part-time job you've taken on requires you to look respectable when you turn up for work, so, in spite of a closet bulging with shorts and jeans, capris and sweatpants, tee shirts and comfy knits, you find yourself with "nothing to wear." And you know they'll frown if you turn up naked....

So, off you go to the store, determined to start at the skin and work your way out. Is there a sight more pathetic than a woman of a certain age in search of underwear? She enters the store in cheerful mood. She's just had a nice lunch and there's a spring in her step. How difficult could it be to find a couple of new bras that will help to restore a semblance of her youthful shape? Intrepidly she approaches the lingerie department. True, it's been a while since she bought the threadbare articles of underwear she is currently wearing. True, they've lost their elasticity. True it's just habit that makes her put them on at all, since they're long past holding anything up, in or together.

But times, it seems, have changed. They're not selling bras anymore. The lingerie department appears to be selling body parts. To wit, matched pairs of bosoms, ringed around with wire.  Rack after rack after rack of them [no pun intended.] White ones, cream ones, beige ones, brown ones, taupe ones, black ones, pink ones, blue ones. Even purple ones.. She inspects them tentatively. They don't need a woman to give them shape. They're already molded into some mad scientist's idea of the perfect womanly shape. She feels embarrassed touching them, as though someone might rear up indignantly and accuse her of taking liberties.

Is it possible that women nowadays, on their deathbeds, can selflessly decide to donate their bosoms to science, or industry, on their demise? To be whisked off to some bosom refurbishment warehouse, sprayed and sanitized, smoothed and buffed and plasticized, then delivered to department stores for sale to the hopeful who have reached that time in life where their elasticity is shot?

They do not hang there limply, waiting to be filled. They are already filled, with some kind of gel, or plastic, or rubber, or foam --- who knows? Back when the earth and I were young they used to call such things "falsies." Something with which to augment your "gifts" if you thought the good Lord had been less than generous. I never owned any, since, from the beginning, I was an advocate of truth in advertising. Not that I ever tried to advertise. The "gifts" were an embarrassment. They got in the way of climbing trees. They made boys smirk. I couldn't see why they had to be introduced at a time when you were already ill at ease in the world, neither a child nor a grownup, and confused about your place in this whole business of living.

 It was my grandmother who pointed out to me [more puns, please pardon] that it was time for desperate measures, not in any verbal way, but by surreptitiously slipping a small package to me as we were leaving after one of our Sunday visits.  Opening it, safely at home in my room, I was mortified to find a little lacy bra. What does it tell you about growing up in the fifties, in Ireland, that evidence of normal, healthy development was cause for embarrassment rather than celebration? Those nuns have a lot to answer for! So now, every day the embarrassing parts in question , which amounted to a barely perceptible swell, had to be maneuvered into ridiculously pointy contraptions designed, undoubtedly, by sadistic males, that made you look anything but natural.

Fortunately, the sixties and flower children and throwing tradition, as well as caution, to the winds, were at hand. Of course those who embraced this new freedom and burned their bras are probably now, in their dotage, carrying their bosoms around in one of those waist packs.

But, I digress. Back to our shopper. Oh, oh. Here she comes, heading towards the door. She looks a little pale. Pale green that is. The cheerful bounce has gone from her step; likewise the gleam from her eyes. Even her hair seems to be drooping dejectedly.  She was brave [or more accurately, foolhardy.] She faced the monster and the monster won. Her ego has been battered. She is still wearing her saggy old undergarments. She has failed to find replacements. She refuses [a glimmer of rebellion still?] to buy body parts when all she came looking for was a simple undergarment.

Her plan? To go home and make a nice strong cup of tea.

And let 'em swing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vehicular Squirrelicide ***

A squirrel darted into the road, just as I was pulling away from our mailbox the other day. He was a squirrel of very little brain. They're all squirrels of very little brain [With apologies to Lone Gray!] They run out into the road, see your car, stop, overcome by indecision, dither a moment, change direction, stop again, and then, at the worst possible moment, run right under your wheels. Sometimes, miraculously, they run between the wheels and dash to safety....Not this one.

Dead Squirrel by idoru45
Dead Squirrel, a photo by idoru45 on Flickr.


My heart sank when I heard the small, sickening "Thunk!"

"Oh no!" I wailed when I saw him in the rear view mirror, lying there, legs frantically kicking.

"Murderer!"

Squirrels are plentiful. Not an endangered species in these parts, but I hate to hurt anything. Well, almost......I am completely cold blooded about mosquitoes. Sentient beings are one thing, mosquitoes quite another.

Tears of remorse squirted from my eyes as I willed him to regain his footing and run off into the grass. It didn't happen. He was a goner. When I reached my driveway, I turned around and drove back to the scene of the crime, hoping that he would no longer be twitching. If I had killed him I wanted it to have been swift. There was no twitching. He was lying perfectly still, eyes staring, blood oozing from his mouth. But at least he wasn't a little one. I wouldn't have a squirrel mother's broken heart on my conscience....... This fellow had been around a while, buried a lot of nuts. He might even have been the Cheeky Charlie who climbs on the pool screen and chatters insolently at El Gato. If you blocked out his bushy tail, he looked very much like a rat. Which only made me feel a tiny bit better. If it was his day to die I'd have much preferred not to have been the instrument.

Glumly, I drove home.

Roadkill is a fact of life here. We live in an area that, fifty years ago, was completely wild. We frequently see possums, armadillos, gopher tortoises [these are the most heart breaking,] squirrels, and, recently, a bunny, lying by the side of the road, having come out on the losing end of a spat with a bigger creature, one made of chrome and steel. I always feel a pang of shame when I see them, as this was their habitat long before it was ours.



Nature is so practical and efficient though, it never takes long for roving bands of buzzards [I think of them as Men in Black--nature's sanitation crew] to find the roadkill and clean it up. When I drove by the mailboxes the next day the squirrel was gone. I know the county doesn't work that fast!

In the long run, one less squirrel in the world won't cause me to sleep less soundly [Sorry Calvin!] I just don't want to be the one culling the herd.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Forty One And Counting.....

It's not that you're any braver in youth than in maturity, you're just less experienced and a lot more naive. What? Listen to cautionary tales from your elders---old fossils! Of course I'd never have said so, but come on, my parents were in their fifties, ancient! What could they possibly know about being young and "in love"? For that matter, what did I know about any of that? But I was an expert, based on? Grimm's Fairy Tales? My vast [not!]experience with the opposite sex? The fact that I'd read every word of Archbishop Fulton Sheen's advice to lovelorn youth as serialized in the Sunday Independent? How is it possible to think oneself such an expert when one isn't? Youth. That must be the answer. A commodity, according to my father, wasted on the young! They weren't pushy, those ancient Irish parents of mine. Careful to acknowledge my grown-up-edness. Aware, perhaps, that too much protest would make us more determined. Not that that stopped the parents of the Foreigner. They protested long and loudly, even threatening to boycott the whole event. Which merely served to make their son dig his heels in all the harder. Still, a few tentative "Are you sures?" Brushed aside by Miss Know-It-All's "Of course!"

The day dawned  beautiful and sunshiny. Sixteen year old Blister looked stunning in pink, her hair a glossy brown mane. Mother looked every inch "mother of the bride" in a stylish cream dress, every hair coaxed into it's assigned place under her elegant little hat. Dad looked as ever, one of Nature's Gentlemen, lean as a thoroughbred, ears protruding, togged out in his best suit. Brother was scrubbed to beyond-recognition shininess, Gentleman's Quarterly how are you, in a collared shirt and tie and smart suit. Handsome Fr. Neville swished about in his soutane and his Cary Grant dimples, making all the ladies swoon, and curse Rome for making  priests celibate.......All the aunts and uncles were in from the country, in their Sunday best, eager to get a good look at "the Foreigner." The Foreigner himself  looked very spiffy in his double-breasted, dove-grey suit and his shiny new wing tips, which glisten still in his closet today, worn just the once! Behind his birth control glasses, the brown eyes that had been my undoing were as brown and handsome as ever. But, did they even know each other, these two who were about to promise for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, 'til death do us part? When the dust settled and the guests were gone, would they be tongue-tied and lost for words?

Dad made a big to-do of surreptitiously slipping a little satin draw-string purse into my hand at the reception. It contained several large, heavy crowns, old coins not in general circulation. They were a symbolic dowry, since Dad didn't have a stable of race horses, or forty head of Herefords to bestow on the Foreigner for taking me off his hands. They never made it out of The Old Ground. Because it was the height of foolishness to give them to me in the first place, in my excited and scatterbrained state. I often wonder who found them and if they felt good about keeping them....

And a week later, blithely kissing Mum and Dad goodbye at Shannon Airport, as though we were merely flying off to an adjacent county instead of the other side of the world and the rest of our lives, pretty much without them.

Who can put an old head on young shoulders? And would it even be wise, were it possible? Would the human race die out without the foolhardiness, innocence/ignorance, reckless abandon of youth?
Is it love that makes the world go around? Or is it sticking with the promises you made, gritting your teeth when the going gets tough, hanging in there when all you really want to do is run home, screaming, to mum and dad..........? Then one day, forty one years later, you find yourself sitting on the couch, blogging about it, trying to see the big picture, and you realize that now you are the ancient, irrelevant parent, you are the one anxious for them to choose wisely, you are the one trying not to be pushy, but asking tentatively "Are you sure?" The truth is no-one is ever sure. Life is like a swimming pool.  You just have to close your eyes and plunge in.

Friday, August 19, 2011

We Weren't Looking For It, Trouble Just Found Us!

caged lion by insane photoholic
caged lion, a photo by insane photoholic on Flickr.

I feel like a lion in a cage. Usually I enjoy being alone. I have the house to myself. The Bean and GF left for the beach, a last grab for summer fun before classes start on Monday. It feels abnormal for the Fall semester of university to start in August, but this is Florida, and this is how they do it here, and no-one is interested anyway whether I think it's normal or not.



The heavens opened shortly after they left and I stood at the window and watched the deluge. After it spent itself, and the sun came out again, I still stood, watching large, stray drops plonk onto the pool surface and ripple out in liquid circles 'til they met each other and died.......


We've had our share of excitement here this past week, God knows. You'd think I'd be glad of the quiet and not be so restless!. Coming home from the usual visit to the Ancient One, one evening last week, we were on the main road, with the right of way. A shiny new red car was stopped at a stop sign to the right of the intersection we were approaching, but as we came into the intersection the red car started coming across! The Bean managed to swerve so that the red car, when it hit us, hit the back passenger side of his car and not the front where I was sitting. No-one was hurt, thank goodness, but our hearts were pounding. A cop car was cruising through the neighbourhood just as we got out of our cars, so no call had to be made, he was right there. A little bantam rooster of a lady got out of the red car, all consternation, twittering a mile a minute about her brand new car, and she never saw us and the sun was in her eyes and oh my poor aged aunt I just picked her up and we were going for ice cream, are you alright auntie? Auntie was sitting impassively in the front seat, watching the shenanigans through hooded eyes, her aged face an expressionless mask, beneath her crown of immaculately combed and sprayed hair. She appeared to be unhurt, but her niece continued to twitter, while the nice policeman took care of the police report. He made soothing noises at her but pointed out the pertinent fact, setting sun in your eyes notwithstanding, you did hit him ma'am, even though we know you didn't intend to.The twittering continued unabated while red ants tried to attack us on the grassy verge, which put her in mind of her husband's friend who didn't have his epi pen with him, got bitten by red ants, swelled up and died, such a tragedy! All this in a very "oi, oi" New York accent!


She was a nice lady and it's too bad she and her aged aunt didn't manage to go out that night for ice cream without causing themselves and us so much trouble. It's been back and forth with insurance companies for several days, but now it's all ironed out. Her insurance is taking care of everything, though they did, inexplicably, deem the Bean's car to be a total loss! Whaddyamean a total loss? It's dented for heaven's sake!

Even though it's twelve years old and has mucho mileage, it was still running well, but they estimated the damage repairs to be more than the value of the car. As he emptied out all his personal stuff from it last evening he looked very sad. You know how attached guys get to their vehicles.......So, he'll be looking for a new [to him] vehicle as soon as they send him a check.


Whew! Meanwhile they've provided him with a rental, and he just called to say they arrived safely at the beach and the sun is shining.

As much as I enjoy my own company, I'm restless today. It's Friday, so I'm going to go get a pizza and inflict myself and it on a friend who is housebound following eye surgery this morning. Hopefully no-one in a shiny new red car will hit me in the pizza joint's parking lot!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mumblings And Mutterings, All On A Summer's Day....


 I spoke to The Blister on the weekend. She had zero sympathy for my tales of killer heat since she was huddled in socks, jeans and woolly jumpers in what is passing for summer this year in Ireland. So, I'm left to mutter and mumble to myself about 95 degree weather, sopping humidity levels, afternoon lightening and thunderstorms, and weeds as high as your eye.

Summer was a delicious word fifty years ago. Summer meant  "No more Irish, No more French, No more sitting on the hard old bench!" Freedom 'til September! We didn't get sent to camp, not for soccer, not for gymnastics, not for dance, not for violin. Our days were our own. After stuffing us full of porridge, or, if she was feeling indulgent, Cornflakes, our mother would wave us out the door to play. We had to report back for lunch at midday and teatime at six. We were expected to behave ourselves and not draw the neighbours on her....Other than that....freedom! Onto the bike and off down to the North Circular Road.

Patty S's garden stretched back for what seemed like miles behind her house. We played Cops and Robbers, and Wild Indians, and then, tired of how the boys were bossy and wouldn't play fair, we'd repair to our "club house" at the bottom of Jane W's garden. It probably looked like a makeshift lean-to, but we had pride of buildership, especially when the inevitable rains came and our clubhouse kept us dry, albeit cramped like tinned sardines!  Repairing to anyone's house was not an option. The houses were too small and there was too much of a raggle-taggle team of us for any of the mothers to gladly grant us entry. Patty's mother had been a raven-haired beauty in her youth, but was now wracked with arthritis. She would come to the door occasionally, but we were never invited in. Jane's mother was English, and stylish, and made me blush when she admired a waste paper basket I'd made from a cardboard box and wall paper. Nobody at my house noticed that I had a talent for such things. Who knows how different life might have been had Jane's mother been my mother, which I devoutly wished were the case. Which wasn't very fair to my mother who was overwhelmed with the hand life had dealt her and struggling to get through the days with my brother; but when you're young you only see things from your own perspective. And I wanted a mother who was stylish and kind, smiled when she spoke to you and took the time to really look at, and appreciate, what you had made. The lovely English accent didn't hurt either. We were supposed to hate the English, but we met so few of them, they were more a subject of awe and fascination when we did.

Some summers we were transported to the seaside at Ballybunion for a couple of glorious weeks. We rented the same house each time and once my grandmother, from my father's side, came to visit us there for a few days. I remember walking along the road to the beach with her, just the two of us. She was a tall, tweedy woman and I had the temerity to ask her how old my daddy was. She loftily informed me that he was as old as his tongue and a little bit older than his teeth.... Talk about a conversation killer. I was mortified. Undoubtedly she thought children should speak only when spoken to, and certainly should not ask saucy questions. I'm not sure if I met her again before she died, which she did before I was ten. I do remember sitting in her garden having tea once. I was very impressed that the milk was in a silver jug but I have no recollection of any conversation. Maybe by then I had learned to keep mum! When we'd come back from the seaside, our house and street and garden seemed to have shrunk, we'd grown so used, in a short time, to wide open expanses of beach and Atlantic!

Eventually summer rolled on into September, school started again, new books had to be covered, new pencils sharpened, school shoes polished every night [whether you wanted to or not! Does anyone polish shoes anymore?] and before long, summer seemed like a distant dream.

Here, summer is to be endured;  ways must be found to muddle through so we can get to the beautiful days of Autumn, Winter and Spring ! If you played Cops and Robbers in this heat you'd end up for sure in the Emergency Room. If you played Wild Indians, ditto. You'd also have people lecturing you about racial sensitivity and political correctness. And if you played either of these games at my age they'd cart you off to the psych ward! I'm trying to stay cool, trying not to pace. I don't know when I last made a waste paper basket from wallpaper and a cardboard box, but I think Jane W's mum would love the quilt I'm currently working on!



Friday, July 29, 2011

Beam Me Up Lily.....


A recent package brought me this lovely birthday gift from oldest daughter that she knitted herself! Just looking at it transports me here .........


To wild and beautiful, heathery gray and drizzly Ireland, with its wonderful misty light. [quitchyerbellyachin' Blister!] After the first thousand days, unrelenting sunshine loses its allure. This bag takes me to a place fit for human habitation. Thanks Lily, for the bag and the trip.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fair And Balanced........

I am a little bit ashamed of my last post. Unworthy of the person I want to be, of the example I want to give my children and others. How many hundreds of times did I say to my children "If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all!" I know that there are better ways to cope. He and I will never be soul mates, but life has thrown us together, so I'll be trying to keep to the high road instead of the seedy alleys of bitterness and resentment. If I should ever write a novel though, I'll be drawing heavily on him for my villain!
 

Meanwhile, in the interests of fair and balanced reporting..............
He has had a really interesting life. His family was a prominent one in his small, east European hometown, where, for many years, his father was the mayor. He became accustomed early in life to special treatment. His mother's pride and joy, as a young fellow he would not drink milk if Maruschka, the servant girl, had milked the cow, only if his mother had. My mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, always called me Maruschka.....Hmmm!

During the War he was plucked from in front of a firing squad, moments before he was due to be shot, when a high ranking officer, walking by, recognized him as a fellow countryman.

He had several other very narrow escapes, balanced by a good portion of both good luck and ingenuity.

He is fluent in a whole string of European languages;

He found ways to survive and put food on the table when all the odds were against him;

His children were always fed and decently clothed and given to understand that they'd better work hard in school...... Or else.

He helped many friends and acquaintances get to this country, after he was established here, by agreeing to be their sponsor.

He introduced us, but regretted it when we decided to get married as, in his opinion, the entire Irish race were a crowd of rowdy drunks.

He almost didn't come to our wedding when I dug in my heels and insisted it be in Ireland..... 

But then moved heaven and earth to get me and my toddler home when my own Dad was dying and time was running out.

He was tall and handsome [and vain as a peacock.] Still the nattiest dresser in town, and a fine looking man for his age......As he will be the first to point out to you [in case you didn't notice.]

How'm I doing? Fair and balanced, with just a few wobbly bits? That rebel Irish brat inside me keeps leaking out through the cracks. I'm doing my best though, to shove her back in.....and point her up the hill to the high road.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Chinese Laundry Service

Okay, So I'm not Chinese. But laundry is one of my talents. Five children, one sweaty husband, years of practice. I can do it in my sleep.

Visiting the Ancient Hypochondriac the other day, I patiently listened to the Organ Recital. I arranged my face in a suitable facsimile of concerned interest. Although, if he is as intelligent as he never tires of telling us he is, he must realize,on some level, that I'd rather stick pins in my eyes [or his] than hear the whole litany again. Nothing daunted, he mercilessly makes me listen to the in-depth details of the latest ache. It is futile to raise a squeak in protest because, although he sees my lips moving, it only makes him talk louder.

My theories are:

He knows I'm trying to talk common-sense to him but he is not interested in common sense;
    He sees my lips moving but is much more interested in the sound of his own voice than the sound of mine;

    He doesn't give a rat's ass what I'm trying to say, he just wants to be talking;.

    I'm Irish, how could I possibly know anything?

    I'm female, how could I possibly know anything?

    Or.....

    All of the above.

    By his reckoning I should be barefoot in the kitchen, cooking palachinki for him, and keeping my opinions to myself.

    Organ recital over, very little sympathy forthcoming, he starts complaining about his doctors. Too bad they can't do more than practice medicine.  He won't listen to them, but if they won't be quiet and listen to his theories about what is wrong with him, they must be incompetent. All they're interested in is money. If I were his doctor I'd be interested in money too. Specifically, how much I'd have to pay him  never to darken my door again. Incidentally there's a pot of gold waiting for the doc who finds the cure for old age. Dr. Kevorkian doesn't count. Besides, he already found the cure for himself.

    Half an hour is my limit. Less if he starts in on Mr. Obama. As I trotted out the door, I spotted some laundry and offered to take it.

    "No, no, no! O will be here on Tuesday. She'll do it"

    I thought of O, giving up the job she loves, leaving her cozy house empty, leaving her friends, her daughter, her garden and her familiar neighbourhood, to come and live with this ancient, petulant, hypochondriac, and I thought the least I can do is a few bits of laundry so her first job when she lands won't be washing his underwear!

    Ah so!

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Stitchin' with The Blister

    I just popped in on Dianne to see what she's been up to lately [while I've been having my fainting spells!] As usual, she's been busy. And as usual, she made me laugh! Her take on "incentive" made me think of The Blister and how she banished "procrastination" to the back kitchen, and somehow cracked the whip of incentive and got me stitching on old projects instead of thinking that I should stitch on old projects! And indeed, she rolled up her own sleeves, threaded her needle and finished this table runner.........


    Then loaded up the needle again and finished this ancient Christmas table topper.......



    She was "willing to work," and I was "willing to let her," but for some reason she thought that I should work too! So I made these shopping bags, as gifts for her friends back home.


     At least they were "made in America," something that is getting harder and harder to find! And because she needed a duffle bag for herself, we made this beauty,


     and decided that if we ever found ourselves living close enough to each other, we'd go into business and call ourselves "The Bag Ladies!"

    Her ongoing project, which she worked on between times, was quilting on my [in-] famous ladybug quilt, which is promised to Little Brit grandson, who at the grand old age of two, is already specializing in the study of ladybugs!



     Because she stitched so diligently, and has the calluses to prove it, I have no choice but to carry on, finish it and make her proud.

    The thought of her wrath if I don't should be incentive enough!


    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Ennui

     Rule # 3: Don't use foreign words. Sage advice. If you're writing in English, then, damn it, write in English.  But "ennui" is such a lovely word, and so much less boring than "boredom,"  I'm going to break my own rule, just this once. "Ennui." Leave it to the French. It conjures a picture of a slender Victorian lady, with Gibson girl hair, fainting on an old fashioned couch---pass the smelling salts please.

    Not that I'm bored. Too busy for that. Just suspect that anything I write will bore the britches off the reader or, to put it more Frenchly, might induce in said reader a sense of "ennui."
    "Is this the best she can do?"

    Ennui didn't get a look in while the Little Blister was here. Five glorious, ennui-free weeks, awash in beaches and rivers and laughter, kayaks and manatees and more laughter, shopping and eating and sewing [My, how we sewed!] And laughter. Did I mention the laughter? Gales and gales of it.

    That's what I miss the most. Seemed like everything was more fun with the Blister around, from the first cup of coffee to the final "Oiche Mhaith!" [Oops! There I go, breaking the rules again!]

    And now she is gone, and the everyday routine has closed over the space she occupied. And not just gone. Incommunicado [there I go again!] As far as I know, she is off in France, climbing around among the rocks, at very high elevations. Sigh. While I am fainting here from the ninety degree heat. Pass the smelling salts.

    And so, I wonder, how did it come to this? An aging Irish lass, lover of laughter and language, conversations about everything and nothing at all,  little Blisters, offspring, grandchildren and friends----all of them miles and miles and miles away.......How did she get here, to this table, sitting alone in this sweltering heat stirring her tea?

    Overcome by ennui.


    *Oiche mhaith = "Good Night" in Irish.

    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Old Stones, Old Bones


    This time two years ago I was visiting The Little Blister in Ireland. One of the places our mother liked to go on a Sunday afternoon, when we were young, was Lough Gur, so, one sunny Sunday afternoon we set off. I hadn't been there in years, and had never been since its archaeological significance had been played up, to turn it into a tourist attraction. It was early in the season though, so we almost had the place to ourselves. It is a beautiful place, lovely for walking, so, since I was there and you weren't why, don't you traipse along behind us if you have a few minutes.....




    I was afraid the development might have ruined it, but it was very low key, and nicely done. The visitor's center was designed to look like the ancient dwellings that were discovered in the area.



    Information boards weere posted along the trails, like this one showing a replica of an ancient shield excavated nearby.........

     


    One of the things I love about where I grew up is the proliferation of castles and old ruins. They pop up on the horizon when you least expect them. My mother had no patience with my fascination with what she dismissed as "piles of old rocks," so I never got it out of my system!  This one is right up against a farmhouse, on the road in to Lough Gur, surrounded by muddy fields dotted with cow pies. Obviously they're not trying to attract tourists! I ventured as close as I could, until the Blister, with a wee bit of mother's impatience, warned me that, if I wasn't careful, I'd get the two of us in trouble for trespassing!




    A little further out the road from Lough Gur is the area where our mother grew up.We decided to drop in, unannounced, on the farming cousins. If you warn them ahead of time they make an embarrassing fuss, and need a week to prepare, so since we didn't have much time, we thought we'd just pop in!




    We'd never have done that with my mother's generation, but the cousins are in charge now and they're as casual as we are. After a lovely visit, and quite a bit of fuss, in spite of our clever plan, we chanced upon this little cemetery on our way home.




     We hopped over the wall and landed in the middle of this patch of bluebells.....




     Cemeteries are fascinating, the older the better. When my youngest daughter was little, she'd point excitedly at any cemetery we passed on our travels and say "Look Mom! Heaven!"  I wouldn't say that a cemetery is exactly my idea of heaven, and we might not have been quite so brave had it been "a dark and stormy night!" But it was a beautiful Spring day so we weren't too worried about running into any ghosts or banshees. The Blister did get the shivers in a few places though........




    She absolutely would not walk down the right side of the ruined church above. I  walked there regardless, and was unaware of anything otherworldly, but then I'm not as finely tuned for things supernatural as she is! 




    This arch was the door into the church.....My eyes love arches. They look so elegant, and isn't it said that the way the stones are fitted together in an arch makes it one of architecture's strongest designs?




     Singers and story tellers have always been held in the highest regard by the country people in Ireland. After all, they needed some bit of entertainment after longs days in the fields.




    Eventually, after all the joy and sorrow, heartache and toil, each of us will be no more than a shiver on someone's spine. But if the shiver could be delivered in a setting like this, looking out over a peaceful lake, I'd be one happy ghost.




    So that is where I was two years ago this month. Were you able to keep up?

    And this is where the Little Blister will be in less than a week!
















    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Racoon Post Missing In Action!





    There was some funny business going on last evening with Blogger. Between the hopping and the trotting my last post "Cactus For Breakfast" has vanished, without a trace. In answer to some questions in the comments, yes, that is a raccoon. They are common in this area. I've seen them most often down by the river. They are scavengers and like nothing more than rooting through garbage. I suspect that he and his compadres, even though I've never seen them back there, are the critters that poke around in our compost pile way out back. So no RR, I did not feel inclined to invite him in for some antacids! In spite of those appealing eyes and funny mask, he and his ilk are not welcome here! Besides, they can have rabies and who needs that?  He must have been disappointed to find no garbage, but, rather than leaving with an empty belly he decided to snack on the Christmas Cactus.......Big mistake, as his pathetic air demonstrated, not to mention the various nasty green deposits he left on the porch!

    Looks like Blogger is back to behaving itself today, so no harm done......

    Sunday, May 08, 2011

    Listening To The Quilt Gods



    It all started out innocently enough. One day back in February, I was "playing" in my sewing room and came across a sample of a dimensional bow tie block that a quilting acquaintance had shown me how to do about a year ago. I decided to try it. It turned out to be simple. The third of three seams was a bit fiddly......


                                         


    .............but I soon mastered it.





    So I made a few more.............
    .



    And then a few more..........


                                            


    An idea was forming....It was so easy to make, and I've always liked Bow Tie, so I thought I'd make a new throw quilt for the back of the sofa. The one that currently lives there is ancient. And faded. It was the first quilt I ever made. Trip Around The World. I've known for some time now that the trip was over, quite a while ago, for this particular quilt. But the cat likes to perch on it on the back of the sofa, and the menfolk like to tease the cat by moving their fingers around under the quilt and tantalizing him. Who knows what goes on in his feline brain when they do this. All I know is that it causes great hilarity [we are easily amused in these parts!] and  also some little rips in the quilt. So, in addition to "ancient," and "faded," it can also say on its resume that it is "tattered."  Not shabby chic. Just plain shabby.

    Bow ties to the rescue! I had perfected the technique and could pop out a finished block in just under five minutes. My cunning plan was that to use a variety of light background fabrics and a different medium or dark for each bow tie. This is what saved me. Making the same block over and over has limited charms. Dying of boredom is not the way I want to go. I became reacquainted with all the little bits and pieces in my stash, and even rediscovered some fabrics I'd forgotten about!. Each block was like making a mini quilt, the most fun part being matching up each background with a new bow tie fabric.

    Before long I had enough bow ties to cover a small country. Whoa! Let's not get carried away here. So I stopped and laid them out to have a look.[see  photo above.]

    Before I sewed them together I decided to move them around to see what other effects I could get.......




    Hmmmm. Interesting. I would have to think about this for a while. Let it simmer, as it were, on the mental back burners. While it was simmering I went, one weekend in March, to a quilt show. And saw this:




    Interestinger and interestinger! Close up inspection revealed that this design resulted from alternating bow tie blocks with nine patches. I went home, head buzzing, and started making scrappy nine patch blocks.




    Now we were getting somewhere!




    To pin all those blocks on that design wall I had to climb up and down from my [fortunately] sturdy table, over and over again, pins clamped between determined lips. I would climb up to rearrange some blocks, then climb down to get the overall effect from the other side of the room. And people think us quilters get no exercise! Dissatisfied, I'd have to climb up again, over and over, until finally I was happy with the distribution of  colours. Time to stitch them all together before I had a chance to change my mind again!

    !


    And here's my quilt top. I'm happy, but not done yet. There's a small matter of borders, both to make it bigger and also to frame it.



    But with all those scrappy fabrics, and every colour of the rainbow, how would I find the perfect fabric? I had a beautiful red, left over from another project and used in one of the bow ties. I had just enough to make a half inch border. But what to use for the outside border? A quilt shop seemed like a good place to start. My sister-in-law was visiting for Easter. She always likes to go to a quilt shop when she visits, to drool over all the lovely fabrics, so off we went. Its a tough job as the cliche goes, but someone has to do it. I suffered agonies at the quilt shop, surrounded by such a wealth of gorgeous fabrics. It was really difficult to choose, but I kept coming back to two different blues. Sister-in-law weighed in, as did a couple of the shop ladies, and finally a decision was made. S-I-L bought fabric for a baby quilt for a co-worker and, several hours after we'd come in the quilt shop door, we headed out in search of lunch.  Choosing fabric is exhausting work and when a decision is finally reached you realize that all that agonizing and hand-wringing has left you weak and ravenous!




    Nice blue, don't you think? I wasted no time getting the borders on as I don't trust that I've chosen well until I see it stitched onto the quilt. But now I'm confident I chose really well. I love it!

    The day may yet come that I plan a quilt from start to finish, on paper, before making that first cut or taking that first stitch. Meanwhile I'm quite content letting the quilt gods whisper in my ear at every step of the process. Sometimes I am more surprised than anyone at the results!  I never agonize at the outset about what I will use as a border or what kind of sashing I need. It's too early for all that  I am confident that all will be revealed in the fullness of time!. Without a set of rigid ideas, the quilt will tell me in what direction it wants to go......It's more exciting that way. I like going into my sewing room and not knowing quite what will happen.

    Sometimes I'm happy with the results; sometimes not quite; this time I am delighted

    Of course it's not finished yet! But I do already have a couple of options for backing..........Meantime, every time I look at it, I smile!




    Sunday, May 01, 2011

    Counting Blessings....




    We've been picking blueberries for more than a week now. In our own garden. Thanks to the interest, patience, persistence, perseverance and unfailing green thumbs of The Bean. Until now I've sort of taken it for granted. Yes, he loves to grow stuff. There are always pots of this and that, in various stages of growth all around the house and garden.




    His fruit tree experiments are lined up on the patio in various stages of growth....His orchids fill all the available space on the patio windowsills. Inside, on the kitchen counter, there are always cuttings of some kind, in jars of water, growing roots.....




     And we always have bags of dirt and cow manure to step over. It's not very tidy. Better Homes and Gardens would not come here for a photo shoot....... though Organic Gardener might.
     



     He would like to be a farmer. Except we don't have a farm. His great grandfather in Eastern Europe had lots of land. Until the Russians decided he should "sign it over" to the state. My maternal grandfather was a farmer, and my uncles, after he died, and now my cousins..........In Ireland. With his talent he should be a farmer.....


    I went out to the garden to pick the latest batch of blueberries this morning. The bushes were laden down with fruit, and it made me so happy, just standing there in the sunshine, filling my bowl with those little berries. When I came in I went to find him [in front of the computer---finals are coming up]

    "Stand up," I said, "I need to hug you!"

    "Why?" he asked.

    "For giving me the simple, but unbelievable pleasure, of  picking these in my own garden," I said, and showed him my overflowing bowl of berries.

    Small blessings in the form of little blue berries. A big blessing in the strapping son who grew them.



    So, breakfast was a no-brainer.... Yup....... Blueberry pancakes.

    You could still taste the sunshine.