It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Double Take

How long has it been since you saw something like this?  Or have you ever seen something like this?

I was running errands today when I came around a corner and was surprised to find this classic ambulance parked in front of a neighborhood emergency clinic.  I pulled over and got out in the freezing cold to make pictures; this is exactly why I'm rarely without a camera!

The front end says it is a Buick, I'm guessing maybe from the early 1960's? Since there are no tags I have to assume that it is not a registered, road worthy vehicle.  There was a gurney in the back with a blanket and a pillow.  This was from a time long before EMS and para-medics were around! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Early morning view

I think I've shared before that one of the life changing things about having this group of dogs has been the addition of the habit of drinking a cup of coffee every morning while sitting on the glider on my deck, weather permitting.  This time of year it is dark while I sit there during the week, but on Christmas morning I was there just about the time the sun was rising.  It was not a brilliant, blazing sunrise that morning, just a gradual changing of the light.  The trees have lost most of their leaves, so I have more of a view of the sky now than I do at other times of the year. 

The morning was so peaceful that I felt it the perfect way to begin Christmas Day; sitting quietly absorbing the sunrise.  It was cold, and the steaming coffee was making endless curls into the air.  The dogs were still exploring the yard.  I just sat, enjoying the morning view and being thankful for a small place on God's earth to call my own.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Blessings to all

We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Phillips Brooks, ca. 1868

Monday, December 23, 2013

No surprises here

So, grandchild #1 didn't find his gift this year (at least not yet), but he has found the receipt!  He is impossible to surprise!  And, just for the record, he does NOT wear glasses.  They are for "good looks". 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Come on Christmas!

We are just 10 days away from Christmas, really less than that.  I'm ready, totally ready.  Tonight was our church's Christmas Pops concert and every year after it is over THEN I really feel  like it is Christmas.  The concert is a big affair and a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun for performers and audience.  Another memorable concert, check it off the list and let's move toward the big day!

Now, as much as I love Christmas I don't go crazy trying to do everything.  I do not want to stress myself out over something that I enjoy.  Years ago I felt so stressed and frazzled, but I've learned to just do what I want and leave the unnecessary stuff alone.  For example, I haven't put out one outside light this year.  No big deal, those lights may get out there and they may stay in the storage box, too.  I don't send out Christmas cards to everyone I know any more either.  Just family and friends that are out of town get cards; this is much easier. 

Do I bake cookies?  Sometimes.  I haven't done so in several years, but I'm thinking that next weekend I might make a batch or two of some family favorites.  Years ago I thought I had to bake 15 dozen of every variety ever invented, but decided that was a waste of time because the cookies were either eaten before I got the kitchen cleaned up (this is true, it actually happened) or the cookies sat there until New Years and then I threw them out.

This happy group has got the season all figured out - they just sit there and smile and watch the blinking lights on my tree!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A time for everything

Several times in the last few weeks since Thanksgiving I have realized that I have not taken time to really enjoy the fall season this year.  I usually have this realization while driving along totally absorbed in what I have done, what I am about to do and what I will be doing in an hour.  I will have a reality moment when I realize that the sky is a beautiful blue and the trees a mixture of colors or that the sky is dark and gloomy and there are leaves on the wet pavement and that I have not been taking time to enjoy the sights around me.  Between work, school, and other things I have been preoccupied.

This happened last night when I left work and was headed home on a 40 minute drive to let the dogs out, quickly get dressed for the office party, and then head back out the door to the party.  There was the added stress that since I was the party planner that I had to make sure that everything was done just right.  So off I drove into the swirling mist, totally preoccupied as I gripped the steering wheel tightly.  And, then I had one of those moments of realization.  It was a beautiful late afternoon.  The mist was hanging heavily and it gave an eerie look to the landscape.  The color on the trees was muted in the foggy cloud and the brown of the grass in the median seemed to add to the mood.  I tried to focus on the scene before me and was beginning to relax until I hit traffic and the moment was lost.

I think I reclaimed the moment with the start of my Saturday.  The thermometer on the back wall of the house showed 42 degrees, but it didn't seem that cold to me.  I had on my pajamas, beloved red flannel robe and fuzzy socks inside my gardening shoes; a lovely sight, but so comfortable.  It has been too cold to sit outside in the mornings for a while, so I was ready to go out.  The dogs were happy to be exploring around the yard and the steam was rising from my mug of coffee and swirling into oblivion.  The sky was just getting light, full of those small puffy clouds that I associate with a winter morning; grey underneath and a peachy yellow on top as the sun hit them.  The trees have lost a few leaves so there was more of a view of the sky.  The breeze was slight, just causing a few leaves to swirl to the ground.  I was able to totally focus on the moment and the beautiful cold morning.

It was still in the 40's when I headed out to the Botanical Garden.  The fall gardening program is over, but we still had to clean out the plot.  We had to enter through the garden this morning and I had to stop several time to make pictures of the leaves on the pavement and rock walls.

As I surveyed our little plot I told one of the Master Gardeners that I hated to pull up everything.  I realized that some of the plants were ready to be pulled up; the broccoli was through making flowerets and the sweet peas were not going to make any pods.  Still, I went to work and filled my harvest bag with lettuce, cilantro, sweet chard, spinach,  and kale.  I pulled up the last cabbage and cut off the stem, leaving the leaves intact around the head.  Another plot had a nice sized cauliflower that I was told to pull up and take.  After pulling up one of ours I discovered that it also had a small cauliflower.  I pulled up a few carrots and added them to the bag (the carrots were the only thing to be left in the plot).
After scrubbing down my hands with extremely cold water I left the garden.  I spent some time making pictures of a brick wall built by the National Youth Administration as part of the New Deal that I want to submit to the Living New Deal.  Such a beautiful day and how wonderful to be doing something I love doing!
Next stop was a specialty grocery store not too far away.  Sometime later I left with bags of fresh fruit, vegetables and wine.  I spent time looking at everything, reading labels and inhaling the smells of the cheese department and the cooking demonstration that was starting with the frying of a large quality of chopped onion in a cast iron skillet.  I picked up some almond crusted tilapia filets and other assorted pre-made items, too. 

As I walked through the store I was still musing about having to pull up everything in the garden.  How sad.  Then I remembered that in one of the last e-mails from the garden that they had made the comment that it was time to put the garden to sleep.  When I thought of it that way, in the perspective of the cycle of nature, then I was ready to let it go.  Time to sleep for a while little plot, hope to see you in the spring.

Leaving the store I wandered in Brackenridge Park, making more pictures and marveling at the change in the last few weeks.  I had made pictures here just a few weeks ago, everything was green.  Now the various trees have changed color; especially noticeable are the large cypress trees along the river.
Mindful of the fact that I did have groceries in the back of the car, I pulled myself away from the park and headed home.  Back to reality, I thought with a sigh.  My house looked like a cross between a train wreck, earthquake and tornado scene.  I had to deal with it, I knew.  Strangely, though, when I got home it was right to work.  The groceries were put away and then I started tackling one thing at a time.  It didn't seem so bad after all.  The peaceful morning, free from distractions, had motivated and energized me.  My mind had been cleared and I was ready to work. 

I had to think of the verses from Ecclesiastes that talk of a time and season for everything.  A time to work and a time to play.  We need both; too much of either one upsets our balance. Being outside in the fresh air, enjoying what I was doing, shopping in a favorite store, brought everything into balance for me.  Even though I'm still going to be busy and have many things to do, I'll be keeping my thoughts away from the pre-occupied state so I can enjoy the swirling mist and the falling leaves.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas towels

I don't exactly have a lot of free time, but I did manage to somehow get these towels embroidered to give as gifts.  My skills with the embroidery machine are still somewhat basic and this is my second attempt at towels.  I've wanted to do these for several years, and it did take some self-discipline to hunker down and get them done.  The end result was that I got them done and was pleased with the results.  The recipients were pleased, too, so I know it was worth the effort. A finished project is always good for the heart, mind and soul.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Cold

Winter is here, at least for a few days.  Time to wear sweaters again and make some chili, too.  There's a fire in the fire place tonight and I've got on my sweats and fuzzy socks - it just doesn't get any better than this!  Outside it is 34 degrees with a wind chill of 25, so I'm very thankful for a warm house to be in tonight.

This week I've started working in another branch of our company that is in a little town outside of San Antonio.  The commute is a little farther and a little longer, but it isn't too bad as I'm going against the rush hour traffic. This morning there was ice on the side of I-10 and I watched the temperature drop below freezing.  I drove carefully and was mindful of the possibility of ice.  Around 9:40 we noticed that there was rain dripping off the building's metal roof very quickly, but it wasn't raining in the parking lot.  Then we realized that there were thin sheets of ice falling off the roof.  We quickly ran outside to make pictures. Never mind that it was very cold!

I managed to catch one of the sheets in mid air.  See that blurry rectangle at the upper left?  That is a thin sheet of ice.  They were landing softly, disintegrating like powder when they hit the car and the ground.

The display was short lived and it did warm up to around 40 degrees.  The sun came out, too, but it still is very cold.  Feels like Christmas!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cooking up a storm

The cold weather last week got me in the cooking mood.  Preparing for Thanksgiving should have been enough to satisfy that urge to cook (and eat), but it seemed that I couldn't stop planning dishes and cooking.  The result is that now I have a nice supply of leftovers and haven't had to go to the grocery store in over a week (wonderful!).

I had an abundance of tomatoes harvested from the Children's Garden, so there was nothing to do but make a large pot of spaghetti sauce.  I love homemade spaghetti; it was a staple in our home when I was growing up.  I loved to come home from school and smell the aroma of the sauce that had been simmering that afternoon.  None of us ever tired of eating it over spaghetti or the occasional treat of lasagna.

While the sauce simmered I made a large pan of posole (hominy and corn with green chilies) for a potluck lunch. I made enough sauce to eat two meals and freeze several quart bags for future meals.

The only thing better than smelling the sauce cook is seeing it on my plate!
One of the Master Gardeners had told me that she adds chopped cabbage leaves to her soups and stews so there was nothing to do but try that out! Jaydon had a cabbage that wasn't quite ready to harvest that had big, beautiful leaves.  In addition to the cabbage leaves I threw in a few fresh green beans.  I browned the meat before putting it into the crock pot, letting it simmer for a few minutes to add additional tenderness.  Mmmm, so good on a cold night with fresh, hot cornbread.

Finally, there was Thanksgiving.  I always make cranberry bread for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning and have decided that it is just as easy to make two loaves as one so that's what I did. Cranberry meatballs, gratin potatoes, yeast rolls, a cheese ball to snack on, and a pumpkin pie for dessert accompanied the dishes that arrived with guests. More eating and more leftovers!

It is supposed to get cold again late this week.  I'm thinking about chili for starters and maybe a good hearty casserole, too.  I've got more tomatoes, cabbage, fresh onions, and broccoli.  Surely I can come up with something to make with those!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I enjoy Thanksgiving.  As I was furiously cooking today I found myself, as I often do, reflecting on Thanksgivings past and on family long departed.  As I made the cranberry bread for in the morning I tried to remember when my mother first started making it; I think I was a teenager, but may have been a little older.  And, I'm making her cranberry meatballs for our main meal tomorrow. 

As I unpacked enough of the plates and serving dishes to serve the meal I found myself once again trying to remember the story of the Noritake dishes; did Daddy fly them back in the cargo hold of an empty plane or did one of his buddies?  Or did they order them through the base exchange while we were at Clark?  We never used them much, but I always enjoyed seeing them in the glass front china cabinet.

I had to remember with a smile the Thanksgivings that I traveled with husband and children to Mississippi to spend the holiday with my parents.  I loved those trips, Mississippi is so beautiful heading into the Christmas season and our visits were always memorable. Sometimes my sister and her family was there and sometimes not.  I had to laugh about the year when we finally sat down to eat our Thanksgiving meal and we all realized that Mama had forgotten to make gravy.  There were some nudges and whispers as we told the children not to say a word!

And then there was the Thanksgiving right before my mother passed away.  My sister and I arrived on Saturday, she fell and broke her hip on Sunday night, and on Wednesday we had moved her into a care facility.  I don't think she realized it was Thanksgiving on Thursday, although she did visit for a few minutes with a cousin that drove over from the other side of town to visit her.  I enjoyed chatting for quite a while with the cousin; I had never met her until a few years before.  We talked of their childhood and she shared stories I had never heard, including the story about my grandmother making a beautiful recital dress for my mother and she got to wear it, too because they were the same size (where my grandmother got the money for a recital dress is beyond me but she must have bargained for the fabric and trims). My sister and I ate turkey and dressing at Cracker Barrel after waiting for a table for over an hour.  We took home our desserts for later after another visit back to the care facility. Mama would pass away just a few days after we left.

Last Sunday my Sunday School class had  its annual Thanksgiving potluck lunch.  I look forward to this event as the food is wonderful.  We sit at tables of eight and it gives us a chance to visit. As we went through the line I noticed that the paper plates had a Thanksgiving theme and a Bible verse on them.  Imagine, a paper plate with a Bible verse!  It was Psalm 117:2, the truth of the Lord endures forever. I commented to the person in front of me and she agreed.  Then she read the verse aloud and made the comment, "That truly is something to be thankful for, isn't it."  I had to agree with her, but then it hit me that I had never thought of God's truthfulness as a blessing.  But it is and I've added it to my list of blessings to count. 
May your Thanksgiving be filled with blessings!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A cozy time

In my last post one of the pictures was of my Dickens Village.  I had started buying these pieces about 15 years ago. I had always enjoyed looking at the displays of little villages set up in the stores during the holiday season.  When my son was in his teens he started working at a local Sears.  One night he mentioned that he loved the display of the little village that Sears had for sale.  That was really all the encouragement that I needed to start buying pieces of the Department 56 Dickens Village.  They were expensive, but I tried to add one piece each year for several years.  I even bought each of my children a few pieces that they took to their own homes a few  years ago. Just about every year the Village is the first thing to go up, usually early in November, and the last to go down, usually around the first of February.  I love the warm, cozy glow of the lights and never tire of the peaceful charm of the little village.

Jaydon (oldest grandchild, age 9) loves Christmas as much as I do.  He and I both have to hold ourselves back to keep from decorating too early!  His love of the village became evident this year.  We set it up several weeks ago, planning the event well in advance so we could look forward to it.  Before the night came I had put away some of the fall decorations and prepared the top of the entertainment center for the village, so we were ready to go.  I laid out the foundation and then started bringing the boxes in from the storage container in the garage.  By the time I got the last box in the house he had everything out of the boxes and spread out, ready to go.  But then he surprised me because he had a plan and went right to work setting up each house, putting out the little people and accents, getting batteries in the lamppost, and then adding the trees and little wrought iron fence.  I only had to do a bulb replacement and add a little more of the fluffy stuff we use for snow.  He did it all.  All that was left for me to do was put the empty boxes back in the garage.  (I think decorating this year will be super easy for me!)

Several times since I've seen him standing close to the little village, just gazing intently at it.  I know he is lost in thought, just as I often am when I look at it.  Every now and then I've also seen him make a small adjustment to something in the set up, the mark of the master!  This morning it was cold outside, in the upper 30's.  He snuggled down on the sofa with a blanket, cartoons and the cozy glow of the Dickens Village.  I made him a cup of instant French Vanilla  coffee to sip while I made his breakfast and when I took it in the living room I realized what a delightful scene it was.  The houses were glowing so peacefully and he was so comfortable.  I hope this morning will be on of those moments in time that he will remember when he is older and thinks of time spent at my house. It has already created a beautiful memory for me of a little boy enjoying the cold early winter morning surrounded by the things he loves.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings

Today was Monday, all day long.  Glad to be leaving work I was driving along, half dazed after the day's work.  The sky ahead was dark and gloomy, just the kind of November sky I love.  Then I noticed that a group of trees (or maybe they were crepe myrtles, not sure) along the freeway had turned a deep, dark red.  Not a burgundy red, but not too dark either.  They were beautiful, especially with the background trees just starting to get a little fall color.  Thank you Lord, I needed that was my grateful thought as I drove by.

The trees outside my office building are turning red, too.  Everyday the view from our 2nd floor mezzanine shows a little more color.  By next week, Thanksgiving week, they will be at their peak.

We have rain in the forecast, for what that is worth.  I'm hoping, praying please please please for rain so the wildflower crop will be bountiful next spring. 

Football teams aren't doing too great this year, except for Ole Miss.  Go Rebels!  Still, I can't wait for Thanksgiving night when Texas and Tech square off.

A big pot of mums that blooms faithfully every November

Those nandina berries again! This year's crop is better than last year's!
The Christmas cactus that blooms at Thanksgiving is loaded with blooms!
The beloved Dicken's village gives the living room a warm glow
Counting the blessings, thankful for each one.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Several weeks ago I posted about our Saturday morning Gardening at the Children's Garden at the Botanical Garden Center.  It has been an enjoyable experience even though it is a Saturday morning commitment.  The weather has turned very pleasant; this morning it had rained prior to the start time making the ground slightly soft and easy to work. 

In early October, about five weeks into the program, we arrived one morning to find that our plot had been cleaned out.  It wasn't because of bugs or disease, it was from an honest human mistake.  We have several Master Gardeners that work with our group (they are wonderful!) but didn't communicate among each other about who had already put pesticide on what plots.  So what happened was that our plot and two others received multiple drenchings with a mild pesticide.   I was heartbroken, but the Master Gardeners were so kind that out dismay was soon overcome. 

As with just about anything unfortunate there was a silver lining to the little dark cloud.  Although we lost two tomato plants laden with fruit, a small plot of green beans, a cucumber, and two cabbage plants we were either able to replant or to plant some other things that the other plots were not able to plant.  In addition, they gave us creative license, so to speak, with our plot.  All the other plots have to conform and be uniform.  Ours does not!  As a result, we have planted 2 Swiss chards, 2 areas of sweet peas, 15 additional onions, and two additional cauliflowers. Plus, we have been allowed to harvest from plots where the workers don't show up!

I forgot to make pictures today before we left the garden, but here are some of the things we brought home. We had 2 large bags and 2 small bags overflowing; for the harvest, we give thanks!

2 heads of broccoli
Green tomatoes from a neighboring plot.  That big one is going in the frying pan!
A cucumber and cherry tomatoes harvested from a neighboring plot.
Arugula (yes, it is soaking in a Halloween bowl)

2 varieties of kale

Lots of Crawford lettuce!

Swiss chard
Mari-mums waiting to be floated in water. These are edible and will reseed, but I like them floating in a bowl or a little vase.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A quilt from the past

For my final quilt post from this year's International Quilt Festival I have to share about the quilt that touched me the most.  One of the exhibits featured the life and works of Betty Alderman who passed away in the last year after a battle with breast cancer.  The exhibit featured many of her quilts that she designed and made.  Reading about each entry was very interesting; she had led a very full and creative life.  She owned the business that marketed and sold the patterns for her quilt and she was an avid collector of antique quilts.

All the quilts were remarkable, perfectly made and enjoyable to look at.  Sunbonnet Sue in various occupations and styles were her trademark, along with a little black cat that made its way into several of her quilts.  I lingered for quite some time in this exhibition, delighting in all the different designs and reading each comment. 

These two quilts captivated me the most. The lower quilt in the picture was made in 1860.  Betty had bought it at an auction, if I remember correctly, in either Ohio or Pennsylvania. Although it is in relatively good shape, it is frail and was displayed carefully on this ramp covered with a dark cloth.  It is frayed in many places and brown around the edges where human hands touched it.  The reds have faded and in spots are very thin or even worn away.  But the stitching is beautiful, perfectly done. 

I knelt down for several minutes, lost in thought about this quilt.  I did the math to calculate that it is 153 years old.  I thought about the hands that made the quilt; were they young or old?  Was it made by a country woman or a city woman?  Was she waiting for her husband or sweetheart to come home from the war?  Who was the creator of this quilt?  In my mind I could feel the soft fabric and imagine how it felt to her to push and pull her needle through it.  I felt so close to the quilt and its past. 

The hanging quilt is a replica carefully copied from the original and made by Betty. To be authentic she even rounded the corners, a big no-no in today's world if you are being judged! And I just noticed that Sunbonnet Sue is showing her style in the quilt next to it!


Here's one of Betty Alderman's fun quilts.  Note the little black cat perched on the middle chair! I have a picture of my black cat perched on top of a wing chair so I'm thinking I need to give this idea a try!

All quilts designed and made by Betty Alderman, photographed at the International Quilt Festival, Houston 2013.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quilt Art

Wind by Masanobu Miyama, photograph taken at the International Quilt Festival, Houston 2013
This is a quilt, yes a quilt!  It is made of fabric, small pieces of fabric assembled to form a picture.  There are many quilts that use this technique on display at the International Quilt Festival.  As much as I love the traditional quilts on display, I find myself intrigued by this modern form of art. This dog reminded me of my English Cream dachshunds, but the exact breed of the dog wasn't revealed in the artist's comments.
This is the creator's description of her project
Firecracker by Virginia Greaves photographed at the International Quilt Festival, Houston 2013
This is a quilt, too!  This photo is closer so you can see the stitching.
Note the sold sticker on the description.  I would have a hard time letting someone buy this if I had made it!
Grandpa's Farm by Cindy Kozlowski, photographed at the International Quilt Festival, Houston 2013
I saw this one across the way and couldn't wait to get up close. The quilt was interesting, but so was the story behind it.

And, finally something fun...
The Great Crate Escape by Pauline Salzman, photographed at the International Quilt Festival, Houston 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Places I seen at the quilt show

Well, I made it to the Quilt Festival and am immersed in everything quilting.  Shout yippee and sigh at the same time!  I'm always delighted with all the surprises I encounter and I haven't been let down.

Here's one of them:

Last year, and again this year, the show featured photographs of well known places with quilts electronically imposed (Photoshop) on them.  They are fun to look at!  I had a thrill last night as I walked through the photographs that I thought I would share here. 

The first photograph I recognized was of the Texas State Capitol.
There were other places.  But when I turned a corner and saw this next one I did a double take!
I didn't have to read the caption to know this was Longwood!  I would know this house anywhere - it is Longwood in Natchez, MS!  Imagine, Natchez Mississippi being featured at the International Quilt Festival.  But there's more...
This is what is left of the old toll booth at the river bridge in Natchez
I had to read the caption to make sure, but this is the river bridge at Natchez
The steamboat "Natchez"
Magnolia Hall, Natchez MS
These aren't the best pictures because I was dodging the glare of the spotlights, but the effect of the quilts is there.  My main delight was seeing a place that I love featured in this exhibit.  Wish I was headed east tomorrow instead of west to go home!

Here are two more from Louisiana to finish up:
Oak Alley
The Louisiana State Capitol