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!