Holding Our Breath

This morning Mary, Jordan, Flynn and Mercy all left Colorado and began the long drive home. Meanwhile, we had our normal Saturday stuff to do. Stuff like laundry and arguing over whose dishes were whose.

Lina and I were glad to escape to run some errands. I needed some supplies for an upcoming class, and Lina hoped to get her phone fixed. Alas, while I did get the supplies I needed (albeit for a shocking amount of loot), Lina found out that for the most part, phones don’t get “fixed” anymore and she had spent over $100 on a dud that never worked. So frustrating.

We stopped at a couple of other places before coming home for a late lunch. I had hoped to do some sewing today, but there were other priorities. I did get some gluten free bread made and some tidying up done. I also played around a little with my autoharp. It’s not all the way tuned yet, but it sounds a lot better than it did.

Spencer went to a concert and Lucy went to a swim party (and then went home with friends for the night) so we were down to just four of us at supper tonight. Tomorrow there will be 10! I am so looking forward to it.

The kids aren’t here yet and it’s after midnight. I’m thinking it will be at least another hour.

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105°

What more can I say? Well, quite a lot, obviously. The summer whining season has officially begun as of today. Today was the first triple-digit day of the summer, and it was a doozy. I drove up to the farm in our blast furnace of a vehicle along with Lina, Lucy and Jasper. It was HOT. I do not like HOT.

We were greeted, as usual, by friendly dogs, and by little chicks in the entryway:

 6-28-13 chicks

There were also adorable kittens.

Kim made us a delicious taco salad for lunch, and then the boys went outside to play in the dirt (to which they added copious quantities of water).

6-28-13 boys in dirt

The girls went to ride.  Lina hadn’t been on horseback since she was a teenager and was very eager to ride. The plan was for Lina to ride with Ilse and Lucy for awhile, and then come back to the house while they went to ride the horses in the pond. So Ilse and Lucy were riding bareback and barefoot and wearing clothes that they didn’t mind getting wet. Lina preferred to stick with a saddle and stirrups:

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Some time after they rode off, Lucy staggered back on foot (remember she was barefoot). She was dehydrated and had been overcome by the heat and had almost passed out, so she felt she should head back to the house. She was rather shaky and we made her drink a lot of water!

Meanwhile, I got to visit with Kim and got two very long rows knitted before Lina and Ilse returned. Lucy wasn’t up to any more riding, so we all just stayed at the house and Lina and I listened to Kim play her dulcimer and I might have dozed off a little.

Eventually it was time to leave and we drove home through even hotter temperatures. (105°!!!) I probably should have started my new sewing project, but I didn’t. Maybe I’ll get a little sewing time tomorrow, in between the various things I need to do to prepare for the Colorado gang to get back tomorrow night.

 

An Annual Appointment

Today was the day of my annual lunch with my friend Shirley. We always seem to get together near my birthday. We are good friends and there is no reason why we couldn’t get together more often; in fact I’d love to see her more often. It just seems that we are both so busy. Shirley’s daughter Ashley, who was a childhood friend of Mary’s, is getting married in September, so naturally we had a lot to talk about.

Before I went to meet Shirley it was a race to get my skirt finished. The final touches took a little longer than I had expected. In fact, by the time I finished, I had only 10 minutes to get ready and out the door! Here is a photo which at least shows you the two fabrics I used:

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It was fun to get that made in less than 24 hours. I have now completed 10 of my 30 projects for this summer. One-third of the way there! My next project is rather daunting, but, as I keep telling myself, not as daunting as making an elvish wedding dress!

I received a few texts from Mary today. She and Jordan have come down from the mountain and returned to civilization. Today they and Flynn and Mercy and many of their friends enjoyed being together and going to a concert. We are looking forward to see them again on the weekend.

I also finished reading Into the Free by Julie Cantrell. If you are looking for a fun, lighthearted read, this is not it. If you are looking for a Christian novel with easy answers and a happy ending tied up with ribbon, this is not it. If you are looking for a positive depiction of Christian families, this is not it. This is a hard book to like, in some ways. If you like Flannery O’Connor, you might like this book.

This is Southern literary historical fiction, set in Mississippi in the 1930s and 40s. The  writing is impeccable. It’s the kind of prose that critics refer to as “soaring,” “luminous,” or “incandescent.” The kind of prose that I cannot write without sounding insufferably pretentious. But Julie pulls it off. She makes you care about Millie, the main character, who grows up in an extremely dysfunctional family until things get worse–much worse. The measure of Julie’s skill is that even though I could see where the story was heading, I couldn’t put it down; couldn’t stop thinking about the story when I was doing other things. Twice I lay down feeling sick and exhausted, and in desperate need of a nap, but thinking I’d just read a few pages until I passed out. Both times I couldn’t stop reading and instead of getting sleepier I woke up and became very alert because I was so focused on the story.

That’s what a good book should do. It should take you to another place and make you care about the people who inhabit it. I understand now why this book, Julie’s debut novel, was a New York Times bestseller and a multiple award winner. Did you know that most of this book was written in the wee hours of the morning? Julie is a busy lady and in order to have time to write, she would get up at 3:00 a.m. and get her writing done before her husband and kids woke up. I’m kind of in awe of her, and I’m so glad I had the privilege of meeting her.

 

Goals Met & A Dream Come True

Today felt rather decadent and luxurious, I suppose in part because I didn’t have to go anywhere. I started off the morning by finishing a sewing project which has languished in my sewing room for many years. It felt so good to get it done and put a sticker on the appropriate square of my little chart!

Then I got started on my next project. I have two pieces of fabric that I bought separately and in fact years apart, and at some point I got it into my head that if I put them together I could make a very pretty skirt. I did all the math last night, so today I just had to cut the pieces (10 pieces of each fabric) and start serging them together, because they are cotton and they serge beautifully, unlike some other fabrics I could mention. I should finish hemming it tomorrow morning, in time to wear it to lunch . . .

Meanwhile, any time I needed to take a break, I was reading. I have sidelined Winston for the moment because I really felt that my birthday present to myself should be allowing myself to take the time to read a novel. Virtually all the reading I do is reading that I must do, and I love to read so much that this is rather a hardship. The Last Lion is, admittedly, voluntary, but it’s not quite the same as reading fiction. So I decided that I would indulge myself in reading Julie Cantrell’s book Into the Free. I met Julie at the conference last fall and liked her so much as a person that I’ve been very eager to read her book. I’m about halfway through and will give you a full report when I’m done. I’ve missed reading for pleasure so much!

This afternoon I enlisted Jasper to help me make chocolate wiggly while I also worked on making a double batch of spiced chai mix. When I had the mix made, I made icy spicy chai for everyone in the house. Yum! I know some of you are wondering what chocolate wiggly is. Well, that’s what we call it. It’s a recipe from the 80s that probably should have stayed in the 80s, and it has no redeeming qualities at all except that we like it. I make it about once every five years. Seriously. I posted it on my old blog once but I’ll print it again here.

Chocolate Wiggly

chocolate wiggly

4 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cups cold water

1 12-oz package milk chocolate chips

Put water in a medium saucepan, add gelatin, and stir continuously over very low heat until gelatin has dissolved. Add chips and keep stirring until mixture is smooth. Pour into an 8-inch square pan and chill until firm. Cut into squares and eat with fingers.

And finally, the icing on the cake for today was that a very old dream came true. Last week I received a monetary gift from a dear old friend. She specified that I could not use it to pay bills and should get something “fun” with it. I did give it some thought and prayer, but I couldn’t help thinking that it was exactly enough to get something that I have wanted literally since I was eight years old. I couldn’t afford it as a child and as an adult it seemed far too frivolous a thing to even save up for, even though I occasionally haunted Ebay looking for good deals. So when I received this gift, I believed the time had come to indulge my little dream.

I bet you can’t guess what I got. It’s an autoharp. I have always wanted one. I can’t tell you why I find them so fascinating, but I love the idea of having a portable instrument that is not a guitar. It doesn’t hurt that it is easy to learn and, I believe, sounds pretty good too. It arrived today and I might have sort of hugged it for awhile. It needs to be tuned, but fortunately I have a music expert right here in my house. Hopefully we can get going on that so that I can start learning to play.

Tomorrow I do have to leave the house and it’s supposed to be over 100 degrees for the first time this summer. I’m already cringing at the thought of driving the rolling inferno in my new skirt.

Winston and Me

Today was sort of a birthday afterglow, especially since I had to teach all afternoon yesterday. I had been warned to stay in bed this morning, and I can’t say I objected, especially since Lina and Jasper came in at 8:00 bearing a breakfast tray. They had worked together on the food and it was delicious!

While I ate my breakfast, I did some reading. I have undertaken a very ambitious reading project this summer, and I haven’t mentioned it to you yet because I didn’t want this blog to turn into the Winston Churchill Report. But the fact is that I am reading the first volume of The Last Lion by William Manchester. This 992 page book is just the first of a three-volume biography of Churchill. I have always been fascinated by Churchill, but I started reading this book because the writing, especially in the preface, had been highly recommended.

Now I have been thoroughly sucked in, and I’m not even a third of the way through the first volume! My mind is boggled. He had possibly two of the worst parents in British aristocratic history, yet he idolized them. He was the most ambitious young man I have ever heard of. In fact he was so focused on his career goals and pursued them so single-mindedly that I’m more than a little surprised that he had any friends at all. I think he would have been absolutely fascinating to talk to, but at this point I do not think that I would have liked him. Still, his story is captivating and I’m sure I won’t be able to resist mentioning him again more than once before I’ve finished reading. At the moment he is 25 and has just been taken prisoner in South Africa . . .

churchill 1

This afternoon Lina took the kids bowling again (and I rested and talked to my mom on the phone) and then after they returned home she took me up to Barron’s for a birthday tea. It was a hot day (duh!) so we asked for iced chai, and that’s what we got–chai poured over ice. Hmmm. . . Apparently they don’t do frozen chai there? I must get busy in the kitchen and make up some chai mix so that we can made our own incomparable Icy Spicy Chai.

When we finished our chai, we wandered through the store, which has once more been rearranged. I was almost afraid to go back to where the books used to be, but when I did I was glad to see that there were still some books left, and that they are now 75% off. I didn’t think there would be anything left to interest me, but there was . . . I even found a book that I think my husband would like.

This evening we had our monthly writers’ meeting and our speaker was a member of our group who normally does the devotion for us. This time she was speaking about public speaking. I have had a fair amount of instruction and experience, but I still learned some helpful new things and of course I am always just happy to see my writer friends. To my surprise and delight, some of them are reading my blog!

I returned home, and inspired by having been around other writers, I did something that I probably should have done some time ago–I sent polite little emails to the two editors who have been tying up my manuscripts since last fall. If they’re going to reject me, I’d rather they do it sooner instead of later, because I am getting ready to plunge into some intensive writing, and I really want to know what to work on. But oh, it would be so nice to get a positive response!

 

 

New Neighbors, the Moon, and a Birthday

Well, I didn’t make it to church yesterday. Not only did I still feel pretty bad, but I hated to think that I might pass the plague on to anyone at church. I thought I’d be home alone, but right before church Jasper went into the yard to water some plants, and on his way back in, a bee startled him, and somehow he injured his foot while climbing the steps. I don’t really understand what happened, but he was in a lot of pain, so he stayed home also. He couldn’t stand the thought of putting weight on that foot, so all morning he crawled around on his hands and knees while I dozed on the couch.

Eventually I got my act together and had him ice his foot and then I wrapped it and gave him my hiking staff to use as a prop. The rest of the day he dragged himself around with the staff.

After supper there was a knock at our door and I went to find total strangers standing there and offering me garden produce. Turns out it was our new neighbors coming to introduce themselves. They have bought and are remodeling the other “big” house in our neighborhood. I’m so glad to have another nice family in the neighborhood. The husband has just recently graduated from the university and they have two daughters.

Shortly after that we all went over to the campus and climbed up on top of the berm to watch the “super moon” rise. We had a long wait, even though we got there right at the official moonrise time. Apparently we still could not see the horizon and then the moon was covered by clouds for awhile.

Eventually, of course, it did rise and it was glorious. I do love the moon so. When we came home, I noticed that the moon had not yet cleared the trees across the street, so I set up my tripod again and sat down to wait on the front steps. Within moments I was ambushed by a couple of adorable kittens who climbed all over me and purred. I called Lucy, and soon she and Jasper were out there playing with the kittens too. It was very enjoyable.

Today was my birthday so I allowed myself to sleep in till 8:00! I was still very sleepy when I got up, but at least my cold was finally less bothersome. I had a class to get ready for, and Lina and I also had an errand to run before lunch.

My story class went well but by the time it was over I was very tired. It might be a few days before I’m back up to speed, but at least I’m finally on the mend.

One great thing about the day was that every time I got online, there was a new batch of birthday greetings–on Facebook and by email. It was such a delight to hear from so many people! I also got phone calls from Mercy, my mother, my brother Greg, my brother Matt, and Flynn. That was a real treat. Another treat was getting to eat broiled summer squash with our supper, thanks to our new neighbors.

We are saving my birthday dinner for the weekend when all the kids will be back from Colorado. I can hardly wait! Oh, and Jasper’s foot was much better today. I took away the staff and removed the bandage and he got around quite well, though he is still limping a little.

May the Mind of Christ, My Savior

This seems an appropriate hymn to meditate on as I begin a new year.

May the Mind of Christ, My Savior

by Kate B. Wilkinson

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

 

A Redwall Feast

My silence last night was, once again, unintentional. I just could not get online. Yesterday Lina and I went out to lunch with my friend Kathy. Afterwards, we stopped by a couple fabric stores. We sure know how to have fun! Then, when we got back to the house, we went and dug up a mulberry tree. I had promised to give Kathy one that had rooted itself in our side yard after being pruned from one of our other trees. This particular sapling had grown so large that we had to trim it quite a bit to get it into Kathy’s minivan.

Of course, I was still sick, so going out completely exhausted me and I had to rest before tackling a quick sewing project and then settling down to wait for Flynn, who was driving over from Dallas. He didn’t show up until 11:30, long after Mercy had gone to bed.

This morning the two of them were up long before dawn and on the road to Colorado by about 5:00 a.m. I know this because Mercy locked herself out of the house at 4:56 and rang the doorbell, which caused me to leap out of bed and rush frantically into the hallway, only to find that Flynn had already let her in. They were just about to leave.

I finally fell asleep again right before my alarm went off at 6:10. I don’t enjoy my Walmart excursions at the best of times, but I enjoy them much less when I’m both sleep-deprived and sick. By the time Jasper and I returned home I was ready to lie down and recuperate for the rest of the morning. I gave Lucy the recipe for gluten-free sponge cake and collapsed.

Today being the day of our long-awaited Redwall feast, and also the day our friend Lee was coming to supper, I had to make a hard decision. I wanted to do some sewing, but I just wasn’t physically able to do that and the cooking too, so I concentrated on the cooking.

After lunch I cut up the cake and assembled the raspberry trifle for dessert, before accompanying Lina to Books-a-Million to check out their one-day sale. When we returned, it was time to peel and chop vegetables and make some “nutbread” which turned out to be a sort of savory scone that was very delicious!

I did have to lie down for a while, but I still got supper done. The Redwall Cookbook doesn’t have any meat recipes (for good reason) so I had to figure out how to prepare fish, which is mentioned often in the Redwall books. I had tilapia filets and I spread them with honey mustard and then sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top before baking them in the oven. They were delicious! We also had a vegetable casserole and the nutbread. Lee has never read the Redwall books but he enjoyed the dinner regardless.

For dessert we had a raspberry trifle that was very delicious:

6-22-13 trifle

Then Lee showed everyone how to make tiny little bombs by putting a few drops of alcohol in a film container and then introducing a little spark.

6-22-13 Lee with kids

We finished off the evening by watching a Top Gear episode and that was very satisfactory.

Working Down the List & Narnia Food

It’s late and I’m sick, so today’s entry will be mercifully brief, for all our sakes. I woke up with a cold and have been taking zinc and meds all day and managed to sort of struggle through.

I finished two sewing projects. The list has grown to 30 items and I have now completed 6 of them, which means I’m one-fifth done. I’m pretty sure the summer is more than one-fifth over.

I started reading Beekeeping for Dummies to Jasper to gauge his interest in beekeeping, which he has insisted he wants to do since he was about four.

I acquired a new literary cookbook and this one looks like a real winner–The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz. I’m pretty sure we’re going to need to have more than one Narnia meal this summer. Tomorrow, sick or not, we’re going to have a Redwall feast. Or it might have to wait until Saturday.

Bowling & Pizza

Today at least I didn’t have to go shopping at the crack of dawn. I had plenty of other stuff to do, of course, including trying to get on the internet again. I never know what is going to happen!

Then of course I had my class and we talked about using examples in a paragraph to help explain a word or concept. This afternoon Lina took Lucy and Jasper bowling while I stayed home to make two kinds of pizza dough, which had to be ready at three different times. I really miss the days when the whole family was together at supper and we could all eat the same food!

I finished another sewing project and gave myself another sticker. This is the fourth thing I’ve completed since the wedding, but meanwhile my list has grown from 20 to 29 items. Must keep sewing!

And, even though I really couldn’t spare the time, I topped off the evening by watching an episode of Foyle’s War with Walter and Lina. Tomorrow we’re having company and I’m looking forward to it!

Now my throat is very scratchy and I think I see zinc in my future.