Friday, August 27, 2010


Summer Kitchen - Buy at

Here we are, rounding the last corner of summer, in order to head straightway towards fall. My bean patch went wild with growth all summer but did not produce a single bean until this week. Yesterday I picked a pound. Kind of reminds me of the Yankees, who always seem to not take things seriously until they are almost done for, but who suddenly wake up and begin to produce at the next to last minute. Thus, the beans may end up the pennant winners of my garden this year. We'll see.

And kind of like me, who decides a half hour past my bedtime to begin a new post. Here I sit, looking like the last rose of summer and tired as August's last onion, but feeling exceedingly grateful for all my blessings. And grateful for all of yours, whether or not you know about them.  The fact is, if I have the time, electricity, and ability to sit and write this, and you have a way, and the ability to read this, then I would say we are both blessed, wouldn't you? The Internet is the oracle, bringing much of what has ever been known or discovered along with all of our stories right into all our homes, and we are just the happy go lucky recipients of all of it. Wow!

But tonight I am also thankful for some pretty good lab results, and (not necessarily in the correct order) for my four cats, the dog, the faithful high school sweetheart who is still hanging around my living room just as he first did in 1970 when I was fresh out of tenth grade, for my beautiful children, and for all the work I have to do. Especially tonight, I am thankful for the work.

Tonight I rejoice that tomorrow there are floors to be swept and mopped, bathrooms to be cleaned, furniture to be dusted, and a front porch to be swept. I know that with time, soap, water, a few tools and my effort, I can make this place shine and sparkle for the weekend. Some people have no home, some are grieving, some are laying weak and still in a hospital bed, so many are alone, but I am blessed to have a home, a family, and the physical ability to work every bit as hard as I could when I was twenty. Probably more so, considering what a little princess I was back then! Yeesh!

And isn't it wonderful how God can still change and grow us no matter how old we get? For instance, I used to be so overwhelmed with knowing that I could not finish all my work or projects, so in a sense, I was never really done at the end of the day, or ever.  So I would just work myself all up into a tizzy or else just kind of drop out and not attempt much of anything. Finally, I am realizing that life is a process and when we show up for it every day and give things a good try, then we have been successful.

So I think that we should be happy with ourselves when we know we've tried our best, and when we haven't, we should just ask God to help us be better, and then forgive ourselves and start again in the morning. So in the morning, I hope to get up early enough to make my 30 minute Irish oatmeal, load it up with berries and walnuts, a dab of butter, some milk and a spoonful of maple syrup, and delight myself in the awesomeness of it all. Then I'll head off to clean the church, and return to clean the domestic church, our house.

And then of course, there are the late summer food chores to be undertaken. I have a huge zucchini squash still sitting on the counter, half of which I might cook and mash with butter and have for lunch along with some leftover rotisserie chicken and cold Bartlett pears, ripe to perfection at this moment. Now the other half of the squash will make a healthy batch of sweet zucchini bread, some to have at tomorrow's afternoon coffee break, and some to freeze.

I also have a bag full of crabapples, which I spied in the large yard surrounding an old farmhouse. Because I am a shameless peasant, and my friend JoAnn, another shameless peasant, was with me in the car (we had just come back from getting some eggs from a farm down the road), I backed up, pulled into the driveway, knocked on the door and asked the lovely lady who answered it if she'd mind me picking a few crab apples. She seemed surprised and said, "Are those any good to eat?"

"They might make some good jelly", I weakly responded, as if I wasn't sure myself. As if!! I simply did not want to seem too enthusiastic, lest she decide to hoard them for herself and take up jelly-making on the spot.  I should not have worried about that, however. It turns out Renee (she was generous enough to offer her name along with the crab apples) has a real job and a real career doing some kind of social work at the children's hospital and thus probably hasn't the time to make jelly, and certainly neither the time nor inclination to drive around spying out lonely fruit in the yards of strangers, like some people I know.

So Jo and I jumped at the chance. I took the egg cartons out of the plastic bag they were in, and used that for the crab apples. As we were finishing, JoAnn mused as how she would have loved it if the lady had a fig tree too, for that is what she truly had a hankering for: ripe figs. Well, I thought this was rather nervy of her to go wishing for something else for free when here we already were getting something for free, and for figs of all things! Perhaps I should just wish for a money tree, then, hmm? But all I said was, "Yeah, uh-huh".

Well, guess what? As we came back to the car in the driveway, what should we behold, but a large fig tree!
I should have guessed as much, because those old farmsteads pretty much had everything but a super Walmart growing around them back in the day. Well, JoAnn got really excited, and all I said was, "Well that is wonderful, Jo-jo, and when you knock on the door to thank Renee for the crab apples, you can ask her if you can a have a couple of figs". And she did!

And Renee said,  "Why sure! You can have all you want because we don't eat them at all!" What a doll. God sure does make some cool people.

And that is just another example of how ridiculously blessed we are and most of the time we forget to notice. Because wasn't He simply awesome to plant that hankering in my friend's head probably exactly 120 years after He planted the fig tree right where she could see it a century or so later?  Well, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that JoAnn was effusive in her thanks, but I just smiled, and all I said to Renee was, "Do you have a bag, then?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Our cousin's pond, upstate NY
Summer is rich, heavy, heady and full of herself, but now, almost imperceptibly, she is beginning to go to seed. Sort of like women of a certain age when they are just past the height of their female prowess, but not quite ready to quit the party and go home.  Oh, sort of like this one, I suppose................................................

Yours truly in front of the courthouse at Arlington, VT.

Our trip up north was everything I needed it to be, that is, it was everything. The buildings, the mountains, the meadows, the family, friends and food, the otherness of the place were fresh rain on my arid soul.

There stood the mountains all around us, wise and cloaked with deep green vestments, standing solemn and sober as judges, bearing upon their shoulders the weighty judgments of the sky and clouds.


Not to be outdone by their unshakable elder brothers, the meadow flowers perfectly expressed so many of the scriptures which speak of the small and weak things being chosen to lead, the humble who shall be exalted, as indeed I will exalt them here, although fittingly, in small pictures:

And here they adorn the ancient feet of a shagbark hickory tree.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Last, but certainly not least, was the joy I got in visiting with so many of the relatives and friends. From the matriarch of my husband's family, Aunt Erna (age 93), to my brother, a whole passel of cousins, and childhood and church friends, there was no shortage of sweet fellowship.Our many thanks to our hostess, Merridy. We love you!

We are back home now, the party is over, and we are back to meet the remaining heat head-on, as well as doctor appointments, bills to pay, back to school and all the reality of the grown-up world. I had my birthday up home, and if you would really like to know how I felt about getting one more year older, and with it all the challenges and uncertainty of life, well this picture should suffice................

It was homemade hot-fudge ice cream cake, after all.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Also, I do not recognize any of the homes in which said photos were taken. Not my house, nor the homes of any of my friends. Thank God, again. Why am I posting this picture? I really do not know, except that staying up too late is conducive to posting dubious stuff on the Internet.

But let's examine what is going on here a bit, because it is interesting. Firstly, we can assume that someone, or ones who have access to my computer, was at this party (and many others, judging by the many happy group shots I find interspersed with pictures of my garden or my applesauce, or images of fine art I have pilfered from

So yes, obviously there are young people of my very close acquaintance who like to indulge in this kind of behavior. Perhaps I shouldn't be admitting this to the outside world. I don't care, I am outing them officially, right here on my ladies' blog. And revealing something of my life as well. You had to know it was not all pickles.

Here is the pathetic part: just look at the bright, young faces, full of joy and camaraderie and Budweiser beer.
It seems these are the only times they feel truly alive and happy.  Because, trust me, most of the time when I see young people, they just look kind of dull and uncomfortable. Bored. Sad. Surly. What is so unnatural about life today that makes most people, not just young ones, so downright miserable with reality that they cannot stand to be in it?

Weirder still, is the way they still all look so fresh and innocent.  It is as if they are saying, "Hey, look at us! Isn't it great??  We all just finished playing tag and having our milk and cookies, and now its time to risk arrest and a car accident!!  In truth, it wasn't that long ago that they were big fans of Sponge Bob and pajamas with feet. 

And they look this way, because in a sense, they are still innocent, at least of the knowledge of the long term effects of  their decisions, made in careless youth.

But as the saying goes, "Sin in haste, repent in leisure".

I am really hoping that kids are just going through a phase and they will find their balance and go on to live productive, meaningful lives. Am I taking these pictures too seriously? I happen to know that some of the people who read this blog will think so, and some will be absolutely appalled, at them and also at me, for writing about this calmly and not going absolutely berserk on my young people. Well, I have. It helped some.

Some things I cannot prevent so I must detach where that is appropriate, and suffer where it is not. But I can make sure that my refrigerator continues to stay out of the party pictures, and in fact, I can keep the pictures off my computer, though I cannot keep revelers out of my heart. So I will continue to admonish, set firm boundaries, and pray for them. Please pray for them, too, and for me.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Late Summer Grazing
 Late Summer Grazing
Late Summer Grazing
Available at:
Gudmundsen Fine Art Studio

As the days become sodden with the sweet, syrupy warmth of full-on summer, life, even with air conditioning, melts into slow-motion. Every aspect of what I thought I understood is now a slightly out-of-focus, sun-drenched dream. Again.

For the past few years, I have worked from early spring to right about now in a fast-paced, heavy workloaded, deadline driven job, which pushes, pushes, pushes us workers right up until the last day when, poof, the work is over, all-at-once, and we are swept out of there with a sincere thank-you and a "here's your hat, what's your hurry, please remember to leave your badge at the front desk" boot to the butt.

We inevitably wander, somewhat disoriented, out into the blinding sun and heat of the parking lot, which at this time of year resembles the surface of the planet Mercury, struggling to breathe in and spout out a few parting words to our colleagues, saying that we look forward to seeing each other again next spring.  Well, we do want to see each other again, but more than one heart holds the hope that the reunion will occur in a grand hotel ballroom that one of us has somehow managed to become rich enough to rent out for the entire, catered evening. I, for one, harbor the hope that my great wit and timeless beauty have somehow landed me some kind of meaningful, lucrative life without ever having had to learn Excel.

Oh, my, but it's time to get out of the sun and into the air-conditioned car to head back home.

And once there, I am no longer the accurate, effectively working bearer of the paycheck. It turns out that family folks and other folks now see me for what I am:  heat waves coming up through the blacktop. Just when I thought I had transformed myself into a refreshing pool of water, it turns out I am a mirage. I step back into my hidden world, and become invisible.

But home is so important to me. It is there that I get a chance to really think about things, to pursue my eccentric little projects, and to seek my refuge. I am cleaning out shelves and drawers and going through neglected paperwork. Sounds like drudgery but it is so rewarding to take stock of things and put the house to rights.

Also, there has been a good bit of produce to deal with from the garden.  I have made salsa, gazpacho, tons of spaghetti sauce, and am currently making some crock pickles, which are called cinnamon bark or ripe cucumber pickles. These will be especially good in cooler weather when we eat heavier, oven-cooked meals and want a little accompaniment that is sweet and tangy to go with the meal. I have made some dill refrigerator pickles and want to make some regular bread and butter pickles with cucumbers and some with zucchini, as well. And more stuffed zucchini. And zucchini bread. Seeing a pattern here?

I also have a dozen or so quarts of various fruit cordials "cooking". They will be done around the first of October.

Hay Wagon
Available at:
Gudmundsen Fine Art Studio

Now don't think that all I've done is work, because I have already done a fair share of lolling around the house, too, and floating and gabbing away in my friend JoAnn's pool. Definitely need a little more of that this coming week.  She lives right across the street so it is easy to bop on over.

Above all else, it is time for some spiritual housekeeping. I feel as though I have been flying by the seat of my pants and have neglected "the weightier matters". Time to take some spiritual rest and nourishment in the Word and in prayer. This is very important for all of us, either when we have been so busy with work or have taken a big vacation to the world, which summer can sometimes be.

It is August. A time when the U.S. government would virtually close up shop in days gone by. Sensible days gone by. Time to come in out of the hot sun and take a siesta. Have a glass of sweet tea or lemonade. Sit on the porch after supper and watch the fireflies come out. Give yourself time to think. Rich, robust August. A time to take a quieter path.