If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today was Craft Day!

Earlier this week I went to Hobby Lobby and the office supply store and got the supplies I needed for some crafting.  I was inspired by my daughter who has been busy lately creating cute appliqued shirts and dish towels and such.  I gave her my old porch chair cushions and she covered those, too. 

Here is a look at her newly painted chairs and table and my old faded cushions with new fabric covers. 
I love the watercolor effect of this fabric!

Here is another shot of her porch rockers and the cushions.

She also  covered some for the back yard furniture.

Isn't this vibrant stripe fabulous?

All we need is a cold glass of lemonade to make this more yummy!

Isn't she creative?  She must have a wonderful mother!  I'll post some more of her pictures later.  (After she got the cushions covered, I'm thinking I would like to have them back!) 

I also was inspired by Suzanne over at Just Another Hangup.  She has a cute idea called Plaque Attack.  I was so inspired and convinced by her blog posting that I decided to give this a try myself.  I simply followed her tutorial and that made it one of the easiest crafts I have ever done!  I just loved it and am already looking forward to next month's edition, Suzanne!

I know the picture is a bit blurred, but sn't this just too cute?

I was so excited about doing both of them just like Suzanne's that I forgot I have my printer programmed to print the last page first so that multiple pages will come off in order.  So, I 'll have to go back to the craft store for more paper to get the other one just like Suzanne's.  Note to self:  Get several of the scrapbook papers in case you mess up or decide to make one for somebody else!  I'll give this next one as a gift.

Maybe my inspirational daughter will get this one!
(I'm still thinking I want those cushions back, though!)

While I was inspired, I also went a step beyond (trying to be the overachiever that my daughter is, I guess!) and made a gift for a couple who is getting married on Saturday.  This was one of the easiest crafts I have ever done and it turned out just wonderful!  I LOVE something quick, cute, and easy!

John and Linda's gift has inspired me to try to make other gifts.

One thing I learned on my own project is to use a solid black font when you are using a printed scrapbook paper as the background.  The fonts which are simply an outline don't show up as well. 

I forgot to turn the flash off on my camera so there is a bit of a glare, but I think the words turned out more clearly on this shot.

Wouldn't these be just adorable as a gift for a young child or even one going off to college?  You could center up the child's name and surround it with words which tell his/her favorite things.  You also could simply put an initial and add some of the unique things he/she says.  I think I'm going to make one to hang on the wall in my bathroom that says things like splish, splash, sparkle, scrub, etc.  Did I say that I just love these easy and cute crafts?

While I was waiting for paint and Mod Podge to dry, I cut out and stitched up some pillows.  I had originally bought this wee bit of fabric to see if it would go with my deck sofa cushions.  I thought I would cover the chair cushions and have a vibrant and cutesy back deck.  After a bit, Mike and I decided that the chairs didn't sit as comfortably with the cushions as without them.  So, that is why Bridgette got the cushions.  (I still think I might ask to get them back since they turned out so cute, though.)  Anyway, I decided that I would just use the fabric and make some pillows to put behind our backs in the chairs or for lying on the sofa and reading.  Didn't they turn out cute?

The fabrics look like they were made for one another, don't they?

I put a lime-green rick-rack edging on one of them and did a decorative stitch on the other one.  I have two more cut out and I'm trying to decide if I'll make them just like these two or if I will come up with some different edging.

At one point in the day I was searching for my tape measure.  I remembered that Lillie had been measuring something the last time she was here and I went across the hallway to see if it was with the toys over there.  Well, I didn't find the tape measure, but it looks like somebody was being a bit crafty themselves...

The photo is a bit dark.  Yes, that is chalk on the wall!

I didn't wash it off just yet because it was just too creative and cute.  But, I'm not sure it will get to stay forever.  Sorry Lydia!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Something to think about

Today I had a doctor's appointment to check my progress with my new blood pressure medication and to check on my ear infections and see if I am finally over that.  Well, I'm happy to report that the blood pressure is in-check now and that is a relief.  No, I don't like having to take the medicine every day.  I don't like having to pay for something foreign to put in my body to control it.  I wish I could control it myself - and maybe if I was more disciplined and would loose this extra weight, I could.  Let's face it, though.  That isn't happening and I need to do something else to keep the blood pressure under control.  So, with Mike's help at reminding me each morning, I'm faithfully taking the medicine and measuring the pressure.  The ear infection - well, I still have it.  So, I was prescribed a new round of clear-it-up medicine and we shall see how that goes. 

One of the things I had to do is to give a little blood to the lab so that those experts could check liver function and several other things.  When I sat down in the chair there at the lab, I noticed this story on the wall.  I thought it was something that I would like to pass along.  I know that it is something that I need to be reminded of on a regular basis.

A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life.

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.  "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Which wolf are you feeding?

Heat Resistant

Ever since I went to my first Pampered Chef party I have been hooked.  I love their product line.  There are so many cooking tools that I just NEED!  Well, at least I THINK I need them even though I've been getting by without them for a while, I still think I need them to make my food and my life a little better.  Why is it that when we see something we LIKE, we think we NEED it?

Anyway, I've been thinking I NEED a silicone whisk to make gravies and sauces and not harm my expensive skillets.  So, when I was at the craft/hobby store yesterday, I noticed this whisk that was on sale.  I have seen these before at different places and wondered if it would work like the more expensive brand name one. 

I only saw this one BLUE whisk on all the clearance aisles. 

So, I snatched it up and clutched it like a treasure as I wandered through the store to get the crafting supplies I had actually gone to pick up.  I think it is a hideous color blue - yes, even I am not loving some shades of blue - especially when it comes to relationships with my food.  However, it had been marked down to less than a dollar-fifty!  It was a deal!  A bargain! 

When I got home and took the tag off of it, I noticed that it said this:

This wonderful silicone whisk is perfect for all surfaces.  The whisk features a very comfortable, safe-grip handle.  Heat resistant up to 450 degrees F.  Dishwasher safe (Top rack).

Now, I wanted the whisk because it would be perfect for my non-stick surfaces and it will also be fine for swirling round in my pottery, glass, or plastic mixing bowls.  The handle seams to be comfortable and smooth.  I will be using it in a hot skillet to make gravies and sauces; so, the heat resistance is important.  Who doesn't want something that they can put in the dishwasher to clean?  But, what concerns me is the parenthesis part.  Does that mean my dishwasher gets as hot as my oven?  So, if my oven goes out, could unhook the water and bake biscuits in there?  On the bottom rack, of course!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Father's Day

I am a teacher.  I guess in a way I have always been a teacher.  You see, my sister is six years younger than me and I probably became a teacher at that point.  Well, somebody had to do it!

My first teachers were my parents and they were probably the all-time best teachers anybody could ever have.  So, I thought on Father's Day I would reflect on one of my most influential teachers - my Daddy.

Here are some of the most important things I learned from him:

#1.  Always be honest.

He used to tell us that nobody ever got away with dishonesty.  "It will always catch up with you.  The truth will always come out."  How true that has proven to be over the years.  I can remember that Daddy would never fudge on the age of a calf when it came time to make out registration papers.  Not even a week's grace period would be taken.  If one was born two or three or even just one day before the cut-off for a show age bracket, her officially registered birth date would be the actual day of her birth and no other. 

He also would ask us a question and tell us to look him in the eye to give him the answer.  There was no way I could do anything but tell the whole truth when I looked him in the eye.  The times he asked me this most were when I'd bring home a report card.  My sister, Brenda, the nerd who studied all the time, would come in on report card day and flip her straight As out on the table right away.  So then Mom and Daddy would ask to see mine that I had planned to just ask Mom to sign in the car on the way to school the next day or more likely on a really hectic day when we were running late and she didn't have time to look at it.  Anyway, I was not a very dedicated student as a kid and even though I was capable of the As like my nerdy sister, I usually slid by with B's and C's and sometimes even less.  At these times and sometimes others when I'd only given a half-hearted effort, the question was always, "Is this the absolute best you could do?"  I'm sure you know the answer to that one. 

#2 Treat others like you want to be treated.

It seems so easy and why is it that we have to be taught this?  Why doesn't this just come naturally?  For some reason it doesn't and my Daddy was sure to drive this concept home.

Another of his statements was that he did what he had to do knowing that he had to look at that guy in the mirror every morning.  So, this lesson is one I have carried with me, too.  If you always give something your utmost and do what you ought to do, you will usually achieve satisfaction - or at least know that you gave it your best.  There are times when I have had folks tell me that they cannot believe I let somebody run over me like that or that I went to so much trouble.  In the education business, just like in any other business in life, there are times when something doesn't work out like you had envisioned or like you had anticipated.  I recently had such an experience when a student had lolly-gagged (another Daddy-ism) and not given even half his best.  So, he earned a failing grade in my class.  Yet, instead of this student taking a class in summer school or having some other punitive consequence, he was allowed to just coast on into high school.  A colleague asked why I wasn't upset or angry about the lack of support and backing that I was getting from the central office.  My response was exactly what I had heard my Daddy say more than once, "Well, I did my job to the best of my ability.  If somebody else doesn't choose to follow through and do his/her job, it isn't my fault.  I only have to answer for my own actions."  It really is a shame that there are times when somebody, including me, I suppose, doesn't do his/her best.  It is sad that folks today don't accept the responsibility for their own actions or inactions as the case may be.  However, that is one thing I could never say about my Daddy.  He always does his best and usually goes above and beyond the call of duty.

#3  A strong leader is a strong worker.

My Daddy never has expected something of somebody that he wouldn't be willing to do himself.  He usually is 'in the trenches' working right alongside others.  This was true of him running his own business.  It was true when he worked in retail and management for another company.  It was true when he served in various leadership positions in organizations with which he was affiliated. 

When I was a kid growing up on the farm, I could never keep up with his level of energy.  He walked faster, worked longer, lifted more heaviness, and stayed with it far after I was tapped out.  He probably still could outlast and outdo me today!  When he was working at the Farmer's Co-op, he was one of the first guys on the premises and one of the last to leave.  He wasn't found lounging on a feed sack in the back when there was work to be done.  He wasn't perched on a stool behind the counter while those around him were straightening, unloading, or stocking shelves.  He was always helping a customer, organizing something, or loading something - getting the job done.  When he was the president of one particular organization - where he could have delegated duties, Daddy was the guy shaking out straw to make a cow's bed, lifting the pitchfork after she had done her business, moving equipment, washing away dirt, or simply holding the hose to give an animal a drink of water.  At the same time he would be promoting a show or sale and thinking of ways to make next year's event more successful.  His theory is that a leader is a do-er.

#4 Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone.

My Daddy has always had a strong sense of right and wrong.  Oh, he doesn't think things are simply black or white.  He looks at things from as many angles as possible.  However, he upholds what is right.  He might argue with a colleague over an issue for more than an hour.  Logically stating his position in hopes of convincing the opposition to agree with him and presenting evidence to support his ideas.  Then, when a vote was taken or a decision was made - even if it wasn't the position he favored - he always would shake hands or hug the other party and let him/her know that it was the idea he supported, nothing personal.  I have seen him stand alone and support something that was unpopular time and again.  Many, many times he would win folks over and persuade them to see things his way but sometimes he didn't.  Yet, he always left the room, meeting, or arena letting folks know that he respected them and still wanted to be friends or work with them - no matter the outcome.  He would support the team even if things didn't go his way - but it was rare that things didn't.

#5 Finish what you start.

Just like my Daddy wouldn't half-way do something, he also wouldn't start something and not see it through to the end.  I've heard him say, "Let's do something, even if it is wrong."  I know that there were times when he got into the midst of something and realized that it wasn't quite the way something should be done.  So, he might change directions and modify but he still saw the project through to the end.  This certainly was something that I tried to pass along to my children.  If they joined a club or a team, they stayed through the school-year or the season.  They didn't have to be a part the following year, but they did have to see it through.  Folks depend on you and you must do your best not to let them down.  Maybe that is why he gets so much more done than other folks.

#6 Nurture nature.

Try to leave this place better than it was when you got here.  He takes pride in everything he does.  The statement which comes to mind most often is when somebody compliments him and Mom on their farm or house.  Then, if they say something like, "God has really given you something special," or "Truly this is one of God's best creations,"  my Daddy will respond with, "Yep, but you should have seen it when God had it all by Himself!"  Oh, Daddy is grateful for his many blessings and never forgets his good fortune but he also knows that we must take what we are given and be stewards and improve what we can.  I've seen my Daddy work with a cow or calf who had three feet in the grave and the other slipping and try his best to save her.  I've seen him keep working to improve a crop that seemed doomed to failure because of weather conditions when another guy might just plow it under.  I've seen him give his all to a farm that at first glance looks like only a pile of rock with cedar trees sprouted between them but upon closer inspection looks like a picture-perfect pastoral setting. 

#7 Set high expectations

While Daddy always meets people where they are - even if they are struggling or only giving half-hearted effort, he holds out a hand - he also sets high expectations for folks and they almost always rise to his expectations.  He taught me at a young age that people are just people and they are going to disappoint you.  The thing is, you have to give them another chance and keep up your high expectations or they never will rise up to that.  The two teams in the Super Bowl don't go into the stadium hoping to finish as the second best NFL team.  Nobody enters any kind of competition in hopes of being the runner-up or even one of the top ten.  Everybody goes into it giving it their best in hopes of finishing at the top.  Shoot for the moon.  You might not wind up with it but you could wind up with a star.  I remember him telling me time and again to try something out, to give it a shot, "Columbus took a chance and look what he found!"  Set high expectations and then hold out your hand to give folks a push or a lift and you will be even more rewarded with their accomplishment than they are themselves.

#8  You can do anything somebody else can do.

Daddy usually has sage advice.  Sometimes I would grow frustrated with his offerings and sometimes I don't take his wisdom to heart.  Generally, though, my Daddy has always been the go-to when I needed advice.  At the highest and lowest moments of my life he has been there to remind me what was important, keep me grounded, or pick me up.  As a young girl there were limitations to what females were encouraged to do at times but not in our household.  My Daddy always told us, "They get in their britches just like you do.  Go on and give it a try."  When things would get tough, he also would remind us, "You can't give up now."  So, we would persevere.  When I would be celebrating an accomplishment, he would celebrate right along with me and then look at me and ask, "Okay, what is next?"  Maybe that is why I went off to college and majored in agriculture when that had traditionally been a man's world.  Maybe that is why I finally put my chin up and plugged along to be a teacher and a successful, independent woman.  Maybe that is why some of my best friends at school are the folks who come in to sweep my classroom or empty the trash can.

#9  Have some fun!

There is a time and a place for anything is what we were taught from early on.  We have always been expected to work and work hard.  Yet, there is nothing wrong with having a little fun along the way and then celebrating and enjoying yourself when the job is done.  Daddy will be the first with a corny joke, a funny statement, or a silly action.  He isn't afraid to laugh at himself or anybody else when the timing is appropriate.  We could have sweat dripping from our eyebrows and elbows and he would find something humorous in the situation.  We could be knee-deep in cow... poop and my Daddy would find something to share a giggle about.  Oh, he was all about letting us learn and figure things out for ourselves but he also wanted us to enjoy the journey.  There is no doubt that he is going to be having fun and trying his best to be sure everybody around him is, too.

#10  Take care of the little things and the big things fall into place.

Daddy has always been a man of details.  He would look at each and every cow from the tip of her nose to the switch of her tail every single day when we were in the dairy business.  He would shift a bale of hay several times to get just the right fit for a stack when we were loading or unloading hay.  When we showed cows, he always followed us to the ring with a comb, a spray bottle, and a paper towel spiffing her up till she was all the way in the ring to strut her best.  "The only time close is good enough is with hand-grenades or horse shoes, the rest of the time things should be just right.  Close the gate when you go through it.  Roll up the windows before you get out of the truck.  Take a jacket no matter what time of year you are going somewhere."  Never leave home without a Pepsi, some eat-a-snacks, and a Little Debbie.  Be prepared, pay attention, and do it right.  If you do it right the first time, it will usually be the last time you have to do something.

I'm always honored when somebody teases me by telling me I'm a Daddy's Girl.  I've been teased about saying, "my Daddy," or even more so, "I'll ask my Daddy."  I've been told I look like him or act like him in certain instances and sometimes it isn't really meant to be a compliment - like when I've got a firm opinion and won't budge, or just jump in and get going on something.  However, I'm never insulted or hurt by such a comparison.  What an honor it is to be compared to your girlhood hero and mentor! 

Yes, it is true that we don't get to choose our family and there are times when we would choose differently if we could have.  Yet, I certainly know that I am one lucky woman to have been born into the family I was.  I may not always feel like I measure up, but maybe that is because the measuring stick is unbelievably tall.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Running Behind

I know I haven't posted in DAYS!  I've got two or three drafts started but they are not ready to post.  One is my Father's Day post.  Sorry Daddy, I was so busy on that day - visits from grandchildren, visits to my Daddy, dinner with children - that I didn't get it revised and edited to post.  Then, my professional development workshops have been all this week and I have HOMEWORK.  So, I haven't had time to blog.  Bummer. 

I have gotten some writing done, though!  Below is a piece that I doodled out today during one of the boring presentations.  I was searching for some glasses so that I could be reading out of one of the books we'd been given to use in our classroom and realized I had left them on the kitchen table where I was working on homework the night before.  So, that served as inspiration for this little poem:

My Eyes
What happened to my eyesight?
Why did it go and hide?
The need for lenses when I read
sends me fumbling for a pair.
Where could I have left them?
I cannot recall.
(a pause to scratch my head)
What is this
betangled in my hair?
Oh yes!
My artificial eyes!

Now, what was I trying to read?

I think this is one of my favorite pictures of Lillie playing at being me.
Maybe if I was as intense as this I could get more done and look like this:

I'll try to get caught up and revise what I've started and post some things at the end of the week!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rain, Glorious Rain!

We finally got a rain yesterday!  Yippee!!!

My camera was in the truck when the bottom dropped out.
If you look closely, you can see some nickel-sized hail, too.

I had already decided this was going to be a 'down' day for me.  You see, I was exhausted from working in in the garden off and on all day on Tuesday.  So, after I sent the hard-working hubby off to work, I crawled back between the sheets for a little snooze.  Then, my friend, Angela, called and roused me out of bed by telling me she was going to come just to hang out.  So, we shared a lunch of left-over steak and biscuits and began browsing some decorating blogs because Angela sometimes works with a friend who stages homes and is considering starting her own blog.  While we were surfing and borrowing ideas, the storm blew in.  We barely got inside before the hail began to bounce around on the deck.

Again, my phone picture isn't quite as good as my regular camera
but I think you can see all the little pebbles there.

Then, this morning the lingering effects were still around.  I almost missed capturing that foggy, misty curtain this morning while I was searching for my camera.  But here are a few shots to share.

Here is the view looking off our back deck back toward the top of the hill.
(See the new fence posts ready for the wire?)

See the two little diamonds dangling like earrings from the bracket on the dinner bell?

This leaf on the back of the chair also has a little diamond droplet.
(Sadly it is also draped with multiple strands of a spider web.)

Even the spider webs on the fence nearby look like jewelry as the mist drifts away in the morning sunshine.

Here is how much gathered in the bottom of the tub on the deck. 
I don't know how much it would measure but I'd guess more than an inch!
We tried to get Mike's new rain gauge set up before the downpour but some part of it is defective and we are awaiting a new one being sent from the company.

Isn't this a restful, pastoral view off my front porch?

Who would ever think we are only scant minutes from a metropolitan area?  The grass looks brighter.  The trees look perkier.  The garden won't need me to water it.  I'm so glad it rained!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Boy does the outside of our place look good!  As a relative once said, It ought to, though, we worked hard enough at it. 

We got up for an early breakfast cooked by the best breakfast cook ever - my husband!  Then we were outside to work in the garden.  Mike put cages around the tomatoes to give them something to climb up and lean upon as they mature.  I finished newspaper and straw mulching them.  Mike drove the tractor and tiller down between them and along the outside of them to chop up any wayward weeds and loosen the soil for their roots.  Then, I watered them in really good.  Somehow it seemed so much easier to do that mulching today when I had a companion worker out there with me. 

After we returned our tools to the barn, I got on the lawn mower and began cutting the grass.  We decided that short and crunchy looked better than long, shaggy, and crunchy.  Gosh, we need rain!  While I was cutting the grass and getting covered with dust, Mike picked up limbs that I had whacked off earlier in the week and had no strength left to pick up.  Then, he got the weed-eater and shaped things up. 

Now, the outside looks great but as I sit here, I see windows with grimy little fingerprints from doorknob level down.  There are almost as many grass cuttings here in the kitchen as there are out on the back lawn.  Even if the floors were swept, a good mopping is needed.  I'll bet you could write your name in the dust on the furniture, too.  Guess tomorrow will be an indoor day!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Grandchildren Days

When I was a footloose and fancy-free single woman gadding about day and night, painting the town red, living it up, sowing my wild oats, coming and going at all hours, not accountable to anybody...  Well, I don't know when or even who that was, but doesn't that seem like what a fortyish woman whose children are grown and gone from her nest would be doing?  In actuality, when I was a plodding work-day-in-and-day-out single woman trying to get through, my daughter graced me with a granddaughter.  Yes, I had reservations about becoming a grandmother, just see Grandchildren if you don't believe me.  Somehow all of that falls by the wayside when the little cherubs take residence in your heart. 

Soon, Lillie and I implemented our 'Days.'  This is a time when Grand B is not in school and Lillie comes to stay with me for "some days."  It gives her a chance to get away from that ogre-of-a-mother she has and we can play and sleep late and watch movies till late and eat popcorn and just have fun without restrictions.  It has become a tradition that she absolutely loves and so do I.   

Well, this past week I set aside some time for the granddaughters. 

On Tuesday afternoon I got to spend time with these two.

This is a shot Mike made with his phone and I just love it. 

They arrived sometime around noon.  Shortly after they got here we made some cards to send Mike's great nephew. (EEEK!  Doesn't that make my hubby sound old?)  It seems that Jaymie was off at camp for the week and we thought we would send him some mail.  I got out stamps, stamp pads, card stock, and crayons and we were really creative.  I just love working with the stamps and making cards and sometimes just pull that stuff out and be creative.  I could do it for hours.  Somehow it isn't as intriguing for a three-year-old and a two-year-old.  After a couple of taps to the card stock, they were ready to move on.  I think it is because their creative juices are just beginning to rise to the top and they are more uninhibited and less of a perfectionist than me.  At any rate, the crayons went to good use and our cards turned out delightful!  Everyone was pleased and it was hard to send them off because the girls mostly wanted to hang them on the fridge to admire.

Next we baked a few cookies.  Instead of mixing and rolling and sugaring and all that intensive labor this time - we had done that before and I was truly exhausted - I had bought dough from a student for some school fund-raiser.  So, all we had to do is plunk down the little frozen chunk onto the cookie sheet and slide it into the oven.  Much quicker satisfaction and little girls are all about instant gratification when it comes to cookies!  (Big ones like me are, too!)

Even though the temperature was in the high nineties, the little ladies wanted to go outside.  So, eventually I caved in and got the stroller out and we walked to the mailbox.  We made a little stop along the way back to visit with Mama' and Pop O - and to let Grand B cool off a bit.  Cassie and Evie never complained of the heat but I sure was wanting to whine - a lot!  We had time to come back in and nibble another cookie and cool off before Mike got home and we went back out to the barn for a romp with him and the kittens.

While we were out at the barn, the other two granddaughters arrived.  So, we had mass chaos of girls and kitties.  They fed the cats and dogs and ran and jumped and tried to catch every feline in sight - all twelve plus of them.  Soon, everybody was sweaty and we retired again to the house.  I needed to just flop in a chair but the girls were still up for romping and running and squealing and dancing. 

Soon, Lillie's ogre-of-a-mother decided that it was time to go home and she had to leave.  Right after Lillie's departure, Cassie and Evie's mother came to pick them up as well.  The good news is that Lydia got to stay to start off her summer 'Days.'  Since Lydia is a bit of a 'Mama's Girl' these days, I was worried that we would have tears or that she might not even feel confident enough to stay.  But, she waved and chirped, "Bye, Mama," and went right back to playing when Bridgette left.  We did eventually have a little uncertainty just before bedtime but as it turned out, Mike was really more worried about "the little thing" than Lydia was uncertain about staying the night.  After I read a book and we chatted a few minutes, we both settled in and soon she was snoring. 

The next morning I was greeted with a priceless moment.  By mid-day we were off on a shopping jaunt.  I have NEVER had a better shopping partner.  Lydia is one fabulous trooper.  She is also quite a wonderful companion on a long shopping trek.  We took in several stores.  I simply asked if she wanted to ride in the buggy or walk and let her make the choice.  She was wonderful about staying nearby, carefully selecting a few items to inspect and consider and ruminate over whether to purchase and most always chose to return it to the original shelf for somebody else to enjoy.  Her only splurges for the day were some new Snow White sunglasses and some bubble-gum-flavored lipstick.  Mickey and Minnie accompanied us and she was conscientious to hold their hands so they wouldn't get lost.  Never did she whine, never did she misbehave, never did she offer to wander off or cause a problem shopping.  We were in and out of several stores and didn't get home till around six o'clock and never did she become cross or miserable.  She dozed a wee bit on the way home and then was ready to do a little exploring.

Pink is the color of choice and all flowers deserve a smell!

It is a good thing she is a Disney fan because that power of association has taught her characters and colors as well.  Lydia's favorite character is Minnie and her favorite color is pink, "just like Minnie."  My red rain boots clomped around on her feet and I was told that they were "red like Mickey."  She picked purple flowers which were "like Daisy."  The added bonus of picking geranium blooms is that there is a shower of petals when she shakes the stem.

Look, pink "like Minnie" floating all around!

Lydia and Duchess exploring at the barn
(and you can almost see Mike's prized tomatoes in the background).

She and Lillie have named a yellow Mama cat (one of the few barn cats who is friendly) Duchess.  She and Duchess had long conversations and explored around the barn together.  Lydia was not quite confident enough to do more than a cursory swipe at petting her, but she frequently would stoop and have a little chat with Duchess. 

Splashing and adjusting the water levels.

Like all children, she loves to dabble in the water.  (I'm so glad I had scrubbed those water pans.)  She would transfer a few drops from one pan to the other.  I'm sure she was trying to make sure both held the same amount! 

I must say, that not only the dark brown eyes are like mine, she is also a flower lover, an outdoor girl, and an independent soul. 

Little fingers poking the petals through the holes to create a flutter toward the ground.

Contemplating nature.

Mike and I truly enjoyed her visit and are still chuckling about things she did which were just so darn cute.  I think that time with her all alone is something that we will all three cherish forever.  It gives each of us an insight into one another and builds a bond that cannot be fostered in any other way.  Mike and I had time to be children and giggle and act silly right along with Lydia.  She got the undivided attention she deserves from us.  We all could absorb the simple pleasures of life together in a relaxed and loving way.

So, summer, Grand B and the girls having 'some days' is under way.  I'm loving it!
I think Lydia did, too!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Plant Moisture

We have really been reading the gardening magazines and books all winter long.  We were dreaming, I guess, about how wonderful it would be when warm weather arrived and we could till, and plant, a such.  However, we didn't imagine that for the entire first part of the month of June we would have high temperatures in the mid-nineties.  When it gets that hot and doesn't rain, watering is a necessity. 

One of the things we noticed from previous years' experience and in the gardening publications scoured over during the cooler weather is that mulching will make our lives so much easier.  Last summer we mulched right around the tomato plants with some straw.  That was a god-send for preventing weeds and it improved the soil as well.  So, this year we decided to take things a step farther. 

We hit on the bright idea of placing a layer of newspaper around the plant to prevent even the most stubborn weeds and to act as a layer of mulch to hold in moisture.  (We have done this before when planting shrubs.)  So, the other morning I thought I'd go out and be the whiz and get that done really quickly before the sun got too high and the temperature did too.  Foolish me.  At first I thought that conditions were ideal.  There was a gentle breeze which was keeping things a little cooler.  However, that also posed havoc with laying the newspaper layer.  Here I was trying to hold the hose nozzle and 4 pages of newspaper splayed out to surround the plant while I shook straw to form a loose covering over the newspaper.  I needed at least two or three more arms and hands.  Finally I hit upon a system of spreading the newspaper and holding the edges with my toes.  Then, lightly misting the newspaper and following up with a layer of straw before I gently showered the entire pile with a deep watering.  Have you ever heard of the old saying about feeling like a one-armed wallpaper hanger?  All this and at eight o'clock in the morning the temperature was already in the high eighty degree marks. 

Half-way done and feeling pretty satisfied with my work!

After using up one large bale of straw and almost two hours of my time, I stood back to admire my work.  What a feeling of satisfaction there is to hard work!  It is especially rewarding when one considers that there will be future and long-term impact.  I stood there momentarily and felt such satisfaction that there would be less watering required because the mulch would hold in the moisture so much more effectively.  I also thought about how there would be less demand for weed pulling or chopping because they pesky things would be smothered and prevented more effectively.  I also thought about how nice it would be to have more time to spend with my sweet husband - both that afternoon and subsequent ones - because we would have more leisure time.  Then, I turned and began gathering up my materials to return them all to the barn via the wheel barrow transporter, that satisfaction making my sweaty tiredness seem so worthwhile even though I only got half of the tomatoes we had planted mulched.  After that I turned back for one final glance and figurative pat on the back and realized I still had a long way to go!

Seems like a L-O-N-G way and lots more sweaty work when viewed from the end of the row!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Sometimes the grandchildren leave me with a priceless memory and today I was lucky enough to have one of those.  Sadly, I didn't get a photo of it because who would have thought?

Lydia spent the night with us last night.  Now, I am one who thinks the evening routine for the grandchildren should be somewhat like that at their own home with only a few grandparent modifications.  Mike thinks we should throw caution to the wind and spoil them absolutely rotten.  So, I guess we hit a compromise last night. 

At bedtime Lydia was sort of missing her Mama.  So, Grand B took her, Mickey and Minnie stuffed toys, the Minnie sleeping pillow, a Llama, Llama book and climbed into bed with the precious little thing.  When the book was over, I asked her if she wanted me to sleep there with her or go to my own bed.  She said she wanted me to sleep with her.  So, that I did - until about four-thirty this morning.  (When I crawled in bed beside Mike, he immediately told me he thought I should go back in there with her in case she awakened and got scared!)

I got up with Mike and stirred him up a ham and egg sandwich for the road - we both overslept a bit.  Then, I crawled back into bed for a nap.  I got up when I was sure that I heard stirring in the other bedroom and strolled across the den to check in.  When I got to the door, this was the scene which greeted me:

Lydia was smack in the middle of the bed.  She was flat on her back, one leg bent with her foot flat on the mattress and the other foot resting on that knee.  The Llama, Llama book was open and resting against the knees.  Minnie was on one side and Mickey was on the other.  There was a baseball-sized pile of foil and tabs from Hershey's Kisses on the other side of Mickey. 

When I entered the room, I asked, "What is going on in here?"  To which Miss Lydia replied, "I reading to Mickey and Minnie."  Then my next question, "Who ate all that chocolate?"  Without missing a beat, her response was, "Mickey and Minnie," spoken through chocolate coated lips. 

I love that girl!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food for the Soul

We were sitting on the deck one night this past weekend and Mike asked me if all the flowers out there are real.  I just laughed but now that I really look, I see what he means.  They are really splendiforous and overflowing with blooms.  The funny thing to me is that last summer Mike said he didn't understand why I spent so much time nurturing, watering, and caring for something that I grew but didn't eat.  With that one comment about my flowers being real, I understood that he was enjoying the beauty of the flowers much like I do.  I think growing flowers is food for the soul - and don't we all need that? 

My favorite flower is a lily with those pink stripes blending into the white petals and offset by a rich green foliage.  I moved some lilies from my former house.  They haven't bloomed yet - and may not this first year; so, I don't know what color they are exactly but the foliage is spiky and pretty.  I think one is a deep russet-burgundy color.  It is a sampling of one I had picked up as a bargain when the children were young and we had little money for things like flowers.  I got three or four packages of miscellaneous colored lilies for five dollars at Big Lots, I think.  This lily was such a novelty perking up the patio area there that folks always made comments about its unusual color.  So, when I moved from that house, Bridgette dug up a handful of the bulbs and I took them with me.  The other lily I moved from my Rover house is one of those that I think of as my favorite.  I splurged on those bulbs that first summer I was at that house.  They provided Ginger (my dog) and me lots of pleasure.  I enjoyed their show-stopping beauty and Ginger liked trying to catch the bees they attracted.  (Her nose stayed stung and swollen the entire time those things were in bloom!)

I'm still waiting to see if those are going to bloom but my annuals, which I put in pots here on the deck, are bursting with blooms and Mike and I both are enjoying it.  Every time we sit out there to relax he comments on how nice it is and how it really does seem like we are in an outside room.  That makes my heart sing and my soul smile!

I have some before and after shots to share and didn't even realize it.  I took the first photos about a week after I had planted my pots.  The after ones were just taken so that I could share their beauty here.

Here is a shot of the fun (and cheap!) plant stand that sits outside my kitchen door. 
This is the 'before' shot which was taken a few days after I planted them.  I remember taking the pictures because I was surprised that everything looked good so soon after the shock of repotting. 

I got the Gerbera Daisy and the pink geranium at my school's FFA plant sale.  Eagleville School has an award winning agricultural program headed up by Bruce Haley and Brian Lewis.  One strand of their classes is called greenhouse management, I think.  Students learn about growing plants from seed and propagating and such.  I wish I could take that class!

Here is the 'after' shot I took yesterday.  Isn't it amazing?  What a profusion of beauty!

The Bacopa came from the local greenhouse, Nature's Best.  I really love that place!  I think you can see the ivy geraniums in the concrete urn to the right of the wonderful (and cheap!) plant stand and trailing out of the black pot on the ground.  They were left-overs that I got at the half-price sale at the school greenhouse.  What a deal!

That black pot also has a couple of geraniums in it.  One is pink and the other is white.  It was an oops!  The students were not as attentive at following instructions as they should have been I was told by Mr. Lewis, the ag teacher.  (That isn't exactly the way he worded it but that is the gist of his statement emphasizing his frustration.)  Since the plants were two different colors, nobody wanted it.  So, I took advantage of the bargain and brought it home.  I think it has turned out quite lovely don't you? 

Another 'before' shot. 
More geraniums, some chocolate mint, a left-over verbena, a sprig of an ivy geranium, and a petunia.  The mint is from the local greenhouse, the geranium is from Mike's aunt Peggy, and the rest is from my school.

See how they have blossomed!  Before, the beautiful pots took the stage and now the plants are the stars.

I'm thrilled to have the two stages.  A body would think I'd planned it that way, huh?  Notice how I had to back away (and even stand in the sun!) to take this shot.  The sacrifices I make...

This is a close-up shot of one of the geraniums. 
Isn't it beautiful how it looks sort of like it was painted with watercolor paint? 
It is also a 'before' shot of one of my cheap pots flanking the deck sofa.

Even though the angle is different, look at the dramatic growth of these two plants!

The geranium sort of looks like a ball gown and the petunias are the ruffly slip flirting underneath. I love how it looks like they are dancing!  These flowers are some of the ones that Mike thought were not real.  He said he had never seen a pot of flowers so full of blooms. 

This is the pot at the other end of the deck sofa. 
She is dancing, too.  Maybe even doing some sort of salsa or dipping with her partner!

Do you see the pretty begonias in the pot on the table?  These are a new phenomenon for me.  I may have to move them to the front porch even though the tag says they are for sun or shade, though.  I think it just gets too hot for them on the deck with the sun beaming down in the middle of the day.  I got these from the school plant sale because I thought the blooms were absolutely gorgeous.  This one on the table is another oops!  It blooms both red and pink.  I like the gypsy-ness of that, though.

This is a shot of a different begonia but isn't the bloom delightful?

I also got a close-up shot of the Gerbera Daisy.  When I selected these, the only bloom on the plant in the little pot was fading and sad looking but it was full of buds.  I thought it was interesting because it was this cheerful pink color but I also liked the fact that it is edged with yellow.  That makes even the under side of the bloom pretty (when it won't turn and face the camera), don't you think?

Cheerful Gerbera Daisy!

This is not Wisteria Lane (where everybody's perfect) nor is it Lake Wobegon ("where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average").  Not everything looks as lovely as those annuals out there, though.  I never want anybody - even my one reader (Thanks Mom!) to think we lead a charmed and perfect life here on 'the compound.'  

Sad, but promising.

This fern was a share from my mother and I neglected it.  Last fall it was huge and lush and wonderful and I was pulling it in and out of the house to avoid frost and let it enjoy the outdoors as long as possible.  One night I forgot to pull it in and it got freeze bitten.  Feeling guilty, I put it in the back seat of my truck to take the pot to the barn so I could reuse it this spring.  Well, being lazy or maybe forgetful (I am 51, you know.), I waited two or three days before I was ready to unload it.  I guess it was the greenhouse effect of the sun on the truck, but I noticed that there were little green shoots peeking up.  So, I cut all of the brown fronds out and took the poor baby to my classroom where it would be warm and get plenty of light - at least from the fluorescent ceiling.  Somehow the students seemed to get more attention than my fern - imagine that!  So, it didn't become lush in my classroom.  I'm going to keep petting on it in hopes that it will return to its former lushness.  Keep your fingers crossed.  (By the way, I have a partner to this one, too!)

On to some more successful ventures...

Isn't that verbena amazing?

I liked the cool look of the color of this verbena when I saw it at the local nursery.  So, I brought it home and plopped it into the planter with the lone Gerbera Daisy.  Doesn't it remind you of a cool, refreshing waterfall spilling over the edge of this planter?  I wish that Daisy bloom had turned toward the camera and smiled, though!

My experimental novelty.

As a special nod of recognition to my sweet husband, I created this novelty experiment.  I used to incorporate squash, tomatoes, lettuce, and such into my flower beds, when I was a single lady, before he put a ring on it!  (There you go, Lydia, I included your current favorite dancing song!)  So, I thought, why not do this with a planter on the deck?  Really what happened is that I ran out of flowers, needed something to put in this pot, and was too lazy (and probably too poor!) to go back to the greenhouse and shop.  I think this cauliflower, onions, pepper, and geranium looks rather wonderful sitting on the collect-all stand by my laundry room door, though, don't you?  See, I can nurture something that is edible, too!  (I know that many flowers are also edible and tasty, but I cannot see my big burly guy chomping on a pansy, could you?)

This pot seemed a little empty after I had put the two different types of geraniums in it. 
So, I poked a cauliflower and some onions in there, too. 

Isn't the rule of thumb with planters to have a thriller, a filler, and a spiller?  Well, I think the veggies might be the thriller here!  I also liked the color of the cauliflower's leaves and the spikiness of the onions poking up in this hodge-podge mix.  By the way, the cauliflowers were freebies from the local nursery!  I also borrowed an idea that they had sitting right in the doorway of their first greenhouse (the one with the 'store' in it).  They had a big beautiful painted pot which is meant to be a show piece on its own.  It was filled with broccoli and bacopa.  The deep blue-green of the broccoli and lace-edged by the white, frilly bacopa was absolutely stunning.  (I'll bet it would be lovely with that deep blue bacopa, too.  Maybe that will be a fall pot!)  The girl there at the nursery said, after they harvest the broccoli, they go back with a pepper plant for a riot of color or with some other annual flower that has little color and the pot remains the star.  Maybe some day I'll be able to afford one of those shining, hand-painted pots.  Till then, I'll just tuck the idea away and copy it as I can...

Finally, I had a couple of petunias and a verbena left over.  I didn't really want to put these on the front porch because I was afraid it would be too shady and they wouldn't proliferate.  So, I went to the local dollar store and got a cheap hanging basket and just plopped all of them into it.  I have seen these hanging baskets which are full of trailing plants and they just seem so relaxed and cheerful.  (Remember all the ones which used to hang on the light posts at Opryland?  I miss that place!)  I hung it on the hook next to the hummingbird feeder and it is starting to look dazzling.  (I know you can't see the verbena but it is the same shade of blue/purple as the petunia and it isn't blooming or trailing as much as the petunias...yet!)
Sometimes left-overs are better than the original dish, ahem, plan!
Plus, the hummingbirds like the blooms almost as much as the sugar-water in the feeder.

Well, I need to get out there and give everything a drink of water before the sun slides over the rooftop and heats everything up to frying point.  Flowers are food for the soul and mine will be smiling!