Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween, and a reminder

We don't make a big deal of Halloween, but every year we do carve pumpkins, and the kids dress up and trick or treat.  This year our son decided he was too old for that, so he handed out candy to the little kids instead.  Our daughter went as a ghost, and traveled the neighborhood with her friend and her friend's father.  They had a great time, even though it was quite damp and cold (30s, and with some rain toward the end).  We even had some large snowflakes falling this afternoon, and we're supposed to bottom out in the 20s overnight.  I think winter is here.

It seems like the Lord has been gently reminding me of many things lately, although I haven't been in any frame of mind to listen to Him for quite a while.  In fact, I've been very angry with Him, disappointed and deeply hurt by some things in my life.  I'm grateful that He hasn't given up on me, when I all but gave up on Him during some recent trials with roots deep in past relationships.  It's so easy to feel alone during a trial, and to assume that I've been forgotten or abandoned, when that's not true at all.  Our pastor put his finger on it last week during a sermon:  sometimes we're deceived (self-deceived, or deceived by others) and believe that the Lord isn't really the Lord of everything, of every circumstance, every trial, every joy, every hope, every hurt.  I don't understand why things happen, or their timing, but I can choose to believe that there is a purpose to it all, even if I may not discover the purpose within my lifetime.  God does not owe me an explanation, but He promises me that He is present at all times.

My husband's parents hit a deer on the way home from our place last night.  Thankfully, they were uninjured, just shaken, although the car is probably totaled, or at least very close to it.  My sister-in-law said today that initially she was mad at God after they called her last night, because she'd prayed specifically for their safe travel earlier.  She said she was reminded that although the trip was not uneventful, her parents did make it home safely in the end.  Things don't always go the way we expect, but there is a reason for the sequence of events.  Sometimes our prayers are answered literally.  Sometimes they aren't.  Sometimes the answer is no.  That's so hard to hear sometimes.

I have a little poem in my Bible on a bookmark.  I've had it there for years, because it's true, and I need reminding of it every so often:

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me.
I cannot choose the colors;
He worketh steadily.

Oftimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper, 
And I the underside.
Not until the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

Author unknown

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indian Summer

It may not be politically correct to call it that any more, but just saying "Indian Summer" is evocative of one of these special mid-autumn days, crystal clear and deliciously warm, and colored with the purest sky blue and all the golds, browns, ambers and russets of the season.  I love days like this.  I hope heaven has days like this.

I enjoyed a walk today, because it was too nice to stay inside in spite of the household chores needing my attention.  I luxuriated in the sunshine and warm breeze, and picked a big handful of red clover along the way for our guinea pigs.  I admired my yard handiwork from yesterday (the new shrubs), and resisted the urge to go out and buy a few dozen more tulip bulbs.  (I still might give in to that urge tomorrow, lol.)

Back indoors, I did the usual chores (find the kitchen counters, run the dishwasher, schlep laundry around, tidy up stuff).  Then I tackled the looming mountain:  cleaning our daughter's bedroom.  I had warned her before she went to school that I was going to do that, since she had fluffed off on several requests and opportunities to start the process earlier this week.  So, I told her that she had no right to complain about how I cleaned or rearranged stuff, if she wasn't willing to take care of it herself like a big girl.  I don't tend to get overly fussy about her room, and usually she's willing to tidy up herself, but sometimes every kid needs a helping hand to do a deep cleaning when things get out of hand.  Quite a while later (I weeded out books she'd lost interest in, bagged up clothes she'd outgrown, put away books and toys, switched where her dresser and desk are, vacuumed, and generated a whole garbage bag full of stray papers and junk), she had a nice clean room.  Tomorrow I'll tackle our son's room - same situation, same solution.  (Although I have to give him credit for keeping it much cleaner than he used to - he is getting better about that.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Feels Like Spring?

Today was a lovely day, well into the 70s with a nice breeze and partially sunny.  I spent part of the day helping my sister-in-law put up mini blinds and curtains in her new apartment.  It's always nice to spend time with her, and we had fun with the project, ending with a late lunch at Dunkin' Donuts.  I beat the kids' school bus home by just a couple minutes, and after a short break I went back outside to do some yard work.

I dug up the dying golden junipers by the front walk.  They'd already been moved once, during the retaining wall project last year, so they weren't totally reestablished yet and were easy to dig up again.  I knocked the dirt off their roots and hauled them down to the curb to wait for brush collection day.  Then I planted the little green junipers I scored on clearance at Lowes a few days ago.  There was already one larger 'Old Gold' juniper there, planted last year.  It was one of a pair, but one died - I think when I fertilized my evergreens with those Jobes spikes, I got the spike too close to the new bush, and it was "burned" by the fertilizer.  Live and learn, I won't make that mistake again!  The 'Old Gold' junipers will be a more manageable size at maturity than the golden junipers, and will handle the exposed location just fine.  I need to spread a couple bags of fresh mulch around them this weekend, and they'll be set for the winter.

 I also planted some tulip bulbs that I got for half price; I might have to go back for more before the garden center closes this weekend.  I put 'Carnival de Nice' along the center of the retaining wall (they're white with fine red flares and a yellow base, to bring some jazz to the solid yellow and white tulips and 'Ice Follies' daffodils already there).  Then I planted four clumps of 'Kees Nelis' among the new shrubs - that variety is scarlet with yellow-gold edges, like a brighter version of 'Gavota,' which I have elsewhere in the front yard.  I'm already anticipating the beautiful colors of spring. 

(Photo of 'Kees Nelis' from

Monday, October 25, 2010

Christians and the Bullying of Gay People

I don't soapbox too often, and I generally don't bring up huge emotionally charged topics in my blog, but I read an article today that really hit a nerve.  It's by Jim Wallis (commentator for The Huffington Post),  and it's called Christians and Bullying:  Standing With Gays and Lesbians.  It's not an article accusing or defending Christians who believe that homosexuality is against the Word of God revealed in the Bible.  Rather, it's an article reminding us that Christ defended the defenseless, and we should too.  The spate of suicides by bullied gay youth and teens recently is a terrible reminder that words can kill just as surely as physical blows.  We must teach our children to stand up to bullying, and to show compassion to those who are hurting and are the target of abuse, just as we would hope others would stand up for us and our children if we were being bullied.  We must show the same forbearance and respect that we hope to receive ourselves, and model that for our children.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

I believe this verse applies not only to specific opportunities to discuss Christianity with others, but to any conversations we have with people who are not Christians.  Why should they believe we love them or that Christ loves them if we speak with hatred or disrespect to them?  Whether or not we agree with the choices made by gay people of all ages, bullying them is wrong.  When we disagree with the LGBT community we should never become bullies ourselves to get our point of view across.  Trust me, they already know what the general Christian point of view on homosexuality is.  Nor should we give the appearance of agreement with those who do resort to bullying, by our silence or inaction.

Showing compassion and respect is not the same as showing agreement or giving assent.  We can stand our ground morally and disagree with the LGBT community, and still stand with them to defend those who are being bullied for their choices.  For that matter, as Christians we should stand against bullying of all kinds, toward all people, for any reason.

I hate trite catch phrases, but truly, faced by a bullying situation,
what would Jesus do?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Aspirations and Abilities

 I'm sure most parents run into this at some point, and probably more than once with each child:  your child wants to do something, and they're convinced they can do it, but you know that their aspiration is outstripping their ability by a considerable margin.  What do you do?  There's sometimes a fine line between encouraging and lying - kids need to try new things, and we want to tell them that they can do just about anything they set their mind to.  But, the reality is that sometimes they reach much farther than their grasp, and you can just see the fall coming like a train down the track toward Wile E. Coyote.  There seems to be a fine art to encouraging your child to reach, but not overreach (and isn't that still hard for us as adults?), to be willing to take a risk and give their best, and to learn whether they succeed or fail.  But they also need to learn to evaluate the risk and see if the effort is worth the possible failure.  And, equally hard, is knowing as parents when to tell them honestly that they just aren't cut out or ready for something they think they can do.

This is on my mind today because our son wants to play basketball.  Because of his precocious height, people have been telling him for years that he ought to play basketball, as if height were the best/only criteria for success in that sport.  The fact is, our son doesn't have much natural athletic ability; he never has, and he doesn't have that competitive drive that fuels many other kids.  I can see him getting eaten alive by much more skilled players, both in the sport and off the court.  Kids can be cruel, and competitive kids sometimes aren't nice to kids who don't play well or "let the team down."  Truth be told, if our son tried out for a real team, he wouldn't be accepted, and I don't want to encourage him to try out when the odds of his success for that kind of team are so low.  But, our school district seems to have handed us a perfect solution for now.  They're offering a basketball fundamentals clinic, an intramural league for less experienced players, and a traveling league for competitive players for the winter.  The fundamentals clinic and intramural basketball are one after the other on Saturday mornings.  So our son could get the drill and practice he needs, then go right to a game with kids near his own skill level.  It seems to be a win-win, and he's excited to get to play.  I hope it works out well for him and that he has fun, and he still hopes to be able to join a higher level team someday.

Looking farther out, our son lately has been saying he'd like to pursue a career in law enforcement.  Now, I can see that as a person with Asperger's Syndrome that being a street patrol officer is not likely to be a realistic goal for him.  He simply isn't likely to have the personal and relational skills to read and react quickly and accurately to emotionally loaded situations.  But I'm not going to crush his dreams - he's only 12.  If he isn't cut out for a particular career, eventually he'll come to that conclusion on his own, or (more likely) he'll just change his mind and find a new interest.   Goodness knows we've been through enough intense interests with him!  Until the next obsession arises, he can dream of being a police officer, and of driving the totally awesome patrol cars full of radios and computers and gizmos (which is what he's really interested in anyhow).  I'm not going to spend his youth telling him what he won't be able to do, or isn't well suited for.  After all, he's likely to surprise me in the end anyway.  So, let him dream.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall planting

I've gotten down to the last little bit of fall planting in my yard.  I ran into a clearance sale at Lowes today - 75% off shrubs!   I bought two mugo pines and four 'Old Gold' junipers to put in the large raised bed around the front of the house, the junipers in front of the walkway, and the mugo pines off the end of the porch.  The pines are already in the ground, but I'm not sure if I'll plant the junipers right away, or hold them over somewhere else outside until spring.  They'll be replacing several gold false cypress bushes that are dying since transplanting during the retaining wall project last fall.  We could leave the old cypresses over the winter - they're much larger than the junipers (which are small, 1 gallon container bushes), and would act as much more of a snow-catcher in that exposed location.  On the other hand, my instinct is to plant the junipers right away - they'll do better in the ground than anywhere else.  The old cypresses, having been dug up once already, won't be hard to remove - it's just grunt work that I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle on this frigid, blustery day.  Tomorrow should be nicer, and I might tackle them then.

I planted some more tulips this week, nothing fancy (the variety 'Daydream,' which I already have - I just added another clump to an existing bed that has some at one end already, to carry the color to another spot farther along).  I also planted garlic this week.  I've always wanted to try to grow garlic.  In fact, I did try it about 10 years ago, but it wasn't successful for me.  New house, new location, so I'm giving it another try.  I bought a nice bulb of organic garlic at Wegmans, broke it into cloves and planted them in one of the new raised beds out back.  (I used organic garlic because it hasn't been treated with germination inhibitors like regular commercial garlic often is.)  We'll see how they fare next year.

One task I'd normally have done by now is removing all the spent annuals and composting them.  But, we haven't had a significant hard frost yet.  We are WAY past the average frost date for our area. although tonight is likely to be the first one.  I think no matter what, I'm going to have to take out the annuals this weekend.  The nasturtiums are gigantic, like something out of Monet's garden at Giverny.  They're crawling and cascading everywhere in lush abundance.  They've been gorgeous, but their time is up.  The compost bin will be full to overflowing by Sunday.

 I also want to dig up and store dahlia and canna bulbs.  The dahlias I grew from seed this year, and they are HUGE.  I've never had dahlias grow like that for me, but then I've never grown my own before.  These are all seedlings from a mix called 'Bishop's Children,' from the famous cultivar 'Bishop of Llandalf.'  I was hoping for hot colored flowers, but only one is yellow-orange in tone with green leaves.  The others are dark crimson with light bronze foliage, and dark magenta-fuchsia with dark bronze foliage.  They're nice and vigorous, though, so I'll save them in damp peat over the winter in the basement.  The hot colored one can go back out front next year.  I'll probably be able to get several new plants from each clump.  The others will go out back, where they won't cause a screaming color argument with the nasturtiums and zinnias again.  The cannas were a total disappointment - they never got above 1 1/2 feet tall and didn't bloom (they're supposed to be the variety 'Wyoming,' 5-6 feet or so, with bronze leaves and orange flowers).  I'll overwinter some tubers and give them a try in another location.  If they don't perform next year, they're compost.

Monday, October 18, 2010

To sleep, perchance to (not) dream

I think I'd love a night without any dreams.  Just good, sound, restful sleep, for at least 7 connected hours.  Can I get an amen?  I've got too much on my mind and my heart, and my seasonal allergies aren't helping.  I'm hoping and praying for a killing frost later this week, to start cutting down on some of the mold and pollen giving me such trouble.

My three favorite people,
looking at the ducks and gigantic trout in the pond.

This weekend was our son's birthday - where does the time go?  He had a bowling party with some friends and cousins, and had a great time.  He also received the present he's been asking for, his own MP3 player.  He's loving it, especially since we also gave him a couple new CDs, and his aunt gave him an iTunes gift card.  He's looking so much like a young man, it takes me aback sometimes when I see him out of the corner of my eye.  I'm still not quite expecting this hulking preteen to be my little boy.  (He's almost as big as his father in the picture above - yikes!  He's just 12!)  He's out with his Dad right now, on a mission to Target to spend a gift card and some money he got for his birthday.  I wonder what he'll come home with?  I'm guessing something music or electronics related.

This weekend we also took a drive to look at the last bright leaves of the season.  It always catches me by surprise, the day I realize that most of the leaves are on the ground, and the trees are looking bare.  We've had a lot of wind and rain, so the colorful peak leaf-peeping time was cut short.  Still, there are bright swaths to be found, and pretty scenes if you keep your eyes open.  We stopped at a pond with a fountain yesterday, and I captured some good images.

I love the fountain in this pond.  I've photographed it before.  Catching it with the setting sun lighting up that orange maple was a real treat.
There's another pond down the hill behind this pond, so you can see the reflection of more water behind the tree and gazebo in this shot - I like the effect.  I could sit and watch the light and reflections on the water for hours.  Someday, if I could, I would love to live directly on a lake, where I could see the sun setting across the water.  Sometimes dreams do come true.  I think I'll hold on to this one, since it's within the realm of possibility.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nothing to say, or nothing I feel like sharing?

Aside from having a very busy late week and Saturday, I've also been struggling with a bad case of "don't wanna talk 'bout it."  I hate that - it's like being emotionally constipated.  But I also don't want to unload on unsuspecting bystanders or even tolerant friends when I'm in that funk.  Bear with me, it will get better.  Or, as I've said before, "This too shall pass.  Maybe like a kidney stone, but it WILL pass!"

Instead, I'll just share a few random pictures:

My new Etsy shop banner - I'm learning how to make my own banners.  Old dog + new tricks = steep learning curve.  I'm still not 100% happy with it (the resolution isn't as crisp as I'd like), so it won't be my last effort.  Live and learn, I guess. 
 Our daughter riding at a friend's birthday party last week.  
She had SO much fun, and loved the whole experience.  
She wants riding lessons now.
I like the art work of M. C. Escher.  His drawing "Three Worlds" is one of my favorite images.  This photo reminds me of that picture - only without the fish.

The last green of summer, taken on my Erie Canal walk a couple weeks ago.  You can see the first yellow leaves, but the spring green of this tree was still going strong.  I won't see much of this glorious color until spring now.  Maybe I'll make this my winter screen saver.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nature Walk

The Great Swamp Conservancy, Canastota, NY

I was going to walk along the Erie Canal today, but I changed my mind at the last minute, and went to the Great Swamp Conservancy instead.  It's peaceful there, with a lot of trails.  I've been there for Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities, but I haven't explored it much on my own, so it was like a little adventure to head off into the unknown with my camera this morning.

Seeing all the asters and goldenrod gone to seed, I wish I'd been here a few weeks ago when they were in full bloom.  There are still some hardy stragglers blooming here and there, asters in shades of violet, lavender, and light blue.  I caught a bee on this one, getting its last few tastes of nectar before winter sets in.

I'm attracted to fine details, reflections, silhouettes and tricks of light - trees against the sky, reflections on water, light shining through leaves, and the tiny details of flowers and seeds.  I find nature endlessly fascinating, and the most common things can possess the most uncommon beauty.

The boardwalk that winds through part of the swamp was great fun to explore.   I had to consciously remind myself to be mindful of the edges, so I didn't step off in my quest for a particular shot.  (Splash!  Gloop!  Frogs and turtles looking at me covered in mud. . . .

I love the patterning on this fern frond - it looks like an abstract painting of itself.  I am constantly amazed at the graphic quality of the patterns and colors in nature.  The contrasts, the symmetries, the starkness, the colors, the simultaneous fragility and solidity of life in all its forms - amazing.  There's no other word for it.  I can't imagine there NOT being a Creator behind this stunning beauty and complexity.

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
Romans 1:20

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soup and Hospitality

I love having friends over for dinner.  We don't do it often enough - with the craziness of kids in school, a husband taking grad classes, soccer for our daughter and Scouts for our son, church music and family activities on weekends, sometimes it seems like there aren't enough free days in the week to eat together as a family, let alone have other people over to join us.  Still, when we are able do it, we really enjoy it.

Often I serve soup when we have friends over.  I like to do that for a couple reasons.  First, I can make it the day before, so it has time to mellow and blend flavors in the fridge overnight before I serve it.  Have you ever noticed how soup always tastes better the next day?  Second, making it ahead of time means I have more time to spend with the friends we've invited, and I spend less time working on the meal while people are there.  I don't have a showplace kitchen, and I don't view cooking as a spectator sport.  Nobody is visiting to watch me cook.   Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, and once in a very great while I'll take in a cooking show and enjoy learning from watching others cook, but when we have friends over for a meal, the focus is on the relationships, not the food.  The food is a supporting actor, not the headliner.

I like to make homemade baking powder drop biscuits to serve with the soup, or sometimes I make bread.  I also like to buy bread once in a while (there are a couple really good local bakeries here).  Often I'll have a green salad or fruit salad to serve as well, which can both be made ahead of time.  Homemade dessert finishes off the meal - maybe apple crisp, or banana cake.  Sometimes we just make sundaes (always a hit when kids visit).  I can't think of anything better than simple, tasty food with the conversation of good friends, old and new.

I know I shared a recipe yesterday, but I can't leave this post without sharing one of my favorite soups:

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

8-10 chicken thighs (bone in/skin on)
10 cups water
2 cans low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium onions, chopped
6 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 cup chopped celery (I use the leafy heart of the bunch, and the tender inner stalks)
1 cup brown rice  or brown/wild rice blend (uncooked) (I use RiceSelect Royal Blend, which is a mix of brown rice, wild rice, soft wheat and rye grains)
2 teaspoons summer savory (dried)
1 teaspoon marjoram (dried)
2 teaspoons parsley (dried)
1/2 teaspoon sweet mild curry powder  (this makes all the difference!)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water and the chicken to a slow boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Carefully remove the chicken from the stock, remove the skin and bones and discard them, and chop the meat into bite-sized pieces.  Return the meat to the pot.

Add the chopped veggies, chicken broth, rice blend and herbs.  Return to a slow boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve the soup now, and it's good, but it's even better if you let it cool, refrigerate it overnight, and reheat it the next day.  You can add an extra cup or two of water if you want your soup with more broth to go around - the rice will thicken it somewhat.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Kids' Favorite Cookies

 We had a lovely visit with my aunt and uncle this weekend.  It was so good to see them again!  The kids always enjoy visiting with them, and this time they got to hang out in their RoadTrek RV.  The kids were fascinated by the compact living space, with all the nooks and crannies, everything having a place and a purpose, with no wasted space.  I'm pretty sure now our kids will be asking us to get an RV, lol.

I promised the kids that this weekend I'd make their favorite Triple Peanut Butter Chip Cookies.  So, I did.  Mmmm, it's a good thing I don't make them very often, because they're addictive.  Here's the recipe I've come up with:

Triple Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter (unsalted)
3/4 cup shortening
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup NATURAL peanut butter (I use smooth, but chunky would work too)
1 cup whole wheat flour  (I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour - it's not as grainy as regular whole wheat flour)
2 cups white flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 10 oz. bag peanut butter flavored baking chips (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups Reeses' Pieces candies

Cream the butter and shortening, and both sugars.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until smooth and lighter in color (a couple minutes on medium).  Add the peanut butter and blend well, scraping frequently.  Add all the dry ingredients (except for the chips and candies).  Mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Stir in the chips and candies by hand.  Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Drop the cookie dough in large spoonfuls (2 tbsp. at a time) onto an aluminum or nonstick cookie sheet.  (Increase the baking time slightly if using stoneware.)  Bake 13-15 minutes (until light golden brown on top).  The cookies will be chewier at the lower baking time, and crisper at the higher time.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen large cookies.  You can make smaller cookies - just decrease the baking time slightly and watch them to see what time works best for you.

Sorry, no pictures of the cookies today - we ate them all up!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall allergies

It's a beautiful Friday morning in October, and I feel like somebody rolled my eyeballs in fine grit. I've had seasonal allergies my whole life, but fall is always the worst time, because I'm allergic to the mold the proliferates on soggy fallen leaves.  We had rain most of last week, it was very windy yesterday, and the leaves (and mold spores) are a-flyin' everywhere.  Yuck-o to the allergies - sinus drainage, watery eyes, gritty eyeballs, coughing, and disrupted sleep.  But, I'm grateful that it's always a temporary thing.  After a few good hard frosts (which are very late this year), the worst of the symptoms will subside.  I joke that the only month I'm NOT suffering from allergies is February, but that's not really true, since I'm also allergic to dust, and central heating circulates that quite nicely.  Thank goodness for HEPA filters in the air cleaner, and Claritin.

 It's a beautiful day today (did I say that already? - after a gray, rainy week, the bright sun is a revelation), so once our daughter gets on the bus in a few minutes, my husband and I will have that rarest of things, a breakfast date.  He's taken the day off (another rare occurrence).  The rest of the day will include house cleaning, laundry, yard work, and baking cookies, since my aunt and uncle will be visiting over the weekend.  They live in West Virginia, so we don't get to see them that often.  They're RVing, and stopping here on their way back from Canada and New England.  It's always good to see them, and I'm looking forward to their visit.

Our son almost missed the bus this AM.  He didn't set his alarm, I didn't set mine, and I woke up at 6:50.  His bus comes at 7:05!  But, to his credit, he was up, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door just before the bus rolled around the corner.  I would have taken him to school, but he much prefers to ride the bus.  See, he can move quickly when he wants to!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Treading Water

 One of my early ceramic efforts, a bowl decorated to look like a pond.

In the midst of some family issues, I feel like I'm just treading water, just holding my place until the storm subsides a bit.  This isn't my favorite place to be; in fact, I've been wrestling with the Lord about our family difficulties, awake at all hours and having trouble concentrating.  It's slowly getting better, but I still feel like my internal gyroscope got knocked sideways but good and isn't recovering very quickly.

To cope, I've been trying to stay busy - working on my blog; taking care of my family, house and pets; putting together necklaces with the beads I got back from The Clay Ground this week; listing the necklaces and some ornaments in my Etsy shop.  Today is, thankfully, payday, and on my way to get groceries, I think I'll do a little window shopping as well.

I've started squirreling things away for Christmas for the kids.  I'm not a last-minute shopper.  I love the holidays, and really enjoy planning and choosing just the right gift for each person on my list.  Sometimes I hit a home run; usually I've made a good guess.  It's like a sport, but for a good cause.  I found a hot pink Zhu Zhu pet for our daughter, and a couple Breyer horses for her as well.  I'm not sure what to do for our son - he wants a Nintendo DS, so I'll have to watch the budget and see if that works out.  At least I have his birthday stuff done.  I'm not sure what to do for my husband, but I've got a few good ideas.  I always buy books for the kids for Christmas (they both love to read), and our daughter has yet to get a Webkinz she didn't love, so I'll probably find one to put in her stocking.  I always buy melty mints for the kids' stockings, and dark chocolate espresso beans  and a Terry's dark chocolate orange for my husband.  I always stick a treat in my own stocking, lol - usually dark chocolate of some sort.  After surviving through Christmas morning, Mrs. Santa deserves some chocolate, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Skaneateles and Field Bands

This past weekend my husband and I had the opportunity to get away by ourselves for the day.  Our son was at a Boy Scouts Camporee, and our daughter was being spoiled by her Aunt Teresa overnight, so we had hours and hours to ourselves - a rare luxury.  My husband wasn't feeling well (getting over bronchitis), but we decided that staying home would be a terrible shame on such a gorgeous day.  We decided to drive to Skaneateles, NY, for dinner.

The village of Skaneateles (pronounced "skinny-atlas" by locals) is on beautiful Skaneateles Lake in Central NY.  It's a pretty little town, very picturesque, and I can't believe I forgot my camera; I was quite annoyed with myself.  (The blog pics are from last year's trip.)  Still, the camera might have been a distraction, since my husband and I wanted and needed to spend some time talking.  Marriage is hard work, and ours has been a labor of love for over 15 years now.  Some times flow easily, some times are exciting and fun, and still other times are like rocky rapids.  We've been hitting a lot of rocks lately, with the occasional waterfall for variety.

We walked out on the pier and enjoyed the view, then wandered through town looking at the shops, and eventually we sat in the park overlooking the lake for a while.  We had dinner at the Sherwood Inn, and it was wonderful.  Not only was the food absolutely excellent, but we got to sit on the enclosed porch of the building, overlooking the lake, for our supper.  It was a delightful meal.

To get to Skaneateles, we took the scenic (?) route, right through the south side of Syracuse.  My husband was getting fitted for new running shoes, a long-awaited special purchase, so we just included that in our jaunt.  On the way through Camillus, we saw that the West Genesee High School was hosting a New York State Field Band Competition that evening.  My husband LOVES field band competitions, and his eyes lit up right away.  So, after our meal, we drove back through town and stopped to see if we could still get into the stadium to watch.  We'd missed about 45 minutes of the competition, but they were still letting people in (and had stopped charging admission, too).  The people were packed in the stadium like sardines - I didn't realize it was such a big event, but my husband wasn't surprised at all.  He'd told me that people in Central NY were rabid about their bands, but I had no idea it was THIS big.  We squeezed into the crowd and found a place to sit, and enjoyed the rest of the show.  Those high school kids did a fantastic job, and we heard some really great musicianship and saw some good footwork and precision marching.  My husband wants to take the whole family to see a national-level field band competition in November, which sounds like fun to me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Learning curves

I need to learn how to make jewelry - really.  I've been making pendants, and putting them on simple leather necklaces, but I know I'm missing the finer points of finishing them.  I think I'll do some reading and watch some how-to videos online before I work on the batch of pendants and beads I just picked up from The Clay Ground.  I've got ten to work with, but one I'm going to keep for myself, and possibly work into a bracelet.  I picked up some more pendants to work on, including one that's a commission for a friend who works at The Clay Ground.  I also have four more ornaments to photograph and list - that's tomorrow's project.

Over the weekend I took another walk along the canal, and this time I remembered my camera.  Here are some photos from my morning walk: