Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Humor envy, and ME

 Molly in mid-yawn - she looks like a vampire, or like she's laughing at me.

Have you ever read someone else's blog and wondered why your own blog can't be that funny/entertaining?  I've read some wonderfully humorous blogs lately, especially Stark Raving Mad Mommy.  She's also the mother of a child with an autism spectrum disorder, and several other children.  I find her hysterical because not only is she wonderfully funny as a writer, but I can relate to so much of what she says about life in the "mother of a child with autism" lane, and the whole crazy "mother of a girl" thing.  Check her out - it's an experience.

 I seem to be more of a random thoughts/ stream of consciousness/ occasional in-depth nerd-alert blogger.  I don't seem to have a brand or niche yet.  (Do I want one?  I'm not sure.)  I guess I'm just me, with all the variety that implies.

- I'm the mother of a child with Asperger's Syndrome, a 12 year old who is smart, funny, and totally crazy-making for his social issues and different point of view on almost everything.
- I'm the mother of a son and a daughter, with all the sibling rivalry and gender conflicts that implies.
- I'm the mother of a daughter, and living proof that Bill Cosby's curse WORKS.  (May you have children just like yourself.  Thanks, Mom.)

- I'm the wife of a wonderful man who also makes me totally crazy at times.
- I'm an avid gardener (THAT covers a multitude of interests and obsessions - only ask if you really want to know).

- I'm an artist and incipient entrepreneur (i.e. I'm totally not profiting financially yet from selling my art, but I can't seem to stop trying).
- I am a NERD, and happy to be so. I read dense history texts for entertainment, always read the footnotes, look through the references, and read every placard on every exhibit in any museum I visit.  I love museums!
- I'm an animal lover (3 cats, 3 guinea pigs, a large tank of fish, and wild birds at the feeder).  My husband is lucky we don't have more critters.  He has more critters than his comfort zone (which might be one cat at a stretch)  because of me, and I have fewer than I otherwise might because I love him and don't want him to run screaming for the hills.
My family - when did my babies get so tall?

- I'm a total bookaholic.  I've got a perennial pile of things to read on my night stand, right now ranging from Lee Strobel's "The Case For Christ" and Edith Wharton's "The Age Of Innocence" to "From Dawn to Decadence:  1500 to the Present" by Jacques Barzun, by way of Alan Dean Foster and Terry Pratchett.  I love library book sales, used book stores, and thrift shops where I can get good books cheap.
- At various times in my life I've been a Trekkie, a Star Wars fan, and a Lord Of The Rings lover (long, long before the movies - I don't like the movies that much).  I like some sci fi/fantasy, but a lot of it seems repetitive/derivative to me, so I don't buy much any more.

My first abstract ceramic drawing - looks like sea creatures to me.

- The only thing that keeps me from being a certified geek is my almost total lack of any technical/mathematical ability.  (Just ask my husband about tutoring me through a math class during my Master's degree.)  I like "The Big Bang Theory," and the scary part is that I GET the jokes.  (Well, the scarier part is that I "get" Sheldon and company, because I live with two people who are a lot like them in many ways.  "Having a Sheldon moment" is now part of our family vocabulary.)
- I enjoy music, especially 70s and 80s rock, but I also love classic jazz (Ella Fitzgerald) and a wide range of other genres.  I'm glad our kids like music too, although I think it's funny that our son loves all the stuff I listened to in high school.  I don't have to tell him to TURN THAT CRAP DOWN! because it's MY crap he's listening to.  I'll be sad when he inevitably picks something I don't like to inflict on me at high volume.

One of my daylily seedlings - a keeper!

So, I guess for the time being I'll be happy with just being me.  I can't be someone else, although I can learn from them.  Please walk with me while I'm finding my voice.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gaining Momentum

Today was a good one in my Etsy shop!  I had a sale, and I listed three more items.  Maybe I'll get another sale before Cyber Monday is done - who knows?

I listed the two trinket boxes, and a 6" tile with a landscape design on it.  I think I've mentioned before that I love doing the tiles.  I really need to get my own kiln, though.  Whoever clear glazed the tile dipped the whole thing, so it's glazed on the back as well as the front.  That means it can't be used like a normal tile (i.e. grouted onto a wall), although it still makes a fine trivet or tabletop piece.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Lights

 'Tis the season for lights!  I'll get a night picture soon.

Time for the annual ritual of the Christmas lights!  It was cold today, but dry and not windy, so my husband and I dug out the lights and got to work.  After a couple false starts (first because the fuse for the outdoor outlet was blown, and then discovering that several strands I'd already wound around the railing were duds) we got the lights put out.  I'm happy with the results - pretty and eyecatching.  I love Christmas lights.  I look forward to them every year, both on our house and around town.  They're so cheerful, especially if we've had a few inches of snow to brighten up the nights.

The "garland" and door greenery are the remnants of our juniper trees, which my husband cut down a couple weeks ago.  Recycling is good, right?  Add a few dollar store bows and some lights, and it's the most wonderful time of the year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Drama, drama everywhere

Living with someone with Asperger's is to often live with drama, at least in my house.  There don't seem to be many small problems here.  We seem to specialize in BIG PROBLEMS.  Sometimes it seems like there isn't a problem so small that it can't be blown up into a huge, personal, high-volume, finger-pointing disaster that affects everyone within earshot.  The unplanned and unexpected are not welcome occurrences in our house.

We had some difficulty today in introducing something new to our son.  His aunt gave him her old PC on Thanksgiving.  He's been wanting his own computer for years, and even though he knows he won't be allowed to have internet access in his bedroom, he will be able to play selected games, movies, and do school work up there.  The problem is that whenever he gets something new, if it doesn't work exactly right the first time, he has a lot of trouble dealing with it.  Computers are the ultimate in "nothing is ever easy" gifts, because our son's not computer savvy, and doesn't understand why certain things take more time or don't work as well as they should or when they should.  (My husband is quick to blame Microsoft for a lot of software issues, and wishes we could just go out and buy Macs for everyone in the house.)  Anyhow, something didn't work right, and our son had a meltdown.  Then something else didn't work right, and he had another meltdown.  No matter how well we try to explain things to him or try to prepare him for dealing with the unexpected, the unexpected and unplanned always throw him for a loop.  For a parent, that's totally crazy-making, and frankly it makes me worry about how he'll handle things as he gets older and tries to be independent.  And the scary thing is, he's gotten better at dealing with surprises as he's gotten older.

We had a little weather drama today, which I actually enjoyed.  We had a heavy snow squall today on our drive home from Thanksgiving with our families.  It didn't accumulate much, but it was rather pretty - huge chunks of fluffy Christmas snow, blowing sideways and coating everything.  I'm glad we were most of the way home when it blew through, rather than driving along the high ground between the Finger Lakes, or on the thruway playing dodge-truck.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Honesty and Thanksgiving

I'm sorry my blogging has been sporadic the past month.  Things have been a bit strange at our house this fall, and some days I just don't feel like writing, or don't have anything worthwhile to say.  I've debated for quite a while about how much of my personal (family) life to share here, on such a public forum.  I don't want to write things that could be resurrected from cyberspace years down the road to embarrass me or my family, so I've been treading with care.  Still, I think I ought to share just a tiny bit of what's going on in my life lately.

My husband and I have had a crisis in our marriage (after many years of ongoing issues), and we are going to marriage counseling.  I will not discuss the intimate details of our troubles here EVER, but I do want to say that I appreciate everyone who has held us up in prayer.  I especially want to thank our friends and family who have rallied around us to encourage us, and to help us in very tangible ways (like keeping the kids so we can go to counseling without them in tow).  Thank you, my friends, you know who you are.

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, I've gotten off lightly in the cooking and hostess department.  We're going to be at my parents for Thanksgiving, and with my husband's parents for a couple days after that, so I don't have to cook anything at the last minute (or clean my house from top to bottom - hooray!).  I'm bringing pumpkin bread and cranberry-orange relish to the big meal, and a bunch of biscotti for sharing just because.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing our families - it will be like having two family reunions in two days, with all of my sisters, their husbands and kids, and my parents one day, and my husband's parents, sisters, brother-in-law and nephews the next.  I'll be officially in "family overload" mode by the time we leave to come home, but it will be worth it. 

I hope everyone has a safe, fun, happy Thanksgiving tomorrow, and through the weekend as you're traveling and visiting.  I am so grateful for the many, many blessings in my life.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New items in my Etsy shop

I'm going to try to get the last of the new necklaces listed today, so they'll be available for holiday shoppers.  I honestly don't know how much action my shop will see this year - by this time last year I already had several Christmas orders.  I'm hoping for a handful of sales when all is said and done.  Sadly, I'm a long way from turning a profit with my art and craft work.  No wonder so many business fold after a short amount of time.  If this was my only income, I'd be living on the street and begging.  Very discouraging at times.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The holidays, and the media

My favorite time of year is here - the interval from a little before Thanksgiving, through New Year's Day.  I don't find the holidays stressful usually, and I do my best to enjoy them one day at a time.  They come and go so fast, I like to savor the little moments.  The smell of baking cranberry bread.  The fun of choosing just the right gift for someone.  Bagging biscotti to give to friends and neighbors and family, seeing the unexpected snow flurry, hearing the nostalgic holiday tunes on the radio, decorating the house outside and in - I like the memories those activities bring.  Kept in perspective, the holiday season is a time to reflect, give thanks, and give back.

I can happily live without the warped messages of discontent and greed being blared in my direction by commercial TV, so I watch very little of it at any time, but during the holidays I find commercial TV to be particularly annoying.  Not that I don't see enough peripheral garbage while using the computer, but at least then I can generally avoid the pop-ups, mute the sound, and ignore a large percentage of the stuff I find depressing or obnoxious about the media.  I'm much more likely to watch PBS than any cable station, and I particularly like Christmas music programs.  (Christmas from St. Olaf  is always wonderful.)  During the holidays I don't want to have a race to the big day, ending in an orgy of unwrapping and parties and sports and food.  I want to slow down, enjoy the beauty and joy of the season, think about the message of Christmas, and be a blessing to my family and friends.  I guess I'm a rebel against the things our hyper media says we should pursue.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cranberry Orange Walnut Bread

It was good to be quietly busy today.  Nothing huge, just a succession of small things, but it felt good.  I guess it really started yesterday, when I got rolling and put together 8 necklaces in the afternoon and then photographed all of them.  I also took pictures of a nice tea light holder I'd made.  I was slightly derailed by my camera going kaput right after I took the last photo.  I think it needs a new battery, because it won't recharge at all, and I have to wait for pay day to get one.  But I was able to find my Sandisk card reader this morning, and retrieve the photos from the memory card, so I've started making listings.  I don't think I'll have them all done tonight, but I did get three finished and "live" this afternoon.

It was also a day for making one of my favorite treats in the whole world:  cranberry-orange-walnut bread.  I use my Mom's recipe, and it just isn't the holidays in our family without it. Here's the recipe, but I can't share a picture (due to the kaput camera).

Cranberry Orange Walnut Bread

2 cups white flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh grated orange zest 
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 well-beaten egg
1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cups fresh halved cranberries

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the orange juice, orange zest, oil and egg.  Mix until just combined (you may need to add another couple tablespoons of orange juice to get a thick batter).  Stir in the nuts and cranberries.  Turn into two medium greased and floured loaf pans.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of a loaf comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes, turn out onto cooling rack, and cool to room temperature before wrapping for storage.  Refrigerate before use if you want neater slices - this bread is quite chunky and slices best when cool..  This bread freezes very well.  Also, I usually double the recipe and make either two extra large loaves or four medium loaves at once.  For the larger loaves, bake 55-60 minutes.

I also made chicken and noodles for dinner - good comfort food for a dreary gray stay-at-home day.  Mmmm!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spinning My Wheels

 I just can't seem to get any traction.  You know, that feeling you have when you know you have things you could be doing, but you're just too scattered to focus on anything.  I really dislike that feeling, so I'm trying to do small things to get back up to speed.

I love the fall, so I'm savoring the last beauties of the season as it turns toward winter.  Walking along the Erie Canal yesterday, it was so peaceful, and I took some photos.  These wild grapes caught my eye against the reflections on the water.

I've started my holiday baking - biscotti, and holiday bread.  Both freeze well and will keep until the various family get-togethers coming up.  Right after Thanksgiving my husband and I will make bourbon pecan cake, a recipe from my Mom and a long-time holiday treat in my family.  We haven't made it in a few years, so we really want to this year.  It's like a fruit cake, but oh so much better.  I'll share the recipe when we actually make it.

My Etsy shop seems to be at a standstill.  Although I had a nice big sale earlier this month, I've had no motion at all since then.  I really hope to get a few sales.  It's been discouraging to have so little business after doing so much work.  I need to do more to promote my shop, and I think I'll try having some of my items at a local gift shop that recently opened.  There's nowhere to go but up, as they say.

It's been a discouraging fall for me in some ways.  I'm trying to climb out of the dumps and focus on my blessings instead of on things that have been difficult.  I've managed to work on more ceramics, although I still have no interest in drawing or painting right now.  I've been walking and taking photographs, which I really enjoy.  I finally got the garden put to bed for the winter, and planted some last tulip bulbs a couple weeks ago.  (I'm sure if I find some more bargain tulips in the next few weeks, they might have to come home with me.  If the ground's not frozen, they can be planted.)  The basement is cleaned out, and so is the garage.  I even cleaned out my car yesterday (always a scary prospect, rooting around under the seats where the kids sit).

Finally, I've been working on my application to substitute teach, with a resume and cover letter, and I'll be able to turn that packet in later this week after I pin down a couple last references.  I'm ambivalent about going back into teaching, since I had some pretty bad experiences with the administrative/personnel end of things before I left my last teaching position.  The students were the least of my worries.  But, after being out of the work force for over 12 years, I have to start somewhere, and this is the best way for me to return to work while the kids are at school.  Step by step, I'm going forward.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spelunking and Excavating: Cleaning the Basement

Nope, I'm not going to post pictures of our basement!

But today's project (and probably going into tomorrow too) is for me to sort through the boxes of stuff in the basement.  Old toys, books, keepsakes, luggage, and lots of stuff that could reasonably be called "miscellaneous" are piled willy-nilly.  (Our son helped with the disorganization this week as he opened half the boxes in search of a particular remote control vehicle he hadn't seen since the move - he found it, but left quite a bit of disarrangement in his wake.)  At least twice now since the move I've consolidated the mass, taking things to the Salvation Army, throwing some stuff out, and donating things to our church's Christmas sale and yard sale.  'Tis the season again, and I'm trying to really thin out what we're keeping, and labeling the boxes as well.

Our basement is large, but unfinished, so we don't have built-in cupboards or anything like that aside from some shelving for our tools.  My husband is taking up woodworking, and some of his first projects will likely be bookshelves and storage for things we really want to keep downstairs.  We don't have an attic, so this is our main storage option besides the garden shed.

Confession:  I was a very messy kid.  My mother despaired of me ever learning to keep my room clean, let alone maintain an entire household in something less than abject slovenliness.  Here's hope for everyone who parents a messy kid - they don't necessarily grow up to be hoarders or slobs.  Lighten up!  When they have to take care of their own home, and live with other people, they'll learn the hard way that they have to learn some amount of organization and cleaning skills to get along.  I'm still prone to clutter, but nothing approaching a "Clean Sweep" job.

Anyhow, I'm taking a cleaning break to have lunch and make this posting.  I've already created several bags of stuff to throw away, filled a large box with items to donate, and consolidated several boxes of things to keep.  Some time in the next year or two we hope to be able to finish our basement into a family/rec room, an office/music studio for my husband, and a utility/storage area with room for our son's model train layout. 

The move a year and a half ago forced me to clean out a lot of stuff - I couldn't believe the pile of things I put on the curb the last garbage day before the move.  Some of it was still usable but unwanted (like the old lounge chair for the patio, and a narrow metal etagere I had no further use for), and people took those things right from the curb before the truck came through.  I was always amazed at how often and how quickly people would patrol the side streets on garbage day to sort treasures from trash and take them for their own use or to recycle. 

 This is what BC thinks of his human's efforts at cleaning: 
"Meh, better you than me."

I find myself abashed at the sheer abundance of our possessions.  Do we really need all this stuff?  Really?  How important is it to me to haul all this around?  I've become much more ruthless as I go through our things periodically.  I don't want to be owned by my stuff, too bound by it to get rid of it.  That's a form of addiction, really - just ask any hoarder, but average homeowners can be just as trapped by their possessions even when their homes appear neat and well cared for. 

So, I'm armed with a bag for garbage (and spare bags too), a couple boxes and bags for things to donate, my MP3 player for tunes, a drink of water for when I get dry, and the cats for occasional company.  Now I just need to get back to the basement.  Send in the Mounties if I don't post in a few days. . . .

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Wonderful Cross

Have you ever seen a piece of art that stopped you in your tracks?  I don't know about you, but I like to browse through Etsy to see some of the amazing work created by other artists.  I'm an artistic omnivore - I like all media and most styles.  It's not always "high end" art that catches my eye, either.  Often it's smaller pieces, done with passion and intensity, or grace and sensitivity, or both.  Pieces with a story to tell; pieces that make me think; pieces that strike me for their craftsmanship or their complexity.  The cross above, and others in this shop, caught my eye on several levels, and I wanted to share it with you.

 A month or so ago I ran across the shop smithsanders.  It's a small shop, run by two ladies from Ashland, Oregon.  One of the co-artists of the shop runs a SASH support group (Sexual Assault Survivors' Healing).  The survivors support group uses art as part of their therapy, to help them on their journey through healing from their traumatic experiences.  Smithsanders creates these crosses to share their ministry to women recovering from sexual assault.  A portion of the proceeds from each jeweled cross is donated to the SASH support group through the Jackson County SART (Sexual Assault Response Team).

I've been interested in the symbol of the Cross for many years, from early in my Christian life.  I've used it as a motif in my own art, and I'm interested in how other artists approach and use this potent symbol.  What struck me with these crosses is their simultaneous beauty and brutality.  Those nails!  They're huge!  When you look at listings for their crosses, you realize that the nails used vary in length from 4" to 8" and more.  Eight inches is easily as long as the actual nails used for a Roman crucifixion.  And yet, here they have been transformed into something beautiful.  The symbol of death is also the symbol of life. 

So, I hope you take a moment to really look at these crosses.  The wire-wrapped bead work turns each cross into a jeweled reminder of hope, and shows how beauty and healing can rise out of pain and death.

(All photos copyrighted by smithsanders and used by permission.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cats are funny people

 I can tell winter is coming by watching my cats.  For instance, Molly, the tuxedo cat, does not like to be hot, so during the summer she stays mostly downstairs or in shady corners:  under my husband's side of the bed, in the basement, or in the corner of the dining room on the craft box.  When the weather cools, she moves to her winter haunts:  the pillow we keep on top of my husband's Hammond organ for her, and the afghan at the foot of our bed.  B.C. (Bad Cat) loves to be warm year-round, and even in the summer you can find him soaking up the rays with his midnight coat in a sunbeam, but he spends even more time curled up in snuggly spots and sunbeams in the cooler months.  My unfinished quilt laying on the bedroom chair is his current favorite spot; he's made a perfect nest in its folds.  He also loves the pillow on the end of the family room couch, which catches the morning sun.  He's really spry for his 15 1/2 years, but sleeping somewhere warm is still his favorite pastime.

Sophia is the little old lady of the family, 14 just this past month.  She's always loved laps and boxes to curl up in.  She's getting frail now, and having some troubles with her digestion.  She's my cool-weather scarf.  Literally.  Most times I sit down at the computer lately, she climbs up on my shoulders and drapes herself across, and rests or sleeps.  It's mutually beneficial; we keep each other warm.  She's a medium-long haired Maine Coon wannabe, but over the past year she's lost weight, and there's not much cat left under all that fluff.  She even graced my husband with her scarf-ness last week, which is extremely unusual - she rarely climbs up on him.  Her other favorite place to sleep is in the basket of clean laundry before it gets taken back upstairs.  She also keeps trying to get into the dryer, to snuggle on the clothes.  I'm vigilant about keeping that door shut, but one day last week she snuck in while I answered the phone.

The main down side to the cat-scarf scenario is that I'm always needing to put her down.  If I sat still for 8 hours a day, she'd sleep on my shoulders 8 hours a day.  I often don't bother to remove her if I have to get up for small tasks like answering the phone, or getting a cup of decaf.  I just walk around with her, and she goes along for the ride.

Do you have cats or other pets with special winter habits?  It seems like every furry creature is starting to cocoon and snuggle and curl up lately.  I can't blame them; I've got the same urge.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let in the Light

 After the juniper chainsaw massacre

This past weekend my husband took a chainsaw to the overgrown junipers at the front of our house.  When the house was built, someone put in blue junipers beside the entry.  I'm sure they were pretty little trees for the first few years, but by the time we bought the house they were 10 feet tall and 4 feet wide and starting to block the path to the door.  I pruned the heck out of them last year, but they regrew vigorously this year.  Rather than spend the rest of our time in this house pruning them twice a year to keep them in bounds, we decided to just remove them.  Yes, we could have had them dug up and transplanted, but that was money we didn't want to spend, and frankly I didn't want the trees anywhere in the yard.  So, they're gone - partly recycled into holiday garland on the front door and porch.

You can see how much more open the front of the house is without those junipers.  I don't know why landscapers do such senseless things - planting shrubs where they'll outgrow their space within 5 years, or trees too close to houses or paths.  Well, careful landscapers don't do that sort of thing.  Careless ones, or ones who don't know their plants, or builders who don't really care, do it all the time.  That can lead to some expensive mistakes to correct.  We had to leave the stumps, so I can't plant anything else in the ground there.  I'm going to mulch the area, lay down a couple paving stones on each side, and put large decorative foam containers on either side of the walk in the spring.  (The foam ones will be winter-safe, and better protect the plants in them during the summer.)  That way they'll draw attention to the entry without overwhelming it, and I can play with different flowers each year.

It's cold and windy today, but tomorrow is supposed to be quite nice, with equally pleasant weather through most of the week.  I have to dig up my dahlias and cannas, and pull out the marigolds on one of those nice days.  I'll spread a fresh, light layer of mulch where the shrubs were removed, and call the front garden "done" for the year.

 Over the weekend I got to spend some time with one of my sisters and my parents.  It was wonderful to visit them overnight, and my sister and I spent quite a while working on ceramics.  I picked up a trinket box and a tile to work on, and she'd picked up several pieces as well.  One was a lovely, medium sized vase for me to decorate for a benefit auction for one of her coworkers battling cancer.  The other was a planter and saucer she got for me.  She decorated a large ceramic bird house for herself.  We enjoyed being together, and talking with my Mom and Dad as we worked.   The kids spent a lot of time watching TV.  Since we don't have cable or satellite at home, just a handful of channels via digital antenna, going to Grandma and Grandpa's house and having TV time is a real treat. Our son also spent quite a while using his Grandpa's train simulator on the computer.  And, of course, Grandma always has oodles of snacks for the kids. . . .

In our travels over the weekend I managed to go to both ceramic studios I work with.  I picked up finished work from both of them - a handful of pendants, a handful of ornaments, and a votive candle holder.  I'll be busy making necklaces later this week, and listing the other items.  It felt good to be creative again.  It seems like I lost my creative get-up-and-go last month, and have been struggling to find it ever since.  I still can't bring myself to paint for some reason, but I'm starting to feel like drawing again, which is a step in the right direction.  Emotional upheaval totally derails my impulse to work on art, but the circle always goes around again and I get back to it eventually.  Ride the wave, I've been known to tell friends going through tough times, sometimes you just have to ride the wave until it gets better.  One of my friends gave that advice back to me this past week, and I really appreciated it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Silence is Beautiful

We had a major power outage last night, starting around 10PM.  It lasted for about an hour, and considerably freaked out our son (our daughter slept through it).  A few minutes into it, I went around and lit some candles, then sat down to enjoy the "atmosphere" and help our son calm down.  (Through his Aspergers world view, power outages are scary and just plain wrong.  He was quite upset, and perseverated on when the power would be restored.  It didn't help that it flickered on for a minute after half an hour, then went black again.)  Eventually he relaxed enough to go back to bed.  Right about the time he was drifting off to sleep, the power came back on, and all was right with his world again.

As we sat and talked, I noticed how blissfully quiet it was in the house, the quietest it's been since we moved in.  The fish tank was silent.  The furnace and refrigerator were off.  No computers humming in the background, no noise at all except the clock ticking, and the rain pattering down outside and trickling through the downspouts.  I have to say, I loved it.  Our lives are so noisy, that often I just want silence.  Something so simple, yet it's so hard to find sometimes.  I've been known to ask the kids to just stop talking in the car while we're traveling - I swear they often natter on just to hear themselves, and it can really get on my nerves.  Talk isn't necessary to fill every waking moment.  I need silence, while the rest of my family doesn't seem to need it as much at all. 

I also enjoy being alone.  I didn't realize how desperately I missed that sense of personal space until the kids went back to public school after years of home school.  Suddenly, I could be alone in the house, and not have to talk for hours on end.  I could feel my spirit relax into the quiet during their first weeks back at school.  It was like I'd been dying for a drink of water in a noisy desert, and didn't even realize it until that gentle stream washed over me.

Over the years I've toyed with the idea of going on a faith-based retreat.  I love the idea of going someplace to be alone with God and my thoughts, undistracted and quiet.  My ideal retreat would be someplace rural, with trails to walk, water to watch, shadows to follow, details to discover, trees and plants to study, places to sit and think, comfortable chairs to read in, and quiet spaces to pray.  I'd have to take my Bible and my drawing pad, and a handful of my favorite markers and pencils, and a bottle of water or green tea.  Oh, just writing about this ideal retreat makes me want to schedule it, to have it to look forward to in the spring! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Frosted Flake

At last, we had a good, hard frost last night!  I've been waiting for this, for a couple reasons.  One is that I want all the mold spores and pollen to DIE.  It's been a rough fall for my allergies.  The other is that I wanted to get out and take pictures on a frosty morning.  Today I finally got my chance, so here's a garden tour for a chilly morning.

My daughter's strawberry plants looked like they'd been dipped in crystallized sugar this morning.  They're everbearing, so the last couple berries ripened just last week.  They were new this year, and she still had several tasty handfuls of berries to enjoy late in the summer.  Hopefully next year she'll get enough for a special dessert.

Small bellflowers (sorry, I can't remember which Campanula variety they are), lit by the sun.  I honestly thought these would never bloom - I planted them a year and a half ago, and they did nothing but make a small clump of pretty leaves.  A few weeks ago they surprised me by putting out buds.  Success!

Oriental poppy 'Brilliant,' whose foliage is quite hairy and catches the frost quite attractively.  I winter sowed them early this year, so they'll bloom next year.  I'm really looking forward to their bright scarlet-orange blooms.

It's curtains for the cosmos with this frost, but the last few flowers look like sugared cake decorations.

I'm amazed at how strongly the blanket flowers (Gaillardia) I winter sowed have done.  Once they got going, they bloomed nonstop.  Here's a seed head and an opening blossom.

The last dogwood leaves - I barely brushed the tree this morning, and the leaves fell off by the handful.  I love their intense red color, especially backlit by the sun.  I hope this little tree thrives in its exposed location. 

This dusty miller is one of the few plants that came with the house, in the scruffy half-wild "border" bed along the drainage swale out back.  Its newer foliage is so white, you can hardly tell where the frost is.

The last rose of the year, 'Peace,' beautiful even as the frost brings an end to the bloom season.