Monday, November 30, 2009

Finally, wedding photos

I have been feeling lazy on the blogging end of things.
So here is a photographic post, which I know you have all been awaiting with bated breath. There is a whole sad story about why we didn't get photos sooner, but we finally tracked the guy down and sent Jeff over to his house to pick up the disc. On a positive note, I have acquired some mad computer skills in learning to convert all these photos from RAW format into something more manageable.

Aren't my girls gorgeous?
And talented?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Veggie garden evaluation

I just dug up the rest of the parsnips. I had procrastinated digging them up, thinking I could talk Jeff into it, but he's having knee surgery tomorrow and somehow I don't think the digging is going to happen. It was, however, ridiculously easy, thanks to the raised beds and nice, loose soil. I was impressed with the harvest, if I do say so myself. A couple of the parsnips were over a foot long. As babies, they got rave reviews when roasted with other root vegetables. They were one of my biggest successes this year. I'm already salivating over the mashed carrots and parsnips that we're going to have with the Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. Luckily, the Mustard Seed grew some awesome carrots, because mine were a little on the stingy side.

I also dug a few fingerling potatoes out of the clay pot. They look delicious. I deeply regret getting impatient and digging out the first pot of fingerlings. They were puny and unimpressive. Lesson learned: wait till the greenery dies back.

The grapes were another big success. I borrowed a steamer and we and the neighbours enjoyed many glasses of tasty grape juice and still have a few quarts put away for the cold days of winter yet to come. On a funny side note, I put some juice in a couple of jars for Bethany. She stored one in her pantry, thinking to save it to enjoy later, not knowing that it was not sealed. When she opened it, the juice was fizzy.

No, she didn't drink it.
We had more lemon cucumbers than anyone could have eaten, but Joshie and little Jeff sure enjoyed them, so it was worth it.
The kabocha and other mystery squash have been put to use in soups and sweet breads, with many more left for the winter.
The two kiwi vines survived the summer. Maybe next year we will get a few fruit.
The strawberries were hopeless this year, I'm not sure whether to dig them out and replace them or give them another chance. Laziness denotes another chance.
The kohlrabi were a mixed success. Jeff doesn't love them, but lots of guests were mystified and intrigued by them, and actually liked them. The bulb set was not high though, so I'm thinking they're not worth the space.
Tomatoes. What can I say? Usual problem in Oregon of not ripening before the frost sets in. We got a few, but once again, the Mustard Seed saved my bacon and I have lots of frozen pasta sauce to get me through the winter.
The banana peppers were very fruitful and will find a place in my beds next year.
The rhubarb wasn't quite as rampant as usual, maybe because they were transplanted last fall. Still, we got lots of desserts and I just swapped a bag of frozen chunks for a couple of dozen eggs from a friend, so its usefulness lives on.
The raspberries got way too big for their britches this year. We had a lovely big spring harvest which was blissfully eaten by grandchildren and children and Jeff alike, but the vines spread way into the flowerbeds and lawn. Jeff pulled a lot out but I think we'll have to do something drastic next year. The weather was unkind so we didn't really get a fall crop.
I'm sad to report that the enormous kabocha vine appears to have sucked all the moisture out of the bed and killed one of the blueberry bushes. So I have to either try to root a twig next spring or fork out the money to buy another one. Blueberries need two bushes of different varieties in order to pollinate. I seriously wonder if it's worth trying to grow your own blueberries when we are surrounded by blueberry farms.

So, other than a few renegade carrots and the pot of potatoes, that's it for this year.

Thank goodness for winter, is what I say!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Grandson #1

This here is an honest discussion of my oldest grandson, whose unique personality I have learned to appreciate and cherish.
When Daniel was a baby, he was a little difficult. That is to say, he cried a lot. Then there was the incident when Bethany found him not breathing and he spent several days in the hospital being subjected to all sorts of tests. We were never sure how much of his orneriness resulted from the trauma of this experience. It certainly affected Bethany, who loved him passionately (as any mother does who comes close to losing a child) and became a tad over-protective and, later on, defensive of his mischievous ways. We all fondly recall the RV trip to Nauvoo when he was about six months old. Two weeks, nine people, one RV, thousands of miles, Daniel crying for most of them. We had a blast!
Then once he started walking, he knew no limits. All those precious things that I had been able to leave out when Kenzie was toddling had to be swiftly rescued from ruin when Daniel came upon the scene. He wrecked things constantly. He was a bit of a Mama's boy and, as he got older, was prone to pouting and bursts of anger. Of course, he wasn't always like this, but he was often difficult to handle.
Then all of a sudden, one day I realized that our Daniel had, at the grand age of six, turned into a very nice person. I think part of it might be that Bethany is homeschooling him now, which he likes much better than school. Maybe the rest of it is that he is loved so much, by all of us. I love to have him come and spend the night because he is such good company. We talk about all sorts of things, bake together, make paper airplanes, go shopping (he never nags for things like Kenzie does), go for walks, research topics on the computer, and do his schoolwork. He loves his Mom in particular and is usually kind to his siblings. He has a delightful sense of humour and is very smart. He is a very picky eater but eats the foods that he likes with great relish. A couple of weeks ago we made chocolate chip pancakes and he polished off six of them embellished with chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream. He's my kind of kid.

Here he is, doing his school work.

Making snickerdoodles, his favourite cookie. I think Daniel is going to be an excellent baker. He pays attention, doesn't get bored, and thoroughly enjoys the finished product. He rolled every last one of those dough balls in cinnamon sugar.

The delectable finished product.

While the snickerdoodles were baking Daniel was getting wiggly, so I showed him how to do jumping jacks. Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of minutes where he was hilariously uncoordinated, but this is still pretty funny. Especially because he's on his side. And he's wearing his pajamas for the second day in a row because Dad forgot to bring his clothes.

Daniel and Natalie having fun in a box.

I'm really lucky to be Daniel's Nana. One of the best parts of my life is being able to share time with my grandkids and to help teach them good things. As they get more numerous and I get older, I really enjoy having them come over one at a time. I know my kids loved having one-on-one times with beloved relatives, although it was infrequent, so I am happy to be able to give that to my grandkids.

The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent.
Sam Levenson.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This one wild and precious life

I read a phrase in a newspaper article this week. What is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?
It stayed with me. Me, who usually forgets momentous concepts as soon as my brain processes them. It has been haunting me all week. So tonight I Googled it and found that it is an oft-quoted phrase that comes from this poem:

The Summer Day

By Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

Not to spend all my blogging time outlining my angst, but I think the reason these lines stuck with me is that they carry the gist of my restlessness of late. I have been trying to find a venue locally that would love to use my donated music therapy services, say a group of moms and children in a shelter, but to no avail. I was actually turned down flat by the local branch of a national group (who shall remain nameless) because I don't subscribe to the Apostles' Creed. It took the wind out of my sails and I was paralyzed for the rest of the week.

There are a lot of things I REALLY love about this time of my life.
My time is my own, to choose freely how I spend it.
Grandchildren abound and bring joy.
Children are finding their way in the world quite nicely.
We are debt-free and happy to be that way.

However, as much as I joke about my "bucket list" and swimming with dolphins, there are a lot of things that I still want to do with my life. I have a hankering to spend some of my remaining time on this earth in some worthy humanitarian cause. There is so much misery in the world and I am only one person, but one person multiplied by many can create great change. I don't know yet how this is going to work. Heck, apparently I can't even find a meaningful way to volunteer close to home. And I have been shackled by idleness since our trip to Australia.
But my passion is out there, somewhere.
I can feel it coming.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The New Village Green

I have been feeling isolated for a few years. It's not that I don't see anybody, it's that I only see the same core few with any regularity. I am a social being, much to Jeff's dismay at times, and I love to talk to people and hear their stories. As much information as we have at our fingertips these days, we seldom reach out to each other without a specific reason.
I remember when my kids were little, I would sometimes spend the whole day with friends, working on projects or just visiting while the kids played. I miss those days, but find it hard to call a friend and say "Let's hang out." I can only take rejection so many times before I pull back reluctantly into my shell. I organize outings whenever I get the chance, like to the tulip fields or the Christmas Bazaar, and friends are happy to join me.
But, you know, it can be tiring to always be The Instigator. The Party Planner. The Bearer of Treats. The Event Coordinator.

What I need is a village green, the place where people used to meet and chat and simply pass the time of day.
Well, I have found it.
The new village green.
And it is Facebook.

I have coined a new term that I hope will catch on like wildfire.
Ha! Faint hopes of that!
Facebook Serendipity.
Wonderful, unexpected things that happen because of facebook connections.
Let me tell you about just a few of the serendipitous things that have happened within my facebook community.

~Our friends LaNae and Stacey, who live several hours away in Washington, came over one Sunday afternoon for a barbecue pizza throw-down. Several other couples came too and a good time was had by all.
~When I lost my cell phone on the DC trip, I put out an S.O.S. on facebook and my friend Ellen let me use one of her old phones.
~Later, her husband was pining for split pea soup after I mentioned it, so I sent him over a nice container of said soup.
~Then, they donated their cordless phones to our house after I killed mine and they got rid of their land line.
I guess I'm in the hole on that little exchange!
~My friend, Kathy, and I went to see Lisa Hannigan and David Gray together.
~My friend, Monna, who lives close to my Mum in New Zealand, took her homemade treats when she found out Mum was sick.
~Jonnie found his old childhood friend Ben, who lives in Arkansas. He had been searching for him for years. Ben's Mom, Kathy, sent Jon some beautyberry seeds after he admired a photo of her bush.

Strands and links that would have been almost impossible to accomplish before this curious and marvelous technology. Blessings bestowed by the gods of the World Wide Web.
And yet....
I still miss the days....

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's autumn time

Autumn is a season followed immediately by looking forward to spring.

On being dragged into the 21st century

Kicking and screaming.
Our kids all did double-takes when we told them we were finally breaking down and buying a flat-screen TV. And let me just say, here and now, that the only reason we did it is that the rec room TV was on its last legs.
Of course, you can't just buy a new TV. You have to buy a Blueray player so that you get the FULL impact of all that HD. And a bunch of new, expensive cables. And then a new stereo receiver because the old one doesn't have all the necessary inputs and outputs.
So, two weeks later, we just about have all the kinks worked out. Except for channel 6, that inexplicably loses the stereo vocal sound when the show is on, but not the commercials. I'm hoping that when we have our Thanksgiving crowd over, one of the boys can figure it out.
Luckily, Jonnie loves to play around with wires.
He's also small enough to fit in the armoire.
Can't see Jeff in there, can you?

Thomy has very good fine motor skills and likes to put things together. Unlike his Dad, whose forte at that age was taking things apart. Thomy reconfigured the Dora hopscotch squares and he and Jeff had fun jumping on them while his Daddy was making up for past sins.


...the art of keeping a horse between you and the ground.

I was looking over my Adobe files and noticed that I had missed reporting on some fun events of late summer.
While Charlie and Annie were home in September we had a family horse-riding afternoon.
You may recall from earlier posts that when I was a girl, all I wanted in life was to be a ballerina and ride horses.
Instead, I got piano lessons.
For which I am very grateful.
But a piano is not a horse.
I used to read Black Beauty and cry.
I read the sequel and cried.
My friend Janet got a horse and I was jealous.
(But I didn't cry about it.)
We used to walk around the village and feed the local horses carrots and apples and I would wish that they were mine.
I guess I didn't know enough to nag, not having a TV and all. All my bad habits were innate, not learned from bratty kids in a sitcom.

Years later, as an independently wealthy teenager, I would rent a horse for an hour and make it go as fast as its unwilling legs would carry me. It fulfilled a little of the old childhood yearning and by then I had lots of other interests anyway.

I haven't climbed on a horse for decades, so I was unsure if I would ride, but the kids were excited.
Some of them.

The day was gloriously sunny. We picked up pizzas from Little Caesar's and headed up the mountain.
Annie is an equestrian from way back. She used to exchange babysitting for riding lessons from our friend, so was the most experienced of us all. Kenzie has been hankering to ride for a long time and she loved it. She rode alone a little later.

Annie and Charlie galloped fearlessly around the path, as did Jon. The boys both rode horses at Camp Baldwin when they were scouts.

Bethany had never ridden before and she was leery. We all told her she would be fine. Unfortunately, her horse decided to gallop downhill about 20 yards into her ride. She managed to stay on, thanks to all the good advice we were shouting at her, but when she returned to us her face was white and she was shaking. No, she didn't go for a repeat performance!
I think this was taken after the ride. Notice the rather desperate quality of her smile.

Jenny was just as apprehensive as her face suggests. She had a nice calm ride, being led the whole way.

Big Jeff and little Jeff. Little Jeff isn't scared of anything.

And moi?
Yes, I braved it.
Strangely, my gammy leg was a bit of a handicap because of the limited range of motion.
But it still felt good!

Charlie had so much fun he went back again a couple of days later.
With a GIRL.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We, the people...

...owe every moment of our lives to the men and women who have fought for freedom. I don't say "our freedom," because more often than not, they have fought for the freedom of other nations and peoples.
This Veteran's Day, let us pause for a few moments to remember all those who have died in the name of freedom. Let's remember also those whose lives have never been the same because of their war experiences. Their offering is hardly less just because their lives were spared. Remember, too, the sacrifices made by the families of the military.
This video is a little long, but how many minutes of this day are you willing to give up to honour our dead?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Say what?

Remember Ode Magazine? The magazine for intelligent optimists? Well, I quit getting their daily emails some time ago, due to their glorification of our present government and its policies. But they are still sending me the magazine, even though my free subscription ran out months ago. Optimistic of them, wouldn't you say? Anyway, I was perusing the latest edition and came across an article on the last page that fascinated me. Large rats are being trained to sniff out land mines, which are an enormous problem in many parts of the world. I LOVE this! Take an animal that most people hate, train it to help people, and both species benefit. Take a few minutes to watch the videos, you'll be glad you did. Plus, my hero Jane Goodall is featured.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy (belated) Halloween

Saturday night was Halloween, bringing back fond memories of traipsing around our neighbourhood streets with the kids, urging them on to "Just one more street" long after they were tired and wanting to go home. Then we would return home to Jeff and the cosy woodstove. The kids would tip all their candy out on the floor of the family room and inspect the goodies. The Butterfingers went to me, a tariff for their night of gathering booty. Besides, I don't think any of them really liked Butterfingers. We usually watched Garfield's Halloween Adventure, which ran annually on CBS from 1985 till 2000. You can watch it in three parts here, here, and here, if you have missed it. It's full of quotable lines...
I'll have you know Halloween is my middle name...Gar-Halloween-field.
Arrrgh, it do be a landlubber who be shoving lasagna in his face.
Come along matey, we've got a village to pillage.

...and was the first time Binky the Clown showed up on Garfield. It also has memorable songs by Lou Rawls and Lorenzo Music.
I was going to find some old photos and scan and post them here, but it has proved to be beyond me today, so maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, here are way too many photos from my evening with the next generation.
Jenny is a real party girl.
She decorates for Halloween in September.
I kid you not.
Early September.
She painstakingly sewed all of the dots on Thomy's costume this year.
I was impressed.
Jeff is Bob the Builder, of course.

We went downtown Newberg, where hordes of children and their doting relatives descend on 1st Street every year and hold the shopowners for ransom.
Here is the most impressive pumpkin of the evening, made by my best friend's sister.

It curdled MY blood, for sure.

Tinkerbells abounded.

One of the many civic volunteers who controlled traffic for the little ghosts and goblins.

We got lucky in that the weather dried up.
There's nothing worse than a wet and bedraggled Halloween, although over the years we have had surprisingly few.

A delicious treat at the pet store.
Giant mealworms amidst the mints.

On our travels, we drove past this magnificent haunted house.

This fellow scared the dickens out of the boys when Jenny took candy from his bowl.

Jenny was excited to have her photo taken with Mr. Spock.
Jeff, not so much.

We went back to the apartment to pick up Jon, who had been sleeping off his shift, and drove up to the best Halloween street in Newberg.
Jenny had many photo opportunities!
I was torn between using the flash for detail and not using it for better ambience.

I got home and the house was dark and locked up tight.
Not the homecoming I fondly remember.