Monday, December 29, 2008

December 26

Brother Rick turned 65 on December 26. I last saw him in October when this photo was taken. I cherish it because it includes we three surviving siblings. Valery on the left, Rick's wonderful partner, Kathy, me and the birthday boy. We gathered at Colleen's house for a mini-reunion. I have no idea what we thought was so funny, but we don't need much of an excuse to get silly and laugh our heads off. On the 26th Kathy hosted a birthday party for Rick in Napa. I've heard from Valery and Colleen that it was a great party; I wish I had been there.
Rick's 65th birthday was also the 100th wedding anniversary of our beloved grandparents, Ernest and Minnie P. Blair. They were married at 4 A.M. in Placerville, California and then took a train to San Francisco for their honeymoon.
Here's Minnie Pauline Nichols in her wedding gown.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boys and Toys

Grandpa and Ben assembled the double bass drum pedal Ben received for Christmas. The first step in the process is: Throw away the assembly instructions -- those idiots don't know what they are doing, a real man can figure this out, never mind that he's never been within spitting distance of a bass drum, it's all simple mechanics. And fortunately, it worked. Ben can now beat his bass drum twice as fast as he could previously.
Logan's not in the picture because he's out riding his new scooter. I'm sitting in a chair unwilling to relocate just to get a photo. I'll get one of Logan another day,
We had a small select group for Christmas dinner. The meal was fabulous, thanks to Julia's help in the kitchen. The menu was a scrawny 9-1/4 pound free-range turkey that nevertheless tasted delicious, stuffing, cranberry/orange sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans Lyonnaise, Brussel sprouts with cheese, spicy carrots, crab salad, rolls, pecan, apple, and pumpkin pies, wines, and sparkling cider. I had a back-up ham in case we ran out of turkey, but we didn't. The ham has sustained us ever since: ham and eggs with Rachel and Kevin the next morning for breakfast, ham sandwiches, ham and cheese with mac and peas, and plain old ham.
We are having typically crazy Missouri weather. A few days ago the river was frozen. Yesterday was a record high 70 degrees. Today we are under a tornado watch and flash flood warning with possibility of severe thunderstorms and large hail. But tonight the temp is supposed to plummet again.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Under the Wire

Tonight I finished sewing the label on Bernice's quilt. Now it will go into the washing machine and then under the tree. Tomorrow I convert my sewing room back into a dining room and start to put the house in order for Christmas. It pleased me that I was able to make quilts for both Arlan and Bernice entirely out of material I had on hand. I completed twelve quilts this year and did the quilting on each myself. I have two quilt tops that are ready to quilt and a couple more projects under way. But, I won't touch them until next year. After twelve months of quilting, I have learned a lot and feel as though I have just completed my freshman year at Quilt U.
It's bitter cold, we had a couple of days in the single digits with wind chill down as low as 15 below zero. It's 22 now and snow and ice are forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday, clearing for Christmas.
The boys finished up the semester in fine style -- all A's except a B in PE for Logan (attendance) and a B in Social Studies for Ben.
Ben has a cold and it makes his newly changed voice even deeper. Today when Irene called, she thought she had the wrong number! They are both 5'6" now, very handy for reaching things too high for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Naughty or Nice

I always thought I was the nice one and my brother the naughty one. I don't think I look so innocent here, if ever I saw a scheming look on the face of a little girl, here it is. He, on the other hand is all wide-eyed innocence. However, Santa did bring me a Patsy doll which my brother threw over the back fence and some Story Book dolls which he gave away to a girl friend. No, I never got over it -- but please don't get me a doll for Christmas.
This picture was taken in Oakland at H. C. Capwell's in 1943 when I was four and a half and Mickey was three.
Today I finished my Christmas shopping and mailed my last package. I put off shopping all week because the roads and parking lots have been icy, but today's rain washed it all away.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You're a Good Man, Linus; Good Dog, Snoopy

Linus, aka Ben, complete with blanket slung over shoulder, and Snoopy (Logan) with duct tape ears, stand second and third from the left, respectively. They were great, of course. Church groups are so important in this part of the country and can provide the nucleus of a kid's social life. Ben's social life centers on his activities, band, church, and tae kwan do, while Logan is more school oriented. School friends, community dances, and the bus ride to school are important to Logan while Ben is indifferent. Ben enjoys the Youth Group at church and select friends from school. To Logan, "rep" is all and Ben doesn't get it.
Last night two of Ben's school friends came over for a study group and dinner (a double batch of Mac and Cheese with Ham and Peas). The bare minimum amount of studying occurred and a maximum of music-making. We waited eagerly for the two to four inches of snow forecast and anticipated school closing for today. Nada. Schools in all directions were closed, but I guess we must live in the banana belt. We awoke to green grass, clear roads, and snow-free roof-tops. That's not to say it hasn't been cold - in the lower teens, with wind chill around zero.
Night before last, in this freezing cold, an Amish family was visiting with neighbors. At 9:30 when they were heading home, they put their 3-1/2 year old little girl in the carriage and then the horse spooked and ran off. The little girl fell out and couldn't be found. She was out in the freezing cold wearing a dress, sweater, and bonnet all night long, until she was found huddled in a ditch by a passing motorist at 7:00 A.M. Her survival was a miracle. She had only a few scrapes and bruises from her fall and mild hyperthermia from which she has completely recovered. The fact that it was an Amish family makes the story even more poignant to me. I have such a fascination for the Amish and would love to experience their life style on a trial basis (during the summer, please, and minus the religious stuff and the male dominance).
On other religious notes, I have heard that one of our local mega-churches has commercials during their Sunday Services. Specifically, for Mountain Dew. I guess they have to pay for all that fancy stuff somehow. I won't mention the church because I have only the word of one of the neighbor kids on the subject, but somehow, it wouldn't surprise me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


On Thanksgiving, we drew names for our family gift exchange and I drew Arlan's name. So, of course, I made him a quilt. I think he will be more likely to use this lap quilt if Bernice has one too, so I'll start hers today and I'm pretty sure I can finish it by Christmas. If not, her birthday is in January.
Christmas will be at our house, but there will be a fairly small group, nine, I think. We'll all fit around the dining room table. On New Year's weekend, we'll have another celebration when the Massachusetts contingent will be here.
It's been really cold; it didn't get above freezing yesterday. I'm quite content to stay in the house, sewing and getting ready for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's Good for GM is . . .

Gas is down to $1.37.9. Why can't I just enjoy the relief? Why do I feel manipulated? Something's fishy. The big 3 automakers are in trouble and need federal assistance. I wonder how much inventory they have in gas guzzling SUVs and trucks? Do you suppose their sales will improve now that gas prices have hit a five-year low? I don't pretend to understand big picture economics, but it just seems to me that low gas prices have got to benefit the automakers. I vaguely remember light rail systems (street cars) all over the country being converted to buses to the benefit of the auto industry just after the WWII. You don't suppose we're being had again?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent Update

As of December 7, morning boy has opened 15 doors on his Advent Calendar and this morning he ate the seventh chocolate from evening boy's calendar. Evening boy has wisely moved his calendar into his room.
Both boys performed in the local premier of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Of course they were stellar. The event was a Foster Family Christmas Dinner sponsored by our church. Attending were local foster parents and children who received bags of toys from a Santa who had been generously supplied by local merchants. I found it very hard to be among these innocent children who have such ruptured lives that they have been placed in foster care. It's so close to my home and my heart that I cannot keep from crying when I am among them.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pizza my Pocketbook

Papa Murphy's pizza is the best in town. On that we agree. It goes downhill from there. One large pizza is plenty to feed the three of us. Unfortunately, we can't agree on crusts, toppings, etc. But they do have individual pizzas. But the thick crust extra cheese (Ben) is only available in large. Logan and I each favor the thin crust style (also only available in large). So instead of a single large pizza, or three individuall sized-ones, we end up with three large pizzas. Instead of around $10, we spend in the neighborhood of $30. But, I get my garlic, chicken. artichoke, white sauce, thin crust, Ben has his thick crust extra cheese, and Logan enjoys his thin crust pepperoni. Does anyone else have this problem? Would you like to combine forces the next time we try to have pizza?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Counting Down

Each year the boys count down the days of December until Christmas. I get them an Advent Calendar to help with the countdown. Today is December 2, the day that the little door with the numeral 2 should be opened and the tiny chocolate within consumed by the the excited child. One boy chooses to open his in the morning, while the other waits until the evening. The "morning boy" lasted until about the 5th of December last year and then went berserk, opening all the little doors. Can you guess who is the "morning" boy and who is the white-knuckled "evening" boy?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wait Till Next Year!

Our garden now wears a thin blanket of snow -- the season's first. The snow's not deep enough to cover the streets, just a dusting, although the streets are icy and the driving is treacherous, but not bad enough for a snow day. The school bus arrived on schedule this morning.
The Christmas tree is up, but I have many more decorations to haul out and put in place before the house looks really warm and cheery. I am in the mood!

Friday, November 28, 2008

So Big

Why does it surprise me that the boys are getting so tall? You can see the changes in just four months
Ben is now about 5'6"-- both boys are clearly taller than me and I feel so protected when I walk between them. They are such kind boys and take good care of me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you, Ron Popeil and Nancy

Today I was grateful for my ginsu knife, a gift from friend Nancy many years ago. No other knife in my kitchen was up to the challenge of finely dicing an unpeeled tomato.
My contribution to the meal hosted by Amanda and Ash was the spaghetti squash dish discovered with Colleen and Valery during my October trip to California. One of the ingredients is a tomato. The dish was as good as I remembered it and is quite easy to prepare so long as you have a ginsu knife. You can find the recipe at . For the ginsu knife, I guess you have to go to a State Fair.
The meal was lovely; Amanda sets a beautiful table as you can see. Her home was quite festive -- all decorated for Christmas. Here's one of her four Christmas trees. Yes, the tree is upside down, not the picture.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Marching to a Merry Christmas

Ben marched with his school band and his quads in the local Christmas parade yesterday evening. I didn't get a picture at the parade, but here he is the morning after. If you ever want to experience small town life in the Ozarks, come to our Christmas parade. Throngs line the 1.6 mile length of the parade -- most of the town turns out. I really don't quite understand why it is such a big deal, but I tried to get in the spirit of the season. Bundled up in long johns, scarf, gloves, boots and a few other typical items of clothing, I watched from the parade's end at the town square. Leading the parade was this year's marshall riding in a 1956 Lincoln. Chlorine Hedgepeth (I don't make this stuff up), the octogenarian local bank president/owner/founder who still goes to work every day, had the honor this year. She was followed by a bevy of beauties from each year's class at the high school, who shivered and waved from the back of various convertibles. Then all the local muscle cars, Mustangs, and classic cars drove by, followed by the two school marching bands. Several churches had "floats" (trailers with hay and people in robes) depicting of the true meaning of Christmas and several merchants depicted the other true meaning of Christmas. All the participants hurled wrapped hard candies at the crowd and failed to put out anyone's eye, but did startle and bruise this observer. Ah, great fun.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Abby and Jack

I've been in a quilting frenzy again. Sister Valery asked me to make quilts for the twin babies of her friend Kelly (born October 25 -- Valery's birthday). So I said I would do it as a birthday gift to Valery and I've been frantically at it ever since -- about 200 hours worth. Today they went into the mail.

Today is the deadline for Open Enrollment for my IBM health insurance. I swear, making decisions gets more complicated every year. I'm not sure if the choices are more complex and convoluted, or if my brain is wearing out.

The cold weather makes me want to stay home and get ready for the holidays. We'll have Thanksgiving with the local relatives (at Amanda and Ash's) and Christmas at our house with whoever shows up. Let me know if you plan to be here! I have lots of extra beds and love company.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Crop Circles

This mysterious perfect circle of dead lawn appeared in our side yard a couple of weeks ago and led me to an internet search of Ozarks crop circles. Turns out there have been a whole bunch of UFO and Crop Circle events in the Ozarks. Determined not to join this woooo woooo crowd, I resolved to get to the root of the problem. The solution was no further away than the youngest member of our household. On the morning after the first freeze, he stomped around in a circle on the frozen grass. When the weather warmed up, the grass grew everywhere but the circle he had etched.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Red Alert

Seventy-mile-an-hour winds from the southwest left most trees bare. Our dogwood was spared because the house shelters it. I figure Missouri's State Tree will fare better in this spot than the exotic Japanese Maple we lost in a late season freeze a couple of years ago. I'm hoping it blooms next spring -- it was planted too late for blossoms this year.

The kids and I spent from 3:00 to 3:45 in the tornado shelter (with the dogs) last night while the sirens wailed, but no tornadoes materialized. That's three times this year: one in January, one in July and now this one in November -- so I conclude there is no such thing as tornado season.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

ah u eeehuh eeee?

One picture is worth $5,604.00

Logan talked through the whole 40 minute process of installing his braces, except for the time he spent making a video with his phone camera. Of course, no one could understand a word he said.
He was a wonderful cheerful patient and I think he looks so much more mature with a mouth full of metal, don't you?

He's been quite uncomfortable the past 30 hours or so, but still a good sport.

Ah, the election! Missouri will probably lose its place as a bellweather state. Results are still inconclusive with McCain leading by about 6,000 votes and 7,000 provisional votes still to be counted. What the hell is a provisional vote???

Today as I went about my business, (mammogram, Target, and the quilt store) I was struck by an aura of gentle kindness surrounding the people I encountered, kind of like the way it is after a major earthquake or other disaster. I feel fortunate to have participated in this historic event and I am filled with hope.

Monday, November 3, 2008

'Fessin' Up

We don't always eat politically correct, organic, CSA food. Tonight the boys had Mac and Cheese from Boston Market which has to be one of the vilest concoctions. Flabby noodles are soaked in runny bright orange sauce that pretends to be cheese -- it makes Velveeta look good. But, I let them eat it every Monday night on the way to music lessons because their mother used to manage a Boston Market and would bring it home for dinner from time to time. So, for the sake of a cozy memory, I surrender to Boston Market's mac and cheese once a week.

I don't have recipes for the veggies I have prepared. I took a batch of greens (may have been mustard), chopped them in bite-size chunks, lightly tossed them in EVOO that had garlic and rosemary soaking in it and stirred them around the frying pan until they were slightly wilted. Then I tossed in some pine nuts and shaved Parmesan. Yum.

The next night's stir fry was chunks of leftover pork loin, julienned raw turnips, green peppers, and onions stir fried in the same EVOO mixture. I tossed in the leftover greens from the night before and it was really good. I hate the taste of turnips in traditional stews, but I couldn't taste them at all in this mixture -- I think the secret is young turnips cut into very fine slivers so that the EVOO, garlic, and herbs can work their charm.

I always keep a cup of EVOO ready with minced garlic and some herb, basil, or rosemary or thyme chopped up into it.

We have too many sweet potatoes and will probably get plenty more, so I'm going to try making sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin pie -- we'll see if I get away with it.

Tomorrow is the official day that Logan's braces get installed. He won't miss any school because the school's are closed for election day -- they use the schools as polling places and don't want the public mingling with the kids for security and safety reasons. Like most of the nation, I'll be glad when this election is over -- I've been getting three to five robo-calls a day for the past week. 95% of them from the Republicans -- that alone would drive me to voting democrat!

Ben's ( and a hundred or so other people's) Veteran's Day Public Service Announcement should start airing on Wednesday. Let me know if you see it. It's sponsored by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and should show old vets, town square, Junior High marching band, and parade spectators, and possibly a certain 13 year-old redheaded boy sitting on the curb.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Things Go Better With . . .

These help us eat those weird vegetables:
1. Nuts: walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds
2.Garlic and onions
3. Cheese: grated cheddar, shaved parmesan, crumbled bleu cheese
4. Sauces: spaghetti sauce, pesto, alfredo, chutneys, and salsas
5. Condiments: mayonnaise, catsup, sour cream, ranch dressing, balsamic vinegar, EVOO, butter
6. Diced or crumbled meats: bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, ham
7. Fresh lemon juice
8. Herbs: rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, cilantro, parsley, dill
9. Seasoning: Spike, salt, pepper, other salt-free blends
10. Bread crumbs

Saturday, November 1, 2008

CSA -- Week 1

Lettuce, three other kinds of greens, radishes, egg plant, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, cheese, spaghetti squash, and turnips filled our first CSA garden basket. It's going to be a challenge to eat it all and to make it all edible this week. I figure we'll have to have one green and one root or squash each day. I know I can make most of them palatable with nuts, bacon, EVOO, herbs, or balsamic vinegar and either stir frying or roasting the veggies. Will the kids eat it? Stay tuned.

The point of all this is to reduce the cost of transportation in the production of the food we eat. We can get all of our veggies, meat, eggs, dairy, and most of the grains locally, but there are some things I'm not willing to give up: bananas, nuts, boxed cereal, EVOO, balsamic vinegar, and good wine.

Tonight we'll have roast pork, some kind of greens tossed with pine nuts, EVOO and balsamic vinegar, tossed salad, and sweet potatoes. Leftover pork will form the basis of stir fry with more green veggies tomorrow. We'll also have fritatas, cheese dishes and other meatless meals at some point during the week. I try to use as little salt as possible, but other than that, I'm throwing dietary caution to the wind until I get the hang of using up the veggies. I'm hoping that it will turn out to be some kind of self-regulating phenomenon.

Washing and storing the produce is one of the biggest chores. If I can get it all done on Saturday, I'll be set for the rest of the week.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Yes, she looks a bit like Queen Elizabeth, even a British woman we met in Florence thought so. We were sitting in the cathedral of the Duomo, catching our breath, and a British woman joined us in conversation. When Valery asked, the woman agreed that Velda did resemble the queen. Like the Queen, Velda was always well turned out. I never saw her without jewelry coordinated to her outfit. We will miss this Queen of our hearts.

Velda had a generous heart. I received several sweet thoughtful gifts from her over the years. She was famous for her blanched, toasted almonds. She often sent Christmas cookies, and who can forget her chocolate mint zucchini bread?

She became more present in my life after brother Ken moved to the Seattle area. She and Ronda were the only family Ken had in the area and they became very important to him as his life closed in on him during his terminal illness.
Especially memorable was a dinner at Ken’s new (to him) condo in Issaquah.

On another occasion, we had Thanksgiving dinner at Ken’s first Washington condo in Des Moines.

Here we all are at Connie and Dieter’s wedding. Valery, my mother (Ruthanne, not pictured), Velda, Ernabeth, and I drove down together from Sacramento for the occasion. In addition to the wedding, the trip was memorable for an earthquake on the following morning.

The most memorable time I spent with Velda was our trip to Florence, Venice and Lake Lugano, Switzerland when Janet’s daughter Chrissy married Lorenzo in Florence.

As always, Velda looked regal – here with mother of the bride, cousin Janet. Notice that Velda is dressed in “royal” purple.

We shared rooms and meals for two weeks and had a fabulous time. In addition to the wedding, Velda’s 89th birthday was cause for celebration. Velda realized the dream of a life time when we went for a gondola ride in Venice.

La Dolce Vida

Valery and Velda rode a funicula and then climbed a zillion steps to reach this mountain top above Lake Lugano while I languished in the hotel, nursing a smashed toe. Velda displayed amazing stamina and abundant energy throughout the trip.

On Top of the World

Don’t they look cute, dressed all in pink and blue?

Velda chats up the Florentine lace vendor

Velda was great at striking up conversations with people. We learned she didn’t even need to speak their language to engage them. She managed with gestures and song to explain to the restaurateurs at our favorite Florentine restaurant that it was her 89th birthday and the whole place sang to her and celebrated. She told me she would come to see me for my 70th birthday. It’s next April. I’ll be thinking of her then and missing her.

The Nichols descendants include several “sister pairs. ” In addition to Velda and Ernabeth, I can think of Christine and Lynette, Connie and Janet, and Valery and me. It’s hard to think of one without conjuring up the other. I’m sure the loss of her sister is unbearable for Ernabeth. My heart goes out to her.

In addition to her family, I know she leaves a big hole in the community where she has given countless hours of service. I also know that Cory and his family were a big part of Velda’s life. And George who so generously co-hosted her 90th birthday and the memorial gathering, and gave unstintingly of his decorating advice! These are people Velda spoke of and I know she carried them close to her heart. I’m sure there are many others.

I can’t imagine Ronda's loss. From these pictures, it is evident what a devoted daughter she was and how much time she spent with her mother. I hope she gets some comfort from knowing what a special lady her mother was and how much she will be missed by so many.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I finished Nichole's birthday quilt yesterday, 19 days after her October 9th birthday, and put it in the mail today. This one is called "Metamorphosis,"
symbolic of the changes in all of our lives during the past year that the quilt has been under construction, and because there are butterflies in the batik print around the border. The square at the right is my first pieced block, assembled last October when friend Irene was visiting. She is an excellent quilter and patiently helped me stumble through my first efforts.

On my trip to the Post Office this morning, I noticed that gas is now $1.96.9

On Monday, a local lawn-mowing frenzy signalled the end of the growing season --everyone was giving their lawns one last going over before storing the mowers away for the winter. In California, we mowed all year.

Tonight Ben and Logan will rehearse "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Ben is Linus and Logan is Snoopy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

People of the Earth

We are such farmers! Tonight has been forecast to be the first freeze of the season and tomorrow night is predicted to reach a low of 25 degrees. So, we dug up the sweet potatoes and the remaining carrots. Logan spaded and raked one of the garden beds where I will plant bulbs for spring blooms. I'm going to dedicate at least one other bed to local annuals that attract hummingbirds and butterflies (and are pest resistant). We'll wait till spring to decide whether we will plant any veggies. We've joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for winter vegetables and cheese. That should yield potatoes, winter squash and lots of root vegetables that we will learn to eat (rutabagas, parsnips, turnips, etc.). I've discovered that if vegetables are roasted with EVOO and garlic, we will eat them. There will also be hot house salad greens and herbs as well as a different cheese each week. The farm (Milsap Farm) also produces free range chickens and eggs. I think CSA membership may be the solution to my hunting/gathering vs agriculture dilemma of a couple of weeks ago.

Gas is down to $2.13, maybe the lowest price in the nation. However, Logan's braces really are going to cost $6,000. I did some price comparisons last week and there seems to be a local orthodonture cartel that effectively keeps prices about $3500 above the same treatment in California. Oh well, if gas stays $1 a gallon cheaper for the foreseeable future, it will all even out in about 6 to 10 years.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Strike Up the Band!

Ben's school band is going to appear in a Public Service Announcement on National TV. The Bob Woodruff Family Trust funded the filming of a spot featuring the band playing at the town square. The square was chosen as being typical of mid-America. The PSA will run the week of Veteran's Day and I wouldn't be surprised if it aired on ABC (Woodruff's network). For more information see the article in the paper and the Woodruff Foundation website
This picture was taken last year; this year Ben is playing the quads (four drums).

Here's Valery!

Here's Valery riding the range at Colleen's while I was visiting in California last week. Of course, you realize she is sitting still in this photo. I am here to testify that she actually did put Robby's quad in motion and go for a little ride. I wasn't brave enough to try, but Kathy and Valery each gave it a go.
When she wasn't riding, we (Colleen,too) shopped at Raley's and put together a fabulous meal. Valery's friend Scott joined us for dinner. The menu was:

Salmon or chicken breasts topped with peach/avocado chutney
Roasted red potatoes with garlic and rosemary
Roasted asparagus spears
Spaghetti squash with basil, walnuts and tomato.

It was delicious and gorgeous, I wish I had taken a picture.

Meanwhile back at home, time had taken its toll on our formerly gorgeous pumpkins. I guess I won't be making pies from them. Pretty scary.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Home Sweet Home

The ocean is still there, just west of California. For peace of mind, I need to check up on it from time to time. Also, California still hangs on to the western edge of the continent; it has not tumbled into the Pacific during my absence. California will always be the seat of my soul, but Missouri is home. I felt a strong magnetic pull toward home as I traveled the last couple of miles from the airport on my return journey. I'm not sure if it is the place, or the fact that the boys live there. For now, it feels right. Oh my God, I missed them. Grandpa Steve and Julia did a fabulous job, the boys were happy while I was gone, and happy when I returned. I heard no complaints about either my absence or my presence. Although, Logan did mention that I don't serve as many desserts as Grandma Julia.

Heartwarming reunions and fabulous food were the features of my week. I reunited with relatives and work colleagues every day. Women I worked with in 1985 gathered one evening and we feasted on food for the mind, body, and soul. My trip was planned around the Pacific International Quilt Show in Santa Clara. It was interesting, but not so interesting as the time I spent with host Irene and cousin Lynette on the same day. Two days spent with my dear friend of nearly half a century, Nancy, were way too short. She also facilitated my reunion with the Pacific and with the fabulous Pasta Moon restaurant in Half Moon Bay. She is a person I could spend days in silence with, yet come away having learned something and feeling loved. All the people I love and commune with are life-long learners. I hope I qualify.

And my dear daughter Colleen. I am so proud of her and the life she has built for herself. She lives on a wonderful piece of property (never mind the rattlesnakes) in the Sierra Foothills that emanates tranquility. Meeting with treasured friends and relatives in her home was a privilege. She is a warm, gracious, and generous hostess. I was deeply touched by the time that dear friend Lisa, her husband Brent, kids Alexandra and Cameron carved out of their lives to spend with us. Brother Rick and his partner Kathy came to visit on short notice and helped warm my heart. I never see enough of any of them.

Tomorrow, we return to the comfortable day-to-day of our lives and I am content. I did not get to see all the friends and relatives I love, but I have seen many of them one way or the other during the past year. Maybe I'll catch up with the rest of them next year.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Weather report

It was clear and chilly last night, so why did the tornado sirens go off at 9:30 P.M.? I sniffed around and all I came up with was the scent of a skunk, hardly cause to go to the storm shelter. Must have been a system malfunction -- I'm learning why the locals tend to ignore warnings.

The leaf-bare walnut trees await one more strong wind to bring down the rest of the walnuts and to bring out the gleaners. Fallen nuts don't stay on the ground for long around here; loaded pickup trucks carry off the harvest. The walnuts are the last to get their leaves in the spring and the first to lose them in the fall. The maples are just beginning to turn while the hickory, ash, and oak forests are still green. I'm sure it will be a very different landscape when I return from California. I'm hoping the frost holds off because I'm planning to leave the sweet potatoes in the ground until I return.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I'm leaving on Friday for California while Grandpa and Julia come and stay with the kids. Here's what I need to do:
1. Clean house
2. Get the Medical POA forms in order -- organize with health cards, birth certificates, etc.
3. Make out the kids schedule for the week.
4. Hem the new outfit I'm taking with me.
5. Get a pedicure
6. Go grocery shopping
7. Pay bills
8. Let people in California know my schedule and plans
9. Pack
10. Clean the refrigerator

Here's what I am doing:
10. Reading a novel
9. Catching up on the New Yorkers
8. Sorting clothes to take to the Thrift Shop
7.Taking the dogs for a walk
6. Staring out the window, watching the rain
5. Working on a quilt
4. Googling everything I thought I might ever want to know
3. Archiving old photos
2. Blogging
1. Photographing blog

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Whole Cloth

I finished this hand-appliqued quilt top a couple of days ago and now will put it away until my quilting teacher appears. Twice I have signed up for classes and both times the classes were canceled due to insufficient enrollment. I'm certain that when I'm ready the teacher will appear. How Buddhist is that?
These gorgeous fall days and anticipation of my upcoming trip to California have ramped up my productivity in all areas. I love it. With day time temps in the 70's, chilling to the mid-40's overnight, I am filled with energy. God willing, I may even clean the garage and the car. In my chauvinistic, atavistic thinking, I keep waiting for the man of the house to do those chores. However, like the quilting teacher, he has yet to appear.
Quilting has made me realize how much I love textiles as a mode of expression. I have dabbled with them in the past, making clothing, soft sculptures, painting garments, etc., but never with any continuity. As I look back over my life, I can think of two things I wish I had done more of: exploring the Sierras, and exploring textile art forms. It's too late to go cross-country skiing and backpacking, but at least I can still do some work with textiles. Somehow I missed the clues that presented themselves earlier in my life. I have always been fascinated with Christo and his use of fabric combined with landscape and architecture, and I remember the rapturous feeling of exploring the Cluny museum in Paris, opening drawers to exhibits of fabrics centuries and even thousands of years old. These fabrics are displayed in wooden cabinets like map drawers, under glass, and you can just pull the drawer open and see remnants of ancient fabrics. I love the connection to the mind of a human being from the dim past through something expressed by their hands.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Road Kill

The nine-banded armadillo is not native to this part of the country. They migrated here about fifteen years ago from points south. Today they are found sixty miles north of here --evidence of global warming, perhaps. So watch out, they may be headed your way. Up until last Saturday, I thought all armadillos looked like the one on the left; I'd seen plenty of road kill, but never seen one on the hoof. Saturday evening one crossed the road in front of me moving more like a wind-up toy than a quadruped. And no, I didn't hit it.
The dog situation has improved greatly and I think the whole neighborhood, including me, is relieved. We walk them first thing in the morning and I keep them in the house until 8:00 A.M. Then I put their anti-bark collars on and let them go in and out the back door to the yard at will. They still bark some. Learning the relationship between barking and the small shock they get is a long process and behavior modification is slow with negative reinforcement. But, I think they are getting it. I bring them in the house at 6 P.M. and they go out once more on the leash before bed time.
I've started a new blog -- it's in addition to this, not a replacement. "Melody Meanders" is intended to let anyone interested know what we are up to. The new one is a collection of reminisences -- I'm using a blog because I invite anyone interested to expand, correct, question, or just comment on it. The frailty of memory and the subjective nature of it will cause some distortion. Feel free to help me weed through that. Most of you will probably find it uninteresting. The name of the new blog, Blair's Mad House, comes from the way my father would sometimes answer the phone.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fauna Update: Butterflies and barking

Can you find the chyrsalis of the black swallowtail in this photo? It's the blob that looks like a daub of mud on the side of the box, just about dead center in this photo. There are two more in the box and one of a different unknown butterfly. What we don't know is how long they will pupate. This late in the season they may stay dormant all winter and emerge in the spring. Or if the weather stays warm, they could come out in a couple of weeks.
The back fence neighbor came to call again yesterday -- he who complained about the barking dogs on September 11. Let me be clear, I think he is absolutely right. They are a terrible nuisance. However, when it comes to protecting the boys, I cannot be rational. I did dump the boys' story on him, explaining why I felt I had to keep the dogs. He was truly touched, but unswerving in his position that something had to been done. Again, I'm in total agreement. I told him I had been trying really hard since he first complained and he countered that they barked five straight hours yesterday. I was gone for three hours and they may have barked that entire time, but I know they didn't bark five hours. Anyway three hours is too much. I get it. So, this morning Logan and I headed for PetSmart right after church and bought anti-bark electronic collars. They have been wearing them all day and still bark some, but much less. The collars have a chip in them that is supposed to calibrate the intensity of the "correction" by monitoring the frequency, duration, and intensity of the barking. They can wear the collars up to ten hours a day. If they work, that should be enough to keep us all out of jail and in the good graces of the neighbors. I hate this stuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Here we go again

Often at the dinner table during my growing up years, my father would wax nostalgic and tell us tales of his youth. When he launched one of his monologues, my brothers and I (my sister wasn't old enough yet) would roll our eyes and chant in chorus, "Here we go again." We groaned, but we loved the stories. That said, be warned, "Here I go again."
Cousin Chris in Florence blogs that she recently inherited a 50 year old sewing machine from her husband's grandmother. It reminds me that I got my first sewing machine 50 years ago (and it was a dandy!).
I had been sewing a bit on my mother's old Singer -- it was electric, but it had a long spindle bobbin and could not sew in reverse, nor could it make buttonholes. So, when my grandmother asked me what I would like for graduation, I told her I wanted a sewing machine. She was in town to see me graduate and she took me shopping at Sears, Roebuck. We entered the hospital-green building located on Broadway, just north of downtown Oakland. (I think it was Broadway, may have been Telegraph, and I think it was north -- toward Berkeley.) We found the machine of my dreams, a portable Kenmore for $99. Grandma reached in her purse and drew out an orange Atlasta Ranch check, filled it out and handed it over. The salesman looked at it and said, "I'm sorry, we can't take out-of-state checks." Grandma began to sputter and fume, she was as mad as I've ever seen her. An affront to her solvency was about the greatest insult you could deal her. She squawked about her Dunn and Bradstreet rating and how no one had ever questioned her trustworthiness. How dare he! Finally somehow, she managed to convince them she would be good for the money and they let us have the machine.
I loved that machine and could really make it hum -- forward and backward. The buttonholer was fabulous -- a large maroon chunk that screwed onto the machine and came with several dies for making buttonholes of various sizes and configurations. Later, I bought myself a new Singer which could also zig-zag, but the Kenmore remained my first choice for buttonholes and solid straight seams. It had one major flaw -- the flimsy case was held together by clamps which had a perverse way of jiggling their way undone. This was a fatal flaw -- during one of my many moves, the clamps came loose while a friend was carrying the machine and it crashed to the concrete. If I had that machine today, I would still be using it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


School pictures are here! I guess it was worth the fuss over the haircuts. This may be one of the last photos you'll see of Logan without braces for a couple of years.
Tonight we went to Tae Kwan Do and to Wendy's after for a treat. While the boys work out, I sit in the car and read, so I pass on the treats; the sewing and housework I did today didn't burn enough calories to earn a Frosty. The boys' favorite ice cream treat is a Chocolate Concrete Custard from Andy's. Logan likes Oreos and Brownies stirred in; Ben prefers strawberries and marshmallows. There are many custard shops in this part of the country -- it's a very smooth soft ice cream and Andy's, a local chain, is the best!

Monday, September 22, 2008


The caterpillar is a black swallowtail.
The sign outside Logan's door is Chinese (I don't know which dialect), not Japanese.
Colleen's dogs are fine.
A turtle was eating our cantelopes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

". . . dust thou art and unto dust shall thou return." (Genesis 3:18)

You can see the corn patch is now empty. Vegetable gardening is hard work! I think the agricultural revolution was a big mistake; maybe next year I'll take up hunting or gathering. The sweat ran into my eyes, which I couldn't wipe because my hands were muddy and covered with morning glory residue which was causing a rash that I didn't want to transfer to my eyes. I couldn't wipe my nose which was running because I'm allergic to everything out there. But we did score a lot more green beans, bunches of carrots and six of these cousins to tomato horn worms. These particular critters live on the carrots and have retractable orange horns which Ben suspects might be poisonous since the caterpillar uses them as weapons and charges quite aggressively with them. Very interesting. We captured the critters and put them into a carrot-filled habitat on the front porch. I'd like to see what kind of moth they yield.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Last Sunday, the river covered the roadway of this bridge and the mill pond dam was completely overwhelmed. Today everything is normal, sunny, and bright. I guess you could say water over the bridge is water under the bridge. Sorry, Ben thought it was funny.
I just returned home from visiting my first-ever quilt show. My reactions ranged from "Wow, how did she do that!" To "I can do that." So I'm signing off for now, I feel compelled to go work on quilts.