Friday, January 28, 2011

What Goes Up Must Come Down


Here are the seven water towers of our town. I drove around this morning to photograph each of them. Every time I tried to mentally count them, I'd come up one short, so I thought I'd set them down in cyberspace. I wonder if I missed any -- if anyone knows of any others, let me know!

I love water towers -- I'm fascinated by them in much the same way I am fascinated by other things I don't fully understand, but have faith in and am dependent on, like electricity and aerodynamics. I read "How Stuff Works" and I still don't really grok it.

But then, I'm old enough and mature enough to accept that I don't have to understand everything. After all, I have Ben who patiently tried to explain fractals and the Mandelbrot set to me. It's good enough, better in fact, that he understands.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Perfect Day, Perfect Kid

In our household, Monkey Bread stands in for birthday cake. Grandma gets up early enough to make it for breakfast and the birthday boy eats as much of it as he likes. In Logan's case, he ate half of it. Ben took his half, broke it down into its component parts (monkey balls, I think) and intends to share it with his winter drum line buddies at today's all day camp session.

Logan unwrapped his first gift in the morning -- a game of Headbanz -- just like Valery has. We'll try playing it tomorrow at his birthday feast. Birthdays are all about food for Logan. The edible gift from Colleen didn't survive until the actual birthday- the tower of cookies and candy were consumed within 48 hours. He defines a perfect day as one that includes all his favorite foods. So, he had mac and cheese with ham and peas for lunch. His favorite dinner menu has to wait until tomorrow. Tonight we ate at Red Lobster so he could have calamari and try crab. He liked the snow crab legs a lot -- imagine how he would enjoy dungeness crab!

I think he liked playing with the crab claw even more than he liked the food. He's still not entirely grown up! He's wearing the shirt Valery gave him for his birthday. Other birthday gifts included some new jeans and some time with a personal trainer for weight training. Now that he's fourteen, he's old enough to use the weights at the Community Center. I measured him at exactly six feet tall, but I'm not sure how accurate that is because I'm so much shorter, it's hard to get an accurate reading.

At fourteen he is still a very sweet person, kind, considerate, observant, personable, bright, funny, and addicted to World of Warcraft. He says he wants to be a lawyer and he wants to go to Harvard (his idea, not mine!). He gets all A's, loves playing football, enjoys art classes, and speech and debate. Also thinks he might like to participate in JROTC in high school. He's a bit right-leaning in his political thinking and clearly not entirely under my influence. In part I think he reflects the local culture, he certainly sounds like a local when he talks. He has picked up a bit of a Missouri drawl and it always surprises me when I realize that's just the way he talks, he's not putting me on. I love that boy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I couldn't keep my hands or my mind off it. Although I had vowed to let it wait until after Logan's birthday feast on Sunday, it soon became clear to me that I would have no peace of mind until I had put the first quilting stitches into this quilt, proving to myself that it could be done and that I could do it. I freely admit that quilting or fabric or sewing (I'm not clear which it is) is an obsession with me. My hands are not happy unless they are touching fabric. What you see in the photo above is probably a year's worth of guaranteed happiness. It doesn't take much in the way of equipment, but the bulk of such a large quilt keeps it from being very portable and makes for slow going.

Yesterday I designed the quilting pattern for the first block, marked the pattern on the quilt, threaded fifty of these teeny tiny needles, and took the first stitches in the top. Because I hadn't done any hand quilting for over a year, my hands are out of condition and I wasn't able to do very much. I spent some time working on a separate test piece to make sure I was up to the task; I was afraid that maybe I had forgotten how to make the little stitches. But, apparently it is stored in muscle memory because the moment I held the needle, the rhythm of the rocking quilter's stitch came right back. I find it very soothing. As soon as I get a quilter's callous built up on the middle finger of my left hand, I should be set for hours (and days and weeks) of pleasant nearly mindless, but soothing needling. I plan to watch LOTS of movies and I've re-joined the community center health club so that I will pry myself out of my chair and get some exercise.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Off to a Good Start!

This just may add up to the most significant snow we've had since moving to Missouri. Bring it on, I say! Of course, school has been canceled and that means I must bake cookies -- love the cozy cookie smell on cold snowy days. Sledding for the boys this afternoon while I sit and (no surprise) quilt.
What you see is about 1/20th of the surface of my current project. I'm just starting to hand quilt this huge (108x112 -- king-sized) quilt made of civil war reproduction fabrics. I spent all of last year piecing it and will probably spend all of this year quilting it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pa-Diddle for Logan

I thought my grandmother, Minnie Pauline Nichols, was old -- even for a grandmother. She was about 13 years older than my other grandmother, so I guess she was old. She was 53 when I was born and I was 56 when Ben was born -- 57-1/2 when Logan was born. I must seem really old to them. And yet, here I am raising them. I can't imagine what it feels like from their perspective, but here's a little story that makes me think about it.

My grandmother told me this story when I was a teenager. I remember thinking how very long ago, "in the olden days" it must have happened. She told me she would stand behind the parlor door when her sister had friends come over. They would all gather around the piano and sing. One of their favorite songs was "She's Dead in the Baggage Coach Ahead," a sad, sad story about a man and little girl taking a train trip while the wife/mother rides in her casket in the baggage coach. My grandmother said the sad lyrics made her cry so loudly she was discovered in her hiding place. What I don't know is how old my grandmother was at the time. Her own mother died when she was twelve and she went to live with her sister. So I don't know if it was the fact that her own mother had died that made the song so upsetting to her, or if she was simply a very sentimental little girl. I don't know if this took place in the home of her sister, or in the home of her mother and father.

Yesterday we were driving home just after dark and when we passed a car with a burned out headlight, I said, "pa-diddle." Logan asked me what I meant by pa-diddle. I explained that when I was a teen-ager and in a car with a boy, when one of us spotted a car with a burned out headlight, we would call out "pa-diddle!" If the girl said it first, she got to sock the boy in the arm, if the boy called it first, he got to kiss the girl. Logan thought that was very interesting and quaint and told me I should write it down someplace so people would always know about it. I thought it was pretty silly to bother writing it down until I remembered my grandmother's story about the sad song. If she had written it down, I might know whether she had been crying about the death of her mother, or just about a sad song.

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Even though I still love winter, I hate sending Ben and Logan out into the cold. I remember eleven years ago when they moved to Rochester, New York (Ben was just turning five and Logan was three) I worried about those tiny little fingers freezing in the cold winter. So, I sent them several pairs of very warm ski gloves and mittens.
And here they are, all bundled up and safe, helping their mother shovel the walk. Now it is much more difficult to get them to bundle up, although they did wear gloves and hats along with their hoodies today. Winter jackets are for sissies and they haven't worn them for about three years. Hats, gloves, and sometimes long johns are worn when the wind chill falls below zero. They have to be cool, even when it's cold!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the (Green) House

Ben climbed the ladder to dismantle the satellite dish so we could return the component you can see sticking out. Dish Satellite graciously (?) allows us to keep the dish, but we are required to return the other gizmo or pay $150. Now, what are we supposed to do with a disabled satellite dish, pray tell? We had to package up a bunch of equipment and send it back to them. They left it up to us to dismantle the equipment and package it and pay for shipping. They make it real hard to disentangle from their services (the reason we now have a new phone number, grrrrrr).
With both feet on the ground, Ben is filling our basket with our allotment of winter vegetables, either from storage, or grown in the hoop house.
Stuffed in the basket is the biggest Chinese cabbage I've ever seen -- it must weigh close to ten pounds. But, it's very tender and mild. We ate a bit of it last night in a mixture of ham and potatoes. It was pretty good -- Logan complained at the mention of it and then enjoyed it. There's also a mighty big turnip, about the size of a softball, to the right of the carrots. Greens, onions, butternut and acorn squash, potatoes, and a bell pepper round out the share. Our farmer and his wife welcomed a new baby girl over the Christmas holidays. This is the fourth girl born to them and they have four foster girls, all under eight years old.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Way to go, 2010

It was almost unbearably exciting as you can see by the expressions of these slack-jawed or jaw-breaker-jawed musicians
who accompanied star Krista while Ash rounded out the Rock Band ensemble

and the back-up dancers (Amanda and Kerri) gyrated wildly on stage right. I had the best seat in the house, right next to the TV screen. (Sorry the pictures are so poor, I had the camera set wrong -- resolution #1: check camera settings before snapping!)

Weather-wise, the year went out with a bang: New Year's Eve began with a spectacular thunderstorm, just after midnight -- one that had me up prowling, unplugging devices I didn't want zapped, and listening to the radio for tornado warnings. That round of storms didn't produce any tornadoes, but several hours later just as I was about to get up, the sirens began wailing and we all spent a few minutes in the shelter. No damage in our immediate area, but the deadly system bracketed our region; six people died and a lot of property damage both to the southwest and the northeast of us.

We are safe and serene as 2011 gets under way. Today the Christmas decorations come down! Happy New Year!