A Jewel In The Trash Heap

Tonight I found a present.  I’ve been cleaning up my junky, filthy, messy office (with an apron that has huge pockets to stash stuff until I can figure out whether to toss it in the trash or reassign it a resting place till next time my office gets junky, filthy, and messy) (whew!!) and I found a brand new journal that I had bought back in my “grief-spending days.”  The great thing about this?  I’ve been thinking of journaling again.  I’ve always haphazardly journaled, but lately have been craving to write down my thoughts.  You know, the way you crave a big bowl of buttery popcorn with a crisp apple to eat with it.  Don’t tell me you’ve never had popcorn with a juicy apple?  You HAVE to try it!  It’s just too delicious.

Where was I?  My journal!  It’s beautiful!  Burgundy leather, gold-trimmed pages, a cool gold ribbon book mark.  I need to get me a new pen.  I love pens.  Good writing pens that glide across the paper.  A pen that will do this book justice, for it is inspired by a great man, Oswald Chambers, and his book, My Utmost For His Highest.  He died in 1917, but his words are as relevant today as they were those many years ago; and may even be more necessary to read in times like these.  Words to remind us to strive for “holiness of heart and life” as John Wesley has said.  Words to bring strength and direction in times of uncertainty.

Words that God wants me to read, and then write my own thoughts and words.  Maybe even say a few words to Him who woos, as the lover He is, to become more intimate with Him.  Now… I’m starving for Him.

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All Because I Wanted A Baby Grand Piano

Bob, the floor guy, will be here tomorrow to start the sanding.  He’s already got the raised platform that held the wood stove out and is ready to install connecting wood pieces to the wood floor.  My job is to get all the furniture out.  So today I am packing and moving and causing great discomfort to my back and other areas of my body.  I’m not as young as I once was.

getting ready to clear the room

the accomplishment of an aching back

All because I wanted a baby grand piano

ready for the new flooring

I measured and finagled and measured again, but, no, it just wasn’t going to work with that big, raised platform there in the corner of the room; the big, raised platform that had no purpose anymore since the stove was out.  So now it’s a bare spot with jutting hardwood planks… and a note.  There is nothing like tearing away the carpet or the old paneling or a wall and finding a treasure.  A treasure from yesteryear, something that gives you a little look into the past, lets you know a detail or two about the ones that came before you; even if it wasn’t so very long ago.

This treasure was a note telling me when the house was built and who built it.  Neat.  My sister-in-law will think so, too.

my treasure

All because I wanted a baby grand piano.

I am Officially a Gigi–I Have the Apron to Prove It

My alter ego, my real life, my nomenclature is Gigi (pronounced geegee).  It all began with Little Jack, my greatnephew, one of the great loves of my life.  He was born on the first anniversary of my husband’s death; thus creating wonderfully exciting chaos in my life…  causing me to forget for a time my loss, bringing sweet relief  to my sadness.  But it wasn’t just that his birth was around that time.  Although the date was one day early, it was on the very day (a Monday) at the exact time my husband died that little Jack was born.

And that child loved me.  I mean loved me to the exclusion of even his Momma and his Mawmaw.  If I was around, he only wanted me.  Even on his first birthday, a grand day, he wanted Gigi.  Oh, I wasn’t Gigi then; I was Aunt Granny, a name picked out for myself after a visit to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood and a restaurant called Aunt Granny’s.  (Thank you, Ms. Parton, for your inspiration.)  It was only after Little Jack began to work on pronouncing words that it morphed into Gigi.

So now I am the proud Gigi of six little great-darlings and two precious granddaughters.  And for Christmas I got a red Gigi apron!!!  One of those delightfully gaudy grandma things:  a picture on the front of me and the grandgirls, bling that would blind a person if the sun caught it just right…  and my name:  Gigi.

Susannah’s Apron

One of my most favorite apron stories is the one of Susannah Wesley’s apron.  Susannah was the mother of John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist Church, good men.  She was the mother of at least ten children.  So you can imagine how many appetites, big and small, physical and emotional, this mother had to appease, whet, feed.  She had to have plenty of aprons because she had to have done a lot of cooking, carrying eggs in from the chicken coop, wiping snotty noses and dirty faces, hauling fresh vegetables from the garden, or mopping sweat from her brow.  A busy woman.  A good woman.

How do I know that?  Her apron.  Not only did it do duty as a work horse; it was also her prayer room.  As a mother with next to no privacy, (I can’t even imagine having all those children and no dishwasher) she would sit in a rocker and put her apron over her head, the signal for all boys and girls to leave Momma alone for she was entering her time of prayer, her “my space.”  An apron?  In the middle of a chaotic household?  What about “me time”?  Where’s Calgon?  Where’s solitude and put up my feet?

Susannah had a big appetite… for God and His Holiness.  She would sit in her rocker with her apron over her head and pray for her children.  I wonder if they knew to tiptoe around her, giving her the privacy she craved to be alone with her God, to talk with Him, just the two of them together, under an apron.

Capturing Sunflowers

beautiful sunflowers

Every summer I grow sunflowers; started them years ago from seed, and now every year they reseed and pop up all over the backyard. Sometimes the seed falls over the fence, and there are baby sunflowers growing along the alleyway.  Springtime brings the Big Transplant where I gather all the frail little plants and congregate them into one area.  I just can’t bring myself to throw any of them away or let them be trampled by alley traffic.  On the day of the Big Transplant the little sunflower seedlings always fall over, as if touching their toes, looking forlorn and heartbroken.

pathway to the Sunflower House

It doesn’t take too long for them to perk up and start growing stronger; some growing ten feet tall and others barely reaching the three-foot mark.  And every summer I take pictures of them: my sunflower children, my Sunflower House, my sunflower sanctuary.

My photography skills are by no means something to brag about, but every now and then, after furiously clicking away on my camera, I get a decent shot, a salvageable photo.  The photo of the butterfly on the sunflower at the top of the page is one of mine.

door into the Sunflower House

Making the Sunflower House is almost a tradition now, starting back ten years ago or more, when Maddy (my gorgeous teenage niece) was only four or five.  It stood empty many years until the greats and the grands started coming along.  Now I have children hiding again among the tall, leafy plants; dragging their tiny children chairs inside, checking the birds’ houses to see if anybird’s home, coming out all itchy and needing washed off with the water hose.

roof of the Sunflower House

Maddy liked to hide in it; Jack and Sam did, too, as did the kids from church.  Kate was into decorating the  House this past summer, hanging little chimes from the leaves (her doorbell) , setting tables around (that was a tight squeeze; it’s small), and hiding her treasures from the “farm” (a story for later).

They just make me smile: sunflowers and children.

Waiting-on-Summer Hor D’oeuvre

Camel Rock

It’s cold here in Southern Illinois, and my weather taste buds are all set for summer.  Garden of the Gods sits in the Shawnee National Forest, a perfect place for summer picnics, camping, hiking, and falling off steep cliffs and rock animals.  Parents pack up the kiddies and the hot dogs and then hold their breath until those parents get those kiddies back on to more secure footing; a place where hippies (yes, there still are some) come to fill the air with a certain sweet tobacco aroma and bask in nature; a spot to enjoy the beauty and quiet of God’s world.

As you can see from the photo, the glaciers all those millions of years ago made some rather interesting sculptures.  This one is called Camel Rock, but perhaps it should have been named Bull Rock because some young buck is always getting thrown from that camel’s back into the thick brush below.  Every summer some drunken fool (or not so drunken — just a fool) thinks he (don’t recall any females) can jump from the surrounding rocks to the camel’s head.  And every summer the police scanners around the rural countryside cackle with the call for ambulances and rescue teams.

My friends and I used to come to this garden, this Garden of the Gods, and make camp for the weekend.  We had hair down to our butts (even the guys) and threw tents up or just laid a blanket on the ground or in the back of a pickup truck.  We cooked food over a fire (best kind there is at that age) and drank cheap wine.  It seems as though it wasn’t so long ago my feet thought they could fly, too.

Bob’s Cat

My neighbor, Bob, is a good man.  I know this because he is good to animals… and people.  We work together on the days that I am in this county, and so I have seen him in action with people.  Some days we have a chance to chat, and we chat about our pets.  He has a cat, and I have a cat.

Today, I am taking down the dog house/ cat house that I bought because Bob is so good to his cat, and I am not so good to my cat.  I am also going to take back the heated animal pad that I also bought in my guilt-laden shopping trip to Rural King.  The guilt-laden pet owner shopping trip.  Because Bob is just so darned good to his cat.

His cat has a heated pad in the garage where he puts her at night out of the winter cold.  His cat gets special little treats to eat.  Why, I bet he even gives the neighbor cats a special little treat if they happen to be hanging around at the right time.

And believe you me, those neighbor cats know when to hang around at the right time.  It amazes me how a person can start off with one measly little cat… and have ten lurking around the perimeter of the homey cat’s domain, spying the hiding places in the yard to run to when homey cat’s owner is chasing them, ranting and raving like a lunatic; searching out the best places to have those illegitimate kittens that belong to God alone knows how many different Toms.  Why, my sister’s cat… but wait a minute.  We’re talking about Bob’s cat.

I think it’s spoiled.

Recipes or Renovations?

Woohoo!!  I just got through washing my brand spanking new white plates and bowls.  You know what this means.  Now that I’ve proven my expertise with the mice recipe, it’s time to move on to bigger and better rodents… or dishes.  Especially since I have the dishes for the dishes.  Oh, that tastes good in my mouth, rolling off my tongue; got the dishes for the dishes.  That’s what I’m talkin’ about, girlfriends.  And boyfriends?  Are there any guys out there?

I love dishes:  the real china, ceramic, stoneware, plastic, crystal, silver, old, new, and if truth be told, even paper dishes.  Some of those paper things are just nice, now.   After working all day, come in and get something frozen from the freezer, throw it on a paper plate, and slap it into the microwave.  Pure beauty.  Even prettier when you throw away the paper plate and plastic fork.

But basically, and most often, I love to eat off of the kind of dishes that need washing.  Wish there was a dishwasher besides yours truly here.  I hate washing dishes.  Epiphany!!!  That’s what has taken me so long to start cooking those wonderful recipes I’ve been saving for decades.  A dishwasher is definitely a future prospective purchase, although it would have to be a smaller-than-normal size and would take up a lot of my limited cabinet space.

But, really, to get the most benefit from a dishwasher it needs to be a regular-sized one.  Wouldn’t you think?  My home is small,  so the new regular-size dishwasher would mean the kitchen would need to be enlarged.  After all, I do need the cabinet space if I’m going to be cooking all this food and having people over to eat it.

Alas!  This could mean I’ll have to postpone my cooking for another decade or two in order to plan my renovations!

Munching on Mice

eeeeek!

edible mice

O!!!M!!!G!!!  Oh my gosh!!!  I have just, in my opinion, and the opinions of the lovely members of my family, successfully made my very first, um, uh, dish from one of the prolific magazine recipes I have been moving from area to area for the last, oh, let’s say, ten years anyway.  I am sooooo excited!  And to prove my great accomplishment, there is, of course, the accompanying photo shot.

As is rather apparent, this was a good recipe with which to start the recipe portion of my blog (especially since my four-year-old granddaughter made half of them).  I am a success!  Which only goes to show you that I have set my standards and goals at a rather low scale for the time being ( it just doesn’t get much lower than an edible varmint).  I can only go up from here!  YES!!  For you see, I need to feel the sweet bliss of success, no matter how small (thought tiny mice were appropriate).  Each step on the success ladder bolsters my ego, my self-esteem; keeps me plodding forward.  I am buoyed with the confidence that I can get through this formidable pile of magazine pages with all these delightful pictures of delicious-looking food (without tossing them in the trash).  I have set myself a goal… and I will succeed!

These little creatures are so detestable though.  I didn’t eat a single one of them… neither did Dar.  I can’t wait to tell you that story!

Pinochle

Pinochle.  I love pinochle.  For those of you who aren’t card players, it is a card game.  No need to go into the boring details of how to play nor the rules and variations of play.  This is about the deliciousness of playing pinochle with three of my best friends, The Funky Four, and our voracious appetite for getting together to play a game that should by now be dull.

We play for money; no fools here.  We know that any card game worth playing should be played for money.  Last week I won seven cents; however, I lost 70 cents.  Good thing I’m not a Vegas gal.  But I made a fortune in hysterical laughter and a downright good time.  We four are amazed at the very idea that we can get together time after time after time, several years now, and laugh our butts off all night long… over a pinochle game.  We are loathe to end the games although we usually do after the third, tie-breaking game; that is, if one pair of partners doesn’t skunk the other pair.  Even then we play three games; sometimes more; until it gets to be the next day and we decide we need to get home.  At least two of us need to get home; the other two get to stay put; their house being the “meet-in-the-middle” house.

There is nothing sacred about partners.  Each time we play, Sandy (aka Carmella Celeste) (a whole other blog) makes out the numbers so we can draw for partners.  Depending on her mood, we might get holiday-related drawings (eggs for Easter) to go with the numbers, or if she’s in a randy mood, she may draw… well, you can imagine.  And each time we play, no matter who are partners, we are “gonna kick your ass.”  I love kicking Sandy’s ass just a week after she and I valiantly tried to kick Babe and Kay’s.

Yep, I love kicking ass.  And I love pinochle.