Friday, October 31, 2014

On Halloween

The other week we'd gone on a co-op field trip to an area patch. The kids were happy to run off and play at the different attractions. I caught a few pictures and hung out with the moms.

I even snuck off for an apple cider donut (shh).

Later that afternoon was my niece's wedding rehearsal and we headed to that side of the county. I realized, as we were leaving the patch, we hadn't done the hayride or purchased a pumpkin.

"I just grab a $2.99 one at the store," one mom said to me. Very different from years past when we'd head to the local pick-your-own and I'd have a ball photographing my kids in a seas of orange pumpkins.

But that's what I did. On the way home one morning from a photo session for a family reunion, I stopped off at a country store, got a package of apple cider donuts, and two pumpkins.

Erin painted hers. She left it outside to dry. The next day, I noticed the dog had paint all over her legs.

"Where's your pumpkin, Erin?" I asked.

"It's outside," she said.

And it was, on the back lawn with a good quarter of it missing--likely, in the dog's stomach. I hoped she wouldn't get diarrhea.

This year, Lanie is dressing up as a cheerleader, and Erin and I were out last night at the craft store getting brown felt because she wants to be a puppy. God help us. My sewing skills are awful (flashback to the year I tried to make Lanie a cat, and she resembled a skunk. A two year old will not remember these things.)

Erin's good friend Viviana is coming over to join us for dinner and trick-or-treating.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


This past weekend was busy with the camera. My niece asked me if I'd photograph her wedding rehearsal, and I felt so honored that she'd want me to. Of course, I said yes!

The next morning, a dear friend allowed me to come over and photograph her family--her father is terminal and his children and grandchildren came for a last visit. I was a crying mess all week long as I thought about the privilege to be a part of their lives at this time, and hoped and prayed I'd give them images they could enjoy.

It was hard to meet this man, so loved and so loving, to feel the warmth of his hands, to see his eyes and he looked into mine--his were so strong and his look was intentional. This shoot completely changed me.

Sunday, two families came to our house to let me practice on photographing groups, learning how to work with people and natural light. I learned a lot. I have a lot more to learn too.

Today, two more families are coming out, and I have at least six more in queue over the next few weeks.

I'm not charging for the shoots because I'm so thankful for the experience and practice. My kids probably are too--having been my subjects for their whole lives.

Sunday, Shane got in on the action by helping me find good light in the yard. I'd tell him where to stand, and then I'd step back and take his picture. We walked all over the yard. He was such a great sport. I put together a collage of him doing this. And for whatever reason, I howled with laughter because he was my light model and that the families who came here were in all those same spots where I put him.

He indulged me with a few selfies. He even smiled.

Monday, October 27, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6173-6188)

Such a blur of a weekend. Thankful, Lord:

for entering into private times with families as they celebrate

and as they mourn

for opportunities to serve

a niece's wedding
a last reunion
the warmth of his handshake, and the kindness in his eyes
dinner with Linda (and laughter over burned chicken)
someone to watch our kids overnight

glitter shoes on loan from a friend
a pretty blue dress
faces encountered over years and occasions
red wine
70s music

a filling calendar for photo shoots
the delight of learning
and the joy of giving it away

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Black walnuts and wood stacks

Despite the weekend wind, I was outside raking leaves and cleaning plant beds and driving the tractor over leaf mounds. We haven't lost even half of the leaves, and already I feel like I'm behind.

Next I went into the field to pick black walnuts off the ground. This year's harvest is abundant. I watched a video by a Canadian man explaining what to do with these nuggets. Peeled off the green outer layer. A water bath to mix the nuts against each other as an abrasion for any remaining pulp. Cure in a sack for two weeks. Hammer apart and pick from the five chambers. 

"Why are you doing this?" Shane asked, Erin and I outside at the time, peeling off the green.

"Because we have them, and I wanted to try it," I said.

I got as far as bagging them to cure. Hands stained. I did wear gloves for half the work, but didn't realize how stained my hands were becoming in the water, tossing and turning the mixture. The stain deepened overnight. I don't care.


I told some people at co-op about the walnuts. One woman commented how her dad loves black walnuts--I invited her over to get some. Another student who has a love for culinary arts wanted some too.

The woman showed up after school yesterday, here for the first time. I looked around at leaves on the patio and dirt on the walkways from potting and dog hair swept into a pile on the floor. A bag awaited the recycle can. Was anything clean? (Can anything be clean in the woods?)

I know full well: some women will judge you if your house is dirty, or if it's clean.

I felt an apology ready to spill. But then, she didn't notice, and looking at the land she said, "Your place is beautiful."

We talked about remodel projects and cold, old houses and I felt like she understood me.

We walked to the field with bags to fill. Her sons helped. I explained what I learned while we filled the bags to bulging. We walked back up the hill.


Today, I went outside to load my arms with wood. Looked at the sun rising and shining through the woods line. Dew glistened. I grabbed the dry wood and started a fire for the school day.

weekend first fire, absolutely delicious

kids taking over the dog mat in front of the first fire

black walnuts

Tuesday home work day by the fire. Oh, those braids. Oh, those toes.

White bean soup

There's a big pot of rosemary in my dining room window, keeping bay leaf company over the new season--transplanted. I cut a few twigs for soup last night. Heavy on garlic in a house of spreading sniffles. Thank you, Wegman's, for a savory soup.

Cannellini bean soup

1/2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
9-10 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pkg diced pancetta
1/2 lb all-purpose butter potatoes (2 or 3?), peeled and diced to 1/2-inch
4 cans cannellini beans, undrained, + 2 cans water
Salt and pepper.
Optional garnishes: parsley, Italian blend grated cheese, black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil

Add onion, celery, garlic and rosemary to food processor and pulse until roughly minced.
Add olive oil and pancetta to stockpot on med-low; add minced mixture and cook 5 mins till softened.

Add undrained beans and water. Stir. Bring to simmer. Stir. Season with salt and pepper. Puree or mash to desired consistency, using hand blender.
Serve with extra-virgin olive oil, cheese, black pepper and parsley.

Monday, October 20, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6140-6172)

misty, foggy days
and the glowing colors against a gray sky
that I get to see these things
the crunch of maple leaves under my feet
fuzzy socks
hot tea

piano music in the rooms
big, fat meatballs
the ache in my legs from roller skating
the woodstove insert
heat in my house again

a 40+-year-old music system in the rooms
a good night's sleep
and a Saturday nap

friends and neighbors who see me
walnut stain on my hands
walnuts curing on the patio

Reggie at church
yard work
dirt under my nails
my snake stompers
rosemary and bay leaf in the house

a table for three
good laughs over toppled cone cakes
good friends for Lanie
French toast bakes
orange juice in the fridge

a good man
another birthday here

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


She loves lemon and requested a lemon cake, so I obliged. It was a workout of a recipe, and totally worth everyone at the table asking for seconds.

She's a delight, and smart, and there's a growth going on in that heart of hers that makes me cherish all the conversations we have. I treasure the times we get for a walk down the street, or the talks in the car during an evening grocery run.

We left school early today because I couldn't fit in all that I had to do and get home and bake a cake and get back to get the kids. So we just cut out about thirty minutes early.

The cake was moist, and lemony, and the icing was sweet and tart.

She told me how the kids in her first class sang happy birthday to her. And throughout the day, she was given little gifts and cards from friends and tutors.

Raining when we got home, and pouring rain when the mail truck pulled up with a delivery. I ran out through the downpour to retrieve the boxes. I hoped it was her gift, and it was (and a coffee delivery too, woo hoo!).

Baked potato soup, her request. And lemon cake.

"My dad really liked lemon," he told Lanie. "He'd love this cake. He also liked lemon pies. You get that from him."

"Mmm, lemon pie sounds good!" she said.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Not old, just older

Some days it's colder in my house than it is outside.

Yesterday, I had on jeans, a t-shirt, a long-sleeved shirt and a cardigan. Shane called it a robe because it had a belt closure. Then I draped a blanket over my shoulders and stoked the fire.

"Don't let your robe catch on fire!" he cautioned.

My knees ached from the full day of mist and fog.

"I'm going to put some peppermint oil on my knees," I said. (A friend is into essential oils and tells me about remedies for things. I tried peppermint oil across the back of my neck for a headache that tormented me for hours, and it was gone in ten minutes. She says her mom uses it for achy joints.)

"What has gotten into you?" he asked. "You're all old now."

"Huh? My knees hurt and I'm cold," I said. How is that old?

"You're a step away from Bengay," he continued. "And you've got a robe and a shawl on."

I laughed.

"You're going to make me old," he pushed. "I'm only forty-seven!"

"Oh. Wait. A. Minute," fire now in my eyes. "ONLY FORTY-SEVEN? Like you've suddenly discovered the fountain of youth? Let me get my boots on. All those years you whined you were too old for more kids. (Insert mock whine) 'I'm too old--I'm forty-two ... I'm too old, I'm forty-five.' And now you're forty-seven and full of vigor."

He laughed too.

"I think I'm due for a midlife crisis," he said.

I shook my head.


My wish lists generally include a baby in them.

This year for Christmas, I remarked to Shane that I would (still) like a dehumidifier or an electric griddle.

I didn't even realize it. He pointed it out.

"This is the first year you didn't ask for a baby."

Monday, October 13, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6111-6139)

wood stacked for the winter
a first fire in the woodstove
a couch on which to enjoy the heat
a homeschool room, my favorite place in the house
fuzzy socks

woods life
 gray skies with silver sunlight breaking through
dinner out with Lisa
a hug at Panera with Kathy
hot tea in a mug at the table with Nicole
rainy days home

Erin playing the piano
home, sweet home
lunch at David and Anita's
PB&J made by a mama
Anita's example

birthday plans for Lanie
her request for baked potato soup
books in the mail
fall in the woods
the crunch and crinkle of leaves underfoot

this place is a sensory wonderland

walnuts in the field
a pumpkin roll
Linda at the table for dinner
seconds of chicken and dumpling soup
snake stompers on my feet

I love the color of the pine needles

laughter with Sandy on my back patio
a compliment from Zach about my photos
yard arms
the difference here makes

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lunch at David and Anita's

David and Anita have listed their house to sell. It's a big house in a big yard and a lot for them to take care of. It's farther away from their regular activities and social circles. But David doesn't see it the same way Anita does. He's happy to stay. It's a beautiful home.

We went over to visit them yesterday for lunch. Many of the shelves have been stripped of family photos to stage for their open house. Anita told me how sad it was to take down all the photographs from the wall space that held so many children's school pictures, family pictures, even pictures of pets. Still, the place looked beautiful.

I felt embraced by the light that floods their home. Every room full of natural light and a beautiful woodland view, golden and crimson in a fall season. And even though our faces were no longer part of an interior scape, I felt the love of years and memories surrounding us like silent guests. Bar mitzvahs, swim parties, holidays, festive meals, birthdays, football games, and even humble Sunday afternoons.

We sat, just the few of us, around their kitchen table to a feast a mama prepared: chicken tenders, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips and pickles, potato salad, and a gazpacho soup. I haven't had a mama fix me a PB&J since I was a kid. I reached for a half and took a bite. Why does food taste better when someone else fixes it? I took another half.

"I used cherry jelly," she told me.

Shane and David sat and talked in the great room, and Anita took me and the girls down to David's studio to see his paintings. He's painting again, after a very long break. I wished I'd had my camera to photograph his palette and easel, the fat tubes of vibrant colors, squeezed and bent and mangled. All around the walls he'd hung his work from years--like a timeline.

Upstairs, we talked some more about the move and how much life had been lived in their home in just five years. Shane remembered how they announced that move at my 40th birthday party. Shane and I didn't even have a thought at the time that we would move too. And funny (and precious and pure grace) that one of the three houses Shane showed me the day he came home and asked, "What do you think of these?", one was the house we're in now ... just minutes from David and Anita. How did we find ourselves in the same zip code after all the years? How thankful I am.

Anita told me how she drove her grandson out to a bus terminal to ride to New York to meet his new love, and when he heard she'd be driving him out instead of his mom, he called Anita and asked, "Can we have breakfast out together first?"

"Of course!" she said, wholeheartedly.


Their other grandson wants them close by so he could walk to their house, and Anita told me how fast the years go, and soon they'll be men and this time will be over. And crier that I am, I fell into her arms and held her close, so crazy grateful for the years they've celebrated my children and my life. If anyone has taught me how to live, and how to live wholeheartedly, it is Anita.

We left after some time to hugs at the door and goodbyes. Bellies and hearts full.

On the drive home, we talked about the timing of it all--and God's grace and provision to move us here so that we could know them better, our lives deeply and forever influenced by them. The difference here makes. We've seen them more in these three years we've lived here than we had in the many preceding, and still I find I could never get enough.

What treasure it truly is to find and know people who make a lasting impression that has the power to affect generations for good, whose memory always brings a smile and gratitude, and whose legacy bleeds wholehearted.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Between handwriting and geography

She takes advantage of my singing.

She's working on handwriting and I'm playing a Celtic rendition of a song I learned in my childhood.

"If you didn't grow up in a Christian home, how did you learn that song when you were a kid?" she asks.

"I had an organ and this was a song in my music book," I smile. The music ends and she requests another song. I pick this one.

"It sounds like a song from big church," she comments.

"Yes, it does. We sang this recently," I tell her.

And I'm singing along to that one too, perusing posts from 2010, thoughts piqued from a recent literature discussion about good fences and good neighbors and how literature that is obscure to a younger generation burns with clarity in an older one. (I tell the students to hold onto Confessions and read it when they're forty. I hope they fall in love with Augustine as much as I did.)


I hear the door open and look up. Erin is missing from the table. I see her run past the French doors. A trail of bubbles follows her. I get up and look out the window at her and laugh. She's outside on the patio, blowing bubbles. Seven can hardly be sweeter.

"Come back in!" I call to her. "We still have geography."

She laughs and runs to the door. We color in countries from the Middle East.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On freezer meals

I was telling Shane about a site that had crockpot meals for the freezer. One friend is doing forty meals. There were other plans for twenty and seven.

"I could do seven," I mused. "Crockpot meals could be good."

We don't use ours often. I think I use it for beef stew or taco soup. Since we ate pizza four days in a week (twice for lunch, English muffin pizzas the day I stacked wood, and a homemade one Sunday night), I'm thinking I need to branch out a little. Despite having a bursting board of suggestions on Pinterest, I'm really becoming bored with meal planning and cooking these days. I've been doing this for twenty years. Burnout happens.

"Crockpot ... what kind of meals are they? There isn't that much variety for crockpot," he said.

"There was beef stew. And chicken stew," I started. He kind of rolled his eyes, and I knew he thought it would be all stews.

"There was General Tso's chicken too, and other stuff," I added.

Shane made a comment wondering of the origin of General Tso's chicken, if he was a general with a cooking hobby.

"It was probably his favorite," I offered. "Like I'd name Sausage and Peppers after you."

"They should have named it Mrs. Tso's chicken," he said.

I thought it was the funniest thing, I had to put my coffee mug down before I spilled it from laughing.

Monday, October 6, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6090-6110)

for a fabulous FB birthday full of wishes
chocolate pie and gifts from the family
flowers gifted from many friends
an unexpected fruit delivery
a good cup of coffee
determination to run my race well

an invite to celebrate a good woman
fall play dates in our yard
the laughter of children
a wood delivery
a brown cardigan

peppermint oil
a lower grocery bill
pizza leftovers
windows open

Linda's hug
Friday sangria
a good dog
David and Anita
lunch with Teena

Friday, October 3, 2014

Another fall

This is our fourth fall here, and I think about it as I watch the leaves coming down. This morning, greeted by a slow but steady trickle of them drifting past. I went outside to sweep the patio, my arms and back still tight from stacking a wood delivery--and more to do today.

We are getting used to the rhythms of life here, and each season is as delightful to me as the last. Shane would disagree. He hates fall and winter. He sees leaf and snow removal. I see hunkering down and hibernating and a house of warmth and light.

I notice the woodland sounds and look for the sunsets through the trees. I listen to the leaves rustle in wind. While life here feels like a compound, I have to say we've been more social now than when we were plopped down in the middle of a community.

Today friends join us for an afternoon date and I'll bake up my sister-in-law's recipe for pumpkin streusel cake. I'll stack more wood. I'll enjoy the the smell of gifted candles. I'll fix dinner for Linda and take a walk with my girls when it gets dark.

Last night, I sat on the couch with a blanket across my legs.

"I could go for a fire!" I said.

Shane looked at me and smiled.

No fire, but soon. I smell last fall's woodsmoke smells seep from the fireplace, and I'm filled with a happiness for all that is.

thank you, Karen

unexpected delivery

a neighbor's gift

yard arms

from Anita
Windows open. Heading out to stack more wood. Looking forward to cooler temperatures and snowy forecasts and holiday meals, to crunchy leaves underfoot and trick-or-treat and a first fire.

Looking forward.

On, on.