Sunday, November 30, 2014

The family photo shoot

I have taken so many pictures of families this fall, and I'm sure a few of them at least will use the images for their Christmas cards.

I went to take a picture of my family today. This is what I get:

It's not easy to take your own family pictures.
I knew my crew had limited patience, so I didn't mess with a tripod. Though, I sort of wish I had. 

Double chins are never flattering.

This might end up being our card this year:

Love the dirt on Erin's knees. (Actually, I love feet shots. They're my favorite. Just wish I could have convinced my family to go to the tracks with me. There may still be time!)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

There's no place like home for the holidays

David and Anita came over last night and had Thanksgiving leftovers with us. Anita looked so beautiful, and David warmed my heart right up. We ate in the dining room, and the house was toasty warm from the fires burning. I lit the votive candles, and I wondered if my kids would think about these little details when they looked back on this time.

Anita came with gifts of Oreo double stuffed cookies for the girls, and a homemade cranberry loaf--for breakfast, she said.

We talked about so many things. David and I sat in the dining room after dishes were cleared and he told me about his painting process. I've always known him as an artist. (I'm going by their house soon to pick from his paintings to hang one in the school room.)

Time ticked by and the girls were up past their bedtime and I didn't care. It was wonderful to have them in this house, the feeling of no urgency. They loved on the dog, the kids, and us, like we were there very own.


We traveled out to get the annual ornament yesterday afternoon. Lunch at Wegmans and the mandatory BIG COOKIE, always the highlight (and I ordered Erin's birthday cake while we were there). I headed over to the wine store to grab a few bottles and the clerk packaged them up in a reusable tote--I smiled. (I love the reusable bags.) Shane told me Denise had driven by and rolled down her car window at them in the parking lot, calling out, "Hi Erin!" 

Next we got ornaments. I try to get one that is symbolic of the year. I joked with Shane about the wine bottle ornaments and the yard boot ornaments. And it was funny to us because this year was certainly filled with Friday wine nights and snake stompers. Oh, 2014.

Instead, I got a little plaque of a snowman and the inscription: There's no place like home for the holidays.

We'll set up our tree today, and only because the weeks get away from us. I feel like I could wait a little longer, though.


We are selling our hot tub. We are not hot tub people, at least, I don't think we are. We have never used it. We toyed with the ideas many times, but this place keeps us hopping with enough things that neither Shane nor I could imagine adding one more maintenance item. We drained the tub the first fall.

I took the cover off to make sure it was show ready for a couple who came over to see it. A big spider was on the rim. Why do they look like tarantulas?

There was a small remnant of water in the bottom and I went to the pool shed to get the pump. A black snake blocked the way.

Woods life.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Erin helped me in the kitchen this year. She made the cranberry sauce. We got it all (almost) done: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, soup, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing. It was only after we sat down to eat that I realized I forgot to make the roasted veggies. This year, we worked ourselves into a heavy carb coma.

(Above: table setting; the lovely cloth that Linda embroidered--and I had no idea until this year that she had made it--I've had this cloth for as long as I can remember; a scarf for Lanie that I'm knitting; Erin, kitchen maven; getting ready to desserts; desserts! desserts!; petit fours from a neighbor; my 'traditional' turkey teacups for soup; cranberry sauce in the golden turkey.)

Denise came over and was a huge help--she always is!

So thankful for her friendship

Erin played outside and helped in the kitchen. This is the snowman she made on our snow day.

Dad, Linda and Lori came over and it was a lot of fun. Probably one of the best holidays we've had. (Thanks, God!)

Next course: pie and ice cream
Good life, good life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Watching the winter mix

Hot coffee. Hot fires. Hot pancakes. Snow in the forecast. Happy to be home.

For whatever reason, finding it hard to believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A friend called early this morning to wish us well and we talked recipes and past holidays.

Another knitting project in the works (a scarf for Lanie). A good book to finish (The Poem of the Cid). Leftovers in the fridge to finish off means no cooking for me today. Except for the pancakes this morning. (Erin next to me by the fire and I wondered out loud, "I wonder if I should make pancakes for breakfast. What do you think?" And she said, "I think you should.")

Excited for Denise to join us at the table tomorrow. Thankful to host Thanksgiving this year.

Watching rain mix with an occasional big, fat snowflake. Then turning over more to snow.

"Oh no, it's snowing," from Lanie.

I don't mind. It's all beautiful in the woods.

Monday, November 24, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6256-6285)

grades completed
one quarter down
ancient on the horizon
medieval love
the help of community on a daughter's sick day

Sage and Lily keeping company so I could teach
talks with Lanie by a fire
her sweet tears to catch
never being alone
skate day

laundry finished
a turkey in the fridge
a focus to run my race
knitting with Fernanda
her words that hit home

reinforcement and reminder: nothing is impossible for God
a song at worship that I'd been singing all week
a scarf for Jennifer
hot coffee
one blue and one orange--friendship mugs of tea with Nicole

nearly a hundred geese honking in a southbound flight
little birds lined up on the wire
sunrise through the woods
the luxurious heat from the woodstove
a cupcake shirt on a friend's little girl

those new stomps
Christmas music played by Lanie and Erin on the piano
Fernanda asking if I'd photograph her family
talking to Denise on the phone
truck beds loaded down with netted Christmas trees

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Knit together

My friend is from Brazil. Her English is punctuated with enthusiasm and expression. She makes me think of peppermint.

Our daughters are in the same class and have become sweet friends too.

One day I noticed Fernanda making a scarf with the biggest knitting needles I'd ever seen. I might have commented that I wanted to learn to knit.

My dad taught me to crochet the only pattern I know (granny square) when I was in ninth or tenth grade. I remember watching Christmas movies in winter, crocheting big squares to become blankets. My dad knits too, and I asked him if he'd teach me and the girls how. Linda later spoke up that she could teach us, though time goes by and sometimes things don't happen.

Fernanda said she'd teach me. I brought a ball of yarn to the skating rink and sat next to her. I'm not one for reading the manual. And even watching video can get a bit lost on me. But there's nothing like having someone bring hands and heart to the scene--that's where learning takes place.

"You just watch because I don't know all the words," she said.

She got me started on a scarf, and we sat there for a good hour knitting. She watched me get a first row done and we chatted about things. She hosts a small group and invited us to be part of it.

"My house isn't fancy," she said. "But I bring my heart to what I do."

I would have cried in a less public space. We speak the same language after all.

Monday, November 17, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6232-6255)

better days
wood stove inserts
homemade firestarters
gifted candles

hot tea with Laurel
snow flurries
food in the fridge
hot fires
beautiful sunrises through the woods

Friday playdate at Kellie's
hugs with Jennifer
Christy--a bestest friend
casual talks with Katie
pink yard gloves

coffee in the morning
thick wool socks
warm boots waiting in my size on a bench
home, sweet home
lunch with Linda

piano music in the house
how Erin frolics instead of walks
her bare feet on cold days
two little braids
cream pie

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lesson in patience

Shane and I laughed about it yesterday: how the years when we lived in a different county and traveled out to Linda's for a Christmas or other occasion--I'd say, after a drive that seemed to dead-end in nowhere, "Who would ever live out here?!"

Um. We would. (And trust me: I never would have believed it then if you told me!)

Divine humor.

Or when Dad would say to bundle in layers because Linda kept her house cool, that I would remark to Shane our inside temperature reached a record low the other day, beating hers by at least five degrees (until we got the fires going--and then it's like a sunny summer day in here).

Funny how life can offer up changes never imagined.

"Do you think we smell like fire to other people?" Shane asked as he closed the door to the wood stove. I do love a wood smoke smell.

I have learned that it's a worrying effort to toggle back and forth between two hearths to keep a beginning fire going. Yesterday, though it protested against the multi-tasking traits of the age, I decided I would focus on one fire at a time, get it burning and going strong, before I started another. (Not only did the distraction of another fire keep both from really flaming, but I would get distracted by getting another cup of coffee, checking email, starting a load of laundry, or making a bed--now I just sit myself next to the fire and wait.)

An unexpected lesson in patience.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Errand running with the kids yesterday morning because I didn't want to do it in the evening with a forecast of rain and snow mix. I didn't tell them I had a couple of stops to make before the grocery store. Got a sweet spot near the center of all we had to do, and headed toward the shoe store first.

"Aren't we going grocery shopping?" Erin asked.

"Yes, but first I wanted to check out some boots," I said. In unison, they moaned. "I know what I want. We'll be in and out in no time."

I headed right over to the boots, needing to replace my beloved stomps. They still kept my feet relatively warm, but were worthless in any form of wet: the exterior peeled and pocked from woods walking.

There was a box sitting on a bench, but I walked right past it. Grabbed two boxes of boots and walked over to the bench to try them on. I went to remove the box from the bench, but curiosity told me to peek in. And I found these. They were in my size. I put them on and loved them.

My feet have never felt warmer. And the boots very comfortably accommodated my thick wool socks. Loved it even more that they were pulled out just for me. Thanks, God. I say this because there were no other boots like them anywhere in the store. Not on display, and not in any other sizes. Even the store clerk noticed that when she went to look up the price for me.

We went to Laurel's in the afternoon for hot tea and cookies. I sat by her woodstove and we talked about wood and warmth.

Today, I won't even mention the inside temperature except to say it's chilly. Two fires going. Feet tucked snug into new stomps.

"What are you going to do with your old stomps?" Lanie asked.

I don't know. They were my first set of snake stompers in the woods. I wore those through all types of vines and stickery bushes. I hauled so much with them on--literally and figuratively. I'll probably keep them around for dry days of yard work and hauling.

Thankful for warm boots that fit wool socked feet.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Acorns, leaves, sticks and dirt

I sat outside on the bench my dad made, mild temperatures, leaves all around. Next to me were the JOY letters from a weekend prop, a red plaid blanket, and farther away the yards of burlap. I watched a red-headed woodpecker bounce around an oak tree.

Erin joined me. She held a brush and two ponytails for me to fix her hair. We watched the woodpecker and I held her close to me. We swayed a little. How nice for sunshine and no coats. I still had on wool socks and stomps. I thought about running the tractor over the leaves for one of the final mulchings.

When Tuesdays were always the homework stress days, lately they feel more like a haven. A fire to stoke. Laundry to do. Bathrooms to clean. Wood to stack for an evening's burn. I'm already wishing Wednesday away.

A melancholy mix of thoughts.

I rake up leaves and get the plugs for my ears. A certain snafu and I emailed Shane that I'm at the end of my patience for this and not mulching leaves in 40 degree weather next week. He replied with a picture of what to do.

"I tried that," I said. "I'll get a wrench."

"Now you're thinking like a man," he wrote.

And I laughed. Wrenches and wrenching, the difference here makes.

I love that the tractor is called Simplicity
Hot tea in a mug. Leaves now mulched after having been untouched for weeks as ambiance and props for several photo shoots here.

Tomorrow it rains.

"Lovely are the silent woods, in gray November days ..."

Monday, November 10, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6211-6231)

for a friend who offered to show some tricks of the trade
a weekend with smiles
heat from the hearth
clean sheets on the bed
oh, that fleece blanket

peace that comes about in the pressure of grading
learning to stand against the buffet of words
train tracks
feet shots on the track are quickly becoming my favorite

especially when a little sister fits in the frame

Julie's friendship
Kellie at play date

and treasure in unexpected places ("To the wrong person, you'll never have any worth. But to the right person, you'll mean everything." Pastor Dave God's Not Dead.)
movie night with Lanie
3 a.m.
people to photograph

and my family, who supports my learning
drizzle days
hot tea
hot water
66 Books


Friday, November 7, 2014


A photo class and two families tomorrow. One family on Sunday. Six more after that. I have enjoyed all the practice and have learned so much. Still, a long way to go.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Drizzly day.

Piano and Christmas music--Carol of the Bells, Let It Snow, Jingle Bells. I sit in a waiting room and enjoy the colorful trees in her yard.

Tea cafe and packages. Bank, craft store, home.

A fire, a hot lunch, chocolate. Butter softening for pumpkin streusel cake (times two). Dinner idea scrapped for pizza--note to self, pay attention to chicken sell by/use by dates. A grocery list to work on. Homework to do.

Peace and calm after an emotional Wednesday. Her honest talks and the reality behind the facade. This very broken world. Grateful she comes to me. I love Thursdays. Starting a second fire soon. There is no place like home.

What will my kids remember of these days? Loom bands and Beanie Boos at a craft store. Lanie's "I forgot you take a long time making decisions!" as I held two yarns in hand for a knitting lesson. A yes to extra candy after lunch. A living canvas of autumn wonderland. The chimney's smoke of a wood fire mixing with fog.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The forest for the trees

I'm mesmerized by the woods. I'm sure I've said it before, that if I ever moved again, it would be to go deeper into the woods.

I've been taking lots of photos lately, getting practice on several good friends who sub as models. A recent trip took us out of my yard and down to some tracks.

One friend asked why I was suddenly doing family portraits.

"My kids run and hide when I pull out the camera. They're so done with me taking their pictures. And I have a lot of pictures of my yard." Just thought I'd branch out. Oh, the pun. But there's more to it. I want to get better at it. And there's more to it than that.

When I asked, "Would you mind going into the swampy area? I noticed it's dry and I've always wanted to go there."

They went.

I had a lot of fun snapping photos of them. I lost count of how many times I said, "It's so beautiful here. I love this place."

I snuck in a few pictures of the trees, because that's what I do.

I love trees.

Monday, November 3, 2014

One thousand gifts and still counting (6189-6210)

for families who came over to let me practice taking pictures
free bread in the trunk

the fun of shopping with Erin
a little 'thank you' stamp and notecards

reasons to thank
Christy with hand-me-downs
and scented candles and gifts

a warm room
a heavy fleece blanket on the bed
the kids in Great Books
the peace in Jennifer's face
Reese's cups

neighbors who made a night extra fun for my kids
that they thought of us at all
food for a crowd
full bellies
Jackie's hug

an extra hour in the day
my good dog
a chainsaw
Shane in red plaid
wool socks

Saturday, November 1, 2014

By the fire

A neighbor sent me a text to stop by yesterday afternoon. She had purchased some trick--or-treat bags for my girls and assembled some goodies in a separate sack for them. We talked a bit and Erin played with her dogs.

Later, Viviana came over. We headed out. There aren't lots of kids who do Halloween around here. I think several families go someplace else. But we go to the neighbors who flank us, and up along the cul-de-sac nearby.

One neighbor dressed up. She joked and chatted my kids. And I felt so much love for her. There aren't other trick-or-treaters in these parts. She dressed up for us.

[Shane began to comment about the homemade dog costume I did for Erin. "At first I thought it was kinda lame, but it's actually really cute." (The make-up saved it.)

Erin told me as I sewed the ears, "I don't care how it looks, Mom. I just want to get candy." This is grace.]

The next house also put together a fab sac for the girls. This woman who has shared coffee and heart with me at my table. All along the yards, the kids cut through and ran and giggled. There was the chorus of "trick-or-treat" and then an equal amount of "thank you!".

I loved listening to the leaves crunch underfoot. Loved all the houses with porch lights awaiting our arrival, homeowners with bowls of candy and kind words for the kids. One man pulled into his driveway just as we were finishing up. He called out to us, "My wife put some candy out on the porch!"

We went up to meet him. Had a chat about his lovely patio. He looked around for the bowl of goods, but no luck. He went inside and came back with little bottles of apple juice.

"Would this be ok?" he asked the kids.

"Yes!" they cheered.

When we got home, I noticed my kids had Beanie Boo key chains.

"Where did you get those?" I asked. There were two. Someone had gone out and purchased those with my kids in mind. Lanie gave hers to Vivi.

The kids spilled out their loot and swapped (this is so funny to me--Lanie would never have considered it. I polled some kids at co-op about what they do on Halloween and I remember Lanie's look of shock when someone even suggested trading candy. And with enough time to mull it over, she realized it wasn't so bad after all. In fact, it was great fun.). My heart warmed at memories being made, and I hoped they would look back on these days fondly. I know I will.

We watched some cartoons on TV and started up a fire. My kids handed over Reese's cups (yum!). I laughed at remembering Lanie saying, "One house had lots of Take 5 bars, but I don't know if I got one. I kept thinking, 'Dear Jesus, let me get one for Mom!'"

She didn't get one, but Vivi did. Lanie traded with her so she could give it to me.

We played with glow bracelets and when Jackie came to get Vivi, the visit was too short.

"Let's play next Friday!" I said.

The girls got ready for bed, and Shane poured us each a glass of red wine. We sat by the fire and I smiled.