Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Summer Is Over

Remember this box?

It's the one from the shed I cleaned out back in July.  It holds green fabric awnings that we put up in the summer and take down in the fall.  When the weather warms up at the end of May, we work together to hang the awnings.  We live on a fairly busy street and they provide a lot of privacy. 

We spend most of our time on the screened porch during the summer. It adds a whole room to our house during warm months.   
This year I had big plans to recover the cushions, paint and  re-purpose some of the furniture around the house to make it a real outdoor room. 
Unfortunately, around August, I realized it wasn't going to happen this year and put my energy into other projects.....maybe next year.
Mid-October, depending on the weather, they have to come down. 
They have to be dry for at least three days before we pack them away for another season.
Tuesday was the day. 
Rain was coming and it was just too chilly to be enjoyable out there any more. 

It's a big job.
Our next door neighbor paid us a visit while we took them down and expressed her dismay that we were officially declaring summer over. 
That's the way it feels. 
Awnings down....Summer over.

The neat thing about these awnings is that they came with the house.  It's just one more thing to appreciate about this amazing old house.  We have them for the upstairs windows too. It is just "old fashioned know how" at its best. They cool the house immensely during the summer.
We take them down for the house to soak up the heat of the sun during the winter.

It was too dark to take a picture when we finished, so here is what it looks like today.

This weekend after the storms blow through, we'll be raking leaves for the garden.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Saturday Afternoon

Lately, I have been making an effort to live in the moment.  I try to accomplish the daily tasks around the house, but I am consciously making an effort to just stop and enjoy every moment as much as possible.  Yesterday afternoon the weather was amazing so I put anything possible off and enjoyed the day.

John and I walked to the edge of town and through the flood gates to climb this doesn't look very tall, and it really isn't, but it does provide a decent workout, beautiful scenery, and views at the top.

We walked around the back of the hill and up an old logging road.
Our town. 
There was still a lot of foliage blocking the best views...we'll have to go back soon to get more pictures :)

A little way down the steep side of the hill is a rock that John played on as a child.  He and his buddies named Ledge Rock. As a boy, he would hike up with a pot and a can of soup, build a fire and make lunch.  We ventured onto the rock (which I'm sure was much easier for fearless little boys) and spent a few minutes soaking up the sounds of the woods around us before we headed back down into town.

On the way down....
We finished the day with evening Mass and dinner with my parents and Ben. 
I like this deliberate living that I've been working on.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beautiful Butterflies

Tuesday I worked in the yard ahead of a coming storm.  I hurriedly took care of some garden tasks that needed to be done before the rain.  Every other year I harvest a layer of pine needles to use as mulch around my hosta plants.  Somewhere I read that it deters slugs...I think this might be accurate.  The hostas haven't died off yet though, so I bagged up the top layer of needles and set them under the porch for use later in the fall.  I was careful not to take to many so the trees get the nutrients they need.  I think I've taken too many in the past.  I'm much more careful about doing that now. It 's much easier to do this before they get wet and covered up with fall leaves.

I have hopes to grow more greens this winter so I pulled this old frame out of the shed.  I'll try to repair it and have it ready to use before the frost/freeze forecasted for later this week.

While I was out in the back of the yard working on this, I looked up and saw five Monarch butterflies on the few sunflowers I have left. It's taken a lot of will power throughout the summer to leave them in the garden when I could envision how pretty they would be in vases around the house.  I was tempted to pull them when I realized they were keeping my fall cabbage from getting enough sunlight.  I resisted though because I really wanted to leave them out for the birds.  I never expected butterflies like this:

I started snapping as many pictures as I could. I take all my pictures with just the phone I carry in my pocket, and I didn't think it would do their beauty justice, but I am pretty pleased with these unedited shots.


They danced around the flowers, pulling away once they realized I was there.  I backed away and there they were again. I felt like this little guy was just staring me down.  Clearly I moved more than he did!

 I am so glad that I left that little source of nourishment out for them on their journey.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Country Mouse

I had a really good weekend.  I took the day off Friday to rest and recuperate from a very hard week.  There was a lot to do around the house, however....I didn't do any of it.  I rested.  That is what I really needed.  After everyone left for the day, I relaxed on the couch.  After a while, I got up, worked a little, and the took an afternoon nap.  I never nap but it was great.  The day was exactly what the "doctor" ordered. 

Saturday, I followed it up by getting up and on the road to Lexington by 6:00 AM.  Yes, not just up...but ON THE 6 AM.  John had National Guard so we went along for the weekend and spent it with Emily at her apartment.  Sarah held down the fort and was amazing (She cleaned, did laundry for me, and studied all weekend)!  I came home to piles of folded, ready to put away laundry...fantastic!

I had a long list of things to accomplish in the "city". We live in a small town and selections are often just not available.  Ben needed clothes...he's still growing and we put off buying pants until the weather has gotten cold enough that I can't send him to school in shorts every day. We got an early start on the stores Saturday morning and were finished in record time (boys are much easier than girls).  I did some "stocking up" shopping of all the things I can't find at home. We had a nice dinner together with John and then I went out with Emily for some "mom and daughter time".  I rarely get that with her and enjoyed every minute.

We returned home after John finished up on Sunday, took a walk in the beautiful fall air and just relaxed until it was time to get ready for the week.  It was just a really nice weekend.

Here are some things that I learned from our shopping trip to Lexington:

1. Boys usually know what they want and will choose not to buy something rather than try it on.

2. I have conquered my desire to purchase things....of all the shopping and stocking up that I did (I only go about once every three months), I came home with one item just for me.....a new Rubbermaid mop. I know...I'm just so exciting.  I love it.  Hopefully the floors will be a little cleaner now....but I wouldn't count on it....there's nothing wrong with hoping though.

 3.  Sam's Club no longer has power over me....I can go in and out and only buy what is on my list. I only bought what I could not buy locally.  I like that.

4. The store I went to in Lexington didn't stock the same amount of baking products as our little stores do.  An example was a huge grocery store had less flour on their shelf than the smallest of our stores at home.  I thought that was so interesting.  Less flour and more people.  What does that mean?  Was it just that store...the market....or is the economy so much better in that area that people spend more income on prepared food...the questions are endless and I'd like not to speculate, but find it hard.....

5. I am really out of touch with what is truly available to consumers out's the one picture I took this weekend ....and you'll never guess what this gigantic selection is.....

DUCT TAPE!  I was in awe.  I felt like the country mouse in the city.....who knew?!  I told John about it, showed him the picture, and he just said, "How else are you going to be able to repair that zebra print duct if it got a hole in it?  You just wouldn't be able to."  I laughed hysterically :)  My children asked me last night when I showed this to them, "Haven't you seen the duct tape fashion shows Mom?   I guess not.

I am always so glad to get home.  I'm not used to all those people, all that merchandise, all those choices, all the time driving from place to place, all the cars and traffic, all the decisions.  It exhausts me.  I'm sure if I lived there all the time, it wouldn't bother me and might even energize me. I have lived in New York City and know the value of city living.  Its just that I'm not as comfortable with it now as when I was younger. An interesting thing to add here is that when John wanted to move back to his hometown, I was so hesitant....I had never lived anyplace so "small" before, but it has worked out just fine.

I know that having to substitute an ingredient in a recipe, or just not making one because you can't get the ingredients unless you order them, really isn't so bad. 

So....I'll just be the country mouse who every now and then has an enjoyable visit with the city mouse....

It works for me :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Getting Organized - Step by Step

When our children were little, we lived in an old house with no coat closet and very little storage.  I found a neat way to store our gloves and hats by using a shoe holder on the back of the basement door. 

When we moved to this home, we had a coat closet, so I put a basket in the top of it and stored our hats, gloves, mittens, etc. there. 

It has never really worked because it was so deep and I'm so short.  I had to take the basket down and everything would be piled up behind it. 

A few weeks ago, I decided to do something about it to get ready for winter. After looking in three different local stores, I finally found a shoe holder that wasn't plastic and could be seen through.

Our basement door is right next to the coat closet, so I cleared out all the piled up stuff at the entrance to our basement (all the stuff that should have been put away and never was :))
and hung a new shoe holder up just like we used to have. 

Now it looks like this:

The little pull string light above it broke and still has to be replaced, but when it is fixed, it will be so easy to just take a look and find a PAIR of gloves or mittens!

Here's what the closet looks like now:

Only toboggans in the basket two scarves that were too big for the shoe holder on the shelf. 

After I took this picture I added a lint roller to one of the pockets since I can never find it when I need it.  The rest of the pockets will fill up as I find misplaced gloves all around the house. 
 We have them tucked here and there, but soon they will all be in one place.

Now I'm all ready to get decked out for the cold that's coming!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

For the Fruits of This Creation

For the fruits of this creation, thanks be to God;
For the gifts of every nation, thanks be to God;
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
Silent growth while we are sleeping,
Future needs in earth's safe keeping, thanks be to God!

In the just reward of labor, God's will be done;
In the help we give our neighbor, God's will be done;
In the worldwide task of caring
For the hungry and despairing,
In the harvests we are sharing, God's will be done.

For the harvests of the Spirit, thanks be to God;
In the good we all inherit, thanks be to God;
For the wonders that astound us,
For the truths that will confound us,
Most of all, that love has found us, thanks be to God!

* Words: Fred Pratt Green © 1970, Hope Publishing Co. All rights reserved.

This is one of my favorite harvest hymns. I have always loved it.  I anticipate singing it in church all year long.  For me, it is much more than just a seasonal hymn.  It took on a special meaning when we started working on Bill and Dorothy's farm.  
The rhythm of the farm and the labor invested in a harvest now mean something to me. 

I now understand the joy of plowing, sowing, and reaping.  

The silent growth while we are sleeping. 

Working to the point of exhaustion and then helping a neighbor do the same.

I acutely understood despair one season when a hard freeze was predicted and we hadn't finished harvesting our sweet potato crop.  The only ones not at work or school, Bill and I met out at the farm.  He drove the tractor to turn the earth for a faster harvest and I followed behind to gather it in. It was overcast, threatening to snow.  He drove down the first row, turning the dirt and there was nothing.  He asked if I thought he missed it...I said,  "Yes, maybe just a little to the left."  He drove up and down the rows throughout the whole field.  Eventually he had turned every bit of dirt in the field.
After searching with shovels, we gave up.

The realization was hard.  There was nothing there.  No sweet potatoes that year.

The plants had been beautiful, but there were no roots to harvest.    We talked as we walked away from the field about what a disappointment that was for us.  But that was all it was, just a disappointment.   It did not mean starvation for us as it would have for those dependent on the garden for livelihood.
His neighbor Molly had a great harvest and would be happy to share.
I was ever so thankful knowing it would not mean hunger for us, but I had a new understanding for crop failure and its ramifications.

And so we turn to the final verse...the harvest of the spirit. 

We plow to turn the dirt of our soul. 
When we face difficulties and challenges, we prepare for the seed of the Word.  
Stirred is ready for sowing.

We sow seeds of  promise from the Lord. 
We reach for his warmth as the plant reaches for the sun. 
We are soaked in his love as the plants soak the rains through the summer. 

And silently....we grow.

The harvest is ready....sometimes the harvest is great and we can nourish and share with others. 
Other times...we may just have beautiful foliage and have to work harder to build stronger roots.
We have to return to the earth and start again....plowing and sowing over and over until the harvest is ready for reaping.

And so, wonders of the world astound us, truths confound us, and for the harvests of the Spirit, Thanks Be To God.

I hope you enjoy this season of harvest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Isn't He So Sweet?

A few weeks ago, I walked into the dining room and John handed me his iphone and said,
"Listen to this reminds me of you."

It made me feel so loved. I know I'm really blessed to have such a husband.
 He finds ways to lift me up every day.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In My Kitchen

It's been a busy full of nice things.  One of them was a visit from my parents on Saturday.  My mother is a basket weaver and she made this neat basket for me.
I commented one time on how much I liked hers and she brought one for me. I'm using it for my grocery list.  It filled a spot that needed something.  I hung it here next to the back door:

Doesn't it fit just perfectly there?
It hangs above the best little stool in the world.  I bought it at an auction and have to say it is one of our family's favorite pieces of furniture.  It is used daily.  It  is tall enough for a seat and short enough for a step stool.  We call it the "milking stool" even though I know it's probably not really what it was designed to be. It's also in just the right spot to sit on when I get tired of stirring something on the stove.

 While I was taking the picture of my basket, I thought I would tidy up the kitchen and start my first installment of my "This Old House" series.

Our house was built in 1938.  We still have the original blueprints.  This room was divided into two very small rooms.  One was the kitchen, the other the breakfast room with a window.  A wall was in place right where my stove top sits now.  The kitchen was remodeled after a fire somewhere around the 1950's or 1960's.  The wall was removed and solid maple cabinets with soffits around the kitchen were installed.  This was the only room we remodeled when we bought this house seven years ago.  I wish I had a before picture, but by the time I thought of it, dust was flying and soffits and plaster were laying on the floor.

We found the original cabinets from 1938 in the basement and reinstalled the upper cabinets on either side of the sink. The bottom two cabinets  became the base for the stove top.  We tore out the soffits, reused the solid lower cabinets, and replaced the doors to coordinate with the old cabinet doors.  I matched the hardware as closely as possible and  had a few shelves built to fill in the empty spots. I already had the baskets that you see from our previous house and they fit just perfectly.  (I love it when things like that happen!)

The angled wall is the laundry shoot coming from the second floor.  I have a little door right next to the oven and can just toss my dish towels down in a jiffy. Even with the custom cabinet work that was needed, we saved a lot of money in this remodel by reusing existing materials.

I used  mostly neutral colors so that if I get tired of it, I just have to paint one cabinet, the crown molding and the shutters.  We pulled up two layers of linoleum floor and sanded and sealed the rough pine subflooring.  It is naturally distressed from years of use. The best part about it is that it really hides dirt!

I find the kitchen is a haven for clutter.  I really try to keep the counters free of everything except that which I use on a regular basis.  Even that sometimes is just too much.  There are lots of places for dust to gather in this kitchen. 
I try to only decorate with things that are meaningful. I tend to leave things undecorated until I feel it is "just right".  Unfortunately, that takes years sometimes.

If you look around, you will see antique blue canning jars given to me by a friend, pitchers around the top of the room, each with a special meaning, the two McCoy cookie jars are a recent addition from my mother-in-law and meant for my girls when they leave home.   I just placed them up high to keep them from getting broken.  I need to work on this...they aren't even artfully placed.

You can also see the window that needs curtains so badly over the kitchen sink.  I'm thinking lace....but am so indecisive that it may be a while.

I really love our pieced together kitchen.  I love the way it is filled with special things. I love the way it is more functional now, but preserved the character of the old house.

Above the kitchen sink is a sign we bought when we moved into this house.  "It's a Wonderful Life" is our favorite movie and also how we feel about the life we live.  We feel very blessed and this sign serves as a reminder on days that tend to overwhelm.