Thursday, December 4, 2008

Small Joys

Why is it that the smallest thing
can suddenly lift my spirits?

I went out to unpeg the laundry from the clotheslines -
it's 19F and supposed to get down to single digits tonight.

As I started taking the laundry from the line
in the still and frosty air,
I looked up.
The sky was soft with dusky colors,
the quarter moon was shining,
and my heart lifted.

I would love to be able to bottle that feeling
and take deep breaths of it when I need it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Morning, interrupted

The snowfall wasn't a surprise -
we had lots of warning about
the first major snow "event" of the season.

But the broken storm window
wasn't on my list of activities for today.

It seems a falling branch must have hit the upper storm window
with enough force to put a significant hole in it.
I didn't hear it happen,
but when I opened the blinds early this morning
before going out to shovel -

Thank goodness it was a first floor window and not a second.
And a storm window and not an interior one.

It took much longer to pull out all the glass than I would have imagined. I went outside armed with a ladder, a large paper bag, and heavy gloves, thinking I would just pick the pieces out one by one and drop them in the bag. But no. After the first one wouldn't budge, I went back in to get safety goggles and a hammer. After a bit of that activity, back in again for a pair of pliers.

Then, back inside the house to open the window from the inside and pick out all the broken glass pieces that had fallen between the windows. Finally removed the screen and storms.

I took the broken glass (thinking they might be able to recycle it, but no) and the empty storm window to a local glass place, who will have the window repaired later today or tomorrow at the latest.

And was greeted by Scooter.

G would have a fit if I tried to do that to Quincy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sweet dreams, Liberty Garden


I have not been a good steward of the garden. More was wasted than I harvested.

But - at least I planted it. Thanks so much to Angie for her encouragement - I never would have done it without you, Angie!


And I had fun with the time I did spend with it. Radishes, arugula, carrots, swiss chard, and tomatoes. Chives, basil, oregano, parsley, and rosemary.

The spinach flowered before I got around to harvesting it. The bell peppers (there were only two) got nibbled on by some insect before they were ripe enough to pick. The butternut squash never sprouted, and by the time I realized that, I couldn't find seedlings to buy.

I may not have saved money, if I figure in the cost of the fencing to keep the rabbits out (very effective). But it was a small investment.

I grew local food. Not a lot of it, but some.

November 20th - a few hardy Swiss chard leaves are hanging on.

Thursday the forecast was for 18F overnight temperatures (it got down to 16), and I knew there were still carrots waiting to be dug up.

The last of the carrots, November 20th.
Not beautiful, but I'm sure they'll make great stew and soup.

And in another few weeks, when the ground is hard frozen,
I'll dump mulched leaves on the bed, to sleep away the winter.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cold Wash

22.8F, the temperature this morning when I hung the laundry.

In April, I switched from using our gas dryer to hanging clothes outside on a line. Most of the time, it's been enjoyable - working outside, surrounded by whatever is in bloom, knowing I'm saving money and energy.


And the more I've done it, the easier it gets, as I figure out little ways to make it easier. Like, keep the clothespins in the pockets of a spare apron; wear the apron when hanging or removing clothes from the line; use an adjustable-height pole (a gift from my very kind neighbor who noticed my dilemma) to prop up the line to keep the clothes off the grass ; wash clothes when there is enough for a load, rather than waiting a week and washing multiple loads on the same day, so there is enough room on the line.

April, BC
Before my neighbor's gift of a Clothesline-prop)

But I've been wondering whether I will be willing to continue once the weather turns cold.

So - I've had a few opportunities to try it out.

What I've learned:
  • When removing the clothes from the washer, either hang on a hanger or put clothespins on each item before placing in the laundry basket to take outside. It minimizes the time spent outside with fingers freezing.
  • Whatever can be hung on a hanger, do so; it saves space on the line - and it's quicker to hang up once outside. If it might slide off the hanger (V-necked pullovers), secure it with a clothespin.
  • If it's snowing a little, and it's a dry snow, that's OK. It doesn't seem to stick to the clothes.
  • If the clothes aren't dry by dusk, and a dry night and day are in the forecast, leave them on the line until the next day.
  • It's better not to hang clothes in the shadow of the garage, as they don't dry very well (this wasn't much of a problem in the warm weather).
  • And, the one I learned today (temperature: 22 F): find those old glove liners from downhill skiing days, and wear them while hanging and unpegging the laundry. Keep them clipped to the clothespin apron so they are always in reach.
It's hard to see, but these are silver-sparkly.
And reduce frozen fingers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Say "AH-pull-moose." That's Dutch for applesauce.

Ida Reds

G loves applesauce. Every September since we've been married, I've made applesauce from Cortland apples from an orchard near my parents' summer cottage. Because we weren't going to be in the area at the right time this year, I tried an Illinois orchard. The first trip, in October, I bought the last bushel of Cortlands they had. The owner warned me that it was the end of the season for that variety and they were probably best pressed into cider, but I really wanted Cortlands, because, not only do they have great flavor, but they also make a beautiful pink sauce. I should have listened - the sauce is good, but the bright color isn't there. Note for next year - visit the orchard in mid-September.

On the road to the orchard.

Last year for the first time I canned the applesauce - in previous years I had frozen it. But I knew last year I wouldn't have enough freezer space, so I found out the process needed to can it, and put out a request on our local Freecycle for quart canning jars.

Apple boxes stacked near the barn.

Last weekend I bought another bushel of apples, this time Ida Red. Excellent flavor, but still not the pretty pink of the Cortland sauce. But I'm not complaining. I think I'll go back today, the last day of the season, and get one more bushel of autumn deliciousness.

Wash apples.

Remove stem and flower end; cut into chunks, and
place in heavy saucepan with a tablespoon or two of water.
Cover and cook over low heat.

When the apples are soft, spoon them into a food mill.
(or into a borrowed 1930's Kitchen Aid with food mill attachment.)

Puree the apples through the mill.

Put a container under the mill to catch the sauce
before you turn on the machine.

Don't ask me how I know this.

Transfer the applesauce to a slow cooker to keep at 212F before filling canning jars.

Process in boiling water bath (also borrowed.)


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Over Dominoes

Me (noticing a hole in G's sweatshirt): Oh, look. I'll have to darn that.

Burst of laughter.

G: You always make me laugh.

I didn't say when.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Landing

G's younger daughter arrived yesterday from the Netherlands
to stay with us this week.

We are SO happy to have her here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The weekend at my parents' cottage was wonderful - definitely nourishment for my soul.

G had a rough time with back pain on the ride up on Thursday, but by Friday, as he was sitting outside in the sun in a big wicker rocker, watching me (outfitted with a respirator) strip paint from an old oak table, he said,

"I'm very glad I came."

It was so good to spend time with my older sister and her husband who live many hours' drive away, as well as catch up with parents and local younger sister and her family. Lots of talk, several projects, including planting our swale gardens, and gorgeous weather and surroundings made me feel rich with blessings.

It would be nice if we all lived closer, but we don't, so I especially cherish times like these.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Enjoying the quiet

Husband is asleep.

Dog is asleep.

It is a big relief not to have a needy being awake in the house.

I am awake, enjoying the quiet, and working on something very satisfying. Every year there is a drive to provide Christmas Baskets to needy families that are clients of Cathedral Shelter on the near west side of Chicago. Cathedral Shelter, founded in 1915, does phenomenal work with people with addictions, the poor, the elderly, ex-cons, the homeless - in general, everyone that our society tends to throw away.

For the last 4 years I've coordinated our parish's program to adopt families to provide Christmas Baskets. This year I'm also assisting in providing the packets of information to the 40 or so parish coordinators (like me) who manage the program for their church.

There are about 1500 families, seniors, and homeless individuals who have registered with Cathedral Shelter to receive gifts and a grocery store gift card. (When I started participating in the program as a sponsor for a family, probably twenty-some years ago, we bought all the food - a week's worth of groceries and non-food items - as the gift card concept wasn't in wide use. Since they switched to the grocery store gift card, it is so much easier on everyone - not so much weighty stuff to schlep around, and the clients get to choose what they want at the grocery store.)

I wish I could say I'm great at working with the homeless, or the poor, or the recovering addicts. Sadly, I'm not. I take the easy path and work at arm's length. My role is paperwork, phone calls and emails, and documentation. But it still feels good.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Too many patients. Not enough patience.

A rainy view from my upstairs study.

Husband is worse.

Dog is worse.

A builder's estimate we just got is so far out of line for our new house that I fear, between that and the U.S. economy, our plans may not go forward.

My mom's saying is "Things always work out for the best."

My younger sister's advice is "Thank God for all things."

While I can intellectually say I have a lot to be thankful for (and I do - many, many people and reasons for being thankful), my emotions right now aren't a match for that.

I hope I get my cheer back soon. This weekend my older sister and her husband will drive many hours to be at my parents' summer cottage, and we will be there, too. And so will my younger sister.

Already I'm feeling better.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Over Dominoes

We were talking about my mother, but about what specifically I don't remember.

G: She's very particular.

Me: Yes, she can be.

G: (with a little smile) That's why she likes me so much.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sold Separately

Spotted while waiting for a train.

Edited to add: It's a tar truck, used to repair roads and some kinds of roofing.
The reference is to the old practice of tarring and feathering.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Floored again

This is where I started.

Quincy supervising.
I think he was barking orders. Or yawning.

G got into the act pulling nails.
We used to do a lot of home improvement projects together,
so to have him participate for a few hours
on two different days
was wonderful.

And I have to tell you about the gloves he has on.
I bought them at a craft fair in Melbourne
during a business trip to Australia years ago.
The gloves really delight me,
because they are gardening gloves
with Christmas trees on them.
Which makes no sense if you live in Illinois,
but makes perfect sense if you live in Australia.
Mostly I save them to use each year when we get our Christmas tree.

We are making progress!
The neat stacks at the back of the garage have been denailed
and now have to be sorted by size.
Soon I'll have enough room
to clear the boards out of my friend Ginny's garage
and let her have her parking spot back.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008











Monday, September 15, 2008

Memory Wade - er, Walk

Stock picture from last year's Memory Walk
It was such a deluge yesterday
that I decided to pass on trying to get our team to pose for a picture.

Chicago experienced record-breaking rainfall over the weekend as a result of Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Ike.

And yesterday was the annual Memory Walk to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, starting at Montrose Harbor at the lakefront. In nice weather, it's a beautiful spot. Even in bad weather it's a beautiful spot.

Pouring rain. Blowing rain. Umbrellas inside out. Huge puddles - no - small ponds to walk around on waterlogged grass or wade through. Oh, my gosh. But at least it wasn't cold. And there was a huge turnout in spite of the weather. I guess for those dealing with dementia on a day to day basis, walking in the wind and rain isn't such a hardship.

I walked with members of my support group, and we dedicated our team's fundraising to the memory of our friend and fellow caregiver Pat.

And this year we invited Pat's son and daughter-in-law and two granddaughters to walk with us. The girls each brought a friend.

Here are some stats:
  • Every 71 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease
    or other dementia
  • Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Caring for someone with dementia is a risk factor for mortality
There are Memory Walks being held all over the country this fall. If you feel so inclined, find one and make a donation. Or, if you'd like to donate to our team's fundraising efforts, email me at ginniej27ATgmailDOTcom, and I'll send you the link. But no pressure!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


We have our dominoes routine.

Most mornings after breakfast,
we break out the box of dominoes and play a few games.

Lots of trash talk.

And I keep score.

When we're done, the dominoes go back in the box,
and the score pad and pen go on top
before the lid goes on.

Not to be disturbed until the next round begins.


Imagine my shock one morning
when I opened the box and found this:

Someone had tampered with the score pad.

And not just a little.

What had been a 5 to 2 score
when we finished the day before
had suddenly become 105 to 2.

Is nothing sacred anymore?
And is there no subtlety?

I especially like the two exclamation points.