Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Five Senses Tour, Winter's Beginning

    What a wonderful week we're enjoying. Not without its stressors and mysteries, of course, but there's some love or magic or something in the air. I have learned to slow things down even more when life is like this. Wishing you a big, nourishing dose of this peace. Here is my little detour on Monica's 5 Senses Tour.

See: The beginnings of Christmas decorations in our home and the end of the colorful leaf parade on our property. 

This is possibly my favorite inspiration photo so far.
I have resolved to not buy anything new this year, 
to just use what we have plus maybe 
a few items from the produce department.

Hear: Our parrot practicing new words, our guinea fowl debating creationism with the geese, lots of Soundgarden on the radio today, and an excellent playlist of Cajun music while I write.

Taste: Really good, strong, fresh, piping hot coffee with real sugar and cream in it. Big surprise, I know.

Touch: Perfectly fresh, clean, cool, pressed sheets on our bed and then Handsome's face shaved just as smoothly, between those sheets.

Read: Still nibbling at the same book, which is picking up speed as the narrator's love affairs do the same.

Think: I have been simmering a lot about the environments we create and allow for ourselves, the deliberance with which we live each day and the conscious will we apply to life and relationships.

I found this, like so many other great images, on Pinterest.
I believe this is the original source.

Feel: Overflowing optimism, faith, hope, excitement, suspense, secret joy, gratitude ahead of time... However you might label this ribs-deep emotion that everything is going to be alright, that miracles are in the air, that's how I feel this week.

My sweet chickens are several years older now than in this photo,
but I've been gazing at this image for over a week.
And when I spoke to them a couple of nights ago
their voices were as young and clear and happy as they were on this day.
This is a huge, welcome blessing in our home.

Be Sensual. That's how you were created...

5 senses tour

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mutual Admiration Society: Liebster Blog Award

   Growing up, our home's population was slightly but powerfully overwhelmed by women and girls. Mom made conscious efforts to encourage us and reinforce good behavior, shelling out compliments and affirmation richly and regularly. Dad, on the other hand, though a loving and positive man for sure, took great pleasure in teasing us and tempering our warm-fuzzies with jokes about the "Mutual Admiration Society." This is how he affectionately referred to our dinner table conversations about how good and pretty and talented and awesome we all were. 

   Well, so here we are a thousand years later in blogland, a place that did not exist during those formative years. And some of us are still trading warm fuzzies, even if a voice somewhere in the background is saying how silly we are to do so.

   This morning I was delighted to read that my ten-four good buddy M Half had included me in a very sweet and encouraging list of her fave new/small scale blogs. I am the giddy recipient of something called a Liebster Blog Award!!!

   The word liebster is German for dearest. Sharing the award is a little way of recognizing, as M Half put it, "up and coming bloggers with less than 200 followers." Umm, yep, I qualify. But juuuuuust barely...

   Isn't that nice??  If my Dad reads this he may very well raise his eyebrows and look over his glasses then say something witty to keep me grounded, but that's okay. I know we all try to temper our appetites for approval by being honest. And I know for myself that cross pollinating ideas with a handful of intelligent, passionate people has greatly improved my general well being since starting this blog in May. I groove the exchange. I really do. I love forcing myself to articulate things that sometimes hurt and other times are either  challenging or just plain silly. And I am so grateful for people who are bold enough to cast their own two cents here and there. The world is clearly full of people worth knowing.


   Without further ado, my own nominees for this sweet little award:

The M Half  Despite appearances, my giving this award right back to my friend is not merely reciprocal. She is a consistent poster, which motivates me, which is ironic because she scoffs gently at motivational bloggers, which is really ironic because she is a very accepting person, which is beautiful because she accepts people who might not accept her first. She is a writer and editor by trade and has a clear, readable style which gives me a hungry goal. She also takes the time to edit my stuff, a personal favor for which I will always be eternally grateful.
   More importantly, she has a view of the world unencumbered by dogma and typicality. Is that a word? I shall invent it just for her. She resists typicality, and I love that about her, She keeps me accountable for opinions I might otherwise resign to habit, tradition, etc. But when I stick with tradition she still respects me in the morning..Thanks for everything, M Half. I am a better person for knowing you!

Cabbage Ranch   I have more in common with this lovely woman in terms of longings than actual facts, but we are both mothers (though I have sixteen years of seniority over her) and we do both have horses and live in the south central United States (though on opposite sides of our legendary Red River). Katie writes about her baby "Beep," about home keeping, her horses, her husband, living in the country, really anything she wants.
   On top of it all, Katie also works outside the home, which sort of underscores for me her industriousness. I think I first glanced at her blog by reading comments on Pioneer Woman, a little site you probably haven't heard of yet. PW is just getting her blog started you guys, so let's be nice to the new girl. Okay?

In My Wild Eden  I cannot remember exactly how I first came to read this truly beautiful blog. Possibly through a writer's workshop. But please do take some quiet time to soak her up. She offers pulsing photography that looks a lot older than it is, original poetry, and abbreviated but completely loving remarks on life. In her own words, she was "born to walk country roads and gaze into vintage skies."

Periphery  Yes, M Half chose her too and in fact I owe my introduction to this blogger to my trusty ten-four good buddy. Periphery writes with philosophical precision and an obvious appreciation for language. I don't know how else to say it, but the first post of hers I read had me hooked, as M had promised. It was titled "In This Economy" and spoke to so many important things that I immediately wanted to invite her and a bunch of other soulful people to either a lively debate of hot topics or a pep rally for positive thinking.

New House, New Home, New Life  I am not only a lover of words and ideas; I also drool over homemaking and domesticity, though I am unlikely to share my own ideas on that stuff here. I very recently stumbled upon a blogger who is sharing her remodeling, redecorating, and gardening adventures in Canada. She is also an avid Pinterest-er (love my eye candy) and has generously offered an experienced ear in matters of living apart from your children.
   Mothers whose children live with their Dad are either scarce or very, very quiet about it, understandably. It's difficult to find anyone who understands both the heart shredding and the need to wait and thrive while they're gone. I am so happy to have made Heather's acquaintance!

Honorable Mention,
because this writer enjoys slightly more than the maximum 200 followers, 
but I have come to enjoy her so much:

Bohemian Twilight  Monica is the philosopher-artist with a heart of red and purple suede who generously hosts both the Joy Pockets and Five Senses Tour linkups. She isn't always agreeable, but she does seem to always be genuine. I found her quite by accident while looking around for some gypsy-style interior photos. I continue to haunt her blog because she offers marrow-striking observations of the universe and poetic photos that speak volumes. I can almost smell patchouli incense when I read her posts.


   Okay, so those are my nominations for membership in the Mutual Admiration Society, Liebster Chapter. Keep writing, ladies! I for one read everything you publish, even when I don't have time to indulge in comment trading.

The Pen is Mightier

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sea Monkeys

   Over the weekend, as part of a short family trip to Woodward, Oklahoma,  Handsome and I spent about an hour in Atwoods with his brother and sister-in-law and one of their sons. Do you have an Atwoods in your corner of the world? It's a retail store found almost exclusively in rural areas, and though they are expanding their product base they mostly sell great stuff for, well, country people. You know, large quantities of deer corn and gun safes and stuff. And John Deere tractor accessories and sparkly belts and baby chicks in the springtime. And pearl-snap button up shirts and live animals traps and ammo.

    And candy and toys and home decor.

    We cruised the candy aisles and collected all the oldest, funnest sugary teats that we could justify with childhood memories. They sell the paper-bagged treats like clove gum, cherry sours, and horehound candy sticks. 

    Yep. That's for our parents' generation.

   They also sell plain cellophane bags of those spongy pale orange circus peanuts. And Boston baked beans. And maple thingies. We loaded up on something for everyone and had a grand ole time doing it, as much fun exploring the candy aisles as we did eating the candy itself.

   We also bought a rusty tin star for the house, something that should look good all year long but is a perfect gift to ourselves right after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas decorating is about to ensue. Then we each bought a toy. 

    For ourselves. Because we're mature, responsible adults.

   Handsome selected a plastic miniature farm scene that includes a modern windmill, not one of the more familiar paddle/tripod windmills we all associate with black and white movies and drives through Kansas on the way to Oz. The new kind. The tall, elegant, white giants that now perforate the Oklahoma landscape sending clean energy to tens of thousands of homes. More on that soon; it's a big topic.

    For my personal early Christmas toy gift I selected Sea Monkeys. 
   Sea Monkeys were a frequent indulgence for me in childhood, the only mass marketed item I might have purchased or received as a gift more often than Lee press-on nails. Now, the little aquatic babies never really lived that long under my care, hence the frequent purchases. But my grief over the repeated loss could apparently be assuaged by another little plastic tank of Sea Monkeys.

   Maybe I have always been destined to have a farm full of animals, or maybe this mild obsession was an early signal to my dangerous penchant for  optimism. Either way, when I saw the neatly arranged rows of Sea Monkey tanks for sale in Atwoods, all of that weird maternal-slash-Island-of-Dr. Moureau stuff came bubbling to the surface.

   My most difficult decision was no longer what toy to buy but rather what color of Sea Monkey tank to take home. I chose the purple one. Purple is the color of creativity, you know.

   Today I started my kit. If you have raised Sea Monkeys before then you know there is a process and a schedule. Please say the word schedule with me in the elegant European way, "she-shu-ill." Many thanks.

   Tomorrow midday I will add the "Instant Live Eggs." This Friday will be the little critters' first official feeding! They will become the only Lazy W residents whose diet does not support and fund our local feed store owners and their beautiful family. I predict Pacino will be jealous of the attention I am likely to pour over my new babies,  but he's a tough bird. He'll get over it eventually.

   I'm taking the Sea Monkeys seriously this time, folks. I am a grown up now, as mentioned above. Since my last foray into this treacherous world of care taking I have successfully nurtured formula-fed baby buffalo, helped with the castration of two very spirited colts, napped on the belly of a horse, and been loved by a goose though hated by a rooster. Surely this new brine shrimp experience will come with a deeper well of skill and wisdom.

   No need to wish me good luck; I think we've got it covered.

   Wait, please do wish me good luck after all. This is terrifying.

Love your animals, great and small!
"The Lord God Made Them All"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pink Stuff

   Before we go any further, let's all remind each other and agree that this spot here on the internet is not a food blog. Anytime recipes appear here it is either because they hold special, personal significance to us or I am worried I will lose the recipe and need a way to reference it in the future.
   Such is the case with Pink Stuff, on both counts.

   Earlier this week I had a mild meltdown because I could not put my hands on the list of ingredients for this old family recipe. So I desperately fell on my Mom's mercies and while I waited on her reply I scoffed heartily at my little brother for suggesting I Google it. 

   Google an old family recipe that Grandma Stubbs either invented or graciously received from her own grandmother who probably invented it, are you kidding me? WOW. Some people have no appreciation for the old ways. Seriously. 

   Turns out our family recipe was all over the internet. Strangers have been making this, you guys! I felt so, so, so on display. So infringed upon. What's next, hidden cameras behind two way mirrors? A reality show against our will?

   Anyway, this recipe is as easy as pie. It is easier than pie, actually, because there is no crust to make perfectly and there is no baking. All you need are a can opener, a big bowl, and the ability to calmly fold ingredients into a pink frothy dream while wistfully reminiscing of family holidays past. And several hours of refrigeration, ideally.

A note about pecans: 
They are crazy expensive this year, 
thanks either to the drought or Sasquatch. 
This photo represents a gallon of gas.

Five Bonus points for the first person to notice 
what's missing from this ingredients photo!

Yep. Whipped Topping.

   One year, I was either nineteen or thirty-one, I can't remember, I forgot the whipped topping entirely. All the rich, sweet, crunchy, colorful things were included, but not the fluffiness. I showed up to the family feast with a bowl of overly gloopy pink sludge that nobody could enjoy. That is a major disappointment, because every year only one person makes this for everybody, and everybody looks forward to it in a big way. And we only have it at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is illegal to make it at other times of the year.

   Funny thing last night was that the whole time I was chopping pecans then snapping photos of the ingredients, I was like, "Huh. Something's definitely missing." WHEW! No sludge this year. Only stuff.


Here is what you need:
  1 can cherry pie filling
  1 can crushed pineapple
  1 can sweetened condensed milk
  1 cup coconut (I am pretty sure either kind works fine, I use sweetened flaked)
  1 cup pecans (I used more than that, just whatever)
  1 container whipped topping, thawed

   Gently fold it, baby. Pour, layer, stir, fold, blend the colors, taste it, lick your spoons, give the empty cans to lucky husbands and parrots in your house, do a little dance, make a little love, groove the easiness and luxury of it all. 

   Now wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and slip it safely in the refrigerator overnight or for at least four hours. 

This sample bite looks one step away from gross 
only because it hasn't set up yet.
Later today it will look firm and fluffy and perfect.

But I promise you it already tastes perfect.

Why did I buy tiny marshmallows?
And who is silently judging me for buying the store brand?

   To all of my far flung siblings and to my children who won't be with us today to eat this and so many other great dishes, you will be missed. Missed so much I have already been getting all teary and chin-trembly about it. But don't worry, I'll happily eat your shares of Pink Stuff. And I'll give thanks for having each of you in my life.

   To those of you who I am fortunate enough to see today, prepare to be attack-hugged. My heart is full and rich and pulsing with life because of the incredible people near me. I love each one of you and wish with all of my heart that Grandma Stubbs could be here to see how big and beautiful our family has grown.

As far as I'm concerned, she still invented Pink Stuff.

Mama's Losin' It

I Like to Eat my Turkey from a Big Brown Shoe

   For days now, strong ideas and long strings of words have been swirling delightfully through my mind and body. I have slept soundly every night and woken up refreshed every morning, already surrounded at dawn by the warm winds and bright colors of philosophy and possibility. In every corner of my house I have been ferreting away notebooks and slips of paper scribbled up with eurekas and scriptures that have never felt so real before, with observations about the universe at large, questions posed about conflicting ideas, recipes that feel important to me and so surely I must share them, and overly edited photos that tell long, interesting stories (at least to us).

I found this on Pinterest. You. Are. Welcome.

   But I haven't taken the time to write this week because things have really been hopping around the farm, precluding me from focusing on any one idea and polishing it into something presentable. 

   We have had a large predator here (probably a bobcat or cougar but almost definitely not Sasquatch) and sadly have lost our Tom turkey, a pair of guineas, and at least one rooster. This means that now all the birds, cranky geese included, have been penned up 24/7 for their safety. This means that they are restless and extra noisy, but in a far removed way. This means that I desperately miss them walking around the yards and gardens. Their soundtrack and fluttering presence are both features of daily life I have come to need. This means that I now spend an extra amount of time in the chicken coop every day talking to them, petting them, and generally listening to them. 

   I have also been fortunate to receive several Green Goose orders this past week, so a chunk of every day is spent sewing. This means that my sewing room looks like an F-5 tornado hit. Thank goodness I have not yet acted on the impulse to replace the solid door up there with a windowed farm house door that is partly wrapped in chicken wire, because nobody needs to walk down the hallway and see that chaos.

   Thanksgiving is tomorrow, of course, so I have been following a torrid series of cleaning chores, rearranging impulses, table settings, cooking, and extra cardio, lest we arrive at the first of December having taken two steps back instead of one more forward. Speaking of stepping forward, I kept to my goal of not buying anything at all new for autumn decorating. Except for two things. But these baby pumpkins were grown here, which pleases my soul. 

   The big animals are all busy growing their winter coats, too. This requires me to touch them a lot more than normal and inhale them deeply, up close and personal.. These are important and time consuming tasks, you guys, and they're further reasons why I haven't been writing.

   Below is a glimpse of the Thankful Tree which I will be forcing my guests to decorate soon. We will write on paper leaves the things for which we are thankful and hang those leaves on this branch. Friends and family will either love it or hate it. Okay, I will love it and they will love it a LOT. By the way, I have been getting lots of emails from PW begging me for photography advice, because clearly I have mad lens skills, but there just aren't enough hours in the day. She'll be fine.

   But the main reason why I've not been writing much is just sheer, perfect, mind numbing shock that People magazine has yet again selected the wrong man for their annual crowning of "Sexiest Man Alive." Bradley Cooper? Not disgusting. But also not sexier than this guy...

   And he has so many incarnations...

   When will we resist the mainstream? 

   Anyway,  there's a lot going on. I am so happy to be on the brink of Holiday Season 2011. Good things are happening. Love is stronger than ever. Hope is rising and building just like we need it to. 

Wishing you and yours all of your favorite dishes and twice as many blessings!
Happy Thanksgiving from the Lazy W

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Slow, Beautiful Decay

   I luxuriated with some time in the flower bed today and noticed even further advancement into dormancy. The changes happen so gradually, yet so suddenly, that it is easy not to see every colorful, textural stage of the season.

   After the abundant sunshine, the first thing that is apparent is how many leaves have fallen and how much of the crunchy stuff has accumulated in the corners of the farm, mostly against the buildings and fences.

   Then there are the brilliant colors. Brick red, true gold, bronze, mustard yellow, crimson, and brown, every shade of brown. Nearly every leaf has surrendered its green now. Only a few waxy stems remain here and there, but they were probably frozen that color and will soon be kneeling to winter's authority.

   The second chance tomatoes are stubbornly offering up their remaining fruits, but those fruits are blistered and burnt now from our cold nights. I am having a hard time pulling up these dead lovelies, after all they've endured this year. It seems overly brutal of me to insist they have reached their end. Maybe if I leave them all winter we'll enjoy reseeded babies next Easter. Those are always stronger, by the way, in case you didn't know.

   I watered everything today while the sun was warm and the soil receptive. We have a few more cold nights forecasted, and Mom & Grandpa have always said that you should water deeply right before a freeze. The idea is that the water will soak down and freeze around the root systems, forming protective insulation against the harsher freezes soon to come. Then in the springtime, of course, the buried ice melts at a snail's pace, giving each plant that deep, slow kiss it needs right as it's waking up...

   Cannas are as striking in dormancy as they are at the height of a tropical summer., I love the structure of their big leaves, the fuzzy seed pods, and the rusty colors. I never cut them down until new growth emerges in the late spring. Often winter does it for me, though, and the fodder makes excellent mulch.

   Speaking of pruning, I also delay cutting anything healthy off of the rose bushes until maybe February. Borrowed garden wisdom says to let the sap slip all the way out of the branches before cutting, which takes the entire winter. So unless you see something truly diseased or so badly tangled with another branch that it needs to be removed, let it stay for now. Make like McCartney and Let it Be.

   The pansies I planted earlier this autumn have all doubled in size. And they are so fragrant. Of course you have to be pretty near the earth to smell them, but what a treat! Don't you love the fragrance of wet earth mixed with that peppery, sweet smell of petals? So nice and clean. Better than Scentsy even.

   The mums all seem ready to trade their first round of blooms for another, but I am not ready to snip anybody's head off quite yet. I adore the colors of straw and burlap all around me.

 Delay, delay, delay...have I found reasons to delay, or am I delaying for good reasons? I think the former is truest. Any way I can keep from busying myself right now allows for more wandering, more touching, more dreaming, especially in the garden where God does His quietest work and where I find the most miracles.

Enjoy the changes around you...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inspired in Stillwater

   Yesterday evening I had the slightly unusual pleasure of going with Handsome to a work event. An actual work-work event, not a social-work event. Although there was a delicious barbecue meal served and we did enjoy a little socializing. But technically it was work for him, a co-op meeting about smart energy sources and asset management in our great state. 

   I always enjoy seeing him in the context of his job, and last night was no exception, He shines. I am so proud. As an added bonus, I was freshly inspired by the speaker to learn more about the energy discussions that are taking place all around us. You may or may not know that in many ways Oklahoma is something of a benchmark for this wide reaching global issue and that our citizens, our professionals, are considered the go-to experts in the oil and gas industry.

   Before I begin to stutter out my pedestrian understanding of these important topics (this might take a few days), allow me to share a few personal notes from last night:
  • I wore a bright red sweater to a semi-political citizen gathering in Stillwater, OK. Raise your hand if you grasp the seriousness of this error. Thank goodness for my favorite threadbare denim jacket which protected most of my vital organs.
  • After ten years of marriage I still get butterflies when I hear my guy introduced by first and last name, and I get double butterflies when I am introduced as his wife.
  • Life lessons can be found anywhere you look, even town hall meetings. That place was oozing with inspiration last night. 
  • I am so proud to be a native Oklahoman. And on that note, today happens to be the anniversary of our statehood!! Happy Birthday to us!
  • If you are willing to spend time identifying problems, please also be willing to spend time seeking solutions. This, of all the meaningful anecdotes shared by the speaker, spoke the thickest volumes to me. I plan to annoy you guys for the rest of the month with expansion on this idea.
   Okay, that's it for this morning. Hopefully I have properly whetted your appetite for energy information. Hopefully you turn off the lights when you leave the room. Hopefully you say Happy Statehood Day to the nearest Oklahoman. Hopefully you have the sense to wear local colors to local events.

Have a fantastic day everyone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

5 Senses Tour: Current Reads

   We are between book club titles right now, so my daily reading has been even more customized than normal. For Monica's Five Senses Tour this week, here are the five books most frequently cracked open around the Lazy W:

   In the early mornings I have been devouring inspirational writing from Norman Vincent Peale, along with excerpts from the Bible. Do you know much about this man? I find his book to be practical and solidly based in scripture, which is important to me personally. His suggestions on positive thinking and daily thought conditioners as an extension of prayer are so straight forward and nourishing. I tend to live in my head a lot, and this book has led me to much brighter, stronger thinking about prayer and how God operates.

   It seems that my thirst for spiritual invigoration is matched only by my appetite for planning and daydreaming about the soon to be tilled Potagerie. This gardening book was given to me by my sweet and vibrant ol' Grandpa Rex, the world's classiest, funniest, most talented and most affectionate gardener. I have read it cover to cover at least seven times and, as evidenced by these crinkly pages, have left it out in the rain almost that many. It is informative and energetic, and when the book itself finally gives up its spine, I plan to wallpaper my kitchen with the pages. Another thing nobody should tell Handsome, please and thank you.

   The other gardening book on my table right now is all about herbs, since that is the intended focus of the new garden at the Lazy W. The paper cover makes my mouth water every time I see it, with its olive green, white, and turquoise artwork. And the black and white photo you see here is about as illustrative as the book ever gets, leaving its 634 pages free to over inform me. I am completely enamored now with the magic and science of cultivating herbs, and I cannot help but see parallel after parallel between this and the art of cultivating joy.

   I've also been gathering up and taking inventory for my Thanksgiving and gift giving recipes, so Martha Stewart's classic volume has made regular appearances in the kitchen. And on the couch while I watch movies, notebook and pen in hand.


   In the two photos above you can see our little family's favorite quick-bread recipes, complete with handwritten notes to the cook and dried splatters of their respective batters. For the banana bread, I highly recommend stirring candied walnuts into the mix. Also, butter your pans then dust with both flour and cinnamon before filling them. This is good for both recipes.

   With what time is left for recreational reading, I nibble at a piece of new fiction titled The Memoirs of Little K. It deserves and will receive a full review when I am done,  but in the mean time there are so many thought provokers!

   Here is one for you that got my attention, especially as the daylight wanes and the calendar fills up. "You must remember we had no television, no radio, no cinema. Russia's winter days are short, and there are many dark hours to fill." This was written about a late 19th century culture. How differently we live today! Now our days are brimming with technology and entertaining distractions. We rarely complain about the days being too long, but about how they speed past too soon. Maybe the solution is simpler than we want to admit.

   So that's my coffee table these days. My sense of sight is happily overwhelmed by books as well as by the changing landscape. Oklahoma is enjoying one of the most dazzling autumns I can remember, so I am trying to soak it up daily, between chapters.

Happy Sensing!

5 senses tour

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Family Meals a Favorite

   Mama Kat certainly has a way of begging bittersweet memories lately. 
This week I am answering about my favorite place to eat as a child. 
This fresh hell, on the heels of so much reflecting on legacy and empty nests.
I cannot help but wonder how my own children will remember our family meals, 
whether any of our tables and traditions over the years 
will ever slip into focus as "favorite," 
but that's not the question today.

   Growing up, as I may have already mentioned, Mom & Dad made regular family dinners a priority. We encircled our solid wood dining room table every single night. Dad sat in the same chair for most of my childhood, maybe all of it until he became a Grandpa, a turning point for so many wonderful and hilarious reasons. 

   Before eating, we always prayed as a family. During Advent and Lent we lit candles and took turns reading from devotional books. From time to time Mom would have a new baby for us to call brother or sister, and that baby always sat in the world's most beautiful carved wooden high chair with an over-your-head table tray. Many a bowl of marinara sauce spaghetti has been painted onto that high chair.

   We ate delicious, healthy meals, often crafted from leftovers, and we drank whole milk, never soda or even tea. To this I feel we all owe our basically admirable eating habits. Basically. More or less.

   This family dinner business was not negotiable, unless we chose to watch a VHS tape or a laser disk movie together, as a complete family. Also, those movie dinners were always on the weekend, never a school night, and they provided me a whole other happy chapter of childhood.

   As adolescence approached I gradually became aware that our family was unique among my friends, that most people ate fast food and drank unlimited quantities of soda and did so in front of televisions. In their own rooms. For a season I was rude about it to my sweet, steady parents. It was several years before I appreciated how much effort this daily ritual required and even longer before I glimpsed the investment Mom and Dad were making into our hearts, night after night and year after year.


   Thankfully our family still gathers at home for dinners now and then, though of course now the crowd is significantly larger. I suppose we could separate into smaller groups throughout the house, but we never do. We just keep adding chairs and squeezing in on Dad's handmade wooden bench until everyone is wedged in  front of a skinny piece of table real estate and our silverware is overlapping. 

   We are loud and silly, but manners are paramount. More or less. We pass food to and fro. We use cloth napkins and Mom's colorful collection of plates. We give small, pretty plates to the kids and try to help them eat what they don't want so nobody gets in trouble.

   With this larger family crowd we all know that whoever chooses to sit in the chair nearest the kitchen will inevitably be asked to go fetch just one more thing, approximately nineteen thousand times per meal, so we all flood the furthest posts first.

   Once again I look around at my adult friends and realize how blessed I am to have this gift in my life, this dinner table, these loving parents who are always eager to feed us. Not many people my age still get to eat in their childhood home, at the same beautiful table, with both of their parents and all of their siblings. 

It was so easy to pick my favorite.

5 Sense Tour, Potageries

   The past few months I have been preparing a little plot of earth near our south facing dining room door to become a Potagerie, a small kitchen garden for growing herbs, edible flowers, and small daily use fruits and veggies. A lot of planning and work will go into it before anything this beautiful happens at the Lazy W, but good things are underway. Here are five of my favorite inspiration photos to get the organic juices flowing.

The connection between dirt and counter top is so vital, 
and I love everything about this photo.

This pretty little corner is just part of one hundred acres of gardening
at a museum in Massachusetts.
Different hardiness zone, I know, but close enough to inspire and teach.

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This curvy, well stocked little garden 
brought to us by This Hopeless Romantic.

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This photo was originally on a site called "Bliss and Kiss" but I cannot find it now. 
I have always loved growing blue morning glory vines over a doorway. 
They impart such a grandness and coziness at the same time. 

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The variety of height and depth makes this garden really interesting, 
and using grapevine obelisks for climbing foods is just beautiful.

   I am linking up a day late with Monica on her Five Sense Tour, collecting all kinds of wonderful eye candy along the way. Have an inspired, imaginative day everyone!

5 senses tour

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Random Tuesday Evening Thoughts

   My mind is swimming with thoughts this evening, boiling even, in a very pleasant way. By contrast the Oklahoma skies are dark, damp, and heavy, so these kinetic thoughts are comforting. The silent headlines are so undulating and cryptic, though, that I can barely organize my sentences. I really can't be sure whether any of this is even connected, but I feel like we're on the precipice of something big in our little family, so stamping the moment might be a good idea.
   Peace in the midst of a storm is a funny thing to me. Although no circumstances have changed for us, in fact only more time has accumulated with difficulty unchanged, I feel inexplicably better and on a cellular level. Far more assured in my heart that not only are things going to be alright; things are exactly as they should be right now, including the pain and questions. These are a vital part of life, after all, and I should not hope to be exempt from the testing. None of our dreams have been abandoned. Of course I have questions and moments of fear, but that steady, glowing peace is real. I trust that God is in control and I know that He is nothing but Love and Mercy.

   The weather here begs a lot of attention, by the way. From meteorological records broken to prophecies  teased at and environmental issues debated, things will be blogged. Soon.

   I have boasted quite a bit about my husband on here but am now privately enjoying a renaissance of love for him and suppose I can share that too. Deep, resounding love. One of the surprises provided by ten years of marriage is the repeating opportunity to see him in a different light. I watch him face challenges and mature and refine himself as a man. I learn things about myself through his eyes. And I renew the most important convictions between us.

These are Handsome's strong, capable hands comforting a baby guinea. 
Earlier that day these hands had dealt with crisis after crisis at work
and balanced the best interests of many people for whom he cares sincerely.
Later that night these hands were mine.

   Legacy is in the air right now, due in part to the seasonal shift and the winter calendar being heavily laden with family traditions. But I know it's also a result of so much thinking about and praying for the girls. My sister and her children are still grieving unspeakable loss, too, and words to comfort them escape me. They will certainly struggle with legacy for many decades, but they will also receive Grace when they need it most.  
   My grandparents are with me a lot these days too, further underscoring the theme of legacy. Tonight my  cousin Emily and I shared a brief but powerful exchange about childhood memories of our shared grandmother. I was struck by the simple aspects of Grandma's daily life that ended up being her legacy.

The top frame contains a pencil and marker drawing by my Grandma. 
She was a beautiful, olive skinned, eclectic woman 
who made the most dramatic vase arrangements from just wildflowers and weeds. 
She would probably laugh that so many of us in the family 
keep these doodles and treat them like relics, 
but to me this crispy, yellowed sheet of paper is a reminder 
to live simply and draw beauty from common things.

   Outside my kitchen window is a section of earth destined to be an herb garden! My very own potagerie, something purposefully different from the larger vegetable garden out back. I have been slowly conditioning the soil there and will soon be contouring the area with hardy Liriope. Then wild garlic, daffodils, boxwood, lavender hedges, rosemary, and poppies. I can hardly contain myself!!! Every kitchen does really need its own private garden, and I really looking forward to sharing the folklore, art, and science behind my plans.

   In a few weeks we will be participating in a chicken coop Christmas decorating contest, so I am collecting amazing ideas from all over the place and deciding which ones are worth the expense of time. We are talking about chickens and geese, after all, and they are messy. They are sweet but terribly challenged in the manners and classiness department.

   This is my favorite song lately. In fact anything this girl ever sings makes me warm and gooey. This live version starts off kinda iffy, so please be patient and give it a chance! Go brush your teeth or something and come back once it's buffered or whatever.

Wishing you more order in your own thoughts but just as much peace and joy.


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