To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You surprised me!

Still reading the book of essays from 1996, lost in the story, reading, reading, turn the page and....what is this??

I was startled, but just for a moment as I wasn't expecting to find anything stuck between the pages. Then I smiled. I thought, "these must have been put there a looong time ago." But when? Obviously when F.M.S. was still in school - middle school? Grade school? No dates, but the choice of friends made me suspect it might have been grade school. (Mind you he graduated from college and moved to Taiwan a year and a half ago.) I like how F.M.S. drew himself with hair sticking straight up and the 5 0'clock shadow going on.

Then, like everyone else, my next stream of thought was about numbers. Oh, just admit it, the rest of you think the same way.

1 book
2 pages
3 pictures
4 letters to each first name
5 letter to each last name

Then we have 2 syllables to the first and last name of the first and last pictures and only 1 syllable to the first and last name of the middle picture. I thought that was odd since each person's name has the same number of letters. There's no way this could have been planned so it must be serendipitous. How appropriate.

Alrightythen.....perhaps it's just a little weirdness going on with me.

Thank you, F.M.S., for touching me all the way from Taiwan. I love it....I love you.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dinosaur Chronicles

Can I just say that I really miss having young kids in the house? I miss the questions and excitement, and I miss the sense of adventure that always came with new discoveries. I miss the awe and wonder of the learning process. I miss the oh, so active imaginations. And I thank my lucky stars for grandchildren.

One of my favorite activities now is the one-on-one dates I take with my grandkids. Last night was an adventure with Sir S. Our local museum has a new interactive display called the Dinosaur Chronicles and the show is geared perfectly to a 5 y/o boy who, like most 5 y/o's, is nuts about the 'terrible lizards'.

I think I would like to work for the people who create these displays. They have amazing jobs. They came up with fabulous animated displays where huge dinosaurs shake their heads and roar as they flash very sharp teeth, tails wag, feet move as if walking, sometimes eyes look right at you. It's creepy and cool and thrilling to a 5 y/o.

This was pretty clever because T.Rex is surprisingly real looking and Sir S said, "hey, take a picture of me running from him," and proceeded to run in place. Smart kid. I wish I had thought of that idea. See what I mean about those imaginations?

Tables and mats were scattered throughout the display for playing with toy dinosaurs or perhaps making crayon rubbings of T.Rex or Stegosaurus. Some of the tables held templates for tracing and others held scissors and crayons for creating your own. I'm telling you it was kid heaven!

There were shelves full of books and dinosaur games, and a puppet theater where the kids could act out their own dinosaur show. You can imagine that Sir S's show involved T. Rex eating Triceratops who put up a valiant, but hopeless fight.

We found a huge mechanical dinosaur that could be moved every which way by pushing different buttons. There were bones and eggs and babies. You could pretend you were a paleontologist with your brush and look for the hidden bones. One of Sir S's favorite displays was of a downed dinosaur being attacked by raptors. He's 5, of course he would like the most gruesome display. He said, "aw, cool, he's pulled off a chunk of meat with his claws." I'm not kidding, that was way cool for him.

Even the planetarium show took you from the creation of earth through the demise of the 'terrible lizards'. Sir S loved that it 'rained' on us once. I loved watching his reactions to all that he experienced. I'm so looking forward to the next sequel of "An Adventure with Sir S".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dead Poet Society

I read in bed nearly every night; propped up on pillows; buried beneath layers of blankets; snug, warm and secure. It helps to quiet my mind. My current read (again) is The Best American Essays 1996, and last night I came upon the passage regarding competition between artists and how they responded to contemporaries. What was their response? Did they compete for the top spot or give up? Did they sulk or support? I was especially intrigued with the poets and the strong opinions they had of each others work and how they judged it both graciously and harshly. What grabbed my attention was the ferocity of judgment by some towards another’s writing style. Now, I’ve read poetry for years, and written a bit myself, albeit not to the caliber of published authors, but getting back to the point, the current read gave me no choice but to get up from my cozy haven and retrieve another favorite book, The Best Loved Poems of the American People, and search for authors like Keats and Wordsworth and Byron.

My reading of poetry has always been a mishmash of poems and poets read at the same time and never, in all these years, have I sat down to read through the writings of one poet at a time. I’ve never gotten to know a poet. This time, however, I read all the poems I found of one author before moving on to the next. Huh! I’ll be darned! Not only did these authors have strong egos (gleaned from between the lines in the essay), they had completely different writing styles and it’s no wonder they had such nasty things to say about each other. In reading the essay, and without having read the poems, I was inclined to prefer Author One over Author Two simply because of Author Two’s attitude towards the others. Upon reading the poems, I changed my mind and can better understand Author Two’s judgment.

Silly me. Though I understand the difference in painting styles and why I prefer a Vermeer over a Van Gogh, for some reason I never gave it a thought as to why I preferred some poems over others. Now I have to go back and read poetry with a much more critical eye (ear?) to see if I can find a style that I prefer. This might be interesting.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harbingers of Spring....

I caught a glimpse of this last night as I was walking from the garage to the house. It made me take a step backwards to peak around the house. You know, to make sure I saw what I thought I saw.

I did. With the daffodils that far along I was afraid it was time to give up any last hope of keeping winter around. That is, until I woke up this morning, and what did I see? Snow, coming down sideways from all the wind. It is only March, after all. No point in giving in to Spring too quickly.

I've had a vegetarian cookbook for a few years that hasn't seen any use and I was going to toss it in the Goodwill box, but I thought I should at least try some recipes before I gave up on it. I've tried three recipes these past two weeks. One I quickly crossed out because it was terribly blah and I have no desire to tweak it. The other two recipes have been outstanding! This is what turned into dinner last night.

This is a delicious papaya salsa. Oh, man! I could eat this by itself. Bet it's good on fish too.

These little pretties were the makings of veggie fajitas. Geez, I had no idea that making my own vegetarian dishes could be so tasty.

Update: I was wondering what would happen if I posted the recipe since I don't have the publishers blessing so I searched the internet and found this link. Here are the changes I made:
- eliminate cilantro since I don't care for it so much
- increase green chili peppers to 2 t.
- substitute sweet potato for red potato
- again, eliminate cilantro
- regular cheese instead of lowfat
- regular sour cream instead of lowfat
As you can tell, I'm not real worried about fat in my food.

Updated - I no longer eliminate the cilantro because I seem to have developed quite a taste for it and it really makes the dish stand out, I substitute plain yogurt for the sour cream.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How many projects....

can you get out of a yard of fabric? I dunno. I haven't run out yet.

I got the idea for this fabric pouch from here, but I didn't follow the directions exactly since I wanted to use both fabrics and I wanted mine wider. I saw after the fact that I didn't match my seams up very well so I'll work on that for next time. I also suggest using heavier fabric or interfacing since mine's a bit flimsy. Doesn't really matter though because Miss M already has it full of her jewelry.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Garage Sale Art Fair

Oh, this place was unbelievable! In order for artists to make room for the coming year's products they sell left over pieces from last year during the Garage Sale Art Fair at clearance prices. I mean - crazy, ridiculously cheap, clearance prices. Perhaps it's a piece of pottery that has a kiln mark that makes it less than perfect. Perhaps it's an overstock. Perhaps there's a new line coming out. I don't care because there's something for everyone and there was a lot for me.

Neither Keith (my prowling buddy) nor I had ever been (heck, we'd never heard of it before this year), but after an early breakfast we headed over to the fair grounds. We were about 30 minutes early and figured we would be first in line. Uh, no, we were not first in line and it's a good thing we got there early because by the time they let us into the sale, the line went all the way down the hall, wrapped back by us and was out the door. I think they let us in early because the workers were freezing from the door being open.

I bought fish shaped pottery platters for $10 (a gift), this covered pumpkin dish was $20 and I've been eyeing them for 3 years at a much higher price.

The hand spun and dyed wool was $1-$2 per skein. Seriously!

I paid $5 for a print of 4 women musicians that just speaks to my soul. I could have bought the original oil painting for $100, but I wasn't crazy about the frame. I might kick myself for that one. I bought a series of amazing leaf prints for $5 each that are ready to hang. There's more, but you might start doing the math and realize how much I spent. I'm so going back next year. What fun!

To celebrate our good fortune we stopped at Bell's Brewery to gloat about our purchases. Truth be told, we would have gone to Bell's anyway for the ambiance and the beer.

And, of course, I can't go to Kalamazoo without stopping at the winery. The name has changed to Tempo, but the wine is just as tasty as ever. I bought this bottle for obvious reasons; it has Alex' name on it so I had to. Bonus! It's delicious to boot.

Alex, I'll save a bottle in case you evvvvver come home, but D-I-L and I are drinking a bottle in your honor on Sunday. Busted! We're drinking it because we want to, but I promise we'll toast you on the first sip.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My collections.

The sun was shining, the porch was warm, I started dusting, and before I knew it I was sidetracked with these trinkets and the memories they hold. I leave them out because the grandbabes love to play with them and never seem to tire of the stories of where each was found. Touching and holding these trinkets made me realize that my inclination is to collect and display items that have significance in my life rather than just buying something that looks good from the store. There are stories that go with most things in my house. Perhaps the item was a gift from dear friend or relative. Perhaps it has a history with a relative who passed on. Perhaps it was from a favorite time or place in my life. Perhaps I just happened upon it as I walked.

From the woods:

From Lake Superior:

From Taiwan:

From scattered areas:

This particular dish, an ashtray, holds fond memories of my grandfather who was an avid Ham radio operator and a known chain smoker. K8ODS is his handle. My memory sees the ever-present cigarette sitting on the edge of this ashtray, smoke tendrils curling upwards as it smoldered, or, more likely, held over the ashtray between his thick knuckled fingers, nonchalantly flicking gray ash into the tray as he tapped out Morse Code to his buddies.

The radio station was in the cellar behind two big nondescript gray doors held shut by a barn latch. Amazing things were to be seen when my grandfather opened those doors. There were the radios with red and green lights, speakers that made wiry sci-fi sounds when he was tuning them, gauges and dials, and knobs and buttons. Everything came to life when my grandfather sat down in his chair and prepared to talk on the radio.

As a young girl, I would sit for hours on my grandfather’s lap as he 'spoke' to people by tapping this tiny lever. Sometimes he would chuckle when they 'spoke' back, but mostly he had a concentrated look on his face as he listened to their stories and responded in kind. Sometimes he would smile down at me and tell me that he was talking about me. I liked that. He spoke to radio operators from everywhere that he never knew in person, but met over the airwaves. I remember there was someone from Brazil. Today, I liken it to the internet and how I 'speak' to some of you from far away and though we’ve never met, I know you're there, reading, responding, sharing a part of my day as I do yours. I think my grandfather would have liked the internet. I cherish his ashtray.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Meet Bear.

Bear has been in our family for 23 years. He's been to both oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and several of the Great Lakes. I believe he's been to Mexico and Canada. He's stayed in hi-rise hotels and camped in tents; he's driven in cars and flown in airplanes; he's been biking and backpacking. He's been to great cities like Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Orlando, San Diego and Boston, but his favorite place ever is the Manistee River National Forest where he camped for years with his best friend. His vest matches one that was worn by his best friend Sadly, his friend is now much too old to tote him around everywhere so Bear has been living upstairs at my house for the past few years and every once in a while, I'll go upstairs to have a little chat with him. Today, while I was showing him my newly knitted hat, he graciously agreed to model it for me. He wears it so jauntily. He's still as sweet and caring as he's always been. Thanks Bear.

And thank you, Alice, for the very cool link to the hat.