Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Season's, They Are A Changin'

Photo: Fall 2008

I wake up early this morning and it's crisp. There's a sense of renewal in the air. Yes, I know, Spring is the time for renewal, after a long winter. But, guess what? Fall is too. Even though summer's here are never long, they happen and are distinct. You know when the hours start to shorten ever so slightly, you catch a hint of color at the top of a favorite tree or you see a whole new bloom of flowers, that Fall is upon us.

In fact the Fall renewal, to me, is even more profound. Throwing open the windows after warm and muggy days to the fresh crisp air that cleans the house. The school year is getting ready to start and is full of excitement and promise, a feel of starting over. There's the sense of urgency in coaxing the last ripening and then harvesting of the outdoor bounty before the first frost. Spending hours outside enjoying and preparing the yard before winter sequesters us.

Fall is a time for cleaning, harvesting, storing, traditions, apple picking with dearest friends, hot cocoa or cider, leaf collecting, final nights before the bonfire, baking , crisp new calendar's ready to be filled and mums. Fall is beautiful color, jumping in leaves, wind, decorating, scary stories and costumes. Fall is family, friends, giving thanks, but most of all fall is renewal.

Happy Fall!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Not So Anonymous Soapbox

An interesting column in the NY times today really got me thinking. The article is about cyberbullying, defamation of character and the anonymity that blogs or posts are placed under. Over the last few years I've gotten more and more involved with the Internet (haven't we all). I remember thinking how divisive, nasty and wholly uneducated and immature commentary got during the presidential election cycle. By this I do not mean the articles themselves, as there were plenty of conflicting views, and you always need to get a broad education. I'm referring more to comments left on the articles that lead more to yelling matches and verbal duels than discussions. I remember being sickened at how often there were angry posts trying to incite violence. I was relieved when the campaigns came to an end, thinking that this would end too.

I've found I was very wrong. Almost any article you come across you find these horrible, hateful dissertations and it's disheartening. I wonder if we're just a completely snarky and negative people, or maybe it's just these loud and obnoxious ones who stand out to me because it's so shockingly venomous.

I value open discussion, reason, debate and education. I believe in the first amendment and I think everyone should be allowed to their voice/opinion. But didn't we learn any values on how we speak? If you don't have anything nice to say... do onto others.... What is to be accomplished by spewing hate, racism, sexism, ageism, greed or just lies? Make your point in a coherent adult fashion that leads to open discussion, not just closed minded rhetoric. Maybe then we can all be heard and actually gain some understanding from one another.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Double Take

I am eagerly awaiting tomorrow's canning day. My friend Karri and I are canning the monster cucumber harvest, that we couldn't consume fresh without receiving it intravenously. We are transforming them into bread and butter pickles and doing round 1 of pesto making/freezing from the garden basil.

I was searching cookbooks for recipes and found it curious that fully half of my cookbooks are vegetarian. I got a chuckle from one entry in Almost Vegetarian about Cucumbers from a Dr. Johnson: "A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and thrown out as good for nothing." As I try to get a handle on this tasty veggie that really has a limited life and limited options I had to laugh at this one.

Not so hard as I'm laughing now, yeah right, laughing at the fact that I made (or the store made) a major boo boo in my shopping. I didn't find it out of course until I was reviewing the picture to post in this blog and beginning my writing thought process. I did a double take at the picture, then ran to the items. The first item lined up on the shelf was for my beloved bread and butter pickles. Apparently the other three behind were not (see the kosher dills above).

P L E A S E! It's not that hard, stack them right! This is the second time in as many weeks that I've come across this. It's my fault too, of course, for not checking each item in line that they matched (regardless of them matching the shelf tag). Ahh well back to the store.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Boy Can Do What a Boy Want's to Do

The title phrase has become an all too familiar one since Charlie got his release from the Doctor 10 days ago. It seems he has stored up, in internal bottles with the cork about ready to burst open, the energy that he had to harness all summer with his broken elbow.

I still watch him and remind him to be careful (hmm, I'm not sure who was more traumatized him or his parents). To which, as he swings down off of the handrail after swim at the Y, he says patiently: "mom (in that sing-songy voice), remember the doctor said, 'the boy can do whatever boys want to do'."

This bottled energy propelled him through 8 consecutive days of swim lessons where he not only showed up the other kids in his class, he revelled in showing off front and back summersaults over and over again during free time (something he'd never attempted before, just doing, no big deal just energy pouring out.)

You think that he'd be tired after a busy day and 45 minutes of swimming. Ohhh Nooo, he comes home raring to go and runs until dark. At this point I'm ready to collapse onto the couch just from watching his break neck, care free, cast free speed. It is at this point that he wants to sit down and read his book with me. OK we're good to go, story read, now rest.

He has also taken to coming down stairs wearing something looking very prevoiusly played in, like yesterday's dirt. I say: "Charlie, you need to go right back upstairs and put on some clean clothes."

His response, "Why? I'm just going to go out and get dirty again, these are already broken in." Much in the tone of 'a boy can do what a boy wants to do.' Needless to say, he was redirected upstairs to put on clean clothes that he could then turn around and dirty with wild abandon. I saw this cartoon and thought immediatly about my busy boy.

Looking Up Into Trees

It's an overcast, breezy, pre-fall day. There's that bit of crispness in the air and it's not humid, so the windows in the house are wide open and everything feels fresh.

Our property is fairly wooded and it can be just musical on a day like today, closing your eyes and listening to the rustle of the wind blowing through the trees, like waves crashing on a beach. Many of these have been here for a generation or more. When you look- up into them you can sense the wisdom and experience of our land that they have. They have seen many a drought or blizzard. Been climbed on by numerous children; an activity that never goes out of style whether it be Baby Boomer, X'er, or Gen Z, the iGeneration. They have been grazed under by livestock and slept under in hammocks. The squirrels fly from branch to branch and the tree-frogs and locusts have a nightly concert.

The kids have been running bear footed all morning and enjoying the day. They are now upstairs playing with friends here for the much anticipated sleep-over. So I'm taking this quiet moment and am wistful, while enjoying the sounds of the season changing, before the hustle and bustle of Fall begins.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Small Town Perspectives

The perks of a small town are numerous. A few things you can count on....

1. a slower pace (even for those of us always busy)

2. you will not get through a day without running in to someone you know, or meeting someone who went to school with or lives by someone you know.

3. you will make decisions based on whether it requires you driving "all of the way across town" (usually a 15-20 minute drive)

I run in to these and many other things on a daily basis. I love it dearly, this small town living.

Coming from the West coast, you think that I'd never be put out by a short jaunt such as the drive suggested above. Our routine drive to work was 40+ minutes, and I worked in real estate and virtually drove for a living. But, oh boy, does your perspective change once you've lived in a small town. Is it my appreciation for the slower pace? Or, being plain spoiled by things being so close? Or, having moved to a small town with a baby in tow and then once having kids, looking for the path of least resistance? Or is it just pure laziness? I don't know, but I was drawn out of it, at least momentarily today.

As I mentioned in Guilty Pleasures, I love Sonic! In fact a few years ago I looked into what was involved with buying a franchise and opening one here. They weren't in this market and had no immediate plans to enter. BUT, today one opened in Oak Creek! Jeez, so far away! So I bit the bullet and made the trek. I put the odometer on the car to zero and set out, with a sky threatening and spitting rain on the old car whose windshield wipers seemed to be impaired.

I made it the staggering 11.1 miles to the new, and desperately far away Sonic and indulged in Ched-R-Peppers and a Route 44 Cherry Limeade. Pure Heaven!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Preservation Sunday

Sunday's have long been touted the day of rest. They can be seen as day for preservation of faith, preservation of mind before the work week, or preservation of family time. I think it's a combination of all of these things, but this time of year, it is also time for preservation of the garden's bounty.

On this lazy fleeting day of summer as I watch the kids delight in running through the sprinkler, I turn my mind to this giant bucket of garden produce in front of me and determine to transform it into breads, casseroles and desserts for the freezer.

This process is really quite a relaxing past time, and with the exception of a last minute run to the store for the one un-shopped for and missing ingredient, goes off fairly well without a hitch. It takes a few hours to accomplish, but a little bit of time over the next couple of months will pay off big on those busy late fall and winter days where we just want a little taste of the care free warmth of summer.

How do you spend your Sundays?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lessons in Patience

It doesn't seem to matter how old I get, when there's something new and shiny that I want, I feel like a kid at Christmas. As a result gaining a purer understanding of when our kids Really Really want something. Do you remember that feeling as a kid? Can't get it off of your mind, working every angle trying to make it happen? PATIENCE

Brian and I have wanted iPhone's since they first came out and we resisted. Waiting for the price to come down, waiting for newer versions to make sure the bugs were worked out, waiting for existing contracts to end. PATIENCE

Well the decision day finally came, we bit the bullet, went into the store and bought them. Of course they were out of the ones we wanted so had to be ordered. PATIENCE

I spent some time last weekend and organized, painstakingly, my iTunes play list (very fun, by the way, to listen to tons of old music you forget about when you've got 7500+ songs on shuffle). I updated my iCal & Contacts and was ready to go when we plugged those beauties in....

The day came this week and with much excitement I plugged in......what?? iTunes isn't recognized, hmmm. I sleep on it, convinced that I'll just call Mark in the morning and he'll lead me through a simple push of a button and figure it out.

It's amazing what occurs to you in that moment, that plane between deep sleep and awakedness. I bolt up and run down stairs. We had a huge storm Sunday night, took out some major trees, no power for hours. Oh no, please, please, please. Yup, no power to the external hard drive. It fried during the storm!

So as I wait for the trusted IT people we use at work to extract our beloved tunes, I must again be patient, waiting for the "Our House" ring tone that I lovingly formatted while awaiting my iPhone. PATIENCE

But remember, words to live by...Good Things Come To Those Who Wait!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Feed Me Seymore!!

It has been hot and very humid the last couple of days, and I don't know if it's the borderline garden labor heatstroke delirium speaking, but doesn't this cabbage look familiar?

The garden is thriving and enjoying the heat and rain. We found our old dog Puck had found reprieve from the heat intermingled with the tomato vines.

We cleared out some of the old lettuces' and the peas that had finished and began to plant some seeds for fall crops. Good thing we just planted too. We had a big storm come through this evening that took down 2 large trees and parts of several others, including one on top of where the pea seeds just went in!

The love of our land and garden does seem to thrive a bit on blood.....oh Audrey!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Everyday Seems to Be a Holiday

Thanks to my mom I learned today of a new holiday. Mark your calendars, because Saturday night is "Sneak Some Zucchini on Your neighbors Porch Night!" The blurb, quite funny, was in the Press Telegram. Those of you who have grown zucchini before can understand the sheer hilarity of this holiday. (If you haven't, check it out, you may have to scroll down half a page to get to the article sorry)!

How true! I'm under quite a deadline for Saturday! Last year we couldn't give away enough zucchini. This year it's been so cool, their just starting to produce. So for Saturday.... you might need to beware of Cucumbers on your porch from the Ray farm!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number....

We began the vacation a few days early so Brian could meet up with some (7) of his high school cronies for fun on the lake, a sort of impromptu 24 year reunion before the "big one" next year :) before the family arrived. Since this involved the boat and getting to Arkansas a bit early, the kids and I holed up in a hotel in Rogers, took in some sites and swam.

Dinner times were interesting. First of all I respect all of you single moms out there. I was a bit shocked when I entered a restaurant the first night and was asked...and is, uh, anyone joining you? Nope. Just me and the kiddos. I felt somewhat looked down upon. When I ordered a sangria she carded me. Well, I guess, no big deal. Almost flattery. I know, I secretly love being carded at the grocery store, don't you?

I appreciated this oh so much more the following night. We went to a Red Robin. The waiter was great with the kids. No interrogation on where my spouse was. As I perused the menu I noticed that it said 'anyone appearing younger than 39 1/2 will be carded.' I order our dinner and beer for myself. HE DID NOT CARD ME!! Now, wait a minute! I was offended. I look young don't I??

Truly I don't care much one way or the other. I love the Uppity Blues Women and the lyric "and like a fine wine, you don't get older, you just get better." I've always felt that way and always felt an old soul, one who's young at heart.

It's just interesting to me how I'm perceived. It could very much be the perceiver. I remember working in customer service (10 years ago or so now) and I discussed a client to a fellow staff member as "that kid" who was just here. She laughed and said he wasn't a kid, he had to be in his early 20's. At the time I was in my late 20's. People seem to look younger as we get older. It just shows relativity doesn't it?

**if you want to hear the song, click the hyperlink ;)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Place

I love my busy life.  I seem to thrive on sheer activity.  But I find myself looking wistfully back to vacation as I've now completed by first day back to work post-travels.  When you find true relaxation and relish family time unencumbered by daily activities and commitments, you don't realize what a true gift it is until life, somewhat in a surreal slow motion, kicks back up to play and sometimes even to fast forward.  

With the day coming to a close, I've accomplished a ton and am catching a glimpse of how the calendar will look with the upcoming school year soon to begin.  I look forward to fall and all of the richness the season has to offer (it's my favorite), but am thrilled too that I have vivid memories that I can go back to on those hectic days so I  can find center and balance. 

What is your 'happy place?'  It can be one place or several snippets in time when you've found pure relaxation and peace.  I love being able to sit down, and just observe the kids, being kids, trying to capture some of that youthful exuberance & wonder myself.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Budding Activist

We began our vacation and the kids, Sidney especially, were all about goin' fishin.'  As you can see she had a great time catching little perch off of the dock and letting them go.  So one morning, Brian calls me from out on the water and says "tell the kids to come down to the dock and see the giant catfish we caught!"  There was much excitement as everyone ran down to see it.  This excitement was followed by sheer horror and panic by Sidney when she realized it wasn't being immediately let go.

This was no ordinary catfish.  It was indeed a suicidal one.  At about 8 pounds itself, it was found swimming on top of the water with a 3 pound bass wedged in it's mouth.  Having missed it's mark, the bass was lodged in trying to exit through the catfish's gill.  So in effect this was a weakened catfish whose catch made for a good fish story.

Sid was inconsolable.  I am constantly amazed at how deeply she feels for the plight of all living things.  For example, while fishing for fun, she'd use mayflies as bait.  But she'd search out spider webs and only use the ones that were already dead.  This, as you can imagine, was fairly in-effective and switching to dough-balls in the end worked much better.

I went to talk to her, and she said "how would you like to be hooked by the mouth, yanked out of the water, skinned and then cooked??" (the memory of this verbiage is not complete as I was stunned by not only the incredible emotion, but the eloquence of the statement from my 8-year old).  By this point she had thrown herself on the doc very dramatically (wearing her black "I love vampire's t-shirt).  My brother-in-law is a priest and he and another priest friend of the family were at the lake with us.   Fr. Jerome, seeing how distraught she was, approached Sidney and tried to calm her with the story of the loaves and the fishes.  I can assure you she was hearing none of that.

When Brian made it back to the dock about 30 minutes later, she had calmed down some.  She was following a snapping turtle in the water.  Brian went over to  look and she screeched, not you "catfish murderer."  Yikes!  At this point she staged her own sit-in wrapping herself around Brian's leg until he let the fish go.

Discussions of the Circle of Life and humane treatment are fairly common in our family.  In teaching our kids where our food comes from and how what we don't produce gets to our table.  The kids are typically very philosophical in their thought processes, but this time it's somewhat different.  This fish is badly injured and most likely going to die anyway, isn't it better for us to take care of it so it doesn't suffer?  Yes, concedes my daughter, but we can't eat it, we need to bury it.  I let her know of our plan to go out to a catfish restaurant the next night for dinner.  This she didn't mind.  It was more the thought of us being intimately involved in killing our own food, versus someone else doing it.

It is a process.  She has had stages in her young life where she has insisted on being vegetarian (most notably a time when she was six), and we've supported that as long as she ate well.  Now she does eat meat, but always very thoughtfully.  Just as her dad and I lament over things like the peaches from my guilty pleasures post, Sidney laments over every living thing as she tries to understand the circle of life.  Now Charlie, a very thoughtful child in his own right,  just wanted to eat the fish!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

notice juice dripping from chin and read on :)

I may have been unplugged for the last week of vacation, but my blogger mind was running, and I actually sat down with pen and paper to jot down some thoughts which may be reflected in the next several posts.

When I began to formulate this blog, I realized that all of the guilty pleasures that I came up with involved food. hmmm or should I say yummmm....

Something you should know;  I'm not a soda drinker, never have been, and I always try to eat fairly healthy.  Now lets blow that philosophy straight out the window.  Whenever we head South, I know I'm on vacation when I see my favorite fast food joint.  Sonic.   I've loved it since I lived briefly in Kansas, and am absolutely addicted to 2 things.  Chedda-Peppers, and Route 44 Cherry Limeade.  My dear husband braved the drive through, while towing the boat, several times to satisfy this craving of mine (fortunately he loves it almost as much as I do).

I also indulged in Fried Catfish w/ hush puppies, good old fashioned beans and cornbread, old style St. Louis BBQ, Crawfish Etouffee as well as the typical lake fare; brats, burgers etc.  So it was a good foodie week.  Probably standing out most in my mind are the peaches....

I love all of the farm stands in Northwest Arkansas, and was thrilled to see beautiful, ripe, juicy peaches!  What a treat.  I'm forever trying to buy local and seasonal foods as well as support local farmers, so I resist a lot of stuff.  We get our fruit fulfillment from the garden in the summer, and then the local apple orchards all fall.  When I have broken down to buy some shipped in fruits, they're  horribly under ripe and when they finally ripen, completely tasteless.

As we drove out of town, I picked up a case of peaches.  You know the kind that send juice down your chin and make you think you've just tasted a piece of heaven.  We ate them the whole car ride and I'm going to can some today.  When I picked them up I found out that in fact the peaches were from Georgia because the Arkansas crop had been destroyed by a late freeze.  Well, we're fairly close to Georgia and I know it came from a farm connection that this 90 year old farm stand owner had further south, so I bought them.

As we're driving I begin to think more about this.  I am now driving home carrying a case of peaches so in effect am I shipping them??  I began to laugh a little thinking about this concept.  Is the fuel consumption that these peaches are using even more since we're towing the boat?  So I bought fairly local and am now taking them home.  But since we're making this annual drive anyway, bringing the peaches is just a bonus right? It's not really adding more to the shipment line of the peach is it?  What a guilty pleasure, but hey, how many people that you know would have dissected the purchase of peaches like this?


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