Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Oh, How I Love You, Summer!

The bounty is…well, bountiful!

Gardening is therapeutic, but it is also hard work. 
When I step outside wielding scissors and 
come back with this, however,
I know the back-breaking days were worth it!

I look at these photos, at the shapes and textures and vibrant colors, 
and shake my head at the miracle 
of it all.

My girls were away at camp, so I spent Monday and Tuesday in the office getting ready for the start of school. And somehow I'm excited about this, too. Not now! No, not now!
But in a few weeks it will be good to actually put on make-up and properly 
dry my hair and pick out a cute outfit and go to school.
I have missed my students.
I have missed my colleagues.
But right now it's summer, and I'm not done playing in the dirt.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bedside Pretty

My girls are away at summer camp, and while I LOVE my girls, it's been fun to have some down time.
I spent the last three days on our sailboat. We returned last night and had dinner on the patio—steak, yummy potatoes, salad, wine. The hubby and I watched a movie. Nebraska. It was good. It was strange. It was oddly, perhaps even perversely, funny, though not light-hearted for sure.

It's also been great to have some reading time these last few weeks, and I have been devouring books like crazy! Once school starts up again, most of my reading consists of student work.

I like my bedside table pretty and somewhat uncluttered. For me, this is uncluttered. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. Lately, we've had amazing weather, especially for July. I've even been able to sleep with the windows up here and there, highly unusual for July in these parts.

Flowers from my garden make me happy in ways I can't quite describe. Like an unexpected compliment perhaps? Or a truly helpful clerk in a store where you thought you'd have to fend for yourself? I often have flowers in the living room or dining room or TV room even, but I rarely take the time to put them next to me.

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago: Lee Smith's Guests On Earth. She's one of my favorite writers, and I've read almost all of her novels. Currently, I'm reading another Joyce Carol Oates book.

During the school year when we are all exhausted, I'll say to my husband just as we crawl into bed, "Is it horrible that this is my favorite time of the day?" He usually agrees with me. There is something wonderful about putting reality aside for a while, grabbing a book, and losing yourself in the lives of others.

It'll be quiet around here for the next couple of days and then the children return. They will have gobs of dirty laundry and good stories to tell. They will be a tad sunburned because they "forgot" to put on sunscreen. Soon, we'll have to face school supply aisles and set up appointments for fresh haircuts and organize fall sports schedules. It will be nuts. But for as long as I possibly can, I plan to savor these days of summer. I will avert my eyes to any back-to-school ads. I will curl up in bed or on our porch and read, read, read.

Linking up with Kim at Savvy Southern Style!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Only Thing To Fear...

Lately, I've been having lots of conversations with my husband and best girlfriends about fear. There isn't any impending doom, at least not that I know of, but then that's what makes us fearful, right? That we don't recognize the doom we're about to face, that doom will blindside us, which is usually how it works. Since I'm a spiritual person, I feel I should be above fear somehow, beyond it in a been-there-done-that kind of way, but the truth is, I'm not above it. Sometimes, I'm wallowing around in it, just me and fear. Fear likes to grip me around 2:00 AM. Often he doesn't let go until 4:30 or so.

This blog post doesn't offer any answers on dealing with fear, and I seriously doubt even the kindest suggestions will alter my fears in any real way. Perhaps the only thing those of us who suffer fear can do is garden. Yep. This is my solution for a good many things. If all else fails, buy something and stick it in the ground. Water it some. Pick off the dead leaves. Cut it back before winter. Watch it bloom and flourish in spring. Or die. That happens, too, in the garden.

Last winter's bitter cold did a real number on my hydrangeas. One single bloom on the bottom, a lonely little guy, and that was it. These are Endless Summer hydrangeas, too. They are supposed to bloom on old and new wood. I did feel bad for the little guy who showed up, though. In hindsight I should've cut him and put him in a bouquet. Perhaps plant personification is a sign you're starting to lose it?

There are medications you can take for fear. I haven't tried that yet. My fears seem to disappear with daylight. At times I simply get up and start working on something, except that I'm tired the next day if I use this tactic. The other night I just lay there and didn't allow myself to move. This seemed to work okay, especially since I combined it with prayer. Not a real prayer, just the "Help!" kind. I think God knows when we're too paralyzed to offer a thoughtful prayer because the next thing I knew it was 6:00 AM. Thank you for that, by the way.

Part of this fear thing is aging, and truth be told, this is probably what I am fearing most. Not the wrinkles so much as the poor health or dementia or the loss of loved ones—children moving far away, husband dying, friends getting too old to travel.

Um, hello? You are fifty, not eighty. This is what I tell myself, though I know the fates don't really care how old (or young) we are. Bad things happen at any age. Bad things can happen, have happened, to you and me. Bad things will happen again. It's irrational to think otherwise.

But I am tired of basing too many decisions on fear. Whether it's purchasing the wrong rug for the basement (that can be returned anyway, so who cares?) or changing jobs or trying something new (skydiving anyone?) or taking a trip or (even worse!) allowing your children to take risks (sleep-away camp, graduate school on the other side of the country!), life is one big risk. No one gets out alive, as they say.

A harsh winter can zap all your summer blooms. Nasty old Japanese beetles might chew you to bits. For the record, I detest JB's.

I'm a reader, and a couple of years ago I read Joan Didion's book Blue Nights. Talk about things to fear. In a span of eighteen months this woman lost both husband and daughter. And yet, she writes. She goes on. The pressing question in Blue Nights, at least the question I got was this: Did you enjoy it enough? Did you enjoy the children and the husband (if you have them)? Did you enjoy the morning coffee and the lunch with a good girlfriend? Did you enjoy creating that blog post even if no one commented? Did you enjoy the garden? Did you plant the flowers? Cook the chicken dinner? Raise the children one slow yet heartbreakingly fast minute at a time? Did you tell them often enough how much you love them?

Did you enjoy it enough? This means, I suppose it means, we need to stop and see and smell and touch and taste. Deep down I know THIS is what keeps me awake at night. I want to savor it all. I want to enjoy it enough. And I want dumb old stupid useless fear to leave me alone while I live this life. But sometimes I fail at keeping fear and all that accompanies it at bay.

On this beautiful, everyday, regular Wednesday in summer, I offer this passage from Thornton Wilder.

Goodbye to clocks ticking…and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

P.S. While writing this post the dog has peed all over the Oriental rug fringe, and the plumber is here to fix not one but TWO leaks. He will also open the ceiling above my kitchen sink so it can "air out." I guess if I'm going to practice what I'm preaching here, I need to "enjoy" these experiences, too.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Poundcake Friday!

I don't know why, but I love making poundcake. I love how simple it is and how the house smells when it's baking. I love the way it looks in the cake dish. I love that there are crumbs around said cake plate because my children love to eat poundcake. I'm not big on baking, and this is mainly due to the fact that I would EAT IT ALL. Every now and then, however, a little slice of poundcake doesn't hurt. Much.

Maybe this could be a new holiday. We are all required to take a day off and eat poundcake! OH, and then we have to go shopping at Home Goods. Who's in with me?

Have a great weekend!

Linking up with Kim at Wow-us Wednesdays!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Not-so-perfect House

In blogger world folks will apologize for a scuff on the floor or the weeds in the garden (I'm guilty of this, too), but the mess, the stuff, the scuffs…well, they tell a story of how you live and play and work.

A few weeks ago we went to some friends' house for dinner. They have suffered financially in the last few years and down-sized significantly. Their taste is impeccable, though, and what truly wowed me was how lovely this smaller, cozier home was, and how much I liked it, maybe even more than their larger, more lavishly-appointed previous home. I know my friend probably doesn't see it that way. I wouldn't either, I'm sure. But it was a happy night of good food and warm conversation, the kind of gathering where people lingered a little longer than they normally would.

When I browse magazines or websites, I get a feeling from a room. Does it reflect love? Warmth? Togetherness? Do you get a sense that good stuff happens here? Do the people in this house even like each other?

Lately when I get too fussy about picking up and cleaning up and striving for perfection, I remind myself that it's the lack of perfection that is most welcoming.

Years ago when I was on the coffee hour committee at my church, I had Sunday morning duty. I was busy wiping and spiffing, etc., when  a woman, ironically named Daisy, said, "Leave it a little messy." I said, "What?" Not to be rude, but I was serving food, and it was church. "What do you mean?" I asked in all seriousness. Daisy kindly explained. She said, "I used to be a bartender, and I learned that people settle down and talk and feel more comfortable if the bar has an empty glass here and there or a half-eaten bowl of nuts. If you're constantly cleaning the bar-top and putting things away, you make folks feel on edge."

Daisy was absolutely right. I love my home. I love decorating. And I even like cleaning. Sometimes. But occasionally I have to remind myself to stop and sit down, to actually live in the space. 

And those dishes in the sink? They can wait.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Someone's in the Kitchen with Ina!

Yes, I know, that's a silly little pun, but I get my laughs where I can.
I am more of a wintertime cook. Summers are for being lazy, and I can assure you there's been plenty of laziness around here this summer.

That said, we still have to eat, and while I love our grill, there are nights when I feel like cranking up the stove instead. I'm a big fan of Ina Garten. She's warm, friendly, and classy, just the sort of person I'd like to hang out with, and in addition to those attributes, she can cook. Sadly, I don't know Ina in person, but I do have almost all of her wonderful cookbooks!

Hands down my favorite meal is her lemon chicken. It's delicious and so easy to make. Because I'm too lazy (like I said, it's summer) to type all the directions for you, I've attached the link to Ina's recipe at the bottom of this page. 

I love those days when I actually feel like cooking. During the school year when things are so hectic, we turn into Bertolli people. Dinner-from-a-bag, my husband calls it.

But on this night I was in the mood to don an apron and get started. There's something so pretty about food, and I guess that's why artists paint such things.

There are nights when we're lazy and have pizza in front of the TV, but to me there is nothing more important than sitting down at the table with your children.
I find out all sorts of things about their day that I wouldn't have known otherwise.

After all that it's time for a nap!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fiddling with the Mantel

I love changing up the mantel for the seasons, and while I am mostly a fresh flower lover, dealing with dead flowers and smelly water on the mantel isn't an option. Fresh flowers on the dining room table? Yes. Fresh flowers on the mantel? No.

I'm a fan of Betsy Speert, decorator extraordinaire and very funny lady. She has phony flowers all over her place, and she makes them look real. So, I did some blog snooping research and picked up a few ideas and headed off to Michael's.

I told myself I wouldn't spend much money, but this little change-up was over a hundred dollars. I will be storing these away safely come fall, however. That way I'll be able to use them for several years and recoup the investment eventually.

Vases, flowers, and candles are all from Michael's. The water color is an original, something my husband picked up long before he found me.

If you love cottage style (I do!), check out Betsy's blog. Even if cottage style isn't your thing, check it out anyway. She'll make you laugh out loud!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Green on the Patio

Bet you thought I was going to talk about mold or something, but I won't, I promise.
The green I'm referring to are our new cushions. In the past we've had some very uncomfortable patio chairs without cushions and two ancient chairs I picked up at Sears 20+ years ago.

But this year we decided it was time to have a more comfortable outdoor spot. I did some checking and finally ended up ordering these lounge chairs from Amazon. And my husband repainted my old chairs. I picked up new cushions for those, too.

With so much color in the garden, we wanted to keep things more neutral on the patio, and this seems to do the trick.

My husband slaved over this patio for quite a long time. Yes, he built it, and other than one young guy he hired to help dig it out and the two friends he recruited to help with the concrete, he did this single-handedly. 

On a sad note, look at my poor crepe myrtle. They were hit hard over the winter, and it's taking forever for them to bounce back!

As of October we will have been in this house five years. It's hard to believe, really. More and more, however, I find that things are coming along. It takes such a long time to make a house feel like a home!

It's a beautiful day here, and I spent most of last week gardening. This week I will spend time with my girls. Daughter number two is finally old enough to go the gym with me! It's fun working out with her. Daughter number three just made the gymnastics team.  I also feel the urge to make a poundcake, something I haven't done for a while. Oh, and there's camp shopping to do and laundry, of course. I don't know why, but it makes me happy to have such a simple list of chores ahead. 
I am in full summer mode now!
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