Friday, June 28, 2013

Field Dreamer

I till these fields where crops will be
With naught but dreams to walk with me.
Where men beat plowshares into swords
To fight the fight of ancient wars.
Yet, I am sure that what I dream
Is not as grand as it may seem,
For war must need a braver man
Than one who simply works the land.
And dreams do not repay the loan
That bought the seeds I have sown.
So I am left to walk this field
And take some thought about its yield.
I have no cause for bitterness
For mule and plow have taught me this:
What farmers and poets learn from Earth
Is how to grow the Universe.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Getting Close

Because my mother loved pocketbooks
I come alive at the opening click or close of a metal clasp.

And sometimes, unexpectedly, a faux crocodile handle makes me weep.

Breathy clearing of throat, a smooth arm, heels on pavement, she lingers, sound tattoos.

I go to the thrift store to feel for bobby pins caught in the pocket seam
of a camel hair coat. 

I hinge a satin handbag in the crease of my arm. I buy a little change purse with its
curled and fitted snap.

My mother bought this for me. This was my mother’s. 

I buy and then I buy and then, another day, I buy something else.

In Paris she had a dog, Bijou, and when they fled Paris in 1942 they left the dog behind. 

When my mother died on February 9, 1983, she left me. 

Now, thirty years later and I am exactly her age. 

I tell my husband I will probably die by the end of today and all day he says, Are you
getting close, Sweetheart? And late in the afternoon, he asks if he should buy enough filet
of sole for two.

From a blue velvet clutch I take out a mirror and behold my lips in the small rectangle.

Put on something nice. Let him splurge and take you out for dinner, my mother whispers
on the glass. 

Victoria Redel
American poet/fiction writer
1959 -

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reunion Etiquette

Primarily reminding myself of these guidelines as our annual gathering begins this Saturday, I share these *ten commandments* with my blogging buddies.

The list is copied from Jennifer Crichton's informative volume.

A reunion isn't controlled by protocol, as a wedding is. And each family cultivates its own idiosyncrasies.

Still, a few laws do govern reunions - natural, underlying laws that must be followed lest the world be thrown into chaos and confusion.

And we dont want that.

So, with the help of Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, we've drawn up the following commandments.

1) Thou shalt not forget thine ordinary manners nor thy common civility, just because thou art amongst thy brothers and sisters.

2) Thou shalt tolerate the tiresome relative (at least for a little while).

3) Thou shalt not play footsie with a distant cousin or thy cousin's spouse.

4) Sniping and carping about a reunion's lack of organization is an abomination.

5) Thou shalt orchestrate spontaneous praise unto the reunion organizer.

6) Thou shalt not talk about everything under the sun. Agree to disagree, and steer clear of such topics as the war in Afghanistan, parenting styles, gay marriage/clerics, public education, and the Federal Vision.

7) Parents shall not use intimate details of their children's lives as conversation fodder. (Boasts of children's accomplishments are acceptable, but parents shall be discreet in their phrasing and timing.)

8) Thou shall not reveal devastating family secrets about thyself or others unless thou hast arranged therapeutic support systems.

9) Thou shalt not publicly criticize the bad manners or poor behavior of any child not thine own.

10)Thou shalt flatter thy kinfolk - falsely or not. All nieces tap dance divinely, all babies are beautiful, and all aunts look as wonderful as ever.

Read more about our family reunion by clicking on the CWAC label.  Or my Xanga tabs.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hidden Art Book Club: Chapter 10


Reading aloud is Edith Schaeffer's answer to fulfilling the needs of the inner drama queen in us homemakers.

She's right.    And there's a bonus ~

Reading together 
is one of the most important factors
 in a growing family relationship.

However, the last time I remember reading aloud to my young girls, I fell asleep sitting up!

My solution?

We listened to a lot of stories on tape while riding in the car.

Fortunately, we had an hour-long one way commute to school and I capitalized on feeding the minds of my captive audience.

Just queried 23 y o daughter who allowed that her favorite from this time period was the Let's Pretend Show.

To live through these books together,
 to experience them as a family,
 is something quite vivid and real,
 much much more real than reading alone.

Book club hostess Cindy is the queen of *Morning Time*, a daily routine that follows Edith's formula for reading from three classifications (plus hymn singing.)  It sounds like the Schaeffers did theirs in the evening.

I admit that we were no where close to achieving what is described in this chapter, but I believe I've reared a group of readers (as well as some drama queens.)  That should be encouragement to the young mothers out there who think they're not doing enough.

It doesnt take as much and as long as we think.

Just a little bit

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer in the South

The oriole sings in the greening grove
 As if he were half-way waiting,
 The rosebuds peep from their hoods of
 Timid and hesitating.

 The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
 And the nights smell warm and piney,
 The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
 Are yellow-green and tiny.
 Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
 Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
 The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
 And the woods run mad with riot.

Paul Laurence Dunbar
1872 - 1906

Friday, June 21, 2013

Before & After

Fifteen pounds, fifteen inches and one year:

That's the difference.

Helpful tools?

1)  MyFitnessPal app on iPhone & desktop
2)  Counting Calories (weighing & measuring food)
3)  Curves Circuit Training
4)  Zumba classes
5)  Diet Buddy DD#4 (who as of today 8/1 has lost 30 lbs since this time last year)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hidden Art Book Club: Chapter 9

Writing - Prose and Poetry

Well-known in family circles for saying the wrong thing, I purposefully made my blog public.

By keeping an online diary I was hoping that a *fishbowl-type moleskin* would help me think before speaking.

Edith Schaeffer addresses these very issues as she encourages us homemakers not to forsake writing.

It is important for people to communicate their thoughts, feelings, gratitude and expectations in such a way as to build a bridge over the *break* which is true and meaningful, rather than leave a misty gap of unsure hurts and undefined emotions.

Chapter 9 contains a plethora of examples for exercising the written word:  developing human relationships through communication.

She uses letter writing as a spring board and I heartily endorse this starting point.  Usually it is easy to write to a child, parent or friend.  I have even written a letter to myself.

For further inspiration, I highlight Alexandra Stoddard's The Gift of a Letter and Dorie McCullough Lawson's Posterity:  Letters of Great Americans to Their Children.

There is no reason for apology here.

Just do it.

PS  With my own children  I required that they write thank-you notes, even to direct family members who may have been thanked at the time the gift was opened.

  Here's an example of one of my thank-you notes to my parents.

  Here's a link to one of my sister's creative thank-yous.

Another link to my thoughts on thank-yous.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hidden Art Book Club: Chapter 8


Probably my favorite chapter in Edith Schaeffer's book Hidden Art, I summarize my thoughts with three quotes, four photos, and links to previous blog posts.

A (dinner) plate can be thought of at times as a kind of 'still life.'

Routinely I take pictures of my dinner plate.  Above is this year's Mother's Day Sunday Dinner of baked chicken, brown rice, steamed green beans, and a fig-chutney-stuffed sweet pepper.

Below is a main meal shrimp salad enjoyed last summer with a glass of chardonnay and a slice of french bread.

Here's a link to a 2006 post wherein I describe the dinner plate and reference Mrs. Schaeffer.

Photo collage of 2010 Fall Sunday dinner.

Food and meal-times shared have always been thought of as a closer kind of communication than simply talking to people, without eating together.

Sixteen for dinner one evening during our family reunion at Callaway - complete with tablecloth, napkins, flatware, but no centerpiece.  ;-(

This link highlights a 2007 Sunday dinner for sixteen, half in the dining room, half in the kitchen.  Georgia peaches are the centerpieces on each table.

Being challenged by what a difference her cooking and her way of serving is going to make in the family life gives a woman an opportunity to approach this with the feeling of
 painting a picture or
 writing a symphony.

Not afraid to wear an apron, I take my homemaker job seriously.

Another post from 2006 when I coached our daughters in omelette-making.

Join in the fun of book club blogging with Cindy and friends at Ordo-Amoris.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Schaeffer Chowder

In anticipation of tomorrow's book club discussion of Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking, I submit my rendition of one recipe mentioned in the chapter.

2 med  onions chopped; 1 stalk celery, chopped; 7 med all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced

6 cups chicken stock and 3 cups warm milk

Saute onions/celery in 2 Tbs butter and 2 Tbs oil.  Add diced potatoes.  Cover with 6 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 

Meanwhile, warm 3 cups milk in the microwave.  (I used 2 cups skim and 1 cup heavy cream because that's what was available in the 'fridge.)  Very slowly add the warm milk to the cooked potatoes.  It's better to allow the potatoes to cool because it's very easy to curdle the milk, if it's added too quickly to a hot mixture.

Add 16 oz cooked corn.  I used a bag of frozen because that's what was available.  Then I added 12 oz creamed corn ~ again because that's what I was trying to use up from the freezer.  I had cooked both of those items in the microwave, so they were added warm to the warmer mixture.  

This concoction is resting for the day (29 March 2010).

This evening I'll come home from work, cook a couple of slices of bacon in the microwave, crumble them up and use them as a garnish for this easy dinner.


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Branded:Sunday, June 8, 1958

How is our baptism to be improved by us?

The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism,
 is to be performed by us all our life long,
especially in the time of temptation,
 and when we are present at the administration of it to others;

by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it,
 and of the ends for which Christ instituted it,
 the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby,
 and our solemn vow made therein;

by being humbled for our sinful defilement,
 our falling short of, and walking contrary to,
the grace of baptism, and our engagements;

by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin,
 and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament;

 by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ,
 into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace;

 and by endeavouring to live by faith,
 to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness,
 as those that have therein given up their names to Christ;
 and to walk in brotherly love,
 as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

Col 2:11,12
Rom 6:2, 3-5, 4, 6,11,22
I Cor 1:11-13
Rom 4, 11,12
1Pet 3:21
Acts 2:38
1Cor 12:13, 25-27

Larger Catechism Question 167

Link to baptism posts on

Links to children's baptisms.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Hidden Art Book Club: Chapter 7

Flower Arrangements

Allow me to be the first to admit that I have not always followed Mrs. Schaeffer's advice when it comes to beautifying the ordinary meal.

It's not that I dont agree, I just didnt make it a priority to have a centerpiece at the dinner table.

Now that my children are grown, there is more time to spend expressing my creativity.

Here's one example, not in the kitchen, but in the front hallway from a couple of summers ago.

But in an effort to *keep it real*, I will share what is currently on the dining room table - a basket of wooden pears on a silver platter;  on the kitchen table - a basket of white chrysanthemums.

Practicing true Hidden Art (aka Schaeffer) style this year, I have planted a row of mammoth sunflowers along the backside of the house.  Just ran outside and took a *before* picture of the area.  We'll see how they grow.

Briefly though, in individual posts, I want to highlight three separate sparks that helped light the dry wood of my lack-luster talents in the area of flower arranging

First, my mother.

Second, a neighbor.

Third, an employee.

Whoops!  Make that four ~ because Mrs. Schaeffer contributed soundly to the planting, fertilizing, watering, warming, and general over all caring for my hidden talents ~ like the story from her high school years.

The bread becomes a different thing 
when eaten at a table with a lily in the centre.

More over the course of the week.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Hidden Art Book Club: Gardens

Visiting and supporting public gardens both fall into the purview of tending our patch of ground, if we take seriously Edith Schaeffer's encouragements in The Hidden Art of Homemaking.

*Human beings were made to interact with growing things*

So, it is with great pleasure I draw your attention to Callaway Gardens where we will gather for an annual family reunion for the 22nd time in just a few weeks.

In my blog's sidebar there are links for CWAC (Cousins Week at Callaway) where you can read about our family tradition.

More links here, too.

But dont miss the opportunity to visit Callaway's website.

Originally conceived in 1930, after owner Cason Callaway wished to preserve the eco-system of the native plumleaf azalea, the family established the 6500-acre resort in stages.  There are more horticultural opportunities than I can take advantage of each year, so I never tire of returning.

Of course, visiting with our own adult children, my 25 nieces and nephews, various in-laws, plus some first and second cousins is the primary focus.  What a beautiful place for nourishing relationships.   I think the journalist who just published this op-ed about siblings in the NY Times might like to make a reservation.

Next, allow me to bring to your attention Gibbs Gardens located where I live in Cherokee County, GA.  

This landscape designer purchased over 300 acres about 35 years ago and has been developing them ever since.  Last year he opened the grounds to the public and wow!  What a refreshing place to visit.

In my first visit this year, I was taken with the red rhododendron, the fern dell, and this charming trillium (turned upside down for photo.)

Gibbs Gardens, like Callaway Gardens, sparks the dry wood of my lack luster talents and gives me just the right amount of inspiration to come home and try something myself.

What garden are you visiting?

This post is written and shared in conjunction with my participation in an online book club where we are reading Edith Schaeffer's Hidden Art.  Consider reading along.