Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 Good Things About This Summer So Far

(Since I have lots of colorful fabric around for quilting, I've started experimenting with it. For instance, I've always meant to make curtains for this kitchen door, but have gone back and forth about what style and what color. I like this orange, don't you?)

1. When it's been a 100+ degrees for three days in a row, 92 degrees feels quite delightful.

2. I finally found a pesto recipe I can live with. Because Jack is allergic to tree nuts, I can't use pine nuts in my pesto, but I finally found a recipe that simply omits the pine nuts and doubles the Parmesan. Works like a charm!

3. The boys have discovered the joys of sleepovers--at other people's houses!

4. I have renewed my commitment to undieting. It feels so much better not to diet. The only problem is, right now I'm a size 14, which doesn't make me happy. BUT I have developed a new mantra. Try it: In many cultures I would be revered as a goddess. You must stand up very tall and regal when you tell yourself this. Repeat 10-12 times a day. You'll feel great!

(Same orange "curtain," later in the day.)

5. I have given up sugar and alcohol in effort to get back to a size 10 without dieting. I have also started swimming. Right now I can go about twenty yards without drowning. I think that's swell.

6. I'm having fun thinking about changes I'm going to make to my house that don't involve spending thousands of dollars on new furniture.

7. I'm also having fun dreaming of spending thousands of dollars for new furniture.

8. Actually, spending thousands of dollars on gently used furniture is also a pretty cheerful thought.

9. I'm happy that I'm back in my bloggy neighborhood. This spring was not good for blogging or spending my time with my blog-o-sphere friends. But I'm back, baby. I'm thinking about trying to blog every weekday. Possible? Stay tuned.

10. Tomatoes and basil! 'Nuff said!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How Do You Take a Picture of the Rain?

Can you see it? It's the stuff that looks like snow, or else like my camera lense is really dirty. The towel was laid over the railing yesterday to dry. Good luck with that, my friend.

What you can't see--because I didn't take a picture of it--is my garden singing and dancing for joy. She's been a long, hot summer 'round these parts. Now, today, this rain and only eighty degrees. Had I known, I would have planned to spend the day cleaning out my attic, which is worse than ever.

No, that's a lie. I'll never clean out that attic. You know what my big dream is? Having enough money to hire a personal organizer to come put my attic to rights. That seems to fly in the face of the Ye Goode Housewife Rules and Regulations Handbook, but confess: don't you dream of hiring a personal organizer, too?

One thing I did do today was tear up magazines. I'm giving a lot of thought to what needs to happen with my house, aside from a thorough cleaning (I'm leaving that up to the personal organizer, whenever she comes around), and Sara over at Shiny Red Houses has suggested going through magazines and tearing out pictures of whatever catches my eye.

I subscribe to two "shelter" mags--Country Living and House Beautiful. As it turns out, most of the pictures of rooms I tore out came from Country Living, but the pictures I tore out of colors I loved came from House Beautiful.

Here's a strange thing: a lot of the colors I seem to love most are oranges and bright pinks. What's that all about? I'm trying not to edit myself as I rip, and I do keep ripping tropical hues. Won't the boys be excited? Actually, given that Will has an orange room, he may be very excited indeed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend Recovery

(I started this sock last fall and finished it last night. By the time it took me to get a picture I was halfway satisfied with, I thought my foot was going to catch on fire. July is no time for socks!)

Our very dear friends Tom and Kathryn and their three children came to stay with us this weekend. They used to be our next-door neighbors in our old neighborhood, but then we moved across town and then they moved--all the way to Alabama. It's been two years since we've seen them, so this was a reunion of grand proportions.

I recently read something along the lines of, "Extroverts and introverts both love parties, but while extroverts are energized by them, introverts have to recover from them." My family was case in point yesterday. After two days of fun, we were wiped out. We just sat there. The dog just sat there.

But all agreed our collective exhaustion was worth it. Saturday night was an especially big time. Jamie and Nancy and their two kids, the third set of neighbors from our old street, came over to join the fun. We ate barbecue, and the kids played hide-and-go-seek for around five hours. No Wii requests were made, which warmed the very cockles of my heart. Whatever the cockles of my heart are.

Having a weekend-long house party actually--amazingly--made me want to do it more often. Or at least have friends over more often for dinner. Not only do you get to see people you love, you're also finally forced to do all those housecleaning chores you've been meaning to get around to for ages. Though I didn't mop the floor. My hope was that having a crowded house means nobody can see the floor.


Speaking of spiffing up one's house, after I begged her to, Sara over at Shiny Red Houses posted the first part of a tutorial about decorating. She has fabulous style, and I feel I have much to learn from her. Go check it out! And if you have any decorating tips to offer me, feel free. In fact, here's a question: What's the best change you ever made to your house? New paint in the living room? Refinishing your coffee table? Getting rid of five years' worth of magazines piled up in the mud room? Tell me!


Slow Learner, Part 89: After roughly forty years of getting stomachaches from drinking milk (which I love), I finally tried lactose-free milk. Guess what? It works! I don't know why I didn't try it before. I think I've been scared it would taste funny. But it tastes just like milk. Who knew?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Down from the Mountain--Pictures included!

I took a lot of pictures outside when we were up in the mountains, and what I discovered is, it's very hard to see what's in your viewfinder when you're standing in the full sun. There is probably a trick to this, but I haven't learned it yet.

Anyhoo. Above is a picture of our house in the mountains. A better photographer would not have cut off the chimney, but I am not a better photographer. The chimney doesn't work, sadly, so we can't have fires on cold autumn days.

This is the apple green dining room. Please note the chandelier. Most of the time, the green is very soothing and calm. But at certain times of day, when the sun hits just right, you can't even go in, for fear of going absolutely insane.

The red dot is the oil tank. The Man painted it red, and I'm glad he did. It used to be a practical rust color, but what fun is that?

This is the view from the side yard. That is our neighbor Joe's shed and his red truck. The Man is very good about going to visit Joe and his wife Nell when we're up at the mountain house. I am cultivating a reputation for shyness. I'm very bad about going visiting.

The boys and I went to the tiny farmer's market on Saturday morning and bought preserves and sugar snaps. The tomatoes in the picture are from our garden at home. Our friend Michael made these bowls a long time ago, back when he thought he would be a potter. I believe he's changed careers about five times now (he's in computers these days), but I always thought he should have stuck with pottery.

On Saturday afternoon we went to the storytelling festival in Spruce Pine. The pictures I took of the storytellers weren't much good (tho the storytellers themselves were wonderful), so I tried to take some pictures in town, to give you the flavor of what an old mountain town looks like in the parts where they haven't brought in the Walmart.

Spruce Pine used to have a drive-in theater. I don't know if it was really open Friday or not. They seem to be doing a lot in Spruce Pine to attract tourists. On Sunday night we went back to Spruce Pine, to the very same spot they held the storytelling festival, to hear a group of bagpipe players. Next Saturday, in the same spot, Irish fiddlers. I'm sorry to miss them.

Tuesday afternoon, I took myself--by myself--over to the Penland School of Craft, in the Ledger community, about ten minutes from our house. This is the view from the campus. Ain't it grand? One day, when I get rich, I'm going to take a two-week long class in making books, and another one on making paper. When I get very, very rich, because the classes are very, very expensive. How else can they pay for this view?

This is a sculpture by Patrick Doughtery, a North Carolina artist whose art is twisting branches and vines into amazing pieces. I don't know how to adequately describe the magic of what he does, but it's amazing.

Now we're back. It's supposed to be 99 degrees today. Next summer, I may move to the mountains in July and not come back until school starts up. It felt very sane to live without air conditioning for five days. At night, after the boys were in bed, the Man and I sat in the dining room and read (the Man) and quilted (me) and listened to music. It was the high point of my summer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Report

One day I would like to get in the habit of taking pictures. It's not something I do automatically. But I've noticed how much I enjoy blogs with nice photography. I love seeing people's quilts and socks and flowers. It makes me want to have a prettier life. I like pretty. I'm 46 years old and I think I can finally admit that.

Above: my marigolds. I never knew marigolds could be fabulous until I planted them from seed. It was Will's idea. He loves anything orange. He saw the picture in the Johnny's seed catalog year before last, and here we are. Marigolds are annuals, but the ones we grew last year were seed producers like nobody's business and replanted themselves.

When we've planned our gardens in the past, we've always focused on vegetables. But this year I realized I want to be a flower gardener. I like to eat vegetables from our garden, but I'll let the Man be in charge of those. When I'm 80, I'm going to be one of those old ladies who knows the Latin name for everything. My whole yard will be flowers. Who needs grass? Not me.

Jack did drama camp this week. The performance was yesterday. They put posters all over the empty hallways of Our Fine School. I was glad Jack picked drama camp. When I lived in Killeen, Texas, we had an amazing community theater, and for several years running I was in the summer productions. Always small roles, but that didn't matter. Being part of a big group of extroverts--especially when you're an introvert--is amazingly fun. Come on, kids, let put on a show!


We're off to the mountains for a few days. I'll take the camera. See you when I get back!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rain Dance

I wish the laundry had been more colorful on the afternoon I took this picture, but I planned on blogging later that day (I didn't), and this load was all I had to go with. We finally put up our clothesline, and hanging out laundry has been one of my great pleasures this summer. We've had such hot weather, the clothes dry in no time.

We've had a dry summer, so I always try to have a load to hang when there's the slightest chance of rain. How better to lure a shower or two our way? You can see from the grass and parts of the vegetable garden how dry it's been.

I bought the clothesline last year, but it took a full 12 months to get it up. That's how things work around here. Slow turn-around times. I'm not good at quick changes. But eventually I get things the way I want them (or almost). I am trying to live greener. This summer has made me more fearful about global warming than ever. The weather has been erratic. I've been researching: what can we do? Turn off the lights, turn down the AC. Dry your clothes outside. Buy locally as much as possible.

I'm trying. The trick for me is to stay hopeful. Sometimes I feel like giving up. How will we ever wean ourselves off of oil? It's going to take a major restructuring of how we live. Will little changes like drying clothes on the line really add up?

I will say this: hanging out the wash is a pleasure. Maybe it wouldn't feel that way if it wasn't a choice. I can imagine how it might seem a burden, especially back in the day when everything had to be ironed after you brought it in off the line. But I find the whole process a delight, from the snap of the wooden clothespins to folding the clothes as they come off the line.

I dry the socks and underwear on a rack on the porch. It's a humble little scene and always makes me laugh.

Does my rain dance work? I can tell you that since I started hanging the laundry on the line out back we've had more rain than we had total the month before. Last night I had to run home from a baseball game to beat out a storm and get the wash in.

So I guess the answer is yes. And yes is good.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's not the heat, it's the heat

(Another quilt growing in my garden. This is a small wall-hanging, maybe 20" x 20", that I machine-pieced, but hand-quilted.)

My dears, it is hot. Too hot to go to the pool hot. Too hot to sleep even with the AC running full-blast hot. Too hot, period.

It's probably even too hot to blog, but if I don't, then who can I complain to about the heat?

We had a good July 4th weekend. On Saturday we went to a cook-out I'd been maybe just a little bit dreading. Love the couple throwing it, but didn't know whether or not to trust their taste in guests. Well, clearly, we were invited--evidence of excellent taste, yes? But maybe we were an aberration; after all, our friendship is the product of our sons' friendship. Just sheer luck that the grown-ups get along.

Well, get this: the guest list consisted mostly of 60-year-old Puerto Rican transplants from New York City, and you know what that spells? Fun! Oh, yes it was. We had a blast. The hostess's parents just happen to be the original Puerto Rican transplants from New York, and when they moved South, so did all their friends.

Of course, all the men ate together on the porch, and all the women ate together in the dining room. My contribution to the evening was to ask the questions that got the funny stories rolling. I drank Champagne and thought, I really should do this more often.

On Sunday, we went to Danielle's, our annual tradition. Danielle's husband, who shall remain anonymous, is the King of Fireworks, which is why he shall remain anonymous. That the cops didn't show up at the front door this year astounds me. The kids would have loved it, though! My two boys and Danielle's boy and girl--a small group, but up for a good time (including cops and paddywagons, if it came to that)--were a chorus line of hoots and hollers. A good time was had by all.

The heat left us alone until a slow build yesterday and then today the full frontal brunt of it. Will we survive? If you'd asked me two hours ago when I was perched on the bleachers at Will's little league game, I would have had my doubts. Now it's 8:30, and the AC is purring at my feet. I suppose I'll live to see another day.

But the day after that? Honey, it remains to be seen.