Wednesday, August 31, 2011


There is a plant in my yard that is technically a weed. It's even called a weed. Joe Pye Weed. I've seen it grow by roadsides, a neglected fend for yourself kind of plant. It grows taller than I am. Somehow a few years ago one found a home in my hostas. And now I have lots of them in the hostas and raised bed nearby. I wouldn't pull them as weeds for love nor money. This is monarch butterfly time. They're gorging on anything purple.

They love Joe Pye weed. When I come home and close the garage door they are all a flutter around me as I make my way to the house. There must be well over fifty of them sharing these flower heads with the bees. It's amazing. When I was trying to even attempt to capture this they were surrounding me and I could actually hear them flutter around my head. What is more delicate than a butterfly???? Yet I could hear them as they moved around me.

Amazing. I wish you could sit in this window or on the porch and see this.
I'm also sending this along to Snappyfriends. Photographer's choice. These little beauties were hard to capture...they keep moving! But oh, so beautiful! The plants are completely full of them.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Should auld acquaintance be forgot...

Forty-six years ago I was 14 years old and graduating from 8th grade. Last night we had a reunion of our eighth grade class. We had such a good time! (Bless those name tags!!)

We had a hard time with the guys. I mean, look at them! They were young boys and last night they had beards, and bellies some were bald! We carried this picture around with us all night comparing each other to this picture and saying things like, "OH, yeah!! There you are! (somewhere in there)" I was visiting with some people at a table and suddenly three guys were standing around me and one said, "Denice! You used to be blonde!" Yes, indeed. I didn't tell them what THEY used to be! We laughed and remembered and shared for almost 5 hours. Realizing just how old we really are, we shared email addresses and promised to meet again in 5 years. A very special night.

It was interesting. Instead of asking each other the usual reunion questions - how many kids do you have, where do you work, where do you live - we asked each other how many grandchildren we have and if we were retired yet!

Me? I'm in the top row, fourth from screen left.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

summer is over...

poet e.e. cummings said...."for all, yes for all sweet things are until..."

The girls were here for their last summer overnight visit and we tried to pack everything into two days. We almost made it. The beach, the swings, ice cream, string art, a brand new discovery that we actually fit through the sun roof on the car, the doll house is the first and last thing played with, stories on laps, popsicles, we flew kites, had a bubble bath, went to St. Joe for a carousel ride, lunch with Grandpa, and bought some books.

Over this summer we also picked strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and peaches. We climbed ladders on playgrounds and trees. Stayed up very late for fireworks, and built castles with sand and legos and tablecloths. We pretended we were dragons and snakes and babies. We learned so many new words we can say anything we want. We grew inches. We sang songs. We cuddled under blankets and watched Toy Story 3 too many times to count.

As they drove away they were crying and as I walked into this big empty house, I did, too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Day 2

OK, after cooking the tomatoes down to soften them yesterday, I put them in the fridge in LARGE containers till today....
First, I run them through the food mill to separate the seeds and skins from juice. What a mess.

Then, adding the spices, vinegar, and other ingredients, this pan was filled to the absolute brim, and it spends a long time cooking down to gloop thickness. You know gloop thickness. When the boiling reaches the point of splashes all over the stove top, counter, arms, etc. Gloop.

This was my invented step. I line a colander with cheesecloth and let it if you were making yogurt and wanted to drain the excess moisture out to create Greek yogurt.

Look at that steam. I told Friend Marilyn today that if I was in the house it would have peeled the wallpaper off the walls. Today I was so grateful for my "little kitchen" in a tacked on room in the garage. (Do you see how full that oblong pan is? How much it cooked down?)

I kept very close track of everything so I could tell our cousin how this whole thing worked out. I worked from 9 this morning till 5 this afternoon cooking down 6 gallons of juiced tomato. It is a true labor of love when a half bushel of tomatoes cooks down to 7 pints of ketchup. Yes, you can buy ketchup for a whole lot less....a whole lot less. But it won't taste like Aunt Marcella's.

When I finished I also have that wonderful tasting liquid that dripped out when I strained in the cheesecloth. I don't know what to do with it, but it's just too tasty to waste. It has to be good for something. I think I'll break it down into small containers and freeze it for winter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's been a busy week in Lake Woebegon

We returned to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens last Friday evening to see Garrison Keillor's summer travelling show again this year.
And I have to say Patient Husband and I were disappointed in the show this year. For some reason Mr. Keillor kept his back to the audience most of the show. I emphasize MOST. There was no energy, excitement - on his part - and there were fewer skits, mostly songs that he sang with his back turned to us. The only time we really saw his face was during his monologue about Lake Woebegon at the end of the show, and while he toured the audience during what he calls "standing intermission." He travels the audience singing sing-along songs and everyone loves this part.

The show wasn't a total disappointment......

especially for Friend Marilyn who had an opportunity thanks to our seating, to step close and have her picture taken with Mr. Keillor! This was the highlight of the evening for us. He was gracious as people stepped into the grass aisle to take photos, he stopped to autograph one of his children's books for a little girl (and received applause when he finished - in thanks for his kindness to her.)

I'm now in the midst of making ketchup. I haven't done much research on ketchup recipes to know how old ours might be, but it comes from Patient Husband's aunt, who died at 95 about 10 years ago. The extended family swears by it. PH's cousin won't eat a certain sausage without it. My son uses it as a base for barbecue sauce. But it's not a simple thing to do. It's messy business and time consuming.

I cut a bushel and a half of tomatoes into chunks

and cooked them down.

I cooked down and then ground in a blender a mixture of onions and sweet peppers.

Now I send the tomatoes through a food mill to get the seeds and skins out, measure the liquid into gallons and mix the onion/pepper mix, spices and rest of ingredients together to cook down.

Then process in jars.

It's a two and maybe three day labor of love. But it needs to be done, there are cousins and children waiting at the door with their hands out.

As I procrastinate on making stems for the main quilt project I'm supposed to be working on, I'm making yo-yo pins. This isn't my 409 yo-yo project, this is a byproduct of that.

I have a gazillion old buttons and it was fun sitting with the most colorful and quirky ones in a bowl in my lap while I sewed them on with a pin on the back for attaching.

They're cute, aren't they? My button sewing skills are poor, especially as I wrestled with the pins, too, but I hope the recipients just don't look at the backs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

lions and tigers and bears

It's a tradition. No child visits the zoo without sitting on John Ball's lap. Well, he's a lot bigger than Santa Claus, and to an almost two year old, very scary looking. Not only would Adelaide not sit on his lap, she didn't much like sharing his bench and wouldn't even look at the statue. Elizabeth followed Adelaide's lead and so they sat on the bench. But we adults insisted on a picture because, after all, no child visits the zoo without a picture with John Ball.

We saw lots of interesting creatures. We pet sting rays. In the tank were some nurse sharks. I asked the attendant if these sharks eat small children. She assured me they didn't and that I could pet one. So, way back of this picture you can see the sharks. I walked over and pet the tail of one then called to Elizabeth, " Elizabeth! I just petted the shark!" She had a look of horror, "No, Grandma! You have to stay away from sharks!!"

We saw the Grizzly bears.

We fed the parakeets.

We made friends with the penguins. This one stayed right with the girls.

And I'm going to work on cutting out more leaves and petals. I don't know what my count is for petals, but I'm up to 89 of 332 leaves. Off I go.....

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Our little dollycake is now one year old!
She's learning how to walk, she's into everything, she smiles most of the time and she's precious.

We've had a busy, busy summer and sometimes it's good to just sit on the porch and create.

And sometimes you just have to give in to the nap.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


What do you do when you wake up in the morning to find you have no water? Nothing happens when the faucets are turned on. Hmm.....Patient Husband isn't so patient anymore. It's not the circuit breaker, it's not the furnace, it has to be the well. Hmm...we have power so we have lights and refrigerator and stove and ceiling fans and we can 'flush' but we get only one. the well people. Call the furnace people (we have a geothermal furnace that uses the groundwater to heat and cool.) Hmmm.....find a defizzled bottle of club soda in the fridge and brush teeth with that. Works well for washing the face, too. Use the water from the dehumidifier to refill the tank on the toilet. Coffee was assembled last night so Patient Husband can settle down a bit. Furnace people call back. It's the well, he says, but he'll come tomorrow to make sure the 'fix' didn't hurt the furnace, which depends on the well. The well people call back, they're on their way. They (and we) hope they don't have to replace the pump which is 150 feet below ground inside the well. They (and we) hope it's a fuse. I'm going to leave this 'experience' and go to my little job in the shop.
Don't we take our amenities for granted though?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Favorite places

I read something today about favorite places to read and it got me wondering what your favorite place to read is like.
If it's daylight and not snowing I love the back porch. It isn't a fancy back porch, just a couple of places to sit and a table and chairs. Not decorated. Just a screened in back porch but it's my favorite non-snowing place to be. I have one special chair. I have birdsong. I have an iced tea (unsweetened decaf), maybe a few cookies.
Lately I've gotten comfortable on the front porch. That's for evening when the world starts to settle down and the sun starts to set. My lavender garden is out front and it's a bit of a distraction when I'm reading to keep my eyes on the page instead of the bees.
My special treat when I don't have to be up in the morning is to read late into the night...past midnight or 1 a.m. and for that I choose Patient Husband's chair, a pillow on the lap and lately, Lisa's cat at my feet (she's visiting for a couple of weeks.)
When I go away I take the Kindle, especially if I'm going to find myself eating alone. You don't have to prop the Kindle open with salt and pepper shakers or your key fob or wallet or tray or elbows.
So, I guess I have lots of places to read and the pattern seems to be, now that I look at it, sitting upright, not laying down. When I was younger reading in bed was the only way to go but I got so conditioned to falling asleep while reading that for a long, long time I couldn't read at all ANYWHERE without falling asleep. So I had to change that habit. Sit upright, have an iced tea nearby, a couple of cookies to keep awake, and peace and quiet.
That pile up there looks big and it is, and it's only part of the "waiting to be read" pile. I'm a slow reader and easily distracted and have other things to do.
So, where is your favorite place to read?