Sunday, July 24, 2016

Only the lightbulbs.....

I've just started reading Falling Upward, by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. Just pages in I want to drive to New Mexico and meet him, sit and listen to him, rub up against his robe to absorb some of his goodness by osmosis - SUCH wonderful words!

Within a chapter I'd already begun destroying our library's copy with my pencil underlinings, so I went to the desk and ordered a copy. This is one of those that needs to live on my bookshelves, and quite possibly my nightstand.

For today:
As Desmond Tutu told me on a recent trip to Cape Town, "We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in!"

A little nugget but stuffed to the brim with enough wisdom and thought-provoking goodness to keep one busy for days.

Happy weekend, everyone.

P.S. I actually not only ordered me one, I sent one to a friend. This is that kind of book. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Housewarming Gift to Leave Behind

I'm not sure if most people still do this, but I've always loved the tradition of a housewarming. Getting or giving. Back in the day, people used to bring gifts to welcome others to the neighborhood; sometimes people even threw their own 'housewarming' parties, opening the doors to their friends, or new neighbors.

There's something so nice about someone bringing a gift, to 'warm' your new home, whether it's baked goods, or a doo-dad.

I don't know exactly when we started the tradition, but when we move out of a house, we leave behind a house warming gift for the people who bought our house.

Here's what we leave for those who are moving in:

We usually leave them a list of the neighbors on each side, a map of the town, and what I call a special plate for their new home. Sometimes when I really have my act together, I have a loaf of banana bread in the freezer that I can put on the plate. Before we load the fridge onto the moving van, that is.

You can find it on Amazon for about $35.00. Every family in our immediate family tree has a version of this, and we all use it for good days, terrible days, birthdays, and anything in between. I think it's the perfect 'welcome to your new home that used to be our home' gift. About the cost of dinner at Applebee's for two, but lasts much longer. I believe I bought ours at a Hallmark store, if you have one of those near you. Some of them come with a pen you can write on the back, to note the special occasion when you used it. 

A new favorite we have for giving to family members who move is this:

It runs a bit more, around $100, but it's so nice to have! Especially if you have multiple family members coming and going, and don't want to give pre-teen and full-teens a key they will likely misplace. It's also a nice way to lock the door behind you, when you're leaving. Generally you can set them with many different combinations, so they're nice for pet sitting, or to give a worker access for a day. We found that setting the combo for a person's birthday ensured that they didn't forget the code, and we didn't come home to unfed cats or unwatered plants. 

Then, this is always, always perfect; you can print a certificate out online, and mail it in a card, and can be used for all sorts of things. When we received this as a gift, we bought a Droll Yankee bird feeder, and it's lasted for years. We recently sent this to a friend who'd just moved, and their new home had a pool. They used it to stock up on pool towels, which you never have enough of. 

I heard, years ago, of a friend deciding set gifts for set occasions. For high school graduations, she gave a certain book. For wedding or baby showers, she had specific gifts she gave. I was so struck by the genius of this - how simple it would be to keep things on hand and be ready, rather than trying to recreate the wheel every time you got an invite. So I expanded it to house warmings. 

Which brings me to this: we're out of the option period - inspection went wonderfully, the roof is in great shape (worth gold in Texas with its hail and sun), and we're officially 'pending'. 

Ordering this plate for the family who'll be moving in here in approximately 35 days. But who's counting?! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Doing the Next Thing While We Wait

We're nearing the end of our option period for selling our house. Feeling terribly blessed because the first people who looked at it made an offer, and we only showed it a handful more times before the contract was signed. The housing market in DFW is very busy right now, with more demand than houses, and low interest rates, so they're going quick. We've had four go under contract in our neighborhood in the past three weeks, and none took longer than two weeks to get a buyer.

The option period - to my way of thinking - is that time when people who have fallen in love with your house meet with people who tell them every single thing wrong with it. And you, the seller, get to wait and see if they are still in love with it after it's all over. Sort of like getting asked to prom, then the last person you dated meets with them to tell them all your bad points, which includes the fact that you can't dance to save your life, and you're waiting to see if they are still going to show up at the door with a wrist corsage.

Not for the faint of heart.

So I took Elizabeth Elliott's advice for what to do when you're going through anything difficult (sounds blasphemous since she was dealing with her husband being murdered by uncivilized natives and I'm just waiting for a house to sell.) (I happen to think Elizabeth was practical enough she'd approve.) Anyway, she said, when wondering what to do with oneself, 'do the next thing' and that's always been good advice. For waiting for the women in our family to make it through transition and give birth; for news to finalize about jobs or medical tests, or so many things in life. Just stay busy - the time will pass faster, or at least feel like it did. Which is why I knit on every single road trip we take. Dishcloths, scarves, socks, it doesn't matter what - just keep your hands busy and the miles will peel by. Everyone should learn to knit when they are about 7 I think, as there are so many times in life when one would benefit from busy hands.

The house is so clean there is nothing to clean, which is definitely not our normal. I also can't make much of a mess. It has to be the kind of mess I can clean up in 10 minutes or less if someone calls and wants to come look at something.

So I cut out a summer dress. I've sewn forever, but when you don't sew much for years, you get rusty. I reacquainted myself with facings and setting in sleeves, gathering waists, putting in buttonholes, and all in all I'm pleased.

I think this will be cute with some gold strappy sandals and some kind of necklace. I'm not a big jewelry person, but I think there's something in my closet that will be just the right thing. Cub Sweetheart may be needing to think of somewhere to take me to wear this. I'm thinking this would be cute with white canvas tennis shoes and no jewelry too,  just to wear around the house. I'd cut the next one out a little less full, but overall I'm pleased. My daughter gave me the valuable tip, years ago, that wearing dresses and skirts is a lot cooler in Texas than any kind of shorts out there. She's right, so I've cut out another, a different pattern. You can't have too many cotton dresses when you've got another solid month of 100 degree days ahead of you.

We also checked out seasons four and five of Call the Midwife from the library, and God bless CS - all that groaning of childbirth and he hangs in there! Tuesdays and Wednesdays we are watching America's Got Talent, except for the acts where people put drills up their noses - I use that time to clean the kitchen, or go switch the laundry. Just not my cup of tea. CS stays in the room for those acts, generally remarking, 'did you see that? That was amazing!' which somehow summarizes the difference between males and females. Oddly enough, this year Simon Cowell is actually nice. I keep waiting for him to turn into a grouchy curmudgeon but so far so good. Maybe being a father has changed him?

I've also been cooking more, now that the house can actually smell like we live in it. I've followed Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer for years and she had a great recipe for homemade sloppy joes, (they had a chopped up fennel bulb in them, the first I've ever bought!), peach salad and a salad with green beans and feta cheese - all of which got rave reviews from CS. I'll never buy manwich again - her recipe was soooo good!

Reading has been a good past time too - I just finished Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, recommended by Susan Branch on her blog. It took a bit to get into, the middle was fun, and then I was disappointed by the ending. Maybe it was just me. Susan recommends everything Pym has written, so I'll likely try another of  hers. Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer said she was reading a book called Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr and I found that at our library, so that's what I started last night. It's about the second half of life (not based on years of living) and how our failures make way for growth in our lives. I may have to buy my own copy, as the urge to underline is mighty with this one. (Expect quotes in the near future.)

We're in the pool every single day while we still own it; in spite of temperatures hovering around boiling, about 4:30 in the afternoon the 17 year old live oak in the back yard shades the entire pool and makes for a perfect time of floating around on noodles then sitting poolside with something pretty to drink and something crunchy to nibble on.

So that's what we're up to while we're waiting. We know this is a bit of a nail-biting time but as soon as the realtor calls and tells us it's all a go, it'll be busy with no looking back. No floating around on noodles in the back yard, no sewing summer dresses, no watching TV, and likely very little cooking.

Then we'll just keep on doing the next thing, one box at a time. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

BFG - a truly beautiful movie

From when we first saw the previews, we'd planned to take our two Texas Littles to see this movie, but their parents got to it first.

Oh bother, that meant we'd have to walk in by ourselves, childless. Running late, we barely made it to our seats before the movie started, so the house lights were already down when we walked in. I'm not sure if there were any other senior discounters in there or not.

From the minute the movie started, I was completely transfixed. It was one of those movies that I held my breath the entire time, just for the beauty of the lines, the story, the filming - everything about it was sooooo wonderful. I tend to be sappy, but this movie brought tears to my eyes just because it was such a rarity in today's children's movies.

We took our Littles to see Secret Life of Pets last week, and we had a rollicking good time with them. Secret Life of Pets was cute, clever, funny but also had some stuff in it I wasn't crazy about. But it could not hold a candle to this beautiful movie. They are not even in the same league. One was a children's movie, typical of what is turned out, and hyped up for months ahead, on a regular basis. One was a treasure.

It was one of those rare movies that you could take someone from about 5 up to 99 to, and they'd have a wonderful time. Younger than 5, it might be too scary, and even at 5 they might want to snuggle in (the big giants are BIG!) It was entertaining, heart warming, funny, and made me want to run home and get a copy of the book.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I'll be asking Santa to bring me a copy of it, so I can watch it again. And again. And again. Go see it as fast as you can, whether you can find any little people to take with you or not.

This one didn't even need popcorn. That's saying something. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Nature of Happiness

As I watched the early light I got to thinking about the nature of happiness; perhaps it takes a whole lifetime to become aware of it. We have it like a hidden pearl, or we have it not. It is something within ourselves. It is a quality of personality, and therefore no one human being can give it to another. We may surround our lover, husband, wife, friend with everything we can do for them, but in the end each man makes his own  happiness in the adjustment of his personality to living. 
This is the reason the happy people you know are often those who seem to have least. They are the mature people, who accept life and its limitations and still respond with a quality of joy to it.
I reflect further,  if we cannot give it to people, does that mean that we should not do things for others? Certainly not. We should live every day so as to give the most to those around us. The best of life is the sharing of ourselves, the giving. 

Book of Stillmeadow, July 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Learning to Share Space

I've got a dear, dear friend who has been my mentor for years. She didn't technically sign up for the job, but as a dumb young wife and mother I was desperate for help. I clung to her like a kid hanging onto her mama's lower legs. She was a great choice because

#1 she was about twenty years ahead of me in life, and wiser, having already experienced whatever I was going through (I don't think she was EVER dumb...)

#2 she'd raised three full-spirited boys so I knew she was made of tough stuff

#3 our lives were very similar so what worked for her would work for me too

 #4 she was practical, frugal, and loved feathering her nest

#5 her husband was the love of her life and I knew she'd steer me right in that area (the number one way I judge a possible friendship is how a woman talks about and to her husband. Call me old fashioned, but a happily married, respectful wife will make a happy, respectful friend.)

She taught me to hang wallpaper, to give myself and Cub Sweetheart an allowance, she gave me recipes, she gave me advice, she taught me what battenburg lace was and to protect your dining room table from hot or damp dishes, she stood in as a grandparent when our kids needed someone there for Brownie or Cub  Scout days. She was the perfect mother, mother-in-law and grandmother all rolled into one, filling in the gaps in my life caused by distance of miles or otherwise.

I've since stopped putting up wallpaper, but even retired we each get an allowance that, actually, hasn't increased that much over the years. I still cook her sausage stew and bake her cookies made from a cake mix. She taught me so much, in so many ways and I'm more than grateful for every one of those lessons. I needed them all desperately.

I still remember her talking to me, on a visit, as we were getting ready to retire, about what it would be like for CS and me to be together 24/7, after 34 years of not so much. For as long as we'd been married, he'd either worked shifts or left the house by 6:30 six days a week, carrying his lunch and a goodbye kiss with him.

We'd planned for retirement a good number of years; but much like bringing home that first baby, or saying goodbye to a loved one long in years, you're never quite ready. One decision we made was to start over completely. To move away from where we were, leave all our friends and family behind, and start over together, just the two of us. We thought that would make for a smoother transition than him all of a sudden being home, trying to fit into my life that had been full of housekeeping, Bible study, lunches with girlfriends, etc. His had been full of work and he was going to leave that behind. I didn't want him trying to fit into MY life or MY kitchen- I wanted us to have a life together.

So we sold the house, lived in a two bedroom condo for 9 months before he finally had his last day at work. We laughed, we cried, we said goodbye to everyone, and off we drove,  headed south 1200 miles to a house on a lake, in the middle of nowhere. Most of the people who lived around us were weekenders so it was pretty much scorpions, snakes, fire ants and the two of us. We didn't know a soul within an hour of us. We had two married kids in the DFW metroplex, but they were all busy raising kids, holding down jobs, etc. so most of our time we had just each other to look at. When we wanted to go to dinner, we drove 45 minutes to eat catfish at the gas station, on the other side of the lake.

The transition wasn't easy. We argued more those first two years of retirement than we had in the 30 before, over big things like who was going to set the sprinkler system program.

We didn't argue over relatives, money or sex which are supposedly the three hottest buttons couples push with each other (although he might have made a comment about expecting that homemade breakfast and hanky panky would occur more often as a normal part of retirement and he found himself wondering about both. I may have responded that I found myself wondering why on earth he thought such a thing?) *

Him being retired, us being together all the time, was an awkward dance for longer than either of us expected. I sat, feeling sorry for myself, in the bathtub a few times, and he likely muttered some colorful words under his breath as he rode on that John Deere, up and down the lawn - the only break he could get from relentlessly present me. That may explain why he mowed at least twice a week...

Our lake house had a little screened in porch on the back side of it. There we began having what we called 'wine-thirty' most evenings; it was more than instrumental in putting us back together, as a new, better version. We talked and talked and talked through the issues, as we came up with different ways to do things. We figured out how to carve space for each other, to be sure we were taking time to play, to be honest about hurt feelings, concerns, feeling lonely and a bit lost in this new venture. The more we talked, the more we grew together into a better, new version of us.

Six plus years into this season of life, I can't even imagine him getting up and leaving in the morning. I would miss him so! We enjoy being together, but we also allow each other space. I get up an hour before he does, and when he gets up he reads the paper for an hour while I try not to talk to him; (*he makes his own breakfast most mornings and once in awhile we go out for omelets. As to the other expectation, some things are best held close to one's chest.) I generally go to bed an hour before he does; he works out three days a week, spends time caring for the yard and pool, grocery shops weekly for us, and volunteers. I don't do any of those things - rather I do yoga upstairs and walk the dog. I sew in a room just for me, I soak in the tub every single night for an hour with a book, and about once a week I leave for a block of time to go to the library, Target, etc. so he can be in the house without me underfoot.

We also have a date day at least one a week - usually a matinee with senior discount, a big tub of popcorn and a shared coke. Lunch out weekly, and occasional drives here and there to get out of suburbia a bit. We remind ourselves we both worked long and hard to get to this stage of life, and it's supposed to be fun! Together! We didn't retire to be productive all the time, so we're not.

As usual, there was wisdom in my friend's words - we were up for big changes, and learning to adjust to them would be a process we'd  have to wade through together. I've got several friends who joke that their husbands will never completely retire. I expect there's some hopefulness in that statement, but the truth is, they will. Life consists of seasons, and each takes some adjusting to on everybody's part. Much like our first stage - the one full of crying babies up in the night, diapers, and then the one with sassy teenagers full of angst, and then the nest emptying out, retirement is just another one. They all took some getting used to. I would never, ever want CS to feel like he was intruding into my time, my space, my life by finally retiring after supporting our family for over three decades. Rather I hope he feels like our home is made better by him being in it with me, 24/7 with a little space for each of us here and there.

We're in the season of life where there is only one stage left ahead for us - when one of us leaves the other behind. Realizing that makes it a lot easier to not get my panties in a wad when I feel like he's intruding into 'my space', or he feels like he could benefit from an acre of grass and a riding mower. We're blessed to still be bumping into each other, working through it all, and waiting in the dark for the other one to pull their hand out of the popcorn tub. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My kitchen drop down cookbook holder

This is my kitchen, in the middle of making peach cobbler. And that is my drop down cookbook holder :-)
I did a little post on Instagram of my peach cobbler making, and managed to get a new recipe for peach / blueberry cobbler from Cooking Light (thanks, Deb!). What generated the most response was that several women were very interested in my drop down cookbook holder, so I thought I'd do some digging.

I'm pretty sure it can be purchased through Lowes or Home Depot, in their kitchen cabinet department, but it can also be bought at Amazon. Here are a couple of types:

It might help to call it what they do - an 'undercabinet mounted cookbook holder.

THIS ONE is similar to mine, although mine doesn't have the splatter guard. That would be nice. it runs $79.95.

THIS ONE is a bit more modern looking than mine - it's acrylic which might be just your thing - but very similar in function. It runs $90.94. Both are available with free shipping on Amazon Prime.

I am not a terribly detailed person, and often don't notice the obvious, even when it's in front of my nose. (literally.)  I didn't know my cookbook holder was there for a bit after we moved into this house. It's really nice, though, especially when you're whipping up something that's a bit messy or splattery. It raises the cookbook up above the level of stuff flying out of the mixer.

My brother, Derrell is really handy, and his wife, Stacey is thinking he can make something like this himself, and I'm betting he can. It's not much more than a nice board and some hingey things. It drops down to eye level, but folds up to almost completely out of sight when I'm not using it.

If you happen to be handy, or have a handy person living with you,  you might even go to Lowes or Home Depot and check theirs out, and see if you could replicate it. I'm convinced it would be very inexpensive to put together yourself (I use that term - yourself - lightly; I can't put together anything! But Cub Sweetheart is handy dandy and could. Perhaps you are so blessed too?)

And it looks darned pretty when it's displayed with my prettier cookbooks; right now I'm staging mine with Susan Branch's cookbook, Summer.

In our Texas home we have built in undercabinet lighting, which makes it much easier to see my cookbook here. In Idaho we didn't have that option built in, but CS went to Lowes, and for about $20 he added a strip under the cabinet where I usually cook. It's also a pretty look for evening entertaining - a nice spot to set out dessert and coffee or wine.