Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Embracing the Fall

I love bedding and catalogs that feature sheets, quilts, comforters and duvets will always have my attention.  I switch things out seasonally and I’m always looking for a new way to mix up the bedding that feathers my nest.  Around here, the air conditioner has been shut off for over two weeks and that’s my sign to put away the summer quilt on my bed.  The cozy fall quilt is now set out and given the cool nights of late, it seems safe to assume that our beds will soon need blankets to go with the quilts.

Alright Fall, I’m ready.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Let the Post-Season Begin

As the end of the MLB regular season approached, the St. Louis Cardinals, JT’s team of choice, were neck-in-neck with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the race to command the National League Central.  On Saturday afternoon, a lovely cardinal bird landed in my back yard.  It seemed like a good omen to me and by the end of the next day, the Cardinals did in fact win the division.  Playoff baseball begins this week.  We’re ready.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Lovely Dahlia

Most years, I have truckloads of zinnia flowers and zinnia bouquets to admire.  But this summer’s zinnias haven’t been all that impressive.  I’m already making plans for a better crop next year.  In the meantime, the dahlia bulbs have yielded an impressive set of blooms.  These yellow flowers come from a bulb named “floodlight.”

It’s rather fitting, I think.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Late September’s Chronic Condition

In the event that you are a teacher or know a teacher, you are aware that right around week three of school, overwhelming exhaustion sets in.  In my case, that’s followed by the horrifying thought that something is desperately wrong and that soon I will be diagnosed with an incurable disease.  Then I sleep for 12 hours and realize “oh, yeah, it’s week three.”

Right on time, I experienced that revelation this week.  I’m fighting off my first cold of the school year.  Last night, I slept for 11 hours and this morning I feel like a new woman, albeit one who can probably sleep another 11 hours tonight.  I’ll spend the next few weeks finishing out the process of getting my teacher’s sea legs and by mid-October I should be in good shape.  By then, I’ll have piles of assignments to grade and plenty of fall leaves to admire.  And I’ll realize anew why I love what I do for a living.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Your Weekly Dogwood: September 24

When the sun begins to rise and morning light fills the sky, I see the dogwood tree from my pantry window.  In the last week, the leaves are turning red even quicker.  Just in time for the calendar’s switch to fall, the tree has fully embraced seasonal change.

I enjoy the change of season and typically I don’t mind the cold that winter brings.  But given last year’s long and cold winter, I am looking forward to the upcoming winter with a good bit of trepidation. When I remind myself that snow also means good cause for a cozy sweater or two, I feel better about things.  The fact that my snow blower is getting a seasonal tuneup also helps to improve my attitude.

In the meantime, the dogwood is prepared to celebrate fall in the only way its know how to do so.  That’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Final Grill

This week, fall officially arrives.  Cool mornings and evenings seem here to stay.  So last night, we fired up the grill for what will likely be the last cookout of the season.  

There are still some tomatoes on the vines in the garden and I’ve got my eye on a cantaloupe that might could beat the frost.  There is plenty of basil yet to be snipped onto pasta and brushetta.  I’ll pick some more dahlia and zinnia bouquets before the blooms are gone.  But the days are markedly shorter and the sun sets awfully early.  The lawn has finally tired of its growing season and my most recent mow featured plenty of leaves being mulched up.  It’s time to face the fact that this summer is really over.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Before and After

I acquired my dining room chairs from an auction in 1997.  They were bargain-priced and have served us well but over the years, but were never especially comfortable.  Over the years, a few have also grown rather rickety and though T was willing to give a hand toward fixing that, it seemed a rather large chore for chairs that had never really been comfortable.  I few weekends back, we stopped in to a local unfinished furniture store and spotted some lovely replacements; chairs that were sturdy, looked great, and were comfortable.  The investment seems well worth it and we decided to try our hand at staining furniture.  

Rather than start with the chairs, we opted for a small plant stand with plenty of detail work. It started life as a plain wooden item.

We choose a MinWax stain with polyurethane built-in and set to work on Labor Day weekend.  

An hour later, the stand was ready to dry and we were sold on the idea of finishing the chairs ourselves.

We are confident that we can stain the chairs and so now new chairs are in order.  A staining weekend or two is planned for later this fall.  By Halloween, we hope to be sitting in sturdy comfort.  That’s happy!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Your Weekly Dogwood: September 17

This week has brought some very cool nights.  Even the warm-blooded Sassafras Family has been forced to pull the windows closed when the temperatures dip to the 40s, as it did on Monday night.  Everywhere I look, the local trees are starting the process of change that signals the arrival of fall.  

It’s a hard summer to let go, but as Mother Nature and her dogwood tree remind me: I’m not in charge.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Real Life Conversations with JT: Relationship Skills edition

The backstory:  JT and I were at the mall to pick something up and we saw a man with a Sephora bag in his hand, headed for his car.

Me:  A dude with a Sephora bag.  You know what that means, don’t you?

JT:  It means he’s not in trouble anymore.

Ladies of the Internet, this boy has been raised right.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Go, Ikea

Apple Computer has nothing on the folks at Ikea.  I admire this Ikea prank.  It's a book book!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Did Not Yell

Though I did think about it when I found out that BOTH retainers needed replacing, to the tune of $520.  The break was an accidental affect of frosh camp, which was apparently otherwise enjoyable. Ouch.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Your Weekly Dogwood...Week 2

Just like that, the double digit days of September have arrived.  Around here, it came with some cool nights; the sort that will mean even more leaves start the process of getting some fall color.  My dogwood is leading the pack.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Room of Our Own

Administrators at my school all teach and last year I taught 6th grade History while also serving as the Middle School Assistant Principal.  I have a lovely office but I taught the 6th grade in 3 different classrooms, none of them my own.  I got to be pretty good at getting the right supplies to the right place, but I missed having my things in just one classroom.   And I also missed the intangibles of one classroom —— the way a space becomes our own and contributes to the quality of the learning.  It’s not that the spaces I borrowed weren’t nice and functional; they were.  But a space of our own is much, much better.  This year, the stars aligned and I have a classroom where all of my 7th grade classes can meet.

The room is right next door to my office, which makes it easy for me to be in two places at once, a requirement of the Assistant Principal who also teaches three classes job that I hold (and love!).  Once I knew this room would be primarily mine, I immediately set to work getting it ready for the 7th graders.  There are new tables and chairs to seat the students.  Windows facing the northwest let in a lot of natural light.  To complement the freshly painted walls and provide some visual interest, among the Apple TV screen and white board,  I hung a poster acquired from the National Women’s History Museum.  On the bulletin board, I hung an assortment of historical photos that I made over the summer.

A picture from a former student and my patriotic pennant add some more interest without being a distraction.

Now we are in business with a great space for learning, thinking, and laughing.  Bring it on, 7th grade!

Monday, September 08, 2014

First Day of School

I’m still working to get my mind around the fact that I have a 9th grader in my house.  He’s been to frosh orientation; he went to camp; he’s running cross country practice every day; he’s gotten his school supplies, books and iPad in order.  His locker is full and awaiting the creation of a mess.  There is no back-to-school chore left to complete.  So today he actually heads to class, ready for all that the day may bring.

As we piled into the car, I realized that this is the last big education tradition that I will drive him too.  The next time he starts a new level of school it will be at college and it might very well be far from home.  Of course, there is plenty of water to get under the bridge before then but, holy cow, where did the years go?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Mercies Received

Since I learned to read on my own, the characters in my favorite books have provided a companionship like no other.  These folks become familiar friends, people whose stories entertain and amuse me, provide company and, just as often, comfort when I need it.  The connections I’ve felt to these characters are powerful because they reveal the universality of the human experience.  

A few weeks ago, I picked up Miss Read’s Thrush Green series to re-read a few of the novels.  I’ve a soft spot for Miss Read’s sense of humor and continued amusement at the foibles of humanity.  Both the Fairacre and Thrush Green series are among my most favorite books of all time and it’s really because they gently spoke to me when I needed it most.

I first read Thrush Green in the summer of 2006, the same year that I became a single parent.  In the first weeks after that breakup, it seemed that evidence of it was everywhere.  As I struggled to re-build my life with a 6 year-old JT, it seemed that reminders of my old existence could not be escaped.  It was painful in a way that sometimes felt unbearable.  Sleep and familiar books, two of my favorite refuges, were no longer the comforts that they had always been.  Between insomnia and the reality that some of my favorite books reminded me of a life that was now shattered, I felt adrift.

Then, in August, I picked up Miss Read’s Thrush Green, the first in a series set in a fictional Cotwolds town populated by quirky characters.  I had never read the book before.  The first novel takes place on May 1st as the residents await the arrival of the popular Curdle Fair.  Much of the story is about Ruth, who is looking after her young nephew Paul while nursing her own broken heart.  For obvious reasons, the book spoke to me and was, finally, a distraction from my own sadness.  I was hooked.  Over the course of the next year and half, I read every novel in the Thrush Green series.

In August, I picked up the Thrush Green series again.  This time, I read the books not for comfort but to spent some time with familiar friends.  As I always do, I remembered those days in 2006 when I picked up those stories and found much-needed comfort and companionship.  At the end of the first novel, Mrs. Curdle, the gypsy matriarch of the fair, looks out over town square and notes that she always feels better after a visit to Thrush Green.  I know exactly how she feels.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

September Front Porch

My goal this year was to update my front porch each month and then make and post pictures of the update.  Some months I made this happen.  But other months I moved slowly, either from lack of time or a desire to leave the porch just the way it was.  Sometimes that was the case because I was enjoying the porch or because it was too cold to be sitting out on the porch.  I liked the way that the porch looked in July and so it spent August dressed in the same decor.  

As September begins, I’m not yet ready to give up on my summer plants and flowers, so I’ve made few changes for the month.  I am mostly holding on to the summer with a blue tablecloth and the addition of some wooden tulips in the plants.

My planter of pink impatiens has loved this summer location and cheerfully greets me each time I walk out on the porch.  I’m not ready to say goodbye to it (or the summer, really) so it stays just where it is.

Later this month, fall will arrive no matter how much I try to hold onto summer.  When we get some cool mornings and sweater weather to go with it, I’ll give up the fight and put out some fall decorations.   But not yet!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Food Friday: Grandma's Potato Salad

Many of my most favorite recipes an inheritance of my Grandma Mac, who was one hell of a cook.  That lady could put out a spread with her eyes closed and with nary a cookbook in sight.  I learned quite a few of her go-to recipes and every time I make one, I feel her presence.  Most of her recipes were simple, the only complications involved are ones of time.  Her potato salad recipe is a case in point.  The ingredients must be set up to chill for a night before the salad is made.  It is a basic cast of characters and can be expanded or reduced as needed.  To serve 4-6 people, you need this:

- 4 peeled, boiled potatoes
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
- salt & pepper
- 1 - 2 cups of mayo and a squirt or two of yellow mustard

The potatoes and eggs should be boiled and chilled the night before.  Come the morning you intend to serve the potato salad, mash the chilled potatoes and finely chop the eggs.  Stir together in a large bowl and add in the onion.  In a separate bowl, stir together the mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste.  Don’t skimp on the salt; potatoes usually require more than you expect.

Pour the mayo mixture onto the potato, egg, onion mixture and stir well.  Add more mayo if necessary; the goal is to have a creamy consistency.  Once it’s well-mixed, place the potato salad in the fridge and chill 3-4 hours before serving.

It’s an old-fashioned delicious taste of Grandma’s kitchen.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Wednesday, September 3: Your Weekly Dogwood

It could be my imagination or it could be the fact that things are still rather steamy warm as of this writing, but fall seems like it is coming early to my corner of the world.  The dogwood has already begun to turn red and as September has arrived, it seems fitting to begin to mark the signs of fall's arrival.

Up close, the turning of the leaves is even more distinct.

A few more cold mornings and this tree will be well on its way to a lovely fall display.  As I’m about to head back to school, that seems most fitting.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Big Dahlia Bouquet

My dahlia flowers make for lovely bouquets.  This one will be greeting me all week.  

That’s happy!

Monday, September 01, 2014

September 1: Front Yard Flowerbed

After a mostly mild summer, the last week has brought some heat and humidity.  The pace of life has also picked up in the last few weeks.  Though I’ve found time for my daily walk in the garden, I’ve also gotten a bit behind on the routine maintenance chores that keep the garden neat and tidy.

In the meantime, the dahlia bulbs planted out front have been hard at work with buds and blooms a-plenty.  That means there are several more bouquets in my future.

The side yard has been a perfect place for the dahlias to grow, with enough sunlight and protection from the elements to keep the leafy plants upright and hard-at-bloom.  This is my second season of dahlia-growing success and I am excited to plant even more next year.  That's happy!