No matter how accurate it might be, I have requested that my tombstone not read:
No matter how accurate it might be, I have requested that my tombstone not read:
This morning we had our first fire in the wood stove for this season and it reminded me of this photo that Joe took of Princess Gracie Allen.
This little fellow is General Gilbert LaFayette, who seemed to appear out of nowhere about 3 months ago. I heard Petey barking like crazy out in the yard and when I looked out, there was this little orange and white kitten sitting out in our fenced yard, scared to death. Unfortunately, Petey set the tone for their relationship, because once Lafayette became tame enough for Joe to get him into the house, he now lords it over the dog. He was named Lafayette not because I’m a francophile (I’m not), but because we have a theme running here, which will be obvious in a minute and with that little patch of orange on his face, he looks insouciantly French. All he needs is a little black beret.
On the bed with Gracie, is Benjamin Franklin, aka Benny. Our son found him in the parking garage of his apartment in Houston last year. Benny had been out there almost a week before being adopted by our family (thereby giving his owner a chance to take him inside. Houston is not the safest environment for either cats or personal property.) His fiance was allergic to cats, so he gave Benny to us before they got married.
Thomas Jefferson belongs to our older son, but has been staying with us quite awhile. We went to Watertown, New York to get him before our son was deployed 4 years ago. Tommy handles air travel pretty well. He is a Hemingway (Polydactyl cat) – he has an extra toe on each of his front paws. It looks like he’s always wearing mittens, beautiful white mittens.
Outside we have Baby (a feral cat who was living at the Whataburger in Decatur). He has tamed up a lot, but only comes in the house when it’s really cold weather. Not often in north Texas, but a few times during the winter.
Also outside is a huge, gentle fellow. His name is actually Pumpkin, but we call him Punky. His brother was Pepper, a beautiful brown tabby who started staying away more and more, then just disappeared. I miss him a lot.
Martha Washington died about a year ago. She’s the only one we’ve lost on the road. We live on a dead end country road with a speed limit of 20 m.p.h. Obviously someone was going a lot faster than that. She was very, very beautiful and tiny, never weighing 3 pounds. Martha was also a Hemingway and a distant cousin of Tommy’s. However, she hated him with a passion, which is why our son gave her to us when she was a kitten. She would attack poor Tommy. Poor Tommy weighs about 20 pounds. Friendly to us and tolerant of the other cats, but she would stalk him. In fact, I thought he had a cataract grown over his eye, but the vet said it was damage; and I’ll bet she was the culprit. Even with all that I miss her. Her fur was as soft as eiderdown and she loved us, but had she lived we would have had to keep her outside and away from Thomas. It was like a vendetta.
Looks like he’s giving his opinion of cats, doesn’t it. He is Peter Parker (named by our grandson who is wild about Spiderman.) He suffers the cats, but not always in silence.
My mother made the best vegetable soup in the whole world. Mine is similar and very good, but hers was great. And of course, she didn’t follow a recipe or write it down. Mostly it was just what she had on hand, although she always started with bacon, and since both of our sons don’t eat meat now, I nearly always omit it. But it really is better with the bacon.
I don’t follow a written recipe either, but I will try to give approximations. This is a very flexible and forgiving soup; if I don’t have one ingredient, maybe I have something else that will work. For instance, I like to add about 1/2 c. of barley after it’s boiling to thicken it. If I’m out of barley, then I grate a raw potato. Also, I like a variety of colors, so I put in corn (frozen or canned), or maybe some chopped yellow squash. For something green, it’s green beans, peas or broccoli. When using broccoli, I don’t add it until about the last 1/2 hour or it will turn to mush; very unpleasant. When our youngest son was a teenager and nearly all he ate was meat, surprisingly, this soup was one of his favorite meals. Inexplicably, vegetables that he wouldn’t have touched if served separately, were eaten along with everything else. I even used to sneak in a turnip once in awhile because it looks about like potato in the general mix. So, here goes:
1-2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
herbs and spices (optional)
3 carrots, scraped and chopped
Tomato product: sauce, paste, canned tomatoes
6+ potatoes (I like a lot of them) peeled and chopped
yellow vegetables, chopped if necessary
green vegetables, chopped if necessary
1. Turn burner to medium heat and add olive oil.
2. When oil is hot – but not smoking – onion, celery, & garlic.
3. After vegetables become translucent, add salt and pepper, paprika,
chili powder, & oregano.
4. Add carrots.
5. Pour in about 2 quarts of water and tomato product.
6. Add potatoes, yellow and green vegetables.
7. Bring to a boil and add barley or grated potato.
7. Stir occasionally. It will stick and burn if left completely unattended (especially if you add barley).
8. Set heat on low and cook for about 2 hours.
~This is a very nourishing, thrifty and comforting soup. For a small family, it will make several meals.
~If you want to add bacon, fry it first, then crumble and use the bacon grease to saute the onion, celery and garlic.
~If you use canned tomatoes, the broth will be thinner, of course. Tomato paste will make a thick broth, more stew-like. When I use paste, I cut the vegetables in bigger chunks.
~Leftover spaghetti sauce can even be used for the tomato base. If so adjust the other herbs/spices accordingly.
~Add water while it’s cooking if it looks like it needs it, or you like it thinner.
~Use your own judgment about what leftover vegetables you would like to add. Personally, with the exception of lima beans, I don’t care for beans in vegetable soup but if you do, go ahead and put them in.
~Omit all the herbs and spices if you prefer the flavor of the vegetables alone. Or, if you want to make it more like minestrone, eliminate the chili powder and add basil and beans.
~I’ve never been successful in adding macaroni or rice to this recipe, but if you know just when to add them, try it. Neither one should be put in for the whole cooking time.
~My mother added shredded cabbage, but this is something else I can’t seem to get right. Maybe I’ve tried to use too much. Maybe she just put in about a cup of shred. It was very good in hers.
~Even though our sons are grown and gone from home, I still make a large kettle of this soup. It’s actually better the second day after it’s been refrigerated overnight. And it’s so easy to just re-heat a couple of bowls for lunch on Saturday when we’ve been working out in the yard or come in from church on Sunday.
~On subsequent days, it will look like it needs water added before reheating, but only add a little, if any at all. It becomes more liquid as it heats.
~If reheating on the stovetop instead of a microwave, stir fairly constantly while heating. It sticks and burns easily.
~Cornbread is the best accompaniment, but cheese and crackers are good, too. My husband likes it with hot, buttered toast.
Thinking about my favorite cozy books this week caused me to look around on my shelves and dust off a few of my old friends. Some of my favorite non-fiction books about home and hearth are by Emilie Barnes.
Published in 1996, this slim volume has 7 chapters with topics such as the importance of family heritage, caring for heirlooms, collecting and storage. Emilie writes that she inherited very few material goods from her family, but she is rich in stories and tradition and says that these are some of the most important family heirlooms. The beauty of antique and vintage items are appreciated even if they came from someone else’s family. She has several suggestions on where to look for them, her rules for acquisition (#1 is to only buy what she loves) and what to do with the new treasures, and how to store the things that cannot be left out on display. However, she does encourage daily enjoyment of as many things as possible. And if something becomes a little tarnished from love and usage: “Those signs of aging are evidence of contact with real people and real lives. In place of that flawless, factory-bright finish, your timeless treasure will have the sheen of love and grace and character.
And, like a human being, your treasure will be all the more beautiful for having lived a little.”
She places particular importance on handmade things, whether it was the shelf made by your grandfather, the lopsided clay pot made by your kindergartner or a crocheted doily you bought at an antique mall or thrift shop. The importance of recording the origin, names on old photos and family stories is illustrated by many personal stories sprinkled throughout the book.
One story that particularly spoke to me was by her brother-in-law, Kenneth Barnes:
“All the years that I was growing up, a picture hung in my bedroom. It depicted two small puppies napping on a table and a tiny kitten with its smiling face raised high in between them. The caption read “Suzie.” Many nights I went to sleep looking at Suzie and her companions. The frame was old and hung from a nail by twine that wrapped around two thumbtacks, one mounted in each upper corner of the frame.
When I married and left home, I left “Suzie” behind and never thought to wonder what would happen to her. She was simply part of my childhood life, along with a ship clock with tin sails I had won for selling newspaper subscriptions. After my father died, Mom had a garage sale and part of the departed treasures included “Suzie” and the clock.
Thirty-two years later I was asked to speak at a meeting some four hundred miles from home. I asked my wife, Paula, to join me on the trip, and she agreed to do so under the condition that we spend a few days afterward roaming the territory. (I’m not really much for shopping and sightseeing, but she loves to browse in old shops.)
After the meeting I was driving down a divided road in a rainstorm. Suddenly to my left I saw an antique shop that pulled at me like a magnet, tugging on me to make a U-turn and come back. This I did. As I roamed from table to table looking at all of the discarded treasure, my eye traveled to a picture leaning on a fireplace mantle. The frame was very old. The twine that hung from two corner thumbtacks was dark from years of collecting dust. And there, in the center of the picture between her two sleeping companions, was my old friend Suzie. On the same mantle sat my clock ship with its tin sails.
There was no doubt in my mind of the authenticity of my find! The merchant made a sale, and I then realized the meaning of the phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” In this case, a timeless treasure because all those years in between faded quickly and, for a brief moment, I was that ten-year-old looking at my smiling friend Suzie, which I still cherish to this day.”
There are lots of interesting quotes throughout the book, such as this one by Jane Austen: “Her plants, her books…her writing desk…were all within reach…she could scarcely see an object in that room which had not an interesting remembrance connected with it.” Or this one from Flavia Weedn: “Some of its mane is gone, the paint is chipped, but that’s what makes it so wonderful. Don’t you just know it was well loved!”
The artwork by Sandy Lynam Clough, is romantic and evocative.
Timeless Treasures would make a nice gift for someone you know who loves family and vintage treasures. It makes a nice gift just for yourself, too.
A quick search on the internet showed a lot of copies available, starting at $.01 +shipping.
It’s a lovely book and I highly recommend reading it with a nice cup of tea.
Brenda over at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me is asking her blog readers to submit their favorite books and movies that are in the Cozy category. She defines them as ones that make her feel all warm and cozy in the winter weather. Partly because we live in the south, my definition would be a little different – books and movies that me feel contented. There’s more to it than that, but when I start trying to nail it down, it gets elusive.
For instance, Agatha Christie mysteries are considered cozies, but they almost always involve murder. No gory details or horrible unpleasantness – but murder, none the less. I struggle with my affection for her books. Surely a Christian shouldn’t be so fascinated with sin. If I’m wanting to rationalize, I could say that it’s actually the intricacies of logic and justice that intrigue me.
Cozy books of all types make up a good deal of my reading. I also read a lot of challenging non-fiction: political, Alzheimer’s tales, biographies, but I find that after a few of these books, I need to read something that calms me down a bit. Because, even though I believe those topics to be necessary and important to my life, they can be a bit stressful.
Anyway, here’s some of my list. It isn’t complete because I’m sure that I’ll remember an omitted favorite this afternoon.
I’ve used Brenda’s format, to help me compare my list to hers.
M.C. Beaton -mostly mysteries: Edwardian, Scotland, Cotswolds
Elizabeth Caddell – light mid-20th century novels of England
Agatha Christie – mysteries
Emily Kimbrough – reminiscences of very early and mid-20th century
L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables series
Miss Read – very light and pleasant novels of an English village school
D.E. Stevenson – light English romances
Gladys Taber – journal-like books about living in New England
Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House books
+Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Absolutely any of the Miss Read books
*Mrs. Miniver, Jan Struther (disclaimer: there is a chapter on fortune telling which I skipped. I don’t think witchcraft/occult is harmless fun.)
*The Gown of Glory, Agnes Sligh Turnbull (one of the reader reviews on Amazon compared it to Our Town.)
*The Nightingale, Agnes Sligh Turnbull (same town as The Gown of Glory, different people)
*Half Crown House, Helen Ashton (post WWII England)
*Owl’s Castle Farm, Primrose Cumming (mid-WWII English farm life)
*Now That April’s There, Daisy Neumann (English children returning home from America 1945)
*Fairacre series by Miss Read
*Thrush Green series by Miss Read
*Some of the Mitford books by Jan Karon
*Reminisce Magazine books – collections of short personal stories from very early to mid-20th century
NON-FICTION – HOME ARTS
*A Thousand Ways to Please Your Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes, Louise Bennett Weaver & Helen Cowles LeCron (either 1917 or 1932 edition)
*The Little House Cookbook, Barbara M. Walker
*If Teacups Could Talk, Emilie Barnes
*The Charms of Tea, by Victoria Magazine
*Beautiful Home on a Budget, Emilie Barnes & Yoli Brogger
*Timeless Treasures, Emilie Barnes
*Sew Pretty Homestyle, Tone Finnanger
*Crafting Vintage Style, Christina Strutt
*Creating Vintage Style, Lucinda Ganderton
BIOGRAPHIES & AUTOBIOGRAPHIES
*Farewell, Horton Foote
*In My Father’s House: the Years Before the Hiding Place, Corie ten Boom
*Agatha Christie: an Autobiography, Agatha Christie
*A Fortunate Grandchild, Miss Read
*Time Remembered, Miss Read
*20th Century Fashion, John Peacock
*Fashion Accessories, John Peacock
*The Costume Collector’s Companion 1890-1990, Rosemary Hawthorne Air
This chapter has been one of my favorite Bible passages since I was a girl. I Kings 17 is my favorite story chapter (Elijah hiding by the brook and God commanded the ravens to take him food), Luke 2 is sheer poetry to me (the story of Jesus’ birth); the whole book of James is my favorite book because of its clarity and simplicity, which is why I love Romans 12. Paul’s instructions are not esoteric or difficult to understand. The meaning doesn’t have to be explained by a seminarian. It’s open and clear.
(At the end of chapter 11, Paul was explaining that everything was created by God and that all things exist through Him and for Him.)
First, from Today’s English Version:
“So then, my brothers, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.”
Seems a bit plain, so it is from the Amplified Bible:
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].”
And from the King James Version:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Oh, Lord, that it may be so.
Is this the change we were promised?
For a story in the news, a story so outrageous that I can scarcely speak about it, go here to read about a precious 6 year old cub scout who is at the mercy of what I consider to be a really stupid school system in Delaware. From the school board on down, these people should never again be trusted to make decisions about the education or welfare of children. In my opinion, trained monkeys would do a better job. More here. If you want to see what kind of a boy he is, you can watch a film he made that’s posted on youtube.
A similar story involves an eagle scout who had a knife in his camping gear (locked in his car) and was suspended. The days missed from his school could hurt his chances of getting into West Point. West Point! He’s not a delinquent – he’s a patriot. Why are school systems punishing Scouts? Where are we getting the people who make education decisions??
In King City, Oregon American flags are being torched in a mobile home community for the elderly.
Residents of an apartment complex in Albany, Oregon have been told by management that they face eviction if they don’t remove American flags from their vehicles. According to management “someone might get offended.”
In North Carolina, a branch manager for Bank of America refused to have American flags in front of the facility, which was on the funeral route for a local Marine killed in Afghanistan. Read it here.
Fox News is being punished for criticizing the president. Here is the link to this one . So, the current administration doesn’t like criticism? Well, to be fair, they are unused to it. All of the other major media outlets (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post) write outrageously biased stories in favor of the the left. Perhaps the White House would like the Sedition Act reinstated which said that it was illegal “To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.” It was allowed to expire s less than 5 years later.
This reminds me of an argument between my liberal niece and me a few years ago. She claimed that Fox new was biased toward the right. I acknowledged that she was correct. The difference was that she couldn’t admit that all the others are biased left.
I know that Fox News leans right, that they are only Fairer and More Balanced, not totally. But I’m thankful that we have at least one news outlet which will tell us the news that the current administration doesn’t want us to hear.
As for freedom of speech – this is from the country that is constantly being held up to us as an example in many different areas:
Dean Steacy of the Canadian Human Rights Commission: “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”
A short history of my mother and the American automobile:
My grandfather bought a Model T Ford in 1920 for $500. Mama learned to drive in that car at a time when driver’s licenses were not required in Kentucky. About the only other thing I know about that car, was that it had trouble getting up over the steep hills in the western part of the state, where they lived. One Sunday night after church, she, her dad and the preacher were on their way back home when the car couldn’t make it up over the hill. She and the preacher got out and pushed it over (this seemed to have been a common occurrence). After the preacher jumped back in, her dad kept going and she got left behind. When she’d tell me this story, I’d always ask if it was dark, or was it cold or did she walk all the way back home. Her answer was always the same: “All I remember is how mad I was that he could forget me.”
This photograph was taken after she went to California in 1938. She had lived in Texas for a year in order to file for divorce from her first husband. He had left Kentucky to find work, then wrote back that he didn’t want to be married anymore. After the divorce, she went by bus to California to work in her favorite uncle’s grocery store in Los Angeles, where she met my father.
They married and moved to his home state of Oklahoma. The picture to the right was taken in 1957 on a trip back to Kentucky to visit her family.
When I was a little girl, my dad got a pickup truck. (That is an amazing story in itself. Daddy was a gregarious sort, and one day he was stopped at a traffic light when he notice the vehicle next to him was a pickup with 3 or 4 little boys in the back. He called over to the driver: “Want to trade for a car and get those kids out of the back of that truck?” Well, they pulled over and traded. One of those little boys grew up and married one of my best friends. Tulsa was smaller then than it is now, but that’s still a pretty amazing story to me.)
So, he bought another car and my mother had something to drive too. She drove us to church, to the grocery store, the dime store, the big Sears store in town. She picked up neighborhood children and took them to Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Almost every weekend, she’d take my friend Carol and me to the movies in Tulsa, or to McClure’s Park to go swimming. Once, when I was 8, just she and I drove back to Arkansas to visit her oldest sister in Jonesboro. My dad and brother started their own construction company and were gone a lot. She was pretty independent.
In fact, many times she drove by herself to visit us in Texas, even into her early 80’s.
Then when she was in her late 80’s my sister and I began getting very concerned. On a hourlong drive to my brother’s (a route she was very familiar with), she got lost. Also, I had seen her cross the shopping center parking lot without even looking for oncoming cars, which was very unlike her. Then an old friend called and said that they had been going to lunch one day and my mother ran a red light. Didn’t even look.
So we knew something had to be done. We didn’t want to tell her to quit driving but we knew that it was no longer safe. Even though most of the time she only drove a couple of blocks to the grocery store and several of her favorite restaurants, it was time for her to quit driving. Her neighborhood was full of small children. We couldn’t live with it if something tragic happened and we knew that she wouldn’t be able to, either.
Always very practical, she had said for years that if a person lived long enough, they would have to quit driving at some point and she said she knew that day would come for her, too. Holding onto that, we had a very painful family meeting and told her as gently as we could. She didn’t really argue, but it was obvious that she wasn’t happy about it. Would anyone be? But she complied.
She didn’t have the Alzheimer’s diagnosis yet, but one clue that there was something wrong with her thinking process was that she fretted over the decision. Life without a car was going to be difficult for an independent person. There wasn’t an easy solution because her small town didn’t have any public transportation, not even taxis. No bus for senior citizens. But my sister lived nearby and took her to the grocery store, hair salon, doctor’s office and restaurants.
Of course it was absolutely necessary, but it was hard. Probably harder than I thought it would be. Daddy had quit driving at 75 because he had a stroke, and I don’t remember him fussing about it. But he stayed mentally sharp until his death.
An uncle had kept driving until he was around 90. Twice he backed through his garage door. Then a woman followed him home one evening (he had agreed not to drive at night), and told his daughter that he’d been driving on the wrong side of the road. So, my cousin had to take the car.
I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’m in my mid-50’s and not as healthy as my mother was at my age. How long can I drive safely?
Recently, a tragedy occurred to the pastor and his wife at my friend’s church. The pastor’s wife, a very sweet woman, had had a brain tumor a few years ago, and had been having memory problems. A few weeks ago, after taking someone home from church, she forgot to turn off the ignition after parking her car in the garage. Both she and her husband were asphyxiated. Their bodies were found when they didn’t show up for church that night. The car was still running.
May the good Lord help Joe and me when the time comes to quit driving. And may our children have the courage and compassion to make the decision, if we can’t make it ourselves.
I hope we can.