There Is a House…

wp-1471628511978.jpgIt sits at the top of a hill in a midwestern town. It has been there for a hundred years or more and I can imagine the stories that took place within its walls and grounds. I think I want to live there.  Maybe not forever, but for long enough to see if I love it as much as I think I might.

In this large house with stairways and many bedrooms I would have places for all my favorite guests, and I would have some secret places just for me. I know it must have at least one hidden room somewhere.  I would make each bedroom special with places to sit, to sleep and to read while looking out a window.

It has a large kitchen with lots of light coming in numerous windows. A cool breeze blows through the central hallways because it’s on a hill and surrounded by shade trees – the currents of air are refreshing and full of magic smells like clover flowers and mown grass. Outside the kitchen door would be a garden with a pool. I would grow herbs and salads and water lillies.  On my tall fence I would grow grape vines and in late summer there would be a lot of grapes.

wp-1471628569252.jpg

In the winter I would sit in the great front room by the fireplace with my wool and knitting needles. I would invite women to come and knit with me. In the summer I would sit on the front porch. I would call to my friends walking by and ask them to sit and have ice tea with me. I would flavor it with mint from my garden.  There would be a bouquets of hydrangeas everywhere.

wp-1471628943471.jpg

But being old and full of stories, means that this house is drafty, poorly wired and has some floors that are not quite straight or level. It would need lots of paint, and constant attention to the roof. It’s fireplaces and chimneys would need cleaning, and it’s plumbing would be less than desired. Would I love all that? I don’t know, but I would like to live in it and see.

Just a dream…

 

#atozchallenge: Raspberries, the passion and pleasure

20160421_194041.jpg
Here they are, today’s star

I come from northern Wisconsin, and a particular part of it that is extremely cold for a good long time in the winter.  We have three months of growing weather in a good year. It can freeze yet in May and probably will in September so gardens go in quickly and get down to business. We can’t really do apples, or cherries or plums but berries…  We do them pretty well.
My first berry experiences were with wild berries. We were always on the lookout for bushes on the roadside or in the woods. Recently cleared fields and brush piles were likely berry patches. When we started seeing the right color on the berries it was time to get the pails and gear up.
There were all kinds of perils. There were bears, of course, and poison ivy, wicked thorns everywhere, a constant halo of deer flies and my most dreaded one, hornets. Long pants, long sleeves, big hat and a bucket on your belt in July meant we were hot and slow moving.
Thankfully, by the time I was married and living in Wisconsin again we had learned about cultivated berries and had a large patch in the yard. Much easier, but there were still chores every year – cleaning out the old canes and pruning. There was also the new problem of the guilt when you just couldn’t pick and eat that many raspberries. They are still my absolute favorite berry for eating fresh.
I don’t know how they do it these days since they are soft and perishable, but  my store has fresh berries almost all year long. Does anyone go out in the woods anymore? I don’t know. Your reasons to eat raspberries, in addition to their wonderful flavor, are a low calorie, high fiber, high antioxidant source with lots of vitamin C and B complex vitamins and a number of important minerals.  Interestingly, they are a source of xylitol which I will mention again when we get to letter X.  And they’re pretty.  And red.

Happy Letter R, my friends.

#atozchallenge: Nuts

Writing is continuing to be hard today.  Between fits of coughing and the husband’s requests for records to finish filing our income tax, I’m going nuts.  We hate filling out our tax reports so much that it is almost assumed that we will be late and filing for an extension.  All those statements with tiny numbers and dates that are nearly impossible to find.  Maybe someone else should do our taxes.

As a treat for myself, knowing that this day was coming, I went to the big box store and bought myself some nuts.  And as a treat for my daughter who is getting tired of nutrition information, all I’m going to say is nuts are good for you, in moderation. It’s not like you can’t go look this stuff up yourself, right?

“Can’t you write a story about nuts?”  she wanted to know. And I’ve been thinking of the myriads of times in my life when nuts have figured prominently.

Back in the 70’s when I got married, Gourmet Magazine ran a layout about a wedding that I admired greatly.  It was very “flower child” oriented, woodsy settings, and a beautiful cream colored cake with several tiers.  And decorating the steps of the tiers were little meringue mushrooms and halved walnut shells.  The walnuts were probably in there somewhere too but it is the shells that I remembered. When the cake was refashioned for my wedding I think the walnut shells were replaced by small pine cones.  So much for prominence.

And much more recently, peanuts have saved me from traffic accidents. (I will slip in the fact that peanuts are legumes, not tree nuts, but they have similar nutritional benefits.) Driving home from work in the midafternoon became difficult for me.  My early rising and active physical work day left me quite tired and I would find myself sleeping at stop lights and perilously close to sleeping while moving slowly in traffic.  For probably a year, I would keep a 2 lb. can of peanuts in the car for those times.  I found out I could not eat and sleep at the same time, and although I often got rather sick from too many peanuts, I always made it home in one piece.

Back to the cashews, it seems lots of people like them.  It’s something about the consistency and the salty way they crush in your mouth.  Last year, shopping in Cambodia with my friends Mike and Trish, we found cashews in the Russian Market.  Somewhere in the middle of this vast place there was a candy and food vendor who had 1 lb.measures of cashews all shrink-wrapped up in shiny plastic and Mike decided to get them.  I was skeptical as I am a little fearful of eating from the Market.  Mike said they were pretty good and he didn’t get sick so my daughter and I went back later to buy ours.  The Russian Market is covered, very crowded, very little moving air and probably 100 degrees F. in the summer. Unless you live in it, it is very easy to get lost in the maze of similar looking booths and tables, meals being cooked on hibachis, children napping in corners. It is such an interesting place. We did finally find our cashews.  Mine were not as good as Mike’s.  I’m sticking to nuts from home. End of story.

20160416_161124.jpg
It’s only a 2 pounder – will be gone in no time at all.

Those Standout Moments

a happy wave of nostalgia
a happy wave of nostalgia

Don’t you know there are those times that become prominent, for one reason or another, and they stick in your mind like something that sparkles, or maybe like a flashing red light? My mind only has so much room in it and normally I want to save that space for stuff I’m really going to need, so one of the things I like to do is ask for God’s watchfulness over my mind each day.  I want him to be in charge of what looms large and what goes by the way. He knows me and he does a good job.

Three things that have been standout (is that a word?) moments recently:

This week there was a community garage sale in the neighborhood where one of my clients lives. My cousin and her husband shop these events and are masters at finding interesting things. They were at my client’s house when I arrived and started talking about what bargains they had scored.  Jerry had bought a large jar (water cooler size) full of marbles. Unbeknownst to most people, I have a inner fondness for marbles that I can’t explain, except that it reminds me of happy childhood times.  Kids today don’t know that you can get hours of fun and interaction with other people through marbles. They are antiques. When the snow would melt in the spring, our school grounds became pocked with marble holes and each recess was time to either lose or gain valuable marbles depending on your skill. Each long bus ride was a constant barter of boulders of various kinds, games of “odds or evens”. There was a whole language built around marbles, most of which I cannot remember now. I had a precious collection that I would hide around the house (because I had brothers). I don’t know what became of that bag of cat’s eyes and purees – did I outgrow my interest or did I lose them, forget where I’d hid them? Jerry took me out to his car and gave me some marbles and I felt like treasure had come home to me.  A standout moment.

Yesterday there was a knock on the door.  A young man I have known since he was an adolescent was standing there, wiping the sweat off his head because he had come on his bike and it was a warm day. The last few years I haven’t heard from him often – pretty much only when he needs money, which was why he had come this time too. He was moving north, taking a bus.  His mom had given him the money for the ticket which was all she could afford. She felt he needed to start new in a different place, but he had nothing for the trip. I listened to his story, we talked about his inability to thrive in spite of his talent, we talked about the faint odor of alcohol he exuded.  I don’t know where God is taking him – or just letting him go – but I felt kindness was required of me.  I gave him money. He let me pray for him and tearfully asked if I would continue to pray for him every day.  I made a promise.  This moment needs to standout so that I can keep that promise.

My inbox is constantly chiming at me because I’m permanently attached to my phone. Most of what comes in is junk mail, just like my old fashioned “snail mail” box.  But this morning there was a note from a family member.  Two sentences of sweet encouragement, which prove to me how much we can do to keep each other going forward.  Thank you MP, for acting on an impulse that was God inspired, no doubt. I love you too.

Three moments out of many that I could have included. Three is a good number and as I said, God does a good job of giving me things to think about and remember.