Derby Party

My sister always comes up with the best ideas for parties and get-togethers!

This was the first time I was in town during her annual Derby Party. A few old friends and family joined us in old bridesmaids dresses to make fancy hats (it’s amazing what you can do with straw hats and artificial flowers from the dollar store!), eat delicacies (cucumber sandwiches, chocolate pecan pie, and Italian sodas, anyone?), and watch the big race.

We posed for numerous photos – one of these days I will make a fun scrapbook from our dress-up get-togethers.

Charlie the cat was a bit envious that she didn’t have her own costume to wear. (Either that, or the feather looked awfully tempting…)


Bead Gratification

I’m only a beginning beader, but I love the quick gratification that comes from stringing some lovely natural stone or mineral beads onto wire; crimping a clasp at the ends. (Unlike sewing, there’s no tricky measuring, cutting, pinning, checking hems, etc.!)

The bottom one is rose quartz, freshwater pearl, and Czech crystal, made for my sister awhile ago. The rest are others I've made for her. She is the biggest beneficiary of this hobby of mine, being one of the few people I know who regularly wears chunky necklaces. She also has lovely green eyes that always complement the natural mineral colors of the beads.

Am taking another wire class this week; am quite excited about it!

Road Trip

Our trip north, first from Central California, and now from the Gulf Coast, has become an annual tradition since our marriage seven years ago.

I was grateful, almost overwhelmed with gratitude, to see a Western landscape again after another year in the overly rainy, lush, humid, green Gulf – to see red soil, yuccas, layered buttes, dry prairie grass. We decided to take a rare chance to sightsee at Palo Duro Canyon, which seems somewhat incongruous with its surroundings, hidden away as it is in the middle of the high plains. Massive clumps of prickly pear speckled the ground; numerous birds sang and fluttered.

I hope it doesn’t become routine, but we again stayed at the musty motel in Julesburg, Colorado. This sign, posted above our sink, cracked us up, especially after the numerous ring-necked pheasants, a boon to hunters, that had run and flown across the road as we drove that afternoon.

The towns out here are small and many, unfortunately, appear to be on their last legs, including Broadwater, Nebraska, where we found this brightly colored, aging hotel.

A nearby town, however, was thriving, at least judged by the amount of tractor part farming going on. Doesn’t this look like garden rows of tractor parts?

Some people may think I’m nuts, but with every mile further north, I feel myself becoming more relaxed and at home. It begins as we slowly leave behind the heavier population and traffic of the state we currently live in. It grows stronger as the familiar markers of my region begin to appear: meadowlarks, robins, ring-necked pheasants, pronghorn antelope, sagebrush, yucca, occasional stands of ponderosa pine, lilacs, irises, and peonies in the town gardens,

Sometimes I make my husband stop the car at the state border so I can get out and press my palm against the soil of my childhood land. There is nothing like being home again.

Self Portrait

I'm new to the whole self-portrait phenomenon; as an adult, I've become reluctant to have my picture taken. I'm a simple person who doesn't like to bother with hair and makeup when there are so many other things that need to be done; a shower, moisturizer, and clean clothes are enough to get my day started. I like to think this relative indifference toward my appearance doesn't matter, but photos sometimes tell an opposite story!

While making dinner the other day, however, I noticed that the glossy surface of my sister's Brown Betty teapot was reflecting nearly everything in the kitchen, so I pulled out the camera, mostly from curiosity. You can see eggshells in a glass, crates of strawberries, the fridge behind me, and - me!


Creating a pot of soup is extremely gratifying to me. I love to transform a pile of veggies, a bit of meat, perhaps some beans or noodles, into a soothing, nurturing medley of flavors and textures. I suspect soup has wiggled its way into my gastronomic memory from my earliest years; my mom’s homemade chicken noodle and beef vegetable soups were regulars and favorites from childhood. In high school, I asked her to teach me to make her chicken noodle; I love that I can make it now for family gatherings and know that I am providing a bowl of happiness and satisfaction for those I love. I also like to take chicken noodle to new moms; for some reason, it always receives high raves from them.

I’m visiting my family this month; yesterday, I purchased a cut-up fryer, ‘Grandma’s Frozen Egg Noodles’ (the secret ingredient), onions, carrots, celery, and bouillon, and simmered it into completion to offer to my loved ones for supper. Salt, pepper, and generous amounts of garlic and parsley are also key ingredients.
In the last few years especially, I sometimes sense that I pour a lot of love into the food I prepare for others. I may not be the most demonstrative or outgoing person, but when I prepare a meal for others, paying especial attention to all the details and flavors, I feel as though I’m offering them love on a plate, offering physical evidence of my affection for them. I don’t know that anyone realizes this, but I hope they do at least in some small way. There are numerous ways of showing love to those around us; providing a satisfying meal seems like one of the most elemental ways.


Book Binding Project

Last spring I took my first official book binding class. Our final project was to design a single page book of our own choice, any medium acceptable. We had a new color printer and I was excited about experimenting with printing on fabric, so I decided to make a fabric scroll with flower photos I'd taken and a favorite poem by Denise Levertov as text, with a fabric bag as a case. Not surprisingly, the sewing part was a bit frustrating to me (see 'baby quilt' post!), but I was pleased with the results. I used a 'weaver's blend' of cotton and acrylic (I believe) to print on, cut it to 8.5 x 11, ironed it with starch, and (the most important part) ironed a piece of freezer paper wax-side down to the back to help it feed through the printer. Straight muslin produced more vibrant colors but was much more prone to jam in the printer.

More of my book binding projects to come!


Snow Day!

There is nothing like an old-fashioned blizzard to make a house feel cozy (especially when curled up under a down comforter in my sister’s spare room!). We had clear, dry weather on our long drive north, fortunately arriving a day before one of the biggest storms in the last decade or so rolled into town. The wind howled out of the west all night long, incessantly shaking the windows and often waking me up with a sense of anticipation. When you’re safe and warm inside, a blizzard brings excitement at the possibility of being snowed in, having an excuse to sleep late, stay in your pj’s, and bake and relax all day long. This possibility is particularly exciting after having lived in climates without snow for the last seven years!

At 5:30 a.m., the windows were so coated with a crust of wet snow that it was impossible to see outside to gauge the amount that had fallen, but it seemed hopeful that my sister would have a snow day from work. Indeed, she did! Even though we’re adults now, and my sister has a little one of her own to look after, the chance for a snow day brought back fun memories of snow days when we were growing up. Without a doubt, they were much more frequent back then.

We celebrated with café con leche and homemade coffee cake, happily gathered together beyond the snowed-over windows. By afternoon, the snow had stopped blowing, the sun arrived and melted the ice off the windows, the neighbors ventured out to clear the waist-high drifts over their sidewalks, and some of our family managed to come over in their four-wheel-drive with a turkey dinner.

So here’s to snow days, or to anything that helps us spend more time together with our loved ones!


On the Road

I've so many thoughts and wonderful impressions of our 1350-mile drive north this week; they are simmering and growing in my mind for a later post. Escaping the familiar, seeing new landscapes, is a wonderful thing!

Happy May Day!

A rite of spring for us as children was celebrating May Day, which is May 1. Our mom would help us make little baskets from strawberry crates and pipe cleaners, or we would wrap paper into a cone with a pipe cleaner handle. We would then fill our little baskets with candy and deliver them to our friends in the neighborhood. The objective was to drop them off and ring the doorbell without being seen, scampering away to hide around the edge of the house so our friends would have to come out and try to catch us. It was great fun. I am unsure of the origins of this holiday and know that many people have not heard of it, although I believe May 1 in Victorian England was a day to go into the forest and gather baskets of flowers.

This May Day, since I am home once again, I decided to make May Day baskets for a few friends and family, including some that I swapped baskets with as a child! It's a small gesture, but a fun one that is full of memories. There is a blizzard warning in effect, though, and I am watching over a pot of lentil soup that my sister started last night. Not exactly May Day weather!