Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mail for Mr. V

I am not quite on the ball with Halloween card-mailing this year, but I have a few things ready to send out.  I'll be getting just a few cards mailed today, I have a tiny box of cards and candy ready for my older niece and my nephew, and I had the book Where Is Baby's Pumpkin?  shipped to little niece Bianca a couple days ago to mark her first Halloween.  (The online book preview showed the baby peeking around an orange gingham curtain--
--and how could I have resisted?!)  Today's outgoing mail also includes a combination Halloween-thank you card for Mr. V, one of my fifth and sixth grade teachers.  He was one of my favorites and one of the best.  I've found what I'm hoping is really his address and have now offered my long-overdue thanks, which makes me happy.  

Mr. V was a sharp dresser and loved dogs and baseball--this was the era of the mid-late 1980s New York Mets and Darryl Strawberry, of whom there was a poster on one of Mr. V's classroom walls--and if I'm remembering correctly, the snazzy red car in the teachers' parking lot was his--but we students loved him because he cared about us, enjoyed us, and was simply one of the good ones.  He was the first teacher who really encouraged my art skills.  I painted or drew a picture of my Beagle in his class one day, and he not only praised it, but also took it over to a teacher who was visiting his room at the time--the equally wonderful Mr. M--and showed it off to him too.  Tradition at our elementary school was that each year, a couple of the sixth grade students were selected to illustrate the cover of the yearbook.  Instead of simply telling me in class the next day that I had been one of the two chosen student-artists, he knocked on the door of the other teacher's classroom I was in at the time--this time, dear Mr. G's--and asked if he could speak to me for a moment--He wants to talk to me?!  In the hall?!?  What did I do?!  I didn't do anything!  When I stepped into the hall, I found my best friend standing beside him, adding to the pure thrill seconds later when Mr. V announced that she and I would be the ones designing the yearbook cover.  He could have just waited to tell us in class, of course, just as he could have notified us separately, but no:  Instead he created a moment, and it was, clearly, a memorable one.  It is that kind of "small" kindness that stays with a person.  
Fifth grade was the year of our using microscopes for the first time too, and he shared our excitement as we saw insects and who-knows-what-else up-close for the very first time.  When I asked him after class one day where he bought the tiny lights for the microscopes we used in class, he answered at-length, but all I remember now is that he said that even the little Christmas tree string lights' bulbs would work.  That was the first year science ever interested me:  I asked my parents for both a cookbook and a microscope that Christmas.  There remains the feeling, almost thirty years later, that we all went through the fifth grade together:  He experienced it right along with us, as it should be.  And my gratitude is much bigger than I could ever express in a greeting card, but he'll be getting one in the mail this week anyway, and I hope it brightens his day as he brightened so many of mine.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

And Stuffed in October

It is sixty-two degrees here, and the trees are all glittering jewels outside our windows.  This dear little soul hopped down from his bathroom window perch after just a few seconds this afternoon, though, and Mike and I both feel too sluggish and too maybe-this-is-the-start-of-a-cold-or-maybe-we're-just-tired-and-need-more-sleep-ish to enjoy The Great Outdoors today either.  It is an indoor day for all of us, then:  Stuffed is now settled on Mike's leg while Mike reads the paper, and I will soon be heading back to bed with my journal and Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies.  Glittering Tree Time tomorrow.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wing Chair in October

The wing chair project goes on and on.  The latest addition to it when I left off months ago was this section of leftover green floral trim from my wedding suit jacket.     (Yikes, my stitches look messy up-close.  We'll say that just adds to the chair's charm.  Goodness, though!  My mother would shake her head here and say, "Vally, really, it wouldn't take much to clean that up a bit. . . . "  It's FINE, Mom.  :)  )  The seamstress had extra trim after she'd finished alterations, so she gave that back to me with the suit.  I like how it looks on the chair, breaking up a couple of the straight lines of the patchwork squares. 
And now that I look at the picture below, I see that the patchwork could stand to be broken up by curves and frills a bit more, especially toward the bottom, so I will have to think about what other meaningful-to-me trims I've saved over the years.
 One step closer to a finished chair, though, and I'm still loving this project.  


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Mish-Mash

I'm enjoying another cozy rainy day here, and from the looks of Stuffed ever-rearranging himself in his nest of old quilts, I'm guessing he's happy too.  I'm thinking pot pies for supper, to use up a mish-mash of ingredients in the freezer.  And I'm making an effort to whittle down some of the things I've saved in my email over the years.  A few items from my Miscellaneous folder of found quotes, ideas, tips, stories, and General Things I Love and Don't Want to Lose:
  • In a CNN story online this summer about how eating apples helps you live longer, someone concurred in the comment section:  "I've been eating seven apples a day since 1811.  I'm over 200 years old and going strong."  :)  Mike and I laughed over that off and on the next few nights, it's so silly.  :)
  • Whenever I get to visit Vermont, Jericho is on my must-explore list.  Have any of you visited?  It sounds fascinating and just beautiful.
  • When I started this blog, I was working in a deli and bakery to save some money for my move here, and one of the store's resident curmudgeon customers huffed his way up to the counter and asked for however-much white Cooper cheese.  I told him that we were out of the white Cooper just then, but that we had yellow.  "Ohhhh," he growled at me.  "The whole world's gone to hell!"  That still makes me laugh.  "The whole world's gone to hell" became a catchphrase between me and my coworkers and me and my parents for the next couple weeks.  
  • I love Sean Hayes' song "Powerful Stuff," and I emailed myself a link to this live performance of it in May 2012.    ♫  "Every day, do like a flower does.  Sun rises and she opens up.  Sun rises and she sings. . . ."  ♪  Mmmmmmmmmm.  Gorgeous song, gorgeous voice, gorgeous lyrics
  • In the text of an interview with historian David McCullough I emailed myself in 2007, McCullough is asked by the interviewer what he hopes to accomplish in his then-new book 1776.  "Most important of all," he responds, "I hope I've conveyed that no one knew how things were going to turn out.  All the signs were that they didn't stand a chance, that the war was over and that we had lost.  It was the darkest time in the history of our country.  The prospects for the United States of America never looked so bleak.  But because a handful of very brave people refused to see it that way, we are the beneficiaries.  Without them, the Declaration of Independence would be only that, a declaration, words on paper."  He goes on to say that, "Ingratitude is a shabby human failing."  Beautifully put.  
  • I'm a sucker for a good how-to-clean-your-home-with-[lemons/vinegar/in this case, Alka-Seltzer] and emailed myself this article years ago.  I use the sink-drain-cleaning tip often.
  • In 2005, wise and witty Julie of the blog "A Little Pregnant" shared this gem of a conversation that took place in the New Orleans airport that summer.  The paragraph begins with "I miss Southern women," and ends with "That, my friends, is grace."  Indeed. 
  •  When I was a kid, thirteen or younger, I had a dream in which I was standing inside my grandparents' bedroom with my grandmother.  She was showing me a pearl necklace as the dream began, and as I looked at it with her as she held it in her hands, she said, "God has a necklace of pearls.  Every time one falls (from the chain), a human life is restored in its place."  That was the entire dream.  I woke up then and wrote it down, but I would have remembered what she said anyway.  
  • This banana bread recipe makes the best I've ever had.  There is a container of sour cream in it, and the loaf pans are dusted with a cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Otherwise, it's a basic recipe.  But ohhhhh!  Truly!  Banana Bread Heaven! 
There!  Back to sorting here, then on to pot pie-baking.  'Hope you all are having a good day.  Thank you again for your sweet comments on my autumn walk post too. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

October: "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."

Thoreau wrote that in winter, but it never fails to come to my mind in the fall.  Glory, glory, this beautiful season!  And may I just say how tickled I am by that photo!  It looks like my shadow is holding a bouquet of flowers in its left arm. 
Oh, fall!  I just love it so much. 
After a couple months of collecting books and book character toys and dolls for the school, I finally walked over to the post office this afternoon to mail everything out.  As I arrived, I ran into my former fellow cook, Warren, from my last job.  Mike and I had just been talking about him last night, as something reminded me of the time a little girl, maybe four years old, came into the restaurant with her parents with a realistic-looking, almost taxidermy-like stuffed frog in her arms.  "She carries that everywhere," her mom explained as Warren and I smiled at the girl and her odd stuffed animal.  Warren asked the girl what the frog's name was, and she replied, "Tony."  :)  He and I made it back into the kitchen before we started laughing, but the more we kept repeating it to each other--"Tony!  Tony the Frog!"--the funnier it became.  Another laugh together on the sidewalk today, then, now seven years later.    Getting more books and characters to the kids made me happy.  Having a sweet conservation with the post office clerk as she weighed my first box made me happy.  ("You didn't CARRY this here, did you?"  ~  "Oh, yes.  I don't have a car, so I walk everything over here."  [This clerk always comments on how she sees me out on my walks all the time, but she didn't know until today that I walk my packages over too.]  ~  "Well, you GO, Girl!  You'll be building up those arm muscles!  And exercising your legs!  Well, it's all good!"  She makes me laugh, and it's always a treat to see her.)   On my second walk to the post office, a kind man raced to get ahead of me so he could hold the door as I juggled box number two.  That also made me happy. 
I treated myself to a chocolate almond bar on my way home.  As I stopped to snap a picture of the pumpkin display outside the store, another customer asked me if I knew of a good place where she could buy a milkshake.  That I actually had the answer to her question made me laugh--Hey!  Here's someone leaving the store with a chocolate bar and taking pictures of pumpkins!  She must know where good ice cream can be found!  And bingo!  She does!--and the woman seemed to see the humor in it too, which made it even better.  There are days when everyone seems to be on the same pages--the sky is a deep blue, the trees and sidewalks are autumn-awesome, it is seventy-five degrees outside, so let's all just be good to each other and enjoy this life--and today was one of those days.  And this was one of this fall's sweetest walks so far. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Yesterday was gorgeous here with temperatures only in the 60s, and when an errand took five minutes when I'd been prepared to be tied up with it possibly an entire hour, I decided to walk around downtown awhile afterward.  It couldn't have been a prettier morning.  The sun made the city sparkle instead of swelter, more leaves had turned color, there was enough of a breeze to make the Goldenrod along the river dance but not enough to make walking difficult, and everyone around me seemed to be in the same high spirits.  And I found charming graffiti!  And an equally charming heart-shaped pizza slice.  These are days, indeed.  ♥ 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mantel Skirt

A year after finding the right paint color for the mantel, I've finished dolling it up by attaching a skirt to the bottom.  The pink gingham-with-roses fabric is a curtain valance I found at Goodwill about six years ago for a dollar and bought knowing I'd find a use for it someday.  Someday arrived a few weeks ago when I realized this would make the perfect finishing touch for the mantel.  Since I couldn't bear to cut into the material, I just slipped a tension rod through the opening at the top and am letting the extra length drape onto the floor at the bottom.  I now keep my boxes of note cards, holiday cards, stationery, and stickers in the space behind the curtain.  (The Cat in the Hat is the school's next surprise delivery.  He was finally packed away yesterday afternoon.)  The pink skirt ties the white wood and the pink wall together better, and the mantel looks cozier now than it did pre-skirt in the two pictures below. 
And the roses in the skirt match the wooden rose applique above it. 
 And I am much happier now that that's all figured-out.  The "mantel project" still requires--in my mind--some twinkle lights and a hooked rug, and I want to add a  red heart here somewhere too, and I'm thinking about extending the fabric "wallpaper" (in another pattern) to either side of the pink yardstick "borders" so the bare wall won't be showing at all, BUT the skirt, at least, gets me one step closer to the vision I have for this little wall. 
Ah!  The pure contentment of simply puttering around one's home like this!