Saturday, June 25, 2016

Together

This dear card--with its printed message inside of "Life's a journey.  'Glad we're in it together!"--will soon be sent to Aunt Laurie.  While I was finishing my last post, Mom called to tell me that my aunt was in the hospital with sepsis that had spread throughout her body, and even late that night when Mom called back to update me, Aunt Laurie's blood pressure was still only 80 over 40.  Terror.  I spent Thursday and most of yesterday dreading Mom's next phone call, choking up as I mailed another card to my sweet aunt from the post office yesterday afternoon, praying for more years and decades more with my faithful pen pal of an aunt.  

When I talked with Mom again last night, she said Aunt Laurie was doing much better--and the tears I'd barely held in since Thursday afternoon started pouring out of me at this--and was talking now, her blood pressure was up to 117 over something, and Mom said a Sunday hospital-discharge is even a possibility if Aunt Laurie continues to improve this weekend.  By then, I could barely speak, I was crying so hard, but Mom sent me over the edge by mentioning that Uncle Warren had reported that when Aunt Laurie was at her sickest the other night, she said she could see angels standing around her hospital bed.   I don't know how close we just came to losing her, but I can imagine--all too vividly now--and it's been a few days that have felt like a hundred.  

Before she got sick, Aunt Laurie had been planning to visit in July, and I pray we can all make it happen still, although I'll likely be blubbering all over her as we hug hello.  Goodness, this life.   

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On First Runs and Feta Hearts

It was 2010 or maybe early 2011 the last time I found myself following the "Couch to 5k" learn-to-run-3-miles-in-9-weeks training plan.  Heeeeeeeere we are again, having just come in from a rain-soaked Day 1.  All my walking has not made my running any easier, and the many pounds I've gained since the last time running felt even remotely easy--
--made me wonder if I was actually dragging bags of flour along with me with every step today.  Bah!  BAH! to weight issues!  BAH! to how hard this is!  BAH! to this monkey--or bag of flour--on my back!  BAH!  But no one is making me do this, and I have big goals, and God knows I am too stubborn to give up, so indeed, here we are again.  The last time I used this training plan--and this is maybe the fourth time I've done it now (so ridiculous, but credit-to-self for persistence [Positive self-talk!]--I finished Week 5 of 9 and then stopped.  I don't even remember why, but I stopped that close to the end.  This time, with bigger goals in mind, I am beyond determined to finish this.  Bag-o-sand, be gone!  Day 2 will be Saturday, and I will finish Week 1 of 9 early Monday morning.  Val, Val, Val.  

This feta cheese heart crumble greeted me in my vegetable pasta lunch at work yesterday, and I will take it as encouragement for the journey. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Lily of the Valley

Another favorite.  Lily of the Valley blooms in pink and white--and Mom tells me I was once tickled to have discovered the pink variety, although I don't remember that at all and find the white so charming--throughout my garden.  There is enough shade from the Maple tree just a few feet away to keep these beauties happy, although roses and other supposed sun-lovers have thrived in the spot too.  The Lily of the Valley would likely take over--as much as such a tiny plant could, anyway--if Mom let it, but she tends to transplant some from my garden to hers every year, so that hasn't happened yet.  What dear little flowers!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Three Near-Captures This June

I missed this year's opportunity to see some of my beloved roses in-bloom by about two days:  This is how Louise Odier looked as I was leaving my parents' home--where what remains of my dear old garden is, in a corner of their yard protected on one side by a wall of Dad's shed and on another by a wall of the deck--two weeks ago.  Below is a shot of her in-bloom two Junes ago--
--and every time I look at it, I wonder why I didn't take at least a dozen more photos of it during this little photo-shoot.  This one just makes me so happy, and it is so purely beautiful, that sometimes I look for other peoples' pictures of this rose just to satisfy that need to see something pretty.  Look at some of these photos!  ♫  Ooh, Heaven is a place on earth. . . .  ♪  I could weep at the beauty.  
I missed my white Iceberg rose too and confess to having been tempted to peel down its [sepals, it seems, if I have learned the new word correctly] in order to see more of the precious petals before leaving.  Last June's visit was timed to see at least one Iceberg open--
 --and it did my soul good.  Roses always do my soul good.  :)  And now I am remembering--and sounding like--Mary Ellen Walton proclaiming in The Homecoming, "I always feel better after I hug a cow."  :)  But. . .truly.  ♥  I know you know. 
Last night's Strawberry Moon was another I-was-kind-of-there-but-kind-of-missed-it this June.  I saw the (full) moon, and as you can see in this stunning capture from the bathroom window, NASA won't be clamoring to study my photo of it anytime soon.  :)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Snapshot

We have been passing Bill Bryson books back and forth the past six months, Dad and I.  It began with A Walk in the Woods:  Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, and then I gave him The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid for Christmas.  We continued with Neither Here Nor There:  Travels in Europe, and Dad just finished armchair-traveling via Bryson's memoir of a trek through Australia, In a Sunburned Country, one of his Father's Day presents from me this year.  A Short History of Nearly Everything is on a shelf here too, waiting for my next trip home.  We have both loved the Appalachian Trail book the best--neither of us wanted it to end--and agree that hiking it would be amazing if one could stay safe while doing so.  (I keep it as a "someday" goal, along with hiking the Camino de Santiago.)  Today Dad is alternately reading Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling:  More Notes from a Small Island, baseball game-watching, and barbecuing with my mom, brothers, and my brothers' wives and kids.  I myself hope to manage to get home both next month and in August for the next two meetings of the Dad-and-Daughter Book Club. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

One Month Later

I've spent most of my free time this past month hard at work on my 80s memoir and rewarded myself this morning with a few roses snipped from a bush in our apartment building's yard.  
After two weeks of rain, the blooms that haven't blown are browning and just about done for the year, so I think my fellow tenants will forgive me for having cut three for this small bouquet.  Although a bit bedraggled, it is beautiful and does me good.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Portrait of Sir

One of my favorite photos of Stuffed, this one was a quick capture taken yesterday afternoon when he settled himself beside me while I wrote in my journal.  What a face.  Seventeen years old now.  Stuffed the Magnificent. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May at My Parents' House

This visit found my parents' gardens coming back to life, the start of a season my mom and dad yearn for all Cabin Fever-filled winter.  Both planting, repainting, and repairing things in their yardDad out for his walks.  Dad fishing, almost chortling later as he recounted the morning's successesMom getting ready for Sunday's visit with all her kids and grandbabies.  Plant-shopping with MomA now-traditional slice of lemon meringue pie and an iced tea for me at a local restaurant, and a toasted gluten-free roll with jelly and a cup of hot tea for Mom.  Laughing when I found her an imitation-pewter George Washington plate in the local Goodwill and not in Boston three weeks prior as I had hoped.   Talking bee-keeping and the 1956 Chevy Bel Air (his pick) vs. the 1957 Ford Fairlane (my pick) with Dad.  Oohing over handsome Hal Linden while watching "Barney Miller" with Mom.  Laughing with my brothers and their kids this Sunday.  We are blessed.  'Such a sweet weekend home, and I am now homesick for everyone as I always am post-visit

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

And My Birthday Cake (Lilac Petals Cupcake)

My birthday fell the day before Mother's Day this year, making my weekend home even sweeter for both me and Mom.  Some years, we mail each other our cards and goodies, and other years, we just wait until we see each other to exchange gifts.  This time around, Mom made me my usual cheesecake--and the only cheesecake I've ever liked (with a chilled-not-baked filling of lemon gelatin, cream cheese, sugar, evaporated milk, and vanilla)--for Saturday night, and we all had leftovers of that and Mom's berries-and-flowers Mother's Day cake on Sunday, so by yesterday, a single cupcake back here at the apartment seemed like more than enough.  I froze a few Lilac petals I'd pulled from one of Mom and Dad's shrubs before leaving yesterday morning and they were still a pretty shade of lilac when thawed and sprinkled over the cupcake last night, but the camera refused to capture the color.  In any case, this was my tiny 39th birthday cake, a simple end to a sweet weekend and a pretty start to the last year of my thirties.  

A woman I spent some time talking with in my hometown bus station yesterday morning asked me if I was a student, and I was momentarily flustered by the question, answering clumsily, "Oh no, I'm out of school--Done with school.  I'm older.  I'll be 40 next year"--because I'm smooth like this in conversation, clearly (see:  Goals, cross-referenced with Val, Self-Improvement Needs of)  :)--and she exclaimed, "Forty!?  I was thinking maybe 24 if you were out of school!  Well!  Good for you!"  Noooo, thank youuuuuuuuu!  We talked some more, and it was part of an otherwise already-lovely kick-off to the year ahead.  Lisa and Cheryl, if I looked 39 or 40 or 45 to you in-person last month, let me have a week before you burst my bubble.  ;)

Last year's birthday wishes and goals included finishing a first draft of the 80s memoir I've been working on, and while I've written a lot, I learned early-on this past year that producing a rough draft by this May wasn't a realistic goal, so the work on that continues.  I continue to write, though, and I'm still walking my way back into running shape, dreaming of spending the morning of my 40th birthday finishing my first full marathon.  I have a lot of (gained, lost, and re-gained) weight to (re-)lose before then, and many miles to walk and then run before that day, but it remains the goal.  Here's to the year ahead.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day Cake and Cookies (Edible Flowers Love)

That this cake ended up looking exactly as I'd envisioned was one of the sweet things about a wonderful weekend with my family.  It was a simple two-layer yellow cake--gluten-free so Mom could enjoy it, of course--but the filling and frosting marked my first desserts made with either ricotta cheese or edible flowers.  Now I want to sprinkle flower petals over everything I bake.  :)
I played around with a recipe I'd found online until all my own frosting/filling had in common with the original recipe was the 16 ounces of ricotta. My own, then:  16 ounces ricotta cheese, 8 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, a generous splash of vanilla--you may remember how I love my vanilla--a pinch of salt, a pinch of cream of tartar, about a tablespoon of honey, enough powdered sugar to help thicken it all (maybe a cup here), and a few diced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and edible flowers to add some texture, color, and flavor. 
I pressed a few extra petals and berry slices into the sides of the visible filling-layer to add extra color there, as well.  The frosting had set nicely before I'd even refrigerated it--no berries or flowers puddling around the cake.  I added some petals to a few sugar cookies for Mom too, but the cake thrilled me more.  
And everyone raved about it--even Dad who isn't much of a cake person and Mom who actually prefers cookies and pies--which was so satisfying, of course.  The cheese/cream mixture gave this cake a more sophisticated flavor than my cakes usually have, and between that and the edible flowers, it was nice to branch out a bit with this one.  A sweet end to a sweet Mother's Day and weekend.  I miss everyone already but get to go home again next month, which does my heart good. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put together. ~ John Burroughs

It has been a wearying work-week.  "One!  More!  Day!"  And it is weeks like this one, especially, that I am most thankful to be able to get outside for my walks, and pretty much as long and as often as I want to walk, in order to get away. 
A professor I didn't like in college said at least one thing in the semester I had with her which I did appreciate and it was that when life was getting us down, we needed to remember to head outdoors and soak up nature for awhile.  Yes.  My walks--the eight-mile ones, the ten-mile ones, and even the one-and-a-half-mile ones--have saved my sanity this week (and many other weeks).  Thank God for them.