Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I didn't understand when I was a kid that Dad called his grandfather Nonno because it is the Italian word for that family member.  I thought he was saying "No-No," and I just assumed his grandfather had earned that nickname by always telling his grandchildren "No" to this and "No" to that.  It is so funny how children come up with their own explanations for things.  Dad remembers his dear Nonno as a quiet man who loved his family, his garden, his grape arbors, his walks in the woods, his honey bees, and all the animals on his and my great-grandmother's small property.  They had goats, cows, horses, rabbits, ducks, and I don't remember what-else.  I remember Great-Grandma, I remember the house and yard and apple tree and back porch and part of the barn, and I still vaguely remember the rabbits--I have a vague memory of being held up by someone so I could reach into their wired hutch--but Dad's Nonno died three years before I was born. 

Nonno had been an Italian Prisoner of War during WWI, and I never think of him without remembering family lore that this man who had loved to hunt from the time he was a child could never touch a gun again after his time in the army.  His wartime experiences left him both hard-of-hearing and gun-shy.  He was shaken by loud noises in general as a result of his service, which makes the few photos I have of him--Nonno and Great-Grandma outside their barn with one of their horses, Nonno and Great-Grandma sitting together in the kitchen, Nonno with the rest of the family at Christmas dinner, Nonno and Dad together outside--all the more poignant to me.  There is some satisfaction in seeing that although most of this man's life was not what anyone would consider easy, he enjoyed years of needed peace and of good company--company who would speak as loudly as necessary, in English and Italian--and simple meals and vegetable gardens and playful goats and grandchildren.  Veterans Day is an American holiday, and Nonno was an Italian service member, but I think of him on this day every year, and his story, with its silences both inflicted and restorative, reminds me of the sacrifices made by so many.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Autumn Awe

After going out for breakfast-for-him/lunch-for-me and a movie this afternoon, Mike and I walked home on a hilly cobblestone road that I would reside on in a heartbeat if I could afford it.  Author Willa Cather lived in a home on this hill in her pre-O Pioneers! years while she was teaching at local schools.  It is heavenly, especially in the fall.  The leaves' colors are so vibrant this year, they almost don't seem real.  I annoyed Mike by stopping to take picture after picture, settling myself onto the grass or pavement for some shots with my shoulder bag beside me.  Someday when I'm 100, I'll be glad I got these shots, I say.  :)  I could have taken a million more pictures and still barely have captured today's walk, though.  This was one of the most beautiful afternoons I've ever seen, and the leaves were pink! scarlet! gold! green! violet! rust! orange! peach! amazing!  It is all truly a wonder--And that this happens every year! And is free!  Bliss.  
All that beauty on just one little road!    And before arriving back at the apartment, we passed a church's local pumpkin sale.  The display is so striking every year, and I hadn't expected it to be set-up still, but there it was, a sweet end to a sweet afternoon.
As an aside:  Marie, Monique, and my other artistic readers, you may be amused to learn how much the pumpkin picture above amuses me--because one of my small goals for this fall was to draw better pumpkins, and this picture captures exactly what it was I'd been missing/somehow not really seeing before:  The top of a pumpkin isn't really the stem; some pumpkin appears above/behind the stem too.  :)  I doodle on the pages of my journal, and my pumpkin doodles finally improved a couple weeks ago when I figured that out. It is the little things, indeed.  :)
Ahhh, Winter!  Take your time coming this year, please!  I know each season has its charms and beauties, but I just don't want this fall to end.  This year, especially, the colors are a balm for the soul. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Now November

This has been one of the most gorgeous autumns of my life.  If this fall could only last right up until Christmas Eve. . . !  I just don't want it to end.  My throat was sore all day yesterday, and I finally gave up after supper and just went to bed early--dishes unwashed, and even left on the table--thinking I'd wake from my nap a few hours later, clean up, then go to bed "for real."  My nap was more than "real" enough, though:  Mike woke me up this morning to tell me he was leaving for work and to have a good day.  Work?  Day?  I was still in yesterday's outfit when he woke me a couple hours ago.  Tuesday is beginning, then, with dish-washing and wits-gathering but without a sore throat, and for someone who is seemingly always coming down with something or recovering from something, that is no small blessing.  And if I have to pack of a thermos of hot tea for my walk this afternoon, I will do it: The world is sunny and glittering outside again today, and I don't want to miss it.  But dishes first. 

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.