Monday, August 29, 2016

With Stuffed

He has stuck by my side all this headache-filled day.  Here's to a better night, and here's to a cat called Stuffed. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Garden Party with Mom and Aunt Laurie

And this photo is just how I will always remember Mom and Aunt Laurie.  Can you feel their sweetness right through this picture, or does it seem this way to me because I know them?  Well, they are that sweet, and this image from yesterday afternoon captures them perfectly.  And o' the fun we had!    Just to see Aunt Laurie again, period, after her health scare earlier this summer. . . And to get to share with her and Mom one of this summer's rare afternoons with a nice breeze. . . . I could still cry thinking about it.  And LAUGH thinking about it too, since right after Mom and Aunt Laurie had arranged the pretty tables and chairs and dainty tea party supplies out in the yard, one of my parents' neighbors decided the time was right to pull off his shirt and take care of the field behind their house on his riding mower.  'Not quite the ambience they been going for, so while the neighbor zoomed back and forth on the mower across the lawn behind them, they began moving the festivities father away into Mom's actual garden.  I was finishing decorating my frog cookies--I had to include frogs for Aunt Laurie, of course--when Mom came into my room to recount the Tale of the Topless Interloper.  Then Mom couldn't get my bedroom door to reopen.  Aunt Laurie was on the other side, and we all began howling as we imagined our sliding a cookie under the door for Aunt Laurie and of her somehow trying to jimmy a window open to rescue us.  As we laughed, the door popped free, and we set off--finally!--to enjoy our party.  And found, of course, that the neighbor had since finished his lawn-mowing and Mom and Aunt Laurie had moved everything for nothing.  :)
We hadn't coordinated our tea party plans with each other pre-visit, so each of us literally just brought something to the table and we made it work.  It ended up being a yellow, red, and pink affair with mismatched florals and ginghams.  I had kept it simple by buying a package of gluten-free sandwich cookies and decorating a few as frogs for my (long-suffering) aunt.  I combined lemon and lime-flavored mini marshmallows with a handful of sweetened coconut flakes, a can of fruit cocktail, a can of pineapple chunks, a little whipped cream, and a few spoonfuls of pistachio-flavored pudding mix for a quick take on ambrosia, one of Aunt Laurie's favorites. 
Mom had a similar idea and simply mixed together sliced strawberries, whipped cream, and a little strawberry-flavored gelatin powder for an easy strawberry salad.  (You can make these salads with any flavor of pudding or gelatin mix, of course, adding whatever fruit complements the mix-flavor. 'No waiting for gelatins to set or puddings to cook or chill.) 
Aunt Laurie gifted me with these cute little paper plates, but I just had to use the first three during our party, of course.  She gave Mom this new tea pot, brought Hershey Kisses candies in pink wrappers, and baked gluten-free blueberry and cranberry muffins in red gingham liners. 
 Aunt Laurie loved her little scrapbook I'd made her--  :)
--and she looked at it and a couple other little gifts I'd found her while we ate.  Dear Aunt Laurie. 
The afternoon would grow hot, but we were outside early enough to enjoy warm-but-not-too-warm weather and even a good breeze.  The rain held off another day, only falling this morning as Dad and I made the trip back to the bus station. 
And while the table and chairs would have looked sweet beside the bunny shed and field too, Mom's garden ended up being the perfect spot for our little party, with Mom's flowers in bloom all around us, a bit of shade from the Sumac tree that stands nearby, and a bit of privacy from Dad's grape arbors off to one side. 
Aunt Laurie showed me sketches she had made of dreams and experiences she had had while in the hospital during her sepsis care this June. . . .She was visited by her and Mom's dearly-missed grandmother and by their beloved aunt Ann.  Aunt Laurie said that even at her sickest, she was never afraid because she could feel like a protective force around her all the prayers and good energy we were all sending her way. 
Hearing that from her was itself an answered prayer for me, as was this entire get-together, of course. 
'One of our favorite times together, and that it could have so easily not happened at all--due to illness and weather and lawn-mowers and locked doors--made it, ultimately, all the sweeter. 
I captured eighty seconds of it on video too, but I will remember the gentle breeze, pretty flowers and goodies, and these sweet hearts even without it. 

Ah, love!    Blessed, blessed, blessed. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I see Aunt Laurie today!

Two months after her sepsis-scare, Aunt Laurie's finally able to make a visit.  I have a tiny spiral-bound scrapbook ready for her, and she, Mom, and I are planning to have our long-awaited outdoor tea party sometime in the next couple days.  Yeaaaaaaa! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

The cicadas are back in town

Cicadas have been serenading the city every evening this summer.  This one rested on the bedroom window screen awhile today.  Some find their screeching song annoying, but I love the sound. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Family Weekend

'Still settling back into life here after a few days with family.  Dad's birthday and the annual family reunion fell on the same day this year, and his two sisters also spent the night at the house Sunday and were able to stay through lunch Monday, making this visit home especially memorable.  Dad cooked their grandmother's risotto--his best batch of it yet, we all agreed--and his just-picked tomatoes and cucumbers made a perfect side-salad.  'A special meal and sweet way for the siblings' visit to end.  Mom, Dad, and I opted for the Olympics over seemingly-ceaseless election-related-news-coverage in the evenings, I finished reading Judy Blume's latest book Monday night and began Bill Bryson's take on Australia in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, and too soon--
--I was back at the bus station, greeting its resident cat and waiting to board to come back here. 
Assuming Aunt Laurie's health remains good, I will be looking out the bus windows at Pennsylvania countryside again next week already for a visit with her and the rest of my family. 
This summer has been miserably hot and humid, but it's one that has found me both getting somewhere with my running finally and reuniting with family, so I will remember it fondly. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Twenty-Five Minutes Straight

This morning's run was twenty-five minutes.  (Twenty!-five!-minutes!)    Progress! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Appreciation and a Pumpkin-Heart

Last night at work, I found this cute thank you note beside the remains of two packages of cookies I'd left for my coworkers Tuesday morning.  The person who wrote it could not have known that I appreciated the thank you even more than she did the cookies.  This small gesture made my day.  And moments ago while getting ready to slide a pan of pumpkin-apple muffins into the oven, I noticed a pumpkin heart left behind in the saucepan.  'A sweet start to this Friday. It is so often the little things that keep us going. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August's First Heart

After a few discouraging days and a couple near-sleepless nights, August begins with a perfect (paper straw-wrapper?) heart spotted on the sidewalk.  I will take it as encouragement, as I always do. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Yesterday's Walk: ~ The more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.~ Etty Hillesum

I only worked an eight-hour shift overnight Monday as opposed to the usual twelve, so I had more energy than usual after walking home yesterday.  It was a good morning, then, to pack my backpack for a longer walk.  After buying a carrot muffin and some watermelon, I got my bag together, filled my water bottle with iced tea and lemon slices, reapplied my sunscreen and lip balm (this kind, thank you, and I could EAT it, it smells and tastes so good), and set back out into the sun.  At the two-mile mark, I found myself admiring this fountain as I always do.  It is my favorite sculpture in one of my favorite spots in the city.  The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning stands in the background, another of the city's great beauties.  In the nine years I've lived here, I've spent many hours on the benches that surround this fountain, sometimes with an ice cream cone and sometimes with a book, but always grateful for the oasis this spot provides.  May 2011.  And that a human being created this! 
It was a hot and humid walk, even so early in the morning, but there was a nice enough breeze.  Nature provided hearts along the way, as it tends to do. 
When I last showed you Neptune, his pool was not yet filled with lily pads.  He has a more colorful world to guard now in the summer.
And into the woods. . . .
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Bliss.
The pond wasn't looking its best, and I couldn't take a step on its shores without crossing paths with dragonflies skimming the water.  I passed a man who was out walking and a few young women running through the woods, but it was a quiet park yesterday.  'Too buggy to lunch here, but peaceful.  And breezy enough to give relief, but not so windy as to keep the flowers from standing still for pictures. 
I returned to the park to find a shady spot for lunch. 
The site of what used to be Forbes Field, one of the Pittsburgh Pirates' earliest stadiums, ended up being the ideal place to put down my backpack finally and take a break.  Dappled shade and solitude!  It's another of my favorite places in the city.  It's a quiet and small spot, neatly tucked away into the campus that now surrounds it, but is one with so much history.  In 1935, Babe Ruth hit three home runs here in a single game.  Bill Mazeroski's home run that won the 1960 World Series for the Pirates was hit here too.  I never walk around what remains of the outfield wall without remembering that my grandfather and my dad got to see many of the greats play ball here.  
One set of three-tier bleachers was in full sun yesterday afternoon, but the other made a perfect dining room.  Shade!  The frosting and flowers I spread onto my muffin-now-turned-cupcake were pretty but not quite what I was feeling like after so much walking--it would be eight miles by the time I arrived back at home later--but the iced tea was soon almost gone and I could have happily eaten my weight in watermelon. 
After eating, I wandered around more before starting the walk home and noticed a table and chair set in the distance behind the outfield wall.  I don't remember it having been there before, but it will surely be one of my next lunch spots.  How dear is this! 
A rabbit sat still long enough for me to get its picture as I walked home.  Usually, they're too skittish and disappear as soon as I raise the camera. 
Two miles back to the apartment--
--and soon I was crawling into bed--finally--to sleep away the rest of the afternoon.