Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pink and White and Heart-Filled Thanksgiving

Mike and I had our Thanksgiving together Sunday afternoon. Turkey breast, sausage (for him), a mushroom-stuffing dish we always make, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, Boston Brown Bread, dinner rolls (for him), and Apple Crumb Pie and maple-walnut fudge for dessert. Everything turned out good, and we had enough for two suppers and a couple snacks and lunches. 
 We are blessed and thankful.
I did the table in pink and white with our owl, pine cone, acorns, leaves--and framed wedding cake topper, since it is our first Thanksgiving as husband and wife--as decorations. :) 
I am always finding and being gifted with heart-shaped dishes, and they were put to good use this pink and white and heart-filled Thanksgiving. A couple more hearts are candy bowls on our side table and coffee table.
We watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, a favorite movie, and then read and finished addressing Thanksgiving cards and just enjoyed a quiet night at home together. 'No word on the position I'd applied for in August, so it seems this is not meant to be Year o' New Job for me and that Mike's and my opposite work schedules will continue, but that only makes us appreciate the time we do get to have together that much more. We are blessed to have each other and to both have jobs and all that we do have, and we know it, and we say our thanks.   Much love and happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Friday, November 11, 2011

We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

On Veterans Day, I am thinking of Dad, who served in Vietnam with my mom's big brother. Dad and Uncle Dan lived in the same Air Force barracks and became good friends. Uncle Dan mentioned to my mom in a letter home that a guy he was serving with was lonely and would appreciate some mail. Mom and Dad remained pen pals throughout Dad's entire time in the service. When Dad came home after his required four years, he and Mom got married--and celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary two weeks ago. Uncle Dan, who also made it home safely, still reminds them from time to time that they can thank him for their marriage. That is a happy Vietnam story, and yes, we can all thank Uncle Dan. There are other things to thank him and my dad for, as well, of course, although "thank you" is too little in comparison with years of sacrifice, lost friends, and the dark nights and nightmares. 
My grandmother once told me something her brother Al had recounted to his family about his experiences in the army in World War I, and it still gives me chills. Uncle Al and the men in his unit were lying in wait on a hillside, still in the silence and straining to hear any movement, when they suddenly saw a line of what Grandma described to me as plumes marching over the hill toward them. Uncle Al had explained that the German soldiers at that time wore helmets with a distinctive spike or plume on top and later told his family that he had never been as terrified as he was in that moment, seeing that line of helmet-tops appear. Uncle Al also came home safely. One of his daughters, likely now in her seventies, proudly sent me his army photo above when I asked years ago.
My grandfather's youngest brother's war was World War II, where he served in the Marine Corp. Amongst the lifetime of personal papers, photographs, and paper ephemera of my grandparents' that my parents and I long ago had to sort through was a yellowed wall calendar with a note written onto one day's square marking Uncle Mike's departure for boot camp. Uncle Mike lived into his 80s.

A favorite old Veterans Day comic strip from Lynn Johnston:
(click to enlarge)
Dad and Uncle Dan and Uncle Al and Uncle Mike--and Uncle Warren, who served in the Navy, and Great-Grandpa, who was an Italian POW during the first World War, and Papa Lee, who was one of the helmsmen of the USS Wasp--and veterans everywhere: Thank you and happy Veterans Day. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Window Perch

I recently bought Stuffed a new collar and updated tags for our new address. His Christmas-in-October present that he loves most, though, is his window perch. I'd wanted to hang it in our combined dining/living room, but there wasn't enough wall-space, so Stuffed now has a perch in the bathroom window and will soon have another in the bedroom. Those are the better spots anyway as he can watch the neighbors' backyards and more birds, squirrels, people, falling leaves, and overall action from those views. It is a little thing, this perch, but a little thing that makes him quite happy. Having never moved with a pet before, I was worried in August when we first moved in here since Stuffed seemed so disoriented by it, so to see him happier now that he's found some of his own favorite spots in our new home is quite a relief to me. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

~You Fill My Head All Full of Rainbows~

I actually choked up a bit late last night when I learned that my beloved Robert Smith and the Cure will be performing in New York City three nights over Thanksgiving weekend. I have wanted to see them in concert for so long. Their "Halo" is one of my favorite songs, and that and other Cure tunes have been a big part of the soundtrack of my twenties and thirties. I have the time off of my work and could have afforded the trip or the hotel or the show but wouldn't be able to justify throwing what little money I have at all three, even if it would make for an awesome experience. I lived in New York City while a New York University grad student in the fall term of 2000, haven't been back since the fall of 2002, and have been aching to be in the city again. And to see the Cure! And to get away for a weekend! Thanksgiving weekend! My heart breaks a bit at the thought of missing out on all this, but it is just not meant to be right now.

Their gorgeous "Halo," the words and melody of which will just forever epitomize dizzying first love and true love and summertime and friendship to me:


And, of course, "Friday I'm in Love":
They have just been nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I'm sure those who do get to see them in a few weeks will give them the applause of a lifetime.  Alas, I will just go have to go heavy on the eyeliner Robert Smith-style that weekend and dance around the apartment with Stuffed instead. ;) 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Green Gingham Kitchen Window

"Red check gingham seems to have
the same affinity for a kitchen
that red Geraniums have.
Blue. . .is equally friendly.
Green is very agreeable
and too rarely used."
~ from a 1922 House and Garden magazine

We have just one window in our tiny new kitchen, but it is window enough, especially as our last apartment had none. My favorite home from my childhood had the classic Window Over the Kitchen Sink, but in this home, the kitchen window is above the apartment-size stove. That's okay too. Accustomed--or resigned, depending on how full I'm seeing my glass on any given day--to small apartment kitchens, to have one now that I can move around in at all, let alone one with a brand new even-if-apartment-size stove, and then to get to have a window over that stove in that kitchen too--A window! A kitchen window!--is just a sweet and exciting thing.
I knew before we'd even found our new apartment this summer that I wanted green gingham--a bold vintage-looking Kelly green gingham, not a sage or celery or mint or pine--in the new kitchen. I didn't expect it to be so hard to find. After a fruitless search for fabric in the right shade of green, I did manage to find the vintage skirt above. It was the color I wanted, and I soon started transforming it into kitchen curtains. It was a shame to have to destroy the skirt, though: Look at that ruffle! Picture that skirt with a black turtleneck and black knee-high boots! Ay! It hurt to cut into it.
I had to abandon plans of a cafe curtain for the bottom due to a limited amount of the skirt fabric and instead fill in the middle with an old dotted Swiss-type lace from Mike's mom, but there was, after much sewing and hot-gluing, enough of the skirt to patch it all into a valance and the bottom piece, and I love the curtains now. They are obviously handmade and have all kinds of little flaws, but I love them, and they suit our simple little kitchen.  I want to bring my little cardboard house collection back from my parents' place next visit to perch on top of the frame above the valance, and I have a stained glass piece in mind for the window pane so we can continue to have the natural light but also a bit more privacy in the kitchen, but in the meantime--and until spring when the next-door neighbors use their fire escape/deck area again--this is our kitchen window. One more puzzle-piece of our home's now snapped into place. And someday, I'll find--or make--another green gingham skirt. :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall Leaves and Frog Stickers: My Pen Pal, Aunt Laurie

My sweet aunt Laurie is one of my favorite people, and she and I have been exchanging cards, letters, and other little "love notes" through the mail since I was a kid. The photo above is of our November correspondence from last year--she always makes collages and includes them with her letters, and I pass along pretty fall leaves that I know she'll appreciate. Her Halloween card, collage, and letter in response to my own arrived in Monday's mail, and although I just saw her in July for my brother's wedding, her words made me miss her even more than I already did. I have been missing my family a lot lately, as I had told her in my letter, and I wish I could be in at least three places at once. "I'd love to just appear at your door and offer some dinner and hugs," she wrote in Monday's letter. "'Sending hugs through the mail."

When my best friend died in 1995, Aunt Laurie was having a traumatic week of her own with one of her children, and I sent her a card a couple days after my friend's death to check in with her and to send love to my cousin. "Oh how I wish I could hold you and tell you everything will be okay," her letter back began. It is one of the things I remember verbatim from the haze of those first few weeks without my friend.

Knowing how I love holidays and seasonal meals, Aunt Laurie added an illustration to her Christmas letter's collage a few years ago of a woman studying a cookbook titled
10 Festive Meals You Can Make with Canned Peas. It still makes me laugh. :)

Aunt Laurie's a lover of all things Victorian, lacy, and pretty.

She writes poetry, loves to take nature walks and sew, and makes amazing Civil War reenactment costumes.

She is more than a little psychic and has amazingly vivid spiritual dreams. The pictures she takes often have orbs of light in them.  

She is soft-spoken--a bit Jackie Kennedy-ish--speaks slowly, and has a way of seemingly moving in slow motion, as well.  Her handwriting has the same almost-fragile quality. She has gentle brown "doe eyes" but can only be pushed so far before proving she's tougher than she appears.

She likes peanut butter and doesn't like chocolate. She someti
mes drinks tea but adores coffee. She loves doughnuts but tries not to eat them since my uncle is always watching his weight and is too easily tempted. Her homemade bread is to die for--light and sweet loaves that come to loved ones covered in pretty dish towels.

She wraps presents beautifully. Her Christmas package is the biggest treat, since there are always linen snowflake doilies as package decorations, lovely fabric ribbons and rick rack with tree ornaments tied into the curled trims.

Her favorite color is green. When I was little, I told my mom we should start collecting something green for Aunt Laurie, and Mom asked what I thought we should collect for her. All I could think of that was green was frogs--poor Aunt Laurie!--so ever since, it has frogs and frog-related things for her. When her times are hard, I am sure to mention that "It's not easy being green," and "Have I toad you lately that I love you?" candy boxes have been known to appear in her mailbox on Valentine's Day.

She is the only person in my family who calls me "Valerie" instead of "Val."

She lives in a gorgeous old white farmhouse with her husband of 42 years and one of my cousins, she loves to garden, she gets a kick out of gnomes, and Lily of the Valley is her favorite flower.

The first gift I remember ever receiving from her was a lavender unicorn-covered diary I got for Christmas in the third grade. I still have it. For my birthday last May, she took me and my mom out for breakfast and presented me with a Rose afterward. While I was home in July, she threw me a mini bridal shower in the dining room with my mom and cousins present.

Aunt Laurie hates to be called "cute," always envisioning herself more like a sexy Ann-Margret, of whom she used to keep scrapbooks. (Aunt Laurie was thrilled when I performed in my high school's production of Bye Bye Birdie, and she and Mom reminisced all that spring about the songs and movies from their own high school years.) Aunt Laurie really is adorable, though, and even now that she is retired and has a granddaughter in high school, she still gets called "Honey" and "Sweetie" and "Sweetheart" by sales clerks and other strangers and has that air about her that makes people want to pinch her cheeks and cuddle her.

She lived across the street from my family for a few years while I was growing up, and I remember one Christmas, my mom, my cousins, and I were sitting in her living room while my mom read some silly magazine personality quiz to Aunt Laurie. "You want to go Christmas caroling with the neighbors," my mom read aloud, "but you know your singing voice isn't the greatest. Do you A.) go anyway or B.) stay home?" "Well, shoot, I'd go!" my aunt cried out in a surprisingly indignant tone, shocking my mom and making us all laugh at her unexpected response. "What do I care what they think? They don't have to like it!" It is probably twenty-five years since that conversation and I still can't hear mention of Christmas caroling without remembering Aunt Laurie's uncharacteristic outburst (and her younger sister's surprise at her boldness) and smiling.

When I was twenty years old, I mentioned during one visit that I had a small success to report. I had finally stopped biting my nails, was all, but before I could go on to explain that, Aunt Laurie quietly said, "Ah! That's good, Valerie. Small successes are good." :) She was proud of me for losing a lot of weight a few years ago but was happier to hear that I was happy and loving my life again after a number of years of not loving it very much at all. "Oh, Valerie, that's WONDERFUL!" I can hear her exclaim at every mention of something that I'm excited about.

Neither she nor I can easily stop laughing once we get started, and Aunt Laurie starts slapping her knee when she really gets going, which makes everything even funnier. In 2003, the subject of hair dyes came up while she, Mom, and I were hanging out looking at magazines over tea and coffee, and I mentioned that when Marilyn Monroe had been asked if she minded that people thought she was dumb because she was blonde, she had responded, "No, because I know I'm not dumb. I also know I'm not really blonde." Aunt Laurie loved that, being a brunette-turned-blonde herself, and laughed and laughed.

She adored her grandparents, has been with my uncle since high school, and is best friends with my mom, who rightfully calls her "Lovey."

Although there are phone calls and visits, as well, it is the letters that have kept us close over the years, each parcel of news and magazine clippings and recipes and dreams and quotes and fall leaves and frog stickers tying our ties a little tighter. My pen pal since childhood, Aunt Laurie can always be counted on to stay in touch, and that is no small thing to say about someone. Her jack-o-lantern-covered Halloween mail is smiling at me from a bookshelf this morning, and this year's November mail will soon be winging its way across the state to her, Kermit the Frog Macy's Thanksgiving Day Day Parade float pictures gracing the envelope. :)