Thursday, April 29, 2010

Roses - The Flower of Endurance

Have I told you about my roses? Yes, this funky little cottage came with a rose bush. It's starting to bloom and it's simply lovely.

It's prompted me to read a little about roses lately. Did you know that the oldest living rose bush is in Hildesheim, Germany growing against a cathedral. Some documentation says that it's been there since 815! During World War II bombs were dropped nearby causing the bush to catch fire, but because the roots remained unharmed the bush was able to grow back and still flourishes today. Now that is a resilient flower!

Roses are interesting because most varieties only grow well with "hard" pruning. This means that once or twice a year you have to cut your lovely rose bush back to barely anything at all, trusting that it will grow back twice as beautiful. The dictionary defines pruning as "cutting away dead or superfluous parts of a plant in order to improve shape or growth". And, of course, after you cut all of this away it does come back even prettier than the previous year. We call it the flower of love, but maybe it should be the flower of endurance.

Then again maybe that's what love is - a lifetime of endurance. Maybe in order to truly love we have to cut away the past, the dead, the decayed. Maybe this is the only way love is able to grow. Maybe it's possible for love to be burnt to ash, yet endure, because the roots are still strong. That gives me great hope.

So for now I'll enjoy these beautiful blooms. Then in the fall I will cut them away in hope that new, bigger blooms will return next year. But I will certainly have more sympathy for my rose bush when it comes to pruning. It may be necessary, but it still hurts.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nigella's Madeira Cake

I love this cake. It's so easy to make but so luscious. It's like a pound cake but not quiet so heavy. It just sort of melts. It's called Madeira Cake, though I don't know why because it doesn't have a drop of Madeira in it. I got the recipe from Nigella Lawson's How To Be a Domestic Goddess*. Oh, Nigella you are the only true domestic goddess (sorry Martha but paper crafts take second seat to being sexy while making good food).

And remember that black and blue jam/sauce I made last summer? I'm down to the last couple of jars. It was a good jam, my first jam. So it deserves to go out in style. And what better way than poured lovingly all over a yummy piece of this cake? Mmmm. I'm so distracted by wanting to go into the kitchen and have a piece right now that I'm having trouble finishing this post.

I made this cake last night for my husband. It was my way of saying thank you for doing all of the dirty jobs around here that the rest of us don't want to do. Like taking apart the toilet (again) to get out the toothbrush that's clogging up production. If I were single I would probably ignore it until it got so bad that I had to call a plumber because water was overflowing into the kitchen. But thankfully I have a husband who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. The least I can do is give him a nice slice of cake to look forward to after the work is done and maybe the promise of other sweet things later.

Nigella's Madeira Cake

1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar and add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally the lemon juice. Pour batter into a prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with sugar as it goes into the oven and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool in the pan before turning out.


*If you love to bake, I highly recommend this book. It's full of lovely recipes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mile Run

The boy woke up very anxious today. In fact he woke up before 6am. He came down quietly and made his breakfast. He was nervous and couldn't sleep any longer. On the way to school he doubted himself, saying he wasn't going to do well, everyone was going to tease him.

You see today was the mile run. Every year the students in our school run a timed mile. And for most kids, it's just another day. For most it's just a thing they have to do whether they like it or not. But for the boy it's a big day. It's a calendar day. Because for the last couple of years the boy has finished first in his class and in the top five in his grade. They all know he's fast. He's the one to beat and he knows it. That's a lot of pressure for a nine year old.

I let him talk through his self doubt and just said do your best. He got out of the car a ball of nervous energy. I met him out on the track a little later and watched as all of that nervous energy propelled him like a rocket. He started lapping some of the other kids, once, twice. The hope of beating him propelled some of the other kids to speed up as their classmates yelled "he's behind you. he's coming. man, he passed you". He finished first, with a smile. He took his victory popsicle and sat down in the middle of his friends, content with his performance. I smiled deep as I watched him relax into confidence. The pressure was gone, at least until next year.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lemonade Dreams

She set it up herself. Made the lemonade herself. And made three whole dollars all by herself. She's a dreamer with a strong imagination. She has always been my child that couldn't understand why I said somethings don't work. So I quit telling her that some things don't work because in her world anything she imagines can happen. And she is so strong in her determination that the things she imagines do happen. She pushes until, without realizing it, the rest of her doubting-somewhat-cynical family is helping her make it happen. And she brings us along into her fathomless world of belief.

I'm jealous of this. I want to be as strong as my daughter and believe that anything is possible. More than what I want for me, I want for her to never lose it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Poetry and Wine

We went on a date this weekend. It felt more like a journey by the time it was over. We started simple, with sushi, but realized quickly we were too melancholy for such a sterile environment. So we drove over to the grungy side of town where you can buy a bottle of wine and brood under dim lights. We happened upon a poetry reading and then a folksy local band. They fit our mood and made us smile sad smiles. We whispered I love you over the beat of the drum. We needed to talk, to share. We preceded to have a conversation that still has my head ringing at midweek. We ended up wrapped under sheets, deep in that hard sleep that comes from too much poetry and wine.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

"Then he nibbled a little hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out,and...
he was a beautiful butterfly!"

-Eric Carle

We love it when the caterpillars come out. The kids like to pick them off of branches and let them crawl on the back of their hands. Most of the caterpillars get set down gently to go on with their pre-chrysalis fattening process. But we keep a couple of nice big ones to watch. We get jars and fill them with tender leaves and vines to climb on. We feed them more daily and wait for the day when we go to the jar and find the chrysalis. We keep the jars close for the next couple of weeks so that when the little fellow starts to wiggle out of his shell we can open the lid and watch the butterfly/moth fly out when he's ready. It's exciting every time. No matter how many times I've seen a new creature fly out of the mouth of the jar I'm awed. It's such a wondrous process. I love that my kids get to see it from beginning to end. It's one of those things that draws you into childhood and makes everything else in the world go away as you focus on this one special moment. And it all starts with a very hungry caterpillar.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekends Are For...

getting a bouquet of flowers from a nice lady at the Farmer's Market just because your so cute. Or at least that's how it works for Analiese.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Neighborhood Parade

I wish I was as courageous as my daughters. I wish I had their confidence. They are comfortable in their skin. They know the beauty of their imaginations and they display it proudly for the world to see.

Here they have decided that the neighborhood needed a parade. And why not? A parade makes everyone smile. So they tied some boxes to their bikes, thus making floats for their animals to ride on and they took off. I love that Sicily waved to the neighbors as she rode by. Future beauty queen? If you ask her it's just future Queen!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


We are home from our trip to the country. I didn't realize how stressed our household had become until I saw us all unwind.

You know those vintage spinning tops that you wrap string around, pull hard, and watch it spin like the Tazmanian Devil from Looney Toons. Well, we were those tops. Somewhere in the last few months our strings got pulled and we started going fast, spinning with all of our might. I think everyone gets like that sometimes. We get caught up in the go-go-go of it all. We launch into survival mode which has no room for stop-and-smell-the-roses mode.

This week I watched us make a few final, slow rotations and then collapse with a dizzy look in our eyes. When the room finally stopped spinning, our arguing stopped, our tantrums stopped, our voices were a little softer.

Nothing on my list was accomplished this week. And yet the most important thing was accomplished. I was gentle with myself. I let myself do nothing. I read. I had tea parties. I took walks with small barefoot people. I dug through my mom's attic (there's a post about therapy in there that I'll save for another day).

I find my mind is a little quieter now that I'm home. I'm ready to accomplish that list now. But I want to hold onto the calm just a little longer. I want to learn to be gentle with myself in the daily so that I don't become the spinning top. Because my children mimic my emotions and my stress whether I like it or not. How do I do that? How do I stop the string from being pulled?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga

This place was wonderful. First of all the whole downtown area of Chattanooga pleasantly surprised me. It's a beautiful little area to walk around. The aquarium is broken up into two buildings, so we viewed one building, the Ocean Journey, and then walked around to find some lunch. After our little break we were ready to view the River Journey.

The aquarium has an extensive collection of jelly fish. I didn't know there were so many different kinds and they were all beautiful and just a little mysterious. Me and the boy love turtles, so we spent a good amount of time staring at the slow moving creatures. I think they are just about the coolest animals and they move just about the right speed for me.

They also had this great collection of art inspired by the sea creatures. We saw some amazing glass work like I'd never seen before. It was simply beautiful!

We had a lovely time and learned some very interesting things. I surprised myself by taking over 250 pictures! What can I say? I really like the sea. I won't bore you with all of them but I hope you enjoy these little collections I've put together.

This is a place we'll definitely be going back to.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Barefoot on a Country Road

I grew up spending most of our vacation time in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. It's this little town known for nurseries, places where old men sweat to grow plants and trees to sell to suburbanites. It's where my mom grew up, where my grandma still lives on a road named after my grandaddy. My granddaddy was one of those old men that planted one of those nurseries. As kids we would play hide and seek among all of the trees with our cousins, running barefoot along dusty rows of forsythia and tulip poplars. When we got too hot we would play imagination games in their basement or walk through the shaded woods digging up arrow heads. We cooked hot dogs over open fires and watched fireworks on the fourth of July. My grandma picked grapes and canned jelly. My grandaddy gave me my first box of charcoal pencils and let us listen to conversations coming over his CB radio.

For me and my sisters, and my cousins too I imagine, my grandparents house was a place of safety and innocence in a time before we all grew up and got complicated. Before we got too cool for running around barefoot in the dirt.

Last year my mom moved back to this place. To a little house she built on that road named after my grandaddy. So I brought my kids here for the week. In the past few days I've watched them run barefoot through dusty trails and play in my mom's basement. It's damp and smells like my grandparent's basement. They're digging in earth and wandering freely through the trees. My boy is especially content walking barefoot on a country road. They're souls are being nutured by the freedom to explore the earth.

I'm sitting by an open window, letting the fresh country breeze swirl around me. Maybe trying to relive a bit of that freedom, nuturing my own soul. I think I'll go walk barefoot through the trees.

My Easter Gift...

I love to go to flea markets with my mom. It's fun to rummage through and find treasures. This weekend she treated me to this lovely "new" table cloth. It's a beautiful vintage linen that fits my table perfectly, (not an easy feat being a very large square). It was my Easter treat and I couldn't have picked out anything better.

I love vintage linen. And I love old worn books of poetry. I can't get enough. If I come across one I have to have it. I love the way they feel in your hands. I love the soft stiffness of old linen. I love the fragility of old paper turned many times. I especially love finding an old book that has scribbled notes in the margins. Because I love the unknown history in it. I like to make up stories about who used these napkins, whose table they graced. I like to think that someone sat quietly beside a warm fire reading these poems by Frost. I get so into making up the history of these worn treasures that I have actually made up dialouge by the end of the story. Usually a simple end of the day converstion had over a delicious meal of beef stew and fresh from the oven bread. Am I a little bit crazy for having someone else's conversations in my head? Maybe, but it sure is fun.

I like to be linked to the past. I don't have roots of my own since we didn't live anywhere long enough to put them down. So I find roots in the history of the things we use. Some of it is family treasures carrying stories I know well. With other things I make up my own stories. It had some history. I like to think that my invented history is a little more romantic. Invented or real, history makes using these things much more meaningful.

Lovely Easter Moments...

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bright Colored Eggs and the Meaning of Easter

We dye eggs. We like to draw on them and then dye them brightly. We like to mix the colors and triple dip them. These beautiful eggs will be put into baskets filled with peeps and Lindt chocolate chicks. They'll sit beside new jars of bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and wind up bunnies. All of these things are lovely and fun. These things are part of our Easter traditions. But we also tell our children that these little treats really have nothing to do with our resurrected Savior.

In these baskets filled with candy and toys they will get one other thing. They get one every year. My children always receive a lamb. An Easter lamb. Stuffed or chocolate or on a sweet card. They get a lamb because it has everything to do with our Savior, the perfect, innocent lamb who redeemed us with his death. And gave us hope with his life.

We want our children to know the story of Easter. We want them to carry it long after they have outgrown the egg dying and the baskets of treats. We want them to hold onto Hope. Hope in a Savior that is theirs. Hope in a life eternal. We want them to remember the lamb.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Break

"It's spring fever! That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! -- Mark Twain

It is. It's a fever the makes us all a little wild for the outdoors. The warm air blows in and the children's feet start twitching. They can't sit still. They stare longingly out windows and hear only a Charlie Brown "wah-wah-wah" coming from their teachers. So we give them Spring Break. A time to stretch their legs and pick flowers. A time to lay about lazily and run circles around the house.

Today begins Spring Break for us. Bring on the week of rest. We all felt the freedom as soon as we drove away from the school today. So we went out for ice cream to celebrate.