book giveaway/maple syrup photos

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(from a page in a book David is sending me)

The cats absolutely love to go outside and roll back and forth back and forth in the dirt.  Bagheera was at the window wanting to come in (we have low porch windows that they can easily jump through) and when I walked over to open up the window he jumped through with his shiny black fur just as dusty and dirty as can be, I had to laugh!

I was gone for a few hours this morning.  After I got Seth and Sarah on the bus and wrote a long long letter to a penpal, I received a text from a friend wondering if we could go walking together.  I’m finally feeling better and energetic after the awful cold I had so I happily said “yes!” and off I went to her house.  We walked over 2.5 miles together in a bright and cold New England morning, with the sky as clear and blue as the deep blue sea.

We walked past a wooded lot that had maple trees tapped for sap.  The sap was dripping from the trees into long thin plastic tubes, which led to clean white plastic containers but I like the looks of the old fashioned way the best (although I admit for large operations it’s much better to use tubing and tubs!).

My Mom and Dad boil sap in the spring and collect it using hooded metal buckets.

I’ve never been able to be home on a boiling day, but my brother David took some wonderful photos on Saturday (full of freshly fallen March snow!) and sent them to me and I wanted to share them here.

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Mom was talking about how to make Pesto while Dave took this video.  I asked Dave why there was a big pot in the middle of the pan of sap and he said that they add the cold sap to the pot to start warming up so that they can add it warm and keep main tray of sap at a constant good boil.

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Mom and Dad in their open shed, with their dog and wood and small homesteading maple syrup operation!  So satisfying.

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This is how they do the final straining of the syrup.

They make jars and jars of syrup and can use it all year long.

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Leave a comment on this post or on my FB page and I’ll draw a name tomorrow and send this book to the lucky winner!   As you know I’ve been reading through all the Newbery books and this 1957 winner was so charming and perfect to read at this time of year.   I will order the book for you on amazon and have it mailed, so you will have to give me your mailing address.  I’ll post the winner tomorrow at this time!

One of my little pleasures is warming up the children’s pancake syrup.  Rich’s Dad also boils sap for syrup and he gives us lots and lots of it every year.  Later on, after breakfast is over and done and I’m cleaning up, I like to stand and dip my finger way down into the leftover syrup and then pop my finger into my mouth for a nice clean mouthful of pure, sweet NY maple syrup goodness!  What a blessing!

‘”The sap running gives me a feeling I can’t describe,” Mr Chris said.  “Like it’s the blood of the earth moving.”‘  Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen

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my parents, my friends

“Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.”  Aurelius

Good morning, it’s 7:50am and 38 degrees here in our neck of the woods.  I didn’t get to see David and Caleb this morning as I got up after their bus came and left.  I woke up Seth with a kiss and he asked his typical, “Can you  make me an egg sandwich with cheese and ham?  Do we have bacon?  No?  okay, than with ham?” and then he took a 20 minute shower.  I had to go back upstairs to knock on the door and tell him, “Your egg sandwich has been done for ten minutes!”  Sarah Joy didn’t sleep well last night, and neither did I.  When I got up at 2 to drink some milk, I found her sleeping on the couch.  The dog was a few feet away, snoring and snoring.  It was rather cozy I must admit.  She was back in her bed this morning and didn’t want to get up.  The sooner she realizes that she can live life even when super- tired the better.

They have left for school now, leaving me home alone.  I’ve been feeling rather lonely lately and think I’ll try making a list of things to do in order to fill up my day and feel more productive.  This morning I want to blog, shower, get some groceries, clean the coat closet, go for a walk, and get some laundry folded.  Then this afternoon I’ll have to think of some more things to get done.

Sherlock the orange cat is stretched out on my art book, which I keep out on the table in front of the window here in the livingroom.  I have paints and pens and papers, my Bible, note cards, glue, and books all over the table and he seems to feel at home there.  Our black cat Bagheera is curled up next to me on a red wool blanket.  I am sitting cross-legged on the couch with a pillow on my lap, with the computer on the pillow, typing away………at times I reach out and stroke his beautiful black fur and he always purrs in reply.

I’m thinking about what I was doing last week at this time.  I was at my parent’s house and mom was frying us eggs.  She fried four; one for me, one for Dad, one for her, and one for the dog.  Dad mixed a few nuggets of dog food in with the dog’s egg and put it on the floor for him.  Mom made gingerbread pancakes for me and herself.  Dad didn’t want one.  We all had bacon.  Just as we were about to eat, Aunt Carol came.  She lives just up the road from mom and dad and recently lost her husband.  She would normally walk down for a visit but it was only ten degrees outside so she drove.  Dad made coffee and we all enjoyed having a cup together.  Mom showed Aunt Carol the scrapbook she is working on and I enjoyed watching the two sisters look through it, sitting side by side, and talking together about childhood memories.

I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for my family, each one is so special in many ways.  I’m glad that we have each other.  I’m glad I have parents who love me so much and want me to visit them.  Mom took Monday morning off so she could be home with me and not have to go to work until I had to leave.

We looked at old family photos, ate a yummy St Patrick’s day boiled corned beef dinner, watched tv, worked on Mom’s scrapbook, talked, went for a wonderful walk outside, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

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With my dear Dad!!!

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Little me, with my mom and dad over forty years ago.

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A meaningful quote in Dad’s writing, found propped against his books.

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These words are engrained in my mind, as I remember reading this plaque through the years.  The truth of them astounds me now, and comforts me.

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The sisters looking at mom’s book.

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Mom and Dad tap maple trees and boil sap in the springtime, so we walked up to check the buckets.

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And guess what?

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The sap was hanging from the spigots as icicles!  Dad had boiled a few days before but knew he’d have a few days off since it was freezing cold.  I love that they make syrup, there’s just something so satisfying about it and they have mason jars full of the finished product to enjoy all year-long.

My brother David sent me photos from this weekend that I’ll share tomorrow of the boiling.

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There is something deep inside that is always put at ease when I am home again, especially outdoors.  I find myself again and I’m me, just me, my mind relaxes as I listen to quiet and smell and see all the familiar things.

“I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world—present and in awe.”  Anne Lamott

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Just Shanda, out on a walk with her Mom and her Dad.

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Dad was telling Mom about the tree he found to cut up for firewood and mom was telling him all the ways to do it safely.

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Mom stopped to admire this rock.  I smiled.

“I tell you the truth, if they kept silent their praise of the Lord, the stones themselves would cry out the message.”  Luke 19:40

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Beautiful morning frost on the moss.   I got right on the ground to get closer.  Look at the perfect patterns!

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There is loveliness all around us, we just need the eyes to see and hearts to appreciate.

“The earth has music for those who listen.”  Shakespeare

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Back inside the warm house…..I gave mom the mushroom Joanna gave to me!  I knew Jo wouldn’t mind, as she loves my mom, too.  It just goes so well with mom’s corner collection (the one from me and Jo is on the green leaf).  Look, she even has a mushroom planter which maybe I’ll try to steal next time I visit………….

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Mom made this recently!

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Look at the back!  This was all her creation, no pattern, just some lovely fabric and an artsy soul.

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Time for this girl to go home to her own house and family.

But first a hug from mom.

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And a hug from Dad.

Time with you is always precious to me.

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My parents.

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My friends.

thanksgiving day, 2018

I’m sitting in a quiet house for the first time in over a week.

I can write again!

Our three older children were back home from college for Thanksgiving break and I’ve been busy, because we were able to host Thanksgiving dinner again this year.  The kids helped in many ways, especially in distracting me from my unfortunate tendency to get anxious over how everything would turn out.  They helped by:  coming down with hives, needing to go to football practices, piling up dirty laundry, putting interesting movies on for me to watch, being funny and entertaining, arguing over the newly arrived Playstation, forcing me to play lots of games of bananagrams, and so on.  The weather was also a factor as it dropped down into the teens for days.  Life is good.

It was son David who had the hives.  I never had a child with hives before.  For no apparent reason his hands and feet would become painful and itchy, break out in spots and a rash between his fingers, and then clear completely, only to return 3 or 4 hours later.  This went on for a solid week.  I put in several calls to the Pediatrician just to give us all peace of mind that he was okay and that he wasn’t contagious for our guests.

He felt fine except for the episodes.   In fact, he felt good enough to find a Sharpie and create Neville Squashbottom:

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That’s Dave crossing his arms in the background and saying, “NOW we can’t eat him for thanksgiving.”  Maybe this was his way of perhaps getting me to NOT make squash, which he doesn’t like?  He created a Thanksgiving Mascot.

Over the next few days I would come across Neville in random places and the children became attached to him.  I just laughed to myself.  Of all things, a squash.

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Thanksgiving morning.  I woke up, Rich made me coffee.  Seth was awake so I put him to work tearing bread into pieces for turkey stuffing.  Sarah had mentioned that she wanted to do it, too, but she was still asleep and I never wake a sleeping child unless absolutely necessary.  Somehow she woke herself up, came slowly downstairs to the kitchen, and sleepily began breaking bread.  After about five slices I noticed her stop to stretch and say to herself, “I’m not even awake yet!”  They filled up the bowl with bread, Squashbottom watching them, while I stood at the stove and sautéed onion and celery (which Jacob helpfully chopped the night before) in plenty of butter.  I poured them into the bread, added plenty of salt and pepper, poultry seasoning, and a touch of broth, tossed it together with a wooden spoon, and then stuffed our 24 pound turkey with it.  The smell of thanksgiving morning is my favorite.

Just three short hours later, brother David arrived with my parents.

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And I found Neville on top of the fridge with a mortal stab wound.

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Grace, laughing over the cheese tray.

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Seth and Grandpa saying hello and catching up on each other’s news.

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Sarah, shooting some hoops.  The basketball hoop doesn’t get played with unless it’s on the closet door, right by the kitchen.  These kids just love me way too much.  (by the end of the day, the “by grace alone” plaque had flown off the wall.)

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Rich found me cutting the squash into quarters and took a photo to document his end.

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The ladies; Sharon (Abbie’s church friend), Brittnee (Jacob’s girlfriend,) Amanda, Abbie, Grace, Naomi, my mom, myself, and Sarah.

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Dad and Sarah

Rich was at the sink washing pots and pans, he was my number one kitchen-cleaner-helper this year!!!  As soon as Mom and I threw a dirty dish in the sink, Rich washed it.

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We put all the food on the kitchen island and served the meal buffet-style, after we all stood together and joinded Dad for a heart-felt prayer of gratitude.  We loaded our plates, the adults sat in the livingroom, and the children sat around the table in the dining room.

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My extensive collection of fiestaware was put to grand use.  All three gravy boats, lots of casserole dishes and platters, too!  More than enough plates for everyone!

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A pleasant game of football was on tv-but kept on mute so we could still talk and laugh and hear each other.

After dinner was over we took some time to shoot our annual “Who are the Guests of this Year’s Thanksgiving” portrait, and some other photos, as well.fullsizeoutput_5d17

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Rich and I with our children.

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My sister’s family.

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Amanda with her daughters.

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me with my brother Dave and our sister (our brothers Nate and Isaac couldn’t come this year)

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I love this photo of my mom and dad with their dog Kublai Khan.

Mom likes to pretend she’s jealous of Kublai so this was what happened when my sister said, “Lets put Kublai in the middle!”

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soooooooooooo funny

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Heads togehter, looking at the camera to see how the portraits turned out.

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we played Apples to Apples

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Mom was reading through the family genealogy and we decided that David looks just like one of our ancestors.  Especially with his ears that way.

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Jacob and Brittnee braved the cold for some photos outside.

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Sarah went out to play and was so cold she came back inside again and kept her coat on.  Here she is, enjoying Grandma’s homemade pickles made with her own garden produce.  Mom saved this big jar for our feast and let me keep it, too!  (pickles are gone and the jar is washed and put away).

Our beautiful thanksgiving day was over.  After many hugs, Mom and Dad left with Dave to go back home, and Amanda left with her family, too.  Rich and I relaxed on the couch for the rest of the evening and then we all went to bed except Jacob, Grace, and Brittnee, who went out at midnight to go shopping.

 

 

 

back to the blog

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Last weekend, Rich left with Grace, David, and Caleb to go to camp in NH for a week.  Jacob and Ethan stayed home so they could work and I left for NY (back home) with Seth and Sarah.  I thought it would be a good chance for a lengthy visit with family, not to mention that the church I grew up in was also having their children’s VBS and I knew Seth and Sarah would love that experience.   We drove to my parent’s house on Saturday and spent the weekend with them, and for the rest of the week we stayed next door to my Aunt Colleen’s house, in her in-laws’ downstairs apartment of convenience and delight.

I only took my phone with me; no big Nikon this time, and no laptop; thus the silence from wordpress blogging.  I did update FB and instagram now and then.

It’s good to be home!  I have lots of pictures to share from our week away.

Sarah is snuggled up next to me playing my kindle and talking while I type.

 

One of the things Mom and Dad and all their decendents do at this time every year is pick as many wild blueberries from Mom and Dad’s blueberry patch across the road. . . . .

 

Brother Nate and Brother Dave were so fun with their antics….Nate refusing to pick because he was “made to do it too much when he was a kid” and he “doesn’t like picking”.  Dave teasing Dad and having little conversations with Sarah.  There are so many bushes that we end up wandering off on our own, but still talking, laughing, teasing, and making strange noises to each other.  Everyone who was willing to pick had a cup or a basket to put berries in.

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When we were done, my mom and sisters in law baked a cake using Mom’s cookbook that she copied out in her pretty handwriting when she was a young teenager.

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Mom added lemon zest to the recipe and it was fantastic.

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Melissa and Maria went through all the berries we picked and cleaned, bagged, and labeled them.

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We visited the garden and saw snakes.

 

In the end of day golden hour, Mom and Sarah went out for MORE picking.  Sarah ate so many blueberries that day we starting giving her warnings about digestive issues.  🙂

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After church on Sunday, I took Seth and Sarah to my favorite local & independent bookstore in the area where Sarah “adopted” an owl and I bought a crossword puzzle book (too hard) and a novel.

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We walked the busy and interesting main street and made a stop in several shops, including one in the historical society.  I took a picture of the arrowheads; this area of NY has many Native American artifacts which are always fascinating.

I would have stayed and read every word but alas, my little children were not as interested as I was.

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Back at Mom and Dad’s, Mom and the grands made another cake to use up bananas.

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And played foosball.  Mom laughed so hard, I wish I could remember why.  She and I were taking turns playing.  I was sitting and trying to do a cross word puzzle, too.

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Sunday evening, more picking!  Some of the bushes are so tall Mom has to bend them down for Sarah to reach (and hide in).

Tomorrow I will blog about the rest of our week.

(I can’t concentrate right now….too many interruptions).

HUGS!

life itself is grace

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(violets for thia) my friend

“Real love creates a generous openness.  Have you ever been so caught up in something that you just had to share it?  When you are walking alone in the woods, something takes your breath away–a sunset, a waterfall, the simple song of a bird–and you think, ‘If only my beloved were here’.  The best things in life were meant to be shared.”
The Sacred Romance, by John Eldredge

I do so love to share life with you here.  We had a full and happy weekend and I know you did, too.  Isn’t it grand?  Air to breath, faces to smile, good food to enjoy, family, friends, sports, hometown plays, children, grown ups, secrets?

beautiful things don’t ask for attention

open your eyes and notice (be on the look out!)

often life brings me to tears

lovely things are silent

Lovely things are silent….
Rosebuds waxing bloom,
Shadows stealing softly
In a darkened room;
Dragonflies on rushes,
Stars in dark blue skies;
Hatching, fuzzy birdlets,
Love in sweethearts’ eyes.

Lovely things are silent. . .
Rainbows in the sky,
Violets shedding fragrance,
A soft breeze waltzing by;
An apple tree in blossom,
Sunsets all aglow;
Moonlight on the water,
Falling soft white snow.

Lovely things are silent. . .
Foam clouds in the sky,
Hummingbirds at flowers,
Butterflies gliding by,
A spider’s dainty spinning,
Wild flowers on a hill.
I bow my head in silence
And in my heart I’m still.
~Betty Fox Solberg

It’s 44 degrees at our place this morning and there is a cheerful fire going in our wood pellet stove.  I’m still in my comfortable clothes, with thick socks and slippers on, too.  Jacob is getting ready for college and work, our chocolate lab is snoring at my feet.  Cat snoozing on the windowsill behind me.  The house is quiet and peaceful.

Outside purple and white violets are still in bloom.  Some of our town has lilacs open, but mine are not flowered yet.  I worry about the trees because last year’s gypsy moth eggs have hatched, there are tiny baby caterpillars everywhere.  Baby turtles were found on the bank of the pond this weekend, a miracle in miniature.

‘Tis the season of shivering as we watch our boys play little league baseball.

My husband preached yesterday in church.  The whole service did something to my heart; softened it.  Love was in the air.

Our daughter Grace is a senior in High school.  There is nervousness in the family because we know “last times” are happening and happening fast.  In the fall, our three oldest children will be going away to college.

This weekend was “the last school drama production”.  I cried and so did she.  Oh how she has loved being part of it all. . . .

Grandma and Grandpa came to watch her.  We had time for a ramble in the woods and a trip to town, too.  Ice cream cones, laughter, games of catch for the boys.

*  * * *

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.”

“. . . .this happened (life itself?) so that the work of God might be displayed.”

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girls visiting before getting ready for the play on Saturday; Brittany and Grace

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our family pianist

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Grandma’s here!

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my mom, my friend

we enjoy the same things; home decorating, kitchen life, family, and nature, birding. . .

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I ran the baby turtle back to the house to show the children. A wonder and a marvel.

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thick grapevine growing up and into a tree

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marsh marigold, ferns growing

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crossing the stream with a handful of apple blossoms

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garden flowers

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granddaughter and her grandma

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the brothers were practicing baseball and grandpa couldn’t resist joining in

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I think ofttimes as the night draws nigh
Of an old house on the hill,
Of a yard all wide and blossom-starred
Where children played at will.  ~Author Unknown

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coffeeshop

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street bench

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little lady with her grandpa, eating chocolate

ice cream

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Grace’s last high school drama production:  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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dancing in the middle of the stage with the boy in white shirt

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“Old bamboo” number

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scene at the beach song and dance

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very old inventors “The Roses of Success” song and dance (Grace is in the middle)

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teamwork song (second to end, next to her friend Jenna)

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“The Bombie Samba”

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final bows

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finale

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a touching tribute to their beloved director, as this was her last musical

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after the show on Saturday night

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lots of hugs

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with her proud Grandpa and Dad

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after the show on Sunday

many tears were shed

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Dad with his precious daughter; we are so proud of you, Grace.

Happy Monday friends!

thankful for:

friendship
love notes on the counter from an older brother
little hands touching my hair
questions from curious minds
my husband’s embrace
my husband going to the gas station to get me cream for my coffee this morning
a caring school nurse calling to tell me Sarah has a sore throat
purring cats
warmth inside when outside is shivery
guitar clips via text from Ethan, who is coming home this week
the start of a fresh new week; may God bless us everyone!

“And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.”  Isaiah 35:7

 

frosty sunday morning

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Time to be, time to dream, time to do nothing but wander in outside, free, in nature.

It’s invaluable for young and old.

Doesn’t the red winged black bird remind you of an English Guard?

There is beauty abundant in each ordinary day……and it often stops me in my tracks.

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Tom the Turkey.

We wanted to see a Tom with his feathers all fluffed out but it didn’t happen during my visit at Mom and Dad’s until I was on the highway leaving Albany and I saw one on the side of the road with a hen.

*****

“Then there were long, lazy summer afternoons when there was nothing to do but read. And dream. And watch the town go by to supper. I think that is why our great men and women so often have sprung from small towns, or villages. They have had time to dream in their adolescence. No cars to catch, no matinees, no city streets, none of the teeming, empty, energy-consuming occupations of the city child. Little that is competitive, much that is unconsciously absorbed at the most impressionable period, long evenings for reading, long afternoons in the fields or woods.”  Edna Ferber

 

flowers under cloudy skies

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I hit the road Friday morning and drove to my parent’s house to spend a long weekend.  Although I felt a little sad leaving all the children home with Rich, I knew that it was important for me to get away for a *body mind and soul* rest away from the endless rewarding yet sometimes quite stressful jobs of parent and housekeeper.

A retreat to Mom and Dad’s house was just the place of peace and relaxation for me.

***

We had a chilly but invigorating walk on Saturday morning.  But before we went up the road, Mom and I put on our necessary rubber boots and meandered about the gardens to see what was coming up.

Mom has extensive flower beds; she absolutely LOVES gardening and has over 45 years of experience growing things.  She knows where everything is and where everything came from and delights in the many surprises gardening holds, too.  Volunteer plants show up all over the place.  She knows when she weeds she has to be careful, but not too terribly careful, because then in one of those fun surprises, the flowers will transplant down the bank where she throws the weeds.  And that’s a smile just waiting to happen.

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pink and salmon hyacinths

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The only one we saw.

(I have a small patch of them in my garden, too; does anyone know the name?  I forgot.)

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Daffodils

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Aunt Rita started planting them here years and years ago and Mom continues.  Daffodils are very obliging when it comes to multiplying each year.

“I hope to have them go all the way down the stone fence eventually!”

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darling mini daffies

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Mom planted Tasha Tudor foxgloves by the house but now they’re gone; they reappeared at the edge of the woods.

I gave her the seeds from Tasha Tudors website years ago when Tasha was still alive.  She also has a signed print from “The Secret Garden”.  We are fans.

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There are things all over the place in the beds to make things interesting.  For example, this roundish rock has been in the garden in various locations since I was a kid.  Her brother Chris (they were less than one year apart in age) found it on the farm and asked her if she wanted it.  We call it the Fred Flintstone bowling ball and mom believes that perhaps the groves were made so that Indians could crack Hickory nuts in them (you can see the tool marks on the rock).

Besides the flower gardens, Mom and Dad work on a big rustically fenced vegetable garden and maintain trails through the wild blueberry patch and into the woods.  There is a crick, mature trees and forest, wildlife abundant, places for summertime campfires, benches, and healthy moist lawn perfect for barefeet.  In my opinion, all of their well-tended 16 acres could be featured in any issue of Country Living magazine.

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After the garden tour we headed up the road together to take ourselves and the dog for a walk.

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Uncle Brian and his dogs were out; we stopped for a chat.  He had recently seen two big Tom turkeys both trying to impress a hen in all their feathered glory.  We told him he should have had a camera and he said he had enough to keep his hands full with the dogs.

He and Dad do a lot together throughout the week working in the woodlot.

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The land on both sides of the road used to belong to Mom’s parents.  It’s old farmland.  Much of it is still in the family; the parts than aren’t still feel like “ours” deep down inside.  It’s quiet and peaceful here; hardly a car goes by and you can’t even hear the sounds of distant traffic, only nature and maybe some of the far away neighbors target practicing.

This day was cloudy and overcast but the sky made all the photos beautiful.

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When we arrived back home we had some visitors.

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“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

We never know the love of a parent till we become parents ourselves. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps;
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.
~A. Bronson Alcott, “The Garden,” Tablets, 1868