trip back home

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I left Thursday morning as soon as the children got on the school bus and drove leisurely to my parents’ house.  I stopped several times for coffee, gas, the mall, and an antique store where I found a handful of old photos and letters for my scrapbook.

Mom was at work but Dad and the dog greeted me and we went for a walk up the road so he could show me the wood he’s been cutting.

We passed the house my mom and her siblings grew up in which now belongs to someone else.

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I played on this yard as a child, too.

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Springtime Daffodils were peeking through old grasses from last year, in a tire that my Grandma planted flowers in years ago.

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Dad stood by his woodpile in the woods across from Andrew’s and the pond.

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I admired the beautiful scenery as we walked back down the road to home.  I’m forever thankful to have grown up in such a beautiful area.

Soon it was time to pick up my cousin Erika so we could go to school and sing.  But first, I was delighted to see her fiestaware collection.    This is a photo of just some of what she and her husband have found.

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Aunt Colleen says Jillian (Erika’s daughter) is the avocado whisperer because she’s the only one who can get the pits to grow.  This is an avocado plant in her bedroom!  She planted it from a grocery store avocado, using the pit after they ate the rest of it.

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This is a school yearbook photo of my friend Nicole, my brother, myself, Carmine, Dana (my HS bestie) and Aaron, all friends from my childhood who were in chorus with me years and years ago.

My beloved chorus Director is retiring this year so those of us who could attend went back to school to sing one last time………

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The beginning of the concert…..

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My friend Tracy took this photo of me and the rest of the alto section.  Oh it was such fun!!  I was just a little bit rusty and couldn’t sustain a note quite as long because I’m out of practice.  But still, so fun.  I loved seeing familiar faces and places; the whole weekend was full of nostalgia and memories.  I hadn’t been inside the school in over 10 years.

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My sweet cousin and me after the concert with our red folders.  🙂

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Looking pretty good for a pair of 40ish year olds!  My friend Tracy and myself (same graduating class of 1994).  We had fun walking around seeing the school and how it has changed since we attended there (seems like just a year or so ago…….)

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Me and Mrs. Westover at the reception after the concert.

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The old gym that we graduated in.  Ah, memories!!!!

friday:

I stopped by the restaurant in town that morning where Erika is the baker and she gave me some slices of her homemade pie to take home!  Thank you Erika!  The pie was delicious when we ate it that evening for dessert.  Mom and Dad had raspberry and I had chocolate peanut butter (split with brother Dave).

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I drove to meet mom for lunch.  She was able to take a special four- hour-long -one just for me.

(isn’t the floor of her office beautiful?)

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antiquing…….

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Someone glued lots of old McDonald’s toys to a mirror.  It would be fun in a child’s bedroom.

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My cute mom.

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A frame/art shop with a window full of cats.

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LUNCH at a thai place

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COFFEE time! (with our Vera purses of the same pattern but slightly different fabrics)

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After I left mom back at work, I drove the back way home and passed the house my family lived in until I was in 2nd grade.  Dave and I have many vivid memories of childhood here.  It was a Sears Roebuck house kit built by my paternal grandparents.  My dad grew up here and then he and Mom bought the house and lived in it for a while, too.  It used to be yellow but the shrubbery is the same (not green now bc it’s still early spring here).  Mom said even the driveway was the same and hasn’t been repaved since they sold it.  🙂  The second story window was my bedroom.

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And this house next door was my Paternal Great-Grandparents’ house.  The families stayed close to each other and Dad has lots of photos of gatherings on the different yards for cook outs and picnics when he was a youngster.

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And then I drove by the old church we attended and my Dad was baptized in.   I remember Sundays with lots of family and friends.  We went to this church until I was about Sarah’s age but I remember things . . . . .children soak everything in. . . . it’s a good reminder for me to be gentle with my own children.

I went to the small country cemetery where my grandparents, great aunt and uncle, and Great-Grandparents (all on my dad’s side of the family) are buried and then to the school and country store.

Then, home again to my parents’ house and a visit with my brother Dave.

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I love this photo of Dave and my dad and the family pets.  🙂

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“up on the hill”

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I went walking in the woods with mom and Dave — they stopped to look at everything, Mom said, “I want to see something new!”  They make rock “people” stacks everywhere, and look for gold in the creek (it MIGHT happen!) or arrowheads.  Maybe!

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Standing under a giant purple tree mushroom.  Something new we saw!

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Then Mom (she’s very observant) saw a black animal over in the field so Dave and I walked over to check things out.  It was two black cats, maybe from Uncle Brian’s house?  We didn’t know them and they didn’t know us.  They ran off to hide in the old barn.

saturday;

Mom and I did some garden clean-up with Dad and then got ready for more adventuring.  We asked Dad to take our photo but first he took this one:

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We invited him to come along but he graciously declined.

Mom found a vintage white coverlet and I found a vintage fiesta ivory gravy boat.

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~loveliness in a beautifully arranged shop.

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~Seating area in a deli where we ate lunch.

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Fred, more than 50 years old.

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As we left I took a plant!

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~Beautiful vintage fiestaware (I didn’t buy it).

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I LOVE my mom’s eye for things.  She really liked this old oven and opened up everything to figure it out and imagine using it.

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Oh how wonderful it was to have a day with my mom!  I’m so thankful and so blessed.

We shopped until we dropped and then we went home and she made a pork chop dinner!

It was delicious.

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She has sewing and crocheting projects going.  This is a quilt piece she’s working on, inspired by the photo next to it.

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Photo of Uncle Bob and my Dad Greg next to that same shrubbery.

sunday

Sunday was a DELIGHT.  I went to the church I attended all the way up until Rich and I moved away as a young married couple……..and I got there at the same time as my father in law!  He was alone (Leslie was home with Charles) so we sat together.  I cannot even tell you the gratitude I felt as we shared a Bible and enjoyed a church service together, and singing.  I am blessed to be married and born into the most wonderful families.  I could look just across the way at Aunt Colleen sitting with her girls taking notes, and Erika sitting behind them with her husband and sister Elisha.  My cousin Heidi was there with her two young sons, too.

After church I went home with Dad so I could visit with dear Leslie and Charles.  Leslie was just coming inside from caring for her hens.  She was wearing a pink jacket and had an egg from the coop.  She put the tea kettle on and we sat right at the table and had a nice long visit, just the four of us.  Dad gave me a box full of his maple syrup to bring home for the grandchildren’s pancakes and french toast.  Leslie gave me a bar of her homemade soap tied with a ribbon.  And guess what?  It was snowing outside.  Yep, snow at the end of April.  In fact, Grace just texted me to let us know it’s snowing in Pennsylvania right this very minute.

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My father in law built their house. They just finished the back addition and it looks beautiful.  I love the wide plank floors and all the windows.

After goodbye hugs, I drove to Colleen’s house and we went out for lunch together, just the two of us.  The food was delicious and we had a nice long visit as we ate.

Then, we headed back to her house for another hour or so and made homemade snickerdoodle cookies just like when we were little.

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~African Violets in bloom on her kitchen windowsill.

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~A picture she painted of the view outside her childhood bedroom window.

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She had a batch of Uncle Brian’s green salad in the fridge and even though we weren’t hungry we just had to have a spoon of it.  Tastes like our childhood!

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Meghan giving the dogs a treat.

After we got our cookies baked, I had to leave to go back home to Connecticut.  I drove the back roads for a while and then got on the highway.  I drove through some snow, some rain, and the most gorgeous end of the day clouds.  I listened to podcasts on the way home and arrived back to my husband and children at 8pm.

Heart-full and Joy-full.  It’s good to be home.

pizza dough recipe

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By what magic does my mother make her fabulous pizza?  I’ve tried for years but curiously enough, it is only recently that I feel as though there is hope for me, her eldest daughter, to follow in her footsteps.

I texted her last week to tell her I was going to make it but it wouldn’t be as good as hers and she replied, “Maybe I’ll make it too” and I said, “Then we’ll be the same.” and she said, “In spirit” and I said, “What do you set your oven to?” and she replied, “475”…..”on the lower shelf so it gets crispy on the bottom.”

Hours later, I sent her a photo of the results.

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“That looks perfect,” she wrote.

The next day she sent me a photo of the bottom of her pizza crust and it looked exactly the same.54506716276__12E75B43-9D7E-4A62-A53D-E589479F86F1

This was the point of turning for me, from hesitant frustrated pizza maker, to confident and joyful.

I had given Seth, Sarah, and Michael each a lump of dough to make their own pizzas, too.  It was the first time Michael had made a pizza.  This was last week.  When he came over again yesterday I asked them all what they wanted for dinner and he requested pizza again.  In this way I knew it had been a good experience for him.  Unfortunately I had already made it the previous night.  Michael works at a boy’s home and is going to started cooking with the boys four times a month (on Saturdays).  He started writing up a meal plan and Pizza made with Actual Dough was on the list.

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Sarah bragged that she “Ate seven pieces”.

Seth said “My stomach’s extended.”

Sarah said, “My taste buds are out.”

David and Caleb were so jolly after a tummy full of pizza that they ran around the house trying to pull each other’s, and Seth’s, pants down.

I’ve tried several recipes for pizza dough but this is the one that makes my heart sing.

Shanda’s Pizza Dough Recipe

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 T. white sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water
2 T. olive oil
1 T. salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups bread flour

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes.  Stir in olive oil, whole wheat flour, salt, and 4 cups of bread flour into the yeast mixture.  Mix in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.  When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.  (I use a kitchen aid mixer).  Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  (I leave the dough in the kitchen aid mixer bowl).  Cover with a damp cloth and put in warm place to rise until doubled in volume; about 1 hour.

Deflate dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface  Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and form into rounds.  Cover the rounds and let them rest for about 10 minutes.  Preheat oven to 475.  Use a rolling pin (or hands) to roll dough into the desired shape, cover it with your favorite toppings.  Place on bottom rack in oven until nicely browned, about 20 minutes.
recipe source:  allrecipes.com

 

in my heart there rings a melody

dsc_2429(grandpa’s old barn)

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The north wind brings forth rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.

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It is better to live in a corner of the housetop 
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

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Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.

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Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain
is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.

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It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Proverbs 25:23-28

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Good morning, friends, how in the world are you?

Imagine!  God’s many numerous good things are all around us, oh to have the eyes to see them, really see them!  Even on the “down” days we are going UP UP UP, on our way to glory land.  Eternal life is NOW, it starts now, never to end……..as believers we have so much hope, it’s hard sometimes to keep our minds focused on the wonderful promises of God, but nevertheless they are there in the Bible, they are real and never changing.  Isn’t it incredible to have security in an unchanging Father?  He always loves us, always cares for us, always holds us in his mighty hands.

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My parents have a nice pumpkin patch, we all visited it and “blessed the pumpkins” by giving them a nice pat, you can’t help but want to touch them because they have very smooth looking skins.  I especially love the photo of son David using one as a pillow.

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cousins

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From a distance, the pumpkin patch.  My prediction is that it will be even bigger next year.

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Back at home now, Gentleman Gray is wondering where his friend Snickers is.  Snickers has been missing for a week and we are all beginning to worry.  They keep coming to me and asking about him, but so far there is no news, no letter, no message, no sign.

*sigh* I hate losing cats.  My guess is that the smell of skunk was too much for him.

Speaking of which, the house is smelling much better.  What a relief.  (Now if the dryer would stop screeching….)  Parker the dog is still smelly so he spends most of his day outdoors in the fresh air.

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The garden is still producing tomatoes and my favorite way to eat them…….

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……is generously placed on toasted & buttered Pepperidge Farm white bread, with salt and pepper (more pepper than salt).  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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I also made a banana bread.  (Grace’s favorite, turns out Michael likes it, too).

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“I can see you!” I remarked to the amusing Grasshopper.  He shifted and twitched.  Being upside down is not a safe place to be if your legs are your number one escape mechanism.

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Ah much better.

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I looked & looked without touching and he never did jump away.  I think he liked me, too, but most likely he was scared out of his wits.

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These are a most wondrous scented wild flower.

I looked it up in my wildflowers book:  nothing.
I looked it up online by googling CT wildflowers, yellow:  nothing
I looked it up again online, using the name of what I thought it was, “morning primrose”:  found it!

Its common names are: Evening Primrose (I was close), Evening Star, or Sundrop.

Wikipedia has a very interesting article about it here.

delightful.  You can smell them before you even get close to them.

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And then I decided to pick a pink bouquet.

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“It isn’t what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart.” ~ Author Unknown

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My heart.

Seth is holding the “tough guy ball” which looks JUST like a coffee bean, and is rewarded to a player after every practice.  The player takes it home for the night and then returns it at the next practice.

Look how handsome he is.  I tie his string and buckle his buckles and then bend down to double knot his cleats.  He looks around as I fuss, ignoring me as I adoringly serve him.  It is an honor for us both but only I am conscious of it.

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We arrived at the field’s parking lot for practice and as he briskly took his helmet out of the back of the car, I closed the truck and turned to him to say goodbye, “Have a nice practice, Seth!  Give me a kiss.”  (the test–to see if he would kiss me in front of his friends, I wouldn’t mind if he didn’t.  In fact, I was sure he would wouldn’t.)

Without hesitation, he came over close and gave me a quick, distracted kiss on the arm.  (lip height).  Like of course it was the most natural thing in the world to kiss mama before running off to football practice.

My heart.

**********

I have a song that Jesus gave me,
It was sent from heav’n above;
There never was a sweeter melody,
‘Tis a melody of love.

In my heart there rings a melody,
There rings a melody with heaven’s harmony;
In my heart there rings a melody,
There rings a melody of love.

~Elton Menno Roth~

family reunion 2016

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On the way to Colleen’s house on Saturday silly Seth said, “Mom, mom, look!”  When I turned around I saw that he had put his sneakers on his bear.   The next time I turned around, Bear had Seth’s shirt on!

This morning when I got up, I found Caleb on the couch with a cat, crying.  “I wish we could move our house and all of our animals to New York!” he confessed.  “You had fun this weekend, didn’t you?” I asked.  He knew I understood and began to feel better again.

We were running early to the reunion so we parked and walked on Main Street in one of the old familiar towns to a small but wonderful bookstore, which was adjacent to a coffee shop.  Once the young ones understood that there would be no “buying” only “looking”, we all had a lovely time browsing.

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On the way to the bookstore David gasped when he saw these backpacks.  He literally gasped.

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Grace was pretty.

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This bookshelf was full of wonderful classic books, and many of them had fresh up-to-date covers.  It was like seeing an old friend in a beautiful new dress.  I carefully pulled them from the shelves to admire them, placing each and every one back with a smile.  I was thrilled to see a copy of Kirstin Lavransdatter on the second to the bottom shelf in the middle (big thick black book with orange things on it).  It’s a book everyone should read (I’ve read it two times and plan to read it again soon).  A++++ literature.

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“If you would kindly please to let me keep upright, sir, perhaps I shouldn’t be sick, and perhaps I could attend more!”  Great Expectations.  Wonderful writing by Charles Dickens.

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Grace in the bookstore chair.

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I want to read the My Struggle books (memoirs written by a Norwegian).

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((CHRISTIE!!!  All of the Master and Commander books!  I smiled and thought of you.))  so so good.

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New covers for the Anne books.  They had a nice feel to them and I wished I could read them all………..

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Meanwhile the boys were playing Pokemon Go.  So annoying.  😉

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We arrived at Colleen and Roger’s house.  Colleen is my Mom’s youngest sister.  She did such an amazing job hosting our first official family reunion.  We had a family meeting, ate lunch, played games, swam, had a bonfire, went for a walk, all the while visiting and bonding again as a big happy family.  I saw my aunts and uncle, my parents, siblings, cousins, and their children.  The younger set had fun discovering and playing with their cousins.

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There were a lot of old photos to look through.

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One of the “minute to win it” games was stacking three golfballs.  Mom won.  Later I played the same game against my cousin Erika.

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This game was to see who could blow a bubble through a hula hoop.

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Nate and Dave got a two hand touch football game going with the kids.

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We walked around Colleen’s vegetable garden.  She had potatoes growing in old tires.

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And a fake snake in the corn to keep out the critters.

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Just outside the garden entrance was a mailbox to hold garden tools and gloves.

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The pool was a very popular place to be.

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As was the chocolate fountain.

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One more game to see who could eat a “fruit by the foot” with no hands!

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(my parents and their puppy)

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Uncle Roger made a sky high bonfire and we had a table of everything to make a s’more of your dreams.

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We walked along the trails by the crick.  The boys skipped rocks and the children waded.

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Dad’s little puppy loved splashing around in the water.

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So did my little Seth.

Somehow 7 hours flew by and it was time for Rich and I to head to our hotel for the night.

We saw a lovely sunset and had full and happy hearts from a wonderful day.

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The good news is that the family now plans on having a reunion every year.

*****

Uncle Brian’s Green Salad

1  16 oz container of cottage cheese
1  small pkg. instant pistachio pudding
1   8 oz container cool whip
1/2  pkg mini-marshmallows
1  small can crushed pineapple

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Let set overnight–mix again just before placing in serving bowl.  May add coconut of other fruits to create your own version of this dessert-type salad.

 

 

in the garden


(listen while you visit?)

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In my mom and dad’s garden,

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it’s currently pickle-making time, so they are harvesting cucumbers and garlic.

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My nephew and niece,

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my sister in law, and the new puppy, everybody loves the garden.

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Inside the house there are sparkling clean jars, the freshest garlic,

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and three generations in the kitchen making pickles!

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There was a beautiful sunset at my parents house at the end of a satisfying day.

*****

My brother and mother sent me these photos.  I haven’t been “back home” yet this summer, but with the constant texting it’s almost as good as being there.

Here is a lovely video that Mom sent to me one morning in the springtime, which instantly made me happy and homesick at the same time.  I grew up here.

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10 large cucumbers
4 sprigs of dill
6 cloves of garlic
6 cups of water
1 1/4 cup vinegar
1/3 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar

Wash and sterilize 4 (1 quart) jars. Boil water, vinegar, salt, and sugar and let cool. Cut cucumbers into quarters. Add 1 sprig of dill, and 1 1/2 cloves of garlic per jar. Pack jars with cucumbers, pour liquid over cucumbers. Cover and refrigerate at least 48 hours.

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I spy with my little eye lots of jars of pickles!

glad tidings

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“There is nothing like family,” Mom leaned over and whispered in my ear as we watched little Weston struggle to move a heavy chair, one handed, with his paper plate full of food in the other hand.  He wanted to sit by Uncle Isaac.  No one was noticing him but Mom and I, from across the way……

*****

Good morning, my friends!  It is Wednesday and in my neighborhood, it is sunny with a nice cool wind.  There are freshly washed linen sheets waving in the sweet outdoors, pinned up on a porch clothesline.  I just washed my hands and dug dirt out from under my fingernails after weeding and tending our baby plants in the gardens.  The chickens have been let out.  ‘Tis the season for trips into the woods for sticks, in order to stake up the peas.  Everything is growing out there, it’s green and full and lush.  The cats visited me in the gardens and chewed on plants and rolled in the good clean dirt.

I listened to the birds while bending over the garden.

(This morning I became a member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology!)

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On Sunday, we hosted a pig roast/baptism/Bible study.  I know, the pig is rather disturbing.  In fact, our 7 year old Seth refused to eat any of it after witnessing such a sight on the grill.  However, it was delicious.

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Rejoice with me!  My son Caleb has been baptized.  He is 10 years old, soon to be 11 and loves Jesus and people so very much.  He has a tender and loving heart that has been a source of abundant joy to me and his Dad since the day he was born.  His hugs knock me off balance every time (multiple times a day).  He told me this morning that it is “Step up Day” at school.  He is visiting the Middle school with his class.  He hung his head down against me and confessed, “I don’t ever want to grow up.”  I could very well nurture this attitude because, frankly, I feel the same way.  But I have to make his see that it is better to grow according to God’s general plan for humanity, even if it does hurt at times.  So I say, not “I don’t want you to grow up either!!!!!!!!!!!”,  “Caleb, of course you do!  It’s going to be fun!”

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And our dear Emily, Jacob’s girlfriend, was also baptized.

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Wally had the honor of baptizing his son Jimmy, on his very own 72nd birthday.  He told me it was the best day of his life.  So you see, you just never know what Father God will bring to you in the future.  The best is yet to come!

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Rich and I set up tables in the garage for the food.  Everyone was so generous in bringing side dishes.  The only thing we had to do was prepare the house and yard, hire someone to do the pig roast, and supply coffee and water bottles.

I cut fragrant lilacs, which conveniently bloomed a few days before the picnic, and filled mason jars and vases.

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People brought their own chairs and several people took pictures throughout the day.  It’s been fun to getting the emails.

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Jacob had the camera for a little while and took this photo from the porch during Bible study.

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I sat by Larissa, and Emily during the Bible study.  It was a hot and humid day (in the opinion of New Englanders, but I’m sure Larissa was cold, as she is from Texas).

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From my seat, I took a panorama.  It’s always exciting to try to keep the arrow on the line.

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After the Bible study, pretty much every one left.  But it was nice to have a few people stay longer, including my parents and brother Isaac, and sister in law Cassandra.  Sarah had a great time playing catch with her Aunt Cassandra.  They counted all the way to 200 catches!  (standing in the shade)

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Mom and I went for a walk and counted 10 lady’s slippers.  They are Mom’s favorite wild flower and it was a thrill to have her discover some in a new spot, too.

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We heard a woodpecker up in the trees.

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We were also looking for as many wild flowers as we could.  We pointed everything out to each other.  (I think God was smiling)

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Don’t you just hate it when you have to do your growing in a dry, uncomfortable spot.  Do you know what I think when I see this sort of thing happening in nature?  “What a determined and adorable plant.”

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Mom.

Several of our guests on Sunday stated that Mom and I “could pass as sisters” and it is true.  As I am her firstborn, she was very young and newly married when she had me.  I am forty now, and she is fifty eight.  I am grateful for every day of my life with her and she is one of my best friends.  She has taught me more by actions than words what is important in life; Christ, marriage, family, and the sweet simple gifts in life like birds and flowers, gardens and work.

My little children, let’s not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:18

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Who is wise and understanding among you? By her good conduct let her show her works in the meekness of wisdom.  James 3:13

(We all make mistakes and have bad days, but moments don’t prove what a life is, and my mom’s life has been a quiet, unpretentious life of love and work.  We come from simple, earthy, country stock……….)

She, as well, grew up with a Mother of gardens, sunshine, home cooked meals, walks in the woods, trees, and flowers.

The influence of mothers (and fathers) goes on and on.

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^^Do you see the toad?^^

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Dear dad blew bubbles with the kids, played drums and guitar with E, football with Caleb, and probably other things that I missed while running around hosting the picnic.  We sat on the porch and visited and talked.

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Dad loves me.  I can tell by his face.

Or maybe it’s mom, since she is the one taking the photo.

Both.

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When mom and dad had to leave, it was 8 at night.  The sun was down and Caleb walked his Grandma to the car.

“O Zion haste, thy mission high fulfilling,
to tell to all the world that God is light.
That He who made all nations is not willing
one soul should perish, lost in shades of night.
Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace;
tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.”

~Mary A. Thompson

(I sang the chorus as I published this blog post and David said, “I never know when you are going to burst into song.”)

for Greg and Cindy

Video

My dear Father requested and helped me choose the photos contained within this beautiful slideshow, for the occasion of his 39th wedding anniversary. Yes, on a beautiful summer day long ago, my young parents were married, surrounded by singing birds and all of their loved ones.  It was a lovely outdoor wedding, located on the family farmland of upstate New York.

Through the years, the family has grown, and more importantly, so has their love for one another.

Gather moments while you may
Collect the dreams you dream today
Remember, will you remember
The times of your life

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