Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Bright Side

I set out this morning with a list of errands and the determination to find a bright side to the inevitable annoyances.  Here goes:

  1. You can get your food quicker in McDonald's drive-thru than you can by going inside - because all the employees are focused on the drive-thru, not the customers at the counter.   Bright side: I have a car.
  2. No matter how sure you are about what you want at GNC, the clerk will try to talk you into something else.  Bright side: You get practice in sticking to your guns.
  3. Hobby Lobby is too BIG!  Bright side:  You get plenty of exercise.
  4. Michael's small size makes finding what you want easier, but sometimes they need a bigger store just to accommodate the long lines.  Bright side: You develop patience (maybe).
  5. Kids' latch hook activity kits have 1400 little pieces of yarn in each one.  Bright side: I don't live with the kids I'm buying these for. (Tee Hee)
  6. Nice boxed sets of stationery are not to be found - not even at an upscale establishment described as a "papeterie."  Nice boxed stationery used to be everywhere - from department stores to dime stores.  Bright side: A lesson - don't take anything, especially good things, for granted.  Nothing gold can stay.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

August Resolutions

“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.”
Rudyard Kipling

One of the few joys of a flaming hot August in southern Louisiana is the flourishing potted plants on our deck.  Of course, having them flourish means a religious dedication to getting out in the heat to water them.  I haven’t always been so dedicated, but I’ve resolved to water and to sweat, and the pay-off is worth it.  

I haven’t set foot off Bywater Farm in seven days.  I was looking forward to going to church this morning and having lunch with my middle daughter.  But I have some kind of virus, so I’m home again today.  I’m really a home body, but after seven days or so, I’m feeling the effects of cabin fever.  And for me, cabin fever means too much thinking - too much naval gazing.

I wonder why resolutions come to my mind in August?  Aren’t they reserved for January?  Maybe so, but I think it might be a natural result of the stifling August heat.  The mind can’t help but ponder what might make your own life and the world in general a little better.

The fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” It was an easier commandment to keep back in the 1950s when I was a child. Stores closed on Sunday. A few drug stores and gas stations were open, but retail stores were closed.  I’d venture to say that some people back then went to church simply because there wasn’t much else to do.
The fourth commandment makes it clear that God doesn’t think it’s good for all seven days in a week to be just alike. But it takes concentration today to make it different.  Few stores close on Sunday and neither does social media, so distractions are everywhere.

I feel another resolution coming on. Social media is full of angst - political posts and depressing news articles about rape, murder, and abductions - not to mention the airing of personal dirty laundry.  I’m too private a person to ever air the personal stuff, but I do make political posts, and I share depressing news stories.  I am resolved to stop making these posts on Sunday.  On Sunday I’ll post cute kittens, uplifting poems, and photos of beautiful scenery.  Maybe I’ll post some creative writing about a fantasy world free of political corruption and mankind’s inhumanity to mankind.  If I was a better person, I’d probably resolve not to make any posts on Sunday, but I have to start somewhere.



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Pitchers - Now & Then

Whether you are a full-time or part-time homemaker, no doubt your daily round includes some cooking, laundry management, and cleaning what shows.  As a break from the dailiness of everyday life, I sometimes enjoy doing the seasonal household chores.  

Cleaning all the stuff and places that don’t show usually means encountering surprises - and some are actually pleasant.  Yesterday my hubby helped by getting on a ladder and handing dishes and other items from a high shelf down to me.  One was this lovely old pitcher that belonged to my grandmother.  Inside the pitcher was a magazine clipping and my late mother’s notation in pencil that it was clipped from “House & Garden,” the June 1974 edition.  I’ve certainly dusted this pitcher many times since 1974, but I don’t remember seeing this clipping.  Although my grandmother’s pitcher isn’t exactly like the one described in the clipping, when I looked at the bottom of it, I saw that its hallmark is identical to the one in the clipping - which, of course, is what prompted my mother to save this clipping inside the pitcher.

As I washed my collection of pitchers, I wondered why people don’t use pitchers much anymore.  No doubt it’s because of the way things are packaged today.  We pour a glass of milk right out of the gallon jug.  Our grandmothers - or great-grandmothers - milked the cow and needed something to put the milk in.  Today we pour juice from the container it comes in.  When I was a child, juice always came in cans.  It wasn’t safe to store the juice in its can in the refrigerator, so it was put in a pitcher for serving.  Although the heyday of pitchers is past, I still use a pitcher for iced tea or lemonade.  One or two pitchers would be sufficient, but I can’t part with my little collection of pitchers, so they will go back on the high shelf in my dining room now that they’ve had the dust washed off of them.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Be a Mockingbird!

There must be sorrow in the mockingbird world.  Surely feathered friends die and young mockingbirds occasionally rebel. The mockingbird economy is based on worms, insects, berries, and our garden tomatoes.  Surely it experiences down-turns.  And surely there are territorial disputes among mockingbirds.  I've seen the fights.  But none of that dampens the mockingbird spirit. Every morning a mockingbird sits atop the weather vane on our barn and greets the day by singing his heart out. Apparently, there are no grumpy, sleepy-head mockingbirds.  I want to be like a mockingbird and greet the day with gusto,  praising God for his glorious creation!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Kindness Rocks!

On a recent trip to visit the grandkids in Georgia, we found this painted rock hidden in plain sight in the fork of a tree.  On the back were instructions to post a photo of it on the Marietta Rocks FB page and to either re-hide it or keep it.  I was completely clueless about this business of hiding "Kindness Rocks," but it seems like the whole world has been doing this while I was in the dark.  Of course, now I want to paint a rock and hide it - as if I need another hobby!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Escaping the Devices

I am device weary - and artificial environment weary. Every day I say, “Tomorrow I’m going to get outside and away from the devices.” And tomorrow never comes. I’ve squandered the glorious spring days inside, staring at screens of various sizes for various purposes. Now the pleasant spring days are gone, and the heat has set in. It will be in the mid-90s by this afternoon.

After feeding the horses at about 8:00 am and turning them out, I decided that today is the day to spend some time outdoors. Our deck has been adorned with dead plants in pots - casualties of neglect and our frigid winter. Although I’m not prepared to plant anything new at the moment, empty pots look better than plant corpses, so I started the cleaning out process. The big plastic tub on a rolling cart that we bought about a year ago has not served very well for the barn purposes we had in mind, but I think it’s going to be useful as a garden cart - you know, for removing dead corpses.
Rocky, enjoying breakfast
Empty pots
One dead corpse that I almost think deserves a funeral was the little bonsai tree that I paid $50 for two or three years ago. Lesson learned: Don’t buy expensive plants, Jude, because you have animal husbandry, not gardening, in your genes.

Days of freezing temperatures during the winter took their toll on our citrus trees. The satsuma and orange trees survived, but the lemon tree is dead. Removing it will be a project for another day.

I used the cart to haul four plastic lawn chairs to the roadside. They are serviceable chairs, and I imagine somebody will pick them up. I need the space they were taking up to park my gardening cart. I used to imagine family gatherings where we all sit out in the yard and listen to the birds sing. But family gatherings are few and far between - and when they do happen, everybody sits inside, looking at their devices. I am resigned. It’s 21st century life. Maybe I’ll put the croquet set out by the road next.

It’s not too hot yet - only 83 degrees - and there’s a pleasant breeze. The mockingbirds are in fine form this morning - going through their varied repertoire with gusto. I’ve filled the bird bath and watered Jerry’s tomatoes while he helped me prune some of the plants that are still alive.
Jerry's tomatoes
Of course, I’m looking at a screen as I write this post, but at least I’m outside at the picnic table, listening to the birds, watching the horses, and enjoying the ripples that the breeze is making on the deep green surface of the bayou.

It’s almost 11:00 now. Time to get on to the indoor tasks, but my morning outside has been restorative. God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Misplaced Charity

When I was a child, our next door neighbor had a giant chinaberry tree in their backyard. The neighbors had five children, and - since I had no siblings - I had a grand time playing with them and climbing their chinaberry tree.  

The children's mother, Mrs. M, was a great volunteer.  Almost every day, after Mr. M left for work, Mrs. M left to do church work or work for some local charity. In the summer, she left the older children in charge of the younger ones.  I'm not sure what she did with the little ones when the big kids were in school.  At any rate, she was seldom home.  My mother had a good view of the M's backyard from our living room windows.  If Mama hadn't been able to see what was going on, I doubt that I'd have been allowed next door.  

My mother, as well as the other neighbors, often lamented that Mrs. M's children looked like orphans.  Their clothes were seldom clean much less pressed.  Hair went unbrushed. I don't think they knew what a hot meal was.  And, with both parents gone most of the time, they were seldom supervised.  Everybody said the M's children were raising themselves.   Mrs. M may not have been much at discharging her domestic and maternal duties, but she was widely recognized and admired for her charity work.  I suspect that most of the admirers didn't know anything about her home life.

I hadn't thought of Mrs. M in years, and it sounds strange to say that what's going on in Congress right now made me think of her and her poor ragamuffin children.  Some Congressmen and Senators remind me of Mrs. M.  They throw all their support behind illegal immigrants.  They use tax revenue to provide for illegal immigrants.  Listening to their rhetoric, it's clear that they are more concerned about the welfare of illegals than they are about the welfare of native-born Americans or immigrants who are here legally.  Like Mrs. M, they neglect to take care of the people they are responsible for while they work to provide for the ones they're not responsible for.  Mrs. M did her charity work for the accolades she received.  Congressmen and Senators support amnesty for illegal immigrants for the new voting pool it will create.  Mrs. M practiced misplaced charity on a small scale.  Congress practices it on a much larger scale.

Charity and concern for others is a good thing, but like all good things, it can be misused and abused.   Charity for others should never mean neglect for those we are responsible for.  1 Timothy 5:8 says, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Congress should ponder this as they neglect Americans, including our military veterans.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Statue of Liberty & Emma Lazarus

How much do you know about the Statue of Liberty and Emma Lazarus, the author of the famous lines, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"?  These lines are from her sonnet, "The New Colossus" which is on a plaque attached to the base of the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people to the United States.  The torch-bearing arm of the statue was on display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876.  This display launched fund raising efforts to finance a base for the statue to stand on.

Famous authors of the day, including Emma Lazarus, were asked to write something to be auctioned off to raise money for the base for the Statue of Liberty.  In response to this appeal, Emma Lazarus wrote this poem:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient land, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips.  "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
In 1885 the completed Statue of Liberty - the work of French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi - arrived in New York Harbor, transported by ship in 214 crates.  The statue was mounted on the impressive base provided by the successful fund raising efforts, and was dedicated in 1886.
Emma Lazarus was born in New York City in 1849 to a non-practicing, non-religious Jewish family.  She became a successful poet, writer, and translator.  She was an adherent to Georgism, a form of communism promoted by economist Henry George (1839-1897).  Some modern feminists believe she was a Lesbian.
A careful reading of Lazarus' poem explains why she is revered by many feminists.  She contrasts the original male Greek Colossus of Rhodes, erected in 280 B.C., with her new female Colossus, the Statue of Liberty.  She describes the original male Colossus as "brazen" and "conquering" while the new female Colossus is benign, maternal, and welcoming.  I doubt that she was grieved by the fact that the original male Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 B.C.
Emma Lazarus died in 1887, a year after the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.  Many years later, in 1903, a plaque engraved with "The New Colossus" was attached to the base of the Statue of Liberty.  Even after doing quite a bit of research, I have not been able to discover who gave permission for this plaque to be installed.
Since 1903, "The New Colossus" has been widely quoted and is held in such esteem by some that it rivals the Constitution.  To some it has assumed the authority of holy scripture.  It is often quoted by those who promote open borders and unlimited immigration.  It is even used in an attempt to defend illegal immigration. 
Although "The New Colossus" may have great literary value, it is nothing more than a poem among other writings by other authors to be auctioned off to raise money for the base of the Statue of Liberty.  Why this poem, written by a communist as a later addition to the Statue of Liberty, should dictate our immigration policy is beyond understanding.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

On the Trail of Brunswick Stew

I had my first bite of Brunswick Stew about 25 years ago at a local restaurant in Kennesaw, Georgia.  We were on vacation, and I had never so much as heard of Brunswick Stew until then.  It was knock-your-socks-off good!  

I’ve since learned that Brunswick Stew is considered to be quintessentially Southern.  I wondered — how did I grow up in the South and never hear of it?  This prompted me to do some research on the origin and history of Brunswick Stew.  It is murky at best.  Some say it originated in the late 1800s in the town of Brunswick, Georgia.  Others claim is originated in Brunswick County, Virginia, in the early 1800s.  There are also claims that it originated much earlier in Germany, and some say it is of American Indian origin.  

I was born in the southern-most part of West Virginia and grew up in northwestern Florida.  My mother didn’t fix Brunswick Stew, and my Floridian playmates’ mother’s didn’t either.  My school teachers - many of whom were from Alabama - never mentioned Brunswick Stew.  I guess there is nothing too odd about that since I’ve discovered that it’s most popular in Georgia and the eastern parts of the Carolinas and Virginia.  I have Virginian and North Carolinian ancestors, but they were from the mountainous western regions of those states.

Ever since my first taste of this concoction in Kennesaw, Georgia, I’ve been on an off-and-on hunt for Brunswick Stew recipes.  It looks like those who live in the Brunswick Stew part of the South are as emotional about this dish as Cajuns are about gumbo and jambalaya.  There are Brunswick Stew contests and cook-offs and disputes about what ingredients are really authentic.  

Yesterday I decided to try a Brunswick Stew recipe by Jamie Deen that I found on Food Network.  Of all the recipes I’ve tried, I think this one is most like the one I had in Kennesaw.  I used Jack Daniels Original No 7 barbecue sauce which gave it the flavor I was looking for.  But I must tell you that some Brunswick Stew purist take a dim view of using store-bought barbecue sauce. But never mind them.  This recipe makes a dang good Brunswick Stew!  I halved the recipe, and it still nearly filled my favorite five quart pot.  You can find it here:  
Brunswick Stew Recipe

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's 2018

By southern Louisiana standards, we are having a frigid New Year's Day.  It was 24 degrees when we got up this morning, and it won't get above 38 today.  Thank heaven we have sun and not rain.

Since Jerry let the three horses out of their stalls this morning they've been sunning themselves on the south side of the barn.  I know why.  The north wind is coming across the bayou, and they are sheltered from it on the south side.  I took pity on them and put some flakes of hay on the south side.  There's a round bale on the north side of the barn under a lean-to, but it’s windy and sunless there.

There weren't as many fireworks in our neighborhood last night as there usually are on a New Year's Eve.  I’m sure the cold made a lot of people decide to stay inside and watch the festivities on TV.  For the first time in a year or two we stayed up until midnight - in our recliners, watching TV, and enjoying the blazing gas logs.  Before we went to bed, we bundled up over our pajamas and went out to the barn to check on the horses.  They didn't seem to be too bothered by the fireworks, so we went to bed.

Suzanne came Saturday and spent the night.  She wanted to get home yesterday afternoon before the temperature plummeted, so I fixed our New Year's meal for lunch yesterday - the traditional pork, cabbage, and black-eyed peas.  We're having the leftovers today.