Category Archives: comfort

Change

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Midnight, our almost 13-year old Labrador wanted outside at 3:30 this morning. Odd, as he is usually sacked out on the couch at this wee hour of the morning. And then he did not want back in. Midnight wanted to lay in his backyard, and Dean left him there. Morning came an hour earlier today…Midnight & New Pillow 2016

As we set out for work this Friday,  I understood why Midnight wanted to stay outside. Our dog was welcoming the “change in the air”, the first of the family to feel the air switch directions, a cool brisk wind from the north.  It is an annual event, noticed by the animals and nature-sensitive people. This colder air brings the geese honking and ducks quacking overhead at sunrise and dusk. Deep-sighing breathes are taken in relief of the sultry summer heat.  Dinner menus change to comfort foods. Poems are even written about this change in the air. My oldest daughter wrote this poem in honor of this change and her mother saying every year …

The woods begin to vibrate with gathering and preparation. 

The sounds so crisp, electric.

Her words were “I felt the air change today.”

Red, orange, yellow, green, brown.

They dance while falling.

A choreographed waltz.

Every year she said “I felt the air change today.”

Beautiful, breathtaking, loyal.

The Canvas.

I think I felt the air change today.

With this change in the air comes thoughts of autumn and winter, getting the household, greenhouse, and gardens ready for the cold seasons. Another crop of greens will be sowed next week, maybe give us 2 or 3 more months of salads. Smaller pots and baskets of our perennials will be combined into bigger pots in preparation for their indoor home. But this time it is something more than a season change for our green life as said in the lyrics of A Change in the Air sung by Clint Black …

There’s something talkin’ in the wind
Whispering through the trees
That feeling in my bones again
Just puts me right at ease
It takes me back to all the times
I’ ve been here before
But crossroads, old familiar signs
Tell me there’s something more

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

The leaves are turning, soon they’ll fall
There’s a norther blowing in
The memories flowin’, I recall
Those changes in the wind
But I can never try to understand
There’s nothing you can hold in your hand

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

Yes I’ll surely feel a change in the air

Fall Quote

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Ice Ice Baby

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“Ice ice baby, too cold.  Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri.  Freezing drizzle.  Freezing rain.  Sleet.  Ice pellets.  Ice.  Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick.  No need to be out on the roads.  Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible.  Such a sharp contrast from last Friday.  I was in sunny Florida.  I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.

Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner.  The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.

 

Almost Home

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I had a deja vu  moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight.  During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood.  An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm.  I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball.  On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games.  It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary.  Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy.  That cross walk was torn down a few years back.  But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again?  I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers.  The world has changed its character.

“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people.  Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home.  But home and family is where we are meant to be.  All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth.  The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new.  These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this.  As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings.  The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.”  My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.

 

January Blahs and Baking

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I have had little energy the past few days, turning into bed early hoping to feel better the next morning.  Extra glasses of water and hot tea are being consumed.  Tuesday into Wednesday I awoke with my throat on fire, and needed to prop up on double pillows in order to breathe.  The seasonal allergy snuffles definitely became a bacterial infection. My Dean seemed to feel worse than I with his croupy cough.  We stayed home from work, and visited our doctors in the morning.  Antibiotics were ordered treating a sinus infection for each of us. The January blahs indeed.  Naps and cooking shows filled the day.  Bone-in chicken breasts simmered all day in the crock pot, and made a healthy, tasteful stock for homemade chicken & dumplings.  I had heard years ago, homemade stock made with real bone-in meats makes a health-filled potion.  Adding vinegar, wine, or beer brings out the collagen from the bone marrow.  I always add a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to the crock pot.  I coached my granddaughter, Libby with the dumpling recipe and shared with her my secret ingredient, a pinch of nutmeg.  Warm, comfort food filled our dinner bowls by evening.

I do not bake much as the sugar and calories are not needed as I age.  Though I have been so inspired by the CutThroat Kitchen episodes I watched this week as well as the German influences while in Hermann, Missouri last weekend.   In my memory bank, is an old favorite this morning, blueberry-almond kuchen.  While in this rental house I have limited kitchen appliances and spices, as well as my recipe box is still at our home. By memory, I create a blueberry-vanilla kuchen.  No almonds or almond extract in the rental house pantry.  I substitute with a home-brew vanilla extract and use vanilla yogurt instead plain yogurt.  A hand beater and muscles rather than my stand-up KitchenAid cream the low-fat cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, and sugar.  Nutmeg goes in the butter crumb topping for a nutty flavor rather my standard cinnamon or cardamon left at the house.  Sweet baking aromas fill the air this Sunday morning.  Warmth filled our tummies once again.

This last day of January begins with a spectacular sunrise.  Another unseasonably warm day is in store.  Dean and I are feeling much better with a few rounds of antibiotics.  I cleaned and finished up laundry yesterday while Dean worked on one of the vehicles. With the weekend chores completed, we have this Sunday to attend Mass and go play.  An afternoon walk around the displays at the Train Show will help me burn off that serving of Blueberry-Vanilla Kuchen I indulged in this morning.

Blueberry-Vanilla Kuchen

Garden Vignettes

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Another rainy May morning, this time meandering into the weekend. The rain may stop this afternoon. Maybe I will plant some baby geraniums into pots while home. Many weekend hours went into the creation of my garden vignettes. Planting flowers and perennials in terra-cotta pots, moss baskets, and unassuming vessels such as tea kettles and driftwood is one of my favorite hobbies. I design the various plants and art pieces into garden vignettes. This growing season the big wagon holds two large moss baskets of red impatiens, lobelia, vinca, and bridal veil. The other moss basket beds our perennials of wandering jew, spider plants, and an older, wildly growing red geranium. Another vignette is the child-size porch bench and table seated with young spider plants, moses-in-the-cradle, and geraniums while reaching for sunlight filtered by the tender bright red Japanese maple leaves. A nursery indeed. More red geraniums surround a bird bath and old red bike. A gorgeous red rooster-tail (twisted celosia) grows in the middle of our largest terra-cotta pot with marguerite sweet potato vine and clusters of yellow lantana contrasting. Pots of succulents are scattered on the patio and porch. Smaller coco-lined wire baskets of asparagus fern, wandering jew, and spider plants hang from our shade trees along side the bird houses and feeders. I hope you enjoy my garden art captured with Dean’s photography, the serene and comfort of green art.

Critter Corral

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Some days the pets as well as neighborhood squirrels and birds watch us as if we are their entertainment. Most other days, it is the reverse. The household and outside critters are our entertainment. Our pets, Midnight, Celine, Jonas, and Pennylane will greet us at the front door after a long day at work. The dog with a wagging tail and panting smile, and the feline friends with purrs and nudges to be petted. The birds and squirrels gather at the dogwood tree to feed on seeds at the feeder or underneath where the seed remnants lie on the leaf-mulched earth.
When asked what my new year’s resolution is, the word is “repurpose”. Repurpose items already obtained. Rejuvenate, repair, renovate, recycle, all to mean the same as repurpose. Utilize an item for a purpose or meaning once again. To go with this year’s theme of “repurpose”, this weekend I had purposed to wash all the stuffed animals and characters that have residence in our home. We have quite the collection of teddies, rabbits, chicks, dolls, doggies, and even a Tazmanian devil from my children and grandchildren. These toys provded hours of entertainment and occupied a hammock hung in the back bedroom or sit on the bay window seat. One basket situated in the living room was bed to some favorites, ready at a moment’s notice to be gathered into the arms of a visiting child. Since my daughter moved in, more space is needed in the back bedroom. We placed these critters in plastic bags until after the holiday madness simmered down. To the local laudromat we went with 3 large plastic bags, filled 2 front loading machines. Dean and I watched as the soapy faces plastered against the door windows, as if they muttered “help!” from their foaming mouths. After the wash cycle we dried the freshly washed critters for just a few minutes in a gigantic-sized dryer. We brought home the damp stuffed animals, lined them on the trundle bed to air dry. Dean captured this photo of their greeting smiles. A bath always makes you feel better! Later we turned the critters on their heads, with their backsides up to air dry. We waited for our Labrador, Midnight to land himself atop the stuffed critters as the trundle bed is one of his favorite spots to nap. But the stuffed critters remained undisturbed. Critter Corral
Toy DonationMaybe there were too many of the critters, slightly overwhelming? We think so. Two of these toys date back to 32 years ago, my oldest daughter’s 1st Christmas teddy and 1st birthday Hush Puppy. The Care Bear with a band-aid on his leg was given to my oldest when she recovered from appendicitis at age 5. Another doggy belonged to my other daughter, and a teddy with a blue beret belonged to my artsy son. Others are a handmade rabbit and doll from a special grandmother. So the other purpose for the communal bath and animal reunion was to donate the less familar clean, germ-free critters to Goodwill. Some other children to love on their cuteness, softness. Tote to a tea party, wagon ride, or bedtime. We filled 2 bags to repurpose. And the other special animals and dolls sit in the living room inside the white wicker basket with a pink-gingham cloth lining. These await another child’s love, maybe more grandbabies?

All My Children

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All Saints ChurchAll My Children … Isn’t that the name of a daytime drama? If you had not heard yet, there has been daytime and nighttime drama in St. Louis, Missouri area this past 8 days. A community is at unrest due to the fatal shooting of an 18-year black man by a white police officer in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson. Protests turned to riots have lead major destruction in St. Louis County. Upheaval with law enforcement, prosecutors, government officials locally up to federally, and racial activists have made Ferguson known globally. I work for St. Louis County Government housed in the police headquarters building working in the benefits and retirement office. The sounds of security dogs, helicopters circling, and target-shooting bullets are foreign to everyday Clayton, Missouri which is the county seat of St. Louis County. This week I heard it all. And I felt and heard the turmoil of several civil and police employees. I administer the employee assistance services, make sure counselors are there for any one of them … all my children.
It was the longest week I had worked. On Friday, my husband picked me up from my office building, our usual car-pooling routine. We drove out of St. Louis County homeward bound. Home sweet home. We decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat. Old Town St. Peters American Legion Hall, our destination. Americana at its best. Long-hairs and farmers celebrate in unison the weekend with a beer in one hand and a fried chicken wing in the other. All I could hear was happy conversation and laughter. Beer mugs clanging like cymbals. Music. Songs of joy. The most comforting sounds I heard all week. And despite it all, the Ferguson Farmers’ Market continued on Saturday and parishioners congregated and prayed in their churches on Sunday. Foundational truths do not change. Food and faith still remain the foundation of what man and woman needs. With today’s sermon I was reminded of the Biblical story of the Cannaanite woman that others would have ignored, but Jesus paid attention to this mother’s persistant request for her daughter. With faith I pray … Oh God hear my cry for all my children, youngest to the oldest, black, white, simple-minded, disabled, rich, poor. But if not for the grace of God, any one of us are unworthy. But God You give us each the gift of Jesus Christ. Accept and receive His forgiveness, so that you in turn can show the same towards others. So be it.

Where Does One Begin?

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Sandra Witthaus Rau Where does one begin to understand the timing of one’s life in this world? This complexity of life and death, and there are many, seems to be a mystery. I cannot comprehend with my mind, and my heart wrenches that my cousin, Sandra Witthaus Rau was taken from us on June 3. But with faith in my loving God, the Father, I pray for comfort and peace for Sandra’s son, daughter, brother, grandson, and so many family and friends. Sandra wrote poems and expressed words of wisdom beyond her years, shared with those God placed in her life. An old soul yet her laughter and zeal was contagious, and kept her young. A year ago I asked on this Word Press blog “Is The Grass Greener?”, and Sandra shared such timely advice and with grace. And it is true, Sandra, “The grass is always greener where you water it – With Love, Laughter, Family and Friends”. The last bit of wisdom left on Sandra’s FB account on May 23:
~Slow down sometimes~
Life often gets out of control. We live in busy times and as much as we try to take a step back and live in the moment often that’s just not possible. Before we know it a week has passed. A month. Maybe even a year or two.
People tell us to stop and smell the roses but instead all we see is the work that has to be done to make those roses grow. The digging and planting. The weeding and watering. Everywhere we turn we run into duties and responsibilities, tasks and chores. All those things that need to get done to make our world turn.
Is that the life we envisioned when people used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Weren’t we going to be ballerinas, astronauts and magicians? But that’s life. It has a tendency to do the unplanned. It does it without regard or consideration for our feelings or objections. It throws us in at the deep end with no life ring in sight and says swim.
Maybe we just need to embrace the unpredictability with open arms rather than constantly fight it. And more importantly, we need to see those roses for what they really are. A chance to breathe. An opportunity to live life at its fullest. A real blessing. Because after all, there are only so many roses left for each one of us.

All Of Me
Sandra, you are terribly missed. And I know you are with Grandma, cousin Billy, your Mother, your Father, and your Uncle Marty now. For this I rest my mind and find peace. I love you, Sandra!

A Showcase Bromeliad

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Our three bromeliads made it through the long winter in the comforts of our back bedroom, the “plant room”. At different times this room has been a bedroom for all three of my kids as well as grandkids and their parents while in transition. The room has a wonderfully big picture window with a window seat. Many plants were perched on the window seat and shelving for sunlight and shelter from winter’s cold air. The bromeliad, a tropical plant hates cold air as much as I do. We have had humid, summer-like air the past couple of weeks so outdoors our tropical plants went. The tropical have brighten up vivid green. One bromeliad is a showcase with bright fuchsia in the center “cup” or “tank”. It now sets atop a huge upside down terra cotta pot displayed underneath our white dogwood tree. “Whirly birds” I call them or silver maple seed pods have fallen like rain this spring, and the bromeliads have caught a few. I swept up a bucketful of whirly birds yesterday from the front walkway and back patio, enough to start a maple tree farm! We do not want to sprout maple seedlings inside the bromeliads. The bromeliad does not like to be sopping wet, but that “cup” needs to hold water at all times to keep the plant healthy and attractive. Our other two bromeliads are not quite as brightly colored, and even seem a bit neglected with lack of water and humidity over the winter. They must have needed more water than the other as each have a couple of babies growing from it. We will carefully remove the babies later this summer and plant them in their own pots after their mothers have some time in our Missouri humidity. They are already looking refreshed with the rains. I can see why the agriculture world refers to a plant farm as a nursery. The constant care of some plants is like caring for babies. Isn’t she beautiful?!
Bromeliad

Repurpose

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Writes author Doris Janzen Longacre,“Retrofitting is only a new angle on the old virtue: making do.” Same with the words “recycling”, “updo”, “repurpose”, “refurbish”, etc. My current read is Ms. Longacre’s book, Living More With Less written in 1979-1980. This Mennonite could have written this book today, and it’s practical advices still apply even much more so. I recommend this book. It is rethinking purchases, lifestyles, and purpose.
This book follows with Dean and I’s house and greenhouse story. We take something built years ago and make do. The modest house we live in is where I raised my three children most of their childhood. Grandchildren have lived in this house too. I have lived there for 28 years, and it will be paid off in a couple more years. The rooms are filled with memories, good as well as unpleasant. Post-divorce living and marriage to a wonderful man are always steps in the right direction. Dean and I hope to move to a house we can call our own. In the meantime colors and renovations change our current home, and more recently the living room and kitchen painted. A bungalow built in the 1930’s or 40’s is what we hope to find for our future home. There are many styles of bungalows, though the art & craft era are most appealing. Houses were built solid back then. Practical comfort and character the themes.
Bungalow
“Adapting to nature is the oldest human art,” Doris Janzen Longacre writes. This would apply to my health dealing with the severe cold winter as well as our greenhouse, the green project we took on 2-1/2 years ago. “Green” efforts are ours on many accounts. Still no electricity to the structure, though we “make do”. We adapted our farming journey to more annual plants. Our garage houses heating pads and plant lights for our perennials during the colder months. Solar is becoming more affordable. If we wait long enough, we may even use our greenhouse year-round. The current 1,300 square-foot structure provides 7 months of growing space. We hope to have some raised beds with root cellar capabilities that allow veggies to endure an extra 2 or 3 months of Missouri’s colder weather like this most recent winter. Am I safe to say that yet? Are we done with winter?!