A month of news, with photos

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I got you caught up on what we are up to!  It has been a rather crazy month – bookended by holidays, filled with family visits and parties, a crazy amount of knitting for the holiday pop-up shop, shopping, and finally, vacation this week, and we both have nasty colds.  It never fails that when we make plans to get through big chores during vacation, someone’s health suffers.  Still, we have managed to get things done that need to be done, and so have time to just lie about and enjoy ill health.

This month has included thanksgiving and gingerbread house decorating:

 

Followed by some major furniture moving the next day.  This buffet is an immense solid piece that was my great, great grandmother’s.  It holds the many many dishes that my grandmother gave me over the years.  We hardly ever use any of them, because A is nervous about using the “good” china, but every now and then I break it out.  Thanksgiving is one of those times.  But I have never had it all out at once, as we had to do to move the buffet. It is a little overwhelming, all these dishes for two people.

moving the buffet 2

Oh, and these were in there as well.  Not the pumpkin, but everything else.  The white and gold dishes were another great-great grandmother’s, the clear glass ones were given to me on my 40th birthday by my mother’s aunt – a wedding gift to her in the thirties.

moving the buffet 1

With the buffet out of the way, we can move the table to the wall, which opens up the dining area quite a bit.  The table comes out far enough that the light is not a hazard to navigation.  It is easy to pull out when we need to fit more people around it.

 

moving the buffet after

Where did we put the buffet?  We moved it to the living room section of the room, against the big wall, behind where all those people were sitting at Thanksgiving.  The couch used to live there, but now lives across the room.

I took this picture before the move was finished, because I loved the shadows on the wall. The sun is so low, it shines in at that angle at about 2 pm. No leaves on the trees, the lines are so pretty.

shadows1

image

Then it was time for the holiday pop-up shop in Bucksport, Creatively Maine to open.  The open house was the Sunday night after Thanksgiving – I too lots of photos, but that is because all of the crafts and arts were so amazing, but more than that – the fact that Sonja was able to take the work of 53 artists and in TWO days create this space from a plain white box.  So, here are some of the pictures I too that evening.  The neat thing is that every time I go in, it is different – as people buy things and stock gets replenished, she rearranges to fill gaps, and so it always looks fresh and amazing.  And in about two weeks it will all be gone, packed up and cleaned out.

open house 1open house 9open house 10open house 11

All of this jewelry is made with eggshells.  Yep, eggshells.  She raises chickens and one day got the idea of painting and dying the shells and making jewelry.  She does something to it so that it doesn’t break easily, and they are actually quite lovely.

open house 4open house 3

Here are some of my things – and some one else’s hats as well.  (The large black and white one did not stay on the little head very long, she switched it out the next day.  🙂 )

open house 2open house 6open house 5

You can see some of my shawls hanging on the rack in the background of this shot – I put three in the shop, including an Estonian lace one that had a (for me) high price tag on it. Funnily enough all were some shade of blue-green.  I kept all the other ones I knit this year, and parted sadly with these three.  🙂

open house 7open house 8want this

This window is on my “really want and don’t know what I would do with it” list.

open house 12

From my frame of reference, the shop has done really well.  I sold several hats, and two of the three shawls, including the Estonian lace one!  I also had a custom hat order from a guy who saw the TV coverage of the opening, spotted my hats in the background and came in to buy one.  He was disappointed to find that the one he wanted he had only seen from the back, and it was a woman’s hat.  So I knit him up one without the button flap and button.  🙂  There is still about ten days to go, but I expect the big sales will be done tonight when the shop closes. My yarn stash now has a bit of cash in it, which is good.  And I have a nice sized bag of yarn for making hats and shawls, which I will work on this year so that I have a bigger inventory ready to go and won’t have to spend every waking minute in October and November making hats.  🙂 Having the shawls sell well also feels really good – vindication – they are beautiful AND practical and people will buy them.  I’ll make more, and try to brace myself to part with them.

Onward….

We got our tree last week, and decorated it this week. A declared that anything we don’t put out for Christmas decorations this year is going out the door, so I kind of overdid the ornaments, lol.  I also decided she is wrong.  Anything that doesn’t get put out this year gets reviewed and possibly given away next year.  But not definitely.  I like to mix things up a bit.

 

image

So that brings us up to date – the house is decorated, the presents are bought and wrapped, the Christmas cards were mailed Tuesday (just a BIT late!) and we are sitting around this Christmas Eve wondering if we will be well enough to go to Mom’s tomorrow for the big festivities… I think I will be, but not sure about A  which will mean my day there is abbreviated, as hers was last week for her family gathering.  That was different – I participated in the Yankee Swap by cell phone pix and text.  It was fun, but not the same.

But while we wait , sniffle, and hack, I can work on some deadline-free knitting –  I’ll finish this up, make a hat to match, then list it on Etsy.  THEN I will get back to the things I was making last September… 🙂

image

And a post from me would not be complete without a few cat photos – Zumba has been particularly cute this month.  🙂 She loved checking out the bags that came in on Thanksgiving, they all smelled so good!

image

She is finally growing hair on her belly – guess we solved her food allergies at last. She loves to stretch out and show it off in front of the fire.

cover girl

Happy Christmas to all!

Can’t get home

This summer there have been crazy fires out west, and when they show the stories on the news, I always think about “what would I take if I had to suddenly leave home, and didn’t know if it would be here when I could get back?”  I have a mental list.  It includes, of course, the cats, and some knitting and then it kind of gets lost in the weeds.

But it never occurred to me to think what I would do if I could not get home.

That happened to me Wednesday.  It was only for a couple of hours, but it was scary!

It rained.  It rained a lot.

We got almost ten inches of rain in 12 hours, and that was just more than the ditches and culverts could bear.  As a result, when I tried to go home from work, I could almost but not quite get there.  There are two roads we can take to get to our little lane.  Both of them had washouts so severe that they were closed. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it, and checked them both twice.  How could I not get home?

What was almost worse was that I could not get to any friend or family member that I could think of in those moments of disbelief.  So many roads were closed!  I COULD drive the 20 miles back to work, but I hesitated to do that in case the road washed out and I couldn’t get this close to home again.

So I went to the fire station and waited there, watching the map get more and more pins in it showing road closures. I listened to the dispatcher talk to firemen on the scene in so many locations – directing traffic, getting people out of their cars, waiting for tow trucks to get the cars out of the water. Learning of more road closures. How could so many roads be closed?  Where would people go who could not get home from work?

I couldn’t get home to make sure that HOME was OK, that the cats were fine.  I knew in my head that the cats were asleep and didn’t know anything unusual was happening, but in my heart, I was terrified for them.  What if I couldn’t get home for a few days? They had some dry food but not enough for a long absence. I could call the neighbor, but how would they get in the house?

It was a long wait, but eventually the road crews got one of the roads cleaned up and repaired enough to be passable.  I headed for home, and found that all was well.  Our lane was in rough shape but with care, I could get down it.  My house was warm, safe, and dry.  Power was on, cats were sleeping peacefully by the window. They never noticed I was late.  Or if they did, it didn’t alarm them.

It sure alarmed me!

Finding inspiration

Subtitle: My mom is just an amazing, ordinary woman.

I spent Friday with Mom at her house. My Mom is in her mid-seventies, and she lives in a very nice house with her very nice husband of a couple of years. She is very strong and active, and you would be surprised to know her age if you met her. They have a lovely yard, and I took lots of photos of it while I was there, and we talked a lot about her gardens and her plans for them (She has a new deck, and thus, a new opportunity for a garden.) I took the photos so I could use them as inspiration in my yard, which also has lots of trees.

In the course of the conversations, I thought about how she makes wonderful, pretty, comfortable places from what she has on hand. That is one of her gifts. Then I started thinking about how she has done that over the years, sometimes against serious odds.

My mom was born in WWII and lived a normal middle class childhood. She had a loving father and mother, and two sisters with whom she played and fought, just like in a Norman Rockwell painting. By the time she was old enough to be thinking about college, life, a family, she knew that she wanted to be a farmer. But nice girls from comfortable families in the suburbs aren’t farmers, so she went off to college as directed.

By age 19 she was married and had a tiny baby (me). She doesn’t think so, but I know that it showed a lot of courage, to take those steps. Her parents gave her two choices – get married, or give the baby up. She knew she couldn’t give up her baby, so she got married. She didn’t know that she had two other choices, so keeping me and NOT getting married, or having an abortion never came up.

By age 25 she had three more children and a suspicion that she and Dad weren’t good together.

By age 30, they were divorced, and she was the single mother of 4 in a very nice town where divorcees were not acceptable friends for nice married women. She also was suddenly quite poor instead of just struggling to make ends meet. She knew how to do a couple of things well – raise kids and play the piano. So, that is what she did – she was the school lunch lady, she gave piano lessons and she played the piano in a local bar in the evenings. Thank goodness this was in the early 70’s when it was OK to leave your kids (aged 6-12) home alone as long as the neighbor moms knew it and could keep an ear out for trouble. Thankfully, there never was any.

We knew we were poor, we knew we used food stamps fr groceries, we knew we didn’t dress like our friends. We didn’t much like it and I know that I, the lone teenager at that point REALLY didn’t like it.

We also knew that we were loved very much, and we knew we could rely on her, no matter what, to take very good care of us, physically and emotionally. And we could count on her for fun. My mom is very creative when it comes to having fun with just our brains and ourselves and no money.

Our house was always kind of messy and shabby. But our fence had red roses growing on it, and a huge forsythia hedge marked the side boundary. It was a beautiful thing to behold in the spring, and made lovely green caves for playing under on hot summer days.

Eventually, trying to live in that town was just too hard, and we moved to Maine, where Mom felt that being poor was more likely to blend in. She was right, for sure. We sold the house in the ‘burbs, bought a ramshackle old house in town on land barely large enough to hold the house, and Mom poured every cent from the sale of our house into it. All the neighbors thought a rich widow was moving in. So far from the truth! She had enough money to make sure we had lights, plumbing, and insulation. She made the new house amazing. For one thing, we each had our own room, and we could decorate it anyway we want (though it might take years for her to afford the paint)

Mom found a job in a local school as a teacher’s aide, but it didn’t start until two months after we moved. So she moved to a new state hundreds of miles from everything any of us knew, with $100 in her wallet and four kids to feed. She wasn’t sure what she would do, but it was summer, and she found a part-time job in a local shop. It barely fed us.

She wound up marrying the man next door, a bachelor of 50 years old, who never knew how his life would change!

This is when Mom’s life got better – he was so supportive of all her ideas and all of her kids. While he was strict, he was loving and strong. He wasn’t rich, either, so in that regard, life was still hard. But now she had someone to help her survive it all.

They eventually sold that house and moved to yet another old falling down place, this one on more land, and they spent years making it beautiful, and warm. As always Mom made the house and yard feel welcoming and look beautiful. A good home for those 4 kids, who by now were growing up and wandering off. And at last, the closest thing to a farm that she would have. She had gardens and sheep and a dog. She boarded a horse in exchange for a foal, and she managed to get a few chickens as well, and then some goats. It was her dream come true, but not her whole life.

When my sister went off to college, Mom was finally able to also go back to college. She struggled to find the time and money, but went to the local branch of our state university for a year, in preparation for seminary, which was her ultimate goal. In order for her to go to seminary, she and my stepdad sold the farm and moved way “Down East” to where they could afford some land and yet another old house near the water and the commute to seminary was not too awful.

That first year there was grim. The house was cold and drafty, no central heat, and my step-dad was gravely ill, so Mom, instead of staying on campus during the week drove back and forth to keep the wood stove fed, first while he was in the hospital, then when he was home recovering but unable to do much.

Stepdad survived that illness, but it was the beginning of a long series of episodes from which he got better, but never quite recovered. Each one took a bit more out of him. However, my mother with her infinite capacity for hope and creating beauty and comfort, just pulled harder at the yoke.

It wasn’t too long before the house was more comfortable, and central heating was put in. Over the years, she added on to the house, she created fabulous gardens a bit at a time, and she created a wonderful home that we used to joke was our own private luxury spa/B and B. She finished school getting her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. She got herself a job that utilized all of her warm people skills, working with a small non-profit providing spiritual and physical and emotional support to the people she served.

Fifteen years ago, my stepfather passed away, after many years of illness, and a long 4 month stay in the hospital. Somehow, Mom held it all together. She visited that hospital every day, all winter long, driving the hour plus each way in whatever weather came along. All 4 of her kids provided support in a variety of ways, as she had done for us so many times.

There followed ten years of learning to live alone again, without the strong support and companionship she had come to depend upon.

She added onto the little house, making it possible for the whole family to gether there for holidays and vacations. She kept it feeling small and homey, comfortable, like home, even thought it wasn’t the home in which any of us had grown up.

Eventually, though, it grew difficult to maintain the property, and living far from civilization became harder to deal with. She retired from her job, and made the decision to move to a new part of the state. She knew this would be an adjustment, that she would be leaving friends, a place she loved. But she also was ready for a change, to be closer to the things she wanted to do, closer to her children and their families, theater, art, even the grocery store.

So, move she did – to a smaller house on a very much smaller piece of land. It had no swimming nearby, it had very little sun, it didn’t have room for the whole family. But it had promise.

5 years later, and she has a new husband who loves her and supports all of her (crazy) ideas for the house and garden. The house has been added on to, reconfigured, and still feels like home. There is a nice pool. The gardens are growing and magical and ever-changing. Because for all she is a calm, nurturing person, my mother is never really settled. She is always experimenting, perfecting, changing things around. And if something doesn’t work out as she planned it, she can deal with that. She can move a plant to more sun or less sun. She can take a dream of farming and postpone it but never lose it. She can raise kids with a husband or without. She can go to college when her kids do. Because, as they say, life happens, but that doesn’t mean you give up, you just adjust, transplant. A path is a better thing if it has some bends, some twists and turns.

Not only are her gardens inspirational, so is she. She is pretty incredible, I think.

Here are some of the photos I took Friday. They don’t do the place justice. But you might get a little bit of a feel for the green welcoming place she has created.

This is the view of the house that you see coming in their drive. The garage and connection to it weren;t there when she bought it. They were part of the renovation to make it feel like home.

mom's house

Her welcoming front entry.
mom's front entry

Her incredibly shady backyard.

mom's backyard

The gardens – let’s start with these tomatoes – well over 6 feet tall, covered in fruit still to ripen. She has several big raised beds back near the edge of the woods, all for vegetables to feed her family all summer long.

mom's tomatoes

Evidence of a cool summer – beautiful pansies still blooming in August.

mom's pansies in august

She taught me my love of daylilies – lovely things that bloom no matter where they are planted, that grow and multiply and are worth any investment you might have made in them, but also widely available for free from friends and family.

mom's daylily 3

Her honeysuckle vines fill the air with sweetness. they didn’t care for the long cold winter, but this one is recovering nicely.

mom's honeysuckle

This garden is at the bend of the driveway, gets good sun, so is a nice mix of flowers and sun-loving veggies like squash and cucumbers.

mom's driveway garden

And the new back deck – in the shade, it is already a lovely place to sit in the afternoon. And it will provide her with another place for a garden and a path with a bend in it.

mom's new deck

Friday list

sorry gang, it’s boring list for you but great for me!

Leave hotel by 5 am to go to the Phoenix airport and begin the long journey home.
Land in Portland ME around 6 pm and drive home, arriving around 9, I expect. Kiss A, pat cats, fall into bed.

Friday morning

I’m lounging on the bed checking lottery tickets and blog comments.  A is on the other end of the bed, playing with the cat charmer and Zumba.  Good day.

I suppose it could be slightly better – we could have won the lottery.  But it is pretty good as it is.

Yesterday’s rain has passed, and the world is dripping clean.  The hummingbirds are flitting everywhere – I didn’t know we had so many – there were at least 6-7 buzzing about earlier.  And so Allie is glued to the window seat.

Today’s list is not too long – I have to make a couple of birthday cards, and a few belated ones, sadly… I am getting so bad at some things.  I also have to go to EBS to get the counter top samples so we can choose the counters for the office, and the craft room.  I hope they still make the one I have on the long wall, as I really want them to match, but if they don’t, at least they will be across the room from each other! A has an idea of how to do a staggered effect for her desk/printer table, and so wants to choose her color for that.  It feels really good to be getting the house done enough that we are taking care of finishing details.  We just do a little at a time as we are able, and it is starting to show.

I have to go to the PO as well, see what wondrous things have arrived at the box, and of course, clean the cat box and play with the kittens.  they are sleepy right now since A played with them a lot this morning, so I will have a bit of peace.

By the way – Allie is so smart. She can’t jump on the counter from the floor, but she CAN jump on the table, and from the table she can take a flying leap and just make it to the counter. I discovered her last evening, just sitting on the counter looking around at the world from a new viewpoint.  She responded well to the squirt bottle, and leapt to the floor immediately.  She hates the water, and learns fast from it, so I think only one or two more times will teach her to stay down. Zumba, on the other hand, can live with the risk.  Sigh.  They also pulled the sheets down from the door, confirming that I was right to put the good curtains away and hang sheets instead, but making me worry about what we will do this winter, when we will want heavier things than sheets hanging across our doors and windows.  I doubt they will get over the joy of tumbling in curtains in the next three months.