Monday, April 18, 2016

Must be Spring!

So here we go again...
Love the American Goldfinch
Here's lookin' at you!
All good things must come to an end! :-(

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mundane chores or as I like to call it, bonding with my kitchen...

Sometimes, the same ole thing just gets boring. That was the case with my same ole, same ole dishes.
I decided it was time for a change. I was finally going to replace these clear glass dishes and the chipped black stoneware ones with a matching set. I ordered eight small square plates and eight bowls. I could have purchased an entire set, but didn't want the cups or the large plate, so I just ordered them individually. They are very pretty--red and black. 
While dishes may not seem like an important part of your life, think about all the times you look at them. There are all those meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner, ever day. How many times do you wash the same old dishes, over and over again? Sometimes I wash them by hand, but mostly I use the dishwasher, loading and unloading day after day.

The dishes hold all the leftovers. They are sometimes vessels for cat food or they can hold tiny nuts and screws when I'm trying to fix something and have to take things apart. I've used these dishes to death. It is time for a change.

I'm a little ahead of myself. I actually have parts of two sets of dishes that I use everyday. Ours is an eclectic household.

One set of our dishes is older than the other. One contains dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, and cups that we've used for so long I can't even remember where they came from. They are clear glass, yet have been very durable. Replacement pieces can be found at garage sales and stores like Walmart and Target. I guess that is why we still have at least a serving for eight. For two people, that may sound a little excessive, but I'm not so sure it is. Thinking back, we used those dishes when are kids were still home. That was a long time ago.

A few years ago, we came across a real bargain--an interesting set of black square dishes that both my husband and I really liked. They were dirt cheap, a service for four, which seems to be how most dishes are sold nowadays. Isn't it funny how the price for four is now what it used to cost for eight? At any rate, we started using these new, pretty, stoneware dishes. We found that we liked square plates better than round ones, though I'm not sure why. We used the salad plates regularly because the dinner plates were just too huge. Of the entire set, the only thing we really used were the four salad plates. They were just the right size for us.

There were only two bowls with the set. I don't know if there were two that had broken, or if there were only supposed to be two. We don't use them however, because they are way too big for one serving size of cereal or salad. There were four cups too, but again, they were huge. Because they are stoneware, a whole cup of coffee would be too heavy to hold comfortably.

Gibson Home Soho Lounge 10.5" Square Dinner Plates, Red, Set of 8The bottom line is that we were still using many of the pieces of clear glass dishes; we used the bowls, salad plates, and cups. Admittedly, when I didn't do the dishes in time, we were relegated to using the old round clear dinner plates.

They came this week. Lo and behold, the plates are much smaller than I had hoped. I ended up ordering the large plates after all. They will arrive next week and we will finally have matching dishes once again.

I wanted a nice, clean place to put them, so I ended spending the morning cleaning cabinets. One thing led to another, resulting in a little spring cleaning. I cleaned and rearranged most of the cabinets in the kitchen, moved some things around, throwing away some unnecessary junk and filling a box for a future garage sale. I even cleaned off the top of the refrigerator, a place my 5'2" self never sees. That was epic in itself. That led to cleaning out the refrigerator, and making a few salads we can enjoy in the coming days.

Funny how one thing leads to another, including organizing the spice cabinet. I wonder how hard it will be to find things in my new, improved kitchen?

I worked hard today, but bonding with my kitchen was good and satisfying. Thank you Springtime, for the added burst of energy and enthusiasm that always happens at this time of year.




Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Simplify

One word exemplifies my philosophy; simplify.

Though I already was a plant-lover, maintaining about 30 of my own house plants in what was then my small apartment,  I learned so much from this man, whose shows I never missed. When John and I bought our first home, I couldn't wait to plant a garden.


This isn't new for me now that I'm in the autumn of my life. I've never claimed to be a minimalist; that is, I really like 'my stuff,' as the late, great George Carlin often joked about all the worldly possessions a person gathers in a lifetime, in one of what I consider the funniest stand-up routines ever. But I do prefer a simple life.

I have never figured that bigger was better. It is just bigger. I've never liked the drama even though I rather enjoy problem-solving. I do not like, and will sidestep at every turn, creating them.

I had an epiphany this morning, as I was watering my plants. There could hardly be a more simple task. But this Tuesday morning, with no plans for the day except to get caught up on some chores--at my own pace--, and the sun shining brightly through the windows, I realized how much joy I felt in doing this simple task.

My life has been complicated of late, not of my own doing. So, those simple, moments of pure joy, mean all the more.

I have always been a hobbyist of some sort, whether it be quilting, crocheting, writing, or whatever. I have always loved plants. I suppose it is in my DNA.

My mother had house plants. My father liked to garden. When I was very young and my grandmother would steal me away to spend the weekend with her at her spacious three-flat in Chicago, it was always my job to water her plants. I guess you could say my thumb has history of being green.

Grandma had lots of cacti and other succulents. My mother had beautiful African Violets. I love them all. With the exception of the Bermuda grass that invades my gardens outside, I love everything that grows.

Image result for jim crockett victory gardenWhen John and I got married, we honeymooned in Florida. On a Saturday morning I was watching television; it was an episode of Crockett's Victory Garden on PBS. It was the first time I had seen it, and was immediately hooked. I fell in love with Jim Crockett and so admired his gardens and method of sharing everything he knew about raising both indoor and outdoor plants.


I also liked to grow roses. I recall one day a lady walked by. I was outside pulling some weeds when she stopped by to admire my roses. They really were incredible, although I don't think I had very much to do with that. I had purchased nine hybrid tea roses from Jackson & Perkins. A cold killed them the next winter, but they were lovely. I haven't bought a rose since then. Perhaps I should give it another try.

Whatever the endeavor, I believe it is the simple things that bring the most pleasure. So, the word of the day, every day, for me is "simplify."

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Straw on a camel's back or a broken washing machine...

How many people can say they have a washing machine saga?

Did you ever have one of those days? How about one of those months? I'm up to about two years now...

Most recently, my nemesis is the killer cold from hell. I've been sick for most of February. It started with the stomach flu, about three days of it. There were a couple good days before I got the worst cold I've ever had. It was a B-A-D cold that left me coughing severely for more than 3 weeks. I was definitely ill, but  couldn't really rest as I'm the caretaker for my poor husband who is trying to recover from a stroke. All of the chores got done, but minimally, as I just didn't have any energy to muster.

Early this week though, I was starting to feel a little better. I actually wanted to tackle some of the piles o laundry that had piled up. I did one load of John's clothes, got them folded and put away and started on the next. That is when the washing machine refused to finish the cycle. The clothes were wet and water remained in the drum of my front loading GE machine. When I opened the door, the water came pouring out. I grabbed a bucket and held what I could. I retrieved the heavy, wet clothes and wrung them out the best I could into a bucket. I had no idea if they were clean or dirty. Still, I tossed them into the dryer which took a very long time to dry them.

In the meantime, I called a local appliance repair company. I was told it would be a week before they could come out. I called Home Depot where I bought the machine and they suggested a guy they contract with. His phone was busy. I called Sears who said they repair appliances and would have someone get hold of me.

A very nice man came out, but explained that he had never repaired a front loading machine before, but he offered to take a look at it. As it turned out, he was in training and his instructor had to take a few days off for personal reasons. He had only been on the job 10 days. He took one look at my washer and explained that he really didn't know how to deal with it. Apologetically he suggested I call someone else. Of course, it didn't cost anything. I appreciated his honesty and called someone else. They would come out tomorrow.

The next morning, the nice man from Sears called me and suggested that if I didn't have anyone to help me, Sears could bring out a loaner machine and would take mine back to the shop and repair it when the main man came back. I thought that was way above and beyond and really appreciated this man going that extra mile. While we talked, he mentioned that sometimes, the pump filter might be clogged. I might want to try to clean that out and see if it helps. So, I did.

Of course, the water still inside the machine, about a gallon of it, ended up all over the floor, but I got that cleaned up too. Sure enough, that filter was a mess. I cleaned it, got it put back and turned on the drain and spin cycle. I threw in a wet towel and it worked like a champ. The machine was quiet, like it was 7 years ago when we bought it. It spun all the moisture out of that towel so that it was almost dry, just like it was supposed to. Its spin cycle was fast and furious. I was really proud of myself thinking I fixed it. I canceled my appointment with the repair man.
video
See, I got it to work. I honestly thought it was all better. I loaded up all the wet towels that I used to mop up the water on the floor, threw them into the machine with soap and turned on the machine. Gosh, it sounded good--so quiet. It worked like a dream. I went back a few minutes later and it had stopped. It is not fixed.

The Internet is filled with comments about this kind of a problem, where the machine pauses, locks and unlocks the door, never finishing the cycle.

I'm so disappointed. So much for my elation. I almost forgot about how miserable the last few weeks had been. I ended up calling the repair man back and getting put back on the list. He may or may not be able to come today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Quilting enthusiasts, check out CHQuilts

Just a reminder: CHMusings will no longer contain new posts about quilting. I've enjoyed writing about quilting so much that I now maintain a blog completely dedicated to quilting-related stories and posts.

If you haven't already, check out CHQuilts.

As a quilter who writes and a writer that quilts, I love telling stories, sharing techniques and tips, and discussing new projects, always with photos. Quilting is a constant learning process. I look forward to hearing lots of comments and ideas. Let's continuing learning together as we share and enjoy our art together.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

S - N - O - W!

In honor of Winter Storm Jonas and all my friends burdened by Mother Nature's wrath, I thought I'd revisit a story I wrote last year! Even though we have no snow here in the Ozarks, I feel your pain!
 

Too much experience with snow makes me love and appreciate Arkansas

Winter Storm Nemo
Winter Storm (Photo credit: jdn)
Despite the biting cold temperatures we've been experiencing here in the Natural State this winter, I am so thrilled to be here.

I know the other side of winter--the one currently being experienced by my friends and family--elsewhere in the country. I am hearing reports of road closures, hideously long travel times, blizzard-like conditions, plummeting temperatures, and unending snow-shoveling. The pictures are terrible.

I can relate.

It doesn't seem so long ago that I remember my feet being so cold I could barely feel my toes. I recall more than once, stepping off a curb onto the ice only to have it give way beneath me, plunging my feet into an icy abyss. The freezing cold slush may have only been a couple inches deep, but it was as shocking to my system as being completely submerged into a frozen sea. Just as bad was the feeling when my skin began to thaw. It was accompanied by that annoying intense itching, second only to an infestation of chigger bites.

I remember trying to breathe what little warmth my body possessed into a scarf just to keep my nose from freezing. I remember getting off the train at Union Station only to have to walk to my office across the bridge over the Chicago River, hoping the bitterly cold wind in the aptly-named windy city didn't carry me away or freeze me in place. 

But my worst winter experience was when I was stranded in my car. For nine hours I waited to be rescued, all the while, having  very full bladder, which was the worst part of the entire ordeal.

Toyota Celica GT (TA22) 1972
Toyota Celica 1972 (Photo credit: Toyota UK)
It was April 2, 1975. The day began in the 60's. There were eight days in a row that made it feel like spring would be early that year. I dressed accordingly for work that day.

I lived in Aurora, IL and worked in Downers Grove, IL, western suburbs of Chicago. It was about a 20-mile drive home. It was a crazy day. Seemingly out of the blue, the temperature fell like a rock in the afternoon. It also began to snow, with that wet, heavy, quickly-accumulating snow. It was also very windy, causing white-out conditions.

At the time I had worked at a check-printing plant. I was not alone in thinking we should close early, but the management would have none of that. So, we stayed until 5 p.m. I lived the farthest away.

The snow began to pile up in what would result in the "biggest snow of the 1974-75 snow season that recorded 52.2 inches," according to Chicago Weatherman Tom Skilling.

It wasn't too bad driving, at least for me. I had a Toyota Celica with studded snow tires. It was the last year before they were banned. If I'm not mistaken, I should have already taken them off my car, but just hadn't gotten around to it. I think April 1 was the cut-off date.

Thankfully, I was able to maneuver through the heavy snow, and had relatively little trouble stopping at intersections. I loved those tires.

Then at one point, the traffic just stopped moving. I was in a long line of cars that suddenly were stationary. Fortunately I had gas in the car, and a jacket in the back seat. Most importantly, I had my favorite eight-track tapes with me. There were no cell phones back then. There was no way to get in touch with anyone. So I just listened to my music, wrapped the jacket around my legs, and told myself this wouldn't last very long.

It was starting to get really dark. It started to get cold too, even though the car was running and the heater was on full blast. Finally, some guy appeared on a snowmobile. He stopped at each of the cars, one at a time. When he got to me, he asked if I was alright, if I had any medical conditions. I told him I was fine. He advised me to keep my windows ajar and to turn off the car now and then, so as not to become asphyxiated from carbon monoxide. I asked what was the hold up and how long would we be stuck here. He said two trucks had jack-knifed, one in each direction, unable to climb the incline of a bridge just up ahead. Once they were moved, we could get on our way.

I felt a little better, except that ever since the time I left work, I had to go to the bathroom. It was starting to get serious now. I wondered how much a bladder could hold before bursting.

The wind continued howling and blowing the ever-increasing piles of snow. It was drifting up against my car. I kept opening the door periodically and removing the snow from around it. I realized if I wasn't able to move soon, I'd be really stuck. I observed the people around me. There were two guys in front of me in a pickup; two guys behind me in a car. One by one, guys were getting out of their car and walking toward a billboard just ahead of us. It dawned on me, they were reliving themselves. I wasn't the only one that had to go potty. I thought about traipsing up there myself, but the thought of wading through what was now more than a foot of snow in a short skirt, heels and panty hose was not my idea of a good time. I looked in the back seat for some kind of container. There wasn't any. I was probably more worried about a bathroom than a warming station at this point.

Finally, nine hours into my ordeal, another snowmobiler came by. It was a fireman who said he was going to help me make my way to the fire station, about a quarter of a mile from where we were parked. Our location was also just outside a new shopping center that was in various stages of being built--Fox Valley Center. It was way too far to get to on foot in these conditions. For that matter, so was the fire station, but we were going to try. So we left my car in what I was beginning to think of as its snowy grave. The fireman held me up as I attempted to walk in snow higher than my knees. I'm short--it was very difficult. Without him I couldn't have done it. I clung to him with each step. There were drifts up to my thighs in some places. He helped me navigate them. Finally, we got to the station where there was a bathroom, thank goodness. There was also a phone. I was able to call my roommate and my mother to tell them I was alright. A fire squad ferried several of us to the Sears store. They were already out of food, but had a little coffee left. The store was new and hadn't opened yet, so they didn't have provisions for wayward travelers.

I ended up spending the night at one of the tables in the snack bar at Sears talking with a couple of guys who worked at Fermi-Lab. I think I put my head down and fell asleep for a few hours only to be awakened at dawn by one of the guys who said they were taking us to our cars. When I got there, I noticed I had a flat tire. There was also a local farmer with a front end loader that offered to pull my car out of the snow for a fee. I gave him a few bucks and off I went, flat tire and all. I couldn't wait to go home to my bed. When I got there, I called in to work, telling them I wouldn't be in because I had just gotten home. No sympathy. In fact, they seemed suspicious, as if I was lying. I think they were a little miffed that I wanted to take the day off. I was annoyed, but too tired to think about it. I got regular tires put on the next day and went to work.

This wasn't my only experience being stranded in the snow.

West Lafayette, Indiana
West Lafayette, Indiana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Two years later, when my husband John and I were returning from our honeymoon in Florida, we hit a freak snow storm. It started snowing in Kentucky and by the time we got to Lafayette, Indiana, the traffic was no longer moving. Since we couldn't go any further, and I had been in this play before, I convinced him to turn around like many others were doing. We drove the wrong way on the interstate to get to the last exit where we maneuvered our way into town.

We passed trucks stopped along the way, cars in the ditches, and huge snow drifts that we almost got stuck in ourselves. Finally, we learned that the interstate, I-65, was shut down at West Lafayette. Had we not turned around, we would likely have been stuck in our car. We found a motel with a vacancy and checked in for the night.

The weather was as bad as it could get. It was snowing, blowing, and the temperature hovered around zero. This was way too similar to what I had been through just two years earlier.

Sleeping was out of the question. I don't think either of us had ever been that cold.The wind howled through the night and drove the snow in through the cracks in the walls and windows. There was actually snow inside our room. The heater wasn't great either. We huddled and shivered for hours. Finally, with the light of day, we decided we would do anything to get home. Home was north, but the road was still closed, so we took a different route south, then west, and north again on I-57. We were finally able to make it home after going way out of our way.

The bottom line for me, is, I paid my dues to live in Arkansas. It would be easy to say that I never want to see snow again, but that isn't quite the case. I love the snow, as long as I can stay home and enjoy its beauty. That is what it is all about for me, living in Arkansas. I am drawn to the immense beauty of this place. I love living in a place that only gets a couple inches of snow at a time, it melts quickly, and doesn't happen too often.

I feel sorry for my friends and family, but I wouldn't live up north for anything. I love it here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Petunias in January--love it!

Indoor Petunia
The first day of Spring is less than 60 days from now.

Indoor Petunia 2
While this has been a relatively easy winter, thus far, with temperatures seldom dipping below the freezing mark, that can all change in a heartbeat. 

At of this writing, the temperature here in the Ozarks is a pleasant 38.7ยบ--not too shabby for January.

White begoniaCHMusings: pink begoniaThere have been winter storms all around us. Neighboring states are snow-covered, but we got lucky with a small amount of cold days and a minimum of freezing precipitation. So, where I live, the effects have been minimal. The sun is shining now and any ice out there is melting.

I refuse to let this bother me though. No matter what the weather, I enjoy retreating to my favorite room in the house--our sun porch--which faces south, but also has windows on the east and west. Nothing makes me happier than to see flowers inside when it is cold and often dreary outside.

These petunias were growing in a pot outside this summer. I simply brought it indoors. 
 
I am also enjoying a few begonias that seem to like the big windows and sun shining through them on the sun porch

These plants were growing outside and blooming up until it got cold. At that time, I dug up, repotted them and brought them inside. 

I've done the same with some of my favorite herbs; basil, sage, thyme, and lemon verbena. 

Some of those are doing better than others, but I can still snip off a few leaves to throw into a pot of soup now and then. 

I even brought in a hearty Serrano pepper plant. For some reason it is doing better indoors than it did outside all last year.  I wouldn't be surprised if it bore peppers before the season is over. At the very least, I will get some very early peppers.

I am also thrilled to have my old favorite standbys--African violets. 

There was a time that I couldn't get an African Violet to live to save my life. For some reason, that is no longer the case. These two have been thriving here for years. I've even been able to propagate them by leaf cuttings. 

CHMusings: African Violet #1CHMusings: African Violet #2

There is nothing that makes winter more pleasant than flowers. With Spring just around the corner, I can't wait to get my hands dirty again. Flowers inside are matched only by flowers outside. C'mon Spring, my favorite time of year.