Thursday, September 22, 2016
Iced Tea Chat: The Last for the Year?
Come in...I hope that soon we will be in autumn mode and able to share a coffee chat once more. For now, it's hot so have some more iced tea. Blech. I am well over my sorrow that summer is ending and ready for the next season. Mama amused me no end when we were out the other day and I mentioned that it was meant to be hot through next week. "I'm ready for WINTER!" she said. Well good luck with that since we can't seem to get autumn off the ground just yet! I'm always impressed with how nature will hold on until the proper season is evident to do something major. Like last Easter when it was so very cold and early, too and the dogwoods looked absolutely bereft of life and yet two or three days before Easter they suddenly bloomed out, just as they do every year. How do they know? Well now it's the golden rod. It's almost but not quite at bloom, just tipped with color and that's the state it's been in for the past few weeks. What is it that tells golden rod when to burst into riotous bloom?
I've been toying with an idea of something, an Etsy shop, for a number of years now. Well Katie actually went ahead and started one and she's got the cutest things! For her birthday in June she'd asked for art supplies and special pens and I knew she'd been practicing scripts and such. She told me Saturday that she'd set it up and she officially opened her shop on Monday. I think I can share the link: Katie's Etsy. I'm so proud of her! Please have a look about Katie's shop.
I didn't have much time to spend with Katie this past weekend when she visited. She came down early on Friday and I was in the midst of making pies and slicing potatoes and generally trying to get things ready for our family day on Saturday. However, she had saved Taylor's bath time for Friday evening at my home. Katie was sure it would help Taylor sleep better and she knew I'd get a kick out of bath time. I love changing diapers and bathing babies! I got to see how long Taylor's hair really is (middle of her back) and how tightly it will curl up when just washed (all the way up to the base of her head) and to watch that little girl in her sleepy time routine. She goes to bed awfully early, just as her mama did when she was an infant and like her mama it doesn't matter where she is, when it's bedtime it is most definitely bedtime. Period. She went right off to sleep and slept all night long.
Katie had to run an errand in the next town and while she was gone I slipped out of the house and sat on the back porch and admired the moon rise. It was a lovely full harvest moon, all orange and glowing as it slid up the skyline. I'd have enjoyed it mightily except for the pesky doggone gnats which are at their worst just at the moment it seems. I am afraid I was tired that evening and the opportunity to really talk with Katie passed in silence. John had on the TV and snoozed in his chair, and Katie and I smiled at each other and drifted back to our respective internet interests. I think we were all tired, really.
I happened to be up the next morning when I heard Taylor cry out a little bit and when I walked into the room she smiled so sweetly at me and let me do all the little things that makes my Gramma heart glad. I changed her diaper and dressed her and kissed her and praised her. Oh how I enjoyed that! And then I watched in astonishment as this tiny little bitty delicate girl put away enough food to do her Grandpa justice! She ate a packet of yogurt, a granola bar, half a piece of toast and two eggs. Katie said that is pretty typical for her, too!
Our family day was the brainchild of Bess. She'd come to me just at the end of their stay here and suggested that since I was essentially the half way point between both Kate's and Sam's homes that we have a quarterly family day. Everyone thought it a great idea and we chose the date in September that worked with John's schedule. Hence the kids were here for the day this past weekend and it was grand! I ranked it a success. Bess sat down with us before leaving and we looked over dates and chose a time for our Family Holiday in December. It falls in the general holiday area. Katie refers to this as our "ThankHannukahMas" celebration.
I had Taylor to myself for a short bit of time Saturday morning and then Josh came in with his parents. I watched both of them with interest. Taylor was walking so much better than when I saw her last and had added words to her vocabulary. Josh is getting more and more articulate and I was intrigued to see how he acted with Taylor. Well I wish you could have heard him say, "C'mon Tay!" and she'd toddle right behind him all over the house. Periodically they'd stop and one of them would come climb up in my lap. Towards the end of the afternoon, they both found their way to my lap.
John doesn't believe in winning over children. He tends to just sit back and let them come to him when they've gotten comfortable. However, Taylor never did voluntarily go to him. Just before they left I took her over to him and plopped her in his lap. And there she happily sat until it was time to go. Her big thing with John, the thing that made her smile hugely was when he'd shake her hand. I don't know just why this tickles her and Josh so much, to have their hands shaken, but it does. He had to do it repeatedly with Taylor before she'd finally let go.
After Taylor was gone, John and Josh played kazoo. Bess took a video and you can see Josh watching John's tapping foot and then picking up the rhythm in his own movements, keeping perfect time all through the song. They went off to the music room where John played the guitar and played the kazoo and Josh tootled along with him. At one point I realized the perfectly pitched, spot on tune kazoo playing was solely Josh! That little boy does love music and it is my prayer that John will at last have a kindred amongst his grandchildren who loves music as he does.
Josh and I had our moments. I do love that little dimply smile of his!
Our theme for this visit was Oktoberfest. We had brats and buns, German potato salad, and a salad, soft baked pretzels with beer cheese dip and my favorite apple pie recipe. I was sure I'd shared that pie recipe on the recipe blog but I haven't. I'll try to get all the recipes that turned out well up on that blog this next week. What didn't turn out well: the beer cheese dip was bitter and the German potato salad had none of the needed sharpness of the dressing and seemed bland. Not at all happy with those two recipes. I made the pretzels from scratch and that was far easier than I'd imagined it might be. Sort of boosted my confidence to try bagels and English muffins.
The apple pie is something I only make in autumn. I've been making it for years upon years, since the 1980's. It is rich and tart and sweet and spicy. I've always followed the pastry recipe that comes along with it and it's always turned out just lovely. This year, due to it being a family gathering, I made three pies. One extra large deep dish, which really is just one recipe worth of pastry and filling and then two smaller ones which was a second recipe of it all split between a small 6 inch deep pie plate and a standard 8 inch pie plate. I sent that 8 inch pie home with Katie along with some of our foods so that her working husband could enjoy our dinner, too. I generally use some sort of pie apple but this year I chose from Aldi's selection and I mixed Granny Smith and Gala. It made for a very good pie! The apples held their shape well and the slightly sweeter Gala was well matched to the more tart Granny Smith.
Do you save certain foods for a sort of seasonal celebration? I'll be making Gingerbread this weekend which I only ever want in the autumn and winter months. I've made my apple pie which is strictly an annual autumn ritual. I hope to find butter nut flavoring so I can make that lovely butter nut cake this year. I think I'll make just a half recipe though and decrease the frosting recipe by 3/4 so it won't be quite so sugary sweet. Oatmeal cookies are generally an autumn-ish sort of cookie in my opinion though I can't just tell you why I believe they are. I'll make those two or three times during the season. At least once as they are written out and once with apples and dried cranberries and white chocolate chips in them. Sometime during autumn, I usually manage to make apple turnovers once. But really for all that I'm saying we don't eat something sweet every day. I find it easy these days to pop things into the freezer or to share with the kids. I have my small share of the treat and they enjoy some of it as well and that is that.
I'll also make applesauce several times over the fall and winter months. It's such a lovely way to make good use of the apples when they start to age a little and John decides to start shunning them. I never use sugar in applesauce. I find it just about perfect in it's own right. I like to eat it with a crisp graham cracker or a small dollop of whipped topping or even with a little cottage cheese. Gracious, I wish I had a whole bag of apples just now!
We had roasted butternut squash this week. I have leftovers. I like butternut squash and John does too. I used to get an acorn squash or two each year during these months but John didn't much care for it. However, he likes butternut squash well enough. I'm deliberating on presenting him with butternut squash soup at a meal...but I have a feeling I'd better stick to roasted squash. Maybe he'd like one of my great Aunt Johnnie's Butternut pies?
I was remembering my Aunt Johnnie the other day. She was actually my great aunt. She had dark curly hair and beautiful blue eyes and a round cheeked face. She was a laughing woman, always laughing or making others laugh. She never had children of her own but she adored her nieces and nephews and their children, too. She was married to Uncle Herman who was as tall as Aunt Johnny was short and as lean as she was round. He boomed when he spoke and was a night watchman at a factory. I always imagined he frightened away the bad guys just by speaking, but he had the kindest face. They were well matched in laughing at life and enjoying it.
The road in front of their house was a dirt road but it wasn't the same sort of dirt road we have here. Their road was loaded with mica bits and it shone and glittered in the sun. I used to pick up pieces of the thickly layered mica rocks. I loved the little white house trimmed in red that sat on the greenest bit of lawn you've ever seen. I've no idea how they got that grass so thick and green but it was and it was bordered by a neatly trimmed, carefully cultivated boxwood hedge. Either side of the front sidewalk was an old tire, cut so that the tops pointed upwards, painted white and filled with red petunias. I adored those tires filled with flowers! I don't think they used the front door much. I don't recall it ever being opened.
The main entrance seemed to be around back. There was a wide brick back porch and two doors leading into the house. One door went into a bedroom and the other into the kitchen. The rooms all opened one into another so I've no clue why the double back doors. The living room was hardly ever used I think. I believe they used the second bedroom as a sort of sitting room but the living room fascinated me and I'd sit there for hours just gazing at all of the what nots Aunt Johnny had collected. A trio of monkeys depicting "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil". A crinolined shepherdess. A matched set of turkey salt and pepper shakers. A porcelain curly poodle with a chain leash. A frilled high heel shoe. Those are the ones I remember.
I never saw or set foot in Aunt Johnnie's bedroom which was off the living room. That was just beyond the realms of politeness to even think of touching the door to that room. I wonder how prettily she had decorated it?
Outside the kitchen window (above the sink as it ought to be) was a lovely weeping willow tree. It had such thick foliage that swept the ground and I could sit inside that lovely cool greenness and not be seen, not even from the kitchen window which faced it. Oh how I loved hiding there! The tree was watered by the runoff from the washing machine in the basement of the house. I never saw the basement, either. Aunt Johnny was worried about me tumbling down the stairs.
The house was part of a farm. There were barns and fields surrounding it and one autumn we visited while they were having a dove shoot over the mown cornfield. We came in unexpected but Aunt Johnny wasn't in the least phased. She just peeled more potatoes to put into the pot and quickly mixed up another butternut pie. I remember sitting around that table with all the adults, eating those tiny little birds that were fried to tender crispiness and eating mashed potatoes and gravy. And oh how sweet that Butternut pie tasted!
I remember after dinner, when the men went out to the porch to smoke their cigarettes, that Mama and Aunt Johnny and I cleared the table. Mama had asked Aunt Johnny how she made such good pie crusts and Aunt Johnny had blushed and laughed and said "Oh Ann....there's nothing to it!" Mama went to put something in the trash and she said "Why Aunt Johnny! You used bought pie crusts!" and she held up the wrapping. Aunt Johnny blushed a little deeper and laughed and said "I told you there was nothing to it, Ann!"
Oh how I loved that little house that evening, with the big full moon rising in front of the back porch and the murmur of gentle quiet talk in the cool September air, our stomachs filled with good food, the lights of the kitchen burning out into the darkness that crept over the oak trees and barns. I don't remember leaving. I don't think I ever did really, for that evening shines out in memory as a lasting one.
A few years ago I had occasion to ride up that way and passed the little house. The barns were gone and the fields were too. The little house stood stark naked without the willow tree or boxwood hedges to soften the edges. They'd paved the road. Aunt Johnny had died years earlier from diabetic complications. Nothing was the same. But I had that memory to keep that little home place and those dear people vitally alive within.
I've just been watching a nature program on PBS...Sigh. Beautiful, stunningly beautiful photography but oh my goodness the suppositions they do promote. They suggest that we are all just a set of molecules of water. Why is it so improbable that we are created from dust as the Bible says if they can believe we are created from molecules of water? It does make me chuckle. Minds can be bent only so far in some directions. Man has need to explain things and this theory that we were created by the breath of a God creator is beyond explanation. And yet they look and look for a plausible theory in multiple other equally improbable places. And it's better than accepting the story of creation how? Beyond me.
I haven't always been a Christian. I sought long and hard and read multiple books on various subjects related to spiritualism and the supernatural and in the end, I came right back to the point where I'd started and suddenly this whole thing of the Creator and the created, the awesome and the awe filled world made sense to me. I'm not a scientist. I know this. On the intelligence quotient I rank a little more than average but not genius level by any means. Yet, I can see that here is something that fills the empty places.
Sometime ago a friend who chooses not to believe in God reposted a blurb from an atheist which said "How ridiculous is it to believe in a God who created the universe and all in it and think that he could possibly see someone as tiny and insignificant as you." I felt laughter bubble up in my throat and wrote back, "And that is where you are mistaken. How wonderful it is that a God who created the universe and all that is in it thought I was significant enough to send his son to die for me; that this awesome God knows my name, has counted the hairs upon my head and has a plan for my life."
Oh do look at the time! How it does get away from me when I'm chatting away! I've so enjoyed visiting with you. Remember to go check Katie's shop. Christmas is coming up....
Gosh it is and this is the time of year I start to plan for all that. I have lists to get busy making...Talk to you all later.