Coffee Chat: Winter Serenade

Here we are!  Time to stop and have another chat...I've got some lovely Cherry Almond Cupcakes.  You can find the recipe right here.  They turned out the most perfect shade of pink.  I am really fond of cherry cake.  I'm always looking for a good recipe and I think I've found one.  Next time I'll chop cherries to add to the batter of the cake because I like to bite down on a bit of cherry.  If I'd known how pretty pink these were going to turn out I'd have saved the recipe for Valentine's Day.  But then that would be later and this is now and so have one and some half and half in your coffee and let's chat a bit.

Oh Half and half...First I'm going to address a comment from Pam earlier in the month.  Carageenan is a seaweed (Irish Moss) byproduct that is used to thicken and stabilize dairy products. I haven't meant to say it is bad for any/every one.  I have mentioned that it's bad for me because it causes me to have mild respiratory symptoms that I dislike.  The more of it I imbibe the more I feel I can't get a proper breath.  When I stop using products that contain it, I find I breathe easier.   It's an allergic reaction and it's mild but it's unpleasant enough to make me want to not feel that way.   It seems wise, on my own behalf, to watch for the product in the ingredients list and avoid those products.

And Angela asked about the Butter Chicken recipe.  I sort of combined two recipes but this one was one of those.

We've had some lovely days here the past week.  Sunny and cold and sunny and not quite so cold and sunny and warm enough to throw up the windows in the late afternoon and a bit of rain and fog and then windy and sunny and cold.  The nights continue to be frosty.  One night I left the heater turned up to daytime temperatures and even though it was still cool enough to sleep under the quilt we didn't rest half so well.  Then last night we'd gone off to bed and left the heat turned down to 62 and despite the quilt it was too cool and we didn't sleep half so well, lol.  Now there is just a 5 degree difference but gracious goodness, what frail creatures we are that two or three degrees either way can upset our rest.  Of course I notice the same thing when we start turning the AC higher in the summer and the heat down every fall.  I told John the consolation is that in a few years we're going to keep the heat at about where we run the AC now and not turn on the AC hardly at all.

I may have sounded a bit vague last Friday about things in the Living Well section.  We didn't get bad news, nor did we lose money in any way.  The situation involves more than just our side of things so I had to be vague about it and have to now as well.  Suffice it to say that we felt a bit down and we had to take a long hard look at our side of things.  Optimistic as we normally are, it was still a bump and made us more than usual aware of the reality of our financial lives.  I can't tell you the pendulum has swung hard back to optimistic yet.  It still smarts a bit, but we're just not going to live our lives afraid of what's around every corner, anymore than we're going to lose sight of our limits.  Balance...Seems to be the word of the year.

I can't really tell you what we did after our picnic last week.  I was out with Mama on Wednesday...I'm pretty sure Thursday and Friday were just muddling through days.  Saturday I took the words 'Shabat Rest' very literally and took two naps, one mid-morning and another mid-afternoon and then struggled to sleep that night.  My own fault and no one to blame but me.  I dragged myself from bed Sunday morning determined that regardless of my lack of rest I would have one day to really accomplish something.

Well...I worked in what I called 'rounds'.  I started with some deep cleaning in the kitchen and after a couple of hours, I sat down to rest for a half hour.  Then up to work another couple of hours and sit for a spell.  The kitchen also got a wee bit of freshening up.  I like, when I've cleaned deep, to leave something new and fresh in the area to show that I've worked hard.  I want to do a bit more freshening but I don't have what I want/need yet to finish up. This little vignette is above the stove top/under the hood.  I bought the tray that miserable day I went through the antiques mall two weeks or so ago.  It's a little rough, but it's just the sort of thing I am drawn to.

This next area is at the back door entry.  I repotted the ivy into that pretty planter and then set up the two trays.  The smaller tray was my other purchase at the antiques mall.  I got that tray at half price, simply because I stopped and talked to the dealers.  I love these sorts of trays and I sort of/ kind of collect them.  I had two others that I sold and one that I've repainted to a more suitable to me style.  Since I've taken this photo I've added a tall blue vase at the end where that floral tray is.  I't really pulls the blue from the grapes and the flowers, so that note of color is pretty much all the way across the shelf in a subtle way.

I'm pretty pleased with my bit of refreshing work...and just longing to do some major work but I am just having to wait on it.  For one thing, I'm not completely sure of my direction.  I have to do things slowly and wait for things to speak to me.  I really want to finish that guest room up before I start another big project...but I'm not above 'listening' to what a room says and grabbing up the things I find.

Last Sunday morning I sat in my kitchen sitting area and did my Bible study.  I had been listening to a number of sermons that morning.  There was no one that stood out but they all dealt with the same theme and I was moved to pray fervently.  And then I opened my Bible and read about Jacob asking his household to put away the idols...It was such a wonderful moment of revelation for me and I had that  feeling of grasping full knowledge of a passage and seeing the past, present, future of it.    I wanted so much to convey that shining moment...and yet when it came to putting it into words it was so ordinary...That is not the first time that has happened to me nor will it be the last.  My heart/soul were aligned just so at that moment of reading and not distracted but by the time I came to share it, I was no longer there but here.  Yet it is those shining moments when my spirit overflows into my heart and my mind sees the truths and revelations that I long to achieve.  It is so transient a moment that it comes and goes quickly and I am left wanting more but unable to say what that more is.

That moment made me happy and set me on the path to working industriously in my home.  I really enjoyed my work on Sunday.  I washed and hung to dry and folded tablecloths.  I had two loads go out on the line.  The wind was up and the sun was shining.  I opened the windows later that afternoon and listened to the tablecloths snap and  beat and bang.  It was the best sound.  More than that was the wonderful clean aroma of them.  I piled the folded things on the dining table and John commented on how good they smelled when he came in from work the next morning.

There were so many napkins that I put those in the dryer. I definitely need to determine if I'm going to try and salvage some of these or just let them go.  They are stained, badly so, and need some work, but then they have been used and used and used. It's another of those tasks that I will get around to eventually.  I'm never surprised any more that the harder you work the more work you find that wants doing.

I didn't over work but I worked steadily enough to be good and tired.  When I sat down that afternoon, I realized that I was deeply happy.  I find that a good day's work always leaves me feeling satisfied and nothing makes me happier than going about my home making it clean and neat and lovely.  I think it's the most satisfactory career I've ever had, this being a homemaker.

I've actually been reading once more.  Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Seasons is one of the books I chose.  I started at the back of the book, reading about winter (December, January, February and March in this book) and then moved around to the front.  I'm up to April now.

I think what I like most about Gladys is that she rambles about from one thing to another in a chapter and never sticks to one subject.  She has thoughts on many subjects but some how her love of home and hearth is the lacing that keeps them all strung together.   I realized that I have probably patterned my coffee chats after her work, but it was unconsciously done.  And now that the pattern is set, I may as well continue, agreed?  So thank you dear Gladys for the inspiration.

I will share this bit about Gladys Taber.  Years ago when we lived in the town to the south of us, I used to go to the county library.  At the time it was the Carnegie library and sat on the main street in a lovely old marble building.

The interior was set up so that to the right and left were two small reading areas for youth and reference materials and then in the middle of the room was the librarian's desk.  Behind her, stretching the full width of the building was the adult reading area.  The county no longer uses that building and I don't think it carries the Carnegie name any longer either.  Things change..Not always in an improved way in my opinion but the new library is next door to a park so the children can have reading and good fresh air and the old library offered no such accomodation, hardly parking even...But the old building was lovely with woodwork and old mission style furnishings.

The librarian was Mrs. Violet Moore.  She was a Minnesotan and married a man from the deep south small town in which she eventually became the librarian. She also wrote regular columns for some of the big city papers. She was a well known writer across the state of Georgia and corresponded and lectured with many well known authors. I was absolutely in awe of her, at least at first.  I soon found that I just plain liked her.  She was a lovely plump white haired woman in her 70's at that time.  She wore her hair piled atop her head and was possibly 5 feet tall. She was well read, and loved to talk about everything under the sun.  She also was something of a cook...which is how she came about writing to Gladys Taber.  Miss Violet sent Mrs. Taber a kitchen hint/tip.  I can't remember just what it was but she was astonished to get a letter back from Mrs. Taber who told her that she herself had invented that tip and Miss Violet needn't claim it!  Miss Violet never quite got over her distaste of Mrs. Taber after that.  She lent me all the books by Gladys Taber I wanted but she always reminded me of that incident between them, lol.

Incidentally, though John lived just two houses above me, I heard him play guitar the first time there at the library.  He came in and sat down on a stool and played for Miss Violet and I was no end awed to be in the presence of both a writer and a songwriter!  Of course, I had absolutely no clue that in a few years I would be married to this guitar playing songwriter and raising a family with him...  As far as I was concerned at that moment in time, I'd just about hit the top step of the staircase to the artistic elements in our community.  Oh my!

Another book I'm reading is Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.  I first read this book in high school and I was head over heels in love with Carol Kennicott and her idealistic views.  I read the book again a few years later but I was still young...From this side?  I am not in love with Carol Kennicott.  I find the view points in the book eerily close to what I hear being batted about in today's political arenas.  I do however, recognize her desire to create something meaningful and beautiful.  I realized this morning, as I sat on the porch while the animals ate and gazed at the shed and started dreaming of what I might do to make it pretty that I am Carol Kennicott in some ways.  I suppose we all are, especially us homemakers who love to fluff and dust and create little vignettes here and there.

What I am appreciating now is much of what I appreciated in my recent reading again of Gone With the Wind: the accessbility of historical information so that I can get a better idea of the time period and interests.  I've read about authors and listened to music and looked at fashions for that time period. For some reason, I had it in my mind that the book took place in the years prior to WWII.  It is actually set in the decade or so before WWI which  is a whole different viewpoint and changes my perspective entirely.  This idealistic view came just years before war and then economic depression.

This business of reading a book and stopping to look things up is a sort of education in itself.  Perhaps this is the sort of homeschooling I'll do this year for myself, simply take reading slow and look up references and histories and songs and books mentioned.  Having a working understanding of the author's background through these elements is truly helpful.  And look at all I learned from Margaret Mitchell... Why I discovered things about my own family history reading through her book and then looking things up!   It led to a lovely rabbit hole experience with genealogy which is always fun.

Speaking of genealogy, I haven't done a thing with it since late November.  I was very disappointed that didn't seem to care much whether I re-subscribed or not.  I was waiting on a renewal notice and didn't get one.  Then I got caught up in the work of our family party and forgot all about the renewal.  I still have access to my family tree but cannot access the limited resources allowed with a subscription.  No great loss really and I say that sincerely.  I found as time went on that I got more from web searches than I was able to get from the site itself.  It was a great way to get a hard start at family search and worth that annual access simply to see what I liked or didn't about it.

We were up fairly early this Tuesday.  It was grocery/bill/errands day.  We made several stops and came home to eat a late lunch.  I felt rather worn by the time we were done and I guess John did, too.  John told me he was going to do sleep and sat down in his chair, put up his feet and went right to sleep.  I decided to get up and do a few things in the kitchen area, then I settled into my chair and read my Bible study which I'd put off doing that morning.  Then I picked up Main Street and read for a solid hour.

I had the windows open and the uniquely country sort of quiet was going on.  A crow 'Caw, Caw, Caw'-ed across the field and now and then I'd hear a group of coyote howl, which is a lot creepier to me at night than it is during the day.  Overall the very stillness was so restful and so peaceful and so soothing, I might have been on vacation at the beach for all the rest I gathered in that hour of reading next to the open windows.  I felt that deep love of this property and this house welling up inside me all over again.

I mused over this love of land.  In my childhood, this was where we felt safe and free to be children.  Granny's rules were straightforward and unchanging.  Work was done together and then we were allowed to go play wherever we wished on the property.  In very early years it did seem the bottom where we played was terribly terribly far from Granny but in reality it is a 5 minute walk at best.  Later we ventured a little further but Granny would periodically whoop at us and we had to whoop back, a signal that all was well with us.  If she yoo-hooed we were to yoo-hoo back and then hurry home.  It was a system that worked very well and if ignored we got a switching when we did return to the house.   The incentive was good to answer, lol.

Granny never complained over mud or dirt.  She was of the mind that children and clothes and dirt and mud went together and were the main reasons why bathtub and washing machine and dryer were bonus blessings in her household.  So we were very happy when we were here.  While at home we read and watched television and listened to the radio at Granny's we were almost always outdoors.  There was no lying about in bed sleeping late either.  You got up and dressed for breakfast which was served about 7:30 and you went to work right after breakfast.  First it was housework and then it was yard/field work if there was any and then it was playtime.

My father was one of those fussy sorts who didn't like dirt and mud, as was his mother.  Children should always be quiet, seen but not heard, and look neat as pins at all times.  Playing should be reserved for quiet activity such as reading though he truly preferred we just sit quietly.  It was a rather restrictive thing to a child and I'm sorry to say that we seldom stuck to being quiet.  There was almost always some sort of play ongoing and we invariably got loud about it.  Daddy wasn't mean.  He was just a very anxious sort of parent.  We were always, in his eyes, on the verge of some great accident: drowning, broken bones, cracked skulls, kidnappings.  It made us anxious I think, as well it might and what tortures his brain must have gone through thinking of all those horrid possibilities.

We suffered none such thing as that from Granny.  She trusted us to take some care when we were playing about the place and in all the years of grandchildren here we had only two incidents.  I slid down a stack of rye seed and hit a metal spike that cut my knee deeply enough for stitches.  Another time our youngest cousin fell from a tree and broke his arm.  I guess that is a pretty good record for 7 children who pretty much did everything children used to do: ride bikes, play ball, slide down banks, climb trees, dam the creek, wander the fields, etc.

I woke this morning early, about 5am and as I lay abed I heard the wind begin to pick up.  I got up about 5:30, quietly so as not to disturb John and went to open the kitchen curtains.  Even at that dark hour I could see the heavy clouds and the low lights of neighborhoods and settlements over 5 miles away as the crow flies.  But the wind coming in surely meant the clouds were going to be chased away.  One good hard house shuddering gust more and I was convinced of it.  I took a quilt and curled up in a chair and listened to the wind and dozed right back off.  It was a lovely hour of sleep in which I dreamed of Granny and Katie and a lovely plump baby who kept saying 'please'...The brain is a funny thing, truly it is, especially where dreams are concerned.  But I woke happy and that is what counts most isn't it?

Well, there's the empty coffee pot and the last of the cupcakes are gone.  I think it's time to end this chat and I'll move on to other things for the afternoon.  I've a longing to go down the genealogy line and see what I might find.  It's been bugging me for weeks.  Talk to you again real soon...


a8383 said...

I love, love your two vignettes- especially the one with the chicks! It looks like spring- I could use a dose right now! I often make myself earn some new little something for my home by deep cleaning some first. It does feel so good. I too have to do things slooowly 'cause I know if I don't love the results I will still be living with them for awhile if I have spent good money!It is true that the harder you work the more you see that needs doing. I started reading Stillmeadow Chronicles back in I think April when the book opens and have read every month since. Have you read Country Chronicles? That is my favorite. Well a vacuum is calling my name. Have a lovely day- the sun is out here after so much rain! Angela Oh and thank you for the recipe! I believe I will try the cupcakes as well- that is 2 flavors I adore!

doe853 said...

Hi Terri,
First, I went to the link for the cupcakes and put it in my recipe box. They look wonderful and I can't wait to make them. I love the chicks and trays, great arrangements. I also am quite envious of your being able to air out the house. It is only in the teens here, freezing. It is still only Jan and I am sick of it. I am off to redo the dining table with yellow things and pretend it is April. Thanks, Dale

Anonymous said...

Absolutely love the tray and chickens! If I stopped at your house I would probably have so much fun looking around you would think I am the noisiest person ever. I remember reading Gladys Taber when I still lived at home with my parents. I was so fascinated with her for some reason.Will have to see if our library has any writings by her. Gramma D

Melanie said...

Hi Terri, it is so good to talk to you again! I have missed you. I need to go through your blog and see what I've missed in your life, but for now, I will comment on this post I just read. We love the house being chilly while we sleep. I turn the heat down to 63 at night, even when it's frigidly cold outside. We stay plenty warm with three layers of covers...a sheet, a 100% cotton blanket, then a thick comforter. Sometimes I even get too hot and have to fold the comforter down! Love your trays; they're so pretty. I have a yellow one in my kitchen. I had a red one and used that in my kitchen for years too, but finally ended up donating it when I changed decor around. As for the talk about carrageenan, I totally avoid it, too. I don't have any allergic reactions; it's that it's a food additive that is known to cause digestive problems and I have enough of those as it is. Plus, I'm also very health-conscious and try to eat "clean" as much as I can. I read labels on literally everything I buy and will not buy or eat anything with not only carrageenan, but soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, chemicals, food colorings, preservatives, nitrates, excess sugar or sodium. Talk to you soon - hope you are doing well!

Melanie said...

PS - here's a good article on carrageenan:

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

"i didn't over work but I worked steadily enough to be good and tired. When I sat down that afternoon, I realized that I was deeply happy. I find that a good day's work always leaves me feeling satisfied and nothing makes me happier than going about my home making it clean and neat and lovely. I think it's the most satisfactory career I've ever had, this being a homemaker."

Beautifully said Terri...this entire post was on point and your writing is so honest and lovely. I so appreciate your work and am glad to be able to spend more time here.


Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

P.S. Your tole trays are sooo pretty... I love the way you've used them atop the cute shelves!

Spicy Apple Cake - I FOUND IT!

While sorting though Mama's cookbooks the other day I came across a Family Circle magazine cookbook that looked familiar.  I brought...