Gypsy's Travels


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quilts for Soldiers


Since I didn't get back in town in time to post this photo for Wordless Wednesday, I will post the story with the photo.

Our quilting group has made over 200 lap quilts to be presented to wounded military in rehab at Brooks and Ft. Hood. Most of our members have some present or past connection with the military and craft the quilts with prayer and concern for the intended recipients. Funds for the project came from our members originally, then grew with donations from friends, family, and the community.

We rarely hear where the quilts go, but the few stories we do hear renew our resolve as we cut, pin, sew, and pack our appreciation along with the quilts, in specially made bags for presentation to one of our military. If you know of someone who has received one of our specially marked quilts, we would love to hear her /his story or enjoy a visit.
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Monday, August 27, 2007

"If the Army wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one!"

When the two pilots prepared to leave my home, I thanked them for their service to our country. One of them had a request.

“Everyone talks about praying for the troops,” he said, “but I would request they include our families in their prayers. Our wives are trying to care for children and homes under great stress. (Wiry fellow) has just discovered his dad has terminal cancer. We often feel we are not there when we are most needed.”

He is right, We need to lift the families of our troops in prayer, but I am not sure that is enough. We should extend our support to provide something more concrete – a couple of hours a week babysitting so the parent can have some respite, providing a casserole for an evening meal, taking the family members out to lunch and letting them voice their concerns – whatever can be done to make life easier for the family member left behind so the service member can concentrate more fully on his / her job.

Deployment is very hard for the families who live on military facilities but they at least have people around them who are in a similar situation. It is never easy to say farewell to your loved one for a year or more at a time, no matter how accustomed to it you are. Service members who live in the community and have been deployed with Reserve or National Guard units leave behind families that are suddenly immersed in a new environment. Nevetheless, these families have a whole community that should rally around them and assist as needed.

DD, who lives at Ft. Hood, was eight months pregnant when she got a notice in the heat of the summer that her grass HAD to be mowed IMMEDIATELY. I went to help her, but even the two of us, pulling with all our might, couldn't get the lawnmower to start. What a wonderful surprise when a church group arrived the next day. All the members went in groups, door to door, offering to help with whatever was needed. Energetic young people mowed lawns, helped clean houses, weeded flowerbeds, played with children, whatever the individual homemaker needed was performed with a smile and enthusiasm.

We will continue to pray. Prayers are wonderful, but sometimes action speaks louder than words.

"They also serve who only stand and wait. " - John Milton

Two Pilots and a Tractor

The old tractor has moved on to greener pastures....literally.

We went through several mowers when we lived in Houston where we had to mow over an acre of land. We started with a push mower.

"It is good for your heart," I told DH.

Well, that is what all the studies were saying and that is what we had. The push mower lasted about 2 trips around the front yard before we moved on to a power mower. The power mower seemed quite good at first, but it was only a tentative step up. Mowing 1+ acres every week meant a short life for the power mower and took most of one day on the weekend. It was obvious we needed something better.

DH was very excited about the riding lawn mower we brought home. Put wheels and a seat on an engine and most men are happy. Mowing time was only about a half day with this new machine and everyone was happy for a while. Unfortunately, a lawnmower is still a lawnmower even if it can be ridden. Its lifespan was about the same as the walking kind.

We entered the era of the garden tractor. A garden tractor is more powerful than a lawnmower but not as large and powerful as a farm tractor. It suited our needs perfectly. Over the years, we wore out two of these and were working on the third one when we moved to a house on a regular sized lot. Since the third tractor was working fine, we moved it with us. DH thought it should be used on our lawn since we had it. I found it too large for the lot. Poor thing had outlived its usefulness for our family. The question was, what would we do with it?

The answer to that question came in a round-a-bout way. DD heard a friend talking about the large expanse she was having to mow with a push lawnmower. Her soldier husband was being cycled in and out of Iraq and she was trying to care for everything, as most of the military wives do. Bingo! The tractor found a home. The only difficulty was getting it there.

After several weeks of coordinating times, two Blackhawk pilots showed up on my doorstep. They had not been able to find a trailer to transport the tractor and told me they would lift it onto the back of their pickup. I had explained on the telephone that this was quite large and heavy, but they didn't think there would be a problem. Young men, especially Blackhawk pilots, see the world from a different viewpoint.

One of the young men was a particularly wiry, thin fellow.

"I used to make a lot of money off him," his friend told me. "I would bet that he could bench press 180 pounds three times, and people always took me up on it."

"Yes," the wiry fellow said, "I only weigh 130 pounds. I hold the handles of the body fat meter and it rings up ERROR."

I could believe it, but how were these two guys going to get that tractor onto the pickup I wondered.

The wiry fellow lifted the heavy end of the tractor rather easily.

"Well, I can lift it but not up high enough," he admitted.

They still weren't deterred. We found two boards, moved the truck down an incline, and managed to push the tractor onto the truck. It worked like a charm. Off they drove with the little green tractor riding proudly in the bed of the pickup to its new home. Life had come full circle except that now I have a lawn service.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Florence. Italy - The Arrival

Ask almost any person who has “retired” and you will most likely find travel at the top of the “To Do” list. I am no exception except that traveling has always been at the top of my list. “Your middle name is ‘Go,’” my mother always said, and she might have been right.

I was delighted when P, my next-door neighbor, suggested we travel together on an Elderhostel tour to Italy. DH and I had always traveled on our own and, although I had never been on a guided tour before, I felt it was a good way to “get my feet wet.” Even though P and I were neighbors and active in many of the same activities, we had never been in close daily contact for the 18 days we would share on this trip. Knowing my sometimes low tolerance level, my daughter asked me on our return if I was ever irritated with P. Happily, I could answer “no” quite truthfully. P turned out to be a great traveling companion – punctual, no complaining, a good sense of humor, a “can-do” attitude, a spirit of adventure, a desire to experience new things and to push her comfort zone. A good traveling companion can make a great difference in overall enjoyment.

Of course, we all hope for a smooth, uneventful flight and tranquil trip, but what we recount are the extraordinary happenings that set our trip apart from everyone else’s. In spite of the dire warnings of seasoned travelers, our one-hour connection times between legs of our trip proved to be sufficient. Only on the last leg did we miss a flight. A small mechanical repair took one hour, the length of our layover in Munich. When we finally arrived in Vinci, Italy, several hours late, the group lamented our delay, that we had missed lunch and a walk around the town. We did miss lunch, but in exchange, we had a wonderful experience. We met a lovely German woman living in Italy, who assisted us in arranging transportation underwritten by the airline, and invited us to join her at her Italian villa if we ran into problems along the way. Instead of flying into Florence, we flew to Bologna and were driven by private car to Vinci, passing the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the way.

After two weeks of being carefully shepherded around the small towns of Tuscany, we embarked on our own adventures. We arrived in Florence by train, dragging our luggage behind us, in the rain, the city teeming with people – most of them with maps and guide books in hand.
“We can do this!” we kept muttering to one another.
I had a map to the hotel which was situated near the Duomo, the grand cathedral in the middle of the historical part of town. We dodged people, puddles, elbows, cigarettes, and cars that appeared out of nowhere.
“Look the driver in the eye and keep moving!” we had learned from our Elderhostel guide. That might work in the small towns but it was scary in the relatively big city of Florence.
We were beginning to wonder if the hotel actually existed as we walked up and down the street trying to keep up with the changes in street names. Finally, I stood with all the luggage while P headed to ask at one of the several hotels across the street. It turned out that they might say hotel but the were actually “abregos”, a sort of B&B with no desk at the door. We walked some more and I left P with all the luggage while I traipsed from shop to shop looking for our inn. No one knew where it was but “according to the map, it should be over there,” and each person pointed in the general direction we had been searching for over an hour.
Finally, I found a knowledgeable man, who spoke English and explained it was right around the corner. We must have passed it a dozen times but there was a bright brass plate on one side and an obscure one that blended in with the building on the other side of the centuries-old doorway. Of course, the dark sign announced our temporary home.

With some trepidation, we boarded an ancient elevator that worked on an exposed pulley / cable system and were thankful we did not have to carry our luggage up the three flights of steps. Our innkeeper must have heard us coming; he opened the door after the first tap. A stooped and grizzled old man greeted us effusively. He called me by name, then turned to P with open arms, grabbed her by the shoulders, and began chattering in Italian as if she were a long-lost daughter.
P explained later that he had approached her on the street and she had brushed him off thinking he was collecting money for the church. He apparently had searched for us since we were so late arriving and it was getting dark.

There is always a sense of awe and wonder at the sights when you travel. There is joy as connections are made with people of a different place and culture. For me, however, this trip was more. This trip was one of empowerment as I successfully met each mental and physical challenge. I CAN do it!







Our window to the world

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Quilt Challenge - Quilting in progress.....

I have the quilt top put together and I am quilting on the machine. Hopefully will finish and get the binding on so it can be sewn down by hand tomorrow or Monday. Add a quilt label and it's good to go. It will be a wall hanging and I have someone in mind to receive it, but will wait to see if it is fit to give away. Stay tuned for the finale.....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Continuing the Quilt Challenge

I had a grand time making the medallions from the "ugly fabric." I made 4 1/2 then went into a slump. It was difficult to find enough areas the same, or the same and reverse, to make many medallions. After they were made, I tried to think of unique ways to set them in a top. I finally decided I didn't have time to complete the project and started to add it to my UFOs. Enter DD who explained that since I had blogged about it, I had to finish the project.....now.
That was easier said than done. I have watched so many quilt shows and the pros make it look easy.
"The quilt just talks to me ," they said.
Well mine wasn't talking!
"Buckle down and think outside the box," I told myself.
I wanted something unique, but finally decided done was better than wonderful. I started putting medallions in place and auditioning fabrics to go with them. I could still have 5 more fabrics besides the black I had already used. I placed the black around the medallion hoping to make it look as if it were floating.




I could not think of a way to place the four medallions in position that give pizzaz to this project. Then it clicked. I would just piece some new blocks from the "ugly fabric" (UF) leftovers. That worked pretty well and added some continuity to the design.

The yellow was a 2nd fabric. It brightened the design and brought out the yellow in the UF. The 3rd fabric , a black bacground with multicolored stylistic flower print, was used for another border on the strip I had pieced. I will add one more border for the entire piece in a different fabric (the 4th). What color do you think will bring it all together and "make it pop?"

I have almost finished the top now. It will be a quilted wall hanging well within the required dimensions. Now back to the sewing machine. Look back at the UF photo and see how different it looks from the pieced blocks.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's About Time

Introduced in a Jan. 13, 1946 comic strip, the Dick Tracy watch is a techie's dream: it is a two-way, voice-activated video phone that fits around a wrist.

Dick Tracy was a far-out comic strip in terms of the technology he used. We laughed at the author...who would ever be able to put a phone, with a picture, on his wrist? I wonder if all those who read the comic strip think of Chester Gould, that forward thinking author, when they read about the new technologies we have. Another legacy of the Gould comic strip is a current program called Crimestoppers.

Now there is a supposed breakthrough in time travel. My first tendency is to laugh and shrug it off, but we have come a long way since my GF came to Texas in a covered wagon. Who would ever have thought we would walk on the moon, replace body parts, take pictures with phones we pull from our pockets? Is it too far-fetched to think we might be able to participate in time travel? One drawback to the new theory is that the earliest time we would be able to travel to is the time when the machine is built. I wonder whether accessing earlier time periods is, so to speak, a matter of time and would we be able to interact with people in the time we visited or change the course of history. So many things to wonder about.

The Ugly Fabric Quilt Challenge

I belong to a very active quilt group. We meet weekly, plus have fairly regular days to work on group projects. Every week we have "Show and Tell" when everyone is asked to exhibit any recent accomplishment or vintage item of her choice, to the group. We also have a speaker / demo / or lesson of some kind. Needless to say, our meetings are well attended. I come away inspired and motivated even though I never seem to accomplish much in the quilt realm.

We have had Quilt Camps, mini-retreats, charm square exchanges, nine-patch exchanges, Quilt College, and more. There is no end to the creative ideas of these women who range from beginners to professional teachers, designers, and National Competitors. All are willing to learn and share!

Our latest venture is an ugly fabric "Quilt Challenge" which I thought might be an interesting process to follow. I decided to participate, thinking the 15 September deadline would be an incentive to finish a project. Little did I realize that I would have to finish by September 1st. We have known about the challenge for several weeks, even before the fabric was given out and agreed on certain, minimal rules:
The original fabric must be recognizable in the quilt.
Up to 6 fabrics could be added.
Quilt must not be larger than 144" (ie. 36" square, 24 x 48", etc.) total around and no smaller than 40" total around (10" square).

Each participant contributed $5.00 and was given 1/2 yard of the fabric chosen by the leader of the challenge. Our first reaction was that the fabric was certainly NOT ugly.


My initial reaction to the fabric was that it was meant for a kaleidoscope pattern, which I had never done. I also figured everyone in the group would probably come to the same conclusion, but the object of the exercise for me is to finish the project and have something I like for the effort. The fabric is stashed while I contemplate.

Meanwhile, my children decide I will be able to work better in a more organized sewing room and they spend a whole weekend taking care of that for me. I am delighted! I go into my newly organized area to work on my quilt challenge, but I can't find my challenge fabric anywhere.
"We didn't toss it!" they exclaim.
Well, I am sure they would know better than to toss fabric, but I spend 2 weeks looking for it in my spare time. I finally find the fabric in, of course, an unexpected place. There was organization in my chaos.

I have started work on the challenge quilt. Yes, a kaleidoscope pattern. I went to the Internet to find a pattern or suggestions for making it. A paper piecing pattern appeared to be the best way to accomplish my goal since the fabric pattern was offset and large. I printed the pattern , enlarged it on a copy machine, and ended up having to piece the paper together. I wanted to start with a large block thinking it would be easier to match the different points. Perhaps the copy paper was too thick because it was difficult to match everything. I think the point and all are off. but time and fabric are running short.

First, I cut a triangle from a cast off piece of the pattern. I transfer the paper triangle shape to a piece of clear plastic and place over various areas on the fabric to audition designs. Of course, it is hard to imagine what the finished kaleidoscope design will look like from such a small area, but I resist the temptation to place angled mirrors there and spoil the surprise of the finished product. My goal is to find a pleasing part of the design that will fit within the boundaries of my triangle and have enough of the triangles (8) to make a 'kaleidoscope medallion.'

I try again with a smaller pattern, but decide to sew the pieces without a paper backing. There are not enough places on the fabric to cut the proper number of triangles that are exactly alike. Then I discover that these pieces can be cut in reverse. There are enough to make another medallion! It all goes together easily and I regret the time spent on the paper piecing. I remind myself that this is a learning process.

This particular pattern adds 4 triangles to the tops of the medallion triangles to form a square. It will be easier for me to incorporate a square than a circle, but it still gives the appearance of a circle. I choose black (1st fabric added, I can have five more) to make the additional pieces, hoping to give the medallion a floating look. Except for my inaccuracies in the larger medallion, I am pleased with the results and rest on my laurels for a day. I will look for more areas to cut more triangles for medallions.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Sew Much More

I come from a long line of seamstresses. My GM lived through the depression and learned to turn out wonderfully tailored clothes made from my GF's cast off suits. Sitting on the floor, listening to the hum of her treadle sewing machine, my sister and I played with buttons from a container nearby. There were a few new buttons on cards, but most were carefully gleaned from old clothes headed for recycling or cut off before the threadbare items were discarded or used for cleaning rags. Nothing was wasted. One of her sisters "sewed for the public."

I don't know where my mother learned to sew but she made a lot of my clothes, especially the formals. With five boys to sew for, she becane quite adept at making shirts. So adept that my father never wore anything else but his uniform and the shirts she made him. Mother insisted I take home-ec in the 6th grade so I could learn to sew. I fought it, but finally gave in. I hated making the notebook with all the different kinds of seams, but I still remember how to make them. I don't remember wearing anything I made in that class and didn't return to the sewing machine for many years.

My sister, on the other hand, took to sewing like a bear to honey. She was sewing her own clothes in Junior High and by the time she finished High School, she was bartering her talents for fabric and trim. She never slacked off and several years ago opened her own costume shop. She is highly recognized for her designs and superior workmanship. She occasionally allows me to help her out, but I am not in her league.

I returned to the sewing machine after I married and realized the creative and economic impact sewing could have on my life. I decided to take a sewing course at the local Junior College. DH didn't see the benefits of sewing and wanted me to finish my degree, so we compromised. I took Microbiology and sewing. He changed his mind when he saw how much money he saved on curtains and clothes. One of my early dresses was tailored and had bound buttonholes. If I had known in advance what that entailed, I would never have considered it. Fools, however, rush in where angels fear to tread and the dress turned out beautifully. It was one of my favorites.

I encouraged my daughters to sew, but they didn't feel the need to learn.
"You make everything we need, Mom," they told me. Slowly, they have gained insight and interest. Maybe one day they will find the pleasure in that each generation before them has.

Even if there is not a great impact, yet, on my dughters, I have started encouraging the interest of my grandchildren. They have been inundated with the fruits of my labors - quilts, clothes, dolls, books - and they request more. A few months ago I bought a $1.00 bag of scrap fabric for two of my granddaughters. Excitement rained for several weeks. They cut, tore, tied, stapled, and taped the fabric to fit their needs. I offered an old sewing machine and a wole new dimension opened for them. Nine year-old Em learned to troubleshoot the ancient machine and began designing new outfits for her sister and herself. We tactfully explained why their efforts should not be worn outside the house. They were having such fun that I left them to their own explorations of fabric and machine for awhile. Em was entranced when I showed her how to turn the sewn fabrics with seams to the inside for a more finished look.

Finally, Em came to me and told me she wanted to make a purse. I tried to suggest a few different styles that would be simple to make, but she had definite ideas and wanted nothing less. We worked together on her design and she cut and sewed it all herself.

Happy with her success, Em started a quilt and surprised me by matching all her intersecting seams. When she tired of it, I suggested a pillow case. We shopped for fabric, again she brushed off my suggestions and knew just what she wanted. Em has been very excited about all the new possibilities. I have no doubt she will continue to explore, dseign, and create. She doesn't yet realize the legacy she is carrying on.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Just Walking in the Rain

I walk with three other women at 6 a.m. every morning except Sunday. There are very few things that will keep us from our morning sojourn. Though we look for an out whenever possible, we walk because we know it is good for us and for the camaraderie we share in the wee hours of each day. Visitors don't stop us. They are welcome to join us, but we are usually out and back before the rest of the house is awake.

We don't walk if there is ice on the streets or if the temperature is less than 16 degrees. Remember we live in the Hill Country of Texas so you would not think ice and low temps would be factors, but they are occasionally deterrents in the winter. Faced with cold weather, we just layer several pair of pants and shirts and walk faster. The lower limit was set when we discovered it was 16 degrees out AFTER we had walked. If we can do it one time, we can do it every time.

We don't set an upper limit on heat and humidity but we get out early before they are too bad. Ladies don't "sweat", they "glisten" or "bead." Some mornings we do a lot of glistening. At least it is not like Houston where you can barely catch your breath as the heat & humidity hit you in the face when you open the front door.

Today was one of those iffy days. One or all of us checks the weather report and the radar before we meet under the light at the street corner. Today it showed showers approaching, but we were hoping to make it home before we had rain. Yes, we knew a hurricane was approaching and we usually get rain from that, but we could see the stars of Texas overhead.
"It threatened yesterday and nothing materialized," reminded one of our group.
We walked.

We have a couple of different routes we follow, both about 2.5 miles. We were within 1/2 mile of home when the skies opened. We got wet so fast that there was no reason to hurry, so we walked at our usual brisk pace, actually enjoying the adventure.

I remember taking off my shoes and wading in the gutters and puddles when I was a child. Sometimes, I would convince my mother that a little rain was good for me. Sometimes, I would just run out and enjoy the rainfall until I was caught and ordered inside the house. Always, I associate walking in the rain with the pure and simple joy of living. When you are caught without an umbrella, but it doesn't matter if you get wet, there's a sensual pleasure and delight in God's goodness. A baptism by our Lord's own hand.....an extra measure of grace to face the day....

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's MAGIC!

Have your children written on the walls? Has furniture bumped against the wall and left a mark? Are there fingerprints on the doors from closing them? Have you tried the magic solution?

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is absolutely magic! I don't know how it works nor do I have any connection with the product, other than using it, but I highly recommend it. It requires no special equipment other than the white sponge-like product that comes several to a box at your favorite store. Wet the sponge, rub it on the area to be cleaned and watch as the marks magically disappear. This is an essential tool for families with childre. I have used it on many different areas and they always come clean. Some take more scrubbing than others, but it works in areas that normal scrubbers don't. I have even used it on grout with success.

The other product I LOVE is the Shout Color Catcher Dye Trapper. Not only are they good for saving your mixed colored laundry, they can save your quilts! If you have ever finished a multi-colored quilt and had misgivings about bleeding from dyes in the fabric, you can relax when you toss one of these sheets in with the wash. Sometimes fabrics bleed even after we have washed them and it is not funny to look at your lovely quilt that you have spent hours on and find the olors bleeding over into the next ones. If you are skeptical, try it with 2-3 fat quarters when you prewash your fabric.

Now, what I need is a magical product to clean my stove. Nothing seems to work as well as I would like. I wonder if there is something out there I have not tried.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Random Thoughts on Recognition

How do YOU recognize people?

Most of us rely on the usual clues - face and voice recognition. I have often heard someone say "I never forget a face." My neighbor, P, admits to recognizing people by their walk.
"Yes, I know her, she 'teeters'."
"Teeters?" I ask.
"When she walks she just 'teeters' from side to side. I would know her walk anywhere."
There are four of us who walk together every morning at 6 a.m. P is able to alert us to people she sees coming. Long before we have made out faces or recognized voices, P has determined who they are by their distinctive gait. This is not a totally foreign idea to me as I do notice very distinctive gaits of people, but have not carried it any further in my recognition processes. Some gaits, such as that of a former nurse manager, have been SO distinctive that I have tried to replicate them in private just to understand how they could possibly be produced.

If you are having difficulty remembering things, maybe you have just not found the right medium for you. Several years ago, I learned that our minister's wife remembered telephone numbers by their musical tones. She was very gifted musically and found it much easier to recall the musical tones in the telephone number than to remember the number itself.

Perhaps these are just examples of people making better use of their senses to interact with the world around them. Is 'intuition' just our subconscious reaction to subtle clues in the world around us? Have you ever dissected an intuitive thought?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Perseid Meteor Showers

Every August the Perseid meteor showers are supposed to provide an unforgettable show for those of us that are earthbound. I wonder if the astronauts get a view? This year the peak time was supposed to be after 11 p.m. on Sunday night. As I have for so many years, I went outside at the appointed time and gazed into the heavens until my neck hurt and I became dizzy. I might have seen a couple of small meteors out of the corner of my eye, but I can't be sure. It might just have been flashers from straining my neck.

One year, DH, all 4 children, several grandchildren, and I went out and lay down on the driveway. There was a lot of giggling, teasing, laughing, and hilarity, but not one meteor. One by one, we all gave up and returned to our indoor world. I wonder why we can't see these meteor showers. Are we too impatient? Are we not looking in the right place? Do we give up too easily? I have read that peripheral vision gives the best view. Should we be looking at something else and the meteors will pass by just to the side of our viewing field?

I don't know the answers. I have seen two bright meteors in my lifetime; both were brief and unexpected. They were so dramatic that I frequently replay the experiences in my mind's eye just for the enjoyment of remembering the events. I will probably not give up the quest to see the meteor showers. I wonder if it will be a lesson in patience.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Photos

You can tell how new I am to this. I have photos to add to my posts, but don't seem to be able to get them on. Don't know if it is my fault or what....bear with me, one of my computer resource people comes tomorrow.

Abraham Lincoln


When we visited Washington, D.C. in July 2007, We looked for out-of-the-way places as well as the usual tourist venues. One of the places the children wanted to see was the Lincoln Memorial. Most children are familiar with this landmark, even rcognizing it on the one cent coin, and it gave us an opportunity to talk about Abraham Lincoln. We were a little surprised that the building was a smaller structure than anticipated, but it was still impressive. I wonder if the children will visit it years from now and remember it as much larger. Seeing the world through the eyes of children is a blessing.

Of course, the children wanted to know what happened to Abraham Lincoln, so we visited Ford's Theater where Lincoln was shot on the evening of April 14, 1865. The theater was less than two years old, seated 1700 people, had a dress circle above the main floor, 2 upper and 2 lower private boxes on each side of the stage. The theater was closed after the assassination. The government bought the building in 1866 and, although it remained closed as a stage, it was used over the next 90 years as an office building, warehouse, and museum. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a Congressional Act to restore the theater in 1954, but it was 10 years before restoration was begun. The building reopened its stage in 1968, 103 years after the assassination of the President

The Presidential, or state box, appears as it did on that fateful night. Henry Clay Ford, the theater manager, had ordered the partition removed between the two upper boxes on the south (stage left) side of the theater, creating the President's private box. Ford placed two U.S. flags on stands and draped a large flag on the balustrade. He placed an engraving of George Washington on the central pillar. He also ordered an upholstered walnut rocker brought down from his own apartment for the President to sit in. It is thought that John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's assassin, bored a hole in the door of the President's Box. This made it possible to observe the action on the stage as well as the occupants of the box. He may have also cut a mortise in the wall opposite the door to anchor a bar that could hold the door shut and prevent anyone from the dress circle from entering the corridor.

The wounded President was taken across the street to the Petersen house, home of William Petersen, a Swedish-born tailor who rented extra rooms to lodgers. Lincoln was placed in a small (9X 17') room on the first floor of the house, on a narrow, six-foot spool bed. He was so tall, they had to lay him diagonally across the bed. It was later learned that an actor friend of Booth's had once rented that room and Booth had taken an afternoon nap on the same bed where Abraham Lincoln died

The Lincoln Museum is located in the basement of Ford's Theater and houses items from Lincoln's life, articles belonging to the assassination conspirators, and other items of interest.
The Theater, Museum, and the Petersen House are all run by the National Park Service.
Some of this ineresting information was gleaned from "The Death of Lincoln" by Leroy Hayman.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Weeding & Wondering

I love to pull weeds! Not only can my thoughts wander and , perhaps, work on pressing problems, weeding can be very therapeutic. There is something quite satisfying about getting a good grip near the heart of a weed and pulling it up, roots and all. The satisfaction is multiplied by tossing the offensive thing to one side to die a slow, lingering death in the relentlessly hot Texas sun. Sometimes, I even give my weeds names.
"Take that, ..........! And that,......., you scoundrel!!"
No, I don't feel at all guilty by engaging in this behavior. It leaves me spent and lacking in the energy to remain angry / frustrated / mad / you name it. The person I name in the weeds is much better off for my having vented my frustrations.

There are several weeds that give great satisfaction in the pulling. Crab grass, clover, and silver dollar weed, provide a great deal of exposed earth after being pulled. With a little care, great gobs or long trains of them provide the satisfaction of a job well-done. You can actually see your progress. Nut grass, of course, does just the opposite. You go to great lengths to pull up the nut (which I have heared is edible and used in folk medicines) , the next day there are two in its place and they are 2" taller.
I am learning to pile on the mulch after weeding and it helps keeps things in order a little bit longer. The deer and rabbits only eat my good plants, they never touch the stuff I have to pull out.

I wonder how folk remedies are discovered.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Little Cup of Sherbert

Jay came to cut my lawn today. It was blazing hot , but he is always an affable fellow. At one point, I noticed a small face looking in the window of the front door. I opened the door for an eight year old boy who asked to use the bathroom.
I decided it would be a real treat for the child to have a cup of sherbert to cool him off and fixed the treat for him. I inquired if he could have such food, sugars, allergy, etc.
"Oh, yes," he replied, "my daddy lets me have sugar." He didn't take his eyes off the dish of sherbert and left happily by the front door.
I went back to my tasks until I heard noises on the back porch. I glanced out and saw the young boy plus two other children about the same age. They were all sitting on the back porch swing sharing the small cup of sherbert. I was shocked! One small cup of sherbert being shared by 3 young children, without any quibbling, cross words, or selfishness. Of course, I immediately supplied more cups of sherbert for the others.
What a joy to know there are such children being groomed to lead our world. I wonder if there will be enough.

The car is sold!

I started the process in March when the 1997 Land Rover just gave up, died, and was towed. The man at the LR dealer where we had been taking the car for years, offered to buy it. He wanted to restore it as a runabout on his ranch. A fitting ending to a well-loved and used vehicle that had served us well for almost 250,000 miles.

I couldn't find a title anywhere, so I marched down to the County office to get a duplicate. The car had originally been a lease-purchase and the title was still in the name of the lender, although it had been paid off several years before. The County didn't handle that end of the problem and sent me to the State office about 40 miles away. I didn't have all the proper papers so I returned home to get them.
Another day, another trip to the State office. Those papers are not enough, I have to contact the finance company. The finance company wants nothing to do with me since they got their money ages ago. I send the papers to the finance company, get them back, take them to the State office.
"Those are still not the ones we need," the State office clerk tells me. She writes down exactly what I need so I can send it to them.

I get the papers back again and traipse down to the State office. The clerk and I are getting to be old friends, but the papers are not right. They need signatures, letterheads, titles, and copies of the signer's drivers license. I protest. She calls her supervisor who is very understanding but unwavering. These are not the right papers.

Finally, I get smart. I pull out my cell phone and put the Texas supervisor on the phone with the finance company officer. Each hassles the other and each tells me how the other one is making me jump through hoops. I don't say anything. I leave with papers to be signed, but the finance company can mail them directlyto the State office, who will then mail the duplicate title to me. All this costs me (besides gas, time and stress) is TWO DOLLARS!

Three weeks later, I call the State office wondering where my duplicate title is. Now I am only dealing with the supervisor.
"We haven't received the papers," she says. "Wait a minute and I will look to make sure.....No. no papers."
I call the finance company, ready to hunt flesh.
"They were mailed on...........and signed for by............"I am told.
I call the State office again with my new information. They still don't find it entered into the log, but they take down the information and promise to look into it.

Two days later I get the duplicate title in the mail. Yeeeaaaah! But my travails are not over. Now I have to have the duplicate title signed by the finace company so I can sell the car that P has redone and is driving. I send the duplicate title to be signed and include a SSAE for express mail. I wait another week and finally get it back. Meanwhile, I have sorted through some more of DH's old papers and found....TA DAH.... the original title! I feel sick.

I take the duplicate title, signed by the finance company downtown (30 miles away) to finish the deal, BUT.... I have to have the title in MY name. I head back to the County office with all my papers, including Letters of Testamentary, etc., to make application for a title in my name. This time I pay the license fee which is coming due and I get hit with sales tax and penalties. I have paid more to sell the car than I got out of it!

So now the car is sold and running contendedly. P excitedly tells me has bought a parts car and the old girl is going to get a reworked engine. She is in good hands and everyone is happy.

I switched over the other cars at the same time, but I had titles for them. Now, I wonder how to handle the 1948 MGTC that has no title and was bought in Australia. I wonder if I can just leave it for my children.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Writing

I am a compulsive writer and have been since chidhood. It is not something I really thought about, but it was always there....hovering....in the back of my mind. Writing is simple. All you need is a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and a thought or idea. Actually, you don't even need the paper & pen. A lot of writing is done in my head, then lost to obllivion. It is better to write it down when you think it, no matter how imperfect it seems. It can be redone later.

Of course, GOOD writing is another story. There are books on writing and I certainly don't consider myself an expert or want to wander into that field. I write for the pure pleasure of putting my words and ideas on paper....and.... because I must. I try to share the joy of writing by teaching memoir writing at Senior University and, especially, writing with a group of kindred souls who want to get their personal stories on paper. Anyone can write - to share their memories, for personal pleasure, or for therapeutic reasons. There are many more reasons and I feel compelled by more than one.

My SIL, M.E., is an accomplished writer who actually shows a profit for her efforts. Check out some of her publications: Science Fast Facts: Animals, Human Body, Insects and Arachnids, Oceanography, Solar System, Weather. She is a constant inspiration to me and ably aided by my BIL, UD.

I am pleased to share a few of my stories:

I write because I must, but I can't help but wonder if it will provide a window into my world for future generations of my family.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Miracle of Sod

We had a small flood at our church about a month ago. The water heater broke and there was a significant amount of water in the sanctuary, adjoining classrooms, and offices. We have weathered the storm pretty well because we have some talented and dedicated members who know how to make the most of every dollar and every stick of wood.

About a week ago, water was noticed in the foyer and the cause was sought. Apparently, the soil was too high on an outside wall and the water seeped in through the bricks. The plants and soil were removed leaving an unsightly scar under the windows on that side of the foyer.
"What we need is a pallet of sod," someone suggested.
"It wouldn't even need a whole pallet, just a part." said another.
A short time later, another member arrived and asked,"Can we use a half-pallet of sod?"
It seems a neighbor was sodding his yard, had a half-pallet left over, and offered it for the church's use.

"God is in His heaven. All is right with the world." - Robert Browning

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Okra

It appears that "okra" is a magic word in our family. Fried okra has been a favorite dish for as long as I can remember and, even in my childhood home, we have tried to grow it in our garden. The years I did not have access to a "plot," I grew okra in my flower garden. It is not a bad-looking plant, being a member of the same family as the hibiscus. The flowers even resemble a hibiscus blossom. The deer do not bother it too much, probably because of the little stinging hairs found on the stems and leaves. Even the spineless varieties make my hands itch and sting when I harvest, although less than the ones that are not advertised as spineless. I learned to ask for "lady's fingers" when I wanted to buy okra in Australia.

Okra has a long history and even though I can never grow enough to satisfy everyone's craving for fried okra, it is used in many other ways. It was probably brought by enslaved people from Africa, is popular in cajun dishes, and the ground seeds were used to make "coffee" by Southern soldiers during the Civil War. DH's mother was from Tennessee and loved okra, but her children refused to eat it. That was fine with her! DH became a great fan after we married and I served it, not knowing he "didn't like it."

Okra is better fresh off the plant, warm from the sun. It loses something when it sits in the store for a few days. We just like it fried,but not the fried kind found in restaurants. That kind is covered by a lot of batter and the okra is more steamed inside than fried. I have tried several different methods of breading the okra before frying, but the one we like best is very simple. Prferably, use young, tender okra about 4" long. I have been known to use larger, longer pods, if they are tender to the knife; I just cut them a little thinner. Rinse well and trim both ends off the okra pod. Slice into 1/2" - 1/4" slices. Make sure they are plenty wet with water, then toss in coarse or stoneground cornmeal. Slices will not be completely covered by cornmeal, but cover as well as possible. Let sit a while (15 minute?) so cornmeal adheres well. Heat oil in pan, add prepared okra slices, and fry until golden brown. I use a skillet, preferably a cast-iron skillet, and don't completely submerege okra, but I turn it as it changes color. Drain the fred okra on plenty of paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and enjoy while hot. The exposed portion of the breaded okra is delightfully crisp and mingles with the crisp cornmeal breading.

If I am trying to save enough okra to make a "mess" big enough for the whole family, I freeze the breaded, sliced okra raw and put it in the hot oil without thawing. Bon Apetit! Let me know how it goes and how you like it.

Near the end of the season. I let a few okra pods go to seed on the plant. I use the resultant dried pods in various crafts, just for fun. I wonder when I will have time to get busy on my "Okra Angels."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Using the Bounty

I am beginning to reap the bounty of my garden plot. Some would not call 3 small tomatoes and a handful of okra a bounty, but it is all relative.

The tomatoes taste wonderful! Those that are ripened in your own garden and picked at the peak of perfection, which is just before the bugs get too interested, have a flavor unmatched by any that can be bought in the store. Even the ones with the green vines attached can't compare with homegrown. Next year I might just start out with plants from Wal-Mart rather than wasting so much time.
Cultivated by Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 A.D., the tomato is native to the Americas. American colonists considered the tomato poisonous because of its resemblance to the deadly wild plant called nightshade which had toxic berries. In 1820, Robert Gibbon Johnson amazed the whole town when he stood on the New Jersey courthouse steps and ate a tomato, with no adverse effects, thus saving the vegetable's reputation. Scientifically tomatoes are a fruit but were legally declared a vegetable in 1893 by the Supreme Court. Botanically, it is a fruit, but vegetables and fruits were subject to different import duties, so it was necessary to define it as one or the other. Thus, tomatoes were declared to be a vegetable since they were commonly eaten as one. (Source: The Packer, 6/9/90)
Good-tasting tomatoes have an earthy taste, but they are also easy to digest and beneficial to our health. A medium tomato is 94% water, contains 1 gram of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 1/2 gram unsaturated fat, some sugar and acid, about 25 calories, but no cholesterol. They also contain vitamins A & C, magnesium, niacin, iron, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, sodium, thiamine, and are rich in an antioxidant called lycopene (blocks cellular damage). Lycopene is not destroyed by heat, so its benefits are also found in cooked products such as tomato sauce, tomato juice and pizza. Since tomatoes are mostly water which is released as steam during the cooking process, cooked tomatoes are more concentrated in the amount of lycopene. At least one study reports that consuming seven or more servings of tomatoes each week reduces the risk of developing colon and stomach cancer by 60%.
A tomato is ripe when it is firm, not hard, and fully colored. Vine-ripened tomatoes are wonderful, but if you must pick them early they will continue to ripen, just keep at room temperature away from direct heat and light. Once ripe, use tomatoes within three days. Refrigeration decreases their flavor. Dehydration is the best way to preserve tomatoes, but they can be quartered and frozen in plastic bags to be used for cooking.


The squash and cucumbers are just lazing away, but I think I see some small blossoms forming. There is at least the promise of a future yield. The okra has such thick stalks they are almost small trees. The yield from yesterday, cut and covered with cornmeal, almost filled a gallon-size bag which I put in the freezer to share with family.

A follow-up on the grape harvest....
DD Kr headed the jelly making crew, producing 15 pints of grape jelly. Some was made with Splenda, which produced a tarter jelly. By the time we split it up among the jelly-eating masses of our family, 15 pints won't seem like much.
Sgt S-I-L, watched closely and is now producing his own kitchen full of jelly (see ABW's blog). He found gobs of grapes on post and gathered as many as he could carry. When an officer strolled by and asked what in the world Sgt was doing. Sgt resisted the urge to reply "SIR, I am doing whatever I can to supply food for my family, SIR!"
We are hoping to gather some more today for DS to make wine.

I wonder why they talk like that?