Simply Balisha

Simply Balisha

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Poem for Winter...


Winter Garden by Cynthia Adams

"In winter's cold and sparkling snow,
The garden in my mind does grow.
I look outside to blinding white,
And see my tulips blooming bright.
And over there a sweet carnation,
Softly scents my imagination.

On this cold and freezing day,
The Russian sage does gently sway,
And miniature roses perfume the air,
I can see them blooming there.
Though days are short, my vision's clear.
And through the snow, the buds appear.

In my mind, clematis climbs,
And morning glories do entwine.
Woodland phlox and scarlet pinks,
Replace the frost, if I just blink.
My inner eye sees past the snow.
And in my mind, my garden grows."

- Cynthia Adams, Winter Garden.First published in Birds and Blooms magazine, Dec/Jan 2003

Have a nice day today.
Balisha

Friday, November 28, 2014

It Was a Perfect Day

 Thanksgiving was perfect from Joe and his helpers carving the turkey to.....
Everyone finding a comfortable place to groan and let the meal digest. This was the scene, when I went around the corner into the living room. They had all grabbed a pillow from our bedroom and stretched out on the floor.
There were 16 of us...two tables full. Lots of delicious food and family fun. The decision to have the meal catered was a good one. It went without a hitch and the food was ready on time, hot, and delicious. I had made several dishes to go with in case there wasn't enough. I needn't have done that....we had so much food leftover. The kids brought wine, beer, appetizers, desserts and their appetites. The Blessing was said in the kitchen before everyone sat down...no one had to wait to begin eating. We had turkey, dressing, two kinds of mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, squash, green bean casserole, cranberries (two kinds) jello salad, rolls and relishes. The desserts were two pumpkin pies, sugar free cheesecake, pumpkin bread, and brownies. A cheese platter, dried beef rollups, and an artichoke dip started things out.
A door prize was fun. It was a talking snowman for the bathroom. A Hallmark creation...you push a button on the bottom and the snowman says things like, " Hi there....watcha doin?" He keeps on talking until you push the button again.
Football on the TV....a Thanksgiving tradition for this crowd.
Later in the day everyone helped clean up. They put the tables downstairs, did the dishes, and finally brought up the Christmas tree for us. Very little to do today. I am tired though. I talked to my daughter and she said she was tired too.
Joe went to the pool and I stayed home to empty the dishwasher etc.
Everything fall is on the dining room table to be put in the bins and now on to getting ready for the next holiday. Maybe this weekend we will decorate the tree.
After eating some of the leftovers, we both fell asleep. I was awakened by the telephone. A call from an old friend inviting me to a Christmas brunch in a couple of weeks. It looks like Christmas 2014 has begun.
I did one Christmas thing today....I changed my header on this blog.
Balisha

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Thanksgiving Post

Here's what I would like to say to people coming to my house for Thanksgiving. I won't say it, but I put it here for my kids to read now or later on. It's something that I feel strongly about. Here goes:

Thanksgiving is a time to remember to say thanks for all our blessings. I am blessed this year with our  blended family and friends. As we sit here at the table, we are of many different backgrounds. We have English, Irish, Scottish, French, Native American, Philippine, Mexican, and Sicilian in our heritage. As we look at each other...our complexions are a little different...varying shades of light beige. We are different religions....Protestant, Catholic, and some just finding our way. We are old... in the last season of our lives, and young just starting out. We are straight and gay. We celebrate this day by coming together to share a meal. The world's in such turmoil.....people not getting along. I wish the world to be a more peaceful place. We can start by having peace in our own little families. That will branch out to neighborhoods, towns, states, countries and so on.We are one big blended family at the world's table. 
Remember this meal was mostly prepared by a restaurant...so that makes the turkey Italian :)
Happy Thanksgiving to all my blogger friends. Have a wonderful day on Thursday.

Hugs from, Balisha

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Critters are Finished and Waiting for Their Debut on My Tree

Well, the year is over for making my woodland creatures out of felt. When we started this project months ago...I was so happy. Finally something that I could do, creatively, while sitting in my living room and not making quite the mess of other crafts. Something that could sit in a basket by my chair....something I could pick up and work on for a few minutes or an hour or so. The project was started by Dawn at Creative Cain Cabin and Claudia at Mockingbird Hill Cottage (both on my sidebar) Each month the two of them would post a critter and it's pattern. We copied the pattern and could finish them anyway we wanted. I had fun selecting the colors, threads, trims and some painting....to finish these. Two a month and this month four...so we could finish before Christmas begins. 
I want to thank these two gals for continuing the project. Quite a few bloggers began the project, but not many finished to the end. I have a small woodland tree that I plan to decorate with these cute little guys. I'll miss this project...I know that I can go ahead and do a few on my own, but there's nothing like a group of people to get you going and keep you on track. 
So, here they are and soon I will show my little tree all decorated with them.
Thanks so much, Dawn and Claudia.....for a year of fun.
Balisha

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Margie's Chocolate Nut Clusters

These are crockpot candies. I got the recipe from Margie (click on Margie's Musings on my sidebar)...a dear blogger friend of mine. She mentioned these a couple of years ago saying that they were so easy to make. Since peanut clusters are a favorite of Joe's, I decided to try them. He said that they are better than the ones you buy. They are so simple to make...here's how I did it:
Melt 2 lbs. almond bark in slow cooker on low.
When melted add 12. oz. pkg of semi sweet chocolate chips
1 bar of baker's semi sweet chocolate
Add 1 jar of dry roasted peanuts
Let melt and blend the mixture well. 
I let this stay in the crockpot for a couple of hours and it was fine.
I let it cool a bit and then dropped the mixture on waxed paper using a teaspoon. I don't know why....but I had some chocolate with few nuts left over. I took some chopped walnuts and added them to the chocolate. These candies were just as good.

As you can see this recipe makes a lot. Both containers were filled to the top. They can be kept in the fridge if needed. I plan on using some of these for gifts this Christmas and someone who has a birthday in Nov. will get some as well. I like to put them in cellophane bags with a ribbon.

We were to have some icy roads this morning, but now the ice has melted and we just have wet streets. Poor Buffalo, NY. I can't imagine that much snow. I look at the pictures on the news and wonder how we would cope with something like that. I hope to never find out.

Well, this is it...the last weekend before Thanksgiving. Even though I don't have to prepare the bird...I still have a lot to do. 

Have a nice weekend everyone...Balisha

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Thoughts

Sage....one of my favorite herbs to grow and use. As a garden plant...it always looks tidy. I have good luck with growing it. There are several plants in my garden. It's a tough plant and can take abuse...with trimming it and transplanting not to mention the beating it gets during our cold N. Illinois winters. No need to bring this hardy plant inside...it will wilt a little during and after a snowfall, but as soon as the weather warms up...it perks up and starts growing. 
When I first started gardening back in the early days of Martha Stewart's show on TV, I saw Martha's first special. It was and is one of my favorite holiday specials. She was entertaining in her home on Turkey Hill. We got to see how she did her Thanksgiving from the first plans right up to the pumpkin pie. As I remember it was a rustic setting with a long table decorated in everything Thanksgiving. One thing has stuck with me throughout the years....the way she did her turkey. It was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen. Now, as I think back, I wonder how many turkeys they actually used to get that perfect look. The bird was huge, golden brown, crispy skin, and not a blemish. She did something that I have done so many times since...she put sage leaves under the skin, arranging it in a pretty pattern. The sage leaves showed through and here was this turkey with a pattern of leaves...almost unreal to me the first time I saw it. She showed how to do it and I was watching. Very simple to do. Just loosen the skin...sliding your hand under to get it all loosened without tearing. Then you can slip the leaves in...in any pattern you design. Since the first attempt on my part...I have changed it a bit. I make a sage butter and spread this under the skin. I just take a couple of sticks of butter along with some chopped sage and thyme..finely chopped garlic, and salt and pepper. I take handfuls and spread this on the bird...under the skin. It gives the bird a most delicious taste. The flavor of the sage is subtle...not overpowering. Since I don't put my dressing in the bird anymore...I need some sage flavoring to take the place of the sage in the dressing.
Check the internet for ideas about how to use sage. I have used it in wreath making, bouquets for the table, and once I made tea with the leaves, but didn't like it.
We just got back from the pool...brrrrr...it was really hard to talk myself into going this morning, but I persevered and now I'm glad I went. The hot tub felt so good on my old achy legs.  The sun is shining and Joe is getting a haircut...so I'd best be going and get something done. This afternoon will be spent making chocolate nut clusters, chex mix, and Parmesan croutons. Fixing cod for dinner with fried potatoes and a salad. I bought two Three Musketeers bars for a snack for us :)
Have a nice afternoon,
Balisha 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Garlic and Me

I'm not a big fan of garlic. I know how good it is for us, but that still doesn't mean I have to like it. I use it in cooking....but sparingly. I like to flavor things with it, but I don't want an over powering garlic flavor. 
Years ago I had a note in my mailbox that there was a package for me at the post office. We lived in a small town and didn't have mail delivery. It was Friday and I couldn't get to the PO until Monday. When I went in to pick up the package, they said, "Glad you are here. You can take this package with you." It was a small squarish box that felt a wee bit damp. Believe me...it smelled strongly of garlic. At the time my daughter lived in San Antonio. She thought that I would like one of those garlic ropes. So she packaged it and sent it on. The smell was over powering. I asked my husband what I should do with it and it was decided to hang it in the garage until the scent decreased. I would run out to the garage and bring in a clove or two as needed. It never got better so I could hang it in the kitchen....not until it was all dried up.......

So this brings me to last week. Joe was grocery shopping and noticed a bag of garlic. There were about 30 heads of garlic...at a good price (he said) Before I knew it....I had the bag on my counter and had to decide what to do with it. I put it in the fridge for a few days and then day before yesterday I decided to take care of it. I ended up roasting them. I have seen others do this and then they keep it in olive oil. While they were roasting the house began to smell of garlic. My eyes began to sting. My nose was running. Joe was looking for the air freshener. Too cold to open the doors...so with the ventilating fan going the garlic continued to roast. When they were finished, I let them cool and then began to squeeze the little cloves out...they pop out easily. Here I was with slippery garlic scented hands, runny nose, and burning eyes....but I had my garlic. Now....to use it before it spoils. I read that garlic doesn't keep well and is a good thing for botulism to grow. (another reason not to like garlic)I guess I could freeze it. Now, I have a container full of garlic cloves and all I needed was one :)

Balisha

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Love Ina

I love Ina Garten. I have watched her cooking shows for years....and have followed her since she was on the Martha Stewart Show. She is so at ease in the kitchen and casual. She makes cooking look like a breeze. I like her style. White plates, simple centerpieces, casual table coverings, silver bowls with snacks instead of elaborate appetizers, basic recipes with good ingredients. She has what the French call joie de vivre.....always excited about her next project. I have a couple of her cookbooks and when I was eliminating some of my cookbook hoard...I was sure to keep hers. I always go to her cookbooks when I am puzzled about what to make. I've been reading about squash soup lately and I have eaten it at restaurants...but never have I made it. I gave her recipe a try.

A Variation of Ina's Squash Soup:


2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 tablespoon good olive oil 
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions) 
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling) 
11/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks 
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned broth 
2 teaspoons kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1 cup half and half 


I baked two butternut squashes in a 350 oven and let them cool before taking the meat out of the shells. I sauteed the onions in butter and olive oil in my dutch oven.When they were just about to get browned I added the squash and the can of pumpkin. Then the chicken broth and seasonings went in and I cooked it for a little while. I added a touch of cayenne pepper. I then used my immersible blender and blended it just a little...I wanted the soup to have some texture. Last I added the half and half. I used a little more than she did in this recipe. It made a few quarts. Two are in the freezer and one is in my tummy :)
Balisha 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's Too Early to Light the Lights

I've been reading quite a bit about forgetting Thanksgiving, by decorating for Christmas so early. It brings to mind a memory from years ago.
My Mom and Dad loved Christmas decorating. They did it together in their later years.....early on, Dad worked nights and Mom would do the decorating then. Usually the week before Christmas, because we had a live tree. She was a perfectionist in decorating the tree. Tinsel had to be put on a strand at a time. I can remember like it was yesterday, "Young lady, if you want to help....do it the right way." Our tree was dripping with tinsel all lined up along the branches. The years went by and an artificial tree was purchased. It was then that she started collection crystal ornaments. The cute folksy ornaments were stored in boxes never to be used again. The tree was beautiful, however...

As my parents aged, the holidays were something that they both looked forward to. Mom lying on the couch reading her cookbooks...searching for new holiday recipes....and Dad her accomplice by continuously shopping for the ingredients and sampling some of the food :) As Mom's eyesight began to fail, she stopped looking at her cookbooks. This was one of the saddest times for me... personally. No more phone calls about holiday cooking. How I still miss talking to her on the phone. 

One thing didn't change was their love for decorating the tree. The last year found my parents decorating before Thanksgiving and giving me a call about whether or not they should light the tree. What would their neighbors think? I convinced them to go ahead a light it and enjoy this beautiful tree during the holidays. I went to visit one evening and found them behind closed drapes with their beautiful tree all lit up. The two of them like little kids who thought that they were getting away with something. The twinkle was back in Mom's eyes as she glanced at the tree. She couldn't make out what was on the tree....but she could see the lights.

So, the other day a friend of mine emailed that she had put her tree up, but wouldn't light it yet. I told her some of this story and she said that she might light hers at night too...only behind closed draperies. 

So, before you criticize someone for celebrating too early, remember that for some people lighting the lights is special...something that they look forward to all year. It's a way of making the Christmas season last longer. Who says you can't sit in your living room with the Christmas tree lit...while eating a turkey sandwich and a piece of pumpkin pie?
Balisha

Monday, November 17, 2014

LuAnn's Birthday


My daughter, in Belize...she's on the right.
Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday. I looked in the mirror this morning and said, "Can I really have a daughter who is 56 yrs old?" I guess so....because 56 years ago she was born. It was a cold day and the night before I went Christmas shopping...thinking that I had better get it done before the baby came. She was born the next day. A perfect baby....the Dr, an old family friend, said that she had a mouth like a rosebud...she was perfect and he wanted to take her home. Always a small girl who loved sports and being outdoors. Winter was a favorite season for her and memories of this little girl in a fuzzy hat eating snow. When we went on vacation... when she was just two...she raced out of the car and down the dock and jumped in the lake. No fear...came up laughing. She was a fun child to raise....never knew what daring thing she would do. Up in a tree holding a baby bird, splashing in puddles, wanted everything her brother had. She was his little sidekick. Two little mischief makers. 
She's still adventurous... from trips to far away countries to ice racing in cars, skiing, snorkling.... anything that sounds a little dangerous to her old mom.
Happy Birthday tomorrow....you keep me young and interested in all things new and exciting. 
Love you,
Mumsy 

Chai Tea and Preparations for Thanksgiving

When I was shopping at Merlin's the other day, I was given a small cup of Chai tea decaf. I was delighted, because they seldom give samples of decaf teas. I've had Chai before, but I've never really enjoyed it, but this little cup was so tasty. I had some Celestial Seasonings Chai at home, so I didn't purchase anymore. It came in a tin and already had the milk and sugar added..all you had to do was pour in boiling water. I thought maybe I could duplicate it at home. This morning I made myself a big mug of Chai and added a tsp of brown sugar and some half and half. It's just about the same as the cup I had last week :)

I have a couple of butternut squashes in the oven....baking. I think that I might make some squash soup later today for the freezer. We were standing in line at the cash register just last week when I was telling my friends how I make squash soup. A group of younger women were behind us and one of them broke into the conversation saying, "Too much work, I don't cook." Her friends nodded in agreement... and one said, "My husband cooks"...and a couple of the others said that their's did too. One of the girls said, "I wonder why more men are doing this today?" I couldn't help myself....I said ,with a chuckle, "Because they're hungry." We then got into a conversation about how they worked all day and didn't have time. One said, "We're of a different generation."My friends and I looked at each other in amusement....we had all worked outside the home and still found time to cook. There are some in my family who don't cook and there are men who do. I just enjoy it and always have. Now, that isn't to say that I don't like to go out to eat once in a while. It's always nice to taste something that you haven't prepared. Cooking takes a big portion of my time each week. I have to admit....I do enjoy it. Love seeing the faces of people after I have prepared a wonderful meal.

This leads me to Thanksgiving. We invited all of our blended family for Thanksgiving. That would be about 24 people....16 are coming. I love having family for holidays. A few years ago, I wouldn't have given preparing that meal a second thought. This time I thought about it and thought about it.... after I invited them.  I'm feeling my age and I admit, I do get stressed about things. I like everything to be perfect and orderly.I don't want to give up my holiday traditions just yet. We have a very small kitchen....need I say more? I thought about taking everyone to a favorite restaurant in town and back here for dessert. The restaurant no longer has their buffet on Thanksgiving. They do, however, cater a complete Thanksgiving meal. Sooooo.....I made the call and planned for a catered meal. Everything is furnished...and homemade. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, their speciality cranberry sauce,homemade rolls, pumpkin pie. Having Thanksgiving like this gives me the time to do a few special things for the table. I'll be making an appetizer, squash casserole, a potato dish (in case we need more potatoes) a pumpkin cheese cake, relishes, my cranberry sauce, and maybe some mulled cider. As I made the call to the restaurant, I felt my shoulders drop and a calm came over me. No stress for me this Thanksgiving...and I'll enjoy the day too.

Balisha

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

How'd I do, Ernestine? I couldn't find your exact measurements and our store doesn't carry Jiffy Mixes...so I improvised a little. I remember my mom baking these in the old iron skillet...and I knew that you did too....so I had great success getting it out of the pan, but not on the plate evenly. Thanks for the inspiration and directions.
Balisha

A Yearly Jaunt with Friends

Yesterday was a day that I look forward to each year. Friends make the trip from my old town...to go shopping and out to lunch. Yesterday it was just the three of us. We missed the ones who couldn't make it.....I thought of one special friend when I stood in front of the candy counter. She and I would have shared a lemon or strawberry truffle or two :)
We always go to the same little town just down the river. It's the town where Joe and I go to swim. Oregon, Illinois. This little town has the most wonderful gift shop along with a nursery. It's called Merlin's. On one side of the road is a gift shop/greenhouse and just across the way is their shop called The Other Side...a wonderful boutique. We went to the boutique first. Entering the door your senses start tingling. Samples of wonderful coffees and chai teas waft through the air. We were offered a cup of our choice and hooray...they had decaf....delicious. We browsed and browsed. I found the sweetest gift for our new great granddaughter....a musical mother goose who reads nursery rhymes all in pink and white. Annah is the first one I bought for this year. I love to buy little girl things. Then we were on to some things for the big girls. 
 I did a good amount of my birthday and Christmas shopping here. The packages were all gift wrapped free of charge...and you should see the gift wrap. I wanted to have the mother goose out, so that Joe could see her...so when I got home, I found tissue, cellophane, and ribbons in the bag with her, so I could wrap her at home. These little hometown stores mark things down so drastically...to keep their merchandise fresh and new and the services they give are outstanding. I bought one item for $5 and it was wrapped like it was $500.
 The two stores were loaded with Christmas, men's unique gifts, baby's, kitchen items, gourmet foods, and a wonderful green house full of blooming plants of every kind. Half of the greenhouse room was full of tables of fall items at 50% off.

We were getting weary of shopping and decided to go to Conover Square...an old piano factory with lots of antique shops. This place has changed a bit as the antiques were few and far between. They have been replaced with resale shops. We went in a couple of these and enjoyed looking at all the old things that people have discarded. Everything was clean and displayed as nicely as they could. There was a favorite shop that had some antiques and country style furniture and accessories. I found this building to be very dark and I had a difficult time really looking at things.
We had lunch at the little coffee and chocolate shop in Conover Square. Sandwiches and hot soups are very popular there. The sandwiches were served in baskets...deli style. We each had something different....one had egg salad, one chicken salad, and one had the tuna. The 1/2 sandwiches were huge and had to be eaten with a fork. A basket full of food....chips and fruit could be purchased too. The soups here are delicious and homemade. Yesterday they had turkey noodle, cauliflower cheddar and bean soup. I had the bean soup that was full of vegetables. Very different than mine. Carrots, green beans, onions, ham and delicious beans. Yum! I wanted to treat them to a chocolate truffle (the shop's speciality) but had no takers. Party poopers!! My mouth kept watering for a sweet after lunch, but I went along with my friends and decided not to have one either. (Wish I did!)
We stopped at a couple other little shops and then headed home. I was really tired and home looked so good. As we said our good byes,  we reminded each other about the Christmas brunch next month. I love getting together with women like my friends. We don't do it often...maybe twice a year, but that only makes our time  together more precious. Women friends are the best!

Balisha

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Early Morning Thoughts in November

These little "Thanksgiving people" have sat on my shelf for many years. They were painted by me the first year I started painting. So they are probably about 35 yrs old. I made the little quilt that they are resting on too. Those were busy, busy years for me. I had started painting classes and I found that I enjoyed painting and doing crafts and the bug bit me. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was supplying three shops, selling out of my home, doing big and small craft shows, and doing a big home show, at my house in the fall. Those were fun but busy times. I was very organized.....I had to be. I could go on and on about my life back then, but today I'll just show you these little people. I have very few things that I painted back then....but these were the beginning and I'll always have them out at Thanksgiving time. They remind me to be thankful that this creativity happened at a time when we needed a second income.

I like to give the house a good cleaning before I decorate for Christmas. We leave our Christmas things up until after Epiphany....so that's a long time. The kitchen gets cleaned good too....with people helping in the kitchen, I like it to be tidy. So, the cleaning is just about done and now I can enjoy the holiday coming.

This morning we are going to the pool. I didn't really want to start swimming last year...thinking that during the winter I would be so cold after swimming...but we get out of the pool and sit in the lounge area until we warm up and have coffee. Joe starts the car from inside and we just make a dash to the car. I would really miss it now. My arthritis is so much better and this past gardening season found me outside with little pain. I have to say that I am starting to get tired more easily and just can't do what I used to do.

My annual appt. with the doctor was on Monday and everything looked pretty good. I only have one kidney, and the doctor said I had chronic kidney disease...that startled me for a bit, because I had never heard it told that way before. I was assured that nothing had changed...in fact my numbers are a little better than last year. I am supposed to drink lots of water.....I'm told this at every appt. and I am one who carries a bottle of water every where I go. I am faithful in doing this, because I hope to never have to go on dialysis. I guess when we get old....things start wearing out, but with only one kidney...I have to be careful. I feel lucky though....it could be worse. I know so many people who are so much worse off than I am. I am blessed. 

 The bird report for today: the suet feeders were busy early this morning. I enjoyed watching the big old blue jay trying to hang on the suet feeder. The chickadee was flitting back and forth, showing off for him. He seemed to say, "Ha Ha.....I don't have any problem hanging on. Watch me!" The juncos underneath were busy cleaning up the ground. I love those little birds....they are tidy, just like me :)

Gotta go....have a great day,
Balisha  

Monday, November 10, 2014

The End of the Gardening Season....It Was a Great Year

Late afternoon in the woods. Today was nice and in the 60's. Probably one of the last nice days of fall. I decided that it was time to spread my wildflower seeds in the woods. I took a few pictures as I moved across the woods border.  As I neared the far west end a longish black animal scurried from a hole across the back of the woods. I didn't get a good look at him, but I know that I have never seen him before. 

 My obelisk that has never had a vine crawl on it. It just doesn't seem like vine type plants like this material to climb on. So, there it sits just for show. Now it is a resting place for a barbed wire wreath. The woods was full of barbed wire at one time. I rolled it up and made a few wreaths. 
 Here is St. Fiacre. His spot was the place for Black Eyed Susans this summer. A nice bit of color along with the blue of Nepeta.
 A last little flower. Does it know what is coming? 
 Finally some red....I planted this Korean Spice Viburnum a few years ago and it has had to fight for a front row spot...squeezed in between a lilac and a young mulberry. You hardly could see it this summer....but now it stands alone...brilliant.
 One of the bluebird houses with Honeysuckle climbing up. The bluebirds gave these houses a try, but they didn't like them so the houses have been occupied with wrens, finches, sparrows etc. Who ever gets there first.
 The goldfinch birdhouse had a family move in the day I put it up. Such a bright color....I would think that they might be more cautious. 
 My favorite Saint...Francis. He lived a simple life after leaving the trappings of wealth. I hope he's happy in my simple woods.
Lastly a little plaque from my mother in law. She had one in her garden and brought me one years ago. I love the verse. 
Well, that's it for the woods. Winter can come and lay a fresh blanket of snow on all the seeds that I planted. The stranger to the woods will burrow in his underground home, the bird houses will be left up for refuge from the storms, and the Saints will endure. The gardening is over for the year....it was a great year in my garden.

Balisha

Making Things Easier

Early morning here and I have started my day by making muffins. I was having trouble reading the little measurements on the spoons. I know the teaspoon and tablespoon, but I have trouble with some of the others. So, I decided to get a marker and mark them, so they would be easier for me to see. 
It got me to thinking about how many things I have done in my daily living to make things easier to see. Our new oven has a black touch pad screen....now a little flashlight is next to the stove to read the screen. I used to have a little chart taped inside the cupboard with temps. for meat and poultry. I copied that and enlarged it and put it on the inside door. A new knife block to hold knives that I was always searching for in the drawer. Putting spices and seasonings that I use almost daily...on the bottom shelf for easy access. (and not substituting cumin for cinnamon)Rearranging my slide in place for cookie sheets etc. so that similar things are stored together and little used on the bottom. 

I have trouble distinguishing between black and navy. So, the other night, I sat and sewed a little white thread on all of my black socks. The same with my black and navy pants. 

I have trouble reading the bedroom clock. It has a black background with red numerals. Now, a wall clock is on my side of the bed....easier for me to read with it's white dial and black numerals. 

I use a makeup mirror and the lighting is bad in the room where I have it. I had a black pole lamp in the basement. It now sits behind the little dresser with the makeup mirror. It has made such a difference. I don't look like a clown now :)

Next we come to the computer.....why have I struggled trying to read fine print? I can use the keys to enlarge the print, but I decided to do something more. I changed the font size on everything that I could. Now, I don't have to strain my eyes. Anyone using my computer would say, "Whoa!" but for me it's perfect.

I find that I'm not reading so many "chapter books" It's getting difficult and my eyes get so tired. So, I have started reading books of poetry, short stories, day to day journal books, Bible and prayer books with large print. 

At Church...I know the Mass by heart. I've always loved being read to, so I seldom use the Missal and prefer to listen to the Gospel being read from the Altar. I find that I get more out of the Gospel that way and find myself more attentive to the Homily. We have one member who does the most beautiful job reading. He has a melodious voice filled with joy.  I wish he could read at each Mass.  

So as I end this....do you ever find yourself squinting to read something? These are just a few things that make life easier for me.It might be a help for others too....

Today is sunny and looks to be pretty nice. We are expecting a major change in the weather. I still have to sprinkle those wildflower seeds. I think that I'll go out as soon as it warms up. I was watching the woodpeckers at the suet block this morning and those darling little chickadees darting back and forth to the woods. My precious little ones are here for the cold weather ahead....and now watching the little harbinger of winter...my juncos. These little birds that I mentioned are my absolute favorites....the are here through thick and thin during our N. Illinois long winters. I'll stop by the feeder and fill it again, while I'm out.

Have a nice day today,
Balisha

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Surprise Delivery

 I told about a delivery to my house yesterday. A little tease :) I have a little story to share. Years ago, I was the president of the Hampshire garden club. We had a combined meeting of two different clubs and it was my turn to host the event. There would be about 20 women to entertain. It was our practice to have dessert and coffee after the program. At that time, I didn't have enough dishes to use and would have to combine two different sets, so I decided to use some pretty paper plates. I had been shopping with my mom and dad just a short time before and mom and I were in a store that featured beautiful glassware. I was admiring a certain set of.... not really expensive glassware, and my mom took note. When she heard that I was hosting this big party....she and Dad went to Woodfield to buy the glassware for me....for my coming birthday. They just couldn't wait for my birthday, so when they got home they drove the extra miles to my house to surprise me. I saw the car pull up in the driveway and out came my old Mom and Dad...each carrying a shopping bag. They told me that they were for me and as I opened the bag, I saw the most beautiful smiles on their faces. The bags were full of glass dishes. Enough cups, saucers, and dessert plates for 24 people. I cried when I saw them....because of the generous gift from two of my most special people. I've had these since probably 1980... and haven't broken one of them.
This brings us to when Joe and I got married. We were combining two households... and after deciding to live in his house and sell mine, I found that there just wasn't room for all my "stuff." My sets of dishes were given to relatives and I felt that by using Joe's dishes...I was getting new dishes. New to me... anyway. I didn't however, give my glass ones to anyone. I kept them in my dry sink cupboard... in our dining room. When I decided that I wanted some new dishes just a few weeks ago, I thought of the glass ones in my cupboard. I opened the door and there they were....I took them out and washed all of them by hand. They were so beautiful to me...even more so than before, because Mom and Dad are gone. A light bulb went off in my head....why not search for dinner plates to go with these? I did find the same ones, but thinking that we might not always want to use glass dishes, I searched the internet for white swirl dishes. (The swirl to match the glass ones.) Up popped the most perfect plates...and I could buy them individually. I thought about it for quite a while....trying to visualize a plain white plate with a swirl border combined with my swirled glass cups, saucers, and dessert plates. In my mind, it worked well......so I placed the order. They arrived a couple of days ago and I could hardly wait to get the box opened. I think that they are perfect.

If I were going to buy a complete set, they would have been white. I like the look of food on white dishes.  I always feel that you can use colorful placemats, tablecloths, centerpieces to jazz up the table setting.

I have always loved dishes....we have a set of everyday....Mikasa Country Charm, a set of very cute apple dishes... that I use in the fall and winter, a set of blue and white Johnson Bros. coaching scene (that were Joe's first wife's dishes. I don't want to use them in case they might get broken. They will be given to one of Joe's boys someday) and my favorite dishes from Mom and Dad.

So, now you know the surprise. I seldom do tablescapes, but I enjoy looking at the creative ways bloggers have of doing them. My idea of a beautiful tablescape...is a whole family sitting around the table and enjoying a meal.... even on paper plates.

Balisha

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday in the Kitchen



Stuffed peppers yesterday and one leftover for Joe today. The picture of the finished product didn't turn out well...so you'll just have to use your imagination. I'm having a ham sandwich with spicy mustard, Swiss cheese, bib lettuce,  on rye and pumpernickel swirl bread. Along with that we'll have cottage cheese, pickles, cherry tomatoes, and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

It seemed a good time to get my ginger and lemon tea out. Cold weather always makes me want some different teas. In the summer, I drink iced tea....sometimes with the addition of fruit juice, but when the weather turns cold....out comes my canister full of different teas.

If you notice, my canister is an old coffee canister. I've had this for years and have never kept coffee in it. I love the red tin top....goes with my red things in the kitchen. My cup has a picture of the sunrise on my 76th birthday this year. My son, John, took the picture on his way to work that morning and sent it to me. I had a mug made with the picture on it, so I can remember.

I'm busy today cleaning nooks and crannies. I don't know what comes over me....I guess when I take a look at our junk drawer it gives me the incentive to clean. I don't take credit for the junk drawer. It is packed with an assortment of things....many of which could be tossed. But, I don't dare toss anything in this drawer....or one day we will need that little gadget and I will be blamed for tossing it. So, it remains a "junk" drawer.

I had a delivery today....one that I have been anxiously waiting for. It is going to take me a while in the kitchen to get it ready....I'll show you tomorrow. I think that it was a clever move on my part. No more hints...
Balisha  ;-)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Long Read








Each year about this time, I reread one of my favorite books by Truman Capote...A Christmas Memory. I put it here, so those of you who wanted to read it..could. It's a long post, but well worth the time it takes to read it. You don't have to read it all at one time...just pour a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy!  Balisha

                           A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.
A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable—not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the windowpane, "it's fruitcake weather!"
The person to whom she is speaking is myself. I am seven; she is sixty-something, We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together—well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other's best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880's, when she was still a child. She is still a child.
"I knew it before I got out of bed," she says, turning away from the window with a purposeful excitement in her eyes. "The courthouse bell sounded so cold and clear. And there were no birds singing; they've gone to warmer country, yes indeed. Oh, Buddy, stop stuffing biscuit and fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat. We've thirty cakes to bake."
It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat."
The hat is found, a straw cartwheel corsaged with velvet roses out-of-doors has faded: it once belonged to a more fashionable relative. Together, we guide our buggy, a dilapidated baby carriage, out to the garden and into a grove of pecan trees. The buggy is mine; that is, it was bought for me when I was born. It is made of wicker, rather unraveled, and the wheels wobble like a drunkard's legs. But it is a faithful object; springtimes, we take it to the woods and fill it with flowers, herbs, wild fern for our porch pots; in the summer, we pile it with picnic paraphernalia and sugar-cane fishing poles and roll it down to the edge of a creek; it has its winter uses, too: as a truck for hauling firewood from the yard to the kitchen, as a warm bed for Queenie, our tough little orange and white rat terrier who has survived distemper and two rattlesnake bites. Queenie is trotting beside it now.
Three hours later we are back in the kitchen hulling a heaping buggyload of windfall pecans. Our backs hurt from gathering them: how hard they were to find (the main crop having been shaken off the trees and sold by the orchard's owners, who are not us) among the concealing leaves, the frosted, deceiving grass. Caarackle! A cheery crunch, scraps of miniature thunder sound as the shells collapse and the golden mound of sweet oily ivory meat mounts in the milk-glass bowl. Queenie begs to taste, and now and again my friend sneaks her a mite, though insisting we deprive ourselves. "We mustn't, Buddy. If we start, we won't stop. And there's scarcely enough as there is. For thirty cakes." The kitchen is growing dark. Dusk turns the window into a mirror: our reflections mingle with the rising moon as we work by the fireside in the firelight. At last, when the moon is quite high, we toss the final hull into the fire and, with joined sighs, watch it catch flame. The buggy is empty, the bowl is brimful.
We eat our supper (cold biscuits, bacon, blackberry jam) and discuss tomorrow. Tomorrow the kind of work I like best begins: buying. Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pine-apple, rinds and raisins and walnuts and whiskey and oh, so much flour, butter, so many eggs, spices, flavorings: why, we'll need a pony to pull the buggy home.
But before these Purchases can be made, there is the question of money. Neither of us has any. Except for skin-flint sums persons in the house occasionally provide (a dime is considered very big money); or what we earn ourselves from various activities: holding rummage sales, selling buckets of hand-picked blackberries, jars of home-made jam and apple jelly and peach preserves, rounding up flowers for funerals and weddings. Once we won seventy-ninth prize, five dollars, in a national football contest. Not that we know a fool thing about football. It's just that we enter any contest we hear about: at the moment our hopes are centered on the fifty-thousand-dollar Grand Prize being offered to name a new brand of coffee (we suggested "A.M."; and, after some hesitation, for my friend thought it perhaps sacrilegious, the slogan "A.M.! Amen!"). To tell the truth, our only really profitable enterprise was the Fun and Freak Museum we conducted in a back-yard woodshed two summers ago. The Fun was a stereopticon with slide views of Washington and New York lent us by a relative who had been to those places (she was furious when she discovered why we'd borrowed it); the Freak was a three-legged biddy chicken hatched by one of our own hens. Every body hereabouts wanted to see that biddy: we charged grown ups a nickel, kids two cents. And took in a good twenty dollars before the museum shut down due to the decease of the main attraction.
But one way and another we do each year accumulate Christmas savings, a Fruitcake Fund. These moneys we keep hidden in an ancient bead purse under a loose board under the floor under a chamber pot under my friend's bed. The purse is seldom removed from this safe location except to make a deposit or, as happens every Saturday, a withdrawal; for on Saturdays I am allowed ten cents to go to the picture show. My friend has never been to a picture show, nor does she intend to: "I'd rather hear you tell the story, Buddy. That way I can imagine it more. Besides, a person my age shouldn't squander their eyes. When the Lord comes, let me see him clear." In addition to never having seen a movie, she has never: eaten in a restaurant, traveled more than five miles from home, received or sent a telegram, read anything except funny papers and the Bible, worn cosmetics, cursed, wished someone harm, told a lie on purpose, let a hungry dog go hungry. Here are a few things she has done, does do: killed with a hoe the biggest rattlesnake ever seen in this county (sixteen rattles), dip snuff (secretly), tame hummingbirds (just try it) till they balance on her finger, tell ghost stories (we both believe in ghosts) so tingling they chill you in July, talk to herself, take walks in the rain, grow the prettiest japonicas in town, know the recipe for every sort of oldtime Indian cure, including a magical wart remover.
Now, with supper finished, we retire to the room in a faraway part of the house where my friend sleeps in a scrap-quilt-covered iron bed painted rose pink, her favorite color. Silently, wallowing in the pleasures of conspiracy, we take the bead purse from its secret place and spill its contents on the scrap quilt. Dollar bills, tightly rolled and green as May buds. Somber fifty-cent pieces, heavy enough to weight a dead man's eyes. Lovely dimes, the liveliest coin, the one that really jingles. Nickels and quarters, worn smooth as creek pebbles. But mostly a hateful heap of bitter-odored pennies. Last summer others in the house contracted to pay us a penny for every twenty-five flies we killed. Oh, the carnage of August: the flies that flew to heaven! Yet it was not work in which we took pride. And, as we sit counting pennies, it is as though we were back tabulating dead flies. Neither of us has a head for figures; we count slowly, lose track, start again. According to her calculations, we have $12.73. According to mine, exactly $13. "I do hope you're wrong, Buddy. We can't mess around with thirteen. The cakes will fall. Or put somebody in the cemetery. Why, I wouldn't dream of getting out of bed on the thirteenth." This is true: she always spends thirteenths in bed. So, to be on the safe side, we subtract a penny and toss it out the window.
Of the ingredients that go into our fruitcakes, whiskey is the most expensive, as well as the hardest to obtain: State laws forbid its sale. But everybody knows you can buy a bottle from Mr. Haha Jones. And the next day, having completed our more prosaic shopping, we set out for Mr. Haha's business address, a "sinful" (to quote public opinion) fish-fry and dancing cafe down by the river. We've been there before, and on the same errand; but in previous years our dealings have been with Haha's wife, an iodine-dark Indian woman with brassy peroxided hair and a dead-tired disposition. Actually, we've never laid eyes on her husband, though we've heard that he's an Indian too. A giant with razor scars across his cheeks. They call him Haha because he's so gloomy, a man who never laughs. As we approach his cafe (a large log cabin festooned inside and out with chains of garish-gay naked light bulbs and standing by the river's muddy edge under the shade of river trees where moss drifts through the branches like gray mist) our steps slow down. Even Queenie stops prancing and sticks close by. People have been murdered in Haha's cafe. Cut to pieces. Hit on the head. There's a case coming up in court next month. Naturally these goings-on happen at night when the colored lights cast crazy patterns and the Victrola wails. In the daytime Haha's is shabby and deserted. I knock at the door, Queenie barks, my friend calls: "Mrs. Haha, ma'am? Anyone to home?"
Footsteps. The door opens. Our hearts overturn. It's Mr. Haha Jones himself! And he is a giant; he doeshave scars; he doesn't smile. No, he glowers at us through Satan-tilted eyes and demands to know: "What you want with Haha?"
For a moment we are too paralyzed to tell. Presently my friend half-finds her voice, a whispery voice at best: "If you please, Mr. Haha, we'd like a quart of your finest whiskey."
His eyes tilt more. Would you believe it? Haha is smiling! Laughing, too. "Which one of you is a drinkin' man?"
"It's for making fruitcakes, Mr. Haha. Cooking. "
This sobers him. He frowns. "That's no way to waste good whiskey." Nevertheless, he retreats into the shadowed cafe and seconds later appears carrying a bottle of daisy-yellow unlabeled liquor. He demonstrates its sparkle in the sunlight and says: "Two dollars."
We pay him with nickels and dimes and pennies. Suddenly, as he jangles the coins in his hand like a fistful of dice, his face softens. "Tell you what," he proposes, pouring the money back into our bead purse, "just send me one of them fruitcakes instead."
"Well," my friend remarks on our way home, "there's a lovely man. We'll put an extra cup of raisins in hiscake."
The black stove, stoked with coal and firewood, glows like a lighted pumpkin. Eggbeaters whirl, spoons spin round in bowls of butter and sugar, vanilla sweetens the air, ginger spices it; melting, nose-tingling odors saturate the kitchen, suffuse the house, drift out to the world on puffs of chimney smoke. In four days our work is done. Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on windowsills and shelves.
Who are they for?
Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends: indeed, the larger share is intended for persons we've met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who've struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt. Like the Reverend and Mrs. J. C. Lucey, Baptist missionaries to Borneo who lectured here last winter. Or the little knife grinder who comes through town twice a year. Or Abner Packer, the driver of the six o'clock bus from Mobile, who exchanges waves with us every day as he passes in a dust-cloud whoosh. Or the young Wistons, a California couple whose car one afternoon broke down outside the house and who spent a pleasant hour chatting with us on the porch (young Mr. Wiston snapped our picture, the only one we've ever had taken). Is it because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers that these strangers, and merest acquaintances, seem to us our truest friends? I think yes. Also, the scrapbooks we keep of thank-you's on White House stationery, time-to-time communications from California and Borneo, the knife grinder's penny post cards, make us feel connected to eventful worlds beyond the kitchen with its view of a sky that stops.
Now a nude December fig branch grates against the window. The kitchen is empty, the cakes are gone; yesterday we carted the last of them to the post office, where the cost of stamps turned our purse inside out. We're broke. That rather depresses me, but my friend insists on celebrating—with two inches of whiskey left in Haha's bottle. Queenie has a spoonful in a bowl of coffee (she likes her coffee chicory-flavored and strong). The rest we divide between a pair of jelly glasses. We're both quite awed at the prospect of drinking straight whiskey; the taste of it brings screwed up expressions and sour shudders. But by and by we begin to sing, the two of us singing different songs simultaneously. I don't know the words to mine, just: Come on along, come on along, to the dark-town strutters' ball. But I can dance: that's what I mean to be, a tap dancer in the movies. My dancing shadow rollicks on the walls; our voices rock the chinaware; we giggle: as if unseen hands were tickling us. Queenie rolls on her back, her paws plow the air, something like a grin stretches her black lips. Inside myself, I feel warm and sparky as those crumbling logs, carefree as the wind in the chimney. My friend waltzes round the stove, the hem of her poor calico skirt pinched between her fingers as though it were a party dress: Show me the way to go home, she sings, her tennis shoes squeaking on the floor. Show me the way to go home.
Enter: two relatives. Very angry. Potent with eyes that scold, tongues that scald. Listen to what they have to say, the words tumbling together into a wrathful tune: "A child of seven! whiskey on his breath! are you out of your mind? feeding a child of seven! must be loony! road to ruination! remember Cousin Kate? Uncle Charlie? Uncle Charlie's brother-inlaw? shame! scandal! humiliation! kneel, pray, beg the Lord!"
Queenie sneaks under the stove. My friend gazes at her shoes, her chin quivers, she lifts her skirt and blows her nose and runs to her room. Long after the town has gone to sleep and the house is silent except for the chimings of clocks and the sputter of fading fires, she is weeping into a pillow already as wet as a widow's handkerchief.
"Don't cry," I say, sitting at the bottom of her bed and shivering despite my flannel nightgown that smells of last winter's cough syrup, "Don't cry," I beg, teasing her toes, tickling her feet, "you're too old for that."
"It's because," she hiccups, "I am too old. Old and funny."
"Not funny. Fun. More fun than anybody. Listen. If you don't stop crying you'll be so tired tomorrow we can't go cut a tree."
She straightens up. Queenie jumps on the bed (where Queenie is not allowed) to lick her cheeks. "I know where we'll find real pretty trees, Buddy. And holly, too. With berries big as your eyes. It's way off in the woods. Farther than we've ever been. Papa used to bring us Christmas trees from there: carry them on his shoulder. That's fifty years ago. Well, now: I can't wait for morning."
Morning. Frozen rime lusters the grass; the sun, round as an orange and orange as hot-weather moons, balances on the horizon, burnishes the silvered winter woods. A wild turkey calls. A renegade hog grunts in the undergrowth. Soon, by the edge of knee-deep, rapid-running water, we have to abandon the buggy. Queenie wades the stream first, paddles across barking complaints at the swiftness of the current, the pneumonia-making coldness of it. We follow, holding our shoes and equipment (a hatchet, a burlap sack) above our heads. A mile more: of chastising thorns, burrs and briers that catch at our clothes; of rusty pine needles brilliant with gaudy fungus and molted feathers. Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings remind us that not all the birds have flown south. Always, the path unwinds through lemony sun pools and pitchblack vine tunnels. Another creek to cross: a disturbed armada of speckled trout froths the water round us, and frogs the size of plates practice belly flops; beaver workmen are building a dam. On the farther shore, Queenie shakes herself and trembles. My friend shivers, too: not with cold but enthusiasm. One of her hat's ragged roses sheds a petal as she lifts her head and inhales the pine-heavy air. "We're almost there; can you smell it, Buddy'" she says, as though we were approaching an ocean.
And, indeed, it is a kind of ocean. Scented acres of holiday trees, prickly-leafed holly. Red berries shiny as Chinese bells: black crows swoop upon them screaming. Having stuffed our burlap sacks with enough greenery and crimson to garland a dozen windows, we set about choosing a tree. "It should be," muses my friend, "twice as tall as a boy. So a boy can't steal the star." The one we pick is twice as tall as me. A brave handsome brute that survives thirty hatchet strokes before it keels with a creaking rending cry. Lugging it like a kill, we commence the long trek out. Every few yards we abandon the struggle, sit down and pant. But we have the strength of triumphant huntsmen; that and the tree's virile, icy perfume revive us, goad us on. Many compliments accompany our sunset return along the red clay road to town; but my friend is sly and noncommittal when passers-by praise the treasure perched in our buggy: what a fine tree, and where did it come from? "Yonderways," she murmurs vaguely. Once a car stops, and the rich mill owner's lazy wife leans out and whines: "Giveya two-bits" cash for that ol tree." Ordinarily my friend is afraid of saying no; but on this occasion she promptly shakes her head: "We wouldn't take a dollar." The mill owner's wife persists. "A dollar, my foot! Fifty cents. That's my last offer. Goodness, woman, you can get another one." In answer, my friend gently reflects: "I doubt it. There's never two of anything."
Home: Queenie slumps by the fire and sleeps till tomorrow, snoring loud as a human.
A trunk in the attic contains: a shoebox of ermine tails (off the opera cape of a curious lady who once rented a room in the house), coils of frazzled tinsel gone gold with age, one silver star, a brief rope of dilapidated, undoubtedly dangerous candylike light bulbs. Excellent decorations, as far as they go, which isn't far enough: my friend wants our tree to blaze "like a Baptist window," droop with weighty snows of ornament. But we can't afford the made-in-Japan splendors at the five-and-dime. So we do what we've always done: sit for days at the kitchen table with scissors and crayons and stacks of colored paper. I make sketches and my friend cuts them out: lots of cats, fish too (because they're easy to draw), some apples, some watermelons, a few winged angels devised from saved-up sheets of Hershey bar tin foil. We use safety pins to attach these creations to the tree; as a final touch, we sprinkle the branches with shredded cotton (picked in August for this purpose). My friend, surveying the effect, clasps her hands together. "Now honest, Buddy. Doesn't it look good enough to eat!" Queenie tries to eat an angel.
After weaving and ribboning holly wreaths for all the front windows, our next project is the fashioning of family gifts. Tie-dye scarves for the ladies, for the men a homebrewed lemon and licorice and aspirin syrup to be taken "at the first Symptoms of a Cold and after Hunting." But when it comes time for making each other's gift, my friend and I separate to work secretly. I would like to buy her a pearl-handled knife, a radio, a whole pound of chocolate-covered cherries (we tasted some once, and she always swears: "1 could live on them, Buddy, Lord yes I could—and that's not taking his name in vain"). Instead, I am building her a kite. She would like to give me a bicycle (she's said so on several million occasions: "If only I could, Buddy. It's bad enough in life to do without something you want; but confound it, what gets my goat is not being able to give somebody something you want them to have. Only one of these days I will, Buddy. Locate you a bike. Don't ask how. Steal it, maybe"). Instead, I'm fairly certain that she is building me a kite—the same as last year and the year before: the year before that we exchanged slingshots. All of which is fine by me. For we are champion kite fliers who study the wind like sailors; my friend, more accomplished than I, can get a kite aloft when there isn't enough breeze to carry clouds.
Christmas Eve afternoon we scrape together a nickel and go to the butcher's to buy Queenie's traditional gift, a good gnawable beef bone. The bone, wrapped in funny paper, is placed high in the tree near the silver star. Queenie knows it's there. She squats at the foot of the tree staring up in a trance of greed: when bedtime arrives she refuses to budge. Her excitement is equaled by my own. I kick the covers and turn my pillow as though it were a scorching summer's night. Somewhere a rooster crows: falsely, for the sun is still on the other side of the world.
"Buddy, are you awake!" It is my friend, calling from her room, which is next to mine; and an instant later she is sitting on my bed holding a candle. "Well, I can't sleep a hoot," she declares. "My mind's jumping like a jack rabbit. Buddy, do you think Mrs. Roosevelt will serve our cake at dinner?" We huddle in the bed, and she squeezes my hand I-love-you. "Seems like your hand used to be so much smaller. I guess I hate to see you grow up. When you're grown up, will we still be friends?" I say always. "But I feel so bad, Buddy. I wanted so bad to give you a bike. I tried to sell my cameo Papa gave me. Buddy"—she hesitates, as though embarrassed—"I made you another kite." Then I confess that I made her one, too; and we laugh. The candle burns too short to hold. Out it goes, exposing the starlight, the stars spinning at the window like a visible caroling that slowly, slowly daybreak silences. Possibly we doze; but the beginnings of dawn splash us like cold water: we're up, wide-eyed and wandering while we wait for others to waken. Quite deliberately my friend drops a kettle on the kitchen floor. I tap-dance in front of closed doors. One by one the household emerges, looking as though they'd like to kill us both; but it's Christmas, so they can't. First, a gorgeous breakfast: just everything you can imagine—from flapjacks and fried squirrel to hominy grits and honey-in-the-comb. Which puts everyone in a good humor except my friend and me. Frankly, we're so impatient to get at the presents we can't eat a mouthful.
Well, I'm disappointed. Who wouldn't be? With socks, a Sunday school shirt, some handkerchiefs, a hand-me-down sweater, and a year's subscription to a religious magazine for children. The Little Shepherd. It makes me boil. It really does.
My friend has a better haul. A sack of Satsumas, that's her best present. She is proudest, however, of a white wool shawl knitted by her married sister. But she says her favorite gift is the kite I built her. And itis very beautiful; though not as beautiful as the one she made me, which is blue and scattered with gold and green Good Conduct stars; moreover, my name is painted on it, "Buddy."
"Buddy, the wind is blowing."
The wind is blowing, and nothing will do till we've run to a Pasture below the house where Queenie has scooted to bury her bone (and where, a winter hence, Queenie will be buried, too). There, plunging through the healthy waist-high grass, we unreel our kites, feel them twitching at the string like sky fish as they swim into the wind. Satisfied, sun-warmed, we sprawl in the grass and peel Satsumas and watch our kites cavort. Soon I forget the socks and hand-me-down sweater. I'm as happy as if we'd already won the fifty-thousand-dollar Grand Prize in that coffee-naming contest.
"My, how foolish I am!" my friend cries, suddenly alert, like a woman remembering too late she has biscuits in the oven. "You know what I've always thought?" she asks in a tone of discovery and not smiling at me but a point beyond. "I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when he came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I'11 wager it never happens. I'11 wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are"—her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone—"just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."
This is our last Christmas together.
Life separates us. Those who Know Best decide that I belong in a military school. And so follows a miserable succession of bugle-blowing prisons, grim reveille-ridden summer camps. I have a new home too. But it doesn't count. Home is where my friend is, and there I never go.
And there she remains, puttering around the kitchen. Alone with Queenie. Then alone. ("Buddy dear," she writes in her wild hard-to-read script, "yesterday Jim Macy's horse kicked Queenie bad. Be thankful she didn't feel much. I wrapped her in a Fine Linen sheet and rode her in the buggy down to Simpson's pasture where she can be with all her Bones...."). For a few Novembers she continues to bake her fruitcakes single-handed; not as many, but some: and, of course, she always sends me "the best of the batch." Also, in every letter she encloses a dime wadded in toilet paper: "See a picture show and write me the story." But gradually in her letters she tends to confuse me with her other friend, the Buddy who died in the 1880's; more and more, thirteenths are not the only days she stays in bed: a morning arrives in November, a leafless birdless coming of winter morning, when she cannot rouse herself to exclaim: "Oh my, it's fruitcake weather! "
And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday Thoughts

Here is the amaryllis that I ordered this year. I have looked and looked at the kits for years and have always thought I might like one. I usually put mine in a clay pot, but this year something a little dressier. 
Years ago my children gave me some crocus growing in little Delft shoes. I loved them, but sadly....they were broken. This won't take the place of them, but I will think of them every time I look at my amaryllis blooming. 
I'm doing some basket cleaning here this week. I keep things in baskets....my Church things, magazines, afghans and coverlets,  hand towels, mail, printed recipes, knitting, felt projects, and in the kitchen....potatoes, onions, bakery items, and much used cookbooks.  It's my way of organizing. Everything is kept together in categories and makes for not having to search for things. While I sit and watch TV, I am taking one basket at a time and sorting through them. This way I can get rid of things that are no longer needed, replace supplies that are getting low, and finally I take the basket outside and with a paint brush....give it a good brushing or wipe with a damp cloth.  While I'm doing baskets, I do the same with lampshades. I use a soft paint brush to clean these. Yesterday, I did ceiling fans and the shelves over the beds. There are duck statues over our bed and baskets on the shelf over the guest room bed. Now, everything is clean. Having company always gives me an urge to get things tidy and clean. One of the advantages of aging is not being able to see too well. If it's out of reach....I really can't see the dust :)  So, sometimes I'm really surprised at the dust...when I find it :)
We went to the pool today and on the way home we voted. It was so hard to vote this time. I really didn't want either candidate for governor. All the negativity at election time makes for poor turnouts I think. Not much to get excited about anymore. The polls were so busy today though, due to a school issue in our area. So many elderly were there voting, so I guess I know what the outcome will be on that. 
The weather today was warmer, but we are in for cold and some snow toward the end of the week. Tonight we will probably be seeing election returns on TV...
Have a nice evening,
Balisha

I almost forgot....when we went past McDonald's today....there was a statue of Ronald McDonald sitting on a bench watching the crane lift a Christmas tree atop the building. Mmmmmm Thanksgiving turkey dinner in my head.....and Christmas is is the air.

Monday, November 3, 2014

November Evenings

Here we are at the beginning of November and the stores are busy pushing Christmas. At the grocery on Saturday, there were carts full of Halloween items and next to them carts full of Christmas. I laughed and said,"They really forget Thanksgiving don't they?" People scrambling to load Snickers, Milky Way etc into their carts. People starting to look rushed.

While here at home....we aren't in a hurry. Maybe it's our age, but I like to think that it's just the way we are and have always been. I sort of enjoy this time of year and all it brings with it.....even the time change. Evenings are cozier...the doors are shut, curtains drawn, the lights are dimmer, candles may be lit, a pot of something on the stove, popcorn or some baked treat, knitting in my hand, and Joe reading in his chair. Here we are... ignoring the outside and all it's rushing. We are taking our time in November....December and all that makes it so busy is just ahead. Time for reflection and calm....before the storm. 

Isn't it a shame to think of December that way? How can we start the month out on a new foot? It's what will be on my mind throughout November...how to enjoy December more. How to keep it simple? So many women work themselves into a tizzy making everything perfect for their loved ones....only to get sick and not be able to really enjoy themselves. After the gifts are open...some think "Is that all there is?" Every year many of us vow to keep it simple....what happens to us? We get caught up in the shopping, plans, blended family celebrations, baking, parties, and then there's....decorating.

While I sit here in the comfort of my home in November, I want to keep in mind the word SIMPLE. I don't have all the answers. I have successfully changed the decorating in our home, and also the way we do food for family gatherings...so why can't I do the rest? Maybe this will be the year of change. For now, I'm going to sit back and enjoy November. It's a time for pumpkins, cider, donuts, candles, and delicious food......not forgetting the time to be thankful for our blessings.

Balisha