Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Handknit Gift: A Good Thing

Knitted dishcloths!
That's what I gave everyone this year. I wanted to share photos of them ages ago, but had to wait until after the presents had been given out so as not to spoil the surprise.
I came up with the idea because two years ago our library director learned to knit and presented everyone on the staff with all-cotton, hand-knitted dishcloths. I thought my dishcloth was too pretty to use at first, but once I did I was hooked. It was easy on the hands, tough on dirty dishes, and the perfect size. I preferred it over all my other dishcloths. Consequently, I completely wore it out!
Back in the fall I mentioned the dishcloth to my boss, telling her how much I loved it, in hopes that she'd take the hint and make new ones for us all this Christmas. Instead she helpfully offered to look for the patterns she used. Well, that backfired, didn't it? I had to learn to knit and make my own. While I was at it, I decided to knit them for my mom, sister and aunt.
I feel good about giving a personal, pretty, and practical gift. The best part for me, though, is that the entire time spent making a dishcloth my heart is focused affectionately on the intended recipient. And that, as Martha would say, is a good thing. Dishcloth photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

May your travels be safe, your heart and home full of light and good cheer. Merry Christmas! Vintage postcard.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nice Ice?

Santa brought me a present: a new camera (Canon Powershot A590). Thank you, Santa!
I'd been taking pictures with my cell phone or eschewing photos altogether ever since my beloved Nikon froze up on me. I'm not much of a photographer, but digital cameras are so easy. An ice storm last night gave me time (the Library was closed till noon) and opportunity to try out the new camera. Ice shots from the garden. Nice. Ice photos by JulenaJo.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Ages Impearled

I love old books of poetry. The wording is so flowery, so interesting and unusual. In this, a lovely Christmas verse from my latest "find," An American Anthology, 1787-1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed., we find the "ages impearled" by the light of the Christmas star. What a vision! I've never heard this poem before, but apparently it's a seasonal folk song. Enjoy.

A Christmas Carol
by Josiah Gilbert Holland

There's a song in the air! There's a star in the sky!
There's a mother's deep prayer and a baby's low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

There's a tumult of joy o'er the wonderful birth,
For the virgin's sweet Boy is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

In the light of that star lie the ages impearled;
And that song from afar has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing
In the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!

We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song
That comes down through the night from the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
And we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!

Artwork: Albrecht Dürer
The Nativity, probably c. 1509/1510
Rosenwald Collection

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Memories

These are my most vivid Christmas memories:
My father's parents had an aluminum tree with the revolving fan light that made it change color. They lived next door to us, and on Christmas Eve, when grandma turned on the tree light, we knew it was time to go visit. The cousins and I got to drink Cokes from little glass bottles.
Mass at St. Augustine's. The full choir sang Christmas songs and the organ thundered so it felt like Heaven opening up. The music was so loud I was half afraid, and totally in awe, and I always thought, "This is surely how the shepherds must have felt when the angels proclaimed the good news."
The family Christmas at my mother's parents' meant the door to the formal living room would be opened up. The room was always cool and pale and beautiful--and strictly off limits to my cousins and me every other day of the year. A white tree glistened in front of the big picture window and the huge dining table where the adults would eat was set in sparkling Fostoria ware. There were dishes of ribbon candy and divinity that looked too pretty to touch, but no one ever told us to leave them alone.
My siblings and I went around in the weeks leading up to Christmas with our eyes trained to the sky hoping to see Rudolf. We knew Santa was secretly watching our every move, and we knew we were regularly naughtier than nice. But still, somehow, we knew that Santa loved us and was all-forgiving. The proof was in the presents, and none of us ever got the parentally threatened lump of coal--even though I was pretty sure one or the other of us deserved it some years.
The strain of a carol, the twinkle of a light, and it all comes rushing back. Thanks for all the Christmases past; thanks, too, for Christmases to come.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Open to Suggestions...

I've been grouchier than usual lately. All kinds of excuses for it come to mind. Seasonal Affective Disorder is definitely topping the list, but there are more. Holiday stress, menopause, an inherited tendency to depression, and poor coping skills are all factors. Yes, I admit to the latter. I'm not so good at coping with daily stresses. Snapping at people and overeating are my modus operandi. If a half dozen Christmas cookies taken orally twice a day could cure depression, I'd be healed!
For years I battled depression medically, using Prozac, Zoloft and the like. Then we had an insurance changeup, and I realized I might not have drug coverage in the future. I asked the pharmacist how much my prescription would cost me without insurance copay and was horrified at the response--over $400 a month. I tried quitting cold turkey at that time. Dear Readers, do NOT do this!
I suffered extreme dizziness, nausea, and whacked out thoughts. I thought I was dying. It took me a while before I realized I was experiencing withdrawal! How silly of me! I thought withdrawal only happened to junkies. Well, guess what?
I went back on the meds and started anew to wean myself gradually. It took weeks of tapering the dose and adjusting to each new, lower level before I was completely free. There were occasional dizzy spells even doing it that way. These are some powerful chemicals at work in the brain.
I found that symptoms of menopause are masked by using antidepressants. I never had a hot flash, mood swing or sleepless night. I do now. I also realize now that I did nothing in the way of learning new coping skills while I was medicated. So basically, it prevented me from growing and maturing.
This is the first winter and Christmas season in years that I have been med-free. I know I may require some medical assistance to regulate my brain chemistry in the future, but for now I'm not experiencing the crippling depression that sent me to the doctor in the first place. I'm functional and up to living. I'm able to work, and I'm knitting and writing to keep myself going. But this morning I snapped at my husband for no reason, and even to my own ears I sounded like a petulant, spoiled child. I'm not looking for perfection here, but at least some semblance of self control. I'm open to any and all suggestions for cultivating patience and coping with stress, but I am thinking that Nike might have the real answer to this (and so many other things in life, too): Just do it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Owl Moon

Recent nights have been clear, sharp, and cold. The frozen grass crunches underfoot and sparkles in the light of the full moon. When I take the dogs out for their 11 PM potty break I hear a Great Horned Owl hooting in the woods. My little dog, Roxy, who is far cuter than she is intelligent, barks like a ninny at the owl, completely derailed from her business. How can any creature get THAT distracted? It's amazing to me. You'd think as soon as that cold air hits her...but no.
Anyway, according to my guide books, the Great Horned Owl is one of the earliest birds to incubate eggs, doing so as early as late January. No wonder he's out there every night announcing his presence--he's seeking a mate. Good luck, Mr. Owl!
Recommended book: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Yes, it's a children's book. Read it anyway. It will take you all of ten minutes and you'll love it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beautiful Snow

I have had little time to write, so I instead share a couple of stanzas of a poem written by another. It's appropriate, though. I hope you love it as I do.


by John Whitaker Watson
from Beautiful Snow And Other Poems (Philadelphia, 1869)

O the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below!
Over the house-tops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet,
Dancing, Flirting, Skimming along. Beautiful snow! it can do nothing wrong.
Flying to kiss a fair lady's cheek;
Clinging to lips in a frolicsome freak;
Beautiful snow, from the heavens above,
Pure as an angel and fickle as love!

O the snow, the beautiful snow!
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go!
Whirling about in its maddening fun,
It plays in its glee with every one.
Chasing, Laughing, Hurrying by, It lights up the face and it sparkles the eye;
And even the dogs, with a bark and a bound,
Snap at the crystals that eddy around.
The town is alive, and its heart in a glow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Rose

Of course there are roses on our Christmas tree. These paper mache hearts are old-fashioned and sweet, aren't they? I love that they bring me roses in December.
The Christmas trees in the women's magazines every year are so gorgeous. Works of art, really. "Southern pine swathed in billowing gold chiffon, magnolia blossoms, and cut crystal icicles," or "fragrant balsam boughs bedecked with vintage mercury glass orbs of silver and gold." They remind me of women in elegant ball gowns, and a tree like that would be as out of place in my house as the designer gown. Our tree bobbles with little gourd Santas, grown by my husband and painted by his mother. A handful of ornaments made by the kids when they were in elementary school dust the boughs with glitter. There's a tiny stuffed rabbit, a pair of wax Santas, and crocheted angels and stars--each with a loved one and a story behind it. To hang any one of these ornaments on a House Beautiful Christmas tree would be like pinning a macaroni brooch on a Vera Wang.
So I'll flip through the books and magazines again this year, and I'll ooh and ahh over the pretty trees. But there's no more meaningful Christmas tree than the one set up here in my own living room. Christmas Heart photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Penguins and Polar Bears Welcome

Sometimes we don't have snow until Christmas or later. Not this year. When I got out of the Library tonight at 8 PM the snow was shooting needles out of the west. One side of the car was frozen. Global warming? The penguins and polar bears can come to Ohio. There's no global warming here. Fortunately, little Roxy, our yorkie-lhasa apso mix, is a great footwarmer. An extra blanket and Roxy. Who needs more? Roxy photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Round Two

I view Thanksgiving as Round 1 in the holiday battle. The rounds continue until January 1.
We are still in the fight, having survived Round 1.
Actually, I'm lucky in that my husband does so much of the cooking, cleaning, shopping and other holiday preparations. In fact, if it weren't for him, the holidays would pass us by without my paying them any notice. He loves all the holidays, but especially Christmas.
My husband's ideal of Christmas does not feature an artificial tree, but this year we have one. We could no longer justify spending so much each year for an item that we'd throw away in two weeks, so when he spotted an artificial tree on sale last February for less than half the cost of a fresh cut tree, he snapped it up.
He put it up this weekend, and we both like it. No muss, no fuss. One of the first ornaments on the tree was the calico cat I gave him for Christmas when we were dating, followed by the ornaments we've added to our collection every year, including a few homemade ones.
The tree looks so real it's amazing. As for that lovely aroma of a real tree? The power of the mind is so strong (or is it weak?) that when I look at it, I swear I smell pine.
Suggestible? Yes, no doubt.
Happy? You bet!
Let Round Two begin! Calico Cat photo by JulenaJo.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Discerning Our Place

The planetary alignment of Venus and Jupiter was breath-taking tonight, and I understand the crescent moon is supposed to make a show in the next evening or so, making it even more beautiful and unusual. Do try to catch a glimpse. Here's a link that explains what's happening: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/35217944.html
I'm no astronomer: I know three constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Orion. I know the moon, the sun, and the occasional planet--with the help of a source like the newspaper or Internet to tell me what I'm seeing in the case of the planet.
There is some primal pull to the sky, though, isn't there?
It's like gazing into the eyes of God, trying to read His expression there. We look to the heavens for clues to the past and to the future. And, somehow, as we study the sky, we hope to discern our place in the universe. Is it any wonder the ancients worshipped the sun? Even today we talk of raising our prayers to God in heaven above. The logic of my adult mind argues that heaven cannot be in the sky, with angels gliding about on clouds of gold, but my childlike faith insists that it is. So I pray, turning my eyes to the sky--even as the ancients did, and I feel that God is listening when the planets align in some glorious way. It may be childlike, but that sense of wonder fills me with joy. Evening Sky photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm most thankful for family, friends and health. And for all of you who read my words here. Thank you!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rugged Rugosas

In June my sister-in-law happened to visit us and said that she wanted to put roses in her garden. She didn't want fussy things. Only roses that could thrive on neglect. Did I have any recommendations?
Did I indeed! Rugosas!
I have just two in my garden: Wildberry Breeze, shown above, and Blanc Double de Coubert. I plucked a startling white blossom and handed it to her. I instructed her to sample the fragrance. "I want this!" she said.
Well, of course she did. Who wouldn't? The rich damask fragrance of Blanc Double de Coubert is heavenly. And the rose blooms all summer on a tough plant that thrives on neglect. In fact, the only thing you can do to harm a rugosa rose is to spray it. I've seen rugosas defoliated by well-meant, but damaging sprays.
Wildberry Breeze, strongly perfumed of cloves and rose, was my first rugosa. Look at her photo above. See the deeply veined leaves? Rugose means wrinkled, and that's how this class of roses earned its name. The tough, leathery leaves are impervious to disease, and insects leave them largely alone. In autumn, the foliage turns yellow, adding interest to the garden after the flowers have faded. In addition, there are large, orangey-red rose hips on the shrub--rich in Vitamin C if you care to make a terribly tart tea from them. I don't. I leave them for the birds.
The rose suckers, sending shoots out all around the base of the parent. This is a good thing or bad, depending on what you want in your garden. I don't mind it, as it means free plants. If they meander where I don't want I dig the suckers out.
One note of warning, however. You'll want heavy gloves for any deadheading or digging of suckers: the rugosas are well-armed with dense prickles over every inch of their thick canes.
I think my sister-in-law was sold. I expect she'll have rugosa roses in her garden come spring. Perhaps I'll add another one or two to my own plot, as well. My December garden work will involve scouring garden catalogs for "wrinkled roses." It's a task I eagerly anticipate. Wildberry Breeze photo by JulenaJo.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rings of Love

Today was well spent. I took a break from my obsessive knitting to teach my mother to tat.
Mom started tatting lessons at the library this fall, but she is always so busy that she missed several of the lessons.
She called me: "I'm making rings all over the place. Rings, rings, rings. Now what?"
So today we learned chains and joins. I expect the next call for a lesson will be when she runs out of thread on her shuttle.
There was a lot of laughter and goofing around, but mom is a dedicated and determined student, so I know she'll do great. I tatted rings and chains with her, but of course my work went faster than hers. So while I waited for her to complete each section, I studied her face, unbeknownst to her.
She reminded me so much of grandma, that it took my breath away. Just the way she held her lips as she concentrated on her handiwork. Her mannerisms are similar, yet uniquely her own. But I heard grandma coming through in all the laughter and the fun mom takes in the simplest things. "Oh, what the heck did I do now?" mom laughed when she tangled her ball thread in her ring. It was just the way grandma would have said it.
My grandmother has been gone for 16 years but it seems like yesterday sometimes. She was my best friend and I loved her dearly. The missing her never really goes away altogether. She was an exceptional woman, whose name comes up in family conversations very often. My mom is much like her, and I hope that someday I am, too.
Suddenly an aching love for my mom and my grandmother pierces my heart. It takes the breath away. Yes, today was indeed well spent. Rings and chains photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Knitting has become my new obsession. I do not know why, nor what I expect to accomplish by it, only that, for the time being, I must knit. I should be making at least a pass at housework. I should be tatting or painting. I should curl up with one of the library books that follow me home from work like stray puppies.
I should be doing so many other things. Things that have meaning, purpose. But, no, I knit. See the results of my obsession? Will it be a scarf? I love scarves and have quite a collection of them. This will have to take its place in my collection as the ugliest. The colors are fine: muted autumnal shades from gold to russet through various shades of green and back to gold. The yarn is a simple acrylic worsted. That's fine, too, plenty soft enough and washable--very practical. But it took many rows before I figured out the whole knit, purl technique. And now I'm doing knit 2, purl 2 over and over. Before long, I'll be breaking out in cables. It will be a sampler scarf, evolving in design as I learn new techniques. It will be ugly, but warm as any others I own. It will have many flaws and flubs, no doubt, but no one will wonder where I got it. They will take one look and know I made it myself. You know what? Many people will say, with a hint of envy in their voice, "I wish I could knit," when they see me wearing it. Then I'll get that great feeling inside that one only gets when one does something creative and wonderful. And maybe that's why I'm so knitwitted these days. Knitpurl photo by JulenaJo.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Fifth Season & Survival Pie

We're in our longest season here in Ohio. You have Summer which is 2 weeks hovering near 100 degrees and humid. Fall--the week the leaves change color and drop--very crisp, clear blue sky. Winter is the week or so where it's so cold if you spit it freezes before it hits the ground, but you don't dare spit because the wind will whip that ice bullet right back into your face and inflict serious damage. Spring is a wet sneeze between winter and summer.
Our fifth season is the approximately 11-month-long season called "Gray." We're in it now. It's windy. Might have wet snow with little or no accumulation or maybe rain. Or maybe just a bonechilling, pervasive damp.
Because my ancestors lived here in Ohio for many generations, my people have adapted survival techniques. The number one technique is baking. You bake lots of cookies, pies and cakes, and then you eat them. The number two survival technique probably is tied with number two: Open and pour the alcoholic beverage of choice, and sip till the chill is off. Both techniques are followed by a nap. It's survival mode that's making me fat! Oh, and I'll have my survival a la mode, thank you.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

9 inch unbaked pie crust

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Beat eggs till frothy; combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt and add to beaten eggs. Mix well.

1 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbs. melted butter
Dash vanilla
1 cup quick oats

Add oat mixture to egg mixture and blend well. Pour into pie crust and bake on upper rack of oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or until done.
Tastes similar to pecan pie, but more economical.

Addendum: I just realized that my blog title "Fifth Season" is a pun. Ha! Survival of the fifth season requires a fifth of your favorite beverage!
Addendum #2: The word "fifth" looks funny after you type it a while.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rambling Jo

This was a busy day, full of good things. First and foremost: rain. We've had 24 hours of soft, drizzly rain. I can't remember the last time it rained. It's been extremely dry here all summer and fall. I'm glad to know the new roses (I did finally plant them) are being settled in with some moisture before the ground freezes. Watering with a garden hose just isn't the same.
Then I spent a busier than usual 8 hours at the library. I create our quarterly newsletter and am on deadline, so there is a lot of extra work right now. It's nearly complete, thank heavens.
As I was clocking out at work, I noticed 2 crafty ladies (Sarah and Cheryl) waiting for me. They were there to teach me to knit.We went to a cozy corner of the library and settled down with yarn and knitting needles. An hour and a half later I had about an inch of what will be a new neck scarf in a flecked oatmeal worsted.
Knit. Purl. Is it this way or that way? Now what did I do here? Oops! The needle fell out of the row of stitches! Help!
They told me I'm a natural. How kind is that?
Cheryl was attempting a new technique, too, and after our session, she gave me the skein of hot pink yarn and round needles she was using, as well as a ball of tatting thread in my favorite color, a lovely peachy coral. What a sweetie!
My cell phone buzzed as we were finishing up our knitting lesson, and it was my 15-year-old daughter, wanting me to help out with the horses. She cleans stalls at the farm where her horse is boarded, and it helps her out time-wise if I clean her horse's stall while she finishes up her work. It gives me a little exercise and a chance to be with my daughter and the horses, so I don't mind.
We ran to the store after the stable to pick up just a few things. Then home to a hasty, late supper. Check the e-mail. Jot my thoughts here.
It's off to bed with me now, though. I just read what I wrote: what a ramble.
Good night!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Tall and the Short of It

Remember the children's book, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst? Well, for the most part, that's how my yesterday was. So when my husband went to work today he said, "I hope your day goes better than yesterday!" Bad omen.
I stumbled out of bed and into the shower. I lathered my hair with shampoo and the shower head popped off and hit the wall behind me. Oh, it didn't hit me. No, no, no. I am WAY too short for that! Never fear!
My husband is over a foot taller than me, and he built our house. The shower was installed by a tall person, for a tall person. I always have to adjust the shower head in the morning as he has it aimed to hit his chest, thereby clearing the top of my head by an inch or so. And another thing: we have no water pressure--or so I thought until the shower head went zinging by. Without the shower head to diffuse the pressure there was plenty. Only thing was, it was all hitting the shower wall over my head and I had no way to divert it down! After many little leaps and attempts to direct water downward using the palms of my hands as deflectors, I managed to get adequately rinsed. It wasn't ladylike. It wasn't graceful. But it was resourceful.
BTW, I did supervise the hanging of the kitchen cabinets, the bathroom mirrors, and the coat hooks in the mud room. If I hadn't, he'd have installed them so high I'd need a little stool to get a coffee cup out of the cupboard, or to comb my hair, or to hang up my coat. I must have been out running an errand the day he installed the showers.
Anyway, the day did improve after the shower mishap. I wonder what adventures tomorrow will bring?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Tisket, A Tasket...A Box Full of Workbasket

A package awaited me when I came home from work today. At first glance, I thought perhaps I'd been sent books from the Quality Paperback Book Club. Sometimes I forget to respond to their monthly mailings so they send me books that I don't really want. The kind of day I had, I really wouldn't have been surprised.
Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was from a long-time friend of mine who's moved several states away. I couldn't imagine what she might have sent me.
Inside were about two dozen old Workbasket magazines. Wow! Jackpot!
She knew I'd learned to tat, saw these in a library sale room, and thought I might like them. Can you imagine? I've been scouting flea markets and second-hand book stores for these. It's the tatting pattern payload! The crafter's treasure chest!
Even more valuable to me than the box of old magazines is my friend. Thank you, dear friend! You can't imagine what a day-brightener your thoughtful gesture was to me. Thank you!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Apple to Zelkova

This year our old apple tree produced a bumper crop. As you can see from the apple in my hand, it's an odd-looking fruit--nothing at all like the apples in the market. We never spray the tree, so they are wormy and bumpy, but if you want to eat just half a crisp, delicious apple and take in absolutely no pesticides, this is the one for you. These apples need a long time to ripen and were too sour and green to eat until recently. They are delicious now that it's November. Does anyone have any idea what variety it might be? The tree was one of only a couple of trees that were our property when we came here.
We have planted a veritable alphabet of trees & shrubs in our yard since moving here 16 years ago. Here is the list, to date:
Apple (3 varieties), Arborvitae (2 varieties)
Buckeye, Buckthorn, Burr Oak
Caryopteris (blue mist shrub), Cedar, Cherry (Nanking shrub), Crabapple
Elderberry ('Black Lace' Sambucus)
Hawthorn, Hemlock
Juniper, Japanese maple
Lacebark Pine
Maples (Silver, Sugar)
Nanking Cherry
Oak (Bur, Pin)
Pear (ornamental and Bartlett), Pine (White, Lacebark, mugho)
Redbud (Forest Pansy), Redwood (New Dawn), Rose (several)
Washington Hawthorn
Apple photo by JulenaJo.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rose Ramblings

One winter day I bought a $5 bunch of flowers from the grocery store and enjoyed them for several days before they dropped their petals. This single rose far outlasted all the others, and defying the odds, opened into an enormous blossom. I just had to take a picture.
The $5 was well-spent, if you ask me, as I get so hungry for flowers, especially roses, in the winter. The temporary fix will never fully compensate for the lush reward of my own rose garden, however, because this gorgeous, florist-grown rose had absolutely no scent.
It's astounding to me that, in the course of developing roses for the florist trade, hybridizers went so exclusively for form over substance. In breeding for a perfect, high-centered bloom that lasts long in the vase, little thought was given to fragrance or disease-resistance.
Nowadays, we've seen a complete turnaround in rose hybridization. William Radler developed Knock Out roses, with foliage seemingly impervious to black spot. Black spot is probably the most dreaded rose affliction--and the reason many people consider roses too persnickety to grow. Not only does Knock Out rose foliage radiate healthy indifference to disease, but the flowers come on continuously from spring to frost. The only thing that would make it perfect is scent. It has precious little.
David Austin, probably the most famous rose hybridizer of recent history, has bred a whole new type of roses, the so-called "English roses." Austin's roses remind you of those that bloomed each spring on grandma's farm with their profusion of petals and heady perfume. Unlike grandma's roses, however, these roses bloom again and again all summer long. Thank you, David Austin!
Will the next generation of roses bring about a blending of Knock Out's disease resistance and bloom power, and Austin's form and fragrance? What a wonderful thought! Unnamed rose photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

FYI: Comments & Seize the day.

Two friends of mine complained recently about how challenging it is to comment on a post. I believe I have resolved that issue. All you have to do is click below the post where it says "0 comments" and type what you want to say in the box that opens. Of course, sometimes it doesn't say "0 comments;" sometimes it says "2 comments" or "1 comment." One time the comments got into the double digits, but it was some kind of spam. Weird. Spam just happens everywhere, doesn't it? If you're reading this and you've unsuccessfully tried to post a comment in the past, try it now and see what happens so I know if it works. Thanks!
Weather Note: It's going to rain and drop 30 degrees--tomorrow, I think. Seize the day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Three Things

I have just spent the better part of an hour on the Official Website of Katie Melua, listening to excerpts from her albums. I discovered this jazz singer recently, when I watched the DVD Miss Potter. She sang the song that plays during the closing credits. I was so full of emotion after the movie that the song dang near moved me to tears. I had to hear more.
I was not disappointed. In fact, I was thrilled. I will be obtaining all of her CDs, I imagine. I'm one who prefers silence over music most of the time, so these soothing, silky, jazz vocals must really be something, eh? Go to her website and listen: www.katiemelua.com.
So these are three things I am wholeheartedly recommending:
1. Anything by Katie Melua, but try "Nine Million Bicycles" or "Thank You Stars." Both tracks are on her Piece by Piece CD. Listen a couple of times all the way through the CD and you'll be completely addicted.
2. Miss Potter.
(Now available on DVD!) Based on the life of Beatrix Potter, this little movie is a charmer. I always loved her beautifully illustrated children's stories. Now I feel I know and love her, too.
My third recommendation is the novel I read while on my brief excursion to Tennessee (with apologies to all who've already heard my rave):
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I'd read the positive reviews at work, but the only part of those reviews that sunk in was the word "uplifting." The title led me to believe it was one of those sassy, man-bashing Southern novels that there seem to be so many of these days. You know the ones: the wise-cracking women hate men throughout the novel, but fall in love in the end. Insane! I clung to the word "uplifting" from the above-mentioned reviews and gave it a chance. It's NOT set in the American South. It's British! And it's historical. And it's wonderful.
Enough said. With apologies for the fuzzy book jacket photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Psalms of Lace

See what the tatted beginning from the other day worked up into? This old-fashioned looking edging would be fantastic on clothing or a guest towel or any number of accessories. However, it isn't flying off the shuttle as quickly as I'd like. After a false start and beginning again, and hours of work--including some serious ripping out and re-doing--I don't have enough of it to adorn anything except maybe a small pocket. I believe my tatting teacher intends for it to appear in her new tatting book, so I won't divulge the pattern. (I know, that's a bummer.) As soon as her book is out I'll let you know where you can get it, though.
The shuttle flies, tying me to my past, creating for my future. Everything falls away except the rhythm of my hands. It feels like ritual, like prayer for those I love. Knots, like prayer beads, counted silently in my heart. Psalms of lace spill from my hands.
Tatted Edging photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November View

This is the view if one looks south out over the back yard now that Farmer John has cut the corn behind our house. Actually, the trees have shed most of their leaves, so the scene is even more stark than when the picture was taken last week. But if one watches carefully throughout the winter there will be much to see. White-tailed deer will wander out of the woodlot to glean the cornfields. Red fox search for field mice. Occasionally, a northern harrier will tilt and careen low over the harvested fields. At night an owl may call from back in the woods. And, of course, there will be the hair-raising quarrels of coyotes and the excited chittering of raccoons. Oh, and the excited bay of hounds in pursuit of the latter on the nights when hunters turn out looking for them. All in all, there is very much to see and hear. One only has to remain vigilant. Photo by JulenaJo.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jolly Halloween

I'm flying off on my broomstick tomorrow morning for another brief visit to my sister's house near Nashville, Tennessee. I wish, like Samantha Stevens of "Bewitched" fame, I could just wiggle my nose and get this load of laundry and sink full of dishes done so I could tat or read this evening. Alas. No such magic is at my disposal. And boy, did I date myself there! I'm off to do my chores, and I won't be back until November 1. Happy Halloween! Artwork: Vintage Postcard.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Maple Leaves

When my son (now a senior in college) was about 2 years old he always referred to Sixlets candy as "maple leaves." I never knew why, but assumed maybe it was the colors: brown, yellow, orange, red, green--the color of autumn leaves. One afternoon, though, he was watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on television, and he excitedly called out, "Look, Mommy! Maple leaves!" He meant "make believe," the segment of the show where Mister Rogers played make believe with the train. Ah ha! Maples leaves meant make believe. What connection either had to colorful candy coated chocolate, I never have determined. However, I like the idea of eating "maple leaves" or "make believes." So Sixlets make me happy.
I happened upon a bag of Sixlets that my husband bought from a store bin of Halloween candy. He hides them, but my 15-year-old daughter can tell when I'm in search mode and she will say as I pass her, "On top of the fridge" or "On the dresser." I don't even have to ask! Consequently, I've been sneaking a few fun size packets of "maple leaves" every evening. Bad for the waistline. Good for the spirit.
And speaking of Halloween, it's always this time of year when my husband brings apple cider home from the store, too. (I'd be THIN if it weren't for him!) The same mind-reading daughter, when she was little, used to call it "apple spider." I like that. Maple leaves and apple spider. How time flies! Sixlets Photo by JulenaJo

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fairy Tales

I've heard people say that real life is not a fairy tale. I beg to disagree. I've read the brothers Grimm, and Disney has taken generous liberties with those stories, sugar coating them and making them pretty. In the original versions horrible things happen sometimes. There are wicked witches, capricious kings, mischievous elves, and hungry wolves waiting to prey upon the just and unjust alike. Very much like real life, don't you think?
And what on earth can you say when you meet someone whose tale has just taken a nasty plot twist? Very little. You want to walk the other way, because you don't know what's on the next page for your own life, and it's terrifying to contemplate. Bravely, you push on and offer platitudes. Later, you realize that absolutely nothing you said could possibly comfort the one whose life has been turned upside down. You're kicking yourself. But wait. It's not about YOU, it's about the other person.
I wish I had the answers, but I don't. Time heals. I know that. I also know that, given time, new stories--happier stories--can and will be written. It just. Takes. Time. Hansel & Grethel photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Autumn Joy

This is Autumn Joy, another sedum in my garden. Autumn Joy is a gardening cliche. Perhaps the most commonly planted sedum in Midwestern landscapes, she is often planted alongside Stella D'Oro daylilies and Knock Out roses. The Three Stooges--the Larry, Curly and Moe of horticulture! I balked at adding them to my garden because I wanted to be special. To stand out from the rest. To be unique.
It didn't take long before I caved. First came Autumn Joy, a gift from a friend who was dividing her perennials. I took it to be kind, I thought. But now look what I'm doing. Shamelessly promoting it in my blog. Autumn Joy became a gardening cliche because it WORKS. From the tender, succulent growth in spring and summer, to the fizzy pink umbels that drive bees to distraction in late summer, to the lovely brown caps in fall and winter, Autumn Joy delivers.
Later I added Knock Out roses to the mix. I know I'll be writing about Knock Out roses in a future post. They will revolutionize rose gardening with their imperviousness to disease and nonstop blooming. I can spot a Knock Out rose a mile away--it's just that singular.
I haven't succombed to the "charms" of Stella D'Oro daylily yet, but I have added two others: an unnamed double orange from my godmother's garden and Pardon Me, a gorgeous redhead who blooms for quite a long time in late summer. I put the word charms in quotes because I really dislike the cheesy yellow of Stella. I feel like apologizing because she makes up for it by blooming so prolifically. It's my own failing somehow, that I cannot love that particular shade of yellow. I'm sorry, Stella, but you're one cliche that won't be found in my Midwestern garden any time soon. Autumn Joy photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tatting: A Prayer Answered

As if in answer to my prayer for something creative to do, a friend sent me a new tatting pattern to try out before she publishes it. I was quite happy to oblige her, so as soon as I got home from work I pulled out my thread and Clover shuttle to begin work on what will be a bit of lace edging.
Tatting is an old-fashioned technique for the creation of lace. I remember watching my grandmother tat when I was quite young, and I was fascinated by the delicate lace she produced. To me it looked as though the lace came from out of thin air, and she was the magician, waving a magic shuttle around. Now I know it was a bobbin wound full of thread hidden in the shuttle and her magic waving was a kind of weaving, tying a myriad of tiny knots into intricate patterns.
I recall asking her to teach me and being told I was too young. Eventually, Grandma's eyesight grew dim and she quit tatting. I never had the chance to learn from her, and fifteen years ago she passed away, taking the lost art with her.
When our Library hired a young lady of 19 whose grandmother apparently had more patience than mine and who learned to tat at that grandmother's knee when she was little, I was thrilled. In addition to her Library-related tasks, the young lady was asked to begin teaching tatting classes at the Library on a regular basis. I took the first session she taught, and last year I tatted Christmas gifts for everyone. It's easy to learn, you can readily take your handiwork with you wherever you go, and with minimal material investment you can make beautiful bookmarks, doilies, edgings, etc. Let the creativity begin! Tatting photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Darkness Descends

Tonight I got off work at 7 PM, and it was nearly dark outside. That, to me, is the worst thing about winter: lack of light. Natural sunlight is magical. It elevates the mood and provides Vitamin D, necessary for the prevention of rickets. Who wants rickets? We need Vitamin D, and while milk is fortified with it and other foods contain it naturally, as little as 10 minutes of exposure to sunlight a day can provide a person with all the Vitamin D her or she requires.
For me, shorter days lead to SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. I crave carbs, experience feelings of sadness, and have difficulty focusing. Like a bear, I wish I could hibernate and wake up come spring.
Last year I kept the symptoms to a minimum by learning to tat. I went crazy tatting all kinds of things. It was therapy. Now that the garden is basically done, except for a few winter chores, I hope to pick up my tatting shuttle again. And paintbrush, too. Creativity is the cure for the blues when winter darkness descends. "Dusk" photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Frost is on the...Sedum

I woke to find we'd had a light freeze during the night. Most everything left in the garden remained unfazed, and I was struck by how amazing the Dragon's Blood sedum looked edged in rime (see above). I haven't noticed frost any morning prior to this. One year I remember a killing frost on the night of September 25. To my mind that was early, but October 19 is rather late. I was up late enough to know it was the wee hours of this morning when the world took on its lace of frost. It's sunny and clear again today. Champagne skies: crisp, intoxicating, beautiful. Dragon's Blood sedum photo by JulenaJo.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Garden Fanfare

"Fanfare" is the name of this blanket flower. Appropriate, don't you think? The tubular petals look like little golden trumpets, and they continue to feed butterflies and honeybees late in the season, so they are a welcome addition to the summer and autumn garden. The spiky center of the flower turns to a puffball of downy seed after the flowers are spent, and although they are not supposed to reproduce true from seed, the seedlings I've seen have been much like their parent.
I've spent the past few days planting bulbs of Dutch Master daffodil, Purple Sensation allium, and purple-blue muscari that I picked up at Kmart. Every year I want to plant bulbs, and this year I finally did so. I'm already looking forward to seeing them come spring. I don't really have a plan for my garden. I just want to see some color at the end of a long, dreary winter--and the sooner the better. I suppose there are earlier blooming spring flowers that I could order from a catalog, but who can decide what to order when everything is so beautifully described? I'll settle for what turns up at the discount stores. 'Fanfare' photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Creepy Coyote

Every evening just before bed I take our two dogs out for a final potty break. A little over a week ago I did so and heard a coyote barking in the cornfield between our house and our neighbor's house. It could not have been very far away--maybe 1/8 mile--maybe less. My dogs barked and were at alert, but were not frenzied. My heart pounded in fear, though. I quickly called Roxy, our small, black, yorkie-lhasa apso mix, to my side. She came all too slowly to suit me.
I haven't heard the coyote since, but I have noticed that our other dog, Boo (part white German shepherd), has been restless at night, barking at nothing (that I can see or hear), going from window to window, nosing the night air for all it whispers to her.
Last night I saw the coyote, though, and it was too close for comfort. I drove home after picking my daughter up from a soccer match and there he was, standing just at the end of our driveway, half-hidden by some tall grass. His gaze was intent upon our open garage door. Was he after our cat, who had probably just returned home after an evening of hunting mice in the recently harvested fields? Or had someone let Roxy out? I prayed not.
I backed the car and fixed the headlights on the clump of tall grass. The coyote had flattened himself into the clump, but my daughter called out, "I see his ears!" Suddenly, he made a break for it, loping down the road. I pursued, hoping to scare him off, and he ran, but not very far, before leaping off road and into a field of unharvested corn--the same field where I'd heard him barking before. His nonchalant pace left me no doubt that he wasn't serious about leaving the area any time soon.
Later that evening, when I took the dogs out, I kept Roxy on her leash. She played and dallied and I wanted her to hurry. It gives me the creeps being outside at night when I know there is probably a coyote hidden in the corn and staring at me, trying to decide if he should take my little Roxy for a midnight snack. Coyote photo by Christopher Bruno.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Extending Autumn

A trip to Tennessee in mid-October extends the loveliness of the autumn season for me. I snapped the photo of this gorgeous orange fritillary sipping on a butterfly bush at my sister's house near Nashville. Here in Ohio my butterfly bush has already dwindled to nothing, so I was delighted with the fragrance and the clouds of butterflies attracted to it down south. Although Ohio and Tennessee both have been experiencing warmer than usual October weather, the Tennessee gardens are still full of roses and bloom. My sister's garden even had a reblooming azalea. Although I wasn't attracted to the fiery, orangey red color of the flower, it's a wonderful breakthrough. For my part, I'm thinking of planting some reblooming irises. I've seen yellow irises blooming now in Ohio gardens. I'm not sure if other colors are available, but irises blooming in October are as welcome as they are in May. Great Spangled Fritillary photo by JulenaJo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

End-of-Season Musings

Every evening I try to take a brief walk in the garden before dinner. The days are still warm--70s and low 80s--but our nights cool quickly when the sun sets. Much of the garden is spent. I've been making mental notes about what still looks good. Nasturtiums look fantastic now, so I've decided to edge some of the flower bed with them next year--maybe around the roses and to cover the yellowing foliage of spring daffodils and tulips (assuming I get any of those planted this fall). Above is pictured Empress of India, a small nasturtium with a startling, deep, burnt-orange bloom that looks like velvet against the flat, cool, blue-green leaves. Everyone comments on her.
I've been taking note of other area gardens. Those who have dahlias and celosia have lots of color now. I will think about incorporating them in next year's flower bed. In my garden there remain a few snapdragons, alyssum, blanket flower, and roses. A few rose hips can be found, as I have not been deadheading the roses. I am leaving them for the birds. This signals to the rose bush to slow down and get ready for a winter nap.
I'm ready for a nap, too. The stress of last week has left me tired. As the good weather is expected to continue for the next several days, I can put off end-of-season garden chores until I'm feeling more up to it. Nasturtium photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goodbye Justin

There are times in everyone's life when we walk by faith. All gardeners, whether they are religious or not, do so. They kiss goodbye to this year's garden, and before it's even gone, they are planning for next spring. They KNOW it will come, eventually, and they know the garden, put to bed in winter, will rise again in spring.
I have my little notebook, haphazardly kept, it's true, but there are jottings of things to try next year, as well as notations of what looked especially good this year. I'll dream with it all winter, and next spring something beautiful will rise from the soil.
As I begin saying goodbye to this year's garden, I find myself in the painful situation of also having to say goodbye to a friend, Justin, who died this past weekend. He belonged to our card club, hence the photo above, but we saw him at sports events and around town, too. He was an active member of our community. Only 30 years old, with a beautiful family of three young children and a loving wife, he found life unbearable and ended it. He leaves us with so many questions and pain. In my faith, however, I do believe he will rise again, into an Eternal Spring. Justin, you walked this earthly garden with us. Goodbye, our friend! We will meet with you again one day in Heaven's garden paradise. As a gardener, I KNOW it. "Blues" photo by JulenaJo.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bye, bye 'Flutterbye.'

Bye, bye 'Flutterbye.' (Pictured above.) And goodbye to everyone else in the garden, too. Temperatures remain warm during the day, but cool dramatically at night. The shorter days are signaling summer's end to the growing things in the yard and garden. Wyatt, my daughter's quarter horse, is starting to look a little rough and fuzzy, too. Winter is coming soon, even if it doesn't feel like it most days. I'm trying to mentally ready myself for it. "Flutterbye" photo by JulenaJo.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Autumn Sunday

The farmers around us are scalping their fields of soybeans and corn. The hazy dust kicked up by farm machinery lightly coats all of Ohio. We haven't had rain here in Auglaize County for weeks. I've not yet planted the three roses I bought because the ground is too hard to break. They will be ok in their pots until rains come to soften the soil, I think.
Distinct signs of autumn: cobwebs clinging to shrubbery, all strung with dewdrops in the morning; thick fog rolling over the country roads late every night; pumpkins and gourds and apples. Above, a little watercolor I did of deer eating fallen apples--definitely a sign of fall!
Speaking of gourds, my husband, mother-in-law and I went to the annual gourd festival at the Darke County Fairgrounds in Greenville, OH. Last year my husband garnered a fistful of ribbons for his entries there, but this year the lack of rain meant a poor crop. He should have entered anyway as there were precious few entries. Everyone suffered a similar fate with their gourd patch, apparently. As if the lack of rain wasn't bad enough in itself, insects, desperate for moisture, begin to attack any growing thing. Even the hard shells of gourds take a gnawing, leaving them scarred and unusable for crafting.
Even so, we bought fresh seed for next year. Always in the autumn, seeds of hope for next year's garden are sown and begin to grow--a hope that keeps one going through the cold months of winter. Original watercolor by JulenaJo.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Roses

Last weekend I found myself in a flea market in Hocking County, Ohio, where I found container grown roses marked down to $10 each. At such I price I had to investigate. To my delight, the selection included some David Austins. Although none of them were my longed-for names, Belle Story or The Herbalist, for example--both roses I had in my garden 7 years ago and did not transplant when we tore down our old house to build a new one (I lament them still)--there was The Cottage Rose, which I purchased. It's pictured above. The plant is tall and the blooms are clear, strong pink, and deliciously fragrant with a perfume of rose and lilac. I also bought Rosa de Rescht for her heady damask fragrance and Burgundy Iceberg for her unbelievable color. I could have bought more quite easily but we had only our 2-door Ford Focus and had to return home to northwest Ohio, a three-hour drive, with 3 adults and two dogs in tow. We were packed tight as sardines in the car, but we made it.
Now I am trying to decide whether to plant the roses now or leave them in their containers until spring. Decisions, decisions. "The Cottage Rose" photo by JulenaJo.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Daunting Proposition

Creating a first blog is a daunting proposition. On one hand, I love the idea of sharing my thoughts with the world. On the other, I hate the idea of sharing my thoughts with the world. Ha!
I'm not sure I even have an objective for this blog, however, I feel compelled to start writing and sharing, and so here goes.
In no particular order, the following topics appeal to me:
Gardening, especially roses. That's Europeana above, a rose with zero scent but whenever I spotted her in a garden anywhere I was drawn to her healthy good looks: bronzy foliage and dazzling lipstick red blooms. I have three Europeana in my garden, but they're being overgrown by Blanc Double de Coubert, so I will be transplanting them next spring, I imagine.
Food and cooking, especially easy, healthy, and delicious meals for my family.
Horses--we just adopted a lovely quarter horse for my 15-year-old daughter, and we know NOTHING about horses! EEK!
Painting, especially watercolors.
Tatting--I learned to tat and love it.
Religion, especially Roman Catholicism (although I tend to be pretty lax these days).
That's a start. My interests are eclectic and I imagine my postings will be, too. Enjoy!