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:
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:
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.