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Showing posts with label choices. Show all posts
Showing posts with label choices. Show all posts

Saturday, August 8, 2015


 Joe added something important to our garden this week - a tree swing for Nora!  She has not yet been here to try it when it was cool enough to be out there.  106 - 108 degrees this week is forecast!  But it is almost mid August and we are looking forward to swinging and singing before long. We have a front porch swing that all of our granddaughters enjoy.  Recently, Maddie took her root beer float out to sit in that swing.
I remember the swing on my front porch when I was Maddie's age, and also the swings our little boys loved when they were growing up. There is magic in pumping your legs to swing higher and feeling the air rush past. There is such sweetness in remembering the calls to "Swing me higher, Daddy!" and "Please push me." I know our age is one of cell phones and tablets with online games and countless diversions that can be held in their hands, but I so want to offer our sweet girls the choices of spending time outdoors, finding beauty in nature, letting imaginations fill their stories with wonder. I want to encourage them to watch for the caterpillar and chrysalis and butterfly, and which plants are good for that. I hope they will make necklaces from 4 o'clock blooms, crowns from sticky weed, and make mud pies. I want them to love rubbing herbs in their fingers and knowing its name by the way it smells. I long for them to collect rocks and seeds, to feel the wonder of cool wet dew on bare feet,  and listen for cicadas in the trees in summertime. I want to enjoy eating watermelon and popsicles on the back porch with them, watching for bird nests, listening to birdsong, planting Morning Glories and Moonflowers, using a watering can to give the flowers a "shower."  And swinging.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Three of our granddaughters worked on learning to sew in the past 2 weeks.  Our niece came with her granddaughter to help them, so we had sewing camp!  Maddie and Skye have their own sewing machines, and Jordann practiced her handwork.  I am proud of them for working on a skill that will serve them well.  I think of the many hours I have spent at my own Singer, starting when I was near their age. Mother bought a new sewing machine that came with free lessons which she didn't need since she had been sewing for years.  I was only 8, but she had me take the sewing lessons.  I made a dress and jacket and modeled it in the "fashion" show with other students. As years went by, I sewed many of my own clothes, including my wedding dress and some clothing for Joe and the boys when they were very young. I sewed crib quilts and dresses for our granddaughters.  I would not have done this without the encouragement and example of my mother, great-grandmother to these girls.  I think she is proud, too!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memorial Day

Maddie created our chalkboard sign for Memorial Day. Her enthusiasm and willingness to help make me happy. At the same time, I feel another tug at my heart as I see her sweet smile and feel her eagerness to welcome those arriving to join us as we grill hot dogs and savor our family. Her eyes speak joy for gathering with all of us and enjoying her cousins. Yet I know this day of remembering those who have lost their lives in service to our country is filled with sombre reflections, too.

 I am grateful.  For men and women who gave their lives for our country, for the freedoms that my family and I have which are denied to many. We say thank you in many ways - one of them is by spending the time and freedom provided us in ways that honor the privilege. Maddie got it right, it is a happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Scattered Memories

I heard a loud crash early one morning last week and rushed to check on Joe, who was getting dressed.  Then I walked through the kitchen and front part of the house looking for damage.  One cat was sitting calmly on the back of a chair but the other cat hid for the rest of the morning.  I didn't have to guess which one had knocked a bowl of homemade pot potpourri onto our ceramic tile floor. Skye came to spend the day with me and as she helped me take this picture and sweep up the broken pottery and remains of dried herbs and flowers , we talked about the damage and how breaking something can make us sad.  She wanted to keep the broken pieces of the bowl and some of the dried rosebuds to put with her fairy garden supplies.  Then we swept the rest into the trash.

It was only after I looked at the photo that I thought more about why this dish of dried petals was special.
Every thing in the bowl was from our garden and had been added one at a time.  The tiny Katrina rose buds and petals from a fragrant Maggie rose and the yellow rose which clambers over an arch,  tawny, leathery Magnolias, lavender fronds, pieces of basil and rosemary, even a dried slice of Meyer lemon.  All were gathered and collected in a small hand thrown bowl fired in a speckled jade green glaze that I bought when we lived in Indonesia over 20 years ago. Some of the rose buds had been picked by little girls and proudly presented as a gift. Joe likes to bring me a flower or piece of herb when he comes in from the garden. It was a joint endeavor.

So I was sad, not for the things broken and scattered, but for that which they represented: the growing and choosing and gathering, the connection and love of my family. And once again, I know that I can let go of things, but that I keep the love.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nana's Recipe for Chewy Crisps

No, I didn't mix up the posts for my blogs.  Although this might seem to have been intended for  Kitchen Keepers, my cooking and recipe blog, it is posted here intentionally.  Today, just like most other people, I print out recipes from websites, or save them to my documents file for use at a later date.  I do still prop up a cookbook (I have many more than I have shelves to store them) or lay a printed recipe nearby when I am cooking.  I like being able to use my mini Ipad to bring up a recipe I know I have already posted.  That is very convenient, and portable!  But my most cherished recipe collection is handwritten, like the one above.  Chewy Crisps were peanut butter treats my mother, Opal Terrell Teal, made in our kitchen on Sunset Street in Jacksonville, Texas when I was growing up. I could enter it in my computer and print it out (and may very well do that for other reasons) but I thrill at being able to hold it in my hand, trace Mother's lovely, even, measured handwriting, and cook from her "book."  This recipe has a checkered ribbon threaded at the top since I use it, along with a few others, every year on a small kitchen Christmas tree where it hangs along with Mother's cookie cutters, the first ones I ever used.  I cherish other recipes written down by my Grandmother, or my mother's best friend Gertrude, our neighbor Mrs. Adams, even one from Mrs. Fay Martin who was mother's friend when they lived in New Orleans over 70 years ago. Recipes on the back of my 4th grade spelling test, an  envelop, a paper napkin.   I have some in my own handwriting, a collection of family recipes made as a third grade art project, complete with a fabric cover edged in blanket stitiches.

Next time you are asked for a recipe, why not write it down with your own pen?  Someday, there may be someone else who collects more than cookbooks and cooks with a heart beyond the cooking channels on TV!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Biscuits, Butter, and Beyond

No, I didn't confuse which blog I was writing for!  I guess I could have titled this Kitchen Tools or Grandma Terrell's Keepsakes.  It was just that I started thinking about the top one when I used it the other day.  Its companion is missing a handle and wears the stains of its years, but it has a place of honor on the granite strip at my kitchen window behind the sink that holds reminders of my faith and family. 

One of the popular apps on FaceBook these days is the posting of an antique object or vintage find and asking you to check like if you remember something or if you ever used it.  So think about it!  Did (or do) you ever use either one of these objects?  Do you remember what they are?  Both were handed down to me by my mother who received them from her mother.  The rectangular wooden box is a butter mold.  Of course, the cow had to be milked and the milk had to be churned to make the butter before it was placed in the mold to harden in a cool place. 

The top round is not so different from today's cookie cutters except I don't have any with wooden handles.  This one doubled as a donut cutter due to its center, which can be twisted to remove.  I remember Grandma making biscuits - folding the soft dough and rolling it out to a sheet on which this biscuit cutter was used to deftly punch out dozens of creamy soft rounds which rose to golden,  flaky rounds in her wood stove.  Mother used it as well, eventually beginning to use the "new" biscuit mix, Bisquick,  to make her dough.  I now use it not only for biscuits (my favorite, angel biscuits have yeast as an igredient) and cookies, but tea sandwiches  and other goodies.  Recently, 6 year old Maddie and her Daddy helped me use it to cut circles from corn tortillas, which we placed in the iron skillet with an egg in the middle - a variation of the "toad in a hole" that my boys liked when they were little.  We saved the tortilla rounds to make mini tacos!

I don't churn and have never really used the butter mold.  But it reminds me daily of family heritage, hard work, and how my life is shaped and molded with love and intention.

Hit like if you know what this is.

Friday, June 29, 2012


When was the last time you got a letter? To be honest, I can't remember - and that makes me sad.  I sort the mailbox harvest, in order of preference:  hand addressed envelopes, bills and other items with first class postage, then the junk mail which goes promptly into the recycle container in my kitchen.  I love getting holiday cards, announcements and invitations, and thoughtfully penned notes saying thank you or be well.  But it has been a very long time since a long newsy letter arrived except those of annual Christmas Letter variety.  I miss getting letters. I miss writing them.

I exchange email correspondence and Facebook messages.  I always have my cell phone with me.  I stay connected with my family in those ways although I have stopped short of texting and tweeting.  I savor engagement in these ways but I can't help but remember the difference in sitting down to write a letter and getting to settled to enjoy reading one.  Our electronic communications are immediate, instant gratification but briefer, to the point, with less feeling apparent.  Somehow posting a smiley face says so much less than a few sentences about feeling happy.

I have used the same expression most do in referring to mailbox content as "snail mail" - of course it is slower!  Just like many others, I now do my banking and much of my shopping online.  I love the internet tools available for researching, writing, and communication.  I am not suggesting we go back, only that we consider what may be lost in the progress and that we become more intentional in retrieving engagement and intimacy in our communications.  Maybe that is one of the reasons I choose to post weekly on my three blogs.

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.   ~ Phyllis Theroux

P. S.  The photograph above is a letter I wrote to my parents in 1963 while I was planning my wedding (December 28, 1963).  I found it recently when I was going through one of the many boxes belonging to her I have sorted and filed since her death in 2006.  I wonder if there will be any letters for my granddaughters to read in 50 years.  Somehow, printed emails don't seem to be keepers. Who knows?  They may keep digital scrapbooks which have a file for their children's letters.  I just hope the messages of the heart will be in them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Being Thankful for Chores

A maid service which advertises with bulk mail in our town reprimands "Life is too short to clean your own house."  The number of meals which families eat out, prepared and cleaned up by someone else,  is an astronomical part of family budgets.  I even saw a newsclip last week touting the introduction of a Swedish invention which is a bed that makes itself!  It seems that we spend an inordinate amount of energy and resources to get someone else to do our homework!Now approaching 72, and learning to accept more help these days, I appreciate occasional assistance with cleaning and gardening. But I prefer doing most of it myself.
I grew up having chores - housekeeping and kitchen chores I was allowed to be responsible for. At times I helped when Daddy fed the cows or drug a trailer behind a tractor to pick watermelons.  I don’t remember this as a negative, just something that was done because I was told to, most of the time feeling good about it. I may have not always begged to dust or take care of my little sister, but I loved helping in the kitchen. Cleaning up afterward was just part of the process. The summer  I was twelve, I helped behind the counter of the small cafe my parents owned. I had part time jobs as a teenager. That was work, not a chore, right?  When I graduated high school at seventeen, entered college, and became solely responsible for getting myself up and off to 7 a.m. classes and to my on campus job, I was given a book with a quotation by Charles Kingsley which still comes to mind when I hear anyone bemoaning “having” to do something.

 “Thank God–every morning when you get up–that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you a hundred virtues which the idle never know.”

I wouldn’t have labeled it so at the time, but I was learning the value of discipline. I also learned that something I accomplish has a great deal of meaning that involves something I am. Beginning all those years ago, I began to understand how I could find deeper meaning in my daily tasks required to care for my home and family.   I found great creative energy in gardening, planning and cooking meals, finding ways to make our home beautiful with art and music, encouraging our boys with good books, and offering hospitality to our friends and family. But the weeding, cleaning, mopping, potscrubbing, endless laundry (3 boys certainly makes for lots of washing and ironing) and keeping up with all the practices and games they were involved in could have easily overwhelmed me except for my belief that what I was doing was more than a job that would likely be necessary to repeat soon.

 I could pray for the man who would wear the shirt I was ironing. I could be intent on loving the little boy from whose jean pocket I had just fished out a frog. I could focus on blessing the messes as well as taking pride in the delicious meals. For many years, I have kept a small framed poem. It has peeped from beneath the stacks of paperwork on my desk, perched by the detergent in the utility room, and for a long time now has rested on the side of my kitchen sink.

Teach me, my God and King
In all things Thee to see
And what I do in anything,
To  do it as for Thee.
   ~ George Herbert

 Kathleen Norris, in her little book, The Quotidian Mysteries, discusses this process of the deeper meaning in our chores.

“…all serve to ground us in the world, and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings. But they have a considerable spiritual import, and their significance for Christian theology, the way they come together in the fabric of faith, is not often appreciated.”

We may do well to consider any differences with which we approach work (in the sense of a job for which we are paid) and chores, the necessary tasks which order our daily lives and the life of our family. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Books and Lobster Shells!

“Books... are like lobster shells, we surround ourselves with 'em, then we grow out of 'em and leave 'em behind, as evidence of our earlier stages of development.”
Dorothy L. Sayers
With a nod to Sayers' wit, I confess I have the surrounding myself with books thing down.  That has never been a problem.  I do seem to trip over growing out of them and definitely have a problem with leaving them behind!  In an effort to balance this, plus reducing the load on library shelves and most other flat surfaces in the house,  I have been sorting books to leave behind.  I have donated books to the local library,  put out books for Purple Heart pickup, and am practicing giving books away rather than loaning them – in particular, cookbooks!  I confess this has barely made a dent in the book population here.
The problem for me is, a book doesn't just become a temporary acquisition or a brief part of me.  Not that the occasional book doesn't merit tossing after a single read – but there are those volumes I read that intrigue or entertain or illumine, that somehow stay with me as a changed piece of my heart.  Even the little yellowed children's books that I show my grandchildren saying, “this storybook was mine when I was a little girl,”  are me, like my brown eyes and freckles.  Many books in my library become part of me in different ways when I reread them in later years. I know I need to shed alot more shells, er..books.

Yes, I will still work on leaving behind the outgrown lobster shells.  But I will keep and treasure the books that have grown with me which I do not outgrow.  When I no longer need them, perhaps my granddaughters will pick them up and say “this book was Granmary's”.   In the meantime, I think this is a good afternoon to finish Frances Mayes' Every Day in Tuscany - a trip to Italy this afternoon- and still be back to make dinner!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Completely Present

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. -Eleanor Roosevelt.

I found these words while reading a blog I enjoy  -

I want to echo "in family life, be completely present."  In today's busy schedules, the actual waking hours families spend with each other can be reduced to few.  By the time work, school, sports, music and/or dance classes get their share of a calendar day, there may not be much left.  Meals grabbed to be eaten in the car on the way to another activity and family members each on their own cell phone or electronic device are common sights.

  Is it possible to make choices that claim actually being present in family life?   I think so.

 Preparing food together and then sitting down around a table at home is an important, and certainly a great boost for the budget.  If we turn off the television, give the same attention to each other that we seem to give to phone calls and texts, I believe family time can not only be something to look forward to, but a time we can learn to enjoy being together, completely present.

When our children and grandchildren gather here, we make an effort to have sit-down meals together.  Many times, this is around the old oak dining table which belonged to my grandmother.  I believe her smile joins ours as we have our table blessing and pass the potatoes, present to each other.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Choose You!

I have so many reasons for loving Christmastide!  Faith and family are intertwined during these days in powerful ways.  As we gather at Christmas and live the days (all twelve!) to Epiphany, today, January 6 - we make choices, year after year.  Clyde Reid's book You Can Choose Christmas is one of a number of books I enjoy reading each year; it lies on a table beside my chair right now. It is true, we can choose Christmas...that choice lies within us. We also make choices in relationships, the most important ones in our marriage and family.  When Joe and I were married on December 28, 1963, the vows we made to each other used some important phrases beginning -" I will" and " I take"  and " I do" that are really saying "I choose.  I choose you."  Since our anniversary always falls in the middle of the week between Christmas and New Year's,  it is always a special time for remembering that choice.  So, last week marked 48 years of saying "I choose you!"

Christmas 1963

I remember a blur of travel, anticipation, last minute preparation.

The memories rush by like scenery from a train window.

family and friends gathering, arms open

happy voices




the color cranberry

boughs of green


gifts in fat boxes with shiny paper

white ribbons

a muff where I hid my hands

a dress I sewed with lace and tiny buttons

Mother's sweet smile

Daddy's shaking hands

chocolate covered cherries under the Christmas tree,

his gift to me each year.

In 1963, he gave me

To a man who said he would love and honor me.

My love gave me my new initials.

1963, the year of my Christmas wedding.