Thursday, August 30, 2007

Weather and Invisible Poverty

Yesterday we had the first spare day of the year. The temperature reached 92, or 94 or 96 depending on which weather forecaster was correct. In the heat of the afternoon my house felt like it was fighting a loosing battle against a heat monster threatening to beat it down. Five minute intervals crept by as though they were hours and every time I checked the clock it seemed the day would never end. At the same time California ISO was posting flex alerts because the demand for power was so great.

Since I did not feel comfortable turning my computer on--and probably would have stuck to the keyboard if I'd tried to type--I turned on the television instead. Commemorations of Hurricane Katrina abounded. News reports that we are now spending approximately two billion dollars a day on the war in Iraq were interspersed with reports on the huge tasks still to be accomplished to bring the Gulf states hit by Hurricane Katrina back into the fold of the national economy.

At the time the levees broke in New Orleans after the hurricane two years ago, I was struck by the images of the elderly and disabled stuck in the Astrodome and waiting for help that could not come quickly enough because of the water. One image in particular still stands out. A person in a wheelchair had died and someone had draped a blanket over the body and the chair. That person would have been me in a similar disaster. Two years later there are homes that have not been rebuilt, insurance claims that have not been honored and peoples lives that are still broken. Much healing is needed.

What concerns me the most though, is the burden that is carried by the invisible poor in this country. No one marches on our behalf. No one protests when government benefits are cut and services not provided. The invisible remain invisible and the poor remain poor.

Many of these problems could be solved with small changes. Increases in food stamps. Subsidies for computers, training in how to use them and networking to find work online could lift the homebound, or nearly homebound, invisible poor, if not into the middle class, at least into a more endurable level of poverty. Community service volunteer programs could help a great deal.

An increase in the amount that social security disability recipients are "allowed" to earn would make substantive differences in the lives and independence of so many disabled people. There would probably be a concomitant decline in health care expenses, too for people who have something to do in the day, get up to do it and people who can take care of their own selves do not have to wait for someone to come and do something for them. In many instances, poverty is far more disabling than the physical disabilities that people cope with every day.

In the year before the national election year, I would so very much like to see the needs of the invisible poor addressed as well as the needs of those who are seen in all of the media pieces. Lets make life more livable for all of the people in this great, but flawed, nation of ours.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Random Thoughts

It was hot today and the house is cooling slowly so I don't have much energy or inspiration. Even the sunflowers seem to be feeling the heat as they are flopping over even before they go to seed.

In spite of the heat, I finished knitting a scarf last night, one in a series of three. Each is a different color of Lion Homespun and a slightly different stitch pattern. I plan to write up a pattern for them to make available, either here or on Etsy and put them up for sale. They have been a pleasure to knit. The yarn was a rummage sale find by my dear friend L and I am also knitting some other sparkly yarn that she found for me. The sparkly yarn knits up long and narrow into a variation of what the maker, Crystal Palace Yarns, calls "jewelry scarves". I like the concept.

Much work lies ahead for me to get my Cafepress shop, which I have been neglecting, ready for the coming Holidays. It seems sad in some ways that summer is ending, but Fall is my truly favorite time of the year. I need to return to two writing projects as well, one a memoir, begun just as summer was beginning and the other a long, discursive historical novel that I began too many years ago. Perhaps this will be the year...

The studio is taking shape and I am very happy with it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another thing to do with Yogurt Cheese

Today I needed to make lunch quickly because I was behind schedule, hungry and expecting my friend T, who visits me on Monday afternoons.

The refrigerator contained whole wheat tortillas, yogurt cheese, applesauce (homemade by L and sugar-free) as well as baby greens labeled "spring mix" from Trader Joe's. These combined into one of the most delicious, simple things I have ever made and eaten. A high recommend.

Monday is Shelf Day

Two out of three of the shelves are up! Hooray!, hooray! This is so encouraging. The studio will really evolve and I will be able to play in there. My dear friend L accomplished this feat and brought coffee as well.

The largest sunflower head has disappeared. I notice its absence as I peer out my office windows. Has it fallen off or has it had help? I will have to take a closer look at the back yard. I had been wondering if it was time to ask someone to cut it for me so that I could save the seeds to feed the hungry critters in colder weather. Looks like somebody may have helped her/himself knowing that I am an old pushover and will buy more!

Today I switched wheelchairs. I have two. The seats sag over time because I spend so much time in them and because I am, unfortunately, rather larger than I would like to be. Gotta work on that. Fortunately, a neighbor of mine knows how to do the repairs and I have found a place on line to buy the parts from. More slow but steady progress.

Wheelchairs should be covered by Medicare, but it is interesting how much run around one can get to actually get this done. I have paid "rent" on a chair from my own pocket and paid substantially more for a used chair than I should ever have paid. Again, I have simply bought one out of pocket to avoid the above racket. I am not sure how Medicare actually does things--I don't have the patient to wade through the regulations or to wait for hours on the phone to find out that I can't get an answer to my question.

I would like to see health care reform as much as anyone in this country. More, perhaps than many others, who have no problems with their health care. I would like to see health care cost the same for everyone, have simple claim forms and be subsidized by the government for those who truly can't pay the full amount. I do feel strongly that we should all value health care enough to pay something for it. That is the beginning of what I would like to see. I will blog more in later posts, I am sure.

Today is the Feast of St. Augustine. Doctor of the Church and necessary author for Western Civilization classes--and so much more. I should probably re-read Augustine at about this point in my life and see if I have the same reactions that I had forty years ago.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunflowers and Squirrels

The sunflowers continue to shine. Several have formed their petals snugly around the heads, which are heavy with seed. Now the squirrels are coming to investigate. It is so funny to watch them clamber around the flowers. One found a full, small pod and happily picked it apart, extracting the seeds in their shells, and then extracting the seeds from the shells. This provided my morning's entertainment. Of course, he/she did not clean up the resulting mess!

My dear friend L brought delicious nigella seed bread and applesauce that she made after a day of harvesting and pressing apples on a small family farm. We ate yogurt cheese and eggplant sauce and carrot sauce (which would spark up cottage cheese quite a bit, too)and she described the process of pressing the apple juice. I hope that she blogs about this, so that I can link to her blog.

Several ladies have come to my Mary Kay party and it is always fun to meet new people, to show my products and to see which things people choose for themselves. We have an extensive and beautiful product line of skin care products for men and women as well as truly lovely makeup.

Soon I hope to be able to take customers into my studio and use my Mama's beautiful antique vanity to demonstrate products. I think that this will be so much more fun than hauling everything to the dining room table.

It is a beautiful day and I am rejoicing that it is Sunday. The first reading for today Is 66:18-21. The responsorial psalm is Ps 117: 1, 2 and it contains the beautiful line, "For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever." This is a line worth meditating on all day. It is one that I will have to try to remember especially when I am in a cranky mood and wondering where God is in my life. Sometimes I feel that God has gone far away. The second reading is from Heb 12: 5-7, 11-13 and the Gospel is Lk 13:22-30.

Today is also the feast of St. Monica. I need St. Monica for her example for perseverance. For more about her see the blog Monastic Musings, which has a beautiful commentary on her.
  • Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Saturday and Sunflowers

    I am getting ready to have an open house tomorrow for my Mary Kay business. The dining room is clearer, the dishes are washed and the bears and dolls who used to live in the living room are now in the studio. More paper clutter has been thrown out and boxes have been removed. I pull the boxes while going backward part of the way until I get to the part of the house that is wide enough to turn the wheelchair around in and then I push with my feet. This whole process reminds me that I am old and out of shape. I am getting it done though, one push/pull, pull/push at a time.

    I can see the sofa for the first time in over a year. There are too many books in this house and one of my jobs this week is going to be to figure out how to post some of them on Amazon. I have too many projects, too many ideas and even, for somebody my age, too many dreams.

    Somehow this has been a depressing and tiring day instead of an energizing one. Each time that I have paused and looked out the back windows the sunflowers have glowed golden and cheered me on. Just a few moments ago the top most one was translucent with the setting sun back lighting and shining through her petals. They are like elephants, so big that they are endearing. When it was windy a little while ago, they seemed to be dancing.

    I must return to my setting up and then post more tomorrow.

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    Happy Friday!

    I can now see my living room again! Hip, Hip, Hooray! More to go, more to go. Parts of the house still look like disorganization reigns, but progress is being made. I am so glad. Decluttering takes more time and energy than accumulating the clutter did in the first place.

    Soon I will be working in my new studio! I am determined to organize using containers that I already have on hand. New containers are simply expensive and can become clutter eventually in their own right. Better to reuse and recycle at home with baskets, certain boxes, plastic containers that I have set aside for this purpose.

    The sunflowers are heavy and rounded with seeds. They definitely have a life cycle that mirrors ours. The weather is cooler today, so they look less bedraggled. I feel less bedraggled! Each day now the sun is rising a little later and setting a little earlier. My father used to track this progress in the newspaper on the page with the weather information. Now I follow the shortening days on the net, on the weather site. Unlike the newspaper, the computer pages don't have to be hauled outside to be recycled! In some ways though, I miss the newspaper and I miss having someone to share it with.

    Only a few more days of August and then it really will be fall. The countdown to Christmas can begin anew. Let's make sure that Advent doesn't get lost in the shuffle this year!

    Thursday, August 23, 2007


    The sun has been setting behind the row of sunflowers as I have been at the computer. First the email that has built up while I have been doing other things away from the computer had my attention. Then loading my cafepress feed into Google Base took a few minutes and now I am finally attending to my blog post.

    The sunflowers are almost as big as dinner plates and absolutely lovely. Now there are half a dozen where earlier there had only been one at a time. They are rushing to flower and go to seed before the weather turns cold, thus fulfilling their destiny. I have seen this in plants before. A kind of quiet humility that humans do not have.

    These majestic plants are almost too big to be humble, but as the seed heads form the plant shrinks. The seed heads bend over and the whole plant reminds me of an old, old woman with osteoporosis. There is humility and waiting in it as time goes by. Waiting for fall, and waiting for the seeds to fall to the ground.

    Today I have been looking at my own life, sorting, sorting and throwing out more paper. The boxes are becoming smaller and the stacks will shrink too. My friend L, (she of the sunflowers and apple galette) took away a pile of things to be donated and now my garage sighs with a bit of relief to echo that of the house.

    Soon I will go and spend a few minutes in the big room just to admire how pretty it is and then go to bed and finish reading Water for Elephants. It is quite dark in just the short time that it has taken to write this. Fall is definitely coming soon.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Summer mornings

    Today we are having a bit of a heat wave and the routine is different. Wheeling around my house to close the windows that I wheeled around opening last night, I breathe in the cool morning air and give thanks for the bits of clouds still hanging on from the night sky. There is over an hour less of daylight than there was a month ago, still the heat hung on in the house last night. I often wish I could bottle it and keep it for winter!

    Then in the winter, I wonder if it will ever be warm again, knowing that it will and wishing I could bottle the cold air for the summer hot days.

    Today is a catching up day and at puttering pace. I need to "destage" the living room from the place where all the overflow went during the painting and put it back into its role as living room again. Sometimes puttering pace is steadier and I get more done that way than if I tried to push a faster pace. After all the next birthday says 60 on it, so nothing gets done as quickly as it once did.

    My Mary Kay products have been flying off the shelves this week and for that I am very, very grateful. Five things to be grateful for today

    1. The presence of M in my life and her help to me over the last four years. She begins college today.
    2. My sister, P, who is always there even though she lives 2500 miles away.
    3. My friend L, who helps me out and whom I can laugh with and enjoy life with.
    4. A surprise visit from my goddaughter, E and her boyfriend yesterday which was a delight.
    5. The hope of having a productive day even though it is hot.

    Ok, not a bad way to start the day.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Tuesday's Child

    M is on her way to college today, halfway to her destination by now. I will miss her, I know. Air travel has been with us for so long that we take it for granted, standing in line and boarding our flights as easily as earlier generations took the train. My parents remembered the invention of air travel.

    Tuesday's Child according to an old rhyme, is "full of grace". That refers to the person born on a Tuesday. I wish some of that grace to M as she travels to college today. No longer a girl and for the most part a young woman, she is still technically a teenager.

    We require far more maturity from our young people today. It is assumed that they, or at least most of them, will go away from home for college. My mother lived "on campus" when she attended nursing school in the 1920's. She was in walking distance of going home for Sunday dinner with her family. My father attended college in his home town, living at home the whole time. Military service took him away from home during World War II. I lived at home until graduate school called me to leave and go relatively far away.

    Today the cell phone keeps everyone connected through calls and text messaging. Email fills up our time--answering it and sending it. We are "connected" even though far away.

    What will M and her generation be looking at as new and taken for granted technologies when they send their children off to college in about thirty years? When they look back, as I am at sixty?

    This is an exciting time for M and some of her excitement has rubbed off on me and blessed me with shared enthusiasm. She is a blessing and gift in my life. I wish her joy in learning, Godspeed and Good Luck in all the new things that soon will be comfortable, no longer new aspects of her college life.

    Just as the four years of her time in high school flew by the next four years will fly too. May they fly straight and fly true and her wings be strong, as I know her heart is.

    Have fun, be safe, I miss you, dear M.

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    Monday morning again

    Time to face a new week again. The last one went by so fast, I wish that I could pull the reins on this one and slow it down a bit. Five full days to write five blog posts, work on my other writing projects, continue decluttering in my house, fulfill Mary Kay orders and see what else I can do.

    Tomorrow is marked by one friend's departure for college and another's return from vacation. Wednesday has two appointments and Thursday is full as well. One of these days I will sew for the first time at my new sewing station in my newly arranged studio.

    I am grateful that I have no commute and that I can take breaks when I need to. There are pitfalls to working at home. The dishes call; the laundry would like to be done; the birds and squirrels invite me to watch them play in my yard. There are always more domestic projects that could claim my attention and at this time of the year it is also nice to be outdoors. With the days becoming shorter there is the reality that being outdoors will be curtailed in a few months time when rain (we hope) and cold supersede sunshine and perfect dryness.

    I will make more yogurt cheese today and sort my yarn stash which has become a jumble over too many boxes and plastic tubs. Before it can take its place in the studio it needs to be organized and labeled.

    Labeling is so important to the process of organizing. I will try to put the boxes labels in my inventory notebook, too--if I remember, if I can find the inventory notebook.

    I am using one of my Fred is Peace journals as my household inventory notebook. It is a nice size and has a good feel in my hand. Cafepress has chosen a quality product here, as they have throughout their product line. I recommend it. (Beginning and end of shameless plug for the day!)

    Have a great Monday. Before we know it Friday will be here again!

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    Sunday morning, bright, clear a little chilly and sunny. The sun flowers march along clearing the top of the fence by over a foot. I wonder what it would look like to have a field of them? They are such a vivid color that they seem to make the sun even brighter, as though they are concentrating it.

    I miss being able to get out and about to attend Mass and socialize with friends after.

    The first reading today is from Jeremiah and tells of how the prophet was lowered into a cistern and then rescued. The responorial psalm is Psalm 40:2,3,4,18. The second reading, Hebrews 12:1-4 has the phrase "a cloud of witnesses" and the Gospel, Luke 12:49-53 has Jesus telling us that he has come to divide not to unite and not to establish peace. This is one of those passages that I have never really understood, since there are certainly other images that evoke the Lord as Peacemaker.

    One thing I did see in the image though, was that it seemed appropriate for the current election process that we are going through. So many candidates on both sides! So many issues that truly need our attention and that equally need resolution. Are we the cloud of witnesses or the house divided? Will we unite in time to actually make a difference? We shall see. Not such peaceful thoughts for a so beautiful Sunday morning.

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    My Peace Design

    My Peace design, available at both and, is comprised of the word Peace in 37 languages. I thought it would be fun today, to feature several of the languages.

    Fred, the name of my late father and several of his ancestors, going back to a great great-grand uncle who served on the Union side in the Civil War, means peace in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. We had wondered why Papa's father and grandfather had been named Fred. Family history research yielded the information about my great great great, grand uncle and I am sure that is where the naming tradition comes from.

    Der friede, honors my mother's Grandpa, who came from a tiny, tiny town on the Moselle river. I found the information by ordering his death certificate and was thrilled to find and make contact with living relatives. His wife, my great0grandmother, immigrated with her family when she was only six years old from the German speaking part of Switzerland.

    Paix, the Alsatian word for peace, honors my mother's people who came from that region. They were farmers who settled in Ohio and Indiana. How different there lives were from mine! Still, I imagine that my love growing things comes from them.

    Fois is the French word for peace. Papa's ancestors were French on his father's side, French Canadian actually and they came to Michigan, the Detroit River Raisin area, in the 1700's. They spoke French until the late nineteenth century, when English finally won sway.

    Siochain is the Irish gaelic word for peace. My father's ancestor's on his mother's side immigrated from Ireland in Black '47. I am so glad they did, for if they had stayed they might not have survived and I would not be here. Black '47 was the beginning of the Irish Famine. There is also one Irish ancestor on the French Canadian side.

    On each side of my family tree, I have one Scots ancestor. So the Scots gaelic word for peace is included in the design. Solh.

    May peace in any language be with you today and all the days of your life.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Friday, decluttering

    It is Friday again! TGIF! The whole week seemed super short. Yesterday I could actually see my whole dining room table! Wow. A sea of clean and people gathered round eating. The house is so pretty and spacious when it is decluttered.

    Why do we clutter? Why do we hang on to things? Why do I clutter? Why do I have such a hard time letting go?

    Some of the answer is inertia. Time goes by. I am busy, preoccupied, tired or spending so much time knitting (with the tv on) or at the computer that I don't notice the clutter. I don't notice the dishes piled unwashed in the sink until something begins to smell in the sink. Then I have a great washing up day and get it all clean. (In between these events, I wash items as I need them.) I do the laundry when it is time for my housecleaner to come and I know that I will need to have clean sheets so that she can change the bed for me, something that, in my wheelchair and with the spaces in my house, I cannot do.

    I could say that I am disabled and it is harder for me to keep things free of clutter, but I don't even want to begin to use that as an excuse! Ok, sometimes I need to keep some things within easy reach. That need could be solved by better organization.

    I tend to clutter more when I am feeling overwhelmed or depressed and then the clutter is confusing and depressing, so it seems that it is important to keep things straightened up to some extent.

    Not having enough time is an excuse I use all of the time, but then I waste time looking for things that have been in my hand just recently! It would save time to be organized. Take time to do the things at hand. (My father always used to say, "Do the five minute jobs when they first come up." That way they wouldn't become thirty minute jobs while one back tracks and figures out where everything is, who needs to be contacted, etc.)

    A friend suggested looking at the house and thinking about what I want to use the spaces for. That approach is working and I will continue to do so.

    My "big room" or studio is also my "happiness room" because it so pretty. I hope to finish putting everything away in the next week. it is a space to retreat to and will soon be a space to use for creative projects.

    Now I need to find the one thing that I really need that I can't find from decluttering the dining room table yesterday!

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    When a Tree Falls--what to do in a Power Outage

    Late yesterday afternoon a tree fell in my neighborhood, disrupting power for nearly 1000 homes. While we didn't actually hear the tree fall, it's effect was certainly felt. We did hear the peculiar booms that transformers make when they close, not sounds one wants to hear.

    My dear friend L came over to check on me and caught me on the phone to the power company, so we were able to learn a bit more and give the power people a bit more information. She pulled the plug on my computer. She came back when she said she would and replugged my computer. I had power, but she did not. As it turned out she lives on the street where the tree fell.

    I was one of the most fortunate people for my power was restored in a little under two hours. I found myself knitting without the accompaniment of television news, not my usual mode and I was reminded that knitting is, after all, a beautifully solitary and silent activity. Solitude and silence are rare in our lives. While I have, perhaps, too much solitude, I can never overestimate the beauty of silence.

    Once I realized that the power was out, I wanted a cold drink from the refrigerator more than anything else! In the interest of keeping the food cold, I settled for lukewarm bottled water and waited. The cold diet Vernor's ginger ale tasted wonderful when the power was restored and the refrigerator had been running for a bit. Never open the refrigerator in a power outage.

    In this summer outage, I didn't need to worry about lights, but in the winter that is an issue. So I am reminded to check the flashlight batteries before winter sets in. I also have a camping lantern and need to find its battery set. Candles are a traditional resource, but must be used carefully around piles of paper and should not be left burning if one leaves the room. Placing the candle on a metal tray is a good idea.

    Going out for a walk to meet the neighbors and find out where the power outage is and where the power company trucks are, is one way to while away the time. I can't do this, but from the emails on our neighborhood list this morning, I could see that quite a few people did.

    Keeping one's sense of humor is useful. It always is!

    Having a stock of blankets ready for a winter outage is survival oriented. Having games or cards or a puzzle that can be done in minimal light is a good idea too. I wonder if anyone has come up with a battery powered craft light for people who embroider?

    After I assured myself that the computer was fine, I went to bed early and read some more of Harry Potter. Am I the only person in the universe, reading Deathly Hallows this late? Quite a few people that I know haven't read these books at all. They seem to be doing just fine. I do wish that I had a magic bag like the one that Hermione is using though. It would be so useful for just cleaning up the clutter quickly. Imagine, you could just make a pass through the house, stuffing in all the items you wanted out of the way, and presto clean house!

    Overall I am grateful and looking forward to having company for dinner tonight. More decluttering first!

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Feast of the Assumption

    August fifteenth is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a beautiful Marian Feast and when I was growing up always signaled that the end of summer is near. It is comforting to believe that two people, Our Lord, and his Mother, have their bodies with them in eternal life. It gives me hope that I will be reunited with my parents, whom I miss. On the other hand, I assume and I hope, that my resurrected body will not be disabled. I am growing weary of that and when the time comes will be glad to relinquish this body for one that works better.

    The Assumption also makes us pause and realize that Mary lived on for some time after the death and resurrection of her Son. She was surrounded by people who, although not related, cared for her. She was old enough to be a grandmother, although official church teaching says that she had none. It is comforting as I age to think of Mary as an older woman, not the young girl of the Annunciation paintings and to realize that she knew some of the life changes and problems that I face.

    In addition, I would like to propose that on this feast, it would be good to think about how our society cares for the aging, especially aging women who have not worked in careers. While that demographic is changing, it still exists and I believe that just as the disciples gathered around Mary and took care of her needs, so too should our communities gather around those who need care.

    The elderly, especially elderly widowed folk and disabled people, often need more help financially with a better foundation of income, more help with health care and support services than our current society provides. The church, or ecumenical churches working together, could do a great deal of good here by setting up insurance companies that will provide services over profit to investors; credit unions could be of great service with lower interest rates on loans and credit cards and work could be provided for many people at home so that aging would not be so synonymous with poverty as it currently is.

    In addition, private foundations could also be of service in providing for many helping aids. More about this in a later post. For today, I give thanks and praise for the Life of Mary, the Blessed Virgin and her roles for us to emulate. I ask her prayers for all of us, especially those of us who are disabled and aging.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Fall is coming

    With less daylight in both the morning and the evening now and definitely chilly mornings it almost feels like Fall is early this year. Why not? All of the other seasons seemed to come early and we had an unusually cold winter, dry except for snow, which is so rare in the San Francisco Bay Area that it always makes the news--not just the weather report.

    I wonder, are drought, or near drought years often colder than wetter winters? It would make sense, since much of our rain is tropical and the cloud layers themselves tend to warm the earth, like blankets.

    The sunflowers are hurrying to bloom now. Even the trio that had been working to become the worlds tallest sunflowers are developing flower buds. Flower buds on a sunflower are almost a misnomer. They are huge. Everything about these flowers is oversize! I love to watch them turn to follow the sun and I also like the patterns their leaves make in shadows on my fence.

    In the next few days, I will be printing cards from some of the photos of this summer's sunflowers.

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Designing for Peace and Gratitude

    Here goes the shameless promotion part of my blog!

    At Christmas time in 2005 I began to design a Christmas card. I thought it would be nice to have the word Peace in the center and to use translations of the word into as many languages as I could find as a design around the center-piece word in my language, English.

    As I began to research, I discovered that Fred, my late father's first name meant peace in three of the Scandinavian languages, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. While we are not Scandinavian ourselves, I was so happy to see this for Papa was the most peaceable and kind person whom I have ever known.

    A veteran of World War II and a member of the "greatest generation", my father was my hero and still is. I will post more about the Peace design, which is now available on both CafePress and Zazzle on a wide range of products.

    I love this design dearly partly because it incorporates Papa's name and partly because it incorporates family history research, so that I included as many languages from my own heritage as I could find. The Irish Gaelic is there and so is the Scots Gaelic. The French (and Alsatian) as well as the German are there. Then I added the languages of friends and neighbors. I ran out of design space, since I was aware of the templates I would be using, long before I ran out of languages.

    It is a pretty design with the words intertwining in the way that we all intertwine to form the community of the United States. I am a product of the "melting pot", but the like the image of a patchwork quilt better. The quilt is made from many non-matching pieces to form a pattern, to form a whole. It is quilted by many loving hands, each person bringing her (usually) own skill and talent to the task. The community, working together, makes the quilt. So to, the community, working together, honoring our heritages, can make the work of peace. I believe that this can be done in the country and in the world.

    I hope that you will find this design pleasing and consider it for your organization's fundraiser as well as for your own purchasing for yourself or as a gift. Thanks so much.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Sunday Morning

    Now that the blue jay (actually, Mountain Scrub Jay) has stopped cheek, cheek, cheeking in my yard and gone somewhere else the morning is amazingly quiet. The birds come and go from the feeders quite peacefully except for this one jay, whom I suspect is a fledge and complaining that Mom and Dad aren't feeding him any longer! Such is life in the bird world, little friend!

    In our world we continue feeding people throughout our lives. Sunday is an especially good time for this. After feeding our hearts and souls by going to Mass and Communion, my family would come home and prepare a special, festal breakfast. The smells of coffee perking, bacon frying and eggs being cooked filled the house and made it comforting in a way that it is not if no cooking ever occurs. (Yesterday, the smell of my buckwheat pancakes lingered after I ate them and the house seemed warmed.)

    Sunday was also the day when we would go to friends for dinner or they would come to our house. I think my mother was never so happy as when people gathered around her table to eat food she had prepared. She inherited a beautiful, large and solid dining room table with six chairs and a long buffet. The only trouble that I find with that table is that it will hold more things than any other table in the house! It has been sewing table, writing table, puzzle table, bill paying table, crafts table and of course eating table for over forty years. I love to remember its history as I use it and today my principal task is to declutter it so that friends can join me for dinner this week.

    I wish you all a day of peace and rest and time to share food with family and friends.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    Yogurt Cheese and the movie Witness

    After pouring the whey off the first batch of yogurt cheese, I felt wasteful. The whey isn't bad, it is just wet. Tooling around on the Internet, I discovered that the whey can be used in making soup (which I had guessed would be a use) and also in baking bread.

    While it is actually chilly enough at the moment to consider soup where I live, using the whey in baking seemed more attractive. Actually, I decided to use it in buckwheat pancakes. The buckwheat pancakes begin as a mix from a local grocery store, Piazza's in Palo Alto. The brand is Bob's Red Mill, which can be found on the Internet,

  • The mix requires an egg, two tablespoons of oil (I substitute two tablespoons of melted butter) and water to the consistency that the maker wishes. The whey made a perfect substitute for water, increasing the protein in the pancakes. In addition, the pancakes rose more than I have ever seen them rise and were delicious. I will do this again. Soon.

    After making these yummy pancakes for lunch, I settled down to knit a bit and discovered the movie, Witness, on tv. This is one of the most beautiful movies of all time. I have always been intrigued by the uses of work sequences in a way that was reminiscent of musicals and certainly looked choreographed. The rhythm of the movement is dance like. The movie is restrained and elegant, showing the beauty of the Amish way of life and of farm living like no other that I am familiar with. The love story is delicate, sensitive and poignant.An outstanding movie and a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

    Friday, August 10, 2007


    Thank goodness it's Friday! The week went by so fast. Today is the day, I hope, that the painting will be finished. Hurrah! Then I can finish sorting everything that went from the "big room" to the living room and have a crafting and sewing studio for the first time in my life. The sewing machine is already set up under the window on a table that used to hold an xt clone--the original household computer.

    Yesterday, as M painted and I threw out old paper, I almost felt that I could hear the house sigh. It is returning to its original size, recovering its spaciousness and an accompanying sense of graciousness.

    While all of this has been going on inside the sunflowers have been growing even taller outside. Watching them renews my sense of wonder. The oldest one is waning. As the flowers go to seed, the petals seem to grown longer and they sweep down from the flower, like eyelashes on closed eyes. They retain a charm, even though they are fading fast.

    The roses are also blooming on my deck, although the big bushes in the ground refuse to bloom. Something about the dry winter and cooler than normal summer perhaps?

    I came upon a wonderful article on rooting rose cuttings the other night. I will try to remember and post the link.

    Happy Friday.

    Thursday, August 9, 2007

    Missing Days

    The last three days have gone by so quickly that I have missed two posts and not even realized it.

    The painting is nearly done. The last wall is primed ready for color tomorrow and M will finish it with time to spare before she leaves for college. We are both pretty excited, although tired of the smell of paint. I am so happy to have the new fresh look in my house.

    Meanwhile, I have been decluttering and throwing things out. In the process I have rediscovered the novel that I started over a decade ago and that I should finish. It has good parts and not so great parts and since I am the editor as well as writer, I figure that no one really has to see the not so great parts!

    My kitchen is full of apples given to me by my kind friend L, who is a member of the "greatest generation." He served in the Marines in World War II and reminds me a bit of my late father. The apples are from his tree, a Gravenstein, the best apples in the world, in my opinion.

    Tomorrow we finish painting. I should make an apple pie, but will probably just enjoy the apples as is with yogurt cheese.

    The days are getting shorter, the shadows lengthening and Fall will be in the air soon. Fall is my favorite time of the year because I was a student for such a long time. It is a time of new beginnings. It also means that the Holidays will be here soon.

    Monday, August 6, 2007

    Murky Monday

    The sky is completely overcast, the air is damp and the temperature is 63 degrees. Feels much more like a day in late October than one in early August!. It doesn't normally rain in my part of the world at this time of the year, but today looks and feels like an "it could rain day."

    Why is Monday so difficult and why does it feel so different from other days of the week? It is the beginning so it should feel good. A whole new week, all fresh and new. Instead, for most of us it feels, "oh no, five more days until the weekend."

    Today the painting of one wall, a strip behind a door, will be finished and that will be the last of the "Maypole Green". We will switch to the last wall, a small "island" that contains a closet and separates the bedroom from the little attached dressing room. The way this is laid out is quite elegant and adds grace and charm to my 1950's tract house. The dressing room is Paloma with woodwork in Whisper Pink. These colors will be used on the island wall. The colors are complementing one another nicely. Eventually, I hope to have the long, long living room wall painted the same green as we are using in this room. Even more eventually, because it would mean boxing up (or downsizing) a couple of thousand books, my office could do with a re-do too.

    So the makeover projects, something new, are progressing nicely and I am pleased and excited that life will go forward.

    Soon I hope to be an Etsy seller and to be posting links! The space will be there, clean and new for me to play and work in.

    While my life proceeds with quiet joy and charm, I also reflect on the date today. This is August 6, 2007. Sixty-two years ago today a terrible bomb was dropped on a city far away whose name has become synonymous with horror and survival. Hiroshima, Japan. I grew up in the shadow of that bomb, that war and the Holocaust in Europe. Will we ever live in Peace?

    Today is a day then for hope for peace and remembrance of those who died so horrifically. And those who have died so terribly in all the wars. We have a long way to go to make peace. But we can hope. A friend and I are folding paper cranes because they are beautiful and because they make us remember the story of the girl who, hoping that if she could fold 1000 cranes she would not die of the radiation sickness that had poisoned her from the detonation of that then new bomb on her city. She did not live, but worldwide, whenever people make paper cranes, we think of her and pray and hope for peace.

    Sunday, August 5, 2007

    More about Yogurt Cheese

    At the beginning of the summer my neighbor and good friend L dropped by one Sunday with delicious things called Bolanis and the sauces to go with them. They were from an Afghan vendor at our local Farmers' Market. The Bolanis were rather like flour tortillas and filled with spinach. The first "sauce" was yogurt cheese flavored with mint and garlic. The second was cilantro pesto. I have long felt that I did not like cilantro, but decided it would be rude to say so. I found this delicious.

    The next time L went to the Farmers' Market I asked her to bring me some more of this delicious Afghan food. I have now tried the pumpkin bolani--my favorite, and the potato and onion bolani, which I think would taste better warmed. In addition to the yogurt cheese and cilantro pesto, I have also sampled the eggplant sauce. The eggplant would be delicious on pasta. I have a jar of the sweet and sour carrot on the end of my counter waiting to try. For more about Bolani and Sauce, here is the link,
  • .

    Yogurt cheese is so simple to make and so good that I will be making it regularly. Tonight I had it with shredded Parmesan added to it. (Trader Joe's shredded Parmesan, to be precise.) Tomorrow I will make a new batch.

    I will probably try making some variation of cilantro pesto, too. Bolani and Sauce will most definitely still have my business, but since I cannot go to the Farmer's Market myself, and because I have a limited income, I will also experiment with making some of my own variations.

    Now I am interested in Afghan food and will find someone in the neighborhood who goes to the library to check out an Afghani cookbook. The story of the family who are taking their traditional food to the Farmer's Market is an American dream story come true and I admire them.

    If you are interested in making yogurt cheese, another link is to King Arthur Flour for the yogurt cheese maker. This is another family owned business, one that goes back to the American Revolutionary War as one of the oldest flour mills in America. It is one of my favorite businesses. Here is the link to the yogurt cheese maker
  • .

    Saturday, August 4, 2007

    Yogurt Cheese

    So far I have eaten it plain on a cracker, plain on strawberries and mushed with peanut butter or avocado on wonderful dense European style bread from Trader Joe's. It is my newest delight and my newest obsession.

    For years I have wanted to buy a yogurt cheese maker and after eating delicious things from Bolani and Sauce, a business that sells at local Farmer's markets, I finally broke down and bought one. It is simplicity itself. Put the yogurt in, put the lid on, place in fridge and the next day--yogurt cheese. What to do with the whey will be next.

    I will try to remember to post about Bolani and Sauce tomorrow.

    Friday, August 3, 2007

    Friday--the week went fast

    Already the week is almost over! It seems to have barely started. Blogging in the morning, as with most writing, seems to work best for me.

    Yesterday more wall was primed. When full, the rooms of my house seem small. When being painted, the same rooms seem to grow. Primer has a pungent smell of its own; I will be glad when that smell isn't in the house any longer. It drives out even cooking and baking smells. Today will be another painting day and the pale, pale green will cover the primer. I am so excited and grateful to M and her friend J for doing this for me.

    The paint itself smells new. New paint, new paper, new leather shoes, new books. New smells speak of new beginnings and are associated in my mind with the beginning of a new academic year. After all I didn't leave school until I was in my thirties and even during the years between college and graduate school I was associated with a university by continuing to sing in a choir and by spending several years on the staff of a campus ministry program. (More about that probably some day.)

    The days are getting shorter. Daylight streams into my house at what I consider to be a more civil hour and sunset, coming a little earlier now, gives me a sense of relief that even should the weather turn hot, I will not cook in my house. (Last year's killer heat wave in California scared me.)

    Thursday, August 2, 2007

    Tempus Fugit

    How can it be August already? The first sunflower, the one that grew tallest first and bloomed with multiple flowers is shrinking. The flowers are drawing in and I assume going to seed. The younger ones continue to grow with one nearly as tall as the fence. More seedlings are growing in the ground along the planter box. These are the gift of filling the bird feeders with a mix that includes sunflower seeds.

    Last year at this time one gigantic thistle occupied the same space that the sunflowers fill this summer. Two small offspring thistles have self-sown from last year, not at all the forest I expected as I watched clouds of thistle seeds blowing on the wind. Of course, the goldfinches found a feast from those thistle seeds, perching on the plant and tormenting the cat who sat under it, wishing them down to his space but never succeeding. They knew he could not climb the thorns.