Sibling Assignment #173: Land of Counterpane, Precision Cuts, Where I'm From

I gave the sibling assignment this week.
"Three favorites". Review the archives of our sibling assignments and choose a favorite written by each of us. Link the post and share why it is a favorite.  Brother Bill's choices are here. Sister Carol's will be linked soon.
The three of us have written 519 sibling assignments as a trio. Like brother Bill I didn't read every one, but I first did thinking about ones that stood out to me.  Each of these posts I chose were memoir pieces that captured vivid details, strong emotion, and lasting words for us to reflect on.
In January of 2011 Silver Valley Girl gave us an assignment to write something about Mom. I chose one from my archives entitled "The Land of Counterpane". This is the third time I am posting this. You can find it here. It is one of my favorites because it is timeless. No matter when I read this post it continues to remind me of the comfort my mom has provided me. I remember reading it aloud to her. I think she was a bit surprised. I think it is hard for a mother to reflect on her own acts of comfort as she is living them. Having moved next door to her now the comfort may be working both ways. I have tucked her in a few times in the last year , but didn't read Stevenson's poem.
The writing of brother Bill's I chose went way back to our early blog posts to Sibling Assignment #4 in November of 2006. Silver Valley Girl gave the prompt which was to remember Mom and special Christmas treats. Bill wrote a beautiful tribute to our mom intertwining all she did while we were growing up and how many traditions such as fruitcake, pumpkin bread, and popcorn balls still continue. You can find his post here. Last month while Bill made a visit he was able to participate in the making of the fruitcake. I smiled yesterday while in the kitchen with Mom when she said "I think your brother does a very good job with fruitcake. " I agreed with her. Again, we are watching the traditions we hold dear with Mom doing role switching.
The choice from sister Carol's blog came from an assignment I gave during National Poetry Month in 2008. She composed her version of "Where I'm From" . You can find it here. Images of her childhood are woven into a memoir tapestry that caused me to also return and read all of our poems from this assignment. Again, now that I am spending more time at Mom's house next door, many of these pieces of childhood are still there. I liked this post because even though we have an eight year age difference, many of our images were the same.

(The photo at the top was taken about fifty-five years ago when we traveled to Orofino for Christmas.)

Sibling Assignment #172: The Controversy Surrounding Thanksgiving Dressing

Brother Bill gave the sibling assignment this week after some surprising observations during the planning, preparation, and presentation of dressing for the Thanksgiving Dinner. I will link the sibs' posts when done.

His assignment: "Turkey dressing.. Take this topic any direction you'd like."

As Thanksgiving approaches each year and the meal planning begins, the first question often raised is whether we call the traditional side dish dressing or stuffing. This in turn leads to the question whether a turkey should be stuffed or not. The last few years the most controversial question has been, "Can we try another recipe for dressing that hasn't been used in the past?" Scary territory.

We are a family that does traditional turkey in a roasting pan. No brining, BBQing, deep fat frying, no bag, no smoking. Just Betty Crocker style turkey is all that has been served for almost all Thanksgiving dinners. About ten years ago we went off course and used whole wheat bread for stuffing and served game hens. It was okay, but not the same. Last year Mom and I tried cornbread stuffing. That was quite a departure from tradition, but not "weird" (any time in our house when Raymond Harold "Pert"/Dad Woolum thought we were serving something new or different he called it "weird" or "weird shit food".  Experimenting with cornbread was only the bread, so he may have only said, while grimacing, "This is 'different' sissy." When food went out a window to the bushes or the loaf of white bread and peanut butter came out on the table, I understood I had gone too far on the "weird" scale for Dad. Thus, usually traditional dishes ruled.

This year I volunteered to roast the turkey since I had never done one. As I began planning the dinner I researched a wide variety of recipes for dressing. How daring could I be? Would the rafters fall on the table if I added new ingredients? I decided not to stuff the turkey. If it didn't work out I didn't want to ruin both. I focused on combinations of flavors and textures I thought would work. I am sure Dad was smiling down from heaven , pleased he didn't have to try "this weird shit."I chose Sweet Potato and Cranberry Dressing from a recipe found on a woman's blog. Mom had the dried bread she saves all year, a friend harvested fresh cranberries from a local lake, and I thought sweet potatoes partnered with carrots, onions, and rosemary sounded like a good combination. To add fresh flavor, I added orange juice and orange liqueur. Brother Bill loved it, JEJ was on board also and I liked it. Mom smiled and said, "Well... it is different. " I like weird and different.

Why does dressing only have to be served with turkey? Maybe I should have a dressing bakeoff another time of year and challenge family members to get creative!
You can find the recipe here.

Sibling Assignment #171: Autumn in Kellogg: A Teacher's Magical Approach to Learning.

Sister Carol gave the sibling assignment for this week:  "Write about a memory or memories of the autumn season growing up in Kellogg, sometime before you graduated from Kellogg High School."
I will link my siblings' posts when completed.

I began my elementary school years at Silver King School. In first grade I was almost across the hall from my mother's classroom. She taught second grade. We attended school with her so we didn't have to walk a long ways to our neighborhood school. I suppose it was helpful also that we were there with her before and after school.

Before second grade we moved 516 W. Cameron in Kellogg and Mom decided we would go to the school in our neighborhood. We walked each day to Sunnyside School. From the first day of school there I have vivid memories, but today I am going to write about autumn in second grade. 

My teacher was Mrs. Meyer and I felt a bit special because my great-uncle's wife was her sister. I guess I thought we were related. She was bigger than life in her instruction, her manner, her talents , and her activities. It seems very unlikely that 2nd graders at Sunnyside School would ever be allowed to leave the classroom and walk off the playground during a school day. Not when Mrs. Meyer was your teacher. One glorious, sunny autumn afternoon we went on a walking field trip.

We were studying Neighborhoods in social studies and I can still remember to this day the blocks we strolled through as a well-mannered group and how she taught us how the even and odd house numbers worked. She also pointed out how you count by twos on addresses.  I guess she tied a bit of math in there also. From that day forward I always felt smug because I knew why the houses had certain numbers. I am sure we then learned about our own addresses.

The next learning adventure on this walking field trip was a science lesson. Mrs. Meyer taught us how to observe nature by studying leaves. The sidewalks that day were covered with leaves. She let us pick them up, throw them in the air, and study them. When we were done we brought our favorites back to the classroom. 

Then the teacher performed magic. She showed us how to lay the leaves on wax paper and preserve them between two sheets by having her iron them. I loved observing all those preserved leaves in the huge classroom window that autumn. More then fifty years later I can still remember the neighborhood we walked, what the house numbers meant, the smell of the leaves, the feel of the leaves, and how important I felt being able to walk with my class away from school for a learning experience.
Mrs. Meyer was a magical teacher every day I had her in class. Whether it was poetry she recited, reading exercises about Dick and Jane and their friends, or learning to do paper mache.... it was magical. I will never forget her.

Late Autumn Surprises: Baby Steps With New Camera

Today I decided to try out my new camera around the yard.  At first I could not get it to work. Then I removed the cap from the lens. Sheesh. Baby steps. When I was looking for subjects to photograph I walked quietly and observed first what damage had been done during the wind storm. Fortunately, that was very little. Above is a strong flowering kale that may not ever give up, even during the winter months.

Next I observed what is still thriving at this late date. As always since I have moved to my new house, I found surprises. The baby burning bush decided to burn before the leaves fell off.

 The mums I bought to dress up the porch have new buds on them. I am going to bring them in to the basement greenhouse and see what happens.

 It took a few tries with my new camera, but finally I captured this vivid purple petunia, 
still showing her stuff.
 I made a quick trip inside to practice on the African violets. Look very closely. For the first time in more than thirty years, I have a bloom ready to open.

images shot with a Nikon D3300

Fall Tasks: The Rules Are Different

This has been a crazy autumn. Many people still have flowers blooming in their yards in Kellogg. There has only been one hard frost. The most damage our plants have gotten in the last few days is from the wind. I am used to in the past coming home to help Mom put her garden "to bed" now, wearing a heavy vest and cutting down numerous dead plants. I thought I should deadhead the mums. Those are the flowers above in the bottom of the garbage can. Now the plants have new buds.

This year nothing has died back yet. When I did a tour of Mom's yard the other day she still had calendulas blooming.  I bought and planted a rose about a month ago and it is still blooming. JEJ did put the winter fertilizer on the grass today. I hope it doesn't get new growth now!

I think the garden task calendars are getting a bit out of whack now. The rules are different when it comes to getting a garden and yard ready for winter. I am all for a long, lovely autumn, but I just hope five feet of snow doesn't fall tomorrow. Some time we need to put protection around the roses.

Of course, my Christmas cactus is now blooming. I don't need a fuzzy blanket, but use one anyway. I am ready to wear my mittens, hat, and scarf, but like the milder weather.
The only thing that has been consistent is the time change and darker afternoons.

So much for my plans and to-do lists. I am just going to go with the flow. Maybe it will never get cold. Maybe roses will still be blooming in December. Maybe we will have to gas up that lawn mower again. Time will tell. I will keep you posted!

Kindness: Thanks for the Words of Naomi Shihab Nye

On days like today when there is hurt around the world it makes sense to be angry, feel helpless, feel deep sadness. I always feel like the best thing I can do on days like today is focus on the positive. This poem by Naomi Shihab Nye has gotten me through many difficult times in my life. I had the privilege of hearing her speak once, and she reminded me of the ways we can look at the world with goodness, hope, and love.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt weakened in a broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before your learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
Like a shadow or a friend.
Naomi Shihab Nye

Sabbaths and A Year of Being Here

Recently I have spent time revisiting blogs that have been favorites of mine, some for a long time and some for a short time. One that I had not spent time at for awhile was A Year of Being Here. This blog showcases a poem for each day of the year including a lovely photo. If you haven't visited this blog, take a look. Here is a favorite of mine that was posted on the blog recently.

Sabbaths 1999, VII

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest. 
With the ongoing havoc
the woods this morning is
almost unnaturally still.
Through stalled air, unshadowed
light, a few leaves fall
of their own weight. 
                                 The sky
is gray. It begins in mist
almost at the ground
and rises forever. The trees
rise in silence almost
natural, but not quite,
almost eternal, but
not quite. 
What more did I
think I wanted? Here is
what has always been.
Here is what will always
be. Even in me,
the Maker of all this
returns in rest, even
to the slightest of His works,
a yellow leaf slowly
falling, and is pleased.

Wendell Berry

Never Make Your Home a Place

I really like this quote.
When we were listing the pros and cons of whether to leave the beautiful place we loved on Lake Roosevelt to relocating to a town named Kellogg in Idaho, one theme resonated with both of us. Home was us. Home was ourselves, our lives together, our dogs and cats,  Home was what we wanted to carry with us that was important. Home was again being surrounded by beauty, family, friends, peace, and an easier way of life. We brought our memories, the learning we experienced, and have already experienced new learnings, new friends, and new memories.
I really am pleased with the decision we made. I just wish we could have our chickens again. I miss them. They did go to a good new home.

Ten Reasons Autumn Is My Favorite Season

We can still enjoy the last roses of a late summer.
The street lights up with yellow.
When you make dessert it doesn't heat up the house.
Autumn Joy Sedum
Autumn decor and the smells of November fill the house.
Mums and pumpkins
The doves come to visit.
The sunflowers are ready to shed their seeds.
There is that moment that a tree begins to turn.

It isn't too hot to eat a dinner in the shed.

Surprises I Never Expected: More Thoughts On Moving Back

When it became a realization that I would be able to move back to Kellogg, and move next door to my mother, there were things I knew would work out well. Mom could share the beauty of her backyard and the infamous Seven Sisters Rose We would share meals. Any time I wanted to I could be brought up to speed on General Hospital.  I would always be informed on the best deals at the grocery stories each Wednesday when the ads came out.

Then there were surprises I never expected to happen.

I never expected to have birds coming to our backyard so quickly.

I never expected the cats to adjust so well. We wanted them to be indoor outdoor cats and they have adjusted by staying close to home, avoiding the street, and getting along most of the time with each other.

I never expected to be sitting in a backyard on Cameron Avenue sitting around a fire with my mother!

I certainly never expected to have the longest, mildest late summer/ early autumn I can ever remember allowing us to plan and plant for next year.
I never expected to feel so much at peace so quickly.

Gathering Leaves, Words by Robert Frost

Robert Frost captures the simple thing in life. That is why I love his poetry so much.

Gathering Leaves

take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop? 

Freshening Up And Giving Myself A Break

Every so often I like to freshen up my blog. It is a bit like thinking and writing. It clears the cobwebs, gives me more motivation, and it challenges my computer skills. I still don't have buttons linked and other parts added, but it will come in time.
When we went on our retreat away from home last week we did the same thing. We cleared some cobwebs, came back more motivated and we gave ourselves a huge break. JEJ and I needed to do that. We think Rome can be built in a day, so when it comes to projects around the house, we feel the urge to get everything done before the weather gets colder, before the snow flies, before November comes, before the first frost.
We have moved into November. When I was teaching I dreaded November. It was a weary part of the school year with grades, conferences, darkness when you arrived home, changes in weather, and lack of energy. I had an ongoing struggle with depression during that month. This year I like November.  We are giving ourselves a break. We decided last week while retreating we don't have to work on a project every day. If we want to read books in front of the fire, we have given ourselves permission to do that.  If there are leaves on the living room floor that should be picked up, we know they will eventually get off the carpet.
It is a better way to begin the shift in the seasons and weather. We are privileged to be able to do it because we are retired. As November has begun,I  have enjoyed reading four books, working on my blog design, doing some writing,  learning how to use a different camera, and giving myself a break.

Happy November!

Six Things I Still Love About Moving Back to My Hometown

As most of you know, in July I returned home to Kellogg, Idaho when I left my teaching career. People keep asking my if I like it, and every single time I smile and say, "Yes!" I wrote a similar post in August. Here is an update. Many  of the reasons are still the same.

For the first time in twenty years I can go grab groceries in five minutes. The days of  preplanning meals and stocking up are gone. I love it. I feel so much more creative in my cooking.

I hardly have to visit a gas station. I had a set routine when I lived in Martin Creek and commuting. I knew each Saturday it was fill up time. I keep checking my gas gauge, thinking I must be on empty. No sir... and what a money saver.

The sunsets. Everyone that lives on the west side of Kellogg knows that if the sun is out, prepare for a spectacular show of beauty as the day comes to a close.

The family is close. It has been over thirty years since I have lived in the same town as family. Not only is Mom next door, but sister Carol and family are five minutes away. I love it.

A choice of restaurants.  Again, for many this is a small thing, but to able to have food delivered, go to good restaurants close by, and have lots of choices is something we love.

 Day trips are easier. We loved our day trips in northeastern Washington, but we always had to drive quite a ways. We can be at the river, the lake, the mountains, or on the gondola in no time.

I think I will stay awhile.

Sibling Assignment #170: Memories of Montana

I gave this sibling assignment this week. It was simple:Memories of Montana. I will link the other sibs' posts when done.

There have been conversations between the sibs recently about a place to visit when we are all together in November. Montana kept coming up. It reminded me of how much I love Montana. In my whole life I have not been to Montana many times, but each time I visit the state I grow more attached to it's beauty.

Each August around our anniversary and close to when school started, we always tried to plan a getaway  to rest and recharge before getting into the routine of the school year again. In August 2013 we found a lovely cabin on the Clark Fork River by Clark Fork, Idaho. We discovered two things on that trip. We were very close to the beauty of Montana and there was a cedar grove close by.

There is something about hiking through a cedar grove with camera in hand. I love being surrounded by natural history, coolness, green, moisture, and quiet. We found Ross Creek Ancient Cedars and I captured a series of photo images I really liked. It was fun today to revisit the cedar grove through the pictures. Now I want to return.

Sibling Assignment #169: Keep the Obsession Strong!

Brother Bill gave the sibling assignment this week. "We all have our little obsessions.  What are you currently obsessed with?  A book? A movie? An idea? A song? A project? An activity?  Write all about it ." I will post links to the other siblings' assignment upon completion.

Having a new home and yards to landscape creates lots of opportunity for obsessions. Right now inside decorating is a low priority. The walls are decent colors. They have recently been painted. There are new wood floors and carpet so we are content with the inside of the house for now.

The outside is a different story. The yard looks similar to how our yard look next door in the sixties when we were growing up. A few lilacs, the original cement patio and sidewalks, the original long clothesline in front of the lilacs, and mostly grass. JEJ's obsession has been to get the grass green, which he has succeeded in doing. His obsession will continue as he maintains it. 

My obsession is plant choices. I went from over a half acre of gardens to a back yard that is 100x100. ( I do have flower beds in front of the house also). The main obsession is choosing plants for the backyard. I mentioned in a recent post the lessons I learned and plants I have grown to love from 18 years of creating gardens at my former house. You can find that here.
Somebody recently asked me what I was going to plant here.  I couldn't even answer. I am obsessed with revisiting garden plants from the past, studying successful flowers in Mom's gardens next door, remembering plants I loved that never made it in my last garden, and what color schemes I want. We love roses, but don't have good locations for roses here. We may have to narrow our choices to roses. Everett loves the Iceberg Climbing Rose above,  so we may try two of those the ends of the shed. We have one I brought to fill in also.

Right now the burning decision I must make with this obsession is which spring bulbs I want since they need to be planted soon. I love all of them, but don't have the room to plant them. I think tulips may win out. They are showstoppers in the spring. Somewhere I must find room for some lilies also.
The two sunflowers that just emerged on their own before we arrived inspired me to keep sunflowers in that corner at the end of the patio. Whew! One easy decision. We want vines again, but will wait until the fence is built to see how that will work. The Silver Lace Vine will definitely find a place in our back yard, plus we love honeysuckle, trumpet vines, and hops.

I want to try again my list of "plants I have never been able to grow".  This list includes lupines, delphiniums, bee balm, and foxglove. Alas, another obsession. 

Obsessing over all these plants is timely because now is the time to buy perennials at garden stores. They are marked down for quick sale. It is also a good time to get starts from other gardens. Cooler weather makes replanting much more successful. Creating gardens isn't a cheap hobby so this project will be spread out over a period of time. Obsessing over all these plants is also exciting, energizing, and it keeps my head full. Now off to the magazines, catalogs, articles, pictures, and notes I surround myself with. Keep the Obsession Strong. 

Stay tuned for a follow-up of what I decided.