Monday, June 30, 2008

Old House, Old Friends

Is it that the setting was just right for a gathering of old friends, or is it that old friends make the setting just right? No matter---it was perfect.

Gentle rains that lowered the stifling temperatures; cooling breezes; the distant call of the quail; the old house filled with almost a century of memories and love and good times; the rocking chairs that seem to call our names---that was the setting to which ten old friends gathered.

Soon, the sounds of the frogs and cicadas and quail were silenced by the laughter of those friends, the tinkling of ice in refreshing beverages, myriad conversations on the porch and around the table, and the satiated sighs that followed a wonderful meal. Just another good time together in that old house!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

You Been Farming Long?

Tom has a picture of two little boys in their overalls with the caption, "you been farming long?". He put it on the wall at the farm. He has been waiting for our grandsons to get old enough to follow him around and to enjoy the wildlife and the open spaces with him. Well, he has one at that stage. With Brooks this weekend, we saw the "little boy" for the first time---I'm talking the heavy sweating, bee hunting, ant killing, tire kicking, pecan stomping, head-to-toe dirty, yard peeing little boy. He didn't have time for anything but exploring with Dan-Dad-De. YaYa is definite second fiddle.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lucy's Back!

Lucy was my mother-in-law, and she was wonderful! She died in 1998. The family called her Mama Lucy. She was a traditional grandmother--her arms were always open; her lap was soft and snuggley; she told great stories; she just couldn't say no; and she would do whatever the children wanted. Coke for dinner, no problem; stay up past bedtime, no problem; sleep with her, no problem. She played games when she was so sleepy she could hardly stay awake, and she cooked big meals no matter what. Our children still talk about the good times they had with her.

Andrew and Brooks are here for the weekend, and I can tell you that Lucy's back---only she looks like Granddad! There were just the four of us here last evening. Brooks, at 28 months, is very comfortable with YaYa and Granddad, so he had himself a big time. The boys first went to the train yard for Brooks to see the big trains; then they marched around the house with flags--Brooks loves to march! Then, he and Grandad played with the tractors--they filled the tractors with gas,they plowed the fields, pumped up the tires, and planted corn, butter beans, and sunflowers---all imaginative of course. Then there was jumping on the bed while singing Five Little Monkeys with Granddad ready to catch him! I didn't hear "No" one single time. Yes, Lucy is back!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

TT #15 Books About Three Generations of Women

I enjoy reading, and I will pick up just about anything. On my bedside table at this moment are Eat, Pray, Love; Oxymoronica; A Walk in the Woods, and Miss Read. But what I often enjoy is a good story about three generations of women. I love to read a story through the eyes of women because their families are usually close by. I have a favorite. Both my daughter and I have read it multiple times; in fact, it is literally falling apart. It is #13 in the list below, but I was surprised to find that there are hundreds of books about three generations of women. I have listed twelve, some of which I have read and some I wish to read, and my personal favorite. If you read the reviews of it on Amazon you will see that I am not alone in my enjoyment of that story.

  1. Circle of Three--Patricia Gaffney. The lives of grandmother Dana, mother Carrie, and daughter Ruth are instantly altered by the untimely death of Carrie's husband, Stephen.

  2. Charms for the Easy Life---Kaye Gibbons This new novel depicts three generations of Southern women living together during World War II.

  3. Wild Swans---Jung Chang. The author recounts the evocative, unsettling, and insistently gripping story of how three generations of women in her family fared in the political maelstrom of China during the 20th century.

  4. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water---Michael Dorris. This spare generational novel presents Rayona, Christine and "Aunt" Ida, Native American mothers and daughters bonded by blood and secrets.

  5. Jump at the Sun---Kim McLarin. McLarin (Taming It Down) weaves the stories of three generations of mothers and daughters in astringent prose ("You couldn't be expected to live without them, but you'd better remember at all times, even with the good ones, that it was you against them," Grace muses of the wild cards that are men). Her characters chafe against the bonds of poverty, racism and feminine stereotypes, but their deeper struggle is to resolve their longing for fulfillment with ties of the heart.

  6. Unburnable---Marie-elena John. This compelling first novel traces the fortunes of three generations of women from the small Caribbean Island of Dominica. Matilda, descended from African slaves, was a famous healer and possible murderer.

  7. Three Generations---Yom Sang-seop. Three Generations is a classic work of Korean fiction following the tense dynamics of the Jo family in 1930s Japanese-occupied Seoul.

  8. Moon Women---Pamela Duncan. Set in western North Carolina, this first novel follows three generations of Moon women during the months of granddaughter Ashley's unplanned pregnancy.

  9. Hanna's Daughters---Marianne Fredriksson. Shifting back and forth across time and generations, the story introduces three strong Swedish women: Hanna, her daughter Johanna, and Anna, her granddaughter.

  10. Sweet Mandarin--Helen Tse. a true story of three generations of chinese women and their journey from East to West---from brutal poverty in the village to newly prosperous Hong Kong in the 1930s, and then to the UK.

  11. African Women: Three Generations--Mark Mathabane. This gripping saga presents a truthful, passionate, and illuminative biography of his great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother in South Africa. Mathabane vividly describes the shocking, heartbreaking stories of each generation of women as they struggle for independent incomes to support themselves and their children; while resisting apartheid, they must also resist the traditions imposed by their own society and the oppresion imposed by their men.

  12. Teta, Mother, and Me: Three Generations of Arab Women---Jean Said Makdisi. The author explores the lives of three generations of Palestinian women, deftly illuminating a tumultuous century of modern Middle Eastern history, while raising important questions about the efficacy of ideology, the process of social development and the role of memory.

  13. East of the Sun---Barbara Bickmore. This is one of my all-time favorite novels. It is historical romance loosely based on the tumultuous history of 20th century Africa amid the dismantling of European colonialism. It begins with Lilianne Wentworth who travels to Africa as a medical missionary, and it follows her and her daughter and granddaughter for sixty years. What a story!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Wish the Quilts Could Talk

I've been working on a little project. I found a quilt top recently when I was looking through some old trunks at our farm. My MIL left three trunks filled with all manner of memorabilia--old greeting cards, scores of crocheted and tatted doilies, embroidered pillowcases, gifts---all sorts of things. I've left them largely untouched for our two married children if they ever wanted to go through them. So far, they haven't. Too little time; too little room for more stuff; too much stuff of their own. Anyway, we've kept it safe for them.

But, when I found that quilt top, I talked to my precious daughter and said, "hey, why don't we enjoy this; I'd like to display it." Of course, she said. Anyway, I've been preparing it for a wall hanging in our farm house. I already have one quilt hung in the dining room, and one quilt top hung over the bed as a canopy; they are just beautiful works of art to me. This much smaller top will be just right for a wall in the front room. I sewed a sleeve on the back of it and purchased a wood dowel to run through the sleeve. I will cap the dowel with finials, and it should be ready to hang without stressing the quilt.

Anyway, while I was sewing that sleeve here at home, I decided to check on a stack of quilts that were safely--I hoped--stored in an adjacent closet. I began pulling them out and inspecting them, and taking pictures. So many memories and so many questions.

If you have quilts, do you think of the hands that sewed those tiny stitches? Do you wonder when they found the time---was it when the babies were napping, or when the peas were all shelled? Was it after the laundry was done, or when the table was cleared of supper? Do you wonder what they talked about? Was it my MIL and her MIL talking quietly about the activity in the fields or at church? Was it a group of friends who gathered for lunch and an afternoon of quilting? Did they tear up all the worn-out clothes and save even the tiny scraps? I wish those quilts could talk.

I photographed about ten quilts, I think. The oldest one that I can document is one my grandmother quilted for my father in 1936. She embroidered his name and the year on it. I think she died the very next year, at age 54. Another old one is the pink and blue appliqued one; still another is the friendship quilt that includes initials of my MILs friends on each square. I believe most of the quilts were made in the forties and fifties. Some quilts are beautifully arranged with like colors and definite patterns. Others are clearly utilitarian. If there weren't enough of one fabric to make the lining or the squares, another was substituted.

Some of those quilts have been used often; they are worn, and there are weak places in the fabrics. Others appear never to have been used; perhaps they were being saved for harder times.

Oh, I wish those quilts could talk. I wish they could tell me how the crops fared that year and whether the rains came in time. I wish they could tell me if there was money left over to buy a couple of lengths of fabric. I wish they could tell me who made the neatest stitches or who was the biggest gossip. I do wish those quilts could talk!

Pieces of My Quilt

If quilts could talk
I'd like to think I'd hear just what they'd say,
"I'll hold you close within my folds and wipe your tears away.
I'll keep you warm and give you strength to face another day."
If quilts could talk...

If quilts could sing
I'd like to think I'd recognize each tune,
The lullaby or funeral dirge or wedding march in June.
Both sweet and haunting melodies I'd listen to them croon.
If quilts could sing...

If quilts could write
I'd like to think I'd read the words they'd pen,
Of life and love and motherhood, of mystery without end.
And, oh, the drama they could share of everywhere they'd been.
If quilts could write...

If quilts could pray
I'd like to think I'd feel each heartfelt prayer
Of thankfulness or great concern for those within their care;
Petitions to a loving God - the One who's always there.
If quilts could pray...

The quilt of my own life
Finds voice to talk, sing, write, and pray,
As it weaves a hundred stories in its own eclectic way.
And with each stitch of grace and hope my legacy is built;
All fragments finally made a whole...
the pieces of my quilt.
~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell, 1998

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What Do You Do at the Farm, Anyway?

After a date night with friends at Sakura, our new favorite Japanese restaurant, on Friday, we were up bright and early this morning to head to the farm for a work day. What did we do? We did a little of this and a little of that, and we enjoyed every minute. It was hot, and the gnats were irritating as usual, and I don't like to sweat, but I hung in there. As you can see from the slides, we accomplished a lot, and the day ended with a much needed rain.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

TT #14 Things I Did at Work Yesterday

I did my first TT on things I like about my work. This week, I'd like to tell you some of the things I do on a given day. The thing I like best about my job is that tomorrow will be very different. Here are just 13 of the things I did yesterday:

  1. I wrote three thank-you notes to leaders about the Wiregrass Regional Summit that was held at our College last week.

  2. I drafted a letter to a major donor who completed his pledge to the College's Foundation.

  3. I responded to a required survey on the needs of workforce development programs in our state.

  4. I attended a luncheon meeting of a women's group to which I belong. The program this month was from the club president/librarian who provided suggestions for summer reading.

  5. I had a phone meeting with an employee who is joining our division in a new position.

  6. Wearing another of my hats, I met with a college employee who has specific concerns--can't say more than that.

  7. I met with a staff member to discuss a new program.

  8. I signed half a dozen checks for the Foundation.

  9. I reviewed the agenda for a Foundation meeting early this morning.

  10. I met with a group at the Chamber of Commerce to hear more about an exciting new community educational initiative called Yes We Can.

  11. I peeped in on a Kids Kollege class about Legos that meets in my building.

  12. I discussed a hiring issue with the HR office.

  13. I thought about cleaning off my desk, but it didn't happen.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Weekend

I love weekends,and the best ones---for me---are the really busy ones. This was one of those. We spent time with Son; enjoyed adult dinner; spent day at farm with projects; examined our crops--sunflowers, figs, and grain sorghum; enjoyed Father's Day with Son's family, Mother, and call from Elizabeth; ended with dinner party at the farm. Who needs rest!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

TT #13 Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a term I have just learned. I know about farming. Both my husband and I have roots in farming; in fact we own the small family farm where my husband grew up, and as an avocation we grow pine trees and provide wildlife habitat. We have a fig tree that will be producing in the next week or so---and I can hardly wait. We also have several pecan trees, and we are trying to grow a few sunflowers, both for me and the other wildlife (ha). However, we are far removed from farming as livelihood. Here's what I have learned about a great program called community supported agriculture:

  1. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) originated in Japan (1960s) and Europe (1970s) and began in the United States in the 1980s.

  2. This "movement" encourages relationships between farmers and consumers.

  3. The goal of this relationship is to provide solutions to the problems of small farm survival, food quality, nutrition, community building, sustainability and quality of life.

  4. CSA involves the consumer buying a "share" of or "membership" in a farming operation. For that share, the consumer gets a bag of produce each week during the growing season.

  5. This partnership provides the farmer with capital to plant the crops and ensures a guaranteed market for their products.

  6. As shareholders of the farm business, the consumers share the risks with the farmer. If there is no rain or if some other problem strikes, the bounty for the week might not be so bountiful. In this way, the risks are spread throughout the whole membership rather than falling solely on the farmer.

  7. Another benefit to the consumers is that they become more knowledgeable about the growing of food. Just like a person who buys stock in XYZ Company want to learn something about XYZ's business, the CSA consumer could learn about different varieties of vegetables, how much rain the region has enjoyed, whether there is irrigation, and what "green" techniques the farmer is using. Consumers become involved in the production of the food they eat.

  8. The consumer enjoys a variety of fresh produce, produced locally, and becomes directly connected to the food source.

  9. The consumer will be supporting a small farm and contributing to your local economy.

  10. Consumers can visit the farm and even work there on a volunteer basis.

  11. Another great benefit is the chance to build community with farmers and other shareholders.

  12. The CSA program encourages social responsibility towards stewarding the earth.

  13. Participating in a CSA program is a green thing to do.

I have learned about one CSA farm in our region, and I plan to contact the farmer this week to learn more. Do you participate in a CSA? If so, please tell us about it in your comment.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

What You Do When Its Hot---Really Hot!

We met the younger Roneys at the lake on Saturday. It was really hot---98-100! We stayed in the boat or in the water as much as we could. Brooks was a trooper. He's not quite ready to take on the tube, but he had a great time watching the rest of us tube and ski.

We ended the day with a great meal after Brooks was tucked in for the night. It was a joint effort. Tom prepared the wonderful little filets on the grill just perfectly. Tara made her killer Grits Casserole. Andrew was the showman with his Caesar Salad, and I roasted a little asparagus and prepared the strawberries with balsamic vinegar for dessert. What a meal! What a weekend!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Guess Which City

We visited this city, outside the US, a couple of years ago. Can you guess which it is? I have the answer posted at the bottom of my previous post.

For more Skywatch Friday, please visit Tom.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

TT #12 Thoughts on Leadership

I did a short post a few weeks ago on Mac Anderson's little book, You Can't Send a Duck to Eagle School. It is a compilation of anecdotes, lessons learned, and simple truths about leadership. You can view a short video on the book here. For Thursday Thirteen, I thought I would list some of the lessons learned and simple truths. The words in italics are quoted.

  1. It's the little things, not the big ones, that will earn the respect of your people. Even taking the time to listen---really listen---is important.

  2. Change is good...You go first. The president at our college always says no one likes change except a wet baby.

  3. Accept your Limitations and You'll Expand Your Potential. That one is easy for me. There are so many things I cannot do--but there are probably an equal number that I can do.

  4. If your company mission is to climb a tree, which would you rather do: hire a squirrel or train a horse? This may be my favorite. It is so simple, and it speaks to the wisdom in playing to peoples' strengths.

  5. Attitude isn't everything, but it's pretty darn close. When hiring new people, Anderson says we should notice their attitudes, then ask "is theirs worth catching?"

  6. Customer service is not a's an attitude. Is that ever the truth!

  7. Eat the Frog. Anderson says, "if the first thing you do when you wake us is to eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day." I'd say that's right! So, he says, we need to look at our to-do list, identify the frogs, then eat them first---and it's smooth sailing after that.

  8. Less is almost always more. Keep it simple.

  9. Wisdom is knowing the right path to take...Integrity is taking it. Integrity is not what we do as much as who we are. and who we are, in turn, determines what we do." (John Maxwell).

  10. A leader's job is to look into the future and see the organization, not as it is, but as it should be. Enough said.

  11. We aren't in the coffee business serving people. We're in the people business serving coffee. Yep--that's from Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks.

  12. Quality is the Mother...And we don't mess with Mom. Quality is a core value in successful companies.

  13. Turn up the Fun-O-Meter. What companies comes to mind? Southwest Airlines. Google. A little fun at work is a good thing.

This is a good little book to share with your colleagues or your family members.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Skywatch Friday city: Mexico City

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What do Fish Oil, Vitamin D, and Wine Have in Common?

Well, I'll tell you in a minute. but first--hear about MY NUMBERS! Blood pressure--great; all the cholesterols--great; bones, good.

One bit of interesting info from the doc. He prescribed heavy doses of Vitamin D twice a month. He says new studies are out which show that D, along with calcium, is important in warding off osteoporosis and that it has shown some promise in fighting cancers and autoimmune diseases. He says that we used to get plenty of D from sun exposure, but since many of us have curtailed that, we do not get enough. Plus, he says, the recommended daily dosage of 400 units is nowhere near enough. He said that in three to five years he would expect that most people would be on Vitamin D because the data show it is effective.

I checked my multi-vitamin--it has 500 units. My prescription is for 50,000 units twice each month. I've done a little research, and it can't hurt. Wouldn't it be wonderful if lil' ole Vitamin D is a cheap miracle.

Another cheap miracle, IMHO, is fish oil. We've been taking statins as a high cholesterol preventive for several years; however, we added fish oil two years ago, and our LDLs,HDLs, and TGs have improved as much as 30%---amazing. I asked the doc if we could discontinue the statins and try the fish oil only. Nope, he said; doesn't work that way.

The real question is--how much benefit does the red wine provide? I bet lots!

Anyway, definitely a cause for celebration!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Roast Pork Loin

When we cleaned out the freezers yesterday, we found items that we had forgotten about. Among those were a half pork loin, figs I had put up last summer. and a bag of the little white peas that we all enjoy so much. They were to become the backbone of our lunch today.

For the pork loin, I decided to modify Frank Stitt's recipe, Roast Pork Loin Stuffed with Rosemary, Bacon, and Onions. I wanted to use the figs in the stuffing.

I had frozen the figs in a sugar water mixture, so I simply cooked them until the liquid was gone. At the same time, I cooked diced onions and celery in another pan until they were translucent. I added some finely-diced smoked sausage, minced garlic, and salt and pepper, and then I added it all to the fig mixture. Here's how that looked:

I also crumbled some of the cornbread that I made yesterday and added it to the fig mixture. Then, it was ready to stuff.

To prepare the roast, I assembled our tools:

We use a 1" pvc pipe with a notched end (Tom made in the shop) to bore the hole through the middle of the pork loin. I hold the roast steady, and Tom gently twisted the pipe back and forth until he reached the other end. We used the dowel to pack the stuffing in the roast. After we packed the stuffing in, I wrapped the roast in kitchen twine and plugged each end of the roast with a 1/2" piece of the tenderloin that we removed from the roast---to keep too much of the stuffing from cooking out. Here's how the roast looked before cooking.

The recipe said cook at 450 for twenty minutes, then 325 for thirty minutes. I had to cook it about twelve minutes longer. Here's how it looked as we sliced it.

I also cooked the little white peas. Mother ate lunch with us, and one of the things she likes on her peas is a fresh relish of diced tomatoes, onions, and sweet peppers with a little vinegar and water added. It really is good. Here's a peak at the peas and relish.