Wednesday, September 30, 2009

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OF COURSE, DEAR READER, YOU'VE plumb forgotten that I planted a little orchard last fall. Alas, although I had every intention of tenderly tending the trees, I tended to forget them myself for long stretches of time. I meant to minister to their every need (well, other than sun and rain, the production of which without a doubt lies far outside my realm of capabilities--but I suppose that goes without saying, so you can kindly forget that I said it.) It's true that I managed to check on them occasionally, but never thoroughly investigated just what their "every need" might be.

In early summer the trees appeared to be just fine. I envisioned with pleasure the apples and cherries and pears they'd yield, their branches bowing with the bounty. But of course, I was chucking the fruit in the baskets too soon. (You know, "counting my chickens..." except, well, that expression could be confusing, due to the fact that there actually are chickens running around here. And I could actually be counting them, although likely not before they're hatched, on account of these chickens haven't started laying eggs yet. Dear me, I fear I may be muddling your mind and leading you down a rabbit trail. And rabbits... you know how they multiply! Maybe to the point of being difficult to count; but, oh, good grief...)

By mid-summer the trees were having a bit of a struggle. Just why, I do not know. (I'm rather ashamed to admit) I merely watched helplessly as the cherry dropped its leaves and dropped its immature fruit, and the leaves of the apple took on a leprous look. My fruity expectations were adjusted numerous times...ever downward

But still, my little orchard did survive, which was my ultimate wish.



And so today, feeling that the time was ripe, I stopped by to reap whatever there was to reap. And what do you suppose I found? ONE PEAR. One perfectly-shaped and delightful-to-cup-in-my-hands pear!

It is the sum total of my orchard production, my complete fruit harvest--this lovely little pear. Pretty easy to count, but oh, not so easy to gobble up!*





*Too bad--it's very possible it will sit on my counter, garnering my admiration, until its only useful offering will have been its former beauty.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

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"I MAY BE A LITTLE LATE GETTING HERE tomorrow," my pottery teacher, whom I happened to be seated beside, leaned over and whispered to me yesterday afternoon as the pottery workshop was wrapping up. "What?!!" I whispered back. "You mean this is a two-day workshop?! No way. That's not what the paper said! The paper said 'both Saturday and Sunday, a day-long workshop'." I rummaged around in my purse and pulled out the crumpled sheet I'd torn from the newspaper. Glancing over the article, I underlined the specifics with my finger. "See?" I whispered to Dennis. "Are you sure it's really two days? I thought the 'one-day workshop' was to be repeated." Dennis agreed the facts were stated somewhat ambiguously; but yes, the workshop was definitely a two-day affair.

Well....that did explain why the instructor, a university professor from out of state, did not seem to be finishing up the construction of his teapots. He hadn't demonstrated the making of spouts or handles, as promised. He hadn't concluded his work on the lids. His presentation, in fact, seemed to be only half-way complete.

But, darn, I couldn't be here tomorrow! I was committed to overseeing the serving of a meal to some two-hundred people. Any other Sunday it would be a simple matter to skip church, but not on the day we have a carry-in meal at which I am in charge! Wracking my brain, I couldn't figure out any way to slip out of that responsibility...not at this late date. No, sadly, I was just going to have to miss the second half of Peter Pinnell's excellent workshop.

But you're clever, dear reader, are you not? You're thinking that I wouldn't have begun this tale just to end it with a little lump of disappointment; much better were it ending with a lump of clay. And, oh, ho, right you are! After an hour's attendance in the church kitchen this morning, collecting dishes of homemade lasagna--"This needs to bake at 350 for an hour and a half," chili casserole--"Just heat this up, then add the grated cheese," fruit salad--"Can you slice these bananas and add them?" and a smorgasbord of other entrees, salads and tempting desserts, I unloaded my place at the helm and left the other capable women in the kitchen in charge of the serving and clean-up. (They generously urged me to leave. They said, "What, do you think you're indispensable?!" They pushed me out the door.)

Thus, yipee. I got in on another day of interesting intake. Though I missed the first hour, I arrived at the class in time to hear the instructor say, "You start with a carrot..."

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And oh, my goodness, don't I still have plenty of those?!
But, yes, you know what he really meant:
A lump of clay.



(What luck-- just the ending I'd hoped for!)

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

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NOT MANY DAYS AGO, I mentioned to the man who was eating dinner with me that I didn't think I'd stick with pottery-making much longer. There's the problem of having to deal with the items that I create (they beg me not to consign them to the trash bin), as well as the relatively big chunk of time taken by a three-hour class each Friday and another three-hour session each Monday. There's no denying that the time spent manipulating the clay passes quickly, and that noodling around in my brain on a search for creative ideas is fun. But, well, too often my pieces seem to be waving tiny flags announcing, "Ha! Not Exactly a Pro." Furthermore, whenever it comes time for glazing the pottery, my enthusiasm fades, and I start thinking about how I'm running short on available hours for other endeavors.


And then...I went and got myself a big load of make-more-pottery inspiration! You see, in the "Entertainment" section of yesterday's paper, I happened to read a little article about a national pottery show being held at a local studio. The reception opening the show was to be that very evening beginning at 6 p.m.

I immediately glanced at the clock--it was 5:55 p.m. Alas, there wasn't a throw-a-perfect-pot chance of taking in that event.   Reading on, however, I saw there was to be an all-day workshop held the next day. Those attending would get some tutelage from the celebrated potter who had judged the winners of the current exhibit.

I'm acting on a whim, I thought. And, Fabulous! There's nothing like a whim to act upon.

Today I went to the workshop, where the hours flew by and I was infused with a notion that from now on pottery-making would be much simpler (I mean, surely I had been making it more difficult than necessary in some way). Look how easily this man could transform a lump of clay! And he claimed not to have any special skills. Can you believe? All it took, he said, was patience and timing.

Hmmm. 

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Well, at any rate, it boosted my fantasies about what I'll be carrying home from pottery class in the coming weeks.

And that's enough to keep me scurrying off to work the clay for a little while longer!
......



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Thursday, September 24, 2009

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MY DAUGHTER'S GARDEN HAS BEEN doing some languishing lately. Many of the plants are already succumbing to their inevitable slow demise, but there are a few still burdened down with the last of the summer's produce--lots of little eggplants, and peppers that are taking on a glorious shade of red. Although there are still some weeks to go before the end of the growing season, the final harvest now seems near.




And the final harvest. Hmm. Who can ever say about the timing of that?












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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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SCENARIO ONE: TO CELEBRATE THE OPENING day of Autumn, I decided to cook up a dish that would be a fabulous fall color. Carefully contemplating my options, I settled on Carrot Soup and ran out to the supermarket to purchase the main ingredient.

Scenario Two: After an appointment with the cardiologist this morning, I trotted over to Costco to fetch the new stash of green and yellow capsules he convinced me would be of more benefit than my current tiny white pills. Inside the store, I waited as the pharmacist was super-meticulous with my Rx (yes, that's my rationale when the time required leads me to envision a druggist wiping the sweat from his brow as he grinds up the compounds with his mortar and pestle).

Trekking through the produce department, I was killing time...
Oh, whoops, no,no,no! I wasn't killing it. (It was the rooster I wished to do away with, remember?) No, I think I was saving time...when I spotted a great mound of carrots. Ah, they were organic! And carrots, you know, they're the Miss Congenialities of the vegetable world, getting along so well with others.




Into my cart went a whopping
ten pounds of carrots. Of course, when I got home, I had to think up some way to use this harvest and I thought, Why not Carrot Soup? So I set to peeling and chopping. And peeling and chopping. And peeling and chopping. Arrgh, I'd barely made a dent in the bag and they didn't seem so congenial anymore (I can't blame them. I'm sure it was me who'd lost my affability.)

So Scenario One or Scenario Two.
Take your best guess. Either way, I ended up with Carrot Soup today.

Lots of carrots went into the soup. But lots and lots more are smiling away in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator, wishing me a happy autumn, I'm sure.

And that's just exactly what I'm wishing you, Dear Reader. Have a Happy Autumn!



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Monday, September 21, 2009

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THERE WAS A REASON I AWOKE with the sun this morning, quite in opposition to my wishes. It was on account of that male in the chicken-yard. Less than enamored by the rooster cock-a-doodling his fool head off, it dawned on me that if he kept it up, there could be some actual truth to the part about his head coming off.

And then I said to the keeper of the fowl, "You're going to have to get rid of that noisy creature!"


Of course, now I'm pondering the fact that on the last day of summer, all thanks to said creature, I didn't miss the marvelous sunrise.


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Saturday, September 19, 2009

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I BENT DOWN AND QUIETLY THANKED THE PIG. It's not easy to eat a creature who has (willingly or unwillingly--who's to know?) given its life for you, when you are looking it in the (admittedly fake) eye. But, oh, that pork was yummy.

I know this guy who annually invites his vast array of friends to come and share the eating of a roasted pig; he serves it up with plenty of drinks. There's a long table full of dishes his friends have carried in, as well.






Since Gerry's been generously hosting this roasted swine party for twenty-eight years now, most of his friends (of which I'm one, as you may have astutely guessed) are familiar with the protocol. Come early enough, you can play volleyball, watch the pig being carved (you get to sample some of the choicest bits) and look over the


display of historical limited-edition t-shirts (he gets a new one designed each year featuring some sort of clever piggy pun and likeness--this year's "King of Slop" was wearing one glove).


Of course, when the main event gets underway, there is a serious line at the food tables.


And a lot of eating, drinking and conversing going on. It's a once-a-year porcine delight.

(Dear reader, you may wish to spark up a friendship with Gerry...


...in which case, I'll keep my eye out for you a year from now when Gerry and friends are eating his 29th pig.)



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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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Tuesday--September 15, tax payment day. Just past the Ides of September. Verging on autumn.
Time and tide wait for no man. Ah, life is short and fleeting. Autumn around the corner nearly always makes me feel this way.


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Sunday, September 13, 2009

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I HAD TO SAY GOOD-BYE to the OBX.





SO NOW I'M HOME AGAIN. GENTLY LANDING IN THE non-vacation spot after a long drive and darkness falling.

After the adventures of yesterday, which included: walking the sands of Jockey's Ridge, a mini-Sahara with the waters of the Sound at its edge,

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eating on Shishe's deck--a big ol' pile of steamed shrimp and a brown grocery bag of crab legs, with a fire burning and Prairie Home Companion on the radio,

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throwing gastronomic discipline to the wind and gorging on Rocky Road and Peanut Butter Cup ice cream--I wasn't thrilled to hug my sis and some of my offspring goodbye and head north this morning.









(I'm convinced, however, there are good things
to be said for returning while still able
to fit into ones clothes.)







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Friday, September 11, 2009

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BEFORE I TRAVELED HERE to the Outer Banks, Shishe had warned me it was going to rain every day for the next ten days. Consequently, I was not shocked or outraged or otherwise too terribly disappointed when we had rain and strong wind yesterday. And then, lo and behold, this morning the day morphed into one of lovely sun. No rain to dampen any plans. It was a downright delightful day, in which Caroline and I were joined by other family members.


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We had great weather for going to Elizabethan gardens, watching Sound water lapping at the shore.






Then coming back to the ocean, where the waves were much more vigorous in their arrival.


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A good day was had by all. Although, mine ended with a lobster dinner--

--and I suppose the lobster did not think it so delightful.








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Thursday, September 10, 2009

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I HAVE THIS HABIT (or I'd sure like to develop it) OF RUNNING OFF for a few days without much warning. It's just for a few days, after all. Before you know it, I'll once more be too far from the Atlantic Ocean to hear it roaring in wind-tossed agitation.







It's a great place to be...visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina. How was I to know a storm would come rolling in with me and Caroline? What luck! I love the sight and sound of it!







And it doesn't prevent us from eating seafood,





































or going to the movies with Shishe and seeing "Julie and Julia" and eating other things that could also be considered fine dining...



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...although I had to stop Shishe before she fell headlong into the popcorn and M&Ms.



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Monday, September 7, 2009

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IT WAS THAT TIME AGAIN...Yesterday it was time to build a bonfire for the annual Harvest Moon Festival, a.k.a kielbasi-roasting time for extended family.


Due to the exceptionally early date of this year's event, we got some exceptional advantages--not only was the weather a very perfect temperature for bonfire-circling, but we also obtained an extra hour for eating before darkness set in. Furthermore, yesterday not only were we celebrating a holiday, but, get this...it was the birthday of the Bonfire-Builder!

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Since the Bonfire-Builder gets a great satisfaction out of constructing bonfires, especially when there will be numerous loved ones to encircle and appreciate it, and the Bonfire-Builder's wife (uh, yes) is always delighted when there is an actual full moon for the Harvest Moon Festival, getting this date--all things converging--seemed to be a real coup.



















So, to be brief, (unlike the H. M.Festival itself) yesterday the bonfire was built and it matured. The guests arrived and the kielbasi was roasted, pans and bowls and platters of food were eaten and the lawn games were played. Darkness fell and the birthday cake was served and the moon came up. The chatter around the bonfire was loud and lively. Meanwhile, the bonfire kept sending up its lovely sparks.

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And the group kept sending up its lovely laughter.
On and on and on, right to the very end of the Bonfire-Builder's birthday!




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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

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I HAVE AN AWESOME GIFT!  I'm sure there are many other persons with such a gift, but there are many more who do not have an LTF. You likely don't know what that is--an LTF...in fact, you may be puzzling over this right now, asking yourself if it would possibly be a Little Tiny Frog or a Lovely Trailing Fern. Maybe a Luckily-won Trip to the Fiji Islands. You can't see me shaking my head and rolling my eyes just a bit, but you're not even close. Now, on the other hand, if you were to think: It must be a Long-Time Friend, you would be verging on hitting the nail on the head!

What I have isn't just a long-time one, but a Life-Time Friend. It's very special to possess such a gift because you realize, Dear Reader, that if you do not get started at the beginning, it's impossible to back up and make a Life-Time Friend out of anyone--dear and well-loved as they may be.  It's imperative that they started the journey with you.  (If this were a James Michener-style book, I'd be taking you back to life at conception, and the friendship with my womb mate.  But he is my twin, my brother.  This LTF is a girlfriend of mine). Yes, Sylvia and I have known each other since our names hung side-by-side on the Cradle Roll at church, since she was a one-month-old, since we toddled into one another's yards. Long before we started school together, we tea-partied with Malinda under the ancient, majestic Oak in the field across the road (Perhaps it was an Elm? It is long gone, but never to be forgotten). At school we jumped on the jumping boards together, hula-hooped, huddled around a radio in the classroom as Russia sent up Sputnik. We thanked those mothers, busy cleaning up after serving the school lunches, for the good good good good good good good diiii-ners. Sylvia and I, we turned an empty rabbit hutch into our secret playhouse. Summer after summer we went to Bible School. We learned of Little Wang Foo. Sunday after Sunday, (it nearly goes without saying) we went to Sunday School. And my LTF, she asked the teacher What does fornication mean? the poor teacher blushed and stammered. We Slumber-partied. Oh, how we slumber-partied. We pondered the tragic deaths of our classmates, Joe and Milton and Susie. Walked for miles on Sunday afternoons, and schemed and dreamed together. Oh, how we schemed and dreamed. We listened to the Beach Boys. On Friday nights we followed Robert's Rules of Order (Dear Reader, this was during meetings of the Literary Society, and I would explain if ever I thought I could do it in ten thousand words or less). We sunbathed on the pier. We listened to the Beatles sing I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Glad All Over. At Ferguson High, we read El Camino Real for Mr. Cox, and listened with horror one November day as Mr. Byrd, our English teacher, burst into the classroom and exclaimed "The president's been shot! I'm not kidding--the president's been shot!" We wrote volumes of notes to one another during the classes we did not share, and passed them back and forth in the hallways. Watched TV on her family's set, constantly fiddling with the color dial to give the orange-faced people a decent human hue. For our senior year, we moved away from home and into a high school dorm. We listened to The Mamas and the Papas. Then went to college together when it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Ah, and there is so much more. So much more to the story of my LTF and me! All that I've written would be but a blurb on the dust-jacket of the book we could write together.

As it turns out, it's only the blurb on the Happy Birthday blog I'm posting for her. It's been a few years since our days on Colony Road, but I won't tell anyone how many. I'm just going to say: Happiest of birthdays to you, dear LTF!


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(Oh, and of course--there was also Joan Baez,
who sings my wishes for you)
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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

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LAST WEEK I TOOK A TRIP TO AMISH country.





I am so very sorry to confuse you, dear reader---you must know by now that I live right in the middle of Amish country.

Ah, but you see, there are other large Amish settlements and the man I live with is very interested in all things Amish. Well, perhaps just Amish horse-drawn things. Hmm, maybe only Amish horse-drawn farming things.

Now that I think of it, the interest may be mainly the horse-drawn farming aspect of it, Amish or otherwise. But you see, whatever the case, I ended up in some interesting little towns in Ohio-- with not only the man himself, but two good friends traveling along.























We were entertained by lots of charmingly old-fashioned scenes,




















and interesting Amish stores stocked with Amish necessities.










Sorry, no photos of the Amishman who showed us all around his horse-equipment manufacturing shop. In fact, too bad, no photos of the shop either. Employees had gone home for the day and the building was clean enough to sit on the floor and eat. (Well, it looked that clean. We didn't try it out.)



We checked out cheese shops, locally-made cheese being a big item in that area. And we looked at Amish-built furniture.

We improvised at least one great little dinner with the cheese and wine that we collected.














One town, set among the "mini-alps," featured all things Swiss, including some handsome and sturdy little
donkeys and goats with their tinkling cowbells. (Hmm...I do hope I'm not offending them, it's just that I've never heard anyone make reference to a goatbell or a donkeybell.)




Interestingly enough, we got more chances to buy cheese when, en route home, we spent our final afternoon in Pittsburgh's Italian market.


But before perusing the market,
one member of our group was on a mission. That church up the block--was it Greek Orthodox?




He knocked on a door,
worked his charm on a
very trusting keeper
of the key. It was the
key to getting us in.
And so we took a tour.
The church was not Greek Orthodox.
And it certainly was not Amish
(You're right. I knew you'd know that).
















It was very old and very Catholic. Thus we began our trip with a study in simplicity. And ended with a study in ornateness.

And all of it was fascinating.





























(And fun)
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