Friday, December 20, 2013

The Blessings of Christmas 2013

Rather than beat myself up for not keeping my goal of blogging often, let me just concisely excuse myself by the following:  Life Happens!  We have spent our first Thanksgiving away from at least some of our biological family and friends and have adopted or been adopted by another couple of families.  We meshed our holiday traditions together--including those from Boston, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Germany-- and the end result was quite nice.  Since then, my husband surprised me by having our daughter and son-in-law to secretly fly across country from Orlando, Florida, and after giving me a fake reason for going out, drove to our airport, picked them up, re-entered the house to go upstairs and three minutes later had them to knock wildly at our front door!  Have you ever been so surprised that you can't get coherent thoughts to come to the front and usher sensible words out of your mouth?  That was exactly what I felt when I opened that door to see my daughter's sweet, laughing face and Philip's "Grizzly Adams'" look beside her as we swept each other into bear hugs.  We spent from Friday evening to almost a half day of Monday reconnecting and engaging in new adventures!  The Christmas season began with this visit!

Since that weekend, buying and mailing presents for family and friends have been the main focus.  (My tip for myself, in the event we do not get to be at home again next year, is to again start early and bypass any shipping companies other than the postal service, specifically parcel post, unless I am mailing an elephant!)  Roy and I finished it all in time to entertain a military group for lunch, attend a military ball, and fly to Phoenix for 7 days of relaxation and adventure.  The Christmas spirit still pervades our diminished family--Roy, myself and our two furry babies Huck and Finn--as we are currently at this point in our Christmas blessings.

Christmas Day arrives in five days;  we will open a few gifts and turn our sights to the week after the new year when our sweet boy arrives for a week of visiting and major playing with Huck and Finn.  We do and will consider ourselves blessed beyond measure as the 2013 Christmas season ends, and I will turn my eyes to March/April when I once more see my babies in person (hopefully, this time Thanh, Phal and the grandbabies also)!  Life continues to move on, and we are very aware of being in the center of God's Will as we enjoy peace that can only come from the Lord and trust Him to take care of us all.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Truly am "Off My Rocker"

I pass through a gate on post on average 2 times a day except on Saturday.  I always appreciate the professionalism of the men who greet, scan and protect everyone who enters.  Yesterday, I was on my phone (no phone to ear just using my phone-sync to my car) talking to the Pet Brigade getting Huck and Finn set up for a grooming.  As I approached the gate, I told the girl on the other end of the phone where I was and informed her that I would be quiet for a moment.  I handed my card to the MP, and I noticed--as my groomer just continues to talk, talk, talk-- that he looked at me rather strangely and a little smile lifted the corners of his mouth.  He said, "Ma'am, I would love to accept this, but . . . ."  I looked up to see that my military ID had changed colors from a beige to a metallic blue, and I read the word VISA emblazoned on it.  LOL  There is something about being 59 years old that allows you to laugh and gives permission to the guard and, after I articulated to her what was happening, the groomer to laugh with you!  Bless both of their hearts, I made their day!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Who Makes Pie Crusts Anyway?

Even though I was asking myself the question "Who makes pie crusts?," I was quick to respond with a "Yes" to the invitation to learn to do so.  This bid to be a participant in the "class" was partly due to the fact that I have eaten the hosting Chaplain's wife's food on more than one occasion, and it has always been a delight.  Of course, she is gifted and has used that gift for a portion of her life as a caterer, owning a couple of  food businesses during those years.  I was fortune enough to meet her three years ago at Ft. Jackson, and she was then and still is now using this gift as a ministry on the base or post to which God sends her and her husband.  There was no way that I would miss this opportunity to learn to make pie crusts!

The invitation gave time and place as well as the ingredients to bring, in the event the attendees wanted to take a pie crust home.  Cool idea!  Immediately, I realized that my choice to pack lightly left me with no large mixing bowls and even had I been bringing everything from my kitchen at home, I would never have packed a rolling pin!  So, with that little confession, dear reader, you must realize that I am one of those women who go to the frozen section of the grocery store to get pie crusts.

What a class!  It was a huge amount of information and fun all rolled up in dough.  After having witnessed this process, I found my mind wandering to the two special people in my life who made their pies entirely from scratch--Mrs. Katie Welch (now in Heaven) and Mrs. JoAnn Vincent!  These two ladies rivaled each other in creating the very best coconut cream pies complete with homemade crusts that I have ever eaten in my life!  After long days at high school, I was so blessed to sit at the dining room table along with Mrs. Welch and her daughters Jennifer and Jane, my buddies and adopted sisters, and devour a healthy serving of coconut or chocolate pie as an afternoon snack with a glass of the best sweet tea ever!  Several years later in life, I would go to church dinners and make a run for a piece of coconut pie made by Mrs. JoAnn Vincent because it was common knowledge that if you waited until you had eaten your meal and then return to the dessert table for her pie, you would be sorely disappointed to find none left.  Oh my!  My mouth is salivating as I think of those pies!

I don't know if I will ever be a terrific maker of pie crusts, but this I do know:  there are some skills worth acquiring and keeping alive, and then there are some women who impact our lives in the best of ways, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have sampled some of both.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Lest We Forget" Day--a Gentle Reminder to the Human Race Collectively

Veteran's Day has always been pretty special to our family because both the Parks and the Swisher sides of our immediate family's heritage is steeped in the military.  My precious Uncle Bob served in World War II and my own dad served in the Korean Conflict.  Roy's father also served in the Korean Conflict and Roy, his sister Elsie, and brother Dennis all came in at the end of the Vietnam Era.  Each year we applaud our Veterans, enjoy the free or discounted food from our favorite restaurants, and take advantage of the tremendous Veteran's Day sales at this store or that.

Poppies Worn in Remembrance
This year, however,  Roy and I had the pleasure of spending our four day Veteran's weekend on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.  Most of our time was spent in Victoria--I will give you a "play by play" later.  All weekend, I saw little transparent plastic boxes filled with poppies and a slot for a monetary donation sitting on counters in most businesses around the Island.  Seeing the dedication of our Canadian neighbors to honoring their fallen and their past and present service men and women, made the meaning of this day be a little sharper to me personally.

"Lest We Forget" Wreath and Canadian Flag

Of course, every church that I have ever attended adds a special recognition of servicemen to the service on the Sunday prior to Veteran's Day on Monday.  Canada is not any different.  We were blessed to
be greeted warmly by many in attendance at the Central Baptist Church in Victoria.  I have never met friendlier people nor people who voiced more appreciation for the sacrifice of the veterans, both past and present, of Canada nor for the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus who died for our sins.  The service was so spiritually moving including the Praise and Worship team who led us in worship, the two-man team who made the announcements fun and not boring, the ceremonial recognition of the Royal Canadian military branches,  and the wonderful sermon of the minister.   Always refreshing to see how other churches function as to organization and program, it is equally interesting to view their celebrations!

We left this beautiful place sometimes referred to as "little London" about 4:00 Sunday afternoon knowing that we as a human race--me, as a member, in particular-- tend(s) to forget those who served in past wars unless it is a personal acquaintance, or we forget those who's lives have been "blown apart" by the ravages of our more current wars unless someone keeps the Wounded Warriors in our line of vision, and it is easy to ignore the problems of suicide, high rates of divorce and the scammers or human parasites that prey on our young military especially unless it raises our righteous indignation or unless "Soldier Care" becomes a personal mission.  So, I am so glad to be reminded at least one time per year, lest I forget that freedom does not come cheap!  Thanks to all of our Veterans who had the stamina to keep plodding on even when the struggles were too great to humanly bear or they died trying!  I promise not to forget!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Refreshing Experience at the Commissary

As a military wife, I visit the Commissary a couple of times a week as I am already on base doing other things four days out of five.  I had not lived close enough to frequent this mainstay of military life for 20+ years, so during the first full month that we were here, I needed an item or two on the first day of the month, and I went in the door and what I saw led me to leave fairly quickly out the other door.  There were people everywhere and no carts in sight!  No one had told me to not go to the commissary on the 1st!  I now know that retirees or some military families who live some miles away and very organized military wives shop one time per month.  It is easy to identify them as they have two or three carts in tow.  Of course, it goes without saying that many families shop on payday which would account for some of the "hundreds" in the commissary that day.  Unfortunately, in addition to it being the first of the month, that day also was the day before the government shut down.  So, I picked the wrong day to go inside on many counts! 

I digress. The reason for my post today has more to do with something wonderful that I have observed.  It never ceases to amaze me how many husbands are there with their small children and/or with the entire family going up and down the aisles actively involved in the shopping experience and, at the end, helping to put the groceries into the SUV or trunk of the family car!  This is refreshing compared to what I have viewed  in the past at the local Kroger or Walmart!  This practice appears to cut across lines of age and rank.  I salute the military husbands and dads that I see being team players on the job and in the family! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

"I'm on the Top of the World"; A Modern Day Love Story

Such a feelin's comin' over me
There is wonder in most every thing I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream

Since coming West, aside from missing my family and friends at home,  I have been "on the top of the world"!   Truthfully, the literal "top" started in June when Rachel and I flew to Denver.  We had an awesome mother/daughter trip combined with business for Rachel.  A couple of the highlights of our trip this summer included traveling to Red Rock--one day I will return to a concert at this site--where we ate at The Fort (highly recommended going on our experience), and then the next day when we travelled to the Rockies.  Even though there was some threat of poor weather conditions, we took the Old Fall River Road to climb via the one-way/single lane, mostly gravel road to 10,000+ feet!  We were on the top of the world literally and figuratively!  We saw the most awesome views going up, and after arriving at the Alpine Visitor Center to eat and shop, we went outside to walk straight into the mist making us feel as if we were in the clouds!

Then in September, my best buddy and I, along with Huck and Finn, started West.  Again, I found myself on top of the world.  In fact, many of my friends, as reflected in their posted comments, seemed to find this new height disconcerting enough to issue warnings of being too close to the edge.  View this:

The Badlands.  The most significant aspect of this site is not how many feet in the air it is but, rather, the sheer vastness of the geological formations among other things.  I believe that for me, in particular, this "top of the world" might be more metaphorical than literal as I got to experience this with the love of my life, my buddy, my pal! 

Everything I want the world to be
Is now comin' true especially for me
And the reason is clear, it's because you are here
You're the nearest thing to Heaven that I've seen

This past Saturday I found myself yet again "on top of the world."  Roy and I went to Mt. Rainier;  this time, we were at only 5,400 ft. but when we reached Paradise Visitor Center.  I read "I'm On the Top of the World" on a display and knew that the old song by the Carpenters that I listened to incessantly during my college years described this experience in which I am currently so immersed. 

There is only one wish on my mind
When this day is through I hope that I will find
That tomorrow will be just the same for you and me
All I need will be mine if you are here

I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Got a Deal!

My husband and I have been married, as of August 12, 2013, for 35 years.  Those people who know Roy well know that he likes nothing better than the hunt for a good deal and will even pit one business (very effective with car dealerships) against its competition to get the best possible outcome. He pours over ads for the cheapest Diet Cherry Dr. Peppers and drives the distance to acquire them.  He buys canned vegetables by the case if he sees them on sale.  By this time, some of you are saying "enough"! while some of you are saying "that is just good business sense"!

Roy has tried to be a good role model and teach his family members about being thrifty.  One of our children is Roy, Jr. when it comes to money, while the remainder of us are at different stages of learning or just can't be bothered!  Take me, for instance.  In 35 years of marriage, I have learned how to ask for certain discounts, how to shop on line for the better price, and I have even managed to make myself ask Walmart to match the price of their competitor--if Roy reminds me that this store or that has it cheaper.  The shopping online for the kill is no stretch for me at all, but if the cashier in the store acts in the least like the church treasurer who believes the Sunday offering is her personal property or, in other words, balks, I fold, smile and thank her sweetly.

I find that I have to scratch my head in wonder when it comes to certain pursuits of "the deal." I will illustrate the concept.  I see it play out on a daily basis in the food industry as well as in retail, but it is easier to illustrate it than to "name" it.  Panera Bread is one of my favorite places to hang out and use their wi-fi, read or snuggle up to their fireplace all while having the best cheddar broccoli soup that I have ever eaten bar none.  I have a MyPanera card, and I love the surprises that I receive via that card, but there is a problem with it.  A few days ago, I dropped in at our local Panera for just a cup of soup with a whole grain baguette.  I wanted nothing more or nothing less as it was a little later than the recognized lunch hours, I wasn't starving, and I didn't want to be too full to eat dinner with my husband when he got home.

I ordered.  The cashier said, "You have $2 off on the Pick 2 on your card.  Would you like to upgrade and take advantage of the savings?"

My mind is arguing with itself or perhaps it is with Roy's voice--either way, I succumb to the allure of getting a cup or bowl (I can't remember which) plus a sandwich and a baguette and save $2!  Yes!  I got a deal!  Within the hour as I leave I realize that I have spent $2 more than I would have spent had I stuck to my guns.  Granted, I got more food, but I am now feeling sick because I have overstuffed myself, and I will not be able to eat dinner with my husband.

Second case in point!  Easy Spirit has been my shoe of choice for the last ten years or so.  While these shoes have different levels of support, the brand itself came highly recommended by the foot therapist who treated my plantar fasciitis several years back.  However, I never purchase these shoes in a department store nor online; I more frugally seek out Easy Spirit outlets.  A couple of days ago, I realized that I had arrived in this state with one pair of black shoes--casual flats--and one black shoe with a heel. I could not find my other black heel.  Thanks to Google, I was elated to find an Easy Spirit store about 30 minutes from our home!  Yes!  I walk into the store to find the much needed pair of black heels, locate them, and look up to find the following sign:  BOGO 50% off, or something to that effect.  So starts the struggle of what to do!  If I had come in for a pair of boots, I could have gotten 30% off of a single pair!  . . . Okay, so I could use another style of a navy shoe, so what do I do?  Spend $20-$30 more than I had planned and go home with two pairs of shoes.

The point is that I GOT A DEAL, didn't I?

I console myself with the knowledge that when I get to Heaven, an angel nor God will meet me at the Pearly Gates and say,  "For just $100, you may upgrade from from an inside mansion to a mansion with a view."  No!  Jesus paid it all, so I would not have to wonder if I got a deal or not!  Amen and Amen!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Home is Where the Heart Is???

When I made the decision to retire from my teaching job March of 2012, I traded the joy of inspiring the dreams of my students for realizing a few dreams of my own.  My dream of the perfect retirement took me to live in Indiana with my husband who had been there already for six months and to upgrade a 1960's house by taking down more wallpaper than I care to even think about in retrospect.  Just as I finished making that house a home, I was blessed to teach again during the fall of 2012, until the closing of the academy.  My heart was in that home because my husband and my furry babies were there.  However, when it came to moving back to the home that we had had built with our own stamp of personal choices on it, I was not heartbroken to trade in the shallow closets, original oak flooring (much of it covered by carpet), and formica countertops for walk ins, Brazilian Cherry and granite.  In spite of the upgrades, would it have been home without my husband there?  Not really, so when he was sent to the next assignment, although I balked in the beginning, I packed our left over furniture--some inherited and some purchased from an estate--chose only the clothes suitable to our destination, and drove across country.  Somewhere between Montana and the west coast,  my best friend and husband leased a home mutually agreed upon (based solely on a website view and description) in our preferred neighborhood/town.

When we arrived, we were met with these views:
Main street moving through the town center
Adjacent street dressed in fall colors

Neighborhood Starbucks--Lucky Me!

I was reminded at once of the movie Pleasantville, and, at the same time, of my friend's husband's recent post concerning intentional communities (linked for your reading pleasure  Reading John's view of an intentional community made me want to rush out and get in on the ground floor of this concept, so I hope that he will not be offended by me connecting his academically researched plan for a community to our little town designed to include a store, among other deliberately chosen features, to meet every daily need of the members of the community allowing them to rarely have to leave town center if they so choose.  We have a dry cleaner, library, Yogurtini, Jiffy Lube,  bus "depot," hotel, post office, Mexican restaurant, 3 sushi establishments, a pub--to name a few examples--and my neighbor informed me that we are getting a grocery store within a short time.  The streets are tree lined with the elementary school and childcare facility located alongside the homes, apartments and condos.  Dogs are welcome additions and are companions to their owners who frequently walk, ride bikes or jog on the sidewalked streets.  Our town is designed so that the houses back up to their own alley where the garbage is discreetly picked up, parks are dispersed throughout the community, and landscape at the front of each house is manicured for the most part by the city workers rather than home owners.  Gray, beige, yellow, clay and blue are repeated colors of houses on any given street where inhabitants look down on their side yards from second floor windows or casually from the front porches of their deep, one-storied homes called ramblers.

The house we call home is a two-story with an open living, dining and kitchen area warmed by a fireplace while three bedrooms with two baths hover above.  A garage and grassy side yard with hot tub completes our "little world." (For the sake of inquiring family members, pictures are included,)  This house has wood floors that creak with every footfall and no bathroom on the first floor, but we embrace it as our home because it pulses with the love and energy of four hearts--Roy's, Huck's, Finn's, and mine!
Our Northwest home

Living Area with my dad's recliner, couch and chair from Indiana and Canvas 1 repainted to match each home

Entryway with Mrs. Finnerty's secretary

Dining area and corner kitchen

Guest room with my Uncle Bob's cedar bedroom set and my great grandmother's quilt

Master bedroom with Canvas 2 painted to match its new home

Kings of the Side Yard


Thursday, October 10, 2013

"I Just Love Old People"

George Younce has been a favorite of mine for years, and I am certain that Heaven is an even happier place (if possible) since he and my dad arrived there separately over the past year or two.  Many times during his conversational portion of concerts with the Cathedrals, I have looked at his receding, gray hairline, have responded to his quick wit that bespoke of aged wisdom, and have heard him say "I love old people."  I concur. Since my hair is not as gray and my wisdom is not as sound, perhaps my saying this is not as ironic nor laughable in a good way as was with Younce, but I say this in all sincerity.  I love the way our elders turn a phrase which sometimes is foreign to our less seasoned ears, but we get the meaning--or not.  Either way, old people do not castigate you if you miss the point!  They look at you with an understanding smile and ease your discomfort by silently signaling "I've been there before you, and I sense your discomfort.  It will be okay,"  or in current vernacular  "Been there, done that.  I survived."  Case in point. . .I go to water aerobics on base on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Because I haven't been involved with an organized exercise program recently, I chose the low intensity class (It also meets at 10:00 rather than 9:00, so it fits my needs on more than one level.).  Upon walking into the locker room on the first day, I am met by retired female military personnel, retirement- age spouses and a few wives shy of age 65 all giving me advice as to choices related to the class offerings.  Leaving the locker room,  I enter the pool area rather timidly, and in mid-stride to join the already stretching members in the water, I notice that the little Korean lady closest to me motioned that I should pick up the floating dumbbells, a noodle and hand weights--poundage of my own choosing--before entering the pool. All of this was done without language but rather pointing gestures and a whole lot of smiling.  She walked me through the acquiring of equipment, signing in and getting into the water to join the class already in session. Already, I was feeling a sense of nurtured belonging.

I love their stories.  The older gentleman who stands between the aforementioned little Korean lady and myself in the pool loves to talk.  It is obvious that he is one of those people who have never met a stranger, and it is equally obvious that he has not used all of his male-alloted words by the time he arrives to class (I bet his wife lives for the hour when he leaves for water aerobics--jk).  Aside from the fact that he made me miss half of the instructions throughout the first class, he tells great stories.  He told me yesterday that he and his wife were going to Kansas City for a military reunion, and then the stories began. . . .

I get their antics and fun loving spirit!  Having been a teacher of teenagers for several years, I can make the observation pretty confidently that there is always a clown in every class.  It is true with these military retirees as well.  Three men at the other end of the pool, perhaps former officers and leaders who were probably responsible for many men's lives and safety,  whoop and holler at random times when the class gets boring or they smack their foam noodles wildly and unabashedly on the surface of the pool as their classmates twitter (like birds, not social media) in response.  Oddly, their "acting out" does not evoke any occupational urge in me to reprimand nor remind them of their role in the "educational community."  Ha!  I embrace it!

And last but not least, I love their embedded meanings-- uplifting, in nature, rather than employing a "putdown."  Granted, I am in my late fifties, currently wearing more pounds than I would like, and very modest.  I go to the pool with my swimsuit on under my street clothes not because of modesty issues but for the purpose of saving time.  So it was quite ironic as I stood in front of a locker and began to remove my street clothes that a sweet lady with wrinkled, mocha colored skin and a gravelly voice bathed in a smile passing behind me said, "Hey, it is not legal to do what you are doing in public."  Ha Ha!   I, for just a moment, felt like I was in my 30's in an athletic body with the ability to be Queen of the Pool!   Nice feeling!  "I just love old people!"

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Being a daddy's girl; a tribute to my dad on his 1st birthday in Heaven

Paul Keith Parks, Oct. 1, 1927--March 6, 2013

It goes without saying that I definitely was a daddy's girl;  my mother recognized it, and many times would affectionately tease me about it.  My mom and I were best buds, and I could tell her anything as she was a terrific listener, knowing that she did not judge nor belittle me in the least.  My dad, though,  was complex, like an onion with layers, and he had the power and position to motivate me in a good way to never disappoint him--whether I was five or forty-five.  He might be the closest thing in my life to a hero.  What (and not limited to this initial list) made him such a great father?

  • He approached things logically with me not just emotionally.
  • He inspired a good work ethic by example.
  • He was protective as, I believe, is unique to a father of only one child. 
  • He made me aware that I was very important to him and many of his decisions were made solely on the premise that I was the center of his world.
  • He rehearsed "what if" situations--possible dangers--until he felt that I knew how to correctly respond in the event they happened (fire, car going into a body of water, a panicked crowd, etc.).
  • He analyzed people and what motivated them and communicated those "readings" of human nature to me.
  • He taught me about God, morality and character--and lead by example.
  • He encouraged me to think.
  • He made me feel very safe.
  • He made me laugh with his quick wit.
  • He taught me a great appreciation of language by enriching my life with the colorful vernacular of his generation and those southern expressions with which he had grown up hearing.
  • He taught me to drive a stick shift, to fish, to hunt, and the list could go on.
  • He allowed me to see his hurts and made me be okay with being human.
  • He hated arrogance and held up humility as the better choice.
  • He was a man of his word and demanded integrity.
  • He made me believe that I could be anything that I chose to be--he empowered me!
  • He made me believe that he would die for me!
  • He would not allow disrespect of himself nor of my mother.
  • He taught me to say "Yes, sir," "Yes, ma'am," "No, sir," No, ma'am," "Thank you," and "Please."
  • He gave me a wonderful love of animals.
  • He passed on a love of gardening--of growing things. 
  • He taught me the art of persuasion because he did not give in to my every whim. . .                   (to be added to as I remember) 

Wrap 'n roll, anyone?

 With all of the diversity of culture within the greater military family,  one result is a hotbed of good food and entertainment.   I thought that I would be a good friend and share an idea (actually, I may be documenting the specifics more for myself in a place where I know I can find them) that requires  a minimum of preparation and absolutely no serving by the hostess at mealtime and is different, fun, and delicious!  A couple of days ago, I was invited to a "Wrap and Roll."  I was intrigued by the title of the event.  It was to occur at 6:00 in the evening, and the emailed invitation with attached flyer informed the recipients that we were going to learn to make spring rolls and sushi--thus the name, wrap and roll.   Yea!  Thanh and Rachel are my sushi buddies, and thanks to Sri Son (an extended family member), our whole family had at least a working knowledge of spring rolls.   However, I have never made my own!  Since it was a girls only party, I left Roy to his own devices for searching the frig for food and merrily went on my way.  When I arrived at the home where the event was to take place, I noticed the dining room table was set with wooden dinner plates and a container of chopsticks with no forks in sight.  There were two fun-loving hostesses who had prepared a terrific experience for a small group of women whom I had never met in my life except for the two who planned it, and amid much laughter the evening began to unfold as large platters were place in the middle of the table.

We were going to make the spring rolls first.  Rather than try to explain step by step, it is easier to provide a link that contains a tutorial explaining exactly what we did with the exception of putting chicken in the spring roll.  We used shrimp as you can see in the picture. 
The peanut sauce was to die for!  Luckily, all of us loved peanut butter, and no one had food allergies (You might want to poll your guests beforehand for such issues as there are other choices for sauces).

After we each had mastered the idea of making a spring roll to our own taste and presentation, we ate, talked and laughed ourselves through several more.  As we began to wind down, one of our hostesses swapped the first platters out for the second set of pre-assembled platters containing the ingredients for making sushi (not expertly rolled sushi, but our own versions).

The ingredients for the sushi were cooked, roasted, sauteed or marinated--no raw fish for this group.  Our meat, for this dish, was cooked salmon resting on a bed of roasted cloves of garlic, or as the shrimp was deliberately left on the table, it could be used as well.  This time the vegetables were julienned carrots marinated in rice vinegar for several hours until they were soft,  julienned cucumber, white radish sprouts and avocado.  We used the traditional sheets of seaweed or nori (which we broke into fourths), and what I call sticky rice completed our list of ingredients!  I am including another tutorial link Making California rolls that is rather similiar to what we did minus rolling the sushi in sesame seeds.  As we ate our creations, we dipped them into the soy sauce and wasabi mixture. (If you are unfamiliar with wasabi, carefully blend a small amount of wasabi with the soy sauce.  Years ago at a Chinese restaurant in Virginia Beach, my husband had the unfortunate experience of eating what he thought to be soup to be eaten liberally but was rather a sauce to be used lightly--bringing tears to his eyes in the eating and tears to my eyes in the telling!)  By the time we reached the end of the meal, an awesome American apple crisp with ice cream,  we stood around the kitchen casually talking like old friends, holding our desserts in hand, and feeling thankful for two ladies who dared to be different and prepare an awesome bonding experience for us.

If you should choose to do this, I am certain that a culturally-correct invited expert might be a great idea for teaching purposes, but we were novices and the more creative and less worried we were about correctness, the more fun it was.  Also, if Asian food is not your forte, I'm thinking the concept could be applied to other ethnic foods as well with an equally clever title for the event.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

These boots were made for walking in Washington! I just didn't know it!

I heard it not once, not twice, but three times this morning from well-wishers at the new church we attended:  "Welcome.  You have arrived just in time for the rainy season!"

Two whole years ago, my daughter Rachel gave me these rainboots for Christmas.  I thought they were so cute;  afterall, they are black/white/fuschia!  I wore them a couple of times in Kentucky, took them to Indiana where I wore them to a friend's house--in the snow, not rain (chuckle)--but I could never possibly have known two years back that I would be moving to the rain capital of the USA!  I had been  asked over and over by various people prior to our move, "You do know that it rains a lot in Washington, don't you?"  And they usually followed up with the observation that many people are depressed by the rainy weather.  Yep, that bit of info puts a black cloud over the situation!

While I always answered, "Yes, that is what I have heard," I'm not sure that I had thought of all that would mean to me.  For instance, when I walk out of my garage door, there is a wall of rain which leaves a constant puddle on our garage floor.  I walk Huck and Finn (unless Roy walks them) two times every day!  Finn could care less if it is raining!  Huck is Cooper II (Rachel's dog--our grand dog) and is miserable when he gets rained on.  Also, I can never get my windshield wipers to be at the correct speed, requiring constant adjustment on my part.  On the other hand, I love cuddling up in a chair with a good book while it is raining outside.  I love being in Starbucks all warm and cosy with a Chia latte in hand and the rain pouring down outside!  Falling rain brings to the surface one of my most cherished memories--being at my grandmother's house upstairs under a tin roof with the constant drumming of a steady rain (reading or sleeping or spending time with my cousins).  Walking in the rain, even if I do have to drag Huck for the first half of the block, is refreshing as I trod on newly washed sidewalks, smell the indescribable yet easily identified smell of fresh rain,  and listen to the comforting dripping leaves and reminds me of the one my favorite poems "I saw God wash the world last night and hang it out to dry."

May I bring your thoughts back to the fact that I have had these rain boots two years?  The most awesome thing about those rain boots and the rainy weather here is that God knew my need before even I did!  I can hear some of you thinking aloud "Yeah, right!  You said Rachel bought them for you!  You are making something out of nothing!"  Perhaps, I am. . . the same way I am when I see that God provided a house for us before we arrived because He knew that Roy and I might fall apart if we had to unload the truck into a storage unit and then in a few days move it again to a house as this move would have been the fourth major moving of furniture for us in 2013. . . the same way 4-5 men showed up at our house the day of our move and had our things in the appropriate rooms in an hour and a half (thanks to one of the CA's prompting) . . . and the same way that God used our property manager to find us a washer, dryer, lawn mower and weedeater and I could go on and on and on. . . the fact remains that God uses people and events to meet our needs even before we are aware of having them!

"My Jesus knows just what I need 
Oh yes! He knows just what I need 
He satisfies and every need supplies 
Yes, He knows just what I need "   --written by Pierre Walker and sung by Elvis Presley

Friday, September 27, 2013


Being "mother" to furry babies has its moments just as stressful and/or wonderful as when my children-- now 24, 26, and 38--were growing up!  This morning around 6:30, I was thrilled that my husband got up and took the boys out for their morning walk!  Yes!  I could actually sleep in!  Soon, though, Huck had finished his morning contribution, so Roy brought him back in and continued on around the block for a second time with Finn who had not been as quick on the draw.  Huck came bounding up the stairs with his tongue hanging out, as is typical with him, and making significant noise as he hit the steps and jarred me from my sleep when he came to a stop on the bed with his front paws planted solidly on my body as if to say "I'm here, mama!  Get up, Get up, Get up!  Let's play."  By the time I made it downstairs, Roy and Finn were back in the house.  We each moved to different spots in the house as the boys began their morning ritual of running through the house chasing each other and wrestling each other to the ground.  But then things got quiet.  As a mother,  I hated to hear that sudden total silence in the house when my children were playing in one room, and I was working in another.  That lack of noise always signaled the need to go check on Ben and Rachel (only 21 months apart in age and "partners in crime" growing up).  As I advanced around the staircase from the kitchen, I caught a glimpse of the front door.  Seeing it open about an inch, I knew that Huck and Finn had gone out of the door that my precious husband, who had tried to give me a gift of sleeping in,  had inadvertently left unsecured!  Roy and I saw that they were missing about the same time, so we both ran out of the door clapping our hands and calling "Huck, Finn, where are you?"  As I made it to the right corner of our block, I could see Roy down the street at the opposite corner, and the boys were nowhere to be seen!  I imagined the worst!  My thought was that they would dart out into one of the streets in front of a car, and I would hear the screech of tires as the life was being snatched out of both of them!  Roy later told me that he imagined that someone would pass by and see them and notice how cute they are and steal them away from us!   Reflecting upon this later, I remember how when my children were small, I would sometimes in my mind's eye see one of them being hit by a car, or drowning, etc.  Later, as they became teenagers and they began to drive, if they were late coming home, I could not help thinking of  the negative possibilities.  Wow!  all of my children are grown, and here I am still worrying!  It was, however, with the greatest of joy that I saw two little white bodies joyfully racing around the corner to meet me!  They were basking in the sunshine of freedom and had no awareness of the great danger that lurked around that corner!  I shouted down the street making Roy aware that I found them and as we all four made it back into our front door, the joy of finding them safe and sound outweighed the concern over how totally foolish we might look and sound running up the street, I still in my pajamas, yelling and pleading!   I also had to thank God none of our neighbors were anywhere close (or they would have for sure called the canine social services) when about 8 days before, at the entrance of Yellowstone Park, Finn decided to jump out of the open window of our truck just as Roy was pulling away from the curb where we had stopped to view some elk.  I had no time to think this one through as my hand shot out and caught him by the tail.  I looked down to see him suspended by his tail in midair with all four legs spread out in different directions each flailing to reach the ground just before I pulled him back into the truck to safety.  Whew!  This is too much for my aged self!  But this morning as I thank God for the safety of our four-legged babies, I realize a couple of things:  first, "once a mother, always a mother," and, second, our Heavenly Father must see the foolish decisions that we make going through life with no thought of danger and believing ourselves invincible while darting out of open doors or windows thinking we have it all under control. I imagine Him rolling His eyes and shaking His head from side to side in disbelief as He goes to any length to save us from ourselves!  I have to stop and say, "Thank you, dear Father, for watching over our family all of these years and keeping us safe!  Amen"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kitchen remodel inspiration from pottery

Written earlier in 2012 but just posted this week. . .

Kitchen Before 
Inspiration Pottery included 6 pieces--$25-$30
"Oh, my!" you say?  So did I when I first saw it! The first room of the 1960's house that got me up out of my chair was the kitchen!  I had made a trip to North Vernon at fall break (October 2011) to spend a week and had discovered this awesome little shop called Ditto's!  I fell in love with this place that smacks of a New York loft with interesting items tucked in here and there!  The owners have a great eye to presentation, and the prices are extraordinary!   Back to the story. . .my husband purchased some pottery for me on that visit, and it became my inspiration for our wallpapered kitchen.  I envisioned my kitchen as being a pale yellow with red/burgundy accents.  Before I could do anything with the colors, I had two major tasks:  strip the wall paper and refinish the dated cabinets.  I planned on changing the hardware, but when I discovered that it was copper, I decided to keep it. Everything in this kitchen had similarities to my mother's kitchen when I was a child (coppertone sink and hood, white formica with gold flecks in it) except for the pink walls that I found underneath the ivy clad wallpaper.  Since I could not change the sink and countertop right off, I decided to start with the cabinets.  How do I change them?  Do I use a primer? Should I stain them?  I definitely like the look of flat black and/or glossy black for an updated look, so after googling possibilities, I marched myself to Home Depot where
I purchased a paint that I could only find at this store.  Yes, I decided to use primer that was guaranteed to cover everything!  I felt that I was going to need it with all of the grease and grime that I used steel wool to remove!  I also spray painted the hood.  I would have liked to have used the new appliance epoxy, but I could not get it in the color that I desired, so I simply spray painted it with a paint for metal made by Krylon.  I spent several days, with the help of a sweet teenage girl who was thankfully bored at home, painting cabinets, taking off wall paper and repainting.  This house also had drapes throughout that were hung from traverse rods;  I removed the drapes in the kitchen and moved them to the living room to replace a yellow, large flowered drape that jarred my senses each time I walked through the room.  Although, I still have projects to complete within this room, I believe that the improvements I have made thus far are quite satisfying.  Did I mention that because my husband is in the military that we will be selling this house, so our goal is to modernize but not break the bank?  See what you think of the current final result!
The black cabinet is visible at the left of the picture!

The corner now yellow and home to the newly painted piece of furniture

Moving into the fast lane!

Close to 3 weeks ago, my husband and I, along with Huck and Finn (our 14 month old Shih tzus), after receiving official military orders on Friday loaded our moving truck on Saturday and hit the road on Sunday (September 8, 2013) for Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  We "took" six days to move across country seeing this sight or that amid all of the natural beauty that only God could have crafted. I, over the 58 years of my life, have been in awe and curious of the differences between people of certain regions of the USA as well as various parts of the world.  For instance, when one drives alone (I had to drive our private vehicle while my husband drove the rental truck which also towed my car), you notice things like signs.  I found myself living for the sign that proclaimed the arrival of a new state, being perturbed by signs that appeared over and over advertising the location of the same sight for a hundred miles before the arrival of the said location, and curious about the difference in work zone signs regarding the injury of workers.   I read recently that there are 3 fatalities and 160 injuries per day in work zones nationwide. It is my belief that almost if not all states double the fines for speeding within work zones, but states differ as to whether the workers have to be present at the time of the infraction or not.  Here is what I learned about this in my monotonous moments of driving:  in Illinois, if you hit a construction worker  than you will be fined $10,000 and serve up to 14 years in jail.  Who came up with that amount and is there a difference if the worker is injured vs. killed?  Yeah, I had a long time to mull this over. At the same time, if you hit a construction worker in one of the other states on our route, the fine is $11,000, and still yet the sign in the state of South Dakota, as is true for numerous other states, simply asks motorists to give road workers a "brake."  I'm very certain that this would not be humorous at all if your family member were the construction worker, but I find the differences from state to state would certainly make me very picky about which state I chose to be engaged in the career of the construction worker! Evidently, some states value their workers more than others!  Another difference concerning driving is the attitude of drivers of a given state as a group.  Obviously, everyone does not fit the "mold," but I first noticed this diverse approach when Rachel, my daughter, and I flew to Denver, Colorado this past summer.  There, the drivers are so laid back, and they move not exactly slowly but as if they are never in too much of a hurry to allow a fellow driver to have the right of way or to navigate into the lane in front of them!  In the south-- Nashville, TN being a case in point--everyone is fighting or jockeying for position!  If you are not already moving as fast as the flow of the lane of traffic into which you want to merge and/or with your jaw set and determined, you will sit at a stop until Jesus comes back, and no one, or at the very least rarely will anyone invite you to advance in front of him.  The Northwest driver is different.  First of all, the speed limit for the interstate is 60 mph unlike the 70 mph of the southern states and 75 mph of Montana, was it?  Drivers in Washington allow you to get in front of them and would not maliciously deny you entrance. I realized a few days ago, after having been in Washington for a little over two weeks, that I don't remember hearing but one car horn blow during that entire time period since our arrival.  I noticed that the license plate of that horn blasting car sported
a Kentucky license plate, and I sleep each night with the man driving it!