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Archive for September, 2010

Lost and Found

We grow to rely on things, don’t we? My camera is one of those things. I often take it with me on walks and adventures and I always take it with me when heading up north. I’m enjoying the process of learning to use it in different ways and of slowly learning to capture a few things that I couldn’t before; dappled sunlight kissing a flower’s petal and bees covered in pollen, the stamen of a flower and the tree-toad I didn’t know was in the puddled water until I downloaded the picture and zoomed in, the designs a shadow makes, closing in on a baby or a pair of hands and zooming up into the treetops to find a Baltimore oriole.

I panicked when I realized late Monday night that my camera was missing.

I had taken some pictures at Northwestern University of the Shakespeare Garden, the chapel, the campus and when I went to download the pictures, the camera was nowhere to be found.

Nowhere.

I called campus security with no luck.

I was so relieved to hear yesterday that my camera had fallen inside Marilyn’s car on Monday.

It is so glorious to find something that was lost.

I’m so glad my camera was found.

More importantly, I’m grateful that I saw this garden with wonderful friends and gardeners.

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A little September Grass . . .

. . . as we head into October tomorrow.

Hey, Tom, James is on!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lRFglviaSc


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Holding onto summer

The leaves are falling faster now. The yellows of last week are being accompanied by the reds of maples now.

In amongst the leaves are some salvias. These are still holding court in our garden.

I caught this red begonia enjoying a shower last week. She sits in pot in a sheltered area near the house where we can see her from inside and she is rather pleased with herself.

It is good to take some time to reflect on the flowers of summer – to see their beauty captured artistically.

Do you do anything to capture summer to reflect upon during the long winter?

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It’s all in the cards

I just renewed my library card.

Our town doesn’t have a library.  For borrowing privileges, we must purchase a library card from another library. Now, before you gasp and say poor Penny, bear in mind that if you have a library in your town, you most likely pay for it through your property taxes whether you have a library card or not. When we moved here, I shopped around, calling surrounding libraries,  to find the library with the lowest charge. It was rather fun, actually.

The first year, I purchased a card from the library with the lowest non-resident fee. The second year, when I went to renew, a librarian suggested I try another town that she thought was cheaper. Never underestimate the knowledge of a librarian. She was right, and I have gotten my library card from a little ‘burb 10 minutes down the road. It is a very small library. This evening, there were young children reading, older children working on computers, adults browsing the bookshelves, and a woman learning to read in English. I could hear her accent as she plodded along, word for word, determined to learn, as her tutor encouraged her progress. I admired her determination and her tutor’s commitment.

Libraries provide so much more than books. They provide services and technology for those who do not have it. They have information boards and daily newspapers, magazines and music, and places to meet others. Next time you visit your library, take a few moments and look around. Really look and listen and observe how alive with services and activities your local library is.

Up until this year, our town reimbursed homeowners up to $100 toward a library card. A pretty good deal. I pay $200 and got $100 back. Unfortunately, with budget cuts, the reimbursement program was discontinued this year. Still, $177 (the fee was reduced). That is less than $15 a month. I left tonight with three books and an audio tape. A biography of Alcott, a soup cookbook, and a children’s book all followed me home. I can keep them for three weeks, I can renew them online, and I can return them to any library in the system. I can go online at 2 am in my robe and slippers, put a book on hold and within a few days check it out.

Just think about this. In my library system alone, thousands of books are passed around each and every day, checked out or returned. Thousands more are toted from one library to another for booklovers, knowledge seekers, and wordsmiths alike.

This week is Banned Books Week.

Our libraries strive to provide books and services for everyone. In doing so, they preserve our first amendment rights.

What have you read lately?

I think we are fortunate to have them, don’t you?

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Roses and herbs and an abundant variety of Autumn asters were abuzz this morning as a small group of gardeners and a large number of bees fluttered about in the Shakespeare Garden on the campus of Northwestern University. Tucked in a secluded section of the campus, just a short pathway from the stately technology building and a few steps from the Frank W. Howes Memorial Chapel, the knot garden is a delight for the senses. I found myself imagining it in the spring, or summer, or winter, but I was mostly enjoying it today and the season of fall.

We were the only ones in the garden. Clouds shrouded the Evanston campus as they came in off of Lake Michigan. We marveled at the abundance of flowers still in bloom and the stunning Japanese anemones dancing amid the herbs. We took turns rubbing this leaf or that, as gardeners will do, to catch the scent and determine the herb at hand. The garden was designed by Jens Jensen and it has been tended by the Evanston Garden Club since its first flowers blossomed. I admire what that club does and appreciate the beauty their efforts afford visitors like us as well as the students and staff that take the time to find this hidden treasure.

The crabapples were in abundance on several trees today in this Shakespeare Garden. As we walked down the narrow paths, gently felt foliage and called back and forth “do you know the name of this one?”, the trees came alive with birds, chipping away as if tsk tsking our presence and its intrusion on their elevenish. The small, red fruit made me think of Kezzie’s tree and the tiny apples turning red on it branches. We’ll see Kezzie and Katy and Tom very soon and I can hardly wait. I remembered taking a picture of the tree a few weeks ago and since I can’t find my camera with pictures of the apples we saw today, I will post Kezzie’s tree instead as I head off to bed and sweet dreams of taking her someday to Shakespeare’s Garden by the lake.

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Honeycrisp

Several years ago, while leaf-peeping in Vermont, we stopped at a roadside produce market. We had been driving the byways and country lanes of the state, which in October felt like we were dropped into a giant bowl of candy corn. With the rolling hills, picturesque valleys, and abundance of sugar maples in full color, it was a most remarkable journey. We had eaten at the New England Culinary Institute, fine inns with roaring fires and rustic ambiance, and even tried an old diner called Dot’s on a blustery evening with snow in the air. Our taste buds had been working overtime and after a full day on the road from Grafton to Brattleboro with wooden bridges everywhere and in between, we needed some lighter fare for our dinner.

A  roadside produce stand caught our attention. The outside was adorned in corn stalks and pumpkins that are typical of fall, but these pumpkins were dressed up and steering old cars, pulling old farm equipment, and leaning against the long porch, beckoning us in the most creative of ways. It was an outstanding display that we spent some time appreciating before going inside.  Tom wanted some coffee and I needed some tea. We decided to load up on some Vermont cheddar cheese and crackers and it was suggested we try a new apple called Honeycrisp. I bought a beautiful locally crafted basket, which I still have, we piled our rustic dinner in it and we headed to a picnic table and dined, al fresco, on a humble meal we talk of still.

Sometimes it is the simple pleasures that nourish us.

The cheese was exceptional. At the time, the midwest wasn’t as familiar with Vermont cheeses as it is now.  The apples, developed at the University of Minnesota and released in the early nineties, had not yet become as widely grown and distributed.

It was love at first bite.

Cross pollination of a Macoun and Honeygold brought about the Honeycrisp. It is sweet with just the right tartness and holds firm and flavorful for a long while. We now can find them here in the midwest in September.  The Honeycrisp apple for us is as much of a symbol of Autumn’s beginning as the leaves that color our neck of the woods.

There are a few Honeycrisp apples sitting now in the refrigerator. I think I will pack one in a sack with some cheese, crackers, and grapes for my lunch as my gardening friends head out for an adventure to the Shakespearean Garden at Northwestern University. Yep. That’s what I’m going to do. I wish you were here so I could share a Honeycrisp with you. See if they are in your area and pick up a few. I know there will be more when we head to the Twin Cities to see our family up there soon. After all, they were developed up in Minnesota and I read that there is an effort to grow them in New Zealand. Now wouldn’t that be grand?

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It’s happening.

The golden colors of Autumn are starting to drift down, bringing the last of summer with them. The reds and rusts aren’t far behind. It starts slow, if we are lucky, and then picks up the pace with each and every day.

The asters are starting to show and the mums, ah, the mums that wait patiently on the sidelines for times like these show their colors  and celebrate this season.

I’m off with my friends to play in the dust of antiques and treasures at the Sandwich Antique Fair. We will laugh and eat and enjoy the crisp day as we spend some time together.

Enjoy this fine day, and the next, and then the next as the landscape paints its best pictures.

Thanks for the plant, Jason, and for letting me be your mum-in-law.

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Fixed

The dryer is fixed and some tablecloths are tumbling around in there now. I wanted you to know. Just in case you were sitting around  all weekend, wondering . . .

Hanging the Sheets, Evan Wilson from americangallery.wordpress.com

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Wandering about, I found some interesting and, shall I say “active”, fungus growing on a few dead trees. They seem to emerge every year here on the cutoff. Their strange shapes and colors are interesting and I am amazed at how quickly they grow.

Come along with me for a spell and see what I’m talking about.

Some look like wall sconces.

Two days later, these three little piggies turned into this:

’tis like the fairies built platforms to dance upon under the harvest moon.

“Stand back” said the elephant “I’m going to sneeze”.

Patricia Thomas

Achoo!

Shiver me timbers, ye’ve blown the bark right off of me.

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The ABC’s of washing clothes

Why is it that you always seem to discover that the dryer isn’t working when there are wet towels in it and a load of sheets already started in the washing machine?

We have an old washer and dryer that came with the house. They are so old that they have model numbers that I can actually read without a magnifying glass. They are shorter than a phone number without an area code. I’m hoping it is just the ignition switch and all will be well when Doc Rick’s Appliances comes over to check it out. Rick is our brother-in-law and he is so good to us.

I loaded up the wet towels and the wet sheets and the rest of the laundry hanging around, including the slacks I needed, and headed to the laundromat. Off I went, quarters in my change purse, detergent and softener on the pile in the laundry basket, and memories of childhood agitating in my head.

I don’t mind going to the laundromat every-so-often. It’s not my favorite thing to do for sure, but, then neither is washing clothes at home. There is an industrial sized rhythm to the rows of washing machines, all chugging away at the same time like a line of chorus girls and the big, industrial dryers humming away and the smell of detergent and bleach and fabric softener filling the flourescent lit room.

It all reminded me of my mom and dad.

When we moved from the city of Chicago to the suburbs in the 1950′s, my dad proudly bought my mom a brand new washing machine. The old wringer washer was left in the house in the city and a spanking new top loading washing machine was waiting in our basement when we arrived. There was a big box of Oxydol waiting inside.

My mother used the washer only five or six times in the 12 years we lived in the house. It made a lot of noise and it wandered across the basement floor like a big, boxy monster out to destroy our clothes. Ma was terrified of it. I remember her screaming in panic  “Pete! Pete! It’s moving!”. I snuck down and used it a few times when I was a teenager and she wasn’t around. It was a piece of cake, but, Ma was afraid of the washing machine and just refused to use it. She also couldn’t drive a car. My dad would help her load up the clothes in baskets and bags (Marshall Field’s shopping bags – I’m not kidding here) and we would pile into the station wagon and head to the laundromat.  The whole time he would be muttering “I bought you the easiest model there is, Vi. An ABC washing machine and you’re afraid of it?”.

Daddy would help us in and Ma would start loading the machines and filling them with Oxydol and I would slip coins into the slots. Dad would run errands, muttering as he went out the door about the ease of an ABC washing machine – the simplest machine every made. Our job, my sister and mine,  was to see how fast we could wrangle a dime from our mother for an ice cold bottle of Nehi orange or grape soda. Dottie was very good at getting this accomplished. She’s still a good wrangler. I loved the soda and she was the key to getting it. I would open the bottle on the side of the cooler and sit in a chair, swinging my legs and watching the clothes go round and round in the dryers as I savored the sweet orange soda, its bubbles tingling my nose.

My dad would return and mutter some more about the easiest machine in the world, an ABC washer, but Ma could be stubborn and she just didn’t trust it.  ABC or XYZ, she wasn’t using that machine, even if she had to wash clothes by hand – which she often did. Dad would go next door to my Aunt Christina’s and grumble some about the ABC washing machine just sitting in the basement. When we moved, he gave it to my aunt. He said it was brand new, which is was, though it no longer held the box of Oxydol. Aunt Christina made sure it was balanced and used it for many years, repeating the story of Vi and the ABC’s and how she was more than happy to have it.

I watched our clothes drying and read The Help, our book group choice for that night. Thirsty, I walked over to the Seven Eleven, looking for Nehi orange soda and settling for a Diet Coke, and as I sat and sipped it, my legs dangling still after all these years and the dryers spinning round and round, I started to chuckle, remembering my mom and dad and the conundrum of the wandering washing machine of my youth – and I sang my ABC’s.

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