Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More Than Enough

I had a “routine” cancer screening last week.  On Friday night, after 8 p.m. I had an incoming call with the Naval Hospital exchange listed. I felt my heart stop for a minute.  They don’t call you at 8 p.m. from the Naval Hospital to say, “Hey, Annie, thanks for being such a great patient and have a Merry Christmas.” There’s a problem with that test which I have to wait to unravel until after the first of the year.
For a few hours, the ground under my feet gave way.  I wasn’t up for more health challenges.  Finally I dug into Psalm 46, you know, the one that says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  That has been a much loved verse for many years.  As I read through that Psalm and took in the study notes, I had a revelation. 
“Be still and know that I am God,” sounds gentle.  The original Hebrew words for “be still” are a bit different.  The study notes told me that what God actually said was an imperative that would sound something like this.  ENOUGH!  Enough!  I am God.
That Word from God dried up my tears and hiccupping pretty quickly.   Those words were just the same as a parent would say to a child in the midst of a tantrum or to unruly children making entirely too much noise.  ENOUGH!  My mother and father have both said that to me many times.
Does He say “ENOUGH” to us because He can’t deal with us for one more minute?  No.  He says “ENOUGH” because He wants us to hear what comes next.  “I am God.”  Stop your panic.  Stop your noise.  Stop your tears.  ENOUGH! I am God.

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough
(Chris Tomlim sings it a lot better than I do.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Papa's Jacket

It was my Papa's birthday at the end of last week.  I was out at my Mom's in Williamsburg on Wednesday taking some things to Goodwill.  In preparation for this post, I took the pic you see above.  The problem was, I just couldn't sit down to write about it.

This is Papa's jacket, where he left it that last time he left Williamsburg and went back to Atlanta for more treatment.  We all kind of stroke it when we walk past, a visible talisman; a touchstone of the person who never has really left us in our thoughts.

When I wrote his eulogy, I put in a section about how much I would miss his coffee.  He made the best coffee, infused with either cinnamon or allspice.  I'd look forward to having it every time we were together.  When I wrote his eulogy, I mentioned that it was a blessing that the last time he handed me a cup, I didn't know it really was going to be the last time.

I did pretty well during the eulogy, but when I looked down at my notes about the coffee, I knew that I couldn't get through that part.  In order to maintain my compsure, I skipped it.   That thing about the "last time" really gets to me.  I know where he is, but I really miss him. Who knew that the last time he hung his Williamsburg jacket on the hook that it was really going to be the last time?

I mean, brethren, the appointed time has been winding down and it has grown very short.
1 Corinthians 7:29, Amplified version

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lessons About God from a Dog

I have struggled for my entire life to understand the love of God.  There, I said it.  For various reasons, I have often been overwhelmed with my concept of myself, a flawed human being, loved despite all my mistakes by a perfect God.
I know all the theology involved, but there is a difference between comprehending something in your head and feeling something deep within your being.  I understand objectively that Jesus has already paid the price for my sin, but my innate ability to be incredibly hard upon myself causes me to feel separated from God’s love a lot of the time.  Mind you, I could tell any one of you reading this why you are always loved by God.  I could cite the correct chapters and verses, but inside I’ve often felt that they applied to everyone but me.
God has presented me with lessons over the years which helped me better understand Him and his everlasting love for me, but I just couldn’t take it on board.  And then God sent Lulu.
I’ve had some great dogs; Alex, Maxine, Lupa, Little Bit, Francis, and now Lulu, the best gift of them all.  Lulu doesn’t do a lot of tricks.  She sits and she walks well on the leash.  Lulu looks adorable and everyone who sees her loves her.  Like most of the best things in life, she was free.  A neighbor called me and asked me to come look at the stray dogs in her yard.  One of them was Lulu.
God has truly used Lulu in my life to help me understand His unconditional love.  You see, sometimes Lulu does bad stuff.  She doesn’t mean to, she just can’t help digging big holes in the yard.  When she digs, she tracks in unbelievable amounts of dirt that I have to sweep up.  Much like God has to sweep up after me.
Last week, she decided to dig the pillow top thingey on top of the mattress.  There was “memory foam” everywhere and a guilty little dog licking her lips while I stood there saying, “Did you do THAT?”
But here’s the deal.  I didn’t love her any less.  I know her heart.  I know she loves me and she wants to please me.  She sometimes has a hard time controlling her impulses, but her heart is in the right place. 
When Lulu loves on you, she just leans into your chest, rests her head on your shoulder, and puts her whole weight on you.  This is what God wants me to do with Him.  Then He says, “Good girl.”  He knows my heart. It took a stray white dog to teach me that.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”  Jeremiah 31:3

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Ick Factor

It’s the story, of a crufty bathtub which was growing nasty mold upon the grout…(to the musicians, sing to the tune of “Brady Bunch”)
Okay, my bathtub has ISSUES.  My house is almost one hundred years old and the tub is nearly that old.  Not charming, claw footed, and Victorian old.  Just old.   I looked into replacing it, but the length is smaller than is standard today.  There is a slender wall that separates it from the commode which cannot be removed without the ceiling coming down.  I said commode because I think it sounds more genteel than toilet.
I had the tub refinished which worked well for ten years. Then the grout between the tub and the tile got icky.  Icky is a professional plumbing term.  I tried everything to clean it.  Then I asked the handier member of the house to take over.   The project just kind of sat because he’s kinda busy.  Then he happened upon a product that is a sort of a tape which can replace traditional grout.  Eureka.
Only it wasn’t applied right and kept peeling off.  The grout underneath was ickier than ever.  So I pulled the tape off.  I shut my mouth about the public housing project appearance in my tub, cleaning it as best I could.  Finally I asked that it be scheduled for repair. Three months later an expert job was done that looks like this.
Okay, are you kidding me?
What is up with that color?                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
So I went nuts over the two-year bathtub saga with my good friend, Terry.  She gave me wise words of reason.  Finally, I addressed the “plumber” saying “Hey awesome job that you did on the tub.  I was so blessed by not seeing the nasty grout this morning.  What was your thinking about the color?”
“That’s the only color it comes in.”
“No, I just went to Lowes, they sell it in white.  They were just out of stock.  You got the color they call “biscuit.”
“Biscuit was a color?”
“Yeah, what did you think?”
“I thought biscuit referred to the round shape the roll of tape came in.”
This post brought to you by “Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus” and the exclamation “arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On The Fifth Day of December My Friend Nancy Gave To Me…

The last vegetables from her garden…festively

Aren’t we lucky to have such a long growing season here in the Tidewater area of Virginia?  My friends are such a blessing to me.  Look at this basket of vegetables, looking very holly jolly and Christmas-y in red and green.  I made potato leek soup from that basket and used the green peppers in baked ziti that I brought to the civic league meeting last night. And I still have some vegetables left over!

I always get creative when my mother or a friend blesses me with something from the store.  They often give me things I don’t ordinarily buy, like leeks in Nancy’s case or citron in my mother’s.  That citron looks like some crazy thing from another planet, but it smelled exotically wonderful and tasted even better used with a chicken recipe. 
The unusual items get my creative juices flowing.  This makes me think that I should be more adventurous at the grocery store and buy my own unusual items from time to time.

We all have ruts of thinking, ruts in cooking, and ruts in our routine.  So shake it up.  Buy something new to try like parsnips or garam masala or a different type of flavored coffee.  Mix up your Bible reading and devotional time.  I had my devotions outside today, because the temperature is in the 70’s.  God makes all things new again, but we can cooperate, get with His program, and try something out of the usual routine.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I had an impromptu gathering of old friends and new neighbors yesterday...just some baked brie, apples and crackers with some Goldfish and chocolate milk for the kids.  As I looked around the house, I just didn't think it looked Christmas-y enough for guests.  I know I'm not called to be Martha Stewart with housing perfection, but I just felt a little burst of energy to do something...well, different,

Things being tight, I thought about what I had on hand.  This is what I came up with in about twenty minutes.  My "assistant" did the lights.
I have a large stairwell which can be seen from the foyer and the living room.  I thought this would be a fun place for a tree.

This lovely doll with a bisque face was sent by a wonderful blog reader a while back.  Her daughter works at my local Goodwill.
We used to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on December 5 when I was a kid.  My mother outdid herself on holidays.  We would wake up to find candy and little toys in our shoes, which was the tradition.  Yesterday was Saint Nicholas Day, which must have been how I came up with the stuff in the shoes.  Please note the initials on the suitcase, which once belonged to a Mary Lou Kennedy.  The inner-city children we mentored firmly believed that this was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s suitcase "back in the day."
My Nana's engagement picture.  Annie, my great-grandmother, made her dress.

Enjoy the Christmas season!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Beloved Waltons....How on earth could it be 40 years?

Just in case you guys didn't see this on Friday, I want to share something wonderful with you.  The Walton family reunited on the Today Show with Matt Lauer to talk about old times.  How on earth can John Boy (Richard Thomas) look just the same?

When things were falling apart with my own mother and father, they were there.  Maybe we need to find them again.  In the despair of the Depression and of World War II, they triumphed...together.  They made do...together.  They prayed, they ate together as a family, and met every challenge...together. I loved them.  Check out the link below.

Good night John Boy.  Good night Mary Ellen.  Good night Ben.  Good night Elizabeth.  Ahhhhh, home.  Did you know the narrator was Earl Hamner, Jr., the real John Boy?  Cue the harmonica music.  Good night, everyone.

Stuff It!

Looking for a cheap fix for dinner?  You can’t go wrong with a baked stuff potato or yam.  Yams were on sale for me locally at 28 cents a pound, so I stocked up.
You can stuff a baked potato with almost anything and it turns out tasty.   What goes into a stuffed baked potato?  Leftover diced chicken, turkey, pork or beef.  Leftover vegetables like peas, carrots, corn, broccoli or asparagus.  Black beans are really yummy stuffed into a baked potato.  Chili is equally so and needs nothing but a sprinkle of cheddar cheese on top. Baked potatoes and yams are very forgiving as to what you put on top.  Those little drips and drabs of leftovers that are too small to use for another meal tend to be just perfect.  Use either a simple white sauce, cheese sauce, or gravy to mix your other ingredients together.     You can find recipes for any of these on the Internet. 
The combination pictured is leftover diced turkey and a half a bag of mixed vegetables mixed together with a cheapo packet of sale gravy mix I added water to.  I had a very small amount of leftover sour cream and mixed that in.  I stuffed each yam with that mixture, two for our Friday dinner and two more for weekend lunches.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Like a Gingerbread House

This charming Craftsman-style stone cottage is in a neighborhood not too far away.  Something about this house just speaks to me.   Perhaps the charm is that the home is constructed like some country cottages I grew up around in Connecticut, with the same stone fence.  Farmers in Connecticut, ever frugal New Englanders, used the rocks removed from the fields while plowing to build walls for their hones and fences for their property.  Like this one:
This time of year, I always think the house looks like a gingerbread cottage.  Like this one from Country Living's website:
How adorable is that shredded wheat "thatched" roof?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's December!

It's the most wonderful time of the year...
Brenda at Cozy Little House did a terrific blog entry showing how she decorated with candy canes.  This is how I copied uhhhhhh this is my homage to Brenda.
For those of us who have a lot of white in our decor, Brenda was correct that the humble candy cane can punch up our Christmas decor for next to nothing.  I am so thankful for all the bloggy girls out there who are committed to blessing their homes in a frugal way.  I learn so much from each one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Not too long ago, I got an odometer for my bike.  It is the only electronic thing on my vintage cruiser.  I was curious about how much mileage I was accumulating on the ole bike.   I recently hit this milestone of 400 miles.  I have ridden my bike the same mileage as from Virginia to New York City.  I'm amazed by this, because it represents plenty of time not sitting on my rear end.

My red cruiser parked on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.  Don't get nervous.  No cars are allowed!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving After Action Report

Many of us struggle with families and the holidays.  Sometimes I imagine that others lead idyllic lives with no emotional baggage whatsoever.   Upon reflection, though, I'm not sure that any of us live in "this present darkness" totally unscathed.  We exist for the blink of an eye in a fallen world and sometimes our family relationships can demonstrate that.

The media and popular culture do not help us.  Sometimes the pressure of expectations makes us feel that unless we have a Thanksgiving which looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, we are missing out. 

Now I adore Norman Rockwell, especially a painting called Breaking Home Ties, which tells a story if you look at it closely. 

Many of our families, however, don't resemble that picture.  We are imperfect, we lose sight of priorities, and we make mistakes.
I started to fall victim to that pressure of expectation during this long weekend.  Bruce set up a get together with the male relatives to go shooting and forgot to tell me.   This part of my dear family has more money than I do.  Let's put it right out there.  I became nervous and (as a friend of mine delightfully refers to it) twisted.  Maybe my house or my cooking wasn't good enough.  It was good enough five minutes before I knew I had company coming, why wasn't it good enough five minutes later?

I had to mentally shake myself by the scruff of the neck.  We are called as Christians to practice hospitality.  That means making available what I have that God has blessed me with, not "putting on the dog" and showing off to others.  I relaxed.  I prayed.  I served the turkey soup that I'd made from the leftovers to rave reviews, along with a sliced meat platter for sandwiches, and some fruit salad.  They loved my house, particularly because it does look different from what you can buy in a furniture store.  My dear cousin, who is so family oriented, just wanted to take pictures, so she could unite her kitchen and porch into one room, as we have.

How much do we miss with mistaken priorities and expectations over the holidays?  We let the anxiety bubble up and say harsh things that we should not.  How much do we bend over or even break under the weight of the baggage that we insist on carrying when Jesus stretches out His arms and says, "Here, honey, take a load off.  Let me have it."  Well that's what He whispers to me. What He officially said was, "Come unto Me all ye that travail and are heavy laden and I will refresh you."

During the rest of this holiday season, I am going to relax in Him.  He has only called me to be me, Annie, not someone else.  Forgetting what lies behind, I will press on and consider my relatives as I consider my friends. They are not here to meet my needs.  They are people like me with their own worries who love me.  And I resolve to take them at that and leave the baggage in the arms of Jesus.

Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.  John 12:35

And yes, I do realize that there are two different times on the alarm clocks.  As Chicago asked, "Does anybody really know what time it is?" I like them that way.  Attribute that to my general sense of quirkiness.  The King James version of the Bible says we are a "peculiar people" and, trust me, I fit right in.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Some Fashion-y Blogs I Love

I follow some really varied blogs from a shy housewife in upstate NY who writes remarkable things to an irreverent single tattoo'd Brooklyn woman who lost about 80 pounds and rides around New York City on her Hello Kitty cruiser in high heels.  She writes the Bitchcakes blog  I also read a blog by cloistered monks in the desert and a couple of Amish blogs, heh.  The first part about the monks is true.

Anyway, I really love some of the fashion-y blogs out there.  Now I am more than sure that I wouldn't wear many of the ensembles that Kasmira or Vanessa wear.   Kasmira mixed plaids and animal prints which would just make me cross eyed if I saw it on myself in the mirror.  But on her...WOW WOW WOW!

What I get from these wonderful women are ideas on how I can make my own wardrobe go farther.  Because of reading their work, I have paired grey and yellow wihth terrific results.  I never would have done that on my own.  I wear red sling back high heels with my dressy jeans.  I combine necklaces. All because of them.  Maybe you'll enjoy these ladies, too. They all thrift a significant portion of their clothing.

The outrageous Kasmira, human resources girl, from Cincy and her husband, Beefy Muchacho, do the What I Wore Today Blog:

Vanessa the brave, from Big Girl, Small Budget, Tiny Town.  Think you have to dress in black and stand in the corner if you are a larger woman?  Think again.

Patti's Not Dead Yet blog.  I love the name she chose!  She runs a Monday feature with input from many readers modeling over-50 fashion which makes them look visible, rather than the invisible feeling that many women over 50 experience.

Paula is a vibrant artist who loves color, color, and more color in her wardrobe.  I love her style!

Check these bloggy girls out!  They are inspirational AND make frugal recommendations using thrift store options.  What could be better than that!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shop til you Make The Other Guy Drop?

Am I the only woman in North America who finds it insane that people are camping out overnight to buy big screen television sets?   Sometimes I feel that way.

I have a confession.  I hate, loathe, and despise shopping.  I especially hate shopping at this time of the year.  I can't stand that Christmas starts the day after Halloween either.

Today a woman in California pepper-sprayed other shoppers, including children, to get an X-Box for sale at half price in the raee for Black Friday items. Staff from the same Walmart store reported injuries from shoppers trampling each other.  And the store stayed open afterwards.  Insanity.

What the heck are we doing?  We're in a recession.  So many are out of work and looking to save money. I understand that.  However, wouldn't it be better to just downsize Christmas, focusing on time together and a special meal rather than using weapons against each other to get to the bargains first?

We're celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  You know, that Jesus that told us to turn the other cheek?  The guy who said if someone asks for your cloak, to give him your tunic as well?  The Lord that said that peace makers were blessed?  The rabbi who suggested that you treat others as you would have them treat you?  The leader who said to consider others better than yourself because ultimately the last shall be first?  The one who said not to worry about what you will wear or eat?  The one who said that personal possessions were all hay and stubble?

I refuse to support any more of this insanity.  I don't care what bargains I get, they aren't worth being pepper sprayed or trampled to death as happened at Walmart last year.  Are any of you like minded?  I suggest you do, too.

This is the only kind of place that I want to shop in these days.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


thank·ful [thangk-fuhl] Show IPA
feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.
The brussell sprouts are ready for roasting, infused with garlic and key lime spice mix.  The green beans are marinating in a mustard vinaigrette.  I made my Nana's lime jello mold with pineapple and cottage cheese.  It makes my mother shudder, but I don't care.
The apple crisp is in the oven. The smell of cardomon and cinnamon wafts through to the living room.  I am ready for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The last six months have been incredibly difficult.  But God is incredibly good.  God IS love.  He isn't just loving.  He IS love. 
Today I am thankful for so many things.  I'm thankful for my husband.  I'm thankful for my family, for medical coverage, for a roof over my head, and so thankful for sugar-free cinnamon dolce lattes.  I'm thankful for my education, for my friends (especially my amazing friend and spiritual mentor, Terry), for improving health, and for God's boundless grace.
And, God, thanks a whole lot for her:
What a gift, each and every day, she is.
Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One.
And have a Happy Turkey Day

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dry Like Toast

Okay, so I know that you didn't expect this kind of picture.  You think I should have imported some picture of toast, perhaps slightly burned, for this post, right? Well, as my friend Varelly Margarita Blandon y Jarquin used to say, "hold on, boogaloo."

One of my favorite movies (along with To Have and Have Not, Moonstruck, and Hunt for Red October, among others) is My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  If you're like the one person in North America who hasn't seen it, this is the story of a loving, enmeshed Greek family's reaction to their beloved daughter's marriage to a non-Greek vegetarian WASP.  At one point the father, who is bewildered and frustrated by his daughter's love for this man emotes saying, "His whole family is toast....Toast People.  No honeys (sic), no  jam, no marmalade, just dry like toast."

My friends, I have been dry like toast spiritually.  No honeys, no jam, no marmalade...I have been one of the toast people.  Well, as Kostas, the father says in the clip, "This no work!"

King David knew that this "no work," too.  When he wandered in the desert of Judah he said:

Psalm 63

A Psalm of David; when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
1O GOD, You are my God, earnestly will I seek You; my inner self thirsts for You, my flesh longs and is faint for You, in a dry and weary land where no water is (Amplified version).

See, David knew that he was a toast person, too.   This is encouraging for those of us who struggle with our feelings during the "dry times."  David has hand-picked by God.  The Bible says so.  He was a "man after God's own heart" even in the midst of many terrible trials and mistakes and out-and-out deliberate disobedience.

But you know what?  David goes on to say this later on in this psalm:

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

I have thought a lot about God during the "watches of the night," but I haven't been singing too much in the shadow of His wings, if you know what I mean.  Psalm 91, another favorite says:

Psalm 91

1HE WHO [a]dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty (Amplified version).

This weekend, I plan to stay under the shadow of His Almighty wings and eat some jam.  Or Simply Fruit maybe, less impact on the blood sugar.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Autumn at Williamsburg

I like to change up where I take my walks, so this week I drove to colonial Williamsburg.  Lulu and I enjoyed the change of scenery.  She had never seen these before!
She told me this was the biggest dog she'd ever seen before.
That first house sort of just says "fall" with its orange door and shutters.
The air was crisp and the sky was a bright, cloudless, blue.
I've always loved Autumn, the jewel tones in the trees...
I've ridden in a horse-drawn carriage in New York City, but I just feel silly sitting up there.  But, oh my, how I love to see them clip clop by.
I feel so blessed that I can walk in such gorgeous and historical surroundings. 

Autumn at Williamsburg

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I used to think I had a love/hate relationship with Halloween.

I loved Halloween when I was a kid.  I remember being a Dutch girl one year after my parents had visited Aruba (a Dutch colony).  I had wooden shoes and a blue skirt with a white lace apron over it.   There was a little starched white cap that went with the outfit.  It reminded me of Sister Bertrille on The Flying Nun.  I loved her. 

My mother took gold yarn and plaited two braids that she pinned into the hat.  Another year I was a Hawaiian girl.  I had a witch costume my mother made, as well as a pumpkin costume that she stuffed so full of the Hartford Courant wadded up that I could barely fit out the door of the den. 

We traveled up and down Knollwood, Birchwood, and Millwood Roads, as well as Holland Lane on Halloween.  A lovely neighbor, Bethel Cacase, used to have very special Halloween baskets for us with candy from Munson's Candy Kitchen.  Mrs. Cacase was not one of those cheapos who gave out Dots and disgusting orange circus peanuts.   The Popps, the Kokums, the Tynes, and the Burns' also had great candy in case you find yourself out in East Hartford begging door to door tonight.  Ssssh don't say I told you...

My love for Halloween has waned since I dislike giving candy to teenagers just because they dressed badly.  I love the little fairies and princesses and firemen, but twenty year olds can buy their own peanut M&M's.   It isn't a costume when you're attired like a girl when you're 20 on October 31.  It is just cross dressing.
Don't you love this posh Halloween bear.  He is stationed outside of the Williams School in Norfolk in one of their uniform ties.

So in honor of an innocent Halloween costume parade at Sunset Ridge Elementary School and stopping to show my grandparents, Helen and Bobby, our costumes, I wish you the kind of Halloween that took some imagination and the kind of magic that happens in Narnia.

The other Halloween?  The one with older teenagers, Freddy Krueger, horror movies, and smashing pumpkins?  Thats the one I can't stand.