W is for Wither 

On Easter Sunday my Sister-in-law brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the dinner table. It was made up of various spring flowers, greens, and a few roses. As the days went by I pulled out the flowers that had died and ended up with just the roses. I recut them and put them in a smaller vase. This vase has been sitting on the bookcase in my living room since then.

Today I finally got around to throwing them away but when I brought the vase into the kitchen and looked at the roses in the sunlight I couldn’t do it. The flowers, formerly bright and fresh had withered into beautiful dried roses… 

The yellow had mellowed to soft gold and the red had become a creamy pink. Each petal edge was rippled like lace, soft and delicate. They had aged or withered on their own terms, keeping the same form and essence- still beautiful but in a different way.

I thought about all those days when I feel a little withered myself. Days when my knees protest those last four steps, or I need to dab on extra makeup to cover the circles under my eyes. Those are the days I notice how much grey is in my hair and how the skin on my arms sags. Well, the next time I’m feeling that way, I’m going to think of these roses and remember that beauty isn’t always young and fresh.  Some beauty only comes with age and with all the experiences that make us who we are.

U is for The Unexpected Cake

This is the story of a cake that was never meant to be.

It all started with an eleventh grade Spanish class project. Each student was assigned a Spanish speaking country to research. Girl Child got Peru. She worked hard gathering interesting facts and writing her report. As extra credit, the students were encouraged to bring in something representing their country to share with the class. They could share music, books, a craft or food. Being her father’s daughter she chose to bring cookies.

The Peruvian cookies were called Alfajores. This is what they look like:

http://blog.goway.com/agent/2013/08/recipe-alfajores/

These are shortbread type cookies with caramel filling. Yum, right? So she started gathering ingredients with Hubby acting as her sous chef. They creamed the sugar, butter and eggs and added the dry ingredients. It all looked okay until  they poured in the milk and orange juice that  the recipe called for.

“Hmmm,” Hubby said, “this doesn’t look right.” Instead of being stiff like cookie dough, it looked more like pancake batter. For the next step, they were suppose to drop rounded spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. If they had tried to do that it would have just become a puddle.

By this time Girl Child was pacing around the kitchen, visions of her extra credit going down the drain with the watery cookie dough, but Hubby, who is the baker in the family, had an idea.

“Since it’s actually the consistency of cake batter, how about if we pour it in a couple of cake pans and see what happens?” So they greased and floured a couple of pans and put them in to bake. It came out looking like…well…cake.

Next, they made the caramel filling, put it between the two layers and sprinkled powdered sugar on top. Hubby cut the cake into neat little triangles and packaged them up. This is what it looked like:


Not quite the same.  It tasted like a very light butter cake and it was actually a big hit. Señora still gave Girl Child her extra credit just for putting in all the effort and several students asked for a second helping.

So I guess what they say is true- When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, or in this case Peruvian Butter Cake!

T is for (Being on) Time

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I admit it. I am a card carrying punctualist! Good word, huh? I might have just made it up. I’m not sure. Basically, what I mean is that I am obsessive about being on time. In fact, most of the time I’m early. My Hubby is much the same way so you know our kids didn’t stand a chance. Although I have noticed that my son is on time for everyone except us. He doesn’t seem to care about keeping his family waiting but I guess that’s another post entirely.

When they were little and we were teaching our children to be on time we would explain to them that being late was impolite and disrespectful. We told them that if you made an appointment, you owed it to that person to show up on time. If I’m being honest though, I’d have to say it’s the embarrassment factor that truly motivates me to be on time. Anyone who has ever been late for something knows what I mean. Everyone turns to look at you (because, of course, the door has a major squeak) and you just know they’re thinking thing like…

Well, look who decided to show up.” or

“I guess the schedule was only meant for some of us!”

Eeek! I get sweaty just thinking about it! So as a result I get up two hours before I have to be somewhere, I lay my clothes out the night before and I make sure I have the route mapped out. I know, obsessive.

There are a lot of people who are just the opposite. Shall we call them Unpuntualists?   My own brother was never on time for anything then he moved to Oklahoma where the pace is a lot slower than here in New Jersey. Now he does fine. Hubby has an Aunt and Uncle who show up late for most family pot-luck dinners so we always ask  them to bring a dessert in case they miss the main meal.

Which way is better? I guess each has pros and cons. I’d like to be able to relax some. It would be healthier for sure. You know, stop and smell the roses, live in the moment, not worry so much about being on time, but then I start thinking about the algebra teacher I had in ninth grade. If anyone dared sneak into class after the bell she would stop what she was doing and announce loudly…

So nice of you to show up, Mr/Miss (whoever). I hope we didn’t take you away from something more important!”

Yeah…I think I’ll go get my clothes ready for tomorrow and maybe I’ll check the alarm clock while I’m at it.

So are you a Puncualist or an Unpunctualist?

S is for Sketches

There was a time when I sketched everyday but then life took over and my free time was used for other things. Recently, since my children are older and I have more time, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit. I find drawing very relaxing. There is something about the scratch of pencil on paper that calms my mind. In order to keep myself motivated I thought I would share some of my work. I hope you enjoy them.

(Technically these are drawings, not sketches but “d” was a long time ago and I really needed something for “s” so work with me! 😊 )

This was from a photo of my daughter when she was about six.

This was from a photo of my daughter when she was about six.

My son when he was young holding his cousin.

My son when he was young holding his cousin.

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Another of my daughter. I love the way her velvet dress reflected the light.

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This was suppose to be Lauren Bacall, but it turned out looking more like a distant cousin!

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This was from a photo of my mother when she was 10, probably around 1940.

This is me and my husband from one of our wedding photos.

This is me and my husband from one of our wedding photos.

R is for Rabbits

We have a family of rabbits that live under our deck. Although, I guess, they feel they have a family of people that live in the house attached to their deck. Whatever. We share space. This family of rabbits has been around for years. At least I assume it’s the same family, just the next generation.Each spring, we start to see the adults in the back yard enjoying their evening meal.

imageAfter dinner, we sit out on the deck and even though our yard is not very big (that’s my yard in the banner photo above), they don’t seem to be bothered by us. I guess we’ve reached an understanding.  Girl Child always tries to see how close she can get to them before they run away. I don’t think she realizes that the smart little rabbits are teasing her. They let her get just so close before dashing back under the deck.

We will watch them for the next few weeks as the lady rabbit gets fluffier and fluffier until finally I hear the unmistakable sound of my Hubby in the yard using bad words because the rabbits have deposited a new litter of baby bunnies in the middle of the yard. I can’t  understand why they have their babies in the grass when they live under the deck? If anyone out there understands bunny behavior can you help me out? Anyway, every year Hubby has to put cones around the rabbit hole so he knows to mow around that area. If you knew how much my husband loves his lawn you would know what a sacrifice this is!

Eventually, the babies get big enough to leave the nest and begin to enjoy the evening meal with momma and poppa. We sit and watch them and coo over how cute they are (except for Hubby who is still grumbling about the hole in his lawn). I never get tired of watching them and the cats like it too. They watch from inside, of course. I look forward to seeing them because I know when they make their appearance Spring has finally arrived.

What sign of Spring do you look forward to most?

Q is for the Quick Brown Fox…

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The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

How many people recognize that sentence? Probably quite a few hands went up.

According to Wikipedia….

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is an English-language pangram—a phrase that contains all of the letters of the alphabet. It is commonly used for touch-typing practice. It is also used to test typewriters and computer keyboards, show fonts, and other applications involving all of the letters in the English alphabet. Owing to its brevity and coherence, it has become widely known.

Okay, now, how many of you practiced that sentence on a manual typewriter? Hmmm. Lots of hands went down!

Students still learn touch typing only now it’s called “keyboarding”. I tried to explain to my third graders what a typewriter was one day. I was met with a lot of blank stares. I could have confused them further if I’d told them that my older sister learned shorthand when she was in school (Shorthand?) and then used touch type to translate her shorthand.

I can touch type pretty quickly and it’s definitely a very useful skill. Hubby uses a rapid-fire, two-finger, hunt-and-peck typing style. Not sure what class he took. There is no denying that computers and word processing make writing documents easier and more convenient but sometimes I still get nostalgic for the old days….

Remember those little strips of white paper you could put under the keys to correct mistakes? And who could forget good old Liquid Paper! Then there was the neat way the keys would all jam up if you hit them too fast. I can still hear that little bell that rang when you reached the end of the page. Each and every time you reached the end of the page.. Ahh, memories. Of course after so many years typing on a computer keyboard, I’d probably sprain my fingers if I tried to push down regular typewriter keys again!  I guess there’s a lot to be said for progress after all.

P is for Painting

oil-painting-tools-materials-fine-art

The summer I was thirteen my mother signed me up for oil painting lessons.  I’d always loved drawing and had dozens of sketchbooks full of pictures but this was my first adventure into painting and my first formal training. For our working class family, art lesson were a bit of an extravagance. My parents were usually just making ends meet but since my brother and sisters had left the nest and mom had started working part time we had some extra money. When my mom’s friend  Tillie mentioned a neighbor of her’s who ran painting classes out of her home, my mother thought it would be a good experience for me.

My art teacher’s name was Mrs Bott.  To my 13 year old self she seemed very old but in retrospect she was probably no more than 50.  She and her husband lived in a neighborhood of large stately homes and her husband, knowing how much his wife enjoyed painting had turned their old carriage house into a studio for her.

As  you entered the studio, the smell of turpentine and linseed oil engulfed you. This was probably another reason her husband built the studio in a building away from the main house! There were about 10 or 15 other students but as it turned out I was, by far, the youngest.  The rest of the ladies were older housewives who just enjoyed getting out and doing something creative, kind of like a garden club. I became the resident granddaughter.  They all  enjoyed offering tips and suggestions and I quite enjoyed being fussed over and spoiled!

Every Tuesday, for the duration of the summer, mom would drop me off at Mrs Bott’s and then head over to Tillie’s for some coffee and gossip. While she was gone  I  learned how to mix  paint and about different kinds of canvas.  I learned how to draw in my sketch with charcoal before I started blocking in the colors.  I learned about shading and perspective and how to make water look like it was reflecting the sky. Most of all, I learned about myself, that this was something  I actually did well and that brought me great joy.

Later in high school and college, I had many other art classes and lots of other teachers. There were still many medium and styles to explore and I loved all of it, but even today I still think of Mrs Bott every time I start a new painting. She gave me the foundation and taught me the basics. Most important, she encouraged me.  She showed me what I was capable of and taught me how to develop my talents. When you’re a shy, gawky 13 year old that’s a great gift.

O is for Opening Lines

All writers know the importance of a good opening paragraph. They only have a few lines in order to get the reader hooked and to make them want to read more. Good writers usually equal good openings.

There are lots of list on the Internet of famous opening lines. They are usually from classic novels and they really are “great opening lines” but they don’t always include more modern book.

Well, I have very eclectic taste in novels so I thought, just for the fun of it, I would make my own list.

So, in no particular order, here are Nancy’s 10 favorite opening lines:

1) “When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

2) “There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever. Joseph Morelli did this to me–not forever, but periodically.”
– Janet Evanovich, One For the Money

3) “I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar.”
– Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark

4) “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
5) “Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.  Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better.”
– Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
6) “The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.”
-H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

7) “Marley was dead, to begin with.”
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
8) “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”
– Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

9) “The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”
-Stephen King, It

10) “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 

Okay, how did I do? What opening lines would you add?

N is for Nancy

Today it’s all about me!!! Okay, it’s all about me and other people named Nancy. Maybe these other Nancy’s are  better known than I am but I don’t mind sharing my name with them anyway. So presented in totally random order:

Nancy Drew

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Drew

Teenage sluth extraordinaire! Who could forget Carolyn Keene’s talented young lady with the matching sweater sets. I must have read every book in the series 3 times. We still have copies in the school library that are borrowed on a regular basis.

Nancy Reagan

 http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Reagan

I am always impressed by the poise and grace with which this former First Lady moves through life. First she took on Hollywood (check out her and her husband as they star together in “Hellcats of the Navy”1957), then she took on Washington (Say No To Drugs!). She gives the rest of us Nancys something to strive for.

Nancy Sinatra

Her boots were made for walkin and her dad was from Jersey. ‘Nuff said 

 https://ticklemevintage.wordpress.com/tag/nancy-sinatra/

Fancy Nancy

https://www.fancynancyworld.com/books/hardcover/fancy-nancy-10th-anniversary-edition/9780062352149 

Could any literary character be any sweeter? The illustrations and the shear joy in these books make them worth reading. My hubby gets me a new one for Christmas each year just because I’m his Fancy Nancy!  I know-he’s a keeper!

I could go on but I think that’s enough Nancy-ness for one day and I have to say, speaking as a Nancy, I think this is pretty good company!

M is for Memories

Someone asked me recently “What is your earliest memory?” It really took some thought. I had to work through what I actually remembered and what were just memories of stories I’d heard or seen on our home movies. Since my dad bought a brand new Super Eight movie camera the year I was born, my childhood is fairly well documented!

After some consideration, I’ve decided that my earliest memory is from when I was in kindergarten around 1968. My class was on the playground for recess. This was back before playgrounds were built as safe as they are today so the ground was blacktop not wood chips and the equipment was the old fashioned metal kind. We had a really tall slide, some swings and two climbers only we called them monkey bars. One was square and the other looked like this, only bigger:    

One of my classmates, a rather fearless little girl, was climbing up inside of this dome and slipped. On the way down, she hit one of the metal bolts and put a big gash in her chin! As you might imagine, we all panicked. Nothing gets a bunch of 5 year olds screaming quite like the sight of blood! I think that’s why I remember it so vividly. It was probably the first really scary moment of my young life. Thankfully, the teachers got help right away and the little girl returned to school the next week sporting at least a dozen stitches. After that, she had an inch long scar running from her bottom lip down her chin. I guess it could have been much worse, though.

So that’s my tale. What is your oldest memory and why do you think you remember it?