Z is for...


Zoo.  Going to the zoo is special, and my most local recently added giraffes.  We decided to go meet them with my nephew, and had a very fun day in June.  Mack and my mom meeting giraffes at the zoo last summer (above), me and my mom meeting giraffes at the zoo during an earlier summer (below).


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This was not my finest photographic effort, nor was it my Z when I took the pictures.  I took a picture of Queen Ann's Lace that day, and that was definitely with Q in mind, but not Z.  This one was hard... I think I'm a little past pleasing for zaftig, and I'm not sure quite how I'd portray that, anyway, so Z for Zoo it is!

Have I ever mentioned how much I've enjoyed participating in the ABC-Along?  I was sometimes rushed and sometimes fell behind, but I so enjoyed thinking about each letter and how best to represent it, taking pictures to reflect a little of me and making it personal.  In the beginning, I'd intended to photograph each letter as it came up, but it didn't work out that way -- for the most part, it did, but there are a few "out of order."  I've definitely had some favorites -- okay, I was just going to go back and link to a few, but they're all favorites, they all really do reflect me -- people, places, things that I love and that are special or important to me.  I was inspired, N was just too much fun, O took me miles off my route to get to the spot after finally finding the one, V was pure chance, and X was a last-minute save; I wish I had a do-over or two... I forgot that I'd intended to do watch pins for W, though I guess that turned out okay.  Some of the pictures could be better...  From the very beginning, I've planned to print an Abecedary of my very own, and now I can finally do it!

Thank you, Anne, for sharing your inspiration and being such a fine hostess.  I've enjoyed every frame.

Y is for...


Yard.  The picture above was taken from high atop the other end of the back porch roof on the day of the "N" photo shoot.

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Most of our yard is planted with things other than grass, and a lot of the rest is wooded ravine which we've never been inclined to change.  It takes about ten minutes to mow with a push mower and that's the way we like it.  It takes longer to get the mower to the grass than it does to actually mow the grass.  Hm, perhaps we could plant something else in some of those places...

When the kids were little, there was a large patch of grass on the east side of the house -- the back yard -- where they played and where we installed various sandboxes over the years, combination picnic/play tables and lawn chairs of all sizes, plank-and-sawhorse "balance beams."  The biggest back yard attraction for the kids -- all the neighbor kids as well as my own -- was the playhouse that DH built at his earliest opportunity, which wasn't until after he re-built the stone retaining wall that he had toppled over early that first spring (it took 'til November and just don't ask).

When the kids outgrew the play tables, we built a garage, then a deck (and then a pergola over the deck) on their back yard.  There have been a lot of changes to our yard over the years, always striving for improvement and better use as we all change and grow.

X is for...


X-acto.  At one time -- for many years -- when I worked as a typesetter, an X-acto knife was practically an extension of my hand, along with a hand-held waxer or trigger can full of rubber cement.  Cut & paste, for real.

W is for...



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Dsc09164W is also for wonderful, as in my best friend of almost 30 years who I think of every single time I open my closet, contemplate my wardrobe, and choose something to wear.

My best friend is six years older than me; our birthdays are exactly a week apart, making us both Scorpios.  People often mistake us for sisters -- they always have and it amuses me that they still do.  A couple of years ago, I bought her Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg's "Twin Sons of Different Mothers" -- because it's one of my favorite CDs of all-time, but also because we were still "Twin Daughters of Different Mothers."  Funny thing is, she actually does have a sister named Vicky, and often, when the three of us were together, we would still be mistaken for sisters.

We met when one of her brothers hired me to work in their family-owned business -- she was the one female in the production area of said business and they kind of wanted another female so she'd have a work pal.  Something like that.  Being a girl wasn't a requirement, but it didn't hurt, though they hesitated a little bit because of our difference in age.  She was already married, trying to start a family.  At 19 and 25, six years can still be huge.

We hit it off, though, more than anyone could have ever imagined, and our difference in age was probably perfect -- she, a bit more worldly and wise and a lot more confident, and me, putty in her hands.  One night, we went out for a drink after work.  It turned out to be a major turning point in my life, really.  I don't remember a lot of details, in fact I think it was a blur right from the start, but somehow a message was conveyed.  It sounds strange, but I got -- found, was given -- self-confidence that night.

A very small, but significant part of it -- one that I think of every single day -- had to do with my wardrobe: earth tones.  "Lose the earth tones."  Every splash of color in my still, mostly earth-toned wardrobe, reminds me of my wonderful best friend.  The self-confidence and self-doubt wax and wane, it's sometimes a struggle to be strong and confident -- I guess the periods of self-doubt help keep the self-confidence from turning to arrogance, though.

V is for...

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Grandma and Grandpa's house.  I miss them.  Grandpa died a few years ago and Grandma has been getting more and more lost.  She recently dislocated her hip again, after falling while wandering the halls where she lives.  She doesn't know where she is.  She will be 94 on Christmas Eve.

There were many, many holiday meals in that dining room.  The grown-ups around the big table, card tables set up for the kids.  My grandparents had six children and nine grandchildren.  We are lucky enough that there have even been meals with great grandchildren around the "kids' table."

I remember my sister Sharon being made to sit at that table until she finished her mashed potatoes.  I know... it was Christmas (or whatever)... and she didn't like mashed potatoes... but there were children starving in Africa.

I remember my kids and nieces and nephews, spending much of a Christmas afternoon building and decorating a gingerbread house, which we then had for dessert!  That little activity was one of my few-and-far-between strokes of genius!  Mothers, take note:  The kids were kept occupied and they had fun and they could slip a piece of candy or lick frosting from their fingers, there was little-to-no whining about when-this and how-come-that!  What's not to love?

I remember my Uncle Jimmy coming home from his first year away at college.  His hair was longer.  A lot, lot longer.  He wore a braided leather headband.  We listened to Cat Stevens records and played board games in the music room.  Grandma asked him to say the before-meal prayer and he stood up, almost shouting:

Thanks for the grub
Yay God!

Well, yeah!  Grandma was... "stunned" is a good word.  It kinda blew us all away!  Grandma always thought more carefully, weighing potential risks, about who she assigned that task to from then on.  We remember it, warmly, and laugh at every single holiday meal.  "Remember the time when Uncle Jimmy..."

I've written about my grandparents' house a few times.  It is very, very old.  During the '30s and '40s, a doctor lived in the house and it also served as the "hospital."  When I assisted at a rummage sale there a couple of years ago, lots of people came just because they wanted to see the house.  One woman asked, "Do you know which was the Birthing Room? I was born in that room."  I didn't really know which was the Birthing Room, but I gave her my best guess(es).  All I really knew about the use of rooms at that time is that Grandma's "dining room" was the "operating room."  Another man had a little blast from the past as he walked up the back steps, remembering the same walk some 70 years earlier when he'd come to have his tonsils removed.

My favorite room was always the music room.  It could be accessed from the vestibule, had sliding doors to the living room, and there was also a door to another adjoining (possibly the "birthing" room).  My dad built a huge book case and cabinet surrounding the window on the entire east wall; it held books, of course, and also the stereo and record collection.  I used to spend hours in that room when we visited, with the doors closed, listening to records and looking at Grandma's old photo albums.  I memorized every word of Jesus Christ Superstar in that room.  One Easter at Grandma's, there was a little scavenger hunt for us to find our baskets.  The last clue led me to the music cabinet where I found a "45" of Don MacLean's American Pie nestled among the jelly beans in my basket.

The room that adjoined the music room was occupied by my great grandfather, Grandma's dad, until he died.  He loved doing jigsaw puzzles and my sister Karen would often help him; in high school, she worked at a nursing home, the only one of us who ever did.  I was always a little scared of Great Grandpa, he was old and thin and quiet and whiskery, and I didn't know what quite what to make of the well-read Bible alongside the Playboy magazines on his shelf.  During a family meeting in the music room once, my brother Mike and a cousin carpeted the entire living room floor with Playboy centerfolds, giving Grandma quite a shock as she emerged from the room!

Those two rooms were later used as showroom, classroom and studio for many years after Grandma retired from the bank and taught ceramics or painted.  She had huge kilns in the basement, shelves and shelves of plaster molds and tools, glazes, greenware, bisque, books and trade rags, buckets and boxes of slip and clay.  After Grandpa retired, he did all the pouring and took great pride in doing it well; he liked the compliments of the ladies, Grandma's students.  Grandma was a prolific painter, as well, generally watercolor, mostly scenes from the lake.

I always loved the attic in that house.  It was a walk-in attic, in the space above the dining room and kitchen, accessible through a small door in the upstairs bathroom.  It was fascinating -- all that stuff.  Furniture, clothing, books, paperwork, holiday decorations.  I remember finding a really cool old vintage coat, way back in my high school days, that Grandma let me have -- it was wool and pink and had a huge, decorative button.

It was interesting to me that my grandparents did not share a bedroom.  They had adjoining rooms, though, hers a little bigger and only a tiny bit frillier than his -- Priscilla curtains at the windows.  They would share Grandma's bed if the house was full and they needed Grandpa's bed; it was the same at the cottage.  I remember Grandma's dresser with all the Avon jars and bottles, her jewelry box and earring tree.

The most flattering full-length mirror in the world was at the end of the upstairs hall.  I used to hike up my skirt and do the runway walk -- oh, if only my legs really were that long and thin!  I remember mentioning the magical mirror to Grandma once and she laughed, "Oh, you mean I don't really look as good as I think I do?"

I am thankful for family, thankful for memory, thankful for friends -- friends like you.  Thank you.  Thanksgiving.  Rub-a-dub-dub...

U is for...


Under.  Why, yes, I did try getting under this chair with the camera.  There wasn't room for both of us.  This is an actual chair in my kitchen.  There is usually a padded cushion where the platter is which prevents most people from falling through -- works best if you have a butt of a certain size, no guarantees for small children.  It is not the only chair in this condition that is in used 'round my table, but I believe it is the worst.  It really couldn't get any worse in terms of seating.  There's more in the basement, including rocker with caned back and seat which is stripped and ready to go.  My dear husband put a moratorium on chairs several years ago, particularly if they were minus a seat.

My favorite place to look when I'm in an antique store or junk shoppe?  Under.  If a dish or bowl strikes my fancy, I look under.  I've been known to do it in restaurants and in friends' homes.  Homer Laughlin dinnerware is a particular favorite; my "grandma dishes" are Homer.  If a particular press on a chair catches my eye, I look or feel under.  Is it caned?  What's the condiiton?  Set in or done by hand?

Y'all still want to come over for coffee?

T is for...

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Nothing tempts me quite like chocolate.  This is a box that I received for my birthday, custom-filled with my favorites -- turtles and meltaways.  I'm always given a box of chocolates from a local chocolatier for my birthday, sometimes for Christmas, usually for Valentine's Day -- and that's enough.  I am sometimes quite selfish with my chocolates and unwilling to share.  ; )  I love the jordan almonds, too.  They used to sell boxes of jordan almonds at the movie theater and they were my favorites because I could make 'em last for nearly an entire movie!

S is for...


Sewing tools.

Dsc08604I know how to sew, but I don't really sew.  I can't imagine not having a sewing machine or a sewing basket in which to corral the needles, a small stack of fabric, thread and pins for the mending.  Heh, the mending that I never, ever get to.  The girls always outgrew the mending pile -- usually by years.  Right now, my main sewing basket is set atop the sewing machine case under one of the dining nook windows and atop of that is a pile of stuff with holes or missing buttons or blown out seams or falling-down hems, along with some fabric and patterns.

The accoutrements of sewing are many and they come in all sizes.  I have three sewing machines and about a half-dozen sewing baskets.  Two of the machines are, at the moment, non-working treadle machines of the heirloom variety -- one from my maternal grandmother, the other from my paternal great-grandmother on Grandma's side.  The baskets and stands are a bit of a problem...  I am inexplicably drawn to them -- wicker, wood, plastic, it doesn't really matter.  All but one are filled with items having nothing to do with sewing -- they hold yarn or needlework, and one in my bedroom holds belts. 

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I've sewn skirts, shorts and tops for the girls, dresses for myself, even a bag.  My main line, though, has been curtains.  I've made simple curtains and valances for nearly every place I've lived.  My neighbor lady even asked me to sew a curtain for her once.  I never met a tension rod that I didn't like.  When DH's surrogate grandparents' home burned and the family rallied to transform an unused outbuilding into a new living space, I felt helpless.  As the mother of a one-year-old who required constant attention, I couldn't pound nails or pull wire or paint, but I could make the curtains!  It isn't home without the curtains!!

Dsc08605My mother -- while she hasn't sewn in quite a few years -- is an amazing seamstress.  She used to sew for Sharon and Karen and me -- three of everything -- even after she had Michael, but the sewing machine was keeping company with the mothballs after Annie's arrival (though Ann definitely benefitted from the sewing with all those hand-me-downs).  Mom sewed cute, ruffly, flannel nightgowns for the girls with matching gowns for their Cabbage Patch dolls a few years ago -- she still "sews."  One of my grandmothers always went over the seams of all of her store-bought clothes, not trusting the workmanship.  The girls, too, have "sewn" -- outfits for all of their dolls, alterations to their own clothing -- though I am using the term quite loosely.  (Sometimes scotch tape, string, staples or safety pins replaced needle and thread, and sometimes kleenex or paper towels or leaves replaced fabric -- can you see why we like Project Runway so much?)

R is for...


Rodents (specifically, mice).  Gathered together for a group shot.

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From the time I was a wee, six-pound newborn until I was well into adulthood and had wee babes of my own, my dad called me, "Mouse."  Consequently, I have a small collection.  Given the number of my years and the occasions within those years, multiplied by many a gift-giver, I think the collection is quite under control -- subdued, even.

That one with the pink ears and nose was an art class creation of Madeleine's some years ago.  The "mother and child" one (I know, they're mice) was a gift from my mom.  There are three in the back that are porcelain and made by Grandma.

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One of them has had a chip on his ear practically from day one.  Some of them have tail issues.

Dsc08456I have not dug out the Christmas decorations -- the little "gumdrop" one with the "licorice" tail and "slivered almond" ears was never put away -- or any of the Mickey Mouse stuff (there would be that -- and why not, he's a cute little rodent) -- or coffee mugs.  For the most part, these are just sprinkled throughout the house -- one or two tucked in with the depression glass, some on a bookshelf, one in the upstairs bathroom, another on my dresser.

I realized, several years ago, that Dad had not called me "Mouse" in quite some time.  I don't really know when or why he stopped.  I was surprised, in our last phone conversation, to hear it.

Q is for...

Dsc08394Quart jar.

It's the time of year for quart jars, isn't it?  I don't do much canning (and when I say "much," I mean "zero"), but when I see the jars and lids in the stores, I think of grandma and her cellar full of jars.

Dsc08392She canned tomatoes*, cukes, beans, pears, peaches, pickles -- always pickles... dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, pickles with onions and garlic.

My dad cans tuna, fresh off the boat, and salmon (sometimes in tomato sauce), fruit... and pickles.

My sister cans her homemade salsa.

Dsc07591_1 I've never canned a thing.  My quart jars are used to hold marbles or bouquets of Queen Anne's Lace.

*Katie swears that the total sale at the cute tomato vendors' on Saturday increased by $3.00 with the addition of the heirloom tomato pictured.  I have to admit that I wasn't really paying attention -- I was enchanted by the green-black-purply-ness of the tomatoes.  Just in case it was $3.00, it wasn't thrown into the tomato sauce pot; we savored it in small wedges.  Mmmmmm, it was very, very good, though I'm not sure it was three dollars good.  ; )

P is for...


Pansies.  A pansy print:  "A String of Pansies" by Paul de Longpre.

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This is pretty much the print that started it all with pansies.  It's a half-yard-long that my sister bought at an auction several years ago.  I wrote about it once, and how it came to be mine, here.

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P could also be for pansies on pitchers and pansies on pots, pansies on cups and saucers.

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P could be for pictures in a pot with pansies.  For this post, P is for pansies... on postcards, a calendar, a tile, another special print.

O is for...



I have lived most of my life in America's Dairyland.  I can get you to a farm in almost any direction from my house in about five minutes.  Last week, from our back yard and with the wind "just right," we could detect "fertilizer" being spread on a farm somewhere -- it smelled like it was right next door!  There's even a small, working farm right across the road from where I work -- a hold-out from encroaching development -- and I often see cows in a little pasture there.

I've never lived on a farm.  My Grandma B grew up on a farm -- her dad gave up the railroad business when she was three and moved his young family from Iowa to a farm in central Wisconsin.  Grandpa B never lived on a farm, either, but his dad sure did.  Grandma K was also raised on a central Wisconsin farm; she and Grandpa even tried their hand at farming for a very short time after they were married.

The only "close" relation I knew who actually lived on a farm was Grandma K's youngest sister and her husband -- Great Uncle Al & Aunt Loretta.  Loretta was much younger than Grandma -- young enough to be the flower girl at Grandma's wedding -- so some of her kids are not much older than me, and some are even younger.  It was always a special treat when we'd stop by Al & Loretta's farm on our way home from visiting my mom's sisters.  As a little girl, I wasn't interested in outbuildings, but I did learn all about electric fences, bulls, barn kitties, and cow pies.  Once you step in a fresh cow pie, you'll never do it again.

Dsc08002It's a weird word, too -- outbuildings.  I was introduced to "outbuildings" (the noun) years ago when I set type (that's lingo -- it was actually done by computer, at a keyboard) for real estate and farm auction ads for the paper.  It was only after learning what they were called that I actually began to notice outbuildings, even though I'd seen them almost every day of my life.  They're everywhere!  Some farms have only a few, some have a half-dozen or more.  Sometimes they're all spread out or neatly arranged, other times they're willy-nilly or little tacked-in additions to each other.  Some are big, some are small, some are well cared for, others quite neglected or downright dilapidated.  They are machine sheds, pump houses, summer kitchens, outhouses, chicken coops and pig pens and stables.  I suppose it's a fascination with romantic country living, an appreciation for history and architecture -- and curiosity about function -- that keeps me looking.

H is for...

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Holly-HOOEY!  Dang, we've already done H!  My hydrangeas are doing so nicely this year, too!

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I think I was ripped off in the hollyhock department last year, but am very pleased with this year's display.  I know they're biennial...  I need to synchronize so I have a good year every year, you know?

Dsc07660So far, I've got a pale pink and a white blooming, and this one (coming up right in the middle of some other plant) looks promising, a darker pink.  Mom complained that she's got nothing but the very, very dark ones blooming this year and she doesn't like it.  I just bought a packet of seeds in that color because I do!  Go figure.

Who'd have guessed that nighties would get such a reaction?!  It's not like I was airin' my dirty laundry!!

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the ABC-Along?  The minute Anne suggested it, I was in.  I might be tardy with a post on occasion, and I might put up a little complaint about how the difficulty of a particular letter, but I have taken the ABCs to heart this year and, truly, try to make each post/letter a reflection of me.  Hence, nightgowns -- on the clothesline, no less.  When it finally occurred to me that nightgown was going to be my N, I was giddy with excitement -- how to shoot, when, where...  It was a labor of love to gather them all together from drawers, baskets and hooks, haul them all downstairs, pin each one on the line...  I renewed acquaintance with some old forgotten ones, some that need mending, some that I just can't part with (even if they might not fit at the moment).  I think I overlooked only one altogether.  My delight in the project even allowed me to momentarily overcome my fear of heights as I crawled out of the sleeping porch window onto the back porch roof in order to take the "aerial" shots.  And then, because I was already there -- and I could (it might have been the rarefied air) -- I walked around to the other end of the porch and took a couple of pictures of the garden from there -- it's a walk-out basement on that side, so another story up (or down, depending on whether you're a cup half-full or -empty type of person), but I did it!  Believe me, I never got too close to the edge and was even down on hands and knees at times.  I get so lightheaded and woozy even at the thought of being up high sometimes that I feel like I'll just lose all function and control and just collapse.  Dsc07658Thankfully, not the case that day -- way back in May!  I've been so excited, waiting patiently for N's time to come.  I'm so pleased.  The comments (Ann, yours is going to tickle my funny bone for a long time to come!) are priceless.  Thanks for taking the time to share them with me.

At right, a preview of what's on tap tomorrow... KNITTING!

N is for...



I have a few.

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Dsc07253Almost all of them are cotton.  Some are new and some are very, very old.  I was wearing the one pictured at left while pregnant with Katie.  That's 21 years ago -- I don't know what that translates to in nightgown years.  It's a soft, old faithful, and I still wear it.

Apparently, I favor long and white, buttons and ruffles.  There are a few florals, some blue, a shocking pink!  Most of them are missing the tags because I have an annoyance with those irritating things that seems to only get worse.  Many of the sleeves are whacked off because I can't stand anything too tight around my wrists.  If it was easily accomplished, I simply removed the elastic, but most of the time, it required a whack job to make the thing wearable.

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I often spend a good deal of my day off or a Sunday morning in my nightgown.  Having no neighbors on the east side, none in back, and mostly hidden from view in the front, I can have coffee on the patio in my nightie or hang out the wash or pull weeds or water my tomatoes.

I suffer comparison to pioneer prairie girls gladly.  ; )

M is for...


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Mad5_1 Mad6_1 

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The youngest of my three girls and the last one alphabetically.  Her great grandpa was one of the first to coax a smile from her -- he always had a way with the babies!  I always joke that the Pan statue in the back garden is my only son -- he always played nice with Maddy, though didn't want to share the pipes so much.  Once, Maddy and one of the neighbor boys pulled off those plastic "pipes" and tossed them in the ravine, never to be found.  DH fashioned some gorgeous copper pipes to replace them and they're prettier than the originals -- sometimes the kids' shenanigans results in good.  ; )  She's getting measured at the door frame, just before it was removed for a kitchen expansion; and outfitted in Lion King gear for her first day of preschool.  I swear, we kept the Disney store in business for years -- she's wearing a Belle shirt (possibly an Ali hand-me-down) in BOTH of the bottom left photos -- it was right after my kids' fashion sensibilities changed with adolescence that the store at our mall closed.  I swear.  The final photo is one she recently took of herself.

You'll notice that my first two girls have undeniably red hair and that Maddy's is decidedly different.  It's exactly as mine was, actually... nearly pure white as a toddler after starting out quite dark (though Mom really can't remember whether mine was dark at first), getting a little darker each winter as she got older, but lightening up again in the sun every summer.  Mom used to squeeze lemon juice into my hair to keep it light; I remember an egg treatment, mayonnaise, and beer over the years, too, all for different reasons, I'm sure.  Anyway, Maddy has been experimenting with color in her hair for the past year or two and she's currently brunette.  I've always been okay with that... I'd rather they experiment with hair dye -- and they often show some originality, doing more than just applying it whole-head -- than drugs or other stuff.  Dye on, darlin'.

L is for...


Dsc07251Laundry (on the line).

One of my favorite things is to pull from the closet, in November or December or January or February, a set of sheets -- or a nightgown -- that's been dried on the line.  You can still smell it!  The freshness, the sunshine, the blue skies and puffy clouds and grass and flowers and bugs and SUMMER.

Working long days as I do, I don't hang laundry on the line quite as much as I used to, or as I'd like -- sometimes the weather and my day off do not cooperate for such activity.  Sometimes I don't get started 'til late.  I do it when I can, though.  I could never live in a neighborhood that had a covenant prohibiting clotheslines.

I often think of something Mom always told me about her mother...  that Grandma was always the last one in the neighborhood to get her laundry on the line each day, but it was always the whitest!  (This is the grandma who included scrubbing down of rafters in the attic as a normal part of her spring cleaning routine.  Yeah.  I doubt she would approve of the "Tsk, Tsk" that one of my lovely daughters scrawled into the dust on the vanity in my bedroom... a couple of weeks ago... it's still there.  If you look back, you'll see that D was Definitely not for Dusting.)

K is for...

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Dsc07355K is for Katie, of course; my eldest.

Top row.  1) One of the first pictures, so peaceful in her daddy's arms.  2) In the other, she's just two and I'm sitting to her right with a newborn Ali in my arms -- I saw that exact same face in an earlier picture when I was rooting through the picture piles, and I was given it in person just last week!

Middle row.  1) Katie's 1-year-old photo, which I paid through the nose to have done professionally after the traveling photographer at JCPenney was a complete asshole to me, so I showed him.  Yeah.  Anyway, this thing covering the ears was Katie's way of dealing with the unknown at that age, a behavior that I would have forgotten if it weren't documented in a couple of photos.  2) "I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair," taken in my mom's kitchen sink during one of our trips to Wisconsin before moving here.

Bottom row.  1) I love the red knee socks Katie's wearing; we're on the sidewalk in front of our house and the yard is still quite wild and untamed behind us!  2) Katie at Stonehenge a few months ago.  At right: a preschool Raggedy Ann.

I love you, sweetheart.

J is for...


Johnny-jump-up!  From a single gift pot that the girls gave me for Mother's Day a few years ago, I now have a growing drift in one of the front garden beds.  It is amazing to see these en masse, hundreds of little purple, lavender and yellow flowers, each made up of five petals, all with the same general shape, but every one so very different from its neighbor -- more yellow, less yellow, more lavender, less lavender, a big (or little) beard of purple, or no beard at all, bold center markings, or just a hint.  It's one of Mother Nature's many, jaw-dropping, breath-taking, awesome displays.

* * * * *

The ABC-Along has been so much fun!  I've been a big fan right from the start.  The ABCs are in my blood, having embroidered many a reproducton sampler.  The ABC-Along is a way to play with my camera, and a fun way to explore and express myself.  I set some guidelines and figured out how I wanted to approach it, and have plans to print a photographic Abecedary with my photos when the year is over.

I signed up for Ina's "I" challenge when it was first announced -- way back around the time of "D" or "E," I think.  Ina and Anne have announced the finalists, and my post is among them!  How cool is that?  (Way cool.)  Go -- have a look at all the other entries, and then VOTE!  I'd be pleased if you voted for me, of course, but do vote for the one that you like best.  ; )

Jane at Not Plain Jane
Karlie at A Long Yarn
Minnie at Muses of a Dragon Mad Knitter
and Me

I is for...

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Individual (x3).  I knew I wanted "individual" and I knew that I meant it in terms of my girls.  We were brainstorming and laughing about how they used to love "being" letters of the alphabet when they were little...  I'd call out a letter (or a number) and they would bend and shape their bodies into that shape, or a close approximation.  On the left is a capital "I" made of three individuals, and three individual capital "I"s on the right.

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Some lower-case "I"s, and three goofy girls.

H is for...

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House and Home; Home Sweet Home.

Dsc07050_2There are many, many things I like about my house -- mostly that it's "home," but that's not so easy to photograph.  Though I think many of the photographs I've posted on the blog over the last couple of years -- the ones that show my house, whether intentional or otherwise -- also kind of show "home."

When DH and I moved to Wisconsin from Oregon back in late 1986, we rented a house while we looked for one to buy.  I had seen "our house" driving around once, before he'd even arrived in the state (Katie & I flew, he drove with all our stuff), and crossed it off the list as being out of our price range -- without even checking to see what the price was.  A few months later, we were looking at a house with a Realtor and, as most good realtors will do, he bought some info on similar properties in the same price range.  Uh-huh, you know it... "our house" was one of them.

There's this funny little window in our bedroom that juts out at a 45-degree angle from the corner (that's one thing); and a cute porch with some Greek styling -- not original, but it's okay; a gorgeous, solid oak front door with beveled, oval glass (that's another thing -- a big thing); a creaky oak staircase (another thing) and an oak colonnade (a really, really big thing) -- and that's really as far as I needed to go!  I knew this house would be ours.

We've done a lot of work over the past 19 years -- painting, rebuilding porches, rebuilding floors, more painting, roofing, gardening, more painting, and wallpapering and fixing and repairing and replacing and if you own a home, you know the lists goes on and it will never, ever stop.  ; )

G whiz, I'm behind


G is for Garden.  I love my garden.  It's a little wild at the moment, and I'm not always in the mood for plant-taming, but I do love it.

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It looks like a little hosta fairy ring, doesn't it?  In a couple of weeks, you'll never know there was a void.  And the rhodie sure has changed in the last few days.

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I'm surprised that I found a few forget-me-nots blooming already -- they have spread all over the garden and into the path, too.  The bleeding heart is growing like a weed (and I love it).  The creeping phlox is also beginning to bloom.  The leaves are budding out and everything is so very fresh and green.  I haven't always been a gardener and I don't know what made me change my stripes, exactly, but I sure do enjoy it.

F is for...

Family Tree.  I'd like to introduce my great great grandmothers on my paternal grandpa's side, Eva (left) and Amelia (right).  Eva (1860-1896) was born in Wisconsin to German parents; Amelia (1864-1958) was also born in Wisconsin, but to Swiss parents.

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Alison gasped yesterday when I took Eva's picture down from the cabinet door on the computer desk where it's been affixed for years -- I put it right back when I was finished!  I hoped and hoped, but never expected that a picture of Eva would be found -- she died at age 36, in childbirth I believe; her son, my great grandfather, was only 10.  I was elated when this charcoal rendered portrait turned up in a relative's basement.

Dsc06768I had several pictures of Amelia in her later years -- she lived to be 93 and died only three months before I was born (her birthday was in November, same as mine).  In her old age, she had snow white hair and one of my aunts told me that she always had a very regal manner.  A cousin unearthed the studio "hiking" portrait (a tintype), as well as the wedding photo.  I also uncovered court records having to do with my GG Grandfather William's will and something about a trust and I can only surmise that he was a bit of a control freak -- it's been a while since I looked at all that.  Amelia lived for 27 years after William died and, according to all sources, bounced between whichever daughter's house had room.  They all lived in the same city and four of the five married four brothers from another family.  My grandma talked about Amelia coming over to help her with canning, housework, and the babies.

Dsc06761I haven't done any family history research in the last few years to speak of.  In fact, I only just installed my six-year-old version of Family Tree Maker software on this "new" computer yesterday.  I'm behind.  There's a shot of my computer screen with my entire ancestor tree.  I find it extremely enjoyable and very rewarding -- I get to be part detective and sleuth, part historian, part librarian and archivist, all things that greatly appeal to me -- but very time-consuming.  I am not too keen on interviewing the relatives in my research, I'm much more comfortable at courthouses and libraries and traipsing through cemeteries (William's family has a small, private cemetery on a corner of the old farm about an hour's drive from my home -- there are still some unsolved mysteries there).  No doubt I'll get into it again -- I kind of go in streaks because it takes so much focus and concentration, I get burned out or hit a brick wall and need to take a break to recharge or maybe find new inspiration.  These ladies are pretty inspiring to me.

E is for...

Embroidery; particularly cross-stitch, particularly some sort of sampler, particularly having to do with family.

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"Mothers Tree," a design by Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum for Lavender & Lace, is right up many of my alleys!  It's the genealogical record of the direct family line from the oft-neglected maternal side.  It includes the year of birth and full name (maiden name and married name) of the eldest, known, direct, female ancestor, followed by the words "mother of."  On the next line is the same info for her daughter, then her daughter, and on and on.  This one is for me and I want to include all three of my daughters, so it has me, mother of Katie and Ali and Maddy.  I haven't done a bit of family history research in the last few years (or perhaps I'd know Mary's surname -- rumored to also be Bauer, but not fact), nor have I stitched on this project.  I was stymied by my grandmother's name for a while -- everywhere I looked there was a different variation of her first name, along with vague attempts at explanation in the form of stories about "too many Marys."  In the end, my family historian persona duly recorded all the variations (and even took a favorite) while deciding that for the sampler, the variation that Grandma used herself was appropriate (even if it isn't my favorite).

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While the Mothers Tree is folded up and hidden away in my workbasket, brought to mind on rare occasion, "The Dorcas Haynes Christmas Sampler," a reproduction sampler taught by Darlene O'Steen at a "Christmas In Williamsburg Seminar," sponsored by Just CrossStitch Magazine in December 1992, taunts me every single day.  I'm taunting myself, of course, in that "stickin' it to The Man/but you are The Man" way; I could stuff it in a drawer or basket, too.  It is a very large band sampler and this is all I've accomplished in nearly 14 years.  If you've done any kind of needlework, you're no stranger to the idea that "the back should be as neat as the front" (that concept is synonymous in my mind with the grandmother of the troublesome name, above); well, this sampler is actually reversible.  You can see that in the stitching of the alphabet letters -- they are full "crosses" on the back, too.  Darlene's parting words were along the line of "just do it"; she encouraged us to stitch it however we wished, even in plain, non-reversible cross-stitch, because it was too pretty a sampler to NOT be stitched.  That's what I did on the band below that first alphabet.

I had a blast on that trip to Williamsburg -- the first big trip away, all by myself, since I'd become a mother.  At the time, Maddy was 20 months old and still nursing a couple of times a day and I joke that I took this trip to wean her or I might still be nursing!  We were both ready, really; I certainly was.  Williamsburg was absolutely gorgeous -- even the dead gardens were gorgeous -- and everything was decorated for Christmas, and there were fireworks.  Really, any guilt I feel when I see that major, unfinished embroidery project on display is completely overshadowed by the good, warm feelings that still come to mind about that trip.

D is for...

Dsc06554...duh... or Depression glass.  When the ABC-Along began, I wrote all the letters of the alphabet in the spaces for every other Sunday of a pocket calendar.  I also wrote in an idea or two for a particular letter, if something struck me right off the bat.  Well, I checked my calendar yesterday and written right there in black and white:  Depression glass.  How could I have forgotten?

Dsc06555Dsc06348Depression glass reminds me a lot of my grandmothers.  I haven't added to my collection much in recent years, but happily remember the years of building -- the flush of excitement at scoring a particular piece, quite probably unnoticed by anyone else, in a box lot at an auction, or saving up for a certain item, or finding even one piece of an elusive pattern that I liked.  I especially like angles, I guess -- Sierra Pinwheel (I have plates, platters, bowls and a butter dish all with those cute, chip-prone, jagged rims), chunky Tea Room, geometric Colonial Block -- though I do have pieces with names like Swirl, too, and some with floral designs.  Most Depression glass isn't marked, but the "A" inside an "H" is fairly common.  People think it's an Anchor Hocking mark, but it really stands for Hazel Atlas, the name of an old glass company; it's sometimes found on the bottom of clear, utilitarian glass, too, such as jelly glasses or measuring cups.

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I've photographed, posted and written about this cabinet before -- it is framed by the kitchen doorway, visible from my front door, and behind it is the sink and an ever-present assortment of dishes that haven't yet made it into the dishwasher.  I knew, when we remodeled the kitchen, that the Depression glass would be "shown" -- I'd originally intended overhead, lighted cabinets with glass on all sides above the sink, but the space wouldn't allow it in the manner that I wished.  We happened upon a pair of these cabinets and the rest, as they say, is history.  There's a little cubby behind and to the left, between a heat vent and the countertop, that also houses some green (and always dusty) glass, and there are mixing bowls and various storage or refrigerator dishes in the other cabinets.  At one time, this cabinet held unadulterated Depression glass, but you can see that there's a jolly assortment of other oddments these days -- things that make me smile.  That rather Seuss-like leaning tower of sherbet glasses makes me smile, too.  That's what it's all about, eh?

C is for...

Dsc06470Chairs.  The first chair I bought that needed caning atop the first chair I ever caned.  I picked up the bentwood child's chair at an auction for $30.  I fell in love.  The caning on the seat was completely destroyed, but there was only very minor damage on the chair back; thank goodness for that, because in order to replace the caning on the back, the chair would likely suffer irrepairable damage.  Caning in the round is a bit tricky for a first-timer, so I picked up the dining chair to work on in a class.

Dsc06471_1Dsc06477_1 "Buyer beware."  I didn't examine the dining chair closely enough, so didn't discover 'til later that it had been badly broken and then repaired with a wooden peg and glue.  I haven't come up with a satisfactory alternative fix, so it is quite weak and is treated tenderly these days.  It does have a double pressback, though, with a lovely oak leaf and scroll design.

The child's chair has problems, too, most notably, somewhat weak legs.  It has so many other things going for it, not the least of which are the intact labels and marks inside, showing that it was made by Jacob & Josef Kohn in Vienna, Austria; beautiful wood and workmanship, and a graceful line.

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What do you think might happen if you had a beverage called a "Snakebite" (a combo of lager and cider) -- preceded by one or two Strongbows and followed by a Smirnoff and intermingled with a Chinese buffet and karaoke?  There's a young, international studies student in London who can tell you that she "...became for the first time actually DRUNK" and, a little later, kinda sick.  My daughter tells me that the staff at the house where she's staying "...loves when the Wisconsin groups come because 'we know how to party'."  Look what happens when they leave you!!!

Uscableteam_1 EddiejumpingenjoyI've found my team -- did you know there were teams?  Jenifleur has provided some great buttons.  She is on the Fair Isle Team and is making that gorgeous Fair Isle Bag from Summer '04 Interweave Knits -- I forgot how much I like that bag (thanks for the reminder!).  I love these Olympics and all the fun and buzz it's generated.  Margene has her Tribute to Eddie The Eagle (I remember Eddie!). I wonder who's going to adopt the Jamaican Bobsled Team.  ; )

I'm kind of stalled in the middle of the street, dodging cars; progress has been
s-l-o-w on the Petrified Jaywalkers, though I have worked on them a little this week.  The Red Scarf was completed last night, so the Jaywalkers ought to see more action over the weekend.  And Shirley Shrugs... oh, I had pangs as I read Celia's post about her failing the Olympics Trials (aka, Christmas knitting) and, combined with the echo of Mom's recent query about my progress on her gift, they hurt -- like a snakebite!!  Am I worthy of participation in the Olympics?  I will do what I must do, and train hard; my regimen shall include nothing but Jaywalkers, Shirley Shrugs, and Williamsro prep from now 'til Opening Ceremonies!

I'm not finished yet with the bowls.  It was very interesting to gather one of my collections in one place for the sole purpose of photographing it – something I’d never have done if it weren't for the ABC-Along.  I viewed these things that I look at and use everyday in an entirely different way – I handled each and every one, I arranged them differently (dare I say even artfully?) and I'm tickled that there's this unexpected, small sense of discovery in this endeavor.  I enjoy thinking about the letters to come and how I will represent.  To borrow a line from Cara that made me laugh out loud this week, "Let's look a few more pictures, shall we?" (when would we ever say to no her pictures?).

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Lastly, I read a blog called Rebecca's Pocket.  Wondering about blogging?  She wrote the book.  She's doing a series of interviews called  Bloggers on Blogging.  I really enjoyed the most recent interview with David Weinburger.  The questions and answers are very interesting; and I like the perspective of a non-knit-blogger.  Blogging and blogging issues and blogging etiquette (among them reading, commenting, emailing, responding as Cara posted about today) seem to be a recurring theme across the blogosphere and they won't be getting any easier.

Oh, and Happy 21st Anniversary to hubby & me!

B is for...

BBowls.  (With lots of pictures for that slimmer skimmer Ann.)  It was not by happenstance that my sister gave me bowls for Christmas.  She has given me many bowls for many Christmases and not so much because she makes them as because I kind of like them a little.  Okay, okay, a LOT!

Dsc06357Dsc06363I gathered all my bowls for a picture yesterday.  These portraits do not include my more everyday collection of soup/sauce/cereal bowls or any that were holding leftovers in the 'fridge.

Dsc06371Dsc06372They're like my kids in that there are no favorites, except for that stack on the left of bowls that Ali made and the ones my sister made and those green ones and that blue one and the ones with the girl watering the garden... see?  I love them all.  This is a utilitarian collection -- I use most of these bowls -- that does double-duty as decorative element because all of my upper kitchen cabinets have glass doors.  One of the nice things about having such a large and varied collection is that I can always come up with the right bowl for the job!  I love to stand in front of the cabinet, peruse the display, and carefully choose my bowl.

Cuckoo.  Go ahead, you can call me that.  I think all collectors are a little off their rocker -- they've just got to be!  And it's catchy:  Katie's already declared her love for bowls and her intention to populate her own cabinets in such a way someday; Ali makes them; not able to take a reading on Maddy yet.

A is for...

Smile_1 AAli.  This picture is one of many on my 'fridge and has long been a favorite.  There are so many favorites.  I was sitting on the porch swing in the small, screened porch of the house we were renting at the time -- we bought and moved into our current house in September that year and this is probably one of the last pics taken there, so Ali is about 5-6 months old and sitting in her car seat.  The house was on a very busy corner, but the porch was rather hidden by bushes.  Guess what my main activity was on that there porch?

Ali: sunshine and happiness.

I had a different doctor for each of my kids' births.  With Katie, we were living in a one-hospital town. With Ali, we'd moved to a two-hospital town and I didn't realize that doctors had affiliations with specific hospitals.  I chose the doc that I wanted, and the hospital I wanted (before insurance started dictating such things with iron fists), and they weren't affiliated.  That means that when I was in labor, they waited until the last possible moment to call her because once there to attend me, she wouldn't be able to leave until I delivered.

I hadn't been completely thrilled with how Katie's birth went (though the final result was stellar) and thought that by choosing a woman doctor for Ali's, it would be better -- just because she'd "know."  I also chose to use a birthing chair.  This is where a doula, or some sort of advocate, would have been handy -- for no other reason than to tell me what to really expect.  Silly me, thinking that the experience was all about me.  I went sailing so high up in the air in that birthing chair, as it was adjusted for the doctor's comfort, I felt like I was on a carnival ride, except there wasn't a Sno-Cone vendor in the room.  When they were all exclaiming about it being a girl -- and having red hair -- I couldn't even see, I was up so high, which also meant she wasn't in my arms...

Live and learn.

I had to call my sister last night and tell her that I blogged her stuff -- and hope she didn't mind.  It kind of just happened.  She knows that I have a blog, but I don't know what really comes to her mind, and she's just not so enamored with the electronics.  She doesn't have email and has limited internet access and no web presence (no cable TV, either).  Anyway, she was thrilled to hear about the response, and I'll be in touch shortly with all who expressed interest in her beautiful work.

Yesterday was a day for the culinary history book!  I made Spinach Calzones, and even blanched my own spinach (so easy in the microwave).  Spinach is not the favorite green vegetable of most who live at my house, but it is one of mine and I thought I could slide this dish through with little complaint.  There was a little "iffiness" in the air, even from our very polite dinner guest (a new friend of Maddy's), but once they stuck a fork in it, I didn't hear any more.  In fact, everyone -- everyone -- at the table had seconds!  The most persnickety one (pictured above) was not there, and THAT would be the ultimate test; most agreed that she wouldn't even try it.  ; )

You want knitting, too, don't you?  It has been decided that there will be two pairs of Petrified Jaywalkers -- one tall, one short.  I started the heel flap on that second sock last night after 20 (I think) repeats and have turned the heel.  I will knit the short sock's mate next, then the second longer sock, having leftovers from the short pair to finish the longer sock if I run short of yarn, which is a very real possibility.  That's the long and short of it.

I'm feeling better.  Thank you.  Still stuffy and sniffly, but my throat's not so scratchy.  I did some adding and rearranging with the blog photo albums yesterday and only have a few visible on the main page.  All of the albums are available, at all times, on the Blog Links page.  I've got more blogcleaning to do, but it's a start (it's kind of like housecleaning -- is it ever really finished?).