Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunny Savannah, Georgia

Imagine the shock when we returned Friday from a week in Savannah, Georgia where it was 70 to 80 degrees each day! Northern Ohio still had traces of the snow that fell the day before and Rich and I had only taken light spring jackets on vacation. Our daffodils, which had bloomed while we were in the south, were drooping their blossoms in defeat from the cold.

Now, two days later, springtime is returning and  it is sunny and supposed to rise to a warm 72 degrees. This morning the ever-hardy daffodils are perking up. The mere sight of these golden yellow beauties makes me smile each year when they bloom in the fence garden out in front of the house.

I transferred my vacation pictures from my cell phone this morning (does anyone use cameras much anymore?) and organized them on my computer. As I labeled each picture I was able to finally reflect on our vacation. Savannah is surely an example of how the modern age meets the "old" south. It is home to one of the largest art schools in the nation, Savannah College of Art and Design, SCAD, and many other industries. SCAD even has a well respected degree in urban restoration and it's students have restored many of the historic buildings in Savannah. SCAD students can be seen everywhere around town working in restaurants and toting their portfolios through the many squares.

 The beautiful architecture throughout the historic district lives up to Savannah's reputation for being one of the most beautiful cities in America. It's easy to see why General Sherman, after conquering Savannah, spared it the destruction he wrought on Atlanta and other southern cities and presented it as a Christmas gift in his telegram to President Lincoln. "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with its 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,000 bales of cotton," Sherman wrote on December 22, 1864. Sherman himself chose one of the most beautiful homes as his headquarters, the Green-Meldrim House.

Rich at the Green-Meldrim House
We traveled by car to Savannah along with Rich's brother, Tom, and his wife, Julie, clowning around along the way at the visitor's center in West Virginia where they had the following picture board:

We arrived in Savannah midday last Sunday and drove around to get our bearings before checking into our B&B. After finding a parking spot on Bay street we stopped at the Moon River Brewery where I had a wonderful fried green tomato open faced sandwich smothered in melted cheese. Thus began a week of very fine eating. I will pay for my many indulgences now that I am back home! The brewery is named for one of the songs of Savannah's favorite son, Johnny Mercer. More about him later. After dining we strolled along Bay street and took the elevator down to River Street where we witnessed a couple of freighters and a river boat cruise leaving the harbor. As we strolled along River Street and its myriad of souvenir shops and dining establishments, I couldn't resist snapping a picture outside of one of the seedier establishments and sending it as a joke to my friend, Nancy, who had recommended a place to eat.

Our party strolled back up to Bay Street on one of the cobble stoned ramps that were constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries out of the ballast stones from the ships of the era. The old River Street Inn  and other river front buildings have  very solid bases of combined bricks and ballast stones. Using the ballast stones as building materials prevented them from being dumped into the harbor or piling up along the shore.

A few weeks before leaving for Savannah, I re-read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the tale involving real life characters from Savannah's more recent history. In it, the Mercer-Williams house features prominently, so of course, we had to take the tour. This lovely home situated on the west side of Monterey Square was built for the Civil War General Hugh Mercer. The composer of Moon River and other famous songs, Johnny Mercer, never actually lived there. Nor did anyone from the Mercer family since it wasn't completed until 1869. After the war General Mercer was tried (and acquitted) for the murder of two deserters. The General decided that he didn't want to live in Savannah and decided to sell the house.

In 1961, Jim Williams, antique dealer and old home restorer, purchased the Mercer house where he lived until his death. In 1981, Danny Hansford, a restorer employed by Jim Williams was shot and killed by Williams in the house. Self defense or murder? Williams underwent four trials for murder before his fortunes were drained and he was finally acquitted. He died nearly penniless but left behind this beautiful home filled with priceless works of art and antiques which his sister occupies today. Berendt's Midnight,  just called by Savannahans "the Book," is the fictionalized story of these events. There are so many beautiful paintings, statues and artifacts that the 30 minute tour was not nearly long enough to see them all.

We drove out to the Bonaventure Cemetery on the one steamy morning of our trip. It was too early in the day for a guided tour so we just drove slowly through the cemetery stopping wherever we saw something interesting. I found it interesting that about one-fourth of the cemetery was devoted to Jewish graves and was even marked by its own entrance flanked with stone pillars, each topped with a carved Star of David. We drove around this side first and then over to the other side. So many of the really old graves were marked by lovely statue type monuments and surrounded by iron fencing. Apparently in the 1800s one showed their wealth by the liberal use of iron in their decoration of earthly homes and final resting places. One of the most captivating monuments is of little six-year-old Gracie who died of pneumonia. The grave is surrounded by a lovely intricate ironwork fence and gate. I took this picture between the bars. You can find her sad story on the internet.

We dined elegantly one evening at the historic Pink House Restaurant. History says that the building was a white stucco over red brick home and that during one of Savannah's several fires, the red brick bled through the stucco turning the house pink. I had pan seared sea scallops and cheesy grits in the most elegant ballroom with Swarovski crystal chandeliers overhead softly lighting our table. Very romantic.

St. John the Baptist Cathedral was one of my favorite spots in Savannah. The Cathedral itself was impressive with the hand-carved Stations of the Cross running along each side of the sanctuary and the lofty ceilings overhead. I almost missed the mosaic interior of the baptismal font until I leaned over and peered into its depths as I was about to leave the church. The gilded Celtic knot in the bottom glowed out from the holy water as if it was lit by the holy spirit. Maybe my most favorite sight of the entire trip. My photo doesn't do it justice.

Our last evening meal was at the Six Pence Pub made famous in the Julia Roberts movie, Something to Talk About. It's in the scene where Julia Roberts peers into the window only to see her cheating husband with another woman. However, it is a charming place to dine in the traditional English pub atmosphere. I had crab,scallop and shrimp stuffed flounder and Rich had a Guinness braised pot roast. Both yummy.

Our party decided by mutual agreement to fore go breakfast at the B&B on our last morning. We had passed a charming looking little cafe around the corner several times during the week. Clary's was the type of place that looked like it was frequented mostly by local people. Rich decided to have dessert for breakfast when he saw the description of something called the Peach Blossom. We hadn't had anything with the traditional Georgia peaches on our trip so Tom ordered one, too. By the ornery look on our waitress's face we should have known that something was up. When the dish arrived at our table even Rich, who has a voracious appetite for sweets, was taken aback by the size of it. The waitress asked Tom, who was already tucking into the breakfast in front of him, if he still wanted his peach blossom. He didn't back down. After delivering a second dessert to our table the cook had to come out from the kitchen to see if the crazy tourists were actually finishing the food. The four of us couldn't finish the two desserts but it made for great conversation with all of the Clary staff!

A short walk back to our townhouse and we packed up and headed north for an uneventful but gradually colder ride home. Rich and I dropped Tom and Julie off in Dublin and sped up Rt. 23 towards home. Although I love traveling I always enjoy arriving back home. Our puppies are glad to be sleeping back in the house again instead of outside where they reside sometimes when we're gone. They missed us, can't you tell?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Older on St. Patrick's Day

A conversation with a dear friend yesterday left me reflecting on the many concepts of aging; getting older if you will. She was telling me about hearing a news report about an "elderly" woman's home being broken into and she was severely beaten. At the end of the story the reporter mentioned the fact that the woman was 70 years old. My friend, who is turning 70 this year was taken aback. "Elderly!  Seventy is not elderly," she thought. I am turning 69 next month. My eldest daughter, Amy, turns 46 today and I definitely don't feel all that much older than she is, (Happy Birthday, Amy!) and I'm sure that Amy doesn't feel "middle aged," whatever that means.
Amy, Olivia, Me

I will agree to getting old and being old. In fact, I want to keep getting older for as long as I can. But aged, or elderly are descriptions that I will vehemently disagree with. I think it's maybe a state of mind or maybe it's a "Boomer" generation thing. I have a friend who is 80 and after five minutes speaking with her I defy anyone to describe her as elderly. She is the most forward thinking and open minded person I know of; more so than many young people I know. So elderly she is definitely not.

Sure, my friends and I all have days where our bodies remind us that we are getting older, but we are not going to let that stop us from staying current on social and cultural issues. I am experiencing life in a much less superficial way than when I was a younger woman. I am finding deeper meaning in my travels, movies, theater performances, new books, etc. For example, instead of just sight seeing and appreciating the landscapes, I am asking "why and how." Why does a certain group of people behave the way they do. How did the mountain come to be. I am finding beauty in the differences of people of other cultures rather than the similarities to myself.

I am of the Dylan Thomas school of aging. "Do not go gentle into that good night," where he implores his dying father to reclaim some of the "fire of his youth." It's that burning fire, energy, desire to learn and have new experiences in life that prevent us from becoming elderly. So I'll keep getting older. I'm OK with old. I just refuse to become elderly.

On a lighter note, Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Our "little one," DeeDee, is getting bigger each day!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Not Exactly Over It But Laughing Again

After the events of this past summer and fall I was left in a blue funk. I had expected to experience some of this as a natural part of the grief process. What I didn't expect was to be also grieving about the results of the election. I think that caught many of us by surprise.  What followed for the month of November was a mood that left me on the verge of tears most of the time. By Thanksgiving I knew I had to take some action and out of the blue a voice in my head said, "Get a puppy!"

Lest you think that I am hearing voices that aren't there, what I am describing is that intuitive feeling that I occasionally get that I just know I need to act upon. It doesn't happen often but when it does I know to listen. Sixteen years ago that same voice told me that I should call Rich even though I hadn't seen him for over eight years, and here we are happily married. So when I told Rich what my plan was he knew not to argue with me and I think he was even a bit pleased.

Our dog Callie is 9-1/2 years old and in the past year has been slowing down quite a bit. Her vision is not what it used to be and she sleeps much more than she used to. We got her when her daddy, Gus, was about that age and it revitalized him. Our hope was that it would revive her sense of play and help make her more active and at the same time lift our mood for the holiday season.

I asked many of my dog loving friends if they had heard of anyone who might have a Labrador Retriever that was expecting in the near future. I even put a post on Facebook. Less than a day later my old friend and colleague, Sue G., replied with a notice from an on-line garage sale site. I contacted the dog owner right away. Within days I went out to see the pups. (Just an aside: Never, Never, Never go to look at a litter of Labrador Retriever puppies unless you are seriously planning to take one home.) This is the result of that visit:

DeeDee and her reindeer toy
Our little DeeDee was born on October 22 and is one of 11 surviving puppies out of a litter of 14. I picked her because she seemed less aggressive than some of the others and she cuddled up to me as soon as I sat down on the floor with her. My thought was that she would settle in nicely with an older first dog like Callie. On a more emotional level, when she cuddled, I fell in love with her on the spot. I needed a snuggles a lot right then.

DeeDee has been with us for two weeks now and Callie has been very tolerant of her. However, although still a cuddly puppy when I need her to be, she has proven to be a feisty little pup and is not at all intimidated by the bigger dog. Every evening they treat Rich and I to a tug-of-war show as Callie literally drags DeeDee around the floor on the other end of  the reindeer chew toy that Dee brought with her from the breeder. Those dogs are a constant source of the laughter that Rich and I badly needed this holiday season.

Two dogs, two Kong toys,

It took DeeDee only a day or two to figure out that when I was working at the kitchen counter there was food involved. Even though we had not given her people food she still positioned herself at my feet every time I was cooking. I had to put a stop to that before I suffered a fall and broke something, like one of my bones!

DeeDee at my feet in the kitchen.

Both girls play hard when they are outside:

And collapse and sleep soundly when they are done playing:

Callie and DeeDee sleeping in the sorted laundry piles.

The best part of the whole training process is that DeeDee learned after the second night of being confined in our bedroom by the safety gate across the door, that you don't use the bedroom for a potty! She sleeps about six hours before she cries to get out and that time span is increasing gradually each night. She has also learned that dogs must go to the front door and cry if they need out. Granted, we must react swiftly or we will find a puddle on the floor in front of the door. But I'm encouraged by her rapid learning process. 

The only training issue remaining is the chewing thing. In spite of having a variety of chew toys out at all times she still must be watched like a toddler. She proudly brought a shiny gold Christmas ornament to me in the kitchen one day last week. Thank heavens she has the characteristic "soft mouth" of a good Lab since the ornament was glass. I immediately rearranged the ornaments and placed plastic, cloth and wooden ones on the bottom of the tree. Still, she hasn't touched the tree since the scolding that I gave her. She really seems to want to please me.

We still have some work to do on that chewing thing. Notice the slippers in the kitchen picture above? Someone got bored in the night because I found them dragged to the middle of the floor from their position beside my bed this morning. This is what they look like today:

It's a good thing she's cute.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why I'm Getting Up Early on Election Day

I was born in 1948. I say that because it means that I grew up before and during the Civil Rights Movement and can actually remember seeing "White Only" signs on restrooms and over drinking fountains on a car trip to Florida. I can remember a time when it was unthinkable that we could ever have a person of color or, "God forbid," a woman be the President of the United States. As a girl I was given the unspoken message that I could be a nurse, teacher, secretary, mother, housewife; there were limits. My dad was a veteran of WWII, a member of the "Greatest Generation." A generation of young people that was willing to go far from their home in order to liberate others whose lives and liberties were threatened by evil. Although in his capacity as a Lieutenant in the Chemical Corps charged with cleaning up sites where chemicals were used to commit atrocities against humanity, he never discussed those experiences. He only told tales of kind Europeans that he had met along the way.

Daddy was the son of a Greek immigrant and could remember being called names by playmates when he was young, purely because of his dad's heavy accent. In spite of this and his experiences in Europe, daddy always had a positive attitude and great love for our country. Dad had high expectations for each of his kids. We were expected to to our best in school and to go to college or some form of higher education. We were expected to grow into responsible adult citizens of this country who did the "right thing" in all situations just because we were raised that way.  He taught all four of his kids respect. We were taught that you never call people names or make fun of them for who or what they are. My brothers were taught to respect women: "don't talk back to your mother," "don't let anyone ever hurt your sisters or any other women," "don't you hurt women," "don't call women nasty names," "don't call anyone nasty names."

Mom was a housewife and used her natural creativity to make a comfortable, tasteful, and safe environment for her family. She was doing the "Martha Stewart" thing long before there was Pinterest. I remember, as a young child, accompanying my mom on the ride to the local fire station on election day. I went right into that formidable looking voting booth with her as she pulled the curtain closed on us, exposing only my chubby little legs beside hers. I watched her pull the mysterious levers, selecting her choices thoughtfully as I stood restlessly beside her. I don't think she ever missed an election day.

These are the parents who shaped my siblings and me. They taught us that our words matter; our actions matter; and our vote matters.

So, tomorrow morning I will rise early as usual. Instead of that second cup of  coffee in front of the morning news, I will get dressed and drive into town so that I can be one of the first to vote in my precinct. I want to be a part of making history again and breaking the final barrier for women. I am remembering the lessons that my parents taught me. This all makes it an easy choice for me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Where Did the Summer Go?

For the entire summer I feel like I have been living in some surreal, tornadic existence, like Dorothy looking out the window of her whirling home seeing familiar beings, strangely out of place, flying by in the storm. Just now I looked out my front door and watched the combine across the road spewing a waterfall of ripe, golden corn out of the chute and into the waiting wagon. It's fall again! Where did the summer go?

Early this summer I was with  my beloved mother-in-law, Delores, at her doctor appointment when she was informed that her pancreatic cancer from last year had returned and nothing could be done about it. Terminal cancer. Two words that no one ever wants to hear, much less talk about. The following week Delores and I were sitting at her kitchen table talking with a hospice nurse, outlining Delores's wishes for how she wanted to live the end of her life. That's the point at which I became her "primary care giver" and the rest of the summer took a back seat to what was happening.

I was so privileged to be able to help Delores and in doing so get to know her much better. I was so lucky to have her as a mother-in-law and during this process I was even more fortunate to get to know her on a woman-to-woman level. We buried her last week after a very personal service by her pastor, who had known her since his childhood. The service was held in the same small town church that Delores had attended since her marriage to Ed over 65 years ago.

In a happier vein, we had our annual National Alpaca Farm Days open house in September and as if we had planned it, two of our alpaca girls gave birth the same weekend! Our beautiful brown, Leezza, who we had tried to breed many time in the past couple of years without success, gave birth right on her due date, Friday, September 23rd. She had an adorable, light fawn colored, male, cria that we named Aristotle. Ari for short. Ari was 15 pounds at birth and has grown steadily since. He is smaller like his mama and has a delicate, inquisitive face.

Leezza has proven to be a very good mama in spite of her inexperience. During his first days she often would look at Aristotle when he was nursing as if she couldn't believe what she had done. She is very protective of the little guy and if he strays too far away from her she still makes that characteristic clicking noise in the back of her throat, calling him back.

The very next day, just 15 minutes before the start time of our first open house day, Mango gave birth to her third male cria in three years. Apollo weighed in at 20 pounds; 5 pounds heavier than his cousin. That morning early, Darren Wurm and his mom, Lisa had come down to set up for the open house. Rich and Darren had brought two of the Wurm's animals down, Dora and her little month old, Aggie. We were finished setting up and taking a breather before the guests began arriving when Lisa yelled, "Mango's pushing!"

 I ran back around the barn to see what was going on and sure enough, I could see the "bubble." When alpaca's give birth the first thing you should see is a bubble of membrane with a little nose clearly visible inside. The cria's nose was breathing in and out, a sign of a healthy birth. It didn't take long until the bubble burst and the nose and two little front feet emerged. As soon as his head and front legs were free, the little guy started trying to get traction with those feet and pull himself out. The birth didn't take more than 20 minutes and by that time our first guest had arrived and was treated to the sight of a still wet, newborn cria. She was thrilled to have been on site to see this.

Within minutes of his birth, Mango's cria was attempting, clumsily, to stand up. This feisty little guy earned the strong name of Appollo. Appollo has a very bright white, dense, crimpy fleece and has a tendency to be very nosy. Like his cousin, Ari, he is gaining at a rate of a pound each day since he was born.

The two little guys have been great companions in discovering the far reaches of the pasture. I just love to see them gaining confidence in their explorations. Often, as if by mutual agreement, they break into a run along the fence line and circle back around the perimeter of the pasture. After exhausting themselves they are usually ready for a roll in the dust or a little snack from their mamas.

Our remaining female, Took, the grande dame of the herd, was due to have her little one this past Friday. If you remember from my posts last year, we waited and waited for her to deliver only to discover that she had a false pregnancy. She is very large and uncomfortable right now and spends her time laying in the sunshine each day. Since she spits at Mocha when he gets too near where she is laying by the fence, I am still hopeful that she will deliver a baby soon. Especially hopeful that maybe she might deliver a female cria since the last six babies born on the farm have been males! However, I am tempering that hopefulness with the still fresh memory of last year.

(Just a note to those who were looking for us at the Garlo Nature Preserve Octoberfest and the last couple of Tiffin Farmer's Markets, family circumstances prevented us from being tied up away from home all day. Sorry. We are looking forward to next year's events.)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Proud Grandma!

The summer just flew by and this post that I began back in June has been sitting, unfinished, in my hold file the whole time. I remember becoming overwhelmed with emotion when I began writing this and started looking at the pictures that I planned to include. Instead of starting a new post I think that this is important enough for me to continue from where I left off.
Olivia, 8 years old
Just about eighteen years ago I became a grandmother for the first time. When my daughter, Amy, told me that I was going to be a grandma I was in denial for the first few months, claiming that I wasn't old enough to be a grandma. In reality I was more than old enough but this was the first time. Of course the denial melted away the first time I held that tiny, adorable, red-headed, newborn, Olivia, in my arms.

Olivia, almost 18 years old
I was so privileged to live nearby and be involved in Olivia's life for the first two years. After Rich and I married and I moved back to Ohio and soon after my daughter and son-in-law, Steve moved their family to Jacksonville and later to Columbus, I have been very fortunate that the kids made a herculean effort to ensure that we got together often. As a result, I have always been close to our grandchildren.

This week my intelligent and beautiful granddaughter, Olivia, graduated from high school and the whole family was there to celebrate. We are all so proud of her. I had trouble holding back the tears as I snapped the pictures of Olivia marching out, all smiles,  onto the Schottenstein Arena floor with all of the other graduates.


That was back in June and here it is late August and Olivia has been away at college for a week and by all accounts that I see on Instagram, she is having a good time and getting along with all three of her roommates. I am going to miss her spontaneous calls with requests to come up for the weekend to bake or make jam with me. In recent years she has driven herself up, often bringing along a girlfriend to stay overnight. It was always a joy for me to hear the girls chattering and giggling into the night; a sound that took me back to the days when her mother and aunt were that age. However, I am so proud to see the confidence and eagerness with which she headed off to the next stage of her life.

Out here at Buckeye Star Alpacas the corn is as high as the proverbial "elephant's eye" and after a bit of a dry spell in July and early August, it has rained enough that the corn, the pastures, the tomato plants and the lawn are a lovely, lush emerald.

How high is an "elephant's eye" anyway?
In late July, I was fortunate to be able to travel with Olivia and her mother, my daughter, Amy, to Portland, Oregon for a visit with my granddaughter, Zaidee and her mom, Susie, my younger daughter. It was only for a few days but we had a lovely time. I am so proud of the work Susie has done on her fixer-upper house. She was left with a shambles inside and has done wonders updating her cosy little home into the comfortable abode where we stayed.

I don't get to see my little granddaughter, Zaidee, often enough and each time I do I am amazed at how much she has grown and how lovely she is. I use the word little very loosely only because, at almost 12 years old, she is my youngest grandchild. She towers over me at a very poised 5' 8" tall. Zaidee also has a smile that lights up the room and I am tremendously proud of her.

"Little" Zaidee and Olivia
Portland is a unique and very quirky city to visit. We walked miles just in Susie's neighborhood because there is such a vast selection of one-of-a-kind restaurants and shops nearby. We drove south of Portland, towards Eugene  to visit my son-in-law's niece and have dinner with her and her boyfriend and their adorable daughter. On the way we stopped at a couple of lovely wineries. We sampled and purchased a few bottles which we drank in the evenings as we sat around and talked before heading off to bed.

Ramen Noodles at the noodle place

Loaded 'Tater Tots at the ramen place

Burritos at the local Mexican restaurant
I enjoyed my first Uber experience when we called for rides to downtown Portland to visit the Japanese Gardens and the International Rose Society Test Garden. I must say each of our Uber rides were comfortable and our drivers were very personable. The Japanese Gardens were so peaceful and serene that I could have sat and gazed at the waterfalls and koi ponds for hours. However, one does not sit in one place for long when the kids are along. I'm afraid such serenity is just plain boring in their book. Maybe the next time I go back there I'll be able to meditate in the gardens!

Japanese Garden

As we walked through the rose gardens I couldn't help but think of my friend, Nancy, who loves roses. The flowers were in full bloom and all of the colors were breathtaking. Zaidee, who was into her Pokeman Go game with her best friend whom we brought along, wouldn't hold still for photos with the roses but I snapped a couple of great pictures of my Susie and Olivia.

Susie in the Rose Garden

Olivia and the Roses

The whole time was spent in sight seeing, eating delicious food, hours of enjoyable conversation and mugging for selfies with Zaidee and Olivia. Sometimes doing two or three of these activities at a time!

Mugging for the camera at the Mexican restaurant


Amy and Olivia with Mt. Hood in the distance
I had a wonderful time and the overnight delay in Chicago was only mildly frustrating. The compensation was a classic deep dish pizza at Giordano's.
Giordano's in Chicago
The trip was a memory I'll cherish for ever because I seldom get to spend a few hours, let alone a few days with "my girls."

I received a message from my friend, Rhonda, at Grass Run Alpacas while I was out in Portland. Attached was a picture of a fluffy, white, female cria named, Merri who was our herdsire, Nikko's, first progeny of the season. Nikko, if you'll remember, became so aggressive that we had to put him down after shearing. It's nice that a little bit of him lives on. 
Then about a week and a half ago, our friends on the next road over, the Wurm family, were so excited when their first cria was born. She is a little female that they named Agnes, Aggie for short and was born to their Dora. Aggie is a light fawn color like her mother.
Amadora and Aggie
Our three females, Leezza, Mango and Took, are due at the end of September and the beginning of October. Since September begins this Thursday, I'll begin to spend more and more time close to home on "cria watch." This will be Leezza's first and she may be late; but Mango delivered Dionysus two weeks early last year so I'll be watching her carefully. All three have bulging sides so we are hopeful that soon we'll have little ones romping in the pasture.

Monday, May 23, 2016

That's Life!

When I woke up at 5:30 a.m. with the morning sun beaming on my face and the birds singing just outside my window, I just knew that this was going to be one of those perfectly beautiful spring days that makes a person walk around all day with a big smile spread across their face. Rich was already up and the smell of coffee wafted up the stairwell, bless his heart. By the time I stumbled downstairs he already had a cup prepared just the way I like it, heavy on the half-n-half, and waiting on the table beside my seat on the end of the sofa.

Rich had spent the weekend rebuilding the deck steps and other general repair projects that he had on his list. Our old deck steps were too steep and getting very rickety. He created a new set which added one more step than before and are much more solid. All that remains to be done are the upright slats and a coat of paint. He also lowered a section of the main deck rail to create an unobstructed view of the alpaca pastures and add a table/bench.

On warm summer nights we enjoy relaxing on our deck as we sip wine and watch the alpacas as they do their sundown pronking. This is an activity that has to be seen to be believed. It almost always occurs at sundown when it's just too dark to take pictures. Usually the younger ones, in our case the boys, begin chasing each other around and around the pasture, picking up speed until they are literally bouncing with all four feet in the air. The best way I can describe it is like the action of the cartoon skunk, Pepe LePew, for those of us who are old enough to remember him. Just check out the baby alpaca in this link.

On Friday I received a text from our granddaughter, Olivia, who will graduate from high school in just over a week. She was just wondering what we were doing over the weekend. She and her friend, Kelly, wanted to come up and make strawberry jam with me. She must have been reading my mind because just coincidentally, I had purchased a large quantity of strawberries that were on sale at my local supermarket for just that purpose. Because of the mild winter that didn't completely kill off the weeds, our own strawberry patch has been overrun and Rich is going to replant the whole thing. So this year that means I have to get berries wherever I can buy them.

Olivia and Kelly came up for lunch on Saturday and we made jam in the afternoon. Olivia has made jam every year with me for so far back that we have both forgotten when the tradition began. She pretty much knows the procedure by heart. I just sat at the kitchen table and let the girls take over. It was so nice to have teenage girl laughter in the house again. Very reminiscent of the days when our own daughters were teenagers. Kelly and Olivia cleaned, cut up and measured out the berries. They added the touch of fresh lemon juice that I think helps keep the color and adds a note of brightness to the jam. With the sugar measured out and ready to go, they cooked and stirred until they had a lovely, bubbling pot of ruby red jam. Sugar added and stirred for another minute or so, they were ready to fill the jars.

After the process was over they cleaned the mess up and, being contemporary young women, they had to take the requisite selfie with the product!

The girls decided to stay overnight and go to dinner with us Saturday evening. We had a bit of time to kill before dinner and it was drizzling rain outside so we watched a Nicholas Sparks tearjerker movie together while Rich napped. Then we all met our friend, Steve, at Logan's Irish Pub for supper.

I really cherish these moments with my grandchildren, Olivia, Max and Zaidee. As they become teenagers the time begins to fly by and I realize that all too soon your grandchildren are out on their own. As they begin to create their own life apart from the nuclear family they become busy and we see them less and less. It's so ironic that when we raise our children to become independent adults and push them out on their own, we will see less and less of them. Bittersweet. That's life.

Because of the ideal weather conditions yesterday and today, there has been a hum of agricultural activity all up and down the road. Yesterday the person who farms the field across the road was tilling up the soil in the field in preparation for corn planting. He finished up his work at mid-night. I know this because our bedroom is on the front of the house and every time he approached the turn at the road side of the field I could hear the rumble of his approach and the headlights shone in the window. He began planting the corn early this morning and is just finishing up.

This morning I also heard the unmistakable drone of a crop duster increasing and decreasing in volume as he made passes over a field beyond the southwest woods where they were spraying fertilizer. Those pilots have all the daring do of the old barnstorming pilots of the roaring twenties. I can't help but admire their skill.

Here in the house I have been dying yarn in preparation for our first Seneca County Farmer's Market in Tiffin this upcoming Saturday. I have been experimenting with eco-friendly dyes during the latter half of the winter. Heaven knows, I have plenty of yarn to work with. Last summer I did a batch of "Fresh Tomato" red-orange yarn that sold well, so I bought some more colors. 
Socks made by my friend Karin Brown from the Fresh Tomato

I made a lovely purple that I'm calling Grape Juicy:

And a ruby red that looks like Strawberry Patch to me:

I have discovered that dyeing yarn is much like cooking, which I love, without the calories! In the end you have a much more lasting product that will bring hours of enjoyment in the form of knitting or crocheting an item that will last virtually a lifetime, thus providing a lifetime of enjoyment. In February during one of my Google searches of dyeing techniques I found one that uses the common crockpot  and household food coloring to dye yarn. From that I created a green, blue and yellow variegated yarn:

Dyeing yarn is a fascinating process. You soak plain white yarn in the sink until it's completely wet and then put it into a pot of water and dye on the stove top (or crockpot)  As it comes to a simmer the yarn soaks up the dye from the water. As a final touch, to set the dye and make it colorfast, you just add some plain old white vinegar and simmer a few more minutes. Then, like magic, the remainder of the dye goes into the yarn and the water becomes clear! After it cools I rinse the yarn in the sink again, spin it in my salad spinner to remove the excess water and then put it on a special platform in my high-tech dryer or hang it on a peg in the laundry-room to dry.

Today I brewed up a pot of Greener Shades river blue at half strength and came up with a blue that I'm going to call Agean Blue in honor of my Greek heritage.


Be sure to come on out to the Seneca County Farmer's Market in Tiffin this Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. to see all of my pretty new colors.