Saturday Situation Report

file0001354955594What’s the situation? Well…

I am making tomato soup even as we speak, with the intention of canning a few jars. I’ve never canned tomato soup before, but we have tomatoes ripe in the garden and have no need for any more canned tomatoes or tomato sauce.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I like Campbell’s cream of tomato soup (made with milk instead of water). I think it’s the only canned soup I like. Making it from fresh tomatoes is a lot of work just for a bowl of soup, so I don’t do it very often. But I need to do something with all these tomatoes, so I decided to experiment. I’m not comfortable canning something with cream in it, though, so I’ll leave out the cream. I can always add it later, when I open a jar.

2015-08-22 11.37.42Yes, we have tomatoes in our garden despite the determined efforts of the neighborhood groundhog. The tomatoes in the photo at left are high enough off the ground that the The Beast can’t reach them. The one shown below is in a less fortunate location. I wouldn’t say we’ve lost half our tomatoes to groundhog predation (if herbivores can be said to prey on vegetables), but the critter is making a significant dent in the crop. No pun intended…

2015-08-22 11.37.28Fortunately, we planted more than we needed, so we still have plenty.

I needed more tomato puree, so I planted some San Marzano “paste” tomatoes in addition to the round “eating” tomatoes 2015-08-22 11.39.11shown above. The plants are starting to die off, partly because of being grazed upon by The Beast and partly because it’s not uncommon for them to do that in late summer. The round tomatoes are still going strong, so The Beast should have plenty of good grazing for a few weeks yet.

We haven’t seen as many groundhogs here in Maryland as we did in Ohio. But where gardens are concerned, it only takes one! And here’s the problem: we live in town. In a neighborhood surrounded by houses and people. Which means we can’t handle the problem the way we did in Ohio. There, we had some occasional damage from groundhogs, but let’s just say that the same hog never visited us twice, if you get my drift.

These are suppose to be green bean plants. The Beasts calls them "lunch."
These are suppose to be green bean plants. The Beast calls them “lunch.”

We could legally trap this critter in a live trap, but what well-fed beast, for whom the whole world is a salad bar, would go into a box to get food? We borrowed a live trap for a while, but the only thing we caught was a possum. Don’t care about possums. And I’m pretty sure I heard the groundhog laugh as it passed the trap on its way to eat all my green beans.

Excuse me while I go stir my soup… Okay, I’m back. One more thing about that, and then I’ll move on: I like this tomato soup because, besides being yummy, it allows me to use tomatoes and carrots from my garden, basil from my herb garden, and chicken broth I made this spring and put in the freezer. It irks me that I had to buy onions, considering the fact that I used to grow marvelous onions in Ohio. But it’s still satisfying to make something yummy from things I have on hand, and to be able to preserve the result for use in the cold months to come. I can anticipate only one down side: I’ll probably never want Campbell’s tomato soup again.

This gives a glimpse of the lovely venue, the Tea Room at Gambrill State Park
This gives a glimpse of the lovely venue, the Tea Room at Gambrill State Park

Now, let’s talk about writing. I had the opportunity last weekend to go to a one-day “Writing to Inspire” workshop near Frederick, Maryland. Despite being a bit dragged down by a stomach bug that almost-but-not-quite kept me home, I had a good time. (Would have been a great time if I’d been feeling better!) Met some people I’m very happy to know. And hope to be able to go back next year if and when they do it again. This was the first year for it, and it seemed to be well received by all who participated, so I hope it will be the first get-together in a long tradition of them.

11781694_10204935433811036_3742185297715992323_nIn the pic above, you can see a back view of me along the left edge.  The picture at right was taken from the back porch/patio of the tea room. That white disk at the lower right corner is a table, in case you couldn’t tell. The view was lovely, but it was a hot, sunny day and only a crazy person would have sat out there.

Umm… okay, I guess I did sit out there for lunch. So I’m a crazy person, okay?

Find me in this pic. I dare ya. (This is not a trick; I really am there.)

Anyway, here’s the thing about writer get-togethers. It wasn’t a place where everybody tried to sell their books. Actually, I did sell two of mine, but that’s not the reason I went. My purpose was to find a little inspiration/encouragement, and to encourage others. And I think both those goals were accomplished.

Nobody understands a writer except another writer. Being a Christian writer adds another dimension. If you’re a writer and a Christian, you’re a Christian writer, no matter what you write. A Christian has a higher standard and a greater purpose for whatever he or she does, and that applies to writing. So it’s helpful for those of us who are flopping around in this confusing land of Christian Writerdom to have a little company along the way.

So, speaking of “along the way,” what’s along my way in the way of writing? Well, now that I’m feeling myself again after the aforementioned stomach ailment (so wonderful to finally emerge from the fog!), I’m eager to move forward on three fronts:

c1b3b9b01) My friend whom I’ve been helping with her project, Dancing on Stones: A Quest for Joy, is at the point where it’s time to actively pursue publication of this thing. This is huge– exciting–and a long story. But I won’t get into it all now. I’ll just say I’m actually looking forward to promoting this book when it’s available. (Did I really say that? Yes. I’m looking forward to helping her promote it, because it’s a book I’m wildly enthusiastic about.)

2) I’m negotiating with another individual concerning my helping him with a memoir. This is unlike anything I’ve ever done before, and it’s always good to expand our horizons and learn new things. Besides that, I think the guy will be fun to work with.

This has nothing to do with this blog post. It's just pretty.
This has nothing to do with this blog post. It’s just pretty.

3) My friend Susan and I have agreed to hammer out new novels together next month — kind of like NaNoWriMo except less formally organized, and in September. Less pressure, too. We’ve just decided that it’s time we got cracking on these things, and a little determination, as well as accountability to someone one else, might help. I’ve actually already started this new novel — yes, I have written five sentences. So I’m well on my way, ha ha.

My soup is in jars and in the pressure canner now. (The acid in the tomatoes might make it okay to can in a hot water bath canner, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.) The kitchen is cleaned up, and I have some laundry going as well. Once I publish this post, I’ll be able to check off all the items on today’s must-do list. What a nice feeling!

2015-07-24 12.30.28And speaking of nice, I’ll share another photo I took a few weeks ago of the Rose of Sharons beside the driveway. This is a very popular shrub in these parts (they’re like belly buttons: everyone has one), and I’m glad, because I like them. They’re not only beautiful, but they also give me warm fuzzies, because my mom had one when I was growing up. But her one Rose of Sharon was nothing to compare to the ones planted along our property on two sides. When at their peak they’re just short of spectacular.

So there you go: a report of my situation this Saturday.



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Honey, I’m Home!

frontOur move is finally accomplished!

It’s been a lot of work, but looking back on it, we had no serious problems, just the usual aggravation.

The truck came to load up our things on Thursday rather than Wednesday as we’d arranged, and delivered the furniture on Saturday (again, delayed). But the important thing is, it got here safe and sound. Moreover, the weather was perfect (unlike our last move, which coincided with a major snowstorm).

The photo above was taken by the listing agent last November when the house first went on the market. It still looks the same, so I didn’t bother to take a new pic. As you can see, we have some work to do in the yard in the way of clearing out overgrown trees and shrubs. But Craig likes having things to do, and this place offers plenty of projects, indoors and out.

As I said, our stuff was delivered on Saturday — and it didn’t arrive until 3:45 pm. And not until after the driver called to tell us he was lost because his GPS quit on him all of a sudden. We had to go looking for him, which was a little weird, but fortunately, though we weren’t sure where he was from his description because we don’t know the area very well yet, we found him quickly. Once he got the truck turned around, he followed us. But when we turned onto our road, he didn’t follow. Argh! So we had to go chasing after him.

Once they finally got here, the movers began unloading about 4 pm and were finished in time for us to get some supper at a nearby Mexican restaurant at about 9:15. (“Us” meaning just Craig and me — we didn’t invite the movers).

Then on Sunday, we went to Reston to deliver our bunk beds to our daughter’s family. It was the shortest trip we’ve ever taken there — but of course, our proximity to their house was the reason we moved here to begin with. We drove there, ate lunch, unloaded the beds and set them up, played with the kids for a while, then went home to get back to our unpacking.

By this evening, we’ve made an encouraging dent in the mess. The bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen are in pretty good shape. But the office, living room and dining room are still utter chaos, as you can see from the following pics.

The office
The office

However, we got our TV and internet service hooked up today, so this evening, Craig and I can sit in the mess and veg out in front of our respective screens. (In Craig’s case, conk out. As I sit here in the kitchen, I hear him snoring in the living room.)

As you can see from the picture of the office, I wasn’t kidding about it being utter chaos. Are you wondering what that little door is at the top of the wall? We’re wondering too. We opened it to take a look, and there’s nothing in it. I’m not sure what the purpose is, but since you need a ladder to use it, I doubt we’ll ever put anything in it.

living room
living room

The living room and dining room are more or less the same room, so you can see furniture from both in this shot. About all we’ve done there yet is set up the TV and clear a little spot on the sofa so Craig can watch it.

We’re going to do a complete kitchen remodel in a couple weeks. In the meantime, though, I’ve gotten the basic stuff unpacked and stowed in the cabinets so I can use the kitchen. Because I’m keeping a lot of kitchen things in their boxes and stashing them in the basement until I get my new cabinets, it was relatively easy to get the kitchen organized.

kitchenI don’t think I told you about the kitchen table. That is to say, I told some of you about it individually, but I don’t believe I blogged about it. So here’s the story: about 75 years ago, my grandmother sawed the lower part of the legs off her drop-leaf dining table in order to use it as an occasional table. (As I understand it, this was a sudden whim, and something that did not please her husband.) The table eventually went from my grandparents’ home to my parents’, and now to ours. The finish was all messed up but it was still good and sturdy.

Because our new house is a little ranch-style place with a small kitchen, there’s not much kitchen tableroom for a table. So we thought it might be fun to replace the legs on that old table, paint it, and use it for our kitchen. We did just that, and here’s the result. With one leaf extended and one dropped, it’s a perfect fit.

As you can see from the MacBook on the table, until the desk in my office is reassembled, I’m using the table as a computer desk. [Deb Gardner: are you out there? Do you see your gift hanging on the wall?]

See that floor? It’s carpet. And I think the carpet’s been there since 1970. Looking at these pictures, you don’t need to wonder why we’re redoing the kitchen right away.

I’m not wild about the kitchen, but I do like the table, and the house, and the neighborhood, and the town. I’m tempted to call our new home state Merryland.

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Hullo? Anybody Home?

knocking on door
Who’s that knocking at my door?

Not having heard from me for a while, Granny Grammar came knocking on my door to see what was going on. Her knock was so feeble, I didn’t hear it, but the security camera picked up her image.

Actually, she didn’t care much about what was going on in my life; she just wanted to see the test results. I told her that, of the 5 people took the test, everyone got Questions 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 correct. In Question 3, someone apparently thought vowels have ankles. Granny chuckled at that.

But while she was visiting, I told her where I’d been since her last post. On Monday the 25th, we headed for Virginia to visit with the grandkids. (And with the grandkids’ parents, too, of course.) Shortly after we started on our journey, Craig noticed cold symptoms starting, though when we left the house he’d felt fine. By the time we arrived in Reston, there was no doubt in his mind; he had a full-blown cold.

We’d just acquired a GPS, so I plugged it in and played with it along the way to familiarize myself with how it works, as we’ve never had one before.

We decided to stop at a couple of real estate agencies along the way to see what we could find out as far as availability of what we’re looking for, price ranges, etc. We stopped in Uniontown, Pennsylvania and Cumberland, Maryland and met with real estate agents there. In Cumberland, we picked up a flyer with various available listings and found an interesting place in Flintstone, Maryland — just what we were looking for, and at a very affordable price. You know when something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t? Well, the address was listed in the flyer, and since we had a GPS, we thought we’d go take a look to see what was the matter with it.

We got off the highway onto a smaller road, then onto a smaller one, then a smaller one yet. Lovely area! We liked it! The GPS sent us farther into the mountains until we reached a point in the road where a sign appeared saying: “End county maintenance. Beyond this point, the road is privately owned.” And still we continued on.

It became apparent that when the county quit maintaining the road, no one else picked up the responsibility. After a while, it was nearly impassable. (Though it was a little above freezing, it had been snowing all day, so everything was wet and slushy, and some of the potholes in the road looked like you could sail a good sized boat in them.) So we turned around and went back to the highway. It might have been a very nice house, and it was certainly an affordable price. But we didn’t want to buy a house on a road we’d have to maintain at our own expense.

Somewhere after leaving the realty office in Cumberland, I wanted to call Shelley to tell her we’d arrive later than we expected and they shouldn’t expect us for supper. But I couldn’t find my phone! Argh! I’d remembered putting it into the left pocket of my sweater, but it wasn’t there. Nor was it anywhere else I looked, including under the seat. (While we were driving around in the middle of nowhere, Craig pulled over so I could get out and take a good look.) I finally decided it must have fallen out of my pocket at one of the offices we’d stopped at.

Grandma with Daniel kids at National Zoo 03-26-13
At the National Zoo

But I still wanted to let Shelley know what was going on, so we found a McDonald’s along the route, got out my laptop, and used their wi-fi service to email her. When I got online, I found an email from the realtor in Uniontown asking if I’d lost my phone, because they found it under the chair I’d been sitting in. Hooray!

Anyway, we made it to Shelley’s without further incident, except that Craig was miserable by the time we got there, and didn’t get any better throughout the visit. He couldn’t play with the kids for fear of infecting them, and he didn’t feel well enough to go anywhere with us. So we had fun and he sat around and watched TV and slept while we were gone.

On Tuesday, we went to the National Zoo. The weather was cool but sunny and not too breezy, the kids were good, and we all had a great time.

On Wednesday, we went to Leesburg Animal Park. It was about the same temperature as the day before before, but windy, which made it feel a lot colder.

Kids looking at the zebras at the animal farm.
Kids looking at the zebras at the animal farm.

We all had a good time, but we were glad there was a little greenhouse available for us to hide from the wind at lunchtime (which thrifty Shelley had packed for us).

And then the next day we headed for home. Craig still wasn’t feeling so hot, though he was well enough to drive. But along the way, I realized I had a slight sore throat. It didn’t amount to much, and I wasn’t sure if would develop into anything, but by the next morning I could tell it wasn’t going away anytime soon.

The following day (the day before Easter) I went to Stat Care with a bad sore throat and swollen glands, and the doctor prescribed an antibiotic. However, I continued feeling worse for the next two days, adding a bad cough to my symptoms.

I appear to be over the hump now, though. I hope…

Meanwhile, we have people coming tomorrow to install new carpet in the living room, dining room, stairway and landing to the basement, and pantry. Which meant that in the last few days we had to tear up the old carpet in the pantry (fortunately we’d already done the stairway before we left) and moving all the furniture out of the other rooms. Also, we’d started re-doing our bedroom closet before we left, and I hung wallpaper in that a couple days ago. Craig put the shelves and clothes racks back in and I’ve put everything away in it now, except for the things (like shoes) I keep on the floor. We’re hoping to snatch a carpet scrap tomorrow to put in it. If not, no big deal — it’s a pretty nice hardwood floor as it is.

So, Granny, that’s where I’ve been all this time. Thanks for stopping by! Next time, I hope to resume the series I started about the need for a plural form of “you” in the English language.

What’s that, Granny? Yes, you’re right; there is a plural form of you: y’all. But I’m talking about a form that’s approved by the Chicago Manual of Style.

See ya later!

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