Monday, March 28, 2011

The More Things Change...

...the more they stay the same.

These days, I've been browsing the new non-fiction shelf at the library to find something to read, and this week, it is this little book, 74 pages long.  Nearly half of it is taken up with the introduction, which is as interesting a read as the story itself. 

If you've ever read anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne, if you are like me, you don't want to read anything by him again.  I read "House of Seven Gables" when I was in college.not as a assignment of course, but because it was a classic, or he is a classic author, or something.  After all, he's on the Author's cards.

His style is long, involved and with vocabulary that nobody of this generation has ever heard of, and very few of my generation, and even then only the people who love books, words, and reading the dictionary, "for a bit of light reading".

This book is different.  It is the story of a father looking after his 5 year son, while his wife and two daughters are away visiting her mother.  It is a quick and easy read, and deals with the age old story, of a father, who has never taken care of a child on his own before, now is, all by himself. 

You can also get a glimpse of the family's parenting style, which is way ahead of his time.  He isn't the only one of his time to treat children as people, very early in their lives.  Another one I can think of off the top of my head is Branson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott. 

The introduction, by Paul Auster, starts out by saying, "[this book] is one of the least-known works by a well-known writer in all of literature.  Buried in the seventh folio of Hawthorne's American Notebooks--that massive, little-read tome of treasures and revelations--.....With no intention other than to record the doings in the household during his wife's absence, he had inadvertently embarked on something that no writer had ever attempted before him: a meticulous, blow-by-blow account of a man taking care of a young child by himself."

It makes me want to find out if there are any other neat things hidden in that American Notebook thing.

Here are a couple of other quotes from the introduction that I found interesting.

"Twenty Days" is a humorous work by a notoriously melancholic man, and anyone who has ever spent an extended length of time in the company of a small child will surely respond to the accuracy and honesty of Hawthorne's account.

Una and Julian [Hawthorne] were raised in an unorthodox manner, even by the standards of mid-nineteenth-century Transcendentalist New England.  Although they reached school age during their time in Lenox (when this story is written), neither one was send to school, and they spent their days at home with their mother, who took charge of their education and rarely allowed them to mingle with other children. 

That is the beauty of Hawthorne's little piece of notebook-writing.   Throughout all the drudgery of tedium of his constant companionship with the five-year-old boy, Hawthorne was able to glance at him often enough to capture something of his essence, to bring him to life in words.  A century and a half later, we do it by taking snapshots and following them around with video cameras.  But word are better, I think, if only because they don't face with time.  It takes more effort to write a truthful sentence than to focus a lens and push a bottom, of course, but words go deeper than pictures do--which can rarely record anything more than the surfaces of things, whether landscapes or the faces of children.  In all but the best or luckiest photographs the soul is missing.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I know some others who would enjoy it also.  The only thing wrong with it, is the author of the introduction, he uses too many hyphens. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Zane

March 2011

Now that my daughter is living in Grand Island, we don't see Zane as much anymore.  I haven't been looking after him while she is at work.  My 15 yr old daughter is on spring break and as we were looking for things to do, we decided on an afternoon in Grand Island one day.  She is looking for material for a new dress so we went to Joann's there for more options.  We didn't find any.  We came out thinking the stuff in Hobby Lobby at home is what she wanted. 

But, that's okay.  We need to visit here once in a while anyway.  We decided to look after Zane for the few hours that Lorene and Aaron's work schedules cross.  And then I could visit Jim's auntie in the nursing home, too. We really didn't leave enough time to get it all done.  I wish I had more time with Aunt Inez, but Lynette didn't want to be left alone, too long.  It's a weird place, where they are living, so I don't fault her for that.

It's different somehow, playing with grandchildren that your own kids, maybe it's cooler toys.  Maybe it's the fact that we've learned all ready those days of small cuteness don't last very long.  Maybe it's because we don't see them everyday and want to make every moment count. 

Anyway, I spent my time with him on the floor playing with his trains.  He LOVES trains, he loves to watch them, listen to them, and play with his own.  Where they live, a train goes by about every 10 minutes.  He can play a long time with his trains.  These are part of a Thomas the Tank Engine set, and they have batteries so they can go by themselves, on a track or not.  Zane now knows how to start and stop them, and put them on the track.

I thought it would be easier on me if we had a track that went all around (no picking up trains and turning them around.)  Plus, it's cool, to watch them go around and around. So, Zane started pulling out track pieces and the buildings he wanted.  I said I wanted some curved pieces and he got those.  (wow, he's smart!) We got it all put together, with a "train wash" building and a tunnel.  That train wash building, has a "stop/start" lever, so for quite awhile, he would flip the switch, stop the train, flip in again, away it would go, and he would flip it back to be ready the next time. 

After awhile that lost it's charm and he would put the trains, (two of them, one engine, one car)
 on the track, in the order HE wanted them.  If I did it wrong, he would have to change it. Away they went, and he laid down on the floor to watch them go through the tunnel.  Now, you may wonder why I only have these two pictures, and not pictures of the whole track, of him flipping switches, lying on the floor, etc.  But I didn't have my camera, and my phone it limited to taking relatively static photos, and besides, I was playing, too.  Not taking pictures. 

I love to see him playing with his toys. I love to see kids using their imagination as they play.  I don't think there is anything as important in children's development, as opportunities, to explore things with their hands and their minds.  And to be outside, too, but Lynette took care of that while I was visiting.  She took him out in the chilly wind to fly his kite.   

The next day we went to Lincoln.  For spring break, Lynette wanted to go to there to shop at Plato's closet, an upscale resale shop.  You can get name brand clothes for a fraction of retail.  Lorene wanted to come, too, and since she had Zane, I talked Jim into going.  We went to the mall, too, and instead of buying anything, we spent money on Zane, while the girls shopped.  Money to watch the train go around and money to ride the carousel.  This kid is so smart he knows that money makes things happen.  He kept asking for 'mawney' long after we told him we were done.

And after what started all this shopping bit, Lynette wanting some material to make a new dress.  She bought some really nice things, so we won't be sewing after all.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Am My Mother

It's official, I have turned into my mother. And it's about time, too, in some ways.  We were home for my birthday this weekend. It is my birthday today, and my folks like me to come home to celebrate.  I haven't for the last two years.  We just haven't felt like leaving working teens at home alone, and there was Zane that needed cared for while the working is going on.  I suppose I could have insisted they take the time off.  But I didn't.  So, this time we DID leave the one working teen home.  So, the weekend was tempered by hoping he was doing what he was supposed to, and not running around getting into trouble.  I haven't heard anything, yet.

It has been over a year since I visited in the house I grew up in, my folks have been making the trips our way, for birthdays and visits and other celebrations.  But, I found myself looking at it with new eyes.  Part of those eyes came from flylady as I looked at all the stuff they have around, but another part, also from flylady, saw the dishes pile up and washed them as we dirtied them, and wiped off counters as we finished with them, so we were never faced with a huge pile.  What struck me the most was how easy tidying up and puttering around came to me.  Working in the kitchen with my mother, cooking for the masses, and cleaning up afterward.  It felt good, it felt right.  Now, don't think I've never set foot in my mom's kitchen when we've visited before.  I've always helped cook and clean, it was just so effortless now. I wasn't thinking,  "I would much rather be doing something fun, like sitting on my backside, reading or crocheting or knitting."  

I remember visiting at my Grandma Appleman's house, and all the women folk would be busy around in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, talking.  Sometimes I thought I should be helping, especially as I grew older, but it was a lot more fun doing other things. It felt just like that this weekend, like another generation is continuing what the first generation began. I like continuity; I like things going on as they have before.  It is a rock to hold on to in these ever quickly changing times we live in today.

So, either flylady has thoroughly infected me, or it was the tea I drank at breakfast.

Or maybe I'm growing up.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stars on Ice

I have a little girl, who is not so little anymore who loves to ice skate.  She has a mother who loves to ice skate.  My girl wishes she could skate even a little bit like the olympic skaters, and I wished I could, too.  So, when Lynette decided that ALL she wanted for her 15th birthday was a trip to see Stars on Ice, we decided to see if we could make it work.  So, we began to plan.  A big show like Stars on Ice, doesn't come to very many places in the US, and the closest show was in St. Paul, Minnesota, 9 hours away, in March.  It helped a great deal to have a sister in law in that area, and could help guide us in and out and around. 

So, we bought tickets. 

And we bought good ones, too.  This could very well be, a once in a lifetime experience, and we wanted to have good seats.  The only better ones were on the ice.  We were in the 6th row from the bottom, in the middle of the rink. 

I don't like to put too much emphasis on that it is such a great thing to go and see people that are famous.  But, it did seem rather exciitng to see people that can skate so well, they won at the Olympics.  They must be pretty good at what they do.  In order to skate in a Stars on Ice program, skaters don't necessarily have to by Olympic winners but winners at US or World Championships.  WE go to watch them, because we wanted to see good skating.  And these people are among the best.

Ekaterina Gordeeva

Lynette has taken some figure skating lessons, and being interested in it read a few books on the sport and various figure skaters last summer.  She read about Ekaterina and Sergei Grinkov, which is one of the greatest pair skaters ever.  So, it was fun to see her.  (Sergei has died.)

Sasha Cohen

I really got better pictures than I expected, with my little point and shoot camera.   I used the zoom in and sports feature, which helped.  But, most of the time I was just lucky.   I tried to get some of the different forms or whatever they are called to prove we saw them, and so Lynette could remember what she saw.  So, some of the photos are good and some are not.

Jamie Sale and David Pelletier

Evan Lysacek

50's Dance Number

It's all over.

I wish I could have a picture of Lynette's eager waiting as the skaters were ready to come out and the rapt expression on her face as the performance started.  But some things are not to be.  It was too dark, and flash is not allowed, and likely wouldn't make a good photograph. 

And when we were all done and picked up by my sister in law, Lynette says, "I want to go again, next year."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to Stage a Celebration!

I never thought this day would come so fast.  The day my daughter marries the man she loves and leaves our home for her own.

Ok, so THAT day has already come and gone, but now THIS day, the day we invited lots of people to share in their joy, came pretty quickly, too. 

And the really nice thing about this day, is that I was ready for it, ready enough so that I had a nice time, too. 

I've learned to make lists, and lists and more lists.  I've learned to start early on my lists and buy things over several weeks.  I've learned to make friends of people with punch bowls, and serving plates, and coffee makers.  I've learned that you can put on a pretty nice little reception, in two months, with a very little outlay of money.

Next time I would be earlier in sending out the invitations, but other than that, it all went pretty smoothly. I am learning how to delegate and how to give people jobs that ask for help.  So, if you don't want to help, you better not offer!

So, I bought things every time I went to the store.  The things I needed from Hobby Lobby had to wait until the last week, since I was waiting for  40% off coupons, and then I must have gone into the store about 8 times after I got them.

Other than traipsing into Hobby Lobby twice a day, I made the cake balls and dipped strawberries at the very last.

Cake balls are easy, just crumbled, baked cake, with frosting mixed in, then dipped in almond bark or dipping chocolate.  They are just yummy, but mine don't look so much like balls.

My daughter helped me with the strawberries.  I like to dip them from the double boiler, since the chocolate keeps warm on the stove, while I dip or do other things.

Dip then drizzle.

Then we had to see if they were any good.
They were.

At first thought, I wanted to save the money and make the sheet cakes to serve at the reception, but mom offered to buy Walmart cakes, so I took her up on it.  I'm not too keen on staying up all night and working on big projects, I just can't do it anymore.  My nerves just can't take it. 

Lorene wanted a round cake for a centerpiece, so I decided to make one, just to see what I remembered from the cake decorating class I took in 4-H when I was a senior in high school.  My friend, Lynisha, the cake decorator, (self taught I believe), gave me this hint, to fill the cake pans big enough to use the edge as a guide to make an even layer.

Icing!! Wilton's whitest.  I made it just like the recipe and it seemed so stiff.

Filling with stiff icing.

The problem with these large pictures, is that not only can you see just how to do things, you can see all the mistakes, too.
One thing they taught us is my decorating class is to put a thin layer of icing on the cake and let it dry.  Which I did.  But, I'm not really sure it was necessary, since I put on a really thick layer of icing on anyway.

This looks really good here, all nice and straight and upstanding.

But, here I was globbing icing on and it's LEANING!!  By this time I felt it was too late to try to take off the layers and reposition them.  So, I just made sure the side I wanted to show looked the best, and less like the leaning cake of the reception.

I suppose there is a way to do it, but I didn't want to take the time, get icing all over me and everything else, and by not knowing what I was doing for sure, increased the risk of a major catastrophe, and no round cake at all. I'm just not good at careful and patient.

Here is the final product.

Then it comes to setting up time, cake balls and strawberries on my 2 tier stand.

Lorene made the mints.  These look nice.  The first batch she made using the color I gave her, were ORANGE.  Too bad no one bothered to read the color on the lid.

Guest book table.  Lorene and Aaron received in the dining room so people signed as they came in.

I ordered these cakes from Walmart.  I like the second one the best.  I learned a few things about what I'd like the next time I order cakes.

Aarons' mom rented the glass boxes and those are REAL roses in them.  Very elegant, and yet so simple to do. 

We set up in the garage.  The temperatures were supposed to be in the 40's and windy that day, so we had a nice little propane heater warming it up.

I was so pleased with the way everything turned out.  It looked nice, the food was good, it was warm enough that people didn't freeze and cool enough so they really enjoyed their coffee....

When the people came in.

And these nice ladies are the reason I had such a good time during the reception, and was able to take pictures.  Nothing like good help!

Red roses are so beautiful, we were able to enjoy them for another few days.

And...the happy couple!

It was a lovely day, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves especially the family.  It is nice to have an event you can remember with pleasure.