Useless trivia you never wanted to know

October 30, 2009 | My Jottings

My children know probably better than anyone that I’m a list maker and a list lover. I enjoy useless trivia, and whenever I see one of these lists on someone’s blog, I’m fascinated. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be fascinated, however, when you learn some things about me you probably never wanted to know. 🙂

Here are some questions going around in blogland, and I’m jumping in.

1.  What is your favorite thing to snack on while you’re blogging? In the mornings when I do most of my blog writing, I always have a homemade concoction I call my Cappuccino Cooler, made of cold milk, instant coffee granules, Hershey’s chocolate syrup and hazelnut creamer. Other than that, not too much eating goes on at the computer. That isn’t to say a lot of eating doesn’t go on elsewhere. Just not at the computer.

2. What is one thing you wouldn’t want to live without? Well the obvious would be all my family members. My husband Michael, my daughters Sharon, Carolyn and Sara. Their husbands Chris and Jeremy. And their children (and my grans) Clara, Elijah, Vivienne, Audrey, Mr. McBoy, Mrs. Nisky and Little Gleegirl.

But now that I look at it, the question did ask “what is one thing,” so I think the one inanimate thing I wouldn’t want to live without would be books. The Book. And many other little b books.

3. Beach, Mountains, or Farm? Where would you live if you had a choice? I’ve roasted myself too many times at the beach, and when I visit it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Farm? That sounds like a lot of work, with an awful lot of poop involved. I would have to say the mountains. The Alps, preferably. Wouldn’t you love to live in the shadow of the Alps? That sounds like heaven to me.

4. What’s your least favorite chore/household duty? I am slightly allergic to paperwork these days. And I’m not crazy about dusting, so I just don’t do it.

5. Who do people say you remind them of? I was told in my preteens that I looked like Twiggy. twiggyDM200207_468x515(I’ll pause here while you stop chortling and pick yourself up off the floor.)

T1054033_04In my twenties someone I didn’t know once actually tapped me on my shoulder to inform me that I looked like Stevie Nicks.

In my forties I started looking more like my mother.


Now that I’m in my fifties I’m guessing it would be Doris Roberts.

6. Prefer parties and socializing or staying home with the fam? I would rather stay home. I enjoy a nice gathering with a friend or two also, but the very word “party” makes me tired. Although I did have several women from my church over last week for a Mexican potluck and it was one of the more delightful times I’ve had recently.

7. What’s your all time favorite movie? The Sound of Music. And One True Thing. And Anne of Green Gables.

8. Do you sleep in your make-up or remove it like a good little girl every night? I hardly ever wear makeup anymore. If I wear mascara, I always take it off first, or am asking for eye trouble the next day.

9. Do you have a hidden talent or a deep desire to learn something that you’ve never had a chance to learn? What is it? I would like to learn to play an instrument well, but don’t have the time to pursue it. The piano or the guitar would be my first choices. And I would like to learn how to write something publishable.  🙂

10. What’s one strange thing you’re really good at? I am good at remembering useless trivia and details, especially from long ago. Things like what color sweater Gail wore when the SAGs ate at The Olive Garden two Christmases ago, and where the four of us sat in the booth, and what the weather was like that night, and what kind of hubcaps were on my friend Denel’s family’s Ford station wagon in the sixties, and the colors of the ballerinas on her bedroom wallpaper, etc. I’m also pretty good at anything that takes quick and detailed manual dexterity.

11. What first attracted you to your spouse? His love for Jesus. His voice. His smile.

12. What is something you love to smell? Since I have suffered from anosmia for almost a year, I have missed smelling things. I have recently begun to smell some things again, though – like lemons and chicken cooking in the oven, and some perfumes. I’m thankful for that. My favorite smells used to be newborn babies, Beautiful perfume by Estee Lauder, pine trees and Michael’s neck.

13. Tell something about you that you know irritates people. I talk too much. I am a little controlling. 🙂  I think this list could be really long, but mercifully my loved ones don’t tell me often what bugs them about me.

14. When you have extra money, what’s the first thing you think to do with it? I think of giving it away.

15. Are you a silent laugher or a loud laugher? What makes you laugh the hardest? I think medium. I’m not sure. My daughters make me laugh – they’re all funny in their own ways and I love that. I also have a memory of laughing uncontrollably at my son-in-law Jeremy’s brother Jordan doing an amazing silent impression of a Velociraptor.

16. Where is your favorite place to shop? Online. Never in a mall.

17. What’s one thing you’d do more often if you had more time? Travel. To Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Israel, and many other places in the U.S.

18. Are you a big spender or frugal? This is strange, but I’m both. I rarely want to go out and spend money, and I’m a saver at heart. I like to be out of debt, but I would think nothing of spending a lot of money on something a loved one needed.

19. Who is your favorite character of all time? (from a movie or a book, can’t be real) I have long loved Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. But today I think it would have to be Cynthia Kavanagh, from the Mitford series. There are certainly other characters in literature who have deeper, more memorable attributes, but at this point in my life, she is who I wish I were more like.

20. Would you want to be famous? No. Who would want pictures of their cellulite on tabloid covers? Who would want paparazzi stalking them day and night? Anonymity is a blessed thing.

Edition 23-Wednesday’s Word

October 28, 2009 | My Jottings

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Blaise Pascal

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Ornithological Oddity

October 24, 2009 | My Jottings

We’ve been slowly working on our living room for nineteen months now. When we moved into this new house, the living room served as the main place to pile up boxes almost to the ceiling, and it was the chief area where the grans rode their new bikes with training wheels around and around, around and around.

Then the boxes were eventually unpacked. And burned. In a fire-pit. With smoke billowing and flames leaping. In the back yard. But that is another story.

Then the bikes went outside when the weather warmed.

We kept making changes to the living room, then Michael and I would both pull chairs in there to sit, contemplating the next thing we wanted to do.

The first thing we did in the living room was have a strange, arched, built-in glass book case in the wall filled in. Then the walls and ceilings were newly plastered. Then we painted the walls and ceiling. Then we installed crown molding. Then we bought a few items of furniture, one piece at a time. Then we had the living room’s beautiful hardwood floors (gasp) carpeted. Then we rolled around on the carpet, as is our family custom.

The few projects left for this room are: order a fireplace surround, have window seat cushions made, get sheer curtains for the windows in the window seat, and hang the remaining pictures.

Which brings me to today’s post, which could also have been titled,”One of these things is not like the other…,” which I think most of you can sing by heart from Sesame Street.

We like birds in this house. Or maybe I should restate that – we, in this house, like birds. We don’t like to have birds in the actual house so much. Michael was devoted to birds long before he met me, and I have liked birds ever since a cardinal sent from heaven gave me much needed hope several years ago.

We have this big space on one of our living room walls that I wanted to fill with some kind of art. I didn’t want a huge piece, and instead decided that I would get three or four matching pieces – maybe framed, botanical prints.

Then when I was perusing an online art site, I found some neat bird prints that helped me decide we’d have an ornithological art grouping in the living room rather than a botanical one.

They arrived last week and I’m very happy with them, with one reservation. I ordered them to be exactly the same size, so they can hang on this big wall space one right next to the other.

Here’s how they arrived:


The goldfinch is framed slightly smaller than the other two. I went back over my order and saw that it wasn’t my mistake, so I called the company and they cheerfully agreed to send me a new goldfinch, framed exactly the same size as the Eastern Bluebird and the Northern Cardinal. The company’s service is really fast; the new goldfinch arrived from California within four days, and….it was the same size as the original smaller goldfinch. Rats.

I called again and they are working on another framed goldfinch print and assure me it will be the right size now. They are letting me keep the two smaller framed goldfinch prints free, for my trouble.

But I don’t have a place for them in my house. Who needs three large framed prints of goldfinches, two a little smaller than the other?

Should I put the prints out in the front yard with a “free” sign? Should I put them on Craigslist and see if there are any takers?

Or maybe someone reading this blog who is local and loves birds and has claret for one of their decorating colors would like them?

***(Update on 10/26: the new replacement just arrived and it’s even more wrong than the others. See below.)***


Still no takers on beautiful goldfinch prints, framed and matted?


SAGs at Stonegate – Part 2

October 22, 2009 | My Jottings

So while we SAGs were up the North Shore in our cozy little cabin, we did things we might not always have time for at home.

Below, Pat, who invented the game of Cribbage many years ago, teaches Gail how to play. Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six, a pair is eight and one for nobs is nine. Go. Because Gail is so brilliant, she caught on to the game within a few minutes. Three of us played several games while we were there, and it made me want to dig out one of Michael’s Cribbage boards and challenge him to a few games. It’s been a long time since he and I have played on the carved bone board we got in Alaska, but we’re old now so I think it’s an appropriate way to spend our evenings.



Our little kitchen bar was always well supplied with snacks. SAGs snacks. And as you can see, SAG smiles were in abundance as well. We had M&Ms, peanuts mixed with candy corn which really does taste like a salted nut roll, coffee, chai tea, Honeycrisp apples, a myriad of carbonated beverages, and Pat’s homemade peanut butter and chocolate bars. Which tasted heavenly with a cold glass of milk.



And when you’re away from home and don’t have laundry and paperwork calling your name, and there’s no television to zone out in front of, and your housework and homework is waiting patiently until you return, you have all the time in the world. Time enough to engage in relaxing activities such as…..watching popcorn pop. Which is what Lorna and Gail are doing below.

Young women of the world, take hope! You have no idea what thrills await you in middle age.



These are professional women in the photo below. But sometimes girls (even professional girls) just wanna have fun.



Lorna made a key lime cheese ball and rolled it in graham cracker crumbs. We used graham crackers to scoop into it – very yummy!



This lovely deck was built right on the shoreline of Lake Superior, and we sat down here in the sun. The wind was chilly, though, so we had to sit by the Lake in increments. Gail brought her Beth Moore Stepping Up Bible study down to the deck and we talked about the Psalms of Ascent, and how song/music is the fluent language of the soul.



There may not have been any televisions or radios at Stonegate on Superior, but you can bet all four of us had our cell phones in tow. Below, Pat talks on hers while sitting by the fire pit we planned on visiting after the sun went down, but never did.



Below, Julie and Lorna are laughing uproariously as they tried to practice exuberant, alliterative prayers. Because her maiden name started with an H, Lorna got us started with that letter, and soon we were crying out phrases like “Help! Hover over our hapless hullabaloo! And hurry!”

Please don’t pity us. You had to have been there.



With lots of leisure time, the SAGs were able to quilt, crochet and read. We played a quiet game of Scrabble and wondered whether or not faxes is an abbreviation. We also had story time with Miss Lorna, which I’ll talk about in Part 3. And we had Tom Cruise’s Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner. And we gave foot rubs and tried to watch a movie on Gail’s laptop but abandoned that idea when our audio trouble couldn’t be fixed. And we had Culver’s on another night for an early dinner (Butterburgers and onion rings and a pumpkin shake.) Since there are no In-n-Outs in Minnesota, Culver’s is the next best thing.

And we talked. And talked. And cried. And cried (at least I did). And laughed. And we even did a little dreaming together.

Isn’t that what a SAGs retreat is for?

We were so grateful for our time away, we decided to mark our ten year SAGs anniversary (in 2012) with another retreat. We have a little over two years to plan. Today I checked out other cabins online that we might like to visit. We’d like to go again in the fall of the year to enjoy the beautiful autumn colors and the chilly nights that are just right for a fire in the hearth.

Vermont, here come the SAGs! 

Edition 22-Wednesday’s Word

October 21, 2009 | My Jottings

The Lord sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves.

Dwight L. Moody

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SAGs at Stonegate – Part 1

October 20, 2009 | My Jottings

Not long ago the four SAGs headed north for our first retreat together in the almost eight years we’ve been a group. We stayed at a quiet little resort on the north shore of Lake Superior called Stonegate On Superior.

All of us have crazy busy things going on in our lives, and we all needed to get away for some refreshing and some down time. The four days and three nights we were gone were just what the Doctor Gail ordered. 🙂  (That was a veiled congratulations to our Gail, who is our resident Physical Therapist and just earned her doctorate this year. Yay Gail!)


First, the particulars: this photo above is a view of the small but clean kitchen in Cabin 5, where we stayed.


We all agreed that we wanted a fireplace in our cabin, and we wanted to be close to the Lake. Although this fireplace didn’t crackle cozily from a real wood fire, it kept the whole two bedroom cabin warm from a switch on the wall. You can also see the little dining area between the kitchen and the living room.


This is a view of one of the bedrooms. Our beds were remarkably comfortable and we could look out of the window and see and hear the Lake, only a stone’s throw away. We could also lay in bed at night and hear the teeth and claws of a largish, unknown animal relentlessly gnawing and chomping and scraping on the outside of the cabin. We were too terrified smart to go out in the cold and pitch dark to investigate. The next morning we saw insulation strewn around the ground where the brute had been chewing.


Here are Gail and Pat (on the deck) and Lorna in front of our little cabin on the Lake.


This is the shoreline that was just a thirty second walk from our cabin. The Lake changed moods several times while we were there – one night the waves were large enough to sound like the ocean, other times the water was fairly smooth. We also saw wind-blown white caps chopping up the surface and a huge lit up ore boat heading for harbor the last evening we were at Stonegate.

I plan to put up more posts about our SAGs weekend over the next few days – you’ll see some food, some goofiness, some games, some wistfulness, some hobbies, and some scenery.

For now I’ll leave you with a photo of the four of us. We hadn’t even been there twenty-four hours and already we were looking happy and rested.

Well, pretty much.

Julie, Lorna, Pat, Gail

Julie, Lorna, Pat, Gail


Kidquips 3

October 19, 2009 | My Jottings

I am a very blessed person. I am blessed with a family. I am blessed with sight. I am blessed with mobility. I’m blessed with friends. I’m blessed with provision. I am blessed with the certainty of God’s nearness and care. I am blessed with hope. I am blessed with love. And perhaps at this time in my life, no other love goes down deeper into my soul than the love of my grandchildren. I don’t know how they do it, but somehow they know how to say just the right thing, squeeze just the right hug, which sends pure, nourishing, liquid love down into the driest, darkest nooks and crannies of my soul. *Sigh*

And my grandchildren make me laugh.

Last week I picked up Clara and Elijah after school for another W.W.G., which I will explain and write about soon. We were almost home when Clara said softly from the backseat, “Grandma, I love you so much, sometimes it makes me cry when I think of you.”

I knew exactly what she was talking about, and told her so. Sometimes love is so intense it feels wonderful and awful, thrilling and painful at the same time. I told her I feel this kind of love for my grandchildren quite often, and that it’s normal for some people to feel love in such a way that it causes an ache or a yearning.

I saw her nod sagely in the rear view mirror, and then she added, “Grandma, sometimes I love you so much that when I think of you a tear runs down my face here, and I feel a little pain right here in my heart.”

Oh my, I thought. This little seven year-old girl feels and expresses love so deeply, and as we pulled into our driveway I had to suppress the tears myself as I pondered what Clara was saying.


Elijah had been attentive but quiet for most of this conversation, and I could see in my mirror that he was soberly taking it all in and giving it careful six year-old consideration.

As I eased the van into the garage and hit the button on the visor to close the door behind us, Elijah nodded at me and then commented casually but completely in earnest, “Yes, and sometimes when I think of how I miss you and love you, it hurts me right here in my neck.”


SAGs Retreat!

October 15, 2009 | My Jottings

For almost eight years, I’ve been in a women’s group called The SAGs. If you don’t know the story of how we came to be, if you’re not aware of why we call ourselves The SAGs, if you are procrastinating about manually cleaning out your septic system to save some money and don’t have anything better to do right now, you can read about the four SAGs right here.

The four SAGs meet together monthly for dinner and catching up and laughter and prayer and tears and compassion and sisterhood. We have never gone away on any kind of trip together even though we’ve talked about it many times.

Well, that is about to change. Today we’ll be heading north for a few days to a cozy two-bedroom cabin right on the edge of Lake Superior. The cabin has a nice kitchen, so we’ll be taking turns cooking dinners. There’s a fireplace too, so you might be able to imagine how in the chilly evenings we’ll pull our chairs up around the fire with our books, our conversation and our sighs. vfiles32136

Gail is bringing a yummy breakfast casserole, coffee and popcorn. Lorna is bringing the veggies, the key lime pie, and the crab salad. Pat is bringing the chocolate peanut butter bars, the chai tea, and the fixings for her delicious spaghetti carbonara. I’m bringing homemade granola, fixings for one dinner I’m still trying to plan, the fruit and the Scrabble game. If we get settled in and realize we need something, we won’t be so far away from civilization that we can’t run out and pick something up.

The place where we’ll be staying doesn’t have telephones or televisions in the cabins. (Someone should now belt out, “Hallelujah!”) So the noises we’ll hear will likely be the crackling wood fire, the call of the loons and the sound of lapping waves from the Lake, the rustle of leaves in the brilliantly colored trees around us, the quiet click of Scrabble tiles being placed for triple word scores in the evenings, and the satisfying conversation that comes from loyal and long-time friendship.

I will also take my camera, so I can share a little about our SAGs retreat in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, I hope your weekend finds you enjoying something or someone that nurtures your soul…

Edition 21-Wednesday’s Word

October 14, 2009 | My Jottings

Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.

James Hudson Taylor

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October winner – Sue!

October 10, 2009 | My Jottings

In a recent post I asked readers to share what October meant to them. Their thoughtful and descriptive answers made me wish they would all start blogs or write books so I could read more of their thoughts, feelings and/or adventures. Thanks to all who left a comment.

This month’s bloggy giveaway winner is Sue R., a dear friend and faithful reader, who will receive a Barnes and Noble gift card! Sue will have to bundle up to use her card, because during the night it snowed in our part of the country and the winds are howling this morning, welcoming us to Month Number One of our annual Six Months of Winter. 🙂

I have over thirty rough drafts of blog posts I’ve saved and intend to put up someday. Here are some I’ve been working on that might make an appearance in the next few weeks:

Heart Monitor

Virginia, My Mom

Mildred’s Ears

Humiliation on the William A. Irvin

Honey on His Toes

“Yook at dat yake!”

Magic Man


Play Date

Organ Lessons

Once Upon a Toile…

Dixon, Missouri

The Loch Ness Project

Spam and My Man

As you can clearly see, my brain works in exceedingly creative and exciting ways, so I’ll try to finish one of these promising posts and get it up on the blog so you can savor it soon. 🙂

For today, I have furniture to put together, meals to make, shopping to oversee, laundry to fold, radiators to bleed, paperwork to file, pictures to hang, books to cull, Bible study lessons to do, grandchildren to Skype, a Mitford book in which to bury my nose, six knee socks to fill with salt, red spots to count, a husband to hug and prayers to bring to Jesus’s feet.

Have a peaceful weekend!