Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday Thinking - The Palmetto State

Calvin and I have been to some pretty incredible places and seen beautiful things and participated in great events because of our kids' opportunities. Last week was one of those experiences.

Joe, Ande, and Zeph live in South Carolina.  And while the focus of the trip was spending time with their family, I think this sign sums up my summation of South Carolina best:

South Carolina isn't busy like New York; if it was the speed limit would be 30.  South Carolina isn't laid back like Hawaii; if it was the speed limit would be 25.  South Carolina is it's own perfect pace -- a controlled relax that's no too fast and not too slow -- and therefore the speed limit of 27 makes perfect sense.

Joe and Ande live on an island, which means they live by water, which means they have these all over:

That would be an alligator that you see resting on someone's back lawn.  The fresh water ponds on the island are filled with alligators -- big ones, little ones, hungry ones.

It also means there are millions of these:


and these:

But they also have things that aren't green and that don't crawl . . . like dolphins.  We watched a pod of them off the pier.  There were all sizes.  My favorite was the mama and her baby dipping and diving in rhythm.

Zeph and Grandma watching the dolphins

We didn't just see wildlife though, we also sat on the back porch and watched the lightening and rain and heard the thunder.

the porch view from Joe and Ande's front yard.

and sometimes we just sat on the porch and rocked after we'd gone swimming.  We went swimming nearly every day.  I love rocking on their front porch.

We also went to see an old plantation.  It had a half mile lane of old oak trees leading up to it and the breeze off the ocean water cooling it down.  I'm telling you, you could feel the history of the place.

In it's prime, these two wings of the home were connected with more home and an upper and lower deck. This was built in the late 1600's, early 1700's I think.  It's called a tabby house as the building material is sand, water, lime, and oyster shell blended into a type of concrete.  Millions and millions of oyster shells are stacked together.

Our Civil War was such a hard and destructive one.  I couldn't help but think of it often and the people involved and how it affected their lives.

I've often heard of Southern Hospitality, but now I can say I've experienced it.


Their ward was having a low country boil the night we flew in.  Joe had helped in the prepping of it, but explained to their bishop they wouldn't be able to attend as they would be at the airport picking us up.  The bishop texted him as he pulled into the airport and said he had set a pot back and would save it until we could get there.  It took a half an hour, but after we loaded our luggage, we drove to the church and were welcomed with a big hot pot of fresh shrimp, sausages, red potatoes, and corn on the cob.  People came to greet us and sat and visited in the dark while we ate.  It didn't seem to matter to them that the party had ended long ago and they could have gone home.

A woman from their ward had made a pound cake because she heard that Ande "had company comin'." The woman can't drive and Ande and Joe live a good thirty minutes away from the woman, but she'd taken the time to make a cake and have someone drive her to deliver it anyway.

Eighty-something-year-old Mildred went out of her way at church to introduce me to her grandson Graham who she claimed was her favorite and also his brother Colton who she claimed was "fine, but not my favorite like Graham."

Thirteen year old Jackson visited with me at length about history, in particular WW II.  He thanked me for talking to him and as I shook his hand in parting, he said, "My gosh it's like I got to meet Rush Limbaugh, except it's like you're my very own celebrity."  (Please note, I was listening not pontificating.)

It didn't matter if it was people sunning at the swimming pool, or driving a golf cart, or eating at a restaurant, or greeting us on Sunday, they were kind and friendly.  It was refreshing.

Ande painted a motto that hangs on her kitchen wall:

Their home and her homemaking skills reflect that motto:

the living room

The mirror is six feet tall, so that gives you some scale as to how massive the fireplace is

this chalkboard art that Ande drew greets you as you walk in the front door

the dining room.  The whole house has wide-plank wooden floors,
but only in the dining room is the wood floor painted.

Their home is surrounded by palms and evergreens and ferns and marsh.  Though there are many other houses on the island, it feels very private and safe . . . and 27-mile-per-hour relaxed.

We ate some wonderful food while we were there as well.

For Sunday dinner, Ande grilled pork chops and fixed cheese fondue for us to dunk crusty homemade bread cubes, seasoned potatoes, broccoli, and apple slices in.  She had made salted caramel ice cream and brownies for dessert.

Another day she made a fresh peach pie.

Twice Joe boiled fresh shrimp and steamed crab for us to eat with lime rice.  We were only going to eat it once, but it was so good Joe and Calvin went back a second day for more shrimp.  Joe seasons the water just perfectly; I noticed he even put a bit of vanilla in it to counter the bitter lemon rind.

We also went out to barbecue one night:

Sweet potato casserole, beans, home fries, chicken, pulled pork, ribs, pickles, lemonade . . . it was all very, very good.  The owner's attitude only added to the experience.  He was a busy man, just he and his wife cook with one girl in the front taking orders, but it didn't stop him from affectionately tousling Zeph's hair as he walked by. He has a sign behind the cash register informing you what isn't available and never will be so don't ask (mayonnaise and mustard are two of the things I remember on it).  He also tells you not to whine if the chicken is gone because it never was about the chicken in the first place.

We got there just in time, because shortly after we got there he put a sign out the front door that the barbecue was gone.  And since he's only open a few days a week anyway, I guarantee you he didn't plan on making any more.

We had a wonderful time.  We visited.  We ate.  We played games.  We swam.  We even crocheted leper bandages.  We played . . . and played.

I really miss Joe and Ande and Zeph living on this side of the country, but after going to see them I'm so glad they live where they do and that they have South Carolina to take care of them.

The South Carolina motto on the vehicle license plates.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Homemaking Tip: It's Smarter to Travel in Groups

One of the great perks of being married is always getting to sit next to your best friend on an airplane.  I love this picture because it is so Calvin.  He is watching the wings -- watching the flaps open and close, the engines whirl, and whatever else he can see from his little peephole of a window -- and trying to figure out how they work.  He's wishing Ty was sitting by him (instead of his best friend ;0) so he could ask questions to someone who might know the answers.  The other thing I like about this picture is it shows the napkin he stuffed in his loose window shade so that it would stay open so he could see better.    

We're traveling today back to South Carolina to see Joe, Ande, and Zeph.  As we flew on filled flight after filled flight and weaved through four crowded airports, I could say we definitely followed this tip:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Monday Memories - The First Half of Summer


One of the sounds of our summer is crop dusters.  All the fields around our house get dusted at one point or another.  We love waking up to the sound of them zeroing in on the fields.

My niece, Charlie, and my sister, Chris

My sister Chris and her family came to see us for a few days.  We went to Seattle to Pike's Market.  Chris was a floral designer and she especially liked seeing the long row of flower booths and the t-shirt shops.  

Calvin and my brother-in-law Bruce pulled chairs out to the street and visited, and dozed, and watched people, and held shopping bags.  It was a great arrangement.

Levin reading scriptures to us.  Notice he is using his finger
as a marker and the book is upside down.  I wish I could remember
the story he told us.  It had to do with bad guys fighting good guys.

One morning my job was to stay in bed and hold Atlas and Henry while 
Cali and Grace got ready to feed them.  It was one of my favorite jobs 
of the whole camping trip, and wasn't nearly as rough as I look.   

We went on a good hike.  

Everybody, and I do mean everybody, had a good time.

Abe teaching Cali how to read compasses and maps.  

Ray, Levin, and Atlas swinging in the hammock.  I do believe Atlas is singing.
One afternoon while everyone else in camp was napping, Levin took me and Atlas on a little hike. 
He ran out in front and said in a matter-of-fact voice over his shoulder, “I’ll be the leader.”  
Then as a side comment, “If you get scared of moose or reindeer come and tell me.”  

Grace and Henry
I told Henry that he saved the camping experience for future generations.
If he hadn’t been so good we might have bagged trying to take babies in the future.

Abe cooking garlic biscuits and cowboy stew.

Calvin, Atlas, Cali, Henry, and Grace
Our camp was a long, long ways away. When we came to a fork in the road
(and they were both less traveled) and Calvin and Abe couldn't remember
for sure which road to take, Ray, Abe, and Levin drove ahead to scout them out.
Calvin, Cali, Grace, and I swatted no-see-ums and smelled the pines while we waited.

We had a great time camping over the 4th of July.  Our camp spot was clear back in the Blue Mountains.  It was a beautiful and primitive place to camp.  It was well worth the winding roads and the long drive.

Dog Days.

Calvin does not always believe me when I tell him it's hot.  

But I have proof.


The other morning we woke up to the strong smell of smoke.  If it would have been a month or two earlier I would have sworn the canal company was burning the ditch banks around the house.  Instead, Washington has several fires going and even though the fires are a hundred miles away, the smoke lingers over the Basin and ash falls from the sky.

As I was out jogging I saw all these blackbirds sitting in this dead tree with the smoke sky in the background.  It was almost Edgar Allen Poe'ish.

Fresh Picks.

We're eating a lot of red potatoes, onions, and green beans from the garden, and Calvin ate the first tomato tonight. The spinach and lettuce have already bolted and been fed to the chickens and pigs.  Fresh corn is available in town.  The peach, pear, and apple trees are loaded.  It's a year of plenty and we're eating very fine.

Girls' Camp.
Calvin is teaching the girls how to eat ants, because some day you just may be 
lost, hungry, and sitting on an ant pile.

We had a great year at Girls' Camp this year.  Really good.  We played a lot of fun games, ate good food, slept in fancy tents, and didn't shower for five days.  It was also a wonderful spiritual experience.  


I needed to finish four classes, or 11 credits, in 3 months to be able to graduate in August. I had just about given up on being able to meet the graduation deadline when the kids bought plane tickets, arranged with commanding officers, or cleared very busy schedules so as to come to my graduation.  Failing to finish was no longer an option.  I had to finish.  The pressure was heavy.  I took my computer to girls' camp and climbed the hill early each morning before the girls woke up to sit outside the caretakers' cabin on a bench or rock where I could reach an internet signal and turn in assignments.  I called friends who were English majors and asked them to tutor me in grammar so I could learn faster and pass the tests.  I asked Ande and Abe to teach me how to write a research paper and then proofread them.  I worked around guests, said no to outside activities, didn't touch the garden for a month, and stayed home from events so I could work on classes.  But wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles the assignments were all turned in and the last test was taken two days before the deadline. Now we wait to see if I passed.

Calvin and Henry

Sweet.  Close.  Warm.  Happy.

Jane's Birthday Supper.

Calvin fixed butter for supper with a dab of shrimp, crab, and corn on the cob on the side.  It was very, very, very good.  He's always so thoughtful like that.

Keep forgiving.

This little pot of marigolds has to work twice as hard to stay alive because I keep forgetting to water them. Twice I've let them get too dry and they've wilted and started to die, but both times they bounced back after they got water.

I know it's cheesy to over-moralize a simple watering problem, but I couldn't help but notice how quick they were to forgive and put out new blooms even though I was thoughtless.  Lesson learned:  a grudge doesn't help a thing, it just makes you dead and ugly so keep forgiving.


If this were a Facebook picture I would like it.  It's what our evenings look like.   We have a very good life and I like it.

Memorial Day.
Atlas, Ray, Levin, Cali, Cooper, Haley, Ryan, Henry, Abe, Grace, Dan's nose

Ryan and Haley, my niece and nephew, came to visit for the long weekend.  The men went hunting, made measuring boards in the shop, and taught Levin to swim in the canal, while we women did womenfolk things. My niece Jesse who is working in the asparagus and cherry harvest in Yakima came too, but she was the one taking this picture.

Not my circus.  Not my monkeys. 

I just heard the saying, "Not my circus.  Not my monkeys."  

More than likely you already knew it, but it was new to me and I can tell already it's going to be real helpful. Just this morning I was thinking about something that really isn't any of my business.  After a few minutes, "Not my circus.  Not my monkeys," popped into my head.  

Tonight we went out to eat pizza for Family Home Evening and to celebrate no more homework.  I was watching a mother and father with their adult daughter.  Pretty soon a man came in and joined them and it appeared the daughter was officially introducing her new boyfriend to them.  He had earplugs draped around his neck and those big earring holes in his ears.  I was just starting to make assessments and guess how everyone was faring when "Not my circus.  Not my monkeys" popped in my head again.   

That saying is going to help me mind my own business like nobody's business.   


Ty, Michelle, and the girls sent me this card with a box full of nuts and chocolates to give me fuel to finish my schooling this summer.  Inside the card it says "Happy studying!" The chocolates were to help me stay strong and the nuts were to keep Calvin occupied so he didn't sidetrack me from homework.

Afton added her own note of "happy birfday" and "we vacuum" to the bottom of it.


Last Saturday we went to the free concert in the park.  Collin Raye was the performer.  He was a great entertainer and I enjoyed it very much.  It was pretty hard not to:  the amphitheater sits right on the lake with the breeze coming off the water, people were in good spirits enjoying the evening and camaraderie, the music was fun, people sang along, and the mood was light . . . and we had a bag of popcorn we'd brought from home.  Pretty much perfect.


Tonight Calvin took me out to a field where a farmer has put a baseball cap on twenty or so of his fence-posts.  They're just standing there like sentinels watching over the field.

Now that I think about it, I'll bet his wife did it.  I'll bet his two-dozen John Deere and Cenex hats kept falling off the closet shelf and she got tired of tossing them back on it so she took them out to the field and nailed them to the posts.  

Front Row:  Cali and Nicole
Back Row:  Donna, me, Sonja, Sandy, and Jenny

Twice a year a dozen of us meet to work on projects at a retreat house.  Some of us scrapbook and make cards, others sew, and sometimes we just visit. We take turns cooking the meals and have a grand time and get a lot done.  We've been doing this long enough that many of our daughters go now too.

Here are half of us.  It was July 11th so we went to get free 7-11 slurpees.

Another informal retreat we had was when Ray and Levin went fishing in Alaska.  I had given Cali "a day of sewing" for her birthday.  Cali and Atlas came over and I played with Atlas while Cali cut and sewed little quilts for the boys' beds.  My niece, Jesse, came that weekend, too, and we had a great time together. Creativity is therapeutic.  Then Ray and Levin came over and we helped them cut up and freeze their coolers of salmon. Evidently fishing is therapeutic too.

SafeCo Field. 

Calvin and Levin

Cali, me, Calvin, Bruce, Charlie, Chris, Amber, Jake, and Atlas 

Ray and Levin, Red Sox fans

We attended a Red-Sox and Mariners game.  The Red-Sox got thumped.  Badly.

Estrella, Rocio, Breanna, me

We went to the temple and did baptisms last week.  It felt so good to serve other people and be with the people from the Branch.


Some sunrises are extra beautiful.


Last Saturday Calvin and I were working in the garden and I was in my bare feet.  I got stung by a bee and his stinger was so deep that brushing him didn't work.  I had to pull him out and then fish out his stinger.  It was a cause of great vexation.  I won't be going barefoot for another couple of years, by which time I will have forgotten again the pain of a bee sting and will have to re-experience it.  Some lessons take years to master.


Abe and Grace and Calvin and I went to Wicked.  We tag-teamed -- Calvin and I went to the matinee, then babysat Henry while Abe and Grace went to the evening show.  It was fun to spend the weekend with them.

Calvin and I need subtitles.

A month later, Abe and Grace spent one of their vacation weeks with us.  Time goes so fast when they come over and we had a great time together.


I attended work-training on my birthday.  Joe, who was our host, made a double-chocolaty, double-layer cake with pink sprinkles.  It was the kindest gesture.

Young Women and Young Men
Yenica, Dulce, Hannah

Yenica, Denielson, Adrain, Benexi, Gaston, Jonathan

We taught the kids how to play Dare Base one night.  It's an old game our cousins used to play with us when they came to visit.  The kids liked it as much as I did when I was a kid.  I spent most of my time in prison on this game.  My legs are not as fast as my head thinks they are and I got caught and put in prison.


It was our turn to feed the missionaries Sunday.  Their enthusiasm is not for the food, but rather for the work they are doing.  They really are excited, happy, and grateful to have the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.  

Now on to making memories the next half of the summer . . . and blogging more frequently, because did I tell you my homework is done?

Do tell.  What is one of your favorite memories from the first half of summer?