Christmas Time Come and Gone!

Christmas morning was small and quiet and quick. Interesting gifts that were mostly comestibles except for subscription to the Washington Post and some snazzy food containers. Lots of basic pantry foods. But then…

A bourbon from Detroit Michigan and some bottles of Stones ginger wine…a favorite!

Patrick turned each of us a pastry dolly for shaping small pies. Mine is a beauty from a crab apple tree. Then he roasted oak sticks to flavor alcohol. Here is the chart that explains the flavors of light, medium and dark roast.

We played board games starting with one sad round of one called Pandemic. We could not save the world and like Covid outbreaks, it happened far too often. We all thought there should have been more virus in the United States as here is where we have more people who are spreading it with their vast grasping of misinformation over facts.

So we put the board game away and went to our favorite…Settlers of Catan. Here we can travel, discover and trade our way to success.

And when we finish playing the game all the fun little parts go into this old field paint box I gave Amy for it years. We made little muslin bags for colored tokens and larger ones for the parts. I think Lee may have made the wooden tray to hold commodity cards.

Lee also made a slew of spare tokens out of wood because some get lost under the table. Patrick and I tied with three games each, Amy won one and Marla came close, but mostly discovered where more water could be found at sea.

And we had some good drinks.

Starting with Madeira to go with my first ever home made Christmas cake and a recommended Irish cheddar cheese.


Newton’s Law that has apple butter, bourbon, sugar, lemon juice, garnished with an orange twist and sprinkle of cinnamon.

Marla’s amazing Hot Buttered Rum made with her special “batter” and stirred with a cinnamon stick when mixed with a good rum.

Patrick’s Black Manhattans with whisky, Amaro, bitters and dark sweet cherry/orange twist garnish.

And our favorite when we all get together to celebrate our dear departed friend, Pacia. These drinks are dreadful in a somewhat pleasant way and always served in a Jefferson cup with fresh popped corn. We had no idea there was a name for these….Friskey if using a cheap whisky in equal parts to Fresca and a Frumpy if substituting rum instead. When we looked them up, the advice was to drink quickly but we take our time and remember Pacia fondly and share stories.

Oh, and I need to follow up on the little bottle of Screwball Peanut Butter whisky. It was not bad but didn’t taste much like peanuts.

We took several morning walks. The most recent one was at the folk school walk along the creeks. I will show more of the other walks in the next blog.

Then this morning they all left. Patrick pulling another trailer of things they want from here and Amy and Marla finding just enough room to fit themselves in her Jeep.

And away they went.

Now they are just about home in Michigan and driving in snow and slush on the highway.

So glad I live here and not there. All the laundry is finished and the beds made up again. My studio has less furniture and tomorrow a painter comes and gets all my pigment making equipment and soils. Then lots of cleaning to be done!

Til later….



Having a Dreary Day

The window washers had to cancel today and reschedule a few weeks from now. Finding help, even poor help is hard to come by in the rural south. There simply are not enough people to fill the job vacancies. And it is not as simple as pay more and they will come. I am sure the employers here would gladly pay if they could just get somebody willing and able to work. So being rescheduled for a good window wash and eaves cleanout is of small consequence. I am happy to still be on their list to get service.

Last week I picked out the appliances for the new house. Ordering early is a necessity with demand and shortages. I wanted a gas stove because that is what I am used to. And the one I picked out has five burners on top and a small one rack oven above and a bigger oven down below. Such a great idea for baking cookies one sheet at a time and baking/heating up simple dishes. A dishwasher that is as quiet as the one I have had for sixteen years and a microwave/hood combination for over the stove. The total for just those took my entire appliance allowance which is fine because I am taking my refrigerator and washer and dryer. It was fun to be in a store looking at what is new in the past sixteen years.

Later I will pick out fans and light fixtures. The builder thought I would like to get a chandelier for the dining room. I said no to that because fixtures like that tend to determine where a table goes. So canned lighting in the ceiling is fine. But some nice pendant lights over the island with a sink might be fun. For that island I requested outlets with USB ports for each end.

Building is as much fun now as it always was. Only difference is I don’t have Lee to share in the experience. He is still eating with a bit of help and only fighting the nurses at shower time. Medication has helped with the severity of his resistance. I asked if he still had his stuffed cats and they said not so much since he took his anger out on them but likely they were still in his room. For quite some time they were a comfort and maybe can be again. I am so thankful that he is in a place where they are equipped to care for him.

And as for me…I am the one left here remembering how things used to be and planning a different life for myself. Lee’s dementia and Covid have dwindled the social options. Only the best have hung in there with us. And as for the others who loved claiming how much they cared about us…they have drifted off with their concerns and intentions of keeping in touch to see if there was something helpful they could do. In all honesty here is what they could have done over the past five years since Lee’s diagnosis:

Brought him a pie, dropped off a casserole, a bottle of wine, offered to pick up something from a store I could no longer get to, come by to say hello to him, send a funny card to either of us, offer to stack his rocks, bring over some flowers/produce from their garden, tell us about something happening, ….in other words care enough to notice that we actually could have used more than hollow words.

But the good news is we managed with the support of family, long distance friends and those very few that live close by. We got through the hardest parts, and now have moved on. These last few paragraphs can serve as a reminder to others that strength comes from inside and help comes from very few.

The walks!

From one day to the next….the dam yesterday above and today.

I love how the mist is drawn upwards from the water.

And how the sun hits the sides of some things that would go unnoticed.

And my shadow at the turn around and head back place.

The color disappearing from the trees.

But back home the color on the ground.

All the water hyacinth and fallen leaves have been removed from the pond now. It has become a reflection pool for the rest of the year.

I did more drawing in the bird stories book.

And the chickadee now has a nest and some patchwork next to it. Tomorrow I might get to filling in the background with stitch.

Yesterday I had lunch with two friends at what used to be the Blue Ridge Mountain Coffee and Grille where we had breakfast every Sunday morning and I tore the paper napkin wrappers into all sorts of things to then turn into books and stories. It has changed, like most things. The food was better than I remember. Maybe next time I will take myself there for breakfast and see if they have a waffle or pancakes. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? A table in the corner with a plate of something ready for butter and syrup!

Patrick comes Monday to have Thanksgiving with me and pack up more of his dad’s tools from the shop and lumber that the two of them had plans for. He will make the mantle for my new house before he packs up and heads back home hauling a trailer behind. Then Christmas another load, and then wait until I sell this house just before my new one is finished.

I am looking forward to the newness of things ahead.

Tomorrow I will go back to the river for a walk and stop for a very good skim milk latte with lavender. Such a treat!

The nurse just called to say Lee’s doctor approved a more calming sedative for his shower days to prevent harm to his nurses and himself. Dementia is a cruel disease for all involved.

Til later….



The Helpers Have Gone Home

Over 75 pounds off to be properly disposed of at the community shed on Friday. It was very exciting as I had never seen a shredder like this before. And the bank sponsoring this free of charge service served an assortment of sodas and water with bagged popcorn. Super relief to get this much out of the office and hauled away. Thanks Amy.

Ben pulled everything from top shelves so I could decide if it stayed or went away with them. Surprises like you would not believe shoved to the back! Lots of it went back with them this morning and the rest is waiting to go to someone else or stay with me.

Ben cooked his delicious squirrel and a Mallard duck that was not to my taste…chewy and a bit wild for me. But he did have time to hunt in Tennessee and is taking more squirrel home.

Friday morning I had a bit of time to spend by myself watching the funeral service for Margaret Perkins. It was so nice of the family to film the farewell and stories of those who knew her well. Hearing my words spoken aloud and being thanked from afar was particularly moving. Margaret, such a grand old girl and missed so much already.

We thought of going to the Women’s March in Sylva, NC on Saturday but time constraints and even more packing of boxes needed finishing. Three trips to the dump and one to the shredder!

We continued with the walks.

Found these strange little fellows on the riverwalk.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Phallus rubicundus is a species of fungus in the stinkhorn family. First described in 1811, it has a wide distribution in tropical regions. It has the typical stinkhorn structure consisting of a spongy stalk up to 15 cm (5.9 in) tall arising from a gelatinous “egg” up to 3 cm (1.2 in) in diameter. Atop the stalk is a pitted, conical cap that has a foul-smelling, gelatinous, green spore mass spread over it.
We did get some time to go to the local winery.
And now with rain coming down I am going to go watch some of that new big television.
Til later….

Remembering Margaret Perkins

Sadness this morning to wake to the news of Margaret’s passing. Her enthusiasm and knowledge of the bush of Australia was always fixed in place with her needles, thread and materials. When she would enroll in my workshops down under, I looked forward to all that she had to share with us.

A very long time ago she gave me this set of coasters that she dyed with various Eucalyptus leaves and bark. One is permanently attached in my visually biographical book titled, My Decennia Book.

As Margaret unpacked her materials for class, it was the first place I headed. So many of the colors I love about Australia were in her satchel.

Her botanical drawings were excellent. In one of my earlier classes with Margaret she was stitching into a large paper map of the Flinders Ranges. She knew so much about the natural world of her country and every piece I saw of hers work reflected such a deep caring for the land.

This was our last workshop in 2019 at Hall’s Gap, Victoria.

She told me then that she would not be attending more workshops. Said the travel was getting too hard. As a goodbye gift she gave me a bottle of single malt scotch.

How very thoughtful and kind. But that was Margaret.

I shared it with a fellow scotch drinker in the company of a cockatoo. It was lovely.

For those who knew Margaret and enjoyed her company, I believe she will always be there in every crack and crevice of the Flinders Ranges. And a mark of her pen in every botanical drawing. Her presence can be felt as we pass our hands over thread and cloth put together to illustrate our love of her country.

Several years ago I wrote a story about how we can open “The Spirits Bar” when someone we care about is no longer with us. We can have another drink with them through fond memories and a few sips from the glass.

Tonight at five o’clock I am pouring a single malt, setting the glass on one of Margaret’s coasters as I go open the door for her.

Til later…..