Another July

workshop-button-1Choose a photo from a July in years past and tell the story.

fan

This was the scene I woke to in my bedroom exactly four years ago.  July 22, 2011

This ancient Emerson Electric fan was old as dirt when my husband and I bought it for ten dollars at an auction in 1985 the first summer we were married.  He thought he could rewire it and get it working again; I thought it was cute.  When we got it home, we were both surprised to discover that it ran like a top as soon as we plugged it in, and it cooled a room better than the brand new fan we had purchased just days before.  That new fan didn’t survive to make the move to our current home, but the little Emerson still gets used every day in the summer.  It’s a perfect reminder that we don’t actually need fancy or excess in our lives.  Reliability, simplicity, contentment—of these things I am a big fan.

Posted in Bigger Picture Moment, Mama Kat, Marriage | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Sweet Corn


The father-in-law of one of the secretaries at my school has farmed his whole life.  Though he reached the age when many people retire years ago, there are parts of farming that he can’t let go.  Every year he grows sweet corn on a scale that must be considered more crop than garden.  Everyone at our school benefits from his efforts.

I decided to preserve the corn I received after finding food.com’s instructions for freezing fresh corn.  Step 1:Shucking the Corn is the kind of chore that can be done while your mind is  a million miles away.  My mind was on the back porch on a hot summer day in the early 1970s.  Sitting on the concrete stoop I happily worked through a stack of corn that someone had given to our family helping to stretch the food budget required to fill the bottomless bellies of so many growing children.

corn on the cob

Corn on the cob was one of the best things about summer in my mind.  I could make a meal of buttery, sweet corn.  I loved pretending with my brothers that our corn eating was like fingers flying across the keys of a typewriter reaching the end of the page with a ding and returning to the other side for yet another line.

corn

I took pride in my ability to remove more of the corn silks than my older brothers could.  No one would get a silk caught like floss in their teeth as long as I was performing quality control.  I often reworked ears of corn my brothers had deemed ready for the pot of boiling water shaking my head at their feeble attempts.

Step 2:  Cook the ears in boiling, salted water for four minutes.  The steam rising above my huge soup pot as I drop in each ear causes my glasses to fog over.  I think of my mother in her hot kitchen.  Our house was cooled–on those summers that it was cooled at all–by a single window air unit positioned in the living room at the farthest point from the kitchen possible.  Standing near the steaming pot in my own comfortable kitchen I suddenly remember that there was at some point during my childhood a unit in the window by the kitchen pantry.  I don’t recall it ever being there, but a memory of my dad removing it floats through my brain.  I am peeking at him from inside as he works outside the window.  Normally, he would grin at me but in this memory he is discouraged.  Why had I never made the connection between this memory and the many memories of my mother’s flushed face as she stood working at the hot stove?

sweet corn

Step 3:  Lay the ears on a clean dishtowel to drain and cool.  Step 4: Once cooled to the touch, stick the end of an ear into the opening of the center tube of an angel food or bundt cake pan.  Using a paring knife cut the kernels from the cob letting them fall into the cake pan.  Going through the motions I can’t help but notice how much my hands have come to resemble my mother’s. Her hands are the things I remember most vividly about her perhaps because they were always moving, always delving into some project that would directly benefit me.

sweet corn

Step 5: Melt butter (1/3 cup was perfect for a dozen ears) , drizzle over the corn and toss.  Place corn in an airtight container and freeze.

corn on the cob

I tasted the corn before slipping it into my freezer and smiled at the same buttery goodness I remember from my childhood.  I started this project with the idea I was preserving corn, but came to understand I was really preserving memories.  Memories of childhood summers with simple pleasures in a family who surrounded me in love.

corn


Posted in Bigger Picture Moment, Black and White Wednesday, Daily living, Folk Journaling, My Parents, So THIS is the kitchen | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

TToT: Midsummer


julygirl…back in Kansas,  there is much to be thankful for.

Little kids and their great sense of style.  How can you go wrong with a red glitter visor and patriotic tutu skirt?  Not to mention the confidence to wear it in public!

Rain that brings the temperature out of the “hazardous” range and offers a life saving drink to the outdoor plants.

Watermelon.  Cold, juicy watermelon.

watermelon

Summer binge reading.  Pages4Progress encourages you to log the number of pages you read on their website this summer.  Those pages translate to monetary pledges to promote literacy and combat poverty.  Read. Read. Read!

An example of graciousness: Sunday at church an elderly gentleman mistook a decorative gem stone for a mint, placing it in his mouth and causing concern among the crowd.  I attempted to get him to spit it out for fear he would choke, but only succeeded in confusing and embarrassing him.  Soon after, a lady sitting near us reached for her purse.   Pulling out a tissue she lightly folded it into a square, leaned over to him and said, “When you are finished with what you have in your mouth go ahead and slip it into the tissue.”  Genius, unadulterated genius.  He swished the hard stone around his mouth a couple more times before discretely depositing it into the tissue.  Not only did she stave off a choking disaster, she allowed him to retain his dignity.  Her gracious act was a thing of beauty.

Sun tea by the gallon.  Cold and crisp.

Mammographic proof of healthy breasts.  And 364 days of smoosh-free existence.  I am never quite ready for my close-up.

Watching my friend at her father’s funeral this week, I was reminded of my mom’s funeral a few years ago.  My kids surrounded me with both physical and emotional support.  It is one of my earliest memories of them all three as adults, roles reversed with them caring for me.  The pride and affection of the memory is still as strong as it was in the moment; I am tremendously grateful for these three people who make life pretty much as good as it gets.

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Posted in Daily living, One Thousand Gifts | Tagged | 26 Comments

The Tegernsee Church


view from balcony

The church interior at Tegernsee was a study in contrasts.  The ceiling and religious icons were fine and gilded while the woodwork in the church was unvarnished, weathered and warped with age.

tegernsee church tegernsee church germany

balcony and organ

One of the things that I love about the old churches and cathedrals in Europe is the commingled smells of age and incense.  The odor hints at years of religious services and gives me a sense of calm.

german pew

Name plates hung on the backs of the rough hewn pews.  Donors or assigned seating?  I wasn’t sure which.german pew german church

Ends of pews were lined with candles making me wish I could see the place bathed in candle light at night.

church pews

Knobs were worked into the floral carvings on the ends of each pew.  I felt like they must have a purpose though I couldn’t image what.

The floor was covered in stone tile which showed the wear of many generations.

stone tile

german votives

The wood of the stairs and railing to the balcony was rough and bare.

to balcony tegernsee

tegernsee,germany

The town of Tegernsee looked like a storybook village through the windows in the balcony.

tegernsee angel

pew

The balcony pews were rougher than the ones in the sanctuary and the wooden floor was unpolished.  There was beauty in the quirkiness of the weathered wood.

balcony pew candle worn beam

The space to the balcony was apparently too tight for both stair railing and support beam.  A notch was carved from the beam to allow the railing to pass.  Years of hands sliding along the railing have sanded both surfaces completely smooth.

door hardware

The last thing that catches your eye on your way out the door is this intricate hardware.  What a time when even door latches were things of beauty.

 

(Special thanks to Rose, our proud German American neighbor, for encouraging us to take this side trip to the land of her ancestors.)

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Tegernsee Church Cemetery

tegernsee churchAs we wound our way around Lake Tegernsee we passed through each little town that dotted the shore.  The smattering of towns were so close together that you could actually see what was happening downtown in one from the next town over.  The final village was Tegernsee itself, the town our neighbor had told us about.  On  a hill at the far edge of town stood the church.
german cemetery

Each church we saw in Germany no matter how small was surrounded by its own cemetery.  When we were in France we had been moved by the beauty of Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris filled with graves which show obvious wealth and age.  In truth much of the beauty there is found in the decay of the decrepit burial plots.german cemetery

The church cemeteries in Germany are just as ancient, but show none of the decline of the graves in Paris.  Individual graves are treated as small manicured gardens no matter how long the deceased had been gone.

grave

Groundskeeping supplies were available at nearly all the cemeteries we saw.  I don’t know if family members keep up the graves of their own, if the churches have someone on staff to do the work, or if church members volunteer their efforts.  How ever the graves are cared for, they receive careful and consistent care everywhere we went throughout Germany.

german cemeteryIt made me think about cemeteries in America where everyone is now limited to flat, specific-sized stones so that the lawn mowers can drive right over top and not waste any time taking special care with any individual graves.  I thought about how plain and ordinary the graves of my own parents look in comparison to these stones covered in ivy and succulents and symbols of faith.  I understand the need for efficient care taking.  I get the argument that those who are gone, no longer care if their stone is flat or unique.  But I couldn’t help but think what a comfort it would be to come into one of these church cemeteries and find my ancestors tended with such obvious love and honor.
german cemetery

I think it says something special about a society that makes this great a commitment to those who no can longer offer anything in return.

grave

CG

Posted in Just thinking, My Parents | Tagged , , | 5 Comments