Sunday, November 25, 2012

Now and Then

Last Wednesday Caleb and Scott and I re-enacted an old photo..

Dial back 18 years to Thanksgiving 1994.  We were visiting our dear friends Bill and Rebecca in Durham, NC for the first time.  They moved there from Pittsburgh for Bill to attend Duke University just days before Caleb's birth, and we couldn't wait to see them in their new home.  One of our activities that weekend was to explore the beautiful gardens on the Duke campus.  They snapped this picture of the three of us, and we used it as our Christmas card photo that year.
Well, my sister and her family moved to their new home in Durham, NC this past year. We were excited to go to their house for Thanksgiving this year to see them in their new environment.  One of our weekend activities was to stroll through Duke Gardens (and have a lively photo scavenger hunt there, too).  We found what may have been the same tree where we posed for a photo with Baby Caleb 18 years ago... had to try it again. 
Obviously Caleb has grown... but I think Scott and I look about the same, don't you?  Please, say yes. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day Flags

 We happened upon this beautiful and moving display of American flags over the weekend.  After an emotional election week, this sight was encouraging, knowing that it was placed there to honor the countless numbers of people who have served our country.

Thank you, veterans.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Before and After Fun in the Kitchen

We've done a few things to our house since we've moved back into it after a five year hiatus.  One of my favorite changes has been in the kitchen.  I have a couple of before and after photos of the same spot... here is the before, with a built in desk and cupboard above.  I used the cupboard for all of our homeschooling materials during the years before we left for China, and it was really handy to have it all stashed there, in the kitchen where we worked but out of sight when we finished.  The desk itself was another story.  It seemed to be the place where things got stacked up, even with my good intentions to keep the surface cleared, the piles kept appearing.  Anyone else have that problem?  :-)
Here is the after.  Love, love this change.  No more desk to clutter with piles of mail.  Those things have moved to my desk in the office, but at least that is out of the way.  Ha!  The open shelves are functional and fun, too.  I keep things we use and love here!  It's been fun to change things around frequently, and I love the look.  The cupboards that used to be up above have been moved to the bottom, where they are still usable.  The desk surface was cut down to form the bottom shelf.  
 Another view before...
... and after.  Obviously we changed the color of the walls, floor and cabinets too.  It feels fresh and updated.  Love my kitchen!  I'm thinking about hanging something above the cupboards on the bulkhead, but I'm not quite ready to do it yet.  

 More pictures of the kitchen update to come.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I spent a wonderful hour at the garden center near my house that I love so much this afternoon.  I have told the girls that if Scott ever needs a gift idea for me, just send him to The Growing Place and tell him to pick out anything there for me... plants of any sort, garden accessories, seeds, bulbs, components for creating a fairy house, statuary, trellises... really any of it.  I love all things gardening, especially the way they are displayed at this place, with its lovely idea gardens, all artfully planted and tended.

Today was so pretty, sunny and blue skies, fall colors blazing.  The girls came with me, and I reminded them on the short drive to The Growing Place to soak up the vibrant colors of the leaves and sky so they can be warmed by their memory during the bleak days of winter (this idea is from the mouse, Fredrick, in the storybook by the same name).  We all agreed to do just that.  :-)

I went right to the perennial tables at The Growing Place.  There aren't many left at this time of year, only a small fraction of what is usually offered.  But I came today knowing that because of how late in the planting season it is, the perennials are being offered for 50-75% off their regular price, and since I have added a new perennial bed this fall, I have space to fill.  I knew the plants wouldn't look great by now, but I was a little surprised at how bedraggled they appeared.  Many had drying and withering leaves underneath and they all seemed like they had definitely seen better days.  I poked through them, reading labels and turning pots around and around, looking for the ones that appeared to be worth buying.

I had picked out a couple of plants when a sweet older woman, her white hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck and topped with a ball cap, approached me.  I know this woman to be a long time employee of The Growing Place, and quite wise in the ways of plants.  She looked at some of my plants and answered some questions I had about particular varieties.  Then she said something that has seemed more and more profound to me as I've thought about it the rest of today.

"Remember, you are buying the roots."

In the climate where I live, perennials die away every year.  At least the part we can see does.  But when the weather slowly warms again in the spring and the sun shines longer each day, they slowly re-emerge, sending up new plants that grow and blossom.

I bought a lot of plants today.  How could I not, at 50-70% off?  Most of them don't look too good.  But as I took them out of the small black plastic pots that have held them captive all season and planted them into good soil late this afternoon, I thought about their great roots.  I thought about planting things that look half dead.  I loved having my hands in the dirt.  I loved the digging of holes and filling them with good roots.  It was kind of like planting bulbs, tulips and daffodils, knowing that there will be a long, cold wait until the beauty appears.

Gardening is like that.  Dirty.  Waiting.  And then beautiful.  I like it.  What a great idea God had.

P.S.  A few have asked me what I planted... most are unfamiliar to me as of now, so I really look forward to seeing what they do next year!  Here are the names:  Crambe cordifolia (also called Colewort- this looks SO interesting, it supposedly grows 4-6 feet high and has huge leaves and clouds of tiny white flowers), Phlomis fruticosa (also called Jerusalem Sage), Campanula, several red Coreopsis, Sweet William, Veronica "Blue Bomb" (also called Speedwell), Silene caroliniana (also called Wild Pinks), some perennial snapdragons (really different looking foliage than annual snapdragons), Lychnis chalcedonic (also called Maltese Cross or Jerusalem Cross, has bright scarlet flowers), and last but not least, Armeria juniperfolia (also called Alpine Thrift).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall and Family

Yep, I'm taking the easy way out and making one post out of the last few months.  Some eye candy pics of autumn in the Midwest, lots of pictures of cute kids (cousin visits are the best!), with a few dog pictures thrown in for fun.  Enjoy!

Last garden harvest... love the colors.
Miss Adelaide, playing on the same elephant slide at our church nursery this morning that Gwen used to love.  :-)
We spied these pumpkin stacks at a fall festival... so clever.  I'd like them all for my yard!
 Out for brunch with Pa and Nannie, Aunt Sarah and Adelaide.

 Smiles with sucker sticks... where is yours, Aunt Sarah?
 Look who's in charge.  :-)

 We had so much fun with all these girls in the house!  Cousin visits, so fun!
 Yep, this was at the very beginning of fall- marshmallows on Grandpa and Grandma's patio.

 Meeting new cousin Zion for the first time.
Gwen and Caleb roasted marshmallows over the stove a few weeks ago- not quite the same as a campfire, but it's still sugar.
 Trigger loves a good ramble almost as much as I do!

 Trig gets so much attention when there are girls around!  Thanks for the cuddle, Maggi.
Classic Madelyn look, she's always got to shake up the group picture scene!  Cal's friend Parker has been here with him for the weekend a couple times, love having my kids' friends around.

 Another Zion meeting...
 Ahhh... missed the maples so much while we were in Shanghai.  So beautiful!

 Cute girlies!
 Loving the leaves... and I love having my kids enjoying them with me!
A little fall overview... can I consider myself caught up on blogging, sis?  :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Month Without Blogging and a Half Bath

My sister texted me this morning and asked if I had any blog posts in me.  "You really need another post."  True, I know it is true.  I have left this blog languishing for nearly a month.  Not sure why... we've had wonderful visits with extended family, the autumn colors that we missed so much in Shanghai have been glorious, a new nephew has been born, Caleb has brought friends home for the weekend, and slowly but surely we are finishing up the renovations in our house.  So it's not as if there haven't been events to note and photograph and post about.  Maybe I've just been lazy... but maybe so many things have changed for us that now that I am figuring out what my life looks like in this new phase, it hasn't seemed like there has been a place in it for blogging.  Not sure.  But for now, I give you this little remodel~

In this post I have a "before" and several "afters" from the little powder room update we've just completed.  The sink came from the Hong Qiao flower market... Shanghai friends, you probably know even know the booth where I bought it.  I'd hoped we could incorporate it into this little half bath, and I'm so pleased with the results!  The wall paint color is more blue than it looks in these pictures.  The vanity is the same old oak one as in the "before" photo, but painted soft black, and the counter is a granite remnant.  I found the mirror at a thrift store for cheap and spray painted it as well.  You'll notice a few other Shanghai treasures... fun memories made with friends when these things were purchased during our last year there.  The two framed photos on the shelves were taken by a friend within the month after Gwen came home, in early 2005.

So that's the powder room renovation.  We've worked our way through the house renovating... and we're slowly remaking our lives here in Chicago too.  :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mostly Complimentary

As she watched me peel an orange this evening, Gwen commented that she though I was talented. I asked her what she thought my talents are, ready for anything.  Want to guess what she said?

Changing diapers was her first and quick response... odd, since we have had no one in our house wearing diapers since she was a toddler, aside from the occasional Baobei baby, and I may have changed only half a dozen in her sight in the last year.  I do have experience in this area, but I'm not thinking I would claim it if I were listing my talents. Next on the list was peeling oranges with a knife, point well taken as that is something she cannot do yet herself.  Third- washing dishes.  Glad she approves of my skills in this area.  My fourth talent she noted as singing.  That made me smile.  I have sung many little ditties around the house in these child rearing years, a habit my mother passed firmly down to me.  Any little thing can be a song, right?  This week Gwen and I have been singing the names of the 13 original American colonies, to the tune of "Yankee Doodle".  Guess that counts as talented singing.

My last talent on Gwen's short list was "pretty-ness."  I'll take that one.  :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A New Normal

We stopped at Valpo for a quick visit with Caleb on our trip to Cleveland for Labor Day.  I love this photo of our kids together in his dorm room, the girls both looking at Caleb, Trigger in his lap, listening intently to him while Seth bumps a basketball, volleyball style.  A little slice of our new normal.

At first I missed Caleb so much.  Every little thing reminded me of him.  The juice bottle in the refrigerator never seemed to get empty without him home to drink it and the cereal wasn't being eaten at 10:30 at night anymore.  We felt his absence in so many ways.   Our house, with five of us in it, seemed like it had so many fewer people in it than when we were Six.  I decided that three kids was far less than four had been.

But now we are in a rhythm without him.  I hate to even write that, but it seems to be true.  Perhaps it helps that these schools this year and the routines we are in are all new to us, we haven't had Caleb with us in this season before and so we can carry on as if missing this person were no big deal.

I have more thoughts about sending this boy off on his own... but they will come later.  :-)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shanghai Friends

We are so thankful for the Shanghai friends who came to see us this summer.  It made our transition back to the US so much easier, knowing that these dear people can be a part of our life here too.

We love you all!