Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'm not sure I agree...

On Sunday, Joe and I tried to find a footpath connecting our neighborhood to one just off of Charles St., one of the main roads through town. It looked on the map as if the neighborhoods should connect somehow, and a path would make a handy shortcut to the library.

The other neighborhood was pretty, with some older houses set along a treeful hill. But I guess we won't be walking there much, because where there used to be a shortcut, there are now two fences, a pile of brush, and a sign that says "Sidewalks are the best way."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We've all been writing lately

I wonder at it every time, how words that seems so set in my head are forced to become something else altogether on paper.

Days Like This

The winter sun shines off both the clouds and the road, and all the drivers have to squint against it. At stoplights you can turn to see their faces, lit golden under puckered brows.

The road seems thin, the world stretched tight, as if it could snap against the flood of hopes underneath it. The Love that sustains us feels sharp and clear, a breath in the cold.

(I edited this once since posting it, taking out a couple words and adding in another.)

Monday, December 29, 2008


Rejected by the Red Cross! It stings! 

(Maybe I will get to try again soon. In the meantime, does anyone want to give blood in my place?)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christ passing by

After dark on Christmas Eve, Joe and I were driving from church to my parents' house to celebrate when an older woman crossed in front of us at a stoplight. I was the only one who saw her as she passed, walking like she had a ways to go and pushing a metal cart, like homeless people sometimes do.

I didn't know if she had a home or anyone to celebrate with, but she was Christ passing by, in a way, and I suddenly wondered if there was anything I could do for her. Ask her to dinner? (But would she want to hop into my car for a 15-minute ride with a pair of strangers?) Give her a present? (But what could I offer?) It didn't seem right to just stick my head out the window to wish her a merry Christmas after she had already started to go, if I didn't know how merry her Christmas would really  be... 

So the light changed, and I drove away.

She has been on my mind. I hope her Christmas was happy. I wish I had parked and jumped out. I remember now that I had a loaf of banana bread in the backseat... 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Love came down...

Blessed Christmas, everyone.


The priest came by for a few minutes yesterday to bless the house yesterday. The was holy water EVERYWHERE.

(I say that with a grin, but Joe was a little shocked!)

Plus, we had a nice conversation about straw.

Monday, December 22, 2008


It was 19 degrees when we left the house today, and the puddles from all the rain had frozen over.

I've hardly taken my coat off all day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Early-morning surprise

I had nodded off in the pew before church at the monastery this morning when one of the women there came up to Joe and me, wished us a Merry Christmas (startling me awake) and then gave us a beautifully wrapped present! 

It took me a few seconds to recover from the shock. Joe, a little more collected, thanked her.

We both puzzled over what it might be and then opened it as soon as we left. A Christmas ornament! 

Some lettering on Minnie's skirt reads "1st Christmas together." The lettering on the package reads "2006," hehe.

I'm touched.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A pretty season

Stars above the dining table

Stockings on the bannister

Angels near the front door

Friday, December 12, 2008


For almost two weeks now, Joseph and Mary have been alone in the nativity scene with the animals. The Christ-child will appear on Christmas, and so will the angel to proclaim His birth. There will be shepherds -- okay, well, our nativity set did not come with any shepherds -- and wise men from the East to offer reverence.

Things are quieter and simpler in the meantime. There is no manger with a baby lying in it, but Joseph and Mary have each other. I like to peek into the nativity scene now, because Joseph and Mary look like they are waiting, but also content. They look like they are in love.

This time of year, I sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" a lot. I always seem to mess things up in December, and it is a good song for crying out. It is a good time to remember that redemption is near indeed.

O, come! O, come, Emmanuel
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appears.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hello, Mr. Chicken

Today I cooked a whole chicken. I have cooked a lot of meat in the last few months, but nothing that so much resembled the animal it once was, and nothing so big all at once.

It was easier than I imagined. Washed it, added salt and butter, and stuck it in the stove... The hardest part was waiting for the juices to run clear. I pulled it out and pricked the thigh a few times, but had to stick it back in because the meat was still a bit bloody.

Joe just chopped it into fourths and ate a quarter for dinner -- all but the bones. I'd been reading about all the complicated ways to carve it and things to do with the leftovers, but it looks like I won't have anything but the neck and giblets for stock.

I consider this a warm-up for the 12-pound turkey I bought during a sale before Thanksgiving. It awaits me in the freezer, and I am not so frightened of it now.

Also, I unpacked the last boxes that were hanging around the kitchen! The kitchen seems so much bigger now!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Advent wreath situation

When I was home yesterday to see my grandmother, I went toward the woods to look for greenery so I could fix up our advent wreath. We are not getting a Christmas tree this year, so it's our big Christmas decoration.

Yes, that is a ball of tinfoil. It worked fine, but was not so pretty.

Back at the parents' house in Cloverly, I set out toward the woods with clippers. But I didn't even make it to the pine trees there, because my neighbor's compost pile had some big  pine branches lying right on top! I clipped and clipped.


There was plenty for the Advent wreath.

Much better

Then I made a pine garland.


Today Joe and I put it up and added some greenery to the door.


And here are some silly shots Joe took. 

Added later: Maybe next year I will try adding cranberries! But how would one pose with cranberries?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shopping list

One of my wonderful sisters-in-law came over today! She and I had lunch, and her toddler son mashed the cheese and lunchmeats. Then she helped me clean the "room of doom," also known as the art room because it has Joe's easel in it. Now we have cleared away some boxes and he can actually get near the easel, woo!

In the last week or two, the house has started to look better instead of worse, and it is a huge relief.

After the visitors left, I felt really sleepy, so sat and sifted through some papers to figure out whether they were trash. This list is from March 4, 2005:


Could also use: lettuce.

(WSJ means Wall Street Journal, for those of you who did not consider it a staple item.)

Oh yes, Joe had a business meeting in York on Tuesday, so I went along and got to see some of my York friends. On the way back, we stopped by College Park for Mass and dinner with one of Joe's college friends, which seems only fair after I had so much fun earlier in the day. (I had fun at dinner, too, but it was even nicer for Joe.) Then Joe's woodcarving club had a Christmas party yesterday. We went and ate elk. Phew! It has been fun, but tiring.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A million birds fly...

I am not sure how many birds just flew past, but there must have been thousands of them, a line stretching all the way across town. They were little birds, but the whole neighborhood was full of the sound of them calling to each other. Only the stragglers were quiet as they tried to catch up, groups of a few dozen winging toward the others.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Busy days

Washing the dishes today reminded me of archaeology. "Ah, I used this glass for dinner Wednesday!" It has been a busy few days.

Joe and I had various adventures, but I did not bring my camera. If I had, I might be able to show you pictures like these:

  • Our baby nephew Timmy reaching for my mom to hold him after dinner on Thanksgiving, when parts of our families were in one place together. I made way too many pumpkin rolls, but they were very good.

  • Bright lights along the busy sidewalks in Chinatown, where we went walking Friday night with friends. It was a nice night, but finding parking was MADNESS.

  • The long staircases of Lynchburg, Virginia, where buildings run up and down steep, steep hills.

In Lynchburg, we stopped into a warehouse with some used furniture outside. "What are you looking for?" the man asked. "Dining chairs," I said, and he showed me some in the back. 

A minute later, he poked his head back there. "There's a phone call for you," he said.

I took the phone. It was the owner, Fred. "There's more chairs on the fourth floor," he said. "Wing backs, Quee Anne style, all kinds." The other guys in the store would take us up there, he said.

The building was an old one, and many of the lights had burned out in the stairway. Joe went first, then me, then one of the guys behind us. Eventually we got up to floor four, where there were dozens of chairs -- some broken -- in piles, and water on the floor.

We did not find the dining chairs we wanted, so we went back down. Fred was there, in person this time, showing some other people around the furniture piled high.

It was the strangest place!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Measure twice, cut once

Joe playing with blocks

He is actually starting to make a compost bin.

Okay, now he is really playing!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kite flying

Sunday afternoon, Joe and I went down to Smallwood State Park. We took in the art at the Mattawoman Creek Art Center and the beautiful scenery all around.

Then we pulled out the kite!

Shortly after that last picture, the kite flew into a tree, where it stayed. If it comes free and you find it, please let us know.

Looks like this

We went home and wrote a letter, which wasn't the worst way to end the day.

Eyes wide

Snowflakes! Little white ones, going past the window!

Hip, hip, hooray!

Happy 90th, Latvia!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New folks

After Mass was over, someone announced that it was Friendship Sunday and there would be snacks and a chance to meet people downstairs. So we went and got donuts and juice and agreed on a mission: to meet someone.

I tried complimenting a girl on her hairstyle, but she looked distracted. Everyone was in little bunches. We went and sat next to some people at the edge of the room, and though they were talking, we eventually broke in to trade names. It turns out that one of the women lives right in our neighborhood, so we gave her a ride home, talking about crime and the weather and the way the town is repainting the water tower.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Surprise in the pipes

As Joe was plunging the toilet to discover the cause of our plumbing problems, he came up with this:

Ai ai ai! It was not the source of our problems, however, which Joe and his auger unplugged some 22 feet further down the pipe. It seems tree roots might have broken in... but we can't figure out what trees they might be!

A broad table

I know some of you might have seen it already, but this article warms my heart!

I'm annoyed by the lack of stats, true. When it comes to adoption-related issues, I often crave more information than is out there. But it's really interesting anyway, at least to me. The subject is adoption of children with Down Syndrome, and I've been really interested in it since I read Choosing Naia (which was fascinating!) some time ago.

Friday, November 14, 2008


On chilly mornings, the horses along the road on the drive to the monastery all wear coats! 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

End of autumn

I drove to my parent's home in Cloverly today, where I spent a long time with my grandmother. I did get to play the kokle, and she sang along to the folksongs in her high grandmother voice, as she does. "Kur tu teci, kur tu teci gailītis mans?"

I'm getting to know the road there and back pretty well. Over the last weeks, it's been nice to see the trees rusting over, but now the leaves are mostly brown and starting to fall. It only seems appropriate, then, that the fog came on them today. They were mysterious all over again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


My copy of The Hidden Art of Homemaking was a wedding present from my beautiful friend Rose.

In the note accompanying the book, she urged us to at least “nibble” on the chapter about food, and as soon as the book came in the mail I did. I read it again to Joe that evening, sharing the author’s thoughts on what a lovingly prepared meal can do to bring together a family, to cheer a roommate, to move the world of a stranger. Joe asked if my specially arranged vegetables that evening were inspired by the book, and the answer was yes. Tsk, it’s so hard to keep any secrets now!

I had stopped halfway through the chapter on flower arranging, an art close to my heart, so I finished reading it today. Then I fixed dinner and flipped to the chapter on music, which starts like this:

"You are not a great musician, but you do play an instrument - or you did. It is dusty at present, because you could not go to a Conservatoire, you could not continue lessons, you have not found an organized group oto play with, you are busy as a businessman, a gardener, a lawyer, a teacher, a housewife or a graduate student. All the music you make is in your daydreams..."

Ohhhh! I put the book down and went running through the house to find my kokle. When I found it, I played three songs I knew and one I didn’t.


The kokle is what Joe heard as he came in the door today.

(I am not very good at the kokle, but it is the kind of instrument that sounds beautiful anyway.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Off I go to vote! Wheeee! Democracy!

Friday, October 31, 2008


I did not know I was marrying someone who would want to decorate for Halloween! Here is our front door, all covered in newspapers.

Here is a close up. The poem is by Sir Walter Scott.

We (mostly Joe) also carved this pumpkin. It looks neat when it glows from the inside.

We dressed up and amused ourselves while waiting for trick-or-treaters. Here Joe is pulling an invisible rope.

We had candy, too.

(I am wearing a little of Joe's scary make-up.)

We danced for a while.

(Not really dancing.)

But only four trick-or-treaters came by.

So we ate lots of candy and talked about what what colors we should paint the walls.

(The end.)

Finally got around to it!

At long last! I made my own laundry detergent. Look!

Here is the recipe I used. The ingredients are washing soda, borax, water and a bar of soap. It is yellow because I used yellow-orange "gold soap" from CVS. I might use a different color next time... part of the process involves shaving the soap into a pot of warm water on the stove to melt it, and it looked just like egg drop soup.

Making it was more complicated than it should be because I ran out of room in my bucket. (See the milk jug full of stuff off to the side? There's some more in an old detergent container, too.) As a result, it took me about an hour. I will get a larger bucket or just make a 2/3rd batch next time, which should speed things up considerably.

Also, it is much thicker than I expected -- more a gel than a liquid. Fun and slimy, but I don't think it will pour very easily from my milk jug! Maybe when I get a larger bucket, I will get one with a lid for easy storage.

I am still astounded at the number of people who think taking on such a project makes me certifiably crazy. It's fun! It saves money! And anyone who doesn't want to do it can just go buy some detergent at the store! :~)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Look, Orion

When we leave the house now to go to the monastery for Mass, we can see the stars as we get in the car, and when we get out again, the chapel is chilly.

Some days I wonder if it is worth going, especially on days when I sleep through much of Mass. But I never wonder on the mornings when we have the harp to accompany us. We can't see it, since it is back with the nuns, but it is sweet to hear and makes everything seem so lovely.

The blessings I get vary from day to day and from priest to priest. Today it was: "May the dear Lord bless you -- always." On the way back to our pew, we can see a cross shape in the stained glass over the door.

Christ's way seems so bright some days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shopping day

I misplaced some eggs today. Got home, unpacked the groceries, and only later realized that the dozen eggs I'd paid for at the farmer's market weren't among my bags. 

Back to the market I went. A couple hours had passed, but I got a "Back again?" from the man who sells the colorful mums. Went to the stand where I'd bought the eggs... had they seen the eggs I'd lost between there and home? The farmer there said, no, they hadn't... what size had I lost? I said the larger one, and he looked in his cooler and pulled out another. I moved to pay -- but he said, no, I didn't have to. I thought that was strange!

"Well, now if I didn't leave them here, I should pay for these," I said.

"The chickens will replace them!" came the answer. 

Well! I thought of protesting some more, but instead I left with the eggs, feeling a bit sheepish.

It turns out I didn't need to take the eggs after all. When I asked the farmer at the next stand if he'd seen any eggs, he turned around and pulled them off his truck. I returned the gift-eggs. "Ah, you found them!" Yes. Apparently I need to be more careful as I shuffle my purchases from my hands into my tote bags.

The whole thing reminds me of one of my first days in York, when the man at the corner store gave me a mango on credit, and the first time someone in the farmer's market there offered to let me take my fruit and pay another day. Each time, I was a bit shocked: someone trusts me? Someone cares about me? The people at the market here don't even know my name.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Latvian sighting

I spent miles driving behind a little green car with an LV bumper sticker. The driver even had little pastalas (the leather shoes ancient Latvians wore) hanging from her rearview mirror. Ah! I am hungry for Latvians, but she was talking on intently on her cell phone, so I did not try to get her attention before she turned west at one of the stoplights in Waldorf. Alas.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It thinks it's clever

Woke up to the alarm, got ready to teach Latvian school, had Joe join me for breakfast. It seemed very light outside, so I figured it would be a nice, sunny day. 

It was only after breakfast that Joe noticed and asked why all the other clocks were showing the time an hour later than our alarm clock. Ah! The alarm automatically resets for Daylight Saving Time, but because of the changes this year, my clock fell back a week ahead of schedule. I had an hour's drive ahead of me, and no way to make it in time to teach my first class.

It was the cap of a frustrating few days -- the kind in which I rushed around looking for things I'd lost, only to run into the doorframe. On my late drive to Latvian school, I listened to this song

"There's only One who never fails to beckon the morning light.
There's only One who sets loose the gales and ties the trees down tight.
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and sway.
There's only One, only One
Holy One."

Things actually turned out fine. Some teachers and I rearranged our schedule, so I got to teach all three of my usual classes. And it was indeed a sunny day. When I got back, Joe and I walked to town for a festival, and we saw a play in the afternoon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Oh! Now it has warmed up and is all fresh and breezy. The windows are open and I don't care if the papers are blowing around inside.

I had to mow the lawn today, and it was so nice I kept coming up with more little chores in our tiny yard, just to keep me outside.

The view out the office window

Didn't feel like writing at the time!

When Joe and I were unpacking my things, I declared that we were to save the small jar of applesauce and the animal crackers (even if Joe protested that he likes applesauce very much). I'd read somewhere that it's a good idea to have on hand the kinds of things you want when you are sick, because when you are sick, you cannot always get to the store.

A few weeks later (that is, about a month ago), Joe and I got terribly sick. We are pretty sure it was the stomach bug that was going through the area, and we spent a night seeing each other at something close to our worst. And the next afternoon, when we felt a little better, all we wanted to eat was animal crackers, applesauce and a bit of ramen we had in a cupboard. When Joe went back to work, he even took some little applesauce cups, given to us by a friend after we all had a picnic together.

Now I am building up our stash again, and this time Joe is giving me new ideas: ginger ale, ramen, vegetable and chicken soups, saltines along with the animal crackers, and applesauce cups as well as a jar to save.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Change of season

Last night -- I could see my breath all white! And today -- frost on the grass!

Even when I'll tire of the cold, these things will keep their thrill. 

We have turned the heat on and pulled out the mittens. And I feel unexpectedly clever for having bought all these tomatoes:

(a big box of canning tomatoes: $10 at the farmer's market)

This isn't even all of them!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Morning mist

Fog came down while we were in Mass, so the drive back to town was misty white with the shadows of horses running along the road.

Migla, migla, liela rasa,
Man pazuda kumeliņš. 
Nu, Dieviņi, tavā vaļā, 
Nu, tavāi rociņā...

(I hope those familiar with the song will forgive me for rearranging the words.)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coolest letter ever

Joe and I got a notice saying we had something waiting for us at the post office. Suspense!

When I went to pick it up, I was asked to present ID for "Curraños Both." The man behind the counter found my driver's license acceptable.

Inside was a letter from a friend, written on birch bark!

And the letter itself is shaped like a tree!

I hope the tree doesn't miss its bark too much.

And the letter itself? That was the best part.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A change of weather

We run the air conditioner so we can sleep in the evening, but by morning it's chill out, and we wear jackets to Mass. Joe and I sit in the third pew from the back, where I get to observe Sandy's beautiful shawls. She usually wears T-shirts but says she likes this weather. Yesterday she had a warm red knit with textured white flowers. Today she wore one with a peacock on each side, and their tailfeathers covered her arms so it looked like she had wings. When she knelt, I could see roses across her shoulders. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Morning routine

Joe yawning

The 10-minute drive to the monastery takes us across Route 301 to some more rural roads on the other side of La Plata. As we drive by, buses are just picking kids up from their stops, so we see people out and waiting - one girl applying hairspray outside her house, another arguing with a mother in a bathrobe. 

Further along, there are cornfields and horses before the road slips into a tunnel of poplar trees. A small lot by the road is up for sale, and Joe and I like to dream of buying one like it someday.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


La Plata has a farmers market -- open every Wednesday and Saturday!

It is a few stands in a parking lot, nothing big and fancy like in York. But it will do.

Early days

Joe goes to 7:15 Mass at a nearby Carmelite monastery every morning before work. I've taken to keeping his schedule -- early asleep and early arise -- and I've come a few times now. The nuns are behind a grille to one side, mostly out of sight, and you wouldn't know they were there at first if you didn't hear them singing.

I don't know the name of this nun and her guitar, but at least one of the nuns behind the grille plays guitar, too. There is also the sound of a keyboards as they things their songs, modern and sometimes familiar ones, the 1970s compositions found in the Catholic hymnals. 

The nuns do the Scripture readings as well. Tuesday's reader almost chanted as she intoned Paul's warning against Christians who seek lawsuits instead of reconciliation. Her voice was clear and soft and lovely, allowing admonitions and warnings to flow into praise as we laypeople in the pews sat and listened.

Thirty or so people come for the Mass, that they are like a family, gathering in bunches afterwards to joke about altar-server Dan and his love for Hawaiian shirts or to ask Joe about our honeymoon.