Monday, May 26, 2014

Things Don't Always Work Out

Lots of friends and relatives across the nation were watching Georgia softball hoping the Dawgs would go to Oklahoma City, but our week ended with two disappointing games at Super Regionals. Katherine had her television all set ahead of time for both games, so no matter what she could see her niece play.  Leslie and Mike were at their favorite restaurant in Nashville, TN, for lunch yesterday just so they could see the game there.  Cousins Barbara and Bob were watching in Oregon. Mary Ellen stopped work and arrived with snack bags for each of us to watch Friday’s game.  I was disappointed that we lost that first game, of course, but I did not have a doubt that yesterday we would win two..  But we didn’t.  Baylor will be going to Oklahoma instead of us.   It was exciting this evening to see Kentucky win over top-rated UCLA and win their first trip to the World Series.  At this level of play, anything can happen, and you have to grin and bear it knowing you had a good season despite its ending.  Things don’t always work out.

Gerald and I were half way to church this morning when a text message arrived from Katherine that her aide was not coming in this morning to give pills.  We debated what to do and quickly turned around and were a good way back when a second text explained she was hoping we would come and give her the morning pills at noon after church.  She uses a voice-operated system to make phone calls and send texts since she cannot use her hands, and the system leaves a lot to be desired.  She has incredible patience with the digital voice who writes absolutely crazy things instead of what she clearly says.  She will cancel and try over and over to get it right. I so admire her patience.  But sometimes she just has to send the message, even though crazy, and hope the recipient can figure out her meaning.

We were able to adjust her, give her morning pills, fix her breakfast and feed her, feed and water the dog, and some other tasks as well as watch a sermon and part of a softball game with her in her bedroom.  We left her watching a movie in good shape we hoped for the next aide who was to arrive at 2.  When we left, Gerald was wondering where for us to go for a late lunch, and I suggested a taco place for a light lunch since I had a chicken already spiced up and in the fridge to roast with a new recipe for our evening meal.  The chicken  had to be in the fridge for 24 hours, so I had not planned to fix it for our lunch.  After almost being hit by a car running a stop light in our lane out on the highway, we gratefully turned off safely and parked and went into the taco place. We were met by three friendly and apologetic teenagers who explained someone had used a debit card without the correct amount of money or something—and everything was shut down until somehow that problem was solved.   We were eager to get home and rest, so we went elsewhere for a burger rather than wait out this weird happening.

A little after five, I went upstairs to the kitchen and put the oven on the 500 degree mark called for by this new roast chicken recipe.  (I cook such skimpy meals for Gerald and me most of the time and rarely try out anything interesting, so trying this recipe was my effort to make amends.) I unwrapped the spiced chicken and stuffed in the five cloves of garlic I already had laid out and waiting. But my first problem was that the directions said to cook the chicken on a rack, and the rack was a bit too large for my 9 by 13 metal pans.  I always use a smaller oven in our kitchen, and my large metal roasting pans with handles do not fit it. So  I quickly put away the non-fitting pans and dug down for a favorite but seldom used very large lovely green glass baking dish.  The rack fit perfectly, and pan with its chicken fit perfectly in the now ready 500 degree oven.  The  chicken must be cooked 15 minutes, and then the temperature turned down to 475 for 15 minutes and then to 450 for the last half hour.  I added a couple potatoes to roast, and set the timer for the first turn-down time. Then I fixed some apples to bake with sweetener, raisins, and walnuts to put in the oven for the last half hour and went over to relax and watch Book Notes on the kitchen TV.

My relaxation was short lived because of one of the loudest noises I have ever heard in my kitchen.  And when I opened the oven fearfully and carefully, that favorite glass baking dish was in 10,000 pieces.  I did not count the pieces, but I am sure I am not exaggerating. The oven bottom was full of the broken glass, which also tumbled out on the oven door when I opened it, and now the door would not close because of glass there. That was one hot oven to cope with. I don’t think I have ever heated an oven that hot before (unless it heated itself that hot when self cleaning).  Oddly, the chicken was sitting prettily on the rack and seemed to be unscathed.  What to do?  I tried not to panic, but the glass pieces were unbearably hot to touch with  my hands . 

I grabbed out a collection of hot pads and took away some big glass pieces that had gone to the side of the rack and not fallen through, and I threw them into the kitchen wastebasket.  Then I got a dust broom set with a large stand-alone collector and used the little broom to sweep the glass from the door onto the floor.  I still could not shut the oven door. I kept trying and finally I had removed all the glass from the door, but there was no way I could even imagine clearing out all the broken glass on the bottom of the hot oven. It would have to stay until another day allowed the oven to cool. I thought I would sweep all the broken glass on the floor into the dust collector and  throw those burning hot glass fragments into the waste basket.  My next thought was that might catch the paper contents of the basket on fire.  Things were not going well.  So I swept floor glass out of the path of foot traffic and faced what to do about the chicken.

 I had not used a jelly roll size baking sheet because I was supposed to collect the juices underneath the rack and spread over the chicken at some point in the baking, and I was afraid that pan’s shallow sides might not hold the juices.  Fortunately the chicken had not been in long enough to have juices falling through to the oven bottom, or I’d have had a kitchen full of smoke.  Now when I had no choice but to use the small jelly roll baking sheet, I somehow lifted the rack with its chicken and moved it to its new pan. I realized I should have used this pan to begin with. 

I put the chicken back in the oven to finish its first cycle and wondered if it would be fit to eat. I set the table and went back to watching TV until the timer went off for the first reduction of heat. And so on.  Finally I boiled frozen corn-on-the-cob from last summer. Gerald came in and avoided the glass on the floor and said my troubles made me part of the human race and was pleasant about the delay in our meal. The chicken was delicious.  So tender and moist. 

The glass on the floor is cleaned up now, and maybe tomorrow I will have the time and nerve to tackle the glass on the bottom of the oven. Maybe not.  I am not sure if I can ever find a glass baking dish as large and pretty as my many splintered one.  Things don’t always work out, but sometimes they do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sixteen Teams Now!

Gerald started my day with an invitation to go down to his computer and watch the highlights of the NCAA Regional softball tourney together.  He and nephew DuWayne were there in Georgia for Friday and Saturday’s games.  When they learned at Sunday breakfast that rain delays would make the first of two necessary playoffs at 2 that afternoon, they decided they needed to come on back home to Illinois.  Actually the first game was not until after 7 and the second did not end until almost midnight, so they made a very wise decision. 

When I left Katherine’s house a little after 11 Sunday night, I phoned him to see what was happening in that second game since Katherine and I were not getting the website video to play on her smart phone.  We did receive some scores during the evening, so we knew we were way ahead. I had not heard my cell ring earlier, so I was surprised to learn Gerald was home in bed at Woodsong! 

He had watched the last two games on his computer downstairs. Because Georgia lost game 3 to North Carolina State on Saturday, they had to beat NCS twice on Sunday to win this double elimination tourney. They did so handily with 9-1 and 8-0 scores.  Now UGA Dawgs will play Baylor at Athens this Friday and Saturday for two out of three games to determine who goes on to the nationals at Oklahoma City.  The sixteen teams playing in eight Super Regionals will be reduced to eight for the World Series.

Katherine was in bed all day Sunday since her aide came in but  promptly threw up and had to go back home suffering from the stomach flu her baby son had the day before and which  kept her from coming in on Saturday. This was especially sad for Katherine because this aide was scheduled to drive her to the Saturday wedding in our village of her long-time aide Katie Williams to Jared Barger.  She did have an exceptionally competent sub to get her ready for the wedding, but no driver.  As she said with a resigned smile, I am used to being disappointed.

Katie had really wanted her there, but she understood only too well since she had just that morning had her photographer cancel on her! (She secured a wonderful substitute photographer!)  This wedding has been an exciting diversion for Katherine since she got in on the excitement of the special date when Jared gave Katie her engagement ring, and she had listened to all the wedding plans develop.  She even got to taste the punch for the dance that Katie’s grandmother brought by the house for Katie to make final decisions about. 

Jared’s uncle, Marshall Wright, who recently moved back to our community to his great grandparents’ farm, is an experienced and excellent chef, and the meal he served the large crowd in the fellowship hall of our church was delicious as well as visually attractive. No wonder Elisha Wright was bragging she got to kiss the cook.  (Marshall is the son of Joan Handkins Wright and the late George Wright, who had lived in the farm home after Alva and Lorene Handkins. Joan, who now lives in an assisted living apartment, was at the wedding smiling and looking lovely.)  I was privileged to be able to sit with our grandson Sam and his girl friend Anna at the dinner, and I asked Marshall to prepare a plate to take to Katherine so she could experience at least a bit of the wedding celebration.

Jared’s mother Kim was right on time Sunday morning to teach our two adorable toddlers in our Preschool Sunday School department. I was determined to be on time also just in case Kim was too exhausted to come after all the family activity.  She admitted being tired, but there was no doubt she had enjoyed her sister’s family here for week-long visit from Virginia and all the family togetherness. She reported happily that Jared and Katie had left looking very happy for their two-day honeymoon. So another busy weekend has ended with many smiles, and now we are wondering if this next weekend our Georgia softball team can be one of eight instead of one of sixteen.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life Goes On

The roadside woods are completely greened out now.  Redbud blooms were replaced by the occasional large dogwood with its white blossoms contrasting with the surrounding green leafy limbs just as prettily as the redbud did. Now the dogwood is through its annual show, and we must be content with the rich green tree tops matching the deep green grass wherever we look.

The bunnies disappeared from their nest in the driveway circle of lawn last Sunday, and Gerald is still on the look out for them.  He’s already had to mow the yard  again.  His big project is building a new dock for the lake to replace the one he made a dozen years ago, which has deteriorated.  The martins are swooping, and the hummingbirds buzzing around the feeders.  One red azalea is beautiful, and another has died this year leaving behind ugly bare limbs.  Our iris are budded, but not yet in bloom as so many I see in other yards are. 
Our spring recreation has continued to be watching the University of Georgia softball games on the computer in Gerald’s office until this week when the Southeastern Conference games were on ESPN channels. So for three days, our schedule was planned around the Georgia Dawgs games when we met up in the family room to watch on the TV there,  Last night Georgia played for the championship at 7 central time.  Some time ago Mary Ellen had sent me home with left-over barbecue, and I stuck it in the freezer, so that was thawed and heated for a sandwich supper as we watched.  I also baked the bag of ready-for-the oven cookies she had once given me.  Brian was in the field farming, and Trent, who had spent the afternoon with a gaming club at college, didn’t come over, but Mary Ellen and Brianna, who finished at Murray State on Friday, were here.  Sam also came out, and later to our surprise and delight, Katherine’s aide Katie Williams drove her out to join us cheer our son and two granddaughters onto victory.  We also loved it when the camera frequently flashed on our daughter-in-law Vickie and her seatmate and UGA super supporter Norma Holliday.  And it is always fun to see head coach Lu Harris-Champer passionately cheering on her team.  Chelsea Wilkinson was phenomenal on the mound, and Alex Hugo and all the others were tremendous, and seeing their celebration after all their hard work this year brought tears to my eyes and very happy smiles in the family room at Woodsong. 
(For blog readers who don’t know, our son Gerry is recruiting coordinator and associate softball coach at UGA, and their oldest daughter Tara Archibald is assistant coach. Their youngest daughter Geri Ann, a sophomore, alternatively plays first base and as a pitcher. The middle daughter Erin played in the World Series finals for Texas A&M and did her best to recruit Geri Ann to College Station. Because their three daughters are extremely close to their mother, however, I think Vickie’s presence influenced Geri Ann to stay in Athens and play for Georgia more  than her dad.  Vickie, a cancer survivor, played sports in high school and also coached summer softball and high school volleyball, which is fortunate since she is asked to pitch that first ball when the girls are wearing pink uniforms.)
Katherine brought me a card last night and Gerry called after the game to wish me a happy Mother’s Day explaining their card might be late. Jeannie contacted me on Facebook, and Mary Ellen’s family came over today and prepared our lunch.  Back in February in an effort to help me out, she had brought me meat loaf, hash brown potato casserole, and a corn casserole all carefully and attractively wrapped with instructions for baking. I had wanted to ask them over for Sunday lunch and use her meal, but everyone’s schedule has been too full too long.  Since aides were with Katherine today, I did not need to go in, and I got that meal out of the freezer and let Mary Ellen and Brianna prepare it.  My contribution was angel food cake for dessert to welcome Brianna home for the summer since that is a favorite of hers. I always make two angel food mixes up at once, so I have an extra, and this time it went home with Brianna.
Tonight was exciting since the selection of the 64 teams who will start NCAA regional play at the end of this week were announced.  We cheered Georgia’s being one of the top four seeds. They will host their Regional, and if they win, they will host the Super Regional the next week.  This is the beginning of the process that decides who the eight teams are that go to the NCAA Division I World Series in Oklahoma City.  Our hopes and dreams are on the Georgia Dawgs, but regardless, life goes on.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Doing the Bunny Hop at Woodsong

Gerald has been busy keeping a large part of the countryside mowed with his beautiful new tractor mower. Easter weekend started this mowing frenzy, and the lawn has never looked larger or lovelier. In front of our house in the circular driveway, there in the middle is a small circle of lawn with a decorative tree that blooms beautifully every spring but much too briefly.  Neither of us knows what kind of a tree it is, but I have never believed it was what we ordered because the blossoms are white and not the bright red I thought we were to get. 

Nevertheless, it is a sweet little tree, and we often find a sweet nest of little birds in it.  So when it was time to mow that small circle of lawn, Gerald saw what looked like a fallen empty bird nest there and carelessly tossed it into the driveway out of the way of the mower.  As it landed, he discovered to his dismay that it was the carefully constructed home of tiny baby rabbits. Very upset, he carefully gathered the pitched nest the best he could and put it back where it originally was.  His lunch-time story was filled with worry that the mother would not come back to a nest touched by human hands, especially one thrown around as he had done. 

All winter when he would leave the house early in the morning to walk to the mailbox or to put wood in the stove in his shop, he would report on seeing an adult rabbit or sometimes just the evidence of tracks in the snow on our front porch indicating one or two had sought warmth there during the night. He enjoyed seeing them, and we were both upset earlier this spring when rabbit fur on the other side of the house caused us to know that some predator had destroyed a nest in the plants there.

When the grandchildren arrived for Easter, they could not resist taking a peek at the little rabbits and join the concern over whether or not the mother would continue to feed and care for them. I heard glowing reports of how adorable these babies were although the peeking was so limited that no one was sure how many were there. I could tell they were searching answers on the Internet, and I feared they would try to take over mothering them, which I figured would be not only a dreadfully time consuming task but one that would end in heartbreak since none of our kind-hearted kids would know how to be a proper mother rabbit.  Someone did find the suggestion to put a string over the nest; and if the string was gone the next morning, you could know that the mother had visited and fed her young.  The string was placed, and on Easter morning we knew the mother had not let the nest disturbance keep her from feeding the wee ones.  The weekend ended with that happy result and the grandkids went home.

Gerald would daily check and hear tiny sounds inside the nest, so he knew they were being cared for. With the torrential rains and much cold weather since Easter, he was impressed with the mother rabbit’s well-built shelter that let the babies survive. Things were going so well that I resisted the desire to look beneath the lid of dead grass and take even the tiniest peek.  But I wanted to.  Gerald thought they were getting big with little ears growing. I have no idea how long a mother rabbit takes to raise her family, but I was afraid the nest would suddenly be empty and I might never get to see them.  So I asked Gerald if he could hold the grass up gently for me to get a peek.  Together and for just a few seconds, we stared at the miracle of tiny animals with big ears all snuggled and entwined with one another. We are still not sure if there are five or six.  Nor how long they will be there before they hop away to the straw piles behind the shop or some other sheltered spot.

Gerald has claimed to be restraining his spring gardening impulse and, thus, plans to grow less as he has tried to do in recent years.  But he is really proud of his onions and is hoping Gerry will somehow get up to help him eat them. .More recently, he has been bragging on his beautiful tomato plants, Then one got eaten off and he wondered if a deer had visited.  Yesterday a second plant was gone, and the wet ground showed no deer tracks.  I smilingly suggested that probably that mother rabbit is enjoying his tomato plants.  I did not add that soon she may have five or six others following her with her teaching them where to forage for food. But I saw the look on his face.  The tomatoes may not be safe, but I bet the bunnies will be.