Thinking outloud in the fog

Today is a difficult day. There is no one reason. The weather is great. The sun is shining, the air is warm with a light breeze. 

I finally got my compost bin assembled. It was frustrating. There were no actual instructions. There were five pictures on the side of the box that gave an idea of what to do. 


I cleaned up the back porch a little. I put down the recycled rubber stepping stones near the bird feeder. The grill is out  of propane so I packed it up for the winter. 

It was when I sat on the back porch the weirdness seeped in. The warm sun passed midday and flooded the chair. Little birds busied themselves at the feeder, ignoring me as I watched. 

In the distance I could hear the squeals  and laughter of elementary kids getting in one last day of outdoor recess. I miss that sound. It brings back memories of life when my sons were small. 

Thinking of all the preps needed before Thanksgiving next week melancholy  over comes me. This is the fourth year without Bryan, and the first without my mother. 

So I sit. 

A text message jerks my mind back to the present and I go inside. And as if a gift from my Boxer Jack,  I find Attack Cat snuggled up on the dog pillow napping. 

Shaking my head the smile on ny face announces my complete weakness where kittens are concerned. “I’ll put him out later,” I think. 

Upcycle Holiday Ornaments

I know many households where the Christmas decorations look like a Macy’s display. You will not find an ornament out of place. Every angel is color coordinated to match the LED lights, which twinkle in synchronicity to holiday music. Perfect bows in perfect places.

Not at my house.

The ornaments decorating the tree in my home have been decades in the making. The oldest are a few “Made In China” cloth pillows and parasols purchased for the first tree I had as a grown adult. I spent less than $30 for the tree and all my decorations. It was all we could afford on a PFC’s salary in 1982.

There are decorations I received as gifts from clubs, and friends. Six beautiful snowflakes, painstakingly crocheted with love and the smallest crochet hooks I ever saw in the tiny, wrinkled hands of my grandmother’s sister, Charlotte. I even have the Santa made from felt circles given to me the Christmas I spent at Wilford Hall Medical Center, on bedrest carrying my son.

The ornaments that bring tears to my eyes every year without fail are the ones my sons made me. A simple photograph with Santa taped to the back of a construction paper ornament. A pinecone with red and green splotches of paint. A simple block of fabric tied with ribbon around a cotton ball with a poem about the love tucked inside rests at the top of the tree every year.

This year, take some time with the children or grandchildren to make a memory or two for your tree. Here is a simple idea you can do in a day with things you should already have around the house. You will need:

  • 12 canning jar lids – preferably used
  • White spray paint
  • Chalkboard paint (optional)
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Sharpie markers (optional)
  • Cotton balls and/or craft balls
  • Craft glue
  • Twine
  • Hammer and nail

Keeping with the purpose of upcycling, wash and thoroughly dry a dozen of those used canning jar lids you have saved. Spray with white paint, two coats if needed.

Sketch a few faces on some paper to serve as a visual guide. Using craft paint and a small bristle brush paint a face on each lid. Glue cotton to the top for a fuzzy hat. Colorful fuzzy balls on each side simulate earmuffs or beanie top. Punch a hole in the top with the hammer and nail. Measure a length of twine to hang.

Alternatively, paint lids with chalkboard paint to share Christmas messages.

I really would love to hear your thoughts on these upcycle projects, and ideas for those you’d like to see. Contact me by phone at (304) 460-5639. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Glorious New Year!

Robin’s Upcycle is located in Kanawha County, WV. Open by appointment. Phone 304-460-5NEW (5639). For info, visit facebook.com/robinsupcycle

Mom, Tell Bryan I Love Him 

It was sudden in the sense she was home, had been talking to us pretty well, and didn’t seem in any worse condition that the day before. I can look behind me and see her kidneys and bowels had been shutting down. 
She was just at the doctor Wednesday and he didn’t seem concerned. He increased her lasix and ordered a bowel softener. I spoke with him after hours Thursday and he didn’t seem worried. But we also discussed how delicate of a dance it is to treat the heart without damaging the kidneys. 

She couldn’t get to the bathtub so I gave her a sponge bath around 5. She got her evening medicines then seemed a little groggy, but they did that to her. She kept throwing her leg off the bed, sat up a couple times but didn’t want to go to the recliner. Her legs were ice cold, but I blamed that on the fluid she was holding. I kept going in to lift her leg back onto the bed. 

I could see her from my seat at the dining room table and around 9 I could tell she wasn’t right. We called 911, got her to the floor, and I started CPR. The medics got there around seven minutes and worked with her another 20 minutes or so. Nothing worked and there were never any signs of her coming back.

We knew things were bad, but not that they were near the end. She would get a little better but we knew she wouldn’t get well. 

We spent the past days getting things arranged, finding out if there was enough insurance for the service (there is), and ordering flowers. I hope to spend today catching up my housework, getting clothes ready, and only going out to vote and meet with the pastor at Dad’s at 11.

I believe Scripture tells is there is no communication between the living and the saints in heaven. I also believe we do not take memories of this earth to heaven with us. If it were possible, I would only ask Mom to tell Bryan I love him. 

If you don’t make it out I totally understand. I just wanted to let you know. You don’t use Facebook and we aren’t in any forums that you would have seen it. You know me well enough to know I won’t be mad if you can’t make it.
Talk soon,

All the signs of dementia. 

It has all the signs of a dementia. Dementia explains many of the things we witnessed over the past couple years. 
What we thought was addiction behavior was probably dementia. It wasn’t that she wanted to take too much medication, it is likely she didn’t remember taking it. 

Once we got a handle on her meds we started seeing the underlying confusion. She got angry, refusing to speak with me because I dispensed her pain meds. She cursed my sister for not getting her french fries. She told my dad to ___ himself because he checks her blood sugar religiously. 

It has snowballed since her long hospital stay in September. Her heart disease and diabetes complicates her treatments. It hurts us because we aren’t sure what to do to help her. 

I had a lengthy conversation with her doc last evening. I told him this is just like having your first child. You are never sure if you need to go to the ER or not. 

She can’t be left alone. The sister and I are trying to work out our schedules so one of us is there most of the time. Dad is there also. But he is beside himself watching his wife decline as she is. 

I know some of my friends have gone through this already. I saw how hard it was for a few as you posted about it. I have been mostly quiet because she has a FB account and would read posts. I doubt she can now at all. 

Cheater Cheddar 

I finally did it! I made my first small “wheel” of cheese. 

I have been itching to make cheese for a long time. I ordered several books on homemade cheese from Amazon. I even attended a small workshop a couple weeks ago. 


The workshop helped make sense of what I found in the books. It also fueled the itch to gather up the tools to make my own. Yesterday I took the plunge.

I have a book on one hour cheeses. Some are true soft cheeses. Most are knockoffs. They all seem easy for a novice like me. 

I couldn’t get photos during the process. With one hour cheeses it is important to pay attention to the thermometer and clock. The following is the finished product. 


This is a cheddar knock-off. The flavor is fair, more like a colby. It is pretty crumbly. That may be from  the curd being too dry. It may be from letting the curds get cold. For my first go it isn’t bad. 

I plan to make more one-hour cheeses then work my way to traditional cheeses. I will need to make this in a fee more times. Maybe Mr. Holstein will be my photographer. 

Cheese making is my new obsession! 

Homecooked Ketchup Memories

Spending time with the kids is fun and exhausting! Add a kettle of steaming tomatoes and it gets tricky!

With the remodel and move, I did not plant the sized garden I did last year. The little I did plant isn’t growing well at all. So, I picked up a half bushel of canning tomatoes at the farm stand.

After church I asked Tori if she wnted to help me make ketchup. I cut the stem and any bad places out of the tomatoes. Tori cut them up in quarters.


Thirty minutes of simmering then into the Squeezo. From there it was back to the stock pot. It was a great day of fun. We didn’t like that particular recipe, but the kids got some good hands-on experience, and memories.