Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Mid-April Hodgepodge

 Not sure how this happened, but it's Wednesday again -- so it's time for the Hodgepodge with Joyce and friends at From This Side of the Pond.  (Can it really be a week since I've posted?)  Head on over, get the questions, and then answer them on your own blog (or in the comments if you don't have a blog).  Then go back over to Joyce's to link up!   Here are this week's questions:

1. Three things on your spring bucket list? If you don't have an actual list that's fine, pretend you do.

* A spring getaway with my hubby -- this actually happened at the end of last week
* Cleaning and decluttering several closets
* Take a picnic somewhere as soon as our weather cooperates
We ended up with the same room as last year.  Nice!
 2. Where do you find rest? What restores your soul? When was the last time you did whatever it was you answered here?

This question brings many thoughts to mind, but I'll try to keep the answer relatively brief.  I find rest in God's Word and in prayer.  I have a special Scripture journal that I turn to at times when I could be stressed or worried.  It never fails to bring me rest and peace as I pray through the many Scriptures concerning who God is and how He works in our lives.

I also find my soul restored by spending time in God's creation.  It gives me a much better perspective on my life and problems if I am somewhere where I can appreciate things like mountains, lakes and rivers, fall foliage, the moon and stars, and especially the ocean.  I have sat at the edge of a lake, listening to the water lapping the shore, and felt myself begin to heal as God eased the pain of grief and sorrow.  When I sit by the ocean and watch the waves ebb and flow, I am reminded that these tides have been going in and out since Creation according to God's timetable.  Everything is in His hands and under His control.

A verse that never fails to bless my heart is Psalm 90:2 -- "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hast formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God."

I spend time in God's Word daily and last turned to my Scripture journal a few days ago.  We spent time at the ocean last week, and it was so restorative.

3. April is National Celery Month. Who knew? Do you like celery? What's your favorite dish made with celery? On a veggie and dip platter which would you reach for first-carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumbers or cherry tomatoes? 

Yes, I do like celery.  I can't name a specific favorite dish made with celery, but I like it in soups, stews, stuffing, chicken or tuna salad ... lots of dishes.  On a veggie and dip platter I would probably reach for a cherry tomato or a cucumber spear or slice first.
View from the dining room
4. I read here eight things to do before 8 am to make your day less hectic-Start one load of laundry, drink water, empty the dishwasher, read your Bible, know what you're having for dinner, get dressed, brain dump (two lists-one what you're thankful for and one what's weighing on your mind), and after the brain dump make your to-list for the day.

How many of these are you currently doing? Which one do you think would help the most if you added it to your early morning routine?

I'm doing nearly all of these.  We don't have a dishwasher, but I do empty the dish drainer, so it amounts to the same thing.  The only thing I am not currently doing is the "brain dump" of what I'm thankful for.  That would certainly be an encouragement. 
From the dining room looking into area where the breakfast buffet was set up
5. Describe the view from your window.

It's not pretty.  (I'm writing this on Tuesday afternoon.)  Across the road I see snowbanks still, and there are dark wet trees there and also in our yard.    Rain is falling and the eaves are dripping steadily.  But last week we had a couple of really nice days at the ocean.  Only part of one day was sunny, but the temps were relatively warm and very nice.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I wish I had gotten a picture of this, but I wasn't quick enough, so a description will have to do.  One morning we left our room at the York Harbor Inn and headed for the car ... don't even remember why.  But the sun was shining and the birds were singing.  Near the parking area is a little white gazebo, so picture that in your mind.  I heard an unfamiliar bird song and looked around for the source.  A gorgeous, brilliant red cardinal was perched on the very top of the gazebo!  I reached for the camera, but he flew away.  A beautiful sight that I will file away in my memory bank!

So ends another Hodgepodge!  Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

April 11 Hodgepodge

This lovely, lovely graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings.

Where does the time go?  Wednesday again -- so it's time for the Hodgepodge with Joyce and friends at From This Side of the Pond.  No Hodgepodge last week, due to exciting happenings in Joyce's life, so it's been a couple of weeks.  Time has flown!  But head on over, get the questions, and then answer them on your own blog (or in the comments if you don't have a blog).  Then go back over to Joyce's to link up!   Here are this week's questions:

1. April is National Jazz Appreciation Month. Are you a fan? If so what's a favorite you'd recommend to someone new to jazz listening?

Not really a jazz fan.  I don't mind it as background music sometimes.  I haven't listened to enough of it to have any favorites.

2. Mandolin, ukulele, harp, accordion or banjo...which would you be most interested in learning to play? Or do you already play one of the instruments listed?

I don't play any instrument at all, period.  I enjoy listening to all of those instruments on the list, with my favorite probably being the harp, and truly admire people who can play them.  I doubt I could learn to play any of them, especially not the accordion.  Too much to think about.

3. Do you judge a book by its cover? Elaborate. You may answer in either/both the literal or figurative sense of the word.

I try not to judge a book by its cover, especially in the figurative sense of the word with regard to people.  And I hope they do the same with me.

With actual books, I might be more apt to judge a book by its cover. I do know that sometimes the cover design is not necessarily what the author has in mind, but often the author does have some input.  So if a cover is off-putting to me, I'm probably not going to buy the book, though if I'm in a bookstore or library I would pick the book up and leaf through it before making a decision.

4. According to a recent study the ten most nutritious foods are-almonds, cherimoya (supposed to taste like a cross between a pineapple/banana), ocean perch, flatfish (such as flounder and halibut), chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, pork fat (shocking! but I don't think they mean bacon), beet greens, and red snapper. Are any of these foods a regular part of your diet? Any you've never ever tasted? Which would you be most inclined to add to your diet?

Of all those, I think the only one that's a regular, nearly daily part of my diet is almonds.  I think the only one I've never at least tasted is cherimoya, which I've never even heard of.  I'd like to try that and maybe even add it to my diet if it wasn't too pricey, because it does sound like a nice flavor.  I've been trying to add more fish to our diet, which has been less expensive recently since it was on sale often during Lent.  I'd like to add more Swiss chard (I especially like the rainbow chard) and chia seeds to our diet.

(What do you think they are talking about when they say pork fat?  Lard?)

5. Besides a major holiday what is the most recent thing you've celebrated with your people? Tell us how.

My oldest daughter's birthday.  She and her hubby and four kiddos came for supper on Sunday night.  I served Chicken Chili Lasagna

along with guacamole, tortilla chips, and fruit salad.  The salad was just layers of [mostly] thawed frozen fruit including mango chunks, watermelon balls, and a mix of strawberries, pineapple and blackberries.  The kids loved it and only a few pieces of fruit were left in the large glass bowl at the end of the meal.  My daughter baked her own birthday cake, as she had planned a special coconut cake at Easter and they were all sick.  So she just baked it for her birthday instead!
They had an interesting time transporting the cake over here.  They live on a dirt road and it's a mess this time of year.  But the cake, on its cake stand and swathed in foil, survived unscathed and was incredibly delicious.  We provided ice cream: vanilla bean and maple walnut.

In between the main course and dessert, the birthday girl opened her gifts from us.  We also watched a slideshow of pictures from a family long weekend in 2012.  Something like this happens so seldom (since our youngest and her family live way out West) and the kids were tickled to relive the memories of that time in a lakeside cabin. 

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

So looking forward to a short getaway later this month.  We need it!

So ends another Hodgepodge.  Happy Wednesday, all!

Monday, April 02, 2018

April goals

Okay, April started yesterday, so it's time to set some goals for the month and report on how March went.  So, here are some goals for April:

* Finish up an informal study of Charles Swindoll's Come Before Winter for my quiet time
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones.
* Add 4 to 8 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook
* Continue study for Sunday School -- A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus
* Get to bed by 9 pm each night  
* Limit sugar and red meat.
* Drink enough water each day.
* Walk and/or exercise each day.
* Keep up with Flylady's homemaking zones of the week.
* Do something creative each day
* Post in my Christmas blog at least once or twice weekly
* Post in this blog most weekdays if possible
* Continue working on several UFO craft projects
* Continue planning for family birthday gifts and crafting any handmade ones
* Continue stocking my Etsy shop and continue selling vintage items
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family
* Send lengthy email to a friend
* Call faraway friends to chat
* Learn more about cultured foods and begin making more of them
* Declutter and reorganize my closet
* Declutter and revamp computer room
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able
* Continue to encourage and support my hubby as he works through a pastoral search for our church
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal
* Sort out and declutter my dad's house; work on estate
* Plan a getaway with my hubby
* Plan meals with a greater emphasis on healthy eating

APRIL'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Drink enough water/exercise/eat healthfully
WORD FOR 2018: Settled
 πŸŒ· πŸƒ 🌷 🌸 πŸƒ 🌸  🌷 πŸƒ 🌷 🌸 πŸƒ 🌸  🌷 πŸƒ 🌷
And here is how March went:
* Work on the Rachel Wojo study Everything Beautiful for my quiet time -- done!
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones -- done!
* Add 4 to 8 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook -- not done (the study I was working on included Scripture journaling)
* Continue study for Sunday School -- A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus -- done!
* Get to bed by 9 pm each night -- not done, though we managed it by 9:30 most nights
* Limit sugar and red meat -- did okay with this
* Drink enough water each day -- need to keep working on this
* Walk and/or exercise each day -- not done, and yet, in a way, it was (I'll explain below)
* Keep up with Flylady's homemaking zones of the week -- not done
* Do something creative each day -- done!
* Post in my Christmas blog at least once or twice weekly -- not done
* Post in this blog most weekdays if possible -- not done (I managed only 5 posts in March)
* Continue working on several UFO craft projects -- done! (that is, the projects are not done, but I did work on them, on one in particular)
* Continue planning for family birthday gifts and crafting any handmade ones -- done!
* Continue stocking my Etsy shop and continue selling vintage items -- done!
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family -- done!
* Send lengthy email to a friend -- I wrote a long snail mail letter instead, so I'm counting this done!
* Call faraway friends to chat -- done!
* Learn more about cultured foods and begin making more of them -- not done
* Declutter and reorganize my closet -- not done
* Declutter and revamp computer room -- not done
 * Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able -- not done; it was more like her helping and encouraging me!
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal -- partially done
* Sort out and declutter my dad's house; work on estate -- worked on that a bit
* Possibly plan a getaway with my hubby -- not done
* Plan meals with a greater emphasis on healthy eating -- done!

MARCH'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Drink enough water/exercise/eat healthfully
WORD FOR 2018: Settled

πŸ€As many readers know, a fall on the ice the first Sunday in March pretty much derailed my month.  Most of my energy went into recuperation.  I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better and probably back to 90-95%.  I can say that I did walk or exercise each day because, even when I felt absolutely horrible, I got up (from the recliner, where I was most comfortable) a couple of times every hour and either walked around the house, went out and walked on the screened porch, or went up and downstairs a few times.  I knew it was important to move as much as possible, and I'm convinced that it (and the fresh air) did help.  Many, many things did not get done, but I did spend time on a cross-stitch UFO nearly every day, and only have some back stitching to complete.  I also found that the Rachel Wojo study I was doing, Everything Beautiful, was absolutely perfect for this particular season in my life.  It was very simple, and yet it forced me into God's Word every day and made me focus on God and not my circumstances. πŸ€

I'm certainly hoping and praying for April to be more productive than March was.  Still, my times are in God's hand, and He allowed things to slow to a crawl for me in March.  He had a purpose in that -- a good purpose! -- and I am trusting Him for April as well.

Do you have any goals for April?

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Wishing you a blessed Easter!

Today, Mr. T and I would like to wish all of our friends a blessed and meaning-filled  day of celebrating Christ's resurrection.  "He is risen, as He said"!  (Matthew 28:7)

Our Resurrection Day celebration began with a meaningful outdoor service which was a real blessing.  Although the field where we have often met for this service was snow-covered, we were able to stand on dry gravel in the church driveway adjoining the field.  The temperature was in the 40s and quite moderate compared to some years when it has been very cold on Easter.

 We then adjourned to the fellowship hall to enjoy a bountiful breakfast (including an omelet station and waffle station!) with our church family.  An inspiring DVD took the place of Sunday School, and we then enjoyed a lovely Easter worship service, ending our time together with communion.  We hope that all of you will have as lovely a day and that you will spend time pondering on what Christ's resurrection means for you personally.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

End of March Hodgepodge

Yes, only dreaming of it.  My reality right now is snow and mud.
 Wednesday again -- so it's time for the Hodgepodge with Joyce and friends at From This Side of the Pond.  Head on over, get the questions, and then answer them on your own blog (or in the comments if you don't have a blog).  Then go back over to Joyce's to link up!   Here are this week's questions:

1. What's a word that describes your life? A word you wish described your life?

A word that describes my life:  I'm trying to think of a truly descriptive word and not succeeding.  Scattered, maybe.  Disorganized?  I just have too much to do on a number of different fronts.  And, right now, my physical strength and energy are limited.

A word I wish described my life: effective.

2. Back in my day we ...

... didn't have computers, cell phones, email, the internet, or microwaves.  (And as much as I use, appreciate, and enjoy these conveniences, I think in many ways life was simpler without them.)

3. When it comes to takeout are you more likely to opt for Italian, Mexican, or Chinese food? Does a typical week at your house include takeout?

We haven't ordered takeout in a long time.  If we do, it is likely to be fish and chips from our favorite local seafood place.  We used to get Chinese takeout occasionally, but it's been years.
Image from Photos Public Domain
4. Think about the people you most respect. What is it about them that earned your respect?

They are people whose walk lines up with their talk.  They are actually living out their faith and walking in obedience to God's Word.
Graphic from Baptist Bible Hour
5. What's something your friends might see and say is 'so you'?

It would probably be an item decorated with strawberries in some way.  I have quite a collection of strawberry themed items by now, with pretty much no two alike.  I have bought very few of them for myself.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

If you haven't already seen my post on maple sugaring memories (it's the post just below this one), you might enjoy taking a few minutes to read it.  It's one I've been wanting to write for years!

Detail from a maple syrup tin
And so ends another Hodgepodge.  Happy Wednesday to all!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Maple memories

I’ve been wanting for years to write a post about my memories of maple sugaring, but just hadn’t found the time.  I’m pretty determined to write one at least before the end of the 2018 sugaring season.  I want this to serve the dual purpose of recording memories for my grandkids as well as making an interesting early-spring blog post.

That picture at the top is a scan of a greeting card.  It looks, really, amazingly like my grandfather's sugarhouse and sugar orchard.   There was the same woods road bordered by old stone walls and mounds of rocks, the same hillside sloping up behind in one area, the same maples lining the road, and even the same mountain in the distance!  I have to wonder, I really do, if the artist had visited my grandparents' sugar orchard.  Or maybe, probably, many New England sugar orchards looked a lot alike.
A vintage sugaring postcard that I recently found
I guess I’ll start with the earliest  memories.  I literally grew up with sugaring, so that as a child there was never a time it wasn’t part of my life.  As mentioned above, my grandfather had a good-sized sugar orchard and maple syrup operation.   He had a sugarhouse way up in the sugar orchard, and how I wish I knew more about it.  Was the sugarhouse already there when he bought the land?  I’m guessing maybe it was, for it was weathered and dilapidated even in my childhood.

The picture below with horses is one that I recently found.  I think that my grandfather is the man standing in the center of the photo behind the gathering tank.  I believe that the middle child sitting to his right, the smiling little girl, is my mother.  To the far left, the oldest sister looks exceedingly proud to be holding the reins.  It seems to me that this is probably a posed picture, most likely taken at the end of the sugaring season, since there is no snow.

🍁   🍁   🍁   🍁   🍁    🍁   🍁   🍁   🍁

My grandparents sold maple syrup as well as what we simply called “sugar cakes” — which is what you get when you boil maple syrup beyond the syrup stage until it crystallizes.    My grandmother made these, not in the sugarhouse, but in the farmhouse, and she poured the maple sugar into beautiful tin molds shaped like stars.

Nowadays if you visit gift shops in New England, you'll often see maple candies in the form of maple leaves and other shapes.  It's basically the same thing, but the sugar cakes were larger. This maple candy is very sweet and also very delicious.  My daughter made some maple candy this year, and below you see two grandchildren about to partake!

The photo below is one of several I have that was taken in my grandparents' sugar orchard.  I'm sorry to say that I don't know who the boy with the oxen is, and I don't recognize the dog in front of him.  The other dog, over at the far left, looks like my grandparent's farm dog Tippy.  She was famous for being able to open latched doors (the type where one just lifts the latch) with her nose.
Sugaring with oxen in my grandparents' sugar orchard
 Probably my own earliest memories of this sugarhouse start when I was in first grade.  You can just see the corner of the sugarhouse at the far left in the photo which includes the oxen.  Below, you can see part of the outside of the sugarhouse behind these children -- I'm on the right, with my cousin at left and my brother in the middle.  You'll note (from both the illustration at top, and the photographs) that sugarhouses were often not constructed very tightly or out of top-grade materials.
The local schools used to bring kids there on field trips during sugaring time.  I think about this now and am amazed.  Taking a school bus full of kids onto a dirt road in sugaring time, then letting said children loose to swarm up a muddy hillside amid soft, wet snowbanks -- I'm quite sure that just wouldn't be the thing today.  But I'm glad it was okay back then, for I have memories of myself sitting in the back room of the sugarhouse on an unstable old wooden bench with a bunch of my classmates, sipping warm, freshly made maple syrup from a Dixie cup and dipping a plain raised doughnut into the syrup from time to time.  I didn't enjoy school.  It was terrifying for me.  But here, I belonged.  I had sat on this bench dozens of times eating syrup with doughnuts fried by my grandmother.  These other kids didn't belong here; they were out of their element.  But I think the sugarhouse field trips were a favorite of all the kids who were able to go on them.
From our daily newspaper, some years ago
My memories of sugaring are also interwoven with my memories of my Aunt Joanne, my mother's youngest sister.  (In the very old photo above, the one with the horses hitched to the sled, Joanne would be the little girl at the far right.)  In my growing up years, Joanne was married and raising a family of her own.  They lived quite a distance away, especially back then when there were no interstate highways and the speed limit was 50 mph at best.  Travel could be iffy during sugaring season, with snowstorms or freezing rain a possibility at any time.  Yet every year during this special season that she loved so much, my Aunt Joanne made the effort to bring her kids up here for sugaring.  In the photo below, her two oldest daughters are the girls at the left.  We loved it when they visited and could hike up with us to the sugarhouse in the woods.

Nearly every day after school in sugaring season, my brother and I would put on our wool snow pants and our jackets and head for the sugarhouse.  Can you imagine our mother let us do this?  It involved walking up a dirt road and then scrambling up the aforementioned snowy/muddy hillside until we disappeared from view among the trees.   The tree above, where we might stop to rest, would have been still in sight if my mother looked out the back door.  But the sugarhouse was much deeper into the woods than this, past a long stone wall and down a lane.  Below you can see the sugarhouse with steam pouring out.  Maple-scented steam is simply amazing!

Of course we would stay up there as late as we dared.  Oftentimes it would be nearly dark by the time we made it back down the hill and trudged up the road to our home.  I had heard many stories of bobcats in those woods, so often we ran down the hill rather than trudged!

It was so good to see lights shining from the windows of our house, and to come in and smell a delicious supper all ready for us.  Often on winter nights my mother would make something like baked potatoes with creamed chipped beef.  Oh, so good!  When we had baked potatoes, we would cut them in half, then scoop out the innards onto our plate ready to add butter, salt and pepper.  But we would drop a pat of butter into each potato skin and wait for it to melt before eating it, holding it sort of folded so the butter wouldn't drip out.  Simply delicious.
A vintage syrup ad that I love!
As time went on, this large sugaring operation was discontinued.  A neighbor had built a little backyard sugarhouse, and he was allowed to tap the roadside trees in the family sugar orchard.  It was probably around this time that my parents decided to try a little bit of backyard maple sugaring, boiling down the sap on their outdoor stone fireplace (previously used for cooking hot dogs and marshmallows, and the occasional hamburger).

I don't have photos of this endeavor.  However, I do have one photo that I found of the fireplace in earlier years.  My brother and I are playing near it.  I may have been pretending it was the fireplace in a cabin ... who knows?  It looks as if I may be trying to sweep the "floor".  What I can say for sure is that boiling sap on this outdoor fireplace was asking quite a bit of it, and it fell into disrepair soon after that experiment.

Our neighbor eventually gave all of his small-scale sugaring equipment to my brother, and my dad built a nice little sugarhouse next to the garage.  The evaporator, of course, was inside, and a little woodshed on the back contained the wood needed to keep a good fire going under the evaporator.

Our method of collecting sap at that time was to load up the back of the family Jeep with a metal gathering tank, a stack of gathering buckets, and kids -- siblings, cousins, neighbors, friends.  We would park the Jeep in a central location and then we kids would scatter, gathering buckets in hand, to the various maples -- some along the roadside and some up in the woods -- that my dad had previously helped us to tap.  We went from tree to tree, emptying the sap buckets into our gathering buckets.
 (The photo below is actually from this year -- it's my grandchildren -- but it depicts the process well.)
Most of the trees had several taps, and some had as many as five.  Again, the photo below is from this year, taken by my daughter.

It wasn't long before our gathering buckets were as full as we dared carry.  If they were too full, cold wet sap would invariably slosh out and onto our pant legs.  The illustration below is by local artist Cheryl Johnson and graced the front of a brochure some years ago.  I've always liked this since it looks a lot like my own two girls working together to carry a heavy gathering bucket back in the day.  You can see the potential for sloshing sap!

Arriving back at the Jeep, we would either clamber up and carefully pour our buckets of sap into the large gathering tank, or -- if we were fortunate enough to have plenty of helpers, one person would remain stationed in the back of the Jeep and do all the pouring.  In that case, we simply handed our full buckets up to that person, which sounds simple enough, but involved taking great care not to spill the sap.  Then we would take our now-empty gathering buckets, move on to other trees, and repeat the process.

When all of the sap had been gathered for that day, back we would go to the sugarhouse and begin the process of boiling it down.  This often took us until well into the evening.  We would bring the syrup to a specific temperature and then drain it off into a large kettle.  My mom finished it off on the kitchen stove and bottled it.

Then on the next day there was a good run of sap, we would do this all over again, and continue to do so until the buds came out on the maples and sugaring season ended.  It was hard work, but a great project to be involved with.

We continued this backyard sugaring operation until long after my brother and I were married, with families of our own.  Sometimes my brother would do the boiling; sometimes my husband (who had also grown up with sugaring) did.  We also had an elderly neighbor who was experienced at sugar making and often helped us out.  I think our kids were in high school when we finally gave it up.

So it was absolutely wonderful that our own kids could get to take part in this fabulous experience and piece of our family history.  These days, I'm thrilled to report that my daughter and her family have a little syrup making operation in their own back yard!  The photos below were taken when they tapped their trees.  Ari is holding sap spiles that fit into the holes drilled in the tree.  Then the sap buckets will hang from the hooks below the spiles. 

 Josiah is placing covers on the buckets.  You can see how my son-in-law marked the tapped trees with caution tape so they will be easily spotted.  Below, sap begins to drip into a bucket.
The tradition goes on!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Springing into the Hodgepodge

Wednesday means it's time for the Hodgepodge with Joyce and friends at From This Side of the Pond.  Head on over, get the questions, and then answer them on your own blog (or in the comments if you don't have a blog).  Then go over to Joyce's to link up!   Here are this week's questions:

1. On this first official day of spring tell us something (besides the weather) you're looking forward to in this season of the year.

I'm looking forward to feeling better.  Healing every day from that crazy fall I took on the ice, but a ways to go yet.  The hot pack, cold compress, and OTC pain meds are still pretty close friends of mine.

2. When it comes to spring cleaning would you rather wash windows or wash baseboards? Clean out closets or clean out the garage? Dust ceiling fans or dust bookcases? Wipe down the patio furniture outside or wipe down the light fixtures inside? Any of these tasks recently completed?

Let's make it simple.
• A toss-up.  I dislike both equally.
• Closets.
• Bookcases.
• Light fixtures.
• No.
(No bending or stretching is going on here right now -- although I did just wipe down the sconces in the bathroom and wash the light globes, so I guess I can't truthfully say I've done none of the above.)
3. Your favorite thing to make/eat that calls for cream cheese? Sour cream? Whipped cream?

Cheesecake is probably my favorite food made with cream cheese.  Although -- as a young girl, I remember having potato chip and cream cheese sandwiches at my cousin's house.  Delicious!  Interestingly, my cousin has no memory of these delights.

Sour cream -- hmmm.  Probably, lately, a squash soup that calls for this ingredient.  If you missed it, find the story here: Best Squash Soup.  Photo is from the Cabot cheese site.  Recipe's from there, too.

Whipped cream -- I love real whipped cream!  One of my favorite uses for it is in what our family calls Reese’s Pie -- chocolate and peanut butter to the max.  The photo below, from Taste of Home, shows the vanilla version of this pie -- but chocolate is the way to go!

4. I read here a list of commonly mispronounced words. What is a word that gives you trouble when it comes to pronunciation?

Of that list, I didn't know how acai was pronounced.  As a child, though, I taught myself to read by way of newspaper comic strips and so I read a lot of words wrong.  For example, I thought of the word "bedraggled" as "bed-raggled."  You know, all raggled and rumpled from being in bed.  (I've since learned that at least a couple of my friends read this word the same way.)

5. What's a song you love with the word 'rain' in the title or lyrics?  

The first one that came to mind was "September in the Rain" -- the Chad & Jeremy version from the 1960s.

6.  Insert your own random thought here. 

This does not look like the first day of spring.  As I write this, on Tuesday afternoon, there is still a ton of snow out there.  The temperature is around 40ΒΊ and the sky is brilliantly blue.   I guess you could say the sky looks like spring, but nothing else does -- and it certainly doesn't feel that way!