With the first full shortest day of the year's arrival, Brian and I had a much-welcome low-key day enjoying some of life's simple pre-Christmas pleasures. We decided with winter's arrival, we should change out the sheets to flannel.
Of course Reggie had to check out the process. Brian washed the regular sheets and as he put them in the linen closet, said, "They're ready for spring." Spring? On the first day of winter, spring seems almost mythological in concept. Yet, time seems to speed up with each passing year, and it will be in shorter order than we imagine that Easter will be here.
I know this: the soft, warm sheets felt heavenly last night.
When I was a kid, I didn't care a bit for cranberries. They weren't something we had much, and I have no memory of Mom doing anything with the actual produce. Somewhere along the way, I discovered cranberries in a new way, and while they aren't something I think about apart from the holidays, that might be changing.
You might know that I've been on Weight Watchers in a serious way since Jan. 5. I love the current program, and it's working! I'm always looking for something new that works well with my program and this week, I got a hankering for cranberries.
So without a recipe, I decided to "lighten up" homemade cranberry sauce. What I came up with is zero points for the whole big bowl full. I bought a bag of raw cranberries and boiled them in a saucepan with one cup of water and several individual packets of sweetener.
It wasn't long before they were boiling and the berries popping. I turned off the heat and with the boil still going, quickly added one regular-sized box of sugar-free, instant cherry gelatin. I stirred and added a cup of cold water. I poured the mixture into a serving bowl and added some orange slices and chopped celery. Nuts would go well, but I avoided them for the calories involved.
Into the fridge it went and wow! I ate my fill.
Let's just say today I'm making it again. You're welcome.
I turned on some Christmas programs and finished wrapping gifts in the afternoon. Here they are, ready for Christmas day.
Some years I do paper themes or otherwise coordinate. This year's theme was that there wasn't one. I used this-and-that leftover wrapping paper from previous years, gift bags and bows recycled from previous use. And I still have paper left over for next year.
It was a good first day of winter. Hope yours was the same. Go Colts!
I have an old iron bell from my folks' farm where I grew up, and where my paternal grandparents lived before that. There's no reason I would need a farm bell. There are no men in the field awaiting its ring to dinner 'round the threshing table.
But I like it because it reminds me of such scenes from farms of old.
For years after it left Dad's barn, it sat in first one garage, then another, until finally I asked our friend Monty Foust to post it in our backyard. I like it there and wonder why we didn't raise it sooner. It does require a bit of maintenance. It had been painted silver once, for what reason I can't guess, and I painted it black. Now it needs a good touching up a couple times a year, most notably, after the winter months. Most notably, now.
But its fresh coat will have to wait a while. Things are pretty busy inside that bell. A few weeks ago I noticed that a family called Robin had claimed squatters' rights by building a nice little home there, sheltered sweetly by the protective shell of iron. I've stayed out of Mrs. Robin's way, observing from the window that she's been spending a lot of time maintaining her new digs which she decorated beautifully with found bits of dried grass and straw.
Some years robins nest in ferns on our back porch, but I don't have the plants up yet. One year a front-door wreath hosted a family. When the family sets up housekeeping in an eye-level fern or on my front door, I take the liberty of carefully peeking into the nest. Never touching, mind you.
Sometimes the tiny birds mistook me for their mother and opened their mouths wide, only to be briefly disappointed that I couldn't deliver a juicy worm. But soon, their mother swooped in and picked up the tab for lunch.
This bell is too high and I might do great damage to the family dynamic if I got out a ladder. So I watch from afar and was rewarded while ago when I saw a tiny head lift toward the heavens and a mouth eagerly await a to-go order.
Soon enough, the cozy nest will no longer suffice, and the birds will wing away, as birds and boys do, and their mother will do something else with her time besides deliver lunch and cuddle with them.
Meanwhile, here's to you, Mrs. Robin. Enjoy your family. Stop by again next year if you want.
So it's the February that won't end. But it's April, you say? Yes, that's pretty much my point. It's cold and snow is flurrying just beyond our central-Indiana windows as I write this.
Indeed, it's a perfect day to talk about summer shoes. I'd rather be walking in them, but since that isn't likely to happen until, oh, about August, the way things are going, let's at least talk about sandals.
Believe it or not, I'm not a shoe person. When it comes to feet coverings for fall, winter and early spring, my shoe wardrobe includes one brown pair, one black pair, one pair of sneakers and some boots. The irony is that I have no odd sizing issues, wearing either a 7.5 or an 8 M. There are tons of shoes to choose from on the market and I don't like any of them.
But sandals? The shoe's on the other foot. For one thing, my feet love summer. They particularly like thick, spongy flip flops and open air all around. Most of these models tend to come with bling on top, which I could do without, but I'll take them for their comfort and ease of wear. Even though the spongy ones are my comfort zone, my favorite personal pair of sandals are the black patent-leathers in the upper left-hand corner.
When I was a small girl, I had a pair of bright green patent leather sandals. I loved those shoes! Patent leather isn't the easiest shoe to find for an adult, but these remind me, somehow, of those shoes. Plus, they are amazingly comfortable. More so than a sneaker. I am not a sneaker person.
I like the red shoes. They make me feel stylish, but the color is limiting in what I can pair with them. The ones that get the most wear for church and work are the two neutral-toned pairs, platform-cork numbers that are pretty comfortable and make me feel of normal rather than short of stature.
The black ones, lower middle, are in a bit of a rough state. These will likely be my yard shoes this summer. They're comfortable but well-used.
My least favorite among the summer roster are the coppery-tone ones with the beads in the upper right-hand corner. I've had them two or three years -- maybe longer -- and I think I paid more for them than for any in the group. They aren't particularly comfortable. But they are well-made and I will probably still have them around a decade from now.
I put the sandals together for a photo not originally for this blog post. In fact, the photo inspired the blog post. The idea is to photograph the abundance of my summer shoe inventory so I'm not seduced by shoes I spot and don't need. This way I can call up the phone photo in the midst of temptation.
How about you? Are you a fan of summer sandals? Is an inventory of nine an obscene number? How many summer shoes are in your closet?
As for leaf color, I can’t say this October – so far – is a ringer. But it’s been a beautiful week all the same. Brian and I usually fly pretty low-key with birthday and anniversary celebrations, but this week we’ve been extra blessed!
On Tuesday, my boss Katie surprised me with a cake, balloon, and card signed by everyone in the building, and a beautiful bouquet of seasonal flowers.
Here it is Saturday and the flowers are just as pretty today as they were several days ago.
Yesterday, Lisa Perry, our newspaper editor who preceded Katie, was in town for her annual community walk through New Castle highlighting such stories as that of the 104-year-old unsolved mystery of Catherine Winters, a little girl who famously has never been found, making her the oldest-known unsolved child disappearance in Indiana history, along with some other tales.
Lisa and her late mother, Charlene Perry, have published books and written extensively about Catherine. But before her annual stroll through town, she took time to have lunch with her cronies at the paper.
Last night, Sam and Allison hosted an anniversary dinner honoring her grandmother Jo, her parents, John and Carla, and Brian and me as well as themselves. ALL of us got married the same October weekend. Allison’s grandmother and late grandfather were married 66 years ago tomorrow, her parents 34 years tomorrow, and Sam and Allison will celebrate five years tomorrow – all married in the same downtown Indianapolis church! For Brian and me, today is our 39th wedding anniversary. My brother Tim and wife Jeannie got married 46 years ago yesterday.
Allison’s brother and his wife, Mike and Lauren, as well as Ben joined us and it was a most pleasant evening featuring a home-cooked meal by Sam and Allison and plenty of talking and watching the MLB playoffs.
Allison surprised me with a tiny birthday cake – a little bigger than cupcake-sized, and I wish I had taken a photo! It was adorable. And, they all sang “Happy Birthday.” A sweet night.
Do you ever have something random happen that makes you feel like “an adult in the room?” This week for me it’s new “adult” table lamps for our bedroom night stands.
For my birthday and our anniversary, Brian and I went shopping for night-stand lamps. In late spring we bought a new bedroom suit, our first since 1983. We thought it was time. Have you ever wondered why these sets only come with one night stand? I have! This time we bought an extra.
I didn’t mention that I would like matching new lights for the stands. I figured all summer that when Brian asked what I wanted for my birthday, I’d have that answer in my back pocket.
I don’t know what style they are, or what era. I just know that we agreed that we like them, they are large and give out good light. We both spend a lot of time in our bedroom watching TV, reading, or working on the computer or projects. They work!
So today, another beautiful day. The week ahead is supposed to be seasonably chilly and maybe blustery too. After we get our grocery shopping done, we’re going to put away the porch furniture and tidy things up for the fall. I’m going to cut down our ornamental grasses out front and toss the summer plants. If we had hatches, I’d batten them down.
As for this trio of trees in our back yard, I tend to view them as a seasonal barometer. I’ve photographed them when they were drenched with ice and snow, making a crystal winter-scape, and when they were drenched in white blossoms. But in all the 19 years we’ve lived here, these trees have never done what they are doing now. They are covered in red berries! They are serving as bird feeders to happy birds who come and go and enjoy these fruits. One large flock of birds even happily stopped by as though they were visiting a birdie Golden Coral. They ate and were in the air again.
Usually the leaves on these trees are long gone by now. Sometimes the leaves even fall in the summer. But this year, this …
What a beautiful October surprise.
Today is one of those days when I'm celebrating the home fires -- even if the extent of the fire is the pumpkin-cinnamon candle above, and the stove when I put a supper casserole in later.
Today is a work day at home. If all goes as planned, I won't be driving anywhere, but rather doing some long-overdue, deeper-than-normal cleaning (the master bathroom for one), organizing, putting up the fall decorations, and chilling.
Sometimes it's the little things, the quiet days, that we celebrate in our own peaceful, low-key way. This is one of those kind of days. The candle above and the pretty fall ring with it were gifts from our friends Tom and Char when they visited in the summer. I told them I would be lighting up in the fall, and here we are.
Brian and I both enjoy burning scented candles in cool and cold weather. While it's not cool or cold today, it's fall and that's a good excuse to enjoy a new candle and think of our friends' thoughtfulness.
Speaking of sweet friends, yesterday this "thinking of you" card arrived from my dear friend Debbie in Ohio. Debbie used to live on Carriage Lane and our kids grew up together.
She's been blissfully busy being a new grandmother! And in the midst of it all, she thought of me with this homemade card and God-breathed scripture inside: Psalm 150:6: "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD."
I think the photo below summarizes this time of year, a period of transition. I'm still clinging to my summer sandals, but the brown nail polish indicates that it's fall (a color I don't wear much in other seasons).
OK, time to get busy and get some things done around the house! Happy Hump Day, everyone. Don't forget to celebrate life's quiet times and simple pleasures such as a clean house, a scented candle, and appreciation for our friends and loved ones.
Well, hello there, ninth month.
There are two months each year that more than any other scream New Beginnings! Those, for me anyway, are January and September. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Our church pastor has said that those two months are when people are most likely to start something new, such as church or perhaps joining a life group.
January is, of course, the launch of a new calendar year. But September, I suppose, takes us all back to that excited little-kid feeling of a new school year, which always meant a new beginning and the eternal hope of maybe finally being good at algebra or of meeting a new bestie.
Even though there’s three more weeks of summer on the calendar, for me, it’s over when September arrives. This is the fourth summer that I’ve had a book in print, and summers mean that the book-related activity calendar is lean. During each of the four summers, I’ve thought that maybe my own personal literary journey is winding down. But then …
Enter September. When it arrives, things change.
I felt this yesterday, on August’s last day, when these things happened within a six-hour period:
* Email arrived from The Liberty Herald asking for comments and information about my four mini-programs profiling four famous folks from Liberty, coming up on Saturday, Sept. 9 at Founder’s Day. (More about that in an upcoming post.) Can you guess who they are? They are a diverse group! There's a general, a doll, a TV / radio broadcaster and a queen.
* I recently agreed to edit a children’s book! The manuscript was hand-delivered to my work desk yesterday. I started last night and will have it ready for Tuesday pick up.
* Confirmation came that I’m a participant in the Middletown Library Author Fair from 1-3 on Saturday, Sept. 16.
* I was asked about possibly giving a program for an area book club in December. The invite isn’t locked in, but I presented a pitch, and now I’ll see if the official invite comes.
Really? All that in one day? And the last day of August at that? After a summer that contained exactly one book-related public activity? Yep, it’s the start of a new season. And even without the new stuff on the horizon, I’ve got some dates on there anyway, and some new leads to chase.
August was one busy month! We helped son Ben find and move into new digs. There was my 40th high school reunion, overnight-weekday company and a Reds game, a wedding, and the return of our wonderful editor Katie from maternity leave.
September brings its own packed calendar starting with breakfast with the kids tomorrow, a program for a local PEO club Thursday, Founder’s Day next Saturday in Liberty, dinner out with the MLMs next Sunday, then a community-wide musical program, Bible Study Fellowship starting in again Monday, Sept. 11, a trip, and a couple of book signings. Whew! I’m tired already.
I like the visual of the September calendar as a fresh start.
Maybe we no longer have new boxes of crayons to create with, nor crisp notebooks of back-to-school paper. But all the same, this is a great month to try something new. If you would like to know more about Bible Study Fellowship, an international, non-denominational study that is likely to change your life, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I plan to do a special post, but I will tell you that we’re in Romans for the study year, which runs through early May. You can Google Bible Study Fellowship and learn about classes offered throughout the U.S. and world, but if you want to know about those offered in Middletown on Monday nights or in New Castle on Tuesday mornings, I’ll give you exact details.
I’ll also be reading the new memoir by my friend, author Joyce Maynard, The Best of Us, which debuts Tuesday. It is a true love story; one that ended too quickly with the passing of her beloved Jim, from cancer, following their too-brief marriage.
Welcome, ninth month! I’m coming to get you.
I kicked off September with a bowl of autumn apples arraged in my mother's vintage wooden bowl, centered on the dining room table. Recipes for our magazine's recipe contest are being collected now through noon, Monday, Sept. 11.
Rules are simple: One recipe a person with no known copyright on the recipe, and the ability to prepare it and bring it to the final judging at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4 in New Castle if contacted to participate. We'll have a blast! And someone will go home with $100! Submit /questions: email@example.com.
It's the time of year where we gather flowers in the form of baskets, plant seedlings, or seeds. What garden is complete without flowers? Here are my favorites, in order.
Hands down, no competition, game over. Number one to me is the humble zinnia. The annual requires work to get it in the ground each year, but after that, it will do the rest without fuss and offer abundant blooms throughout the growing season.
Above all flowers, this one reminds me of my mother as we planted zinnias together. I love the multi-colored packets of these seeds and seeing the brilliant hues unfold as they bloom.
In short, zinnas make me happy. Other flowers may be pretty or even beautiful but I can walk away with no emotional response other than to acknowledge the beauty. Oh, but the zinnia requires a reaction, either inwardly or outwardly.
Several years ago, and I do believe it was the summer after my mother died in May, I stopped by a summer farmer's market in the town where I live. It was mid or late July because the bounty of zinnias in jars for sale was enormous.
Maybe it was the raw emotion of losing (or thinking about) my mom, or that it was a particularly difficult summer due to Sam having surgery and then my father-in-law passed, but I recall nearly bursting into tears at the sight. I raved to crazy-lady status to the vendor about the zinnias. She gave me a free jar, saying, "It's worth it to see someone that happy about a zinnia."
Not only are peonies soft and full and hearty, and they return each year like clockwork to bloom in May, but they speak of my childhood.
We had two white peony bushes on the farm and I associate their perennial blooms with the end of the school year, the promise of summer, and all the joy that came with it.
Now I associate the peony with the cover of my second book, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, and that they are my beloved state's official flower.
We have one peony bush, with blooms in a hot pink.
In another nod to the days of old, sweet peas bloomed in a couple of places and I bet they still do out there on the farm. They too speak to the start of summer, of beginnings, and swimming in the pond, riding ponies with my friends and family, of the carefree days of youth.
They seem an old-fashioned flower. I rarely if ever see them when I'm out and about. An heirloom flower? Something that is out of favor or considered invasive? I don't know but I find them, well, sweet.
This. The sweet-faced pansy. I admire how they bloom and endure in surprisingly early conditions when snow even falls on their darling faces. And this, yes, is my color. Not only is it my favorite pansy color, but my favorite color period.
Oh, and the sunflower. Don't they shine on their own? So sturdy and strong? They hold up so well when brought indoors but how I love to happen across a field of them. Of course I don't love them half as much as the bees do.
On this rainy May day, I look forward to a summer of seeing and enjoying flowers. Of stopping to smell the peonies or sweet peas.
What about you? What are your favorite flowers?
I finally finished my winter's project of covering everything in sight, well, on our back porch anyway, with new outdoor fabric, including the wicker chair and sofa pads. There's lots of yard work, and of course always housework needing done, but I want to celebrate the beautify of my own back yard and all that May greenery out there.
It's been something of a surprise, I suppose, but of the three years I've been on this book journey, this spring has been the busiest period of all. I enjoy it all so much, and look forward to every stop on the calendar.
For today, however, I'm jumping for joy at the prospect of a day with nothing on my calendar! Yes, I've found myself a free day! I'm almost giddy with the idea of nothing planned, no obligations, and no pressure to put together a program or scurry off to an appointment of any kind.
I have some organizing to do, but I want to get out into the sunshine and soft breeze and relish May at its finest. May and June are my two favorite months. I savor the lengthy, light-filled evenings, the sometimes-perfect temperatures, and the carpet of green grass in my own back yard.
I took this photo on the way into church Sunday. Pansies are among the cheeriest of flowers, don't you agree?
My sweet daughter-in-law Allison brought two hanging baskets of red geraniums on Sunday (and a pretty Vera Bradley apron). I'm going to put those baskets on the back porch, and move a couple of ferns to hanging positions on the front.
Yes, I'll be working in the yard today, and doing whatever else that strikes my fancy on this day in May. I may even find some time for a little snooze this afternoon, here, in one of my favorite spots in the known universe.
Enjoy your day! Savor May! Yes, that's my foot. I'm practicing.
Yes, the title is misleading …
But in the world of miniature or fairy gardens, anything is possible.
For the fourth year, I’ve planted my miniature garden. I use a small galvanized tub I found at Warm Glow Candle in their garden annex and I’ve been pleased with how well the plants hold up all summer long.
This year I was excited to “get out the crop” because my bestie Gay Kirkton gifted me at Christmas with some new goodies to add. Do you see the chickens? And the all-weather work boots? What about the stepping stones and the garden tools?
It’s amazing how much fits into so little a space. I added the small plants, found here in Pendleton, and in no time, the garden is ready for warm weather. Gay and I assembled our miniature gardens a few summers ago when our girlfriend getaway had a clear “Home and Garden” theme. We went on a home and garden tour in Centerville, took a garden “glass lady” class, and assembled our miniature gardens, among other things.
Thanks so much for the additions this year, Gay!
I decided to display the small garden where more people will actually see it, so it is positioned on a bench outside our front door. I added the small decorative chair and an asparagus fern. The plastic base I started out with for the fern didn’t please me and then I had an ah-ha moment! To go along with the galvanized tub miniature garden, why not use an aluminum bucket for the base for the fern? In fact, I’m going to pick up another one for the Boston fern that will go in another spot on the porch. Galvanized steel has become hot in decorating! This is an easy fix.
And how do you like the vintage kitchen towels I told you about from Building 125 in Cambridge City? I love them! And to me, they scream SUMMER.
Speaking of summer and gardening, one of The Courier-Times’ her magazine sponsors, Warm Glow Candle at the Centerville exit off I-70 and Centerville Road in Wayne County, is having the annual spring sale this weekend, Friday-Sunday, May 5-7.
I’ll be there signing books from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday only. If you are in the area, please drop by, look me up and say hi. And if you aren’t in the area, it might be a great weekend to plan a visit to this wonderful gift complex and yes, tourist attraction.
I’m early with the midweek blog as I have today off instead of tomorrow. I’m starting my day tomorrow, Wednesday, May 3, with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast at New Castle Breakfast Optimists. I’ll be giving the program on what it was like to cover the presidential inauguration.
It’s an early start, but sometimes it’s fun to shake up the routine a bit. That’s not what I’ll be saying when Amy Grant starts singing Better Than a Hallelujah as my alarm at 5 tomorrow. But that’s OK!
Click on my CONTACT box at the top of the page to check out my upcoming schedule and this busy but wonderful time of year. Shoot me an inquiry if you need a speaker or program, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is just the time of year that makes me antsy. Every day, the trees and shrubs have filled out significantly more than the day before. The grass looks like a lush, Irish-green shag carpet, and once again, the ash tree survives the nasty ash borer disease that has taken down many a beauty in recent years.
We have plenty of yard work needing done. Our side of the white vinyl fence behind our property needs washed, there is weeding, and pruning, and plenty more to do if we were ambitious about such things.
But what calls my name are the vacancies at the end of the black chains dangling on the back porch as well as on my topiary-styled pole on the front. I want to pick up a bridal veil for its designated spot by the front door (the most ideal spot for this plant that could possibly exist and I take full advantage of it yearly). And I want to fill the back porch with huge Boston ferns.
Those Bostons have been taunting me at a particular grocery store where I can get them cheaper than at several other locations. So I’m playing beat the clock. Will they be sold out by the time I feel sure the weather will cooperate with their outdoor digs?
I wish somebody would just say when, and I would know that the time had come.
“Have you got your ferns yet?” a friend asked a week or more ago. I don’t dare yet. I looked at the weather for the next week and it looks promising. But that takes me only to April 29 and then I remember my mother saying to hold off with outdoor annuals until May 10.
Others say May 1 or Mother’s Day. But my mother seemed to know best. True, the porch is covered. But still. I don’t want to buy them only to see them turn brown and ratty, and then go to the trouble and expense of having to replace them with the second, inferior wave of smaller Bostons.
Today, the neighbors and Brian played beat the clock and mowed and worked their yards, getting a jump on not only the weekend but the rain said to move in tomorrow. I did some landscape weeding.
The plastic bin resembled a salad bowl with green trimmings piled high. A couple weeks ago I bought tiny cone-shaped evergreens for the black urns in front of the garage doors. I like the greens in the urns but they tend not to last beyond a couple of years so I didn’t invest too much. For now they are growing like, well, weeds.
I’d rather have a sunny Saturday tomorrow than rain, as though I got to decide such things. But the rain is needed and will encourage the growth and nourish the soil.
So, I’ll wait patiently for the Bostons to take their places, for the bridal veil to welcome front-door guests, and for May 10 to hit the calendar, assuring me, as did my mother all those years, that the time has come.
That is, unless of course, I cave.