March 26, 2015

upside down...

It's nearing the end of March, and while I really do understand that even if the calendar says it is spring, living in Wisconsin means the possibility of snow hasn't left yet.  But it's a little discouraging to see things "upside down" this morning...

In my solarium I have blooming hibiscus that over-wintered far better than I expected:

and tulips at the end of their blooms:
and sprouting seeds...all hopeful signs of spring!!

Yet a peek outside my windows tells a far different story...

front yard...

and back yard...

Even a visiting baby hawk looks a little confused!

Hopefully we will soon be turning our faces toward the summer isle as poet Claude McKay envisions in his poem After the Winter.  I am sure at this point in the change of seasons we are all more than ready for wide mouthed orchids and ferns that never fade!

After the Winter 

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
     And against the morning’s white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
     Have sheltered for the night,
We’ll turn our faces southward, love,
     Toward the summer isle
Where bamboos spire the shafted grove
     And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

And we will seek the quiet hill
     Where towers the cotton tree,
And leaps the laughing crystal rill,
     And works the droning bee.
And we will build a cottage there
     Beside an open glade,
With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,
     And ferns that never fade.

March 13, 2015

Good morning and Happy Friday!  I hope the weather has been mild where you live--we have had some days in the fifties this week, and oh my oh my has that ever wonderful!  I'm heading off to the windy city this weekend for my annual opera adventure so I'm looking forward to sharing some Chicago stories with you next week, but in the meantime I thought I'd give you a peek of my dapper husband, all dressed up for a music competition last week.  Isn't he cute?  And because he always wears a hat, I thought this cute poem by Aaron Belz was a fitting accompaniment. 

The Love-Hat Relationship
I have been thinking about the love-hat relationship.
It is the relationship based on love of one another's hats.
The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is
You don't necessarily even know the other person.
Also it is too dependent on whether the other person
is even wearing the favored hat. We all enjoy hats,
but they're not something to build an entire relationship
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love
Try having like-hat relationships with one another.
See if you can find something interesting about
the personality of the person whose hat you like.

 I definitely found something interesting about the personality of the person whose hat I like!

Now that spring is hesitantly peeping around the corner here in Wisconsin and even occasionally agreeing to stop by and chat for a few minutes, I thought it would be fun to watch her show off as she begins to wave her magic spring wand over the lovely golf course I pass each day on my way to work.  Stay tuned for a transformation over the next few weeks.  But I should probably also post a disclaimer...I live in a state where we can have green grass growing and daffodils starting to bud one day, and the next have a raging blizzard!  We'll see how this spring unfolds!

I'll take the same shot each night on my way home from work at five...

Have a lovely weekend and I'll be back next week with tales of Tosca and high tea!

March 3, 2015

...brought to you by the letter "T"

Good morning, and here's hoping you have a Terrific Tuesday! (My perkiness may or may not be in direct correlation to the very short amount of sleep I got last night...I think I'm over compensating). 

And if today is brought to us by the letter "T", Sesame Street must be close by!  Here's Lily's first glimpse of Sesame Street...

"T" can also stand for Terrific Times.  On Sunday we were invited to celebrate my oldest son's best friend's 30th birthday with his family.  It was a wonderful time and so gratifying to see how these two men have cherished their friendship through high school football, college days, graduate school (physical therapy and law) and still make time to enjoy each other as they start their professional careers and families.  He's also Lily's godfather.  How sweet is that?

"T" can also stand for thankful.  Right now I'm thankful we've made it to March, because I don't think I could have done one more day of February.  Evidently it was the coldest February here in the last 80 years.  I am sooooo done with winter (did I mention it is snowing like crazy as I'm typing??)

And finally, "T" can stand for...............TULIPS!  Yes!  TULIPS!  My son's girlfriend planted a big tub of bulbs and I present a little bit of springtime just for you!

And here is a sweet little poem from the book Enchanted Tulips and Other Verses for Children by Maude Keary (1914).


TULIPS white and tulips red,
Sweeter than a violet bed!
Say, old Mother Bailey, say
Why your tulips look so gay,
Why they smell so sweet, and why
They bloom on when others die?
“By the pixies’ magic power
Do my tulips always flower,
By the pixies’ magic spell
Do they give so sweet a smell!
Tulips, tulips, red and white,
Fill the pixies with delight!

“Pixy women, pixy men,
Seek my tulips from the glen;
Midnight come, they may be heard
Singing sweet as any bird,
Singing their wee babes to rest
In the tulips they love best!”

March 2, 2015

the word beautiful...

Happy Monday morning!  I really hadn't planned to write a post this morning, but I woke up at 5:09 and couldn't get back to sleep so I may as well enjoy the quiet house and my first cup of coffee.  It reminds me of a lovely poem by Mary Oliver, Just Around the House...

Though I have been scorned for it
let me never be afraid to use the word beautiful.
For with is the shining leaf
and the blossoms of the geranium at the window.
And the eyes of the happy puppy as he wakes.
The colors of the old and beloved afghan lying
by itself, on the couch, in the morning sun.
The hummingbirds' nest perched now in a
corner of the bookshelf, in front of so many
books of so many colors.
the two poached eggs.  The buttered toast.
The ream of brand-new paper just opened,
white as a block of snow.
The typewriter humming, ready to go.

And while it is not quite time for shining leaves and blooming geraniums, I do have a happy puppy who loves to snuggle with me in the morning as we greet the day together!  But if I don't have spring time treats to treasure this morning, what is beautiful in my world?  For starters, my brand new floor in my bedroom!  I had hated the ugly old blue shag carpet in the bedroom and hallway from the very moment we moved in to our home eleven years ago.  I shared a picture last week of how the floor looked after we tore up the carpet, but here is a "before" picture...

 I believe my vehement statement as soon as we closed on the house was "this dreadful carpet needs to be the first thing we rip out."  Ahem...sometimes vehement statements don't translate into actually doing something about the problem.  There was always some other house project that took precedence, but finally I am shag free!  We had to let the wood "breathe" for a few days to acclimate to our home's temperature and humidity, which left Willow a little confused by the maze in our living room...

And of course, everything from my bedroom ended up stacked in all the other rooms upstairs, so it's been a messy week, which is hard for me to handle.  I really do best in a clutter-free, tidy environment, so it felt great to spend this past Saturday putting my bedroom to rights.  Here are a few "after" pictures so you can see why I am now so shag-a-licious-free happy!

 I love how the various colors in the floor blend the different woods in my bedroom together...

In the process of clearing out my bedroom in preparation for the new floor, my dresser lamp was broken.  That turned out to be a good thing, as I found this lovely lamp on sale and it goes so nicely in the room!

So I'm finally in love with how my master bedroom looks...I guess it's time to look for a new project!  I'm sure my husband can't wait...

Have a wonderful day and I hope that you also find the courage to see the beautiful in the world...

February 23, 2015

Watch now, how I start the day in happiness.

What a weekend!  My mother is fond of the phrase "no rest for the weary" and that seemed to be the case the past few days!  All good stuff though, so I'm not complaining. Just kind of wishing I had one more day to rest up before facing this morning...

Friday night, instead of our usual wine and cheese date night, found us in jeans and masks, ripping up the disgusting blue shag carpet in our bedroom.  The same blue shag carpet that I insisted would be the first thing we took out when we moved in...eleven years ago.  As we started moving out furniture and emptying the closets I admit I was a bit surprised at how much stuff was tucked away in this room...under the bed I found two boxes of the kids' baby clothes, one box of letters I wrote to my mother when I was in college (doing the math, I think the letters qualify as "vintage"), four violins, a harmonica and a slinky.  Huh.  Not quite sure what to say about all that miscellany lurking under the bed!  I also found the requisite dust bunnies...and all their relatives!

I would normally post a "before" and "after" picture, but honesty only goes so far...there is no way I'm posting a picture of how hideous that blue shag was!  Here is a picture of how it looks sans carpet, waiting on the new floor.  Yes, go ahead and try to picture my yellow-orangish faux stucco walls (my husband says Steeler yellow, I politely remind him it is Tuscan gold and Greek sunsets...) with blue shag carpet.  Yuck.  Make that double Yuck.  You know it was bad when the sub floor looks way better!

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So after we kicked off our weekend with manual labor, we followed it up with hitting the road north on Saturday to see our son and his girlfriend in a college play.  The college occasionally uses theater alums, and it was so exciting to see my son back on the stage!  They both did a great job, and it was a lot of fun.

It was a new play, The Boy Inside, written by one of the college professors/playwrights on campus and is about a head football coach who is leading his college team to its best season ever at the same time the college president decides football is too dangerous for an academic environment. The conflict leads both characters on a journey of self-discovery and the true meaning of football and sports.  As my husband played college football it made for some interesting discussions on the drive home!  We also had the chance to finally meet my son's girlfriend's parents and little sister, and had a wonderful time getting to know each other over dessert following the play.

Such a wonderful time, in fact, that we completely lost track of time and didn't make it back home until 1:30!  So our early Sunday wake up call came way too fast, and before we knew it we were back on the road, this time heading west to go babysit Lily.  I can't believe how fast she is growing!  I think she is going to bypass formal crawling (she scooches on  her stomach liked greased lightning) and the way she is constantly pulling herself up to a standing position makes me think she'll be an early walker. 

Trying on Grandpa's hat

Teaching Grandma how to blow kisses

And now here it is--Monday morning--and I need a "jump start" following my extra busy weekend.  I choose to start the week with an extra large mug of coffee and this lovely reflection by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.  Let's all start today in happiness and kindness!

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

February 19, 2015

the engine of my gratefulness

Gratefulness.  Gratitude.  Appreciation.  Thankfulness.

I'll be the first to admit it, sometimes when I am caught in winter's frozen grip, it's hard to keep that attitude of gratitude.  It's hard to focus on what I have to be truly thankful for (and it's a long list!!) when my nose is constantly cold, and no matter how many slippers I put on my feet stay frozen.  My chest feels tight and all I really want to do is climb into my flannel pjs after work and huddle up on the sofa, preferably wrapped in a blanket near the fireplace.  With a windchill way below zero, it's hard to scrounge up a few crumbs of gratitude.

But I'll try...let's see, for starters my sister-in-law has just informed me that today is National Drink Wine Day.  Who knew?!  I'm grateful that I can do my part to celebrate this significant holiday.  And what was in my mailbox today??  All sorts of "hang on, spring is coming" little cheerleaders!  First cheerleader...a garden bulb catalog.  Hmm, I'll take three silver lace vines and raise you two caladiums.  Oh wait, that may be the wine talking...

Second cheerleader?  Three more Inspector Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James books by Deborah Crombie.  I love these two characters and of course the British locale, and have been eagerly waiting for these books to arrive.  And I am seriously thankful for, that makes finding books so easy and affordable.


Another cheerleader...two new room sprays from my sister's spring Scentsy collection also arrived!  Sweet pea and peony...the beautiful fragrances give hope that spring will arrive, even if it doesn't feel that way right now.  And last, but certainly not least, my first copy of English Homes magazine arrived--I've been waiting for my subscription to kick in so I could curl up and sip tea, while dreaming of the English homes and gardens so beautifully displayed.

So on second thought, I guess I have much to be thankful for this cold winter's day.  Sometimes it's the little things that get us through...

by Dale Biron

Each day the engine of my gratefulness
must be coaxed and primed into action.
Of course like any old clunker,
it would just as soon stay put.
For even after the labored start beats the inertia,
and the plume of white smoke struggles upward,
the same hills always appear,
soaring daily—tall and ominous as before.
There is the long slow hill of “aging”
so gradual and smooth at first.
And then that steep grade called “the news.”
Yes, and always some mountain of a war
looming out there, never too far in the distance.
Even an old idea or a feeling long abandoned
might conspire to halt this fragile progress –
valves sputtering, tires flattening, clutch slipping.
But the old “potato, potato, potato” sound
of the engine, and all its mysterious fuel,
for which I am truly grateful
keeps stumbling along.

February 17, 2015

Make it be spring...

Blam...more snow in the night!  Just a dusting covering everything, but I am sure I am not the only one who is weary of white at this point.  I need the bright oranges of my hibiscus and sunny yellows of my lilies...

I need the blushing pinks of my peonies and bleeding hearts..

I need the royal purples of my lilacs and iris.  I need spring, my friends! 

Poet Margaret Atwood must have had the same cabin feverish I can't take the snow one more day thoughts when she wrote February.  I'm with you, Margaret---please, please, please make it be spring!

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
Again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and the pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.