April 16, 2014

As Christopher Robin would say "hip hip hooray!"  The day has finally arrived when I can start sharing a little background of all my recent comings and goings.  I didn't want to spoil any surprises at the birthday party or baby showers, so I can now show a little of the behind the scenes action.  Let's start with the baby shower, shall we?  And the obvious starting point has to be the "theme".  There was a time (uh-oh, I'm starting to show my age!) when a baby shower was just...a baby shower.  Invitations were mailed out, people arrived, you served cake and mints and coffee and party nuts, played a few games, oohed and aahed over the sweet little baby gifts, and went home.  That was before the advent of the internet and Pinterest, my friends.  Nowadays?  There are so many amazing and creative suggestions a keystroke away that it can become an EVENT rather quickly!

It's no surprise to any of you that read my blog regularly that I am a reader.  Always have been.  Always will be, so I wanted the baby shower to start my new grandchild off on a literary note.  My library is filled with all the books my children loved when they were little, and I wanted to make sure that a bookcase brimming with lovely children's books awaited this precious new child when he or she enters our world in a few short weeks.

 So I was very fortunate to find a great designer, Jen Leonardini, who designed the invitations, bookplates and assorted paper goods for the party.  You can find her on Etsy at Top That Designs (link here).  Here are a few of her lovely designs we used for the shower, using beloved characters from Dr. Seuss, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Hungry Hungry Caterpillar, Peter Rabbit and last, but certainly not least, Max from Where the Wild Things Are.


Request to use a baby book as the gift card


And in true If You Give a Mouse a Cookie fashion, if you ask for books...you will need a bookcase to house them!  I had so much fun painting and decorating the bookshelf I bought thirty years ago for my son's nursery.  It had gone through several transformations over the years (anyone remember the "country pinks and blues" of the 80's?) but it is now a soft green to complement the gray walls of the nursery, and decorated with Pooh and Tigger decals to match the nursery decor.  

Bookcase "before", holding extra tea pots and cookbooks in my solarium

And bookcase à la Winnie the Pooh! (sorry about the poor photo resolution, the light in my dining room makes taking pictures more than a little challenging)

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh ...
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.
"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh,
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty two."
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is," said Pooh. 

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!" ... and off they flew.
"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you." 

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said ... "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two
Can stick together," says Pooh, says he.
"That's how it is," says Pooh. 

Photo: Lots of work on the baby's room. Yay! It isn't trashed anymore. Looks like a nursery now. Michael Scales you are amazing.

April 15, 2014

Laughter...it helps!

“Life is worth living as long as there's a laugh in it.”
―L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
Good morning!  Yesterday morning I got up with every intention of posting my blog, but the fates were against me.  My computer kept crashing (with this perky little message "aw snap!  looks like your computer crashed!  would you like to restart?)  "Aw snap"?? Really--my computer tells me "aw, snap" ?!  And then of course, there was Mother Nature's Monday morning offering right outside my window...
All in all, it made for a bleak and exasperating start to the day.  Sunday had mostly been spent on doing taxes (can you say procrastination?) and Monday morning just seemed a little too much to handle.
But thank goodness, I get a "re-do" this morning and have managed to find a thing or two to smile about.  One--my husband installed our new under-cabinet lights in the kitchen yesterday.  They look great!  Two--all my children will be home for Easter!  As Martha Stewart would say "that's a good thing."  Three--taxes are done, filed, and already accepted by IRS.  Whew.  Four--since Saturday I have managed to find my dress for my daughter's wedding, book the photobooth, musician AND the cake designer.  I'm starting to breathe easier--four checks off my to-do list!  And last, but certainly not least of all, I have a family that makes me laugh.  If you don't believe me, just check out these family photos from the last couple of weeks. 
Day without Laughter Whole Woman Network

“I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh.”
Maya Angelou
Always remember to be happy because you never know who’s falling in love with your smile.
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.”
Audrey Hepburn
Smile and the world will smile with you

“Laughter is carbonated holiness.”
“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” ― Mother Teresa
“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol 
You’re never fully dressed without a smile. – Martin Charnin
May your day be rich with laughter and smiles...stop by tomorrow for some baby shower pictures, because how can you not smile about a baby?  Let's end this post with one of my all-time faves by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and have a wonderful day!

"To laugh often and much"

To laugh often and much
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

April 11, 2014


Just a quick observation...when you take Monday off from work, Friday seems to arrive much quicker!! Unfortunately, it also means one less day to get all of your work done before starting the weekend... And it seems it is National Sibling Day today (thank goodness for Facebook or I'd never keep track of all these new "special days"!).  I have the best siblings in the world, probably because I had such terrific parents.  Aren't they cute?!

And now on to all the projects and parties I've been promising you!  We'll tour my new kitchen today--well, not NEW, but one addition that has made me sooo happy.  I disliked the kitchen back-splash from the day we moved into our home--it was an odd shade of green Corian, solid, serviceable but no pizzazz at all.  And, it showed every grease splatter like crazy.  We finally decided to replace it with something a little more updated, and sparkly.  Yup, sparkly!  Because who doesn't want a sprinkling of fairy dust in their kitchen??!

Before pictures (don't I wish my counter tops were always this clean!)  And check out the simply awful fluorescent light fixture under the cabinet and the plastic paper towel holder next to the stove that also managed to catch grease splatters...

After you get everything cleared off the counter tops, it has to go somewhere...

But after a long weekend with no cooking (oh darn) it all came together beautifully!  Except, of course, in that "If you give a mouse a cookie" way of life, one thing leads to another, and now I think I need a new kitchen curtain...

Can you see the little sparkles of crushed glass in the tiles?  They go really well with our black and stainless steel appliances and add a little sparkly whimsy to my kitchen.  I love it!

The new light fixtures have arrived so next week I'll share some pictures of how it all came together--I'm on the hunt for a new curtain while Phil installs the lights!  Have a wonderful day, and please be sure to stop by on Monday to see what else I've been up to!

April 10, 2014

Hello!  I am almost recovered from my marathon weekend, and can't wait to start sharing some of the fun I've been having with all of you!  I've been itching to get back to writing for my blog, but between visitors and parties my time was wonderfully full.  First off, a big thank you to my mother for coming to visit. By visiting her oldest son in Cincinnati and her younger brother in Indiana before coming to my home, she was quite the traveler--almost a full month away from her home!  I think she was okay with that though--in addition to having a wonderful time with family members she doesn't get to see very often she also got to miss March in South Dakota--it's not the most pleasant month to live on the prairie!

As opposed to February in South Dakota:

or January...

And while I could start talking about some of the really nasty April blizzards I've encountered in South Dakota, I'll keep quiet on those and hope my mother doesn't experience one on her return home!!  I had five wonderful days with her, and as usual, we talked and talked and talked--family stories, books we've discovered, projects on our "lists" (mostly undone!), garden plans for this summer, and all the little moments of conversation that add up to a whole lot of love...years of companionship, friendship and enjoyment of each other.  I remember being snarky once (okay, well maybe twice..) to my Mom when I was a teenager, but I'm really not exaggerating when I say that we have an amazingly close relationship, very seldom marred by anger or disappointments.  Lucky me, right?!

And I'm even luckier that I got this great picture of the "three Elizabeths":  my mother, Eunice Elizabeth, me (Martha Elizabeth) and my daughter, Caitlin Elizabeth:

And I bet you are wondering what we did to fill those five days (besides drinking coffee and chatting a mile a minute)?  There is a partial hint behind us in the picture, but that story is for another day.  Today, I'm just happy that I was blessed with another visit from my mom, that all my kids were home to celebrate special birthdays last weekend, as well as celebrating the imminent arrival of my first grandchild!  

As I left for work yesterday morning, my husband was preparing to take Mother to the airport.  It was hard to say goodbye and as I backed out of the driveway I couldn't help but think of all the times I would come home for a visit and as I left I would see Mother waving from the front door.  I looked back at the house, and sure enough, there she was, waving goodbye from my kitchen window.  Let's not say good-bye, Mom, let's just say see you later, okay?  

April 1, 2014

It's a busy week!  When I turn the calendar over to April, I am looking at a visit from my mother this week that will culminate in a family birthday party on Saturday for my mother, my husband, and my son's girlfriend.  So I'm trying to pull my house back together after a week of a dismantled kitchen due to a new tile backsplash installation, and trying to plan menus, gifts and birthday fun for Saturday.  But wait...there's more!!  On Sunday I am co-hosting a baby shower for my son and daughter-in-law so I've always been hard at work on plans for that special event.

Don't worry...I'll share all the fun and details with you in upcoming posts, but in an effort to keep my sanity this week I'm taking the week off from my blog.  I can only squeeze so much into a day, and my days are crazy busy this week.  But please stop by next week to see how everything turned out!

In the meantime, happy April!!

March 28, 2014

in the spring...you should smell like dirt

Today, I'm grateful.  Grateful that it's Friday, to be sure, but more importantly, grateful for the friends I have in my life.  Friends that don't let miles between us make our friendship less strong or less meaningful.  Friends that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt "have my back" and would be by my side in an instant if I needed them.  And, lucky me, they are also the type of friends that know when a little package arriving in the mail can change a gray day into a happy day.  And who doesn't need a few rays of sunshine beaming from the mailbox after this long winter?!

Sunshine beam #1:  from my wonderful friend, Mary, who knows me soooo well!

Sunshine beam #2:  (peeking out from my kitchen drawer) also from my friend, Mary, a lovingly designed apron made by her that incorporates so many things I love!  And I smile every time I put it on. 

Sunshine beam #3:  from my dear friend Rita this package arrived last week--warm and wonderful mittens created from sweaters...check out the beautiful beading!

Sunshine beam #4:  and holding on to the hope that spring WILL arrive, these gardening gloves were also in the package!  Oh my, I can't wait to use them!

March 27, 2014

Sing, O muse...

“Sing, O muse, of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.” 

What a juxtaposition...moving from the pastoral scene depicted in Edward Hicks' painting The Peaceable Kingdom to a powerful, moving theater performance at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater that tells the story of war.  One war--the Trojan War--and yet it is a masterful condemnation of all the wars that mankind has waged.    Adapted from Homer's Poem, The Illiad, it was a performance I will never forget.  I have seen so many plays in my lifetime, and have witnessed amazing acting, but I can truthfully say I have never seen acting so powerful, so masterful, so moving.  It will be a night I will remember forever.  I have admired Jim DeVita's work on stage for many years at the American Player's Theater, an outdoor venue not too far from my home that specializes in Shakespearean productions.  I've sat breathlessly through Jim's interpretations of Hamlet, MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet, but his demanding role in An Iliad left me speechless and stunned.  I couldn't begin to describe it as well as the review in the Milwaukee Sentinel, so I hope you enjoy reading about the play and if you ever have a chance to see a production of it, please consider attending.  You won't regret it.

American Players Theatre standout Jim DeVita now 53, freely admits that actors, like the rest of us, have stretches during which they wonder why they bother — and whether anyone out there is listening or cares.
But imagine being dogged by this sense of futility for 3,000 years. That's the situation confronting the bone-weary Poet in "An Iliad," a powerful, one-actor adaptation of Homer's poem by director Lisa Peterson and actor Denis O'Hare.

The Poet is described as "traveling for a very long time," and the opening lines of "An Iliad" explain why: He has been singing Homer's song — which focuses on the final weeks in the decade-long Trojan War, with all its mindless carnage and waste — since it was first written."Every time I sing this song, I hope it's the last time," the Poet tells his audience. But it never is, because that audience isn't listening hard enough to stop similarly avoidable wars.

While telling the story of that long ago conflict in Asia Minor, the Poet also is living with and referring to all the wars fought since — literally, at one point, during an extended, trance-like incantation in which he names more than 100 of them, from the Peloponnesian War to the civil war currently raging in Syria."The conceit is that he's been in every war, and seen young boys and women raped and bodies desecrated for thousands of years," DeVita said during a recent interview at the Rep, explaining why the burdened Poet struggles at first to even remember his lines.

"It's not just that he's tired of it," DeVita continued. "It's that it's right here on his chest and he can't imagine having to tell this story again. He's told this story tens of thousands of times and it hasn't made a difference. 'How,' he thinks, 'am I going to make a difference on this night?'"

One might just as well ask how one conveys the gist of Homer's sprawling poem — which comprises 24 books and more than 15,000 lines, and which would take 24 hours to read aloud — into an effective, 100-minute piece of theater. The answer involves skipping any effort to detail every Homeric battle and intrigue, although passages from Robert Fagles' great translation ensure that plenty of both remain, from Achilles' great rage through Hector's death and on to the Trojan grief and Greek pity that this needless death provokes.

But even as he recounts these iconic moments, the Poet is using Homer's poem to provide a visceral account of the horrors of war, through modernized images and stories that help bring it home to a contemporary audience.

"Time and again, the Poet urgently asks the audience, 'do you see?,' or 'imagine this,' or 'see this,'" DeVita said. "His main job as a storyteller is to really try to make us — today and now — see what war is like."
"So, for example, he'll start reciting the long passage where Homer names the places from which these thousands of Greeks are from. And when he sees that the audience isn't getting it, he starts over: 'So you know what it's like? It's like these boys are from Nebraska, and Florida, and Milwaukee and Kenosha,' and he'll go on with this huge list, naming American towns and cities. At the end of the list, he'll look out at the audience and say, 'Now do you see?'"

"The conceit, and it's brilliant, is that the Powerhouse has been hit by a bomb," DeVita said. "They're going to build a replica of a stage, and then tear it apart. Proscenium walls will be pulled apart and crushed down. The stage is going to look like it has holes. It will literally look as though Milwaukee has been in a war."
"I know it sounds weird," DeVita continued, "but this bombed-out set will make the space feel more intimate."

That sounds right; if the Poet's goal is to bring war home to his audience, having that audience enter such a playing space should make it easier to feel a kinship with the Poet and grasp what he means when, for example, he describes the trenches of World War I — or names the boys who died in them. In "An Iliad," the Poet does both.

DeVita also is convinced that the onstage presence of cellist Alicia Storin will further enhance the audience's appreciation of how this long-ago story remains a story for all of us.

"Just having the sound of a cello at times will evoke the women who are talked about in the play," DeVita said. "Seeing a woman out there alters the story. So often, women and children are the collateral damage in war. Alicia's presence, while I describe things like Hector's son being thrown from the battlements, will change how that account resonates."

"The Poet is losing his distance from his story," DeVita said, growing emotional as his voice dropped to nearly a whisper. "He is saying to himself — he is saying to us — that 'I don't think I can look at those young boys, 18 years old, slaughtered on the battlefield. I can't tell that story again tonight.'"

Perhaps a tough play to watch, comprehending the thousands of years of strife and sorrow that war has brought to each generation, but a performance of a lifetime and one I am so very glad I was able to see.

“Generations of men are like the leaves.
In winter, winds blow them down to earth,
but then, when spring season comes again,
the budding wood grows more. And so with men:
one generation grows, another dies away.” 
― HomerThe Iliad