April 30, 2014

Washington, D.C.--travels with my son

Where to start?  With an entire cupboard full of coffee mugs, which one shall I choose first?  I can't say I have an all-time favorite, although right now I am using my "Grandmother" mug quite a bit, for obvious reasons.  (Two weeks and counting!!)  But each mug holds a place in my heart, calling up special memories of all the silly and fun little moments that make up a great vacation.

Since today is the last day of April, it is also the last day of National Poetry Month, so I guess it is a good day to showcase my special Washington, D.C., mug that my son bought for me when the two of us were in D.C. his senior year of high school.  He was representing the state of Wisconsin at the national Poetry Out Loud recitation contest (you can read more about our adventures here.) 

We had a grand time, just the two of us roaming the streets of Washington when he wasn't tied up with the competition.  We took an evening trolley ride to view the memorials, and had a great time listening to the tales our bus driver/tour guide (who had majored in American history) shared with us.  We somberly toured the Holocaust Museum, and then had loads of fun at the National Spy Musuem.  We visited the White House, and found the Washington Monument.  Evidently that is a little more difficult than one would imagine, since my son and husband had managed to never see it when they were in Washington the year before!

Washington monument at sunset

We laughed.  We talked.  We tried new foods.  We hung out--traveling companions, comfortable with each other.  We made memories.  And now he is all grown up--a college graduate out making his own way in the world.  But for those few minutes when I pour a cup of coffee in this mug I am once again on an adventure with my son...

Washington Monument by Night
Carl Sandburg (1922)
clr gif


The stone goes straight.
A lean swimmer dives into night sky,
Into half-moon mist.


Two trees are coal black.
This is a great white ghost between.
It is cool to look at,
Strong men, strong women, come here.


Eight years is a long time
To be fighting all the time.


The republic is a dream.
Nothing happens unless first a dream.


The wind bit hard at Valley Forge one Christmas.
Soldiers tied rags on their feet.
Red footprints wrote on the snow . . .
. . . and stone shoots into stars here
. . . into half-moon mist tonight.


Tongues wrangled dark at a man.
He buttoned his overcoat and stood alone.
In a snowstorm, red hollyberries, thoughts, he stood alone.


Women said: He is lonely
. . . fighting . . . fighting . . . eight years . . .


The name of an iron man goes over the world.
It takes a long time to forget an iron man.
. . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .

April 29, 2014

Spring arrives...just not here!

I had planned to start my "coffee cup travelogue" today, but I'm a tad more tired than I had expected from my weekend trip.  My husband and I traveled to Ohio to attend our niece's first communion, and we drove back yesterday in a series of really nasty thunderstorms.  Sometimes I forget that I'm not quite as young as I used to be, and seven hours in a car (in pelting rain) left me a little energy-depleted.  So today I thought I would share a few pictures from our trip instead.  Spring has obviously remembered to visit Ohio already, although she is mighty slow to drop by Wisconsin!  Let's start with the prettiest picture of all, my darling niece.  Isn't she just beautiful?

We were so happy to be there to share her special day with her.

And here are some "spring has arrived!" pictures of my brother's yard.  I was more than a little envious of all the blooms and leaves and sunshine!

Oh my, I remember sitting outside!  Surely sometime soon we'll be able to do this in Wisconsin?

We stopped at a rest stop in Illinois on the way home, and even though it was drizzly out, the pear trees were simply stunning. 

And last, but certainly not least...a true sign of spring!  This cheeky mama built her nest right outside my brother's dining room window, on his patio.  We literally had a bird's eye view of the four hungry little robins!

Happy Tuesday!

A Bird, came down the Walk - (359)

A Bird, came down the Walk - 
He did not know I saw -
He bit an Angle Worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw, 
And then, he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass -
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass -
He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad -
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought,
He stirred his Velvet Head. - 
Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers, 
And rowed him softer Home -
Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim. 

April 25, 2014

It's my mother's fault.  I'll just be up front about that so we are clear from the beginning, okay?  She has always been a coffee drinker, and a big red can of Folger's is a permanent fixture on the kitchen counter, in case someone drops by for a fresh cup during the day. 

I can vividly remember that strong coffee smell wafting down the hallway early in the morning, and I would lie in bed and vow to never drink something that smelled so bitter.  Even late at night, my aunt would sometimes stop by for a cup on her way to her third shift nursing position.  After my dad retired his "garage buddies" would start congregating down at the house early in the morning and Mother switched from a regular coffee pot to a crowd sized dispenser.

Of course, with five lively children under the age of ten in the house, she needed coffee to keep her going, a fact I  really didn't understand when I was young.

All through college my beverage of choice was Coke, nice and cold and preferably in a bottle instead of those new fangled aluminum cans.  The bottle always seemed so much colder!  It wasn't until I was working all day and going to graduate school at night that I begrudgingly succumbed to a cup of coffee...just to see if it helped keep me awake during long nights of homework and research.  And (surprise, surprise, it did!) And although I remain a devoted tea drinker (even naming my blog for my love of tea) early in the morning, a great cup of coffee is my morning kick-starter.

So from then on, when I was home visiting my mother, we would have a companionable cup of coffee together.  But there was always a certain etiquette that had to be maintained...tea was sipped from china cups, but coffee was served in coffee cups. Nothing fancy, nothing frou-frou, just practical, every day coffee mugs.  In the '60s and '70s there weren't any Starbucks or expensive lattes, cappucinos and macchiatos. Just a simple cup of dark black coffee (we were surrounded by Norwegians, and they like their coffee STRONG), with maybe a splash of cream if you were feeling elegant.

But then, mugs with cute sayings started appearing.  And all of a sudden, my mother and I had choices...was it the right morning for the "Have a Happy Day" mug?  Or, heaven forbid, a smiley face mug early in the morning??

How about some cute lovey-dovey bears??

Or a little inspirational pep-talk over your first sip in the morning?

And of course there were Holly Hobbie mugs, to start your day in a happy way...

In no time at all, half the fun of pouring my first cup of coffee in my mother's kitchen became choosing the right mug to match the day, or our moods, or the occasion (obviously happy birthday mugs didn't get used very often, and I must confess over the top "perky" mugs weren't my first go-to choice either, as they always seemed a little in-your-face until I had enough caffeine in my system).  So when my husband and I started traveling, somehow it just seemed natural to pick up coffee mugs that remind us of lovely vacations we have shared.  Starting next week I thought I'd showcase a few of our trips and the mugs that came home with us, so until then, remember to choose your cup wisely to start your day off on a good note!

April 24, 2014

Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch!

Where, oh where is dear little Nellie?
Where, oh where is dear little Nellie?
Where, oh where is dear little Nellie?
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.

Pickin' up pawpaws, puttin' 'em in your pocket,
Pickin' up pawpaws, puttin' 'em in your pocket,
Pickin' up pawpaws, puttin' 'em in your pocket,
Way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.
                                          --American Folk Song

Oh how I loved it when Mr. Green Jeans would sing the pawpaw song on Captain Kangaroo!  I would sing along with him, stuffing imaginary pawpaws in my pockets. I wasn't quite sure what they were exactly, but in my mind they resembled persimmons, since they both started with a "p".  And looking back, that wasn't the only thing I stuffed in my pockets...bits of paper, an extra pretty marble or two, shoelaces and hair ribbons all seemed to make their way into my pockets at one time or another.  

My mother often remarked that when she was growing up she bitterly resented the fact that girls didn't have pockets, which meant it was hard to keep up with the fast growing collections of her brothers.  As you can see from the picture below, she might be right...not a pocket in sight!  (She's the cute, but pocket-less, little girl on the far right, shown here with her two older sisters and one of her younger brothers.)

But fashion design has come a long way in the last few decades, and we now have an elegant sufficiency of pockets on our clothes.  Even wedding dresses have pockets now!  Which would come in handy if you are getting married tomorrow...you will have a place to tuck your poem!

Tuck your poem?  Yes!  It's National Tuck a Poem in Your Pocket Day!  As if Take a Poet to Work Day wasn't enough fun, now we can find a special poem, tuck it in our pocket and carry it with us all day.  I've already printed out several short poems and taped them to my cubicle, in case anyone needs to borrow a poem for the day. Hopefully everyone has their own, but you never know, and I'd hate for someone to be caught short and remain poem-less all day!  If you would like to read more about this special day, you can do so here.

And what poem did I choose for my pocket tomorrow?  My husband raked all the winter debris from our front yard the other day, and it reminded me of this lovely little poem by Robert Frost.  Having visited Frost's farm in New Hampshire, able to roam through his pasture and woods at will, this poem brings back sweet memories of a lovely day.  I hope you find your own special poem that brings you happiness today, and don't forget to tuck it in your pocket!

April 18, 2014

Time to wrap up the baby shower before the weekend arrives!  If it takes a village to help throw a baby shower, in particular it takes sweet women to help host the party, and I was lucky enough to have some amazing women offer their help.  Where would I have been without the cheerful and willing assistance of my daughter, one of my best friends, and my daughter-in-law's step-mother?  We all gathered early at the church and had the decorating all done in less than an hour.  They brought flowers, activities, decor, and most of all, hearts filled with love for the expectant couple. 

This is going to be a really picture heavy blog, because I've had so many requests to share a lot of the pictures, so I'll keep the text short and let the pictures tell the story:

Name tags and "guess how many kisses" in the sandpail

It wouldn't be a proper story book shower without lots and lots of story books, as well as lovely floral bouquets and sparkly pinwheels...

Guest book was a thumprint tree...

Favors were mini chocolate chip cookies and Give a Mouse a Cookie bookmarks

Dessert table

Peter Rabbit's veggie tray and Hungry Caterpillar's fruit tray

And look at the coconut candy that fell from the coconut tree!!

Forks only...because the dish ran away with the spoon, of course!

And the story books brought back fond memories for my children (in front and behind!)
And fun was had by all at the "activity table"...you could decorate pages for an alphabet book, or you could decorate a onesie.

And we obviously had some creative, craftsy people at the shower!  Won't it be fun to dress the baby in these?  The baby ended up with over thirty new little shirts!

And at the end of the day (and shower) what better advice than this?!

Happy Friday, everyone!  Have a blessed Easter weekend...