August 31, 2015

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday!  We spent the weekend with dear friends of ours that live near the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin (called the driftless region), and because I knew I would spend all day Saturday antiquing and bookshop browsing, I decided to leave my "big girl" camera at home.  We took the back roads home yesterday and my husband and I drove through mile after mile of breathtakingly beautiful farmland, shrouded in early morning mist.  

Early morning mist this morning in my backyard
I was so frustrated that I didn't have my camera with me, as we glimpsed farmhouses nestled into bluffs and cliffs, and row upon row of corn stood tall and saluted us as we drove by.  Stands of trees by the side of the road had hints of orange in the green leaves, reminding us that all good things must come to an end.  Good-bye, summer, and hello fall!

The poem below always reminds me of the time my dad came home after work and loaded us all into the family station wagon.  He had discovered a ditch filled with chokecherry trees out in the country, and out we all went to pick the chokecherries.  One of my girlfriends came along for the ride, and the two of us sang excerpts from the Sound of Music as we filled our buckets.  I think we substituted a few words here and there, because whenever I took a bite of the delicious chokecherry jam that Mother made I heard "the hills are alive, with the taste of chokecherries"!

Late August

by Marilyn Hacker

The weather is changing. The mountainous temperate
edges toward autumn
There’s a crowded sound in the rattling leaves of the fig
and I think of cities,
though the second fruit, ovarian, purple, splitting to
is ready for picking.
The brambles hedging pink villas banked up from the
burgeon with berries
ripening black, seeded, sweet, which the French don’t
       bother to gather,
but sometimes I do,
taking an extra plastic bag in my back pocket, coming
up from the market.
The bedsheets are grimy and wrinkled, but why should
       we haul
to the costly laundry
what we’d need for a couple of days? All our
touch on departure.

Because it's Monday and we need to start the week off right, I am sharing not one but two poems today!  When I peeked at my tomatoes this morning to my delight I found two ruby red ones, ready for sampling.  I think the poem below pairs well with today's forecast--so hot, breathless heat.  Thank goodness for air conditioning at work!

Cherry Tomatoes

by Anne Higgins

Suddenly it is August again, so hot,
breathless heat.
I sit on the ground
in the garden of Carmel,
picking ripe cherry tomatoes
and eating them.
They are so ripe that the skin is split,
so warm and sweet
from the attentions of the sun,
the juice bursts in my mouth,
an ecstatic taste,
and I feel that I am in the mouth of summer,
sloshing in the saliva of August.
Hummingbirds halo me there,
in the great green silence,
and my own bursting heart
splits me with life.

 from At the Year's Elbow

And while I was outside early this morning capturing the mist and the tomatoes, I couldn't resist another shot of the lovely blue morning glories.  Surely the poet must have been looking at morning glories when she wrote "my own bursting heart splits me with life".

My hope for today is that we all find something beautiful to enjoy---homemade jam slathered on warm toast, freshly picked tomatoes melting in our mouths, or a glimpse of heaven in our gardens.  Happy Monday!

August 24, 2015's Monday!  Funny how fast the weekends can fly.  And not only is it Monday, but it is also office moving day!  After a crazy discombobulated summer of sharing office cubicles, trying to figure out different copiers and printers, blocking out construction sound (and occasionally smells!) and constantly forgetting what floor I was on, today I am scheduled to move into my new surroundings.  You can look forward to seeing some pictures later this week! 

Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with all the boxes and boxes of stuff I sent to storage that mysteriously returned over the weekend and are waiting for me.  I honestly think the paper multiplied like the rabbits in my garden while it was all off site...

My weekend was lovely---just the right combination of fun and relaxation.  Phil and I spent Saturday helping our daughter and son-in-law with some house projects.  Well, technically, Phil did house projects.  I helped my daughter shop.  That was way more fun! 

We joined our son for dinner in Oshkosh then we all took in one of his improv performances at the Comedy House.  He continues to amaze me with his impeccable timing and comedic talent.

My beautiful summer garden is slowly turning brown and looking slightly frazzled and worn out.  I can feel fall peeking around the corner when I look at the droopy cone-flowers and bloomed out day lilies. 

But all is not lost--the wildflowers last weekend in Door County were still going strong!

I came across A Momentary Creed by Pulitzer prize winning poet W.S. Merwyn last week, and thought it would be a nice way to start this week.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

August 19, 2015

...time enough for all the wonderful things

Felled by a summer cold!  My last camping weekend "up north of the tension line" was a little more low key than I had planned, as I seem to have developed one of those energy zapping summer bugs.  But we still managed to have a terrific time--one of my sons and his girlfriend joined us for a couple of days, so we had a lot of fun seeing Door County through her eyes as a first time visitor. 

That meant, of course, we had the chance to show off our favorite state and county parks, favorite theater group, favorite place to watch the sunset, and of course, favorite ice cream place! 

In case you are wondering--our choices were butter pecan (Phil), peppermint stripe (Sunny), root beer float (Jason) and I had my favorite-strawberry!

We were all amazed at how clear Lake Michigan was, even in mid-August.  We visited Cave Point County Park on the lake side of the peninsula, followed by a quick visit to Whitefish Dunes State Park. 

We checked out our favorite in-park lighthouse...

and thoroughly enjoyed a charming new family musical at Northern Sky Theater, which is also located right in the park.  It was a rollicking tale of two char-crossed lovers, the Montagues and the Capps, dueling over whose recipe would take top honors at the Verona (WI) International Ribfest Festival.  Fortunately, Ronnie and Julie's relationship had a far happier ending than their original namesakes.  I'm not sure what Shakespeare would have thought, but we all agreed it was a lot of fun!

We also experienced the most magnificent sunset of the summer--nothing short of breathtaking.  Literally.  A small group had gathered at Eagle's Bluff for this nightly ritual, and you could have heard a pin drop as we watched the sun slip silently away behind the horizon.  Then we all clapped and cheered and headed back to the campsite for our much anticipated s'mores and cherry pie!

I am sharing one of Mary Oliver's beautiful poems today, Patience.  She so eloquently puts in words some of the thoughts and feelings I experience when I am relaxed and enjoying my time in the woods.  It feels good to stop "hurrying everywhere" and take the time to do at least a few "wonderful things" of my own. 

What is the good life now? Why,
look here, consider
the moon's white crescent
rounding, slowly, over
the half month to still another
perfect circle-
the shining eye
that lightens the hills,
that lays down the shadows
of the branches of the trees,
that summons the flowers
to open their sleepy faces and look up
into the heavens.
I used to hurry everywhere,
and leaped over the running creeks.
There wasn't
time enough for all the wonderful things
I could think of to do
in a single day. Patience
comes to the bones
before it take root in the heart
as another good idea.
I say this
as I stand in the woods
and study the patterns
of the moon shadows,
or stroll down into the waters
that now, late summer, have also
caught the fever, and hardly move
from one eternity to another.
May we all take time to slow down a bit today and experience the good life!

August 13, 2015

Guess what?!  It's afternoon tea week in the United Kingdom!  This holiday week would have slipped by me completely if it wasn't for a couple of UK blogs I follow.  If you would like to try your hand at some proper British recipes, you might want to check out The English Kitchen, written by Marie, an American cook now living in England.  She posts great recipes every day, and has also written several lovely "cookbooklets" that you can download for 5 pounds (approximately $7.50).  I particularly love her A Royal Tea-party booklet, which she created in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and includes her own delightful watercolor illustrations and twenty delicious recipes.

 photo Jubileecakes.jpg 

Another blog, The Simple Things, also sent me a reminder that it's time to celebrate my beloved tea and scones traditions.  There is also a UK magazine that accompanies this blog, which you can find in Barnes and Noble.  Since I'm a sucker  fan of all things British, I love having a cup of tea at the bookstore and perusing the pages of this magazine, oohing and aahing over the garden photos and picnic ideas.  This morning my inbox greeted me with one of their recipes for tea week--violet scones with honeyed cream.  I can't wait to try it!


My September issue of Victoria magazine arrived last week, and one of the articles featured a new cookbook by chef Carolyn Robb, former personal chef to Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry.  How could I resist?  Well, I couldn't, so I treated myself and ordered it.

A delicious Eton Mess adorns the front cover!  Yummy! 
I have had so much fun dreaming over the pages since it arrived.  As I work my way through the recipes I'll share my successes (and flops) with you.  My husband is eager for me to bake the Coffee-Caramel-Pecan Streusel Triangles and I can't wait to try my hand at the meringue hedgehogs and mice for a tea party with Miss Lily!  I'm waiting for my mother to come visit and we can sample the Queen's Pudding--a delicious apricot bread pudding with meringue.  Hurry, Mother! 

I can't decide which I want more...the scones with Devon cream, or this beautiful cake plate! 

Come join me on my deck--morning glories and tea, a perfect combination!

It is also filled with delightful watercolors that make it so much more than just an ordinary cookbook.
Who wouldn't want to make shortbread after this lovely drawing of Balmoral Castle in the Highlands?

In honor of tea week I'll leave you with this little tea party poem. I hope it makes you smile!

Find time today for a cuppa and a scone and enjoy the little things that make life worthwhile.  I'm heading back to Door County this weekend, so I'll be back next week with more camping adventures!

August 12, 2015


Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses...or the coffee...and remember that it's the little things in life that can bring so much joy, if only we allow ourselves time to savor the moments and not just focus on everything that is swirling around us.  As I walked into my kitchen this morning here are the things that made me smile...

 Downton Abbey tea towels, a little treat for myself on my last trip to Door County
Both of the Countess' sayings simply couldn't be more true right now...

While love has been plentiful, the "strong cups of coffee' have been sadly few and far between due to our coffee pot being on its last has been taking over an hour to painstakingly slowly drip out ONE cup!!

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered a coffee machine on sale for 75% off yesterday!  This morning I had a fresh hot cup of coffee in my hands only minutes after waking up.  And that, my friends, is a seriously good thing.

And as I poured my first cup, using my "happy memories" mug from my recent trip to Martha's Vineyard, a glimpse out my kitchen window reminded me once again to treasure the journey...

And of course one of the things I truly cherish is my friendship with all of you that take the time to share a cup of tea and read about my day.  You are so appreciated! 

Final thought for the's a sneak peek of something else I think I will cherish...a new cookbook! I'll share details tomorrow...I wish you were here to enjoy a cup of tea and a scone with me!

I'll finish today's post on a light-hearted note with The Laughing Song by Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley.  I hope you enjoy it and that today you will also take a moment to find joy in the simple things of life!

Sing us something full of laughter;
Tune your harp and twang the strings
Till our glad voice, chipring after,
Mates the song the robin sings.
Loose your lips and let them flutter
Like the wings of wanton birds--
Though they naught but laughter utter,
Laugh, and we'll not miss the words.

Like the lisping laughter glancing
From the meadow brooks and springs,
Or the river's ripples dancing
to the tune the current sings--
Sing of Now, and the Hereafter;
Let your glad song, like the birds',
Overflow with limpid laughter--
Laugh, and we'll not miss the words.

August 7, 2015

That's how the light gets in...

Somehow it's Friday and I realize I haven't posted all week!  I can't say the week has flown by, because it has certainly felt like each hour has crawled by, with lots of stress and upset along the way.  Sometimes it becomes difficult to juggle time, as the poem below reflects--trying to be all things to all the people in your life can create a crazy imbalance.  Work demands, family worries, the tug of your heart for people who are going through tough times, can all take their toll.  At least the weekend is now waving a cheery hello and will hopefully offer a small but oh so necessary respite from all the stress.

I came across a poem last night that really resonated with how life seems at the moment.  Barbara Crooker's In the Middle deftly reflects on being stuck in the middle of a complicated life, striving for the balance that sometimes seems so out of reach...

 In the Middle

of a life that's as complicated as everyone else's,
struggling for balance, juggling time.
The mantle clock that was my grandfather's
has stopped at 9:20; we haven't had time
to get it repaired. The brass pendulum is still,
the chimes don't ring. One day I look out the window,
green summer, the next, the leaves have already fallen,
and a grey sky lowers the horizon. Our children almost grown,
our parents gone, it happened so fast. Each day, we must learn
again how to love, between morning's quick coffee
and evening's slow return. Steam from a pot of soup rises,
mixing with the yeasty smell of baking bread. Our bodies
twine, and the big black dog pushes his great head between;
his tail, a metronome, 3/4 time. We'll never get there,
Time is always ahead of us, running down the beach, urging
us on faster, faster, but sometimes we take off our watches,
sometimes we lie in the hammock, caught between the mesh
of rope and the net of stars, suspended, tangled up
in love, running out of time.

Hopefully there will be time this weekend to take off our watches and lie in the hammock (except I don't wear a watch and don't have a hammock).  If not, I'll try to remember the beautiful lyrics from Leonard Cohen's Anthem...

 The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. 

May you have a peace filled weekend, and find the light, no matter how it gets in...