Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Chirpy Good Morning

Each morning, as I walk through our healing garden at work to the door closest to my office, I am greeted by a chirpy hello from myriad little birds nestled in a windbreak of arbor vitae evergreens.  Sadly, I can't identify many bird calls but I would believe that they are sparrows.  Theirs are happy little voices and I smile every time I hear them.  My walk takes me quite close to the arbor vitae so that the voices are practically singing in my ear.  I slow down as I pass by them, just to soak in the happiness they give for a few more seconds.  Those little birds offer me some daily lessons:  Starting your day with a song is good for your soul.  Finding something to smile about, even in the midst of the ordinary but especially during times of concern, re-frames your day.  Taking the time to cheer someone else, even with just a smile and hello, can lighten that person's load, if only for a moment.  So, to my little daily greeters, many thanks.  You're making a difference in my life and I'm sure to others who walk briskly by your evergreen home every morning.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Who Owns the Fish?

I responded to the call of a brain teaser published in a newsletter I received in the mail over the weekend.  Called Einstein's Intelligence Quiz, the newsletter stated that Einstein felt that only 2% of people in the world would be able to solve the puzzle he'd created.  The quiz asks the reader to consider 15 clues and then determine among the five men (who live in five different colored houses, drink five different beverages, smoke five different brands of cigars and own five different types of pets), who among the men owns the fish?  After some contemplation, I found a solution to the puzzle, but not without first examining the absolutes and tossing away my assumptions.  Interestingly, if I looked at the puzzle one way, I could arrive at the correct answer (the one published online for those intrigued).  However, if I looked at it another way, I could also arrive at the right answer. My preference is for the latter (maybe it's my left-handed view on life). I simply got to the correct answer by taking a different route, laying out a different scenario of possibilities, just by allowing for one clue to be treated as factual, not literal.  Purists might say that my alternative interpretation is wrong but I like my unconventional approach.  Every clue fits into place using that other route.  This brain twister (it went beyond just a teaser, in my opinion) made me look at how I make decisions and through what lens I view my everyday world.  How often do I truly look at the absolutes without biases?  How readily do I identify and toss aside my assumptions in order to come to a better conclusion?  How often do I look at a challenge creatively, taking "the road less traveled" in order to get to the "right" answer?  In the coming week, when confronted with a decision or when inclined to make a judgment, I'm going to step back first, contemplate and prompt myself to remember the lessons from the puzzle. Who owns the fish?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Evening Snowshine

One recent evening, I stood at the window, captivated yet again by the beautiful outdoor scene.  It was one of those few nights I witness each winter when the temperature rises, the cloud cover is dense and the snow is so white that the city lights seem to reflect off of the snow, bouncing up into and back down again from the cloud-dense sky.  The sky takes on a pinkish hue and everything below it is illuminated much more than usual.  Every leafless tree limb appears black, frosted with a thin layer of stark, white snow. I decided to call this occasional winter phenomenon Evening Snowshine.  How can one not appreciate the nuances that winter brings?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Casting the First Stone

I'm always looking for green cleaning methods, so when I noticed that mineral deposits had made vertical streaks down the back of our main level bathroom's toilet bowl, I went online to find a remedy.  I'd already tried applying drenched white vinegar cloths, but to no avail.  So, when I read about gently and carefully rubbing a dampened pumice stone on the stain (so as not to scratch the surface), I thought it was worth trying.  For little more than a $3.00 investment, I found my non-toxic solution.  It meant sitting with my legs around the toilet bowl and rubbing into the stains for a while, but every trace of mineral deposit came off, leaving the bowl sparkling, like-new clean.  Of course, Larry walked by just in time to see me in my serious cleaning position and laughed heartily, but even he had to admit that the pumice stone did the job.  We are so bombarded with chemicals in our lives these days that it's nice to know that something as simple as a pumice stone can do the trick on some hard-to-remove stains.  Each time I use a green cleaning method, I thank our beautiful planet for all that it gives to us. I hope that I'm helping in my own small way to give back to it and to make our world a happier, healthier place.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Soup's On

Winter is made for soup, so Larry and I have been enjoying a lot of it.  A recent batch of homemade split pea soup was just what we needed to warm our insides after a brisk, barely-above-zero day.  Soup not only warms our insides, it seems to warm our souls, too, providing one of the best comfort foods I know.  Larry commented that we could have soup as much as I wanted to fix it this winter, so this week, we may have cauliflower and potato soup and pumpkin soup, too.  Both recipes are chocked full of vegetables in a broth base.  To make our soup meals even more enjoyable, our good friend Kitty sent me home the other day with homemade sour dough bread that was so tasty, you could only mumble "More!" between mouthfuls.  There are so many great soup recipes to try and this time of year invites experimentation.  So, soup's on!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pondering Putzing

The other day, someone told me that she loves to putz -- you know, puttering -- that kind of unproductive activity where you move from one task to another but you don't quite finish one thing before you start another.  I rarely hear the word "putz" but my mom used to talk about it a lot, especially in her retirement years.  She would marvel at how quickly the day went by when she chose to stay at home and simply putz.  If I were left to my own devices and had a day of unscheduled activity (sort of a rarity when you work full time), I'd be inclined to putzing, too, and might even become an expert!  There's something about having an unstructured day ahead of you where your eyes, your thoughts move you from one little project to another, not necessarily being incredibly productive but not being completely idle either.  On snowy weekend afternoons, I've been known to occasionally dabble in a little putzing but have found that sitting with my nose in a good book, getting out for some fresh air, or planning a little outing with Larry trump putzing.  It'll be something for me to ponder for another day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Octogenarian Celebration

Larry and I had the pleasure of attending the 80th birthday parties of two of our neighbors over the weekend, one on Saturday afternoon, the other on Sunday afternoon.  Both Roger and Marilyn are wonderful people who contribute so much to the life of our neighborhood.  Attending their birthday celebrations reminded me of the importance of family (four generations celebrating together, in the cases of Roger and Marilyn) and how much there is to cherish and enjoy with each passing decade of our lives.  I recalled my mom's 80th birthday party five years ago.  Every five years, beginning when she was 65, I threw some sort of birthday bash for Mom, usually in the form of a luncheon with her many, many close friends.  The last such party was a two-day affair, a lunch with family and friends one day, followed by cake and punch at the apartment complex where she lived the next day.  Our good friend Chris sent Mom a surprise birthday gift to wear at her parties -- a billowy, bright fuchsia feather boa!  Mom had a great sense of humor so she flounced around at her celebrations with her boa, making every moment perfect for a picture (I have the photos to prove it!).  I'm thankful to these wonderful 80-year-olds for demonstrating for those of us younger the joys of living a long life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Man's Best Friend

I awoke recently to a sliver of moon hanging in the inky, early morning sky.  There was just enough light to see the silhouettes of a person and dog in the snowy landscape below.  The temperature on our outdoor thermometer hovered between one and three degrees below zero but the TV meteorologist reported that the wind chill registered at 18 degrees below.  Oh, how we are devoted to our pets!  Why else would anyone be out at the crack of dawn in sub-zero temperatures than to help a beloved, four-legged companion get some exercise and do his or her business?  When I think of pets, I think of my good friend Betty who is an animal lover through and through.  She has transitioned from indoor-outdoor dogs to indoor cats over time.  No matter what type of animal adopts her -- dog or cat -- I see much of her happiness wrapped up in the happiness of her four-legged friends.  As she said, they are her family.  My friends John and Donna just recently added a new kitty to their family of humans, dogs and cats.  They are gentle people who give love generously.  They are so happy to have that new pet to love and they likely feel that little animal's love in return.  The unspoken devotion between a human and an animal is a beautiful thing that surely transcends obstacles -- even the coldest weather on a dark January morning.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Setting the Record Straight

I've been reading Living a Country Year: Wit and Wisdom from the Good Old Days by Jerry Apps (2007; Voyageur Press; ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-2840-8).  In one passage, Mr. Apps questions the artificial straightness with which we humans seem to craft our lives when nature is full of curves and circles. I've been pondering his questions and ask a few more of my own:  Does my straight-and-narrow life of time constraints, strategic plans and policies make me rigid?  Am I able to adapt my life to those straight-as-an-arrow rules, yet move with the rhythms of life with a certain degree of ease?  What are my natural tendencies?  How did I respond as a child?  What can I do to go with the flow a bit more in this new year?  I'll continue to have a straight talk with myself over the coming weeks and see what thoughts surface.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


The past few days have reminded me of Brrr, a fictional little town "up north" (as we say here in Wisconsin), featured in the popular Cat Who... mysteries by Lilian Jackson Braun.  The human and feline characters in Ms. Braun's books frequently solve mysteries in the midst of severe winter weather.  I may not be solving any mysteries these days but I am feeling the severe winter weather and I question at times whether I don't actually live in Brrr.  Our December and early January were a cakewalk, so the recent blast of Arctic air has been a bit of a shock, albeit invigorating.  Each day, I have to allow a little extra time to bundle up in my long down coat, wrap a scarf around my neck, plunk my hat on my head, tuck my coat's hood over the hat, don some gloves, put on my boots and then hope that no one accidentally pushes into me, for if I fall down, I doubt I'll get the traction to get back up again!  Given my tirade about bundling up, you'd think I was anti-winter, but the truth is, I like seeing the cloud of my breath in the outdoor air.  I like the unspoiled glimmer of freshly fallen snow.  I like the dramatic sunrises and sunsets.  I like the time that winter invites for sitting with a hot cup of tea and a good book. Or even better yet, sneaking a nap on a snowy Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Number 100!

This is my 100th Time to Be post.  A milestone!  When I started my little blogging experiment last October, I wasn't sure how it would play out or in what direction it would take.  Would I have enough thoughts, opinions, stories, word pictures to create a daily paragraph?  Writing has always given me joy from childhood on, when I used to compose poetry and even lyrics to hymns I'd made up. As a teen, I wrote for my junior and senior high school newspapers.  I've kept diaries and journals.  I was a pen pal to people on both sides of the Atlantic.  I've written more meeting minutes and news releases that I can count.  I've crafted feature stories. And I've even described items for catalogs, ranging from office furniture and lingerie to chocolate and handbags.  I love to write letters. But this blog is different.  It feeds my soul.  Your comments inspire and encourage me.  I thank all of you who have joined me on this journey and stuck with me so far.  We'll see where the blog muse takes me next.  I hope you'll continue to follow Time to Be and will keep providing me with your comments and stories.  The journey is truly better than the destination.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flower Children

It's that time of the year when seed catalogs start arriving and people, plunged into winter's darkness, snow and cold, show their invincible summer spirits and green thumbs.  Those seed catalogs seem to arrive at just the right time when winter is wearing us down.  More and more people have been talking about plants with me lately.  Laura, my colleague from the office next door, joyfully showed me the dark red amaryllis growing in her window, its thick stem and four large, trumpet-shaped blossoms sprouting rapidly over the past days.  Our neighbor Marilyn is Christmas cactus-sitting while good friends are away. She carefully tends to the beautiful plant that bore its fuchsia blossoms around Thanksgiving.  My friend Sara is also caring for a plant for a friend while tending to her own. She admitted that she doesn't like watering plants but knows that their presence in her home feeds her soul and cleans the air.  Sara told me that she has geraniums that she has lovingly tended since 1988 when her oldest grandson was born.  I go through phases of having lots of plants and then hardly any.  In recent years, I've grown quite lazy and have fallen in love with succulents.  Thanks to my friend Debbie, I have a basket of succulents that is bringing green cheer into our winter white world.  My latest experiment: I'm attempting to winter over two outdoor pots of succulents in our garage.  We'll see if it worked when spring rolls around.  Till then, we'll dog-ear the seed catalog pages, tend to our indoor plants and dream of spring when Mother Nature calls us back outdoors to dig our hands once again into the good earth.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Old-Time Religion

I had the opportunity to visit our local Episcopal Church one evening this week.  It's a beautiful, old  building made of massive gray stone-blocks.  It dominates a corner in a residential neighborhood located near the town square.  Each evening, the church's exterior is artfully lit so that its many elegant architectural features are showcased. The intricate stained glass windows shine out into the night, illuminated from within. With the newly fallen snow frosting the yews around the church's perimeter, I had to just stop in my tracks and take in the beauty of that exquisite old church building. For just a moment, I was transported through time and place.  The scene looked like something right out of a little English village -- what I picture when reading a Miss Marple mystery.  I love old churches.  I'm a lifelong member of a church that's more than 100 years old. Old churches have a patina, a familiarity, a presence, an inviting demeanor. They've experienced a lot in their years, offering both a place of solace and celebration to generations of worshippers. They've heard the sermons. They've heard the hymns. And they've heard the prayers lifted up by earnest voices. In a time of rapid change where we crave and elevate all that is new, old churches represent a steadfastness for me that I appreciate more and more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter Flame

The cardinal is a traditional symbol of the beauty and warmth of the holiday season, according to a notation in a Christmas card I bought for my husband.  I kept looking for those traditional symbols all last month, but they eluded me.  I finally saw cardinals eating from a feeder early in the morning one day this week.  The female in her subtle wardrobe was joined by her brilliant red mate.  As Mother Nature designed, the female blended in with her surroundings, while the male looked like a flame against the silver, sparkling snow.  That blaze of red was a cheery welcome against the paleness of the winter palette.  Perhaps it was because I had been contemplating the male cardinal's vibrancy, but that same day I saw many people wearing red sweaters, red scarves, red hats, red mittens.  It might be our way of trying to be that winter flame in the starkness of the season.  Whatever it is, I find myself drawn to red these days to bring beauty, cheer and warmth to my winter.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Thin Ice

As a teenager, my hairdo mimicked that of Olympic Gold Medal figure skater Dorothy Hamill, but that's where our similarities ended.  I can't ice skate.  I never really learned how.  The few times I've been out on a skating rink, my ankles wobble and I end up spending more time sitting than moving on the ice.  My mom took my childhood friend and neighbor Sandy and me ice skating on a little rink in town when I was around eight or nine years old.  Sandy and I were just about equally skilled on the ice, wobbling and falling while Mom skated forward and backward around us.  I was amazed.  In my young eyes, Mom could do anything but being able to ice skate, too?  That was almost more than I could imagine.  Mom had grown up near a spot where a skating rink was made each winter, so she crafted her skill on the ice with time and practice.  I never did get the hang of skating but I still love to reminisce about that cold winter day some 45 years ago when Mom wowed two little girls on the ice.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Committed Life

We celebrated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday at church yesterday.  Our pastor quoted Dr. King as having said that when he died, he hoped he would be remembered for leaving behind a committed life.  The pastor went on to challenge us to consider how we are each being called to a committed life and how we would answer that call.  I looked around at my fellow parishioners, wonderful people doing extraordinary things, leading committed lives through their vocations and avocations.  And then I thought of my mom, who although dying of cancer in our local nursing home, found myriad ways every day to lead a committed life in service to others.  She often could be found pushing another resident in a wheelchair.  She'd insist that others be served at the dinner table before she was or that another resident's call light be answered before hers.  It was in my mom's very essence to live a committed life. And she did so with a natural grace all the way until the end of hers.  We will not all be remembered for our heroic deeds or receive wide acclaim for our accomplishments, but each of us does have the opportunity to make small, thoughtful decisions and choices every day that make for a committed life.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mid-January Thoughts

Now that we have some snow cover, winter has taken on a new face.  The other night, I stood in our bedroom window, captivated by the snow cascading from the roof and swirling gently to the ground.  The outdoor lights illuminated the scene, giving the snowflakes a sparkle of fairy dust.  There's more of a silence now in my snow-covered, mid-January world.  The dormant trees and gripping cold add to the stillness.  I noticed rabbit tracks zigzagging across our backyard this morning, revealing that life continues even in winter's quiet. But I don't see the animal, only where it's been.  The occasional chickadee breaks the spell by calling out its name, as if to say, "I'm still here!".  Days are often gray but the sunrises and sunsets are dramatic and deeply colored.  When the sun does shine, as it is today, everything appears bright and brilliant. The sun cuts through the sky and bounces off the snow in all directions. Although there are obviously such sunny days, I think of soothing gray when I think of January.  And just as this month brings a hushed landscape, I find myself quieter, too.  I like the slower pace, the invitation to go deeper within.  For every thing, there is indeed a season, and this season of quiet is a blessing.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Living the Jetson Life

While vacuuming this afternoon, I was thinking about the sad news that our local Sears store is slated to close.  My parents bought many Sears items over the years, including our home's furnace.  Mom and I used to pore over the Sears catalog when it arrived. I bought clothes from the Sears catalog with some of my first paychecks when I was old enough to work.  While cleaning today, I particularly thought about a vacuum cleaner that Dad bought for Mom and I'm fairly certain it was from Sears.  It was a harvest gold and white canister model that slightly hovered over the carpet.  You still had to drag it around but you didn't have to wrestle with it as much as the older canister model we'd had.  As a kid, I thought that vacuum cleaner was the coolest piece of technology I'd ever seen and we had it in our home!  That vacuum cleaner made me feel as if I was living with The Jetsons, my favorite Saturday morning cartoon program at that time.  I even volunteered to vacuum, which must've stunned my mom!  It's funny how things can stimulate long-forgotten memories of when harvest gold and olive green were brand new "in" colors for appliances, when life without certain stores seemed unthinkable, and when vacuuming made you feel as if you were Jane Jetson or Rosie the robot maid.

Friday, January 13, 2012


We ate our last acorn squash from the farmer's market last night.  It was so delicious, with its sweet, bright orange flesh melting in my mouth.  We filled the cavity of our squash halves with couscous, sauteed onion and Granny Smith apple, along with a couple of dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg.  I savored every bite.  Not so Larry.  But he was still a good sport.  Larry's not a fussy eater but when it comes to squash of any kind, well, it's better not to talk about it.  While I adore all types of squash, Larry holds the firm opinion that squash is meant to be an autumn table decoration and never, ever eaten.  I persevere, however.  I try different recipes for summer and winter squash all growing season.  At last fall's final farmer's market, I happily stocked up on winter squash, thinking that I could enjoy it slowly over the winter.  Recently, however, I discovered that four of the six remaining acorn squash had gone bad in the refrigerator, their normally hard, vibrantly colored skins all soft, dimply and sad-looking.  I never like to waste food, particularly a favorite like squash, so I felt the loss deeply. I broke the news to Larry who looked sympathetically at me but who must have been secretly doing a happy dance that the "table decorations" had rotted and he was spared having to eat them.  While my locally grown squash-eating dreams are squashed for now, I'll remember the delicious taste and anticipate the next crop.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


My lovely friend Joan gave me a beautiful, simply and elegantly designed silver snowflake pin this week. I wore it on my thick red sweater today in celebration of our first big snow of the season.  It's January 12 and the weather is finally reflecting it in Wisconsin.  While many of us have enjoyed the reprieve from the typical snow and cold, I have to admit that I looked out on the landscape this morning with awe and appreciation.  The light coat of snow was falling gently as I looked out our bedroom window, delicately covering the thick boughs of a large evergreen in our backyard.  Everything looked crisp and clean and quiet in its new white blanket.  Despite the somewhat treacherous driving conditions, people I encountered seemed downright joyful to finally have a snowy landscape.  We Wisconsinites are a resilient sort, almost bragging that we can survive the extremes of our weather, particularly the often tough winters.  Recent winters have been quite extreme with upwards to 100 inches of snow per year, so we acted as if today's weather was a mere inconvenience.  It was a beautiful day and I couldn't help but keep one eye out any available window to admire the loveliness of the new snow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


There are times when a word or concept comes into my life repeatedly for a short period of time, and I'm challenged to pay attention to it and determine what it means to me.  So it was recently with the word "impermanence".  The word first came to me in a list I saw online of Deepak Chopra's Top 5 Tips for 2012 (www.ahalife.com).  His second tip suggests that we embrace impermanence.  Then, while selecting a new book at the public library yesterday, I chose two from the new arrivals shelf, including A Profound Mind: Cultivating Wisdom in Everyday Life by the Dalai Lama, (2011, Harmony Books, ISBN #978-0-385-51467-5), where, among other things, the characteristics of Buddhism are addressed.  The first characteristic was -- you've got it -- impermanence.   There are admittedly times when I think of things as lasting forever, never changing, but the truth is that things are changing constantly, even if in small increments.  When I choose to embrace impermanence instead of digging in my heels, I don't lose my sense of stability or my hope for the future.  Rather, I recalibrate my life and live in the present.  When I'm there, no matter what is happening in my life, I carry much less burden.  Fear and worry have less of a hold over me.  I become present to this very moment.  Now: A great place, a great time to be.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Warm Gifts

I learned at church on Sunday that a recent winter coat drive organized by Girl Scouts at a local ski resort resulted in the collection of 80 new and gently used coats and snow pants and 60 hats, scarves, mittens and winter boots for local children in need.  It's heartwarming to learn of such generosity, especially when so many feel hardship these days.  Hearing the news of the successful collection took me back to my childhood.  Our elementary school principal used to send me, when I was in fourth and fifth grades, with younger children from our school to a nearby store to fit them with winter boots, coats and the like.  The principal was undoubtedly using her own hard-earned money to clothe these children appropriately for the elements.  Time and time again, she would place money in my hand and send me with a young charge to The Outlet Store, which carried everything from clothing to furniture.  There was need then and there is need now.  And, thankfully, there are still generous souls reaching out in kindness and compassion to touch lives in such warm and significant ways.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Shine On

"Shine, Give, Share" was the White House's 2011 Christmas decorating theme, chosen to pay tribute to those in current or previous military service for our country and their families.  Last month, I watched a television program about the decorating of the White House using that holiday theme.  As the program unfolded, revealing the many ways that the decorators interpreted the theme, the words "shine, give, share" spoke to me on a personal level and I filed them away for further thought.  Tonight is the first full moon of the new year.  As I contemplated the bright and brilliant, full moon this evening, "shine, give and share" came back to me.  Although I'm not big on resolutions, I decided that I am going to use each of the monthly full moons this year to remind me to shine, give and share and to review how I lived up to those words since the last full moon.  Shine: How did I use my talents to the best of my ability?  Give:  How did I give of myself, my heart, my time?  Share:  How did I share my resources, my donations?  This year, I hope to live more fully by expressing my gratitude for my many blessings and hopefully paying them forward.  Shine on!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Coming Clean

I can tell it's January.  That's when I begin my de-nesting process that started in the fall.  I get the yearning to deep-clean, de-clutter and organize anew.  Sort of a new year, fresh start type of thing.  And so it was this morning, just like clockwork.  As I got ready for church, I started examining my wardrobe and identifying those items that should be recycled back to our local thrift store.  I looked at our home decor and decided that some things need to be stored away or re-purposed.  It's just that time of the year, plain and simple.  And speaking of plain and simple, that is truly my style in clothing, home design and obligations.  I don't like being encumbered by too much.  I'd rather keep it simple and streamlined so that what I have, what I wear, what I do are the most important things -- no distractions.  So, on this sunny January Sunday afternoon, I begin my annual winter ritual of pretending it's spring and digging deep into my spring cleaning, lightening my load, lifting my spirits and starting anew -- again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fair Weather Friend

I'm a fair weather friend.  I should clarify:  I'm a friend of fair weather. I shy away from the severe stuff, be it a snowstorm or thunderstorm. I thrive on a mild, sunny day. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a consistently temperate climate.  Whatever would I have to talk about?  We in Wisconsin are always talking about the weather.  Lately, a typical conversation has been, "Can you believe how warm the weather's been?"  "No, I can't get used to the lack of snow. It feels like March."  And feeling like March, it does indeed.  According to a local meteorologist, we normally have experienced 20 inches of snow by this time but we've only had one-fifth of that so far this winter.  The temperatures are hovering at about 20 degrees above the norm.  We barely have enough snow on the ground to make a snowball.  Consequently, I took advantage of the nearly 50-degree temperature today to enjoy a nice Saturday walk to the public library to return a book, making sure that I took the long way home to soak up the beautiful day.  The winter birds sang, the squirrels scurried around with big nuts in their mouths, the buds on the ever-optimistic lilacs and magnolias appeared about ready to burst.  We know this unseasonably mild weather won't last but while it does, I'm celebrating the long January thaw!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Songs from the Stacks

Last evening, our local public library hosted the first of three monthly winter concerts designed to arrest cabin fever.  I always look forward to these free concerts.  They get me out of the house on a cold winter evening and warm my soul with a wide variety of musical styles.  Plus I always love being in the cozy environment of our library.  The neo-classical, brick and limestone building was built in 1903 as one of many Carnegie Free Libraries across the country.  Over a century of library patrons has been served in that lovely, old building.  Last night, live music lovers were served, as well.  Wafting from the stacks was the music of a trio of vocalists and guitarists who offered up an array of old favorites.  The concert didn’t so much pull me from my winter doldrums as it emphasized why I love life in this little town.  There’s a quaintness, a familiarity to events such as the library’s winter concert series.  There’s a sense of fellowship and community to be shared with all ages and all walks of life.  I left last evening’s event with a song in my heart for the gift of being able to hear good music among good friends and neighbors in a place I love so much.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eating Green

Normally in January, I'd give just about anything to taste something green, crisp, raw and locally grown.  By then, the wonderful farmer's market in our small town is but a distant memory. And much of the produce to be had -- from faraway places -- looks stressed, anemic and tired from the long journey.  This winter, however, I'm thoroughly enjoying fresh lettuce that is aquaponically grown on a farm just a few miles down the road.  Each week, I get at least two heads of lush, green, broad leaf lettuce that is grown in water and is free of chemicals.  When I looked at my latest purchase today, I could hardly touch them for they were so beautiful. I wanted to keep the lettuce heads intact and just admire them for a bit -- except that I was really hungry for fresh greens.  In fact, the heads were so magnificent in their beauty that they each resembled the shape of bridal bouquets.  The lettuce leaves of each of the two heads blossomed out of a central whorl.  And the colors - oh, my.  One head was smooth and light spring-green and the other dark with burnished curly tips. Summer doesn't feel so far away thanks to this delicious winter treat.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Children's Play

I stopped downtown after work tonight to do a little shopping.  I love our vibrant downtown retail district with its wide variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues -- such a rare find in small towns these days.  Although Christmas has come and gone, many of the shops are still decorated with lights and greenery.  The local coffee shop on the corner looked especially picturesque with its cozy, subdued interior lighting and vibrant winter light displays outdoors.  As I was admiring the coffee shop's curb appeal, I noticed children playing in the dark in the little pocket park across the street.  With our unseasonably warm January and very little snow, the playground equipment was accessible to the little ones.  Lights from the coffee shop across the street gave the little park a lovely glow, casting just enough light to see the children running and playing.  The children reminded me that nearly anytime is a good time to find joy, to laugh and to play, and that even in the dark, perhaps especially in the dark, we benefit from finding a light moment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Sometimes my mind is so busy that all I hear is the chatter of my own sober thoughts.  But while taking a walk recently, a wise old oak tree helped me to stop my mental talk in its tracks (reluctant as it may have been to go) and to return to the moment.  The wind had picked up just as I walked by the tree.  Her dried brown leaves, still stubbornly clinging to the ends of her limbs, started to rustle, admonishing me to "Hush!". The tree's whisper snapped me out of the prison of my thoughts and into the restful place of Now.  Since then, every time I get caught up in my thoughts, I remember the beautiful, old oak tree's message to me and I come back to the present with a new sense of calm and peace.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Love a Mystery

Just as the warm familiarity of comfort food envelops me like a blanket, I like to indulge in comfort reading, particularly the old-fashioned, cozy-type of mysteries.  And so as I ring in the new year, I've been reading old Agatha Christie favorites: Hercule Poirot's Christmas and Mrs. McGinty's Dead.  I've always loved a mystery, beginning as a girl when I read Nancy Drew's many adventures.  When I was about 12 years old, my mom introduced me to Dame Agatha.  Since then, I've spent many happy hours reading and re-reading her clever puzzles and plots featuring the likes of Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Tommy and Tuppence, never tiring of the way she told a story. Miss Marple is admittedly my favorite.  I love how she could find extraordinary connections to the crimes at hand in her ordinary, small-village life.  While snuggled this weekend under my "Literary Dreams" quilt from my friend Kitty, I've also kept one eye to the television to take in reruns of Murder She Wrote and Matlock.  So, with one foot in the new year, I wax nostalgic and embrace the old by reading and watching favorite mysteries of the past.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cool Beans

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is supposed to bring you good luck in the new year, or so my friend Martha and I have read.  She brought a black-eyed pea dish with bacon, onion and garlic to a New Year's Eve potluck last evening and I'm adding black-eyed peas to my homemade soup recipe today.  I figure I might as well help the new year along a little.  If only I had kale or collard greens to add to the soup, I understand that I'd be encouraging fortune and prosperity in the new year, as well.  As it stands, I'll have to just be satisfied with good luck.  My husband Larry and I eat predominantly a vegetable-based diet, so we consume a lot of beans as a source of protein and fiber.  I tried a new bean recipe recently that called for maple syrup. In preparation for the recipe, I bought some locally produced syrup at our community's health food store.  It was great to buy real, pure maple syrup made from trees just down the road. The recipe ended up being a keeper. I'm sure it was enhanced by that local maple syrup.  As I prepared the dish, I thought of a trip I had taken with my parents to Vermont some 50 years ago.  We stopped at a little store in the woods where Mom and Dad bought me maple sugar candy molded into the shapes of a little boy and girl.  I'll never forget it.  It's interesting how we see our food as evoking happy memories or inspiring riches.  The important thing, though, is that our food be nourishing, healing and pure -- and perhaps bring a little good luck, too.