Ice Ice Baby

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“Ice ice baby, too cold.  Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri.  Freezing drizzle.  Freezing rain.  Sleet.  Ice pellets.  Ice.  Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick.  No need to be out on the roads.  Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible.  Such a sharp contrast from last Friday.  I was in sunny Florida.  I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.

Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner.  The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.

 

Doors And Keys

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As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life.  You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door.  Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”.  At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and  “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers.  Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes.  There can be a reward for those who are persistent.

Then there are the keys to life.  Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.”   Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general?  Maybe both.  In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light.  In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing.  Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones.  Loving words. Encouragement. God holds the key to my heart”.  He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.

What door are you knocking on?  What key will open the door, your life this very day?

New, Fresh

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The new, fresh year began in the Florida Keys. Fireworks flashed its arrival in living color.  The week to follow I soaked in some sunrises, sun rays, and sunsets too gorgeous for words. New vignettes and adventures, fresh insights and living in 2017.

Different Kind Of Year

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After the main water line burst under our foundation and flooded the floors throughout our home in November of 2015, Dean and I stopped in our tracks for another look into our future. We lived in a rental home for almost 3 months while our floors, doors, and walls were upgraded. Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Where thou are – that – is Home”.  Home for me is where Dean is.   We refocused on our future, and we dreamed new dreams those few days beginning 2016.  We entered this year with different eyes for our near and farther future. “Different” has many meanings, and it is a word used interchangeable with words such as eccentric, strange, or  unfamiliar and the opposite of alike, same, similar, or akin.  Unfamiliar grounds were walked with the unexpected renovations of our home, working with our home owner’s insurance company and a contractor.  Our insurance agent said she saw nothing quite like what we experienced.  Living in a slab home has its disadvantages. “This ability to reinvent oneself, to sail confidently into unknown waters, seem to be even more needed today, ” writes author Ferenc Mate. Resilience.

On March 1 we made it back into our St. Peters house.  No better opportunity to lessen and reorganize our belongings than when our plethora of boxes are delivered from storage back to our home.  Dean built another storage shelf for the garage. Redecorating our quaint, beautifully refurbished dwelling allowed for artistic expression.  In our future is a red front door, maybe not quite as eccentric as the purple door seen in the photo but I definitely wear purple.  Soothing green walls, warm pine doors, and neutral beige laminate floors bring a more natural feel to our home. A room addition came to our minds as we explored ways to invest in what we could afford, yet not as risky as a rental property we had considered in 2015.  Late this spring we signed a contract and hired the same local contractor who did our remodel for our 500-square foot house addition project.  A delay with city permits and the rerouting of electric lines in our rocky back yard, the roof and windows were installed today.  Trendy “barn doors” will be placed for the entry into a small bedroom, and the rest of the space will be a great room to include bargain-finds such as a hide-a-bed sofa, comfy recliner, dining table with chairs, more cabinets extending from our current kitchen, and a nook near one of the  windows for a day bed and night lamp. We have friends and family stop in from time to time, and hope to have a homemade dinner made as well as accommodate any overnight visits.  Will you be one of them?  I hope.

Like previous years gardening, books, writing, foods, and hospitality continue to joyfully fill my spare moments in between my job and family. More herbs and greens will fill our pantry and plates in 2017.  I will attempt to grow lavender for some aroma therapy and culinary use in baked goods and fresh tea and lemonade.  I learn from authors, artists, and eccentrics. “Blessed are the weird people – the poets, misfits, writers, mystics, heretics, painters, troubadours- for they teach us to see the world in different eyes,”  author Jacob Nordby is quoted.  On quieter days at work or at home in the evening I read books in preparation for work-life balance presentations and personal enrichment. “I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense”  says Harold Kushner. These three books:  The Wisdom of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate, Money Secrets Of the Amish by Lorilee Craker, and Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley touched on the essence of my year. Take small steps with purpose, and be simple, creative, and make-do.  And give grace to yourself and others. I highly recommend these readings.

 

 

 

Warming Spirits And Hearts

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In my Missouri town my furry  hat and leather gloves are needed when I get out and about this week. Winter’s chill is here to stay for a few months. It came before the winter solstice and Christmas this year.  A fire in a wood stove or fireplace is welcomed, but the chillest of December days seem to warm up with good food, drink, and fellowship.  Holiday celebrations are underway.  The inner chef in me loves the holidays. With last week’s office party I made a traditional tiramisu to go with the Italian luncheon of pasta con broccoli and lettuce salad.  For the extended family gathering last weekend, I prepared a 11-lb ham with a Bavarian-style glaze of brandy, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard with each family member pitching in with a homemade side dish or dessert.  A cheese platter like this photo from Cabot will be designed for another celebration, with spirits served at each gathering. I want to connect with those I love, and those I need to love more … warming spirits and hearts.  Tis the season, reason for the season.  Hibernation will come later.  Curling under a blanket with a book, writing, and dreaming. Ham and green beans in my evening rice, with a glass of that good blackcherry wine on the side.  Hibernation is a fine art!” ~David J. Beard.

Big Enough Heart

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It is hard to fathom how much love can fit into one person’s heart.  God is the ultimate example, as He cares for each of us perfectly. He has made each of us perfectly, and equipped us with a big enough heart to love all who surround us.  Our loving Father shows us the way to love.  Love is seen in the prayers of one soul or many.

This first week of December begins with morning aglow in pinks and oranges, and ends with clear, star-lit nights.  The wintry skies and precipitation are predicted in the upcoming days though. The weather like health can turn with no permission sought or granted. Too many of my loved ones are in battle for their health, needing pain lifted and minds freed.  That neighbor, brother, or sister has a struggle for life today that is different from you or I’s cross-to-bear.  Stand in their shoes for even a minute.  The heart feels and melts.  I want to take this burden from my loved one.  Poet Robert Frost wrote, “the best way out is always through.”  Prayers are said at this moment and repeated daily sometimes hourly.  Sometimes a miraculous healing happens and we rejoice, and other times little miracles happen along the journey, getting us through the dark clouds.  Prayers are said for God’s love to be felt along the journey.robert-frost-quote

My Own Backyard

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The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour.  The tell-tale sign of changing seasons.  A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week.  The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.

Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child  the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri.  The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source.  My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm.  My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with.  Thank goodness for gas heat.

And now I focus on my own heart matters for today.  Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice.  Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do.  Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful.  I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research  for an enrichment class to teach at my work place.   There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle.  Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding  a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on.  As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.”  I like the change back to some old ways and traditions.  What does simplicity mean to you?  How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice?  I would love to hear.

 

Saturday’s Simplicity

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Some Saturdays can be activity-filled and complicated with household chores, shopping, and cleaning, “get up and get going” like a weekday.  This crisp November Saturday morning I slept in.  The sunny autumn day Dean and I began with chive & cheese scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls knowing we needed a substantial breakfast to get the autumn leaf and brush cleaning completed. Dean captured some lovely photos while in the yard.  And my thoughts drift to a subject at hand to facilitate at an employee enrichment class in a couple of weeks.  Simplicity.  Some refer to a simple lifestyle as minimalism.  Whatever you call it, it is living in the present moment, and enjoying life, love, family, and friends.  There are only a few basics to possess … and everything else is just stuff.  It is up to you to figure out what you can live with and what you can live without.  So what can you give away from that pantry, garden, closet, or garage?  What do you need to cling to for substance for your day today?  I have confidence you will make a wise choice.message-on-a-wine-cork

 

Shelter

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My life is surrounded with people, animals, and plant life.  My home is shelter to the wandering soul.  “Happy is the house that shelters a friend”, Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted. Midnight, Celine, Joe, and Pennylane … all adopted because someone else could not care for them.  Our furry critters are family.  Our Midnight wandered the streets of town late evening on Friday.  A construction or utility person must have left our gate open.  Thank God for the internet, digital photos, good people, and prayers.  A group of teenage boys watched him as he paced back and forth near a busy road, contacted one of their parents, and then brought Midnight to the shelter of their home. We were rejoined with our Labrador by early Saturday morning after a series of FB postings.  Well-fed and watered, he rather enjoyed is overnight stay at his new friends’ home.  The boys renamed him “Hercules”.

Saturday afternoon Dean and I prepared the garage for our potted plants to be brought inside. The first hard frost seems to be delayed, but may come this week. Geraniums, succulents, a lemon tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, spider plants, and moses-in-the-cradle create a jungle our cats like to prowl in from time to time. Over the coldest months between November through March, my green friends are somewhat dormant under the high power plant lights, and most survive to be brought back outside with the warmer spring days. One green friend gets some special treatment going into 2017. My arrowhead plant grew lushly green and full over the summer.  Sensitive to the cold air, the semi-heated garage may not stay warm enough for it to maintain its brilliant green foliage. The arrowhead plant is sheltered near the mantel next to my palm until our room addition is completed.

 

Halloween Eve At Boone Hollow

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I love celebrating autumn!  At Boone Hollow today Dean and I gave a helping hand to our farming neighbors with planting a field of garlic, over 2,000 cloves.  Can you imagine 2,000 bulbs of garlic next June?  With this extended autumn season, I picked an abundance of arugula, lettuce, and herbs to share as I am still using what I picked mid-week.  We finished this lovely Halloween Eve with a wiener and marshmallow roast with our farming friends.  Ghouls and goblins have

visited the house. Halloween is creepy, but the Presidential Election is scarier!  Gratitude for the right to vote instead of dread is what I pray for. I am reminding myself this as I write, to practice thankfulness today and everyday… not just reserved for Thanksgiving Day.