Porch Critters & Garden Perches

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The springtime porch critters and garden perches came out this past weekend.  Pots of pansies planted; pinks, purples, blues, and yellows gathered together on or near the front porch of our cottage.  Birds, bees, and a bunny perch among the pots, birdhouses, and other garden art.  A welcome greeting after such a long winter!  Welcome Spring!

The Love of Color And Dirt

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I have held up fairly well this very cold winter season.  I kept busy indoors with a 1000-piece puzzle, reading, writing, vacation planning, and even a couple of hand-written letters placed in the mail box.  You know, the old-fashioned way of communicating!  My interior decorating picked up again, with our newest additions  a chaise and lace-paneled screen for my boudoir, as well as a vintage stained glass window for the wall above the buffet in the living room.  It brightens the room up with the sun on it; swirls of purple, blue, and golden yellow reflect into the cottage.  Just what my soul needed … color!  Having just a little spring fever …

Oh, but there is the love of dirt, too!  I am anxious to get outdoors to dig in the dirt, sow seeds, plant flowers, move onto exterior decorating, and feel the fresh air and sun on my face.  Daylight savings time began this past Sunday, and the Spring Equinox is a week away!  Do you think the weatherman and mother nature saw the calendar, too?  I sure hope so!  No springtime snows and frigid cold blasts, please!

This will be our first spring in our little St. Charles cottage.  Signs of green popped up a couple of snowstorms ago.  I believe they are daffodils throughout the front and back yards.  Bursts of yellow in a few days!  I am sprucing up the indoor plants at home and at the office, trimming dead branches and topping the pots with fresh potting soil this week and next.  My green friends have done well under the plant lights in the basement, where it is not quite as cold as the barely heated garage at the other house.  And no feline friends to perch themselves in the potted plants!  My citrus tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, and other potted perennials will go outdoors when the threat of frost is past, late in April.

Plans for very old awnings to come down, painting weathered window frames, window cleaning, and new fencing are on the top of the list of outdoor chores this spring and summer.  But the other chore, which to me is so much fun, is yard designing with the existing garden beds, as well as the choices and placement of garden art.  One of my childhood friends from Minnesota sent me a photo of her little mini greenhouse in the midst of an autumn snowfall, the sun gorgeously set behind it filtering through the autumn leaves and windows.  It brought to life the desire to build such a potting shed, maybe a bit of a “she-shed” where I can play in the dirt and plants.  But also to sit and relax on a comfy chair sipping herb tea, my writing journal, and pen among the birds, butterflies, and blooms.

 

Winter’s Warmth

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Ice hit the concrete sidewalks and streets last Sunday morning, like many other wintry mornings in Missouri.  Looking outside the red twig dogwood glistened.  Dean and I waited a bit for temperatures to increase, and then managed to get to church.  It is an oxymoron, winter’s warmth.  It is what winter does for us.  Brings us indoors after weathering the cold, ice, and snow.  Much like life.  The warmth of home lures us back to comfort and simplicity. “Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” Gretchen Rubin writes.  Another author Dominique Browning contemplates, “the banal moments of the day are the most seductive to me. It is in the lighting of a fire on a cold morning, or in the pouring of wine and the pulling up of chairs to read together at the end of an afternoon of errands, that love really exerts its magic.” 

I miss a fireplace or wood stove to snuggle to in our little cottage, but have little niches in every room of our 4-room dwelling that seduce me.  My favorite room is the kitchen.  “So let’s dish out saucy praise for the place of crazy salads, spicy endearments, whispering souffles, sweetmeats, tender loins, and sticky fingers. That whirring, blending, mixed-up, soul-stirring, juice-dripping, hot-hearted room (the kitchen),” Dominique Browning writes in her book Slow LoveKind of spicy, you say.  That is what cooking in the kitchen does for my heart.  Another weekend snow has developed this afternoon.  Mini cheese-stuffed meatloaves, sweet potatoes, and banana-oat bread will grace our table this evening.  Tomorrow I will chop fresh veggies to saute with Italian sausage for Italian stone soup accompanied with fresh-from-the-oven bread sticks.  A casserole dish of homemade mac & cheese with a bowl of buttered edamame will be Sunday’s dinner.

I have plenty of library books to peruse and a jigsaw puzzle to piece together for this long weekend of winter warmth.  Besides Dean and I have each other to keep the fire going …

 

Winter Hideaway

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The weather people have been telling us about this big winter storm coming to our region by the weekend. Amazing how they can view the weather patterns over the ocean and predict conditions 5 days out and 2,000 miles away.  Sleet, ice, and snow in that order.  Well, they are right about a winter storm.  Although snowflakes started a couple of hours ahead of their initial timeline, and the precipitation is snow rather than sleet.  Too cold for sleet and ice.  Thank God! But much more snow than first thought, now close to a foot by the end of the storm.

I am in the comforts of my home, and no plans to go out this weekend. Church may not be attended on Sunday.  Much depends on the city’s plowing services.  Just heard one go by. The neighbor boy cleared the walking path to the street late afternoon yesterday, and my Dean cleared it again this afternoon. We are ready if we had to go out.

So home equals comfort, the warmth of good food, robes, blankies, and candles. We went grocery shopping a couple of evenings ago based on the forecast, along with many others by the long checkout lines. Freshly baked orange-cranberry scones for breakfast, the buttery aroma enveloped our home. And then homemade chicken veggie soup for lunch. Relaxing this afternoon, so leftovers will do for dinner tonight.  A veggie lasagna will be made for Sunday dinner. A couple of library books at hand, a decorating one caught my fancy today, Cozy Minimalist Home.  I am writing with the warming orange flicker of the candlelight nearby.  The song birds are feeding outside the window before tucking in for the night. At this moment I would not trade this to a secluded sunny beach.  See how many more snow days before I change my mind!  Right now, all is good!

Hopes And Dreams

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Our 2018 is coming to a close very soon.  Where did the year go?!  Filled with memorable days with many of you, & for others not enough time together.

Our travels started with a February trip to Louisville, KY where we went to the “show of shows” for military & gun collectors. Foodie joints, the Louisville Slugger tour, & downtown were a part of the trip.  Dean & I visited the St. Meinrad Archabbey.  The architecture & gardens are stunning.  Mother’s Day weekend included a combined mothers trip to Pella, IA to view the late spring tulips, a windmill tour, & indulge in Dutch fare.  Memorial Day weekend Dean & I visited the Lincoln Museum & Home in Springfield, IL.  Late June, we gathered up my Rachel’s three, & took a 4-day trip to Branson, MO where the go-carts reigned.  Such fun with the grandkids!   We had a short few days in Minnesota.  It definitely was not long enough, but happy to relax & visit with in-law family in the Twin Cities and family friends on Island Lake part of the 4th of July week.  Over Veteran’s Day weekend, we holiday & antique shopped in Branson.

Our big news for 2018 is our purchase of a small 1940’s home in historic St. Charles, just one Missouri River town closer to St. Louis metro.  The weekday commutes to our offices have been easier, & the quietness of this older neighborhood so refreshing.  Dean loves the WWII era, & his “man cave” basement.  “Deanna’s Cottage” is a “work in progress”; new kitchen flooring, unveiling the hardwood floor under carpeting in the living room & our bedroom, new or no awnings (depends on if you ask Dean or Anna!), new fencing, taking down at least one huge tree, & building a “garage plus” in the big back yard are envisioned. It is a quaint 4-room dwelling, under 800 sq-ft love nest.  We went small on purpose.  We love visitors, but really love our empty nest!  The comfy guest bedroom takes you back to the whimsical Edwardian era.  It has been a blast finding 1930-40’s furniture pieces & 2nd-hand decor to decorate Deanna’s Cottage. We recently listed with Airbnb for the St. Charles festival weekends only.  Being 7 blocks from historic Main Street makes our place an ideal hideaway for travelers. On those weekends while guests are at our cottage, we stay at our 4-bdrm St. Peters house, which is being rented to my daughter & son-in-law.  Dean & I have experienced some Airbnb suites as guests before we opened up our home as hosts. The concept seems rather novel, but in past centuries many travelers stayed in common people’s homes.  This century we are using electronics to facilitate bookings for lodging.  Although not a traditional bed & breakfast, I will always leave some kitchen-made goodie for our guests, as I still love to bake & our guests gladly indulge.  For any naysayers about the size, pace, venue, or avenue, it is Dean & I’s dream.  Deanna’s Cottage will grow. We are building our dream one step at a time.  More in the years ahead …

Our grandchildren continue to flourish.  Dean’s granddaughter, 2-year old Elise has developed into her own person.  Loves art, music, & hands-on anything!  My youngest grandchild, Eli shines in math & finally had a buddy move in his neighborhood.  Ella needs to stop growing!  Such a kind, pretty young lady she is.  My oldest granddaughter, Hannah, is in her last year of homeschooling.  Another artsy one.  The last I heard she wants to be a tattoo artist, but had thoughts about nursing.  Either or both paths are the right one for her.  I understand that pull in vocational choices based on gift areas. Libby is thriving in her 1st year of high school, active with choir, & quite the artist as well.  What is it about our girls & art?  My Brendan is the other one that needs to stop growing! He excels in his height along with sports & academics.

Our beloved, Midnight passed away in June just before Father’s Day. The memories we had with him during his puppy, young & older adult doggy years I will treasure forever.  Dean & I had him his last 5 years after my father passed away.  Though I hesitated at the first, Dean embraced being Midnight’s new master when the need was brought to our attention.  This Labrador brought so much liveliness & love to our home & our extended family.  We miss our Midnight.  Another doggy will come into our home later, maybe when we retire.  Our feline, Celine stays at the St. Peters house.  She is getting too old for another change.  We have granddogs & grandcats always in plenty.

The growing season was shorter this year. This spring I missed the window of opportunity to sow my greens like arugula, lettuce, & spinach because it was winter up until mid-May.  Summer came 2 weeks later!  In our screen house we again had monster tomato plants produce some delicious cherry tomatoes.  I still have a few of those green tomatoes picked before Jack Frost came that are turning red in a bowl set in the kitchen window.  Boone Hollow Farm where the screenhouse/greenhouse seats is still a serene place for Dean & myself to hide away during a workweek evening or weekend.  Just 30 minutes of the country quiet & picking weeds or vegetables can restore my blood pressure & sanity to normal.

Dean continues to serve & learn from the clients that come into the research room at the National Archives.  The stories the researchers & employees uncover are quite entertaining.  Throughout the year we go out for happy hours or dinners with his clients.  My work with the employee wellness program at St. Louis County was nationally recognized by the American Heart Association this year, after 10 years of creative efforts & hard work.  In 2019, I along with other wellness professionals in the St. Louis region will address diabetes & glucose issues.  I can personally vouch that regular physical activity keeps those numbers in line.  I was walking 10,000 steps a day this year, & am now challenged by the cold temps.  Our basement will be put into use over the winter months just like the underground tunnel at work.

Advent season sets the stage of waiting in hope & a readiness for the Gift.  The Gift of Jesus is there to embrace any day & any time.  Our hopes are birthed in Him.  One of our children has a hope for healing of chronic health conditions of degenerative disc disease & arachnoiditis against the current medical odds.  Conventional medicine has harmed more than helped, so alternative therapies are sought for pain management.  Missouri joins the legalization of marijuana, a miracle in itself.  Another one of our children is waiting & has a hope for having a child.  Dean & I continue to pray for our daughters & sons.  And for each of us who have a hope whether tiny or big, impregnate our whole being, let the joy of knowing that our God reigns, He cares, He loves us right now just as we are.  Look to Him for security. “Hope as an anchor” is what I pray for you & our loved ones this holiday season & long into 2019!

 

Crusty Morning

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The Porch At ChristmasI awoke after another restless night’s sleep.  A combination of a urinary tract infection and my SI joint giving me troubles.  I would rather stay in my warm bed to try for some more shut-eye.  But job duties call despite how I feel.  I am doing all my doctor has recommended. Need let the antibiotics do their job, think on positive thoughts, trust God, and just to rest.  For me “just rest” is the hardest order to follow.

I move out the front door with purse and lunch tote in my gloved hands.  A crusty morning, a crunch under my boots as I walked to the car.  Yes, a thin sheet of ice under snow covered the sidewalk and car.  I turn and see the winter porch decor dazzled with ice, too.  Oh, the festive mood I wanted to be in for this holiday season.  And the ice-capped snowman’s morning greeting did it.  Just the simple things in life.  I am ready to get through my day.

Back When

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The “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign in the store front window caught my attention.  Fresh pine scent, the friendly “howdy” greeting, footsteps on the squeaky wood-planked floor, and the jingle of the door bells as I enter and close the door into the little gift shop … each liven my senses … bring me to back when.  A little pony-tailed blonde-haired girl.  Cannot wait for the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years.  But all the events leading to those wonder-filled holidays.  Baking, decorating, crafting, wrapping, and for me living on a tree farm, setting up the pine trees to sell.  Always Thanksgiving weekend my Dad and Grandpa brought in a truck and trailer overflowed with fresh cut Christmas trees.  Scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees planted, trimmed, and cared for by Dad, and any family members looking for some extra $$ pitched in.  My siblings and I included.  We would play hide-n-seek in the pile of cut trees until there were no more to set-up.  Snow, ice, or rain, it did not matter. Wholesome fun. We had the time of our lives back when.

 

A weekend away in Branson, Missouri for early Christmas shopping and a membership inquiry with a vacation club for more of these empty nest long weekends and longer week dream vacations.  Dean and I are local shoppers, whether in our home town of St. Charles, Missouri or while on vacation.  There is something down-to-earth about brick & mortar and mom & pop shops.  Branson has the downtown landing and tourist attractions, but take us where the locals shop, eat, and play, please!  Nostalgic Dicks 5 & 10, Main Street Flea Market, the Classy Flea, and the Farmhouse Restaurant … Back when the Nativity was in every shop, home, and city hall.  The holidays included real pine rope trimmings with bright red velvet bow wreaths and pine cones.  Back when that fresh field-cut Charlie Brown tree was dressed with hand-sewn ornaments, Shiny Brite glass balls, and a collection of heirloom from Germany or England, wherever your family originated from.  Back when home-baked breads were served at every meal with a home-jarred fruit preserves, and your favorite sugar cookies piled on a plate or in a large jar for the eating any time.  But not too close to your mother’s or grandmother’s home-cooked dinner, “not to spoil your appetite”.  The house smelled of a fresh pot of chicken & dumplings.  I imagine my father’s Christmases in the 1940’s.  Filled with joy to have his father, my Grandpa Earl back home from the war.  Grandma Anna doting over the menu preparations.  Two or three simply wrapped presents with his name “Marty” on the tags under the tinseled Christmas tree.  Back when is close to my heart at this present moment in the guest bedroom of our 1940’s house.  My family has been blessed with fond memories and we will make more.

 

Seasonal Love

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What makes leaves turn different colors in autumn?  According to the College of Environmental Science and Forestry:  http://www.esf.edu/pubprog/brochure/leaves/leaves.htmDuring the spring and summer the leaves have served as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree’s growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs from sunlight the energy that is used in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch. Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange color to a carrot. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring. Chlorophyll breaks down. But in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.” 

So there is the scientific explanation for the color changes in a leaf.  I have a seasonal love that by-passes all the science stuff … oh, autumn!  These cooler days and color-bursting leaves bring me outdoors at every opportunity.  This past Saturday Dean and I watched bright orange pumpkins drop from the blue sky while small engine and military war planes whirl above with the leaves and birds.  Sunday afternoon gave us another chance to enjoy the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows at Boone Hollow Farm while picking the last of our ripened cherry tomatoes and all the green tomatoes still on the vines which succumbed to the first killing frost this past week.  This Monday’s lunch hour was spent walking at the park relishing more color and sunshine.  Tuesday promises even more golden sunshine and warmth.  And on  a rainy, colder Wednesday the trick or treaters will come out in their costumes.  Some will be dressed in black and gruesome red, black, and green makeup, but I particularly like the happy get-ups in bright colors and smiles.  Our 2-year old granddaughter, Elise is dressed as a monarch butterfly!

 

Autumn Rains

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I took my antihistamine this morning as advised by my allergist.  When the temperatures get under 50, that is when my cold-allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, and joint aches start up.  This was the 2nd morning in a row for more autumn-like weather, and today a cold rain to boot.  Feeling a little edgy at the office, I needed to get outside, rain or not at my lunch break.  I bundle myself in my rain jacket, already in jeans and boots this casual Friday.  My long 4-block stroll in the autumn rain was delightfully quiet.  The outdoors, “mother nature” calms me.  Things do not seem so big anymore in the vastness of the sky and trees.  I warmed up with a cup of hot tea when back at my desk.

My Minnesota friends have had the white fluffy stuff this week.  Last weekend in Kansas City, a cold rain pretty much non-stop for 2 days.  On the east side of Missouri the cold front finally came.  We went from August to November weather conditions in 2 days.  Our tomato plants situated in a screen house in rural St. Charles County may experience their first frost tonight.  This weekend’s visit to the farm will probably include picking green tomatoes, and next week preparing green tomato preserves.  I have housed my perennials and tropical plants in the house, basement, or garage for the next 5 or 6 months.

 

Autumn Rain by Gerry Legister

When we see summer changes 
The clothes we wear quickly disappear, 
And the next season rearranges 
Clouds more fastidious in the atmosphere. 

The fall is here; it means a new challenge 
For our clothes, shoes and hair 
From the warmth of summer to darker rage 
Autumn quietly drifts in unaware.

Let the autumn rain fall upon you, 
Let the autumn rain beat upon the trees 
Until the leaves fall down and become new. 
Let the autumn season fondly release

The changes that time replicates 
Shadows on the floor and rain in the air, 
With pools of water running off the trees 
And wash down into the gutter.

Let the rain fall softly while you sleep 
And make the rhythm night beat 
With a lullaby playing upon the housetop, 
A note of intrigue to adorn the light.

When pools of water from the sidewalk 
Splash upon you with quick surprise, 
It makes you walk with a watermark 
To stain the perfect spot on our tresses. 

Tending

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“There are some things we can never really possess; we simply take our brief turn at tending them,” writes author Dominique Browning about relationships, homes, and gardens.  Our children are with us for a short time.  Then gone from our homes tending to own adventures in life. Remember they belong to our heavenly Father from conception on. Our homes whether you reside for 5 or 50 years are molded to suit your needs.  Then you move to establish another residence elsewhere based on new needs and desires, and for some people multiple times in your lifetime.  “Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare, and left the flushed print in a poppy there,” poet Francis Thompson writes.  Gardens differ from the voluntary poppy blooming on the lakeside, a potted geranium, trays of microgreens, elaborate rows of organic beans in raised beds, to the caged tomato plants.  All tended with care by the gardener and mother nature.

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Jane Lewis’ song Tend Me Like a Garden defines “tending” well … 

I wish you would tend me like I was a garden. Start me from scratch, babe, right from seed. You could plant me with your bare hands in the springtime. And bring me water whenever I had the need. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. Oh won’t you take me into your garden. Lie with me on this fertile ground. I will feed you with my body. And bathe you in the sunshine coming down. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain.  I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. I will love you through all of the seasons. I’ll weather what the fall and summer bring. I may lie fallow in the winter. But I swear that I’ll remember you in spring. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away I swear that I’ll remember you…

What relationship in your life needs tending today?