Category Archives: attitude & action

Beauty For Ashes

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Dean and I had a different kind of year in 2022. Odd ball weather, I suppose normal for Missouri. I observed more sundogs in the sky than I ever remember. The long winter made for quality time writing. I submitted short stories and poems to several different publications and continue to submit at least one writing every month. New writings with Flapper Press published this year, and more coming out in eMerge in 2023. We had funky shifting winds in the spring, and our first failed crop of greens. Must have been a bad batch of seeds and a few too hot days. There was a record 12″ rain one summer night causing major flash flooding in our area as well as two windows leaking in our cottage in St. Charles. Dean did some work on the cottage to prevent it from happening again, or at least we hope! We had a fairly pleasant autumn, but an early arctic blast just before Christmas, that made for a white one. Holiday celebrations were delayed due to those subzero temps, illnesses, and a fire disaster. I think the word “resilience” was used on a number of occasions this year.

Dean had struggled with sleep apnea for years, but it escalated to a serious case. It was greatly affecting his normal functions, so he finally sought his doctor about it. After several tests with a specialist, he uses a machine diligently every night now. He is sleeping much better, and so am I! Overall, I am doing well. Stress will get those PVCs going, but my heart is healthy. Arthritic days come and go. Between seasonal and per diem jobs not providing enough hours and income, this autumn I had decided to seek a new full-time HR job with dependable hours and good pay. I started this job with a local credit union a few days ago. The work culture is pro-actively positive. I will probably do this full-time stuff for another 5 years until I draw on my SS. I still teach per diem culinary evening classes at least once a month. Other family members struggle with health issues. Dean’s mother has been diagnosed with a type of leukemia and undergoing oral treatment. My Rachel continues with some painful days with the rare nerve disorder. Thankful an unexpected inheritance has been able to fund her medical care. Dean’s youngest, Rainer, who lives in the suburb of St. Louis now had an emergency appendectomy just before Christmas but is healing well. Overall, all the kids and grandkids are well. We will welcome another grandbaby in March. I continue to pray that ours and those of our loved ones’ body, mind, and spirit be whole.

We had our routine travels back to see the Kansas City family a few times, a February week away from Missouri’s winter driving to beautiful St. Augustine, FL. We stopped in Nashville, TN for our first Grand Ole Opry show. It had been on my bucket list of events for a while, and so happy to finally experience country music at its finest. We visited Dean’s brother and family in Chicagoland one weekend in August. We chose to wait for another week away for September rather than the hot summer. Went to Colorado to see the quaking aspens and mountains in Avon, Colorado area. Another bucket list experience I had for good many years. Visited family in the Denver area. Memphis bound for one night so we could see Vince Gill in concert. We enjoyed the Branson area twice, a couple of days in May with some of our friends, and another weekend in November on our way back from Eureka Springs, AR where we met up with my sister and her partner. I attended a writer’s workshop at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Also, had an unexpected trip to Mississippi in March. My younger brother, Steve suddenly passed away while he was on vacation there. My older brother, sister-in-law, Dean, and I met up with my sister there to make final arrangements.

“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.”

Psalm 30:11

This year of 2022 was full as many of our previous years. Full of lovely moments with family and friends, and ones that we also said “goodbye” to so many family members. I had two uncles, one aunt, a cousin, and my younger brother pass away, and Dean had an aunt the family said “goodbye” to. Filled with mixed emotions, sadness as well as thankfulness for their lives with us. In the very last hour of Christmas Day, my daughter, Rachel and her family Micky, Hannah, Ella, & Eli escaped a fire that totally destroyed their home in Farmington, MO. A complete loss. It is a miracle that none of them were killed or injured. One of their dogs, LILO passed away from smoke exhaustion while trying to herd the family out of the house. There is a place in heaven for her. A cat and pet frog are gone from this life, too. We rejoice for our children’s lives spared, and a long road to recovery is underway. We get to witness miracle after miracle of how God is providing for them through His people. So many community and church groups have rallied together on their behalf as well as friends and family giving of themselves, resources, and love to help. I truly believe good overpowers the bad through the grace and mercy of our God! In 2023 there will be some joyful dancing!

“He will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.”

Isaiah 61:3

Old Man Winter Visits Before Santa

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Old Man Winter Visits Before Santa

The Winter Solstice, the shortest day for 2022 visited earlier this week. The warmth of lights in each room kept the darkness to a minimal on the gray day. Then Old Man Winter comes and stays for a 3-day visit just before Santa’s visit! Fortunately, Santa’s elf, Dean delivered a Snuggie to me on the coldest day of the year. Perfect! I love it! An old blanket blocks the drafts around the window near my side of the bed. We are talking minus zero temperatures for 3 days; wind chills negative 35! Some of coldest wind chill temperatures in Missouri’s recorded history! Our 90-year-old cottage survived last night’s 50 mph winds. Smiling Mr. & Mrs. Frosty sit on the guest bed while the sun peers through frosted windows this day after the snowstorm. Trinkling water flowed from the heated birdbath as birds perch waiting for a turn at the water fountain and feeders. The warmth of homemade chicken soup filled the house before filling our bellies tonight.

After several months of searching for just the right job with good pay and enough hours, I finally started my new position this week. More about my new job in another post. Seeing the weather forecast, I earnestly prayed giving my concerns to God. By God’s grace, I worked from home these last 2 days of my first week. I had several virtual compliance courses to complete within my first 90 days of employment, and my new employer made accommodations. I worked on those diligently and finished late this afternoon. These answered prayers and miracles to secure my job as well as stay safe reaffirms that God is my Provider. I have a medical condition called cold-induced angioedema and urticaria that doesn’t allow me to be exposed to cold temperatures especially sub-zero temps. My body would blow up like Denise in the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, my lungs would fill up with fluid in a matter of a few minutes of exposure in these weather conditions. From the warmth of Dean and I’s cottage I admire the social media vintage snow scenes, paintings (Magpie by Monet and December by Theodor Kittelsen) and memes about the cold. And I thank God for His provisions.

The Cold Hard Truth

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The Cold Hard Truth

I took cuttings from our philodendrons and ivies one last time. Then Dean and I brought our perennials into the basement, and herbs into the kitchen before the first frost, almost 2 weeks ago. Our plants are now ready for their first good watering indoors this cold season. Reality has set in with a hard freeze, the cold hard truth this morning, again tomorrow morning. Temperatures into the mid-20’s already. I rescued the two lone zinnia blooms to give them a few more days in a vase. We captured time at the parks with some of the grandkids these past weekends. I observed a little frog sunning one afternoon. Autumn decor decorates the door, porch, and house indoors. Extra quilts and blankets on the beds. I think we are ready for this 5-month cold weather season. Are you ready for the cold hard truth? What is that cold truth in your life today that is hard to face? I have a few of my own. God’s grace is sufficient for you and me. It has to be, otherwise, we could not continue. God is good to each of us, and His love surrounds us.

September’s Shift

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September’s Shift

Summer has been long and August lollygag gelled around until finally September has appeared. September’s shift is focused on seasonal changes. Cooler breezes, the air crispier, green leaves beginning to yellow, frantically feeding hummingbirds almost ready for migration, and squirrels burying nutty treasures before the frozen months. Welcome to the prelude of autumn. School children busy about their studies, football games, band practice, parents carpooling, traffic lines longer, and work schedules tightening after a lazier summer season.

This week my regular cooking classes start up again with 5 adults’, 4 children’s, and 1 adult/child class ahead of me. I am teaching this semester with the community college’s continuing education program plus 2 Saturday classes offered at a new venue, a local lavender farm. See more about these classes and where to sign up on my culinary class page. This weekend I worked on a recipe for photos for my crockpot apple cobbler. My Dean surely doesn’t mind being a taste tester. After that all-time record 10″ rain one night in late July, we realized our gutters needed new facia put in. So, Dean finished up the gutter project this weekend, replacing old facia boards that should have been done when a crew was hired last year for a new roof and gutters. That took 4 full days over the past few weekends to secure our cottage from these pop-up storms we have been experiencing.

Autumn is showing up in our neighborhood homes and shops, too. A prompting to shift my decor this week, an autumn wreath placed on the door, a leafy-print runner, amber lights, and pumpkins gracing the buffet. The perennials thickened up over the growing season. A trimming is needed before they come indoors early October, another project for this week. I plan to give away a few pots of houseplants as we have more than plenty. If you live in the metro St. Louis area and need greenery to warm up your home this winter, please let me know if you’d like a green houseplant such as a Boston fern, asparagus fern, spider plant, or philodendron. Each are in showy ceramic or terra cotta pots.

Summer Taking A Curtsy

Lazy daisy, dandelion days of summer are taking a curtsy,

Making way for golden rod, crispy air, and blowing winds.

Soon a final goodbye to the hummingbirds, butterflies so flirty.

With nectar-filled blooms giving a bow and then final bends,

Flowerheads wither, seeds scatter, food for the birdies.

An autumn canvas with yellow, orange, and red blends

Come after September’s rains and sunny days with certainty.

Anna Marie Gall September 4, 2022

Old Glory Still Flies!

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What a blessing to call myself an American! We are truly blessed to live in this country where freedom of speech and worship is allowed! May not agree with the person speaking, but know it is okay as I can disagree and still respect at the same time. And you will do the same for me! Dean and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary this weekend as well as this great country’s 246th birthday. Rich chocolate silk tartlets made and shared with family, grand time with our friends in DeSoto, MO for dinner, music, dancing, and fireworks on Saturday! Sunday brunch and then to Hermann, MO for Tin Mill Brewery beers and pizza followed by the kids’ tractor pulls and the town’s annual 4th of July parade. The whole world changed in a minute that first 4th of July Dean and I met. So happy Dean and I said, “I want you”. And that Old Glory still flies!

“Whole world could change in a minute
Just one kiss could stop this spinning
We could think it through
But I don’t want to, if you don’t want to
We could keep things just the same
Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose
But I don’t want to, if you don’t want to

Never waste another day
Wonderin’ what you threw away
Holdin’ me, holdin’ you
I don’t want to if you don’t want to

We could keep things just the same
Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose
But I don’t want to
But you don’t want to

But I want you.”

~ Lyrics by Jennifer Nettles sung by Sugarland

“And I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand up next to you
And defend Her still today
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt
I love this land
God Bless the U.S.A.”

~ Lyrics and sung by Lee Greenwood

“American girls and American guys
We’ll always stand up and salute
We’ll always recognize
When we see Old Glory flying.”

~Lyrics and sung by Toby Keith

Flowers Keep The Light

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“May the flowers remind us why the rain was so necessary.”

~ Xan Oku~

April and May showers brought these beautiful blooms this month. Some sunshine had something to do with their vibrancy, too. The rainstorms brought peony petals to the ground quicker than desired, but I was able to capture their beauty before the rains.

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” 

~ Theodore Roethke~

“Bloom as if you want to make the whole world beautiful.”

~ Debasish Mridha ~

Dean and I took on a spring garden project of sanding an old cart, hopefully staining it very soon. Its purpose will be a huge planter for lettuce, spinach, and arugula greens, up and away from hungry rabbits. We always enjoy watching the birds and this time of year the baby birds fledge. Here is a robin fledgling perched in our front door wreath with a metal bird. Maybe he or she felt at home there? We just saw a young hairy woodpecker come to our feeder and water fountain with momma close by. Hummingbirds frequent the sugar water feeder. And a short trip to Branson and central Missouri’s countryside gave us spectacular views this May! Light seems to shine even between the clouds!

A Finicky Finish With April

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A Finicky Finish With April

“Finicky”, “fickle”, “temperamental” whatever you want to call this weather, April has had it all! Ice, snow, sleet, hail, rain, windstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, rainbows stretching from one horizon to the next it seemed, the 80’s to the 20’s with the temperatures, and even a 2.8 earthquake felt this evening as I finish this blog post. The epic center was in the St. Louis metro area.

The miracle is despite the bizarre weather the gold finches and orioles have come back in full swing, nesting and feeding like crazy. I just heard reports of the hummingbirds’ return to Missouri. This weekend Dean and I will be getting our hummingbird feeder filled and hung on the hook near the guest bedroom window. I have the huge ceramic pot that belonged to my mother as well her shepherd’s hook to hang another hummingbird feeder in our backyard. Destined to be together, the pot will have wildflowers blooming from this weekend’s sown seeds, a double-attraction for those hummingbirds and bees.

We might be frost-free now? If the 10-day forecast tells us it is safe, Dean and I will bring the perennials out from their winter home on Sunday. Some of my herbs have started to get fresh growth while in the basement under those plant lights. The green life just needs fresh air, rainwater, and real sunshine for these next 6 months, just like you and me. Within a week, our perennials will be thanking us!

Our organic greens at the screenhouse are coming up nicely. Weekly watering plus the natural moisture making its way through the screen have been sufficient for growth. The occasional light frost has not zapped them. I look forward to a salad bowl filled with our lettuces and spinach in about a month. Volunteer arugula made its way through the soil again this year. I want a plethora of basil for my Stone Soup workshop in August. Fresh plantings may be started in the next week or so.

As the weather goes back and forth, I enjoy a cup of hot tea on the cool days. Warmer days, it is iced tea. Earlier this week it was cleaning up weeds, twigs, and leaves in the backyard. This spring afternoon, I find comfort writing while a mild thunderstorm brewed along with my tea choice of herbal vanilla-lavender. I find joy inside and outside. The sweetness of a fruit tisane and the relaxing tap-tap on the keyboard bring sheer delight to my senses. When stepping to the outdoors I see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the wonders of nature that surrounds me. Oh, the joy of living one moment at a time. I feel blessed and loved by our God who is still in control and is Omnipresent.

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.”

~ Mother Teresa

April It Is

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Where did March go? I intended to get a few words blogged in March but occupied with other writing projects, teaching culinary classes, Lenten Friday fish fries, clearing brush and late dropping leaves in our backyard, then started the greens bed out at the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. The trail of the Defiance December tornado is still very visible, so much destruction. Repairs and rebuilding are still underway. The air is still trying to decide if Spring is here to stay for a couple of months anyway. Wet snowflakes dropped from the gray skies on March 31 reminding us that spring is still wishy-washy here in Missouri. No fooling, a freeze warning on the first day of April. The daffodils drooped all morning seemed saddened by the cold air; much like me. The afternoon sun pepped them up quite nicely, and my heart, too.

“April is the kindest month.  April gets you out of your head and out working in the garden.”

~ Marty Rubin

The spring greens of leaf lettuce and spinach are sown, and I am trusting to see sprouts of green tomorrow when we get back to the greenhouse. I intend to get my herbs planted Easter weekend, depending on the weather these next few days and warmth of the organic soil. We hope to get another raised bed made for a “stone soup” garden. I have a family favorite Italian soup recipe based on the famous children’s Stone Soup tale. This garden will include basil, zucchini, yellow squash, a couple bell pepper and tomato plants. This recipe also calls for garlic, and we already have wild garlic growing in the backyard near the alley. This summer I will be sharing my recipe at a parent/child story time and recipe demo workshop at a local farm. If my garden produces well, what I am sowing this spring will be featured in the workshop. More on this later …

As I welcome April I am reminded of rebirth. The cherry trees and red buds bloom color despite the coldness this week. Rebirth of plant life, but also of hopes and dreams. My heart has been saddened greatly these past few days by some cold news I received about a loved one. I will write more on this in a couple of days. Still too fresh, I am raw right now. Last week during spring break I spent a wonderful afternoon with all my grandchildren, Hannah, Libby, Ella, Brendan, Eli and an adopted granddaughter, Riley. After our picnic lunch we gazed onto the rippling waters of the St. Francis River and overlooked the valleys in the St. Francis Mountains. Such a beautiful day with my daughter and grandkids. Nothing replaces those kinds of moments. Thank You, God for the hopes and dreams You place in our hearts.

Word and Plant Gardens

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I mentioned in last month’s post about my Valentine poem My Delicious Lover being published. I feel honored as it won 1st Place and a $100 award from Flapper Press. You can find this poem in my Word Garden page or on Flapper Press’ website. I have been journaling and writing for years as well as blogging for 12 years. This blog is speckled with stories, photos, recipes, poems, inspirations, and information on various topics. Take a couple of minutes for an inspirational thought or comical relief while reading a monthly post or page. Writing has been a fun winter occupation while the lousy weather is relentless. No place to be except at the desk typing on the laptop in my retirement days.

While on vacation in Florida we purchased some small succulents and brought them back undamaged in the long road trip. I immersed my hands into soil especially made for succulents one afternoon this week. I used a repurposed teapot, small pint jar painted yellow, tall & skinny vase-like ceramic, and galvanized metal box for planters. They turned out quite cute. I hope to sell these succulent planters and garden ware in the days ahead, as spring is only 3 weeks away. True gardeners like myself are itching to plant and attend to their green life once again. We dubbed the flea market booth as Flock Together Mercantile. Please find the details of what, where, who, and why this booth was created on this page found here on this blog site.

As a culinary instructor and life-long learner, I have many online and printed resources I turn to for recipe creations. The most inspiring these days is the making of herbal teas or tisanes. One of my resources is Mountain Rose Herbs based in Oregon. An article “How To Create Your Own Herbal Tea Blends” was included in one of their monthly newsletters years ago. I want to try these herbal blend principles and will attempt to make some of my own blends using my organically grown herbs this year. I love a glass of iced tea while gardening or a cup of steeping hot tea while writing and reading. In the future I hope to share some tea-blend recipes on my Recipes page right here on this blog site.

Thank you for joining me in my gardening adventures. Writing about them is all a part of this pure joy!

Winter Daydreams

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Winter Daydreams

“I have dreamed something entirely pretend with my eyes wide open. The sweet wonder of it makes me smile. I believe in the emotions implanted by dreams, for they are not pretend, and they will never cease to bloom.” ~ Richelle E Goodrich

Enough of the cold already! Cloudy skies bring snowflakes, some days more than others. Temperatures have dipped into the single digits on more days than not. I know winter has to run its course, that is the nature of things. But January brought us enough coldness and viruses to last us through the year. I want to play outside, go for walks, and garden. The seed catalogs plant the thoughts and bring on daydreams of flourishing flowers and gorgeous green life. I want to plant more flowering perennials and herbs. And I aim to grow some succulents this year, planting them in unique planters, repurposed vessels to sell in the flea market booth. There isn’t enough room for more plants in the basement, so it will have to wait until spring.

With my allergy to the cold being outdoors is difficult to do without serious repercussions. So I busy myself with reading, decluttering the house, and new writing projects. I submitted poems to six publishers’ contests and challenges this month. The latest is a “black-out poem” with a Valentine theme. I loved the challenge of taking an already published piece and reusing specific words that had meaning to me to write an original poem, then marking out the words I did not want in my poem. The link to my black-out poem will be shared once it is published on Valentine’s Day. Of course, my poem has a culinary theme. That is my other time occupation this winter.

Soups, soups, and more soups! Every week this winter it has been a big pot of soup or chili homemade. They fill our souls and tummies. Chicken-noodle, wild rice & mushroom, Italian stone, and cheesy broccoli soups, and 3-bean chili so far. Speaking of soup, my Italian Stone Soup recipe is featured in the Winter issue of e-Merge online magazine that just published. Click on the link above and make it! Full of veggies and robust flavor. I have refrained from baking sweets and breads. Those holiday cookies were enough to throw off my A1c numbers. I have to be good to my body. Those winter daydreams include fresh picked organic greens from the garden bed. My cooking classes for 2022 finally start up in February. Italian Cooking Made Easy and Cupid’s Brunch are on the agenda for next month. A warm destination occupies those winter daydreams and planned for February, too. More on that next time …

“She was always daydreaming. She never wanted to live in the real world; she always seemed to be separated from other children her age. They couldn’t understand her or her imagination. She was always thinking outside of the box, breaking rules, and only following what her heart told her was right.” ~ Shannon A. Thompson