Category Archives: critter

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!

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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!

 

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!

Sacred And Winged

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I counted a least two dozen winged trinkets and framed pictures on the shelves, mantel, and walls of both of our homes.  Mini birdhouses, feeders, nests, a sparkly snow bird and a reindeer (they fly!), angels, blue willow dishes, and an artist’s portrait of a peasant young woman cradling a wounded sea gull decorate my home.  These creatures bring life and represent my love of sacredness and nature … the green life of plants, trees, bushes, vines, and flowers as well as their winged friends.  Eagles, owls, ducks, swans, gulls, wrens, finches, hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies are what I am attracted to during my walks besides the flowers and trees along the way.  And those angelic beings are protecting my loved ones and I.

Our Midnight

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Our Midnight.  Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life.  Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him.  He loved people.  He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”.  He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course.  He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet.  He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus.  He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights.  He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup.  He loved going out to “the farm”.  Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing  after all the waterfowl that lived in them.  But he hated thunderstorms.  Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside.  One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota.  The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening.  Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us.  We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse.  The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek.  I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!

Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11.  And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years.  It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age.  Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family.  He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004.  Puppy love with huge paws.  Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle.  In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever.  This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago.  Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight.  For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood.  One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition.  Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters.  Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why.  Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us.  Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night.  He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.

Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love.  Our Midnight.  We will always love you.

 

Autumn Rain

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Humidity dominated the air the past two days after a spell of crisp, clear mornings and evenings.  The walks have been lovely.  The leaves scurry about.  Finally raindrops splatter the parched earth here in St. Charles County.   The thunder rumbles.  A lovely sound.  Our Labrador, Midnight does not seem to mind it too much. It has been a long while to hear these stormy sounds.  No walk outside tonight for safety sake.  If it was just rain, well I would welcome a walk in the rain!  I will finish my daily quota of steps indoors while vacuuming the floors.

The wind begun to rock the grass
With threatening tunes and low, —
He flung a menace at the earth,
A menace at the sky.

The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
And started all abroad;
The dust did scoop itself like hands
And throw away the road.

The wagons quickened on the streets,
The thunder hurried slow;
The lightning showed a yellow beak,
And then a livid claw.

The birds put up the bars to nests,
The cattle fled to barns;
There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands

That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,
But overlooked my father’s house,
Just quartering a tree.

~ Emily Dickinson

Trees Let Go

 

Change

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Midnight, our almost 13-year old Labrador wanted outside at 3:30 this morning. Odd, as he is usually sacked out on the couch at this wee hour of the morning. And then he did not want back in. Midnight wanted to lay in his backyard, and Dean left him there. Morning came an hour earlier today…Midnight & New Pillow 2016

As we set out for work this Friday,  I understood why Midnight wanted to stay outside. Our dog was welcoming the “change in the air”, the first of the family to feel the air switch directions, a cool brisk wind from the north.  It is an annual event, noticed by the animals and nature-sensitive people. This colder air brings the geese honking and ducks quacking overhead at sunrise and dusk. Deep-sighing breathes are taken in relief of the sultry summer heat.  Dinner menus change to comfort foods. Poems are even written about this change in the air. My oldest daughter wrote this poem in honor of this change and her mother saying every year …

The woods begin to vibrate with gathering and preparation. 

The sounds so crisp, electric.

Her words were “I felt the air change today.”

Red, orange, yellow, green, brown.

They dance while falling.

A choreographed waltz.

Every year she said “I felt the air change today.”

Beautiful, breathtaking, loyal.

The Canvas.

I think I felt the air change today.

With this change in the air comes thoughts of autumn and winter, getting the household, greenhouse, and gardens ready for the cold seasons. Another crop of greens will be sowed next week, maybe give us 2 or 3 more months of salads. Smaller pots and baskets of our perennials will be combined into bigger pots in preparation for their indoor home. But this time it is something more than a season change for our green life as said in the lyrics of A Change in the Air sung by Clint Black …

There’s something talkin’ in the wind
Whispering through the trees
That feeling in my bones again
Just puts me right at ease
It takes me back to all the times
I’ ve been here before
But crossroads, old familiar signs
Tell me there’s something more

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

The leaves are turning, soon they’ll fall
There’s a norther blowing in
The memories flowin’, I recall
Those changes in the wind
But I can never try to understand
There’s nothing you can hold in your hand

Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s comfort leaving me without a care
I remain but everything around me hears the call
And tonight I feel a change in the air

Yes I’ll surely feel a change in the air

Fall Quote

Let It Rain

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“Answer July—
Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?

Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
Answer Thee—Me—”
~  Emily Dickinson, Answer July 

I am missing May.  This July in Missouri has been a scorcher.  Parched the past few days, rain finally came overnight after a 108 degree day in the St. Louis region.  More is needed.  I pray. Yesterday Dean and I walked Midnight late-morning.  The tree leaves were turned and folded in an attempt to protect from the blasting sun rays. They made a wither y rustle when a slight breeze came by.  We waited until dusk for that last walk of the day.  The sun, oh so hot this summer!  Yet I am reminded of its purpose by the flowering beauty of our bird of paradise, the delicate peppery flavor of arugula shoots, the calmness of green in my Swedish ivy planter, and the glimmering glass art butterflies at the Butterfly House.

Two Peas In A Pod

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I chose to live this life alone over 12 years ago.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” one of the proverbs tell us.  My heart was sick for too many years with an unhappy relationship.  I only imagined what a happy marriage would be like.  A come-true dream is a tree of life for me today.  Eight years ago this July, Dean and I met on a semi-blind date arranged by his brother and sister-in-law.  This tall, dark handsome man captured my eyes.  But unlike the other bucks in the herd, Dean captured my heart.  So happy I pursued this relationship. With our family backgrounds and life experiences, Dean and I came together like two peas in a pod, and we still are.  Our pod is shared with our huge family almost every evening and every weekend. “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together” is how an African proverb is told.

Dean and I needed to become just “two peas in a pod” again for a few days.  We stole away to the Great Smokies, doing the Air B & B thing.  Mountains, pines, music, and the visual and culinary arts we surrounded ourselves with.  Despite the hot days while on a mountain culture retreat away from our Missouri life,  I picked two big plastic bags full of leaf lettuce and a heaping bowl full of arugula and chives from my gardens this week.  And those delectable garden peas!  I love the pods picked fresh, and peas plucked out one at a time right into my open mouth like a baby bird awaiting mother robin’s wiggly worm catch after a rainy morn.  The bountiful earth is feeding me (and my family and friends) goodness this spring.  The longer and hotter days tell me the summer equinox is soon.  Purple lobelia, wandering jew, and red geraniums are filling my moss baskets and terra-cotta pots.   I thank God for watching over my beloved gardens while pursuing what captured my heart 8 years ago!