Category Archives: family

For Our Songbirds And Squirrels

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For Our Songbirds And Squirrels

While at our local nature store during the holidays purchasing bird seed and gifts, we (and all their loyal customers) were given a cranberry seed bell, wrapped pretty in red & green tissue paper in a brown paper gift bag. Such a kind gesture. We saved the seed bell for this last weekend of Advent. A delicious dessert for our songbirds, or at least that is what Dean and I had in our minds. A neighborhood squirrel has another idea of who that seed bell belongs to. Within in minutes of hanging the cranberry seed bell on a hook, a squirrel is chewing on the rope so the dessert falls to the ground for his partaking only. By the time Dean got outside that blanky-blank squirrel is gnawing on that seed bell like a succulent buttery corn cob on an August day! In disgust, Dean shoos the squirrel away and rescues the cranberry seed bell from the ground.

Making do with what we have in the basement Dean finds an old metal curtain rod, metal wiring, and duct tape. Dean jimmy-rigs an extension pole from a current bird feeder pole. He is hoping this will deter the squirrels, or least make it more difficult to get to the cranberry seed bell. We still have squirrels feeding on the cranberry seed bell, but not totally taking over for their own pleasure. It is being shared amongst the songbirds and squirrels now. Such is the theme of the squirrels in our neighborhood, and I guarantee yours as well. We have learned to live with the squirrels, just make it a bit more of a challenge for the squirrels. And don’t take over what is meant for the common good.

Co-existence. Isn’t that the word? Much like the children’s tale of the king, mice, and cheese illustrates. The king dislikes sharing his cheese with the mice. So he brings in a cat to take care of the mice. The king doesn’t like the cat clawing on this furniture. So he brings in a dog. Then the dog’s fur gets on the king’s nerves, and he brings in … So the story goes on until the king realizes he has a much bigger problem than he had with just the mice. Can we apply that story to our current state of affairs in our nation? I think so. We can do so much better than we did this past week. We need to co-exist, agree to disagree, and respect boundaries despite our political views, creeds, races, genders, ages, and choices. So the lion and elephant do not crowd out our nation void, and you and I null.

Home In 2020

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Home In 2020

2020 has been a year like no other. We learned to wear a mask everywhere we go.  New phrases such as “COVID-19”, “social distancing”, & “social bubble” have become commonplace.  Teddy bears line our living room window to remind our neighbors love resides. Our living room has been “the office” since mid-March.  I am on my work computer undertaking county government employee programs & benefits while Dean researches files & tags old photos for the National Archives.  We try to time our Zoom staff meetings & webinars to not conflict with each other, or Dean wears his earplugs. I return to the Clayton office once a week for a couple of early morning hours to retrieve my mail and file papers. I brought home my comfy office chair and bought a narrow table to fit at the one of the living room windows for my make-shift desk. We have found solace at our small cottage as our home & workplace during the COVID pandemic, racial discord, stormy election, & natural catastrophes.  Birds, blooms, blogging,“ bear chairs”, “brinner”, beverage breaks, the aroma of freshly baked goodies; these are a few of our favorite things in 2020.

The start of 2020 before the news of COVID, we met up with Dean’s cousins in Eureka Springs, AR for a long weekend. Those long weekends became fewer after the CDC announced the pandemic. Home bound we were and still are. I never dreamt I would be working from home, and for this long. I rather love it as an introvert.  That time I normally would be commuting to work, my early mornings are greeted with the sunrise or the kiss of the last sunrays at dusk while I walk most days of my week.   This is an opportune time with the challenge of a speed walking program.  I continue into this colder season, but I have shortened that time and venture out mid-day.  My allergy to the cold keeps me indoors with my perennials, crafts, reading, writing, cooking, baking, & antiques.  Dean with his extra time has taken to his “man cave” (the basement) tinkering & plane model building after seeing the real ones.  Our entertainment is the livestreamed Opry from Nashville, Turner Classic movies, and The Big 550 KTRS catching the Farmer Dave and McGraw talk shows. Dean & I turned 60 this year, me in late August & he on Thanksgiving Day. We both are healthy.  The worst of our complaints have been the shortage of toilet paper & antibacterial hand soap at the stores, and the body aches from sitting at our work computers all day then becoming weekend warriors with our yard projects.  We count our blessings.

Every year we enjoy feeding the neighborhood songbirds.  Early spring Dean & I added a bird bath/fountain we found “on sale”.  Funny how “a bargain” multiplies 1 major project x 5.  Dean resurrected nearly buried rocks from the alley area out back to create a rock garden for under the bird feeders & fountain nearby our living room window.  It took us 8 hours to piece together the puzzle of mossy rocks & purchased flat stones. We also built our pebble patio in the front situated under the dogwood tree.  For our outdoor seating pleasure Dean assembled & painted 2 wooden Adirondack chairs dubbed “the bear chairs” as they are made by The Bear Company.  The chairs’ color nicely matches our “nifty turquoise” front door.  It is such a peaceful sanctuary under that dogwood tree.  Well, until the neighborhood Cooper’s hawk comes for a visit.  The birds chatter & squawk until the bigger bird of prey flies away with or without lunch.  We finished out our warm season projects with a new retaining wall between our house & the church next door, then mulched between the flowering hydrangeas & peonies.

The green thumb report … Lettuces & greens grew prolifically at our screen house at Boone Hollow Farm, and our potted herbs & perennials here at Deanna’s Cottage. Such a truly gorgeous spring & mild enough summer we had here in our parts of Missouri.  In 2021 we may grow birdhouse gourds, which need at least 180 days of frost-free days & plenty of climbing space.  Here at the cottage, my garden projects will be to prep & stain a vintage cart, potting table, & garden bench as well as grow old-fashion flowers to attract more bees & butterflies.  I was inspired by the colonial-style garden seen while on vacation. For our big backyard Dean will build a new deck/porch & replace our fencing.  We will hire for tree removal while others need trimming.  The shade of our grove of trees provides a refuge for our feathered & human friends alike. 

Summer into autumn was bittersweet.  Sweet was the week with granddaughter Elise at our home, a weekend with my grandkids exploring Meramec Caverns, and our 10th wedding anniversary travels to Williamsburg, Virginia.  We drove to avoid the close confines of an airplane, besides we like the journey along the way. Multiple masks and hand sanitizer packed.  Also, we welcomed 2 new grandbabies, Jefferson Dean & Clara Jean, one living in St. Louis & the other in Lee’s Summit.  In October we had a long weekend at a cabin in remote Kentucky with Dean’s brothers.  We played hooky & snuck in a brief couple of uncrowded weekdays in New Orleans. We drove once again. The bitter part, my mother became ill during late summer into autumn, but not from COVID.  Mom was very cautious, staying home away from people during the pandemic.  My brothers, sister-in-law, Dean, & I were gradually allowed in her “bubble”.  I would bring Mom library books & comically brought her a box of 48 rolls of commercial-grade TP.  We all would share photos & stories about the kids & grandkids.  By the time she braved going to the doctor, it was too late.  After 3 weeks of medical tests Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung & lymph node cancers.  Hospice care was arranged.  My sister & nephews made their way home for their last visits with her. Exactly 1 week after that diagnosis, Mom passed away at her home.  My mother was a tough yet classy lady, & loved her family.  Today I had the notion to call her & check if she would like to bake Christmas cookies this weekend.  I miss her. Mom is Home now with our Lord, my Dad, grandparents, & many other loved ones who have gone before her.

The Christmas tree is decorated, adorned with a new “mask-wearing” Santa ornament.  Holiday shopping is limited to uncrowded local boutiques or ordered on online & waiting for the packages to arrive on our front porch.  Gifts are coming together nicely in the guest bedroom.  Homemade goodies fill the cookie jar.  Old-fashion Christmas carols stream from the TV.  For us holiday parties, extended family gatherings, & Advent church services are virtual.  Quaint gatherings are planned. Distractions have lessen considerably by being at home, allowing quiet reflections to abound.  Authors Ann Voskamp, Matthew Kelly, and Rick Warren continue to inspire me. The Word of God is full of wisdom. This winter more frequent blogging will fill my hours. God loves you & I.  He is still in control even though the outside world seems chaotic. “Wasn’t He awakening me to Beauty everywhere, because beauty is the way of the inner eye?” Ann Voskamp questions in her One Thousand Gifts book.  “Beauty was all around … I sat very still, taking in the spirit of the night, until I felt that I was in a place as holy as a church.  And I was ready to be home”, author Dominique Browning once wrote.  I am ready to be snug at home this holiday season.  Are you?  Make home your most favorite place to be until you are called Home as the old hymn goes …

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home!

Summer Rains

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The summer rains woke me this morning.  Typically, it is the sun peeking through the white curtains in our bedroom or the first tweets of our neighborhood birds that welcome me to the new day.   The earth needed some fresh rain water in my spot of the world.  And so it did just that, watered our flowers, plants, and grass to a vivid green.   “Aw”, my green friends say.  What a lovely, milder day of summer we had today.

My 3-mile power walk will need to wait until tomorrow.  During our morning computer screen break between rains, Dean and I took a casual walk up the street to the newly opened coffee shop.  A unique place, a coffee roaster situated in an old auto brake shop, Upshot Coffee Brake Shop.  Dean treats himself to a cappuccino, and I to a herbal tea.  I think this new establishment will be a once-in-awhile daytime perch for us during these mundane work-from-home arrangements, like it was today.  Make it a special walk for a special moment in time.

 

Garden Envy

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I can be a little green with envy about gardens.  Pun intended.  Garden envy.  Any gardener out there can relate.  When I walk the streets of my town or thumb through a magazine I love looking at neighborhood gardens, the trees, flowers, veggies, and pots.  Our neighbors are creative with their plant, container, and cute garden art selections.  The most impressive are these moss baskets placed atop tall wooden posts.  Baby’s breath, impatiens, possibly geraniums cascade from holes inside the moss lining as well overflow from the top.  Dean and I plan to put in three of these planter poles and baskets in the new mulched terrace in the side yard next spring.  The flowers can be admired from our living room and bedroom windows as well as from the front and back yards.

While on vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia Dean and I visited the site of the oldest governor’s mansion.  Of course, the mansion, grounds buildings, and gardens are replicas.  We came across a colonial garden that captured my gaze for a few minutes.  I took this photo before we moved on with the tour.  The garden was not big, but big enough to yield a family a good share of food supply through the winter months.  All the rows neat and tidy.  Herbs in one patch; corn, vining beans or peas, squash and pumpkins create the 3-sisters in another patch; tomatoes and pepper plants caged, with flowering zinnias and marigolds surround.  So I am impressed to recreate a colonial-style garden for the next growing year.  I need to gather some books on colonial gardens to read over the winter months.  So what have you seen in a yard or garden that you would like to try for next year?  Or are you up to your eyeballs in zucchini and tomatoes right now to even think about next year’s garden like my friends Elizabeth and Gary in Festus, Missouri?  Take pride and you have grower’s bragging rights!  Happy gardening everyone!!!

Summer Labors of Love

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This summer continues to bring us more opportunities for projects at Deanna’s Cottage.  Dean and I put in new retaining walls between our house and the church next door.  Dean did most of the labor as the blocks were much too heavy for me.  But I was able to handle the capstones and raking of the weeds and sparse grass.  We will cover the space with landscape fabric and mulch another weekend.  There are three hydrangeas not blooming because they are under the humongous tulip poplar tree in the backyard not getting enough sunlight.  So later this summer when it cools a bit we will transplant them to this new south-side space, where it is evenly sun and shade throughout the day.

The last harvest of our spring crop of arugula went into this crustless quiche.  Much like wilted spinach, I sauteed the chopped arugula with chopped shallots in bacon bits and drippings before folding into the egg and gouda cheese mixture.  I removed the tough stems in the bigger leaves before chopping, so this becomes a labor of love.  Similarly,  the lemon herb tea bread I made included fresh sprigs of my potted lemon basil and lemon thyme steeped in steamed milk.  Then, the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest were folded into the dough.  Oh, so lemony!  A luscious summer bread for breakfast.  I made cake muffins with this batch.  If topped with sliced strawberries and dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, it is a delightful summer dessert.  What are you making with your garden goodies?

 

Cottage Projects And Purposes

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Dean and I have been living in this WWII era small home in historic St. Charles, Missouri for just under 2 years.  It is Dean’s dream home, and becoming mine. Deanna’s Cottage is the name we give this home.  In 2019 the cottage had been rented out via Airbnb for 7 festival weekends.  It has such an ideal location, just 6 blocks from Historic Main Street. Each of our cottage guests have rated our little place 5-stars.  Thus far this year, the pandemic has kept us from renting Deanna’s Cottage.  It will be the second half of 2020 before we will accept reservations again on Airbnb, provided the threat of COVID-19 has subsided significantly.  Those weekends when the guests come stay at Deanna’s Cottage, we stay at our previous residence.  Our old house is rented to my daughter and son-in-law, a family of four.  There is our old bedroom we invade for 2 nights at a time with our feline friend, Celine who has taken permanent residence there.

With the social distancing for 6 weeks now in the state of Missouri, we have more time on our hands. We would rather be visiting with our kids, grandkids, parents, siblings, and friends on the weekends.  Sure understand why, and respect the rules set in order for this invasive virus to die down, but it is hard not to be with everyone.  Our two youngest grandkids have April birthdays.  We left the fixings for a birthday party on the porch and did a drive-by birthday greeting for the 10-year grandson earlier this month.  But our 4-year granddaughter will not understand why Grandpa and Grandma cannot stop to visit.  So birthday presents were sent in the mail to the other side of Missouri for our granddaughter to open on her birthday this Sunday.  May be able a Facetime event.

So what else to do with all this time, especially on the weekends?  We gained 2 hours every weekday with telecommuting, and little prep for work.  So one project after another runs in Dean and I’s heads separately and collectively with conversations and plans to follow.  We have plans to take out the carpeting in the living room, hallway, and master bedroom to get to the bare wooden floors.  We are not sure what we will find, so we have put that off for awhile.  We think it will take old-fashion time and elbow-grease with refinishing the floors.  And what to do with the furniture while we work on it?  With the lovely spring weather, outdoor projects have taken priority.  Off and on since last autumn Dean has worked on the windows, scrapping, glazing, priming, and painting.  That project is weather dependent. The awning over the front porch needs repainting.  The back awnings just need to be removed.  The back porch/deck needs to be replaced.  Fencing replaced, too.  And then there is the landscaping.  This includes a huge tree removal, resetting a small retention wall on one side of the house, and putting in a pebble patio in the front with a small fountain.  I love this project as it means a lawn chair to sit in at the end of a long day to relax under the dogwood tree sipping on iced tea or a cup of hot tea.  The weather temperature tells me which.

I have many longer-term plans in my mind for Deanna’s Cottage.  Did you ever hear of the book A Place Of My Own: The Architecture Of Daydreams by healthy food activist and author, Michael Pollan?  He dreams of a small structure, then he builds it himself, and uses as his writing studio.  A quiet space, purposeful place.  I found this cute place online used as a small venue for parties, showers, rehearsal dinner, and luncheons.  I could see Deanna’s Cottage used as a small gathering place such as this.  I can also see a quainter dwelling, maybe about 500 square-foot to be built in the big back yard within the next 5 years used as an atelier for reading, writing and art projects, but also for periodic guests and gatherings.  My flower, herb, and vegetable gardens surrounding the dwelling. But what does God purpose for Dean and I at Deanna’s Cottage, and this smaller structure I dream about?

 

April Evening At Boone Hollow Farm

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The vivid beauty of this spring season is present at Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance, Missouri.  In our attempt to get away from the urban or should I say “world” troubles, this farm became our mid-week oasis. It is almost magical at the farm where Dean and I’s greenhouse seats.  The lowering sun illuminated the purples and greens in the fields and groves of trees, the grass plush.  Birds singing their evening tunes, frogs peeping in unison, sheep in the neighbor farmyard baaing.  A serene symphony of countryside calm.  My country garden is a dwelling place for me, a bed to lay my cares aside.  Our sowed seedlings in the screenhouse side of the greenhouse are coming up well.  We are hopeful the leafy greens will be ready to provide the base for our salads by the end of April or early May.  In the mist of viral chaos there is a dwelling place for each of us, even if it is just in the mind.

 

Sanity Strolls

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The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter.  The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day.  The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches.  The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day.  We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up.  Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity.  Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us.  We now take a stroll twice a day everyday.  We see neighbors about, too.  If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately.  The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk.  First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom.  The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after.  Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display.  Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire.  Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.

 

 

Then There Is Gardening

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This COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates have everyone’s routines turned upside down.  Offices, schools, businesses, and now restaurant closings.  Remote work and make-shift offices and classrooms at home.  Priorities change, refocus on what is paramount, safety.  As we as a world make improvising arrangements with our employment, schooling, medical care, dental care, traveling, vacationing, shopping, dining, banking, faith-based activities, entertainment, and list goes on.  Cyberhackers take advantage, and magic potion con artists try their tactics.  But such heart-warming people and their actions shine brighter.  Did you see the California choir and their remote, online rendition of Over the Rainbow?   How about those Christmas lights and décor shining bright, and the Christmas carols over the radio?  The celebrities’ videos that keep us singing, laughing and smiling.  Hotels opening their empty rooms to paramedics and medical staff for COVID-19 testing and quarantine stations.  Neighbors helping each other with meals and errands.  Have you sat quietly and prayed?  I hope so. The world could use your prayers.

So after all the readjustments and new routines established, what are you doing with all the free time with no commutes or engagements?  Cannot go out to the movies, ball game, concert, winery, coffee shop, or vacation destination.  Please don’t turn to binge eating, drinking, or drugs. Keep yourself healthy and safe.  Projects like deep cleaning, decluttering, home repairs, and yardwork are suggestions, maybe not so appealing to some.  Indoor hobbies like scrapbooking, journaling, reading, painting, building a model, cooking, baking, making a music video, and blogging might be of interests. FaceTime, telephone, or do the old-fashion writing a letter to your friend or loved ones.  How about going outdoors, while keeping your distance from others?  Long walks on the paved sidewalk or trail in the woods, bird watch, shoot some hoops in your driveway court, or paint your front door a fresh color.  Then there is gardening!  I purchased my organic greens and herbs seeds, and will sow them in the warming organic soil at the screenhouse this week.  My office plants came home with me, and I will attend to them under the plant lights of our basement.  The Spring Equinox came yesterday evening, so perennial plants are closer to going outdoors each day.  This season we will always remember.  Make it a lemonade-out-of-lemons season.  Just sweeten it up with your love, God’s love.

 

 

Feathery Life

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My mother and I went to the movies this afternoon.  The young man scanning our purchased tickets was quite friendly, shared what day it was. National Margarita Day and Sweet Potato Day!  He subscribes to the DailyHolidayBlog and says everyday is a holiday and celebration.  The movie we saw said the same.  We viewed the new movie version of Little Women, Louisa M Alcott’s book. What a wonderful movie.  A reminder of the simpler things in life.   “The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely,” Louisa M Alcott shared in one of her books. I love that era when this book was written, the late 1800’s as well as into early 1900’s.  The photo with the mother holding the baby is my grandmother with her firstborn, my father taken in 1936 at the former farm and estate of a prominent businessman in the St. Louis area where my grandfather worked.

So Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks tunes played while I prepared dinner this evening at Deanna’s Cottage.  I had the fixins for cranberry mimosas, not margaritas in the house.  No sweet potatoes either, but made an egg casserole.  I played around with my new craft supplies.  I bought a couple of 75% discounted journals to embellish with collage art.  Repurposed items will be used.  This will be another creative outlet for me using words, color, and textures to express my heart.  Feathery words and designs plague my mind all the time.  Paisley prints and feathers swirl in my head while birds sing and nests perch on branches of leaves.  I will share my new art form with friends and family and post photos on this blog as I come along in the collage crafting.  Look for a new page coming soon.