Category Archives: Missouri

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.

‘Zarks Cuisine and Dazzling Lights

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‘Zarks Cuisine and Dazzling Lights

Winter came upon us early. We were hoping to put this colder weather off until closer to Christmas, but the Midwest has its own mind. For the past 4 or 5 autumn seasons, Dean and I manage to get away for a long weekend in the Ozark Mountains, about a 4 or 5-hour drive for us. Some months ago I planned a long weekend trip to attend a writer’ workshop in the Ozarks at one of my favorite places The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. Dean used his last vacation days of the year to join me as a chauffeur, but also as a fellow partaker of the slower-paced Ozarks countryside and local cuisine. The writer’s workshop was thought-provoking learning more about using ekphrasis and hearing the shared words of other writers.

The children’s & cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon calls the local food, “‘zark cuisine” and made it famous at her Dairy Hollow House back in the 1980’s and 90’s. From this establishment came The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, and that unique culinary suite I wrote from one week the summer of 2021. The foods come to the forefront of our long weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Branson, Missouri. This year we met up with my sister and her partner, Sandy at the Local Flavor Cafe in Eureka Springs for delicious dinner entrees. I found a great deal for sleeping accommodations at the Bridgeford B & B situated close to downtown on Spring Street. Breakfast fare and fellowship with other guests and the hostess was delightful on that first snowy morning. For lunch Dean partook of a veggie hash bowl and I had a slice of spinach-mushroom-sausage quiche at Mud Street Cafe before heading to our beloved Branson for a 2-night stay at a snuggled lakeside resort. A quaint eatery run by a husband-and-wife team downtown Branson served us delicious Thai-style plates at a decent price. A ‘Zark-style breakfast at Clockers Cafe is served all day and we are game for anytime.

Local shoppes, Silver Maple and Crescent Moon Beads are our stops in downtown Eureka Springs. I found a string of beautiful beads to make my first eyeglasses lanyard. I need those reading glasses more often with increased age, reading, and writing. Our Branson entertainment was the Market Days craft show during the afternoon with booths of crafts, fancy cowgirl garments, jewelry, jackets, and boots. Two gorgeous Christmas light displays dazzled us, one for each evening while in Branson. The Big Cedar Lodge is fabulously displayed with holiday cheer! We come back to our suite with a small pizza from a local pizzeria and watch a 2-hour Opry special. Of all people the Opry is honoring Johnny Morris, founder and owner of 50-year-old Bass Pro, Big Cedar Lodge, and multiple other outdoor business adventures as well as a successful philanthropist and nature conservationist. How appropriate for our Ozark weekend! Finished the weekend with another antique shop for holiday gifts on the way home.

Autumn’s Here and Aspens Here We Come!

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Autumn’s Here and Aspens Here We Come!

Here in my neck of the woods autumn arrived overnight when a cold front blew in rain and cooler temperatures. By the books the summer ends today and the meteorologists are saying officially the autumn equinox takes place this evening. But my senses tell me it is already here! All just in time for a road trip to Colorado to see groves of glowing aspen, rigid mountains, and brief visits with friends and family along the way and back. Packed long and short-sleeve shirts, shorts, leggings, jeans, jackets, socks and my boots. I brought my sandals as well as a winter coat just in case. Ready for it all!

Preparations have been made all week. Bills paid ahead, ordered the mail to be held until we get back, arrangements made for my brother & sister-in-law to look after our cottage and yard, ate leftovers and emptied the frig. All were a reminder that vacation is finally here. Dean and I put off a week-long vacation this summer to experience this autumn get-away. Our last long road trips this year were to St. Augustine in February for a sunny vacation, and Gulfport, Mississippi in March to make arrangements for my younger brother’s remains after his sudden death. But these next 9 days away we will travel to the countryside and be with the “Talking Tree, a place where spirit and nature can be”.

Come with me to the Talking Tree
a place where spirit and nature can be.
Where science of the forest couples
with ancient traditions of the land.
Where indigenous people learn to live
with trees mindfully hand in hand.

Listen to branches rustling hymns
through silent sounds in their limbs.
Mighty Maples murmur in the breeze
sweet tales of syrup drawn to please.

Trees converse, they do care
sending forest messages everywhere.
Through the air and underground
signals pulse from floor to crown.

Quaking Aspen is known for being
the earth's most massive living thing
these trees united by one root system
the world's largest superorganism.

Trees often act for collective good
doing exactly what they should.
Sometimes they will reset their mast
until the attacking danger's passed.

Internal rhythms set their pace
slower than the human race.
Tree's daily burden that they bare
is they process the world's air.

Did trees learn survival plans proven
in the 360 million years pre-human?
What do 7 billion humans foresee
as the fate for earth's 3 trillion trees?

Fallen trees again live too
vessels that life flows through.
Their wood relives deeply in
buildings, books even violins.

So stand with me in equanimity
and listen for lyrics patiently.
Wait to hear beneath this tree
poised to the sound of "poetree".

by Greg Gaul

Since The Summer Solstice

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Our spring was a very pleasant one, picturesque in its temperatures, rainfall, the length of the season, and beautiful blooms. Spring continued right through May and into early June. But since the week of the summer solstice, it’s been hotter than the dickens. A scorcher, hotter than I remember in a long while. All through July up until the 26th, we had very little rain to water these parts of the earth. And then the flood gates opened literally just before midnight on the 25th and all day on the 26th. Rains watered our parts of the earth, 8 – 12 inches! Thunderstorms off and on for two more days afterwards. Again, last night almost 4 inches of rain coming down by bucketsful. The meteorologists call these storms “microbursts”. It as if we are reliving that biblical story, Noah’s flood. In some regards we are. The aftermath is devastating to many folks in certain communities, my hometown of St. Peters, Missouri to name one. All Old Town was in 4-feet of water with no warning!

“In darkness, in grief, in despair, or even just in the midst of seasons that never seem to end, we need to make space for pause.”

Ann Voskamp

I pause to think about my summer. It started with Gall family photos at the local wildlife area the first weekend in June. Then, I made preparations for two missionaries to stay with us for a week while they ministered to the children in the neighborhood parish. These young ladies were delighted to be so close to the church. I joined in prayers every morning at 7 am Mass that week to keep their evangelizing efforts as well as my loved ones in collective prayers. Late June I trained for a new job working 1 or 2 days a week at a counseling office. So many people still deal with anxiety and the aftermath of COVID. I subbed for a couple of kids’ culinary camps. And I have helped a couple of senior ladies through the organization called Papa. We have rented our cottage home on Airbnb one weekend a month and continue with “super host” status. Dean and I took a day trip to Hermann for our anniversary, spent a fun evening with friends for the 4th of July, another day trip to St. Louis south city, and a couple of trips to visit family in the western parts of the state. We’ve had some quality summertime fun with the older grandkids with a matinee that no longer includes a PG movie because they are getting older. Thor: Love and Thunder it was. The Union Station aquarium and local Lewis & Clark history museum were with the younger grandkids. A short trip for a Vince Gill concert comes very soon for Dean and I as well as family visits in Chicagoland. But our longer vacation away is reserved for late September to see the Colorado aspens in their autumn colors.

My potted perennials, herbs, and flowering annuals receive early morning waterings during these hot days of summer, most still flourishing with their bright green, yellow, pinks, purples, and blues. My philodendrons and ivies received a trimming last week as they were taking over and rooting on their own in the mulch. The spider plants are quite prolific themselves, baby shoots and tiny white blooms. More greenery for future planters. The newest pottery planter in our backyard is my mother’s blue ceramic. I sowed zinnias and wildflowers for the pollinators, but the squirrels used the fresh potting soil as a playground. So, one lone zinnia made its way to full bloom. Our surprise lilies surprise us every year. The tender stalks rapidly grew 2-ft in a week, and now the showy beautiful pink flowers bloom. I have mixed a medley of my herbs for several dishes this summer. I still aim to create a blackberry-sage medley for tea. We started greens at the screenhouse, but it was a bad batch of seeds. The severe heat kept us from trying again this growing season. So fresh veggies and fruits are bought at the grocery stores and farmer’s markets this year. The songbirds and hummingbirds continue to thrill us and bring peaceful songs to our days. It is the critters and people we meet along the way that make this life worth living.

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.

Sky Watch

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Sky Watch

For a reprieve from the Midwest weather, Dean and I spent a few days away, travelled to Nashville, TN for the live Grand Ole Opry Show featuring Lauren Alaina’s induction. Then we went to the eastern coast from the “Music City”. We meandered from Savannah, Georgia and into northern Florida as close to the coastline that the highways would allow. We found a small town and island, St. Simon’s we fell in love with. We want to spend more time there when an opportunity allows. We were able to get a walk in along the pier and beach, collected our first seashells of this winter vacation.

Our final destination was St. Augustine, FL, the “Ancient City” and all its history and coastal beauty. It was chilly when we first arrived, and we had hoped it would warm up for these Midwesterners. We were not disappointed. After a day the daytime air was in the low 40’s early mornings with temperatures climbing to low 80’s by mid-afternoons. Clouds would roll in and build up like rain would pitter-patter, but we may have felt a drop or two those 5 days. The full moon shone gorgeously with the palm tree silhouettes stunning across the nighttime skyline. During our evening walk the old fort provided the backdrop, as if we were thieving pirates in an escape route to our ship waiting in the bay.

The mysteries of the “Ancient City” were enough to keep my creative mind going for future writings. I managed to get a few words journaled during our 10-day trip. Sea and land tours provided grand culture and history tidbits. Photos galore were taken. Plenty of eateries visited and regional cuisine were partaken. Empanadas, seafood pasta, shrimp ‘n grits, key lime pie, and rum cocktails to name a few. It amazed us how old the city is, the oldest in our United States. Over 450 years old and preserving some of the history through museums and the park system. But also, in the people and community, how they care for the city, with clean streets, public transit, marine conservation, and ordinances that do not allow skyscrapers to take over the skyline. Oh, the arts and culture. The boutiques found along St. Gregory Street.

On the way home from our Florida trip, we saw a bright sundog in the sky, a sure sign of severe weather. So today, it is a sky watch for sleet and snow here in St. Charles, MO. The weather people have forecasted ice, snow, and then more ice the next 30 hours. Despite all this weather nonsense, my daffodils have sprouted out and you can see hints of yellow underneath the green shoots. Soon they will be showing off their bright yellow blooms. Yes, spring is promised. Just exactly when, well only God knows. Not sure the groundhog got it right nor the meteorologists. I just know I am ready like many of us. Hope to sow some lettuce, spinach, watercress, and arugula seeds in another week or so at the screenhouse bed of organic soil. In the meantime, we picked up some baby succulent plants while in Florida, and I will get those repotted into some cute vessels tomorrow while the snowflakes come down outside the windows. Enough sky watching, just getting my hands in the soil will be therapy enough for me.