What happened to January? The bustling holiday season went into a busy January, and finally a weekend in mid-February set aside to slow down, stay home, read, and write. My blogging and writing curtailed with a new weekday office job, weekends in Farmington, cottage interior projects, and reorganizing. Dean and I last-minute traveled to Eureka Springs, AR to join in my first evening of readings with The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. I shared a couple of classics from Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti, and then a few of my own poems. I experienced the beatnik snapping fingers. Fun! One poetry submission went out in January. I may be able to get one or two submissions this weekend. My life changed its course starting in December. After working for 18 months with part-time jobs after my retirement from my HR position with the local government, I decided to seek a full-time job where I have dependable hours. I started this HR position just before Christmas. Much more to learn with this generalist role in a smaller organization. Thankful it has been a friendlier culture. I continue to teach a culinary class one or two evenings a month. Diligence and time management are all the more necessary to keep to my writing projects.
One day out of each weekend since Christmas have been helping my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids who live in Farmington, MO. Their house burned down Christmas night. They escaped with no injuries, thank God! They have a long road to full recovery from this tremendous loss. Miracles after miracles have been witnessed. The other day of each weekend are filled with home projects. The cottage guest bedroom had a face lift on one wall. Dean put up bead board, carefully cutting to fit around the window frame. We will paint the bead board an off-white when the weather warms up this impending spring and the windows can stay open for a day. It really lightens up the room, mellowing the cranberry red wallpaper and keeps to the Edwardian country decor. While Dean worked on that, I have been paring down and reorganizing drawers, closets, and rooms. We did a couple of furniture swaps between bedrooms to simplify access. Now Valentine hearts along with seasonal snowmen and snowbirds dot the rooms with a festive fever. I put together various candy jars for the kids and my fellow HR co-workers. I thoroughly believe gifts of love expressed from the kitchen can be given to everyone you meet.
“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
~ Linda Grayson
“At the end of the day, I believe you lead with your heart. This is all part of who I am, no matter where I am. My heart is my heart.”
“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
I have been hibernating in the house for days now. I went out on Monday in between snow showers to pick up Dean at the train station after his Super Bowl weekend in Kansas City. Since then, I haven’t even stepped out to get the mail from the mailbox. Just plain too cold with the arctic blast! The sweatered teddy bear sits on the window still reminds folks that the warmth of love reigns in this home. The perfectly formed snowflakes glisten in the occasional sunlight while the colorful Valentine decorations, hot beverages, sweet treats, and my sweetheart, Dean will keep me cozy warm this 3-day holiday weekend. We have another week of these near zero-degree nights and less than 20-degrees days. What an opportunity for bird watching from our windows, writing, reading, cooking, baking, and movie watching! BTW: When did that groundhog say spring will arrive?
We got through January with bouts of snow, ice, and cold rains. But the first two days in February softened up to temps in the 70’s by Super Bowl Sunday. What a gorgeous and glorious weekend. On Saturday I opened my eyes in the wee hours like a work day while the first February sunrise greeted me in its pink hues, flirting the Valentine’s Day’s colors. I had plans to get the house thoroughly cleaned after being away for the 2 weekends previous. I accomplished that but made the time to pull out the Valentine decorations. The big Valentine red heart wreath went on the turquoise door. An adorable welcome!
The neighborhood outdoor grills fired up on Sunday in celebration of the grand weather and football game. After church, Dean and I went outside for some outdoor chores. Dean washed layers of salt and junk off the car. It is spiffy and shiny now! I sanded a couple of outdoor furniture pieces. The old metal-framed glider that came with the house and carport finally had a sander workout. Down to some pretty smooth cedar planks. A coat of stain and varnish will go on the cedar planks after I finish sanding the metal frame and a coat of enamel on the frame. Most likely an early spring project after the frame color choice is decided on and more warm weekends.
A little child’s chair used as a perch on the front porch was a less than $10 purchase at a French Town antique shop last spring. It apparently had a layer of paint quickly brushed on it before I bought it. The paint peeled terribly when the cold weather arrived this past autumn. So I set the poor thing in the basement and waited for a break in the weather to sand and repaint it. Sunday was the day to get it started. A coat of white primer after the sanding. And then for artistic impression, “nifty turquoise” to match the front door. My mid-week artist’s project, painting will be a great diversion from this crazy world.
February is obviously a red month. Why look at the KC Chiefs, the Super Bowl champions! A sea of red confetti at the game and parades. Oh, we cannot forget Red Dress Day this Friday. Always the first Friday in February. Wear that red and be good to your heart. So the gray winter gets a splash or two of color, and I love it. The red and turquoise palette suits you well, February!
Outdoor gardening seized late October. My perennials appear to be in dormancy under the plant lights in the garage. Such a cold winter, the little heater is keeping the garage just above freezing. Sometimes life’s circumstances appear to keep us in dormancy like the season of winter. But winter is just one season, there are those three others. And really underneath it all, life is emerging from the roots, bulbs are multiplying, and green growth will reappear in just weeks. Valentine’s Day red comes in the midst of the bleak cold winter in this part of the world. We just celebrated National Wear Red Day, comes the first Friday in February each year, with women sporting red dresses and men vivid red ties which reminds us to take care of our hearts with healthy foods and ample physical activity. Valentine trinkets, cards, and boxes of chocolates are given with red cupids and hearts on February 14.
This winter holiday warms hearts for some, and leaves others wondering if they will ever find true love. The history of this holiday evolved like so many other holidays from Christian roots. Wikipedia tells us “St. Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell.” A original European tradition is to give St. Valentine’s keys to show love and with that goes the lore that these keys keep epilepsy away from your children. Now the golden key is gifted as a romantic symbol and an invitation to “unlock the giver’s heart”. Wow, what an invitation!
With Jesus you do not have to unlock the Giver’s heart. He gave all His love on the Cross. True love does come in Jesus! He is there for each of us. His love is perfect … it is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, or rude, and is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not like evil, and rejoices in the truth. His love always protects, hopes, perseveres, and never fails!
So what do lent, love, eagles, and presidents have in common? They share this 4-day weekend in February! And Dean and I shared these 4 days with my five grandchildren. The kids took turns with video games, movies, building with Lego blocks, and cooking in the kitchen. I prepared cheese tortellini with a garlicky white sauce for our first Lenten Friday dinner this season. Our parish hosted a 3-hour mini retreat on prayer Saturday morning. A much needed spiritual renewal for me. Saturday evening Hannah and I made chicken and dumplings which filled everyone’s belly and we had an extra portion for the “Souper Sunday” mission trip fundraiser. Overnight french toast and maple sausage welcomed our Sunday with Ella’s assistance. Church-bound this snowy, sleety Valentine’s Day. We are warmed by God’s love. Then gifts of hand-made palm crosses, sweetheart candies, flowers, and Italian cuisine fill this day of love. Red and white sauces, heart-shaped pasta, meatballs, cheesy baked bread, and pizza. The star chefs are my granddaughters, Hannah, Libby, and Ella.
On President’s Day Libby led her cousins in making chocolate pancakes. The Lincoln Museum is a bit far for us, so in the afternoon we took a drive north of our hometown to the Mississippi River scouting for bald eagles. We saw a bald eagle perched in a tall bare tree across the mighty river, as well as gulls and a blue heron. We meandered down the country highway to the Our Lady Of The Rivers shrine in Portage des Sioux. A few more eagles were seen high in the trees along the way. This warmer afternoon had the ice and snow melting to a slush. Perfect for snow balls! Not sure who threw the first one, but it became a free-for-all for a good 20 minutes under the Blessed Mary’s statue. Libby wondered what Mary must have thought. I think Mother Mary rather enjoyed seeing us all having fun this winter afternoon! A few wet shoes and stinging fingers, we warmed up with hot chocolate and marshmallows when we got home. A wonderful weekend to share with the younger generation.
So how did paper get to be so overkill? All the junk mail even during the electronic era? Before scrolled pen & ink messages,the typewriter, word processors, and computer words were carved in stone and wood for communication. Story-telling, musical lyrics, and fireside chats rather than books, blogs, and online chats. I’d like to reserve my paper adventures to handwritten “thank you” and “thinking of you” notes using recycled or hand-crafted papers, or papiermache or decoupage trinket boxes or other craft projects recycling greeting cards. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner for a paper creation.<
With these wintry days time is on my side. I am not working two or three jobs any longer. No greenhouse chores. No pressing family matters to attend to. My allergy to the cold tells me I cannot play outside in the cold. At home and at work, I have a plethora of papers piled in baskets, boxes, trays, and file cabinets. All of which are in need of my attention. Not one paper is of immediacy. It just requires time to make decisions about what stays and gets filed, and what gets purged. I do not consider myself a hoarder, but I am beginning to wonder about myself as of late. Lack of time would be the culprit. But 2015 is the year for repurpose, recycle, and rejuvenation. How many trees can I save?
At home, the unwanted papers are a part of an annual fire ritual set aside for a wintry late afternoon using the kitchen fireplace. It is the perfect Sunday afternoon to make split-second decisions before throwing the unwanted papers in the blazing fire or set aside for the files. I guarantee there will be another wintry day for filing. Our feline friends find the whistling of the fire fasinating. My work week has been somewhat subdued considering the kind of weeks and months coming out of 2014. Project deadlines and security issues were priority over these damned papers. To the shredder rather than a fire the excess papers go. I now keep most documents on electronic files. During another lull time, I will organize my computer files.
What paper projects do you create or undertake during the winter months?
Somehow the weather forecasters have the scenerio for tonight incorrect. This winter snow was suppose to clear out at noon today. Sporadic sleet, rain, and snow all morning and afternoon. Gray skies. Earlier I expected to see a romantic full moon tonight after my sweetheart 5:30pm dinner at the Mad Tomato in Clayton, Missouri. Though I have an illuminating backup with a heart-shaped chocolate-scented candle and a bottle of 4 Hands Milk Chocolate Stout awaiting my sweetheart’s and I’s arrival at home. A small miracle. Clear skies tonight, the Valentine ambiance is on. I hope the sun shine forecast for Paducah, Kentucky on Monday is not altered. We are headed as far south as our time and money resources will allow. Sun therapy is the plan with some much needed R & R and a visit to the National Quilters Museum as well as Paducah’s historical markers and artists’ studios.