Category Archives: winter

White Fluff In This Green Season

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Over the course of the winter and this early spring the busy red and gray squirrels in our neighborhood have managed to empty the two patio cushions on our next door neighbors’ patio furniture.  I suppose the amount of leaves and branches in the neighborhood is not enough for these rascals.  Hoarders and self-absorbed.  Sound familiar?  The synthetic stuffing that I call “white fluff” has been scattered about in the immediate neighborhood found in the green grass, bushes, trees, leaves, and the huge squirrels’ nest in our cherry tree.  This has been going on over the past 5 months, with maybe the final unloading last night.  We don’t see another cushion laying in the yard or patio furniture, thank God. The neighbor who owns the patio cushions appears clueless or could give a darn.  Dean and I spent a few Saturday afternoons cleaning up the “white fluff” from our yard, and the next door church’s yard. A couple of months ago Dean fully emptied the one cushion the squirrels chewed a hole in and threw the remaining contents in the trash bin.  The squirrels found the other cushion, and chewed a hole in that one.  So a repeat with the second cushion, we have spent a good hour here and there cleaning up.  Rather comical at times, but mostly aggravating.

On a more serious note, this “white fluff” illustrates to me the novel corona virus and the community’s responses.  The squirrels are those people who carry the virus, and share their germs while out and about with their busy, careless activities like hoarding the toilet paper and taking their  children to the grocery store for a “social hour”.  The clueless neighbor is the person who refuses to self-educate with reputable, accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information and seems to hide from life.  Dean and I are the millions of people trying to keep our world cleaned-up and safe for ourselves and others around us.  How about you?  Are you watching after yourself and those people placed immediately around you?  Surely you are not one of the squirrels making more of mess for the rest of us!  Let’s get this “white fluff “cleaned up, obey the social distancing rules, and pray we have a vaccine before the next season arrives.

Impromptu Sunday Drive

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What a lovely day, so much like Spring.  The daffodils started to bloom at our cottage this week.  The gold finches are molting more each day in preparation for their spring and summer survival colors.  Scripture reminds us not to worry about what to wear and what to eat as God supplies.  “Look at the birds of the air…”  I think Dean and I supply plenty of seeds for the song birds in our neighborhood besides what naturally exists.  Not that God doesn’t supply adequately enough, we just enjoy the entertainment of the songbirds outside our living room window at the feeders.

The mild temperatures warranted an impromptu drive this Sunday afternoon to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.  We packed a picnic lunch and stopped in the little historic river village, Elsah. We relished the quiet park and tiny town while munching on our sandwiches.  Then we made our way to the river hubbub of Grafton, IL.  Bikers, antique cars, and convertibles seem to take over the town.  We managed to park the car and found a few little antique and gift shops to peruse.  Such lovely art pieces.  I found a garden sign with spring-like embellishments for my arrowhead planter.  Just a matter of another 6 weeks before the houseplants go outside, and Easter 5 weeks away.  Spring-like rains and weather continue this week with a winter return next week.  Well, today I cherished this early taste of spring.

 

Waste Not Want Not and the Hydrangea Tumbleweed

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My Sunday morning pancake making came with a comic note from any neighbor’s perspective, I am sure.  While Dean slept in I made my from-scratch pancakes using an overripe banana left in the fruit bowl.  You know the saying, “waste not want not”.  While cooking the pancakes, I checked the bird feeder.  The song birds and squirrels  have managed to empty the feeders in a matter of two days. It didn’t snow overnight, just cold and rainy this February morning.  Well, those pesky squirrels are hanging all over the bird feeders and has the big one twisted open.  I got our ammo out, the spray bottle of water and open the door to shoot at the squirrels.  They hate it, yet will feed on the bird seeds in the rain!  Maybe a BB gun would more effective, but may scare the neighbors.

As I spray a stream of water their way, the squirrels scatter. One goes around to the hide on the other side of the house and the other runs towards the street. In the corner of my eye I see a tumbleweed going into the street between our car and the neighbor’s car. That tumbleweed is the bloom I clipped yesterday and added to a red wire basket setting on the front porch.  I try not to waste anything, including the dried blooms left on our hydrangea bushes.  They make great fill-ins for floral baskets.  The wind must have blown it out of the basket.  Oh, I smell burnt pancake and run back into the kitchen!  Just a little too charred to suit me, but Dean will eat it. Waste not want not, you eat what is served, right?

I bundled myself with a warm robe before going out into the elements to rescue the hydrangea tumbleweed from the wind and rain.  The rescue was a success!  I shoved it back into the wire basket with a little more force and returned to more pancake making.  Dean awakes to the aroma of semi-burnt pancakes and sausage.  No, the smoke alarm did not go off to awaken him.  As I tell him my morning adventures he selects the YouTube playlist of Gene Autry as well as Sons Of The Pioneers version singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds

See them tumbling down,
Pledging their love to the ground!
Lonely, but free, I’ll be found,
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds…

We talk of our childhood memories of burnt meals.  This morning pancakes came close to the charred pancakes Grandpa and Great-Uncle Lloyd made for the whole family when going to the family farm in Franklin County.  Dean recalled similar stories of his childhood.

 

A February Welcome

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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!

 

 

 

 

Dormancy

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No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal.  The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days.  Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day.  Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year.  No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on.  Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains.  Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home.  Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both.  Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.

Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins.  We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon.  We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week.  Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments.  Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around.  Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.  

The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul.  Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure.  Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake.  It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations.  Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years.  Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.

This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career.  The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind.  The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song.  A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing.  Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.  In today’s words, live today, be present moment.  Some answers come eventually.

 

New Year’s Day And Occupation in 2020

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New Year’s Day it is!  Morning is trying to wake up this first day of 2020.  Slow, or it seems.  A cup of hot chocolate and whipped cream awaken all my senses, warm me along with my Life Is Good long-sleeve t-shirt and leggings.  I cannot sleep this weekday holiday.  I awoke at 4:30am like it was a work day.  The sun finally peers above the two-story houses across the street while sitting in our small cottage’s living room.  My blogging urge comes.  Reflection of 2019 was last night before I fell asleep on the couch.  This morning it is looking forward.

What is to be my occupation in 2020 beside getting through this predicted long winter?  Last week I came across this Sinclair Lewis quote, “Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”  For those who live in the cold regions, or have cold-induced angioedema like myself, this rings true.  Reading, researching, journaling, writing, blogging, bookkeeping, and filing will be my occupation the next 3 months before the growing season.  I may work on a jigsaw puzzle for a change.  Maybe this mindless occupation will bring clarity and direction.  All are warm indoor activities.

Dean and I are looking to our retirement years, how soon is the big question.  I have exhausted my energy and drive at my government job.  Too many politics and bosses to please, and why?  I just want to focus on the holistic well-being of those people God has or will place in my life, my purpose in living.  I will retire this autumn, with plans to find more enjoyable employment using my organizational skills for another 10 years, retire fully at age 70.  My thoughts are I will probably use my human resources management, non-profit, and/or hospitality experiences in a combination of occupations.  Desired is a Masters in Creative Non-Fiction Writing at my alma mater, Lindenwood University.  This can be obtained with classroom or online courses.  There is a 50% discount for students age 60 or over. My 60th comes in August.

The other question is whether to move south to at least a little warmer area after my retirement, and how far south to reside.  Dean and I love our home state of Missouri, lived here all our lives.  Maybe southern Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, or Texas will be where we will find our new home, in a less populated area?  We are reading about and visiting various locations in 2020.  My current read is the The Body Keeps Score, authored by world-renown Bessel Van der Kolk, MD.  This book addresses the physical and psychological aspects of trauma.  This is helping me understand my own past trauma and the trauma of others as well as the hope of healing.  The book I started writing this past summer has come to a halt while I work through this healing.  With our travels, I hope to occupy a writer’s retreat in the spring to continue this work.

What direction are you going in 2020 and into this decade?  What will occupy your time and energy?  Are you living your life with purpose?  I ask for God’s light to guide you.

The Coziness of Winter

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The snow storm has all the schools closed as well as many offices closed or on a shorten day.  Dean’s office closed for the whole day and my office closed before lunch.  Fortunately our Jeep gets us through everything thus far that Missouri’s winters have dished out.  Don’t know what we will do when that vehicle dies.  Dependable.  It has almost 300,000 miles on it.  My Prince Charming came and swooped me up at the end of the sidewalk next to my Clayton office, onward to our cottage home in our blue metal carriage.

I came home to a bottle of Irish cream on the dining table and the Christmas tree set up, ready for the ornaments and trimmings.  A festive afternoon it is to be.  What a thoughtful hubby!   The cottage is small, and as well as our tree.  We always wait about a week before Christmas to decorate our tree.  Boxes of our holiday trimmings were brought up from the basement.  We had such a cozy day into the evening with the snow falling outside the window, Christmas carols playing, hanging the ornaments, decking the rooms, the warmth of the smooth spirits, butter cookies, and snuggles.

Our European friends create this atmosphere naturally through their traditions. “Koselig is a feeling: that of coziness, intimacy, warmth, happiness, being content. To achieve the feeling of koselig, you need koselig things. In darker months, cafes provide blankets on their outdoor chairs, and shops light their entrances with candles,” written in Living In Norway  by David Nikel.  “You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced “koosh-lee”), as ‘coziness,’ but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There’s no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish ‘mys,’ the Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ and the most well-known of these, the Danish ‘hygge’,” writes David G. Allan in is CNN health and wellness column “The Wisdom Project”.  “Basically anything can (and should) be koselig: a house, a conversation, a dinner, a person. It defines something/someone /an atmosphere that makes you feel a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting… a single word to express all at once love, friendship, comfort, trust, and most of all happiness” author, Lorelou Desjardins describes “koselig” in her blog Frog in the Fjord. 

So what makes you feel love, friendship, comfort, trust, and happiness all at once?  Could it be hot chocolate with home-baked cookies, sipping spirits, fire in the fireplace, candles lit, warm socks, cozy blankets, homemade jam made with local berries, snug long johns, soft flannel, oversized sweaters, scarves, slow & soft music, nature brought indoors, vegetation draped on a table top, and a communal encounter with a Christmas carol?  I wish you koselig this holiday season and into the New Year.

 

Blooming Encouragement

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The winter chill came a month early in Missouri, and I believe most of the Midwest.  The perennials came indoors to their wintertime home.  The last of the ketchup and mustard rose buds were snipped and put in a shot glass, my make-shift bud vase.  A welcome greeting in the kitchen.  We have space for only one of perennials, our arrowhead in our little cottage living room.  And how it has grown during the summer months and brief autumn weeks outdoors as we place it under the front window.  The other plants are housed in the temperate climate of the basement under a plant light set on a timer.  Much like the wintertime shedding that a pine tree goes through in this region, our perennials shed during the winter indoors.  My pot of colorful lantana and geraniums dropped many leaves, but are still blooming.

I feel like my perennials and the outdoor plants during the winter.  A major adjustment to the climate change.  Many people with auto-immune disorders have worsen arthritic symptoms during the cold season.  For some, the pain is much worse.  Depression can set in.  If you are not into gardening, I suggest to have just one potted geranium, Christmas cactus or another succulent to share life with this winter.  With winter there is loss of luster, but an indoor plant may produce a bloom or two despite the season.  Kind of like some of us people folk.

First Sowing

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I put on my rain boots anticipating a muddy walk to the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm.  Sure enough the storms we received earlier in the week produced quite a bit of rain, and the creek beds were full.  Dean and I parked near the barn, gathered our gardening gear, jumped across the rain-filled ditch, and walked up the hill to our 9-month greenhouse/screenhouse.  We had not been there all winter season as it was too frigid cold for 3 solid months, a true Missouri winter like I remember years past.  And unlike last year where it drug on for 5 months!

Spring has arrived in Missouri!  The frogs croak and birds tweet in harmony making an evening song of peace!  What a welcome greeting to Dean and I!  I love gardening.  Not the exact science-type gardening.  Care-free and whimsical like.  There is work involved, but less so with a bed of organic soil inside the screenhouse side of our structure.  We pulled old tomato vines and prepped the soil.  It turned up nicely, loose but a little dry.  We had enough snow and winter rains to keep the soil moist even without being in direct exposure. We watered the soil with the rain/snow water from our barrel just outside the structure.  And then the first sowing.  We made 11 rows altogether.  I sowed 8 rows of greens seeds.  My favorite, arugula, and then various lettuces.  We are trying a oriental variety this year.  The other 3 rows are beets.  My first stab at growing these, too.  As an apprentice with EarthDance Farms, I learned to love this root vegetable, greens and all.

Next weekend the herbs will be sown as well as zinnias, forget-me-nots, black-eye susans, and wildflowers at the farm along with the cottage gardens.  The evening drive back from the greenhouse was lovely, a longer drive to the cottage than our other house.  We will make every trip to the countryside count.  Savoring the frog and bird chorus, smelling the blossoms along the strolls at Boone Hollow Farm, and harvesting delicious organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers for our dinner table.  And we trust our God and Mother Nature for plenty to share!

The Love of Color And Dirt

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I have held up fairly well this very cold winter season.  I kept busy indoors with a 1000-piece puzzle, reading, writing, vacation planning, and even a couple of hand-written letters placed in the mail box.  You know, the old-fashioned way of communicating!  My interior decorating picked up again, with our newest additions  a chaise and lace-paneled screen for my boudoir, as well as a vintage stained glass window for the wall above the buffet in the living room.  It brightens the room up with the sun on it; swirls of purple, blue, and golden yellow reflect into the cottage.  Just what my soul needed … color!  Having just a little spring fever …

Oh, but there is the love of dirt, too!  I am anxious to get outdoors to dig in the dirt, sow seeds, plant flowers, move onto exterior decorating, and feel the fresh air and sun on my face.  Daylight savings time began this past Sunday, and the Spring Equinox is a week away!  Do you think the weatherman and mother nature saw the calendar, too?  I sure hope so!  No springtime snows and frigid cold blasts, please!

This will be our first spring in our little St. Charles cottage.  Signs of green popped up a couple of snowstorms ago.  I believe they are daffodils throughout the front and back yards.  Bursts of yellow in a few days!  I am sprucing up the indoor plants at home and at the office, trimming dead branches and topping the pots with fresh potting soil this week and next.  My green friends have done well under the plant lights in the basement, where it is not quite as cold as the barely heated garage at the other house.  And no feline friends to perch themselves in the potted plants!  My citrus tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, and other potted perennials will go outdoors when the threat of frost is past, late in April.

Plans for very old awnings to come down, painting weathered window frames, window cleaning, and new fencing are on the top of the list of outdoor chores this spring and summer.  But the other chore, which to me is so much fun, is yard designing with the existing garden beds, as well as the choices and placement of garden art.  One of my childhood friends from Minnesota sent me a photo of her little mini greenhouse in the midst of an autumn snowfall, the sun gorgeously set behind it filtering through the autumn leaves and windows.  It brought to life the desire to build such a potting shed, maybe a bit of a “she-shed” where I can play in the dirt and plants.  But also to sit and relax on a comfy chair sipping herb tea, my writing journal, and pen among the birds, butterflies, and blooms.