Category Archives: winter

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

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.

Word and Plant Gardens

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I mentioned in last month’s post about my Valentine poem My Delicious Lover being published. I feel honored as it won 1st Place and a $100 award from Flapper Press. You can find this poem in my Word Garden page or on Flapper Press’ website. I have been journaling and writing for years as well as blogging for 12 years. This blog is speckled with stories, photos, recipes, poems, inspirations, and information on various topics. Take a couple of minutes for an inspirational thought or comical relief while reading a monthly post or page. Writing has been a fun winter occupation while the lousy weather is relentless. No place to be except at the desk typing on the laptop in my retirement days.

While on vacation in Florida we purchased some small succulents and brought them back undamaged in the long road trip. I immersed my hands into soil especially made for succulents one afternoon this week. I used a repurposed teapot, small pint jar painted yellow, tall & skinny vase-like ceramic, and galvanized metal box for planters. They turned out quite cute. I hope to sell these succulent planters and garden ware in the days ahead, as spring is only 3 weeks away. True gardeners like myself are itching to plant and attend to their green life once again. We dubbed the flea market booth as Flock Together Mercantile. Please find the details of what, where, who, and why this booth was created on this page found here on this blog site.

As a culinary instructor and life-long learner, I have many online and printed resources I turn to for recipe creations. The most inspiring these days is the making of herbal teas or tisanes. One of my resources is Mountain Rose Herbs based in Oregon. An article “How To Create Your Own Herbal Tea Blends” was included in one of their monthly newsletters years ago. I want to try these herbal blend principles and will attempt to make some of my own blends using my organically grown herbs this year. I love a glass of iced tea while gardening or a cup of steeping hot tea while writing and reading. In the future I hope to share some tea-blend recipes on my Recipes page right here on this blog site.

Thank you for joining me in my gardening adventures. Writing about them is all a part of this pure joy!

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.

Winter Daydreams

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Winter Daydreams

“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

The Winter Solstice and Advent

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The Winter Solstice and Advent

Autumn weather lingers well past Thanksgiving into December, now on this winter solstice. My purple pansies still bloom on the porch. This month severe weather plagued our Midwest. Over 8 years ago a summer tornado went above Dean and I while at our greenhouse on Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. That tornado touched down in nearby Weldon Springs and Harvester that Friday evening. I wrote my account of the experience in this blog post https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures/. This year on December 10, another Friday night tornado touched down just yards from our greenhouse, leveling several homes, barns, and outbuildings in a 3-mile stretch on Highway F outside of Defiance. Sadly, one fatality. Farmer Chuck explains the hole in his barn door, “I can’t imagine the power needed to pick up the huge oak beam and throw it like a spear across the road, through the trees and into the barn door.” This beam was hurtled across Highway F from one farm to another. Dean and I watched online while the local meteorologists reported a tornado on the ground in Defiance. We waited to go out to the farm, went the following afternoon to allow utility linesmen to get the lines off the roads. By the grace of God our greenhouse still stands untouched. Mother Nature’s temper tantrum disrupted this rural town much like our granddaughter’s protest for her 2nd COVID vaccine. Wasn’t one enough? The community rallies around the survivors to clean up and rebuild as Christmas and the New Year approach.

This Advent season I wait for Him. I prepare my heart. “Make me blameless, white as snow through Jesus Christ,” I pray. “Keep me on task, direct me to Your purposes. Speak to me, Lord.” The word “advent” means “to come” or “arrive” in Latin. Holiday music, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and baking fill my unhurried post-retirement days. There was one Christmas many moons ago, 29 years ago to be exact when I was post-partum with my son that I was most relaxed and prepared for the holidays. Ben was due around Thanksgiving, so I knew I would need to get the holiday tasks finished prior to his arrival. I eased into the holidays at an easy pace and a peace like no other to this day because I prepared. My Ben was a miracle baby, and I knew God’s hands were on us. Let me approach this Christmas and New Year knowing Your hands on me and those around me. “Let the storms of this life dissipate.” As Alan Jackson sings …

“Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the hearts of all people both near and afar
Christmas everywhere
Feel the love of the season wherever you are
On the small country roads lined with green mistletoe
Big city streets where a thousand lights glow.

Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere
…”

“Let there be love that lasts through the year.”~ Alan Jackson

Autumn’s Gatherings

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Every autumn comes the day to gather the perennials indoors for their winter home, the basement. Dean and I know it is coming, and make room in the basement under the plant lights. Some years it is sooner rather than later. For 2021, it is much later. The cool mid-40’s mornings warm up quickly to warmer, mild afternoons. The weather forecast shows a probable frost in the 3-day forecast. I pluck falling gold, orange, and red leaves from the plants’ foliage and take cuttings while the perennials are outdoors. The cuttings we propagate for next spring’s pots. I gather a variety of these cuttings in water-filled recycled mayo and jelly jars. Both of my daughters have a love for our green friends so some jars of cuttings will get passed on.

Our perennials grew lusciously this summer, such a long summer season with rain. Our showiest pot is a Kingston fern with a philodendron planted together in April. I trimmed that thing three times already! Now gathered greenery fills our basement under the plant light tonight, their home for the next 5 months. I need to harvest the lasting herbs of mint, thyme, basil. oregano, and parsley, so the pots gather on the kitchen counter for tomorrow’s project. Our last single ketchup and mustard rose gets snipped and put into a bud vase to treasure just a few more days indoors. My northern friend shares her last rose in an amber vignette saved before Minnesota’s killing frost.

A nephew’s wedding brought us to a few family gatherings this weekend. Dean and I found some Edwardian era reproduction hats while on vacation in September to wear to the costume rehearsal dinner party. I found a suitable dress on sale from Victorian Trading, and Dean wore a dark suit with a vest and skinny tie, and both wore feathers in our caps! A fun gathering to distract from my sprained ankle, caring for aging parents, and work schedules. This evening our front porch awaits a gathering of Halloween trick-or-treaters.