Category Archives: author

Cottage Projects And Purposes

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

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

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

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

 

Feathery Life

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

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

 

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.

Garden Remedies

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I love the life and sustainability that an organic garden brings.  Health, wellness, goodness, and beauty prevail!  As the autumn mornings get crisper,  my herbs and tomatoes still produce.  My garden plants will thrive until old man frost appears.  Deanna Greens and Garden Art has been existence for over 7 years now.  Some of Dean and I’s dreams have come true.  The love of the earth and gardening came alive in me.  “It takes some presumption to cut into the earth and to reshape and redefine – to alter the natural course of things, to commit to having planted a seed, to start a path with no idea, really, where it will lead,” writes Dominique Browning.  More dreams opened up.  This author continues “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling.  Mental toiling, perhaps…turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.”  Gardening has brought a peace to my heart.  And “It dawned on me:  I had tended that garden in great, lavish, loving strokes. It had given me quiet, steady, demanding, and undemanding seasons of pleasure.  I took care of the garden, then the garden took care of me.” ~ Dominique Browning. 

My garden has taken care of heart matters as well as health matters.  I received the most interesting report from my eye physician this week.  He said he could tell I eat lots of green, leafy veggies by the photo taken of the inside of my eyes.  Doc says my peepers are in excellent health, just the lens are getting older with age.  A stronger lens for my glasses are ordered.  According to https://yoursightmatters.com/greens-such-as-kale-good-for-eyesight/ Greenleafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, are good for eyesight and preventing age-related eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Greens contain cartenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote vision and the health of the retina.”  Whatever I do not grow, I buy organic wherever able.  Just eating as much leafy greens and veggies as possible, which means adding to the smoothies and omelets, using veggie-based pasta and riced cauliflower, and spooning fresh and dried herbs into my recipes.  Yes, my garden sustains me.

Winter’s Warmth

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Ice hit the concrete sidewalks and streets last Sunday morning, like many other wintry mornings in Missouri.  Looking outside the red twig dogwood glistened.  Dean and I waited a bit for temperatures to increase, and then managed to get to church.  It is an oxymoron, winter’s warmth.  It is what winter does for us.  Brings us indoors after weathering the cold, ice, and snow.  Much like life.  The warmth of home lures us back to comfort and simplicity. “Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” Gretchen Rubin writes.  Another author Dominique Browning contemplates, “the banal moments of the day are the most seductive to me. It is in the lighting of a fire on a cold morning, or in the pouring of wine and the pulling up of chairs to read together at the end of an afternoon of errands, that love really exerts its magic.” 

I miss a fireplace or wood stove to snuggle to in our little cottage, but have little niches in every room of our 4-room dwelling that seduce me.  My favorite room is the kitchen.  “So let’s dish out saucy praise for the place of crazy salads, spicy endearments, whispering souffles, sweetmeats, tender loins, and sticky fingers. That whirring, blending, mixed-up, soul-stirring, juice-dripping, hot-hearted room (the kitchen),” Dominique Browning writes in her book Slow LoveKind of spicy, you say.  That is what cooking in the kitchen does for my heart.  Another weekend snow has developed this afternoon.  Mini cheese-stuffed meatloaves, sweet potatoes, and banana-oat bread will grace our table this evening.  Tomorrow I will chop fresh veggies to saute with Italian sausage for Italian stone soup accompanied with fresh-from-the-oven bread sticks.  A casserole dish of homemade mac & cheese with a bowl of buttered edamame will be Sunday’s dinner.

I have plenty of library books to peruse and a jigsaw puzzle to piece together for this long weekend of winter warmth.  Besides Dean and I have each other to keep the fire going …

 

My Own Backyard

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The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour.  The tell-tale sign of changing seasons.  A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week.  The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.

Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child  the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri.  The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source.  My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm.  My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with.  Thank goodness for gas heat.

And now I focus on my own heart matters for today.  Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice.  Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do.  Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful.  I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research  for an enrichment class to teach at my work place.   There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle.  Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding  a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on.  As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.”  I like the change back to some old ways and traditions.  What does simplicity mean to you?  How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice?  I would love to hear.

 

To Eat Intelligently Is An Art

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“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote.  This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s.  This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture.  The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.

Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community.  The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people.  Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops.  An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma.  After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style.  I slowly savored every bite.  Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that.  A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese.  Gross!  I could not finish it!  The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family.  See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia.  I usually love the leaner slices!  Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers:  day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce.  Tell you how it turned out on my next post.

So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”.  It takes some planning and improvisation.  My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs.  Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal.  Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost.  As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joined

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Author and teacher Ruth Senter says, “When you are truly joined in spirit, another woman’s good is your good too. You work for the good of each other.”  How often do you feel joined to or work for the good of another?  Do you feel joined at the hip, inseparable, much like conjoined twins with a friend, sibling, or spouse?  When the other is happy, you are and not feeling skated. When the other grieves, you as well yet hopeful for the other.  Goodness is the goal not self-gain.  To witness or live this kind of friendship, it is a gift.

During the Lenten Friday dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, my Dean and I saw some lovely bonding between this community.  The whole church celebration of Latino song and dance as well as fish dinner punctuated the beginning of our weekend.  A multi-cultural band of musicians from Mexico, Ecuador, Aruba, and Kenya beautifully entertained the congregation with a Latino instrumental rendition of “Hotel California”.  Later women and children danced in festive colored costume.  Such a memorable evening.

Dean and I are joined at the hip for life. Besides commuting together during our work week, we work and play together on weekend projects. This weekend we secured our plants as the cold set in for 36 hours despite the spring equinox.  We unpacked and sorted more household items.  Pictures, photos, and trinkets are going up, which is the fun part about making a house a home. We crafted a bathroom towel rack made from scraps of recycled barn wood belonging to my paternal great-grandfather and clearance curtain tie back holders.  Our Sunday date to Hermann’s WurstFest included the hunt for an antique shelf or table to house our bathroom towels.  It had to be no wider than 11″ and no higher than 44″, but the length was open since our lone bathroom is long and narrow. We saw a few new furniture pieces at Pier One Imports and Home Goods, but the prices were not attractive.  At one of our favorite Hermann antique shops we were greeted by a special lady friend. We perused the shop’s goods, and she finally pointed us in the right direction.  A repurposed oak bucket bench made into a floor shelf unit.  Perfect.  On the way home from our Sunday excursion we stopped at Home Goods to buy some totes, a big basket, and a metal caddy for storage.  The total price 65% less than what we saw earlier.  Satisfied local shoppers we are!

 

Repurpose

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Writes author Doris Janzen Longacre,“Retrofitting is only a new angle on the old virtue: making do.” Same with the words “recycling”, “updo”, “repurpose”, “refurbish”, etc. My current read is Ms. Longacre’s book, Living More With Less written in 1979-1980. This Mennonite could have written this book today, and it’s practical advices still apply even much more so. I recommend this book. It is rethinking purchases, lifestyles, and purpose.
This book follows with Dean and I’s house and greenhouse story. We take something built years ago and make do. The modest house we live in is where I raised my three children most of their childhood. Grandchildren have lived in this house too. I have lived there for 28 years, and it will be paid off in a couple more years. The rooms are filled with memories, good as well as unpleasant. Post-divorce living and marriage to a wonderful man are always steps in the right direction. Dean and I hope to move to a house we can call our own. In the meantime colors and renovations change our current home, and more recently the living room and kitchen painted. A bungalow built in the 1930’s or 40’s is what we hope to find for our future home. There are many styles of bungalows, though the art & craft era are most appealing. Houses were built solid back then. Practical comfort and character the themes.
Bungalow
“Adapting to nature is the oldest human art,” Doris Janzen Longacre writes. This would apply to my health dealing with the severe cold winter as well as our greenhouse, the green project we took on 2-1/2 years ago. “Green” efforts are ours on many accounts. Still no electricity to the structure, though we “make do”. We adapted our farming journey to more annual plants. Our garage houses heating pads and plant lights for our perennials during the colder months. Solar is becoming more affordable. If we wait long enough, we may even use our greenhouse year-round. The current 1,300 square-foot structure provides 7 months of growing space. We hope to have some raised beds with root cellar capabilities that allow veggies to endure an extra 2 or 3 months of Missouri’s colder weather like this most recent winter. Am I safe to say that yet? Are we done with winter?!

A Songbird’s Spring

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Dean and I visited The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. One quilt square made by a 9th-12th grade student was entitled “My Songbird”. The breast and belly of the bird was an artsy music note while the body had sheet music flowing into and out of the wings giving the illusion of flying. This quilt left an impression on my heart, the soul purpose of an art form. “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song”, an old Chinese saying I remember. I recall reading a book written by an artist who explained how to keep the creative juices flowing. Besides the routine practice of the art, an artist, musician, writer, or chef needs to surround themselves in beauty once a week for at least an hour, away from distractions. This can take place at a museum, library, garden, or in a city park. Beauty is everywhere. The repetitive motion of going to one quilted beauty after another, soothed my soul. “Garden Stars”, “Star Struck”, “Organic Garden”, “The Charm Of Small Pink Roses”, “Lime Light”, “Splendor In The Grass”, and “Instrument Of Praise” displayed wonderfully some of my favorite things in life. Each quilt told a story or captured color in stitches.

This morning a songbird’s tweets greet Dean and I as we left for work. A refreshing sound! The day’s spring-like showers and thunderstorms will replace the snow and ice we have experienced for over 7 weeks in Missouri. I embrace warmer temperatures with open arms like I did during our 3 days in Paducah earlier this week. Today, a morning, mid-day, and afternnon outdoor walk betweeen raindrops will suffice. Alleluia, multiple layers of clothes, hats, gloves, scarves, and coats stripped off! Freedom! 70 degrees this afternoon! I will take this pseudo spring. Tonight’s nightfall winds blow in colder air once again.
The trip to Paducah proved that my swollen body, every aching joint, and chest pain was due to the cold weather. All those symptoms had subsided during our getaway. We returned home this week to milder temperatures, so symptoms have not returned. In the past 5 weeks, I had a visit to the urgent care, the ER, my primary care’s office, and outpatient care. Blood tests, x-rays, and two nuclear heart tests showed I have a healthy heart and lungs. Thank you, Father! My body was reacting to the multiple days of frigid cold air. In case winter returns with venegence this month or the next winter season, I see the allergist/immunologist next week to discuss a more proactive approach to the cold-induced angiodema. I will hear out what the specialist says, though one local herbalist suggested a holistic remedy: 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper 3 times a day to lessen the effects of winter’s cold air. I need to grow some cayenne peppers this year. Unfortunately, the meteorologists say the earth goes through 100-year cycles, and we are now in a severe winter cycle. God, please no! I must keep in mind,“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” ~ Proverb from Guinea.