Thursday, December 19, 2013

Countdown, Day 19: Stars & Skies

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
~~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christmas in Bethlehem.
The ancient dream: a cold, clear night
made brilliant by a glorious star,
the smell of incense,
shepherds and wise men falling to their knees
in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.
~~Lucinda Franks

The heavens declare the glory of God,
 and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
~~Psalm 19:1

  I wish you a blessed holiday season.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Countdown, Day 18: Grumpy Cat & Christmas Tree

Grumpy Cat didn't like a palm tree standing in for a Christmas tree this year
 so I bought him a traditional one...a live pine in a pot.

It came with decorations already hung on it :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Countdown, Day 17: Asparagus & Gruyere

These monastery-style canapes (Brother Victor-Antoine's recipe)
are a perennial favorite at our house whenever appetizers are needed.
Hunter and I make them every Christmas Eve.
Pure joy in the making~~simple, easy, quick.

Parsley-buttered multi-grain artisan-bread slices
topped with tenderly cooked asparagus spears and grated Gruyere.
We lay them on a buttered cookie sheet
and heat them in a 250-degree oven until the cheese bubbles.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Countdown, Day 15: Scrolls & Love Notes

Mr. J. always writes trivia games for Christmas Eve..
 After we return from candlelight services,
 everyone plays them while I get dinner on the table.
It's a rowdy time of laughter and competition for prizes..

This year, there's a nuance~~I have a game too: 
Each person who will sit at the table will be given strips of paper,
 one for every other guest.
On the slips of paper, they'll write something they like
about the person whose name is on the paper.
I'll round up the slips and roll them into parchment scrolls to place on each person's plate.
I'm hoping for heartfelt party favors and gifts of appreciation.

We'll see how it all turns out :)


Friday, December 13, 2013

Countdown, Day 13: Saffron & Light

It's the Feast Day of Santa Lucia,
a Nordic festival of saffron and light.

photo: wikipedia
In at-home celebrations, the eldest daughter of the family rises in
the very early morning dark to bake saffron buns. 
Then, wearing a white dress with a red sash,
she brings breakfast trays of coffee, fresh-baked buns and candle lights
 to family members still asleep in their beds.

 I'll think of St. Lucy this morning as I take my early morning walk in the dark.
My LED hat will light the way to St. Arbuck's where I'll exchange an empty coffee bag
for a free cup of joe. Steel-cut oatmeal with a side of nuts and brown sugar 
will substitute for Lucy's saffron buns.

Happy St. Lucy's Day, wherever you are.
She's hope and light in the darkness :)


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Countdown, Day 12: Pewter & Parchment

Guests will soon arrive so I've assembled bits and pieces to create a table runner.
Perhaps I've gone a little mad but it's an enjoyable activity.

Planning, they say, is the best opens the dreams of anticipating
what could, should, or might happen at the table.
 More than likely, though, I'll need to simplify all this as meals's OK.

Meanwhile, I can play~~experimenting with this and that pretty tabletop thing :)

Eating and hospitality in general, is a communion,
and any meal worth attending by yourself
is improved by the multiples of those with whom it is shared.
~~Jesse Browner


Monday, December 9, 2013

Countdown, Day 9: Wrap & Re-Wrap

A local shop gives me a lovely, lime-colored bag every time I make a purchase.
As gift wraps they seem to fit the scene this year.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Countdown, Day 8: Bread & Wine

She had me at "bread & wine".
And I kept reading...

 "I'm a bread person~~crusty, golden baguette; hearty, grainy, seeded loaves; thin, crispy pizza crust~~all of it. Flaky, buttery croissants; chewy pita; tortillas, warm and fragrant, blistered by heat. And I am a wine person~~the blood-red and liquid gold, the clink and glamour of tall-stemmed glasses, and the musty, rich, almost mushroomy-y smell.
Like every Christian, I recognize the two as something much greater~~mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily."
~~Shauna Niequist

One reviewer summarizes the book:

"...A poetic reminder to appreciate the rituals,
 people and sensory experiences of our everyday life."
~~Kelle Hampton

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Countdown, Day 7: Mary & Gabriel

March 25 is celebrated as a Feast Day of Mary, the day of the Annunciation.
painting by Fra Angelica
Luke 1: 28
And the angel came in unto her, and said,
  Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Today is the beginning of our salvation
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos.*
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!
~~hymn from early times
*Theotokos refers to Mary, the "God-Bearer"


Friday, December 6, 2013

Countdown, Day 6: Heaven & Nature

Let every heart prepare him room
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.
~~Tune: George Handel. Text: Isaac Watts
Light strings weigh palm branches down so, at night, "up-lighting" (light string on the floor)
 brings warmth and drama to our Christmas garden.
A touch of heaven: The angel tablet from last year's
 Christmas Countdown. (Posted HERE.)
A touch of nature:  A host of live plants to sing joy to the world.

By day, Florida sunshine lights and nurtures the garden.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Countdown, Day 5: White Orchids & Amaryllis

The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.
~~Andy Warhol

Like anticipating Christmas.

Like watching an amaryllis unfold.

Slowly and quietly, the pieces come together...

The pleasure isn't in doing the thing,
the pleasure is in planning it.
~~John Green, Paper Towns


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Countdown, Day 4: Citrus & Cilantro

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today;
Love, the guest, is on the way.
~~French carol

A potpourri with components from Africa and India scents the room.
Keeping with a green-and-natural decorating plan for the holidays,
this citrus-cilantro potpourri settles into our indoor winter garden.

Up-lighting from the floor lends an enigmatic air
to living-room evenings and early-morning mediations.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Countdown, Day 3: Basil, Rosemary & Thyme

While shopping for Christmas decorating greens for the house,
I remember the rosemary and basil in our garden. When I go home, I snip
 a few branches for bouquet garni (French for "garnished bouquet")
 to enhance the flavor of  wintry soups and stews.
 Usually, a bundle of fresh herbs is tied up with string
for easy removal from the pot after cooking;
 it also works to wrap and tie the bundle in a clean leek leaf for added flavor.

Ingredients in herb bundles vary but this one is made up of
 one sprig each of basil, rosemary, thyme and
a bay leaf.

If fresh herbs aren't available, I measure the equivalent of dried herbs
onto a square of cheesecloth and tie the bundle with kitchen twine.
 A long tail makes easy removal from the soup pot after cooking is finished.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Countdown, Day 2: Pomegranates & Palms

A popular legend tells that the first Christmas tree came from Germany when Martin Luther, inspired by a starlit sky on a wintry night, cut down a small pine tree, took it home to his children,
 and decorated it with candles to represent Christ, the Light of the World.

I like the legend and practice of decorating a pine tree but, this year,
I'm looking to the palm trees of Bethlehem as the centerpiece of our holiday celebration.

Stock-free image from 123RF

The impulse toward decorating around a palm tree comes from this memory:
The first time we visited Florida, it was December and holiday crowds were out.
Along the drive to our hotel, we suddenly stopped the car.
There, in a scene set under palm trees on a triangle of land along the road, was a live Nativity.
We parked and walked nearer to hear Mary who was holding her child and singing Christmas songs.
A choir of angels joined in now and then, while shepherds moved their sheep over
the grassland and wise princes rode about on horses.
 Starting points: Areca palm & traditional topiary.
And so, it begins...
... the gathering of house ornaments.
My thoughts of a winter garden start to take shape
 as green pots come out of my kitchen cupboards...

... and this exotic lime-green Pothos plant comes home from the garden center.

At the grocery store, I can't resist the leathery-red patina of pomegranates in the produce aisle.
For years, I wondered how to open them but, recently,
 a handy how-to handout solved the mystery.

If opening a pomegranate is a mystery for you, click HERE.
Blake will show you how :)

'til tomorrow :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Countdown, Day 1: Light & Hope

It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us
 memories of goodness and thus open the doors to hope.
~~Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

It's the first day of Advent, December 1,
the first Sunday of the month,
the day for lighting the first candle of Advent.
How delighted I am that the Advent season begins on the first of the month,
 making the numbers of my Countdown to Christmas so simple!

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and 
do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work:
 You don't give up.
~~Anne Lamott


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My New Confessor

Recently, Amanda, an attractive thirty-year-old neighbor, asked me to go for walks with her~~
says she needs a friend and is looking for things to do after work to get her off the sofa. 

So we walk, talk, and laugh every Thursday evening.
It amuses me that she appears to enjoy my company.
After all, I'm old enough to be her mother.
That's probably the case~~her mom moved to Georgia and I'm a temporary replacement.

Glad to comply.
It adds to miles walked per week and Amanda laughs when I tell my stories, thinks I'm funny!
We talk about neighborhood happenings. We talk about food. And when she asks for decorating advice, I'm happy for the opportunity to keep my hand in the game.

It's rather like a confessional, these walks.
Listening and talking.
Talking and listening.

This week, she tells me she's making cheesecake for Thanksgiving. She doesn't want to make a whole turkey because it's "just Arthur and me, you know."
She wanted to know if my church serves a Thanksgiving feast for needy people.
If so, she'd like to help serve it because it would be a way for her to "give back."
She reminds me to be thankful.

I tell her I'm grateful for a brother who comes for turkey and all the fixin's
but confess that I'm a frightened cook, intimidated by the idea of assembling a full-out feast.
Then I confess that my turkey dinner for four will be outsourced~~

~~if I'm grateful for anything this week, it's CARRY OUT!

Instead of agonizing alone in the kitchen,
I'll be counting my blessings and enjoying the conversation.

I wonder if Amanda and Arthur would like to join us for this American holiday...


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's My Birthday Today!

A lovely cold front has moved in, taking the temperature to a cool 70 degrees Farenheit!
We're off to The Old Salty Dog on Siesta Key...a perfect day
to dine outdoors in long-sleeved sweaters.
Thanks, Canada!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reading Room

Once upon a time, my favorite reading room was the upper gallery of Sharky's restaurant.
There, coconut palms provided abundant shade and, during daytime hours,
 the deck offered a quiet, customer-less room-with-a-view to relax with a book.
Alas, tropical storms wiped out the hospitable palms
and I lost my lovely green aerie.

The fishing pier, extending from Sharky's lower deck restaurant,
offers a more earthly room~~an inviting avenue of shade at the edge of the water.
Sun worshipers have no use for the shady side of the pier space so, book in hand, I'm comfortable  here on my beach chaise, feet pressed luxuriously into the cool sand.
Close by, waves add a repetitive sound to soothe and quiet the restless soul.

I'm reading the third part of Jane Stevenson's historical trilogy:
The Winter Queen
The Shadow King
The Empress of the Last Days

What are you reading these days?
Where is your favorite reading spot?

Sunday, November 3, 2013


There are drops of dew that show like sapphires in the grass
 as soon as the morning sun appears,
 and leaves stir behind the hushed flight of an escaping dove.
~~Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quilting at the Improv: Update

You wanted to see the finished form of the improvisational quilt block I showed  HERE.

Instead of quilting the block with a batting,
 I backed it with an iron-on interfacing
and "quilted" it with top-stitching before piping the perimeter,
 applying a pillow back,
and filling it with a pillow form.
Think I'll try to sell it at a holiday arts/crafts show.

I couldn't go to the October improvisational piecing day because of a conflict
so I'm looking forward to the November session.
The assignment is to choose an inspirational print,
a patterned fabric showing the print's dye selections along the selvages.
The idea is to use the dye dots as a guide for selecting solid or near-solid fabrics
to create a color easy, surefire way to a color scheme.

Here's the scheme for my next quilt block :)
We'll continue our explorations of improvisational piecing.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

After the Rain

The hot wind blew fast and furiously through the ponytail palms last night,
stretching their slender fronds toward the east.
Weather casters were giddy with the news:
 A cold front will sweep away our warm, humid days and bring in
 autumn temperatures!!!

By Saturday, we'll go from a high of 88 Farenheit to a high of 80 for the weekend
 (three degrees below average).
The garden is singing this morning after another deep rain.

Elephant ears gratefully cradle the raindrops...

...and the Purple Shield is positively perky!


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quilting At The Improv

My happy feet (previous post) flip-flopped their way down Venice Avenue and stopped abruptly
 at the local quilting shop where I found a flyer for the
 now-forming Sarasota modern quilting guild.
I went home and joined the group online.
Hurray! Something new and refreshing that takes in my lifelong love for fabric.

The monthly meeting for October is on the 19th.
Leader Carole promised a  quick 15-minute business meeting
before the "fun part," a lesson in improvisational quilting.
I'm excitedly collecting materials for the two-hour sew-in
 (attendees bring their machines and supplies
 to cut and sew together in good company...a sort of book club?).

I have no idea what I'm I picked out  colors and patterns to make my heart sing.
Sounds improvisational, doesn't it?
Then to be safe, I also selected a colorway using solid-colored fabrics relating to one patterned piece.
Of course, I couldn't wait to try a few things...
after all, the class is still a week away.
Working from Quilting Modern,  I tried free-piecing a single block
that could become a pillow front or the focus of an infant carrier coverlet...

 By the time this block gets quilted, my inaccurate stitching will be hidden in the depths.
The premise of this scrap project was to find a figurative piece in one's fabric stash to use as the focus of a block. It inspires free piecing in related scraps that are floated into the design by way of a background fabric (white dotted fabric). I must say I didn't know what I was doing but went about cutting strips in any length I pleased and stitching background pieces to their ends.
 The result seems to be a non-traditional picture frame
 for a portrait of two lovely forest creatures I found on an IKEA fabric.

I'm seeing the finished product as a cover for a 14 x 22-inch pillow.
Want to revisit it when complete?


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Happy Feet

It's a long, 15-hundred mile walk from our summer home in Iowa
 to our winter digs in Florida.
 So glad we could drive the distance in a car!

Since our arrival, we've been clipping a jungle of growth in our backyard,
getting communication devices connected,
paying bills by phone when mail forwarding doesn't show up,
and getting that flushing mechanism in the bathroom to work properly.

Our first trip out to the beach was a stop at Sharky's for brie and apple pizza
and a windy view of gulf waters churning
away as a result of tropical storm Karen somewhere faraway.
Next, a stop at Eden Salon and Spa, where Jan
gave my feet a lovely sea-salt soak, scrub, massage, and pedicure.

Today it's a sea-salt soak in the tub at home
after a workout at YouFit.

 I'll soon get back to visiting your blogs :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blue Skies, Blue Waters

Heading south...

See you on the other side :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Adam's JDRF Run for Type 1 Diabetes

My antique butter crock (right sidebar) once collected loose change
when my coin purse got too heavy.
Now it has a better purpose~~it's a coin collector for my son's
JDRF 48.6 mile charity run at Disney World, January 2014.
To read Adam's personal story about why he's on Team JDRF, click HERE.

Adam during his third Disney Marathon with his son, Landon, in 2011
Landon cried because he was frightened by the loud cheering for the runners.. 
Little things make a difference, Adam says.
While his Dopey Challenge sets a daunting goal
of collecting $2500 for diabetes research
 and generous souls have donated $830 (33% of the goal) so far,
he's up for doing small things to keep the percentage moving upward~~
 busing tables at a pizza buffet after work and running a can drive.
(In Iowa, it happens that
customers pay deposits on bottles and cans
when they purchase soft drinks, vitamin waters, and liquor.
 The deposits are refunded when they return the cans and bottles
to the grocery-store recycle centers.)

My butter crock now holds coins collected from recycled bottles and cans.

Here's how Adam's can drive works:
His work-and-family network of people ask their work-and-family networks
to donate bags of bottles and cans.
They then recycle the cans/bottles for cash refunds.

I'm surprised at how well my summer of collecting has added up.
Now that we're heading to Florida where can/bottle recycling doesn't happen,
I've turned in my coins to the Iowa neighborhood can-drive fund that's growing...
Little things DO make a difference!

In December, I'll give you an update on the can drive. :)


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Moving Heaven and Earth

They're busy out there.
Moving dirt.
 Across the street from our summer home, mighty Caterpillar jaws scoop
 great mounds of earth and trucks haul
 loads from a neighboring field.
 A shopping venue will emerge before the paralyzing winds of winter blow in.

Earth's lovely layer of black soil in Iowa.

We're busy in here.
 Moving dirt
 Clearing closets, steam-cleaning carpets, and vacuuming upholstery
 in preparation for the move south to our winter home.
The soil I used to grow flowers in our balcony boxes
now waits in the front seat of the car.
 I'll drive to a nearby field and toss it into the weeds.

Landon's coming today to watch the "diggers."
3-year-olds + dinosaur machines on the move...


Sunday, September 1, 2013


This isn't the first time I've been seduced by an attractive loaf of bread.

I can't walk past a good bakery counter without being tempted.
Bread is a big no-no on my doctor-prescribed low-carb diet
but, despite the warnings, look what came home with me! 
The crunchy textures and gorgeous crust of this Seeduction loaf
were irresistible and I surrendered.

Ingredients listed on the  Seeduction label: Organic whole wheat flour, water, millet, honey, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, molasses, sea salt, fresh yeast.
Originally, I came to the store to find seeds prescribed by Dr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Healthy Eating~~chia, hemp and flax. It seems they're rich in antioxidants, have high-fiber content, and are precursors to omega-3 fatty acids.

Here's what I selected:
Left: Chia, buckwheat & hemp cereal (2 tablespoons + 4-5 tablespoons milk = 1 serving). Top right: A shot of chia seeds, great on a serving of cereal, yogurt, or salad. Bottom right: Salad topping mix of sesame nuggets and seeds, bulgar wheat, turmeric, sunflower seeds and bacon bits. Tasty.
 With my seed mission accomplished,
I was side-tracked by the beautiful breads in the bakery.
Especially the loaves with seeds on top.
I picked up a loaf marked Seeduction.

The affair was brief.
Thick slices went down in a few heady days of indulgence.
With a little red wine.

 I'm back on the diet wagon again.
As they always say, today is a new day.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Walk on the Cathedral Side

It's Sunday morning
 in Greenbelt Park.

 Branches bow over my sanctuary.

Green silence.

A bird or two for song.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hot Rocks

I wonder if it's OK to pick up souvenir stones while traveling.
If not, these are hot rocks.

You will find something more in woods than in brooks.
Trees and stones will teach you 
that which you can never learn from masters.
~~Saint Bernard

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Borgias are Back...

...and, I confess, so am I.
I can't resist 15th and 16th century intrigue.
The outrageous range of social classes.
Extravagant vs. rustic costumes.
Stunning architecture.
The clash of the privileged, powerful, and perverted.

Season 3 is now out in DVD and I'm picking up where Rodrigo Borgia (played elegantly by Jeremy Irons)
is recovering from an attempt of assassination by poisoning.

Lucrezia, the pope's daughter, is marrying Alfonso of Spain
to benefit "the family".

And Cesare is working all sorts of angles.

Also, The White Queen is now running on Starz.
I don't have that service
 so I've reserved it as a DVD on my Netflix queue.
That'll take 6-8 months.
Meanwhile, I can look forward to Downton Abbey in January!
Not so 15th/16th century but intriguing, all the same.

Oh, wait! My daughter-in-law just invited me to view The White Queen
at her house!

What do you find intriguing in movies?