Sunday, May 16, 2021

Spring Might really Be Here!

What a crazy time this is! With spring finally showing its warmer side here in Michigan, I find myself feeling overloaded with things to do. Most of them are good things, which is a plus but sometimes I wonder how I'm keeping up with anything! It's seems I'm slow with replies, slow posting, slow with home things. Spring fever? Could be.

Rick headed to the cottage to open things up. He expected a reasonably easy trip but arrived to a pipe that had frozen and was spewing water (fortunately outside), no internet connection, a tree down (fortunately not on the house or garage but rather enormous and needing to be handled), two porch screens that had blown in during the winter and a hot water heater that was leaking and needs to be replaced -- fast. 

The good news is that he could find a plumber who came quickly and the internet appointment was within 24 hours so things are getting done but it hasn't been the easy get-away he was hoping for. Hopefully he'll find his own sun puddle to enjoy while he's still there (Rick's favorite "sun puddle" is the always found on the back of a bike!)

I stayed  home and enjoyed a take-out with our friends Mark and Jan from our favorite Mexican restaurant. Rick doesn't like this spot, so it was a perfect time for us to enjoy it without the side commentary!

Friend Kate and I headed to the nursery and I picked up a lot of plants. What a glorious experience, to return to a flower-filled nursery again after so many months of being more or less home and seeing more than our share of gray skies (not to mention winter white a few months ago). 

Some of my purchases are still "in holding" for outdoor planting at the cemetery but the rest were put in pots, some of which will be here at home, others for the lake. Assuming, that is, that I can keep them alive till I get up there! Next up, putting those pots where they belong in the front and back yards.

The latest read is (still) Hilary Mantel's "The Mirror and the Light," which is about Henry VIII following the execution of Anne Boleyn, wife number three (Jane Seymour -- spoiler alert, she dies) and beyond. 

I passed 500 of close to 900 pages and while it is interesting, I think Mantel could have used an editor a bit more liberally.

I've finished a couple more paintings.(more on that in another post) and repainted the bench I found a year or two ago on the street. In the winter it looked like this, still with a bit of the blue.

The winter was hard on it and pretty much all of the paint came off or faded. You could barely see it from the house anymore. So I painted it white with a slight pink hue that showed up more in the jar than on the bench. No matter -- it's good for where it is and I can see it again! I spruced up the wreath, too. I'll probably paint the bench red in the fall so I can actually see it from the house when the snow flies, assuming it's still in one piece!)

While I was in the yard, I picked a few lawn flowers. They're so cheery!

And, in the kitchen, a bit of lemon baking. I've made Marie's recipes before and she recently had a whole post of lemon dishes, sweet and savory. The long biscuits are a ginger/lemon biscotti -- the flavor blend is perfect. The square ones are a gingerbread bar with lemon buttercream. I had some candied ginger left from the biscotti so I sprinkled that on top. Trust me -- these will be standards in the future!

As I write this, it is farewell remembrance day to my own little Marmelade Gypsy, He left us on May 16, 2012 on a gorgeous spring day, laying in my arms outside as our dear vet, Dr. Anne, came by to help him the last little bit of the way. (He probably needed Anne less than Rick and I did.)  It ranks up there with the toughest days of my life. And Gypsy was one of the greatest gifts. 

Yesterday, a long walk (more on that later) and I didn't even need a coat! It seems like our weather may be turning into "real" spring.

 It's about time.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

So, What Else Is New? Not Much!

Life these days has just been -- well, life. Nothing terribly exciting, nothing awful. So, just a bit of a catch-up. It sort of matches Lizzie's expression.

There has been a bit of painting -- not a lot, but I do have this one to share.

My seed starting is beginning to show growth. The lettuce is big enough now to thin and transplant and I anticipate some nice salads in the coming weeks. The zinnia seeds my friend Maryanne surprised me with have popped up in their starter trays -- still tiny, but on the way. 

I'm waiting for Louise Penny's next book but found this wonderful conversation with her on BBC with a fun Q&A. While a lot of the questions focus on her first book, "Still Life," readers of Penny will enjoy this look into her life, inspirations and process. Listen to it HERE.

Not that it matters to anyone but me, but my 2021 Bunny Count is up to 13. 

Are you flourishing or languishing after lockdown? The New York Times had a fun quiz to check to see if you are flourishing and some good links in THIS ARTICLE. (I'm happy to say I am flourishing -- with a little room for improvement! And yes, there are still days where languishing comes out on top.)

Rick hopes to head to the lake soon to open the cottage. He's been spending a lot of time working on things related to his mom and with his brothers plans to head to Texas in a couple of weeks to see her and do some things around the house to prepare it for eventual sale. What will I do without him around to share the Sunday NYT puzzle? Together we're a great team!

I've discovered another puzzle challenge -- the vowel-less puzzle. It's not as easy as you'd think!


Over the weekend he did a 100-mile-plus ride, captaining a tandem. After, the cyclists returned for dinner -- Rick's risotto and this wonderful three-ingredient lemon ice box pie  from Marie's blog. You can make it five minutes (depending on how quickly you can zest and juice lemons) and pop it in the fridge for four hours. It's super easy and terrific. (We had pretty flowers, too!)

Do you like the film "Notting Hill"? It's one of my favorites and my favorite scene is this below, where the main character, William, walks through a year to the song "Ain't No Sunshine When You're Gone." I love how director Richard Curtis filmed it -- it looks like one long, creative shot but was it?

Nope. According to a 2010 post in FlixChatter, (quoting IMDB trivia) it was actually four different shots filmed on the same day and eventually mixed to show a stream from season to season. Plus, the music is great, too! I have watched it over and over and don't see the edits. Well done, Richard Curtis!

And in case you want to know what the real Portobello Road, where Hugh Grant is walking in this scene, looks like -- here you go!

Thanks for all the microwave recommendations. I've decided I'll go for the no-frills, micro-only version and possibly investigate an air fryer in the future if I think I'd really use one. Probably the main reason, which Mae reminded me of (and I should have remembered from past experience), combo appliances can be a problem. I've had one portion break before the other and you know the rest! 

We had our first outdoor dining last weekend. Very yum. And then it got very cold!

Rick's garden is coming on slowly. All of these are early season crops so they can take the cold, but I think they wouldn't mind a little sun, too!

I'm not sure what these are or how they got in my garden but they're giving it a bit of color after the daffs and hyacinths have died off.

The strawberries are coming on, though. I was expecting an early crop -- but now I'm thinking it will be June, just like normal. 

I'll leave you with Bunny #13. 

Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Fluffy Yellow Things and Other Outdoors Sights

The goslings have arrived! I've yet to see the number I suspect are there (and they are keeping pretty far from shore, so I'm glad for zoom!) but they have popped.

And learning to swim!

I love that both parents seem to be in the teaching mode.

 In another section of the ditch, another family is getting their swim time, too.

Mama Duck seems to have something to say!

She certainly keeps them in line. Most stay relatively close to her.

They seem to have things down pretty well.


But of course, there is always an outlier!

They aren't the only creatures enjoying an odd spring, one that is unseasonbly cool and damp. This fellow (and his cohorts nearby) were keeping an eye on things. 

And this fat little robin hasn't missed many meals!

I liked seeing this method of head-scratching!

Harry, meanwhile, was taking a break from his water time and checking out  life on the shore. 

It's probably easier to tidy up when he's there, too!

There were some lovely wildflowers around the ditch as well.

Or, are they weeds?

The blossoms are very nearly through on most of the trees.

It looks like a blizzard of petals when a breeze comes by, leaving a pattern of polka dots on the walk.

Meanwhile, in my yard, I've enjoyed Louie Bluey and Mrs. Louie as they fly around gathering things for their next.

I'm not sure where it is -- I supsect it's high in the bushes on the fenceline of the house, because their pattern is to fly in there from wherever they are. But when I went to look, all I could see was leaves! He's always on the lookout!

So is this fellow! A grackle, I think. 

It's lovely when the light hits their head. 

I leave you with this view of the ditch and the lovely redbud on one of the ponds.

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Sharing with:    Saturday's Creatures     /     Pink Saturday    

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Forever Young

The other day I was chatting in the yard with my neighbor, Rosie. She's a fabulous gardener -- her yard blooms from early spring to late fall and I am lucky to have a window view. She said she is trying to convert most of it to perennials because gardening is hard work and we aren't getting any younger!

Rosie's Garden

I was telling her that I was going through old photo albums and the one I'd recently been through had photos of a "little boy" that I baby sat when he was about a year old, taken at his wedding 20 years ago. And now, his oldest daughter is graduating from high school and starting college in the fall. I said, "It's odd -- I don't feel any older than I did 20 years ago inside. Or even the 30 years before that! Maybe a little wiser, a little more sensible, but no older. Except for..."

With "Bobby," (now Bob) at his wedding in 2001

Except for... lungs that used to be able to belt out a song and be heard across a big theatre -- with no microphone. 

Lucy in Charlie Brown when I was 17

Except for... a back that gets tricky, read that downright painful, after being up and around for a bit. Chalk it up to bad posture, bad genes, bad neglect of core or just plain degeneration of disks. It's not fun. I am grateful every day to back patches and heating pads.

Except for...

My mother's birthday is this week. If she were living she would be 103, which I suspect wouldn't really be much of a life these days, after a year in Covid quarantine and all the worse if she was in an assisted living facility or one that wouldn't allow visitors. Going through those photos I came across some with a former colleague who now lives across the country. I checked with her daughters to see if she was still in her assisted living facility near one of them before mailing them out. They told me how hard the past year was on their mom and her memory, seeing no one but the facility staff who brought meals to her room each day. Mom wouldn't have done well with that. She liked people. She liked to travel.

Mom in Arizona, visiting her sister

She was at her very best being around people, whether it was family, friends or even strangers. She never met a stranger she didn't like.

Mom and Dad in the center. I wonder what they were talking about?

At this time of year, I think especially of the lessons I learned from her during those 25 years I was lucky I was have her with us. She taught me phonics so when I started school I was in the fastest reading group. I learned to love reading because of her.

She taught me how to draw, too. Well, she didn't exactly teach me, but she encouraged me with lots of how-to-draw books, once I showed an interest. My early attempts weren't good, but they were supported!

I draw much better now.

I developed a lifelong love of creating things from Mom. We'd sit at the kitchen table and make Holly Hobbie shadow boxes, dyed eggs together and created lovely additions to the Christmas tree. She taught me to knit when I was five and I learned how to needlepoint at her side. She and dad were photographers, too, and even did their own developing. I think she would have love digital cameras!

She loved to cook and most things met with approval, except for the liver that even our collie wouldn't eat. I still wish I could make her American fried potatoes the way she did. I have learned her scalloped potato recipe, thanks to the vintage Joy of Cooking edition she received as a wedding gift. (The recipe isn't in newer versions -- not her recipe!)

When it came to holidays, there wasn't a holiday my mother didn't like. Christmas was her biggie...

I am so grateful we had wonderful Christmases together

...but she was just as happy to make Halloween costumes, Easter egg trees or pull together Thanksgiving celebrations. I've inherited that gene, too.

I was about four here. Mom made the costume.

When I turned 18 and was on some sort of diet, she wanted me to have a pretty cake. So, she made one out of styrofoam and frosted it. (I'm trying to remember what everyone else had for dessert that year!)

Turning 18 with a styrofoam birthday cake.

 She collected things. So do I. And of course, I have many of her collections still -- Royal Doulton figurines, Christmas plates, her crystal and dishes. She was a dish nut. So am I -- with more china patterns than I'll ever be able to lose but haven't been able to let go just yet.

Mom's crystal, Fostoria Mulberry. I use them. Carefully.

My mom was my biggest cheerleader. When I would practice singing, she'd explain how whatever gestures used had to be definite. If I went flat, she'd tell me. And when I was good, she was first to praise. I think she saw every play or musical I was in at least twice. She was a good critic, constructive but always encouraging. When I look at the old Mary Berry episodes of "Great British Baking Show," I think, "She's like my mom -- honest, but positive and supportive."

I learned good family dynamics from watching my mom and dad -- we had few arguments in my home. They respected each other and knew how to pick battles wisely. 

Always photographers, Mom and Dad shared a darkroom. They were the among first to get a Poloroid camera.

 And from them I learned unconditional love. I'm an only child and I always wondered "Am I enough? After all, they have to love me, what other choice do they have?" That may have driven me to do best, be best, make them proud, but while I put that number on myself, I can honestly say they never did anything to indicate their love was complete and unconditional. It didn't mean I didn't get into some troublesome moments but discipline was meted our fairly and with love.

At my aunt's cottage. I think this is the only photo of my mom in denim, which is a wardrobe staple for me!

I've outlived my mom for more than a decade. She died when she was 58 and there is so much she didn't get to see. She didn't know Rick or his boys or the Toddler Twosome. She would have loved them. She didn't know about my time in television or the discoveries of my genealogy research. 

But every day of that short life she lived well. She lived it with joy, with optimism, with creativity and with a spirit of giving, whether it was of her time as a volunteer or with her heart. 

And if that had been her only lesson, that would be enough.

Sharing with:    Let's Keep in Touch      /     Pink Saturday    

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