For dreary February and so far in March, it seems like every second has been occupied in one way or another, thus my delay in blogging since early February! I’m in one of those periods of time when I’ve been a bit over-extended and that accounts for this delay! I’m enjoying everything I’m doing but realize that there’s been a bit of a traffic jam regarding my commitments that is gradually easing up.

If you read this blog or follow me on Instagram at all, you know that the time of year we are about to enter, Spring, has always been the time when I come out of dormancy (although I’ve not enjoyed much dormancy this year!!) and feel re-energized!


Easter, sunshine, daylight saving time, that special color of the  leaves as they are about to bloom, a bit of travel and some new ideas are on the cusp. This is a time of inspiration resurrected.

On Reading and Writing
I routinely read a number of books at one time but right now seems a bit over the top. I joined a book group last year as a way to add a bit more diversity to my reading selections. Generally I run towards memoirs and biography, historical fictions, best sellers, mystery and fiction. I wanted to add books to my reading that I might not normally pick up if left to my own devices. The book group has introduced me to new authors, new styles and new genres.
Last year , for example, our group assigned Redeployment, a book that was the debut novel of the writer, Phil Klay, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His book was made up of short stories of our military during their deployment to or return from Iraq and Afghanistan. I opened the book with some level of misgiving that this was not my usual genre and didn’t know if I would like it or not. What it did was open up a world that I know nothing about, artfully written in a way that was totally engrossing, engaging and sometimes, disturbing.

Most recently I read Lilac Girls, a story based on the real lives of real people, whose circumstances intersect around the Holocaust of the Second World War. The talent of Martha Hall Kelly, the author, at description and dialogue in this, her debut novel (as with Klay, a masterful debut novel!), is truly astonishing. She has the patience to fully describe a scene, dropping the readers into the midst of brilliantly described situations they can truly understand and feel. Both the characters in the book and the reader are drawn together into incidents or circumstances, seeming to experience it together. Her descriptions: “Clyde, who was no thicker than two sheets of paper…” Her homey, intimacy with the reader: “You should have seen the stars that night, thrown across the sky in great bunches. It was as if they were watching, looking down on all that, sad that they could do nothing.”  It’s beautiful writing and I felt a part of the scene. She uses the circumstances and  points of view of the three women to move the story forward. It is a narrative device that I am, much less skillfully at this point, using in my war brides story, also based on real women during the Second World War, a story that I set aside a little over a year ago to gain some perspective on  crafting this complex story.
I also found great inspiration and encouragement from Martha Kelly’s acknowledgements about her writing  – the evolution of the story,  the lengthy research required,   the help she received,  the worry over doing justice to the actual people who were the basis for all that happened, the prodding of her sister-in-law who said, “Just do it.”      It gratified me that I too feel that overwhelming responsibility when I sit down and write about the war brides. That accountability can lead to paralysis and self-censureship as it did with me.     Lately, I too have just been advising myself to  “Just write it already!”

I am currently reading So Much Pretty, also a debut novel by Cara Hoffman, a book club selection that I don’t think I would have read if it had not been assigned. I haven’t read this entire story so I can’t adequately express it’s impact on me except to say that half way through, I am again impressed at the skill with which the author tells this  quirky, complicated story.

Reading these debut novels and learning about their authors and their writings before tackling these big stories,  encouraged me, intimidated me, and ultimately have led me to address my nagging frustration with my own fictional or memoir writing and the time I have (or haven’t) been devoting to it. What am I doing (or not doing) with it? What are my goals with it? What do I hope to achieve?  For whom am I writing it?     But I’ve come to believe truly that there are stories in all of us and that it’s primarily in the act of writing, the doing, that you perfect the skill and the craft. I feel energized and motivated   again to write.  See my previous post called On Writing

So I’m grateful to  these authors, and others,  who provided this push for me.   I’m also grateful to you for taking the time to read my pieces.   Every writer needs a reader.

My husband and I have a few  trips coming up – in April, a weekend with our grandkids at a Wisconsin indoor water park, a trip to Virginia Beach to celebrate with friends at their 50th anniversary party followed by two days in Washington D.C. Then at the end of May and beginning of June, two weeks in Germany and The Netherlands, visiting friends and family. Still need to work out some (ok – all) of the European itinerary.

We’ve been fortunate to visit the nation’s capital many times (OF MUSEUMS AND MEMORIES) but we continue to go back because it never gets old.      In Washington, this time around, we will probably concentrate on the parts of the Smithsonian that we have not yet seen, and I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing a cherry blossom or two (hopefully with all the variations in weather back there it isn’t too late).

My husband worked in Germany for almost a year about 11 years ago. During that time I visited often and got a chance to spend time in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfort, Munster. This time, we will visit with friends and want to spend some time in Munich, a city in which we have not spent any time.  Have you been there?  Do you have any ideas about must sees in Munich?

The Netherlands is  tiny.  You can see a  lot of this country in a few days.    On a previous trips there we’ve been to The Hague, Amsterdam (broadly), Delft, the canals, Rotterdam and Alblasserdam. We were fortunate enough to be escorted by our Dutch relatives who were fabulous tour guides and gave us a view of the country that no paid guide could do. I remember that one of my first sites when arriving at our relatives’ home was at the end of their street where a small canal, a windmill and  cow were there to greet us!   Just as though it had been staged!

Our relatives provided their native impressions and perspectives, their political views, showing us nooks and crannies of Holland that regular tourists may not get to see. But we have not spent nearly enough time in Amsterdam, in the museums, specifically the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and then in the Anne Frank House. On this trip I want to delve deeper but  I  don’t want to overcrowd our stay, packing ten pounds of hamburger into a two pound bag, as my husband says.

Until we meet again (and I promise it won’t be so long between visits next time)…..



Time for the annual re-do. As I mentioned in my blog post last January (AH, JANUARY), I’ve just reached that time of year when I develop a list of house projects I want to get done by Spring.
This year, the projects consist of painting and removing the carpeting from our finished basement. I have been on a campaign to get all wall to wall  carpeting out of the house. We’re pretty far along with completing this goal since we started to address it about 10 years ago. The only remaining carpeting is in our  basement and three of our bedrooms.

My husband and I decided to tackle the basement first. The wall-to-wall carpeting now in the basement is 14 years old. It has been professionally cleaned every year. But it is matted, there are stains that can no longer be cleaned out and I think it has served us well but it’s time to go. It is a large space, 900 square feet in all. We finished this basement with carpeting before our first grandchild was born because we knew this would be a perfect place to hang out, watch movies, play games or just to play at night or when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Over the years it has more than exceeded our epectations on all counts. My concern is that removing carpeting, although a much healthier , cleaner choice, will make the basement cold and/or noisy. I anticipate that it will also be slightly more demanding in that we will need to dust it a number of times a week – let’s face it, tweedy burber hides a lot of sins that requires vacuuming only after grandkids visits and bi-weekly otherwise.

So off we went, looking for materials that will address my concerns. Hardwoods, as we have in the upstairs rooms, is not an option for a basement for obvious reasons of potential damage from water, warping, etc. We have concentrated on wood grained vinyl. We’ve been told by more than one store that vinyl is the new way to go in basements, having surpassed laminates because of its waterproof qualities. Also high grade vinyl comes with an attached underlay of either cork or foam that addresses the vapor barrier issue. It also creates a softness that one would not expect from vinyl. We plan to put a large area rug on the main play area for the grandkids and a small area rug in front of the sofas in our TV area to help with any coldness and sound control. The remainder of the room with be left without area rugs. My husband is totally on board with this basement reno, required no convincing and in fact he lead the charge on this one.

Aside from my concerns already mentioned, I ran into another major snag: coordinating the new materials we choose with the red oak stairs that lead down into our basement. As you can see by the samples in the photos, there are two options, also the most costly, that coordinate pretty well with the stairs.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3857

One other option – which has grey/brown qualities to it – looks great with all the white we have in the room but doesn’t match the oak that is on the stairs. This is already a costly project due to the size of our basement, so redoing the stairs is not an option. On the other hand, the grey/brown flooring is definitely a more updated look as opposed to the oak.   UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3855

So our options:

*    Go with the option that matches the oak but is a more outdated look
*     Don’t allow the stairs and other oak accents in the large roon to dictate the color
*      See if there is a middle option that checks all our requirements for the basement

Ok, so that was the prologue. Now I will tell you that in the course of writing this post, we made the decision about which material to go with and the work has been done.  When we do a house project, my husband and I have been pretty successful  not beating it to death. We knew our options, we know our concerns, we discuss the pros and cons, and make a decision. Our decision was to choose the brown/grey vinyl which was installed this past week. I have to say the look is great and so far, the stair to floor difference doesn’t bother me.   I see it as I’m coming down the stairs but once I’m in the room, I don’t see it anymore.


Now will it be more work? Stay tuned…..
The next project will center around painting the rooms on our first floor. Just starting to think about that, which will require a call to our longtime painter, Jeff.    More on that at a later posting.

In the event that you haven’t heard, or don’t care, Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. I’m not a football fan. My husband is a luke-warm football fan at best but each year we get together with friends to celebrate that year’s championship team. The Super Bowl is part huge athletic event, huge musical event and huge pop culture event. It seems that everyone celebrates this day with a recognition of some sort, fan or not.    It’s a holiday!  In fact today I heard in the grocery store one of the clerks saying to another, “We’re so busy, this is just like Christmas!”    This year we’re actually celebrating the end of the football season with about 10 friends.   We do love the comeraderie, the commercials and the food!

This year, I actually have a chosen team, however.    I was born and reared just north of Philadelphia so I’m happy to root for the Eagles – a team that has never won the Super Bowl. I don’t know if they are really good or just got lucky, and I know that they are going against the Patriots, the Meryl Streep of football, apparently. So I suppose the odds are not good. Even one of my Pennsylvania friends, a die-hard, year-in and year-out Eagles fan, texted me  after the Eagles won the division championship, texted me saying, “Oh my God, THIS wasn’t supposed to happen!”   We’ll cheer them on just the same.

But I am loving planning the menu: New England Clam Chowder, Hoagies, CheeseSteaks and maybe some Philly soft pretzels.

So Fly Eagles Fly and we’ll see who wins…

With the SuperBowl comes a lot of food. Snacks, some variation on a main course, dessert. We have New England (characterized by Boston) and Philly in the Super Bowl, cities with amazing culinary scenes that I love. But let’s face it, you say Philly to anyone who knows about that city and the foods that immediately come to mind are cheese steaks and hoagies, not exactly health food. I am serving both at my party tomorrow and assume that if my guests are eating healthily the rest of the year (and I know they are) they can be given a hall pass for one day to indulge a bit. For Boston, you have Chowda, the white kind that is not my favorite by any stretch, but one that I am making for my party tomorrow. I must say that I’m not a fan of any cream soups, so far.   But I’ve been tasting it as I’ve been cooking, and it is pretty darn good, if I say so myself.   My favorite clam chowder is Manhattan – the red one – a much healthier and tastier choice, I think, but one that seems to have been overtaken by the New England variety in restaurants across the country.

Anyway, no matter how you’re marking Super Bowl Sunday, have fun.   Would love to hear what you’re doing to celebrate!

Until next time…..



I love to travel. I love seeing for myself in person those  places I have seen on TV, unfortunately some in the most horrific of human stories, some transformative, many  inspirational. And the experience is always enhanced by visiting those places with people who saw the history first hand, to hear from them about how the experience felt. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to see many historic places in this world: taking the historic walks in Boston and Philadelphia,  seeing the 911 Memorial in New York, the Coliseum and Forum in Rome,  standing in the room in Potsdam, Germany at the round table around which sat Winston Churchill, Stalin, and President Truman following the Second World War as they carved out the new Europe, an awe inspiring moment for me. Those world leaders stood where I now stood – incredible.

I once walked through Berlin with a friend who had grown up and lived in East Berlin under communist rule into middle adulthood until the night of the reunification. He walked with me through the streets and told me terrifying stories of armed guards standing at the Brandenburg Gate, making sure no one passed over into the west  OF MUSEUMS AND MEMORIES. The Brandenburg Gate was the line of demarcation but in actuality easterners were turned back about two blocks east of the Gate to be sure no one came close enough to try to run through to the west. He told me his family’s story of the night the Berlin Wall came down, telling me of their skepticism that the wall was actually going to be demolished. It was one of the most spellbinding and awe-inspiring stories I’ve ever heard in my life.
My husband and I had been to the Irish Republic about 17 years ago when we drove from Dublin, to Kilkenny, on to Kinsale, then to Killarney, to Galway and the Ashford Castle in Cong. I have an Irish friend who jokes, “There’s no point in being Irish if you’re not going to be maudlin and melancholy.” Instead, we love our Irish friends here in the U.S. and we fell in love with the people in Ireland whom we found to be simply so joyous, warm and fun! We were invariably greeted in the many pubs we visited with a roaring fire, a pint of Guinness (which is an acquired taste as far as I’m concerned), and a smiling welcome from people you feel you already know.   I always knew I wanted to go back.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go to Belfast in Northern Ireland for the first time because my husband’s college was participating in a basketball tournament there. But we spent the first few days in Dublin in the Irish Republic which is full of the Irish history and its ongoing struggle with Britain.   We spent an afternoon visiting the General Post Office which is still a working post office but is also the site of the Easter Rising of 1916, a critical part of the Irish story, the Catholic Irish wanting Ireland to be its own country and not part of Britian.    The Irish people of course  as always were friendly and welcoming to Americans,  many with relatives who have been  emigrating to America since the famine in the mid 1800’s and are a huge presence in the U.S.   So when I’ve been to Ireland, I feel as though I’m going to visit a people with whom I’m very familiar.   It seems that everyone you speak with has visited the U.S. or has a relative living here.  You can pick up a conversation as with someone you already know.    After three days in Dublin and visiting Glendalough, a glacial valley in County Wicklow and  St.Kevin’s monastery in the bitter cold – this is Ireland in December, folks! – we left for Northern Ireland.

The first thing to note is that the six counties that make up Northern Ireland are part of Great Britian and thus follow British law and use British pounds as currency, as opposed to the Irish Republic that uses euros.  Currently there’s no hard border as one crosses seamlessly into Northern Ireland from the Republic. But now due to Britian’s plan to secede from the European Union because of the Brexit vote, there is a lot of talk about what that may mean for a crossing into Northern Ireland in the future. We had the benefit of being joined on our trip by some British friends prompting much lively discussion about the similarities between in the Brexit vote and the subsequent vote to elect Donald Trump to the American presidency.

I had no preconceived idea about Northern Ireland but it interested me because I remembered the horrible tension there thirty or forty years ago. I remember watching the nightly riots in Belfast in the same way as I view the Middle East on the news now. Back then we saw rumbles in the streets and bombings in the ongoing conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics, an unresolved chasm from the Rising days and beyond. We hired a guide who took us on a political tour of the section of Belfast that lived through the years of The Troubles, as that period is called. The Troubles were generated out of the fact that after 1916 the island had been divided into the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland which remained part of Great Britain. Our guide had been a teenager during The Troubles thirty years ago and he told us his job was to make petrol bombs. The area involved in The Troubles is still cordoned off, separating the Catholic and Protestant sections by walls, fences and gates that can be closed at a moment’s notice should any sign of conflict arise.   UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3358

He took us to Falls Road first and then Shankill Road  I hadn’t heard those names for a very long time but immediately it took me back to the brutal newscasts.   The time  is commemorated by murals and  memorials throughout the area.     This area was  the epicenter of the fighting that took place from the late 1960’s through to 1998. You get the impression that while things have calmed down, in no small part because of the intervention of our President Clinton in 1998 who brokered the Good Friday agreement, distrust and tension still simmer below the surface.   In fact our guide told us that a question had been on the ballot in the last election asking whether the fences, gates and other barricades should be taken down.   The answer from 78% of those voting  was a resounding “No.”

Although I was grateful for the opportunity to hear first hand about what went on here, I felt a bit guilty about touring this place that was a home to so much misery and bloodshed for so long. It is hallowed ground.   I asked our guide how the locals who still live in the Falls Road area feel about strangers coming through since it represents so much heartache for many of them. He said that it’s a place of history  to which tourists flock, and that it should be seen.    But it’s obviously  also a place that brings in revenue, as with most tourist areas, so the locals recognize that.  He did say that anyone who guides tourists through this area has agreed not to tell their clients what side they were on during The Troubles and try to give as objective and balanced view of what happened here as possible.


Signing  the Peace Wall near where President Obama signed it a few years ago

Belfast is  the city in which the Titanic was built. In the more modern part of town stands the most amazing Titanic Museum  that  upon approaching it replicates a vessel being overtaken by water.


The outside facade of the  magnificent Titanic Museum 

Inside, there are four floors of memorabilia, holograms and reproductions dedicated to the Titanic from it’s inception to interviews with actual survivors following the sinking.    There are  verbal tapes of actual survivors telling their story of how they survived.  Very powerful.
What I also found in Belfast was a city with diverse and beautiful architecture and a rousing nightlife full of energetic Irish bands and the ubiquitous pints.


The Belfast City Hall decked out for Christmas

We stayed at the Hotel Europa in Belfast which during The Troubles was the most bombed  hotel in all of Europe, having been bombed 52 times in about 30 years. Our guide actually had a picture that he showed us of the Europa in those days with the front entrance in ruins.


Walking on the Giant’s Causeway

There was so much to see and do in Northern Ireland, with not nearly enough time to do it all in the five days we were there.  We did make our way up to the Causeway Coast in County Antrim, home of the Giants’ Causeway, 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It’s Northern Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction and Ireland’s only World Heritage site. A day well spent. And thinking I was going to come home with a new tale to tell my grandkids about the mythical Irish giant, Finn McCool and his Scottish nemesis, Benandonner, little did I know that they were totally aware of the story and filled in the blanks as I excitedly told them that I was actually walked on  the causeway!

We loved our visit to Ireland and look forward to going back again.    It’s not only a  country that seems to love Americans, it’s one that is a relatively easy, fast flight from the eastern part of the U.S.  When we went in December, we were already in eastern Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, so we flew from Newark airport – a quick five and a half hour trip into Dublin!
I’d love to hear about trips that you have taken and adventures you have had!    Until next time…….



Happy New Year, everyone! It’s that annual transition time when we look at the world with new eyes, a new perspective, that time of year when everything seems once again fresh, clean and possible. Just as with that other annual event, the birthday, New Year’s Day represents new hope, an opportunity to take stock, perhaps to chart a new course.

Over the years, I have tended to be a resolution maker. “This year I will start doing this” “This year I will stop doing/being that.” I saw the year stretching out in front me and it all seemed like such a loooooong time! I have enough years under my belt now to realize that resolutions made for an entire year were often too daunting or forgotten as the first week wound down. I made futile attempts to chart the year in one big gulp based on the needs or whim of however I ended the previous year.

More recently, though,  I’ve come to realize that there are endless opportunities for change, for accomplishment, for shaking things up.  Not all “resolutions” need to take a year or a lifetime. Every day, or even every portion of a day, offers opportunities for new beginnings, continual course corrections. Had too many carbs for lunch? Make up for it that night at dinner.

So now I’ve made my 2018 list of “things” to do. It’s not a long list – pretty short actually – and imminently doable. I won’t tell you the items on my list but I can tell you that they are short term goals that should be able to be accomplished over the course of several weeks or months.  They are things I’ve been stuck on for a while. So we’ll see how I do. When (if) I complete those, I can surely come up with another list – or not!

Do you too  have some things you are looking to shake up this year?   If you do or don’t, I  wish you all good things!    Have an amazing year!

Until next time…..



As I have stated many times on this blog, I love Christmas. I love the time leading up to Christmas, the songs, the spirit, the sense that people seem, even though somewhat harried,  to be kinder, more cheerful.   I believe  the editor of the New York Sun who wrote to Virginia O’Hanlon in  1897 in response to her query in  his editorial titled “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”  Virginia’s friends had told her there was no Santa Claus.    He said, “How dreary would the world be if there was no Santa Claus…..there would be no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence…..the eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”    That’s why I always tell people that I believe in Santa.    This is the sensibility that I love in this wonderful season.      Maybe seeing the world this way is just wishful thinking on my part, especially in a year when we grasp at anything that makes the world seem better. But I truly love all the magic around Christmas.

This year we were gifted with an early Thanksgiving which usually means a more relaxed prep time for Christmas, having gained that extra week to shop, to bake, to make merry.    But my husband’s college alma mater was playing in a basketball tournament in Belfast, Ireland  this year and we decided to go  with some friends on a wonderful trip to Northern Ireland to roam around, discover this part of Ireland to which we had never been,  and then cheer on the team during that final week of November thus cutting us off from that jump start to the holidays.       It was all worth it because we enjoyed every second of our time in Ireland (minus the last five minutes of game 1 when our team lost!).   And Ireland itself was already so dressed up for Christmas that it easily fed my spirit!


The pace since our return has been non-stop. This past week, our first full week back, was filled with parties and get-togethers with friends and family, always a brilliant kick off to the season. Then this past few days were defined by  decorating, choosing our Christmas tree, gift shopping and wrapping.

We always buy our tree at the local animal farm which serves as a way to help support the work of the farm and provides us with a beautiful selection of trees and other greenery every year. While my husband and I steadfastly adhere to the tradition of a real tree, we have little patience for the actual exercise of picking it out. So our tradition is that my husband sets his stop watch as we enter the farm to see how long it takes us to pick out the centerpiece of our home decoration.    This year our search took a full 10 minutes!     Somehow through the years using this method,  we always end up with a beautiful tree that we are proud to display. Our tree this year is a balsam fir beauty which we noted is slightly larger and taller than our trees in other years.

We decorate every room of our first floor and finished basement. Every day we  finished another piece, with our tree being the last to get done.     I love the transformation of the house into a place where around every corner there is a vignette of Christmas flowers, old decorations that bring back Christmases past and loved ones now gone,  and my various Nativity scenes that remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.

I must say that  when we finished decorating the tree, I was feeling pretty good.    UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_33cbFeeling that with the tree done,  things were under control.     I gamely went out and finished my shopping,  making huge progress there too! Driving back home, so ebullient was I that I switched from MSNBC on Sirius and away from the dismal political banter and changed to the AM station that plays holdays songs 24/7! As I listened, I thought through my plan to sit leisurely that evening in our family room next to our beautiful tree and write Christmas cards.

Just then I saw that I had a message on my phone from our home security system indicating that something had set off the alarm. I called home. My husband answered. I asked him what was going on and he said, “What a mess! The tree fell over. The breaking glass set off the alarm.” Ugh! In forty years, we have never had that happen.    I’ve had friends to whom this has happened, with one of them so frustrated with the tree that he javelined it out the front door!   So on the rest of my drive home, I realized how thankful I was that there was no break-in but I  envisioned what awaited me. Broken ornaments all over the floor, the tree in tatters, water from the tree stand damaging my floor.

When I walked into my home, along with my husband there were two of our dear neighbors helping him upright the tree! UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_33cc  While it was certainly  a mess of sorts, it was far less than I had foreseen. Actually very few of my ornaments, collected over the years from friends and during our travels, were lost.  UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_33ce

The problem seemed to be that the trunk of the tree was not straight, creating the instability.      My husband and our neighbors cut off the crooked part of the trunk, which was fortunately at the bottom, and solidly  repositioned a shorter, more edited but sturdier  tree in a new larger stand that my husband ran out and bought.   So forget the cards; that night  would be for redecorating the tree.


All in all, we  were actually hindered only slightly.  The cards will wait for another day.     It could have been much  worse.   I do believe it  was partly Virginia, her letter and the editor’s wise response that got me to recognize this insignificant setback for what it was.  Relatively nothing in the scheme of things.   All’s well that ends well – now back to the magic of Christmas!





Back in June I posted a picture on Instagram of a gorgeous hydrangea bush that I saw on my walk while I was in Pennsylvania.  My hydrangea obsession of the season was to have my hydrangea bushes produce beautiful blooms like the ones they seem to turn out every season back East. I must say that this year in the midwest almost everyone I spoke with was having a banner year with their hydrangeas. No, they weren’t necessarily getting the gorgeous blue of the Pennsyvlania bush, but it was a better than average year for this flower that I love and that has eluded me for so long.

thumb_IMG_0735_1024This summer I did have some lovely lavender and bright pink  which was a huge step forward from other years! Did a few shots of Miracle Gro really do this or was this just a lucky year?   Whatever it was, it was a source of major enjoyment throughout the summer!
Now it is late autumn. My gardens are way past prime.    Perenniels have been cut back and annuals pulled.    What a few months ago was so lovingly nurtured and gave so much pleasure, is now a stub waiting for their time next year.



And the remnants of my hydrangea beauties are now a pile in my driveway, to be discarded.

Of the nine trees in our yard, I have a very large maple tree in my front lawn, too big for my taste now, but a beautfiul tree nontheless. I marveled at the fact that this tree in addition to other trees in our neighborhood and all over town had kept their leaves much longer this year.  The foliage also maintained  a brilliant green color way into fall than I thought was evident in previous years. It may have been a result of a very warm September and October. Whatever did it, the other day I went outside and seemingly overnight I was met by a thick blanket of leaves begging to be raked. I know that the gardening gurus say that raking is unnecessary and even counter-productive. But given the depth of the blanket, I felt (perhaps incorrectly) that this could not be good for the lawn long term, particularly since there were many more leaves still waiting to fall. thumb_IMG_1541_1024Generally our lawn service crunches up leaves as they cut the grass every week. But now it was November. Typically they stop cutting at the end of October, further proof that we were about two weeks late in our falling leaves. So just with the leaves under that tree, I raked together 7 lawn bags of refuse that afternoon. The next day there was a new blanket of leaves that had fallen. But what was that sound I heard? It was indeed our lawn service still cutting our grass and mulching up our leaves!
And yet nature always evolves in such a way that there is beauty still in our yard – the turning colors of our azaleas and hostas make me so happy as I look out on them!   To everything there is indeed a season.C584A0A5-708E-4811-A6A1-CFA530E464F4
With my leaves now rotting and nurturing my lawn, bushes and trees for spring, my mind is turning to the holidays. My friend’s blog (ivy&ironstone.com) was recently posted and I am adding my own response to her question about when to decorate for Christmas. There is of course the argument that with all the work involved in decorating, why not get it up and leave it up for as long as possible. I am such a purist, though,  that I love the magic of turning on the Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving, but not before. My feeling is that this gives each holiday its due. The decorating is a sort of announcement that the time of year has come for joy and peace. And this was a year and a time that surely can use an infusion of joy and peace.

It is as usual a very busy time. This year, however, we have already begun to test our strands of light  and my husband has already put them on the bushes  because we will be in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving this year and then away in Ireland the week after.  The strung lights will remain unlit until we get back home in a few weeks.   So we’ll start to sparkle a little later than usual this year.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!   One of the very many things I am so grateful for, is the ability to write this blog and enjoy so many other blogs that I follow.

Until next time……





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We have long been in an era of holidays starting earlier and earlier: Valentine’s day advertising will start very soon, Christmas trees go up in stores in late August alongside Halloween decoration displays.    And along with the very early, elongated promotion, every holiday seems to have gotten much BIGGER in every way, taking on even greater and greater significance.    Every holiday is more of an event than the year before – more parties, elaborate mechanized decorating inside and outside the home, more gifts for every occasion (I’m guilty here!).
I’m not necessarily criticizing,  by the way!  I fully recognize my lifelong take on Christmas, for example,  could be considered over the top by some.  My total love of the Christmas season has been documented in past blogs   CHRISTMAS EVE. I will go to almost any length for  food, decorations, gifts and celebrations at Christmastime!DECK THE HALLS!

I’m  similarly crazy about Thanksgiving and love a large family dinner.  I also love a good fireworks display as much as the next guy!


9BBD3B81-F73A-49CC-979F-1E971383C8E7But Halloween, no matter how much marketing surrounds it, has somehow escaped me. Even as a child, I half-heartedly went along with getting dressed up in a costume of my own invention but didn’t put a lot of thought into it. I participated more as a social thing with my friends rather than really digging in  and creatively putting together the best costume possible.       I also never quite  got the concept of going to strangers’ doors for candy.   I know, every party has a pooper, that’s why you invited me – sorry, just never been a huge fan!

 But I’m also  not really as much of a crank about it as I’m coming off.   I do have a nodding history with Halloween.    Once in about fifth grade I was a “glamour girl” with tight leopard skin pants (where did I find those?), I recall even an off-the-shoulder top and actual high heels.   In retrospect, it seems just a tad risqué to flaunt in the faces of 1950’s nuns.   But the nuns and my parents apparently didn’t mind:   there wasn’t much there to flaunt making this pretty tame by today’s standards.         By high school it was the mid-Sixties and I went to a Halloween dance as a 1920’s Flapper, fringed dress (made by my friend’s mother) feather headdress and all.   Other years I may have been just  a run of the mill hobo.  And we’ve had Halloween parties in our current neighborhood that have been a ton of fun but most of them involved wearing regular  street clothes and carving pumpkins. Another year there was an actual costume party in the neighborhood and we went dressed up but neither my husband nor I  can remember what/who we were.       When my son was little, I gladly put together a costume for him  (although nothing terribly original) and we went  trick or treating but I never  really got into it as much as the media hype said I should.

Halloween is now  an event that has become the kickoff to the other holidays leading up to the end of the year.    Along with pumpkins, mums and ghosts, houses are now festooned with orange lights; skeletons dancing in the windows of upstairs bedrooms (a very cool display in the window of a neighbor that is mesmerizing as you drive by), there’s a Halloween card for everyone on your list, front lawns are pretend cemeteries.    A lot more effort is put into it than when I was a kid.      And again, a lot of it is  pretty cool.

My son, daughter-in-law and grandkids live in Chicago and their immediate and  extended neighborhoods comprise the epicenter for all things spooky, inventive and fun!     I have to say that their goings-on and the exuberance of our grandkids  have shown me how  much fun Halloween really can be! The streets are closed off to traffic around their homes; EVERYONE – kids, parents, grandparents – is in costume; families are out in the street going from home to home; people hand out candy and snacks to revelers; it’s a giant party! I’ve even seen a house or two  or ten where grown ups share adult beverages rather than candy! Everyone is in a great mood! It doesn’t feel like forced fun – it’s real fun!

Before my retirement, I always went into the city directly from my office so I didn’t wear a costume. I’m well aware, no excuse! I could have brought a costume with me to change into, right?  My hand is now slapping my forehead!

I’ve been going into Chicago from the ‘burbs for Halloween for the past eight or nine years, since my grandkids were born, watching them dress in  increasingly impressive costumes.   No run-of-the-mill hobo, witch or ghost for them!!   There was  the time my grandson went as a musk ox during his horned animal phase, or as a construction truck during his construction phase!  Or my granddaughter as a hot air balloon.  I thoroughly enjoyed every costume they’ve had.

My role was one of accompanying  the grandkids trick or treating or handing out candy at their house. But each year, I was aware that I was drawn into the spirit of the whole celebration more and more. Last year I actually put on a semi-elaborate mask while most of the rest of the family dressed as members of the Addams Family or Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Watson.    thumb_IMG_1276_1024

I so enjoyed the Addams Family that I became inspired to participate fully this year.    As my grandson told me what this year’s theme is and asked me what I would like to be within that theme, I came to the conclusion that it’s not Halloween about which I’ve been so tepid.   It’s the thought required to come up with  a theme.   If someone does that thinking for me and presents me with the concept, I can completely rise to the occasion and join in.   So over this past month I have been gathering up the pieces of the costumes that both my husband and I will wear! He and I will be full-on characters  costumed in this year’s family group theme! Look for pictures on Instragram and Facebook on October 31! In the meantime, enjoy!   Happy Halloween, everyone!
And get those Valentine’s decorations up – you’re late!

See you soon…..