Rose Cottage

0688155847Sometimes, the best summer read doesn’t mean the latest best seller. It isn’t the glossy beach read at the checkout aisle of the grocer’s or the week’s  best picks from the Sunday paper. Sometimes, the best summer read is hiding in the library’s stacks, featured on a special shelf in a library, or on your own bookshelf - just waiting to be discovered.

I have been meaning to read something of Mary Stewart’s since learning of her recent passing in May. Although I have seen some of the movies that were made from her books, especially The Moon-spinners (did you go through a Hayley Mill’s phase when you were young?), I am sorry to say that I had never read anything by Mary Stewart – until now, that is.

“Rose Cottage” was displayed with a few other Mary Stewart books on top of a shelf highlighting recently deceased authors at the La Grange library. I already had four books, three magazines and an audiobook in my arms, but, how could I resist this cover? Of course, I couldn’t, and it came home with me, where it languished on my bedside table until one day last week.

I was “down for the count” with a bit of an upper respiratory bug, had just finished “Those Who Save Us”, by Jenna Blum, and I needed something a little lighter to read. It was obviously time to visit Rose Cottage.

From the very first paragraph, I was quietly drawn in to the post WWII English countryside. This is a gentle mystery as Kathy Welland, now the war widow Kate Herrick, goes home to Rose Cottage to clear out a few of her grandmother’s things from the home Kathy grew up in. Specifically, Gran wants the contents of small box in the hidey spot, papered over near the fireplace.

Kathy is welcomed back to the village with open arms and is instantly surrounded by warm comforts of home. She quickly realizes, however, that someone has been inside the cottage when she finds the box, but not the key. Once pried open, the box is empty. The ladies from the “Witches Corner” have their own opinions on what has occurred, and Kathy gets help from Davey, a childhood friend.  Long held secrets of Kathy’s missing mother are eventually revealed as the story unfolds much like the petals on the old rambling roses in the quiet English countryside.

“Rose Cottage” was a soothing balm for my weary, cough-wracked body and just what I needed to while away the time spent on the couch, looking out at the last of the summer rose blooms. I have learned that this was written later in Mary Stewart’s life. Not considered her best, it was the best one for me at this juncture.

Have you read Mary Stewart? Do you have a favorite to suggest?



I’m so excited

Can you see it?




Now can you see it? Click on the photo.


This is one of five caterpillars I could see, ferociously eating a leaf of the milkweed plant. It was eating in a circle, munching and lunching and doing it’s “thing”. I was so excited to see them, a mature Monarch flitting nearby, stopping to sip on the nectar of the flowers atop the milkweed.

Last year, I counted one. One Monarch butterfly. Only one Monarch all summer long in my garden. To see these beautiful insects eating away on their host plant in front of my eyes was exciting. It gave me hope – and it gave me courage. Maybe, just maybe, one by one, little steps, like planting milkweed, that citizen scientists like you and like me can do will help save the Monarch.

Let’s at least try. Okay?



Water does

DSCN5211“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

Oddly enough, or maybe just so, as I was mating Margaret Atwood’s words to my photo, the news came to me that Elaine Stritch had passed way. I gasped. It was as if the water, the words, and the woman were one.

I took this photo at day’s end, about a week ago, while walking the path at the pond in the Dean Nature Sanctuary. I was at the water’s edge, in those ethereal moments of light so bright that they make even color evaporate.

What a remarkable talent Elaine Stritch was – and how brilliantly she flowed through life.


DSCN4807One of the garden stops I did not get to visit on Sunday’s Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire was the Elmhurst Park Conservatory. This historic building had been closed this past winter for refurbishing. It reopened this spring, but, months before that, the garden club and park district agreed that it would be an excellent feature for this year’s event and was included as a garden stop along with the six private gardens.

DSCN4814The original greenhouse dates to 1868, followed by the conservatory in 1923. The conservatory was the Elmhurst Park District’s first capital project. The greenhouse, and a subsequent greenhouse following the 1868 building, were improved upon by owners of the estate over the years. The estate’s home eventually became the Elmhurst Public Library, which is now the renowned Wilder Mansion. The Mansion is where our garden club holds its meetings and where Garden Walk visitors can buy refreshments and floral arrangements on the day of the walk. It is also the venue of other clubs’  meetings, wedding receptions, art exhibits, and a host of other events. It is a sparkling treasure in the suburbs and a stellar example of how communities truly can save their historic buildings and put them to good use.


A little tidbit that has drawn some attention lately is that the estate was briefly owned by none other than Mrs. Henry Gordon Selfridge.

While I wasn’t able to slip inside this favorite spot of mine this past Sunday, I did visit one early June afternoon. The plants had recently been watered, giving the conservatory an even more tropical atmosphere. There is nothing quite like stepping into a conservatory and smelling the distinctive aura of chlorophyl and new growth. It is rejuvenating; as it was on the day I took these photos.



A trio of tourists were the only other visitors at the time. They were enjoying the beauty and serenity of the conservatory, and were a little curious of what I was taking pictures of. You see, there was a generous  donation of a kaleidoscope by the family of a long time supporter and Board Member of the Elmhurst Park District. The kaleidoscope is a wondrous tool for seeing tropical plants and is very child friendly. Actually, the child in me was busy taking pictures of what the kaleidoscope was seeing, and the trio wondered what I was doing. I explained and invited them to take a look. Oh, the oohs and ahhs as they saw for themselves the beauty and breath of colors beneath them. They left, then, so did I, but, just as I was backing out of my space, I noticed one to the trio, camera in hand, was going back inside. Wonder what he was up to?

DSCN4835 DSCN4837 DSCN4804

The clouds lifted

The garden gods DID smile down upon us, and the day dawned with promise. An overcast sky allowed homeowners to open their gates and vendors to unload their wares without theDSCN5318 heat of the sun beating down. Later, the clouds lifted, the sun came out, the humidity dropped and it was a most excellent day for a garden walk.

The ladies of the club, the Elmhurst Garden Club that is, and their sons, daughters, husbands, nephews and friends arrived to help, bring coffee, set up welcoming ticket tables at the featured gardens  (and decorate them with flowers and hard candy). Area organizations volunteer at these entry tables. Scholarship winners were available in Wilder Mansion where members were available and where many of members brought floral arrangements they crafted for sale. Isn’t it amazing how a vase of flowers can bring a smile to one’s face?

All-in-all, it was a delightful affair – our Afternoon in the Garden. Please, come with me, through the garden gate, and see a bit of what I saw along the way – and please accept my gratitude for all your well wishes. :)



An Afternoon in the Garden

DSCN5025I wanted to write a nice, long, tantalizing post about our upcoming garden walk on Sunday. Unfortunately, with the torrential rains we’ve had this weekend, we find that the arrangement of the park for the vendors’ stalls needed to change drastically early Saturday morning – and we couldn’t do much because it was pouring down hard, with at least two more fronts predicted to come in during the day, and more overnight. So, I’ve been working, trying to rearrange vendors, who are used to being under the shade of  stately elms and oaks in historic Wilder Park. The park, especially under the trees, is sodden, which can become slippery, dangerous, and which could be damaging to artwork.  The plan just had had to be rearranged with no idea what the park will be like on Sunday morning. It’s rather like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, as the adage goes.

All will be, for the garden gods manage to smile down upon us each year, but, just in case they are as tired of the rain as the rest of us, would you mind sending some good thoughts our way. You see, the money we make from the walk goes toward scholarships.

Last year, we award $12,000 in college scholarships as well as donations to local endeavors and we were able to send funds to help replant trees in tornado ravaged Washington, Illinois. Not bad work for a small band of women with dirt under their nails.

The six private gardens are lush and inviting and it would be such a shame for the homeowners to not be able to open their garden gates. I wish you could all see them. Two are historic homes with gardens that reflect their history and the good earth stewardship of their owners. One is a new house, superbly landscaped, with a lived-in feel. A bachelor has a remarkable oasis on a small lot, and, well, I could go on and on, dear reader, but, I hear thunder rumbling in the distance and the wind is kicking up, so, I best be getting back to my list.

Here’s hoping the sun dries up all the rain tomorrow. I’ll try to take some pictures.

If you are in the Chicagoland area, you can still buy tickets and get information at http://www.elmhurstgardenwalk.com

Here’s Ezra


Here’s Ezra, out on the grassy knoll, having a fun time running around the back acreage, getting all sweaty and exploring our simple life on the Cutoff with his big sister, Kezzie, and cousins Jake and Scott (who shared a great big bag of Thomas the Train and all of Thomas’ friends). The camera “caught” our young lad rounding the wildlife habitat. 



What a busy, long weekend was had; decorating a cake for Papa’s birthday with Auntie Jenny, and “funning” around the backyard,




and taking a walk at Lake Katherine, then visiting the Plush Horse for big scoops of ice cream. Kezzie shared a small table with another little lass while Ezra dipped into ice cream for the very first time.


All-in-all, ’twas just plain old fashioned enjoyment with family gathered together, here on the Cutoff.

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