Archive for May, 2010

A Hallmark Moment . . .

.  .  .  or, when you care enough to send your very best!

When we approached our first wedding anniversary, lo those many years ago, we made a pact to not do gifts. With the exception of those milestone years, and we have had a few, we have kept to this agreement. We have taken a few anniversary weekend trips, and marked a few with a piece of furniture or a tree, but, mostly, a card to open and a nice dinner out are enough to fill our hearts.

Today is our anniversary. I am happy to say that we have had 37 years.

Wherever did the time go and how blessed we are to have had them.

This morning, we shared our cards,

and, as we each opened our envelope, we started to chuckle.

Happy Anniversary, Tom!

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Leaving the nest

The baby robins have flown the coop!

Our little nesters up and flew away before we had a chance to capture them in a good picture, or to even say goodbye. Suddenly, it was quiet, and they just weren’t there. Such is the way with nature and robins and growing up and leaving home. Mrs. Robin and her nestlings were very good tenants. I must admit, they were very clean and not too noisy. In fact, they made our lives here on the cutoff just a wee bit nicer. The screen door didn’t slam, we remembered to look up a little more, and we spent a considerable amount of time huddled at our door, hugging and watching.

This is last year’s brood, nestled in the crook of dead tree off of the driveway. I had a little fun last year, watching them hop around, trying to figure out their world.

How about you and your nests?

Anyone flown the coop lately?

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The Cape Ann

Book cover of Gardenias by Faith Sullivan

I had forgotten the book Gardenias by Faith Sullivan. It had been sitting on upon shelf for some time. I do that. I have books that lounge about on shelves and piles, patiently, sitting in abeyance, waiting for me to call on them whenever I am ready. Several months ago, I wrote a post about a gardenia Sharon had given me. In the act of writing the post, I remembered the book, which is a sequel to another by Sullivan, The Cape Ann.

Perhaps I should begin at the beginning.

Some years ago, a wonderful woman I worked with recommended a book to me. Esther and I often talked about books. She loved anything about Abraham Lincoln, a good mystery, and a good “read” brought words of praise. The Cape Ann came with the highest regards from Esther. I read it and I loved it, later recommending it to our book discussion group, which engaged in a hearty conversation.

The Cape Ann stayed with me through the years, though I could not remember the ending as easily as the story in its telling. It is about a six year old girl, Lark, during the 30’s. Lark and her parents live in a makeshift room in the train depot in Harvester, MN. Though six years old, Lark still sleeps in a crib. Her father is the assistant station manager at the depot. He also gambles away their meager savings, making life difficult for all.

Lark and her mother, Arlene, dream of building a house someday. A charming model Lark keeps a a picture of called the Cape Ann.

The story has stayed with me all these years and I was excited when first I saw Gardenias in a book store. I located it, nestled in between some other books that caught my attention or came on good recommendation, and it soon filled my hands and my imagination.

I just finished Gardenias. I loved it!

The story picks up with Lark, her mother, and her Aunt Betty on a train leaving from Minnesota a month after Pearl Harbor, heading west for San Diego. Both women present themselves as widows at first, then settle in, employed in war jobs and renting a small house in the “project” where they eventually meet and make friends with neighbors. All have secrets and all are  escaping from someone or something. Lark is the center of it all.

In fact, Lark is the narrator. Gardenias is enjoyable even if you haven’t read The Cape Ann (though I would suggest reading that one first). Sullivan takes you along and then, just when you are starting to feel comfortable, something profound happens. It made me laugh and it made me cry. It made me angry and it kept my attention until the very end. It also left me longing for another for more.

Have you read anything great lately?

The cover of The Cape Ann is a painting by Edward Hopper.

Book cover of The Cape Ann by Faith Sullivan.

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There is a wonderful garden center in our area called The Growing Place. It is nestled in among the trees so that if you don’t know exactly where it is you are apt to drive right by it, realizing the error of your ways as you see the long line of cars getting in and out. It is well worth the turnaround – and the long line.

I did not know until today how beautiful she was. The Yellow Rose of Texas.

Eager to start planting annuals and on a mission to select a tree, we headed out to The Growing Place Sunday afternoon. Going to the Growing Place is like going on a field trip. It was one of the first gardening establishments in the area to plant “learning gardens” where plants they sell are actually grown. Through any season, one can stroll through an English garden, a prairie garden, or a shade garden, all in the same trip, and get a feel for how and what to plant.

The Growing Place distributes a wonderful and free garden guide each year of close to 200 pages that lists everything in their inventory with a description and growing needs. For me, and many of my gardening friends, the guide is a gardening tool, kept in the trunk of the car along with the plastic sheets to protect the carpets and a few boxes to contain the purchases that, no matter how hard I try to be good, manage to find their way home.

I could go on and on, extolling the virtues of this garden center. In truth, it is one of many wonderful ones in the area that my car just seems to veer toward from May to September. It remains one of my favorites.

On Sunday, a new reason to visit blossomed before my very eyes!

Click on to get a better idea of how large this rose is.

I don’t know how the rose managed to elude me all these years. I suppose I was never around at its peak blooming time. Pulling in to the long, narrow drive leading to the grassy arena where overflow traffic parks at the height of the gardening season, this magnificent yellow rose was holding court. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and pay homage to her.

There I was, getting up close and personal, oohing and aahing as slow moving cars filled with all sorts of horticultural delights were trying to avoid hitting me. I just couldn’t help myself. I bent down and carefully brought a blossom to my nose, slowly closing my eyes to better capture her scent.

The Yellow Rose of Texas! She grows in zone 5. Rosa ‘Harrison’s Yellow’. It is a Scotch Shrub Rose and was carried by pioneers from the east along the Oregon Trial.

Rosa 'Harrison's Yellow'. 1830

By the time we wandered back to the rose section of The Growing Place, Harrison’s Yellow was sold out. It was for the best. I need to plan exactly where I want to plant it – and how to keep the deer at bay. It is good to wait for things, don’t you agree?

There is a great deal of history surrounding Harrison’s Yellow, how it got to Texas, and the song. I’ll leave it up to you to discover on your own. Me? I’m just going to sit here for a while, close my eyes, and remember the lovely scent.

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Have you ever noticed that when a car alarm goes off no one is alarmed or comes to help?  How about a fire alarm? Schools, of course comply, but, have you ever been in a department store when one goes off?

A few years ago I was shopping in Oak Brook when Macy’s was still Marshall Field’s. I was looking for a wedding gift when the fire alarm went off. Shoppers looked around, shrugged their shoulders, and kept shopping. After a few minutes, an announcement came on to vacate the building, and still, folks lagged behind, finished their purchases, or continued to browse. That day there really was a small kitchen fire.

Last Friday, the Moonies met at a local Elmhurst coffee shop, Elijah’s, for coffee and chitchat. We do that, though not as often as we used to. Time, the economy, whatever . . . we still manage to meet up when we can. There we were, about seven of us, carrying on two or three separate conversations, weaving in and out of each other’s dialogue, as well as other patrons, the grind of the espresso maker and the laughter of people winding down after a long week, when the fire alarm went off. We all looked at each other as if we had never heard it before. Mind you, most of us were educators or otherwise spent a great deal of time in buildings where fire alarm procedures were visible and strictly adhered to.

We finally decided we should leave the building. Purses and lattes and mochas in hand, single filing out the door like the obedient girls we were, we congregated on the sidewalk where other tenants of the strip mall were also emerging, squad cars and fire engines wailing in the distance, each of us still talking; to each other, other tenants, the fire and police department.

Coffee time is serious business.

Fortunately, there was no fire, the premises were checked, the all clear brought us all back in and we didn’t miss a beat.

As I was driving home, I got to thinking that maybe in a few years we should form a coffee chorus. You know, something like the Young at Heart Chorus. Click on below and catch a few bars from YouTube.

How about it, girls?

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Fairy tales

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

C. S. Lewis

“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you are young at heart.”

So sings the song by Carolyn Leigh and Johnny Richards. This little dear has

been reading in my garden for

some time now. I love her fairy wings and little feet and that she was given to

me by a very dear friend.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?

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http://www.cksinfo.com/.../ piggybanks/piggy-bank.png

I had four errands to run; take my change to the bank, stop at Borders, pick up dishwasher detergent, and get some digital photos developed. It should have only taken an hour. It took three.

Kezzie’s pictures were last . While they were printing, I bought the detergent. No big deal. I needed a no big deal by then (Besides, I got to look at Kezzie in a new pose. Do you have any idea how wrinkled a photo gets when you hug it too much?)

Border’s was easy. I was returning a book purchased for a present that I decided not to use. I had a 33% off coupon and ended up getting almost $2 back. Not bad.

The bank, well, that was another story. I have a basket that I toss loose change in. Pennies, quarters, whatever falls on the bottom of my purse, gets quickly slipped into my coat pockets, or fills my wallet.

The bank has a coin counting machine, free to bank patrons. The gals at the bank know me and always greet me. As I got out of my car, a man in a suit got out of his. He got to the door before me. It was locked. He wasn’t happy. I told him to ring the doorbell. This branch, in an affluent suburb, was recently robbed. They keep it locked. The bell was rung and the door was opened by an official looking employee in a vested suit. One suit looked at the other suit, then looked at me – Jemima Puddle-Duck. I don’t suppose either suit has encountered many women in yellow rain slickers and flapping sandals waddling in with a Longaberger basket filled with loose change. I glanced at the machine.

Jemima Puddle-Duck and a "suit" off to do some banking. Beatrix Potter

Out of Order!

The bank suit directed me to the next closest branch, which wasn’t far but took me out of my way. Out I waddled, my container getting heavier by the minute, change sloshing around, intent on getting to the next installment.

This facility is on the corner of a road less traveled. It in a residential area of large lots, big houses and lots of trees. Landscapers were mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes. I parked my car and passed a large garage door, strange for a bank, and rounded the corner past a woman employing an ATM. I waddled into the lobby, saw three women in line, one teller, and the coin counting machine.

In went my coins, on went the counter, tick, tick, ticking as it kept a computerized tally of all the money it was digesting. Bam! It stopped. Overfed? A bell started chiming, a screen started flashing, and heads started turning. The teller looked over, but couldn’t find whatever she needed for patron number 1. Number 2 and 3 were alternately checking their watches and looking over at me, my empty basket, yellow rain slicker and the annoying bell. After about 10 minutes, the bank cleared out.

My first moment of discomfort was when the bell went off and I realized there were five women alone in a bank in a somewhat remote area. My second moment of discomfort was when the women left and there was just the frazzled teller and me alone in a bank.

I now know how to open a change counter. I know that there are lots of bags underneath filled with coins. The bags are heavy. I know this because the teller, on bended knees, finally figured out which one was filled (the last bag, of course). She pulled it out just as another teller finally appeared. They both had trouble carrying it. It was bigger than a sack of potatoes. I would guess there was at least $500 in the one bag. There was no security guard visible.

The coin sorting machine once again started tick, tick, ticking, my receipt emerged, I gathered my crisp bills and left, holding my empty basket with trembling hands, realizing that if someone was wicked or desperate or daring, there was a perfect storm of larceny to be had at this little branch of a very big chain of banks.

I was relieved as I drove down our little road, errands finally done. I drove past the pond, now overflowing from the rains. There, waddling around, much like my earlier self, was the mother mallard, her mate – and eight little ducklings, out for an afternoon swim.

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I like to wander our property at dusk. The sky starts to fade, birds are trilling their lullabies, and cars drive a little slower,  sometimes stopping in the road for a spell. It darkens a little quicker here on the cutoff under the abundant canopy of trees.

The cars are stopping for the deer, who roam about and often cross the road unexpectedly. They have been moving about a great deal lately and there were at least eight of them in the back yard last night, eating from the grass and chasing each other as if playing a game of tag. It is fun to watch from our window ledge. I’ve spotted one resting deep into the back of the property recently in the middle of the day, her back to us, still. I find myself wondering if a fawn has arrived.

Last night, camera in hand, walking slowing, inspecting the garden beds to see what was emerging – and if anything had been taste-tested. The Brunnera are just about through showing off, after over a month of dazzling us. The tree peonies are spent after winds and rain have had their fun. The Allium are slowly opening, trying to compete with the chives. Several of the roses have buds starting to form and the clematis, ah, I have great hopes for the clematis.

All this I could see in the gradually fading light as I walked around. I spotted a few deer in the lot next door. If they saw me, they weren’t threatened and kept foraging. Then, as I started taking pictures, most of them blurred in the light. I discovered I had captured something I wasn’t seeing with my own eyes.

There are three deer in the picture, which took on an impressionistic feel, one I didn’t see until I looked back at the pictures. Can you make him out? I can’t wait until Antler Man sees next year’s sheds!

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Image from http://www.beverlymorganpark.net/search/label/Coffee a website filled with information about the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago.

There is a wonderfully old and magnificent tree lined neighborhood on Chicago’s southside called Beverly. Our long-time friends Cathy and Bill live in one of its houses where they raised their daughters, created a business while maintaining careers and made improvements on their home over the years. It has been a pleasure to watch their children grow up along with our own and to watch their neighborhood regain its old glory in the process.

Cathy had a baby shower for her older daughter this past Saturday, and I was privileged to be invited.  Our dear friend Vickie was also invited, which gave me double pleasure as we caught up on husbands and kids, books and grandchildren while sharing in the excitement of a new baby.

I feel fortunate that Tom and I have friends that have been a part of our lives for as long as we have been married. We have new friends, too, but on Saturday, it was these long paved connections that touched me. These are the friends that we had as we were starting out in our life together. We all began raising our families at the same time. We have buried parents, bolstered each other through the joys and challenges of raising children, danced through weddings and now we are becoming grandparents.

It wasn’t a long drive to Beverly, but it did involve an interstate and then a busy thoroughfare through southern suburbs and Chicago. I had always known that Beverly had some old and magnificent home on hilly tree-lined streets, but, on Saturday,  looking for Favia Cafe & Sweet Shop, I found myself on streets I had not yet climbed. Beverly, it seems, is the tallest neighborhood in Chicago. It also has many an Irish pub and, until just this year, was home to the Southside Irish Parade. It was fun to briefly explore parts of the area that were different than the ones already known.

Neighborhoods and life are like that, aren’t they? We wander the same paths, stop at the same stop signs, mosey down the same streets. Sometimes we need to veer off of the path, see what else is there, look at what we know from a different angle.

After some extra turns along unfamiliar streets, my GPS brought me, unexpectedly, to the door of Favia’s in Beverly. A shop nestled into a neighborhood and off I went, gift in hand, eager to take part in the start of a new life, a new generation, all while enjoying old friends, good food, a few laughs and new perspectives.

How about you? Have you ventured down a new path lately?

The Beverly home of Rotary International founder, Paul Harris. Image from http://www.paulharrishome.org/photos/today.htm

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Sunlit beauties

I’m just a tad busy these days with not much time for wordsmithing, so, I thought maybe a quick tour of the tree peonies late in the afternoon might just be enough today. In spite of the damage wrought by our wandering deer population, these beauties have managed to put on a pretty dazzling display this year.

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