Archive for April, 2012

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.

                                                                           Beverley Nichols

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Have you ever wondered why a hall is?Did you know a hall was once a home? How did the first sofa come about and why does a fork have four tines?

From the origins of the first mousetrap, to mouse fur being used as eyebrows, Bill Bryson takes us on a  “history of the world by walking from room to room” in his trivia filled tome,  At Home: A Short History of Private LIfe. 

For our trip up north a few weeks ago, I checked out the audio version of At Home, read by the author, to keep us entertained for the 800 round trip miles we would cover. At 12 CD’s of unabridged words, we barely got half way through. It has taken me until today, with the due date looming, to finish the book.

It was worth every minute.

Whenever I head up to see our Minnesota limb of the family tree, I try to have an audio book with. The public library or Cracker Barrel always accommodate my whims, and off I go. Traveling alone brings about a different kind of “read” than when the Antler Man and I go up together. It is a fun challenge to select something we both will like. At Home proved to be just the right pick.

From Chippendale furniture to shellac, we travelled the miles, with an “aha” or “I didn’t know that” to chuckles at Bryson’s pithy remarks. We enjoyed listening together as the author took us from room to room in his Victorian manse and from century to century in any manner of things he chose to explore and expose. The drawing room and the kitchen, the stairs and the bedroom, and any number of items found in them or on them are exposed. We learned of fashions and fads, medicine and codes of conduct,  and the  good, the bad and the ugly of centuries.

My book group read Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods several years ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  When I saw At Home on the library shelf, I was certain that both Tom and I would enjoy it. It moves along at a good pace and the reader can easily skip a chapter (like the one on rats) without losing the gist of the book.

What more can I say? If you have a chance, I encourage you to read At Home: A Short History of Private Life and discover via Bill Bryson how the history of world always finds its way into our homes.

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Being fingerprinted is a little like scanning barcodes in the self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, which I used once, several years ago, with disastrous results. Hmmm, maybe that’s why my fingerprints are so murky. Seeing as I’m rather busy at the moment and without a new post, I thought you might enjoy this repeat of an earlier post.

Originally posted on Lifeonthecutoff's Blog:

1 box Cheerios

Google image

1 package toilet paper

1 cantaloupe

$2,194.96.  Priceless

I never use the self-checkouts at grocery stores. I usually have more than enough groceries in my cart and it isn’t worth the bother and, honestly, I don’t want to put anyone out of work.

No problem there. Especially after Monday’s visit to the local chain store. I ran in for a package of toilet paper and a box of cereal. The cantaloupes looked pretty good and we just can’t get enough of them in summer. Cantaloupe and cottage cheese. My summertime favorite.

I digress.

I only had three things in my cart, passed the self-check lane and made a snap decision to use one. Three items. Should be easy, I thought. Club card swiped. Bag open. Cheerios. TP. Cantaloupe. Enter code. What code? I don’t see a code. The bar code? I tried the bar code on…

View original 218 more words

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Just the facts, ma’am.

Sitting inside the police station, waiting to be fingerprinted, my feet dangling on a chair that was just a bit too high, “wanted” posters and Rules of the Road pamphlets decorating the sitting area, I thought about how much the world has changed.

The strains of the long running television series Dragnet, kept running through my head.

Dum, da, dum. Dum, da, dum, dum, DUM!

Just the facts, ma’am.

Joe Friday didn’t really say it like that, but, legend has him uttering those words, much like the line that wasn’t from Casablanca.

Play it again, Sam.

Ma’am and Sam – and me, swinging my legs on a chair, waiting to be fingerprinted.

 I wasn’t being “booked” for a heinous crime, or any other crime. I just wanted to be a good citizen and serve on my city’s beautification committee. In order to be sworn in as a committee member, a background check is required.

An officer came out, asked me politely to follow him, and I was led into the fingerprinting room. He asked why I needed to have my prints recorded and I said to be on the beautification committee.

“Are you a tree hugger, ma’am?”

“Yes, officer, I am, and my fingernails have dirt underneath them because I’ve been pulling weeds.”

“Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

Another officer would be taking my fingerprints and, are you ready?, I wouldn’t need to get my fingers dirty.

I stepped up to an interesting machine. A computer, of course. This is 2012, after all. My thumbs were put on a touch screen, and there they were. My opposing thumbprints. The picture wasn’t clear enough, though. Some sort of cream and a wipe of my hands and we tried again. Then the rest of my fingers. All ten digits and not one clear picture.

I wonder if they’ll still let me be on the committee?

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. . . go this way and that way

Go this way and that way

Have you even seen a laddie

Go this way and that?

This is a different type of peony, a dwarf peony, that blooms in early spring then dies back in midsummer from the heat. Its leaves are more reminiscent of ferns and the petals are a single row. It is blooming now in our garden, with the breezy weather we have been having making the blossoms sway, this way and that, reminding me of the childhood singing game we used to play.

It is called Laddie. Paeonia peregrina.

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Gardener’s Prayer 

by Karel Capek

O Lord, grant that in some way

it may rain every day,

Say from about midnight until three o’clock

in the morning,

But, You see, it must be gentle and warm

so that it can soak in;

Grant that at the same time it would not rain on

campion, alyssum, helianthus, lavendar, and others which

You in Your infinite wisdom know

are drought-loving plants-

I will write their names on a bit of paper

if you like-

And grant that the sun may shine

the whole day long,

But not everywhere (not, for instance, on the

gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron)

and not too much;

That there may be plenty of dew and little wind,

enough worms, no lice and snails, or mildew,

and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano

may fall from heaven.


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The Chinese tree peonies are riot of color in the front island garden. I worried and fussed over them in late winter when I discovered the deer had been at them, but they held their own council and began showing off about a week ago.

First these deep fuchsia colored buds started to show their colors, pushing their way past the thick outer covering of the bud.

Then they burst into bloom!

A companion bush with lavender blossoms is eager to enter stage right any moment.

The common peonies are just starting to show buds and will take their turn in the spotlight a little later this spring. For now, these saucer sized blooms are more than my heart can handle. I just love the slow excitement that the blooms of springtime bring.

Don’t you agree?

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Ahhhh. . . at this point in my life, all my birthdays are celebrations that I hope will continue for a long, long time.

I’ve never really thought of a dream celebration. This question is a puzzlement for me to answer, so, instead, I will tell you about the wonderful gift I received for my 60th birthday.

A few years ago, after attending several surprise 60th birthday parties, Tom and I made a pact that neither would throw a surprise party for the other. We also made it clear to our daughters and others that we did not want a party! No. None. Nada.

Since my birthday came first, it would set the stage.

I agreed to a small dinner at home with family, including my sister and her family and my cousin Ted. Jennifer, dear soul that she is, not to mention a cook extraordinaire, prepared one of my favorite dishes, pastichio. I will tell you all here and now that she makes this wonderful Greek dish better than anyone I know.

Over a fabulous dinner, we all talked and laughed, spun a few skeins of family yarn and picked up a few more as the younger generation added their threads to our collective story.

There were a few gifts, gratefully received, that I use and display and cherish.

The best gift of all, however, sits in a box.

The box is decorated with paper covered in correspondence; letters, envelopes, handwritten postcards. It was constructed by our son-in-law Jason and it sits on a shelf near my desk. I was and still am touched by the time, attention to detail, and thoughtfulness of Jason.

This is inside the box.

My birthday box is filled with letters and cards from those who are dear to me. It is abundant with good wishes and fond reminisces, some touching, some funny, all close to my heart-strings. I take off the cover every-so-often and out flies what remains a dream celebration for me.

Thank you to Sunday Taylor at Ciao Domenica for posing these questions. I’ve had fun with them Sunday, and hope others have as well as we pondered and dug deeper into who and what we are.

Thank you, dear readers. You kept coming back for more. I hope you had a little fun and some introspection with this.

So, off I go now to read anew the letters in my birthday box.

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Still learning

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would be 91 years old today.

I’ve been thinking about her lately, especially as I kneaded the bread dough on Sunday. The year before she died, she and I made Greek Easter bread together.

It was the first time I had made this cake-like bread. Ma’s hands were stiff from the rheumatoid arthritis she suffered from, so I kneaded the dough, enjoying its feel and yeasty aroma. I remember that day for many reasons; the companionship and common purpose we shared, the anticipation of family coming to our house the next day for Easter dinner, the conversation that comes when women bake together. I also remember how much the yeast rose. We were both astonished at how it grew and that we were able to get two very substantial loaves where there should have been only one.

I’ve also been thinking about my dad, who passed away 43 years ago last Thursday. Holy Thursday by the Orthodox calendar. He died on a Holy Thursday in April. Another April 12.

As I thought about the bread making and the hymn learning, I thought about other things I learned from my parents. The sit-down lessons of childhood, the practical lessons of living, and I thought of the last lesson Ma and Daddy gave me together. It was 43 years ago, in a hospital room on a bright April day. I was nineteen.

Daddy was bedridden, jaundiced and swollen with cancer. His was barely able to communicate, his voice all but gone. I was home for spring break. I spent every day at the hospital, our last time together. My mom worked as a cashier, standing on her feet six to eight hours at a time, yet she came to the hospital each day.

My parents, like most of their era, were not demonstrative with each other. They didn’t hug or embrace in our presence. Though I knew they loved and respected each other, I don’t recall more than a peck on the cheek for affection.

My dad was fidgeting that day, unable to get comfortable, in pain, his feet jerking under the bed covers. Without a word, Ma got up from her chair, pulled the sheets up off of his feet, and rubbed them. Now, my dad was never barefoot. He always wore shoes or slippers. Always. I felt a little embarrassed. A few moments passed and I felt Daddy looking at me, his eyes waiting until his and mine locked. In a raspy voice, barely over a whisper, he said to me

“See. Your mother can barely stand on her own feet, yet she is standing here rubbing mine.”

My father was still giving lessons. He was acknowledging what a caring woman my mother was, respecting her and honoring her selflessness and sacrifice. He was showing me the way to an adulthood he would never see me reach.  My mom was showing by example, though I know she never thought about it. She was just doing what she could to ease his pain and, in doing so, showing me compassion and love.

The lessons are always there, my friends.  The lessons are always there.

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I love both the countryside and the cityscape.

I love New York City and Santa Fe as much as I love country roads and small towns. If there are gardens or forests, prairies or landscapes, mountains or deserts, I find beauty in all. If there is history included, well, I’m as happy as a lark.

Most of our traveling these days are places we can drive to, most often as we trek the 400 miles up north, visiting family there. While I would love to visit my ancestors’ homelands of Greece, Sweden and Germany, Great Britain calls to me as well, as do lands and people Down Under. On and on and on I could go, but, at least for now, my wanderings will be closer to the Cutoff.

There is so much of this world I want to see, so much traveling I do in my mind when I can’t go by rail or air or automobile.

Reminiscent of Robert Frost’s poem, I like to wander the road less traveled

The pictures were taken at one of my favorite places, the Wayside Inn near Concord, MA.

How about you? City or Countryside?

(One more question left, which I’ll try to post in the next few days.)

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

From The Road not Taken by Robert Frost

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