Feeds:
Posts
Comments

While Stretching My Legs

IMG_9731I find that I need to get out to stretch my legs and ease my back on long car rides, especially if I am driving alone. The urge to move a bit and take biology breaks add extra time to the journey, but also afford an opportunity for exploring. The Wisconsin rest stops along the usual route to our Up North family are safe, clean, and often quite scenic and most have historical markers or honors to veterans. The scenery becomes more breathtaking, the terrain more varied, as the road wends northward. The trip remains just as interesting on the return route.

The weather could not have been better Tuesday as I headed south toward home. Finding myself in need of a walk, I decided to exit the interstate in Janesville and visit the Rotary Botanical Gardens there. It is a mile or so from the exit and a little piece of paradise, much of which is maintained by volunteers.

IMG_9682IMG_9684

So . . . I took a little walkabout down the paths and through the gardens, working the kinks out of my muscles and shaking the cobwebs from my brain.

IMG_9667

The flowers were in full form with a riot of color and texture and scents – and the pollinators were busy feeding from the many garden hosts.

IMG_9799IMG_9723IMG_9728

Moths and bees and butterflies flitted as if on their last fling before school starts.

IMG_9701

The gardens were just what my heart and soul needed, along with my muscles and bones. Being in nature always renews my spirit and calms my everyday worries, while giving me a chance to exhale.

I walked and sat and walked some more, wondering how the Antler Man was getting along on the Cutoff. I was thinking how encouraging it was to see so many bees and moths and butterflies when a Monarch floated by, looking for a place to rest.

IMG_9740IMG_9744

There has been fretting over the Monarchs again this year. Last year brought some hope that their numbers were on the upswing, but, this summer their numbers seem to be down and I have spotted only one on our little acreage on the Cutoff. There is an abundance of milkweed and butterfly weed and other host plants, but nary a Monarch egg nor caterpillar to be found.

The Monarch danced on the breeze and the landed on the big, green chair which is seen in the background of the photo above on the left, basking in the sun and casting shadows in the most magical of ways.

IMG_9766 - Version 2

IMG_9761IMG_9757 - Version 2IMG_9754 - Version 2

Renewed and revitalized, I walked back to the car and set to navigating the last leg of my journey home with a sense of wonder that always befalls me in among flowers and trees and God’s good earth. As I drove back toward the concrete lanes of the interstate highway, the shadows of the Monarch cast a wee bit of wonder in my mind at how this one regal member of butterfly royalty happened to find me miles and miles from home.

 

 

Where I’ve Been

Guess where I’ve been?

Tundra

Need another hint?

IMG_9537

It was heartwarming to spend time with these two youngsters, our grandest of grandchildren, while I was Up North this past week. I was lending a small hand as our son-in-law, Tom, began his recovery from surgery after an already challenging summer from an injury. I wish I could be there, still, but responsibilities on the home front necessitated my homecoming. Hopefully, enough leftovers will make up for my leaving, and some cheerful memories will linger for Kezzie and Ezra.

IMG_9576

The darling dog is Tundra, a Goldendoodle. She is the newest resident of the Up North limb of our family tree. Tundra is very sweet, becoming very big, and learning the rules of the manor – when she isn’t being silly out back, that is.

IMG_9530IMG_9531

The first night I was there, after dinner at Pieology (where I chose and enjoyed a pesto sauced pizza) we stopped at the library to return and check out more books. We left with two bags filled with books (can you imagine how much this warms my heart?) and Keziah showed me around their newly opened library. I was more than impressed by the children’s section, with books at child level, a welcoming atmosphere, and interactive manipulatives that stimulate budding imaginations.

I appreciate and admire communities that value libraries and libraries that have the foresight to evolve with changing times – daring to keeping libraries relevant and friendly places for young people while maintaining the community service of lending out books.

Speaking of books, I would like to recommend one to those of you who enjoying cooking with children. The Forest Feast for Kids is by Erin Gleeson*. Actually, I would like to recommend it to all of you. It is a fun, well illustrated, photographed, and detailed book full of vegetarian recipes for children to prepare. We gave it to Keziah for her birthday and were pleased to learn that 61qJKe+MLDL._SX366_BO1,204,203,200_she has been enjoying it. She pulled it out on the last day I was there. We snuggled and explored the book together, talking about the different recipes, like melon cake (watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew), cut and stacked to make a three-layered “cake” with yogurt in the middle. We discussed what we could make for lunch. While we were missing one or two ingredients for most of the recipes, the cookbook inspired and led us to ideas of our own of what else we could make with the ingredients at hand. Kezzie decided to make “cracker sandwiches” – and here she is with her creation.

IMG_9635

Earlier on the same day, Ezra was intently “forking” peanut butter cookie dough. He proved to be a very good sous chef.

IMG_9599

I always find it fun to be in the kitchen with children – and these two sweetie pies make food preparation extra special.

I am home, now, and I miss them already, but, it is what it is, and so goes life here on the Cutoff.

*Erin Gleeson is also the author of The Forest Floor, her earlier cookbook.

Seasonal Enterprises

IMG_9398

Roadside stands, farmers markets, seasonal enterprises – they are the heart and soul of summer in the Midwest – and probably in your neck of the  woods as well.

IMG_9409

I didn’t buy the Speciality Basil Bouquet (top photo), but, I couldn’t resist taking a picture. The arrangements look, and smell, of summer. I grow my own basil along with thyme, oregano, and sage in a whiskey barrel on our deck. I love to step outside and snip fresh herbs for our dinner, and I love slipping herbs into bouquets – or just in a jar of water for color and ease on my countertop.

IMG_9410

The bouquet of zinnias, above was from The Farm, a roadside market not far from our house. They grow their produce on two farms nearby and have a large plot in back of the barn/store where they grow flowers that they sell from the stand. The bouquets are picked and arranged each day and last for most of a week. This bouquet has strawflowers and Billy Buttons, which should also dry well for Fall arrangements.

IMG_9401 - Version 2

Last week, onions, new potatoes, zucchini and string beans were available. One glance and I knew what i would be making for dinner that night and leftovers thereafter – Greek string beans and potatoes! I used some freshly picked mint leaves from another pot on the deck and it was, I must confess, unabashedly, THE BEST Briami  I have ever made!

IMG_9408

Sweet corn is abundant now. I prefer to get corn from Farmers Markets and stands, where I know they are as locally grown and as fresh as possible, but, there are also berries, and fruit, much of which is coming in from Michigan. These yellow plums are quite sweet and juicy.

IMG_9392 - Version 2

IMG_9414

What are seasonal delights are you enjoying now?

IMG_9519

How about that!

p Martha Walter (American Impressionist, 1875–1976) Town Meeting, Brittany

Ah . . .

. . .  those conversations in the checkout lane of the grocery store, whilst crossing paths in a parking lot, picking up clothes at the cleaners, sitting on a bench in a park, checking out a library book. These random conversations brighten my days and give me pause to ponder.

Take Thursday, for instance; a red-letter day for off-the-cuff conversations.

It started at the doctor’s office in the large center for health I go to for medical care, with easy access to labs, physical therapy, procedures, etc. I have happily graduated from a B12 shot every week to once a month. I am grateful for my doctor who dug a little deeper and found a deficiency. I am  even more grateful for the remedy, not to mention my friend, Marilyn, who recommended this internist. The medical center is connected to a hospital that wraps around a substantial campus. I usually take a brisk walk when I’m there. It is amazing how many steps can be accrued, for those of us who count steps, and especially nice in winter or inclement weather.

I digress.

After my appointment, I found a chair in the hallway and sat down to turn on my cell phone and check messages. As I sat there, a man turned the corner, a big smile on his face He looked at me. He had tears in his eyes along with that big smile as he blurted out “I just have to tell someone. I am so blessed. I just found out I don’t have prostate cancer!”  He was overwhelmed with relief, an emotion I know well enough.  I got up, acknowledged his news and feelings, and we headed to the elevator, where he had kind things to say to all of the passengers riding down to the main floor. He thanked me for listening as we parted ways.

We are sometimes put in just the right place to accept others good news.

I embarked on my hospital corridor walk-about, and then stopped in the gift shop. A rather robust woman, colorfully attired, caught my eye and she said “You really look good today. Very modernly dressed. Good color on you.” Well, now, how about that! I stood a little taller, edged my shoulders back, and thanked her profusely. Such kindness from a stranger gave me a bigger boost than a B12 shot!

We are sometimes put in just the right place to accept the generosity of others.

Heading home, I needed a few things from the grocer; fruit, greens, a can of tomatoes for the evening meal; items I thought I had in the pantry, but, discovered that I did not. I pushed my cart, picking up some coffee and a loaf of Italian bread as well as the items I came for and walked to the cashiers. A young man was standing at his register with no one waiting in line, so, I altered that scene, placing my purchases on the conveyor belt. As I wrote my check (I know. I’m a dinosaur. I still write checks) I asked the young man what the date was. He told me then said he couldn’t wait until Sunday. “A special day for you?”  “Yes. My birthday and now I won’t have to bother anyone anymore“. I thought, by his looks, that he was turning 21 and looking forward to a celebratory night out. “Happy Birthday, enjoy – and you be careful” to which he retorted “Oh, I have to work on Sunday. I’m just happy I won’t have to call for a legal aged checker to ring up liquor anymore“.

We are sometimes put in just the right place to be reminded to not jump to conclusions.

How about that?

Have you had a chance conversation lately over a cup of coffee, waiting in line,

Image. Town Meeting by Martha Walter

A Walk

Walden:Oct.

Aug. 9. Wednesday. —To Boston.
“Walden” published. Elder-berries. Waxwork yellowing.

Henry David Thoreau’s journal entry of August 9, 1854

On August 9, 1854, “Walden, or Life in the Woods” was published. While not a best seller of its time, the book was favorably received and  the 2,000 published copies eventually sold. It has remained in publication since 1862. Thoreau was an early environmentalist, attune to nature and living simply. “Walden” continues to be a source of inspiration and Thoreau is often quoted.

I have posted the photo above before in my ramblings here on the Cutoff. It was taken one crisp, sunny, perfect October day a decade or so ago. That day remains one of the best days in my life. Tom and I ordered a lunch from a deli in Concord, Massachusetts then headed to Walden Pond, where we took a long walk in the woods of Thoreau, and ate our lunch sitting on the sun-warmed stones along the pond’s shore, watching rowers and swimmers and shorebirds as we soaked in the brilliance of time and place.

I thought about Walden Pond this morning after reading of today’s anniversary of the publishing of “Walden” and found my mind, then myself, wandering in nature.

As I pulled into the parking area of Lake Katherine, my cell phone rang. It was Tom wondering if I wanted to join him at Maple Lake, where he was headed. It’s interesting how our unspoken ideas often intersect. Tom said he would meet me instead at Lake Katherine.

IMG_9324IMG_9328

I started walking around the lake, stopping to look at the beauty around me. A large congregation of ducks were taking their afternoon nap, close to the shore. I stepped a little closer, hoping not to disturb them, when something fluttered in a nearby tree.  Can you see it on the far right branch?

IMG_9344

I watched for a few minutes before it swept down, slipped amongst the ducks, then wandered to the water’s edge. It wasn’t a duck. It looked like a heron, but, was much smaller and I could see a crop of molting head feathers.

The ducks continued their nap while I inched closer to this shorebird, which reminded me of a black-crowned heron,  with long still-like legs moving slowly through the shallow water and grasses.

IMG_9353

This bird was surely a youngster, just getting his feet wet, not at all concerned with my closeness (and I was less than a yard away at times). At one point, the bird grabbed at a reed of grass and looked surprised when it didn’t budge or taste as expected.

IMG_9374IMG_9376

It walked along the edge, sometimes hidden by the tall grasses, other times perched upon a rock. A gaggle of youngsters in bright pink shirts came by, looking for clues on a summer camp adventure. A trio of men walked by, white shirts and ties loosened, taken a walk on their lunch break, wondering, I’m sure, at what I was intent on photographing.

IMG_9394

I think this is a member of the Bittern family. The photos are a bit dark, but, if you click on them they are easier to see the bird.

IMG_9400

Tom found me and we walked the mile or so around the lake, sat for a bit while he ate his lunch, enjoying the gorgeous day, before we parted, each of us having a place to be. As I drove away, I thought of Walden and Thoreau and of how his legacy of actions and words resonate even today, and I thought of his essay, “Walking”, and of a simple walk, full of discovery, in nature today.

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature . . . from “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau

Sleaving

I picked up my keys and called out to Tom.

 “I am leaving” but, he did not hear – understand me.

“What?”

“I said I’m leaving”, and commenced laughing. Poor Tom didn’t think it was funny, but, there I was, laughing; suddenly remembering the movie,  Roxanne – and I couldn’t stop laughing.

Hav you ever had one of these silly moments?

(from YouTube)

 

Paper Hearts

tumblr_nnmhcgF3sR1rms43oo1_1280

Simple Things

Paper.

Scissors.

Pencil. 

Glue. 

Simple things we didn’t have.

Simple things once taken for granted. 

Stolen. 

Bartered.

Traded.

Simple things brought great risks. 

Zlatka, page 258, “Paper Hearts” by Meg Wiviott

A book, written in poetry, just broke my heart. I closed it, felt a heaviness clutch my soul and wondered at how the human spirit can shine through the very worst of times..

I first heard of “Paper Hearts” through an interview of Meg Wiviott on El Space – The Blog of L. Marie. As with many of L. Marie’s posts, an author and book captured my attention. Based on a true story, “Paper Hearts” has been sitting on my book pile for many months – until the other day. I don’t know if it was the sad passing of Elie Wiesel, or maybe the terrors in the world right now and the unsettling political rhetoric, but, something compelled me to pick this book up and read it – and it is yet another book of this summer that I could not put down.

Told alternately in the voices of Zlatka and Fania, we follow each girl from the Pruzany and Bialystok Ghettos, into packed cattle cars to concentration camps. Auschwitz. Ravensbrück. The Malchow armament factory. Forced marches. Starvation. Fear. Atrocities. Disease. Death.

In the midst of all the despair, Zlatka does the unthinkable. She makes a small, heart shaped book, sewn together with a thread here, another one there, crafting pages that fold inward. Friends secretly pass the heart shaped pages to each other, writing birthday sentiments. Zlatka’s small creation becomes a book of birthday wishes for Fania’s twentieth birthday. Any one of these 51w829OOxIL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_things, if discovered, would be reason for execution. The little heart book unfolds to greetings, such as

When you get old, put your glasses on your nose, take this album in your hand and read my signature again, My love Fani, Mina.” 

Zlatka’s action was a remarkable act of sacrifice for a friend, as it was for each of the girls who wrote a birthday greeting to Fania. Forbidden acts punishable by death. Fania is deeply touched by her friends’ acts of caring, kindness, and creativity and doubly surprised by the birthday cake Zlatka makes, using rations of moistened bread formed into the shape of a cake. Fania carries this little book with her, also an act of defiance, keeping it hidden, close to her heart, under her flimsy dress.

“Paper Hearts” is a moving novel, based on a true story of courage in unthinkable, inhumane conditions in German concentration camp during World War II. Reading it during in real-time, when rounding up people because of their religion, ancestry, and any number of reasons, brought to me a heightened feeling concern.

 While I enjoy poetry, I will confess that I wasn’t sure how reading “Paper Hearts” in poetic form would feel. I can tell you that it feels quite comfortable and does not distract from the prose at all. I can also tell you that each and every poem, chapters in “Paper Hearts”,  stand on their own. Simple Things, quoted at the beginning of this post, is an example. This is a young adult book, but, it is a book for adults as well. I encourage you to read it, perhaps share it with a young person in your life, and never forget.

“Paper Hearts” comes with an extensive glossary and bibliography.

The real Zlatka’s testimony can be found here. Click on Solidarity.

The image above is Fania’s real birthday book, which is on display at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial and Centre. More information can be found here and here .

Image is from Simon & Schuster Canada here

Juliet Batten

Author, artist, speaker, teacher and psychotherapist

Digging for Dirt

Behind the scenes with the team at Winterbourne House and Garden

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Mike McCurry's Daily Blog

Creative information about Real Estate and Life in the Western Suburbs of Chicago

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Thoughts about writing and life

leaf and twig

where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry

mirandasnotebook

Your Guide to a Stylish Life

Apple Pie and Napalm

music lover, truth teller, homey philosophy

Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

My Chicago Botanic Garden

A blog for visitors to the Garden.

Living Designs

Circles of Life: My professional background in Foods and Nutrition (MS, Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, RDN, LDN) provides the background for my personal interests in nutrition, foods and cooking; health and wellness; environment and sustainability.

Women Making Strides

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

thekitchensgarden

farming, gardens, cows, goats, chickens, food, organic, sustainable, photography,

Middlemay Farm

Nubian Goats, Katahdin Sheep, Chickens, Ducks, Dogs and Novelist Adrienne Morris live here (with humans).

The Cottonwood Tree

Exploring the Life, Times and Literature of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Book Snob

FOR DISCERNING READERS

teacups & buttercups

An old fashioned heart

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Analysis and reflection from someone endlessly fascinated with Louisa May Alcott. Member/supporter of Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House, the Louisa May Alcott Society and the Fruitlands Museum.

breathelighter

Reducing stress one exhale at a time ...exploring Southern California and beyond

Kate Shrewsday

A thousand thousand stories

Blogging from the Bog

musings from and about our cottage in the West of Ireland

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 588 other followers