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DAFFODILA house with daffodils in it is a house lit up, whether or no the sun be shining outside. . .

A. A. Milne

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It is, however, nice, very nice indeed when the sun IS shining outside. Don’t you agree?

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I find joy in ordinary days; days where the water slowly laps the shore and ancient tree roots step out to welcome it. The ordinary days that remind us to seek the sunshine and to tread softly on our good earth.

Though the air had warmed and the sun was shining, the ground on Saturday was still saturated from the recent rains. With the last of the Autumn leaves still on the flower beds, I need to bide my time before exposing the tender shoots emerging. The heartier plants are poking through, but, under the leafy cover are hostas and poppies, daisies and lilies-of-the-valley. They must be slowly unveiled, for frost can still nip their noses, while the wandering herd of deer consider them appetizers after the long, hard winter.

So, it is. My garden work grows slowly; a plot here, then there, the beds gently uncovered then sprayed to deter the deer.  I have tentatively started to rake winter away, but, on Saturday, it was slow going in the sodden garden. I just needed to be outdoors. My car seemed to know this and steered me toward the Morton Arboretum, which was busy but not overly crowded, especially for a Saturday morning in spring. Like Golidlock’s porridge, it was just right.

It was my lucky, ordinary day.

An ordinary day, for sunning on a log, watching shadows grow.

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and preening on the shore after a dip in the cool lake.

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I saw the first bee looking for sweet nectar

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while a majestic lady, starting her bloom, wore a dress with white blossoms while her slip of Scilla reflected the pristine sky.

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All once upon a time; on an ordinary day, looking for those angel rays of hope on the tips of daffodils.

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Do you have ordinary days?

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Calm

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Just taking some time to smell the flowers. 

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DSCN7733Something white caught my eye.  There they were, a generous mass of springtime, clustered on the ground as we were leaving Brookfield Zoo on Wednesday; snowdrops – and not the cold, wet, flakey kind!

The trees are starting to bud. The grass is greening. My daffodils are inching forward and many are showing plump, yellow tips. Best of all, there is a full chorus of spring peepers down the road in the little pond.

A walk in the Little Red Schoolhouse Woods had this little miss swinging her coat like a kite and her shadow skipping along the path,

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and this young lad hugged his Papa for a long, long while and then he explored the nature center.

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Today we will color Easter eggs and perhaps watch trains go by, as our Ezra really loves trains, and we will have some quiet moments as we reflect upon the gift of Easter.

Peace and  blessings to each of you.

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I just ate a book.

IMG_7116Well, I didn’t really eat it; it was more of a pleasurable chew on a good book.

Robin Mather’s book, “The Feast Nearby”,  had been napping on my bedside pile for so long that I wondered if it had  started to ripen. It is one of those books whose cover called to me in the gift shop at the Morton Arboretum. Actually, it called to me on several occasions until I finally gave in to temptation, figuring it had fewer calories than a bar of chocolate. (I can rationalize anything, especially a good looking book.) I plucked it up and brought it home, where it languished, as books often do. It even posed for a photo shoot once before.

After a very busy week, I was ready to slow down a bit and take a bite into Mather’s book, which I did in three delectable sittings.

The full title of Robin Mather’s book is “The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, eating locally (all on forty dollars a week).  A mouthful. Just typing it makes me hungry.

Robin Mather’s book is about her personal journey of discovery after simultaneously losing her job as a food reporter for the Chicago Tribune during the cutbacks a few years ago and her husband asking for a divorce.  A native of Michigan, she returns to their small cabin on Stewart Lake in Western Michigan, with Boon, her dog, and Pippin her parrot, determined to live locally on $40 a week, which she chronicles engagingly in her essays.

“The Feast Nearby” is just that; a book filled with the nourishment close at hand. It is of personal stories about fireflies and cheese, chooks and coffee production, with insightful information on eating locally, canning and preserving, bartering and knitting. Robin Mather writes in  a humorous, friendly, conversational style; one that invites the reader in for a cup of coffee whose beans were roasted in her own kitchen, laced with real cream that she has skimmed from the top of milk.  It is not preachy, nor did it leave me intoning mea culpa over what I purchase or eat. Instead, “The Feast Nearby” invited me, and will you as well, to explore the foods and the services that are closest to us and our tables.

This book is a written invitation to become a locavore.

The bonus? Dozens of recipes for real strawberry shortcake, homemade yogurt and cottage cheese, canning techniques, hunting for morels and finding the best bramble patches. Why, there is even a recipe for knitting a snug cap, which Mather does for Wally, a friendly neighbor who buzzes about the lake helping his neighbors, except in winter when he is busy ice fishing, hence the newly knit hat.

To add to the pleasure of easy, nutritious, recipes with what one has on hand (or in pantry), there is a wonderful conversion chart in the back. I now have an easy find, right where my bookmark is, to convert the recipes of my blogging friends from around the world who tempt me with their delectables.

To say that “The Feast Nearby” is a gentle read would only be half the reason to open this book. It is also a cookbook that follows the midwestern seasons. One does not need to live in the midwest, however, to know the value and pleasure of eating what is growing nearby and of putting up, away, or by for the lean months – or how gazpacho really is better for the palate and the body on simmering, hot days.

A gentle read.  A user-friendly cookbook.  A dash of humor and a dusting of hope. What more can be had from “The Feast Nearby”? Well, each chapter has whimsical titles, such as On snapping turtles and strawberries  or On cicadas, sweet corn, and the pleasure of a job well done. There are locals with whom Mather barters with – and befriends – and reasons for buying Jiffy Cake mixes; even though she bakes from scratch and the flour is harvested elsewhere. She buys the mixes because they are manufactured in a nearby town, providing jobs for many, which has prompted me to check labels and seek products that are manufactured closer to me.

My friends,  you will enjoy this book.

While I gorged myself on its pages in just three days, don’t be afraid to taste it for yourself, for it is a worthy grazing feast that can be picked up at any chapter and read with ease. When I get up from my easy chair, I will find a proper spot in my cooking queue for “The Feast Nearby”, sandwiched among my favorite ladies; Gladys Taber and Ina Garten, Betty Crocker’s “Kitchen Gardens” illustrated by Tasha Tudor and my 43-year-old dog-eared, gravy stained, batter spattered copy of the “Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook”.

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Bryology
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PRONUNCIATION:   (bry-OL-uh-jee)

MEANING:  noun: The branch of botany that deals with mosses, liverworts, and hornworts.

ETYMOLOGY: From Greek bryo- (moss) + -logy (study). Earliest documented use: 1863.

USAGE: “The book’s protagonist … spends most of her life practicing bryology on her father’s estate.”Maggie Caldwell; Gather No Moss; Mother Jones (San Francisco); Sep/Oct 2013.

 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bryology

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IMG_7091It was such a pleasant afternoon that we decided to take a little stroll around the Dean Nature Conservancy.

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Hello?  Anybody home?

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In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.

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At the tip of the second of the four main branches on the top photo, there is something round hanging. You should be able to see it if you click on the photo. Tom was able to close in on it with the camera. Using my “Peterson Field Guides’ Eastern Birds’ Nests” and the internet, it appears to be the nest of the red eyed vireo. From the ground, it looked like a ball of twine hanging from a branch.

I love these sweet discoveries in life. Having four seasons often affords us the opportunity to see such wonders that are bared to the naked eye when trees and bushes are stripped of leaves. The first discovery was the nest. The second was the swollen buds.

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It was warm enough to walk with fleece jackets instead of winter coats. Here we are playing with our shadows.

IMG_7070The gravel paths were without ice or snow, though it was soft stepping, and the pond was still covered in ice. We could see deer prints and dog prints, as well as rollerblade prints. All sorts of creatures walk these paths in such pleasant weather, while the tips of thistle finish their long winter’s rest and the milkweed pods are as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards.

Let the new season commence!

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