Thursday, January 31, 2008

Definite Progress

The lily of the valley pips
I dug up three weeks ago

and shared with you last week
are clearly coming to life
oh, joy!

have flower buds.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why is it...

Why is it that when we walk into a vet's reception area,
we are greeted with
and welcoming noises
and solicitous remarks?

And when we walk into a doctor's reception area,
too often we are greeted with
flat affect,
and sometimes rudeness?
That's if we are greeted at all.

Even at the mega pet stores,
where I shop without Quincy,
the checkers are extra nice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Comfort Food

Great Northern Beans



Pearl Barley

Bay Leaves, Salt, Pepper

Bean Soup with Smoked Turkey

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's Curtains for Chez Magpie

MrsM at The Magpie Files shared
seven interesting things about herself.

One caught my eye:

(Of course, MrsM's picture was much more artful than this one.)

She confessed that she purchased this
because the label matched her curtains.

Something about that rang a bell.

I quickly turned to my back issues of House Beautiful,
and, after a little searching,
found it:
The spread on gracious homes of England,
featuring Chez Magpie.
And the shot of the Magpie living room.

Now I can understand the attraction.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bag O Bags

I found a website (through a mention in...the Chicago Tribune? Newsweek? Now I can't remember) called Big Green Purse, which has lots of good information about how we can use our pocketbooks to make an environmental difference.

One thing that really surprised me was whether it was better to ask for paper or plastic when I've forgotten to bring reusable bags. Turns out that the short answer is plastic is better. But there is more to the story than that. (Not sure if this snapshot from the article is readable or not.)

It was part of an article called "Paper vs. Plastic - 13 nagging environmental questions...finally answered." It also had information about whether it's better to turn lights out if you're leaving the room for just a few minutes, cloth vs. disposable diapers, and 10 other topics.

There was a pdf file on the site last summer, but now I can't find it to link to. If you would like a copy (because I saved it to my computer at the time), email me at and I'll forward it to you.
I really like these bags. They are about the same dimensions as a paper grocery bag and stand up straight (not floppy like cloth or string bags), very sturdy, and I can put a lot more in one of these than a conventional bag. Ninety-nine cents. The only thing they lack is the ability to say as I'm getting out of the car, "Hey! Take us with you!" I still am not in the habit of grabbing these as I get out.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Isn't this a charming image?
The artwork is by my cousin Jennifer Judd-McGee.
Jen recently changed careers to pursue her art.
In addition to showing her work at art galleries,
she also has an etsy shop called Swallowfield.
(You should take a look - so much beautiful and fun art.)

I had only met Jen once before (she lives far away), but we got reacquainted a few months ago at the memorial service of her grandfather. One of the happy side effects of funerals is the opportunity to reconnect with family members. I know her grandfather (my uncle) would have been pleased at all the reconnections that were made that day.

A few days after the service, I started looking at Jen's shop, then found her blog, then followed links to others (like Ali), and more links (like Alice, and Anne, and Angie, and Blackbird and many others), and now I am hooked.

After buying one of her prints and some of her note cards
for my dad's birthday (he loved them),
I decided I wanted something for my home.
I'm so happy with it!

Now, where to hang this?
Maybe it will just live for a while on the sideboard in the dining room.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Warming Trend

This was the temperature* at 7:15 this morning
when I went out to shovel the one inch of snow we got last night...

...and when I came back in half an hour later**.

* -20.4 C

**-19.9 C

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Small treasure

This little enameled teapot is about three inches high.
When I bought it a few years ago,
I really spent some time debating
whether or not I should spend the money (about $25)
on something that was not useful.

What was I thinking!
I've gotten so much pleasure out of this very small indulgence.
And it follows a quote that I have since read by William Morris:

Have nothing in your houses that
you do not know to be useful
or believe to be beautiful.

Which means I really need to get rid of the stacks of paper in my study.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snowy Scenes

We got about four inches of fresh snow overnight.
combined with brilliant sunshine,
soft blue shadows,
cerulean skies,
makes for a beautiful winter's day.

Taxus somethingus

Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Red Twig Dogwood
Cornus sericea

White Wood Aster
Aster divaricatus

Buxus 'Glencoe'

Shetland Sheepdog
Quinci inahurrius

Monday, January 21, 2008

Progress - I think

The lily of the valley pips that I dug up two weeks ago
when our weather was so warm
are finally showing some life.

Look! Little green shoots!

And little green weeds!

At this point, anything green and growing is welcome.

Family Tree

As I was putting away the Christmas decorations this year, I took a few pictures. This is of a small tree I put together in 1996, after the last of my eleven nieces and nephews was born, when we totaled twenty-three family members. Hanging on the tree are pictures of my parents, their five kids and their families. I made a tree for my parents and one for each of my siblings and for me. I love seeing the pictures again each year when this little tree comes out of storage.

And now it needs updating: my oldest niece has married and has two little boys.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Class

For the last eighteen months or so, my husband G has participated in a small group class to improve memory and cognitive skills. The program was developed by a woman in Massachusetts named Lynn Serper, and there are several teachers in our area who are certified to teach using this method.

We love my husband's teacher. Carolyn is kind, caring, endlessly patient, and has a wonderful sense of humor. Twice a week, in a classroom at our church, she leads G and two other students through a series of exercises that include reading aloud, answering questions about history and geography, writing sentences about what they've read, math problems, and sometimes games like dominoes or Scrabble. (It was Carolyn who got us started playing dominoes at home.)

We met Monday after a four week break, and I was very glad to have the classes start again. Between the work and the social contact, the classes benefit G. There aren't many groups that he has wanted to participate in, but this is one that he feels helps him and that gives him a lot of satisfaction.
The pictures give you an idea of the focus the men bring to the class. As the class progresses and they work through the exercises, they take turns answering the questions, and when one of them is stuck, the others offer hints and help. There is teasing and good-natured joking about the problems they each have with memory.

It takes guts for someone who has had a successful business career, who has raised a family, and has contributed to their community, to embark on a study program to hang on to their cognitive skills. Dementia is a cruel disease, but these men are facing it with courage and grace, and their teacher is helping them do it. We are so very thankful to have Carolyn in our lives.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Village in Texas

Recently I pulled up behind a car at a stoplight
and saw this bumper sticker:

Somewhere in Texas
there's a village
that's missing its idiot

Long strides

One of the benefits of the warmer (above freezing) weather we've had this week* is that my husband G is willing to venture out for short walks. Walking has become more difficult for him over the last couple of years, so he's less inclined to do it. And of course the lack of exercise makes it even worse. When he's had physical therapy, we've been told that he needs to focus on the length of his stride, to make an effort to take bigger steps. That those tiny, shuffle-y steps he takes only foster the decline. So, when we are out walking, I keep reminding him to take longer strides. "Long strides," I say. "Lonnnnnnng strides. Loooooong strides." Is this annoying? Yes! He takes it for only so long, and then tells me I can stop with the advice. (But it does work, for a little while. And then he goes back to his little steps. Which is annoying for me.)

After breakfast yesterday I was reading a notice in the paper about a fund raiser luncheon/fashion show, and that they need models, especially men and children. Jokingly, I said to G that he should volunteer to help out, modeling for the fashion show. He said, "Right. And you'll be walking right behind me, saying 'Long strides. Lonnng strides.' "

*bb, you are very lucky that we've had such nice weather for you this weekend! Must be that clean living.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The best medicine

Last fall we joined a support group
for people with early stage memory loss.
At today's meeting, we had a guest speaker.

The speaker and the participants very graciously said
it was OK to take their pictures and OK to post them.

Of course, they hadn't seen how the pictures turned out.
But they knew we would not be at our most dignified.
They are a trusting lot. With great senses of humor.

Our guest speaker, on therapeutic laughter.

An exercise in laughter:
pretend someone has put an ice cube down your back
and walk around the room,
belly laughing and making eye contact with others.

As you can see, it works. Genuine laughter. It felt great.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What to do on a warm January day?

We've had record breaking warm temperatures
the last couple of days.

This is a great time to dig up lily of the valley pips to force indoors.

First I have to find them - on the north side of the house,
buried under leaf debris.

It amazes me that the pips can survive
our normal winter temperatures (zone 5),
exposed above the soil line.

One year I potted the pips too deeply, and they didn't flower.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Thank God there are twelve days! I haven't sent Christmas cards in ten or fifteen years. I got out of the habit one year when between my travel schedule and all the Christmas commitments I had, I was really not enjoying the season. So the cards were something I felt I could let go of that year; and then I never went back.

Sending cards this year was a bit of a last minute decision. Sadly, I did not put the effort into it that MrsM does. (MrsM rocks. Seriously.) I went the easy, quick route of uploading a jpg file to our local 24 hour pharmacy and ordering photo greetings. I'm afraid our family image is going to suffer. (Right. Like it hasn't already suffered by my sending nothing all those years.)
But I'm glad I did it.
And the cards are all postmarked between 12/27 and today.
So the Christmas card police can't get me.

There are Christmas card police, aren't there?

Comfort and Joy

I belong to several support groups, but one is very special: eight women, all of whom are caring for someone with memory loss. Six of us for our husbands, two of us for moms. I feel so lucky to have found this unique collection of women: they are strong, funny, compassionate, tough, smart, wise - I can't sing their praises enough. We first met in 2006 through a program designed for people with memory loss and their caregiver; the program included, for those with memory loss, working with a teacher on cognitive enhancement, a support group for those with memory loss and one for the caregivers, and some social activities. That program was supported by a grant which lasted eight months. When the grant ran out, the program was over. But the caregivers had gotten so close during the eight months that we decided to keep on meeting on our own.

We meet twice a month for a couple of hours in the evening. But because of how the Mondays and holidays fall in December and January, we were going to have a 4 week break between meetings. And someone suggested that we get together for lunch sometime during that break, because our time together is that important. While we discussed where would be a good spot, as we are scattered across the city and suburbs, one suggested we accommodate one of our members who is going through radiation treatments. That we find a spot close to her or where someone could easily pick her up so she wouldn't have to drive. We settled on her home, and we brought the food. All she needed to do was open the door - we set the table, provided the food, and cleaned up afterward.

It was good. Really good. Just what we all needed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

No pictures, please

We got a calendar in the mail from our broker (whom we like very much). We’ve never met him face to face, as he lives in another state. Slipped into a space at the top of the calendar was a picture of our broker and his assistant (whom we also like very much). Something about the whole thing really struck me funny, so I sent this email:

Hi, J and S,

This won't surprise you - we just opened your calendar today. (It was unopened in a pile of other ju -- I mean assorted mail that I was planning to toss in the recycle bin, but G opened it.)

Your picture! On the calendar! So amazing. We used to get a calendar from our insurance agent every year, and that always hit the recycle bin unopened (after the first few years when we saw the lay of the land - a small calendar filled with bad recipes).

So, in a major departure from my normal routine, the calendar is not going straight to the recycle bin. It has been relieved of the picture, which is now residing under a small magnet on our refrigerator. In this altered state, the calendar is now in the bin. And we have your smiling faces to look at whenever we open the fridge and wonder "What's for dinner?" I hope you will be able to provide inspiration in this area, as you do in our financial matters.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Another snowy day (4 inches and it's still coming down).

This cookbook has wonderful recipes.

Thick, homemade soup makes me happy.