Sunday, August 31, 2008

Today's Flowers blooms again!

Who can look up at sunflowers in a clear blue sky without thinking of our old friend, Vincent van Gogh and how he saw sunflowers? To compliment my photo, below is a reproduction of a painting by Paul Gauguin, called Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers. Gauguin supposedly found Van Gogh's painting style intolerably messy and indicative of his bouts of insanity.

I took my photograph yesterday when the sky was really that blue and this sunflower was actually reaching for the sun. Their size and stature are a surprise at first. And then their color always leaves me speechless, where I remain, at least until I find the next flower.

See more flowers at Luiz's meme, Today's Flowers. You'll see beautiful flowers from all over the globe, places we only dream about visiting, and then. . . you'll want to join in the fun!

my Camera Critter

I nearly stepped on this guy one day on a walk and before moving on slowly, he (she?) regarded me for a minute or two with that one big eye, turned and lumbered away. The design on the shell was mesmerizing and about the circumference of a large cantaloupe. You can see that his legs and neck were bright yellow--as if he had been dipped in that paint used to make traffic stripes on the road.

This is my contribution to Misty Dawn's MeMe, Camera Critters. Visit her to see all manner of pets and animals. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Be present. I would encourage you with all my heart - just to be present. Be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before you. Because, ultimately, your life is made up of moments. So don’t miss them by being lost in the past or anticipating the future.

Don’t be absent from your own life. You will find that life is not governed by will or intention. It is ultimately the collection of these sense memories stored in our nerves, built up in our cells.

Simple things:
A certain slant of light coming through a window on a winter’s afternoon.
The sound of spring peepers at twilight.
The taste of a strawberry still warm from the sun.
Your child’s laughter.
Your mother’s voice.
These are things that shape our lives and settle into the fiber of our beings.
Don’t take them for granted.
Jessica Lang
I loved reading this excerpt from a commencement speech she gave at Sarah Lawrence College this spring. . .It caused me to pause--which is always a good thing; then to remember what simple things give me pleasure--what I usually rush to blog or journal about. When I read her take on life being fed by a 'collection of 'sense memories' I envisioned my memories making a hopeful gesture to continuously remind me of who I am and why I remember what I do. Agreed?

Wishing all my blogging friends a great weekend! Remember to set your burdens down and enjoy Labor Day and the slow unfolding of glorious Autumn.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Sky and water -- water and sky -- on Owasso Lake. There usually are white egrets intent on fishing among the lily pads and ducks swimming in and out of the reeds anytime along this stretch of water.
The origin of the name 'Owasso' is unknown, but there's speculation. . .my favorite is (courtesy of the Minnesota DNR)

. . . there is a Ojibwe legend that tells of a chief who adopted into his tribe a fugitive Sauk brave, Bukadawin, who became the husband of the Chief's daughter, Princess Natomo. Soon after a son was born to the young couple. An Enemy, Spotted Snake, attempted to kill Bukadawin with a poison arrow. Natomo saw him draw his bow and threw herself upon her husband to save him. She was killed by the arrow. Heartbroken, Bukadawin buried her beneath a birch tree. He then named his son "Wasso" meaning, "one Bright Spot", as a symbol of the one remaining joy in his life.

A peaceful --and busy -- spot to watch the sky.

To see many other sky views, visit SkyWatch. You'll be amazed and may even want to join in the community of avid, amateur sky watchers.

Happy Birthday, dear Phyllis!

Today is a special day in blogger-land:

Phyllis at Granny Smith has a birthday!

Anyone who regularly visits her blog would agree that she is a delight to know, inspiring, creative, and loving. She was one of the first bloggers I 'met' when I started this journey, and my life has been all the richer since. Stop by and send her your best today!

Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.

Jean Paul Richter

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Today's Flowers - August Beauty

Blushing peach Hollyhocks taken in St. Paul in the old Summit Avenue neighborhood one fine August day. See more unique flower photos from other photographers at Today's Flowers, hosted by Luiz. You'll be glad you did!

Well, a guy’s gotta eat!

No one told me that one day I’d be wrapping lettuce at a produce market. Likewise I was clueless that all those cello and saxophone lessons, recitals and practice would naturally lead to Audrey & Erica making orchestra and band trips overseas in high school. So what’s a mother to do but get a spur of the moment job to legally raise some fast cash.

The store manager assured me they would appreciate my skill at putting together fruit baskets for the holidays but in the meantime a regular produce person was needed—someone to wrap heads of lettuce and bunches of broccoli and grapes. Oh, and there was the orange juice machine, salad bar, pineapple de-corer and the scales. And we all had to work on Saturday because that was their busiest day.

Thus began my brilliant career at a small, family owned chain of grocery stores in the south suburbs of Chicago one fall where I learned that not only did money not grow on trees but a produce department is run on constants. Every night most of the produce had to be moved into the cooler and brought out again the next morning, day after day, night after night. Monday mornings meant bringing box after box of oranges out of the cooler to run through the orange juicer, filling the bottles, cleaning up the pulp and mopping the floor constantly so no customer would accidentally fall on the juice. Then there was the grouchy manager, a guy who refused to retire but hated every minute while he was at work. Some of the crew worked in the back room sorting, wrapping and weighing. The rest of us stood in a sort of kiosk called ‘the scales’ where customers lined up to have all of their produce choices weighed and bagged and tagged, then secured by a machine that taped the bag shut. This made for a surly bunch of customers who had to wait in line just so they wouldn’t have to wait in line later at the checkout register to have things weighed.

One morning toward the end of my sentence, I watched a customer picking out scallions. What caught my eye was the large turquoise jacket he wore advertising Buddy Guy’s Legends, a famous blues club in Chicago. When he brought his onions up for the obligatory weighing and bagging I saw it was the man himself, Buddy Guy. Losing any bit of produce-inspired dignity I said something special like, “Oh, you’re Buddy Guy aren’t you? Let me shake your hand.” Which he did and not often does someone look me straight in the eye like he did that morning. I handed him his bag and said it had been my pleasure. Smiling, he pulled out his wallet and he wrote a name on the back of one of his Legends’ cards. “Call this guy on Monday and tell him I said to save some tickets for you the next time I’m playing.” In that moment the air was rarified and all I remember doing was leaving ‘the scales’ to tell everyone in the back room that I had just met guitar legend Buddy Guy. That’s when I learned the third lesson about produce: wrapping lettuce can make one apathetic. The only person who cared enough to reply said, “Well, if you’re happy, then I’m happy for you.”

See more answers to the prompt: How I met my. . .on Sunday Scribblings. And while you’re at it, listen to Buddy below.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ciambotta - questo anno

Today it finally happened : the annual Ciambotta ritual was accomplished. I posted the recipe for my Italian family's summer vegetable stew last year here.

No salt pork here, and for class (class?) I added a few shitake mushrooms (my dad would be rolling over in his grave)** and Yukon Gold instead of Idaho potatoes to this parte seconda versione. The basil I added was from a phenomenal plant I've been growing this year. Usually by August it is leggy and anemic but not this gorgeous, green, aromatic guy! deliziosi

** after my dad passed away 15 years ago the end of July, my mom went a little wacko, bought even more cats (25 tops), and started dating a guy with questionable intentions and a rap sheet, (sigh). . .So my sister and I were discussing this one day and she said, "Well, Daddy is already turning over in his grave like he's on a rotisserie, one more cat isn't going to make much difference."

The family. We were a strange little band of characters
trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.
~Erma Bombeck

SkyWatch Friday : I can see clearly now!

For SkyWatch Friday I am sharing this lake view, once again--only this time the water was like glass with every single leaf, needle, creature and piece of blue sky nicely reflected. Rounding the water's edge, I scared this white egret away from his fishing hole. He lumbered off quietly while I was amazed at the wingspan on such a narrow, long legged bird. The photo below was taken on the opposite side of the lake. Was it him? 'Well, you know how it is, they all look alike to me!' she answered, tongue in cheek.

Take a look at SkyWatch Friday for literally hundreds of amazing photos from all over the globe.

Happy 4rd Friday in August!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ABC Wednesday : E is for Erica

Today's ABC Wednesday letter is E--and I claim that letter in honor of our daughter, Erica.

This was the tough little girl who grabbed the nurse's finger when she was born, beat up boys if they bothered her, fearless swimmer still in diapers, fishing at four, sax player in a ska band as well as marching & symphonic band, you name it. Now she has begun her third year at Georgetown Medical School, beginning short round periods at different venues in D.C.

When I visited her this spring I made her and her sister wait while I photographed some flowers, what else, and I also caught her giving what we lovingly describe as the 'look of death.'

But she hasn't been afraid to lift a shovel, gather food before dawn at the restaurant markets for the poor in Chicago, give back generously and have a great time doing it. Her life has been a series of minor set backs--including open heart surgery at 24 to repair a defective valve--but she continues to have an innate resilience and strength. Doubtless, she's been hard to keep up with but she never forgets those she loves. I think she will make a great doctor--soon!

Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? "Keep her," I replied.... The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me.

Anna Quindlen

Visit Round 3 of ABC Wednesday hosted by Mrs Nesbitt where you'll see more wonderful E photographs.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"In summer, the song sings itself."

August is sneaking away and it is another Monday already. For Today's Flowers I offer a slightly cut-off photo of a lily I took along my walk near Lake Owasso. These border the street for several feet and I always enjoy their unique color, but especially the way the sun streams through that cream colored center.
Visit Luiz and his new 'Today's Flowers' to enjoy the other photos and/or join in the fun.
[quote by William Carlos Williams]Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Scribblings' Observations

I'm been known to observe:
After spending probably more time than necessary watching people, I have my own theory about faces: usually the first-born child strongly resembles the father. Then the subsequent children’s features are up for grabs. I may be stepping out on a limb here; I’d like to think I am about 90% correct.

Chin hairs that have been black thus far, eventually will turn gray in direct proportion to the number of gray hairs on one’s head. Eyebrows wait for that process to finish and then succumb to the lackluster hue. This is normal as set down in the owner’s manual.

Finding the Big Dipper in the northern sky on a dark night can actually calm one’s heartbeat, lower blood pressure and prevent nightmares if viewed at bedtime.

In fact, looking up is a good cure-all for many things with the possible exception of being short on funds. One should periodically look down because sometimes you’ll find money. A corollary to this is Jerry Seinfeld’s reason why dogs are always poor—they have no money, why? Because they have no pockets.

Germs die. This is the best advice my mother gave me. When I was eleven I had my first experience with a sort of OCD. I couldn’t tell my mom exactly what was wrong, because I didn’t know, nor that I couldn’t stop worrying about dying or couldn’t quit washing my hands because I was afraid of getting sick from touching the millions of wads of gum under my desks at school. She never knew. So I just asked casual questions about germs and illness, appealing to her on the level of her pharmacy studies. But she did say that she had learned that germs die rather quickly when exposed to air. That gave me a modicum of relief as I endured bouts of counting or hand washing and eventually this fear of disease passed, to be replaced later with more ingenious fears. But I have always remembered what she said because it was all she could offer me.

The holy water found in church tastes salty and I know because I was the one repeatedly scolded for sampling when I was in elementary school. Now I like to think it has some mystical connection to tears. However, using holy water does not a holy person make.

Speaking of water, everywhere I’ve lived, the water is colder coming from the tap in the bathroom than in the kitchen. Mysterious and annoying.

Finally, life is mysterious, circadian, wonderful and worthy of scrutiny whenever possible. Especially when afraid, thirsty or overjoyed with seeing oneself in the face of your child.


See more observations at Sunday Scribblings here. You'll be amazed at what you'll learn.

Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sky Watch Friday from a Danish Minnesota

'Yes, I will go with you!' said Thumbelina. She sat on his back, put her feet on his outstretched wings, and fastened her sash to one of his strongest feathers. Then the swallow soared into the air over forests and over lakes, high up over the great mountains that are always capped with snow. When Thumbelina felt cold in the chill air, she crept under the bird's warm feathers, with only her little head stuck out to watch all the wonderful sights below.

Just a bit of whimsy from my favorite fairy tale growing up, Hans Christian Andersen's Tommelise [Thumbelina]. Illustration from Andersen's Stories for the Household., A. W. Bayes, illustrator. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1889. These chattering swallows seemed to be retelling the story this week.

Visit more sky photos from around the world at Skywatch Friday. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Favorite Things Thursday -- a peek into the past

For Blue's MeMe Favorite Things Thursday, I am posting a few of one of my favorite things.

I subscribe regularly to the old proverb: The eyes are the window of the soul. And if that is true then that might explain my captivation with old photographs of people in various settings. The hunt begins in antique stores for black and white photos of people I'll never know but whose faces speak to me on some level. Besides, because they are usually an inexpensive investment I have a small, ongoing collection now. . .

starting with me and my mother and my new sled, which is still one of my prized possessions.

My father's parents, Filomena and Vito on their wedding day at the turn of the 20th Century. I always was fond of the fact that they both wore a sprig of lily-of-the-valley.

National Laundry & Cleaners in my hometown in the 1940's, in the era when people had all manner of garments, diapers, curtains washed and delivered.

This lovely girl could have just as easily been my sister.

One of my favorites, the marriage of youth, fashion and unmanageable hair.

Bought at a garage sale for $1 from the great-granddaughter of the seated woman, her grandmother standing. They lived in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

Taken by an itinerant photographer one day while my mom and her brothers were playing. I love how they must have rushed to change into their Sunday best. It goes, Willis, left--Henrietta, middle--Calvin, right.

purchased at different times and places, but I've wondered at the likeness.

There's a reason why this little girl loves blue velvet to this day.

I have many more--on snowy days I love to pick and choose from the tin I keep them in, wondering and sometimes writing about them as if we were in the same family or had been friends on the prairie.

Note to self: there are only so many faces to go around.

wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ABC WednesDay

Dawn on White Bear Lake in early spring. If you click on my photograph you'll see that ducks were already eating before the sun was hardly up.

An update: I couldn't leave out Dave dancing with daughter Audrey at a neighbor's wedding, back when she was in middle school.

Today is the letter 'D' for the ABC Wednesday meme hosted by Mrs Nesbitt. Do stop by and/or join in the fun.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Boston Baked Bean

For this week's Camera Critters our cat Bean is the unfortunate star.

A little background is required: we had sold our home in Chicago, and after all the packing was done and the truck had already left for St. Paul, the prospective owner decided he couldn't wait until we left to begin renovating. His impatience left Bean with a sort of kitty PTSD to this day.
While we were away for the day, he decided to remove all of the carpet and linoleum on both floors of the house. [Our neighbors said it was like a scene from 'The Money Pit' when all of the workers converge on the old house.] The loud and tumultuous process apparently was done in a very short time, while our poor dog and cat were likely scurrying to get out of the way, hiding and otherwise being scared out of their wits.
Fast forward nearly two years later: whenever Bean hears loud engines, doors slamming or machines droning she runs for cover. This photo shows her in the least pathetic of her hiding places...even a little comical because although she wears a menacing scowl, she thought she was safely hidden. Actually she was really in plain sight on top of our chest-on-chest. Poor kitty.
Visit Misty Dawn's Camera Critters for more fun animal tricks.

Today's Flowers

Stumbling over the ruts left by their wagons
Around Appaloosa hills before sundown
melts into the valleys,
Dust swirls around my sandals
whispering each name.
Traveling without a compass, I think I see
an unhinged cavalry horseshoe
Jutting out from the new earth,
A headstone of blanket flowers rises
Bright colors a mixture of Native blankets and tears.
Scattered stars in a black Dakota sky
remain the silent witnesses.
Today's Flowers, a new meme that is a virtual flower shop, gives me another opportunity to celebrate flowers. Lucky me!
Blanket Flowers are so colorful and fanciful, are hardy native prairie flowers that thrive in the Midwest.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

SkyWatch at Snail Lake

You can see a lot by just looking.
Yogi Berra
which I did one day as I walked in the woods by Snail Lake. To see more great photographs from all over the world for Sky Watch, visit its new site here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

You have freedom when you're easy in your harness. ~Robert Frost

While Dave is vacationing out West, I'm taking advantage of my extra free time to take in some culture, besides what I get in my yogurt(!) For starters, Tuesday I visited the traveling exhibit Augustus F. Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits 1905–1920 at the Minnesota History Center. What I didn't realize about these photographs is that they were taken by an amateur photographer who was a registry clerk at Ellis Island during an immigration wave from 1904-1920. He took over 200 photographs of the travelers, many of who were facing deportation, focusing on them as they were in their native costumes. There were 75 shown in this amazing exhibit, sponsored by the magazine Aperture.

Bohemian mother and children

Some photos were disturbing especially of the humans who would eventually be part of traveling circuses and side shows due to their size or deformity. Sherman had a compassionate eye and the compositions I saw were remarkable for an amateur. Each piece of clothing was worthy of several minutes of observation and in some cases, introspection. Also, many photos had captions with names, random information, including the name of the ship they had ridden or religion.

Jewish family from London

A New York Times article from 2005 gives more information about the photographer and some additional photos. It mentions one of my favorite photos:

'And then, with fedora, spectacles and
pale smudge of mustache,
there is Mary Johnson, 50, from Canada, who,
Sherman wrote, "came as 'Frank Woodhull' "
on Oct. 4, 1908, and "dressed 15 yrs in men's clothes." '

It was stressed that at the time, due to the many languages represented as well as nationalism and conflicting opinions about the immigration, the 'costumes' these travelers wore were used to define where they came from, sometimes with less than admiration.

three different women from Holland

women from Guadelupe

This mother had the most serene countenance and all of her children had inherited her blue eyes.

I enjoyed the photos from Italy and this one below was my favorite. I can't explain.
All the photos I've reproduced are from The Statue of Liberty National Monument, The Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Aperture Foundation. The exhibit moves on to Lexington, Massachusetts in October and then on to Decorah, Iowa in May, 2009.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

C for ABC Wednesday

This week's letter is C and I offer three flowers : Cosmos, Calendula and Chicory (ok, I know its a weed but such a fine and true blue!) plus a closeup of a painting by Mary Cassatt and a memory from the late '60's.
Summertime, Mary Casssatt, c. 1894

See more contributions for ABC Wednesday here and a word about 'summer'.