Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday helps me celebrate 200th post & Willie's 75th!

Orange you sweet!

Orange--one of my favorite colors--so much so, I used to have orange Formica countertops in my kitchen. Of course, that was the 1970's and wasn't so weird then. Said to prompt eating binges, orange is lively and hopeful, I like to think.

Today Mrs Nesbitt has chosen the letter O for ABC Wednesday. To join or enjoy fellow orangines, squeeze here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

If you could open a door to anywhere. . .

Yesterday I was prompted by a postcard I bought that asked: If you could open a door to anywhere, where would you go? to think about such a reality. Usually I want to 'find myself' or grow tomatoes in Calabria--esoteric pursuits. Today I just wanted to go home and see my Grandma Wells.

Lifting the canvas I slip under the tent
And escape the refugee camp.
Like a fighter I leave the ring
But not on a stretcher.

By heart I follow the ruts to your house
And throw the pebbles I’ve collected
At your front window.
Youth only carries time.

Crossing the ditch flow to the gate
Grass stained and buoyant,
My feet come up short.
Will you remember me?

Past the gas pump under the alley light
Washtub hangs on a nail.
Shadows pasted to the upstairs windows
Like paper snowflakes.

Recollections, mortal and sublime,
Dusty with longing.
I loosen the laces, untying my gloves,
Afraid to enter, afraid to return.
You’ve been gone so long.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Be it ever so random...

...there's just nothing quite like a Monday. Agreed? Here are my newly planted white pansies amply powdered with the whack snow we received this weekend.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, a treat for me from Cupcake, a great--you guessed it--cupcake bakery/coffee shop in Minneapolis. Meet Betty Crocker:

A cat with a butterscotch belly goes bad :::

Bean pretends to ignore her favorite snacks. yeah. right.

Finally. . .to Monday's credit, while I was in line trying to make up my mind at Cupcake--not an easy job for a Libra--this postcard jumped off the turnstile and landed in front of me. An important question for my heart.

Still round the corner there may wait,

A new road or a secret gate. ”

J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, April 27, 2008

You were only waiting for this moment to arise. . .

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.
Emily Dickinson

Struggling at its full capacity, my camera got as close as possible to the always inspiring movement of birds, especially my favorite Red-Wing Blackbird. They are the first to appear around the marshy wetlands in the area after the long winter. We are fortunate enough to have a little marshland at the edge of our parking lot where I can look straight out my window and see--and hear--riotous activity in the spring.

I'm posting this this piece of heaven on Sunday's Camera Critters hosted by Misty Dawn. Stop by!

Friday, April 25, 2008

I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.

Above, Friday's Flowers are back. These hale and hearty pansies are from my patio bravely *facing* our cold and damp weather (snow is predicted; but then you know how I swear laugh at snow!)
and because I am always counting on the old being new again,

Fleet Foxes, my new fave.
Those who wish to sing, always find a song. ”
Swedish Proverb

Finally. . .its Friday and Skywatch!

I humbly submit this photo taken in Chicago of the skyline from the Pilsen neighborhood--once a Polish enclave and now multi-cultural. This is typical of the buttermilk sky in Chicago on a lot of days of the year. I've kept this photo because it tells a bit of the history of Chicago in one big bite.On the far right, hardly peeking out is one of the earlier skyscrapers, the Amoco Building. In the middle is the tall, dark Sears Tower, reigning tallest building with the best view over the city and Lake Michigan. And then to the far left, a very old church steeple, the 'tallest' to the real people in this neighborhood.

Happy Friday to us all! To see more Skywatch Friday views, and/or participate, go here. Tell Tom I sent you.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Love *story* Thursday

Let us hope we are preceded in this world by a

love story.

from Of Time & Memory & Sweet Land-the movie

I spent a good part of the past winter haunting antique stores collecting vintage buttons to make magnets like these. Then I spent hours with many buttons spread out on the kitchen table, sorting, cataloging, ogling and then petting my cat, Bean, who had to lay herself in the middle of the whole thing. Each magnet was built with the giftee in mind, also time consuming. Love is like that. . .it takes time but is worth every minute.

See more stories of love at Shutter Sisters here as part of Love Thursday.

Spring blows my hat off!

In hommage to the Violet-wreathed muses and spring that blew in this week, making the grass green and the lakes melt, I offer a spring-y recipe. I baked this yesterday using spelt flour, wheat's older and nicer cousin.

Zucchini Lemon Bread
1c all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (I used spelt flour)
1/2 c. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. packed, shredded zucchini
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1T grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. fat-free milk
1/2 c. canola oil
2 lg. eggs

Preheat oven to 350, prepare 9x5 loaf pan w/nonstick spray.
Mix flours, sugar, soda, salt & baking powder, zucchini, walnuts, cinnamon & zest in large bowl. Combine eggs, milk and oil. Add to dry mixture until just moistened. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Let sit in pan 5 minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool.
Cut into 18 slices=122 cals. each; exchanges: 1 fat, 1 starch
[adapted from The New Family Cookbook for People With Diabetes]

note to self:

"Promise me you'll always remember:
You're braver than you believe,
and stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think."

Christopher Robin to Pooh A.A. Milne

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

N is for my n.o.t.e.b.o.o.k

Today's ABC Wednesday letter is the ubiquitous n.
To join in or just enjoy, check out Mrs Nesbitt's site for more n-words.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

All things are connected.

Creation Turtle...Daniel Ramirez (Saginaw Chippewa)

But the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature's softening influence.
Chief Luther Standing Bear (Oglala Sioux)

Happy Earth Day 2008


Loon Update

Just yesterday I wrote about my Loon sitings and then today the Minneapolis Star-Tribune had a short article that explained why so many were in our area. "The northward spring loon migration has become 'like a car pileup,' with large flocks congregating on area lakes to await the breakup of ice." The larger lakes including Lake Superior are still frozen.

What I want to know is how do these guys know about the conditions up north? Do they have scouts or do they all make the trip, see the ice, and head back? And does anyone mention, "I told you so!"
No sadder sound salutes you than the clear, wild laughter of the loon.~~Celia Thaxter

Monday, April 21, 2008

A symbol & suggestion to the poet.

I'm now going into the second year of my Minnesota birding novitiate. In the past two weeks as the melting ice has receded from the shores of the many lakes here and the snow has melted, the bird activity has delightfully escalated. A welcome sight and sound to all the winter weary!

On three separate walks I've taken around Como Lake and Island Lake near our apartment, I've sited the Common Loon. Nothing common about this diving bird, especially its mournful call. The state bird of Minnesota, it's unmistakable call can be heard for only a short time until it moves north toward Canada via Lake Superior. They carry their babies on their backs as they swim the lakes to keep them safe from Largemouth Bass. This is about as close as my bottom-of-the-line camera would get me plus this cunning diver would come up for air even farther from shore each time. But I got close enough to see his beautiful black and white feathers and the sun glinting off his red eye!

Presently we appear to be on the northern migration route of several kinds of water birds. Yesterday I was able to capture a few shots and after a little research hopefully I should be able to identify who they are.

Wood Duck male and female.

Someone along the trail said these small red and white birds with upturned tail above are on their way back to Alaska.

The woodpeckers have been on the drum line for weeks.


The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life. . . . The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds -- how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday-lives -- and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song! ~~John Burroughs

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sky Watch Friday

The sun spreads a baby blanket across the sky--soft baby blue and warm baby pink. With a little squinting the retreating pink jet stream should come into view.

“The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.” ~ John Muir

More sky views from Sky Watchers here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dreamy Thursday!

I'm stepping out with my first offering for Love Thursday, a love-ly idea from Shutter Sisters.
What's not to ♥ about dreamy fresh, ripe strawberries (from Whole Foods) and my favorite creamy white heart mold from my collection of everything ♥'s ?

"Holy strawberries, Batman, we're in a jam!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A cat called what?

Today's ABC letter is 'M' and boy do I have an 'M' this time!

'M,' as in Maine Coon Cat. The cat in my photos is named Squirrel and belongs to my daughter Audrey. She and Squirrel stayed with us for several months and we fell in love with this fetching and rascally cat. Maine Coons are noted as intelligent and resourceful. So true.

First of all: her name. Squirrel was rescued from some neglectful owners by a guy named Pickle. He named her Squirrel because of her big, fluffy tail. [I don't invent these names, I just report them!] I might have named her Whiskers for the l-o-n-g ones she has.

At our house she started and ended each day with a rousing game of volleyball with her favorite sparkly ball. She'd jump on a table and wait for some poor, unsuspecting chump to throw the ball while she batted it back. Said pitcher then bent over and threw it again. Back and forth and eventually it became evident that the real workout was had by the pitcher. When I first met her she was trying to walk off with Scrabble pieces when no one was looking. She stole food whenever she could, including things too big to carry off like fried chicken or sweet rolls. Embarrassingly funny. Her favorite heist was eyeglasses. She'd rip them off, then leave them somewhere the owner would never expect to search. My glasses will forever have little Squirrel teeth marks on the sides.

We don't see this fluffball very much but even Dave, who maintains a stanch ambivalence toward cats, likes to reminisce about how she would sleep on the back of his desk chair whenever he was at the computer. I remember how she carried her sparkly ball around the house hanging from one tooth.

Maine Coon Cats, gotta love 'em!

Stop by Mrs Nesbitt's place for more 'M' words. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Laughing, crying & eating ice cream--just another day.

On my last visit to the Arctic zoo. . .sigh. . .,the polar bears were emoting and pacing in the cold and spewing their cold breath. Such beautiful creatures with those incredibly b.i.g. feet.

I only recently heard about Ben & Jerry's new ice cream flavor--Baked Alaska--which has marshmallow swirls and white chocolate polar bears. Marshmallow and chocolate bears can't be all bad. Up to par with their usually clever design, this carton has a polar bar leaning on a thermometer and the phrase: If its melted its ruined. I haven't tried it yet. Two reviews I found actually came from Sweden and England. . .hmmm. Anne's Food, a blog I frequent, has a photo and her take on the flavor. Also, more at Snackspot.

And speaking of our four-legged friends, we just picked up our dear Pashka's ashes and a little gift from the animal hospital.

It seems they took this impression of her left paw (which was referred to in our house as her 'mush foot') after she passed and had it fired as a keepsake for us. Whew, this was almost more than I could handle at first. . .but now it has a place of prominence along with her (heavy) box of ashes. Our plan is to take her with us this summer to the Lake Superior area around Duluth and scatter her ashes somewhere along the trail used for the Beargrease Dog Races.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pigs, bananas, and Harry, oh my!

Breaking news--the sun came out in Minnesota today. And the temps are expected to reach to nearly 70 by Wednesday.** That means green shouldn't be far behind. In anticipation of said color, here are some shots I took at my last visit to the botanical garden, in particular, the Palm Dome and Fern Room. I don't have names for this collection mainly because I turn into a mouth breather (read: agog) when I enter this building but some are fairly recognizable. For added enjoyment, listen to Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat song.

In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

** I woke up one day recently and realized I'm way too invested in the mercurial weather here in the Twin Cities. Not only do I blame everything on not enough sun, or too much snow, it is now a unmistakable part of my conversational repertoire and I'm boring mySELF to death. Lately I've been devouring the book 'The Florist's Daughter' by Patricia Hampl-- a memoir of growing up in St. Paul. What a wonderful writer she is! If I could ever write as good as her I'd die a happy woman. Anyway, as she holds the hand of her dying mother, simultaneously writing the woman's obituary on a yellow legal pad, she's recalling the gentler time in St. Paul that her mother had lived in. . .

What a romantic city it was, full of believers, wrapped in pride and insecurity, those protons of provincial complacency We pulled the blanket of winter around us, we clicked shut the wood blinds of summer against the killing heat. But our drama was all just weather, the swatted mosquitoes of summer, the dripping ice dams of winter. Our lives were little, our weather big.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Don't be afraid, my pretties!

Fearless. . .a word I don’t use in my vocabulary very often. I’m fearful of just about everything, sometimes all in one day. There are snakes, dying, going to prison, belts, drowning, not being liked, heights, my car breaking down, being left behind, and so on. However, whenever I think about raw bravery, three women from my past come to mind.

In my 30’s I found myself in an eating disorder support group with three other women. One was anorexic, one bulimic and two of us with overeating issues. All of us had abuse in our past. The primary purpose of this group was to be available to listen to each other’s story.

Julie was a beautiful 20-something who could very easily have walked down a runway for a living. When she shared in our group she peppered her words with laughter that rang clear and contagious. She brought to the roundtable a history of incest and when reporting about her week trying to starve that demon out of her body, a new persona appeared—a blond, blue eyed little girl who needed someone to notice her pain. When our facilitator asked if she could touch her hand or put her arm around Julie, that’s when the tears would flow and the pain would ease. At that moment a calm would descend on our group.

Every week a fellow overeater named Catherine arrived with a 64 oz. Pepsi from the 7-11 and told many stories about the endless responsibilities of being a mother of five children. As she expressed her fatigue, boredom and her food binging, episodes of verbal abuse by her parents aimed at Catherine’s parenting skills would surface. She never cried in front of us.

We made Barb the matriarch of our little sisterhood because she was almost fifty and that seemed ancient to us at the time. She’d been practicing bingeing and purging since high school, through the years of her marriage, motherhood and a divorce. Her honesty about her disease and the laundry list of its effects on her body as she entered midlife were sobering. I’ve not forgotten her ability to cry and smile and rage all in one group session.

Each week we would drag our baggage into the session and back out again afterwards. That was before the advent of suitcases on wheels. When we left we had a heightened sense that things might work out. Looking back, I remember them as three imperfect, hurting women but unwilling to give up, fearless.

Sunday Scribblings' prompt this week is the word fearless. See more bravery here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, big guy!

Two birthdays in one week you're asking?
Yup. . . and today's feature is Dave picking up his new (to us) 1998 Royal Star Tour Classic touring bike on Saturday when there was a break in the weather before the next last snowstorm of the year--an exciting day for him because it has been over two years since he's ridden. Before then he owned a Yamaha Virago that he literally rode into the ground and reluctantly put out to pasture when we moved to Minnesota. He was smitten by motorcycle riding at age 7 when he put his hand on the shiny exhaust pipe of a motorcycle he'd seen in Red Lodge, Montana. He left a little skin behind and kept dreaming of the day when he would ride one himself. He's made several cross country trips, riding and writing, on the Virago, as well as Illinois events--yearly Ride for Kids and Toys for Tots and countless charity and poker runs. He rode with fellow veterans as part of Veterans for Kerry' Tour of Honor in '04 on a speaking trip through Wisconsin. For several years he attended the Rolling Thunder® PoW/MIA Demonstration Ride in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day--Erica rode once with him when she was in undergrad there. I rode with him on the Trail of Tears Remembrance Ride from Tennessee to Alabama one year. He's active in CMA's yearly Run for the Son and the ministries of that Association, was president his chapter in Illinois for 3 years, and is presently VP of this local chapter, RevElations.

Now that we have a bike to ride we are both planning to join BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) which requires one year riding with them before starting the membership process. I'm impressed with these bikers who are willing to step out to offer protection and advocacy for abused children. Being a fair-weather rider, I enjoy cruising the winding back roads scouting out antique stores and roadside stands. This bike has an exceptionally comfortable back seat and foot boards instead of pegs, roomy side bags and there's plenty of room for both of us. For now, as long as we can, this will be the next chapter in our empty-nest, apartment, no pets-- life. . .actually how we started out 37 years ago.

So, here we go: