Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Craziness of the Season

It is Christmas in the heart
that puts Christmas in the air. ~ W.T. Ellis

The day before yesterday, I was getting ready to go to my quilt guild's annual Christmas potluck and quilt give-away. I was running behind and multi-tasking like crazy: blow-drying my hair, putting on make-up, finishing the appetizer I was bringing to the party, etc. My heart was racing; I felt frantic. There was just too much to do in too short a time.

You know the feeling?

But as my frenzied emotions were building to a crescendo, the strangest thing happened. I literally heard a voice inside my head say STOP! YOU'RE MISSING IT!

I took a deep breath and realized that I was letting this magical time of year slip through my fingers.

I love Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. I'm known among friends and family as being a little over-the-top about the season. But here I was, focusing on all the things that needed to get done, the lack of time, the frantic feeling of being overwhelmed - and I was missing it.

This was a real turning point for me. I don't want January 2009 to roll around, bringing of feeling of sadness that the holidays weren't all I wanted them to be. By golly, I am in control of how my holiday season will go - and I want it slower, more meaningful, and lots more enjoyable.

How about you?

I must admit that even after living here in southern California for almost ten years, it doesn't quite feel like the holidays without snow – or at least, cold weather. It's even tougher this year because we're having exceptionally warm weather. I saw people doing holiday shopping yesterday in shorts and tank tops! But the skies are incredibly blue these days, which can't help but lift one's spirits. And that should be what the Christmas season is all about, don’t you think: brighter spirits, gratitude for all our blessings, and remembrance of the true reason we celebrate this time of year.

So I'm making a conscious decision to slow down and enjoy the moments of this season. I know it won’t always be possible: I'm bound to go a little crazy with everything that still needs doing. But I made an attitude adjustment day before yesterday so that even as I'm running around, I'm doing so with a smile on my face, a “Happy Holidays!” on my lips, and a Christmas carol in my heart. Ho ho ho!

Hubby and I are hosting our annual holiday Open House this Saturday night. It's a chance for us to throw open our doors and let family, friends, coworkers and neighbors come by for a few minutes, or a few hours. We usually have somewhere between 50 to 75 people attend, but I think we'll have a smaller group this year (everyone is so busy!)

The festivities start at 6:00 - hope you can stop by!

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
~ William Arthur Ward

When was the last time you gave a silent “thank you” for all the good things in your life?

I think I’ve accidentally omitted that piece of the happiness puzzle lately. I seemed to be more focused recently on the things missing in my life, rather than on all the many blessings that are right under my nose. I have a tendency to do this if I’m not careful: I look at what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

That stops today.

The November issue of Better Homes and Gardens has a wonderful article that I’ve read through a couple of times now. It addresses the benefit of counting our blessings all year round – not just at Thanksgiving. Here’s the paragraph I've been mulling over:

...Research shows that making gratitude a part of everyday living promotes good health, elevates happiness, and boosts relationships. Psychologists say that perpetually grateful people are optimistic and energetic, which helps than handle stress and illness better than those who focus on the negative.

This is not new information to me: I’ve known it for years now and preach it to anyone who'll listen! But remembering to put it into practice myself is a whole different story. It’s amazing to me how easy it is to give in to that pull toward the negative.

When I think about it, gratitude is what’s been missing lately during this time of “I don’t give a darn about anything” mood I’ve been in. I’ve been lethargic, pessimistic, and let’s not even talk about the amount of food I’ve been consuming to make all those icky feelings go away!

There’s a wonderful quote in the magazine article mentioned above. Patricia Carlson of the nonprofit A Network for Grateful Living, states: “Gratefulness has to do with experiencing the fullness of life. Sometimes we look at it as a play on words – it’s the great-fullness.”

So – attitude changes everything! I’m flipping my switch and turning on a grateful outlook starting today, not just for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, but for every day of the year. I'll need to stay focused and stop those "poor me" thoughts from sneaking into my brain. But I know that being aware of all that's good in my life, then taking the time to say "thank you" for those blessings, will make a huge difference.

Care to join me?

Until next time…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity. ~Dorothy Parker

Hi - remember me?

I used to post to my blog on a fairly regular basis. I used to read blogs on a regular basis, as well.

Lately, I haven't done much of either.

Nothing's really been wrong - I think I've just been in a state of ennui. Yep, that's it: a general lack of interest. Not just in blogging - in everything. I think I'll blame it on hormones. I blame everything on hormones these days!

Oh, I've kept busy...

I've been tutoring at the jail twice a week.

Mark is doing extremely well, and really keeps me on my toes. We've moved into high gear because he's due to be released December 23. I want to expose him to as much GED preparation reading and writing as I can before he enters an adult education program in January.

I've been quilting.

I finished this little cowboy-themed table-topper for two dear friends of mine who recently married. I'm also working on several Christmas gifts, which I can't post here until after the holiday, just in case certain people read my blog!

I led a discussion for the first time at my book club.

We talked about the book Pope Joan, which is fascinating for those of you who love historical fiction, like I do. It takes place in the 9th century, so we had an interesting discussion about women's roles then versus now. Thank goodness a lot has changed! Was there really a female pope? Read the book and see what you think.

And today, I volunteered for four hours at a local polling place.

I think this is what drove me to blog after such a long absence: I want to share with everyone what a wonderful experience it was this morning, to be part of the voting process. We had been warned of issues that might come up with voters or demonstrators, asking us to document things with camera phones, etc. I was pretty upset about it all yesterday, wondering what in the world has happened to our country that we're so bitterly divided.

But opening the polls this morning at 7:00 AM and finding a line of cheerful and proud people waiting to vote contradicted every bad thing we'd heard might happen. Yes, we are still very much divided in our nation, and I hope whichever person is elected will work very hard to unite our country once again.

However, the greatest thing I saw this morning was a Mom and Dad with their young adult son. It was his first time voting. They were taking pictures of him in front of the fire station where we were located, standing next to the "polling place" sign and the American flag. The young man was grinning from ear to ear, pointing to his "I Voted Today" sticker. I know it sounds corny, but it was a proud moment to be an American.

* * * * *

So, I'm hoping that my feeling of ennui has passed and I can once again feel engaged in life. The holidays are fast approaching and this is way too busy of a time to feel blah! Forgive me for not keeping up on your blogs, but know that I'm going to do my best to catch up on things.

Until next time...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just for Fun: Four Things Meme

We are driven by five genetic needs:
survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.
~ William Glasser

Quite some time ago, Wendy over at The Bend in the Road tagged me with a meme, which I completely forgot about. Oh, I created it right away - I just forgot to post it. Boy oh boy: my memory is like a sieve these days!

So after a little updating to make it current, I present...

Four Things About Me

Four things I did today:

1. Facilitated a Healthy Lifestyle meeting of six women, where we discussed the role of spirituality in leading a balanced life. What do you think: does it play a part?

2. Watched last night’s episode of Brothers & Sisters. Love that show!

3. Laundry (are you jealous??)

4. Tutored Mark at the jail on more GED preparation. Adverbs and adjectives and paraphrasing – oh my!

Four things on my to-do list:

1. Email my sister the directions on brining a turkey. We usually have Thanksgiving here, and I brine the bird every year. She’s hosting this year, and wants to learn how to make such a moist turkey.

2. Quilt. I haven’t had a chance to do so in over a week, and my fingers are itching to sit at the sewing machine!

3. Vacuum (again – are you jealous??)

4. Light a fire under our contractor to get the backyard finished.

Four of my guilty pleasures:

1. Crossword puzzles. Love ‘em! I’ve always got one going.

2. The computer. Emailing, blogging, surfing the net. I spend waaaay too much time on this thing!

3. Strolling through bookstores. I could spend hours picking out just one special book to read.

4. Taking a nap on a Saturday afternoon. Heaven!

Four random facts about me:

1. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre. I used to perform, a long time ago. Now I just act like I know what I’m doing!

2. I’m addicted to reading magazines. I subscribe to all kinds: Time, Ladies Home Journal, Psychology Today, McCall’s Quilting, Country Home, Cooking Light, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, etc., etc., etc.

3. I am a history buff, and find the cultural and social history from 1890-1950 to be especially fascinating.

4. I love the Christmas season. Everything about it: the decorations, the smells, gift giving, the carols. I usually start listening to Christmas music in August. Yes, really.

* * * * *

Ok, that's it for me. Please feel free to play along and tell us four things about you.

Until next time...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween Costumes of Days Past

One should either be a work of art,
or wear a work of art. ~Oscar Wilde

I ran across some photos that I thought might be fun to share - photos of Halloween costumes past, many moons ago. Since it is getting to be the time for trick-or-treating and Halloween parties, maybe one of these will spark an idea. All the costumes you're about to see are hand-made, which is very obvious in the earlier shots! Please click on each photo for better details.

There were four of us who used to dress as a group, in some kind of theme. The bottom photo in this group of two was actually our first attempt: we went as The Four Seasons. My ex-husband (left) was Summer, I was Winter, Chris was Autumn, Scott was Spring. It's very hard to tell, but our hats lit up. We hid battery packs inside the hats to run the lights.

The top of the two photos was the next Halloween. Our theme was The Las Vegas Strip. We each went as a hotel: Brian was The Aladdin, I was The Stardust, Chris was Caesar's Palace, and Scott was The Flamingo. I think I'm probably dating us here because I'm not sure that all these hotels exist any more! Again, it's hard to tell but not only did our hats light up, but so did our costumes. In the photo, you can perhaps see the twinkle lights in my skirt, but when we'd walk down the street, we lit up the night!

Finally, the last year we did a group theme - well, it was the pièce de résistance! We recruited friends and family to take part, and we became The Seven Deadly Sins. Scott knew a professional photographer, who took a few shots of us in all our sinful finery!

From left to right: Greed (Brian's hat said, "Money is the root of all evil," and he had play money and coins popping out everywhere); Anger (my hat said, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!" and my sash was a red dragon); Envy (aka Jan Brady from the Brady Bunch. Kim went around the entire evening saying, "Marsha! Marsha! Marsha! It's always about Marsha!"); Vanity (Claudia wore a gorgeous peacock headdress with hand-mirrors for a necklace); Sloth (Lisa dressed in pj's with a pillow behind her head, covered in candy-bar wrappers); Gluttony (that's my sister Marilyn, with food and drink all over her hat and clothes); and finally, Lust (Scott's costume speaks for itself, and you don't want to know what's in his hat!)

Here's another shot:

Once again, the hats and the costumes lit up, thanks to those hidden battery packs. With seven of us all lit up, you could see our glow coming from a mile away! We won first place at the parties we attended, although we had to duck through every door frame. Those hats made us mighty tall!

* * * * *

As I said, this was a long time ago, in a different life. My Halloween costume these days resembles a tired housewife at the end of a long day. I'm no longer covered in lights and sequins, but rather in pet fur and quilting threads! And I wouldn't have it any other way.

But it is fun to look back, and remember! Thanks for joining me on a trip down memory lane.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cheers for Number Fifteen!

Really I don't dislike to cook, but what you cook
is eaten so quickly. When you sew, you have
something that will last to show for your efforts.
~ Elizabeth Travis Johnson

Wow! When I decided to take part in the Fall into Fall Quilters Blog Giveaway, I had no idea of the number of entries I'd receive! There were over 135 submissions, although only 129 actually answered the required, "what I love about quilts" question.

I just transferred all qualifying entries into Excel, so I could number each one. Then I did a random number generator, and got the following...

So who, you may ask, is lucky number 15?

The winner is Sunny from Seam 2 B Sewing!

Here's what Sunny said she loves about quilts:

I love this book. Please enter my name in your giveaway! I love the wrinkly drapey feel of a quilt and all the beautiful designs. I have a blanket addiction anyway and quilts fit the bill nicely!

I can't argue with that! Sunny, if you'll email me your mailing address, I'll put your prize in the mail right away. Here's the Thimbleberries book she won:

I loved reading everyone's comments on what they love about quilts. For many, it brought back fond memories of mothers and grandmothers who have passed on. So let's remember that when we create and give a quilt -- or any hand-made gift, for that matter -- we're actually giving a piece of ourselves by which we'll one day be remembered.

I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that thought.

Thank you to all who entered!

Until next time...

Friday, October 10, 2008

CAN'T is a Four Letter Word!

If you think you can do a thing,
or think you can’t do a thing
– you’re right. ~ Henry Ford

I received an email this morning from a friend, saying she’d thought about me when she read the article she’d attached. It had to do with changing negative attitudes by changing our language. I was thrilled and honored that the item made her think of me (thanks for the compliment, Margie!)

The article, written by a fitness and nutrition coach, deals with the words, “I can’t.” The author feels particularly challenged working with a new client, who has 75 pounds to lose. It’s not the amount of weight that is the hurdle: it’s the woman’s mental attitude. The client sees the world in terms of things she can’t do: she can’t exercise because she has a bad knee; she can’t find a large variety of fruits and vegetables at her small, local market.

Can you see the barriers this person is creating for herself with the words she uses?It amazes me how we do this to ourselves in so many areas of our life, be it weight loss, continuing our education, or changing our spending habits. We set our own limitations and create our own failures with our attitude, and the words we choose to express how we feel.

For many, many years, I told myself that I just wasn’t a very crafty person. Oh, I could write well, play the guitar, sing a lovely song with the best of them, etc. But I had no talent to do handcrafts or artistic things. My creative spirit was stifled by my self-imposed limitations.

When I decided to learn quilting, I struggled against that inner critic that kept saying, “You don’t have talent for artistic projects.” I can’t tell you how many times I cried and thought, “Oh, what’s the use? I’ll never be any good at this!” Then one day, it dawned on me that it doesn’t matter whether I’m good at something or not. What matters is that I enjoy the process - and I sure do.

A creative, artsy person was born! Now I look through craft magazines and know I can create any project I see, given enough time and patience. I likely won't win any prizes, and I just don't care. I'm doing something I told myself I could never do, and that's what matters to me.

Throughout this past decade, I’ve learned that how we think about our life determines how happy we’re going to be living it. If you’re struggling to make changes in your life, take an honest look at your attitude toward the change your seek. Become aware of those subtle ways you tell yourself, “I can’t” -- and change them into the much more powerful phrase, “I CAN!”

Until next time…

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Halloween Table Topper

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween. ~ Author Unknown

I've been secretly working on a little quilted table-topper for my youngest daughter over the past two weeks. I didn't want to post it because she often reads my blog.

But now that I've given it to her, I thought I'd share it.

Megan loves all those bright, fun Halloween fabrics, and had teased me about doing something when they first started appearing. I thought it would be fun to create something for her, since she's the true Halloween nut in the family (I wear that title at Christmas time!)

Here's the whole project, photographed from above. The center is an Ohio Star, one of my favorite blocks. I must confess, however, to never having made one with skull fabrics!

And here's a close up of all that fun material. The green spider and the green polka-dots came from two separate stores, and I was pleased how they well the worked and complimented each other -- if you can call glow-in-the-dark complimentary!

This was a relatively quick project to do, and I have to admit that the fabrics always made me smile. I think I may do a few more for the coming holiday season, although I'd better start now: I am sooooo slow at quilting!

* * * * *

On a non-quilting note...

I had my first-ever bone density scan today. My doctor just wanted a baseline since I am of a "certain age." The test, of course, is no big deal: it's like having an x-ray taken. But my jaw dropped when they took my height. She had me stand very tall and erect -- and I've shrunk! I used to be 5'7'. Now I'm 5'6 1/4. I've lost almost an entire inch in height. When did that happen??

As I left the office, I couldn't help smiling at that old joke: "I'm not fat - I'm just too short for my weight!"

Until next time...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Celebrity Sighting

Fame is fickle and I know it. It has its compensations,
but it also has its drawbacks
and I've experienced them both.
~ Marilyn Monroe

On Friday, hubby and I were at the Do-It Center, a home-improvement chain here in southern California. We were getting ready to leave when he came up and whispered in my ear, "You know that actor with the handle bar mustache - the one in all those westerns?" I thought for a minute and said, "You mean, Wilford Brimley?" and hubby says, "Yeah! I think I just saw him!"

So I wandered past the isle of the "sighting" and there stood a very tall, skinny man. Ok, that let out Wilford Brimley (celebrity names are not hubby's forte!) But the fellow I was seeing bore a striking resemblance to another actor we both enjoy. Except this man had on glasses and was very disheveled, with gray hair standing up all over his head. He was wearing a baggy t-shirt, shorts and sandals. I thought that if I could just hear him speak, I'd know for sure if he was who I thought he was.

As the man was leaving, another gentleman came up and spoke with him, and then I knew for sure...

It was Sam Elliot. There is no mistaking that "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" voice of his (cue the Aaron Copland soundtrack!) He was buying home improvement stuff at our local store. Shh... don't tell hubby, but I've always had a secret crush on Mr. Elliot!

I must admit to still being slightly star-struck. We didn't see too many celebrities in Utah, where I grew up -- although I did see and speak to Robert Redford at Sundance, back in the late 1970's. Rather, he spoke to my friend Jeanne and I: we were awestruck and just stood there with our mouths hanging open! He was shorter than we'd realized, and so incredibly handsome.

But here in southern California, celebrity sightings happen much more frequently. My girls have told stories of seeing Will Smith playing basketball with his buddies at a neighborhood park. Gosh, I guess they're real people, just like us!

I literally ran into Heather Locklear a few years ago. We were both getting our hair done at the same salon, and I bumped into to her. We both said, "Excuse me," and she went on to sit in her stylists' chair. My first impression of her is that she's very tiny, and extremely pretty - even without makeup. I couldn't help stealing glances at her as I got my hair done. That must be so disconcerting if one is a celebrity, don't you think? I can't imagine living life in a fishbowl like that.

Another friend and I were leaving a restaurant one night in Hollywood, headed to a production at the Pantages Theatre. As we were coming out, Quentin Tarantino was coming in.

I excitedly commented on this to my friend and she said, "Who's Quentin Tarantino??" I guess 'celebrity' is a relative term, eh? This same friend and I saw Kristin Chenoweth in concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall a few years ago (she is an incredible performer, by the way.) There were all kinds of celebrities in the audience that night, coming to see her show. It was fun sitting in the cheap seats, pointing down on the floor and going, "Oh looks, there' so-and-so. And there's whatshername."

Lastly, I have to admit to having been inside Larry Hagman's home. No, really. He and his wife Maj love the arts and support local arts organizations. I was working for a museum in Ventura at the time, and somebody who knew somebody who knew Maj Hagman arranged for our museum to hold a fundraiser at the Hagman's hilltop home in Ojai. Hubby came with me and we both had the opportunity to meet old JR Ewing, who spent a good deal of time in his den, watching whatever sporting event was on TV at the time. In-between, he'd come out and pour drinks for the attendees and talk about the art that was for sale... he seemed like a very nice man.

Seeing a celebrity in a normal, everyday setting is rather a surreal experience - like fantasy come to life. How about you? Have you ever run into someone famous? What was the experience like?

C'mon - dish!

Until next time...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Time Flies

You must have been warned against letting the
golden hours slip by; but some of them are golden
only because we let them slip by. ~ J.M. Barrie

First, I have to thank everyone who entered the drawing for the Thimbleberries quilting book. I'm a bit overwhelmed with the response, but promise that all of those who left a comment on why they love quilts will be entered in the drawing. Thank you for stopping by!

Second, click on the photo above and look closely. It's a fabric clock, and the face is made of sewing implements! Isn't that clever? I found it on a fun website I want to explore in more detail called Fiber Artists at Loose Ends. Boy, there are such creative people in this world of ours!

* * * * *

But now I have a question...

Who stole September? Where did it go?

For that matter, where has this year gone? Isn't it still March, with the whole year ahead of us? How can it be October already??

I had my annual physical this week and my doctor and I were talking about this idea that time flies by faster, the older we get. He said he has a clear memory of sitting in elementary school one day, where classes let out at 3:00. It was 2:45 and he was watching the clock slowly move. Dr. W. said he distinctly remembers the minutes just crawling by, as if those hands would never reach 3:00. It took an eternity for 15 minutes to pass.

Now, he says he blinks and another month has gone by.

I agree completely.

What is it about this feeling of time speeding up the older we get? Is it because our days are just more full now, with several to-do's and have-to's on our list? Or does time become more precious as we age because we realize that we have more time behind us than in front of us?

I don't know that I can explain the phenomenon, but it sure is real.

I'm working very hard to stay conscious of the days so they don't slip by in a blur. I didn't do so well in September, probably because we were gone for half the month in Alaska, then my dear cousin came for a visit. I relished every minute of both events, but before I knew it, it was time to change the calendars and pull out the Halloween decorations. Of course, my sense of time distortion is not helped at all by the fact that the stores already have Christmas decorations out. (I'm the queen of Christmas and revel in the season, but this is ridiculous!)

There's an old expression about living in the moment: not wasting time fretting over the past or worrying about the future. I want to work on this area -- to really savor each hour of my life because they're disappearing so quickly.

Many of us have blogged recently about all the things we love about autumn. So let's take time to really enjoy every minute of October this year. Smile when you see the leaves falling, and laugh at the kids jumping into a freshly-raked pile. Heck, go jump in one yourself! Enjoy a warm cup of tea or hot cocoa when the afternoon turns chilly. Treat yourself to a cozy knitted scarf or mittens, in your favorite fall colors.

Let's savor these days of autumn before they disappear!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Give-Away!

Everyone must take time to sit
and watch the leaves turn.
~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Happy October, everyone! What a great time of year! To celebrate the month, I'm hosting a contest as part of the Fall Into Fall Quilters Blog Giveaway. Don't worry: you don't need to be a quilter to enter. Even non-quilters will enjoy this prize...

I'm giving away a wonderful book by Lynette Jensen called Thimbleberries New Collection of Classic Quilts. It is a thing of beauty: hardbound with over 200 pages of quilts, patterns, instructions, and decorating ideas for the home (don't let my poor photography deter you: the book is gorgeous!).

There are projects for all levels of quilting, created in those scrumptious Thimbleberries country fabrics. Heck, even if you don't quilt, it's a beautiful book to look through, and dream!

Here's what you need to do to enter: leave a comment telling me what it is you love about quilts. Pretty simple, eh? If you don't have a blog, leave me an email address so I'll know how to reach you. I'll use a random number generator to draw a winner on October 15th, and the book will be on its way from my home, to yours!

Be sure to go here for a complete list of the blogs taking part. Go to those sites and enter their giveaways, too.

Happy October!

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's a Privilege

A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight
for democracy, but won't cross the street to
vote in a national election. ~Bill Vaughan

I'm a political person. I have very strong opinions about who should be elected president in November (ask my hubby: he supports the other guy!) But I keep that side of me out of my blog because - well - I just want this space to be about the positive things in life. And right now, politics isn't very positive.

But I have to put in a pitch for something about which I feel extremely passionate: getting registered and voting.

I just signed up to work a polling place on November 4th. I'm doing it as part of the American Association of University Women, so several of us in our branch will be there as volunteers. I wanted to take the 10-2 shift, but help wasn't needed at that time. So I instead volunteered for the morning shift, starting at 6:00 AM.

You gotta know how strongly I feel about this issue if I'm willing to be up and at 'em at that hour!

I know that it sounds so corny, but I can't help thinking of the people who came before us, who fought long and hard for the privilege to vote. And it is a privilege! Think of all the countries around the world ruled by dictators and tyrants, where free elections are only the stuff of dreams. The young man I tutor can't vote: he's a convicted felon and it's one of the rights he lost when he was sentenced to prison.

There's a great deal of apathy in our country, which stems from a feeling that we can't make a difference in Washington. I always hear talk of "the government did this," or "the government did that." What we've all seemed to have forgotten is that the government is US: you and me and our neighbors and co-workers.

So if you haven't done so already, get registered to vote (check here for the deadline in your state) then get to the polls on November 4th. I'm not much into exercising lately, but I will exercise my right to vote! I hope you're planning to do the same.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Autumn is a State of Mind

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns. ~ George Eliot

When I first moved to southern California in February 1999, I applied for a position at a museum in Ventura. I was interviewed by the director and associate director, both of whom become dear friends after I got the job. They asked what I'd miss about living in Utah, and I immediately said, "Autumn. Not the winters that follow it - but definitely autumn." The associate director replied with a statement that has stuck with me through the years:

In California, autumn is a state of mind.

He was right about that!

I've learned over the years that we made not have the overt signs of autumn here, but autumn does occur. The leaves on the tree in our neighbor's yard turn red and gold, and flutter to the ground every October. There aren't a lot of trees here that do that, so it's a real treat to have one right across the street. The nights develop a nip in the air. Granted, it's not the nip of frost and snow, but it's a nip nonetheless!

Hey, we take our seasonal pleasures where we can find them, right?

I've really enjoyed bringing out the autumn decor this year. Little touches here and there that make me smile. I have the pumpkin (above) sitting on my dining room table, and these little spooky candles sitting in popcorn (thanks for the idea, Kelli!) in the kitchen window...

They shed a lovely glow at night...

Autumn is definitely my favorite season, and I've often wondered why. My husband much prefers summer and the long, warm evenings sitting outside. I like getting cozy on the couch, with a fire in the fireplace. I love cooking this time of year, making soups and stews. I may even get brave this year and try baking bread (but don't hold your breath!)

There is just something about this time of year... maybe it goes back to when we were kids and we'd head off to school in September. Maybe it's the ancient celebration of the harvest. Perhaps it's knowing that autumn's glory is a harbinger of the winter to follow. Whatever it is, September and October are a lovely time of year for me, leading into the holidays and the joy they bring.

* * * * *

There are two great giveaways going on right now in blogland ...

Carole over at Pea's Corner is giving away some absolutely darling Halloween decorations. Check it out and enter. On second thought- don't enter: I want to win! :-)

And there's a great giveaway being coordinated by Debbi called Fall into Fall Quilters Blog Giveaway. I'm taking part, although I have yet to decide what I'm going to give-away. Stay tuned, but check out the Giveaway site for details.

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No wonder I love this time of year! It brings out the best in all of us. What about you? Are you an autumn person, and if so - why?

Until next time...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Glue That Binds Us

Family faces are magic mirrors.
Looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past, present, and future.
~ Gail Lumet Buckley

My cousin Kristi was here for a visit, coming from her home in southern Idaho. That's us, pictured above (she's the thin one!) You'd never guess by looking at her that she's a mother of four grown children and grandmother of seven, would you?

She and I have always been a happily envious of one another. I wanted to be thin and pretty, like her; she wanted to be able to sing like me. I wanted her straight hair; she wanted my curls. She's always claimed (erroneously) that I'm more creative: I know for a fact that she's the better cook. We've joked through the years about the human condition of always wanting what we don't have. We're not only family, we're dear freinds -- and that's a great thing!

We've been close since we were small kids. I grew up in Salt Lake City and every summer, my folks would put me on the bus (alone - can you imagine doing such a thing nowadays?) and send me three hours north to my Grandma's house, in southern Idaho. I'd get to play for a few weeks with all my cousins in that area: capturing frogs and lizards in jars; feeding the deer that would wander up to Grandma's back door; going to the annual rodeo fair. It was a wonderful experience for a "city" kid from Salt Lake.

As we got older, we grew apart somewhat. She got married to a dairy farmer and started having those four kids. I went to school and started working. We'd write letters back and forth, and occasionally see each other when her Mom would come to visit my Mom, or we'd go to Idaho for family reunions.

Then in the mid-90's, her husband was severely burned in a accident on their farm. He was flown to the burn center in Salt Lake, where he remained hospitalized for four months. During that time, Kristi lived with my ex-husband and I (and my Mom, whom my ex and I cared for) so she could be with her husband every day. It was a long and emotionally painful time. But Jim slowly recovered, and they both lived with us after his release so he could make his follow-up appointments every day.

As often happens, good things come out of the worst things. While her husband was healing, Kristi and I bonded once again -- this time, as mature married women. She helped see me through my divorce; she stayed with me while I was healing from gall bladder surgery; she was there for me when my Mom died in 1998. When I moved away in 1999, to remarry and start a new life, she'd fly out and visit. We always see each other when I go "home" to Salt Lake.

So I guess you can tell that she's a pretty special person in my life, and I loved having her here for a visit. My spirit has been fed.

I have been blessed to make new friends here in California. But there's nothing quite like family and old friends to keep me connected and grounded. Sharing a long history just feels so comforting. It feels good knowing there's someone who can look at me and think, "still crazy after all these years!"

Until next time...

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Seven Dwarfs

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm
wrinkles the soul. ~ Samuel Ullman

My cousin is here, visiting from Idaho, so I'm once again behind on my blog writing and reading. But I can't tell you how much fun we're having, laughing over old times and planning for new adventures! She's not just family - she's a cherished friend.

I thought I'd post this cartoon to let you know that I'm still alive, and to hopefully bring a smile to some of you. Ah heck, even if you're not at this stage in life, I bet you can still appreciate the humor! I know that these days, I'm living as either Forgetful or Sweaty - how about you?

Hope you're well and being happy!

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order. ~ John Burroughs

Welcome to Alaska -- or at least, the small corner of it we visited!

I'd like to share a few photos of the many wonderful things we experienced. We spent two weeks on the Kenai Peninsula, southwest of Anchorage. As previously mentioned, the weather was, for the most part, cloudy, rainy and overcast - so the photos tend to be gray, which is unfortunate. Please double click on any of them for closer details.

This is Surprise Glacier on Prince William Sound. Amazing - and it's incredibly blue. One of the crewmen said we were actually lucky to see it in such gloomy weather because in bright sunlight, it doesn't look so blue. How's that for a positive attitude? :-)

Yep, it was this cold and this rainy! Brrr!

But not all views were gloomy. Look at this gorgeous fjord...

And we did see greenery on our hikes, like this beautiful field of autumn colors...

My favorite part of the whole trip was the wildlife we saw. Here are seals in Kenai Fjords National Park. These creatures are disappearing at an alarming rate, and no one knows for sure why it's happening.

Everywhere we'd go, we'd keep an eye open for moose. You just never know when you're going to spy one having lunch along the roadside...

There were magnificent bald eagles everywhere we went. Imagine getting to the point of thinking, "Ho hum - another bald eagle!"

The greatest treat of our trip was seeing caribou. We thought we were too far south and too early in the season. When we asked about wildlife viewing, the nice folks at the Kenai Visitors Center suggested we drive out past the airport because the caribou sometimes come out onto the tundra there. We headed straight there, in the middle of the afternoon, and drove for miles seeing nothing. Disappointed, we left and went on about our day. At dusk, I suggested we drive back out there and try one more time. We were richly rewarded! Again, I'm only sorry that the photos aren't brighter. It was amazing to see these glorious creatures so close...

After they grazed to our right side, we watched them cross the road in front of us to graze on the other side. Here is the huge male that led the small herd. He was incredible!

Another surprise waited for us as we rounded a corner by the house we rented in Homer. There, standing by the mail box on a neighboring yard, were two Sandhill Cranes. We stopped and watched them, and were lucky enough to see them "dancing" with one another. They bowed and jumped and flapped their wings. I guess they got tired of having an audience of two, because they just slowly walked away, disappearing over the hill.

One more shot of my beloved puffins, this time at the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward...

Our one wildlife disappointment is that we didn't see bears. We had the same experience a few years ago in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Everywhere we'd go, people would say, "Oh, two bears were just here!" But we never saw a one. However, we had to take a picture of this warning sign at the foot of the hiking trail to Exit Glacier. Read what it instructs you to do if a brown bear attacks (again, double click on it to enlarge.) I'm sure it wouldn't be funny if I were in that situation, but the sign made us laugh!

We stayed in some pretty special places. Here are two spots I'd like to share. The first is the bedroom of the house we rented in Homer. It was called The Nest, and it sat on a cliff over looking Kachemak Bay. The view from the rooms and the deck was outstanding! And there were quilts on every bed...

The house was decorated with lots of dark green (my favorite color!) But what really convinced me that I'd found a kindred spirit in the home's owner was a wall we discovered by the washer and dryer...

It was filled with little framed quotes! Quilts, green decor, and a wall of quotes - what more could I ask for? Oh - and a view to die for!

Here's where we stayed in the town of Kenai... the Harborside Cottages, over-looking the area where the Kenai River meets Cook Inlet...

The view from our cottage at night...

Look what I found in Homer! Pehaps there's a new career is waiting for me?

There is a famous bar in Homer called The Salty Dawg Saloon. It's kind of a hole-in-the-wall place we just had to see! The walls and ceiling are covered with dollar bills. The legend is that the trappers would come in for a drink and leave money behind to pay for drinks for the trappers they knew would be passing through in a week or so. They'd write their name on the money and put it on the wall, where their friends would find it.

Nice story, eh? But check this out... this bill was tacked up right over my head:

Now, I'm not a Mormon but I am from Utah. Funny that I'd sit right under this one, don't 'cha think? :-)

What would a trip to Alaska be without fishing? Here's hubby throwing in his first line the second day of our trip...

He didn't have a lot of luck fishing the lakes and streams, but he had fun trying. As he always says, "The fishing's great: the catching, not so good!"

But he did have luck on a halibut charter out of Homer...

He shipped home 35 pounds of halibut fillets, which just arrived today. YUM!

I couldn't resist taking a photo of this funny sign at the halibut ("butt") processing place (click for details)...

Now, you may be wondering what I did why hubby fished for halibut (fishing's not my thing.) I treated myself to a massage - a loooong massage, with an herbal body wrap... in a small, heated yurt on the shores of Kachemak Bay. I could hear the waves and the gulls as I lay there, experiencing something very close to nirvana! Here's the view...

Ah, it was such a wonderful trip! Hubby and I are both from states where the snow flies each winter, but we now live in southern California. So it was such a treat for both of us to once again experience autumn in all it's glory. Those are the images I'll keep in my heart -- not the clouds and the rain.

How incredibly lucky we are to have been able to go to Alaska! Thanks for letting me share some of my memories with you.

And many thanks to Mary and Jill, for teaching me how to post more than five photos at a time on Blogger. It appears that this old dog can learn new tricks!

Until next time...