December 24, 2015

Christmas Corn

      On the way to the last of his holiday gigs before Christmas my creative husband asked me if he was corny. I had to smile. My answer was a resounding yes and I think that is what I love most about him. He is a singer and an artist and a designer and a perfectionist. Except for the perfectionist part, and admittedly even that sometimes, I would not change a thing about him.
     This time of year he is in full tilt. Sometime back a dear friend put him in touch with the Philadelphia Parks Department and he began playing at their Christmas Village in Love Park. As with everything he does in life he threw himself into the show. He has a magnificent top hat he bought years ago in the Mad Hatter shop at Disneyland. He spent every dime in his pocket for it and when he pulls it out I know that it's going to be a real occasion. He asked me to find him a scarf, a white one, and to put a colored ribbon on the hat. He dug out his suit and assembled his version of a Currier and Ives ensemble. Then he learned twenty-some-odd holiday songs with gusto. If he was going to play a Christmas Village, he was going to do it up right. 

Dressed the Part

     We don’t venture into the city very often anymore and so that first year we had to guess how long it would take to get there and exactly where in Philadelphia Love Park was located. We parked a few blocks away and he popped on the top hat and grabbed his guitar. We were off on another adventure.

My husband

     When I first set eyes on him in 1979, I was having a drink with a friend at a local restaurant in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. He had come in after work for a beer and we were introduced. He was growing out his thick head of hair and had tried to contain it into a pony tail. He was lanky and spirited and it was clear he was comfortable in the place. I didn’t know then that he was a local musician and had played in the restaurant for several seasons. He got his drink at the bar and joined us in the booth. Although I was not fully aware of it at the time, I realize now that I fell in love that night. Everyone else left the booth and he and I talked for hours. We had common friends and he was living in a crazy house I had once rented in town. We had plenty to talk about, but there was much more. The rest of the world faded away for those few hours. It was not too many days later that I realized that I had been looking for this man all of my life.

Love Park 2013

     I have followed him on nearly every one of his musical adventures for over thirty years. He has played Love Park for four years now. The holiday spirit builds in him as he stands looking up at historical Philadelphia City Hall. One year he decided to memorize Dr. Seuss' story “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. He printed it out and began reciting it. Everywhere. He was the Grinch in the shower and driving in the car. The words, “little Cindy Lou Who,” echoed throughout my house and in a shocking few days he had memorized it all. The first night he recited it in front of an audience in a local coffee house the onlookers were as wide-eyed as toddlers. So was I. He is a singer and a story teller and he made it magical.

Philadelphia's beautiful City Hall

     This holiday season has been no exception. Again he played below the clock of beautiful city hall and was invited as well to the Christmas Village in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. There the village is inside a huge tent and he was center stage amid the stands serving bratwurst and bacon jam on an unseasonably warm day. He took that holiday spirit that grew inside of him while he practiced his holiday songs and “hitched up old Max,” and he poured it out to an appreciative audience. Last night he did it again.

     In a comfortable diner, not too far away, family and friends and fans gathered. They wore red shirts and warm scarves and they were festive and excited. They came for hugs and smiles and to hear him play. Pat insists he will not record his show. He must do it live. With his partner and bass player at his side, a talented clarinet musician and our youngest daughter, they sang the carols of the season, Blue Christmas and O Holy Night. And, after we all had clapped and sang along his fellow performers moved themselves into the audience and he turned up his microphone and told us all the story of “The Grinch”. He said the words, “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more” and I, like many others, felt a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. It is what we all came to find. Maybe it is corny, but maybe it is the holiday spirit. Maybe it is love.  I know he does it because of all of those things. He loves to perform and he is compelled to share. Every face that looked up and listened last night, and every hand that clapped, gave all the love back to him.

     As I watched him lugging out his heavy equipment at the end of the night I could see that he was tired, and relieved. He had put in a lot of himself and, as always, he made me proud. Proud that he is so moved to share himself and proud that again and again I am fortunate enough to follow. Corny? It's just about the best thing in the world.

A Great Storyteller

Merry Christmas to all!

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December 19, 2015


A visit to Grandma's

   And so this is Christmas, as John Lennon said. It is that time of year when autumn turns to winter and we begin to think about a new year. I also find myself looking back, remembering holidays past and the passing of time. I have many joys and pleasures to be grateful for in my life. I have a wonderful marriage and my health, as well as family around me that I love. I have laughter and the experience of over sixty years that lets me look at the world from a delightful perspective. I was reminded of all of that last night when my grandson Michael visited.
     My daughter had come over to practice Christmas carols with her father for a show they are doing this weekend and my grandson hung out with us while I enjoyed tea with a friend. He played with his electronic game for a bit and then showed up in the breakfast room and announced that he was bored. He didn’t care for my suggestion that he might like to wash dishes so I asked him if he would rather wrap the rest of my Christmas gifts for me.

 Michael's First Christmas

     Now, I’m not sure if Michael has ever done it before, but with the perfect bravado of a nine-year-old, he dove into the supplies and set to wrapping the oddly shaped gifts with abandon. They were the kind of things I hate to wrap: a large dog bone, a rope toy and a fluffy pillow. He didn’t care how they were shaped, he just wrapped away. At first he cut paper that was too small, but that didn't deter him. Since he is delightfully free of worries about being frugal (after all it comes on an endless roll) he simply unfurled more and cut a larger piece. He learned that shoving the scissors through the paper tears everything up and he soon became more patient, cutting with smaller snips. Then the real challenge came: the tape. He took on the dispenser in the same lighthearted fashion as the roll of paper. Zip! Off came a good two feet of the sticky adhesive. My friend and I covered our mouths and laughed hard. “Oh, rats,” Michael muttered as the tape folded and stuck to itself. He put that strip aside and zipped off another just as long. With surprising dexterity he quickly flipped that strip of tape against the paper, affixing it swiftly before static electricity could interfere, and amazingly it stuck right where he wanted it. Confidence can overcome a lot of challenges and young Michael is the perfect example of that. He simply grinned and wrapped his heart out.

A table and chairs that Grandpa built

     The thought then struck me, where, oh where, have nine years gone? Michael is now that same magical age my closest brother Thomas was when I noticed him growing tall. I envied him. As a female I was beginning to worry about wearing makeup and shaving my legs. At nine my brother Tommy wasn’t even looking at girls. He saved his pennies so that he could work on his bicycle which he took apart and painted “Candy Apple Green”. He was very proud and wanted a banana seat and a sissy bar. A sissy bar, he explained, was a large bent tube that stood up behind the bike seat. I’m sure he attempted many daredevil feats on that bike. In my mind his life was uncomplicated and ideal. My grandson, Michael, now has that same joy of a nine-year-old and much more. Isn’t that what we want for our children and grandchildren - something even better than what we had?

A toy guitar and amplifier that go up to eleven.

     And so, as a fortunate grandmother, that is my holiday wish for you. May your lives be better over the coming year, yours and the lives of those you love, your sweethearts, your children, your grandchildren and your families. May you rip the tape from the roll of life with confidence and abandon and without worry. May you find bliss and harmony in your heart with the simplest parts of life, the kind of peace that comes to a nine-year-old when the magic of the holidays approach. May your heart hope and believe once again. May you find peace.

Wrapped up perfectly!

Michael - Nine

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December 12, 2015

An Early Christmas

      Christmas came early to my house this year as a thoughtful gift from my darling husband. He bought us a new television, but it was so much more.
      Fifteen years ago, when we purchased our 1920s Cape Cod, our plan was to finish the full basement and make it into a huge family room. It would have a bar and maybe a little dance floor and of course we needed a massive television for those football and hockey games. We purchased what was then a state-of-the-art projection TV that measured a whopping fifty inches. It was a big television and a big deal. Soon the children moved out of the house and we found there were many more important and interesting projects to be done on our home. The only ones watching the huge television were my husband and I and the unfinished basement in our house was freezing. We could not imagine when that family room would happen.
      One winter's day we decided that we wanted to watch TV much more comfortably and moved the big unit into the living room. I hated it immediately. Our home was built when the most evolved form of entertainment was radio. The living room floor plan is designed so that people could sit around a roaring fireplace in the winter months and maybe listen to someone's Victory Hour. 

The huge television stuffed in the corner.

      The room is longer than it is wide and the only way to fit the monster television into the room was to tuck it into one corner on the far end. There it didn't block out a window or a doorway. We had to sit across the room and the lovely fireplace became just something that took up wall space and was no longer the focal point of the room. How to fix this problem? Slowly I developed a plan. A reasonably-sized TV in front of the fireplace would put the focal point back where it belonged. But there were other problems to be solved as well and for fifteen years I lamented over it.

The opposite end of the room, far from the television.

      So, for his holiday gift to me this year, my husband asked if I would like a flat screen television. Poor man. I'm sure he had no clue what he was saying.
      It's easy for a man, I think. He would go out and buy the TV he liked and bring it home and plunk it down and see only the TV. Problem solved, right? Oh no, not for me. I realized very quickly that it would need to sit upon a piece of furniture and would have to fit in just right. It had to be the right height and the right color and have the right features. After all, the idea of the gift was that I could have the room the way I wanted, right? Then, what about the sofa table? It didn't match anything, but hidden behind the couch it didn't matter. Now it would be very obvious. What to do?
      Trust me here, you do not want to know the details of what that poor man endured over the next couple of weeks while I took measurements and drew pictures and taped up wrapping paper templates and searched for the perfect TV stand. You would have to shake your head even more than he did while I sat in the living room evenings muttering to myself about how big a TV we could fit and where every piece of furniture would have to go. Then there were the wires, both the ones from the old television and the new. How would they come up through the floor and what was underneath the hearth? My husband is not only quite patient, he's pretty smart. He nodded his head and smiled as if he was listening and then got out of the way. I love that about him.

Wrapping paper taped to the fireplace for measuring a new TV. The cats helped.

      Now it's done. I'm exhausted but I'm happy too. For the Christmas of 2015 my husband gave me a new living room and when he came home after my insane day of rewiring the room and building furniture out of boxes, he sat down and smiled. He likes it, but mostly I think he's just glad it's over. 
 That's my lovely assistant, Secret, on the coffee table. She was there every minute! 

All cozy!

The finished living room. The TV is great! Stop by and watch a game. 
By the way, know anyone who wants a big, projection TV?

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December 5, 2015

Where’s the Pillow Lace?

     When I first started blogging I was just learning a new handcraft, namely pillow or bobbin lace. It also happened that shortly after creating this blog my first novel was published and my life took an exciting and unexpected turn. Some of my early posts featured me making my lace pillows and assembling my tools. I'm still making lace but it is a challenging art and it has taken me time to conquer some of the techniques. In the meantime I've gotten emails and messages asking for more postings about pillow lace. 

My lace pillow "dressed" and ready for lace making.

     After publishing my last novel I took some time to focus more on the lace making and today I want to share some of what I have learned. 

The first row of pins

    I decided to not to only make a blog posting about pillow lace but to try a little bit of "vlogging" or video blogging. I took several photos and recorded a video that illustrates the basics of pillow lace. I'm glad I did. Making a little movie was a fun and educational process in itself. I hope you enjoy it.

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Click here to view the video

November 28, 2015

Haggling for Pie


The following is a Thanksgiving Day conversation between myself and my five year old grandson, Thomas (with an occasional comment from mom):

Thomas: Can we have pie now?

Me: You want pie?

Thomas: Yeah

Me: Okay, we can barter for pie. (Note: My daughter made all of the pies herself by hand. I made none).

Thomas: (Puzzled look, probably over the word barter.)

Me: I’ll get Mom to give you pie if you trade me something good.

Thomas: You want a cookie? (Eagerly indicating a lone cookie in a clear jar nearby).

Me: No, it has to be something good. Do you have any stuffed toys? I’ll barter you one piece of pie for your favorite stuffed toy.

Thomas: (Face lights up) “Yeah!” (He runs upstairs and reappears with a stuffed parrot.)

One Stuffed parrot

Me: That’s really nice. That one is your favorite?

Thomas: Yeah!

Me: Okay, thanks.

Thomas: Can we have pie now?”

Mom: Wait until Dad finishes putting away the food.

Me: This is a really nice parrot. I can wear it on my shoulder. Very pretty.

Thomas: You can keep it forever if you want.

Me: That’s really nice, Thomas. But I’m not going to keep it, I’m just going to play with it for a while. You can have it back later.

Thomas: That’s okay, Grandma. You can keep it forever. I don’t like it very much anyway.

Me: Don’t like it? I thought it was your favorite.

Thomas: Not really.

Me: Which one is your favorite?

Thomas: (Runs upstairs and returns with a large Spongebob Squarepants toy.) This is my favorite.

Me: Wait a minute! I was bartering with you for your favorite stuffed toy. Now you’re telling me that this parrot isn’t your favorite?

The beloved Spongebob

Thomas: (Contemplates situation.) You can keep the parrot.

Me: But the parrot is not your favorite and we are trading for your favorite. So if you want pie you’re going to give me the Spongebob, right?”

Thomas: (sighs deeply in realization). Oh, yeah. (He looks back and forth at the parrot and Spongebob. Clearly he does not want to part with Spongebob.) I guess.

I think Thomas will barter more thoughtfully in the future. He also had lots of pie and continues to have possession of a stuffed parrot and he and his beloved Spongebob are still together. Thomas is a bit wiser, at least about Grandma.

One of the many pies

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November 26, 2015


     Last December I accepted a Facebook Pay-it-Forward challenge. If you're unfamiliar with pay-it-forward it's a good deed generating process based on the movie of the same name. One person does a good deed for three people who are then each obligated to a good deed for three more people and so on. I agreed to send a small gift within the upcoming year to the first five folks who responded to my post and agreed to do the same themselves. Four wonderful people signed up and I put a lot of thought into what gifts I could send to each of them. 
     I made a scarf for my brother, Leo​. I haven’t seen him in many years and in my mind he is eternally twenty-one, tall and lanky. That’s how he was when I saw him last. He likes to fish. Big game fish. What does one make for a big game fisherman that he might enjoy? I don’t tie lures (do you use lures in big game fishing?) so I made him a scarf. Not just any scarf, but a liar’s fisherman scarf. I called it: “The One That Got Away” and I sent it off. Honestly I thought he wasn’t’ quite sure what to make of the gift until one day some time later when the mailman delivered a huge double box of famous See’s candy. It was a thank you from Leo. I am big fan of chocolate in general, and definitely in handmade chocolate candy and even more especially in See’s candy, but there was much more. Our mom loved See’s, especially their California Brittle pieces. As I opened the box I recalled the first time she gave up her favorite California Brittle to me so that I could appreciate its delicious, crunchy wonderfulness. My brother Leo had sent me much more than chocolates, he had sent me a memory. I was deeply touched.

The One That Got Away

     I then turned to the remaining three gifts. I struggled somewhat, wondering what I could make for people whose homes I had never visited. Carrie-Lou had been a classmate many years ago and we had lost touch. Anna is a fan of my novels and I had met her only once at an arranged book signing. Donna and I have never met in real life, only on Facebook. I decided that instead of fancy, frilly gifts that might simply collect dust, I would send something practical for everyday use.
    Recently Donna became a grandmother. As we all know, with bundles of joy come many other bundles as well, diapers and bottles and clothes and toys. My daughter hangs a granny-square bag I made at the bottom of the stairs to catch all those little bits. For Donna, I made two.

My daughter's lovely home with the granny-bag hanging from the stairs in the far left foreground.

     For Anna and Carrie-Lou I wanted something they could also use every day. On my loom I made them handwoven kitchen towels. Like a good apron, a good towel is a great helping hand to have in the kitchen and in life.
     I packaged the gifts, took a walk to the post office and sent them off. 
     A few days later I received a heartfelt note from Donna saying she had gotten the granny-square bag. Apparently she'd had a rough day at work and the package on her step was just the thing to turn her day around. I was touched to hear she was so pleased by my simple gift.
    When the kitchen towels reached the other side of the country Carrie-Lou and Anna both contacted me. The packages had arrived at a time when they each needed a lift and they said I had helped brighten their holiday season. Again I was moved by their show of emotion.
     And so I come to the thank you's. Today is the day for them, isn’t it? The day we stop and reflect on how fortunate we are. Through all of the hustle, bustle and hassles stop, for just one brief moment. Pull those people you love close and tell them thank you. I know in my heart they'll love hearing it as much as you'll love saying it. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2015

Unfinished Projects

Dish towels in progress on the loom

     I had a conversation with a friend recently about unfinished projects. She currently has fourteen that are half-done and was starting a new one as we spoke. We both agreed that, as an artist, it's sometimes difficult to see a project through from beginning to end.  So today I decided to blog about my current jobs that are on the needles and looms and look at what helps me get the job done.

A partially worked sweater

     As you can see, I do have a few things going. There aren't as many as usual since I like to clear off my desk in the fall when I’m indoors more and the holidays are looming on the horizon. I did a bit of self-examination to figure out what keeps me motivated to finish a project.

Cards that need finishing

     Like everyone, I can grow bored with something I’m making. For example, the partially worked sweater pictured is a perfect example. While I was figuring out how the unusual pattern came together I was motivated to keep knitting to master the architecture of the sweater. Now that I’m past that part, the monotonous portion of knitting the body has set in. There’s the problem. The sweater is taking forever so I avoid picking it up and making any progress. Since I’m not working on it, it is taking forever. This leads to a self-defeating situation and the end result is that the sweater is not getting done. Here is where discipline has to intervene. First, I go back in my mind to the beginning of the project and I ask myself: what was it about making this sweater that got me started?  In this case I had envisioned a nice snugly house sweater that I could wrap around myself while writing in the long winter months. I would still like to have that sweater. That thought can help me get back in the groove. I also make sure the project is close to my chair, where I can see it waiting in my knitting bag and am reminded that it needs my attention. I know that if I just get started, pick up the needles and start a row, the next thing I know I will be knitting along. Experience has taught me that I have to take that first step or the sweater won’t get done at all. It's kind of like exercise that way, but much less strenuous. 

The beginnings of some spun wool

     But, what about that project that I really don’t want to finish… ever? It happens to every artist. If I can’t inspire myself or find I really am loathing a project then it’s time to reevaluate. Now and again I do start something I really don’t want to finish. I try to be honest with myself over the reason I feel that way. Sometimes the piece is not becoming what I envisioned. Maybe I thought it would look great but in fact it's just ugly or a hot mess. It might be that I lack the skills the pattern required, and try as I might, I’m not getting it. I have to admit I might have gone fickle and turned my eye onto some new exciting project that hasn’t failed me yet and I’d prefer to go there. Maybe it’s just boring. Sometimes the skills I wanted to learn on the project are conquered now so I’m ready for a new challenge. These can be honest answers but they can also be just plain excuses.
      Now this is the time I have to be brutally blunt with myself. Life is short and of course I don’t want to waste my precious hours working on a project without passion. That's understandable if it isn't just an excuse. I'm allowed. I go for the standoff moment. I take out my unfinished project and take a good hard look at it. If I decide not to finish it then I refuse to do it by lying to myself or to just let it die away. If I just want to quit I admit that to myself. I make no excuses. Do it or do not. Then I try to cut my losses. If there is yarn involved I unravel the whole thing. Maybe I didn’t complete the project but neither did I leave it just abandoned in the closet somewhere. That forsakes the supplies and sets up the guilt. I hate that guilt! If I were to do that too many times I’d have this closet full of unfinished, abandoned or failed projects and I’d feel guilty every time I started something new. Those darned unfinished projects would weasel their way into my mind and haunt me and spoil everything new. I’d rather own it. I take apart the project, white out the canvas, sort out the tools and put them away. I dust off my hands and move on. I let the guilt dissipate and accept that I didn’t finish. That’s all right. But hiding it away is not owning it. Moving on is not punishing myself but letting something linger like a failure is.
      I have learned a powerful lesson by doing that. Many times just imagining unfurling a project or clearly calling it quits is enough to make me think about the time and money I already have invested and I realize that I still want to complete the project and then I usually do finish it. If I follow the simple rule that either way the project must be finished or officially terminated then I take that lesson and move on. I don’t have as many projects sitting around on my shoulders or in my closest waiting to be completed.
     Now I’m going to pick up my needles and get a few more inches on that big sweater.

The sweater finished!

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November 14, 2015

There’s an App for That!


   This week I've been testing the virtual closet app called Stylebook. Oh yeah, it’s a wonderful time to be alive. Who would have imagined that here, in the future, one would be able to organize their closet from their armchair? I figured what the heck, I’d play.
     I have to admit that I didn’t really expect much from this app. I 'd read reviews that said it was like playing with paper dolls, something I loved as a kid, and that it was the perfect tool for the fashion-conscious, working woman. I expected that I would mess around with it a few minutes and move on. To my surprise and delight, that was not the case. Yes, like many things on the computer, one might say that this is really a toy, but, like many other things online, it does have some real practical application. I wish I had this when I was working jobs that required me to go outside, look polished and put together every day of the week. Since I'm a writer I could just as well organize my pajamas, right?  

The app's features

     With this little application, and the stuff that already comes with your phone or pad, you take pictures of your clothes and it makes them into little cutouts. I thought this would be overwhelming since I have a lot of clothes, not even including my pajamas. Surprisingly it was not. (More on the best way to do this later.) Once you have pictures of your clothes it sets up a virtual closet. In the app you can click on your clothes and mix and match them with other clothing from your closet. If you make up an outfit you like, you can save that as a “look”. It’s great fun. To start I had loaded in only about six items but I was really inspired to do a few more. I could even do this while eating a Magnum bar and trying to pretend that my clothes would still fit when I actually did get up and put some on.
     At this point I found a couple of clothing combinations I would never have imagined trying in real life. A black and white striped shirt with a tan corduroy skirt? Nope. But it looked great on the little app and when I needed to get dressed for something I tried it out. And I did it without a mountain of clothes spread all over the bed. This was getting to be more fun. I scanned in more clothing. It also does accessories, like scarves and jewelry and, after a bit of roaming around in the program, I found I can add my own categories, like tights. I even considered scanning in a body to put them on. Maybe I need some costumes?

Some of my shoes scanned in (yes, I scanned my favorite slippers too).

     Still in my comfortable armchair, I discovered a video that shows you the best way to take pictures of your clothing. I didn’t have a yellow sheet, as it suggests, but I did have a pale pink tablecloth and it worked well enough. Even better, I found that if I just got online and typed in a description of the piece of clothing I wanted to load in, for example, a black t-shirt, I could download a photo easily and the background was plain and worked perfectly. Now I was finding more ways to do stuff from the chair. Many of the pieces I have in my closet are very basic and this worked great for me. If you shop online it would make sense to just grab the picture and put the item right into the app. I could spend even more time in the chair!

     In much less time than I imagined I had loaded the major part of my wardrobe into the little app and the more I played with it the more cool features I found. One thing I really liked was that it has a calendar. I can either put in one of the outfits I made in the app or any mix of things from my virtual closet and it logs statistics. This tells you how often you wear something as well as what you never wear at all. What an OCD clothes organizer's dream! It certainly beats going through the closet a couple of times a year and trying to remember when I last wore a particular item. Even better, it shows at a glance what pieces were a good investment and which ones were a waste of money. It also makes it easy to pick out something I never wear and try it, from my chair. This adds up to more miles from those clothes I bought and am not wearing, assuming of course I get up and put them on. Conceivably, there should be nothing I own that doesn’t see the light of day, provided I get up out of the chair and go outside.

A "look" I created with my clothes.

     I have to say that this app is a bit addictive. I like to noodle around on my iPad in the evening and this is like playing a dress-up game. It’s private, so I don’t have to build this collage of my personal clothing for all the world to see. I can just play with it all alone in a virtual world and not have to hang things back on the hanger when I'm finished. Or I can pretend I got dressed really awesome and then just stay home!
     If you take your personal clothing seriously this app is worthwhile, or even if you don't it's fun. Once you put in a few pieces of clothing and play with them it's engaging enough that it inspires you to put in more clothes. I gathered many pictures online and it was an interesting exercise to see what I have in my closet that I remembered without looking. Less getting up, right? Is it frivolous? You betcha! In fact that’s part of what makes it fun. Like doing my nails or trying a new hairstyle it’s a fun toy for self-improvement and when I am dressed nicely I feel great, or even if I just imagine I am. I love things that make me imagine I feel great! 

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November 7, 2015

High Tea

     Now, I am not in any way a fan of posts of people's food on their plate in restaurants, especially if they eat half of it first and then get out their phones, but I had to do this. This morning I was treated to a visit to The Painted Teacup, a beautiful, tea-lovers refuge in Upper Darby, Pa. I expected it to be a nice visit since my good friend who had invited me is always wonderful company and she was paying so that would make it more fun. But the tearoom was even nicer than I had imagined. I am a lover of tea and romantic surroundings and The Painted Teacup certainly fit those requirements.

     We arrived a few minutes early for our reservation and the tea shop was largely empty. We were greeted immediately, seated and given a lovely tea menu several pages long that had us oohing and aahing over a delicious selection of teas. My taste buds got a bit confused imagining all the flavorful possibilities. I considered cinnamon and rose teas, lavenders, black and Oolong. They even had a full section of decaffeinated teas. Eventually we decided on a pot of a black rose tea and a spice tea. The setting was stunning and our beverages arrived quickly, and with a warm smile and an aromatic aura. The table was arranged with lemons and oranges, sugars and sweeteners, custom honey and tea flavorings. They had a jar of what looked like over sized after-dinner mints that I am certain had some amazing, fancy name. They came in lemon, cinnamon and other flavors you drop into your tea, gently of course, because they are huge, and they sweeten and tasty up your brew. I was already enjoying the pampering experience when the food began to arrive.

     Each yummy morsel was described by our server and every one sounded more delicious than the last. But, like being introduced to too many people when you arrive at a party, I couldn't remember the name of anything, so I just started with the warm tidbits on the plate. Heavenly. The breads were freshly baked, buttery and rich. As soon as I finished one and moved onto another I had to stop in our conversation and just get lost in the wonderful and unusual flavors of each food. Not much keeps me from talking so you know the food had to be good. Everything was fresh and inviting. This dining experience, on a beautiful autumn day, was the stuff of which dreams are made. By the time I got to the third item on the plate the lovely server had filled my teacup four times. I must have been talking faster and faster because my friend mentioned that the teas here are quite robust with caffeine. Then it hit me. I was high on tea. The place was packed now, but I hadn't noticed people coming in at all. Everyone was chattering away energetically.

     When I thought I couldn’t possibly fit another bite into my mouth or get too much higher on tea, another plate of food arrived, and my cup was filled again. Both my friend and I left with a tiny bag of tasty treats to finish later at home and we headed out to circle the airport without even needing a plane. It was two hours of pure bliss.

     Before we ventured out into the beautiful fall sunshine we took a little peppy tour of the tea house. There are rooms and rooms filled with tea paraphernalia and delicate gifts, pretty jewelry and Victorian style china which I didn't dare touch given my state. I picked up a few unbreakable things for gifts. The prices were reasonable and the selection was unusual. The tea high was great.

     I am thankful for a good cup of tea at any time. But, when it is gifted by a good and beloved friend and served in a beautiful tea house, life cannot possibly get too much better. Once home I wrote four blogs, bathed the cats and dusted all of my lampshades. I saw my friend up the street washing her windows. Now I understand high tea.

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October 31, 2015

A Fall Stroll

   It's a beautiful October here, with warm days and cool nights, and after running a few morning errands, I took a walk with my camera to enjoy the weather and my neighborhood. I live in an established area where many of the houses were built in the early 1920s and in between the big, older homes are houses from the 1950s and here and there a newer home. Sometimes I like to imagine what the neighborhood must have looked like when the first wave of homes were built, when there were lakes before the shopping centers and when every house had a wide yard. That is exactly what inspired my book, The Matter With Margaret where Margie Hobart goes to bed in the year 2000 and wakes up in the same place, in her home, in 1920. I imagined how she would have coped with ringer washing machines and very different gender roles than today.

   On my walk I not only let my mind time travel a bit I also enjoyed the diversity of the homes and the October decorations. I kept my own decorating simple this year just putting out my skeletal rat and his spider friend in the wreath.

     In my neighborhood there are many smaller homes with young families and a few Halloween decorations to delight young trick-or-treaters.

Happy little ghosts

Do you dare to enter?

Simple and sweet

Then there are the more serious decorators who have fashioned large webs.
 Pretty and scary.

A family a few blocks away from me gets quite serious every year, boarding up their windows and taking their hearse out to park on the lawn.

The skeletons look almost alive!

Don't text and drive!

Imagine what these windows must look like from the inside.

All around is autumn. The leaves are underfoot on lawns that are still green.

But the flowers are beginning to bid farewell. 

Thank you for stopping by to share a few minutes of your time. I wish you all a very happy Halloween!