June 27, 2015

Living Love

     When you reach one hundred years old, I am sure it is common for people to ask your secret to a long life. I would expect that is not an easy question to answer. Is it the yogurt, the water, luck, genetics? How can one really know?
     When you have been in love with the same person for many years and people ask, what is your secret for a lasting relationship, it is a challenging question as well. I have been asked enough times that I have searched hard for a response. In the end, I think there are as many reasons as there are relationships, and I have thought of a few, but I believe there is one common factor.

     One thing you both want is compatibility. If you don’t like the same things and don't find similar joys in life how can you identify with your partner’s passions? Now my darling husband doesn’t knit or sew or decorate the house, but he loves creating things. He sings and plays several musical instruments, as well as writing his own music. He paints and does carpentry and can envision even the most elaborate project simply from a description. He knows and understands art and the passion that comes from the need to create. He is always a valuable and supportive contributor in my writing endeavors. In that way we understand one another. When I hold up a pair of socks I have designed, and explain what it took to learn how to turn a heel, he might not really care all that much about every stitch, but he understands that I worked and learned and earned that sock. When I hear him practice a song to arrange it to his talents and liking I understand what drives him to spend that time and energy. It is something we both have in common.

     There must be honesty. A good relationship of any kind must have open communication. That doesn’t mean stressful conversations on Sunday night into the wee hours of the morning where one partner is frustrated and the other confused and hurt. It has to come before that. It means being able to say whatever comes to your mind, knowing that your partner understands your true meaning. If you say something blunt, that person knows the difference between openness and being malicious. This is hard to find with other people at any time and priceless in a marriage. If one or both partners don’t speak their minds or can't be their genuine selves then how can one expect genuine love? You would be asking a partner to love  the person you are pretending to be and not the real you.
     In that same vein there must be respect. In love it is essential. This brings to mind the several hen parties I once attended where there seemed to always be one wife who spent the evening complaining about her husband. I always got the feeling that by belittling her man she somehow thought she made herself look better. Wrong. If he’s so bad then why are you there and who is really wrong? Without respect there cannot be a partnership… ever. My man is who he is. Did I choose him? You bet. Did I only want some aspects of who he is? No. I wanted him, good and bad and always as his own person. I wanted him to want me for the same reasons. I have never once felt that my partner ever made excuses for me being who I am, to anyone, ever, no matter what. I am my own person and he is his own as well. Anyone who tries to form a relationship expecting that partner is going to change into a different person is better off looking elsewhere. Better for both of you. 

      You need to have the same morals. They don't need to be high morals, but for the rest of the world it is nice. When you share a life and a partnership it does no good if one partner feels morally compromised by another. With similar morals things like political differences, religious beliefs and making everyday choices in life fall into place much more easily. When you have the same general sense of right and wrong you are better mates.

     And then the most important factor of all, commitment. Truly devoted commitment makes you both want to be there through thick and thin. If you are not ready to devote yourself to a relationship 100% you will never survive when life presents its inevitable hurdles. You won’t stay when the money is tight, when the children are exhausting or when the passion wanes. And if you are not both committed in the end you will only resent one another. If, throughout even the worst of times in a relationship, you feel that there is no other person in the world you want to be with, you will make it. Real commitment is never part-time or fair-weather. It takes hard work and has fantastic benefits.

     When you see that old couple walking side by side in the supermarket aisle, spending their final years together, having survived wars and families and hardships, take a moment to show them respect. They are the best of people and have accomplished something that is not always easy to do. They made a commitment and are seeing it through. For that they deserve a smile and a nod. With those who can keep a promise like that, the world is a much lovelier place.

      Thank you so much for visiting!

June 20, 2015

A Moment in the Garden

    It's mid-June now, how quickly summer seems to fly by. I have been extremely busy getting out my first book in my new trilogy, Whetstone. It's hard, but rewarding work, doing what I love most. Once the book was sent up to the printer's, there was a couple of days when everything had to be inspected and approved and it was the perfect time to take a little break. As my publisher called it, we "went on holiday". It was only overnight, but it was a pleasure to get away. We drove two hours to visit family in Maryland and on our visit we got a couple of garden tours. When we returned we were tired but inspired and I spent the following day in my own garden doing a good day's work. It was followed by putting up my feet for a relaxing game of dominoes with my grandsons beneath the river birch. It was a beautiful, warm-but-not-humid, day and today I am sharing with you a little tour and a visit to my garden.

     The cone-flower I put in last year has returned and is quite robust.
     And although we saw not a single bloom on any hydrangea last summer, this year the bushes are loaded. I often get one for Mother's Day and I am always happy to see that they have not only survived the winter but that many of them are thriving.

The butterfly bush on the upper level is growing nicely as well.

      Beside the stairs up to the deck, from the lower yard, the giant lily has returned, and has also multiplied. Last year it was so tall and hearty I needed a hacksaw to cut it down and I was afraid it would kill the huge plant. Once the blossoms open the entire yard will be filled with the sweet scent of lily, especially in the evening hours.

 The ornaments look especially pretty when the yard is all in bloom. After having planted several other unsuccessful flowers, I am now trying lily of the valley around the gazing ball with some success.

There is always a robin that loves to hang around, especially when I take a moment to fish a fat worm from the composter for them to enjoy.

This lovely flower is also a fairly new addition and gave me the opportunity to videotape a busy bee.

Or watch in HD on YouTube: Video Here

Thank you for visiting. Please come by again!

June 13, 2015

Newfangled Gadgets


   It's a wonderful time to be alive with all of the gadgets we have to make our lives easier. I love my good washer and dryer set and I pay homage all summer to the guy who invented central air conditioning. And don't forget that darned television and all the gadgets that go with it. First it was the VCR then the DVD player. I once had a house full of tapes, hoarding all of those movies I was certain I would watch someday. Alas, the tapes did not last and have been tossed out long ago. I have some movies on disk, not nearly as many as I had on tape, and most of those are our favorite films only. I have a cell phone, which I rarely, if ever, use for an actual phone conversation and of course, computers in about three versions.
     Along with the gadgets come the frustrations. How exactly does one answer a phone that requires you to swipe the screen and not push the talk button when you have  never before swiped a screen? I saw a book once, as big as some versions of the bible, explaining all the millions of secret features available on your iPhone. I decided that life was too short to read such a compilation. I do enjoy the toys of today and admittedly, much of my livelihood depends on eBooks and online promotions. I have accounts on all the big social sites and I can tweet, barely, but I do alright.
     The one gadget that fits into its own category is the Keurig coffee maker. It was a puzzle to me when I first got one and then to all of my overnight guests who wanted to rise early or help themselves to coffee throughout the day. It seemed as if I had many weekends where I spent a lot of time giving lessons on preparing one’s own cup of java and watching my company feel helpless. It occurred to me the other day that there ought to be an instruction sheet that could be posted right there with the gadget. How many office buildings have a Keurig that employees need to master? I found that there is a quick start guide that comes with a new machine but that doesn’t exactly fit the bill. Then the thought occurred to me, why not a good old-fashioned flow chart? My husband made hundreds, maybe even thousands of them over his career as a programming engineer and it is the perfect solution.
     So I went to work. I pulled out a few charts and studied them and then made a list of how exactly one uses a Keurig. I came up with a cute, simple diagram that is easily followed and can be printed out and stuck near the machine or framed, as I have done, to put beside the coffee maker in your kitchen. Maybe it would be of some use in your hotel or bed and breakfast?

My Keurig Flow Chart

The coffee making corner in my home

The framed Keurig flow chart

     The chart is a JPG file you can copy onto your computer, like you save a picture. On most systems you can  right-click on your mouse and save it or print it directly. If you should want to print it, it is designed to fit into an 8x10 inch frame. If you select fit to page for printing it will fill an 8 ½ by 11 inch sheet of paper.
     I hope you like it and enjoy many cups of coffee with your guests!

    I have been going through my final reading, before the Whetstone trilogy comes out, with my editor. Mostly he reads and I listen and comment. It is the last step before a book goes to print and a great time for a bit of knitting or tatting.

Yarn on the winder

A tatted handkerchief in the works.

     All three books will soon be out, one right after the other, and I am really excited to be sharing them with my wonderful fans, friends and followers. The first novel is available for order now:

     Thanks for visiting!

June 6, 2015

Tea Time


     Whether you call it a nap, a siesta, down time or tea, many cultures have historically set aside a specific point in the day to stop and relax. In a climate like those you find in Mexico and Greece very warm weather would certainly be a factor. It’s a good idea to stop in the heat of the day and take a little time out. In other cultures, like traditional England, at about four in the afternoon, it was time to stop for a spot of tea. In Germany, traditionally, it was time for Koffee. It’s that few minutes where you stop to regroup a bit. Perhaps your children need a snack after school, and we all could use a little time during that stretch between lunch and twilight to recharge a bit. Being a lover of a good cup of tea and a very busy person, the concept of taking that time simply for pleasure appeals to me.
      I do not stop at a certain point in the day to lay out the infusers and scones, but I try to take time out at least once a week to enjoy a nice cup of tea and a bit of relaxation.  Since I especially love the beauty of spring I make a point of doing up tea a little more special at twilight. There are warmer evenings that beckon me to sit outdoors with friends and neighbors and on rainy days, when there is still a chill in the air, a good cup of tea and a few cream puffs seem especially delightful. My husband is a musician and he has a group of fellow entertainers he meets with here every week. Their sessions can vary from playing the same four or five tunes until they are well-practiced, to running through their set list one song at a time. They usually schedule their practices from 7:30 to 9:30 on a weeknight. I love incorporating their delightful melodies into my evening teas. Their music is lively and easy on the ear, conducive to either intent listening or appreciating as background while visiting or simply sitting back and reminiscing.

Tea in the breakfast room

      I have a lovely little piece of property and a wonderful home and I do spend a lot of my time outdoors but it is almost always gardening and not simply enjoying the space. When I have finished a good, lively session of yard work I am usually dusty and perspiring and I come inside to shower and then stay indoors. It seems such a waste. I have decided I am going to really enjoy my lovely patio and do something simple, but special, more often out there. Even indoors, in these lovely spring months, the breeze blows through my lace curtains and sometimes carries the sweet scent of refreshing rain. Even indoors, spring has arrived.
      I have many pretty tea cups and creamers, sugar bowls and trays, and I have gathered them and a pretty plate stand and some other lovely gifts I have received from friends over the years. I have a tiny box that looks like a little hat box and now it is filled it with an assortment of tea bags, mint and orange, cinnamon and good Earl Grey. I got out my tiny teabag holders for those steeped bags, soft cloth napkins, pretty flowers and a collection of little pastries.
      With the glass polished on the patio table, I've rinsed the spring pollen from my big deck and pulled out my woven outdoor place mats. Indoors I have waxed my breakfast room table and brought out the Irish lace tablecloth. Both tables look lovely and inviting for tea and in my yard there's a pretty view of my flower garden and bird feeders.
      On a good evening outdoors, the sky is clear with a late spring sunset. The cardinals chirp until darkness while hopping about the feeders happily. My friends and I can take time out from our busy lives to stop and enjoy the world around us. It's delightful to lean back in a comfortable chair and share the stories of our lifetimes, a bit of light gossip and discussions of how much the world is changing. Everything is fresh and green with leaves newly emerged, and oftentimes the scent of the burning wood fills the air, as does the sound of sweet music coming from wonderful live instruments. I can stop and see that life is precious and how time passes far too quickly when pretty trays are loaded with empty tea cups and brought in to the sink.

 Set for tea on a rainy spring evening

      My office overlooks my deck and some mornings after last evening's tea, the scent of a good fire and a hint of cinnamon lingers in the air. It is a very nice reminder of a lovely gathering with tea beneath the stars. I vow to serve that wonderful beverage again very soon.

A new tea rose in my garden

Thank you so much for visiting!