Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where Women Create

I finally picked up my own copy of this magazine.  I've read so much about it on others' blogs.  I actually saw it in my own Publix.  I wasn't expecting it there.  I figured I would have to go to Michael's or Barnes & Noble.  I am still pouring over it.  Such inspiration I've never seen!

COVER STORY:   She is in a league of her own.  Elizabeth Maxson is the reason I started painting furniture the way I do. (And if I can ever find my camera, I will share some of it!) After reading her story I understand why she closed her store, I just wished I had made it up there before it happened.  I admire her on every level and hope to see her work in person some day.  Meanwhile, I await her upcoming book.  How exciting!!

MY BLOG DESIGNER:  I have been walking around showing everyone Karen Valentine's picture and bragging, "Here's the woman who made my blog page!"  Like just saying that somehow makes me as famous.  I'm just so proud to be able to say that I have what feels like a real connection with someone in that publication. 

TRUE INSPIRATION:  Someone call the authorities!  This woman is running my store!!  Wait until you see the front windows and awnings of this store.  I think I can even make out A BIRD IN HAND written on the windows.  Please check out more of Rebecca Ersfeld's beautiful store:  Vintage Living.  I will most likely be on both of her sites most of the day. 

The more research I do, the more I am seeing this amazing network of talented women.  I think I have mentioned that before, but it is really incredible.  When I was in blogland a few years ago, it seemed that it was something just starting.  It has taken off on such a grand scale that everyday I am more amazed than the day before.  As I continue to read every word of this magazine I notice some common threads.  These successful women love the Lord, their families, and their homes.  The fact that a business has bloomed from little seeds planted so many years ago is the biggest blessing. 

I also see the word fear mentioned by a few.  I can relate to that.  Karen Valentine's tip is, "Don't let fear stop you from doing something that you love or that is important to you."  The quote on the side of Elizabeth Maxson's desk tells of what our fears truly are and why they shouldn't be.  Susan Rios' tip is, "Try not to compare yourself with others...."  I like that especially.  There are many similarities with many of these businesses, but everyone seems to have their own little spin that makes them unique.  That is where I fit in, I believe.  I will continue to sort out what makes me "me" and find my niche among these women, I hope.

Seeing these women's great creative spaces, reminds me that I have an AWESOME piece of furniture in storage that will make a great place to store art supplies that now are stuffed into my bookcase.  It is an old secretary top that I have tweaked a bit.  It sits on top of an old iron frame.  It has a lot of little spots that will be perfect for my collection of rubber stamps, old books that I like to rip pages from, and other art supplies while still looking like a great piece of interesting furniture in the new sunroom.  And don't get me started about Gertrude!  She is my old dress form that once graced my booth.  Hopefully, she is still in good shape.  I've got to find a place for her that my husband can live with.  Yes....it's a plan and a place to start.

Thank you ladies of Where Women Create and blogland for inspiring me to get off my creative rear and get going!   I have work to do!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

STOKES Revisited...

A year or so ago, I had the pleasure of working with a friend who also became a client.  She entrusted her house to me, and together we turned it into a warm and inviting home.  Susan Stokes is an entity in and of herself.  She is a successful plumbing and mechanical contractor who long ago took a sledgehammer to the glass ceiling. 

Susan lives in a Florida ranch-style home on the water.  The main room is her everything room...kitchen, dining, living, entry.  It went from being a little chopped up with a few different floors to one open and coordinated living space.  Check out the before's and after's.

BEFORE - Dated white cabinetry, stem wall at the entrance chopping up the space, tall bar impeding the view and space, and oversized pantry cabinets.  Also some ceiling damage due to an a/c unit leak.

AFTER:  Bright, open, coordinated space.  New flooring, lighting, appliances, cabinetry.  Redesigned lower island with an incredible countertop of honed granite (used throughout).  It looks like petrified wood with a beautiful texture.  Bye, bye to the stem wall and we now have an inviting Great Room!

While we were at it, the guest bathroom was redone also.  All new everything.....tub, toilet, flooring, vanity, sink with lovely new custom shower curtain and cornice. 

In the master...new custom bedcoverings and window treatments complemented by the new wall color set off her existing furniture perfectly!

That brings us to the present project.  The view from the back is beautiful.  Susan has a lovely yard with a pool and covered patio.  We have begun to add more landscaping and removed the screen making this space more of a lanai than your typical screened-in room.  It is a work in progress, stripped down to the bare bones.  A summer kitchen and beautiful furnishings await.  Keep checking back for more updates.

So for now......

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I'm so excited to share this new page with you.  It is the beautiful work of Karen Valentine of Valentine Design.  She does amazing work and I'm so proud to call this blog my own. I also say to her, Thank you for your patience with me!!!  She took all my crazy email notes and ideas, and turned them into this beautiful creation.  This is me.  She nailed it!!!  Please take a look at both her blogs. 

I feel there is still much to learn and reconnect with in the blogosphere.  I was out of touch for a few years and this thing TOOK OFF!  My favorites are still here, but there are just so many more as well.  It has inspired me to get in check with what used to be my little business and see what I can do with it on a much smaller scale.  I have pictures of past projects to share.  The list of possibilities is just ticking off in my brain. 

In the meantime, I will continue to just open and stare at this new pretty page of mine, tweak it, move things about, add little things....all the things that will really make this page mine.

See you again very soon!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Secret Leaves Paperworks

When I first started "A Bird in Hand" it was meant to be as my card read:  "Vintage and whimsical furnishings to feather your nest...garden...soul."  I really enjoyed searching for products that I wanted to represent and wanted to represent me.  Through this wonderful network that blogging is, I ran across Secret Leaves Paperworks.  Please look at their offerings and how they create what they do.

The night before my Australian friend, Glenda, was to leave, we went through my "goodie box."  I still have many treasures from my early venture and I wanted to share some of those with her.  A vintage photo album with an old beautiful sheet music book cover was among these.  It was a Secret Leaves creation that I was thrilled to share with Glenda. 

Today I looked through their website and blog.  I was thrilled to see their new creations.  Their products are still absolutely beautiful.  I know that if life leads me to fulfill my dream of my own little store someday, their lovelies will definitely grace my shelves.

~ ~

Dreams are illustrations...from the book your soul is writing about you.  ~Marsha Norman

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.  ~ C.S. Lewis

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ode to Dad

It is Father's Day.  I have many in my life who are fathers....my husband, my two brothers, father-in-law, brother-in-law, step-sons, and now even my own son is a father.  They are all very dear to me.  And while my own father has been gone for 15 years now (exactly....tomorrow) I still think of him so dearly on this day.

This is not his picture.  There are a couple of pictures I think of when I think of him though.  A picture of he and I by the front door of our house.  I was in high school with long blonde hair and braces.  He looked very dapper in his tucked-in shirt and white belt.  I can only imagine he was wearing white shoes also.  So 70's.  Behind us on the wall, a string art picture.  Again, so 70's.  I love it.

I also think of him sitting at our kitchen table when we lived in Niagara Falls in a turtleneck and cigarette in hand.  So 60's.

When I was in a school play, he was there.  When I went flying down the driveway on my brother's mini bike with a stuck throttle, he was there.  When I got stung by a bee, he was there to spit on my hand and add dirt to make mud to make it stop hurting.  Singing in chorus--there.  Dancing in Lancerette's--there.  Guarding my sophomore homecoming float all night from marauding seniors--there.  He was also there on the worse day of my life 19 years ago.  In my mind, he was always there for me.  To me, he is still there for and with me.  His laughter is just as present in my mind as it always was.  The way he walked, talked, and even smelled.  All I have to do is visit my brother, Tim, for all of that to come back too.  He is his spitting image.

I love you, Dad.  I always will.  Your words of encouragement have never left me.  When I think of you now, I picture you having a grand ole time in heaven.  I can hear your laughter from here.  Enjoy your day, Dad.

To all the other fathers in my life, I love you all as well.  Never forget to fill your world with love and laughter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Work in Progress

(This is the first present-day entry to what will be my permanent blog site.  It is a duplicate from my wordpress.com blog dated today.  Some beautiful changes to this blog are coming soon.  Can't wait!!  Please stay tuned...)

We are getting back to normal at the Bass household these days. Our visit from Glenda has come and gone already. That is hard to believe. The following weekend was a visit from my husband’s brother. Both he and his wife were down, but wife was at a class reunion and brother got to have some free time. So the brothers enjoyed a morning of kayak fishing in our sweltering heat. Still, the water was beautiful as always.

Meanwhile, I am working on a new blogging project that I will share soon. I’m making some changes, but this time change is good. I can’t wait to fill you in. So for now, I’ll just share a few pictures/sites that I love.

You know we love our chickens. Owning chickens (or CHOOKS as they are called in Australia) has become a popular hobby. Anytime I see someone’s coop and yard, I have to save the picture. I love our set up and will look for some pictures I already have on hand. In the near future, I will take some pictures of all the upgrades that have taken place in our yard and house. It all looks so great!

This is one of my favorites. I’m not sure where I found it, so unfortunately I cannot give credit where credit is due. Love, love, love the roses and chickens together.

Then there is this entry from Heather Bullard’s site. I mentioned her in my previous post.  Heather is the senior editor of Flea Market Style magazine. Check out their new blog at the link. She is also an accomplished photographer, so all the pics are her own. She and her “man” visited Santa Barbara and found this set-up behind a store they visited. So charming!! She says that the children of a family come in daily to tend to the hens. How sweet is that?. Click on the link to see all the pictures from her post. You will want to add her sites to your favorites to visit often. I have! We have said that our next coop (when would we need a next one?) would be a walk-in type and this is great inspiration.

I had intended to show our own pictures next, but I believe they are saved in my other computer. So I will wait and take current pictures to share instead. While you wait, here is our kitty….Gracie Allen Bass. She is sitting on top of the opened chicken coop door, but appears to have her eye on something in the distance. She is our miracle cat who survived a near fatal dog attack a few years ago. She has even had one of her hind hip sockets removed as a result, but seems good as new these days. When we have had a few rainy or chilly days she looks to maybe have some arthritic pain there though. She is a beauty!

If I hadn’t started painting, I would have raised chickens. ~ Grandma Moses

~ ~

Links and Recipes

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated June 10, 2010.)

I just realized this morning that I had incorrectly typed the link to Seeds of Change in the list to the right. I have since corrected it. I also added a few new links to new-to-me blogs.

Chelsea Blue Whispers is a lovely blog from Australia. The author is in business with Cathy Penton of Simple Things-Small Joys in Queensland. They each have their own blogs as well as the business blog.

52 Flea is a new blog to me entirely. I actually picked it up (and the others) from Chelsea Blue Whispers. That is how the word spreads on this interesting medium. I used to be referenced on others’ blogs with my first blog a few years ago, but not this one….not yet. Anyway, 52 is most interesting. Just looks that I love and wish to share.

What luck I had in running across Cannelle et Vanille. I have no idea how to pronouce this pretty-looking set of French words. The author is a chef, food stylist, and photographer. What a great combination! Interestingly enough, especially for me, many of her recipes are gluten free. They look absolutely yummy, something not always found with gluten free. I can’t wait to try a few.

And finally, Heather Bullard. Another woman after my own heart. Her entire site is quite lovely.

PINEAPPLE-GINGER RICE WITH EDAMAME ~ I tried this new recipe last night. I had intended to make it while Glenda was visiting. I even had it clipped to the refrigerator, right in plain sight. I finally made it last night and it is my NEW FAVORITE!! I can see me making a batch each week for me to take to work for lunch and nibble on for dinner. For me, it is a complete meal. For some, it would be a side dish. I got it from the Whole Foods Market website. Please click on the link for the full recipe. I think I will put my own spin on it in the future by adding different nuts and/or seeds, other herbs from my garden, and maybe apples or pears in place or addition to the pineapple. The more I add, the more vegetable broth I will need to add to compensate. It is good warm or cold. For lunch today I added a drizzle of Drew’s Rosemary Balsamic dressing on top. YUMMY!! Hope you will try it and love it as much as I do.

Those who don’t pick roses in summer, won’t pick them in winter either. ~German proverb. HUH???

My How Time Flies

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated June 9, 2010.)

It has been well over a week since my last post. Many, many exciting things have happened in that week. It began with two friends meeting after over 40 years. That sounds strange, doesn’t it? For over 41 years I conversed with who would become a lifelong friend via “snail” mail, a few phone calls, and finally email. Many, many times we referenced meeting one day. Maybe we just thought that was what we were supposed to say. I’m not sure we ever really thought it would happen. We come from very different lands on opposite sides of the world, on opposite sides of the equator, in different hemispheres. Amazingly enough, the time came when, yes, we would meet and spend a wonderful week getting to know each other. What we found was that countries apart, worlds apart, people are the same. We have parents, husbands, children, and friends. We deal with the same situations that having those things brings. We also found that we had an uncommon amount of things in common. Our views were often the same on many topics.

We shared the same favorite things, favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite styles. When we met for the first time, we were both wearing the same color shirts. We wear similar styled glasses. The list continues. The more we talked about our daily lives, the more familiar our stories were. How we looked at our day-in, day-out activities. Why we made the choices we have, how we rationalize things…..so, so similar. The more we were made aware of our similarities, the more we realized that we had not conversed enough thoughout the years to have influenced each other’s thoughts. It is just how it is. A sisterhood that was formed many years ago, came full cirle.

The timing of it all was also very interesting. I shared with her that my favorite musical artist, James Taylor, would be coming to her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. She said she wished we could see him together instead. Then she said that she would be traveling to Canada to participate in an international Dragon Boating celebration/competition. If she visited with me here in Florida the week before, JT would be in my neck of the woods. Another “amazingly enough”……we did just that. We attended the Carole King-James Taylor Troubadour Tour concert last Saturday in Ft. Lauderdale. You’ve Got a Friend never had more meaning as it did that night.

In this high-tech world in which we now live, this story will never be repeated. You will not find two young children who will find each other via Brownies, begin writing….as in handwriting words and thoughts onto a piece of paper, placing a stamp on an envelope, and sending it off into the unknown with great anticipation of a letter coming back in return. Today it will be an instant response via email. We even conversed with her husband and children in real time, with live pictures, via Skype. It was amazing.

A bond that began 40-something years ago is now forever sealed. When we said our tearful goodbyes yesterday at the Fort Lauderdale airport, I told her, “I will see you again.” Her adventure continues with a trip to Toronto, then Quebec. I imagine she will be anxious to go back to her place below the equator very soon. Her family awaits. She will have so many stories to share.

Meanwhile, the next phase begins. The planning of a trip to her land. Maybe in a year or two, but it will now move up on our list of travel priorities. The obtaining of passports, the gearing up for the long flight. I know it will happen. So to Glenda…..until we meet again.

Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend? ~James Taylor

All Grown Up

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated May 25, 2010.)

Almost every day is filled with something wonderful and something not so wonderful.

Here are some of my wonderful moments so far today: My granddaughter, Kloe, gave me a sweet soy-milky smile while wrapped in her daddy’s arms as I kissed her forehead goodbye this morning (I kissed my son’s forehead too.) My husband brought home a beautiful pint of blackberries from his walk to the grocery store. All day I have been thinking of delicious ways to enjoy them and was once again reminded how I love that we can walk to the grocery store. At lunch today, I began reading a beloved book, A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach (more on that later).

Here are some not-so-wonderful moments. While sitting in my truck at lunchtime, enjoying my beloved book, I noticed how old my arms are starting to look. Scars on my hands and some new cuts from pruning dead wood from my roses add to the damage caused by growing up in the Florida sun. It was a not-so-gentle reminder that I’m almost 50. (I still have 3 years to go, but my husband likes to call it almost 50. Thanks, dear.) Then I glanced again at the cover of A Way to Garden and noticed my favorite part: the author’s hands look like my hands did this past weekend, covered in dirt with dirt embedded in my nails. It has taken me almost three days to finally get the last of the dirt out and it doesn’t even bother me! (So did I categorize this correctly after all?)

In my constant struggle with my weight and how I really want to live, I feel defeated that I give up on my attempts to eat gluten-free/vegan. It is truly what I want to eat and be, but it is an effort when I am the only person in my household who embraces it. I am encouraged to be that, but I am the only one to eat that way, so that means two different meals or variations of a meal. I don’t have the energy for all the prep and the result is that I will not be presenting my best self to my long-awaited friend. (I hear my husband telling me that I am too hard on myself. Yes, I know and I know that only I can make it happen.)

And finally, I have just learned that a dear colleague where I work has died. He was sick for about a year. His quality of life was not good, so does one feel sad or silently rejoice that he is now in peace and with the Lord? (Perhaps both?) When a friend said to me, “Why does this always have to happen to the good ones?” I found myself saying, “We will all have our day.”

When I hung up the phone I thought, wow, I feel like an adult….all grown up to know that I will not live forever on this earth. I pray I will live forever elsewhere, as I pray this gentleman does as well. I even feel comfortable expressing my wishes for my own end. I want to be cremated with some of my ashes scattered at the Bass Harbor Head Light on the coast of Maine and the remaining planted in the ground with a new tree in someone that I love’s yard; be it my son’s or one (or more) of my grandchildren’s yard. I am hoping that it will be a long time off and that all my grandchildren will be all grown up with yards of their own and can say “That’s Grandma’s tree. She is planted there too.” This may gross some people out and may greatly upset my mother, but I really don’t want to be buried in a cemetery taking up space where some trees and flowers could be growing instead. And NO FUNERAL!!! I want a party, if the living feel there must be something. It is depressing enough that a loved one has passed, but to have everyone endure a week or more of preparation so everyone can stare at my casket and weep? No thank you. When a friend died a year or so ago, we all met up by the beach to honor her love of the beach. It was lovely. I want that. Eat, drink, and be merry. Shed a tear if you feel you must, but be outside enjoying all of nature…the trees, the birds, the flowers, the water — all the things that I love. Play my favorite music. And just to save my mom from the phone call that I know will follow this post, No, Mom. I am not sick. I am fine, just all grown up. I love you very much and will see you soon!

And so while we all speak of our friend’s death, we also prepare to welcome another colleague’s granddaughter who is in the process of being born right now. (And all this going on in the same hospital!) It is a continuum.

So bascially, in their own way, all the moments have wonderfulness in them. Even those originally considered not so. When one can have these thoughts, see the good and accept the not so good, but carry on nonetheless….that is pretty wonderful.

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.  ~Unknown

If growing up is the process of creating ideas and dreams about what life should be, then maturity is letting go again.”  ~Mary Beth Danielson

Paint and Worry

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated May 21, 2010.)

I felt Martha Stewart would have given an approving nod in our direction this past weekend as the shed was painted Martha Stewart Saguaro (MSL092). The house will soon follow suit. Eventually, the hen houses will be painted the same (very Martha-esque!). I glanced out to see a freshly painted wall and a chicken walking past. It was as if I had opened an issue of Martha Stewart Living and was pleased it was actually my very own back yard I was seeing. The trim is my favorite Ultra Pure White from Behr (the brightest white in my opinion), and back to Martha Stewart for the doors: Kerry Blue Terrier (MSL161).

It looks like this coming weekend will be an exterior paint fest. Calling in all favors from all those for whom we have ever helped paint (or other such projects)!!! Yes, I know it will be hot, but I will keep the liquids flowing. We have a small house….won’t take long at all!!

Meanwhile, worry is filling my mind this afternoon. Yes, I know how fruitless this activity is. It is not about the painting of my home, but of other things I cannot control. In an effort to contain it, I did some research on clever quotes.

“People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross.” – Author Unknown

This conjers up a vision of a bridge so grand that even my bridge engineer brother would be impressed. I feel that at least something constructive would come from my worrying. But if I never get to cross it….wasted energy. Point taken.

“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change; but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.” Chinese Proverb

I laughed at this one as I instantly saw a FLOCK of birds trying to build a nest on my head. I liked that it brought me to laughter, which has always been a great anxiety reliever to me. It also made me see the nonsense in this activity…this worrying thing.

“For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.” – Author Unknown

BOINK! Hit right on the head! Right….I am not in charge. Okay, I'll quit!!

Check out these nests. Maybe I could wear these as earrings to match my bird nest hat!

Fake It Till You Make It

(Reprinted from my wordpress blog dated May 11, 2010.)

Someone said that to me years ago and it just stuck. Today I will fake that I really don’t have a nagging sore throat; that the projects I always have on my list each night will really get done; that I really am not worried how my son will make it in this life and that his son and daughter will grow up to be perfect and well adjusted; and that I really don’t want to just be out in my garden up to my elbows in dirt instead of where I really am. There – just writing all that down seemed to unload it all just a bit. There isn’t much there that I have control over, so why let it continue to stew?

Over this past weekend, when my sweet little Kloe fell asleep in her swing, I ran out into the backyard in the hopes of planting a few new plants: Russian sage Pevovskia and Powderpuff Mimosa strigillosa.

To me the sage almost looks like lavender with stalks of lavender blooms. I think two more will create the drift I am hoping for. They only go to Zone 9, but I often have good luck with that still. It is planted in a semi-shaded area under a tree that I wish I knew the name of. It is a tropical tree native to South America (I think), with beautiful yellow blooms in the winter (which was why I wanted it) and BIG thorns (which is why I was asked to please not plant it a couple of years ago). I planted it anyway. I cannot fully stand under it yet so I am on my hands and knees digging a hole with my small hand trowel while trying not to get thorns in my back.

The pink powderpuff mimosas are native to Florida. I planted them in and amongst some other groundcovers…a creeping jasmine and dune daisies. I like the idea of the pink powderpuffs popping up their little bushy heads there. All in keeping with the backyard color scheme of purples, whites, pinks, and yellows (and shades thereof).

Any gardener knows that when you are out there on your hands and knees (or finally just sitting there in the middle of the bed), weeds seen have to be removed. I have a pesky weed that likes to invade everything in the yard….grass included. As I was pulling it up and flinging it into a pile, I turned to look over my shoulder and saw our chickens feasting on them. First of all, I didn’t even realize they were out. It is a different view to be sitting on the ground when they are having their walk-about. They look so much bigger. Secondly, it was pretty cool to just watch them pecking all the leaves off the weeds I had discarded. My pest was their feast.

Out of nowhere, these lyrics popped into my head:

To everything: turn, turn, turn;
There is a season: turn, turn, turn;
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven.

I guess seeing the chickens eat what I had considered to be trash reminded me that everything has a purpose and place in this world. And since I basically think life is one big musical anyway and that in certain situations one should just break out in song, I was not surprised that a song came to mind. However, that particular Byrds song had not entered my mind in forever. And right then and there, I felt peace. I enjoyed just sitting in the middle of a flower bed, under a thorny tree, watching a chicken dance, and humming a song in my head.

Next scene, my husband is walking out of the house with our granddaughter, who is now awake. He sits down in the grass so she can see the chickens up close and I can finish getting my few plants in the ground. Here Comes the Sun, the James Taylor/Yo Yo Ma version, is next on the In Carol’s Head jukebox. Truth be said, there is almost always a song going on in there. Kloe mostly bears the brunt of my constant singing and often looks at me quizzically. The other day I made up a little ditty that almost made her laugh. She goes to sleep every night listening to Jewel sing lullabies. I have no idea if it helps or if she likes it. She seems to. It makes me feel better anyway.

In my Fake It Till You Make It world, I often don’t have to fake it for long. I just break out in song and everything seems better!

I miss my singing career very much. ~ Elvis Presley

The only thing better than singing is more singing. ~ Ella Fitzgerald

And finally….

If your lifeguard duties were as good as your singing, a lot of people would be drowning. ~ Simon Cowell

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where my heart is today...

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated May 6, 2010.)

     This is the only David Austen rose that has ever grown for me.

A little water, a little sunshine, and I'm good.

Sweet lavender.

Crazy climber...

My prettiest dill ever.  I think I'll plant some more.
(Postcript....not tolerating the hot Florida summer very well.  So sad.)

Happy endings.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
Chinese Proverb

Who Knew? Cinco de Mayo

Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated May 5, 2010.)

I have to confess that once I actually said that I did not speak Spanish so I did not know what Cinco de Mayo meant. As I was stared back at dumbfoundedly, he said, “Uh, cinco, as in the number five…” The light went on. Sheepishly, I said, Oh, yeah. Cinco – five; Mayo – May…the fifth of May. Admittedly, I catch myself saying “blondish” comments like that every once in awhile; thankfully, though, less and less as I age.

I also have to admit that I had no idea what was significant about the fifth of May to Mexico. After a bit of research, I learned that Mexico defeated the French unexpectedly at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Here is something else I learned in that research. There are basically only two entities, worldwide, that celebrate Cinco de Mayo: the State of Puebla (naturally) and……wait for it…..the good ole USA. We just love a party, don’t we?! Not even elsewhere in Mexico is this day celebrated, interestingly enough. Perhaps it is that this country began as the melting pot of people from the world over. We love playing host still and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so let’s be sure to celebrate every countries’ holiday (there is probably more truth to that than we know).

Or another school of thought. It’s all a marketing ploy. Let’s find the common denominator, shall we? St. Patrick’s Day….Irish beer (think Guinness); Oktoberfest….German beer (think Beck’s); Cinco de Mayo….Mexican beer (think Corona). Yes….it is beer. Not being a big beer connoisseur, it never really hit me before, but yes, I believe the beer industry is behind it all!

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m thankful for the help with tonight’s dinner menu: tacos, refried beans, chips/salsa, and an ice cold Corona Lite (with a twist of lime). I am a marketers dream afterall. To Mexico! To Puebla! Salut!

Lilac Memories

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated April 28, 2010.)

I was born in Niagara Falls, New York. We moved to Florida when I was 8. When I used to tell kids at my new school where I was born, they would always ask if my mom was going over the falls when I was born. Stubbornly, I would say, “Yes.” It’s funny that even now when I tell people where I was born, that next sentence still comes instantly to mind and I think to myself, No I was not going over the falls.

As my mother would attest, I sort of lived in my own little dream world growing up (some would say this is still the case). I used to flit around singing and dancing and such. We lived in the sort of little neighborhood where it was safe to wander a few blocks here and there, and do our own little bit of exploring. I believe two blocks behind us is where I found “The Flower Lady.” It was the first time I had ever seen someone plant flowers in their entire front yard. There was a little white picket fence surrounding it all and no grass to be seen. I really wanted some of those flowers. My exact memory of how I got the first bouquet is a little fuzzy. I know the lady of the house did come out to talk to me. Whether she found me standing and staring from outside the fence (which would have been the appropriate thing to do) or whether she found me strolling amongst her flowers (the more likely scenario) is not clear. She did get to me before I picked the first flower, I do remember that. I told her I wanted to bring some flowers home to my mother. She made me a beautiful bouquet and I went dancing home, so proud to present them. My mother was not so happy to see my offering though. Mortified that I had picked all the flowers from someone’s yard, she made me take my father back to the house where I had gotten them. They did not believe my little story that someone had just given them to me. So back to The Flower Lady’s home we went. She announced to my father that I had indeed asked for the flowers and did not take them on my own. Whew! Saved….that time. From then on, I visited The Flower Lady (as I had dubbed her) quite often.

At the end of our street, lived an elderly couple: Mr. and Mrs. Buttons. They had several lilac trees in their yard that were too beautiful for me to resist. Knowing I could not get in trouble if I asked first, I boldly knocked on their front door and asked if I could have some blooms please. Who could resist a little five-year-old with white hair bouncing about who thinks nothing of introducing herself and telling her entire life story (to my mother’s continued mortification)? From then on, The Buttons’ yard became a new play place. My pals and I would hang out underneath the trees, orchestrating our little plays and singing songs at the tops of our lungs. Many times, I would have them walk all the way down to our front yard to watch one of our productions (that I was, of course, the director of). I would put chairs out for my parents, The Buttons’, and my best friend, Judy Zimmerman’s Nanna and Bumpa (I believe they were Hungarian) to come watch us perform. Wearing my mom’s old crinolines, I’m sure we were a sight.

Every spring, when pictures of lilacs abound, my mind floats back to Duluth Street, Niagara Falls, New York….to The Flower Lady…..to Mr. and Mrs. Buttons…..to the 12 noon fire hall bell call…..to the biggest wild roses that grew outside the little neighborhood store (I did help myself to those many times). I guess it is good that I cannot actually grow lilacs here. Maybe they would lose their special place in my memory if I saw them so often that I took them for granted. So I will happily gaze upon their pictures instead and let my mind wander back to my own little dream world.

In childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking out. In memories of childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking in. ~Robert Brault

The Glenda Project

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated May 3, 2010.)

When I was in first grade, living in Niagara Falls, I was a Brownie. We did the typical Brownie things. We made a “sit upon” which basically was a recycled shower curtain folded over newspaper that we loop stitched around the edges to hold it in place. It was used to literally sit upon rather than sit on the floor, or grass, or whatever. I had that thing for years it seems.

One of the more interesting activities was being told we would be participating with a troop in Australia and become pen pals with a Brownie there. Australia sounded very exotic to my six-year-old imagination and I thought the girl’s name I would get would be equally exotic. I was handed a slip of paper about the size of a fortune from a cookie that read, “Glenda Dunstan.” That did not sound very exotic to me and I remember asking if I could try again. I was told no. I guess she already had my name too. Okay….Glenda it is. Our assignment was to write an introductory letter to this person and let chance take it from there. This all occurred somewhere around 1969. Mail to and from Australia took about two weeks, each way. My mom proofread my letter making sure it was in my best handwriting and there were no errors. I do remember having to redo it a time or two. It was quite exciting to receive that first letter. Everyone in the family had to read it, look at the stamps, note Glenda’s interesting handwriting and way of speaking (“Mum” for Mom, “holiday” for vacation, etc.).

And a friendship was formed….

Fast forward 41 years (OMG!) and we are STILL friends! There have been segments of years where our writing waxed and waned. We have spoken on the telephone three times during the years. Yes, she has an adorable accent. Interestingly enough, she thinks I have an accent. When the brush fires were ravaging Southern Australia last year, I had to call to make sure she and her family were okay. She lives in Melbourne and luckily were still south of where most of the fires were. She was very touched to know I was worried for her and even more surprised that America was following along with what was going on Down Under.

During the years we each married (she is now Glenda Morris), had children, lost loved ones, survived illnesses (Glenda is a ten-plus-year breast cancer survivor). We now take advantage of the internet and read each other’s responses within hours of writing. Australia is fourteen hours ahead of us, so if she is up late and I am up early, we can almost “instant message.”

In less than one month, I will meet my Australian Brownie pen pal for the very first time. She is traveling to North America (Canada and the US) and will stay with me and my family for seven days!!! This is a miracle to me. It seems almost surreal….that on one hand, I feel I have known her since childhood, but on the other hand, have never really met her at all. What will she think of our American ways? What are American ways, anyways? And how do they differ from Australian ways?

This has spurred a flurry of activity at the Bass household. I live in a modest 50’s style cottage. It is tiny and adorable. There has always been a list of “wouldn’t it be nice to do this to that area” that has, up to about three months ago remained an item on the list. The list now has a name: The Glenda Project. The back porch is now an almost completely enclosed sunroom. The laundry room has been rearranged with a new hot water heater added. A new 12 x 12 shed has been added to the backyard across from the chicken coop. The kitchen pantry has been removed and a very cool antique armoire stands in its place. (Only some…okay one… of the home’s occupants thinks it is very cool.) It is not perfect, but that is part of its charm. If I wanted perfect, I would have bought a new piece. (The French door to the right is now gone as that is where the sunroom is.)

(I forgot to mention that I was told this HAS to be the LAST old piece of furniture I EVER bring into our house. Now how am I supposed to accomplish that? Maybe he was kidding….)

My brief mention of the projects above do nothing to describe the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that have accompanied them. The sunroom was half engulfed in old termite eaten boards and had to be completely removed and replaced before the back half of the house fell off. Why that actually never happened is beyond me. My husband tried very hard to cut his thumb off with the table saw. An ER visit and seven stitches later, he was back at it. Exterior CBS walls had to be drilled and chipped to accommodate the new placement of the dryer vent. And still the work continues….

Maybe one of the Australian ways is not to worry so much over what kind of panty food is kept in or if all the walls are freshly painted or if the almost 50-year- old wood floor has just the right sheen to it. It certainly seems to be an American way, though–or at least this American’s way. As the time of Glenda’s arrival quickly approaches, the list still seems insurmountable. My attitude toward that list has relaxed somewhat. At some point, the focus will shift to what we will do to make my exotic Aussie pal feel welcomed. In the meantime, I still have some painting to do!

Rainy Days and Mondays

(Reprinted from my wordpress.com blog dated April 26, 2010.)

A bit of melancholy settled in yesterday morning when my 4-month-old granddaughter, Kloe, left with her mother. For reasons inappropriate to divulge, she and her daddy–my son– have been living at my home for the past two months. In that two month period, I have run the gamut of nerves, anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, helplessness, and hopelessness. Not one bit of that matters when I walk into their room each morning to see her face smiling up at me, legs and arms flailing in excitement to see me. I believe yesterday I even heard her first giggle. It’s not really as bad as I make it sound here. It is very good that she spend time with her mother and maternal family. If all goes well, she’ll be back in two weeks for another stay. For all of the turmoil, it seems a modicum of peace and civility has risen to the surface. I will survive. This is just me feeling sorry for myself. I’m allowed to wallow for a few minutes.

After a trip to the feed store for chicken feed, my husband surprised me with a trip to my favorite nursery, Giverny Gardens. I had been saying how much I wanted and needed to get out in my own garden. With a baby in the house, moments were not always my own. So for something positive to do and think about, plants and flowers always do the trick. While this is a beautiful picture below (from their website) it really does not do justice to their nursery. They were chock full of spring flowers. I could have easily spent hundreds of dollars (or more) and still wanted more. They even had foxgloves and delphiniums….just gorgeous. Even though tempted, I did not get either as their lifespan is so short here. I did enjoy seeing them in person though. It may have been the first time I have ever seen a real foxglove. It was beautiful. I do have my eye on a few rambling roses though. I am not sure they are on Fortuniana rootstock though. They probably are not, but I will have to give them a try anyway. It says to prune them every 3 to 4 weeks. They must really take off. At 20 bucks a pop, I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks and hope they are still there. Is five of them too many? I think not.

I did get a few things though and happily went home and puttered. The trip there was absolutely worth it.

My mom used to have several orchids growing in a mahogany tree in our backyard. She said God took care of them because she would just put them in the lower branches of the tree and they were on their own from there. They thrived in the dappled shade, slightly moving air, and humidity. I feel the same way about how my garden looks right now. Flowers are busting out all over. The Confederate jasmine is covered. Roses are in bud. I cannot take credit for it as it has been months since I’ve been out there. However, yesterday, it felt wonderful to do even just a few things. The compost tumbler was emptied and its contents spread about. The plants reap the benefit from the kitchen scraps plus “leftovers” from the rabbits and chickens. I took out my past-its-prime ornamental kale, planted my new plants, and even some seeds. It might be a bit late in the season for that, but I have this mentality that in Florida we have a year-round gardening season and I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I may get a surprise or two when those seedlings don’t thrive in our already warm spring. Still, it felt good to do it.

I don’t get to do whatever I want, whenever I want. None of us do. No matter our age, we still keep trying though. I was reminded of that when I gave Kloe her millionth kiss goodbye yesterday morning. The young have the luxury of having a tantrum. My tantrum will be in the energy I put into my projects for the next few weeks. Still, there is a peacefulness to knowing I don’t always get to have my way, that I don’t have control over everything, that I need to let it go. I will change that to let it grow instead and see what happens.

~ ~

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com