A Gift of Time

How often do you get the chance to wander or leisurely stroll or stop, sit and observe in a botanical garden? What a gift! My husband was taking a pruning class for two hours, so I was on my own to wander or leisurely stroll or stop, sit and observe. I enjoyed every minute. Come with me for a few of the sights.

In the butterfly garden I discovered this balloon plant. The green balls are the bud, so I wonder if I will see flowers next week. (Yes, I get to go back next week too. 🙂 Stay tuned!) Butterflies like to lay their eggs on this plant and the larva love to eat it.

I didn’t see many butterflies hovering around the blossoms but I did spot

this enormous bumblebee! I was tempted to pet his fuzzy body, but reason took over and I only watched it and many more visiting the flowers.

After a wander through the hosta section of the gardens, I spent most of my time with water lilies.

This is a mosaic water lily. I love the way the little diamond shaped leaves join together to create a round shape.

The Victoria Water Lily looks like floating platters. The underside is covered with an arrangement of veins or ribs. Air becomes trapped between the ribs which allows it to float.

Yes, that is Chihuly glass in the water lily garden. Note that all leaves are not green.
Statue and tree reflection in the water, plus a quick water bug.

As I sat by the water lily gardens, I noticed movement. Water bugs were playing tag on the still water. A dragonfly landed on a bud and rested. All of a sudden bubbles rise to the top, pause, then pop. Ripples appear from nowhere. I have the time to discover all the action happening on the surface of the water.

One last water lily view –

The tag said Lycoris, but this is not the plant google finds when searching. When I saw the leaf, top left, I though perhaps the very hungry caterpillar had visited.

What does this look like to you? Does it look like a plant you might see in the spring? This is an autumn crocus! I had no idea there was such a plant.

Next week I will explore another section of the gardens. Wonder what I will find. Here is one final picture –

I have a Chihuly crown!
Don’t you have a story to share?

Learning

As a child, I devoured books. Trixie Belden, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and more lived in my head and heart. I followed their adventures with glee. Then in high school I fell in love with Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, D’Artagnan in The Three Muskateers, or anything by James Michner. The longer the book, the more I enjoyed being lost in this fictional world. Fiction ruled my reading world.

Nonfiction reading was for writing research papers. I didn’t really consider that “reading.” Where was the joy in facts? This reading had a purpose, meet the teacher’s request to research and spit back the information acquired.

Now I must admit, I did love reading nonfiction picture books. The combination of the pictures with the text opened my mind to an interesting natural world. They piqued my curiosity.

So that was the extent of my nonfiction reading, until I read a book by Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness. A couple of friends were reading it and their conversations intrigued me to discover this book, too. Sy Montgomery has caught me in her web of books and I can’t stop reading and thinking about her ability to draw the reader into her world of discovery.

Currently, I am reading Birdology by Sy Montgomery. The sub title is Adventures with a Pack of Hens, a Peck of Pigeons, Cantankerous Crows, Fierce Falcons, Hip Hop Parrots, Baby Hummingbirds, and One Murderously Big Living Dinosaur. Doesn’t that just make you want to know more?

I’ve always been interested in watching birds, but this book gives me a whole new perspective to consider. In the introduction she says,

“No matter where we live, birds live with us. Too many of us take them for granted. We don’t appreciate how very strange they are, how different. We don’t realize what otherworldly creatures birds are.”

All this is to say, that on my morning walk I passed a neighbor’s yard and saw this –

a yard shimmering with little spider webs. I stepped closer. There was a red dot in the first one. I looked at another one, same red dot.

I gently blew on the red dot. It scurried to the edge of the web. I was curious, I needed to know more. Probably Sy Montgomery would have a variety of protocols in place to help her learn more, however, I just used google when I got home. 🙂

According to my “research” they are probably black-tailed red sheetweavers also known as red grass spiders. They are only found in Mexico, the West Indies, and the United States. Should you want to know more about these spiders click here. During the day, the webs disappear. I will be looking tomorrow to see if they reappear.

What sparks your curiosity?

Don’t you have a story to share?

A Better Day, Tomorrow

In my desk drawer, I found a card that a dear friend made for me. I’m so glad I never sent it away.

I needed these words on Tuesday. I found these words Thursday. I will keep them front and center if I have a day like Tuesday again.

Last week was my birthday. I decided to celebrate all week long. Small moments each day filled my heart with joy. It continued through the weekend and then Tuesday arrived.

It was dreary, no sunshine to recharge my internal solar battery. I ached. I was out-of-sorts. I don’t usually have that kind of day. I hoped that in the morning I would wake up with a better attitude.

I did.

Don’t you have a story to share?

Not What I Planned

Each day has its own rhythm during this time of quarantine and social distancing. My activity is often dictated by what day it is.

Tuesdays are the day I go to Sam’s Club to restock my fruits and vegetable supplies because that is one of their senior days. Usually, I do my walk, sip my coffee, check email, and watch the first half hour of the Today Show. I wear yesterday’s clothes to make this quick run to the store.

I arrive at the store about 8:00 and I am out in less than thirty minutes. It’s not crowded so I can move through quickly gathering the items from my list.

After returning home and storing the items, I select clean clothes to put on after my shower. The clothes worn to the store are placed in the laundry basket. Life moves on in this simple rhythm until . . .

I turn on the shower and the handle breaks off. This handle was turned all the way to the left to bring the hot water quickly. I knew I only had a short time before the water would become scalding. Quickly, I shoved it back on and turned. That did nothing. I tried again and again, with the same result. Panic began to set in. I did not know how to turn off the water to the shower! I tried to adjust the shower head, so I could escape the shower. (The shower head is aimed directly at the door.) I got out as fast as I could.

Unfortunately, my husband was out on a bike ride, but I needed help immediately! Fortunately, my cell phone was on the vanity because it had been in my shorts. I called our neighbor (probably sounding like a maniac) begging for help in shutting off the water line.

Quickly I threw on some clothes and met him out at the water meter in the yard. He was able to shut off our water. Thank goodness!

My husband, dripping in sweat, found us in the bathroom trying to figure out what happened and how to make the repair. As we problem solved, we determined we needed a plumber. Thankfully, we have a heat, air, plumbing company that we consistently use and they assured us help would be coming. Within a half hour the owner of the company came because all his men were in the middle of jobs. He would give us a temporary fix. Relief!

Unfortunately, the temporary fix lasted about fifteen minutes and we had to turn the water off again. Fortunately, the plumber called within the hour and had our shower head and handle repaired in no time.

By 1:00 life was back to the quiet rhythm of a usual Tuesday.

Don’t you have a story to share?

A Bite of Delight

The weather report said: 5:00 a.m. stormy; 6:00 a.m. stormy; 7:00 a.m. stormy. As I closed my eyes and settled in for the night, I gave a satisfied sigh knowing I would not have to be up and out the door for my walk.

With that knowledge, I ended up sleeping forty-five minutes beyond my usual time. Imagine my surprise to see the daylight, but no precipitation. As I sipped my iced coffee, I listened to the weatherman assure me rain was coming.

Just as I thinking about changing into my walking clothes, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. Instead of walking clothes, I quickly pulled on shorts and a shirt and joined my husband in the car. We were headed to a spot downtown hoping to score an almond croissant.

A few raindrops speckled the windshield, so I grabbed the umbrella as I headed into the European Café. Ah-ha! There were four almond croissants on the counter. I claimed half of them and added two quiches (for lunch) to my order. No need to open the umbrella as I met up with my husband.

Clouds were gathering, but I thought perhaps I should walk before consuming this

Quickly I put on my walking clothes. My steps might have been a little quicker knowing the treat that waited for me. Looking ahead I saw

this threatening cloud. It looked like I might get wet, but I continued on. So glad I did because I got a glimpse of delight

waiting for a birthday girl.

The threatening cloud evaporated by the time I returned home. I cooled down, then savored every bite of the almond croissant. As I glanced out the window, I noticed the patio was wet. There was just enough rain to make everything damp. That was the extent of our “stormy” morning.

I hope there’s another bite of delight in my future.

Don’t you have a story to share?

Delight

What delights you? First, let’s get agree to use dictionary.com as the source of our definition. It defines delight as a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture. So back to the first question, what delights you? Do you think you could find a moment of delight in every day?

This is the reason I am thinking about the word delight. I have been reading this book slowly. Just a few essays a day.

In the preface Ross Gay explains one day he was feeling delighted felt compelled to wonder about and share that delight. He decided to write a delight every day for a year. He created rules: draft quickly and write by hand. He did skip a few days. He said,

“It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. I also learned this year that my delight grows – much like love and joy – when I share it.”

I want to develop that delight muscle. I want to look for moments of joy and high pleasure and savor them in the day. Here are a few delights I have experienced this week:

  • Cooler temperatures, lower humidity that allowed me to sit on my patio reading the afternoon away.
  • The drive-up window at our library to collect the books I can request on-line.
  • Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed allowed me to revisit Paris while learning more about Alexandre Dumas.
  • I didn’t have to cook dinner because a food truck came to our neighborhood
  • A small dish of ice cream in the evening (lately it’s been vanilla swiss almond)
  • Several new recipes were tried and deemed tasty. They will be made again.
  • The cooler weather meant I could wait until later to walk, so I enjoyed sleeping a little later, waking up slowly, and sipping my iced coffee before stepping out into sunshine but yet coolness.

So have you thought of any delights? If so, share them in the comments.

Basil, Glorious Basil!

I have a small plot on the side of the yard just big enough to have a couple of tomato plants and basil. Impatiently I wait for the temperatures to warm enough to dispel the fear of frost. As soon as possible, I find a couple of plants, I do not have the patience for seeds. A few weeks later I have an abundance of basil.

I need to use it, but pesto is not my favorite use of this aromatic herb. I turn to the handy helper Pinterest to tantalize my taste buds (and use massive amounts of basil).

First discovery is Soft Batch Basil Lime Sugar Cookies. Although they don’t use a massive amount of basil, they are rather tasty. My mother declared them addictive.

These are made with a 2 inch scoop, but I only had enough dough for 12 cookies (recipe says it will make 16). Next time I will use a smaller scoop.

Every few days I had a new recipe to try, so I would snip, snip away at the basil. Here are my new discoveries:

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce was spicy! If you look at the recipe, don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients, most of them are spices to create the curry flavor. Did you know that the curry you have on your shelf is actually a blend of many spices? That was new information to me! The only change I would make, would be to use only one jalapeno.

Photo is from website: https://wearenotmartha.com/basil-chicken-in-coconut-curry-sauce/

How does Sweet Corn and Basil Pizza sound? Another successful recipe with a few modifications. Lots of basil needed for the basil vinaigrette which is the sauce for the pizza. I used a flat bread from Aldis and regular mozzarella cheese. I divided the ingredients from the recipe since I only wanted to make one pizza. Side note: I had enough ingredients with the half portion to make the pizza again a few days later.

Before baking on the left, after baking on the right.

The weather has been unbearably hot, which led me to Shawarma Chicken Bowls with Basil-Lemon Vinaigrette. This recipe used a lot of my basil! Since it was basically a salad I added a few more crunchy ingredients to the bowl {cucumbers, red peppers, celery, radishes}. Sorry, no pictures for this one.

I still have one recipe that I have not tried yet, Creamy Parmesan Basil Chicken. I will let my basil recover from the snipping of the past few weeks before I snip it again. If you check out this recipe, you will note it calls for 1.5 cups of heavy cream, that might be the reason I have not made this one.

So if you find yourself with lots of fresh basil, try something new. You might discover a new favorite. 🙂

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What Lurks in the Dawn

5:30 a.m.

It’s predawn as I begin my stroll down the driveway, looking ahead for water hazards (a.k.a. automatic sprinklers) when I spot movement in the dim light. Something, no wait two somethings emerge from the culvert drain.

The culvert on the right is where they emerged. They hustled over to the culvert on the left.

Could that be a pair of cats? I have often seen cats disappear and reappear through this opening to the street. No, they don’t move like cats. They are small like cats, but cats have a lithesome quality. These critters waddle as they scurry from one culvert to the one on the opposite side of the street.

My steps slow as I cautiously draw closer to this pair. I remember the skunk family that waddled down our street years ago. I do not want to alarm these critters if they are skunks. I keep my distance, but have my phone ready for a snapshot.

Click, click, no that’s no good. The phone camera doesn’t like the dark. The images are blurry. I find the flash button. Click, click, their image is captured but their eyes reflect in the light so they have a possessed look.

Two teenager raccoons checking out the neighborhood before returning home to sleep the day away.

I wonder what other creatures lurk in the neighborhood.

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Control

“We plan our days, but we don’t control them.” I read this sentence in the book Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. I stopped reading. I grabbed a notebook to save those words to ponder their truth.

Life rolled along allowing us to do what we wanted, when we wanted, where we wanted with a few restrictions. That’s the way it was and would always be, so I thought. I guess I thought I was in control of my days because life followed my plan, usually. Then a virus appeared and spread around the world ending everyday life as we knew it.

Before the virus, I could make plans. Sometimes the plan worked out, sometimes the plan needed a little tweaking. The tweaking was no big deal.

Now, I might make a plan, but changing that plan turns into a big deal. Is the risk worth the change in plans? Usually not. Who would have thought that going to the grocery store, eating in a restaurant, or browsing in a shop might alter one’s life?

This virus has taken control of our days. It dictates when one should go to the store. It makes you wash your hands after getting the mail or picking up the newspaper from the driveway. It is the first thing one needs to do when entering the house. I wear a mask and plastic gloves anytime I am out in public. There is a bottle of hand gel and a canister of antibacterial wipes in a basket in the front seat of my car (plus a ziplock bag of cloth masks and an empty ziplock for used masks). I worry a lot about family members and friends. Will I ever see them in person again? (That has never been a concern before.) I hope so.

So for now, I will keep the plan for my day is simple, because I know I don’t have total control.

Don’t you have a story to share?

5:30 VS 8:00

Let me make this perfectly clear, the times in the title are a.m. not p.m. This is the time of day you will find me on the sidewalks of my subdivision.

I am not happy about the 5:30 time, but the temperature and humidity have risen too high to make my original start time (8:00) survivable. As I walked, I considered the pros and cons of the two start times.

Pros for 5:30

At 5:30 it should be cooler (although the humidity often makes it just as miserable). Just for the sake of argument, I will state it is cooler than the later time period. The light is more muted because it is before sunrise, but it is not dark. The sun does not blind me and make me squint as I look ahead. Occasionally, there might be some color to the sky in the east. More often than not, there is no spectacular sunrise.

The beauty is not just in the sky. When the conditions are just right I find ground fog in the field. A gauzy veil draped over the ground.

There is no social distancing to worry about. NO ONE else is out and about at that time of day.

Cons for 5:30

When I need to be on the move by 5:30, I cannot snuggle back into my bed, for another hour of drifting between asleep and awake. I must get up, get dressed, and get out the door. No time for caffeine to simulate my conscious being. Awake and moving are the order of the day.

At 5:30 there is a water hazard to contend with on my journey. Sprinklers on timers often run at that time of day. Usually I see them and can veer down a driveway into the street and use another driveway to get back on my route. However, there have been times I’ve been caught off guard. When I hear a sppp-sppptttt-ssppttttt I need to pick up the pace or be pelted with water. (Which might offer a little coolness.)

Pros for 8:00

There is no water hazard. The sprinklers are finished. The sun shines brightly revealing the sparkles not seen in the muted light. Dew is not the only thing to glimmer in the bright light. Slugs have been laboring across the concrete leaving their secret code behind. Those faint white lines glisten in the morning light. I must say that even though I admire the glistening lines, I loathe slugs.

Look to the left for the squiggle to start and go up.
Does X mark the spot?
Look at the top middle, the trail stops. Where did the slug go?

I have time to savor my coffee and allow the jolt of caffeine to take effect before beginning my walk.

Cons for 8:00

There are others walking, so we play the game of chicken (more commonly referred to as social distancing). Who’s going to step off the sidewalk onto the road?

That brilliant sun makes it HOT! Sweat rolls down my nose. Sweat slides down my forehead stinging my eyes. Sweat lingers at the roots of each hair follicle. I am MISERABLE! I am a dripping mess!

The conclusion of analyzing the pros and cons of the two times is to stick with the early time slot and just suck it up. When it gets cooler, you will find me still in bed at 6:00. I can’t wait for those days to return!

Don’t you have a story to share?