Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Shades of Purple and Pink

It is that time of year, when my driveway smells wonderful.  That's because it is Lilac Season.  The hedge was barely budded a few days ago, and now the flowers are almost fully bloomed.  I really love lilacs, and I am very grateful to whoever planted these bushes years and years ago.

There seems to be a lot of purple and pink in the neighborhood right now.  I'm not sure what these other flowers are, but we found them along our walk tonight.

They are all so beautiful!

Monday, April 17, 2017


We had a pretty easy winter around here, relatively speaking.  Even so, it is such a treat to see all the beautiful flowers blooming.  These tulips were growing in front of school today.  Beautiful red tulips, the sun was shining, and I even got my mower started for the first time this season.  In fact it started on the first pull.  What a wonderful day!  Mowing wasn't that much fun, but at least the mower started and everything else was good.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Dad

A few days ago I was cleaning out one of the file cabinets in my craft room.  I decided it was safe to get rid of tax returns and teaching contracts from eighteen years ago, along with warranties and instruction books from appliances I no longer own.  I did a lot of sorting, reading, and shredding.  At the bottom of the drawer under all that clutter, I discovered this photo.  It's my dad!

He was so incredibly young!  He joined the army to serve in World War II when he was only 17 years old.  In fact he wasn't legally old enough to join yet, so he lied about his age.  Anyone that knew my dad can tell you that he was an incredibly honest man, so he must have learned his lesson after that.  Dad was in the infantry and fought in the Philippines.  After World War II ended, he also spent time in Korea.

As I looked at this picture, I was kind of amazed by how much you can miss someone who has been gone for such a long time.  We lost him in 1986.  I found myself getting emotional as I shared the photo with my sister.  He was a wonderful loving father, and I am so grateful to have had him for the time that I did.  He is with us still, and I think about him often.  He has been a profound influence upon my life, and he helped me to be who I am today.  I love you, Dad!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Field Trip

My plans for today were changed, so I decided to go tour the Des Moines Art Center. I have been taking art classes there this year, but my classes were on Mondays, and the Art Center is closed on Mondays.  I have been touring the art center every year for seventeen years on field trips.  It was very nice to go without 50 to 60 fourth graders.  I could go where I wanted, when I wanted, and I didn't tell a single person not to touch the art.

As you can see from the photo, the building itself is a work of art.  I was grateful to have my own little field trip.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


What a difference a week makes!  A week ago I was at my sister's house and there were just a few crocus blooming, along with the beginning buds of some daffodils and hyacinth.  Now there are daffodils everywhere.

I just love this time of year!  That is one of the great things about living in a part of the country where winters can be cold and dreary.  Spring is such a time of beauty and hope for the seasons ahead.

I am really grateful to live where I do.  Every now and then, I need to remind myself of that.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Kitchen Gadgets

I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets, and this is my newest one. It is an Air Fryer.   I have a couple friends who have talked about their air fryers.  Since I'm making confessions here, I also have to say that I am a QVC shopper.  The Air Fryer was The "Today's Special Value" about a week ago, so I decided to give it a try .  Tonight was the first time I have used it, and I have to say, I was impressed.

It was easy to use, and it only took about 20 minutes to "fry" my Corn Crisped  Boneless Chicken Legs and Thighs.  I usually do this recipe in the oven.  Doing it in the air fryer used only one tablespoon of olive oil, and it came out with a crispier crust than it does in the oven.  Dinner was yummy, and I'm excited to try some other recipes.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


I finally got the greenhouse shelves set up and my tomato and pepper seeds started.  I usually do this by mid March, but this time I decided to order my seeds online instead of going to Menards or Lowes.  This was a big mistake!  I placed an order with Henry Fields on February 4th.  In spite of an email and two phone calls, I did not receive my order until last Friday.  I ordered all seeds.  No live plants!  It still took almost two full months to receive my order.  I won't do that again!

Thankfully I finally received them, I set up the shelves, and I started the seeds.  So even though I began this post by whining, I am grateful that things are getting going.  I am getting started with Roma Tomatoes, Centennial Tomatoes, Anaheim Peppers and Sweet Peppers, along with Italian Parsley and some dill.  Some day soon it will dry out and warm up, and I will actually be able to work outside in the garden.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Beginning Drawing

Today was my last drawing class.  Our assignment today was to bring our own still life to draw.  We also got to choose which medium to use.  I stuck with the pencils.  I decided to bring one of my baskets, yarn and a knitting project.  This is still a work in progress, but I am pleased to see how much I have learned since my Art for the Curious class last fall.

I plan to take another art class this summer.  This time I want to learn to work with pastels.  I am a person who loves color!  I am so grateful for this opportunity to explore new paths to creativity.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Michael's street in Madrid.

When I was a junior in high school, my dad spent a year in Viet Nam.  He was a social worker with American Red Cross, and was working as service to military installations.  He was stationed with the marines near the demilitarized zone, and later with the air force.  Besides daily letters, we used to make reel to reel tapes, which we would mail to him.  It took about three weeks for the tapes and letters to get to him.  He would record a message back to us, and it would be another three weeks before we got to hear his voice.  It was a very, very long year!

The park near Lisa's home in Minneapolis.

Technology has come a long way since those days.  My daughter, Lisa, lives in Minneapolis.  She has lived there for a long time.  We connect daily through text messaging and phone calls. Now that she has a smart phone, we are able to be part of each other's lives much more easily than even a few years ago.

Michael's neighborhood, and the hotel where I stayed for my visit.

This morning I spoke with my son, Michael, who lives in Madrid, Spain.  We talk daily, either through texting, voice clips, or phone calls.  When I talk to him, it sounds like he is right here in town.  We use Facebook Messenger, so it is also free.  Because I was fortunate to actually go to Spain at the beginning of this year, I can visualize where he is living, as well as hear his voice.

I am so grateful for the technology that makes this daily communication possible.  I understand why they want to live in these beautiful places, and the technology makes it much easier to have my adult children living so far away.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Spring has finally arrived.  The early spring flowers are beginning to bloom.  I don't have anything blooming at my house, but my sister does.

There is something so wonderful about seeing these bursts of color among the brown leaves and plants.

I do have green grass, and I am so grateful and excited to see that.

Even though I don't have any flowers blooming yet, I do have this beautiful new spinner.  I had to return the one I got a few weeks ago.  It fell apart in the wind.  This new one is from Plow and Hearth.  It is much larger, and stronger.  I have two other Plow and Hearth spinners, and they have stood up well.  I just feel happy when I look at them.

I also have this flowered plant spike.  It's currently in the house, but will soon be going out into the yard.  I have a big love of yard art.

Now it would be nice to see the sun once in a while.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Physical Therapy

At the end of December I traveled to Spain to visit my son, Michael.  The flight from Chicago to Madrid is almost nine hours long.  It involves a lot of juggling of luggage and sitting for long periods of time in confined spaces, and by the time I arrived, my shoulder was sore.  While there, we did lots of walking with camera, camera bag, cross body purse, and a backpack.  By the time I returned to Iowa on January 4th, my shoulder was really painful.  

For this reason I have been going through physical therapy two days a week.  The shoulder is getting better, slowly but surely.  In order to rebuild strength and flexibility, I have a daily regimen of prescribed exercises.  On the days that I have therapy, I usually am pretty sore afterwards.

I am very thankful for my physical therapist.  I am even more grateful for my good health.  I see many people going through PT who are recovering from serious accidents and illness.  I am glad to have the help to heal, but especially thankful that this is a minor injury from which I will recover.  It really reminds me how fortunate I have been.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

Growing and Learning

Today was my second to last drawing class.  We worked with Conte Crayons, which are a combination of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with wax.  This was totally new to me.  It was challenging and fun.

I love learning new things, and I am thinking about what class I want to take this summer.  I want to keep growing my skills, and when it comes to art, I can't do this without a good instructor.  I am thinking about learning to draw with pastels.  I like the idea of doing something with lots of color. The class that is being offered will spend time outside the Des Moines Art Center in Greenwood Park.  That idea really appeals to me.

Another thing growing in my house are the little tomatoes in the Aerogarden.  I wonder if I will end up with ripened edible tomatoes?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

RV Envy

This weekend is the RV and Camping Show at the Fairgrounds.  It's a great day to look at RVs and dream of better weather, because it is way too wet and dreary to actually be camping.  My sister, Jacci, and I went to check things out.

We come from a family where camping was a way of life.  Every year our parents would pack us all up in the station wagon, load the top carrier with the tent and sleeping bags, and we would head out for vacation.  I thought everyone did this.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how fortunate we were

It is also a family tradition to get together at least once each year for Family Campout.  We have a big family get together with relatives from Iowa and Kansas, usually somewhere in southern Iowa.  Nine Eagles and Lake of Three Fires are two favorite destinations.  Some of us camp.  Some of us just drive down for the day to eat, and talk, and eat, and sit around the campfire, and eat.

For a long time I have wanted a small RV so I could pack up my dogs and head out to visit family and friends, and explore the out of doors.  So far it hasn't been in the budget, but I think I am getting closer.  That's why it is so much fun to go to an RV show and walk through all these vehicles.

I will not consider the $445,000 bus that costs three times as much as my house.  But some of these others might be in the running.  I like the high end finishings of the Winnebago Navion, but the Four Winds or Winnebago Spirit might be closer to my budget, and I would love to have either of them.

It's fun to look and dream!  Maybe I should buy some lottery tickets?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Hour Lunches

Three hours is the average amount of time that it takes for my friend, Nadine, and I to have lunch or coffee or wherever we get together.  We have spent longer, and occasionally our lunches are shorter.  It doesn't take that long for us to eat, but it does take that long to discuss all the important issues in our lives and analyze and solve the problems of the world.

I met Nadine in my first year of teaching, which was 1987.  We were teaching at Edmunds Academy of Fine Arts.  She was teaching first grade, and I was teaching fourth grade basic skills.  We didn't get to know each other very well that first year. I was in two schools that year, and we were in different grade levels, The next year, however,  I moved to first grade.  Edmunds was an open spaces building in those days, so we team taught.  We have been best friends ever since.

She has been there for me through all these thirty years and I feel truly blessed to know her and to have her in my life.  We have cried together, and we have laughed together.  We mostly laugh together. I can share anything with her, and I am so grateful to have her as my friend.

I have been subbing this week, but mostly working half days, so we were able to meet for coffee this afternoon.  It was short, only 2 1/2 hours. It made for a wonderful afternoon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Des Moines Art Center

I am so grateful that I am able to take art classes at the Des Moines Art Center.  It is a wonderful opportunity to learn in such a great setting.  It's fun to use the equipment, and get to know other people who also have a love for art.  It is also gratifying to see my skills grow.  I could never do this on my own.

This week we worked with charcoal.  I wisely wore black, which is good because it was messy.  In my Art for the Curious class last semester, we used charcoal at an early lesson.  I remember that time, I drew a skull, but after I had the basic sketch I didn't know where to go from there.  Since that time, we have learned a lot about value.  This time I felt that I had tools to continue to improve my drawing.

We have just two classes left, so I will soon be thinking about what I would like to learn next.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


I flipped on the television this morning and was channel surfing when I saw an advertisement for an Emergency Food Supply.  It was running on one of the Christian stations.  It caught my eye, because just the week before I had seen a large display of these same buckets at Sam's Club.  Costco also featured them in an ad.

The Emergency Food Storage bucket as featured in the Costco Wholesale flyer.  3/23/17 - 4/17/17.

The speaker on TV was talking about how important this was to have not just because of weather emergencies, or power outages, but because of the coming Apocalypse.  What?  My first reaction was what is the matter with these people?  Isn't that God's choice, not ours?  Are these people trying to bring an apocalypse about?  I just don't understand!  Furthermore, why are they cultivating fear, and then trying to make money from it?

Then I went to church.  Today's sermon was called Receive Reconciliation, and in his message, Pastor Dave was talking about how divided we have become as Christians.  How we judge one another, and limit ourselves to a group that shares our same views, rather than reach out and share and communicate with those who believe differently.  You know, like I had been doing just an hour earlier.

Once again, I came to church in need, and received an important lesson which will help me through the coming weeks.  Our scripture was from Romans 5.  I especially like verse 2-4,
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us to the grace in which we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to the day on which we will become all that God has intended.  But not only that -- we even rejoice in our afflictions!  We know that affliction produces perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and character, hope.
So I choose hope!  I choose to keep working to make this world a better place, by doing whatever I can to be kind and caring.   I choose not to live in fear.  I choose to try to be a better person who takes the time to listen and understand others.

Later in the day I met my sister to walk at Copper Creek.  It was a breezy but glorious day.  When I told her about the ad for the the Emergency Food Supply, she reminded me that this fear seems to be cyclical.  There was a great deal of talk about the end of times at the millennium just 17 years ago, and again a few years ago when we reached the end of the Aztec calendar.  I had forgotten about all of that.

I am grateful for hope, I am grateful for my church and Pastor Dave, and I am incredibly grateful for my beautiful sister, Jacci.

I really loved the greeting that we began the worship service with:

                                       "He drew a circle that shut me out--
                                         Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.
                                         But Love and I had the wit to win:
                                         We drew a circle that took him in!"                                                                                      --Edwin Markham

I choose hope and love, and everything that goes with it!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Raised Bed Gardening: Step 1

I have a back yard garden that is long and narrow.  While I have great success with tomatoes, peppers and squash, I have yet to eat any of the green beans.  The bunnies always beat me to them.  Over the winter I did a lot reading about raised bed gardening.  I decided I am going to give it a try by building two raised beds.  By building the beds, fencing them, and possibly even covering them, I hope to add a little variety to my vegetable garden.

I did a lot of research into raised bed options.  My carpentry skills are limited, but there are a lot of kits out there.  With wood, rotting can be a problem, so I decided to build mine out of brick or stone. I had priced several types of stone and edgers at Menards and Lowe's.  Then a friend suggested that I check out the Habitat for Humanity Restore.   I sure am glad that I did, because I found five hole brick there.  Each brick is about a foot long, and they only cost me fifty cents per brick, a fraction of what it would have been if I bought new.  I should be able to build both beds for less than what one bed would have cost.

Today I laid out the foundation for the two beds.  I have to do some leveling of the ground before I actually build the beds.  I am going to use three layers of bricks to make the walls of the beds.  Next thing I have to figure out is where I can buy some garden quality soil.  Do you have any suggestions?

After working in the yard for a while, I loaded Winnie and Chloe in the car and we went walking at Copper Creek.  They loved it and I have two happy but tired little dogs now.

There are so many things to be grateful for;  my two adorable little dogs, an opportunity to get outside and work in my yard, and a beautiful sunshiny day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Political Activism

Today I attended a town hall with Senator Joni Ernst.  This one was held at Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University.  I am far from a political activist, but I am trying to be a good citizen.  I am trying to be well informed, to research and verify stories, and to stand up and be counted.  That all sounds pretty good when I think about doing these things a week or two before the event, but I often want to forget the whole thing when the actual time comes.  This time I went!

I am very grateful for the people who stood up to ask questions.  Almost all were well thought out, and well spoken.  Most speakers used data and research to support their questions and positions.  Almost all were about important issues that are on most people's minds these days.  Some used humor to lighten the mood.  All, but one were respectful.  Unfortunately, Senator Ernst sidestepped most of these questions, and was vague about others.

I was grateful to see how many people came out to this event held during spring break on a mostly empty college campus, at 5:00 on a Friday, which also happened to be St. Patrick's Day.  It was a full house.  The auditorium was full of people of a variety of ages and varied experiences.

I went because I wanted to hear how Senator Ernst responded to the issues.  Mostly I went because I want our representatives to know that whatever they do, they are accountable to their constituents.

Along with occasionally attending events like this, I am disciplining myself to express my views and concerns to my representatives.  I discovered a website/app called Countable that is helping me to do that.  It lets me know what issues are up for votes during the week.  It also lets me know how my representatives voted.  The thing I like best is that you can put in your zip code to find out who your representatives are.  Then you can write an email that goes to all those representatives, two senators and congressman.  At first I was skeptical, but I have received responses from all three of my representatives.  I am looking at what I can and actually WILL DO to make  myself heard.  If you are interested, I suggest you check out Countable to see if it works for you.

This week I wrote to my representatives about my concerns about the American Health Care Act and I attended this town hall meeting.  I am pretty darned proud of myself!  This is what democracy is all about!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Garden Spinner

Growing things is fun, but sometimes it can be frustrating.  Plants don't sprout, they whither and die, or the bunnies and bugs eat them.  If the plants don't grow, I always have my garden art to add color and interest.  I have a turtle collection in the flower beds, solar lights, steel flowers, and garden spinners.  This is my newest garden spinner.  I love the colorful jewels, and it has a color changing light.  It was easy to assemble.  The only problem I had was pushing the stake into the frozen ground. I guess it's too early to plant anything.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Amana Colonies

It is spring break and many people are traveling this week. I know people who are as far away as Hawaii, Mexico, Florida and Texas.  My friend, Kathy, and I decided to take a day trip to the Amana Colonies, which is less than a hundred miles away.  I am very grateful that we scheduled it for today instead of yesterday. It was chilly, there was snow on the ground, but the sun was shining, and it ended up being a beautiful day.

Not everything was open this early in the season, but we had a wonderful time exploring the shops and galleries.  I especially liked the woolen mill and the broom maker.  There are seven Amana Colonies which were settled about 150 years ago.  You can learn more about the colonies by visiting their website:

This is one of the looms from the Amana Mills.  In the woolen mill and the furniture factory, you have an opportunity to watch the craftsman working.  We were able to not only watch, but also to talk with the broom maker, who explained how the straw is processed before being made into brooms.

You will also find a little humor here and there, including this giant rocking chair.

And this sign outside one of the businesses.

It was a wonderful day, and a good reminder that there are beautiful and interesting places to explore all around us.  You just need to take the time to notice them.  The thing I am most grateful for is the opportunity to explore all of this with a very good friend. It was definitely a wonderful spring break trip.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Garden Dreams

It is spring break!  We had temperatures in the sixties and seventies during February and early March.  Naively, I had imagined working in the garden sometime this week.  I have been reading about raised bed gardening, and have been collecting five hole brick to build my first bed.  It is piled by the backyard fence, just waiting.  The ground is covered with snow, so it won't be this week.

I had expected to have tomato and pepper seeds started by now.  I usually get them going by this time of year.  Other years I have just picked up seeds at Lowe's or Menards.  This year, however, I decided to order seeds from Henry Fields.  I placed the order on February 2nd.  I have contacted them twice, and still no seeds.

The best I can do is my Aerogarden.  I started two pods of cherry tomatoes a few weeks ago, and there are some little baby tomatoes on there.  In the meantime, I guess I will just keep reading gardening books, and dreaming of the time of year when I can get the garden going.  Those garden dreams are part of the fun of gardening.

If you are interested in reading about raised bed gardening, I recommend Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan.  You can find it here.