Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Magic of Nature

Cooler temperatures and lower humidity has graced our area for the last couple of days.  Shouting for joy about the beautiful weather, we can now take our walks through the neighborhood and enjoy it!  As most of us have endured one of the hottest summers on record, it changes my days.  I adore the outdoors, but not the sweltering days we've had.  It's much easier to check on the garden and just relax on the patio when the weather is tolerable.  While relaxing outside we enjoy reading or solving a sudoku or just seeing who will come to the feeder next.

Black-capped Chickadee

The cicadas are really tuning up their song these days.  As I was hanging sheets on the line yesterday it was quite loud.  They are also dropping from the trees as their brief cycle begins.  We were supposed to miss this years Magicicada invasion, but you can't tell it around here.  As creepy as they look and sound, they do not bite or sting.  As I swept off the patio this morning a large dead one came into view.  Here is the sound they make if you are not familiar. HERE

Cicadas have a 17 year life cycle.  The bugs are under the ground for almost all of this time.  When they come up  they find mates and then lay eggs and die.  If you dislike bugs you may not want to look at this photo.

Let's take a look at "cuter" creatures.

The Sphinx Moth (Sphingidae) or Hummingbird Moth is so interesting to watch as he gathers nectar.  He's quite magical.  Some folks think they are watching a hummingbird, but he is a moth.  I find him so fascinating!  I do hope you have witnessed his antics.

The birds are beginning their migrations south, so you may have seen many hummingbirds and other birds fly through your area.

Another magical moment came for us as we were visited by a Monarch Butterfly!  We have many swallowtails, but hardly ever see the Monarch.  If you want to learn more about the king of butterflies go HERE .  Depleting milkweed plants are really affecting the population of this beautiful butterfly.  If you have a wild area on your property, consider letting milkweed grow.

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."  Nathaniel Hawthorne 

A rather large frog found a cool spot in a pot of begonias.

These are just a few of the magical creatures that may come to your garden.  I hope there is time in your day to look at the wonder of nature.  Have you seen anything interesting in your garden recently?  I'd love to hear about it.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Our two youngest grandsons always like to come to Boo and Bear's for a few days without their Dad.  I remember how special it was to visit my grandparent's home without my Mama and Daddy.  The boys visited for a few days during one of our very hot and humid stretches.  There have been many of those days this summer.  

We love games in our family.  Lately when the boys visit we play German Checkers.  This is a game that Grayden made way before I had even met him.

Another game that was loved by our two children as they were growing up was Master Mind.  Grayden taught the boys to play and they enjoyed playing.  When our son was little he was quite good at this game.  Grayden told the boys about how their Dad played Master Mind in the hospital while waiting to have a broken arm set.  He and Grayden played this mind game to take away some of the stress of the situation.  Our grandchildren love to hear stories about their parents as children and we love telling them!

While we were at the beach we had a rainy afternoon so we pulled out a few puzzles that were in a drawer.  It was enjoyed by all, so while the grandsons were here we got out a puzzle from our stash that had never been worked.  It was completely sealed.  

The puzzles at the beach had all been opened and we began to put together the pieces of the first one as chosen by our eldest grandson.  Much to our chagrin a piece in the middle was missing.  How disappointing to put together a puzzle without all of the pieces!  Grayden and our eldest grandson took all of the pieces out of the drawer and began looking for the missing piece.  Would you believe they found the missing piece?

Photo by Peter

Another puzzle was begun and low and behold another piece was missing!  No, we couldn't find the missing piece.

Photo by Peter

Working on the puzzle with the boys was so much fun.  Both boys enjoyed solving the puzzle as we worked on it between other activities.  Despite the fact it was so hot, they had requested we make chocolate chip cookies.  Of course we made wonderful cookies and enjoyed our baking session, peppered with interesting conversation.  I think they enjoyed cookie dough as much as the cooked cookies!  

Back to our puzzle from the sealed box.  We worked together to get it all together.

As we were in the home stretch of putting all the pieces in we discovered that two pieces were missing!  Oh No!

We did a major search on the floor, under the rugs, in the cushions to no avail!  How can we open a sealed new box with a puzzle in it and not have all the pieces?  We don't know, but we still have not found these two pieces!

Do you and your family enjoy games and puzzle making?  What do you do with a puzzle that has missing pieces?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Garden Notes of 2016

My garden has had a few disappointments this season.  I can't think of another year that has been so discouraging.  Blaming it on the weather would be dishonest.  We actually have had more rain this season than in many years I can recall.  My garden is full of perennials that have bought us joy for many years.  I am not new to gardening, but my mistakes of this year one would think otherwise.  Usually I add annuals for some color on our patio.  Maybe impatiens or begonias or coleus.  Our brick planter that surrounds this area is usually lush and full of lovely blooms.  Not this year.  Even though I've gardened for many years, I committed a sin that any gardener would gasp at.  I planted sun loving petunias to our shady brick planter. You know when you see these gorgeous flats of bloomers and they call your name?  I realized this error pretty early on in the season as I watched the petunias just sit in their spots and not thrive.  So I committed sin number two.  I planted some lovely impatiens between the petunias that I bought from a reputable garden center.  Impatiens have had problems with powdery mildew in the years past, but I KNEW I wouldn't have this problem as I had lovely impatiens last year.

  Well, friends, pride goes before fall.  These plants looked great and then within a month they all died.  They suffered with the dreaded powdery mildew disease.  Yes, with the rainy humid weather this could have been the worst year for impatiens, but I will not be planting them for a while.  If you wish to learn more about powdery mildew you can read this publication Here

We've also had some interesting critter issues this year.  We have moles and voles galore.  I don't put poisons in our gardens, but believe me I'm tempted.  Not really.  Voles eat vegetation and moles eat meat such as grubs.  Armed with this information we began to try and trap the moles with a mole trap and the voles with mouse traps.  It's been a comedy of errors around here.  We have not caught any critters.  The peanut butter and bird seed we place on the mouse traps is gone in the morning!  We are being outsmarted badly!  I was in the garden one day and saw a leaf from a hosta disappear into the ground before my eyes!  I keep telling myself it's a great way to have the yard aerated for free! 

In spite of all of these issues, the garden has given me clues what to plant and has even given me gifts to fill the gap.  I've had oodles of begonias spring up in the brick planter.  They are quite small, but we still have a couple more months before our first frost.  I've also dug up three coleus and put them in the pots that had dead impatiens.  I'm giving thanks to my garden for teaching me new lessons each year. 

A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.  Gertrude Jekyll

Lest you think all of this post is bad I'll share some of the beauty that has come to my little garden this year.

Caladium Blossom

It is August and the summer is wearing on.  I've learned many lessons in my garden this year.  How has your garden faired?  

The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, 
always enterprising, and never satisfied.  They always look forward to doing 
something better than they have ever done before.
- Vita Sackville-West

Monday, August 8, 2016

Family Beach Week 2016

We always gather together for a week at the beach each summer.  It's a fun place to enjoy being together and make memories.  I've mentioned my memories as a child at the beach and wish the same for my children and grandchildren.  This year our beach week came just when we needed a respite from the heat and humidity.

Both our son and daughter and their children join us as well as my nephew and his family.  There are eleven in total staying in two separate condos.  In our place our daughter, son-in-law, grandson and Grayden and I make it our home for the week.  Our son and two grandsons and my nephew, his wife and their daughter stay in the other condo.  We all eat together in our condo.  This year I fixed the breakfasts and the dinners with help from my daughter and Grayden.  Our son and nephew made all of the lunches.  One evening we went to a Japanese Hibachi Grill.  The children always enjoy watching the antics of the chef.     

Our son has taken over the job of setting up the four umbrellas for shade.  He also has the help of his sons and our oldest grandson to set up the eleven chairs.  We are a big presence on the beach with all of our paraphernalia.  It all comes together for a fun day on the beach.

The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. Jacques Cousteau

Our daughter is now on the train traveling with her husband to San Francisco to swim in the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim.  She is an open water swimmer who regularly swims in events around the country.  Last year she swam in the Boston Harbor Sharkfest event.  She wanted to do some open water swimming while we were at the beach and asked me to swim with her one afternoon.  I told her I would just slow her down, but she insisted that wouldn't be a problem.  So we both began to swim and I quickly realized this was difficult, but she encouraged me to continue with her.  I did more floating than actual good swimming as she did, but it was fun to experience a tiny bit of her joy.

Our week was quite enjoyable with our whole family being together at one of our favorite places on earth, the beach.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

One Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary of Beatrix Potter's Birth

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter.  In her honor I thought I would post my visit to Hilltop from last year. So come along with me to a very special place.

Today is a day I have dreamed about.  If I admit it, if I were only able to visit one place in England, it would be Hilltop. Visiting Hilltop, one of the homes of Beatrix Potter, has been dream of mine for a long time.  I've loved her charming books forever.  Her beautiful artwork is truly a gift from God.  Sometimes when a dream is about to be realized one can be afraid that the real thing will be disappointing.  Believe me--I was not disappointed!

Our apartment is only 27 miles from Hilltop!  This is the main reason we chose to stay in this location.... But it took us 1 1/2 hours to get there.  The M5 and A roads were just fine, but then we took a B road that was curvy, narrow and quite scary.

See the stone wall on the left--that's where I was sitting in our car, trying not to say too much to Grayden as he carefully drove us along curves and hills and more stone walls.  

Along the way carpets of bluebells made the drive beautiful and more enjoyable.  It was a drizzly, rainy, moody day.  Anticipation of what was to come made it all very mystical and magical.

After driving at very slow speeds we finally made it to Near Sawrey--the town where Beatrix Potter bought her beloved Hilltop!

Beatrix Potter bought  Hilltop in 1905 as a retreat away from London.  She purchased Hilltop with money from her first book-- The Tale of Peter Rabbit.  She loved the area around Hilltop and it's not hard to see why!  It served as inspiration for her books that followed. 

Upon arriving at the car park for Hilltop, rain was falling.  We were early (on purpose) to be able to get our tickets.  Hilltop is very popular and has a timed ticket schedule.  We were early enough to pick up our tickets for the first opening at 10:00am.  A few cars began to fill the car park.  Everyone wants to come to Hilltop!

It was time to make our way up to Hilltop.  We followed a hill up a narrow pathway made of large rocks that was lined with flowers.

We're almost there!  I can't believe it! 

There she is!!

The nice National Trust docent invited us in!  Oh my, yes I'll park my brolly at the door and yes you can wipe the rain off my jacket.  We don't want to harm anything in Beatrix Potter's home.

We made our way inside to a sitting room on the left.  It was cozy with a roaring fire to warm us.  There were low beams and the ceiling was covered in wallpaper.  I'm quite emotional at this point as I can't believe I'm standing where Beatrix Potter once stood.  Everywhere there is charm.  To the right is another room that is filled with lovely china that Beatrix collected.  She was from a wealthy family and attended many antique shows with her mother.  It was pointed out that she and her mother didn't have much in common but they both loved to go to antique sales together.

Toward the back of the sitting room was the scullery where Beatrix prepared meals.  To the left of the scullery were stairs we climbed to see four rooms.  One was a room of her collections with a lovely dollhouse.  Another sitting room with a piano and beautiful photos of her and her family. Her bedroom with her lovely tester bed and bed coverings and memorabilia all about.  She added an addition so she could have proper light for her art studio.  She never wanted electricity in her home.  This room was filled with her brother's artwork.  Bertram was an accomplished artist as well as their father.  There were very large paintings that lined the walls.  Sadly no photos are allowed inside, but you can go here to see her bedroom.

I can't begin to describe how I felt in her home!  Her love of nature was everywhere.  Beatrix Potter, I felt your spirit in your beloved Hilltop.  I'll never forget it!! 

As we left her home I turned around and gazed upon this special place. We wandered about the property.

Upon leaving the gate we spotted Castle Cottage, the home that Beatrix and William Heelis shared after their marriage. It's the white house on the right. 

When we planned this day before leaving home, I told Grayden I wanted to stay all day in Near Sawrey.  I did not want to short cut this visit.  So next to Hilltop was The Sawrey House Tearoom that we had to go visit.  We read on their menu that Beatrix Potter would often come and have afternoon tea here.

The vistas from this property were lovely!  These photos were taken from the inside the Sawrey House Tearoom.

After having a lovely soup for lunch it was time to take another look around Near Sawrey.  It's so charming and quaint in this area.  What a wonderful place to live!  I hope it never changes.  Beatrix Potter was a big proponent of the National Trust and gave over 4.000 acres of land, 16 farms and cottages, cattle and Herdwick sheep for future generations to enjoy.  Her gifts were the largest the National Trust had received and enabled them to create the Lake District National Park.  Thank you, Beatrix Potter!

Beatrix Potter, you have left a imprint on my heart that will always be with me.  Thank you for saving this beautiful place and more to be enjoyed by generations and generations to follow. 

from left to right--Beatrix Potter, Beatrix Potter with bunny, Beatrix and brother Bertram, Beatrix and William Heelis, Norman Warne(Beatrix Potter's editor and fiance')