Finding Peace and Comfort in What We Have

I recently visited Half-Price Books in search of some tomes on silk screening. In my younger years, one of my projects with the young girls in my girl scout troop, was silk screening and/or printmaking. Nearing my nursing retirement, I have turned to exploring ways to supplement my income doing some of the things I have loved and pursued my entire life…art is one of those many things. In my search for books on silk screening, I ran across a delightful, gotta-have-it book written by Australian Sibella Court and entitled “Etcetera etc, creating beautiful interiors with the things you love.” Her book was a reinforcement that it is time for me to let go of 40 years of a nursing career and reinvent myself in a different persona.

This book filled every one of my bibliomania quirks…earthy tones, crinkly paper, different types and weights of papers and packed full of beautiful photographs depicting the author’s design style using the many things she has loved and collected from childhood to adulthood. Things like shells, beads, paper, ribbons…using objects in new and different ways so when a new friend walks into her abode, they instantly have a sense of who she is, what she loves, interests she has pursued.

I have no “need” for additional things in the winter of my life. I have been drawn to certain objects throughout my entire existence and arranging and rearranging those things in new and different ways throughout my home, gives me a fresh perspective and renewed love of all of my treasures. Bird feathers, an abandoned bird nest, sand dollars, shells, carved birds, books galore, various papers, paint tubes, palettes, brushes, plants, walls covered with paintings, a mermaid vase, candles, empty clay pots, easels. A stroll throughout my living space gives insight into who I am as a person.

Just by adding a few empty two dollar Goodwill wooden frames to the three paintings already hanging on my living room wall, had me falling in love again with a portion of my living space. Walking through my front door became a fresh exciting experience. Using what I have in new and different ways is pleasurable and gives new appreciation for why those found objects were cherished in the first place.

I ponder the emotions that drive me to surround myself with things that appeal to me both visually and emotionally. I derive peace and feelings of well-being from having loved objects around me. My bed is often piled high with several books or other reading materials. Books close by, permitting me to reach for one, open it and enjoy reading excerpts as day by day I weave my way through their contents. Each cherished object brings with it a flood of memories…the bird nest discovered on a sidewalk outside Alamo Drafthouse when a girlfriend and I were going in for a movie; the giant brain coral I literally stumbled across when walking the rack line on a Matagorda beach; a funky vase purchased at a restaurant in Fredericksburg  where my daughter and I shared a sumptuous lunch; a giant pair of scissors that belonged to my Mother and each and every time I use them my memory takes me to the beauty of her hands; a baking stone thrust upon me by a sister so every loaf of bread that bakes itself on its hot surface carries a thought of her; a beautiful shell encased memory box filled with sweet memories from another sister and another wooden box filled with loving thoughts from a daughter; a Barack Obama coffee mug, a gift from a daughter who shared my passion for #44; postcards lounging in a woven basket on a coffee table, and birding and junk journals that sweep me into the past when I flip through their pages, overwhelming me with emotional memories of exciting times shared with people I dearly love.

Life is short. What a oxymoranic statement that is. I recently completed my 72nd trip around the sun and it has been a great ride! A long ride. I find myself being more nostalgic with each trip now. My memories of a life well spent are important. There is little doubt that my children will wonder why “Mom kept that silly fossil” or why some of my journals have pages missing leaving blanks in my story that they will never know which brings to mind one of my favorite movies of all time…The Bridges of Madison County… A story of a full life, unrequited love, regrets, successes and a myriad of moments turned into memories of a beautiful existence.

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Rent the movie, watch it if you haven’t, and live your life to the fullest!!!

 

Betty

Poolish

Last night I took the sour dough starter given to me by a friend and made my poolish in anticipation of making bread this morning. Each sour dough starter has a character all its own and today’s baking will determine if Betty is as good as Boris. Boris resides in my fridge with occasional feedings and regular use in the appearance of delicious loaves of bread. I imagine he is anxiously awaiting the verdict to know if he needs to worry about the competition.

My bread baking adventure continues and I have fallen into a routine of making bread most weekends for my own consumption or to share with friends and neighbors. So this morning I took the poolish from Betty and was pleased to see that overnight she had bubbled and foamed into a nice sourdough base. I added oil, salt and more flour to the poolish and after some vigorous kneading placed it in a bowl to rise while I went for a morning walk along Lady Bird Lake.

Mr. White-wing Dove
Cormorant and Mr. Turtle catching some rays
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Al Weiwei sculpture “Forever Bicycles” is made from 1200 bicycles.

When I returned, I popped Betty’s baby into the oven and an hour later had a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread. Taste delicious but not quite as sour as Boris. This loaf had a nice chewy crumb, but the outer crust was not hard and crackly.

Betty’s newborn

All in all a lovely Saturday morning filled with birds, art and bread baking!

 

Revisiting the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk – Tests and Rewards

Boardwalk access off I35

A beautiful day in the neighborhood. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds, cool breezes so I was drawn to try out a new pair of walking shoes and test their mettle and my feet’s tolerance for their new boundaries. This walk would also be a test to see if the adjustments made to “Thumper” AKA my pacemaker would allow me to walk without jumping up to tachycardia rates.

The boardwalks around Lady Bird Lake are great for getting a walker up close and personal with nature. Lots of peeps out and about today jogging, walking, biking or just sauntering along like me and my friend.

My rewards for this day were shoes that worked well and feet that didn’t hurt in the least bit by the end of my adventure. My heart rate never went above 95 so booyah…success. And just as I was leaving the boardwalk and proceeding to the I35 walkway to head home, I spied a beautiful green heron stalking his lunch.

In the midst of concrete, tall buildings and heavy traffic, there exists a world of nature if we but only “see” what is around us.

Happy walking!!!

The Bird Nursery

The pull to visit the beach is always present in my life. If money were no object, I would probably have a small cottage on a beach where I could while away my retirement years in total contentment walking the beach, watching the birds, listening to the surf, and enjoying the breeze. But since money is an object, I must content myself with regular visits to Galveston, Corpus, Port A, Matagorda and any other beach on our planet to satisfy my need of ocean solace.

Rookery breeding plumage…Spectacular

This past weekend, BFF Kathleen and I traveled to Bolivar to stay at the Saltwater Inn so we could explore Bolivar beaches. It just so happens that our visit this Spring coincided with Galveston’s Featherfest Birding Festival which I have attended in the past with BFF Linda. The benefit of attending birding festivals is you have a guide who takes you to hot spots and helps you cue in on unusual bird visitors that might otherwise be missed. But having grown up visiting Galveston my entire life, I have more knowledge than a casual visitor of those hot spots. So, in addition to actual beach combing time, we visited The Rookery on High Island and also many of my favorite birding haunts on Galveston Island….East Jetty, Lafitte’s Cove, Sportsman’s Road to name a few.

Here are a few photos of some of our bird encounters this past weekend.

Prothonotary Warbler

 

Roseate Spoonbill
Wood Thrush
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Great Egret and young
Whimbrel

 

Egret Babies
Indigo Bunting and Catbird chit chatting
Tricolored Heron
Indigo Bunting
American Bittern
Juvenile Little Blue Heron (I think!!)
Long-billed Dowitcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
American Bittern
Royal and Caspian Terns
Hooded Warbler

Springtime in Texas is synonymous with great birding, so get out there and do some bird searching!!!

Which Cup is Your Favorite?

 Vector coffee cup and coffee beans, Mug, Vector Coffee Cup, Cartoon Mug PNG and Vector

Recently while lunching with a family member, he remarked on the size of his coffee cup. As usual, my mind took off exploring the many preferences that various people have for certain types of mugs, cups or other vessels that hold their precious morning java.

One of my sisters refuses to drink coffee from any cup that has a dark interior. A good friend prefers cups that are round and stout and her cup of joe must be incredibly hot. Another of my sisters always has a china cup for me when I visit her home. And in my own coffee cup kitchen cupboard I have an assortment of mugs and cups, each of which carries memories of places visited or adventures with friends or family. There are thick, chunky “black dog” mugs that are reminiscent of happy summers spent with my sisters at Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. A close friend gave me a white china cup with a plump Santa that I enjoy year round with my evening red zinger tea. And my day off or weekend favorite is a tall white Starbucks mug that holds ample amounts of brewed coffee that accompanies me to a cushion of pillows on my bed where, with newspaper in hand, I lounge through the enjoyment of early morning pleasures. Another favorite is my Obama mug reminiscent of a happier political climate. A grandson gifted me one with his incredible art work on it. The thing about coffee cups is that each time you reach into a cupboard a memory accompanies that container and for a split second the warmth inside that mug isn’t from the coffee but from the loved ones who surround us throughout our lives.

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Early Morning Pleasures

At work, in an effort to reduce the use of styrofoam cups, employees were encouraged to submit a photo of themselves with their ugliest coffee mug and participants were rewarded with a free “ugly mug”. What is your favorite drink vessel? What emotions cause it to be your favorite? What memories does it evoke? Why is it so difficult to part with coffee mugs? I think it is emotionally difficult because, with the trashing of a cup, in essence we are tossing memories and memories are what keep us moving forward in our lives when we are old. One of my favorite embroidered samplers reads…”God gave us memories so we could have roses in December”.

The family member that spurred my brain to ask questions about coffee mugs is on his 86th trip around the sun this year. I don’t know how many more cups of coffee we will share together, but his simple statement inspired this blog post and will forever be a memory of his presence on our planet and in my life.

Making memories is important! Go out and make some!

 

 

 

 

 

Erosion

Erosion. A “bigly” negative word, a word of destruction. As defined by Webster…”the process of eroding or being worn down by wind, water, or other natural agents; the gradual destruction or diminution of something”.

Erosion throughout the millennium is a formidable force. It may take eons but eventually erosion wins. Time doesn’t matter to erosion. It continues to work using wind and water as a battering ram, slowly but surely eroding the foundation of rock, soil, and mountains turn into dust. A hurricane is a prime example of an eroding force that leaves death and destruction in its wake. For many years my BFF Linda had access to a beachfront home in Pirate’s Beach and we have wonderful memories of fun times spent there. Then one hot end-of-summer day,  one of those pesky hurricanes ripped through that home. The ocean charged in to undermine the foundation piers and reclaimed that piece of sand as its own.

Back in the 70’s, the erosion of soil treated with pesticides led to a serious reduction in the number of pelicans in our world. DDT was an effective pesticide for ridding crops of unwanted insects. Unfortunately when the rains came and the residue from this chemical washed into our streams, then into rivers, and ultimately into our oceans, and pelicans ate the fish that had ingested some of those pesticides, then and only then did the end result become known. Each Spring the pelicans laid their eggs but DDT caused a defect in the shell-making ability of the pelican. They laid their eggs but when the incubation period began, the weight of the parent bird caused the egg-shell to break. With the banning of DDT in the United States back in 1972,  pelicans rebounded and can once again be seen patrolling the beach shoreline.

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Mr. Brown Pelican waiting for a handout at the fish market

We have a very descriptive word for the erosion of buildings or infrastructure. It is called entropy. Defined as “a lack of order or predictability; a gradual decline into disorder or the degree of disorder or randomness in the system”. In other words…the tendency of something to return to its natural state if nothing is done to prevent it from crumbling. Examples of this would be interstate highways left without maintenance will eventually develop potholes and breaks in the concrete integrity, roofs left unrepaired allow water to seep in causing even more damage to a home’s interior and even an abandoned home starts to sag and has a clear unmistakable facade of despair. Weeds sprout up, paint begins to peel, a capricious wind rips a gutter or roof tile away.

Erosion has consequences. The erosion of norms may mean the ultimate demise of democracy and perhaps serious damage to our planet. The unrelenting attack on the media by tRump and now the spread of Sinclair Broadcast Group in gobbling up small media outlets throughout America is disturbing. This company has pre-written propaganda promoting their extreme right conservative agenda attacking legitimate news media outlets and over this past weekend we were witness to a prime example of this at this link: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sinclair-broadcast-group-slammed-video-montage-local-anchors-reading-anti-media-script-1098838.

The telling of lies and yelling “fake news” has led to an erosion of trust within our nation. The rapidity of these falsehoods is staggering and tracking down their veracity is exhausting and may result in resigned acceptance through sheer lack of energy to ferret out the truth.

If you aren’t alarmed at what is swirling in the political atmosphere encompassing America right now, then you just aren’t paying attention. Now is the time to throw away the labels of Republican, Democrat or Independent and stand up as Americans to defend, protect and ensure that our democracy and the Rule of Law will remain intact for future generations. Americans first, country before party.

Happy Birthday Daddy!!!!

 

 

Saggy, Baggy Starfish

This past weekend I headed back to the Round Top Antique Festival which is a semi-annual event in my world. My friend Kathleen drives up from Houston and we invade my sister’s house as our home base before we venture out to begin trekking through miles of antiques, treasured vintage items and eclectic art objects.

I am at a point in my life when I really don’t “need” anything but this year I was in search of a butter dish that was wide and tall enough to house a large block of butter rather than just one stick. The Kerry Gold butter needed a house!

On my treasure-seeking journey, the artist in me is drawn to the expertise exhibited by so many vendors in their marketing skills. I am entranced with the vignettes they create and they inspire me to want to cleanse the entire palette of my condo and begin again anew.

Plein Air Paint Box
Unusual art objects
An enlightening moment! Very creative, one-of-a-kind lamps

So I found my butter dish…check! But there is always one something that I believe I can’t live without and for me this trip it was the saggy, baggy starfish. It was love at first sight and the beach bum in me could envision him ensconced with my huge basket of scavenged sea shells surrounded by sponges, feathers and other nature objects de arte that I have collected over  decades of beach trips.

The Butter Dish

No trip to Burton is complete without visiting one of my favorite stores called Leftovers. The store owners are nothing short of genius in their merchandising artistry and no trip can end without strolling through and absorbing all the beauty created with old, new and found objects. My every visit purchase here is their goat’s milk soap that comes embedded in a soft sea sponge and both my daughter and I are addicted to this soap. A visit to their store is similar to taking a designing course from a world-renowned interior decorator.

So here are some Leftover displays that caught my eye on Saturday.

The Antique Weekend runs through April 7th. I highly recommend a visit if you like a good treasure hunt!

Happy Hunting!!!

Boris is Alive and Well!!!

Sour Dough Boule

Last night I made a poolish from my sour dough starter Boris! My last sour dough bread attempt resulted in baseball bat bread loaves so I was ready for a success story. And Boris delivered today! Just to be on the safe side…I padded my success by adding a teaspoon of yeast to my poolish when I added the rest of the ingredients. I left this huge dough ball in a large bowl, covered with a clear shower cap, to rise while I went to have lunch with my sister.

When I returned, the dough ball was straining the confines of the shower cap and had risen far above the rim of my large bowl. I punched it down and turned it onto my Boos block with a little bench flour and began kneading it. The dough was silky smooth and elastic and I could tell by the feel of the dough that this was going to be a successful baking adventure.

I wasn’t wrong…the crustiest crust that crackled when I cut a slice and the interior crumb was moist, chewy and had a decided sour bite. For my palette it was perfect!!! I couldn’t resist smearing some sweet cream butter onto a piece and tasting the rewards of my efforts. Two beautiful loaves of sour dough bread…check!!

I then mixed up the dough for my go-to-daily bread the Multigrain Dakota.  This is truly a never fail recipe and I wanted to take a loaf to my sister in Burton tomorrow.

On my quick trip to the HEB today I spotted a muffin tin that had larger cups and decided I must have it. The one I have has the standard size cups but I wanted to be able to make a muffin that rivaled bakery muffins. So it now awaits another batch of  bran muffins. But, there is always a wrinkle it seems. The HEB I was in didn’t have any wheat bran so I had to substitute oat bran. So, fingers crossed that they taste as good as the first batch but look a whole lot prettier.

The bounty of todays baking

Happy Baking!!!