The Weekly Smile

My weekly smile came yesterday as I walked through one of my favorite local places not far from my home. There were Barn Swallows swooping and darting around me, landing to pick up sticks and mud to build nests. Two Geese meandered by with their one little gosling between them. I spotted a duck I had never seen before, later looking him up and finding out he was a Common Goldeneye. Two Cormorants sat sunning themselves on a log in the river. So many smiles all at 8:30 on a warm, blue skied, Sunday morning.

What made you smile this week?

Black & White Sunday: Music

Paula has chosen Music as the theme for Black & White Sunday this week. My husband started taking piano lessons about eight years ago- he had never learned as a child. I am fortunate to listen to him practice every night, filling the house with music. Our piano technician,as they are called these days, as opposed to tuners, has become a good friend and always plays for us before he leaves. Here is a small sample of Loren’s playing along with images of him and my husband.

Music

Share Your World

How many languages do you you speak?

I only speak English. I took French in school for a few years and can still put together sentences and remember basic words. My husband and I  took Yiddish classes at the Yiddish Institute in New York City many years ago. He grew up speaking it at home, I did not. He had never learned proper grammar and sentence structure so for him it was also a learning experience. I am still able to speak a little, and understand, but not using it, you lose it. I also learned American Sign Language years ago and volunteered in a local school for the Deaf in order to use it.

I Love You in ASL

What are you reading, watching, listening to, eating?

Reading: Mostly blogs and I save up my newspapers and read them over the weekend. Watching: Just finished up the season of Billionaire on Showtime, a great series. Also watch the Real Housewives of NYC- I love to see the vacations they take and the places they live- not to mention the cat fights.

Listening to: Austin Plaine is my new favorite to listen to.

What was the last photo you took with your phone?

An Iris that I passed while on a walk-they were planted at the corner of someone’s property next to the sidewalk. Too beautiful to pass by without snapping a photo.

What is your favorite time of day?

Early morning just as the sun is rising. I love the quiet, seeing the sky change colors as dawn is breaking. That first cup of coffee. Especially at the beach.

Grateful everyday. Always.

Share Your World

Craftsman Farm-The Home of Gustav Stickley

Yesterday we visited the home of Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker in the Craftsman style during the early 1900’s. Here is some background:

Gustav Stickley made popular the Craftsman style of  furniture in the early 1900’s, a departure from ornate Victorian style. This new furniture reflected his ideals of simplicity, honesty in construction, and truth to materials. Unadorned, plain surfaces were enlivened by the careful application of colorants so as not to obscure the grain of the wood and mortise and tenon joinery was exposed to emphasize the structural qualities of the works. Hammered metal hardware, in armor-bright polished iron or patinated copper emphasized the handmade qualities of furniture which was fabricated using both handworking techniques and modern woodworking machinery . His firm’s work, both nostalgic in its evocation of handicraft and the pre-industrial era and proto-modern in its functional simplicity, was popularly referred to as being in the Mission style, though Stickley despised the term as misleading. In 1903 he changed the name of his company again, to the Craftsman Workshops, and began a concerted effort to market his works — by then including furniture as well as textiles, lighting, and metalwork — as Craftsman products. Ultimately, over 100 retailers across the United States represented the Craftsman Workshops.

Those ideals – simplicity, honesty, truth – were reflected in his trademark, which includes the Flemish phrase Als Ik Kan inside a joiner’s compass. The phrase is generally translated ‘to the best of my ability.’

Stickley began to acquire property in New Jersey between 1905 and 1907, purchasing 650 acres of farmland in Morris Plains. He wanted to establish a boarding school for boys. Craftsman Farms was designed to include vegetable gardens, orchards, dairy cows and chickens. The main house there is constructed from chestnut logs and stone found on the property.

As he wrote in The Craftsman:

There are elements of intrinsic beauty in the simplification of a house built on the log cabin idea. First, there is the bare beauty of the logs themselves with their long lines and firm curves. Then there is the open charm felt of the structural features which are not hidden under plaster and ornament, but are clearly revealed, a charm felt in Japanese architecture….The quiet rhythmic monotone of the wall of logs fills one with the rustic peace of a secluded nook in the woods.

Although the main house at Craftsman Farms was initially conceived of as a clubhouse for students, lack of interest in the school prompted Stickley to live there with his family instead. The planned school never became a reality. By 1913, changing tastes and the financial strain of his new twelve-story Craftsman Building in Manhattan, conceived as a department store, began to take their toll; in 1915 he filed for bankruptcy, stopping publication of The Craftsman in December 1916 and selling Craftsman Farms in 1917.

All that remains is 30 acres of the original farm, highways and homes have taken over where once stood a vineyard, a pasture and fruit groves. The house that was built using chestnut logs still remains, with many of the original furnishings.

Share Your World

When you’re alone at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

I usually take my shoes off at soon as I get home. Slippers are usually what I put on, or in the summer months a pair of flip flops.

What was your favorite food when you were a child?

Macaroni and Cheese. My mother used a big green or yellow Pyrex bowl- those of a certain age will know the kind I mean, they nested one in a other and came in 5 different colors. She used elbow macaroni and made a cheese sauce which was mixed with the noodles. The best part was the bread crumb crust on the top. I don’t know what she did to make it so thick and crusty, but it was delicious. There was nothing like walking in the house after school to find that bowl cooling on the counter.

Are you a listener or talker?

I would consider myself  a listener, though I am also a talker. Wh

Favorite thing to (pick one):  Photograph?  Write? Or Cook?

My favorite thing to photograph are birds. I love capturing their beauty, especially up close where I can see the beautiful details of their colors and feathers.

What is the easiest way for your to learn something new?  By reading, by seeing and doing, in a classroom?

Seeing and doing for sure. Just reading usually doesn’t work for me.

Share Your World

A Mind is A Terrible Thing To Lose

Our Uncle Henry is 92. Up until about a year ago he was doing pretty well, a pain here, a pain there, but overall things were pretty good. Recently things have become more challenging with his moods, and for our Aunt, who is 90 but you’d never know it, life has become difficult. Their sons felt an evaluation should be made to determine the cause of his anxiety and erratic moods, and it would have to be done within a hospital setting. A psychiatric hospital. I think in some ways Uncle Henry was relieved to know they would “get to the bottom of it” he just didn’t expect it to mean he would be there for a week already, and possibly many more.

My husband and I went to visit him today. The hospital grounds were beautiful and the hallways eerily quiet and empty. We were buzzed into the unit and opposite the front desk sat about 12 people lined up in chairs, including Uncle Henry. I found it rather disconcerting, no one was doing anything, there was no TV in that area, there were no conversations going on. Everyone was just sitting. Uncle Henry saw us and called out hello, and the nurse wheeled us over to an area with tables and chairs looking out onto the grounds. He told us some of his aches and pains had improved, but then began to launch into how the place was like a prison and other complaints, some we determined to be real, some imagined. Upsetting to know that his reality was not reality- that what he was was saying was irrational and not real, but to him was very much so. We spent two hours with him during which we made an attempt to validate his feelings, and to try to steer him to a better place of understanding. He asked our Aunt when she arrived if he was allowed to tell the Doctors he wanted to leave – and would they let him, or would he be held against his will.  The truth is he could leave at anytime, but until the medication they are working to adjust to help him, begins to work, it is not a good idea. His frustration and unhappiness understandable at hearing that, but his inability to really grasp it upsetting.

My Aunt and Uncle have been married over 70 years, and it is heartbreaking for her to see him like this, to have him ask to leave but know she must go home alone. Hardest is seeing him lucid and understanding and then crossing into his own reality and not understanding. The quote attributed to Bette Davis  “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” came to mind today. It takes strength and will and sometimes giving in and going along with what is beyond our control to “fix,”  as we grow older.

Black & White Sunday: Imperfect

This week Paula says: You must have in your archives a photo that you consider imperfect, but you love it anyway, or the photo maybe perfect, but the subject is not? Whichever the case, how do you feel about sharing some imperfection for this challenge?

Tree Swallows are constantly in motion, occasionally landing long enough to capture. These 3 were still but by the time I attempted to focus, 2 had taken flight and the 3rd was about to. When I uploaded the photo I didn’t care that it was blurry, it reminded me of that moment and I still liked it. Imperfect, but okay.

Imperfect

Five Things-A Reblog from The Off Key Of Life

I am sharing the following post  written by my friend George, who writes a wonderful blog called The Off Key Of Life

In his words:

Five Things

He also speaks about a palliative care nurse by the name of Bonnie Ware who works with people every day who are usually three to twelve months from dying.

According to Dr. Bradberry, Bonnie has made a habit of asking her patients, during their conversations, if they had any real regrets in life. The following five responses made the list every time.

** They wish they hadn’t made decisions based on what other people think.
They realized when they lived life for others, they either made poor career choices or compromised  their own morals.

** They wished they hadn’t worked so hard.
We are programmed or taught that hard work leads to certain results or rewards in life; that we are providing for our families, their futures and well-being. But balance has always been the key when it comes to how much time we spend at our jobs. When work compromises a person’s ability to communicate and connect with those we love most, then our priorities need to be reassessed. As the old saying goes, no one on their death-bed ever said, I wish I would have stayed at the office longer. 

** They wish the had expressed their feelings.
We always think we have more time to say the things we need or should say to others. When time runs out, the regret of not having said those things is sometimes difficult to accept. In the words of John Mayer, Say What You Need To Say

** They wish they had stayed in touch with their friends.
With our day-to-day routines pulling us in many different directions, it’s easy to lose track of friends. Then thirty years go by and you wonder how and why it happened. Reach out.

** They wish that had let themselves be happy.
This was an interesting one for me but as I thought about it I understood why it would be there. Michael J Fox was on a magazine cover not long ago; an individual who has battled Parkinson’s disease since he was thirty years old. On the cover he was quoted as saying, Happiness Is A Decision.
He’s absolutely right. We all encounter challenges in our lives. Some more so than others. How we face those challenges and live our lives is our choice. It may not always be easy to accept or live with those challenges but our lives would be much richer and rewarding if we can allow ourselves to be happy.

Happiness is our choice.

Five things that can make a difference in each of our lives. All we need to do is listen to the suggestions of those who truly understand.

 

Share Your World

Would you rather live where it is always hot or always cold?

The older I become the less tolerance I have for the cold. I would much rather live in a place that is always warm, but as for now I am remaining in a state that has four seasons, and where cold seems to hang around much longer than warm.

Do you prefer long hair or short hair for yourself?

My hair is a “medium” length I suppose. I have worn it short, but these days prefer it a bit longer. I can remember a time when you reached a certain age it didn’t seem “appropriate” to have longer hair- but I don’t think it matters so much anymore.

What is your favorite month of the year?

June! Summer arrives, school ends!

What is the easiest way for your to learn something new?  By reading, by seeing and doing, in a classroom?

By seeing and then doing. It is hard for me to grasp something just by reading it.

Share Your World

Give A Smile, Get A Smile

I was out on my morning walk today, and was approaching a car parked in front of a house. As I approached, I could see a woman behind the wheel and a young pre teen or teenage girl in the passenger seat. The woman (mother) was looking at her phone and the young girl was scowling. My immediate thought was “oh boy, that girl does not want to be where she is right now” and it took me back to my teenage days, remembering how sour I could become when forced to be someplace I did not want to be. As I came up alongside the car the girl turned her head and looked at me. I smiled at her and her face broke into a smile, washing the gloom and scowl away.   Immediately the thought popped into my head, give a smile, get a smile. So easy, and so nice to get a smile in return!

Thursday’s Special: Section

SECTION – segment, part, component, or in terms of photography a crop of a larger view. Paula asks: Have you ever taken a photo of something and then cropped it to add interest, to improve composition or to zoom in on something?

I usually attempt to zoom in if I can, but sometimes I will take a wider shot and later realize cropping it will add more interest, or allow me to focus on a particular part- section- of the photo.

Section

Yarn

I learned to knit from my mother when I was a child, knit one, purl two. My mother knitted blankets and sweaters- I only wish I still had the one from my childhood with the beautiful silver buttons. I never progressed beyond knitting scarves, they were straight and easy and no patterns to follow. I took up knitting again a few years back, though still not progressing beyond scarves. I did try new stitches and patterns. The first scarf I knitted a few years ago was using a seed stitch, which consists of single knits and purls that alternate horizontally and vertically. Seed stitch gets its name from the texture of the knitted fabric — the little purl bumps look like scattered seeds. Although a little more complicated than the garter and stockinette stitches, seed stitch creates an interesting texture. This was my finished scarf, which I still love to wear every winter.

Yarn

Wanderlust

Wanderlust: a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about

I am not a traveler, and usually do not have a desire to rove about. If I do get wanderlust it is to head to the beach. Winter, spring, summer or fall. Makes no difference- I love to see the ocean, to listen to the waves, to walk on the sand.

Wanderlust

The Weekly Smile

I spent Sunday afternoon sitting in the backyard of a friend  drinking multiple cups of coffee. It was so peaceful, watching the birds come to the feeder, taking in the beauty in her backyard,  and seeing how beautifully her two grandchildren sat and colored together. Her grandson is 5 and granddaughter 3, and they shared the markers so nicely, he showing her how to write her name, and then her trying it. I asked my friend if they are always like this and she said they do play nicely and for the most part are calm of nature. My weekly smile, sharing an afternoon like this and taking in how nicely two siblings got along.

The Weekly Smile

Share Your World

Wanting something to quench your thirst, what would you drink?

I drink a lot of water and that is always my go to drink to stay hydrated. It counteracts all the coffee I consume which dehydrates!

Complete this sentence:  Never In My Life Have I…. 

Bungee jumped, rappelled down a mountain, ridden in a helicopter, jumped out of an airplane, to name a few nevers and never will happen.

If you could be given any gift what would it be? 

The gift of good health. Without it, life can be so difficult and challenging.

What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep, toss and turn, or get up and try to do something productive?

I make up outfits in my head. I go through my closet mentally, putting together skirts and sweaters, thinking about what outfits I might wear the next day.

Share Your World

Feathers on Friday

I spotted my first Brown Headed Cowbird of the season this past week.

Singing in a tree, looking for a springtime mate no doubt. According to all about birds:

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a stocky blackbird with a fascinating approach to raising its young. Females forgo building nests and instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes more than three dozen a summer. These they lay in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks. They forage mostly by walking on the ground, and often with cattle or horses in pastures, catching the insects flushed from the grass by the grazing animals. Originally, they were closely associated with bison herds on the Great Plains. Brown-headed Cowbirds are noisy, making a multitude of clicks, whistles and chatter-like calls in addition to a flowing, gurgling song.

These two found each other and were busy eating together

Summer Came Early

The temps hit 87 degrees on Sunday so my husband and I headed for the beach! What a treat to sit by the ocean in April. I walked to the edge of the water and found it to be FREEZING, but enjoyed it anyway. Here are some of the sights as we walked a round trip of 5 and 1/2 miles along the boardwalk, crossing through three towns. Back where we started, we parked ourselves in front of the ocean and enjoyed the sound of crashing waves and ocean breezes.

Cee’s Black & White Challenge: M

Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do….

-Bruce Springsteen from the song Sandy

                                                                                              –

The Letter M

Feathers on Friday

Say hello to the Palm Warbler. 

I saw him moving around in the grass, and knew it was a bird I had never seen before. He was pretty quick but I managed to capture a shot of him. This brownish-olive bird has a bright rusty cap and a bold pale eyebrow stripe. The Palm Warbler is a warbler that doesn’t act like one, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They spend their time walking on the ground, wagging their tail up and down. Which is exactly where I first spotted him. They mainly forage on open ground or in low vegetation, rather than in the forest canopy as many warblers do. This one was kind enough to fly up onto a pole allowing me a better view and the opportunity to take his photo once again.

A new addition to my list of birds!

It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The town I live in  has long been on the frontlines of diversity. In the 1960s it was the first town in America to integrate its schools voluntarily. It is home to more than 20 synagogues, a Bahai temple, an Ethical Culture Society, an Islamic mosque, a Kingdom of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Syrian Orthodox church, Orthodox Jewish synagogues, Conservative Jewish congregations, Reform Jewish temples, as well as Baptist, Christian. Science, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches. Our Mayor is Muslim and the Deputy Mayor is an Orthodox Jew.

As I took my walk through town on Monday morning I noticed these signs on many lawns

The message “Hate Has No Home Here” is written in 5 languages along with English. I am proud to live in a place that sends this message in these turbulent times.

Here are some of the other sights I saw, sure signs that Spring is on the way

Then I paused for a moment under this Dogwood that is beginning to bloom. It stands in front of my neighbor Vita’s house. We always call it Vita’s Tree, and think of her when its blooms begin to show. She died about 7 years ago from a brain tumor and suffered a great deal for over a year before she died. I am always happy to see the blooms and remember how much she loved that tree and how happy it made her. Better times.

and of course my feathered friends. This Junco usually leaves come Spring, but I guess he likes the sights too.

Spring is upon us at last!

Share Your World

Have you ever participated in a distance walking, swimming, running, or biking event? Tell your story.

I am not a biker or swimmer, but I do walk alot and love it. I have never participated in any kind of walking event though. My husband and I walked 12 miles through a park that crosses through a few towns in our area one Sunday. My idea was to park a car at each end so we wouldn’t have to walk back- I figured 6 miles was enough, but he thought better of it and we left both cars at one end. We reached the end of the 6 miles, sat down and had lunch and he said he wished we had the car. Oh well. We walked back and slept very well that night.

Name one thing not many people know about you.

Hmmmm. That’s a hard one since I feel I have revealed so much about myself on my blog, and in “real life” basically what you see is what you get. I think people are surprised when I tell them I can be quick to anger- those who have not experienced it first hand, that is. I can have a short fuse and I also have the ability to cut people out of my life pretty easily. My father was like that, so I don’t know if it is learned behavior or partly just how I am wired. It is not something I like about myself, but have a hard time changing. I am always being put into the “escalation” department when on the phone trying to sort something out with an insurance company or the likes because I lose my temper and start yelling.

What is your favorite flower?

Hydrangea. I do love Peonies. Oh and I must include Bleeding Hearts. They are a miracle to look at.

Things I want to have in my home (paintings, hot tubs, book cases, big screen tv etc)

I just sent 8 huge garbage bags off this morning with Purple Heart donation center- I am trying to rid the house of the extras I don’t need that are taking up space. I do love the books and the knick knacks that hold special meaning because they were gifts, and some of the paintings hanging on the walls for the same reason.

Grateful everyday.Share Your World