Monday, March 30, 2009

school's in!

Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.  Polly Berendt
As it turns out, we're all in school, all of the time. Whether we got up this morning and headed out with a backpack and a bag lunch or not.  Whether we caught a yellow school bus at the corner or drove to an office in the old Volvo. Whether we have homework or work from home.  Life can be such a great teacher, yet a taskmaster, too.  Kind of like the one who brought out the best in you and helped you find a path to passion and purpose.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

classical brunch

The perfect Sunday lunch includes a crystal bowl of strawberries, pineapple and honeydew, a basket of blueberry muffins warm from the oven, this quiche recipe and lots of good strong coffee. Oh, and generous serving of Bach on the side.  

Quintessential Quiche
3/4 c milk
3/4 c mayo
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbs cornstarch
2 c shredded swiss cheese
2 c fresh spinach leaves 
pepper
Mix together milk, mayo, eggs and corn starch until smooth.  Stir in cheese, spinach and a sprinkle of pepper.  Place in prepared pie shell. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Bacon or ham or asparagus may be substituted for the spinach.  

Friday, March 27, 2009

fresh flowers on Friday

Picked from my mother's beautiful garden on an early spring morning.  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

the painter & the poet

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) is known for her tender and beautiful impressionist paintings of mothers and children.  Little Girl in a Blue Armchair is displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  Notice the sweet little dog curled up in the chair on the left. Former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser paints pictures with words.  One of my favorite poems tells about the time he actually held a set of pastels that had years before belonged to Mary Cassatt.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It always seems to happen that I'll be in a store and a great little box of stationary will speak to me.  Like this one (www.katespade.com).  Back at home, I will find a good pen, a sunny window and a window of time.  Then I will fill every one of the notes with words that have been bottled up, waiting for their moment in the sun. Thank you to the teacher who put on the great poetry reading. A letter to the friend of a friend who is moving to town. A few that simply say 'you've been on my mind.'  Never underestimate the power of a letter to brighten a day. Especially the sender's.        

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

a perfect piece of time

What will you do today?  In this sweet and gentle new book, Cynthia Rylant portrays a single day as a world unto itself, filled with promise, hope and beauty. Offering chances 'to see, to act, to wish, to love.'  The present moment is what matters most, she reminds us.  And it's all we ever truly have.    

Sunday, March 22, 2009

coming soon to a feeder near you

It's a particular blessing to go to a church where the clergy is caring, passionate and wise.  They offer hope in many different guises.  This week it was a link to the 2009 spring migration map for ruby-throated hummingbirds (http://www.hummingsbirds.net/map.html).  

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the Saturday six

What are you savoring over Saturday morning coffee?  Lots more fun than making a chore list!
1.  spring officially sprang yesterday
2. carpet of green returning to front yard
3. forsythia, cherry, quince branches in crystal vase
4. a bleacher full of family at the soccer game
5. a mini marathon of book reading
6. a special place called Sewanee

Thursday, March 19, 2009

scattering petals

Have you ever seen a tulip tree? Technically, it's called a Japanese Magnolia and one blooms across the street every March.  A little blonde-haired boy bounced a basketball beneath it for years on end, first shooting into a bright plastic Fisher-Price hoop, later the real thing that his sweet dad raised at every growth spurt. One day I took my own little toddler by the hand and we walked across the street to ask if he wanted a friend to play with. He said no, but we kept trying every month or so until, finally, one day: yes.  They've been inseparable ever since, until next year when the six-foot-five, blonde-haired boy will trade driveway and high school gym for the hardwoods of Washington & Lee.  The tulip tree reminds me that these things are natural, all of this growing up and blossoming.     

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

march gladness

The president of the United States has made an important executive decision: he's picked the UNC Tarheels to win the NCAA tournament. This is especially pleasing to me because I pick them every year. And they always make a great showing.  Go Heels!  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

as luck would have it

What's luck got to do with anything?  Sometimes everything.  Luck landed us next door to Dr. Mac sixteen years ago, a retired physician who can pluck a four-leaf clover from a patch of green grass within minutes.  It's uncanny.  He can also grow the juiciest tomatoes, catch a field mouse that has snuck into your house and fix anything that's broken.  Including, but not limited to, hearts.  Chance, fate and coincidence are other words for luck.  So are serendipity and grace.

Monday, March 16, 2009

a word that can change your life

Do you have everything you've ever wanted?  Me, neither.  But we're in luck because it's much more significant to want what we have. And that's a mindset that can be cultivated, according to Robert Emmons.  He's editor of The Journal of Positive Psychology and has just written this good little book about gratitude.  Backed by empirical evidence, he says that if you keep a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks, you'll sleep better and have more energy.  That you can actually change your 'happiness set point' if you keep at it (attention all Eeyores!).  Wise words from philosophers, novelists and theologians round out his case.  Today I'm going to be thankful for four dreary, rainy days in a row that are turning this corner of the world into a technicolor Easter basket.  For the Monday meeting about a new project, be it ever so small.  For the MacBook keyboard beneath my fingertips and for you, reading this post.  Thank you.     

Saturday, March 14, 2009

yoga in a cup

Get your Saturday off to a smooth and healthy start with a smoothie. Not the $4.99 version from the local Smoothie Shop, but the pennies-only one you can make in a minute at home. Here's a simple, no-fail, always-delicious recipe that has 'good morning' written all over it. Have a sip. It's going to be a great day.  

Fab Fruit Smoothie
1 c. skim milk
1/3 c. orange juice
1 c. frozen strawberries 
1 ripe banana
Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth.  Pour and enjoy!  Can substitute raspberries or other frozen fruit for the strawberries. For a tropical flair, try frozen pineapple.    

Friday, March 13, 2009

five for Friday

Good nuggets culled from a good week:
1.  much-anticipated Pi day celebration in middle school math class
2.  40% off coupon at Michael's on the $15 can of spray mount
3.  Winnie the Pooh soundtrack while on hold for the pediatrician
4.  Charlotte Living cover shot of pink tulips
5.  J birthdays:  Uncle John, Aunts Jane & Jennie, Joan! 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"I am part of everyone I have ever known and loved.  So are you.  So are we all."- Barbara Crafton, Episcopal priest and author

And they are part of us.  This is such a hopeful thing to ponder on a cold, windy March day.  A day that began on the grounds of a monastery, in a beautiful Basilica, honoring the life of a good man.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

still laughing

Saturday night was our night.  This was the routine and we did not deviate:  first Mary Tyler Moore and her sidekick, Rhoda. Then the Carol Burnett Show. And, always, Tollhouse cookies. Mr. Tudball was one of our favorites ('One ringy-dingy, two ringy dingy!'), but nobody will ever touch Eunice Higgins for howl out loud hilarious. This was our Saturday Night Live, only sweeter and funnier. Perfect entertainment for a teenage sister and a little brother, bound together in babysitting bliss. Do they even make tv shows like that anymore, without the hard edges? Where, at the end, the adorable host sings goodbye and tugs her earlobe to tell her mother goodnight? I know for sure that they don't make brothers like that anymore. Because mine's one-of-a-kind.   

Monday, March 9, 2009

daffodil daze

They're everywhere you look in Charlotte right now, spots of sunshine and harbingers of hope. A cure for what ails you, if what ails you is spring fever.  Even an early March snow couldn't keep them down.  One time I left a glass jar full of daffodils on the doorstep of a beloved artist friend.  Days later, she left a beautiful watercolor on mine.  I look at it every morning when I wake up.   

Saturday, March 7, 2009

from the villa kitchen

You know that little Italian restaurant around the corner where good, rustic food is served on sturdy white plates with candlelight dancing off the Chianti bottles?  Cooked by someone who resembles a distant Italian relative and not the next Food Network Star?   The one where, when you sit down, a small dish of marinated Tuscan beans magically appears on the table with a basket of warm bread?  Well, if you can't get there tonight, console yourself with this recipe. They couldn't make it any better in the old country:

Tuscan Bean Dip

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 small red onion, minced
2 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley
1/3 c. chopped basil leaves
2 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, except for the beans.  Add the beans and marinate mixture in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  Serve at room temperature with warm, crusty bread.  Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in an air-tight container.  

Thursday, March 5, 2009

clean slate

There always seems to come a day, this time of year, when brilliant sunlight streams through smudgy windows illuminating the fact that you've let things go around the domicile.  Furniture is dull beneath half-hearted layers of polish, winter cobwebs swing from the chandelier, dust bunnies have reproduced like rabbits.  Every drawer has become a junk drawer and the mountain of unfolded laundry piled in the bedroom chair may signal some sort of psychological disorder.  Things just. can't. continue. this. way. Whatever's blocking the flow has got to go: piles of clutter, outgrown items, antiquated ideas, negative energy.  We're talking sanity, harmony, therapy.  Scrub 'til it sparkles. Hang the linens on the clothesline to dry, put a bowl of lemons on the kitchen table. Spring into action.  A pristine, pine-scented paradise awaits.  And a fresh start.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

slice o' life

There's a shop in town that makes rich, dense pound cakes encased in buttercream glory and decorated like a work of art. Edible Art. Chocolate, vanilla, lemon and, oh, the almond.  It's worth waiting for a whole year to circle 'round to know that one of these creations just may grace your birthday table.  Unless you happen down the busy street some weary day, trying to catch a glimpse of happy in the storefront window like you always do, and notice a sandwich board sign in front of the shop with two simple words scribbled on it:  Slices today.  To these, I would add three more:  life is sweet.  

Monday, March 2, 2009

snow treasures

What fascinates you?  What were you so enamored with that your mother had to call you three times to come eat supper?   The thing you'd spend every free minute and your last penny of allowance on?  For a Vermont farm boy in the early 1900s, that treasure was snowflakes. He drew them endlessly, studied them under a microscope for winters on end and, finally, began to photograph them at 17 with a camera his parents bought with their savings. All these years later, scientists and others who want to learn about snowflakes study Wilson Bentley's book, Snow Crystals. Jacqueline Briggs Martin tells his story in Snowflake Bentley, with beautiful woodcut illustrations by Mary Azarian. When the world is covered in surprise snowy wonder, it's a good time to remember your own snowflakes.  Maybe study them in a new light.