Monday, September 28, 2009

elements of happy

Sometimes happiness simply comes down to a teacher workday, flu shots checked off the to-do list, three 12-year-olds loose in a Lego store, a just-washed and fluffed dog napping in the sun, a bowl of pears. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

hello autumn

"That's a sign of autumn," Mom said, pointing to a patch of yarrow along the greenway. And so here we are, the first official day of fall. Hello to cool mornings, a spate of rainy days, sun setting earlier in the evenings. To that first apple with a tangy bite to it, chrysanthemums on the doorstep and the Homecoming lapel, football rivalries, political rivalries, a contest over the best barbecue. To leaf peeping along the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it to the State Fair in Columbia and watching The Legend of Sleepy Hollow performed under the stars. It's sweater time, time for tomato soup in a silver Thermos, time to toss a quilt on the bed and sleep with all the windows open. Indian Summer tiptoes quietly away, then BOO! Autumn arrives. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

farewell summer

Summer meant staying up way past bedtime playing Capture the Flag in pajamas with the neighbor kids. It meant going barefoot, reading just for fun, spending a week building a Lego city with your very best friend. But to everything there is a season and tomorrow a new season begins. Summer meant flickering fireflies captured in a mason jar with holes poked in the lid. Time to let them go. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Very truly luxuries
They're those things in life that add a lot. Pleasures and comforts that are by no means necessary, but boy do they make a difference in the daily round. The good news is that these indulgences aren't just found in a Tiffany turquoise box tied with a white silk ribbon. Or swathed in cashmere. They don't have to cost a small fortune. In fact, some of the best ones are free, recession-proof and there for the plucking by ordinary people like you and me. We just have to know how to spot luxury. And be willing to luxuriate: 
. . . no alarm clock on Saturday morning
. . . bed linens dried on a clothesline
. . . fluffy towels, just out of the dryer
. . . strong coffee made in a French press
. . . homemade graham crackers
. . . Vivaldi's Four Seasons
. . . Rococco by Adriana Trigiani
. . . Big Night starring Stanley Tucci
. . . Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Bruni, Pavarotti
. . . poems by Mary Oliver, Stanley Kunitz
. . . a letter, written or received
. . . a rainy morning + a museum
. . . a friend + a window of time
. . . a well-used library card
. . . breakfast at a hotel
. . . a Saturday afternoon nap
. . . cloudwatching, stargazing
. . . a deep breath, a long walk
. . . a new day

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

what is Wednesday?

It's the day the food section comes in the paper, prompting early morning thoughts of what's for supper? Gotta' be sloppy joes, home fries, slaw. This is Wednesday, after all. Mid-week. Something to hang your hat on. But between now and supper, there are forms to be dutifully read and returned, bills to pay, a meeting or two, a deadline, phone calls to make, problems to solve, hopefully a new project to mull, a walk with the dog (maybe in the rain), a guitar lesson. Then sloppy joes. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

breaking out in laughter

Cheap yet heartfelt advice for mothers and fathers everywhere: don't even think about raising a teenager without daily comic relief from the cartoon Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Parents with children younger than high school simply will not get it. Nor should they. Everything in good time, right? The rest of us just appreciate knowing that we are not alone, we are not crazy and most of what we're enduring is pretty darn funny. Especially in hindsight.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

good things happen in B's

It's a beautiful weekend and good things are happening in B's around here: baklava at the annual Yiasou Greek Festival, an enchanting book about books, bocce ball in the afternoon. Life just couldn't be any better.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"We do not have what we had. But we have what we have . . . There is always something to treasure, no matter what may be taken." - Rev. Barbara Crafton

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

when life gives you lemons

How on earth would I be using the mammoth bag of lemons in the grocery basket, my husband wanted to know. As if a bowl of them gracing the table in a kitchen still life weren't reason enough. So I've marinated Tuscan chicken, spritzed salmon, zested salad dressing, made a tub of hummus that would cost a fortune at Dean & Deluca. And still, the citrus bowl overfloweth. This calls for the most lemony recipe in my arsenal, referred to simply as:

'When-Life-Gives-You-Lemons' Lemon Bars 

1 c. butter, softened
2   1/4 c. flour, divided
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
2 c. sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons

Combine softened butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar; blend until smooth. Pat dough into lightly greased 13x9x2 inch pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Combine eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest; mix well. Add 1/4 cup flour, salt and baking powder; blend well. Pour over pastry. Bake at 300 degrees 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Freezes well.  
Sugar bowl and Lemon by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Monday, September 7, 2009

working it out

Are you familiar with this acclaimed book from the 1970's? Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do. It's an oral history compiled by Chicago's legendary writer and radio man Studs Terkel. He interviewed hundreds of people from all walks of life, in all kinds of jobs. It's a fascinating Labor Day window on the complicated, often love/hate relationship we have with the daily grind. 

I once had a good position in a great college setting, but the boss was nicknamed 'Hitler's Niece' and every day was a fresh hell.  The minimum-wage gig at a newspaper was a dream-come-true, but we had to move when my husband graduated. I cherished a brief banking career because of my brilliant boss. The kids marvel that I worked at Wendy's during high school, babysat for 50 cents an hour, was the talking Christmas tree at a local department store. Then there have been these many years as an advertising writer.  Come to think of it, though, there are still a few hats I'd like to add to the many I've worn. Maybe the same is true for you. Labor Day is a perfect time to get to work on that. 

Thursday, September 3, 2009

welcome, September

September is a leaf fluttering to the ground. It's the ninth month, a celebration of life's labors, trading beach bag for backpack and briefcase. It's sharpened pencils and a black and white speckled composition book, pages pristine as sneakers worn for the very first time. It's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a plaid lunchbox with a note from mom tucked inside. It's Friday night football, marching band in perfect formation, center snapping to quarterback, quarterback passing to receiver, TOUCHDOWN! 

September is homeroom, homework, the comforts of home at the end of the day. It's a sweet dog stationed at the window, waiting for the yellow bus to barrel by. It's Saturday at an apple orchard, buying a bushel of Granny Smiths and basking in cidery perfume. It's a bird's nest, a found feather, an acorn on the sidewalk. There's the promise of cooler weather with undertones of Indian Summer and a spicy hint of autumn. September's gift is a fresh start, a chance to begin again.