Wednesday, December 22, 2010

finally...a tree

I'm just not one of those people who starts holiday decorating the day after Thanksgiving. It's okay by me if you do, I just don't want to see all of that...stuff in my house for 6 weeks.  I love all the stuff!  For two or three weeks, tops.  But I did finally get my tree and I was lucky enough to have one of the girls here to help me decorate it.  I've been decorating it myself for the last few years, now that they're grown, and it's just not the same without them.  I don't have much space in the living room, so I put the tree in the sun room, which is also our dining room.  I put some fresh wreaths, a little fresh garland, some scented candles here and there throughout the house, and some garland and lights around the front door outside, but the bulk of the decorating is done in this room, which is where we spend most of our time.

I like the way the lights are reflected in the surrounding glass. And yes, we DO have a LOT of ornaments on that tree!
We have lots of hand-made in elementary school ornaments.
These two kindergarten ones are my favorites!
Pretty!  We ate our dinner here, by the light of the tree, that night!
A simple holiday decoration - the cross-stitched Santa on the right was done by my sister a few years ago.  She's a wonderful, multi-talented crafter - crocheting, cross-stitching, etc.!
Another simple holiday decoration - three potted paperwhites will be blooming just in time for Christmas!
So, other than setting the table with holiday dinnerware and the holiday plaid tablecloth and napkins, that's about the extent of my holiday decorating.

I hope everyone has a beautiful holiday and I wish you all every kind of joy for 2011.  Peace.

Monday, December 20, 2010

welcome to Wilmington...

 "No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
  I cannot forget the people who love me
  Yeah I can be myself here in this small town
  And people let me be just what I want to be."

"Small Town" by John (Cougar) Mellancamp

Here's a link to a nice (if slightly condescending) little article written about my town in the NEW YORK TIMES Travel Section, recently!  I think most of us who live here have always thought it's a pretty hip, pretty cool place to live and we really don't need any confirmation from New Yorkers, but it's still kinda cool!

Have we hit the big time?
If, after reading this, you decide you'd like to visit, let me know!  We have lots of great restaurants, bars and shopping, but it still has a small town atmosphere.  I love that almost anywhere I go I see someone I know.  Want to see more?  Okayyyy.....

The USS North Carolina, permanently docked on the far side of the river.

Tons of old homes - some dating back to the late 1700's.
Beautiful holiday decorations all over downtown, not just here on the riverfront.
And what would an old town be without the old cemeteries?  This one has gravestones from the 1700's.

Friday, December 17, 2010

my wish list...

Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.  ~Calvin Coolidge, 1927

I know, I know.  Everybody says it.  Peace on earth.  That's what I want for Christmas.  But, while I'd like to believe it, I'm not completely sure it'll ever happen.  Not in my lifetime, anyway.  So I'll settle for tolerance.  And how about some compassion?  That'd be good.  Throw in some care and concern for our planet and all the creatures on it, and I'd be a happy camper.  Actually, I think if we had all that - tolerance, compassion and caring - well... peace would just happen all by itself!

I think in real life I might be getting some books and maybe a new yoga bag and mat (hint, hint).  The best gift of all will be that I will have the bf and both of my wonderful girls (not to mention the fur babies) at home with me and I'm more than happy with that.  We'll all be in the kitchen, cooking up a storm!  In our extended family, amongst the siblings, we all make donations to our favorite charities in each others names, as our gifts.  I always look forward to seeing who donated to what.  Some years there are some real surprises and I think this will be one of those years!  Hopefully they'll all be surprised - and happy - with my donations. 

On a lighter note, I hope to get a picture of the tree and some food up over the weekend!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

in memory...

Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened.  ~Theodor Seuss Geisel, attributed(Dr. Seuss)

You've probably all heard that Elizabeth Edwards died yesterday.  I didn't know her or John, but before the infidelity scandal he was a very popular US Senator here in NC.  Although there were some not very flattering rumors about Elizabeth (I don't know if they were true or not and honestly, I don't really care), she struck me as a smart, strong woman who was first and foremost a loving mother. And like many others, I was struck with the bravery she showed, at least to the outside world, during both the horrendous end of her marriage and her struggles with the cancer that finally took her.  I know her family, especially her children, will miss her.

Elizabeth Edwards
Today is also the 30th Anniversay of the death of another person I never met, but one who had a huge impact on my life as a teenager, as well as all these years after.  A person who made me think about who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life.  To this day, 30 years later, I listen to him with tears in my eyes - not just because he's gone, and gone way too soon - he had a lot left to offer the world.  Mostly I feel grateful to have had him at all.

John Lennon - Imagine 
So today is a day to celebrate the lives of two people who found a way to change the world!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

a beautiful day in the 'hood...

Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.
~Emily Dickinson

While "things" are still a tad hectic around here, it has slowed down a little bit.  I had the dogs out and about in the 'hood last week while the weather was still beautiful and happened to have my camera with me.  I'm trying to get into the habit of having my camera on me more often.  Anywayyyyyy...I didn't have time last week to post the pictures, and now it's sort of nostalgic to look back at these.  With our temps dipping down into the 40's - yep, that's the high! - and some rain over the weekend, we no longer look like this, sad to say.  But I'm grateful that we had such a long and glorious fall and some of the most beautiful color we've had in years.  See for yourself:

Ah!  Mother Nature does good work!

There's a sidewalk under all those leaves!

A church down the street being worked on (hence the scaffolding).  When I first approached it I thought the building was on fire, the light coming through the stained glass was so brilliant!

This picture doesn't begin to capture how beautiful this tree was.

Just looking at these pictures makes me feel warmer!  Only a few weeks until Winter Solstice (108 Sun Salutations, anyone?) and before you know it the days will be getting longer again.  Hope you're all staying warm!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

tied up...

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.  ~Confucius

This is sort of how I feel at the moment.

I am trying to keep my life simple.  Really I am.  But this week I am blessed with an overabundance of  things like work, friends who have birthdays at this time of year and want to party, the heat going out on what will be the coldest day of the next few weeks and dealing with the repair men, and trying to plan and execute the Office Holiday Extravaganza (it's not really, we just call it that), that are all conspiring against me.  Lots of things going on and that's not even including the impending holidays - I'll tackle those next week.   All I can do is breath.  And then breath again.

Hopefully all will be calm once again by tomorrow.  Keep your fingers crossed for me and I'll back here real soon!

This is how I'd like to feel!

And for those of you who don't know me in person...neither of these pictures are me!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With gratitude...

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.  ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition

Like most people in this country I have so much to be thankful for.  I'm healthy and happy, have a healthy, loving family (including our furry children) and wonderful friends, a roof over my head and a garden, food on the table, a good job that I really like, and I really am so thankful for all of that.  I try to be mindful of that not just at Thanksgiving, but every single day. But there was a time in my life when I didn't know how to do that, so I started a gratitude journal.  Every day I would look for three things to be grateful for, so I could write them in my journal.  I didn't let myself use all the usual stuff; my health, the health of my children and loved ones, etc.  Not that I wasn't thankful for those things.  Just the opposite.  Those are the things we're all grateful for.  That part was easy.  So I looked for all the little things, the things I was missing every day, and never wrote the same thing twice.  I'll be honest - there were days when the fact that I got two green lights in a row counted as something to be grateful for.  But as time went on I started finding five or eight things every day.  Then dozens of things every day!  Things like the color of sunlight late on a fall afternoon, or when I dug up what I thought was a dead toad while gardening, and then right before my eyes he "came back to life" after his winter's hibernation!  Like the time I cut into a zucchini and the seeds were lined up in a heart shape, or like when you smile at a stranger's baby and she smiles back (or the stranger smiles back, for that matter).  Like the hundreds of little tiny things that are right in front of me every day, if I just look for them.  I don't write in the journal any more.  I don't feel like I need to any more.  But I do pay attention, and I do notice, and I am thankful.  Each and every time.

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends (both here and in blogland) and beloved family!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm grateful I DON'T have...

Restless leg syndrome. 

Or a fungus under my toenails.  This poor guy looks like he has both!

I once heard someone say (or maybe I read it somewhere...I don't remember) that if you aren't  happy because you don't have what you want, then you should be happy because you don't have what you DON'T want.  Makes sense to me!  There are a lot of things I don't have that I really don't want.  A friend and I joke about Restless Leg Syndrome (me) and Toenail Fungus (her) being two things we don't want that we don't have and how grateful we are that we don't, but seriously, how many things do you NOT have that you DON'T want?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


 "Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional." - Chili Davis

When I was in high school I shared a room with my sister, one year younger than me, who was also my best friend.  We had the coolest room imaginable. When we moved into that house the room we were to share had a pretty, small scaled flower-y wallpaper on the walls that didn't sit too well with us hippie chicks.  We tried to talk our mother into letting us paint the room black, but she wouldn't go for it (surprise, right?).  We finally talked her into a dark blue.  Very dark blue. My sister and I painted the room ourselves and we painted right over the "old lady" wallpaper. Somehow, over time we, and our friends, found out that if you wrote on the wall it would scrape away some of the paint and the markings would come out white, the color of the wallpaper background.  So before too long, one entire wall, floor to ceiling, was "written" on by all our friends.  There were quotes and drawings all over.  It looked like a giant blackboard which had been well used.  We had our mattresses on the floor with lots of pillows, and flowing curtains and bedspreads that we made ourselves out of those cotton tapestries from India (oh, how I wish I had some of those now!), and Neil Young (me) or Rod Stewart (my sister) on the stereo - loud. Needless to say, we were envied by all of our friends and our room was a popular hangout.  Thanks Mom, for letting us do that.  Not every mother would have been that encouraging of our budding "style"! (And probably not surprisingly, my sister and I are both still into styling our homes!)  Sadly, as far as I know, there aren't any pictures of that room.

But I saw this on the blog "A Perfect Gray" this morning (via this pretty space) and the memories came flooding back:

ohhh...the memories!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Soup. It's what's for dinner...

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.  ~Garrison Keillor

I guess I haven't got this blogging  thing down yet.  I forgot to take a pic of my corn chowder last night, so I looked for a photo in Google.  This one looks pretty close to what my chowder looks like.

I've mentioned before (here? or commenting on another blog?  I don't know...) that I'm sort of a "flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" kind of cook.  Although I often get my inspiration from an actual recipe I find somewhere, I almost always end up veering off on my own.  That's why I don't bake much.  You have to follow directions - usually very closely - and I just don't do that well.  Short attention span or something.  I don't know.  Anywayyyy...over the years I've kind of made up my own recipes for some favorites, and Corn Chowder is one of them.  It is amazingly simple, and while it's best made with fresh corn, I often use frozen corn, because I love soup in the winter and it's hard to find local fresh corn in the winter.  I promise it is really, really close to just as good as fresh.  Oh, and a warning:  while I don't eat meat as a general rule, there is a small amount in this recipe.  I've tried making it without the pancetta, but it is not the same.  Two or three ounces of pancetta adds a ton of flavor.  It just does.  If you figure out a way to make this without it, let me know.

Since I am such a...shall we say creative cook, and I don't usually measure anything, I've estimated measurements here.  Feel free to change things.  Oh, and I like spicy.  If you don't, feel free to cut back on the red pepper flakes and jalapeno, although I'm not sure I would leave it out completely.  Might be too mild and sweet.

Corn Chowder

6 cups corn kernals (fresh or thawed, if using frozen)
1/2 to 3/4 cup half and half
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and very finely diced (to taste)
2 to 3 oz pancetta, finely diced (Italian bacon - I find it in the deli at my grocery store)
1 sweet onion, finely diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth (I use Wolfgang Puck's - it's awesome!)
Red Pepper Flakes to taste

In a soup pot, using a small amount of olive oil, saute pancetta, bell pepper, jalapeno, and onion over medium-low heat, until veggies are soft - about 5 mins.
In the meantime, put 5 cups of corn and the half and half in blender (you may have to do it in two batches) and pulse a few times until fairly smooth and creamy.  If it's too thick add a little more half and half.  It's amazing how thick corn gets when you put it in the blender.
Add the creamy corn mix, the rest of the corn kernels, and the broth to the soup pot and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until heated through and the whole kernels are cooked.  Add S&P and red pepper flakes to taste (you may not want these if you don't like spicy).  Serve with a nice, crusty bread.  This usually makes enough for our dinner and we each get lunch out of it the next day, so maybe four servings.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sunday mornings...

"Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life."
Marilynne Robinson (Gilead)

Most mornings of my life I'm a jump-out-of-bed-and-get-going kind of person.  I go to the gym before work, and the BF goes to work early in the morning, so there's not a lot of time for chit chat or even for having a cup of coffee.  But on Sunday...well, that's a different story.  When the BF and I first started living together we accidentally started something that has now become the highlight of the week for both of us.  Sunday mornings, the first one to wake (usually me) gets up and gets the coffee, and two cups, and comes back to bed.  We then spend the next hour or two laying in bed drinking coffee together and catching up on the week.  Sometimes we talk politics, or tell each other about something we heard on NPR, and sometimes we tell stories about when our children were young or even stories about when we were young. We laugh a lot. Little Jack snuggles in with us, Sadie in her bed next to us, and sometimes Louise will even sit on the end of the bed.  They seem to enjoy this time as well.  Soon enough it's time to get up and go out for breakfast, but that hour or two spent having coffee in bed never fails to start my Sunday in a relaxed frame of mind, and isn't that what we all want for our Sundays?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

 "There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling".    Mirabel Osler

Fall is really here.  Cold, dark, mornings and earlier sunsets.  The leaves are turning and the garden is settling down from it's crazy and riotous summer antics.  On my early evening stroll through the garden yesterday I noticed a few blooms, though.  The roses, although much healthier looking than they have been since May, still are not blooming.  Any day now.  And they'll bloom through January once they start. They've been known to bloom in snow around here!  Anyway, here's a little look at some of what is still blooming.

The Hydrangeas are fading fast, but I love this phase where they turn a beautiful shade of green.

One of the Sedums, getting ready to bloom, along with a Purple Heart.

A white "Encore" Azealea, and of course, Mums!

This was supposed to be a white Coneflower! Oh well...still pretty.

Some more Purple Heart - I LOVE those little flowers - and a Gaillardia.  Oh, and some weeds! Hehe...just keeping it real!

I'm not sure, but I believe this to be some sort of Hibiscus? The flowers are white and look very similar to a Hibiscus.  Earlier this summer some moth caterpillars wiped this entire shrub out in one day, but it's come back nicely.

More Mums, and a potted Pomegranate - I'm experimenting with that.

One of my favorites, the Canna Lily.  I have several types and colors in the garden, but this is the only one still blooming.
I'm enjoying what's left in the garden for now, and already thinking about what to add next year.  Now if the mosquitoes would just get the word that fall is here...

p.s. don't forget to vote!

Friday, October 29, 2010

one more Halloween photo...

My youngest baby girl, Schyler, and her friend, circa 1991 (ish?).  I wish I had a scanned photo of the older baby girl, Kendra, from that same year - she was a perfect Alice in Wonderland.  I got this photo via a friend on Facebook!

I don't know about you, but I don't think it gets any cuter than that.  Unless there was a puppy in the picture.  Then maybe it would be even cuter.  But not much.

a trick? or a treat? you decide...

No...not my house.  I'm afraid I'm just not that into decorating for Halloween.  Someone (with a great sense of humor and a little more time on his/her hands) who lives on one of the busier streets on my route to the grocery store, does this every year.  I always laugh when I see it.  Thanks unknown neighbor!  And speaking of neighbors, I'm looking forward to handing out candy to the neighborhood kids.  Some of them I only see this one time a year, and they're always so much bigger than last year!  Happy Halloween everybody, and watch out for little ones in the street!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


We are still enjoying what will probably be the last little bit of summer around here.  So as a salute to summer, there's this...

How cool would that be?  Pretty huh?  This beautiful house is on the market in Australia.  Photo via Oliveaux.

Monday, October 25, 2010

the best laid plans...

It was a gorgeous weekend and I had plans.  Good plans.  But as is so often the case, things went a little off course.  And sometimes, if you're lucky, what takes the place of your best laid plans turns out to be awesome.  I had planned on spending Saturday morning at the Farmers Market and yoga, but my boss called me and asked me to cover for him for a couple of hours at the office.  We were one of the sponsors of a "Downtown Lifestyle Tour", where people could walk around downtown and see what other people have done with some of the lofts and other living spaces that are "above the store".  Because we are one of the more "outside the box" and creative working spaces downtown, the tour organizers asked us to be in the tour as well as sponsor it.  I happily agreed to come in for a few hours and it was fun.  We had lots of visitors, and everyone loved the space.  When my boss came in around noon he gave me a ticket to go on the rest of the tour - something that I thought sounded interesting and fun, but hadn't planned on spending such a beautiful day actually doing.  But I thought "why not?"  So I toured a couple of apartments and lofts, all of which were beautifully redone.  Original 150 year old brick walls, original wood floors, windows from the floor to the 11 or 12 foot ceilings. You know.  I was about to call it a day when I realized that one of the lofts on the tour was special and I had to see it.

A little back story, first.  Wilmington is the third largest film industry town east of the Mississippi, after New York and Atlanta.  There is a lot of  movie and TV activity going on around here, and it's not unusual to see movie stars hanging around.  In fact, several of them live here, at least part-time.  Back in the 80's Dennis Hopper and David Lynch made a little movie here, called "Blue Velvet". The movie is so bad it's a cult favorite, now! They actually give tours of all the different places around town that were in the movie!  Anywayyyy...Dennis Hopper loved Wilmington so much he bought a building downtown - the old Masonic Temple - and built himself a huge loft.  Now that Dennis is gone, gentleman - well known for rehabbing/remodeling old houses and lofts and doing it beautifully - here in town has bought it and is in the middle of remodeling it to live in with his family.  I couldn't wait to see it!

You enter the loft from a freight elevator original to the 1850's building.  Straight ahead is Dennis' original kitchen - hasn't been remodeled yet.  This was supposedly "top of the line" in 1987!  All the cabinetry is stainless steel. The remodel  is only about 1/4 of the way done - much of Mr. Hopper's original stuff is still here.  I wonder if he ever actually cooked here?

These are new.  I like them. Not sure what was here before, but maybe we'll see...later.

This is the living room - huge.  Just to the left there is a glass "garage" type door that opens to a huge balcony, and those skylights (original) are about 8x10 feet!

I would so love to have one of these!

They displayed a photo of Mr. Hopper himself, in the living room as it looked when he lived there.

The original 80's, stainless steel cabinetry with black fixtures, bathroom - disco!  The new owner is installing these opaque glass doors throughout.
A different bathroom. This is the direction the new owner is going in.  Love this!

I thought this was interesting and fun.  All new.  This is going to be the new owners son's bedroom.  The platform will hold a mattress, and the area above it will also have mattresses (and a ladder) for sleepovers!  The niche at the head of the bed will be a bookcase.  The area below the bed is head room for a stairway leading downstairs.  Interesting use of the space.  I think the son is about 8 or 9 and I'm pretty sure he'll love this room .

Breakfast area - obviously all new.  Can't wait to see how this will be finished!

This was the original entry.  How 80's!  I'm guessing Mr. Hopper was single at the time?  Because this place must have looked like a nightclub!  Now it's being used for storage.  I wonder what the new owner is going to use the space for?

Maybe these are the old kitchen light fixtures!  This space had about a dozen of these assorted 80's style fixtures, and a bunch of big old metal signage letters - you can see a "t" at the left of the photo.

I ended up spending a good part of the afternoon here and it was fascinating.  So I'll plant the daffodil bulbs next weekend.

Friday, October 22, 2010

ahhhh...Friday's Friday!

I am so looking forward to this weekend.  It's supposed to be absolutely gorgeous here, for the entire weekend, so I'm looking forward to spending a little time putting in some more daffodil bulbs for spring blooms, as well as lots of other outdoor activities.  I'll spend some time wandering around the Farmers Market, and we'll probably take the tandem out for a spin around the lake - maybe bring a picnic?

One of the picnic gazebos at Greenfield Lake (in the background).  We are so lucky in this town, to have this lake and this park.  The lake is surrounded by the park, which has an approx 5 mile long walking/biking path that goes all the way around it.  We sometimes kayak in the lake, where we see lots of turtles.  In the spring we see baby turtles.  Talk about cute.

And a long walk on the beach, Sunday morning, before breakfast.  Fall is my favorite time of year for the beach.

Wrightsville Beach, in the fall.  Crowds have gone home.

 My youngest is coming into town over the weekend, too!  It may be the last time I see her before she leaves for NYC.  She'll be moving up there for a few months, and will be leaving the first week of November.  I know I'll miss her, but guess who might go to NYC for Thanksgiving?! Yep, me!

So, I'm looking forward to a beautiful weekend.  I hope the same for you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

an odd little space...

The first time I saw my house I fell in love with a couple of features.  One of those features was the hallway.  Weird. I know. But I'd never seen a hallway like this one.  It's square, for one thing, sort of like a very small room with lots of doors.  And no windows.  And it has floor to ceiling bookshelves!  Who has bookshelves in the hallway?  But I'm a sucker for bookshelves, wherever they may be.

The bookshelves!

The floor is hideous.  I love the rug, but because of the heating grate in the floor, it can't be any bigger.  Boo.

A portion of the solid wall.  That. Is. Red.  And yes, I do know that there is some baseboard and door molding missing.

Not just red.  High gloss red.

The hallway was painted blood red, and I kind of liked it, so it's still there.  And coincidentally, I love red.  There are small amounts of red in almost every room of my house, so it kind of fits.  But back then the opposite wall from the bookshelves (the "picture gallery" wall - sorry, I know some people hate that, but I happen to like it)  had a doorway into the former dining area of the kitchen, leaving not so much wall space.  That doorway was closed off when we remodeled the kitchen, so now it is a solid blood red wall, and it seems sort of over powering, not to mention a tad dark for a "room" with no window.  In my continuing attempt to neutralize, I'm thinking about a natural color grasscloth...what do you think?

Obviously there is some work that needs to be done here.  We will be replacing that god-awful tile on the floor, which is why we don't have baseboards and some of the molding in there yet.  Since there is hardwood in the entire house, we're thinking it probably has hardwood under it, but obviously it won't be in good shape, so that will be an undertaking we're kind of not ready for at this point.  Another someday job.  This house will keep us busy for years!