You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me ... C.S. Lewis

Do things to make your day precious ... Bernie Siegel

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April in Des Moines

Every spring is the only spring - a perpetual astonishment. ~Ellis Peters

My town looks especially lovely in springtime ... after the winter we had, it really looks great.  Because of the early warm weather, the spring flowers have bloomed and some are already finished blooming.  Too quickly.  Spring comes and goes too quickly.  We live near a lake, so near that when it floods I like to say we have lakefront property.  Fortunately we aren't that close.  But we are close enough that it's our lake.  It belongs to us and another oh, 300,000 plus people.

Across the street is a park filled with crabapple trees.  Right now it looks like cotton candy in various shades from pure white through pale pink to fuschia and nearly aubergine.  My street leads to a main boulevard with spring flowers and bushes blooming in the median.  Tulips of three or four shades are at their peak.  One of my neighbors has a front yard full of bluebells.

Ah, Spring ...

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. ~William Shakespeare

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mom and Marshalltown ...

My mom was born on August 3, 1917. Do the math. That means she is 92 years old. She is still very much alive and well in every sense of the word, and is a 20+ year survivor of ovarian cancer. Oh, she gets frustrated at times because she tires more easily and can't walk as fast as I do, but she walks and goes and does. After my father died in 1990, she stayed on the family farm for a couple years before deciding to move to a home in town. She painted the house yellow and white and it became a cottage. She planted a garden in the backyard and always shared delicious treasures with visitors. She stayed there for 16 years until 2009, when she moved to a beautiful two-bedroom condo across from her church. I love her new abode with it's east-facing windows and appealing patio. Usually when I visit her, we stay in and talk as fast as we can because she loves to play hostess and is still the best cook I know.

Saturday we decided to spend a couple wonderful hours together in downtown Marshalltown at a new bookstore called Stepping Stones, an art and gift shop across the street called Perfect Setting, and a new restaurant around the corner called Haven. If I had my way and could change one thing about each of them it would be more light in Stepping Stones, Edith Piaf instead of Barry Manilow songs in the background at Haven, more affordability at Perfect Setting. But each one is lovely as it is. The energy in my former hometown has increased because of the addition of these places and I hope that everyone supports them. There have been other wonderful shops in Marshalltown that have fallen away: Kathy's, Bob's, Dori's. How interesting that they all have people's first names. Maybe that will be one reason these new shops will have staying power. They have names that draw you in, pique your curiosity. I can recommend each of them.

It is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones, after all - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Sunday, March 28, 2010

More Travel Plans ...

Were you a fan of Mary Tyler Moore? I was crazy about the show. My daughters even said I looked like MTM which of course, I do not, but they were trying to get on my good side! Everything about the show was perfect, and of course, they were able to make us believe it was really happening in Minneapolis. What I can't believe is that I have never visited Minneapolis long enough to drive past the house that was used for the exterior of "Mary's" apartment, and we live only four hours away. That is definitely on my list of "Things To Do" on our upcoming trip to the Twin Cities. We are looking forward to a visit to the Science Museum in St. Paul to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.

It's late March and seeing the spring plants peeping through the dirt gives us such hope. I noticed even the peonies are beginning to break ground. We also have tulips, daylilies, surprise lilies and iris making their appearance.

.I am working on a shawl called "One Skein A Stole" from Noro Garden Sock Yarn and I can't really say I'm crazy about it yet. It's full of dropped stitches so it's light and airy-looking. Maybe I'll be happier with it when I've completed it. I enjoyed making the felted coasters as a gift for a friend so much, that I've been trying to make one a day, felt them and have them on hand when I need a gift.

I just discovered another knitting podcast called "Gives Good Knit" by Tika who is a classic literature buff as well as a yarn and knitting fiend.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes - Marcel Proust

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Long Ago and Far Away ...

... when I was a very young mom with two daughters under 4 we were sent to Mannheim, Germany by my husband's company. The original assignment was to be six months long, but that stretched into a year and then two and finally three. The girls learned to speak German at their nearby kindergarten and I learned to speak German at my twice-a-week Berlitz class. Because it happened so long ago, I have a romanticized idea of the city where we lived, Heidelberg, and have wanted to return. At various times I've expressed that desire but something else has always taken precedence. Possibly, just possibly, I can now say I can see Heidelberg on the horizon.

The most touching thing I've read about the recently passed health care bill is this:
"Ted Kennedy's youngest son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), visited on Monday morning and left a hand-written note that read: 'Dad, the unfinished business is done.' And on a dreary Tuesday morning, Caroline Kennedy, the senator's niece, sat in the front row, with other members of the storied family." His mission is complete.

Happiness...not in another place but this place, not for another hour, but this hour.
- Walt Whitman

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Finally Spring ...

The peace and beauty of a spring day had descended upon the earth like a benediction - Kate Chopin

Two days ago, we had 4" of snow on the ground, but it quickly melted away. Today I love the fact that the street cleaners are driving their machines up and down every street, brushing the winter dirt away from the curb. It puts an exclamation mark on winter!

Maya Angelou says, "Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Remembering High School ...

Today I got together with four friends from my high school class. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a well-known restaurant called Stone's ( For 50 years, Stone's were famous for mile-high lemon chiffon pie, but they no longer make it, another . Their key lime pie was an adequate substitute. Since none of us is currently working, we were able to linger over tea and dessert and talk about things other than 'what hurts'.
Sometimes health or lack of it becomes such a big topic of conversation we can never get to what's good about our lives. But today it was fun to talk about long-ago trips to Europe and more recent trips to Hawaii. I recalled how my first flight to Germany on Lufthansa Airlines was so memorable for many reasons, not the least of which was the four-course dinner served on china with silver and linen napkins. I still have the menu packed away in a box in the basement. Have you seen the movie called "Catch Me If You Can" with Leo DiCaprio? I'm talking about the era depicted in that movie when pilots were gods and flight attendants were young, beautiful and called stewardesses. Anyway it was a day of fun and something that doesn't happen often enough.

On the way home, I stopped for a few minutes to visit with Kathy at Charity's Yarns. She had a sale on three skeins of beautiful Elsebeth Lavold DK Silky Wool in "Reed" a heathered gold color; the entire 600 yards for $15, and a sample called Carol's Clever Little Shawl knit in an aran weight yarn so I'm planning to make the same pattern which is free online.

Before I can begin the Carol's Shawl, I will finish my Purl Ridge Scarf in Dale of Norway Harlequin in Chocolate.

Along my route, I saw flooding in the fields, and creeks and rivers were quite high. I guess when 60"+ of snow melts in ten days that's what happens.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Taking Tea at Miss Spenser's

In April of 2009, I read a tiny notice in the local newspaper about an upcoming event called "Tea on the Titanic" at a place in the country called "Miss Spenser's Tea Room." My first thought was: how have I not heard of this place before? It was early morning and I vowed to call after work that afternoon. Unfortunately by the time I tried to make a reservation, the event was "Sold Out". I quickly reserved space for the Bridal Tea planned in June and rallied several friends to join me. Today I attended my 6th of their monthly teas, the Irish Farmhouse Tea. Each menu is carefully coordinated with the theme of the tea and guests are treated to a charming performance by Miss Spenser. At that first tea back in June, she played the part of Meg March from "Little Women" on the morning of her wedding day. Today she was Miss Mary McGrady and shared some tales and folklore from Ireland. She then played some Irish tunes on her harp while we continued to enjoy the food and conversation. It has been so much fun to share my 'discovery' of this hidden Iowa treasure with friends.

I recently discovered a blog called full of fantastic pictures and dreamy paintings, as well as great destination suggestions. I didn't realize I was a Francophile until I began reading Carol's blog. Of course that led me to a book recommended on the blog called "French by Heart: An American Family's Adventures in La Belle France" by Rebecca Ramsey. I have lived abroad ... in Germany for nearly three years ... and can identify with some of the challenges and adventures. It's lighthearted and a quick read.

I've been knitting the most adorable slippers called "French Press Felted Slippers" created by Melynda at "French Press Knits". Did I mention they're adorable? They are slightly addictive and others have knit several pairs ... we'll see how many I am able to knit.

Speaking of adorable, in October two new cuties were added to our family, JJ and BB.

Older sister Helen who's 2 1/2 going on 12 loves her new brothers and is a big help to mom and dad.

I recently discovered a new podcast called "Yarns from the Plain" by Nic who has a lovely British accent. It seems like Brits not only use words more beautifully than we Americans do but they have a larger vocabulary. For even more British accents, I listen to "Electric Sheep" by Hoxton (or Katie), and "Knitty Nora".

It was one of those March days when
the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:
when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
-Charles Dickens

Until Later ...