September 2017

September is here. The kids are back to school.  Back to structured days, routines and fall sports and apple orchards. Much as I hate to see an end to carefree summer days, I do welcome the predictability of the school year.  September is a great time of year to take long walks and enjoy the stillness in nature that comes with early fall.  The sunlight takes on a warmer hue and there is a definite tinge of coolness when in a shady spot.  Gone is the morning chatter of the birds, replaced with quiet rustling as they gather together preparing for their annual migration. The leaves are slowly turning and the trees will soon be ablaze with color.  This is a great time of year to organize around the home, clean out a closet, let go of some clutter.  This month look for my favorite fall recipes.  Grab a sweater, leave the ear buds at home and get outdoors and enjoy the show!

August 2017

I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve never been a big fan of August and sadly I believe it is a result of the hurry-up marketing to get to the next season that I always feel.  The mad dash to get out the “back to school” supplies while we are still deep into enjoying our summers.  I know there is a strategy for the retailers, but the thought of it all coming to an end all too soon is something I’d rather not have to deal with every time I step into a store or turn on the TV.  On the brighter side, August is when our vegetable gardens come into fruition, tomatoes aplenty as well as all the other fresh produce we’ve been nurturing and waiting for all summer.  There is such a feeling of triumph and satisfaction when we serve a dish at the table made with our own home grown goods.  Here in the northeast, corn is at it’s peak and absolutely delicious.  August is a month to slow down and take in the last and best of everything that summer offers, long evenings by a fire pit, lazy afternoons on a raft on a lake, cook outs and sleep overs.  Summer is still in full swing and won’t be over until it’s over!

A trip through the wine region of the Rhine river.

My husband and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Germany.  We decided to visit the wine region along the Rhine river by driving as close to the water as possible.  We only made overnight reservations for our first and last nights.  We rented a car and set off for adventure.  When you go without reservations (easily done in Europe since there are bed and breakfasts and small hotels galore), you open yourself up to more spontaneity.  If we happened to like a town, we stayed there.  If not, we moved on.  We started out in Mainze, Germany with our ultimate destination of Cologne. We randomly pulled into wineries along the way and they were all cordial and happy to share.  I have become a fan of dry Rieslings!  Fresher and less complicated than Chardonnay and a little more fullness than a Sauvignon Blanc.  The bucolic little towns were all nestled along the river while the hills behind them had every inch of available space covered with grape vines.  Really a sight to see, since some of the hills were precariously steep.  Here and there among them would be a spectacular castle perched up on the hillsides.  As we traveled further north the hillsides gave way to more open countryside and we ended our Rhine aspect of the trip in Cologne.  Below are some pictures that will give a visual tour of some of the region.

A view across the Rhine with the grapevines on the adjacent hillside.

The interior of the churches is breathtaking.  This one was in Mainz, and the history that accompanies them is fascinating.  It continues to amaze me that so much survived the devastation of WWII.

A German feast – sausages of every kind, pork, sauerkraut, sharp mustard and hearty bread.  I especially love the typical weinstube glasses with the green stems that are found everywhere.

After Germany we headed up to Holland.  My parents immigrated to the States in the late 50’s.  My mother was from a large family, and in post war Europe many immigrated.  Half of her brothers and sisters left, half did not.  So as a result, I spent much of my youth in Holland with my dutch cousins.  We headed up to S’hertogenbosch for a ‘cousin reunion’.  I feel so at home in Holland.  The charming villages, scattered between impossibly flat farmland – and impossibly neat and clean!  Bicycles are as popular as cars and flowers and markets everywhere.

Be sure to wear your flats!  Flowers rule in the Netherlands…

……as does cheese!

A lovely and fascinating holiday!  I cannot emphasize enough travelling with few plans and reservations.  I know this makes some people uncomfortable especially being out of their comfort zone, however, travel in Europe is very easy and as I mentioned there are no shortages of places to stay.  The open road and a sense of adventure truly lead to the most unique experiences.

July 2017, a reflection…………

I’d like to dedicate this post to Otto Warmbier.  I am not going to take a political stance on this at all, that is not my intention.  Instead, I am coming solely from the view point of a parent. 

Anyone who is a parent knows that there is an undisputed unifying bond that connects us all.  We feel it the day that newborn is laid into our arms, we are immediately, undeniably forever changed.  Life continues and we develop a common sympathy with other parents regarding their trials and tribulations.  How many of us remember that feeling of handing your child the car keys for the first time??  To those of us with a son, or sons, teenage or young adult – how common those ambitious, beautiful (like Otto), ‘eager to take on adventure’ and also ‘quick to accept a dare’, wrapped up with a lot of naivete and a little bit of ‘crazy’, young men.  Believe me, I’ve got one!  That said, there is another even stronger parental connection, it is the one that unites all those who have lost a child.  Our connection is deep, we instinctively know the tremendous amount of “grief work” the other has gone through or is about to embark upon.  We are connected across the physical miles by human compassion and pain.  We can physically feel the angst of other parents over and over again, each time we hear of tragedy……it never goes away.   I followed Otto’s ordeal from the very first day he was ever mentioned in the news.  I worried for him every day and wondered if anyone else did as well.  I felt as he were my son and I was another one of his parents.  So imagine my elation when that boy returned home.  And like any other parent, hope against hope, prayed for a miraculous recovery that was not to be had.  I felt the life pass from my body once again, when I heard the news that Otto was gone to us all.  To see the Warmbiers enduring such heartache and exhibiting such grace before the world was crushing.  Then the inevitable onslaught of opinions – some unfortunately, negative.  And here is my very point.  How many of us look back at our younger selves and wish we could erase some of the “less than smart” things we’ve done.  How many of us have young adults – sons or daughters, that take risks we’d rather they didn’t.  It is a parents’ duty to raise our children as strong, compassionate, respectful individuals, with a good moral compass and enough sense to make good choices.  Then slowly we sense their need for independence and we have to step back and allow them to fail, learn from their mistakes and eventually soar.  It doesn’t take a lot of insight to see that the Warmbier’s did that job with perfection.  I don’t personally know the Warmbiers, but I know them well enough as a parent that if they could change anything to avoid what happened to their dear son they would in an instant without any hesitation.  And as time will ever so slowly soften and dull the sharp ache they have now, eventually they will come to accept that ache as part of them, because oddly enough, that ache will connect them to Otto.  I strongly discourage becoming a ‘blame seeker’, it serves no purpose.  Instead look inside yourselves and imagine if these circumstances were your own.  Have human sympathy for the Warmbier family and remember Otto simply, like so many families, as their beautiful son and brother. Peace.

June 2017

The birds around my home don’t waste any time preparing to raise their families!  I’ve already seen one robin build her nest, lay her eggs, raise her brood of 3 and watched them all tentatively leave the nest – success!  I found this little nest just the other day.  I’ve been watching a tiny chipping sparrow nesting for a few weeks, then one day there they were, 3 barely 1 day old little ones.  Yes, I know the picture is a little fuzzy and it’s difficult to make out who’s in there, but mom was not happy at me hanging around for pictures.  June is here, the days are longer and thank goodness, because there are always those “getting ready for summer” chores to take care of. I like to really muscle through the “to-do’s” so that I don’t have projects hanging over me all summer.  Time to get the garden planted if you haven’t done so already, clean off the patio furniture and fire up the grill.  Enjoy the beauty of the season and the warmer days.

May 2017

My mothers’ gorgeous wisteria

It seems we always associate the month of May with flowers.  May day, Mother’s Day, all celebrated with beautiful fresh blossoms.  Regardless of what the calendar says, May can still bring with it several cold and rainy days and we certainly are having our fair share.  But as with anything, ‘hope springs eternal’ and with it comes the certainty that by the end of the month there will be plenty of blooms.  From fruit trees, bulbs and flowering bushes, nature will be ablaze with color.  I’ve been to my favorite haunts already procuring hanging baskets and other flowers to fill my pots and gardens, even though I’ve had to put them in a safe corner to protect from the occasional threat of frost!  I’ll be buying vegetable plants for the kitchen potager as well pretty soon, but will wait to put them in the ground until very late May.  Time to start dreaming of warm summer days around the corner.  Until then, enjoy the beauty of spring!

April 2017

Aaaahh spring.  I believe it is rare to find someone who doesn’t love spring.  As I have mentioned before, we really are weekend warrior winter people with active competing skiers in a few disciplines, and as much as I love our ‘winter life’, I love that first day when you can actually smell spring in the air.  That earthy warm, just past a spring shower smell.  Regardless, here in the northeast April can play “April Fools” all month long weather-wise and we never completely rule out a possible snow storm.  The only thing for certain is that the winter is truly over and not even the late April snow will stick around.  If you havn’t kept to your new years’ promises, this is a good month to push the reset button.  Also a great month to start dreaming of the garden projects, plantings and such.  In the meantime, get outside and enjoy the sounds of all the returning birds.  Spring is here!

March 2017

“Is it spring yet??”

So many things can be said for March…. The beginning to the end (of winter that is), the luck of the Irish, etc.  While it is always nice to know we are that much closer to April, make no mistake, despite the rash of warm days we have been having, winter still has it’s icy grip on the northeast.  This really is our final month of winter (even though we can easily entertain snow in April), for me it is always bittersweet. March is very much like August, hanging on to the last of those finest of days, knowing the end is inevitable before we have to embrace the next season. Our weekend warrior skiing days will come to an end and with that we say goodbye to our mountain friends until we meet again in November.  We will hang up the skis and put away the snowshoes and begin to think about warmer weather pursuits.  Whatever your definition of March, like time itself, it is fleeting.

February 2017

I captured this picture while out for my early morning walk.  The sun just seemed somewhat different, a little brighter against the crisp blue sky.  I recognized that light – the indicator of the sun getting just a little warmer, the days just a little longer.  Just barely perceptible changes, but enough to notice regardless.  Yes, winter is definitely still here and having a strong hold on us all, but somehow February just seems that much closer to the warmer days ahead.  I like to take care of projects and business inside the house this time of year.  Organize pictures into albums, clean out files, etc.  Things that always need to be done, but somehow never get that attention once the spring is here.  An acquaintance of mine was scanning the seed catalogs, planning what was going to be new to the garden this summer.  Yes, February is that month that puts us just a little closer to the end of winter.

January 2017

Aaaahhhh, January.  The serene stillness, much like the picture of the abandoned sleigh above, a reminder of the joyous festivities just past.  January is a great month for taking stock.  Fresh starts and promises for the coming year. The word “resolution”, comes with so much pressure, almost a set-up for failure.  Instead  make this the month you choose to do something just for yourself.  It doesn’t have to be a year-long commitment.  Just something that will enhance your happiness.  Refresh a room in your home.  Tackle some challenging recipes.  Try writing (a forgotten art!), or even painting, take a walk on a quietly snowy morning – without ear buds!  You’ll be amazed at how something simple and/or creative can affect your well-being.  Your inner joy will be evident to your family and those around you as well.  Embrace the calmness of January.