Thursday, June 19, 2014

Faithful Thelma

"A mother bird sat on her egg. The egg jumped.  
'Oh oh!' said the mother bird. 
'My baby will be here! He will want to eat.  
I must get something for my baby bird to eat!' she said. 
'I will be back!' So away she went." -P.D. Eastman.

This all happened one year ago, and I've thought of it often. It's high time I tell you.

We were on our front porch when we noticed a bird was building a nest on top of one of the columns. Jason wondered if he should move the nest, to which I replied, "Of course not!" The mama bird had worked so hard on that nest.  In addition, if she had laid eggs and we moved it, she may abandon it. How could we live with that guilt over our heads? So we watched a sweet little robin as she dutifully brought twigs, dry grass and such into her nest over the next few weeks.

And then that mama, henceforth referred to as Thelma, sat. She sat and sat and sat. And we watched.
I couldn't tell if she liked our company or felt threatened by it. But then again, she chose that spot, so she must have been watching us and felt it safe to be amongst this family with a barking dog and loud, silly boys often armed with squirt guns and water balloons.

Then during porch conversations one evening, Jason stopped me mid sentence, "Sshhh. Listen!".  And we heard it: a tiny, darling, beautiful chirp. The eggs had hatched! We proceeded to listen to these little dears over the next few weeks and my bird admiration grew. I just had to see! So I stood on chairs, I climbed the porch railings, I grabbed the ladder- camera in hand. Neighbors would drive past and I would wave sheepishly, wondering if I was now referred to as "the bird lady". But it paid off.  Before long, look who started poking their little beaks up.
Their meek chirps quickly turned into desperate cries. They became very demanding, these little ones. They were constantly hungry.
Thelma, was a busy little lady! The majority of her day was spent flying around the neighborhood in search of worms. As soon as she brought one, she would fly off to find another. In the meantime, the birds would practically fall out of the nest in their pleas for more.
Our bird watching continued. We were homeschooling for kindergarten at the time and this was by far, the best science lesson of the year.



I found myself worrying about Thelma, it seemed like she never got any rest. I worried about the babies, too. During this time our house was on the market, and one of the tasks on our to-do list was to have the house power washed. I scheduled the appointment, thinking nothing of it until a quiet moment. I awoke from a deep sleep (if I'm being honest, it was probably a nap), realizing that the birds would not fare well if they were hit with a blast from the power washer. The pressure of those machines can be extremely strong and they're really loud. I wanted to cancel the appointment, but I was talked out of doing so. The dreaded morning came and the workers had not even finished walking up the driveway when I yelled, "We have birds!" I showed them the nest, explained how fragile the birds were, and kindly asked that they worked around that area of the porch. Then I casually asked if they had heard about The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which made it illegal to harm or tamper with many bird species, robins included. I informed them that the penalty for doing so can be a fine of up to $500, or 6 months in jail. They smiled nervously and assured me that they would not wash away the birds. While we were out that day, I worried about them terribly; I had a pit in my stomach thinking about their ordeal. I can't even imagine what Thelma was going through, wondering what that awful noise was, and not being able to reach her babies or to feed them. What if she was too frightened to return? Thank goodness though, the power washing ended, all the birds were spared and that faithful mama was back at her worm business before long. 

The birds continued to grow, just look how big they got!
I was perfectly content to go on watching these little ones and their mama and then one day, One Day, we were on the porch and I noticed one of the birds looking brave. He peered over the edge of the nest, looked down, looked up- and flew. He flew! Right out of the nest and away. Then the others, I could see their apprehensive determination until one by one they flew away out of the nest never looking back. I could. not. believe. that the boys and I had witnessed this. It hadn't even crossed my mind that we might see them fly away from the nest. 

Immediately I thought of Thelma, I'm not even sure where she was at the time. Did she see them? She must have known it was coming. Surely, she would feel a hint of sadness upon their departure, but how PROUD she must have been.  The whole occurence was amazing.  As I reflected upon it, I wondered if I would ever experience anything like it again. And then I realized, of course I will.





Friday, March 28, 2014

Places and Spaces

There's a few places and spaces in our house that I especially like.  Little areas that I pass by everyday, and they make me smile- every time. Can I show them to you?
This is a little catch all table that we have by our back door. The table was from my mom and the mirror above, my sister (the most fruitful places to shop furniture for our house have been in my family's basements and garages). The wood cabinet with the pottery drawers is from Pier 1, it was a Christmas gift from my husband the first year we were married. When I opened it I knew I had married the right man, it's exactly my style; I love the colorful mismatched paintings on the drawers. It's functional, too- it holds our keys, chap-stick, gum, and other miscellaneous items. And on the shelf below are my favorite cook books and mixing bowls (one cookbook was a wedding gift, and another I won on a blog give away. I actually won a blog give away once!). They are there for easy access, and for me to admire. Oh and that little bird? A sweet gift that flew all the way from San Francisco with a dear friend. I just love this little space.
This singer sewing machine stand has been in our family since before I was born. Growing up, it was where our television sat. Since TV's seem to have quadrupled in size it can no longer serve that purpose, but it's perfect for this little space at the top of our stairs. There's a dragon tree plant that my sister bought us when we moved in our house, whose spiky green leaves are always catching my attention. Also, there is one of my favorite family pics taken on Cape Cod. And do you see that beautiful canvas photograph? That was taken by some sweet friends while on their honeymoon in Hawaii. It was thank you gift, how beautiful is that?
Lastly, this plate wall. The fist time I saw a plate wall, I knew there was one in my destiny. Some of the plates I've had for years; the small teal one with the gold rim was my great-grandmothers and the first plate I owned that I knew would someday be a decoration.  I'm not sure if you can see her, but little orphan Annie is up there too. That was my all-time favorite movie growing up. You know, the one you watched enough times that you could press mute and the say every character's line in the whole movie? I found the plate in a thrift store in Florida while on a girls weekend with my sister and aunts. There's also a plate with the Finnish Church of Worcester on it. I've never been there, but it reminded me of how proud my grandmother was of our Finnish heritage, anything reminding me of her Sisu has a place in my home. I must admit though, not every plate has a special meaning. A few of them I found in the clearance aisle at HomeGoods right after the dreaded, "Good evening shoppers, the time is now 8:45 and the store will be"- you know the rest. I ran through the aisle, grabbing a few plates as I passed, lucky to not have dropped them in my they're-going-to-kick-me-out-again frenzy. And before I move on, how can I not mention that succulent arrangement on the round table? So well behaved, charming, and a gift from some special friends.

When I began writing this post, I thought these spaces were some of my favorites because, to me, they are aesthetically pleasing. And while they certainly reflect my decorating style, I've realized it's so much MORE than that. So many of these items are personal, they tell a story. That's really what it is, when I walk by these spots I'm reminded of some of the special people in my life that make me feel both loved and lucky everyday.

Do you have any favorite spaces in your home? No really, I want to know!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Painted Hutch

Can you believe I tried to give this away?!


First I posted it on Craigslist, and when I didn't get any bites I offered it to a few friends, none of whom had a spot for it. So we proceeded to move up the coast, and took this humble piece of furniture with us where it landed a spot...in the basement. Upon setting up the living room, we mounted our TV to the wall and the stand we had previously been using was too low to go underneath (and it was also kind of falling apart so I was happy to say adieu). We needed something of medium height that preferably had some storage inside, so I started shopping around, until I realized the solution was sitting...in the basement!

I  immediately apologized to my former hutch for being so insensitive, and then I gave it a makeover.


There are a whole lot of great furniture painting tutorials floating around, I glanced at few myself to paint this bad boy. But, here is a quick run down of the process:

-remove doors and hardware
-lightly sand


-apply two coats of primer (I used a small roller for this part which was helpful in getting the primer to "stick")


-paint away! I made the mistake of buying cheap paint for this project. As a result I ended up having to do three coats of paint, and I've already had some chipping. Next time, I'll get a higher quality paint. Also of note, I was given the advice to lightly sand between each coat of paint. This allowed for the smoothest finish possible (I did not sand after the final coat).

This project was not difficult, but it was time consuming. Allowing each coat to dry, and cleaning the brushes properly each time (meanwhile unpacking, organizing, settling into a new routine, and making sure my family was fed) caused this project to take a good week.

It was worth it though.  I don't think I'll ever try to give it away again, or sell it for that matter. And you wouldn't believe how many toys, games and legos are hiding inside!


P.S. I know, I know, one of the drawer pulls is upside down. I didn't notice that until recently. I'll let you guess if I'm the type that won't be able to relax until it's fixed, or if I'll get to it someday, maybe...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Day To-Do List

Last week, I divulged all some of my qualms with winter. In true New England fashion, yesterday we were hit with a storm that brought 10 (more) inches of snow. School was canceled before the snow even began, as the storm was inevitable.  Also of note, my husband was traveling for work and was scheduled to fly back yesterday (it was pretty obvious to us that his flight would be canceled).

I thought about sitting around in my PJ's all day doing nothing, and then I remembered my New Year's resolution: do more! As of late I've been a little bit of a time waster. For example, I'll click on the Yahoo news app and see a headline such as, "Loch Ness Monster Sighted off the Coast of Alaska" or "Snake Born With Two Heads", and I'm hooked. Or I'll read a Facebook post about the tuna sandwich that a friend's sister's cousin had for lunch, and I think "Who is this person, again?".  So today, I vowed not to waste time and I wrote a snow day to-do list:
And I'm happy to report between the boys and myself, we checked off most everything on the list.


                  We conducted some science experiments.
We ate things like this:
We made a sweet heart garland.
(tutorial courtesy of Stars & Sunshine)
And went out for a night ride.

Mitchell loved riding on this little snowboard. After a few rides down the hill he exclaimed, "I'm only six and I've already realized my dream!". On the to-do list for tomorrow: research snowboarding lessons.

And then, I found out that not only was JD's flight for yesterday canceled, but today's was canceled as well. This in and of itself is not a huge problem, but, Landon turns five tomorow. Wait, did I just say our little man turns five tomorrow!? Commence tears.

So naturally, Jay decided to hop in a rental car and follow the nor'easter up the coast so that he would, in fact, make it home last night. When he told me he was doing this, the snow was coming down (fast) and the winds were angry. I know, however, that he is a very competent driver and that there was no way he would miss his son's 5th birthday. He's awesome like that.

As he was driving through the storm, I realized that our road had been plowed, but our driveway had not. I bundled up, put on the outside lights (clock said 9 PM) and shoveled out a spot for his car. This wasn't actually too bad, but the berm was at least 2 feet high (don't worry, I had never heard that word either. It's the ledge of snow at the end of the driveway caused by a snow plow). And this proved to be tricky business.
I can't complain though, because after a short night's sleep, Jay woke up to go shovel the entire driveway (we have a looong driveway and the snow blower wasn't working). He continues to impress me every day, I hope he'll be my Valentine ;).

I can't promise every snow day will be productive as this one. But writing down my goals for the day proves to be useful for me, so I see more snow day to-do lists in my future. Take that, winter.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Lamentations


I've appreciated the beauty of the freshly fallen snow.
Our boys have spent hours playing outdoors in the white stuff.
We've had several sledding adventures, even Remy got in on it!
 I have loved sledding!
Somehow, though, I manage to head straight for the prickers every. time.
The boys thoroughly enjoyed going to a hockey game.
I've taken advantage of many cold afternoons by wrapping my hands around a hot cup of coffee.
And even though the sunsets come early these days, 
they're breathtaking.

It sounds lovely, doesn't it? Despite trying to embrace winter, however, I've got a few qualms. May I?

Let's start with the cold. We have had weeks that never reach above freezing; there have been days where the high temperature is 5 degrees, that's uninhabitable! It becomes painful to go outside. We've spent a small fortune on oil despite the fact that we try to keep the heat fairly low; fur lined slippers have become my go-to footwear. I've managed to find a little bit of humor in the frigid temperatures though; when I look at the thermometer and it says: 1°,  I laugh and say out loud, "HA! One degree!". For some reason that's funny to me.

We used up our summer crop of vegetables by November, so all the fruits and veggies we are eating have traveled many miles and passed many hands to reach us. There's a lack of vitamin D in our lives. Also, our skin is dry and pasty, our lips are chapped, our hands are cracked, the inside of our house hasn't seen fresh air since October.

Since running outdoors is not a viable option, I've tried to exercise by following videos I've rented through Amazon and no joke, the only one I've done more than a handful of times is a Jane Fonda yoga video. Between Miss Fonda, the other ladies in the video, and myself, I'm the youngest by at least 25 years. I'm not feeling like a spring chick though- my knee is sore, my lower back aches, and my joints are stiff.
Remy is like, "I feel your pain, sista".

BUT, There is a light ahead, as spring is inevitable. It may not get here as soon as I would like, but it's coming. And I should say that now when I see that it's going to be at least 30 degrees I get  excited, that's kind of warm to me (perspective). I plan to take full advantage of the truly warm weather when it comes . Yes, you can bet your bottom dollar that when the sun does comes out tomorrow, I'll be smiling. Until then, I'm going to keep *trying* to embrace this old man winter business. I'm hoping to get some ice skates again, maybe take up snow shoeing. And I'll take advantage of my time indoors by organizing our home, reading books, cooking savory dishes or soul warming soups, and tackling lots of craft projects.

And who knows, maybe if I get reallllly ambitious, I'll even blog about it ;).

P.S. I didn't even mention my fear of driving in the snow, let's not go there.

P.P.S. Thanks for reading. Anytime someone tells me they've read a post, my heart skips a beat.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

He Had Me at the Head Tilt

I was *about* to post a new blog entry this morning, but I needed just a few more shots of my subject, when Remy came in the room looking for something. He had been out back, and fed (side story, I spilled the new bag of dog food ALL over the floor this morning and the kind pup ate his breakfast just like that. He cleaned up most of the mess and now my floor has been washed?) and so we all knew that his whining indicated that he wanted to go for a walk. I asked him if he was upset that he wasn't having his picture taken and he gave me this face:


You guys! You know what I had to do, right? I put that camera right down and laced up the sneaks. Look at that head tilt, how could I not? We've since returned from the walk and I'd love to work on that other little post I mentioned, but there's yard work to be done. So this is for all of my fellow dog people out there, you are some of my favorite kind...

Cheers!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What's a festschrift, anyway?

"Excuse me, then! You know my heart.
But dearest friends, alas! must part." - John Gay


I lamented in my last post about having to say good-bye (for now) to dear friends when we moved from the south back to New England. Between our neighborhood, church, work, and town, there are a LOT of people that we are going to miss. I must take a moment, however, and pay proper respect to a very important group of people. That is, (wait for it)... book club. 

This is a group of gals that I really didn't want to say goodbye to. I'm not sure if they know exactly how much I'm going to miss them, because as we parted ways I held it together remarkably well. I could have shed many tears at my last meeting, been a runny-nosed blubbering fool, and that would have been perfectly acceptable. In fact, we all know that it doesn't seem quite like book club if at least one of us doesn't have a good cry (all of the male readers are cringing at the thought of a group of crying women talking about books). But our last days in SC were a little bit of an out-of-body experience. Somehow, someway, I remained calm and at peace (just don't ask my husband to comment on that statement).

Are you thinking to yourself, "Gosh, she must really like to read", "Get that girl a new library card", or "I wonder if she's ever heard of an e-reader?". Well yes, I do like love to read, but it's more than that.

A typical gathering of ours starts with banter about daily life. There might be talk about what you had for dinner, how many bloody noses occurred at your house that day, how you're running late because a stranger called saying your dog was on their porch, how your husband surprised you with an impromptu date last week, or how you rocked it at a tennis match, planted a garden, got a new brood of chickens, completed your half marathon, or had a fabulous (or not-so-fabulous) week of home schooling.   

Then comes the fare; an impressive display of dips, chips, cheeses (pimento if we're very lucky), fruits, vegetables, and sweets (it's understood that chocolate must *always* be available in some way, shape, or form) and anything else the hostess feels so inclined to whip up. This is an important part of the night, as we all know that real affinity begins around the dinner (or dessert) table.

Naturally, there's the book discussion where we dissect, comment, question, admire, reflect, explain, commiserate, concur, agree to disagree and more. Discussions start here, but almost always lead to conversations that go far beyond the topics covered in the book (and last well past midnight). Inevitably, we end up sharing heartfelt moments about our pasts, the struggles and joys that are happening in our lives right now, things we want to accomplish in the future, ways in which we can improve our health, parenting and marriage, and almost always, we discuss practical means to spark change in our community (and beyond). These are the types of conversations that led to friendships that have helped me change, grow, rethink, and navigate through these past few years in ways that wouldn't likely have happened on my own.

I should note that these relationships extended outside the boundaries of book club (I don't want anyone joining their local library's book club with expectations of fast friendship only to leave asking, "who were those people and what is a festschrift?"). We also saw each other at play group, game nights, craft night, small group, running dates, double dates, soccer games, shopping trips, and more! And though all of these avenues contributed to our bonds, book club happened to be my favorite; we might have even planned the closing of our house around the July book club (or vice versa), just to squeeze in one more.

Now, I didn't mean to make you all cry, sorry about that. It's not all forlorn because I'll still keep in touch with these lovely ladies through social media, texting, and the occasional phone call. I'll also look forward to flying down for a possible girls' weekend next spring (well, it will be spring in the south, we'll probably still be suffering winter in the north). And maybe, just maybe, we'll even get a visitor or two from the group up here at our place (forget what I just said about the never ending winter, ladies). But really, book club in New England would be fabulous. Like something you read about.