Things of Beauty

A Journey Through Grief
A Journey Through Grief

“The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.” ― Louisa May Alcott

A few years ago I was working in Pittsburgh. There were certain times of the year that my job became very heavy with responsibilities. I was thankful that I was occasionally able to leave on my lunch hour and have a change of scenery. At least once a week I tried to get out and meet a friend. If that didn’t work, I fell back on plan #2. I looked for things of beauty.

This was easy to do because I worked near Schenley Park. There was Flagstaff Hill, the Schenley Plaza, and Phipps Conservatory. A few times I took thirty minutes and walked through the displays of the Conservatory. Talk about rejuvenation.

Lately, I look for the beauty in every day life. It’s easy to find if you train yourself. While you are driving, glance at the sky once in a while. Look at the beautiful autumn scenery if you have it (it’s gorgeous here right now!). Are there flowers blooming near you? Is there wildlife? Are there children playing?

Don’t forget to take a break and live life. It’s really important. Here’s a few beautiful things I’ve found lately.

Cousins are beautiful
Cousins are beautiful.
Lunch bags at church are beautiful
Lunch bags at church are beautiful.
Can you see it? A turkey on my lane is beautiful.
Can you see it? A turkey on my lane is beautiful.
Seeing my old friend Nita this past summer was beautiful!
Seeing my old friend Nita this past summer was beautiful!
My mom and sister Mary are beautiful!
My mom and sister Mary are beautiful!
This amazing sunset.
Sunsets are beautiful.
This farm is beautiful. Read more about it on my other blog. Click HERE.
This farm is beautiful. Read more about it on my other blog. Click HERE.

What is beautiful in your neck of the woods?

 

 

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1015

Pay Attention

Jim's Wisteria- just beautiful
Jim’s Wisteria- just beautiful

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen. Anne Lamott

Anne is so right. Have you taken a look outside lately? I have. In the morning, I open the windows to let fresh air in. The birds are chirping their beautiful songs. There’s a chill in the air and sometimes there is mist. Other mornings, the sun is bright from the moment it rises.

My yard is full of blooming things. Jim’s wisteria has been filled with fragrant purple flowers for almost a week. The lavender and peppermint plants are already wonderfully green. My irises and peonies have buds on them. Light purple phlox is in full bloom.

My lilac bushes are on their way out; they were beautiful this year. White and light purple, I picked small bunches and placed them in old milk bottles in the center of my kitchen table.

Let us remember to stop and smell. To look and see what is around us. I can get so busy, caught up in daily living and I can forget. Forget to take note of what is really going on around me and the little things that make this world so wonderful.

The birds have me suffciently intrigued enough that I may just find a bird song CD to listen to in the car. Why? I’d love to know which bird is singing what. Maybe I’ll sing along with them.

Not sure what this is! Any idea? Isn't it beautiful?
Not sure what this is! Any idea? Isn’t it beautiful?
Jim's Rhododendron- saved from a job site where it was almost thrown away.
Jim’s Rhododendron- saved from a job site where it was almost thrown away.

 

What’s blooming in your yard, in your neck of the woods? I’d love to know.

xo Joanne

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1015

Into the Quiet

Beautiful deer, Photo by my daughter Michelene
Beautiful deer, Photos by my daughter Michelene

“Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.”
Mary Oliver

How has your new year been so far? After a calm weather period during the holidays, it has been so cold and snowy here in the Northeast. I started my new swim class of the year, diligently bundling up in sweaters and boots afterwards (yes, the class is indoors!), and walking to my car to 2 degree weather.

Cold, yes. But the swim class has lifted me up, reminding me of how much I love a chance to move my body, especially under the water. I’m taking a simple aqua balance class twice a week at the Y, and what a difference in how it makes me feel.

This is typically the time of year when we want to lose weight, start new goals. It’s a good time to re-evaluate what’s working and what to leave behind. I am trying to work on balance. I stand on one leg in swim class while pulling my other leg up and holding it. Sometimes I can stand perfectly still; other times I cannot! But I don’t mean just physical balance. I mean overall balance in my life between work, family, and play.

Life is so busy. I scratch my head over how hard people are expected to work these days. It seems like thDeer Winter 2015 #4ere is never enough time in a day to get it all done. More sales, more meetings, more internet time. Maybe it’s time to take a step back.

So I am Into the Quiet as of late. Yes I am still trying to accomplish much. Yes, I am working on my business and following up on leads. But I am usually wrapped up in my sweater at night, reading or watching a favorite show. I spend time with my mother. I made time to make chocolate chip cookies. I can take a break from accomplishing.

Jim has been putting dried corn out in our back yard for the deer. I have been filling up my bird feeder. Around dusk the deer will sometimes come. The other night we had six deer come for a visit. One was a six point, one a four point. There were some yearlings too. The birds come all day and visit the feeder. What do they remind me of? Peace. Quiet. Why? Because I stop and watch them. I am still.

So here’s to the new year.  A chance to work, but also a chance to rest. To establish new habits of quality time with myself and slow down just a bit. To listen, and to hear myself.

Wonder what he's thinking???
Wonder what he’s thinking???

Winter Deer and Bird

 Winter Birds

Just Beautiful
Just Beautiful
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1015

View From A Farm

The Field at the Farm

“Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.”
Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Dance: Moving To the Rhythms of Your True Self

Every now and then I take the time to slow down and I remember who I am again. It happened last week when I spent four days with my sister Mary and her partner Starr.

Mary had a big event she could have used some help with and well since I’m an event coordinator (after all!), it was easy for me to head down to be of assistance. While I was there, I met some amazing new people and got to visit with some wonderful old friends. This event was called “In Good Company” and was a first time fundraiser for the Winston Salem LGBT community center North Star. I declare it a great success. There were 250 guests plus awards, speakers, music, food, silent auction- what more could a person want?

Mary and Rex at In Good Company
Mary and Rex at In Good Company

When that was over, I spent the next couple of days eating Greek food (and visiting with an old friend), going to the movies, shopping, and having Starr’s wonderful homemade cooking. I had lunch with my webmaster and learned some new things. My favorite gift hang out is still in downtown Winston Salem, Earthbound Arts, which you absolutely have to check out when you’re in the neighborhood.

But guess what I did in the down time? Nothing. Yes, that’s right. NOTHING. I laid in the big bed of my room and read and slept. I took lavender scented baths, and looked out the window. Here’s the view.

Sunrise on the Farm

Amazing, isn’t it?

What do you do when you slow down? For me there was no cooking, no driving, no laundry, no meal planning and only worrying about me. That is a hard thing to come by these days since my life revolves around my family and business. But this is important. This is necessary. This is what taking a break is all about.

And since Mary and Starr live on a farm, there were great views and scenery to remind me to keep it simple.

Even on the plane ride down and back I read, napped and took it easy. Unbelievable. But I have to tell you. I had a great time!

Morning Walk with the Dogs
The Barn
The Field Mid Morning
View from my Window

Thank you to Mary, Starr, Julia, Susan, Tamara, Gordon and the North Star friends who made this trip really special.

 

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1015

What’s in the Purple Bowl?

A few years ago we had a bonfire on the hill behind our house. It was a grand affair with many friends and lots of good food. When it was all said and done, there remained behind a purple plastic bowl, the kind you get in a dollar store around Halloween.

Since then, the purple bowl has had a place in our refrigerator. In it go all the leftover scraps of stale bread, ends of tomatoes, leftover peas, salad and any other type of greens or vegetable. Can you guess what we do with this bowl?

Our one dozen chickens are the lucky recipients of the treasure of the bowl!

When I come out of the back door with the bowl, they all come running. I’m guessing they don’t see that well (or are they colorblind?), but strangely enough they see well enough to recognize that purple bowl.

“The girls” as we have fondly dubbed them, peck away at the contents and sometimes fight over seeds (like from the inside of a cantaloupe) or especially something tasty like raspberries. Once I actually saw one of the chickens grab a raspberry and RUN like a bat out of the night, to keep any other girlfriend from getting her prize.

If you remember an old post of mine, I was not happy when the chickens originally came a few years ago. Since then, I have softened quite a bit and will oftentimes let them out of their coop in the evening to stretch their legs. I give our yellow lab/retriever Jordan a fresh egg because she is their watchdog. We live next to a large woodsy area and she is their sentry, watching for any signs of trouble.

I ate a few more eggs this summer than normal and was wondering if my cholesterol count at my recent physical would register the increase. Thank God it was normal, yes normal!, so my sunny side up egg ritual can continue.

I’m not sure where you live but if you have some backyard space you might want to consider getting some chickens. We don’t have a rooster; we had one and they make too much noise. But chickens are relatively easy to raise if you get a couple of good books and peck the brain of someone who already has them. Chances are you know someone who has some! Make sure you have a strong, sturdy coop, especially if you live near the woods. Chickens are a delicacy for woodland animals!

Our chickens are entertainment when we have guests over. During the summer after dinner, we’d sit on lawn chairs in the back yard, sipping iced or hot coffee and let the girls loose. They run and chase each other, dig in the dirt and peck at bugs and plants. You have to watch them if you have a garden though. They’ll eat your prize tomato if it’s just the right height. 😉

Part of a having a simple life is to get down to basics. I’ve learned to appreciate food when I can see its source; where it comes from and what went into its growth. It’s good to know that I can eat a fresh egg whenever I want, and I appreciate that.

Another chicken loving friend of mine turned me onto this great website for more information. Check out Fresh Eggs Daily and learn more.

Blessings,

Joanne

 

 

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1015

Take Me to the Trees

Cook Forest Fall of 2014
Cook Forest Fall of 2014

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
John Muir

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a “tree hugger.” Literally no, I don’t really hug trees (although maybe I have once or twice) but I revere them, love them, and am in awe of them.

About a dozen years ago, I worked for a non profit in Pittsburgh that planted lots of trees. I learned even more about trees, which ones were endangered (ash trees for one), how beautiful a ginkgo leaf was, and how much I like a good, solid oak.

More trees
Morning Light

This weekend I was again in Cook Forest with my close friends. Our cabin was in the midst of tall trees that provided a lovely green canopy. This morning, the light was just perfect and I caught these gorgeous shots of the pine, maple and oak trees that were such a perfect part of our weekend landscape.

I think John Muir had the right idea. Being among trees can clear my mind and make me forget about anything that may be bugging me. I can walk on a tree lined path and think completely new ideas and thoughts. It is amazing what those trees can do for me.

The Tree Canopy
The Tree Canopy

I hope you have a great tree place you call your own.Thank you again, Cook Forest for your ability to inspire me!

Cook Forest Fall 2014 #4

Cook Forest Fall 2014 #5

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1015

The Susquehanna Valley

Photo by Lynda Z
View from the Horseshoe Curve- Photo by Lynda Z

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. e.e.cummings

It doesn’t get any prettier than the Susquehanna Valley in beautiful tree- laden Pennsylvania. Jim and I took a small road trip last weekend with friends and visited Susquehanna University and the surrounding valley, including the famous Horseshoe Curve.

The Church at Susquehanna University
The Church at Susquehanna University

We began at the University which has a long history. It was started in 1856 by Benjamin Kurtz as a Lutheran based missionary institution. It sits on 325 acres, is well tended, and has many historical buildings. There is a large church with a sweet sounding bell which tolls every fifteen minutes and on the hour.

At 6pm on Saturday, the bells rang out in song for a few minutes. I stopped my walk to sit and listen, the lovely melody carrying up through the evening sky.

Next we visited the famous Horseshoe Curve. Five minutes after we arrived, the Funicular was ready to take us up to this designated landmark. Yes, the funicular. I found out this was an incline plane designed to carry passengers from the visitor center up the hill to the curve. It is much like the Duquesne incline we have in Pittsburgh. We also could have walked the landscaped 194 steps but we chose to use them later to go down!

Within five minutes of our arrival, we were lucky and blessed to see a very long train of containers go by. The conductor blew his train whistle at us and we waved him on. What an exciting moment for us (really, truly!) and especially for Jim who loves trains.

Jim and the Train
Jim and the Train

We hung out another twenty minutes and then saw a smaller passenger train and waved to all those travelers, wherever they may have been going on their journey.

The Horseshoe Curve apparently changed history in the 1850’s. Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Railroader Memorial Website: By 1852, trains could cross the state but were still dependent on the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which didn’t operate at night. With the addition of the Horseshoe Curve in 1854, passengers could travel the entire route by rail, and the time was reduced to an average of 15 hours. 

And yet another amazing statement: The construction of the Curve was done by about 450 workers, many of them from Ireland. The work was done entirely by hand, and workers were paid 25 cents per hour for a twelve hour day.

All I can say is the view from the curve is simply breathtaking. The huge blue sky and gorgeous Pennsylvania mountains all around just make you stop and sit still. We saw some eagles soaring (I wish I had a picture for you!); what a bonus!

Have you ever been to a place of great green beauty? Where is your favorite place?

 

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1015

Jim’s Favorite Egg Story

DSC_0003

I woke up to the sound of little feet running past my bedroom window.

As I opened my eyes I could see the early summer light streaming through the room. I heard the back door open and shut. I realized it was my grandson Gavin.

He had just come in from collecting fresh eggs from our backyard chicken coop. One of his favorite things to do was to feed and water the chickens and look inside their nests for eggs.

As I started to get out of bed, I could hear him running into the bathroom. The high pitch sound of his voice made me figure something was wrong. “Ah man, this is bull#!@*. This is BS! AH!”

I knocked on the bathroom door and asked “Gavin, what’s the matter?” He said it was ok for me to come in.

DSC_0028What I saw was a young boy with yolk on both of his hands and in his hair. I asked him if the chickens had thrown eggs at him? 😉 “No Jim! There were so many eggs I put some in my pockets. When I went to get them out, one broke. When I went to get the other one out, that one broke too. I forgot I had eggs in my hand and I got it on the door handle. When I saw this, I smacked myself on the head and it went into my hair!”

I had lectured Gavin about using inappropriate language in front of his Nana and girls. It was ok for him to use it in his tree house and in front of guys. But I tell you, I had to hold my laughter back in these crazy few moments.

I had Gavin step out of his pants and reassured him that tomorrow would bring more eggs. No harm done! And Nana came to the rescue with a special basket, just for gathering eggs. So no more need for eggs in pants’ pockets!

Thank you to my husband Jim, for this great contribution of his favorite egg story! Do you have a favorite story that involves an egg? I’d love to hear from you! Please comment below or send me an email at katherinesdaughter@gmail.com.

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1015

Egg-actly Wonderful!

Photo Courtesy of Sunday Child
All Photos Courtesy of Sunday’s Child

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
― Julia Child

I have a confession to make. When my husband wanted to raise chickens a few years ago, I was not in favor of it.

Yes, it’s true. I pictured my grandfather’s chicken coop, messy and scary with cackling chickens all around my feet, just scaring the beeswax out of me.

Well, here I am all these years later, admitting the truth. I love fresh eggs. Jim and our daughter Michelene have kept their word and they’ve taken good care of the chickens, all without any responsibility on my part. That was the other thing I was wary of. That the care of the chickens would become my responsibility.

Nothing of the sort has happened. And in the meantime the delicious yellow yolks, bright as sunshine, coupled with the delicate white have graced our table many times. In any way shape or form, the eggs are delicious. Scrambled or sunny side up with a side of toast, or cracked into the latest cake, those eggs have become a part of our lives.

Now some of you know I have been blessed to have a blogger friend on the west coast, Sunday’s Child. She began her own love affair with chickens last year! She has an awesome coop and has just embraced the whole chicken raising thing, chick and caboodle.

Daffodils and the EggRecently, Ms. Child began to place her light brown or green eggs amongst her pitcher collection or in other very creative places and snap beautiful artistic pictures. The juxtapositioning of the eggs! The beauty of the pitchers! The sunny yellow of the daffodils! My oh my, my heart was singing!

I casually mentioned to Ms. Child that she ought to consider a coffee table book with those spectacular pictures, alongside say some great egg stories and perhaps some yummy egg recipes. At first she said, “Haha, funny, yes, you and I would be the only ones buying the book!”

But then her friends started to tell her the same thing. I sent her an email and she said someone had mentioned the coffee table book idea to her right before I did. (I think there are no coincidences!)

So we are exploring this idea of an artistic, yet country style EGG BOOK. What do you think? Are you an egg lover yourself? Do you have an inspiring egg story to share? Better yet, do you have an original or favorite egg recipe that you’ve made for years? Believe me the simplier the better. I love easy recipes.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with us. If you want to email me privately at katherinesdaughter@gmail.com, that’s fine. If not, leave a comment below and I’ll know egg-actly how you feel!

Elephant and the Egg

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1015

Crimson Awareness

Morning Sun on my Trees
Crimon Kissed Trees

“The earth has music for those who listen.”
― George Santayana

I walked Miss Jordan outside the other morning just as the sun was starting to come up over the horizon. As the snow crunched beneath my feet, we made our way to her favorite spot.

Without thinking I turned around. And as I did, I caught a glimpse of barren trees at the other end of my yard, lit up like an orange flame. I clipped Jordan to her run and slowly looked up.

It was as if God lifted his paint brush and stroked those bare branches in the most beautiful shade of crimson. How long has this been going on, I wondered? How could I have never noticed this before? Was this the first time this ever happened in my presence? It is doubtful.

I ran back inside to get my camera and thankfully, the crimson light stayed long enough for me to capture a picture. It fascinated me, this snapshot of magestic color against the starkness of winter brown.

How many truly beautiful things do I miss because I am distracted or just not paying attention? I have to wonder. If I slowed down just a little more each day, became alittle less self centered, what would I notice?

There are of course, things I do notice. Slight things. My husband’s smile or the way his hair is slightly ruffled up in the morning. My grandson’s change in his voice lately, the deepening of it and the realization that he is no longer a kid but a young man.

DSC_0195The simplicity of the vibrant cardinals in my backyard, eating lunch at my birdfeeder. My mom’s healthy look as of late, compared to how sick she was last year.

What I am trying to be most aware of is the beauty that still abounds even in this frigid weather we are having. Like the crimson trees.

If I take the time to slow down and smell the winter, what else would I see? I think it’s time to find out.

What will you notice today?

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