(Almost) Free Fall Decorations

I’ve been gathering.

Fall is a gathering season, after all.  Nuts. Pumpkins. Apples. The very last sunflower.

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I may transition slowly, but once I do, I’m all in … and I fall in. 

For sure, fall’s my absolute favorite season and I have a bunch of fun bringing a little bit of fall from out there … to in here … our home.

Tiny touches … and (almost) free.

  • gourds/ from the grocery store nestled in an old wooden bowl

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  • berries/gathered by the side of the road and plopped into a vintage crock

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  • mini pumpkins/scattered solo here and there

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or in a roly-poly pile on the kitchen counter

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  • apples/of course and piled high

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  • acorns/collected on many walks around our neck of the woods

 

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  • candy corn/for a jarful of fun and frivolous

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  • mums/tucked in a farmer’s basket for the front porch

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The berries and acorns were free for the gathering. So were the apples … a gift from a friend with some apple trees. The gourds, mini-pumpkins, candy corn, and mums are from Market Basket – where you truly do get “more for your dollar.”

Happy first week of fall! Enjoy the season’s offerings – for (almost) free!

 

Blue Plate Special

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A few weeks ago, one of our neighbors knocked on the front door. He carried a whole plate of delicious in one hand and a dog leash in the other. It was hard for him to juggle both, I think, but he outstretched his hand with that blue plated cake, offering our family a sweet dessert.

And a little love.

We’d had a rough stretch over here on this side of the street.  Awkward stuff to talk about, really, and we stood there he and I, neither sure what to say. So we chatted a bit instead about his dog and probably the weather, but care and kindness were there – passed from his hand to mine, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, family to family.

The blue plate traveled back across the street today warmed by  a 3 x 3 array of cinnamon sugar pumpkin muffins, just out of the oven.

Once upon a time ago, I learned or read or heard never to return a dish empty. For a long time, I supposed such a custom to be about good manners.

I know now it’s about gratitude.

Each tiny muffin a warm thank you from our home to theirs.

Reaching out from one side of the street to the other.

And heart to heart.

P.S.  If you’d like to bake these oh-so-moist and autumn-inspired muffins, I used a recipe from Inspired by Charm. Mine came out more muffin-like than donut-like. They sure looked cute nested in their crisp, white muffin liners!

 

 

 

A Slow Shift

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Good morning from the other side of summer.

So far, September’s been slow. Intentionally slow. No hurry. Not blurry.

It’s become important to see the life I’m living in up-close detail and absorb it all. Such an in-depth relationship with everyone and everything around me can’t be managed by a speeding drive-by kind of living too quickly, with barely a break for a breath, or beauty, or soul-searching.

So I’ve slowed. And I can’t for the life of me remember what the God-awful rush I used to live in was all about anyway. Why the frenzy? The rapid heartbeat? The constant cascade of must-be-dones? Sleepless. Breathless. Less. Less.

And I’ve got me some routines. Like lighting candles at the end of a day. Like holding hands. Sharing a sit-down on the porch. Kicking acorns down the road. Sometimes, I just sit silently because sitting in silence is all I need right then and there. I don’t live a life of leisure – but I’m living more leisurely.

Does that make sense?

It’s not that I’m worry-free. Each and every life has some. Now and again, a little or a lot. We’ve lived with our worries. And we worry still.

The slowing doesn’t mean freedom from pain, or sorrow, or problems. Life’s deadlines and appointments must be met. Bills arrive in the mail needing payment. There are obligations, commitments, and tasks. But I’m learning (again) life’s easier to live when I do the next right thing, whatever that may be.  Move paper. Shift piles. Wash dishes. Tidy. Straighten. Sit. Walk. Rest. Breathe. Wonder.

I no longer measure time by checks on the list, to-dos that were done, or goals reached. I am not counting calories, miles walked, or hours of sleep.

I’m living in a season of: what do I need?

And gratefully … doing just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What If?

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I went back to school today.

Actually, I’ve been in and out of school all month long, but today was the official first day of school.

It’s always a bit of a mystery, that first day. No one really knows what to expect. On day one, both the tall and the small share the same hopes, heart-fluttering nerves, and   what-if worries. We all feel a little giddy (and maybe giggly) because we didn’t sleep well last night. And all of a sudden, the day begins and before the end of the first hour, it feels as though we’ve been back awhile.

We arrive with one foot left still in summer and the other walking forward into fall.  Day one is fresh and forgiving of past mistakes. Our new shoes arrive at the front door unscuffed by the past paths we’ve walked, and our notebook paper waits clean – no marks, smudges, or erasures.

It’s almost like New Year’s Day. We sharpen our pencils and get right to work, a checklist of goals just set and still easy to remember. All of us stand right there at the starting line. Poised and ready to run.

Because we know we can. The first day of school is here and the last day of school is so far behind us, we can’t see it clearly anymore and all we really know for sure is … this … this will be our year.

When we go back to school, we all have dreams and there are people all around us ready to help us reach them.  We each have questions and friends all around us who want to help us find answers. We are not alone.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone went back to school in the fall? If we all set learning goals and found time to write, read, and figure things out every day? What if we found nourishing people to surround us and support our lives and our dreams, and what if those same people forgave our mistakes, remembering we’re all still learning?

What if?

I love when my students ask, “What if?” It tells me they’re wondering. They’re thinking. They’re taking chances, risks, and plunges.

Have you asked, “What if?” lately?

Maybe today’s the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning How to Transition

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I don’t transition well.

Never have.

I was always the kid who cried when it was time to go home. The one who begged for one more minute in the pool or one more TV show before bed.

It’s not that I want more necessarily, it’s just that I’m not quite ready for whatever’s next. A here and now kinda girl, I’m always and forever just settling in to wherever I am.

So summer’s moving on. This fact both leaves me in deep denial and also some small amount of panic.

Because I’m only just now getting into the swim of it.

There are still projects undone, photographs not yet taken, adventures left on the list of places to go and all of a sudden, mums are out at the garden center!

Wait a minute, summer … I’m not ready!

Clearly, I need a plan.

Here’s how I’ll try to transition:

Find your loves. Look for what you love in whatever’s coming next. In fall, I love boots and jeans, wool blankets, football, plaids, pumpkins, cider donuts, and new notebooks. You may remember I have a thing for notebooks.  And, of course, there’s beautiful, New England foliage – summer’s going away party.

Learn something. I’m enrolling in a digital photography course starting in September. It was a summer list to-do, but easily carried over to fall. Hopes and dreams aren’t limited by  the date on the calendar. Check out your local adult education programs. Ours has everything from soap making to conversational Spanish to ballroom dancing.

Make room in the schedule. There’s still time for porch sitting, beach walking, and book reading. Build a fire in the pit out back to remember the weekend you went camping. Collect acorns instead of shells and trade salads for stews. See that’s the thing: there’s room in life to love it all. And live it all.

Spend time outside. There’s wide open  air out there, no matter the season. Sun to feel on your face. There are breezes and the smells carried by them. Say so long to the honking geese headed south and kick through the leaves gathering on the sidewalk. Bundle up and walk down the road through fall afternoons, pinking your cheeks and filling your lungs.

Think ahead. Of course we transition on other days and in other ways. We’re transitioning all the time from one season to the next, and from today to tomorrow. What kind of postcards will you want to send from this next season in your life? Where will you go? What souvenirs will you bring back with you?  Live in this one single day, but remember: Tomorrow’s ready for new memory making. Bring your camera.

 

How to Arrange Your Garden Flowers

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It’s a good day when – “pick flowers from the garden” – is at the top of my to-do list.

Consider it done.

The flowers out there are beginning to fade. The cone flowers, so show offy last month are browning now, with only a last few pretty and pickable. Black-eyed Susans are on their way out too and my favorite daisies are all but gone.

Still, the butterfly bush is explosive and the zinnias – coming up fast on the daisies as my new favorite – keep coming and coming.

And I’ve wanted to mess around a bit with flower arranging all summer, so seasonally speaking, it was now or never.

I’m so glad I prioritized.

Here’s what I learned:

Consider color combinations.

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The vibrant orange of this coreopsis strikes fire against the cool cobalt blue pottery. This arrangement fuels a bright moment by the soft wisp of sheer curtains and sturdy, white cabinet.

Simplify.

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There’s something soothing about single stems. Simplicity feels good. Cut the clutter and let each bloom speak for itself.

Bunch big blooms.

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Let them spill. But keep the container plain like this burlap wrapped Mason jar. The flowers steal the show.

But don’t be afraid to layer.

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The same bunch looks cool and fresh reflected in this galvanized mirror.

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Mix temperatures.

 

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There’s heat here. A touch of warmth. And I’m keeping it cool so the pale blue of the vintage canning jar plays well with the cool wall. The pinks pop. So does the orange. The corals and yellows keep it all cozy and calm.

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Sun dappled and cheerful.

For the life of me … why haven’t I put garden flowers bedside before?

Alliteration.

Group like with like. Think location, location, location.

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These cone flowers and black-eyed Susans work well together because of their similar petal shape. You’ll see the deep yellow of the Susan repeated in the golden center of the cone flower.

Everything about this placement pleases me. The weave of the basket coupled with the rusty tile color on the table. The white cone flower partnered with the antique ironstone bowl and pitcher. And the pop of gold for contrast.

Still life with garden flowers.

It’s summer’s last hurrah and I want to make the most of it.

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Now.

What to do with the sunflowers?

 

 

Overcast

DSC_0372 (3)Some days there are clouds.

It may be  your day off. The day you planned to go to the beach. Maybe do a little gardening. Or you thought you’d take a long, leisurely bike ride. A walk. A paddle on the lake.

Whatever you had planned, the clouds took you by surprise. The magnitude. The intensity. They’re threatening. Foreshadowing. Dark.

And you feel a little cheated.

Or worried.

It could be you’re thinking about someone else’s disappointment. Or the reaction of someone you love. Our clouds cover them too, after all. So it’s on your mind and all of that makes the horizon that much harder to see.

But it’s there.

Tomorrow will come – rising, ready or not – and a new day with all its weather will be delivered to your doorstep.

And maybe …just as it’s important to live for today, in the moment, and seize every second … there are also those days when it’s better to look forward to the hope of tomorrow. If there’s anything I know about tomorrow, it’s wide, wide open to possibility and change and all the benefits of today’s experiences.

What I’ve learned walking around in the fog today, will steer me better through tomorrow. I’ll have an umbrella, for starters, and maybe some boots better for walking out there in the mud after it finally rains.

And then,  I’ll find myself a rainbow.