walk with the flowers

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I love a walking road trip.

Or maybe it’s better called a destination walk?

Either way, I enjoy walking the sidewalks in towns not my own.

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I’m partial to parks, of course, but I also enjoy a slow stroll along someone else’s Main Street.

Window shopping’s fun. But I also love flower box browsing.

What combinations of lovely do other folks plant? What’s blooming on the front stoop?

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As a walking tourist, I guess I have a bit of a floral fascination. I already know just about every shrub, perennial, and pot in my own neighborhood, so it’s a little fun to see how they do it in another neck of the woods.

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When I walk new neighborhoods, I discover what summer abundance grows wild by a garden gate or tucks neatly around a mailbox, what burst of summer celebration hangs lush and colorful from a hook on a front porch.

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It’s a little peek – really – into a life I know nothing about except for the beauty they’re willing to share with a stranger, a passer by, a someone like me who very much appreciates the gift.

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A rose by someone else’s gate … still smells as sweet as my own.

So a grateful thank you to those kind strangers whose streets I walk … and an open invitation to amble past our garden anytime.

Just now, the coneflowers are in full bloom.

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it’s time

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Got a minute?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. (Because I’m about to have a lot less of it wide-open to my whim … and much more of it scheduled and spoken for.)

Think of  verbs associated with time:  manage, save, spend, use. We make time for this, that, and the other. Fit people and appointments into our schedule. If we’re not multi-tasking, we’re doing one thing at a time. We waste time, fritter it away, and wish we had more. In any daily life, there’s a time to rise, time to work, and maybe a little play time if we’re lucky. And thankfully, at the end of the day, there’s bedtime.

And all of the time … I’m trying to find time.

As though time hides somewhere out of sight. And maybe it does. But maybe all I really need is a moment. A conscious moment. In the present. Here. Now.

Give me a minute and I can restore a bit of order to the kitchen counter.  Give me another, and I can pluck a flower from the garden out back to brighten the table. In a minute’s time I can brew a cup of coffee or tea. I can sit on the porch and catch my breath. Or make that call to the dentist I’ve been planning to make – when I get a minute.

Just a moment ago, I spread some lotion on my dry hands and a bit of balm across my lips. In the minute after that, I remembered to take my vitamins and drank a full eight ounces of water. Sixty seconds of self-care. Easy to do … and it only takes a minute.

I’d rather life be less time-management and more time-enjoyment.

Time waits for no one and never stands still, but I can slow it down a bit when I live a little more intentionally.

More aware of the minutes, and savoring each – one at a time.

 

life lessons: off grid

DSC_0326 (7)I’ve been living off grid.

Not unplugged, mind you, but off grid in the sense that daily summer adventures are moving me beyond the regularly traveled intersections of my life.

The result?

My spirits: higher. My rest: deeper. My stress: lower.  My eyes, heart, and mind: clear, open, and engaged. In that order.

In short:  I’m happy.

Day trips. Camping. Tennis. Hikes. Beach. Baseball. Friends. Food. Books. Family.

Life feels invigorating.

Research shows multiple benefits to breaking out of your routine. Even taking a different route between work and home is like a refresh for your brain. New surroundings. New focus. Heightened awareness. Brain growth.

Take yourself outside for even more health benefits.  Google it: “health benefits of being outside.” I got 11,600,000 hits. Everyone from the National Wildlife Federation to Harvard University agrees: spending any amount of time outside can improve your mood, your mental cognition,  and just about everything else about the way your body and brain work: from your attention span to your deep sleep cycle.

The good news?

There’s still 52 days left of summer, and summer is one of the easiest times of the year to explore.

How will you spend your 52?

 

 

mistaken identity

I’ve been doing a little digging.

(for a book)

And one thing I’ve learned just lately is the difference between Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota,)

Queen Anne’s Lace

and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).

Poison Hemlock

Quite literally, it’s the difference between life and death.

Unlike Queen Anne’s lace, parts of which are edible, poison hemlock is as its name indicates – a deadly plant and definitely NOT for eating.

But easily confused, apparently, by me.

All this time, I thought I was taking photographs of a prolific and well-loved wildflower – or invasive weed – depending on your point of view. When in reality, I was also sometimes photographing a poisonous imposter.

Poison Hemlock

I even enlarged and framed one of my photographs for our guest room, believing all the while it was lovely Queen Anne’s lace which so nicely complimented the old quilt on the iron bed.

Turns out … I was dead wrong.

Isn’t learning fun?

Queen Anne’s Lace

Named for Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) this lacey flower is frequently found roadside around my New England home. It’s a summer meadow filler too, dainty-looking, but a bit tough to pick.  The flower begins and ends its life pulled in tight on itself in a delicate, little ball – blooming wide open only in the hope of pollination.

Legend has it Queen Anne was quite a lace maker. Once upon a time, she pricked her finger and a single, tiny droplet of royal blood fell upon her lace work – just like the tiny, purple spot found within the central area of her namesake flower.

I just love a story where someone else’s past shows up in my present.

Queen Anne’s Lace

A biennial, Queen Anne’s lace is also known as wild carrot. It’s high in sugar and since Europeans cultivated it, American colonists came to use it as well, boiling the taproot – sometimes in wine.  First year plants are best. Roots work well in soups, stews, and tea. Leaves work well in salad, as do the flowers.

However.

I, for one, plan to continue enjoying both of these flowers, which tend to like the same kinds of space, from behind my camera.

Poison Hemlock

It’s safer there, it doesn’t much matter which elegant flower is which, and my life doesn’t depend on telling them apart.

postcard: mrs. lincoln’s garden

DSC_0356 (5)Jessie Lincoln Beckwith Johnson Randolph loved her mother.

It must be so.

It must be true.

In my imagination, Jessie was a daughter who loved her mother so much … she created a garden just for her. And not just any garden. A garden with thousands of blooms. A garden with borders and pathways. A garden planned and planted by color and symmetry.DSC_0353 (7)Maybe Jessie wanted her mother to have a garden as majestic as her new home.  Maybe she wanted to remind her mother of the years she lived in Europe. Maybe Mary Harlan Lincoln, daughter-in-law of Abraham, was a woman who had everything … except for a formal, parterre garden.DSC_0343 (10)Or maybe, just maybe, Jessie wanted to gift a garden that would bloom and bloom her love forever and ever.

And so far it has.DSC_0350 (8)A garden like this one doesn’t happen by accident and deserves an inspirational setting in which to take root.  This mother-daughter garden grows at Hildene, ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, in Manchester, VT.DSC_0334 (6)It’s said Mary Harlan Lincoln could see the whole expanse of her garden blooming before her as she stood at her second floor, center bedroom window.  Now known as the Hoyt formal garden, I prefer to think of it as Mrs. Lincoln’s garden.  Stunning from any view, the garden is most beautiful, perhaps, from that second floor – planned as it was to resemble a cathedral stained glass window. DSC_0348 (9)Hildene, a beautiful 24 -room Georgian Revival style manion, is but one generation away from the single-room log cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in.  Tucked into the beautiful Vermont green mountains, visitors can walk, self-guided, through most of the home with many of its original furnishings and features, including family artifacts and a historical timeline perspective of President Lincoln’s life and death.

You can read about Hildene’s history  here.DSC_0354 (7)It’s the garden, though, which captured my heart.  I’d love to take tea with Mrs. Lincoln out on the porchswing in the early warmth of mid-June. We’d swing, and sip, and marvel at mountains and the never-ending beauty of Vermont.DSC_0344 (6)And the sweet scent of a thousand peony blossoms would remind us both of the ever-blooming love between a mother and her child.

 

 

 

 

feelin’ the blues

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It’s nigh on blueberry season.

Smile.

There’s bushels of nutrition benefits in this bluesy fruit,  and these summer superstars are so versatile in all sorts of recipes from summer salads to muffins, crisps, pies and buckles. They’re a colorful staple in fruit salads and smoothies, and just plain pop in your mouth good – right after a good rinse.

I’m the first to admit, I find the work of picking a tad tedious, and you’re more likely to find me wandering among the bushes with my camera than my bucket. Still, I love these friendly, little berries and try to make the most of their time in season.

Since one of my summer goals is to eat more fruits and veggies, I’m thinking more about eating this year’s blueberries raw,  tart, and fresh and less about just-baked and juicy.

So what about these salad combinations?

Use blueberries and either baby spinach or spring mix as your base and mix in:

  • mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and slivered almonds
  • raw chunks of summer squash and zuchinni, red onion, turkey, and cheddar cubes
  • shelled peas, cherry tomato halves, carrot sticks, and freshly-shredded parmesan cheese
  • pick just about any other fruit to sidekick with your blues in a salad: strawberries, honeydew melon balls, watermelon, grapes, pineapple, or dried cranberries
  • other healthy toppings: walnuts, pine nuts, flax seed, sunflower seeds or a sprinkle or two of shaved coconut

This blueberry vinaigrette recipie looks luscious

You can also visit the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council for creative recipes as well as freezing, jamming, and canning tips.

Really. They’re a rough and tumble bunch of berries and ready for just about anything.

Go blue!

 

 

hospitality

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Our family houseguests arrived late yesterday afternoon.

Before their arrival, there were the usual preparations: the tidying, of course, and the laundering of linens.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about how to make our guests most comfortable, and that trail of thought led me to Vermont and the inns we’ve been fortunate enough to guest in.  Hospitality experts, all … and great role models for helping people feel at home away from home.

How do they do it?

I think it’s all about the breakfast.

Every single innkeeper welcomes you to their breakfast table with pretty table linens, fresh flowers – probably plucked from the gardens on the grounds – and hefty mugs of coffee.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but at home – it’s the meal we make the least amount of time for.  I don’t know about you, but for us, breakfast feels catch as catch can … a little random, almost always hurried, and grab and go – if eaten at all.  We never eat at a table, on plates, with conversation, and a tall glass of orange juice.

So here’s a sampler of where we’ve stayed and our breakfast inns-piration:

The Inn at Manchester 

A regular point of conversation between my husband and I – weeks now after our last visit: What do you think Frank is making for breakfast today? It’s fun to speculate on the innkeeper’s specialties. Cottage cakes? Scrambled eggs with Vermont cheddar? Waffles?

Hill Farm Inn

We visited Hill Farm Inn years ago, but I still remember the basket of mini muffins we’d wake to every morning.

Crisanver House 

We were first-time visitors to this Yankee Magazine recognized inn last month. Every morning’s breakfast began with colorful, fresh fruit piled high and luscious.

So our guests will wake this morning to these peanut butter, banana, and chocolate chip mini-muffins. This amazing granola. Some yogurt. And piles of fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries we picked ourselves. There’s coneflowers on the table and the prettiest summer tablecloth.

What’s on tomorrow’s menu?

Frank’s cottage cakes – of course