Monthly Archives: March 2014

Book Review – Dewey by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

dewey

This book isn’t a romance. It’s different from anything I’ve ever read and I highly, highly recommend it. In fact, as I write this review I’m only about halfway through the book. My husband and I are reading it together, out loud, and I keep having to stop and clear my voice as I get so choked up.

Dewey is the true story of a small-town library cat who, as the book’s caption says, touched the world. He certainly managed to become a symbol of hope and love to a small farming community.

Set in Iowa in the 1980’s, when the bottom was falling out of the corn market and large conglomerates were taking over small farms, Dewey made people feel better. Made them forget their troubles, if only for a little while. And brought a lot of love to an already close-knit community.

I love, love, love this cat. Love this community. And I love how much it reminded me about what’s important in life. Family, friends, and community. I’ve just ordered copies for my mother and my sister. And found out there are more Dewey stories out there, so I’m happy to get to spend more time with this great little kitty.

Here’s a link to the website and the blurb about Dewey’s story:

Vicki Myron was a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm and an alcoholic husband. But her biggest challenge as the new head librarian in Spencer, Iowa, was to raise the spirits of a small, out-of-the-way town mired deep in the farm crisis of the 1980s. Then, on the coldest morning of the year, Vicki found a tiny, bedraggled kitten almost frozen to death in the night drop box, and her life—and the town of Spencer—was never the same. Dewey, as the townspeople named the kitten, grew into a strutting, affable library cat whose antics kept patrons in stitches, and whose sixth sense about those in need created hundreds of deep and loving friendships. As his fame grew, people drove hundreds of miles to meet Dewey, and he even ended up in a hit television documentary…in Japan! Through it all, Dewey remained a loyal companion, a beacon of hope not just for Vicki Myron, but for the entire town of Spencer as it slowly, steadily pulled itself up from the worst financial crisis in its long history.

Puppies, Parks and Princess Victoria

After such a wet and soggy winter, here in the UK we’ve been enjoying some lovely bright days. It’s been getting the Joneses into a holiday mood and sent us scurrying for the brochures and checking out online deals. While it’s exciting planning trips to pastures new, recently I was reminded how easy it is to overlook the treasures to be found on our own doorstep.

Ushi lying March 2014Between our holiday planning we’ve had our favourite little lodger back to stay. Guide dog puppy Ushi, is a gorgeous flat coat retriever and is now just one year old. We’ve been boarding her on and off since she was six months old, which has been plenty of time to fall head over heels for she of the bewitching eyes and mischievous ways.

On Ushi’s last visit she’d just been spayed, which meant no free runs and only short lead walks. But after a few days she was raring to go, so on a particularly gorgeous day we took her out in the car to give her a change of scene. A short drive away from us is the Georgian City of Bath and its Royal Victoria Park. RVP 1The Park has been around since the early nineteenth century when, in 1830, it was officially opened by the young Princess Victoria. Apparently, Bath’s Royal Victoria Park was the very first to carry her name. (As a side note, the future Queen of England wasn’t a particular admirer of Bath and used to have the curtains of her train carriage closed when passing through the city. It is said she came to dislike the city after a Bath writer insulted her.)

The Park has beautiful botanical gardens which, shame on us, we rarely visit. They were formed in 1887 and are said to contain one of the finest collections of plants on limestone in the West of England. We thought it would be a nice place for Ushi as she’d enjoy all the different scents and smells. Once inside the gate, the scenery took my breath away. Cherry blossom all over the place. RVP March 2014I love trees and find something really fascinating in their shape and texture. Every tree in the gardens was as if someone had shaped them carefully to enhance their surroundings.

RVP 2

Near one of the entrances is a replica of a Roman Temple, the Temple of Minerva was constructed at Wembley in 1924 for the British Empire Exhibition, and rebuilt in the Botanic Gardens in 1926.

RVP WI 2The local Women’s Institute have a community garden within the Park which is made entirely of edible plants and flowers, the idea being to inspire people to plant edibles that are not only useful but also beautiful. The lady in the bath is a pretty fun exhibit and is based on the Bath WI logo.

RVP AJ and UshiHappily, all three of us enjoyed our outing and shortly after this photo was taken (and a cream tea for us and chewy bone for Ushi, plus a lot of attention from fellow cafe patrons), we headed back home with a very contented and, sleepy, pup. Happy Days!

Birthdays and Chemical Elements

GoldI was reading an article by Oliver Sacks and in it he said that elements and birthdays had been intertwined for him since he was a boy. He went on to say that when he was 11 he would say he was sodium.

So of course with that I was curious enough to it look up. Chemical Elements are assigned an Atomic Numbers from 1 to 118. When more elements are discovered the numbers will increase.

So……

30? – You could say you are Zinc (the German, ‘zinc’, which may in turn be derived from the Persian word ‘sing’, meaning stone)

33? – You could say you are Arsenic

36? – You could say you are Krypton (the Greek ‘kryptos’, meaning hidden)Ah shades of Superman

47? – Ahhh Silver

50? – Tin

Okay skipping ahead. 78, 79, and 80 are Platinum, Gold and Mercury. Just think for a full year I can be gold, if I get that far??

Not a bad way to define birthdays. For a complete list click here.

Goodbye, Winter!

A bloom from my husband's favorite rose-bush.

A bloom from my husband’s favorite rose-bush.

So Spring began last week. I’m certain there are a lot of folks really happy to see Winter leave. I have a sister in Philadelphia who is tired of shoveling snow. They’ve had something like 15 snow and ice storms blow through.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and our winter has been strange, but mild in comparison. We started the year 11 inches below normal for rainfall. That’s a LOT. It was the driest winter I think we’ve ever had. I don’t know that for sure, but it seemed like it. Until about a month ago.

The heavens opened up and we’ve gotten gully-washers for rainstorms. We generally get rain and drizzle, but not too many downpours. These were all day downpours. And we’ve almost caught up to the average rainfall for our area. In THREE weeks! It’s crazy. The more important thing for us is that the mountain snow-pack, which was seriously depleted, has also almost caught up to average. We need that snow this summer to feed crops.

So we’ve been super dry, then super wet. But overall, mild here. I feel like I need to apologize to the rest of the world for having an easy winter while others have struggled so. 🙂

This year was a neutral year. That generally means a more unstable weather pattern. El Nino years tend to be warmer for us, La Nina tends to be cooler. They are already saying that this next winter will have an El Nino pattern.

Personally, I don’t like El Nino warming. It generally means I don’t get to see any snow unless I drive to it. And I like a little snow in the winter. Not as much as some of you have gotten this year. My shoulders ache just thinking about how much snow some of you have been shoveling. I  only like enough for a nice walk or two.

For now, though, I’m ready to see Spring. Soak up some sunshine, let the rain help our gardens grow, and air out the house (my favorite thing to do in the Spring).

So how about you? How was your winter? And are you glad for Spring to have sprung?

Oh, and a quick Happy Birthday to my pinochle partner and father. 87 years old, wheelchair bound, and still finding a lot of life to smile about. 🙂

The First by Valerie J. Patterson

My very first job was with a florist when I was 14 years old.  I loved it.  I kept that job through college.  I started out cleaning the corporate offices and worked my way up to sales during their holiday open houses and summer sales.  I learned a lot during my time there.  I grew up a lot during my time there, too.  In my living room is a Pothos I’ve had since 1983.  My boss gave it to me.  My family and friends affectionately call it Killer because it has grown so large that its vines have at times been 10-13 feet long.  We have pictures of our cat hiding amongst the vines, and she’s barely visible!  My first job was a good fit and I remember my time there fondly.

My youngest niece began her very first job on Wednesday.  She’s working as a sales associate for a clothing store, and she’s very excited about her new job, about her new responsibilities, and about her newly acquired “earning power”.  I can’t wait to hear about receiving her first paycheck.  Granted, going to school and working part time does not allow you to earn a fat paycheck, but that never seems to matter with a first job.  It’s more about the fact you’re now earning your own money and gaining more independence than you’ve ever had before.  It also goes a long way in proving you’re growing up.

It’s that last point that makes me a little sad.  My nieces and I have always had good relationships, and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow and mature and become their own persons.  However, a job means crossing the threshold from childhood to adulthood, and that means changes that become permanent.

I’m not really ready to let go of the giggles, the daydreams, and the silly girl talk.  While at the same time, I’m excited for her to be at the beginning of such a fantastic journey to figuring out who she is and what she wants to be.  Plus, I figure no matter how old she gets, I’ll always see the little girl who loved to play in the snow with her aunt until her fingers and toes were blue!

What about you?  Remember your first job?

Until next time…may the sunshine of spring warm you and bring a smile to your lips.

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DAISY AND MISSY (AGAIN)

So—all day I have wondered “what will I blog about this month?” BLANK—NOTHING—ABSOLUTELY NO IDEAS AT ALL. Soooo here’s a little this and that about my dogs. Let’s start with Daisy and her trip to the groomer this past week. … Continue reading

Happy St. Patrick’s Day- Easy Party Recipe

Jillian here: I have a dear friend, Martha, who lives in Syracuse, NY who makes this recipe for her parties. She has dual American and Irish citizenship and when I visited her a number of years ago for St. Patrick’s Day, she made this baked dip and I totally stole the recipe. It’s a Reuben dip and everyone thinks it’s super-duper awesome. I get requests for it every time I host a party.

Ingredients:

2 (6 oz) pkgs. of corned beef (from the packaged deli-meat section)

1 can of Sauerkraut

8 ozs Swiss Cheese

2-4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Directions:

Dice the meat and cheese into small squares and mix together in a 8-9 inch round baking pan

Drain the sauerkraut and add it to the cheese and meat mixture. Mix well.

Add the mayonnaise until the mixture is damp (for lack of a better word- LOL)

Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.  Serve with rye crackers.

Have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Sláinte! 

 

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Happy March

Hi Everyone, Sorry to have disappeared for the month of February.   My mom passed away in February and needless to say all my time and energy was taken up by family things. But it’s a new month and spring … Continue reading

Sgt Reckless – War Hero

Sgt RecklessI have a hard time with animal stories. I cried most of the way through Marley and Me. And don’t even get me started on Lassie. But Reckless isn’t a sad story, this amazing horse gets through the war with her marines and retires in Ft. Pendleton.

I can’t begin to do justice to her story so here are just a few of the facts.

She was purchased from a young Korean boy for $250 and joined the marines to carry ammunition to the front lines. But she went the extra mile. During the battle for a location called Outpost Vegas, this little mare made 51 trips up and down the hill by herself. No one was leading her. On the way up she carried ammunition, and on the way down she carried wounded soldiers. The video (click here) shows what she went through on these trips.

My sister-in-law sent me this link though after seeing it I found a lot of information is out there. This is one fantastic horse. And, one fantastic veteran. I am so glad she got to come home to America and enjoy a well earned retirement.

The Sky is Falling…

Lately, it seems like I’ve been seeing a lot of anxiety in people, family members included. At times, I think I even need to throw myself into that mosh-pit.

I’m just going to apologize up front to the guys who check in on our blog. I’m about to use a ba-a-a-a-d word. Menopause. When I was menopausal, I was pretty lucky. I only had two symptoms to deal with. Hot flashes and anxiety. At least, I think that’s all I had to deal with, since my husband did not, as promised for years, go live in Tahiti without me for those years. 🙂

Anyhow, I remember that feeling of knowing, KNOWING everything was right in my world. But still waiting for the shoe to fall. For some disaster to strike. It was beyond my ability to cope with and I found myself drawing inward, chanting, meditating, anything to get through until the feeling ebbed. The one thing that helped me was, in fact, meditation. Hmmm, is it a Freudian slip that, as I typed meditation, it came out medication? 🙂 Seriously, though, I would find a comfortable chair, relax my neck (the tensest part of my body) and focus on my breathing, saying two words with the in and out of air.

In. Peace. Out. Calm.

It helped me get through those finite times when the anxiety was a strong force.  Recently, one of our bloggers, Tricia Jones, released a book about Yoga For Writers. It got me thinking about stress and anxiety and ways we can all try to cope with it. Yoga is one, although I’m one of the tightest people I know (so my physical therapist says). I’m not sure that’s the right option for me.

What other ways can we purge anxiety and stress? I thought I’d list some ways I’ve found here. And, if you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

  • Exercise. A simple walk might be enough.
  • Focus on your breathing/meditate.
  • Accept it—ride the wave until it ebbs.
  • Visualization of calmer, happier moments.
  • Positive introspection.
  • Focus on a goal. It could be a project you started or something you’ve been putting off. Complete it.

It seems that the primary goal in each of these suggestions is to focus on one thing that is NOT the anxiety or stress. That’s interesting because I’ve been working with a close family member on just that. Don’t think about the thirty steps you need to complete to finish. Focus on one thing. Task #1. When that’s done, focus on task #2.

Hopefully, it will help. So, do you get bouts of anxiety? How do you cope? Got any tips for me? There are definitely times when I could use them.