Secrets or Stories?

Im back!

Now that the Spring Visiting Season has drawn to a close I am able to return to my scribbles. Its been a joyful, weary time that begins around Memorial Day and ends now.  We’ve had proms, parties, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, and umpteen birthdays. Now that we have all been feted we can settle into a summer routine.

There has been some of this:

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A lot of this:

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A touch of this:

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A bit too much of this:

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and some of this:

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The flurry of birthdays is, of course, nothing new to me. But this year, when my youngest donned a pair of wedges for one of our outings, she was as tall as her mother. This seemed to me to be a mark of time more definite than any other.

So I thought this would be a great time to share my birth story.

Just typing that made me laugh. But when I was first exploring the blog world and was naturally, curious about the ‘mommy blogs’ (to use their cloying soubriquet) I stumbled upon a perfectly innocuous post where the author included a link to what she called her “birth story’. Assuming it to be a unique and interesting tale, I clicked.  Did she give birth in a canoe? Whilst backpacking through the Andes? It turned out to be the story of a perfectly normal delivery – over several posts-that had nothing whatsoever to set it apart from the millions of others that probably happened on the same day. It had no inherent comedic, literary or informational value so why take the world in to a very personal, intimate and precious part of you private world? At first I thought the author had a touch of the loquor ergo sum but then I came upon more and more of the same. It became apparent to me that the ‘birth story’ was a widely accepted subset of the parenting blogs.

Why isn’t the traditional birth notice sufficient?

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this is more like it

Human beings are social creatures, this we know. It comforts us to have the validation of others. Perhaps with the onslaught of social media we are having a bit of a difficult time drawing up boundaries between sharing and bare-ing Perhaps discretion will re-assert itself as we all become more accustomed to cameras in bedrooms and twitter at the table.

But not for love or money would I want to give up any of my private life. I care very much for my readers and blog colleagues but there are several rooms in which I would not seek your company, one being the delivery room. Hell, I didn’t even want to be there.

When we strip away our intimacy, what is intimacy worth?

Our natural inclination to gather knowledge has run amok and we are helpless to stop the influx of information. But once we know everything where is the interest? Its the not knowing that keeps our imagination engaged, its the mystery. Allow the imagination to run free, give it it’s head.  Open her up and see what she can do.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know or understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand (Albert E.)

If we leave nothing to the imagination, our imagination will have nothing to do

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I heard the sound of TAPS one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That TAPS had meant “Amen,”
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn’t free.

       -Kelly Strong

Chronica Domus: don’t look! Jane and Lance: avert your eyes!

….and any of the rest of my lovely readers who may like to dabble and hoe, please turn away now! For after you are witness to the destruction that I have wrought our friendship may be something of a trial for you

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My big, beautiful, hydrangeas
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….are hydrangeas no more. Why?!

Please understand that I have the best of intentions. I feed, I weed, I water. I bask in the glow of compliments and I disperse blooms to all and sundry.

IMG_1578My hydrangeas are the beautiful backdrop to our summers, both indoors and out, big blue hydrangeas grace tabletops and bookshelves.

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I even have special containers in which to display them.

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Sugar Wimsey searches in vain
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…and inquires into their absence

We had landscapers at Alconleigh so I grew up without ever having done a drop of gardening and I had to learn it all when we bought our house (that’s what happens when you marry for love, folks). Together we tamed the yard with our own bare hands and continue to learn by trial and error.

My hydrangeas were my success story. Something blue and bonny to reward all my efforts. But when the tell-tale buds failed to appear this Spring I sensed something might be wrong. I spoke to my trusted local expert at the gardening center and she gave me the bad news: Winter Death.

Winter Death, N.C.Wyeth
Winter Death, N.C.Wyeth

Actually I made that up. I cant remember what she called it but that is what I heard because I was being told the stems were dead and it had something to do with the winter.

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Winter Death

In other words, no hydrangeas. I was instructed to cut back the stems until I hit green

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When I cut back the branches I found a lost ball. To give you an idea of how long I have had big, leafy hydrangeas, my offspring haven’t played softball in about eight years

The prognosis, although hard to swallow at first, was not as bad as it could have been. There are leaves at the very bottom of each, so they are still alive and perhaps still have a chance

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Hope springs eternal

apparently she is

Is she or isn’t she?

 

In 1998 an art dealer in Paris was flipping through the Christies catalogue when he came upon this young lady:

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“Head of a Young Girl in Profile to the Left in Renaissance Dress. German. Early 19th century. Pen, ink and chalk on vellum, mounted on oak board”

The venerable auction house had it listed as an 19th cent work from Germany but the art dealer had a different idea. Off he dashed to NYC to buy this little mystery but unfortunately he was outbid. The story could have ended there, but in an interesting twist of fate, this same art dealer was wandering through an UES art gallery ten years later when he bumped into her again. This time he bought her on the spot and with his pockets $22,000 lighter he flew back to Paris to get to know his young lady.

Friends and colleagues in the world of fine art agreed: “It looks Italian”….”Renaissance probably”…”the work of a master”. What artist capable of such great talent was working in Italy during the Renaissance?..Who could it be?……..

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A wild idea was taking form. The art dealer placed a call to Martin Kemp, an art historian at Oxford University and an authority on Leonardo daVinci. “Hey Martin, can you take a look at this little picture I found and tell me what you think?” In England, Prof. Kemp is intrigued by  the similarity to Leonardos work and agrees to investigate further.

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Confirmation of the date seemed to be in order. If the work was indeed created in the nineteenth century then the research need go no further. Time to turn to science for some answers. In Paris, our friend takes the drawing to art specialist Giammarco Cappuzzo for some handy carbon 14 dating. When the tests show that the vellum dates, not from the 19th cent as Christies thought, but from the late fifteenth and early 16th centuries, the investigation kicked into high gear. Infrared imaging was now called for, and a friend of Cappuzzo had, in a lab across town, an amazing camera that is able to take pictures of such clarity that every detail is revealed. Cappuzzo pops the young lady in the back of his scooter and takes off across Paris, weaving through traffic with what could very possibly be the find of the century secured in his little moped.

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The multi-spectral imaging allowed a peek between the layers of ink and chalk and showed some very interesting things.  There were corrections made to the drawing before it was finished, very similar to the way Leonardo worked. With the high resolution images they were able to examine the drawing in minute detail and saw a fingerprint left by the artist,  left handed sloping of the penmarks, and exquisite draftsmanship.  All hallmarks of da Vinci. And all present on this drawing.

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Perhaps most importantly, they found three little holes on the left side, evenly spaced as if bound in a book. An intriguing clue..

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In the meantime word has been traveling around the art community. An expert on Italian renaissance costume had a very interesting little piece of information: The young lady in the drawing is wearing her hair in a coazzone: a style made popular in Milan in the late 15th cent by the ladies of the ruling Sforza family.

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Ludivico Sforza was the duke of Milan from 1498-1500 and the patron of Leonardo da Vinci.  In fact, Ludovico commissioned The Last Supper.

It is all falling together…

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Ludovico Sforza, duke of Milan 1489-1500

A Professor of art history in Florida sends an email to Professor Kemp “You know, Martin, you should pop on over to Warsaw and take a look at this old book they have that used to belong to the Sforzas”

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The parade of experts goes off to Poland where they find the Sforziada, an illuminated manuscript commemorating the marriage of little Bianca Sforza, illegitimate daughter of Ludovico, to Galeazzo Sanseverino one of Ludovicos generals. Bianca would have been the right age for the girl in the drawing and, lo and behold,..

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Prof Kemp holds a copy of Le Bella Principessa while studying the Sforziada in Warsaw

…..the drawing fit perfectly. The holes aligned with the binding, and the book even had a page missing, right where the portrait would have been placed. Suspicions were confirmed and hopes realized.  The world is now one Leonardo richer.

My understanding is C14dating + Sforza hairstyle + left-handed hatching(shading)+missing page from the Sforziada =

a long lost Leonardo!

It’s certainly possible,and I love a story with a happy ending, but all my years as an art historian (0) combined with all my years as a teensy bit of a cynic (many) leave me feeling that this would be a perfect forgery. For one thing, it has hardly any provenance. That puts up a big red flag for me. A work by Leonardo unknown for almost 500 years until it suddenly pops up in the possession of a little old lady in Switzerland? A little old lady who is now suing Christies for the misattribution, which would add verisimilitude to the story.

I hope it is a Leonardo.  The world needs another Leonardo more than it needs another cynic, so I am joining Team Kemp.

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slithy toves and charming verdant cacophany

Todays post comes to you from the field. I am an intrepid blogger reporting from the jungles of mobile media. Normally I blog from the safety of my laptop, with all its processing ability, large screen, and saved passwords. But I dropped my laptop, careless little bumpkin that I am, and now if I want to write any AA I am forced to use my tablet, which, as many of you may know, is not as manageable. When my fingers touch a screen quite often gobbledegook results. Probably because there is so much magnetism emanating from my fingers that the simple devices just cant keep up……….I am almost amused at the possible outcome today; I intend to write about the Spring but my post may well relate a tale of slithy toves having a brillig gyre and gimble in the wabe . I have a theory that, clever though he was, Carroll created Jabberwocky accidentally when he was writing a poem on an early tablet prototype.

Spring has reached my town. Lovely Spring; we’ve reached 70 degs (not continuously) and the daffs have bloomed.

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tulips are out, also.

Where once the landscape was still and peaceful it has now exploded with life, chirping, squawking, and howling. Blue jays cardinals and finches go about their business with flashes of blue red and yellow. There is color, there is noise, and the landscape takes on an entirely different character.

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this was a new sighting; a pileated woodpecker in our woods

After a long cold winter it is wonderful to throw open the bedroom window and sleep with the breeze gently tousling my hair. Waking in the morning is a different experience, however. The woodland creatures that share our property engage in an early morning quorum outside our window that is particularly contentious in tone. Those last few precious moments of sleep are punctuated with piercing chirps like an alarm. The pleasant twittering is reserved for the daylight hours, apparently. The worst is a chipmunk who hides in the stone wall opposite our bedroom. We must have something close to a miles worth of stone wall snaking through our property but the spot for this guy is right outside our window: cheep……cheep……cheep…..you get the idea.

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I am not quite sure about mother natures scheduling, although I’m sure she knows what shes doing, but it would seem to me that if the tremendous birds of prey that fill our skies during the day could just set their alarms a wee bit earlier they could enjoy a breakfast of champions. They wouldn’t even have to dine to solve my problem just circle overhead and suddenly everything on the ground would go silent and still. I thought perhaps I could come to some sort of arrangement with one of the local pteradactyls but I don’t think they would deign to speak with me. They are the lions of our woods, the newly abundant buffet of small creatures transforms our neighborhood into a scene from the mesazoic era with dinosaurs aloft dominating the local wildlife. At the kitchen sink the other day I was suddenly part of a very wild scene as two large raptors buzzed our deck darkening the sky and sending a bird squawking. It all happened so quickly that I actually ducked. ‘The Jabberwock, with eyes of fame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came!’ Only they didnt “burble” they were completely silent and impressive.

Does anyone else enjoy a confluence of dinosaurs come Springtime?

 

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The ubiquitous Turkey Vulture “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!” The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!..” I actually took this picture myself from the car as I drove by. He wasn’t the least bit frightened and stood his ground as I respectfully went around him.

 

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I wonder if that lady thinks she is in charge?

 

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pteradactyls were hunted in our area until the 1870s but now they are protected

Our flag was still there

When I received the text from my sister in law I was just returning from errands so as I put down my bags I popped the tv on to see if I could find out more about what she was telling me. There was an explosion at the finish line she had said. It was off to her right and she took a quick picture. Then another one, this time to her left and like many other people that was the moment when she realized that this was not an accident. She wasn’t sure which way to run at first so she hid in a doorway. She was frightened, she said. When she mustered up the nerve, she ran home and stayed there.

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Jing’s picture of the first explosion

  At first all we could see on television were overhead video shots of the area from helicopters. We could see there was something  happening but the claims of body parts littering the sidewalk of Boylston Street were dismissed as hyperbole.

It is what happened next that really defined the occasion. People with ears ringing and clothes shredded got elbow deep in the carnage to assist complete strangers. Runners, half dead from having just run 26 miles pulled down barricades to get to the victims. Average citizens who moments before were cheering and clapping  were ripping their clothes to make tourniquets. No one needed to be told what to do. And no one waited to be rescued. Bystanders either got out of the way or helped the wounded no one mingled around wailing, taking pictures, or gawking. Most people in the immediate area were running toward the blast, not away. There was no victim mentality-not even amongst the victims. The attitude has changed.

Only two days later the next major sporting event happened in Boston when the Bruins were scheduled to continue their playoff run in an important hockey game. I assumed it would be cancelled, and if I had ticket I have to admit that I don’t think I would have gone. We still didn’t know who planted those bombs or why. In fact it was all far from over, there was more killing to come. But the Garden was filled to capacity, and then some. Many more people watched on tv, even people like me, who have a limited interest in hockey. Obviously this game, like all the other pro sports played all accross the country that week, wasn’t about just the game. And when the quirky and beloved Rene Rancort took to the ice to sing the anthem, as he has for decades, this is how it went:

The anthem heard ’round the world

I don’t see anyone looking terrorized, do you?

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Newbury Street, the following Saturday
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searching meticulously for evidence
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one end of the barricades on Boylston

 

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preserving elan vital

On occasion, when no one is looking, I will grab my keys and dash off to the museum for a full day of unimpeded contentment. It has always been this way you see; the museum is a haven of peace and gentility. My mind clears and my shoulders relax as I cross that great stone threshold; I can breathe, I can think. My brow un-furrows and my pace adjusts itself to reflect my ease.

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blogging avec les jeune filles Boit

I will get there early, before my living room is cluttered up with slow moving strangers and I will own the shop.- I will have breakfast under the Chihuly glass sculpture and as I sip my coffee I will cast a piquant glance at the Art of the Americas wing -I play it cool, but he knows he has me right where he wants me and it wont be long before I succumb to his charms.

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Bebe flits up and down that staircase

I put very little planning into these trips. But I will instinctively know when it is time to step out of daily life and make a connection with the world. I am always seeking balance, even subconsciously, its the only way I stay upright. But the true self can be left to languish in the relentless drone of routine.

the columns were originally spaced evenly but when Sargent was commissioned to do his murals he had the columns coupled so the view was unobstructed. That is cache.
Hello again,General
Hello again,General

 

‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’ (Picasso)

 

  There is something reaffirming about the presence of artistic achievement. It taps into a vital part of us that we don’t often use on a day to day basis, but which helps to define what it is that makes us human. Art is the actualization of the human spark. And when we can see it there, in front of us we are in effect refueling our creative furnace.

This kid gets it (the offspring in their younger years)
This kid gets it (the offspring in their younger years)

One can stand among ruins of preceding civilizations and acquire some understanding of how people once lived, but it is the art that shows us who they actually were. If we go to Giverny we can see the view of Monets garden, but when we look at his paintings we see the view into the man, a more direct and intimate revelation.

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sketch it out first

I am faithful to the Art of the Americas wing, but otherwise I wander freely, exploring at my leisure, stopping here and there to take a break and catch up on emails or simply enjoy the view. I am in no rush, on no schedule. I like to live with the paintings, not just stare at them. I can see them better that way. My favorite view of any painting is up close, with my little nose inches away so I can see the individual brushstrokes and imagine the artist putting them there.

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  Eventually I will head home, replenished and content, but if you turn your back I may be gone again

‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things,

but their inward significance’ (Aristotle)

 
 
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a dress made entirely of faience beads, more of a sheath really, that graced the wispy form of an Egyptian girl. As tall as my daughter perhaps, but a tiny little thing, as delicate as the dress she was buried in

 

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The Laird of Glenbogle?
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On one visit I was examining the Oak Hill Dining room when a man next to me asked if I knew the purpose of the small trunk under the window. I said it was where they kept their dog toys and he found that an acceptable answer. I was tempted to leave it at that but my conscience got the better of me and I told him that I was kidding. He wasn’t amused however and I was left to giggle to myself.

 

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it missed us, but just barely!

 

I went to bed last night, like many of us in these parts, full of doom and gloom about what I would wake up to in the morning.  We have been warned for over a week now:

Beware.

It’s not over yet.

Wednesday will be the day.

Our snowshovel still sits at the ready, a sentry at our back door. The snowblower is still positioned just inside the shed, pointed out for easy removal, still gassed up.  We are New Englanders after all, and this is not our first winter. Once again we went into our familiar routine of preparation, begrudgingly and slightly embittered .

But it missed us! Those fabled Nautical winds which have for centuries lashed our homes, eroded our beaches and sunk our ships, have taken a benevolent turn and pulled this leviathan out to sea.

Im sorry for the Cape of course, and Nantucket particularly as it must be like The Shining at this point in the year but I am dancing a jig for the rest of us.

NO SNOW!

ps: Have a gander at yesterdays post as well..

Muffs and geese

I am not unaware of my vulnerability. I have always accepted the reality that whatever information I put in to these little plastic things is at the mercy of unseen powers out there in the internet. A concept, by the way, rather challenging for the younger generation to grasp. Social media vigilance is a full time job for parents now, the van with smoked out windows once easily spotted if driving thru the neighborhood has now taken the form of slick social media platforms with full 24/7 access to my daughters bedroom.

Although the occasional internet glitch comes as no surprise to me, I am too impatient to accept my fate with grace. So you can imagine my irritation when, working on a blog post, I went to refer to something on Pinterest and found this:

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I have been stripped of my followers and denied the option of following. I have no more pinterest feed. I feel as though I have been sent to some kind of pinterest purgatory, wondering if I will be accepted back with the cool kids or am I banished forever?

Before this little irritation, I was noticing a lot of muffs on pinterest. An unusual time of year to feature winter wear I thought, but they reminded me of the little white rabbit muff I had as a girl.

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I felt so sophisticated in that muff, very ladylike. For the Nutcracker one year (back when a family could go to the ballet), I got all dressed up with my shiny little patent leather shoes, my little white gloves and, the piece de resistance, my new white muff. I walked down the stairs from my bedroom, quite carefully and slowly with all the sophistication  I could muster. In the back hall we had coffin stairs, very steep and very straight, so I held the bannister the whole way down just like I thought a young lady ought, and I anticipated the impression I would make. But I didn’t realize that the bannister wasn’t very clean and running my little white glove the whole way down left it quite soiled when I got to the bottom. I was crushed. I thought my mother would angry, my grandmother would be disappointed and everyone at the ballet that evening would know that I was not a young lady, I was just a little girl who can’t keep her gloves clean.

Also, I’ve been seeing a lot of geese on my pin feed

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Every Spring they would come to Alconleigh, waddling & munching, a few pairs at first, then a whole skein.

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fuzzy little gosling bottoms!

There were a couple of white geese that would join the flock and it looked like quite the little petting zoo. We would save the heels from our finished loaves of bread -WonderBread, can you imagine?!- and go out to feed them.

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Here’s why that was particularly fun: Geese are bold. I don’t know how or why but these animals have the self confidence of WWF wrestlers. When you are feeding them, they have a tendency to become increasingly more assertive until they are practically snatching it out of your hand. They slowly close in on you, and if they reach you before you feed them, they can nip. If you toss a piece to one goose it will back off for a moment, so the trick is to feed the one closest to you and hopefully you have enough time to rip of another piece of bread before the next one gets you. When the bread ran out you had to run away, hell bent for leather, and hope for the best. It was like the Flintstones version of a video game..

The white geese took it one step farther-they would knock on the door. They waddled over to the back door and pecked it demanding tribute. Canada geese are aggressive enough but this move undoubtedly won their respect.

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dont ask this guy for money

Once, my brother was lying in the hammock when a goose took issue with his presence and attacked him. With all the wing flapping and hissing, my brother found himself in an unusual predicament and wasn’t quite sure he would be able to hold his position. I don’t know what precipitated this fracas, maybe they had words, maybe my brother owed the goose money, but whatever the cause he was trapped in the hammock calling for help until my mother came out and somehow shooed it away.

On a completely different topic, I am fed up with blogging so rarely. “Who is this parvenue?,” you must be asking yourselves,”..who thinks she is such big papers that she need only blog once a week?” I don’t blame you for wondering- I have resolved to spend time blogging every day so even if I don’t actually publish every day (they take me a while to write as I live the kind of life that only allows me 20min at a time to do anything) at least I will have (hopefully) 4 up a week. How do the rest of you do it?

Top o’ the mornin to ya!

Top o’ the mornin to ya. My Irish eyes are smilin’, not because it’s St Patrick’s Day but because, as I type this, it is morning-my favorite part of the day. All the breakfasts and lunches have been made, dogs walked, dishes tidied, and now it is time for me to wrap my little hands around a fresh cup of coffee, make my breakfast and work online while listening to the radio. Soon I will begin my workout regimen, the chores and errands. But for now, I can work and think and eat peaceably, with a wellspring of initiative.

I embrace routine because my days can often be haphazard. Therefore my morning routine is strictly enforced, and varies only in the slightest of ways, if at all. The foundation of the routine is this:

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handmade in Montana

 

My favorite coffee mug. No matter what else I do, I always have one cup of coffee in my favorite mug.  I like the way it feels in my hands, it’s solid, the perfect size, and comfortable. Sunday is a different story as I drink more than one cup while lingering over a long brunch en famille. But every other day my one cup of coffee is an event unto itself, and suitably attired in my handmade mug

there's a sweet potato off in the corner destined for a sweet potato, navy bean and spinach quesadilla with cucumber salsa
there’s a sweet potato off in the corner destined for a sweet potato, navy bean and spinach quesadilla with cucumber salsa
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a crack in my beloved mug! I think Mr Bebe put it in the dishwasher once, precipitating a flurry of phone calls to to my lawyers.

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That’s whole milk, no mamsy pamsy skim milk for my coffee.

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My breakfast these days is homemade granola. I make a version of DaniBPs wonderful recipe-there are not too many options for a vegan breakfast so I was excited when Dani shared this little pot o’ gold. Before this, my breakfasts were a confusing and hungry time.

I once switched from dairy milk to soy and it  had such a deleterious affect on my bones that I -if GSL will excuse my graphic language- broke a rib. So milk in the granola and no foolin’ around.  Hey, I never claimed to be a  dyed-in-wool-vegan. I want to be able to walk around when Im 65.

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Pile it high with fruit, a little syrup or honey, and cinnamon. If you don’t do so already, I highly recommend including apples in your breakfast. I have felt much more energetic and less hungry since doing so. I had heard that apples will give you more energy in the morning than a cup of coffee, but I almost always disregard such dietary tales. I just added apples to my breakfast because they go so well with the granola,but the tales turned out to be at least partially true. Just have a half in the morning and save the other half for lunch. It keeps the doctor away, you know.

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extra large breakfast when I add Ezekiel sprouted grain toast. I’m not at all sure what sprouted bread is. What a poseur.

Top o’ the mornin’ to me!

A pinch from me if you are not wearing green today!*

*I am not that taken with St. Patrick’s Day, I just like pinching.