Twilight Bliss

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A mural
of muted rose to pale gold to
midnight blue
reflected from sky to water
then seemingly back into the clouds.

A pair of ducks sits on the color-splashed surface
taking in the night sky,
diving for dinner.

The lone fisherman,
snaps his line
as he casts into the lake
causing a ripple of movement
then gently pulls on his rod,
reels in,
casts again
and again
his meditation for the day,
his release.

A silver crescent of moon
brightens the darkened corner
of the sky-
the cicadas calling
the frogs humming,
barely visible waves lapping the shoreline.

I sat serenely on the still sun-kissed bench
to just absorb
listen
and breathe,
empty my crowded, jumping mind
and fill it with calm. And beauty. And respite.

C

Inspiration was the boardwalk at Lake Zurich, IL. Pictures taken there 8/8/16 on iPhone 6.

Goal: Increasing the Fun Level

This past weekend my goal was to do at least one fun, unexpected thing each day. Mission accomplished. It is too easy to fill free hours with errands, busywork, chores.   Recent life events made me realize that I need to grab a hold of my time when I can, not let my life slip away.  Some weekends are scheduled from start to finish, some productive, but hopefully there is some time to explore, enjoy.

I spent an evening socializing with friends, saw Bad Moms with a neighbor (very funny, from someone who endured the PTO Primadonnas), gardened, walked my dogs, went out to eat.

One of the highlights was biking in the Lake County Forest Preserve. It was a gorgeous morning and so reminded me of my childhood. Eight friends on bikes, riding for miles while laughing, reminiscing, planning, joking, only one getting lost for a brief few minutes. No real schedule, no set plans, other than to enjoy our morning, leaving all responsibilities behind.

 

 

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Can you spot the 3 sandhill cranes?   

And the weekend is upon us again. So I shall set the same goal—do one spontaneous thing each day. Try it.  And let me know what new experiences you have!

C

Become a Child Again, Time Permitting.

Schedules, lists, calendars. They rule our daily lives, with some deadlines and events unmovable and others set arbitrarily in our minds. (you know, the to-do lists and laundry that MUST get done on a gorgeous day).

As we become adults with more responsibilities, I think it’s easy to become more rigid in our routines, our expectations of completing “tasks” and reaching goals. We can easily lose our sense of childlike adventure and impromptu schedule changes. I am starting to reclaim that whimsical side, and the results have been….fun.

Be spontaneous—take an opportunity to change your course. What will you find? It can be a simple reward, the hummingbird who enjoys my flowers while we sit on the front porch. It can be so much more, too. Freedom. Memories.

This weekend we stopped into a new distillery in town that was extremely fun, warm, welcoming, and served up some delicious cocktails. We will be back.

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The Copper Fiddle.  Lake Zurich, IL

And an unplanned invitation to ride on a neighbor’s boat after kayaking turned into an extremely fun evening with new and old friends.

Realistically, I know that I won’t be able to grab these moments every day. Heck, even be offered them that frequently. Some days truly are scheduled from before wake up to bedtime. But I have become more flexible when I CAN change my schedule. I find that the more I do the unexpected, the more moments of chance encounters appear.   Or maybe I am just more aware of them.

Perhaps wanting to embrace new opportunities has even subconsciously encouraged me to handle those “to do” lists in a more effective manner. Summer is arriving soon—make it a summer goal to be more free spirited. Find some chance moments to explore your locale—solo, with friends, with family. Hopefully, you won’t end up wishing you had done more this summer when autumn arrives. Summer will feel well-lived.

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Often my fave moments are found on that road less travelled.  Photo taken by me outside Scottsdale, AZ.

C

The First Summery Weekend

Living all of summer in one weekend. In Chicago, where we have had an extremely cold and wet spring, these last three days have been a welcoming sign of summer approaching.   And I filled every moment possible with family, friends, and fun.   And projects that will hopefully pay us back this summer.

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It is amazing that one fairly open weekend can include:

  • A bike ride
  • Quiet night watching Straight out of Compton—impressive film
  • Yoga
  • A gorgeous afternoon at Arlington racetrack
  • A neighborhood Summer Kick-off party. So many families to catch up with.
  • Flower shopping
  • Planting the entire vegetable garden
  • Kayaking
  • Dinner on the deck with my family

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It is a long list, but what a fun one!

So simple, but so, so rewarding. Embrace your free days or hours—fill them with people and time that give you freedom, space, and joy.

C

Summer Festivals!

Local festivals rock.  Go explore one this summer, whether it’s theme is art, a specific food (ice cream, corn, garlic), a region, music, sports, some fictional character, a hobby.  Yesterday my daughter Devon, her friend Courtney and I went to the Long Grove Strawberry Festival, right up the road from us.  The main goal was to see my friend Cindy’s band Centerfold Band play on the center stage–they were awesome, belting out  many familiar songs– but we had a great time experiencing the entire event.

Centerfold Band

Long Grove has been hit HARD by this economy.  Many of the stalwart shops have closed, leaving barren windows during the week, but yesterday the traffic was halted, the paths teeming with families. It was wonderful to see such a variety of people mixing, laughing, sharing a drink, fresh strawberries, listening to live music, spending money in the shops, the booths and the restaurants.

Gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries!

We all saw people we knew, other friends joined us, we chatted and laughed with people we just met. I found a new clothing shop I will definitely return to, on a quieter day. And we bought gifts in a couple familiar places.

If we all visited one local festival this summer, we would support our small businesses, encourage new development, learn about local bands and artists, bond with our neighbors, spend time with our families and–most importantly–have inexpensive FUN in our backyard or a short drive away,  rummaging  through a new area.  Be inspired by the day, the unexpected, the laughter.  C

fruit for sale!

Summer Day Camp Lessons

Driving my son to basketball camp each morning, I am so impressed with the number of kids at LZHS summer camps, improving their endurance and abilities in football, cross country, baseball, softball, tennis, soccer, and inside the building is summer school, band camp, more I can’t see.

The older students mentor the younger ones, working alongside the coaches to work on batting stances, passes, dribbling.  There are bikes lined up along the school, t-shirts and water bottles forgotten while the cross country runners trek through town.

While I open my computer each morning, they start their work outs, keeping their brains and bodies sharp, instead of sleeping in on each summer day.  I applaud their courage to mingle with both friends and strangers, their tenaciousness in learning new skills, their spirits,  their joy.

I get tired of hearing the negative media about youth, and while I enjoy sharing in their individual successes, I am even more inspired to see them work together, to try, to maybe fail, to try again, for success, as one.

Our government could learn a little—maybe a lot– from these students. C

Uneven Garden Bounty

A wintry summer in Chicago has resulted in fewer beach and pool days, evening sweaters in August, lower air conditioning bills and a sadly underwarmed garden.  The biggest loser in my tiny three-step levels and overflowing garden seems to be the teeny sad tomatoes lacking the sun-kissed flavor we usually get.  They usually thrive in the heat, changing from green to a sunburned red that is so delicious.  What a wonderful summer feeling–wandering through the overgrown vines, pulling off the still-warmed fruit, the smell lingering on my fingers long after I come indoors.

Although there are slow and steady handfuls of tomatoes ripening, usually now I am overwhelmed with bowls of tomatoes, seeking out new recipes to try, freezing soups and sauces to last throughout the long midwest winter.  The tiny grape tomatoes are sprouting by the handful, but they are not our everyday favorites.  And I have one beautiful plant that has yet to produce a fruit.  One of my best tomato plants is one that simply re-seeded from last year, growing in the wasteland, climbing up forgotten soccer nets, intertwined with cucumbers hanging over and through the vines.

A first-time cuke grower, they have been bountiful and delicious, so much more flavorful than any store-bought ones I have ever eaten.  We found many uses for them quick overwhelming amount we had,  and there are still a few pickle-sized ones on the vines.  Next year, maybe we will try a variety with fewer seeds, as these all had to be de-seeded the seeds were so large.  But, removing the skin filled the house with an amazing, clean scent of cucumbers (one of my favorites).

The lemon and original-flavored basils are bushy and full, the scent trailing behind as we carry armfuls in to use fresh, cook with, or prepare pesto to last the winter.  All the herbs are lovely: oregano, cilantro, rosemary, two kinds of parsley, dill, tarragon.  I will miss you all when the first frost arrives, except that parsley that can last until snowfall.

Green peppers have been wimpy and thin-skinned all summer.  My best success is the jalapenos.  Firm, spicy, red and green, I pull them in by the handfuls.  I’m looking for new recipes to use them–feel free to pass them along.

Ah well.  As summer winds down, we will enjoy every last item in the garden until we are forced to (sigh-oh no!)  buy pale tomatoes and waxed cucumbers from the grocery store.  And savor the last flavors of summer. C

P.S.  When the dog comes in smelling like a tomato plant at night licking her lips, exactly what is she doing with my tomato plants???