Thursday, December 31, 2015


Getting to the office early often has its rewards: 
sometimes I miss the worst of the weather.

All was quiet for the first hour yesterday. 
Snow was predicted, and had just begun to fall in tiny flakes 
as I walked through the Loop before 7:00 
on my way from the train to the office.

An hour or so later, 
I looked up from my desk to see a window of huge, white swirling flakes 
against gray skies and neighboring buildings.

The rooftop garden on the new building next door
was getting a frosting.

Even our solar pope stopped waving to marvel at the sight.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Macy's windows

Taken early this morning on a foggy walk to work, 
past the iconic Marshall Field's building.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Warm and rainy.

At least we won't have trouble making it to family gatherings
and the Christmas Eve service.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

'tis the season

Holiday staff party is Monday. 

We drew names 
(via a gift exchange website to make it easy for
remotely located co-workers - 
who thinks of these things?!)
but it's a secret who's got whom until Monday. 
Does this look sufficiently secret-ish?

We were encouraged to 
make something, 
bake something, 
donate a book from our own library,
or otherwise be creative - 
but don't spend more than $15.

And because I like to see what I can do with minimal giftwrap, 
or find something reuseable to stand in for giftwrap, 
this is a wire basket
with metal sculpted branches and leaves for a handle.
99 cents at Goodwill.  
Re-used ribbon.
The tissue paper is new. But recyclable if the giftee opts not to reuse.

My gift is (I can tell you because no one from work reads this - I think)

3 food items that I made in September:

with nothing added. 
(It's pink because the apples are cooked with skins on
before being put through a food mill.)

Dilled eggs (hardboiled eggs pickled with dill, garlic, & jalapenos).
Dilled cauliflower (ditto).
Here are the jars before the pickling liquid was added.

I used ripe (read: red. read: hot!) jalapenos.
Red instead of green
because I thought they would look prettier in the jar.

I told the man at the farm stand what I was buying them for, and he shook his head and asked me about the size of the jars and advised I not use a whole pepper in each jar but cut them in half, since the red, ripe jalapenos are much hotter than the green. 

So I cut them in long quarters. And only put a quarter in each jar.

The eggs are nicely hot.
But the cauliflower - oh my.
Really really hot.

I'm also putting the cards on the chocoladeletters
an annual tradition that started the year Gerrit and I were married.  
It's a happy reminder for me of our years together.

The ones for the family have already been mailed, 
and my niece sent this picture of her middle son, ready to chomp his B.

And that makes me happy, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent Antiphon Radio

On this not-so-cold December night,
I'm working on church-related stuff on the computer 
(scheduling the volunteers who read the lessons, 
acolyte, chalice, etc. for after the first of the year) 
and listening to Pandora.  

The Pandora station is called Advent Antiphon Radio.  
Many of the selections are familiar: beautiful hymns and anthems 
I've sung with choirs over the years.  

Some are unfamiliar and still beautiful.

They just played this, and it was especially lovely.
I had to click away from what I was doing 
to look at the Pandora tab and find out what it was:

Stella Natalis: Sleep Child Of Winter
The Adiemus Singers/Tenebrae/Karl Jenkins/Alison Balsom

Want to listen?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Autumn chores

It's cold. It's gray. But some things can't be put off any longer.

Especially the snowdrop bulbs I ordered 5 weeks ago 
but which didn't arrive until the eve of our first major snowstorm.

Copious rain on Thanksgiving has washed all the snow away,
so it's time to plant.

Ten tiny bulbs by the back door... Oscar's domain.

Oscar's looking a little scruffy: 
having a gall bladder and spleen-ectomy 
evidently requires much shaving of hairs.
Not just his underside; also a large spot on his back.
And three of his legs are somewhat denuded.
But the fur will grow back, and he doesn't seem to mind.

Next chore: the tying up of a transplanted volunteer evergreen,
which was standing up just fine until the big snow.

Now it's being assisted by my rain gauge holder, 
whose functional parts have been emptied
and retired to the garage for the winter.

Next: native seed assortment to please the local butterflies and bees...


...and to restore where I've removed honeysuckle shrubs, 

which I only recently learned are invasive.
They are Asian and have probably been edging this property for decades. 
And not only do they spread rapidly, but they crowd out natives - 
and their berries,
which the local birds like just fine, 
have no fat, so don't support the long trip south
for the migratory ones.

Already the bay magnolia is showing its buds.

And what's this?

The melted snow has unearthed a downed traffic sign.
Note to self - notify village public works.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Got snow?

Here's how they get rid of piles of snow
on Daley Plaza.

Under the watchful eyes
of the Picasso,

the snow is scooped...

and dropped into the handy bin...

 ...where it is melted under the supervision of city employees.
The water is sent into the storm sewer system.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Signage

On this beautiful first full day of spring...

...more opportunities to hang laundry 
(I think there were only 3 days over the winter
when my need to do laundry coincided with
dry and sunny weather)

Oscar is my helper.

Scilla emerges.

Scilla are the first sign of spring in my parents' yard.  
I remember loving them as a kid, 
and that enthusiasm hasn't left me.
But I miss my old garden with multiple harbingers of spring - 
Why didn't I think last fall to plant spring bulbs here?

The anise magnolia is still keeping its secrets to itself.

No sign yet of a bud ready to open
but there are promises of hundreds of blooms to come.

D'oh!  The first dandelion.

And invasive garlic mustard.

Note to self: remove that label from the banana peel!

The snow has finally melted,
so I can now set up a compost pile.

I learned recently that egg cartons, cereal boxes, 
and other paper products near the end of their useful recycling life 
can be added to the compost pile as a "brown" source 
if there are no autumn leaves available. 

During most of the twenty-seven years at my old house,
we had a compost pile.

I didn't realize how much it would gnaw away at me
to not have one once I moved in with my parents.

 One slightly comforting thing in the meantime 
has been getting food scrap collection
put in place at our Chicago office as of January.

It's requiring more education and continual feedback
with my work colleagues than I expected,
but it's worth doing to keep food waste out of landfill, 
which keeps our air cleaner by avoiding the production
of methane gas that results when food is buried in landfills.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Forcing spring

Magnolia salicifolia
Anise Magnolia

I've forced forsythia branches.

I've even dug up lily of the valley pips during a January thaw

But magnolia was an unknown.

While the snow continues to pile up,
warmth and water and several weeks of patience...

...reveal the unfurling of petals
of a cut branch of magnolia.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Valentine, remembered

The year of our courtship was 1988, 

before home emails, Skype, 
inexpensive international calling, text messaging, 
and all the rest of the advances in communications technology 
that today smooth the way for long distance romances.

We did have email at the global firm where we were employed 
(on different sides of the Atlantic), 
but it was cumbersome and, 
in Gerrit's case, was managed by his secretary.
Before we announced our engagement, 
our courtship was kept secret from our workmates and families.
So we developed a secret code when communicating by business email:
any use of a superlative meant "I love you."
His secretary would send the emails he composed:
"The meeting yesterday with the client was excellent."
And I and the other addressees on the email 
would know that it was an excellent meeting,
but only I would know that Gerrit loved me.

At the time, the Netherlands phone system was a monopoly, 
and the cost of a long distance phone call was about four times the price 
if he called me instead of me calling him. 
So if he wanted to talk, he called and we immediately hung up
so I could call him back.
This was also before the five cent a minute international calls,
so it was still a very expensive communications tool.
But oh so appreciated.

Letter writing comprised much of our correspondence; 
I'm grateful to be able to hold in my hand all the letters he wrote.

I wrote the post below in 2008, 
four years into Gerrit's diagnosis of vascular dementia
and four and a half years before he died.
I wouldn't wish him another minute of the very compromised life
he had been reduced to, but I miss him very much.


February 14, 2008
Ours was a long distance courtship.
We lived in different countries.
He wrote from wherever he was traveling.

Our phone bills were astronomical.

We wrote to each other a lot.

I looked forward to seeing her smiling face in my mailbox.

Included in the letters was G’s first attempt at a Valentine.
He was on a business trip to Portugal.

“No Valentines to be found anywhere over here,” he wrote.

“Personally I have no experience
with this piece of American culture.”

“I don’t know whether such cards should be
funny or romantic or what?”

“I hope that you will forgive me sending you
most probably
the most misplaced Valentine card ever,
but remember it comes straight from my heart.”

How could I resist?