Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Way Too Long

It has been way too long since my last blog post, posted last September. I could say it is because I was on vacation, which I was. Or I could say it was because I have been busy, which I have been. But the truth is that I haven't written because the overriding event in our house is that our fox terrier, Cocoa, has a terminal illness. Cocoa has lymphoma and she is getting weaker and weaker each day.

At first, I couldn't write about it at all. I could barely take it in that we would be losing her after having her for only five years (she is ten years old; we got her when she was five). I can barely write about it now. For those of you who are pet owners and pet lovers, I know you understand the heart-wrenching emotions that accompany care-giving, whether for a person or for an animal with a lingering illness. 

Cocoa is currently on Prednisone. While this medication is great in many respects, it also causes changes that are not easy. She has her days and nights mixed up so she sleeps during the day and keeps us awake at night. We are taking turns with her, just like we did with my dad when he was terminally ill and living here with us. She needs to eat more frequently; needs to relieve herself more frequently; needs more reassurance. She is having trouble swallowing so we give her only soft foods.

However, she is still happy a lot of the time, wagging her tail for petting, scrambled eggs, and the possibility of soft cheese. She waits patiently for dinner to be concluded so she can lick the plates. Yes, I know it's not sanitary but a good run through the dishwasher with boiling water takes care of it. Cocoa was able to go with us to the mountains and to enjoy the first run with our new fifth wheel. She is still the alpha dog even though we now also have little Sibyl, a six year old Norwich Terrier. 

We are trying to make her last days as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. I'll keep you updated. Right now, she is asleep on her favorite chair waiting for the daily breakfast routine.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Second Personal Altar For Meditation Corner

My newest box, "My Daily Path", a personal altar box for a meditation corner.

My Newest Bit Of Artistic Interest

For my birthday, I bought myself this crucifix just because I liked it. I think it's interesting, colorful, and folksy. It really reminds me of folk art and I am very drawn to religious folk art. That started it all. This cross, of course, came from a thrift store. 

This week, while scouting around, I found another piece that I could not leave behind because it was so quirky. This little home holy water basin is from Italy. I think this is one of the most interesting things I've seen in a while. I imagine that it was placed right inside the door of someone's home so that those entering the house could bless themselves prior to entering. 

So I guess I've started myself a religious folk art collection. These items are on the wall in my studio and I will keep my eyes open for more. 

Not to be outdone however, I decided to work on a little religious folk art of my own. I've been inspired to take old wooden boxes, decorate the inside, and create Personal Wooden Altar Boxes. 

This is the first one I've done and am working on a second. Will post when it is ready. I have often had a personal altar in my home where I collect meaningful objects that inspire me. I hope these boxes can do the same for someone else. Watch for these on Etsy sometime soon. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday News

Well, here it is Monday again and it has been a somewhat busy day. 

1. Had someone out to fix the sliding glass door that I simply could not open. It was off the track. Happy now it works. 
2.  Sent texts to both the teenage grandchildren for their first day of school. 
3.  Made a batch of chick pea and roasted tomato soup. So easy. Put everything in the VitaMix, blend, and there you go!!
4. Called someone to come fix the broken gate. Always something when you have a house. 
5. Cleaned out the refrigerator.
6. Did some trimming in the garden. Way too hot, but had to be done. 
7. Washed a load of laundry and hung it on the clothesline. Yes, I still use a clothesline. I told you I was old. 
8. Thought a lot about my Homies who are all starting another school year. It's always weird for me when I'm not involved but I love not being involved. I can support them from afar. 
9. Ordered a Spoonk. What, you don't know what that is?? My daughter, Shannon, tells me it is a wonderful new product that stimulates all of one's accupuncture points as you lay on it. Kind of like lying down on a bed of nails. I'll let you know once I try it.  Dr. Oz highly recommends. 
10. It's noon now and Cocoa's little wristwatch is going off. Time to go feed the dog!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Do I Say The Same Thing Every Year?

I decided to look back at my past blogs to be sure I'm not saying the same things I said one or two years ago. I seem to post a lot of pictures of my garden in its various stages. However, the one thing I really liked about my blogging last year was that I posted about my daily accomplishments. On those days when I think I do absolutely nothing, I can re-read the posts and know that isn't true. I don't know why that matters, but it does. I hear my mother's voice in my head, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop, Shirley." Lordy, no idle hands for me. 

So for today:
1. Met for two hours with Sheila to discuss my new part-time employment, the implementation of electronic medical records 
2.  Mailed two Etsy sales
3.  Created and ate a beautiful salad of greens, tomato, avocado, roasted chick peas, and grilled chicken.
4.  Washed that down with a Jamaican Ginger Brew, a non alcoholic juicy, gingery, fizzy drink that is very yummy and tickles your nose when you drink it.
5.  Grocery shopped
6.  Prepared eight additional Etsy sales
7.  Am thinking about reading a little. Currently reading The Blind Assassin. 
8.   That's it for now but it isn't even two o'clock.

The Garden In August

 The garden is probably at its finest right about now. The standard plantings that survive the brutal heat and daily rain are thriving and everything else has gone by. That's ok because I know I can depend on these beauties to come back year after year. Once the first hard freeze comes, all of these girls will be cut to the ground and will appear to be dead as a doornail. Not true! Come spring, there they come a little at a time until they are glorious and sweet and most attractive to the hummingbirds and butterflies.
My twenty bales of pine straw have been spread onto the paths and in about another week, I'll pull up all the old bean plants and toss them into the compost. My one solitary pepper plant is still producing so it will remain until it gets tired and lazy.

Yesterday morning, very early, I noticed that the clouds were very high in the sky---a foretaste of fall. There was a slight change in the light, something my daughter LeeAnn and I look for each year as a predictor of relief from this brutal heat. The weatherman was talking about a front bringing drier air.....soon but not quite yet. On the first fall day, the first REALLY fall day, I will call LeeAnn and we will reminisce that when she was very young, she and I would go to the park and gather pinecones on the first fall day of each year. And we would open all the windows in the house and let the air blow all around us.

School begins today for many in the surrounding counties. Teachers return to work today in this county. Once school starts I know that summer's days are numbered. So even though I complain about the heat and perspire profusely at the slightest outdoor chore, I will enjoy the blooms and the birds and the daily rain showers. Yes, and even the weeding and the trimming, all the while looking forward to those high clouds, drier air, and cooler temps around the corner.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Freedom Rider

Those of you who are my Facebook friends have already seen this beauty but for everyone else, I just need to post a picture of this Princess again. This is my new truck. I have been considering this purchase for over a year and, after much thought and calculating, I decided to go for it. My eleven year old truck was fine for the chores on the farm but this baby was necessary because it will be pulling a new fifth wheel RV behind it. We have been traveling with a very tiny travel trailer which proved way too small for two humans and one dog to inhabit. I never realized how a small space would constrict and restrict my thinking processes but found out last fall on our two month trip. Some days, I would forget to brush my teeth and comb my hair because I was too busy just being on survival mode in the cramped space. 

Small travel trailers are ok for those folks who are accustomed to tent camping or camping in a pop-up trailer. But I guess I am spoiled or maybe my old body just needs more room to unfold and move about. And I need a comfortable chair to sit in at the end of a long travel day. And a decent little kitchen because I cook when we're on the road. 

We haven't picked up our fifth wheel yet because it had to be ordered. We didn't want a fireplace (yes, they come with fireplaces but we felt that was excessive) so ours has to be made with storage instead.  However, this purchase is about much more than just camping in style. I decided that I need to really "seize the day" and quite postponing living in the moment. I have spent a lot of time living in fear of my financial future and sacrificing the present as a result. I believe that I am a good steward of my resources. I also want to be a good steward of my time. Because time is the only thing you cannot buy. And I don't want the hourglass of my life to run out while the health of my bank account laughs mockingly by.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Shoe Shine Box

This morning, I happened upon a blog about men who shine their shoes. Now, that's a retro idea, isn't it? I haven't thought about shoe shining and my daddy's shoe shine box for years. But since it's so close to Father's Day and because I've been thinking a lot about my daddy, I want to pay tribute to him and his shoes.

When I was growing up, my father had about twenty pairs of shoes. He was a businessman and dressed in a suit everyday to go to work so probably thought that he needed a different pair of shoes for nearly each day of the month. He had shoes in many colors (he was part Cuban, after all) but my favorite were the lizard and alligator shoes in browns and blacks. My dad would line up all of his shoes  in the floor of the closet like little soldiers standing at attention and there they would remain until he selected the pair that was lucky enough to be worn for that day.

I had a very close relationship with my daddy's shoes because it was my job twice a year to take all of the shoes out of the closet and place them in the sun. We didn't have air conditioning so the shoes would get a thin coat of mildew on them. My mother would instruct me to take each pair of shoes outside, place them on the sidewalk in the sun, and gently wipe off the mildew with a cloth. We would do this twice a year when my mother did what she called "general housecleaning". That's how important these shoes were. 

My father was what you would call a "snazzy" dresser. In Spanish, we say he was a "Tipo", meaning that he was always "just so" when it came to his attire. That certainly included his shoes. Polishing his shoes was quite a ritual. He had a wooden shoe-shine box that lived on the floor of his closet right beside his rows of shoes. In that box, he kept little round tins of shoe polish in black, brown, neutral, and cordovan. In that box, he also kept his shoe-shine brush and a buffing cloth that had become smooth from use over the years. Daddy would smear a little polish on the toe of each shoe, rub it in really well, and continue this process until the entire shoe was covered in polish. He would then take the shoe-shine brush and brush the polish in again while removing the excess.  He would then put the shoe on his foot, rest his foot across the opposite knee, and buff with the buffing cloth until the shoe shone like a mirror. And he did this until he was satisfied that his shoes were ready for prime time.

Back then, one could get a shoe-shine along the street in Ybor City, in the lobby of the large bank building in downtown Tampa, at the train station, and in various other locations throughout town. The black men who were the shoe shiners set up their tall chairs almost any place that had good foot traffic and made themselves available for a quick but thorough shoe-shining. While shining shoes, these men would discuss the latest baseball game, the latest political news, and the latest shooting on the corner (this was Tampa, after all). It was such a simple thing, getting one's shoes shined. One more thing that has passed into obscurity.

I wonder if men still shine their shoes. Or if they have a shoe shine box with a shoe shining ritual to accompany it. My daughter Shannon is the keeper of Daddy's shoe-shine box. She made sure to retrieve it before we emptied out his house and has it stored in a box of things too precious to discard. I would just like to preserve the smell of it; the wax, the wood, the mustiness of the polishing cloth, the scent of the brush bristles.

Even at 96, when my dad was very ill and in a wheelchair, he refused to be taken to the car for a doctor's appointment until I changed his shoes so his outfit would "match". Even when he was in his last week of life, he insisted on having his pajama shirt changed so that it would match the pajama bottoms he had on.  Yes, he was a Tipo. And will always remain so. And his shoe-shine box will remain as a tribute to past times, Cuban fastidiousness, and excellent fashion sense. What a guy!!

Monday, May 28, 2012


I can't believe that it's finally raining. We've been watching the development of the newest and latest hurricane, Hurricane Beryl (what kind of a name is that, anyway?) in the event that we might actually get rain. The storm is coming nowhere near Ocala but maybe, just maybe, the outer bands will drop a little moisture our way. 

The garden tolerates watering by artificial means but there is nothing like real rain to make it thrive. And the birds......Right now, it is raining a slow drizzle and the birds are having a ball flying from tree to tree just to get a little wet. This is their favorite kind of day; cloudy, breezy, and drizzly.  

It is a perfect day for humans too, especially since it is a holiday and there is no real reason to go out for anything. I don't like to venture out on rainy days. I never have. I thought I was weird until I went to Cuba and discovered that the Cubans don't go out in the rain at all if they can help it. I felt very vindicated by that fact since I am part Cuban. Now I know where I get it. So today, I will be indoors enjoying the rain from my cozy little chair. Ok, well, maybe on the porch. But that's it. I'm not getting wet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meet Harry Potter

You know how in the Harry Potter books, Harry is known as the
"boy who would not die"? Well, meet Harry Potter, the Christmas cactus who would not die. 

I have owned this cactus for about the last ten years. It moved here with me from Brandon, so I have nurtured it along marveling at its beautiful blooms from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Last fall, I took a two month vacation and forgot to tell the house sitter that the cactus needed to be watered.  So, upon my return, the cactus was dead. I turned it upside down, out of its pot, and threw it in the green garbage that goes to the yard waste pick up. That was last November.

I don't take yard waste to the "yard waste place" until I have several cans filled with brush. And so, in February, I decided that, yes, it was time to take brush to the pick up site. I opened the can containing the cactus corpse and, lo and behold, the sucker was alive. Not only was it alive, it had new growth on it. Must have loved the hot, moist environment in the garbage can. So I re-potted my cactus, watered it well, and gave it a Coca Cola, classic not diet. (That's the secret ingredient my hairdresser uses for questionable plants).

I christened my cactus, Harry Potter, the cactus that would not die. Voldemort is nowhere around and neither are Hermoine or Ron. But the cactus is thriving and lives on. And I think I've seen a silver stag around here too.

Chores and Nothing But Chores

There's a lot to do out here all the time. But spring and summer bring a plethora of chores. It's just the season that keeps on giving. First, the gate light needed changing because it was dark as pitch out there last night.

 Then, I noticed that the snowball crepe myrtle was starting to bloom and that certainly was worthy of a comment or two. I talk to my plants all the time, letting them know when they are doing a "good job".  So the crepe myrtle received many compliments this morning.
 And, of course, since the birds are nesting and fledging, the feeders always need filling.
 The new bean plants are full of blooms and should be setting beans very soon.
 Here is the little salad section; the lettuce and the tomatoes with the eggplant trying to catch up.
 The dwarf sunflowers are finally beginning to bloom. Plants get three chances in my yard and then, they hit the compost pile. I think the word is getting around.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tablecloth Heaven

I found these beautiful vintage tablecloths at a yard sale Saturday. A bunch of guys had cleaned out someone's barn (lots of that around here) and were selling everything dirt cheap. These babies transport me back to my childhood really fast because my mother always had a cloth on the table, no matter what meal we were eating.

I plan to list these in my Etsy shop but for now, I will enjoy the memories they evoke.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Studio Is Ready; A Tour

My studio if finally finished and yesterday, we completed the "decorating". Well, at least until I think of something else. The studio is mainly two colors, lime green and light, soft orange. This view is the "gardening" side of the studio because all of the space was originally dedicated to gardening and I still need some storage for my tools and fertilizers.
This view begins the "studio" side where you can see the wooden art table my granddaughters use when they are with me and the great mid-century chair I found at the thrift.
From here, you can see Chickee-Lala, my green dress form. She was named by my daughter LeeAnn the moment she saw her. I use her for display. Right now, she is wearing hanging crystals to reflect the light. I have quite a bit of storage and have purchased small, galvanized garbage cans with lids to store paper. Otherwise, the little varmints might confuse art material for nesting material. In addition, I purchased large cookie cans with lids from the thrift (25 cents) and painted them white with colored lids. These are used for storage, as well.
This is the view with the two windows that let in glorious morning and afternoon light. You can see the Tabouret, a multi-colored storage piece with a myriad of drawers. I love this unit and it contains all of my glues, pens, scissors, ets. The green wicker chair is where I sit to think. The tall black stool is where I sit to work.
Yesterday, we installed the mirror tiles and the chandelier. The tiles reflect the light back and forth from one side to the other. Fabulous!! The iron chandelier was a gift from a friend many years ago, was used outside for several years, and now has found new life in my studio. I am now ready to begin creating. Actually, I have a mosaic piece in process that needs to be completed. After that, I have about a zillion ideas I want to work on.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Little Bit of Art

This is a grid drawing that we worked on in Art Group this week. One works from a grid on a photograph that mimics a grid on the watercolor paper. As you can see, I need to work on both the drawing part and the watercolor part. However, it was great fun.
This is called a Zentangle. A Zentangle is a small drawing done on a 3x5 paper in black and white ink. It is a free form "Zen-like" drawing that one can get lost in. I love doing these because they match my abstract random personality with a little bit of need for order.

These are great fun to do and can be done anywhere because all that is needed is paper, a pen, and a little imagination.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fun Things For Today

Knock-out rose blooming in the backyard.
Crepe Myrtle getting it's new leaves.
Volunteer patch of Spiderwort.
Honeysuckle in full bloom on the white pergola.
A very full jar of bottle caps awaiting a new project!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Little More Than I Planned For

Well, the shed/studio project has gotten a little bigger than I planned for. I have heeded the advice of two special people and have decided to have the shed insulated so that I am not heating and cooling the out of doors. That means it will take a little longer than if I just slapped some paint on the studs and hung a bunch of stuff all around.

However, I am having a wonderful time anticipating having a space of my own in which to create or to just sit and read or just to sit and think. I will certainly post pictures when the work begins and along the way to document the progress.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Blank Slate

My project for spring is to convert part of my garden shed into a studio for myself. I find that I need a space "all my own" in which to create, be alone, and dream. I have a wonderful shed that I have used for gardening purposes for the past ten years. But now, the gardening part of me will just have to share with the artist part of me.

I have begun clearing out the half of the shed that I will use for a studio. I selected the side with the two windows so that I will have natural light. I am also having electricity put into the shed so that I can operate a light, a small, air conditioner (after all, this is Florida), and a small heater in the cold months. This post is the first in the series of transformation. I am collecting paint samples but before I paint with a snazzy color, I have to paint with primer in order to cover the unfinished boards. I am extremely excited about this project but have to balance it with planting the vegetable garden and getting the yard ready for spring. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Strange Country Stuff

Let's hear it for the tomato plants. I paid one dollar each at the Farmer's Market just to experiment because I never have luck with tomatoes. And here they are, turning red and looking pretty decent. Of course, I have brought them in and taken them out and brought them in and taken them out on the really frosty nights. And who knew that if you hang red cloth on the cages, the tomatoes remember that they are supposed to turn red!
I really hate frogs. However, this guy was pretty cute sitting on the edge of the birdbath and I thought he looked like a competitive swimmer ready to take off into a backstroke from the edge of a pool.
I think he might be channeling Greg Luganis or Michael Phelps.
And then, there's the red bud tree. It obviously does not realize that it is still winter and is beginning to bloom in great profusion. The weather is weird this year. Good thing we had some winter on our trip or we would have had no winter at all.
You know what comes next, right? The appearance of the hummers. Yeah, boy!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Rosemary Branch

Here is what remains of the rosemary plant I brought to Ocala from Brandon. I planted this plant when I first began gardening in the backyard of our Brandon home. It grew unfettered into a very nice size plant and when I moved to Ocala, I dug it up and brought it with me. I made the mistake of transplanting rosemary to a spot right by the house next to the back steps.

There she grew, doing very well, until our gopher tortoise decided to make a den right next to her. It was at that point that I decided to dig rosemary up and put her in a large pot. Well, she didn't like that very much; in fact, she didn't like that at all!! And so, this summer, she croaked. However, when I was pulling her up by the roots, I noticed what a lovely shape her final branches took. The wood is very gnarly, she shows signs of her age while, at the same time, making a statement of the fine life she has lived. I keep her in a red bowl now on the coffee table in the living room. Rest in "piece" Rosemary.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Meditation And The Downward Dog

This is our meditation bench. How can you meditate on a bench, you might ask? Well, we don't actually meditate on the bench, although it is so beautiful, that we could. Instead, we select a special object each day, place it on the bench, and begin our meditation.

This is a very special bench because it belonged to my mother and father and was purchased in 1960
for the family room in our newly built home. My father loved this bench and when I was deciding what to keep from the family home, this bench definitely made the cut.

We are teaching Cocoa to meditate with us. The other alternative is to put her in a crate because she dances all around us and distracts us from our meditation. So, we have her sit in her "place", reward her with cookies reserved only for meditation purposes, and all three of us meditate. Today, we sat for four minutes. Isn't it amazing the things you have time for when you're retired?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Cedar Tree Hotel

This is the cedar tree in my backyard that we call The Cedar Tree Hotel. We have given it this name because all of the birds use it as a hotel during the winter months. This is a very large tree with thick, sturdy branches that can house hundreds of birds. When we stick our heads inside, we can often see the remains of nests from the spring. When I take the dog out on cold, winter days, I sit on the back stoop. That's when I see all the comings and goings of the aviary population in the Cedar Tree Hotel. There's one mockingbird who spends equal amounts of time in the cedar tree and in the honeysuckle. I think he is scouting for a nesting place for spring.

There is a family of cardinals, goldfinches that are too many to number, chickadees, and titmice. I never tire of hearing them first and seeing them later on, as they are a great source of entertainment for me. Our Eastern bluebird families flit back and forth but not into the cedar tree. They stay high in the oaks and pines, flying down only to stake out their birdhouses for future nesting endeavors.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Contemplating Our New Year's Resolutions

Here I sit, contemplating our New Year's resolutions. I always sit with my little paws crossed when I am in deep thought. My moms think I'm just about the cutest thing they've ever seen. They have made resolutions to meditate and walk everyday and to engage in an artistic pursuit at least once per week.

I am not of artistic leanings so I have decided to meditate while my moms are eating their breakfast. I, of course, will be meditating on the cheese that I get after everyone is finished.

I could walk everyday and I guess I already do, so that takes care of that. I guess I will add an extra few minutes of sleep to my morning; spend more time in nature; and notice more squirrels when I am in the out-of-doors. I only bark when I see squirrels so that will give my voice some exercise. I could resolve to pay more attention to the TV in the evening instead of snoring in the chair but that would not suit my need for a lot of extra rest. It's a dog's life here in the country. Can't you tell?