April List

April 28, 2013

For Consuming: Coffee Portraits
For Prepping: Camping with Kids
For Returning: 36 Hours in Taipei, Taiwan
For Watching: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
For Creating: Picasso Head
For Foraging: Falling Fruit
For Listening: Jherek Bischoff 
For Traveling: Roadside America
For Reading: My Favorite New Book Title and This Interview
For Growing: Miss Rumphius' Rules

Operation Lilac

April 27, 2013

Last week we realized that we had a lovely old lilac tree in our side yard. This is one of the fun parts about moving every few years: the thrill of garden discoveries. I love carefully watching the new-to-us garden unfold with each season....bulbs planted by previous families pop up in unexpected spots, perennials spring back to life, and previously bare trees burst into colorful bloom. 

Since we've never lived any where with a lilac tree before, it was an especially delightful and fragrant surprise. Sadly, that surprise turned into distress when half of the tree toppled over during a recent stormy night. Camille and I quickly moved into action. Snipping blooms, gathering jars, and making arrangements to share with neighbors. It turns out that salvaging a lilac tree can actually be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. We just hope the rest of the tree will continue to be strong and healthy for many more springs to come. 

P.S. Don't you wish computer screens had a scratch-and-sniff component like those stickers I obsessively collected in fourth grade?


April 25, 2013

We all miss the hammock.

Smith Beach, Virginia
March 2013


April 23, 2013

St. Martinville Cemetary 

The trip home was a crazy, whirlwind of a trip, but I am so glad I went. This may seem strange, but I want to share my grandfather's obituary.  My Aunt Carol wrote it with input from other family members and I really love it. It is a wonderful tribute to a very unique and memorable man in our lives. I have purposely omitted names for privacy reasons. 

Octave Otto G., Jr.
April 9, 1923 to April 18, 2013
            Octave Otto G., Jr. “Gutie”, died Thursday at his home in St. Martinville, surrounded by his family.  Gutie was born in St. Martinville, youngest child of Octave and Josephine.  He was preceded in death by his wife; his parents; his siblings; one son-in-law; and a favorite niece.  
 Although a worldly man, Gutie died in his home a mere block from the front bedroom of his mother’s home, where he was born 90 years ago.  His life in between these events was full of uncommon adventures and calculated risk-taking.  Gutie graduated from SLI in electrical and chemical engineering, and served during WWII in the Pacific Theater.  Following the war, he spent most of his working life in the sugar industry in Dominican Republic and Haiti, with intermediate jobs as manager of the Breaux Bridge Sugar Co-op and the Levert St. John Sugar Mill.  He retired as General Manager and CEO of Haitian American Sugar Company outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
            Gutie contributed to his community through various civic organizations such as: Rotary, Lion’s Club, Kiwanis, St. Martin Recycling, Civitan, AARP, American Sugar Association, St. Martin Parish Book Talk, and Farm Bureau Board.  He helped farmers complete applications for farm relief, he volunteered at Breaux Bridge Senior High, he gave to any charity that asked and some that didn’t.  He recycled, replanted, repaired and re-gifted.  No tree was too small to keep, no service too big to provide.
            Gutie and Scottie raised their nine children by example to be kind, to be fair, and to think for themselves.  His Catholic faith was strong and constant; his expressed hoped was that his children find their own strong faith in God.  He imparted his love and knowledge of chess, cards, tennis, and golf to his children, and showed them how to fix appliances, cars, pipes, and electrical connections.  He instilled in them his adventurous spirit: over mountains, out to dams, through artichoke fields, to beaches replete with spiny sea urchins, stingrays and strong tides.  He provided books, horses, dogs, cats, music, bicycles, laughter, and more books.  He disciplined with a snap of his fingers and a “Did you hear your mother?”  His rendition of “And the Tears Flowed Like Wine” healed many a skinned knee and broken heart.  Family stories of Gutie’s outlandish clothing and outrageous chance-taking will long be told.  If he said he was doing “Poorly”, you knew he was doing just fine.
            He is survived by his nine children; their spouses; and his nieces.  He is fondly remembered by 17 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.  The family is grateful for the assistance of St. Joseph Hospice and A First Name Basis.  Our gratitude is extended to Daddy’s sitters and his nurse, especially B, N, and C.  Family requests, in lieu of flowers, books to your favorite library.
            As Gutie would have said, “That’s all she wrote!”

Wild Violets

April 18, 2013

I didn't know until this week that my mother carried a bunch of violets as her wedding bouquet. Or maybe I had forgotten and tucked that piece of knowledge into the old sky-blue Samsonite suitcase with its hard shell and tufted interior.  But when the wild violets suddenly sprang up all over our yard , I knew that my mother would be thrilled. And she was. She arrived for a visit earlier this week.

I also knew that my grandfather, my Mama's Daddy, would have liked those violets. He was a man who loved a wild yard and I loved that about him. 

My mother and I are now headed back to Louisiana. My Grandpa passed away this morning. The morning of my 40th birthday. Life and death and wild violets all somehow intertwined.

Recycled Words

April 15, 2013

In addition to house construction, this past weekend was also about working in the yard. Lots of weeding, garden bed prep, and mulching. It really does feel so good to end the day with dirty fingernails!

Here's how I prep our beds.

Similar to our lasagna style garden in Sicily (but with fewer layers), I take our huge stack of accumulated newspapers and use them to blanket the beds before adding top soil, compost, and mulch on top. It creates a biodegradable weed barrier that really does help to keep the weeds at bay, while also composting down to make richer beds. And here's a thought that makes me smile: worms ingesting the New York Times and Washington Post. Not only will our worms be well fed, they will also be well-read.

Weekend House

April 14, 2013

Easy to assemble, eco-friendly, modular, affordable, and unique. The perfect weekend home! Building supplies include: a big pile of sheets, a handful of clips, a wooden swing, and two little girls with a desire to hide from their big brothers and the rest of the world. 

P.S. Don't tell them, but I snuck in a few times while they were out.

Imagine Downtown

April 13, 2013

If you happen to be in South Louisiana tonight, be sure to check out the winning designs for the Imagine Downtown competition being held at the Acadiana Center for the Arts. I am very proud of my sister for helping to make this whole thing happen. Viva Lafayette! and Happy Birthday, Emee! You can follow what's happening here.


April 12, 2013

There were thunderstorms last night and now the gaze shifts from up to down. Surfaces are coated in petals. It's like the morning after Mardi Gras or Carnivale. Pink and white confetti declare the end of the bloom and suddenly green begins to emerge. I just wish it could have lasted a bit longer. 

Kenwood Neigborhood
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Poetic Construction

April 11, 2013

I announced to Adam yesterday that Billy Collins is my favorite poet this year and perhaps for several more years to come. There's nothing fancy or confounding about his poems. They are simple and pleasing to read and yet they linger, surprisingly more solid than they originally seemed. All of those carefully selected words hammered together to build sturdy,sharp images that adhere themselves to interior of my mind. How does he do that?

He makes me want to write, and read, and write, and read some more.

Cherry Blossoms at The Tidal Basin

April 10, 2013

 Exactly a week ago I bundled up and headed down to the tidal basin to hear a National Park Service talk about the history of the DC Cherry Blossoms. The talk was interesting, the story's ups and downs was fascinating, but the lack of blooms was disappointing. I ended up hanging around for a tour of the Jefferson Memorial which I wrote about here. I promised myself that I would return when the blossoms eventually made their appearance, but to be honest it was starting to feel like it would never happen.

It turns out that a lot can happen in a week. Nearly overnight winter morphed into summer, jackets were replaced with flip flops, weather records were set, and the cherry blossoms burst onto stage.

I wasn't the only one who had been eagerly awaiting their arrival. There were plenty of tour groups,  a plethora of photographers, and pockets of impromptu picnics which led me to alternate between cherry bliss and grumpy annoyance about sharing this experience with so many others. I am glad I made the spontaneous decision to head down there early this morning and not to attempt it later in the day or on the weekends when the festival events are happening. 

My favorite spot for sakura viewing was near the Martin Luther King Memorial. The older trees with their gnarled branches form a pink canopy that would occasionally shift with a breeze and send petals raining down like shooting stars...a magical reminder to savor the moment even if it is done with hundreds of strangers who have also been lured out of their normal routines to see these flowering gifts from Japan.


April 6, 2013

Sweden, August 2011

Thirteen years since we got married. Eighteen years since we met. I wish I still had the duck boots I was wearing on the night I met him. Happy Anniversary to us.

A Sandy Slate

April 4, 2013

It's always fun to see what will emerge from the sand. Noah found a huge stick for drawing. Camille just used her hands. Adam combined both of their methods. And I hunted and gathered from the shoreline. I love how each of our creations were our very own.

Kiptopeke State Park, 
Cape Charles, Virginia

Jelly Garden

April 3, 2013

Another benefit of low tide: a surprising display of pretty jellies. They remind me of flowers, flowers that might be found in a watery version of Oz. I think they are actually Lion's Mane jelly fish. This great book about Chesapeake wildlife reports that the most common jellies in the winter and early spring months are the Lion's Mane. Can anyone out there confirm that identification? 

Speaking of flowery and seasonal things, the cherry blossoms are in bloom. A bit delayed due to the lingering winter temps, but still here. I am hoping to make it down to the Tidal Basin to see them in their full glory. It's something I have always wanted to experience, especially after loving sakura season in Japan.

Low Tide at Smith Beach

April 1, 2013

Chilly day. Low tide. Sun and clouds race against each other. Receding waters reveal secret sand bars. And it all seems to be about the lines: the stark silhouettes of shoreline trees, the sandy diagonal ridges, and the horizon silently, solidly holding everything in its place. 

Smith Beach on The Eastern Shore of Virginia

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