Humble Gratitude

 


November is the traditional month for expressing gratitude and thankfulness. Many may be grateful for luxuries such as an expensive vacation, the latest fashion in clothing, or sparkly jewelry. I often remind myself to be grateful for simple things such as a warm house, good food, and having enough. A humble gratitude.

Sure, housework is a daily chore, but I’m grateful I have a house to
clean and don’t lack the energy to do it. My washer and dryer are small enough to necessitate daily laundry, but I'm grateful I don’t have to go to a laundromat. Tending the garden takes time, but I’m able to grow fruits and vegetables to supplement our weekly groceries. 

 

And when I’m ready to relax for the day, I have my furry friend to curl up with. I’m grateful I can afford vet bills.





https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/ 

 

I looked into what others consider humble gratitude and found most references were rooted in religion. Psychology also offers great insight and definition. This image was especially helpful in describing many aspects of simple gratitude.






This beautiful image I recently saw on Facebook depicts humble gratitude. Appreciating the seemingly small things like those mentioned above bring us joy when they are not overlooked.


 





thegoalchaser.com
There are many sites with gratitude quotes, but I confess I most enjoyed the humorous ones.  My favorite is from an unknown author. I’m grateful I have at least a small sense of humor.

 If you’d like to practice humble gratitude, the site Master Your Mind can get you started with three simple steps:
1. Acknowledge what you have
2. Express thanks
3. Take action by volunteering, donating to charity, or doing something nice for someone

So this month when we focus on gratefulness, we should remember not to overlook things that are often taken for granted.

AI Art depicting humble gratitude created with DALL-E



Digging in the Wrong Country


 

The Scotsman

Scottish Highlands
My recent enjoyment of dual timeline novels has involved two stories set in Scotland, a place I'd never given much thought to. Until now. Were I to consider travel again, the lush forests, high
mountains, and especially, castle ruins in Scotland are high on my list of places to visit.

This new fascination with early and medieval castles led me to search for YouTube videos of Scottish archaeology and castles. I also found a trove of archaeological videos produced by Britain’s Time Team. Oh, the finds waiting in the dirt! Time Team videos highlight relics from the iron age up to the 18th century. Imagine the excitement of such treasures and putting hard evidence together with written documents. I certainly can!

The Grouville (Jersey) Hoard.
There have been many stories of incredible archaeological finds by amateur metal detectorists as well. This hoard, for example, of more than 69,000 Iron Age and Roman coins found in the UK.


 

And even more impressive are the Sutton Hoo finds, also found in the UK, which consist of more than coins and jewelry. Below is a 6th - 7th century iron sword found there.

British Museum

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As a child I loved looking for fossils. So much so that recess often found me scraping through the dirt on a steep slope at my elementary school. I had success too. Though, my finds consisted only of tiny fossils like these crinoids. Not as impressive as Roman relics. 😏


No matter where I dig in the US, it's highly unlikely I'll ever come across a Roman coin. Though I'm searching in the wrong country if I long to uncover such exciting finds, perhaps one day I'll have the chance to visit magnificent ruins.


A Fair Month

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonFaire/

It wasn’t the weather, though that was pleasant, and we were even blessed with some rain to help clear the wild fire smoke. Rather, in three weeks we attended three fairs!

The first fair was the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire. I’d never been to this faire but was looking for something my husband might enjoy. The line for parking was terrible and I said I’d rather forget it if we had to wait an hour. Thank goodness just 45 minutes later we were parked and getting our first sight of knights, fair maidens, and fairy creatures.
 

https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonFaire
I had the best time. Ren Faire is now my favorite fair and we
will be back next year. Seeing all the period costumes inspired me to look for clothing appropriate for an herbalist of the time. I want to join in the fun rather than just be a spectator.


The mead (honey wine) tent offered half a dozen varieties and I enjoyed the traditional mead we shared. We brought home two flavors of sarsaparilla, and for lunch we enjoyed a meat pie (with every bite I pushed Sweeney Todd out of my mind 😬), and Scotch eggs.

Amidst the many vendor tents, shows, and events, these were all the nicest people I've ever met. Everyone was so happy to live in a different time, if just for the weekend.

Two weeks later we were off to the Evergreen State Fair. Unfortunately, this fair has diminished greatly since Covid. But we did run across this fancy creature I’ve dubbed Llama Hood. He even had a bow and arrow strapped to his side.

 

My husband had never been to the Puyallup Fair, now known as the Washington State Fair, and really wanted to attend. So, another week later, we drove an hour to a much bigger fair than the Evergreen State Fair. The first creature we ran into was Cameron, the camel I rode. A camel ride is very rocky, so it's easy to understand one might suffer motion sickness.


Both state fairs are known for the Fisher scones, and I admit, I got sconed. πŸ˜„ I love the fair scones served with a generous portion of raspberry jam.
 

 

 

 

While I eagerly await the fairs next year I will be researching medieval history, customs, and clothing so I can do better than "Can ye tell me where the olde restrooms be found?" (Happily, those were modern.)



 

 

 

Time Split

 

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Some of us would love to see the future. Others want to know the past. I’m in the latter group, fascinated by how people lived in ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and as they settled the United States.

Through this fascination I stumbled upon what is now my favorite kind of book: the time split or dual timeline. This type of story is in the point of view of a present day protagonist, and alternates with glimpses into the past.
Chapters alternate between present day questions and historical clues. Both reader and characters discover how the past shaped the present. 


Thames

My absolute favorite time split book is The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner. The present day story begins with mudlarking in the Thames where the protagonist discovers a small blue bottle lodged in the muck.

 

As the story alternates between past and present, the protagonist researches in the Bodleian and learns the history behind the blue bottle. It’s a wonderful blend of how finding the lost apothecary leads the protagonist to find her own truth. Pouring through archives, old diaries, and city records sounds romantic to me. πŸ’“

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I grew up in the country and one of my fondest memories is coming across an old cabin in the woods. Digging through the remains, I found silverware, broken jars, and a child’s tiny tea set. I wanted to know who lived here, what were their lives like, where did they go? It was only as an adult that I would learn how to research county records, genealogy, and newspapers as far back as a town had preserved them.


This memory led to a story I wrote last year, but only in the present time. As I learn more about writing the time split genre, the story will be revised to include chapters set the past. I'm excited to create a history for my old cabin and weave its story into my protagonist's present life. Who knows what she and I will dig up?

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R&R

Leavenworth, WA

While it wasn't exactly rest and relaxation, our vacation at the end of June was restorative. We hiked, shopped and ate in downtown Leavenworth, WA (a Bavarian village), hiked again, and rode the Tumwater Twister.

Our first hike was in the Peshastin Pinnacles. Even early in the morning this was a very warm hike as the pinnacles are on the arid side of the Wenatchee river. We spotted a couple of lizards and a mink, and mountain goat tracks.The Pinnacles gave us a great view of the orchards below that are irrigated by the Wenatchee river. 

 

As we hiked, I was intrigued by the wide variety of vegetation we saw. All of it was new to me though, I recognized many of the plant names we learned with a plant ID app: pineapple weed, fleabane, toadflax, broadleaf arrowhead, and yarrow.

https://alutiiqmuseum.org/collection/index.php/Detail/word/390
Source
I’ve always heard that pineapple weed is a common backyard weed, but it’s not in my backyard. Its fragrance is a cross between pineapple and chamomile, and it's supposed to make a good tea so I plan to try growing it next year.

 

Our next hike was much cooler as it was along the Wenatchee river and under forest canopy. The trail is an old pipeline that provided water to a powerhouse that powered electrical engines pulling trains through the Cascade Tunnel between Leavenworth and Index, WA. One of the best sights was a fern grotto.

The Leavenworth Adventure Park is new this year and features an Alpine coaster, the Tumwater Twister. The coaster is 2,700 feet long and features three 360-degree spiral helix circles. I rode it with my husband (who, I’m sure, got braking and accelerating backwards πŸ˜€). I had much more fun with my feet firmly on the ground while panning for gems in the bag of sand we purchased at a small price.

Our gems included big chunks of aventurine, carnelian, jasper, rose quartz, and sodalite. We’ll run the larger pieces through our rock polisher to bring out their color and beauty.

It was a refreshing two days at a cabin on a lake. With a few days left in our vacation, it was time to head home to rest and relax. 😌









Hungry?

  

Three Challenges Facing Food Banks

This isn’t a post about recipes, though it is about food. According to Feeding America, 10% of U.S households are food insecure.

Feeding America is a national organization helping food banks across the U.S through food programs and food rescue.

 

My local food bank regularly relies on Feeding America for many items. Hundreds of local food banks fill a large and growing need in communities throughout our country. My university also has a food pantry for students, staff, and faculty. Much of the produce comes from our university farm.

I was able to volunteer at a local food bank for years and greatly look forward to returning when I retire this year. The food bank provides

pantry staples, a small amount of pet food, and a few hygiene items to needy individuals and families weekly. It’s more than just food--it’s also a resource for community services such as health care, laundry and shower facilities, and housing. 


In addition to being a regular food bank donor and soon a volunteer, I’m happy to participate in a local little pantry that provides so much. The neighborhood pantry fills a need not only for unsheltered adults, but also local school children. Yes, it is sometimes abused and a few neighbors will complain, but most patrons are respectful and grateful.

Students from the nearby high school did an excellent video on the nearby pantry. Many of them benefit from the pantry and help maintain it. In the video, one grade school girl said the peanut butter and crackers she can pick up after school help fill her tummy on the hour drive  home with her mother. She often gets extra packs of crackers for her younger brother and her mother.

The experience of volunteering at the food bank and seeing the plight of so many has woven itself into the book I am currently writing. I’m a romance writer, and what better place for generous hearts to meet than at a food bank during the holidays?

Until I can resume volunteering, I can at least live it through the book I’m working on.*




* All proceeds from my first book go to a local organization that provides free pet care for low-income families or the unsheltered. Proceeds from the next book will go to my local food bank.

Bloom Time!

 

 


Now that plants have been well-watered by April’s showers and the sun is finally out, shrubs and trees are blooming and most notably, the neighborhood is filled with the scent of lilacs. The flowery aroma is filling the house this year because May has been warm enough to have windows open. On a recent walk we saw white lilacs and more shades of purple than I knew lilacs could be.


The state flower, rhododendron, is bursting forth throughout the neighborhood in shades from pale pink to the vivid red here too.


 

 

Are we ever going to have apples this year! Pear, cherry, and plum trees also have tiny fruits beginning to grow. If I run out of freezer space for applesauce I can share the apple crop with a nearby little pantry.


 



The strawberry harvest looks to be shaping up for a good year, and I’m hoping to keep bunnies and squirrels from eating the fruit by covering it once the blossoms are done. Don’t worry, there are strawberries in the backyard for the wildlife to enjoy. Later this month more strawberry plants will be joining the blueberries and filling in bare spots in the yard.

 

 

 

Speaking of blueberries, they are flowering and this will be the first year we’ve had a crop from the raised bed in the front yard.


This little creeper, Kenilworth ivy, also graces the yard and didn't cost me a penny. Unlike many gardeners, I’m happy to have it trailing around walls and planters. 

 

 Soon bee balm, hyssop, lavender, and sage will be in bloom to provide a continuing buffet for bees that make all the fruit possible.




Ready, Set, Grow!

 

Asian pear ready to go!

It’s been an unusually cold, wet, windy March and April here in the Pacific NorthWet. Not many fruit plants are budding yet, but our Asian pear (above) is ready to get this season going! Buds are bursting out greater than previous years. Most of the other fruit trees and vines are saying "Slow down, it's still too cold and wet!"

Plum just starting to blossom

I was diligent this winter (when it was milder) about fertilizing all our fruit plants in February and again in March, also adding compost to the soil to provide good nutrients. I’m eager to see how the blueberries, raspberries, cherries, pears (new this year), plums, and apples perform. I’d love to be able to do more canning and preserving of home-grown fruit!

 

 

Garlic left in raised beds over winter is coming on strong. The asparagus planted last spring is starting to come up, and rhubarb that I divided in late winter is also robust. Several onions that I'd left as failures last year are now reaching through the soggy soil.


New this year are two elderberry plants that are slow to

Hyssop coming back vigorously
show growth, but the season is still young. I also doubled the number of blueberry plants in a raised bed last fall. Hyssop has surprised me with a vigorous re-emergence from last year, and the bee balm from last summer that I’ve already divided is coming along well.

This year I will focus on more plants to attract bees and look forward to putting in more bee balm and hyssop. Calendula is a flower I’ve never grown, but will sow outside in a couple weeks. I’m hoping the poppies I planted last year have self-sown and will also come back.

I've had some luck this year transplanting and propagating. Flowering red currant is one of my favorite plants for attracting hummingbirds, and despite the cold weather, it is showing its beauty. Later this year I'll plant ones I'm propagating for even more showy pink blossoms throughout the yard!

Flowering red currant   










Foiled Again

 

 




My favorite foil
 No, my attempt at something wasn't thwarted. Rather, while making Christmas cards I rediscovered the joy of foiling. I did also relearn the difference between the two primary ways I make foiled cards, so I guess you could say there were some foiled attempts through this process.

The first way I can foil cards is with a device called the Go Press and Foil as seen at right.This device uses plates that are heated and a special foil that is heat activated to adhere to the paper.

 

This is the birthday card I created for my sister using the hot plate shown above. The pink outline of the flowers is foiled and I colored in the rest.



The March kit
Now that I’ve been buying quality products, I am delighted with this process and even signed up for a monthly hot foil kit-of-the-month subscription. Each month I get a new plate and die set along with a roll of foil.




The second method of foiling cards is with the Glaminator. This machine needs a product called transfer gel or embossing powder to make foil adhere to the paper. It can be trickier to get clean results, but with the Glaminator I can use stencils with transfer gel, or stamps with embossing powder that melts to allow the foil to adhere.

Glaminator success

Foils for each machine come in a variety of colors and patterns.  Having done a lot of practice this month, I now have everything well documented so there are no more foiled attempts at foiling cards. πŸ˜€




Happy Belated St. Patrick's Day Readers!








 



Turbulence

 

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The old year didn’t end strong for me, nor has the new year been the best so far. In the midst of all this turbulence, my meditation group has provided stability through our practice and topics we are exploring.

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The worst thing to distress me was self-evaluation and feeling I'm a failure. Does anyone stack up to what they expect of themselves? Our meditation leader had me look into the concept of the joy of insignificance. This doesn't mean we should give up, but to find value in the ordinary. 

A podcast exploring this topic is from Ten Percent Happier with the guest Dr. Ron Siegel, a part-time assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and a board member at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy.  

In his talk, Dr. Siegel discusses being kind to yourself and your expectations, being useful rather than successful, and how being special is a burden. Concepts I need to take to heart to get out of my personal rut of feeling I'm a failure.

Another article on the joy of insignificance assured me that we don’t need to do something extraordinary in order to live a good life and that we should avoid comparing ourselves to others.

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 The idea of not surrendering your spiritual authority was also suggested as a way of being true to yourself. This isn't a religious concept, rather it is about the truth, beauty, purity, and goodness that is and always has been you, and allowing it to flow effortlessly through you to radiate out into the world. Embracing this approach gives me comfort in being my genuine self.

Finally, a poem by Martha Postlethwaite, Clearing, gave me additional peace and comfort and helped me find my way again.

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Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest  
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself to this world
so worthy of rescue.

 

 

 

 



 

Humble Gratitude

  November is the traditional month for expressing gratitude and thankfulness. Many may be grateful for luxuries such as an expensive vacati...