Wednesday, August 6, 2014

DIY: Fireplace Project

I moved out the ceramic logs, removed the doors, painted the inside white brick walls and floors, and painted the gold trim along the outside glass wall. Then I ordered 60 pounds of lightly tinted glass to fill in the fireplace. I could have gotten by with 10 to 20 pounds less glass, but it would have cost quite a bit to return the package to Amazon. I'm happy with the results.

Before, with gold trim and log set

Sunday, August 3, 2014


I enjoy reading Joshua Becker's blog Becoming Minimalist. He quotes Hans Hofmann in a recent post, Don't Buy Stuff You Don't Need, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” That's a great quote. It reminded me of an old Quaker saying I learned when I worked at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, "Let your life speak." 

I think that what we worry about, what we wake up thinking about, how we spend time and money, speaks to what we value. I know that I packed a lot in to that last sentence, and it needs to be unpacked. Yet, I think that accumulating, maintaining and paying for stuff can create unnecessary distractions in life and become a barrier to mindfulness and good decision-making.

These are things I'm thinking about these days. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kew Gardens

Yesterday, my friends treated me to a day in Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens, on the west side of London.  It was a great day. I enjoyed everything, especially the Tree Top Walkway.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

J. K. Rowling and Flannery O'Connor

I picked up J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy at Palm Springs Airport yesterday afternoon, before boarding my flight to Salt Lake City, and then on to New Orleans.  The book is billed as Rowling’s first novel for adult readers. 

The first line, "Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner," reminded me of the first line of Flannery O'Connor's short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, "The grandmother did not want to go to Florida." Curiously, in short order, both Barry Fairbrother and the grandmother were dead.

A number of the characters in The Casual Vacancy seem familiar, not because I've read Rowling before, which I haven't; I've never read Harry Potter or seen the movies. Rowling's characters in The Casual Vacancy have some of the same moral qualities as O'Connor's characters, who I'm very familiar with. For example, Fats Walls reminds me of Hazel Moats in O'Connor's Wise Blood. Or, Shirley Mollison, who reminds me of Ruby Turpin in O'Connor's Revelation

I've only just begun The Casual Vacancy, but I'm drawn into the complex characters and their relationships to each other.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Shotgun Lovesongs

A few months I heard National Public Radio commenter, Scott Simon, talk about Shotgun Lovesongs, a novel by Nickolas Butler. I was taken by the piece and ordered the book from my mobile phone as I had my coffee and a bagel at Brugger's. 

I was drawn to Lovesongs because it sounded like the book was about friendships and place.  I like friendships, especially those that are long term.  I also like "place" as a human theme.

Even before I got my copy of the book, I contacted members of a bookclub that last met over a dozen years ago and told them about the book. One of the bookclub members recommended that we read the book and meet online to discuss it.  

The book was everything that I'd hoped it would be, including good friendships, a strong sense of place, complexity, warmth, surprise, understated heroism, and good doses of redemption. 

Lovesongs is written differently. Each chapter is written in the first person point of view of a character. I had to catch on and I wrote down notes on each character to keep things straight in the beginning. That style takes a while to build a framework for who is who and their relationships. But it works for this book. Once the framework was in place, which was about the first half of the book, the story takes off with intensity. At that point, I couldn't wait to get to the next page.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Container Gardening

My attempt at container gardening is having mixed results. Containers require a lot of attention to watering and sun exposure. I just retuned from a three-day trip.  In preparation, I moved the containers to a less sunny location on my balcony in hopes of protecting the plants from the intense summer heat. That didn't go too well. My tomatoes survived, but many of the other plants, including the sage, which is a dry plant, didn't do so well.  I have a five-day trip coming up, so I'm moving some of the plants inside to my kitchen, where they will get sun, but have more protection. Watering is still an issue.  We'll see how this goes.

I've decided, however, to draw back on trying to grown a large variety of herbs.  It's not going to work. I'm going out this morning to get succulents to replace many of the herb pots. I travel quite a bit and realize that I can't give the containers the attention they need. I was surprised that being a way three-days would stress the herbs so severely. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Short take: What happens when ...

What happens when a person intentionally tries to treat others better? For example, when talking to a telephone service representative? You know, someone who is anonymous and you'll never deal with again.

It's hard to do so. It's easier to quip back at people, rather than to great the service agent warmly before communicating my concern - even if I've had to wait for 20 minutes to get to a human being. Then communicate my concern, listen to the service agent's response with patience, and then work through what I hope can be done to satisfy or resolve my concern. I've been aware of that recently; and, to be honest, it's worth the effort. 

Monday, June 30, 2014


I heard a reference yesterday that is sticking with me. It was that erosion was the big threat to a rock. Think, the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.  Subtle.  What happens when erosion happens to the values a person holds dear, or to guiding values? Does one lose something important?  Does one become desensitized? Uncaring? Frightened? Brazen? This conversation can go in multiple directions.

It would be a healthy exercise to recall decision points in life where things went well, or went poorly, and to look at what triggered a good decision or a bad decision, and then follow the thread.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Very Brief Update

It's been a while since I posted an update on the move. I haven't done much with "projects."  In fact, it's interesting how I've settled in and many of the improvement projects seem less urgent than when they initially made my "to-do" list. That's not to say that I won't get to them. Yet, the cost of getting moved and settled rapidly escalated, and I've decided to slow that pace down. There's nothing urgent that needs to be done.

I have completed furnishing my home, and I must say that it is very comfortable. The projects that are still to get done are cosmetic and will be done in course.

Friends came over for dinner last night, which was a lot of fun. Here's the menu:
  • Grilled salad (romaine lettuce, green and yellow peppers, avocado and red onion)
  • Grilled fresh wild-caught Alaskan salmon with grilled lemons and fresh herbs from my container garden
  • Tomato jam
  • Gelato 
  • Toasted coconut cookies
It was fun harvesting herbs growing on my front porch.

Last night was fun because making dinner with friends was a big deal to me as I looked at condos. I have plenty of counter space, and one of the kitchen windows opens up to the front porch, where the grill is, so everyone stayed connected as we moved around the grill and the kitchen.