Opening up to a new season

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The holidays can be a rough time, can’t they? Especially if your memories of the season are difficult to process. I’d planned to take the 2017 holidays off, but that would just be hiding from all the negative emotion instead of letting it pass through and make way for new traditions. So I’m opening my heart to a new season of life and will see where it may lead.

A Christmas reflection

The sun arrived in the middle of Christmas morning, streaming through the windows in beams that cut across the ripped and crumpled wrapping paper on the floor. It’s been such a grey December, even fleeting rays among the remnants of a Christmas Eve rainstorm brought cheers. Winter is only a few days old, but we’re already weary of its heavy pall.

As the afternoon unfolded and the thermometer rose, a desire to breathe fresh air fought through a head cold that was threatening to pull my entire body into malaise. I was alone on Christmas afternoon for the first time in my life. This has been a year of great transition, this last month the hardest, as I navigate the emotions that surround holidays in our newly-defined family. Continue reading A Christmas reflection

Getting creative on Halloween

Seven years ago, when my son had just turned three years old, we were planning to go to a Halloween party as a family. My Halloween costumes have always been ad-hoc creations, momentary glimpses into my imagination. On the Halloween in question, I decided to go as a Punk-in. After a couple of tubes of orange and black face paint, I was transformed into something that scared my toddler son so badly, he refused to look at me or go to the party. Ever since then, my enthusiasm for Halloween costumes — and Halloween in general — hasn’t been the same.

Recently, I’ve channeled my Halloween creativity into my annual Jack-o-Lantern. I enjoy the challenge of using leftover fruits and veggies and plants from the garden in my creation. I like to design quickly, because the smell of fresh pumpkin is a bit nauseating to me. In fact, I’m not sure I’d do it at all if I had to gut the pumpkins myself. Thanks to the pumpkin-gutting generosity of my in-laws (who always visit us on Halloween), I start with a hallowed-out pumpkin and go from there.
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Confessions of an Amaryllis convert

My first Amaryllis bloomed today. It’s a beautiful candy-striped variety named ‘Minerva’ that I picked up in the discount bin our our local garden center a few weeks ago. It was on sale because it had already started to sprout and wouldn’t make the best holiday gift plant if it bloomed before Christmas. So there it sat with other early premature bloomers, marked down to $5 a bulb.

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Fresh cut for the holidays

The first weekend in December heralds our family’s expedition to a local tree farm to cut a Christmas tree for our home. This tradition started in 1994, a year after our first Christmas together as a married couple. That first Christmas, we bought a cut tree from a tree lot in town. In the process of decorating it, the white shirt I was wearing started to turn green. Our “fresh” tree had been spray-painted green. After that experience, we’ve insisted on cutting a tree ourselves. Not only are we assured a fresh tree, it’s also a way to support the local economy instead of a tree farm hundreds of miles away.

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Holiday plants for a good cause

Last weekend, when I visited our local garden center, I was somewhat disappointed in the quality of the poinsettias. The flowers had already been snipped out of many of the plants, a sure sign they’d come into flower early and would be less likely to last through the holiday season. When I heard about the poinsettias being sold as a University of Illinois Conservatory and Plant Collections fundraiser, I made a trip over to the Plant Sciences Lab to purchase some.

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