Poetry & Blooms–Balms for a Reflective Time

L’Shana Tovah! Happy New Year!

It may be 2021 in the secular world, but according to the Jewish calendar it’s 5782. Every year, as the High Holidays approach and summer comes to an end, I look inward, assessing the previous year’s relationships, family, health and work.

Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year” or New Year) is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur, which comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah, is the Day of Atonement. Together, they are sometimes referred to as the Jewish High Holidays. They mark a period known both as the “Days of Awe” and the “Ten Days of Repentance,” during which Jewish people are supposed to reflect on the sins they have committed during the past year. Rosh Hashanah combines the joy of a New Year celebration and its theme of renewal with the seriousness associated with confronting one’s failings and seeking forgiveness both from God and from those one has wronged. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the Jewish sacred calendar.

adl.org

This year there’s much to be grateful for and look forward to and also so many things to worry about. My husband’s mom’s health is the biggest worry for our family. And days before the holidays started, Hurricane Ida devastated many of my town’s businesses and homes. Sometimes, hon, I can barely take a deep breath.

But vivid colors call to me and I contemplate how a blue sky and white clouds frame bright yellow petals, and I search for words to write and read.

Breathe.

A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky

Lewis Carroll – 1832-1898

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York

I like every season for different reasons. One of my favorite things about spring and summer is the abundance of gorgeous gardens. I’ve been stopping to smell the roses…and the lilacs and lilies and hyacinths and hydrangeas. This past Mother’s Day was spent at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, New York which is on Long Island. After that, we stopped at a nursery to buy flowers. Outside on a sunny day absorbing vivid colors and sweet scents? Lovely!

Blueberry Protein Breakfast Smoothie

Hon, you know how it goes. This summer, I’ll work out more. This summer, I’ll recharge my mind. This summer, I’ll eat healthier. I’m trying! One of my favorite “this summer” changes is making protein smoothies for breakfast. This recipe by The Nutrition Twins is my favorite!

Is there something you’ve added to your diet or routine that’s made you feel good this summer?


Blueberry Protein Weight Loss Breakfast Smoothie

“Enjoy this sipster for breakfast to take the edge off hunger, prevent overeating, flush bloat and help set your mind & body on the healthy track.” The Nutrition Twins

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (I often used frozen mixed berries.)
  • 1/2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetend vanilla almond milk (I alternated between almond and coconut milk.)
  • 1 scoop vanilla plant-based protein powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (ok, if not fresh)
  • water to blend
  • Extras: banana, drops of liquid ginger

Directions:

Blend this all together and drink! Enjoy!

Bright Blooms and Poem for Peace

Morning walks are my meditation; sweet scents my solace.

A year ago, we were frozen in place. When the pandemic shut our world down, my family asked, “How long will this last?” “Surely, a few weeks.” “Surely, not past July 4th.” As the months dragged on, and everyday was the same as the last, several walks a day was our way to break the monotony. And guess what, hon? Senses heightened. Flowers were more vivid than ever. Garden scents filled the air. Songbirds were distinguishable. And the antics of our sweet furry angels, Lucy and Midnight, entertained us. I’m still walking, discovering wonders everyday. And everyday, those wonders bring me bits of peace.

Click here to learn more about Maya Angelou.

Bugging Out!

Little Miss Cicada.
Little Miss Cicada spreading her wings.

Little Miss Cicada hanging out.
Little Miss Cicada hanging out.

“Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Best quote award goes to my daughter Hannah, who was a teenager in 2013, the last time Brood X cicadas created a stir (of wings) in the Garden State.

Yes, our dog Lucy thought they made tasty treats. Yes, that’s me holding an adult cicada. No, no one else in my family thought they were cool.

Repost: Cicada City Part 1

One of my favorite summer nighttime sounds is the collective hum of cicadas.  They start somewhere at the end of June and continue, if it’s warm enough, into October.  I make a mental note the night I don’t hear them anymore. Then, I know winter’s on its way.

This year, a different cicada has come out of its 17-year hibernation.  If you haven’t heard of the periodical Brood II cicadas, I’m afraid you’ve either been living under a rock or under the ground as a separate cicada species. The, ummm, buzz about the buzz started before the first cicada wriggled out of a 1/4 “diameter hole in the ground.  The bugaboo about these bugs reached an all-time high about the same time a rash of little holes covered my yard.  It looked like someone had aerated the ground.  Ohhh, I guess someone did!

Hon, guess what came next?  A condition I’m calling “Cicada Hysteria!”  In fact, plenty of people are still afflicted with “Cicada Hysteria” since the insects are still underfoot, climbing trees, flying around and altogether creating a modern day horror movie.  Take Teenage Daughter #1.  Here’s what she has to say about them, “Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Unlike Teenage Daughter #1, Teenage Daughter #2 is indifferent, and Tween Daughter thinks they’re cool.  From afar.  She doesn’t mind looking at them from a safe distance, but she’s not about to let a six-legged cidada crawl on her arm.

Hon, guess who let a six-legged cicada crawl on her arm?  You got it.  I bonded with Little Miss Cicada! LMC hung out on in my hands for a half hour.  LMC wasn’t trapped, tied down or otherwise constrained.  She hung out of her own free will.  I think we were equally fascinated with each other.

She allowed me to touch her hard shell and peer into the black pupils in the middle of her red eyes.  The antennas under her eyes were short and black.  She picked up her leg and “waved” to me and Tween Daughter.  Really!  Her legs were sticky in an “I can cling to bark” kind-of-way.  I have no idea what LMC was thinking.  Do cicadas think?  If they do, maybe she was thinking, “Please scratch my shell.  It’s really itchy when it first comes out of its exoskeleton!”

I placed her on the side of a Tulip tree, and now I listen for her loud buzz when I water the flowers, walk Lucy and drive through town. I hope that as soon as the song of the Brood II cicadas dies down, the annual cicadas that sing in the night return.

Then I’ll sit outside at dusk, watching the trees turn into silhouettes against the indigo sky. The bats will flit about catching mosquitoes, the fireflies will wink to each other and the screech owls will whistle and hoot.  The perfect, warm temperature of summer nights will fill me up…with hope and happiness and satisfaction. 

Little Miss Cicada.
Bonding with Little Miss Cicada. (photos courtesy of Tween Daughter)

Down the Shore!

Heart in the sky!

The “Week of Positives” may be over but I have more pics to share. This summer, more than ever, “finding the extraordinary in the ordinary” wasn’t just a tagline to my blog.

Growing up in Baltimore, everyone I knew loved Ocean City, MD. It may be have been three hours away, but that didn’t stop my friends and I from making day trips to Chesapeake Bay and beyond. (We’d leave at the crack of dawn and get back at midnight!) Family vacations to OC always included days on the beach, hours in the ocean, French fries with vinegar, popcorn, ice cream, and salt water taffy. Who can forget the smell of salt air mixed with heat-press transfers at tee-shirt shops on the boardwalk? Who can forget collecting seashells? Who can forget the enormous sandcastles spotlighted at night? Who can forget the feeling of summer?

Living in New Jersey, we go “down the shore” whenever we can. Guess what, hon? My mom loved the beach too, and since she grew up in Morristown, NJ, went “down the shore” with her family to Bradley Beach. Yesterday would have been her 79th birthday, so this post is dedicated to her, one extremely Brave Girl.

Surfer at Avon-by-the-Sea.

Barnegat Lighthouse.

What’s For Dinner? Grilled Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Veggie Pasta Salad is a perfect summer dish! Add grilled, sliced chicken, salmon or steak for protein, and dinner’s served. Going on a picnic? Pack it for lunch. Kids can cut up the veggies (with adult supervision), measure ingredients and mix it all up, making this a contender in the Easy DIY Kids Crafts & Recipes category. Not into pasta? How about mixing brown rice with the grilled veggies and tossing it all with the yummy balsamic dressing? Hon…guess what I’ll be serving later this week? 

Grilled Veggie Pasta Salad
Ingredients:
  • 8 oz. asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups cooked whole grain penne pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, snipped 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Tip: Grill additional veggies to add to dish.
Directions:
  1. Lightly brush vegetables with 1 Tablespoon of the oil. Grill sweet pepper, zucchini, and onion on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until tender, turning once. Add asparagus the last 3 to 5 minutes, cooking until tender, turning once. Let cool slightly. Cut vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces.
  2. In a large bowl, combine vegetables and pasta. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with oregano.

Tip: Add grilled chicken breast, steak or salmon for protein.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: Better Homes & Gardens

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

Stonehenge

Hon, hope you had a nice July 4th weekend!

This year, though our friends’ holiday bbq was nixed, we still got together, socially distancing of course. Since our school district doesn’t let out until late June, July 4th feels like the official start of summer. But what does this summer hold? Will I return to work or not? Will Elegant Lifestyles publish a September issue? Is it safe to visit family in different states? Will one of my daughters have to quarantine when she returns home after four months away? Will my younger daughter’s college hold classes? The questions go on and on. One thing we can do is travel…virtually. This is a list of places I’d love to go one day. Where would you like to go?

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

David Attenborough leads you on an interactive tour underwater to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Through interactive time-lapses, videos, and weather maps, the tour shows you the Earth’s most bio-diverse ecosystem.

All the while, a tracker notes miles traveled, total sailing time, and the effects of climate change during your “exhibition,” making this a great educational tour for adults and kids alike!

2. The Great Wall of China

China’s most famous attraction offers virtual tours of some of the most visited sections of the wall, 3,000 miles of which are walkable. With much of the country under quarantine measures, the virtual tour offers a reprieve from the crowds who normally come from all over the world to see the 2,000-year-old marvel.

3. Iceland

Welcome to Iceland 360 VR!Select one of hundreds of locations around Iceland in the search field, panorama location list or location map or try out our location basedand themed virtual tours!

4. Taj Mahal, India

Our online virtual tour enables visitors to interactively explore the “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, the Taj Mahal at Agra in India. Visitors may tour 22 different areas of the monument and gardens through 360° panoramas, maps, narrated mini-movies, music and text.

5. Alaska

Experience virtual tours and in-depth educational videos of Kenai Fjords National Park. Journey into the beautiful landscape of Alaska to discover the wonders of the glaciers, local wildlife, geology and so much more!

6. Ireland–25 Virtual Tours

In an attempt to bring those of you that want to be here a little closer to Ireland, we’ve created a guide that’s packed with virtual tours (and 360 photos) for some of Ireland’s best-known attractions.

7. Scotland

“Immerse yourself in the amazing history, cities and landscapes of Scotland from the comfort of your own home…virtual tours of Scotland, including fascinating documentaries and Scottish museums that offer online tours. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your virtual journey through Scotland.

8. Safaris, Africa

Get up close with some of the world’s most amazing animals from the safety of your sofa.

9. Israel

Coronavirus messing up your plans? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Join us for a virtual tour of the most beautiful places in Israel with our popular series, Postcards from Israel.

10. Redwoods, California

Join an interpretive ranger in series of VR episodes about some of the natural and cultural history of the park. Move your mouse, handheld device, or wear VR glasses to experience this in 360 degrees.