Anne of Avonlea

The Sweetest Days

June 28, 2019

Photo courtesy an_photos via Pixabay

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
—Anne Shirley, Anne of Avonlea (L.M. Montgomery)


A Midsummer Day Check-In

June 24, 2019

Photo by Kyle Peyton on Unsplash

In the Northern Hemisphere, we’re at the edge of summer. We just experienced the longest day of the year on June 21st, and today is Midsummer’s Day. In many countries, such as Sweden and Finland, Midsummer’s Day (or Midsummer’s Eve) is a holiday that celebrates the longest day. The actual festivities take place on different dates, depending on the location, and activities include bonfires and maypoles.

While I won’t be lighting a bonfire (it’s plenty hot enough here already), I am taking some time today to check in on how my year is going so far. I didn’t set a bunch of big goals at the beginning of the year—I just wasn’t up for it at the time—but I did choose a word of the year, rise, which I’m sorry to say I’ve basically forgotten all about.


But I feel more inclined to set a few goals now, though I still want to stay low-key with the process. I’ve already checked off a couple of items on my Summer Fun List, including taking a yoga class, and indulging in a black cow (more than one, if I’m honest—wouldn’t want that root beer to go to waste).  I’m also well into my Summer Reading List—I finished The Foundling, and have started The Island of the Sea Women, Ride With Your Mind, and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

The year is slipping away all too quickly, and I don’t want to waste any of its precious days. So, notebook and coffee cup in hand, today I’ll be thinking about what 2019 has held so far, and what I’d like the rest of the year to be like.

If you’d like to take the opportunity to check in with yourself, too, here are some questions to ponder:

  • What do I want for the rest of the year?
  • What is working well? What isn’t?
  • What gifts has 2019 given me so far?
  • What habits do I want to break? What habits do I want to continue or start?
  • Is there anything that I absolutely want to accomplish this year? If so, what small steps can I take immediately to work towards that goal?
I’d like to look back on the year in December and be happy about not only what I’ve accomplished, but how I’ve lived—did I savor the simple pleasures and everyday adventures, or was I too busy and distracted to appreciate what I had? Did I make the most of my time, or did I fritter it away on pursuits that ultimately left me feeling empty?

Taking some time to reflect on your life—whether you do it on Midsummer’s Day, New Year’s Day, or every Sunday evening, can help you focus on the activities, people, and thoughts that help you lead your happiest life.

What has 2019 been like for you so far? Please share some of what you’ve been doing, thinking, and learning this year in the comments below!  


More Sorrow, More Joy

June 21, 2019

Photo by Viviane Okubo on Unsplash

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see in truth that you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” 
— Kahlil Gibran


Come Visit Our Backyard Oasis!

June 17, 2019

A few years ago, my husband became interested in gardening. Since then, he’s spent hours every weekend working/playing in our yard, turning it into an oasis. He plants mostly perennials, growing most things from cuttings neighbors have shared with him, or that he’s taken himself. Two winters ago, we had several hard freezes, and I wondered what that would do to the yard. As you will soon see, it came back better than ever.

Today, I thought I’d share some photos of his handiwork (click on the photo to enlarge it):

One of my favorite simple pleasures, when it’s not too hot, is to sit in one of our Adirondack chairs and watch the butterflies and birds. 

I also love to take pictures of the flowers.

Coral bush

Coral bush flower 

Angel wing begonia

This is just one small way my husband makes my life beautiful—and I’m grateful to him for it, and many other things.

Have a beautiful Monday!


One More Little Good-Bye

June 14, 2019

At the harness races--one of my favorite photos of us

Seven and a half months ago, my father died. This year, on Father’s Day, for the first time, I won’t have a father.

This feels strange. Something I have always had, and taken for granted, is missing. The months since his death have been filled with little goodbyes. Realizations that I won’t be able to share certain things with him, and vice versa. For example, when it was time to plant tomatoes this year, I decided not to—not only did I not feel up to battling the bugs and the squirrels for the fruit, gardening was something my dad and I liked to talk about—his tiny backyard plot produced tomatoes and cucumbers galore. We liked to compare harvests (he always had more) and compare what we had planted.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. Coming to terms with losing a parent isn’t easy, even when you’re all grown up and have a child of your own. I decided to jot down some memories and thoughts about him in his honor this Father’s Day.

Even though my dad had his flaws (as we all do), he was a loving and kind man. My dad loved animals, especially cats. In addition to gardening, he was an excellent golfer, and loved fishing, and going to the horse races. He was in the Navy and served during the Korean War. He was a Baptist, and loved his church.

At his best, he was charming and charismatic, full of zest, humor, and mischief. He worked hard all his life—at 84, until his last illness, he still worked part time doing marketing for a Servpro franchise.

He was born and grew up in Virginia, moving to California as a young man looking for work.

He was extremely lucky, winning often at the horse races or casino, even finding money lying on the ground!

He loved his grandson, my son Nick, deeply. Dad smoked for many years, and after trying unsuccessfully to quit several times, stopped cold turkey when he saw his toddler grandson imitating him smoking.

Dad and Nick

I always asked him to make his special salad when I came to visit. I technically know how to make it myself, but it’s not the same. But perhaps I will try making it in his honor now and then, trying to perfect what he did so well.

The chef at work

My parents divorced when I was three, and I didn’t have much contact with my dad in my earliest years. The circumstances of my parents’ divorce were unusual, and without going into detail, let’s just say it was no one’s fault. I know it was devastating to him when my mom and I left, and I don’t think he ever quite got over it. It shadowed our relationship for years. Once I was old enough to stay with him, I spent part of summer vacation at his house, and either Christmas or Thanksgiving break. My stepmother had always wanted a daughter, and she embraced me as her own immediately. At the time of his death, they had been married 42 years.

At times, my dad and I hurt each other deeply in ways that only family can, each of us making mistakes, saying the wrong thing, convinced the other person was wrong or just did not understand. Now that I’m a parent, I better understand some of our exchanges. I regret that we didn’t have the lifelong closeness I’ve observed in other fathers and daughters. Over the years, I’ve grieved for what was denied us, but now grieve for what we did have that is now lost. Sometimes it hits me anew that he’s gone, taking me by painful surprise.

Now I can choose to remember the fun we had , letting go the old hurts. He did the best he knew how, and so did I, and sometimes we came up short. There was never any doubt that we loved each other, fiercely.

He always called me his favorite daughter (I’m his ONLY daughter), so last Father’s Day, I sent him a sweatshirt with the words, “My favorite daughter gave me this shirt” printed on the chest. He loved it, and since he was always cold (even when the thermostat said 85), he wore it proudly.

I have a voice mail on my phone—my dad’s last message to me from April 2018 when I was getting ready to come to California. He sounds excited about the upcoming visit. I can’t quite get my head around the fact that there will be no more visits, and that when I said good-bye to him last year, it was the final time I’d see him in person.

Last visit

We spoke on the phone many times after that, and I sent him a message on his 84th birthday, which he celebrated while I was in France last October. Only a few days after I returned home he was gone. I knew his health had been failing, but I thought we would have more time. I guess we all think that—or hope that—about the people we love.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you.


It’s Sooooo Hot and All I Want to Do Is Read

June 10, 2019

Last week a friend asked me what I planned to read this summer. Um, everything, and never go outside again until December?

Sadly, that will not happen. I have been mulling over what I want to read this summer, though. I often make a summer reading list, if only to try to get a few books off my TBR shelf/list. (Click here or here for previous lists.)  I’m a highly distractible reader, always diverting into unlooked-for paths (newest obsession: Lucy Knisley’s graphic memoirs), constantly seduced by unexpected reading tangents. 

Here is my tentative summer reading list for 2019:

I like to read the biography or autobiography of a writer every summer, so this year my major reading goal will be the Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1. It looks like there are three volumes, but for now I’m only tackling the first. At 679 pages, it should take me a while.

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen. Looks like the Kindle version is free, but I have a pretty print hardcover version that is part of a set. This will be my summer classic.

At least one book from Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide, perhaps The Island of Sea Women (one of my library holds, see below) or The Mother-In-Law

My library holds. I currently have eight books reserved, and even though I’m in varying positions on the hold list, sure as I’m alive, they will all become available the same week and I’ll have a mini nervous breakdown trying to read them all within the time allotted.

From my own TBR shelf:

Ride with Your Mind, Mary Wanless. Already in progress.

The Foundling, Georgette Heyer. I have several of her books on my shelf, but I’ve already started this one. If you’re looking for a fun, light read, you can’t go wrong with Heyer.

An art or creativity book, possibly The Journal Junkies Workshop, or The Muse Is In.

Though it’s likely I’ll go off on other reading tangents, I hope to finish these books this summer. Since “summer” here lasts until November I have a pretty good chance.

What do you plan to read this summer?


Will It Bring You Happiness?

June 07, 2019

Photo by Sorin Gheorghita on Unsplash

“Although there are no easy solutions to avoiding…destructive pleasures, fortunately we have a place to begin: the simple reminder that what we are seeking in life is happiness. As the Dalai Lama points out, that is an unmistakable fact. If we approach our choices in life keeping that in mind, it is easier to give up the things that are ultimately harmful to us, even if those things bring us momentary pleasure. The reason why it is usually so difficult to ‘Just say no!' is found in the word ‘no’; that approach is associated with a sense of rejecting something, of giving something up, of denying ourselves.

“But there is a better approach: framing any decision we face by asking ourselves, ‘Will it bring me happiness?’ That simple question can be a powerful tool in helping us skillfully conduct all areas of our lives, not just in the decision whether to indulge in drugs or that third piece of banana cream pie. It puts a new slant on things. Approaching our daily decisions and choices with this question in mind shifts the focus from what we are denying ourselves to what we are seeking—ultimate happiness.”
The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. 

Everyday adventures

Summer Fun List 2019

June 03, 2019

Luna's summer fun list involves a) balls and b) swimming

Even though it’s summer (or about to be), we’re not kids anymore, looking forward to the unbridled freedom of weeks of summer vacation. We have jobs, housework, and Other Important and Grown Up Tasks to accomplish. That doesn’t mean we can’t schedule a few special, summer-ized simple pleasures and everyday adventures. After skipping it last year, I’m resurrecting the Summer Fun List this year (originally known as the Summer Bucket List). It’s still a work in progress, but instead of making a long list that will overwhelm me, I’ve kept it short and sweet:

  • Read by the pool
  • Have a movie date with a friend
  • Attend yoga classes at Karma (no affiliation) while our circuit training class teacher is off having a baby 
  • Schedule a massage
  • Go on a playdate with Laure Ferlita and her puppy, Shelby
  • Create and read from a Summer Reading List (post to come about this)
  • Indulge in a black cow
  • Escape for a beach weekend with my husband
  • Go to the 2019 Etsy Craft Party
It’s not a very long list, but it gives me several things to look forward to during the hot, humid months of summer.

How about you? What are you going to do for fun this summer?