31 May 2013

Top Five Friday: Reasons You Should Join WordCount's Blogathon

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
~ Maya Angelou


T
he Sixth Annual WordCount Blogathon begins tomorrow and there is still time to register!

This will be my third year participating and my goals this year are to post all 30 days (even if it’s just a haiku!), to forge friendships with new bloggers, to have someone guest post at least once, and to be better writer by the time the last drop of ink dries.

So why should you join us? 

 
Everyone Has a Story to Tell
And no one can tell it the way you can.  I’ve mentioned this before ~ your story, your voice, is unique and we want to hear it.  Who knows how many hearts will be moved, or lives changed, because you took a deep breath, stepped up to the keyboard, and shared your story.

If you are a writer with a book already published, this is a great opportunity to reach new readers.  And if you are a writer without a blog, now is the time to start one.  Nowadays, publishers like to see author blogs and their potential readership reach.

Writers are a Truly Supportive Community
It has been said before, but it bears repeating: writers (and indeed most artists) are truly the most supportive group of people I have ever met.  They’re open, friendly, and encourage each other to hone their craft.  Positive constructive criticism has always been my experience and the writers who are part of the Blogathon are no exception.

Socrates and Byron Were Dead On
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” and “If I don’t write, I go mad.”  I am never more honest with myself then when I am writing.  And this is doubly true when I blog, because then I have an audience who can check my facts or may be helped or hurt by what I post. 

Some of my friends would raise their eyebrows and say that I tend to overanalyze everything, including myself.  But what they don’t realize is that it would be much worse if some of that examination wasn’t vented on paper ~ or in this case, the computer screen.

A Stagnant Life Grows Nothing but Algae
As we get older, we tend to stagnant, both in terms of lifestyle and though patterns.  Don’t misunderstand me, routine is not intrinsically evil, it can help you accomplish goals.  But not when it means you are never exposed to new ideas, methods, and perspectives.  During the blogathon, you will meet new people and encounter new blogs.  And if you are open, I guarantee you will learn something new.

Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About
“But I have nothing to say, nothing worth writing about!”  Well, then, here is your chance to do something worth talking (and blogging) about! 

·         Hike that state park you’ve been meaning to visit and tell us what you saw. 
·         Sign up for a cake class and show us how to properly ice with buttercream. 
·         Visit your older neighbor and write down his or her experiences during WWII or Vietnam.
·         Start a community garden and post your lessons learned.

My number reason?   Writing cures writers’ block.  Once you start, the ink just continues to flow and you will have more ideas then you have time to write about.

And I can’t wait for that river to run.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
If you join, email me.  I’d love to get to know you and read your story!

29 May 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Take It to the Edge. . .of the Garden

Farming is a profession of hope
~ Brian Brett



G
arden tours are great sources of inspiration.  I visited a friend’s garden a couple of weeks ago when he was on the Frederick tour.

Forget green thumb; that man has two green hands!

Not to mention he lives in an 1895 home that still has the original heart of pine floors and nine (count ‘em) working fireplaces.  The garden was icing on a very yummy Victorian cake.

The first thing I noticed were the cute bird hose guards/guides.  They looked antique, but were actually made of resin and purchased at Lowes.  Score!  I decided that my garden was in desperate need of hose guards too.

The second thing I noticed were the expanded beds and trenched edges.  He had dug them out himself and suddenly I knew I didn’t have to put in an entire new bed (although I still want to).  I could expand what I already have.

Many hands make light yard work
So this past Saturday, I set out to take those inspirations and make them happen.  My Sweet Corn Organic Nursery plants arrived as promised last Friday, and my friend Aurelius drove down to dig in the dirt with me.  He was a tremendous help in expanding the garden bed about a foot out.  This meant I was able to put all my plants in the ground, leaving none to wither and fade in a tiny pot.  So now I have Country Gentleman Corn, Fennel, Leeks, Black Krim Tomatoes, Big Cherry Tomatoes, Black Brandywine Tomatoes, Orange Amana Tomatoes, Pickling Cucumbers, and Lemon Cucumbers.


digging up the sod






Corn!

Fennel and Leeks

Ruthlessly, I also chopped back the paperwhites (though you aren’t supposed to do that until the green stalks turn brown, but they were taking up too much sun and space.) and added five bags of organic compost.  And therein lies a story. . .

I’ve bought organic compost from my favorite local nursery before.  But on this particular morning, I wasn’t sure how much I would need for roughly 20 plants.  So asked the cashier (whom I hadn’t met before) what she thought.  Conversation went as follows: 
Her:    “You should try “Black Kow” ~ it’s perfect!  I use it on my garden!”

Me:     “Is it organic?”

Her:    “Well sure!  It’s just cow manure!”

Me:     Inward sigh.  “Yes, but do they give the cows hormones or antibiotics?  Because all that will come out in their manure and I don’t want that on my plants.”

Her:    Glazed look.  “Uh, well, that I don’t know.”
 
Yep.  Organic doesn’t just mean natural, honey.  She couldn’t tell me about the mulch either, so I didn’t buy any until I could call the company and ask.  But at this rate, I may as well rent a chipper and make my own mulch.  Lord knows I have enough trees to make it worth my while.  And I’ll have peace of mind that nothing untoward is blanketing my veggie babies.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Working in the garden and then swing dancing is not something I recommend.  My muscles were growling at me all of Sunday and half of Monday.  Stretch.  Must remember to stretch.

28 May 2013

The La Belle Daybook: Week of 27 May

The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis.
~ Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose


S
tarting in June, I will publish my Daybook posts on Sundays.  This week, however, I’m posting it on a Tuesday.

I was looking for another list of prompts, but my search, I found out that these prompts are part of a community daybook thing over at The Simple Woman’s Daybook.  So I joined to make it “official.” 

Enjoy!



Outside my window...is an absolutely gorgeous day.   I plan to enjoy the mild weather as much as I can ~ the rest of the week , the temperatures will reach the 90s.

I am thinking...that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done.  Even if there were, I’m sure I’d find something fun to do in its place.

I am thankful...for kindred spirits.  My best friend is someone who always listens, never judges me, gives great advice when asked, can laugh at herself and the crazy world, and shares in quite a few of my passions.  I love you, Tika!

In the kitchen...are three trays of sour cherries and never enough sweet tea.

I am wearing...no hats today.  Slept in and didn’t have time to choose one.

I am creating...letters to three friends.

I am going...to another NGA concert Wednesday, and to help a friend move on Saturday.

I am wondering...what to plants in the bed I created around the perimeter of the patio.

I am reading...The Binding Spell by Christina Pope.   Just finished Twice Tempted and am in Night Huntress Series (Jeaneine Frost) withdrawal.  But maybe I need a break from vampires.

I am hoping...L.M. Montgomery said that “despair is a free man; hope is a slave.”  But I find, that if I have nothing to lose, my ennui gets worse.

I am looking forward to...seeing friends on Saturday and watching the new Star Trek movie (Benedict Cumberbatch!)

I am learning…that the most difficult person to truly forgive. . .is myself.

Around the house...there is waaaay too much clutter and it’s choking my creativity.

I am pondering...that I don’t do enough pondering.

A favorite quote for today...see above.

One of my favorite things...are long holiday weekends with plenty of time to garden and read in the shade.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
1. Write in my journal at least 3 days
2. Finish up to Chapter 2 in Man’s Search for Meaning
3. Bake a gluten-free cherry tart

A peek into my day...document editing and more document editing.  And hopefully a little more reading and writing.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What’s on your list for this week?

27 May 2013

Memorial Day 2013: For Our Men and Women in Uniform


Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be.
It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.
~ Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven



R
emembering all our men and women in uniform and their families today.  If you see one of them today, take a minute and thank them for their service.   They sacrifice a lot so we don’t have to.
Uncle R and Cousin JW ~ love ya’ll!

Oremus pro invicem,~ Mikaela

 

 

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae 
 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place, and in the sky,

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the dead; short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe!

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high!

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

24 May 2013

Top Five Friday: Pre-Raphaelite Exhibit at the NGA (or, now I can die happy)

It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet. 
~ Kojiro Tomita


I
can die happy now.

Last Friday afternoon I spent over an hour with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.  The National Gallery of Art was hosting an exhibition of some of the major pieces from the PRB, including a couple of busts and statues from the only sculptor in the group.

Faithful readers know my PRB obsession well.  But I have to say, there is nothing like seeing the original works up close and personal.  The colours are brighter, the brush strokes visible, the talent of the artists more apparent.  I own several prints, but was amazed at seeing how large some of my favorite paintings are in person. 

Mariana – John Everett Millias
For the PRB, poetry was just as important as paint colour, and Tennyson was a perennial favorite.  In Mariana (1851), Millias portrayed Tennyson’s heroine waiting in vain for her lover:
but most she loathed the hour
When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping toward his western bower.
Then said she, 'I am very dreary,
He will not come,' she said;
She wept, 'I am aweary, aweary,
O God, that I were dead!'
 
Isabella and the Pot of Basil – William Holman Hunt
Another painting inspired by poetry, this time, Keats’ Isabella, or The Pot of Basil.  This painting was in the next to last room of the exhibit and is larger then life.  Too bad they didn’t put a bench in there ~ I could have sat before this masterpiece for another hour. 
FAIR Isabel, poor simple Isabel! 
  Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love’s eye! 
They could not in the self-same mansion dwell 
  Without some stir of heart, some malady; 
They could not sit at meals but feel how well        
  It soothed each to be the other by; 
They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep 
But to each other dream, and nightly weep.

The Salutation of Beatrice – Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Not only are the colours striking ~ a given with almost all PRB works ~ but the size of the piece also adds to its mesmerizing quality.  Rossetti painted it on two cupboard doors and gave it to William and Jane Morris as a wedding gift.  He later took it back (before or after he and Jane became lovers?) and sold them.  I took one look and wished I were the new owner.

These panels are based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy and show Dante with Beatrice as she was on earth, and as he imagined her in Paradiso.  Fitting, given the painter's name derives from the poet. 
From that most holy wave I now returned
to Beatrice; remade, as new trees are
renewed when they bring forth new boughs, I was
pure and prepared to climb unto the stars.

 
 
A close up of the ray of light.  It almost felt like I could touch it and feel the warmth of the sun.
The Awakening Conscience – William Holman Hunt
“Whited sepulchers” is an apt description of Victorian society: very careful outward shows of piety and manners, but inside, as immoral as the cads and loose women they publically disdained.   Mistresses were quite common, but not never spoken of ~ that would be rude!  So Hunt’s portrayal of a mistress finally coming to grips with the shame of her hidden life caused a public outcry.

This painting is the only one of the five that wasn’t inspired by poetry.

 But what struck me was the way the artist was able to paint a ray of light illuminating a corner of the room.  It so fascinated me that I had to put my face right up to the painting to better see the brush strokes.  From a distance, it looked like real sunlight pouring over the canvas.



The Rock of Doom – Edward Burne-Jones
Greek and Roman mythology also fired the romantic PRB imagination.  This is one of three canvases Burne-Jones painted of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from Medusa.  Again, I was amazed at how large the canvases were.  I literally couldn’t breathe in that room, they were so beautiful.

The poem that inspired these paintings was William Morris’ “The Doom of King Acrisius” from The Earthly Paradise: 
He lighted down, and toward the place he drew,
And made invisible by Pallas' aid,
He came within the scarped cliff's purple shade,
And found a woman standing lonely there,
Naked, except for tresses of her hair
That o'er her white limbs by the breeze were wound,
And brazen chains her weary arms that bound
Unto the sea-beat overhanging rock,
As though her golden-crowned head to mock.
But nigh her feet upon the sand there lay
Rich raiment that had covered her that day,
Worthy to be the ransom of a king,
Unworthy round such loveliness to cling. . . .
 
 Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What art exhibits have you visited recently?

22 May 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: When at First Your Seeds Fail, Transplant, Transplant, Transplant

It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark
so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you
in a reverie of suspended thought. 
~ James Douglas, Down Shoe Lane



E
ven the best laid plans of mice. . .or in this case, gardeners.

So far it looks like my seed starting days are numbered.  The tomatoes and broccoli that did come up are too spindly to transplant.  I think it’s time I started looking at greenhouse plans. (Cue the grumbling ~ now I know why Southern Living has a column by the Grumpy Gardener!)

But the seeds I direct sowed last week are coming up already!  When I got home from work, there was still just enough light to see my wee babes. Good thing I was alone ~ anyone stopping by right then would have thought I was a complete loon, praising my plants for their growing prowess and cooing over them as I watered and weeded. The pictures are a little dark, but I love the half light effect:


Cilantro

Basil - Sacred
And my other direct sow babies are also doing Momma proud:
 
Sugar Daddy Snap Peas - still no pea pods, but the greens are huge!

 
Lettuce - time to pick and eat!

 
Lavender - this one's a transplant from a farm in Leesburg, VA

One Picky Farm Babe
As for the starter seeds, I know when to admit defeat.  But Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and I need transplants if I’m going to have any tomatoes in June or early July.  What’s grumpy farm girl to do?!

Most gardeners would simply head out to their local nursery and pick up a few flats of plants and think no more about it.  But here at La Belle, we don’t just buy random plants.  I’m a firm believer in sustainable and organic farming, land conservation, heirloom seed preservation, and keeping our food supply GMO free.  The two most important items on that list are organic and GMO-free.  Which means I won’t just buy random plants ~ even if they’re labeled organic.  Buying GMO-free is my way of sticking it to commercial conglomerates like Monsanto.  Seriously, splicing pig DNA with corn?!

Ewwww.

Now back to my transplant dilemma.  There aren’t any organic, non-GMO nurseries near me.  (If you know of any, please let me know!)  So I Googled “organic, non-GMO plants for sale” and found a company that I had not come across when I bought my seeds: Sweet Corn Organic Nursery.  Not only do they fit the criteria, but they have a BOGO free deal going on and the most important thing: the plants would ship before May 27 (there were a couple other places that also ship organic, non-GMO plants, but they wouldn’t ship until after Memorial Day.)  I even called them to check on my order and when I said I wanted them by Friday, they called the shipping department to make sure my order goes out today.  Now that is customer service!  Thank you, Bryan!!

Let’s just say, I went a little crazy.  But in my defense, shipping was free and I didn’t buy plants for just my garden.  I bought plants to give away.  Otherwise, I’m going to be able to start a canning business with all the tomatoes I ordered. 

Now about those greenhouse plans. . . .

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Where do you buy your organic, non-GMO plants?

21 May 2013

The La Belle Daybook: Week of 20 May

Success is 10% inspiration, 90% last-minute changes. 
~ from a billboard advertisement


I
am an odd duck.

I love to make lists, but I forget about them a day later.

I like to plan events with friends, but like those plans to be flexible.

I am bothered by chaos, but can never quite get organized enough.

Writing is like breathing, but I don’t always make the time, or have the courage to hit the “post” button.

Est quid est.  It is what it is.  And so here is my weekly daybook ~ posted late yet again.

Outside my window:  a mild and sunny day.  Perfect for a mid-afternoon walk.

Thankful for: Life and storm cellars.  God bless those people in Oklahoma; I cannot begin to imagine the pain they are going through.

Thinking about: Where I’m going to plant my veggie seedlings (more on that tomorrow) and how much compost I need.

Learning all the time: How to prioritize.  Tremendous help with those to do lists I have.  When I remember them.

Currently drinking: I fell off the wagon and had a Coke.  My poor bones.  Lemon water tomorrow!

Creating: A database for my growing collection of hats.  Have I mentioned my little millinery addiction yet?

Working on: Self acceptance.  More difficult then you know.

Going: to a concert at the National Gallery of Art tomorrow and a swing dance on Saturday.

Reading: Victor Frankl, Dannika Dark, and Living Without magazine.  What?  I like variety.

Hearing: The commuter train whistle.  Almost time to head home.

Around the house: Does this include the outside?  Because if so, see “Thinking about” above.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Anything fun planned this week?

15 May 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: A Moment of Mourning and There's Still Time to Plant!

Farming is a profession of hope.
~ Brian Brett


A
moment of silence for the seeds that never sprouted.

Not sure why this batch didn’t make it.  But time to start over.  Good thing the weather has been manic (37 one night, 80 the next day) ~ that means that I have still have time to sprout some tomatoes and still get them in the ground before Father’s Day.

Since it was so warm last Saturday, I decided to plant more direct sow seeds: zinnias, purple echinacea, lacinato kale, and two types of basil ~ sacred and Genovese.  So the garden looks like this:

I haven’t planted the cucumbers yet because I’m afraid we might still get a frost.  But the plan is to plant the remaining seeds Memorial Day weekend.  I’m hosting a Garden Party that weekend; the guests will actually get their hands (and knees) dirty.




Enjoy the pictorial update!


Rhodies!

Marigolds; some re-seeded themselves; I planted the rest

Mystery greens; I do think this is spinach

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela