Finding Your Own Personal Retreat

EVERYONE NEEDS A PERSONAL RETREAT.  My experiences in living, and my work as a family therapist, tell me how important it is to maintain a healthy life. A retreat is just as important to us in our life after 50, as it was in our overloaded earlier years when we were competing our education, were young mothers or establishing a career. 

THE WORD RETREAT has many meanings in everyday language.  Websters Dictionary defines “retreat” as a verb: to leave, quit, withdraw – words with negative connotations.  Other definitions of retreat as a noun include: asylum, den, haunt, haven, hideway, privacy, refuge, sanctuary, shelter – words of more appeal and comfort.  Developmental psychologists teach that our more senior years are a time of reflection and consolidation, a time of taking stock and giving back.  I view this time of life as a time to set new goals and to take pleasure in the blessings of my life as it unfolds.  Having a special retreat can facilitate the process of rest, reflection and well-being.

MY OWN DREAM FOR A RETREAT has always been a cabin in the mountains.  I was born in West Virginia, and my husband in Kentucky, two states with beautiful mountains, so  we both feel nostalgic about being in the mountains.  One Fall day, 10 years ago, we found our mountain cottage on a drive into the North Carolina mountains.  Our cabin is on the side of the mountain about 3400 feet elevation.  The expansive view of the Black mountain range and the valley far below is visible from the screen porch, kitchen, dining room and living room.  We spent limited time here until we retired from academic life to pursue new interests.  We are now able to stay on extended visits.
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IN THE SPRING AND SUMMER,  the woods come to life with rhododendron, dogwood and other mountain flowers, and new green on thousands of trees.
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  In Fall, the mountains are transformed as the trees slow production of their chlorophyll and the leaves wave their many colors.  We see mountain creatures and birds wander around in their natural habitat.  In October, sounds of chain saws are heard in the distance as wood is cut and stockpiled for burning in the fireplace in Winter- for folks who live there all year.
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In November, the scent of pine is in the air as Frazier fir, cedar and pine trees are harvested for Christmas trees and bundled in trucks for transport to the cities.The early fog shrouds the mountains as we sip coffee in the morning.  
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In this little house, we feel close to nature and to each other.  And, I might add,  more open and self-aware.  Here, in our retreat, we stop, rest, create, laugh, reflect, plan – and spend time together. 

PERHAPS EACH PERSON NEEDS A PERSONAL RETREAT, a place to go that is meaningful – a space of our own. 
MY PROFESSOR BROTHER’S retreat is his sail boat, where he enjoys alone time to read, write and sail.  He says he feels free and in touch with his surroundings and his creative self on the water. 
MY BROTHER-IN-LAW’s retreat is a motor home.  He and his wife take to the roasd finding a new location near a lake or the ocean to park for a spell to relax and make new friends.  
MY SISTER HAS CREATED a comfortable retreat in the corner of her bedroom to read and make her to-do lists.  Her chair has a soft afghan, and sets beside  a small table with room for a couple of books and her journal and a floral china cup with a dainty handle for her coffee. 

A COUPLE I KNOW HAVEFOUND WAYS to carve out a personal retreats for each of them – he heads to his woodworking shop and she to her sewing niche for some time alone to work and think.
A MOTHER OF THREE tells me she has an old rocking chair on the back porch she goes to when she needs to get away for a few minutes. She says even five minutes rocking with her head back and her eyes closed is a mini vacation for her.
A SENIOR CITIZEN who is a recent widow, takes a daily walk in the park. She greets other walkers, enjoys the fresh air and the changing seasons.
A BUSY ARCHITECT says he takes a drive alone in the car in the rural countryside for about 30 minutes to clear his head, after a busy day.
MY DEAR CHINESE FRIEND has created a meditation room in her house – the room is empty except for a yoga mat, candles, flowers, Buddha statue and music.
A RETIRED NEIGHBOR says that her time alone in her garden pulling weeds and touching plants helps her “sort things out.” 

I ASKED SEVERAL FOLKS, In an unscientific survey,  about their choices of a place to get away and what it did for them. The common thread in their experiences was that each individual had found a way to “lose themselves” for a time  – an intermission, so to speak, before re-joining their lives, refreshed.  Their retreats enabled them to recharge, find the resolve to manage a difficult situation, problem-solve, forgive, brainstorm, meditate, create, rest, develop and action plan, set goals, get in touch with their optimism, appreciate their life’s blessings – and find their joy for life deep inside.

WHAT IS YOUR RETREAT?  WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? 

 

   

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

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Spaghetti, Go-To-Meals and All Things Pasta

IT WAS A PLEASANT OCTOBER DAY,  the temperature in Charlotte was in the low 70’s, the air crisp and the leaves turning colors in the city.  After grocery shopping in the morning, I enjoyed lunch and browsing in the clothing stores with my friend Barbara.  We try to meet once a week for lunch, checking out the food and ambiance in a different restaurant each time.  We always discuss the books we are reading. Then, we do something interesting,  such as viewing a new exhibit at the Mint Museum, browsing the huge Metrolina Antique Market, checking out a sale at a favorite store, spending the afternoon in a bookstore, or seeing a movie on rare occasions.  

I NEEDED TO PULL out one of my go-to-meals tonight, if I was to have dinner on the table at the usual time. LIKE SPAGHETTI. I typically change the way I make spaghetti sauce each time I make it.  The way I see it, cooking is a creative process and that is what makes it fun. 

I MADE A SIMPLE TOSSED SALAD of field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, grated cheddar cheese and chunks of zucchini. 
I put the whole wheat pasta on to cook as I made the sauce. 
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THE SAUCE FOR TONIGHT’S MEAL INCLUDES: ground beef, onions, garlic, tomato paste, peeled and quartered tomatoes, thinly sliced carrots, mushrooms, salt, pepper, basil,  and oregano – and this time, I added a 1/4 cup of sherry (medium to dry).  Since I had limited time to prepare dinner this evening, I precooked the carrots in the microwave until partially done.  In a skillet, I cooked the ground beef and onions and spices until done, added the garlic for an additional minute or two, then added the remaining ingredients. 
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I LEFT THE SAUCE TO COOK DOWN somewhat to the thickness I wanted on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. 
I WATCHED THE PASTA carefully to not overcook and drained it and moved it to the back of the stove for the last few minutes for the sauce to thicken.  I set the table and put the garlic bread in the oven to heat.  Tossed the salad with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I ARRANGED THE PASTA in my large white tureen, poured the sauce over the pasta and topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese.   I poured glasses of wine.  Tonight, it was Moscato Provincial di Pavia Castello del Poggio, Asti Italy.  Viola!  Dinner is served.
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I FOUND A LEMON PASTA at Trader Joe’s that is my new favorite – Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta.  I prepare the pasta, then toss it with extra virgin olive oil, toasted pine nuts and onions sautéed in a splash of olive oil and butter – then sprinkle pasta I bowl with parmesan and oregano.  Serve with a quarter lemon to squeeze over top.  Delicious.  Really. 

IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIMENT with unusual kinds of pasta and can’t find a local provider who has a variety, I have found an on-line source.  Rossi Pasta (rossipasta.com) has 29 kinds to try, such as: Vino Rosso Linguini, Lemon Pepper, Saffron Linguini, Black Olive Linguini, Wild Mushroom Linguini, Spinach Basil Garlic Fettuccini, citrus Angel Hair, Pumpkin Spice Fettuccini (option to serve with sliced turkey) and many more.  CIAO.

WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR GO-TO-MEALS?

Sue Marquis Bishop October 2013

     

Trees Are Approaching Peak Colors and Jam Cake is for Dinner

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NATURE’S FALL EXTRAVAGANZA of Colors is on full display as we leave the mountains this week for the city. In every direction, I see a such a powerful vista that I concentrate on the views, trying to memorize the “now showing” moving pictures to recall during the coming Winter.

NC Mountains -Photo by SMB
NC Mountains -Photo by SMB

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NC Mountains Photo by SMB
IN LATE OCTOBER,changing light signals fauna and flora to orchestrate a final fling,
before rest and rejuvenation. Bright Fall skies light up the mountains
in an annual display, using all the best colors in the crayon box – copper, golden, nehi orange,
burgundy, scarlet and cinnamon.
Last Rays of Sunset on Black Mountains
Last Rays of Sunset on Black Mountains photo by SMB

EARTHY FALL COLORS ARE AT PEAK at 3,000-4,000 elevations bringing parades of tourists to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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THE YANCY TIMES reports bears preparing for hibernation are actively foraging
closer to homesteads, as the 2013 rains in the North Carolina mountains reduced the acorn crop
in higher elevations. We hide the bird feed and feed the dog indoors.

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Photo by SMB

THE WILD TURKEYS are marching again. I edged too close taking this picture in the yard. A second after it was taken, the tom turkey jumped on the hood of the car, fluffed out his feathers and screeched in such an unexpected and aggressive display, that I jumped back in fright.

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WE PASS THE OLD HOMESTEAD of the Honeycutt family as we reach the bottom of our mountain on the way to town. Descendents have built homes near this hollow. The old house is boarded up, sitting nestled in the crook of the hollow at the foot of the mountain. The old house is silent now, but the yard is well maintained by the family.

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Old Honeycutt House, Burnsville, NC Photo by SMB

THE WIND CIRCLES, blowing leaves from the trees,and they drift to the ground in heaps. We walk hand in hand, rustling the leaves beneath our feet like a taffeta skirt.

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I MAKE A LIMONCELLO STRAWBERRY JAM CAKE for dinner, an easy dessert and one of my family’s favorites. My Mother made hundreds of jelly rolls for us when we were growing up – and we loved them for dinner, snacks and breakfast. This is an adapted version of her jelly roll that I can put together faster when time is limited. Today I used a yellow cake mix. I followed the box directions, but substituted 1/4 cup limoncello liquour for part of the required liquid and orange juice for the rest, and added 1/4 cup sour cream. I made two layers, put them together with strawberry jam and dusted the top with powdered sugar. This is good to eat as is, but today, I added a dollop of lemon curd (from a jar) mixed with 1 tsp of limoncello and topped with strawberries.

Photo by SMB
Photo by SMB

I CUT A PIECE TO ENJOY in my chair overlooking the woods and light the fire.

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WHAT DO YOU LOVE about Fall?

Oh, To Be in the Mountains in the Fall

THERE WAS ALWAYS ONE DAY IN EARLY SEPTEMBER when my Mother would say, “fall is in the air” – and we would set out looking for bittersweet, cattails, wheat stalks and other interesting dried weeds and seeds to make into her Fall decorations. We knew fall had officially arrived, when we smelled her first loaf of pumpkin bread in the oven.

I LOOK FOR SIGNS OF FALL, as I take a break on the screen porch, with a second cup of coffee and an English muffin smeared with cream cheese and tomato marmalade. We are in the North Carolina mountains this week enjoying the cool air and gentle breezes.

THE MOUNTAINS are blanketed with trees stretching to the sky, their leaves mostly deep green now at summer’s end. The trees in our woods appear stately and still – as if their sturdy trunks, and all their leaves, are holding their breath – just before they exhale in a fall explosion of color. Fluffy clouds in the sky lay shadows here and there across the mountains in dark stripes, alternating with the sunlit areas, making the mountain range look like a giant head of just harvested broccoli or a boiled wool jacket in textured stripes of sunlit green and olive-black.

IT’S EASY TO IDENTIFY Mt. Mitchell, elevation 6,684 feet (ncparks.gov/visit/momi/main.phb), the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. The climate at the peak is more like Canada then North Carolina, with animals and flora more alpine in nature. Some birds that make their homes on the highest peak do not fly south for the winter, but fly down the mountain to a more suitable climate for wintering.

Black Mountain Range Photo by SMB
Black Mountain Range
Photo by SMB

THE LEAVES ON THE DOGWOOD trees are beginning to turn red and berries are appearing on the branches. So far, only a few trees show evidence of changing colors. Red shows here and there through the woods. Dry leaves are scattered on paths. An occasional yellow leaf tumbles to the ground from high in the canopy.

I HEAR THE RAT-A-TAT of a woodpecker, and finally locate his red head pecking like a jackhammer, on a tree not far from the porch. The squirrels chase each other up and down the trees, stopping to gather nuts and seeds for their winter stash. A doe and two young deer appeared in the back yard again early this morning as we were making our coffee.  The fawn have grown and lost their baby spots.  They scamper and nuzzle each other like the adolescents they are.

Deer on Cane Mountain Photo by SMB
Deer on Cane Mountain
Photo by SMB
THIS AFTERNOON WE SEE WILD TURKEYS emerging from the woods. They are in a rowed flock of 15, playing follow the leader, as they climb up the steep mountainside, in an ascending column of feathers and bobbing blue heads. Blue heads? That was a surprise to me too. Blue as the Carolina sky! I always thought wild turkeys were skinny birds, not fat like the turkeys fattened for our thanksgiving tables.  Not so these birds.  They look fat to me.

A FEW LONE HUMMINGBIRDS ARE busy stuffing their tiny bodies with nutrients in preparation for the long trip south. My herb garden is getting leggy, as are our the geraniums and petunias. I pick the last of the tomatoes. I button my sweater against the cool afternoon. Maybe we’ll build our first fire of the fall season tonight. I make a mental note to arrange for a cord of wood to be delivered.

TODAY’S MAIL BRINGS notices about Fall festivals in the small towns throughout the North Carolina mountains – each one with a unique history – Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, Old Timey Days, Mt Mitchell Festival, Tomato Festival or Wooly Worm Festival. Children love the wooly worm races. Some old timers vow the thickness of the wooly worm’s coat predicts the kind of winter we will have. All the festivals have music,fresh produce, prepared food and beautiful mountain crafts. North Carolina is now 10th in grape production and wine stompings are more common. 

Fall Farmer Market Photo by SMB
Fall Farmer Market
Photo by SMB

AT TWILIGHT, I see the lights in the high school stadium in the valley below. Football season is underway at Mountain Heritage High School. I decide that tomorrow I will bring in pots of rust, orange, red and yellow mums to brighten the house and porch.  I’ll set some pumpkins and bittersweet on the screened porch and decorate the dining table and mantle with colorful leaves and pumpkins. It’s time to put away warm weather clothes and get out sweaters, jackets, corduroy, wool and hats. A good night for chili and apple pan dowdy.  

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A NEW SEASON.  My mother used to say that “each turning of a new season gives a person a lift.”  I understand what she meant because I feel the same way.  As a new season approaches, I feel emotionally uplifted, eager for new experiences and motivated to action. Time to make my action list for Fall.

What are the SIGNS OF FALL you look for?

What MEMORIES ARE STIRRED when they appear?

What FIVE WORDS would you choose to describe your experience of Fall? My choice is: colorful, savory, rich, cozy, industrious

Sue Marquis Bishop
September 2013    

 

 

Take a Mountain Retreat to a Literary Festival

ARE YOU INSPIRED BY BREATHTAKING SCENERY? Do you like books? Do you enjoy conversations on intellectually stimulating topics? Do you need a vacation? If the answer is yes, and you are in the regional vicinity of the North Carolina mountains, I have a splendid suggestion: make plans to attend this year’s Carolina Mountain Literary Festival. Or plan long range for next year’s – it’s usually in September.

THE 2013 ANNUAL CAROLINA MOUNTAIN LITERARY FESTIVAL is scheduled for September 12-14. Now in its 8th year, the festival is held in the mountain town of Burnsville, North Carolina. Burnsville is a small town nestled in the beautiful NC mountains, near Mt. Mitchell – the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, near the Blue Ridge Parkway, 30 minutes from Asheville, NC and 2 hours from Charlotte, NC. The town is charming, organized around a town square that hosts many festivals and community events throughout the year. The largest is the Mt. Mitchell Festival held the first weekend in August every year.

THIS YEAR, ELIZABETH KOSTOVA is the keynote speaker at the banquet on Saturday evening at the conclusion of the Thursday-Saturday event. Kostova is author if the bestseller “The Historian” and her new novel, “The Swan Thieves”. Over 40 authors are scheduled for the conference this year. This literary festival has the flavor of the mountains – easy paced, nourishing, engaging – focused only on authors and readers who love books in common – with time to chat, question, learn and share in small groups.

MULTIPLE SESSIONS ARE HELD in various venues throughout the town. Walking a few steps, or a block, in the warm September air, with views of the mountains always in sight, is part of the magic. Some sessions are held in the new town hall; or upstairs at the JAVA Café; or the historic brick library, lovingly restored from an old high school; or Mary Jane’s bakery and cafe with organic foods, fresh baked bread and live music at noon; or the tea lounge over the sisters shop where they create lovely stationery with the paper they create.

ARTISTIC DIVERSITY REINS AT THE FESTIVAL – authors of fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, and writers of songs, plays and poetry are here. I have been to six of the festivals and have enjoyed each one – always learning something. When my sister attends with me, we choose one session that we know nothing about, so we are stimulated to learn something new – and it has always been rewarding.

SO, I AM HAPPY TO BE HERE in this special place, with time to spend with others talking about stories and books – for the whole weekend! There are dozens of small literary festivals in the country that do not get national advertising attention. Most small ones are held in out of the way amazing places. I recommend seeking them out and planning a visit in the coming year. You will be rewarded in unexpected ways.

IT IS THE END OF SUMMER, but the leaves are just starting to drift to the ground. I will share some pictures of this beautiful place – in Burnsville, North Carolina.

Website at cmlitfest.org

The Pie That Made My Dad Propose

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Photo and pie by SMB

WHEN DAD MENTIONED AN OLD GIRLFRIEND’S PIE, MOTHER SURPRISED HIM WITH ONE OF HER OWN.

MOTHER PREPARED A FORMAL DINNER WITH DESSERT every night of the week for her husband and four children, and the six of us ate together, at the table in the dining room, Dad at one end and Mom at the other. Whenever the dessert was cream pie, Dad would ask, “Did you know I married your mom because she made the best pie I ever ate?” Then he would pause and chuckle. “Even better than Josephine’s pies,” he would add with a wink in mom’s direction. Then he’d retell the Marquis family story.

MY PARENTS MET ON A BLIND DATE IN Charleston, West Virginia, in the spring of 1938. She said he arrived at the door in a brown checkered suit with a fashionable belt in the back and brown and white shoes. His first words were, “Hi, I’m Harold Marquis. Do you want to go dancing?”

HE NOTICED HER BIG BLUE EYES AND NATURALLY CURLY HAIR. She thought he was handsome and polite. They soon discovered they had something unusual in common before the night was over when he asked, “I would like for you to meet my twin sister,” and she replied, “And I would like for you to meet my twin sister too.”

ON THE DATES THAT FOLLOWED, they frequently went dancing, as this was the big band era. After dancing, they would often stop at a diner for some pie and coffee. Dad loved pie and had a unique way of eating it. He’d always tell the waitress to “Put the pie in a bowl and pour milk over it”. One night he happened to mention that his old girlfriend Josephine had made him a pie. Mom didn’t answer, but the next time he picked her up for a date, she had her old-fashioned cream pie waiting for him.

“THAT WAS THE BEST PIE I EVER ATE”, Dad always said. “I decided right then that I was going to marry this girl.” In December, 1938, Ina and Harold eloped and were married in Ashland, Kentucky. They were each 21 years old.

MY PARENTS HAD A LONG LIFE together filled with many blessings. They were graceful ballroom dancers and enjoyed dancing well into their 80’s. They both arrived in the world in 1917 and they both died in the same year – 2008 – after 70 years of marriage. I miss them every day.

OUR EXTENDED FAMILY of children, spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren now number 22. All the Marquises know the story of the cream pie that started our family. We still make it sometimes and whenever we do, we retell the story, as we eat every bite of this delicious dessert and lick our forks.

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Original photo appeared in MADISION COURIER, Madison, Indiana

MARQUIS OLD-FASHIONED CREAM PIE

Preparation: 30 min Refrigerate: 4 house to overnight

CRUST:
12 graham crackers, broken in pieces
2 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

FILLING:
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups cold milk
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Raspberries (optional)

PREPARE CRUST:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Blend graham crackers in food processor or a few at a time in blender. Add sugar and mix until finely ground. Add melted butter and combine well. Reserve 1/4 cup of graham mixture. Press remaining crumb mixture into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie pan. Bake about 7 minutes until lightly browned. Cool while preparing filling.

PREPARE FILLING:
In large saucepan, whisk sugar, salt and cornstarch. Add milk and egg yolks and whisk well. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture begins to bubble, then cook one (1) minute longer.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nutmeg and butter. Cool filling by placing pan in ice water, taking care not to let any water spill into filling. When filling is just warm, pour into baked crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Before serving, sprinkle with reserved graham cracker crumbs. Add a few raspberries on side of plate when serving pieces if desired.

THIS PIE IS SO SCRUMPTIOUS THAT MY FAMILY OFTEN EATS IT STILL WARM WITH A SPOON, NOT WAITING UNTIL IT FIRMS UP TO SLICE. I also sometimes just make the filling and layer with angel food cake in a stemmed glass with fresh fruit – an impressive and delicious dessert for a dinner party.

A version of our family story and mom’s pie recipe was originally published in the June 2013 issue of LADIES HOME JOURNAL, and reprinted in savvydad.com

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

WORDS

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Photo by SMB

When I was a wee one, mother weaned me from her breast by reading, my back propped against her chest and a magical picture book in front of us.
WORDS ARE ABSORBING.

When I was a toddler, so I was told, trashing a scrap of paper with writing on it brought on tears of anguish.
WORDS ARE TREASURES TO BE KEPT.

When I was three, my mother read the “Night Before Christmas” so often,that I could say it by heart – for all of my life, and her 92 years.
WORDS STRUNG TOGETHER IN PLEASING RHYTHM FEEL GOOD ROLLING OFF THE TONGUE.

When I was young, I sometimes used words to let out my anger.
WORDS CAN HURT.

When I could read, I had my own library card.
WORDS BECAME STORIES AND BOOKS THAT FOSTERED IMAGINATION.

When I went to bed at night, my family said “I love you”, and I was lulled to sleep,
with the softly droning voices of adults, in low conversation.
WORDS CAN COMFORT.

When I was in junior high with awakening hormones,I wrote poems and stories of adventure and romance.
WORDS CAN EXPRESS INNER FEELINGS AND CREATIVITY.

When I listened to lyrics and song, images of love blossomed.
WORDS SET TO MUSIC STIR PASSIONS AND MEMORIES.

When I was in college, written and spoken words introduced me to science and art.
WORDS HAVE POWER TO INFORM AND TRANSFORM.

When I married, I said, “I do”.
WORDS CAN BIND LIVES.

When I was knee deep in my career, words enabled me to maneuver, lead, negotiate, compromise, propose, manage and teach.
WRITTEN AND SPOKEN WORDS ARE TOOLS TO AN END.

When I retired, words in books were my companions in leisure.
WORDS IN THE HANDS OF A MASTER WRITER CAN FILL THE MIND AND HEART.

In the afternoon of my life – if I could – I would take back any words that diminished another, and
SPEAK MORE WORDS THAT ENHANCED ANOTHER.

“Thank you.”
“It’s your turn.”
“I’m sorry.”
“You are right.”
“You are so talented.”
“I value our friendship.”
“I am so proud of you.”
“I love you.”

Sue Marquis Bishop 2012

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