Staying in Focus: Focus On: Changes

Today when I went out to water my plants, I found this lying on the grass:


The first red maple leaf of fall.

The first red maple leaf of fall.











Surely a sign of changes ahead

The first red leaf falls to the ground

a signal  as one season ends

another waits to begin

autumn is approaching

with its splash of vibrant color

and its days of cooler weather;

we harvest what’s been planted

as the sun beams through the trees

and gives a warm and cozy glow

to the changing leaves

autumn is the season

when nature rearranges

and we anticipate the changes

signaled by a small red leaf.











Staying in Focus: Autumn crafts/precious moments

The finished product

The finished product

One of the things I most enjoyed about teaching was exploring the changing seasons and celebrating the holidays through art. I enjoy crafts myself and loved sharing this with my students.  Now that I have retired, I enjoy sharing these  interests with my grandchildren. This weekend they came over for a visit. Their laughter and exuberance fill the house and bring a charge of energy to their Grams and Grandpa. We decorated a Halloween scene, made puppets and then they put on a puppet show . Here are some pictures of our day together.. IMG_2416IMG_2415                                                                          Adding the finishing touches. And now it is time for the puppet show:IMG_2441

The finished product!


                                                                                            After all that work , it’s time for some physical activity :                                                                                                                               IMG_2420

           Each day spent with them is a precious moment.                                                                                                           

IMG_2421 IMG_2423 IMG_2424 My friend, Denise, who recently moved here is also a craft enthusiast. Here are a couple of simple crafts we made together, We took a plain pumpkin and fancied it up with ribbon and fall flowers. You can use a real or a manufactured pumpkin. The leaf mat is a simple piece of white cardboard cut into a circle the size you need, with leaves (real or silk) ironed flat and glued  onto the circle. We used a hot  glue gun. A white sock and an empty 2 liter bottle of soda become a ghost. Simply fill the bottom with beans or sand for stability . Use a little wire  to make the peak atop his head and make the arms bendable. Use scraps to decorate. A spaghetti jar and some stretchy medical bandage become a mummy. Add googly eyes and some creepy spiders to decorate. Place a candle inside. I use the battry powered ones for safety. IMG_2428 IMG_2423 - Copy IMG_2426 - Copy Filling your home with holiday crafts brings back memories of special time spent together with family and friends. Our family has exchanged homemade gifts for many years. They have included clever crafts like those above, beautiful cross stitch pieces from my mom, and cross stitch ornaments from my cousin Phyllis, painted dishes, mosaic hot plates, candles, potpourri jars, decorated coffee cups from my sister. I’ve added annual  Christmas poems with watercolor backgrounds, family photo books I designed on Snapfish, framed photography and a myriad of homemade ornaments. My brother has made us each beautiful carved walking sticks, and very clever things made from found objects like large, rusty bolts from railroad tracks, my sister-in-law Elise gave us clever scarves  made of yarn, our niece Jeanette has painted feathers and shells and framed art pieces. These are the kind of gifts you remember year to year. And the making and giving of gifts are  some of the truly precious moments of our lives. This inspiration for the ribbon  pumpkin came from all you magazine,the September 20, 2013 issue.

Staying in Focus: An Autumn Wedding, Autumn Colors and a Look Back

Well, we are back from our next to last trip of 2013, and what a summer of travel and fun with family and friends we have had! We visited Atlanta in late May with our friends, Kathi and Don.We were exploring the Gone With the Wind Trail and highlights there were a bus tour of historic Jonesboro and  a tour of the Margaret Mitchell house where she wrote GWTW. We also took in a Braves game, where once we had hope for an exciting postseason. But that is a subject for my other blog, Focus on the Atlanta Braves. We also celebrated Mom’s 90th birthday on May 20, with a party at my sister’s house. She had a rough time this summer battling back a second attack of breast cancer, but her strength and positive outlook is getting her through.

My Mom at 90: So strong in her battle with cancer

My Mom at 90: So strong in her battle with cancer

Later in June we drove to Washington, DC to attend the wedding of our niece, Jeanette and Jarred Tafaro.  A week later found us flying to Heathrow airport in England to board the Caribbean Princess for a cruise around the British Isles. IMG_1375We toured St. Peter Port on the Isle of Guernsey and made ports of call in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, France and England. We covered everything from Stonehenge to The Beatles, sampled the local cuisine and searched for Nessie on a boat ride across Loch Ness. Bill saw the church in which his great grandparents married, and we visited The Cavern, a launching pad pub for the Beatles. We learned much about each place we visited, and the people in each country were delightful!

We returned home and attended a Monkees concert with our boys (what fun!) and then enjoyed a week with our house guests, Denise and Geoff, and dogs  Buddy and Bailey. Although there were some stressful moments as Denise and Geoff negotiated the closing on their house and the delivery of appliances and furniture (quite a nightmare at times) we really enjoyed having them stay with us. They moved out into their new home just before our family from NJ arrived. We enjoyed the usual shopping forays and looking at new houses, not to mention the traditional goodbye at Goodberry’s.  A few weeks later and we drove up to NJ to see our other niece, Becky, marry her new husband, Ally Randazzo.  As they took off for a honeymoon in Fiji, Bill and I headed to our haven in the Poconos for a few days of rest and relaxation. Here is a look back:

IMG_1050IMG_1053IMG_0901IMG_0936IMG_0899_edited-1 IMG_1165IMG_1180.ajpgIMG_1311IMG_1638IMG_1759IMG_2318IMG_159120130828_185750IMG_2162a995701_10201236703892389_905295430_n093106IMG

And now we look ahead to the holidays, my favorite time of year. I love the fall, the changing leaves and that glorious blue sky free of the heavy, humid air of summer. That first nip in the air speaks to me of warm sweaters,  long nights, firelight, the crackle of leaves under my feet, hot apple cider and bowls of chili.  With all the holiday festivities and preparations, it will be time to pack those suitcases again for our annual Christmas visit to New Jersey before we know it!

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are a bit ahead of us in the autumn color display, so here is a sneak peek:

IMG_2273IMG_2257 - CopyIMG_2269IMG_2260blue skyIMG_2302IMG_2274IMG_2279IMG_2310 IMG_2256 - Copy - CopyIMG_2315

Staying in Focus: On September

September is flying by so fast, and it’s one of my favorite months, as fall officially begins on the Autumnal Equinox, which is September 22.  Today, I broke out the fall decorations and festooned my house in autumn color to celebrate this season of harvest.  Here are a few thoughts to explain the delight  I find in the month of September

September is:
a month of fresh starts...memories of new pencil cases and new lunch boxes, the smell of chalk, the polished sheen on my new black and white saddle shoes…and the blank pages of a composition book beckoning me to record endless possibilities with the precise point of a newly sharpened pencil…

a new season...we welcome the cooler temperatures and the return of crystal blue skies  as the pure, cold air of Canada swoops down and sends the humid air hanging over us back to the gulf where it belongs.  We look forward to buying cozy sweaters to wear on a crisp, fall night, perhaps to a football game.  We bask in the warmth of a September afternoon, marveling as the sun casts beams of golden light through the trees (I love the afternoon light this time of year).  We harvest apples, we brew apple cider  and make apple pies…

September is a month of changes …changes in weather and schedules, and seasons.  we plant pansies and mums to replace the flowers of summer; we pick apples instead of strawberries, and wait with expectation for the trees to change from their garb of summer green to their more flamboyant dress: the yellow,red and orange shades of fall.

September marks the end of the lazy, crazy days of summer.  A return to school means a return to schedules and homework and tests.  But we look forward to learning and growing, and changing.  As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, we gather together in our cozy homes, sharing soups and stews made from the harvest of vegetables, which started as tiny seeds when planted last spring. The harvest in September is the fulfillment of that promise made with each seed sown.  It is the gatekeeper of fall – my favorite season of all!

It wouldn’t be fall without a scarecrow or two.

These tiny birds perch on my sink,each with a gift of fall to offer: an apple, a pumpkin, a leaf and an acorn