Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.
~ Coco Chanel
Black & Gray
I wonder if your closet looks like mine did one year ago, bursting with blacks, charcoals and grays. When spring and summer rolled around, I would swap out the gray and black sweaters for short sleeved gray and black shirts. I felt safe in those slimming colors, and there is something comforting about a closet of versatile neutrals, even if they are unimaginative.
Then, for my 2021 birthday my children gave me a House of Colour consultation with Katie Tenney. Katie placed various colored scarves around my face to discern what swatches looked best, and then narrowed it down even further to discover my best color season. Would it be Fall, Winter, Spring or Summer?
Turns out, I’m a “Spring”, with my complexion favoring bright, peppy colors. (Springs don’t tend to look great in black — interesting.)
So, with a humble budget I tiptoed into the wacky world of color. Starting at Goodwill, I bought teal, turquoise and even bright orange garments.
I found that the quickest and cheapest way to infuse color into my closet was with wardrobe accents. I found a few luxurious secondhand cashmere ponchos and fell in love with soft, non-scratchy, lightweight wool scarves.
Now my closet looks dangerously clownlike — but also happily fresh and flattering.
Last summer, my adult daughter read Gone With the Wind. One thousand pages / 50 listening hours later, she wanted to see Georgia for herself. She settled on Savannah and asked me if I wanted to go.
No Minnesotan would decline a December trip into the sunshine, and I love traveling with my people.
Here are five trip highlights:
Oh, the well-preserved, colorful Savannah homes! The history-rich stone mansions and ancient cemeteries! The beautifully gnarled oaks, dripping with decorative Spanish moss! Walking around in 70 degree weather in December is a treat for any northern person. The natural and urban beauty was a bonus.
Eating Out & Shopping
Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop with its unique and compassionate business model was a highlight and a truly special place. Besides the coffee, we bought souvenirs.
We knew we wanted to visit the 100+ year old Savannah favorite: Leopold’s Ice Cream. After standing in a long line, I chose their famous tutti-frutti, made with Georgia pecans, and topped it with hot fudge.
My favorite shop was Folklorico, a fair-trade boutique stuffed with lovely things.
A Farmer’s Market in December?
Up north, farmers markets start hibernating in October, but the Forsyth Park Farmers Market is active all year long. It was fun to stroll along and see what people in Savannah are buying outdoors in December, like mushrooms, honey, bread, soap and more.
Someone said that the best way to see Savannah is to walk square by square. It’s an ideal way to explore the historical part of the city. Each square has a size, personality, and landmarks all its own. Seeing the statues of confederate war heroes reminded us with every step that we were definitely in southern territory!
Dodging waves in bare feet while it was snowing back in Minnesota was tremendously satisfying. The drive from inner Savannah out to Tybee Beach took us through low-lying watery flats, peppered by one-lane bridges. I’m not used to driving in unknown places – my husband typically takes that task when we travel. But heading out to Tybee, there I was: the grownup with the rental car, soaring out into the sunshine with my daughter when we could have just been home baking Christmas cookies. Woohoo!
“There are vaster and wealthier cities, but for architectural simplicity, for an indescribable charm about its streets and buildings, its parks and squares, there is but one Savannah. Without a rival, without an equal, it stands unique.”
I like walking along the beautiful Lake Minnetonka, but the shoreline homes are so dazzling and covet-worthy that I find my mind wandering…”what would it be like to live here?”
Sigh…we could never afford a place like 35018 Sleepy Hollow Road — a storybook cottage nestled along a peaceful, lapping lakeshore. But the people who live here are not necessarily happy, I console myself. And, they probably feel the pressure to keep up with rich neighbors. And they must endure walkers like myself, who gawk and stare while moving along the rail trail.
One last random thought enters my head: this place doesn’t even have a clothesline.
After looking up the home price (sold for 3 million in 2018) I thought I’d write one of those real estate descriptions for OUR home — you know — the kind of copy that makes even a major weakness sound like an intriguing possibility?
Roomy Home on the Prairie
Relax in country paradise in this multi-level rambler on the prairie. A quiet hideaway on seven acres, this spacious property offers nearby access to biking trails, parks, schools and shopping. (Relatively new) updates include hardwood floors and windows. Additional updates pending. Indefinitely.
Large, finished basement offers a “lived-in” look, plus plenty of light from generous windows.
Enjoy the master bedroom + bath and a large top floor bedroom that serves as a spacious office — both with original oak flooring. This home features three bedrooms on the lower level plus three full bathrooms and a half bath.
Very vintage floor-to-ceiling living room windows allow a broad view of the backyard garden, tall trees and natural prairie wildflowers that attract wildlife, bees and birds. Enjoy a private walk around the property or a cozy bonfire near the mature apple tree orchard. Toss a football around or play a game of ultimate frisbee on the lovingly tended ball field.
Harness natural wind power to dry your clothes in country fresh air on the updated clothesline (Make sure the manure spreader isn’t working on the adjoining land first.)
This property is convenient to local towns and services, but is nestled in its own private country space.
Finally, it’s not for sale, because WE live in this roomy, happy home on the prairie — and it’s better than a million-dollar lake home.
I wrote once before about my mother-in-law, Zenaida, on this blog, but last week I had the privilege of writing about her again, because we said our final goodbyes to Mama Z last week.
Here are some words I shared at the funeral of this tenacious Cuban lady, and the full story of her courageous exit from Cuba follows…
“We have a big family and each time after we had a baby, Zenaida would come for a visit, bearing LOADS of food. She didn’t just bring a meal and a bag of salad. It was more like:
A huge watermelon
2 XL bags of tortilla chips
A large, heavy homemade loaf of banana bread, baked in a bundt pan
A 10-pound package of ground beef
And an institutional sized box of cereal
When she arrived, our refrigerator and freezer would be stuffed full and there was so much food on the table that there often wasn’t room for anyone to sit down and eat there.
That was just how she gave.
She gave BIG. and
She gave generously.
On these visits after a new baby, Zenaida would find things to clean. She was thorough, and there was always something to clean at our house. She would scour the grimy highchair, she would pull out the washer and dryer and sweep behind, and once she used a toothpick to completely detail our toaster — removing every last crumb.
Zenaida loved to work with her hands, and she would add beauty and sparkle to her creations and sometimes add her own creative touch to something she had purchased. She made her own clothes and was not afraid to tackle complicated styles. She usually chose fancy fabrics with a little sparkle, and she always wore her outfits with her favorite jewelry.
Zenaida and I shared a love of sewing, however, the fabric I usually chose was much more plain and simple and I seldom wear much jewelry.
One time she took me aside and said:
“Lisa. You shouldn’t dress so much like a nun.”
She sewed many dresses for me and for our daughters. Once she made me a jumper that had an opening cut out at the bottom.
“I made it like this, so when you are walking up the stairs, the dress will kind of open up at the bottom and show your legs a little bit.”
Actually, the dress I am wearing today is one that Zenaida made for herself and wore 30 years ago at our wedding. I think she would be happy to see me wearing something she made — and with a touch of sparkle in the fabric!
Tomorrow’s funeral service will include a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 about an inspiring, God-fearing woman. This is a fitting passage for Zenaida, because it includes phrases such as:
She works with her hands in delight!
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (I never knew Zenaida’s husband; he passed away many years before I became part of the family. But whenever she spoke about him, her words were loving and honoring.)
She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her.
And that last phrase is our desire: to share words that explain what a priceless part of the family that she will always be, and to express gratefulness for her investment of love in all of our lives.”
In 1963, Zenaida Martinez Araujo Luciano left Cuba with her beloved husband, two young sons, and nothing else but her faith and courage.
On August 15, 2020 Zenaida left this earth with a full life, along with the admiration of her large and loving family.
Zenaida was born in the town of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1932. She was the only child of Francisca Martinez Araujo. Zenaida and her mother lived with Josefa Fernandez, a dear family friend, who became like a second mother to her.
Zenaida attended Escuela de Comercio where she joined the marching band as a drummer and played on the volleyball team. After high school, she studied at Escuela Profesional de Comercio and earned her degree in international trade and customs in 1955.
After finishing college, she fell in love with and married Antonio Luciano. The couple welcomed their first child, Antonio Jr., while living in New York. After Cuban dictator Batista was removed from office, they returned to Cuba, where their second son, José was born. When the new leader, Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a communist state, Zenaida and Antonio applied for permission to immigrate to the United States.
Zenaida and Antonio finally received authorization to leave Cuba in 1963, and when they departed their homeland, they were forced to leave behind their family and friends, their wedding rings, and all earthly possessions. After a brief stay in Miami, the family obtained sponsorship generously offered by the Richfield Jaycees in Minnesota. When Zenaida’s friends warned her that she would have to milk cows up in Minnesota, she laughed and said she gladly would.
While living in Minneapolis, Zenaida and Antonio’s family grew as they were blessed with sons Nicholas and Giovanni. Sadly, in 1974, Zenaida’s beloved husband died of cancer, which left her with four children, limited English, and without a driver’s license, car or income source. Dauntless and determined, Zenaida pushed through these new challenges, and studied to become a U.S. citizen in 1976. She learned to drive and secured a job at the VA in laundry and food service. Later, she transferred to the IRS, where she worked for 20 years. After retiring in 1997, she was free to travel, sew, care for her grandchildren and attend their important events.
Zenaida will always be remembered as a persistent, generous, faith-filled person who never gave up. She was the #1 fan of her grandchildren’s activities and she was always the first person to deliver a happy birthday phone call or a severe weather update. Among many other things, she was an expert seamstress, a sports enthusiast, the best banana-bread-baker, a lavish food-giver, towel-embellisher, soup-maker, salsa-dancer and the rainbow-jello-queen.
This past year, Zenaida faced her cancer with dignity and courage, and she often expressed gratefulness to her family, who cared for her in her home. Zenaida passed away on August 15, 2020 at age 88, surrounded by her devoted family.
My oldest daughter and I were in the kitchen yesterday and she looked me up and down with concern.
“Umm..I was just wondering why you dress with such a mix of patterns lately?”
I looked down at my flowered skirt and buffalo checked shirt. “What’s wrong with this?” I asked. “They both have blue.”
This daughter has been professionally trained to assess cognitive loss in the elderly population.
So, I second-guessed myself.
Am I losing it?
Is the fact that I seldom leave the house starting to affect me?
Am I just getting old?
But I’m of Scandinavian descent — I like bright colors.
I’m an artistic type — I don’t mind a little mixing of patterns here and there.
Perhaps this is how I see myself:
But maybe this is how she sees me?
Part 2: My Morning Trip to Walmart
One day later, I got to Walmart as the doors opened; as the masked shoppers rolled past the greeters who now double as patron counters.
I was wearing a flowered skirt (again), athletic shirt (matching color), baseball cap (hair needs coloring), barn jacket and black boots.
Halfway through the dairy section, I noticed an elderly, well-dressed woman. She was a petite, classy grandma type, with snowy white hair, wearing a flashy red dress, fitted black wool coat, nylons and dress shoes, gold earrings, and red lipstick.
Remember, this is Walmart. The sight of her really stood out.
We finally crossed paths near the empty toilet paper aisle, eye to eye and cart to cart, though still six feet apart.
“I like your skirt,” she said to me.
“Thanks. I was noticing you, too — all dressed up here at Walmart.”
She leaned in and quipped, “We need to class this place up a bit, don’t we?”
I laughed and rolled away, smiling. (Also rare at Walmart these days.)
Korean stop sign, photo taken by my son because he knows I like stop signs in various foreign languages.
New local bakery where my daughter and I shared a pecan caramel roll and cherry turnover, good coffee and sweet conversation.
Blueberry muffins galore, made by my daughter and gratefully consumed on ski day morning.
Time alone on a chairlift– beautiful and peaceful silent time. Short and sweet and high off the ground, but I’ll take it.
Trying to walk regularly outside because I should, not because I really want to, so I grit my teeth and lean into the wind.
God frosted the trees for us, beautifying our homeschool ski day with His creative handiwork plus cheerful sunshine and no injuries.
My husband drove this cute little Mazda Miata down to Florida for a friend recently. It looks like a toy car, but he sure got lots of applause / envy from strangers along the way. The admiration sat well with my husband 🙂
I am sad to say goodbye to a wonderful audiobook trilogy about Crispin by author Avi.We finished the last of the three books this week.
From beginning to end, these stories about a young orphan growing up in the Middle Ages are adventurous, suspenseful, and touching.
Avi is a talented and prolific author and his first Crispin book is a Newbery Award Winner.
A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.
We are finally in the 1970’s in homeschool history, and this will shine a spotlight on why — for us — homeschooling has been the best way to go:
this may be the first time in my life I will truly understand what was happening in my childhood when I was too young to comprehend or care.
Questions like the following will be answered for all of us:
What is Watergate and why did they call it that?
Where and what was Camp David?
Who was the Shah of Iran?
Why did they put yellow ribbons all over fences and buildings?
As I assigned a few reports to my oldest homeschoolers yesterday, they didn’t get why I danced around the kitchen, singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” and got busy reserving “All the President’s Men” from the library website. They didn’t understand why I told them to: “Write the first paragraph of the report like a newspaper article — like a summary; like “Watergate for Dummies.” Explain the start of the Islamic Republic of Iran like you were explaining it to a child.
Hooray! I might finally understand all this stuff. More soon.
My son is traveling overseas for the first time, and I prayed that it would be a glorious, life-changing trip for him.
Surrounded by church friends and armed with a confident, likable personality, I doubt he will be homesick and I hope he will have a grand experience.
This morning’s happy bon voyage caused me to remember my first overseas experience, only 36 years ago….
When I left my Midwest suburb, I thought I looked totally acceptable — even cool — in my preppy boat shoes, wide-striped rainbow polo and Kelly green chinos. My hair was freshly home-permed into a bushy, easy-care halo around my pudgy face.
Our French teacher, Madame Fansler-Wald, headed up the trip to France, starting in Paris with a one week family stay. A series of pre-trip planning sessions told us what to pack and what to leave home: “Don’t pack too much! Leave lots of room for souvenirs.”
At that season of my life, I thought so little of makeup that I decided I would lighten my luggage by leaving makeup at home — all 3 ounces of it.
When it was time to leave, my whole family could stand at the gate and wave goodbye, because this was the innocent, trusting 1980’s.
Au revoir! See you in 3 weeks!
My hollow carry-on and I landed in Paris and each student was shuffled off for one week with their Parisian host family.
Pascale DuClosel was my teen counterpart in the host family — she was short, dark and aloof. She sported a fashionable, cropped hairdo and wore mini skirts and high-heeled pumps. She lived in a stylish flat with her mother and father, who were also aloof but pleasant, and spoke less English than Pascale.
That first night — and every night — I sat alone in the sparse European guest bedroom and drew out my Bible. Trying to ward off homesickness, I read big chunks of the comforting Psalms; they have been my best friend ever since.
For breakfast we bought fresh, long loaves of French bread and ate them slathered with real butter and exquisitely lumpy marmalade.
Pascale showed me her neighborhood and some days we sat at the sidewalk cafe with her friends. It didn’t take long to soak in the fashionable, French atmosphere, and I recall the moment I saw my frumpy reflection in a shop window and looked down at my sensible shoes.
Suddenly, I felt like a farm hand that had parachuted into an elegant, sophisticated party.
And, I must have missed the unit where Madame talked about French greeting customs. Pascale’s friend Stephen said goodbye to me one afternoon with a typical double side-cheek air kiss; I cringe when I remember how I innocently turned my face at the wrong time, getting an unintended smack on the lips from Stephen and a scornful look from Pascale.
I was relieved when the host week was over, and we gathered as a group again. The rest of the trip was like a magical dream, visiting giant castles along the Loire River, touring Monet’s charming pink cottage and day-tripping into Switzerland to eat ice cream at sunset.
Before leaving France, I bought those souvenirs that were supposed to fill up my empty luggage. They included: makeup, a light blue denim mini skirt, and one pair of pink and white leather pumps.