Smells Bringing Back Memories

So, memories you conjure with images are one thing, but memories that spring out of nowhere come easiest with smell. I picked up a bar of Ivory soap (it was on sale!) to wash my hands in our bathroom and suddenly I was transported back 50 years. . .

When I was a little tot, my grandparents would sometimes keep me when Mom and Dad had shopping to do or just let me stay overnight as a treat. My grandad would come in from farming and take a bath. Then he’d get in his long underwear bottoms and white tank top T-shirt and lay down in their bedroom right off the kitchen, with a low flame burning on the old gas logs in the flue and get me to lay down next to him with my head on his arm while he told me “stories.” He smelled like Ivory soap and Prell shampoo, and replaced the name of every little boy in every fairy tale he retold with my name  (Little Timbo, he called me). Little Timbo and the Beanstalk, Little Timbo Who Cried Wolf, Little Timbo and the Three Bears— the list was endless. He got the biggest kick out of telling me stories and pretending I had had these adventures in real life, asking me “Why’d you eat that little bear’s dinner?” “That old Daddy Bear is gonnna get you!” “What was Timbo thinking, trading that cow for a bunch of old beans?” “Where will his momma get milk now?” 

Sooner or later I’d drift off and I’d wake up tucked into 1000 blankets on the couch, or in between them in their bed. Inevitably, I’d dream of those stories Grandaddy Sammy had “made up” while we were talking. I’m positive that those stories grew my imagination, helped my creativity, and enhanced my make-believe playtime enjoyment. All my grandparents are gone now, but never far from my thoughts. I have a keen sense of their ever-present attention when I bring to mind their personalities and the ways they showed us all love. The scent of lavender or cornbread might bring back Mombo, my Mother’s mom. Dawn dishwashing liquid or Aquanet hair spray or crusty thanksgiving dressing brings back Granny, my Dad’s mom. Granddaddy Spud is shaving creme (Barbasol) or Old Spice aftershave (maybe Aqua Velma). Granddaddy Sammy is Ivory soap, Prell shampoo, English Leather aftershave with just a hint of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Living through smell is a part of me. I am overwhelmed by memories with every Autumn breeze and every waft of cattle or tobacco. Food does it too. I opened up a box of Aldi’s Lebkuchen and was transported back to the Nuremberg Christkindl Markt with all the toys, cakes, hot chocolate, and roasted nuts, the very first time I traveled to Germany in 1989!

This is the season, folks! Snow coming early next week and more smells and time travel! Burning wood. . . Evergreen boughs. . . Snow and . . .

Art Mobiles


I recently saw this mobile in an issue of House and Garden UK. It brought back a memory of my sister and brother-in-law making mobiles as Christmas gifts many years ago. They were made of drift wood that they collected on the beach.

In 1920 Surrealist artist Man Ray created what is considered to be the first mobile, an assembly of 29 coat hangers

The word "mobile" was first coined by artist Marcel Duchamp in 1931, to describe Alexander Calder's mechanical and floating sculptures. Calder's mobiles were inspired by the abstract work of Piet Mondrian and Joan Miro. 

In 1943 Albert Einstein visited an exhibit of Calder's mobiles and famously said, "I wish I had thought of that." I am trying to wrap my head around someone like Einstein being envious of someone else's ideas. 

In 1957 one of Calder's pieces, called Poisson Volant (Flying Fish) sold for $26 million at Christies in New York. 

Today mobiles are mainly found above baby cribs, but in the 1970s they were handmade and hung as pieces of art in living rooms. Thinking of making one of your own? Here are some links to inspire you and give you some times.

Marco Mahler is a contemporary mobile artist who has instructions about balancing mobiles on his web site. Click here.

You can purchase Clare Young's book with 35 projects here.

A more advanced book for making metal mobiles is by Bruce Cana Fox. This is for the serious artist. Click here to get on Amazon.

If you are searching for inspiration, Pinterest has lots of examples here.

Here are some serious mobile artists...

Here is a video on how to make origami mobiles.

If you don't want to make your own, but would like to have an art mobile, there are a lot for sale on Etsy

Or you can make a mobile with your photographs. This holder is on Amazon.

I would love to have a driftwood and seagrass mobile. There are a lot of hangings with seagrass, but I don't really consider them mobiles unless they require balancing. The one above is from The Rubbish Revival.

The Thanksgiving Gratitude Tree - The Perfect Excuse For Putting Your Tree Up Early

Want an excuse to put your Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving? I am inventing a new tradition at my house - The Thanksgiving Gratitude Tree. I put my artificial tree up yesterday with just the sparkling lights. 

 I then hung photos of all those family members and friends I am so grateful for. 

Next I took Thank You cards and trimmed them to 3 x 3 inch square. On the back I wrote down one thing on each card that I am grateful for. This would be such a cool thing to do with kids before Thanksgiving. You could even have guests coming to your house for Thanksgiving add their gratitudes to the tree. I put the year on each card. My plan is to save them, read them again in the following years and add to them.

I attached the cards to the tree with gold leaf ribbon that I got on Amazon.

I also like these more autumn looking neutral colored notes.

I am not going to put any Christmas decorations on the tree or anywhere else in the house yet. I will remove the cards after Thanksgiving to make room for ornaments. That way I maintain my family's tradition of decorating the house, the weekend after Thanksgiving, while listening to Christmas music.

Top Ten Tips From My Favorite Magazines - November

I haven't done a Top Ten Tips From My Favorite Magazines for quite awhile. I rarely read paper magazines any more. Most of the time I read them on Apple News+ or on the Zinio app. 

I found lot of good stuff this month. Click here to read it on Cynthia's Blog.

Songs to Celebrate - Dancing In the Kitchen This Week


We are dancing for joy in the kitchen this week. Here are 3 songs to help you celebrate.

1.  Good Times by Chic - Click to download from iTunes

2.  I Don't Hurt Any More by Nancy and Beth - Click to download from iTunes

3.  Put a Woman In Charge by Keb' Mo' - Click to download from iTunes

The Story of a Painting - The Woman in Gold by Gustav Klimt

I have loved art history since I took Humanities when I was a junior in high school. I am starting a series on my blog called The Story of a Painting. My first painting post is about The Woman in Gold by Gustav Klimt. Click here to read about it on Cynthia's Blog.

Soothing Our Souls


Babies self soothe by sucking on their thumbs. Mental health professionals now feel that it is important to learn self soothing skills at all ages.

And boy are we needing to soothe our anxiety and fears this week. Here are 20 things I have discovered will calm me down when I am stressed and full of fear.

1.   Soak in a tub, preferably with bubbles. 

My ex once told me he knew how upset I was by how many baths I took. That day I had taken three and I wasn't done yet. According to recent research, taking a regular bath is associated with a moderate lift in mood among people with depression. 

And my Mom's recommendation was to pour Epson Salts into the water to soothe sore muscles as well as your mood.

2.   Sitting in a porch swing, glider or rocking chair.

There is just something about sitting on the porch swinging, gliding or rocking that will also calm me down. Part of it is probably being outside near my potted plants and flowers, but I also find a rocking chair inside helps as well. 

I love swinging, gliding and rocking on the porch in the morning with my cup of coffee or in the evening as I watch the sun set.

3.   Walking on the beach, next to the ocean.

For me I think it is the combination of the smell of the sea and the rhythmic sound of the waves, along of course, with exercise and being out in nature. Growing up in California, it also says home to me.

4.   Sounds of nature

There are certain sounds that will calm me right away. Here in Mexico it rains mostly at night with thunder and lightning. I love the calm feeling of being tucked away under my blankets while mother nature is making everything green.

Did you know there are YouTube videos that play nature sounds? Some of the videos are hours long to last you all night or during a nap. Here are some of my favorites. Click to go to the YouTube video.

Forest Stream with Birds

Rain on Windows with Thunder

Ocean Waves

Forest at Night

Wind in the Trees

5.  Sitting Underneath a Tree

6.   Wrap Yourself in a Cozy Blanket.

I love a super soft throw blanket. I got my current favorite is red and lightweight. I have also been reading a lot about weighted blankets to help calm those who are stressed. I thought they might be too hot, but then I found one on Amazon with great reviews. 

It comes in many sizes, weights and colors. It has over 24,000 great reviews. Plus it is not very expensive $49.99. Click here to see more.

7.   Cuddle with your pets. Yup that always works for me. 

8.   Make a gratitude list

      I have a gratitude wall. Yes I wrote all over my wall. During hard times I stop to read it. Also if I am fussing and having trouble sleeping I can go through the things in my life I am grateful for. There are so many things that I fall asleep before I get through my list.

9.   Bring flowers into my home

Right now my gardenia plants are blooming like crazy. First thing I do in the morning while letting the dogs out is check to see if I have any new blossoms to bring inside. They are not only beautiful but the smell distracts from from the chaos going on in the world.

10.   Writing a Haiku

Writing a haiku makes me pay attention to something other than my fears. I especially like doing this in the bathtub. They are short enough to remember without writing them down. I remember once while trying to calm myself in the tub, writing a haiku about the sound of the rotating lawn sprinkler outside that I could hear through the open bathroom window.

11.   Applying skin lotion

The feel and smell distracts me from my worries.

12.   Baking bread

Okay, I don't really do this one, except to make banana bread that I can toast and take outside onto my patio,  in the morning with my cup of coffee. 

13.   Do something I can control

Even cleaning out and organizing one drawer can help distract me and give me back a tiny feeling of being in control. My great aunt told me she cleaned out one drawer every day when she had cancer.

14.   Listen to music that calms you down or gets you up dancing.

I am completely convinced that you cannot stay upset while dancing. Click here to see my list of music that always gets me up and dancing here.

15.   Meditate

My mother was a meditator and taught me to meditate in my 20s. I meditate every day. I would be a wreck without it. Click here for some meditating tips and books.

16.   Create Something

17.   Go to an art museum

And if it is impossible to go now because of COVID19, there are virtual museum tours. One of my favorites is the Frida Kahlo show currently at the De Young museum in San Francisco. You can see the virtual tour by clicking here.  It's spectacular.

18.   Walk in a garden

A walk in a beautiful garden will always soothe my spirit and make me feel more peaceful. If you are looking for a beautiful virtual garden tour, click here to see Monet's Giverny tour.

19.   Perform an act of kindness

20.   Plant a bush or a tree

Time with my hands in the dirt, planting something is so healing. Is there anything more optimistic than planting a tree? 

The Optimism of Planting a Tree


There is something so optimistic and life affirming about planting a tree. Trees give off the oxygen we need to breathe. They reduce erosion, pollution and flooding, The provide homes for wildlife. They give us shade, fruit and beauty. 

California, the Amazon and so many other locations have lost so many trees to fires and corporate greed. I recently started researching planting trees - the how to, the where and the who with. This is what I have discovered...

The How

The Where

The website Tree-Nation says that the tropical zones of the world need trees the most because of deforestation and climate change. You can choose one of their projects and donate or gift trees.

Fast Company Magazine has an interesting article about replanting the over 4 million acres that have burning in California in 2020. They examine a new approach to planting trees to reduce the risk of their burning again.

The Who With

Consider helping the Arbor Day Foundation initiative - Time For Trees. Their goal is to plan 100 million trees in communities and forests around the world by 2022. You can support their efforts by becoming a member, donating and receiving updates.

The Queen's Gambit - A Story to Lift You Up


Are you needing something to binge watch to help you calm down before the election? I highly recommend The Queen's Gambit on Netflix. What an absolute delight!

This is the story of an orphan girl who is taught to play chess by the orphanage janitor and becomes a world class player. The story is based on Walter Tevis's 1983 novel.

We first meet Beth, in the 1950s, as an 8 year old who has just lost her mother in a car accident. Her father is not around. She is sent to an orphanage that routinely tranquilizes the girls to keep them compliant. This leads to a lifetime struggle with addiction for Beth.

When sent to the basement to clean chalkboard erasers, Beth encounters the janitor playing chess. She harasses him until he finally agrees to teach her how to play. She quickly improves and becomes obsessed and a young chess prodigy.

We follow Beth into her twenties and the 1960s where she is determined to become the best chess player in the world, as she struggles with her own demons and addictions. The adult Beth is played by Anya Taylor-Joy who is magnificent.

The series is beautifully photographed. I never would have imagined I would be so mesmerized watching chess games. The other characters are equally enchanting. This definitely deserves 5 starts and just might be what you need to distract you for a bit.

Dancing While Waiting In Line to Vote Playlist


Have you heard about Joy to the Polls? A group of dancers in Philadelphia turned voting lines into a dance party.

And just in case you don't have a performing group to teach you how to do the Cha Cha Slide, here is a playlist to create your own "waiting in line to vote" dance party.

Virtual Museum Tour - Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving is now showing at the San Francisco De Young Museum
September 25, 2020 - February 7, 2021

What I am Reading to Raise My Spirit


When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner

I feel like bad things are happening to a lot of good people. The racists and bullies feel empowered. There have been many times I have asked myself, if there is a God why is he/she/it so absent? How can children be thrown into cages, dragged from their parents arms? How can so many black men and women be killed and their killers go free?

Rabbi Kushner takes a long look at this question. He does not believe that there is a god that can control what humans do. Nor can that higher power control hurricanes and earthquakes. 

Mayor Pete really is one of the most brilliant politicians in the U.S. these days. He has a huge future ahead of him. I feel that even more after reading his book "Trust."

Favorite Quote: "The act of God is the courage of people to rebuild their lives after the earthquake, and the rush of others to help them in whatever way they can."

Trust by Pete Buttigieg

I thought Pete Buttigieg was one of the most brilliant politicians in the U.S. before I read "Trust." My opinion of him grew even more after reading his book.  In this short book Buttigieg discusses why trust in our government and each other is so important. He then examines how it has disappeared in the U.S. and how Russia is stoking the fires to destroy Americans trust in each other and democracy. He then looks at  how we can rebuild it.

Mayor Pete has a great political future ahead of him. We just might see him some day be president.

Favorite Quote: "For all the peril of this moment, for all the political division and racial anguish and institutional erosion, this moment is filled with possibility."

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry 

by Fredrik Backman

I was in desperate need of an uplifting piece of fiction. I had tried three times to read Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini but never could get past Chapter Nine. The descriptions of what was happening in Germany during the early rise of Hitler felt way to similar to what has been happening in the U.S. under Trump.

Several friends mentioned Fredrik Backan's book My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. I love the characters and fairytale lessons for being brave. I am savoring it and look forward to finishing it tonight with my dogs snuggled in close and a glass of wine.

iPhone Photography - Creating A Series


Anybody who follows me on social media has been seeing lots of photographs of gardenias. I tried for 30 years to grow gardenias and finally, after moving my plants out into the sun, I am getting blossoms.

This is the first series I have done in quite awhile. I have 46 photographs taken and edited on my iPhone and currently have about another 40 buds. It has gotten me thinking about photographing series. There are some fabulous photographers who have done them. Click here to see some of my favorite series photographers.

A Virtual Garden Tour


A walk in a garden always helps to lift my spirits. Not so easy to travel to some of the world's best public gardens these days. More and more gardens are offering virtual tours. Here is one from Claude Monet's garden at Giverny.

I Will Not Lose Hope

"The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof."
Barbara Kindsolver


Book Review - Notorious RBG


When John Lewis died I wanted to read more about his life's work. I felt the same about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I thought I knew a lot about RBG. 

This book gave me a lot more information about her legal fights, so many of which took place when I was a young woman in the 1970s. 

 Her court cases brought back so many memories of what women were not able to do before Judge Ginsburg. We couldn't have a credit card in our own names. We were denied jobs because we were pregnant or just of pregnant age. I remember being asked my the mortgage loan officer what kind of bird control I used, when my husband and I were buying our first home. 

 So much was at stake then and is at stake once again. 

Authors Irin Carmon and Shan Knizhnik describe their book... "If you want to understand how an underestimated woman changed the world and is still out there doing the work, we got you. If you picked up this book only to learn how to get buff like an octogenarian who can do twenty push-ups, there's a chapter for you too. We even were lucky enough to wrangle some of the most brilliant legal minds out there to help us annotate key passages from RBG's legal writing.

RBG has been extraordinary all her life, but she never wanted to be a solo performer. She is committed to bringing up other women and underrepresented people, and to working together with her colleagues even when it seems impossible. We are frankly in awe of what we've learned about her, and we're pretty excited to share it with you."

Today's Song

 Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down - Eric Bibb


One day - pre COVID 19, I was walking down the street, in Ajijic Mexico, when I saw this wonderful dog with sunglasses, sitting by himself in front of a mural. 

I so needed him that day. I had just received the news that my dear friend Leslie had died. I was feeling so sad and then I turned the corner and there was this great dog. I knew Leslie would have loved him. He made me smile.
Magic happens. 

I created this image using my iPhone XS Max Camera and edited it in the Hipstamatic app.