Emerald Eyes

This pose of Grace is featured in my annual cat calendar for February 2018.

No Vacancy

Each year I create a cat photo calendar from my favorite annual shots of the cats at my home or at the farm. Here is from left to right, Rosebud, Angus, Boots and Tigger. As you can see, all love to be in this favorite bed at the same time–especially in January.


I am thrilled and honored to be accepted to attend the 14th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Delray Beach as a workshop participant January 15-20. I will be in Sound, Syntax, Stanza, Magic, Nuts and Bolts for six days led by Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi and poetry professor at the University of Mississippi.

This intensive, interactive workshop will combine craft classes with generative prompts, in-class writing, and workshopping. Our goal will be to leave our time together with four new drafts, one of which will be workshopped, and four poems written prior to the festival being brought to the table. When not in class, there will be opportunities to attend a variety of events including poetry readings that are open to the public.

This week I am preparing for the workshop by selecting four poems that I have written and making copies for class participants. Although not required, I have read several books by Beth Ann Fennelly. I am looking forward to meeting our leader and the twelve workshop participants as well as enjoying a mini vacation in historic downtown Delray Beach!



O Christmas Tree 2017

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the book Tatianna—Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend during this Christmas season, here is an excerpt about my cat tree. Tatianna slept under a ten-foot live Scotch pine tree every year for sixteen Christmases.

Six Cat Heads Started Collection 1982

“During Christmas 2000, the live pine tree showcased exclusively more than two hundred cat ornaments—a collection that had evolved over Tatianna’s lifetime. The Christmas cat ornament collection innocently started in 1982 while I attended a veterinary convention in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. I was shopping in a Christmas store and simply wanted to purchase a souvenir. Little did I know that the purchase of six porcelain cat heads, representing white, black, gray, calico, Siamese, and orange marmalade cats, would grow into a massive collection!

Cuter than Cute!

Unpacking and hanging the myriad of cat ornaments were rituals in and of themselves. The cat ornaments were wooden, metal, paper, hand quilted, glass, ceramic, plastic, resin, knitted, stainless steel, silver plated, hand painted, or felt. They were whimsical, angelic, simple, detailed, comical, or musical. Some had movable parts and jointed legs and arms. Collector ornaments included fragile Christopher Radko heirlooms, Garfield, Kliban, Gorham silver plate, Bradford Exchange, and Hallmark. Two exquisite Radko ornaments showcased two cats sleeping in blue snowflake mittens and a cat sleeping on beautiful packages. There were assorted cat colors represented, including gray, orange marmalade, white, black, tiger striped, tabby, and calico. The baubles depicted the cats in stockings, in trees, in garland, in holly, in wreaths, on skates, on pillows, in gifts, in trunks, in mailboxes, in carriages, in boxes, in boots, in baskets, in airplanes, with umbrellas, on picture frames, and on hymnals. They personified cats in dresses, in hats, with handbags, and holding parasols. They were baking, fishing, shopping, or snoozing. Cats wrapped themselves around candy canes or were decorated in lights and garland. Others peeked out of a Victorian shoe or popped out of a cat-in-the-box. Mice, fish, or red bells dangled from many ornaments.

Santa Kitty

I acquired the eclectic ornaments from friends, family, and my world travels. Some ornaments brought back tearful memories of Noelle and Taittinger. One reminded me of the year Noelle knocked over a seven-foot live tree while climbing to the top, and the tree had to be wired to a curtain rod for the rest of the season. Baby Taittinger especially liked to crawl under the tabletop tree decorated in peach and white and snooze for hours. Other ornaments reminded me of Ken. One in particular was a Hallmark ornament with a black cat and white cat playing peek-a-boo in a red plastic basket with a movable lid. A second white cat dangled on a string under the basket. If I pulled the string one way, the black cat’s head popped out of the basket, and if I pulled again, the first white cat’s head was visible. It was an amusing ornament and always made me laugh—just like Ken did. Another treasured ornament from Ken was two gray cats dressed as a bride and a groom.

A Sentimental Favorite

I especially prized the Hallmark Keepsake Collection, because my mother gave one of them to me annually since 1985. The Hallmark cat ornaments were lighthearted and mischievous—just like Tatianna. One series of ornaments was called Mischievous Kitten and another The Cat Nap. My Hallmark collection spanned fifteen years and the cats in it were up to a variety of antics, including hanging on a bird cage, laying over a fish bowl, wearing antlers, making cookies, sleeping in a knitting basket, climbing a Christmas tree, dangling from a stocking, and catching a bee on a poinsettia.

Love Those Faces!

The ornaments from all over the world reminded me of my special travels. Some ornaments came from Macy’s in New York; Harrods in London; the Black Forest in Germany; Paris; Rome; Savannah; San Francisco; as well as Frankenmuth, Michigan, a German-style village that boasts the world’s largest Christmas store.

Besides all of the cat ornaments, the tree included a wooden beaded cat garland, beanbag-style gray cats that mischievously climbed up into the top of the tree, a cat tree topper, and a cat tree skirt. An orange marmalade beanbag cat adorned in a red Santa hat was sleeping on a branch two feet from the top of the tree. Old-fashioned bubble lights and red bows completed the whimsical tree. It was indeed a tree with a lot of personality, not unlike Tatianna.” (End of excerpt)

Since that era, the cat tree has evolved to a smaller tree. I have had a joyful time in 2017 decorating a four-foot pre-lit tree with a selection of some of my favorite cat ornaments. But these are hard decisions as all the cats want out of the storage boxes! I also have a new eBay customer/friend who is starting her first Christmas cat tree and I am so pleased many of the ornaments have a new home where they will be displayed and cherished for years to come.





Boots and I ventured out last December. He thought the icy walk was too cold!

View of Christ Church Spires from Courtyard

The farewell gala evening started with a champagne reception behind the impressive Christ Church Cathedral. Our Country Houses class along with our tutor marked the moment with a group photo. Then we entered the Great Hall for a formal banquet.

Oxford Experience Farewell Reception–My Classmates and Tutor

Spellbinding Atmosphere

This evening we sat with our classmates and tutor. The keepsake menu unveiled a dining delight of smoked salmon with potato mousse, wasabi and beetroot followed by seared scallops with black pudding. The main entree was roast breast of duck with honey, orange and thyme sauce, shallot mash, butternut squash with lime and choi sum. My favorite was the summer berry and prosecco terrine with fruit purees, panna cotta and strawberry sorbet. Dessert of course! A selection of wines and house port was bound to keep us jolly!

A Kepsake for the Memory Box

Roast Duck Presentation–A Feast for the Eyes

Once seated the grace was beautifully said in Latin: In the neediness of our human condition, which invites your compassion, almighty God and heavenly Father, we give you reverent thanks for the food which, in your kindness, you have lavished on us for the sustenance of our bodies, and we also beg that we may use it without greed or excess and with enjoyment. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Captivation…Ooooh What An Evening!

Following tradition, each class presented their tutor with a gift in what turned out to be “which group can cheer the loudest” format! I think the “Revolution, 1789-1968: France Leads, Europe Follows” participants prevailed.

A special moment of accomplishment silenced the group as our tutor presented each of us a certificate of completion (which will keep company with my diplomas). We toasted Queen Elizabeth and enjoyed a short speech by David Beard, Director of Studies–Oxford Experience.

Before I knew it, the magical week and evening were drawing to a close. It was time for hugs as the next morning was early departure. The Oxford Experience, long on my yearning list, had exceeded my expectations and then some!! This one goes in the memory bank. I will cherish the feeling of being a member of the Oxford learning community and be grateful for that moment in time. Its recollection will forever make me smile.


Linda Mohr and Vera Hirschhorn, Poetry Chair

My poem The Veil was awarded second place in the 2017 Poetry Contest sponsored by the Boca Raton Branch of the National League of American Pen Women.  Two other poems received honorable mention awards as follows:  First Honorable Mention–Angel at My Side and Third Honorable Mention–Morning Visitor.

I am honored to be a member of the National League of American Pen Women since 2012. The organization was founded in 1897 when women were barred from the Press Club in Washington D.C. The NLAPW mission is “to encourage, recognize, and promote the production of creative work of professional standard in Art, Letters, and Music.”

There are 81 branches in the country made up of artists, writers, poets, photographers, cartoonists, composers and arrangers “who believe in the power of words, art, and music to illuminate the human experience, fire the imagination, and nurture the soul.”

My membership eligibility is Letters based on Tatianna—Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend. The Boca Raton Branch is the largest in Florida and one of the largest in the nation. It offers workshops, lectures, juried art exhibits and writing and music competitions. The organization is a wonderful way to connect with South Florida authors, artists, and musicians and to support their creations.

Famous members include Vinnie Ream, who created the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, Pensive Lincoln, which stands in the Capitol Rotunda and United States Poet Laureate Kay Ryan. Many First Ladies are honorary members of the League including Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt. Other famous women to belong are Erma Bombeck, Helen Keller, Georgia O’Keefe, Dale Evans Rogers, Helen Thomas and Eudora Welty.

For further information, visit American Pen Women or Boca Raton Branch



Village in Wiltshire…population 511 in 2011

Our field trip day took us out of Oxford into the southwest English countryside. We enjoyed a scenic drive to reach the first stop. The quaint village of Avebury is known for Avebury Henge, a mysterious prehistoric sacred site. It consists of a ditch and bank with circles of stone, constructed between 2600 and 2400 B.C. Exploring a village like Avebury is fascinating to me, especially the architecture, signs and flowers.

What more does an English need?

Well maybe a shop or two!

Brilliant shop marketing…but short on time, tutor is rounding us up!

One of the stones in circle…would love to hear this mystery unraveled.

After short stay in Avebury, we were back on road to Lacock. This quintessential English village has charm galore. It has made appearances in such films as Downton Abbey, BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We had lunch in a pub established in 1361.

Fish & chips with malt vinegar–of course!

Lacock’s streets are lined with ivy-covered stone cottages and timber-framed buildings.

Now I could live in this charming little abode! Look at the blue and white jardiniere in window!

I wonder what’s behind the wispy white curtains?

Tranquil setting of Lacock Abbey founded in 1232

Lacock Abbey operated from 1232 until 1539 when it shut down from King Henry VIII Dissolution of Monasteries order. It has gone through different changes from a Gothic ruin to the birthplace of photography. William Henry Fox Talbot who lived at Lacock Abbey captured the world’s first photographic negative in 1834. Today it is a country house with monastic roots.

Side view of Lacock Abbey

Medieval tithe barn for storing 1/10 of farm produce for church

Double take….are these eggs really free?!!

Yes, I found an antique shop in Lacock village and Dorset buttons!

I’ll end the field trip with an antique shop photo. After touring Lacock Abbey I had just enough time to backtrack to a little shop in an alley I had spotted earlier. I found Dorset buttons made in the English county of Dorset from 1622-185o. These craft-made buttons were created by binding thread or yarn over a ring. After 1850, machine made buttons took over.

I just never know what treasure I will find behind those antique signs. Oh, the thrill of the hunt! How I love it!


Next travelogue post: The Oxford Experience Closing Banquet

A Yearning Come True…a student at Oxford

In 2010 I published my first ABCs of Gratitude. It is a November project that I look forward to every year. As I reminisce about the year and look back on previous lists, some years have more ups. Others have more downs. But in the end, I always found 26 blessings. This year was no different.

I also start each morning by acknowledging one thing I am thankful for. Since last year I have added a nightly gratitude ritual. Before falling asleep, I count off on my ten fingers what I am thankful for the day. I credit this idea to Linda Sacha, a dear friend and my life coach who suddenly passed away in August. I find reviewing the grace and goodness of the day is the perfect way to end my day.

Ageless Authors Anthology…Morning Visitor poem

Baseball…spring training games with brother

Morning Visitor Poem

Christ Church…student accommodation

Draperies…new living room look

Electricity…restored 7 days after Irma

My Meadows Double Gothic Window and Balcony

Family, Friends & Fur Babies…blessings galore

Glimpse of the Divine…Sacha poem tribute

High Table…Oxford dining

High Table on Dais at Christ Church

Inspiration…black cat ABC poem

Junk Jaunt…Iowa treasure hunt

Knight…picture with Coach Knight & brothers

A Sports Moment to Remember

London…another Heathrow touch down

Maggie Mae…tortie stray adopts me

Northwood…interim PLA coordinator

Oxford…Country Houses course

Pen Women…creativity guest blog

Spiritual Muse Lexie Lee

Quinessential Store…new “old” merchandise Perry, MO

River Poets Journal…Little Red Bowl poem

St. Paul United Church of Christ…150th Anniversary

My Hometown Roots

Tatianna…10th anniversary

Understanding…sudden thoughts

Vacation…Oxford, London, MO, IL, IA

Evening End Revelation

Winning…Pen Women poetry awards

XOXO…Message in Baggie on web

Yoga…strength and balance

Zebra striped butterfly…Sacha’s spiritual message

Exquisite Family of 4 in Backyard, Photo Credit Jaret Daniels

What are you thankful for today and for this year?


To eat well in England, you should have breakfast three times a day.
—W. Somerset Maugham

Awe Inspiring Views Everywhere You Look

Poached and fried eggs, fried mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, sausages, toast—This traditional English breakfast served every morning in the Great Hall fortified me for the scholarly adventure. My favorite part was (and always has been) slathering toast with orange marmalade.

Our class convened at 9:15 a.m. The meeting room was small and cozy with a couch for three people and eight straight back chairs arranged close to each other around the perimeter of the room. The Country Houses tutor sat next to a table holding a big screen monitor. He worked from a stack of handwritten papers and laptop computer. A door led to an adjacent room where he stayed at night. Two large windows flooded the room with sunshine and refreshing breeze. A tea and cookie break at 10:45 for a half hour was a great way to mingle with participants from other courses. Topics ran the spectrum from Castles of Britain, Life of Sir Winston Churchill, Oxford Murder, History of the English Language, Meaning of Life, Glory of Byzantium, Sixteenth Century English Reformation and Creative Writing. We resumed class until 12:45 following this schedule Monday through Friday. Most courses had a field trip all day on Thursday.

High Street City of Oxford…juxtaposed architecture caught my eye

Oxford is a blend of ancient and modern architecture with a population of 135,000. Established in the 9th century, the city is home for the oldest English-speaking university in the world. In the 21st century around 20,000 students including 12,000 undergraduates and 7500 postgraduates attend Oxford University.

Oxford…City of Dreaming Spires…loved this view

Teenagers were everywhere enjoying field trips or coming to Oxford to take a summer program at one of the 38 colleges making up Oxford University. Wide open spaces, gardens, river walks, pubs, cultural attractions and shopping are enticing in Oxford. But you can probably guess what I did on free afternoons–off to look for vintage buttons!! I wasn’t disappointed. A delightful dealer at an open air market had a myriad of sewing related items. The little vintage belt buckle collection was a nice find. Antiques on High is an eclectic dealer mall that I had visited in 1989. I found lots of pink buttons.

More Little Art Pictures

When not foraging in interesting little shops, I photographed magnificent buildings and clever signs. I headed down an alley and a street sign comically reminded me of one of my kitties, a Tortie feral I adopted in April. I named her Maggie Mae and nicknamed her Magpie. Just had to get a shot of this cool sign for my cool cat!

An Oxford Alley…My Tortie Maggie Mae loves to be called Magpie

I was fascinated with the façade of the Meadows building where I stayed. I stood on the outside and identified my windows. How intriguing—the ivy is growing around the shape of the Gothic architecture. As I approached a gated area to return to my room, the entry was crowded with young people beginning a tour. The attendant spotted my name badge identifying “The Oxford Experience.” I will never forget what she said: “Please let this lady by. She is a member of our college.”

My Meadows Double Gothic Window and Stone Balcony

Next Travelogue Post: Lacock Abbey Field Trip


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