Here Comes The Sun

Clump #163:  Clear pile of bank-related paperwork.

One more pile given the drill of shred, recycle, or file.  I’m beginning to think this will be a lost art not too long from now, when we’ll handle every transaction online.  Remember when we all received copies of cancelled checks?

(Ancient yellow dish made years ago by our younger daughter, helping to enliven yet another photo of a pile of paper.  I’m trying!)


Newsflash:  Spring was in the air and on the front doors of Strasburg today, inspiring the color yellow as the pigment for this post.  Even the Easter Bunny came out to play.


The town of Strasburg was abuzz with a Mud Sale.  I can’t provide first hand information about it; by the time I got there it was over.  My favorite bakery, OCB, had made creative cakes for the occasion (the answer to the cake question was a resounding “Yes!” with all the melting snow):


Outside, I heard one of the many Amish horse and buggies coming up behind me.  I was hesitant to invade their privacy with my camera, but I thought, I’ll just hold my iPhone up and snap it when it passes me. Below, a picture of an Amish buggy without taking a picture of an Amish buggy:


And now for the yellow, in honor of the glorious sun and memories of seasons filled with natural color.


We are currently enjoying wonderful warmer temperatures …


And trying to ignore predictions of colder ones next week, even of more snow … deny – deny – deny!

(“Yellow” photos above and below taken last fall.)


The almost arrogantly regal bird of paradise from Longwood Gardens‘ conservatory a month ago:


Also from Longwood, a reminder of what will be blossoming in our landscape soon:


And an accompanying song for the color, “Here Comes The Sun,” by the Beatles.  No truer words:

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say … it’s all right

Seeing Light and Color

Clump #162:  Elevate remaining paper piles; clear and file financial statements.

A quick recap: this was — just part — of the massive paper problem I’ve been chipping away at after our younger daughter threw me a lifeline and sorted everything into specific sub-categories back in January. I was still drowning in paper, but holding on for dear life.


We needed to clear out the above bedroom for guests,  so I transported the piles to the infamous study floor, too often the site of clutter relocation.  Thus began my 28-day-28-pile challenge on February 1st.

Since then, our cat Pumpkin has been entertaining herself by batting around papers and mixing up the piles when she’s not napping.


Today I took a big step.  No more papers on the floor.  I have eight days left in the challenge, so I re-sorted eight piles and put them on the kitchen table.  How civilized … they’re ready for tea!


Then my husband and I cleared one pile, which consisted of financial statements.  Filed most, shredded and recycled the rest.

For the daily dose of color, I draw again on photos I took in Chicago while visiting my older daughter.  We were in a huge Whole Foods Market my daughter described as “like a cruise ship.”  I know other people visiting a great city might take photos of the tourist sites (not a supermarket) and further, wouldn’t choose a destination much, much colder and windier than home for a winter vacation. I guess I am not like most people!

I took these photos of funny napkins.  This is especially appropriate for today, since I feel like I am finally seeing the light.  We are actually about to be freed from our impacted paper problem.  I can see it now … it’s a dream come true!


This set also spoke to me.  My life.


We took way more taxis than I ever have in my life (see punishing weather, above).  In one, I happened to focus on the rate chart in front of me and noticed that the “Vomit Clean-up Fee” is fifty dollars.  I remember thinking, well, fair enough.  And then I wondered how much I would have if I had been paid fifty dollars for every time I performed vomit clean-up.  Maybe enough to take a vacation on an actual cruise ship.  Give birth, change diapers, clean vomit … quite a job description.


Okay, enough nauseating talk!  Let us cleanse the palate with the daily color palette.

Here is the supermarket, with a multitude of hues:


Roses and eucalyptus, love that grey and pink:


A striking arrangement at a coffee shop in the area:


Tulip heaven:


Back home, this was the white, foggy world of — melting — snow this morning …


And the same general scene this evening.  It’s working!  Thinking color is bringing it to our white world!


Finally, today’s “song” of the day is “Rapper’s Delight” with Brian Williams and Lester Holt on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show.  I can’t imagine how many intern-hours were spent to accomplish this … enjoy!

Parents’ Papers and Purple

Clump #161:  Papers relating to my parents.

Second day of sad paper sorting.  The handling of clutter from a deceased parent is a chore that carries an added heaviness.  If not for the artificial self-imposed deadline of this project, it would be a task I’d procrastinate forever.  As it turned out, as weighty as it seemed, it was a relatively simple job.  Upon closer examination, I realized these were papers my younger sister had advised me to shred.

The pile in the photo is illuminated by a pair of lanterns I saved when clearing out my father’s possessions after his death.  I don’t know how long he had them, but when I turned them on, the batteries still held their charge.  So like my dad: practical, steadfast, always prepared, keeping us safe.  They’ve sat in a closet for the year and a half since I took them over, but when we recently lost power for almost three days, I grabbed them and the batteries still worked.  And they kept on working for the duration of the three days … and again for this photo.  Papers can go; lanterns will stay.


A — fortunately rare — danger of clutter build-up.  I cut out this comic, probably many years ago, meaning to give it to my dad.  Now that I’ve unearthed it, he is no longer here.  He certainly wouldn’t have worn a tee shirt with such a boastful slogan, but the caption reflected his strong analytical side:


And the pigment therapy color of the day is … Purple.

Crocuses last spring on the way to a visit with my mom …


mainly purple and lavender …


planted in front of a miniature golf course, in a long block of color:


From a trip last summer to the Montreal Biosphere:


Our common iris, jewel-like in a spring rain:


Purple and red tulips in Manhattan ostracizing a lonely yellow blossom:


Time to wrap up with another song selection.  Something that touched me this week: Italian skater, Carolina Kostner’s elegantly beautiful prayer on skates to “Ave Maria.” Apparently Ms. Kostner came back to skating after a difficult time “to show her love of skating,” according to commentator Scott Hamilton.  She won the Olympic bronze medal, but if they had given out a medal for sheer artistry, she would have won gold.

Pharrell Pink

Clump #160:  Sort and file documents from parents’ lawyer.

This is why I am dedicating a week to color therapy: below, another stop sign Mother Nature blew through.  Stop — now!  We must remember that color in the landscape will return, must return … return … please!!


It was just as grim inside as I tackled a pile of papers from the lawyer handling details of our parents’ estate.  I had to lighten up the photo with this book by Pharrell Williams.


I first became aware of Pharrell Williams when he was an adviser to Usher on The Voice.  I really liked his attitude and style.  Little did I know, he’s a creative genius.  From an article by Mary Kaye Schilling in Fast Company magazine, I learned he’s a “musician; music producer; philanthropist; fashion designer; media mogul; author; furniture designer; jewelry designer; fine artist; textile manufacturer; tech star; gearhead; architect.”  She writes, “Williams’s productivity is remarkable, but perhaps more impressive is his humility.  In the two hours we are together, he takes credit for … nothing.”

Pharrell Williams might just be the coolest human on the planet.  Now his fame has exploded with his involvement in the songs Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke), Get Lucky (Daft Punk), and Happy from Despicable Me 2.  In honor of the pink book (a splurge for me, even with a good coupon — but worth it), I give my fellow color-starved winter warriors … pink:

This photo was taken in New York’s Finger Lakes region where my mother’s father lived (remember green greens?):


Bleeding hearts (how can you not love them), in Lancaster County, PA :


Another Strasburg, PA scene:


Pink roses set off by Pennsylvania barn gray:


A voluptuous Japanese Tree Peony cherished with my mom last spring:


Let’s all Think Pink!  (From last year’s Philadelphia Flower Show):


In keeping with the song-a-day with color theme, here is Pharrell Williams’s video of his song Happy from the movie Despicable Me 2, a nominee for the Best Original Song Oscar, by the way.  If you don’t feel happy while watching the video, you should see a trained medical professional.

Here come bad news, talking this and that
Yeah, give me all you got, don’t hold back
Yeah, well I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine
Yeah, no offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why

Because I’m happy…

Turning Over A New Leaf

Clump #159: Clear pile number 18, receipts … and shred.

Today’s pile was tedious, but most of it could just be shredded, shredded, shredded.  I do have a few good habits, and one is putting all my Christmas receipts into a big envelope.  This one was from 2012, so if it ain’t broke, and it’s over a year old, we won’t need the receipt.  There were exactly four pieces of paper in this pile worth saving: the type of receipts we would normally tear the house apart to find.  Big step forward!


As for the third installment of my week-long pigment therapy for the winter blahs … some of you might remember months ago I posted photos of a floral shop I walked by one night in Chicago.  It seemed magical, and I was entranced.  Here are two photos from back then:


The store was called New Leaf.


This winter I was back in Chicago visiting our older daughter and, cheapskate that I am, got a great hotel price on Expedia.  It was one of those steeply discounted deals where you pick the general area you want to stay, and you don’t find out the hotel name until you pay.  I took the gamble, and was very pleased with the resulting hotel and location, especially for the price.

Here’s the amazing part.  Below was the view from my hotel window.  The lit up store is none other than New Leaf.  Chills!


Since I was right next door, I was actually able to stop by and go inside!


It was just as magical in daylight.


Oh, rich and gorgeous color!


Blossoms from a warmer land.


Wickedly frigid Chicago became tolerable in this plant paradise.


I realized that I have included a song every day with the color infusion posting.  In yesterday’s pile I uncovered many notes to myself, and I’d undoubtably jotted this one down upon hearing the song It Goes As It Goes, from the movie Norma Rae, on the radio.


I looked it up today, and what a beautiful song it is.  From 1979, written by David Shire  and Norman Gimble, and sung by Jennifer Warnes (not Warrens, as I had scribbled).  The song won the Oscar that year.

I was moved to think of this Clump A Day project like the flow described in the lyrics, below.  What we keep and appreciate gets better, while what holds us back gets gone.

So it goes like it goes
and the river flows
and time it rolls right on
and maybe whats good
gets a little bit better
and maybe what’s bad gets gone.

Orange You Glad You Let It Go?

Clump #158:  Clear pile of sentimental mementos.

Whoa!  This was a tough one.  Trying to thin down today’s pile of papers was heart-wrenching.  Photos, programs from important events, special cards:


Of course, there were also little slips of inspiration and life advice I had cut out.  This one, from a long-forgotten magazine, seemed especially appropriate for the task at hand:


In ten years, will I still want this photo of myself at a taping of Let’s Make A Deal?  Will my children’s children be interested in seeing how goofy I looked in a referee’s uniform, blowing a whistle?  Possibly.

(Like much of the show, which is controlled by the producers, looks are deceiving.  The photo was taken in front of a green screen.  It was a blast, even still!)


Below are the keepables.  One pile of photos and one of other special papers.  On top, a photo of our daughter and son when they went out for Halloween as Brother and Sister Bear from the Berenstain Bears book series.  There are no words for how much I love this picture.  Our son might be an illustration for “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Halloween.”  I also couldn’t part with our younger daughter’s old YMCA ID card on which she looks like a porcelain doll.


And now for the daily dose of color … orange.  From Longwood Gardens this fall:


And from the conservatory this winter, inside:


As much as I love the exotic flowers at Longwood, any grocery store contains an infusion of radiant flowers:


And other gorgeous plants, like these leeks dripping over carrots:


And beautiful peppers:


Great song heard today on the radio (WXPN, 88.5): Valentine’s Day Is Over by Billy Bragg.  Couldn’t get enough of the Cockney (?) accent, the raw emotion, the horn section, and these lyrics:

Thank you for the things you bought me thank you for the card
Thank you for the things you taught me when you hit me hard
That love between two people must be based on understanding
Until that’s true you’ll find your things
All stacked out on the landing, surprise, surprise

Love is really the thing to cherish, not the things.

Unworthy Worries

Clump #157:  Clear pile of medical expense paperwork; cook rice for 35.

Okay, another victory against the white blight in our house today.  Clearly, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt up to tackling a stack of health expense statements:


I shredded anything from before 2012, then filed, in chronological order, anything after.  I don’t think a single 2013 statement had reached the folder until today:


I was in the midst of this boring, but strangely satisfying job, when I heard  Unworthy, by Cheryl Wheeler.  The comic song consists of a litany of  guilty “shoulds,” and the conclusion that “I’m unworthy.”  Priceless.

The song certainly captured my mental state for much of the day.  I had signed on to provide rice for 30-35 people as a part of a Salvation Army dinner coordinated by a member of our Quaker Meeting.  And then the reality hit me.  You can easily ruin rice … so often either too crunchy or a gluey mess.  And that’s in normal quantities. I spent way too much time Googling “rice for a crowd” and other similar prompts.

I ended up with this recipe for fool-proof oven-baked brown rice from a blog called One Good Thing by Jillee.  I made myself crazy worrying about whether it would work as well with aluminum foil pans.  And would cooking three pans at one time throw it off?  I had neither the time nor the nine cups of rice to start over again.  In short, I was feeling unworthy to the task.  But it turned out perfectly!  I would highly recommend the method.  One good thing, indeed!


I promised yesterday to post color-infused pictures to combat winter and paper white-fatigue.

At another three hour watercolor class at Longwood Gardens today, I was immersed in the mixing of colors … and felt like a blooming idiot (unworthiness strikes again).  I will not post photos of those colors, but of flowers from a recent visit to Longwood’s conservatory:

A selection of purpley-pink and green.  How’s this for color?


Hibiscus, the ultimate “come-hither” siren of the plant world:


Less crass, the lovely lily:


I couldn’t get over the leaves on/near this anthurium, looking like shadows, or imitations, of other leaves:


Longwood Gardens holds an “Orchid Extravaganza” every year at this time, but we were a little early for the extravaganza.  These were from their every day collection:


Ordinary orchids?  I think not.


Extravagantly worthy.

Thrills, Chills, and Utility Bills

Clump #156: Clear pile number 15 of 28 for each day in February.

This was a pile my husband and I needed to look through together: documents from utility companies.  Like going to the dentist, but less fun.


My husband looked through water, electric, and gas paperwork to see if there were any big usage spikes.  Three piles remained: shred, recycle, and a few: “investigate this issue.”


So much paper, like the many flakes of so much snow outside (sorry to be a broken record), which is still falling as I write.

I was photographing the tree below with cotton-ball-like clumps of snow on its branches recently and felt a sense of deja vu …


I looked through pictures taken last spring and found a photo of the same tree: a diva dogwood who will only appear in white.


Revisiting spring photos inspired me — I will dedicate the next week to colorful photos.  I am sick of this steady diet of white papers and white landscapes.  Pigment therapy stat!

Pile of Paper, Piles of Snow

Clump # 155:  Clear away small pile number 14 of 28; activate Lumosity gift.

Four pieces of paper does not quite fit the definition of a pile.  I admit, I consciously chose an extra-small clump for today.  Here I am at the half-way mark of February, and I’m hitting a wall: tired and uninspired.

The “pile” was a few papers related to gifts we received.  The only one needing action was a gift subscription to Lumosity, the brain training and game site, given to me by my older sister.  It was from 2011.  Yikes.  One of countless things I’ve meant to do … someday.

I was sorely tempted to put it aside again in something like an “action” folder … for another sometime in the future.  I know all too well that “action” folders are paper graves.  The act of filing makes you feel virtuous, as though you’ve done something.  So (drum roll) I forced myself to actually activate the gift.  It reminded me that I tried to do so in 2011 and couldn’t figure it out.  Too dumb for the brain exercises!


One cause of brain freeze: this was the arctic world I drove through this morning:


Beautiful, but dangerous.  Even the street signs obliterated.


Remember this jaunty goose, kitted out in smart outfits?


This is what she looked like today:


Remember the hopeful “Think Spring” Snow-maiden?


Today’s slap-in-the-face to such thoughts:


This is more like it:


Thanks very much, but you can stop now.

Warm Hearts

Clump # 154:  Clear paper pile number 13 of 28; make paper valentines.

Lesson of the day: so easy to tackle paper when it has been pre-sorted. Today’s pile was medical forms pertaining to either our younger daughter (the diligent paper-sorter) or to our cat Pumpkin; both easily filed.   Below, one from 2009 with a photo, and the new “Pumpkin” folder.


Confession time.  I previously posted about the clearing of our pantry, in all its scintillating detail.  One item I removed from the pantry floor was a box of valentine craft supplies, which had been stuffed in there for about a year. Here we are on Valentine’s Eve, and I cannot for the life of me find that box.  Very disheartening. Pun intended.  I have to remind myself that I’m in transition, and home organization (or lack thereof) might get worse before getting better.  Sigh.

Not to be discouraged, I purchased a pad of construction paper and made simple valentines with one sheet, each, of white and and red paper.  Cut each in half, then folded the red halves and cut out hearts.


Glue the hearts to the white background, like so …


And write a very simple poem.  Our family always exchanges hand-made valentines.  Our mom created the tradition that we continue. Simply start out the Roses are Red rhyme, think of something about that person, especially notable in the current year, then come up with a word that Violets are … to rhyme with the word you want at the end. Easier done than said.


For instance, if your valentine, Mary, has really gotten into yoga this year, you might write, “Roses are Red/ Violets are Ecru/ Our Mary has become/A Yoga Guru.”  The sillier the better.  When I see clusters of people crowding around the valentine card section of stores at this time of year, I always wish I could tell them how easy and personal this method is.  I’m a big purchaser of cards, but somehow a holiday celebrating heart-feelings deserves something from the hand of the sender.  My parents would write a poem to each other that could be a bit clumsy, not great literature, but very touching.  We have so many years of paper hearts that document the big events of our kids’ lives, and it’s a sweet record.

I hope everyone reading is safe, warm, and I guess, if you are reading this, you have power!  Here is my hard-working husband snow-blowing for the second time in a few hours this morning.


Some friends in snow suits kindly shuffled their way to the front door of a neighbor who hadn’t been shoveled out yet, so that I had a path to get to her door and visit for tea.


She made it worth my while.


This planter in her kitchen window seemed to be saying: Spring will return and melt the snow!


I do not know many sights more welcome on a cold winter day than the one below.  Note the bubbles forming a heart:


A very warm and happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!