Wild Roses, Bees, Flowers & A Gift

5-30 wild roses

Please take note: we are celebrating the one time of the year when the thorny plants that live all over the place on this property, which I call ‘brambles’ for lack of a better term, become what they actually are: wild roses. The view from my kitchen window is gorgeous. Fragrant white roses are everywhere.

I think I need to start calling them wild roses, period, no matter what time of year. Because that’s what they are.

5-30 depetaled poppy

I told you that the poppies are short-lived. I walked out to the garden late in the day yesterday and most of the flowers had shed their petals. But isn’t this de-flowered poppy beautiful as well?

5-30 bee and catmint

The catmint is blooming, as well. I have lots of catmint in the big garden bed and also in the side garden. It’s so dependable. I planted myself, camera in hand, snapping countless pictures in order until I got one of this bumble bee. Those bees are loving the garden.

How are you all on this Saturday morning? It’s beautiful here; sunny, less humid. The lawn has been mowed. The peonies are about to bloom in the next few days. Scout is in the ‘tunnel.’ Don is humming to himself in the living room. I’m drinking my coffee, which tastes especially good this morning.

You know, I am blessed by the lovely people who read and comment on this blog. I almost never get a comment that is questionable or offensive or rude. But I do  get them. In the past week or so, there was a rude comment left on one post. Then, the other day, another one on a different post. Not the same commenter. If you’ve ever read the footer of my blog, you’ve seen my commenting policy: I reserve the right to delete any comment I find offensive, in poor taste, or is bordering on spam. (My spam plugin takes care of all the actual spam.)

In the case of these two separate comments, my first impulse was to respond to the comment, as I do to all comments. And in each case, I came up with a response. Initial response: a sarcastic comeback. Not good, Claudia. Sinking to their level. Edit. Next response: try to be kind. But why am I even taking the time for this nonsense? Finally: I just said “Screw it” and deleted them, along with my responses. I refuse to engage. When someone is deliberately rude or offensive, the right to any sort of debate is forfeited. Gone. Bye bye.

Thank goodness, 99.9% of the comments here on the blog are lovely, intelligent, wise, kind, funny and helpful, to boot. The debate can be lively, but it is always from the heart and respectful.

So, my friends, a big thank you for contributing so much that is good to this blog.

One of my readers sent me a package. Kathy is from Iowa and the contents were Iowa proud:

5-30 kathy's present

From the heart of Iowa: roasted corn, apple butter, candy coated soy nuts, along with a CD and some treats for Scout. What a lovely gift! Don was popping those candy coated soy nuts yesterday. We’ve had the apple butter on some toast (yummy!) and Scout has found her new favorite treat. Kathy thoughtfully chose soft, easily chewable treats and Scout is very grateful.

Thank you so much, Kathy. I love Iowa. I’ve been there more than a few times and it is a beautiful state.

And one more note: I realize that most of you live far away from NY and Rhinebeck, where the Country Living Fair is going to take place next weekend. But if you know of someone who might be interested in attending, please let them know about my giveaway. I’m giving away two pairs of tickets – a really great value – and the deadline for leaving a comment is tomorrow night at 9 pm. Thanks so much! Here’s the link.

Happy Saturday.


Friday Thoughts

I have two posts up today. In addition to this post, if you scroll down one post or click here, you’ll see I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the Country Living Fair in Rhinebeck, which takes place next weekend, June 5-7. If you’re interested, make sure to leave your comment before Sunday evening at 9:00 pm. There’s a fast turnaround on this one!

5-29 rose in bud

A few days ago.

5-29 rose


Gorgeous. Mom, this rose is for you. Heartfelt thanks again to Martha, who gave me this bush last year in remembrance of my mother.

Henry has kids. Yes, just after I posted about him on Wednesday, I saw two little ones dining on some of our grass. Sometimes the kids are out on their own. Sometimes Henry is out there with them. Adorable.

Or perhaps I should say: Henri a des bébés.

Can you imagine them in little bérets?

5-29 poppy

Oh yes. The poppies have opened.

They are so breathtaking. And their bloom time is short. So I take tons of photos because I know they’ll be gone before I know it.

5-29 poppy 2

At the same time the poppies open, the catmint is flowering as well, so there’s a lovely purple and orange combination going on in the garden.

And, as I walked around the porch, I saw this:

5-29 clematis

The clematis is blooming, too! Glory be. The garden has said yes to Spring. I planted this clematis several years ago, but it didn’t start taking off until the weeping willow came down. The willow had blocked the sun which caused the clematis to grow lots of leaves, but no flowers. Now, it’s making up for lost time. Welcome back!

Don, Scout and I sat on the porch last night and watched the sun set and listened to the birds and talked about our life and our gratitude for our many blessings. We looked around our property that not all that long ago was covered in several inches of snow and marveled at the miracle of spring. We’re grateful for our marriage and the strong love we have for each other and for Scout. We’re blessed with friends and family and work in our chosen fields. We’re living our dream. Though at times it can be a stressful struggle to make the mortgage payment or pay those unexpected bills, we’ve managed to do it and we’ve managed to do it as freelancers, never sure of each month’s income. Our parents helped us as we started out on this dream of ours. For that we are forever grateful. We’ve made our choice and are holding fast; life in the country in a lovely little cottage with our beloved animals around us, with green things growing and blooming, with music and laughter and a lot of hard work. We’re coming up on the tenth anniversary of Mockingbird Hill Cottage (in August.) It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true!

Anyway. We’re grateful. We’re thankful. We’re blessed.

Happy Friday.


Giveaway: Tickets to the Country Living Fair


It’s that time of year again. The Country Living Fair is taking place next weekend in Rhinebeck, NY. Rhinebeck is just across the Hudson River from Mockingbird Hill Cottage; lucky me! I attended the show last year and had a great time.

Stella Management contacted me and asked me if I would like to host a giveaway. I immediately said yes. So, I’m now in possession of 6 tickets. Two for me, and two pairs for two lucky readers.


The tickets are Complimentary Early Bird Weekend Passes – each ticket a $40 value. That means you are allowed to enter before the Fair is officially open (on Friday and Saturday) and you can visit for one day, two days, or all three days. I took advantage of the Early Bird Entry last year and it was so nice to visit all the booths before it got too crowded.

It takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 5 -7. If you live in the area (and by area I mean New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Connecticut; or maybe even Massachusetts or Rhode Island) and you’d like to be entered in this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post. As always, no hoops to jump through, just a comment. This will be a quick turnaround, as I have to get the tickets in the mail on Monday. So…the deadline is Sunday at 9:00 pm. After that, the giveaway will be closed. I’ll pick two names via the Random Number Generator Sunday evening.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share some tickets to this wonderful event with you. A big thank you to Stella Management. Good luck, my friends!


Book Review: The Daughter by Jane Shemilt


Today I am reviewing The Daughter by Jane Shemilt for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

About the book (from the publisher): Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a successful neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen year old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios – kidnapping, murder – seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet, for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers – and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she’s thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

Jenny knows she will never be able to find Naomi unless she discovers the whole truth about her daughter, a twisting, painful journey into the past that will lead to an almost unthinkable revelation.

My review: Secrets. They are the theme running throughout this beautifully written novel. The secrets we all hold; some relatively harmless, others much more dark in their import. Jenny, the protagonist, seems to successfully juggle the demands of her career with the demands of raising three teenagers. When her adored daughter disappears, nothing is the same as it was and the truths that are uncovered are shattering. She discovers that everyone – her husband, her twin sons, her daughter – has been keeping certain aspects of their lives secret.

What happens when those secrets are uncovered? How does one’s world change? How do we cope with the fact that we didn’t know our loved ones as well as we thought we did? How could we not know? The world tilts on its axis and we are forever changed.

Shemilt is a very fine writer. I found the story riveting. Told from Jenny’s point-of-view, it is lyrical and brutally honest at the same time. At the beginning of the book, Shemilt holds an onion out to us, beautiful and whole and seemingly complete. As the story progresses, the onion’s layers are systematically uncovered, each layer a secret that has to be peeled away in order to reveal another painful truth. The author skillfully takes us along for the ride, as Jenny searches for her daughter and faces the reality that the world she knew was merely the outermost layer of the onion.

This is also the story of the love a mother has for her children and of her commitment to them, a commitment that is sometimes resented by those she would protect, sometimes misguided, but always fierce in its single-minded devotion. Anyone who has ever loved and lost, or has learned that a loved one is not the person they appeared to be, will identify with Jenny’s struggle. I’ve been there. I know how it feels and I’ve asked the same questions of myself. How did I not know, how can this person I’ve known since the day he/she was born be so completely different than I thought? Was it all a lie?

It’s a mystery, a love story, and a cautionary tale. You will love this book.

Jane Shemilt

About the author: While working full-time as a physician, Jane Shemilt received a M.A. in creative writing. She was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Daughter, her first novel. She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol, England.

Good news! One of you will be the lucky winner of a copy of The Daughter. Just leave a comment here on this post, and I will pick a winner on Monday. Good luck! U.S. readers only.

Happy Thursday.





5-27 henry

Meet Henry.

We call all our groundhogs Henry, but this Henry is smaller than last year’s Henry. He lives under the shed. He likes our grass.

He’s frightened easily. This is what he does when he hears a noise. He’s listening, making sure he’s safe. If he feels threatened at all, he runs very quickly to the ramp on the shed and then he disappears. I’ve seen him peek out, head raised, waiting for an all-clear.

If Don or I see him out there, we will not let Scout out. We try to let Henry dine in peace. We’ve even stopped cutting a portion of the grass near the shed, so he can have more dining options. We’re thinking of making a sign that says ‘Henry’s Pasture.’

Are you ready for your close-up, Henry?

5-27 henry 2

I have to take these shots from inside the house, of course. If I ventured out, I would scare Henry and that defeats the purpose.

I’m glad he’s timid, because it keeps him from venturing too near the road.

Much to my surprise, a recent conversation with Don about Henry revealed that Don always thinks of him as “Henri.” A French groundhog. But, I said, then it would be pronounced differently. Not Henry (HEN ree) but Henri (an REE), with a little French nasality on the ‘n’ and that French ‘r.’

But it didn’t matter. Don thinks of him as Henri but still says Henry. I think of him as Henry.

I just thought you’d like to meet him.

My back is still troubling me, but it’s certainly better than it was. I’m taking it easy, but as you can imagine, I’m itching to DO things.

We think the man who is tweeting about that scam is most likely an innocent person who is retweeting what he thought was a good cause. So I sent him a tweet this morning that thanked him for removing the tweet.

I’m sure that GoFundMe is a good site that helps a lot of people. As you can imagine, I’ve been looking at it a lot in the last few days. Bless them for immediately taking down the site that was using my nephew’s picture. But some of the causes seem questionable. Not questionable as in the obvious scam that would use an innocent child’s picture to raise money for a bogus cause; questionable in terms of what is a legitimate need and what isn’t.

It’s all subjective, of course. But I guess you can say I’m wary of the whole thing. Wasn’t it PT Barnum who said “There’s a sucker born every minute?” Be careful.

The winner of a copy of The Dismantling  is Kathy. Congratulations! An email is on its way to you.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.

Happy Wednesday.