I’m Still Here

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Blogging

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Shadow has been feeling lonely lately. Or, I should say, she had been feeling ignored until she took matters into her own paws. If I were going to spend hours upon hours on the computer, she would camp out here, where it is so convenient for me to pet her and talk to her that I do just that.

My cat has a good point. I have been… obsessed is a little too strong a word… so let’s say intensely occupied with finishing the novel that I have been writing for it seems like forever.

If you need proof of my obsession, look below at the date of my last post. I was appalled yesterday when I noticed that it’s been two months since I’ve blogged. I miss it, just as I miss my cats, friends, and usual life. The good news it that I’m in the home stretch.

This novel has been in the works for seven years. Don’t let that mislead you, though. I would write for a while, then get discouraged or distracted and put it aside for months. One time, I gave up entirely and deleted the partially written manuscript. Fortunately, it was waiting for me in my Dropbox when I decided to give it one more try.

The book is a sequel to my first novel, Teaching Mysteries 101, which came out the summer of 2010, right before I bought my Abbey here. I had barely begun writing the new book when I moved in October. Now, I am hopeful that Teaching Mysteries 201: The Strike will be available before the end of this year.

That timing can only work if I stay on task, to use a teaching term. So I’m going to go pet both cats and then continue making my final revisions.

Please know that I have not lost interest in this blog. I still love writing about my home and community, and I am anxious to get back to it on a more timely schedule.

See you soon!

Words That Jangle in Your Head

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Blogging / Mostly Musings

Where do you get the ideas you write about?

Readers sometimes ask me this question. More often, though, I ask it of myself. Where did that idea even come from? And where can I find more of them?

It’s a good question because it doesn’t have a simple, clear cut answer. Sometimes, my topic comes from a reader’s suggestion. Other times, I stumble into a situation and  realize it would be fun to write about.

But all too often, I sit down to write a post and nothing comes to mind. When that happens, I may turn to a blogging resource called “The Daily Prompt.” Every morning it emails me a different blogging topic. The trick? The prompt is almost always one single word.

I love the free association that results from this. The topic is so open-ended that hundreds of bloggers could write about it, and every single one of them would have something different to say.

Here’s what I found in my inbox one morning last week: Daily Prompt: Jangle.

It took less than a second for my mind to come up with a connection. And it came in the form of a line of lyrics from “The Windmills of Your Mind,” a song written for the 1968 film, The Thomas Crown Affair.

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head

Jangle. I love the image of words jangling around in my head. It’s a great description of the writing process—at least, as it works for me. Words and phrases get stuck in my mind, much like a song can. They keep flying around until they fall into a proper order, then travel to my fingertips, and spill out on the keyboard. I am frequently surprised by the finished product.

At the moment, I have my subconscious mind working on four possible topics for this blog. If I could take a picture of the inside of my head, it might look like this.

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There’s a problem with words jangling in my head, though. They sometimes go rogue, spinning off where ever they want. As I was writing this post, I kept remembering fragments of other lyrics from “The Windmills of Your Mind.”

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Pictures hanging in a hallway
or the fragment of a song,

Half-remembered names and faces
but to whom do they belong?

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind.

So I looked up the lyrics to the entire song. While I was doing that, I kept stumbling onto more interesting details I wanted to share with you. But I was straying too far from the subject of this post.

That was when I thought of my friend and fellow blogger, Joe. In his blog, Life Out of Tunes, Joe writes with knowledge and humor about the music that has shaped his life. It wasn’t too difficult to get him interested in sharing his thoughts about “The Windmills of Your Mind.”

I hope that now you’ll jump over to Joe’s blog to read more about the song. But before you leave, you might want to watch this video of the glider scene in the 1968 version of “The Thomas Crown Affair.” You will hear the song performed by Noel Harrison, as the original audience did. Listen closely to the words. Tomorrow you may find a few of them jangling in your head.

A Wine Lovers’ Haven

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Home Elements/Decorating

My neighbor, Sue, is too modest to allow me to call her a wine expert. So let’s just say, she has pursued an interest in the field for quite a few years and has learned a lot along the way. She and her husband, Mike, have a large collection of wines and a large library of books related to it.

When they began planning their new home here at Maples at the Sonatas, they knew they wanted to include an area dedicated to all things wine. Fortunately, our Epcon homes offer the flexibility to accommodate all kinds of hobbies and interests. Sue and Mike found the Promenade model perfect for their needs.

When you enter the home from the garage, there is a small storage room on one side of the hallway and a closet on the other. The area is marked in red on the diagram below.

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Sue and Mike asked that the doors of the closet not be installed. That left a space for Mike’s talented brother to convert into this wine area:

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Across the hall, the other half of their wine setup looks like this:

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This past week, Sue invited members of the Maples book club to her home after our meeting. In the photo below, Sue (on the left) shares a toast with Maureen, who leads the club.

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We sipped wonderful wine, enjoyed tasty snacks, and enjoyed each other’s company. What a welcome addition Sue and Mike are to our community!

Party Central

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Holidays / Social Life

Downsizing. It is one of the most common reasons people give for buying a home in Maples at the Sonatas. Once the children are on their own, many find there is no longer a need for as much living space.

And then there is maintenance. Our buyers also come looking for less upkeep, both inside and outside the home. After they settle in, they realize they are living comfortably — luxuriously even — in less square footage that is used more efficiently.

But what about those once- or twice-a-year, larger gatherings? Where is there room to host a holiday meal for the extended family? Where can you throw a graduation party? A milestone birthday party? A family reunion?

The best place to hold social events that do not fit comfortably in a home is the large party room in our clubhouse. Homeowners can reserve and rent this space for a reasonable fee and the obligation of cleaning up afterward.

Over the past few years, our clubhouse has served as a location for family dinners, holiday parties, wedding showers, baby showers, graduation parties, and birthday parties. It also has been used for a wedding reception and a celebration of life. The space is versatile enough to work for almost any gathering.

Let’s take a peek at a recent event to see how this space works. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor, Bonnie, rented the party room for a bridal shower for her grandson’s fiancée. Bonnie was gracious enough to let me take a few photos during the shower; I was gracious enough to stay on the sidelines and not interrupt. This is how she and her family utilized the space.

First, they decorated the room.

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Our kitchen gave them ample space to serve food and beverages.

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The guests look comfortable as they watch the bride open her gifts.

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Before the shower ended, there was time to get this 4-generation photo of Bonnie, her daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson. Sweet memories of a wonderful family gathering.

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Welcome, Fluffy New Neighbors

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Animals / Nature

Maples at the Sonatas has welcomed two new families in the past two weeks. First, we have the Robins, living on Verdi, and then we have the Robins, living on the other end of Verdi. It is unclear whether the two families are related. But yes… we are definitely going to the birds here!

wreathhomeOne mama robin chose to build her nest in a wreath on Sue and Mike’s front door. It’s a nice, private location because it hardly shows until you are right on top of it. Folks rarely get that close anyway because Sue and Mike have been entering their home through the garage to keep from disturbing the baby birds. During our Tour of Homes last Sunday, arrows directed visitors to also enter through the garage. Most obliged, as Mama watched nervously.

 

 

 

planter2Our other robin mom moved into a planter in the baker’s rack herb garden in Julie and Marty’s courtyard. This nest is not disturbed by people entering the house, but Mom complains loudly when anyone gets too near her babies. Julie thinks she likes the aroma of cilantro because her nest is right next to a pot of the herb. Julie has been posting photos of the babies on Facebook each day so we can all watch the babies grow.

And yes, they do grow quickly. Here are a few photos of the two families. As Sue said, “I’ve so been enjoying Mother Nature in action.”

 

These tiny guys are obviously quite vulnerable. Yesterday we had waves of hard, driving rain and high winds. It was worse than this photo makes it look.

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I feared for the birds’ safety. But thanks to their very protective mothers, all was well this morning. It looks like the little robins will group up safely here in our peaceful, welcoming community.