Back in February our church held it’s yearly grand fund-raiser – a silent auction. The organizing committee really pulled out all the stops and created an incredible evening of fun and entertainment. Our Fellowship Hall was transformed into something that resembled a New Orleans night club/café. Sparkling gold, green and purple beads and baubles decorated tall round café tables and stools, and similar colors decorated the walls and the many tables cram-packed with items for the silent auction.
One side classroom held some very yummy food – and plenty of it! I went back a couple of times because there was just so much to choose from and it was all very appetizing. (Church ladies sure know how to cook!) The other side classroom was a fun “ticket auction” area. You bought a sheet of tickets that all had the same number on and you went round the room looking at the various items displayed and each one had a plastic cup in front of it. If you liked an item, you tore off a ticket (or more than one) and popped into the cup. You maintained the stub which carried the same number as the tickets.
Both the silent auction and the ticket auction were closed at the same time. We had made bids on a few items and were happy to win a couple, especially tickets for a showing of the Peking Acrobats which were dated for our wedding anniversary. When the results were displayed for the numbers pulled from the ticket auction, we were even more happy to discover that we had won several items including a “Bird/Garden Basket”. The basket contained several different items including a fun, round, hanging bird house painted bright blue with a straw thatched roof which we hung from a small tree at the back of our yard.
About the same time that I first noticed my Baltimore Oriole, I also noticed a small bird “checking out” the blue bird house. After observing him a couple of times I identified him as a Carolina Chickadee. He would sit on the branch that the house hung from and then he’d sit on the peg just below the opening into the house and kind of look in. Then he’d hop back on the branch. He did this several times and then he actually put his head inside the opening before hopping back onto the branch.
This “checking out” continued for several days until one day he brought his mate to check it out too. They would both pop their heads in and out, then fly back on the branch, then after a while they would fly off. About a week ago only one of them came but this time he actually went inside the house. He stayed a few moments then flew off. This continued for a couple of days and then, as I was sunbathing, I heard this rhythmic tapping coming from inside the bird house. It went on for a few minutes, then the Chickadee flew out. He returned another day to do some more tapping.
Finally, two days ago as I was in my early morning quiet time with God, I noticed the Chickadee making repeated fly offs back and forth to the house. He was most definitely on a mission, flying off then returning about a minute later and going right into the bird house; out again and back a minute later. So I grabbed the binoculars, watched closely, and realized he was carrying tufts of stuff into the house. Bingo! He was nest making. Since then they have both been back and forth carrying more stuff in to create a soft nest.
Yesterday, while I was out of the house, Richard said he saw an amazing sight. He had glanced over at the bird house and noticed a squirrel on the branch sniffing out the house. All of a sudden the two Chickadees appeared and started puffing themselves up, hunching their wings forward and beating them back and forth making a loud whirring noise as they hovered in front of the squirrel. When that didn’t budge him, they “dive-bombed” him, actually hitting him with their wings, and he finally ran off.
This truly confirmed that we have “guests” in the garden and that they had set up home and were protecting their territory. We are now looking forward to watching the family form and hopefully we will see the little ones when they begin emerging. What an amazing creation God has made.
In my previous posting Vignette- Paula in Minnesota, I mentioned the “travelling dinner”. I vaguely remember some years ago a friend talking about a “neighborhood dinner”, where everyone from the neighborhood (a fairly small one I believe) shared a meal. However, instead of all coming to one house to eat, the families went from house to house eating a course here and another there.
So on one of the evenings that we spent at Sherry and Greg’s place in Minnesota, we were invited to participate in a travelling dinner. Two of the couples did not live in the immediate vicinity of Sherry and Greg’s house, but were great friends of all the people who did. So they brought their contributions to the meal to Deb and Crystal’s home.
On the appointed evening at the appointed time Sherry, Greg, Rich and myself walked down the driveway. It was a very pleasant evening so the walk was very enjoyable. We made a right-hand turn onto the road at the bottom of the driveway, walked about fifty yards, passing the driveway that led to Connie and Joe’s house (Sherry and Greg’s immediate neighbors), before making another right-hand turn into Deb and Crystal’s driveway.
No house could be seen, so I wondered how long of a walk this was going to be. I needn’t have worried. The driveway sloped upward for about fifty yards and as we crested the top we saw that it then sloped downwards for about another fifty yards and there at the bottom, slightly to the right, stood the house. From this view point it appeared to be a one-story building with beautifully cultivated flower beds on the one side, and a wonderful large fire pit encircled by brightly colored Adirondack chairs which in turn were surrounded by more raised flower beds. All this was then surrounded by lush green grass and trees. Another piece of heaven!
But the view of the house was deceptive because it was built on a fairly steep slope. It wasn’t until another day that I saw the other side of the house and realized there was a lower level which contained a spacious apartment where Deb’s Mom, Mary, and Deb’s sister, Paula, lived. It took me a while to actually go into the house because, being the gardener that I am, I had to check out all the beautiful flowers in bloom and the various plants that I didn’t recognize, plus there were lots of interesting and whimsical garden decorations to look at.
Eventually I made it inside where there were some delightful appetizers laid out. Once we filled our plates, most of us migrated through the kitchen and dining area to a lovely screened-in room located at the back of the house. The view was as delicious as the food we ate. As I mentioned before, the house was built on a fairly steep slope, so this room was was quite elevated and gave the impression that we were seated among the tree tops. (For me it was a small God-moment.) It was here that we got to meet the non-neighbors, Char and Frank and Doug and Deb.
After about forty five minutes of eating and socializing, it was deemed time to move to the next course. This was to be eaten at Connie and Joe’s house and we were told that we were going via the “scenic route”. So we all trooped out in Indian file and followed a pathway that they had created through the woods connecting the two houses. It was rather magical and I half expected fairies and pixies to jump out from behind the trees. The crossing point between the two properties was marked by a lovely vine-covered trellis archway that stood over a couple of steps down. My heart actually started beating a little faster right here because in a “deja vue” moment it reminded me of my Dad’s garden. (See my posting Vignettes- My Kingdom.)
All of these neighbors are avid gardeners, so we found ourselves stepping into another beautifully appointed garden where flower beds were in full bloom with lots of lush greenery everywhere and more whimsical garden features. We spent quite a bit of time checking everything out. A special mention needs to be made here about Joe’s “work shed”. I’m talking about a GIGANTIC work shed the size of a small warehouse. There were big tools and small tools, and every kind of small (and some not so small) machinery all neatly laid out. As you can imagine, the men folks in our party were in hog heaven.
After admiring everything, flower beds and the work shed contents, we all drifted into Connie and Joe’s where a second round of appetizers was laid out. More eating and more socializing took place and by this time a few glasses of wine had been consumed so there was lots of merriment and laughter. In the meantime some rain clouds had gathered and so we got sprinkled on a little as we made our way over to Sherry and Greg’s. Earlier in the afternoon I had helped Sherry assemble a huge bowl of a very colorful mixed salad into which we had put everything bar the kitchen sink! As people came in, we tossed it in a home made dressing and in no time at all that huge bowl was empty.
We were all beginning to get full tummies but the walk back to Deb and Crystal’s house must have helped our digestive systems because we were ready for the main course by the time we got there. Actually some of us rode in the car because of the rain, but we were still ready. I think the laughter and the socializing shook the food down nicely because we even had room for dessert after eating yet another plateful of food. It was altogether a very fun experience and I’m already plotting and planning to see how I can replicate it, even though most of my friends live in rather spread out areas. But maybe that will make it even more interesting. I’ll let you know when and how I make it happen.
Sometimes I have to give myself permission to play. I think it is important for the soul, for the heart, for the mind, and for the body to simply have fun. Especially once we have reached the lofty maturity of adulthood! We take on more and more responsibility. Our lives get busier with duties. We begin to wear ourselves down before our time.
So once in a while I decide to do something quite childlike that requires no special thought. Dare I say – I even allow myself to “get silly” and giggle and not act one iota like an adult. There’s no better time to do this than during the Holiday Season. There are so many fun kid-oriented activities to choose from starting with getting dressed up for Halloween and ending up with a visit to Santa.
And so it was, that about ten days ago I found myself in the company of two intrepid child-wannabee girlfriends heading down to St. Augustine. We picked up my daughter who had decided to brave the company of three mature ladies on their quest for childish fun. While trolling the internet, I had come across a link advertising a large 9-acre corn maze and the promise of a hayride included. I have always wanted to do a hayride and the idea of the corn maze made me think of the movie “Field Of Dreams” and had me shivering in anticipation.
The corn maze was located on the Sykes and Cooper Farm in Elkton, which is a few miles south west on CR 207 just outside St. Augustine. We parked the car and walked over to the ticket booth to pay our entry fees. It’s times like this that I really don’t mind being a senior because I got a two dollar discount. They had a few farm animals on display including a sweet donkey, a huge round-bellied fat pig that the toddlers found fascinating, and a small collection of hens. As we finished checking out the hens we realized the big tractor trailer for the hayride was right there and almost empty, so we decided to do that next.
Once we had all got ourselves settled on bales of hay, Farmer Cooper fired up the engine and off we chugged around a large field. There were myriads of gnats in the air but for the most part they didn’t bother us. As we swung around the other side of the field we began to see pumpkins growing on their mounds. I noticed that many of them had a layer of what looked like heavy duty foil laid on the ground around them. I learned that this was to prevent the pumpkins from going moldy on the ground. Some of the pumpkins were humongous!
We jumped off the hayride and made a beeline for the maze. It really was huge and quite intimidating as we entered. The corn (or sorghum) was way above our heads and the paths twisted and turned, ran into each other, went in circles, and did everything else to turn us in the wrong direction. We could hear children’s voices and their shrieks of laughter coming from various directions as they obviously found themselves back at the same spot again and again.
I guess we spent a good half an hour in the maze as we tried to find our way out. Even though we were “acting like children”, the adult in us was aware that we should keep the sounds of the highway to our left, so we didn’t have too much difficulty. I do remember thinking at one point “supposing a ghost just appeared through the corn”, or “what would I do if I stuck my hand into the corn and it (my hand) disappeared”!! Woo-woo! Coming out from the maze we wandered over to the pumpkin stand and bought some miniature pumpkins to use as fall decorations.
By this time we were hungry and decided to head back into St. Augustine to have dinner. On many of my visits to St. Augustine I have passed a small colorful restaurant called “La Cocina Mexican Restaurant” on US-1 and have wanted to try it. We all agreed, Mexican it would be. What a great dinner we had. The service was excellent and the food was “uber” excellent. What I didn’t expect was the superb presentation, almost like a top class eatery. The restaurant itself was delightfully decorated with beautiful murals. Definitely worth another visit and I highly recommend it!
What a fun evening we had. Can’t wait to be a child again!