My Office Wall

You’ve all seen the saying: A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.

In that case — I’ve a clean bill of health. The filing, stacking – non-system is thriving on the spare bed in my office. The closet is stuffed — I really do need to get rid of a box or two to make space for the additional filing crate I purchased.

But the semi-organization appears to work for me. Give me a moment or two and I can find the correct folder or stack 90% of the time.

The same holds true for my wall decoration. Yes, two of the four walls have what could loosely be called “decor”. A window fills the east wall and the west is dominated by closet doors. So what do I look at other than the squirrels entertaining in the pine tree?

A laminated scenic place mat and motivational sayings slapped up with poster gum are the easiest to see from my computer perch. I should move some of them. They are positioned for the previous computer location — months ago.

A complimentary calendar and a paint-by-the-number done BC. (That’s Before Children – caution to any reader planning a family.) A pale map of a fictional town completes the wall hangings on the opposite wall.

Is it restful? Inspirational? Scary to any overnight guest I direct to here?

Lets go with the ever-popular — all of the above.

It won't win "home decorating" awards.
It won’t win “home decorating” awards.

A Tree to Love

Love. Affection. To take pleasure in.

Skip the hugs, caresses, and kisses. Unless you desire tangled hair, scratched arms, and pitched lips.

I’m talking about a spruce tree. Green year round. Conical shape. Close branches furnishing a hotel with breakfast bar for birds. Light brown cones contrast with deep to medium green (some species with a blue to silver cast) needles.

They grow large, up to 100 feet tall, if they land in the right spot. Dense branches break the wind to protect buildings and soil when planted with companions in long, offset rows.

Add colored lights in December and you have a living Christmas tree to use year after year until the children are grown and out of the house. With a little more yard I’d be glad to host a grouping.

Colorado spruce waiting for spring planting.
Colorado spruce waiting for spring planting.

Shopper’s Respite

The wardrobe is in shambles. Clothing is faded. Or frayed. Or too small. Shoes are worn and the small kitchen appliance gave up in a wisp of gray smoke.

American women solve this problem with a trip to the mall. Credit card in hand they enter with their list – sometimes written, sometimes scattered between different spheres of the brain. They move from store to store – deciding by color, texture, size, and price which items will find a new home. A mixed mumble of curses and pleasure rises from the fitting room. Oohs and ahhhs flit around jewelry and cosmetic counters.

Oh, there it is — exactly the break a weary shopper needs. A place to reset and refresh for the next group of stores.


Also a welcome place to read the next chapter of a sweet romantic suspense.

Starr Tree Farm or Hiding Places :  for example.


A Tree, A Flag, An Island

It is neither unique nor common for a national or state/provincial/territorial flag to feature a tree (or a portion). Lebanon and Canada come to mind for nations with the Cedar Tree and Maple Leaf represented. The US state of South Carolina includes a Palm Tree.

Today we’re going further South than the United States. And we’ll include many miles West — to the other side of the International Date Line. On a white background, between vertical bars of green, the Norfolk Pine is depicted on the flag for the Territory of Norfolk Island. I don’t know about your geography expertise, but I needed to consult an atlas to find this external territory of Australia. (It’s located 877 miles due east of Australia and northwest of New Zealand’s North Island)

This is the home of the Norfolk Island Pine. The tree has become a popular evergreen ornamental world wide. In its natural habitat it can reach a height of 200 feet. In other climates, and when grown in a tub (best method in St. Louis) it obtains a more most stature of 3-6 feet. A long lived ornamental it adds a welcome bit of green contrast to the browns of a Midwest winter.

Norfolk Island pine sharing space with holiday color.
Norfolk Island pine sharing space with holiday color.



Post-Christmas Cookies

The parties are over. The resolutions are either hanging by a thread or broken at your feet. The decorations have been put away until next year. Except….

What to do with the candy canes? Packing away to re-use doesn’t seem right. A dozen from the tree or an equal number collected from gift packaging and Santa visits is too many to eat as afternoon treats. Stir and flavor tea? A good way to use a few.

This year I tried something new. With much unwrapping of clingy, static plastic wrap I bared the canes, broke them into chunks, and tossed them in the blender. (I’m sure a food processor would work just as well or better.) Within minutes I had “candy cane powder”. Now for the fun part.

Take a basic cookie dough recipe. I used my favorite chocolate chip one which calls for 1/2 brown and 1/2 white sugar. Substitute the “candy cane powder” for the white sugar, add nuts instead of chocolate chips. Bake and enjoy.

This may become a new January tradition.


Careful which Tree you nibble.

Quick — give a response to the word “Hemlock”.

Did your tongue recoil at the word? Are you thinking poison served to an ancient Greek teacher?

Today I’d like to turn your attention to a larger plant sharing the name. Tsuga canadensis (Canadian hemlock) could be a good addition to a shady portion of your yard — especially if you live in Canada or the northern portions of the United States.

Give the tree a little room and patience. They’ve been known to spread out to 35 feet and stretch upward to 70. Not a good choice near power lines. Your reward will be a pleasant spot of green all year round and seed cones to attract wildlife.

Don’t worry about nibbling on a stray needle or two (or more). The poisonous hemlocks are in the parsley family.

Canadian (or Eastern) hemlock
Canadian (or Eastern) hemlock

A Tree for All Seasons

Pet the fur in one direction.

Does this sound familiar? Directions you’ve given a young child around an animal? It holds true for a different fur – rather FIR – also.

Last month you may  have hosted a fir – recently cut or artificial – in your home. Several varieties are popular Christmas trees and grown for this purpose across the Northern United States.

Holidays are over. The extra twinkling lights and bright decorations have been packed away. Our friend the fir – and other evergreen relatives – maintain a welcome spot of green in the drab winter months.

Caution while petting the FIR
Caution while petting the FIR

The Caucasian fir is native to northeast Turkey and is also known as Nordman fir.


Getting SMART

Happy New Year!

Did you stay up late on December 31? Party hard? Regret it the next morning?

Yes, we only have 364 days left in 2015. Are you ready to make your mark on the clean slate of a year? Have you made resolutions? Set goals?

Today I have a word about goals – five actually. And I hope that they assist you in having a productive and interesting year.

Specific: Did you make your goals specific — bite size.

Measurable: Will you know when you’ve reached it? Will others?

Achievable: Does your goal hinge on the undependable actions of others? Re-work it until it’s within your control

Realistic: Is it possible? You can stretch and reach – good — but keep it within the laws of physics.

Time-Targeted: Have you got an end-point? I will do XX by YY?

SMART — good for goals.

An example I’m willing to share.   I will attend my class reunion in August.