Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Birthday to me!

Two new beauties

Yesterday was my birthday! It was great to be home to share it with my son and many friends in the neighborhood. My son and I hosted a potluck in the backyard, and it turned out to be a lovely day for it. Earlier in the day, I walked downtown for a free gourmet coffee, a treat that is offered by a local business, Liberty Hall. According to them. having a birthday entitles anyone to free coffee, free admission to a movie,  free popocorn and soda, and a free DVD rental. Can't beat that! I've missed out on this bonanza for two years, so wanted to make sure to take advantage of it this year.

HUGE clematis blossoms in my yard!
My son gave me the gift of flowers, (or actually, money to buy them), so I bought several orchids and a red rose bush that will grow to be as tall as I am someday. He also gave me a lovely blown glass vase made by a local artist. He always seems to find the perfect gifts for me!

Last year I was in Padova on my birthday, and the year before that, I was in Firenze:  Firenze: A Birthday Surprise!  For some reason, I didn't write a post about last year, but I remember that Marisa, the mother of a friend, who I was staying with at the time, made me a special shrimp dinner and bought some elegant pastries to mark the event. I was rushing around Italy at this time last year, and my stay in Padova was especially hurried, culminating with earthquakes that stopped the trains running and delayed my return to Zagarolo for the last week of my stay.

But getting back to this year: walking downtown made me aware of how lovely our town is at this time of year. Kansas often gets a bad rap as being a conservative state, flat and boring,  but Lawrence does not fit that image. The presence of the University allows for a cosmopolitan, artsy culture, with well-educated and liberal-minded citizens, and the landscape offers rolling hills filled with trees. On my walk, I enjoyed being able to see that many yards were filled with blooming flowers, especially rose bushes, loaded down with bright blooms. Vegetable gardens were also in abundance. A cool, wet spring has generated a boom in beauty all over the city. Our city is charming, lovely and a great place to live!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Green, green, green: un paradiso!

I am ever so happy to be home this year. Seriously! I've missed seeing my yard during April, May and June for the past two years while I was in Italy, and it's a daily delight to see what's blooming. It's also wonderfully therapeutic to work in the yard, to plant the orto (vegetable garden) and many flowers. I've planted many colorful annuals this year, including impatiens, begonias, petunias, morning glories, portulaca, zinnias, marigolds, and climbing moonflowers. In addition, I have many peonies, clematis, asiatic lilies and iris that are starting to bloom.

Peonies from the peony tree
I live in a neighborhood that is dense with large trees. There are numerous birds singing all day long, and many of them enjoy splashing in the birdbath in the backyard. I watch them from the window in my kitchen. A pair of bright red cardinals have visited daily this week. Nearby there's a new 4-mile bike path that I've been riding often: going back and forth on it for 40-60 minutes is a good workout. 

Riding the bike path where there were previously railroad tracks.
After my hectic and stressful stay in Italy last year at this time, being home feels tranquil and satisfying. I have some great friends who are also my neighbors, and we've been getting together for dinners more often lately. Next week my son and I are hosting a patio party for the group, to celebrate his new apartment and my birthday. Something to look forward to! With little work to do this month, I almost feel as if I'm on vacation. And in a few weeks, the outdoor pool opens and I'll be able to swim, my favorite summer past time. So I'm finding many things to enjoy about being home in Kansas.

MOOC update: I've finished two courses and am auditing two more with Coursera. I also took several brief courses at the University here, and went to a performance of Puccini's La Boheme. I'm currently  fascinated with a course on Greek and Roman mythology. It's odd, but several courses I've taken this spring have overlapping information, about Descartes, Darwin and Freud, in particular. (They were courses on philosophy, great thinkers, and psychology). I'm auditing the courses I'm taking now because I don't want to hassle with the written assignments, and don't really care about getting a certificate from them. But I still do the quizzes, which motivates me to watch the videos and learn what I can.

Home sweet home
I'll be working a lot in June, then July and August I'll have a lighter schedule again. I'm hoping to get back to Italy this fall, I'm just not sure where I'll go or how long I'll stay. No housesitting gigs have come up, so a long stay is not feasible.Until then, I have a lot to enjoy here at home!