Day 161: New Treat at Andy’s Frozen Custard and Their Sweet Story


I realized today, when I needed to shift firsts, that Andy’s Frozen Custard has become my “fall back” first! At the beginning of the year, as I made lists of possible firsts, I had Andy’s down for a once a month visit. They offer a different flavor each month in a concrete or sundae. Then I eliminated sugar from my diet, along with dairy products, so it was bye-bye Andy’s! I allow myself an occasional treat now and it’s great to know I can always try something new at my favorite frozen custard store.

For today’s first, I had the monthly special, a blackberry concrete. I love berries. Blueberries are my top pick, but blackberries are a close second. When I saw what the June special was, I opted for that. I have to admit a small pang as I ordered, when I saw the butter pecan concrete in bold print on the menu board. I haven’t had one of my old favorites since I began limiting my sugar intake. But I powered through the craving and carried my small blackberry concrete to a high top table to enjoy.

And enjoy it I did. This was my first blackberry concrete and it was very tasty and refreshing. The slightly tart berries mixed with the creamy frozen vanilla custard was a perfect pairing. And I decided to enjoy it without guilt. I am mindful of what I am eating these days and when I do have a treat, I want to savor it. As I was finishing up my concrete, I noticed for the first time a large picture hanging on the wall that told the story of the store’s creation. So in addition to trying a new concrete flavor, I also learned how Andy’s came into existence.

Titled “A Sweet Story to Share” the picture reads:

A great salesman can sell enough stuff – good or bad – to make a living. But when the product is amazing there is no need for a salesman at all…just a family of caring people who cannot wait to share their found treasure with as many people as possible. John & Carol Kuntz met Leon & Doris Schneider who had their own frozen custard store in Milwaukee since 1942. With Leon’s knowledge and guidance, John & Carol were able to open their first frozen custard store in Lake of the Ozarks, MO on March 19, 1986. The store was named after their son, Andy.

Lines of people began to gather to taste this incredible treat and the store took off like a rocket. The family moved to Springfield, MO to open more stores and soon Andy’s Frozen Custard became a household phrase. A Midwest Legacy was born.

Andy grew up in the business and worked alongside his wife, Dana, serving custard made the Milwaukee way – with only the best ingredients and made fresh every hour. Today sixteen Andy’s Frozen Custard stores bring the world’s best frozen custard to the people of the Midwest.

The Kuntz family continues the tradition today. Sadly, John Kuntz passed away in 2006 but Andy, Dana and Carol, along with the wonderful teams of associates, are keeping his fanatical practices of exceptional service, perfect product and extreme fun alive. It is through the eyes of a child that the definition of fun is written at Andy’s. After all….Andy’s makes it fun to be a kid for a while!

What a great story and indeed, a great legacy. I like being a kid at Andy’s, even if it’s just for a while. And I like blackberry concretes. The next time I need a default first, I’ll be back to try another concrete flavor!


Day 160: Weather Channel: Twisted Believers


We are well past the anniversary date of the May 22, 2011 tornado. Being safely into the month of June brings sighs of relief to Joplin residents. However, the Weather Channel broadcasted a special this evening on the Joplin tornado, called, interestingly, Twisted Believers. My mom, who has satellite and the Weather Channel, invited me over to watch the documentary with her, for my first today.

I wondered about the title. It comes from a statement that traumatic events, like an EF5 tornado that devastates a town, can change lives and twist commonly held beliefs. The show looked at three such beliefs that shifted as a result of the Joplin tornado and another tornado that struck Ruth, AL the same year.

The first segment covered a topic that became familiar after the tornado, the appearance of angels during the storm. Many children told stories of being protected during the storm by huge butterflies that shielded them. Adults spoke of seeing tall men in spotless white clothes who assisted them during and after the tornado. Tonight’s program focused on two young ladies, Emily and Mason. Emily and her family were caught in their vehicle as they tried to get home after the Joplin High School graduation. Their SUV was picked up and battered. Emily suffered from a 14 inch gash in her thigh and bordered on consciousness as she bled heavily from her wound. As her family sought to free her from the damaged SUV, Emily felt a presence near her, and a hand on her shoulder. A voice told her not to worry, everything would be okay. She felt peace settle over her and knew she would survive.

Mason and her grandmother and brother waited in the truck on the parking lot of Home Depot while her grandfather shopped. There was nowhere to take cover as the tornado bore down on them. Mason saw two angels with her in the backseat. The truck was thrown more than 100 yards. After the storm she was alive but realized she was pinned to the seat by a metal bar that had pierced her body. She too felt a comforting hand on her shoulder and the sense that all would be well. Both girls recovered fully, their scars a testament to their injuries.


The second segment covered a less familiar occurrence after the tornado, paranormal phenomenon. The show explored the happenings around a man named Nick who lost his home in the storm. His neighbor was killed. After he and his sister moved into another home near Joplin, they began to experience unusual activity in their new house. Lights flashed on and off, unexplained noises were heard, the dogs were disturbed at night by something only they could see, and Nick’s sister saw an apparition of a man with a board through his body. A paranormal investigative team, led by Lisa Livingston Martin, of Joplin, set up sensitive equipment to capture any activity. They did record activity, including a voice speaking that reassured the home owners that the energy in the house was not hostile. My belief about such phenomenon is this: I believe everything is energy, or another word for it would be spirit. With the sudden and catastrophic destruction and loss of lives that happened, a huge amount of energy was released into the area. For a time, there was a great deal of energy or spirit moving about and through the tornado zone. It is dissipating with time.


Lisa Livingston Martin and Paranormal Science Lab

The final segment was about a young girl named Ari who lost her parents, grandparents and a baby cousin during an April 2011 tornado in Ruth, Alabama. For six months before the storm, Ari had dreams of losing her family. Everyone assured her that they were only dreams, and yet, Ari’s premonition came true. When Ari’s grandparents’ house was hit, Ari was picked up by the tornado and carried 200 yards. She later told the story of going to heaven while she was inside the tornado. She spoke of seeing a staircase rise to two huge doors with diamond doorknobs. An angel who called her by name and held her hand led her through the doors, where she saw her family who had just passed during the tornado. The baby was held in the arms of Jesus. Ari was led back down the staircase, and awoke in a field. She was 6 years old at the time. Ari has since written and illustrated a book about her experience, titled, “To Heaven After the Storm”.

A thunderstorm moved into Joplin this evening as my mom and I were watching this show. Her television lost its signal with 10 minutes to go during the program, just as Ari was describing her trip to heaven. We chatted and checked weather and calmed the dogs. As we waited to see if the signal would return, I googled Ari and found the rest of her story online. The storm moved quickly through and the signal was restored for the last 2 minutes of the show. What irony!

This was an interesting program. It confirmed for me that the world is full of deep mystery and sometimes fury, angelic intervention and sometimes unspeakable tragedy. It is a beautiful, wondrous, magical place and we don’t know or understand everything. I agree with Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies….


Day 159: Apothecary Garden


When a window of opportunity opened this morning, meaning my area was in between storm fronts, I leapt through it. According to the weather app on my phone, I had 2-3 hours before the next rain shower arrived. My first for today was to plant an apothecary garden.

This section of my garden evolved over the past few months. I had intentions of creating an herb garden. As I read about apothecary gardens, that intention morphed. Essentially, they are herb gardens, with a few additional plants that are useful for healing. As with the other sections in my backyard, this will be a garden in process that will continue to grow and adapt over the next few years.

The quiet and fragrant beauty of an apothecary garden and the peaceful activity of caring for it can be healing in itself. The purpose of such a garden is to deliver a healing harvest useful for teas, decoctions, salves and tinctures. I also use dried herbs and flowers to make my own potpourri and bath products. I am very interested in continuing to learn to use herbs and flowers to create other health and beauty products.

The first healers were herbalists and the first medicines plants. The apothecary garden is steeped in history. These gardens were first grown in the Middle Ages and cared for by monks who studied plants and their therapeutic uses. In later centuries, physicians maintained their own healing gardens and stillrooms for growing and preparing botanical medicines.

Today, I planted an assortment of herbs in my apothecary garden. I included Platinum Blonde Lavender and Silver Anouk Lavender, East Friesland Sage, Russian Sage, and Garden Sage, Peppermint, German Thyme, Greek Oregano, Garlic, Lemon Grass and Lemon Balm, and the Basils: Cinnamon, Purple, Spicy Globe, Sweet and Thai. There are several other plants I’m searching for, including calendula, feverfew, German Chamomile, comfrey, Apothecary rose and sweet violet. I’ll add a container of aloe. It can’t survive the cold, so must winter indoors. There is an empty space between the purple sage and the silver lavender that is saved for a large black cast iron kettle that Greg’s dad is giving me. I’m excited to bring that home and plant more herbs and flowers within it.

I loved creating this space today. The rain arrived before I finished and I spent the last two hours in a gentle shower. That was okay. The rain and I are friends, after all. Greg was a tremendous help, using his truck to bring in two loads of mulch. He removed grass from the section I was planting in and spread the mulch after carting it into the backyard with a wheelbarrow. Until the rain started, the cats cavorted about, checking out each new plant.

I left my contact lenses out this morning, which meant I could see well close up, but not at distances. That had the beautiful effect of bringing my vision to what was immediately before me. The world beyond my fences blurred out and could not claim my attention. What I focused on was digging in the rich moist dirt and setting the plants into the earth, envisioning what they would become, but willing to journey with them over the next months and years as they mature and fill in their allotted space. With water and sunshine, these herbs and flowers will become what they are so wonderfully created to be, offering their beauty, scent, leaves and blooms freely to me. What an amazing shared journey it will be.


Day 158: Cher Jiang Exhibit


Viewing the lovely work of Carthage artist, Cher Jiang, was the perfect first for today. I had showings and other activities scheduled and stopping by the Post Memorial Art Reference Library for the June exhibit was an easy and delightful first. I had seen a teaser about Cher’s work. Some of her art pieces replace the people in photos or stills with animals. The sample I had seen was from a scene in the movie, Titanic, and it was charming. I looked forward to seeing more of Cher’s art.

I was enchanted immediately. Cher Jiang creates whimsical, magical art. I enjoyed looking at each piece on display, and then started again and took my time studying the prints and original works. Cher does much more than create fun portraits of people as animals. Her work has a fairy tale quality to it. Her website is very appropriately called, Cher’s Fairyland.

Born and raised in China, the bio on Cher’s website says that she grew up as an only child in a small village. She spent her days in her parents’ garden, looking at the trees, flowers and vines and wondering if there was a fairy who secretly created those. She began to draw. Her desire is simple. Cher says, “I want to help people to find the true beauty about their lives and I have a simple wish. The moment when people see my pictures, their worries, and sadness will fly away and they can start looking at the positive side of the life!”

Cher completed her art degree from the Institute of Fine Art in China. For nine years she illustrated children’s books and taught art and cartoon animation at the university level in China. She came to the US in 2007, moving to Missouri and accepting an opportunity to work with Sam Butcher at Precious Moments in Carthage. She has been published in more than 20 books and has created more than 1000 works of art for magazines, individuals and computer games.

One of the amazing services that Cher offers is to take a life story and turn it into a fairy tale. Using a photograph, she creates a magical picture, featuring the person or persons in the photo. Information can be found on her website. I’ve provided a link at the end of this post. What a great gift or cherished memento these one of a kind creations would be.

Once again, I appreciate that the Post Memorial Art Reference Library displays the work of talented local artists each month. This has been an unexpected benefit of doing firsts this year. I have loved getting acquainted with these artists through the exhibits. Today, I smiled and felt joy as I viewed Cher’s art work. Her wish certainly was true for me…I was uplifted.


Pictures are photos of Cher’s artwork displayed at the exhibit. To view her work and see prints available for sale, go to:


Day 157: Make Friends with the Rain


Byron Katie, author of the book “Loving What Is”, lived in Barstow, CA, a desert town where apparently the wind blew almost continually. People hated the wind. Some even moved away from Barstow because of the it. After she stopped arguing with reality, and accepted what was, Byron Katie became known as the woman who made friends with the wind. As she said, “How do I know that the wind should blow? It’s blowing!”

I felt like that today. I showed property in the rain, shopped for and bought plants and flowers in the rain, unloaded those plants and flowers in the rain, arrived for Zumba class and left Zumba class in the rain, and fed and cared for my friend’s pets, whiles she’s away on vacation, in the rain. I got wet several times today….soaked. I changed clothes twice. Fixed my hair multiple times.  I could fuss, complain or resist the rain. I could wish it wasn’t raining. The reality is, it rained today. It’s been raining, at least a little bit, every day for the past week or so. And it’s going to rain tomorrow. I decided today, for my first, to make friends with the rain.

Several years ago, I received a framed print that reads, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I’ve come to appreciate that truth more and more. To wait out a situation, helplessly, is to take myself out of the flow of life. It puts me in victim mode. To accept a situation is to accept the reality of what is, and creates peace in my heart and in my world. I may not be able to change the situation, but I can change the way I perceive it and respond to it. I can, indeed, dance.


The rain today, was just rain. Yes, I had to be out in it. However, I could find reasons to be grateful for the rain: We need the moisture, since my region is behind the average rain fall amount for the year. The newly planted areas of my garden are benefitting greatly from this long drink of water. I have not had to water my garden myself! These are rain showers, for the most part, rather than severe thunderstorms, yesterday’s tempest not included. No real damage from that storm. Unlike a well known character in a place called Oz, I don’t melt when doused with water. The rain cleanses the air. The rain has a beauty and musical sound all its own. I was virtually alone as I shopped for plants and flowers at Lowe’s, as others seemed to choose to stay inside, and I was able to get a great selection at great sale prices.

I sang and laughed in the rain as I unloaded the plants from the truck. And that’s when I realized I had, indeed, made friends with the rain. I welcomed it. Greg drove me to my friend’s house so I could care for her pets, and as we arrived, another downpour began. It was the perfect moment to capture my relationship with the rain with a pic. To quote Byron Katie again, “The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is.” Holding onto the thought that it shouldn’t be raining, would have invited suffering into my life. I didn’t want suffering. It should be raining today. How do I know? Because…it was.


Day 156: Ultra Detox Bath Soak


Today’s first is something I’ve been wanting to try for months, but the opportunity just hadn’t shown up yet. Tonight, after a busy day, it seemed the perfect time. My first was to experience Dr. Mark Hyman’s Ultra Detox Bath.

This relaxing bath is part of Dr. Hyman’s daily practices during the 10 Day Detox Diet. During my 10 days, I followed the other practices but didn’t get to do this one. Here is the recipe:

Fill a tub with hot water

Add 2 cups Epsom salts, ½ cup baking soda, and 10 – 20 drops of lavender oil.

Light candles, play soothing music, dim the lights

Add one stressed human

Soak for 20 – 30 minutes

The Ultra Detox Bath combines Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), baking soda (alkalinizing), and lavender oil (cortisol and stress reducing aromatherapy). This delicious ritual creates profound relaxation and detoxification. Soaking in the steaming water gives one the triple benefit of mind and muscle relaxation and whole body detoxification.

One of the reasons I’ve not done this yet is that I don’t have a bathtub. I have a large, step in shower, which is great for getting ready in the mornings. My daughter, Adriel, lives a block away from me. I can see the back of her house from the front of mine. I haven’t wanted to intrude or be there using her bathtub when she or Kelly are home. But tonight, I knew no one would be home, and Adriel not only offered the use of a tub, she graciously offered the use of her deep soaking tub in the master bathroom.

I have to say, I was excited! I gathered up the necessary ingredients, except I lacked Epsom salts, and bagged up several white candles. I just needed to pick up Epsom salts. A quick stop at Walgreens and I was ready to detox in the bathtub! Arriving at the house, I found Adriel had left the tv in the master bedroom tuned in to a music channel. I lit candles and started the hot water pouring into the deep tub. I added the baking soda and the Epsom salts. I paused, inhaling deeply. Was Epsom salts supposed to smell so good?

Checking the label, I discovered I’d purchased Epsom salts with Eucalyptus. Since I don’t believe anything happens by mistake, I considered this a happy occurrence. Adding 20 drops of lavender oil made the bath water and indeed, the whole room, smell wonderful. Sinking into that tub of fragrant, hot water was bliss. Eyes closed as I sank back, I took several slow, deep breaths and allowed my muscles to relax, and my mind to clear of chatter.

The next 30 minutes were wonderful. I sipped cold water. I listened to music. I meditated. And finally, I just allowed myself to be.  I was Cindy, soaking quietly in a tub of hot water, happy to be. Nothing more was needed in that moment. At the end of my bath I was deeply relaxed, content, and I trust, detoxed!

I appreciate Adriel allowing me to use her home and tub tonight. I might want to offer her a monthly fee in exchange for use of that marvelous tub. And it just might be possible that in the future I could be seen padding across the street and vacant lot that separates our houses, hair up, wearing a bathrobe and flipflops, on my way to soak!


Day 155: Hug Your Cat Day


A year ago, I didn’t have any pets. My 22 year old cat, AJ, passed away about five years ago, preceded the year before by my beloved dog, Payton, who also died at home of old age. Today, I have FIVE cats. So how appropriate to celebrate Hug Your Cat Day today, as my first.

I wonder about the person who created this unique holiday, because as anyone knows who has cats, they just looove to be picked up and squeezed tightly….not! They do enjoy a cuddle or snoozing on their human’s lap, when it is their idea. So today, I made sure each of the fur babies received some extra lovin’ and cuddling and had their pic taken to share on the blog.

So here are the recipients of today’s hugs:


This is Momba, formerly known simply as Mama Cat. She started the transition from pet free to multiple cat owner. I’ve shared in previous posts the story of this cat who was abandoned in my neighborhood. I fed her and she eventually brought her three kittens to me to feed as well. When the weather turned very cold last winter, I welcomed the little family into my home. When Momba was satisfied her babies were okay, she left again. Although she showed up frequently to eat, she would not stay around or come inside, until late one night when she desperately wanted in. She disappeared into a closet and by morning had two tiny black kittens. Except I didn’t discover the second kitten until late the next evening, when mama cat’s strange behavior led me to him, nearly dead on the floor, lost behind a curtain. I saved that little guy and he now has a home with a new family. Momba was supposed to be adopted, but her almost owner decided that her work schedule was not the best for adopting a cat at this time, and changed her mind. I respect that decision. I’ve decided to keep her. She will be spayed shortly, so since this was her last litter, she needed a name other than mama cat. Momba is what came to me, so Momba she is. A sweet cat who is adjusting to being cared for and loved, she has a forever home here.


This is Shy Boy, one of the three kittens from last year. He and his sisters had been born outside in the neighborhood, and were not used to human contact. This tom was the shiest of the three. It took weeks before he would timidly allow me to touch him right before he ate on my front porch. He would tip his little head back and watch me with wide eyes, knowing I was going to pet him before he could enjoy his meal. He still has that wide-eyed look, but he has become such a cuddler. He is the sweetest male cat, gentle and even tempered. When his mama had two more little toms, Shy Boy, who has been neutered, was the teenager who stepped up to baby sit when his mom needed a break from the kittens. He carefully watched the babies and patiently allowed them to crawl all over him and tug on his ears and tail. Shy Boy is a creature of habit. He goes outside for a morning stroll and playtime in the back garden and then returns to the house between 10 and 11 in the morning for his nap on my bed.


Rilynn, named by Aubrey, who gave this kitten her own middle name, is the smallest of the three teen cats. With her spotted face, she looks like she fell nose first into a pot of black ink. Although she is the smallest of the three siblings, Rilynn is the most brave. From my first glimpse of her under my front porch, she was unafraid and bounced up to greet me, purring when I petted her. She has dreamy eyes and always looks sleepy. She will cuddle briefly and then she’s on to the next adventure.  My office is her preferred napping spot. Her curiosity and lack of fear have made her the explorer. Her brother and sister used to hang back to see what Rilynn did and if she was safe before they would explore with her. She is often a loner, content to go her own way, although she’s always up for some playful interaction on her own terms.


Angel is the different one in the group. She has beautiful gray fur and her eyes and nose are the same smoky color. I feel bad because for quite a while, I thought Angel was a boy! Her angular face and no nonsense attitude, plus the fact that she and Shy Boy always hung out together made me think they were brothers. I saved myself embarrassment BEFORE I took the three to be spayed and neutered by figuring it out before hand. Angel is very vocal and was the slowest to accept her new baby brothers. She has become my girl. She is the one most often curled up on my lap. She dislikes my laptop computer and doesn’t care that it is already on my lap. She finds a way to curl up with me anyway. Angel has a fascination with rocks and likes to find one and bat it around. While both her brother and sister have caught a baby rabbit (that was released after being captured), Angel proudly brought a piece of Styrofoam to Greg and me one night while we were working in the backyard. She was making her “Look what I did” meow, obviously happy with her “capture”.


And this is the baby in the family, little Marco, formerly called Grabfoot by me. He likes to use his left front paw to swat at everything and grab at passing feet or legs. His brother left to go to another home, but no one opted to adopt this little guy, so I decided to keep him as well.  Aubrey gave him a proper name. He is 10 weeks old, playful, adventurous and easy going. He adores his older brother, Shy Boy. They play together and often sleep curled up together. Although Angel was slow to accept him, Marco prefers her next after Shy Boy.

Each of these cats has brought joy into my life. I am happy to hug on them today, and every day. And if one does not have a cat to hug on this special day, then June is also National Adopt a Cat Month. There are many, many kittens and cats available at pet shelters, waiting for a forever home and someone to love them. Please consider one of them, and have your furry babies spayed or neutered! And, share a picture or story of your huggable cat with me!


Day 154: Learn a New Game at Family Game Night


My family really enjoys having fun together and one of our long standing traditions is Family Game Night. Members of the family that are able to, gather to play board or card games, laugh, visit and of course, share food and drinks together. Tonight, for my first, I learned a new game called Mau.

Only my grandson, Dayan, was familiar with this card game, played with one or two decks of standard cards, depending on the number of players. Also gathered together for this game night was my sister Linda, who hosted the festivities at her house, my mom, daughters Adriel and Elissa, and of course, me. Greg joined us for pizza and snacks before heading out after a long hot day of work.

Mau was an intriguing and interesting game. The aim of the game is to get rid of all the cards in your hand, without breaking the unspoken rules. Yes, that’s right. There are rules to the game and no one knows what they are, except the chairman of the game, in this case, Dayan. The specifics of the game are learned through trial and error, mostly error. A player who breaks a rule is penalized by receiving an additional card or cards. The person giving the penalty must state the rule that was broken, without explaining the rule. It sounds difficult, and it is definitely challenging, but it is a game of observation, deduction and memory. By observing the card played and the penalty given, the rules can begin to be sorted out. We had a lot of fun. And in spite of being accused of making the game up as he went along, Dayan was not. There is a very specific set of rules, with the main rule being, don’t reveal the rules!

After a couple of rounds of Mau, we settled into a family favorite, Scattergories. This game is the most fun played with a group of four or more. Each player fills out a category list with answers that all begin with the same letter. The letter is determined by the roll of a dice with the alphabet on it. As soon as the dice is rolled and the letter selected, a timer is set and the list making begins. As an example, the letter may be an “M” and categories may be: girl’s name, an item with spots, sport, park, farm animal, kitchen item or something in a suitcase. There are 12 such categories per card. After the timer signals the end of that round, the answers are read off and if two or more people selected the same word for their category, those words are eliminated and not scored. Each unique answer scores a point. The game can continue for up to 16 rounds. At the end of the game, the person with the most points win.


It was during Scattergories that the hilarity began. Some of us get creative with our answers, after years of playing this game together. And sometimes, we amuse ourselves. I got so tickled over one of my own answers, I laughed and laughed before I ever got to read my word, or in this case, phrase. I got the point. We have a good time, and laughter is such a great way to de-stress and open up.

The last game we played was one Adriel introduced us to, called Set. It is a card game of visual perception. The goal is to be the first to see a set from the 12 cards face up on the table. A set is three cards that are either all the same or all different in each individual feature. Set is fast paced, challenging and fun. Each of us leaned in to scrutinize the cards before us. If we saw a set, we called out “Set” and then touched the three cards to show what we saw. Adriel is very good at this game, often calling out “Set” before the rest of us have even looked over the cards. Elissa and Dayan both caught on quickly and I was beginning to get the hang of the game. Linda came up with a strategy….send Adriel a text to distract her so the rest of us could scan the cards! The person with the most sets at the end of the game, wins. Adriel was the champ several times and Elissa won the last round.

I love that my family still enjoys gathering for a night of food, chatting and playing games. I hope next time my son and his family, Elissa’s fiancé Josh and his son, and my nephew Eric and his family can join us. The more the merrier, we say. Laughter does the heart good. Our hearts should be in great shape!


Day 153: Maleficent Movie


I grew up on fairy tales. As a young child, I loved my copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, where often, the characters weren’t who they appeared to be. Disney began to capture these stories in animation, creating child friendly versions of the sometimes dark tales. There was always a villain, a hero and someone to rescue or someone who didn’t realize who he or she truly was.

The classic story of Sleeping Beauty was animated by Disney in 1959. I watched that movie, my kids watched it and my granddaughter, Aubrey, loved it for a time before moving on to another favorite.  The summary of the film says, “A snubbed malevolent fairy casts a curse on a princess that only a prince can break, with the help of three good fairies.” When I saw the trailer for the new movie, Maleficent, I was immediately intrigued. Here was the rest of the story about that snubbed malevolent fairy. I love back story films that fill in the gaps of a familiar tale. For my first today, I got to see Maleficent, and learn her version of what happened. My sister Linda and my mom attended with me.

Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple and was directed by Robert Stromberg. It is rated PG and has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes. This is a live action film, not an animation.

The storyline, as written by Walt Disney Pictures, states: A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

Visually, this is a gorgeous film, rich in colors and whimsy. The peaceable forest kingdom is full of magical beings, beauty and enchantment, and Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie, is equally magical, beautiful and enchanted. That is, until betrayal strips her of her magnificent wings and her belief in love and in the goodness of people. As she grows dark within, her outer world, the forest kingdom, grows dark as well. Her wrath, and desire for revenge, brings a curse upon Aurora that no power on earth, even Maleficent’s, can undo.

Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, is the bright, shining soul in the movie. Joyful, compassionate, open to receive all that life can bring, she forms an unlikely friendship with Maleficent, believing her to be her fairy godmother. The bond between them deepens as Aurora reaches the age of 16, and faces a destiny that only true love can alter.

I enjoyed the nods to the original Disney animation that were sprinkled throughout the movie. We learned why Maleficent is a wingless fairy. How she obtained her staff and her sidekick black crow. The costumes were similar enough to bring nods of approval and as the final credits rolled, there was even a familiar song. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing this character fleshed out and given a heart. She was both a hero and a villain, much as Elphaba is in the musical Wicked. There were moments I laughed, times I said, “Ahhh…” as realization dawned and scenes that brought tears to my eyes.

This is a movie about the cruel, binding power of revenge and the even greater, freeing power of forgiveness. And it is a movie about the transformative ability of true love. Disney is creating a new reality, with its recent movies Brave, Frozen and now Maleficent, about what true love looks like. And I’ll give you a hint…it does not exist between two people who have only just met. Once again, not all is as it appears to be in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and outward appearances and titles can be so deceiving. It’s the heart that matters. And the beauty within that creates the beauty without. It was good to be reminded of that again this evening.


Day 152: My Japanese Garden


Today, as the last plants for my version of a Japanese Garden went into the ground, I decided I could “call” this one, and declare it as my first. Cedar mulch was also put down. I still have several important elements to include: a water feature or at the least, a large basin of water on the ground, a Japanese lantern, and a dry “creek” bed created from smooth, small stones. But the planting is done. The rest will be added as I find the right pieces.

As the sun sunk toward the horizon, I sat contentedly in a chair on the brick patio, and surveyed my work. My grandson, Dayan, helped to design this garden. He selected most of the plants and helped me to arrange them on the ground, still in their pots. I planted them as I had time. We had fun looking for appropriate Japanese or Asian plants . The Japanese maple is the anchor for this part of the garden. We included a variety of ornamental grasses, clematis, irises, day lilies, Japanese ground cover, and several Asiatic lilies. Those had fun, whimsical names like Tiny Robin, Tiny Bee and Tiny Toes. They are so aromatic. Their sweet scent was carried to me by a refreshing, cool breeze.


Greg lugged in quite a few large rocks for me, finding most of them in a vacant lot. He got permission to cart them away. Rocks are an essential element for a Japanese garden and I love the look of them. Their red, brown, rust and cream colors complement the patio very well. The cats love climbing onto them and sitting there, kings of their world. In fact, the cats seem to enjoy the garden as much as I do, exploring it daily and finding shady spots to take their afternoon naps. As the garden matures, it will be a fun place for them to play.

It feels wonderful to have this section of the garden completed. Extending across the back of the yard, this serene space abuts the brick patio on its west side and ends at the meditation area. It’s not large enough to be a strolling garden, but it conveys a sense of peace, tranquility and beauty. Today as I planted and spread mulch, tiny white butterflies darted from flower to flower. I look forward to attracting many more butterflies to the garden.

With that part of the yard done, I’m turning my attention to the next section that I will plant. The Japanese garden will transition into an Apothecary Garden, which will lie in the middle of the yard and along the south side of the patio. I’ve already made a list of suitable plants and herbs to purchase. Tonight, before I headed into the house, I broke ground in the center of the Apothecary Garden and planted three East Friesland sage plants. I just couldn’t wait!