Laura Bruno Lilly

The road ends, but the journey continues...

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Come Monday. That’s Today.

I cannot get past the coincidence of today’s Labor Day Monday and the Come Monday Monday also being a Labor Day Monday. It pushed me over the edge of posting on this Monday, Monday. But then, that’s a different Monday entirely!

While I like me a fine Margarita, this song (and video) by the late Jimmy Buffett is more reflective of the mellower times I remember in the 70s. Since it became a hit in 1978, I can imagine & remember the early days of being a newlywed. And our time as a couple with a newborn living in the Bay Area shortly thereafter.

Hubby was the country/cross-over fan, introducing me to Jimmy, Waylon and Willie! 😊

Of those three, I’d say Jimmy was the one who grew into a good lookin’ old guy – respectfully written I assure you.

RIP Jimmy – an everyday musician who didn’t let his unexpected fame (via that other hit song) spoil his joyful, gentle, persona.

On a side note: I hope this Labor Day ushers in cooler weather for everyone. Take care, all!

Coffee and

Chocolate
Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Hello Readers! While my blogging absence has been partly due to mindful summery activities/work/projects/laziness, it is mostly a result of managing a string of migraine storms over the course of the past 8 weeks – and counting. I’m in an in-between migraine wave space and really wanted to get a post out that’s been simmering over the duration.


Earlier this month, I spontaneously took out my phone and recorded a mini-video of the sunlight illuminating aromatic steam arising from my morning cuppa. I liked it so much I decided to do something Canva-esque with it at a later date.

As I’m partial to the quiet of the moments captured, here it is ‘as is’ for inclusion in this long overdue post!

While this is not that Canva-esque moment, “Aromatic Steam Arising” (cool name, eh?) has joined my small file of phone vids I want to edit and use in future projects. Thus, scratching the itch to explore DIY vid/music creations via the myriad of free tech tools available to the general population – especially to those of us non-techies who just want to try doing this.

I mean, I have the vid, I have photos, I have plenty of my own music to use, some Canva skills, a plethora of ideas…just not the time or patience to embark on this new spark of a project right now.

That said, I’m always up for squeezing in time to bake and cook! HA!

Many of you know of my deep appreciation for lavender in the realm of edibles. During our Mother/Daughter trip in late June, middle daughter and I came across an ice cream shop, OWOWCOW, nestled within the old Silk Factory building complex near Easton, PA. Its siren call beckoned us to enter and indulge!  

The heat wave in that part of the country was on the verge of bursting forth, but bearable. So, we gladly & without guilt lost ourselves to the delights of ice creamy refreshment after our walk along the Karl Stirner Arts Trail.

What flavors were offered? A world of possibilities. I chose two scoops of a luscious looking chocolate and one scoop of an interesting Honey Lavender as an experiment to share with Michelle. In my eagerness to satisfy my own cravings, I neglected to take notice of what she ordered. But I do know we both ordered scoops without cones – less calories, ya know? 🙂

Would you believe me if I told you the Honey Lavender was to die for? Yep, believe me. It easily surpassed the chocolate – which was one of the best I’d ever had aside from the expensive, teeny scoop consumed during a trip to Paris years ago.

This re-encounter with Honey Lavender inspired me to re-dig into related recipes. I found a simple Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookie recipe on-line and baked up a batch.

Its simplicity allows for the tastes of buttery lavender and subtly sweet honey to shine forth – leaving a clean and refreshing taste upon one’s palette.

Excellent with a morning cuppa!

Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies

on-line recipe refined & adapted by Laura Bruno Lilly

Collage Local Honey & Lavender
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender

In a large bowl of the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt, and lavender (gently crushed). Mix until combined. Place two sheets of waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap on the counter. Divide dough in half and place one on each sheet. Using the wrap, roll & shape the dough into 2 logs that are approximately 1 ¼ inches in diameter. Shape the logs into squares if desired by pressing gently on the top with a cookie sheet to flatten the log slightly, then turning the log on its side and pressing again. Freeze thirty minutes or refrigerate 2+ hours, or until firm.

Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies cooling on counter

Preheat the oven to 325. Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer. Slice into ¼ inch slices. Place 1-2 inches apart on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until light golden brown. Let cool completely before serving.

Note: Baked cookies freeze well. Also, can freeze dough and bake at later date – freeze in 5-inch long logs. Defrost, keeping firm, between 5-10 min before slicing into cookies. Bake as usual.

Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies on Michelle's table mat
Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies atop table mat made by Michelle

XLV

1978-2023 (and counting!)

June 17th.
Our 45th wedding anniversary.

Over the course of a long love story, what was once a single ‘our song’ becomes a whole playlist of songs. Marking myriad events in the ups, downs; ebbs, flows; crushing sorrows, magnificent joys; everyday living out of our love & life in this world hand-in-hand and in His Hands.

Here then, is one such song released in August, 1983 and added at that same time to our playlist during a particularly defining event that occurred early on in our life path together.


The year was 1983.

We were renting the bottom unit in a quadplex in the heart of the Silicon Valley – San Jose, CA. Hubby pursuing the dream of working for the hottest tech company of the time, Hewlett Packard.

Me? Living life in the Bay area as a new stay-at-home-college-educated Mom of a one-year-old and precariously on track with our fourth pregnancy.

A seemingly viable one after a rocky reproductive history of 2 previous miscarriages: one around 15 weeks (twins) and later, an early ectopic pregnancy that spontaneously resolved itself. Nestled between those, our much wanted beloved daughter, Hava was born!

Over the course of this latest pregnancy at 5 months gestation, the increasingly troublesome eye blind-spot symptoms I was experiencing could no longer be ignored. At the end of my eye exam, the optometrist explained that he ‘could not be responsible for me’ and felt he couldn’t tell me his suspicions on the cause of my blind spots. (Yes, he was an odd duck) Instead, he promptly picked up the phone and scheduled an appointment for me with a neurologist colleague ASAP.

Thus began the whirlwind of expedient & lengthy testing.

Of course, the neurologist explained further concerns at the next day’s appointment. It appears my symptoms suggested two possible diagnoses:

1. Pituitary Gland Brain Tumor

or

2. Early stage MS

Neither a good choice or something to hope for. But we prayed for the best along with a miraculous intervention.

Apparently, Pituitary Gland Brain Tumors grow exponentially & rapidly if the patient is pregnant – hence the haste with which these medical professionals carried out their testing and treatment plans.

I underwent numerous tests that lasted hours over a two day period prior to an impending operation date within 10-14 days. It was assumed I had the tumor and several tests substantiated those assumptions.

Between sessions, I talked with my OB-GYN to make sure that the scheduled CAT scans (MRIs weren’t readily available at that time) wouldn’t hurt the new life growing inside me.

They wouldn’t.

Further, the doctor spent time patiently answering my flood of ‘what if’ and ‘what about’ questions – mostly focused on how to protect my unborn child from harm during possible brain surgery.

And you know what? My OB-GYN made a point of letting me know that prenatal care is as much for the care of the mother (me) as for the baby! He was there for me, too. Every step of the way.

A few days before the looming ‘possible’ brain surgery was to be performed, the latest CAT scans baffled the medical staff. The original tumor dot cluster seemingly disappeared!

But we knew it was our ‘miraculous intervention!’

Even the neurologist said it was unexplainable (often their way of acknowledging a miracle of sorts).

So they cancelled the immediate mandate to operate post haste.

That left us with diagnosis #2 … which at the time was only confirmed via a spinal tap. I asked if we could postpone that until after the baby was born and/or indefinitely and was told, “Yes”.

Relief. We’d deal with it later, if at all.

Now we could celebrate and enjoy getting ready for our new arrival.

Aside from periodic monitoring with a world renown Neuro-ophthalmologist* at Stanford, I ultimately ended up with a clean slate.

Sadly, I miscarried again**, this time at 6 months gestation.

But the Lord has been my (our) stronghold,
And my (our) God the rock of my (our) refuge.

Psalm 94:22 NASB

*there’s an hilarious story that goes with our visit with this doctor, but isn’t quite in line with the focus of this post – perhaps another time it will be told!

**for completion’s sake, we went through 4 more pregnancies, resulting in 2 more live births (middle daughter and youngest son) but losing 2 more babies at 12 weeks gestation each. In total, 9 babies, with 3 live births. All wanted. All beloved.

When Do Lightening Bugs Become Fireflies?

June is fast approaching and there is much scheduled.

The beginning of the month is my highly anticipated Visiting Artist Presentation/Performance at the Arts Center. The last weekend of the month is a long-planned mother/daughter trip. In between, there’s hubby’s and mine 45th wedding anniversary and Father’s Day. All-in-all a hearty, well-paced meal of events I’ve been looking forward to devouring for several months! HA!

So, what’s all that got to do with the question posed in this blog post title?

In prepping for my presentation/performance, the focus morphed into spotlighting prepared guitar in musical compositions. I fooled around with other composer’s pieces, most notable ‘Kalimba’ the featured piece for a rhythm study by A. Hirsch on the Aaron Shearer Foundation website. The sound was sort-of right, but not quite.

Plus, I wanted something I could incorporate into one of my own compositions. I dug out an experimental duo piece I wrote for classical guitar and banjo about a year ago when I was collaborating with banjo guy. I played through the guitar part in prepared guitar mode and voila! It was made for just such an application!

my prepared guitar set up

As often happens with original compositions, until something is marked as Fine// on the score, it is still a WIP. So, I adapted the original duo into a short solo prepared guitar piece to play during my Vising Artist Presentation/Performance. I had loads of fun experimenting with a final guitar ‘preparation’ and ended up using staples on 4 sets of strings to get the sound I wanted.

A great example of Kalimba/Mbira sounding prepared guitar can be heard in this piece played by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ):

“Okay, but what about the Lightening Bug/Firefly thing?” you may be wondering – albeit a bit impatiently.

Scroll back to April 6, 2023. Hubby was poised at his computer to be one of the first to enter our names in the Congaree National Park Firefly Viewing Lottery.

About 10 days later we were informed we acquired our first-choice date for the event.

In planning for this, I asserted my usage of the term ‘Lightening Bugs’ over ‘Fireflies’. It’s the term I grew up with and cling to even now as a point of identity!

The night of our excursion was a perfect night in the swamp for observing the lightening bugs’ synchronous light show. As we were immersed in Lightening Bug Glow, they seemed to be blinking a tempo (in sync, remember) to the prepared guitar piece I planned on playing for part of my Visiting Artist Presentation/Performance. The piece wafted through my mind (in sync) as the images of the lightening bugs hovered over and around us. I whispered to my hubby about my delightful discovery and he caught the vision, too.

In that moment, the original title of the piece died along with using my preferred bug nomenclature in the new title.

“Fireflies Arising for prepared guitar” rolls off the tongue nice and smooth.
It’s a rhythm thing.

What’s your preferred term for these wonderful critters?


About the following video:

“Every year tens of thousands of fireflies (Photuris frontalis) emerge from the leaf litter in Congaree National Park to begin their bioluminescent mating ritual. As darkness falls, this species of firefly, also commonly called a “snappy sync,” begins to flash in unison. The effect is like watching the heartbeat of the swamp, pulsing lights hovering over the bottomlands. This short film was created during the COVID-19 pandemic when the National Park was closed to the public and when the fireflies could be viewed without the interference of external lights.”


Weekend Notes 3.18/19.23

  • Hubby and I just got back from 2 weeks in Albuquerque (almost home!) caring for a dear longtime friend pre, during and post TAVR (heart valve replacement surgery). Originally on-call to help with the household, that same household* got struck down with RSV and then COVID so details of how we were to help changed drastically. She moved out of her home and into an Airbnb where we three (hubby, myself and herself) spent the duration.

Love is a powerful enabler

  • Meanwhile, her husband held down the fort, miraculously remaining unscathed by the actual virus, if not sleep deprivation. Love is a powerful enabler.
  • As can be seen from this 6-days-after-the-surgery photo, our precious sister-friend is stronger than ever.
Me and Joan along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque
Me & Joan along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque
  • And oh yeah, we drove there and back racking up the miles once again towards our return trip from the moon. Odometer now reads over 430K miles – only 20K left to go!

  • They officially hired me in January, and I’ve since been asked/invited to be a visiting artist/artist-in-residence during their Summer Arts Program for TAG students in the Kershaw County School System. I am turning my attention on preparing for this and am beyond the moon excited!
Source: NASA

*their household consists of her husband, a set of elderly parents, an accomplished adult child with cerebral palsy, and twice weekly babysitting of their spunky 2 year old special needs granddaughter – oh and she and her husband both work by remote from home, too.

Love is a powerful enabler

Weekend Notes 2.18/19.23

Love, Harp Guitars, Oatmeal Scotchies…and back again to love.

February is the love month.

You know, the 14th is St Valentine’s Day and all of that.

In our family, holiday celebrations often last longer than the actual 24-hour day. Hence, here it is a few days after the 14th and yes, hubby and I are still enjoying the love month.

What’s that got to do with harp guitars and cookies? Bear with me. I’m in one of those ‘everything’s interconnected’ type of mind right now.

I remember when I saw my first harp guitar.

It was hanging on a wall at McCabe’s in Santa Monica, CA.

The same time and place where I strummed that special resonator hubby encouraged me to get, but I declined.

McCabe's vintage harpguitar

McCabe’s is a wonderous place. Museum-like with vintage stringed instruments hanging on walls in rooms filled with bookcases of sheet music and racks of pick-me-up-and-try-me instruments for sale. Bustling with the local musician community of both the vintage and newbie type, too.

Scroll up to 2020/2021.

I found an orchestra made up entirely of harp guitars playing The Water Is Wide in a virtual performance on-line.

It touched me deeply while in the midst of ‘lockdown’.

A folk song of Scottish origin

…which brings me to the oatmeal scotchies.

Get it? 🙂

Every so often, I get a hankering for something butterscotchey. Simply popping a Werther’s wasn’t going to satisfy this time around. So, the handful of butterscotch baking chips I had leftover from who knows how long ago, got baked up recently in a batch of oatmeal scotchies.

Oatmeal Scotchies Recipe on chip bag

The recipe (on the back of the chip package) calls for 1 2/3 cup of those chips, but I had to supplement them with leftover choco chips and walnuts to come to the 1 2/3 cup requirement. Along with my normal adjustments on commercial cookie recipes – replacing the flour, baking powder/soda and some of the salt with self-rising flour and swapping out ½ cup of the 1 cup of butter with ½ cup of Crisco – I also decided to continue adjusting the recipe by replacing ½ t of the 1 t vanilla with ½ t orange extract.

Yeah, that’s how I follow a recipe.

However, believe me, those cookies turned out fresher & brighter because of that vanilla-orange combo.


The water is wide I cannot get over
Neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

chorus from ‘The WAter is Wide’

…we both shall row, my love and I…


Weekend Notes 2.11/12.23

As per my last post, I figure it’s time to make an appearance on my own blog. 

As per my personality, I find it hard to just dive back in and post something after having not posted for a good long time.

As per the trajectory of my growth as an individual, here goes!


In the Arts Community, there is this ongoing debate as to whether or not a qualifier adjective is required before the term artist/musician/author/fill-in-the-blank. This overlaps into many adjectives – ethnic, gender, religious, political, educational status, age and other identities. Somehow the adjectives male or white are rarely if ever used.

Implications on this are loudly obvious. As in: the assumed standard is indeed male & white.

However, that is not the point nor within the scope of this set of Weekend Notes. Except in the context of should those qualifiers be used or would it be construed as offensive?

Worth pondering.

(If you want to comment on this germ of a prompt then have at it!)

More to the point of this post, currently a large proportion of the (he)artists on my online ‘playlist’ of cultural personas are also black women.

It’s Also February.

In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to draw your attention to one such (he)artist.

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson

1940-2015

“I began drawing at the age of three. My father would give me wood to paint on and paint in little enamel tins. My studio was under my bed…I never had any doubt in my mind about being an artist.”

Aminah Robinson

Aminah created an immensely diverse body of work ranging from fiber art, scrolls, textile & accordion books, paintings & drawings in various mediums, sculpture, tapestries and huge pieces of quilted mixed media which she was constantly adding to called, Button Beaded Music Box RagGonNon Pop-up Books or “RagGonNons” for short.

Her art was grounded in her belief in the African concept of Sankofa, learning from the past in order to move forward.

Interesting inspirational factiod: she worked on her art from 4:30 in the morning through 12 midnight each day whenever she was in her studio home.

Phenomenal!

for further reading: source 1, source 2 and just google her name for a plethora of articles, images, videos.

Listen for the music connection in her works of art
Watch her stitch buttons onto her huge pieces of fiber art (around 1:11)
A more in depth overview of the scope of Aminah’s life’s work

Taking Stock

Stuart is happy to see me better balanced in work & play

Nothing profound – just finding myself in the curious position of having to mindfully manage my time. My plate is not full, but certainly fuller than it’s been since 2020. The good bits of my ‘new normal’ are shining brighter and growing steadily.

After a period of deafening dormancy, many opportunities are opening up for me, of which I do not take for granted.

For the first time in several years, I spy the arc of this New Year’s horizon. I am excited about walking, exploring and cultivating those paths towards it and beyond.

I think many of us are experiencing the natural unfolding of each our own good bits of a ‘new normal’ since 2020 became 2021 which then painstakingly rolled into 2022.

That said, my screen time – including but not limited to blogging – is returning to a more balanced, albeit skinnier slice of the time pie.

So you see, this is not a final farewell post. It is merely an attempt to explain my irregular pattern of posting that has become more the rule rather than the exception and which will no doubt evolve over the course of MMXXIII.

We all take stock from time to time – just thought I’d let you in on my subtle (?) shift in Time Pie Slices.

Taking Stock Time Management
Simplistic graphic depiction of text

Life Is In The Doing

I’m just doing the doing. More some days than others. A steady doing of doing that is mostly mindful, often delightful, surprisingly productive and always so very daily.

Hubby and I took on several home improvement projects since buying our little rental home October 2021.

Doing needful maintenance the landlord avoided doing – even when we volunteered to do certain necessary items.

Doing homey stuff the landlord didn’t allow us to do – even if it enhanced aesthetics such as hanging plants on the front porch or planting flower gardens.

Now that we’re homeowners again, we’ve been busy.

TWL on roof Spring 2022
Terry on roof Spring 2022

From power washing the vinyl siding, to cleaning the gutters in the Spring & Fall, to planting/hanging porch plants and garden areas, to sanding, sealing, repainting said porches, stairs & railings, to replacing the crummy kitchen countertops, sink & oven fan/hood, repainting said kitchen, changing out all electrical outlets/switches & updating some electrical issues, to installing new, working ceiling fans/lights in the kitchen, Living Room, Master Bedroom and hubby’s office, to replacing the flimsy flusher pixie toilet in the hall bathroom…and more.

All without breaking the bank or dumping too much money into the place from an investment point of view.

Here are a few snaps of just one of the many projects begun & completed as mentioned above –
before & during prep of the kitchen (notice new hood in last photo):

Who knew we’d ever be able to afford granite in our modest home? When we ordered new counter tops, it was during a small window of time when supply of cheaper laminates were limited and granite actually was only a few hundred dollars more to buy & install!

BTW: this phone video is titled, “Glee over our Granite!”

If you listen closely to this vid, you’ll hear my signature laugh against hubby joking with the sales lady speaking in a typical South Carolina accent.

Kitchen 7
Lookin’ good even before we re-painted the walls (Sherwin Williams ‘Greek Villa’) and installed the new electrical plates/outlets/switches.
FYI: the kitchen is done, but I have no final photos to show here – I’ve been too busy baking & cooking up a storm and making foodie & coffee messes!

I guess we have been busy.

Our lives have certainly been enhanced by the doing.

Plus, we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor and share it with our kiddos over Christmas Holiday this year. Our first time to host (for various reasons) in about 6 years.

Can’t wait!

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