"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Johns Hopkins University

a rag doll for Christmas . . .

doll with new dressHere’s a photo of a “Waldorf”-type doll that we are giving to our five year old granddaughter for Christmas! (I don’t think she has access to this blog as yet so thought I’d post a sneak preview here.)

Made a couple of outfits for her today which entailed digging out my old sewing machine and learning all over again how to wind a bobbin and thread a sewing machine (Youtube was a lifesaver!) I had to use a magnifying glass and tweezers to thread the needle though.

It’s been over forty years since I did this for my daughters! Thank God our other granddaughter is at Johns Hopkins University! Yeah!

dress #2!


Chao-girls galore! . . .

my three daughters on a sunny Fall day

my three daughters on a sunny Fall day

“Chao” (pronounced “chow”) is my maiden name and two of my daughters have incorporated it as their middle name as well. The Chao family (my father’s side) were renowned for their adventurousness, drive and determination. They made names for themselves in philosophy and religion (my grandfather as Dean of Religion at Yenching (Peking) University,); science (my Dad, an astrogeologist who trained astronauts to retrieve moon rocks during the Apollo moon shots) and literature (my Aunt who translated poems by T.S. Eliot and Walt Whitman from English into Mandarin.) That’s why we took up the name “Chao” and turned it into “Chao-Girls” as a way of characterizing and celebrating that standard of grit and accomplishment. We have a couple of granddaughters who are “Chao-Girls” too.  One is five and lives in Minneapolis; the other is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins (yeah!)


me and A. who is at JHU. . .

me and A. who is at JHU. . .

J. at the age of 3 . . .

J. at the age of 3 . . .

The (grown) girls all get along pretty well now – something that wasn’t always the case while they were growing up. We lived in a rambling Victorian house in Lexington, a suburb of Boston where the girls went to school. Our house was next to the East Lexington firehouse, which was a fortunate thing I discovered one day when the lawnmower had burst into flames; and another time when a chicken had been placed inside the oven to roast without a pan underneath!

Things were not always easy but they weren’t always that hard either. A bountiful raspberry harvest meant that boxes of extra raspberries were hawked on the red Radio Flyer wagon pulled up and down our street, Locust Avenue. Meals were eaten outside on the back deck shaded by Wisteria vines dripping with tendrils of pale blue flowers. On Patriots’ Day, the town parade could be seen from our 2nd floor bedroom window. Sour cream doughnuts dipped in sugar were a tradition for watching the festivities from our house.

We lived for twenty-two years in that house and the girls got a good enough education to go on to stellar colleges afterwards. They still mention some shenanigans that went on with various babysitters when their parents were at work. I guess we’ll never know everything that we all went through, growing up. And maybe we won’t get around to telling each other our stories for awhile.

But life is long (my second marriage is going on twenty years next year!) and who knows what miracles might still occur?


synchronicity to the max! . . .

anna & grammy

We just had a wonderful dinner visit with our granddaughter, Anna who will be going back to Johns Hopkins University in a couple of weeks.

I wanted to play the Schumann piece, “Abschied”  for her and as I started playing, I heard her say, “I know this piece!” and then she started whistling the melody at the same time as I played it! Turns out she studies to classical music at school and this somewhat obscure piece was downloaded from Spotify and saved in her phone on one of her playlists. So, it turns out that she was listening to the piece before I came across it and started playing it on the piano!

Afterwards, over fudge brownie frozen yogurt, we downloaded playlists from my ITunes music library (>90 selections) to a new flashdrive which she took with her when she left. We couldn’t get over the coincidence of her familiarity with the Schumann piece that I played for her!

I happened to have a spare CD with the Schumann piece on it, and it was playing in her car as she pulled out of our driveway. Synchronicity to the max for sure!

Postscript: here’s a YouTube link to Claudio Arrau playing “Abschied” :




silver linings . . .

Loon & orchid 1Being laid up (translate immobilized) in order to allow my injured ankle to heal, the pace of our days in the past weeks has been transformed. Our priorities shifted in favor of settling into a new routine. Appreciation for each other and our lives has emerged in ways we might not have experienced so poignantly without the injury. We are thankful.

In the mornings, there are brief stints of activity that I carry out each day: cleaning off the kitchen counter of yesterday’s cooking ingredients and used dishes; wiping off the stove top and cleaning off detritus unseen before but now so newly visible at eye level from a wheelchair; straightening off the large curly maple table we use for our meals, emptying crumbs and spills from the braided hemp placemats; watering the plants, replacing spent flowers with a just-in-bloom orchid plant from those flowering in the other room.

There are moments of quiet joy, watching the morning sun move across the large kitchen/great room from the skylights illuminating the wide board pine floors. Today, I noticed those moments that probably would not have come to the fore of my consciousness without the imposed quiet of staying still:

1.  Listening to Peter Serkin’s recording of Bach Inventions Part I & II, the simplicity of these compositions more fitting (than the preludes/fuges, partitas, suites) to the reduced tempo of the day.

2.  After two fruitless tries (each day taking apart the day’s knitting) to make something that finally pleases me from leavings of Noro “Mossa” yarn, casting aside (80%) of the yarn’s over-fluffy white and purple bits, finally knitting a scarf of the most beautiful lichen, moss, gentian and twig brown colors. A glorious little (emphasize small) piece that justifies having spent the money to buy the yarn in the first place that didn’t quite measure up but has at last yielded some beautiful textures (like nuggets of gold after sieving lots of washed dirt.)knitting swatch

3. Learning that my granddaughter has been accepted to, visited and is overjoyed with her college of choice, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. where she may pursue her interests in applied math, biology and all sorts of arenas such as international affairs.

4. Looking forward to my daughter, C.’s visit tomorrow. She teaches high school French and tells me she’s at the end of the quarter with grades due but will have some time to spend with us this weekend.

She’ll be doing some shopping at an organic farmstand on the way between her house and mine and arrive in time for a late lunch. I’ve been waiting for a pizza stone to arrive and if it does, I’ll make up some homemade pizza dough and we’ll try our hand at making a Margherita pizza tomorrow with San Marzano tomato sauce, cheeses and fresh basil leaves on top after it comes out of the oven.

We have also saved up so that we can watch “Frozen,” the Walt Disney animated movie together. My granddaughter, Josie, (who is four)  has taken to swaying and singing “Let It Go” on Skype this past week. I sent the Disney Golden Book versions of “Frozen” to her and I’m told she sings along while being read to and looking at the many illustrations from the movie.

5. Catching up with my daughter M. on Skype along with Josie (above) I heard about an  effort to communicate becoming a positive catalyst for change and improvement all-around in her nursing school classes. A busy Mom and student, M. somehow manages to be centered while making healthy juices from organic vegetables and fruits to take care of her own needs.

Tomorrow night, I’m planning to roast a small (under 3 lbs.) organic chicken with fresh rosemary and thyme for our dinner tomorrow night along with carrots, onion and yukon potatoes to cook alongside the bird. For dessert, we’ll have some chocolate cream pie that we devoured the last time she came out to visit G. and me.

yellow roseThis is a long list of things that gladden my heart. Plus, during my idle time last week, I won an eBay auction for a song and a wonderful loon decoy arrived yesterday. Then, G. came home last night with a single yellow rose at suppertime along with the fresh cilantro and lime I asked him to pick up to go with the Pad Thai I was making.

There are so many blessings for which I am thankful. It has been raining good fortune ever since I took that fateful fall and broke my ankle. Who would have known?