stroll with me in a friend’s April garden

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My garden stroll began off the patio

Earlier today, I visited a very special garden. The sun shone brightly and my garden stroll began off the patio

a tree peony in full glory

a tree peony in full glory just outside the four-season room

looking back toward the house

looking back toward the house

colorful vistas drew  me into the garden

colorful vistas drew me into the garden

endless profusion of textures delight the eye

endless profusion of textures delight the eye

an explosion of color lead me deeper into this     garden

an explosion of color leads me deeper into this garden

POW!

POW!

Again!

Again!

delicate perfection

delicate perfection

a rhododendron blushes at peak

a rhododendron blushes at peak

then calm pervades

then calm pervades

this hue is so special in the garden while exquisite blooms seduce

this hue is so special in the garden while exquisite blooms seduce

sunlight creates a painterly quality ~ stunningly unique this day in time

sunlight creates a painterly quality ~ stunningly unique this day in time

a quiet path leads to the adjoining property

a quiet path leads to the adjoining property

a hidden gem that will house delicate specimen plants during the warm summer months

a hidden gem that will house delicate specimen plants during the warm summer months

another azalea whose name I must learn

another azalea whose name I must learn

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this structure is a textural statement

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yellow this early in the season is sublime

the journey continues

the journey continues

the pool at rest while the greenhouse is full of overwintering plants

the pool at rest while the greenhouse is ripe with overwintering plants

this is a delightful specimen that I would like in my garden

this is a delightful specimen that I would like in my garden

blue is a rare find in any garden, and this plant is especially desirable

blue is a rare find in any garden, and this plant is especially desirable. It is Ajuga. 

careful placement of this colorful maple demands attention this day

careful placement of this colorful maple demands attention this day

trumpet shaped flowers ablaze

trumpet shaped flowers ablaze

and again

and again

this maple is breathtaking along another path

this maple is breathtaking along another path

more texture

more texture

serene view from the patio

serene view from the patio

full circle

full circle

 a dazzling container just outside the garden fence

a dazzling container just outside the garden fence

endless profusion of blooms

endless profusion of blooms

plenty of boxwoods set the stage for triumphant bursts of color

plenty of boxwoods set the stage for triumphant bursts of color

rich textures, patterns and colors abound

rich textures, patterns, and colors abound

on my way out of the property I had the pleasure of meeting Sally, a twenty-year veteran gardener of this garden ~ I am humbled by her talent and cheerful persona

on my way out of the property I had the pleasure of meeting Sally, a twenty-year veteran of this garden ~ I am humbled by her talent and cheerful persona

And to think I nearly missed time in this garden. At the last moment schedules aligned which allowed access and time to explore. As the nearby town bustles, this serene property rests and provides sanctuary for its owners/stewards. Merely forty years old, this garden is a testament to the vision, dedication, passion, and grace of those who created it and to those who currently reside and cherish this garden paradise. It was sheer pleasure to stroll, admire, and photograph.

Copyright © 2015 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

it is early ~ it is time…

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The date is March 29. Following one day of temperatures in the 70’s, the forsythia is beginning to bloom, the Tete a Tetes are up, and this lady gardener is more than ready to begin the 2015 growing season.

These petite daffs are my favorite early spring bloomers

These petite daffs are my favorite early spring bloomers.

My raised beds groomed for spring/summer crops.  New cattle panels will support snow peas and other climbing edibles

My raised beds are groomed for spring/summer crops. Newly installed cattle panels will support snow peas and other climbing edibles.

Clean straw creates tidy path between rows

Clean straw creates a tidy path between rows.

Heirloom catnip is snuggled under row cover to ward off the blasted and persistent flea beetles.

Heirloom catnip is snuggled under row cover to ward off the blasted and persistent flea beetles. This catnip variety is a cash crop for lucky kitties.

Another of my favoite early spring bloomers...hellebore

Another of my favorite late winter/early spring bloomers…hellebore.

"Tiny" the 40 YO floribunda is in her new location for the second season, now protected from browsing rabbits.

“Tiny” the 40 YO floribunda is in her new location for the second season, now protected from browsing rabbits.

This is a serious cleat within the high tension wire aloft the split rail fence. This devised for the anticipation of the new Arctic Kiwi fruit later this season.

This is a serious cleat within the high tension wire aloft the split rail fence. This solution was devised in anticipation of the newly planted Arctic Kiwi fruit harvest later this season.

Following yesterday's gaerden accident (my helper fell off his ladder and landed on me, severely spraining my left ankle). Hardly the condition to be in one week before market season begins! At least I can polish my exposed nails while I wait!

Following yesterday’s garden accident (my helper fell off his ladder and landed on me, severely spraining my left ankle.) Hardly the condition to be in one week before market season begins! At least I can polish my exposed nails while I wait!

So go the everyday challenges of life. Observation of wild birds, the greening turf, the appearance of blooming bulbs, and the promise of harvest all nudge me toward an optimistic presence.

Happy spring to all my followers and thanks again for your interest in my little life here in Central Virginia, USA. Would love to hear from you. Cheers!

Copyright © 2015 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

jump start to spring 2015

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still buried here at Swallowtail Cottage

still buried in the white stuff here at Swallowtail Cottage

I admit, this winter tests my patience.
E-v-e-r-y single indoor project is complete.
Numerous recipes are tested.
Too much buttered popcorn and Irish whiskey consumed.

popovers made with organic coconut milk...and experiment that worked

popovers made with organic coconut milk…an experiment that worked

The new No-Kenad Brioche recipe from Cook's Illustrated blew the competition out of the water...

the new No-Knead Brioche recipe from Cook’s Illustrated blew the competition out of the water…

Too many cold days and LONG nights decorated with additional frozen rain and bonus snow ~ February was the sixth coldest on record for Central Virginia.

The baby Crimson Japanese maple delights this day

the baby Crimson Japanese maple delights this day

I fed a dozen nearly frozen Bluebirds (and various others) my custom bird food, made from WF bulk department (organic hulled sunflower seeds, currants, cranberries, and TJ’s sunflower seed oil, all spun in a food processor.) I spend more on their food than on mine…
Piles of books and Fine Gardening magazines were perused. I learned a lot.

I fell in love with a new kale ~ a must in my daily morning smoothies

I fell in love with a new organic kale ~ a must in my daily morning smoothies, its name is as pretty as its habit…Lacinato and it is an heirloom variety.

Enough already.
Although my garden is still buried under the white stuff, I want to take you back to a previous blog post…one that promises garden delights from Swallowtail Cottage.
THINK SPRING!!!
If you reside in Boston or more northerly USA parts, my condolences and special wishes go out to you. Every one of you deserves a medal. I wager in nine months an uptick in Boston area births will go on record too…congratulations!
On to the eye candy:

https://dianelasauce.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/flowers-that-bloom-in-the-springfa-la/

That’s all this winter weary gardener can muster today. Right now it is a sunny 45 degrees fahrenheit, so I am headed out to a bright corner on the lower patio, where I can sunbathe and daydream…would love to hear from you. See you on the other side…

Copyright © 2015 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

in with the new ~

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The landscape is forever evolving here at Swallowtail Cottage.
I moved here fourteen years ago, (brother how time flies) and have lived to see the initial plantscape mature to the point of necessary major editing. Last summer numerous spent shrubs were removed, leaving considerable voids to fill. This winter, the back row of cypress had declined to the point of intervention. At least with board fencing, this problem will have an instant solution. Not so in the front garden, where I must wait five years for the new shrubs to mature.

the rear row of Leylands begain to die from too much shade, exposing my property to light pollution, road noise and nosey neighbors

the rear row of Leyland Cypress branches began to die from too much shade, exposing my property to light pollution, road noise, wild critter invasion, and nosey neighbors

With a little elevation, the rear row of cypress became the backdrop for the new fence

with a little elevation pruning by me, the rear row of cypress became the backdrop for the new fence

fabulous team at work

fabulous Joe Phillips crew at work — day one

nothing like the right team with the right tools...

nothing like the right team with the right tools…

I love a perfectly dug hole

L.O.V.E a perfectly dug hole. These professionals made digging look effortless!

promising piles of things to come

promising piles of things to come

progress

progress

ahhh

ahhh, the good stuff

Joe Phillips is the MAN for fencing projects in central Virginia

Joe Phillips is the MAN for fencing projects in central Virginia

everything in its place...

everything in its place. Two 16′ boards at a time, each crew member carried material (on their shoulder) to the rear of the property, carefully avoiding dormant perennials. All supplies were hand-carried to the project area. What a considerate crew!

ready, set, go...

ready, set, go…notice the amateurish built fence by my neighbor a few years back. Rotting boards (not pressure treated) will soon fall down. Perhaps they will hire a professional fence builder next time…my fence will outlive me.

thirteen posts placed, leveled and tamped

thirteen 4X6 posts placed, leveled, and tamped. Varying heights were necessary to comply with the terrain

placement of the boards begins...

placement of the boards begins…

finished fence...11' tall at high end and 7' tall at low end...

finished fence…11′ tall at low-end and 7′ tall at high-end…pine needles make a nice mulch in this area, raked from the school grounds around the corner

view from the lawn side of the deep shrub border

view from the lawn side of the deep shrub border

back side of fence with room to return to stain later in the year

back side of 90′ long fence with room to return with solid stain later in the year. Weeds should remain at bay too.

time to take the gloves off and enjoy another completed project

time to take the gloves off and enjoy another completed project. Winter is a great time for such outdoor schemes, sans ticks and other biting insects that plague central Virginia nine months of the year. Bracing morning air was invigorating too, keeping me from hibernation mode.

this morning's view from the rear terrace, across the turf. The shrubs really pop and have improved light and air

this morning’s view from the rear terrace, across the turf. The shrubs really pop even when dormant and have improved light and air for their growing seasons ahead

Another successful home improvement project is under my belt.
Since 2001, projects here, both indoors and out, require my full attention — the reality of owning an older home with a needy landscape.
Applying my design and communication skills, employing a sense of humor, and being somewhat tolerant of budget overruns, keep me honed and motivated for the next solution/design project. Furthermore, as the designated primer/painter here at Swallowtail Cottage, this homeowner stays in shape too.

Next up, the much awaited pergola at the rear terrace. Now that will be a much welcomed addition. Will I ever say UNCLE??

Stay tuned…

Copyright © 2015 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

Lyle ~ may your soul be free

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This is Lyle at the shelter

This is Lyle at the shelter. Weighing in at fourteen pounds, he was a bushel of love.

This blog post is an homage to a fine, sweet, older kitty, Lyle.

Lyle was surrendered to the local CASPCA six months ago. He had been in the same home for eleven years. The owners had various reasons for letting him go, yet Lyle never really recovered from the separation. Despite daily attention from a devoted feline volunteer, Lyle remained shy, fearful, and distant, making adoption difficult in a facility filled with bouncing, adorable kittens.

It’s been nearly four years since my beloved Miss Kitty departed this life and I finally felt ready to welcome a special kitty into my heart. After filling out his paperwork on Friday, I asked Lyle if he approved. He looked me in the eyes and reached out one paw and began kneading his pillow. I took that as a YES!
Lyle was vetted on Monday, where a new heart condition was discovered. This did not dissuade me in any way. The shelter thought we were a perfect match, and with high hopes, I brought him home on Tuesday.

The ride to Swallowtail Cottage was peaceful. The sunny winter afternoon was brilliant. Lyle made eye contact with me many times from his carrier, sunlight reflecting from his soulful, golden eyes. He even seemed to enjoy the view of the passing landscape. I assured him we would have a good life together. He would have a second chance at love.

Within minutes of arrival, Lyle began choking and gasping. Numerous calls to his vet assured me this was stress related, and I should leave him to quiet. Within thirty minutes he was dead — DEAD!!

Post mortem revealed Lyle died of heart failure. A heart broken from rejection? A heart longing to be loved too long? A heart not strong enough to accept new love?

I shall never know.

The house is again quiet — in its winter mode. I wrestle with many emotions, yet have the highest respect for those dedicated shelter volunteers and skilled professionals, who have the emotional stamina to deal with rejected animals every day. To all of them, thank you. And to all who adopt from shelters and rescue facilities, hugs to you.

For those guardians who dump/discard family pets when they age, shame on you! 

Today if you have the chance, please send up a little word for Lyle to finally find peace and unconditional love.

Winnie the Poo on death...

Photo of Lyle courtesy of the Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA.

Copyright © 2015 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

out with the old ~

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another year has passed. Tonight we bid 2014 adieu and welcome the new year.

Today, we arrive on the cusp of a new year. As I reflect on 2014, these unpublished images remind me of the past, the classics, and the sometimes forgotten or abandoned.

rolled down a hillside, left to dissolve among the trees; safe harbor for creatures

rolled down a hillside, left to dissolve among the trees; a safe harbor for transient creatures

instrument panel forever fixed in time

instrument panel forever fixed in time

if only a tune up could bring this ruin to life

if only a quick tune-up could bring this ruin to life

farewell old friend...

farewell old friend…

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Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy, and celebration

The hummingbird's delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, and every personal connection has meaning; and that laughter is life's sweetest creation.

The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning, and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.

Hudson on Valentine's Day 2014

Sweet Baby H on Valentine’s Day 2014

May 2015 bring clear paths

May 2015 bring clear paths

exhilarating moments

exhilarating moments

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and snippets of sheer bliss

May we never forget the past, the decrepit, the lost and may these memories give us strength and hope for a better time, place, and eternity. Stand up for good and believe the best can come for us all.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

 

walking meditation

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As I stepped out my door this morning, there overhead were three perfect Canada geese, flying in pattern — close enough to hear the friction of their feathers, their breath, their rhythm — the shine of their last water, shimmering on their underbellies.

I realized no separate self when the geese appeared.

This is Zen!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

a day away…

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Once I get started, trips away from home begin at a rapid pace.

Two days following my DC/NOVA trip, I was fired up for a day in Richmond, VA. Merely 60ish miles from home, I attended college in this town — before the magnificent, old brownstones in the fan district were razed for the new, contemporary buildings of today. Fond memories of then — not to be recognized today.

at the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts, I paused to photograph this fine staircase. My weakness is stone of any kind and the steel railings are a nice touch

at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, I paused to photograph this fine staircase. My weakness is stone of any kind and the steel railings are a nice touch

ooooh I like...

ooh I like…I’m a cheap date…

as I strolled room by room, centuries and cultures overwhelmed me

as I strolled room by room, centuries, styles, and cultures overwhelmed me

Tiffany lamps by the dozen...the real deal!

Tiffany lamps by the dozen…the real deal!

posters too

posters too

how about this spot for a snooze?

how about this spot for a snooze?

or this for a garden ornament?

or this for a garden ornament?

a Japanese interpretation of the Blue Ridge Mountains...

a Japanese interpretation of the Blue Ridge Mountains…

and TJ's beloved home Monticello

and TJ’s beloved home Monticello

wild swings now...a Faberge egg...most of the vast collection is on tour in China now...boo!

wild swings now…a Faberge egg…most of the vast collection is on tour in China now…boo!

The House of Fabergé is a jewellery firm founded in 1842 in St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia, by Gustav Faberge. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts houses one of the largest collections, er, when it’s not on tour…

Whee! Now a Remington grabs my attention! I have always lusted after a bronze...

Whee! Now a Remington grabs my attention! I have always lusted after a bronze…and a cowboy!

This has to be my all time favorite piece on exhibit...a centuries old teapot...perfect!

This has to be my all time favorite piece on exhibit this day…a centuries old lacquered teapot…perfect! I can only dream of the life it has had…

My college pal and I enjoyed a 70 degree, sunny noon-day lunch on the upper terrace at the museum…out of doors — on the first of December, in central Virginia.  What a pleasant way to manufacture vitamin D. And my lump crab cake over fried green tomatoes and hoppin’ John was tasty too.

Back on the road to home by 3 PM, route 64 was a piece of cake, yet Baby 5 gets lousy gas mileage at 70 MPH. She gets 27 MPG while driving around town between 40 and 50. Go figure.

With today’s temperatures in the 40’s and rain all day, needless to say, it was fun putting these two cheerful blogs together for you. Hope you enjoyed the little tours.

Let me hear from you (via comments and likes) and Happy and Safe Holidays to you and yours!! Cheers!

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

 

holiday here and there…

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Once November arrives, the gardens are mostly quiet and tucked in for the dormant season. This gardener breathes a deep exhale and rests in knowing she has a few months ahead to indulge in travel. Always tethered to the gardens from March-October, plans form quickly for a few days away.

by mood soars with a get away in my sight

my mood soars with a get away in sight

For Thanksgiving, I packed Baby 5 and headed north to my old neighborhood, Arlington Virginia. A guest of my friend and former real estate agent, we had a loose agenda, and flowed into our two days.

the Old Dominion Yacht, c. 1880 being pressured to sell to developers...

the Old Dominion Yacht, c. 1880 is currently being pressured to sell to developers…Old Towne Alexandria, VA please RESIST!!!

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nearby a water bird paddles with ease in the mighty Potomac

nearby a water bird paddles with ease in the mighty Potomac. Notice its incredible eye color!

nearby, remnants of decades old signage on a waterfront warehouse

remnants of decades old signage remain on a waterfront warehouse

down river, the massive new bridge arches, supporting six lanes of traffic to Maryland

down river, the massive Woodrow Wilson bridge spans the Potomac, supporting six lanes of traffic from Virginia to Maryland. So glad I no longer lived here when the old bridge was replaced. Talk about heart-stopping traffic jams…daily for YEARS!!!

Across the river, we played tourist at the Capital Waterfront

Across the river, we played tourist at the Capital Waterfront

this sculpture was relocated here to the Maryland side of the river

this sculpture was relocated here to the Maryland side of the river

body parts shock or become a playground for children...

body parts shock or become a playground for children…

long hair is seen everywhere, any age group

long hair is seen everywhere, any age group

The Captial Wheel, similar to the London Eye, only smaller

The Capital Wheel, similar to the London Eye, only smaller. We simply could not resist being touristy on this pretty river day.

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at the highest point on the wheel, a wee thrill

at the highest point on the wheel, a wee thrill as we begin the descent.

the view from the top of the Capital Wheel looking at the Washington Monument. Impressive!

the view from the top of the Capital Wheel (Maryland) looking at the Washington Monument (DC). Impressive! Can you find the dome of the Jefferson Memorial?

Friday we headed to DC and wrangled our way through Georgetown from NW DC and the National Cathedral.

Friday we headed to DC and wrangled our way through Georgetown traffic from NW DC and the National Cathedral. Notice the window message… “where lonely sofas meet perky pillows.”  Clever.

The National Cathedral still recovers from massive damage following the earthquake three years ago. At least the Bishop's Garden preserves sanctuary.

The Washington National Cathedral still recovers from devastating damage following the earthquake three years ago. At least the Bishop’s Garden tranquility is preserved.

massive scaffolding still covers many areas of the Cathedral's facade...

massive scaffolding still covers many areas of the Cathedral’s facade…

broken spires await expensive repairs...so sad for this magnificent building

broken spires await expensive repairs…so sad for this magnificent building

on a lighter note, the Washington Monument is fully recovered and mended from the earthquake's damage.  Flags are showing off as we drove by

on a lighter note, the Washington Monument is fully recovered and mended from the earthquake’s damage. Flags stand at attention as we drive by, while an aircraft departs Reagan National airport off in the distance. 

Evenings were spent enjoying meals and movies. My return trip on Saturday down 95 was uneventful until after a brief shop at Ikea — the next hour on the road was bumper to bumper making my arrival home sweet indeed.

Good nostalgic, short trip revisiting sixteen years in NOVA, yet in no way would I ever return. My little 800SF condo now sells in the 350K range. Since 2000, when I sold it for 116K, real estate prices in NOVA have reached epic proportions. And any new construction, either side of the Potomac, begin in the 400K-600K price range. How the average Joe affords working/living here eludes me indeed. Salaries, especially for  the non-profits, cannot possibly keep up.

Now off to my next road adventure…

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved

life, love, and loss

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Life and death are one thread;
the same line viewed from different sides.

~ Lao Tzu

One of my closest friends departed life this week. I still fail to grasp this fact. Facing each health challenge bravely, determined to love life unconditionally, and supported by her closest friends, she met her end on her own terms — with dignity and love.  Sidelined by a freak viral bronchitis, I was not able to be at her bedside as she passed. This makes our afternoon country outing, two weeks before, even more memorable. Too soon gone!

as we find out paths in life, love intervenes and inevitable loss.

as we find our paths in life, love intervenes, and so does inevitable loss.

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as I drove rural lanes yesterday, taking the slow way home, nature seemed to reach out and embrace me with breathtaking color and brilliant sky

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as I rounded a curve, this maple popped to say, as my leaves depart, they wish to make your day joyful!

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hues this vibrant in November are unusual indeed

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then round a few more curves, I nearly drove of the road, as I gasped. In fact I turned around a few times and risked being rear-ended to get this shot

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back on a wider path of road, more maples popped from between the sycamores and tulip poplars, draped with dazzling color

a pair of old persimmon trees, full of fruit, will be perfect following the first hard frost, if one braves the traffic. I imagine birds will have the best feast.

a pair of old persimmon trees, full of fruit, will be perfect following the first hard frost, if one braves the traffic. I imagine birds will have the best feast.

taking liberties with this shot's edits to create a painterly vista

taking liberties with this shot’s edits I created a painterly vista

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nearly home, this time, an ox-blood hue catches my eye

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these trees were planted by nature, not man, making the display ever more poignant

the dogwood appeared to be on fire this day

back home, the resident dogwood appeared to be on fire this day

November hydrangea never fails to deliver color

Oakleaf hydrangeas never fail to deliver saturated color during November

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my landscape comforted me with much appreciated light, reflections, and memorable color. This was to be the last day before hard frost, finishing the magical displays and creating rake work in days ahead.

Life is unequalled.
Love is unparalleled.
Loss is the toll we pay to experience it all.

May your day be filled with life, your Thanksgiving filled with love, and may loss be away on holiday.

Copyright © 2014 by Diane LaSauce All Rights and Images Reserved