Author Archives: thehappycardinal


“I’m James West!”, I would yell, and James I would become, at least for the next hour or two.

My love for the west seemed inherent in me even at the young age of nine – a time when childhood play was ripe with imagination and fantasy.  And so it was that an old wooden fence would become my horse, a folded blanket – my saddle, as my childhood friends and I transformed ourselves to a time long ago, fighting crime and taming the wild, wild west.

Summer in the south meant starting early enough to avoid the hottest part of the day. Playing outdoors was our only option until we were called in for lunch. One moment taming the west, and the next, drinking Tang and eating crust-less grilled cheese sandwiches cut into four triangles and spaghettios, with the smell that would linger until supper. If we were lucky, we might also have potato chips that were delivered to our front door in a can. Not one was broken and each was miraculously larger and more perfect than the next.

Playtime in the 60’s meant using our imagination and whatever resources we had available to us. Empty cardboard boxes were a big deal and anyone whose parents were fortunate enough to buy a new refrigerator (back then they came in boxes) could have a box big enough for a fort!  Rolly polly circuses, chameleons that we were convinced developed an emotional bond with us, and toads that peed on us every time, these are the things that filled our days when we were children. There was something magical about growing up during a time when we played outside until the streetlights started buzzing and the mosquitoes began to bite. Summers were longer then. It wasn’t long after that I kissed my first boy.

It’s no wonder that my dreams now and then take me there – to a time when life was easy and safe. I’ll always remember those days fondly. I appreciate beyond measure my parents who loved and supported me. My dreams will always take me home, to momma and daddy and to the security and love they gave, unconditionally. Home is the place I can always go – in my dreams


Where is your Ginestlay?

Where is your Ginestlay?

In the movie, Lion, and the book, A Long Way Home, five year old, Saroo, fell asleep on a train and woke to find himself hundreds of miles from the only life he had known – far away from the love of his family and from the security of his small impoverished village. Saroo desperately pleaded with strangers to help him find his way back, but at his young age, he didn’t properly know the name of his province, only what he phonetically remembered as “Ginestlay”, the place he knew as home and a place where, on a map, did not exist.

Today, while standing at my window as I often do while watching wildlife come and go, I saw a young squirrel slowly make its way down from a tree and move across the grass and sidewalk, slowly, moving toward the bird-bath. It was apparent that the squirrel wasn’t watching where it was going but had its eye on its surroundings for any threat. When it came to the bath it effortlessly jumped up to the rim and took a fresh drink of water, surefooted, as if it had done it a hundred times before. A moment later the squirrel jumped down and moved slowly back across the sidewalk, across the grass, then back up the tree.

Now, I know that a squirrel and a little Indian boy don’t have much in common, but while studying this squirrel it occurred to me that as young as it was, it had come to know this small part of its world as its home – its “Ginestlay”. It was familiar and secure with its environment.

To me, Ginestlay represents home. No matter the size of it, no matter the cleanliness of it, how formidable or not, it is the place where we are most familiar and comfortable – the place where we are secure. My Ginestlay is a place where love is, a place where I call – home.

Where is your Ginestlay?

RV Fun!

When my husband, Manuel, bought an older RV I wasn’t really sold on the idea. When I learned that the mileage was so low for it’s age I felt a little better about it.  Although the outside (to me) is an eyesore, the bones were good and I saw a fun challenge in redecorating and updating the interior. I must say that I was pleased with the way it turned out and even found myself looking forward to traveling a bit in our old/new home on wheels.


The kitchen, being in the back provides a lot of light with it’s large windows. The propane gas stove and oven enable us to cook when we don’t have electric hookups. The gas hot water heater and furnace system provide hot water and warmth.

The couches were early american ugly.  I recovered the couches with denim which I thought might be more durable and dog friendly. I painted the vinyl wall board white, recovered the window valances and hung new white mini blinds.

img_4020 img_4034


I found some beautiful linen and made curtains to conceal the top bunk. I also removed the flaking gold drawer and cabinet knobs and pulls and sprayed them white. (There were 25 of them!)


And finally, the bathroom is one of my favorites, maybe because I know how dated it was. I first removed the sink faucet which was made of plastic and had turned yellow over the years. I spray painted the sink which was the same yellow oxidized plastic. I replaced the faucet with brushed nickel and added a towel bar to match. I felt a back-splash was needed so added a tile one and caulked around the tile and sink.


The door, which was nothing more than a flat faux oak panel was such an eyesore to me. I decided to trim it out, caulk the trim and paint it all taupe. I also replaced the old flaking gold door knob with a satin nickel one.


The outcome of the interior was a nice surprise and our first trip has been amazing. Truly an adventure of a lifetime. It’s been Manuel’s dream for a long time though I’d be lying if I said that it was mine.  Don’t get me wrong, I love an adventure but I also like being home and accomplishing things. It’s been interesting to me in that I brought knitting, a scrap book and books with me but haven’t had much spare time to devote to them. I’m curious about how I will feel when we finally do get home. Will I be restless or restful?

Here’s how a typical day might go…

Between 6:00 & 7:00 am:

Wake. Put socks on while in bed!! Climb down out of a loft (carefully).
Squeeze through sleeping husband and dogs to get to bathroom.
Turn heater up!
Wash face, brush teeth.
Put hot water on in kettle, if we have electric, on gas stove, if dry camping.
Bundle up, walk dogs.
Have coffee, make toast (if we have electric).
Check in on Facebook.
Wash up (if dry camping, limited water) or shower (if we are hooked up in a campground).
Consider doing laundry (if in campground) because we (I) tend to keep wearing the same two outfits instead of digging out the 6 months of clothes I brought!).
Tidy up.
Stow everything away for travel.
Walk dogs again.
Shake all dog bedding outside.

Wake husband!

Between 8:00 and 9:00 am:
Wait for husband to-
Wash up.
Have coffee and toast.
Dump pooper tank.😝
Empty gray water tank.
Flush tanks.
Unplug all.
Drive us to another beautiful place!!

After noon:
Decide where to stay the night.
It all depends on whether we want to shower or not. I much prefer dry camping (with no power and a 40 gallon tank of water under the RV for limited use) and being in nature is worth it! Well, if you call being in a fiberglass box being in nature.

Something I’ve learned is that when traveling in an RV, it’s not only about the destination but it’s as much about the journey. Giving that some thought, that’s much like life, isn’t it?

Well, thanks for stopping by. Time to get rolling!


The Cowboy – An essay

I first saw his cowboy hat clearing the tops of the bushes. He was moving in my direction. Clearing the shrubs I saw a stately man, an older gentleman as it turned out. He wore an amply grown, white, handle bar mustache and an heir of confidence. A light colored vest topped a darker long sleeved shirt, flannel, I supposed, given the briskness of the desert’s dawn. His long denim covered legs were punctuated by fine looking, and well broken in, cowboy boots. Topping it all was what appeared to be his crowning glory, a well cut and very spiffy looking, ivory cowboy hat.

“What kind of dogs are those?” I heard his gravelly voice break the morning’s silence.

“Part Boston Terrier, part Bassett.” I responded.

“Those are fine looking hounds, he said. I’ve had several Boston’s.” A well tempered breed.”

During our exchange I learned that his was one of three big rigs parked next to us overnight, traveling together, headed for Colorado.

The rigs, each costing more than my house, no doubt, appeared to be more than well equipped. One pulled an equally elaborate trailer of mules, the other horses, and the third followed the two.

We chatted for a while in the darkness of the dawn, in the middle of a parking lot, somewhere in New Mexico – a cowboy, two dogs and me.

Strength and Gratitude

Strength comes from many things. Strength can be physical and it can be internal. I believe that strength can also be spiritual. When someone’s faith is unwavering, especially through trying times, that would be an example of spiritual strength.

Gratitude, is something that may come more naturally for some people, while for others it may come later, often inspired by circumstances. I know that personally I am grateful when things in my life take an upward turn after a tough spell.

Today, I met a woman who possessed both strength and gratitude. She made such an impression on me that she inspired this essay.

While at the veterinary office with my pup, this woman was standing at the counter retrieving her pet. She was chatting in a way that halfway engaged not only the woman with whom she was speaking but also those of us nearby. She especially caught my attention when I heard her say that she had undergone chemotherapy in the past and that she was a cancer survivor. Looking up I suppose I expected her to appear more frail and was surprised that she wasnt what I expected. By then she had my full attention and when her eyes met mine my immediate response to her was, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” To that she replied, “Please don’t be. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me!” No doubt the look on my face caused her feel the need to  explain herself and she went on to say, “You can’t fight something you don’t know you have!”


“You can’t fight something you don’t know you have!”

My mind was thinking so many things. I had so many questions. Where does she get her strength and how can she be so grateful! Would I have this attitude if I had cancer? I couldn’t help but be inspired by her contagious spirit.

When the woman drove off I hated to see her go and I wished I had gotten her telephone number. I wanted to know this woman!

If I could speak with her again I would to thank her for sharing her story. I would like to tell her how much she inspired me with her attitude. I don’t always believe in accidents or happenstance encounters. I do believe that people are put into our path for a reason, whether it’s for a brief time or long term. I will be looking for this woman, and I hope that one day I’ll have the opportunity to thank her for the lessons she shared today. My lady of strength and gratitude.

Cottage Charm – Bathroom Remodel

FullSizeRenderThe ongoing process of making our new house in Tennessee a place to call home, is exciting but the work involved can be exhausting.  One thing I’ve learned is that living in a place for a while gives a person a better idea of what is needed (or wanted) as opposed to moving in and making immediate changes.  Aside from the obvious tweaks in a newly purchased home, or updates in an older one, living within it’s walls for some time offers a whole new perspective on the real style and feeling of a home and offers you a better vision of what you’d like the outcome to be.

Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who can’t sit still. I always need to be doing something constructive – even when riding in the car or sitting in front of the television, I am usually multitasking.  I’ve always had this energy, this need to make my immediate space more organized and more gratifyingly efficient. Being organized gives me pleasure and the feeling of a life well lived. I’ve never been one to shy away from hard work, especially if that work means that my space, my home, will bring joy to my senses, pleasure to my eyes, peace to my soul, and warmth to my heart. To me, these feelings are accomplished with light filled rooms, lots of windows and a beautiful view. When I’m in my home, whether it’s real or perceived, I must have the feeling of quietude and seclusion with an abundance of fresh and natural light.

Now that we’ve lived here for the better part of 2 years, after settling in and enjoying the feel of the cottage, after laying a new sidewalk to the front door and creating garden beds which is still a work in the making, my latest project has been to redecorate one of our two bathrooms.  Because this cottage has only two small bathrooms, I have adopted one, and my husband, the other. The bathroom I have claimed is also the “guest room bath” so I make an effort to keep it looking especially nice and neat. This particular post is to show you how easy it is to make small changes for a big effect.

Here are some photos of the bathroom before. It’s small so these are the best shots I could get.IMG_1499

IMG_1500Above: This is the hole in the ceiling where the white (yellowed) plastic, very dated, light/fan combo fixture was.

Below: The stained trim didn’t match what my mind’s eye was seeing and made the small bathroom look even smaller. I wanted a light and bright French Country look.

IMG_1494Below: The flattest door I’ve ever seen and the most boring. But fortunately, easy to work with.

IMG_1466Starting from the top down, the first task was to scrape the popcorn ceiling. Big and messy job!  I had to mud, sand and caulk a bit once the popcorn was down.

The second task was to remove an ugly, contractor grade, exhaust fan/light combo with its yellowed plastic cover. It was likely installed some 30 years ago. We were presented with some problems, however, like an old exhaust fan with no attic access. The fan/light combo fixture was one the ugliest things I’ve seen. I visioned a small chandelier instead and although there are many very cute lighting fixtures on the market I found nothing that included an exhaust fan. Since it was impossible to remove the old fan without attic access, if we still wanted an exhaust fan that is, then we would have to figure some way to make it work. After much consideration, and being told that it couldn’t be done, (which made me even more determined) I decided to use the current fixture and to redesign it.

Next, I wanted to paint all the trim, baseboards and door off white. I also wanted larger baseboards (removing and replacing the baseboards would be easy in such a small space).

And finally the finishing touches would be a new shower curtain which I would make myself once I found the perfect fabric and a glass shelf which I had cut at a glass shop.

I still have a couple of finishing touches for the ceiling.  I want to add some molding and glaze to a last coat of paint but that will have to wait because it’s garden time!

Here are the photos. A wide-angle lens would have helped but they’re not too bad. And I’ll save the best for last!

IMG_1468I decided to add molding to the doorIMG_1491Lots of molding!

IMG_1653And then to paint it all! I absolutely loved this transformation. Note the trim has been painted white too.

IMG_1542IMG_1543I found the most beautiful Toile fabric at and paired it with an ivory colored linen

IMG_1546IMG_1548Above and Below: The glass shelve I had cut at a glass shop. We could not find the 4″ shelf brackets to fit the glass but my dear husband was able to shorten them using a grinder. Good job, Manuel!

IMG_1560And now for the big reveal of my favorite and most challenging part…

IMG_1505The ugly plastic light/fan cover

IMG_1511A work in progress…

IMG_1512My own design.


IMG_1550IMG_1705IMG_1549IMG_1708IMG_1556So, other than a couple of small things like having new mirrors cut for the medicine cabinet and glazing and molding the ceiling here is another room checked off the design list.

 Once I complete the details I’ll post updated photos.

I really appreciate you visiting and hope that you enjoyed the process half as much as I did.

Au revoir et merci!



For the Love of Birds – Bird Eye Disease

Purple FinchThis is the House Finch that flew to my feet.

Cardinal with eye virusThis beautiful Cardinal was just outside my window a few months later. He has no eye.

Both birds appear to be affected by the same disease. Read on to see how you can help.

Not long after we moved to Tennessee and while working in my garden last spring, I noticed a bird very close to me on the ground. It was so close that I attempted to pick it up and each time I reached out it hopped just beyond my grasp. It seemed to need something from me, as if to say, Can I trust you?  Can you help me? There was something odd about the little finch. It’s feathers looked ruffled and unkempt. Each time I got closer I was able to get a better look. The finch appeared to have no eyes.  One eye was completely crusted over and the other wasn’t far behind. After hanging close by for awhile, the little bird up and flew away. That evening I learned that this little finch was more than likely affected by House Finch Eye Disease. This disease is highly contagious among feeder-birds. The first sighting was a House Finch in Washington DC in 1994. The disease seemed to spread at an alarming rate across the country affecting not only House Finches but also Purple Finches, Gold Finches, Gross Beaks, Cardinals and several others species of feeder-birds.

Similar to Conjunctivitis in Humans, House Finch Eye Disease is otherwise known as Mycoplasmal Conjunctivitis. Affected birds develop weepy. crusty eyes which in severe cases can cause blindness and death. The organization, Feederwatch, has encouraged bird feeders and watchers across the country to report any sightings of birds that appear to be affected by the disease. If you are a bird lover you can do your part by helping in just two ways.

  1. Clean your feeders. Mix 90% water with 10% Clorox. Spray your feeder well with solution or submerge the perches and feeder opening until covered. Be sure to rinse the feeder well to avoid Chlorine toxicity to the birds. This should be done every week or two. Dispose of old or moldy feed and feeders. Keep seed in a clean dry place.
  2. If you see a bird that appears to be affected, contact Look for the link “Project Feederwatch”. Here you can also get involved with counting specific birds at your feeder, as well as reporting diseased birds. By doing so you help scientists learn more about how and where the disease is spreading, and which birds visit which regions and when.
  3. If you are a bird watcher, particularly a feeder, it’s equally important that you periodically, perhaps monthly, report on the Feederwatch website when you DON’T see any affected birds. This is important so that they will be able to calculate the percentages of the spread of the disease and the regions in which it is a problem. Researchers need all information. The good and the bad. So get your binoculars ready, watch your feeders and report your findings.

Bird lovers are awesome! Thank you for doing your part.

Please pass this along to help spread awareness of this topic.

Kim Brewer-Bettencourt

The Happy Cardinal


For the Love of Birds – Hummingbirds


2014-08-16 10.48.16Feeding wild birds is a real responsibility. Each year at this time when I begin to  prepare my hummingbird feeder I have to ask myself if I want the added responsibility of their care. Preparing their sugar water properly, in a way that will provide them with enough nourishment for their all consuming metabolisms, storing the syrup at the right temperature, bringing it back up to room temperature before refilling the feeder and finally washing the feeder well enough between their feedings, every three or four days, becomes a mundane process by summer’s end. If you are considering feeding hummers this year, please take the time to do so properly. It’s easy to unknowingly harm them if you’re not sure of how and what to feed them.  Their food can easily become rancid if left more than three or four days especially if the feeder gets a lot of sun. There’s a wealth of information about the proper care and feeding of hummingbirds on the web. Please take the time to learn the proper way.


Harvey’s Garden – Winchester, Tennessee

Harvey’s Garden, was inspired by the late, Harvey Templeton, who had envisioned a beautiful garden sanctuary for the public to enjoy. Although Harvey wasn’t able to see his dream completed, his vision was carried on by his son, Handly Templeton and daughter in law, Becky Templeton.

 In 2003 the process began and on this 34 acre plot, just a mile or so from downtown, Winchester, TN, a garden sanctuary was erected as a tribute to Harvey.

 Today, I had the pleasure of strolling through the garden’s rock lined paths through the beautiful white blooming Bradford Pear trees and fuchsia colored Red Buds. The rows of Crepe Myrtles were patiently waiting their turn to bloom yielding to the sunny Daffodils which were springing to life.


What a beautiful tribute to spring, to honor the memory of a man who imagined a beautiful sanctuary in his mind’s eye.

Don’t miss the tranquil and ever-changing, Harvey’s Garden, in Winchester, Tennessee.

  Happy Easter to you and yours.