Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Year of The Mattress

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ValhallaValhallaMap
Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.

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Scrabble Words

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I keep a Scrabble board set up in my office at St. Louis County, available at the front lobby area for co-workers, visitors, and employees alike to play at their leisure. I borrowed the board game from our neighbor colleagues one building over. One of my office break activities is to play Scrabble. It is a stress relief with the construction projects in my office building. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard some days. Spelling a word or two takes the edge off from the noise level of the drills and saws. I can concentrate better after forming words from the letters that pop in my head. I know it is strange, but it helps. Wellness in action versus taking a “smoke break”, a drag or two of a cigarette before hitting the reports and answering the 100 and 1 questions our employees and retirees have. A “game” is completed usually in 4 or 5 days, with myself the most active player. I experience this same release when I write this WordPress blog or in my journal.
My daughters call me the “Scrabble Queen”, because I love playing it and am very competitive. Though I am competitive in other games such as Monopoly, card games, softball, tether ball, etc. I can still smack that softball over the left field fence. Ask my elementary schoolmates about my tether ball game. I would beat the snot out of the boys at every tether ball game. Well, not the boys but the tether ball! There was a boy or two I may have swung at as well… So back to Scrabble, with my family I use to make nonsensical sentences with the words we formed on the board. My siblings or children and I would laugh for what seemed like hours making up sentences with the Scrabble words. The analyst in me wonders if the combination of words I form for any given Scrabble game have a subliminal significance? Yesterday’s Scrabble board has the words “dead”, “blind”, “fist”, “knot”, “whimp”, “weigh”, and “czar”. BTW: “Czar” scores big points for a short word if you put it on a triple letter or triple word score. So the above words are fairly strong, echoing my recent thoughts of this tough world. “I wish I were blind to the world, whimpy by character, or dead to my feelings, because I am weighed down with knots in my stomach from the tight-fisted czar called life.” Woo! Simply said, I am overdone and have a tude. Feeling ready for my vacation from the house, office, spice shoppe, and greenhouse, you think?! R & R is right around the corner, tomorrow a matter of fact. Thank God! Maybe my Scrabble game will have kinder words such as “zeal”, “calm”, “smile”, “peaceful”, “love”, and “gratitude” when I return from my northern destination? Good chance of it! I want to be a colorful light to this world!


What words does your life spell today? I pray God’s best in your life: color, music, adventure, health, love, and peace!

Double D-licious

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Cinnamon Basil
“Dinner is double d-licious”, my husband said yesterday evening. To me just another creation made with leftovers and stables from our mostly empty frig and kitchen cupboards using little time. Dean and I are headed out-of-state in just a couple of days, so we have not stocked up with groceries. Saving time and pennies for the trip north. I made a breakfast dinner. On the menu: fresh organic blueberry pancakes and eggs scrambled with fresh organic basil, diced tavern ham, & shredded Monterey cheese. Tight schedules and tighter budgets dictate the menu some days. What throw-together meals have you created?
The basil is quite pungent now as the weather in the St. Louis area has been well over 90 degrees everyday this past week. Basil grows prolifically in Missouri, our long summers are ideal. I have grown sweet basil, but desire to try growing some other varieties.
Here are some varieties of basil:
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilcum) is the most popular variety which is used in Italian style dishes and salads. It grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Lemon Basil (Ocimum citriodorum) has a mild lemon flavor, and is commonly used with fish. I love it with lemon thyme in my lemon bread recipe. Double d-licous lemon flavor! This variety grows to a height of 1 foot.
Purple Basil (Ocimum basilcum purpurea) is similar to sweet basil, but has purple leaves. It is a tender variety and grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Red Rubin Basil (Ocimum basilcum) is like sweet basil but has very dark colored leaves, a much deeper color than purple basil. It grows to a height of 2-1/2 foot.
Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilcum) comes from Mexico, and has a cinnamon flavor. I want to try this for sure! I like cinnamon flavors in my tea, coffee, chocolate, hot cereal, fruits, veggies, and meats. It grows to a height of 1-1/2 foot.
Thai Basil (Ocimum sp.) is very spicy, typically used in Indian cooking. I started experimenting with Thai foods this past couple of years. I will have to try this variety in my recipes. It grows to a height of 3 foot.

Please share the variety of basil you use in your recipes or have grown.

Deep Within

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Heart Vine Plant
A beautiful song we sang at church on Sunday, which plays in my mind, heart, and voice today …
Deep Within by David Haas
Deep within, I will plant my law, not on stone, but in your heart.
Follow me; I will bring you back. You will be my own, and I will be your God.
I will give you a new heart, a new spirit within you, for I will be your strength.
Deep within, I will plant my law, not on stone, but in your heart.
Follow me; I will bring you back. You will be my own, and I will be your God.
See my face, and see your God, for I will be your hope.
Deep within, I will plant my law, not on stone, but in your heart.
Follow me; I will bring you back. You will be my own, and I will be your God.
Return to me, with all your heart, and I will bring you back.
Deep within, I will plant my law, not on stone, but in your heart.
Follow me; I will bring you back. You will be my own, and I will be your God.

Garden Paraphernalia

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“Paraphernalia” is an underused word. In most cases it conveys “drugs”. According to Widipedia, it is “apparatus, equipment, or furnishing used for a particular activity”. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraphernalia.) For me gardening is a necessity of life. As the Thomas Jefferson quote states, “no culture comparable to that of the garden.” It is my therapy, and I relish the fruits of my labor. A greenhouse, leather gloves, muck boots, dresser planters, troughs, a weather vane, and even writing this garden blog are paraphernalia. They are not necessary for a garden, but they each make the gardener’s or farmer’s chore easier, more enjoyable, gives life. Plus gardening becomes an art form, an expression from the heart as St. Francis of Assisi told us hundreds of years ago. Cooking from the heart with what I receive from my garden is an art form, too. Just as writing on this WordPress blog.
Dean and I are northward bound in 8 days. We will have a 7-day visit with friends who are family to us. The birth of a book has taken place at this destination. More of the family story will be told to us. While in Minnesota we will take a country day-trip to peruse some local antique shoppes and flea markets. We are looking for a unique, artsy weathervane to place atop the teepee-shaped trellis we made with repurposed steel poles for our gourds vines. We will scout out some narrow wooden troughs for window boxes to plant our overabundance of airplane plants and wandering jews. What garden “paraphernalia” do you enjoy?

A Raise, But Not The Barn Kind

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Barn Raising
This print I found on Wikipedia depicts an Amish tradition, barn raising. So you think a country girl like me would be blogging about a barn raising, but it is a raise of a different kind I am writing about tonight. My full-time office job as the Employee Wellness Coordinator for St. Louis County, Missouri has become more demanding each year despite the salary freeze organization-wide for 4 years. We finally had a 2.5% raise in January, but I never saw it with the federal tax relief ending in the same month. So I have been making it a matter of prayer and continue my hard work with the county job, my stress-relief greenhouse hobby job, and more recently working at the Old Town Spice Shoppe on the weekends. Ten months ago the talk of reclassifying my position came up during my annual review. My supervisor and I felt I was severely underpaid for what my job responsibilities entail … the budgets I keep, wellness events designed and executed, as well as disability claims and the employee assistance program contract and training hours to oversee for 4,000+ employees. Well, after 10-months of research and several discussions with the executive board on my behalf, the compensation manager called me today with some terrific news. A raise of few thousand more a year than I had previously earned! Hallelujah, my prayers have been answered! I am not a rich lady, and don’t need to be. I just want to be compensated fairly, live comfortable, and save for the future (mine and the future generations). Thank you, God my Father!

Herb Harvest

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Our dill is daintily charming, and so fragrant. Yesterday evening we harvest our 1st crop, and will put in a 2nd crop after the 4th of July holiday. Wild sunflowers and sprigs of dill fill a green vase today. Our chef son-in-law will use this 1st crop of dill to make pickles with his homegrown cucumbers. Maybe a jar or two of Hannahway Farm sun pickles are on our way?! The patriarch spice shoppe owner says in Europe dill is used in just about every dish. I love it with my baked fish and potato salad dishes. The 3rd crop of dill will go in early autumn, with plans to take as show-n-tell farm products to the City of St. Charles preschool classrooms Farmer Dean and I visit in November. Our 1st crop of basil screams pesto! Served with veggies, chicken, bread, and pasta, I cannot wait!
Dill
This week’s other farm chores include straightening and cleaning the screenhouse, putting extra pots and trays together in somewhat orderly fashion, and throwing broken items in the recycle pile. One recycled dresser is filled with “tea room” stuff, as well as a recycled tile-top table put aside for our meal and snack times. Another recycled dresser holds pots of blooming geraniums. We are making space in the screenhouse in case we need to move our plants to this cooler side of the greenhouse structure. Last year at this time the heat wave and drought was well underway in Missouri. The extreme heat required us to water two times a day, early morning and early evening. Our plants were housed under the shelter of shade trees in our yard while the greenhouse reconstruction plans were being modified until autumn when the heat subsided. The lack of rain has not been an issue this spring and early summer, thank you God! The growing gourd plants will go into the ground this weekend.
Growers, what are you harvesting now? What are you putting in for an autumn crop?