Category Archives: culture

Summer Projects Heat Up

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Missouri’s summer heats up in August.  It started on the cooler side, but it is full-blown dripping hot now.  The humidity does it, zaps the energy out of me.  I am taking a couple of hours this afternoon in the air-conditioned cottage to reenergize myself.  This summer I have managed to get a walk in every day while at work.  I found a quiet, shady alley that provides some refuge from the madness in the middle of my day.  Then flowers and gardening are my evening and weekend therapy.  The blooms are flourishing.

This year Dean and I’s spare summer weekends are focused on repainting the window and door frames of our St. Charles cottage.  Of course with a house that is 80 years old, projects are many.  There is multiple layers of paint to sand down, so we get a smooth, clean coat of paint. We have found 3 layers with the front door frame and headboard.  A coat of primer will go on the frame and headboard this evening, with the final white paint another “free” weekend.  Then the front door is next.  “Nifty turquoise” is the color of choice.  Read The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell to know why I picked this color.  Stay tuned for another post to follow with a picture of our finished project.

Green Gardens Galore

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Vacation travels took Dean and I to the east coast in historic Charleston, South Carolina this past week.  We relished the art, culture, history, and summer foliage that the city offers.  We captured some unforgettable vignettes with alcoves, alleys, doors, windows, churches, homes, blooms, and green gardens galore.  Its great to admire the gardens of other people, but always good to bring that admiration back to the home base despite the imperfections.

The Wild & Cultivated Meet

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I awoke at 6:30am this morning.  I saw some sunlight peeping through the window blinds.  Actual sun after several days of rain.  Checking the sky, a front of clouds is slowly moving from the southwest.  Rain on its way once again.  I think I can manage to get to the farm 30 minutes away to check my garden bed in the greenhouse/screenhouse before the rain starts.  I was hoping the county highway was open, no flood waters to prevent my route to Boone Hollow Farm.  I stole the opportunity by myself as Dean was attending to his son’s dogs and house, and will be home sometime late morn.  I left Dean a note on the table just in case he beat me back to the cottage.

I arrived to an overgrown gravel road. No mowing had been done for a couple of weeks. Too wet to mow. And the small creek was swollen and flowing over the rocks, so I parked right near the county highway, and walked into the farm. My sandaled feet relished the coolness of the fresh rain water in the creek. The walk up the gravel road and hill to the greenhouse was sopping wet, quite muddy. The arugula and leaf lettuces are wildly overgrown; bolting, flowering, and forming their seed pods. My herbs have finally taken off with the summer heat and humidity. The cherry tomato plants are doing well, a couple have had their tops nibbled off by the deer or coyotes.  Plenty more started forming their little yellow blooms, the fruit to follow soon.  This morning the wild and cultivated meet together at Deanna’s Cottage …

Culivated, Wild, & Somewhere In Between Blooms

First Spring Crop

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April came and went.  I realized I have not posted any pics or words about my gardens in over a month.  I have been occupied with the employee wellness program at work, Easter, family birthday parties, mowing, and caring for the gardens and the yards between the rain showers and storms.   We sowed lots of seeds the last week in March and first week in April.  My first crop of arugula, Mizuna lettuce, and mustard greens were ready on Sunday, just 39 days after its sowing.  What a lovely and refreshing salad it has made for Dean and I.  Today I added boiled egg and roasted turkey for protein to a bed of my fresh greens tossed in a light lemon vinaigrette to make a chef salad for our lunches.  Cannot wait.

Porch Critters & Garden Perches

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The springtime porch critters and garden perches came out this past weekend.  Pots of pansies planted; pinks, purples, blues, and yellows gathered together on or near the front porch of our cottage.  Birds, bees, and a bunny perch among the pots, birdhouses, and other garden art.  A welcome greeting after such a long winter!  Welcome Spring!

The Love of Color And Dirt

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I have held up fairly well this very cold winter season.  I kept busy indoors with a 1000-piece puzzle, reading, writing, vacation planning, and even a couple of hand-written letters placed in the mail box.  You know, the old-fashioned way of communicating!  My interior decorating picked up again, with our newest additions  a chaise and lace-paneled screen for my boudoir, as well as a vintage stained glass window for the wall above the buffet in the living room.  It brightens the room up with the sun on it; swirls of purple, blue, and golden yellow reflect into the cottage.  Just what my soul needed … color!  Having just a little spring fever …

Oh, but there is the love of dirt, too!  I am anxious to get outdoors to dig in the dirt, sow seeds, plant flowers, move onto exterior decorating, and feel the fresh air and sun on my face.  Daylight savings time began this past Sunday, and the Spring Equinox is a week away!  Do you think the weatherman and mother nature saw the calendar, too?  I sure hope so!  No springtime snows and frigid cold blasts, please!

This will be our first spring in our little St. Charles cottage.  Signs of green popped up a couple of snowstorms ago.  I believe they are daffodils throughout the front and back yards.  Bursts of yellow in a few days!  I am sprucing up the indoor plants at home and at the office, trimming dead branches and topping the pots with fresh potting soil this week and next.  My green friends have done well under the plant lights in the basement, where it is not quite as cold as the barely heated garage at the other house.  And no feline friends to perch themselves in the potted plants!  My citrus tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, and other potted perennials will go outdoors when the threat of frost is past, late in April.

Plans for very old awnings to come down, painting weathered window frames, window cleaning, and new fencing are on the top of the list of outdoor chores this spring and summer.  But the other chore, which to me is so much fun, is yard designing with the existing garden beds, as well as the choices and placement of garden art.  One of my childhood friends from Minnesota sent me a photo of her little mini greenhouse in the midst of an autumn snowfall, the sun gorgeously set behind it filtering through the autumn leaves and windows.  It brought to life the desire to build such a potting shed, maybe a bit of a “she-shed” where I can play in the dirt and plants.  But also to sit and relax on a comfy chair sipping herb tea, my writing journal, and pen among the birds, butterflies, and blooms.

 

Hopes And Dreams

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Our 2018 is coming to a close very soon.  Where did the year go?!  Filled with memorable days with many of you, & for others not enough time together.

Our travels started with a February trip to Louisville, KY where we went to the “show of shows” for military & gun collectors. Foodie joints, the Louisville Slugger tour, & downtown were a part of the trip.  Dean & I visited the St. Meinrad Archabbey.  The architecture & gardens are stunning.  Mother’s Day weekend included a combined mothers trip to Pella, IA to view the late spring tulips, a windmill tour, & indulge in Dutch fare.  Memorial Day weekend Dean & I visited the Lincoln Museum & Home in Springfield, IL.  Late June, we gathered up my Rachel’s three, & took a 4-day trip to Branson, MO where the go-carts reigned.  Such fun with the grandkids!   We had a short few days in Minnesota.  It definitely was not long enough, but happy to relax & visit with in-law family in the Twin Cities and family friends on Island Lake part of the 4th of July week.  Over Veteran’s Day weekend, we holiday & antique shopped in Branson.

Our big news for 2018 is our purchase of a small 1940’s home in historic St. Charles, just one Missouri River town closer to St. Louis metro.  The weekday commutes to our offices have been easier, & the quietness of this older neighborhood so refreshing.  Dean loves the WWII era, & his “man cave” basement.  “Deanna’s Cottage” is a “work in progress”; new kitchen flooring, unveiling the hardwood floor under carpeting in the living room & our bedroom, new or no awnings (depends on if you ask Dean or Anna!), new fencing, taking down at least one huge tree, & building a “garage plus” in the big back yard are envisioned. It is a quaint 4-room dwelling, under 800 sq-ft love nest.  We went small on purpose.  We love visitors, but really love our empty nest!  The comfy guest bedroom takes you back to the whimsical Edwardian era.  It has been a blast finding 1930-40’s furniture pieces & 2nd-hand decor to decorate Deanna’s Cottage. We recently listed with Airbnb for the St. Charles festival weekends only.  Being 7 blocks from historic Main Street makes our place an ideal hideaway for travelers. On those weekends while guests are at our cottage, we stay at our 4-bdrm St. Peters house, which is being rented to my daughter & son-in-law.  Dean & I have experienced some Airbnb suites as guests before we opened up our home as hosts. The concept seems rather novel, but in past centuries many travelers stayed in common people’s homes.  This century we are using electronics to facilitate bookings for lodging.  Although not a traditional bed & breakfast, I will always leave some kitchen-made goodie for our guests, as I still love to bake & our guests gladly indulge.  For any naysayers about the size, pace, venue, or avenue, it is Dean & I’s dream.  Deanna’s Cottage will grow. We are building our dream one step at a time.  More in the years ahead …

Our grandchildren continue to flourish.  Dean’s granddaughter, 2-year old Elise has developed into her own person.  Loves art, music, & hands-on anything!  My youngest grandchild, Eli shines in math & finally had a buddy move in his neighborhood.  Ella needs to stop growing!  Such a kind, pretty young lady she is.  My oldest granddaughter, Hannah, is in her last year of homeschooling.  Another artsy one.  The last I heard she wants to be a tattoo artist, but had thoughts about nursing.  Either or both paths are the right one for her.  I understand that pull in vocational choices based on gift areas. Libby is thriving in her 1st year of high school, active with choir, & quite the artist as well.  What is it about our girls & art?  My Brendan is the other one that needs to stop growing! He excels in his height along with sports & academics.

Our beloved, Midnight passed away in June just before Father’s Day. The memories we had with him during his puppy, young & older adult doggy years I will treasure forever.  Dean & I had him his last 5 years after my father passed away.  Though I hesitated at the first, Dean embraced being Midnight’s new master when the need was brought to our attention.  This Labrador brought so much liveliness & love to our home & our extended family.  We miss our Midnight.  Another doggy will come into our home later, maybe when we retire.  Our feline, Celine stays at the St. Peters house.  She is getting too old for another change.  We have granddogs & grandcats always in plenty.

The growing season was shorter this year. This spring I missed the window of opportunity to sow my greens like arugula, lettuce, & spinach because it was winter up until mid-May.  Summer came 2 weeks later!  In our screen house we again had monster tomato plants produce some delicious cherry tomatoes.  I still have a few of those green tomatoes picked before Jack Frost came that are turning red in a bowl set in the kitchen window.  Boone Hollow Farm where the screenhouse/greenhouse seats is still a serene place for Dean & myself to hide away during a workweek evening or weekend.  Just 30 minutes of the country quiet & picking weeds or vegetables can restore my blood pressure & sanity to normal.

Dean continues to serve & learn from the clients that come into the research room at the National Archives.  The stories the researchers & employees uncover are quite entertaining.  Throughout the year we go out for happy hours or dinners with his clients.  My work with the employee wellness program at St. Louis County was nationally recognized by the American Heart Association this year, after 10 years of creative efforts & hard work.  In 2019, I along with other wellness professionals in the St. Louis region will address diabetes & glucose issues.  I can personally vouch that regular physical activity keeps those numbers in line.  I was walking 10,000 steps a day this year, & am now challenged by the cold temps.  Our basement will be put into use over the winter months just like the underground tunnel at work.

Advent season sets the stage of waiting in hope & a readiness for the Gift.  The Gift of Jesus is there to embrace any day & any time.  Our hopes are birthed in Him.  One of our children has a hope for healing of chronic health conditions of degenerative disc disease & arachnoiditis against the current medical odds.  Conventional medicine has harmed more than helped, so alternative therapies are sought for pain management.  Missouri joins the legalization of marijuana, a miracle in itself.  Another one of our children is waiting & has a hope for having a child.  Dean & I continue to pray for our daughters & sons.  And for each of us who have a hope whether tiny or big, impregnate our whole being, let the joy of knowing that our God reigns, He cares, He loves us right now just as we are.  Look to Him for security. “Hope as an anchor” is what I pray for you & our loved ones this holiday season & long into 2019!

 

Back When

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The “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign in the store front window caught my attention.  Fresh pine scent, the friendly “howdy” greeting, footsteps on the squeaky wood-planked floor, and the jingle of the door bells as I enter and close the door into the little gift shop … each liven my senses … bring me to back when.  A little pony-tailed blonde-haired girl.  Cannot wait for the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years.  But all the events leading to those wonder-filled holidays.  Baking, decorating, crafting, wrapping, and for me living on a tree farm, setting up the pine trees to sell.  Always Thanksgiving weekend my Dad and Grandpa brought in a truck and trailer overflowed with fresh cut Christmas trees.  Scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees planted, trimmed, and cared for by Dad, and any family members looking for some extra $$ pitched in.  My siblings and I included.  We would play hide-n-seek in the pile of cut trees until there were no more to set-up.  Snow, ice, or rain, it did not matter. Wholesome fun. We had the time of our lives back when.

 

A weekend away in Branson, Missouri for early Christmas shopping and a membership inquiry with a vacation club for more of these empty nest long weekends and longer week dream vacations.  Dean and I are local shoppers, whether in our home town of St. Charles, Missouri or while on vacation.  There is something down-to-earth about brick & mortar and mom & pop shops.  Branson has the downtown landing and tourist attractions, but take us where the locals shop, eat, and play, please!  Nostalgic Dicks 5 & 10, Main Street Flea Market, the Classy Flea, and the Farmhouse Restaurant … Back when the Nativity was in every shop, home, and city hall.  The holidays included real pine rope trimmings with bright red velvet bow wreaths and pine cones.  Back when that fresh field-cut Charlie Brown tree was dressed with hand-sewn ornaments, Shiny Brite glass balls, and a collection of heirloom from Germany or England, wherever your family originated from.  Back when home-baked breads were served at every meal with a home-jarred fruit preserves, and your favorite sugar cookies piled on a plate or in a large jar for the eating any time.  But not too close to your mother’s or grandmother’s home-cooked dinner, “not to spoil your appetite”.  The house smelled of a fresh pot of chicken & dumplings.  I imagine my father’s Christmases in the 1940’s.  Filled with joy to have his father, my Grandpa Earl back home from the war.  Grandma Anna doting over the menu preparations.  Two or three simply wrapped presents with his name “Marty” on the tags under the tinseled Christmas tree.  Back when is close to my heart at this present moment in the guest bedroom of our 1940’s house.  My family has been blessed with fond memories and we will make more.

 

Tending

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“There are some things we can never really possess; we simply take our brief turn at tending them,” writes author Dominique Browning about relationships, homes, and gardens.  Our children are with us for a short time.  Then gone from our homes tending to own adventures in life. Remember they belong to our heavenly Father from conception on. Our homes whether you reside for 5 or 50 years are molded to suit your needs.  Then you move to establish another residence elsewhere based on new needs and desires, and for some people multiple times in your lifetime.  “Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare, and left the flushed print in a poppy there,” poet Francis Thompson writes.  Gardens differ from the voluntary poppy blooming on the lakeside, a potted geranium, trays of microgreens, elaborate rows of organic beans in raised beds, to the caged tomato plants.  All tended with care by the gardener and mother nature.

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Jane Lewis’ song Tend Me Like a Garden defines “tending” well … 

I wish you would tend me like I was a garden. Start me from scratch, babe, right from seed. You could plant me with your bare hands in the springtime. And bring me water whenever I had the need. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. Oh won’t you take me into your garden. Lie with me on this fertile ground. I will feed you with my body. And bathe you in the sunshine coming down. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain.  I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away. I will love you through all of the seasons. I’ll weather what the fall and summer bring. I may lie fallow in the winter. But I swear that I’ll remember you in spring. Tend me, tend me like a garden. Love me, love me like the rain. I will give you all that you can harvest. ‘Til the first frost steals me away I swear that I’ll remember you…

What relationship in your life needs tending today?

 

A Different Season

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wild violetsSpring finally arrived but transitioned into summer within days.  80 and even 90 temps have come quickly after such a long winter.  I have not put in my vegetable and herb garden yet.  Yes, I know.  A sense of guilt for the early crop of greens I missed.  But the garden will get planted.  It has been one cold spell after another, one distraction after another, and one rainy day after another.

We brought the perennials outside yesterday.  Some survived the winter in the semi-heated garage, and others did not.  After a good soaking last night, my potted greenery seems to relish the mild outdoor air and misty morning rain this Sunday.  My arrowhead plant has taken a beating from the baby kitten newly adopted.  “Little WeeWot”, I dubbed him, who likes to hop from the tall ceramic pot up onto the buffet where he has full view of the kitchen.  He even lays on the arrowhead plant to nap.  The arrowhead plant is now housed next to the porch under the Japanese red maple.  Such a pleasant sight this morning to see its branches perked up looking for the sunlight on this overcast day.  Hopefully, just the song birds perch on the potted plant.

This spring has been a different season.  I see my plants tell my story, my life. Gone with the dead, on with the living.  Browns and grays have passed away.  Green and vivacious colors reign again.  Flowers of red, purple, blues, and yellow spring forth and fill the pots overflowing.  Relationships renew.  Love lavishly wins.  Always. Tulips