“Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” author Gretchen Rubin wrote. I can so relate. And of course while in the kitchen I cooked and baked this long weekend. Some for Dean and I, and some for others needing an extra dose of love. “The people who give you their food, give you their heart,” Latino civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez once shared. “Cooking has nothing to do with the ingredients, but everything to do with love,” author Dominique Browning commented. I make-do with the ingredients in my well-stocked kitchen, but I beg to differ with Dominique that the right ingredients can make foods taste better. Muir Glen’s organic tomato sauce is the best for a rich red sauce contrasted with a from-scratch white sauce for spinach cannelloni. I happen to pick up a couple of cans last week. Of course, everything is done with love when it comes to cooking, even the acquiring of ingredients. That’s where my organic gardening comes in. Slow cooking, fresh, from-scratch and homemade reigns. “Through cooking, touching, feeling, preparing, and savoring good, real food made from real ingredients, I get to fully inhibit my kitchen; heal my body; connect with friends, family, the Earth, and the larger community where I live,” quoting Mark Hyman, MD. I had a fun weekend in my warm kitchen!
We have had such a wonderful spring for the garden greens, a full 3 months worth of mild temperatures and salads for at least 3 families. The summer heat cranked up this past 2 weeks, and the arugula bolted. Last week I pinched a few of the flowering buds, but as the temperatures increased so did the flowers on arugula. We finally cut the longer stemmed arugula and gathered enough stems for two vases. The fragrance was pleasantly earthy in the cottage for a couple days. The arugula gets bitter after bolting, so we say goodbye to our spring crop, and hope for a mild autumn to plant more. The lettuces loved the shade of the arugula, but will soon cease to produce due to the hot summer heat. That, too, will be an autumn crop if the weather permits.
This week the tropical storm brought Missouri cooler air. The windows are open for a welcoming breeze inside the cottage. The mustard & ketchup roses and yellow lilies grace our table and kitchen window. The herbs flourish to my delight, flavor enhancements and more nutrients to my dishes and drinks. What tops a glass of iced mint tea on a summer evening on the patio? The pleasures of gardening are many. And there is the more cynical view of gardening I had to laugh at. The other day I found this on a t-shirt online ad, “I garden so I don’t choke people. Save a life, send mulch.” With today’s societal woos, no wonder more people are picking up the hobby, rather I should say “the therapy of gardening”. The climates, weather and society, change from day to day, as author Madeliene L’Engle has been quoted, “If there is to be any peace or reason, we have create it in our own hearts and homes.” Have your heart and mind at peace and it will protect you and those around you.
This COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates have everyone’s routines turned upside down. Offices, schools, businesses, and now restaurant closings. Remote work and make-shift offices and classrooms at home. Priorities change, refocus on what is paramount, safety. As we as a world make improvising arrangements with our employment, schooling, medical care, dental care, traveling, vacationing, shopping, dining, banking, faith-based activities, entertainment, and list goes on. Cyberhackers take advantage, and magic potion con artists try their tactics. But such heart-warming people and their actions shine brighter. Did you see the California choir and their remote, online rendition of Over the Rainbow? How about those Christmas lights and décor shining bright, and the Christmas carols over the radio? The celebrities’ videos that keep us singing, laughing and smiling. Hotels opening their empty rooms to paramedics and medical staff for COVID-19 testing and quarantine stations. Neighbors helping each other with meals and errands. Have you sat quietly and prayed? I hope so. The world could use your prayers.
So after all the readjustments and new routines established, what are you doing with all the free time with no commutes or engagements? Cannot go out to the movies, ball game, concert, winery, coffee shop, or vacation destination. Please don’t turn to binge eating, drinking, or drugs. Keep yourself healthy and safe. Projects like deep cleaning, decluttering, home repairs, and yardwork are suggestions, maybe not so appealing to some. Indoor hobbies like scrapbooking, journaling, reading, painting, building a model, cooking, baking, making a music video, and blogging might be of interests. FaceTime, telephone, or do the old-fashion writing a letter to your friend or loved ones. How about going outdoors, while keeping your distance from others? Long walks on the paved sidewalk or trail in the woods, bird watch, shoot some hoops in your driveway court, or paint your front door a fresh color. Then there is gardening! I purchased my organic greens and herbs seeds, and will sow them in the warming organic soil at the screenhouse this week. My office plants came home with me, and I will attend to them under the plant lights of our basement. The Spring Equinox came yesterday evening, so perennial plants are closer to going outdoors each day. This season we will always remember. Make it a lemonade-out-of-lemons season. Just sweeten it up with your love, God’s love.
My mother and I went to the movies this afternoon. The young man scanning our purchased tickets was quite friendly, shared what day it was. National Margarita Day and Sweet Potato Day! He subscribes to the DailyHolidayBlog and says everyday is a holiday and celebration. The movie we saw said the same. We viewed the new movie version of Little Women, Louisa M Alcott’s book. What a wonderful movie. A reminder of the simpler things in life. “The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely,” Louisa M Alcott shared in one of her books. I love that era when this book was written, the late 1800’s as well as into early 1900’s. The photo with the mother holding the baby is my grandmother with her firstborn, my father taken in 1936 at the former farm and estate of a prominent businessman in the St. Louis area where my grandfather worked.
So Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks tunes played while I prepared dinner this evening at Deanna’s Cottage. I had the fixins for cranberry mimosas, not margaritas in the house. No sweet potatoes either, but made an egg casserole. I played around with my new craft supplies. I bought a couple of 75% discounted journals to embellish with collage art. Repurposed items will be used. This will be another creative outlet for me using words, color, and textures to express my heart. Feathery words and designs plague my mind all the time. Paisley prints and feathers swirl in my head while birds sing and nests perch on branches of leaves. I will share my new art form with friends and family and post photos on this blog as I come along in the collage crafting. Look for a new page coming soon.
We got through January with bouts of snow, ice, and cold rains. But the first two days in February softened up to temps in the 70’s by Super Bowl Sunday. What a gorgeous and glorious weekend. On Saturday I opened my eyes in the wee hours like a work day while the first February sunrise greeted me in its pink hues, flirting the Valentine’s Day’s colors. I had plans to get the house thoroughly cleaned after being away for the 2 weekends previous. I accomplished that but made the time to pull out the Valentine decorations. The big Valentine red heart wreath went on the turquoise door. An adorable welcome!
The neighborhood outdoor grills fired up on Sunday in celebration of the grand weather and football game. After church, Dean and I went outside for some outdoor chores. Dean washed layers of salt and junk off the car. It is spiffy and shiny now! I sanded a couple of outdoor furniture pieces. The old metal-framed glider that came with the house and carport finally had a sander workout. Down to some pretty smooth cedar planks. A coat of stain and varnish will go on the cedar planks after I finish sanding the metal frame and a coat of enamel on the frame. Most likely an early spring project after the frame color choice is decided on and more warm weekends.
A little child’s chair used as a perch on the front porch was a less than $10 purchase at a French Town antique shop last spring. It apparently had a layer of paint quickly brushed on it before I bought it. The paint peeled terribly when the cold weather arrived this past autumn. So I set the poor thing in the basement and waited for a break in the weather to sand and repaint it. Sunday was the day to get it started. A coat of white primer after the sanding. And then for artistic impression, “nifty turquoise” to match the front door. My mid-week artist’s project, painting will be a great diversion from this crazy world.
February is obviously a red month. Why look at the KC Chiefs, the Super Bowl champions! A sea of red confetti at the game and parades. Oh, we cannot forget Red Dress Day this Friday. Always the first Friday in February. Wear that red and be good to your heart. So the gray winter gets a splash or two of color, and I love it. The red and turquoise palette suits you well, February!
I love the life and sustainability that an organic garden brings. Health, wellness, goodness, and beauty prevail! As the autumn mornings get crisper, my herbs and tomatoes still produce. My garden plants will thrive until old man frost appears. Deanna Greens and Garden Art has been existence for over 7 years now. Some of Dean and I’s dreams have come true. The love of the earth and gardening came alive in me. “It takes some presumption to cut into the earth and to reshape and redefine – to alter the natural course of things, to commit to having planted a seed, to start a path with no idea, really, where it will lead,” writes Dominique Browning. More dreams opened up. This author continues “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling. Mental toiling, perhaps…turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” Gardening has brought a peace to my heart. And “It dawned on me: I had tended that garden in great, lavish, loving strokes. It had given me quiet, steady, demanding, and undemanding seasons of pleasure. I took care of the garden, then the garden took care of me.” ~ Dominique Browning.
My garden has taken care of heart matters as well as health matters. I received the most interesting report from my eye physician this week. He said he could tell I eat lots of green, leafy veggies by the photo taken of the inside of my eyes. Doc says my peepers are in excellent health, just the lens are getting older with age. A stronger lens for my glasses are ordered. According to https://yoursightmatters.com/greens-such-as-kale-good-for-eyesight/ “Green, leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, are good for eyesight and preventing age-related eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Greens contain cartenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote vision and the health of the retina.” Whatever I do not grow, I buy organic wherever able. Just eating as much leafy greens and veggies as possible, which means adding to the smoothies and omelets, using veggie-based pasta and riced cauliflower, and spooning fresh and dried herbs into my recipes. Yes, my garden sustains me.
Our Midnight. Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life. Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him. He loved people. He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”. He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course. He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet. He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus. He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights. He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup. He loved going out to “the farm”. Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing after all the waterfowl that lived in them. But he hated thunderstorms. Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside. One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota. The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening. Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us. We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse. The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek. I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!
Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11. And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years. It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age. Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family. He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004. Puppy love with huge paws. Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle. In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever. This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago. Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight. For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood. One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition. Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters. Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why. Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us. Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night. He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.
Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love. Our Midnight. We will always love you.
Outdoor gardening seized late October. My perennials appear to be in dormancy under the plant lights in the garage. Such a cold winter, the little heater is keeping the garage just above freezing. Sometimes life’s circumstances appear to keep us in dormancy like the season of winter. But winter is just one season, there are those three others. And really underneath it all, life is emerging from the roots, bulbs are multiplying, and green growth will reappear in just weeks. Valentine’s Day red comes in the midst of the bleak cold winter in this part of the world. We just celebrated National Wear Red Day, comes the first Friday in February each year, with women sporting red dresses and men vivid red ties which reminds us to take care of our hearts with healthy foods and ample physical activity. Valentine trinkets, cards, and boxes of chocolates are given with red cupids and hearts on February 14.
This winter holiday warms hearts for some, and leaves others wondering if they will ever find true love. The history of this holiday evolved like so many other holidays from Christian roots. Wikipedia tells us “St. Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell.” A original European tradition is to give St. Valentine’s keys to show love and with that goes the lore that these keys keep epilepsy away from your children. Now the golden key is gifted as a romantic symbol and an invitation to “unlock the giver’s heart”. Wow, what an invitation!
With Jesus you do not have to unlock the Giver’s heart. He gave all His love on the Cross. True love does come in Jesus! He is there for each of us. His love is perfect … it is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, or rude, and is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not like evil, and rejoices in the truth. His love always protects, hopes, perseveres, and never fails!
I chose to live this life alone over 12 years ago. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” one of the proverbs tell us. My heart was sick for too many years with an unhappy relationship. I only imagined what a happy marriage would be like. A come-true dream is a tree of life for me today. Eight years ago this July, Dean and I met on a semi-blind date arranged by his brother and sister-in-law. This tall, dark handsome man captured my eyes. But unlike the other bucks in the herd, Dean captured my heart. So happy I pursued this relationship. With our family backgrounds and life experiences, Dean and I came together like two peas in a pod, and we still are. Our pod is shared with our huge family almost every evening and every weekend. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is how an African proverb is told.
Dean and I needed to become just “two peas in a pod” again for a few days. We stole away to the Great Smokies, doing the Air B & B thing. Mountains, pines, music, and the visual and culinary arts we surrounded ourselves with. Despite the hot days while on a mountain culture retreat away from our Missouri life, I picked two big plastic bags full of leaf lettuce and a heaping bowl full of arugula and chives from my gardens this week. And those delectable garden peas! I love the pods picked fresh, and peas plucked out one at a time right into my open mouth like a baby bird awaiting mother robin’s wiggly worm catch after a rainy morn. The bountiful earth is feeding me (and my family and friends) goodness this spring. The longer and hotter days tell me the summer equinox is soon. Purple lobelia, wandering jew, and red geraniums are filling my moss baskets and terra-cotta pots. I thank God for watching over my beloved gardens while pursuing what captured my heart 8 years ago!
As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life. You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door. Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”. At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers. Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes. There can be a reward for those who are persistent.
Then there are the keys to life. Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.” Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general? Maybe both. In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light. In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing. Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones. Loving words. Encouragement. God holds “the key to my heart”. He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.
What door are you knocking on? What key will open the door, your life this very day?