I took cuttings from our philodendrons and ivies one last time. Then Dean and I brought our perennials into the basement, and herbs into the kitchen before the first frost, almost 2 weeks ago. Our plants are now ready for their first good watering indoors this cold season. Reality has set in with a hard freeze, the cold hard truth this morning, again tomorrow morning. Temperatures into the mid-20’s already. I rescued the two lone zinnia blooms to give them a few more days in a vase. We captured time at the parks with some of the grandkids these past weekends. I observed a little frog sunning one afternoon. Autumn decor decorates the door, porch, and house indoors. Extra quilts and blankets on the beds. I think we are ready for this 5-month cold weather season. Are you ready for the cold hard truth? What is that cold truth in your life today that is hard to face? I have a few of my own. God’s grace is sufficient for you and me. It has to be, otherwise, we could not continue. God is good to each of us, and His love surrounds us.
Autumn weather lingers well past Thanksgiving into December, now on this winter solstice. My purple pansies still bloom on the porch. This month severe weather plagued our Midwest. Over 8 years ago a summer tornado went above Dean and I while at our greenhouse on Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. That tornado touched down in nearby Weldon Springs and Harvester that Friday evening. I wrote my account of the experience in this blog post https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures/. This year on December 10, another Friday night tornado touched down just yards from our greenhouse, leveling several homes, barns, and outbuildings in a 3-mile stretch on Highway F outside of Defiance. Sadly, one fatality. Farmer Chuck explains the hole in his barn door, “I can’t imagine the power needed to pick up the huge oak beam and throw it like a spear across the road, through the trees and into the barn door.” This beam was hurtled across Highway F from one farm to another. Dean and I watched online while the local meteorologists reported a tornado on the ground in Defiance. We waited to go out to the farm, went the following afternoon to allow utility linesmen to get the lines off the roads. By the grace of God our greenhouse still stands untouched. Mother Nature’s temper tantrum disrupted this rural town much like our granddaughter’s protest for her 2nd COVID vaccine. Wasn’t one enough? The community rallies around the survivors to clean up and rebuild as Christmas and the New Year approach.
This Advent season I wait for Him. I prepare my heart. “Make me blameless, white as snow through Jesus Christ,” I pray. “Keep me on task, direct me to Your purposes. Speak to me, Lord.” The word “advent” means “to come” or “arrive” in Latin. Holiday music, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and baking fill my unhurried post-retirement days. There was one Christmas many moons ago, 29 years ago to be exact when I was post-partum with my son that I was most relaxed and prepared for the holidays. Ben was due around Thanksgiving, so I knew I would need to get the holiday tasks finished prior to his arrival. I eased into the holidays at an easy pace and a peace like no other to this day because I prepared. My Ben was a miracle baby, and I knew God’s hands were on us. Let me approach this Christmas and New Year knowing Your hands on me and those around me. “Let the storms of this life dissipate.” As Alan Jackson sings …
“Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the hearts of all people both near and afar
Feel the love of the season wherever you are
On the small country roads lined with green mistletoe
Big city streets where a thousand lights glow.
Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere …”
“Let there be love that lasts through the year.”~ Alan Jackson
A sea of familiar, friendly faces gathered in one room for a celebration. The birthday boy could not account for so many loved ones at his surprise 60th birthday party. But that is how many people this one generous, loving person has touched, and countless more Gary will never know how he blessed through his music and smiling face. One humble life touched so many others as witnessed at this joyous occasion. I am one of the many friends fortunate enough to cross Gary’s path and know he is God’s own.
What legacy will you leave? I ask myself that question. I hope the joy found in God’s creations like the millions of plants, flowers, birds, clouds, the stars in the night sky, critters, and His people’s uniqueness are evident in my words shared. Creativity in words through stories, poems, and blogs as well as in the canvas of gardens, vignettes, and recipes where I have captured a glimpse of God’s goodness for each of us. I point the direction of our Creator. He has the answer to this world, and all its ills. Prayer is the key that unlocks (or locks) a billion “whys” and “why nots” I personally cannot own. God knows. He is all-knowing, Omni-present. It is His perfect timing. His perfect love. His Son, Jesus Christ. What is God whispering to you above the shouts of this world? What print will be imbedded on this Earth because you have been placed here for such a time as this?
Prayers, proposals, projects, lesson plans, puppy love, and plenty of laundry all in a week’s time. Last year it was a major yard project in building a rock and fountain garden as well as a pebble patio area and replanting some hydrangeas in the newly mulched area of the side yard. This year it is the sorting, then removal of home goods and furniture with major cleaning and sprucing up of my mother’s villa for the real estate market. Dean and I along with my brother and sister-in-law spent hours and hours of hard work these past 4 weeks. Carpentry, electrical, gardening, sorting, and scrubbing. Summer gave us the time for very purposed labor. The gift is one sparkling clean, revamped premium piece of real estate during a prime time market. We have prayed for the just right buyer and the St. Joseph statue is buried in the mum garden. “O Saint Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers”.
Between jobs and the villa, we celebrated our youngest grandson’s first birthday last weekend and fostered the cutest rescue puppy ever for a week. I had wished we could have adopted him, but Dean and I aren’t ready for that long-term commitment yet. Peanut Butter goes to the loving home of Dean’s brother’s family. I believe these words ring true today that St. Francis shared many years ago. “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We hosted two ladies at our Airbnb cottage over the weekend, the first time since COVID hit our area. There is plenty of laundry and sanitizing this Monday. September’s lesson plans and my class proposal for the spring semester are due this week. My “Soups On!” class needs more students. Interested to learn how to make my Italian stone soup, chicken-vegetable noodle soup, and my famous potato soup? Sign-up at http://www.stchas.edu/learnforlife under culinary classes/seasonal favorites. Guess what, four contracts came in after the Open House on the villa this past weekend! And these contracts are for more than we asked for! Thank you, God and St. Joseph! My siblings and I decided on an attractive contract, and its being worked on as I blog.
“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!
This summer continues to bring us more opportunities for projects at Deanna’s Cottage. Dean and I put in new retaining walls between our house and the church next door. Dean did most of the labor as the blocks were much too heavy for me. But I was able to handle the capstones and raking of the weeds and sparse grass. We will cover the space with landscape fabric and mulch another weekend. There are three hydrangeas not blooming because they are under the humongous tulip poplar tree in the backyard not getting enough sunlight. So later this summer when it cools a bit we will transplant them to this new south-side space, where it is evenly sun and shade throughout the day.
The last harvest of our spring crop of arugula went into this crustless quiche. Much like wilted spinach, I sauteed the chopped arugula with chopped shallots in bacon bits and drippings before folding into the egg and gouda cheese mixture. I removed the tough stems in the bigger leaves before chopping, so this becomes a labor of love. Similarly, the lemon herb tea bread I made included fresh sprigs of my potted lemon basil and lemon thyme steeped in steamed milk. Then, the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest were folded into the dough. Oh, so lemony! A luscious summer bread for breakfast. I made cake muffins with this batch. If topped with sliced strawberries and dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, it is a delightful summer dessert. What are you making with your garden goodies?
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.
The snow storm has all the schools closed as well as many offices closed or on a shorten day. Dean’s office closed for the whole day and my office closed before lunch. Fortunately our Jeep gets us through everything thus far that Missouri’s winters have dished out. Don’t know what we will do when that vehicle dies. Dependable. It has almost 300,000 miles on it. My Prince Charming came and swooped me up at the end of the sidewalk next to my Clayton office, onward to our cottage home in our blue metal carriage.
I came home to a bottle of Irish cream on the dining table and the Christmas tree set up, ready for the ornaments and trimmings. A festive afternoon it is to be. What a thoughtful hubby! The cottage is small, and as well as our tree. We always wait about a week before Christmas to decorate our tree. Boxes of our holiday trimmings were brought up from the basement. We had such a cozy day into the evening with the snow falling outside the window, Christmas carols playing, hanging the ornaments, decking the rooms, the warmth of the smooth spirits, butter cookies, and snuggles.
Our European friends create this atmosphere naturally through their traditions. “Koselig is a feeling: that of coziness, intimacy, warmth, happiness, being content. To achieve the feeling of koselig, you need koselig things. In darker months, cafes provide blankets on their outdoor chairs, and shops light their entrances with candles,” written in Living In Norway by David Nikel. “You could roughly translate koselig (pronounced “koosh-lee”), as ‘coziness,’ but that leaves out crucial components of it, like enjoying the company of others and a connection with nature. There’s no direct English translation, but there are regional equivalents such as the Swedish ‘mys,’ the Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ and the most well-known of these, the Danish ‘hygge’,” writes David G. Allan in is CNN health and wellness column “The Wisdom Project”. “Basically anything can (and should) be koselig: a house, a conversation, a dinner, a person. It defines something/someone /an atmosphere that makes you feel a sense of warmth very deep inside in a way that all things should be: simple and comforting… a single word to express all at once love, friendship, comfort, trust, and most of all happiness” author, Lorelou Desjardins describes “koselig” in her blog Frog in the Fjord.
So what makes you feel love, friendship, comfort, trust, and happiness all at once? Could it be hot chocolate with home-baked cookies, sipping spirits, fire in the fireplace, candles lit, warm socks, cozy blankets, homemade jam made with local berries, snug long johns, soft flannel, oversized sweaters, scarves, slow & soft music, nature brought indoors, vegetation draped on a table top, and a communal encounter with a Christmas carol? I wish you koselig this holiday season and into the New Year.
Bit by bit we are making headway on the entryways to our 1940’s home. Last month it was our front door. It is a nifty turquoise color, a welcome to anyone in our St. Charles, Missouri neighborhood. This afternoon my hubby, Dean was scrapping, glazing, and priming one of the windows in the living room of Deanna’s Cottage. He will paint the frame white next week. And we have 8 more windows to go. It is a labor of love!
Along with cherry tomatoes I picked my Genovese and Tai basils on Friday evening at the screenhouse/greenhouse located on Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. On Sunday the Genovese variety made some delicious pesto. I learned if you blanch the basil in boiling water for 5 seconds and immediately put into an ice bath it seals the bright green color. Drain and squeeze the water from the basil and add to the food processor with olive oil, walnuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese. For two half- pint jars of pesto, I used 8 cups of basil leaves. The Tai basil will be used for seasoning a chicken-veggie stir fry and riced cauliflower bowl this week. Again, a labor of love!
Ice hit the concrete sidewalks and streets last Sunday morning, like many other wintry mornings in Missouri. Looking outside the red twig dogwood glistened. Dean and I waited a bit for temperatures to increase, and then managed to get to church. It is an oxymoron, winter’s warmth. It is what winter does for us. Brings us indoors after weathering the cold, ice, and snow. Much like life. The warmth of home lures us back to comfort and simplicity. “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,” Gretchen Rubin writes. Another author Dominique Browning contemplates, “the banal moments of the day are the most seductive to me. It is in the lighting of a fire on a cold morning, or in the pouring of wine and the pulling up of chairs to read together at the end of an afternoon of errands, that love really exerts its magic.”
I miss a fireplace or wood stove to snuggle to in our little cottage, but have little niches in every room of our 4-room dwelling that seduce me. My favorite room is the kitchen. “So let’s dish out saucy praise for the place of crazy salads, spicy endearments, whispering souffles, sweetmeats, tender loins, and sticky fingers. That whirring, blending, mixed-up, soul-stirring, juice-dripping, hot-hearted room (the kitchen),” Dominique Browning writes in her book Slow Love. Kind of spicy, you say. That is what cooking in the kitchen does for my heart. Another weekend snow has developed this afternoon. Mini cheese-stuffed meatloaves, sweet potatoes, and banana-oat bread will grace our table this evening. Tomorrow I will chop fresh veggies to saute with Italian sausage for Italian stone soup accompanied with fresh-from-the-oven bread sticks. A casserole dish of homemade mac & cheese with a bowl of buttered edamame will be Sunday’s dinner.
I have plenty of library books to peruse and a jigsaw puzzle to piece together for this long weekend of winter warmth. Besides Dean and I have each other to keep the fire going …