Category Archives: culinaire

Summer Rains

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The summer rains woke me this morning.  Typically, it is the sun peeking through the white curtains in our bedroom or the first tweets of our neighborhood birds that welcome me to the new day.   The earth needed some fresh rain water in my spot of the world.  And so it did just that, watered our flowers, plants, and grass to a vivid green.   “Aw”, my green friends say.  What a lovely, milder day of summer we had today.

My 3-mile power walk will need to wait until tomorrow.  During our morning computer screen break between rains, Dean and I took a casual walk up the street to the newly opened coffee shop.  A unique place, a coffee roaster situated in an old auto brake shop, Upshot Coffee Brake Shop.  Dean treats himself to a cappuccino, and I to a herbal tea.  I think this new establishment will be a once-in-awhile daytime perch for us during these mundane work-from-home arrangements, like it was today.  Make it a special walk for a special moment in time.

 

Garden Envy

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I can be a little green with envy about gardens.  Pun intended.  Garden envy.  Any gardener out there can relate.  When I walk the streets of my town or thumb through a magazine I love looking at neighborhood gardens, the trees, flowers, veggies, and pots.  Our neighbors are creative with their plant, container, and cute garden art selections.  The most impressive are these moss baskets placed atop tall wooden posts.  Baby’s breath, impatiens, possibly geraniums cascade from holes inside the moss lining as well overflow from the top.  Dean and I plan to put in three of these planter poles and baskets in the new mulched terrace in the side yard next spring.  The flowers can be admired from our living room and bedroom windows as well as from the front and back yards.

While on vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia Dean and I visited the site of the oldest governor’s mansion.  Of course, the mansion, grounds buildings, and gardens are replicas.  We came across a colonial garden that captured my gaze for a few minutes.  I took this photo before we moved on with the tour.  The garden was not big, but big enough to yield a family a good share of food supply through the winter months.  All the rows neat and tidy.  Herbs in one patch; corn, vining beans or peas, squash and pumpkins create the 3-sisters in another patch; tomatoes and pepper plants caged, with flowering zinnias and marigolds surround.  So I am impressed to recreate a colonial-style garden for the next growing year.  I need to gather some books on colonial gardens to read over the winter months.  So what have you seen in a yard or garden that you would like to try for next year?  Or are you up to your eyeballs in zucchini and tomatoes right now to even think about next year’s garden like my friends Elizabeth and Gary in Festus, Missouri?  Take pride and you have grower’s bragging rights!  Happy gardening everyone!!!

Summer Labors of Love

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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?

 

Bolted Greens and Heighten Senses

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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.

Cottage Projects And Purposes

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Dean and I have been living in this WWII era small home in historic St. Charles, Missouri for just under 2 years.  It is Dean’s dream home, and becoming mine. Deanna’s Cottage is the name we give this home.  In 2019 the cottage had been rented out via Airbnb for 7 festival weekends.  It has such an ideal location, just 6 blocks from Historic Main Street. Each of our cottage guests have rated our little place 5-stars.  Thus far this year, the pandemic has kept us from renting Deanna’s Cottage.  It will be the second half of 2020 before we will accept reservations again on Airbnb, provided the threat of COVID-19 has subsided significantly.  Those weekends when the guests come stay at Deanna’s Cottage, we stay at our previous residence.  Our old house is rented to my daughter and son-in-law, a family of four.  There is our old bedroom we invade for 2 nights at a time with our feline friend, Celine who has taken permanent residence there.

With the social distancing for 6 weeks now in the state of Missouri, we have more time on our hands. We would rather be visiting with our kids, grandkids, parents, siblings, and friends on the weekends.  Sure understand why, and respect the rules set in order for this invasive virus to die down, but it is hard not to be with everyone.  Our two youngest grandkids have April birthdays.  We left the fixings for a birthday party on the porch and did a drive-by birthday greeting for the 10-year grandson earlier this month.  But our 4-year granddaughter will not understand why Grandpa and Grandma cannot stop to visit.  So birthday presents were sent in the mail to the other side of Missouri for our granddaughter to open on her birthday this Sunday.  May be able a Facetime event.

So what else to do with all this time, especially on the weekends?  We gained 2 hours every weekday with telecommuting, and little prep for work.  So one project after another runs in Dean and I’s heads separately and collectively with conversations and plans to follow.  We have plans to take out the carpeting in the living room, hallway, and master bedroom to get to the bare wooden floors.  We are not sure what we will find, so we have put that off for awhile.  We think it will take old-fashion time and elbow-grease with refinishing the floors.  And what to do with the furniture while we work on it?  With the lovely spring weather, outdoor projects have taken priority.  Off and on since last autumn Dean has worked on the windows, scrapping, glazing, priming, and painting.  That project is weather dependent. The awning over the front porch needs repainting.  The back awnings just need to be removed.  The back porch/deck needs to be replaced.  Fencing replaced, too.  And then there is the landscaping.  This includes a huge tree removal, resetting a small retention wall on one side of the house, and putting in a pebble patio in the front with a small fountain.  I love this project as it means a lawn chair to sit in at the end of a long day to relax under the dogwood tree sipping on iced tea or a cup of hot tea.  The weather temperature tells me which.

I have many longer-term plans in my mind for Deanna’s Cottage.  Did you ever hear of the book A Place Of My Own: The Architecture Of Daydreams by healthy food activist and author, Michael Pollan?  He dreams of a small structure, then he builds it himself, and uses as his writing studio.  A quiet space, purposeful place.  I found this cute place online used as a small venue for parties, showers, rehearsal dinner, and luncheons.  I could see Deanna’s Cottage used as a small gathering place such as this.  I can also see a quainter dwelling, maybe about 500 square-foot to be built in the big back yard within the next 5 years used as an atelier for reading, writing and art projects, but also for periodic guests and gatherings.  My flower, herb, and vegetable gardens surrounding the dwelling. But what does God purpose for Dean and I at Deanna’s Cottage, and this smaller structure I dream about?

 

April Evening At Boone Hollow Farm

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The vivid beauty of this spring season is present at Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance, Missouri.  In our attempt to get away from the urban or should I say “world” troubles, this farm became our mid-week oasis. It is almost magical at the farm where Dean and I’s greenhouse seats.  The lowering sun illuminated the purples and greens in the fields and groves of trees, the grass plush.  Birds singing their evening tunes, frogs peeping in unison, sheep in the neighbor farmyard baaing.  A serene symphony of countryside calm.  My country garden is a dwelling place for me, a bed to lay my cares aside.  Our sowed seedlings in the screenhouse side of the greenhouse are coming up well.  We are hopeful the leafy greens will be ready to provide the base for our salads by the end of April or early May.  In the mist of viral chaos there is a dwelling place for each of us, even if it is just in the mind.

 

Sanity Strolls

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The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter.  The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day.  The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches.  The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day.  We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up.  Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity.  Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us.  We now take a stroll twice a day everyday.  We see neighbors about, too.  If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately.  The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk.  First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom.  The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after.  Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display.  Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire.  Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.

 

 

Then There Is Gardening

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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.

 

 

Impromptu Sunday Drive

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What a lovely day, so much like Spring.  The daffodils started to bloom at our cottage this week.  The gold finches are molting more each day in preparation for their spring and summer survival colors.  Scripture reminds us not to worry about what to wear and what to eat as God supplies.  “Look at the birds of the air…”  I think Dean and I supply plenty of seeds for the song birds in our neighborhood besides what naturally exists.  Not that God doesn’t supply adequately enough, we just enjoy the entertainment of the songbirds outside our living room window at the feeders.

The mild temperatures warranted an impromptu drive this Sunday afternoon to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.  We packed a picnic lunch and stopped in the little historic river village, Elsah. We relished the quiet park and tiny town while munching on our sandwiches.  Then we made our way to the river hubbub of Grafton, IL.  Bikers, antique cars, and convertibles seem to take over the town.  We managed to park the car and found a few little antique and gift shops to peruse.  Such lovely art pieces.  I found a garden sign with spring-like embellishments for my arrowhead planter.  Just a matter of another 6 weeks before the houseplants go outside, and Easter 5 weeks away.  Spring-like rains and weather continue this week with a winter return next week.  Well, today I cherished this early taste of spring.

 

Feathery Life

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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.