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.
In my Missouri town my furry hat and leather gloves are needed when I get out and about this week. Winter’s chill is here to stay for a few months. It came before the winter solstice and Christmas this year. A fire in a wood stove or fireplace is welcomed, but the chillest of December days seem to warm up with good food, drink, and fellowship. Holiday celebrations are underway. The inner chef in me loves the holidays. With last week’s office party I made a traditional tiramisu to go with the Italian luncheon of pasta con broccoli and lettuce salad. For the extended family gathering last weekend, I prepared a 11-lb ham with a Bavarian-style glaze of brandy, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard with each family member pitching in with a homemade side dish or dessert. A cheese platter like this photo from Cabot will be designed for another celebration, with spirits served at each gathering. I want to connect with those I love, and those I need to love more … warming spirits and hearts. Tis the season, reason for the season. Hibernation will come later. Curling under a blanket with a book, writing, and dreaming. “Ham and green beans in my evening rice, with a glass of that good blackcherry wine on the side. Hibernation is a fine art!” ~David J. Beard.
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote. This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s. This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture. The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.
Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community. The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people. Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops. An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma. After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style. I slowly savored every bite. Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that. A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese. Gross! I could not finish it! The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family. See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia. I usually love the leaner slices! Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers: day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce. Tell you how it turned out on my next post.
So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”. It takes some planning and improvisation. My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs. Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal. Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost. As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.
I had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.
I begin this blog post with the verse in Jeremiah, reminding us each you are set apart for God’s purposes. “I knew you before I formed you … I set you apart.” This year has been a full one once again, full of people, projects, places, overflowing blessings, as well as trials and destructive floods. I still believe most people are good, and if working together we can build a barn quicker than alone. I believe the blessing jar is overflowing as the year ends, and dreams can stay alive as we share what we have been blessed with.
This time of year we each get a full course of people in huge portions just as the holiday foods. An upset stomach, headache, and exhaustion can result. Behaviors such as insecurity, jealousy, backbiting, plotting, exclusion displayed throughout the year will come about during the holidays, sometimes in bigger portions. Difficult encounters can be embraced with a smile and words of grace and truth. Ask for God’s grace! I do. Unless feelings are addressed by each person, little chance for reconciliation in relationships. I still believe in miracles. And I believe in dreaming. I believe a bigger home or second home will come about for Dean and I in 2016. What blessings overflowed for you in 2015? What are you believing for in 2016? I’d love to hear.
One water pipe can change the course of one’s life. A broken one anyway! Life took a U-turn or some may say a few steps back. I remind myself that life is not a linear course. There is so much to learn and experience for it to be a flat, straight line. Dean and I are back to the basics. Simple living arrangements in a 1-bedroom studio apartment in a hotel. Stripped to enough clothing for one week. And I am managing! Maybe I need to rid myself of the excess in my closets at home collecting dust? Same with food provisions. We manage without all the condiments in the frig and choices in the cupboards. What about all the nick nacks that we packed those 2 days immediately after the flood? I could give away or toss away into the trash. The basics indeed, and I am grateful to have a warm bed, comfortable couch, a stove to cook on, breakfast served daily, and the ability to write.
Our plan to buy a guest house in our beloved Hermann, Missouri was curtailed with the water main break in our home 2 weeks ago. We have to take care of our own residence before providing for others. Purples, lavendar, greens, and grapevines color my vision to share a tranquil retreat with others. This will come about … God’s perfect timing and plans. We focus on new flooring, walls, and doors for our home. God’s provisions and blessings. The basics and the details are in His hands.
The spirit of the season is seen with the vibrant autumn leaves, pumpkins, and gourds. As the day succumbs to the night sky, our solar mason jar lanterns along with our grandkids’ jack o lanterns give an amber glow near the front porch. With the soaking rains ceasing and fairly mild evening temperatures, we greet lots of trick-or-treaters while at the fire pit set up in the driveway. Dean and I kept warm while handing out sweet treats. We later retreated inside to excited grandkids with sacks full of candy.
This month is one devoted to thanksgiving. Gratitude fills my heart and tummy for food on our table. I am thankful for the ability to grow some of that food, as well as the ability to support the local farmer and grocer. I am thankful I have the ability to work and have a job to work at. I am thankful to God, my Creator for His Son, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that guides me
each day of my life. Without God the spirit of the season would not be here. He gives abundantly and much more than I deserve. That is called grace. Grace and gratitude does turn what we have into enough, enough so we can give to others in need of a warm bed to sleep in and provide nutritious food to eat. Listen to your neighbor, co-worker, and family member. One of them may be just the one who needs grace right now. And you and I are just ones to be God’s abundance to them.
I picked pea pods, lettuces, and herbs galore this past weekend. After a week of rain, the sun shined for a day. Finally, I was able to get to Boone Hollow Farm and Deanna Green And Gardens Art greenhouse without fear of rising creeks and rivers. I found an old saying in my book The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady “June damp and warm does the farmer no harm,” which I feel the local farmers and folks as far as Texas would disagree. Floods waters have ruined acres of crops. May be too late to try another round of crops this growing season.
Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire
Yesterday was the Midsummer Day in the US, the longest day of the year. A much celebrated day in the Old World and other countries around the world, but especially so amongst farm cultures and country folk. For some it is held on June 23 or 24. There are many rituals, most common is a bonfire. I had not the opportunity to have a bonfire for the summer solstice as we celebrated Father’s Day in Columbia, Missouri with family at a steak house. Does the flame from the grill count? No, I don’t think so. But the company and food was good. And it is not too long until the Minnesota destination of Valhalla on Island Lake. I will be memorized by the flames of many bonfires and the sound of chatter amongst friends.
I just told Father at church last week, I need to be more present moment. My job requires planning weeks and months ahead, and family life the same sometimes. I miss moments in the planning. Nothing like being present moment with a stomach bug. I came to a screeching stop. Not knowing which end to put on the toilet, and then sleeping most of the day and night the next 36 hours. Every waking moment is a “thank you” for life and sleep. I could hear and see the spring rains come down several times, raindrops rolling off the windowsill. The birds sang to their heart’s content. I went from eating nothing to sipping ginger ale to nippling a couple of saltine crackers, and finally today able to keep a piece of toast and a boiled egg down. I have always felt stock made from the bones can cure many ails, so a couple of chicken breasts went into the crockpot with Deanna Greens and Garden Art fresh herbs and Hannahway Farm’s homemade wine. I will be sipping a cup of homemade chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.
This afternoon I managed to put my jeans and a blouse on, and I believe I lost a couple of pounds. Not my idea of a weight loss program, but I will take the reduction any way. The trees and grass are greener. “You gotta take the thunder with the rain”, I tell our Midnight, our 85 lbs labrador/flat coat retriever mix. He is terrified of thunder, but loves the rain and sleet. He snuggled on the bed yesterday as a couple of thunder showers went through. More violent today, storms. This afternoon tornado watches and warnings have been issued. Midnight and I will keep a watch out. I find that relationships are a bit like storms, too. There is a time to play in the rain, and a time to find shelter from it. Gotta take the thunder with the rain.
All My Children … Isn’t that the name of a daytime drama? If you had not heard yet, there has been daytime and nighttime drama in St. Louis, Missouri area this past 8 days. A community is at unrest due to the fatal shooting of an 18-year black man by a white police officer in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson. Protests turned to riots have lead major destruction in St. Louis County. Upheaval with law enforcement, prosecutors, government officials locally up to federally, and racial activists have made Ferguson known globally. I work for St. Louis County Government housed in the police headquarters building working in the benefits and retirement office. The sounds of security dogs, helicopters circling, and target-shooting bullets are foreign to everyday Clayton, Missouri which is the county seat of St. Louis County. This week I heard it all. And I felt and heard the turmoil of several civil and police employees. I administer the employee assistance services, make sure counselors are there for any one of them … all my children.
It was the longest week I had worked. On Friday, my husband picked me up from my office building, our usual car-pooling routine. We drove out of St. Louis County homeward bound. Home sweet home. We decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat. Old Town St. Peters American Legion Hall, our destination. Americana at its best. Long-hairs and farmers celebrate in unison the weekend with a beer in one hand and a fried chicken wing in the other. All I could hear was happy conversation and laughter. Beer mugs clanging like cymbals. Music. Songs of joy. The most comforting sounds I heard all week. And despite it all, the Ferguson Farmers’ Market continued on Saturday and parishioners congregated and prayed in their churches on Sunday. Foundational truths do not change. Food and faith still remain the foundation of what man and woman needs. With today’s sermon I was reminded of the Biblical story of the Cannaanite woman that others would have ignored, but Jesus paid attention to this mother’s persistant request for her daughter. With faith I pray … Oh God hear my cry for all my children, youngest to the oldest, black, white, simple-minded, disabled, rich, poor. But if not for the grace of God, any one of us are unworthy. But God You give us each the gift of Jesus Christ. Accept and receive His forgiveness, so that you in turn can show the same towards others. So be it.