As the summer solstice approaches we relish the vibrant blooms in the gardens and roadside, as well in our homes. Our dream is to bloom with our kin folk. Dean and I refurbished our living room, a blend of fresh and vintage. Midnight, our Labrador is ready for the companionship of kin, and is on the welcome committee at our home. In the meantime a few recent travels take us to our families in other Missouri towns. Dean is such a proud father and grandfather. He carries his digital camera to capture the moments and shares his finds with zeal.
Late April we were blessed with another grandchild. Elise is Dean’s first born grandchild. Beautiful baby. We took the occasion and traveled to meet her early May when she was less than a week old, and another one this past weekend. The last Saturday in April we honored my deceased father, aunt, and uncle with a Relay For Life team of kin at the cancer relay held downtown St. Louis. Mother’s Day was a visit to an old lookout point in St. Francois County with my daughters and their families. We had another May day trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with my brother and sister-in-law. And there is summer league baseball with our oldest grandson, Brendan. The first weekend in June we celebrated the 30-year birthday of Dean’s daughter, Liz as well as the birth of our youngest grandchild, Elise.
“Let us be grateful for the people that make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
The dabbled gray sky has turn white this morn. A welcome sight. Big heavy snowflakes. Midnight heard me say “snow” while hunkered in his bed next his master’s side of the bed. Up he arose, click-clack on the wood floors, stretching before reaching the back door. Our Labrador was excited to go outdoors to see the white spectacle. We sure welcome this snowy Saturday.
Dean and I visited the house again today. Renovations are coming along nicely. Drywall and mud have been completed. The painter is working over this Saturday. Splashes of our new color choices were on the walls yesterday. Today the whole walls are cool hues, such a contrast to the gray sky. A shade of teal and blue in the kids’ room. Two shades of grayed blue in the 2nd bedroom. The master bedroom is “kissed blossom”, just a touch of lavender-pink. The bathroom is “bungalow white”. The living room has “pillow mint” suggesting a restful room. The adjoining kitchen ‘s”sweet mint”is a tinge deeper shade, reminds me of our garden herbs. Such a cool palette.
Dean and I finished a few Saturday errands, pet food and wild bird seed at the old town country store and a few other items at the crowded grocery store. The sky lightened for a bit, but soon the gray returned. A table lamp and cup of hot peach tea bring warm comfort into the house as I write. I anticipate more snow before the night is over. Temps are dropping and will dip down in the teens overnight. White bean chili and sweet potato muffins will bring coziness to the dinner table tonight. Might find a jigsaw puzzle to busy myself with this evening while the cats curl in their furry balls. Snuggle time with a warm throw, maybe Dean and Midnight to join on the couch.
Weekend before last the arctic cold blew in, causing our feathered friends to feed on seeds in and under the bird feeder hanging from the dogwood tree to stay warm. Our three feline friends, posted themselves on the back of the couch fixated on the birds just outside the living room window on several occasions throughout the day. Birds, and birds only. Dean captured Celine’s, Pennylane’s, and Jonas’ gaze out the window.
Do you remember the movie “City Slickers”? Do you remember what Jack Palance said to Billy Crystal about the secret of life while riding under the western sky?
“Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what YOU have to find out.”
At different seasons of my life, I find myself in Billy Crystal’s city slicker cowboy boots. And I am in one of those seasons now. I need to find out that “one thing”.
Some of my biggest stress relief is having a dog and a cat to come home to on any given day. Dean and I’s pets are our fan club. Unconditional love and acceptance. The other day I was greeted with the most pathetic whine from Midnight, like I was his long-lost buddy. Dean arrived home before I, and had the front window open to welcome the late afternoon spring air. I could hear Midnight when I pulled into the driveway. Some days when we unlock the front door we have a big black nose right there with a welcoming, waging tail. Other days, the black nose is resting on Dean and I’s bed. I have written about “Midnight”, our 85 lbs labrador, flat-coat retriever mix a few times, and mentioned our cat, “Celine” once or twice. At the end of our workday Celine usually meanders from the back bedroom stretching from her afternoon slumber trying to focus with her sleepy green eyes. Some days she stretches her front paws onto my leg, wanting to be picked up, hugged, cuddled, loved like a child. In the photo, Celine is awakening from an afternoon nap amongst the seedlings and other plants on the warming mats. My Dean has captured our pets in their most comical, yet common poses during or after their sleep. We have 6 “granddogs”, with the youngest “Bleu” shown in the photo. “Grandcats” are part of the family, too. Here is Pennylane, our youngest grandcat posing so cutely. Last night was another story. Thunderstorms ripped through our local area about 3:00am. Our Celine lowers herself to a crawl on the floor and hides. And our 85 lbs dog becomes a nervous wreck with each clapping thunder. He pants and paces from one room to another, one side of our bed to the other. Dean finally got up to give Midnight an herbal supplement that helps calm him. This morning I awoke to find Dean on the couch and Midnight on our bed. Guess who got more sleep?
At my full-time job I am inundated with wellness information constantly. Everyone and their brother have a new service or product to sell for one of the seven dimensions of wellness. I will expand on that concept in another post in the future. Working with employees on their wellness needs brings it back to me asking “what I am doing to take care of myself”? Creative ideas, programs, products, white papers, aggregate reports, diets, menus, and so forth pop in my head at any moment. Some of those ideas I apply to myself. Tai Chi and Weight Watchers At Work for this season in my life… This cold winter proves a challenge for many of us while we hibernate in our warm homes. Though this year I have devoted 10 minutes every morning to the 4-3-2-1 exercise routine … 4 minutes of cardio, 3 minutes of resistance, 2 minutes of abs, and 1 minute for stretches. This replaces the outdoor walks in nicer weather. Not only do I keep my body from idleness, in the evenings I fill the brain with articles, books, garden catalogues, blogs, poetry, art, and classic movies while curled on the recliner with a blanket sipping a cup of hot tea. In a few days the Winter Olympics will come to our TV screen after the Super Bowl hype is over. Meantime, I have picked up once again my copy of A Place of My Own
written by Michael Pollan. He writes about simple living in a place he built. This so relates to the greenhouse we built, thinking “look at what our hands have made”. No, look at what Dean has made. I credit my husband for his craft, skill, and diligence. My plants survive like I in the winter, but become vibrant once again come spring.
A couple of evenings ago I shared on this blog my healthy dinner menu and a recipe. (See “On The Menu”.) Last night we had comfort food, warm comfort to counteract the winter cold. I made a healthier version of chicken dumpling soup with a homemade veggie, herb,and chicken stock before spooning the herbed dumpling batter into the boiling brew. Did you know if you add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the liquid while cooking bone-in meat, more collagen and other anti-inflammatory nutrients will be drawn from the bones? This reserved liquid gold will be used for a seafood chowder recipe I have been mulling over in my mind for this weekend. My culinary vocabulary book cleared up the one question I had, “what is the difference between chowder and bisque?” Chowder has chunks of vegetables, and bisque has a puree of vegetables. Both often have cream in or served with. I will lighten my recipe with milk. I will make more stock from scallops. Cubed potatoes, shredded carrots, chunked celery and a medley of herbs will fill the soup pot just in time for the next arctic blast blowing Missouri’s way on Monday. This is my winter wellness. Cooking healthy foods, reading, writing, and those morning exercises.
“Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are whirling fast.”
~ Sara Coleridge
Veterans Day means another day off for the government worker. In the past, Dean and I have used this day for a long weekend trip, catch up on doctors’ appointments, and/or chores around the house or greenhouse. This year the whirl wind day encompassed doctors’ appointments for all three of us. The cold air literally blew in while we traveled 1 hour north for our labrador’s annual veterinary exam. We visited my father’s cementary site. Old flowers withered and brown, and I forgot to bring a sprig or two of colorful leaves and mums, Dad’s favorite flower. Not sure the wind would have allowed them to stay. The whirl winds brought the last of the leaves down, and a stark-gray filled this November afternoon. It followed us back to St. Charles County, Missouri.
My youngest daughter is in the hospital once again with major back issues. We make our way over to their apartment to watch after the two grandkids when they arrive home from school while our son-in-law stays with my daughter at the hospital. A congenial disorder she found out a few days ago, same as her older sister. My heart aches. A mother despises the pain her child is in no matter how old the child is. A sense of comfort envelopes me as I spend time with Libby and Brendan. The grace of God is evident in this family. We gathered under fleece throws while watching a Disney classic. The wind whipped about outside the patio window, frozen leaves nestled in the corner of the deck. Their three cats take turns for a gander as the howls come and go all evening. Spits of snow tell us winter will follow this whirl wind day. Good-bye autumn, my achey joints are not ready for winter yet.
The tax year of 2012 Dean and I both did not claim one of our six children as a tax dependent. It has been years for either of us since this has occurred. They are all grown up! According to our accountant, our tax deductions came from our greenhouse business this year, not our children. We took a loss this tax year, as last year. Greenhouse rebuilds are costly and timely. An expensive hobby rather than a business, maybe? I’d rather be playing in the dirt and planting green things for my eye palette or taste palette than gambling at the casino, perusing the neighborhood bars, or loafing on the couch. We have a hefty tax return coming which will in turn be reinvested into Deanna Greens And Garden Art. Electric for our structure is around the corner, with propane and solar heat as the next big investments.
I never viewed our Deanna Greens And Garden Art plants as dependents, but that is what they are. And they depend on us to thrive in this world. Water, food, and light on a regular basis, and Mother Nature does her part. I am so anxious for the weather to warm up enough to get our plants under the shelter of our unheated greenhouse. The plant lights in the garages have done good, but the natural sunlight is what the plants need to get greener, fuller, and growing with such vigor. Rain water (or snow in our case!) catching in the rain barrels will provide more minerals for our plants. After a few weeks in the greenhouse, the plants will be moved to the screenhouse to avoid scorching this summer. That scenario seems so far away. We are still under normal temperatures for March. Come on Spring, we need you!
Planning out the growing and market season, Dean and I will have some annual flowers such as marigolds, zinnias, and wildflower mixes. Marigolds are a great natural insect repellant for your vegetable garden and patio area. Zinnias and wildflowers make beautiful summer bouquets. Organic herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives, and nastrium will be sold live in pots of various sizes. We will make some potted herb gardens. Garden spoon signs and homemade lavendar soap will be brought to the farmers’ markets. I will design some relic stepping stones and have them ready for market on Mother’s Day weekend. And then there are houseplants, with succulents as our specialty plant. Currently, we are in search for unique pots to divide and transplant our huge succulents into. We hope to plant some vegetables for our consumption. Any leftovers will be frozen or stored for next winter’s pastas, stews, and soups. The circle of life … Parents provide and care for, grown children provide and care for …
Tune in for local farmers’ market information in my next post or two.
The winter storm came as the sundogs told us. (See my previous blog, “Sundog” for details.) Ice and snow kept falling creating treacherous road conditions. The 35-minute commute became a 2-hour slippery ride home from work. Three excited grandkids, their two tired parents, and two black labs greeted Dean and I at the door mid-afternoon. Celine and Lily, our house cats were perched on the couch cackling at the birds feeding outside the windows. Black-capped chickadees, juncos, bright red cardinals, house wrens, and 3 or 4 types of sparrows were our entertainment this afternoon. The feeders and trays were filled with a seed mix twice since yesterday morning, and our feathered friends kept their energy supply up with the seeds. Chirps were heard until sunset. A gray squirrel visited twice, digging in the pot under one of the feeders. He scurried up a stow-away pecan at each visit. Celine twitched her whiskers and tail with anticipation to meet eye-to-eye with the 4-legged visitor. The double-pane window stood in her way for a good chase. Soon our youngest grandson was napping with his momma, and our granddaughters took the dogs out for winter play in the backyard. My heart is happy, so glad I came home early today.