I have been hibernating in the house for days now. I went out on Monday in between snow showers to pick up Dean at the train station after his Super Bowl weekend in Kansas City. Since then, I haven’t even stepped out to get the mail from the mailbox. Just plain too cold with the arctic blast! The sweatered teddy bear sits on the window still reminds folks that the warmth of love reigns in this home. The perfectly formed snowflakes glisten in the occasional sunlight while the colorful Valentine decorations, hot beverages, sweet treats, and my sweetheart, Dean will keep me cozy warm this 3-day holiday weekend. We have another week of these near zero-degree nights and less than 20-degrees days. What an opportunity for bird watching from our windows, writing, reading, cooking, baking, and movie watching! BTW: When did that groundhog say spring will arrive?
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!!!
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!
Missouri’s summer heats up in August. It started on the cooler side, but it is full-blown dripping hot now. The humidity does it, zaps the energy out of me. I am taking a couple of hours this afternoon in the air-conditioned cottage to reenergize myself. This summer I have managed to get a walk in every day while at work. I found a quiet, shady alley that provides some refuge from the madness in the middle of my day. Then flowers and gardening are my evening and weekend therapy. The blooms are flourishing.
This year Dean and I’s spare summer weekends are focused on repainting the window and door frames of our St. Charles cottage. Of course with a house that is 80 years old, projects are many. There is multiple layers of paint to sand down, so we get a smooth, clean coat of paint. We have found 3 layers with the front door frame and headboard. A coat of primer will go on the frame and headboard this evening, with the final white paint another “free” weekend. Then the front door is next. “Nifty turquoise” is the color of choice. Read The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell to know why I picked this color. Stay tuned for another post to follow with a picture of our finished project.
This weekend Dean and I hibernated in Hermann, Missouri. We were invited to stay at a lovely guest house by some wonderful folks. We took a gander at antiques and patronized a gift shop in the historic downtown area. The friendly salesman at the gift shop greeted us warmly and proceeded to tell us where he was from and why he retired in Hermann. This retired banker from St. Peters, my hometown says the cost of living is so reasonable in Hermann, and so many services cater to the aging population in the quaint German town. Just my thoughts exactly for the past almost 6 years, retiring in Hermann.
“You had me at ‘hello'” was displayed on a wooden sign in the gift shop. That would be my Dean and I. Love at the first sight, e-mail, FB message, and date 6-1/2 years ago. Our garden courtyard wedding took place 5-1/2 years ago just 4 blocks from where I stand at that gift shop. We had to pick up a pastry in this old Old World town. A local bakery was spotted amidst the neighborhood bars and shops. A kringle, “krakeling” filled with strawberry ooze called out our name as we perused the dessert selections. My diabetic diet just went to pot, but back on track come Monday. Besides the small town walking helped, right?
After an early Saturday dinner at the Tin Mill Brewery, Dean and I hung out with the local folks at the firehouse fundraiser mouse races. We fit right in, happy women with full hips and bearded men with a sense of humor. Homemade chili and desserts galore. Bids for cash and guns kept us on our toes. Loads of fun! The laughter got louder as the evening went with the number of empty beer & wine bottles and whiskey & coke glasses. German people know how to celebrate life! Not a need for a wedding or birthday to live life fully.
Sunshine beams through the tall-pane window as I sit in an elegant armed chair. Next to me my cup of hot Earl Grey tea laced with bergamot and half & half while a couple of Italian dark chocolate wafers await my consumption. This crisp January afternoon brings my dream to life once again. The heart dreams where the soul needs to be. Our house and bed & breakfast in Hermann, Missouri. We feel at home, at peace every time we come to Hermann. From the time we cross the lighted bridge over the Missouri River, we are home. Oh Hermann, we will be here to stay within 5 years.
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 days the pets as well as neighborhood squirrels and birds watch us as if we are their entertainment. Most other days, it is the reverse. The household and outside critters are our entertainment. Our pets, Midnight, Celine, Jonas, and Pennylane will greet us at the front door after a long day at work. The dog with a wagging tail and panting smile, and the feline friends with purrs and nudges to be petted. The birds and squirrels gather at the dogwood tree to feed on seeds at the feeder or underneath where the seed remnants lie on the leaf-mulched earth.
When asked what my new year’s resolution is, the word is “repurpose”. Repurpose items already obtained. Rejuvenate, repair, renovate, recycle, all to mean the same as repurpose. Utilize an item for a purpose or meaning once again. To go with this year’s theme of “repurpose”, this weekend I had purposed to wash all the stuffed animals and characters that have residence in our home. We have quite the collection of teddies, rabbits, chicks, dolls, doggies, and even a Tazmanian devil from my children and grandchildren. These toys provded hours of entertainment and occupied a hammock hung in the back bedroom or sit on the bay window seat. One basket situated in the living room was bed to some favorites, ready at a moment’s notice to be gathered into the arms of a visiting child. Since my daughter moved in, more space is needed in the back bedroom. We placed these critters in plastic bags until after the holiday madness simmered down. To the local laudromat we went with 3 large plastic bags, filled 2 front loading machines. Dean and I watched as the soapy faces plastered against the door windows, as if they muttered “help!” from their foaming mouths. After the wash cycle we dried the freshly washed critters for just a few minutes in a gigantic-sized dryer. We brought home the damp stuffed animals, lined them on the trundle bed to air dry. Dean captured this photo of their greeting smiles. A bath always makes you feel better! Later we turned the critters on their heads, with their backsides up to air dry. We waited for our Labrador, Midnight to land himself atop the stuffed critters as the trundle bed is one of his favorite spots to nap. But the stuffed critters remained undisturbed.
Maybe there were too many of the critters, slightly overwhelming? We think so. Two of these toys date back to 32 years ago, my oldest daughter’s 1st Christmas teddy and 1st birthday Hush Puppy. The Care Bear with a band-aid on his leg was given to my oldest when she recovered from appendicitis at age 5. Another doggy belonged to my other daughter, and a teddy with a blue beret belonged to my artsy son. Others are a handmade rabbit and doll from a special grandmother. So the other purpose for the communal bath and animal reunion was to donate the less familar clean, germ-free critters to Goodwill. Some other children to love on their cuteness, softness. Tote to a tea party, wagon ride, or bedtime. We filled 2 bags to repurpose. And the other special animals and dolls sit in the living room inside the white wicker basket with a pink-gingham cloth lining. These await another child’s love, maybe more grandbabies?
On Sunday morn, I awoke at my weekday rising time of 5 am something. My bio clock keeps ticking on time. Darn it anyway. I join my feline friends in the living room and lie on the trundle bed snuggled under the throw while gazing at the picture window. Celine and Jo are situated on the love seat next to the window, their favorite perching spot. Celine had been there for awhile, dozing from time to time until the tweet of a neighborhood sparrow arouses her. Jo, the single male cat in the house just arrived to the scene after his night of prowling in the house. He cackles at the birdie, premeditating the pounce. Jo, our daughter’s Tabby takes every opportunity to escape to the outdoors. I cannot blame him. Pennylane, known as “Pounds of Penny” snoozes while her sassy plumposity lies on the floor nearby. And Pixie, the eldest feline and Midnight, the dog have not awoke yet, snoring with the other remaining humankind in the bedrooms. I watch the December sky turn from a midnight blue to a fuzzy and fluffy white with a tinge of purple behind the bare tree silhouttes. The silence so clear, a quiet moment with God. Creation speaks as the pastor did at church later that morning. “Trees” written by Joyce Kilmer in 1914 …
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
My inner farmer tells me that an early frost will be here soon. Beware of the “f word”, Farmer Dave recently warns on his local radio talk show. Only 2 more days and it is offically autumn. Our bush beans have come to the end of their producing. We had some delicious green beans most of the summer months. The final harvest of our herbs will come this next week to 10 days. Last week we harvested buckets of basil, of which I made lemon-Tai pesto and Italian-Genovese pesto. The lemon-Tai pesto will compliment chicken breasts and rice for our Sunday dinner tomorrow. The Italian-Genovese pesto has made a pesto pasta as well as tangy pesto-mayo spread for turkey sandwiches this past week. I had given away basil for others to dabble with in their kitchens. Our summer savory, sage, and marjoram will hang to dry in the garage along side the dill we harvested a month ago. But before the final harvest, I will plant a pot of each herb for the kitchen window to use over the long winter months. Our tropical and house plants will come indoors to their winter home before Jack Frost has a chance to nip their leaves. This frost frenzy comes every year, but comes quickly even after a long summer when cooler air is welcomed. Grower beware.
“Herbs deserve to be used much more liberally,” quoting food writer and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. I keep telling my friends, family, and co-workers the marvelous benefits of herbs. Bursting flavor and full of nutrition! I recently found this guide, the ANDI guide which rates foods based on nutrient density. My ravings on herbs are justified according to ANDI. ANDI stands for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index,” a scoring system that rates foods on a scale from 1 to 1000 based on nutrient content. ANDI scores are calculated by evaluating an extensive range of micronutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
Here is a list of basic herbs and their scores to illustrate this concept.
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Bay Leaves/ 271
Basil rated the highest of all the herbs! Such an easy herb to grow in terra cotta pots in the kitchen window sill or in a sunny garden spot. Our bed of herbs in the screenhouse of our greenhouse include a few varieties of basil. Genovese, lemon, and Tai to name three. In the heat of the summer, it is prolific! Basil nutrients rate up there with arugula, leaf lettuce, and radishes. It’s about 50% the value of superfoods kale and garden cress, but 4 or 5 times more than soybeans or pinto beans. The Italian and Mediterranean cultures include basil in many of their recipes as well as Thai and Mexican cultures. Where I live and work in the St. Louis, Missouri region, there is an Italian restaurant or pizzeria on every corner of the block and in between. We love our pasta and pizza! My home kitchen has the flavors of Italy with my own fresh homegrown basil. Cost pennies to grow. Last night I made homemade pizza with a cup of fresh Genovese basil leaves cut into strips and atop tomato sauce, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, garlic and black olives. Sometimes its a veggie pizza, with chunky tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, arugula, black olives, etc. You know, the plumposity of veggies in a single slice of pizza pie! Then there’s pesto! It’s flavor tastes how the word sounds when you say it. PEST-O! More flavors to discover in this nutrient dense herb … sweet, lemon, Tai, spicy, lime, Genovese, cinnamon, anise. Cannot wait to make some lemon scones with the lemon basil this weekend. What herb has captured your taste buds?