Vacation travels took Dean and I to the east coast in historic Charleston, South Carolina this past week. We relished the art, culture, history, and summer foliage that the city offers. We captured some unforgettable vignettes with alcoves, alleys, doors, windows, churches, homes, blooms, and green gardens galore. Its great to admire the gardens of other people, but always good to bring that admiration back to the home base despite the imperfections.
The summer solstice came and went without my celebration. I am sure the earth still celebrated! Too busy I would say. Yes, I need to slow down. Family engagements and work obligations continue to press me of my time, focus, and energy. Simply watering the potted plants or making a light, summer dinner is a chore. I have not stopped long enough to smell the roses or savor the flavors of summer. I took the day off today. Had to get some reprieve from the madness, gather my thoughts. Nothing like an upset stomach and headache to slow you down. Every year it is like this just before vacation finishing up projects at work, home and yard chores, making sure all the travel details are together. The air was unsettled this morning when I went out to water the potted perennials in the back yard. Something brewing. The clouds kept rolling in. Kind of like my recent hectic days building up.
I had no groceries in the house as we have been house and pet sitting this past week for two vacationing family households. I thought I would beat the eminent storm. It was like night by the time I gathered my $30 worth of protein and veggies into the Jeep. Big wet drops started to hit the pavement and my bare arms and sandaled feet. I managed to get to the cottage before the dark clouds totally let loose. Our first summer storm. How refreshing. I read Ann Voskamp’s timely words, “A soul does not work without a sabbath…Be still and know God…and not forget who you are.” There was a time in my life when I forgot who I was. And these memories too have preyed my mind these recent days. This vacation will be good for me. For Dean, too. Different scenery, a fresh view. I think a month-long vacation or sabbatical will be in 2020. Brewing for my next season in life …
Our 2018 is coming to a close very soon. Where did the year go?! Filled with memorable days with many of you, & for others not enough time together.
Our travels started with a February trip to Louisville, KY where we went to the “show of shows” for military & gun collectors. Foodie joints, the Louisville Slugger tour, & downtown were a part of the trip. Dean & I visited the St. Meinrad Archabbey. The architecture & gardens are stunning. Mother’s Day weekend included a combined mothers trip to Pella, IA to view the late spring tulips, a windmill tour, & indulge in Dutch fare. Memorial Day weekend Dean & I visited the Lincoln Museum & Home in Springfield, IL. Late June, we gathered up my Rachel’s three, & took a 4-day trip to Branson, MO where the go-carts reigned. Such fun with the grandkids! We had a short few days in Minnesota. It definitely was not long enough, but happy to relax & visit with in-law family in the Twin Cities and family friends on Island Lake part of the 4th of July week. Over Veteran’s Day weekend, we holiday & antique shopped in Branson.
Our big news for 2018 is our purchase of a small 1940’s home in historic St. Charles, just one Missouri River town closer to St. Louis metro. The weekday commutes to our offices have been easier, & the quietness of this older neighborhood so refreshing. Dean loves the WWII era, & his “man cave” basement. “Deanna’s Cottage” is a “work in progress”; new kitchen flooring, unveiling the hardwood floor under carpeting in the living room & our bedroom, new or no awnings (depends on if you ask Dean or Anna!), new fencing, taking down at least one huge tree, & building a “garage plus” in the big back yard are envisioned. It is a quaint 4-room dwelling, under 800 sq-ft love nest. We went small on purpose. We love visitors, but really love our empty nest! The comfy guest bedroom takes you back to the whimsical Edwardian era. It has been a blast finding 1930-40’s furniture pieces & 2nd-hand decor to decorate Deanna’s Cottage. We recently listed with Airbnb for the St. Charles festival weekends only. Being 7 blocks from historic Main Street makes our place an ideal hideaway for travelers. On those weekends while guests are at our cottage, we stay at our 4-bdrm St. Peters house, which is being rented to my daughter & son-in-law. Dean & I have experienced some Airbnb suites as guests before we opened up our home as hosts. The concept seems rather novel, but in past centuries many travelers stayed in common people’s homes. This century we are using electronics to facilitate bookings for lodging. Although not a traditional bed & breakfast, I will always leave some kitchen-made goodie for our guests, as I still love to bake & our guests gladly indulge. For any naysayers about the size, pace, venue, or avenue, it is Dean & I’s dream. Deanna’s Cottage will grow. We are building our dream one step at a time. More in the years ahead …
Our grandchildren continue to flourish. Dean’s granddaughter, 2-year old Elise has developed into her own person. Loves art, music, & hands-on anything! My youngest grandchild, Eli shines in math & finally had a buddy move in his neighborhood. Ella needs to stop growing! Such a kind, pretty young lady she is. My oldest granddaughter, Hannah, is in her last year of homeschooling. Another artsy one. The last I heard she wants to be a tattoo artist, but had thoughts about nursing. Either or both paths are the right one for her. I understand that pull in vocational choices based on gift areas. Libby is thriving in her 1st year of high school, active with choir, & quite the artist as well. What is it about our girls & art? My Brendan is the other one that needs to stop growing! He excels in his height along with sports & academics.
Our beloved, Midnight passed away in June just before Father’s Day. The memories we had with him during his puppy, young & older adult doggy years I will treasure forever. Dean & I had him his last 5 years after my father passed away. Though I hesitated at the first, Dean embraced being Midnight’s new master when the need was brought to our attention. This Labrador brought so much liveliness & love to our home & our extended family. We miss our Midnight. Another doggy will come into our home later, maybe when we retire. Our feline, Celine stays at the St. Peters house. She is getting too old for another change. We have granddogs & grandcats always in plenty.
The growing season was shorter this year. This spring I missed the window of opportunity to sow my greens like arugula, lettuce, & spinach because it was winter up until mid-May. Summer came 2 weeks later! In our screen house we again had monster tomato plants produce some delicious cherry tomatoes. I still have a few of those green tomatoes picked before Jack Frost came that are turning red in a bowl set in the kitchen window. Boone Hollow Farm where the screenhouse/greenhouse seats is still a serene place for Dean & myself to hide away during a workweek evening or weekend. Just 30 minutes of the country quiet & picking weeds or vegetables can restore my blood pressure & sanity to normal.
Dean continues to serve & learn from the clients that come into the research room at the National Archives. The stories the researchers & employees uncover are quite entertaining. Throughout the year we go out for happy hours or dinners with his clients. My work with the employee wellness program at St. Louis County was nationally recognized by the American Heart Association this year, after 10 years of creative efforts & hard work. In 2019, I along with other wellness professionals in the St. Louis region will address diabetes & glucose issues. I can personally vouch that regular physical activity keeps those numbers in line. I was walking 10,000 steps a day this year, & am now challenged by the cold temps. Our basement will be put into use over the winter months just like the underground tunnel at work.
Advent season sets the stage of waiting in hope & a readiness for the Gift. The Gift of Jesus is there to embrace any day & any time. Our hopes are birthed in Him. One of our children has a hope for healing of chronic health conditions of degenerative disc disease & arachnoiditis against the current medical odds. Conventional medicine has harmed more than helped, so alternative therapies are sought for pain management. Missouri joins the legalization of marijuana, a miracle in itself. Another one of our children is waiting & has a hope for having a child. Dean & I continue to pray for our daughters & sons. And for each of us who have a hope whether tiny or big, impregnate our whole being, let the joy of knowing that our God reigns, He cares, He loves us right now just as we are. Look to Him for security. “Hope as an anchor” is what I pray for you & our loved ones this holiday season & long into 2019!
Our Midnight. Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life. Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him. He loved people. He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”. He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course. He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet. He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus. He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights. He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup. He loved going out to “the farm”. Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing after all the waterfowl that lived in them. But he hated thunderstorms. Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside. One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota. The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening. Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us. We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse. The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek. I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!
Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11. And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years. It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age. Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family. He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004. Puppy love with huge paws. Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle. In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever. This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago. Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight. For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood. One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition. Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters. Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why. Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us. Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night. He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.
Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love. Our Midnight. We will always love you.
Dean and I visited The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. One quilt square made by a 9th-12th grade student was entitled “My Songbird”. The breast and belly of the bird was an artsy music note while the body had sheet music flowing into and out of the wings giving the illusion of flying. This quilt left an impression on my heart, the soul purpose of an art form. “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song”, an old Chinese saying I remember. I recall reading a book written by an artist who explained how to keep the creative juices flowing. Besides the routine practice of the art, an artist, musician, writer, or chef needs to surround themselves in beauty once a week for at least an hour, away from distractions. This can take place at a museum, library, garden, or in a city park. Beauty is everywhere. The repetitive motion of going to one quilted beauty after another, soothed my soul. “Garden Stars”, “Star Struck”, “Organic Garden”, “The Charm Of Small Pink Roses”, “Lime Light”, “Splendor In The Grass”, and “Instrument Of Praise” displayed wonderfully some of my favorite things in life. Each quilt told a story or captured color in stitches.
The trip to Paducah proved that my swollen body, every aching joint, and chest pain was due to the cold weather. All those symptoms had subsided during our getaway. We returned home this week to milder temperatures, so symptoms have not returned. In the past 5 weeks, I had a visit to the urgent care, the ER, my primary care’s office, and outpatient care. Blood tests, x-rays, and two nuclear heart tests showed I have a healthy heart and lungs. Thank you, Father! My body was reacting to the multiple days of frigid cold air. In case winter returns with venegence this month or the next winter season, I see the allergist/immunologist next week to discuss a more proactive approach to the cold-induced angiodema. I will hear out what the specialist says, though one local herbalist suggested a holistic remedy: 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper 3 times a day to lessen the effects of winter’s cold air. I need to grow some cayenne peppers this year. Unfortunately, the meteorologists say the earth goes through 100-year cycles, and we are now in a severe winter cycle. God, please no! I must keep in mind,“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” ~ Proverb from Guinea.
We had crisp mornings and evenings during our Minnesota vacation, as usual for the end of July into August. It is like Missouri’s September into October season. Apparently, Missouri has experienced the change in the air while we traveled back from the north country last weekend. The signs of autumn are in the air. Others feel it too. Talk of the “f” word, “frost” was on the 550 AM Farmer Dave’s radio show this week, talking like it may come earlier this year. At the spice shoppe visitors are buying apple butter, mulling spices, teas, chili powder, and soup mixes like autumn is here. I am enjoying a cup of hot tea every morning, my newest sensation is Stash brand chai white tea. I think remnants of the north followed us home.
Our vacation antique finds include a couple boxes full of Mason jars to make non-electric lanterns. $5 for the whole load of them. Love those bargains at the annual Crazy Days Sale in Park Rapids, Minnesota. Dean will repurpose the jars and design into lanterns to use alternative energy, solar and/or battery-operated lights. We will market at the Lake Saint Louis and Chandler Hill Vineyard’s Farmers’ Markets starting in September along with some beautiful perennials baskets. I cannot wait to use these lanterns on our patio and at the greenhouse. I also found a set of four tea cups with tea snack platters in my favorite farm color, leaf green. Included in the price of the Mason jars! These will go to the greenhouse for my tea time while working at Boone Hollow Farm. Just the simple things in life to make my day artsy and colorful.
Our plants are loving the milder temperature, greening up nicely before going dormant in a few short weeks. We just put all the greenhouse plants in the screenhouse a month ago. And I have another crop of herbs to sow before harvest. Our gourd plants need some warmth and sunshine to produce their fruit. I hope they get big enough before frost blankets the Missouri earth. Local weathermen talk like St. Louis may not hit 100 degrees this summer. It would be the first time in many years. Plenty of rain now, with more coming everyday this week. If you remember my blog posts from last year at this time, it was so blazin’ hot and Missouri was in a severe drought. What a difference a year makes! But is summer over?
Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.
I blame EarthDance Farms for my plant habit, or at least unveiling it once again. It started as a child, but I did not know the habit had formed within my roots. I find ways to support my plant habit. Those greens and flowers are more than worth it! The greenhouse work, the planning, plucking, pruning, planting, sowing, soaking, and selling is therapy.
For this season in my life, I need to take on a part-time weekend job educating and selling spices, herbs, teas, and foodie accessories to patrons at the Olde Town Spice Shoppe on Main Street in historic St. Charles, Missouri. Tourists as well as locals are the client base. The owners at the spice shoppe are looking for a long-term relationship, and I think I am the one. Over the years I enjoyed being a patron at this niche store, but as an employee I get a dose of the foodie culture every weekend. I will write about my spicy adventures on this blog, as it is a part of my life now.
But back to the plant habit and farm culture. Dean & I do not want to get underwater with Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The first 3 years in any business are the most expensive and crucial. The plants and business grow together. I can still play with the plants a couple of evenings during the week, and on a Saturday or Sunday evening. Dean will be taking the plants to the farmers’ markets most weekends. I believe in knocking on the door of opportunity, as it leads to another opportunity down the road. My farming childhood, culinary background, home economics and human resources education with my wholeness and wellness passion are trails to more dreams. I cannot say for sure where, but I am on this path, enjoying the stops along the way. Not rest stops, but interactive interludes. My days of rest come few and far in between. No worries, I still make time for my hubby, family, friends, and church. Days away from work and chores are planned for this summer. Though my housekeeping has gone to pots, literally!
Our Texas mini vacation included a jeep, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, cattle, big houses, a larger family, and a huge menu of local dishes. More on the Texas tea as promised … Dean & I made time for an early afternoon tea on Friday. We found a tea place in the northern suburb area of Dallas/Forth Worth inside an antique mall. The weather was a mild 70 degrees, warmer than it had been in St. Louis. I was hot after touring the Fort Worth stockyards and happen upon a livestock auction. A cup of hot tea wouldn’t do, though iced tea was served at this establishment with raspberry as the flavor of the day. Simplicitea had all the charm of a small tea house, minus an excellent glass of iced tea. Not homemade, as I did not experience plump flavorful berries in the taste or texture. Disappointed there. Though where their iced tea falls short, their quiche of the day, bacon asparagus and an elegant dessert, orange dream cake ranked high with us! The quiche had a smokey flavor with crisp asparagus tips. And the cake burst with citrus! There were actual bits of orange in the cake, whipping cream between and atop the cake layers, and swirls of orange zest garnished the delicious dessert.
Yes, the quote from “Texas Tea (Part One)” post is a rather bold statement, yet mostly true. The people of Texas love to brag, “the bigger the better”. And Texans love to eat! Therefore, they believe “Texas does not, like any other region, simply have indigenous dishes. It proclaims them…” Many are foodies, and not just foodies, but locavores. They savor local foods and are proud of their creations.
Two of the three dinners we had this vacation weekend included some type of corn dish. At the BBQ on Friday night, a cold corn salad was served as a side dish to beef brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. Other sides accompanied, but the corn salad scored #1! I did not see any green at this meal, other than the green chilis in a dip. Beer, wine, and spirits flowed endlessly amongst the family in the home of one of Dean’s cousins. On Saturday the 80th birthday party for Dean’s aunt was held at her youngest son’s well-decorated home. Hors d’oeuvres were catered as the main entree. Thinly sliced roast beef wrapping a blanched asparagus tip & red sweet bell pepper strip was my favorite followed by another fruity cake, strawberry. Flecks of berries dazzled the birthday girl and 100+ guests. Very luscious! And then there is Babes in downtown Arlington, a famous fried chicken eatery with all the fine fixins including a warm corn dish. Sunday’s dinner was mounds of crispy chicken with creamy mashed potatoes, milk gravy, bacon-smothered fava beans, and herb biscuits with sorghum and honey … no dessert necessary! The ambiance took us away from urban Texas, back 80 years in a small, simple town with a porch light and swing. I am sharing a photo of the warm Grandma’s Corn dish from Babes found on their website. Let me know if you find a recipe that mimics this dish. I, too will do likewise.