Category Archives: senses

Mother’s Day Weekend

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My Saturday was filled with caring  for green life, as so many Saturdays and Sundays in the spring time. Dean and I made an early run to the greenhouse as summer like weather was forecasted for the day. Dean mowed the grass while I attended to weeds and watering. Our peas, lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, and dill are sprouting. The chive plants are in full bloom. I cut a bundle, and dropped some off to Jack Mac, executive chef  and friend at Chandler Hill Vineyards. He told me how to use the blooms in my cooking this week.  For this weekend I put together a red potato salad snipping my chives and young voluntary dill sprigs into the bowl.

As tradition goes green plants and May flowers fill my Mother’s Day weekend. This year is no exception. Maybe it is tradition from my childhood.  My motherSeeds Quote still enjoys a potted tomato plant and another pot of summer favorites like petunias or geranium. This Mother’s Day I sit on the porch bench surrounded with early morning mist, song birds, and quietness from the world’s busyness. Midnight,  our Labrador joins. He, too relishes the weekly early Sunday morning date with nature. My pots of perennials and annuals complete my sensual needs this morn.

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Almost Home

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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.

 

Holiest Of All Holidays

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Oh, Christmas morn early enough before the busyness of unwrapping gifts and brunch making … The dazzle of the tree lights, church bells chime, and then silence.  My most favorite moment of the year!  And this moment came despite the strangeness of being displaced from my physical home. Home is where the heart is.  And my heart is here.  Poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote these beautiful verses in his poem, Holiday:

The holiest of all holidays are those

Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;

The secret anniversaries of the heart,

When the full river of feeling overflows; –

The happy days unclouded to their close;

The sudden joys that out of darkness start

As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart

Swallows singing down each wind that blows!

White as the gleam of receding sail;

White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,

White as the whitest lily on a stream,

These tender memories are; – a Fairy Tale

Of some enchanted land we know not where,

But lovely as a landscape in a dream.

Believe!  Merry Christmas from Dean and Anna!

All My Children

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All Saints ChurchAll 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.

An Herb Is As An Herb Can Be

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“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. Cinnamon Basil
Herbs/ ANDI Score
Basil/ 518
Cilantro/ 481
Spearmint/ 457
Tarragon/ 426
Oregano/ 426
Thyme/ 422
Parsley/ 381
Dill/ 326
Chives/ 319
Peppermint/ 293
Bay Leaves/ 271
Rosemary/ 84
Lemongrass/ 55

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?

Where Does One Begin?

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Sandra Witthaus Rau Where does one begin to understand the timing of one’s life in this world? This complexity of life and death, and there are many, seems to be a mystery. I cannot comprehend with my mind, and my heart wrenches that my cousin, Sandra Witthaus Rau was taken from us on June 3. But with faith in my loving God, the Father, I pray for comfort and peace for Sandra’s son, daughter, brother, grandson, and so many family and friends. Sandra wrote poems and expressed words of wisdom beyond her years, shared with those God placed in her life. An old soul yet her laughter and zeal was contagious, and kept her young. A year ago I asked on this Word Press blog “Is The Grass Greener?”, and Sandra shared such timely advice and with grace. And it is true, Sandra, “The grass is always greener where you water it – With Love, Laughter, Family and Friends”. The last bit of wisdom left on Sandra’s FB account on May 23:
~Slow down sometimes~
Life often gets out of control. We live in busy times and as much as we try to take a step back and live in the moment often that’s just not possible. Before we know it a week has passed. A month. Maybe even a year or two.
People tell us to stop and smell the roses but instead all we see is the work that has to be done to make those roses grow. The digging and planting. The weeding and watering. Everywhere we turn we run into duties and responsibilities, tasks and chores. All those things that need to get done to make our world turn.
Is that the life we envisioned when people used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Weren’t we going to be ballerinas, astronauts and magicians? But that’s life. It has a tendency to do the unplanned. It does it without regard or consideration for our feelings or objections. It throws us in at the deep end with no life ring in sight and says swim.
Maybe we just need to embrace the unpredictability with open arms rather than constantly fight it. And more importantly, we need to see those roses for what they really are. A chance to breathe. An opportunity to live life at its fullest. A real blessing. Because after all, there are only so many roses left for each one of us.

All Of Me
Sandra, you are terribly missed. And I know you are with Grandma, cousin Billy, your Mother, your Father, and your Uncle Marty now. For this I rest my mind and find peace. I love you, Sandra!

Soup du Jour

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The enticing aroma of homemade soup filled my kitchen and home on several occasions those chilly days of winter, with Chicken Noodle-Vegetable and Italian Stone Soup the most frequent two. A big pot of soup goes a long way with just Dean and I, and always plenty if we have company for lunch or dinner. Spring finally arrived this month of April, but yesterday the air turned cold as the day progressed with more rain. With the cold dampness, soup was in order for dinner. Soup du jour was Roasted Red Potato and Cauliflower with Leeks & Garlic. A warm pot of all organic, plant-based ingredients even the stock. Yes, a vegetarian recipe. And organic tastes better. It is what I had in the kitchen. Accompanied was toasted ham & cheddar on fresh rye bread I picked up at a St. Louis local Bosnian bakery. Please feel free to try my soup recipe placed on the What A Dish Recipes page found on this WordPress blog. Bon appetit! Soup du Jour

Sprouts Of Green

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One month ago we had a 40 or 50 degree day, where I was able to withstand the semi-heated garage to plant our geranium cuttings in some make-do soil. The organic soil was not a fresh bag, and not sure how long it sat in our garage. I added some sand to loosen it. Miracles happen. Most of the cuttings have sprouted new green leaves while seated on a warming mat and under plant lights. A natural fertilizer of fish emulsion will be applied this week. I hope to design some planters in about 2 months, in time for blooming spring gifts. I feel behind on some of my other propogating projects. I have zinnia and other cutting flower seeds to sow as well as herb and vegetable plants, and the gourds. The peas I savor should have sprouted already, but better late than never to sow. Emily Dickinson describes “how luscious lies the pea within the pod.” I can almost taste the juicy plumposity of those fresh picked peas! Non-GMO seeds and good organic soil is in the plans for my weekend purchases. I rarely seek fashion stores for my weekend shopping. It is antique, novelty, and garden shops I love to find the bargains for my creative green projects. Maybe I can actually get some sowing completed from my kitchen, then place the trays on the heating mats in the garage. The weather forecast is ice, sleet, and snow this weekend. The homegrown spring peas will evenually come …

A Songbird’s Spring

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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.

This morning a songbird’s tweets greet Dean and I as we left for work. A refreshing sound! The day’s spring-like showers and thunderstorms will replace the snow and ice we have experienced for over 7 weeks in Missouri. I embrace warmer temperatures with open arms like I did during our 3 days in Paducah earlier this week. Today, a morning, mid-day, and afternnon outdoor walk betweeen raindrops will suffice. Alleluia, multiple layers of clothes, hats, gloves, scarves, and coats stripped off! Freedom! 70 degrees this afternoon! I will take this pseudo spring. Tonight’s nightfall winds blow in colder air once again.
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.

The Year of The Mattress

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ValhallaValhallaMap
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.