The holiday weekend marked the baptism of our youngest grandchild, Elise. Beautiful evening ceremony. Lovely child. God with us. Labor Day seems to signify the end of summer. Colorful fields with changing hues of amber and purple for the harvest season. A whole summer of prolific arugula is about to end although my growing season continues with my herbs. I sowed more leaf lettuce and basil a month ago in hopes to yield a fall crop. See how mother nature takes her course. Next year I will introduce a new herb to my quilt of culinary herb patches. Lavender. So I will learn how to prepare the soil for my first crop of organic lavender. Lavender lemonade is my favorite summertime beverage, and a lavender tisane is a soothing, calming herbal tea enjoyed before nap time or bed time. This time next year I hope to harvest my own fresh grown lavender at the Deanna Greens And Garden Art plot seated in Boone’s Hollow Farm. Not sure if little Elise will be quite ready for a tea party then, but maybe soon in the many days that follow …
I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days. A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking. I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads. There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.
I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking. Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta. So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style. I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half. Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach. Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula. Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread. I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water, and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.
“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.
Author and teacher Ruth Senter says, “When you are truly joined in spirit, another woman’s good is your good too. You work for the good of each other.” How often do you feel joined to or work for the good of another? Do you feel joined at the hip, inseparable, much like conjoined twins with a friend, sibling, or spouse? When the other is happy, you are and not feeling skated. When the other grieves, you as well yet hopeful for the other. Goodness is the goal not self-gain. To witness or live this kind of friendship, it is a gift.
During the Lenten Friday dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, my Dean and I saw some lovely bonding between this community. The whole church celebration of Latino song and dance as well as fish dinner punctuated the beginning of our weekend. A multi-cultural band of musicians from Mexico, Ecuador, Aruba, and Kenya beautifully entertained the congregation with a Latino instrumental rendition of “Hotel California”. Later women and children danced in festive colored costume. Such a memorable evening.
Dean and I are joined at the hip for life. Besides commuting together during our work week, we work and play together on weekend projects. This weekend we secured our plants as the cold set in for 36 hours despite the spring equinox. We unpacked and sorted more household items. Pictures, photos, and trinkets are going up, which is the fun part about making a house a home. We crafted a bathroom towel rack made from scraps of recycled barn wood belonging to my paternal great-grandfather and clearance curtain tie back holders. Our Sunday date to Hermann’s WurstFest included the hunt for an antique shelf or table to house our bathroom towels. It had to be no wider than 11″ and no higher than 44″, but the length was open since our lone bathroom is long and narrow. We saw a few new furniture pieces at Pier One Imports and Home Goods, but the prices were not attractive. At one of our favorite Hermann antique shops we were greeted by a special lady friend. We perused the shop’s goods, and she finally pointed us in the right direction. A repurposed oak bucket bench made into a floor shelf unit. Perfect. On the way home from our Sunday excursion we stopped at Home Goods to buy some totes, a big basket, and a metal caddy for storage. The total price 65% less than what we saw earlier. Satisfied local shoppers we are!
The boxes stacked to our eyeballs are dwindling. Dean and I along with my daughter and her family managed to get moved back into our renovated home despite the timing of a broken down vehicle. The storage company brought all our furniture and other boxed items back as well. I want to see more painted walls than brown boxes. So the goal is at least one box every evening and hit it hard on the weekend. Still need to work our jobs during the weekdays, and get to bed at a decent time every evening.
Over the years this house has been open to many people and pets. I never had much space in this 1200 square foot house to hoard too much. Sometimes a little is a bunch with multiple families in one home. The Goodwill and other charitable organizations have already received some of our excess, with more to come. Dean and I are becoming reformed hoarders, making decisions and not procrastinating, detaching and not clinging, secure and not possessive.
Reformation can come in a trickle or flood, a snow ball or avalanche, a step or sprint, or a combination of. Later this month I speak to a group on the subject of resilience. One way we become more resilient is taking small steps with faith to obtain a goal, or gracefully walk or run from (or through) adversity. And God gives us wisdom on which pace and direction. It is never too late to turn to Him. His voice is heard more clearly and precise as we walk with Him daily. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 – 30 (The Message version). I hear the trickle of a spring-like rain. Refreshing to my soul as the daffodil in bloom this early March day.
So what do lent, love, eagles, and presidents have in common? They share this 4-day weekend in February! And Dean and I shared these 4 days with my five grandchildren. The kids took turns with video games, movies, building with Lego blocks, and cooking in the kitchen. I prepared cheese tortellini with a garlicky white sauce for our first Lenten Friday dinner this season. Our parish hosted a 3-hour mini retreat on prayer Saturday morning. A much needed spiritual renewal for me. Saturday evening Hannah and I made chicken and dumplings which filled everyone’s belly and we had an extra portion for the “Souper Sunday” mission trip fundraiser. Overnight french toast and maple sausage welcomed our Sunday with Ella’s assistance. Church-bound this snowy, sleety Valentine’s Day. We are warmed by God’s love. Then gifts of hand-made palm crosses, sweetheart candies, flowers, and Italian cuisine fill this day of love. Red and white sauces, heart-shaped pasta, meatballs, cheesy baked bread, and pizza. The star chefs are my granddaughters, Hannah, Libby, and Ella.
On President’s Day Libby led her cousins in making chocolate pancakes. The Lincoln Museum is a bit far for us, so in the afternoon we took a drive north of our hometown to the Mississippi River scouting for bald eagles. We saw a bald eagle perched in a tall bare tree across the mighty river, as well as gulls and a blue heron. We meandered down the country highway to the Our Lady Of The Rivers shrine in Portage des Sioux. A few more eagles were seen high in the trees along the way. This warmer afternoon had the ice and snow melting to a slush. Perfect for snow balls! Not sure who threw the first one, but it became a free-for-all for a good 20 minutes under the Blessed Mary’s statue. Libby wondered what Mary must have thought. I think Mother Mary rather enjoyed seeing us all having fun this winter afternoon! A few wet shoes and stinging fingers, we warmed up with hot chocolate and marshmallows when we got home. A wonderful weekend to share with the younger generation.
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.
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.
Ahhh, a breath of the evening’s fresh air. No stars or moon to be seen as clouds blanketed their light. The silence of the countryside, silence from urban noises was calming this dark evening. Crickets replaced the buzzing traffic and voices of people. It was just Dean and I and our labrador, Midnight at Boone Hollow Farm . The pink and orange sunset came and went by the time we pulled up next to the greenhouse. I harvested the last of our basil and cilantro by the lantern light. Next weekend I will transplant our organic chives, thyme, and sage plants into terra cotta pots for the kitchen. My indoor herb garden will flavor many a soups and casseroles this autumn and winter.
Sometimes the silence of nature is like that blanket of clouds. The audible or written word is insignificant. The silence speaks on its own. Mindful of the surroundings, green and bug life, my heartbeat, my breath. Autumn is here. I am at peace. Golden indeed. And mighty indeed. I thank You God that the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in me. I can accomplish the tasks which You have called me to do one day at a time.
Surprisingly, these October days have been fairly mild. The first weekend of October we had 2 nights of cold air, but stayed frost-free in Missouri. Dean and I were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that weekend, where frost covered the corn fields and pumpkins. Snow came down in the northern part of the state. In Missouri rain and more rain last week and through the weekend, but still no frost in our neck of the woods.
My herb bed still produces lush greenery. I have delayed potting the herb plants for the kitchen window. They do so much better in natural light, warm air, and a bed of organic soil. Tonight I needed to get away from the madness of the local urban troubles to my green sanctuary. Dean and I headed to our greenhouse situated in the countryside ar Boone Hollow Farm. Mild evening, still in the 60’s and the rain had passed for the time being. The creek had a steady flow over the rocks in the road next to the barn, which evenually leads to the greenhouse. Bugs sang their soothing tunes while we watered our geranium starters, hanging moss baskets, and the herb bed inside the screenhouse side of our structure. Despite the early sunset, I needed more green therapy. So I repotted some basil, sage, summer savory, wild parsley, and marjoram under the light of our gas lantern. Mid-June two misly sprigs of marjoram sprouted from a old packet of seeds. But look what produced, this huge herb plant. This October evening I pulled the marjoram jungle from its organic bed and potted it into a 14″ terra cotta pot. My pot overflows! Good organic soil, regular watering from the well or our rain barrel late summer into early autumn, and mother nature takes over. Oh how green friends can bring joy in life once again!