Category Archives: Uncategorized

Summer Labors of Love

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This summer continues to bring us more opportunities for projects at Deanna’s Cottage.  Dean and I put in new retaining walls between our house and the church next door.  Dean did most of the labor as the blocks were much too heavy for me.  But I was able to handle the capstones and raking of the weeds and sparse grass.  We will cover the space with landscape fabric and mulch another weekend.  There are three hydrangeas not blooming because they are under the humongous tulip poplar tree in the backyard not getting enough sunlight.  So later this summer when it cools a bit we will transplant them to this new south-side space, where it is evenly sun and shade throughout the day.

The last harvest of our spring crop of arugula went into this crustless quiche.  Much like wilted spinach, I sauteed the chopped arugula with chopped shallots in bacon bits and drippings before folding into the egg and gouda cheese mixture.  I removed the tough stems in the bigger leaves before chopping, so this becomes a labor of love.  Similarly,  the lemon herb tea bread I made included fresh sprigs of my potted lemon basil and lemon thyme steeped in steamed milk.  Then, the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest were folded into the dough.  Oh, so lemony!  A luscious summer bread for breakfast.  I made cake muffins with this batch.  If topped with sliced strawberries and dollop of whipped cream or yogurt, it is a delightful summer dessert.  What are you making with your garden goodies?

 

Cottage Projects And Purposes

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Dean and I have been living in this WWII era small home in historic St. Charles, Missouri for just under 2 years.  It is Dean’s dream home, and becoming mine. Deanna’s Cottage is the name we give this home.  In 2019 the cottage had been rented out via Airbnb for 7 festival weekends.  It has such an ideal location, just 6 blocks from Historic Main Street. Each of our cottage guests have rated our little place 5-stars.  Thus far this year, the pandemic has kept us from renting Deanna’s Cottage.  It will be the second half of 2020 before we will accept reservations again on Airbnb, provided the threat of COVID-19 has subsided significantly.  Those weekends when the guests come stay at Deanna’s Cottage, we stay at our previous residence.  Our old house is rented to my daughter and son-in-law, a family of four.  There is our old bedroom we invade for 2 nights at a time with our feline friend, Celine who has taken permanent residence there.

With the social distancing for 6 weeks now in the state of Missouri, we have more time on our hands. We would rather be visiting with our kids, grandkids, parents, siblings, and friends on the weekends.  Sure understand why, and respect the rules set in order for this invasive virus to die down, but it is hard not to be with everyone.  Our two youngest grandkids have April birthdays.  We left the fixings for a birthday party on the porch and did a drive-by birthday greeting for the 10-year grandson earlier this month.  But our 4-year granddaughter will not understand why Grandpa and Grandma cannot stop to visit.  So birthday presents were sent in the mail to the other side of Missouri for our granddaughter to open on her birthday this Sunday.  May be able a Facetime event.

So what else to do with all this time, especially on the weekends?  We gained 2 hours every weekday with telecommuting, and little prep for work.  So one project after another runs in Dean and I’s heads separately and collectively with conversations and plans to follow.  We have plans to take out the carpeting in the living room, hallway, and master bedroom to get to the bare wooden floors.  We are not sure what we will find, so we have put that off for awhile.  We think it will take old-fashion time and elbow-grease with refinishing the floors.  And what to do with the furniture while we work on it?  With the lovely spring weather, outdoor projects have taken priority.  Off and on since last autumn Dean has worked on the windows, scrapping, glazing, priming, and painting.  That project is weather dependent. The awning over the front porch needs repainting.  The back awnings just need to be removed.  The back porch/deck needs to be replaced.  Fencing replaced, too.  And then there is the landscaping.  This includes a huge tree removal, resetting a small retention wall on one side of the house, and putting in a pebble patio in the front with a small fountain.  I love this project as it means a lawn chair to sit in at the end of a long day to relax under the dogwood tree sipping on iced tea or a cup of hot tea.  The weather temperature tells me which.

I have many longer-term plans in my mind for Deanna’s Cottage.  Did you ever hear of the book A Place Of My Own: The Architecture Of Daydreams by healthy food activist and author, Michael Pollan?  He dreams of a small structure, then he builds it himself, and uses as his writing studio.  A quiet space, purposeful place.  I found this cute place online used as a small venue for parties, showers, rehearsal dinner, and luncheons.  I could see Deanna’s Cottage used as a small gathering place such as this.  I can also see a quainter dwelling, maybe about 500 square-foot to be built in the big back yard within the next 5 years used as an atelier for reading, writing and art projects, but also for periodic guests and gatherings.  My flower, herb, and vegetable gardens surrounding the dwelling. But what does God purpose for Dean and I at Deanna’s Cottage, and this smaller structure I dream about?

 

A Labor of Love

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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!

Hopes And Dreams

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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!

 

A Different Season

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wild violetsSpring finally arrived but transitioned into summer within days.  80 and even 90 temps have come quickly after such a long winter.  I have not put in my vegetable and herb garden yet.  Yes, I know.  A sense of guilt for the early crop of greens I missed.  But the garden will get planted.  It has been one cold spell after another, one distraction after another, and one rainy day after another.

We brought the perennials outside yesterday.  Some survived the winter in the semi-heated garage, and others did not.  After a good soaking last night, my potted greenery seems to relish the mild outdoor air and misty morning rain this Sunday.  My arrowhead plant has taken a beating from the baby kitten newly adopted.  “Little WeeWot”, I dubbed him, who likes to hop from the tall ceramic pot up onto the buffet where he has full view of the kitchen.  He even lays on the arrowhead plant to nap.  The arrowhead plant is now housed next to the porch under the Japanese red maple.  Such a pleasant sight this morning to see its branches perked up looking for the sunlight on this overcast day.  Hopefully, just the song birds perch on the potted plant.

This spring has been a different season.  I see my plants tell my story, my life. Gone with the dead, on with the living.  Browns and grays have passed away.  Green and vivacious colors reign again.  Flowers of red, purple, blues, and yellow spring forth and fill the pots overflowing.  Relationships renew.  Love lavishly wins.  Always. Tulips

 

Trees In December

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Trees, trees, and more trees,  reach to the gray blue sky.  Most naked of their leaves. Some willows and pin oaks hang on. Autumn winds swept the green, gold, orange, and crimson red away to the earth to repurpose and mulch other plants.  The trees’ limbs are bare, exposed. Their shapes form letters “J”, “V”,”X”, “Y” , and “Z”. Each tree has a story why it is shaped the way it is. What thunderstorm broke which limb, what drought stunted its growth, what sunny spring brought fullness of life.  Squirrels and birds nests still rest in the crooks, a shelter high from the earth, but subject to the weather tossing its substance this winter season. The trees are dormant, but not barren.  A big difference. Sun and warmth comes and spring buds green once again. This somber December day brought the burial of a wonderful Christian man. Not young, but not old either. The life swept out of him from cancer while on this earth. But life everlasting in Heaven at Home with our Maker is his. Thank you Jesus for making this possible. Good bye for now cousin Mike. Until we meet again this season we decorate a tree and place lights on it to remind us of the light of Jesus, our everlasting Life in Him. Mike, I am sure you are a shining Star in Heaven…

Autumn Rain

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Humidity dominated the air the past two days after a spell of crisp, clear mornings and evenings.  The walks have been lovely.  The leaves scurry about.  Finally raindrops splatter the parched earth here in St. Charles County.   The thunder rumbles.  A lovely sound.  Our Labrador, Midnight does not seem to mind it too much. It has been a long while to hear these stormy sounds.  No walk outside tonight for safety sake.  If it was just rain, well I would welcome a walk in the rain!  I will finish my daily quota of steps indoors while vacuuming the floors.

The wind begun to rock the grass
With threatening tunes and low, —
He flung a menace at the earth,
A menace at the sky.

The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
And started all abroad;
The dust did scoop itself like hands
And throw away the road.

The wagons quickened on the streets,
The thunder hurried slow;
The lightning showed a yellow beak,
And then a livid claw.

The birds put up the bars to nests,
The cattle fled to barns;
There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands

That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,
But overlooked my father’s house,
Just quartering a tree.

~ Emily Dickinson

Trees Let Go

 

Sage, Yellow, Amber, & Sable

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“Rejoice, you deep places of the earth! Break into shouts of joy, you mountains, you forest, and every tree in them!” Isaiah 44:23.

The early autumn colors of sage and yellow have popped out along  Missouri’s hillsides, the country and city landscapes. Fresh green leaves have started to turn to sage green and for some woods, that aspen yellow began.  Amber and sable are seen in the sunsets, and soon these colors will be in the trees and fields.  I love nature in its autumn clothes and all it’s glory!

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” ~Terri Guillemets.  

“For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.” ~ Edwin Way Teale.

Punctuated With Green

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My whole life is punctuated with green.  Green color and green life is found in my meals prepared, the walls and art decorating my home, plants breathing life in my office, and voluntary as well as deliberate gardens of vegetables and herbs.

I recently read in a book about small houses and spaces, that one color needs to be threaded in every room in order for the space to feel bigger and flowing.  I would say green is that color.  My living room and kitchen walls are a subtle mint green.  Blue and taupe tones on the bedroom and bathrooms walls are contrasted with green in the art pieces, textiles, dishes.  As I read what the color green symbolizes, I understand why I am drawn to green.  And yes, my whole person matches green.  I think plants and me are inseparable.

The Gardens, Soups, and Salads

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My not-too-old Rival crock pot has been put to use the past 3 weekends.  I love this kitchen accessory.  In the morning, I put in a roast or roaster with some herbs and beer or wine.  This time of year dinner slow cooks all day while I work in the yard or garden beds.  And the leftovers are awesome.  I can usually get 3 or 4 meals for Dean and I from a 5 – 6 lb chicken roaster or turkey breast.  Homemade chicken soup, chunky chicken salad, creamy chicken enchiladas.  Beef and pork roasts are so tender slow cooked in the crock … Some meals are simple salads or wraps with goodies such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, or roasted beets along with leftover slow-cooked meats.

I have my first tender leaves of arugula ready to be picked this week!  This early crop was sown on February 20.  So after about 50 days we will partake in this fresh peppery salad green for dinner, and probably an omelet for breakfast this Sunday morning.  Spring is the time of year where my back, legs, arms, and hands ache from the amount of time in the garden and yard.   Methodical movements are made the hours I work/play in the dirt.  “Gardening has to be as much about contemplation as it is about tilling and toiling.  Mental toiling, perhaps … turning things over, quietly thinking, in a place that gives you a peaceful corner for just a moment or two.” ~ Dominique Browning.  The birds and fresh air call me to sit on the porch early morning, but pure exhaustion hits the pillow by 9 even on the weekends.