Ice hit the concrete sidewalks and streets last Sunday morning, like many other wintry mornings in Missouri. Looking outside the red twig dogwood glistened. Dean and I waited a bit for temperatures to increase, and then managed to get to church. It is an oxymoron, winter’s warmth. It is what winter does for us. Brings us indoors after weathering the cold, ice, and snow. Much like life. The warmth of home lures us back to comfort and simplicity. “Sitting inside the warm, pleasant kitchen while icy rain beat against the window, I felt the wordless contentment of a horse in a stable or a wren in a birdhouse,” Gretchen Rubin writes. Another author Dominique Browning contemplates, “the banal moments of the day are the most seductive to me. It is in the lighting of a fire on a cold morning, or in the pouring of wine and the pulling up of chairs to read together at the end of an afternoon of errands, that love really exerts its magic.”
I miss a fireplace or wood stove to snuggle to in our little cottage, but have little niches in every room of our 4-room dwelling that seduce me. My favorite room is the kitchen. “So let’s dish out saucy praise for the place of crazy salads, spicy endearments, whispering souffles, sweetmeats, tender loins, and sticky fingers. That whirring, blending, mixed-up, soul-stirring, juice-dripping, hot-hearted room (the kitchen),” Dominique Browning writes in her book Slow Love. Kind of spicy, you say. That is what cooking in the kitchen does for my heart. Another weekend snow has developed this afternoon. Mini cheese-stuffed meatloaves, sweet potatoes, and banana-oat bread will grace our table this evening. Tomorrow I will chop fresh veggies to saute with Italian sausage for Italian stone soup accompanied with fresh-from-the-oven bread sticks. A casserole dish of homemade mac & cheese with a bowl of buttered edamame will be Sunday’s dinner.
I have plenty of library books to peruse and a jigsaw puzzle to piece together for this long weekend of winter warmth. Besides Dean and I have each other to keep the fire going …
Writes author Doris Janzen Longacre,“Retrofitting is only a new angle on the old virtue: making do.” Same with the words “recycling”, “updo”, “repurpose”, “refurbish”, etc. My current read is Ms. Longacre’s book, Living More With Less written in 1979-1980. This Mennonite could have written this book today, and it’s practical advices still apply even much more so. I recommend this book. It is rethinking purchases, lifestyles, and purpose.
This book follows with Dean and I’s house and greenhouse story. We take something built years ago and make do. The modest house we live in is where I raised my three children most of their childhood. Grandchildren have lived in this house too. I have lived there for 28 years, and it will be paid off in a couple more years. The rooms are filled with memories, good as well as unpleasant. Post-divorce living and marriage to a wonderful man are always steps in the right direction. Dean and I hope to move to a house we can call our own. In the meantime colors and renovations change our current home, and more recently the living room and kitchen painted. A bungalow built in the 1930’s or 40’s is what we hope to find for our future home. There are many styles of bungalows, though the art & craft era are most appealing. Houses were built solid back then. Practical comfort and character the themes.
“Adapting to nature is the oldest human art,” Doris Janzen Longacre writes. This would apply to my health dealing with the severe cold winter as well as our greenhouse, the green project we took on 2-1/2 years ago. “Green” efforts are ours on many accounts. Still no electricity to the structure, though we “make do”. We adapted our farming journey to more annual plants. Our garage houses heating pads and plant lights for our perennials during the colder months. Solar is becoming more affordable. If we wait long enough, we may even use our greenhouse year-round. The current 1,300 square-foot structure provides 7 months of growing space. We hope to have some raised beds with root cellar capabilities that allow veggies to endure an extra 2 or 3 months of Missouri’s colder weather like this most recent winter. Am I safe to say that yet? Are we done with winter?!
I am counting down the days now to our summer escape to my favorite northern destination in Minnesota. 62 days to be exact. Island Lake between Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids at Valhalla Resort is the place to be. The steady lapping of the water across the sandy shoreline, I long to hear. And the loons with their young calling out to the others, echos in the morning air. The swift tide brings gemmy and shell treasures along the shoreline with mossy driftwood after an afternoon storm. Just the quiet of a summer evening is what I desire. Simple. No city lights, just the northern stars and shining moon to guide my walk along the gravel road to the campfire sparks awaiting for more friends to join.
During those days of rest, a book or two will be at hand to read. Poetry felt. More words to spill onto my journal, eventually onto this blog. Last summer was the genesis of another writing genre, a literary affair with history and romance. Dean and I’s first. Another new adventure for us, probably a several year project with military and history research with 1st and 2nd hand accounts from the Minnesotan locals. Nature walks and shady naps under the birch trees abade.
Of course, the other escape is the garden. Someone’s other than mine, where I do not have to work in it, just be. All the senses awakened. Planted purple lobelia, pink impatiens, and contrasting green native ferns glisten with dewdrops of the crisp mornings. Vignettes of wrought-iron and wooden creations, the ambiance of charm. Fragrant organic tea and delicious strawberry bread shared with my friend while sparrows chirp and chipmunks scurry. I cannot wait to be at Valhalla once again.
Other destinations are on the horizon, I see a place for Dean and I to call “our own”. “Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times its sent away,” poet Sarah Kay writes. “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way,” Dr. Suess encourages us. See where this life leads us …
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
Freshly picked, organically grown asparagus and bok choy are my highlight purchases at the weekend farmers’ market. This evening I will put together an asparagus quiche for our breakfasts and lunches this week. And I will stir-fry the bok choy in sesame oil with garlic, and then toss with a bed of rice noodles for our gluten-free, low-fat tasty dinner on Tuesday. I cannot wait! Dean and I again are provoked to stay on this path of healthy eating with local foods, minimizing pre-packaged foods.
Last week we attended the St. Louis luncheon and celebrity appearance of Michael Pollan, author of many food relationship books. In the company of other locavores, foodies, and activists the menu included locally grown produce, raised pork, and freshly baked dessert. His newest book, Cooked came with the ticket price, and Mr. Pollan made himself available afterwards for his signing. Other books Michael Pollan has written are Second Nature, A Place Of My Own, The Botany Of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense Of Food, and Food Rules. These books range from gardening to food processes to food policies to food politics. I have already read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and now have in hand Cooked and A Place Of My Own, which a bit different of Mr. Pollan’s other writings. The latter is about the need for space, minimal but your own. I am anxious to get this one read. I have reserved from the local library the author’s first book Second Nature , which promises to be another excellent read. It is his personal relationship with the earth story. His famous film Food, Inc tells all in regards to food processing. I recommend this eye-opening documentary.
All this leads to Deanna Greens And Garden Art once again. What are we growing in our greenhouse? With the long winter and unheated greenhouse, we finally were able to sow some herbs a couple of weeks ago. Repellant flowers last week. Edible flowers this week. All organic methods. And this is just the beginnings … so much more to accomplish with this quest to good health.
So these are my grandchildren, Libby, Ella, Brendan (in the back) with Eli and Hannah (in the front). Yes, they are mine alright. They are loud and rowdy when they get together, like they had not seen each other in ages and catching up with each other’s news. They see each other fairly often as their mothers are best friends and sisters. I love my grandchildren despite their loud presence. I have actually learned to relax with children as I get older. It is guaranteed, they will bring a smile to my face and make me belly laugh when I am with them. Angels they are not, unless they are sound asleep on their pillows. This photo was taken on Easter at my parents’, their great-grandparents’ home in Pike County, Missouri. Libby is a precocious 8-year old, smart as a whip, and will say things as she sees them. She is a sponge with science subjects such as plants, likes to garden and camp. Libby thinks she is the ultimate authority on some matters; therefore, it is her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and teachers who instruct her differently with her reluctance. School of hard knocks, you know. She reminds me of her mother, my daughter Elisabeth. I adore them both. Then there is 6-year old Ella. She is one investigator, discovers and researches things. Inquiring minds want to know! She is a peaceful child, though can let stubbornness ruin “the moment” unless Mom or Dad steps in. Ella resembles me in so many ways. My Dean calls her “Mini Anna”. Then there is the 1st born grandson, my 5-year old Brendan. Reading in full sentences since age 4, on the go as a new adventure character, wrestling with Dad, yet makes time to cuddle with Mom. Now there is one long word to describe 2-year old Eli … whirlwind! Maybe another word … tornado! Eli is into everything! And definitely has those “terrible two” moments. But he will bring a smile to my face when he says “I like ‘hot cream'” rather than ‘ice cream’ or when he sits next to me and wants to read a book. Well, I just love to read to children, especially my grandchildren. And finally, there is my 1st grandchild, Hannah who will be 11-years old in November. Her nickname “bug” dubbed before she even walked fits her well. Hannah loves nature and animals, bugs included. I have a ladybug stepping stone her mother and her designed for me when she was a preschooler. Hannah is a “social bug” now, loves to be in the know of the raising teenage movie and singing stars, and has limited access to online chats. I imagine a cellular phone would be her 1st choice for a birthday or Christmas gift. See if Mom & Dad are ready for that yet!? Meantime, journaling and creating art are great outlets for her. Mine, five wonderful grandchildren!