While at our local nature store during the holidays purchasing bird seed and gifts, we (and all their loyal customers) were given a cranberry seed bell, wrapped pretty in red & green tissue paper in a brown paper gift bag. Such a kind gesture. We saved the seed bell for this last weekend of Advent. A delicious dessert for our songbirds, or at least that is what Dean and I had in our minds. A neighborhood squirrel has another idea of who that seed bell belongs to. Within in minutes of hanging the cranberry seed bell on a hook, a squirrel is chewing on the rope so the dessert falls to the ground for his partaking only. By the time Dean got outside that blanky-blank squirrel is gnawing on that seed bell like a succulent buttery corn cob on an August day! In disgust, Dean shoos the squirrel away and rescues the cranberry seed bell from the ground.
Making do with what we have in the basement Dean finds an old metal curtain rod, metal wiring, and duct tape. Dean jimmy-rigs an extension pole from a current bird feeder pole. He is hoping this will deter the squirrels, or least make it more difficult to get to the cranberry seed bell. We still have squirrels feeding on the cranberry seed bell, but not totally taking over for their own pleasure. It is being shared amongst the songbirds and squirrels now. Such is the theme of the squirrels in our neighborhood, and I guarantee yours as well. We have learned to live with the squirrels, just make it a bit more of a challenge for the squirrels. And don’t take over what is meant for the common good.
Co-existence. Isn’t that the word? Much like the children’s tale of the king, mice, and cheese illustrates. The king dislikes sharing his cheese with the mice. So he brings in a cat to take care of the mice. The king doesn’t like the cat clawing on this furniture. So he brings in a dog. Then the dog’s fur gets on the king’s nerves, and he brings in … So the story goes on until the king realizes he has a much bigger problem than he had with just the mice. Can we apply that story to our current state of affairs in our nation? I think so. We can do so much better than we did this past week. We need to co-exist, agree to disagree, and respect boundaries despite our political views, creeds, races, genders, ages, and choices. So the lion and elephant do not crowd out our nation void, and you and I null.
“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,” author Gretchen Rubin wrote. I can so relate. And of course while in the kitchen I cooked and baked this long weekend. Some for Dean and I, and some for others needing an extra dose of love. “The people who give you their food, give you their heart,” Latino civil rights leader, Cesar Chavez once shared. “Cooking has nothing to do with the ingredients, but everything to do with love,” author Dominique Browning commented. I make-do with the ingredients in my well-stocked kitchen, but I beg to differ with Dominique that the right ingredients can make foods taste better. Muir Glen’s organic tomato sauce is the best for a rich red sauce contrasted with a from-scratch white sauce for spinach cannelloni. I happen to pick up a couple of cans last week. Of course, everything is done with love when it comes to cooking, even the acquiring of ingredients. That’s where my organic gardening comes in. Slow cooking, fresh, from-scratch and homemade reigns. “Through cooking, touching, feeling, preparing, and savoring good, real food made from real ingredients, I get to fully inhibit my kitchen; heal my body; connect with friends, family, the Earth, and the larger community where I live,” quoting Mark Hyman, MD. I had a fun weekend in my warm kitchen!
What a lovely day, so much like Spring. The daffodils started to bloom at our cottage this week. The gold finches are molting more each day in preparation for their spring and summer survival colors. Scripture reminds us not to worry about what to wear and what to eat as God supplies. “Look at the birds of the air…” I think Dean and I supply plenty of seeds for the song birds in our neighborhood besides what naturally exists. Not that God doesn’t supply adequately enough, we just enjoy the entertainment of the songbirds outside our living room window at the feeders.
The mild temperatures warranted an impromptu drive this Sunday afternoon to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. We packed a picnic lunch and stopped in the little historic river village, Elsah. We relished the quiet park and tiny town while munching on our sandwiches. Then we made our way to the river hubbub of Grafton, IL. Bikers, antique cars, and convertibles seem to take over the town. We managed to park the car and found a few little antique and gift shops to peruse. Such lovely art pieces. I found a garden sign with spring-like embellishments for my arrowhead planter. Just a matter of another 6 weeks before the houseplants go outside, and Easter 5 weeks away. Spring-like rains and weather continue this week with a winter return next week. Well, today I cherished this early taste of spring.
“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.
One water pipe can change the course of one’s life. A broken one anyway! Life took a U-turn or some may say a few steps back. I remind myself that life is not a linear course. There is so much to learn and experience for it to be a flat, straight line. Dean and I are back to the basics. Simple living arrangements in a 1-bedroom studio apartment in a hotel. Stripped to enough clothing for one week. And I am managing! Maybe I need to rid myself of the excess in my closets at home collecting dust? Same with food provisions. We manage without all the condiments in the frig and choices in the cupboards. What about all the nick nacks that we packed those 2 days immediately after the flood? I could give away or toss away into the trash. The basics indeed, and I am grateful to have a warm bed, comfortable couch, a stove to cook on, breakfast served daily, and the ability to write.
Our plan to buy a guest house in our beloved Hermann, Missouri was curtailed with the water main break in our home 2 weeks ago. We have to take care of our own residence before providing for others. Purples, lavendar, greens, and grapevines color my vision to share a tranquil retreat with others. This will come about … God’s perfect timing and plans. We focus on new flooring, walls, and doors for our home. God’s provisions and blessings. The basics and the details are in His hands.
The spirit of the season is seen with the vibrant autumn leaves, pumpkins, and gourds. As the day succumbs to the night sky, our solar mason jar lanterns along with our grandkids’ jack o lanterns give an amber glow near the front porch. With the soaking rains ceasing and fairly mild evening temperatures, we greet lots of trick-or-treaters while at the fire pit set up in the driveway. Dean and I kept warm while handing out sweet treats. We later retreated inside to excited grandkids with sacks full of candy.
This month is one devoted to thanksgiving. Gratitude fills my heart and tummy for food on our table. I am thankful for the ability to grow some of that food, as well as the ability to support the local farmer and grocer. I am thankful I have the ability to work and have a job to work at. I am thankful to God, my Creator for His Son, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that guides me
each day of my life. Without God the spirit of the season would not be here. He gives abundantly and much more than I deserve. That is called grace. Grace and gratitude does turn what we have into enough, enough so we can give to others in need of a warm bed to sleep in and provide nutritious food to eat. Listen to your neighbor, co-worker, and family member. One of them may be just the one who needs grace right now. And you and I are just ones to be God’s abundance to them.
The birthday trip to Chicago this past Thursday and Friday was great! On Thursday night Brian Setzer and Orchestra gave a Christmas concert to remember for our lives. The big band or rockabilly Setzer-style to favorite holiday tunes set our feet a dancing. The show was held at the beautiful, classy Rialto Theatre in Joliet, Illinois. Dean and I were dazzled by the spirit, sounds, and sights of the holidays. On Friday the birthday boy and I ventured to the big city. After finding a parking space (which cost more than our lunch!), we met up with his younger brother and dined at a downtown Chicago pizzeria called Lou Malnati’s. Scrumptious, delicious Italian fare! This eatery described the Roma tomatoes as “plumposity” for the sauce in their signature deep dish pizza. “Plumposity” might be another word for “pleasing plump”, as some men describe how they like their women. My hubby included. Or the “plumposity” of a freshly picked crisp apple as you bite into, it squirts juice down your hand. Or the “plumposity” of the Cherokee purple tomatoes I indulge in still with our tomato plants under plant lights in the semi-heated garage. But the word definitely describes the Roma tomatoes used on this classic Chicago-style pizza. “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato,”
quoting Southern comedian, Lewis Grizzard. Culture shocked for a couple of hours, we then battled the traffic headed out of the city into the suburbs. We visited with my cousin and her husband over a home-cooked meal, before heading back home on a 5-hour drive. A blitz trip, and now we are back to prepare for 5 more adults and 4 more dogs staying for the Thanksgiving weekend, with more family for a pasta dinner Saturday night. Now I am thinking this new-found word might describe the effects of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, this weekend I think our home will experience “plumposity”, an overflow of holiday indulgence and family!
This weekend hibernation has been good for my tummy and soul. Comfort foods made at a slow pace, slow food is the best. Homemade smoky potato soup last night. White lace (sugar) and orange zest dusted over orangy-oat french toast this morning. (We have to do something with all the milk, bread, and eggs we bought with the earlier weather forecast grocery store stops!) Toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate while warming next to the kitchen fire. My soul has been fed sitting at the windows and watching the birds. My vitamin D quotas should be met with the sunrays and my daily glass of milk.
My eyeballs have been on Deanna Greens And Garden Art paperwork each morning of this 3-day weekend. I compiled receipts and sales sheets, and entered onto spreadsheets for our tax preparer. No financial profit in 2012 year, as we anticipated with the greenhouse move, redesign, and reconstruction. The 2013 budget includes the electric installation. Yes, we will finally have electric in the greenhouse. We found a licensed electrician who will install at 1/5 the price the local electric company quoted us. Electric will be used for lighting and circulation fans. Heating may come, depends on the sales this year. If not this year, maybe in 2014. We will incorporate solar and propane to heat the greenhouse. Did I tell you that we have redesigned our structure to be 650 square-foot of greenhouse and other 650 square-foot to be a screenhouse? The greenhouse side will be used to start seedlings, propagate, and grow our perennials. The screenhouse side will be our vegetables and herbs for personal and market purposes.
Body and soul profit is another thing. Hands in the dirt, heart growing along with the green plants. Character and friendships blooming during this journey.
My body and soul has called me to a walk today. I will exercise my leg and arm muscles while walking Midnight, our dog. It will be a brisk walk, as the snow remains with the cold air. This winter hibernation may be ending this afternoon, only for another impending snow storm tomorrow night.
Velvet Shoes by Elinor Wylie
“Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace …
We shall walk in velvet shoes.
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.”
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.
The first electronic introduction … that first date … the fireworks shooting with the first kiss … discovering antiques, books, photos, music, food, church, and children together … long distance testing of the relationship … the “what-ifs” if we marry … sharing hearts … love … the proposal … wedding plans developed …wedding vows shared … marriage for our lifetime … sharing a home … sharing our families and friends … making life together … ebbs and flows like a lake shoreline … likes and dislikes … all a part of the journey. So happy I am on this journey with my husband, Dean Gall.