Where did March go? I intended to get a few words blogged in March but occupied with other writing projects, teaching culinary classes, Lenten Friday fish fries, clearing brush and late dropping leaves in our backyard, then started the greens bed out at the greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. The trail of the Defiance December tornado is still very visible, so much destruction. Repairs and rebuilding are still underway. The air is still trying to decide if Spring is here to stay for a couple of months anyway. Wet snowflakes dropped from the gray skies on March 31 reminding us that spring is still wishy-washy here in Missouri. No fooling, a freeze warning on the first day of April. The daffodils drooped all morning seemed saddened by the cold air; much like me. The afternoon sun pepped them up quite nicely, and my heart, too.
“April is the kindest month. April gets you out of your head and out working in the garden.”
~ Marty Rubin
The spring greens of leaf lettuce and spinach are sown, and I am trusting to see sprouts of green tomorrow when we get back to the greenhouse. I intend to get my herbs planted Easter weekend, depending on the weather these next few days and warmth of the organic soil. We hope to get another raised bed made for a “stone soup” garden. I have a family favorite Italian soup recipe based on the famous children’s Stone Soup tale. This garden will include basil, zucchini, yellow squash, a couple bell pepper and tomato plants. This recipe also calls for garlic, and we already have wild garlic growing in the backyard near the alley. This summer I will be sharing my recipe at a parent/child story time and recipe demo workshop at a local farm. If my garden produces well, what I am sowing this spring will be featured in the workshop. More on this later …
As I welcome April I am reminded of rebirth. The cherry trees and red buds bloom color despite the coldness this week. Rebirth of plant life, but also of hopes and dreams. My heart has been saddened greatly these past few days by some cold news I received about a loved one. I will write more on this in a couple of days. Still too fresh, I am raw right now. Last week during spring break I spent a wonderful afternoon with all my grandchildren, Hannah, Libby, Ella, Brendan, Eli and an adopted granddaughter, Riley. After our picnic lunch we gazed onto the rippling waters of the St. Francis River and overlooked the valleys in the St. Francis Mountains. Such a beautiful day with my daughter and grandkids. Nothing replaces those kinds of moments. Thank You, God for the hopes and dreams You place in our hearts.
“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!
We got through January with bouts of snow, ice, and cold rains. But the first two days in February softened up to temps in the 70’s by Super Bowl Sunday. What a gorgeous and glorious weekend. On Saturday I opened my eyes in the wee hours like a work day while the first February sunrise greeted me in its pink hues, flirting the Valentine’s Day’s colors. I had plans to get the house thoroughly cleaned after being away for the 2 weekends previous. I accomplished that but made the time to pull out the Valentine decorations. The big Valentine red heart wreath went on the turquoise door. An adorable welcome!
The neighborhood outdoor grills fired up on Sunday in celebration of the grand weather and football game. After church, Dean and I went outside for some outdoor chores. Dean washed layers of salt and junk off the car. It is spiffy and shiny now! I sanded a couple of outdoor furniture pieces. The old metal-framed glider that came with the house and carport finally had a sander workout. Down to some pretty smooth cedar planks. A coat of stain and varnish will go on the cedar planks after I finish sanding the metal frame and a coat of enamel on the frame. Most likely an early spring project after the frame color choice is decided on and more warm weekends.
A little child’s chair used as a perch on the front porch was a less than $10 purchase at a French Town antique shop last spring. It apparently had a layer of paint quickly brushed on it before I bought it. The paint peeled terribly when the cold weather arrived this past autumn. So I set the poor thing in the basement and waited for a break in the weather to sand and repaint it. Sunday was the day to get it started. A coat of white primer after the sanding. And then for artistic impression, “nifty turquoise” to match the front door. My mid-week artist’s project, painting will be a great diversion from this crazy world.
February is obviously a red month. Why look at the KC Chiefs, the Super Bowl champions! A sea of red confetti at the game and parades. Oh, we cannot forget Red Dress Day this Friday. Always the first Friday in February. Wear that red and be good to your heart. So the gray winter gets a splash or two of color, and I love it. The red and turquoise palette suits you well, February!
Outdoor gardening seized late October. My perennials appear to be in dormancy under the plant lights in the garage. Such a cold winter, the little heater is keeping the garage just above freezing. Sometimes life’s circumstances appear to keep us in dormancy like the season of winter. But winter is just one season, there are those three others. And really underneath it all, life is emerging from the roots, bulbs are multiplying, and green growth will reappear in just weeks. Valentine’s Day red comes in the midst of the bleak cold winter in this part of the world. We just celebrated National Wear Red Day, comes the first Friday in February each year, with women sporting red dresses and men vivid red ties which reminds us to take care of our hearts with healthy foods and ample physical activity. Valentine trinkets, cards, and boxes of chocolates are given with red cupids and hearts on February 14.
This winter holiday warms hearts for some, and leaves others wondering if they will ever find true love. The history of this holiday evolved like so many other holidays from Christian roots. Wikipedia tells us “St. Valentine of Rome was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius, and before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed ‘Your Valentine’ as a farewell.” A original European tradition is to give St. Valentine’s keys to show love and with that goes the lore that these keys keep epilepsy away from your children. Now the golden key is gifted as a romantic symbol and an invitation to “unlock the giver’s heart”. Wow, what an invitation!
With Jesus you do not have to unlock the Giver’s heart. He gave all His love on the Cross. True love does come in Jesus! He is there for each of us. His love is perfect … it is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, or rude, and is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not like evil, and rejoices in the truth. His love always protects, hopes, perseveres, and never fails!
As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life. You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door. Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”. At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers. Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes. There can be a reward for those who are persistent.
Then there are the keys to life. Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.” Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general? Maybe both. In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light. In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing. Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones. Loving words. Encouragement. God holds “the key to my heart”. He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.
What door are you knocking on? What key will open the door, your life this very day?
In my Missouri town my furry hat and leather gloves are needed when I get out and about this week. Winter’s chill is here to stay for a few months. It came before the winter solstice and Christmas this year. A fire in a wood stove or fireplace is welcomed, but the chillest of December days seem to warm up with good food, drink, and fellowship. Holiday celebrations are underway. The inner chef in me loves the holidays. With last week’s office party I made a traditional tiramisu to go with the Italian luncheon of pasta con broccoli and lettuce salad. For the extended family gathering last weekend, I prepared a 11-lb ham with a Bavarian-style glaze of brandy, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard with each family member pitching in with a homemade side dish or dessert. A cheese platter like this photo from Cabot will be designed for another celebration, with spirits served at each gathering. I want to connect with those I love, and those I need to love more … warming spirits and hearts. Tis the season, reason for the season. Hibernation will come later. Curling under a blanket with a book, writing, and dreaming. “Ham and green beans in my evening rice, with a glass of that good blackcherry wine on the side. Hibernation is a fine art!” ~David J. Beard.
Every day brings a ship,
Every ship brings a word;
Well for those who have no fear,
Looking seaward well assured
That the word the vessel brings
Is the word they wish to hear.
This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson is called Letters. Letters are a type of communique, a collection of words intended for a person or persons. Letters have been written for years, centuries, and millenniums. Their forms have been on stone tablets, metal, wood, paper, electronic mail (e-mail), Messenger, and even the Bible mentions words have been scripted on the heart. Yes, words are heart matters. Read a poem, letter, scripture passage, blog post, or journal page, and you can feel the author’s heart.
This poem mentions a hope for the word(s) one wishes to hear. What do you hope to hear today? “I love you.” “I am sorry.” “I need you.” “I am okay.” “I miss you.” “You are healed.” “Forgiveness.” “Thinking of you.” “See you soon.” “I am trying.” …
The next question: What word(s) can you share with someone today? My words to share today are “I love you despite all my imperfections and your imperfections.”
A week in the mountains away from suburban life, work day conflicts, time constraints, and society’s woes … God’s creation … His canvas …
colorful vignettes, the snow-capped peaks and vi-rid valleys, mountain streams, deep-rooted trees, fresh air, hummingbird shrills, delicate flowers abloom, the silvery paper coins of the aspen groves fluttering, and the simplicity of just being can settle anyone’s mind, heart , and soul. What a difference a week can make.
Why are we as a people so fired up? In fight mode, defensive? Pause a moment. Take a deep breathe or two. Quiet the soul. Chill, or sip some chamomile tea if you cannot get away to that quiet place on your own. Think, but not too hard. Meditate on goodness. Selah from the heart. Thank God. Love unceasingly.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4 -8 (NIV).
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 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.