Tag Archives: winter

‘Zarks Cuisine and Dazzling Lights

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‘Zarks Cuisine and Dazzling Lights

Winter came upon us early. We were hoping to put this colder weather off until closer to Christmas, but the Midwest has its own mind. For the past 4 or 5 autumn seasons, Dean and I manage to get away for a long weekend in the Ozark Mountains, about a 4 or 5-hour drive for us. Some months ago I planned a long weekend trip to attend a writer’ workshop in the Ozarks at one of my favorite places The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. Dean used his last vacation days of the year to join me as a chauffeur, but also as a fellow partaker of the slower-paced Ozarks countryside and local cuisine. The writer’s workshop was thought-provoking learning more about using ekphrasis and hearing the shared words of other writers.

The children’s & cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon calls the local food, “‘zark cuisine” and made it famous at her Dairy Hollow House back in the 1980’s and 90’s. From this establishment came The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, and that unique culinary suite I wrote from one week the summer of 2021. The foods come to the forefront of our long weekend in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Branson, Missouri. This year we met up with my sister and her partner, Sandy at the Local Flavor Cafe in Eureka Springs for delicious dinner entrees. I found a great deal for sleeping accommodations at the Bridgeford B & B situated close to downtown on Spring Street. Breakfast fare and fellowship with other guests and the hostess was delightful on that first snowy morning. For lunch Dean partook of a veggie hash bowl and I had a slice of spinach-mushroom-sausage quiche at Mud Street Cafe before heading to our beloved Branson for a 2-night stay at a snuggled lakeside resort. A quaint eatery run by a husband-and-wife team downtown Branson served us delicious Thai-style plates at a decent price. A ‘Zark-style breakfast at Clockers Cafe is served all day and we are game for anytime.

Local shoppes, Silver Maple and Crescent Moon Beads are our stops in downtown Eureka Springs. I found a string of beautiful beads to make my first eyeglasses lanyard. I need those reading glasses more often with increased age, reading, and writing. Our Branson entertainment was the Market Days craft show during the afternoon with booths of crafts, fancy cowgirl garments, jewelry, jackets, and boots. Two gorgeous Christmas light displays dazzled us, one for each evening while in Branson. The Big Cedar Lodge is fabulously displayed with holiday cheer! We come back to our suite with a small pizza from a local pizzeria and watch a 2-hour Opry special. Of all people the Opry is honoring Johnny Morris, founder and owner of 50-year-old Bass Pro, Big Cedar Lodge, and multiple other outdoor business adventures as well as a successful philanthropist and nature conservationist. How appropriate for our Ozark weekend! Finished the weekend with another antique shop for holiday gifts on the way home.

The Cold Hard Truth

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The Cold Hard Truth

I took cuttings from our philodendrons and ivies one last time. Then Dean and I brought our perennials into the basement, and herbs into the kitchen before the first frost, almost 2 weeks ago. Our plants are now ready for their first good watering indoors this cold season. Reality has set in with a hard freeze, the cold hard truth this morning, again tomorrow morning. Temperatures into the mid-20’s already. I rescued the two lone zinnia blooms to give them a few more days in a vase. We captured time at the parks with some of the grandkids these past weekends. I observed a little frog sunning one afternoon. Autumn decor decorates the door, porch, and house indoors. Extra quilts and blankets on the beds. I think we are ready for this 5-month cold weather season. Are you ready for the cold hard truth? What is that cold truth in your life today that is hard to face? I have a few of my own. God’s grace is sufficient for you and me. It has to be, otherwise, we could not continue. God is good to each of us, and His love surrounds us.

Sky Watch

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Sky Watch

For a reprieve from the Midwest weather, Dean and I spent a few days away, travelled to Nashville, TN for the live Grand Ole Opry Show featuring Lauren Alaina’s induction. Then we went to the eastern coast from the “Music City”. We meandered from Savannah, Georgia and into northern Florida as close to the coastline that the highways would allow. We found a small town and island, St. Simon’s we fell in love with. We want to spend more time there when an opportunity allows. We were able to get a walk in along the pier and beach, collected our first seashells of this winter vacation.

Our final destination was St. Augustine, FL, the “Ancient City” and all its history and coastal beauty. It was chilly when we first arrived, and we had hoped it would warm up for these Midwesterners. We were not disappointed. After a day the daytime air was in the low 40’s early mornings with temperatures climbing to low 80’s by mid-afternoons. Clouds would roll in and build up like rain would pitter-patter, but we may have felt a drop or two those 5 days. The full moon shone gorgeously with the palm tree silhouettes stunning across the nighttime skyline. During our evening walk the old fort provided the backdrop, as if we were thieving pirates in an escape route to our ship waiting in the bay.

The mysteries of the “Ancient City” were enough to keep my creative mind going for future writings. I managed to get a few words journaled during our 10-day trip. Sea and land tours provided grand culture and history tidbits. Photos galore were taken. Plenty of eateries visited and regional cuisine were partaken. Empanadas, seafood pasta, shrimp ‘n grits, key lime pie, and rum cocktails to name a few. It amazed us how old the city is, the oldest in our United States. Over 450 years old and preserving some of the history through museums and the park system. But also, in the people and community, how they care for the city, with clean streets, public transit, marine conservation, and ordinances that do not allow skyscrapers to take over the skyline. Oh, the arts and culture. The boutiques found along St. Gregory Street.

On the way home from our Florida trip, we saw a bright sundog in the sky, a sure sign of severe weather. So today, it is a sky watch for sleet and snow here in St. Charles, MO. The weather people have forecasted ice, snow, and then more ice the next 30 hours. Despite all this weather nonsense, my daffodils have sprouted out and you can see hints of yellow underneath the green shoots. Soon they will be showing off their bright yellow blooms. Yes, spring is promised. Just exactly when, well only God knows. Not sure the groundhog got it right nor the meteorologists. I just know I am ready like many of us. Hope to sow some lettuce, spinach, watercress, and arugula seeds in another week or so at the screenhouse bed of organic soil. In the meantime, we picked up some baby succulent plants while in Florida, and I will get those repotted into some cute vessels tomorrow while the snowflakes come down outside the windows. Enough sky watching, just getting my hands in the soil will be therapy enough for me.

Winter Daydreams

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Winter Daydreams

“I have dreamed something entirely pretend with my eyes wide open. The sweet wonder of it makes me smile. I believe in the emotions implanted by dreams, for they are not pretend, and they will never cease to bloom.” ~ Richelle E Goodrich

Enough of the cold already! Cloudy skies bring snowflakes, some days more than others. Temperatures have dipped into the single digits on more days than not. I know winter has to run its course, that is the nature of things. But January brought us enough coldness and viruses to last us through the year. I want to play outside, go for walks, and garden. The seed catalogs plant the thoughts and bring on daydreams of flourishing flowers and gorgeous green life. I want to plant more flowering perennials and herbs. And I aim to grow some succulents this year, planting them in unique planters, repurposed vessels to sell in the flea market booth. There isn’t enough room for more plants in the basement, so it will have to wait until spring.

With my allergy to the cold being outdoors is difficult to do without serious repercussions. So I busy myself with reading, decluttering the house, and new writing projects. I submitted poems to six publishers’ contests and challenges this month. The latest is a “black-out poem” with a Valentine theme. I loved the challenge of taking an already published piece and reusing specific words that had meaning to me to write an original poem, then marking out the words I did not want in my poem. The link to my black-out poem will be shared once it is published on Valentine’s Day. Of course, my poem has a culinary theme. That is my other time occupation this winter.

Soups, soups, and more soups! Every week this winter it has been a big pot of soup or chili homemade. They fill our souls and tummies. Chicken-noodle, wild rice & mushroom, Italian stone, and cheesy broccoli soups, and 3-bean chili so far. Speaking of soup, my Italian Stone Soup recipe is featured in the Winter issue of e-Merge online magazine that just published. Click on the link above and make it! Full of veggies and robust flavor. I have refrained from baking sweets and breads. Those holiday cookies were enough to throw off my A1c numbers. I have to be good to my body. Those winter daydreams include fresh picked organic greens from the garden bed. My cooking classes for 2022 finally start up in February. Italian Cooking Made Easy and Cupid’s Brunch are on the agenda for next month. A warm destination occupies those winter daydreams and planned for February, too. More on that next time …

“She was always daydreaming. She never wanted to live in the real world; she always seemed to be separated from other children her age. They couldn’t understand her or her imagination. She was always thinking outside of the box, breaking rules, and only following what her heart told her was right.” ~ Shannon A. Thompson

The Winter Solstice and Advent

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The Winter Solstice and Advent

Autumn weather lingers well past Thanksgiving into December, now on this winter solstice. My purple pansies still bloom on the porch. This month severe weather plagued our Midwest. Over 8 years ago a summer tornado went above Dean and I while at our greenhouse on Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance. That tornado touched down in nearby Weldon Springs and Harvester that Friday evening. I wrote my account of the experience in this blog post https://deannagreensandgardenart.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures/. This year on December 10, another Friday night tornado touched down just yards from our greenhouse, leveling several homes, barns, and outbuildings in a 3-mile stretch on Highway F outside of Defiance. Sadly, one fatality. Farmer Chuck explains the hole in his barn door, “I can’t imagine the power needed to pick up the huge oak beam and throw it like a spear across the road, through the trees and into the barn door.” This beam was hurtled across Highway F from one farm to another. Dean and I watched online while the local meteorologists reported a tornado on the ground in Defiance. We waited to go out to the farm, went the following afternoon to allow utility linesmen to get the lines off the roads. By the grace of God our greenhouse still stands untouched. Mother Nature’s temper tantrum disrupted this rural town much like our granddaughter’s protest for her 2nd COVID vaccine. Wasn’t one enough? The community rallies around the survivors to clean up and rebuild as Christmas and the New Year approach.

This Advent season I wait for Him. I prepare my heart. “Make me blameless, white as snow through Jesus Christ,” I pray. “Keep me on task, direct me to Your purposes. Speak to me, Lord.” The word “advent” means “to come” or “arrive” in Latin. Holiday music, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and baking fill my unhurried post-retirement days. There was one Christmas many moons ago, 29 years ago to be exact when I was post-partum with my son that I was most relaxed and prepared for the holidays. Ben was due around Thanksgiving, so I knew I would need to get the holiday tasks finished prior to his arrival. I eased into the holidays at an easy pace and a peace like no other to this day because I prepared. My Ben was a miracle baby, and I knew God’s hands were on us. Let me approach this Christmas and New Year knowing Your hands on me and those around me. “Let the storms of this life dissipate.” As Alan Jackson sings …

“Let it be Christmas everywhere
In the hearts of all people both near and afar
Christmas everywhere
Feel the love of the season wherever you are
On the small country roads lined with green mistletoe
Big city streets where a thousand lights glow.

Let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let every heart sing let every bell ring
The story of hope and joy and peace
And let it be Christmas everywhere
Let heavenly music fill the air
Let anger and fear and hate disappear
Let there be love that lasts through the year
And let it be Christmas
Christmas everywhere
…”

“Let there be love that lasts through the year.”~ Alan Jackson

Pots and Sprouts

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Pots and Sprouts

Spring came a bit late this year. The subzero temperatures in February stiffened the green sprouts on bushes and trees, as well as the gardeners such as myself who stay indoors during the severe winter. The cinder block basement houses our potted perennials under timed plant lights. In late January I was able to get cuttings from those perennials and put them in water or planted in small pots of soil. They all sprouted roots. This past weekend I designed and filled hanging wire planters with organic soil and my new tender plants. I have four lovely planters with room for new spring & summer growth. Tender herbs (parsley, lavender, golden & lemon thyme, basil & oregano, and chocolate & pineapple mint) were purchased from the local greenhouse down the street, and repotted into bigger pots. Adorable, and oh does that pineapple mint smell delicious! Cannot wait to make some delicious sweet bread and tea with it. Begonias and sweet alyssum grace the front porch at Deanna’s Cottage.

I am about a month late sowing our greens bed, but an early spring/post-COVID vaccinations vacation to Arkansas, Texas, and western Missouri kept us away for 2 weeks. We saw more spring sprouts each hour we traveled further south. A bucket list item was to experience a field of blue bonnets, and we accomplished that. On Sunday afternoon we added more organic soil, then I sowed lettuce and spinach seeds in the bed. Very tiny sprouts of green appear in a couple of rows after 4 days from sowing. Where the greenhouse and screenhouse is housed, Boone Hollow Farm is lovely especially in the spring. The crab apples, pears, dogwood, and red buds are all abloom. The peaceful surroundings welcome Dean and I at every visit. And I welcome the pots and sprouts every growing season.

White Season

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White Season

While the perennials are sheltered in the basement for two months now, the colder season will eventually show its true color. I anticipate white very soon. The holiday and winter season promises snow here in Missouri at some point. A white Christmas is what we sing about, but not always experienced. We have a 1 in 5 chance for the white fluffy stuff on Christmas Day. Dean and I experience the holiday lights and a “white-out” during an evening drive partaking in white snowman cookie and hot white chocolate from Starbucks. The white-out is fake snow, just simulating the real thing. I continue to take care for our perennials. Since I last wrote in this blog we welcomed a new white planter of lilies, mini roses, and a succulent sent as kind gesture as my mother passed away late in October. It is not doing so well in the living room, so I will move it under the plant lights downstairs. As I begin to address holiday cards I sing … “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write, may your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas’ be white As with the magic of snow, I anticipate Jesus’ coming for this Advent season, showering of real blessings. The real deal, nothing fake about it.

A February Welcome

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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!

 

 

 

 

Dormancy

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No winter-like simulation now, it is the real deal.  The winter weather seems to be sticking around for more than a few days.  Icy, sleety, and snowy last week, and again this week dipping into the teens overnight and staying below or close to freezing during the day.  Due to budget constraints our winter vacation week was decidedly best to stay in our home state of Missouri this year.  No expensive sandy beaches to sunbathe on.  Making the most of our budget and what our state has to offer during this winter season, Dean and I chose to visit our state’s Ozark Mountains.  Most of our vacation budget is for a lovely lodge in the woods, the journey there only a 5-hour drive from home.  Home-cooked meals prepared in a well-stocked kitchenette, and an occasional meal out satisfy us both.  Every night a vignette of soft lights dot the mountain sides from the valley we are nestled in.

Dean and I venture out on half-day trips for a couple of days, visiting small towns and cousins.  We went target shooting at an outdoor range one afternoon.  We meander into northern Arkansas part of the week.  Naked hardwood trees, pines, and cedars clothe the mountains along with icicled cliffs and crags much like glittered ornaments.  Flowing valley streams, swooping birds of prey, and cattle feeding in the fields are the only movement around.  Dormancy is what we experience, and what we need. Oxford’s online dictionary defines dormancy … “the state in which a plant is alive but not actively growing” and with this sentence example “dormancy allows woody plants to survive these unfavorable conditions”.  

The quiet, unassuming beauty of the woods in dormancy stills my busy body, mind, and soul.  Very present moment several times each day, a retreat without structure.  Just being, breathing in and out, and audibly awake.  It is not necessary to block out the static and noise of my job, the house, and almost no obligations as I am far enough away from these occupations.  Words come in and out on occasion, Dean and I relating this quiet vacation week to our retirement years.  Some words make a page in my journal, and others are just thoughts in dormancy for a later writing in favorable conditions and more life lived.

This year I am ending the summer season of my wellness career.  The autumn season of my career follows, short and sweet like Missouri’s autumns with the winter season close behind.  The dormant season always emerges into a glorious spring song.  A book of collected letters, Letters To A Young Poet, poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges the young budding poet, Franz Xavier Kappus to look inward and know what motivates his own writing.  Rilke encourages the development of a rich inner life which is the process of creative art. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.  In today’s words, live today, be present moment.  Some answers come eventually.

 

New Year’s Day And Occupation in 2020

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New Year’s Day it is!  Morning is trying to wake up this first day of 2020.  Slow, or it seems.  A cup of hot chocolate and whipped cream awaken all my senses, warm me along with my Life Is Good long-sleeve t-shirt and leggings.  I cannot sleep this weekday holiday.  I awoke at 4:30am like it was a work day.  The sun finally peers above the two-story houses across the street while sitting in our small cottage’s living room.  My blogging urge comes.  Reflection of 2019 was last night before I fell asleep on the couch.  This morning it is looking forward.

What is to be my occupation in 2020 beside getting through this predicted long winter?  Last week I came across this Sinclair Lewis quote, “Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”  For those who live in the cold regions, or have cold-induced angioedema like myself, this rings true.  Reading, researching, journaling, writing, blogging, bookkeeping, and filing will be my occupation the next 3 months before the growing season.  I may work on a jigsaw puzzle for a change.  Maybe this mindless occupation will bring clarity and direction.  All are warm indoor activities.

Dean and I are looking to our retirement years, how soon is the big question.  I have exhausted my energy and drive at my government job.  Too many politics and bosses to please, and why?  I just want to focus on the holistic well-being of those people God has or will place in my life, my purpose in living.  I will retire this autumn, with plans to find more enjoyable employment using my organizational skills for another 10 years, retire fully at age 70.  My thoughts are I will probably use my human resources management, non-profit, and/or hospitality experiences in a combination of occupations.  Desired is a Masters in Creative Non-Fiction Writing at my alma mater, Lindenwood University.  This can be obtained with classroom or online courses.  There is a 50% discount for students age 60 or over. My 60th comes in August.

The other question is whether to move south to at least a little warmer area after my retirement, and how far south to reside.  Dean and I love our home state of Missouri, lived here all our lives.  Maybe southern Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, or Texas will be where we will find our new home, in a less populated area?  We are reading about and visiting various locations in 2020.  My current read is the The Body Keeps Score, authored by world-renown Bessel Van der Kolk, MD.  This book addresses the physical and psychological aspects of trauma.  This is helping me understand my own past trauma and the trauma of others as well as the hope of healing.  The book I started writing this past summer has come to a halt while I work through this healing.  With our travels, I hope to occupy a writer’s retreat in the spring to continue this work.

What direction are you going in 2020 and into this decade?  What will occupy your time and energy?  Are you living your life with purpose?  I ask for God’s light to guide you.