The sun wants to come out to play, but the gray clouds hold the sunshine back. Glimpses of yellow daffodils appeared a day ago, but today they keep their heads covered as the veil of cold conceals them. At dusk snow flakes mutter winter’s last moan. What happened to yesterday’s rain showers and thunderstorm? Is Spring hiding?
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!
Autumn has been lovely. Another late harvest brought in the last of the volunteer arugula and tomatoes early in November. I was able to capture the sun from the growing season in jars of green tomato marmalade. Writing took a back door while gathering and prepping the fruits of our labor. The words continued to be gathered in my heart and eventually journaled. Now winter whispers this crispy morn. I am ready for more steeping hot teas and whipped cream lathered over hot cocoa while writing and reading.
Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year. Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week. And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday. Winter is still among us this weekend. Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience. That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season. Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.” Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.
“Ice ice baby, too cold. Ice ice baby, too cold,” as the lyrics from singer Vanilla Ice go. We are under an ice storm warning here in Missouri. Freezing drizzle. Freezing rain. Sleet. Ice pellets. Ice. Whatever the frozen precipitation is called, it is slick. No need to be out on the roads. Stay indoors in the comfort and warmth of home, if at all possible. Such a sharp contrast from last Friday. I was in sunny Florida. I welcome this surprise 4-day weekend winter hibernation as Dean and I’s government offices are closed today as most of Missouri is. Malls and shops closed mid-day.
Today it is 30 minutes of sweating to Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ To The Oldies, reading, blogging, caring for my indoor green friends, movie watching, and the homemade goodness of orange cranberry scones for breakfast, white chili for lunch, roasted root vegetables and sesame pork for dinner. The weekend paperwork and housework will be tomorrow.
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.
So what do lent, love, eagles, and presidents have in common? They share this 4-day weekend in February! And Dean and I shared these 4 days with my five grandchildren. The kids took turns with video games, movies, building with Lego blocks, and cooking in the kitchen. I prepared cheese tortellini with a garlicky white sauce for our first Lenten Friday dinner this season. Our parish hosted a 3-hour mini retreat on prayer Saturday morning. A much needed spiritual renewal for me. Saturday evening Hannah and I made chicken and dumplings which filled everyone’s belly and we had an extra portion for the “Souper Sunday” mission trip fundraiser. Overnight french toast and maple sausage welcomed our Sunday with Ella’s assistance. Church-bound this snowy, sleety Valentine’s Day. We are warmed by God’s love. Then gifts of hand-made palm crosses, sweetheart candies, flowers, and Italian cuisine fill this day of love. Red and white sauces, heart-shaped pasta, meatballs, cheesy baked bread, and pizza. The star chefs are my granddaughters, Hannah, Libby, and Ella.
On President’s Day Libby led her cousins in making chocolate pancakes. The Lincoln Museum is a bit far for us, so in the afternoon we took a drive north of our hometown to the Mississippi River scouting for bald eagles. We saw a bald eagle perched in a tall bare tree across the mighty river, as well as gulls and a blue heron. We meandered down the country highway to the Our Lady Of The Rivers shrine in Portage des Sioux. A few more eagles were seen high in the trees along the way. This warmer afternoon had the ice and snow melting to a slush. Perfect for snow balls! Not sure who threw the first one, but it became a free-for-all for a good 20 minutes under the Blessed Mary’s statue. Libby wondered what Mary must have thought. I think Mother Mary rather enjoyed seeing us all having fun this winter afternoon! A few wet shoes and stinging fingers, we warmed up with hot chocolate and marshmallows when we got home. A wonderful weekend to share with the younger generation.
“Talking, talking, pancakes” is what Dean describes our first morning together. We loves our pancakes! This Saturday morning is no exception. This improvising personal chef had one over-ripe banana in the fruit bowl and one bottle of Wells Banana Bread beer left in the refrigerator from the holidays. This combination created some delicious pancakes. Is it Hermann’s German culture or my German heritage from my deceased grandmothers influencing the weekend menu in this home? Probably a little bit of each. Here it is folks … Banana Beer Pancakes with Caramelized Banana Beer Sauce.
This morning Dean and I talk weekend topics over our pancake breakfast. Errands to run … purchase and install new window blinds in our rejuvenated home, and a tile floor selection for the bathroom. Then dog food and possible organic vegetable and herb seeds to purchase at the local farmers’ co-op with an afternoon run out to our 7-month greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance, Missouri. I will get the organic soil turned up today while Dean looks over the structure for winter wear. February brings us closer to spring. Besides the Groundhog tells us it will be an early spring this year. Spring-like today, but winter returns with frigid cold weather after the weekend. Deanna Greens And Garden Art will start our 4th growing season. In another 4 or 5 weeks, seeds will be planted in our beds for an early crop of lettuces, spinach, and peas. The garage is too crowded with our extra storage during the house renovations to get the gourd and herb seedlings started on the heating pads. All direct sowing this year. Flexibility and improvisations once again. Life requires it.
“Look around for a place to sow a few seeds.” Henry Van Dyke
I have had little energy the past few days, turning into bed early hoping to feel better the next morning. Extra glasses of water and hot tea are being consumed. Tuesday into Wednesday I awoke with my throat on fire, and needed to prop up on double pillows in order to breathe. The seasonal allergy snuffles definitely became a bacterial infection. My Dean seemed to feel worse than I with his croupy cough. We stayed home from work, and visited our doctors in the morning. Antibiotics were ordered treating a sinus infection for each of us. The January blahs indeed. Naps and cooking shows filled the day. Bone-in chicken breasts simmered all day in the crock pot, and made a healthy, tasteful stock for homemade chicken & dumplings. I had heard years ago, homemade stock made with real bone-in meats makes a health-filled potion. Adding vinegar, wine, or beer brings out the collagen from the bone marrow. I always add a bottle of beer or a glass of wine to the crock pot. I coached my granddaughter, Libby with the dumpling recipe and shared with her my secret ingredient, a pinch of nutmeg. Warm, comfort food filled our dinner bowls by evening.
I do not bake much as the sugar and calories are not needed as I age. Though I have been so inspired by the CutThroat Kitchen episodes I watched this week as well as the German influences while in Hermann, Missouri last weekend. In my memory bank, is an old favorite this morning, blueberry-almond kuchen. While in this rental house I have limited kitchen appliances and spices, as well as my recipe box is still at our home. By memory, I create a blueberry-vanilla kuchen. No almonds or almond extract in the rental house pantry. I substitute with a home-brew vanilla extract and use vanilla yogurt instead plain yogurt. A hand beater and muscles rather than my stand-up KitchenAid cream the low-fat cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, and sugar. Nutmeg goes in the butter crumb topping for a nutty flavor rather my standard cinnamon or cardamon left at the house. Sweet baking aromas fill the air this Sunday morning. Warmth filled our tummies once again.
This last day of January begins with a spectacular sunrise. Another unseasonably warm day is in store. Dean and I are feeling much better with a few rounds of antibiotics. I cleaned and finished up laundry yesterday while Dean worked on one of the vehicles. With the weekend chores completed, we have this Sunday to attend Mass and go play. An afternoon walk around the displays at the Train Show will help me burn off that serving of Blueberry-Vanilla Kuchen I indulged in this morning.
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.