Monday, March 28, 2011

Coming to the Table

"Sharing a meal with people you love is timeless and one of life's most fulfilling pleasures." -- Art Smith




I don't think there is anything more loving you can do than prepare and share a meal for family and friends.  I love planning the menu, finding the perfect recipes, shopping for the freshest food, cooking, setting the table and welcoming my family and friends to the table.

The above table is the first table I purchased when I moved into my first unfurnished apartment.  The little "ice cream" set was priced at $99.00.  I couldn't really afford it, but I chatted a little, smiled a lot, and in the way only a 21 year old would dare, I explain I only had $250 to furnish my little apartment.  He gave it to me for $50.   It was the table Roger and I  used for a short time after we married almost 31 years ago.  If we had family or friends for a meal, we would remove the glass top, wire a piece of plywood to the base and cover it with my Grandmother's tablecloth.  No one was the wiser.  We gave away the matching chairs long ago, but the table has accompanied us across the country  a couple of times.  It is now outside and will be the perfect place for afternoon tea with a friend or a quiet evening cocktail.


We've changed tables several times since we camouflaged that little yellow table.
Each served us well as a dining table, and


has long been reassigned.


As I walked around taking pictures of the tables  we have used, or are still using, my heart flooded with memories of the faces of family and friends who have gathered to eat, tell stories, make plans, laugh and pray together.  We have celebrated holidays, birthdays, graduations and weddings around these tables.  More important than the table we sat around, or the special occasions we marked, is that we made time, no matter our schedules, each evening to sit down, over a meal, as a family and celebrated  just being together.

Nothing makes me more joyful than to prepare dinner and linger around the  table with those I love.

Time passes swiftly... 
The dishes can wait...
Sit with me at the table a little longer.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Ramblings

"When I go into the garden with a spade and dig a bed I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson


First a quick update on the missing water valve.  Well...it is still missing.  And I am giving up the search.  I quit!  I am crying "uncle"!  So, Mr. Emerson, someone else will be digging for me.

I still think I know the area it is in, but the  landscaper putting in my new pathways will have to do the digging.  Think of this as the old-fashioned serial with the next and final installment hopefully appearing sometime in April.


It is unusual that I receive a personal letter or card in the mail anymore, so you can imagine my excitement when I received two posted notes Thursday morning.  Just as I began opening my treasured mail the doorbell rang.  When I opened the door it was the mailman holding a bag.


This was pretty exciting, but I knew it was something Roger had ordered; I set it aside and went my merry way.  When Roger came in I told him he had a package by the front door.  He brought it into the kitchen and said, "This is actually for you".  I opened it and found this fabulous book.



Isn't the cover lovely?  Trust me dear friends, that is not what I looked like digging up my front border.

The temperatures have dropped here once again.  


It is cloudy and drizzly making it feel colder.  I will leave you with what Willie and I found in the garden yesterday.










Oh my,  could this be a wayward columbine returning?


I am so trying to embrace these sweet faces.




Willie and I are going to settle in an peruse our new book.


Have a sunny weekend!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oops!

Here is where I usually insert a thought provoking quote that I have pulled out of my quote notebook, or some other random place, hoping it will somehow tie into what I am writing.  However, I just do not have the energy to go find the notebook, nor the inclination to search for something thought provoking at the moment.  Besides, I am not for sure I could find anything appropriate.


I will start at the beginning.  Last summer when the sprinkler system was repaired the plumber told us the pressure seemed really low.  To take care of the problem they would  probably need to replace a valve.  So, I ask the obvious question, "Where is the valve?"   The plumber said it would be in the front, near the house.  It is in a box in the ground.  This is where I looked at Roger and tried to send a telepathic "oops".

Once the plumber left, I reminded Roger that there was a box that was covered when we had the front beds extended many years ago.  I assured him I was "almost" positive I could locate the valve box.  

Fast forward:  We are getting ready to have our front landscaping redesigned for reasons I won't bore you with now.  Anyway, it seemed to be a good time to have a plumber come in and work on the water pressure issues.  I will go on and put in another "oops" right here.





I started digging up plants at 8:00 this morning.   At 2:00 I had filled my second wheelbarrow, and decided to take a break because the temperatures seem to be rising, both physically and metaphorically.

in the shade


The plumber came this morning.  He told me where the valve box should be.  Roger told me where he remembered it to be.  I say they are both wrong.  If I am right, I will share with you why.  There is a reason I think I know where it is, besides that I have already dug in both places and no valve box.   I still could be wrong.  I'll let you know.

Right now I'm going out to transplant all the Japaneses Painted Ferns, Pachysandra and my Heuchera I so proudly boasted had returned.  "Pride cometh before the fall".

Monday, March 21, 2011

Comfortable Skin

 "The moment will arrive when you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are– bald or old or fat or poor, successful or struggling- when you don't feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of strength." -Charles Handy


There is a new commercial on TV that ends with the spokesperson, usually a big name sports figure, saying, "and I'm comfortable in my skin".  I've used that phrase often.  Not about myself, because even though I would like to think I am confident with who I am, I have a long way to go.  I've used it when describing others. 

This past summer I had the chance to spend two weeks with my daughter while my son (in-law) was out of town.   She lives on a street lined with brownstones turned into apartments and condos.   Most have a flat facade and open out onto the sidewalk near the street with very little yard to maintain.  Those who want to garden are left to containers on their balconies.

One of the brownstones near my daughter's is a squared off "U" with a courtyard.  What sets it apart from the other buildings is it has lovely kept cottage gardens.   When I was there they were filled with blooms I only wish I could grow.  I commented that I was surprised a landlord would go to so much trouble.  My daughter told me the gardens were actually put in by a "older" lady  and her husband who live in one of the apartments.

I loved walking by that building just to see what new was coming up.  One of the first things drawing my attention was the columbines not just growing,  but flourishing in the hot sun.  I love columbines.  My love of columbines is like the woman who always goes after the wrong man.  Each year I plant them, they hang around for awhile.  They  beg me to feed and tend them, then they tire and leave me never to return.  (And yes, I allowed two columbines in my wagon Saturday.)

One morning as I headed out, the creator of this wonderfully kept courtyard was outside working.  Now in my daughters eyes I am an older woman; I was expecting someone around my age.  This gardener had at least twenty years on me.  She was about my height with a tiny frame.  Her hair was white and pulled back in a tight bun at the nape of her neck.  She wore khaki shorts and a sleeveless gingham buttoned down shirt neatly tucked in.  As I passed I told her how much I admired her garden, and that I was amazed how well her columbines were doing in direct sunlight.  She stopped her weeding to come nearer to chat. 

In our moments together I found she had been a teacher.  While talking  about how gardening was like teaching,  she came very close and whispered, "so is marriage".  In less than five minutes I had a new friend.  The years between us melted away;  we had connected.

As the days passed, I enjoyed stopping each morning to chat with her for a moment or two.  She was always dressed the same, with her white hair secured in back.   She was never uncomfortable greeting me  with sweat on her brow and  dirt on her knees and hands.  I found out she works every morning from the last hard freeze to the first snowfall.   She never buys seeds or plants; she collects her seeds from her flowers and starts them inside.  I stood and watched her gently transfer seedlings from a plastic container to the ground, using a silver tablespoon.

One of my last mornings to see her, I was walking down the sidewalk with two incredibly hot cups of coffee in my hands.  As I started to turn to go into my daughter's apartment, my friend jumped up and urgently motioned for me to come nearer.  I really didn't want to stop; I needed to set down the hot coffee cups, but to be honest I thought something was wrong, or she had something fabulous to show me.  She met me halfway, getting very close to my face she whispered, "Isn't it a glorious morning?"

In my haste to deliver morning coffee, I almost failed to notice the morning and my lovely friend.  The cups didn't seem so hot anymore; I could stand and chat a moment.  It was the most glorious morning!

I hope someday I find I am as comfortable in my skin.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring


What a lovely weekend!  

  • cleaned both birdbaths
  • filled bird feeders  (okay, my sweet husband did this)
  • dug up a ton of wild violets (sorry they are taking over)
  • transfered perennial salvia from one bed to the other
  • tied up new growth on climbing roses (ouch!)
  • cut back ferns
  • cut back liriopie
  • planted seeds for transplanting
  • started a new hydrangea from cuttings 
  • gave returning perennials a good feeding and roses
 After going through the beds one more time I have sadly concluded  I've lost the lady's mantles, columbines and two of my astilbes.  I am certain it was not the winter, but the harsh temperatures of last summer.  I will replant.

Oh, did I forget to mention several perennials jumped in my wagon yesterday afternoon.  Oh my!

Bad photo, but I can't  resist sharing it.  I didn't have time to get the flash set before he jumped.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

"Pondering is a little like considering and a little like thinking, but looser. To ponder, one must let the facts roll around the rim of the mind's roulette wheel, coming to settle in whichever slot they feel pulled to." 
Christopher Moore 
(Flulek: Or, I know Why the Winged Whale Sings)


Yesterday at noon I officially began my spring break.  I must say, I am a little overwhelmed with having a week's worth of time on my hands.   Time that pretty much is exclusively mine.

Yesterday, I didn't waste much time.  After  stopping at home to change clothes I headed out to the nursery (bet you thought I was going to say bookstore...)   They were just getting in most of their bedding plants.  There was a very nice selection of perennials.  I had a hard time not loading up one of their little red wagons with treasures, but I resisted the temptation.  I'm still waiting (patiently, I might add) to see what else might peek up through the ground.  I will go on and confess, Roger and I were at my favorite nursery this morning when they opened their gates.  I know, I am totally hopeless.

Last night, escaping March Madness (I'm a football girl, I hate basketball), I sat outside enjoying a beverage while staring up "pondering".  When I was young, I would often walk in on Mother staring off.   I would ask her what she was doing;  she would say "just pondering".  As I have gotten older, I now understand what she meant.  I suppose I am feeling a bit restless.  Do you ever feel like the winds  have changed and are calling you? 

How will I spend the week?  Moment by moment!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wick

When a thing is wick it has a life about it
Maybe not a life like you and me
But somewhere there's a single streak of green inside it
Now come and let me show you what I mean
When a thing is wick it has a light around it
Maybe not a light that you can see
But hiding down below a spark's asleep inside it
Waiting for the right time to be seen

You clear away the dead parts
So the tender buds can form
Loosen up the earth and
Let the roots get warm
Let the roots get warm

Come a mild day, come a warm rain
Come a snowdrop, a-comin' up
Come a lily, come a lilac
Come to call
Callin' all of us to come and see




Watching the devastation and tragedy continuing to  unfold in Japan; and, remembering New Zealand is still recovering, I find hope for healing and rebirth in the garden.  I believe in miracles...a babies birth amid disaster, finding a lost loved one, a helping hand when least expected, a flower rising from cold dark earth.  They may seem small surrounded by so much heartache; they are miracles none the less.

A few things making me smile today.

Sweet Woodruff


Huechera, Key Lime


Huechera, Peach Melba


Clematis beginning to climb


an abundance of day-lilies



Japan has entered its winter.   Watching how they are reacting to and dealing with this horrible time, I am confident they will see another spring, and be stronger.  They will find the life of what is "wick".

Last night I heard a Japanese citizen respond, when asked how they were coping,  "We do what we can do, and we leave the rest to God".   I need to follow this example more often.

I hope you find something that makes your heart happy today.

When a thing is wick
And someone cares about it 
And comes to work each day
Like you and me

Will it grow?

It will.

Then have no doubt about it
We'll have the grandest garden ever seen. 
"Wick", The Secret Garden (Broadway Musical)  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Browsing St. Louis




After our quick sprint through the St. Louis Zoo, we headed over to Central West End for brunch at CafĂ© Osage.  I've only eaten there twice now, but it is becoming a favorite breakfast stop.  The food is simple, fresh, local and delicious.  To enter and to exit you must go through the adjoining nursery, Bowood Farms.  So after fueling up for a day of browsing antique shops we first lingered in the nursery.  They have a lot of herbs, terrarium plants and unusual orchids.







We couldn't leave with out purchasing something.  Heather found a Maidenhair Fern for her terrarium.   I think it will make a perfect addition.

 

St. Louis has some wonderful antique and design shops.  We hit Rothchilds, where I found a great copy of Madam Bovery.  It is a first edition of the US printing.   They have a great collection of antiquarian books, if you are willing to browse.  I also found an early copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but my art historian daughter wasn't happy with the repair work it had received.

Other shops we browsed before heading home:  Fellenz Architectural Antiques (dank and dirty , but wonderful pieces), Roots (an eclectic collection of antiques, owned by three sisters), and The White Rabbit (a "shabby chic" mixture of old and new).  The guys were very patient and generous.  We both returned home with treasures.

The best part of the day was spending it with family.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Celebration



This weekend was spent in St. Louis celebrating my daughter's 27th birthday.  We had the best time.  We did everything she wanted to do, and since, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" it was all my favorite things as well.

We started our morning with a quick walk through the zoo.  The St. Louis Zoo is truly a treasure.  The first exhibits were opened for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (the World's Fair) in 1904; the zoo first opened in 1910, and continues to be maintained beautifully.  While there is a charge for a few of the exhibits (free if you are willing to get there early), the admission remains free.

 A few of my favorite stops

butterfly house


do you see what I see?


pygmy goat


penguins

Even though there was a very dirty window between us, and there is a great deal of reflection, I think this is my very favorite.  Such emotion in those eyes.


Our next stop... tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shared Trickets




Yesterday as we returned from our Mardi Gras parade I handed out cups for the children to put their beads and doubloons in to carry home.  As I went around helping each child put their treasures away one of my boys, holding a handful of doubloons, looked up at me and said, "Miss Bonnie I don't have any beads."  I replied back, "But look at all your coins."  He seemed happy enough, but I was not.  When one of our volunteers, who happen to be one of my moms, walked into my room, I ask if she could find a few strands of beads for my little friend.  She left the room to help me.   As I turned around this is the conversation I overhead:

P. said to M., "I don't have any money (doubloons)"
M. replied, "You can have some of mine."
P. placed the coins in his cup and said, "Here M. you can have some necklaces."

I was humbled by their cooperation and generosity.

I love what get to do each day!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alternate Plans


This morning as I headed out to school it started raining.  It wasn't just the pleasant pitter patter of a spring rain, it was a downpour.  I knew it had set in for the day.  Why today? 

Today  was to be our Mardi Gras party day, complete with King cakes, costumes, masks, Cajun music and a parade with lots of beads and doubloons being thrown and caught.  Why did it have to rain today?

Well, it was going to rain and we were going to have a party... slightly altered.  As the children came into the room I told them they could take out any toy they wanted, and I pulled out a few things they had never seen.   We all love unexpected surprises.


I took out glue bottles and leftover sequins and glitter.  Everyone had the chance to decorate a second mask.   The children hardly noticed we were missing playground time.  We cut the King cake and enjoyed a sugary snack before preparing for our parade.


Wonderful volunteers brought costumes to our room and we quickly dressed as clowns, superheros, princesses and ballerinas.  With our Headmistress leading, instruments in little hands, we danced down an alternate parade route, ending up in the Youth Hall eager to catch beads and doubloons.  Everyone returned with lots of treasures and smiles.

Frequently we  wake up to realize rain has begun to fall.  Our lives no longer will go as planned.   Many times the changes needed will be more life altering than rerouting a parade, but I think we can still learn from the children.   Hopefully, we have nurtured wonderful friends to bring us what we need and help us find alternate routes.  The only thing that really matters is how the story ends.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Shrove Tuesday

Tomorrow will be Fat Tuesday... Mardi Gras... Shrove Tuesday.   It is the last day of the festival season before we enter the forty days of Lent.  Everyone celebrates the day a little differently.

I've always enjoyed the traditional pancake supper.  So on this night I'll take out the flour, sugar, butter and maple syrup and we will enjoy a stack of these light golden cakes.



Perfect Pancakes

2 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
3 rounded teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
Beat eggs until light; add milk, oil, butter and vanilla.  Sift together dry ingredients and beat into liquid ingredients.  Cook on a dry (not greased) griddle.  Heat griddle very hot; then turn to low and  let cool to low temperature before cooking cakes.
 (leftovers freeze really well)

Bon Appetit

Friday, March 4, 2011

Putting Winter Behind Me!

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend."  Paul Sweeney




Spring is sixteen days away, give or take an hour or two.  I could actually add a couple of books to my list if I waited until the actual turn of the clock, but I am feeling a little impatient these days.  You would think I could have really flown through several titles with all the days out of school for snow, but I didn't.  I think I have spent too much time daydreaming about spring, perusing garden books and magazines and reading all the wonderful blogs I've found and follow.  Anyway, short as it may be, here is my winter reading list.

 The Wives of Henry Oades, Johanna Moran
(I enjoyed it, interesting story, fairly predictable)
The Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
(totally off my radar and I loved it)
The Woman in White, Willkie Collins
(I don't know how I feel about this book.  The characters are
 fabulous, great story; tedious reading.  I just love saying 
saying the name, Count Fosco)
Elizabeth Street, Fabian Laurie
(another off my radar books and loved it)
Waves, Virginia Woolf
(I probably didn't give this book the time it deserved.  I couldn't 
get a good grasp of the story, so I read it as I would poetry.
I read it for the words and the way the words were put together.)
 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
(you already know my crazy experience with Alice)

Take a break from digging, pour yourself a glass of ice tea and join me on the garden bench with a good book.

I want to hear what you are reading.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Camellias


"If I had a flower for every time I thought of you...
I could walk through my garden forever."  
Alfred Lord Tennyson
 
 

I adore camellias.  I do not have a green thumb when it comes to growing them, but I do adore them.  I think I love camellias so much because my mother loved them.  Mother liked flowers, but I don't think she really enjoyed flower gardening.  I'm  not for sure where I got this gene.

I was in the fifth grade when Mother and Daddy bought a farm and moved us to the country.  I know it was my dad's dream, and I just assume it was Mother's as well.  It was a small house on a nice piece of acreage.  There were barns for the horses. There was a pecan orchard, fruit trees and established grapevines.  And, there was a fabulous oak tree just calling for a tree house (another story for another time).

The house set back off the road, with a fabulous rambling garden in front.  There was always something blooming.  Directly in front of the house were two weeping forsythias.   Bridal wreaths bordered the yard at the road.  Every tree was encircled with jonquils.  Louisiana iris edged the complete front garden and random gladiola surprised us  along the fence line each summer.   Against the house were the large flowered azaleas.  In the back was a freestanding wisteria and fragrant sweet peas transported from my grandmother's yard in Tennessee.  And, anchoring one corner of the house was the tallest and most beautiful camellia.

One by one everything disappeared with the exception of the camellia, blooming without fail every January.  I remember feeling a little sad when all the pretty flowers disappeared without really knowing why.  I think the camellia survived because Mother loved this flower and it just took care of itself.

I wish my camellias could take care of themselves.  These are  the first blooms in three years.  I first planted them in large pots to frame my front door.  They did beautifully, most of the time.  One outgrew the other and we decided to move them to the backyard.  They immediately became bug infested and disease ridden.  This weekend I am planning on going out in search of larger pots and transplanting my trees with new soil.

Watching these blooms burst open this year makes me very happy.  I look at them and remember my beautiful mother cutting a bouquet for the table, to float in a crystal bowl or to wrap in a wet  paper towel and aluminum foil for a teacher; for a moment I miss her a little less.   And I am blessed.