Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just In Time for Supper

Roger is often away several days out of the week.  I don't always know what time he is coming in, but I do know he is almost always hungry.  If it has been a long day at school I am apt to stop at Fresh Market and pick up a roasted chicken or a piece of roasted salmon on the way home.  Throw a salad together, maybe steam a vegetable and we have a meal although not always completely homemade.  

Last week I was on spring break and I wanted to cook.  Roger was to return on Wednesday, but didn't know the time because of rain delays.  With the rain I was sort of feeling like a soup.  With the temperatures I started thinking about a cold soup.  After taking a few pictures of cookbooks for an earlier post I started browsing Lee Bailey's Soup Dinners and found an asparagus soup recipe that sounded perfect for my mood.  I could make it early and let it sit until we were ready to eat.  (I actually halved the recipe and made very few changes.)

The color was a lovely spring green and the texture luxuriously silky.  I chose to serve it at room temperature rather than chilled.  

Lee Bailey's Asparagus Soup
(changes made only where noted)
serves 6

1 1/2 pound fresh asparagus, washed and with tough ends removed
1/4 cup unsalted butter
(I halved the butter with olive oil)
1/2 cupped chopped onion
1 cup (about 4) washed and chopped leeks (white part only)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped (my addition..I just can't cook without it)
1/2 cup chopped celery (I left this out...forgot to put it on my list)
1 small baking potato (about 1/2 pound) peeled and cubed
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup half-and-half

Cut off asparagus tips and set stalks aside.  Melt butter in a deep skillet with a lid.  Add asparagus tips, onion, leeks, celery, garlic and potato.  Cover tightly and cook over the very lowest heat until vegetables are soft.  Twenty minutes or more.

Meanwhile, place stock in a large saucepan with the reserved asparagus stalks, cut into one inch pieces.  Bring to a boil and simmer.  covered tightly for about 30 minutes.  Discard stalks and set stock aside.

In a food processor (I used my emersion blender) puree' softened vegetables and add to the asparagus stock.  Season with lemon juice, salt, white pepper.

Allow to cool and refrigerate (I didn't refrigerate).

Stir in half-and-half and garnish with creme fraiche or whipped cream (I used freshly chopped parsley) before serving.

I served the soup with a heirloom tomato, cucumber and onion salad and pumpernickel toast points.
Fresh strawberries made the perfect dessert.

Bon App├ętit

Monday, March 26, 2012

Busy Hands and Minds

“We can make a little order where we are, and then the big sweep of history on which we can have no effect doesn't overwhelm us. We do it with colors, with a garden, with the furnishings of a room, or with sounds and words. We make a little form, and we gain composure.”   --Robert Frost


Saturday the sun was shining and the temperature was pleasant.  It was a perfect morning for donning work clothes and my hat to putter around the gardens.  Roger decided to thin out the english ivy.   I was pulling a few weeds and cleaning paths all the while sketching a plan in my head of things I wanted to move and things I wanted to add.  When I reached the area where he was working I began picking up all the discarded ivy, adding it to my waste bucket.   We started talking about my plan, he continued his clearing and I began playing with the ivy.  Soon I was focused on picking up the long strands and weaving them in and around until I had a small wreath perfect for the garden gate.

When the leaves wilt and die, I will simply strip them away, or not, and have a very fine vine wreath.
I thought it was a rather clever use of my time. 


Happy Birthday Robert Frost!

I love to read poetry to my children.  I keep this book of poems by Robert Frost in my classroom and often read from it.  Although not directly related, each poem is accompanied by a stunning watercolor illustration, by Henri Sorensen.  The children know when I pick up this book we will be spending a little time just looking around to see what is happening outside our window.

Today we watched a robin gather twigs, I suppose, for a nest.  As I stepped back away from the children, I couldn't help but wonder what we must look like from the outside.  I had two or three bodies in each window vying for the perfect view while I pointed and turned little faces toward our small laboring neighbor.

Poetry for Young People - Robert Frost

  These poems are the perfect combination of nature and verse.  Two things children are naturally drawn to.  I don't think it is ever to early to begin reading poetry to children, and this is a wonderful introduction.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Let's Play Tag

“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.”
C. S. Lewis

Do you remember going out on the playground the first day of the school year?  You arrive in the morning anticipating the time you can escape your chair to go meet friends for a few minutes of play.    You watch the hands on the clock slowly move.  Fidgeting at your desk you wonder if they are really moving at all, or is it a trick.  Finally the teacher announces it is recess.  You rush out only to find all your friends from last year already engaged in various activities with new acquaintances,.  Anxiously you look around, your heart tightening in your chest,  worried you will have no one to play with when suddenly, out of the blue, someone runs up, punches in the arm and yells, "Tag you're it".

I have recently become acquainted with the beautiful blog Ciao Domenica.   Last week while checking out Sunday's latest post I found she had "tagged" me.  If I understand the game correctly I am to answer eleven of her questions then choose eleven fellow bloggers to answer eleven of my questions.  It is a delightful and fun way to get to know one another.   I've been thinking about these questions for several days.   So, now let the games begin...

1.  Do you have a favorite writer and if so what is your favorite book by that writer?
Actually, I have several authors I enjoy.  There are so many wonderful authors just waiting to be discovered, and books asking to be opened.  It is hard to pick just one.   Do I go to a classic?  Today I will choose a contemporary author.

I found Pat Conroy many many years ago and instantly became a fan.  I cannot wait to get to the bookstore once I receive notice he has a new book being released.    The Great Santini is probably his best (at least most acclaimed) book.  I especially enjoyed reading the latest, his memoir, My Reading Life.  I felt a connection, especially his chapter on being a "military brat".

To read one of Conroy's novels is like ending dinner with the richest dessert.  You want to savor each bit while anticipating the next.

I'll share with an excerpt from Conroy's latest novel, South of Broad.

"Charleston was my father's ministry, his hobbyhorse, his quiet obsession, and the great love of his life.  His bloodstream lit up my own with a passion for the city that I've never lost nor ever will.  I'm Charleston-born, and bred.  The city's two rivers, the Ashley and Cooper, have flooded and shaped all the days of my life on this storied peninsula.  

I carry the delicate porcelain beauty of Charleston like the hinged shell of some soft-tissued mollusk.  My soul is peninsula-shaped and sun-hardened and river-swollen."

2.  If there were four people from any time period you could invite to dinner who would they be?

I've always anticipated answering this question or one similar.  Surprisingly, I found it much more difficult to answer than I thought.  I am more awed by deeds than by individuals.  I will assume my family is already included.

My first guest would be my mother.  I lost her unexpectedly when I was in my thirties and my daughter was five.  On that December day I lost not only my mother, but my closest friend.  I have often said, if God had given me a choice I would have chosen her as my mother.  I would love for her to see the amazing woman her grand-daughter has become.  They are so much alike; both are beautiful inside and out. 

Second, Beatrix Potter.  She had an extraordinary imagination and talent.  I want to hear more about what inspired her.  I would love to take her into my garden and introduce her to the cast of characters crawling around.  She would so understand my talking to turtles and bumblebees.  You know she would have a new "tale" to write.
(I am almost sure she knits)

My third choice... Eudora Welty.  I probably should have listed her as a favorite author.  She began as a photographer capturing the faces of Mississippi during the depression,  later turning her talents to writing fiction.  I cannot think of another writer who was more accomplished at capturing the heart and voice of the south.   She was also an avid gardener.  Her home and gardens are in Jackson, Mississippi and open for touring.  I would love walking around my small bit of earth with her,  gathering stories and advice.  

Lastly, gardening and cookbook author, Lee Bailey.  I had the opportunity to meet and chat with this gracious southern gentleman many, many years ago at a book signing.  He spent a good deal of time with me chatting about entertaining, cooking, the south and gardening.  After purchasing one of his books he asked if I had others.  I said I did, and in fact, they were in my car.  Just as I had hoped, he ask me to go get them.  He showed me his favorite recipes and we browsed through his book of flowers.  As he opened each book he took up his pen and signed each one.   Hopefully he would make one of his favorite dishes while visiting and share some gardening advice as well.  Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.

Now, I am going to cheat and add a fifth...Diane Sawyer.  I have no reason other than I've always thought we could be great friends.  She would ask all the right questions with true curiosity and compassion, keeping the conversation flowing.

3.  Do you like to cook?  Do you like to entertain at home?  If the answer is yes, who are your favorite entertainment and cookbook authors?

   Yes, I love to cook (my husband is the better cook) and entertain.   I especially enjoy small informal gatherings, but love planning large soirees.   No matter the size of the group,  I  want each of my friends to leave believing they were the honored guest.

  My favorite cookbook author would have to be my "go to gal", The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  She writes in a manner that gives the reader confidence to tackle the scariest menu with ease.  She encourages the reader to use her recipes and ideas as inspiration making them one's own.  I think I have all of her books.  Do you see one missing?

I am also a huge fan of Junior League cookbooks.  I think I own way too many.  And, I subscribe to several food related magazines.  I am never lacking in ideas and inspiration.

4.  Are you in a book club?  What is the best book you have read recently?

Yes, I am in a book group, The Book Belles, with a group of wonderfully talented and bright women.  If you have followed me for very long you know there are not too many books I don't like.  And, I always think my last read is the best.  The latest book we discussed was A Paris Wife.  I actually read it during the summer, and yes, it is one of my favorites.

The most wonderful thing about our book group is it allows me to discover books that were no where near my radar and find some of my favorites.

5.  What room in your house do you go to when you want to relax?  Do you have a favorite nook for reading or daydreaming?

We are empty nesters living in a house with slightly too many rooms for two people.  Roger has an office he works from when in town.  I have a studio/project room that is only straightened when I don't have a project on the table.  When the weather is cooperative I enjoy sitting outside or in our sunroom enjoying the sounds of  the outside world while reading.  I have a chair in my bedroom where I sometimes sit to read or knit on a rainy afternoon.  It has a view of my front yard.  If it is cold you will find me curled up in a throw by the fireplace, Willie by my side.

6.  Tell me about your part of the world.  What do you like to do in your hometown?

I live south of the Mason/Dixon line and west of the Mississippi.  We have many wonderful state parks and naturalized areas surrounding us.  There is something for everyone here, whether you enjoy hiking, biking, or fly-fishing... browsing museums, art galleries or a Presidential Library... or looking for an active night life.  We have it!  If it were just a bit cooler if would be perfect.

I love live theater, almost as much as reading, and we are very fortunate to have an excellent local theater.  We've had season tickets for a few years, and it is one of my very favorite things.  During the spring and summer my weekend begins with a stop at B-Side for breakfast and off to to one of the nurseries or one of the Farmer's Markets.  My only other very favorite thing is found outside my backdoor.

7.  What is your preferred form of exercise -- walking, yoga, the gym, or other?

Reading?  Knitting?  My favorite exercise is jazzercise, however our schedules do not mesh during the school year.  I walk, occasionally around the neighborhood, but usually on my treadmill.  I walk between 1 1/2 to 3 miles depending on how good the book is I am reading:)  I aim for everyday...some weeks I am more successful than others.  I also do sit-ups and work with (light) hand weights...occasionally. 

8.  Have you ever written or would you like to write a short story, memoir or a novel?

Of course.  The real question is, will I?  I love playing with words.  They fascinate me.  Actually, I think I would love to write something non-fiction.  I can lose myself for hours researching something.

I was lucky to have had two teachers who encouraged my writing.  One awarded me a F on a short story (a story for another time).  The other appointed me editor of my high school paper.   The first was probably my best teacher; for some reason they both believed in me.  

(of course, I would really need to find a good proofreader.  I have a couple of people in mind.)

9.  Are you a gardener, or are you a garden admirer?  You can be both!

I play in the dirt.  I love to dig and plant.  I would be flattered if someone thought of me as a gardener.  Truly, the most I can say is I love in the dirt.  As I have mentioned it is my therapy and the garden is my cathedral.

I am a great admirer of gardens.  When I travel I am always drawn to gardens large and small.  I am both educated and inspired by other's gardens.

10.  When you travel, do you like to go to a city or the countryside?

Oh my...both!  
I love visiting the city.   I love the energy and mystery beyond each block.  I want to visit every museum and art gallery.  I want to walk, get lost and explore.   I want to admire the architecture and the bookstores.    I want to dine at fine restaurants and at the local cafe'.  I want to walk amid the history.

When life runs away with you there is no better way to relax than to escape to the country.  One of our favorite escapes is The River Lodge in North Carolina. 

We wake in the morning to a wonderful breakfast, and the day is our's to explore the countryside, go fly-fishings, sit on one of porches with a book or drive up the mountain to the lovely town of Highland to shop and have lunch.  We end the day at the lodge playing a game of pool or in front of the fireplace enjoying a beverage and conversation with the owners.  Just writing this inspires me to plan a respite.
11.  What would your dream celebration be for a big birthday?

Well,  as you know, I have another decade celebration coming up in a few years.  My daughter suggested we go to Paris to celebrate both our milestone birthdays.  I think that would be a fabulous way to celebrate.  I have begun making a list of books and researching.

With that said, the past fifteen years I have spent my birthday in Seaside, Florida.  We rent a house for a week in the winter;  I have the people who are most important with me.  I spend the day walking around the town and sitting by the water reading.  My family spends the day sneaking around town, planning my surprise.  There are whispers and giggles, and I pretend to not notice.   Paris sounds wonderful; I hope with all my heart we do get to go.  However, if I am allowed to spend every birthday in Seaside with my husband, children and future grandchildren....I will have celebrated my birthday in the best possible way.

Tag You're It!

 Now I get to ask the question!

1.  What is your passion?  Do you have more than one?

2.  If a movie were to be made about your life, who would be cast to play you?

3.  You've won a vacation sweepstakes, do you choose a mountain resort or a beachside cottage?  Where in the world would we find you?

4.  Describe what makes a great book.  Is it prefect writing, a great story, good character development, a popular author, or just a great escape?  Or, all of the above?

5.  When you need to leave stress behind, how do you decompress?

6.  What is your style.. classic, sporty, bohemian, or trendy?  What one item can you not live without?

7.  Tell me about the teacher who had the most profound influence on the person you are today.  Not all teachers are in the classroom.

8.  What was your favorite book as a child or teenager?  How did it affect what you read today?  Is it still a favorite?

9.  Here in the south there is the old rule of not wearing linen before Easter.  We have about two weeks before Easter.  Are you a traditionalist or do you throw the rules out the window?

10.  You are hosting a small dinner party.  Do you allow your guest in the kitchen and make preparation part of the party, or is it all your show?  How about the clean up?

11.  Why did you begin your blog?  Has it turned out as you had hoped?  Have you discovered anything about yourself?

Please visit Sunday at Ciao Domenica and all the other wonderful and eclectic sites.  They each have a story to tell and they do it beautifully.


Note:  Please excuse any spacing or other errors in this post.  Just before publishing I hit "some" key and totally messed up the formatting.  I hope I have corrected everything, but if not I apologize.  Thank you!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break

Mother Nature set spring loose early this year in many parts of the country.   Today it doesn't matter, it is officially her moment to take center stage.  And, she is exquisitely dressed in all her splendor for the opening aria.

The first day of spring.
The day when we will have equal amounts of light and dark.  
Tomorrow the days will become longer.  

Did I mention I am on Spring Break?

This week I will have time to linger and walk about in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand checking to see who is waking up in the neighborhood.

Yesterday, I spent my first day out of school playing around in the dirt,

 loosening the soil around new plants starting to show their faces,

and pulling weeds threatening to cover them over.

Fortunately, I found a lot of familiar faces. 

Pink showed up dirty and a bit bedraggled, but today's rain should give her a little refreshment, clean her up a bit and make her a little more presentable.  I am waiting for Old Man to make his appearance.  

Oh, and there is some new construction taking place.

Well, I was getting a lot accomplished, filled a bag or two, until I reached under an azalea to cut a errant crepe myrtle.  Holding it at the top I began cutting the thickened woody base.  I was happily gnawing away with my clippers, praising myself for all my hard work,  when I realized the plant was dangling in my hand, but  I was still attached to something.   I yelped, dropped and kicked my clippers and fell back knowing I was in trouble.  I had just cut through an electrical cord attached to a landscape light.  Luckily, my clippers are insulted, I had on my rubber gardening gloves, and most importantly, the timer had already turned off.  No sparks, no tingling in my fingers...I'm still here.
All is well.

Today we have rain in the forecast.  

I think it will be a good afternoon to settle in with a good read.
I'm reading....

Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden
image via B&N
No matter what nature throws our way in the coming days, may we marvel at her beauty and promise of renewal 
today,  the first day of spring.

And, I am blessed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And So She Answers...

The temperatures seem to continue to rise.  Today they may have settled somewhere around eighty two degrees.  With a book in one hand, a glass of wine in the other and Willie following close behind I moved outside around 6:00.   At 6:45  it was still hovering around eighty, but with a slight breeze it was tolerable.   After a walk around to see if anything new was waking.  I settled near the lilacs, and with each wisps of breeze their sweet scent surrounded me.    

Willie grew tired of waiting on me to throw his ball and decided he wanted back inside.  I remained.  It was neither the book nor the lilacs that kept me anchored in my spot, but the serenading of the birds. Their song seemed to be sounding from every branch, and yet when I looked up I could not find one.

Looking around I realized it was twilight, that magical time between day and night when the fairies come out to play.   I'm certain I saw a few flit past and wondered if they were settling in or simply looking around.    Just as I thought I might go inside four geese silently flew overhead.  It seemed I could touch their underbelly if I only I would reach.  Instead I sat in awe.  

Quietly a small bird perched nearby not realizing she was within my reach.  I sat paralyzed not wanting her to go, and maybe silently hoping she would move closer.   I thought for an instant about my camera just inside the door; some moments are not meant to be captured in print, only in the heart.

Yesterday I ask for a minute or two to find blessings in the race between spring and summer.   I think quite possibly Spring answered me with a symphony. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dear Spring,

What are you thinking?
Do you think just because my lilacs are blooming,

birds are returning to the feeders,

and bumble bees are swarming

you can just pass us by without even a backward glance?

We are anxiously awaiting your arrival next week;
 however, it seems Summer has out run you this year.
I truly don't mean to be unkind, but
we all know Summer doesn't play well with others.
She delivers high temperatures turning your beautiful work of art

into an ugly mess

 and she just does not know when to leave.  Seriously... she is not all
waterplay and suntans.  Think about it!

If you truly decide to stay away, there is nothing more I have to say.
Except... I will have to think twice before I bring

more treats home to you.
You are really making me sad.

Not So Fondly Yours,
An Extremely Frustrated Southern Gardener

Give me a minute.....I'm sure I will find a blessing in these early summer temperatures.
Well,  I may need two.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12

We met for the first time at 12:03 twenty eight years ago today.  When the doctor placed her in my arms it was love at first sight; she has held my heart since.  There is nothing I have enjoyed more than being her Momma.  Watching her grow into the beautiful, kind and confident woman she is today has been my greatest joy.

It has been said we are unusually close.  When we are together  we have the most wonderful time.  We giggle at the same things, finish each others sentences and talk, we've been told, in an unspoken code.  She is by far the best of me.

While celebrating her birthday this weekend she came up with the most wonderful plan (beware, there was champagne involved).  I will turn 60 at the end of the year in which she turns 30.  Wouldn't it be a grand time for us to go to Paris? 

The planning begins........

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slow Down

"Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last.

Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling' groovy

Hello Lamp post,
What cha' knowing?

I've come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain't you got no rhymes for me?

Doot-in' doo-doo,
Feelin' groovy.

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.

Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life I love you,
All is groovy.
* * * * * * * 
This is the time of the school year when the children come into the classroom wanting to know when we will go to the playground.  The sun is shining, the air is warming and the outside is beckoning us to escape the confines of our four walls.

I am no fool.  I know when to give in and just head outside.  I also know when to push them a little in hopes of learning something new or mastering something they've previously met.

One of my favorite things to do is to hand them a blank piece of white construction paper and ask them to draw a picture.  I will almost always offer up part of a sentence for them to complete with a drawing, i.e. "I know it is Spring....."  

I have only a few instructions.

 Take your time and do your best.

I don't care what it looks like as long as you can tell me what you have drawn.

You must use at least three different colors.

When I see a child rushing through their work, I start singing the above Simon and Garfunkel song.   The children think it is funny, and for a few minutes, I've hushed the call of the playground.

I have very high

for them and for myself.

Spring is on her way full of expectations and possibilities.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

A Prayer For a Child

From here on earth
From my small place
I ask of You
Way out in space
Please tell all men
In every land
What You and I
Both understand.

Please tell all men
That Peace is Good
That's all
That need be understood
In every world
In Your great sky.

(We understand
Both You and I.)

                                    Dr. Seuss

I hope you have something "seussical" planned for today.  
It is the perfect day for a plate "green eggs and ham".