Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mustard or Mayo

Yesterday I cooked up a pot of purple hull peas for supper.   Washing and sorting the peas brought back memories of long ago summer mornings spent sitting in the kitchen floor, a large bowl between my short legs, shelling purple hull peas.  Purple hulls, as they were called, were a staple in our house.   If Mother could find a spot for a little garden there would always be a little room for the purple hulls along with Daddy's tomatoes.  I have to smile when I think of all the peas that went flying through the air, either by accident or purposefully aimed at my older brother who was himself quite adept at shooting and hitting his target...me.

I poured the vegetable broth into my pot of peas.   I chopped the garlic, onion and jalapeƱo adding each one just as the pot began to boil.  I turn down the burner and walked out to the herb garden to cut a bit of thyme to throw into the mix and found myself remembering a different kind of garden of years ago.

My Dad was a career military officer serving 32 years in the Army.  He would tell you the Army was his life, but I suspect in his heart he wanted to be a farmer.  Mother and Daddy owned a small house in town, but often in the quiet of the night talked of being out where there would be space to put in a real garden, and pasture for horses and cows.  For awhile Daddy would have to be content with being a city farmer.  The dream of a real farm would have to wait until he retired.

Hank and Helen were Mother and Daddy's closest friends.  They owned, what seemed to my young eyes,  a very big piece of land in the country.  They had a few horses, maybe some cows and a really great old barn with a hayloft just meant to be the best playroom.   I don't know when or why but together  these friends came up with a plan to put in a large vegetable garden out and behind Hank's house.  Everyone would work and gather their share of the bounty.  The year was probably around 1959; I was just five, not yet in school.  (That sounds like a really long time ago, doesn't it?  It wasn't so long ago.)

The garden would need to be plowed and tended on the weekends as both men had full-time jobs other than working a field.  I still remember the Louisiana heat on that first Saturday morning.  Daddy and Hank hooked up a mule to the plow and began digging up the hard dry ground.  There were some stops and starts at the beginning.   I can't imagine why they used a mule and plow.   It may have had something to do with not being able to start the tractor, I can't remember.  Mother and Helen helped with raking out the weeds before retreating inside to prepare the noon meal.  The four of us children (I the youngest by three years) hung around the fence line watching the mule pull the plow up and down stirring up clouds of dust and sending it in our direction, which when settled and mixed with our sweat covered and caked on us like sweaters two sizes too small.

By noon the lot was cleared and plowed.  Everyone cleaned up for dinner and a rest during the heat of the day.    When I woke from my nap the other children had already escaped to play in the barn and hayloft.  I found the  grown-ups back in the field working.  Even parallel lanes had already been plowed the length of the new garden.  Evening would soon be approaching; it was time to put in the plants and seeds.  I remember walking out across the newly plowed field and the warm sandy dirt piling up around and into my shoes with every step.  Daddy giving me the look of "don't mess up our rows".  Mother would hand me seeds and tell me what would grow from each one.

There would be onions, tomatoes, corn, okra, squash, pole beans, cucumbers, turnip and mustard greens, and yes, there would be plenty of purple hull peas to shell.  These were the fresh vegetables we knew, everything else either came from a can or the freezers and vegetable bins at the Piggly Wiggly.  

Each Saturday we would jump in the blue Ford, drive down the back graveled roads and out in the country to check on our vegetable garden.  I'm not for sure how the chores were divided, but there was always watering and weeding needing to be done, and Daddy simply loved being out there.  Mother and Helen would have a chance to visit.  My brother and I were allowed to play and run wild with our friends.

 On the way home we would stop at the Mennonites egg farm for our eggs.  I didn't like the smell very much, but I always wanted to go inside and watch Mr. Smith take each brown egg and examine it under his bright light before placing it in the carton.   I remember asking him one time why he looked at the eggs under a lamp.  He said, "Oh I just want to make sure it is the perfect egg for your breakfast".  Neither my brother nor I were allowed to hold the eggs.  We were apt to lay them down on the seat next to us and knock them off during one of our sibling scuffles or drop them accidentally.  They always made the ride home when securely held in Mother's lap.

That summer was measured in the number of trips we made down those dusty country roads to the country farmer's place.  Sometimes our garden chores had to be scheduled around my brother's ball games or Daddy's out-of-town travels, but the chores were always completed.  The summer disappeared and it was time to start picking, shelling and putting up in the freezer.  And, time for me to start First Grade.

On one of the last days to harvest I was following Daddy and Hank through the rows.  Like all children I always had a question needing an immediate answer.  During our question and answer session, Daddy reached down and pulled up clump of turnip greens.  Along with the greens came a big purple and white round thing.   I ask him what it was and he told me it was a turnip, "kind of like a spicy potato".  We continued walking down the row.  As we progressed he stopped pulling and began chopping greens off at the ground.  I ask if we had collected our share of turnips; he told me he was no longer pulling up turnip greens, he was cutting the mustards.

Walking back to the car with the city farmer and the country farmer I started thinking (not always a good thing to have a five year old thinking), I stopped, looked up and said, "Hank, I don't really like mustard.  I think I want to plant some mayonnaise greens next year".

Daddy reached down and swung me onto his shoulders as he answered,  "Let's wait and see what next year brings".

Daddy did realize his dream of owning a farm.  He retired from the Army four years later just I was entering the fifth grade.   He spent the six months before returning to work adding onto and remodeling the old farmhouse.  By the beginning of the next summer he put in his own garden.  A little over ten years ago he sold his acreage and moved to his wife's farm.  Until last year when he became ill he was still growing tomatoes and turnip greens.  He still enjoys riding around on his twenty eight year old John Deere tractor.

There were plenty of purple hulls left over for my supper tonight.   Now had I just made a bit of cornbread!

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Building a List

Yesterday was officially my last day of school.  I say officially because in reality I have a week off before returning for our month long summer program.  While I will look forward to it ending I have little reason to complain.  It is only three days a week, unstructured, and actually, I will be in San Francisco during one of the weeks.  It is really more of a camp than school; I will have the luxury to do some of the things I had to place on the shelf during the busy month of May.

one of the latest portraits of me
I have visions...

 ...of spending hours digging in the dirt and putting the finishing touches to my lavishly planted gardens.   You can rest assured when I am finished the colors, the textures and movement will be "Home and Garden" perfect.

When the heat has overtaken me I shall return inside to cut out and stitch up a tablecloth (maybe two)  to replace the quilt I've thrown over the table in the sunroom.  If there is time I will most certainly be sewing the curtain panels I have been needing to soften the angles in the bedroom.  And, there are new pillows and chair covers needed as well.

When my fingers are bleeding and sufficiently pricked, and I can no longer push a needle through the fabric (we know I will be sewing totally by hand)  I will retreat to my very long "to-read" list.  A list I have built by reading too many book reviews and book blogs and talking to too many people.   A list that does actually include War and Peace (I'm not kidding) thanks to Mr. Conroy.  

I will put my book down each afternoon only long enough to retreat to the kitchen to prepare a gourmet dinner to be served with a perfectly paired bottle of wine. George, (you do remember George?)  will obviously do all the shopping and cleaning for I will be far too busy.

Have I entertained you?

  Actually, Memorial Day weekend is when I do my final push to complete all my planting in my extremely modest and eclectic garden which is already leggy, 
dehydrating and struggling.    I am afraid gardening publications will not be seeking me out anytime soon.  

I was told the temperatures will be nearing 100 degrees this next week.  If this is true I will be retreating indoors rather early each day.  The sewing projects actually are on my project list (although I am really not partial to drapes), however, I believe I will forget them on the shelf for a few extra weeks.  And be assured none of the above mentioned projects will be sewn by hand.  

I will however be reading.  My list is extensive for all the above mentioned reasons.  And, yes War and Peace is on the list.  I should mention it has enjoyed a permanent spot on "the list" for years.  I wish I could finish a stack of books in just a week, or even the one,  Mr. Tolstoy's masterpiece; I am not an exceptionally fast reader.  I enjoy spending time with a good book, marking pages and returning to favorite passages to taste and digest once again.  My point being I may finish one or two books during my week of idleness.  And, I am sure my list will continue to grow faster than I can possibly remove the titles.  

Oh, I must give credit where credit is due,  the dish in my fantasy was created by my wonderful husband while I was hidden under photographs,  construction paper and glue.   During the summer months I prefer to make simple dishes.

chicken ginger noodle bowl
...on the subject of building my book list

A few weeks ago while sitting in the St. Louis airport waiting for my flight home, a delightful woman sat next to me and began chatting.  We discovered we had several things in common...the love of art, music, architecture.  I was returning home after celebrating my son (in-law)'s law school graduation.  She was traveling to celebrate her son's medical school graduation.   We were both proud Mothers. 

 I was sitting with the latest copy of "The New Yorker" in my lap prompting the conversation toward reading and books.  She began telling me about how excited she was to have just joined a book group at the Art Museum in St. Louis.   She told be about the book they had  just finished, giving me a brief synopsis.  She had enjoyed it very much.   I quickly pulled out my iPhone and added the title to the ever growing list.

While almost everyone I know is currently involved with the "Shades of Grey" series.  (At a luncheon yesterday the series was the talk at my end of the table.   Alas, no one was interested in my newest acquisition.)   I will be reading "The Paper Garden".   Yes, I think I've pretty much sealed my place in the "not-so-in" group.

I would love to know how you build your reading list?   Do you select from the top or within your list, or do you choose from to the bottom?

If you are celebrating Memorial Day...Enjoy!

Have a terrific weekend wherever you find yourself.  

And please, read whatever makes you happy!

(all  images, the good, the bad and the ugly, are mine)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Rabbit named Edward

“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.” 
...George Bernard Shaw

One might think the last two to three weeks of school are slow with everything winding down for summer vacation.   Actually from a teacher's perspective it is quite the opposite.  These weeks, for me, are pretty much devoted entirely to school.   During this time my reading falls to the wayside.   There just isn't a moment to allow myself the luxury of becoming entangled with a good book.

A week or so ago a friend told me about a book her third grade son had read and passed onto her.  (I love talking to friends about the books their children are reading.)  She said she found it delightful and thought I might enjoy it.  A few days later I found a copy of  The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane awaiting me in my classroom.   At the end of the day I packed it in my book bag before leaving for home.   Just as I was headed to bed I remembered the book in my bag.  I set it by the bed thinking I would skim through it before going to sleep.  There would be no skimming.  It took only a few pages for my droopy eyes to open  and to become involved in the perilous journey of a little china rabbit who would never be able to close his eyes.   

Edward is a china rabbit owned by a little girl named Abilene.   Abilene loves her rabbit, dresses him in the finest clothes and sets him by the window each morning, with his pocket watch on his knee,  to await her return from school.   He is  her best friend and constant companion.  When it is decided the family will travel to America on an ocean liner she cannot imagine leaving Edward behind.

Edward, on the other hand,  is a self-centered china rabbit with love for no one.   He is more concerned with his fine clothes and  not being mistaken for a doll than with loving and caring for a little girl named Abilene.   The grandmother who gave Edward to Abilene discovers Edward's arrogance as the family discusses their pending travels.  She stoops down, looks into Edward's painted  eyes and tells him he has disappointed her.  A declaration which will haunt him throughout his journey.

 On the voyage to America Edward is knocked overboard during a scuffle and finds himself facedown on the ocean floor for almost a year.  He is finally rescued in a fishing net of an old fisherman.  This not only is the beginning of Edwards physical journey, but that of an emotional enlightenment.    Through the years and over the miles he finds unconditional love and total rejection.  He is tenderly cared for and tossed into the rubbish pile.  As he travels from hand to hand he experiences the best man has to offer and the worst.   During his travels he begins to discover...

 "If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless." 

A children's book...yes...with a message for all ages. 

If you haven't read a book from the children's library in a while, this may be the one to select.

Enjoy Reading! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Willie's Guest

Willie has a houseguest spending a few weeks with him.

   Meet Waldi.  He is a buddle of energy stuffed into a sausage shaped little body.

Waldi recently joined Raven, diva in residence, in ownership of my daughter and son-in-law.They are both rescues and seem to get along wonderfully.   Raven maybe joining us on the weekends.   She is the quieter of the two (three).

Waldi and Willie have romped throughout the house and the backyard for over an hour.  Now, both are curled up napping.  Willie is a bit jealous as the pup is presently curled up in my lap, while he is in his chair staring at me with longing eyes.   My hope is they will soon curl up together and let me finish a few projects.

I should be upstairs putting the last touches on some school work; I'm not sure I can trust these two scamps down here alone.

We'll be figuring out dining and sleeping arrangements later.


Sunday, May 13, 2012


Friday was a very good day! 

The day started early.  My alarm sounded around six a.m.   I reached over and turn off the music as I slid my my feet over the side of the bed and onto the floor.  I shuffled into the bathroom to begin my morning ritual.  I had a lot of things rushing through my head.  There was an abandoned dog, Buddy, at the shelter I was fretting over.  I was beginning to feel a little panicked over end of the year books.  And, it was PROGRAM DAY.  

I headed into the shower rehearsing the list of songs the children would be singing:  The Star Spangled Banner,  I Sing a Song of the Saints of God,  Alleluia Alleluia Give Thanks, and I am a Promise.  From the shower I continued with all the other things I do to get out of the door each morning.   Makeup...check.  Hair...check.  Clothes...check and shoes...check.  Ouch the shoes were pinching just a bit.  Band Aid...check.

Once downstairs I let Willie out, made a cup of tea and poured the last of the cereal crumbs into a bowl for my breakfast.  It was okay, I was running on adrenaline.  My thoughts returned to Buddy.  I was almost certain I had found a home for him on Thursday, but I began worrying something might have gone wrong, and no one would tell me until after the PROGRAM.   Good morning email sent to my daughter...check.   Willie back in the house...check.  Cell phone...check. Camera...check.  Water bottle...check.  Okay, I headed out the door to school.

Early morning was crowded, but uneventful.  The children played while I pulled together some activities to occupy my class while we waited our performance time.   At 8:20 I sent everyone to their classrooms and started welcoming my own classroom children.  They slowly arrived dressed in their best.  Once everyone was accounted for we started our day with the Pledge, The Star Spangled Banner (had to get in one last rehearsal), and the calendar.  I decided a Weekly Reader and a book would be the safest possible activities.  I didn't want anyone to accidentally cut or spill paint on their clothes.  I wanted everyone to stay clean.
The minutes passed slowly, but soon it was time to leave for our performance.  Children to  the bathroom...check,  Everyone in line...check.  Shirt tails tucked in...check.  Hair bows straight...check.  Faces clean...check.  Printed program with notes in hand...check,  Tissues...check.   "Everyone smile and sing please".

The Program was fabulous!  The children smiled, sang, performed and took their bows.  The parents applauded with cheers and great enthusiasm.   After greeting my parents I sought out the person who could fill me in on Buddy's status.  "Do we know anything about Buddy?"  "I think they adopted him yesterday".  I smiled.  I visited with more of the parents and posed for pictures with the children.  I finally spied the family I had talked to about our Buddy.  I walked toward them; they met me halfway.  "Well, did you go see Buddy?"  "Buddy is safe.  He is having his little surgery and we will pick him up on Tuesday."  "Oh, thank you.  You are my heroes.  Thank you so much!"

Program over and successful...check.  Buddy safe and has a family...check.

The day just could not get any better.

I helped clean up the Parish Hall; return chairs, instruments and other things to the school.  I walked around the school and wished everyone a Happy Mother's Day, then texted Roger.  "Lunch"?  No reply.  Oh well, he probably was busy, and I had some errands to run.  When I arrived home Roger's car was in the driveway.  "Did you get my text?"  "You sent me a text?"  "I thought you might want to go to lunch instead of having supper tonight."  "I thought you would be at school all afternoon."  "No,  we all pitched in and finished quickly."   "Sorry."  "No problem."

"What do you want for dinner? I'll run to the grocery store."  "I've already taken care of it;  I'm feeling like a steak."  "Oh, okay.  Did you get stuff for a salad?"  "Yep.  I've got to go to the office for a little while."  "Oh, okay.  I may work on my books, or not."

Roger left and I opened up the laptop.  I checked in on all of you and thought about what I would write for a Mother's Day post.  I found the lyrics of the song that always make me think of my mother and began searching for a picture of her in her later years.  The only picture I could find was one where she was sitting with my daughter working a word puzzle.  They were both dressed for bed.  Heather in her nightgown and Mother in her robe.  I knew she would be devastated if I posted the picture of her in her robe, so I continued to search.  I heard Roger come in the back door and start up the stairs, but continued looking through a container of old family photos.  "What are you doing?"  "Oh, just going through all these old pictures.  I can't believe I have so few pictures of Mother.  I have tons of Daddy.  He always loved the camera.  Mother was so shy.  Would you put this box back up in the closet for me, please?"  "Absolutely."

I went back downstairs and started writing my Mother's Day post.  It was going to be about my beautiful Mother.  I typed and Roger messed around in the kitchen.  I really didn't think too much about it.  "Call me if you need any help.  I'm just writing a post."  "I'm good."  He seemed to have everything under control; with Willie curled up by my side I continued to type .

Heather called and we began chatting about our day.  She ask about Buddy and the program.  I told her everything had gone beautifully.  Willie jumped down and ran into the foyer letting out a yelp followed by whimpers.  Roger came out of the kitchen, "What's wrong Willie?  What is going on?"  

Heather asked what was going on?  I heard Roger open the front door and Willie's cries became louder.  "I don't know.  It sounds like someone is at the front door.  Something is wrong with Willie.  I've got to go see".  I put the computer down and walked toward the front door all the while talking with my daughter, "Your Dad is talking to someone."  As I turned the corner, Roger opened the door and someone walked past.  It took me a moment to process what was happening and who was walking toward me.

"Happy Mother's Day!"

My daughter walked into my arms.

Smiles...check.  Hugs...check.  Tears...check.
Happy heart...most definitely, check.

Oh, cell phone off...check.

Truly, Friday could not have gotten any better.

Thank you Heather and Kyle for the best Mother's Day weekend ever.
You both fill my heart with gladness.

I hope everyone had a great Mother's Day.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Willie's Day

Yesterday was Willie's birthday.

It is hard to believe he is five years old.
He had a very rough beginning, but has adapted quite well to a fairly cushy lifestyle.  

Willie is a rescue dog.  He was found, along with his two brothers (by another father) in a box outside a Wal-Mart store.  We discovered him huddled behind his siblings in the back of a kennel at Pet-Smart.   It took three of us to get him out.  Roger and his foster mom removed the brothers and I crawled inside the kennel.  

Roger and I tried to play with him, but he really only wanted to be returned to his protectors and the safety of his kennel.  We decided to go have lunch before making our decision.  I had fallen in love and was sure Tex (his name at the time of our introduction)  and I were meant to be.  Roger wasn't as sure.   He was concerned about his abuse and shyness.  Did I say I was in love?  I was certain it was meant to be; we returned to Pet-Smart to adopt our puppy.

His adoption papers listed his birthday as May 5th making him twelve weeks old.  Our Vet agreed.  He was listed as a terrier and lab mix.  Our Vet didn't agree.  He thought he was more likely a border collie and whippet or italian greyhound mix.

He was a sad and timid little dog when we brought him home.  He was afraid of everything, but mostly men.  If Roger spoke he cowered.  If anyone picked up a magazine or newspaper he cowered.   He didn't whimper, whine or bark.  He was silent.  He was certainly not a "Tex".

We say he found his voice when he was almost a year.  I am not for sure who it scared more.   At five Willie still has his little quirks.  He will probably always be afraid of rolled up newspapers and thunder storms, but he loves his walks, chest rubs, backyard romps puppy treats,
and his family.

Happy Birthday Willie!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Paints, Portraits and Ponderings

This time of year is impossible.  There is just not enough time to get everything accomplished.  There is program art, program practice, the end of the year program, work to be finished, books to be read, end-of the-year books to begin and finish....and the list just goes on.   The sun is out, the warm winds are blowing and the children do not have a care in regards to my to-do list.  Their thoughts and limbs long to swing, jump and run around on the playground.  While I worry about what is left to do, I know when I awake the morning of the last day of school (three weeks away), somehow I will find everything is finished and as it should be.  

One of my moms emailed me an afternoon earlier this week to give me some information, and added she was already sad thinking about the end of school.  I sent a rather abrupt email,  "I can't think about it".  And, I can't.  Even though these last weeks could take even the strongest of men to their  knees,  I am always sad to send my little ones on their way.  In my eyes, no one will ever appreciate them the way I do.  Of course, this is not true, but it is what my heart tells me.

These last two weeks the children have had a lot of free time playing in the room as I worked with each child, individually, on their portraits.  I bring my paint brushes from home, and as we we work I talk to them about art and artist.  Even the children who resist picking up a crayon are excited to begin their own portrait.  We work in stages beginning with the head, hair and face then onto the clothes, allowing each to dry before continuing.  Each morning they critique their progress.  One will say "I don't have a nose, I can't smell".  Another will answer "When will I paint my feet?  I need feet to walk."  

Some will want to paint the clothes they are wearing, while others will create a brand new look.  It is amazing when finished I actually see a resemblance. 

Yesterday while listening to the children one said with a smile, "I did that a fast a monkey in the sun".  After repeating it several times (I have never heard it before...I am clueless) she giggled and continued, Miss Bonnie, I love saying that."  Her remark began the children repeating little things they have heard others say.  I wish I had thought to write them all down, but I was having too much fun listening while pretending not to.  Finally one child, pointing his finger to the ceiling, in the most statesman like manner,  said, "And (pause) never bite your fingers that you eat your food with."  There was complete silence...no sound to hide my own giggling.  Aren't children the most delightful beings?

The children have painted themselves, but they still have the most important masterpiece to begin.

My favorite project!

Tonight is book group, with so much to do I truly should stay home and work, however, I am going to go and spend a little time talking about  "West with the Night" .  I will then limit my outings and all will be finished....