Sunday, August 31, 2008

Waning Days of Summer

“There is eternal summer in the grateful heart.”
Celia Baxter

In July, the sun sets up and throws her heat at us hard and unrelenting as a major league fastball. But during these waning days of summer, the fireball pitches its heat sidearm. The garden is also changing-up its delivery.
The color in the garden is not as abundant as much of the season, but perhaps it is the waning of the rainbow pallette that makes colors playing with each other ever more precious.
All season long- the willow- like arms of the buddleja-or butterfly bush-have extended a friendly wave to the hummers and other small birds. The clusters of flowers motioned like polished fingertips, gesturing butterflies to alight. To rest and to sip on sweet nectar.
The last of these floral greeters is now waving good-bye to the flying jewels of summer.
It surprised me how lanky the butterfly bush arms can extend. Somehow, I didn’t picture the butterfly bush growing much taller than when brought home in the nursery can. But mine all matured into small fountain-shaped trees.
Twice a year I groom each up, pruning for shape and shearing for volume. They show their gratitude for such attention comes twice. Now, with immediate bouquets. Then again next year when they bloom afresh at the ends of new growth.
The photo with monarch butterfly is by Lynn M Kimmerle, Stonington, CT.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Miracles on the Mountain

For every mountain there is a miracle.
Rev. Robert Schuller

Have you ever hiked a rugged mountainside: struggled to keep your footing? Your whole focus is on the loose shards that keep threatening to topple you over.
It is a part of life's landscape that sometimes our troubles will mount. They will stack one upon the other until they loom over us like a mountain. As we try to climb our way out of our troubles, we tire. Our footing becomes as unsure as our spirit. We wonder how close we are to personal disaster.

That is when it is important to persevere in faith.

Miracles have a way of finding people who aren’t waiting for them to happen. They have a way of finding people who get on with life, grateful to be like that tree in the top photograph- clinging to not much more than hope- and still enjoying the view. So meet what challenges. When you trip, get up. Climb your adversities.

Congratulations to Cathy! Last winter you had a major stroke. I prayed I would- but I tempered my expectations to see you again. I am so glad to hear you have mended so well that you are able to be back part-time at the work you love. To all the Cathy's in the world- THANK YOU for your inspiration!

Thank you again to Gene Sasse- a most marvelous photographer and human being.
The photographs here are his- used with permission. More of his awe-inspiring images can be found at

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cherished Obligation

We are what we choose to remember and how we honor these remembrances.

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning on September 11, 2001?

Do you remember what you felt? How do you plan to honor what good rose from that tragedy?

My friend, Lisa Butler and I, are asking our friends to be part of spreading the word. We would like to see on the 7th anniversary of that fateful day, an American flag displayed outside every home, apartment, office, and store in the United States.
Do this in memory
of those who lost their lives when the United States was attacked on 9/11/ 2001. Do this as a show of continued support for their and families, friends and loved ones. Do this in honor of those wearing the uniform of this country. Do this as a sign of unity with those who are away from home and loved ones: some of whom will sacrifice their lives preserving our comfort and freedom very much at the expense of their own.

Mark your calendars. Spread the word. Thursday, September 11th is less than a month away. Let flying the flag that day become the cherished obligation of every American. Let us display our solidarity as a people, a culture and a nation by proudly displaying the flag of the United States of America and renewing our kinship with our neighbors, just as we did that day.

Please join us in this FLY THE FLAG campaign. PLEASE forward this request to your friends and ask them to do the same.

Thank you for your participation. God Bless You and God Bless America!

Earth from space photograph from NASA collection.

Flag photo courtesy of Alta Loma photographer Gene Sasse, used with permission.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

“Hold On”

Hold on to things you can't explain

Hold on to dancing in the rain

Hold on to kisses on the lips

Savor every sweet moment, cause baby this is it

And hold on to things you wanna be

Hold on to friends and family

Hold on to burning summer sun

It makes a difference, every one

Lyrics by Jack Ingram featured on This Is It [2007]

Never taking life for granted is a theme throughout much of Jack's work.

Jack Ingram needs to title an album, “In the Moment” because whenever his songs come on- wherever my mind has wandered off to- his music brings it back to the moment.
Jack played at the Irvine Amphitheater last Saturday. The “Showdown at Saddleback”- Presidential Forum was just down the road- I could have been there with the 22,000 other voters that “filled capacity seating” indicates were there. Or I might have chosen to spend the evening with 46,000 other Christians at the Harvest Crusade in Anaheim.

But experiencing a Jack Ingram Concert took priority. It has now – SIX times. Each time was memorable- why?

Jack respects his audience. His show is his gift to the audience. He doesn’t overwhelm the music with flashy sideshow productions, graphics and pyrotechnics. The band understands that they are onstage to support the music. They do not use the stage to hold a contest to find out who can play the loudest. They are there to deliver to the audience a straightforwardly entertaining evening.

Jack’s does something in his live shows which one can't get on radio or CD. It is how he introduces a song. With a short story, he engages the audience as though it is a private one-on-one/ just the two of you.

At the Irvine show, he explained the Hinder lyrics to rock ballad “Lips of An Angel”- Jack says it as a love song: sort of. It’s also a cheating song. The lyrics are of a clearly clandestine conversation between former lovers who discover they “never really moved on”. Jack nailed what makes the song interesting. The two on the telephone might not be “guilty” of physical infidelity- but they certainly should be under suspicion.
The rock band Hinder performed the song first. But Jack did it better because he did it in classic Ingram signature style. He did it simply. He did it well. He did it with love.

If you ever have a chance to chat with Jack- you are going to love that he isn’t going to talk about himself. After the show-I've managed three short audiences- this time he wanted to know my opinion on how the three acts before him did. David Nail, Randy Hauser and Chris Young- I haven’t followed country music the last couple months with my usual intensity- so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect- you were wonderful! My husband wants me to add your CD's to the collection.

Jack's Website is

Jack's photo and the champagne glass are from my personal collection.

The other images are by photographer Gene Sasse, Alta Loma, CA. Used with permission

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Caring Hands Should Care For Their Hands

“A friend is a hand that is always holding yours, no matter how close or far apart you may be. A friend is someone who is always there and will always, always care. A friend is a feeling of forever in the heart.”
- Author Unknown

Love and commitment are solemnly sealed with words and the hand of a lover slipping a ring upon a finger.
Sometimes the touch of your hand will seal a feeling upon the heart of someone that will have to last a long time. Perhaps a lifetime.

Have you ever shaken someone’s hand and known instantly if you liked them or not? Judged if they could be trusted or not? Or sealed a deal with a handshake?

Hands are raised in oath, swearing honesty and allegiance.

Some of these moments will come without warning. Sometimes without want.

So taking care of hands should be important. Not just for vanity. Not just for health. But because the tactile sensory memory they leave with someone else may be remembered for a long time.

Katlyn Kathol became the “face” of our local Ace Hardware when she was seen on Fox News television after the Chino Hills Earthquake.

She kindly agreed to model the package of Comform.XT gloves by Ansell. These sized-to- fit disposable gloves are worthy of recommending to wear while painting, staining and performing light chores in home and garden where sturdier gloves would feel clumsy.
Not only are these gloves comfortable, flexible and strong, their textured surface allows for what the packaging accurately describes as “superior grip and tactile sensitivity.” Before we ran across this particular brand, any disposable glove would do. No more. If you don't see them in the paint department at Ace Hardware ask for them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Deus caritas est – "God is love."

In my faith, God is a trinity of letters chosen to name the Almighty as Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

What is love? It is a one syllable word the Greeks described having as many branches as the number of letters within it: affection, friendship, eros and charity. Four limbs of emotions to climb on, swing through, fall into and sometimes, regretfully, to fall out of.

Christian philosopher and writer C.S Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, explored the vast topic of love in more detail than I will here. This lead up I hope forestalls confusion regarding the next sentence.

To make dinner is to make love. Or at least it should be. In the care with which we select the sustenance, the care in preparation and presentation, our undivided attention when we serve (or are served) we signal how much we care. Or not.

Let me share a simple technique that will improve your favorite recipe for the king of comfort food- the pot roast. It doesn’t matter if you braise, boil or crock pot the boulder of beef into tenderness. It doesn’t matter if your seasonings are simple salt and pepper, sophisticated French or spicy Mexican. Before you plunk the chunk of meat in the pot to simmer slowly- heat up the barbecue

and sear the outside of the meat on the grill. Then finish cooking as you normally do. When you serve this, you will experience the difference a simple loving detail can do to transform the ordinary in to the extraordinary. As architect Mies Van Der Rohe taught, “God is in the Details.”

  • The Shield of the Trinity or Scutum Fidei, a traditional Christian visual symbol, was found on Wikipedia.
  • Thank you to Gene Sasse for use of the photo of the barbecue.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Roots of Eating Well

Our sons were finicky eaters until we let them have a vegetable garden.

It was a simple square plot, 2 long by 2 railroad ties wide, 8 inches deep.
We filled the back of our old green Silverado pickup truck (on a day it was running) with topsoil purchased from Wolfinbarger’s in Chino, California. Shovelful after shovelful, the boys and my husband emptied the truck bed by filling the wheelbarrow with the crumbly, chocolaty brown mixture that would magically grow bumper crops of all things vegetable, which up to that point, our sons avoided eating.

It took all weekend, but by the end of it we had a proper vegetable plot. Making mud was our son’s favorite part. Kenny, who was only two, had to be brought in to the house screaming because he didn’t understand why he had to take a bath. That first season, every day the boys would run outside with arms waving to chase away the rabbits and squirrels and gophers. Trevor was in charge of the noise and Kenny carried the big green watering can.

Through this interaction with “their” tomatoes and peppers and onions the seeds of eating well took root. The knowledge of seasons and connection to the natural world was established. Giving thanks for the bounty of the table took on special meaning.

Nan Sterman, author of the marvelous California Gardener's Guide, Volume II, wrote an excellent piece about gardening with edibles for the San Diego Union-Tribune this weekend. Please link to it at

Nan's book, pictured on the left, is worth the price just for that brilliant cover photograph of a Matalija Poppy. Published by Cool Springs Press, it's clear text is a blueprint for success in Southern California. If it isn't on the shelf of your favorite bookseller, it is easy to order off the Internet through at http://http//

Wolfinbarger’s is still in business! You can link to see the pricing on the best soil and amendments in this area at

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beer for the Lawn and Whiskey for the Roses.

Okay. The street we live on is steep. Double the grade posted on the Cajon Pass. There is nothing unusual for morning walkers headed up the hill to pause for breath when they reach our place. On hot August mornings, sometimes their heads jerk towards where we live. Not just because roses and agapanthus in full bloom is glorious to behold. They are wondering if they really smell what they think they do. On a day I fertilize, for about an hour, a light odor of alcohol wafts in the breeze. No, we haven’t been drinking. The garden has.
For the lawn, beer is the beverage of choice. Cola is the mixer. One cup of each, chased with ½ cup apple juice, lemon scented liquid dish soap and ammonia are poured into the base of a hose-end sprayer. The container is topped off with water. The lawn is pleased that I enjoy passing a little time with the best summer garden chore: watering.
Whiskey is for the roses. We were given a very fine bottle for one anniversary. My husband saw me eyeing it.
“No,” he commanded.
“Community property state!” I retorted.
I didn’t care too much what he did with his half of the bottle. But my half was for the roses. To make a terrific tonic to tote, fill a bucket with a gallon of tea splashed with 2 Tbsp hydrogen peroxide and a small handful of Epsom salts. Kick it up with about a quarter cup of whiskey. A good sized squirt of baby shampoo makes this daisy daiquiri go down smoothly. It doesn’t matter if this is shaken or stirred. Just pour.
If you are interested in a concocting a bevy of beverages to create a more gorgeous garden on a budget, Jerry Baker of PBS fame has a series of books on garden tips & tonics. Any of the series is a bartender’s guide for the garden using items that linger in most of our homes.
Mixing up these concoctions, you will learn working in the garden is like working in the kitchen. Follow a recipe a few times. You will have the confidence to strike out on your own with what you find in the cabinets. Just remember: we live in a hot climate. Watch how you spice it up. Too heavy a hand with strong ingredients can lead to an upset digestive system. Especially in the summer, half- strength
solutions is often recommended.
Like all true plantaholics, even through the hottest days of summer, I will need to get a fix. With standard summer temperatures withering even established plants, where the spade sinks in, succulents will be planted. There are lots of darling diminutives, all of which are not just light drinkers. They “hold it” well. In the event of a fire, these miniature living water balloons will slow the progress of the flames.

Save money by being smart. Supervisor Don Knabe recently announced the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a rebate program for the purchase of water-saving devices. Go to the Be Water Wise site and find out about the program, eligible products and how to apply for the rebate. A quick review found these potential garden savings- Smart Weather-Based Sprinkler Controllers - $150, Rotating Sprinkler Nozzles - $4 each and drip irrigation - $50. Here’s the direct hotlink-
This story first appeared in the Diamond Bar Windmill in August 2008 edition without photographs. Thank you to the DBIA and Editor Mina Ynzunza for their continued support.
The daquiri drink photograph is from Wikipedia.