Friday, October 28, 2011

The Reward of Struggle and Hard Work

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.

~Martin Luther King

Last week was a struggle. As you get older, the odds are you will be tempted more often to give up. But whatever comes your way, the only thing to do is keep on. God did not make us to fail. He made us to adjust and move forward. If for but one more day. Great blessings can be waiting on the other side of midnight.  

The form for the bass lamp project to be shaped over is out of stock. So I'm taking the projects out of order. Gerry will soon finish the kid's wine cabinet. So I am getting  a head start on our next joint venture. The stained glass window to insert in the upgraded Dutch door to our garage. It will be similar to this model found on the Internet. The size needs to be changed- the birds will be modeled after birds that drop in here and the tulips- they aren't going to be any shade of brown.  

The autumn garden adjusts to the changing weather with far more grace than I. Years of tilling compost and pairing plants has produced vignettes that I am at long last pleased with. When I am taken away to care for loved ones, they manage on their own.

The back canyon is an exercise in priorities. The wildflower seeds were broadcast with compost over native soil the day before a rain.  A single oak waits for its weekly water allotment delivered in a bucket way back in the barren background. Besides some minor up front effort, this is the kind of gardening where most of the activity required is to pray for God's grace, that He will help the seeds shout out their joy in springtime color.

As much as I love wildflowers, autumn is when fires roar through hillside communities. The effort went into clearing the canyon. Even with help, it is a job that leaves your back bent, your knees screaming for mercy, your nostrils filled with pollen and who knows what hanging from your hair.

But when you are finished, the mind is clear as the waters of a Caribbean lagoon.

The last of the pots are moved to more appropriate locations.

Now, we can put up our feet and pick the last of this season's tomatoes. In all this autumn toil we discover that the lack of having  much of  in common when we were first married turned out to be worth the struggle to make it work.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Picking color

“If you are drawn to certain colors and objects, chances are
that a compatibility of spirit will bind them together.”
~ Alexandra Stoddard

All the senses are involved in eating. How a room looks has the power to enhance or detract from the great binder of the family home sacrament- the formal dinner. Helping my mother-in-law update her formal dining room required capturing both her grandmotherly warmth and Christian dignity.

My mother-in-law wanted drama dropped into her home's interior. Previously, she had light floors, white walls and white ceilings. Conservative and traditional, she was afraid of stepping out with a bolder color scheme.
 The room we chose to start with was her dining room. We found inspiration  for change in the colorway of her beloved Franciscan Desert Rose pottery.

Voila! Benjamin Moore's Aura paint in Norwich Brown matched the color in the pottery trim. Holding the paint chip against the oil portrait revealed the moss-tinted brown also resides in the background of the oil portrait. The depth of color enhances the richness of the cherry wood dining set and old gold "pops" against the foresty backdrop. 


In decorating, forget the label. The table runner tag suggested  the printed fabric is a shawl. A Christmas gift from grandchild Kenny and his bride, Shannon, it is a fabulous table runner.

Rooms should be dressed like the people, reflective  of personality.  
Light and color uplift the room's personality through the mirrored china cabinet backdrop, crystal candlesticks and frosted lemons.  

Closer to the holidays, bright brass accessories will be moved front and center. A change of wardrobe for the seasons, if you will.

If you have ever used an accessory to choose wall color, I would love you to share!

Linking to Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thoughts Inspired by the Back Door Butler

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.
~Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat

A copy of The English Garden Magazine and flowers brighten the otherwise dark color

In the age of self-service and attached garages with automatic openers, it is the seldom-used bar near the garage entry that serves as our butler. Turning the corner from away from home duties to back at home, on its surface the welcome spirit of reading materials and flower arrangements is laid our for our return.

Stems of  Julia Child, Betty Boop, Pink Flower Carpet Roses turn a service area into a welcoming entry. Red valerian plumes pop out with the flourish of a feather pen. A mystery mauve rose is like a fairy godmother. In her nameless state, her goodness will not be denied.

A plume of red valerian provides a playful flourish.
This lusciously plummy number was given a chance to finish her apprenticeship in the garden,  even though her early years were filled with disease and straggly performance. In her youth, the mystery rose bloomed but once a year; and that I think she did only because she sensed the spade and trash can were coming for her. 

Our mystery rose had few things to recommend her. While experience with the frequency of an eclipse- her bodacious blooms are bathed in the most heavenly scent. The intensity of these two qualities saved her life. She lived long enough to try a move to a different part of the garden stage.  She spread her arms and flourishes. If this rose were an actress, she grew up to be a Helen Mirren.

Outside, it is bragging weather. 68 °degrees. 66% humidity. This time of year the sun sets for early, a mercy for those of us who spend the day in the garden doing just one more thing before we head in. To cook. To eat. To read. To write. To do a bit of housework. But mostly, to dream of the next day in the garden.

Friday, October 14, 2011

GBBD - October Mornings

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

~Marcus Aurelius


While the coffee brewed and I am out with the puppies for our morning inspection came the aha moment that confirmed I was awake - this time of year the moon sets in the sky not far from where the sun will swoon tonight. 

In the quiet of early morning the sky blooms as though one with the garden.  There is no bright line where the 'Betty Boop' roses stop and colored clouds rise on the horizon.

The 'Julia Child' roses send their cheer as I walk back to the kitchen.  In the day planner is a list to-do. Plan A- included trimming away disfigured leaves from the  grapefruit, tangerine and lemon trees, then dousing their leaves with Spinosad.

The strip of bare dirt a neighbor keeps as a fire break never looks better than when triple digit temperatures visit  us.  Today the  temperature sputtered somewhere in the mid-90's. The cooling trend portends longer days outside in our famously pleasant weather.

This lovely little succulent has all the colors of the sunset captured on its leaves- just like the little ceramic fairy painted them. Annie Hayes (of Annie's Annuals) says of one of my favorite in its class -

"The first time I saw Graptopetalum paraguayense ‘Pinky’ without hesitation I fell in love with its densely crowded leaves in sensual sunset hues forming highly attractive trailing rosettes. This was a succulent I could really admire." 

If you hurry to Annie's Annuals catalog- you just might catch the 20% off fall sale. Even if you don't- you will catch a smile. The site is just so darned irrepressibly cute.

Back in my front garden. The last of the stephanotis bloom is about to open and send her perfume into the night air. The collection of pots is largely moved, opening a blank wall that maybe someday will be a backdrop for a wall fountain.

My ambition sometimes exceeds my stature. In my forever seeking perfection through rearrangement- there are two gargantuan pots still to position.  A squat cauldron- like pot needing to be squeezed to the back through the narrow side yard and one tall heffer are left to lift. My regular tree man and his helpers are scheduled to help me get these off the check list next week.  By asking the crew to come when working in Diamond Bar is so much cheaper than asking for a special trip for so small a job.

This little lovely rose looks like a miniature 'Renae'. So romantic in her casual abundance. I've lost her tag. Guess I'll have to buy another to call her properly):-

If you desire to walk about more gardens, hop over to Carol May's garden. A fellow garden writer and member of the Dirty Hands Girl Club, the gates to Garden Blooming Blog Day should open soon.   

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hotter than Tamale Weather ~Changes in Garden and the Kitchen

Nothing is permanent but change.

Butterflies are the reward for warmer temperatures. This beauty; anyone out there know her name? If she posed for the laminated fold out ID pamphlet for Southern California, she was turned so the inside wing pattern was hidden. 

Inside the house, the thermometer smiled that it never had to exert itself over 78°  F. Outside, was another matter At her cruelest,  the sun's breath broiled the garden at 107.5°   Still, that was merciful compared to the brutal 118°  inside my husband's shed. 

Thank God for James Carrier, inventor of air conditioning and for Trevor Plunk. Our oldest son installed our automatic sprinkler system between college and career. Hand watering may be the most pleasant chore during So Cal heat spells, the plants, particularly in pots, get tired of waiting.

If skiing in a blizzard is a sign of kamikaze sportsman, gardening in this heat is the sign of a gardener obsessed.  It was a relief to see the the 'Easy Does It' rose settled in over the weekend with just a jigger of B-52 washed down with a gallon of water. 

Autumn is for action. Some pots were moved to interim locations. The honeysuckle planted by the birds won the right to its corner. This meant saying au revior to the Cleveland sage. Some branches holding still in a bucket bouquet. Plan A is to root some cuttings for the outback.

Buddleja with butterfly image from  Viette's 

We bid Adieu to a buddleja.  Not all worms are created equal. Whatever the maggot like creatures infected the woody stems- they are on the way to the dump. No plant is so precious as to risk an entire garden.

My husband, lover of Tabasco and all things hot and spicy, has been having a bout of tender tummy. For the time being, offerings from the kitchen need to be kinder and gentler than nut and chili encrusted deep fried whatever.

With football and the World Series upon us, this concoction is GOOD enough for game-time company.

Hot Brie Garden Dip
Gently melt a skinned wheel of brie snuggle fitted into a heat-proof bowl in the oven. While this is warming-

Sauté in extra virgin olive oil (infused with just a touch of garlic) sliced button mushrooms. Set the mushrooms aside.

Repeat with artichoke bottoms (If canned, rinse first to tame the acidity). When heated through, give them one good mash with potato masher.

Boldly stripe the top of the brie with sliced black olives, mushrooms and gleaming artichoke mash. Finish well with drizzling of pan deglazings. 

Serve with crackers.

Bon Appetite!

All photos, except the one from Viette's are by Gene Sasse

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The French Gardener ~ Nourishing Reading

The French Gardener

"Love requires effort, exertion and will...Love is not purely a feeling but an act of will. The man in the bar who neglects his family will tell you with tears in his eyes that he loves his wife and children. Love is  as love does."  Jean- Paul, The French Gardener

Garden. Gardener. These are words that call me to the bookshelves in search of realistic romance. Descriptions of transient beauty unfolding kept my eyes strolling the book's walkways with character's pulled as people are through life. Tugged at in a battle by want and will.  Sometimes rising to the occasion, sometimes not. I seek words to nourish my soul: stories that are like a life in a garden, replete with anticipation that compels staying for one more page, one more chapter. I crave literature that hurl the reader to the last delicious bite of typeface. 

The French Gardener is not a landscape design picture-book. But the magic of the words create the illusion that it is. Desire is symbolized by the beauty of the rainbow. Is its beauty in its presence or in its ethereal impossibility? 
Rainbow by Gene Sasse
In her novel The French Gardener, Santa Montefiore planted a beautiful garden of wisdom laid out in garden rooms, some wildly intimate, others stiflingly grand. Scenes are scented with love, orange blossoms and gardens both wild and manicured, the pages are filled with personalities that exchange energy with the garden, and a few that are like weeds or poison ivy- to be avoided or yanked out. 

Gardens and love are mutual metaphors.  Each has the power to heal and restore the human spirit. Even when the surface appears dormant dirt, through active participation, beauty can be restored.

Linking late to Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hergonomic- Ergonomics for the Woman Gardener

In Goldilocks and the Three Bears there were three chairs "just right" for each chair's owner. For a woman, finding a shovel  "just right" for how we are created wasn't always easy.

The Three Bears - Project Gutenberg eText 17034.jpg
Illustration by Arthur Rackham

It took a group of women who pitched in to help Ann's  Adam's son, Michael, when he was Adams the chef at The Farmhouse in in Emmaus PA. By supplying the artisian and heirloom varieties of produce, restaurant evolved into their region’s first farm-to-table establishment. In that first venture they learned professional-grade tools for ladies to be lacking.

File:Green Heron at Dunes Golf Course, Sanibel.jpg
Green Heron by Peter Wallwack
Having solved the food-supply need, they went about solving the need for tools just right for women.  They named their endeavors in honor of the entrepreneurial birds that visit their fields, the Green Herons. These beautiful birds are resourceful in enticing fish to be where they are needed. Like fly fisherman, they gather what is at hand, turning odd bits of feathers and fluff into bait. 

From Green Heron Tools – comes the the world’s first HERgonomic shovel, "just right" for maximum comfort, efficiency, safety and ease of use in the hands of a woman at garden.

Every feature of the  HERS™, a spade/shove hybrid, is engineered to  optimize how a woman's body moves differently than a man's. It starts with a man's strength gravitating from his upper body, while us gals pull our power from our lower center of gravity.

Blue Heron crafted the shape and diameter of the handle, contouring the green grip and texturing it to enhance performance in the most manicured hand. They didn't just give us the standard shaft pressed between the handle and blade. Instead, lengths of All-American Appalachian hardwood  ash are turned in three lengths, creating the best angle for effortless torque for women,  petite through tall.

Attached like with the integral strength of a fully tanged knife, the blade's extension is riveted through the handle. The 16 gauge recycled steel is light. Responsive. Durable. Dig your heels when you step onto the broad shoulder of the tempered steel blade. It was designed with footwear in mind.  

Put a HERS shovel in your garden arsenal. Feel the power as you dominate the landscape with proper tools in your hands, one shovelful at a time.

Learn more about the company developed by and for women gardeners and farmers here

Michael Adams still promotes local ingredients with a catering business he runs in Bethlehem, PA.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Times of Steven Jobs / February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

Times have changed. My contemporary, Steve Jobs, had much to do with it.
April 1982. Trevor on the first home computer of anyone I knew

It was around 1981 that Gerry used his earnings from a side job developing medical software for a Doctor at City of Hope to buy one of the first one hundred Apple II's off the production line. My husband swore it was "all he would ever want." Until the Apple II-e was released.

What my husband proclaimed was not a lie. But it wasn't lasting truth, either. He was just enamored. The future had arrived and he was happy.

 I did not imagine a day when everyone would want their own personal computer. I didn't even want to type. I could not imagine this day when individual family members would have desk top and portable computers- and separate computers to for personal and business functions. We had only owned a color TV for just a few years. A big console we bought second hand from the first openly gay couple I had ever met, in Palos Verdes.

Back then,  Gerald could run algorithms at night while Trevor played Etch-a-Sketch on the family computer during the day. Back then, the big slots where the little floppy discs went, they made an out- of- tune motor noise if a little boy stuffed a match box car in there as if it was a garage. Which made the repairman laugh.

And now I type. And type. And type. Thanks to the visionaries of computing. 

Steve Jobs
Matthew Yohe Original uploader was Aido2002 at en.wikipedia

I think Steve Jobs would like this poem. It hangs on our refrigerator. 

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in s brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dryrot.
 I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow,
than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The proper function of a man is to live,
not to exist.
I shall not waste my days
in trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

~ Jack London

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Presence- the next supermodel~ changing seasons

"Presence is more than just being there.”
~Malcomb S. Forbes
Abby wearing Nikibiki
Meet Abigail Plunk. Accomplished horsewoman, tennis player and now model. My niece. 
At 17, she shares with Taylor Swift and Jenifer Aniston what the popular culture calls the "It" factor. I call it "presence".  Abby rocks everything she wears, but particularly little black dresses.

I need to put away some bottles of Little Black Dress wine to celebrate when she turns 21. James Beard nominee Elliot Essman wrote a wonderful review of the line.

Wherever her path in life takes Abby,  I don't see "our little" miss black dress growing up to live the life of Maxine. Unless she chooses.  

Maxine offers another face to the definition of presence. Crabby people can visit our heroine's fan page on  Facebook.

The tree. The bench. The bird feeder. They add their own kind of presence to the garden. I thought about moving the bench this week- that would be so wrong- the corner of the yard would be naked without it.

In the hollowness of a landscape cloaked in darkness, a single cluster of yellow roses exudes presence  She came in a box from Jackson-Perkins, with no name to call her by.  She represents the people who pass through our lives in dark times. Even if we do not know their names , that does not erase the beauty of their presence when God sent them our way.

The presence of a California poppy captured by Gene Sasse
Wednesday, both cars were scrubbed and polished. Thursday it rained. 8 drops of water on my car, 3 on Gerry's.  It was heaven's early warning system, a clarion call for change of garden duties. Within a week, the weather people are promising a genuine soaking.

Anyone with sunshine and empty dirt, it is time to round up some wildflower seeds, spread them and if the birds don't eat all the offering, when the blooms burst it will feel as if  magic is rising. But we know. Magic is not commanded from thin air. It requires action.