Monday, August 22, 2016

To Be Happy at Home ~ Worthy Ambition

"To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour ends." 

~Samuel Johnson 
The Rambler, November 10, 1750 

Fresh butter's natural yellow
Real butter is a miracle of homekeeping.  3 minutes in the Breville Food Processor turns cream to culinary gold. The buttermilk squeezed out- good enough to serve company- and have them toast you for the discovery.  

Whipping up the latest batch, I thought of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). An Englishman, he was born in a time when the middle class was rising on both sides of the Atlantic. Suffering from ill-health the length of his life, he was acutely aware of the foolishness of wasting time.  His essays on the moral imperative to join profit and delight are beacons worth searching out.

Wisdom wears well. Johnson's quote at the top are still relevant and worthy  over 200 years after posted in a two-penny rag. 

Fast forward to today. It is flummoxing to ponder  why people aren't profoundly chastened by what they post on social media. All the rants and insults... thanks to technology, could outlive this generation. This generation may be remembered for contemptuous ill-manners, unrighteous indignation and no patience for either spelling or grammar. Can we share a group shudder?  

Which is why I write. In hopes to point even a few souls (including my own) to the gratitude for one more day. 

Fried Okra, Lydia-Style

 Okra was not in my Puerto Rican mother's cooking repertoire. Think she made it once, for I have vague memories of something akin to algae-colored slugs pretending to be a vegetable. 

Thank God this California girl married into a family with roots deep in states with long summers.  Oklahoma, Arkansas and Arizona.

They introduced me to one of the gifts of summer, fried Okra. The family- version was a bit gritty with cornmeal, so I changed it up a bit. In my version, pieces of the vegetable are tossed in a pancake-like batter before rolling in cornmeal. 

When the devil is in me, the battered bits to into a batch of hot bacon fat with chopped onion and chunks of ham. Otherwise, olive or other oil does suffice. At the very end,  freshly grated Parmesan cheese melts atop the hot mountain of Southern Hospitality. 

Poached eggs, Apple wood Smoked Bacon and a homemade turnover topped with whipped cream. 
I confess. I am guilty of binge watching the  The Great British Baking Show and swallowing whole Laura Bolton's delicious blog Fork Knife Swoon,

It struck this summer, this Epiphany. In this Age of Air Conditioning, it's okay to unleash worship from taste buds at the heart of the home, the kitchen range. The Sabbath brunch is nearly a service of celebration. The raspberry- lemon filled turnover, topped with freshly whipped cream was worth every calorie. Which certainly were gloriously ad infinitum.

Where we live is not just a house. It is a deeply personal retreat. We cocoon there, cuddling amongst reminders of what makes us happy. A bed so high, we sleep easily from oxygen deprivation; clinging to each other for fear if we fall off the edge, we'll break a hip. If we want to fight, we don't need to use fists- for there are lots of pillows.

As the bedroom is the first and last memory of the day, I think it the most important. I may dream of raising the ceiling, adding a balcony and improving the bathroom to more modern en-suite proportions. Still, there are elements I would keep if we were suddenly billionaires. No amount of money could ever change my heart. I was born a lover of country and romance. 

That means that we are slow to throw things out. It is better to rethink the purpose than to trash an object with cherished elements.

This nightstand was my passed- along childhood desk. My darling re-imagined it as his nightstand. On my side of the bed, is a similar desk from his childhood. Simply refinished, it serves double duty. First as my vanity- and bridge for the puppies to get in and out of bed on their own. 

Creativity solves waste. 
Inconveniences are opportunities disguised as problems. The downstairs bathroom light bar has been giving us fits. A shade broke. The fixture professionally rewired- but the bulbs kept pulling apart faster than my hair was falling out. Our best guess is that the modern light bulbs were ever so slightly different- causing the bulbs to overheat and sockets to pull apart.

Finding shades that matched both budget and taste wasn't happening when the great ah ha struck again. There were shades I bought on close-out for an outdoor project which never made it to the top of the list. Doggone if they weren't a perfect solution.  

Taking kitchen scraps out to the compost heap, my heart leaped. For in the compost heap, a salvia emerged. Just like in life. Expect, embrace surprise. Love the life you decided to live. 

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful- 


Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Garden Autobiography of What Really Matters ~ Dedicated to Allison Grace

There is a power to place when you allow where you live to embrace you.

'Amistad' Salvia, part of the Sunset Garden Collection, established in less than a season 
It is not so telling from whence forebears arrived. The framed certificates of recognition and diploma in my study are not nearly so important as that the plot of land my husband fell in love with because the surrounding chaparral  "smells like vacation."  The house was nearly incidental, except that it came with a 3 car garage. 

This place we live, sculpted the meaning of my existence. 

This geranium, one of several purchased from Greenwood  Daylily Gardens is a prolific horticultural 'brood mare'
Mine is not a designer's garden. It is a family garden which evolved, only partly by plan. It is an authentic reflection of who we were, and are ever becoming.  

Along the way, we learned mortal plans are held back by conscious thoughts.  What brought me to cherish this place was not the execution of plans. Deep connection was wrought from the vision and effort required to merge our personal visions of Eden, and make them real. 

There is a compelling collected energy born of hearts joining  hands with possibility.  Man is not inherently the enemy of the natural world. Fight or accept this- people are as much a part of nature as a smile is on a child's face.

A happy mistake- The orange tecoma- I didn't know it would grow to the size of the crepe myrtle- but our neighbors above prefer this view to our trash cans. 
The side yard which holds the line of  trash barrels is a happy place. It isn't just the color WOW of pink and orange- within the blossoms is a choir of birds cheerfully filling the morning airwaves until the sun leads them to siesta. The ambiance bids me to eagerly take out the trash. Really. 

My garden is not filled with things, so much as it overflows with loving memories. 

When my mother could no longer maintain her ode to the childhood jungle she crafted, her soul needed something of the garden to have with her in assisted living.  She never had a garden arch- so we re purposed this Charleston-style gateway into her headboard.  This made her happy.  

Early mornings,  as the inky-sky lightens behind the silhouette of dove, I feel her presence. Death did not separate her gardening heart from those she inspired. It lives on in the clippings, rhizomes and plants she passed on. 

I don't know that I have ever known a day here without bees.  This week they decided that  the signature abundant variety of  hospitality means they are welcome to raid this hummingbird feeder. 

Milkweed = Monarchs
Butterflies are the inner-child of the garden. Their calling, to pollinate the garden, is subliminal, subservient to joyful gymnastics. They dance. Flirt, Rest. Cocoon. Then reemerge to inspire us to carry on with our duties. With lightness, beauty and grace.

This post is dedicated to Allison Grace. My niece's life here was too brief. But while she was here, she taught everyone who knew her about making love THE priority.  

Linking to May Dreams Gardens GBBD (Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Until we meet again, 


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In Praise of Lawns, Bumper Crops and Notes from a Happy Summer

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."
~ John Lubbock

A fave portrait of Reno
I believe politics should end at the lawn's edge. There are too many "thou shalt not" and not enough stirs of creativity. A lawn is not a necessity. It is a luxury. One we are willing to pay dearly for because it supports mental well-being in the way gravel never will. 

A real lawn lowers the ambient temperature. Something your toes know right away as they guide your path on a hot summer day to green over pavement. The bunnies hop on-up from the parched canyon to eat their greens (aka our lawn). The hummingbirds hover inches above the grass to grab protein snacks. 

This  is not to say gravel doesn't have its place: but I'm sure glad when our sons were learning to golf, the through-motion divots were carved through grass, not gravel. 

Newly planted Red Carpet Roses
Anthony Tesselaar Plants kindly sent some carpet roses to field test. What's hotter than a hell-strip? An elevated hell-strip, like in the hanging clay pots hung from the same post as our freshly-repainted mailbox. Not even succulents like summers in this location. Mother nature cranked up the temp into the devil- wants- his- climate- back range- and these freshly planted slips just said "bring it on."

While some people are aghast at women wearing fur coats, I'm more likely to be angered at the cost of furry- freeloaders who disagree that their "fair share" of crops should be capped at around 30%.  

With topography more similar to where mountain goats climb than an Iowa field, the space appropriate for a food-garden is constrained. With the goal to load baskets with more ripened crops for our kitchen, the math requires the production per plant to climb like a jet fighter off a flight deck. Enter the fine folks at Greenview Lawn and Garden Products, purveyors of Natural Start Tomato, Vegetable and Herb Plant food.  As a member of GWA- The Association for Garden Communicators- the Pennsylvania company querried for interest to sample. 

Yahoo! Squash. Cucumber. An assortment of tomatoes and peppers. Enough abundance to  not just share with the local critters, my gasoline bill is significantly reduced because fresh produce is a quick walk out the back door. 

In our neck of the chaparral, Armstrong Garden Centers carries Greenview products. While the fertilizer can also be ordered off the Internet- I do enjoy the temptation and inspiration which comes from visiting a real nursery, don't you? 

At the end of the day, Tahoe and Reno somehow fit into the blanket- basket. Inspire us to put our feet up. Count our blessings. 

Does this cabinet look familiar? Back in the 1980's, when a television's girth matched a refrigerator's, there was a hole where there are now two extra drawers. Honey did a GREAT job remodeling the furniture to current needs. Matching the wood color of the new drawers to originals- I am in awe of my husband's endless talents. Now the television screen floats above the cabinet, making it less likely for one of us to block the view of an important play.

One morning, guess who appeared floating on the screen above the cabinet? Kenny. Our youngest son was in a fishing tournament covered by Angler Chronicals. He's shaken up the market with Bass Knuckles Clothing.  Every item that can be made in the USA, is. The story of the company's birth and success is a story for another day. 

Tahoe and Reno say good night. 

Until we meet again, Thank You for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful