19 May 2019

Spring Plantings 2019 | A Photo Essay

Green Man bust

"Though my sails be torn and tattered
And my mast be turned about
Let the night wind chill me to my very soul
Though the spray might sting my eye
And the stars no light provide
Give me just another morning light to hold

I will not lie me down, this rain a-ragin'
I will not lie me down, in such a storm
And if this night be unblessed, I shall not take my rest
Until I reach another shore

~ from "A Sailor's Prayer" by Rod MacDonald*

It was a difficult winter. A very dear friend of mine passed away unexpectedly and my husband's mother, who had been fading, took a sudden turn and we lost her too. A friend is working her way through a divorce and another friend is having a sad time overall. I left a job that I had once very much enjoyed for many years after management changes made it untenable. (I was one of ten who decided to leave, though, which was strangely heartening.) It seems our house was so often filled with sorrow. 

And the weather was odd throughout: cold, icy, changeable, dim, and grey . . . three late spring snowstorms blew through last month, damaging the crocus just coming up . . . and just a few hours ago, after I'd planted some ground flowers, it hailed and stormed. Now it is sunny again. So . . . it's been a rough and strange few months.

But I take strength from this song:  I will not lie me down . . .

When there have been breaks in the rain these past couple of weeks, I've worked on getting the kitchen herb container garden potted as well as those front yard flowers and a few new houseplants for the sun room (we call this room the solarium, which sounds so grand, especially when the storms are raging just beyond the glass).** 

The new plants always look so small and ungainly. But I remember they did last summer as well, and yet they grew . . . and grew. First, here's what things looked like then . . . followed by this month's new plantings. Before and after, they give me hope at a time when I very much need some reassurance.

Flowers in small garden with bird bathcontainer herb gardenSunflower with many blooms

Summer 2018

 And now, on to 2019 . . . 

new red tulipsred tulips and geraniums in pots

* * * * * * * * *

garden plot with destroyed crocus plantsgarden plot with new tulips and ground flowers

 * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * 

I end with the rhubarb . . . which shall not lie itself down for man or woman! If there is hope to be sought, it may be found in rhubarb, which raises itself up like a raging, sweet beast and will brook neither snow, nor hail, or nor endless night frosts.

rhubarb under snowthree rhubarb plants

"I will not lie me down, this rain a-ragin'
I will not lie me down, in such a storm"


* "A Sailor's Prayer"
** The aforementioned "I've" includes my much Beloved Spousal Unit who lifts and totes all the heavy stuff for me.

    30 January 2019

    The Art of a Paleontological Pie

    There is National Pi Day (March 14 . . . 3/14 . . . clever) and there is National Pi Approximation Day (July 22 ... 2/27 . . . see here for clarification).  And then there is National Pie Day (January 23), by far my favorite.

    But pie can be made on any day and for any occasion. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to Chicago to visit our dear friends, Writer & Aurora. As is often the case with good friends, sharing a meal is central to being together. We eat, talk, nosh a bit more, and talk even more. It's the connection that matters.

    We offered to bring dessert this time. As it happened, we had scads and scads of apples, so a pie was definitely the dessert to be had. I got up early to make it. The pie crust was a version of this one from Bon Appetit magazine. I always switch out half the white flour for whole wheat and add a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar cider to the ice water. One other thing . . . I always use a mix of apple types--it deepens the flavor.

    Usually I just do the two crust thing, making sure to sprinkle sugar-cinnamon on the top before putting it in the oven. Nothing fancy, just the loveliness that is pie.

    This time, well, this time I was simply silly.

    Those that know me know I am an adult who never grew out of the Loving Dinosaurs phase that many children go through. My husband's first gift to me when we were courting was a small box filled with plastic, scientifically accurate dinosaur toys. (Reader, I married him!) I have all of the BBC's Walking With Dinosaurs dvds. I saw Jurassic Park several times. I happily stop whatever I am doing to watch the videos of people wearing those goofy inflatable T-Rex costumes.

    But there's one thing that irks me, dinosaur-wise that is. It seems that the writers of every documentary or "science show" about dinosaurs simply must end with THE COMET.

    Image/photo by Simon Harrod
    Used by permission

    Scene: A sunny day. Dinosaurs of diverse herbivore types are happily munching away on grass or trees. Cut to a quick shot of a T-Rex (because you simply must have a T-Rex in any dinosaur show). Pan up to the sky . . . insert ominous music.
     Public Domain, Link

    Then you have one of two special effects: 
    1. a smattering of meteors suddenly careening across the sky--the dinos look up but then, because as we know they have tiny, tiny brains, they resume their munching, oblivious to the danger--followed by a great glow on the horizon; or
    2. strike the CGI meteors and go straight to the increasingly large glow on the horizon which is followed by massive and burning winds (see a multi-ton carcass of a Triceratops or Hadrosaur get blown horizontally across the screen) and succeeded by the somber scene of a burnt wasteland filled with the seared or smoking skeletons of the magnificent beasts.
    But . . . back to pie making. 

    Possessed by a sudden, Saturday morning impishness, I decided that this guest gift pie would commemorate those noble animals on their last day. I broke out the cookie cutters (because of course I have dinosaur-shaped cookie cutters and a comet-shaped cutter as well) and arranged the crust cutout shapes on top of the fruit.

    Once baked and cooled, the bakery was placed in the pie basket.

    I can report the pie was well received and tasted great . . . the former not at all a surprise given the presence of this friendly creature in our friends' window. 

    So, Chicago can rest safe . . . or can it?

    The answers might be found here.

    29 January 2019

    The Sewing Of Wedding Bedding

    Our niece got married during the Yuletide season. As a wedding gift my sister Song and I combined forces. She and my brother-in-law bought a lovely king-size down comforter and my husband and I provided the duvet cover for it. I texted the niece: "What are your and your fiance's favorite colors . . . asking for a friend!" "Blue and green" she replied. Fortunately, I had various fabrics in both colors in my long-time stash. And a simple pattern as well! 

     Kwik Sew Pattern 2958

    Our dining room table serves double duty as my sewing table. With the duvet being king-sized, I was glad that the table has extra leaves!

    While it was all straight line sewing, it still took some time to get all of the pieces together.

    The fabrics were all cotton. The green leaf squares and the blue-green pinstripes had a soft, brushed surface and the borders were of a medium weight, sky blue denim or twill. The backing was a slightly heavier weight upholstery fabric. I loved the many leaf patterns and how the colors and design echoed those of the top pieces.

     The finished duvet was simple and elegant.

    Wrapping the gift was fun too! We'd missed the bridal shower which, given the holiday, was a Christmas ornament party. So we attached an ornament to the ribbon (which was not a ribbon at all but a length of blanket binding from my sewing kit).

    Writer and imagineer par excellence, Neil Gaiman, wrote a wedding poem for some friends. Many people have asked if they could read it or gift it to friends of theirs who were marrying. He has said yes to all. Here is his poem (with the link to his original post at the end.) Very best wishes to our niece and new nephew!

    This is everything I have to tell you about love: nothing.
    This is everything I've learned about marriage: nothing.

    Only that the world out there is complicated,
    and there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain,
    and the only thing that makes it okay, sometimes,
    is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze,
    and not to be alone.

    It's not the kisses, or never just the kisses: it's what they mean.
    Somebody's got your back.
    Somebody knows your worst self and somehow doesn't want to rescue you
    or send for the army to rescue them.

    It's not two broken halves becoming one.
    It's the light from a distant lighthouse bringing you both safely home
    because home is wherever you are both together.

    So this is everything I have to tell you about love and marriage: nothing,
    like a book without pages or a forest without trees.

    Because there are things you cannot know before you experience them.
    Because no study can prepare you for the joys or the trials.
    Because nobody else's love, nobody else's marriage, is like yours,
    and it's a road you can only learn by walking it,
    a dance you cannot be taught,
    a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing.

    And because in the darkness you will reach out a hand,
    not knowing for certain if someone else is even there.
    And your hands will meet,  and then neither of you will ever need to be alone again.

    And that's all I know about love.

    "Wedding Thoughts: All I Know About Love" Neil Gaiman

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