Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Wonder

They shall be abundantly satisfied
With the fatness of thy house;
And thou shalt make them drink
Of the river of thy pleasures.

Psalm 36:8

Monday, November 24, 2008

Counting Days and Blessings

* * * * *

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
And into his courts with praise:
Be thankful unto him,
And bless his name.
Psalm 100:4

* * * * *

Oh my heart sings with delight! My favorite holiday approaches swiftly. A day for thanksgiving . . . the only gift given sails on words and deeds and joyfulness in reflection of a year most bountifully blessed.

I shall not be blogging, rather I shall be planning and shopping and cooking and fluffing the pillows as my daughter Elizabeth returns from “college dorm room” to take up residence in “The Princess Pavilion.” (Her dramatic flair for decorating beckons you into a sumptuous surround reminiscent of a pre-Raphaelite painting – it suits her perfectly.)

Though we will only be together as a family for a few unbroken days, we shall savor the moments strung together like a charm bracelet of celebration and joy. Long chats over tea, bowed heads in thankfulness before feasting, extended embraces before retreating to slumber – these will be my delights. Our family will nestle together into the bosom of our cottage as the predicted stormy winds do blow against the snug walls. Games and reading aloud and merry making of all manner will fill our days to overflowing. Carry on nature – we will follow as is natural and snuggle in for a peaceful retreat of thanksgiving.

Blessings to you all as you celebrate and acknowledge all manner of abundance God has bestowed upon you this past year.

* * * * *

And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving
And the voice of them that make merry:
And I will multiply them,
And they shall not be few;
I will also glorify them,
And they shall not be small.
Jeremiah 30:19

* * * * *


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Wonder

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving,
And make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
Psalm 95:2

Friday, November 21, 2008

Faerie Tale Friday


"Oh Rhett you'll just never guess what I've gone and done. I'm so ashamed! Why, I was all set to blog about something so important and then it just flew right out of my head! Oh you know I can never keep my grammar straight when I'm wearin' a new bonnet (which I am not wearin' now, but I was then)."

"Soooo . . . with nothing on my mind I jus' up and plopped down on the sofa next to Miss Lydia and we had the most delightful time watchin' part one of Gone With The Wind. Oh, it's really an amazing movie -- one of my all time favorites. I jus' couldn't bear to miss it!"

"But, now you see my dilemma . . . NO POST!"

(*SOB*sniffle, sniffle*SOB*)

[Rhett gallantly hands Scarlett a monogrammed hankie,
which she demurely accepts and THEN KEEPS!! *gasp*]

"And what's worse . . . "

[Music rises to a crescendo . . . ]

"I intend to do the same thing tomorrow night when we watch part two!!"

"O fiddle-de-dee,
I can't think of that right now.
I'll think of that tomorrow.
After all . . .
Tomorrow is another day."

* * * * *
For the record: I require the reading of the book before the viewing of the film. NO EXCEPTIONS, since we ruined Little Women for Lydia by fudging and watching the Kathryn Hepburn version before she finished the book. : (

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Simple Thoughts

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

~~Shaker Dance~~

I find myself drawn to simple thoughts and simple tasks this day as I sit many miles apart from my sister, yet find my heart beating so close to hers. She stands at the graveside of her dear mother-in-law and bids her farewell from this earth. The once vibrant, sprightly, and at times all too vexing mother of her husband slowed so suddenly and then closed her eyes in final rest before any could fully grasp that 87 signaled her full portion. As accountant, taxi service, personal shopper, friend, and loving daughter, Cindy served May with the love of a daughter without need of the law. Though they shared but a mere handful of years together, my sister will lovingly fondle the bequeathed jade necklace worn round her neck at the burial site and surely shed tears for all the tomorrows she had hoped to share with May. I pray for peace to surround them all on this difficult day of parting.

The gift of a simple cadence to my day affords me the opportunity to sit and pray without checking a watch (I haven’t worn one since I quit participating in the corporate American circus well over 20 years ago). In contemplative moments of late I have pondered much and prayed so deeply for so many: For those burying loved ones, battling illness, sitting by a baby’s bedside in hospital, counting the pennies in the till as word comes down of a lost job or home or opportunity. So many troubles, so many cares in this day. And yet, as I seek His word and sit quietly in His presence a flooding of peace and comfort fills me to overflowing. Just through this little blogspot I have found tethers and tendrils to so many with such joy and love and hope to express and share for all the world to partake and celebrate. Lately, my sporadic sessions on the computer have been consumed with seeking less-trodden paths. Many of these quiet sites do not offer a comment forum or have one that sits idle. I sit peacefully and drink in the simple lives and abundant gifts that these secluded places whisper about. The chatter-less meadow entices me to read back and touch the heart of the writer who daily sojourns without a pat or bantering smile.

I bookmarked many of these little hollows wherein simple folk eschew the bright lights and bling of the common world. Though I do not read by candlelight, nor spin and weave my cloth, I do share so many of the simple ideas and governing thoughts for a life given over to the diurnal tasks without thought to tomorrow’s reward. The smile of a child, the strains of a scale at practice time, the beauty of a family gathered ‘round the table, heads bowed in thankfulness for another blessed day – these treasures fill my chest. Long ago, in a moment of sheer exhaustion and disappointment I left job and picked up dormant dreams of a better life. We struggled and survived on less in order to gain more. Dreams of a home-based life with Gary working among us came true after traversing a rocky path filled with pain, toil, and sacrifice – but the joy persisted and lives today with a gentler path, but still one requiring active effort to remain focused on this portion, not the portion paraded by the world.

Many years ago we turned off our TV, begged off the whirlwind of social activities, and closed our eyes to the bright lights in search of something quieter. I have no regrets as I sit here sipping tea and listening to my children going about the business of learning, dreaming, working, and living right alongside parents who learn, dream, work, and live under the same roof. Though some have questioned and doubts have arisen, the fruit hangs lush upon the vines for all to enjoy here in our cottage life. To have found so many kindreds in the blogdom has brought a smile to my face, which at times falls prey to furrows of worry that the life we cherish may be plowed under in an onslaught of pressure from without. Ironically, while headlines scream of the demise of the American Dream, so many joyfully sing of a different kind of dream – a simple dream of family meals and agrarian projects, of handmade fun and homespun beauty.

The bookshelves lining our cottage weigh heavy with the truth of lives lived many years ago. The simple wisdom and meaningful work they engaged in daily mirrors our daily portion. Though we do not milk animals at dawn (though some lobby heavily for just such a pleasure) or feast solely upon our harvested goods, we do strive to find the meaningful tasks and shed the superfluous. The gift of simplicity we share with our children can be enjoyed in the country, the city, the suburbs, or even somewhere in transition. The blogging world has afforded me the gift of finding so many simply-minded ones. Let us join hands and dance as we preserve the pathway for our children.

Life ends abruptly and only memories remain. Let us ensure those remembrances bring smiles and engender hope. My sister will file back through the years spent with May and savor the sweetness of shared moments. I strive each day for a feast of simple moments to share with my family and nourish their hearts with hope in a world that seems to have forgotten the value of simplicity in the race for more that results in less.

Thus saith the LORD,
Stand ye in the ways,
And see, and ask for the old paths,
Where is the good way,
And walk therein,
And ye shall find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16

* * * * *
And they that shall be of thee
Shall build the old waste places:
Thou shalt raise up the foundations
Of many generations;
And thou shalt be called,
The repairer of the breach,
The restorer of paths to dwell in.
Isaiah 58:12

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Respite Wednesday

Life Imitates Art

Lydia: Mmmmm, what smells so good?

Me: Sweet potato pie.

Lydia: Yummy. That reminds me of The Andy Griffith Show where they're always talking about fried chicken and mashed potatoes and sweet potato pie . . .

Me: (*sigh*)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Visions of Sugar Plums

The birds flit gaily from one brilliant bough to another. The jewel-toned trees shed leaves like gemstone butterflies. The thermometer reads in the low 70s. We enjoy a splendid fall display unrivalled in our 8-1/2 years here in Grass Valley. Last night we grilled a tri-tip and stood outdoors chatting in the gathering dusk. Thoughts of sweaters, hot cocoa, and snowflakes fall far beyond the pale as we eschew socks in these balmy days leading up to Thanksgiving. I hope that the fall color stays colorfast until Elizabeth returns for Thanksgiving break. Last year she arrived to barren trees and rainy weather, but enjoyed it all the more in contrast to San Diego’s temperate climate.

Despite the warmth out of doors, I curl up in my favorite chair, silk hassock at my slippered feet, and dip down into my stash of holiday magazines plus the Williams-Sonoma catalog and dream of sugar plums and roasting turkeys all stuffed with goodies, pumpkin pies and candied yams, sky-high biscuits and balsamic-drenched brussels sprouts. Aaaahhhhh what delightful diversions. I LOVE TO COOK! Fortunately my family loves to eat.

Holiday gatherings in our home have always been eagerly anticipated, excitedly planned for, and thoroughly enjoyed. Whether it be just a quiet nuclear-family gathering (as will be the case this Thanksgiving) or a house-party of extended family and friends encompassing many days of revelry (as Christmas promises to be), we celebrate with gusto. The food, the decorations, the music, and the traditional markers catch us all up in a most joyous, thoughtful, warmly-shared time of reflection and praise for another blessed year in our family.

Traditionally our Thanksgiving begins with a beautifully-set table hosting plates containing a mere five kernels of corn symbolizing the pilgrim’s struggle before the much-celebrated bounty. Though my children have never known hunger, we choose to remind them that not all have been so fortunate in their lives. The meal commences after prayers and a round-table expression of thankfulness. Each year I dab away the tears as we thank the Lord for so much. Poems, plays, and musical gifts fill the balance of the festival, with a traditional “crash” in front of an historical movie (Snoopy and Charlie Brown usually get called into action) as we digest the meal and the history behind the beginnings of our great land.

The day after Thanksgiving we pack away the gourds and Indian corn and pilgrims and haul out the tinsel and manger and tree for Christmas. Elizabeth loves to have the tree up for her December 2nd birthday; I see no reason why this year should differ. And so the day after Christmas the carols ring from the stereo whilst the Christmas makeover begins. The annual Christmas cd purchase has already arrived: A Colonial Christmas by Barry Phillips of Gourd Music. I discovered the Gourd family of musicians while living in Felton, their home town as well. A local bookseller offered a listen to the cds filling the rack and I fell in love with the gentle folk tunes, renaissance dances, and so much more. Over the years I have purchased many, many of their enchanting albums. This year I added the newest Christmas cd in accordance with a tradition started when Gary and I first married wherein we would build a library of Christmas music one cd at a time. Clearly something went awry over the years because we have been married 24 years and have over 50 cds!

My mind runs on and on as I pore over recipes, entertain a new decorating scheme for the stairway, ponder a new cookie to include in the tasty gifts to our neighbors, and mentally assign beds to all the guests on our ever-growing list. Smiles, joy, delight . . . without a thought to potatoes to peel, dishes to wash, and laundry to process (which I’ve already confessed I enjoy attending to), as there will be many hands to make the work light. Lost in thought for the holidays, I gently sip my tea and gaze out at the summer-like day and dream of a white Christmas – “A dream is a wish your heart makes,” croons Cinderella. My heart is wishing lots of good things and my heart bursts with the anticipatory joy of celebrating so much with so many I love.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Casual Monday

‘Tis Monday! Feeling decidedly unwilling to let go of a “weekend” mentality, I have decided to make this a Casual Monday. A slipper-wearing, feet-up kind of day wherein I let go of the prosaic rambles and poetic sojourns in favor of a zany silly detour. A few days ago Farmlady closed her comment with “Thank you for letting us know how truly human you are.” I laughed when I read that one, realizing that my pinkly poetic blog may give some the wrong impression. So, to dispel any myths or misconceptions I figured I should pull the lace back a bit further and share some silliness with you.

Hmmmmm . . . Already having admitted I love Mondays, dare I venture further and add that I enjoy tidying the cottage? Yes, indeed, I do. Washing dishes, doing laundry, and vacuuming bring a smile to my face. Of course I do add a bit of “atmosphere” in the form of music. I absolutely love cranking up the stereo and grabbing the vacuum. Granted, my family does not share my love of domestic duties, so when they hear Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade theme (one of my favorite motivational tunes) ringing through the halls they scram. Doing math beats out folding laundry any day.

With a wide selection of music to choose from, I gravitate toward the light and lively. Any Disney/kids music will do but I also enjoy kicking up my heels with an American in Paris, or twirling amongst the alive-with-music hills of Austria, and I shall never forgo an invitation to Dance with Anna and the King of Siam, dustcloth in hand. Some days require a céilidh atmosphere and my collection of irish/celtic music serves me well. Who can shuffle through a mundane task when the fiddles and drums meet the hornpipes and penny whistles for a rollicking good time?

Can you handle a bit more silliness? I generally get involved with the cleaning routine before I shower, so am often casually cleaning in my nightie. For this very reason I take great care to select sleepwear that may be mistaken for a summer’s shift or a comfy winter's lounger. Once my neighbor stopped by a bit on the early side and I invited her in for tea. We chatted and sipped as she shared some sorrow upon her heart. She bid me farewell quite some time later, thanking me for the tea party. When I closed the door my children burst out laughing as I had carried the whole thing off in my nightie. That pink sprigged “dress” has saved me on more than one occasion, for not only do I enjoy cleaning in pjs, but have been known to stroll the gardens in the same attire and receive deliveries from UPS. Fortunately we live in a secluded spot behind a gate (to keep out deer, not guests) without too many drop-ins.

As a final silly snippet I will divulge my zaniest food vice. Known for healthy, from-scratch cooking with an abhorrence for fast- or processed-foods, I do have a penchant for “melty cheese” – that cheesefood that makes the gooiest grilled cheese sandwiches and the smoothest omelet filling. I buy organic “melty cheese” though my husband laughs out loud at that oxymoron. Still, I prefer the healthiest choice possible so Horizon’s organic cheese slices reside in my treasure-trove cheese drawer right alongside the cotswold cheddar and smoked gouda and sheep’s milk feta and buffalo milk mozzarella and lavender chevre and Point Reyes Bleu and a host of other delectable creations to delight the palate.

Well, I think that’s enough zany for one day. After all that talk about yummy cheese I feel the need to take a break and go have a snack before I turn up the volume and enjoy my Monday morning cleaning festival. Shall we snack before we dance?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Wonder

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world,
But that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world,
Even as I am not of the world.

John 17:15-16

Friday, November 14, 2008

Faerie Tale Friday

A Farewell Waltz

The warm autumn day wooed me out of the house, away from the task at hand, and into a magical dance of color and celebration of a year finishing itself well.

With each rose bloom bidding adieu Or weeping petals in the breeze,
With the promise of death upon the stage I walk
And fetching hues fading to dusky memory,
Still the song of life plays vibrantly amidst the woods.
A burning bush speaks promises eternal
While God's palette warms the parting song of the aging leaves.
Evergreen "kissing balls" of mistletoe hang o'er the cottage
Whispering of love and romance
That will remain awake all winter long
In the arms of the slumbering oak tree.
Shouts of joy in vibrant red beg, "One last dance to celebrate!"
Though some mourn the final dance of fall
I cannot join them in their sorrow,
For I am gathering more than empty acorn cups and fallen leaves.
I see invitations to many more frolics in tomorrow's dreams.
As one blossom nods to sleep another dresses for upcoming balls.

Hints of life peer forth with a giggle of colorful anticipation.

And swelling hope tops withering twigs.

Even the accidents of yesterday portend future gaiety.

Tender fronds, the infants of today, will be the debutantes at spring's fest.

No weeping please, at this farewell gala;
Only joyful patter of dancing feet must be heard,
Which will till ‘morrow’s dance floor
And tune up the color for a splendid celebration
Come springtime’s delight.

* * * * *

To every thing there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thankful on a Thursday

A golden pink sunset

The rich aroma of fall's first pumpkin pie

Flaky dough remnants baked sweet 'round wine jelly

The heavenly tune of an angel in training

These simple pleasures make my heart sing with joy. : )

* * * * *

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts
. . . and be ye thankful.
Colossians 3:15

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Respite Wednesday

Build Bridges, Not Walls

The Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet

My dicey upbringing taught me how to build a solid wall – a fortress for my feelings, vulnerabilities, and dreams. This hermetic world sustained me, but left me feeling lonely.

Eventually I built a doorway and in due time hurt entered my little world – just as I had feared. So, I locked the doorway and hid. While in hiding, I developed a surrogate to meet and greet the world. She flourished, prospered, WOWed, and succeeded with her skill and accomplishments – yet, she remained aloof and unknown by heart. In a crowd she sparkled, but at day’s end she returned and shut the door with an isolated clang that echoed throughout the room until a new day brought a new performance.

The longings of a lonely heart grow in intensity as dreams reach out for a true heart-to-heart touch. The fears ward off risk taking until loneliness grows menacing and the empty heart cries out in anguish, thinking no one can hear. But God hears . . .

Prayers avail. A seeking heart yearns and opens the doorway in hopes of finding that elusive connection despite past failure. Tentative trust extends a hand to one outstretched. Warmth delivers hope that this small spark may ignite love. “Hurt may happen!’ screams the jailer. The hurt one ignores the cry in order to savor the moments of warmth, tucking them into the memory chest before they fade away . . . like all the rest. This storehouse of scattered moments must serve to nourish the starving heart in days to come, thus it gathers hungrily to the last second.

Shock waves reverberate throughout the dungeon in the absence of the expected JOLT of pain. Where is the pain that precedes parting? It never arrives. Instead, a soft embrace and an invitation for more of the same set the imprisoned one on a mission to widen the doorway. In time windows fill the formerly solid walls, the door becomes discarded, and finally the wall comes apart piece by piece in eagerness to build a bridge. Accident and injury accompany the un/building process, but a bruise attained innocently in the fresh air can never leave a brutal scar.

Many long years have passed since I opened the door and took a risk to love. I have stumbled, gotten slivers, hit my thumb with a hammer, and received numerous glancing blows from those working alongside me during this project called relationship, but I have no regrets about cracking open that heavy door all those years ago.

Of late, I dipped down into a hollow of sorrow along life’s pathway. The temptation to shut the door and hide crashed over me like high tide. I contemplated sealing off (especially the blog) or worse yet, donning a mask and blogging of frivolities. Both options paled at the prospect of honestly shedding a tear for all to see and reaching out my hand for encouragement. I chose well . . .

Your loving words and gifts of prayer have buoyed my in ways you may never know. I thank you. I also know the pure joy in purpose I have experienced as I lift each of you to the Lord at various times in various circumstances. I pray this prayer bond blesses you as much as it has blessed me.

In Beauty for Ashes Joyce Meyer writes: “I have learned to build bridges instead of walls.” (214) Initially, I thought she referred to the breaking down of relational barriers and the re-establishment of a relationship severed, but she continues:

Make a decision to tear down your walls and build bridges.
There are many, many people who are lost in their messes
And need someone to go before them and show them the way.
Why not be the person for them?
Walls or bridges? The choice is yours.
(Beauty for Ashes, 214)

I always hesitate to draw the lace aside and offer a glimpse at the heart of my life, but each time I do it I receive word of thanks (often anonymously) for sharing. So, I put away the pretty masks and let the real joy shine forth through the tears as I say, “thank you for the prayers," while I dance the joyful dance of bridge-building and friendship-making and heart-growing. My painful issues did not fade when I reached out asking for prayer, but the fear of loneliness did turn tail and run with the first email affirming that one of you carried a prayer heavenward for me without knowing the necessarily private details. I hurt . . . you helped.

. . . Pray one for another,
That ye may be healed.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
Availeth much.
(James 5:16)

Today I pray that any one of my precious readers who needs the uplift of prayer will walk across this bridge and enter the pool of prayer that refreshed me so these past few days.

I came across this quote yesterday and it made me smile for its simple, yet profound truth:

It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil.
If they would only expend the same amount of energy
Loving their fellow men,
The devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.
~~ Helen Keller ~~

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank You

Open My Eyes Lord . . .

When one door of happiness closes, another opens;
But often we look so long at the closed door
That we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

~~Helen Keller~~

* * * * *

I have to learn that the aim in life is God's, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say - Lord, this gives me such heart-ache. To talk in that way makes me a clog. When I stop telling God what I want, He can catch me up for what He wants without let or hindrance. He can crumple me up or exalt me, He can do anything He chooses. He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness. Self pity is of the devil, if I go off on that line I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. I have "a world within the world" in which I live, and God will never be able to get me outside it because I am afraid of being frost-bitten.

~~Oswald Chambers~~
My Utmost for His Highest

* * * * *

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
And lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him,
And he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rosy Dreams

The chilling nights still yield to sun-warmed days which beckon me to play amongst the still-prolific gardens -- this verdant playground that once stood barren, save the scrub of nature left from gold-fever days (which ended only 52 years ago in these parts).

Once, not so long ago, a man gazed across this cast-off land and spun a dream of planting an English cottage, family-sized, among the few remaining trees on the generous plot. He and wife raised two and moved on, making way for another hopeful couple to bring five along with dreams of a garden for the cottage. Little by little the newest dreamers cleared the neglected land, laid bare by overuse and vicious harvest. The peelings from their daily fare piled up, broke down, and fed the dream. Over time, seeds and seedlings, slips and roots gathered together in celebration of a garden home. Roots dug deep, lush growth fed fruit, and perfume spread the glory of the bloom as the dream unfurled. Success smiled with the first plump bud peeking from the flourishing fringe around the porch and grew to be acres in chorus of Eden’s memory. Just as the cottage builder hammered nail into board to commence the cottage dream, so the following couple forked seedling into bed and dreamed cottage-garden dreams.

More than eight years have passed since that family with the garden dream laid eyes upon the pretty cottage sitting upon the harvested land, pregnant with expectation for a lush dressing in its made-over moment. Where once these “rounded-up” acres lay still and silent, organic hospitality now invites birds and bees and creeping nature of all sorts. The hum and buzz of a summer’s day lends orchestration to the arias of the bathing birds. Life sings triumphant where once only dream appeared.

And so, as seed catalogs and garden offerings begin flooding the postal box, and fall’s cleaning necessitates the dusting and inevitable perusing of each garden book upon the shelf, inspiration calls out from many places, converging at the earthly easel of life’s mural and the dream grows. Like a magic carpet, the ideas carry the homespun gardener over the acres called home, finding joy among the wisteria-and-rose-laden dreams for tomorrow soaked in the joys of today wrought with yesterday’s hope and toil. As the gardener’s trowel touches each “new” garden she wonders whether this may be the final stroke; but then an overlooked spot of barren soil cries out, “Shall I be passed over?” Thus, the dream grows a bit further.

* * * * *

The teakettle whistles as she pauses, duster in hand. She blinks and returns to the present moment, smiling as she recalls Frost’s delicious words:

The woods are lovely, dark and cold,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost (1923)

“Ah, yes,” she sighs, “Miles to go before I sleep,” and spins a rosy dream of fresh promise.

* * * * *

Would you like to take a walk in my garden? Here's a path. Or here. Or here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Wonder

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this;
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Galatians 5:14

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Faerie Tale Friday

Still, and oh so still, one kitty sits in the garden -- waiting . . . watching . . . wondering what is afoot on this most delightful of Faerie Tale Fridays. With the crisping of leaves and the soughing of winds, the garden dances with fall's delights. A gentle stroll over crispy leaves and crunching twigs signals someone's afoot in the magical woods.

Alas, I've arrived but the faeries have flown. Only silent abodes meet my curious gaze. Pixie builders have scavenged the fall-littered hollows and gleaned the most inviting of mosses, barks, and fir cones with which to craft a hearth and home.

A few steps beyond lies another spritely cottage. Here too I meet silence, though the acorn-cupped tea set still sits table-top, while berries delicious have rolled 'cross the floor from the swiftly blown breeze of a hasty retreat.

Yet, I pause and I peer at the delicate work. Then I grin as I ponder a most wonderful wish -- oh how joyful to lay eyes upon a faerie housekeeper and her neighborhood friend. Just a glimpse, nothing more, only once to see the sight. Eyes pressed closed, wishes wished, I flash open my eyes and capture sight of two pretty, pretty faeries flashing impish grins at me.

Wide-eyed staring on my part, while most impolite, also causes the eyes to dry mercilessly. Nature forces me blink for refreshment and whence I open my batted lash I stand staring at a blue wildflower patch and wonder afresh whether the gentle blowing grasses tattle of the faerie's retreat or merely wave in the blustery laughter of Mother Nature at play with me.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Salty Talk

Is it just me, or do others like a variety of salt flavors? Now I don’t mean salty pretzels, chips/crisps (for my readers over the pond), or even olives. Rather, I refer to the plethora of salts to choose from when salting your pasta water, bread dough, roasting meats, and the like. My kids think I’m loony because I have salts sitting around like others have herbs and spices (oh, I have those too, in abundance – and let’s not even get into the weeds, leaves, and pods bottled and ready to season the stew or pudding).

Let’s face it . . . I adore choices. Why have just table-salt when you can enjoy delicate French fleur de sel, Himalayan pink salt, course and gritty sea salt, specially blended seasoned salts, and so much more? (Actually, I must confess . . . I have no iodized table salt in the house. Sorry, little girl with an umbrella – you’re adorable as décor but deplorable as flavoring.)

So while I am boiling a big pot of water for pasta I sling in a handful of coarse sea salt as I trill along with a Puccini aria. Likewise, the folksy accordion tunes that fill the air as I slow cook a beef daube and bake crusty baguettes brings on the uncontrollable urge to dip into the corked bottle of fleur de sel, harvested from the misty shorelines of France, and sprinkle liberally.

Cooking . . . it’s more than a chore or even a hobby around here – it’s an ADVENTURE! Some of my best recipes came not from cookbooks, but from travel journals rich in detail of flavor and taste, or down-home novels rich in gravy and pies. My “FAMOUS” oven-friend chicken recipe came from a book I can’t even recall, wherein a feisty old South’ren Gal fooled everyone with her “fried chicken” – it was oven baked after being soaked in buttermilk and rolled in flour. I add a gingered season salt to the flour and spritz the dredged lot with oil before popping it into the oven to bake. I call it “Novel Chicken.” My family calls it DELICIOUS!

Now you might ask, does the seasoned-salt make a difference? Probably not, but then again it sure was more fun for the cook who sprinkled that gritty, zesty, ginger-perfumed additive whilst dancing to a hammered-dulcimer tune singing through the speakers. Let your tastebuds be the judge, but never, never compromise on the fun. Just as you wouldn’t have use for un-salty salt (see Matthew 5:13), a meal prepared without joy and fun would hamper the feasting. Serviceable gruel ladled with an institutional pallor into joyless orphans never nourishes the soul in any tale (just read Oliver); but even a simple piece of bread accompanied by a bowl of milk put forth in the most perfunctory manner warmed Heidi’s optimistic tummy and began melting the ice around Grandfather’s stony ticker. Was it the food or the joyful attitude that made it a feast? I’ll side with Heidi’s joy and chow down with a smile.

My kids have been raised on a diet of literary feasts and literal feasts. Every time we sit down together to eat we thank the Lord and pass the joy from one to another as we pass the food. We won’t be passing the salt shaker around the table, however, because I never put it on the table. I’m not selfish with my special salts, I just believe that salting is part of the preparation and should never, never cover over the dish’s flavor at the last minute. If you want to salt your own food around here you’ll just have to get on your dancing shoes and join me in the kitchen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Treasure Hunting

Many I know love to canvass thrift stores for home décor goodies or consignment shoppes for dazzling dresses, but I prefer to putter around in the dusty bowels of our ancient J. Paul Getty library and seek out treasures bound in cloth at the monthly library used book sale. Yep, I confess . . . I am a bibliophile in the worst way. Each initial Saturday of the month I wheedle my husband into dropping me off at the threshold to the library basement in a town devoid of parking places for all but the daring or foolish. As an added bonus, I get curbside service when I load in all my treasures – no caves to crawl out of, no mountains to scale, no forests to break from, merely a set of stairs leading to the street level.

Though the doors open for business at 9 am sharp, I prefer to arrive much later. The initial buyers consist mainly of booksellers from the town who seek bulk, cheap, current books they can turn over for a quick profit. With the price structure ranging from $0.10 to $3.00 they find just what they seek. However, while they are scrounging around for business profits they elbow, push, and literally shove other hunters lest they seek the same quest. So, I choose to arrive after the melee and enjoy fewer crowds, incidents, and (alas) choices. Fortunately I seek anything BUT the current, trendy, and easily devoured, so I find PLENTY to excite me.

I used to visit the local booksellers, but after I came to know them here I decided to skip their markup . . . and rudeness. Once I encountered an angry seller at the library sale who wanted my position. I moved away politely (having found nothing of interest in that specific spot) and took up residence where he had formerly stood. I giggled to look at the shelf and find an out-of-print gem of children’s literature, The Velvet Room, in HARDBACK right before my very eyes! I had paid $40 for a used copy to give to Elizabeth for her birthday a few years back. This copy dancing before me cost a mere 50-cents and looked in much better shape. I slipped it into my bag and left the angry man to sift through the dull and cheap. To each his own …

On this past Saturday I awoke to the delicious sound of rain pattering on the roof, which would normally inspire me to grab a book and dive back under the covers. Instead, I remembered it was Book Sale Day and I flew into action. Shortly thereafter I sat in the car clutching my trusty (and strong) book tote. I skipped from car to doorway, waved cheerfully, and vanished into the warren of hallways and rooms stuffed with BOOKS! I popped into the children’s section first and selected a gorgeous Tasha Tudor illustrated Secret Garden (each of my girls will someday take away a copy from our laden shelves, so I can always use one more) and a delightful book from the 20s tracing the history of pottery-making throughout the world. Wow! I could leave now and feel triumphant – but still I journey on.

Next stop, Literary Classics. HUH?!?!?! Gone?!?!?! Self-help paperbacks crowd the shelving that once offered some of man’s greatest thinking. I stood there stunned. I quickly sought out Peggy, the stalwart guide present each sale day, and begged advice on finding the literary riches. She assured me they had not been forgotten or discarded, but merely moved to a “different” location (meaning: out of the way, obscure, reserved for those works rarely sought). Hence I stood in a busy pathway between mysteries and science fiction, being jostled, jounced, and prodded as passersby squeezed through without a glance toward Anthony Trollope or Milton or even the Bard himself. Undaunted I sifted and perused my old friends seeking something new among the old.

After journeying through cookbooks, nature books, art books, poetry, history, and all the rest, I carried a bagful plus an armload back through the maze of rooms into the cashier’s lair. I piled up my purchases which included handbooks on birds and butterflies (well-thumbed and eager to be placed in the girls’ backpacks without fear of mussing the covers), cookbooks on Middle Eastern cuisine, a Tour of European cuisine (a neat “tour-guide” format to food with maps, recipes, and other delicious ingredients), Frugal Gourmet’s Italian and Feast books, Martha Stewart’s Christmas book, a delightful bio-anthology of children’s writers (from 1969 – containing so many of my childhood favorites), a contemplative Walden-esque type read “The Outermost House,” and finally a true gem pictorial/research guide entitled “The Landscape of King Arthur.” I hugged these treasures to heart as I paid the $11.25 tab (less than the cost of a single book and all HARDBACK with the exception of one).

I scurried away to await my chariot, which dutifully appeared out of the billowing rains and whisked me home to the cozy hearth and my favorite chair. Whilst teakettle whistled I readied the tray, set out my treasures, and settled down for an afternoon of winsome travel and study and pure pleasure among the treasure.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday Wonder

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD,
which made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2