Tuesday, February 27, 2007


like a poultice,
comes to heal
the blows of sound."

Oliver Wendell Holmes

A Snowy Date Day

Today was a 'date day'.
Such days are rare. With our sons
growing older, we are cherishing each possible
moment with them before they start homes of their own.
But, with the boys in school today, Brent and I
took a trip to the mountains together,
enjoying winter's last hurrah!

Spring may be nearing in the valley,
but the hills were alive with white powder,
snowflakes, and some sunshine today.


"Nothing in all creation
is so like God
as stillness."

Meister Eckhart


A herd of ten or twelve elk
watched us with as much curiosity
as we watched them.
For five hours of the day
we were the only humans on
the entire mountain top.
The elk seemed to realize that
we were there in peace.


We found a remote cabin,
open for shelter to those who passed by
and stopped for a cup of hot
tea, a granola bar, and an apple.


"Study nature
as the countenance
of God."

Charles Kingsley

Honoring Others

A US Forest Service cabin was open
to shelter those who passed by.
Remote and quiet,
it was not fancy, but there
was wood in the woodbox and
a sign saying welcome
and to care for
the cabin so others
could enjoy it too.

Chairs for Comfort

Old and unmatched,
chairs provided a place for
respite and comfort.
The same chairs would have
been considered too worn and ugly
at home, but on the mountain top
they became symbols of
gracious hospitality.

Critter Prints

Before we stomped our feet on
the wooden porch,
tiny footprints of little creatures
could be seen.
A place of shelter to
man and beast.

Holy Ground

"All of God's
earth is
holy ground."

Joaquin Miller

Peaceful Patterns

We enjoyed looking at patterns of frost on the window
panes. Looking out, towards the sunny woods,
we could see the tiny patterns that only
"Jack Frost" can create.

It was a tranquil day.
May yours be so as well!

"Peace I leave with you.
My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid."

John 14:27

Monday, February 26, 2007

On My Sewing Table

Hearts, hearts, hearts!
Fabric, fabric, fabric!
Texture and color!

On my sewing table today is a quilt I've been working on at a leisurely pace. Little hearts stitched onto different patterned blocks of 'white on white' have been attached with different colors of cotton threads. I'm in the midst of tying it now, a technique that I love because of the emotional response it creates for me. My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all preferred tying quilts rather than hand or machine quilting them. The whimsy of the little bunny ears from the cotton threads seemed to belong with the button-stitched hearts, so that's the method I chose for this quilt.

My leisurely pace is sure to continue. I'm nearly done tying and the binding comes next --- but binding a quilt is my least favorite task in the quilt-making process. An inquiry or two about my progress is sure to prod me along!

You can see a peek of the fabric for backing and binding here. I like to call these prints "French Country". I don't remember what they really are, but what I call them is what makes them important to me. The fabrics came in a set, but I wanted a touch of lavender so sprinkled a few lavender prints in as well.

The romantic hearts found on the border fabric are repeated in a variety of patterns and styles on some of the heart-shapes. Paisley, polka-dots, and checks complete the decor.

Be My Valentine!
[it's still February!]

Sweetheart Quilt

My mother made a quilt in this style as well. It's interesting to see how two identical quilts can turn out differently. Mom used more vibrant colors and a dark border, but the greatest difference was shown in our stitching. She chose small buttonhole embroidery stitches, and I chose large (to show more color). My sister, who doesn't like to sew, now has mom's heart quilt and treasures it. I need to remember to ask her for a picture of it so I can share it with you too!

PS: Sis has since decided to give it to me for safekeeping. Thank you, sis.

A Miracle

"Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle. . .a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream."

Barbara Winkler

Morning Light and Service

Morning light, a new day. Coco and Tia enjoy their morning explorations as the sun rises over the yard. What will this day bring? May it be blessed from above and may my life be of service to others along my path.

"I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."

William Penn

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Only He Who Sees

Earth's crammed
with heaven,
And every common bush
afire with God.

Only he who sees
takes off his shoes,
The rest
sit around and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What do you see today? Take time to look around. . .

The Ugly Little Well-house

The ugly little well-house sits on the end of an island in our circle drive. I've always tried to ignore it, thinking it's just one of the things that goes along with rural living. But why did the property developer have to put the well in the front yard? Each year the well-house gets progressively more and more shabby. It's care and keeping just hasn't been on the top of any one's priority list. And each spring I plant things that grow tall all around it in an effort to detract and hide. Of course that doesn't help during the winter months. This winter Brent was looking for a project, and the well-house came to mind. Wouldn't it be so much nicer with a new roof and siding?

So, with tools in hand, he measured, cut, and nailed. Before long a transformation took place. So exciting!

A new exterior was created for the shell of the old. The shell matches the shop and the roof matches the new one on the house. It is now secure and tight, and neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor sunshine can interfere with the delight I have in its new appearance!

This year the plants and flowers surrounding the well-house will be to enhance, not hide. Finishing details (a missing trim piece or two) and some topsoil and rock placement still need to occur, but the well-house is mostly completed and now is ready for a new name. No longer the ugly little well-house, it needs a name more befitting it's station as little house on the island.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Life is Short, Make it Sweet

Life is short and it's up to you to make it sweet.

~ Sadie Delang ~

Fair Maids of February

Fair Maids of February --- a lovely title for these little beauties. The arrival of snowdrops often attract attention because they form one of the first signs of the end of winter. In my zone, they are one of the first plants to blossom each year and have always been greeted with delight by grandmother, mother, sister, and myself. When the snowdrops arrive and bloom, we know that the daffodils, tulips, and other signs of spring are sure to follow.

All species of the snowdrop have bulbs, linear leaves, and erect flowering stalks that are bare of leaves, but have a solitary bell-shaped flower at the top. This plant flowers in January or February in the northern temperature zone.

The snowdrops white flower has six petals; three outer and three inside. The outer segments are larger and more convex than the others. It's like a blossom inside of a blossom, creating a raindrop effect.

Mother's notebooks, sketch pads, and photo albums all contain pictures of the snowdrop. They were one of her favorite flowers. I always think of her when they bloom in the spring.

One month is past, another is begun,
Since merry bells rang out the dying year,
And buds of rarest green began to peer,
As if impatient for a warmer sun;
And though the distant hills are bleak and dun,
The virgin snowdrop, like a lambent fire,
Pierces the cold earth with it's green-streaked spire
And in dark woods, the wandering little one
May find a primrose.

Hartley Coleridge
Feb. 1, 1842

A page from mom's garden scrapbook.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Warm Soup Chilly Night

If you are like me, you grew up on canned tomato soup. I did, that is, until I took home economics classes where my teacher carefully taught us that the acidic tomatoes are added slowly to the milky base so that curdling is avoided. But I always had trouble remembering which way it was: acid to base? or base to acid? I will admit to a few curdled soups in times past! But, canned soups contain gluten, and homemade soups can be made creamy and good without dairy. Tonight we had Tuscan Tomato Soup made without wheat or milk and it was delicious! Simple and quick to prepare, it hit the spot on a breezy, cold evening. Rice crackers added a bit of variety of texture to the meal that we all enjoyed.

Tuscan Tomato Soup

1 jar (26 oz.) natural marinara sauce
1 cans (15 oz. each) cannellini beans
7 oz. roasted red peppers*
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 cups water
2 Tbsp. vegetarian chicken-style seasoning**
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sweetener***

Put sauce, beans, peppers, oil, chicken-style seasoning, and garlic in blender and whiz until smooth. Pour into a kettle along with the water. Add lemon juice, salt, and sweetener. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring frequently. Adjust seasonings as desired. When heated, stir in basil, saving some to garnish.

*I used canned roasted red peppers; canned pimentos can be used instead (generally available not roasted)

**My favorite is Bill's Best Chick'nish
***Agave syrup, maple syrup, or unbleached organic sugar all work well.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sagebrush and Sage

The sagebrush that grows so abundantly in our locale is often taken for granted. But it is really a unique and beautiful plant that we need to appreciate and enjoy. Not only does it grow abundantly in our shrub-steppe ecoregion, but it is a plant that can be added to garden landscaping to bring native beauty close to home. This plant has adapted well to little rain, heavy winds, hot summer sun, and cold winters. It has a deep tap root system and very shallow branching roots that serve it very well. It is a woody evergreen shrub that keeps it's beautiful silvery leaves all year around and can be identified by it sharp odor after a passing rain. The pioneers who came west on wagon train liked to describe sagebrush as a mixture of turpentine and camphor. Although this plant is abundant in our area, care needs to be taken to protect it, as it is fragile and doesn't replenish itself easily after human disturbance or natural disasters. Regrowth may take several lifetimes for it to become established once disturbed.

Some have asked if the sagebrush is related to the sage herb. Although the sage green colors are similar, the answer is no. True sage is of the genus "Salvia" and of the mint family "Lamiaceae". There are 700 varieties of this type of sage which includes the garden sage, "S. officinalis", frequently used for cooking. White sage, used for making incense, is of this genus and family as well.

The sagebrush so common in the west is related to the sunflower or the genus "Artemisia" and the family "Asteraceae".

How nice it would be to be able to capture the fragrance of wet sagebrush so all could enjoy. There is beauty in the appearance and fragrance of this humble shrub.

Extending the Life of Your Bouquet

How is your Valentine's bouquet holding up? My roses have opened up beautifully and are still quite fresh and lovely, but I will need to tend to them so that I can enjoy them this week as well and in a 'fresh' state. I've already used up the packet of preservative that came with my bouquet, but here's a homemade recipe that will yield similar results:

Bouquet Extender

1 Tbsp. bleach
1 tsp. sugar
1 gallon fresh water

Mix together. Remove flowers from original bouquet and cut stems about 1/2" shorter. This will allow for the update of fresh water. Remove the original water from the vase and replace with the bouquet extender. Rearrange flowers.


Grandma's Corn Custard

My husband's grandmother is 103 years old. Although she is as sweet and enduring as ever, she no longer spends time each day cooking and baking. But some of her recipes have been passed down through the family for future generations to enjoy. Her corn custard is a favorite breakfast dish for Sunday mornings! The recipe we use is adapted to gluten free, vegan, and free of refined sugar --- but the results are just as good! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

Corn Custard

In a mixing bowl blend:
1 cup flour*
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

In another bowl mix:
1 cup maple syrup
2 eggs substituted**
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 cups soy milk
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Set aside:
1 - 2 cups additional soy milk

Combine mixtures by adding liquid to dry ingredients. Mix until blended (do not over stir). Pour batter into prepared casserole dish or black iron skillet. Pour 1 - 2 cups of additional soy milk over the top of the batter but do not stir.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 - 45 minutes. Watch carefully and adjust baking time as needed. The top will be jiggly (not solid) when done. Remove from heat and serve.

*I used garbanzo-fava bean flour.
**EnerG Egg Replacer works well.

***Grandma's recipe uses sour milk, eggs, butter, and sugar. Her version is delicious, but filled with saturated fats.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Walk at Eventide

A beautiful spring-like day was ours today! A pleasant family excursion to the river filled the late afternoon hours. Warming temperatures and sunshine were our companions as we walked the river shore and railroad tracks near our home. It felt so good to get outside and exercise in the sunshine!

Sagebrush and driftwood made pretty silhouettes against the glassy river and the falling sun.

Contemplation and conversation. Smooth waters and sunshine. New growth and old. Earth and water. Sunshine and chill. Contrasts can be so stimulating to the senses.

Beautiful sagebrush growing taller than we stand filled the river's edge. The pungent fragrance is not pronounced this time of year and the yellow blossoms from last autumn are dried and brown. New growth has not yet started, but the old gnarly wood and tufts of green still provide beauty and a sense of stability. I've always felt it a privilege to live near where the sagebrush grows.

The shadows lengthen and the sun fades away. We are filled with a sense of calmness and beauty. According to His will, we are renewed every morning. Tomorrow is a new day.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Springtime Surprise!

Late this afternoon the UPS truck arrived with a delivery. I was puzzled when a box from my favorite nursery, Jackson and Perkins, was delivered. I hadn't remembered ordering any roses or bulbs from them. I was surprised to discover a cute little garden mug with a note from my dear friend, Gwen. She lives in Iowa and is the author of Gwen's Moments. She has been working on an educational DVD that she wrote and produced with the help of my sons, Brandon and Rylan. The little garden mug came with a message that says: "Enjoy some springtime! Thanks for all your help with the DVD". How sweet! They have done all the hard work; all I've done is listen, give ideas, and prod along. But, it was so nice to be remembered and thanked.

Thank you, Gwen! I love my mug garden and will post pictures of the tulips that grow and bloom when the time is right.

Sharing a Delicious Recipe

This recipe for scalloped cabbage was shared by my friend, Hazel. It's very simple to make, yet it's simply delicious! Even most non-cabbage lovers will find this savory combination a tasty dish. It has become a favorite for our family!

Scalloped Cabbage

Parboil for 5 minutes:
2 quarts cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 cups water

2 onions, chopped
4 Tbsp. water

Sprinkle over onion:
4 Tbsp. flour*
1 tsp. salt

Drain cabbage cooking water into onion and flour mixture. Saute' mixture and stir over low heat until thick.

In a food processor, blend until smooth:
1 lb. tofu
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. lemon juice

Stir this mixture into the cabbage along with the sauteed onions. Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with paprika. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

*I used garbanzo fava bean flour and cornstarch in equal amounts.

Of Bluebirds and Sunshine!

The sun is shining today! It's a real treat after a winter of mostly steel gray skies and no sunshine at all. With temperatures in the 50's, maybe the earth will start warming and prepare for spring!

It's so pretty outside, I gathered up some of my 'bluebird' things to photograph on my front porch. Yesterday I received a lovely package from my friend and tea towel swap partner, RuthAnn. The tea towel she stitched for me is in a lovely bluebird pattern, thus the theme of the day!

RuthAnn's Bluebird Tea Towel

Old Fashioned Charm

Time for a Cuppa Tea!