"Between the daylight and the dark on February eves --- The dusk comes in a smoky haze; a blue light falls --- and weaves a web of magic round the town. There is a sense of change. The houses in the streets look beautiful and strange. . . Only for a moment, then the vision dies away --- fading with the fading light of the departing day."
The lavender stems I started rooting earlier this week are doing well. They are vibrant and healthy looking so far. I will admit to even pulling one up to see what was going on under the dirt! I could see tiny white 'nubs' where roots are starting to grow. Hopefully I will get the watering formula right, as it is somewhat touchy at this stage. Generally lavender does not like to have 'wet feet' and grows best if the plants do not receive an abundance of water. But the instructions for the new little plants are to water twice a day. Since they don't have roots yet and they need to grow some, I am watering twice daily, but with some reservation. It will be fun to watch them grow and mature.
There are so many ways to enjoy lavender. Lavender plants growing in the garden are beautiful and are lovely to be enjoyed simply in nature. But the long stems with their gray-blue flowers are also appealing to pick and make into wands, bottles, or baskets. They make a room or drawer so fragrant! A bowl of lavender bud in a basket or crystal bowl is such fun to run your fingers through when walking by a table that they are set on. Lavender thoughts and dreams on a February day!
With sunny weather this week, it simply has been impossible to stay inside. All week long, work has been done in the yard as trimming, pruning, and weeding has been completed. If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know I love lavender! At one time our garden had over 100 lavender plants of forty different varieties. Lavender plants have a tendency to grow woody stems over time, and although ours have been trimmed faithfully each autumn, they have become somewhat unruly and overgrown. With reluctance, about thirty lavender plants were pulled up, making way for new plants after spring arrives. I decided this was a good time to learn how to propagate new plants from some of my favorite old ones. Stems of the silvery leafy-green plant were cut and prepared for rooting. After removing the lower leaves, each stem was dipped in honey and then placed in potting soil to root. Twice a day they are gently watered and each little planter is set in larger trays and set in a warm place. They seem to be doing well, and although they have only been set to grow a day or two, I couldn't resist pulling one up to see what was going on in the soil. I'm quite sure I saw a tiny little root starting on the stem I pulled, but it could be wishful thinking. Time will tell.
My friend, Karleen, invited me over for a lovely morning of quilting 'show and tell'. The quilts all belonged to her friend, Julie, who creates beautiful quilts in many different styles and colors. From 1930's prints to holiday or hunting themes, each quilt represents something important to Julie. She knows each quilt intimately, even able to point out individual pieces and comment on the fabric or color shade. Even Lucy, Karleen's dog, enjoyed the morning as we draped quilts over the patio rail for photographing on a chilly day. Colorful, creative, and cheerful, Julie's quilts helped create a warm and happy day! What an inspiration!
I'm waiting for spring! Little signs are seen here and there; tiny shoots of green, a few flowering crocus, and budding trees. Spring-like potted plants are blooming and for sale at the market. Bringing them home to sit on a table spreads a little bit of cheer to my day and reminds me that spring will burst forth fully --- in just a little while.
To me, spring represents hope. What does it represent for you?
Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,
That’s where the West begins.
Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where friendship’s a little truer,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,
That’s where the West begins;
Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,
That’s where the West begins;
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
And a man makes friends without half trying —
That’s where the West begins.
Out where the West Begins, 1917
Cousin TR on the ranch, checking cattle in the canyon.
Thirty-some years ago, when on a date with my now husband, I passed through the front doors of this old general store. Upon entering the double doors, it was easy for me to pretend that it was 1894 and that I was on a trip to town for flour, sugar, salt, dry goods, and tea. Creaky wooden floors, worn and scuffed by dozens of cowboy boots and high-top shoes, formed the base for displays encased in glass and topped with worn, wooden counter-tops. Oak barrels filled with ice and jars of soda pop stood by door and counter. Shelves filled with staples for the kitchen, dry goods and trims, candles and lamp oil, and more were out of reach, making one depend upon the clerk to assist in finding exactly what was needed. Farm implements, lumber, and mining supplies filled the corners and the yard. A general store, this Soto Brothers & Renaud merchantile met the needs of many in this once busy ghost town. Gold no longer brings people to the mine on the hillside across the street, but a myriad of visitors still grace its steps and stoop, seeking the opportunity to step back for a moment in time.
Although the Pearce General Store is no longer open to the public, I feel blessed that I was once able to visit it at a time when it was still a functioning general store. Sharing a soda with Brent, we were able to share in a moment that took us back in history. In surroundings such as this, it wasn't difficult to imagine we were living in the gold rush days.
Winter in the desert is beautiful. Although it is the season of rest, the first of February is when life again takes hold and signs of fresh, new life can be seen. This year, abundant water has left washes and creeks flowing with water. Water, mixed with the sunshine's warmth has caused signs of life that are not as visible in drier years. Cacti are plump and enticing because of the moisture available to them. The teddy bear cacti is especially appealing. Dry ocatilla is starting to leaf out, creating long sticks of green leaves. The prickly pear cactus, so common, is beautiful in large clumps and clusters in the desert. The desert rain has brought everything to life!
The prickly pear cactus in this picture reminds me of cousin Della, who harvests its inexpensive and abundant fruit from the desert around her ranch-house kitchen. The prickly pears range are the fruit of the plant, appearing in colors of yellow and red. When cooked, the prickly pear fruit makes a beautiful, rosy juice that Della cooks into delicious jelly that she shares with those she loves. I always love it when she shares with our family! Prickly pear juice also makes wonderful candy, soft and chewy.
Have you ever made prickly pear jelly? Or eaten candy made from its rosy juice?
There are some pictures that simply need to be taken, even if they are shielded by a layer of dirty glass and bright reflections. The "Woman's Favorite Cookbook" in this photo is tattered and well-used. Steaming hot and fragrant foods are illustrated by covered serving bowls with steam wafting as drawn some an artist who was generous with his ink and pen. I think this artist must have been a man who hadn't been served very many tasty dishes in his life, as the woman on the cover is shown with a piqued and weary look on her face. I suppose there is a reason why this cookbook wasn't titled "The Joy of Cooking". Unable to reach through the glass to peruse this worn-out cookbook, I can only imagine the recipes and notes enclosed.
"Flowers have their own language. Theirs is an oratory that speaks in perfumed silence, and there is tenderness, and passion, and even lightheartedness of mirth, in the variegated beauty of their vocabulary. . .No spoken word can approach the delicacy of sentiment to be inferred from a flower seasonably offered; the softest expression may be thus conveyed without offense. . ."
This beautiful geranium blooms brightly during winter months in Dad's 'sun room'. What cheerful color it brings to drab winter days!
2 cups boiling water 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated 3 peppercorns (optional) 8 cardamom pods 4 cloves optional-- shaved orange or lemon rind, fennel or licorice 1/2 cup almond or soy milk 125 ml nutmeg powder honey or stevia to taste
Pour boiling water over spices in a saucepan, simmer 5-10 minutes. Add milk, simmer another 10 minutes. Pour through a strainer into cups. Sweeten with honey or stevia and sprinkle on a little nutmeg, to taste.
"Tea is much more than a mere drink in Britain. It is a solace, a mystique,an art, a way of life, almost a religion. It is more deeply traditional than the roast beef of old England....This khaki-colored concoction, brewed through an accident of history from an exotic plant grown thousands of miles from fog, cricket and left-handed driving, has become the life-blood of the nation."
Do you have memories of a one room schoolhouse? Maybe you were a student in one. I grew up listening to my father tell stories of his school days as a young boy who attended a one-room school. What adventures! His stories were rustic, cozy, and unique compared to my elementary school experiences as a student attending a sophisticated elementary school in a college town. Most of my teachers were 'master teachers' who trained student teachers, but my father's teachers probably had no more than a 10th grade education. The education my father received must have been good, though, because he grew up to become a teacher in a one-room school for a year or two before going back to college to complete his education and become a college professor himself.
This one-room schoolhouse is not far from where we live. It is owned by my friend, Toni. Visiting it recently filled my mind with questions and made me want to know more! Some of my fondest one-room schoolhouse stories were those written by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her "Little House" books. I'm sure her stories had an influence upon me and my decision to become a teacher when I grew up. Look at this schoolhouse. Why are there two doors on the front side? Why does one have a porch and not the other? And note the windows that you see through the large windows on the side of the schoolhouse. Can you see how they are so high up? I decided it must be because a chalkboard is below them, so they needed to be high enough to accommodate it. They couldn't be eliminated because the light they let in was probably a necessary commodity of nature.
If schoolhouses could talk, I'm sure this one would have many stories to tell!
Townsend's Solitaire: White eye-ring, gray body and head, black tail with white edging visible in flight.
This little thrush is a little beauty that is rarely seen except in high mountain areas in the northernmost states of the USA and western Canada. During the winter months it extends it's territory to lower regions in order to find juniper berries to eat. This photo was shared by a friend, Cheryl, who took it recently at Bennington Lake near Walla Walla, Washington. Online research about the Townsend's Solitaire resulted in these interesting bits of information:
The Townsend's Solitaire usually puts its nest on the ground, but may nest above the ground in a decaying stub or a live tree. It is especially fond of nesting along cut banks. All of the sites used are nooks or hollows beneath some sort of overhanging object that shelters the nest from above.
During the winter, the male and female are both strongly territorial, defending patches of juniper trees against other solitaires and other birds. They feed largely or even exclusively on the juniper's ripe, fleshy berries for the entire nonbreeding season.
The Townsend's Solitaire sings throughout the fall and winter to set up and hold its winter territory. Violent fights may break out in defense of the winter territory, because owners of large, berry-rich territories survive the winter at higher rates than solitaires on small territories with few berries.
How about trying a new recipe? Here's one that is delicious! Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy is from the cookbook "Vegan with a Vengeance". The seasonings are savory and meld well together. I made a few changes, using vegetable broth instead of water, and sorghum and corn flours rather than all-purpose. This is a great recipe! I hope you enjoy it also.
Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour blend)
2 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium size onion, diced
2 tsps. mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained, or 1 (16 ounce) can, drained
2 pinches of ground cumin
2 pinches of paprika
pinch of dried rosemary
pinch of dried thyme
pinch of dried oregano
pinch of ground coriander
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
Saute onions in olive oil. Add mustard seeds and garlic and continue to brown until seeds pop and garlic is soft. Add water (or broth) and flour to skillet and whisk until well blended. Add seasonings and heat until gravy thickens. Add soy sauce, juice of lemon, and nutritional yeast. Stir to blend well. Serve and enjoy!
Most tea parties are known for their elegance or frills. Here's an idea for creating a tea tablecloth that is a cut above the rest! You will need:
1 plain colored tablecloth that matches your decor
a variety of large, silk flowers such as roses, daisies, mums, etc. mini magnets (available at craft stores)
Using a hot glue gun, secure a magnet on the back of each flower. It is best to apply the magnet to a petal near the center of the flower rather than on the actual center. Allow glue to harden. Drape the tablecloth over a table. On the draping portion of the tablecloth, arrange flowers randomly in an elegant manner. Use another magnet on the back side to secure in place.
This makes a beautiful backdrop for your tea table. Because so many silk flowers are used on the tablecloth, candles instead of fresh flowers may be preferred for the centerpiece.
"It was George Eliot who earnestly inquired, 'Reader, have you ever drunk a cup of tea?' There is something undeniably heartwarming and conversation-making in a cup of steaming hot tea. . . It is an ideal prescription for banishing loneliness. Perhaps it is not so much the tea itself, as the circle of happy friends eager for a pleasant chat." Book of Etiquette 1921
Creating a gentle cup of your favorite black tea can be achieved simply by a home decaffeination process. Black and green teas contain a high volume of antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and assist the bodies ability to fight disease. Unfortunately, these teas also contain caffeine, known to trick the nervous system into believing the body has more energy than a person's reserve source really has. The decaffeination process is simple. To make a delicious cuppa gentle tea, follow these steps.1. Place tea leaves or tea bag in teapot. Use 1 tsp. tea leaves per one cup boiling water. Pour boiling water over the leaves in your teapot and allow to steep for exactly one minute. 2. Use a strainer and pour off the water. It can be poured down your kitchen drain, but I find that my plants thrive on this tea!3. Use the same tea leaves or tea bags and pour fresh, boiling water over them. Steep for 3 - 4 minutes. A fresh, decaffeinated cup will be the result.4. Sweeten to taste (I enjoy using the sweet leaf herb, stevia, for this). If desired, add a splash of lemon or soymilk.As the tea leaves steep, the first thing released is the caffeine. The next is color, and the final, flavor. With this home decaffeination process you will eliminate the caffeine, sacrifice some color, but no flavor. And, you will gain the benefit of a myriad of antioxidants for good health!
Redwork is the art of embroidery using only one color: red. I used to think the idea was quite boring, as I tend to like selecting color families that work together in a project. But, recently I tried my hand at redwork and have enjoyed both the process and the cheerful finished sampler. The redwork tea towel in the picture above is one I recently embroidered for a friend in the tea towel exchange group I belong to.
Originally, red dyed cotton threads were not colorfast and the colors tended to bleed when they became wet. Embroiderers tended to select other colors or stitch red's in silk threads that would not bleed. Then a red dye was developed in Turkey that did not bleed or fade when washed. Soon, Turkey red thread became a reliable and popular choice for stitching decorative patterns on household items.
In 1876 The Royal School of Art Needlework from Kensington, England produced a booth at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. American women were charmed by the intricate embroidery and were ready to try their hand at it. It soon gained popularity, as more and more stitchers created embroidered samplers and quilts using this process.
Redwork designs range from very simple to elaborate and intricate. Over time, pictures of nursery rhymes, people, buildings, animals, and flowers have been depicted in this art. In times past, squares of preprinted patterns were made available for redwork. These squares cost a penny apiece, thus the name penny squares became a common term when describing these blocks. Completed blocks were used for many household projects, but became especially useful and popular for bedcoverings. Blocks were sewn together and a feather stitch or cross-stitch was used to cover the seam line.
Stitches especially common when stitching redwork are backstitch, outline stitch, and the stem stitch. The stem stitch is also called the South Kensington stitch or the English Kensington stitch, a name that probably took hold because of the popularizing of this embroidery style by The Royal School of Art Needlework in 1876.
It is hard to believe that anything is worthwhile, unless there is some eye in common with our own, some brief word uttered now and then to imply that what is infinitely precious to us is precious alike to another mind.