Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Rose

I am a rose. Usually simple, ordinary, and abundant.

Yet that is far from my total truth. I can also be complex, extremely rare or extraordinary, and my beauty is often described as perfection itself.

I've been romanticized, poeticized, and lyricized beyond any other flower. I am universally admired, sought after, loved, wept over, and cherished.

When I'm white, I represent purity, and often eternity or heaven. Read is favored by lovers, although pink, yellow, flame, and other shades are much valued as well. Among my kind I am the undisputed queen.

But there's a dark side to my life as well.

Close to the color, beauty, and fragrance --- buried in my lush foliage --- are sharp thorns. Those who pluck me must beware, or they will feel the barbs and find themselves wounded and bleeding. What cruel hoax is this? Would not much an experience effectively alienate even my most ardent admirers?

Pray, pause a moment more. There is a deeper message yet. Much of life is a paradox.

Can one properly appreciate bountiful health if one has never been ill? Is an overflowing measure of joy possible in one who has never known sorrow? Does the greatest love flourish where there have been no disappointment or pain?

Therein is my gift, my message to humanity. Beauty can exist even among harsh thorns. Perfection and fragrance can send forth their blessings even while hiding the ugly barbs. The depth of Christ's caring love for humanity shone brightest as He bled from His thorny crown.

Despite ugly scars, deep hurts, and many sorrows, so also can human lives give beauty, fragrance, and blessing to all who pass their way.

By Aileen Ludington, a physician from Paradise, California

Friday, July 29, 2011

Late Season Lavender

Lavender season is nearing its end. Generally, lavender is harvested in the bud stage before flowering. But if you are like me, you leave some on the plant to enjoy as long as possible. The long stems of lavender create a beautiful showpiece for a flower garden. Even when the blooms are past their prime, they dry nicely on the stems and provide fragrant beauty throughout the summer. This time of year lavender is past bud stage and is now in full bloom or past.

But that doesn't matter when it comes to lavender wands and bottles. Both can be successfully made with lavender that is past its prime. The flowers are fragrant and encase nicely into the ball portion of a lavender wand.

Small bundles of lavender are tied at the top of the stems with a string or rubber band. The stems are folded over the flowers to create a 'cage' and then ribbon is woven in and out of the stems. A tutorial can be seen here (you will need to scroll down the page to view the tutorial). This creates a pretty lavender wand. A lavender bottle is similar, but instead of weaving ribbon in and out of the stems, they are left open and a simple ribbon is tied around at the base of the flowers after the stems have been folded back. Lavender wands are valued for their contribution to fragrance and decor. Lavender bottles are generally tucked into a dresser drawer as potpourri. Because the bud and flowers are not compactly contained by the woven ribbon, bits of flowers break off into the drawer, but that is generally considered a gracious thing and is nothing to worry about (although you might need to vacuum out your dresser drawers now and then.

Little bundles of ribbon tied lavender bouquets and lavender wands look pretty placed in a basket or vase, creating a pretty addition to any room!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hot Lavender

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi' th' sun,
And with him rises weeping; these are flow'rs
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.

~ Shakespeare ~

Photo: end of season lavender in my garden

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Honey Still for Tea?

Stands the church clock at ten to three?
Is there honey still for tea?

Rupert Brooke
The Old Vincarage, Grantchester

[to read the entire poem]

Photo:  tea from a friend; tray painted by mom

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Victoria Rose Teacup

I love this story!  Although I don't remember where I found it, I think it was the verse on a greeting card I once bought.  I hope you are blessed by the message in this sweet story, as I was.

Diary of  Victoria Rose

Years ago I found a solitary tea cup at an antique shop with a gorgeous rose pattern.  I fell in love with it on the spot.  From then on, I searched high and low for the rest of the set in china shops, at auctions, flea markets, rummage sales. . .  Alas, without success!  Not even a saucer!!! Just as I was beginning to suspect that the cup wasn't part of a set at all, but a one-of-a-kind, never to be found again treasure, I was served tea on the very same china at the home of a friend!  Well, I stared with wide eyes until my friend said, "Isn't it beautiful?  I found it at an estate sale.  Unfortunately, one of the cups is missing."  With a twinkle in my eye, I knew that my precious cup would soon have a new home.

*The picture is of a candle topper that was given to me by a friend.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Family Farm Dinner

The summer weather has been perfect!  It's pleasant and warm, but not too hot to spend some time outside.  With gardens producing wonderful things, it was the time for a garden supper.  Earlier in the week, Serena from the Farm Chicks posted about a Farm Dinner that she went to last Sunday.  It looked delightful!  I decided it really would be fun to do at home, so invited the family for dinner.  I shared the concept with Rylan and showed him Serena's blog post.  He thought it looked like fun and was very surprised when he saw a picture of his art teacher from the university featured as one of the guests at the dinner Serena went to.  

By the time it was all said and done, dinner became a family affair. Brandon and Rylan carried tables and chairs to a shady spot on the lawn.  Sally helped me set the table.  And Brent willingly carried food to the serving table.  Everything came together all at once. 

The table was covered with a white cotton sheet, then set with my mother's china.  Goblets and glasses, teacups, silver, and Mason jars holding candles were all set in place.  Pretty plaid napkins and rings from Paula's shop accented the blue in the china.

Our side table served as the buffet.  Our menu included Herbed Rosemary Bread. . .Broccoli Quiche. . .Green Beans with Oregano and Dill. . .Roasted Potatoes (Yukon Gold and Kennebec) with Sweet Onions and Rosemary. . .Corn on the Cob. . .and a Garden Salad.  It was a true picture of summer's bounty!  

The fresh dill was fragrant!  Not only did it add fragrance and flavor to the green beans. . .it made a pretty addition to the floral centerpiece as well!

It is summer at it's best when the corn is ready to eat!

A simple menu. . .and a pleasant setting. . .made our family time a special treat.

Ice water, sparkling cider, and Nilgiri white tea gave us a choice of beverages.

The shadows grew long as we ate and conversed.  Coming together after some time apart and relaxing after a busy week was the best part.  The family farm dinner was delicious, but secondary to all the rest!

Be Glad

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a girl under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany her in her work all the days of the life God has given her under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 
[Paraphrased by LaTeaDah]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Drinkin' From My Saucer

I've never made a fortune
And it's prob'ly too late now;

But I don't worry 'bout that much,

I'm happy anyhow!
And as I go along life's way
Reapin' better than I sowed.

I'm drinkin' from my saucer,

'Cause my cup has overflowed!

Haven't got a lot of riches,
And sometimes the going's tough;
But I've got loving ones around me,
And that makes me rich enough!

I thank God for His blessings
And the mercies He's bestowed.

I'm drinkin' from my saucer,

'Cause my cup has overflowed!
I 'member times when things went wrong,
My faith wore somewhat thin;

But all at once the dark clouds broke

And light peeped through again.
So, Lord, help me not to gripe
About tough rows I've hoed.

I'm drinkin' from my saucer,

'Cause my cup has overflowed!

If God gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough,

I'll not ask for other blessings;

I'm already blessed enough!

May I never be too busy
To help others bear their loads.

I'll keep drinkin' from my saucer,

'Cause my cup has overflowed!

by Jimmy Dean 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Open Dresser Drawers

Dresser drawers can be an interesting way to display pretty things.  Who says they always have to be closed with everything hidden on the inside?  I first noted that open drawers with things piling out on Becca's blog, Of Bluebirds and Roses.  In fact, I see that the she recently posted a picture again of an open dresser drawer with cushions displayed in it.  Meg of Crabapple Hill Studio also uses this technique in her showroom, placing embroidered and stuffed heart pillows inside a drawer and letting them spill out.  The effect is quaint, quirky, and charming!

So, I decided to try it at home!  At first it seemed messy to keep the dresser drawer partially opened, but after loading it with lace tablecloths, a cotton quilt, and an embroidered pansy wall-hanging, I felt more comfortable with its relaxed appearance.  It was fun looking for things to fill the drawer with.  In addition to cushions, quilts, and other fabric items, you could also fill a partially opened drawer with [insert your idea here --- leave a comment with your thoughts] and dried flowers, old sheet music, framed art and more.  The possibilities are endless.  What would you put in an open dresser drawer?

Creamy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie

There's nothing more relaxing than spending time puttering in the kitchen. Mixing, stirring, blending, and tasting equals a recipe for a fun afternoon. Do you have time to try out a new recipe today? I'll share one of my favorite pie recipes with you, and you can decide if you want to try it or not. It really is yummy and will remind you of a peanut butter cup!

Creamy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie

1 pie crust, gluten free if necessary
(or a graham cracker crust)
1 package Mori-Nu tofu, extra firm, pureed
8 ounces Tofuti soy cream cheese (or regular cream cheese, if you'd like)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons honey (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup chocolate syrup

Place the cream cheese, tofu, sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and honey in a food processor. Puree to a creamy mixture. Pour into crust and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for 5 hours to overnight before serving. When ready to serve, drizzle pie with chocolate syrup before cutting into slices and plating.

*If you like, carob syrup can be substituted for chocolate syrup.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On the Mountain

A damp, poky spring has resulted in a pleasant summer. It's amazing that the mountain still has so much green, as usually hot weather in July creates dry grasses and the threat of forest fires. The delay is in heat gives us such pleasant days on the mountain. Such days are quiet --- nothing too exciting going on.

A little tree frog lives under the window shutter and in the garden bed.  Here he is, sitting on the oak barrel and seeming curious as to what the camera's eye is all about.

Plants are growing, blooming, and lush!  The wild roses are the most recent flowers to bloom. Gone are the Calypso Lady-slippers and the Shooting Stars.

The man of the mountain enjoys his days working on a never-ending list of [relaxing to him] projects.  The trail to the spring needed cleared [with chain saws and pruners].  The next week the weed whacker was used to open up an easy pathway for humans [and bears, elk, deer].

A buried tank near the spring looks like it is smiling and showing a happy face.  Just look at that grin!  What a deep and cavernous mouth he has!

The spring is ICE cold!  The ground gets quite mushy and wet the last 20 - 30 feet of the trail.  It seems the spring doesn't contain itself and seeps out of the ground at every convenient spot.  The man of the mountain makes sure to clear it of twigs and sticks so that it's deep enough to chill things like a watermelon or soda cans.  It's a gamble, though, because bears have been known to raid the contents of the spring before the humans get back to claim their chilled fruit or drinks!  [Imagine empty soda cans all marked with bear tooth puncture holes that are tossed for yards all around].

The mowing needs done.  The cabin and the homestead cabin both go from meadow "weeds" to a more manicured "mowed" appearance.  Paintbrush Lane, from gate to cabin, is also mowed and trimmed.

Scraggly trees are trimmed, just like they are at home, from the bottom branches up to as high as the man of the mountain can reach.  It's starting to look quite civilized around here.

But once the mowing and trimming is done, it is on to other things.  Like fencing!  The cows are enjoying the open range at points lower on the mountain and will be up soon [when upper mountain grass looks greener than what's below].  There are places they need to be kept out of --- like the areas that supply water for humans down in the valley.

Brent revamps a gate near the homestead cabin, carefully using old timbers and ties so that the finished project looks like it has been that way for years and years.  How authentic is that?

The project is done, the signs put back, and it's time to think of food.  The mountain man becomes quite hungry after working so hard at his [self appointed] tasks.

Sunshine graces the cozy cabin, adding some needed warmth to its coolness.  It is between weather; too warm for a fire in the stove, but a bit chilly without sunshine or a sweater.

What's for lunch?  Corn on the cob, potato salad, brown rice with zucchini and sweet onions, salad greens, and cookies!  Oh, and don't forget the Rainier cherries!

Dishes to wash.  They can drip dry.  Cheerful music playing on the radio.  My mind whirling with thoughts and ideas as I tidy up the kitchen.  Brent is back to his outdoor projects.  I tease him about thinking he has to clean up the entire forest!  I cannot complain, though.  It's looking really good. 

Quiet.  Favorite magazines from Mary Jane's Farm give much food for thought.  Sustainability. Practicality.  Authenticity.  Creativity.  So much to think about!

The shadows lengthen and it's time to go back to the valley below.  Good-bye little tree frog.  See you next week [he will be there].  Sweep the floors.  Board the windows and secure the doors. Bear-proof the iron chairs [bring them back from the ridge so they don't get pushed over the edge!].  Last minute tasks.  It is all a part of the good-bye ritual.

Until next time, little green cabin.  My imagination hears the croak of the frog and the sound of the birds.  And to the little bear who ran away from our truck as fast as his legs could carry him, keep out of trouble, ya hear?

Monday, July 18, 2011

M a r i o n b e r r y

Marionberries were developed by scientists at Oregon State University.  They are a spectacular blackberry with a glossy, black appearance that turns to a deep, dark purple when frozen and thawed.  The Marionberry is tart with elements of sweetness.  It is larger, sweeter, and juicier than most other blackberries.

Using the same filling ingredients and proportions as shared in a post for Marionberry Crisp, I decided to make a Marionberry cobbler.  It is interesting to taste the difference between the two desserts.  Although they are both similar in ingredients, the flavor and presentation of each is unique.  A cobbler is simply made by choosing your favorite baking powder biscuit recipe and adding sweetener and a dash or two of cinnamon.  

For my cobbler, I chose a gluten-free biscuit mix that required the addition of oil and water.  After adding stevia powder to make it sweeter, I added cinnamon and then worked the dough, forming it into a soft ball.  Small biscuits, formed by hand, were placed on top of the Marionberry mixture until the top was covered.  It was baked at 350 degrees F. for 30 - 25 minutes (until browned).  When done, remove from oven and allow to cool.  The dough mixture on the top will absorb the extra moisture in the berries, creating a delicious and tasty dessert!

Anne, Pouring Out the Tea

"I can just imagine myself sitting down at the head of the table and pouring out the tea," said Anne, shutting her eyes ecstatically.  "And asking Diana if she takes sugar!  I know she doesn't but of course I'll ask her just as if I didn't know.  And then pressing her to take another piece of fruit cake and another helping of preserves."

Anne of Green Gables
by Lucy Maud Montgomery
China Closet:  Meg Hawkey, Crabapple Hill Studio

Recipes for a Beautiful, Natural Garden

An advertisement for something to do with gardening arrived in my mailbox.  The advertisement contains a distracting number of words, cartoon drawings, pictures, and boxed text.  It's somewhat overwhelming, but the garden recipes it contained caught my eye.  Since this is my web journal and a place where I post things that I may want for future reference, I'll post some of the recipes here for safe-keeping.  Maybe you will appreciate them too!

Ant's Away!

5 Tbsp. cornmeal
3 Tbsp. bacon grease
3 Tbsp. baking powder
3 packets yeast

Stir the bacon grease and cornmeal together, creating a paste.  Add the baking powder and yeast.  Mix until well blended.  Place a dab of this mixture in a shallow container and set in areas where ants are prolific.  Ants will love this mixture!  And so will you, because it will eliminate them!

Spicy Critter Tonic

4 tsp. dry mustard
3 Tbsp. cayenne
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. cloves
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 quarts water, warm

Stir ingredients together in a garden bucket.  Transfer a portion to a watering can and sprinkle in areas of garden where animals are venturing.  [Alma uses a recipe similar to this for her garden and it works well to keep deer at bay!]

Miracle Boost for Container Plants

1/2 cup Epson salts
1/4 cup coffee grounds [Starbucks gives them away by the bag full!]
1 Tbsp. instant tea granules
4 eggshells, dried and crushed
2 gallons of potting soil

Combine the ingredients in a large garden bucket.  Use in small planters for growing seeds, in pots for indoor plants, and more.  Great for vegetables and other plants.

Rose Heaven Tonic

2 Tbsp. instant tea granules
1 Tbsp. dry red wine powder
1/2 Tbsp. fish emulsion
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. iron [available at garden centers]
1 gallon water

Mix ingredients together in a garden bucket.  Pour 1 quart of this mixture on each rose bush every three weeks.  The result will be a fabulous display of rose blossoms!

Aphid Buster

3 quarts of water
2 Tbsp. horseradish, bottled
2 cups cayenne peppers, chopped fine

Boil the water then remove from stovetop.  Add peppers and horseradish.  Stir and steep for one hour.  Allow to cool and strain.  Toss the solids and pour the liquid into a spray bottle.  Use to spray leaves of plants that are bothered by aphids.  Also works on other small, leaf pests.

Leafy Greens Formula

1 can of beer
1/2 cup fish emulsion
1/2 cup ammonia
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup instant tea granules

Mix ingredients together in a bucket.  Place in a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer and spray leaves until well coated.  You will be rewarded with shiny, vibrant leaves.

Lawn Fertilizer

1 can beer
1 can cola [with sugar]
1 cup apple juice
1 cup ammonia
1 cup lemon-scented dishwashing liquid [not anti-bacterial]
1 cup all-purpose plant food [15-30-15]

Mix everything together in a garden bucket.  Pour 1 quart of mixture into a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer.  Apply it to lawn and repeat every three weeks.

Weed Killer!

1 quart water
5 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp. salt

Bring the water to a boil.  Stir in the vinegar and the salt.  While the water is still very hot, pour mixture directly onto weeds.  Good for tough, deeply-rooted weeds and thistles.  [Plain boiling water also works on many weeds.]

Wasp Trap Formula

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar, apple cider
1/2 cup water
1 peel of banana, chopped

Dissolve the sugar and water in a small bucket.  Add the vinegar and banana peel.  Add more water to 1 gallon amount.  Stir well.  Hang from a tree branch.  Wasps will be attracted and die.