Thursday, July 28, 2011

random thoughts - newspaper - gardening - men and women and clothing - a bit more gardening

  "...and I can raise hemlines so high, the world is your gynecologist...."
                                                      .....Patsy, Absolutely Fabulous (BBC) 1992

I have let my own garden slide these past couple of weeks, maybe a month, face it - it's been a while since I did any serious weeding in this section of my garden.  It shows, a garden, like a favorite handbag, needs to be regularly weeded and cleaned out.

Desperate garden, not only do the weeds need to come out, plant food/fertilizer and mulch need to go in.

I still get the local newspaper - I just love the way it smells and the way the ink stains my fingers.  The usual weekday edition is just thick enough to use is the garden to keep down the weeds.  A couple of years ago I read the book LASAGNA GARDENING by Patricia Lanza and now I just weed a bit, put down newspapers and top it with mulch.  I take the magazine pages out, just want the newsprint - it composts so easily I can't help but wonder what's really in each issue.          

I like our local rag and have been a faithful subscriber for many years.  Don't care much for the fact that it's not very local.  I think this is what is killing newspapers.  They all print the same thing from the same source.  I believe they could sell more papers if they just stuck with the news and information in their area and added just a sprinkling of what's going on in the nation and the rest of the world (reverse of what they are doing now).  Of course they would be much thinner and probably cost more.  I love the town I live in and want to know what's going on and where's a good place to go for dinner and/or entertainment.  If you want to be active in your community you need to know what's happening in your community.  

Relying on the News at 5 to tell you everything is risky, some of us don't get home until after 6.  Others refuse to miss their favorite rerun of a rerun - forget news.  There's also that problem of "if it bleeds it leads."   The more depressing, the more it's on.  Instead of informing us, the News is the most depressing thing you can watch - some news (the really bad/sad stuff) is talked about so much and graphic photos are shown and re-shown and soon the News just isn't news anymore.  

Not to mention (but of course I will), I have a genuine concern for the women on news programs - why do the women wear 'band aids' while the men are in 'body casts?'  Not that I want men to wear less, I just think the women could have a bit more clothing on and still read the news to me.  Is this a fad?  Can a plunging neckline and a really high hemline cause ratings to soar - for a newscast?  My concern is that if they cross their legs or lean forward we are all at risk of being a lot more informed than we need to be.  What happened to modesty?  At some point in the future will human beings suffer from extreme boredom because they've literally seen it all?  Also, why on earth do - - - - - - -  wait a minute.  This is a happy blog.  We interrupt this train of thought - - - -

I think it's time to find my old newspapers and go outside - even in this heat. I've let my garden run on its own for a while and now it needs some serious supervision and weeding, lots and lots of weeding. 

I'm ready to start work - green sand, azalea food, newspaper and wood mulch.  It's not enough to take out the bad, you've got to have something to put back in - to feed the plants (the summer heat and all the watering have taken out many of the nutrients in the soil) and to mulch (this will hold in the water) - to make the garden beautiful... again. 

I guess this is where you tell me a mind is like a garden, to keep it healthy and running well you have to keep weeding out the thoughts that are of no use, keep it clean, keep it happy.  Always be careful what you allow in - garden & mind. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Carrying On...

From a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Charles Willson Peale, August 20, 1811 -

...I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.

Your application to whatever you are engaged in I know to be incessant. But Sundays and rainy days are always days of writing for the farmer.

Think of me sometimes when you have your pen in hand, and give me information of your health and occupations; and be always assured of my great esteem and respect.

Check out  if you'd like to read the entire letter or other letters by President Jefferson. 

Years ago I heard his garden quote ("though an old man, I am but a young gardener") and it floated into my brain sometime yesterday so I googled what I could remember of it and Jefferson's entire letter collection popped up.  This particular letter is almost 200 years old, yet it could have been written by any of us and the ideas and thoughts could be our own. Reading this letter was like stumbling across a new blog, now I'd like to read another and perhaps 'follow' him. What else did he have to say about gardening?

I don't remember a time in my life when someone was not concerned about their garden -  vegetable plot, flowerbed, corn, cotton or soybean crop, window box, or hanging basket.  As a child I thought all the vegetable gardens were Dad's and all the flower gardens were Mom's.  I'm pretty sure Mom worked in both gardens, I just don't remember Dad working in the flower beds.

My dad left us with one of his best gardens ever -  the harvest so far includes tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and blueberries.  This week my mom is canning salsa, she's already put up lots of stewed tomatoes.  Her freezer is full of blueberries and now she's giving away blueberries to everyone who stops in for a visit. 

My dad turned 79 this past March.  He enjoyed gardening, not just for the end product, I think he enjoyed trying to 'trick' nature.  He planted way too early every year, there was always a killing frost after his first (sometimes second and third) planting.  Still he planted.  The last few years he had been creating a blueberry patch.  A few plants added every year, spaced just right so you have plenty of room to pick the berries and not hurt the plants.  On a slight hill, so you can stand in front and pick from the lower branches then go behind the plant and easily pick the berries on the top of the plant.  Also, his berry garden can be seen from the kitchen window, so he could see the deer when they came by for a quick meal (sometimes he would stand and watch - they are beautiful - sometimes he would step outside and make noise to scare them away). 

My love of gardening is just one of the many things I learned from my parents.  Everywhere they called home Dad planted a vegetable garden, Mom planted flowers,  and the world was made a little prettier thanks to my parents. 

I want to leave the world a better place - prettier and more comfortable - and I plan to do it all with a bit of humor.  I've returned to my Texas home with a sense of urgency to weed my garden and give away the treasures and/or junk that I no longer use.  I'm finishing that baby quilt and getting my guest room in order.  I want to visit with people and share ideas.  I'm going to do some traveling.  I'm going to spend more time with my mom and my family.   I don't want to waste a minute of this life God has given me. 

What are your plans for the future?  Today, next week, next year....

Evening Primrose, Mom's flower garden, July 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rest in Peace

I'm taking a break from blogging to be with my family and friends
as we gather to remember my dad, Henry, who died on
Saturday, July 9, 2011. 

Mom, Me & Dad - My first Easter -1960

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cookies and bits from the past...

I enjoy sending and receiving handwritten notes and letters.  Seems a bit strange because I also want immediate responses when I send an email or text.  Maybe that's part of what I like about 'snail mail,' I know they will be slow.  Another reason I like them is because they give me something to hold in my hand.  I have a box (or two) of my favorite letters and a box of favorite (usually funny) cards I've received over the years.  At Christmas, one of my decorations is my collection of Christmas cards - now over 25 years old - I add to it each year always writing the year on the back of every card when I'm putting the decorations away.  For the last 20 or so years I've put a special note on "First Card Received."  I suppose this is my tribute to the Ghost(s) of Christmas Past.

Occasionally, my mom will send me a card or letter (hand written - my favorite! - also, the only way mom sends a letter). I love to see mom's handwriting, read the tales of her gardening, flea market shopping, and other adventures. A few months ago she sent me a copy of a recipe for Ice Box Cookies. This ice box cookie could be found in our home circa 1965. Neatly wrapped in wax paper, tucked away in the fridge, waiting patiently to be sliced and cooked and served warm to us with a glass of milk. You should try them. Not only did Mom give me the recipe for a favorite childhood treat, she also stirred up happy memories, gave me news from home, and (best of all) gave me the gift of herself in a letter.

When I asked mom for this recipe, I thought it was called 'Pecan Sandies' because pecan was the only nut I remember her using when she made these.  Next time I make them, I will try almonds or maybe just a mix of different nuts (yes, leftovers from other cooking adventures).  Here's my version of Ice Box / Refrigerator Cookies - Pecan (it's half the original recipe, I like the taste a little better - I'm pretty sure it's the butter and extra vanilla).

Ice Box Cookies - 2011

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4  teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), soft not melted
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup of nuts, finely chopped

Mix together and sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt three times (yes, really three times).  Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars (2-3 minutes, slow speed).  Add egg and vanilla mix well (1 - 2 minutes) add nuts mix well (1-2 minutes).  Add dry ingredients, mix 2 minutes (more or less).  The contents of your bowl should look like this.

Divide dough into portions and shape each portion into a roll.  You can make short or long rolls, depending on how many cookies you want to bake at a time.  These are 2 inches in diameter.


Just put the amount you like on freezer or waxed paper.  I think the wax paper is prettier, but freezer paper was easiest to reach and I went with that.  If you use freezer paper be sure to use the wax-y (shiny) side - this will keep the dough from sticking.  After you shape the dough, wrap the paper around it and secure the ends.  I used rubber bands, you can tape them or just tuck them under.

Chill several hours or overnight until dough is stiff enough to slice.  They will last a few days in the fridge or you can seal them up better (put them in freezer bags) and keep them a week or two longer in the freezer.  Put them in the fridge to defrost before you cook them.

After 4 hours they are firm and sliceable.  Slice the dough into 1/4 inch thick slices with sharp knife. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet (I always use parchment paper when I make cookies) in moderate oven (375) about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Let them cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from pan to cake racks. 

Yields approximately 4 dozen.  These are not giant cookies.  Their size makes having a few or several with a cup of tea a nice afternoon snack.

In case you'd like to try the original - here's the recipe as written down in 1965 by my mom's friend and neighbor, Cathy.  When Cathy jotted this down I wonder if she had ever stopped to think what the year 2011 would be like (The Jetsons maybe?).  Could she have thought of someone 45 years later reading her handwriting and making her cookies?  I love the idea of touching the future/touching the past.


3 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Crisco
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of nuts, finely chopped
Sift flour, measure, resift 3 times with baking powder, soda and salt.
Cream shortening with sugar thoroughly. Add eggs, vanilla and nuts. Mix well.
Add flour mixture in 4 or 5 portions. Mix thoroughly after each addition.
Divide dough into portions and shape each portion in a roll. Wrap in waxed paper.
Chill several hours or overnight until dough is stiff enough to slice. Slice 3/16 inches thick with sharp knife. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet in moderate oven (375) about 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan to cake racks. Yields 12 to 12 1/2 dozen. 

Note: Mom's 'rolls' looked like tiny rolling pins. They were approximately 10 inches long and 1-2 inches around and wrapped in the wax paper like little presents. If you cook the full 12 minutes they get a bit crispy.  I can't believe anybody really got 12 dozen cookies - I think 8 dozen is more like it - maybe that 1/16 of an inch makes all the difference.  I don't ever remember my mom cooking all the cookies at once. Just enough to enjoy, the rest were in the fridge or freezer, waiting more patiently for us than we were for them. 

One of the happy things about this recipe for me now is knowing that all of the ingredients are always in my kitchen, as they were in mom's kitchen in 1965.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It is better to give than receive --- that doesn't make receiving a bad thing

Dear God,
Please help me to receive.  When a friend is reminded of me and goes to the trouble to bring a gift to my door help me to be gracious and  thankful. Thank you that someone listened to their heart and answered Your call to bless me.   Thank you for the wonderful people in my life.    Amen.
Hibiscus in Full Bloom Spring 2011

My friend, Patti, showed up one day last fall with this beauty.  It was smaller and only had one bloom.  Love at first sight.  The newest addition to my garden spent the winter in my storage room (soon to be my studio - still thinking, planning & cleaning - pictures coming someday) and now is on my patio.  Before the weather got really hot, my hibiscus was full of beautiful blooms, with summer here it is struggling a bit in this heat, but it's alive and still green.  I hope it will bloom again when the temperatures cool down.

Original Martini Glass (r) vs. New Martini Glass (l)

My new martini glasses, set of three, arrived with the $1.00 price tag still on them.  My friend, Jane, knows I love a bargain and martinis, and when she saw these she thought of me.  She knew this quick gift was perfect for me - price tag and all.  She didn't measure them or check to see how much liquid they can hold she just got them for me.  Coming in at a whopping eight (8) ounces, let's just say I'm down to one drink a night... two olives.

I enjoy the blog Colorado Lady.  She introduced me to the idea of blessing people I will probably never meet by sending Seniors (I think her rule is over age 70) birthday cards.  It's a clever idea, if you want to 'bless' someone right this minute, check out Suzanne's blog at .

I see the unexpected surprises as true gifts.   A little something (some days a big something), out of the blue, given to you with love and just to bring a smile to your face.  No strings.  No guilt.  Happiness.  A chance to glimpse the hand of God.  Enjoy these moments and when they are over, ask God to show you who and where you are needed to bring that sort of sweetness to someone else.