Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Moving for the LAST Time.

I have a new blog address once again. If you like reading this one wander on over to my new place. I think you will enjoy it just as much. I appreciate your readership and hope you will stick with me.

Thanks in advance and see you there!


You can now find me at

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Man I Call Dad

OK so everyone thinks their dad is the best. Well I've got news for you... my dad really is. If the New York Times ran a Father of the Year Contest my Dad would win. And if you don't believe me, read on.

Today's musings are a tribute to my dad on his special day.

To begin with I would like to show you a picture of my dad, Roy Smalley. Isn't he handsome? Yes, I know this was taken just before I committed to going gray. But, more to the point,  no one can believe my dad is 80+. He and my mom both look amazingly younger than their ages. I think the only explanation for this is that they have always maintained a positive attitude; come what may. And they have worked at a healthy lifestyle. That's not to say that they haven't both taken some hits but what astounds me is that they never stay down for long. They are the most resilient twosome I have ever known. I also need to add that they have shared 61 years of deep devotion to their marriage. I know this has positively impacted their health and their pursuit of happiness.

I think most would agree that I look just like my dad. I think that is a genuine compliment and I am always happy to hear that. My mom is strikingly gorgeous so I would be equally happy to look like she, but God happened to use my dad's mold when he created me and this has always served me well.
Of course it is in the area of character that my dad especially excels. He is a man of such great integrity. I value truthfulness almost above all other qualities and I'm sure this is because integrity is what my dad has always modeled. And I know for a fact that he instilled in me a fine work ethic. He is such an affable man with a warm personality that naturally attracts others.  I cannot name one person that has ever said they don't like my dad. In fact, his friends never seem to tire of telling me what a great guy he is.

So perhaps you are wondering what kind of dad he was; like, how was he as a nurturer? Before I discuss that at length I must tell you that according to my mom he wasn't big on the diaper-change thing. I'm not sure he ever changed one (though he must have, right?). We should cut him some slack, in fairness, because we're talking 1955 after all. I'm not sure Ozzie Nelson or Ward Cleaver ever changed a prime-time diaper either.

When I think about my young life with my dad I think about two things. The first is that he was forced to be away from our family a lot. My dad was a professional baseball player and travel is just part of that game. After retiring from his professional sports career he began his own business. And although he was headquartered close to home, he was rarely at home; at least during those crucial start-up years. I missed him so much. I wonder now if he knew that then.

The second thing that I know is how loving he was; and is. I was never afraid of my dad--ever--not at any age. And there has never been any topic (even embarrassing girl stuff) that I couldn't talk to my dad about. Now truthfully, how many women can say that about their dad?

What I treasure the most about my dad and our relationship is that he has always validated me. According to things I've read, a father's validation is essential to a young woman's self esteem and success in her own marriage. My dad likes who I am and he has always expressed that. Do you know how huge that is? The fact that he tells me? Of equal significance is the fact that he never made me feel conditionally loved. I wasn't loved because I was academically successful or hardworking, or popular with my friends. And I wasn't unloved when I gained weight, made a bad choice, or was generally unlovable. I am not suggesting that he wasn't a disciplinarian. Although my mom was the 'enforcer' because she was at home, I knew my parents were a united team. I also knew that my mom sought and valued my dad's input in all areas of parenting. Both my parents are wise and they parented skillfully.

I will tell you that my dad and I are polarized, or close to it, in some pretty big areas; politics and spiritual orientation. Hey, we've mixed it up on more than one occasion and we both have to exercise an extra measure of self-control every four years. But doesn't the very fact that we can vehemently disagree at dinner and wake up the next morning happy to be having a cup of coffee together speak volumes about our father-daughter bond? Of course it does. And a bond it is.

Hey, speaking of Bond, my dad is also a martini drinker; and so suave. But unlike James Bond, my dad's martinis are stirred, not shaken. Hmmm...I'm not sure about onion vs. olive.

I have known my dad 56 years and  I know my dad can't be shaken. He is my rock and always will be. There is no luckier woman (although my brother's girls might argue with me). And at the risk of sounding boastful, I know that my dad feels proud to introduce me as his daughter.

I love you Dad. Happy Father's Day to you and to all dad's.

Enjoy your day and stop by again soon. At our house we feature good coffee and great conversation.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Project ! A Quick and Easy Gift Idea

This is Anacortes High School graduation party weekend for Larry and me. We have one party this evening and one tomorrow. Today is Ana's party. Ana is the youngest daughter of my friend Laurie (whom you've met here before). I was stressing about how to give her money... I don't like cash and I don't love the check option either. So I decided to make her a little picture frame and tuck a check and the frame into a gift bag.

Other than buying a somewhat shabby white frame from Rite Aid, I had everything else on hand. Of course not much was needed for this project. By the way, I learned my lesson about buying inexpensive picture frames. It's imperative that you give them a close look before buying. I got home with this one and found a few cracks in the finish. Oh well, the look is supposed to be somewhat 'upcycled' so I'm not going to worry about it.
$5.99 Frame From Rite Aid

I wanted to embellish the frame with fabric roses, which are all the blog rage right now. I tried at least 4 different fabrics in search of the perfect neutral before I thought of using this twill tape. This tape actually came with a rug I ordered last fall from Pottery Barn. This twill was tied around the rolled up rug. I love Pottery Barn. Every detail is so well planned and quality.
I really enjoy working with Unique Stitch. It is a very fast drying, strong fabric glue that becomes transparent.

First I ironed the twill tape so that it was nice and flat. I then folded the tape in half lengthwise and twisted and rolled it in a circle, gluing here and there as I rolled. The first flowers I made were much too large. It's such a temptation to make them over sized because actually, the larger they get the prettier they look. I kept having to unroll my roses and start over. I played around with it until I had three roses, varying in size, that I was happy with.  I allowed the glue on the roses to dry for a few minutes and then I used my hot glue gun to affix the roses to the frame. I think this is a much nicer way to give a gift of money. What do you think?  I used the picture that came in Ana's graduation announcement, but she can just replace it with her favorite.
Voila! What an Adorable Graduate

If you would like to see a really good tutorial on making fabric roses there are probably 30 available online. Here is the link to my favorite tutorial:

Caution! Making rosettes can become addicting so proceed with caution and consider yourself forewarned. Just wait until you see my burlap pillow with a jumbo rosette! Hope you'll come back and check it out.

Tomorrow we are attending a party of a young man. I'm giving him money too but I think I'll skip the rosettes.

See you soon!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Peonies as Promised and Poetry in Bloom

No vision more bedazzling than peonies in bloom
Beauty for my soul and fragrance for my room
                                                                                                                --Dana Bishop

May you find something beautiful in your day.

See you tomorrow!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Buttons and Blogs

I feel so 'hip'. I have a button on my blog; just like the big kids. Now we'll see if any other bloggers 'grab' it and post it to their sites. A button, simply put, is simply a new gadget for growing blog readership. If you scroll down in my sidebar you will see that I have attached another button (pictorial link) to Restore Interiors; which happens to be one of my most favorite blogs. Please check it out. You will fall in love.

All the credit for this cool new tool goes to my friend Dorothy. I lured her with a cup of coffee and a piece of flourless chocolate cake. I don't think I needed the lure because she would have done this for me anyway, but a treat for a techie was great fun. And I sent her home with a bucket 'o greens from the garden (which I've decided has been doused with performance enhancing drugs).

One more bit of good news: my picture-perfect pink peonies popped this morning (how's that for alliteration?).
Pictures later.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Never Return A Plate Empty

Look how much my garden has grown in the last month! Our raised beds are positively bursting with vitamins! We have so much more produce than we can possibly use because we are just a household of 2. So we have started sharing our bounty with friends.

Spinach and Broccoli

Cabbages Are Growing Nicely
Kale Cohabitating with Onions

Larry Made An Adorable Trellis for the Peas

A few weeks ago I gave my girlfriend a variety of beautiful greens in a vintage galvanized bucket. I love galvanized anything and I have a growing collection which includes buckets, wash tubs, and trays and trash barrels. I grow plants in many of them. I even have a six foot wide stock trough!

A Golden Privet Thriving in a Trash Can
Well, back to my story. My girlfriend and her husband came to dinner Friday night. We hang out at each others houses quite often and the unwritten rule is, "we're well beyond hostess gifts". However, here came Sharon, my bucket in hand, filled with the most beautiful Heuchera (Coral Bell) I've ever seen!
A Gorgeous Ginger Peach Heuchera
Her thoughtful gesture, though unnecessary, was so appreciated. I already love the way this looks in my garden and I haven't even taken it out of the bucket yet. It will need room to grow and I know just the spot. Good news by the way! The tag says, "sun or shade".

And now the finale.  Can you guess what Sharon said when she handed me this gracious gift? Yep, you got it!
Never return a plate empty.

Thanks dropping by. You never know what I might be chatting about so come back anytime. Oh and remember, we're well beyond hostess gifts.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Road Trip and a Recipe

Well I got up with the birds this morning and way up here at 48 N. Latitude our feathered friends are alive and singing at about 4:30 AM. I rolled out of bed to let our older dog Beanie outside and then allowed myself another hour's sleep. I didn't really mind the early get-up because today I needed to drive Larry, aka Captain Larry, to the Bellingham Marina. He is out for 4 days captaining a luxurious 50' motor yacht for one of his clients. Life is good!

I thoroughly enjoy outings and especially the drive to Bellingham. Even though it's a rather direct route up Interstate 5, it is so picturesque! The freeway is lined with dense evergreen forests and a beautiful view of Lake Samish.

Bellingham is a really great city about 45 miles north of Anacortes. It is home to Western Washington University. Everybody loves Bellingham so it's always on my itinerary for my out of town guests. The city began along the waterfront in the late 1800's and has maintained it's distinct Victorian heritage. There are wonderful restaurants, pubs, shops and coffee houses and farmer's markets; in other words, something for everyone.

Look how pretty this shopping district is!

After I dropped Larry off I decided to stop at a coffee house which I had never seen before today. What a good decision that turned out to be! I had a great Americano and a gluten-free brownie. Yum! My coffee break gave me just enough time to text all of my out-of-state friends and say, "I'm sitting in Bellingham, wish you were here". You know, sometimes you just have to rub it in.

From here it was off to Trader Joe's to do my weekly grocery shopping. I love Trader Joe's and Bellingham is the closest location to us. My friend Sharon had asked me to get her a jar of almond butter with flax seeds so I decided to get one for myself as well~

I had forgotten how much I enjoy this on toast in the morning. But here I am stalled out in the gluten free (mostly grain free) world, with limited bread choices. To avoid feeling discouraged and deprived, I decided to craft a really great bread--something new-- upon which to slather the almond butter; because I love almond butter almost as much as I love bread.

A rather lengthy Google search led me to a really quality blog with a very straightforward and seemingly delicious recipe for gluten free soda bread. The name of the blog is The Urban Homestead Experiment (great name!) which is written by an adorable young woman named Jamie Milks. You can find Jamie at This is a beautiful blog with such an abundance of fine information on healthy living and eating. I really hope you will find your way over there.

I happened to have almost all of the ingredients on hand. Despite a small shortage of gluten free all purpose flower, my bread turned out really well. I had to make up the deficit with an insignificant amount of sweet sorghum flour, but the bread still tastes superb!

Whether or not you are committed to a gluten free lifestyle, I believe that once in awhile we should give our bodies a break from wheat. Wheat gluten (a protein) is very hard on our digestive tracts and Jamie discusses this in greater length on her blog page. But her blog and recipes are not limited to gluten free. She has lots and lots of healthy whole grain ideas (including wheat). Her blog is a veritable treasure trove of great recipes and glorious photos for everything from appetizers to desserts. Again, I hope you will pay Jamie's blog a visit.

So I am including the recipe, along with my modifications, and if it interests you I hope you will give it a try~ and leave me a comment.

Oh I just got a call from Captain Larry (ship to shore) and his little group is well underway. Since I am on my own for most of the week I hope to get some sewing done. I have been refining an idea I have for a new throw pillow embellished with a chunky fabric rose. I hope to be sharing this with you in my next post! Until then, I wish you a good week and good eating!

Does this bread look boring? It may be short on gluten but it is long on taste!

Personal Notes: I used unsweetened coconut milk with 1 T of lemon juice. You cannot taste the coconut at all so don't be afraid to use it. I omitted the xanthan gum. This is seriously good bread!

Jamie's Gluten Free Oat Soda Bread
Scant 2 cups (7 ounces) oat flour or 2 cups (10 ounces) rolled oats
2 1/4 cup (10 ounces) all purpose gluten-free flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon xantham gum (optional, see headnote)
1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cup plain almond milk (or dairy-free milk of choice)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flours, xantham gum, baking soda and sea salt in a large bowl. If you are not using oat flour, place your rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor. Turn on and process for 1-2 minutes or until the consistency is a fine powder.
Measure the milk into a separate cup and add the lemon juice. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so. Reserve about a tablespoon of the milk to brush before making. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the rest of the milk into the center. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Pan version: Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Spread the dough evenly into the pan.
Free-form version: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease. Dump the dough onto the prepared pan. Wet your hands so you can form the dough into a ball (the dough is sticky). Once it formed into an even bowl, flatten slightly. Using a sharp knife, run it down the middle for a deep cut, but do not cut it all the way through. Turn it 90 degrees and make another cut perpendicular to the first one.
Brush the top and sides of the dough with reserved tablespoon of milk. Optional: Sprinkle a variety of seeds on top (sesame, caraway, fennel, etc.)
Bake in the center rack for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, raise the rack up one notch and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Place, Same Face

Hello! Thanks for visiting me at my new address. You may be wondering why or how I decided to change my blog name, but the above picture will give you a clue. Currently on display in a large way at our house are foxglove and columbine. And what I love best is that it's an all volunteer army!

As you've probably guessed by now, I've never met a volunteer I didn't like and I have a hard time pulling them out even when they root in unwanted places. I am a gardener that loves order and so the prolific tendencies of some plant species create a real conflict for me. Let me show you what I mean.

The Encroachers

I've entitled this photo, The Encroachers with good reason. These columbine, though lovely, are positively trespassing! They have pushed themselves into a space rightfully occupied by some very old peonies. Yet I am loathe to yank them out. Perhaps you are wondering why I don't attempt a transplant. Honestly the best way to propagate columbine is by seed. I have never had good luck moving a volunteer columbine to a new spot. I think this is because they are agressive self seeders and the plants that thrive do so because the seeds have landed in precisely the right growing conditions. My attempts to replicate these conditions would be hit or miss at best.

I first learned of columbine when we moved to a large property in suburban St. Louis 25 years ago. As you know I had never experienced the joys of perennial gardening during my young life in Southern California. So during our first spring on this 4 acre, rather rural property, I discovered the ever-enchanting foxglove, bobbing their cute little blossoms in the breeze. It was love at first sight. As legend has it, foxglove are home to garden fairies. If fairies are real I do believe they live here.

I feel the same about foxglove even though they are likely to pop-up anywhere and they rarely survive a move. I just let them go even when their presence in my otherwise manicured beds creates a temporary sense of chaos. They are so prolific in the cool weather of the Pacific Northwest. It is the lucky tourist who visits our island in late spring when the columbine, which line the highway, are at the height of bloom. It's spectacular.

I have a good friend, Sharon, that lives on an amazing one acre, near the center of Anacortes. Her water view is breathtaking as well as her landscape. A few years ago volunteer foxglove of every color went absolutely wild in a section of her yard. When they were in bloom this was an unparalleled panorama of loveliness. I have never before or since witnessed such an unexpected and unplanned splash of color. Sharon told me that she and her husband BJ had no clue about what they were and when they first appeared en mass, she wanted to call our Master Gardener friend Laurie (you met Laurie in my previous post) to come over and tell her what was happening. Sharon was planning to dig them up! Once they set their buds she realized they were foxglove. She and BJ were astounded, as were the rest of us. It was sincerely unbelievable. By the way, this phenomenon was a single event; and thus a true gift.

So now you know the origin of my new name. I looked outside a few days ago at the foxglove and columbine blooming side by side in a spot I refer to as 'the secret garden'. And you know, it was a light bulb moment. A big, "ah ha"! And I decided then and there to reemerge with a new identity.

I hope you like it. And I hope you like reading Foxglove and Columbine and that if you feel so led, you will pass my link on to readers of like mind.

Have a wonderful weekend! Despite our conspicuous lack of sunshine, I'm off to do some watering. Maybe I'll have a personal encounter with a fairy. If I do, I'll be sure and let you know.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Garden Bliss

I am in the mood to share with you some pictures I took this evening of one of my favorite gardens. This particular planting area was created using recycled concrete--most of which came from an old driveway that we demolished some years ago. The idea to use the concrete was not mine but rather originated with my good friend Laurie. Laurie is a Master Gardener and a first-rate landscape designer. And she is the most creative and hardest working woman I have ever known.

About 4 years ago Laurie began the process of laying out the structure of the garden, which at the time was just a large expanse of grass under a huge old oak tree. I envisioned a lush shade garden densely planted with hostas and Laurie with the help of my husband Larry set about making this a reality. Over the course of 2 summers, they took up the sod, graded, installed French drain, moved wheelbarrows full of broken concrete and set the pieces in place.

Are you laughing at this moment because I told you it took 2 summers? Well let's just say we operate on island time up here.

Anyway, as I've said before, gardening is a process of 'trowel and error'. This garden has presented so many challenges that a few times I was ready to abandon my plan in favor of something less stressful.

I won't go on and on about all of the mistakes I've made, but I do need to tell you that this spring I had to dig up all of my hostas and move them to a new location. You see, last fall we severely pruned the oak tree and my full shade garden became a mostly sunny spot. I know that now there are hosta varieties that will tolerate sun but mine will not; they began to turn yellow. I was really, really upset and disappointed. I so wanted a huge hosta garden beneath the tree. I had envisioned it and it had happened--almost. And then once again I had to rethink and rework.

As is often the case, great things grew from my little calamity. Out of necessity I moved the hostas to the only truly shady spot available--a previously neglected and unsightly slope which I had dreaded tackling. They are now happily thriving beneath a canopy of juniper and a once eyesore is now quite an eye catcher. I had expected this slope to be very hard to work and I had for the most part just stopped looking at it. Now I feel rather silly considering that Larry and I had it plant-ready in fairly short order.

So you're probably asking, "why is there no picture of the hostas?" The answer is, I don't have the mulch spread around them yet and I want the garden to look just right before you see it.

The best was yet to come! Now the mostly-sunny-garden-beneath-the-oak looks even better. I have an array of astilbe that have grown by leaps and bounds this year and a wide variety of amazing volunteers-such as coral bells lady's mantle and lacy Scotch moss-which truly delight me. I installed some stepping stones and a little ornamentation and I feel a sense of joy every time I pass by.

I plan to position a chair someplace in the garden, and maybe even a footrest. One of these days, when the weather warms, I will dust off my copy of The Secret Garden and head for this happy place of repose. I'll let you know when... maybe you can meet me there.

Astilbes and Coral Bells

I love to plant between the steps!

Turning Over A New Leaf

Wild Ginger--Isn't this pretty?

A volunteer lady's mantle in such a perfect spot!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Post Script Regarding Beige

It's the end of a lovely weekend for us. The weather has been spectacularly gorgeous; lots and lots of sun, clear skies and shimmering blue water. Yesterday afternoon we attended the wedding of a young couple from our church. The bride was radiant and love was in the air. We were in the company of our closest friends and we shared lots of laughter and great food.

I just had to share this photo with you because I think it's amazing. This was taken in our sun room last weekend by our friend Eric and he emailed it to me this afternoon. I feel as if the photo belongs on a page in Veranda magazine! He did such a great job of capturing the beauty of the shells and sugar stars that I've mounded in a bowl atop our dining table. The stars are truly pristine and remind me of bridal white.

Eric entitled this photo, Beautifully Beige. He has an artful eye for detail and his mind captures great photos even before he lifts his camera. I am honored that Eric spent some time with his wife Dorothy and son Patrick, wandering our property with his camera in hand. I will look forward to sharing more of his work in future posts.

I hope you appreciate as much as I do the subtle elegance and sophistication of neutrals such as we see in the shells. Nature inspires great interiors. Upon close inspection you could find a half a dozen paint shades on a single shell, in absolute harmony; like a perfect paint chip from a decorating store.

To see more of Eric's work I encourage you to visit his photo stream. Here's the link to his site:

Enjoy your week and thanks for stopping by!

One last comment~ I think maybe I will approach Eric with the idea of a collaborative book effort. We will entitle it, "Beautifully Beige".

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I am thinking of the lilac trees
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open
Shed fragrance through the room.
Mrs. Anna S Stephens, The Old Apple-Tree

We returned from our trip south just in time to enjoy the lilacs which are in full bloom throughout the island. They are in tough competition with the rhododendrons which have also burst forth in full color. Rhododendrons, or rhodies as they are called here, thrive in Washington and Oregon. Just like azaleas, rhodies are acid loving plants (along with their sister, the camellia). It is not uncommon to find huge rhododendrons growing happily wild amidst giant evergreens. The reason for this is simple--they love acidic conditions. Evergreens, pine trees especially, create very acid soil by dropping their needles on the forest floor~ nature's perfect mulch.

One of the many things I love about the Pacific Northwest is the dense forests which push relentlessly toward the shore, halting only at sand's edge. To access almost any beach requires a hike through the woods on paths which have been forged over time through native ferns, salal and rhododendrons. I love walking through this thick overgrowth and then suddenly emerging at the beach. It's as if I've reached the light at the end of the tunnel and I never stop marveling at the experience.

But yet, my heart belongs to the lilac. To me they are a gift to the senses, more so than any other flowering bush. Lilacs in bloom not only look stunning but they are intoxicatingly fragrant. OK, so intoxicatingly is not truly a word but it works so well in this context.

Because I grew up in Southern California, I never saw a lilac bush until I moved to Missouri. But now there are lilac varieties that are bred especially for warm climates. Here of course it gets cold enough to grow the non-hybrids. I have three bushes which range in color intensity from deep purple to white. New to us this season is a volunteer bush which is unrelated to the other two. It must have wandered in from a nearby neighbor. I love volunteer plants--"rogues" as my cousin calls them. I have more volunteer foxglove, columbine and strawberries this year than ever but this new lilac is the best of all the newcomers. And it came up along our property line fence, as if its location were by perfect design.

Lilacs are very low maintenance. They only need to be fed with an all purpose fertilizer twice a year. They are not prone to disease or pests and pruning is optional. This is my kind of plant! I am sad to report that we lost a very old lilac bush last year. I read recently that moles will chew the roots causing the bush to die. Based on the number of sudden and unwanted mounds in my yard I have to think that the moles were indeed responsible.

As you can see, I cut lilacs and brought them inside this afternoon. I love the intense purple blossoms more than all the others but unfortunately that particular bush is not getting enough sunlight. It has been shaded by more aggressive trees and shrubs and now blooms only modestly. I am not sure what I am going to do but we have so many items on our "to do" list that I won't be addressing the lilac issue for some time. I am just happy to have lilac blossoms on the kitchen counter to beautifully scent the house. Lilac blooms are ephemeral you see, lasting only about 2 weeks if conditions are right. And then they take their bows, forcing us to wait 50 weeks for another show.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane!

Larry and I are leaving this morning for Orange County, California. Friday we have the privilege of attending our son's graduation from Law School.

It took me about a week to coordinate our respective wardrobes. We don't live close to any significant shopping other than a small outlet mall and a few other stores which are about 15 miles from our house. It took me a couple of trips but I think I'm ready. My suitcases are packed and in overflow mode. I had to get up early so that I could sit on them to get them zipped before Larry awoke. You can imagine how much this bothers him considering that he is a retired airline pilot!

Wardrobe is crucial to a good time, right? How can I know in advance exactly what I'll be doing? My motto? Too much is just right.

This morning the sun is shining brightly and this bodes well for our journey. We have had a such a protracted period of gloomy, wet and cold weather. This has been the most disappointing spring I have experienced up here. But the week promises to be gorgeous. This always seems to happen when we plan a trip. Well my gardens should kick into overdrive while I'm away. I'm just hoping that the copious amounts of Sluggo I scattered yesterday will keep the snails at bay.

I don't know if I will have the opportunity to post in the coming few days. We are only taking one laptop and that presents a problem--Larry isn't very good at sharing his computer. But that's about the only thing he isn't good at. I'm lucky to have him at my side.

I think this will be the last time we watch our son receive a diploma. At least I hope it is. The real world is knocking at his door.

Until next time!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beige~ It's Atmosphere

"Beige is atmosphere. It's bisque, it's ivory, it's cream, it's stone it's toast, it's cappuccino. It's, well, it's magic." --Albert Hadley

Albert Hadley is an American interior designer of great renown. He has served some of our country's most elite; notably, Jacqueline Kennedy among many others. Mr. Hadley decorated the Kennedy White House as well as one of their private residences and later worked for Aristotle Onassis. I also read that he was the designer of choice for both the Astor and Getty families! This man's resume is amazing.

I was delighted to come upon the above quote while perusing a Victoria Magazine publication entitled Rooms of Bliss. The magazine was given to me recently by my friend Linda. If you are like she and I you find that from time to time a selective thinning of old magazines is a necessary chore. I use the word 'chore' because this culling process can be painful. I for example had more than a year's worth of Coastal Living stored very neatly in Longaberger baskets around the house. I love having quality magazines near comfy chairs. There is nothing better to do on a Saturday morning than to sit with a good cup of coffee and thumb leisurely through the pages of past issues. I find it hard to let them go.

I'm trying to understand how Linda was able to part with Rooms of Bliss. I feel like she unknowingly gave me thing of great value. Beneath the cover is page after page of exquisite intimate spaces that evoke feelings of delight and awe. I have turned these pages time and again; studying the wall colors, the moldings, the furniture and the accents. Why do some rooms wrap themselves around me such that I long to emulate their look? Has this ever happened to you? Just when you think your house has reached the pinnacle of personal expression and style you stumble upon a picture that speaks to you so deeply that you want to switch direction and begin the decorating process all over again?

Well, returning to real, I do want to mention how seriously I share Mr. Hadley's affinity for beige. He's right, it's magic. Beige is not boring. Who created the notion that a mother of the groom should 'wear beige and fade into the woodwork'? I personally think beige can be stunning if well chosen. Beige doesn't have to retreat. Not in a dress nor in a room. Beiges vary in intensity and in pigment. Some are ethereal and some are bold. Beiges may have elements of pink, gray, yellow, brown or even purple (as in taupe) and more.

The walls of every room featured in Rooms of Bliss are neutral. Some are strikingly intense, such as mud or adobe and others are what I would call a "whiter shade of pale"(meaningful to any child of the 60's); more reminiscent of a linen table cloth or a drapery sheer. But in each room setting the neutral wall is the great unifier; the "less" that is more. The furniture and accessories look perfectly in place because the neutral wall showcases them--allows them to take center stage. And in return the well-chosen furnishings make lowly beige look like a million bucks.

A few months ago I repainted almost every room in our house. My choice was Laura Ashley Taupe (from Lowe's). We have lots and lots of doors and windows and therefore lots of woodwork. I really love the way my crisp, white trim looks against my taupe walls. It reminds me a khaki pants worn with a white oxford cloth shirt. I am blissfully happy with my choice.

Consider how much beige we see in nature and how delicate the interplay of shades. I recently bought a dozen free range eggs and was surprised to find an array of tones ranging from very pale to boldly brown. Ponder the beauty of a wheat field as the shafts dance in the breeze. The color is never static. Seashells are another work of art. The above picture is of a shell I keep on an end table. I love its subtle markings-- such sophistication. Apparently God loves beige as much as I do. He has sprinkled it everywhere.

Our house is affectionately named, "Shell Cottage". The name was inspired by a nautilus that I treasure. I love the combination of browns, beiges and white. I love to collect shells, though most of the large ones I've had to purchase. And I love to collect smooth beige stones when I walk on the beach. To me their is nothing more soothing than the feel of a small stone that has been tumbled smooth by the ever-shifting tides.

Well thank you for reading through my ruminations about beige. If it were up to me beige would be a primary color! By the way, a doctor asked me recently if I dream in color. Hmmmm.... I think I dream in beige.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Looking For A Little Spice In Your Life?

Sorry, I'm not going to write about that sort of spice--this blog is rated G. But I am going to tell you something that happens with regularity in our household because I'm wondering if any of you can relate. As for the spice? I mentioned in my previous post that Larry and I made a delicious Thai pumpkin soup on Mother's Day. So I've decided to share this piquant recipe and tell you a little about my culinary life with Larry. Ooo La La!

When I am trying an unusual recipe for the first time I work on it by myself. I hide the ingredients list from Larry and I refrain from asking his advice. Otherwise he might decide he doesn't like what I'm making even before he tries it. Sometimes his food taste is just a bit limited and it is not uncommon for him to say, "don't tell me what's in it". Once in awhile he will tell me that what I'm making doesn't sound good. And once in awhile that makes me grouchy. I try to laugh this off and carry on but on occasion my touchy alter ego gets the upper hand and bad karma begins to hover above the kitchen. Believe me, no one wants to be around a good cook with a bad attitude.

When we made this Thai soup together we had a nice time. There was no way for me to sneak around since he was stationed there next to me slicing and dicing. (I've never met anyone that dices with more precision than Larry). Anyway, even though Larry was part of the process, keenly aware of anything entering the stock pot, he thoughtfully refrained from questions and comments. It was great fun working side by side on a sunny Mother's Day morning.

Upon returning from church I set the table in our sun room and Larry joined me for lunch. Much to my delight, Larry attacked his with a great deal of zeal. There was nothing tentative about his approach, but rather a robust vigor! He made short work of that soup. When he finished he said he had something to tell me. "I didn't think I was going to like this", he said. "I was totally against it... but it was really good!" I had to laugh. This happens all the time. Why, I wonder, do I ever waste time on a bad mood?

Recently I made a grain and flour free chocolate cake. Does this remind you of the war-time cakes described by your mother or grandmother? Let's see-- no eggs, no sugar, no butter, no flour, no taste. Surprise! This cake was probably the most delicious chocolate cake ever created. I don't love chocolate but I loved this. This was not your 'just desserts'--I'm talking cake heaven. I asked Larry if he would like to know how I baked such a decadent creation; something so truly gratifying and possibly even sinful without so much as a tablespoon of flour. No, he said, don't tell me. You see, for Larry knowledge diminishes pleasure. That is to say, ignorance is bliss. If I tell him what went into this cake he might not like it as much. Sometimes this makes me crazy. I just don't get it. If you truly like something why would knowing how it's made change your opinion? I have lived with Larry a very long time and I don't think I will ever figure this out. I guess I'm not supposed to.

Now, about the soup. I'll tell you up front it has coconut milk in it. I hope this doesn't discourage you. Guess what? Larry strongly objects to anything coconut! But as I mentioned above, he sincerely enjoyed this soup. So here you are. I hope if you make it you will post a note about your experience and any tips you might have. I always enjoy comments. Do you cook for someone whose taste parameters are somewhat narrow? I would enjoy hearing about that too. By the way, it might be nice to serve the soup with jasmine rice. Since I am avoiding most grains I served ours with a generous side of broccoli slaw sauteed with red bell pepper. Larry enjoyed his with soy sauce. Dang! This can make me grouchy too. But since I'm still on a Mother's Day high I'll talk about soy sauce another time.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

1 Box Organic Vegetable Broth
1 Can Organic Coconut Milk
2 Cans Organic Pumpkin (Make sure you don't buy Pumpkin Pie Filling)
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, diced
1/2 Large Onion, diced
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon Diced Jalapeno Chili
2 Tablespoons Diced Fresh Ginger
2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice (Fresh is best)

  • Sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients except for the Coconut milk. Stir to blend. Heat to almost boiling and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn the burner to the lowest setting or if you are not planning to serve right away turn it off.
  • Just before serving whisk in the coconut milk.
  • Heat, serve and enjoy!
This soup was actually better the next day. It thickened a little more and the flavors were a great mesh.

A Tall Drink of Water

Today is Mother's Day! For me Mother's Day is like celebrating my birthday a second time. Larry hugely indulges me. He takes me fun places and buys me fun things and he insists that I do only those things that I want to do--and then he helps me do them.

This morning I decided to prepare our lunch before we left for church so that I wouldn't have much fussing about to do when we returned. Together Larry and I made a truly delicious Thai pumpkin soup. Larry grated the fresh ginger and expertly seeded and diced a jalapeno. I could have made the soup by myself but it was much more fun having Larry at my side in the kitchen. He is such a good sport about taking over those tasks which I consider to be the least enjoyable and I appreciate that so much.

Larry and I have done a great many things together (and we have done many great things). But I am proud to say that our son John is the embodiment of our most significant mutual accomplishment. It is the blessed woman who is able to say with regard to her husband, that child rearing was a mutual endeavor. Larry, who claimed to never want children, was sold out to parenthood before baby John and I ever left the hospital.

As I mentioned, today I get to do whatever it is I want to do and that extends to blogging. And what I want is to write briefly about motherhood.

I don't think there is any career as enriching or rewarding as the parenting experience. There is also no job that is more complex. Babies don't come with an owner's manual, darn it. And it's not as if I could have downloaded something from the internet. All we had 28 years ago was an Apple II computer. Hardly high speed. And who could even fathom the World Wide Web in 1982?

I don't know that I had held an infant more than a time or two my entire life and I'm sure Larry would say the same about himself. But something magical occurs the moment a nurse sets that tiny bundle of swaddling in your arms for the first time. That little ball of joy becomes your own--more than your own but rather a part of your essence--and you suddenly understand love at a new depth.

My own mother once told me, "You will understand how much you are loved when you have a child of your own". My mother has told me many true things but this is the truest of them all; it is fact.

Well I can't navigate life now, at age 56 without instruction sheets, manuals and booklets. I have a file folder full of them and it's overflowing. And I also have Google. Everything is on Google, right? Imagine being able to Google such topics as cradle cap or head banging. Is your child afraid of tornadoes? Find a chat room. Find a preschool, find a doctor, find support groups for neurotic moms-- it's all there! But I had none of that. I was young and I was flying blind. I have asked Larry many times to explain what it is that we did so right when we so didn't know what we were doing.

Well I have concluded that it really doesn't matter so much what we actually did do or didn't do. The important thing is that we gave our all and we gave all of our love. We had so many ups and a few downs. We got off track and back on. But we look back and we look ahead and we say, "it's all good". Love is both a mystery and an answer. We invest so much of it yet we get so much back. The returns are huge.

I'm sure if my own mother reads this she will agree totally. My mom was always and still is the best. I am a good parent because she is an excellent one. She actually was better than a owner's manual. She was a living guide post. I could say the same about my dad but this is Mother's Day after all. I can write about him next month.

I am so proud to be John's mom. He is a source of endless joy. Not because of the things he has done or will continue to do but rather because he is who he is. I have not retired from mothering but I have rewritten my job description. It is very difficult to retire from a career as a mother. I'm not sure it's possible and I know for a fact that I don't want to. It's not that I want the responsibility or the control. I just want the pride and the fun.

John is graduating from Law School and next week we will be traveling to Southern California to help him celebrate. I still remember just how I felt when he graduated from Montessori kindergarten; like it was yesterday. The school's director handed him his diploma and she spoke these words~ "We send you on your way with love, knowing you will do great things in your life". I cried then just as I will when he steps confidently forward to receive his Juris Doctorate. Not simply because a law degree is a wonderful thing, though it is. But rather because family is a wonderful thing. It is life's greatest blessing.

I leave you with this thought from the American writer, William Saroyan~

Of course if you like your kids, if you love them from the moment they begin, you yourself begin all over again, in them, with them, and there is something more to the world again.