Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Preparations or putting away? This could be from either perspective, and both have their charms---the anticipation like the glint of shining glass, or the contemplation of the moments just enjoyed, gleaming like just-polished silver in the memories.

This was from the getting-ready stage, with all the pretties set out, just to look at. It's like spreading jewelry across the table, with all the little bits and pieces from various places all strewn beneath the light, just because they BRIGHT me.

Our Traveler left early this morning, after a sweet family breakfast of cereal and bananas and toasty bagel-halves-with-honey beneath the little bright pool of light on the breakfast table. We had prayer and sang a bit, the four of us, and then hugged our goodbyes, until next time. He's flying his way back to California with our prayers, clean laundry, and a little bag of snacks---grapes, sticks of the rich golden Cheddar, crackers, and a Karo-pecan bar, made fresh by Caro last night. Whether he gets to enjoy those, or toss them into a bin at the screener's discretion is as sure as rain/sleet/snow for our coming week.

Today is soaky-rainy-chilly outdoors, with the drab leaves scattered to all corners of the yard, and just a shadow-shape of the Summer's beauty left---if you squint just so, you can see little images of green, or the swoop of grapevine, or even the brave white blooms on the hardiest petunias we've ever had---two pots of them are still going, despite the thirties of the past few weeks. I look out amidst the browns and tans, and there fly those little round flags, cheery and blooming their little hearts out.

Pools of light, streams of music, the righting of a counter, dusting of a shelf---linens to strip from the guest bed, the simmer of something warm and cozy for our supper, the cheerful chuckle of the percolator burbling up the second pot---all those will align my day, along with the bright little presence whose new red scooter may unhinge the entire process of things as it flies about underfoot.

We have our jackets and boots, we're all combed and brushed, and it will take only a moment to zip and snap us into warmth, as we go out to find an un-leafy sidewalk to try out this new toy.

I'll try to keep up, just as I'll be late as ever with details of Thanksgiving, trip, visitor, and even a little morality play stage-set and directed by Herself, for the entertainment and edification of everyone at dinner last night.

And so, moire non, with sparkle in your day, no matter what the weather,


Monday, November 29, 2010


We're safely home, and happy to be here, though we DID hate to leave all those lovely people, as we each hugged and promised to "do it again in Spring---exactly the same," before we loaded folks and toys and clothes and too-many-bags-and-pillows-and-things-to-count into those four cars and all went our separate ways.

We staggered into the house after an afternoon of many delays in traffic, and sunny skies and Miss Dolly Parton on the CD, her golden notes ringing out through those Tennessee hills she was born in. We all had showers and midnight bedtimes, then a bright cheery breakfast with DS#2, #4, and Sweetpea.

I just noticed that the counter on here is getting very close to Post #600, and I'm usually prone to conserve and ponder appropriate words for such a milestone, but this time, there's too much to tell in SEVEN posts, I think, save to say it was the BEST Family Gathering this group has ever had---at least from my perspective. Everyone was so glad to all see the others, and the children played and did art and sang together like it was an everyday thing. It was wonderful, from start to finish, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Laundry is going, most of the bags are relieved of their mishmash of necessaries and frivols, and the second pot is perking, as I fold things and put away things and talk about our trip with Little One---pictures of her cousins and aunts and uncles flash onto the screen here, hundreds of them, for we preserved the time as best we could, in pictures and deep in our hearts. Until next time.

And so, for this very busy Monday, Until Next Time for me, as well.

moire non,

Friday, November 26, 2010


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving day, and that the rest of your weekend will be warm, safe, and happy.

And so, until Monday---we're OFF TO BE THE WIZARD!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I’m preparing a few things for tomorrow, but the having of things in order and the easy righting of the rooms, unaccustomed in this slapdash house of ins and outs and dropping in and a little one whose “Mine” consists of every item she’s touched or seen, and which end up in toybox, shelves, or beneath whatever chair or tent or handy table she’s playing in---the quiet order today, with the gentle sound of DS in the shower, and the chirps of Sweetpea's tiny sweet TV friends on one of their innocent adventures---those lull me softly into a slow-doing today.

And I think of all the women before me, the Grands and the Mothers and the Aunts---those preparers of great and glorious meals, or simply a huge pot of whatever simple fare was available---stretching a scrawny chicken and a tub of flour into a savory big bowl of dumplin’s for twelve---or more, if kinfolk followed them home from church.

Many a great-great Grand cooked every meal like this:

The hot, crowded kitchens and the scurry of the days leading up to Thanksgiving were sometimes a drudgery, I know, for the getting-together of all the usual dishes and getting them on the table at the right time, hot and fragrant, is a chore in its own right, aside from the seatings and the chairs and the kids-eat-last theories of the times, with the men, even up into my own generation, rightly at ease as the women tended to things, would sit in the parlor or stand around in the shade, easily awaiting the summons to come and sit.

I always think of the senior Mrs. Wilder, MIL of dear Laura, when I see an old wood-burner like this, but considering all those acres of flapjacks and that yard-square pan of chicken pot pie every Sunday, I think hers must not have been so slender and dainty a model:

The men would saunter in, or hustle along, depending on their appetites, with a quick pass by the bucket and pan and soap and rag on the back porch, taking First Table as their right as Providers. The Preparers served, poured tea, re-filled bowls and the biscuit plate, and waited tables. And waited, til the males had had their fill of the dinner, with a linger over pie, and long conversations regarding weather and politics and the latest crop news. I always wondered if some of them, accustomed to kinder, more considerate ways toward their own wives, felt constrained to dash through the meal, in deference to those waiting, or perhaps to forbear from that second helping, for the courtesy of leaving plenty for the ones who’d spent days in gardening and canning and cooking and preparing this feast, from seed to table.

I've had one of these little white beauties in the potting shed for three years now, awaiting the putting-back-together and the place to put it. I'm sure it was a marvel of convenience and speed in its day.

But this getting ready, this is a today I’ll prep the vegetables, make the mac-and-cheese for carrying with us on Friday, boil the eggs, chop the onion and celery for tomorrow’s dressing day. I’ll step out to the garden for a little curl of sage, breathing a last breath before the thirties temps of today blast the last herbs into limp withdrawal til Spring. Those seem a breeze, somehow, when compared to the day-befores of even my own past, when helping with a big family dinner, or preparing in my own home were hot and endless, with the air conditioner blasting at end of November, so we could stand the oven’s heat long enough to bake the turkey.

I’m thinking of preparations today, and the line of women who made them. My Mother, with the same traditions and recipes---her pecan pie just came out of Caro’s oven upstairs. She took the recipe, written on a folded sheet of paper in Mother’s unmistakable hand, and copied it onto a notepad, for we’ve never taken that recipe into the kitchen. It lives in a big book downstairs, and comes out for the holidays.

Mammaw, whose kitchen and quick hands could turn out twelve-dishes-for-a-crowd with effortless ease, getting out the pickle dishes and the starched damask cloth and a quart of her own home-canned sweet pickled peaches, each globe slick and perfect, shining golden in the rows of jars in the fruithouse.

My first Mother-in-Law, whose preparations on the day began in the wee early hours, for most of the menfolk of the family scarcely stopped to honor the day, in their haste to get to Deer Camp as soon as soon. Many a time, I’ve helped her put the dinner on the table before eleven a.m., as the cloud of camo
surged into the kitchen, all elbows and loud voices, finger-grabbing devilled eggs as the egg plate was routed toward the table, only to arrive almost empty, and attacking the dozens of just-from-the-oven rolls before they could be removed from the pans, gobbling down the perfect, yeasty bubbles with big grins on butter-smeared lips.

They ate quickly and appreciatively, and cleared out as fast as they came, with a whoop and a holler as two of the pies, a ham, and big boxes of cake and cookies went into the truck with the guns and ammo, leaving us breathless from the headlong dash through the cooking and serving. We were left only with the sudden quiet chaos after the thunder of the departure, with a lingering haze of preposterone still clouding the air.
I can smell the vanilla and cinnamon and clove in those kitchens, the chicken-broth heat, the perfume of the onion and sage, and the toasty ‘nilla-sugar as the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes puff and brown.

This is my own dear old black Franklin, which fed thousands of elementary-schoolers before she was retired, and then found a whole new career in my downstairs kitchen---the big old silvery thing is a door from an even older stove, gaudy with a bodice-ripper of a pastoral scene, and that is a pan of 1-2-3 Sausage Balls, ready for the oven:

And with each and every one of the cooking methods, these have been right at home for centuries:
Old ways or new---Happy Thanksgiving to you ALL!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Bounty and Blessings overflow.

Last night as I was just roaming around amongst Blogs-I-Like, I happened upon a post on Derfwad Manor in which Lawn Tea was mentioned amongst "Your Favorite Women's Blogs Which Aren't Mainly About Their Children."

And several posts down, amongst such powerhouses as Smitten Kitchen and Bellwether Vance and Hyperbole, there was LAWN TEA!!! Our little Southern wisp of Hey Y'all was mentioned as a favorite.

What a lovely surprise! I'm so very happy to be included in such august company. The signature on the post was SHERRY, but there was no link to her own blog or identity, so that I could thank her properly. It was posted back on November 5, so I'm sorry I missed it for so long.

So, SHERRY---if you're a regular reader, and you DO see this---Thank You from my heart. It's so lovely to find that folks are reading and enjoying. I hope you'll comment and let me know when you see this.

It's the comments and participation from readers and followers and droppers-in which are so delightful in this big wide BlogWorld, and I appreciate each and every one of you. I see the little counter on the sidebar every day, with flags and places, and I love that people are dropping in or marking this as a place to check in on regularly. Some places have become old friends, the recognition of people just by where-they're-from---comfortable regulars whose names I may or may not know, but it's so nice to see the familiar names of places I've never been, that I'll never see, knowing that someone comfortable in her own chair is coming by to see what I'm blathering about today.

This Thankful Season---I'm thankful for EVERY ONE OF YOU, and wish a warm, safe, heart-happy Thanksgiving to every one.


Sunday, November 21, 2010


This is the first time I've participated in BLUE MONDAY at Smiling Sally, so I hope I'm doing it Okay.

This the watering globe which we all agree should be a SpokesGlobe on a midnight commercial by Ron Popeil---the begonia it supplies has left the pot entirely, growing leggy and tall, climbing the sheers, waving at the mailman, grabbing hold of a hanging lamp and chain, and taking flight clear up into the ceiling. We've never fed it, and wish we remembered the name of that potting soil. We'd make millions.

One of the racks of Caro's collection of hand-painted plates---this one has mostly blue. as it hangs over a small, welcoming blue velvet rocker in the corner.

This plate has more teal than blue, but I love the way it's so meticulously painted. It seems as if it's been done with that color-flow method, like with royal icing, for you can see the little fences around each color, to corral it into the shape, and the paint mounded until almost-overflow stage.

You can see the little individual pools if you click.

It's hard to tell on this one if it were painted and then inscribed, for it almost appears like that "found image" type of painting, with a palette knife or brush handle to incise to the white of the glass. I love the lapis shade, and the gleam of the finish, like the pattern of a basket, or a dragon's scales.

And this one---this one is mysterious and exotic. Perhaps it's a flagon of fabulous perfume, or a censer for secret rites, or even a funeral urn. Could be a two-story genie house---who knows? We occasionally speculate as we sit and chat, and we'd be so disappointed if we found that it was something prosaic, like a ketchup dispenser.

A handy stack of books beneath the bench---the blue sky and water of Scotland are a lovely punctuation to the pile, and remind me of a wonderful visit there.

Steaming red tea in my favorite teacup---it's blue outside, white inside---called Summer Sky by Wedgwood. A lucky find in some thrift shop or other, though I did spend several hours at the factory in England, watching the artists at work, painting the dainty china. I bent for a long time, peering into the long, long waist-high cavernous space of the conveyor belt, watching the gray clay shapes riding into the faraway inferno of the kiln room.

A nice roomful of blues, with big windows for gazing out into the November sky.

Thank you for letting me participate in Blue Monday!


Please go look at Molly's sweet simple inspiration for today---a Sermon in a Shadow.

She was following one of those ShadowShot memes, but her words, simple and true, always give me a lift.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I've taken a new liking to Rooibos tea---a hearty, berry-ish rich tea, all on its own. I bought a tin of the bags last year---one of the Republic of Tea offerings, the can a step away from its cohorts on the Tea shelf at the store. Beside the frou-frou of the blossoms and the pink-embossed can tops and the fruity colors, this one is taken straight from a Warrior's shield, golden-orange with the incised cicatrix-interlock of a proved-man's cheek.

It's a bold brew, though the label touts Caffeine-Free with Vanilla Bean and a Hint of Cream. It tastes of sun and deep colors, with grapey notes and a lovely soft vanilla swallow.

I've had the can for quite a while now, all sealed tight in its little red/gold metal hermetics, and started to crave it again whilst reading three-in-a-row of the Precious Ramotswe series, which began with No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and continues on with her cases and adventures and life in Botswana. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are quite a team, a round, kind, soft-hearted woman with great intelligence and a gift for solving mysteries, and a spare, kind, sometimes sharp-tongued younger woman whose chief achievement in life is scoring a record 97 per cent in her course at Botswana Secretarial College.

They have solved problems, encountered corpses, snakes, crocodiles, marauding babboons, quite a few straying husbands, and one very mean ex-husband.

And every morning, they take a break for tea. Mma Makutsi makes two pots: A big pot of regular tea, for herself and the three gentlemen next door at Speedy Motors (one of whom is Mma Ramotswe's husband and the owner of the mechanics shop), and a smaller pot of redbush tea, just for Mma Ramotswe. It is the tea of her childhood, of her raising, of her heart, for it is solace and surcease and refreshment and meditation time all in one.

I KNOW it has to be the Rooibos tea that I've liked for quite some time, and I brew a pot of my own, now and then, and meditate and ponder.

Tastes in tea vary, and perhaps you'll try the rich red tea---it's lovely on a frosty afternoon, poured steaming and fragrant from a cheery pot. And perhaps you'll also try some of the books---you may or may not like the tea, but no one can NOT like Mma Ramotswe.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


One of my very favorite childhood memories is of Aunt Lou's store---the flappy-screen door with the faded Nehi sign, mistily visible after the thousands of hands opening and slamming to the tinkle of the tiny bell above. The foot-faded old green linoleum, the big shining glass cases of candy and notions and everything from #1.25 eyeglasses to single, unwrapped nipples with little side-flaps to fit onto a Coke bottle for those babies whose families' sparse income was doled out for flour and lard and beans.

And the BEANS---OH, how I LOVED the beans. All the cases were to your right as you entered the door, forming a second, enticing wall in front of the ceiling-high shelves of other goods, with just enough of a passageway for Aunt Lu or Uncle Jake to wedge their spare forms into, reaching high with what I still think of as the "grabber" to bring down a can of this, a box of that.

But in FRONT of the cases were the bolted-on half-barrels of beans. That row of about six immense tubs hung at a kid's temptation level, filled with the several kinds of dried beans and peas which made up such a staple of the local diet. Each big wooden tub was white-painted, and held a huge silvery scoop for filling bags and pokes of the beans---from pintos to Northerns to navies to black-eyes.

And each scoop, two-hands-heavy, held all the allure of a new train set or a baby doll with that enchanting, suck-your-lungs-full, new-doll smell, like not being able to chew that first taste of Fleer's s-l-o-w-l-y, for the avid gulps of the sweetness were irresistible. The days before Legos were ripe for small things to stir and run your fingers through, and nobody ever seemed to mind that every kid in town had probably touched their dinner at one time or another
. It was so lovely to reach FARfar into the cool depths of the bean-tubs, digging for treasure, hoping for reward---the entire reward being the DOING of the thing. We entertained ourselves endlessly, blocking passage of the customers entering and leaving, hampering commerce, I'm sure, for the aisles of that place were cramped even to a child, with the great heaps and variety of the merchandise.

Just pouring out scoop after scoop, hearing the little glisssss of the falling beans, like water upon rocks, was a wonderful thing. And the colors and shapes were so hypnotic, as the cascade descended time after time, to be enveloped back into the whole the way fudge circles from the spoon and disappears into the pot when it's almost done. Perhaps the entire allowing of the thing hinged on the fact that we DID adhere to the one unbreakable Rule, heard on every entering of the store. We expected it like Pavlov's dogs, immediately after the jingling of the bell: Uncle Jake's DEEP, stern voice, in its
everyday sepulchral tones, would rumble up from somewhere to the side or front of the store, admonishing for the thousandth time: DON'T MIX THE BEANS. And we never did.

We'd eaten quite a few of all kinds, already as children---they were an absolute staple in that part of the South, and though we had lots of fresh peas and beans from our own gardens, even in Summer the bowls of Pintos, filled with the good pink hunks of ham, or Northerns, with a little hand of fatback, or navies, with a bit of bell pepper and a lot of onion cooked in, were on every table.

And in Winter---almost every house had the scent of long-cooking beans on the stove, especially on Washday---Monday---much like the Red-Beans-And-Rice traditions of New Orleans.

And we like them still. They are our Christmas Eve Supper, from I can't remember when---many years now, a simple, humble supper with cornbread and slaw, for they are such a contrast to all the traditional dressing and turkey and sides the next day.

We just had a good pot the other night, made with the last of the Halloween Hambone. I hadn't even thought of it when I was uploading the pictures, but I was having a little bowl of leftover beans, with a good shake of L&P and even heartier shake of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Nice lunch on a cool day, with lots to do.

To cook the pot of beans, you always "pick over" the dry beans from the bag. It is not at all uncommon to find a tiny stone, shaped and sized much like the beans, which would wreak havoc with anyone's dinner enjoyment, and I hardly ever fail to find one tee-ninecy bit of dirt, the size of a matchhead, which is disguised in the DRY, but shows up deep gray when wet, and will go swirling down the drain. This one happened to be a 24 ounce bag, and made a BIG pot of beans.

Pick over, wash, and then set to soak overnight in cold water to cover by several inches:

In the morning, rinse in colander again, put into deep heavy soup pot, nestle in that big hambone, and cover a couple of inches with cold water. You can put in whatever seasonings you like, but it's a widely held theory that EARLY SALT will make the beans tough. I act accordingly, and salt them only after they've cooked several hours, and are almost mooshily tender. Bring to a boil, skim or not as you see fit, then lower to a bare simmer and cook for three or four hours. You can start them with loads of chopped onion, bell pepper, herbs you like, dashes of L&P and hot sauce, a good bit of sugar, and then just let them do their thing while you go do your own stuff. It's just nice t0 know that things are progressing, and beans do progress, turning from a couple of cups of little hard stones to a gallon-and-a-half of such meaty, smushy goodness that you'll crave them every night.
Beans, cooked four hours, with the hambone removed when it falls off the bone. Remove meat to a platter, remove all fat and gristle, then chop or pull the tender ham into tiny pieces, just right for a spoonful of beans and ham in every bite. Salt them now, then simmer maybe another twenty minutes to incorporate the salt into the beans.

See the difference in depth between this picture and the one above? That's about how much they will cook down, with the beans swelling and taking up a great lot of the liquid . If you need to add water, add some from a boiling kettle, or from the hottest run from the faucet, for sometimes a dash of cold seems to make the skins come off the beans.
We had ours with some half-and-half cornbread---half well seasoned, with a can of drained Mexicorn, two seeded and chopped pickled jalapenos, a can of diced chiles, some green onion tops and several big handfuls of sharp cheese. The other half went into the pan plain, at first, for the little one and those who like theirs with a little honey or preserves for dessert. The plain batter was sorta herded back to the side after all the condiments were stirred into the fancy half. I don't think my flash went off for this picture, but it was golden, dense and wonderful bread.

We had it with Caro's Smush-lushus slaw, with several colors of peppers and a vinegar/Splenda dressing.

A bowl of flappy-limp elbow Mac & Cheese, for the Little One, and as though the carb count was below par.

And she provided dessert: We made Rice Krispie Squares earlier in the day, and she did a lot of the stirring---that child is a BORN stirrer, and keeps her one special "Fifi-Spoon" in the toybox for ready retrieval. Fifi is a little character in her favorite TV series, who tends her garden, but always with one small wooden spoon in the loop of her overalls.

The finished squares, displayed on a fancy pressed-glass fan, to befit their royalty:

She also garnished the dish, with her usual distribution of M&M's---one for you, one for me, retrieve the one for you, save it for me, munchmunch.
Hope this has made you hungry for some good HOME-COOKED PINTO BEANS!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Images left over in the hundreds snapped around house and yard as Fall draws on. This lamp casts a rosy glow day and night in the living room corner where lots of the plants and crystals live.

Luck Bush through the sitting room window---it grew even redder as the days went on, and is now a paling pink, as the leaves fall.

Books beneath the little park bench in the sitting-room corner. They're mostly gardening books, for it's so wonderful just to reach out and take whatever my hand reaches, delving into the beautiful flowerbeds and lawns and estates of people who are dedicated to gardening. I love the small books, as well, with their histories and habits of bulb and seed and shoot, and all the delights and rewards of cultivating the beautiful bounty.

A great pile of the books are about Scotland, for it had called to me all of my life. I don't know if it's my Scots ancestors, scrabbling a mutton-neep existence from those rugged Highlands for centuries, bathless and warring and smeared with woad, or perhaps Sir Walter's great Waverleys, Summer-read up the same big tree as Nancy Drew and Tarzan, or just some primal gene which understands the grim and the beautiful, the warrior and the poet, of those rocky crags and heather-covered hills, with the razed-and-pilfered Hadrian-stone festooned like beads shining white as bone round croft and field. I longed for it, and now I've been.

I made my visit in 2003, stepping down from the bus with my shoes in my hand, and bare feet to honor the history, respect the soil. I absorbed all the air and aura and REAL of it I could manage in those few days, and re-live it now and again from my little chair beside that tower of books.

A gourd from the Amish Market---I loved her, for she was the very image of a shy goose. She's sat on the couch, on a dresser, on the coffeetable, and in front of this mirror casting coy glances at her own reflection. Now she's cozying up to the popcorn balls---maybe she's hungry. I hope she dries well, for I'd really like her to stay with us.

The coffee-table, arranged from bits and pieces around the room by Sweetpea, over a doily crocheted in the Fifties by her Great-Great Mammaw J. That woman could go to the little drugstore, hide out beside the rack of magazines, study the picture on the cover of Workbasket, and come home and MAKE the thing before supper. I have no such skills.

Lavender from the garden, drying beside the Autumn swag of leaves across the door between Caro's kitchen and sitting room.

Across the door, and a peek at some of Caro's Hall teapots. Dozens on the shelf run round the wall.

The lamp again---side-by with all sorts of crystally things, from Swarovski to glass plinths to prisms. That "diamond" down in the leaves is the one that everyone picks up to look at.

And could you tell what mineral THIS might be?

"Thy bounty shines in autumn unconfined
And spreads a common feast for all that live."-

James Thomson

Friday, November 12, 2010



Two years ago today, I sent out my first post into the Blog World. The subjects and the stories and the people have been varied and numerous, and the response has been heart-warming and wonderful.

The title came out of nowhere, when the one I chose was already taken---I was just thinking of the lovely Lawn Teas of the past, with ladies in softly flowing dresses and the scent of mint rising with a sandal-step, the beautiful tea tables arranged with pastel cloths and colorful flowers and dishes and teapots. I’ve longed to have one of those parties again, with guests at their ease on a wide shady lawn, chatting and enjoying the languor of good company and good food as a long day winds down into a starry evening and fireflies.

Somehow, it’s just never happened, in this several years I’ve meant to have one---my own lawn right now is more lazy and littered and leafy than languid, and though my heart longs for dainty iced cakes and gracious manners, the coming of Autumn brings only a shutting-down of all outdoor activities save perhaps a weenie-roast out at the firepit, with sunny afternoons of leaf-sweeping and putting away for the cold to come.

We've had quite a few little moments, whether carefully arranged or impromptu, but never the tables and silver and chairskirts and a table of savories and then the dessert table with its lovely goodies like beautifully-wrapped presents.

Nothing quite so formal and stiff, of course, as the crimped-and-collared tea-on-the-lawn of our forebears, with such detailed manners and staid attire:

But not quite so casual, either, as the guests who have to be not only seated by the hostess, but propped up sedately, to sit stiff and speechless during the refreshments. (Though that COULD well be ME in that picture---my hair parted Just So, and in that scratchy dress. And I, of all the people I know, WOULD be the one to think that having tea within feet of the railroad track would be the height of fashion and delight).

But, there WILL be a Lawn Tea---in the Spring, or in the Summer of next year---the nine months or so of Meantime will be a time to dream and plan, perhaps polish some silver and unearth the jewel-toned dessert plates. And until then---the plans and the hopes and the dreams, for such an elegant event.

And my plans always begin with little
Individual Iced Cakes---they set a gracious, beautiful, dignified tone to any affair. Teapots and pretty china cups, as well as sparkling glasses beside the several big punchbowls of sweet tea and mint tea and a nice rum punch.

We go on to trays of Small Sandwiches, Crudite, Small Biscuits and Pate a chou puffs, Chris’ grilled Tenderloin on soft rolls, a good old Southern Congealed Salad, some small, too-twee CUT-OUTS, savory and sweet, and a tray of SOOOOEEET Piggies nestled warm and luscious into their honey/butter/brown sugar syrup. And always, ALWAYS, Chicken Salad.
The dessert table will have cakestands of lovely iced cakes and tiers of brownies with doily-covered trays of Lemon Bars and all sorts of cookies, and a big trifle bowl of layered Banana Pudding.
This year’s chance has gone, unless we want to be like Miss Martha’s icy gathering, muffled and gloved, drinking heavy mugs of strong tea and toasting hearty cheese sandwiches over the open fire, between active sessions of skating on the pond.

I just spent the morning pruning the grapevines and cutting down all the yellowed, limp hostas, spent and fallen, with promises to Sweetpea that their “eggs” are still safe under the soil, and will sprout gloriously in Spring. I promise that to ME as well---gotta have something to dream about when the holidays are over and the snow flies.
It will be like Seed Catalogues in January, to see me through the cold.
Thank you all for these two lovely years, of the companionship and the comments and the wonderful friendships forged on this ethereal 'Net. And tomorrow will begin Year Three.

Thursday, November 11, 2010











Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The “carpet squares” in yesterday’s post reminded me of the time that they came in MOST handy, and also of one of the most memorable events Chris and I ever participated in.

We’d been meaning to go up to Wolf Park for one of the “Howl Nights”---an evening in which you just go and sit in the bleachers, looking down on the big enclosures. There are little lectures and educational stories, and several of the wolves are brought in to show their size and colors and the little things they’ve learned to do. And then you get to Howl With The Wolves.

We went up on the afternoon of November 8, 2003---a VERY chilly Saturday. The park is up near a place called Battleground, for an actual battle waged there more than two centuries ago. You cross a beautiful span-bridge, then wind your way back into the countryside---so very lovely that glorious Autumn---and then enter the park.

A guide took perhaps eight of us on a walking tour---the enclosures are somewhat like great pie-wedges in a huge circle, each fenced place containing little houses and sheds, big toys and rocks and tree-trunks, with from one to several wolves---not necessarily families, but those who have grown up with or have adopted each other. We walked for a couple of hours, just watching and looking and seeing all the different mannerisms and wolf culture and their now-habitat.

They’d all been given several pumpkins for their Halloween treat, and were still enjoying bits and pieces of their fruit (a revelation to me---I’ve thought of them as strict carnivores). Our breaths were practically creating ice particles the frosty air, and our feet were FREEEZING as we tramped along the iron-hard frozen ground. We’d arrived about three, and had spent two hours in looking around and learning and enjoying, so since the Howling did not start until later, we opted to run into town for a bite of supper.
We also made a quick stop at the local Wal-Mart for a pack of insulated socks, which we put on over the ones we were wearing. We stopped at Shoney’s for supper, and I remember that I ordered coffee and just a piece of Hot Fudge Cake, because I COULD---I could have JUST CAKE if I wanted.

As we left the restaurant, and were driving back out to the park, the most glorious pink-orange full moon was rising, and I just kept craning back to watch it as we drove. It stayed that HUGE Autumn orange for quite a long time, and was just stunning when we got out of the car, with nothing between us and that moon but space.

The bleachers were rows of metal seats, with that icy wind whipping through and under, so we carried the big plaid wool trunk-blanket from the car, as well as several of the carpet squares for sitting on. Over the bleachers, there was a huge roof-like skeleton---a big armature around and up, with no covering---no awning or roof---just a huge circular hoop which must have once held some sort of cover. We were looking down into a huge fenced area, the darkness was drawing in, and the only lighting was golden up-lights into the craggy, leafless trees---just a magical setting for the shaggy beautiful fellows as they came in.

They loved on their keepers, they chased each other, they rolled madly in a drop of cheap perfume (the cheaper the better, the guide said, for they go crazy for those pheromones, just like catnip).

And then---the magical moment. There were perhaps only a half-dozen in the enclosure before us, but another twenty or so out behind us, where we’d seen them in the afternoon. The guide said, “Now, we’re going to HOWL with them. Just make a little pucker with your mouth and softly say, 'ooooo',”---and we did. For a moment it was just us, a chorus of strangers blowing warm mist into the air, then first one wolf took up the cry, then another and another, until we were a part of something which has made the hair stand up on many a wanderer, which has struck fear into the hearts of the alone and afraid, and which was one of the most magical moments of my life.

The chorus swelled and grew, as more and more wolves joined in---we mere people were almost all silent by then, just drinking in the majesty of what we were hearing---you could isolate the tenors and the altos, hearing identifiable notes in that symphony of wild voices singing a heart-stirring song from time ago. We were a part of something so fierce and fragile and so special that I could hardly take it in, that communing and communicating. It was as if a dolphin had brought me flowers or a dragon licked my hand. There are no words to tell that
And then---there was MORE. As if the chorus had ushered in the principal players, the moon made its way up and over that great structure of bare metal over our heads, becoming centered in the great circle of piping, as if all the building and the build-up had been leading to that moment.

The chills were spreading through the audience, along with the chill of the night---I think we’d forgotten to FEEL anything in the mystery of absorbing that great gift we were witnessing, for just then, a tiny shadow began to move across the moon, growing greater and greater, darkening that great splendid orb in tiny increments which slowly dimmed the glow. It was like being witness to some incomprehensible moment in Time---a cataclysm or an avalanche or a wonderfully unique moment in Creation when flowers were born, or birds first took wing.
I know my words run away with me, and I just scatter them like spilled popcorn, but that’s how it was---too much to take in, to feel, to see and hear and experience all-at-once. I cannot tell you how remarkable that was---that evening in which Wolf-Howl and communing with those wonderful creatures would have been enough, but we were treated to such a display as the heavens offer seldom, and many never see.
We sat and sat, looking down at the golden trees and wolves, and up at that celestial show---there was a warmth to that moment that the freezing temperatures couldn’t undo---it felt somewhat like we were all holding hands, with the same glowing thought in all of us, running through like golden cord.

How we came to be so privileged, so fortunate, to be at that ONCE thing---we’ll never know. But it’s a forever memory, and we’re just the lucky bystanders.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The morning sunlight still falls softly amongst the fading hostas in the back garden, for though they are drooping and yellowing more each day, and the leaves from the arbor roof have covered the ground, there is still enough green clinging up there to shade most of the area.

I love to stroll through the crisping leaves, feeling and hearing them beneath my feet; I still do the little feet-dragging steps of my childhood, shusssshhhing the leaves forward with my bright clogs as I mimic those long-ago walks when the NOW was all and the future just out there somewhere.

The far-back corner of the garden is a bit bedraggled of its lush Summer glory; the garden-of-stones mossy-green and graying as the cold comes on.

We collected these massive stones as we drove home from Alabama after Chris’ Dad’s funeral three years ago; we stopped in Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and then in Indiana, daring to stop on the side of I-65 as the mad rush of traffic threatened to sweep us away.

We’d get out, him on the Danger-side and me on the safe, as is always our travel and our life---he’s the protector and the comforter, a role he was born for, and even semis and the daredevils of the highway do not sway him from his place in things. He’d run over to the fallen pile of rocks, choose one WAY too big, and heft it into his arms, walking back to the car as I opened the back door. Just before he sank into that little spraddle of a child lugging a too-heavy-toy, he’d heave the big rock in onto the squares of carpet samples we always carry for setting things on---even ourselves, on occasion, if we stop for a bit to take in the view.
Even at the winding-down of such a solemn occasion, we still had silly moments of recalling Lucy's episode with all the huge rocks in their honeymoon trailer, and we even sang a few lines of "I'm just breezin' along with the breeeeeze . . ."
And so we arrived home with a boulder from each state, though boulder to me connotes a great round thing, which perhaps has rolled down from mountains, smoothing its edges and picking up speed. A boulder just SITS there, once it’s where it’s going, hulking over whatever landscape it’s fallen amongst. A boulder seems one to choose its own path. These rocks, though, are great sharp things---faceted and sheared into jags and edges by the blast of the explosives which took down such great sections of hills and mountains along the highway’s chosen trajectory through that expanse of eons. They’re bits of history all on their own, risen by the heavings of the earth, dropped by erosion and time and man’s hand on the plunger.
They’ve grown their own hazy green verdigris over these small years, shaded and damp beneath all that overhang of shade, camouflaged as fawns in the brush, blending with the cool of the million shades of green.

They are Granddaddy’s little memorial garden, also Kitty’s resting place, and near to the burial site of our two ferrets, our cheery little longtime pets and companions.

The dear old rescued Gate-to-Anywhere stands ready to take you away, and a quick brush across the chair sends the cushion of leaves flying, so you can sit for a moment of quiet contemplation.

The closing down reaches out to the old rattan chair, long-used and then placed here just for the look of its gentle decline in the goldy shade. See, just beyond on the right, the little curve against the fence and the one smooth horizontal rod? It is the remains of a tiny blue wicker vanity chair, with a heart-shaped back and elaborate scrollwork---in all the time we had it, I would think of a Victorian lady, swishing her skirts to the side as she sat to put up her hair; the dainty chair has fallen to time, and is melting into the ground, lying like twigs amongst the grass after its several seasons of gracing the fenceline.

The birdie-chair’s pot-bottom fills with leaves, and I suppose they take their sips between, for I don’t think this cool weather would entice them to their baths right now.

It’s a restful place, back there, no matter the season. The wind chimes sing at the slightest breeze in the leaves, the shade is lit with little rays of sunlight in an ever-changing kaleidoscope along the ground, and I find even the compost corner beautiful.