4.11.2014

vivianne.


I'm not sure how, but I survived winter. (...it was a long one!)

If you are wondering why I can't stop whining waxing poetic about Spring's lazy arrival, it's only because it feels like I'm greeting an old school friend, like that new girl, Vivianne, from 6th grade who had the nerve to show up wearing eye shadow and angora sweaters and didn't stay for long, but whose memory still makes me smile. She was audacious. I rather like that in a person.

These days, the weather is plucky, drippy and impetuous.
Warmish and breezyish. Sorta sunny. recklessly bold in defiance of convention, she insolent, brazen. unrestrained. Spring is audacious. If Spring had a name it would be Vivianne. 

Under her influence, I'm a wild optimist, a risky dreamer, a napper on a rainy day. She keeps me guessing this one, with her changing ways.

In fact, last night I went to bed feeling all bluesy around the edges. I was kinda sack cloth-and-ashes about finding my new routine just in time to disrupt it again. I didn't want to go back, I just wanted to stay here. Also, I wanted to stay in bed 'til 6.

Isn't that just how I am? Wishing for the thing that isn't happening? (The answer is yes.)

It has me thinking about how infatuated I really am with predictability. I've been pondering the rhythm of my days and the way they treasure-map the path to my sanity.

But then you already know that about me.

The weather people said that it should have been in the low sixties yesterday. Instead, we saw seventy one!!! So I understand, every ordinary day is a gift. But today I'm here to tell you, so are the extraordinary ones.

On an extraordinary day, you'll fix the limbs of a naked tree against a blue satin sky and notice knots of red gearing up for a show. Suddenly, it doesn't matter if the drain keeps clogging or the brown makes you crazy. Vivianne is here, darling, and she makes everything better.

In fact, yesterday I skipped and ran, fresh air on my forearms and cheeks, a prelude of everything that comes next. I know we must all be thinking the same thing ~ Summer's coming! But we don't dare say it out loud. Because for one thing, it could still snow. And for another? We don't want to hurt Vivianne's feelings before she even officially gets settled in. There's nothing worse than being relegated to opening act, especially when you're so dang good at putting on a show. I've spent the last three months wondering where I went off the grid and if I'd ever crawl back out. Can it be as easy as a sunbeam and a breeze? I tell myself that I'm not that kind of girl, the kind that requires coddling, the kind whose joy is situational or seasonal.

But today I'm feeling that ease. I wish I could tell you that I found it back in January or February, but that just isn't true. It must have been suffocating under all the layers, hiding out in the dark.
 I'm too scared to check the forecast for tomorrow, but I'm hoping that yesterday has some sort of a time-release effect. I can already feel the ice dripping off of my cold, cold heart.

Feel myself coming back.

And absolutely, I will be gardening this week.

And switching from my winter purse to my Spring Vivianne purse.

So, let the rain come down, gushing from the gutters, collecting in puddles where the sidewalks crack and dip, flattening my hair, it's just Vivianne. Does she make you happy? Same here.

She makes my brain feel spongy and I'm starting to wonder about why I'm still sitting here in my ponytail finding things to say. For this reason, I implore you to offer me a bit of grace when I skid off the rails time after time.

But my point is, we are all still here, and good things are coming, true, but it also means good things are right here. Right now.

It means I'm still growing, still moving and shaking, still living slapdash and crazy even when I can no longer point an accusing finger at the snow piled around me, the perfect scapegoat for my blues and all my nonsense.

Straight up. I've never done a single thing to deserve this kind of happiness, but I'll take it. I'm leaning into this rhythm. I am wearing eye shadow and an angora sweater. Take that, Winter of 2014!



peace.


Anyway, let's make a cake already. It's practically the weekend. Pull up a chair and I'll cut you a slice if you promise to entertain me.

PB&J cake

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
1 cup water
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Frosting:
5 T butter
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 T milk
1/2 lb powdered sugar

Mix sugar, baking soda, flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside

Melt butter, peanut butter, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Pour over flour mixture.
Add milk, vanilla, and eggs.
Mix well.

Pour into a large jelly-roll or sided cookie sheet pan.

Bake at 400 for 18 minutes.

For frosting, bring butter, peanut butter, and milk to a low boil.
Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar.
Pour over warm cake.

Once cooled, top with strawberry freezer jam and sliced strawberries.

4.04.2014

that moment.


the truth is that I can't wait for this to day to be over.  seventeen hours, forty six minutes and it will officially be over. I know that's not what I'm supposed to say. it's certainly not how I'm supposed to feel. but there it is. The second anniversary. Two years without the extraordinary man who helped to shape me into the person I am today, and the minutes are crawling by.

I want just one more day with him. one more chance to tell him how much I love him. one more chance to spoil him with lunch and listen to the stories he loved to tell. actually, I want more than one more day with him. I want all of the days, all. of. them. I know I can't have them but I want them.

and I will say it, even as I pray  that he can hear me. I will say it every day that I'm alive, I will say it because I still can. I love you, Daddy.

 For the past few years we have been going through my dad's things. a type of sifting and sorting not recommended for the faint of heart. the truth is that my dad was a great collector of a good many things. he saved everything. so, we have been trying to decide what stays, what goes. because it cannot all stay. I wish that it could, but it cannot.

so we preform our little rituals. while we are there, hopefully spring will come. we will send up our wishes, prayers and balloons as the sun is shining. we will place flowers and shed tears. we will be grateful for each other and every moment we have together and I will think, this is one of those moments. one of those good moments that people always talk about. I should maybe file it away in that brain file we all have, you know the one. Good Moments For Remembering Always.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how hard my own little circle tries to make these kind of days just a little bit softer. fresh cut tulips, watercolor paintings, wishes and prayers sent to heaven, laughter. tears. cupcakes. photos. memories. Oh Lordy! all those memories. still, the day will be wobbly, at best. I know it, they know it. what else can we do but muddle through? the best gift we give each other comes in the form of small, trembling hands held together. we turn away so we won't see each other cry, and we sit there in that pain while we say in small voices that do not even sound like our own, that we miss him.

I just really really miss my dad.

 I will tell them I am sorry I've been so grouchy and so quiet, that I will try not to be grouchy and quiet for the rest of the afternoon. and smile, if just a little. my heart will swell with love for those who remain. this is when it will happen, when the day will break open a little, just enough to let a little light in. and you know, it's true what they say about the cracks in things, that that's how the light gets in. it's true. because that's how we get through these days. that's how we'll get through those last few hours.


I will wake tomorrow morning to the sound of birds singing. We are nowhere close to being finished with the sifting and the sorting. of things, feelings and lives, but I know pink blossoms and every day miracles wait for me. and that moment. that moment when my favorite song comes on the radio and instantly, I am fifteen years old all over again. when I was just beginning to figure life out. and before I worried about things like loss and cancer. yes, that moment.

peace.

3.28.2014

garden dreaming.

Just when you think you can't take one more chilly gray gloomy day, the clock turns and the sun shines warm long after dinner.  Tiny gusts of early spring breezes made the day even better.  I opened the windows and let the fresh air breathe new life into the rooms, blowing the staleness of winter out.  It was a kind teaser to warmer, more colorful days that are (fingers crossed) just around the corner.

Mostly I enjoyed it from my back deck. I find it very relaxing there, and if I get distracted, it's usually by my puppies, birds chirping, wandering deer, or the breeze....the breeze that could almost lull me to sleep if I closed my eyes.

 I'm going through some strange denial-unsettled-excitement right now, a mix of taming wanderlust and thinking of changes to come. Just this afternoon, I had the strongest desire to sew buy new curtains for the kitchen, and last night, I found myself rearranging furniture in the living room. Almost like I planned it, but knowing full well I didn't. There are certain things I can't stop thinking about, so I'm redirecting that fussy energy to writing, cooking and fluffing.

 I always seem to be at a loss for words at the most poignant times in my life.  So easily they flow straight from my heart during the ups and downs of the journey, but when the time comes for me to finally exhale and let it all out, I find myself searching and reaching for what to say. It is 11:30 at night, past my normal bed-time and I have just wrapped up a fast and furious two weeks, followed by a week away, a schedule I'm not used to, but I think I could grow to love. But, when certain things have happened, you are on someone else's schedule part of the time. Lunches may be a chunk of homemade bread and fruit grabbed on the run and eaten in the car.


still...
lately I'm spending a good part of my day garden dreaming.


Maybe it's that pesky Mother Nature, trying to trick me into believing that warmer weather is just around the bend with our promised 50 degree temps today.

Maybe it's because I'm taking on that perpetually house-bound feeling...the feeling that I shall never again feel grass beneath my toes. The feeling that my skin will never lose its late-January pallor. The feeling that my fingernails are destined to remain forever clean.

Most likely, it's because I recently saw It's Complicated on late night TV and fell in love with her house, yes, but mostly with her garden.

Oh Lordy, that garden renewed my belief that heirloom tomatoes can and will grow prolifically on my vines this year. (Nevermind the fact that a newspaper article spilled the beans that they actually wired spotless, perfectly ripened beauties to the vine. Gotta love Hollywood.)

That garden, so intoxicatingly, achingly lush and orderly and vibrant, made me believe that with the right basket in my hand, the perfect hat and wishing it were so my garden will fall right into line around me.


 Seriously, if I were Meryl Streep, I would have only signed on to this movie under the condition that I could move into the house and spend the rest of my days tending to this garden. (I would have had the basket written into the contract, too, naturally. Oh and maybe, throw in Jack Donaghy?)

I found a fantastic bent-wood edging on a plantation tour in Charleston two years back and I fell in love. I'm thinking white wire edging would look perfectly English cottagey lining  my perennial garden.



And what garden would not be complete without a resident grounds keeper? love you Ruby.


I'm also envisioning an entire section dedicated to a cutting garden. Swoon!

Oh, and worm-free tomatoes.

Come on, May! I'm itching to get my hands on you.

P.S.  Swoony Corn and Potato chowder recipe below.

peace.


 Swoony Corn and Potato Chowder
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 a cup)
1 T olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked, chopped bacon, if you have it on hand
2 regular sized cans whole-kernel corn, drained
2 regular sized cans creamed corn
4 cups 2% milk
2 regular sized cans chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
3-4 dashes bottled hot sauce
4 cups cubed, skinned potatoes (I love Yukon Golds)
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thinnish discs
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

Cook onion and celery in heated olive oil until veggies are softened. Add cooked bacon toward the end. (You could also omit the oil and cook the veggies along with the raw bacon, but I avoid cooking bacon at all costs and I can buy it inexpensively and pre-cooked.

Add both kinds of corn, milk, broth, cream and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes.

Add potatoes and carrots. Return to a boil, reduce hit and simmer again, covered, for 15 minutes more, or until carrots and potatoes are softened.

In a small bowl, mix softened butter and flour, until smooth. Add flour mixture to soup. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, then cook another minute or so. Season with salt and pepper. (I usually leave my soup on "low" until we're ready to eat.)