Friday, January 30, 2009



Such a simple act. A container, some soil, a couple of onion like bulbs, and a hint of moisture. Place it in a sunny spot and you wait. You wonder if it will ever happen. And then you see the faintest of green peek through the soil. It grows a little bit each day like a large blade of grass. Then somewhere in the space of a few days you notice that each time you enter the room it seems to have grown a few more inches. Until it seems it might topple over with its own height. I know you are suppose to pull out the stragglers that show up on the perimeter. I never have the heart. So here we are at the crux. A slight pinkish hue is showing through the points at the end of the stem and it will be any day now that they burst forth. Amaryllis. I never tire of this display of growth and always marvel at the perfectness of design. The wait is so much a part of the pleasantry of growing bulbs. Hawks Run abounds with bulbs in the gardens out of doors and they are by far my favorites in the greenery. Even above peonies because the blooms of our bulbs seem to last forever, and the peonies disappear all too fast. I have had in my gardening library a book on container bulb gardening that I have had since I was about twenty. I knew nothing about gardening at the time but I knew someday it would be a hobby that took me by the heartstrings. Now, nearly twenty years later, I am nose in this book quite often. Tasha Tudor bought bulbs by the thousands- if only my checkbook were so deep. Something tells me Tasha would buy those bulbs even over her groceries if it had come down to the choice. Bulbs endure once dropped into the ground. Magnificent lost gardens of Gertrude Jekyll have been restructured to near exactness with the where about of bulbs that lay active and dormant for decades upon decades. Such was the case with Manor House, Upton Grey in Hampshire, England. There is something significant about knowing that the bulbs we throw in the ground today may surprise and delight others years and years down the timeline. I think this amaryllis will be magnificent. I need only to find a spot just as magnificent where I will place its spent bulb in a permanent home outdoors. And each year I will eagerly eye that spot with anticipation.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Update: He's Calling It Nusiance

Our delivery man is stuck in our drive. We finally got our truck out only to put ourselves right back in as the massive delivery truck sunk deeper and deeper. My husband is big and strong- thank God. The delivery man is back on his way, and our truck is free once more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some Might Call It a Nuisance...

I Just
Call It
Living in southeast Ohio, specifically in the Ohio River Valley, we tend to miss a lot of the bad winter weather that pummels the areas to the north and south of us. I am always amazed by the weather Doppler how Warren County seems to nicely sandwich itself in between bands of ferocious rain or record dumping snows. Usually I heave a sad sigh and go on with my day dreaming of those big snows of my childhood on the shores of Lake Michigan. The weatherman was calling for heavy snowfall last night in our county and I went to bed with a smirk. The weatherman is never correct in our case, I have had my hopes dashed too many times. The only thing I saw around midnight was a dangerous one inch layer of ice all over every surface imaginable. This is not my idea of good winter weather. When I awoke at five am I couldn't see out the windows for the snow was so thick- giant cotton ball sized puffs were coming down and it was eerily quiet. The children woke up a few hours later and immediately noticed the room ablaze in white light from the snow reflection outside. Dad would not be making the drive into work today, and no one would be making the drive in to our house either. This is what living a mile down a dirt road off a secluded paved county road does for your social life. It is bliss. How being snowed in came into my register of blissful things is no mystery to me whatsoever. I had read years ago that then in her early seventies Tasha Tudor walked a mile or so every day rain, snow, or shine to get her mail down her own dirt road. Her drive was too treacherous in any kind of weather for most large vehicles. This notion struck me as quaint back then when I had a mere twenty steps or so in basking Florida sunshine to retrieve my own mail. A few years later I was atop Gunnison Pass in the midst of a Park City winter when I saw a line of four wheel drive vehicles mingled with snowmobiles all along the roadside. "What's this?"I asked my friend who was familiar with the area. The answer would send me into a rapture that has lasted for years. "Oh, nothing much, just the locals who live off road and can't get in and out without the snowmobiles to ferry them back and forth." Wait...What? People live like this? There was something in me, deep seeded, that thrilled to the notion of being self-reliant. Even if it was only on a scale of that magnitude in which you must navigate wilderness to your front door. When we moved to Hawk's Run and were snowbound that first year right after my son was born, I was elated. Surprisingly, a lot of my friends were too. We made a few phone calls to check that everyone had what they needed (like we were going to be able to do something if they didn't...we were going no where fast) and once the niceties were done we barely breathed and exclaimed, "Isn't this great! See you after the thaw!" Or one or two of us would show up on a four wheeler or snowmobile at someone else's house "just to check in". The comradery of these snow-ins gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. And so it was today. No mail, no deliveries, no errands. We got our truck stuck straight off before we even got out of the driveway. Then we somehow managed to kill our old tractor trying to pull ourselves out. Fixing the tractor is on the to do list for tomorrow. As is somehow pulling out the truck. Babies down for a nap with dad, I pulled on my snowshoes and headed up for the mail and packages and checked in on my husband's parents. They had employees who had spent the night with them when the roads began to ice up yesterday. There's that comradery again. Sled full of items to haul back I started the mile or so trek to my own warm home. I ran into my closest neighbor unsuccessfully trying to plow us all out. Or more to the point, trying to plow his wife in who had been stuck in town after work. My guess is that she's sipping tea in town with her mom as I haven't seen anything with seat belts come and go in over 24 hours. Our other neighbor came on his four wheeler plow and made a few sweeps through our drive. We can see the drive now but it is still far from passable. We'll see what tomorrow brings. We may get out, we may not. We have a full pantry and a blaring wood stove. We have Bliss.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alphabet Meme

Recently I have been in touch with an old friend whom I hadn't spoken to in over twenty years.
Oddly enough, it seems like I just saw him yesterday. A lot has happened to the two of us over the years, and I hadn't had an opportunity to meet my friend's wife. She keeps a blog, and from what I have learned about her thus far, she seems like a blast and just the kind of person you would want to be around. My new friend participated in the Alphabet Meme and it looked like fun so I decided to join in. I'm always grateful to have the opportunity to sit back and ponder the things I am thankful for. She gave me the letter "P" and here is my list.

Number One: Parents
They are my rock, my foundation, my best friends. Now that we live so many states apart, their absence in my day to day life, at least physically, is profound. We talk most everyday and I still learn something new from them on a daily basis.

Number Two: Peonies
Heavenly fragrant and abundant in my garden, there is no other sensory experience that I can think of more grand. Mine open every Mother's Day like clockwork and the colors never fail to blow me away.

Number Three: Puppies
What would life be without the joy of a litter of puppies? Our dog, Perry, was just a tiny Labrador Vizsla baby when we brought him home two years ago. His boundless energy and affection adds so much to our lives.

Number Four: Petit Four Pastries
A plate of Petit Fours and a pot of tea can't be beat to enliven one's day. Gather round some good friends and the day is made much brighter. Their pretty little decorations, and smooth as silk layers just are another reason I am so glad that we have taste buds.

Number Five: Prayer
In all countries and walks of life, we humans offer up our heartfelt prayers for those we love and cherish in our lives. Prayers never go unanswered, though sometimes we don't always like the answers we receive. The power of a group of people asking for good in your life, or in someone else's, is a powerful force indeed.

Number Six: Patagonia
Unsurpassed in beauty and wildness, Patagonia may be one of Earth's greatest gifts to mankind. The efforts to preserve and protect wild places in this region is enormous, and those efforts are being realized with one of the world's largest National Park systems anywhere. Home to the Torres del Paine, Right Whales, and the Fitzroy's it truly is a treasure.

Number Seven: Pumpkins
I look forward to the pumpkin patch in Fall perhaps best of all the seasonal delights. To bake with, to carve, to simply look at their funny shapes and feel their unique textures, pumpkins are an earthly delight.

Number Eight: Pooh Bear
Thank heavens for A. A. Milne and his creation of Winnie the Pooh. (and Piglet!) The Winnie the Pooh series is our best loved books to read with the children, and they were my favorite as a child too. The world always seems a brighter more friendly place after visiting the Hundred Acre Wood.

Number Nine: Patchwork
Without patchwork, quilts just wouldn't be the same now would they? Whether completed by one person, or many as part of a quilting bee, the patches that make up a quilt are quite amazing to behold. Even better to experience when enfolded in one in front of a blazing fire.

Number Ten: Park City
My favorite spot on the United States map. Park City has it all. Beautiful seasons, mountains, lakes, unlimited outdoor activities, and a host of great artists and chefs. Many of my fondest memories in my life have taken place here in this little valley in the mountains.
If you wish to participate in this Alphabet Meme, just post a comment here and let me know. I'd love to read all about the things you cherish too. If you just wish to post a comment, you can do that too.
Thanks, Beth, for giving me an opportunity of reflection.

Credit to the follow sources for imagery:
Charles Harper's ABC Book
1) My parents on my wedding day
2) Peony from my garden
3) Puppies on
4) Petit Four pretend toys from Biofino
5) Prayer flags from
6) Patagonia image from
7) Pumpkin tower was created for the Country Living Fair 2007
8) Winnie the Pooh created by A. A. Milne
9) Log cabin quilt from
10) Park City image from

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Puma Paranoia

it set

One blustery and cold day in mid December four friendly faced animal trackers arrived at my house to hopefully help set some fears to rest. It had been an adventurous summer and fall around here, as you may well know if you have seen my previous postings, with the cougar roaming our area. I had been through all stages of emotion. Disbelief, wonder, denial, and then finally Primal Fear. This last emotion was odd to me and really foreign, and I know full well I never would have entered this paralyzing wasteland if it were not for the fact of my two little ones. But after the second personal sighting of this large feline, and then the subsequent sightings of close by neighbors, I realized I had to accept the fact that we were living with big cats. Then I had to figure out a way to deal with myself. I couldn't go around always looking up at the tress or over my shoulder. Thoughts of... what do I do if it grabs one of the kids and runs? Will I be calm and of sound mind if we have a run in face to face? I thought I knew the answer to these questions until I started doing some research. When I learned that a puma can spring forty or so feet I decided I was in over my head if it decides we are dinner. If I were alone, I know I'd be more calm, but I don't think calm is the emotion I would feel. No, definitely not calm. It was when I was putting up the Christmas lights on the front porch and was in a cold sweat that I realized I had a real problem. It was 35 degrees outside. Paranoia had set in. The trackers had heard about our goings on and offered to come out and have a look around. They were animal lovers just like me and wanted no harm to come to the animal, if in fact it could be determined that we all weren't seeing things. I awoke that day to a really cold, rainy, and windy day. What a day to cover 25 acres looking for clues. Our neighbor offered up their land as well because my instinct was that the cat was traveling our creek bed that runs through a really steep ravine, most of which is on their land. So here were my bright smiling faces ready to brave both wind and water. I had been slow cooking hot cocoa for them all day- after a few hours out there they were really going to deserve it. Hours passed and every now and then I caught a glimpse of them through the windows. They actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. I wasn't going to feel so bad if they turned up nothing. When they came back to the house I served cocoa and we sat around the kitchen table. I couldn't read their initial faces, but I soon figured out their odd looks as no one really wanted to be the first to enlighten me. While they were clearly excited, I think they knew that what they were about to tell me wasn't exactly the anecdote to my fear. The hike turned up nothing conclusive, just what we already knew. I had a virtual cougar paradise. Then, at the end of their foray, they decided to check out my hundred year old barn. What they took pictures of both astonished me and filled me with dread. Looking at the print for me was like looking at my first ultrasound- it had to be explained in detail. All I could see was limestone gibberish. Then they showed me a puma print alongside the gibberish. It became immediately clear. The cougar was catching a snooze in our upper loft of the barn. Inside my head, I was thinking that these could be old. It doesn't mean it is our cougar, right? I'll spare you the visual of the next photo, but they had proof that our little friend had visited in the recent past. Cougar poop has a distinct look. You never forget it once you see it. Matted with deer fur, it looks like a string of sausages. Their photo was as close to living proof as I was going to get that day, but there it was. It was a relief to know we weren't crazy, but then again, we had turned a whole new corner. Said poop is currently being analyzed under a microscope and a night vision camera is being set up in the barn. For weeks, coming in from the grocery store at night has been mind boggling. The barn is 50 feet from the house. You can only imagine how that must feel. An intruder? No problem, they would be dealt with and most likely carried out in a black bag. But a cougar, well, it's a little different. Even a gun doesn't do you much good. The skill required to actually take down a cougar is daunting. Try doing it while it has you by the back of the neck. Now that I have had a few weeks to adjust to this news I have made a sort of peace with this new inhabitant. I believe it's been here a lot longer than any of us are happy to admit. I think it is having a fine dining experience with all the deer, rabbit, livestock, and bird population. I think it has found a safe place to catch a snooze and stay somewhat sheltered. If like most puma, it runs through it's various haunts every few weeks, it explains why we still see domestic felines in the barn now and then, and bobcat in the fields. Make no mistake, when the big girl- or guy- is in town, you see NOTHING. I also hold a firm belief that if we remove this animal and it is part of a larger population, our next resident who takes over the territory may not be such a good neighbor. Knock on wood, but this one has left our dog alone, only been seen by complete accident, and hasn't willingly shown itself to a human. All in all, it sounds like a healthy individual. Welcome to our Wild Kingdom.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Impostor

I have
been on
a baking
spree the
last six
Maybe longer, I have lost track. I have been getting
nostalgic now that I have children of my own and have been baking and cooking a lot of the recipes I remember my mom making as a child. The three cookbooks that I remember my own mom looking for guidance from the most were James Beard on Bread, Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, and Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. Now in my own kitchen, I have an absolute love affair with Beard on Bread, and my copy of Better Homes and Gardens has become indispensable when I am trying out something new and just need some general direction. But the absence of Crocker's Cooky Book was gnawing at me. Of all the three, my mother's copy was the most well worn. We had it out on the kitchen counter a lot. She has mentioned sending it to me a few times always to follow up with the comment that it was probably too worn out to be usable. I could stand it no longer. But I couldn't locate it for sale, which I soon determined because "cookie" was "cooky" on the front cover. Once the title was deciphered, I immediately found a facsimile copy at a good price and waited what seemed like an eternity until it showed up in it's brown mailer. I was giddy with delight. The new version was EXACTLY the same as the old. Not one slight change had been made. What to make first? While the children were napping I was conjuring. How is it that I settled on chocolate chip cookies? I have made the Nestle Toll House recipe so many times that I no longer need an even quick glance at the recipe printed on the back of the package of chips. But the chocolate chip cookie is still my favorite. I was just looking over the nice little story about how it was cookie of the decade in the forties when it occurred to me that my chocolate chip cookies, though good, were not as good as my mom's. So I went over the ingredients and this is where I found a surprise. Betty Crocker called for shortening instead of butter. My gag reflex immediately began. I cannot help this as I am a product of the anti-fat in cooking years. I was thinking to myself that this cannot be when I had a flashback of that good old shortening can on the kitchen counter of my childhood. I, like my mother, pull all my ingredients out of the cupboards before I begin the recipe. Holy cripes had I consumed a large amount of shortening as a kid. This realization was shocking- and humorous too as I have better than good cholesterol levels. My mom's chocolate chip cookies never fell. They maintained their nice little domes and the texture while biting into one is something there are no words to describe. All I can say is that it has just the right amount of resilience and then it's like sinking into one of those memory foam beds. It's the fat solids in shortening. Even if you use vegetable shortening, it still does the trick. This recipe also called for about 1/4 cup more of flour to soften the cookie even further. I would bet dollars to donuts my mom adds that 1/4 cup extra. All these years I had been making the Impostor Cookie, at least the Impostor to my childhood cookie. But why then the use of butter on the Nestle Toll House package? That cute little history bit had given me the clue. The World War was raging and there had been rationing on items such as butter. Now it all made sense. When Betty Crocker published her book she simply used the 40's era recipe instead of the original Toll House recipe. People say you cannot beat the Toll House recipe in terms of texture and taste. Well, I have news for them. In this case, the shortening wins.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Politically Correct or Spiritually Dying?

First let
me say
that I have
been lapse
in my blogs
the past months as I have been in a whirlwind of activity with family and friends celebrating this great Holiday Season.
For those of you who know me, the time of Thanksgiving to just after New Years holds a very special place in my heart. Family and friend tradition is always important to me, but even more so at this time of year. It's a time I reflect inward on those things that matter most in my life and it is a time I try to be most available to everyone around me. So while I did not blog often during this time, a lot was going on in my mind. Commercialism and the Holidays have always bothered me, but as of the past few years one thing is bothering me quite a bit more than the assault of advertising that is notorious this time of year. What I am noticing more and more is the lack of Christ in Christmas. Inside our home and hearts, Christ is our Christmas. I love decking the halls and giving gifts but this is all done in a manner of festivity that is still very much centered on the miracle of Jesus and his life story. I am not what you would call a right wing Christian- I'm probably not even considered middle of the road by other Christians. What I am, however, is completely in love with the story of the birth of Christ, His rise to Messenger, and the history of what civilization did and continues to do to His message. The notion of His Resurrection is profound, yes, but I find His message to humanity much more profound. What I cannot fathom is this: the absolute fear, or general apathy if it is not fear, of commercial entities to recognize Christ in Christmas. The last time I checked, the United States was well over eighty percent Christian. Dice that up any way you like, but it means that less than twenty percent of Americans do not Believe. I find this heartening, and yet somewhat bewildering too. Bewildering because who are these people in charge at these companies trying to get their message across to the general public? While yes, it is nice to sell some things during the Holiday Season, it is also nice to remember the Man we are celebrating. I have said this time and time again and I will say it here now once more. The British have something on us- at least in one aspect. While I wax poetic about the virtues of British Country Living versus our American version of the magazine here most every month, the December issue always gets to me. And it gets me in a good way. The editors in England have the guts to put Christ in Christmas in their December edition without fail- and in multiple features. They give the people of England, their Christian majority, what they most wish to see and learn about. This year was no exception, from the hand carved nativities of David Plagerson ( to the illuminating nuns of Saint Cecilia's Abbey, to the blessing of pets at Saint Nicola's 13th century church. Our American version of this magazine leaves me sadly disappointed every December. I joke that if I had my last seven dollars and the choice was food or the issue of British Country Living, I'd probably starve to death. Something in that publication feeds my soul and there is some kind of kinship that I always find within its pages. The December issue just happens to feed my spiritual soul as well.