Saturday, July 3, 2021

Memories Are Made of This

Happy Birthday,

    Fourth of July Memories

  A Midwestern child of the 1950s and 60s, my Fourth of July holiday was about picnics, parades, fireworks, and mostly, lots of family. Aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins — it was a happy excuse to get us all together.
My sweetest memories are of the picnics that were held either at a cousin’s farm or another cousin’s home on a big river. 

  At the farm, most families arrived the evening before and pitched a tent somewhere in the vicinity of the farmhouse to be close at hand and not miss any of the fun. The children checked out cousins we hadn’t seen in months, ran wildly around catching lightning bugs, throwing sticks into a big bonfire that lit the night. Finally, exhausted, we went to sleep listening to the soft, deep voices of the men tending to a whole hog roasting in the glowing embers of a trench freshly dug in the ground. 

  On the morning of the 4th, the women fried dozens of eggs fresh from the chicken coop in giant frying pans, with bacon, sausages, and pancakes, for breakfast. Coffee was served from big blue enameled coffee pots all morning. Then, while mothers and the older generation rested in lawn chairs and cheered us on, dads and children played baseball in the smoky aroma from the roasting pig. When the dads tired and declared the game over, the children took up croquet, lawn darts, and hide-and-seek until finally, at last, the big dinner bell was rung. Long tables of salads and desserts, watermelon and icy soda pop appeared to accompany the centerpiece — that huge pile of fragrant, juicy pork.

  When we were sated with food, naps were taken until we gathered in the evening in a long line of lawn chairs placed along the edge of a cornfield. Here the Big Boys (as we called the older cousins) and a few dads brought out the fireworks while the grandmothers and mothers tut-tutted about safety, the silliness of boys and noise, and rumors of ear drums ruptured from just such doings, cautioned the children to stay back from the action. Two rusty barrels with lids sat at the ready. The show began. 

  There were no beautiful fireworks with colored fountains raining from the sky, only the loud banging sort and little white sparklers we children held. A favorite scheme of the Big Boys was to drop firecrackers into the barrels, magnifying the sound and blowing the lids off the cans. Oohs and aahs would follow and the boys would race into the corn to find the lids for the next round. 

  One memorable Fourth, talked about for years since, was the one when several boys threw lit firecrackers into a barrel at the same time and ran away. All heads bent far back and our eyes followed the lid, up up up into the sky like a flipped nickel, floating back down and 




           On the barrel 

              From which it had been launched!!!!!! 

  It’s the truth. I saw it with my own eyes. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

An Independence Day I Could Get Excited About

  Tomorrow the long Independence Day holiday weekend starts in the U.S. I’d like to share some thoughts as this day of red, white, and blue, family picnics, parades, flags, and fireworks approaches. 

  First, some images from an art exhibit we attended. 

“This Has to Stop” 
Francine Mabie

  Freedom, equality, and those other fine ideals put forth in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the ones we will supposedly be celebrating this weekend, were a short-lived dream for some people. Race and skin color almost immediately became the dividing factor for whom these rights were meant.  
  Mabie depicts the faces of some of the ordinary people who have lost their lives recently in racial violence. On the bottom of the left panel above, a boy holds a toy gun. Mistaking it for a real gun, police shot and killed him.

   A close-up of the center panel shows details of the complexity and the two- and three-dimensional qualities of the work. We were drawn to stand for a long time and absorb the details. 


  The girl in the center panel wears the chains of the enslaved and a hangman’s noose. Below the chain is a schematic of a crowded slave ship, people chained shoulder to shoulder to the lower decks for the voyage from Africa. 

  Haunting faces in the right panel emerge from US and Confederate flags, stained with blood. They are people killed for jogging, driving with an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror, for walking home in a neighborhood not their own, while innocently asleep in their own beds.

Adrian Spotted Horsechief

  Another piece that intrigued us was this one, depicting a different racial group whose life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were not included in the Declaration of Independence, treated unfairly in the history of this country just as they are now.
  Photographer Thorne Lieberman photographed two life-sized portraits of Native American men, one in their tribal ceremonial attire in color and one in their everyday street clothes in black and white. From the two photos of the same man he created a mosaic, depicting the two worlds Native Americans struggle to live in. 
  Adrian Spotted Horsechief is a young member of the Pawnee Nation. 

    I think we would do well as a country today, with all the division and anger, to remember the above. 

      To stop calling names and listen. 
          To respect differences and learn from each other.
               To value diversity and unite in solving our problems. 

Now that would be cause for a real celebration! 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

No More Complaining, the Mimosa is in Bloom!

  I apologize for the complainy post last week and thank you for the good wishes for my knee!

 My knee, however, is fine and dandy. Using it for years when it was not right, my back and hip accommodated themselves to the way I walked. After the knee was replaced my walk changed and my back and hip rebelled. So they are being coaxed and wrestled back into the right place by a physical therapist and the muscles built up to keep things the way they should be. 

(Probably not the exact terms the doctor used to explain it, but that is the gist of it.)

Struggle of a Champion - D. Pierce Giltner, Bluffton, SC  “The hard life of a third generation oysterman working the tides of the May River.” Doesn’t it look like a photo? It’s a painting!       —Artfields 2021



  You probably always thought this drink was a mimosa —  a popular breakfast cocktail made from sparkling wine and citrus juice that some say was created by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1940s. 

  You are excused for thinking that if you’re not from the South. 

  Actually, a mimosa was first an ornamental tree, brought to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1785 by the famous French botanist, Andre Michaud. (Nobody seems sure how the name got attached to the drink.) 
  Wealthy mistresses of the Southern plantations, always looking for something exotic to one-up their neighbors’ gardens, eagerly snapped up the latest import from Asia for their lawns.  

  It’s peak bloom for the mimosas right now and because they are fast-growing, self-spreading, and not too fussy about their location, they appear everywhere around older houses and along the highways and country roads. 

  A few fun facts:
  #Because its fern-like leaves fold up at night, it is called the Sleeping Tree in Japan.
 # They are an understory tree with a unique flat-top appearance and grow to be only 30 feet tall or less. 

 #Bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies love them.

  #The long red tubes of the flower are not petals but stamens. 

 #Some dislike them intensely because of their propensity to spread everywhere and because their large seed pods are plentiful and a pain to clean up. 

 I, however, am a big fan of their feathery and exotic blooms. 
Too bad they only last half a day in the house. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

From Desert to Rainforest

  Where have I been?  Nowhere! which seems to be my blogging problem.

   I like writing about new places as we explore them and there has been none of that lately. Instead I am back to physical therapy, my tenth week. Three days a week — an hour appointment, an hour of driving, an errand or two “because we’re up there” — the day is gone. 

  Our long hikes in the woods came to an end when the deer flies came out in May.

 Horrible things! They descend on the car, then you as soon as you leave the car. They are relentless, getting in your face, your hair.

 And they bite! 

  Right through your clothes. 

  We had been in a drought for weeks with no rain whatsoever and then last week the rains began and continue day after day. If it’s not storming or pouring buckets, humidity is rising from the ground. 
  These cheery Flower Pot Parasols popped up overnight in our hibiscus planter.

 Anyway, it’s unbearable for humans to be outside, and it’s only the beginning of summer. 

Our hibiscus don’t seem to mind. The blossoms are over eight inches across!

 And in spite of the monsoons, our tomato plants are producing delicious fruit. As have our neighbor Malcolm’s blueberry bushes, which he so generously shares with us.

  This is the first year our blackberry bushes have ripened berries. We’re not too fond of the berries but — oh well.

  Lots of birds are nesting in our yard and bringing their comical babies to the backyard bird feeder buffet. We offer suet, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter for our summer guests.

  We have baby Carolina wrens, cardinals, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees, and house finches all entertaining us with their antics. 

  The babies are partial to the peanut butter log, both for the tasty treat and the handy perches for their clumsy flights.    I can spend hours drawing them! 

  We hope for adventures ahead but my Bucket List is in “recalculating mode”. The pandemic was sobering, life-changing in ways I haven’t expected. Which has led to mulling over the one I made when I retired and making revisions. It’s definitely looking to be a bit more “modest” and shorter than the original! 

  Theoretically we can now travel some places again, at least in our own country, but there is the reality of facing up to it that my body is no longer as eager to undertake certain activities and countries. We will be visiting family mostly for the near future and then maybe in the winter some travel adventures can be planned. 

  I will leave you with this. I read this morning that, “A new study shows that vegans are the happiest people,” rating themselves 7% happier than meat eaters do. Then I saw an ad for one of those subscription food services that deliver ingredients for a vegan meal, along with a recipe for making it.

  See the orange thing in the bun? 

85% of our meals are vegetarian, but I think we will pass on this one!


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

This Little Figgy

    When I moved to the South one thing I really wanted to grow was figs. I love fresh figs so much and you can’t buy them fresh in stores, only dried.  
And a dried fig is nothing like a fresh fig at all.

 We have had this fig tree for four years now and gotten a little fruit, but this year we are going to have a bunch.

  The yellow triangle by the top fig is a blossom and they don’t open any more than that. Not very showy, are they? And how do they get pollinated?  I don’t know!
  The Writer turned the sprinklers on the front lawn and look who came hustling out of the azalea bushes to see if it was raining. 
  It’s Yertle, our resident Eastern box turtle. 

  Did you know that Eastern box turtles can live a hundred years and once a female has mated, she’s good for four years of egg-laying? 


 Bob was inside and curious about what we were standing around looking at.  

  We have moved further agrarian pursuits to the front yard after many failures at raising a garden in the backyard.  I think we are finally going to have a tomato success story this year. 

  The cool spring we have had, along with 12 hours of direct sun a day, have inspired these two “patio tomatoes” in pots to shoot up to 4 1/2 feet tall and produce dozens of green tomatoes! 

And don’t you just love tomato blossoms? They’re so fancy and frilly when you look close. 

  And one final yellow flower photo: the hanging basket on the front porch. It seems like every year they come out with a fresh take on the plain, old-fashioned petunia and this one appeared simultaneously at every place in town that sells plants.  Never seen them before and I like the stripes a lot.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Signs of the Times - Latest Edition

  Panic buying. Long lines at the store. Empty shelves.

  Rumors of who has some and who is all out.

  Sound familiar? 

It’s not toilet paper or hand sanitizer 

or Covid vaccine this time. 

It’s gasoline!

  Colonial Pipeline, the main gas conduit supplying the East Coast, was closed down late last week by a cyberattack. By Tuesday night it was dawning on people that possibly there wouldn’t be enough gas to go around before the pipeline was up and flowing again. In spite of reassurances from officials and experts and pleas not to horde, people rushed out to top off their tanks, whether they needed to or not. Long lines at every station still open resulted in traffic jams.

   “Panic pumpers,” the media is calling them. 


 By yesterday we were low on gas and searched for over an hour before finding a station with fuel.

Why was there no line???

  They were not price gouging as some stations were but they were only taking cash.  

  We saw several cars drive away but happily we had some cash and were able to get some gas in our tank and be on our way.

 By last evening there was no gas available in town.  

Here’s a good motto for the 2020s.

(And carry cash. 😊)

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Farmer’s Market is Back

  So happy to have our farmer’s market back for the summer. It’s small (maybe three or four families selling their wares each week) but everything is actually local.  When we were getting ready to leave the house I got my market basket from a hook on the sunroom wall. To my surprise, someone else has been using my basket!

 Carolina wrens!

They are perky little birds that are very determined to get inside buildings and construct their scruffy, inconvenient nests among humans. This one had just begun so I moved the nest outside to the azalea bushes and off we went to the market.

  Selection was limited as things are just getting started and prices are high. Purple buttercrunch lettuce, kohlrabi, radishes, and strawberries made their way into our basket. 

  The kohlrabi balls will be sliced and eaten raw as hummus scoops. 

  The tops have already been cooked and eaten, mild greens with salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. 

  Lettuce and radishes will provide us with colorful salads for a few days. 

  And the strawberries, oh, the strawberries! They burst in your mouth with juicy flavor, nothing like those hard things you get in the grocery store trucked thousands of miles across the country from California. 
  Nope, these are South Carolina berries, ripened in the hot South Carolina sun. 

  One of my favorite desserts is strawberry shortcake and that’s where our berries went. I can’t eat wheat flour (something in it triggers migraines) but I have perfected the best recipe for shortcakes with no wheat or gluten. Would you like my recipe?

Almond Flour Shortcakes
1 cup almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
Good pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar (or honey, maple syrup, etc)
Stir the dry ingredients and make a well in the center.
In the well, add 1/4 cup full fat plain yogurt and beat
1 egg into the yogurt with a fork.
Mix all and drop in four plops on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper
Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.  If you want the tops brown and crispy, turn the oven up to 400 for a few minutes.