Saturday, July 3, 2021

Memories Are Made of This

Happy Birthday,
USA!


    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 

   Landing

     Right 

        Square 

           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.




Monday, May 3, 2021

Paraprosdokians


Paraprosdokian — a figure of speech in which the latter part of a 
sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected 
and is frequently humorous. 

(Winston Churchill loved them.) 

Where there's a will, 
I want to be in it.

Since light travels faster than sound, some folks appear bright 
until you hear them speak. 

If I agreed with you, 
we'd both be wrong. 

We never really grow up, 
we only learn how to act in public. 

War does not determine who is right, 
only who is left. 

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. 
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. 

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. 
To steal from many is research. 

You do not need a parachute to skydive. 
You only need a parachute to skydive twice. 

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, 
any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. 

You're never too old 
to learn something stupid. 

I'm supposed to respect my elders, 
but it's getting harder and harder for me to find one now.

Murals from ArtsFields









Friday, April 30, 2021

ArtFields Is Back and So Are We!

  

  Last year we missed one of our favorite events of the year, cancelled because of Covid. This year, ArtFields returns, the first event of any kind we have attended since the pandemic began. It felt so wonderful to get away, see people, see some amazing art, and feel a little normal again.
  Lake City made a huge effort to provide safety for all.  Masks (optional in our state now) were mandatory and social distancing enforced so we felt safe attending. 



  ArtFields was started in 2013 to exhibit artists of the Southeast, while bringing fine arts to rural South Carolinians and revitalizing a small Southern town.

 The competition offers over $100,000 in cash prizes. Two People’s Choice Awards are determined by the votes of people visiting ArtFields. A panel of art professionals selects all the other awards, including the $50,000 Grand Prize and $25,000 Second Place award.

  While there is never a stated theme, it does seem that most of the artists’ works that are selected by the jury are comments on timely social and political issues of the day. 





  As one would expect, many and diverse works reflected on the pandemic that has snuffed out the lives of 575,000 Americans and turned the lives of the world upside down for over a year.

  I liked this one a lot, telling the stories of some very average people in one neighborhood who answered the question, “How has the coronavirus affected you?”















 
 This photo essay made me think about how I might have answered. 

  I think I would have said something about missing all the important events and milestones of my family members for over a year, grandchildren growing up, all those sweet moments I can never get back again. 

  There were about 300 works in the show, spread all around the town, and we spent two full days taking it all in. 

I have lots more interesting things to show you, including the pieces we voted for for the People’s Choice Award, and next week, the winners. I hope you will enjoy the wonderful imaginations and the talent of these artists as much as we did! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Azalea Days


  April is azalea month here in coastal South Carolina. In our yard we have five different colors, each vying for the title, Most Beautiful. 


  Azaleas are members of the Heath family, a group of plants dating from 70 million years ago. They grew first in Asia, cultivated at monasteries by Buddhist monks, and according to some sources, first imported and grown outdoors in the United States at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston just after the Civil War.

  We have five varieties on plants that are 60 years old. The one above blooms first and is the size of a large car. Behind it you can see a red camellia still in bloom which has been blooming since right around Christmas!



  Our shady backyard is deeply lined with magenta azaleas, the last to bloom. The wonderful tree that shades them is a giant Loblolly pine, 90 feet tall with an 11 foot circumference! 



  







  Our 154-foot long side yard has three colors interspersed: light pink, bright pink, and white. These light pink ones are huge and they are my favorites. 






  And as long as they are blooming, I can’t resist bringing big bunches of azaleas into the house and tucking them in every corner!




  There is one other thing you should know about the beautiful azalea: it has a dark side. The plant, blossoms, and even the nectar are deadly poisonous! In spite of that, honey made from azaleas, called Mad Honey, was added to drinks in the 1700s to give a more potent high than alcohol. It was described as giving the drinker “the spins”. Of course, one had to keep his or her wits about them and be very careful to drink only a small amount.

   Sources say it is still available in Turkey. I don’t think I’ll be trying it!