Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy May Day with a Repost

Tomorrow is May Day, a favorite day of mine. I had hoped to surprise my friends with May baskets like I used to do when the boys were small. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men...or something like that. So I will repost from May Day 2010 in hopes new readers might enjoy a verbal May basket tonight!



Friday, April 30, 2010

Do You Remember May Baskets?

Today I bought some Gerber Daisies for the May Baskets for my friends. Well, it will probably be just a flower this year instead of a real basket of anything, but the thought will be same. The clerk admired these lovely daisies, and when I told her what they were for, she tossed me a blank look. A woman sporting a wrinkle or two and with teenagers at home, she had never heard of the May Basket tradition. I think it is sad that this lovely toast to spring is fading away.
When I was a child, everyone made a May Basket or two. Our class made some at school for decorating bulletin boards. At home, I spent several evenings each spring making them at the kitchen table for my little pals and older neighbors. Sometime in April Mom would drop by the lumber yard where she picked up old wallpaper books that had been saved for us. You had to get your name in early as many families asked for one or two of the huge books with wallpaper samples. Once the books were home, I tore out my favorite pages choosing colors and patterns carefully. I rolled the pages into cones or mitered corners on squares and stapled on a paper handle.

My paternal grandmother lived about a block away and had a large yard with lilacs and spirea that she let me cut for my May baskets. The branches of fragrant flowers were worked in around candies, gum, and a cookie or two Mom had made. Then about dusk she drove me around to my friends’ houses, parking discreetly a half a block away. I snuck up to each porch, hung a paper basket on the door knob, and gave a quick knock while shouting, “May Basket!”. Then I raced so fast back to the car I thought my chest would burst as we tried, successfully once in a while, to make a get clean get away, leaving the recipient to puzzle out who left the basket. What fun! What a simple and harmless tradition, one infectious with nothing but pure joy.

The clerk today at the gardening center was excited when I left. She said she was going to tell her young teen daughter about this tradition and try to interest her in doing May Baskets. I am not sure such a humble event can compete with texting and such, but I hope the girl gives it a try.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oven Problems and the Little Chill

It is cold today! There are frost warnings out for tonight! A matter of hours ago, it was 80 degrees here, then tornadoes, then rain, and now frost warnings? So this dark day has felt like a throwback to winter again. Add to that my oven has been throwing fits for months. It is not that old, but is just being wild about when it wants to heat. Two new thermostats later, DH decided yesterday to dig deeper. All day long that oven laughed at him and refused to NOT not work so he could not tell what was going on.

This morning I turned it on; it worked again. So I hustled like crazy to bake and freeze while I could. It was gluten free blueberry muffins, sugar free brownies, bacon ahead (I do bacon in the oven), and a double batch of mac and cheese made with cream (shame on me) and white cheddar from Ireland. Yum, good!

I also made a German potato salad and a lentil soup…yes, soup weather again. This is a favorite lentil soup recipe, but today I made it with some black lentils from The Hill in St. Louis and tossed in a little browned ground turkey. This will be supper.

This afternoon I decided to read, but was greatly disappointed in the Picoult novel. Picoult writes great stories, but this is an earlier one and lacks the pizazz she has developed over time. Titled Picture Perfect it is about a movie star who is abusive to his wife. It is too much like a soap opera for me. I am skimming, longing for a the end so I can move to something better.

While I am waiting for a good book, I am also waiting for that lovely sun to return. I am so grateful to have been spared from the tornadoes on Sunday. They were in my “backyard” so to speak. In Joplin, the skyline is still clean and desolate enough from the F5 in 2011 so that the Galena and Baxter Springs funnels could be seen. And then there is Quapaw, Oklahoma….not far away at all. And.. one touched north of Ft. Scott…a favorite haunt of ours only about 60 miles from here.
So in light of the big picture...a petulant oven, a dark and ugly day, frost in the forecast...well, it could be worse. I will practice gratitude along with prayers for the victims from Mother Nature's last tirade.



Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Morning

It is a salt and pepper day…that is it is one of light and dark. The early morning was warm and bright, perfect for starting the day with a tea pot! We watched the dark ease in like pudding on a child’s face, spreading over the sky. Eventually a few sprinkles forced us in a bit while we watch skies with a forecast of possible tornadoes today.
But those first few hours were perfect. Eventually we toted out breakfast pushing tea stuff aside to make room for two Blue Willow platters. I had one, but we found another at an estate sale for $2.50 yesterday morning. This year, these huge, round platters will acts as plates. We can load up the meal inside and carry one each out to the deck without hauling out many bowls. It will work, don’t you think?
First lettuce and baby kale of the season cut this morning from a “pot garden” will make lunch.
Check out Marilyn Warner's blog at:
Marilyn writes about writing, her mother, and life in general. Today she shared a lovely quote her mother wrote. "SMILING ISN’T ENOUGH…BUT IT’S A GOOD START". 
Now isn't that a lovely thought for a Sunday pondering...such good advice to live by.

Friday, April 25, 2014

More Spring Splendor

It is hard not to continue the celebration of spring color and fragrance. Today was another beautiful day, although the future forecast is for a weekend of possible tornadic storms and the potential of snow by Wednesday. SNOW?!?!?!

My Tai Chi and Tea group meets at the local Episcopal Church basement. The church also has a lovely labyrinth and flower garden. A perfect vegetable garden rests behind the flower area, and it is as perfectly groomed as an English hedge. Before coming home yesterday, a few of us wandered about the gardens.
The blue anemones were a favorite. Easter lilies were in abundance. Tulips still danced on tall stems while smiley faced pansies hugged the ground.


Between the church and the church’s Common Room is a small insert of beauty. There is a St. Francis area, a concrete bench for sitting in silence, dog wood trees, a bit of winding sidewalk, and splendor of flowers for the season. I have always wanted to sit there a moment, and yesterday I did while friends continued to meander about. I might borrow that lovely silent place from the Episcopalians again someday!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Glorious Season

This First Week of Easter is loaded with spring blooms, and I rejoice in the warm sunshine that abounds in the afternoon. Mornings here in prairie lands on the edge of the Ozarks have a mountain chill first thing, but afternoons can almost be called hot. Rain is coming again, but I just appreciate every moment of great weather I can absorb!

This morning Miss Biscuit and I went to the post office and saw that both the pink and white dogwoods were raging with beauty. The redbuds have been lovely for a couple of weeks and probably have reached their peak. But the dogwoods today were radiant!
Pink dogwood 


Then when we hit the town square, there was the farmer’s market lady all set up. Yeah, it was a good spring day. We toted home only a few things to perk up our treeless deck for the moment. And wonders, she had BLACK petunias! The picture does not do them justice. They look like velvet! Petunias will struggle in the heat of this deck so I only bought a smidgen of them…wanted to enjoy those black ones a while!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

I think this has been the quietest Easter Sunday we have ever had here, and the quiet has been a balm.  I could be sad that there are no children racing about the yard, no eggs, no chocolate bunnies. Instead, I am just feeling grateful for the simplest things, the quiet being one of  them. The neighborhood was very quiet today as well so we enjoyed bacon and eggs on the deck. The sun was bright, but the air was perfect temperature.

We sipped tea and snacked the rest of the day. No cooking! There were books to be read. Balls to be thrown for the dog. There were worries to mull over but only slightly as we let them drift away like tiny puffs of least for a little while. There were lilacs to admire and a few to be brought in for fragrance in the house.

DH's sister and brother-in-law from Montana came to the Midwest this week to visit the parents in assisted living. They do well for 95 and 98, but those years carry built in flaws for daily living. My sister-in-law brought me flowers when they came for dinner. Such brilliant shades, electrifying colors! The painting above is one my mother-in-law did herself in earlier years and now hangs over her bed. The painting is peaceful...bright flowers and tea time....a couple of life's bounty items.

The daily dramas of winter still linger in corners here. Issues and troubles...but still we all hope the spring and Easter will usher in a turn to bright and happy times ahead.

 I hope your own Easter day has been peaceful and calm.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Winds Blowing in Changes Again

Thursday was a disaster day! Friday morning picked up where Thursday left off. The ordered windows had arrived and DH had the storms off ready to go. When he went to pick up the new windows, they were WRONG. So they were reordered, and our first spring project was postponed yet again. Now it is over 80 degrees today and if I want air, I have to take flies in the house to get it!!!

Trying to turn the tide, we got up this morning with a list of minor things to do. We started running by taking taxes to post office, then some garage sales hunting specific things for my sister. Found a wee bit only. Thing about garage sales is you jump in and out of the car so  many times for nothing. Then we did a few other errands along the way. We came home and unloaded and drove to Joplin for a research mission.

We can already tell that the loss of that Mighty Maple last fall is going to really hurt this year. I put out the usual in the tree spot, but they all look lonely. It is going to be majorly hot in direct western sun on the deck. Already we sweat in the afternoon. So went to gather ideas on how and what to plant. We also researched oversized umbrellas to help shade plants and people this year.

We made several stops including a fast run into a flea market where a friend saw a whole load of Blue Willow added to a booth. Oh, it was pretty stuff! I would not have had the courage to buy so much, but DH has become a real Blue Willow fan. He pushed to bring too much home. I limited myself to two pieces that were delightful prices! He added the pitcher because he really liked it, although it is not a piece I will use much I don’t think. But then, who knows!

Normally we stick to Willow made in Japan or Occupied Japan. The blue is so rich on those pieces. This Blue Willow is Swinnertons made in Stratsfordshire England. Originally it was made beginning in 1906 and then off and on during the World Wars. Around 1950 the pottery was absorbed by Royal Daulton, another great mark. Not sure where these pieces will rest in the end, but the covered butter dish will be very handy for butter, pickles, olives or anything toted to the deck for lunches during fly seasons.

This piece of pottery belonged to my mother-in-law’s mother originally. It was in my mother-in-law’s bedroom for as long as I can remember. None of the girls wanted it; she took it to the assisted living, but decided it took up too much room. She sent it home with me a few weeks ago and while nice, looks nothing like me. It does have a crack. I decided to make it useful for a while and put in some starts of my Cousin Sel plant!
We have a new guest this week too. Mrs. Robin built her nest quickly in our deck post. We don’t bother her a bit. She never moved when dog runs below, I fill the bird baths, or we come and go in general. Welcome, dear Bird Mother.

While it is a warm spring day, the weatherman says rain tomorrow, maybe severe storms, and then followed by 29 degrees cold!!! Oh I moan with this news!!! But….I am glad for flowers and warmth and robins and tea on deck for today!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nothing Profound, Just Beautiful Day

It was a day filled with one chore after another. Some were simple like repairing a birdhouse for spring. Others were tougher like cleaning the inside of the car and truck where Biscuit has shed, leaving fur that looks like a baby kitty curled up!!

But temps were perfect and the windows and doors could be open. Rugs were wiped...plants moved outdoors.

Although last night had a frost warning, I choose to believe the worst is over. I have onions and lettuce up in flower pots. Pansies were on sale this week, and although they aren’t my favorites for summer, they make good spring flowers and give me a little dash of color right now.

DH and I even had a tea break on the deck today. Now that was blissful …a promise of more to come.

I gathered Easter trinkets for mailing to the little grandsons. We took time out to do a funny for them. Instead of an Easter card, we will send an “original”!

Not all the problems of the world went away today, but for a while, sunshine made my own backyard feel like a slice of Heaven. I hope all you dear readers had even a few minutes of the same.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cleaning with Memories

When hubby retired, it took me long while to accept my housework would never be done again nor would every room be clean at the same time. Now that we have a dog, this house is even worse…dog hair and mud…but play now too.

This morning we shared a quick suck up of dog hair and swishing a few things out. I caught the fragrance of Degreaser and was transported to my childhood. My bottle must be ten years old at least, but the memories are half a century old.

My paternal grandmother was a dealer in Stanley Home products. I never knew her any other way. Before her marriage, she “worked out”. This was not the going to the gym we know today, but she went out and cleaned and cooked for other women when only a girl, returning home at night to her own mother. Later when she was a mother, she often worked at cafes as a cook or waitress to help make money for the family. She was raising her children in the heart of the Depression; every single penny counted. She also raised and cleaned chickens in the wee hours of dark Saturday mornings. Then the family loaded up a trunk with dressed chickens and delivered them in towns fifteen miles away so the town ladies had fresh chickens for Sunday dinner.

Sometime around 1950 she became a salesperson for Stanley Home Products which was the original inventor of the party plan sales approach. It must have been a breeze doing those demonstrations of brooms and cleaners in women’s living rooms after mopping, rolling pie crusts, doing dishes and standing on her feet for hours in a commercial kitchen for a few coins to help feed her family. Her cleaning product parties became very popular; she enrolled many new sales people, and then moved up the ladder to district manager.

Grandma turned half her dark, dungeon-like basement into a storage room where, under a dull light bulb handing from the ceiling, she filled her orders for deliveries. Often our birthday and Christmas presents were Catherine O’Brien colognes or makeup promoted by the company. She had no time (or desire) to shop, so sometimes she just sent us to the basement to choose a sack of Stanley Products for our gift. It soon became a family joke as to what cleaner or broom we would “get” for our birthday.

When I was about twelve or thirteen, Grandma wasn’t slowing down much, but she did appreciate company. I often went to parties with her at night and helped carry in all the display cases. I could have presented the products myself as I knew them all. I loved passing around the velvet tray full of free gifts for the ladies. There were pencils, pads of paper, jar openers, key rings, hot pads all labeled with advertising for Stanley. Then there was always a nice dessert provided by the hostess for the evening. Sometimes after several trips Grandma let me choose a new hair brush or some hair spray for helping her.

Two favorite items my mom used were Germtrol and Degreaser. Even as a young girl, I realized the power of that cleaner. In days before no-stick pans, nothing was worse than skillet that had fried chicken and then cooled with the breading crumbs setting like glue on the pan bottom. Degreaser was a miracle tool at removing them.

This morning I dug deep into the cupboard and found my old bottle to use on an odious job. Sure enough, Degreaser saved the day and lifted ugly grease in no time. But it was the fragrance I appreciated most of all. For a few minutes, I felt my slightly disheveled grandma with chipped nail polish over finger nails hiding garden dirt. She had an aluminum tumbler filled with iced tea in one hand and the other hand on her hip watching me use her Number One Seller, Degreaser. I could almost hear her say, “Darn good stuff isn’t it?”

Yes, it is a hearty cleaner that worked on tough jobs…a lot like Grandma was herself.

Do you know Degreaser?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Did You Hear the Voice of Holden Caulfield?

I have read Cather in the Rye twice in my lifetime. Both times I missed what others seem to have to have found. When I was in college, the book was a rage read. I did not like it. Thinking I was too immature or just an inexperienced reader, I read it as a mature woman. Both times, the book left me wondering what all the thrill was about.

Last winter I saw J. D. Salinger on a PBS documentary. He was rather interesting as a man, although being a recluse is a little at odds for a writer. I thought maybe I would checkout his work again sometime. I expect that someday after his death the old manuscripts he wrote and then locked in a vault will be printed soon.

This winter I saw the movie Labor Day at the theater. With actors Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet, the movie was an interest-holding tale even though the story wasn’t overly astounding; I thought the ending tacked on a bit. However, it was taken from a novel and I was interested enough to sit through credits to see the name Joyce Maynard. Something about the name seemed familiar, but I could not retrieve info from my mental file cabinet.

So I looked her up on the internet and saw she had been in a short relationship with Salinger when she was 18…and he was 53.  When she was 44, she wrote a memoir-tell all-about her life. I remember when the book came out and I dismissed it thinking she was another person trying to make a buck off the name of a famous author. However, now after seeing Labor Day, I wanted to know about her own writing.

Joyce Maynard came from a talented and intelligent set of parents who were very unique. Her growing up years were formative and somewhat odd. She was a very successful writer herself by eighteen. Then she fell into a relationship with J. D. Salinger that was…well, downright weird. The man was a couple of levels beyond peculiar. Here were two dysfunctional people who found each other resulting in Maynard’s throwing away her Yale scholarship!

Despite finding myself irritated with both Maynard’s and Salinger’s behavior, I kept reading. I will admit to being interested in how such talented people could wreck their own lives. It always interests me how some people can break the rules and still sit on a pedestal too. But in the middle of the book, there was a turn as this young girl began to develop into a stronger woman. It became very interesting to see how Maynard developed, overcame flaws, and reached a sound maturity. She made a wonderful mother herself.

While I have gained no desire to read more of J.D. Salinger, I do want to find more of Maynard’s work. In looking at her lists of novels, I see I have already read her book, The Good Daughters. I remember it as a very good read, an unusual plot, although in places, needing a serious suspension of disbelief. She has a brand new novel out, The Usual Rules. I think I am going to give that book a shot!

It is always interesting to see how writers produce their works. It does seem that gifted people often pay the price of some kind of dysfunction for their gift like alcoholism, depression, mental issues. Then again maybe there are no true “normal” people!  J