Dragons and graveyards

The dragonfly and damselfly reflect and work with the sun and light.  Light changes throughout the day.  The dragonfly and damselfly undergo their own transformations.  If they have shown up, look for change to occur.  Are you resisting change when you shouldn’t?  Dragonflies remind us that we are light and can reflect the light in powerful ways if we choose to do so.  ‘Let there be light’ is the divine prompting to use the creative imagination as a force within your life.  This is part of what dragonflies and damselflies teach us.

Life is never quite the way it appears, but is is always filled with light and color.  Dragonfly can help you to see through your illusions and thus allow your own light to shine forth.  Dragonfly brings the brightness of transformation and the wonder of colorful new vision.

~ Ted Andrews, Animal Speak

I think dragonfly has been influencing me lately as there certainly has been a new brightness, a transformation, and the wonder of color.

What I would like to know is:  Who is that little guy on the right horning in on Dragonfly’s close-up?  (Click on the photo to see the larger version.  You may not be able to see the little guy if you don’t.)  It’s a strange little thing.  Is it some bizarre cross between a frog and a crab?  It looks that way to me.  I did a little research, wanting to identify the dragonfly (it is Erythemis simplicicollis, Eastern pondhawk), and it may be a nymph.  Check out these pictures at Discover Life and tell me what you think.

I like Ted Andrews and his book Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small but have to say that it would be more unusual if dragonfly didn’t show up in my life right now.  The pond, the woods, and this entire area is teeming with dragonflies and damselflies right now.  Unlike me, they enjoy the hot weather we’ve been having.

In book news…

(Lake View Cemetery.  Cleveland, Ohio.)

I just finished reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and what a delightful read it was.  It has its dark moments but it was mostly magic.  The book is meant for ages 9-12 which puts me more than a little on the old side of its readership and fans.  I had heard so many good things about it (and I was already a fan of Neil Gaiman) that I wanted to read it for myself.  Now I want to save it in that pile of books I have for my grandchildren, the one that includes books such as The Secret Garden and The Phantom Tollbooth.

If you haven’t read the book yet, you might want to give it a go.  And then hand it over to a 9-12 year old to read.  It is an adventure about childhood and growing up told in a way that I think will appeal to parents learning to let go of their children and to children who are growing up, learning to step outside into the world.

And now it is time for me to step outside into the world.  It is a scorcher out there today, in the 90’s with high humidity.  I need to get out in the garden for a little while to see what’s going on, maybe weed a bit, and check on the peppers and corn.  Everything else has been growing like gangbusters this year so I expect to find them almost ready to harvest.   (Not really.)

Then it’s back into the house for some homecaring chores.  I’ve spent a good part of the morning watching the World Cup coverage.  Way to go, USA!!!!  (They are through to the next round!!)  Congrats to England, too!!!


Stuck in a rut

I’ve been stuck in a cooking rut lately.  You’d think that wouldn’t be possible given the plethora of food available now.  I try to buy local when possible and right now local is a bountiful harvest of choices.

To give you some idea of how stuck I am, I made the above vegetarian version of German potato salad twice in one week.  Twice!  Granted, I like it and don’t mind eating it practically every day.  But I’m not sure M feels the same way.  He likes variety in his diet.  (The photo, by the way, is a little on the yellowish side, making the dish look cheesy.  There is no cheese in it.  It’s the lighting in the kitchen that brings on the yellow.)

(Pasta with broccoli rabe.)

I also have a variety of choices when it comes to cookbooks, recipes collected, and tastes.  M and I are adventurous eaters to some degree.  The caveat has more to do with me than him.  I have this thing against all things slimy.  Snails in particular, but there are other slimy choices that didn’t and still don’t appeal to me (steamed okra, for instance).  That said, I will try things (even slimy things) because it doesn’t seem right to me to give up on whole food groups (in this case the slimy food group) just because I didn’t like that sea-abalone-and-Chinese-mushroom dish that we had twenty years ago.  Tastes and palates change if you’re open to that change.

(Fish taco, bean & barley salad, fresh asparagus, and an IPA.)

But back to the rut.  I have decided to do what most people do when stuck in a rut (no, not watch the Food Network — I don’t have cable, remember?).  I have a good collection of cookbooks so I’m going to open one every week and randomly pick a recipe from the chosen cookbook.  Not to worry.  I won’t be copying the Julie and Julia thing.  I’ll be using different cookbooks rather than following one.  There was a time, almost a decade ago, when M the Elder, M the Younger, and I took turns picking out one new recipe per week to try.  We were on an ethnic kick, wanting to try foods from different countries.  My favorite at the time turned out to be Ethiopian even though the spice mixtures were labor intensive because I had to work with a mortar and pestle, not owning a food processor or coffee grinder (which has since been remedied!).  I burnt out a borrowed blender trying to grind the spices and it seemed best to do them by hand after that.

The cookbook I’ve decided to pick from this week is the  Colorado Cache Cookbook: 30th Anniversary Edition.   M the Younger and Merdi gave it to me last Christmas.  (Cookbooks are always good gifts for me and I have several on my Amazon Wish List.  Truth be told, almost ANY book is a good gift for me but I do have a special place in my heart for cookbooks.  They are slices of history, moving through the various food fads and fashions.)  As for which recipe, you’ll have to wait and see as I haven’t decided for sure yet.  I have it narrowed down to three possibilities.  I’ll let you know which one I choose and how it turns out.

In other news…

The Queen Anne’s Lace is beginning to bloom in the wildflower meadow.  Here, I’ll show you:

It seems early.  I could be wrong.  I should go back and look at my blog posts from previous years to see if I mention it.  I know I’ve posted photos of it either here or over there, at Bountiful Healing.  Ah yes, I found it and have decided to revive the old post:  Sanctuary.   Head on over and have a look.  I’ll wait.  The original was posted on July 17, 2008 so I’m right and the Queen Anne’s Lace is a little early this year.

(A view of the pond from the ‘standing stone’ on the eastern edge of the property.)

I wrote about the standing stone way back when, too.  You can find it here.  Just scroll down past the whining about the job I am happy to say I no longer have.


Sassy mint

(Mentha suaveolens — Apple Mint)

One of the first things I did when we moved to our current home was plant mint in a spot where nothing else seemed to grow.  I started with Apple Mint.  Apple Mint loved it there, thriving and spreading.  Then I cleaned out some of Apple Mint and introduced it to Unknown Mint.  (When I bought Unknown Mint it was labeled as “spearmint” but the leaves don’t look like spearmint.  In looks it reminds me of oregano or marjoram but it does have a minty scent and flavor to it.)  Unknown Mint loved it there too and got along well with Apple Mint and they have been sharing their enclosed area quite well, splitting it almost in half and mingling somewhere in the middle.  Apple Mint can be a little aggressive, but she takes off for other areas rather than bullying out Unknown Mint.  Apple Mint has even popped up in the cracks of the front porch and across the sidewalk from where she is located.

(Unknown Mint)

Off in the corner, taking up very little space, is False Mint.  False didn’t mean to be false.  It was my fault that False came to be sitting in the corner, wondering what to do with itself.  You see, my favorite mint thus far in life is Pineapple Mint.  It has variegated leaves of yellow and green and tastes of pineapple.  I bought a little pineapple mint plant when we were living in Kent and planted her in the garden out back in a space where she had room to stretch out and enjoy herself.  It was early spring when we moved from Kent to our current location.  We gathered and/or dug up plants we wanted to take with us, planted them in a space near the barn as a temporary place to grow, and then hoped they would do okay until we finished the house renovations and could get back to them.

(This is not a mint and for this post I’ve named it False Mint but that is not its real name.)

I planted what I thought was the Pineapple Mint in the corner of the area where Apple and Unknown are now thriving.  I put her there because I knew that was where I wanted the Mints to hang out.  Well, it turned out it wasn’t Pineapple Mint at all but an imposter who looks a little like Pineapple Mint (a real gardener, I’m sure, would have known the difference).  False Mint is lacking the aroma and flavor of Pineapple Mint, does not have the square stem or leaf pattern of mints, and I’m not even sure it is edible as once I realized it was the wrong plant, I gave up on it.  I never bothered to look it up, thinking the Mints would eventually overtake it and force it out.

False has been there for about seven years or so, holding on to its little corner of the patch.  Apple joined it later that year and Unknown the following year.  I’ve been looking for another pineapple mint plant since that time but hadn’t found one until this spring.

(Mentha suaveolens variegata — Pineapple Mint)

I thought about pulling False out of the mint bed.  It was a fleeting thought that was carried away by the braveness of the little plant that has held its own against the Mints.  I have never had to weed the mint bed.  Apple and Unknown won’t let the weeds in.  There is a little fairy residing in the Mint Patch but she’s another story for another time.  Lemon Verbana lived in the mint bed for a year or two until she succumbed to a harsh winter and we were left with nothing except her skeletal outlines along the side of the house.

When I look at the differences between False and Pineapple now, I don’t see how I could have made such a big mistake.  False has bigger leaves, for one thing, and the edges are smoother than Pineapple’s.  I am fairly new to gardening, having always had a black thumb rather than a green thumb.  I killed houseplants just by looking at them.  Or so it seemed to me.

I am still not a master gardener.  I don’t see that as my path in life.  But I have finally learned how to grow a few things and keep them alive from year to year.  The Mints, of course, have never needed my help.  They are experts in their field (or bed, as the case happens to be).

I made up a batch of “sassy water” today.  I can’t remember where I first heard or read about sassy water.  It’s the kind of water I would expect to be served at a spa.  It is cool and refreshing and you can practically feel it doing healthy things to your body when you drink it.  I don’t have an exact recipe but I can tell you what I put in it.

  • Mint leaves — around 10-15 of them, depending on the kind of mint.  Apple Mint has huge leaves so I don’t need much.  Pineapple leaves are smaller so I use more.   Bruise the leaves a little to bring out the flavor.  If you want to make it look fancy, add sprigs instead of individual leaves.  Your choice.
  • 1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger (if you don’t want the water to look quite so cloudy, peel and slice the ginger instead)
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 liter of water

Chill overnight, strain and enjoy throughout the next day.  I use a small strainer and strain as I pour.  When I finish the water, I eat the cucumber slices.  They are delicious, having absorbed the lemon, ginger, and mint flavors.  Crunchy, too.  Sometimes I throw them into salads.


Father’s Day Weekend

(Father and daughter enjoying an evening at Blossom.)

To all you dads out there:  Wishing you a happy and wonder-filled Father’s Day!

Yesterday was a very full day.  I spent about 90 minutes picking strawberries out at Hilgert’s farm.  I brought home a large mound of strawberries.  I’m not quite sure how many quarts are in a large mound of strawberries but I think it’s about 6 quarts.  M picked about 4 quarts of raspberries.  We’ll be making preserves later today.

The weather was hot but there was a nice breeze blowing while I was picking.  It was hard work for the old knees and back, but I didn’t really notice it until I finished and realized I was tired.  I can’t imagine doing that all day long.  When I was younger I could.  One of the wonderful side-effects from being out in the strawberry fields was having the scent of strawberries linger in my nose for an hour or two after I finished.  Lovely.

At lunch time a friend stopped by with the sammie ingredients for our picnic at Blossom that evening.  We ate lunch first, and then put together delicious sandwiches of provolone cheese, artichoke hearts, sweet red peppers, black olives, and giardiniera (using a hot giardiniera on one and mild on another). We used loafs of sourdough and roasted garlic breads, spreading on a goodly amount of pesto before adding the cheese and other ingredients.  After assembling the sandwiches we bagged them up for transport to Blossom.

The weather predictions got steadily better throughout the day.  In the morning strong storms were predicted.  By the time we left (around 3pm), the radar was clear and the chances of rain had decreased considerably.  It was hot (in the 90’s), but look at that beautiful sky above the pavilion at Blossom.

We picked up one friend at her house on the way over to Blossom and met other friends there who were wise enough to find us an excellent spot on the lawn in the shade.  We picnicked, talked, had some wine, and enjoyed a tasty dessert of strawberry shortcake (brought by the wise friends).

During the warm-up for the show Garrison Keillor and Andra Suchy walked through the pavilion and to the edge of the lawn, singing a romantic medley.

We all hoped they would come over in our direction but it was not to be.  Most of the photos I took during the warm-up and the show had to be taken with the zoom since I couldn’t hobble over quickly enough for a better close-up.

It was a most enjoyable evening.  Those of you familiar with, and who like, A Prairie Home Companion know why I like it.  Those of you not familiar with it ought to hop on over to the website and check it out.  As for those of you who don’t like it (is it possible??), you are probably related to me in some way so I will excuse you.  The cast of usual suspects (Tim Russell, Sue Scott, Fred Newman, and The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band) were great, as always.  The guests — Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Andra Suchy, and local girl Jessica Lea Mayfield — were great too.  And nobody can host a radio show (and all the parts that go with it — Guy Noir, for example), sing, or tell a story like Garrison Keillor.

Gotta love those trademark red sneakers.

Near the end of the show a large card was passed over to us from our neighbors on the lawn (who, by the way, were friendly and good sports, giving as good as they got from us in terms of joking back and forth).  The card included a note asking everyone to sign the card and then pass it along.

Rumor has it that the card was for Garrison Keillor as this was his last performance at Blossom.  I have not been able to verify that rumor.  Written on the note:

Hi  Please sign card and pass it on … When full take to stage and [paraphrasing here as I’m missing part of the note] give to usher Rick.

The wording may be off.  It’s possible it should be “give to usher.  Rick.”  It’s hard to tell from the photo.

Rumors are only rumors.  For all I know, the card is for an usher or another member of the Blossom staff who was working their last night at Blossom after years of good service.

Based on some of the messages, a lot of folks believed the rumor as they addressed their notes to Mr. Keillor and the cast.

After the show M and I came home and sat on the porch and listened to the green frogs ponging and the Great Horned Owl hoo-hoo-hooing as the bright light from the half moon peeked out from behind the clouds every now and then.

It was a full and fun day.  🙂


Exciting

Is it just me or does soccer (as we call it here in the U.S.; football to the rest of the world) seem even more exciting when the announcers are speaking in Spanish?  As some of my regular visitors may recall, M and I do not subscribe to cable television services.  Cable internet, yes.  Cable television, no.  We don’t watch enough television to make it worth our while or money.  Having cable might get us into the bad habit of watching enough (or too much).  The bonus to not having cable is that when there is a high-profile sporting event that M wants to watch, we go out and watch it in a local bar or pub with a bunch of other people (usually strangers) which makes it much more fun.

The only sporting event that I follow is the World Cup.  We don’t need cable television service for that as we can pick up Univision over the air.  I do not speak Spanish or understand more than a few words here and there.  Every four years I keep thinking some of the language might sink in as I watch the football/soccer games on Univision.  So far, no luck.  That makes it a little difficult when calls are made and I can’t understand what the announcer is saying.  That happened to me yesterday while watching Slovenia vs. USA and they didn’t count one of the goals.  I had to get online when the game ended and look it up.  But it always sounds so exciting compared to the American and British announcers on ESPN (who sometimes sound as though they’re watching golf instead of soccer/football).  And when the announcer yells GOOOOAAAALLLL!!!!! it’s pretty darn amazing.  That guy must have an incredible set of lungs.

The plan for today, if all goes well, is to go strawberry picking at Hilgert’s this afternoon and then it’s off to Blossom for A Prairie Home Companion with friends.  We’ll be picnicking and sitting on the lawn this year.  No VIP tickets as we did in 2008.  That’s okay.  I like sitting on the lawn.  It’s live radio.  I don’t need to see what’s going on (although it was fascinating to be able to watch it from front row seats and I’m glad I got the chance to do so).

(Thursday’s moon)


Strike a joint

Yesterday M started building the patio wall.  I went out to help for a little while.  M gave me the job of striking the joints.  No, not that kind of joint, you sillies.

From the Stone Glossary:

Strike:  Cut off with a trowel the excess mortar at the face of a joint.  Also known as ‘struck joint.’

The tool I used (pictured above) was not a trowel.  It is called a jointer.  The joint is the space between the bricks, and striking (or jointing) is done to finish or smooth the mortar before it hardens.  At least I think that’s what it is.  If there are any masons out there reading this, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

(It’s starting to look like a wall!)

A not-so-funny thing happened on my way out to help.  I was carrying Izzy (one of the cats) out for her roll around on the flagstone.  As I stepped out the back door I must have mis-stepped as I twisted my ankle and went falling to the ground.  Poor Izzy was so freaked out she didn’t think to run away.  Instead she ran towards the door, begging to be let back inside.  I’m fairly certain I didn’t break anything.  It’s probably a sprain.  I will try to rest it for a few days and see how it goes.  Ice and elevation have kept the swelling down and compression helps when I’m hobbling around.  I would like to avoid x-rays as I just had x-rays done on Tuesday of my left thumb (probably arthritis causing the swelling and pain) and my right knee (training for a 5k injury and the swelling keeps on keeping on).  I’ll be radioactive soon if this continues.

I have been very klutzy lately.  More so than usual.  I wonder if it’s because I spent the month of May looking up?  Perhaps I better spend the month of July looking down so I can see where I’m going.

(The floor of the kitchen at night.)


The Year of Sunsets

(Walking down the garden path.  Cleveland Botanical Garden.)

I think 2010 is going to be the year of sunsets for me.  Almost every evening the sun puts on a good show of light and colors.  “Almost” because sometimes the clouds that work with the sun in bringing us the remarkable sunsets are too thick and/or it is flat out raining.  This is also the year of big rains.

Yesterday the clouds scattered and we got to see some blue sky.  It was one of my favorite kind of days for taking pictures.

You can tell I really don’t have anything to write about today.  I’m rambling on about the weather.

We’re into the orange season of the year now (when the daylillies and other orange flowers bloom).  Daylillies are almost like weeds around here, growing in ditches along the back country roads.  It’s beautiful.

A friend suggested that we name the toad living in the toad house in the flower bed.  We have agreed that Mr. Belvedere is a good name for him.  I went out to see how he felt about it but he wasn’t home.

He must have been out and about enjoying the day too.   Or maybe he was scouting out a good location to watch the sunset.