It’s no wonder I can’t scrub the stain from under my nails. I’ve improved the soil here over the years till its almost dark as coffee—black, no cream. And every spring/summer day I’m in awe of how the weeds just eat it up. Somehow weed-pulling in earnest feels easiest when done with bare hands—no thought for lady-like nails.
Yesterday I pulled the mother-of-wild-onions. No intent toward competition like mine’s bigger than yours, I actually measured it: thirty-six inches from about-to-flower top to bulbous root and strings. Wild onions are easiest rooted out when ignored till tall and tough. I couldn’t ignore handfuls of healthy almost-seeded others where weeds had been snatched only a day earlier—and days and months before. I wonder what possessed me to glance Heavenward and think “Thank you for watering my gardens.” Had I forgotten? Weeds flourish among the flowers– especially when well-watered.
Still, the daily eye-popping surprises are wondrous–many old faithful friends (some passed down through generations of care) and some, 2013 fall’s new plantings. My lavender clematis (proper name of which escapes me)—way clingier and climbing than last year, flaunted several blossoms instead of only one. Then another clematis crept in under the bank of vines sprawling the length of the patio railing and there it lay—in single-blossom purple glory on the concrete floor! Pretty as a picture.
The old rose we planted twenty-three years ago (in honor of our 40th wedding anniversary) surprised me in June as I had thought it a goner. One perfect hot-pink blossom, when full out, defied the support of its spindly stem. So I cut it for indoor display, stuck it in a skinny crystal bud vase and supported it with Mock Orange sprigs from the old faithful bush my dad (Thanks, Pop!) had rooted for my yard—a heritage from my childhood home. Setting the fragrant bouquet down, I could not refrain from bursting forth a snatch of the tune my husband always sang to me when I could not, for the life of me, recall the rose’s name: “Unforgettable . . . that’s what you are . . .” I’ve wondered how that stuck in the mind of a man who admittedly didn’t know begonia from verbena. But my music-man, wonder-of-wonders, always had it on the tip of his baritone tongue.
Today I took him a small pot with two—almost three—red Gerbera Daisies in bloom. Minus a few weeds, a temporary enhancement to his red/white/ & blue mini garden. Mini red and white roses already in full bloom grace our memorial site—perfect timing to honor the dear deceased patriot—lovable/loving/UNFORGETTABLE father of my children. Bless us one and all!
Nature in itself holds marvelous lessons and if you are lucky, an artist of natural talent may take a huge chunk out of his day to show you in detail how he creates. That’s exactly what happened today in the natural habitat of one friendly former music-teaching colleague who has thoroughly synchronized hobby and sales in a unique art form. He and his partner produce time-intensive house and garden products called Leaf-‘crete. They showcase the products in many unusually creative ways and locations throughout the extensive landscaping and on building exteriors.
I had assumed we were going there just to deliver a few fresh fig leaves from which specific items are to be created. But to my delight, we got up-close viewing, details of the creative process, and actually handled all manner of items like patio tables (set on metal stands of varying heights)–permanent duplications of Elephant Ears–bright green. Burdock, we were reminded, was a traditional Italian food–staple or treat, I’m not sure, but I had heard of it through in-laws. I will display one now even though my only personal knowledge of burdock was in the dried stage when outside pets encountered the burrs that clung painfully to their coats.
On every Leaf-‘crete tag we could read the name of the plant leaf from which it was designed. We tried on pendants, one of which I identified as a geranium leaf ‘though the color is an iridescent autumn rust. That beauty on a black cord currently hangs around my neck. Other petite leaves–magnet style–will find their way into Christmas ’13 stockings. Among the unexpected gems, we discovered irresistible leaf oil lamps. We paid attention to suggestions for safety and wick adjustment and can hardly wait to see them lighted and gracing little tables inside or out as the season dictates.
This is Pennsylvania’s time of year to shine big-time and parts of route 80 are already decked out in royal bright color contrasted with green. Days later, the reverse drive to the east should be even more of an eyeful. However, what artists and creative genius can do with leaves has been an unexpected discovery. One of lasting beauty.
Was I missed? Probably not since cyberspace is filled to overflowing with words, many of which strike me as inconsequential as anything I might have written during this lengthy hiatus from my blog site. Why the keyboard vacation? I’m thinking technology glitches and company changes provided my best excuse. I have been inspired dozens of times, but the thoughts and observations that never felt the business end of a pen had not a faint chance of making it to a keyboard.
Herein lies an exception scribbled on a tablet : “I Heard a Forest Praying . . .” Actually, I Saw a Forest Praying over and over and heard the music in my head–in three-part harmony, just like I remembered it written for a women’s choral piece. Visiting my older daughter over a week, I experienced this exhilarating sight on an extremely windy spring day. Sitting at her kitchen table close to the sliding glass door, how the strong winds did sweep across the backyard edged by woods!
The lower branches bowing simultaneously like giant green fans–kept me entertained for long moments at a time. I cannot know about the praying part, but I am very sure any queen would have felt honored from slipper to crown at the deference–the bowing–of those trees in concert. I was reminded of my own backyard view with lilac hedge as a backdrop. The show of lavender and white beauty arrived earlier in April than ever. short-lived, but generously fragrant. But alas, only a forest in passing brought music to my ears. Lilacs don’t bend at all.
Yes, I start my welcome to spring mentality well ahead of the calendar date. Fall of 2012 saw me planting a whole lot of anticipation for the debut of the current season. It’s a wonder I haven’t looked the new bulb shoots right into the ground. Initially it appeared as if all I had to show for my backbreaking labor were HOLES. The ones I had dug in preparation for new tulips, crocuses, and dozen of other newbies from the Dutch collections. I could just picture the year-round resident rodents eating fresh green dollar bills. A BIG pile of them. To my delight, and despite the feasting–free to the squirrels–green shoots continue to poke up between the snows–a couple in the past three days.
It was not a harsh winter, but no matter, my patience had taken leave early. Imagine my shock and awe at seeing a cluster of purple blossoms–weeks ahead of March. A new variety to me, blossoms daintier in size and resembling a bouquet.
Even with the snows melting–again–the giant crocus alongside my driveway have not yet surfaced. But as the inspiration for my first, ever, nationally published work for pre-school/kindergarten children, here I share my 6-line ACTION TIME featured poem which appeared in the March 1998 Turtle magazine as a 2-page spread whimsically illustrated in full color.
Mariam Davis Pineno
Whoever would know
That buried in snow
Lie secrets to make a heart sing?
Yellow, purple, and white–
My, oh, my, what a sight
Are the pop-up flowers of spring.
I never get tired of unearthing that issue of Turtle and seeing how beautifully the poem and the artist’s illustration worked together. Over 300,000 subscribers read my work, I received ten “contributor copies” (at $1.25, each) and a $45 check which I copied to frame and hang beside my computer desk. When shortly afterward I happened onto a teapot with matching cup and saucer, you can see why I couldn’t resist that $60 permanent porcelain reminder of my arrival as a children’s author.
I’ll save my second Turtle poem for a blog in April, the month (same year) in which it was published. What’s not to love about ducklings and puddles–JUST for FUN?
If you were expecting an old-time cake recipe, stop reading now. What I want to show you is a bit of history and the end result of a few hours work back in the 40s when folks had no choice but to bake and take church-affair offerings made from scratch. My mother was expected–every time–to show up with this tantalizing beauty–as tasty as it looked.
So she did.
I found a cookbook photo so like her finished cake–missing only Mom’s signature “flower” on top for decoration. Edible, of course. The fresh orange segment photo’s mine, the fruit from CA available year ’round, unlike when I still lived at home and oranges were a luxury.
Here I’m including only the two recipes which made a plain two-layer cake a standout: The filling and the icing. I’m guessing a box mix of either white or yellow cake would be a fair substitute for the original which called for sifted cake flour.
CLEAR ORANGE FILLING
Mix together in saucepan . . .
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. grated orange rind
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter
Bring to a rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Chill before using as a filling between cooled cake layers.
DOUBLE BOILER FROSTING (7-minute)
Combine in top of double boiler . . .
2 egg whites (1/3 cup)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 cup of water
Place over boiling water and beat with rotary beater until mixture holds its shape.
Fold in . . .
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
When cool enough, spread over sides and top of cake which has orange filling between layers. Gently press flaked or regular coconut into icing all over. Arrange fresh orange slices on top for garnish/decoration.