Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Prep

Today is a busy day for me, lots to do in the kitchen getting ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow. I kind of like this busy day in the kitchen by myself, listening to the radio and preparing all the side dishes and sauces.  Sometimes Julia is here to help (or more usually to sit and talk to me while I cook!), but she isn't flying in to DC until tonight. Brooks will be here tomorrow, along with Bob and Carol and their boys,  and our good friends Gillian and Benny.  Lots to do today, but I'm ready. Well, maybe one more stop at the grocery store...

Many of my go-to Thanksgiving recipes are from this 1999 issue of Gourmet magazine. Believe me, I treasure this old copy of Gourmet. I miss you, Gourmet.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Blooms

Well, my Christmas cactus is blooming right on schedule--during Thanksgiving week. Mine always seems to bloom early, no matter what I do, which means I will probably buy another Christmas cactus when I am in the nursery next time (because I can't resist them) and that's why I have so many Christmas cactus in my house. My new amaryllis arrived on Saturday from White Flower Farm, so I quickly unpacked it and watered it and put it in a sunny window. I'll keep you posted.

It's a busy week getting ready for Thanksgiving. I spent yesterday cleaning the house and cleaning the refrigerator, making room for the turkey and all the other food that is starting to make its way into the house. I think I've been to the grocery store every day for the past five days.

It's really really cold here right now, and we had lots of wind yesterday. My Japanese Maple was so pretty this fall, good thing I took this picture of it last week, as I think all the leaves are down now. There's not much of interest to take pictures of outside right now. We need some snow to pretty things up!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Garden Clogs

I finally broke down and bought new gardening clogs this week. I have had the same pair of green Birkenstock garden clogs for probably 15 years.  My old green clogs have cracked and the cork insoles have practically dissolved from all the years of use, and dirt and being left out in the rain.  I have tried other garden shoes but Birks are my favorite by far. They are sturdy, very comfortable, and easy to hose off.  They are pricey but I think they are worth it for all the use they get, both in and out of the garden. And they're red!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thinking Amaryllis

Today I am going to finally make my decision and order an amaryllis bulb from the White Flower Farm catalogue. Every year I get their catalogue and look through it and never buy anything. Sometimes I will pick up a bulb at the garden center, or I get one as a gift, but today I am going to choose one that I really want. I was encouraged to do this by a friend at work, who buys one every year from White Flower Farm. Now she has a collection of about 15 amaryllis that usually bloom at the same time. Wouldn't that be spectacular? These first pictures are my Apple Blossom amaryllis that I have had for a few years, and its blooms last January. It is still in the basement right now, hibernating for another week or so when I will bring it out, top it off with some fresh soil, place it in a sunny window, and wait for some signs of life. In the meantime...I am ordering a new one!

WFF groups their amaryllis bulbs by color. I had made a note in my garden journal to look for 'Green Dragon', but they don't seem to carry that one, pictured below. Of course I love that greeny-white color. Oh well.

'Green Dragon'

If I can't find 'Green Dragon,' I find myself being pulled to this simple white one with crimson edges, 'Picotee.' But alas, they are sold out. Darn.


On to another fav, the bi-colors. I like pretty much all of these, they're so dramatic.

'Dancing Queen'
'Tres Chic'

And the winner is-- 'Tres Chic." It's that apple green center that got me.  Now I just have to get online and get it ordered before it sells out. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Van Gogh at the Phillips

Beautiful Japanese Maple and Beautiful Building in Washington, DC

Walt and I went downtown yesterday afternoon to see a special exhibit at the Phillips Collection, 'Van Gogh's Repetitions.' On display were about 30 works of Van Gogh,  borrowed from museums around the world (many from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris)  and that show how he often painted different versions of the same subject. It was interesting to see the changes he made with successive paintings, adding a book here, an umbrella on a table, flowers in the background. The Phillips is a nice museum, just the right size for an hour or so of viewing. I was especially happy to see one of my favorites on display, a painting of his bedroom in Arles, titled simply 'The Bedroom.'  I wasn't allowed to take any pictures of the paintings, of course, so I have included a few from the internet. There were three or more versions of each painting on view.

'The Bedroom'

The exhibit was a joint project between the Phillips Collection and the Cleveland Museum of Art, and it will go to Cleveland after it closes in DC in January 2014.

'The Road Menders'

'La Berceuse'

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Long and Gracious Fall

A Long and Gracious Fall, by David Budbill

A long and gracious fall this year.
The leaves are down. Gardens: emptied,
manured, tilled, smooth, and waiting.
Mower and tiller serviced and put away.

Smoker put away, as is the summer table.
Prayer flags, windsocks and their poles: down.
Twenty-foot homemade badminton poles,
peace flag at the top of one, store-bought net--
all down and put away for another year. No more
outdoor summer chores.

Fall planting--peonies and tiger lilies--done.
Summer flower stalks removed, beds mulched,
a blanket for the cold. Fall pruning done.

Woodshed roof hammered down and sealed again.
Cellar closed. Drive staked and flagged so the
snowplow knows where to go.

What else is there to do? Finally, for once we are ready
for the snow. Ready now to come inside. Time now for
words and music, poems, and shakuhachi. Time now
to light some incense, sit and stare at candlelight.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sycamore Row

Just finished this latest book by John Grisham, and I enjoyed it. I haven't been a fan of many of his later books, but I guess I was in the mood for a good legal thriller. This one takes up with Jake Brigance, the lawyer we met in Grisham's first book, A Time to Kill, and in the same town of Clanton, Mississippi. The story takes place three years after the case that made Jake famous, but the controversial verdict has left him struggling and broke. This story begins when Seth Hubbard,  a wealthy and reclusive business man dying of lung cancer, hangs himself from a sycamore tree in Clanton, Mississippi.  He leaves a handwritten will leaving most of his fortune to his black housekeeper, Lettie,  and nothing to his two children. Before his death he mailed a letter to Jake, asking him to represent his wishes and to make sure that the will is honored. So begins the battle, in and out of the courtroom, as Jake and his colorful cast of legal characters try to unravel the mystery of Seth Hubbard. It's a good story, good characters, with lots of twists and turns in the story. You kind of know where it's going, but it's enjoyable getting there.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fall Clean Up Continues

Yesterday was Veteran's Day, so both Walt and I were off work. I worked outside most of the afternoon, a chilly but sunny day,  continuing to clean up the gardens and also brought in all the birdhouses and garden ornaments. I also decided to bring in all my succulents, which I store in the garage over the winter. A few are looking pretty ratty after a couple of years, so I dumped a few.

 This was a big leaf raking weekend in our neighborhood, it seemed everyone was out raking leaves on Sunday. We mulch our leaves with our lawn mower,  but most of our neighbors rake them into the street for the town to pick up. I had to laugh watching one of my neighbors rake all his leaves into a huge pile by the curb. As soon as he was finished and went into his house, two little boys who live down the street came by with a wheelbarrow. They started taking load after load of his leaves down to their own yard and dumped the leaves in their front yard.  I wonder what their father had to say about that! Of course this morning it looks like no one raked at all as there are leaves everywhere.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Fleurs: Fall

Yesterday was gray and rainy for most of the day, but in the late afternoon the sun came out and the light was beautiful. I walked around my yard with camera in hand, catching the light in the leaves, all those gorgeous colors,  and the beautiful blue sky. Have I said how much I love fall?

Thursday, November 7, 2013


This short novel is a perfectly drawn portrait of the life of an ordinary woman.   It is all the more extraordinary because it spans seven decades yet takes place in just over 200 pages.  I have read that there is not a word wasted in McDermott's fiction, and I find that to be true. Her writing is spare, perfect, every word meaningful.

Marie Commeford is seven years old when the book begins, with her observing her little world from the stoop of her family's home in an Irish American neighborhood in pre-WWII Brooklyn. She is waiting for her father to come home from work. A brief encounter with a young woman on the street hints at the themes to come.  Things happen.  A young woman suffers a fall. Her best friend's mother dies in childbirth. A bride is left at the altar. Her brother enters the priesthood. We see snapshots of Marie's childhood, her parents and her brother Gabe, her early adult life working as "a consoling angel" for the local funeral home, the excitement of her first love and then heartbreak ("Who's going to love me?" she asks her brother Gabe.  "Someone," he replies, "Someone will." We see her marry a good man, have children, and enter old age. All these snippets of a life come together to show a real life, a genuine human being.   Marie is someone you will recognize.

This is a book I didn't want to end. My first thought was that I wanted to go back and re-read it again, there were so many words and phrases that I wanted to etch in my mind.  Too often I find myself unable to remember a book soon after I read it, but I still remember scenes from an earlier book of Alice McDermott, After This, and I think this book will be the same. This is a book that stays with you.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Election Day and Ginkgo Trees

I just got back from walking up to the elementary school to cast my votes this morning. It's always kind of fun to vote,  if only because you run into people you haven't seen in years. As I walked home through my neighborhood, I was checking out the foliage and especially the little ginkgo trees that were planted all around a nearby cul-de-sac. I love to watch these little trees grow and change, and especially turn that brilliant yellow color in the fall. I seem to be noticing more and more ginkgos lately, maybe they are becoming more popular. I think they were such a great choice for street trees in a small neighborhood. I wish they were lining my street.  I really need to think about where I could plant one in  my yard...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall at the Farm

We had a great weekend at the farm, as always. Fall is probably my favorite time of the year in Pennsylvania, with all that beautiful rolling farmland and the gorgeous fall foliage, and pumpkins and gourds everywhere you look. We did our usual market shopping, buying apples and cheese, bacon and sausages, bread and quarts of vegetable soup to bring back home. I don't think anyone bought any plants, although we did stop in at Espenshades (a favorite nursery) and I think we all bought some bulbs to plant for the spring. We stopped at our favorite lunch place for sandwiches and milkshakes, went to Wilbur Chocolate in Lititz  for the usual sweets, and made a yummy dinner at the farm on Saturday night. Mainly we just had a good time being together and enjoying our favorite farm.