Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sitting With Leonardo Da Vinci

My grandson Moses walked into the kitchen on Thanksgiving eve and thrust these at me. My first bouquet from him. He was so proud of himself.

How do you describe a tornado? Loud, chaotic, life altering. And after it passes? Calm, silence, debris everywhere. Welcome to Thanksgiving at our little house. I was SO FRAZZLED after two days of preparing and cooking that I forgot to photograph all the food, I forgot to photograph us all crammed into the dining room, and I forgot some of the goodies warming in the oven. Oh well.

The kitchen was clean, the cupboards and refrigerator crammed, and the preparations began (two days before Thanksgiving).

On T-Day, I got up early and fed the tame scrub jays...

...and set out a cut apple for my very spoiled mockingbird.

New candles in the holders and Great Grandmother Abby's gravy boat at the ready.

Grandmother Lovejoy's and my mom's silver all polished and ready for work.

Pressing leaves for place cards and table decor. My granddaughter Sara uses gold and silver pens to write names on these. I have dozens of leaves drying in this huge, old dictionary (our family friend for many years). Oh, and you can't do this with an e-book!

At sunrise, I ran out into the garden for fresh bouquets of scented Pelargoniums (from Mountain Valley Growers); every time someone brushes against them they waft their scent through the dining room.

Table set, bouquets arranged, what am I forgetting?

Oh, that's right...Leonardo...where are you? Leonardo Da Vinci has been our booster seat of choice for two generations. I think he would approve, and you can't do that with an e-book either!

I'm just happy doing the simple tasks that are time consuming, but also so satisfying.

Golden beets roasted. Gosh, I'm so organized and calm. Then... girlfriend Ginny, who is starting to wash the fresh turkey says, "I thought you bought a fresh turkey." "WHAT!, " I yell.  "Of course it's fresh. I ordered it two weeks ago." 
"Well this is FROZEN STIFF," she said. "It will take a few days for it to thaw." PANIC MODE.

Jeff and Ginny run back to Scolari's for a new fresh turkey (their refrigeration unit had gone haywire) and now Ginny is preparing HER stuffing (mine differs), and Jeff is brushing up on how to cook in our solar oven. Nothing like experimenting on unwitting guests. The turkey is in the oven and the kitchen is beginning to sing.

Some garden bounty and that octopus fruit? It is a Buddha's hand citron, which is believed to bestow good luck on a home. 

A perfect day for roasting a ham and cooking a big pot of grains. Jeff sets the solar oven (from Solar Cookers International) at an angle to catch the rays of the autumn sun.

The solar oven holds two large, covered, dark enamel pots, which help retain the heat. The cooker has a thick,  clear lid made from recycled bottles. The temperature stayed at about 225 to 250, which is about what a slow cooker does, but this uses NO electricity or gas. I love it.

P.S. This is in response to a few letters and comments from my blogging friends. It worked GREAT. It truly is just a slow cooker. We put the food (5 pound ham and large serving of Kashi 5 grains) in at about 10 A.M. We removed the food at about quarter to 4 and the sun had moved away from it an hour before, but the food was still hot. All cooked up beautifully. I have lots more experimenting to do. One problem, when you life the lid to check on the progress of the cooking, the temperature drops by about 50 degrees. It takes awhile for it to go back up. Does that answer your questions? Oh, and there are solar cookbooks available that will make it much easier for you.

Max, Gen, and Jeff help with the 3 pounds of green beans...or is Max snacking on his beans?

Gen and Andrea spice up the kitchen decor.

Moses picks up the masher and carries on a tradition once done only by his dad.

Ok, so here is where I failed in the serious chronicling of our wild Thanksgiving. By the time I sat down and we held hands and said why we were grateful, well, the camera wasn't on my mind. Just food. Aching feet. The cacophony of laughter and toasts. What you're seeing here is a stained tablecloth and the young'uns relaxing (they're excellent at that) after supper.

All the guests except Ginny left. The house quieted. The stacks of dishes teetered on the counters. The worm bucket overflowed (I'll have such happy worms).  I stood in front of the refrigerator and wondered where in the world I could stuff the leftovers that the kids didn't take. And outside? It was dark and chilly,  and the mockingbird was silent and sufficiently full of apples. We started a big fire and collapsed.  I felt like, and probably looked as bad as, what the mocker left behind.

I hope your holiday and your weekend were superb. I need to refuel and get ready for the next round. In the meantime, I will be working on my new bird book and also on some stories for Lowe's Outdoor Living magazine and some book reviews for an on-line store. Stay tuned and stay in love with the crazy wheel o' life.


Monday, November 22, 2010

My Fickle Heart

Although this is an origanum, it is not edible, but it is delectable. This is origanum 'Kent Beauty.'

Promises I made when we moved into our new house:

1. I'll always wear gloves when I garden.
2. I'll buy only edibles and natives for the garden.
3. I won't buy any more terra cotta pots. (We moved 3 back breaking truckloads into our new garden)
4. I'll try to restrict my color palette.
5. I won't garden in my nightgown anymore.

So let's step through my garden gate and do a reality Check (see below)

Found this old iron "TRADES" gate at an antique shop.

Gloves are worn for 5 minutes and then end up lost in the garden or on the potting bench.

Oops, a nightgown for gardening. Bad habits are hard to break.

Euphorbia 'Sticks on fire' is neither an edible nor native, but it is gorgeous and fills in a tiny and ugly empty spot at the bottom of the kitchen steps. Uh oh, guess that tall pot is new.

More new pots, but don't they set off the entry to the potager?

These two are HUGE. Yes, they're new since moving here, but who could resist them? I don't buy clothes, but containers? They are irresistible. I just emptied them of their summer bounty and am getting ready to replant for the winter. 

I'm ok on one count here-the tall plat on the left is a native elderberry, which is going to be planted along the wall in our back garden. The short plant beside the elderberry is a mini-fuchsia thymifolia, which obviously earned its name for the tiny, thyme-like leaves. This plant is neither native nor edible, BUT, and this is a big BUT, it is a great favorite of the hummingbirds.

This begonia isn't native, isn't edible, and I don't yet know if it is attractive to hummers. 

So now you KNOW that I am fickle about gardening, but never fickle about shopping farmer's markets every week. They depend on us and we depend on them. 

Join me for a visit to the Ojai Farmer's Market in Ojai Valley. This is one of my favorites and I love to stock up when I visit there. This past weekend three of my best girlfriends from middle school met me in Ojai for a slumber party. The Farmer's Market was high on our list of "have-to-dos." Lots of photos, but this is a feast for the eyes as well as a feast for your soul.

Olive wood cutting boards. YIKES, they are gorgeous.

Inextricably bound...aren't we? Farmers and cooks, gardeners and cooks? 

I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving with friends and family. 



P.S. Drop by for a visit to my Lowe's Blog posting about decorating with naturals from the garden. No matter where you live these are ideas you can translate to your own surroundings. And won't you leave me a comment about how you decorate with naturals? Check out Lili at Fearless Nesting who has jumped into the fray and is using pine boughs for her decor.