February 26, 2011

Do You Ever Feel This Way?

Before I assumed my roles as mother, gardener, wife (and consequently, martyr) I had a desk job.  For years I was Director of Admissions at Oklahoma City University and eventually a consultant to small, private colleges around the country.  During my stint at OCU, I worked with an extremely talented and energetic woman who headed up the nationally-renowned and super successful dance program.  She was a whirling, working dervish, rarely stopping to breathe or take a well-deserved rest.  But then Christmas or spring break would roll around, imposing an intermission, if not true respite, from her daily, frantic productivity.  

I remember her once saying that, in a way, she dreaded these breaks from the routine.  Not because she didn't enjoy getting off the gerbil wheel once in a while, but because, once the rhythm of her work and days were interrupted, she had such a hard time getting back into the groove. Such a hard time re-establishing the cadence and momentum of her 'usual' life and work.

And there, in a nutshell, is where I am.  Another trip home to Indiana interrupted my daily rhythms.  Not unlike that garden design principle of creating rhythm and pattern and cohesion by repeating a design element (be it a plant or pot or tuteur) across a space, I feel unsettled, out of sorts, and, well, discumbobulated when I get home.  My patterns and habits interrupted, my rigidity mocked, my discipline to get back on track tested.

No place is this more apparent than this blog.  A week without internet access disrupts even my cyber practices, and I struggle to get back into this ongoing conversation with you, my dears.  But back I am.

So, I ask you, do you ever feel this way, my darlings?

February 13, 2011

Lady Gaga, Leaf Litter, and Milorganite

L'il Sis just called.  "Are you watching Lady Gaga?" she snipped. "No", I said, "though I heard she's gonna show up at the Grammies in an egg."  "A uterus", she corrected me. "No, Lester Holt just said she was showing up in an EGG", I corrected HER. "Uh, excuuuussssse me....a uterus or pod", she said emphatically, then went on, "and I bet when she comes out on stage she will have some kind of umbilical cord attached." She told me this in her most obstetrical  "I am a health care professional" voice. I then informed HER that I trusted Lester implicitly and that it was an egg.  "No, I don't care what Lester said, I KNOW it is a uterus."  At which point there was no other choice than to  take her bet, at least about the umbilical cord, if not the entry vehicle.  I  suggested that we bet a breakfast tab on it sometime next week, thereby ending the squabble (seeing as I am the older and wiser sister, after all, and am often called upon to demonstrate my greater maturity and level-headedness in such circumstances).

It is hard to be me sometimes.

But you, my darlings, don't want to hear about my sibling bickering. You just want to know what I did in the garden this afternoon. Yes, it may have been -5 degrees two days ago, but today the sun was shining, the snow was melting, it was 66 degrees and gorgeous out, and so I  enthusiastically donned my hat and wellies and 

checked the buds on the azaleas and the tips of my hydrangeas for damage              from the severe cold.  Another season without my beloved hydrangeas could be more than I can bear. At this point, my jury is still out, but I am trying to be optimistic this early in the gardening year.  The ground may look wet, but I know all of that snow translated into precious little moisture, and I'll need to make sure they get enough water.

cleaned up some, but not all of the leaf debris.  I want to expose those tiny hellebore and feverfiew seedlings to the warmth of the air and sun, but not the lorapetalum and ajuga. They may resent it if it gets really cold again and I prematurely remove their blanket.  Some gardening risk, but not too much I hope.

You know what I mean, the risk of too much or too little exposure to potential threats, which, of course, leads me to thinking about my man-boys.  Whether or not I did right by them in this regard....having always been an over-protective kind of mom.  I am reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day about a mother of two sons, who, like me, is a soon-to-be empty nester.  It is a good, very sentimental accounting of this phase in our lives.  A book that would normally sound the alarm:

DANGER   DANGER  Proceed with Caution   

But happily for me, today it is sunny and spring is on the horizon.  I refuse to succumb  to  unsettling thoughts. The sun and my rising melatonin levels are making me uncharacteristically  sanguine about the future.  I find I can continue with my garden clean up and grooming without my usual heavy heart about my looming empty nest.  

groomed the pansies, tucking any that have suffered frost heave back into the soil

dug out the pesky dandelions and grassy weeds that lurk under the leafy carpet

squished  the slugs also lurking under the leafy carpet who had the audacity to survive our sub-zero temperatures

mowed up all the debris blown onto the lawn to keep it from suffocating the fescue

applied Milorganite to kick-start the greening up (fescue being a cool season grass and all...I LOVE this stuff......pellatized, organic goodness with lots of iron and just the right amount of nitrogen....that won't burn....can't be over-applied, and has that wonderful eau de manure smell I love in the spring...)

Experience tells me that after a full day of gardening, and as if on cue, Billie Joel will start singing to me from the radio about making love to his tonic and gin, and, despite drug issues and his falling out with Elton John.....I will decide that this isn't a bad idea, and head inside.

Well, he didn't disappoint.

I love days like this.

February 9, 2011

February Prunings: Bracelets, Mascara, Groupon and Hyacinths

It's been a long time.  Since I've served up a platter of PRUNINGS that is.  So if you have missed them (and I hope you have), here you go:

photo from charlotterusse.com

1.  Bracelets  I often get nice comments from people out there who watch me do my gardening segment on News Channel 4 at 4:30 and who then ask me where I get my 'cute bracelets' and things.  My friend Sunshine got me wearing bunches of bracelets years ago, mixing, as they say, high end with low end, i.e. cheap stuff with good stuff.  Soooo, my favorite place to find inexpensive (read: cheap) knock-offs of J.Crew and Banana Republic-like jewelry is probably charlotte russe, and, of course, TARGET (but you already know that).  They have really great earrings too.......won't last a lifetime, but then, neither do trends.

2.  Groupon  I am often late to the party.  My boys are college age and I just now got a Dustbuster.  I didn't get married until I was 31.  I only learned how to text a couple of years ago, and don't get me started on my use of the computer.  So it was just recently that I found out about GROUPON (click here to sign up), and their offering of "one ridiculously big coupon each day".  I have purchased both an hour long massage and upholstery cleaning at a great discount, and both services were very good.  An added incentive, for me anyway, is that it's great for small businesses and adding jobs.  The upholstery cleaning company had to add an additional three employees to handle the response to the offering. WAHOO!  (spoken like the true wife of a small business owner.)

photo from Amazon.com

3. David Sedaris:  When You are Engulfed in Flame  It's been a long winter, to say the least.  If you need a good laugh, run, do not walk, to your local library or Amazon.com to get the hilarious David Sedaris' book When You Are Engulfed In Flames (click here to order).  Better yet, get the audio version in Sedaris' inimitable voice.  It will brighten up a gray winter day, I promise.

4. Voluminous Million Lashes Mascara by L'Oreal.  What can I say?  I'm fickle.  Hands down, this is my new favorite, (per Allure or In Style or some other officious source).  Try it, you'll like it.

  5.  Buy some forced pre-potted hyacinths for your soul, and then sprinkle some rye grass seed at the base.  They are typically available this time of year (I can't tell you for certain, since I have been snowbound again) at any number of locations. I've even seen them at my grocery store.  I plan on buying a cartload of them.  I deserve it.

And so do you.  :)

February 7, 2011

CAFE PASQUAL'S Green Chile and Pork Stew

It's all a matter of degrees.  Cabin fever that is.  With another seven to twelve inches on the way, we are in for a second round of cabin fever here in Oklahoma City.  But as I was kvetching about this to L'il Sis, a winter hardy Hoosier after all, she had to one-up my cabin fever claustrophobia with her tale of getting stuck in an elevator today for fifteen minutes.  Now THAT, she told me was claustrophobia.

To quell her anxiety and keep herself from panicking, she thought of other things.  Like that hiker in the movie 127 Hours who was tightly wedged in between two slabs of rock and had to cut off his arm to get out.  (ummm, good movie choice to snuff out that panic thing, I'm thinking). Now THAT, she told me is claustrophobia.  And added that I should quit my whining. 

And so, it all becomes a matter of degrees. Being housebound or cutting off my arm.  I guess I'll choose the former and quit whining. 

If you are snowbound and likewise whining, I highly recommend not panicking and making this delicious Green Chile and Pork Stew from the cookbook Cooking with CAFE PASQUAL'S (click here to order) that you may remember from a previous post Join me at Cafe Pasqual's.


1/4 cup olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp. oregano
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 lbs. pork butt
5 quarts chicken stock
1 cup fresh corn kernels
3 lbs. russet potatoes cut into 1-inch chunks, peels on

16 fresh New Mexican or Anaheim chiles, fire-roasted, stemmed, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 squares (2 cups)

3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 corn or whole tortillas, warmed

In a lidded 8-qt. heavy pot over medium heat add the olive oil and let it heat for a moment.  To the pot add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and oregano.  Saute the vegetables, uncovered until the onions are translucent.  Put the cumin into a dry pan over low heat and toast it for one minute, stirring frequently until it is fragrant and then add it to the stew pot.  Cut the pork in half and add it to the pot, followed by three quarts of the stock.  Cover the pot.  Bring to a boil, uncover, skim off any foam, and then turn down the heat to medium-low.  Simmer gently, uncovered over medium-low heat until the meat is tender, about 2-3 hours.  (You may need to add one quart of the remaining stock at this point if too much has evaporated.)

Transfer the pork to a bowl, leaving the stock in the pot.  Skim any oil from the top of the stock and discard.  When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred the meat, then coarsely chop it with a cleaver so the shreds are no more than two inches long.  Return the meat to the pot and add the corn, potatoes, chiles, and the remaining one quart of stock.  Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about thirty minutes.  Add the salt and pepper.  Serve with warm tortillas.

Now, I must tell you, this is absolutely delish, well worth the day-long investment of time.  And the scent of cooking green chiles permeating your kitchen all day long ain't bad either.  A big pot of this doesn't last long at my house, but if your appetites are more modest, it freezes beautifully, and is even better the second day than the first.

I prefer corn tortillas with it, as well as tortilla chips and guacamole.  For other tips, I highly recommend you consult the cookbook.  It is as scrumptious as the stew.

Tomorrow, it's back to the store to replenish my pantry and fridge.  My friend, Spitfire, asks that I pose this question to you, my darling readers, and I'll let you know the results.

What must YOUR well-stocked pantry contain?  Do tell!

February 3, 2011

Snowy White Deutzia

Snowy white deutzia.  What more can I say?  Simply luverly.   Do you agree?

Oh.  I think there are a couple of David Austin 'Fair Bianca' roses poking their little heads out too.  Sigh.

February 2, 2011

Husky Tool Trug

I have issues with most garden tool carriers.  Shlupping all of that stuff from one location to another usually results in the loss of your favorite pruners or, well, the loss of some other hand tool you use all of the time.  I don't care how brightly you've painted that tool's wooden handle... that you supposedly ALSO treated with linseed oil  (does anyone really DO that?).

A plastic trug with a handle (you know, like the one you also use for your cleaning supplies?)  is way too pedestrian, and too small.  A canvas tool apron is impractical on SO many levels. That mesh, velcro-ed thing that you are supposed to secure around a large plastic bucket never STAYS up.  Besides, it also came with a heavy plastic lid that turns into a seat, for sitting and resting supposedly.  Like THAT is ever an option. On that basis alone, it lost all credibility with me.

So, just when I wasn't looking (which is also the way you find a man, by the way),  I found the perfect solution.  It was calling to me at Home Depot.  On sale for $19.99.  A husky tool carrier.

Isn't it handsome?  Tough, but lightweight.  Serious enough for REAL gardeners. But with lots of handy compartments,  like in a woman's purse.

I love the way you can use the spacious pockets on the ends for water bottles and/or your telephone or seeds.

And did I mention it was only $19.99?

I've already filled mine with gloves and pruners and hand rakes and trowels and sunscreen and bug spray.  You know the drill.

Oh, and it's waterproof.  Tough and decidedly not cutesy, which is another important criterion with me.  Along with being able to carry a lot of stuff and being handsome.  

Good qualities in both a trug AND a man, now that I think about it.

February 1, 2011

Carolyne Roehm and Slovenliness

I highlighted this passage from the eye-candy and often over-the-top, I could do that too if I had a lot of money and a lot of servants and lived in a mansion, book  AT HOME with Carolyne Roehm.

(Whom I don't admire nearly as much as I do Diane Roehme from NPR.  Still, she, Carolyne that is, is a taste maker extraordinaire, and makes EXQUISITE floral arrangements, so the book is well worth the money...an investment really, at least that's how I rationalized it.  I just thought you might want to know.)  So here it is:

"Winter brings unkind weather.  We huddle behind doors, attending to neglected tasks.  Demeter, goddess of the hearth, rules.  Activity now centers on kitchen stove and cozy fireplace.  Seasonal downtime permits reveries of the garden to come.  Flights of fancy and imagination flower.  Neglected  books become friends again.  Reorganization of everything beckons, but hibernation instincts threaten good intentions.

To which I say, "DUH."

No good intentions in this house, you betchee. I was productive and a busy bee all weekend. Now my good self (go to the basement and get on that exercise bike!)  is waging battle with my lazy, slovenly self (oh isn't it so cozy here in front of the fireplace with my trusty heating pad and Scottish rug on my lap...?).  While the day isn't over yet, guess who's winning?

I think I'll just open another yummy, but not necessarily nutritious, glitzy read:

available  here, AN AFFAIR WITH A HOUSE by Bunny Williams.  The topiaries alone will make you  light-headed.

Those headier, haughtier, more substantive books will just have to wait.

Enjoy this snowy respite, everyone.  I plan to.