Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ode to Sunday Evenings

As I pulled away from Mom and Dad's house just a little bit ago, giving my customary wave and a tiny honk of the horn, my dad's hand shot up to wave good-bye and a smile lit his face, as he sat on the cushioned bench, the late evening sun in his eyes.  That familiar scene has been replayed almost every Sunday evening of my life for over three decades.  Honestly, no Sunday is complete without a visit to Mom and Dad's.

When I was a little girl, Sundays were made for two things, church and visiting. Early Sunday afternoons were reserved for visits with my mom's parents, Julia and Roscoe.  Long leisurely drives in the country, gathering nuts in the fall, ice cream comes and playing in the backyard filled our afternoons.  Late Sunday afternoons were reserved for visits with my dad's parents, Elizabeth and Earl, where playing with cousins in the side yard, checkers with papaw, raiding the cookie jar, catching crawdads in the creek, and pestering papaw in the garden kept us occupied.

When Better Half and I began our fledgling little family, we adopted the same tradition - late morning visits with his parents and early evening visits with mine, where one never knew just which family members might show up.  Tonight's crew was a big one, with Mom and Dad sitting quietly, taking in the spirited scene.

Ivie and Orion, as little boys, were thrilled to have their grandma, EE, make cereal and cinnamon toast with orange juice for dinner.  I'm sure they believed that's what every reasonable person ate on Sunday evening. Later, the cereal was replaced by a great big pan of popcorn.  Dad always offered a cold beer or soft drink to everyone who came through the door.  Many decades of winter evenings were spent watching "This Old House" and "Victory Garden" as the boys wrestled and played on the family room floor.  Summers saw us sitting on the back porch and patio while the boys climbed trees.  As they grew older, spirited games of corn hole took place between young and old, and still do.

Now, Orion and The One have Baby Granddaughter, and Ivie has Sister Golden Hair.  They, too, as often as possible, thrill both sets of their grandparents by joining in on the Sunday visits.  Baby Granddaughter often takes center stage, playing with decades old toys and books, winning over everyone in the room with her gay demeanor and spirited banter.

Tonight was one such evening at Mom and Dad's.  As Great Grandpa did not say much during the evening, Baby Granddaughter pranced over to his recliner, from time to time, to throw him a quick little 2 year old "Hi" before resuming her play.  It was as if she wanted to keep him engaged in her goings-on.  The smile he returned was heartwarming.  Baby Granddaughter has taken a liking to tiny bite sized tomatoes.  She walked over to her greatgrandma with a simple request, "EE, tomatoes, please."  EE was on her feet as quick as could be, washing the few early baby tomatoes she had sitting on the countertop for Baby Granddaughter to happily munch.  Baby Granddaughter then wanted to play outside, so a contingent of family retired to the porch and patio to have a look.  She ran, stumbled, chased a bunny, played jungle in the weeping willow tree, and grew quite rosy cheeked in the humid air.  She and Orion and The One left shortly thereafter, when she cut her chubby little finger on a pampas grass blade.

One by one, family members made their departure.  Good byes rang out.  Good spirits reigned. Another family Sunday evening was coming to an end.

As cliche as the saying may have become,

There is No Place Like Home.

Friday, May 16, 2014

To Market, To Market . . .

This is my beloved daylily bed, safely protected from the herd of deer which freely roam the neighborhood. Over 100 different types of daylily call this 40 foot garden home, most from McMurry Gardens, featured in a post in 2012 entitled "Gifted Hands".
As the daylilies grow and multiply, it is necessary to divide the plants to help them to retain their vigor. 

Last July, I divided 24 of my favorite and oldest varieties, and replanted the divisions in a separate garden.
It was my hope, at that time, to, one day, sell them at a Farmer's Market, 
never believing I would actually do it.

This week, with Baby Granddaughter in tow, I made my way to the office of Main Street,
local sponsor of one of the community's Farm Markets.  There, I requested an application for
the Farmer's Market.  All at once, the director asked what I intended to sell and indicated she
would spread the word in her newsletter.  Whew!  That was a quick decision.

Tonight, in the cold, soaking wet garden, I set about lifting 21 dayliles out of their garden homes.  I planted them in temporary pots, gave them a good drink of water and labeled each one.  

Tomorrow, they will make their way to the Farmer's Market, along with me, a makeshift display of sorts, and a sampling of felt fruits, vegetables, flowers and breads from the Felt Farm Market.

Dreams, be they ever so humble, do come true! 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Of Weddings and Wildflowers

I traveled to a wedding today, some 35 or so miles from home,
 passing the Shawnee State Forest on my way. 
 The forest called to me,
inviting me to come have a quiet shaded drive
 through her magnificent spring green canopy.

The wedding was lovely, though, as I cast my eyes about the church, 
I knew only two people assembled there, the bride and her mother.
At that moment, I decided to forego the reception,
give in to the forest, 
and indulge in that quiet shaded drive.

While the canopy was gorgeous, 
it was the wildflowers that drew me from my trusty Suburban,
over and over again,
in wedding attire,
to capture their stunning beauty.
Against the brown remnants of last year's leaves, 
And the just sprung-from-the-earth green foliage,
the tiny, fragile, intricate blooms shone.

Thanks to Roads 19 and 4 for the spectacular show.

 Hispid Buttercup






Ladyslipper Orchid
I would loved to have captured the front side of the orchid,
 but poison ivy and wedding shoes prevented me from doing so.

White violet


Friday, May 2, 2014

Asparagus Bacon Pizza

Homemade pizza on Friday nights is something of a tradition on the North Forty. Asparagus fresh from the garden rounds out most meals for several weeks each spring. Tonight, as Better Half and I debated dinner, he jokingly suggested combining two favorites, asparagus pizza.

The idea of a regular pizza topped with asparagus held little appeal. However, the idea of pizza topped with Alfredo sauce, cheese, asparagus and bacon sounded altogether luscious. Hence, the Asparagus Bacon Pizza was born. Hat's Off to Better Half for the suggestion.

Let's get cooking!

The pizza crust is easy to pull together.

1 package of active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water  Pour yeast mixture into mixing bowl. Add flour, salt and olive oil. Stir by hand until a rough dough is formed. Using kneading attachment,  mix with electric mixer until dough forms a ball. Knead for 5 or 6 minutes. If you don't have a kneading attachment, you may complete this entire process by hand. You want a shiny, smooth ball of dough at this point.


Pour a tiny bit of olive oil into the bottom of a mixing bowl.  Put in the dough, turning to coat all sides with oil. Cover and rise in a warm place one to 1 1/2 hours.

While the olive oil is handy, pour 2 tablespoons into a tiny bowl and add a large clove of smashed garlic.  The garlic flavored oil will be brushed onto the pizza crust before it is parbaked.

While the dough is rising, gather together the other ingredients for the pizza.  I had on hand Asiago cheese, about 3 ounces, and provolone cheese, about 4 ounces.   You may use whatever cheeses you like on pizza. These cheeses happened to be in my refrigerator.  Parmesan Reggiano cheese will be used for the Alfredo sauce, 1/2 cup, and also as the last ingredient to top the pizza, approximately 1/4 cup.

The best Alfredo sauce is, to me, the most simple sauce.  With the aforementioned Parmesan Reggiano cheese, you will use 1/2 cup whipping cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and a dash of both salt and pepper. Heat the cream and butter in a saucepan over the merest simmer until it begins to thicken.  Add the grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese just before using, and season with just a tad of salt and pepper. Stir until the sauce is smooth and has thickened.

Fry 4 slices of bacon which has been cut into small pieces until almost brown and crispy.  The bacon will finish browning as it bakes in the oven.

And, now for the piece de resistance.  Choose several asparagus spears.  If the spears are thick, slice them in half lengthwise.  Then cut each spear into slices about an inch to 1 1/2 inches long.  It is best if the pieces are fairly uniform in length and thickness.

Drain all but a couple teaspoons of oil from the pan in which the bacon was fried and add the cut asparagus. Saute for about 2 minutes over medium heat, just until the asparagus has deepened in color.  Remove from pan and place on plate to prevent further cooking.

By this time, the dough should have risen to double its original size.  Punch down the dough and roll into a rough circle about the size of a pizza peel.  Fold over the edges all around, forming a crust.  Transfer the dough to a peel which has been liberally sprinkled with yellow corn meal.

Brush the crust with the olive oil garlic mixture you created several steps above  Bake crust in a 450 degree oven on a pizza stone for about 3 minutes.

The crust will look like this once it has parbaked. Time to assemble the pizza. Spoon the Alfredo sauce onto the crust. Top with the 4 ounces of chopped provolone and the 3 ounces of grated Asiago cheeses. Spread the asparagus and bacon evenly across the crust, so you get a taste of each with every bite. Sprinkle with Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

This is how your pizza will look just before it is baked.  Return to the the 450 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust has browned nicely and the toppings are bubbly.  

The finished pizza!!!  Better Half gave it a two thumbs up!  So did the cook!  The combination of flavors is wonderful.  The best of both worlds - Friday night pizza and fresh asparagus from the garden.


Monday, March 17, 2014

An Irish Wish

May there always be work for your hands to do,
May your purse always hold a coin or two.
May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane,
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!