Just Swinging


April 22 2011 026 edit_edited-1
Sauer Beckmann Farm, Stonewall Texas

This is a peaceful scene, isn’t it? My eyes are always drawn to a porch swing and, if possible, I allow myself a few minutes to sit and swing. Lazily swinging back and forth always brings back a treasured memory for me….

One of my grandmother’s older sisters lived across Highway 9 from my grandparents. Every afternoon, at the appropriate time, my grandmother would walk me across the road for a visit with Aunt Tient (pronounced like pint, only with a “t”).  She and her husband, Uncle Hayden, doted on me just as they had doted on my mother. They were childless with a lot of love to spare.

Aunt Tient and my mother, late 1940’s 

When my mother was growing up Aunt Tient and Uncle Hayden lived in Greenwood. My mother spent many hours with them with each visit being announced in the Webster County Times newspaper according to the custom of the day.  Uncle Hayden was a night police man, so he slept during the day.  Mama described Aunt Tient “tiptoeing” around during the day so he could sleep.  She was also one of the few women at that time who knew how to drive; I suspect that Uncle Hayden had taught her so she would be able to drive herself as needed. In turn she taught my mother to drive and to drive very well! Uncle Hayden loved my mother dearly, but I was always scared of him.  He had scratchy whiskers and smelled unpleasantly of chewing tobacco, plus his policeman-like demeanor made him a little gruff.  He worked odd jobs as a painter and was usually gone while I visited.  When he was there he watched television with the volume turned way up as he was hard-of-hearing.  Sometime prior to my arrival they had bought and moved into their converted duplex conveniently across the highway.

My days followed a continual pattern.  Pick and work in the garden in the morning, hang wash on the line, and begin preparations for the mid-day meal (dinner to us).  After the lunch dishes were washed and put away it was rest time.  My grandmother had been up since very early, cooked 2 meals and worked steadily in the rising heat. After resting we would turn to working on processing vegetables from the morning garden pick.  I would wait impatiently for the appointed time to call Aunt Tient to arrange my visit and then off I went.

The first order of business after my grandmother left was to have a cold Coca-Cola.  A daily Coca-Cola was forbidden in my world; my mother thought that one a week was all that a person should have.  Truth be known I suspect that she drank one every day during her visits to Aunt Tient’s! Sometimes we would be a little decadent and add a scoop of the very best ice cream in the world and have a Coke float. As we sipped our drinks she would sometimes tell me stories like the one about the day that the banks closed and people had no money.  She and her husband had $14 in cash, so they were okay until the banks re-opened.  Only many years later would I understand. I remember these times at her table as being serious talks.

After that enjoyable repast we would sometimes gather eggs from her hens, which I dearly loved helping with. Aunt Tient was terrified of snakes and always made a big issue of watching for them while we gathered the beautiful brown eggs into a basket.  To this day I pay extra for brown eggs at the grocery store just to honor her hen house.


We might also finish up a little cooking project from earlier in the day.  Living in a duplex afforded her the luxury of a cooking kitchen on one side of the house and a cooler kitchen in which to serve and eat a meal.  Jelly and jam was her speciality and I remember watching her pull the little glass jars out of the boiling water. I’m sure that like my grandmother she was also canning and freezing vegetables from her garden to be used during the coming winter months. The kitchen was very old and very hot, so I was always glad when she finished.

Then it was time to head out to the cool side porch and swing in the porch swing.  It was painted a dark green and there was always a cool breeze to be enjoyed.  While we swang back and forth she would delight me with funny stories from her and my grandmother’s youth.  She was quite a story teller and made me laugh and giggle with each tale; sometimes I would beg her to tell a particular story that I loved and she always complied.  Like my grandmother she also had boxes of pictures that she would entertain me with.  As she identified each picture she always had a story to go with it, too. Those hours in that porch swing left a lasting impression on me of good times enjoyed with family and the value of a porch swing. She also had a checkers set and delighted in telling me to “king” her!

Several times she produced a box similar in size to a blanket box and a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog. She would help me cut out pictures and attach them to the box.  I don’t remember if we used tape or glue, but that box was turned into a beautiful home or so I thought.  I suspect that both of us were very silly in our decorating.

All too quickly my grandmother would cross the road to retrieve me before beginning the evening meal (supper) preparation.  She would usually chat for a few minutes with her sister before we left.  I was always reluctant to leave, but knew that the next day would mean another visit with Aunt Tient in the porch swing.

Memories well created last a life time.

What is a Lingonberry?


Until about 2 weeks ago I had never been to an Ikea store.  My oldest grandson and I were looking for something to do and, surprisingly, he suggested we go.  I had always thought of Ikea as a store that sold inexpensive-some-assembly-required furniture.  I was in for a big surprise that was quite delightful! Well worth the hour and a half drive to get there!

Just to note in case you’re not familiar with IKEA it is a Swedish-founded and Dutch-based multinational group that does design and sell assembly required furniture as well as other home furnishings and offers complete kitchen design products.  In addition their stores feature Swedish food products. Their prices are very reasonable and I found the quality of everything to be good.

We ate lunch in their cafe which is conveniently located in the middle of the store. He suggested the Swedish meatballs and I was not disappointed! The entire meal was delicious and nicely served on real plates with real utensils and an actual glass for my drink.  My only debate was if it should be considered “pre-fab”, but I decided not to consider that question.  Just eat and enjoy.


Along with the entree and sides there was a helping of lingonberry sauce; I had never heard of lingonberries and expected it to taste like cranberry sauce as it looked identical.  But it was totally different with a mildly sweet taste that was the perfect complement to the meal. So as we shopped I picked up a jar of their lingonberry jam even though I rarely eat anything with jelly or jam.  Why not give this a try for something different?  And, the nutritional information wasn’t bad at all.


So what is a lingonberry? The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardners Association defines it as

A close relative of the cranberry and the blueberry, lingonberries (Vaccinum vitis-idaea var. minimus), usually known as the lowbush or mountain cranberry, do grow wild in the cooler regions of the United States.  

The lingonberry grows as a shiny leaved, short spreading, evergreen shrub, quite similar to the lowbush blueberry, although the branches of the plant are more tender and less woody.

picture from Wikipedia of the species found in North America


Linger just a little longer


All good things do eventually come to an end and so it was time to trim the nandinas. Before this last spell of wet, cold weather I pruned them back, but decided to save this cluster just to prolong the winter season.  I always look forward to the nandinas’ red berries around Thanksgiving. I just want to enjoy them a little longer. But no worries as they will soon start to bloom and reassure me that there will be berries to enjoy again!

Waiting to plant


Peppermint and basil – waiting to be planted. I picked these up about a week ago and kept them in the house while it was still cold.  They are now outside and I’m going to plant them this week in pots.  I’ve found that the more delicate herbs seem to fair better in the summer heat in a pot where they retain moisture. It also enables me to move them around if needed.

Now the confession:  I’ve already been plucking the basil leaves for culinary purposes. It really is my go-to herb for cooking and just for a little aromatherapy. Herbs are one of nature’s best gifts!

Fun facts about Fat Tuesday

This is a throw-back post to last year, but I am sharing it again since I know I have many new readers! Whatever you do today, have fun!

Have you ever wondered what Fat Tuesday is all about?  I wasn’t raised in a family or religion that observed the season of Lent; I didn’t really know what it was until I joined a denomination that does observe the season. Likewise, I was unfamiliar with Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras.  Since we are heading into the beginning of Lent I thought it might be fun to look at these two observances and how they came to be, especially since they were originally one and the same.

Eating pancakes and going to Mardi Gras celebrations are fun activities, but their origins are thought to have started in the Middle Ages as a way to prepare for Lent. Since eating meats, fats, eggs, milk, and fish were restricted during Lent families would have three-day celebrations beginning on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and culminating in a great feast on Tuesday.  The purpose of the celebration was to consume these items that would spoil during the forty days of Lenten fasting. By the beginning of the 20th century the celebration had been shortened to the one-day observance of Shrove Tuesday.  This term was derived from the word shrive which means to confess one’s sins and receive absolution from the priest.

So where do the pancakes fit in to Shrove Tuesday?  The English gave us this tradition of eating as many pancakes as humanly possible as a way to use up milk, fats, and eggs on hand.  It’s easy to see where the nickname Fat Tuesday came from, right?  But the Fat Tuesday nickname actually came from France as a reference to eating up all the fatty foods on that day.  Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.

Today Mardi Gras is associated with parties, parades, and revelry in the streets of many cities. It is thought that this tradition came about as a result of the Spring Equinox celebrations of the Romans and ancient pagan peoples of Europe, although many think that the celebrations began as a way to “let it all hang out” before the somber Lenten season’s restrictions mandated observance.  These pre-Ash Wednesday celebrations were referred to as “Carnivals” which is derived from the Latin term carnem levare, meaning “to take away the flesh”.  Most likely their exuberant excesses led to the Church’s decision to shorten the celebration to one day!

I hope you enjoy the fun associated with this week’s Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Carnival activities.








Vintage has been on my mind a lot lately. Vintage clothes, hats, linens, china and now jewelry. I have just a few rows to go on this crocheted shoulder wrap made of extra-fine merino wool, but my search for buttons was turning up empty. Then I found this pair of vintage clip-on earrings in a thrift store – perfect!

Who needs expensive mass produced buttons when you can have vintage clip-on earrings to hold your wrap together?

The first hint

IMG_0211 edit .jpg

With temperatures in the upper 40’s, slightly gusty wind and a grey sky the February afternoon wasn’t exactly the ideal time to work in the yard, or maybe it was.  It was time, I felt, to clean up and trim up a little as well as continue to dispose of the remains of plants that I knew would not be reappearing in the spring.

When finished I rolled the organics bin to the curb for pick up the next day and walked up the driveway with my mind far away. But this iris called out and said, “look, look at me”! There it was, all by itself, in it’s purple splendor.  Maybe spring is closer than we think!



(of weather or a period of time) characterized by strong winds.
“a gusty, blustery day”

Blustery. The word has been stuck in my mind all day and I really like it. It isn’t a commonly used word, but that’s how the National Weather Service is describing the next 2 days. Blustery.

We’ve had the most unusual winter so far. In the fall the long range forecast was for La Nina to be the influence with warmer than normal and dry conditions. I was okay with the warmer but not the dry. Well, that fell apart in December with the first cold front and snowfall.  Totally unexpected, but what fun to watch the large flakes coming down and quickly covering everything with a white blanket that remained until the next morning.


So now we’re looking at blustery with a winter-mix for the next 2 days. Preparations are being made to keep the roads open and schools have already announced closures. I’ve made taco soup today and have everything to make a batch of broccolli cheese soup tomorrow; I’m in good shape and may even make a chess pie for a little indulgence. So for tonight there was nothing to do except enjoy the chimenea and a beverage while thinking about the blustery arrival around midnight!


The New Comfort Food


I like to cook when I have the time and when the food is going to be eaten and appreciated; I find it very satisfying to prepare and serve a meal that people enjoy eating. Even after all the cooking and baking of Thanksgiving and Christmas I’m finding that January is making me want to continue – maybe it’s the cold weather or maybe I’m just hungry!

Recently I discovered spaghetti squash when it was served to me as a side dish.  I loved the taste and appreciated the fact that it is a very suitable alternative to pasta (which I dearly love). When I saw the recipe titled Tuscan Spaghetti Squash I knew it was time to try something new. The squash does take a little time to prepare, but it is not difficult (see below).  The sauce was made with whipping cream and parmesan cheese, how easy is that! All my favorite ingredients came together with the spaghetti squash: tomatoes, spinach, and garlic. And, yes, there’s bacon in there, too, but I did reduce the amount the recipe called for to keep this recipe within a healthy spectrum. The only thing missing is basil because my plant did not survive the New Year’s Day artic blast. My new comfort food!

Quick tip to prepare the spaghetti squash:

Choose a squash that has firm flesh and no soft spots or cracks and has the stem attached. Wash and place in a microwavable dish:  microwave for 2 minutes, turn, and cook another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until flesh is beginning to soften.  Cut in half vertically and scoop out the seeds (like a pumpkin). Coat with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until tender (strings should lift out with a fork).

Cool until it can be handled and use a fork to lift out the spaghetti like strings.