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I know, that’s not quite how the song goes, but it’s close. This birthday was one of those birthdays that got overshadowed by EVERYTHING else. It always plays second fiddle to the groundhog thing.

This year it also fell on a Sunday – and not just any Sunday, but Super Bowl Sunday. Our church does a “Soup-R Sunday” on that day, with a hot soup & chili lunch following morning worship, then an afternoon devo, and dismissal in plenty of time to head home or to a watch party before the pregame starts.

By the time we left and swung by the grocery store for snacks and then headed home, it was 3:30 in the afternoon; a cold, gray 33 degrees and raining. All the signs pointed to hibernating more than celebrating. We quietly settled in and watched the Big Game – just Middle Son, Mr. Official and moi (and the dog and cat.) Swimmer Girl couldn’t come home this weekend, and Oldest Son had other plans too. The Big Game was a big dud – I’m sure Peyton is more disappointed than we are, but it was a hard game to watch. After the game ended, we watched The Greatest Game Ever Played, a Disney-fied treatment of the matchup between Harry Vardon and Francis Oiemet in the 1913 U.S. Open. Just before midnight, we turned out the lights and called it a day.

So that was it. End of story. No cake, no ice cream, no candles, no hoopla, no nuthin. Well, okay. Not exactly “nothing.” You see, I had been eyeballing some new (to me) vintage dishes on eBay, and the countdown clock was winding down on them. So my birthday present to me consisted of successfully snagging four new pieces of dishware.

1. A (fairly rare) individual French casserole with lid. I doubt I’ll find any others – at least not for $20.
HLOvenServeFrenchCasserole2
2. A larger casserole with lid in an unnamed pattern that goes well with my orange pieces:
casserole marigolds
3. A mixing bowl in the same pattern. Funny how you can be blissfully unaware something even exists. And then when you become aware of it, you see it everywhere. Such is the case here: the bowl and casserole will bring the total in my collection to four pieces.  If you spot any other pieces with this pattern, I’m now on the lookout.
marigolds bowl
4. A third vintage carafe in radioactive red, which will join the green and cobalt blue carafes in my collection. Coincidentally, this one was sold by someone from our old hometown in Oklahoma. Small world, after all.
red carafe
Here’s hoping all the pieces arrive intact (that’s the biggest concern with vintage – everybody loses when they don’t make the trip in one piece.)

So now you see, it was a pretty happy birthday after all.

Happy Wednesday,
Terry

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There are many things that make the South charming and endearing.  When I started writing this post, I forgot I did a similar ode to the south almost three years ago. I found it after I finished the draft and compared them.  Some of these are similar, but most are additional things that I find particularly wonderful about my adopted region:

  1. My hairdresser’s salon is attached to her house. I can show up in sweats without  a stitch of makeup, and there’s no judgment. Occasionally I bump into other mutual friends. (It does bear more than a passing resemblence to Truvy’s Beauty Spot.)14864.10.570.359
  2. You can drive down a city street and see a subdivision with huge homes on one side and corn and cotton fields on the other.
  3. Short winters and long summers. Spring and fall are optional some years.
  4. We do sports. I saw this sign recently and I had to chuckle. No surprise it’s made by someone in Smithville, just a few miles away.il_570xN.467823452_ccv0
  5. People pull over for funeral processions. No matter how busy you are or where you’re going, you’ve got a minute to pull over and pay your respects and ponder your own mortality for a moment.
  6. Exploring the nooks and crannies in towns with two names, like Bell Buckle and Leiper’s Fork
  7. We know all about okra. And a thing or two about green tomatoes. And grits.
  8. Just when you need it, someone will hold open a door or hold your baby. Or both.
  9. No matter where you are in the south, the beach is never more than a day’s drive and often less.
  10. Southern Rock. Ever heard anyone brag about Northern Rock or Yankee Rock? Me neither.

I hope no matter where you live, that you love many things about living there. If you don’t love where you live, you might try the South. Just bring your manners and your appetite and you’ll fit right in.

Happy Monday,
Terry

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The love of gardening that is.

Any gardener will tell you that the honeymoon phase of gardening doesn’t last long.   Once the plants are in, there’s weeding, watering and nurturing to do, year in and out. Unless you have a cadre of gardeners to tend to your flowers and plants, you don gloves and sunscreen and spend a lot more time on hands and knees than you do standing back admiring your handiwork.

Speaking from a “few” (cough) decades of personal experience, there’s nothing romantic about gardening in Southern soil.  In fact, I would argue it’s not even soil; it’s just nasty, heavy, slick red and gray clay. Almost greasy when it’s wet and forms rock-hard clods or bone-dry silt when it dries, depending on what you did to it when it was wet. My garden beds have a voracious appetite for organic matter and they seem to devour it almost as fast as I can apply it. I hear-tell that Southern sandy soil is nearly as nasty and twice as hungry and thirsty.

I carefully applied a dozen bags of pine fines and mushroom compost around each perennial last week, and I’m happy to report that most of my transplant/refugee plants are taking off and growing like gangbusters.

IMG_3432

After I finished with all those bags, I realized I need a lot more than that to get the beds topped off this year.  So I talked Mr. Official into getting a load of bulk compost over the weekend.  And by load, I mean 1 1/2 cubic yards.  That’s a lot of ummmm, “stuff” if you catch my drift.  And speaking of drift…

Oh my word.

As I pitch forkful after forkful of this steaming stuff, from big trailer to small trailer to garden beds, my mind conjures up all sorts of obscure adjectives.  Words you just don’t hear every day.

Redolent.

Pungent

Effluvius.

Odoriferant.

Miasmic.

Putrid.

The list goes on.

I’m just glad plants can’t smell, because this would be an intolerable situation to grow in if they could.  And if you visit my garden in the next few weeks, I probably won’t encourage you to lean in close to sniff the flowers.  But it did put me in mind of the old poem penned by Frank Lebby Stanton, a Charleston SC native and longtime journalist for the Atlanta Constitution:

“This old world we’re livin’ in

            Is mighty hard to beat

We get a thorn with every rose

            But ain’t the roses sweet?”

Happy Monday,
Terry

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As I started this post, I was thinking about the Super Bowl and Beyonce’s “performance,” and wondering why one of the world’s most sought-after and well-paid entertainers would want to grind and gyrate like some pole dancer in a sleazy dive.  She can certainly dictate her own terms as to what, when and how she will perform. She doesn’t need to prostrate–or prostitute–herself to get the  job.

Ah, well–it’s a sad mystery and I guess it will remain that way.  If entertainers and the networks think that’s what the majority of their viewers and fans want, that says something pretty sad about all of us.  Rant over.  The Super Bowl was–as usual–a good excuse to hang out with friends, but the details of the game are already hazy and the entertainment wasn’t exactly memorable.

January blew by in a whirlwind of weather and frenzied activity around here.  Our weather ran hot and cold, tornadic and snowy…and that was just last week.  Weather notwithstanding, we have all had extra-curricular schedules that kept us from having much downtime, and the first 30-plus days of 2013 simply sped by.

The one calm spot in the midst of our helter-skelter schedule last week was the unexpected surprise of a weeknight dinner with all three of my children.  Oldest Son stopped by on Thursday just as I started preparing tortillas for tacos, and I got to hear brothers and their sister teasing and talking as they set the table, made iced tea, stirred the beans and prepared to tuck into the towering stack of sizzling hot tortillas.  I couldn’t help but think how many weeknight meals slipped by unnoticed when they were all living at home…and how I took them for granted.

The week ended on a high note, Phil did not see his shadow on Saturday morning, and neither did I.  My “boys” treated me to a dinner at the Melting Pot for my birthday that night, and we shared a lot of laughs over the steaming fondue pot, the perfect counterpoint to the deep freeze that  has come our way.   I’m hoping that winter finishes its business and gracefully gives way to spring a few weeks earlier than average.
February will be short, but I plan to make it sweet, too.  I’m getting my bake  this week with some sweet-and-salty peanut butter cookies (recipe on Friday) and maybe a king cake to celebrate one of the more family-friendly aspects of Mardi Gras.  I’m hopeful this is the month I will actually get my new lighting hung, and maybe make some headway on our closets. What’s on your to-do list over the next three weeks?

Happy Monday,
Terry

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Happy birthay, America!

I’m taking the day off (well, not entirely, but at least with a few things.)  The weekly crop report is coming up Friday and I’ve got a yummy recipe ready for next Wednesday.  And maybe some porch pictures in between.

I hope all my American friends have a safe and patriotic day remembering how it all began, and why we still swell up with pride when we see the star-spangled banner still waving over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Happy holiday!
Terry

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Gardening for Birds

Gardening for Birds was written by a gardening friend across-the-miles, and fellow writer (and one mean baker!)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Terry

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I distinctly remember our very first vegetable garden.  I planted it in the tiny patch of yard behind our duplex the year I was pregnant with our oldest son.  We both swelled up huge that summer – it was beginner’s luck, but far from charming or charmed.  Ms. Winnie (an elderly neighbor) slipped in and harvested vegetables when I couldn’t.

I think she told herself she was helping me by helping herself to the abundant crop.  And she probably was, although it was interesting to see an 80-year old commit criminal trespass and theft.

I tried again next year when we rented a house in Oklahoma.  (What a difference a year makes – new baby, new residence, new garden.)  It was an epic fail thanks in large part to our neighbor Stan, who emptied his pool and flooded my garden. Thanks, dude.

The third garden was a bit more permanent, a 20 x 30 plot on ground that we and the bank co-owned.  But the third time was not the charm.

We lived there for nine years, and I attempted a vegetable garden at least a half-dozen times.  The reasons for my failures were varied:   Oklahoma is absolutely torrid in July and August.  Baby boy #2 came along. Finishing up two business degrees and starting the corporate grind while juggling a young family consumed my time and energy. Allergies and asthma plagued my respiratory system.  Baby girl came along.  Somehow in those years I did harvest a few good crops of strawberries, peppers and tomatoes .  And we fought the good fight against the Johnsongrass and Bermudagrass that spread their misery in the loose dirt whenever I turned my back.

When we moved to our next home, the best I could manage was to discreetly tucked a few tomato and strawberry plants among the roses in our next garden, and hope the HOA wouldn’t see them.  But I don’t count it as a bona fide garden.

The fourth garden was at our last home, where we had an acre to roam.  During the first winter, I excitedly ordered vegetable seeds.  As soon as it was warm enough, I talked Mr. Official into jumping on the square-foot gardening bandwagon with me.  We built a dozen 4×4 squares and filled them up with dirt and seedlings. Over the next ten summers, my vegetable garden enjoyed a few years of modest success, but also several frustrating failures.  Heat and drought, along with poor, thin clay soil and a less-than-friendly relationship with a neighbor combined to keep me and the garden from achieving our full potential.  The last few years we lived there, my gardening efforts were half-hearted at best.  I thought I had lost my gardening muse for good.

And yet here I am again, planting my fifth garden plot.  I am determined (really!) to make it pretty and funouthouse tool shedctional. To stick with it even when the weather gets hot and sticky.  To have a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, beans and peppers, okra and lettuce, even carrots this year.  Will this be the year my efforts are rewarded? Is the fifth time the charm?

I hope so. It looks promising so far.

The outhouse tool shed has been put into its new permanent home.

The potatoes are planted.

The tomato and pepper seedlings are in, along with vegetable and flower seeds.  We’re now braving a tiny cold snap, and I’m waiting to see if the new seedlings survive. If not, I have extras on hand to replant.

I guess it’s true:  hope springs eternal; now we’ll see if my zeal abandons me once again, when the going gets hot and sweaty. Or if my inner “garden fairy” sticks it out and we see this garden through to first frost sometime next fall.

Here’s to gardens and the gardeners who plant and tend them.  We’re nothing if not perennially optimistic.

Happy gardening,
Terry

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