Category Archives: Home and Garden

Dogwood Love And Lore

Dogwood

Dogwoods are my favorite. I have loved the lore that surrounds them since I was a kid.  And I have come to love them more now that they bloom so beautifully in my yard.

I can’t believe the blossoms have nearly come and gone. I look forward to them every spring.  And thanks to our crazy winter everything seems to be blooming on a delayed schedule, so gratefully they have stuck around longer than expected. Joy!

I have forgotten how much I love the stunning white blossoms, the petal-tip crimson detail, and the beaded center head.  It still gives me chills to see them in full bloom as the words of the dogwood poem ring in my ears.

Coincidence that it comes alive at Easter? Probably not.

Coincidence that I have adored the tree from the west coast only to find that it is the official flower of my adopted state? Not likely.

Coincidence that Jason planted them so I can see their glory from the kitchen? No way.

While I am sad to see the blossoms fade, I am grateful for the vibrant green leaves that have come in their places, ready to provide cooling shade for imminent warm hot southern days.

Don’t have a dogwood in your yard?  Get one. They are easy to care for.  You can read more about them here.

Haven’t heard of the dogwood poem?  Here is it.  I distinctly remember sitting at a desk in my Catholic school uniform, rewriting the poem in my best cursive and coloring a picture to go with it. I have no idea who wrote it. Nor do I think there is any biblical basis for it.  But I do think it is a sweet poem. Think of it the next time you see a dogwood.

And see if it doesn’t give you chills too.

The Dogwood Poem

Sometimes Joy Comes In A Vase

daffodils in the snow

 “No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland

We’ve finally started to warm up around here.  If last year was the winter that wasn’t, this year is the winter that won’t end.  Mother Nature and her pal, Polar Vortex, have tested our sanity these past few months to say the least.

Look what were poking their little heads out of the last few mounds of snow the other day.  Yep, the daffodils.  It makes me so happy to see them each year.  I know they are down there and yet it takes me by sweet surprise when I see them bravely emerge from the ground.  They always seem to pop up just when I begin to think winter will never end, when I need a little sign of spring, of color, and new life.  The blossoms, though not even open when I took this picture, are such a welcome nudge to the bright side of life, aren’t they?  To think that they lay quiet all winter and survive the freezing temperatures and endure blankets of snow only to blossom and blossom is a small miracle.  Such a simple sign of hope and joy.

daffodils

This morning we had several blooms.  They look so pretty in the yard.  So bright and happy and simple.

daffodils in a vase

Tomorrow morning they will look like this, because guess what is back in the forecast?  Yep.  A chance of snow.  Not much, thank heavens, but enough to be irritating.  And to freeze the very blossoms I am excited to see.  So these little babies will come inside this evening.  They will sit on the kitchen counter and remind me that one of these days spring will be here and “wintry mix” will no longer be in the forecast.  I will smile when I see them, knowing some things are worth waiting for.

I guess sometimes joy comes in a vase.

 

Farmers’ Bounty

 

Farmers' market bounty

Farmers’ market bounty

I love the farmers market this time of year. It abounds with color and beauty and goodness. It just makes me happy walking around, my arms full of beautiful produce and glorious flowers. These days it’s peak season for so many summer fruits and vegetables it’s hard not to buy everything I see. I usually buy more than I intended to, but I can’t help it. I somehow justify the market gluttony by reminding myself (several times) that I am buying vegetables not cupcakes and supporting our local farmers. Both of which are good things.

We are lucky to have the North Carolina State Farmers Market so close by. But there are lots of other smaller farmers markets around too. They are cute, quaint, charming, and equally full of beautiful produce. I am just partial to the “big one.” I like that the farmers literally back their large F-150 pick up trucks right up to the stands and unload their overflowing flat beds. And usually the goods were picked that very morning.  Pre-sunrise, no less.  Got to love those early birds!

This week I came home with delicious tomatoes, perfectly ripe peaches, incredible corn, sweet summer squash and zucchini. While at the peak of perfection, they are nearing the end of their season, so we are enjoying them all while we can.

Here are a few things I made with the goods I brought home:

Peach crisp.  Seasonal perfection and that’s all there is to say about that.

The southern delicacy: a perfect and simple tomato sandwich. Ridiculously good and so easy a 7-year-old could do it.

Farmer’s Market Pasta, which is a very close cousin of kitchen sink pasta.  Which is a second cousin once removed from my grandmother’s vegetable soup.  Family food trees can be so complicated.

But I digress … Find a farmer’s market near you and enjoy the rest of summer’s produce.  Or at least have a conversation with a local farmer. They are full of personality and character and they are more than happy to brag about their bounty, or the weather predictions for the upcoming season, or the mischief their hound dog got into the day before.  I promise you will leave with a smile on your face and in a good mood.  And that alone is worth the trip.

Heavenly Tomato Sandwiches

Tomato Sandwich

I am not sure there is anything more perfect than a tomato sandwich in the middle of summer. Unless, of course, you don’t like tomatoes. And that would just be wrong (ahem…and I am not singling out any certain husbands). Tomatoes are the jewels of the gardens in so many backyards this time of year.  And this sandwich is the beloved delicacy we wait for all year long…most likely because it is so incredibly hot that any meal that can be prepared without the added heat of an oven is cause for celebration.  If you haven’t had one of these babies, then you’d best get on it.  Because, bless your heart, you are missing out.

Here’s what you need.

Old fashioned white bread.  The very kind that makes you feel like you are doing something wrong when buying it.  Wonder, Merita, Texas toast –  it does not matter. The squishier and softer, the better. Do not waste your time (or your tomatoes for Heaven’s sake) on low-calorie or wheat bread.  It will not be the same.

Mayo.  And a big ‘ol slather of it.  Pick your favorite one and go to town.  Spread it all over your illegal white bread. Do not feel guilty.

Tomatoes.  Here’s the important part.  These need to be picked straight from your garden or grabbed at the farmers’ market.  Period.  There is no substitute for a garden-fresh, homegrown tomato. They often don’t look perfect.  But perfect appearances are overrated, don’t you think?  They may be misshapen or the coloring may be varied.  But that is what makes them so good! These jewels of summer are hard to beat.  Your grocery store ones may be pretty, but they won’t taste as good.

Finish with fresh ground pepper and a little bit of salt.  Let your masterpiece sit a few minutes until some of the juice from the tomatoes meets up with the mayo and the bread.  They will get married and live happily ever after.  Simple. Delicious. Perfection.

The End.

The Winter That Wasn’t

This picture was taken in the middle of January. Yes, January.  It is tangible evidence that something has been missing the last few months.  We have been waiting and waiting for something that simply has not come.

Winter…an entire SEASON…has passed us by.

We waited patiently to wear cute sweaters.  We hoped for opportunities to wrap up in colorful scarves and warm hats. Heavy coats were rarely removed from closets. Hot cocoa and marshmallows were bypassed, leaving large mugs devoid of the winter treat. The fireplace stood cold, dark and neglected. There were no chances for the kids to sleep with spoons under pillows and pajamas inside out in joyful, excited anticipation of a snow day. Sleds and snowboots remained dust-covered in basements. Winter just never came.

All of this left me feeling…well…duped and somehow vaguely confused.  How is it possible that spring is dawning when winter never came?  It’s a blit like starting a new book when the last chapter of another has not been read.  It’s oddly disorienting.

Just as I was about to give up on winter EVER making an appearance, we had a little cold snap last week.  And by little, I mean little. Very little.

BUT…it was cold enough to be…hmmm…shall we say…unpleasant?

We had to find coats that, in all honesty, are much too heavy for March. The girls went frantically digging through laundry baskets to find long knee socks so their legs wouldn’t freeze under uniform skirts. Parents on the sidelines of newly begun spring sport practices grumbled and shivered. Even the dog refused to go outside. The daffodils wilted and drooped, conceding to the chill. It made everyone want to stay inside where it was warm.  It was unpleasant.  It was cold.

It was…winter.

All of this served to remind me that winter might be a wee bit over-rated.  In my romanticized notions I had forgotten that winter could be cold, inconvenient, and down right unpleasant some days.  It was not all cocoa, snow days and warm hearth fires.

One of my favorite writers, Anne Bradstreet, wrote:

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

And I think she is spot on.  However, maybe every once in a while, by the Grace of God, we are given a pass.  A winter without bitter cold and unpleasant inconveniences is a gift.  A season in our lives without hardship is a blessing not to go unnoticed.

All it took for me was a quick chill when I had grown accustomed to easy mild days to remind me of how lucky we have been!  Delicate January cherry blossoms sure beat barren trees.  Bright, cheery daffodils lining our walkway have way more curb-appeal than dirty, melted snow.  Carolina blue skies are much more promising than heavy gray clouds.

There is unspoken promise in all that comes with the pleasantness of spring.  And is a true gift when it is granted to us without having to endure the difficulties of a harsh winter.  Perhaps it is then that we are called to appreciate it even more.