It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saturday Plant Discoveries

I've shared before that I love to go to the Farmers' Market at the historic Pearl Brewery. I picked up 2 things yesterday that are worth sharing here; one is a new discovery and the other something from the past. 

Several weeks ago I had stopped at one of the vendors that has herbs and leafy things.  I knew it was late in the season for spinach, but I asked anyway if they had some.  The young girl replied that they didn't have spinach, but they had amaranth and pointed it out.  She quickly handed me a leaf and said to try it.  It was very flavorful, so I brought home a bunch.

It was good in sandwiches and salads, but I didn't really care for it sautéed like spinach.  I felt it had a different consistency and flavor than spinach raw or cooked, but I liked it.  So, yesterday when I passed their booth I got some more.  This bunch had a few bug holes, but still is very flavorful. I'm glad I discovered it and will be watching for it again.

Here are a few quick facts that I've found so far:
  • Amaranth is a widely varied plant and is cultivated as a leafy vegetable and as a grain although it is not a true grain. Latin name Amaranthaceae.
  • It is high in calcium, magnesium, and iron. 
  • It was known to be cultivated by the Aztecs, but forbidden by the Spaniards.
  • It is a relative of beets, spinach, Swiss Chard, and quinoa.
I had already passed by the vendor selling honey when I realized that part of their selection was a very light honey.  I turned around quickly because I knew right away that was huajilla honey (pronounced wa-hee-ya).  I had had an experience with this in my earlier life and I knew some was going home with me! It is delicious!

Huajilla is also referred to as guajilla, guajillo, and huajillo and from my brief research I determined that there are several species of plants.  I believe the one common to South Texas is A.berlandieri which is a member of the Acacia family.  The flowers are very fragrant and, if I recall correctly, the plants have wicked thorns! 

There is a picture of huajilla flowers as known in South Texas on the Gretchen Bee Ranch web site.  They also sell all their honey products on their site!  I brought this bottle home and, of course enjoyed biscuits and honey for my Sunday breakfast!
And, yes those biscuits came out of a can.  I can't make a decent biscuit!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Happiness is...

Are you happy? Really deep, down happy? What is happiness?  Have you ever asked those questions? 

I hadn't until I recently read a selection from Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.  She suggests that happiness is a living emotion and a state of mind.  I sat for a while thinking about happiness, asking myself if I'm really happy deep down inside.  I tried to define happiness without a dictionary.  Is it peace, joy, serenity, a calmness of the soul, contentment?  What is it?

My next thought was to try to list some things that make me genuinely happy. Truthfully, the page was blank for a while.  There are many things I enjoy, like writing, walking with a dog, eating a good meal with friends or family.  There are many things that give me a burst of joy, like finding one of those dear little WPA markers. Those are outer things that are a part of my life, but I was looking for things that truly bring me a satisfied happiness - there is a difference.  Finally, things began to come to me.  Here's what I have so far:
  • Rain.  It is such a precious commodity, but even with the over abundance we've had this year I still find watching rain fall to the earth giving me such a deep feeling of contentment beyond just a surface joy.  Rain, watering the earth and giving life to plants and animals.
  • Sunflowers.  I realized this one morning while driving to work and saw clumps along the road.  They are not my favorite flower, but as I watched clump after clump go by I felt that compelling happiness.  Maybe that's why a sun flower has been my favicon all these years.
  • On my recent to Comfort I choose to take a winding two-lane road I had never travelled before. There were very few vehicles on the road with me, so I was alone with the countryside. Looking across the rolling Hill Country and crossing the flowing creeks gave me a feeling of deep contentment.  Same thing happened driving home from Blanco when I went to the Lavender Festival a few Saturdays ago.  I felt a true peace within my inner self, knowing I was in the right place at the right time.  I know that was happiness.
I'm sure my list will continue to grow as I look for things that truly make me happy.  Sarah Ban Breathnach summed it up well with her statement,

"genuine happiness can only be realized once we commit to making it a personal priority in our lives"

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday 06.24.2015

On my recent overnight stay in Comfort I spent some quiet time sitting in the hanging swing by the little creek.  It was a little chilly and damp, but still it was a peaceful place to sit and knit.  There was a deer feeder across the creek; it didn't disturb me in this case because it was strictly for the purpose of feeding the deer.

I had noticed several trails that led from the upper bank right down into the water and wondered what had made them.  At first I thought of boat trailers being backed down to the water, but the creek wasn't deep enough for any kind of boat.  And, I wondered if maybe it was from people walking down into the creek.  But the deer answered my questions.

After a group had fed for a few minutes around the feeder they began to wander toward the creek.  In groups of 2 or 3 they then came down the creek bank following the little trails and into the water.  Some walked across and a few almost appeared to swim across.  All came up out of the water, shook themselves off and proceeded to move on to a field across the way to complete their evening meal.  None of them noticed me sitting on the swing.  I was amazed and felt like I was almost a part of their world.  Almost, but not quite.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Past Lives On

Summer 1967
I had planned another post for today when this picture popped into my mind and I knew I had to share it since today is Father's Day.  This Ford tractor belonged to my father and it was his favorite "toy".  He kept it in my maternal grandparents' barn and spent hours tinkering with it while we visited them.  I'm not really sure that it was ever really used to do work. I remember Daddy spending hours pulling a bush hog around the pasture, but I'm not sure if he was driving his tractor or my grandfather's.  Nonetheless, it gave him great joy.

This picture was always a family favorite although looking at our expressions I have to wonder if it was truly a happy moment!  I'm the unhappy 11 year old (it had been a long summer and my mother had tried my endurance).  My little brother is thinking "I could take this thing apart so quickly and put it back together, too".  My sister, well, she's just being sweet like she always was and still is.  I think Daddy was not too patiently coaching my mother on how to use his camera!

But beyond our expressions, I know that this was a happy time for my father. What this picture represents is priceless. He was on leave; we were between assignments in Alaska and California and spending time visiting family.  He was in his beloved Mississippi.  Daddy loved my mother's home town as much as he loved his and he was happy to be there visiting.  He dreamed of someday being a farmer and owning a radio station; sadly, he never realized either dream.  He loved trains, planes and engines.  He happily flew big transport planes for the US Air Force for five years, so he did achieve that dream.

He had his faults.  He was impatient, quick tempered, and quick to speak exactly what he thought.  We towed the line, always.  But he made sure we went to church on Sunday and he faithfully placed a check in the offering plate every time it passed. He never hesitated to help someone out if he felt they genuinely needed help.   He loved Gospel music and Big Band, too.  He was a shrewd money manager and made good investment choices while managing the one-income family budget.  We never lacked for anything we needed. If he bought a tractor or some farm land to plant a crop it was because he thought it a good investment.  And, he cooked one good steak or hamburger on the grill. 

So, fathers remember that today you are creating memories and your legacy with your children.  Someday years from now they will look at a faded, overexposed picture and remember you.  You have your faults, but there are your strengths that they will remember and take with them through their lives.  And, it is okay to live your dream!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The pointy stick thing concludes

It is time to finish up my story about how I learned to use the pointy sticks.  If you've been reading along then you know my grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 5.  I can crochet almost with my eyes closed, without thinking.  I don't need much light and I can skim through a pattern and pretty much have it in my mind. I can pull out rows and rows of crochet and know right where to start.  But learning to use the 2 pointy sticks presented itself as a challenge.

As I posted in the first post nobody in my family knitted.  But sometime after I took up crocheting in earnest I found a little green book in my mother's stash of sewing books and magazines.  I quickly commandeered it for my own.  It featured crochet, knitting, embroidery and tatting and all were excellently described and detailed in very accurate drawings.  I continued my crochet learning with this dear little book.

I think I was in the 4th grade when I discovered a pair of very slim knitting needles and a ball of soft off-white yarn in my mother's sewing stash.  She did not knit and to this day I have not idea why she had this as well as a set of double pointed needles.  But I decided that it was all mine and proceeded to teach myself how to knit.  Let's just say that I managed to cast on and knit a few rows, but that was as far as I got.  I went back to crocheting while wishing that it wasn't so hard to knit because I really wanted to knit.

Although I made a few cotton dish clothes in my young adult years I was not a proficient knitter.  I would always look at knitting patterns and wish I was better and could produce those adorable little things.  At the 2010 Quilt Festival I fell in love with a little bolero type knitted shrug at one of the booths that featured yarn.  The dear lady working there assured me that if I could knit and purl that I could make this sweater.  So $75 later I walked away with 3 skeins of Baby Alpaca yarn and the pattern.  I fussed at myself for spending so much money on something I would not make.  Yes, yes I will I told myself.  So I got the yarn out and started casting on. 

To make this story short, Blossom was still a small puppy at the time and ate three sets of circular needles and I had to start over even more times.  But I knitted while waiting to pick up Jaydon at VBS, I knitted while the twins were born, and I took the knitting bag along on a New England trip. I realized that I needed two more skeins and tracked some down through a shop in Connecticut.  Just before Thanksgiving I finished and it was cool enough at Thanksgiving that I was able to proudly wear the shrug.

These colors are not accurate, it is more of a brown than a blue.

I am still not a proficient knitter, but I can knit and purl.  That's all I need to "do the pointy-stick-thing".  I've found that knitting is very relaxing and I can knit even when I'm tired.  I cannot, however, rip out knitting and then start back into the pattern. 
W C Mercantile in Navasota, Texas

The Tinsmith's Wife in Comfort, Texas
In the last few years I've discovered yarn shops that entice me to come in, browse, and buy.  I wonder if it is the colors or the different textures that call to me.  Maybe it is those old buildings that many shops are located in. Like quilts, yarn just seems to belong in an old building.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday 06.17.2015

detail from "Cowboys Receiving the Mail"
"Cowboys Receiving the Mail"
circa 1939
Otis Dozier, artist
Used with permission of the United States Postal Service©. All rights reserved.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs gave us many treasures to enjoy today.  This mural in the Giddings, Texas post office was painted circa 1939 as part of the Treasury Section of Fine Arts program of the New Deal. 

I love this mural even though it is not an accurate depiction of cowboys - cowboy work is dirty and these fellas are just a little too clean!  Plus the landscape depicts a dessert scene totally unlike the area around Giddings.  But don't you just love the detail of the cowboy with his new fancy boots?  Bet he was ready to go out dancing that night.  But what about the poor guy on the horse?  I can tell by his face that the letter he was hoping for did not come!

Click Here and scroll down a little to read an interesting account of how the mural's subject was chosen!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Perfect Saturday

I'm taking only a short break from the pointy sticks story and it will conclude shortly.  However, today was such a nice day that I felt I should share it here.  Actually, the last two Saturdays have been perfect and worthy of sharing.

Last weekend my sister and nephew were here for the weekend.  The intended plans went awry, but the alternative turned out to be well received.  My sister grew up here, but her son is a native Houstonian.  We shared with him a bit of San Antonio that he had never experienced.
Chapel, Mission San Jose
Mission Espada
Tower of the Americas
The River Walk

Of course, the day ended with a meal shared with other family members at our favorite Mexican restaurant! 

Today it was just me and really, this was a me day.  It started with a trip to the Farmers Market at the historic Pearl Brewery.  I love fresh (really fresh) vegetables and this is the best place to get them.  All the vendors are from the surrounding area, so it is a win-win.  I get fresh veggies and other products and they get income from their farm's produce.

I took Sawyer along with me, big mistake.  He is not a shopper, he is an adventure dog.  He was vertical more than he was horizontal, jumping up and down up and down.  He got his feet wet and then jumped on me getting me wet and dirty!  He wanted to GO, GO, GO! 

The only time he was still was while he waited for me to give him another bite of egg & chorizo from my breakfast taco! It was only about 10:30 and the temperature was in the mid 80's, but the humidity was bad and I was hot, so much to his delight we headed for home.

This afternoon I headed north to Blanco to the Lavender Festival.  Blanco County was hard hit by the recent flooding and many of the vendors had signs up that they were donating a portion of their profits to flood victims' relief programs.

There are many vendors offering a wide variety of products. There is just about any kind of art and craft products imaginable.  Plants and other products, including lavender everything, are offered.  Prices are reasonable and everyone is friendly.

I enjoyed browsing and made a few purchases.  I went inside the Old Blanco County Courthouse for the first time and then into a local shop for some shopping.  To cool off I tried a big glass of lavender tea.  It was wonderful; the lady that poured it for me suggested making it half sweet and half unsweet when I mentioned that it was just too hot for sugary tea. 

Tonight was member appreciation night at the Botanical Garden.  The Garden was open for members and pets and picnic suppers were welcome, too.  I took Bentley and Baylee along and the three of us enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the garden.  The evening light was soft and there was a nice breeze that cooled us. Perfect ending to a perfect "me" Saturday!
Do you know how hard it is to get two distracted dogs to both look at you at the same time?


Friday, June 12, 2015

The pointy stick thing - part 2

In yesterday's post I started the story of my grandmother teaching me to crochet.  I really wanted to learn the two stick thing, but still was entranced with the one stick with the hook on the end and satisfied myself with mastering a chain stitch.

I went home with the yarn and the big red plastic hook.  I think it was sometime in second grade that one of the other girls in my class took up crocheting, so I began taking my yarn and hook to school in my satchel.  Recess was devoted to serious chain making. On our next visit to my grandparents house I took my lengthy chain along to show my grandmother.  Only thing was by this time the chain was attached to a tangled, not to mention dirty, wad of yarn.

The night we arrived I proudly brought out the chain and attachment to show my grandmother.  She lovingly bragged on me and simply patted the yarn and said, "in the morning we'll straighten this out and I'll show you how to add a row onto your chain".  As promised the next morning after the breakfast dishes were washed up we sat down to work.  She had me pull out the long chain; she explained that I didn't need that anymore.  She then patiently untangled the wad of yarn and then got up and went into the kitchen for a minute.  When she returned she had an empty oatmeal container.  She took her scissors and cut out a small hole in the top.  What are you doing I asked?  I'm fixing this box for you to put your yarn in so it won't get tangled up.  Sure enough, she dropped the yarn in the container, pulled it through the top, and put the top on the box.  Now, she explained, you are ready to make a single crochet!

Every time I pick up a crochet hook or pick up a round oatmeal box I think of my grandmother.  I still see her hands, worn from much work, with her small delicate silver wedding band winding up that yarn into a neat ball and dropping it into the oatmeal box.  She created many memories for me, but she also shared a skill with me that binds us together even now.

In later visits she bought me balls of that tiny thin thread that is tricky to use and crochet hooks with the tiniest of hooks.  I have these hooks and probably some that were hers in my tin of hooks.  But I am older and wiser and do not frustrate myself with the thin thread and little hooks anymore!  Instead I treasure the crochet pieces that I brought home from my mother's house.  I don't really know who made these ivory pieces, but they are delicate and look lovely on my dining room table under a centerpiece or on a little table with a pitcher on top.  I appreciate the skill and work that went to making them.

Next post we get to the pointy sticks!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The pointy stick thing

My maternal grandmother taught me to do many things during the summers that I spent with her and my grandfather in their somewhat-Craftsman style house.  She taught me to make a bed, use a dust mop, wash dishes in the sink, hang out clothes on a clothesline, water a garden, pick a garden, shell peas, snap beans and many other necessary life skills.  I also learned to sew on her treadle Singer machine.  But the greatest thing she shared with me was teaching me to crochet.
During the years we lived in the Philippines I had watched the Filipino house girls every afternoon as they pushed the babies of the families they worked for around in baby carriages.  They walked, pushed the baby carriage, chatted with the other girls in their native dialect, and did this thing with yarn and two sticks. I wanted to learn to do the thing with the two sticks.   I asked my mother who sewed beautiful clothes for me if she would teach me to do the pointy sticks thing that the house girls did on their walks.  She told me that she did not know how to do the pointy stick thing.  I had wondered if anyone would ever be able to teach me.  Our house girl did not know how to do the pointy stick thing either.  I really wanted to learn.
It was almost time to come home from a visit when one night my grandmother declared that she needed some new potholders and pulled out a container with a ball of ivory colored yarn and a red plastic stick and soon a square began to form as she worked the stick in the yarn.  I was astounded! My grandmother was doing the pointy stick thing, but only using one stick.  As she worked I asked questions, as I was prone to do.  Why are you only using one stick?  I only know how to use one stick.  How do you know how to do this?  I learned a long time ago.  My questions continued until she asked me if I wanted to learn to crochet.  Yes, yes I want to learn.  But I want to do the two stick thing.  I don't know how to do the two sticks came the patient reply.
She finished the potholder and cut the thread.  Then she showed me how to make a chain.  This took some doing for a 6 year old to master, but she was patient and offered encouragement.  Pardon the pun, but I was hooked.
(to be continued...)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday 06.10.2015

My town as seen from the observation deck on the Tower of the Americas

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Fives 06.05.2015

The "retro-fitted" seatless tricycle
I'm sending this out a little early this week, you'll see why as you read.  Here's what I'm thankful for today:

1.  I'm thankful for memories of hot summer nights spent with a dear little boy.  Playing on the driveway with tricycle, blue wading pool, and sidewalk chalk.  We would come in at dark, hot and tired but very pleased with the evening's activity.  The little boy just finished fifth grade and has not played outside until dark in a year or two.  I miss those nights, but am so thankful for the memories and the child that is growing up.

2.  I'm thankful for weekend visitors (the reason for this going out early).  My sister and nephew will come over for the weekend.  She and I can go for weeks with just an e-mail or text, but when we do either call or visit we just pick up right where we left off before. For the coming visit, I am thankful.

3.  I'm thankful for the angel that watches over me in traffic (no explanation needed, right?).

4.  I'm thankful for life, not only physical life, but life.  The process of living.  It can be stressful or pleasant, having ups and downs as well as smooth times.  It involves relationships.  It involves learning new things every day, experiencing life in those new things. 

5.  I'm thankful at the marvel of seeing little tiny droplets of rain glistening in the trees on Sunday morning after our final round of storms roared through Saturday evening.  They twinkled like little pulsing stars, reflecting all over the trees in the early morning sunlight.  The wind helped them along by moving the tree branches in a changing choreography of movement and light.  Occasionally a strong gust would send the droplets raining down to the ground.  In just a few minutes the display was over as the sun rose higher, but enchanted me while it lasted with its sparkling display.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday 06.03.2015

Grape arbor behind Rowan Oak, William Faulkner's home
I made this picture 8 years ago this month and it is one of my favorites, partly because of the grapes and partly because of where it was made.  I spent time enjoying the grounds of William Faulkner's home that afternoon, but did not go inside the house (saving that for another visit).  I have his works on my to-read list someday as I don't think I ever read any of his writing. 

Two or three years before my father passed away he made a casual comment about William Faulkner and his crusty personality.  Later it dawned on me that judging from this comment that Daddy knew him and possibly had stood with the other men in front of the courthouse (as was the custom of that time to gather and share news) and spoken with him.  How odd that I never thought of Daddy as knowing William Faulkner even though the two men lived together in the same small town with residences only a few blocks from each other.  My father was not a literary man, yet he knew this Nobel Prize winning author very matter-of-factly.  Now I wish I had asked more questions!