Thursday, August 15, 2019

Drought Survivor

Our yard is full of hurricane survivors, flood survivors, and this summer ... drought survivors. Sturdy plants!
However, one special plant did not survive the drought this summer. When I returned from Mississippi one plant was dry and apparently dead. My mother gave me this plant over a decade ago. I even used it in a blog banner!
It's a creeping fig. I love its leaves and how it clings to walls. I cut half of the plant out last year and planted it near the front porch, hoping it would climb the house. It's on its way!

But back to the potted plant, dead from drought. I've nearly killed it several times, but this time I seemed to have succeeded.

 I can identify, can you? What are we deprived of, that kills us off? Love from a family member who's turned a back on us? Love from friends who seem to forget us? Financial security? A feeling of self-worth? Mental health? Or worst -- feeling a lack of the love of God? Are you dry and parched, all your roots dying from a lack of ... something?

I checked that plant a few days ago. Under the dead brown trailing branches I found this:
 At first it was just one tiny leaf, then a few more, then more again. This is a kitty-cat plant with nine lives!
When I saw the first green leaf, I plopped the pot into the tub of rain water. (Yes, we've had rain at last.) Those roots must be drinking up the moisture, saying, "Oh, thank you!"

Friend, we aren't as dead as we think. We may be brown and shriveled and dead-looking on the outside, but we have roots simply waiting for rain water. What's your rain? Mine is creativity. And time alone with my Bible. And a cheerful friend. And making plans, happy plans into the future with a kind spouse. Sometimes we have to leave the drought behind us on the calendar and move ahead to rainier days. There is nothing else to do if we care to survive. We must water our roots from below even when the skies above are dry.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Hibernating

Yes, 'tis the season (in the South) to stay indoors because the weather outside is atrocious! Hot and sticky. It's not too early, however, to knit for the autumn farmer's market. I made a pair of fingerless gloves.

 Those were fun and not too hard. I made up the pattern as I went (and tried hard to remember it for the second one!), but I needed my trusty knitting book for the cabling and seed stitch.
 Yesterday Adam and I attended the 50th (yes, fifty!!) annual Watermelon Cutting Party in Oriental at Fay Bond's home.
 A delightful event full of community goodwill and fun, the party is a chance to see old friends and slurp away at some of the best watermelon in the state. Have you ever tried a golden watermelon? It was scrumptious! It had a little extra 'zing' to it.
I sold quite a few cards over the weekend, so I must get painting. Here are a few new ones.

 I think this is my best pot of geraniums yet.
 A friend has an oil diffuser similar to this one in her home. It's a subdued aromatic effect, not as aggressive as incense sticks that you burn. I found one at Target. I think I like it! I could not find the scent she uses, though, so mine is not quite as lovely.
 Following swift on the heels of our wedding anniversary is the anniversary of our first date! On that date Adam made me a chicken sandwich, so he's been celebrating by bettering that sandwich year after year ever since.
 Friday night we went to New Bern to hear the North Carolina Baroque Opera. It was a superb concert.
 My favorite was the Andante by Friedrich der Grosse. There was a piece for four violas. My favorite instruments were the woodwinds. Baroque flutes are wooden and have such a mellow, rich sound.
 Did I mention our okra plants are bearing? Yes, they are. I'm freezing okra for winter. I think we'll eat a lot of it.
 When I was in Mississippi I wrote for a couple of hours each morning. Anna was tired and slept in, and it was a good use of my time. This put me in a routine that I've continued. Right now I'm plowing through the first writing of this novel ... just about to kill me ... but I am enjoying the feeling of accomplishment. Writing is such hard work. It taxes and exhausts the brain. If you know a writer who's published books, tell them you are impressed with their hard work and determination!

I've been painting a few little animals also.



The sheep looks goofy to me, but a lady at the farmer's market thought he was adorable. You never know! That's all for now, folks. All is fairly well with us. Can't complain.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Rain, At Last

Is there anything more depressing than weeks -- months even -- without rain? The baking sun overhead? The parched earth and thirsty plants crying for moisture? I loathe drought and I LOVE rain. Today, it's raining again. My brain is like a wilting plant that revives when the drops start falling.
Enough flowery metaphor about the weather. Here's what we've been up to this morning.
 I'm picking fruit from our two fig trees. This one has been pruned heavily the past 3 years and is now in good shape.
 Our largest rosemary plant has been content in drought.
 I finished weeding my newer herb bed, which was in a horrible state, below. Basil in the foreground, then thyme, and spearmint at the far end. The middle section is seeded with dill and cilantro for the fall.
 This thyme, which is only 2 years old, is quite happy with drought too.
 Another happy plant in the dryness is this clump of Black-eyed Susans.
 Adam hacked down this huge evergreen tree that crowded one end of the front porch.
 Now it wants to stage a come-back. He will dig it out.
 Our only camellia bush suffered from Hurricane Florence:
 She has a few leaves, but we don't know if she'll survive still. We can wait.
Both of my chicks have grown up to be annoying roosters, I'm sad to say. I must choose one to keep, and one to give away to my friend who rehomes unwanted roosters.

 Roosters are a pain. If I didn't like baby chicks, I would not bother with even one rooster.
Finally, Adam torched up his burn pile this morning! Hooray!
 Ned circled the burn pile over and over, watching for critters (especially snakes) to come out so he could chase them. 
I came inside as Adam managed his burn pile, and started working. I'm rereading/editing my "Federal Hill" book, planning for its final chapters. It feels good to immerse myself again into the world of that book, but it's so much effort to do so. It's hard to explain, but making my mind delve back into another world that I've created and flesh out a complicated plot -- that's work. It's kind of exhausting. I needed a nap by 11:00. Now I'm back at it, after I finish this blog post. Meanwhile, the rain is pattering down outside my window.
Adam also came in to edit an interview for a podcast that's to be released soon. 

Fellow bloggers, yesterday I began an onerous and tedious task that I wonder if any of you have done. Back in 2012, from February and June, blogger stripped out all the photos from my blog posts. In their places were blank ovals. This occurred many years ago, and I've grumpily accepted that a chunk of my blog history was photo-less. The pictures were no longer on my phone, and not in Google Photos either. Yesterday I realized that they were stored, however, in my Google Photo Archives (one of the choice options in a blog post when uploading photos) -- IF I was willing to go hunt for them there. Old photos from years ago are stored there in batches of about 900 photos each. It is a hunt, but I succeeded, and I've gone back and re-loaded the correct photos into about half of the damaged posts. Phew! What a mess! It was satisfying, however to "relive" those months. Philip was in college; Anna was in her first year of college. Peter was finishing high school. It includes his graduation. Julia was in 7th grade. Adam and I were planning to move to Oriental, which we did in May. Lots of bee-keeping posts and fun recipes. I'm enjoying this stroll down memory lane.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Work

Adam's and my life seems more lively these days. There's so much going on in the house. I think I showed you Adam's new work station in the dining room.
 He spends much time there crafting his new business for our future, tied to his podcast, BookChats, but also involving writing books and book reviews, publishing articles online, enhancing his Google search status, and generally developing himself as a brand. He's still in the early stages, but doing well, and he's so excited. At last he has work, the success of which is entirely dependent on his own drive and energy. And believe me, he has both in spades right now! He's motivated. If he can turn this into an income, it will enable us to stay here, travel to see kids and grandkids, and still serve the church where we are now, which we love.

What Adam's doing is part of the "gig economy," a growing trend in the U.S. It's more than what we used to call "temp work." It's driven by rising technology and people's ability to access services directly from the provider. Uber and AirB&B are two popular examples. Think "freelancing," but in many areas of life. 

Adam chose books. He's a voracious reader, one of a rare group who are true speed-readers. He's more widely read than your average bear. He can get a free book in the mail from a publisher, read it in a day, and churn out a knowledgeable review a couple of days later. We serve as each other's editor.

My Red Robin Soaps hobby/business is also part of the gig economy. I must admit I'm not as excited about making a batch of soap as I used to be! But people still like to buy it, so I make it. I love the art work I do too.
But moving into the future, it makes sense for Adam and me to support each other in work, and my writing of books flows rather naturally into his growing business. We both want to be writers, although I prefer fiction and he writes both fiction and non-fiction. Figuring out how to publish our books led to the formation of BookChats, as Adam learned about the intricate workings of the publishing world. We hope this will help us become more successfully published in the future. Plus, writing is labor that can be done into one's advanced years. 

Adam finished editing the "Cozy" mystery I wrote recently. We don't have a title yet, but the series will be about a funeral home director who solves mysteries in connection with her job. Right now I'm working on completion of my "Federal Hill" book, a sequel to "Three Against the Dark." While doing that, I'm watching a fascinating series of lectures by well-known fantasy/sci-fi writer, Brandon Sanderson. He teaches a class at BYU on writing, and it's really good. It's on Youtube. I don't bother with boring, pedantic Youtube videos. I don't have the time to waste. But he's engaging, funny, practical, accurate. Oh my goodness, every few minutes I stop the video and jot down ideas in my latest book's notes, so I don't forget the good stuff he's telling me. I highly recommend these videos to anyone interested in fiction writing.

Adam interviewed a writer recently (Jay Greenstein) who said (roughly) that one reason he loved being a writer is that you can be gazing out a window, and someone can ask you what you're doing, and you can reply, "Working." And it's true. That's some pretty awesome gig work! It's a little nervous being in charge of one's own economic world, but it's exciting too. I can't wait to see how it all turns out!


Monday, July 29, 2019

Anniversary Week: A Cookbook Recommendation

When I was married three decades ago, the big cookbook every newly married girl needed in her kitchen arsenal was Southern Sideboards, a product of the Jackson, Mississippi, Junior League.
My mother bought me my own copy, and I've used it often over the years. It's a great cookbook. It doesn't have every recipe you're looking for, but if it's in there, you can have utter confidence it will be an excellent recipe.

I'll give four examples that I've used and starred as "keepers." 
First, the No-Roll Pastry Crust:
I love pies but I hate making pie crusts. Some pies must have a rolled-out pastry crust, but many don't need them, like all "filling pies" -- pumpkin, pecan, chess, etc. This simple recipe is THE answer. I've made it many dozens of times, and it never fails.

Second, those Chocolate Graham Cracker Thingies:
Whoever Florence is, she gave us something oh-so yummy. This is the dessert you pull out when you have less than 30 minutes to make something, and it needs to be "finger food" type, and extremely delicious so that everybody at the party eats it first. You can also add coconut if you like, but it's perfection as it is. The only tricky part? Do NOT under any circumstances use the chocolate chips that have the chocolate liquor in them. That kind is designed not to melt, but to stay intact, and they won't work on this recipe. You'll end up with a nasty mess. Buy real chocolate chips, like Toll-House, and you'll be good to go.

Third, the world's most fabulous apple pie, at least according to Adam. I think it's a pain in the neck to make, but I must admit it's so delectable!
I even wrote "Adam's favorite" next to it, so I wouldn't forget. This pie has an added caramel shell you pour on top, Oh My!

And last, a recipe I tried for the first time this past weekend that was a smashing success:
Good ole banana pudding, so summery, so fresh and light. Again, this recipe takes some work. But wouldn't you expect that, to get a dish that makes everyone melt into their chairs and say, "Yummmm," when they take that first bite? Also, this recipe serves many more than 8 people. I made angel food cake (from a mix, duh). It is so, so, so much better than vanilla wafers. Adam dislikes bananas (bad childhood associations resulting from a potassium deficiency), but even he declared this dessert to be superb and had at least 2nds and I think 3rds. 

There you have it! This cookbook is available online, used, for a pittance. I've given away many, many cookbooks to the thrift store, but this one I always keep close at hand. Do you have a favorite cookbook? Why do you love it, and what's its name?

Good Morning

Yes, good morning. And perhaps I should say Happy Anniversary to us. Adam and I have been married 30 years, today.
There we are, all those years ago. No kids, no pets, no troubles yet. We thought we knew what troubles looked like, but we didn't have a clue. Thirty years doesn't sound like an astounding amount of time, but you can live a lot of sorrow and a lot of joy in thirty years. We've had both. We still have both -- much sorrow, much joy. Mostly I'm so grateful for a good, kind husband. It's his goal to be a good husband to me, so he leads me into being a better wife as well.We're still in love, still faithful, still hopeful.

This morning I'm having my usual, toast and tea.
 Adam's bread, my apple butter, creamy chai
I've painted two cards as practices for some larger pieces. A student from many years ago is interested in commissioning four watercolors of farm animals, 11x14".

I'll be doing a goat and a sheep also.
It was fun to be back at the farmer's market on Saturday morning after being gone for a month. I sold seven of my watercolor cards! We have a sweet group of cheerful, nice people there, and it makes Saturday mornings (and all that work!) worth it.
Above you see the chickens I have now.
The six in the front are all hens, 2 and 3 years old. Good birds who lay well. The two in the back (by the black pole) are new birds from this spring and I'm pretty certain they're both roosters. Ugh. I was hoping for at least one new hen! I may keep one of them, because a rooster is good for getting baby chicks, but I don't want two. I'm trying to determine which one will be less mean.

On to happier subjects!
Anna sent me this photo in a text last week. They're doing well. He's a good eater, gaining weight. She's feeling great, so much better than during the end of her pregnancy. Two cutie pies!

Now I must finish my toast and tea and get outside in my farm clothes and weed the herb beds. Our farm is in a frightful state after we were gone so long, and after this drought. It's hard to be motivated to care for garden beds that look half-dead from lack of rain. We did water for a while in June, but it increased our water bill by $100, so we won't be doing that anymore! See you later - I'm off to rescue the oregano!