Friday, May 30, 2014

Until Next Spring

In November of 1990 when we moved to this 24-acre valley and hills farm with its farmhouse built in 1920, I couldn't wait for spring to come where I could see what old heirloom plants would bloom. There weren't many things, to my disappointment, but there were daffodils scattered around, thankfully not in military rows, and then the wisteria bloomed. Later there were day lilies, big double ones, and wild roses and honeysuckle. 

And there was one peony, sitting all by its lonesome in the front lawn, that bloomed in late May. It was the Festiva Maxima peony and has a fragrance that fills the yard. And fills the room when cut for a vase. 

They don't last long. Soon they'll be gone.

I'm grateful that the busy farmwife planted this peony in her front yard. I think she would approve of the beautiful Kousa dogwood with its luxurious white flower bracts that R.H. planted when we bought Valley View. She would be glad it grows near her peony.

I look out at the dogwood and the peony through the bedroom window, through the same old wavy glass panes that she looked through, and I say goodnight until another spring.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Blogging Freedom

It's not for everyone, my new way of blogging, but it's brought me freedom.

At Across the Way, I would never have dared post a family
waffle breakfast like this….

At Across the Way a waffle breakfast meant working hours the day before
setting the table, cleaning everything in lens view of the camera,
getting up early to "stage" the breakfast,
cooking and urging everyone to look as if they were having fun, dammit.

It was a pretty post--see here--I was proud of it.

But the family waffle breakfasts now, when the kids come home to visit,
are so much more fun.

"Zack, finish that waffle! Smile for me, Gurn!"

We only remembered to get out the camera at the end this morning
and kind of had to "stage" the breakfast again for Mom to get pictures.

"Bryan, come sit down again with Christy and pretend like you're eating bacon."

"Oops, the telephone's on the table, the whipped cream can is too.

Countertops are messy, makeup not on.

The pictures would have been so much better if R.H. had taken them. Oh, well.

"Why didn't we get pictures last night when we were all dolled up
 and headed uptown for a steak dinner?"

Actually, I wish we had taken those pictures, but guess what?

Zoe couldn't care less…

Neither could Maddie….

Because they didn't get left behind at this family breakfast.
Neither did Otis & Milo but do you know how hard it is to get good pictures of four dogs?

No, my new way of blogging here at Dewena's Window is not for everyone,
but it has brought me so much blogging freedom. 

I enjoy my semi-retired way of blogging,
but I do wish you could have seen us all dressed up last night.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Private Miracles

"I don't see why I am always asking for
private, individual, selfish miracles
when every year there are miracles
like white dogwood."

Anne Morrow Lindbergh in
Bring Me a Unicorn

Our Kousa dogwood is in full bloom, an enormous bridal bouquet. We have wild dogwood that blooms early in spring in the hills around our house, but this Kousa dogwood that produces its glossy green leaves before it does the creamy white bracts is a welcome conclusion to the spring flowering trees and shrubs in our garden. 

This dogwood is one of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's miracles but I do still ask for "private, individual, selfish miracles" and am blessed to receive them. 

This past weekend R.H. and I received the private miracle of a visit from our granddaughter and her parents, experiencing once again viewing life through the eyes of a child.

We watched Nora brush her teeth…

Nora playing the piano, dressed in butterfly wings…

Nora use the squeegee in the shower…

Nora and her Paw-Paw relaxing...

I got to snuggle with Nora and Otis & Milo all in my lap before bedtime…

R.H. and I got to enjoy a weekend of being with Defee, Wallace, and Nora…

We had private miracles as well as the miracle of white dogwood…

I know we had pictures of Nora's smiles that light up our world--I think they are on her daddy's phone and when he sends them to me I'll post a good one--but here is a recent one that Defee took when he and Nora went out on one of their Daddy Dates….

Aren't they adorable?

[Just so I'll have a record here on this blog of the cottage garden posts that were on my old blog Across the Way, I'm linking to them here, here (with a picture of Nora a year ago that shows how she has grown!), and here. Whew! I hope those links work. I'm not using much of the tech stuff here on this new simple blog that I attempted at Across the Way.]

Monday, May 12, 2014

Beauty for the Soul

"There is an established--
though increasingly forgotten--
philosophy that suggests beauty and art
are as essential to human beings as food and water;
that they uplift the soul and help us
to find inner meaning in our lives."

Sarah Blake in June 2002
The English Home

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Friday, May 9, 2014

I Want One of These

Do you remember Mr. French?

Was there anything he couldn't do?

Actually who I really want is Reginald Arthur Gaskin. 
He was author Beverley Nichols' my man Gaskin.

"He is, among other things, the best cook I ever encountered, and  like all great artists, he seems to achieve his effects with a minimum of effort. He wanders out into the kitchen garden, followed by my Siamese cat, returns with a bundle of spinach--sniffing a rose en route--goes into the kitchen, licks his fingers, and at precisely the right moment there is a spinach soufflé which would have given Brillat-Savarin quite a lot to think about. When he bottles fruit he does it casually, in an off moment, as it were, between puffs of a cigarette; but the result is a joy not only to the palate but to the eye; rows and rows of magic bottles in the larder, that gleam in the semi-darkness like jewels, and keep their summer tang even when the snow is piled thick on the roof. And my house, which is not small, he manages as though it were a three-roomed flat, almost absent-mindedly; he always gives you a feeling that it is really all too simple, that warmth and comfort and beauty are to be had for the asking, or at most, for an hour or two of elegant and agreeable diversion."
                  by Beverley Nichols in All I Could Never Be

Wouldn't it be nice to say to an old friend you run into at the post office, "Come home with me for lunch! It's no trouble. My man Gaskin will whip us up a soufflé in no time."

I could get so used to that. I'd even give my man Gaskin, or Mr. French, his choice of days off, maybe two.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Life Is So Rich

"Well, I garden. That's just utter joy to me...

And then there's the herb book…I have high hopes for it.

And the boys; they're not special, Lord knows,
but they're funny and nice, and I enjoy them…

And I study things: I've studied astronomy,
and ornithology;

I help with the Christmas Bird Count for Audubon,
and I volunteer with the Massachusetts Conservancy.

I belong to three different reading clubs;
I read constantly…

And I rent millions of videos,
and I watch the Arts and Entertainment Channel…

And I have friends, and I sew,
and I have three absolutely 
worthless and eccentric cats.

And other things.

It really pisses me off when people assume my mind and soul
are impoverished just because my pocketbook is."

Anne Rivers Siddon's Cecie
in Outter Banks

Monday, May 5, 2014

Remembering James Beard

Happy Birthday,

Mr. Beard.

May I call you Jim?
You are my favorite chef, bar none.
I treasure each one of your books.
You loved to teach,
not just to perform. 
There is a difference. 

So, Happy Birthday, 
dearest Jim.
I miss you.

"I really think I'm becoming a better cook
as the years go by."
James Beard, 1963

Friday, May 2, 2014

I've Had It With Ham

I've had it with ham. 

Three posts in a row on ham? And a fourth one planned? What was I thinking?

As Faith Baldwin said: "I don't know anyone who irritates me more than myself."

Ever feel that way?

In desperation, here are some pictures I took this morning looking out Dewena's Window, captivated by the fluffy pink North Carolina shrubs in bloom.

To the left and to the right of the kitchen, they were glorious, much more beautiful than my beginning camera skills could capture. (R.H. handed the camera over to me after I made a completely innocent remark about him not getting the picture I wanted, but he is the one who planted these beautiful shrubs.)

"Now if you are going to make a window,
it is obvious that you must first acquaint yourself
with the view which the window will give you."
Beverley Nichols in A Thatched Roof

I think part of my frustration with the thought of publishing one more ham post came from browsing through blogs last night. Blogs that set the bar pretty high. Blogs that made mine seem so inadequate. Bloggers that made me seem like a rank amateur. 

They reminded me of someone Laurie Colwin wrote about in her wonderful Home Cooking:

"Years later, I entertained a newly married friend. This friend had married a goddess and lived in the country. I of course was a slob and lived in the city. The goddess had built their post-and-beam house with her own two hands, raised chickens, milked cows and was a veterinarian as well. On the side she was a glassblower. She had built her own studio. All the glassware, jugs, pitchers and vases in their house were made by her. Of course she baked her own bread, raised her own vegetables and made her own clothes, although she didn't yet know how to spin. At that news I heaved a sigh of relief."

Colwin wrote that in 1988. Can you imagine this woman as a blogger today? I can and she would not be alone. There is so much talent in blogland, women and men who do everything, although it doesn't seem to discourage me so much when I see talented men bloggers. I admit it, I stand in awe (read jealous).

So no ham post today, maybe never.

Instead here is another picture looking out Dewena's Window but one that shows the lampshade I finally found for my Italian fish lamp. In my previous blog, Across the Way, I once showed the lamp and asked advice about whether to buy a black shade or a white shade. Most readers recommended a white shade but one friend stood up for black. The one I chose off eBay is black with white polkadots! 

I'm pleased with it--that is until I start wondering what a style blogger would have to say about it. No, I'd better not go there. I can only stand so much mental anguish.

Here's another picture of favorite black and white kitchen adornment. Milo and Katie Belle were posing so prettily this morning that I had to include them in this post of adieu to ham.

And they don't give a hoot if I'm a glassblower or not.

They already think I'm a goddess.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Helen Exum's Cremated Ham

Helen Exum's Chattanooga Cook Book and her Helen Exum's Cookbook are two of my favorite cookbooks. Mainly because they tell stories and I don't have much use for a cookbook without stories. I want to know the people behind the recipes and both of these books are full of the interesting lives of the people of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I feel that I know these people after all the years I've read and cooked from Exum's books, and I so much admired the author--slim, attractive mother of six children, newspaper woman.

Exum did not really give a recipe for her Cremated Ham, discovered when her oven malfunctioned and the temperature shot up, unbeknownst to her when cooking for a family birthday celebration. She cooked three hams and the one that was overcooked, cremated, turned out to be the favorite.

The ham dried out and was sweet and tender, "a cross between a regular ham and a country ham." However it happened, it was a gift to me as I had never liked pink ham and loved country ham. I now alternate cooking ham as per package instructions for R.H.'s taste and cremated for me. Here is a picture of mine and it does not look as attractive as the one in the previous post of "Father Tim's ham."Not one good shot did we get and this is the best of the lot.

Really now, it looks like the eyes of a turkey vulture are staring, don't you think? And was I brain dead when I chose the platter? Here is the picture from Jan Karon's cookbook in the previous post, just to remind you of its elegance……….

While I don't have a platter quite as large, or as beautiful, as Karon's, I could have thought to look at some of the platters I do have instead of sticking it on the standby green Fiesta one.

I do have this old Grindley platter……..

If I'd only thought about it. 

So this concludes my third Southern author who wrote about hams cooked to rich mahogany red perfection. Next time, if I dare write about ham one more time, I'll present an author not from the South, in fact she thought that there was entirely too much ham in the South.

Meanwhile, if you like to read stories in your cookbooks, Helen Exum's books will please you. And then there are all of those other good recipes in them, such as:

Smothered Chicken, served on top of rice and fork tender…

Mashed Potato Refrigerator Rolls that will make you want to smack your momma, as a pastor of ours was fond of saying…

Miss Gertrude's White Layer Cake with Caramel Icing, "possibly Chattanooga's favorite dessert" and definitely one of my favorites.

And some day I'm going to take a dozen eggs, separate the yolks from the whites and make two other recipes from Helen Exum's cookbook, the 12 yolks going into a Coffee Cake and the 12 whites going into an Angel Food Cake. 

And I'll dig out my prettiest cake stands for the photographs.