Coffee Chat: Sunday Afternoon

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Do come in!   Shall you opt for iced coffee or tea?  If, like John, you think a hot cup is always appropriate then have it hot.  Let's settle here in the kitchen sitting area and have our chat.  We can see the glorious afternoon, the green lawns and the golden sunlight on the leaves of the trees.  It's a little cooler and a little quieter back here.

This morning I opened the windows of the house wide and let the fresh air flow.  As I worked in the bedroom it was lovely to see the white sheers billow in the breeze.  Is there anything lovelier than sheer curtains billowing? 

The roses look so pretty and the yellow iris are standing tall.  I realized that I have a good bit of blooms from daffodils, muscari, iris, tulips, and roses  for spring but I need to work on the summer/fall blooming plants to beautify the yard.   Of course, if those zinnias, phlox and cosmos come on I might stand a chance at some summer blooms.  I keep checking the soil daily but no sign as of yet.  And of course, Maddie has done her level best to insure those in the corner bed do not come up at all.   But I am so vexed with her at present for all the extra work she has made for me that I shall not speak of it further.

So what shall we talk about?  The state of the union?  Covid-19? Politics?  Well of course not!  We may inadvertently brush against those things, but we'll talk about what we typically do: home and garden, food and family, nature, faith and trust.   All worthy subjects, I think...Agreed?

So I have two Mandevilla that are thriving and the bougainvillea is living.  I think it needs more sun and I've got to determine where it shall do best.  The poinsettias I was given at Christmas are thriving and a healthy green but need to be divided into their own pots.  There are four in that pot.  I have five Kolanchoes off the parent plant that are doing well and will have three new ivy plants within a couple more weeks.  I told John I feel abundant with all the plants that I was able to divide from those I had.  I've planted the potted tulips Katie gave me and the potted hyacinths I bought in February, as well as the Amaryllis I bought after Christmas.  There's a few buckets and pots that I need to move plants from, mostly bulb plants and replant in the yard.  At least now poison is tall enough for me to see where it is so I won't be digging up those areas!

Speaking of dividing plants, I have two Christmas cacti that also must be repotted and I think both have multiples in the pot and they need splitting, not to mention the tiny baby plants I've tucked in when leaves have dropped.  And then there are the palms which I repotted last spring that grabbed hold of life with all fronds this winter and has simply grown and grown.  I'm pretty sure I need to divide that as well.   I seem to be in a season of making things grow.

I have blooms on my yellow pear tomato and the Brandywine looks stunningly healthy but the Roma is not a happy plant.  No clue why.  It's right with the other two tomatoes and gets the same sun they do.  It's potted in good soil, too.  So why so glum chum, I ask it,  but get no reply. 

Well we've discussed my limited garden...Though I must share that I planted to Romaine butts in the pretty pink planter.  I'll have to try to remember to get a photo of that for you all.  It seems to be doing well enough in the spot near the carport.  Not where I'd 'seen' it when I was painting it but you know how that goes.  Things must be put where they will do best and there's the wonder of gardening. 

Yes, I really do ask it why the tomato why it's not happy.  I speak encouragement to all my plants.  I whisper to them and admonish them gently and compliment them heavily when they are being especially lovely. 

I've always had a way with plants from girlhood on.  I have to say the internet makes it a whole lot easier to attend to plants as the information required is right at my fingertips.  That's how I knew to chop off the violet plants heads when they got so long necked.  I never would have believed it could work but it did.  And that's how I knew how to remove the baby Staghorn fern and pot it up.  But even before the internet days, all I've really ever had to do was put a seed in a pot, water it and up it came and bloomed and bloomed.

When I lived, long ago, in the house I loved best of all my houses, the front porch was a goodly size.  Big enough for seating for four or five.  I had a wooden ironing board and each summer, I loaded that thing up with plants and had the prettiest blooms you've ever seen.  One year I made a flower bed in the front yard and planted seeds and day lily and they all took off and bloomed for years upon years.  People would stop on the roadway to tell me how pretty my plants were.  But I've taken it in seasons.  I planted little when I moved into the house where I was living when I met John.  I had no indoor plants nor did I do more than put out a sad row of vincas each spring and an equally sad row of chrysanthemums each fall. 

When we moved here, I had Sam break me up two or three flower beds.  The one that took best was at the driveway end of the patio and there I planted zinnias and cosmos and touch me nots and coral vine and sunflowers.  When people arrived they all stood astounded at that patch of blooms.  I kept it going for a few years but it was hard once Sam went to work to get someone willing to do the heavy duty work for me.  I've mentioned before that John likes grass.  He likes to mow grass.  He doesn't care if we don't have flowers or flowering beds or roses.  It took me years to get my bits of work done and I'll continue on until I can't any longer.  I don't suppose I'll ever have the rambling beds of gorgeous flowers blooming nine months of the year with a pool or peaceful green pristine lawn in the center that I dream of...but I'll keep going until I can't any longer in trying!

I mentioned how very bored, bored, bored I am with meals of late.  Yes, part of does have to do with being home so very much, but remember this being at home business has pretty much been going on since Fall for us.  I mean, of course, that with John's retirement coming up last year and using every bit of extra sick leave and vacation time that he had, we've stayed home anyway.  It cut down a bit on our income for one thing and second we knew too well that we were going to lose income when he retired and we were trying to live off what we knew we'd have.  So we had purposely curtailed our eating out and shopping and just stayed at home as much as we could.   I've been pretty much making three meals a day all these months, not just these last two.

I went back through to read menus on my own blog and realized that I am as regular as clockwork with what we eat in whatever season we're in.  So I've been actively looking for new recipes. 

Now back in the day, when I had my own magazine subscriptions and all Mama's discards as well, I collected loads of recipes each month and when I felt bored, I'd pull out the sheaf of papers and try one and some of them were really good and landed on the menus and some got tossed because though they sounded good, I was lacking in a key ingredient that would affect flavor, usually something odd and not easily found or that was expensive.  Eventually I had a nice little recipe book of my own built up and then I stopped taking my magazines and Mama stopped discarding hers. 

So this last month, I pulled out the cookbooks and realized something.  Most of the cookbooks I own I have used for years upon years.  I tabbed the most used recipes long ago and those are the ones I generally turn to when I pick up those books.   I know if I'm going to make Banana Bread to take up the Betty Crocker Cookbook and if I'm making Gingerbread to use the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and so on.   So all my favorites are already tagged and I've used those recipes over and over because they work best with my pantry and our tastes.   There was nothing new in any of them that I wanted to try. 

So I finally turned to those Pinterest recipes that I've saved and tried a few of those or at least took ideas from them to attempt. That's where I found the Easy White Bread recipe we have so enjoyed making in the bread machine.  Korean Beef and Rice was a recipe that Mandy in the Making  had tried that I jotted down.  It was good but not wow, let's make this one again.   The Shepherds Pie I made this past week that John raved over was in fact, my take on a similar pie I'd bought at Sam's way back yonder in the days when I had a child at home. 

It had a pastry shell, was filled with a ground beef and gravy filling and was topped with mashed potatoes.  I actually put grated carrots, finely minced onions and mushrooms in my ground beef mixture as well as tossing in a handful of green peas and then stirred in a can of mushroom soup.  I topped the filling with a layer of shredded cheese and then put mashed potatoes over the top of that.  Well...Gold stars for me!   John was enthusiastic with praise after tasting his first bite and complimented me on it the next three days.

But I confess that it's hard for me to find recipes I think I'll try.  24 ounces of cheese is a bit much if you ask my opinion and it does seem that so many of the recipes that get the most raves are just not a good economy dish to make.  Not that I want cheap food.  I like eating and I like cooking and nothing makes me happier than to make a good dish that makes everyone at my table say "Mmmm!"  I like for food to be healthy with a good sprinkling of fresh ingredients and if it's also pretty and exacts an "Ooh!" when I bring it to the table so much the better.  But I also don't want food that is just this side short of a heart attack for budget or body.   So I am picky.  And my search continues...I'll share anything I find that is truly a recipe and truly delicious. 

All that said, does anyone else start looking for main dish ideas or vegetable ideas but get lost in a  plethora of dessert recipes?  Asking for a friend...

I mentioned my cookbooks, but I've noted that Bess and Katie both keep their recipes online.  I mean that they keep track of them on their phone and pull them up right away.  They never print them off or have them in a cookbook.  But that's a different generation.   Back in my day, you couldn't possibly be married if you didn't receive a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook!  Now cookbooks are not really the norm.  Most people who do buy them seem to use them for display or read them like a novel rather than use them to actually cook.

I did take time last week to pull a few things from my shed and freshen my home.  I don't have anything new.  I put the peony stems back into the blue and white jars, just as I did last year.  I did bring in a tall blue vase I'd bought for my booth ages ago and filled it full of lavender, thistle and ranunculus picks.  That went on the buffet in the dining area.   It's actually rather stunning if I do say so but it needs more of the yellow ranunculus...  In my bedroom I cleared my dresser top and then put both the antique kerosene parlor lamps on the old dresser and honestly I've no idea why I've never thought to do that before!   And finally, in the bathroom I brought in the aqua glass bottles and put fern stems in them.   Those are on the seat portion of my garden tub and it looks nice.   Just little touches and not a big deal, not worth doing a post all on their own but it made me happy to flutter around the house and make things look a wee bit nicer than they'd been looking.  I long for something new to me, but honestly I have enough.

Friday I had one of those unexpected sorts of days.  I had my plans.  I usually do.  I worked about the house and defrosted the freezer and had just made up my mind that I might as well go ahead to the grocery when Bess texted asking if she might do laundry.  I had no objections.  I knew her washer was broken and was semi-prepared for that call.  That was about 9:30.  I decided I'd better eat a bite of breakfast before they came in.  I had more than enough time to eat as she didn't arrive until nearly 11 and it took no genius to figure out why. 

They boys were wild as could be.  Millie was wailing.  Bess handed her off to me and went to unload the car of her laundry and I tried to calm baby girl but she was so miserable she even whimpered when she did finally drift off to sleep.   She'd had shots on Tuesday and she'd been fairly miserable ever since.    The boys didn't get less wild by Isaac was 'hungy, Damma, hungy'.    I sent them outdoors and made up a quick lunch of  waffles and bacon slices.   As I expected the boys were thrilled with their lunch.  Bess said she'd eat when she got done but eyeing the basket of clothes that overflowed and seeing that the washer was already running, I figured she wasn't going to be eating lunch any time soon.  I retrieved a frozen pasta dish from the freezer and put it in the microwave to heat for us.

Millie continued to fuss and would occasionally doze off and whimper in her sleep and the boys finally settled in.  Katie texted and asked to come out.  So in a few minutes she and Caleb were here and she asked if she could make herself a salad.  I told her sure and while she was retrieving the lettuce, she looked in  the basket in the fridge where I'd put the Korean Beef and Rice that was semi planned for Saturday dinner and asked if she might have some of that.  I told her to go ahead and I fed Caleb while she made her own lunch.  The boys adore Aunt Katie.  They were pleased to have a baby big enough to interact.  Isaac shared the stuffed puppy dogs.  Josh tickled him and made him laugh which made Josh laugh.   Caleb wanted those boys to play with him and they did.

Well it was a lovely afternoon overall.  I really enjoyed it but I was so weary and tired when everyone went home.  It was one of John's work days, so I'd been up extra early and I'd worked hard before the girls and children came and worked hard after they all left, too because the boys had toys strowed indoors and out.   It was just an hour until John came home, so I retreated in an old British program called "Escape To the Country".   It's similar to House Hunters but the views and history is worthy of immersion and it's truly an escape to me.  I get to virtually explore cottages dating from 1500's to early 1900's and who wouldn't love doing that?! 

Friday night was Shabat.  In these days, when we aren't going out to our church, I find I am really clinging to Friday evenings.  I love the candle lighting and prayer time.  I love the beauty of it and I love that I am just one in a chain of households that are lighting candles.  I always imagine that circle of light moving across the world as one household after another lights Shabat candles and turn towards the proscribed rest.  It's an unseen community I belong to, much like ours here.  I can often feel the tension in my body melt away as we begin the ceremony.

I miss church, but I'm so grateful that years ago we decided it was worthwhile to bring in Sabbath in this way. 

I've been feeling weary.  It's not just a physical weariness.  I do work hard but I rest hard too, even if I don't always sleep well.  I do not overtax my body.   I am not unwell.  I think it's the atmosphere all about me that has wearied me.  It's not fear of this virus though I assure you we have a very healthy respect for it.  It's more the knowledge that we are battling an unknown and it's so radically changed our world.  I worry a good bit for those who are unemployed, who haven't the luxury of being out of debt, who haven't a resource to fall back upon.   I worry about how out of balance some people are, always swinging from one extreme to another.  Frantically social to militantly anti-social.  I worry about the complete lack of compassion or understanding of how someone else' situation can be vastly different and difficult in ways that the other has never experienced.

No, these aren't my personal worries.  They don't really belong to me at all.  But I feel them hanging in the atmosphere all about me.  I know what it is to be financially desperate and hopeless.  I know what it's like to feel so overwhelmed with the responsibilities that must be faced and no clue how they shall be met.  I feel the fear that some are facing.  And the grief that others face. 

And I feel the hate.  The absolute desire to have what a handful think is best happen and everyone and everything else be damned.  They think they see Utopia arriving.  And it's an illusion because what lies on the other side is hell for too many. 

Well you can see why I feel weary.   And so for May, I decided I needed to lighten up.  I pursue my goals hard.   I work hard.  I strive to do my best at all times in all things.  It's the way I am wired and I strive equally as hard to find a balance so that I am not in constant motion.  But for May, I'm going to relax.  I don't mean to pursue big hard goals.   I don't mean to fret over the myriad things I've meant to do.  I won't want any less to have a pretty yard or a comfortable and charming home, but I'm going to ease up and focus on one thing each day.  Just one.  Not dozens.  One.  So if I'm going grocery shopping then I'll focus only upon grocery shopping and the tasks that entails.  I won't try to garden and teach and redecorate and work on a huge project.   On the days when I'm meant to teach Josh, I'll teach Josh.  When he's done for the day, I'm done for the day.  It all sounds perhaps just a little too simplistic but I know what I mean and perhaps you do, too. 

On an average day, I feel all the above mentioned tensions for others all about me.  I have my household responsibilities, my personal interests, my family, my spiritual life, my personal care, meals, appointments for the week ahead, and I'm mentally subtracting time from my life thinking "I'll need 'X' number of hours to do this and 'X' hours to do that and I need to schedule in time to do the next thing and the next...My mind is running ahead already taxed with the weight of the days ahead.  I'm not going to do that for this month. 

I'm going to give myself a vacation.  From me.  From the pressure I put upon myself. 

I'm not going to read chapters daily in my Bible.  I'm going to slow down and focus on one verse at a time.  I'm going to mull it over and chew on it and come back to study it a little closer.  I'm going to plan meals and then spend time doing nothing but meal prep and post my menu where I can physically see it each time I go into the kitchen and know that the next meal is planned and  prepped for and requires only minor thought from me.  I'm going to sit on the back porch and have my morning coffee and I'm going to sit with hand sewing or crochet or read a book.  I'm going to watch the birds at the bird bath and admire the roses while they last and watch the season unfold.  I'm going to listen to the bees in the persimmon tree and the sweet songs of the Mocking Bird and the rustle of the leaves on the trees. 

And if the world at large weighs upon me then so be it.   I'll spend time putting it all to prayer, something I've been entirely too occupied to take time to do. 

There, now.  Wasn't that a nice visit?  I do hope you'll stop by again. 
(C) Terri Cheney