Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Baby News!

Our newest grandchild came into the world so quickly that I missed his grand entrance, but I was able to be with Soldier and Joy and their dear boy for most of his first several hours, along with his other grandmother, who is my long-time good friend. We all stared at his face that is so strange but also familiar, and put our fingers into his little fists for grasping.

It's clear that God loves us!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Almost Perfect World

Yesterday I got up on the wrong side of the bed. A cup of tea seemed to be in order, and when I saw the special tea blend from Germany, "Perfect World," it seemed like the right morning to open the package.

There is no ingredients list. I sprinkled some leaves out on a plate to give it a look. There are chamomile flowers there, I can see that much.

steaming & steeping

I poured some boiling water over the herbs in a measuring cup, and brewed it what turned out to be too weakly. After a few minutes I put the pretty liquid in a pretty teacup for beauty's sake. That wasn't enough tea to direct my mood in any way. I'll have to try it another time, stronger and in a big mug.

in my grandma's teacup even

Today I woke up again. Almost before I figured out what side to get out on, my dear, sweet-hearted, only-beloved husband brought me some flowers. It's been a nearly perfect day so far.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Keeping the tomatoes straight

Brazilian Beauty

This spring we planted seven new varieties of tomatoes, and a total of ten plants, which is the most diversity we've ever had in all our 35 years of backyard tomato-growing. I know from the past that it can be hard to keep track of what fruits we are harvesting, because long branches start to criss-cross each other.

So I planted the cherry types alternately with the slicers, and the non-red next to the red ones. Still I needed markers to help me identify which unfamiliar red slicer is which, and I made these labels.

Northern Lights
In the recent past I'd taped labels to the cages or stakes, because when they are in the ground they get lost amid the branches or stepped on and broken. Last year's name tags faded into illegibility, though, so this year, hoping to prevent that, I used some narrow masking tape and black Sharpie to form the letters -- that's why they are so big and blocky.

Some of the varieties are: Sun Sugar, an orange cherry that we grew last year and like even better than Sungold, Czech Bush, and Ailsa Craig. The types we've grown before are Persimmon, an orange slicer, Early Girl, our all-time favorite, and Juliet, a large grape cherry.

Mr. Glad wanted to plant two Juliets just in case everything else fails. So far, everything else looks very good.

There are lots of honeybees in the yard which makes me feel good about the world. I took about twenty shots of them on the lavender so that I could post one happy picture.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nature comes with sweets

Our city is pretty broke, and you can tell by the changes along the bike path where we often take our walks. Nothing gets pruned anymore. If a large tree branch falls across the pavement, it's dragged off to the side and left to rot.

Weeds grow up tall and threaten to become a fire danger. Then we notice that they were mostly cut down, apparently by some large machine that doesn't get the borders of anything.

So to the eye, the landscape is less lovely than before. Not like the countryside, which is normally wild and ungroomed, but like a planted garden that is neglected.
It's not easy to tell which shrubs were planted decades ago by the city, and which have come over and under the fences of the yards bordering the walkways. The privets are obviously man-planted, and there are rows of the big bushes with hundreds of honeybees drinking at them all right now.

On the last few walks I didn't notice the raggedness so much because the higher temperatures have brought out the warm aromas of summer, and I was looking around hungrily to discover the source. Mr. Glad and I usually stride along at the fastest pace possible, and I've been wanting to get back there by my lonesome to meander with my camera. This morning I did.

There is a lot of this sort of thing, a messy mix of oak, privet, and foxtails. But those foxtails and other grasses are some of the sweetest smells filling the air.

The quietness is lush. Maybe all the children were enjoying the first days without school by sleeping in, or something less wholesome. Other than a couple on their bikes, and one woman walking her dog, I was alone with the songbirds and buzzing insects.

Sequoia sempervirens

Whatever cut the weeds, it threw layers of the cuttings to the side, on top of the desirable plants, jumbling up the scene even more.

But a flowering vine had escaped from a back yard and made a bright spot in the tangle, and the growing tips of redwood trees always look fresh and clean. There are lots of pretty plants I don't know the names of; I'm happy they don't pay any mind to property lines.

This is one that makes red berries for us, to decorate the house with at Christmas. Now is the time for it to make heady aromas. Potato vine was climbing over wooden fences...

...And honeysuckle - While I have to keep after the vine in my yard with clippers, so that it doesn't take over, along the bike path it can do what it wants, and bless my nose every time I get near.

Looking down toward the creek, you can see past the Queen Anne's Lace the lower road running under the footbridge. I crunched through stickery stuff to get close to the flower.

I went down to that dirt path for a view of the creek, which is not noticeably flowing at this time of year. Horsetail grass and other more watery plants still grow in the mud.

horsetail grass
On my return loop I passed the park where our children used to play soccer, and where they claimed their own particular redwood trees to climb and perch in. There wasn't much competition from the neighborhood children because it's a prickly business, climbing a redwood tree.

Years after they abandoned their trees the city began trimming the lower branches. I don't know if that would make climbing harder or easier.

All these soft comforts of a summer morning were better than breakfast. Next time I'll try to get out the door even earlier for my sweet treats.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The boon of a boy with the pox

Feeding the neighborhood cat
All the planets were in formation for me to have a blessed weekend. First, grandson Scout came down with the chicken pox. Second, his parents needed to attend a wedding and to travel through our part of the state to get there. Third, I had no obligations I couldn't get out of. So he stayed with us for three nights! This was only a few days after we'd returned from that trip to his house over the Memorial Day weekend.

Though we have eight other grandchildren, this is the first time we've had entire responsibility for any of them this long. I was really busy with the little guy, and it was very satisfying.

His pox weren't bothering him much, which made it possible for us to just have a good time. After the first full day he was here, I was so high I was ready to write a glowing blog post about the experience as soon as he went to bed. I put it off, and at the end of the second day I was exhausted and couldn't relate to that woman of the previous day or remember the feeling. It's a mercy he sleeps long at night so I could too. 

That first day I was in the Mom groove -- it reminded me at least a little of when I was a youngish mother 30 years ago with a lot to get done every day, little children underfoot and needing something every few minutes. You learn to make the most of every five-minute snatch of time when they are occupied, and you figure out how to get tasks done with them alongside and "helping."

Scout's very favorite activity at our place is watching the Kreepy Krauly pool sweep when it comes on for 2 hours every morning. I didn't want to find out if he would be happy doing that for entire time it runs, because I needed to be right next to him inside the pool fence. I was indulgent to an hour's worth, which was nerve-wracking enough.

Eventually I figured out that I could prune a few rose branches or sweep the fence while we were in there. Scout helped me dig weeds, too, when he wasn't trotting from one side of the pool to the other following the machine, talking about it or to it, "Heh-woh, Kweepy!" I think I came closer to falling into the pool than he did, more than once.

Two of the three days he was here were unusually warm, even into the evenings, which made it possible for us to spend a lot of time outdoors. A big dishpan and the hose would have been enough to occupy him, but I also brought out the play stove his grandpa had made about 30 years ago, and some plastic tea dishes. He set to work making "chicken noodle soup," or so he said.

One of the ways one makes use of the minutes when caring for a little one is to explore together -- watch bugs, smell roses, and notice how the hose water feels on the toes. 

Scout is a talker and asks the name of every flower he sees. I was able to satisfy him about most of the ones growing in our yard, and a few in the neighborhood. When we got back from one our walks he put his nosegay into a little pot.

None of our grandchildren lives close enough to us that we can see them frequently. For the present, Scout is the closest, and five hours isn't very close. Maybe the arrival of his little brother or sister late this summer will give us the impetus to make the drive more often.

I'm ready to put in more Grandma Time!

Frilled Shasta Daisy

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Philosophy of Pie and Picnics

Vegan Coconut Pie
Between tonight and tomorrow this subject must become theoretical, as Monday my church begins fasting in preparation for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Though I admit to making vegan desserts, like this coconut pie for Father L.'s birthday, usually I'd rather just wait until a fast-free day to enjoy the butter and cream. Hey, by then I'm happy to pour cream in my coffee and call it dessert.

But that's not festive enough for a picnic, or for a tea party. I think both of those events demand some cake, if they are going to be traditional (in addition to the scones, if you want those). Sadly, our family is generally lacking in cakes, with the major exception of Pearl, who learned on her own and makes lovely ones. I don't think her household lacks cake; I don't know anything about their picnics.

The rest of us, going back a couple of generations and on both sides of the family, eat pie. One of us even declared, "Cakes are for looking at."

I can't grant that much myself, because my very few attempts at cake decorating beyond the sprinkling of some coarse sugar did not draw any comments about prettiness. My favorite topping for children's birthday cakes of long ago was an array of gumdrops -- but with that we start slipping into the candy category.

It may have been Big Sister Pearl who baked this birthday cake for Soldier, using plenty of that ingredient that is so important. I can see something in his expression that hints at what he would do 20 years down the road: leave cake out of his wedding altogether, in preference for pie.

I blame bloggers for giving me the feeling that something is missing. Have you noticed how many blog posts have been written about this or that recipe for cake, which comes out of the oven in the late morning or afternoon just in time to have a slice with some tea, at the kitchen table with the children just home from school, or just taking a break from homeschool?

Proof that I baked a cake
It's not clear how I would work that tradition into my lifestyle at this point. My husband would be alarmed and reluctant, to put a good spin on it, and might not eat any cake. I'm considering reviving my Girlfriends Tea Parties just so I can make a cake or two. When I did this before it was a great way to try out a few of the hundreds of dessert recipes I have in my collection. After we sampled them together, all the ladies took home most of the leftovers to share with their sweeter-toothed husbands.

One huge advantage to packing the cake into a basket instead, to be eaten on a blanket spread under a tree, is that I wouldn't have to clean the house beforehand. But the Old English style of picnicking has also not caught on in the Glad Tribe. Our group has favored throwing handfuls of trail mix into their mouths so that they can get to the mountain peak and back before dark. None of this leisurely sitting around eating and fattening up.

But I have a new desire to broaden our style in that regard, too, probably from reading too many blog posts about Wind in the Willows and grown-up girls taking their Toad and Mole dolls on outings with yummy noshables.

It's good that I will have a few weeks to think about these important questions -- or rather, not to think about them. And by then I'll be too busy getting ready for a new grandchild, and getting ready for a trip...Then there will be another fast, and then another new grandchild. All these ideas for events that require a Lot of Planning really don't fit in this summer.
But it won't take long to throw together a pie to set before my dear husband, a blackberry or cherry would suit just fine, and leftovers won't be a problem.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Listening to Pooh

Nearly 20 years ago I sat for hours reading Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner into the tape recorder, so that my youngest could listen to the stories at night after she got into bed. It was a challenge to find the time and to keep the lively house noises outside of my bedroom door, but I kept at it for many recording sessions, and she got at least one long cassette full of my sleep-inducing voice.

Before I completed the project, one tape broke and I became disheartened about the loss of so much work. Then we found a professionally produced edition of Pooh stories and young Kate made do with someone else's voice in her ears as she drifted off. It was a long time before she got tired of this Pooh routine.

Now Scout has the homemade tape; you can see him wiggling before the sound system in this short video his mother made, listening beyond his years as she (not the one I made the tapes for) used to do. Pippin would stand by the radio to hear the adult program "Unshackled," and sit patiently and attentively while I read books more on the level of the oldest children in our tribe.

Cassette tapes are antiquated now, and players not so available as they used to be. I'm sure my Pooh tape won't live a lot longer. But now, by means of a digital camera, a minute of the story has been preserved against its demise.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Maui Diary 11 - Aloha Oe

On Maui we stayed in the town of Kihei, where 50% of the permanent residents of the island live. This plebian environment was more our style than the resort life we observed just south on the beaches next to Wailea's villas and grand hotels. Just strolling on the beach path that winds past their perfectly groomed and gorgeous grounds, I became a little self-conscious about my commoner's clothes every time we passed the hotel guests.

Staying in a condo rather than a hotel also made for a relaxing and homey existence, at least for people like us who like to set up housekeeping for ourselves and actually prefer to eat breakfast "at home." We bought sweet Maui Gold pineapples at Safeway and ate of them in the morning while I was still in my nightgown. Each of us had one day that we were under the weather, and we could just laze about our apartment, and grill steaks or fish for dinner on the barbeque outside.

Our place had a view right out to the beach, and one evening I sat in front of this scene and counted 27 palm trees within my range of vision. The stars came out and were as bright as in the high mountains; I couldn't get over how well I could see without my glasses Orion's belt and even his sword.

I wouldn't complain if someone gave me a week at a resort and I had to eat at its restaurants, but as long as I'm paying, I'd just as soon stay in a less expensive condo like the one we were blessed with and enjoy the food at the many places the locals also enjoy.

The Coconuts Cafe with its deservedly famous fish tacos is a fine example. The cole slaw, normally in the tortilla but which I had on the side, was made with a refreshing coconut milk dressing that I'd love to try replicating.

Mr. Glad has for some time enjoyed Hawaiian guitar music, so we had looked forward to being in Hawaii and hearing some good examples. One evening we went out for some live sounds that turned out to be not that great and not traditional, but the luau on our last night was fulfilling and very fun in its historically accurate dancing and music.

Over the radio in our rental car we heard a new-to-us contemporary Hawaiian sound that was maybe not traditional musically, but in the easy-listening messages conveyed it was all about loving the motherland and listening to the forefathers who will teach you how to be honorable Hawaiians.

Shirt Mr. Glad gave me for my birthday
This harkening to cultural roots and the ancestors generates a desire on the part of parents to put their young children into classes where they will learn the Hawaiian tongue. It seems that though Hawaiian names and phrases are floating through the balmy air everywhere, currently very few people actually have any real ability to communicate in that language. I wonder if that will change, or if the children force-fed this artifact will respond with disdain as have the Irish I know who were made to study Gaelic in school.

Besides the reverence for the land and the history, we noticed in the popular and melodic songs we heard a phrase repeated in nearly every one: ka puana. Eventually we were able to investigate and discover that this means something like "It's fun to be with you." It often went along with words about Having a Good Time, which easygoing theme was one of the unique scents in Mauian atmosphere.

How would it be, we mused, to live as a permanent resident in this place, where one might reasonably believe that even people with jobs and families display the Hang Loose symbol and attitude? It's almost certain that we will never know the answer, even if we sojourn there again.

Ages ago, at my 8th grade graduation, our school chorus sang an English version of the Hawaiian tune "Aloha Oe," ("Farewell to Thee") and it made a big impression on me, so that I can still remember some of the words in our translation, and find that they don't exactly match anything to be found online.

At least I did find a nice guitar rendition of the tune (just below), with lovely pictures, to wrap up my Maui Diary. As you will guess, many of the pictures are of scenes I didn't see, but they convey something of the Hawaiian heritage and natural beauty.

I won't end with that video that someone else put together, because I do have one of my own making! It was recorded on a windy afternoon on the beach by our condo, so the only sound in the movie is that of the tradewinds. It's a 360° view, starting on the beach, and taking in a row of condominiums. Ours was the flat-roofed one somewhat in the middle.

And at the very bottom of the page, the refrain of the song as I remember singing it. Good-bye, Maui! Until we meet again....

Aloha Oe, Aloha Oe,
The winds will carry back my sad refrain;
One fond embrace before we say good-bye,
Until we meet again.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Maui Diary - 10 On the Bottom

All the books said that without an off-road vehicle, you should not make a loop around the island by driving all the way along "the bottom" of Maui. But permanent residents said it was o.k., so we did it! I was so happy for the chance to at least minimally explore this wide-open space, where little traffic is.


Mr. Glad needed a snack, however, before we would set out on the most lonely stretch of that road, and we found one of the famous Hana fruit stands on our route, a sort of Last Chance Saloon with yummy coffee and yet another new fruit find to give us a boost for the journey.

canistel or eggfruit

I bought mangoes, and an eggfruit, a.k.a. canistel. And while my husband sipped his coffee I snapped pictures of the garden and farm in back, and mentioned to the girl working there, "A friend told me before we came that Maui is a paradise -- and he was right."

"A lot of people say that," she responded. "What do you mean by 'paradise'?" We then had a philosophical and literary conversation about the books she has been reading, the Ringing Cedars series, in which the protagonist has ideas about creating paradise on earth, as I understood.

It was a rare sort of encounter for me, in which I find a stranger who wants to engage on topics of mutual interest, at a time when I also have the energy. I hated to leave her, and I took some more photos of the garden and farm behind the humble storefront.

This begonia resembled one I used to have in my house in California -- but that one never bloomed....

Then we were on our way. The problems with the road are two: a stretch of several miles that is unpaved, and many miles of one-lane paved road. I was the driver for this trip, and I found the unpaved sections pretty easy. There were potholes, but the road was wide enough to maneuver around them.

For a while at the outset rain poured down and we kept the wipers going, but when it stopped we were quick to open the windows and let the ultra-fresh air blow through.

The breeze carried a mysterious and new fragrance, certainly the breathings of that wild coast's unique set of botanicals.

Even the eroded lowest slopes of Haleakala Volcano on our right seemed to me the most beautiful sight, while I was getting that kind of air in my lungs.

On the left side of the road, we looked down on the beach, empty of humanity.

Once I stopped to get a closer whiff of this plant -- but on its own at least it didn't smell much.

Mr. Glad discovered a rainbow behind us, and I let him do the honors of capturing that extra blessing of our adventure. Lacking a scratch-and-sniff feature on my computer, or any kind of words that can do justice to this stretch of coastline, I'll let it be The End of this day's diary of Maui.