Thursday, June 27, 2013

St. Joanna the Myrrhbearer

Today's my name day, the day we remember Joanna, one of the women who followed our Lord Jesus around during His earthly ministry and helped take care of everyday needs. I don't know what kinds of work those women did on His behalf, but perhaps it might all come under the broad category of hospitality?

In the two week period of which we are approximately in the middle, I have eleven different house guests coming and going. There isn't much that makes me happier than creating a comfy and welcoming space for people who are away from their usual routine. 

I like to put fresh flowers in the bathroom, and give the lodgers space for their suitcases and stuff. In weather like this I open the windows wide so that fresh air will greet them, and I give them choices of fat or thin pillows for their beds.

Jesus said that the Son of Man had no place even to lay His head; that was a particularly difficult hospitality challenge. It's a joy to remember St. Joanna as I prepare one more room this afternoon for people I love.

Here is what is on the Orthodox Church in America website for this woman whom we remember today:
Saint Joanna the Myrrh-bearer, wife of Chusa, the household steward of King Herod, was one of the women following and attending the Lord Jesus Christ during the time of His preaching and public ministry. She is mentioned in Luke 8:3 and 24:10.

Together with the other Myrrh-bearing Women, St. Joanna went to the Sepulcher to anoint the Holy Body of the Lord with myrrh after His death on the Cross, and she heard from the angels the joyful proclamation of His All-Glorious Resurrection. According to Tradition, she recovered the head of St. John the Baptist after Herodias had disposed of it.
Saint Joanna, pray to God for us!

Monday, June 24, 2013

I communicate vintage style in small bits.

This week the discussion of Hidden Art of Homemaking is on chapter 9 - Writing Prose and Poetry. I haven't kept up with the conversation at Ordo Amoris for a week or more, and for this chapter I'm just re-posting this from August 2009. Don't be misled by the now-obsolete references to postage rates!

Old-Fashioned Correspondence

To introduce the postal theme-- and for a few moments just forget about the concept of mail that can't be carried in from the mail box in one's real hands--I show you this T-shirt we bought in Yosemite last month, at the post office. It was the best clothing deal in the park, and an unusual and historic design: a reproduction of a stamp that was issued in 1936, showing--Yes! my beloved El Capitan! If you have ever beheld that rock I trust you won't find its frequent appearance here tiresome.

I mostly wanted to tell about postcard-writing, and the shirt isn't very pertinent to that...though it just occurred to me that one might buy the shirt at the Yosemite post office and then write a postcard sort of message on the fabric before mailing it in its more personalized form. I don't think I'll run right back there and pick up a few more, though.

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother would send postcards to me and my siblings from wherever she was traveling. I recall receiving word from Turkey, Norway, Mexico, and Hawaii. She also wrote very entertaining letters from home. As she has been a major role model for me, it's no wonder that I feel it a natural activity as a human being to share my life in this way with those I love.

It's easy when on a journey, away from the usual housekeeping duties, to remember friends and family and take the opportunity to let them know I do think of them. A trip just doesn't satisfy if I haven't dropped a dozen cards in the letter-box.

This picture was taken at the Grand Canyon. When others in our party were hiking down into the gorge one morning, I walked all over the place looking for a picnic table with a view, from which I might write my cards. That was not to be found, but in a sheltered courtyard I did find a good spot, away from wind and next to a big stone with rain water pooled in a depression on the top. I didn't notice this rock until I was startled by a raven who swooped down to drink.

Postage "just" went up again. It now costs 28 cents to mail a postcard. On those first envelopes carrying my grandmother's address in the corner, the stamps on the other corner said "4 cents." I can't imagine that a postcard was more than a penny.

One thing I inherited from my father recently was the stamps from his desk drawer. There are some pretty old ones, from when a letter was 25 cents. If they still have stickum on them I use that, and if not, I apply a little Elmer's glue and save my pennies by using these old stamps.

I also "inherit" stamps from my father-in-law, who gets them (less and less, now that he responds infrequently) from charitable organizations that want him to send donations. They come to him already sticking to envelopes, but I cut them off and glue them on to our own bill payments. Some of my collection are in the photograph above. If you want to see the stamps up close, just click on the picture and you can see an enlarged version.

In California it seems that every town is a tourist town. At least, I find postcards in all the stores. But in some locales, the market has yet to be discovered, and I have to make my own postcards, which I learned to do from Martha Stewart, who gives us this handy template and instructions for using it. I've made these one-of-a-kind cards with photos of someone's backyard, or a lake that is small and unknown, or a town that is seemingly too plain for the professional postcard people.

But why restrict this fun habit to traveling days? I started sending postcards to the grandchildren and friends any old time. A postcard is small enough that I can find time to write a few words while the iron or computer is warming up or perhaps even in the middle of the night when sleep won't come. I don't think old-fashioned correspondence of this sort will ever become obsolete or unwelcome.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Not Lazy Summer Days

To be precise, summer only began yesterday, so I shouldn't be complaining about the lack of hours sitting on a patio with tea, or in the shade reading a book. I will likely yet have time before we get to the fall equinox for solitary early-morning weeding sessions in the garden while towhees splash in the birdbath nearby. But lately I've been doing so many fun and good things, I've been getting a bit depleted.

A week ago today, I was baking pies. It was a satisfyingly creative job, even if I did have a huge mess afterward.

Initially I wanted to bake an apple for the father of my children, for Father's Day. And at church the ladies were bringing in pies for the agape meal, also in honor of the day. I made three for that contribution, using up some flaked coconut and other goodies in my pantry.

This one above left was named Million Dollar Pie where I found the recipe online, but as I improved it by cutting the sugar in half, I'll make that Two Million Dollars. It must have tasted like a candy bar, what with the coconut, chocolate chips and walnuts it featured, but none was left over for me to try.
The recipe I found for Coconut Pineapple Pie made two pies from a 14-oz. bag of flaked coconut and a large can of crushed pineapple, with some eggs and butter, etc. in the mix. I did get a taste of that concoction, and I wonder if it might have had more zing if I'd used a name brand of pineapple. Even with its sugar cut in half it was a little too blandly sweet for me, but people liked it.

My newest favorite kitchen gadget got used that day: silicone pie crust shields. In the past I used aluminum foil to keep my crusts from getting too brown, but foil is not nearly as handy.

The day after Father's Day grandson "Pat" flew to California all by his lonesome from D.C.'s Ronald Reagan Airport, mostly to spend a while with Pippin's family, but we grandparents had the happy task of meeting him at the Oakland airport. Oakland is next door to Berkeley, where year by year I as a child visited my own grandparents, so we stopped in that old neighborhood of Indian Rock and Indian Rock Park in the Berkeley Hills.
Indian Rock

My sisters and I used to play here, just down the block from my grandma's house, and even my father had his picture taken on the Rock when he was a small boy. It's such a lovely thing that the houses were built all around this cluster of craggy boulders that seem more likely to be found in the Sierra Nevada. Pat climbed "cross country" on them, while we older people used the flights of steps long ago cut in the rock.

My father in 1927

From the top you can see far and wide, both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, and at the bottom, where the hill slopes into the town of Albany, it's possible to walk down to Solano Avenue by way of stairs passing between houses. It takes only a few minutes to go this way, descending to shops and in my grandma's time, her beauty parlor and the ice cream parlor that she let us visit by ourselves. Those were the days when children were safe.

After a couple of days having Pat all to ourselves, I drove him north to have adventures with the Professor and fun little cousins.; we listened to most of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the way up, with me interrupting frequently to say, "Would you look at all those sunflowers!" (There were a couple of thousand acres, I think, visible from I-5.) and "Those are tomatoes in that field, and this is alfalfa...." Sadly, we couldn't get one of those faraway views of Mt. Shasta because of clouds.

I had a few sweet hours with Scout and Ivy before I wore myself out driving back the very next day. I needed to come home and get ready for multiple house guests, and for events such as the much anticipated Feast of Pentecost.

Friday morning when I was back watering the garden I discovered that more of my unusually colored California poppies had bloomed, like this one.

A brief look-around at my flowers didn't seem to be enough R&R, though, so I asked Mr. Glad to take me to the coast where I could "just sit and stare at the ocean." He was happy to comply.

The weather wasn't as summery and calm as the predictors had led us to expect, but the fog hung around only thinly so that we mostly noticed the sunshine. I tied a bandana around my head so that the wind wouldn't make a total tangle of my hair, and we sat in the lee of a sand dune where I could rake my fingers through the warm sand for an hour.

I don't know how long I may have to wait to experience even a short string of rejuvenating days, but for now I think my half of a lazy afternoon will do nicely.

Friday, June 14, 2013

This morning had all of it.

the first red zinnia

"The early morning has gold in its mouth," said Ben Franklin. I bet he meant a different sort from what I found this morning. The birds started in earlier than ever today, at 5:00, but I was already awake!

lavender and salvia

After a while I realized that getting up was the thing to do. I just now read that some have called that moment when you get up earlier than you really wanted the Heroic Moment. Today was not that, because by the time I did throw off the blankets I was completely happy about the decision and it was easy to do.

sweet basil and nasturtiums competing

So often we have fog and cold feet in the mornings, but today was actually summery. The sun was shining, and the air had never taken on that cruel sharpness overnight - I could have eaten my breakfast outdoors at 6 a.m., but I didn't even think of it. The windows and door were open and I listened to the birds and marveled.

Early Girl is growing fast.

I walked around in the garden and took pictures of the flowers before the sun had a chance to get up high and glare at them.


My early morning had gold and silver and rubies and diamonds and all was bathed in the glory of God.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This chock-full week in June...

In church, we will soon be celebrating Pentecost, on the 23rd of June. Last night was the Leavetaking of Pascha service that I love, the last time we would sing "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death!" in the services until next Pascha. Tonight the Feast of Ascension began; until Pentecost we greet once another with "Christ is ascended!" and the response is, "From earth to heaven!"

loaves proofing
Between now and October 1st our parish has many feast days, so our team of communion bread bakers has a busy season ahead. Yesterday three of us worked at making the large loaves used in the altar, and the photos show some of my efforts.

just after sprinkling on some curry spices
At home I'm reveling in glorious vegetables. In the last few days I've juiced lots of vegetables raw, and also made big batches of kale and Turkish Green Beans and stir-fried Asian vegetables.

My recent favorite way to cook sweet potatoes or yams is to roast them at 450° or 500° with coconut oil and curry powder. I don't measure anything, and have used varying amounts of all the ingredients -- also different blends of curry spices, plus a little salt. It doesn't seem to matter if I stir the spices in at the beginning or partway through the baking. I bake them till they are tender. And then I eat them like candy.

Pippin sent me a link to this photo journal of grandmas around the world and the food they cook. I am considering what dish I might pose with were I asked to participate, and what clothes I could wear that would make me look half as cute as the Bolivian grandma in the're right, it would take more than clothes. I love the way the women arrange the ingredients so artfully in the "before" photos. An example is below.

The Egyptian grandma looks pleased.
From our son Soldier we got a link for a short film you can watch online (less than 15 minutes), about a man in the mountains of Ecuador who is The Last Ice Merchant. It's always a joy to see footage of a human soul taking satisfaction from hard work well done.

But progress means that people can get factory ice cheaply and the old-style ice he sells has become a specialty item. It's not likely anyone will want to take up the cause of nostalgia once he is gone. But I wouldn't be surprised if the ice he hauls down the mountain is sweeter than the cheap and more convenient blocks.

The last ice merchant
Another man whose character inspired me this week by way of the movie "Searching for Sugarman" is Sixto Rodriguez, a singer whose music never took off in the U.S. His two records failed to sell, and he lived simply and humbly for decades after, not knowing that his music was hugely popular and motivating and successful in South Africa. When his fans there discovered that he wasn't dead as rumored, they brought him to that country to do several concerts.

Suddenly he is famous -- but he didn't lose his endearing simplicity and generosity. I was impressed at how he seemed to have passed his gentle spirit on to his daughters who are also introduced in the film. I liked all but one person in this documentary, and I liked Rodriguez's voice very much, and a couple of his songs.

There you have my happy hodgepodge. Oh, and here is what my Mother's Day lily looked like when we got back from Oregon.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Oregon - long good-bye

On our last day in Oregon we woke up in a little old room in a lodge by a lake. Lake O'Dell, where Mr. Glad had come a couple of times as a child and where we thought we might row or paddle around on the glassy water in the morning. But I was impatient, knowing we had a long day of driving ahead of us, to just get on with it and get to Pippin's.

The night before, we had sat on the deck and continued our reading of The Hobbit. Then we retired to our rustic room, likely designed for a fisherman type who doesn't read in bed or need a nightstand for anything. The fisherman doesn't have any bottles or jars or pillboxes in the bathroom, either, so it's o.k. for him that the floor is the only horizontal surface other than a narrow windowsill.

It was kind of sweet, actually. The room smelled just normal, not like disinfectant or stale cigarette smoke or fake deodorizer. Maybe partly because the windows were letting in the fresh air from the forest, into a room that mostly houses just plain folk. We could see the lake through the trees, and hear the birds.
A well-dressed tree trunk by Lake O'Dell

Nothing and nobody woke us out of our good sleep, not even a motorboat of fishermen going out on the lake in the wee hours of the morning, as Mr. Glad had predicted. But we did wake and get on our way, south toward our home state. It would take the better part of the day, by way of long straight roads in the high and dry eastern side of Oregon.

Forest, forest and more forest, with "fields" of short lupines in bloom along both sides of the highway, thickest out in the open between the road and the trees.

When we were still at least 200 miles away, I got my first glimpse of the top of Mt. Shasta, that volcano that stands by itself over 14, 000 feet high as a dramatic landmark an hour's drive south of the Oregon-California line. And then I really got excited, like a horse on its way back to the barn, and it struck me how much I love that mountain for telling me "Welcome to California!" and "Welcome home!" while I was yet a long way off.
 It's summer, and summer in the West means the highway department is repairing the roads, so this trip was marked by many many extended stops waiting for the flagman to let us go on.

The last of these roadwork episodes was near Weed, California, and I was driving, and could roll down my window and snap this picture of the mountain from a normally impossible spot. "It's my lucky day!" I said, as once again we were sitting motionless on the blacktop.

But only a few minutes later we were playing with the grandchildren and eating strawberries with our dear ones. The Oregon loop was lovely, but not more so than the feeling of home.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oregon - Astoria, and what The Corps of Discovery ate

In 1805 Lewis & Clark came to Astoria, or more precisely, to the mouth of the Columbia River where the city would be founded a few years afterward. In the next century, during World War II, my in-laws came at the orders of the U.S. Navy. Last week my husband and I made our first visit to Astoria.

Bunkhouse for the soldiers

We didn't stick around nearly long enough to satisfy my traveling style, which is marked by a desire to make a home for at least a week or two in every place I visit. But only a minute is required to introduce a thought or fact and pique my interest; that's what happened at the Fort Clatsop park where replica log cabins have been built showing how the Corps of Discovery sent out by Thomas Jefferson lived for their 106 very wet days there.

Astoria front yard with salal
I told the docent that one thing I'd remembered from reading about Lewis & Clark with the children more than ten years ago was that when the party arrived at the Pacific Ocean (it was November) they turned up their noses at the salmon, being meat-loving guys. Well, it wasn't so simple, she replied. Back in September when they were famished because game was scarce, they had traded with the Nez Perce Indians for camas root (camassia quamash) and dried salmon, which made them sick, so they associated that unpleasant experience with the fish....and besides, there wasn't a lot of salmon to be had at that time of year at the mouth of the Columbia.

field of camas in bloom (not my photo)

The woman was focused on taking down the flag and didn't even notice that I was asking questions: What was it about the camas root that was bad, why did the Indians give it to the explorers, and what was it doing with the salmon? She had made it sound like they were eaten together. So I had to do my own research when I got home, and of course more questions are raised the more knowledge one gets.
I haven't found anything leading me to believe that the men of the Corps of Discovery despised salmon. They didn't write a lot while they were at Fort Clatsop; it was a relatively boring life after the excitement of getting there, and the social life was lacking compared to the previous winter, as the coastal Indians were into commerce, not partying. But in the journal accounts before and after the uncomfortable camas episode there are many passages that mention the eating of salmon with no negative comments.

One thing they did record about the food at the coast was that they had obtained salal berry bread -- probably a "cake" of dried berries --  from the Clatsop Indians. That got my attention, because we had seen thousands of salal bushes on and near the Oregon Coast. The leaves may look familiar to anyone who has enjoyed bouquets of flowers from florists, because they are used extensively in flower arrangements.

Salal in flower -
Gaultheria shallon
Over the last few days Mr. Glad and I both have become engrossed in the journals of Meriwether Lewis and George Clark and others of the company, because of questions raised during our brief stop at the fort. I read on the blog of Frances Hunter, who has written at least one book on the expedition, that the reason the easterners had debilitating digestive ailments for a week after eating camas was that they were "unaccustomed to eating much fiber." But in the paragraph before, she wrote that because the hardtack supplies had been depleted, the men had for some time been eating more corn, beans, and squash than was usual.

An Astorian garbage can poses as a giant can of salmon.
Many people aren't aware of which foods have fiber and which don't, and maybe Hunter is among the ignorant. The "three sisters" of Indian staple vegetables have plenty of fiber, as do the berries that the soldiers had been eating all along. And while an excess of fiber might cause bloating and cramping, it wouldn't normally cause vomiting and diarrhea. But the explorers themselves did attribute their illness to the salmon and camas.

Lucky for me I ran into The Natural World of Lewis and Clark by David A. Dalton, which treats the aspects of Lewis & Clark's journeys that I'm currently wanting to know about. I learned that the main starch in camas roots is inulin, and the book explains how humans lack the enzyme to digest inulin in our stomachs. It goes straight to the intestines where fermenting bacteria digest it and produce gases, a process similar to what happens when someone who doesn't usually, eats beans.

The Indians had a way of cooking the camas root that has been shown to break down the inulin and make the resulting food more digestible: they cooked the roots in a pit for several days until they turned into a mush reportedly as sweet as molasses. The Nez Perce had digestive systems that were accustomed to this food, and they probably knew to eat it in moderation, while the Corps ate lots, being quite hungry at the time.

Later after they had success at hunting and ate some meat, they felt better, until they boiled some camas root -- note, they didn't deep-pit it -- and their bloating reoccurred. Eventually they figured out how to eat the stuff, which they came to consider a comforting part of their diet.

Dalton informs us about salmon in his book, as well, that in large quantities it has a laxative effect. So now I feel that I have a much better understanding of one little point of history, not about dates or kings or wars, but -- food!

If you are a stickler for historic detail, you might have noticed that the replica flag the docents now fly over the fort does not match the original in its proportions. This page shows all the flags in our nation's history. Most of them don't have proper names, but this one is called The Star Spangled Banner.

While in Astoria we climbed the 164 steps to the top of the Astoria Column, which gives a broad view of the rivers and town. A spiral of painted relief murals on its surface shows scenes from Oregon history, including this enlarged one below that I found online and that shows a Lewis and Clark event.

 I did love looking due south from the column at the large Youngs River, and at the smaller Lewis and Clark River to the right of it, flowing from the southwest. Even before they join the Columbia at its mouth, they make this beautiful scene.

The Lewis and Clark expedition has always captivated me. Because several of the party kept detailed journals, we who didn't accompany them can vicariously enjoy the fun of discovering rivers and flowers and people groups, while escaping the scary and miserable experiences. By this short and comfortable, warm and well-fed expedition of my own, I have by my plant-identification efforts and by spending a while in the land where they reached their goal felt a new kindredness with these brave men.

I'd like to read more of their journals, but I'd like even better to spend more days in this corner of Oregon next time. I would hope to discover a pretty blue camas flower.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Oregon - Sand, Waves, and the Carrot Family

wild iris

From southern Oregon we headed northwest to the coast. This trip involved lots of driving, of which I did a fair amount, and that kept my nose out of a book and my eyes on the scenery. I tried to memorize the components of the lush countryside, forests thick with every kind of tree, bordered by wide bands of blackberry hedges in bloom. The Deer Brush (mentioned in my last post) in white and blue made big pastel splashes, and I'm sorry to say that a species of noxious weed, Scotch Broom, was rampant here, making gaudy yellow blotches on the hillsides in quantities I'd never seen before. I now do believe what they say: Broom is taking over.

Cow parsnip bloomed everywhere, too. It wasn't until we got to the coast and walked down to the shore that I noticed what seemed to be two types of cow parsnip. I had to wait until we got to Pippin's house a few days later to read in her wildflower books and get the two cousins straight. They are both in the Apiaceae family, also known as the carrot or parsley family. The one on the left below is the more familiar-to-me Cow Parsnip, Heracleum maximum (named after the god Hercules) and on the right is Angelica lucida, known as Sea Watch or Seacoast Angelica. That one doesn't grow so much inland.

Cow Parsnip and Seacoast Angelica


Wish I could identify the viney blue flower that grew nearby, in the middle of the photo at right, but I've already spent a fruitless hour trying. Anyone?

enlargement of the unknown flower above

Heceta Head Lighthouse in the distance

Our first night on the coast was spent in Yachats, where our room looked out on this scene. That made the long drive worth every mile - nothing like going to sleep to the sound of ocean breakers.

One more plant was new to me, and I eventually found it in an Oregon wildflower guide: Maianthemum dilatum, common name False Lily of the Valley or May Lily or Two-leaved Solomon's Seal (below).

Maianthemum dilatum
Wherever we drove or walked, big rhododendrons met us around every corner, covered with big pink or red or white blooms. Purple vetch and foxgloves, long-stemmed white daisies blowing at the roadsides, and even giant blue lupines added to the visual feast.

We did stop at the famous Oregon dunes on our way up the coast, miles of broad and high sand dunes you can get lost in. I left my shoes in the car and trudged up a tall sand hill, the wind blowing my pink flowered skirt all over. Deep sand is the most cushiony thing you could desire to hold you up, so after pausing a minute at the top to look all around, I galloped down again, feeling young and strong.