Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dragon Fruit and Promises

Perry's Pomegranate and Dragon Fruit Sorbet
This was a wonderful afternoon for a walk.  I headed toward Athens, which is right next door in the confusing (at least to me) arrangement of towns, cities, boroughs and such here.  The only real difference that I can tell is that about four or five blocks away the street signs are blue instead of white.  The downtown section of Athens suffered tremendous damage during flooding of the Susquehanna River last year.  There is still a lot of reconstruction and repair going on and several new buildings.

One of these new building is a  "Dandy" Mart.  A gas station/convenience store chain around here.   After walking around about an hour I decided to stop in for a treat.  I plopped for Perry's,  a regional ice cream favorite ("Life is just a bowl of Perry's").  

For all you Arkansans, this is sort of like Yarnell's is for Arkansas.  I could choose from ice cream, gelato and other treats from other companies but the Perry's, price , pomegranate and dragon fruit caught my eye.  The sorbet is two swirled pinks and was fruity, sweet and definitely tasty.  Sort of peachy, mango, orange, tropicalish, nothing well defined.

I looked up dragon fruit.  It is described as a sweet, bland fruit from a cactus like plant, resembling the fruit from a prickly pear.  I didn't see anything on the ingredients list that said dragon fruit, so it must just be one,  of the flavoring ingredients, not entitled to it's own listing. Oh well, at least there was enough of the pomegranate to show up pretty high on the ingredient list, and it is undoubtedly the healthiest part of the sorbet.

I looked up Perry's on-line.  It has a pretty interesting history.  It began when Mr. Perry bought a dairy near Akron, Ohio.  In 1932 he and his son began making ice cream.  Fourth generation Perry's are involved in the company.  They buy most of their milk locally (within a 50 mile radius of Akron).They have a green initiative as well, see it at 
More lilies
Pretty impressive, at least to me.  I looked at Yarnell's site and there was nada.  Maybe I just couldn't find it but that is a problem too.  If I want info on a company then I want to be able to find it.

The sorbet was not as colorful as the two lilies pictured.  It is an intense pink but not glowing like these flowers.  These are two of
the end of the growing year Lowe's clearance things I planted when I was visiting last November.  I wasn't sure anything would survive but the mild winter seemed to help everything out.  I have two tall lilies that haven't bloomed yet, they are different types and grow much taller.

The container herbs, lemon balm, peppermint, and rosemary are doing great.  Grandk #1 has gotten the knack of pinching off leaves and tasting them.  She seems to like them.  I guess this is part of my "green initiative", to raise a grandchild who appreciates plants, nature, DIY and sustainability.

Container herb garden
I really can't say how well Perry's is doing as a company in their green initiative.  I would have to do a lot more research to hold them accountable.  But it is certainly a start.  As I age, I appreciate more and more the corporation and individuals who are willing to go public with their commitments.  If people aren't willing to take a stand on something, it is very difficult to take their intentions seriously.  Now if we could just understand that we have to be responsible for the commitments we make, the public and private ones.  And if we will learn to make reasonable, responsible ones, not provocative, inflammatory, uninformed ones.  Think of the progress we could make if people promised to do reasonable, doable things, and then did them.  Not outlandish promises, or inflammatory statements, just good, reasonable, doable promises...and then DID WHAT THEY PROMISED!  Think how it would revolutionize politics, customer service, contracting, sales,  relationships, advertising...the list could go on.

When I think of a New Heaven and a New Earth, it would look something like a place where people keep their promises and commitments.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Impact and Procrastination

Iris along the sidewalk
Another iris planting

One neighbor a few blocks away loves iris, especially blue, purple and white iris.  I think these are a mixture of Siberian and Japanese Iris, but I am not sure.  I am not that familiar with them.  The third blue plant is a perennial indigo I think.  Again, I am not that familiar with it's growing habit and various appearances.

False Indigo
Many of the small yards around here take advantage of the monochromatic effect of massing colors.  Using shades and tints of the same color will generally give greater impact in a landscape.  I think this is partly the result of smaller urban yards.  People use their space more strategically.

I think it is also the proliferation of how-tos, gardening books, television gardening shows, you tube videos and blogs.  Monochromatic massed plantings used to be a secret of master gardeners and landscapers.  Now every wannabe gardener has access to this knowledge if they want it.
The opportunity to learn about our interests grows at an accelerated rate.  We can use that knowledge to solve problems, create beauty, help others, entertain ourselves.  Or not.  We can use it to waste our allotted time.  If you find yourself doing that, as I have many times in my life, ask yourself "Why?".  Usually when I do that I find that I am avoiding something, usually something more or less unpleasant.  So the real question needs to be what do I do about that unpleasant thing.  And that is where technology can really help.  Pretty much whatever your problem or need, there is someone who has/is talking about it on-line.  Just taking the trouble to look up a better way to do it on-line can get often get you started if you don't need much of a push.  Technology can serve as community.  But it may not be that good at holding you accountable or keeping you in touch with reality.  You have to choose wisely.  But you have to do the same thing with community and accountability partners.  Choose someone balanced, experienced and hopefully wise who shares your most important values and beliefs.  It is the surest and fastest way to avoiding wasting time that I know about.
Homemade Play Dough

The last shots are samples of the homemade play dough.  I made the cooked variety with cream of tartar and it turned out great.  Used half a bag of flour and made a gigantic blob of the stuff that we divided into small batches and colored.  The recipe came from

Friday, May 25, 2012

Locally Grown Meat and DIY Play-dough

The "Buy Local" promotional sign
  This morning was a return trip to the local Farmer's Market, an easy six-block stroller walk from our present location.  GKid #1 was with mom at the library so it was Gkid #2 and I with the double stroller.  The season is really early up here so there isn't  much produce yet, some lettuce etc., but I found Romberger's booth selling grain-fed, frozen, locally grown pork and beef.  They sell from their farm but attend two local farmer's markets as well.

I selected the beef patties and Canadian Bacon and am looking forward to trying them both.  Son-in-Law has finally purchased a grill up here, so I'm expecting to have some grilled burgers soon.

Food selections from Romberger's
Everyone up here takes their sausage selection very seriously.  There were several different types of sausage to choose from here, Italian, Breakfast, and more.  I know New Orleans has lots of sausage varieties too, so how did Arkansas get left out.  Why don't we have much besides breakfast sausages indigenous to our area?  People ate plenty of pork, so why didn't they develop more varieties.  Just lack of ethnic influences I guess.  Maybe our ancestors didn't have lots of home pork recipes.  Doesn't seem possible but it could be.

There are three local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) choices according to a brochure I picked up at the Romberger's booth (go to  .  In a CSA the consumer, buys a share of the farm's output during the growing season and harvest.  You share the reward and the risk, if the carrots don't do well you don't get many carrots.  If the spinach does great you get lots of spinach.  These CSAs offer a product range of organic fed chicken, turkey, eggs, lamb, beef, pastured pork, maple syrup and a wide variety of vegetables, pumpkins, gourds, local cheese, blueberries, orchard fruits, etc.  These are definitely the next best thing to growing it yourself.
Locally grown beef patties and Canadian Bacon

After the library and farmer's market runs, the Daughter and I switched kids and I set off on a quest to buy clay or play dough.  I went to check it out at the local Wmart and my choices were pathetic and expensive.  There was a $20 "Dora" choice.  A tiny $5 package, not enough to construct a self-respecting boa constrictor, and another similarly overpriced choice. Couldn't even find a generic choice. Gmother decided we would be making our own, there are lots of recipes on-line.  The local Tops  (grocery chain up here) provided flour and salt and we will use some paint to color instead of food coloring (since we have paint and don't have food coloring) and I will shop for some cheap cream of tartar, or maybe I will just use one of the recipes that doesn't call for cream of tartar.  I will let you know how that goes.

In life it is pretty much all about the choices we make and what are we willing attempt.  If we settle for expensive and boring, that is what we get.  If we get thrifty and creative we have different options.  There are things in life that give us few choices, but most of life has more choices than we think it does.  What I eat,  where it comes from, what my grandchildren play with, I have some control there.  I start where I am and work outwards.  Intentionality again, it makes life interesting.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Immigration and Appreciation

Another  rhodie photo from the Neurologist's
In a brief moment of solitude (daughter and #1 are visiting the pet store and #2 is napping) as I listen to Bob Dylan ( thanks) I think about what is important.  It is so strange how it is different for everyone and yet it is the same for everyone.  If you stand really close to your choices they all look different and if you back off and take the longer view they grow more similar.

Bob D. just sang that "both of our father's were slaves" and I find this true of the human situation.  We are slaves to the tyranny of human life in so many important ways.  At the same time, as humans we have the spiritual and mental self-awareness to stand back and see our commonalities if we care to.  Commonalities I observe..., we have the same needs for the most part, we have the same tendencies (often negative), and we yearn for the same things if you look and listen closely.

 The adults in the house watched a fascinating and moving documentary on HBO last night (sorry I didn't catch the name) about new citizens naturalized into the U.S.  It was amazing how often the topic of freedom came out as the main attraction for these new citizens.  Freedom to express their opinion, freedom of worship choice, freedom to pursue improvement and happiness.  Another topic that was often repeated was how much we take for granted here.  It is so trite to say "We don't appreciate what we have"!  One lady expressed it in a new and interesting way.  When she was asked what she didn't like about the U.S.  She said she didn't think she would ever get used to people complaining about things here.  Another amazing comment was from a man who recounted when he saw someone putting socks on their dog to protect its feet, he realized that some people cared that much for their pets.  He said "Their are many people in my country who would be willing to come here and trade places with that dog."

Makes me determined to look around and see things that are gifts and blessings that I am taking for granted.  Makes me want to find someone I can help have a better life.  Makes me aware that I have so many dimensions of freedom in my life- spiritual, physical, social and societal, cultural.  Thank you God and everyone in my past and present who has faithfully contributed to improvement, let me make it better for others and those who come after.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reclaimation Imagination and Extract of Time

Garage sale plastic planter box
 Most of my outdoor projects are complete now.  I still have some caladiuims to pot up but the front porch, side garden, and play space are completed.  There will be tweaking, but the heavy lifting is over.

I found two platic planters at a garage sale, $3 each that were perfect for the front porch railing.  I have never used these before so it was a treat to arrange them with petunias, geraniums, calibrachoa and marigolds.

I will do a little rearranging in the front flower bed because some of the lilies are in the wrong spots.  They were all major clearance from Lowe's when I visited last fall.  Some of the plants that were put in the front are too tall and need to be moved to the back after blooming.  Thanks to Penny Blaney for the life lesson that you can move flowers and you should keep moving them until you get it right.

The play space is a narrow strip that had a pile of rock and
Back passage play space
dumped out potting soil.  I took out the rock to border the
area and give some textual interest.  The mat is an $8 rubber
backed runner (from the Boy Scout Rummage Sale Fundraiser) that I am using for a play surface.  There was a broken window here and although I have picked up all the glass I could find I still wanted some extra protection for bare feet, the favorite footwear  choice for play here.  The back corner has a cobblestone effect using the rounded glaciated stones found in this area.  I had to buy the lattice screen, my major purchase.

The back screen is decorated with found objects and $.25 items from neighborhood garage sales.  Hopefully it will be a hideaway spot for imaginative play.  The kitchen/planting spot is all garage sale stuff (Episcopalian sale, see previous blog) with the exception of the big plastic bowl for the sand box (sitting in the cast off chair).

I am pleased with my efforts, we are spending lots of time outside,  doing lots of digging and ant watching.  I am constantly reminded that the most precious commodity is time.  The time invested in thinking it through and making it happen, and the time to share in the play, imagination and dreams.  Our mortality is expressed in time, it is the extract or juice of or our lives.  How we use it is important and irreplaceable.

Reclained and garage sale objects
Pretend Kitchen/Potting Table

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pirates and Stained Glass Windows

 Tonight was a first trip to the movies with Grandk #1.
We saw the "Pirates" a claymation that held the attention of a
 2 1/2 year old for about thirty minutes.  We enjoyed the movie experience anyway.  Apparently an orange soda and a box of popcorn can make up for a lot.  This theater is in an old building that has been remodeled inside.  The seats have drink holders, the floor was exceptionally clean (we got plenty of chances to check it out when the movie was boring) and they had booster seats for young kids, a nice touch I hadn't seen before.  Counting the two of us there were four people in the audience.

Realistically our walk to the theater was almost as much fun for the participants as the movie.  We jogged, trotted, and practiced our street crossing skills.  "Brave" and "Snow White" are coming, we may try again, or we may move on to other more engaging activities.

I am enjoying all the older buildings.  There are some lovely restored homes.  I have seen these two stained glass windows, one at the Pilgrim's Holiness and the other at the Assembly of God. I hope I can go inside to see what they look like from inside the building. I think the Assembly building was a Methodist Church before it became an Assembly, there was a dedication inscription in the foundation that seemed to indicate that.

Pilgrim Holiness (top shows crown w/dove
Assembly of God (formerly Methodist building)
I think I have heard someone say that stained glass windows are metaphors for the Christian life. Something to the effect that it is completely different when experienced from the inside, instead of standing outside and looking in. Not sure what I think of that. I certainly feel that my faith colors my view of everything.  It enriches my life in the same way that the light shining through the colors makes them vivid and adds intensity while highlighting the story illuminated.  But I don't think that others who don't share faith can't comprehend the picture shown, or the story it represents.  I know it doesn't have the same overall impact and I don't see how it could engender the same feelings or responses.  Kind of hard to say, we are anchored as well as limited by our experiences.  I know that my position and orientation to Christianity makes my view possible and if I were in another relationship to it I could not experience the same things. In order to appreciate the work of the artist and see the light pour through their colors and light up the story and symbols there I will want to go inside.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Joy of Toys (Reused)

"Ride' em Caterpillar"
While I was looking back through the week's pics I was struck by how many of our toys were secondhand, thrift store acquisitions and what a good choice this has been for us.  The caterpillar was a flea market/thrift store find.  I haven't seen one like it before or since although I am sure they are out there.  Grandk #2 will soon be old enough, and we put him on behind his sister (while we helped him stay on) for a short ride and he loved it.

Yesterday morning the Episcopalians were having a garage sale/bake sale and we took our parade there and scored a "Princess" doll stroller.  While I don't enjoy this type of hype/gender stereo-typing this was the toy Grandk#1 wanted, and there were lots of others to choose from.  So for one buck we have bought our token to the culture/status toy.  She enjoys it and her Dora doll rides around in it all day long.  (Thanks Rachel W. and V for the Dora).

"Princess" stroller
The Grandk #2 loves to disassemble the Melissa and Doug Spice Rack.  I think this was a shower gift toy.  It is well designed and colorful and will last practically forever.  On Thursday we also invested in a $.50 grab bag from a thrift store.  I really appreciated the genius behind this.  At the counter there were bags marked for girls and boys and by ages.  This way parents could tell a child to wait until they were checking out and for a small sum of money they could get a surprise and treat that was worth much more than if the toys were bought individually.  Ours held a great jump rope, a crazy 8's card game, a package of trivia cards, a small handmade box for catching bugs, and several other small items and a baby toy for Bubbie I. (brother).  A great deal and thoughtful presentation, it would help parents give something nice on the cheap, especially if they couldn't afford any of the big items the children would see as they were shopping.

Yellow deciduous azalea
I am thinking of going back to the Episcopalian bake sale this morning, those folks can whip up some baked delights.  They were even testing out some fund raiser chocolates for ten cents each to get feedback for their recipes.  I invested in a fifty cent square of fudge however, and it was def yummo for the tummo.  Grandk #1 picked a giant flower sugar cookie with thick white frosting with pink shading.  I didn't even get one bite.

To finish out, I took one more pic from the Neurologist's home showing his yellow deciduous azalea.  This is where we picked up the lilacs and magazines (see previous lilac blog).  My daughter says if we take any more pictures we will probably be questioned for stalking.  She may be right.  Maybe I will have to start scouting in the other direction.  Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lilacs and Rhodies

Deciduous Azalea
While the sun was shining the youngest grandchild and I took an extended stroll.  I continued my search for the perfect re-purposed items but all I saw were three cast off storage bins and a part of a pallet.  We don't need the bins and the pallet really didn't fit any plans I have here.  We made good use of our time taking shots of great flowers and shrubs.We admired a spectacular pair of deciduous azaleas and a glowing newly-bloomed rhododendron, although I don't think Isiah was as smitten as I was.

Lilac bouquet
The neighborhood did provide some bouquet material.  This town is so civilized that they provide regular pick up for yard trimmings.  A doctor's home ( we know this because we scavenged some Journal of Neurology and New England Journal of Medicine as well as some Travel and Leisure from their recycle pick-up stacks of magazines a few days ago) had pruned their lilacs and we took enough for this bouquet.  The whole downstairs smells wonderful.  The lilacs up North are something that we miss out on down South.  I am pretty contented to live where I do, but it is a wonderful thing to experience a different locale.  Change can be a great thing.  I especially enjoy the chance to look at things back home from the outside.  And it is reassuring to see that no matter what the challenges back home, life goes on just fine in spite of my ups and downs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring ReMix and Patience

Flowering Cherry Blossoms
The weather here is in the iris, spirea, poppy, azalea blooming stage.  The rhododendrons and deciduous azaleas are just opening.  The redbuds and cherries are finishing up.    I told my granddaughter that these flowering cherry blossoms looked just like her play tutu.  She is young enough that I can't tell if she really understands what I mean.  We walk around the block, well I walk and she pushes herself along on here hand-me-down Hot Wheels type tricycle (see previous blog photo).  She has trouble pedaling and steering at the same time, so she usually contents herself with pulling and pushing all  the way around.  Sometimes it is a little frustrating for Type A personalities.

We go around the block and look for lamps.  She has been watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie and I told her that the lamp posts were from Narnia so now we stop and discuss every lamp around the block, there are many!  It is a nice residential area with lots of old homes, nicely remodeled.  The sidewalk is interesting, especially when you contemplate it from a toddler trike-riding point of view.  Some of it is smooth and old, some of it is smooth and new, a few spots are broken and pitted, and some parts are displaced by huge old maple roots.  In places the roots are growing over the sidewalk.

Peas in Paper Cups
There are no trees of any size in the immediate vicinity of our house here.  It makes working up the soil for beds much easier.  I am planning on planting these peas at the end of the porch and in a back corner.  The tomatoes haven't come up yet, probably not warm enough on the porch to get the tomato seeds to sprout.

My granddaughter and I are making a play space in the narrow back yard.  I will
probably take some pictures soon.  I am hoping that I can come up with some ideas that put re-purposed objects to good use and at the same time will allow her to use her imagination.  People around here obligingly put things out on the curb for others to use.  There was a beautiful old green velvet chair that would need to be reupholstered on the curb  It was heartbreaking to leave it out for the trash pick-up.  But at present there was nothing else to be done.  The kind of weird things that I am looking for are not always the kinds of things people think other people want.  Oh well I will just keep my eyes open, the right things will come along.  Patience plays a big part in riding around the block, art, and life.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Poppies and Posts

I have been taking a hiatus from the regular grind and am visiting family.  While strolling around their neighborhood I saw these amazing poppies.  Not many people plant poppies back in Arkansas and we should really try to grow them they are so beautiful.  These were spectacular and they were stuck out back behind a house next to a little alley.  Maybe they just wanted all this beauty to be private.  It was behind a chain link fence so maybe that is their attitude toward life, or maybe they can just spend beauty extravagantly, even in an alley location.  Or maybe they didn't know how the flowers would grow and didn't want to risk failure.  No telling.

Here is another sight from my stroll- hitching posts.  There are some very old homes in this neighborhood, and these  posts appear to have been around a while.  My daughter told me that some of the Mennonite and Amish folk around here use them for their buggies when they drive into town.  Makes sense.
Hitching post

The red buds and dogwoods are in bloom here.  I would say it is about a month behind Arkansas.  It is fun to see a replay of spring.  However my garden will be so different when I get back, it will be strange.  Maybe the co-gardeners will post pictures.  But my child and my grandchildren are another kind of garden that God has given me and it is time to take care of it!