Saturday, May 30, 2009

Angels In Our Midsts

Every now and then, if we are lucky, we can meet real life angels. They are those people who reach out and touch us with their words, their actions or their deeds. They are out there, and they are very special people.

I have been blessed to find just one such special person. A while back Helga e-mailed me out of the blue and told me how much she enjoyed my blog. I e-mailed her back and over the last few months we've conversed from time to time via our e-mails.

Helga is in her eighties, she and her husband live in Arizona, she spent several years in Louisiana and considers herself a pretty good southern cook. She found me through the Recipe Swap on QVC's forums where I used to post recipes a lot. Helga said she never said much, but she read all of our crazy posts. So I'm assuming when I posted about my blog on there, she followed me over to the blog.

A week or so ago Helga - once again, out of the blue - e-mailed me and said she knew from my blog that I loved pretty things, and treasured them as well. She is downsizing and wanted to share a few of her treasures - doilies she bought in her travels - with me. I was stunned, and honored, and I replied and said I would love to receive such a precious gift and sent her my address. A few days later she e-mailed again and said that the package was on it's way, and would be here sometime the middle of next week.

I thought I'd get a little padded envelope with a couple of her treasured doilies. When the box arrived today, I couldn't believe my eyes!

This was a big box - about 12 x 16 x 8 inches high. And when I opened the box, and began pulling little bundles from it, well, tears filled my eyes. This sweet lady, whom I've never met other than via e-mails, sent me, in her words, a gift of affection. And my heart swelled with love for that sweet angel! (And here I go tearing up again!)

On top of the stack was a very southwestern towel as a little hello from her home state of Arizona. While this doesn't go with anything in my home, it will look just right in our camper, so it will go out there, and I'll remember Helga with each use.

Then there were the bundles. The linens were divided up in categories, each category wrapped in a plastic bag, and with a handwritten note explaining the history of the pieces.

The first bundle that I opened had these lovelies. A wide assortment of doilies, from white to ecru and every creamy color in between. Some are obviously well used and loved while others are less used, but just as beautiful. The doily at the very back appears to be of cotton thread, and is fairly heavy.

There was a stack of probably 10 to 12 of these - some in white, others in off white. They are only about 5-6 inches square, and I think they would be lovely under pretty candlesticks on a polished table. I'll save a few for that, but I can already picture some of them sewn onto pillows or cushions for a sofa. Hmmm, wonder whose sofa that could be???

This hankie was in the first batch, and it is so light and airy, and obviously has never been used before. The lacework around the edge is very delicate and fine - just beautiful!

The next batch had a precious apron that she made from a kit. It really reminded me of my young adult years in the early to mid 70's when the granny dresses were in. The apron looks like it's brand new, has a pretty bib, lots of lace, and is about 8 inches too long for me! I'll see if I can't fix that, though. I'm such an apron-o-holic, so this will be a lovely and very special addition to my collection.

Also in this bundle were a couple of lace pieces that Helga's mother wore on her dresses. Now, if Helga is in her eighties, and her mother wore these, how old must they be? The work on the lace is amazing, and I want to use these in some special way, but it will have to be very, very special!

And the next batch was full of pretty (NEW) fingertip towels and bread basket liners. There was even a postcard from Brussels Belgium, where she bought the linens in the late 1980's. It shows how the laces were made.

Both the yellow and pink will match my best china, so maybe I should use it more often so I can use these pretties, what do you think??? I love this little round doily. The detail is just amazing!

And this bread basket is gorgeous! It has obviously been used and well loved, but it will match my kitchen and every day dishes very well. This is definitely one of my favorite pieces in the lot. The first picture is the inside. You pull all those ties together and tie them, and there are pockets for rolls or bread.

And this is the back side - the side you would see on the outside. This is just so gorgeous!!!

On to another bundle. This one was full of what she called "miscellaneous stuff", but I just loved the tea towels. The blue ones will go in the kitchen, the white one will go in the guest bathroom. They are lovely!

There are two of these blue towels, and one had a tiny hole that Helga said was 'defective from age'. Helga - that's not a defect, it's love! A little hole only adds to the character. The stitching is all on the top - you cannot see it from the underside, which really amazes me!

This one is a large square, and is a very loose, light weave. It's also very soft.

And the last bundle - oh, be still my heart! Just take a look at this box of beautiful hankies!

There are five hankies, all folded nicely and all different. Helga wrote that her father's sister made these in Germany in the 1930's, and her mother had always treasured them, and never used them. Incredible!

In total there were almost 40 pieces. Most never used, but all very well cared for and treasured.

Helga, sweetie, you have touched me more than you will ever know by your thoughtfulness and kindness. I am so grateful for this 'gift of affection', and hope that you know that I will treasure each and every item in this box. You truly are an angel!

Nope - not even gonna try!

I ran my errands - grocery store, gas in the car, checked out the inert landfill (hubby's request), then came home, unloaded the groceries, ate a bite, then got a big box in the mail. It overwhelmed me, it humbled me, it made me cry. I'll have a post up about it tomorrow, but just suffice it to say, Helga, you rock, sweet thing!

Anyway, it's GORGEOUS today, it's about 75 degrees, the sun is shining, the skies are blue, the birds are singing, hubby's snoring on the sofa, the girls are outside sleeping in the sun, and I'm gonna play in the kitchen! This is the kind of day when I like to open the doors and windows, put on some cool music, and just 'piddle' (as my mama would say) around the kitchen.

I'm gonna make a couple of things for our picnic tomorrow. Maybe even chop up that gargantuan watermelon in the fridge so we can take some of that. I'm gonna make a great dinner (London broil, rice, asparagus, maybe a glass of wine) and I'm gonna just enjoy the day.

The plants will still be there on Tuesday (got a Dr. appt. with dad on Monday) and I'll get them planted then. So what if I have to water them a couple of times between now and Tuesday!

So don't feel sorry for me out there digging more holes today. I'm gonna be chilling in the kitchen. Blessings friends! Becky

I think I can, I think I can . . . . .

Do you see the cute sign below? The one at the feet of the rapidly growing chocolate mint? It's one I painted a few years ago, and it's got bumble bees painted all over it, and says "They can because they think they can".

You see, aerodynamically speaking, bumble bees should not be able to fly. Their chunky bodies are way too heavy for their tiny, sheer wings to lift and carry them. But you know what? Nobody ever told them that! No mama bumble bee ever said "Honey, your wings are too small for your body, so you can't fly around and pollinate the flowers"!

How many times have parents told their children they couldn't do something? Many. And how many times have their children worked extremely hard to prove them wrong? Thank goodness, there have been many of those, too. But I bet there have been even more who thought "Okay, if he/she says I can't, then I can't, so I won't even try". And that's too sad for words! Parents should never tell their children they can't accomplish something they want to do. Okay, so point out the challenges, but then support them and guide them as they go, and let them at least TRY to accomplish that supposedly impossible feat!

Sorry, I got off track a little (no, a lot) there! My real point about this is totally different, so here goes . . . . .

Yesterday I worked outside from about 8 am until about 6:30 pm with only a few short food/water/gatorade/potty breaks. I planted somewhere between 50 and 60 plants, cut back a few bushes, staked up a few things and washed, moved and filled up the bird bath. A few of the plants were in cell packs, but most were in 6" or larger pots. I was exhausted. And after a nights rest, I'm still exhausted!

I have only about 12 - 15 things left to plant, but most of them are in gallon or larger pots, so that means bigger holes to dig, and heavier lifting. I also have about 5 huge clumps of hostas to divide up and plant. I dug them up to save them from the voles, placed them on newspapers thinking I would get to them very soon. Little did I know we would have monsoon season here for about a month! They are thriving on the newspapers under the oak tree, where I intend planting them.

It is my goal to get this finished today. But with these aching muscles, the necessity to run to the grocery store, cook dinner and get a picnic ready for tomorrow, I'm just not sure it will happen. I'll try, but I'm just not too convinced!

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!!!

Blessings, Becky

Friday, May 29, 2009

Floral Friday - I got good news, and I got bad news . . .

. . . so which do you want to hear first? Oh, let's start with the bad news - after all, there's just a little bit of that, and lots of good news!

The bad news? Well, my pretty sunflowers that were up to about 3 feet or so tall . . . they are now only about six inches tall.

A couple of days ago I caught a squirrel trying to climb one of them, so I'm thinking they had a little 'sunflower climbing party'!

I had two, and both are totally broken and dying. So I guess there won't be any beautiful yellow sunflowers, and no seeds for the birdies (OR the squirrels) this fall. I'm either going to get a trap . . . or a gun. Any suggestions???

Oh well, on to the good news! The goldfinches are back. I don't know where they've been, if they've been nesting or just took a vacation, but I'm so glad they came back where they belong!

All my feathered friends are enjoying the bird bath - even a cardinal and a dove bathing in harmony!

And this pretty fellow watches everything that goes on!

The chocolate mint is growing like gangbusters!

The day lilies are brightening up their corner of the yard.

So are the 'Emerald Mist' roses.

The foxgloves are sending up their buds,

and some are even blooming.

This little beauty is what we (in my family) call 'Mama's Rose' because it's been handed down from my grandmother - my mother's mother. Even my aunt on my dad's side has one, and is so proud of her Mama's Rose, too! The blooms are small and short lived, but are a pretty pale, pale, almost white, pink, and have a sweet scent.

The pink peony is blooming now.

Although the rain hasn't done the blooms any favors - they are a bit washed out.

The clematis that ate the chrysanthemums is doing swimmingly.

And the zinnias that came up volunteer, apparently from seeds from last year's blooms, are really up and at'em!

And before long they will be blooming in their bright colors, attracting more butterflies and bees. And in late summer, the goldfinches just LOVE to eat the zinnia seeds.

The betony is gorgeous in their frilly pinky-purple blooms. The bees and butterflies love them, too.

And the lavender . . . . . ahhhhhhh, the lavender!!!

Do you smell that????? Heavenly!

And for today, this is my pride and joy! The obelisk is the framework for a moonflower, a hyacinth bean, and a heavenly blue morning glory. I have planted the morning glories every year for the last 5-6 years. The first few years, they took over, and bloomed from August until frost in October. The last two years, because of the drought I suppose, they didn't bloom. And they've never bloomed this early. This plant is just full of blooms, and I look forward to a summer of this beautiful blue color in my yard!

Isn't that just gorgeous???

So, while there was some bad news, and I really hate that my sunflowers are gone, I can deal with it and move on, looking forward to a summer of other beautiful bloomers in our yard, here at Camellia Cottage. Blessings, Friends! Becky

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Date yourself! Do you remember . . . . .

The other day my mom and I were talking about when I was a kid, and I reminded her about these . . . .
They are called 'pants stretchers', and you took wet, freshly laundered slacks and slipped a stretcher into each leg, setting the crease just so, then hung them to dry. I remember many times in my childhood and teen years when there were multiple pairs of my dads slacks on the line, blowing in the breezes.

Of course actually washing the clothes was much different back then, too. In the far left side, in the other room, you'll find an old wringer washing machine which is much like ours. You put the water, clothes and detergent into the bowl to wash the clothes, then you fed each piece of clothing into the wringers on top to squeeze as much water as possible out of them.

Of course then you took the laundry basket out to the clothesline and pinned each piece onto the clothesline. I wonder how many times I had to run outside and help my mom take the clothes off the line when a surprise rain shower arrived???

And when we took them down, we couldn't just leave the clothespins hanging there either . . .
but had to put each one into a clothespin bag much like this one.

And don't forget what happened when the clothes were dry and back inside. They had to be ironed! This first iron is an example of a very early one that was heated up either inside a fire, on the coals, or on a stove.

And then finally the electric ones became available. Here's a cute example of a vintage iron.

And then here is an example of one that you might find today, although they aren't used as much now as they were. I just LOVE no-iron shirts and slacks!!! Do you know where your iron is???

And I can't leave out a true necessity in doing laundry - the sprinkler bottle. This is very much like the old one that we had, and I'm sure my mother still has it. And her bottle of choice was a coke bottle as well! These days when I have to moisten something before I iron it, I use a spray bottle, which works very well.

While I am so glad that things have progressed due to technology and good old ingenuity, I also enjoy looking back at the way things were. So tell me, what modern day convenience are you most thankful for today? TV, computers, food processors, cordless and/or cell phones, modern medicine??? Tell me all about it!

Blessings, Becky

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Another Easy-Peasy Recipe . . .

For Memorial Day or any day! Not only are grilled veggies delicious, but they are really good for you, so how can you go wrong!

I started these a bit early in the day for two reasons. One, I wanted to blanch the asparagus so it wouldn't take so long to cook on the grill, and two, because I wanted to marinate the veggies for a while.

So, I started with a big pot of boiling salted water threw in the asparagus spears for about a half a minute, then took them out of the boiling water and put them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. While the asparagus was cooling, I washed and sliced a small zucchini - yellow squash works well here, too. You can slice it any way you like, but for this batch I cut the squash in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 3-4 slices.

When the asparagus is cold and the squash is sliced, put it all into a zippered bag and add about 1/3 cup of your marinade, press out as much air as you can, seal it and put it in the fridge until you are ready to put it on the grill.

My marinade of choice these days is this one >>>

I just LOVE Ken's Steak House salad dressings, and this very good dressing also makes an excellent marinade for veggies and meats. In fact, I basted the boneless pork loin chops with this as I grilled them, and they were very, very good. I have tried their ranch, bleu cheese, country french with vermont honey (yum!) and this vinaigrette, and they are all very good.

I put the zucchini on when the chops were about 1/2 done because, being raw, they needed more time to cook. Then when the chops were done, I added the asparagus spears t the grill. All you really have to do is heat them up.

I also had oven roasted potato wedges, and a bit of butter with freshly roasted garlic for the pork. It was a delicious meal, and incredibly easy to prepare!

Many other veggies do well on the grill, including onions, peppers, eggplant - basically anything that is large enough they won't fall through the grates!

I have all my meals planned for this weekend and all of next week, and almost every meal is going to be cooked and/or eaten on the deck (weather permitting) and I look forward to having some nice relaxing evenings. So, what are YOUR plans for this holiday weekend???

Blessings, Becky