It’s a Blueberry-Bush Type of World that We Live In

This morning called out to me as a “pick me, pick me!” blueberry morning.  After searching over the east coast of Boston for the most “authentic” farm I could find (when I say authentic, I refer to one that resonates with my inner being ).  Last night, I clicked on a link and thought, “YES!  This is the one.”

When I drove out this morning, it really and truly was a fantastic site.  Rustic, rural, charming, bohemian-beautiful – plus, their produce is grown using organic methods.  Resonant indeed.   When I was driving up ( most definitely should have snapped a shot), I saw the most curious and amusing sight I’ve seen in quite a while.  As I pulled into the gravel drive, a stray cat was trotting along in front of me.  Just in time with the staccato classical music notes that were streaming over my airwaves, a bird flew in from stage right and dipped towards the cat and up toward the left, then dipped back over the cat, flapping his wings as if defending a most precious territory.  He took a few dips with the cat trotting along in front of me faster, and faster, until finally the cat made a run for the nearest underside of a truck and the bird flew off.  Entertainment, naturally!  The timing was uncanny.  I do find pleasure in the simples of sights and things.

With my bucket in hand, I set off in search of the blueberry bushes.  I was informed by a cheerful woman inside the farm store to go “just down that dirt road, between the house on the right and barn on the left”.  I ambled down and spotted the rows.  At first glance, I didn’t see the plethora of ripened bulbous blueberries that I was expecting. I walked down to the fields nearest the back rows, thinking I might go where not many pickers had gone before.  I began to pick – a berry there, a berry here.

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Later I realized that the bushes in the back were actually a bit late-blooming.  I had never seen a blueberry bush in bloom – so ardently lovely!  And the scent is one of – you guessed it- blueberries (although perhaps I was biased).  The bees were awake, aware and busy pollinators.  I listened to their diligent buzz as I plucked, with the occasional one flying very near to my hand and face.  Respect for all involved, I thought, and stepped aside when I feared I had out-picked my welcome.

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At one, I stooped down to peer inside the bush at which I was picking – and, lo and behold, saw a dappled network of ripened berries hanging from hidden branches.  Aha – I had figured out the secret strategy – no wonder I saw birds fly in and out of bushes.  I wouldn’t call myself a naturalist, per se; I can’t rattle off the species of trees that I see when I walk through the woods (though this is on my list), but I do feel the draw to the natural world and often let my mind wander freely as I’m immersed in the outdoors.

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As I picked, a thought came to me – this picking of berries is a metaphor for life’s journey.  The ripest bounties won’t always be presented to us and easy to see (though sometimes this is the case).  More often, the sweetest joys in life result from getting down, near to the ground, and going into the bush and searching, reaching, and choosing, again and again.  I had found a strategy that paralleled with making meaning of living.  Awesome.  I then realized that there are two different ways to go about using this strategy.  Some pickers may prefer picking one bush and staying close to that bush, putting in the time to pick as many berries as crop up in eyesight – there are always more than we think are there, I realized. Others may choose to spend a few minutes at a bush, then leave and go on to the next bush – the wanderers and gypsies.  I found myself doing a bit of both.  Sometimes when the going gets good, we have those unforeseen moments or situations that leap up and challenge our faith in life – these can stink (quite literally, I stepped ankle deep in manure when I had finally covered the bottom of my bucket).  But I have to believe that if we keep picking, even with the stink still in our nose, wonderful things crop up once again.  When I moved to the next bush, I noticed a lovely trumpet vine, growing devil-may-care.

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This naturalistic theory, I feel, realistically mimics my life.  Thus far, I have made naiive choices in youth, not really seeing the opportunities that lay before me.  I made poor choices, fell back into the ground – learned and grew, then followed my life’s passions (plucked, you could say) to new corners of the world (from Florida to the New England, though I have lived in several places).  I like the nesting comforts of home, though I don’t feel settled quite yet.  I long for new and challenging experiences in my career of choice – teaching  (and writing, my secret life).  I see the value in sticking to a particular bush, and wandering when the time is right.

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Perhaps this seeing meaning in picking blueberries on a Friday morning is just me?  🙂  Maybe – maybe not.  As I left the fields, with enough to fill a cobbler (recipes and pics coming Sunday!), I looked back and realized that the bushes looked fuller than when I first came.  I had plenty, and had left plenty for pickers who would follow me.  Opportunities aplenty.  Cheers! In Luck and Love, L

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The Rabbits Invited Us…

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Tis true – the rabbits came out to invite us to this fine, tea-worthy affair!  I swear it’s so; although, they were their usual shy and fleeting selves.  Don’t ask me why rabbits are the way they are – they just…are.  Like so many of the rest of us, I suppose.

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Maya came too, in her summer’s best coat.  We had to traverse the forbidden fence, almost completely overgrown with vines…

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And come in through an opening in the curious, hushing hedge; we almost didn’t recognize our own shadows…

She  – Maya – wanted to make sure this rabbit-hosted tea party wasn’t some type of farce.  After all, historically Maya and the bun-buns (who we also know as the Peters and Bernies) have been quite stand-offish towards each other.  Maya often comes out to stare at them from a distance in the morning, more bewildered than anything I think, of these creatures so quiet and quick.  She is afraid of the P’s and B’s, I think, though little does she know they are much more afraid of her – or so I thought.  The invitation did say, bring any guest – grown-up, child, or cat; and so, she cautiously wore her best white collar and gloves – and peeked out from behind a lone tree…

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To see what she could see.

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She has something to say about everything, but she was shocked into utter meow-muteness at the sight of a party for three, which the bunnies had so generously set on a stump in a woodland clearing…

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She flicked her tail once, twice in my face which means, “let’s take a closer peek” – so we crept paw by pay, hand over foot…

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…and came upon a spread fit for all whimsical creatures, great or small.  The bunnies had chosen flowering cilantro, parsley and clovers for their own fare…

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and had whipped up in high-bunny fashion the most decadent tea-party treats this side of the forbidden fence and hushing hedge.

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Blossoming cocoa cakes…

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…and carrot cake whoopies!  How did those sly little rabbits know, that carrot cake goods are just my cup-a?  They have been silently spying, it seems, looking to make tasty amends – and a magical tea party is the always the best way, it seems.  Maya proceeds to investigate the premises, no doubt looking for the rabbits’ key to sudden merry-making…

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She is a bit suspicious by nature, but she trots toward me, convinced of this fete’s authenticity.  My wandering eyes land upon a mad-looking hat, decorated just in my honor, it seems!

Image“Don’t strain your brain in times of pain” – I couldn’t agree more 🙂

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I don the perfectly-fitted cap, and so we sit down to a feline-friendly (and I’m pretty sure all creature-friendly) feast, fit for fairie queens on this continent and overseas…

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We try some pink-flower-bedecked cake first and, before we know what’s hit our heads, we find ourselves tangled up in a tree branch!

ImageGoodness me!  It’s about time to savor a slice of that carrot cake whoopie from on high, but perhaps just a bit too ambitious of a bite…

ImageFor we’ve never before known what ‘twould be like to sleep in a blade of grass all afternoon, until now…quickly, pour out the tea!

ImageYes, ahem-ahem, yes, yes, let me rearrange – that’s better and more true to size…though I certainly can’t complain about the change in perspective every now and then…

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The treats are divine, the tea is honey-sweet with a raspberry twist.  What more could this majestic afternoon need to be complete?  Ahhh, I do so agree, Mayacita (my most fancy term of endearment for my favorite kitty).  The bunnies have requested a good old-fashioned reading.  I certainly could have improvised a tale, but I just so happened to bring along a delightful door-stopping book that chronicles the adventures and accomplishments of the female writer – the heroine, the goddess, the ‘sibyl’ if you will…

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A veritable wonderland in itself.  The bunnies are lovely listeners – they peer at us with watchful eyes and twitch their noses at all of the most interesting parts, and quietly nibble on their clovers and herbs…

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Maya stretches out, crosses her legs, and bats a sleepy eye.  I catch myself in a yawn, rub my eye…a cat nap post tea, cake and reading couldn’t hurt.  But do I dare fall asleep in this wonderland setting?  What if this turns out to be all but a most sensuous dream?  I steal another bite – a more lady-like one – of the carrot cake whoopie.  Shew – still delicious, and I’m still just the right size.  We nap in the long, fading light and shady breeze.  When we wake, the rabbits have retired, gone just the way they came – they have left us with all the cakes and tea we could ever hope to eat.  Sometimes, though, the best things are taken in moderate doses – we best save some decadent adventures for later days.  We bid bittersweet farewells…

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And through the hushing hedge and over the forbidden fence we go…Image

Not so forbidden (or forgotten) after all.  Maya and I wish all of the mad tea partiers of the world (no pun intended) all the best in magical makings – drink up!

Love and Learn,

~L (& Mayacita to boot)

Re-nesting (and rediscovering)

This past week has been a process of re-nesting (one of my neologisms, if you’ll have it), with a bit of rediscovering thrown in for good keeping.  We “moved” on the 1st of July, which consisted of my other’s 2 strongest ‘men’ lending all hands to loading up a U-haul (select items left at Bonnet, until the next move – 5 months? – to Boston-ish; I’ll not start singing that tune quite yet), and unloading it again 35 minutes north on the borderline of Pawtucket and Providence.

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Move 10 I believe in my lifetime migration.  All of this trucking included an upright piano, a Gulbransen- ‘Ruby’ – I salvaged for free through Freecycle.org.

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In fact, I had her tuned just today by a very tall, fair-haired, soft-spoken fellow with a 30-year old electronic tuning contraption; an interesting character amongst what I’m sure is a whole circus of them in a crowded city.  She’s  (Ruby) playing at a lower pitch these days, but to have her sing an octave higher would have cost to the tune of two tunings – so I said, “let her sing alto” for a bit longer, until I secure that magical teaching job that I am just positive will be coming my way.  Anyhoo, in a converted 1920’s house (the owner wasn’t quite sure of the date built or its original abode status – but I think it must be so, plus I saw the outlines of an extracted or long-ago crumbled chimney out back today), we re-nest in Apartment 1 (of 6).

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We have the view of the shared side-yard – with an old shadowing tree, that half reminds me of the one in Poltergeist…and seeing granddaddy trees that reek of nostalgic-scary-movie undertones makes me happy.  I transported my herb garden and set it in a corner of the overgrown lot, up against the back of the next door house-turned-apartments.

I went out to trim a few sprigs of tarragon and chives for a batch of corn muffins I made this eve (simple and scrumptious).  A man from a neighboring building that overlooks the “garden” opened his window and proceeded to strike up a brief convo; he thought I should ask the owner to mow the grass and those white flowers that grow wild on lawns in the summer (I used to make crowns of them as a child, but now can’t remember their fleeting name), because they would overtake my plants – and he thought it looked like I was a good caretaker; I politely laughed, and said I thought they could hold their own.  I like to harbor the thought that perhaps my little mark of edible greenery brings a bit of fresh viewing to eyes in high places – the least I can do.

I brought Maya (she misses the screen door that so easily swung and led out to the great wide world in Bonnet), and she almost made a getaway, scooting behind every hedge and down the back steps to my other’s car, before I grabbed her and practically pierced myself with my cutting scissors in the process.  But I’ll continue to bring her on my jaunts to water and prune; she needs the fresh air – can’t keep a formerly feral cat too sheltered, not good for the feline soul.  I did ‘spoil’ her with a couple of new toys – feathers and a blue mouse slipper with cat nip.  I don’t usually go the toy route, but I also hadn’t been to Petco in years – Toys R’ Us for beloved pets and a direct challenge to any unsuspecting pet owner, who generally relies on their animal to keep entertained through instinctive animal imagination and elongated afternoon loungings.  She has a rhythm to her playing – she is a tigress first, and then a nurturing mother bear.  She bites and claws, then licks, then bites, then licks.  Love her ways.

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So, a few select shots from the inside out…

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Kitschy-sweet?  You betcha.  I had quite the time airing out all of my spices in the built-in spice rack seen above, to the right of the stove.  Is much more conducive to adding dashes of this and that.

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I include the bathroom because I am a sucker for vintage black and white bathrooms, and this is a legitimate version…

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And my corner of the world., with my bits of inspiration and longing…

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20130708_100915This painting by Degas (I had to look that one up) intrigues me.  I am suddenly feeling the urge to write a short story about the shadowy man in the curtains, looking out onto this shining prima ballerina…perhaps I shall post is here as motivation to follow through?  I continue to write, and have oh so many starts and experiments, but nothing that I feel is close to ripe fruition.  Creating certainly requires a giant leap of faith in one’s ideas; the act consumes time and pieces of one’s self, and so I still struggle a bit in the arena of picking and choosing…

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“Every day will hold so many new things to discover”.

And speaking of (re)discovering…in the transition of migration, I almost cut my foot on a truly wonderous find.  For reasons that will be revealed on Saturday the 13th (see the alluded to event at the bottom of my blog), I secretly wished to find a charming tea set for just such an occasion.  I often make wishes and am half-conscious in doing so; then, when some serendipitous unearthing happens, I am aware and amazed.  I was in the basement, packing and rearranging – there are still a lot of old things down there, mostly wonderful ordinary things that most would overlook – like 50+ year old rose fertilizer and outdated jars of mayo (empty, of course); pairs of men’s shoes; creaky flour containers; and other bits of this and that.  I was standing by a table that I’ve stood by hundreds of times before; I bent down to the ground and happened to see pieces of colorful shattered porcelain…

Twas a small plate with an ornate oriental design.  I looked up to see where it might have fallen from, and discovered this old box…

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And inside, wee cups…

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and saucers, even a matching pepper shaker…

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pure rediscovery, at its finest.

Amazed, am I.  Perhaps my great-grandmother wanted me to find this set?  It would not be the first time I was convinced that she had a hand in happenings at Bonnet…

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Those beach rugosas are engraved in my heart’s mem(ory) until the day I no longer roam this Earth.

I rinsed and carefully laid out the pieces to dry, then inspected the yellowed newspaper in which the set had been wrapped up…

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The year – 1940.  This set must have been my grandmother’s, when she was a little girl.

I was tickled shades of sepia by the content…

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“War’s Alarms Bring Keen Sense of Awaiting Duties”; “Alumane Reading Group Will Meet”; “Attleboro D.A.R. Gives Tea Friday”- Daughters of the American Revolution, a society I had no idea existed (to this day)…

20130705_164526“Why Not Greet ’41 at the Copley-Plaza, Boston” – Why not, I say?  Traveling back in time and very much celebrating life in the present.  A true notion of what I believe to be a more free-flowing, backwards and forward universe than is usually made evident to us by our ‘entrapment’ in the space-and-time paradigm of reality as we know it…

Not nearly perfect, not even close, but still a most lovely world, at its best, making its mysterious rounds and reaching its tendrils into the most unexpected places to communicate unspoken messages…

Amidst the pursuit of livelihood, in the bombardment of increasingly serious, global happenings that pour in via the media channels daily and affect (or not) the senses, such is the philosophy I love to live by.

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Get into the spirit of the times and live in this moment, which weaves bits of yesterday and tomorrow into its seamless picture of the present.  Let’s meet on Saturday for some mad tea, shall we?

Love and Learn,

~L

New Soul Day

DSC01076Bottled messages from one soul to another…

but before we get to that sentiment, a peek into the world of deconstruction.

DSC01050Re-purposed produce boxes here, there, and some over yonder as well… DSC01052Bit by bit, I take apart and pack up my material world, deciding which items will accompany me to the city on Monday (until further notice – perhaps in another 5 months, I may find myself an accomplice on a mission to Boston), and which will bravely stay behind…

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Such as this set of bookshelves, which my brother (and I – as admirant observer of his self-taught engineering prowess…though I did do a fair bit of the staining) built together and installed last summer over the course of a few days.  These will most certainly be tagging along at some future point, whenever a more permanent move is made.  I mosey over and take a gander at some of my shelved favorites… DSC01062So many books to delve into in such a scant span of time.  I read an article the other day suggesting that instead of trying to breathe in every last molecule of book that peaks our interest, that we should ‘cull’ (a favorite word and concept) and focus on re-reading a precious few?  This seems to make logical sense, but that’s like walking into a local bakery with a plethora of homemade goodies from scratch…and I,  being ever so indecisive about some things, am not sure if I could resist trying something new for too long.  Although, reading the same book twice, especially at different points in one’s life, turns out to be a new experience altogether.   I am also cozying up to the idea of writing ‘ending book marks’, or summaries and invoked thoughts/feelings immediately upon finishing a book, to be kept like a library card for further indexing.  This idea has been inspired by a personal knowledge research project that I have been involved with through University of Rhode Island.  But before I spin off on a galaxy tangent… DSC01053My dresser top is something akin to a personal altar, decorated by bits of inspired beauty and joy – cards, photographs of dear friends, a strand of silvery stars, a stained-glass angel, a portait of a butterfly painted by my 3-year old nephew – all down and in boxed transition.  A curious Mary has also resided there for some time… DSC01054Though I was christened Catholic (and still wear the wee silver heart necklace that adorned my baby dress), I am not religious in the traditional sense of the word.  My beliefs are personal and spiritual. I find beauty in found talismans of a sort.  This statue of Mary of Magdalene (or so I presume?) was salvaged from a simple bureau, part of my late great-grandparent’s bedroom set across the hall… DSC01059An unassuming chest of drawers if there ever was one.  But she lay inside, chipped halo and all; and, I was instantly adoring of this imperfection.  She became instantly, for me, a symbol of the “imperfectly perfect”, essence of beauty in the whole. DSC01055Eyes closed, head titled in such a demure fashion, hands in prayer but still open, accepting.  I often light a candle by her side so that she reflects, and I can reflect too.  Funny how bureaus can hold such silent secrets.  I had used it as a place to store some of my craft materials.  As I was going back through today, I saw scribbled on the bottom of one of the drawers what appears to be the words, “Soul Day, Sept. 6, 12 – ” DSC01058Perhaps I am mistaken?  But that is how I first read and internalized.  This simple writing got me thinking about our need, as human beings, for recognition of inner expression marked by rituals and traditions.  Perhaps these differ from person to person, or culture to culture, but I truly believe we all have this need, even if not realized… And it could be as simple as walking the same path to work every morning; or buying a certain brand of shampoo because the scent reminds us of a particularly fond set of life events…would we call these habits or routines?  I think, in some way, perhaps rituals, traditions , habits and routines share some common ground, even though the particular causes and actions range from the mundane to the extreme.

I mention this strand of thoughts, because earlier in the day I was taking out from the basement a box of saved bottles (I hoard bottles, egg cartons, cardboard boxes, you name it – being prone to crafts, as well as a thrifty teacher; but in the midst of moving, I realized the need for a temporary purge), and my significant other glanced at the bottles, looked up at me, and asked, “Are you going to send messages in those bottles or something?”  Of course, he was being lovingly sarcastic.  But when I saw this inscription in the drawer, this earlier encounter got me thinking – again. And so, I tore out a piece of thicker paper…

DSC01063Wrote a message that might reach a kin soul…DSC01064And rolled it up into one of the empty wine bottles, adding one of my saved fortunes for good measure.  Then I tucked it into my bag, and walked on a drizzly gray day around the corner to the beach…clearly, I was not  the only soul with beach as a destination in mind, which is the usual case in this relatively crowded part of the world…DSC01066A family of kite flyers!  There is nothing so simply pleasing as flying a kite, something I have not done for ages and ages.  So, I gazed for a bit and flew one vicariously – a beautiful butterfly no less, streaming against an empty sky. DSC01068Then I walked down to the far end of the beach – I thought perhaps if I simply pulled out my bottle and chucked it into the ocean, people might wonder…which isn’t necessarily reason to worry; I try to get better about people-wondering as I continue to grow into myself. As I was getting ready to toss, I spotted a brave, lone soul out on his paddle board; I thought he might end up being the recipient or at least the audience for my strange, one-woman show!DSC01071Of course, the waves were crashing in, and tide was out, so the bottle bobbed on top between crests for a brief moment…DSC01074 DSC01075Before being pushed back in to meet me.  🙂  What can I say, I’m my own best messenger sender! DSC01076 DSC01073But I tossed that stubborn messenger back once more, in the hopes that come nightfall and high tide, this bottle might find itself a seafaring vessel with no set destination.  And if one of my neighbors happens to pick it up tomorrow morning on the other end of the beach, then my mission will still have been completed.  From one soul to another, no matter how near or far.  I often think that sometimes, in our attempt to connect with other souls and make an impact (not saying the message in the bottle is the most proactive way to go), that we do often think far-ranging….but how many souls are nearby that we happen to overlook and with which we have failed to connect?  One too many, surely. DSC01072Then back to the house-by-the-sea to hang with one of my all-time favorite souls, Miss Maya (my wild Irish rose – probably not a lick o’ the green, ‘cept in those crazy, almost-human cat eyes of hers…) DSC01057She’s a very soulful kitten, sings me songs of all intonations, depending on the occasion.  You just have to partake in the symphony sometime soon.  Later, on New Soul Day, I popped a lovely batch of popcorn, snuggled up against pillows galore in my boat-sized bed (which will not be accompanying us to Providence), and watched this little gem of an animation – A Cat in Paris – not even realizing until now that it was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award.  A Purrfect (almost) end to a curiously soulful day (Oui, Oui Maya-cita, we are not in Paris, but perhaps – some day).

Love and Learn,

L to the N

Dreamy Strawberry Shortcakes

Yes, the strawberry theme is overtaking this quaint set of blog posts, I must admit; but, I discovered the most scrumdiddlyumptious recipe for strawberry shortcake, and alas – I must pass on to those who pass this way.

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Made to nurture the soul on the summer solstice – twas only fitting!  I used the last quart of Early Glow strawberries, picked in the warm, early sunlight a handful of miles down the road.  I used this recipe for inspiration, by one of my favorite cooking blogs out in the ether (i.e. the web) – truly a master of the culinary craft.

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The appropriate cookie cutter would have made this sweet recipe even sweeter, but since I could find none that fit the task, I sliced wedges, which certainly did the tasty trick.  I had so been looking forward to homemade strawberry shortcake, historically one of my favorites; though surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve ever had from-scratch strawberry shortcake.   I still didn’t know what I was missing, because let me tell you – there is no match, hands-down champion – this berry treat has game.

After admiring its radiance in the sunlight for a few split seconds, I took a bite…which melted into another, and another…

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A savored, wholesome delicacy…

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Until there were no more warm, creamy bites to be had…

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Just a pretty, honored plate.  I felt rather sad – but not for too long.  I stashed another four biscuits into the freezer for future summer cobbler explorations.  We shall see how they stand up to being reheated in the oven.

Then I traipsed out into the height-of-summer sunshine…

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Laid down in the grass, looked up at the giving tree, and secretly sang my gratitude up into its branches.  In between reading A Culture of Education by Jerome Bruner – still deep in the midst of the lit review for my masters’ thesis – I turned over on my belly and peered through the blades of grass in front of my nose.  And what to my wandering eyes should appear, but this wee green gem –

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A half-pinky-sized flower stalk, little white flowers in bloom with heart-shaped buds!  I love finding heart-shaped things in nature, and always when I’m not looking.  Such a teensy flora on display for critters who live life a bit closer to the ground, so many nestled amongst the grass.

Then I turned over and looked up, toward my bedroom window (of the last 3 years – formerly my grandmother’s window, when she was a girl growing up in RI) – the window that the giving tree reaches out its branches to in all seasons.

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And I sighed a ‘le-sigh’, as I shall no longer have a view from that window in another week.  I am leaving the house by the sea, moving up to the boundary line of Providence and Pawtucket (I’m convinced our street marks the spot), into a much smaller abode – a 550ish-square-foot apartment, for perhaps only a few months, until destinies become molded by  unseen events of times to come…

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But until then, I walk barefoot, breathing in breezes of brine and grass, and admiring  different angles – shadow patterns.  (Another) life transition, here I come!  With a heart opened, in part, by time-shaped experiences at Bonnet Point.  Grateful for every second.

Love and Learn,

L

A Strawberry ‘Jam’

I made strawberry jam for the first time a few days ago; or, twas a close attempt, anyhow.  First times are often lucky, but this one may have been a rightful failed first experiment.  Well, perhaps not a failure in every sense of the word – it has its charms.  It looks like strawberry jam…after a few hours of refrigeration, it jellies up quite nicely…

It’s certainly a ripe shade of strawberry pink – one of my all-time favorite crayon colors; and it tastes almost like a fresh spread of strawberry…aside from the slight, funny after-taste…

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But at the end of the day, it was jam made with love and the best intentions.

Since I don’t own a canning system, I took tips from the great wide web and decided to take my chances by boiling lids and running jars in a dry-heat wash.  I’m almost certain the jam’s sealed – though I might be mistaken?  How does one tell other than twisting and hearing the ever-promising pop of freshness?

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I used this recipe – http://leighannmarquiss.com/2011/06/canned-strawberry-jam-without-a-canner/ – for inspiration.  I more or less followed these ladies’ strawberry jamming process, aside from one change – I tried using stevia instead of regular sugar.  Of course, that calls for changes in proportions (strawberries, water, and substitute) according to the Sure-Jell recipe packet.  I made the change, mostly because I wanted to send a jar to my T.T. (my grandmother by any other name), who has diabetes.  So, I chopped a bowlful of berries – 3 quarts, to be exact…

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And mashed with a pastry cutter…

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Then I transferred the bowlful to a large pot, added 3/4 cup of water and the entire packet of Sure-Jell, and waited for the boil action to begin…

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My fingers were not really so golden, but when I altered the color of the picture, this effect came out and it reminded me of Willy Wonka’s golden chocolate goose eggs…and I kind of like the idea of having golden chocolate fingers, stirring up all sorts of lovely concoctions in the kitchen.

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The berry mixture boiled for exactly one minute while I stirred like a witch gone wild; then, in went the stevia, and the four-handed process began – removing jars from the dishwasher; pouring in steamy jam-to-be; removing lids from the boiling pan; and clamping the lids on tight (making sure to clean the rim of the jar).

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Upside down to cool, before being packaged and shipped off to those near to my heart but not so near to my backyard.  My Florida-based T.T., mama, and sister each got a prettied-up jar, and one went out to my brother and his girlfriend in Georgia.

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I have two extra jars in my refrigerator.  I suppose if the jam is not quite right for toast, the receiving  jammers  could try it in the midst of butter thumbprint cookies; or, perhaps heated on top of ice cream (with whip cream, and sliced bananas, and dark chocolate chips, and, and –  any other ice-cream accoutrement of your fancy!)

I will have to give the jam-venture another try, maybe next time using the real deal i.e. the white sugar.  Perhaps that chemical combination had something to do with the consistency.

But at the end of the day, the majestic sunset over the pond across the road made over any discontent I felt with my first-time jamming attempts…

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All it takes is one beautiful sky…

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Royal skies, purple to gold…

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And a walk under the arbor, to see where it leads…dreams aplenty 🙂

Love and Learn,

L

Combing and Plucking

Hello, handsome, gorgeous, smashingly-decadent you!

Such was my attitude toward the day’s doings when I woke yesterday morning, the sun glowing on the horizon at 5:15 a.m.  I’m a lover of the wee morning hours, though I am sure there are those who rise even earlier.  After a breakfast inspired by Julia Child, a Thai-style omelette well worth dining for (http://nomnompaleo.com/post/22903530155/julia-childs-rolled-omelet-thai-style), I sat down to write for a spell, then twas off for a morning beach-combing expedition at 6:30ish, well before any other visitors arrived (excepting the seagulls).

I found the most artfully-sculpted brick remnant –

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In-between a clear sky and cool sand I reaped (in moderation) the bounty of the sea’s givings for the day, mini tin vessel included (I also took the time to pick up and toss a few rogue plastic and aluminum cans – to each, do what he or she can to make a ripple effect, I say!)  Rocks of various types – quartz, granite, and a couple of black beauties that look sedimentary in nature – not quite sure of their origins (bits of old tar and concrete, granite, or some other mineral combination?); a few hallowed sea-glass finds; and a crab shell fit for a fine, sea-faring collection.

I also scooped up some seaweed specimens…

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Sea lettuce, I presume?  And a lovely lavender-mauve-colored variety too…

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Not sure of proper names and classifications and such, but I have a hefty guide that I am skimming through and will keep you updated, if you just can’t wait to come back and be enlightened 🙂  I spent many of my childhood summer days on this small, private beach in on the shores of RI, mixing, mashing, stringing and decorating all manner of seaweed stews, pies and cakes – a dash of sand for sweet or spice.  This crouching inner chef soon broke free in the kitchen, but not until after I had graduated college and grown into myself for a few years…

Funny how that happens.  We never cease to keep growing, changing, morphing, sometimes – or often times, I find – connecting back to some of our childhood behaviors and resurrecting our most fond activities and attachments. And speaking of culinary delights, we traverse from the sea to…

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strawberry fields of delight!  My little ol’ adopted digital cam was not charged up when I left in flip-flops for fields in the country, but I was the first plucker o’ the morn.  The variety, organically-grown, is called ‘early glow’.  The kind woman who lent me a wooden basket said they were small, but sweet – there was a bigger variety growing a couple of rows over, but not so much on the sweet side.  Small and sweet over big and not-so-sweet any day.  We’ve had so much rain over the past few days – not so wonderful for the berries life-span – but I plucked 5 quarts of red, ripe strawberries, with visions of shortcake tumbling about in my head.  I tried not to squish too many berries in the process – wide feet and all.

Oh, j’adore berry season come June!  One of late spring’s/summer’s best offerings.  Raspberries are my favorite, though they are a rare breed and do not come into season until closer to the end of July, me thinks.  The harvesting season for berries is rather short and fleeting, but such is the nature of some of life’s most savory pleasures…

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Soon – like, this evening – to be turned into jam for friends and family near and far 🙂  I’ll be attempting to do so without a proper canner system, but I intend to heat dry the jars, boil lids, and simmer the berries away into a fine, gooey consistency fit for hours of tasty pleasure.  I’ll let you know how that venture jars out.

And with the remainder of the afternoon spread out before me, I enjoyed the simple pleasure of a warm, bright Saturday afternoon.  In-between tending studying for upcoming state tests and preparing to become a new teacher in the fall, I made a delightful lunch of broiled mahi-mahi on spinach with mango salsa (not pictured, but an improv effort and so delicious that I will have to post the recipe at some point in time); inspected my almost-drowned community of herbs; did some batches of laundry; and pranced about over the (mostly) soft grass, thinking of all the things I am and want to become…

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From left and ziz-zagging down: Oregano, lady lavender, korean mint, french tarragon, lemon grass, genova basil (and some others not pictured..the shy ones of the bunch).

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Blankets soaking up cleansing rays and whatever is carried in on the breeze…

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Voracious vines twining through moss-laden fences…

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And the Giving Tree seemed in a most friendly-type mood.

In my Saturday comings and goings, a thought occurred. I had the sudden revelation that I still fall victim at times to deep-seated fears – that perhaps I won’t or haven’t accomplished all I aim to do or be, that perhaps I don’t have certain skills and talents that I so value…do you have such very intimate fears, from time to time?

Then I realized that if I value something, anything, that I must do so without any worry for the what could be or not be.  What comes is up to me, and rests on my behaviors, actions, words, every moment and every day.  I believe we really do help to build our own images, co-construct our secret or not-so-secret worlds.  I realize I must happen to the world, before the world happens to me.

And so I carry on, my ‘pennies in a basket’ so-to-speak, tossing them with care and knowing that if I want to see results, then I must commit, sometimes thinking and sometimes unthinking, become lost, and found again.  My own little philosophy on the nature of coming into one’s authentic self.

On the wings of that notion, I must skip away from my screen and into the land of trees, bees, and things that walk and talk.  Ta-ta until we meet again!

Love and Learn,

L