Tag Archives: grandchildren

The flowery gifts of August.

Nodding Violet

Right in the middle of a very busy week my oldest daughter Pearl and her youngest Maggie came to visit, and that gave me a lovely and relaxing day. They had been camping for four nights from Wisconsin to here, on their way taking Maggie back to college in the southern reaches of California. It had been a long time since I’d had some focused time with this grandchild; we did a lot of catching up on face-to-face time and hugging.

And she suggested baking cookies together, and even suggested which kind of cookies. She would like the chocolate macaroons I make at Christmas; it just so happened that for some reason I’d bought almond paste last week, not really knowing why. So we made those marzipaney treats that I’ve never before made at any other time of the year.

The recipe calls for egg whites but not yolks. So we made Key Lime Cookies to use up the yolks, and to use a few of the big bag of limes I’d bought recently, I also can’t remember why. I sent Maggie on her way with most of the cookies this morning.

We three made a feast of a dinner together and Maggie went out to gather flowers for the table. 🙂

As for tomatoes, an unrepeatable sort of agricultural science experiment has been going on here. I have a few plants in the back yard that I intentionally planted and fed and have been watering…. I staked them and have so far picked about fifteen delicious Sungold cherry tomatoes off of one spindly vine.

By contrast, growing out of a crack in the sidewalk in front is a Green Doctor cherry tomato plant, looking hale and hearty, on which are growing bunches of tasty fat fruits. That plant is living proof of what I have known for a long time, that in our climate at least, tomatoes love heat more than they love water. The only water the sidewalk tomato received was one light rain in July. But its roots, wherever they are, are kept warm all night by the concrete that soaked up the full sun during the day. I’m thinking about scattering more seeds in that crack next spring.

I need to divide my Dutch Iris this fall, so I had my helper Alejandro remove most of them, and here they wait, on the side of the driveway:

Today a cord of firewood was delivered right next to them; the arranging of that was one of the many business calls I made this week. I’m amazed at how many tasks were completed (trash removed, garage door serviced, Household Hazardous Waste disposed of) or projects started.

I was waiting in a lab and saw these signs on the wall. This way of using the word love is a pet peeve of mine, which I began to acquire in the days of the toy named Care Bear, about whom it was said, “Care Bear loves you.” Ugh. I don’t like to trivialize love by lying to a child about what a toy can do, but I also find the use of the passive-voice “You are loved” to be false.

True love is not something that just happens; even falling in love requires something human from us. Who is that unnamed somebody who loves me, that the sign seems to know about? Of course it’s all too inane. Let’s look at flowers instead. Try not to look too long at the distracting hose in the next picture. Here you can see the sneezeweed starting to bloom behind the zinnias.

My vegetable garden is quite skimpy this summer, but I am thankful to have zinnias everywhere; I will plant some greens again next month, and take my joy from the flowery gifts of August.

 

The Zephyr brought joys.

Liam’s papercrafting

While my son “Soldier” was away for a few weeks, his wife whom I call Joy brought all four children to California to see the grandparents. They came by train, the California Zephyr line, which gave me an excuse to tell them stories about my yearly summer train trips as a child to see my grandmother. The images that my mind retains through the decades related to those journeys are vivid. Many railway experiences of the current Amtrak era are worlds apart from what I knew, but I’m happy that the children had a new adventure, and even slept overnight on the train, which I never did.

Their lively group stayed with me five nights, and visited Joy’s family nearby as well. We were so busy all those days, I barely remembered to take any pictures, much less write about our fun.

braiding seagrass

Liam’s side of our Bananagrams game, using all his tiles.

We went to church, to the beach, to the cemetery — bringing along yarrow, zinnias, snapdragons and sunflowers for the children to lay on their grandpa’s grave. They are too young to remember him, so when we got home I showed them a photo slide show on the computer.

We took walks along the creek and to the neighborhood school’s playground. I read from Eleanor Farjeon’s The Little Bookroom  as I had read to their cousins last month, and laughed hilariously over “The King’s Daughter Who Cried for the Moon.”

The children combed my garden to find everything I would confirm as edible. They gathered hundreds of manzanita berries from under that little tree and chewed on them, spitting out the several rock-hard seeds in each. The strawberry tree fruits are ripening now, but the tree has grown so tall that they needed a ladder and a broom to knock them down.

These children are, as we say, “good eaters.” No matter what strange concoction Grandma has made, they want to try it — even my ultra-spicy pudding that I make with the pulp left over from making ginger broth. When oatmeal or buckwheat porridge was on the breakfast menu, they loved having a smorgasbord of toppings, everything from peanut butter and milk to chopped dried apricots and this seed mix.

I was given a dozen homegrown peaches recently and I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen to make a cobbler, half of which we ate for dessert one night, and the remainder next morning for the third course of our breakfast, after grapefruit and scrambled eggs.

It was delectable. Where the recipe called for vanilla or almond extract I used almond. I think if I make it again I will increase the amount of fruit, and use a little less cream or butter in the scone topping, with confidence of still being able to call it Plenty Rich. And I would like to try it with plums — or any fruit!

My dear people are headed back home to Colorado now, and the cobbler is gone…. The taste of scones and peaches is already fading, but Joy and her young joys made a big deposit of sweetness in my heart, to flavor many days to come.

We’ll make fire our business.

This morning Liam and I squeezed in one game of Bananagrams, while his parents were making the rounds of all the rooms to find stray items not to leave behind. The grandchildren also stuffed their backpacks, and found space for last-minute offerings I made: their choice of a matchbox car and a book from my toy area/children’s library.

Liam chose one of the two remaining Sugar Creek Gang paperbacks, and Laddie combed through shelves and baskets looking for the hardcover Velveteen Rabbit, which he and I had enjoyed together last week; he finally did locate it. Brodie debated between The Little Fur Family and another book about a small animal, but after I encouraged him to take the classic, he happily went home with that superior and more traditional story. Clara finally settled on The Fox Jumped Up One Winter’s Night, after which you could hear young and old voices singing the story upstairs and down as she packed it into her bag.

Having watched Clara managing all the stuffies and several baby dolls over the last ten days, I was pretty sure she might like to take one home. I offered her the bear she had named Gingerbread. Their relationship hadn’t started well: she showed him to me twice early on and told me that he was “mean.” Laddie thought she might have had that response because of the placement of his eyes, closer together than other bears we compared him to. A few days ago he and I decided to put a blue ribbon around Gingerbread’s neck, and after that he became a favorite of Clara.

She was overjoyed when I told her she might take him home and keep him.

This afternoon my dear children departed for their home in Colorado, leaving the house strangely quiet and a little sad. I ate lunch and took a walk. The air was crisp and cold, and I began to cheer up right away. But maybe I was wearing the “wrong” shoes, because my feet began to hurt, and I returned home.

Soldier and Joy and the two older kids had been organizing, tidying and cleaning since yesterday, and before they left they got the dishwasher running — and the bathroom floors cleaned! There was nothing urgent for me to do, so I relaxed and caught up on blog-reading, as the furnace blew noisily trying to heat up this barn of a space. The idea of building a fire did cross my mind, and then it doubled back and crossed by again…

But I was beginning to feel the delayed fatigue of the last two weeks, and I didn’t want to pay attention to that thought. Until I read on an unfamiliar blog:

If the world is cold, make it your business to build fires.
~Horace Traubel

Ha! Well, okay. I left this frigid computer corner to bring in a few logs, and as I spied the stack of kindling next to the stove, I recalled the time last week when I was surprised to find Liam all by himself in the garage, splitting sticks with the little hatchet, a big pile accumulating in front of him. I will be appreciating his efforts for a while to come.

Now it’s nearly my bedtime, and I have got the house cozied up. I’m thinking of lots of little ways that multitudes of people around me have been making it their business to “build fires.” It might just be sparks of kindness here and there, seemingly timid flames and ineffective; but so easily they can ignite a bonfire that will warm a whole village, and lessen the gloom of winter. Here’s to love!

The chefs create lavish plates.

The children and I had a good time scavenging in my garden for any remaining edibles. My New Zealand Spinach, known down under as warrigal, I think, popped up and was immediately lush after recent rains, so I picked a gallon of leaves to make Creamy Green Soup with.

The boys used a few of the leaves as a foundation for multiple gorgeous culinary creations, several of which were proudly presented as “fully edible.” I did eat one whole plateful, and we all nibbled on pineapple guavas that we found on the ground at the back of the bush, and almost-ripe pomegranate seeds. We found a few sweet tomatillos here and there, but there were only two fruits on the strawberry tree. Olives and salvia flowers and pomegranate flowers all contributed to extravagant visual displays.

Skeleton of a tomatillo husk. It contained seeds and a fly.

Meanwhile, Soldier cleaned my rain gutters
and Joy raked the paths of pine and redwood needles.

Liquidambar gumballs

On our drizzly walks we’ve admired liquidambar trees with deep red leaves yet to drop, and collected cotoneaster berries for the next phase of Christmas decorating. My grandson Pat and his new bride are joining us for Christmas Eve!

Here are the remaining “Baby Jesuses” that we made from salt dough about thirty years ago, re-wrapped in their twill tape swaddling clothes and set under my second little Christmas tree, given by my neighbor and decorated by the children just tonight.

“Away in a walnut shell…”