Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sprigs: NC Passion Flower

This exotic blossom is growing in a hedge of weeds along my country road.  Doesn't it look like an escapee from a tropical forest? 

Coincidentally I was in Winston (at a charming garden/gift/foodie shop called the Li'l Briar Patch) and noticed an arbor covered with a plant with smooth green fruit, but no flowers in bloom.  My friend said it was a passion flower.

Something clicked in my head. (Remember the synapse.) Was mine a passion flower?

Sure enough, wikipedia confirmed I'd found a passion flower. I went back out to "my" specimen. It had the vine and fruit. Today I'm going back out with a shovel and moving the North Carolina native to my yard where it will get an appreciative audience. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Imperfect Love: Strings and Baggage

Fadzly Mubin flickr
Relationships can be very hard work. They can go amiss with a misspoken word. My assumptions about the other person may lead me to "hear" an attitude or motive that isn't really there.  My "love" comes with invisible strings attached.  I'm weighted down with an airline-sized cart of phantom baggage.  

Twice recently I've been painfully reminded of how  my flawed love can damage the connections between me and others.

When the grandchildren came to visit this summer my smile dimmed in inverse proportion to their clamor and commotion. I realized that I expected  the kids would do as I asked the first time I asked. They would eat what I cooked. They would go to bed earlier than I did. 

 I didn't respond calmly.  I over-reacted about wasted food. My fuzzy, warm feelings evaporated faster than the soap suds creeping over the edge of the tub.  I risked spoiling our time together. My "love" had a lot of strings attached. 

The second instance was a call from a family member. We have a distant and fractured relationship. The conversation was upsetting, and afterwards I chafed. In my mind I justified the actions which had so annoyed her.  I took offense at her "tone" as well as her words. 

My first reaction was to cut off further contact with her. I decided the baggage from our childhood was too serious to ignore, too heavy to cast off, too broken to repair. 

But I read a book that gave me a sliver of hope. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions (by Lysa TerKeurst) perfectly described how some of us fly off the handle and feel ashamed later.  How unchangeable the pattern seems. (Have you ever had the feeling someone was writing about YOU?)

Then she formulated concrete steps to handle my unpleasant feelings. She gave me a how-to NOT become unglued, but how to get a grip. (She sought God's help, and I am too, since I'm not doing very well by myself.) 

The book helped me plan a response that will be truthful and gracious.  I have a face to face meeting with the relative next month. I have hope that this time I will make a wiser choice when I feel attacked.

My love is still imperfect. But I think I've untied some of the strings, and unloaded some of the rocks out of my emotional suitcase. 


 How do you handle disagreeable relationships?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sprigs: Carolina Coffee Plant

Last year I went to Guatemala. While I toured the coffee plantation I picked a few coffee beans. I gave them to one of the gardeners in our group and she planted them. When the plant was about 8" tall, she gave one to me. 

I tended it, put it outside in the shade this summer, and look at it now! 
If I can find a spot for it to thrive in the house, I might even get flowers, and eventually more beans!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zionism in North Carolina

Nothing changes much in my neck of the woods. We haven't had a new house built on the road in 14 years. Nobody's swapped cattle for llamas. Therefore a small change at the neighbor's house puzzled me.

Speeding past his flag pole I caught a glimpse of blue and white cloth hanging below the Stars and Stripes. It was the right blue for University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, aka Carolina, but I didn't spot the familiar logo.

As I drove my brain registered a second possibility. Was it the flag of Israel?  

Why here and why now? Surry County doesn't  have enough Jewish men for the quorum required for public worship. According to there have to be ten men (or women) over the age of thirteen. "Only in a group of ten or more is there sufficient sanctity to recite certain public prayers." 

 I doubt my neighbor is a new convert boasting his holiness.  Given current events,  I think he has gone to extraordinary measures to publicly side with the state of Israel. 

More commonly people with strong opinions write letters to the editor, or to their elected officials. Bumper stickers proclaim a driver's persuasion. And of course, the long-dead Confederacy's Stars and Bars do flutter in some local yards. But sporting a foreign power's 
standard is rare outside of a diplomat's embassy.

While I thought Afghanistan was justified in killing Taliban terrorists, but I didn't hang their flag out my window.  

And I've never heard that Americans hung the Union Jack under the American flag before we entered the fighting in World War II. 


My neighbor's identification with a country 6,000 miles from here is probably tied to the Christian Zionism movement, which to over-simplify, believes that war in the Middle East will usher in Jesus' second coming. They also believe that a promise in Genesis still holds that those who bless Abraham (and his descendants) will be blessed by God. 

My reading tells me that many non-Christian Israelis think it suspicious that American Christians are aligning themselves with Israel. This is logical given America's track record of discrimination against American Jews. And then there is the sorry story of the many who were denied safety in the US after fleeing the Nazi's pogroms in Europe. 

If I were Israeli, I'd think it strange that a small town farmer wanted to fly my flag. 

I do too.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Garden Whispered "Fall"

Last week the garden whispered fall was coming even though the temperatures shouted "summer!"

The coleus sent up purple spires. 

Goldfinches flew formations in and out of the cosmos, landing to nibble seeds.

The stink bugs snuck back.

Sedum turned up the volume on its rosy heads.

The tomatoes dwindled in size and quantity. 

The starlings huddled on the power line until they got the signal to swarm and swoop to a new destination.  The chestnut hulls swelled from marbles to baseballs.

I'm sorry summer is winding down, but I am tired of picking green beans.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mismatched oars

We spend a lot of time on the water during our three generation family vacations.

Our fleet started with a rowboat thirty years ago. Since then we've added floating devices, and recently kayaks. But the rowboat is still my favorite. Why? 

1.  I don't drip water all over myself like I do in the kayak. 

They've graduated to rowing on their own!

2. The grandkids can piddle around and we don't worry about them tipping over. When their parents  were infants, we'd strap them into a stroller and plunk it down, baby and all, into the rowboat. It was steady as a barge.

3.  It has the largest carrying capacity.  At high tide we ferry sun-soaked people, sandy towels, toys, and empty ice chests across the lagoon. 

This summer, however, we couldn't find the second oar in the pair. My daughter scrounged under the cabin porch and chose a substitute. The mismatch caused me to veer to the left and my course through the water looked like a swimming snake's.  I experimented and adjusted my strokes to compensate, two strokes with both oars, one with the right, two with both, one with the right. Then the telltale ripples were slightly wiggly. 

When I docked and tied up I took a closer look.  Both the shaft and the blade of the replacement were shorter than the original. No wonder I couldn't row in a straight line. 

It got me thinking about how marriages are more like a mismatched pair of oars than a matched set. Each unique partner has a mix of strengths, interests, and skills. They are not exactly equal and each mate probably has to make adjustments to keep the conjugal boat headed in a straight line. 

Bill's a dreamer, I'm a planner. But I am blessed that we share a common worldview. Even when we meander on our way, and one of us has to do some extra rowing, we are headed for the same destination. 

I wouldn't want to hit the swells and storms of life with somebody who wanted to head off a different direction! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sprigs: Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Except for the German Johnsons, it's been a great year for tomatoes. My freezer has beaucoup bags of them to add to recipes this winter, and one-cup containers full of salsa.

Now the second wave is coming ripe and just in time a friend shared this recipe from a Raleigh newspaper. I've made 3 batches and they are soooo

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

1. Cut the tomatoes in quarters. (I did about 8 cups at a time.)

2. Sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher or sea salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.  I used fresh oregano, rosemary and basil--just whatever looks good.

3. Add approximately 1/4 olive oil, I used slightly less.

4. Stir, and using a slotted spoon to allow the juice to run through. (Save it to replace water in rice, steamed vegetables, or soup.)  Place them skin side down on a parchment line cookie sheet. I used aluminum foil sprayed lightly with canola oil.

5. Cook 3-4 hours at 250. I think it depends on the type of tomato. Roma would be on the lower end, my early variety were juicy and I let them cook 4 hours.  

I poured off the extra juice half-way through the cooking time adding it to what I'd already set aside. 

6. Cool, place into freezer bags, being careful to get as much air out as possible, and freeze. 

I added the broth and fruit to soup. They were so much tastier than ordinary frozen (or canned) tomatoes.

I sampled by sopping up the liquid left on the baking pan with  a chunk of hearty whole wheat bread. Then I spread the roasted pulp on it. Delectable!