Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bowl of daylilies - July 31

The center daylily is the last of the orange ones for 2008. The leaves are the first to break through the spring earth, and then there is beautiful, lush green for the weeks before the flowers actually bloom, and then to top it off, those orange blossoms for a month, 1/12 of the year. What a great, stalwart daylily.

Book Report/Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock
by Agatha Christie
unabridged audio read by Hugh Fraser
mystery, 1955
finished, 7/30/08

I really enjoyed Hickory Dickory Dock, my fifth book in the Anything Agatha Challenge, and my first Poirot mystery. In this case, his most efficient secretary, Miss Lemon, makes some errors in her typing, and Poirot knows this means something is terribly wrong. She proceeds to tell him that her sister, Mrs. Hubbard is very upset. The latter works at a youth hostel, and recently a number of small items have gone missing, and some acts of malicious mischief have taken place. Hercule Poirot goes to the house, on Hickory Street, as a supposed lecturer while he really studies the situation. Are these actions the work of one person? If not, then are they related somehow? And what is really going on in this place? The residents are mostly international students, though a few are employed. There were a lot of characters, and if this had been a print version I might have gone back to check on just who was whom, but mostly I did alright. The solution to the mysteries was presented in a clear, understandable manner, and was surprising to me in some of its elements. The book was very well written, and I really see why Agatha Christie is so very esteemed in the literary world. We've just begun watching the televised versions of Poirot from Netflix, and are completely absorbed in them. I never would have watched them were it not for this challenge, and I am so grateful to have him in both my reading and watching life. He is a wonderful, eccentric fellow with not a few Monk-ish characteristics. David Suchet portrays him perfectly. One of the treats of this audio version is that it is narrated by Hugh Fraser, the man who plays the part of Hercule Poirot's great friend, Arthur Hastings. I am delighted to have all these Poirots ahead of me. They are pure pleasure.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Zucchini Cocoa Cake

The photo simply does not do this cake justice! It is one of my favorite, favorite chocolate cakes. Almost a year ago today, I posted a chocolate zucchini cake recipe, but it is a little different from this one. This is a smaller recipe for a smaller pan.

Zucchini Cocoa Cake

1/2 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 scant teaspoon salt

3 cups grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350º F. and spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
Mix together first four ingredients.
Add next four ingredients, and then add the zucchini last.

Bake for about 40 minutes.

I frosted it with a sour cream frosting

1/4 cup soft butter
1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Today's poem - into the strenuous briefness by e.e. cummings

into the strenuous briefness
by e.e. cummings

into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April
darkness, friends

i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight

i smilingly glide. I
into the big vermilion departure
swim, sayingly;

(Do you think?) the
i do, world
is probably made
of roses & hello:

(of solongs and, ashes)

Bowl of daylilies - July 29

Lesson from the daylilies

This is what you don't see. The bowl of daylilies on the day after.

I go out each morning, empty the bowl, refill it with fresh, cool water, and choose which daylilies will be featured that day. As I looked at yesterday's outdoor bouquet, I was struck by the lesson we learn over and over, and yet the message doesn't stick. We don't really absorb it. Its essence is: life is brief. All we have is the present. If we don't totally appreciate it, if we go blithely on our way without noticing life around us, we miss it. This is all there is. I could spend all day finding quotes from brilliant people telling this deep truth. And we know it, we really do. Yet we go along our days simply wasting them. Wasting time and beauty and joy when it is all around us, and so, so fleeting. Look at those daylilies. Yesterday they were so gorgeous, full of such beauty my eyes could barely take it all in, and now, it's over. They are soggy, spent, in the trash. There will be more beauty today; in the next post in fact, but not the same beauty as yesterday. If I didn't take the time to really look yesterday, my chance of seeing that particular splendor is over, never to come again. Appreciate, be grateful, truly enjoy without longing for the past or fearing for the future.

Of all the sage expressions about this notion, my favorite is from Lilias Folan. I offered her words as a quote du jour, and she says the same thing in a little different way. She speaks of being: "mindful of this moment. The past is through. The future hasn't come yet. Just be here now."

Addendum: Today, Wednesday the 30th, my daughter stopped by and saw today's daylily bouquet on the patio table. I told her about this entry, and she had a view of it that I wanted to share, something I didn't think of at all: the idea that when the day is over, it's done, and tomorrow is a new day. I love this, and thought you might, too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

First yellow beans

As I picked the beans this morning, and also some other vegetables which were ready, I began thinking about how even eating is different in the summertime. We eat outdoors at either barbecues or picnics. We carry our coffee or tea outside in the morning. And at least in my case, I eat supper foods any time of the day. If there are beans ready for picking at 10 am, I'll have them for breakfast. I'll sit down and eat sautéed summer squash and onions morning, noon, or night. The season really is a vacation time for all of life's daily routines.

Bowl of daylilies - July 28

Book Report/Gallows View

Gallows View
by Peter Robinson
mystery, 1987
finished, 7/16/08

It seems to me that an inordinate amount of police procedural mysteries have to do with crimes against women and children. Perhaps this mirrors real life, but it doesn't make them any easier for me to read. Yet I do. Some. What happens is that I get to know and care about the main characters, and continue with them no matter how grisly the cases. There are some I have really liked and still couldn't read further - Dennis Lehane's series comes to mind - but there are other series I do stay with and one of them is the Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks mysteries. I have read a few of the later books, and decided to go back and start at the beginning. In this first book, we find out he has moved to Yorkshire with his wife and two children for a quieter life, and of course, what does he find but a peeping tom and gross young robbers and a killer of an old woman! I so like the sleuth and the locale, and have already started the second in the series.

Here's a fact I found amazing: in this fictional town of 14,000, there are 57 pubs!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Stroll/July 27

Today's Sunday Stroll includes some cleanup work, the first of the summer season. I cut down the tree mallow by the kitchen door which was just beginning to blossom a month ago, almost to the day. I'm also in the process of cutting back the orange daylilies, which began blooming on that same Sunday Stroll. So, a month of gorgeous pink and orange, brightening the whole yard. Who could ask for more? We also went out into the vegetable garden and removed the pea vines. We don't have a compost pile, as such. We feed them to the animals, and their manure becomes our garden nutrient.

It seems that every year when we pull up the pea plants, the yellow beans begin to appear.

The first dahlia, of my first year of dahlias, the Tommy Keith, which dates from 1892! I got all my bulbs from a wonderful place, Old House Gardens.

Many of the annuals we started from seed and grew under the lights are coming into their own now.

The lavatera is still stunning, a real show-stopper!

Clarkia godetia

State Fair mix zinnia

Sea shells cosmos

The tree hydrangea is blooming. It grows all over the cemetery where my grandparents and many aunts and uncles are buried, and I thought I'd like to have it in my own yard. It is up against the fence which lines the road.

And I'll close with the wonder of the daylilies.

Some of my favorites are the ones which grow alongside the wild flowers

Bowl of daylilies - July 27

Today's picture/A coil of five

Friday, July 25, 2008

Today's picture/First Blueberries

These blueberries don't come from here

or here
We get them just down the road from a neighbor. He has many bushes, and calls us when there are blueberries available. Often, they are so newly picked that the sun's warmth is still in them. I've already eaten two bowls, and frozen a bag for a little taste of summer in the wintertime.

Friday Finds/July 25

Here are my Friday Finds this week:

1. Judy left a comment a while ago, mentioning a book she thought I'd like:
Lost Hill by Dorothy Evelyn Smith. I've read Miss Plum and Miss Penny by her, and liked it very much, and I look forward to Lost Hill.

2. Because we just spent the weekend at The Balsams, I'd like to read A Last Resort by Mark Okrant which is set there.

3. We were told the room we stayed in was haunted, and though we didn't see a ghost, I searched around for a book which mentioned this particular ghost, and found:
Curious New England by Joseph E. Citro and Diane E. Foulds

4. Annette left a comment asking if I had read:
In Search of England by H.V. Morton. It's now in my shopping cart.

5. On Cornflower's online journal, I learned about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and knew I just had to read it. If the book is even a quarter as good as the title, I'll love it. It is also in my cart.

Bowl of daylilies - July 25

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today's poem - One July Summer by Dorothy Ardelle Merriam

One July Summer
by Dorothy Ardelle Merriam

What has happened to summer,
That's what I want to know.
Is she on a vacation -
Who knows where did she go?
Tell, what was she wearing;
A zephyr breeze and rosebud
Or grass and wild berry?
Could she be honeymooning
With spring or early fall
Or has she gone so far away
She'll not return at all?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today's poem - My Father Paints the Summer by Richard Wilbur

My Father Paints the Summer
by Richard Wilbur

A smoky rain riddles the ocean plains,
Rings on the beaches' stones, stomps in the swales,
Batters the panes
Of the shore hotel, and the hoped-for summer chills and fails.
The summer people sigh,
"Is this July?"

They talk by the lobby fire but no one hears
For the thrum of rain. In the dim and sounding halls,
Din at the ears,
Dark at the eyes well in the head, and the ping-pong balls
Scatter their hollow knocks
Like crazy clocks.

But up in his room by artificial light
My father paints the summer, and his brush
Tricks into sight
The prosperous sleep, the girdling stir and clear steep hush
Of a summer never seen,
A granted green.

Summer, luxuriant Sahara, the orchard spray
Gales in the Eden trees, the knight again
Can cast away
His burning mail, Rome is at Anzio: but the rain
For the ping-pong's optative bop
Will never stop.

Caught Summer is always an imagined time.
Time gave it, yes, but time out of any mind.
There must be prime
In the heart to beget that season, to reach past rain and find
Riding the palest days
Its perfect blaze.

Bowl of daylilies - July 23

I bought these daylilies without even knowing what color they would be simply because of the name, Little Fred. Tom and I had an older friend named Fred, who was an excellent mason. He worked on both our houses, and we adored him. So, when I saw a daylily with his name, I had to buy it. The bonus is that it is a spectacular color. And on this cloudy (again!) day, the yellow in the middle is like sunshine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quote du jour/Le Corbusier

Sunlight, greenery and space are the three primary elements of urbanism.
Le Corbusier

Today's picture/Supper & Sadie

On the screen is The Documentaries of Louis Malle, and on the plate is fresh, homemade bread and fried eggs.

A friend's online journal

You know what, I'm going to stop using the word 'blog.' I don't like it. I'm going to say, online journal. Much prettier, and much more descriptive of the online journals I read.

A lot of people's online journals are read by people they know in the 'real' world. As far as I know, no one from my life outside of the online journal reads mine. Until now!! And not only does she read mine, she has her own, and I'm going to introduce her to you! This young woman is my daughter's best friend, and she is my second daughter. I've known her since she was one year old. Her mom and I share a birthday, and a great friendship. Her dad and Tom are also friends. I know that a few younger people read my online journal, and I'd like to steer them toward my friend's spot on the internet. But even if you are older than 25, please do go visit. She's a wonderful, wonderful person and I love her to pieces.

Here's a recent photo of the two of them which is a little blurry but I do love it!

Big Apple Circus

Do you know Grandma? If you do, then you've been to the wonderful Big Apple Circus. If you don't, I hope that one day it will be on tour in your area, and you'll get tickets. We've been going since our children were little and sitting on laps, amazed at what they were seeing.

Tom's mother always gathered the family together on a July afternoon in Lyme, NH. Because two cousin birthdays are in that month, we often had a little picnic on the Dartmouth Green in Hanover. Of all the childhood memories, I think this is one of the best and most important to our kids (and to the parents). As the years have gone on, it has been harder to get everyone together, and the last time we went as the whole big family was three years ago. A couple weeks ago, our daughter called and said, hey, what about the circus? Can we get tickets? And I got 'em! This time it was our immediate family, along with our daughter's boyfriend, and our son's friend. We drove down to an evening show, and the same old magic hit us as soon as we walked into that tent. I leaned over and watched the faces of all the twenty-somethings as they gaped in wonder at the acrobats and the juggler, and laughed at Grandma's antics. It filled my heart with joy and gratitude and the richness of life.

Bowl of daylilies - July 22

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday Stroll/ Monday, July 21

Mostly daylilies this week! As the orange ones begin to go by, the other colors are opening.

You may visit the other gardeners who took a stroll yesterday. I'm thrilled that more and more are joining along with Aisling each week. It's such a great idea.

The first lavatera flower

Bright Lights cosmos

I wish you could smell these sweet peas. We grow them along the pea fence in the vegetable garden.

The mid-July vegetable garden