Thursday, November 27, 2014

Southern ghosts......

There's just something about being a southern girl.....
First of all, you gotta know how to make biscuits. I was taught by three of the finest southern women I know, and I'm passing it on to Wesley, only we are altering them for a vegan diet. They were pretty damn good!

Being southern means inviting people over if they don't have anywhere else to go for the holidays. My friend Barbra and Wesley's friend Lazarus joined us today instead of our families. It was nice, quiet, low stress and pleasant conversation. Barbra brought Highland breweries winter beer and some Gaelic ale. This was a really great Thanksgiving. I missed having our family here, but I didn't miss the exhaustion that comes after. 

Funerals in the south are a mystery to me. Wednesday we were in South Carolina for a very sad one. I was viewing this service from a different perspective. I was sad and my heart felt for the family, but I am not so much a part of that family, so I observed without the usual crushing sadness of most funerals I end up at. 
Wrangler jeans and plaid shirts mixed with expensive black suits, the familiar words to The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace barely filtered through my mind as I was distracted with memories of my own dad's funeral. Wondering how many in the room were remembering other funerals, loved ones they have said goodbye to. The sickening smell of carnations and orchids and roses filled the room that was painted a very odd light pink. The room was too bright for a casket that was opened,
revealing the dead body, not looking anything like the person that had lived in that body. Gerry's dad approached the pulpit to conduct the service. Scriptures were read from his mothers bible, a preachers story of a rose pressed in those pages, I think that rose was given by Wesley at her great grandmothers funeral. Then we all file out of the room, how do we all know instinctively how to do this? The police cars and the black casket-carrying car pull out, we follow. Cars pull over in the oncoming lane out of respect for the family and the dead. How many of them are thinking, that poor family, burying someone on Thanskgiving Eve. I would have been thinking that. I was thinking that....

Then the long drive down the country roads to the cemetary, thick with tall pine trees, a brick house that had been built around a blue trailer caught my eye, what in the world...half house, half trailer. The little towns have put up their Christmas lights on the telephone poles, reindeer, bells, Christmas trees all twinkle through the raindrops on the windshield. It's pretty and festive on this rainy dark day.

Gerry's dad says a prayer and comforts the family at the cemetary. He is a pro. I watch him, he is at work, this is his profession, and he has done it for over thirty years. He does it well. Southern baptist preacher. I am married to a preachers kid.....
I can't believe he is an eighty year old man. He looks sixty. He is burying his sister, twenty years younger than he is.

Gerry and his brothers are pall bearers. They are not big guys. She was a big woman. The casket is heavy. They had to walk up a hill, they nearly drop the thing. What happens if a casket is dropped on its way to the hole dug for it, I wonder to myself.... There is my husband, preachers kid, carrying a casket to its hole in the ground. I am standing in the very back behind everyone, alone....taking pictures, trying to understand the presence of my dad with me. Is he really there? Such a strong memory of him, even now twenty years later.

I find comfort in cemeteries. They are like art to me. I am drawn to them like a moth to flame.
Everyone went to the "fellowship" building for refreshments, which I found odd.... There was chicken soup in a crock pot, and Mountain Dew, and I didn't see what else,because the walls closed in on me and I walked across the street, back to the graves of civil war soldiers and families that lived in the 1800's. The black crosses were marked with a rebel flag and the letters C S A. Confederate soldier honor markers. 
I walked around looking at the graves of those that fought for the south in the civil war and in the distance I heard an argument going on by the hole just dug. The men filling in the hole. Six white men and one younger black man. I was reminded of how racist the south still is. As these redneck fools shoveled dirt onto the fresh grave of my husbands aunt, they argued about the justice in Ferguson and the recent shooting there. I heard one of the men say, "you people are always blaming the white man for everything". Really? You are standing on the fresh grave of a woman that was planning to cook Thanksgiving dinner with her daughter today and you are bullying this poor man about being black as he shovels dirt on this grave? I was flying across the grass to say something, more and more furious as I approached them. They saw my anger and all shut the fuck up. They just started shoveling their dirt in silence. God Almighty! I am proud to be from the south, there is so much richness and amazement here, but there are stupid rednecks that just ruin it sometimes. 

We headed for home. We passed a muddy baseball field where Gerry hit home runs as a kid. We passed one of the many churches his dad preached at. He told me a story of riding to school in the morning with a neighbor, the car radio on, a morning church service, his dad's voice preaching on the radio. That's the damndest story to me.....

We stopped to see Gerry's mom in the Hospice center. More sadness. More stupidity as the nurses came in and laughed and joked with his mom and did idiotic things with her, nevermind that we were there for only a moment to visit. Go away you stupid silly girls. I had to take another walk. Our healthcare system is beyond fixing it seems to me. What are we doing with our elderly? There is no dignity in dementia. 

Oh dang, y'all, what a week! In spite of everything, there was laughter and comfort and acceptance of those things we cannot change, and time with family, hugs and understanding. And my daughters beautiful smile, and her friend, here, so far from his own home and family, trying to find his way in the world, becoming a young man. Gerry, watching his mother, the one in his family that always knew him and protected him, slipping further and further from reality, holding her hand and smiling at her and she has just a glimmer of recognition in her eyes.... I know you.....

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Don't let the fire go out

Two years ago today, I was packing my car and getting ready to go set up my booth at the Designer Craftsmen Guild show in Raleigh. I was so happy to have been juried in to this guild. The year before was my first year in the guild and I had a big show. I sold so much I was giddy. Flash forward two years. I have made no pottery in a year, I don't even want to. I have a part time job now. I look forward to going, I truly like the people I work with. It's fun, I learn something new every day. It's not the life I imagined, it just sort of came along. I gave it a try, and I like it. Who knows what new journey this will bring. I'm just going to go with it and see what happens.

 It's interesting, I'm not the only one going out there and getting a job. Several bloggers have recently written about new jobs. The bad news is, artists and craftspeople are clearly struggling to support themselves. The good news is, those of us that have decided to supplement our incomes have been able to find jobs that are good fits for us. Its even nice to see that those of us over 50 can still be viable in the workplace. As a craftsperson, I have a tremendous list of skills. They don't always translate in the "real world", same for many of you, I'm sure. But there are places we can find a fit, and I feel very fortunate to have this new job. I fit in really well with this gang of twenty-thirty year olds. We even play the same video games, ha! The other day I told Wes that I was the oldest employee there but the most immature. Her reply? " I don't doubt that one bit". But she said it in the kindest possible way :-)
It's good I never made a five year plan. My life seems to change directions every week or so.

And now tomorrow, instead of driving to Raleigh with a car full of sculpture for Christmas shoppers, I will be going to a funeral. Gerry has been asked to be a pall bearer. His father will be the minister offering gentle words of comfort. Wesley will be coming home from school. We will have a lovely Thanksgiving together and be thankful for the blessings in our lives.

I wish all of you a very happy week and best of luck with your jobs, whatever they may be. I'll be back in a few days. Lots to do right now.....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vegan Thanksgiving

No birds will be eaten in our house this Thanksgiving. This will be my first Thanksgiving without a turkey.  I chose to honor Wesley and Lazarus and their strong conviction to a vegan lifestyle, so I am preparing a vegan meal for Thursday. Gerry is a little sad,but he never eats meat anyway, so he will survive it. I practiced a few things this past week, one being these vegan biscuits. No real butter, but Earth Balance, no dairy, almond milk instead and a splash of lemon juice, that made all the difference. They were light and fluffy and very flavorful! I also found a vegan pumpkin cheesecake recipe that sounds amazing. The trick is flavor, so I'm looking for recipes with lots of good flavors and not so much odd texture. We are going to have acorn squash stuffed with apples and raisins and walnuts and cinnamon, mashed potatoes with olive oil instead of butter, mushroom gravy instead of poultry broth, lots of fruits and grains and organic veggies. I think it will be great. I only eat turkey one day out of 365, so how bad can it really be to do a vegetarian Thanskgiving. And to be honest, I won't miss the thawing and basting and praying the thing gets done. 

I have a rather sad tale to share with you. My intention in sharing this is to just send out a little reminder about how precious our lives are and how tenuous our time here really is. During this week when we focus on giving thanks, let's stop and think about how we care for ourselves and our families and remember to be thankful for those special people in our lives.

Last night we got a call from Gerry's sister. His aunt Debbie died. She was at a celebration for her daughter Jennifer's birthday and just as they came to the table to eat, she stopped breathing. Her heart stopped. And quick as a wink, she is gone. I was just thinking of her last week, I should send her a card, we should go visit. She has been in poor health, although she was barely 60 years old. She did not eat well, did not take care of herself, she gained so much weight, got diabetes, ended up on dialysis, and then her poor heart just couldn't struggle any longer, it gave up. And now she is gone. Today is Jennifer's birthday and she is planning her mothers funeral. Her new baby boy will not know his grandmother. So, the day before Thanksgiving, before I prepare and share a meal with family and friends, I will be going to a funeral for a very special woman than died much too soon. 

This country is out of control with poor eating habits and masking problems with pharmaceutical drugs that are pushed on us from every direction. Eat well, be mindful of the food that nourishes your body. Do it for those you love so you will be around to share all those precious moments that are gone too soon anyway. And most of all, have a very happy and memorable Thanksgiving!
Peace y'all

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I'm working on a holiday display for the store at home today. Instead of the cliche red and green,glitter and sparkle (which I still love in the right context), I'm using burlap and chalkboard paint with black and white color scheme and some green for accent. The tables will be covered in the burlap and all of our DIY kits and tools and things will be displayed in some festive way, some on this plant stand. I want it to have a seasonal feel, but in keeping with a garden store that sells hydroponics and homebrew. We have a certain customer that doesn't do glitter and gold, if you know what I mean. 

Sybil came in from the cold to help me. Do any of you bring your chickens in the house for a visit? I love that I can bring a dang live chicken in my house if I get in the mood for it!

 I also love that I found a job that lets me get my visual merchandising fix, something I have been missing for way too long. And I get to make prop things, another obsession and I get to work with nice young, smart people and beautiful plants. How did this happen!?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fermenting continues

The fermentation project continues. I'm trying to come up with good probiotic items that Gerry will also like. I like the salty vinegar brine of fermentation but he isn't really into that so much. So today, I experimented with ways to get the fermented veggies into things that would mask the fermentation. I  made these kimchi spring rolls with rice paper wrappers, added the fermented kimchi with some spinach leaves and some of the tomatillo salsa. Really good.

I also made some spinach hummus. I fermented the chickpeas by soaking them overnight in apple cider vinegar that had the mother, the beans sprouted after a 12 hour soak and I mixed them with tahini, lemon juice, garlic and spinach for a really great fresh hummus. Big hit. Looks pretty on the pottery doesn't it? I like that there are ways to get the probiotic benefits from other foods than just sauerkraut and pickled beets. 

For lunch today, I made veggie wraps with the fermented vegetables. Just cut them into matchstick size, added some olive oil, cheese and lettuces from the garden and served with the tomatillo salsa, some chips and some chile sauce, also fermented. So far so good. Everything has been tasty and extremely healthy. I made a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies, mostly out of curiousity to see how they would taste. They were fine, but you can't touch a buttery chocolate chip cookie with real chocolate and eggs and butter. 

Feeling pretty healthy with all of this eating of the veg.  I can just feel my gut flora having a party in there already, haha! Still blogging with my iPad, I find it incredibly annoying, but my computer with its blinky screen is more annoying, so whatever. Maybe one of these days I'll do something about it......

Friday, November 14, 2014


There is a lot of buzz right now about fermentation. I'm not usually one to jump on the same bus everyone else is hopping on, but this one makes sense to me. I read a good post that blogger Scott Garrett wrote on a fermenting workshop he did. I like workshops for learning, but I'm on my own around here, so I bought a book.  For the past year I have started having digestive problems, and so has Gerry. Apparently it comes with this over 50 business. Our stomachs stop producing enough acid to work with the gut to properly process the foods we eat. I cook healthy meals, but there seems to be something missing. The more I read about fermentation, the more it seems this could be the missing link. Back in the day, our parents and grandparents ate a lot of fermented foods. I did too as a kid, but have gotten away from it. 

The shop I work at has a great library of DIY books and we have a whole section on fermenting supplies. I bought this book and spent yesterday trying out some of the recipes.

Gerry doesn't like the vinegar taste that comes with traditional fermenting, but this book had a lot of recipes that were nothing like the fermenting kraut and pickles I remember. I made a really great chilie sauce that can be used for stirfry and momos, much like the one the monks made when they were here. I also made some kimchi, some tomatillo and mint salsa, a really good combo of green apple, ginger and radish, a layer of fermented veggies, and a pineapple cilantro chutney. I sprouted some chickpeas overnight and today I'm going to try the spinach hummus with fermented chickpea.  

The recipes were really simple and are full of healthy ingredients: garlic, ginger, onion, carrots, cabbage, radish, pineapple, pear, mint, green beans, apple, cauliflower, tomatillos......  It's not just about sauerkraut and dill pickles anymore! 

This is the salsa and the chilie sauce. Looks like perfect Christmas gifts to me..... I made small quantities since I had no idea where this was going and how any of it would be, less waste that way. Both of these were amazing, hot but really flavorful.

The chickens also benefit!

I continue to learn and to enjoy working at Fifth Season. I know what all of the soils are now, I am getting a grasp on the hydroponics systems, learning more about soil amendments, getting better at not screwing up on the computer. I still struggle with the homebrew, so many tiny details....  
I am re-learning house plants from way back when I had a lot of them. And now I'm tryng out the cheese making and fermentation kits we have. Everyone at the store has a specialty, something they are very knowledgeable about. I can see the cheese and fermenting being where I will lean. 

 I have proposed some workshops for the spring. Gift making with kids for Mothers Day and Fathers Day, painting terra cotta pots, making garden stakes, etc. one of the other guys is interested in doing a kids gardening workshop so we might team up. I would also like to do some fermenting taste testing and maybe a workshop when I get this dialed in. So many possibilities to increase sales and customer information. 

I love all of it, but the thing I like most, is that they just say, fix this area, and I get to do whatever I want. Three weeks now, and I have just about re merchandised the whole store, cleaned it, made little displays and made everything flow better for a shopper. It wasn't bad before, but I think like a shopper and now it's just a bit more idea inspiring....

A year ago, when I started thinking about getting a job, I worried about how it would change my life style. I would be tied to a job, not able to do what I wanted anytime, having to work around a schedule. But I think I was ready for a change. "Chasing money" as blogger Sandy Miller (Paine Falls blog)so aptly put it, has just plain wore me out. Shuffling funds to pay for shows and supplies and shipping and dues and all that comes with trying to sell art just tarnished my love for making. Now, I click on my bank app and money is deposited there, and all I had to do was show up and spend a few hours learning something new and talking with some really cool people. Not bad.....

Monday, November 10, 2014

Eating, purging, moving things around

We have had some of the most beautiful fall days recently. Today was one of the best. I love this golden time of year! We harvested the first of our winter greens yesterday. I really don't think I will want to ever buy another store bought bag of greens again. This was one of the tastiest salads I have ever had! Mesclun mix, chard, brussel flower leaves, basil, parsley, arugula, spinach, radish and yellow pepper, and carrots tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, sprinkled with toasted cashews and dried cranberries. Quite a concoction, but loaded with flavor! 

I roasted some buttery garlic potatoes and mushrooms, and while they were still hot from the oven, poured them over the salad, giving just a bit of wilt to the lettuces and then even more flavor. Simple eating, but I haven't ordered a salad in a fine dining restaurant that was this good. Served on a Jugtown Pottery pie plate with a glass of wine in a Joseph Sand cup, haven't had serving pieces this nice in a restaurant either! 
I had an odd episode the other night, woke up choking and sort of vomiting but not really. Lord have mercy, here comes those aging things! Is this my turn at acid reflux and will I now start paying attention to those Prilosec ads? Fuck.......   I am now watching what I eat to see if I can get this nasty business under control, because I just refuse to let these things get a hold of me! I got living to do, for crying out loud! Old age issues are not a part of my plan right now!!

My new job at The Fifth Season continues to be fun and interesting, I look forward to going to work, which has not happened in a long long time. Working with a bunch of guys in their twenties is amusing and delightful, I feel like a den mother or something, haha! 
The only little hiccup is that we have to wear the store t shirts. Nothing wrong with the way they look, except, I have a really weird thing about t shirts and they have to fit just so or they make my skin crawl. This shirt didn't fit me so well, so I cut it up and made myself an apron to wear. It is very handy and was a big hit. The pockets are perfect for holding my phone, a chap stick, a pen, knife, clippers, whatever I need to tuck away. Now my jean pockets aren't bulging in even more places than usual! Sorry for posting yet another photo of myself, but I wanted to show you this great apron!

I am spending most of my time in the store doing displays and rearranging things to make sense for a customer. Every time I do a display of something, the items featured sell. Imagine that! Take something that is pretty cool, get it down from the top shelf, dust it off, help the customers imagine a use for it, and out the door it goes. I seem to have a pretty intuitive sense for how people shop. I spent Saturday helping one customer put together a beautiful centerpiece for her Thanksgiving table, helped a man and his daughter design a plan for a wall mounted succulent garden, created a display for our new mushroom kits, and created a new window front with colorful paper lanterns that are solar powered. I forgot how clearly I understand retail merchandising. My first job was working as a visual designer for a department store, so I guess I have come full circle, just not dressing mannequins. 

I have realized that I have one particularly strong characteristic that continues to surface.When I was a little girl, I created environments in shoe boxes, terrariums in glass jars, Barbie penthouses on our bookcases or under our end tables. If there was a cubby, I was creating some sort of world in it. I also rearranged things in our house constantly. Every room. Constantly. I still do this. I know that we could go really deep here and find all sorts of psychological reasons for this, but I like this characteristic and don't need to work on getting a hold on this particular quirk! I enjoy making things look nice. I like symmetry and visual harmony and little vignettes that tell a story.

Sometimes my parents would go out to eat, which took hours. I hated going and stayed home on many of those occasions. As soon as they got out the door and the car was out of sight, I started moving furniture and knick knacks around. My poor mom never knew what she would come home and find. One time I actually switched our bedrooms, I mean everything, beds, clothes, lamps, all of it. They came home and just sort of went with it. I have to give them credit, I guess they realized there was nothing they could do about it, so they just went with the flow..... If I come home and a pillow is on the wrong chair, I have a problem.....  But again, Gerry and Wesley just sort of go with it. Once when our very old dog went blind, I had to stop moving things, because he would get so confused and run into the furniture. That might have been the longest I have gone without rearranging.

This past week, I attacked the attic. I took a car load of old toys and junk to the thrift store or out to the trash. It felt so good to have empty space in the attic. I went through boxes of holiday decorations, party things,Wesley's childhood books, her baby clothes, her most prized Pokemon items, her dragons, her dinosaurs, her hot wheels cars, Barbie world, stuffed animal world, so much I have kept! Just the things that were really tattered or not that special went out the door, her most treasured things are still here, waiting on my grand babies one day! 

And now I have a job where once again I get paid to move things around and make little worlds. How cool is that!? 

Today I got to do another fun thing. A friend of mine usually gives a presentation, along with other theatre artists, at Voyager Academy. He couldn't make it this year and suggested me. I said yes. This is a project based school and the sixth grade is working on a play presentation. All of their classes are included in the process. They write a play, vote on the best five, design the set, the props, the lighting, the marketing, all of it and it will be presented next month at The Durham Arts Council. The subject is environmental issues, off shore drilling, fracking, sustainable agriculture, and I forget the other two. Anyway, it was the most fun! Such smart smart kids, very polite, attentive, interested. The other artists invited were also interesting and it was just a fun day. Only one awkward moment when a director I had a past disagreement with walked in as one of the quest speakers. Ugh, don't burn those bridges, it's a small world! 

So, life is a happy place, except trying to find an affordable flight for Wesley to go to California for Christmas. What the hell is up with airfares?! 

Peace y'all

Monday, November 3, 2014

Winter gardening begins

There is one small problem with working at a garden shop. They give me a paycheck and I give it right back to them! Working continues to be fun and interesting and I look forward to the days I work. How could it get any better?!  Yesterday, I brought some pots home and repotted some plants. I potted Wesley's bamboo, it's been living in a jar of water far too long. 

This kitchen table! If it could talk! I have used it for sewing projects, school projects, soap making, when I was making pottery in my kitchen it held my ware boards, and then my finished work, I have used it for photographing work, and now potting plants. We even eat all of our meals here! I bought this table years ago, before Wes was born, at an English antiques store up near Boone. I paid a good bit for it, but knew it would serve us well, and it will probably be the only table we ever own. It has marks from where Wesley used to pound her fork,many scratches, and even a spot where I carved my name one night after too many beers. I later was able to sand it out thank goodness, haha! Many great meals and conversations at this table..... Good memories.

Back to gardening topics......

I am learning so much about soil and fertilizers, organic gardening, fermenting foods,beer making, hydroponics, indoor plants, outdoor plants, cheese making..... There's a whole world out there that I have just been skimming!  As I have said in previous posts, it's all about the learning for me.

I have begun the process of bringng in plants for winter. We had a freeze warning last night so everything got covered in our garden with agribon fabric and the rest came in. At work, we also started bringing in and editing. Orphan angel wing begonias that were going to get tossed in the trash came home with me for a second chance at life. I can propagate the ones that look like they might not make it, but I'm going to try to get them through the winter. For me there is nothing better than rooting plants and being successful. I see a greenhouse in my future.... My grandmother could stick any old leaf in some soil and make a beautiful plant. I seem to have her gift and most times I have success with it. I cloned her Christmas cactus and I now have several very nice plants. I have had the cactus for thirty years, God knows how long she had it before me. Now Wesley has one of the babies. So fantastic, the life of plants! I am thinking that I might like to get back to my pottery studio and make some pots for my new acquisitions.......

Gerry's winter garden is coming along nicely, even though we do suffer from lack of full sun, he has managed to get some lettuces and leafy greens up and looking strong. For his birthday, I got him this Japanese  Hori Hori knife. If you garden and you don't have one, I must insist that you go and get yourself one right away! It is the greatest garden tool I have ever seen! 

I have been learning about nutrients for organic gardening and I talked Gerry into trying one of General Organicss packages for growing. It's even a vegan program, so there's a nod to Wesley! Lots of good things for the plants. I think if you are going to go to the trouble to grow your own food, you should grow the best food you can, and plants need nutrition just like we do. They are living things and it's hard work producing those fruits.

Long long ago, when Gerry and I were just mere babes, we had a garden. I don't think we were even married yet. We chopped up some soil, made some rows and stuck some seeds in the ground. Things came up! We were so proud of ourselves. Then the beetles and bugs came and like good gardeners of the 1980's we went to the garden shop and bought a box of sevin dust, put masks and gloves on and poured that toxic white powder on every green thing in the garden. Thankfully we have evolved and we now have some sense! 

There has been no making, just reading and learning. I want to get some soaps made, but already my week is filling up with things that need to get done. So nice to have a full life. I'm grateful to have a curious mind. I don't envy those that have no hobbies other than making money.... I do sometimes envy the money, but it passes pretty quickly :-)