Friday, April 30, 2010


The perfume of spring surrounds us when we enter and exit our home lately. Finally, our confederate jasmine is blooming. Husband Walter and I look forward to this evergreen vine’s brief blooming every spring.

Get Ready. . .

Get Set. . .


Confederate jasmine is a feast for the senses. . .at least three of the senses, that is. We love the heady fragrance and the cascades of sparkling white blossoms. The sense of hearing? Well, listen for that “Ummmmmmm.” It’s my sigh of contentment.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

High school reunion

Last weekend husband Walter and I attended my 45th high school reunion. In years past, I had never given much thought to how many classmates and I had shared all 12 years of school. But it was a treat leading up to the reunion to connect via FaceBook to elementary school days. Former students of Camp Elementary School posted class photos, and comments flew identifying classmates and reminiscing. I wonder if ours is the last generation whose families stayed in place long enough for children to attend school together from elementary to high school graduation.

Another facet of this reunion that surprised me was the gratitude I felt for the opportunity to reconnect with classmates. With the passing of time I realize that I cannot take such opportunities for granted, that survival is not a given. This reunion was a celebration of life – mine and my fellow survivors’ lives, and the lives of more than 40 classmates who have passed away.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A pass-along salad ingredient

Green onion in bloom
I think it must have been more than two decades ago that J.P. Creel, a relative, gave me some green onion sets. I love the green onion tops in salads, and I promptly installed them in a flowerpot. For a couple years I followed instructions. Once they bloomed, I would pull them up, let them dry then replant. One pot multiplied to two, supplying ingredients for our green salads throughout the year.

One year, in the busyness of life, I just let them bloom without the usual replanting procedure. I regretted the thought of losing my little taste of freshly picked onions. That regret was short-lived. The hardy little bulbs, little because they multiplied and packed the container, came up. They have kept us in salad ingredients ever since, with only occasional watering and feeding on my part.

I am now attempting to grow vegetables on a slightly larger scale than one pot. But through all those years the trusty little onions have provided an unremarkable but cherished routine. I start assembling our salads then hike out to the onion pot in our backyard, pinch off a few blades, look around our little spot of outdoors, take a deep breath, relax and head back inside to finish my part of meal preparation. Thank you J.P. for a gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What I’ve been reading lately

I have just finished reading Proverbs in the King James Version. I especially liked running across verses that were the basis of admonitions that my late father repeated throughout my growing up years. He covered everything from not co-signing on loans (Proverbs 22: 26 KJV; NIV) to handling anger (Proverbs 16:32 KJV; NIV). His words made an impact on how I have approached life. Those verses were like a visit with him. What a blessing!

I have not posted much about what else I have been reading, primarily because I read so much escapist literature, and it is sort of embarrassing. Well, here goes. I have read 17 books, maybe a few more, in the last three weeks. Most of them were from the free paperback-swap at our local public library and the rest were “inspirational” romance on loan from my mother and her friends. Among the library paperbacks were Patricia Cornwell’s Unnatural Exposure and K is for Killer by Sue Grafton. They were interesting; but neither seemed as well-crafted as others I have read by the same authors. It is evidently time for a change from lit-lite!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Artifacts of retirement

The cupholders in our van reveal a lot about my first year retirement – an increase in time spent with husband Walter at a local coffee shop and a decrease in the number of meals we prepare at home. In 12 days I will begin my second third year of retirement. I wonder what other new behavior patterns will emerge! 

4/25/2010 note: Thanks, Jeremy, for correcting my arithmetic! Time does speed by when you are having fun.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A blooming surprise

Sweet william
A check for buds in a pot of amaryllis bulbs revealed a happy extra recently. Mother and I had unearthed the amaryllis bulbs about this time a year ago in preparation for her move to a retirement community in Hattiesburg, MS. I had plunked the bulbs and the soil surrounding them into pots and carted them 90 miles to my home with other things Mother couldn’t take with her but wanted available.

That was all the care they received in the rush of preparing her house for an unexpectedly quick sale. Even with no attention, they bloomed that spring. Evidently I also moved some hidden parts of her sweet william plants with the amaryllis bulbs, and they waited until now to make their debut. The blooms are rioting in the amaryllis pot.

Mother confirmed by phone that the lavender blooms were indeed sweet william. “I started them from plants from a friend at Elks Lake,” Mother recalled about the flower’s introduction to her beds along the front of her house years ago. “Our Sunday School class had a class meeting at her house, and sweet william plants were all around her yard. Sweet william takes over in the spring, and then it dies down. It’s like a weed; you can’t get rid of it.”

She said both she and my father liked the perennial. “We never did try to get rid of it.”

I hope the sweet william now blooming beside the amaryllis buds feels at home in its new location. For me, pass-along plants are living reminders of special people who have shared their lives and their love of growing things.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Smoky Mountains: Saying goodbye

One quart of boiled peanuts, coming up!
Two weeks ago today husband Walter and I were saying goodbye to the Smoky Mountains. We toasted, figuratively speaking, the fun we had on our mountain getaway by consuming a quart of hot (temperature, not pepper), salty boiled peanuts. Getting a bag of boiled peanuts is one of the dozens of things always on our to do list when we go to the Smokies.

Nuts are no longer on Walter’s menu, and I am supposed to limit salt, so we rarely eat this Southern snack except during our Smoky Mountain trips. Our favorite peanut stop through the years has been a produce stand in Cherokee, NC. It was still closed for the winter season when we passed through. On our way home the day before Easter, the produce stand was open, but our early morning appetite sent us for hot tea and a latte at Tribal Grounds coffee shop instead.

Plan B was boiled peanuts from Jaemor Farm Market on Highway 365 North between Gainesville, GA, and Habersham County. We like to browse this produce market if we hit North Georgia during business hours.
A colorful welcome
Along the front of the market building, cheerful flowering plants for sale welcomed visitors. Fruit trees, including abundant blueberry bushes, were receiving avid attention from customers.

Veggies beckon.
Inside, the vegetables were colorful, plentiful, and attractively displayed. Even in winter Jaemor has a festive air about it. We were in the vicinity during the market’s business hours coming and going this trip. During our first stop, my cruise through the aisles yielded a bonus encounter. A gentleman was sitting surrounded by crates of apples and the glorious scent of freshly peeled apples. He was whirling the handle of an apparatus that peeled, cored and sliced the apples. “They are for drying,” he responded to my curiosity. He tilted his head toward a large collection of stainless steel dryers. “We dry our own apples.” One more home-grown delight at Jaemor Farm Market.

We are back at home, but I still have one question that I wish I had asked: Where did the name Jaemor come from? Now, excuse me while I go munch on a Granny Smith apple, one of the varieties grown at Jaemor.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy blues

Weed or wildflower?
I love spiderwort. Not everyone shares my regard for this heavenly blue flower with the delicate structures in the blossom’s center. Descriptions on the Web range from “invasive weed” at to an article by a Canadian gardener who  puts spiderwort on his list of must-have plants to add to his collection of perennials. A lackadaisical gardener at best, I appreciate the fact that neglect produces these bits of beauty that greet me during an early morning walk outside.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The art of concentration

High among the joys of retirement are special moments with grandchildren. Sharing a Saturday afternoon and evening of artistic endeavors with 25-month-old Molly Kate was a treat.

Molly Kate works on her first flower arrangement.
When I set up a snack container as a vase for the blooms she had picked, she approached the new experience of flower arranging with all the aplomb and concentration of a veteran florist. Of course the process, not the final product, was paramount. Once she had the white clover and sprigs of tiny yellow installed to her satisfaction, she then proceeded to take them all out.

Earlier, she had engaged me in some of her regular activities. We decorated the driveway with sidewalk chalk drawings; we visited the neighbors’ metal flowers and their Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh statuary; we picked flowers. Through it all, Molly Kate kept the commentary, and a two-way conversation, going non-stop about everything we were doing and everything we saw. When it came to arranging her flowers, it was fun watching her so engrossed that she forgot to talk.
Molly Kate concentrates on taming an uncooperative bloom.

Bath time included art with special crayons. My job was to wipe off her drawings when she finished with one color. She let me know when I was to swing into action.
Molly Kate ponders her art.
She was quite specific that her artistic vision demanded monochrome expression. No mixing of colors, thank you. This little artist was also not shy about explaining her images.

Molly Kate works on a portrait of Baboo (her grandfather and my husband).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Close-to-Home Travel: Louisiana Weekend

We were scheduled to babysit Louisiana granddaughter Molly Kate Friday evening, April 9, in Prairieville, southeast of Baton Rouge, and return home Saturday. Husband Walter never misses an opportunity to throw in little side trips, but all was not quite as he expected.
Ewwuu! Yuck!
Our first stop in Louisiana Friday morning was the welcome center just over the state line on Interstate 10. We had stopped there before, but as we slid out of our van, the curb looked like a caterpillar Mardi Gras parade. Hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of the creepy crawlies were cruising the curb. A few steps farther and I could see them all over the edges of the Welcome Center sign, hanging on long strings from the tree, and exploring the outside walls of the center.

When I started taking pictures, the welcome-center supervisor invited me over to see even more covering the trunk and limbs of an oak. He said they were bagworms. The cobwebby looking “bags” are a familiar sight in pecan trees where I live, but I had never, never, ever seen so many of the hairy little caterpillars.

The supervisor was in the middle of a bagworm meeting, assigning maintenance staff tasks of pressure washing sidewalks and other good-riddance strategies. Miles down the road, I discovered a couple of his uninvited guests touring my jacket, headed for my neck. Shriek! Ick! Ick! Ick!

Drive-by festivals
A few bagworms would not deter us from our planned detour to New Orleans for beignets at Café du Monde in the French Quarter. I know, I know. What is so special about deep-fried dough with powdered sugar that gets all over you? When I figure it out, I will post about it.

Walter had gotten word from the welcome center staff about a French Quarter Festival in progress, but we kept going. When we got to the French Quarter, the people were as thick as the bagworms. All parking lots were full. Traffic was backed up. Walter looked over at me and asked, ”How about we do this as a drive-by festival?” I agreed and we headed toward Prairieville.

On our way home Saturday, we decided – on the spur of the moment -- to check out the annual Ponchatula Strawberry Festival. I love strawberries, and for several years we had talked about making the festival. We arrived right after the traditional festival parade.  People were as thick as the bagworms. All parking lots within close walking distance were full. Traffic was backed up. I looked over at Walter and asked, ”How about we do this as a drive-by festival?”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Smoky Mountains: More spring impressions

Porter’s Creek
Husband Walter and I arrived for early morning photos at the trailhead of Porter’s Creek trail Friday, April 2, in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I was looking for wildflowers and found a number of species. Porter’s Creek trail also offered other visual treats.

Water on moss
During our Smoky Mountain visit we were never far from water. From slow drips onto a bed of moss to rushing streams, water fills the senses in the Smoky Mountains--the scent of moist, fertile soil, the chill breeze from a stream in a picnic area, the sight and sound of water’s dance to lower elevations, gurgling, pounding, tumbling over and around boulders.

A close look at the moss

On the slopes above the Porter’s Creek trail, an abundance of insects were extremely busy, although I have no idea exactly what they were busy doing. Most colorful were the orange butterflies that flitted about and perched on ferns and fallen leaves. I think the species below is a question mark butterfly, Polygonia interrogationis.
Butterfly on Porter’s Creek trail

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


1. A wonderful neighbor edged the street side and driveway of our yard today. Thank you, Eleanor.
2. We had my husband’s homemade, calorie-cutting vegetable and beef soup for lunch today. The vegetables included okra from last summer’s garden and carrots harvested just for the soup. Yummy! Thank you, Walter.
3. Daughter-in-law Sarah and grandchildren Luke, Nate, Charlie and Stella are coming for supper tonight. Thank you, Sarah.
4. Thank you, God, for the blessings of friends and family.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Smoky Mountains: Spring wildflowers

Sharp-lobed hepatica

UPDATE 4/27/2010 – For great information about wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, click here. The site includes a helpful video, suggested trails and a link to the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage.

Also, two of my more recent posts on summer wildflowers are Smoky Mountains #4: Wildflowers on Balsam Mountain and Blue Ridge Parkway: Summer wildflowers.

* * * * *

Husband Walter and I are back from a March 30-April 3 visit to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We planned a couple photo safaris. Walter targeted water -- the abundant falls, rapids and deep pools characteristic of the Smokies’ running water from drips and trickles to rivers. My focus was spring wildflowers. We were well in advance of the peak wildflower season, but even with the dire warnings about the late appearance of early bloomers, the search was an adventure. Capturing images of these early spring blooms was a treat.

A patch of hepaticas on the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail that begins at Chimneys picnic area

Trillium on Newfound Gap Road near Chimneys picnic area
I even spotted some trilliums just opening up. Advice from rangers and volunteers at Sugarlands Visitors Center plus flower-friendly warmer weather were just what I needed for my introduction to some Smoky Mountain flora that I had never seen before.

Fringed phacelia
These delicate little flowers were on an embankment by a busy curve on the Newfound Gap Road. I had climbed the embankment. I was trying to avoid disturbing the vegetation in the soft, moist soil and still get within range to photograph the only trilliums I had seen that were even barely opening. I had a precarious hold on a limb with one hand as I operated my little point and shoot with the other. As I eased back down the slope, small patches of the fringed phacelia greeted me. My Wildflowers of the Smokies guidebook says during the first two weeks of April, the tightly packed flowers look as if a light snow has fallen.

Other firsts for me were cut-leafed toothwort near the fringed phacelia, rue-anemone and spring beauty on the Cove Hardwood Trail, and bloodroot and trout-lily at the trailhead of Porter’s Creek trail.

Cut-leafed toothwort


Spring beauty, not quite opened all the way

Tightly closed bloodroot blooms begin responding to the sunshine.

An hour later the bloodroot blooms are fully open.


More experienced flower fanciers were quick to offer help in identifying wildflowers when they saw me aiming my camera at various blossoms. Two field guides were also helpful. Wildflowers of the Smokies authored by Peter White and a number of co-authors was a small, easy-to-carry paperback. Organized by bloom color, each entry included a helpful photo, description and likely locations for finding the species described. I also like Jack B. Carman's Wildflowers of Tennessee, a heftier paperback. Any misidentification is mine!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Baboo and Nana in charge?

Stella, left, and Charlie share “tea.”
Staying with grandchildren on their home turf provides a welcomed opportunity to see their development firsthand, individually and as siblings. During our three days alone with our Columbus, GA, four, we were thrilled with how well the brothers and sisters played together and with the boys’ accomplishments in school, Charlie’s enthusiasm and progress in dance and Stella’s expanding vocabulary. The days were filled with laughter, fun and, yes, some challenges.

We learned, for example, that the reports from parents Walt and Sarah about 22-month-old Stella’s occasional outbursts were not exaggerated. A brief “get-out-of-the-house” jaunt had wound up at the Columbus River Walk, a beautiful 15-mile park along the Chattahoochee River. The older kids were engaged in collecting rocks and tossing them into the river with the intensity of big league pitchers.

Nate displays his pitching form.

Luke goes for the big splash.

Stella was soon following her siblings’ example. She kept my husband Walter, also known as Baboo, busy supplying her with rocks. She carefully eased each rock between fence railings and chunked it into the river.
Stella practices her rock toss.

When a sudden shower ended the river-walk visit, Baboo and I failed to recognize an even stronger storm headed our way. We had overlooked the fact that Stella was determined to negotiate an extensive flight of curved steps up to street level. When Baboo scooped her up to make a quick trip up the steps, the wails and “no, no, no” indicated a totally broken heart, hers and mine. Eventually happiness and quiet were restored.
Stella and Charlie give Baboo “quality” time.

We also learned that the boys’ parents had good reason for the limits they set on the time that Luke, seven, and Nate, five, could spend on Nintendo DS, their hand-held game systems. When our relaxed approach allowed them extended playing time, emotional circuits overloaded. By the end of our visit, we had worked out a balance that largely avoided the game-induced frustration and crankiness that the boys – and Baboo and Nana – had experienced earlier.

We left Monday evening, taking with us memories that make us laugh. We also left with an ever-growing appreciation of the results of our son and daughter-in-law’s parenting efforts.