Friday, September 30, 2011

A Year of Sweet Tea

Exactly a year ago tomorrow, I determined to devote each Friday on this blog to something meaningful, or funny, or beautiful, all in an effort to consider the subject of time and how it affects our lives.

Now - with that year behind me - I am stunned and humbled and full of enormous hope - all at once.  We have seen it all this past year - new life, death, laughter, tears, incredible beauty, and surprises around every corner.

The year began with an October sky full of dozens of hot air balloons
fond memories of brave young men who should have come home from Vietnam and didn't

A stolen sunrise on the beach
And the discovery of an Italian winery in the Appalachian Mountains.
Early December found us eating breakfast with Junior Johnson, who is just as adept at the helm of an iron skillet as he is behind the wheel of a car. 
Our Christmas was white,
as was a good portion of the entire winter.
And I decided to welcome spring by telling my favorite (true) Earnhardt story.
Life handed us a grandson in March, and we will never be the same.
In quick succession, our garden handed us lily of the valley,
 and baby bunnies in distress.
We planted a vegetable garden, savoring each sprig and leaf.
We hit the beach,
 and then an island
and then another island.
Back home, we made marinara and ended up making abstract art as well.
We laughed as we remembered the day we stumbled upon the President,
And cried tears that are still flowing as we said goodbye to our best friend.
A trip to Florida gently reminded us that life brings fresh inspiration every day, if you are willing to look for it.
Safely back home, our garden proved the point by delivering the month of June in September.
 And just yesterday, another of our best friends left us.  Fans of my work know how much I loved this beautiful cat.  His name was Tylenol, and he was my faithful companion, studio cat, garden supervisor, and territorial guard extraordinaire.  We will never forget him.
Now, with the year behind us, we stand with renewed respect for the fragile nature of life, a greater appreciation of the astounding beauty that lives right under our nose every day, and the hope that comes from knowing that God has been with us every step of the way - laughing with us, drying our tears, clapping his hands at our discoveries, and blessing us with every breath we take.

Today is Countdown Friday
 and the count isn't over.
We're just getting warmed up.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Garden

Those of you who know me know that if I could take the perfect summer day and stretch it from January to December, I would.

Fortunately for us all, God did not endow me with that ability.  Ever the optimist, however, I do what I can.  Planting a brand new crop of zinnias in August is one way to get it done.  The result is a garden full of sunshine at the end of September - and they will bloom past Halloween if I close my eyes and click my heels together three times and channel my inner lovely-day-in-June.

And that's not ALL (says the lady in the infomercial).
Harvest those babies and bring them inside, grab a camera and shoot.  
I know.  They look good enough to eat, don't they?
Tomorrow is Countdown Friday

My blessings are as many and as varied as these flowers, multiplied thousands of times, and I thank God for every single one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Peck of Peppers

Peter Piper called.  He wants his peppers back.

Our September garden decided to grace us with green bell, banana, and giant jalapeno peppers - all at once.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  When it gives you a peck of peppers...

Stuffed Peppers 
Cut the tops off of 6 large bell peppers.  Remove the seeds and membrane.  Finely dice the usable parts of the tops and set aside.  Blanch the peppers in boiling water, then drain and set aside to cool.

Make the stuffing by placing a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter into a large skillet.  Add half a cup each of diced onion, diced celery, and the diced pepper.  Saute the vegetables for about 5 minutes until tender, then add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, an 8oz can of tomato sauce, 1 crushed clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine 1 lightly beaten egg with 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef, 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice, 1 tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce, 1 cup of the sauce from the skillet, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the peppers in a deep baking dish, stuff with the filling and then ladle the remaining sauce from the skillet over all.  Bake uncovered at 350 for an hour.  If you like, just before the peppers are done, top them with 1 cup of grated cheese of your choice and allow the cheese to melt before removing from oven.

So now what do I do with all those banana peppers and giant jalapenos?
I'm open to suggestions but make them quick.  These things aren't going to hang around forever.  


Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrate the Apple

My friends at Highland Graphics have translated four of my happy images into tumbled stone coasters.  Visit them at (and tell them Beth sent you).

Every September our little Main Street turns into a mass of 75,000 people, all gathered for one purpose - to celebrate the apple.
 The Lincoln County Apple Festival is a local tradition that coincides with our apple harvest.  We are one of North Carolina's largest apple producing regions.
Septembers here are still considered summertime, and most years we are are blessed with sunshine and temps in the high 80's/low 90's - except for the year that we had a hurricane bearing down on us and they canceled the whole festival - only to have the thing blow in another direction and festival day dawn bright and clear here - not a cloud in the sky.  Suffice it to say they haven't made that mistake again.  The festival goes on - rain or shine.
So, tomorrow our little downtown will be home to marching bands, local barbecue, balloons, quilt contests, politicians, families with babies in strollers and kids on dad's shoulders, funnel cakes, T-shirts, soap-box derbies, craft sales, 5K runners, the sound of "Hey, how y'all doin?" magnified 75,000 times - and enough apple pies, apple butter, candy apples, and Apple Queens to reach around the planet several times.

I love a good festival.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Snapshots from Paradise

Two weeks in Florida will put a smile on your face.  I won't bore you with too many words.  If you dread going to visit someone only to have them whip out photos from their trip, you might want to skip this blog post and go floss your teeth or something.
A pretty front yard
 Robert, the family parrot, out for a morning walk with his owners.
Sunrise from the hotel balcony.
Sunshine on the palms after a rain.

A fairly big tree in St. Petersburg.  For frame of reference, the tiny speck of orange at the base is my husband, Joe - sitting in a swing!
 A pelican hanging out on the shores of Tampa Bay.  I was very close to him while taking this shot.  He was underwhelmed.
Famed artist Dale Chihuly created this stunning glass sculpture for the entrance to his gallery in Old St. Petersburg.  The angle of my shot created the impression that the palm behind it has a pink glass trunk.
Just down the street from The Chihuly Collection, and very "Old Florida", this is the front entrance of the recently restored Vinoy Hotel, a St. Petersburg waterfrong landmark since 1925.
 This original urn bears the name of the hotel and is one of a pair standing guard at the entrance.
A vintage photo from the 1920's, looking out the front entrance of the hotel, and a photo taken by my husband from the same spot, below.
The front facade of the hotel, showing one of the beautiful towers.
 And the stunning, massive art-glass chandelier in the recently refurbished hotel ballroom - created especially for the space by Dale Chihuly. The chandelier looks to be at least 10 feet long.
 Even a cloudy day on a Gulf beach is worth the trouble.
Grapefruit growing in my sister's back yard.
 And a typical Florida citrus stand.
 A bag of Sweet Valencias came home with us to North Carolina.
Easing the pain of having to leave Florida.  We stopped for the night on Jekyll Island and St. Simons.

A Jekyll Island sunset, below.  I caught this picture of Joe with the Jekyll Island bridge in the distance.

And with my little camera gasping for breath and begging for mercy, we took these morning shots of the Methodist Church at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simons as we were leaving for home.
Yesterday was Countdown Friday